Book Review – The Gilded Chain

Why I read this book:  Dave Duncan is my favorite author.

Did I enjoy it:  Yes.  A fun story, enjoyable characters, and great pacing.

What I learned from it:  In a similar vein to “The Name of the Wind,” this book features a main narrator telling stories, making it like a compilation of short stories.  But like the Usual Suspects, through the whole thing, our narrator is dropping hints that we should be getting, and when past and present collide by the end, we realize what’s been set up.  That presents an interesting idea.

The Gilded Chain (King's Blades, #1)The Gilded Chain by Dave Duncan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Gilded Chain is part of a 3-part series where each book is essentially a “stand-alone” with overlapping characters. However, depending on the order you read them, you’ll have a different take on them. A character that seems like an awesome nice guy in one book may come across as cold and heartless in another.
To focus specifically on this book: Each chapter is essentially a separate short story following the varied exploits of Sir Durandel, a master swordsman and servant of the realm. Each story is only partially related to the one before it, but together they weave the picture of Durandel’s life. The beginning of each chapter follows a separate POV (Lord Roland) in the future up to the point when the short stories catch up to present.
The magic (and indeed the world itself) isn’t terribly original or groundbreaking, but they still set the stage for a lot of great adventure. This story really comes to life with the deep and fun characterization painted on even the bit players in the ongoing tale of our hero. Throughout the story, the author drops hints that connect story of the chapter with the ongoing meta-story that takes place in the present… And the finale ties together all of these pieces for an exciting climax.

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Book Review – Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Why I read this book:  My wife is on a cleaning kick as nesting kicks in for our impending third child.

Did I enjoy this book:  Not really.  It wasn’t a bad book per se, but I honestly think it could have been done in less than 15 pages without losing a single bit of actual content.

What I will learn from this book:  Throw things away if you don’t LOVE them.  On the writing front, remember to eliminate unnecessary words (sentences, paragraphs, chapters, etc).

 

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and OrganizingThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondō

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up is a book on keeping your home clean and in order, and how much it can help make your life better. Although I think the message of this book is sound, the delivery leaves a lot to be desired.
The author does entirely too much stating of the exact same message over and over again in different ways. It’s important to dispose of things you no longer want. That said, disposing of things you no longer want is very important. If an object doesn’t bring you joy, you shouldn’t hold onto it. Etc. I wouldn’t be surprised if those exact three lines are covered in the book.
The core of the book revolves around the above point: You should look at each and everything in your home and decide if you truly enjoy that thing… Not the memory that thing is associated with, or the moment you got that thing… But do you enjoy the thing itself? If you no longer find joy in the present for the thing, it’s time to say goodbye and let the thing go. Storage is just a way to put things you never have any use for in a place you won’t notice it, where you will then forget it.
A key element of good non-fiction is the “war stories” or real life examples… In this case, the examples provided feel weak and generic… Or at best only marginally related to the specific point the author is trying to make. I honestly feel this book could have been made into a 10-15 page pamphlet and would have had the same value provided.
I will give a few points to the author. First, English is not her native language. As such, there are sure to be a few nuances. Second, I’m not a cleaning or storage nut. I’d like to have a cleaner house, and thought this book could give me some good tips. And it absolutely did. The suggestions are great…. All two hundred times each one is made.

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Book Review – Write. Publish. Repeat.

Why I read this book:  I picked up this one because it had trended pretty highly with the other books I had selected, and I wanted to dip my toe in the publishing books.

Did I enjoy it:  Yes.  Full of energy, and basically reiterated to me over and over again that it is possible to be a writer.  I just need to go do it.

What I will learn from this book:  Ironically, the things I learn are things that have been told to me in other books and the message just didn’t sink it.  Whether it was timing or just the voice of the authors, this time I am pumped.  Point 1)  Hard work beats genius.  Just get to it and start churning out (good) books.  Point 2) WRITE.  You don’t need an epic fantasy saga or 100 web-zine published short stories.  Just get writing.

Point 3) New for this book:  You can be a successful author even in today’s writing climate without having a crazy social media presence… As long as you are writing, publishing, and repeating.

Write. Publish. Repeat. (The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success)Write. Publish. Repeat. by Sean Platt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reading this book (Write. Publish. Repeat) was like being hooked up to a car battery and having 12 volts pumped into you every second for 400 pages. At the end of it you are left wondering what happened, and yet at the same time you have an irresistible urge to go do some writing.

The book tackles essentially one topic in its many facets: Self-publishing, and the authors draw from their own experience as indie self-publishers, as well as the experiences of tons of listeners and guest-appearances on their podcast, “The Self-publishing podcast.” The focus is then attacked ruthlessly from every angle, ranging from prepwork done on the book (to get ready for publishing), to different media and platforms you should use for publishing, to things you should consider doing while publishing to yield the greatest success.

Almost every book on writing and the writing life will give you the advice: “If you want to be a writer, there is a single important task you should do: Write.” This book does the same, but is the first time I’ve truly felt inspired to do so. At multiple points during the read, I wanted to put the book down and say, “Screw this book! I’m ready to go write some awesome stories!” This wasn’t from any lack of quality in what I was reading… it just gave me that much hope that I actually can make this happen if I’m willing to roll up my sleeves and get the work done, which was another point they harped on pretty regularly (and is also exceptional advice not just for writing, but for just about everything in life).

The authors are blunt and unapologetic about their words and the content contained therein. They own the fact that these strategies and tactics have worked for them, and others have had success in leveraging other tactics (Strategy vs tactic being a big topic of the book). They touch on other tactics at different stages of the process, but don’t spend much time there. They likewise pull almost every example from their own works (I think there was a Harry Potter reference in there once or twice). They also own this, and explain why, both the selfish reasons as well as the practical ones. It doesn’t take away from the book at all.

All in all, the energy level of this book stays high while it delivers lots of strong, likely timeless advice on cracking into the indie publishing arena. It’s worth a read, and certainly has inspired me to check out their podcast to learn more.

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