Sunday, April 29, 2012

Monthly Recap: April 2012

This month, I was interviewed over at Cherry Tree Notes, a fellow writing blog.  You all should go check it out!

Books
This month, I read Terrier by Tamora Pierce (4 stars), The Cup of the World by John Dickenson (1 star), Warrior by Bryan Davis (4 stars), The Black and The Blood by D. J. MacHale (4 stars), The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielson (4 stars), and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (4 stars).



Writing Links
A random cute picture.
This month, I came across an infinite writing checklist,  courtesy of the author of the lovely The False Prince.  Andrew Smith, author of The Marbury Lens, had a good point about target audience.  I also found a post on word count, the 10 Commandments for editing someone's writing, a post on how to keep pushing through in your writing, and an incredibly helpful genre map.  I posted a compilation of bumper stickers for writers, a post on word count, a post on endings, and I complained about how teachers draw plot diagrams and what they should look like.


Other Links
Here's the first chapter of Maggie Stiefvater's upcoming book, The Raven Boys.  Libraries have been getting complaints and requests to censor The Hunger Games.  It seems that some of these complainers haven't even read the book.  I mean, "satanic".  Really?  And finally, Neal Shusterman's Unwind is going to be a movie.  While none of us are looking forward to the Roland scene, here's a clip of what it might look like, anyway.  Because, you know, nothin' like a video of an unwinding to get your day going.

There was also more drama in the YA book blogging world this month, when a rather well-known blogger admitted to plagiarism. (And here's a follow-up post.)  What do you guys think of this?  I, for one, am not happy with the bad reputation that book bloggers are going to get if this keeps up.  We're all going to pay for a few people's mistakes, if this kind of thing doesn't stop.  We've had enough drama in 2012 to last us a looooong time.  The thing that bothers me about this, though, is the fact that it's coming from someone with a Candor faction button on their homepage.  Make of this what you will.     

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The False Prince (The Ascendance Trilogy #1) by Jennifer A. Nielson

THE FALSE PRINCE is the thrilling first book in a brand-new trilogy filled with danger and deceit and hidden identities that will have readers rushing breathlessly to the end.

In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king's long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner's motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword's point -- he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage's rivals have their own agendas as well.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner's sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.

An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats.


First Look: ***** I don't remember the last time I was this excited for the release of a non-series book.  Usually, if I've never read a book by an author before and they have a new book coming out, I'm interested.  I'm not dying to get my hands on it, though.  But with this book, I just had a feeling that it would be awesome.  And my instincts about whether or not I'll like a book are usually quite accurate. 

Setting: *****
It was alright.   There wasn't anything particularly special about it, for me.  I enjoyed it, but it didn't stand out from the crowd.  However, it definitely has potential to expand and become something awesome in the next two books.  c

Characters: *****  I love Sage.  I truly, honestly do.  Not the "Oh my Rowling, he's HAWT!" sort of love (thought I'd sooner date him than pretty much all of the standard YA love interests).  No, this is a "I love this kid!  He's hilarious and I'd love to have him as a friend" sort of love.  I was only three pages in, and he was already cracking lines that made me grin.  If you had any idea how hard it is to get a physical reaction out of me when reading, you'd be impressed.  I also loved his other side, the side trying not to crumble under the weight of responsibility, the side with dark secrets. 
I probably looked a bit like this.  Except for the fact that I'm neither Jack nor Leonardo DiCaprio, did not have a convenient little breeze blowing my hair around in an attractive way, and was not on the Titanic.*

Of the other characters, the only one I really liked was Imogen.  The author intended this, though.  The other characters, like Tobias and Roden, were certainly well-developed.  I respected them, as characters, but I didn't like either of them, as it should be.

Plot: ***** I love the concept of this plot.  A competition to impersonate a prince?  Yes please!  Unlike so many other new releases, this concept was carried out very well.  I was constantly wondering what would happen next, edge of my seat, etc. etc. etc.  And there even was a bit of swordfighting.

The only predictable part was Sage's big secret.  I guessed it a little ways before it was revealed.  This might be because the main character of my book has pretty much the same secret.  I probably recognized the signs, and saw it coming.  Even so, I very much enjoyed the twist.  It added a whole new layer of awesome to the story. 

Uniqueness: ***** 
Wonderfully unique.

Writing: *****
I loved how much Sage's voice came through in the narration.  The author did a great job with that.  I saw the story completely through Sage's eyes, not the eyes of a narrator, or a narrator pretending to be the main character.  The writing had all the same attitude, all the same charm and rebelliousness.

Likes: Basically everything.

Not-so-great: I have to wait One.  Whole.  Year.  to read the sequel.  Grr!

Overall: I very much enjoyed this book!  I loved Sage and all his snarky, funny lines.  I loved the concept, which was, thankfully, very well-done.  There are just so many things to love about this book, so many reasons to read it.  I'd recommend it to anyone who likes fantasy.  It would be especially good for boys, and will appeal to younger readers as well.  It's more like a 4.5, but I don't round up when it comes to 4.5s.  Awesome read!

*Okay, so I just wanted to throw a Titanic GIF into that review.  Because I can.
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Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Black (Morpheus Road #2) by D. J. MacHale

At the end of The Light, Book One of the Morpheus Road trilogy, Marshall uncovered the truth about what happened to his best friend Cooper. Now in Book Two, we get Cooper’s perspective. What does his story have to do with Marshall and the journey along the Morpheus Road? It’s time to learn more….From a master of suspense, this fantastical tale contains shocking twists and will take readers down a dark path of discovery that will leave them clamoring for the trilogy’s conclusion!

D. J. MacHale definitely took a twist to this series.  Instead of having the second book continue Marsh's story, we get the same story, but from Cooper's point of view.  This could have gone either really wrong or been very cool.  Fortunately, it went more towards the cool side. 

It was really interesting to hear Cooper's side of the story.  It explained things that were left unexplained in The Light.  I think, of the two characters, Cooper had the more exciting story.  Which is understandable, given that Cooper's story is much more cosmic and large-scale. 

During the first book, I didn't get to know Cooper very well, simply because he was, well, dead for most of it.  Now that I've gotten to know him more, I definitely like him.  He's got a sense of humor, yet he's brave and determined, if a bit foolhardy (Hm...am I talking about Cooper Foley or Bobby Pendragon?  Or both?  What if they're the same?  I wouldn't rule it out....). 

Between Marsh and Cooper, though, I still prefer Marsh.  Probably because more of Marsh's emotions hit home, for me.  He's a more relatable character, to me.  His personality and mine seem very similar, which I appreciate.  I mean, how often do you read about creative-minded logical introverts?  Um, almost never. 

I like the cosmic turn that this series has taken.  It's suddenly gotten much...bigger.  I like that.  Hopefully MacHale can build it up even more in the final book, and finish it off with a spectacularly epic ending.

I think I might've seen Loor in this book.  One of the Watchers, I do believe, was described as an athletic African-American young woman with a long braid.  Hm, I wonder who on Earth in Halla that could be...  I'm on to you, MacHale!

I did find a typo.  Can you find it?


Can't find it?  I'll help you out:

I'm going use this as an opportunity to rant about the horrors of apostrophe misuse.  Ladies and gentlemen, APOSTROPHES DO NOT MAKE WORDS PLURAL.  Don't do this: Kid's don't think.  No.  It should be: Kids don't think.  Did I use an apostrophe in "kids"?  No.  Every time you make this mistake, you make a puppy cry.  So don't do it. 

Ahem.  Apostrophe rant over.  Anyways, I liked this book.  It didn't display what I call the Middle of the Trilogy Syndrome, which is good.  A strong second trilogy book is a must.  Can't wait to read the next one!

Reviews of other Morpheus Road novels:
The Light (Morpheus Road #1) by D. J. MacHale
The Blood (Morpheus Road #3)

PS: I was interviewed over at Cherry Tree Notes, a fellow writing blog.  How cool is that?  You all should go check it out!  Click the box to see the interview.




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Friday, April 20, 2012

Not Your Teacher's Plot Diagram

Do you remember, back in elementary or middle school, when your teacher would show you a diagram of a plot?  It would be a triangle labeled with key points like climax, resolution, etc.  It looked a little something like this:


Think about this plot for a minute.  Who wants to read a book with a bunch of exposition?  Who wants to read about that much falling action?  Nobody, that's who.  I don't know why teachers draw diagrams like this. 

Here's a better plot diagram, that might actually make for a good book:
See the difference?  There's no exposition here at all.  Exposition generally isn't interesting.  Also, note the tiny amount of falling action.  Falling action is sometimes necessary to make the plot end logically, but the amount of people who really enjoy it is probably the same as the number of boyfriends I have.*  Once the reader gets to the climax, they've hit the highest point.  You really can only go downhill from there, which gets boring.

Just because I could...I started wondering, what would a diagram look like if it was all falling action?  Would that be an anti-plot, or something?
 Just for good measure, I made a diagram of a very boring book that would be worthwhile only to insomniacs in desperate need of sleep:

And then there's the Annie plot diagram.  The diagram of a book I'd think is extremely awesome.  Here it is.  Click to see it up-close and personal.  Besides, it's cool because it uses a font based off my handwriting. 
Then I realized that the Annie Preferred Plot Diagram resembled a dinosaur.  And thus the Plotasaurus was born (evolved?):

Robert Plot would be proud.  Yes, there was a Robert Plot who was involved with discovering dinosaurs.  No joke.  Here, let me Google that for you.

I tried to interject a point into this post.  I'm not sure if I succeeded.  Nevertheless, my point is this: Exposition isn't very interesting.  Neither is falling action (I'll have to post more on these two later).  And don't believe plot diagrams that look sketchy (a law of nature: if it looks sketchy, it probably is).  If you've ever called a teacher out on this, please share your experiences.  

*I've never had a boyfriend.

Have writing questions?  Don't hesitate to shoot me an email at theanniemarie(at)gmail(dot)com! 

PS: I made a button out of the Plotasaurus, so now you can have your very own Plotasaurus on your blog!  (to link back here, of course...)

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Warrior (Dragons of Starlight #2) by Bryan Davis

In book two of the Dragons of Starlight series by bestselling author Bryan Davis, the quest to rescue the slaves on the dragon planet of Starlight continues, as those from the human planet of Major Four attempt to overcome the dragon prophecy surrounding the black egg, while those on the dragon planet of Starlight work to fullfill what the prophecy foretold.  As Jason and Koren, the Starlighter, arrive at the Northlands in Starlight, they continue to look for the one person who can help them free the human slaves. At the same time, Elyssa and a slave named Wallace try to free the slaves using brute force, and work to convince the other slaves freedom is possible. On Major Four, Randall and Tybalt encounter difficulties of their own, as the dragon Magnar arrives and begins to influence the new governor. Above it all, the dragon prince has hatched, raising the stakes for humans and dragons alike.

It's been awhile since I read Starlighter, but this book pretty much picked back up where it ended. 

What I love most about this series is that it's different.  There's fantasy elements, but there's also a science fiction planet-traveling sort of thing going on, too.  It's a dragon story, but the whole concept, while a bit hard to explain, is fantastic and quite different from any other. 

I also enjoy reading about these characters.  Koren and Wallace are my favorites.  Okay, especially Wallace.  He's only 12, but he's incredibly brave and mature.  And he makes me smile every so often, with something he says.  I also like the others, like Jason and Elyssa. 

I'd like to point something out to every YA author in the world.  In part of this story, Jason and Koren (a boy and a girl) are traveling together.  They're traveling alone.  They are the same age.  They're really good friends.  They are just friends.  They do not fall in love.  Let me repeat, THEY DO NOT FALL IN LOVE.  I feel like I need to point this out because in YA, you almost never, ever see this.  If there's a boy and girl in this situation, they almost always fall in love.  It's predictable and annoying.  Why is it so hard to write about girls and boys who are friends

I don't have much to say about this book, but I enjoyed it.  I'm eager to get the next one.  It's exciting, with many twists and turns.  And DRAGONS.  Yay for dragons!  Recommended for fantasy lovers, as well as anyone who likes Christian fiction.  Or anyone who likes Bryan Davis books. 
 
  
Reviews of other Dragons Starlight novels:
Starlighter (Dragons of Starlight #1)
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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Endings

Endings are vitally important to novels.  This seems rather obvious, but it always baffles me how so many people spend hours and hours tweaking their beginnings, when they have no idea how their ending will play out.

When you start writing, you have to have an ending in mind.  Always.  Even if you know nothing else, know the ending.  You can't just sit down and try to write a book without knowing where you are going.  It doesn't work.  You'll end up floundering in the middle and you won't get anywhere. 

You don't have to know every little detail about the end.  For example, if you're writing about Bob the explorer, a man who is searching for a lost Mayan statue that could stop the 2012 apocalypse from occurring.  You know that in the end, he’ll find this statue, and he’ll find it with the use of his trusty flashlight in an ancient temple in Peru, 20 minutes before the so-called apocalypse begins.  You don’t necessarily need to know that he’ll be with his sidekick Winston, or that there is an army of zombies chasing him.  You just need to know the basics: what happens, where/when it happens, and the general how it happens.  Just know the foundations of your ending, and it will go a long way in moving your story along. 

Your ending should, in most cases, tie up loose ends.  It's okay to leave a few threads hanging, but not too many.  It’s fine to leave the reader wondering about one or two things (though some readers are more okay with this than others), but don’t overdo it.  It’s also fine to tie up every loose end, as long as you don’t have too much falling action.  (More on this in a later post.  Falling action and I do not get along well.)     

There should be a sense of closure to your ending.  I once read somewhere that a good ending is utterly unexpected, yet still feels inevitable to the reader.  I think this is an excellent way to put it.  Make your ending unpredictable, but at the same time, make it feel like there’s no other way it could have ended.      

Also, before you even start writing, you should probably know what kind of ending you want.  The endings of most books can be sorted into three categories.  These categories are:

Happily-ever-after ending: Fairly self-explanatory.  The good guys win.  The protagonists get what they want.  People are, well, happy.  The bad guy, if there is one, gets executed or thrown into Mordor or forced to listen to the Bill Nye theme nonstop.  It's predictable, which isn't always a bad thing.  Examples: most Disney movies, Harry Potter, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Non-ending: In a non-ending, the immediate conflict isn't really resolved.  There's not much closure, because the story just kind of...ends.  Now, this isn't always a bad thing (I'm the .001% of people who likes the ending of The Giver).  This can also be known as the "make the fandom want to sue you" ending.  Examples: The Giver, many series books, the seventh Harry Potter movie, part 1  

Open-ended ending: The immediate conflict is probably resolved, but after that, much is left up to the reader to decide.  Do the main characters grow up and get married?  Does the plague come back and everyone dies?  Does the MC become an insurance salesman?  We don't know.  Some people hate these, but I like them.  They give the reader a chance to make up their own mind about the story.  Examples: The Scorpio Races, the Chaos Walking Trilogy, I Am the Messenger

Bittersweet ending: My favorite kind.  The immediate conflict is resolved.  There's some amount of happy-ever-after, but there's also some amount of sadness.  Maybe the main characters might have to part forever, or a friend has died, or nothing will ever be the same again.  I love these kinds of endings.  There's a definite sense of closure, but there's also a definite sense that these characters went through a lot, so the story left a lasting impression on them.  Examples: Lord of the Rings, The Book Thief,  Inheritance, pretty much every Warriors book

(There's also the "loop ending", but that probably only applies to Pendragon.)

Each of these types of endings are options for your book.  Keep in mind, though, that some endings might not be as appropriate for some types of books.  As in, should your dark, gritty horror story have a happily-ever-after sort of ending?  Maybe not.  Non-endings, or even open-ended endings, to some extent, tend to leave readers feeling like they were cheated, so you also might want to take that into account. 

Also, here is a list of books with fabulous endings.  I highly recommend reading, um, all of them.

What kind of ending does your book have?  What kind do you prefer to read?  Feel free to chime in with other comments about endings in general.

Have another question about writing?  Send me an owl message at theanniemarie(at)gmail(dot)com.
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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Cup of the World (Cup of the World #1) by John Dickenson





Filled with immense characters, this thrilling medieval fantasy filled with moral complexity and vision announces the arrival of a special new writing talent.

Phaedra, the beautiful daughter of a baron, has been visited in dreams by an elusive knight for almost as long as she can remember. And when his presence becomes a reality, she is forced to choose him and a new life over her home and her father. But this sets off a chain of events that she could not have foreseen—a battle between good and evil, which is in turn violent and psychologically compelling. This stunning novel grapples with the huge themes of life, and turns the reader’s expectations upside down again and again, with one vertiginous plunge after another.
First Look: ***** I'd seen this a few times at the library, but really, the only reason I picked it up was because it came up in my Goodreads recommendations as "people who enjoyed the Books of Pellinor (which are utterly amazing, by the way) also enjoyed...".  I'm not sure if I completely trust the Goodreads recommendation system anymore...

Setting: ***** I wasn't very impressed by the setting.  Yes, it was okay, but it didn't really stand out to me.  It wasn't the kind of place I could immerse myself in, and wasn't very unique, as fantasy worlds go.  There was a bit of infodumping when it came to details about the setting, but not a huge amount. 

Characters: ***** I don't think I've ever disliked a main character this much.  There just wasn't anything about Phaedra that I could bring myself to like.  She was selfish and oblivious.  She ran off in the middle of the night to marry some guy (who was ten years older than her) that she'd met only in dreams, knowing full well that doing so would start a war (which didn't even make sense), and endanger her father's life.  Apparently some people see that as being a "strong female role model" or something.  I see it as selfish.  She yelled at her servants for no particular reason.  She did absolutely nothing help her situation--she just sat there and sulked.  She couldn't function without her husband. 

There's not a huge amount I can say about the minor characters.  They were less bratty and self-centered, for the most part, but there was no one that I was cheering for, no one that I actually cared about. 

Plot: *****  There was a plot...but for the most part, Phaedra wasn't involved in any of it.  There was a war going on, but Phaedra just stayed home and sulked.  And sulked some more.  It was very dull and incredibly slow.  I didn't understand why the book was even about Phaedra, because she didn't do anything.  Her husband did, and other characters were involved in the war and making things happen, but all of that was secondary to Phaedra's feelings of misery.

I didn't understand why Phaedra's eloping caused a war.  Okay, maybe the kingdom was on the verge of war already, but if you're going to write about a kingdom on the verge of war, then you need to get that message across before the war begins.

Uniqueness: *****
The thing about the "cup" was unique, I guess, but it really didn't make much sense.  I didn't like this book at all, so it's hard to give it any more than an okay rating in any category.

Writing: *****
Despite my dislike for the rest of the book, the writing actually was decent.  It definitely had a nice flow to it, and the oldish sort of language fit with the rest of the book.  If it had been an interesting book with interesting characters, I probably would've considered it well-written.

Likes: Ahem....

Not-so-great: Oh my goodness, where do I start?  I just...Did.  Not.  Like.  This.  Book.   

Total Score: I didn't like this at all.  The writing itself was decent, but unfortunately, I was utterly bored with the rest of it.  The main character made me very annoyed and even a bit angry, because i found her actions so selfish and unnecessary.  The plot dragged on and on, because the main character wasn't involved in any of the action, and some aspects of the plot didn't even make sense.  This book had the potential to be very interesting and immersive, but it wasn't.  First one star book of the year.  Not recommended for anyone at all.  I will certainly not be reading the sequels.   

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Monday, April 9, 2012

Word Count Anxiety

Word count is something that many writers needlessly worry about while writing their books.  Is the book going to reach a publishable word count?  What's an acceptable word count?  Will it be too long, too short, will baby sloths overrun the planet? 

Definitely a picture we can relate to.
I say "needlessly" because, while you're writing, word count is not something you need to think about.  Yes, it is important.  Just not yet. 

While you're writing, word count is not important.  Yes, do set word count goals for yourself.  But don't stress over it.  If you're going along, writing your book, and estimate that it'll end up being 55,000 words, that's great.  And if you end up writing 70,000, that's great too.  If you end up with 45,000, it's still great.  Before you stress over what's publishable, finish the book.  Write the story as it wants to be told.  If your characters want to pull you into an 120,000 beast, go with it.  If you find that you're at 50,000 words with nothing more to say, awesome.  At this point, it doesn't matter. 

T-shirt wisdom.
If you don't care about getting published, the word count is never going to matter.  But now, if you do care about getting published, then the revision stage is when you should start thinking about word count.  Think about it...when was the last time you read a 200-page YA epic fantasy?  A 750-page contemporary romance? 

There's not a definite word count that your novel should be.  YA novels are quite a range of lengths.  The general consensus seems to be that standard YA novels are somewhere between 50,000 and 90,000 words (and this is a very generous estimate with a rather wide range).  There are exceptions, of course, but that's the general range.  YA epic fantasy has a little more wiggle room on top, and can be in the 100,000s or even 110,000s. 

If you aren't in this range, you won't automatically get rejected by every agent you query.  For many agents, word count itself is not a cause for rejection.  If you query a YA book on the upper ends of this spectrum, it might be a red flag for that agent, but it doesn't mean they won't consider you. 

The key is that if your book is going to be that long, there needs to be a good reason for it.  Many times, novels are overly long because the author uses too much description and is too wordy.  Sometimes, though, books are long because they have a complex story to tell.  If you want to get your long book published, you need to make sure every word counts.  You need to prove to agents and publishers that every word is worth it.

Having a book that's too short is a less common problem.  If your book is way below this range, agents are going to start to question your ability to flesh out characters and plots, and your knowledge of the YA genre (as in, is your 40,000 word book actually more MG but you're calling it YA because you haven't done your research?     

To give you a frame of reference, here are the word counts of some familiar YA novels.  Many of these have rather unusual word counts.  I'm just giving you these numbers so you can get a better idea of how big of a book a certain word count translates to.
Eragon by Christopher Paolini: 157,220
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer: 56,684
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan: 87,223    
Holes by Louis Sachar: 47,079
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: 99,750    
Paper Towns by John Green: 81,739    
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis: 36,363    
Harry Potter 1: 76,944 
2: 85,141
3: 107,253
4: 190,637
5: 257,045
6: 168,923
7: 198,227
(Look at that.  Look.  At.  That.  257,045.  That might get you insta-rejection from most agents if you're a debut author.  Just goes to show that it pays to be an established author with a ginormous fanbase.  Can you imagine typing that many words?  And Inheritance is actually a few thousand words longer!)

To sum it up, don't worry about your word count while you're writing.  Don't let thoughts of word count interfere with the natural telling of your story.  And even after that, you should be aware of the general publishable range, but nothing is ever set in stone.  Don't let word count run your story.

Sometime soon I will post a follow-up article on ways to fix up your novel if it's way too long or way too short.  Stay tuned! 

PS: Maggie Stiefvater, author of such utter wonderfulness as The Scorpio Races, just so happened to post on having long word counts today. 
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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Terrier (Beka Cooper #1) by Tamora Pierce

Tamora Pierce begins a new Tortall trilogy introducing Beka Cooper, an amazing young woman who lived 200 years before Pierce's popular Alanna character. For the first time, Pierce employs first-person narration in a novel, bringing readers even closer to a character that they will love for her unusual talents and tough personality.

Beka Cooper is a rookie with the law-enforcing Provost's Guard, and she's been assigned to the Lower City. It's a tough beat that's about to get tougher, as Beka's limited ability to communicate with the dead clues her in to an underworld conspiracy. Someone close to Beka is using dark magic to profit from the Lower City's criminal enterprises--and the result is a crime wave the likes of which the Provost's Guard has never seen before.


First Look: ***** I've read a few Tamora Pierce books before this one.  Some I liked, some were just okay.  I hadn't read one I loved, but I hadn't read one I hated, either.  So I decided to give this a go.

Setting: ***** Tamora Pierce knows her settings very well.  Well enough that she can plop the reader into it and immerse them without huge info dump or long descriptions.  I love it when an author can do that. 

This setting was different from many fantasy settings, in that there was no traveling across grand mountains and endless wilderness.  In fact, the only place really that we got to see was the city, and various spots within it.  But it worked, because by the end of the book, I knew the city very well.  I could picture it in my mind without any trouble.  There was detail, but not enough to bog me down in all the text. 

Characters: *****
I really liked the main character, Beka.  She was tough, inquisitive, and caring.  She had her flaws, too, and her crippling shyness.  She felt, to me, like a very well-rounded character, and I enjoyed reading about her. 

I liked some of the secondary characters, like Tunstall and Goodwin, especially.  The others were just kind of meh.  I knew who they were, but I didn't really care about them as much as I would've liked.  I also felt like there were too many.  For example, Beka had several friends that she hung out with for breakfast each morning.  I think a few of these characters could have been combined into one, to make for easier reading and to make me care more about the side characters.

Plot: ***** 
The plot, in itself, interested me.  I wanted to know what happened, wanted to know who the kidnapper was (okay, I figured it out pretty early.  But until then I wanted to find out.).  My problem was that it took a long, long time to get there.  Beka spent a large amount of time trying to piece together the mystery, but I would've liked it more if some of that would've been skipped over. Do we really need to watch her talking to every single witness? Probably not, if you ask me. And also, there was huge focus on the main characters having breakfast together. It was nice, but a bit repetitive and unnecessary. It felt a little like this: "Hey guys, there's a murderer on the loose we should probably PIGEONS IT'S BREAKFAST TIME PIGEONS PIGEONS catch him."  

Uniqueness: ****
It was different from many standard fantasy books.  The plot wasn't huge or world-shattering, but it still maintained a level of intensity and excitement. I liked that.

Writing: **** Tamora Pierce's writing isn't anything super exciting and fancy, but it definitely gets the job done.  It does a decent job telling the story, and overall, that's about all you need, in a book. 

Likes: Nothing specific that's worth noting.

Not-so-great:
The things about the dust-spinners felt a little thrown-in-there.  I didn't quite see where it came from or how it fit into the story.  And what was up with the borders around every page?  It annoyed me.  There was so much wasted ink. 

Total Score:
I enjoyed this, overall.  It's probably a bit more to the 3.5ish side, but I'll round up.  I liked the main character, Beka, though some of the side characters just didn't do it for me.  I liked the plot, too, but I just wish it would've been less drawn-out.  Recommended for fans of Tamora Pierce, as well as fantasy and mystery books in general, especially people who are into "traditional" fantasy, but on a smaller scale. 

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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Bumper Stickers for Writers

You can buy a bumper sticker for pretty much everything, it seems.  But yet you can't get them for writers, the most literate people in the world.  For your amusement and convenience, I've designed several bumper stickers for writers.  Click to see them full-size.

We are the 99% of writers who use the Oxford Comma.  Okay, more than that
don't use it, but I liked how it sounded.


My protagonist is smarter than your honors student.  So true.

Occupy the publishing industry.

If you can read this, you're too close.  Don't tailgate a writer.
If you ran read this, you're literate.  Making fun of the previous sticker.
Don't make me set my antagonist on you!

We are the 99% of writers who prefer books with plots.
Protagonist*Sidekick 2012
Support our characters.

 You are welcome to save these. You're also welcome to repost them, as long as you include a link back to this blog. And if anyone seriously prints one and makes an actual sticker out of it, please, please, please send a picture!
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