New Year, New Goals?

Posted on January 8, 2011. Filed under: Books, Musings, Reviews, Suspense | Tags: , , , , |

Wow… it’s been such a long time since I’ve posted here, and there have been way too many things that have happened to really begin to tell you all the craziness in my life. Since you might be wondering (if you’re keeping up with this blog at all, which I wouldn’t blame you if you aren’t), I am back in the good ole’ US of A.

That’s right, folks. Rae has returned from the Far East and is currently residing peacefully at her granny’s kitchen counter where she is typing away. However, that won’t be the case for long. Tomorrow we hopefully return to Tennessee and then become cozy there for a few more weeks. But eventually I’ll be heading back to China to complete my contract.

Why am I home again? It’s a long story. I haven’t even shared it on my China blog for those of you who read that, but the basic gist is that my grandfather had a heart attack and was subsequently diagnosed with lung cancer and given a rather grim prognosis. So I’m here to visit family in between semesters and then heading back to China to finish my contract.

This is my first chance to really update this blog, and I’m actually relieved it’s still breathing, despite not having added to it in the months I’ve been gone. I have a few new goals I’m going to be working towards this year, and some of them will affect the blog. So I’ll go ahead and outline them and then give you a short review of the “first book of the New Year” that I completed earlier this morning.

My Goals In Reading and Writing

First, I have a goal to read around 50 books in a year. That might be tough given that it’s hard to come by books in China that aren’t horribly translated (from English to Chinese and back to English), but I imagine my parents will be happy to send me books with packages they send my way. I’m trying to get a head start on it while I’m home.

Second, I have a goal to read books outside my norm. I’m wanting to try some new, popular authors that I’ve never read before as well as genres I typically don’t read. This means I’m going to be reading some Patterson, Gaimon, King, or whatever else suits my fancy and doesn’t look like it’ll take me a year to actually finish reading. Anyone who has suggestions can feel free to offer them!

Third, I have to complete my NaNovel 2010. That’s right, I did participate in and complete another NaNoWriMo. My novel, In Search of Guanxi, isn’t even close to being finished, but I ideally would like to finish it by the beginning of February. My goal is to complete it by February 14th as I think Valentine’s Day would be the perfect day to finish a novel (more importantly, I fly back┬áto China February 15th!).

And last, but not least, I need to edit my NaNovel 2009 for the CreateSpace proof copy. I never received my proof copy last year because I was too lazy to edit the novel. This year, however, I had a fellow WriMo writer and graphic designer create a beautiful cover for my novel that I want to use in the proof. She’s graciously given me her permission to use said cover for my proof copy, and I am wanting to get the novel edited and revised to match the amazingness that is the cover. For those of you not on NaNo, this woman is amazing, and she definitely deserves praise for her work. So I can only hope my novel will come close to matching the cover she made me.

In theory, I have a date of finishing revisions by April in order to get the dimensions and personalizations onto the cover and putting the whole thing together to be submitted to CreateSpace by mid-May. We’ll see how it goes. Either way, I have a goal, and now the idea is to get motivated to complete it.

I should add here that in revising I’ll probably be reading a few of the writing books I collected last year to give me ideas and tips on the process. I’ll most likely try to review said books and their processes on this blog as I come to them, but that might take me a bit of time. Either way, they’ll fall into my 50 books goal, which will be good.

Someday I’ll go back and tally up all the books I read last year. That won’t be for a while, though. Oh well.

And speaking of goals, I’ve already worked towards fulfilling two of them. I’ve finished reading my first book of the new year, and it was a great book.

I’ve never been a big suspense and thriller reader because I tend to shy away from the blood and guts. It’s not that it really bothers me, but I prefer happy, comedic moments in my fiction as opposed to shoot-em-up deaths and near-deaths. But I will read it on occasion; my preference usually is to stick with the authors I already know I can handle, though.

So reading Lisa Unger’s Beautiful Lies was going a bit out of my comfort zone. I got the book when I was working at The Book Gallery one day. The boss brought in a box of Advanced Reader Copies that he didn’t want anymore, and this book, published in 2006, was among them. I snagged it when no one else wanted it and forgot about it in the bustle of getting ready to head to China.

Now that I’m back, I noticed it on my bedroom floor and picked it up to add to my pile of trip books to take with me to Indiana. I started reading it and was immediately immersed in the story of Ridley Jones, whose identity is questioned throughout the story. In Ridley’s world, her life has been easy and comfortable, the daughter of a wealthy New Jersey pediatrician and adopted niece of a well-known charity endorsing man, both of whom have spent their lives protecting her identity.

Ridley’s journey begins as a series of choices, which she tells readers is what brings all people on their journeys. She says that one choice, one small change in her daily routine, is all it takes to bring her world to a crashing halt and create questions she’s not sure she’s ready to answer. With help from her new friend Jake, who Ridley spends her time questioning as much as she questions her family and childhood friends.

On her search for the truth, Ridley discovers the truth doesn’t always set you free, and sometimes it lands you in a heap of trouble. The fast-paced, first-person narrative was gripping at times, but at others, I found myself drifting a bit. That could always be because I’ve lost some of my ability to really focus on a book, though. Whatever the case, the story was fascinating and held my attention to the last page, and I really enjoyed it.

I will admit, however, that I’m not sure I’m cut out to be reading ARCs. I realize they are uncorrected proofs, and that’s why I noticed so many glaring errors that any publishing house would have eradicated before printing, but still… perhaps that kind of book is not for me. I have at least one other ARC in my collection to read, a Patterson book that I snagged from my boss as well. We’ll see if that one has as many glaring errors, and then I’ll know not to read them unless I’m not worried about perfection.

Hopefully I’ll be adding new posts more frequently now that I’m home. And when I go back to China, I should be able to continue adding posts as I have a proxy (thank heavens for people who create ways around the Great Firewall of China!) that has enabled me to visit such contraband sites as Facebook (gasp!) even in my Chinese apartment. I look forward to writing more on this blog so that it won’t be lost in the mass of the blogosphere, and even if no one keeps up with it, I think keeping it going will be my joy.

I hope you’ll bear with me as I regroup on this side of the world and get my bearings. And if you have any thoughts, feel free to share them! I’m always interested in hearing from people.

Until next time –


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House – By Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker

Posted on March 1, 2010. Filed under: Books, Suspense | Tags: , , , |

Well, it’s the first day of March and a Monday, so with no further ado, I’d like to introduce my new series: A Few Of My Favorite Things! I’ll be attempting to add to this every Monday for the month of March, so we’ll see what fun things I can come up with to write about.

The purpose of My Favorite Things is to let you know a little more about my reading style. I’ll be featuring posts on favorite authors and books and maybe even a little randomness on the side. I’m still debating about the randomness. However, for today, I have picked out an appropriate book that I think you’ll enjoy.

A Few of My Favorite Things

Today I’d like to introduce the book House by Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker, not to be confused with the TV show of the same name. I mentioned this book in a post a few weeks ago, and now I’m breaking it back out because it’s a fabulous read. According to the back of the book, it’s classified as general or suspense fiction.

For those who don’t know, Ted Dekker is a Christian author whose focus is on twisting your perceptions. His series of novels have thrilled and excited and horrified readers ever since he started writing, and his ability to completely leave any trace of Christianity out of his writing and yet still get his point across is fascinating.

Frank Peretti is a more established Christian author who’s been published longer than Dekker. Peretti’s specialty is writing spiritually charged novels that use a lot of metaphor and even allegory in order to serve his message. His books are fascinating in ways that make you think and wonder about the world around you.

Together, the two are the perfect authors for this book.

House is the story of two couples, brought together by a killer in the middle of the night. Both have been run off the road in the middle of nowhere on their way home, and they somehow wind up outside of a house-turned-inn. With no cell phone service and no other means of leaving due to slashed tires, both couples find their way into the quaint home where they are greeted by the family that runs the inn.

Meet Jack and Stephanie Singleton, a married couple whose relationship is on the rocks, especially after Stephanie took her wedding band off last month. Jack, of course, was devastated by the loss of intimacy and love that they shared, and Stephanie’s fear drives her moves now.

Alone in the Alabama hotel, the two meet Randy and Leslie, a couple who call themselves “long time associates” but are much closer than mere work partners. Randy and Leslie have also found themselves without tires on the gravel backroad and are looking for the owners of the inn.

When the odd, inbred family finally appears, the chess pieces are all in place for a killer’s deadly game. Betty, the wife and hostess, shows a hostility towards her guests that’s almost palpable as she tells them how stupid they are for coming when the murderer known as the Tin Man is on the loose.

Starting with a power failure and escalating to threats via bricks tossed down the chimney, boards nailed against all possible exits, and a truck rammed through the front door, the foursome finds themselves the pawns in this game. And there are only three rules to the Tin Man’s game:

“Welcome to my house.

House rules:

1. God came to my house, and I killed him.

2. I will kill anyone who comes to my house as I killed God.

3. Give me one dead body, and I might let rule two slide.

Game over at dawn.”

Thus begins Tin Man’s game. Driven by fear and adrenaline, the two couples band together in a fight for their lives as they discover their hosts’ secrets. But their mistake, the one that could potentially lead to their deaths, is going into the basement.

Once all four of them have entered the basement, Tin Man seals them inside, keeping them trapped in a maze unlike any they’ve experienced before. Changing rooms, shifting shadows, circus mirrors that don’t reflect human reflections all lead them down the road to insanity as Jack, Stephanie, Randy, and Leslie while away the hours until dawn.

But this house isn’t normal by any stretch of the word, and its owners are just as dangerous as the Tin Man. When Jack discovers a young girl hiding in the basements named Susan, her appearance seems suspicious: just how did she get down there in the first place? And why does she insist that Jack isn’t really hearing her?

The book follows the game, pacing each chapter by the time of the night. As the couples weather attacking inbreds, they try to figure out just what supernatural forces are taking part in their captivity. But the game ends at dawn no matter what, and for them to survive, someone must die.

It’s an adrenaline-laced adventure for the two couples as they try to survive long enough to get back up to ground level. But once they do, more mysteries and a killer awaits them. And the ending is shocking enough that you probably won’t be expecting it.

It’s one of my favorite books because the psychological thriller has a fabulous plot, well-developed characters, and a powerful, underlying message. It left me on the edge of my seat and kept me reading late in the night as I was too afraid to turn off the lights without knowing how the book would conclude.

In short, I’d argue that this book is just as intriguing, fascinating, and alluring as any on the shelves produced in the general market. The timing is perfect, and the turns of phrase are fabulous.

So, there you have it, one of my favorite things. I’ve read this book through twice and picked through it at random intervals to remember the plot. It’s definitely a book I’ll be keeping on my bookshelves for years to come.

Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Let me know!


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