Book Review: Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor


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Title: Dreams of Gods & Monsters
Author: Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke & Bone
Hardcover: 624 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (April 8, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0316134074
ISBN-13: 978-0316134071
Amazon Review: 4.6/5 stars

Book blurb as seen on Amazon.com:

In this thrilling conclusion to the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, Karou is still not ready to forgive Akiva for killing the only family she’s ever known.

When a brutal angel army trespasses into the human world, Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat–and against larger dangers that loom on the horizon. They begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people. And, perhaps, for themselves–maybe even toward love.

From the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond, humans, chimaera, and seraphim will fight, strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy.

I borrowed this book from my local library.

I have to admit, I think I’m getting tired of writing book reviews. Maybe it’s just because the books I’m reviewing I read weeks ago, or maybe because I’m feeling so much pressure to get my novel ready for submission. Whatever the case, I think I’m going to take a different approach, oh, about 4 reviews from now. 🙂 I always forget to keep notes while I’m reading, so that’s something I’ll change, and I guess I’ll just talk about things that jump out at me, give a brief overall judgement, and my stars. Maybe that’s not so different, but being organized might help. And writing it immediately instead of waiting two weeks!

So on to Dreams of Gods & Monsters. As you can tell by my previous reviews (Daughter of Smoke & Bone and Days of Blood & Starlight) I love this series! I started a Pinterest fan-board, so that should show how much I love it. So there really isn’t much more to say. Taylor’s writing is magnificent. She transports me to another world and I read her books as I breath air. I feel as if I am a character in the book, feeling the despair and the heartache, experiencing the never-ending war that seems to have no resolution, and hanging on to the thread of a hope that something can be done. Taylor moves us through the story, until we can see an ending. We can understand all the characters, their thoughts, motivations, actions and desires. We aren’t left wondering why did they do that? Or how did they get to this point? All is shown and taught and developed within us, until it is just a story that exists in our minds much like a fairy tale drilled into us from childhood. It doesn’t need explaining, it just is.

If Taylor had a drawback, it was this. She succumbed to the established author problem of over-writing the book. I’m not complaining. I’ll take as many novels as she’d like to produce, but she definitely could have shortened things up.We had two to three pages explaining a second in time and how it affected each and every person in the room, or drawn out descriptions of how someone felt in graphic detail. I enjoyed every second, don’t get me wrong, but only an established author with a strong following can get away with that. Oh, to have that pull some day!

And the ending. It was acceptable. I don’t need fairy-tale-perfect-everyone-lives-happily-ever-after. In fact, I don’t like those. You can’t go through hell and be Mary Poppins on the other side. Yes, I’m talking about you, Bella. And there are others, but I like my characters to suffer, and for the reader to understand that suffering doesn’t stop with THE END. So, Taylor makes sure we get a realistic ending. And I liked it. But she left it open. Is there another book? Is there another series? You can’t leave them with, “Oh, you saved the world, but now here’s another major catastrophe you need to fix. Good luck!” Or rather, you can’t leave ME with that! Dear God, woman! Have you no heart? Well, if there’s more to read: Yea! If not: Seriously?! I need a little more resolution than that.

My Review: 4.5/5 stars


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Book Review: Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor


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Title: Days of Blood & Starlight
Author: Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke & Bone
Paperback: 544 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (February 25, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0316133981
ISBN-13: 978-0316133982
Amazon Review: 4.6/5 stars

Book blurb as seen on Amazon.com:

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.

This is not that world.

Art student and monster’s apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is–and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she’ll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

I borrowed this book from my local library.

Dear Ms. Taylor,
I do believe I am in love with you. Not love-love. I mean, you’re a woman and I’m a woman and we’re both straight, so, you know. And not stalker crazy-love either. Oh, no. I won’t be lying in wait outside your writing retreat to snap pictures of your lovely pink hair. I am most specifically talking about your writing. Yes, Daughter of Smoke & Bone was exceptional, and I began to feel my passion for your writing then, but it was this. This novel. Days of Blood & Starlight, that has cemented my undying affection . . .

Wait a second. This is supposed to be a book review, not a love letter to Laini Taylor. Sorry about that. Back on track!

As I’m sure you can surmise, I loved this book. Taylor has restored my wavering faith in YA authors. I know. I know. Ye of little faith. I didn’t really think that ALL YA authors needed to be sent to writing camp, but I have had a string of disappointments lately. And she’s given me a serious inferiority complex. My confidence in submitting my own novel has been sorely tested.

So I guess I’ll start off with the only thing that bothered me. Get it out of the way so I can gush about the good things later. I noticed this in Daughter of Smoke & Bone (you can read my review here) but It was sort of in the back of mind. It was brought to the fore front in this novel and here’s my issue. On several occasions in both the first and second books, Taylor describes the Chimaera as prizing a human aspect as beautiful. Maybe I missed something, and many Chimaera wanted to be their beastly selves (I say beastly with the utmost respect), but I found it strange that a people as varied as the Chimaera would see one aspect as more beautiful than all the rest. Wouldn’t cat-like Chimaera prize a feline face, and bird-like Chimaera want amazing feathers, and those with typical human aspects would like to see a human face. It bothered me that our (I mean human) prejudices would be placed on a people that would most likely appreciate that which was usual to them. I might be reading more into, but that was my one little problem through the whole book.

Now what did I like? Well, EVERYTHING! I love Taylor’s descriptive writing style. How she can describe a person, place, thing, emotion with prose that sings. Her words have the effect of making me forget I am reading a novel. And that is the one best thing an author can do for me. As I read, I forget I’m reading, and I’m just there. In the story. I see what Karou sees and feel what she feels. I understand Akiva’s pain and Liraz’s misgivings and when certain characters die, well, my emotional turmoil is pretty real.

Taylor also has a beautiful gift to see people. Really see them. She creates characters who are full and complete, with strengths and weaknesses. Real weaknesses too. Not just, they have a hot temper. No, these characters have thoughts and ideas and prejudices. They learn from mistakes, and sometimes they don’t. Their detailed pasts color their future and define their actions and Taylor lets us see it all. Even when someone does something we don’t like, we understand why. I was completely intrigued with the personalities and motivations of some of the side characters. Especially Liraz, a character who I started out disliking, but now am intensely interested to see where her story takes her.

There was a rape scene, and I won’t say much because I don’t want to be a spoiler, but it was hard to read. It was still YA appropriate, but it was difficult to see this character go through the ordeal she experienced, though Taylor handled it well. It was brutal. It was awful. And there was nothing remotely romantic about it. That’s how stuff like that should be portrayed, not the crap romance novels pass off as forbidden love. Rape is nasty in all circumstances.

And when Days of Blood & Starlight began, I didn’t see how Karou could ever forgive Akiva for what he had done. No matter what his reason, or thoughts, or motivation, what he did could never be undone. The deaths of so many people she loved was not something that can be gotten over. I still wasn’t convinced these star-crossed lovers would have a happy ending by the end of the second book, but at least I saw a path forward. And I don’t always need a blissfully happy ending. I just need a resolution. Sometimes those are happy, but mostly they just need to be realistic and believable. Taylor brought you along on Karou’s emotional journey, and boy was it a roller-coaster, and you were there with her and the possibilities of a future.

So, in closing, I loved it. I don’t know if it has awakened my enjoyment for fantasy, something I don’t read a lot, or if it’s just Taylor’s books I love, but I’m open to possibilities. I’ve actually already read Dreams of Gods & Monsters before I wrote this, so it was hard not to let that bleed in, but that review will be next.

My Review: 4.5/5


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Book Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner


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Title: The Maze Runner
Author: James Dashner
Age Range: 12 and up
Grade Level: 7 and up
Series: The Maze Runner Trilogy (Book 1)
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Press; First Edition edition (October 6, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0385737947
ISBN-13: 978-0385737944
Amazon Review: 4.3/5 Stars

Book blurb as seen on Amazon.com:

If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone.

Nice to meet ya, shank. Welcome to the Glade.

Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive.

Everything is going to change.

Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.

Remember. Survive. Run.

I borrowed this book from my son.

My son has been bugging me to read this book for quite awhile, and with the movie coming out soon, I figured I better get on it.

It was a fairly quick read for me, spurred on by the fact that The Maze Runner is one of those books that feeds you just enough to awaken your taste, but leaves you starving with need to find the answers. Dashner did a great job of making us feel Thomas’ anger and frustration at not knowing what is going on, because that’s how I felt through the whole book! It actually got a touch old, receiving tiny morsels of information, but having to wait and wait for the next. I guess it served its purpose. I kept reading after all, but I think it actually took me out of the story after awhile because I was so annoyed with being constantly confused.

The characters were fairly well developed, though I felt Dashner would have done better to let us see the character’s actions and dialogue, and let the reader conclude personalities and motivations, rather than have Thomas spell it out through his POV what a character was like. It seems to be a common problem I’m experiencing with YA writers. I think we all need to work on letting YA audiences come to their own conclusions. They’re smart. Give them the clues and they’ll get there.

I also found myself struggling with believe-ability in the characters toward the end. Some of the dialogue felt unnatural and cheesy. But like I said, at some point I was frustrated with unanswered questions and it took me out of the story. Maybe that contributed to finding the ending (last third?) a bit unrealistic. (I don’t mean the events were unrealistic. It’s fiction after all. I mean I realized I was reading a story. I like to forget that if I can.)

Teresea was one character who Dashner could have devoted more time to. I know, she was in a coma for most of the book, limiting opportunities to develop character, but still. I often feel male writers have difficulty writing believable female characters, and Dashner was no exception. Though I suppose men could say the same about women writing men. It’s a circle I guess. Hopefully, Teresea’s character will get better in the sequel.

And what’s with the sexist take on only boys being tested to see if they are good leaders? Once again, I hope this is addressed in later books, because I was kind of offended.

One thing I thought Dashner did well was developing a series of swear words for the boys to use. It was totally realistic that boys in that situation are going to swear like sailors, but being a YA book, it was a great idea to develop nonsense words that were obvious in their definition, but not offensive to read repeatedly.

Overall, this book was a great suspenseful read. I was scared out of my wits for the first third of the novel, and those grievers may give me nightmares. My fear and my desire to know answers kept me turning pages. A few plot points I saw coming, but there were enough twists and surprises to make it worthwhile to read. I will definitely be reading the sequel.

My review: 3.5/5 stars

Book Review: Origins by Jessica Khoury


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Title: Origin
Author: Jessica Khoury
Age Range: 12 and up
Grade Level: 7 and up
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Razorbill; First Edition edition (September 4, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595145958
ISBN-13: 978-1595145956
Amazon Review: 4.2/5 stars

Book blurb as seen on Amazon.com:

The jungle hides a girl who cannot die.

 

An electrifying action-romance that’s as thoughtful as it is tragic.

 

Pia has grown up in a secret laboratory hidden deep in the Amazon rain forest. She was raised by a team of scientists who have created her to be the start of a new immortal race. But on the night of her seventeenth birthday, Pia discovers a hole in the electric fence that surrounds her sterile home–and sneaks outside the compound for the first time in her life.

 

Free in the jungle, Pia meets Eio, a boy from a nearby village. Together, they embark on a race against time to discover the truth about Pia’s origin–a truth with deadly consequences that will change their lives forever.

I borrowed this book from my local library.

So, as usual, I’ll talk about the writing first. It wasn’t amazing, but it wasn’t bad either. It was pretty much unnoticeable, which was fine by me. Fantastic writing that sings is admirable and I thoroughly enjoy it, but sometimes I just want to get lost in a story. Khoury allowed me to read the story with interesting prose, but not be distracted by trying to write the next classic. Most YAs will never achieve such a goal, especially a Sci-Fi or Fantasy, so let me enjoy the tale. Khoury did just that.

I really liked this book, though I only gave it a 3. I guess I just didn’t love it. And if you want a 4 or 5 from me I’m going to have to love it. But the story was engaging and there were no love triangles, which will make some readers very happy. It was a little bit predictable in some cases, but that’s okay. There was enough suspense to move you through the book, still guessing about what might happen, even though you suspected what it would be. The characters were believable and Pia’s struggle between wanting to be a scientist and being true to herself was excellent. The idea that she was raised to think analytically and forget emotion, warring with her morality and the inciting love she feels for Eio was beautifully written.

I loved the ideas brought up in the book about morality, science, its purpose, immortality. They plagued me through out the text and I wanted a resolution. It seemed like there were ideas never mentioned on the subject, but Khoury does a nice job of summing things up without getting preachy. The ending was perfect and left me feeling entirely satisfied.

So, like I said, it gets a 3. The writing was good, but not stellar. I was a little annoyed at some of the names because I didn’t know how to pronounce them and had to think about it every time I read them, and it was slightly predictable. Still, entertaining and I look forward to the second book in the series, though Khoury wrapped it up so nicely I can’t imagine what it will be. Of course, I thought the same thing about Mindy McGinnis’ Not a Drop to Drink, and now I’ anxiously awaiting In a Handful of Dust.

My Review: 3/5 stars

Hijacking the Character Blog Hop

93-land-of-the-pirates--vector-cartoon-illustration-1113tm-v1So I saw Infinite Free Time was on the Character Blog Hop, and he invited anyone who wanted to participate to join in by tagging themselves in the comments. Naturally I couldn’t resist talking about my book, so thanks for the invite to invite myself. 🙂 It may not be an actual hijack, but close enough!

1) What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?

My character has no name, hence the title I Have No Name. Not to give away too much, but she does develop names through the book (first a nickname, then one she chooses for herself.) It’s part of her character growth that she accepts that though she is no longer the person she used to be, she can still find happiness in the person she has become.

2) When and where is the story set?

The story is set 30-35 years into the future (I don’t set a date) and takes place in two locations. The first is a small Michigan town on the shores of Lake Huron and the second location is a not-so-secret government installation in Virginia known as Mount Weather.

3) What should we know about him/her?

The girl has some serious psychological issues. When the story opens she hasn’t seen another living person in two years. Before that she watched everyone she’s ever known die of the plague. The hallucinations are a problem, but the real issue is allowing anyone to ever get close to her again. She’s so messed up she doesn’t even want to get close to herself and tries to forget her own name.

4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

All she wants is to be left alone, but as usual, we often want what is worst for us. When the girl discovers she is not the sole survivor of the plague, she is faced with not only allowing herself to feel for others again, but a war between survivors that could destroy the few people she’s finally come to care about.

5) What is the personal goal of the character?

That’s hard. It changes. First, she wants to be left alone. When she does make friends and finds a place in a community, she’s captured by a rival group and just wants to get home alive. But it isn’t that easy. Turns out the rival group isn’t full of “bad guys” as she was led to believe, and now she’s even starting to fall for one of them. Finding a way to keep the people she cares about safe is the most important thing. Matters of the heart come a distant second.

6) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

I Have No Name. I’m considering making the front page of my blog static with my idea for the hook in the hopes that others will critique and help me craft a better one! And I’ve considered posting my first chapter for the fun of it.

7) When can we expect the book to be published? 

No idea. I’m finishing edits and beginning query stage soon. I want to go the traditional route, though I’m not opposed to indie or self pub if it comes to that. We’ll see. I wouldn’t expect anything for a couple of years anyway.

Like Infinite, I’m not tagging anyone. Tag yourself in the comments and jump in!

Book review – Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor


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Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (June 5, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 031613399X
ISBN-13: 978-0316133999
Amazon Review: 4.5/5 stars

Book blurb as seen on Amazon.com:

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

 

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

 

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

 

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages–not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

 

When one of the strangers–beautiful, haunted Akiva–fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

I borrowed this book from my local library

All right, this is going to be short and sweet. Maybe. I loved this book. I’m giving it a solid 4. It would get a 5, but I don’t actually read a lot of Fantasy, so it’s not entirely my thing, and there was one minor problem I had that I’ll get to later. Still, a 4 from me is high praise.

Sometimes you come across a book where the writing is so good you want to jot down all the nice little lines you find and share them with your blog readers. That was not this book. There were so many lines I couldn’t write them all down. I couldn’t take the time to analyze why Taylor is a good writer because I was so caught up in the beautiful prose and the amazing story that to dissect writing style would have been blasphemous. I had to just keep reading. Someday I may go back and read more critically, but this is the sort of book that makes me ecstatic I’m a book worm, and makes me want to keep at this writing thing. I was lost in the story, and that’s the way it should be.

I was a little concerned about the angel angle. I’ve read a few “angel books”, and I know there are a few hundred more out there because I pin them to my YA Books board on Pinterest all the time. So I’m a little sick of seeing them. Though I haven’t read them all, I felt like this was a somewhat fresh take on that angle. Now, I’m still a little tired of angels, but I’ll let it slide for this series. Bring them on!

My only problem was that sometimes there was too much to remember, imagine, understand. But that is more me than Taylor’s writing. Like I said, I don’t read a lot of Fantasy, though that may change, so my imagination muscles need to flex in this arena a bit more. The characters were so strange and fantastical it was sometimes difficult to fully realize them in my own mind. That’s on me, not Taylor, because she gave me the tools to work with, but I was just to caught up in the story. When I read it again, I’ll be able to take the time to draw a mental picture more thoroughly.

So basically, if you like Fantasy READ THIS! If you are on the fence about Fantasy, read it anyway, because it’s still grounded in reality. If you don’t like Fantasy, well, read it anyway. This might change your mind. I can’t wait to read the next books in the series, though I may force myself to wait since I have so many others stacked up. Or maybe not. We’ll see! :)-

My Review: 4/5 stars

Book Review – The Here and Now by Ann Brashares


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Title: The Here and Now
Author: Ann Brashares
Print Length: 258 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0385736800
Publisher: Delacorte Press (April 8, 2014)
Sold by: Random House LLC
Language: English
ASIN: B00ERTDJKS
Amazon Review: 3.6/5 stars

I borrowed this book from my local library

Book blurb as seen on Amazon.com:

An unforgettable epic romantic thriller about a girl from the future who might be able to save the world . . . if she lets go of the one thing she’s found to hold on to.

Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.

This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins.

Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth.

But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves.

This book started as a solid 4 stars for me. I loved the premise. The characters were intriguing. And the writing was good. I liked some lines so much, I’m going to share them, though maybe they won’t make sense out of context, but the way the words mix together sang to me, so here goes:

The gap between what we say and what we feel is so big and dark that sometimes I think I’ll fall into it and just keep falling.

***

Already he is the drip, drip of water that carves a canyon right through the middle of me.

***

“If it was okay for me to kiss you,” he whispers, “would you want me to?”

I know I should lie. I should make this easier on both of us. But I’ve begun to tell the truth, and I am drunk on it. “The most of anything,” I whisper into the seat.

***

I am getting the hang of this, spending my questions like a millionaire.

***

Ethan claims he is some kind of supergenius expert at Gin, so when I beat him in our second game, he is so beset by rage and disbelief that he makes us play three more times, and writhes in psychological pain as I beat him every time.

***

Down goes the bucket again, into the long-abandoned memory well. I surprise myself with what comes up.

Okay, that’s all. But I loved those lines enough to write them down verbatim in a notebook and type them again for this post. I feel I do enough ranting about “bad” writing, I should give some cred to good writing as well.

On to the book!

The beginning was enticing, doling out morsels for the reader to nibble on while they progressed through the beautiful prose. There were a lot of abstracts and half-truths and opinions meted out to keep you reading to find out the whole picture. And then there was the forbidden love story between Ethan and Preena (loved the name!) Their romance was believable and progressed naturally through years of knowing each other. You wanted them to be together, even while knowing it was impossible, and seeing that it really was impossible. The sexual and emotional tension was palpable.

But then we got into specifics. This is where time travels books usually fail. I really enjoyed this book from start to finish, but my analytical-brain just wasn’t buying it. If you’re going to write a time-travel novel, you better think it through, and most in my opinion don’t. I don’t want to ruin it for you, (I’ll do that in the spoiler at the bottom) but let’s just say if you follow the time line, or even the time circles, or whatever you want to call it, then the things that happen in this novel couldn’t happen. Changing one thing changes another which changes another which means the first thing wouldn’t have happened at all thereby not affecting the other things. See what I mean? And just to be clear, once you time travel, you’re stuck. No going back.

There were a couple of other minor, minor problems. Like the fact the book is set in 2014, and Preena comes from circa 2090, but in the future people don’t understand Christmas and they talk differently. I’m not sure 80 years is enough to change things that much.

And when Preena appears in 2014 for the first time she is naked, but other people brought boxes of belongings. That was never explained, like at all. Seemed like a big hole.

Oh, and I’m getting really tired of random teens with mad hacker-skills. Ethan comes through with some pretty amazing computer hacks to save the day, but I’m just done with teens that have whatever magic skill is needed to complete the task at hand.

And Preena sees Ethan’s obituary in the paper that is brought from the future, but it’s printed the day after he supposedly dies. Pretty sure obits aren’t printed the day after your teenage son is murdered.

And last, but certainly not least, Preena’s “people” came from the future to try to stop the plague that wipes out the world. So a thousand people travel through time, but get so comfortable in their current life they no longer want to save the billions of people who die in the future? Preena’s mom lost two sons and she’s willing to stand by and not work her ass off to save them? That was probably the hardest thing to swallow. There is no comfortable life possible for me that would stop me from trying to save my kids.

Really, I did like this book. I know I talk about the negatives a lot, and just wait for the spoiler at the bottom, but the prose was beautiful, the premise was interesting and the romance was pure and emotional. I liked the characters and rooted for them. Even the “bad guy” you kind of understood where he was coming from. So I would still recommend this book, because not everyone is as picky as me when it comes to plot. If you just want to be swept away by a story, then by all means read it, but if you want things to make sense at the end, well, maybe try something else.

My review: 3/5 stars (I’d have given it a 4 if it weren’t for plot holes)

And now for the spoiler!!!

***SPOILER*** So let’s just walk through this a little bit. If Preena changes the future and they stop or alter the plague that kills billions, then Preena will have no reason to come back in time and then she won’t change the future. Time travel novels always do this and it drives me insane. Why can’t they just mention, “Hey, when we get to the future we have to tell our future selves that we will be forced to give up our lives and time-travel or everyone dies.” Because, if some old woman showed up claiming to be me and told me that I’d jump right in the time travel device, right? But whatever. Say Preena is more gullible and noble than me, so she does. Supposedly when Baltos time-travels, he kills not only Mona so he can protect his family’s oil wealth, but also kills Ethan, who invented time travel. If Ethan dies, he can’t invent time travel, so how does Baltos time travel in order to kill him? Not to mention, if Baltos kills Mona, saves his family’s oil wealth, then he won’t have a reason to time travel either because he only did it to save his family’s business. Oh, and you can’t go back, so forget that. You’re stuck. And you can only travel back to 2010 for some reason, so Baltos hangs around for 4 years until he finally kills Mona? Why? This is where I think time-travel novels trip up. They place too much importance on the changing of time, thereby negating the believability of their premise to begin with. Limit what you change, and the reader will believe it. Alter too many things and you run into a hornets nest of possibilities. ***SPOILER OVER***

Book Review – Son by Lowis Lowry


Buy Son (Giver Quartet) on Amazon.com
Add on Goodreads

Title: Son
Author: Lowis Lowry
Print Length: 405 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0547887205
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; Reissue edition (October 2, 2012)
Language: English
ASIN: B008454X2Y
Amazon Review: 4.5/5 stars

I borrowed this book from my local library

Book blurb as seen on Amazon.com:

They called her Water Claire. When she washed up on their shore, no one knew that she came from a society where emotions and colors didn’t exist. That she had become a Vessel at age thirteen. That she had carried a Product at age fourteen. That it had been stolen from her body. Claire had a son. But what became of him she never knew. What was his name? Was he even alive? She was supposed to forget him, but that was impossible. Now Claire will stop at nothing to find her child, even if it means making an unimaginable sacrifice. Son thrusts readers once again into the chilling world of the Newbery Medal winning book, The Giver, as well as Gathering Blue and Messenger where a new hero emerges. In this thrilling series finale, the startling and long-awaited conclusion to Lois Lowry’s epic tale culminates in a final clash between good and evil.

The stories we love best do live in us forever – J.K. Rowling at the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 London Premier (July 2011)

While this is so true, I think good ole’ J.K. forget one thing. Some stories haunt us forever. Son by Lowis Lowry is one such book. In fact, the entire Giver Quartet applies.

I can still remember the first time I encountered The Giver several years ago. My then teenage nephew recommended I read it after having been required to read it in an English class. Nephew and I enjoyed talking books: Harry Potter, Eragon. So when he suggested it, I listened. Especially since it didn’t sound like the same sort of books he usually read and he was very emphatic about this story.

Since I was doing a lot of driving at the time,  I picked up audio books from my library to pass the time. The Giver took such firm hold of my imagination and my emotions I couldn’t wait for the next drive to hear the ending. I popped it in the CD player while folding laundry one afternoon. I had solitude because Minions #1 & 2 were at school and I think I might have been pregnant for Minion #3. Anyway, I was absent-mindedly folding socks and T-shirts while I listened in fear and suspense to the ending of The Giver.

For those of you who have read, you’ll know what I am talking about. For those of you who haven’t, I won’t ruin anything, but it was a cliffhanger. Except, I wasn’t sure. Desperately I searched the CD case for the missing disc. It couldn’t end like that! Had someone forgotten to put a disc back? How could my trusted librarian have put it back on the shelf with a missing disc?! But no, there were just enough CDs for the slots allotted. It was not missing a disc.

Incensed, fearful, heartbroken, I pulled out my computer and fired up the trusty internet. Tear were rolling unbidden down my cheeks, the laundry forgotten. My only concern was discovering the fate of Jonas and Gabe. How could Lowry do this to me? It was cruel. it was heartless. I was deeply affected.

When I discovered there were two more books in the series, I was able to calm my ragged emotions, but needless to say I had to read those books and soon. Neither of the next two left me disappointed either. The stories are moving, the characters complex and believable, and the underlying messages both disturbing and beautiful. Lowry has the power to take away from a character that which we prize the most deep in our hearts, but maybe take for granted. The reader is left moved and changed by the experience of reading her lovely prose and heart shattering stories. Even her happy endings are bittersweet, as any true life journey should be.

My expectations were high when I found Son at my library. It had been years since I had read her other books, and based on some recent experiences of completing a series I once loved, only to be disappointed in the writing, I was nervous. Would this be ruined for me too? I hoped not, because my intense memories of Lowry’s previous books are treasured, if poignant and troubling. I did not want this experience taken from me.

I was not disappointed. In fact, Son may have been even more special to me because of the subject matter. Having had five children of my own, I could empathize with Claire’s loss and love. When she begins to become attached to her Product, I cheer for her emotions to take root, growing into the loving tree I know motherhood to be. Okay, that might have been a little bit of purple prose, and motherhood is not always blooming flowers and sunshine, but we’ll forget that for now.

The reader is reintroduced to many characters from the other three books, tying up story lines that may have been left untended. We see Jonas’ father from a different perspective, which was a great touch as his reactions from Jonas’ view were disturbing to me. They are still disturbing, but seeing more of him, understanding more was a special treat I enjoyed.

Other than a slightly lagging middle, and I say only slightly, because I was anxious for Claire to find her son, the suspense and tension move the story along smoothly. It had me reading frantically through the last quarter of the book (much as I did for the previous novels) in a rush to know the story. But finding her son is not the only plot line, and as I said before, the other characters are wrapped up, if not with a bow, at least neatly. Lessons are learned, prices are paid, and while I was satisfied with the ending, it still left me with sorrow for all that had been lost. These are the stories that haunt us forever. Those that end with a new beginning, but do not erase the pain of the journey.

My review: 4.5/5 stars (1/2 point for that lagging middle)

Please share your thoughts if you have read any of The Giver Quartet. Even if you didn’t love them. I’ll try not to hold it against you! 🙂 But I’d love to hear whether you enjoyed them as I did.


Buy The Giver (Giver Quartet) on Amazon.com


Buy Gathering Blue (Giver Quartet)on Amazon.com


Buy Messenger (Giver Quartet) on Amazon.com

What Do YA Readers WANT?!!

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Wouldn’t we authors like to know! Preferably, a good two years before YA readers actually want it, so we can write, edit, publish and market just in time to reach your ever changing moods, er needs. Just kidding. I read as much YA as the average teen, possibly more, so we’re in the same boat. I have wants of my own, and I also want to write a book that will resonate with readers.

Lucky for you, we have a little—just a little—insight into this very question. Recently Teens Can Write Too! ran a blog chain entitled What kinds of published books would you like to see more of? All of the respondents are teens who blog and write beyond their blogs. In fact, quite a few of them have some pretty amazing things to say, so when you’re finished reading this, check out their posts too.

While I was patiently—or not so patiently—waiting each day to read a new teen’s perspective on what they’d like to see published, I was also following a thread on Absolute Write entitled What would you like to see more or less of in YA? Between the two I was reading some great ideas about what books should be published in YA.

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Light bulb moment: I should compile the information and write a blog post about it!

Stress. Woman stressed

Honestly, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The sheer mass of data was daunting. It’s taken me hours to compile it into any sort of usable format. You can check the data here if you like. But I’ll try to make some kind of intelligent response, since I promised I would, and I always keep my promises!

Part of the problem is that I didn’t really know what I was doing while compiling the data. Now that I’m finished, I might have done it a little differently, but there is no way I’m doing it over again! It’s like having a term paper almost finished two days before it’s due, and realizing you should have taken a different approach. No ‘A’ is worth the work it would take to start over. Sorry, but I have a life. 🙂

And what everyone wants is as diverse as the respondents themselves. I saw everything from wanting fan fiction traditionally published to requesting a book from the POV of a toddler! Funnily enough, I did have the idea to write a novel about babies and toddlers who turn into teens when they fall asleep and wake up in a fantasy adventure. Yeah, I haven’t written that one yet.

But there were some clear winners, and losers, so if you want the nitty-gritty details, check out the data, but I’ll give you an overview of the most common responses in this post.

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22 teens responded to the question: What kinds of published books would you like to see more of? on the TCWT blog chain, while 40 respondents of an unidentified age responded to the question: What would you like to see more or less of in YA? on the Absolute Write Watercooler forums.

 

Dragon

Fantasy received the most votes for a genre with at least 34% of respondents requesting more in some form. I say at least because it was one of those cases where I would have tallied the votes differently in hind sight. I might have missed a few votes asking for a specific aspect of Fantasy without actually requesting Fantasy in and of itself. Anyway, you get the point.

There wasn’t any one type of Fantasy that was a stand-out winner, but many different kinds were mentioned. In fact, I got the impression that readers would like to see more pure, traditional fantasy, not other types of stories posing as Fantasy, i.e. Romance set in a Fantasy world, Dystopian set in a Fantasy world, etc. The one thing they did not want to see was more Fantasy worlds based on Medieval Europe or books based on Western (Greek/Roman) Mythology. Japanese, Chinese, Egyptian and Celtic were mentioned (I know Celtic is Western, but at least it’s something other than Zeus and Poseidon!)

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On a similar note, Science Fiction, which 17% of respondents requested more of, also seemed to center on more pure forms of its original genre. Readers especially seemed to dislike Dystopian disguised as Science Fiction. They want to see robots, cyborgs, cool technology that’s not the bad guy, and fun adventures that explore new worlds and revel in the joy of future technology and uncharted worlds.

Dystopia was a mixed bag with 9 readers wanting more while 5 wanted less or none. One thing was fairly clear though. Readers want something different than the tried-and-true Dystopia we’ve been experiencing over the last few years. Diversity, LGBTQ+, new settings, and most importantly, move away from the cliched tropes. No big, bad, government that’s outlawed something as the end-all of society and the rebel character fighting against it.

Re-tellings as a category received 10 nods, with respondents asking for non-traditional and non-European fairy tales, classics, Shakespeare, mash-ups and even re-tellings of Anne of Green Gables. One interesting note: only 1 of the 10 votes for re-tellings came from the unidentified age group. Clearly, teens are more interested in re-tellings than their older counterparts who read YA books.

Other than specific genres, another winner was seeing more Families in YA. 26% wanted to see healthy family units in some form, whether it’s present parents, quirky families, complex sibling dynamics, big families and any of the aforementioned relationships being the main emotional stake of the story.

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One of the clear losers was Romance. Not so much the genre of Romance, but rather romance in YA books in whatever genre it happens to appear. 26% of readers said they are completely tired of or would like to see less romance in YA books. 18% said they’d like to see fewer or no love triangles and no “insta love” stories. 9 respondents asked for healthy teen love relationships with a wide variety of realistic relationship requests from LGBTQ+ to mutual breakups to relationships that end and the characters actually learn from them.

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While there were many other responses I could talk about, the last one I’m going to discuss is Diversity. This was another category with a broad scope that I wish I had compiled the data differently. For example, 12 respondents requested diversity in all forms, while 16 specifically said they want novels where the diversity is not the issue of the book. I could have tallied all respondents that called for diversity in any form and had a large number of people wanting something more from their YA, but I didn’t do it that way. And since some readers requested multiple kinds of diversity, I couldn’t just add up all the specific requests because the number would have been inflated.

Anyway, over and over again I heard YA readers saying they wanted to read more about people of color, characters of all sexual orientations, people with physical disabilities and chronic illnesses, neuro-diversity and ethnic people living their culture in contemporary and futuristic settings. The one overriding theme to all of this was the diversity needed to be a part of a character’s life, and the readers want to see how it affects their lives, but it can’t be the point of the book. They want to see people of color in fantasy, a teen detective with Chron’s disease, a wheel chair bound action hero, and romance between characters of all sexual orientations. Those examples are made up based on some of the comments I read, but they’re pretty spot on from the types of diverse ideas they want to see written. They want to see a cross-section of America, and in some cases the world, that isn’t white, Christian and straight.

So, how do we use this information? Well, first of all it would be great to see agents and publishers take a look because my agent research has indicated that agents are looking for Contemporary right now. Yet that had extremely low response numbers from this completely unscientific poll. Unfortunately I don’t have any agents or publishers that follow my blog, so chances are slim for that. 😉

I guess, if you see your book in these results, then congratulations! Get working and get it published! If you see some inspiration in any or several of the requests made by these responses, then once again, get busy! You’ve got some writing to do! But, if you see your book in some of the requests for NO MORE!, well, don’t despair. Even these YA readers couldn’t all agree on what they wanted, so there are readers out there for all kinds of novels. Just keep writing what you love. It’s all any of us can do!

Movie Review – Warm Bodies


Buy Warm Bodies the DVD on Amazon.com

Actors: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Rob Corddry, Dave Franco, Analeigh Tipton
Directors: Jonathan Levine
Writers: Jonathan Levine
Producers: Bruna Papandrea, David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman
Language: English
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Summit Inc/Lionsgate
Run Time: 98 minutes

I’ve been wanting to see WARM BODIES for awhile, for a couple of reasons. Which, when I explain, will seem a little strange. You see, I have an irrational fear of zombies. Vampires, werewolves, demons, I can handle all supernatural beings, but for some reason zombies scare the crap out of me. Maybe it’s because I can actually for see a circumstance where zombies exist. It’s not so far fetched to imagine a disease that makes people’s bodies start to decay (leprosy) and they become rabid trying to bite other people (rabies). I don’t honestly think we could have the undead or walking dead thing, but messed up humans with a horribly contagious disease? Yes, I can see it. So I don’t usually watch zombie movies. Even the funny ones.

Having said that, when I heard about this movie I was intrigued. Years ago I posted on a forum in Absolute Write an idea for a YA book where a zombie and a human fall in love. Since I am deathly afraid of zombies, I knew I would never write it, so I put the idea out there for anyone who wanted to use it. Now, I’m not saying that Isaac Marion used my idea. I mean, what are the chances he saw that and his desire to create a story blossomed around an innocuous post I left years ago? I’d say there’s a greater chance that two people in this world of billions had a similar idea. Either way, it’s pretty cool to say, “I thought of that!” and then see the results of someone’s imagination. His, not mine. I take no credit. I’m just explaining my interest in this story.

So anyway, I was a bit apprehensive, it being zombies and all, but I took the dive. My husband was with me, so I could hide my eyes or squeeze his hand if I needed to. For the most part it was fine. I was only minorly grossed-out a few times and it wasn’t too awfully scary. There were a few scenes that made me jump, fear for the characters and overall be in a state of suspense. Just the right amount of suspense in fact. So basically anyone should be able to handle this movie if I can.

As to the story, I loved it. Especially the fact that since zombies don’t really talk, we hear a narration from the MC’s POV, even though he doesn’t say much in character. He still thinks, he still feels, a little, and we see that through the narration of the boy he probably once was. We get him being a horrible zombie, eating people’s brains, which is repulsive, but hey, he’s a zombie. What do you expect? And we get to see how he feels about it all. The director did a great job of showing the zombies as pretty awful human-eaters, and as sympathetic characters who didn’t ask to be zombies in the first place.

There’s an interesting twist as to why the zombie’s eat brains and also what the zombies become after they’ve been zombified long enough. Let’s just say that’s even scarier than the zombies. And I love the concept of what changes things from the zombies-eat-humans status quo. I won’t reveal anything in case you hate spoilers, which I do, but it’s another great twist on the traditional zombie tale.

The characters in this story were all amazing. Likable, yet flawed, they make mistakes, act selfish, are afraid and do things we know will have bad results, but that’s what makes good characters. You root for Julie even when she’s being a bit of a bitch. You hope R beats this zombie thing even while you’re terrified he’s going to turn on Julie. And R’s best friend? Not only was he cast perfectly in Rob Corrdry, but his character was sympathetic and likable, even when he’s asking R to eat Julie. Well, asking in Zombie grunts and nudges.

Overall I found this to be a great love story. Unconventional? Yes. A little gross at times? Absolutely. But to be honest I’m so sick of been-there-done-that fall in love at first sight with “the one” love stories that I’m open to anything else. This movie was funny, sarcastic (which I love), a little scary, a bit gross and had enough action and suspense to keep me on the edge of my seat (figuratively, not really). I’d watch it again, which is a big compliment for me, and I can’t wait to read the book. It’s actually a big no-no for me to see a movie before I read the book, but I’ve been doing a lot of that lately. So I guess I’ll just add it to my huge TBR pile and call it a day.

My Review: 4.5/5 stars


Buy Warm Bodies: A Novel on Amazon.com

Note: I looked for the post I made online to prove I wasn’t just making that up, but I couldn’t find it. My archived posts didn’t go back far enough. 🙂