Sunday, February 27, 2011

Passages Available For Purchase

Passages is a collection of seven young adult short stories. Though four of them are available for free reading on Smashwords, three of them are brand new. The collection is available for only 99 cents on Smashwords and soon Kindle!

A small sample:
Moments like this, when his world revolves around him and not his brother, are rare. Mom is holding back tears, and Dad watches with pride. Friends and acquaintances he has known for years, most of them wearing matching blue gowns, gather around to give him hugs, phone numbers, and smiles. This is the last day they will step foot in this building as students.

Ethan scans the crowd for Mya, wondering if she’s seen Brian yet. He doesn’t want to see their reunion. His brother has been in Boston for his freshman year of college, and it’s been the best year of Ethan’s life. Brian’s been back two days, and Dad has already commented on Brian’s higher high school GPA and Ethan’s disappointing community college choice.

~From The Rowe Boys, the first story in the collection.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers

The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers

Hardback, 2007, 494 pages. Library copy.

German author translated this book from the Zamonian author Optimus Yarnspinner, who tells about his adventures in Bookholm and its catacombs. In search of the author of a magnificent manuscript passed down to him by his authorial godfather, he comes into contact with hypnotizing music, book lovers of all kinds, terrifying Bookhunters, dangerous books, live books, and much more.

This book was amazing. I loved it, I loved it, I loved it. It wasn't as quick a read as the last few books I read, but I definitely didn't mind. I didn't really want it to end. I am checking out his other books asap. It's such an imaginative book. Honestly, how did he think up all of this? Some of the quotes on the back say things like JK Rowling meets Douglas Adams and Throw in The Princess Bride, Lord of the Rings, Shel Silverstein, and Tolkien, and you get Moers. I can definitely see the comparisons. It was a very clever book full of literary reference and adventure. I would recommend it to any book lover, or any reader who may want to spend extra time on the book. It's not a hard read or anything, but it doesn't go by really fast. There's a lot of Zamonian vocabulary, and it's a pretty thick tome.

What I could learn as a writer from this book:

As awesome as this book was, there were a few flaws. The protagonist was sort of. . .dumb? Maybe it was for build up to the climax, but it took him forever to catch onto a few things. It could have been characterization, but he was supposedly quite smart. So, don't sacrifice characterization for plot.

Also, the sky is the limit! Moers thought up so many strange animals, so many different ways to love books, so many different creatures and nefarious plots. It was an entirely new world that I loved being apart of when I read the book.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Best Seller! From the dreams of Emily!

In this one, we have some kind of time traveler from the future. To prove she's from the future, she's trying to predict events for her friends and family. One such event is the flood in New Orleans, and then she realizes she doesn't even know when it will happen. Her lack of knowledge on current events and history leaves her in a pickle as she tries to get help to get back to the future. Her predictions are usually half-right, half-wrong, and people start to wonder if she's got something loose in the head.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson

Hardback, 2008, 266 pages. Library copy.

This is another book I found because of my library's recommendations. It's about seventeen-year-old Jenna Fox, who wakes up from a year and a half long coma. She has no memories, and she slowly comes to learn that she's different. It's a poetic story about memory, science and ethics, forgiveness, and the choices people make for their loved ones.

I enjoyed this; it was a quick read that was thought-provoking. I only give it three out of five stars because it didn't really "wow" me. I liked the characters. Jenna had a quick wit and her development in the end felt satisfying. I was hoping for a little more insight on Dane. I think Mary Pearson balanced faith and science and love in an interesting way when writing this story.

It reminded me a lot of Finding Fiona, the novella I recently finished. She also lost her memory and comes to realize that there are strange scientific circumstances surrounding what happened to her. It's interesting to read similar plots and see how different authors can take it in a different direction.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Hardback, 2009, 310 pages. Library copy.

I found this book from my library's recommendations of books like The Hunger Games. This young adult book also takes place in a future dystopia. I only give it three out of five because while it's a fascinating story, the characters didn't do much for me.

Mary is a young girl in a village surrounded by the Unconsecrated, creatures who were once human before they were Infected. When her parents both succumb to the Infection, her brother leaves her with the Sisterhood, the mysterious religious council that runs the village. She learns more about the Sisterhood's secrets and slowly begins to learn that there is a world outside of her village.

Carrie Ryan has a great way of building up suspense, and she writes amazing action scenes. I read through the first half of the book in one setting. But I wasn't sold on the romance that was supposed to carry most of the book, and I still don't have a very good grasp on Mary's character.

The author creates an eery world and effectively pulls us into Mary's doubt and fear as well as her hopes and dreams. I get scared pretty easily, so the thoughts of the Unconsecrated and their constant hunger were on my mind when I wasn't reading it. I still wish I could have seen more of the characters, though. Cass seemed pretty superficial, I knew nothing about Travis aside from Mary's undying love for him, and Harry and Jed weren't very distinguishable, either. My library has the second book, so I'll probably pick it up to see what happens to the characters.

A few things I could learn from this book:

Make romance real, don't just use it for a plot point. Travis and Mary's undying love? Right, okay. It just fell flat for me. It's like the author was telling me how I should feel about them, but I could hardly see the reason for it at all. Fifty pages in she's declaring her love for him and I still didn't know anything about him by the last page!

Characters should be distinguishable from each other. Aside from their physical characteristics and situations, Jed, Harry, and Travis all seemed the same to me. Like they had the same personalities. They all liked Mary, but were still jerks to her. But I still care about them, so obviously Ryan did something right.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Hardback, 2010, 479 pages. Library copy.

I was on the hold list for a few months, but I finally got the e-mail to come pick the book up! I guess I'm kind of stingy when it comes to books. . .I'll only buy it if I know I love it (or if I've already read it, and I want a copy of my own) or if it's cheap. Like $10 or less.

But anyways, Clockwork Angel! I'm actually liking this series more than the Mortal Instruments so far. Her previous series just reeked of her Harry Potter fanfiction. They were entertaining, quick reads, but I didn't really get anything from them other than, "That was fun." I think I've mentioned this before, but I hardly remember anything about those books other than names and a few vague details.

So, yes, I think her writing is improving. Less purple. She still abuses italics way too much (you see what I did there?). And how many times do you have to reference Charlotte's size? She's small. We get it. Anyways, this clockwork army is much more intriguing to me than your regular run-of-the-mill magical artifact(s) that will give the Dark Lord immortality. Kind of steampunkish, and I like that technology fused with the supernatural. The character Tessa was cool, but it was annoying that she seemed to gain all of her life's knowledge from novels or her Aunt Harriet. A few of the characters seem two dimensional, like Harry and Jessamine, so I hope they're developed a bit more in the other books.

As for Will and Jem and the sort-of-love-triangle. . .I like it, but at the same time, what is with these mysterious, dangerous male love interests? Clare, yes, but also in urban fantasy in general. Like if he's too normal, the book will be boring. . .well, gotta have conflict, I guess. But I think the choice is obvious. (Also, was anyone reminded of Sirius and Remus? Maybe it's just because I'm LOOKING for Harry Potter comparisons, but come on. . .even Jem's "furry little problem.")

I read through this book in three sittings. She has a great skill with writing fast-paced plots set in beautiful worlds. Recommend it for something exciting and fun. I'm excited for the next book.

A few things I could learn from this book:

Try not to recycle characters. It's a different book, and people are expecting new things. I didn't think Jem was like Simon, or Tessa was too much like Clary (a little bit, maybe), but Will was a lot like Jace.

If you have to use italics all the time, then your writing probably isn't speaking for itself. There were times when I read a sentence or piece of dialogue without italics, and it sounded just fine. The italics just distracted me. Other times, the italics helped it, but the writing should be able to stand on its own.