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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Spark (Sky Chasers #2) by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Waverly and Kieran are finally reunited on the Empyrean. Kieran has led the boys safely up to this point, and now that the girls are back, their mission seems slightly less impossible: to chase down the New Horizon, and save their parents from the enemy ship. But nothing is truly as it seems…Kieran’s leadership methods have raised Seth’s hackles— and Waverly’s suspicions. Is this really her fiancé? The handsome, loving boy she was torn from just a short time before? More and more, she finds her thoughts aligned with Seth’s. But if Seth is Kieran’s Enemy No. 1, what does that make her?

In one night, a strange explosion rocks the Empyrean—shooting them off course and delaying their pursuit of the New Horizon—and Seth is mysteriously released from the brig. Seth is the most obvious suspect for the explosion, and Waverly the most obvious suspect for releasing him. As the tension reaches a boiling point, will Seth be able to find the true culprit before Kieran locks them both away—or worse? Will Waverly follow her heart, even if it puts lives at risk? With the balance of power precarious and the clock ticking, every decision counts… every step brings them closer to a new beginning, or a sudden end...

Released: July 17th 2012                  Pages: 309
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin          Source: Bought

Why do publishers have to change the style of covers in the middle of a series?*  It annoys me to no end, because I take pride in the streamlined look of my bookshelf (I organize by height...), and this just makes everything look uneven.  We don't need to encourage inconsistency in books!


Time for another episode of Lord of the Flies, spaceship edition!

After reading Spark, I have one question: Was Amy Kathleen Ryan trying to make Kieran and Waverly likable?  Was I supposed to even care about them?

That's two questions.  I lied.  But really, how am I supposed to care about this story if two out of three point of view characters fall into near-sociopath territory?  (Seriously, here's a list of sociopathic traits.  Kieran and Waverly display far too many of these.)  This is my stumbling block for this book.  This is why I had trouble bringing myself to care. 

I understand that Kieran and Waverly have been though more than a person should have to go through.  Because of this, they have become either hardened and unfeeling, or anxious and depressed.  For comparison purposes, let's talk about Bobby Pendragon, another sci-fi main character.  He goes through five times the trauma that Kieran and Waverly see (Sky Chasers has two books so far.  Pendragon has 10.  Do the math).  And yet...instead of becoming a sociopath, he sticks to the quest.  He grows more and more determined the more struggles he goes through.  He remains likable and retains his morals and sense of goodness.

I can't bring myself to care about characters who, instead of retaining their core of morality, turn heartless.  Waverly tortures a guy, which is horribly unneccesary.  She lost a lot of points for that, with me.  Then again, she regained some of those when she was kind to Seth.  More people need to stick up for Seth.

Seth was the main reason I enjoyed reading this book despite my dislike of Kieran and Waverly.  Seth is the one to watch for in this series.  He's the only character I really connected to, the only one I cared about.  He's also been through a lot, but did he lose his humanity?  No.  That's why I like him.

Despite the sociopathic main characters, this story still interests me.  It makes me a little mad, too, but I still want to know how it ends.  I'll be sticking around for the next book, if anything just to see if Waverly and Kieran ever become likable again. 

Similar Books: It's got the spaceshipy-ness (technical term, there) of Inside Out, or A Confusion of Princes, and has the no-adults aspect of Variant and the darker no-adultness of Gone.

*This just furthers my notion that I need to start my own publishing company.  Our covers will be friendly to both genders (ie. the dress thing is out the window forever and ever unless our cover model is Max Klinger), and they will stay consistent throughout a series.  We will edit our books, for goodness' sake.  We will publish stuff that's actually original, and we won't merge with Random Penguin House or whatever it is now (or the HarperShuster or whatever that is quite possible...yep, they've been talking about it.  Can anyone say monopoly?).  We won't Fifty Shades-ize or vampire-ize anybody's book.  And we'll have a giant portrait of J. R. R. Tolkein in our main office.  Who is with me on this?

And while I'm at it, here's a shoutout to the person who currently has my school library's copy of A Clash of KingsSeriously, get a move on.  It's been a month.  Could you read quickly, por favor?  Look, I even made you a meme:

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

How To Write For Teenagers

If you're an adult writing for teenagers, good for you.  That's awesome.  And yet...I see problems in thse adult-written YA books way too often.  Intentionally or not, some adults tend to portray teens unrealistically.  If you think teens readers won't catch it--they will.  Here are some pointers on writing for teenagers: (By the way, I'm a teenager, so I live that life all day long, so I'm more than qualified to write about this.  Also, this list is not all-inclusive.) 
  • Don't call them 'children'.  Or 'youths'.  You may think of teens as children, but we don't think of ourselves like that.  No teen is going to call him/herself or her friends "children".  So don't refer to them as children in your book.  It's condescending, because most people think of children as people in the 2-10ish range.  We're older than that.  And we don't use "youths" either, because we just, well, don't. 
  • Slang rule: if it sounds weird to you, it sounds weird to teens (generally).  We don't talk in acronyms, we don't call each other "homedogs", unless we're joking.  Or "homeslices".  "IDK, my BFF Jill" is not typical teenage slang.  It's not a "cell", it's just a "phone".  Again, if it sounds bizarre to you, there's a really good chance it also sounds weird to a teenager.  Make an effort to learn how teens talk, but don't overdo it and don't throw in every slang term you've ever heard from the eighties to now.    
  • We are not all rebellious, sarcastic, smart-alecky people.  I do know some smart-aleck teens, and some teens that are sarcastic all the time.  The problem is, the ratio of sarcastic teens to non-sarcastic ones in books is much, much greater than that ratio in real life.  In books, it seems, half of the teenage characters are always using sarcasm, all the time.  In real life, this is not the case.  I do know some people that are like this, but not all that many.  Every teen uses sarcasm at times, but not to the extent that authors like to think they do.
  • Don't write your book solely to prove a point/teach a lesson/get your political agenda across.   Nobody wants to listen to an author get up on their soapbox and preach.  That's not what a novel is for.  If start writing a book with the mindset of "I want to teach teens a lesson", it WILL show through.  And the average teenager will be annoyed and bored and will think that you are really full of yourself.  So don't do it.  It's perfectly fine to weave themes into your novel, but if you set out to write propaganda rather than a story, it will show through no matter how good you think you are.  I won't name any names, but *coughcoughcough*
  • We're not all hipsters.  I think this one stands on its own. 
  • Driving is still new and sometimes scary.  Also, we don't all have cars or ways to pay for gas.  For some reason, in YA books, 16-year-olds tend to drive around freely, all by themselves.  For the 16-year-old, though, driving is new.  We're not quite used to it yet.  For example, I'm not comfortable driving on the freeway by myself, even though I'm a licensed driver.  Also, keep in mind that the majority of new drivers don't have their own car.  Therefore, their driving is limited by the availability of their parents' car. 
  • Some teens actually are responsible.  Some of us can keep track of our lives and go to bed at decent hours and be all around...responsible.  Yes, there are plenty of irresponsible teenagers, but it's an unfair stereotype to the rest of us.
  • Most of us don't fall in love in 2.5 seconds.  I could write half a dozen blog posts on how annoying and unrealistic "insta-love" is.  It's so, so frustrating.  When will authors learn to just skip the insta-love?
  • Crushes, boyfriends, romance, etc. are not the only things we are capable of thinking about.  We are also capable of thinking about school and music and narwhals and the price of tea in China and Pokemon and church and books and computers and the macarena and mousetraps and politics and food and Ikea and sleeping and basically everything an adult is capable of thinking of.
  • We like our electronics.  In all honesty, our iPods are our constant companions.  We use them quite often throughout the day.
  • We're not all about partying.  Since I started high school, I haven't been to a party with my friends that had more than six people.  At these parties, we don't drink or pass around drugs.  We movies.  And eat too many sweets, and spend a long time talking. 
  • We don't think we're invincible.  I don't know where the idea that all teens think they are invincible came from.  Some do, I'm sure, but do we all?  No.  I know that if I drive 110 miles per hour down the freeway, I'm probably going to crash and get killed.  I'm aware of that fact, so I don't do stuff like that.  Do I think that if I do meth, I won't get addicted, because "that kind of thing doesn't happen to me"?  No.  I think most teens understand the basic concept of "if I do this I might get injured or killed, so it's probably best not to".
  • If you think you know what it's like to be a teen because you've "been there, done that", you need to rethink.  Yes, you were a teenager once.  That's fantastic for you.  Bravo.  *slow sarcastic clapping*  If you think you know all about teenagers and are a complete expert on today's teen because hey, they can't be any different from when I was a teenager in the 19whatevers, you're wrong.  I completely agree that at the core, teenagers today have the same general hopes, fears, responsibilities, etc. as they have for years and years.  Still, there are differences between the '60s teen and the 00's teen.  They might be major, or they might not be that prevalent.  These teens grew up in different eras, so there will always be differences on some level.  Take some time to get to know someone who is a teenager today--don't assume all teens are the same across the board.
  • Teens are people, just like you!  We have memories and fears and hopes, etc.  *gasp*  It's shocking, isn't it?  We don't have underdeveloped emotions!  Wow!  *headdesk*  Just because a person is a teenager does not mean they are not capable of feeling strong emotions.
  • NEVER, EVER "TALK DOWN" IN YOUR WRITING.  Don't simplify things for your younger audience.  Don't sugarcoat anything.  Teenagers can handle it, okay?  I can't believe the number of times I've wanted to seek out the author of a YA book I was reading and give them a nice long lecture on how no YA reader wants to be treated like they are somehow a lesser reader because they're reading YA. 
Yes, I have seen at least one example (unfortunately, in most cases I've seen far too many examples) of each of the above things.  My main advice for writing for teens is this: Get to know a teenager.  Or three, or twelve, or twenty.  Get to know a lot of teenagers.  Before you write, spend time with them.  Learn about them.  If it's been a few years since you've talked, and I mean really talked, to a teenager, you're going to write a bad book.  I guarantee it.  If you take the time to get to know the age group your characters belong to, you'll come out with a much more realistic book.  And teens will appreciate your writing much more for this. 

PS: It's also worth pointing out that so many fictional teenagers have problems with the fact that they were picked on as a child.  Don't get me wrong--there's a huge difference between being picked on, and being outright bullied.  I'm not talking about bullying, because that is a serious issue and it's a whole different story.  The thing about being picked on as a child is this: everyone was picked on as a child, in one way or another.  I believe that there are few exceptions to this rule.  At one point throughout their childhood, a kid will be picked on.  It's a fact of life; it's a part of growing up.  We get over it.

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Crimson Crown (Seven Realms #4) by Cinda Williams Chima

A thousand years ago, two young lovers were betrayed—Alger Waterlow to his death, and Hanalea, Queen of the Fells, to a life without love.

Now, once again, the Queendom of the Fells seems likely to shatter apart. For young queen Raisa ana’Marianna, maintaining peace even within her own castle walls is nearly impossible; tension between wizards and Clan has reached a fevered pitch. With surrounding kingdoms seeking to prey on the Fells’ inner turmoil, Raisa’s best hope is to unite her people against a common enemy. But that enemy might be the person with whom she's falling in love.

Through a complicated web of lies and unholy alliances, former streetlord Han Alister has become a member of the Wizard Council of the Fells. Navigating the cut-throat world of blue blood politics has never been more dangerous, and Han seems to inspire hostility among Clan and wizards alike. His only ally is the queen, and despite the perils involved, Han finds it impossible to ignore his feelings for Raisa. Before long, Han finds himself in possession of a secret believed to be lost to history, a discovery powerful enough to unite the people of the Fells. But will the secret die with him before he can use it?

A simple, devastating truth concealed by a thousand-year-old lie at last comes to light in this stunning conclusion to the Seven Realms series.

Released: October 23rd 2012         Pages:608
Publisher: Hyperion                       Source: Library

My love for this series cannot and will never be contained in four reviews.  It's like my reviews of the entire Inheritance series--a review can't do it justice.  Though I will try, it won't happen.  This time, I'm opting to use many GIFs (apparently that's a word now) and random pictures to try and explain my love for The Crimson Crown, and the entire Seven Realms series.
It took a long, long time for the library to get a copy of this.  (There are 80 copies of Fifty Shades of Grey in the system, but it took over a month beyond the release date to get this book?  Someone needs to sort out their priorities.)  When I finally got it, I felt like this:
The true masterpiece of The Crimson Crown is how much I care about the characters.  Caring makes all the difference in the world.  If I didn't feel emotionally attached to these people, I would have had no reason to like this book.  But Chima is a master of sucking readers in and gluing them to the pages and making the characters come alive.
And then, Chima goes and kills off certain characters that I'm really, really, really attached to.  BUT WAIT.  They're not actually dead.  I think my heart stopped and then restarted itself during that part.
Then there's all the suspense.  THE SUSPENSE!  And the "Raisa, no, don't do it!","Don't believe him, Raisa, he's a liar!", " just're engaged to...NO.", "That's the most adorable expression of love I've ever seen.  Han Alister for the win!", "Chima, why?", and other assorted expressions of disbelief, horror, wonder, sheer happiness, and pretty much every emotion that exists.
And then, of course, Han comes in like this...
...and saves the day and makes everything okay and is just all-around awesome.  There was only one thing that disappointed me, though.  I was secretly hoping for some sort of massive, end-all magical showdown between Han and Gavan Bayar. Something like:

While there was definitely a confrontation and Bayar got what was coming to him, I was hoping for something bigger, flashier, with more dangerous spells.  Also, I was still holding on to the hope that Fiona could redeem herself and have some part to play for good in this, but apparently not.  Ah, well, can't win 'em all.
No review of The Crimson Crown would be completely without talking about the parallels between the story of Han and Raisa and the story of Hanalea and the Demon King.  Oh, the parallels!  I love this aspect so much.  I love big, important, looming backstory, and this stuff was excellent.  It made this a story not just of people in one time, but a story of people throughout the history of the Seven Realms.  It turned the story into something bigger and grander than it already was.  Something even more epic and beautiful.  

The ending...can I just say, perfect?  Absolutely perfect?  It was so beautiful and adorable.  I'm referring to the scene where two certain characters made a, commitment.  And the very last paragraphs, with Alger Waterlow and Hanalea.  BEAUTIFULNESS OVERLOAD.
I have one final thing to discuss: Amon Byrne.  He's been my favorite, since the start.  Whenever he was in a scene, this was me:
I can't possibly begin to cover my love for this book, and this series.  I also don't know how to describe my sadness that it's over.  All my favorite series are slowly coming to a close, last year and this year.  I don't know what I'll do when Light comes out next year.  I think that's the end of my mega-favorite series.  I do think the Seven Realms series should have had seven books.  I would have read them all and loved them all. 
But, alas, I will have to content myself with rereads, because I already miss Han and Raisa and Amon and Fire Dancer and Cat and maybe (or not) even Micah. 

If you haven't read this series yet, you should.  Seriously.  Just go get yourself a copy of The Demon King.
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Friday, November 23, 2012

Freakling (Freakling #1) by Lana Krumwiede

A thrilling, fast-paced dystopian novel about the dangers of unchecked power and the dilemmas facing a boy torn between two ways of life.

In twelve-year-old Taemon’s city, everyone has a power called psi—the ability to move and manipulate objects with their minds. When Taemon loses his psi in a traumatic accident, he must hide his lack of power by any means possible. But a humiliating incident at a sports tournament exposes his disability, and Taemon is exiled to the powerless colony.

The "dud farm" is not what Taemon expected, though: people are kind and open, and they actually seem to enjoy using their hands to work and play and even comfort their children. Taemon adjusts to his new life quickly, making friends and finding unconditional acceptance.

But gradually he discovers that for all its openness, there are mysteries at the colony, too—dangerous secrets that would give unchecked power to psi wielders if discovered.

When Taemon unwittingly leaks one of these secrets, will he have the courage to repair the damage—even if it means returning to the city and facing the very people who exiled him?

Released: October 9th 2012          Pages:320
Publisher: Candlewick Press       Source: Won an ARC through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway

First Look: ***** This looked pretty interesting.  I actually had a similar idea revolving in my head for quite awhile (though it's now been put indefinitely on the back burner).  Ultimately, the execution of this book was very different from my idea, which is perfectly alright with me.  Also, it's kinda refreshing to read middle grade every so often--it gives me a break from angsty romance and love triangles everywhere.

Setting: *****
I love, more than anything, the fact that this setting made me think quite a bit about something I'd never thought of before.  These people had spent their entire lives doing thing with psi, with everything from eating to doing work to playing sports.  (Using "psi" is basically doing things with mental powers, like telekinesis.)  I had never before considered how much our daily lives revolve around doing things, physical things.  I'm pressing down on my keyboard right now.  Earlier I picked up my food with a fork in order to eat it.  I put my contact lens on my finger and put it into my eye (yep, I'm a contact-wearing person now).  We physically do things, all day, every day.  So what if you, say, didn't have to touch your phone in order to press the buttons?  What if you could control everything internally?  And then, what happens when you lose that power, in a world that doesn't know how to live without it? 

This aspect was fascinating.  Had this book been longer, I'm sure Krumwiede would have delved into this even more, but she still did a great job exploring this idea. 

Characters: ***** I liked Taemon.   He reacted realistically to the events of the story, and had plenty likable traits.  He was smart and determined.  There wasn't anything that made him stand out from the crowd, but he was still a fairly solid lead.

Some of the side characters--especially kids other than Taemon--were flat.  I could find no distinguishing traits about them.  Except for Moke, though.  I liked him.  Something's up with that kid--I want to know more!  And Yens had some really weird and interesting stuff going on.  I'm skeptical that any sixteen-year-old would actually want to kill their brother, but...okay.  At least he didn't stray into I'm-evil-because-I'm-evil mode.

Plot: *****
It was interesting, went too fast, for me.  Some of this probably came from the fact that it was a MG book, but still (or maybe that's just me, because when I was twelve I was reading 500-page monsters).  There were some things that could have been expanded on, giving the plot more depth. 

I'm also a bit skeptical on some of the plot elements.  As in, would that society turn completely from a good place to a not-so-good place that fast?  I'm not sure I believe it.   Can a twelve-year-old outsmart a prison system put in place by trained adults?  Not sure I believe that, either.

Uniqueness: *****
This book mixes familiar dystopian aspects with fresh, different ones.

Writing: *****
There were some typos, but my copy is an ARC, so that's to be expected.  Unless they weren't corrected when the book went to actual printing.  But I'll assume they were.

Otherwise, the writing did a good job telling the story.  I don't have anything more to say about it.

Likes: Nothing not already mentioned above.

Not-so-great: First thing: There are some weird biblical references here.  I'm not sure whether this is a good or bad thing.  I can't decide if some of these references are unintentional, of if they were meant to be there.  First, there's the thing about the True Son, which is an obvious Christ-figure reference, not to mention a very interesting word choice.  The "True Son" (okay, the kid who they thought was the True Son) tore down the temple.  Um....
Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." (John 2:19)
And now I'm left wondering if the actual True Son is going to build it up again.  Also, there's some stuff about a prophet leading people to a new land, etc. 
Second thing: In the powerless colony, there is a family that safeguards a secret library.  In this library, there is a book titled Understanding the Atom.  The parents of the family make a comment that goes something like this (this is by no means an exact quote, but it's the general message): "If you knew what an atom was, and how to use it, you could destroy the world.  That is why we must keep this knowledge secret."  This is obviously referring to the atomic bomb, and how a person could potentially use this power to destory the world.  I'm not going to sit here debating the ethics of dropping bombs on Japan during WWII, but in short, I believe it was necessary.  There are 11-17 million reasons for this.  (And no, I'm not just tossing out numbers.)  Also, the idea of hiding knowledge has never sat well with me.
*spoilers in this paragraph only* Third thing: I don't really agree with the choice Taemon made at the end, to get rid of everyone's psi.  Yes, psi could be and was abused.  But the majority of people used it for good.  Taemon, who lives without psi anyway, has no right to make everyone's choice for that.  I don't think he had any right to do this, even if it was "for the greater good".  This doesn't sit well with me, either. 
Overall: This is an interesting dystopian read with a likable main character.  It presents some really cool and fairly well-executed concepts.  I love the idea of psi and the culture that goes with it.  This is a middle grade book, so it's aimed at 10-14 year olds, but then again, I'm sixteen and enjoyed it.  The only thing that gives me pause is the subtext.  There's some serious stuff going on beneath the surface of this book, and some of it doesn't sit well with me.  Taemon's story is just the tip of the iceberg, here.   I feel like younger readers won't see the subtext, but I did.  It'll be interesting to see where the series goes.   

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Forever (The Wolves of Mercy Falls #3) by Maggie Stiefvater


When Sam met Grace, he was a wolf and she was a girl. Eventually he found a way to become a boy, and their loved moved from curious distance to the intense closeness of shared lives.


That should have been the end of their story. But Grace was not meant to stay human. Now she is the wolf. And the wolves of Mercy Falls are about to be kill in one final, spectacular hunt.


Sam would do anything for Grace. But can one boy and one love really change a hostile, predatory world? The past, the present, and the future are about to collide in one pure moment - a moment of death or life, farewell or forever.

Released: July 12th 2011          Pages: 388
Publisher: Scholastic Press      Source: Library
I will admit it.  I ended up liking this series more than I thought I would. 
If not for the magnificent experience I had reading The Scorpio Races, I would have never had interest in Shiver.  It looked like a Twilight rip-off, but with a different angle on the werewolves.  It looked like your typical sappy paranormal romance.  I read it because I had a thin hope that maybe, since Stiefvater wrote it, it would be good.
And it was.  Though I had my issues with Shiver and Linger, I still enjoyed them.  The series was more multi-faceted, darker, and frankly, more interesting than I expected.  And there was no love triangle.  I'm surprised that this series went through three books with no love triangle.  (Yay originality!)
Forever was a solid conclusion to the series.  The plot wrapped itself up in a way that was satisfying, yet didn't feel the need to explain every little detail of how it ended.  Some things are left unsaid, and I'm more than okay with that.  Sometimes it's annoying when writers reveal every little piece of info.  (Because, if I'm attached to the characters, the more I know, the more chance I have of getting mad because the author didn't let them get what I wanted them to get.)  I like open-endedness.
Speaking of characters...I liked these characters, for the most part.  Grace never quite clicked with me, and I always found her a bit flat.  Sam, though, was someone I could cheer for.  I loved Cole despite myself, and he was by far the most interesting character of the series.  Isabel was just...Isabel. 
I did have a few issues, however.  Mainly with Grace's relationship with her parents.  I won't go into detail, but during the Grace vs. parent scenes, Grace came off as whiny and spoiled and her parents came off and immature and clueless.  And also, the incorrect facts about Minnesota.  Forever did a better job being accurate than the first two, but still.  For example, the comment about how it probably isn't legal to hunt moose in MN.  Actually, it is legal.  Whenever you go to Timberlodge, there's a moose head staring you down.  One of my friends has a moose head hanging from a wall in her house (there's quite scary to stand under). 
 On an unrelated note, whenever I read the part of the inside jacket that says "he was a wolf and she was a girl", my brain goes to this: "He was a boy, she was a girl / Can I make it any more obvious?"  Though it's catchy, this is one of the most obvious lyrics I've ever seen.  He was a boy?  No, I thought he was a girl.  Thanks for clarifying, Avril. 
But, overall, I enjoyed this series.  Forever ended with just the right amount of closure and open-endedness.  I liked the characters, and the plot as a whole was more interesting than I expected.  It's not as good as The Scorpio Races, but still worth a read.

Similar Books: Auracle, Firelight, Unearthly

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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Fantasy Don'ts: What to Avoid in Your Fantasy Novel

Fantasy writers have to worry about so many things while writing.  They have to build a completely new world, and at the same time, make it believable to us Earthlings.  This is harder than it sounds.  Often, I read things in fantasy books that are either wrong, or just don't make sense.  Here are some things to avoid when writing a fantasy novel:
  • Heavy swords.  I've lost count of the number of fantasy novels I've read where the hero/heroine picks up a sword for the first time, and make some comment about it being "surprisingly heavy".  Unless your main character is a five-year-old or a supreme weakling or a leprechaun, they will have no trouble lifting a sword.  Swords, when they were commonly used, hardly ever weighed more than four or five pounds.  Think about it...if you're going to be lugging this thing around a battlefield, do you want it to be heavy?  No.  (more info on this here.)
  • Unrealistic horses.  Do you really think horses can gallop all day long without resting?  Have you ever written a scene where your main character, while riding, sets something on his "lap"?  These things are  I won't go into too much detail on this one, because I already wrote an entire post about it.
  • Death of a king/major leader throws peasants into chaos.  It's very likely that, for the most part, your peasants are largely unaffected by what's going on in the throne room.  If the king dies...there's a new king.  And, unless there's a war going on, life goes on as usual in the kingdom.  People at court might be thrown off by the new king, but unless he's radically different from the old, the large majority of the kingdom won't care.  (Unless your new king's name is Joffrey.  In that case, your peasants will most definitely want to storm the castle and do whatever they can to get him off the throne.  Seriously.*)
  • Death of king immediately ends battle. I see this quite often in fantasy books.  As soon as someone finishes off the king/general/whoever, the battle immediately stops and the side that killed him/her wins.  Think about that for a minute.  You've got soldiers fighting all over the place.  It's loud and chaotic.  If you were a soldier, you'd be focused on one thing: survival.  The news of the king's death probably won't even reach you unless you were within a few feet of the event.  Because of this, the battle won't end as soon as the king dies.
  • Ripping clothing all the time.  Characters quite often rip a strip off their shirts/dresses for bandages, firestarters, etc.  Do something for me, will you?  Try to rip your shirt.  Just do it.  It's not going to happen, is it?  Unless you're wearing really thin silky material or something.  (Now, I'll admit that I could be wrong about this.  If you can bench press a couple hundred pounds, can you rip a shirt?  Possibly.  I wouldn't know, though, since I can barely bench press the bar.  Upper body strength has never been my thing.)
  • Misuse/abuse/overuse "thy, thou, etc."  Just learn how to use them, please?  Here, let me Google it for you.
  • Have a sage/wizard/elderly character who is full of knowledge and wisdom that could make the plot so much easier on the characters but doesn't say anything.  For example: Hero is trying to get from Point A to Point B.  Since there is an impassable mountain range between these two points, Hero must instead travel all the way around.  Wise Old Mentor knows of a mountain pass that is a well-kept secret in his family, which would save Hero two weeks of extra travel.  Wise Old Mentor says nothing, though, because he thinks those two extra weeks of travel will be good character-building for Hero (or, he just conveniently forgets).  This is, plainly and simply, annoying.  Why spend so much time writing about travel when Hero could take the shortcut and use these two weeks to fight some bad guys, or something.
  • Good guys lose every battle but win the war.  It's handy to have your good guys lose a battle.  It's a great opportunity to add conflict, up the stakes, and work with character development, among other things.  You can't win 'em all, right?  In fact, if the good guys always won every minor or major clash, the book would be boring.  So the good guys need to lose sometimes.  (Some writers take this to a greater extent than others.  One of the things I love about D. J. MacHale's Pendragon series is that there is always doubt whether the good guys will win at the end of each book.  He's not afraid to have at least three novels of the series end in defeat.)  But still, you have to factor logic into this.  If your heros lose every battle, there's no way they can win the overall war.  It doesn't make sense. 
  • Have names longer than three syllables.  Naming your  character "Galbatorix" just sets him up to become the supreme badguy.  Long names tend to get clunky, unpronounceable, and often just sound ridiculous.  In real life, do you know many people with names longer than three syllables?  And even if you do, do they actually go by that name?  Most likely not.  Also, watch your naming patterns.  It doesn't make any sense to have a Bob and an Ithrilzalacktiemda'lean in the same town.  (This goes for all writers, not just fantasy writers: watch other naming patterns, like first letters or end sounds.  Often, without even thinking about it, writers fall into patterns.  For example, I tend to name things that end in an -on sort of sound.  I have a Davisson (though he doesn't go by this), an Ayin, a Bromen, and a Revan, all in the same book.)
  • Write about a species of creatures that are just orcs with a different name ("our orcs are different").  It's so easy to write about a species of stock evil creatures that don't really have any character development, but are nice obstacles to throw in your MC's path and have him fight his way through.  Here's the deal--your readers are onto you.  If you write about creatures who are disgusting, primitive-ish yet still speaking some form of language, barbaric, vaguely humanoid, etc., you might be falling into the orc trap.  (We know you totally did this, Christopher Paolini.  Urgals, anyone?  Though, to his credit, he did have them work for good, in the end.)
  • Good guys win the war for no apparent reason.  Let's see...the evil army is ten times larger, better equipped, better fed, has better training, more capable leaders, better strategies.  The good guys have a tiny army with little to no training, unskilled leaders, and a horrible case of bad luck.  And yet, the good guys win.  Um...what?  Yes, you do need to take note of the motivation factor (people are more willing to fight and will fight harder to defend something they care about), but that only works to a certain extent.  No matter how driven they are, your army of 1,000 can't stand up to an army of 999,999,999.  Be reasonable.
For more on what to avoid, check out The Fantasy Novelists' Exam.  (And even if you don't really need the fantasy info, it's still amusing.)   That exam is a brilliant way to weed out stereotypes and illogical (or inaccurate) aspects of your novel.

Where did I learn this stuff/how do I know this happens?  I've read close to 300 fantasy novels.  I have observed many patterns.

What things like this do you notice in fantasy novels?  Do you have troubles with these things?

*This is totally what needs to happen.  And they can put Hodor on the throne.  He'd be a better king than...basically anyone else.
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Monday, November 12, 2012

The Kill Order (The Maze Runner #0.5) by James Dashner

The prequel to the New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series.

Before WICKED was formed, before the Glade was built, before Thomas entered the Maze, sun flares hit the earth and mankind fell to disease.

Mark and Trina were there when it happened, and they survived. But surviving the sun flares was easy compared to what came next. Now a disease of rage and lunacy races across the eastern United States, and there’s something suspicious about its origin. Worse yet, it’s mutating, and all evidence suggests that it will bring humanity to its knees.

Mark and Trina are convinced there’s a way to save those left living from descending into madness. And they’re determined to find it—if they can stay alive. Because in this new, devastated world, every life has a price. And to some, you’re worth more dead than alive.

Released: August 14th 2012         Pages: 327
Publisher: Delacorte Books         Source: Library
At the end of The Death Cure, I was left with a feeling that the whole story had not yet been told.  Apparently I wasn't the only one with this feeling, because soon after I finished TDC, I found out about this prequel.  I wanted to know about Thomas's life before the maze.  I wanted to know what made him do the things he did.  Where WICKED got its start. 
If you are looking for this prequel, you are not alone.  Unfortunately, The Kill Order is not that prequel.  Thomas was mentioned in an emotional and, frankly, quite emotional and well-written prologue.  And he came up in an epilogue. 
But this is not Thomas's story.  This is the story of Mark, a character even flatter than Thomas.  My major complaint with The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials, and The Death Cure was that I never got a feel for who Thomas was.  I felt no sense of personality from him.  I hardly cared about him.
At least he had a conscience. 
It's always a delicate subject, for authors, when the main character kills another human being.  Sometimes it has to happen (Eragon, anyone?*).  I'm not saying that murder is ever okay.  But some authors deal with the situation well, and others don't.  For example: throughout the entire Inheritance series, Roran, a major character and one of the "good guys", kills quite a few people.  Roran feels a lot of guilt over this.  He may have accomplished something for the greater good, but he still doesn't dismiss the killing as "well, it's okay 'cause the good guys won". 
Mark, on the other hand, does not appear to have any sense of guilt at all.  He gets a fancy weapon that can vaporize people.  His elderly soldier buddy, Alec, ends up zapping a guy "just to see if this thing works".  The guy was insane, but still.  This kind of thing is not okay.  Dashner could have at least made the characters feel some amount of guilt over this.  But no, Mark and Alec just go around zapping anyone who stands in their way.  I can't even pretend to be okay with this.
Also, there were some logic gaps going on here.  1. Alec was supposedly "elderly", but he ran around all the time like he was 20 years old.  2. Apparently the world doesn't have enough resources, so they're going to kill off half the population.  How does this solve anything?  If you have less people, you also have less people to farm, raise livestock, etc.  Also, why would you want to infect basically the entire world?  I don't quite understand this whole aspect.  3. There's a highly contagious, deadly virus going around?  Mark and Trina: "Let's make out!" 
(This picture was also my political statement on November 7th.)
In addition to Mark being unlikable and the logic weirdness, this book also had too many flashbacks.  What kind of person has crystal-clear memory dreams that come in chronological order?  Nobody.  Every single time Mark slept, he had a memory dream/flashback.  This doesn't happen in real life, not like this.  Also, it took away from the rest of the story.  We'd have action, action, action--wait, gotta go back and tell you guys something that happened a year ago! 
As you can probably tell, I'm not impressed with this book.  I didn't like Mark.  I didn't really care about any of the characters or the plot.  All in all, it didn't tell the story I was hoping to hear, and it made me mad while it was at it.  Two stars.
(Also, this is totally random, but when Mark ran into that guy who was covered in oil and threatening to light a fire, my only thought was "DENETHOR LIVES!"  I'm no Denethor fan.  Then again, I think saying "I like Denethor" is like saying "King Joffrey is awesome".  No one says it, ever.  Still, it's hard to forgive Denethor for sitting there, pigging out, while Pippin sings his lovely song.  And for almost killing Faramir, because I rather like Faramir.)
*There's actually a quite interesting article arguing that Eragon is not, in fact, a "good guy".  While I don't really agree, it's an interesting take on it.  
Similar Books: The Always War, Ashes, Unwind  
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Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Mark of Athena (Heroes of Olympus #3) by Rick Riordan

Annabeth is terrified. Just when she's about to be reunited with Percy—after six months of being apart, thanks to Hera—it looks like Camp Jupiter is preparing for war. As Annabeth and her friends Jason, Piper, and Leo fly in on the Argo II, she can’t blame the Roman demigods for thinking the ship is a Greek weapon. With its steaming bronze dragon masthead, Leo's fantastical creation doesn't appear friendly. Annabeth hopes that the sight of their praetor Jason on deck will reassure the Romans that the visitors from Camp Half-Blood are coming in peace.

And that's only one of her worries. In her pocket Annabeth carries a gift from her mother that came with an unnerving demand: Follow the Mark of Athena. Avenge me. Annabeth already feels weighed down by the prophecy that will send seven demigods on a quest to find—and close—the Doors of Death. What more does Athena want from her?

Annabeth's biggest fear, though, is that Percy might have changed. What if he's now attached to Roman ways? Does he still need his old friends? As the daughter of the goddess of war and wisdom, Annabeth knows she was born to be a leader, but never again does she want to be without Seaweed Brain by her side.

Narrated by four different demigods, The Mark of Athena is an unforgettable journey across land and sea to Rome, where important discoveries, surprising sacrifices, and unspeakable horrors await. Climb aboard the Argo II, if you dare....

Released: October 2, 2012          Pages: 586
Publisher: Disney Hyperion      Source: Library

Last year, when The Son of Neptune came out, I made the mistake of checking the library website on the release date.  I got my request in, but...I was 94th on the waiting list.  This year I was smarter and got my request in during August.  Only 3rd on the list, this time.  Yay me!

I'm glad I got myself on that list quickly.  The Mark of Athena is a fun, action-filled book.  It was funny, too.  No matter how desperate the storyline of this series becomes, Rick Riordan always throws in some line that'll make you smile.  I love that about his books. 

My major complaint with this book is the addition of the love triangle.  It adds to the plot, with the whole Leo/Sammy thing.  Still, though, Hazel's choice seems rather obvious to me.  I would choose Leo over Frank any day.  I have nothing against Frank, but Leo is just...Leo.  He's hilarious.  He's my favorite character out of this entire series.  I don't quite understand why Leo is the odd one out.  Why is he left out of all the coupleness?  We need an eighth demigod here.  I volunteer as tribute!  Seriously.  Who wouldn't want to hang out with Leo?

No review of The Mark of Athena would be complete without a rant about the ending.  THE ENDING!  Rick Riordan, you are evil!  How can you do this?  I read the ending, and I probably looked like someone just died.  It was mean and horrible and awful.

Also, it's a genius cliffhanger.  Well done, Riordan. 

And then I have to wait another year for The House of Hades....
I was so distraught that I actually turned into a rageface for a minute.  I know.  It's like that.
To seriously talk about the end... *spoilers in this paragraph only.  Major spoilers.*  They're not dead.  Percybeth will not die.  We'll see 'em come back in the next book.  I'm really, really sure of this.  They'll get themselves out of Tartarus.  Why do I think this?  Because authors whose names aren't George R. R. Martin have a tendency to not kill their major characters.  If this really was the end of Percy and Annabeth, you'd have legions of fans out to attack Mr. Riordan.  It might even ruin the first series for some people.  Then again, I could always be wrong.  (though, have I predicted this stuff correctly in the past?  Yes.  Quite often.) *end spoilers*

Overall, I enjoyed this book.  It's got likable characters, a compelling and entertaining plot, and plenty of funny lines.  The ending is just...I need the next book.  Now.  Riordan, I'll be waiting...

Similar Books: It's funny along the lines of Artemis Fowl (though, admittedly, it's less funny, and AF leans more heavily on the sarcasm side, but the books still appeal to similar audiences).  It has mythology all over the place like The Alchemystit's by the same author (it's a continuation series) and uses some of the same characters The Lightning Thief, and has snarky average-kid-turned-superhero characters like The Merchant of Death.
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Thursday, November 8, 2012

How to Finish a Book (recycled)

(It's NaNoWriMo season.  Because of this, here's a repost of something many writers might be wondering: how to actually finish a book.  I first posted this in August of '08, and it's still one of my most popular posts.  I'm recycling it now, with a few updates.)

For me, and many other authors, starting a book is lots of fun. Everything is exciting and new and fresh, and you're really into your story. But once the excitement wears off, writing a novel can sometimes become a tough, slow, unpleasant process. Well, it'll always be tough and slow, but there are ways to make it less unpleasant.  (I also have a post detailing the exact 70 steps it takes to write a novel.)

Starting books and being able to finish them is the difference between a writer who'll never get published and a successful, published author. A published author has deadlines, and people expect him/her to actually finish books.

In this post, I will tell you how to finish a book. I'll be giving tips on how to stay motivated and keep pushing through until the very end. Keep in mind that no two writers are alike, so these might not work for everyone.

  • Set goals. I'm sorry if this brings to mind painful flashbacks of health class. But really, goal-setting helps. One great idea is to get a calender, and think about what timeframe you want to finish your novel in. Do you want to have it done by next September? Take your estimated word count, and divide it by the months remaining until your goal. Write the number of words you want to have written by the end of the month somewhere on that month's page. For example, say I want to have my book done by December, in four months. It'll be a 40,000 word book. On September's page I'd write 10k, and 20k on October's, etc. Or just write "80,000 words by June 13 or else..." on a post-it and stick it on your computer. Just make sure your goal is actually realistic. Challenge yourself, but don't be absurd. If you can usually write a thousand words a day, don't set a goal to write thirty thousand in the next week.
  • Reward yourself. You know that CD you've been wanting to download? That book you really want to buy? That box of chocolates you've been eyeing at Target for the last month, the ones you don't need but really, really want? Use these to your advantage. Tell yourself "Okay, I'll buy this when I finish my book" or "I can't let myself get this until I reach x number of words". Whatever happens, don't let yourself cave in and buy it before you've reached your word count. Or, better yet, buy that box of chocolates, and put it right by your computer. Put it somewhere that you'll see it every time you sit down to right. But don't eat it yet. Just let it sit there, taunting you. You'll be surprised how eager you'll be to sit down and churn out those words.
  • Don't start other projects. Yes, I know this is tough for some people, especially if you're that kind of person that gets too many ideas all at once. I'm like that, too. But if you ever want to actually finish a book, you need to learn to ignore those ideas. Keep a separate notebook, and when an idea decides to smack you on the head, jot it down quickly. Write it so you won't forget. And then leave it alone. Don't touch it. Don't let yourself dwell too much on it. You're still trying to finish another book, remember? Whatever you do, don't even think of opening up a blank document and starting that other project. Once you do, you'll never finish your first one. This has everything to do with your and your willpower. You simply can't let yourself do that. Besides, ideas come and go. By the time you're done with your current book, and go back to all the ideas that came while you were writing, you'll realize that some of them aren't as great as you first thought.
  • Don't edit as you go. Again, this has everything to do with your willpower. Resist the urge to edit. This is your first draft, not the final masterpiece. If you edit as you go, two things will start to happen. One, you'll spend so much time editing that you'll never finish actually writing the book. Two, you'll start to realize everything that's wrong with your story, and you'll get discouraged. In the first draft, nothing is set in stone. You'll be able to change everything later, so ignore it for now.
  • Remove as many distractions as possible. Most of my current book has been written on a computer without internet access. This has been a godsend. I highly, highly recommend this for writers. If you don't happen to have an ancient computer sitting around, disconnect your internet or something. On Windows computers, there's probably a little button in the corner of your screen with a computer and some little parentheses things that are supposed to be internet signals. Click it. You see that button, the one that says "disable?" Click it. Then you won't be able to go on Facebook, or Pinterest, or type up blog posts like I'm doing right now. If your iPod or phone has internet access, turn it on airplane mode. Don't let yourself turn the internet back on. Just put yourself in a situation, if you can, without internet distractions, shiny new books to read, etc.
  • Make a playlist of songs that relate to your book. I have one, and it really gets me excited about my story. It helps me connect with my characters again, and reminds me why I started the story in the first place. It creates an atmosphere for you to write in with the specific ideas and feel of your story. It helps those words flow.
  • Reread sections you thought went well. You know that one scene, the one that just clicked? The one that just really worked for one and shines like there's no tomorrow, even if the rest of the story is awful? Reread it. Reread that chapter that you love because it shows off your amazing wit. There's got to be something you like about your story, so reread it. Don't edit, just read. You'd be surprised how reading your own stuff gets you excited about your story again.
  • Outline. Are you constantly having trouble with staring at a blank page because you don't know what should happen next? If you keep having this problem, it's going to be impossibly difficult to finish your book. If this is the case, sit down and write an outline of the remainder of the story. It doesn't have to be detailed. All you need is a basic overview of what your characters will do once they get to point A, and point B, and so on.
  • Just sit down and write. Force yourself to spit those words out. Personally, I'm pretty good at forcing myself to sit down and make myself do something. Somewhere along the line my mind developed this interesting ability to mentally beat myself up if I don't do something that I know I should. If you aren't like that, you're going to have to learn, if you want to finish a book. No matter how hard it seems, just sit down and write. It doesn't matter how horrible the words are. It's your first draft. Nobody cares. Just write and write and make yourself finish that story. Force yourself to push through it until the very end. When it really comes down to it, this is the best way to finish a book. Actually, it's the only way.
  • Remember why you started.  Before you begin your story (or right now), write down what you love most about this novel.  The reason why it's so important.  The reason you love your main character.  A reason to keep writing.  Write this somewhere, and put it somewhere you'll be able to see it easily while writing.  This will remind you of why you started this in the first place. 
I'm not going to lie to you. Finishing a book is a huge task that many times seems downright impossible. But it can be done. All you need is the love and dedication to your story, and a will of iron. Over time, you'll make it easier on yourself, as you learn how to best keep yourself motivated.

By the way, Stephen King says that writing a first draft should take three months. Don't listen to that. It would be great if you could actually do that, but most of us will take the better part of a year, if not more, to finish a book.

I wish you luck in all of your novel-finishing endeavors. You'll need it. If I forgot anything, or you have any tips to add, feel free to comment!

Just don't follow my example right now, since I should be writing. 
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Monday, November 5, 2012

Passenger (The Marbury Lens #2) by Andrew Smith

Best friends Jack and Conner can’t stay away from Marbury. It’s partly because of their obsession with this alternate world and the unresolved war that still wages there. But it’s also because forces in Marbury—including the darkest of the dark, who were not revealed in The Marbury Lens—are beckoning the boys back in order to save their friends . . . and themselves.

The boys try to destroy the lens that transports them to Marbury. But that dark world is not so easily reckoned with. Reality and fantasy, good and evil—Andrew Smith’s masterpiece closes the loop that began with
The Marbury Lens. But is it really closed? Can it ever be?

Released: October 2, 2012             Pages: 480
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends         Source: Library
Let’s go back all the way to 2010 for a minute.  Little freshman girl goes into the library, picks up a copy of The Marbury Lens, and reads it.  It’s freaky and illogical and haunting.  It’s wonderfully written with compelling characters.  The whole reality of the story is up for interpretation.
It’s freaky.

So when I found out that it was going to have a sequel, I had two trains of thought going through my head.  1. Why would anyone want to read this?  tML was creepy enough—even though it’s awesome, why would anyone want to read more of it?  2. Oh my goodness, I can’t wait!  In words that are not my own, “It’s gonna be totally awesome!” 

The number two though process overruled number one.  And so I got my hands on a copy of Passenger as soon as possible.  I don’t think I have any complaints or nitpicks with this, actually.  Part of this probably comes from the fact that after a certain point, you realize that none of it makes any sense, so you just go along with everything.

That’s how the entire book is.  Anybody who’s read tML will know what I’m talking about.  There are so many dimensions, Marburys, Glenbrooks, not-Marburys, and not-Glenbrooks.  That’s part of the beauty of this book.  Jack gets pulled around to all these different variations of Marbury and Glenbrook, yet you know they’re all connected.  You know Jack’s at the heart of it all.  You know it’s all reality, in one form or other. 
I like how this book actually does not answer the major question I was left with at the end of tML: Is Marbury real, or just the product of something Freddie Horvath did to Jack's mind?  If Andrew Smith had answered this question, though, the book would not have had as much of an effect.  It is not in the nature of this book to be closed and complete at the end.   
My only complaint with this book is the language.  This book has enough f-bombs to start and end WWIII.  As I said on a Goodreads status update, there are enough f-bombs to defend the US against a nuclear attack from every other country on the planet. 
Let's talk about the end, for a minute.  Jack realizes something about himself.  Some people love it.  Some people hate it.  I guess I'm somewhere in the middle.  On one side, it is a bit too sudden and doesn't quite match up with previous events (for those of you who know what I'm talking about--why was he so in love with Nickie on the train, then he comes back, and then...?)  On the other side, this revelation makes you realize that Connor maybe wasn't being a jerk when he kept making fun of Jack in tML.  Maybe it's a fitting ending for both boys, to have this happen.  I'm not quite sure.

But then, who am I to criticize this for being illogical?  That's like criticizing Romeo and Juliet for not being funny.  It wasn't meant to be funny.  You can't try to make it something it isn't.  I don't think Passenger was really meant to make sense.  In a weird way, it does, but it also doesn't.

This review probably makes no sense at all, to those who have not read the book.  There's nothing I can do about that.  This book messes with you.  It makes you think.  And yes, it is freaky.  It's intense.  It is not fluffy reading but at least I didn't have to read MLIA for an hour afterwards this time.  There are many parts that are definitely cringe-worthy.  There are parts that make you say "I never, ever want to have a look inside this author's brain." 

Worth a read?  Yes.  Illogical?  Yes.  Everything you could expect from a Marbury Lens sequel?  Definitely. 

Roll.  Tap.  Tap.  You haven't gotten away from anything, readers.

Similar Books: It's creepy like Raven's Gate, gritty like Gone, with a writing style that reminds me of The Knife of Never Letting Go.  Also, Goodreads compares it to Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, though I'm not really sure why.  Possibly because they both are varying levels on bizarre, though in different ways.
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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Inside Out/Outside In (Insider #1 & 2) by Maria V. Snyder

the cover of my omnibus
The world of Inside is simple. Do your job, stay out of the way and don't dream of anything better. Because as every Scrub knows, there are no other options.

Until Trella—the Queen of the Pipes, as some call her—gets involved with a revolution that will rock her world….

Trella was just doing a favor for a friend—her only friend. Hiding an injured man from the Pop Cops seemed easy enough—though dangerous. But then she discovered that the myths of Outside might be real….

Being Inside's hero only left Trella with more work. Ducking those responsibilities, she continued to explore her stark world—and found something she never expected. Strangers. From Outside…

Released: December 20, 2011          Pages: 600
Publisher: Harlequin Teen               Source: Bought
paperback Outside In cover
Note: I'm reviewing the entire series in one review.  The Insider series has two separate novels, Inside Out and Outside In.  I'm reviewing them as one unit because I actually own both books in one volume.  And because you'd rather have one good quality review than two rushed reviews.

First Look: *****I picked this up because the premise looked interesting. Also, I very much enjoyed Maria V. Snyder's Poison Study and Magic Study. (I haven't read Fire Study yet. I doubt I'll ever get to it, since I've been meaning to since sixth grade and still haven't gotten around to it.) I loved Poison Study, but then again, that was fifth grade.

Setting: ***** It took me forever to figure out what the setting actually was.  Was it a random compound in the middle of nowhere?  Underground?  A random little cube, Incarceron-style?  Well, apparently the characters didn't know either, until the end of the first book.  But why didn't anyone say that?  It's much less confusing for me to know that the characters don't know, and accept that, than to be left hanging.

And we found out what it actually was, and it was on the predictable side.  I'd had my suspicions.  Even once I knew, though, I still could never get a good visual.  A simple map or diagram or something on the inside cover would've been fabulous. 

hardcover Inside Out cover
Characters: ***** Trella annoyed me.  That's what it all boils down to.  I didn't like her.  She was inconsistent--in the first book, she's all about taking risks.  Then in the second one, she keeps trying to think she's being cautious but she's actually not.  And if she was such a loner and everyone thought of her as such, why did she have such an easy time making friends and gaining support?

Everyone else seemed a bit flat.  The only thing that stops me from giving this category one star is Riley.  Frankly, Riley was adorable.  Other than that...nobody else did anything for me.

Plot: ***** Um...can someone please explain to me how this entire society was completely controlled by the Pop Cops (who have all the weapons, by the way), until a riot started?  And then, as soon as people started rioting and creating chaos (not even a planned rebellion, really, just some spontaneous chaos), these unarmed and unorganized people overpowered the people will stun guns?  This makes no sense at all.  Unplanned, uncoordinated chaos is not how you bring down tyrannical governments (not that I have experience with this, but still). 

The plot had some interesting points, but these were overshadowed by quite a bit of extraneous stuff that got repetitive to me.  This person is trustworthy!  Oh, wait, no!  Just kidding, I trust this other pers--JK, LOL, I don't.  Just figure out who your real friends are, Trella, 'kay?  Also, the ending felt rushed, to me.

One more thing.  The Pop Cops were super quick to kill-zap an innocent guy with seemingly no evidence.  No one had the authority or ability to question them.  Yet Trella runs around, raises everyone's suspicions, and does some pretty sketchy things.  By this same logic, the Pop Cops should have kill-zapped her, because they had plenty of reason to believe she was guilty of something or other.  But they didn't, because without that, it would have been a short book.  Even so, this is no excuse for having plot points that aren't logical.

Uniqueness: ***** Let's see...enclosed society, mysterious force that controls everyone (the YA dystopian equivalent of the "they" that people blame things on), overly tough loner girl, looming secret, unexplained futuristic society....  If you think that sounds a bit like three-quarters of all YA dystopians that have been published in wake of The Hunger Games, you'd be exactly correct.

Writing: *****
The typos, the typos!   There.  Were.  So.  Many.  Typos.  There were weirdly placed commas, and commas that were just plain in the wrong place, or absent when they should have been present.  The prose was rushed and made it easy for me to miss some key info. 

But then, there's the typos.  Why do publishers let this happen?  It seems to me that if a sixteen-year-old can sit here and point out all the mistakes, you've got a problem. 

Likes: Sheepy. 

Not-so-great: I think we all know by this point what I didn't like.

Overall: This was a book with a cool premise that fell flat.  The main character, Trella, annoyed me and was inconsistent.  None of the other characters really made up for that.  The plot had aspects that just plain made no sense, or contradicted other plot points.  It wasn't very unique.  It was full of typos and weird grammar.  I don't recommend this.  If you're looking for a great YA sci-fi or dystopian, there are better ones out there I could recommend to you.

Similar Books: It has some of the tight spaceship-y feel of glow Glowthe romance element of Matched, and a main character similar to the one in Shatter Me.
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