C.M. Martens’ Favorite Books

It definitely helps to know someone’s tastes when following recommendations, so I thought I’d put up some of my favorites. It was way harder than I thought to narrow this down. There are way more books on this page than I meant there to be…

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Top 10

In no particular order:

  1. The Name of the Wind (Book 1 of the Kingkiller Chronicles) by Patrick Rothfuss
  2. Dune by Frank Herbert
  3. Hero (book 3 of Epic Saga) by Lee Stephen
  4. Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio
  5. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  6. Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
  7. Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff
  8. Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer
  9. The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter
  10. Blood Song (Book 1 of the Raven’s Shadow Series) by Anthony Ryan

Almost made the top list

  • House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  • Evo Nation Series by K. J. Chapman
  • The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
  • Echo Series by Kent Wayne
  • 14 by Peter Cline
  • In Her Name Series by Michael Hicks (especially book 5)
  • The Host by Stephanie Meyer
  • The Legion & the Lioness by Robert D. Armstrong
  • Heretics of Dune by Frank Herbert
  • The Lightbringer Series by Brent Weeks
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard
  • Hyperion by Dan Simmons
  • Wyvern by A. A. Attanasio
  • The Dragonian Series paired with the Moonbeam Series by Adrienne Woods
  • Stain by A.G. Howard
  • Red Rising by Pierce Brown
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Huge fan of:

  • Mercy Thompson Series by Patricia Briggs
  • First seven books in the Anita Blake Series by Laurell K. Hamilton
  • Anne Rice
  • Science Fiction
  • The Arthurian Saga by Mary Stewart
  • The Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning
  • The rest of the Dune books, including everything his son wrote
  • A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin (though I almost threw the last one)
  • Geodyssey by Piers Anthony
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Nighthawk by Marie Frances
  • Supernaturals: A Ghost Story by David Lynn Goleman
  • Xenogenesis Series by Octavia Butler
  • S. by J.J. Abrams
  • Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
  • To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

I’m not a fan of:

  • …Brandon Sanderson books. I typically find them dull, though the concepts are always fantastic. I think I’ve given 3 stars to every book of his I’ve read, except the first Mistborn book which was a 4 star. So, I guess it’s not that I’m not a fan, I just don’t love him like everyone else I know…
  • …Stephen King. Not even The Dark Tower Series. So many words for no reason, though I did enjoy Misery and Pet Cemetary.
  • …The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. Sorry, Scott. I just don’t *shrug* Maybe because I’d already read Anita Blake and just couldn’t do another supernatural cop-mystery-who-done-it series? Maybe I’m just sexist when it comes to this kind of book…

Books I re-read over & over

  • Dune
  • Enemies by Tijan
  • Made of Steel Series by Ivy Smoak
  • Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning
  • Stain by A.G. Howard
  • The Burning Series by Evan Winter

Your Thoughts

I’d love to hear your comments on any of the above 🙂

My thoughts on Book Reviews

Book Reviews: How I Do It

A couple of years back, I started reviewing books but didn’t get very many posted, as I found it stressful. Most of the reading I do is from self-published, freshman, indie authors who rely on reviews to help get their books get read by a wider audience. Was my opinion worthy of influencing the career of a new author? Were my thoughts insightful enough to lead prospective readers down the right path?

I decided NO, and left reviews for others.

Yes, I tend to overthink things.

I’ve since decided to start this review thing again but feel the need to explain my point-of-view. Reading other reviews of those I’ve rated has left me feeling like maybe I’m on another planet. That is another reason I stopped posting my thoughts, but that’s just cowardly, so here goes another attempt…

First of all, I believe reviews are for readers. A review is to help someone decide whether or not they should spend their hard-earned money and invest their valuable time on a book. Reviews can truly be helpful for this. A review or two has helped me decide whether or not to buy a book. There’s even been a painfully negative review here and there that pushed me to read something when I felt the reviewer’s voice was overly harsh or seemed absurd to my point of view. This latter situation is why I stopped reviewing books myself, and, strangely enough, why I’ve decided to start reviewing again.

I think critiques and reviews are not the same thing.

I think many people believe negativity equates directly to intelligence – that finding the bad or interpreting something as inferior highlights a knowledge base above others. Inversely, if “we” like something “bad” it makes us stupid. I don’t like this. I must be too nice; not finding pleasure in saying anything that might hurt someone’s feelings. So much of it is in the approach; in the nature of the language used. I used to not post reviews under 3 stars. I stopped doing that, understanding after publishing my own books that the volume of rating matters as much as the level. Getting some 1 & 2 star reviews is healthy; a majority of them are a clue to reevaluate the writing. Still, I stay respectful and constructive, understanding throughout that my review expresses my opinion. My favorite book is someone else’s least favorite and thank god for that.

Many books I’ve really liked, despite feeling they could have been polished a bit before hitting the public eye, are worthy of reading. Depending on the kind of problems, that might mean I rate it 3 over 4 stars, though usually a 3 star comes from story problems. If I liked the book but thought it needed more development in some way, if I found myself skimming through large sections to get to the next part, the book will be 3 stars. If I forced myself to finish but couldn’t have cared less: 2 stars. 1 stars from me typically mean I DNF’d (did not finish).

5-star rating system

I continue to struggle with what to give 5-stars, versus 4-stars, versus 3. Part of me thinks a 5-star rating should be a rarity. 5-stars is the best, right? 5-stars means there’s very little, if any, room for improvement. 5-stars is for those favorite favorites.

Despite this argument with myself (still ongoing), I’ve started to toe the line. Inconsistenty equals problems. Reviews are to be helpful, not to prove my literary genius. This change of heart came after an author responded to a 3-star rating I gave alongside glowing comments. If reviews are to help convince others to read something I’m suggesting is worthy, maybe my star ratings should better reflect that.

Basically, after all this contemplation on how to best be fair to authors and their stories, I’ve decided on a compromise between my initial thoughts and my comparison of other reviewers. To reiterate, If I love a story, but genuinely think there should have been a little more development in a major case, it will get 4-stars. 5-stars go to those with very little missing. 3-stars will still signify a book worth reading but with some hiccups I couldn’t ignore.

–Goodreads’ 3 stars = ‘liked it’ while Amazon’s 3 stars = ‘it’s okay’. These are not the same thing to me. I think I tend to rate more in line with Goodreads, but because I think Amazon is more helpful to sales, I’ve been trying to gear my system to this.—

How, and Why, I Like A Story

Typically, why, and if, I like a book is based on emotion and gut. Even as I like “smart” stories and intelligently crafted characters, plots, and themes, my reviews are typically based off of my first response, emotional feelings rather than logical deductions and comparisons or deep study of nuance. If the book made me happy to read, I like it, even if I agree there may have been “better” ways the story might have been crafted, explained, structured, etc. In comparison to other reviews I’ve read, I’m definitely generous when it comes to structure, language usage, and engineering problems that most people are hung up on. One reason for this, I think, is that I read very fast, so tend to skim over “problems” that others, literally, trip over (like minor spelling and grammar errors). Secondly, I’m interested in the story. Crafting is difficult, and while I can see the argument that if you can’t craft or hire an editor, you shouldn’t publish, sometimes a story just wants to be told and we’re too impatient to figure out how to circumvent the world of capitalism needed to learn craftsmanship. If your story is engaging and real enough for me to slip down your rabbit hole, I’ll like your book, even if I can see where an editor, or a critical thinker, might have helped you immensely.

Lastly, spoilers are not necessary for a review. I’m not sure why that’s a thing. There is a book blurb for that. An essay is something that explains detailed points, critiques, argues, and analyzes. That’s not a review. The point is to explain why someone else should read the book without making it unnecessary for them to read it.

If you don’t like how I present my reviews, well, I have nothing to say about that. I like books. Books make me happy, and sometimes I like to tell people I liked a thing so maybe they’ll find the same joy. If you don’t like a thing that I liked, that’s okay. If there’s a How to Review like a Reviewer so You’ll No Longer be a Poser Reviewer memo, I’ll gladly take a look at that.

I’ll review your book! Email me a pdf with a release date (so I can give myself a deadline): cindy_martens@ymail.com

Happy Reading! 🙂

CMM

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Journaling

Trying to figure it out

We really make our lives so complicated. Not even on purpose, which I think makes it worse. There’s so much unconscious stumbling along the path we call our lives. So much blind forward motion that we don’t even notice the things we cling to that make it what it shouldn’t. We’ve all gone through so much unconscious training. We watched those who raised us and took on their lessons, whether good or ill. We created unconscious systems that helped us avoid pain. We learned to ignore problems we felt we shouldn’t/couldn’t/don’t want to deal with. We pretend that any movement is better than none. We convince ourselves we’re doing the right thing.

I’ve seen this in myself for years. Ignored the quiet voice that suggests it’s all wrong because making it right would mean facing difficulties. I made my life complicated by thinking I was keeping it simple. Keeping to the design. Not rocking the boat or hurting people’s feelings.

What’s right?

But how should we know? Never are we taught how to be ourselves. Most of the time, we’re steered away from who we are. We believe we’re supposed to. We believe the adults in our lives have some grand knowledge, and listening to them will lead us towards greatness.

As an adult, I know this is a lie. Adults – people who are older than children – don’t know. I readily admit this. Yet we continue to teach the youth that they should be like us. We continue to teach them what we have experienced is not true.

Shouldn’t we intrinsically know who we are? Children know. Just watch them. No one laughs like a small child. That laugh that is impossible not to laugh along with. True joy. Forgetting that is something we’ve convinced ourselves is just a part of life. Well, sure, because we’ve all allowed it to be. What if we stopped molding people into our view of who they should be? What if we let them find out who they are? What if we stopped stealing everyone’s joy?

I’ve never been more sure about anything in my life that we are not ourselves. I’ve never been angrier at anything than I am at the public education system (that’s not entirely fair, and also a part of a different conversation). 

One Word

I set myself up for something I hadn’t considered this year when I decided to participate in One Word (read about my word discovery here). To follow my word for the year, journaling has become a significant part of my life. I used to journal – back in my school years, then occasionally throughout my life. Never with any real consistency; never really deep-diving into why my questions came up or couldn’t be answered. I never really tried to answer them. I assumed they were unanswerable. I assumed my existential dilemma was something I needed to manage.

Today, I know exactly why I didn’t look further than the surface. I didn’t want to face myself. When I first picked up my pen this year, I actually laughed about it. It came out so clean and clear on that first page. All my claims to be more self-aware than the average person were for crap when staring at how I’d blatantly ignored this detail for over a decade. I liked wallowing in my self-pity. And I was much too lazy to put in any work to be happy.

Interlude

Over a decade. That statement above made me ill to write. So much wasted time, and for what? All in the name of avoidance. The stoics talk about this. About anticipating death at any moment, so you value time above all else. They say if you’re thirty years old, you’re actually thirty years dead. We’re not looking at 60 or 90 more years to live, but those years we’ve lived as being gone because we can’t know – with surety – how many days are left. If we never know when that last day will come, we will acknowledge each moment as precious as it is. This is why saying, out loud, that ten years of knowing a thing but not doing anything about it makes me physically ill. I know it does no good to be sad about the past, to stare into it, and let it cripple me. Still, I will take a moment to acknowledge it, lament it, and promise I will try to be more aware so I don’t waste more of my time like this. So easy to say, I know. Much harder to do. That’s why I try to commit to showing up every day. Some days will be great, some not so great, but always I will be there, allowing life to move through me, rather than reacting and/or hiding from it. That is my biggest problem. Hiding.

Back to Journaling

So, with my word for the year to guide me:

SATYA:

A Practice of Truthfulness

…guides us to think, speak, and act with integrity.

from: https://yogainternational.com/article/view/satya-a-practice-of-truthfulness

My first obstacle is to figure out how to know what I do is truthful. How do I know if ego is pulling me versus trusting it’s my purpose? That’s where journaling comes in and is super important. Because exactly – how can I know if I don’t know myself? I need to get into my head – deep, where it hurts and is uncomfortable.

Sure, sitting around thinking about things can be helpful. Except, until you say something out loud and/or put it on paper, it’s really just abstract ideas. Trust me. The thoughts of a brain do not directly translate to communication. I’m a fiction writer. I know how genius thoughts can be. Great ideas are so motivating! Then, I sit down to make them corporeal… lots of nothing tends to come out. There’s nothing really there. Trust me when I say, if it’s not put down in some concise manner, visually or vocally, it’s not real. Those brilliant thoughts are not what you think.

Journaling fleshes this all out. Journaling forces these ideas through questions whose answers explain much. Only when we figure out WHY we think things can we judge how valid they are. So much of what’s in my head is not honest or valuable. So much is just fear or misunderstanding or ignorance based on random facts(?) and encounters. So many are based on points made by people who didn’t know what they were talking about.

Effect or Affect?

I already feel better and more alive, more joyful and hopeful and just more like the person I was supposed to be after only a handful of sessions in front of these blank pages. Have I shown up every day? No. Do I not feel like it? Most of the time. There is so much farther for me to travel. So much more to uncover. There is still the work of creating a real habit out of it. Of remembering it’s working even when I think I don’t have time for it.

How to Journal

My first few journaling sessions were tedious. I literally did not know what to write. I was journaling for a particular reason, but the how of drawing that out – even still – is daunting. My underlying point is to connect with my Divine Self. To practice SATYA; to be truthful in my intention in all I do. Along this path, I know I’ll flesh out my true self. What can I possibly say that will sift through the layers of bullshit pretending to be me? What do I need to talk about to burrow into the real me? I won’t know until I get there. I won’t know until I let the ideas turn to precise thoughts.

Obstacles

One of my major problems lies in these questions of how to get there. I am horrible at enjoying the journey. I am goal-oriented, so find I’m often looking up and out. I need to see the destination before I trust I should even start a journey. If I have no clear action plan, if that plan does not align with the goal, I’ll sit around on my PS4 for months before I think to do anything about something I want/should/need to do. So here I am, staring at a blank page, needing to know which is the most efficient thing to talk about to get me there.

Any step will start it. EVERY path leads there. Sure, some ways are faster. Some tracks are more treacherous, have more distractions, more shiny baubles to make us forget. Others have lower lows and higher highs. ANY STEP. Just do it. Just show up, and things start to happen.

I listened to this. I did it. I just started writing, not even sure what I was talking about. Those words turned into a point that forced me to look and see, so more words flowed. Soon I had pages filled. Years of half-assed, kind-of-pretending to soul search and be better had primed me for this. I was more than ready to get into it. That’s not to say this will be/is one of those fast paths. Remember, a decade to get here. A decade to finally step onto the path ( *drawn-out breath* *ignore the frustration* ).

I don’t know if journaling into your inner thoughts is difficult and tedious. Those who are smarter and braver than me, who didn’t have pride keeping them back, maybe you found journaling hard at first because you had more to get through. Maybe the opposite. Tell me about your journey. 

Doing It

I now have two journals (composition notebooks). One I call my mind dump. The other is where I follow along to a prompt series. Sometimes, I don’t know what to say. Often, I need direction. Especially a direction that is an approach to lead me where I want to go. Most days, I do both. Even when I don’t think I know what to say, a cascade of thoughts comes pouring out as soon as I write a few words. Thoughts that dive through the crap I’ve wrapped around myself. Ideas that get to the heart of me. Ideas that may scrape away the things I think bother me, so I can let go and figure things out from an honest, kind, helpful, and genuine place. SATYA.

Do you journal? How have you found it helpful to your process/creativity/life/et al.?

If you have a favorite prompt or topic that has helped you really flesh yourself out, I’d love to hear it! Leave me a comment, or contact me through my contact page 🙂

Photo by Content Pixie on Unsplash

TEN-ZERO-NINE

Some book availability updates:

TEN-ZERO-NINE is the psychological thriller sequel to my Rishi’s Wish series. A short, fast-paced read that will leave you biting your nails and afraid to turn the lights off. Get it free here:

Some things you can’t take back.

All Steve wanted was to find the balls to tell the girl of his dreams how he felt.

And he finally had.
Today was that day. A day engineered with no distractions. A day for just the two of them. No roommates. No cowardice. No second-guessing that the friendship they’d built over the last year wasn’t more.
Today was the day his hellish existence would move into the light.

Snatched away by four simple words, Steve’s day turns dark. From one second to the next, taking his future in his hands turns to a speeding train bearing down on him.

Each day more torturous than the last, he’s forced to watch his love slumber through a dangerous experimental procedure. A procedure that has never worked. A procedure that turns her from his friend into subject 10-0-9.

When she wakes, when she finally comes to, the first to survive, Steve wants to take it all back. The nightmare he’d been living was nothing compared to this.

Book Review: The Witch’s Revenge: Myth and Magic, Book 1

Book Review

The Witch’s Revenge: Myth and Magic, book 1

By: S.W. Millar

Urban Fantasy
4 stars

My name is Henry Stone.

Twenty-four hours ago, I was a regular twenty-one year old with a regular life. Over-protective parents, annoying best mate, about to graduate from uni and start a Masters in Creative Writing.

All that changed when I witnessed something I was never supposed to see, and it got my parents killed.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, I discovered I can do magic. Not the rabbits out of top hats kind, either. I know it sounds crazy, but I’m a witch. A real one.

Now I’m on my way to a top secret training academy for supernatural assassins—known as The Covert Executioner’s Network (COVEN)—with nothing to my name except the clothes on my back, my parents’ wedding rings, and a sworn oath to avenge their deaths.

I’d say wish me luck, but I think my luck has already run out.

I really enjoyed S.W. Millar‘s The Witch’s Revenge. The Magicians meets Shadowhunter Academy, it was a ride of constant excitement. A straightforward magic system, with plenty of eggs laid for future adventures, I’m looking forward to more. Give me demons, Mr. Millar!

Henry Stone is an oft-times infuriating protagonist, but I find that true of so many main characters. Wanting to slap them is often part of the fun of reading these suspenseful adventures, and I found it true here. Lots of angst, of past trauma poisoning the present, lovers of The Dresden Files will definitely like Millar’s debut. Well-paced, The Witch’s Revenge will keep you flipping pages long after you should have gone to bed. Even after, if you’re like me, you’ll be wondering about his nuggets of reference to Camelot and sorcerers and demons…I’ll be waiting in anxious anticipation for book 2.

Happy Reading 🙂