Sunday, February 28, 2010

Glass Houses Book 11

On page 1, I had such high hopes for Rachel Caine's Glass Houses (book 1 of The Morganville Vampires Series).  It's about a nerdy girl who starts college two years early.  I'm a nerdy girl who started college 1.5 years early and could totally relate to being hazed in the the dorms!  It's also set in Texas, so the flip-flops and tacos seemed oh-so realistic to me, but page 1 turned into page 5, page 25, page 55, page 75 and then somewhere around page 95 this book finally started moving.  Wow. I don't have time to read half of a mediocre book, to finally start moving.

There are a few problems with this book.  First of all it really is half way through the book before it starts going anywhere at all.  The whole town is ran by vampires and Claire, our nerdy girl, learns this pretty early on.  It just doesn't seem realistic.  I'm not trying to be a buzz kill, I get the willingness to suspend disbelief and believe me I love vamps to the point my husband is jealous of Edward Cullen, but come on a whole town being ran by a vamp regime that imposes a blood tax is a bit too far fetched even for me!  There is no romance which is alright, except for the blurb on the inside front cover says throwout Twilight and replace it with these (no self respecting teen age girl, or ya romance fan would ever) and the fact that vampires are really associated with dangerous forbidden love.  Even evil ole Count Dracula lured innocent women into the castle with his charm to betray them by draining them, come on!

The bigger problem is most of the book I was bored.  It did start going somewhere in the second half but I found myself wishing it would be over many times before 3/4 of it had passes and it finally got really good.  I read my way to the end.  And there was quite a bit of suspense in the end; I'm not sure it was enough to make up for the first 3/4, but hey--it got better.  The first book ends with a cliff hanger.  The second book is published in the same edition (and I'm not lamenting this because the book cost what a single edition would have anyhow) but that was pretty much a given that the characters all survived and the world wasn't going to end.  That being said I went ahead and read the first page of The Dead Girls Dance just to make sure.  So I have book two.  At the end of the month when I've read my monthly budget am bored and broke I will most likely read The Dead Girls Dance, but not as long as I have better reading material laying around.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Monthly Book Spree

The first Saturday of the month is my day to hit Barnes and Noble, pick up my new feigns and usually celebrate the occasion with cheesecake and a mocha, although today that had to be a peppermint mocha and coffee cake because cheesecake and I are a strictly forbidden pair until Easter (the end of Lent).

Today's books: The Secret Year, The Iron King, Hush, Hush, Lament, and Fallen.  I've ordered Hunger Games and Like Water for Chocolate from the library.  By the time I finish my buys, I'm sure they will be available.

Uncle Tom's Cabin was meant to be the next P-52 book, but it is proving to be less than a "fun" read and as I'm having to force myself to continue while I've committed to reviewing it, I'm sure a few more will pop up, before I reached the end.  I'm less than 1/5 way through Uncle Tom's Cabin, but 1/2 way through Glass Houses, which I actually started later but expect to review sooner!

Anyhow toodles!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

I've Learned...

1) It is serioualy annoying to regulary write a blog that not one person reads!  But that's cool, I'm learning and that was the whole idea of this project.
2) Characterization, (at least, to me), seems to be more important than word choice in fiction.  Who would have thought? Deffinitely, not I.  I am obsessed with Twilight, absolutely and uncontollably to the point my poor husband wants to run as far as possible from our apartment any time the word is mentioned.  I've always found this interesting because there are many things about Stephanie Meyer's writing style that I really don't like.  For example, her favorite word is chagrin.  It's a good word, but really, it does not need to appear in every other line of a four book series.  That is just too much. It's not just "chagrin" "god like creature" was a bit overdone too.  The writing style improves over the course of the series.  My favorite books are Twilight and Eclipse.  I read New Moon once, but when I re-read the series (which happens often), I always skip past the first 2/3 of New Moon to the part where Alice comes back and read from there.  re-read Breaking Dawn at all, because Jacob's imprinting on the baby and her being more attached to him than her father really bothers me.  And Bella's willingness to bring Jacob along to every family event also bothers me.  Though the romantic interest seems to be gone with his new imprint, (her child), it still seems that she hasn't completely chosen Edward.  The point is while there are many things I don't like about The Twilight Saga, something compels me to read it sixteen billion times.

The first time I read the powerful prose that flows like poetry of Shiver, I thought Shiver is the new Twilight and Stiefvater is a much better writer.  I cling to the second statement.  But I haven't re-read Shiver, because when I past my bookshelf, as much as I enjoyed it, no voice in my head screams to me to take it from the shelf and read it again.  I pondered on this.  Because on the last page of Shiver, I closed the book and said "Wow."  I walked into the kitchen and read the last two pages to my husband.  But when I closed Twilight for the first time, I said I would have "X." And listed the things I would have done differently.  After careful consideration I realized that Stiefvater's word choices are beautiful, powerful, different,  the words on the page are interesting.  The plot is strong, but Sam and Grace don't come to life the way Edward and Bella do.  I guess, I've learned that I read fiction because I like the characters.  It's freeing in a way.  Now, I can invent characters that people really want to hang out with and just write worrying less about the word choices, but what I wouldn't give to be able to choose words like Maggie Stiefvater.

Monday, February 22, 2010

So Far To Go: African Americans in American Literature

As most of you know, I write a weekly article for an online magazine which is published on Mondays.  Today I'm on the cover page with an article that asks why African Americans aren't given a more prominent role in American literature.

Check it out ;)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Secret Circle Book 10

The Secret Circle is actually a series by L.J. Smith, author of The Vampire Diaries.

In writing 101 most people learn that a story has a beginning, middle and end.  The Secret Circle does provided you read the entire series as one work.  I don't think the separate books, really work as stand alone books!  This series didn't do so well when it was originally released as three books.  It was re-released with The Vampire Diaries in the midst of the Twilight mania.  This time it was released as four books in two volumes.  In book 1, The Initiation, Cassie (the main character) meets an attractive guy on a beach and helps him avoid conflict from another set of boys.  She is then forced to move to the home of a grandmother she has never met and the kids at her new school are anything but nice to her.  She is befriended by a popular girl and due to some unfortunate circumstances her luck begins to change.  Adam, the hot guy from the beach, shows up near the end of the book.  He is Cassie's popular protector's boyfriend and was gone looking for things for the The Club, the coven of witches Cassie has just been initiated into.

The Club has a mix of characters some pure, some purely evil.  In the next two books a forbidden romance develops between Cassie and Adam and they skirt around to avoid hurting Diana, Adam's girlfriend.  Aside from this some really dark forces are developing as well.  Cassie's initiation into The Club happened only because the younger sister of two club members who was supposed to be initiated was killed.  This perpetrator was originally expected to be someone outside of The Club who opposed witch craft and disliked club members.  But as the story unfolds in the The Captive Part I, The Captive Part II and The Power the force behind that girl's death seems to be much darker and more powerful than a single mortal.  The Club, through all of its struggles, takes on this darker force in an effort to save basically everyone.

When read together like this, The Secret Circle paints a complete picture and tells a complete story.  It should never have been sold as a series.  Maybe, I'm yet to be published because I write to send a message and tell a story rather than to make a million dollars.  But I hate that YA publishers and writers seem to consistently make series out of things that aren't in an effort to sell more books.  Twilight  was originally supposed to be two books, in which the wolves played a minor role, the Cullens defeated James and Victoria and Breaking Dawn ended essentially the same way.  When it did so well in sales, all of the sudden Edward needed to leave Bella and this awkward friendship/romance needed to disregard all boundaries between Bella and Jacob resulting in an extra two books with a series that ends the same way. (And I'm more okay with that since each book had a beginning, middle and end)! Skinned was about a copy of a human brain placed in an artificial body struggling to determine whether or not it was human.  It wasn't. The book ended.  But then two sequels popped up.

The Secret Circle is about a group of kids many missing one or both parents struggling to become who and what they are, and dealing with the responsibility that entails.  It's entertaining--a page turner.  The whole series is 785 pages and tells one story.  It should have been one book.  In honesty, the story was good enough that I probably will by both volumes of The Vampire Diaries, although I feel certain in the end I'll have the same complaint.  But I don't appreciate publishing companies milking me for dimes by selling a normal size book in two volumes to increase profits.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Dear John Book 9

The latest read on the P-52 list was Nicholas Spark's Dear John.   The book had a powerful ending.  It was a theme driven book and even then the artsy type.  There is one good scene around page 170--more nothingness--then a heart wrenching ending.  The problem is making it through the first 200 + pages to get to the good part.  If you're dedicated enough to do this, you'll find it a worthy use of time, otherwise you'll burn it for firewood.

I had great expectations for this book because of Spark's notoriety.  This was my first Sparks feat though I enjoyed the film adaptation of The Notebook immensely.  Truth be told, I needed to read this book and made it a P-52 book, because I'm reviewing it for a pop culture magazine, in light of the recently released motion picture.  I won't be seeing the movie as I don't see how you turn a mere 335 pages into a movie AND I really don't think I could sit through it a second time--not just because it's a tear jerker--I saw Titanic 13 times--but because it was that dull. 

I'm aware this wasn't as in depth as usual, but that's because I'll be posting a link to the mag article on Monday, when it's published and I'd love you all to read it--look forward to it, even!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Evermore/Never more Book 8

If the theme of Twilight was overcoming temptation, the themes of Evermore are love and forgiveness.  Numerous times the characters bluntly state that love and forgiveness are empowering, while vegeance is destructive.  I enjoyed this.  I found the themes appropriate, given the circumstances Ever, the teen age narrator, has been through.   I found Ever to be a refreshing take on the mortal teen age girl in these fantasy romance novels.  After surviving the car accident her whole family died in she is left with psychic abilities.  She can see auras, read minds and see dead people.  Although with the exception of her dead little sister who frequently visits, the part about seeing dead people is really only mentioned in passing.

So I love the theme, (which plays into my biases quite well), and I found Ever fascinating.  Since something kept me turning the pages, I spent the better part of an hour on trying to see what other positive aspects I might have overlooked.  Most people found the theme annoyingly trite and Ever unlikeable.  So I've summed the positive aspects of this novel up in a paragraph, and there is a lot left to say.  

Damen transfers into Ever's new high school only a few months after she goes to live with her aunt.  The whole school is obsessed with him.  Ever tries to avoid him, and then next thing you know they're making out.  While he has been compared to Edward Cullen, (he's good at everything, rich, irresistibly handsome and hundreds of years old) Edward Cullen has more class than this dimwit loser could ever hope to have.  And it's not just that the Edward's a gentleman and Damen spends the novel and apparently countless reincarnated lifetimes (he's immortal and she's been reincarnated a number of times) trying to "get into her pants." (This is actually written into the book more than once).  She's nearly annihilated more than once and he's no where to be found.  So would not have happened to Bella!  But more than that he's so unbelievably flat.  We know he's hot.  We don't know how he's hot because he's never actually described.  We just know he has dark hair, dark eyes, and is irresistibly sexy.  (My husband had dark hair and eyes.  He could be Damen. No, wait if someone were trying to kill me, I'm pretty sure he would be there). He knows all the answers in class, and is good at art and diving.  We know nothing else about him!  He likes to give girls flowers, but not stand up for them.  He likes to try to have sex after one date, but maintains he "knows how to wait."  When I was in high school, there is no way in hell I would have dated this guy, and I couldn't read minds!  Ever, you can do better than this.

The romance is unauthentic and awkward.  She goes from wanting to avoid him to making it out with him overnight.  And you don't even know why she's interested in him--the good looks I guess.

Okay, so we have a teen age psychic in a relationship with an immortal--not a vampire.  (That's a new take, I guess there was one positive feature I overlooked). We don't know why they're in a relationship.  He's lusting after her and she thinks he's hot, so I guess that's it.  Now enters the crazy wife who wants to kill Ever and immortalize her best friend.  She has successfully killed Ever in numerous previous life times.  Damen always gets back with her while Ever is waiting to be reincarnated.  If the teen speak (addressed in the next paragraph) hadn't already drove me mad this is where I would have put the book down and screamed.  Sweetheart, if the boy who you've already said only wants to "get in your pants" returns to the wife he hasn't taken the trouble to divorce or imprison in some alternate plane, you know what he wants.  Kick the loser to the curb.

Now for the one issue that almost kept me from finishing the book.  Seriously, it's a first person narration from a teen age perspective.  I could deal with the "likes." But the words I go don't start a conversation.  I said, I claim, I state, all are fine.  There were countless options to choose from.  I have no idea why the words "I go" were more than once used as dialogue tags.  The teen speak was horrible.  And the writing style had numerous other flaws.  Most of the story was present tense except of the occasional slips to past tense, pick one please.

If you have several free hours on your hands, nothing else in your library and a free copy of Evermore, it might be worth reading for the theme alone.  However, if you have something more productive you could be doing, like building a paper airplane by all means do it.  The Immortals series for me is never more!

Debut Authors I Hope to Cover in P-52

1. Before I Fall- Lauren Oliver
2. The Secret Year- Jennifer Hubard
3. The Iron King- Julie Kagawa
4. Nevermore- Kelly Creagh
5. Restoring Harmony- Joelle Anthony

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Well, I guess I'm making progress with the project 52 assignment.  I had read four books (Her Fearful Symmetry, Beautiful Creatures, Wicked Lovely, and Pride and Prejudice) before I started leaving reviews, and I've read 3 since. Seven down and forty-five to go.

I'm learning! Her Fearful Symmetry taught me work should be revised before published! (Go figure). Wicked Lovely taught me that a compelling story absent solid characters doesn't matter.  Also, I learned that the point of view you choose to use really makes a difference in building characters.

Yeigh! The blog is making progress too.  Emil did something so he can see who comes to my blog and I did get some random visitors!  The writing situation is improving.  The adult web site offered me a review job (again). LOL.  I still won't be doing that.  But I'm learning a lot about writing for an online medium from the blogging.  I've found some much better blogs to follow. (It's kind of sad all this upper level education and the high school kids are out-reading me and out-writing me).

The first 20 chapters of my manuscript have been edited, so have the last four.  That means only the six chapters in Rome, which have to be rewritten are left. I'm sending out query letters at the end of the month.  I would be doing it sooner, but we're going to Arkansas over Valentines weekend and I want to go pray for success at Bell-Gable.  That place is magical.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Coming of Age and Becoming a Wolf?--A look at Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver

In fairness, the high school years are hard enough on most of us, but if you were a wolf half a year, it would probably be a lot worse! If you were in love with a boy who was a wolf for part of the year, you might think that was worse too. I saw Shiver (an appropriate title, it gave me trembles) as a beautiful and terribly romantic coming of age story.
In Mercy Falls, Minnesota, Grace was attacked by a pack of wolves at the age of 11. They were going to devour her, when one wolf with yellow eyes prevented it--saved her. Since then she has had a fascination with that wolf. Over the years she watches her wolf. He watches her, from a distance. But the wolves are always mysteriously absent during the warmer months.

Very early into the book, another high school student is attacked and killed by the wolves, but there is no body. This sends the town into a frenzy and a hunting party into the woods. A mishap introduces Sam, Grace's wolf, to Grace and us in his boy form. And so the werewolf is out of the bag! I loved the fast pace. It kept me interested and turning the page.

The romance between Sam and Grace is a "love at first sight" kind of thing. Being a hopeless romantic and a firm believer in the possibilities of the impossible, this did not bother me, but I could see how a cynic would be. The love between Sam and Grace is genuine and authentic. Their primary struggle is keeping Sam warm so that he doesn't become a wolf. (Wolf to boy transitions are numbered, and this is Sam's last year to become a boy--so once he takes the form of the wolf again, it's over).

The other werewolves accept the fact that they will eventually be a wolf. Sam feels he loses himself by becoming a wolf. His fire to stay in his human form burns deeper than just the thought of losing Grace when he transitions again, though that is motivation. But he doesn't want to lose his cognizant abilities and the talents that make him Sam.

Grace has a greater self-awareness than Sam. She knows what her abilities are. She's very intelligent and extremely practical. She's the parent in her house and her parents live like teen-agers. Sam is protective of Grace. The book starts with him saving her life. However, something that intrigued me about this book was the way Grace took care of Sam. Grace kept Sam warm. She was the one heating up the car, and offering her lover her jacket, and keeping his secret. In a lot of ways, Grace is the stronger character. Grace protects the boy, and doesn't need a lot of protection. The strong female protagonist and Sam's transient life-style kept this from being another Cinderella story for me.

Perhaps, one of the darker elements of the novel, and one worth discussing are the parent figures. Sam's parents were atrociously abusive. Grace's are abusively neglectful. And Sam comes to the realization at some point, that an older werewolf whom he has always considered a father betrayed him in the most fundamental way. I read another review that claimed the negligence of Grace's parents was a plot device and absent that much of the book would have been impossible. It probably to some extent was, but there are a lot of neglectful parents in the world! That means there are many children who feel that no one cares about them, or live in abusive situations and with the actions of the other adults in the book, it seems unlikely that the characteristics of Grace's parents are just a plot device. I'm glad someone is writing something that teen-agers in less than ideal situations can relate too!

The ending was powerful! There is no other way to describe it. When I heard there would be a sequel, I wasn't so enthusiastic because I liked the ending. But after reading the first paragraph of Linger, the sequel, I felt there is sufficient ground for a sequel, and I'll read it.

It's a "young-adult fiction" fantasy romance. And it's good book, about all the unexpected way we find ourselves. If you can accept for that, you will love it. The words sing on the page. The back drop, situations and characters are beautifully written, without being overly descriptive. It's poetry in prose form. I'm sure the author hates this, but I have to say it. All the things that made Twilight so appealing, make this book appealing, and the writing is stronger, less melodramatic dialogue and more core. I'm disappointed that Hollywood overlooked this one.