Saturday, June 30, 2018

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

The Sugar QueenThe Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The blurb of this book made it seem like something between Practical Magic and Big Fish. And because I needed something lighthearted and fun, I immediately downloaded The Sugar Queen to my kindle. Little did I know that under magical realism was hiding nothing but a chic-lit. And chic-lit isn’t something that I read and enjoy. I tried to get into this book, but alas, I just couldn’t understand what was going on or what exactly I was reading. It started interesting, but after a while the book was nothing but releationship drama and pining. And it didn’t help when the main heroine, who was 27, acted like a 15-year-old. And her biggest sin that she tried to hide from the whole world was that she kept sweets in her closet. I mean, seriously?
This book was absolutely not for me. I was bewitched by the adorable cover, but now I wish that the publishers would be more specific with the blurbs.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Should I Write in My Mother Language or in English?

If you are visiting this blog, then there’s a possibility that you are an AWISL: an author writing in a second language. I am an AWISL, and it’s tough. I’ve lost the count of how many times I’ve re-read and re-written the same sentences, how many times I’ve checked the words in the Oxford Dictionary, how many notepads I have filled, how many books on writing I have read. It used to take me thrice longer to write a novel than it takes native speakers. I spent sleepless nights working on my books, writing chunks of passages only to get mad and delete them later, because it just wasn’t working. I have edited my first book at least 30 (!) times, besides hiring an editor and two proofreaders. And my first book still sucked.
Did you get scared? Well, maybe you should, a bit. But you shouldn’t get discouraged. Because writing in a foreign language (and learning to write well) is possible. It just requires hard work and determination. But what profession doesn’t require that? If you want to be good, then you work hard and work a lot.

I’ll tell you why I decided to write in English. My mother language is Armenian, but I always knew I wouldn’t be writing in Armenian. Because it wouldn’t take me anywhere. Since I was a teen, I was writing in Russian (my second language). My first book was written in Russian. Then I did a research and learned about the Amazon and KDP. And I decided I needed to write in English. It took me a year to translate my book from Russian into English, and by the end of the year I had a book which was a horrible piece of writing. Of course I didn’t understand it then and published the book through Amazon. A few kind authors told me it was bad. I unpublished and worked on it for another 6 months. And it still sucked. But that was the best I could do at the moment. I am still not the best writer out there. And probably I will never be as good as native speakers. But when I look back, I can’t deny the progress. It’s astonishing. Which means that in a few years I will write much better.

So, let’s answer the question in the title of this post: should you write in your mother language or in English? It depends on your mother language. If it’s a popular language with millions of users, if the language speakers read e-books, and if Amazon KDP supports it (there’s a list of languages KDP supports. Armenian and Russian are not on the list), then you can give it a try. You can always self-publish your Spanish or Portuguese or Chinese novel and promote it to the people who speak these languages. And you can always translate your book into English, but be warned that translations are costly and you will have to find a good translator.

My advice is to start writing in English as soon as possible. English is a dominant language. Almost the whole world speaks or at least understands it. If you’re choosing the traditional publishing, then your mother language is a good choice. But with self-publishing it’s better to go with English.

The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham

The DressmakerThe Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Once in a while I stumble upon a highly acclaimed bestseller that leaves me speechless. And not in the good way. I have no idea how a book like this could ever become a bestseller, then be turned into a movie.

When on the first five pages I am introduced to eighteen characters, I know that something is not okay. There were so many characters in this book, that my head started spinning around at the end of the second chapter. I have no problem with a lot of characters; I’ve read The Song of Ice and Fire. But all the characters in The Dressmaker were introduced too quickly, all were almost identical: mean, angry, unpleasant, and one-dimensional. All the characters had their POVs and those POVs changed twice per page.

The plot wasn’t helping either. I had expected a story of a woman who makes a living with her incredible talent and skills and her Singer, and who returns to her childhood town to show the nasty locals who she’s become, but nope, the plot was a big mess about bullying, murder, mother-daughter relationship, gossip, romance, tragedy, satire. One would think this sounds like the perfect plot, but it just didn’t work. There was too much of everything, and at the same time there was nothing to hold onto. No characters to root for. No mystery to keep me intrigued. Nothing but dozens and dozens of characters and their quick, short POVs.

And I am by no means a prude (one day I might even write something erotic), but this book made me uncomfortable. It was filled with crudeness I hadn’t been expecting.

I wouldn’t recommend this book to my worst enemy (if I had one).

I thought that maybe the movie would be better, but it was even worse. Ten times worse. I’ll review the movie in a separate post.

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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Nightflyers by George R.R. Martin

NightflyersNightflyers by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I may not always like George Martin’s stories, but I always love his writing. I knew I would love Nightflyers, and I’m happy to say that I did. Loved it. There are 6 stories in this collection, and each of them was high-quality sci-fi filled with horror and thriller. Martin has written them in the 70s, but none of the stories was even a bit dated. That’s why I love Martin so much. He’s a genius.

The title story, Nightflyers, was a mix of many sci-fi horrors that we’ve come to love over the last 30 years: Alien, Space Odyssey, Event Horizon… It was a mix of sci-fi, mystery, thriller, and I loved every second of it. I kept thinking what a cool movie this story could be, and I’m thrilled to know that a mini-series is in production right now. Yay!

Override, Weekend in a War Zone, and Nor the Many-Colored Fires of a Star Ring were much shorter stories, each of them unique and vivid, exploring the depths of human nature.

And Seven Times Never Kill Man was a great mockery of all kinds of religions, no matter the planet.

A Song for Lya was another story about religion and man, but not what you’d expect. Even though I knew from the beginning how this one would end, it still left an impression on me.

I also loved that the stories were taking place in different parts of the universe, and each of the planets and worlds that Martin has created in this stories is original, well-thought and beautiful. What else can one expect from such a master storyteller?
Recommended for every sci-fi lover.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Emerald Circus by Jane Yolen

The Emerald CircusThe Emerald Circus by Jane Yolen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received an advance review copy from the publisher and I'm very grateful for it.
I have to admit that before picking up this book i had never heard of Jane Yolen. Turns out she's an acclaimed writer with many fascinating books. Another thing I have to admit is that I love short stories. I know how hard it is to tell a whole story on a limited number of pages. Some of the stories in this collection were entertaining, some were not. The problem that I had with Emerald Circus was that once the story was over I forgot about it. Unfortunately I cannot name a single story that stood out for me. All I remember about this book is that the stories were retellings of old fairy-tales. But wait, there's one more thing that I remember and it's that Emerald Circus was a very well written book. Fantastically well. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to read good writing. And if you like old fairy tales with new twists and turns, then this book is for you.

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