Category: Reviews

Book of the Month Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Book of the Month Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

I started this book sometime before August (or maybe during August) and finally finished it on September sixteenth. It was very, very good, and I gave it five stars on Goodreads.

My favorite thing about this book was the characters. They were all well-written, well fleshed out, deep, enjoyable characters, with the possible exceptions of Giddon and the Leinid crew. Giddon seemed rather shallow to me, but even at that he was still well-written for who he is, I think. Po was certainly my favorite character; he’s fun to read because he’s clever and witty and flirtatious and he’s a good guy. That’s basically my checklist for if you want to write a character I’ll love reading. Jest from Heartless, Po from Graceling, Celaena from Throne of Glass, Cimorene from The Enchanted Forest Chronicles… Yeah, it’s a long list. So of course I like Po. Bitterblue was my second favorite character. I couldn’t tell you quite why. I think because she’s so intelligent and understands so much about the characters around her. Katsa, the main character, comes in third. Though she was deep and complex, her personality wasn’t a favorite of mine, personally. She’s rather distant under most circumstances and takes a while to open up to other characters, and I tend to prefer reading characters who connect easily with other people, for some reason. She did connect very well with some of the characters around her, but her general character is aloof and distant.

I judge the worldbuilding as about a four out of five. I could tell that the world was well thought-out and deep, but I thought in the book we really only get to see the tip of that iceberg and I really wanted to see more. Leinid was the most fleshed-out of the kingdoms, and also my favorite. I’m sure that the former contributed to the latter, but it doesn’t help any that the other two countries that were really mentioned weren’t really very likable for… reasons. The two of them fed into each other, I think. I tend to like reading a deep world, so maybe I’m just looking for more from the book than is normal because of that. I do see that it has a lot of depth, just not a lot that we get to see in this book. Maybe in the other books there’s more detail given.

The plot also gets a four out of five. I really love the idea of Graces. I found that fascinating. I love Po’s Grace in particular, but all of the three showcased were fascinating to read and fit their characters well and just blended to create a really interesting story. The main plot was really interesting, as well. I felt that the antagonist was well-developed, just like all of the others, and even though he isn’t really seen much, he was really interesting to read when he was “on screen,” and even when he wasn’t. I love villains who personally affect the good guys. The antagonist did that with Katsa and Bitterblue, and to some extent with Po as well, more through Katsa and Bitterblue than as directly. He played with Katsa’s mind, both intentionally and not so intentionally, and we get to see her confidence falter as she’s faced with something she’s never faced before.

Unfortunately I must include a warning that there are about two scenes and a sentence that are rather inappropriate. It really disappoints me that so many of the really good books I’ve read have scenes in them that have to be skimmed. Why can’t people write clean fantasy with the same depth of worldbuilding and characters?

Other than those couple of spots, though, this book was great. I don’t feel comfortable recommending it because of those few scenes, but I really enjoyed it.

Book of the Month Review: The Collective by R.S. Williams

Book of the Month Review: The Collective by R.S. Williams

Well, I was planning on having this showcase the best thing I’d read this month, but The Collective was so bad I had to feature it instead. I started marking it up about halfway through and it’s now covered in red ink.

The Collective is a historical fiction/sci-fi following two main characters who go back in time to the 1700s to stop time from being altered. In theory this would make an interesting book, but in reality it was severely underwhelming.

The first issue with The Collective is that the relationships don’t make sense. Everyone falls in love instantly (something I’ll cover in the next point), and even the friendships make very little sense. The main characters, Tilly and Jenny, supposedly become great friends over the course of the book, but it comes across forced and artificial because for one thing they’re not even together for half the book, and then they just suddenly are great friends. I get that people sometimes bond together because of dangerous circumstances in which they need to get along to survive or get something done, but this took it too far. And both of them set my teeth on edge with romantic relationships. Each one supposedly falls in love with one of these two guys, one of which is the villain and the other of which doesn’t have the greatest moral compass (no pun intended). It just irked me that they have such poor judgement.

Next comes “instalove.” Jenny and Tilly both fell in love with their respective gentlemen almost instantly, and then those relationships weren’t even well fleshed-out later in the book, so they were both shallow, surface-level relationships. Everything was focused on the guys being physically attractive, not their personalities or character traits (which makes sense because one was entirely immoral and the other had questionable morals). I personally cannot stand romances in books that never go more than surface-deep. It irks me to no end. I like deep, meaningful relationships built on trust and actual love for the other person, not shallow, vain relationships built on how hot the other person is.

This next point was one of the biggest turn-offs. If this hadn’t been an issue I might not have judged the overall poor writing quite as harshly. The grammar was atrocious. There was an overabundance of commas, most dialogue was formatted incorrectly, and there were so many lines that just didn’t make sense the way they were written. I actually laughed at one point because I came to this line: “Jenny could hear his boots walk down the hall.” So his boots were walking all by themselves? I literally laughed out loud when I read that. And then again on that same page, “She heard his voice speaking to his crew.” There were so many more spots I could mention, but then this post would be far too long.

The characters also weren’t interesting. They felt flat and annoying. I wanted to slap them numerous times throughout the book for making stupid decisions (like falling in love with jerks), and there wasn’t much character to them. Tilly was constantly melodramatic about everything and Jenny was made out to be critical but then wasn’t in some areas. Like guys. She wasn’t critical at all of any of the cute guys in her life, pretty much. And then when she found out who was masquerading as another character she was entirely too emotional for the circumstances. Now, I don’t mean to say that critical characters can’t be emotional. I don’t mean that at all. Jenny just wasn’t executed well. She came across as a character who was supposed to be critical and just wasn’t. Both main characters were weakly written, and the majority of the other characters were, as well. Roger and Joseph were better-written, and they’re the only characters in the book I remotely liked, and I still wanted to slap them numerous times.

Overall I thought this was a very poorly-written book and it took me four months to struggle through it to the end. I barely give it one star.


The Maze Runner Series: A Lesson In How Not To Write

The Maze Runner Series: A Lesson In How Not To Write

I read the Maze Runner series probably sometime in September. I can’t remember exactly, since this whole year has kind of gone by in a blur for me and I can’t remember exactly what happened when, but I think it was in that ballpark. Anyway, I read it after watching the first two movies (a terrible mistake for a reader, I know), and after accidentally reading spoilers (just a hint: never look up a book or movie on Pinterest before reading the entire series). Let me just say that after watching the movies I was severely disappointed. I NEVER say that when I read the book after watching the movie. Never. But the book was terrible. Another thing I never say: The movie was better than the book. And now I will stop complaining and actually tell you WHY these books were so terrible. I tried to keep it spoiler free, but it’s really vague that way, so spoilers for those who have already read it will be in parentheses and colored white; select them to read.

1. Dislikeable Characters

Three things you need for a good story: An interesting setting, a good plot, and perhaps most important of all is likeable characters. The Maze Runner had an interesting setting, no plot, and characters I wanted to punch for the majority of the series. I’m not even kidding. The main character and the love interest were quite possibly the most annoying of all.

Lesson number one from The Maze Runner: Make your characters likeable.

In the entire series I liked three characters. Three. And out of those, two died. Which brings me to my next point…

2. Unnecessary Character Deaths

Oh my gosh. You really don’t want to get me started on this one. In the first book alone, four characters died. Three of those four were significant characters. Was there any reason for their deaths aside from dramatic effect? No. Nothing in those deaths moves the story along, except for the first one, which was the one with the insignificant character. But the deaths of significant characters? No use. No reason. Just drama.

Which takes us to book two, the Scorch Trials. Only one character (that I can remember) died in this book, but I’m nearly sure that others did as well, given the fact that it seems James Dashner’s favorite hobby is killing off characters. This one was another major character, and another death that was mostly useless. The death had a lot more purpose in the movie, and I commend the screenwriters for fixing this.

In the third, two characters (again, this is just who I can remember) died, and again they were important characters, and again only one of them has any significance to the story.

Lesson number 2 from TMR: Don’t kill off characters unnecessarily.

It’s actually kind of funny timing, considering that at this time I was considering killing off one of my own characters and had been told it was unnecessary… (P.S. I did not kill the character.)

3. Disproportionate Emotions

All of what is mentioned in this section is in regard to the main character, Thomas, and most pertains to character deaths.

First, there’s the fact that Thomas considers one particular character to be extremely annoying (said character just so happens to be one of the three likeable characters in the entire series) (Said character is Chuck). When said character dies, Thomas beats the guy who killed {character} to death and then is emotional over {character}’s death for the entirety of the next book and into the third. What’s up with that?

Second, in the Scorch Trials Thomas meets a character who he just immediately trusts, right away, no rhyme or reason to it, just trusts him. This can happen sometimes, but it’s not super common and in this instance it’s just completely unbelievable. (This character being Jorge.)

And then there’s that one character, let’s call them character A (Teresa), who Thomas just connects with right away. Their connection is really weird. I can’t really explain it without giving stuff away, but they’re pretty much best buds from the start and then A is a jerk and stuff happens and Thomas still is nearly fine with being best buds with A! All that A did and you’re still only marginally distrustful? What is up with that?

Third, when one of the characters dies in the Death Cure dies, it’s a very emotion-heavy scene. They literally kill him in the most painful way possible for everyone involved. I’m not even exaggerating. How long does Thomas mourn him? Two chapters, maybe five. HELLO! He just died the most painful death possible and you brush it off just like that while you mourned the “annoying” character for a whole book and a half?! Where is your heart, man?

Lesson number 3 from TMR: At least make an attempt at getting emotions right? Please?

4. The Scorch Trials

Yes. The entire book.

Lesson number 4 from TMR: Never write a book in which your reader doesn’t know who to trust and who not to trust from one scene to the next. That’s just not cool.

Yes, I just put the lesson before the explanation. TMR did the above. Don’t ever do that. It makes your reader want to throw the book at the wall and leave it there. Don’t do it. Just don’t.

5. The Conclusion

Or lack thereof. At the end of the trilogy, nothing was explained or resolved. As a friend of mine put it, “It felt like my mom had been hinting at a really, really great Christmas present and I wasn’t sure what it would be but I knew it would be amazing and then it was just some hand-me-down clothes.”

The Two Good Things About The Maze Runner

Remember those three likeable characters I told you about? And remember how I said that the series had some interesting settings? Well the settings were well developed, and two of the three likeable characters were downright loveable (Newt and Chuck). If Dashner had fixed all his other mistakes, it would have been a good book. As it stands now, The Maze Runner is a terribly written series with some good ideas and characters thrown in just to keep you from throwing your book across the room at two o’clock in the morning.

So in conclusion, read the Maze Runner if you wish, but analyze it from a writer’s perspective and take notes.