Best of Kindle Unlimited: Susan Ee

While most Kindle Unlimited authors are independent authors, there are a lot of wonderful traditionally published writers too. Susan Ee is another example of an author publishing through one of Amazon’s publishers and working with the Kindle Unlimited system to create a maximum audience.

Susan Ee’s work is marketed to young adults but the horror elements combined with griping story beats entertain all ages.  The story told in the Angelfall series isn’t unique.  I’ve read variations.  The beats didn’t surprise me as they may have surprised the younger audience.  But Ee creates full fledged characters readers can invest in.  Even if we know the story, we don’t know how these characters will handle it, and that’s what will keep adult readers engaged.

Take Aways from Susan Ee’s Success:

1.  Dark horror and the grotesque is for young adults too.  Ee’s books do not hold back in exploring the darkness in humanity.  She pushes body horror and explores all the ways people can be used.  Neither the “good guys” nor the “bad guys” flinch from acting in inhuman ways.  If “Angelfall” was a show or a movie series, I don’t know how it could get around an R rating.

2.  Creating relatable personalities and rounded characters is more than good writing, it will broadens a novel’s appeal.  Don’t shy away from differently abled characters either.  Much of the story’s conflicts come from the characters’ physical and mental disabilities and how that impacts them.  

3.  This a great example of a book series with a strong first book but better follow-ups.  Ee never faltered in her vision for “Angelfall” (or is she did, it doesn’t show in the final products).  Writer’s fatigue or a series decline in quality is not a constant fact of life!  The direction, pacing, and sense of stakes remains strong in each of Ee’s books.  

Looking for other great Kindle Unlimited Series? Check out our earlier write up on Amy A. BartolSara C. Roethle,  T. A. White, Charlie N. Holmberg, and Meg Elison.

Wondering why Kindle Unlimited?  Check out my post: 7 Reasons I read Kindle Unlimited

For further discussion on reviews try our “Would you Rather…” post that asks writers to pick between two different kinds of negative reviews.  Or try Do Critical Reviews hurt me as a Writer?

Or consider 9 Things that Make a Book Good (For Me)7 Steps I take Before Posting a Bad Review

Best of Kindle Unlimited: Meg Elison

While most Kindle Unlimited authors are independent authors, there are a lot of wonderful traditionally published writers too. Meg Elison is one author offering her work through Kindle Unlimited and winning the game.  

Elison is an essayist whose debut novel The Book of the Unnamed Midwife is a Philip K. Dick award winner.  In terms of quality, it’s hard to aspire for more within the science fiction genre.  Her stories are griping, emotional, and intellectual.  I love the questions her works pose and the journey her stories take me on.  Her presence on Kindle Unlimited helps to elevate the whole platform.  

Take Aways from Meg Elison’s Success:

1.  The female perspective and discussion of traditionally female centered issues have an audience.  While I’d argue “women’s’ issues” ARE human issues and everyone should listen and discuss them as they affect every man and woman, Elison does a beautiful job portraying that point within her fictional world.  She posits what would happen if women and children were rare commodities.  She explores several manners of extremism and different responses.

2.  LGTQ+ or GRSM (gender, romantic, and sexual minorities) as I prefer to group (it’s more inclusive and less letters to get there) and other controversial issues can be highly palatable and enjoyable in fiction.  Elison uses a fictional vehicle to explore core issues of identity and expression.  Self expression isn’t a minority issue, it’s a human one and this kind of exploration is compelling to a larger reading audience than a writer may assume.

3.  Don’t flinch from controversial subjects period.  Elison’s politics are all over her books and the view point creates a more interesting compelling narrative (even when one doesn’t agree with her take).  Perhaps the controversy even helps selling books?  I don’t know if Elison succeeds in spite of or because of the controversy in her books, but I know writers can take her success as a sign they don’t have to self censor to find a market.  We should write fearlessly and explore any theme we find compelling without angst.

4.  Play with different lengths and styles of writing.  Elison has a background as an essayist, if she’d stuck to that format she wouldn’t have an award-winning novel and a widely read series.  And who knows how much her essayist background helped form her style/craft to where she could pull together a thoughtful, griping, and lean manuscript.

5. Whatever you write and whatever your goals are, pursue them with a single minded passion.  When reading Elison’s book, it’s clear she cares about all the subjects she introduces to her manuscripts.  She’s invested in her writing and making her point and readers can see that level of commitment and will respond  

Looking for other great Kindle Unlimited Series? Check out our earlier write up on Amy A. BartolSara C. Roethle,  T. A. White, or Charlie N. Holmberg.

Wondering why Kindle Unlimited?  Check out my post: 7 Reasons I read Kindle Unlimited

For further discussion on reviews try our “Would you Rather…” post that asks writers to pick between two different kinds of negative reviews.  Or try Do Critical Reviews hurt me as a Writer?

Or consider 9 Things that Make a Book Good (For Me)7 Steps I take Before Posting a Bad Review

My 5 Favorite Reads of 2018

2018 was a wonderful reading year. I beat my goal of 36 books by about 10. 17 of these books were nonfiction and not eligible to make this list. Out of 30 books, these are the top five fiction reads. Starting from least favorite to most treasured read.  For an in-depth look at my 2018 reading check out Books Read in 2018.

image from Goodreads.com

5. Traitorborn–  Has everything I like about “Hunger Games” in it but tells the story in a fresh, compelling way.  My favorite aspect of this series is that there are not “good” characters (at least from my perspective).  Most of the characters, our hero included, have a piece of the solution for their dystopian society and they are also holding on to part of the problem.  It’s refreshing to have a complex group of characters I can empathize with some times and despise other times.  Where so much conversations happening around me are polarizing, it’s nice to read a book that reaches for full open conversation and understanding, without surrendering one’s agency.   For more on this series check out my Kindle Unlimited post.

Image from Goodreads.com


4. Dragon Ridden– Don’t let the cover fool you, this was just fun and well written.  There isn’t any messaging in it, it’s just an immersive fantasy read and sometimes that’s enough.  Pure escapism, a well-developed fantasy world distinct from earth, and a cast of well-rounded characters.  It’s enough. For more on this series check out my Kindle Unlimited post.

image from Goodreads.com


3. End of Days– Dark, thoughtful work with a great balance of action and tense “waiting”.  Left me wondering about the conclusion all the way to the end and it leaves just the right amount open ambiguity to make me think about it for days afterward but still find satisfaction with the close given to us.  I’m sorry “Traitorborn” is on its second book while “End of Days” is a complete series because I think if I could compare the conclusions of both books, it may flip their positions on this list.  Still both books are wonderful.  Sold to young adults but they hold positives for all age groups.  

image from Goodreads.com


2. Card of Chaos–  Complex, excellent execution, everything I look for in the retelling of classic fairytale/folklore.  It begins with humor and ends in affection.  I like how the author draws the reader in and connects us with this strange if familiar world.  Loved the beautiful scenes, the deep philosophy and the language.  It may be my second favorite book of the year, but it’s my first recommendation to others.

image from Goodreads.com


1. The Book of Etta– Enjoyed every second.  I know this is a polarizing book because it explores gender roles, what gender is, and whether sex and gender can be two separate things.  The beauty of this book: it can explore the internal struggle being genderqueer/trans/gay/bi ect  often brings and ignore all the political bullshit that’s happening in our own world.  Here we can enjoy a human vs self moment.  We can see all the factors in the book which exacerbate the struggle and rail against them without hating our own culture.  Sometimes the call to action in a book can cut short a person’s thoughtful introspection, but The Book of Etta lacks this baggage and I’m beyond grateful.  Where the first book took a premise, I didn’t feel was true but expounded on it in a way that pushed me to read on, Etta felt right from the first words.  I knew Etta, I’d been Etta, and I sometimes still am Etta.  I knew Flora and have been her too.  Heck, there was a part of me that felt like I’d been Alma before and that I knew her.  The beauty of this book is that it allowed me to feel and it allowed me to celebrate so many aspects of who I am as a person.  Everyone will have a different time reading it.  But, it’s the jewel of my 2018 reading list.  


Happy New Year!  What were your five favorite reads of 2018?  Was your reading list similar?  Do you have any recommendations for me?  What are your reading goals for 2019?   

Best of Kindle Unlimited: Amy A. Bartol “Secondborn Series”

    

Cover Art from Goodreads

Along my reading, I picked up Amy A. Bartol’s Secondborn.  Even as someone who thrives on the drama of a YA post apocalypse world, I didn’t expect to like this book.  I’d just been burned by the likes of Death Thieves and The Hundredth Queen.  All three YA books trying to take advantage of my love of The Hunger Games and all three of books have 4 star reviews in Amazon and Goodreads.  When will these writers get that what made Hunger Games amazing wasn’t just the kids fighting in the arena?  So, curious despite myself, I picked up Secondborn expecting it to either disappoint or be a guilty pleasure.

Instead  Secondborn and it’s sequel Traitor Born were a joy read and touch on larger conversations we need to have in today’s world. Bartol focuses on the heart of what’s great in post apocalypse YA: the transformation of the main character and their perception of the world around them.  First, I appreciated Roselle as a savvy character who avoids the “ignorant for the sake of exposition” trope.  From the beginning, Roselle shows she is a smart character aware of differing undercurrents even if she’s not sure of how deep those waters flow.  Her thoughts and feelings change as she has new experiences and uncovers more schemes in the world around her.

Through Roselle the reader learns to empathize with many perspectives.  By the time I finished the second book, Traitor Born, I was no longer sure there was a “good side” or “bad side”.  It’s a rare risk for a writer to twist the bad characters into ones we might understand and to muddy the water so we despite the good characters.  I read plenty ambiguous characters or where one “side” transforms into not the villain/not the hero, but leaving a reader with no character to trust or side with is bold and exciting.  Even as I can’t “support” or “root” for any one outcome, I empathize with them.  I want relief for these characters, but it’s not to accomplish their goals.

Amid this shifting terrain, Roselle sinks, struggling with PTSD, and a series of complicated interpersonal relationships.  Her flashbacks, the way she falls to pieces in key moments and rises in others, and how she struggles with drugs feels authentic and relevant.  I thought I’d decided about who I wanted with Roselle as allies or friends, who Roselle should work with and who she should keep at arm’s length, but Traitorborn makes me question the decisions I made.  There’re dangerous edges on everyone and redeeming qualities.  I resented my favorite ally from the last book, forgot how evil/distasteful another character was because he has these moments of genuine connection, and I thought someone who was once a snake in the grass might become a true ally.

And I haven’t even gotten to the science fiction.  Unlike The Giver or The Hunger Games, that keep technology vague and only available to isolated pockets of society, Secondborn distributes the technology to everyone.  The gadgets themselves aren’t innovative, chips in webbing or right hands to track and grant access, hover vehicles and airships, robots who are servants/guards/trackers/medics, and a weapon that seems a cross between a light sabre and a plasma gun.  All ideas I’ve seen before right?  Bartol re-images these ideas to give a fresh unique society.  The world and the devices of it feel lived in and true.  Beyond the existing tech, Bartol continues to introduce upgrades and improvements to her tech.  It starts in one spot with these flaws and then a patch comes out.  The upgrades make her world feel more real and provide new challenges for her characters to overcome.

I’m glad I read the first two books (even if both endings are cliffhangers) and am looking forward to the third installment.  If you like a future society where teens and young adults have to fight for their lives, you will enjoy this series.  While a simple premise, the layers of nuance make it enjoyable and thought provoking to many age groups.

Take Aways From Bartol’s Success:

1. Don’t be afraid to market an idea another book/work made famous just BRING VALUE, don’t expect other’s success to sell a sub par work

2. Have complicated dynamic characters and don’t limit quantity.  Readers can keep up with you as long at each character has a personality-and embrace the baggage being in traumatic situations leaves these characters.  Let them have flashbacks, PTSD, aggressive or tearful reactions to simple daily events.

3. Don’t shy away from near future tech in your science fiction.  Embrace the evolution of these systems to make them feel real and dynamic within your world.

4. Female leads can be emotional and strong/combat oriented.  Roselle is a great balance of action/battle training and intelligent emotional thinking.

5. Have a kick-ass looking personal website.  Just look at Bartol’s website, the graphics and layout make me want to read her work more than her covers!  She’s inviting her readers’ imagination to tackle fan fiction for her characters, and through their fannish excitement, spread her work to new audiences.

Looking for more to read? Check out the next in this series: T. A. White’s “Dragon Ridden Series”  or Sara C. Roethle’s “Tree of Ages”

Wondering why Kindle Unlimited? Here’s 7 reasons I read this way.

Looking for more conversation on reviews? Try “Would you Rather…” or “Does Being Critical in Reviews Hurt me as a Writer?” or consider “9 Things That Make a Book Good (For Me)” or “7 Steps I take Before Writing a Bad Review.”