Tag: Reading

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.

If I Had a Fandom…

If I Had a Fandom…

When I asked a friend of mine what I should write about on my blog, she suggested talking about what my response would be to a big fandom. This isn’t something I’m super interested in having, just a few dedicated fans would be fine, but it’s fun to think about and I think it’ll be fun to write about, too, so here goes. :)

The biggest thing that comes to mind with a big fandom, to me, is fanart. I love fanart. I love seeing it on Pinterest and stuff. And for that fanart to be focused on my books and characters, bringing to life visually things that I can’t because I don’t draw well? That would just be fabulous. I would love that. It would make me grin so wide… The only problem would be if they got the characters all wrong, like giving a black-haired character red hair. *cough cough* Eragon *cough cough* That would irk me, but other than that… *huge grin*

The next thing that comes to mind is fanfiction. This is one I’m more hesitant to see, mostly because of the bad stuff that tend to come with fanfictions. Gay pairings that were never a thing, adult romance, etc. *gag* I don’t think I’d mind the altered storylines (dude, I’ve written AUs for my own stories. I love messing with timelines. But only when I know they can be repaired. *cough cough* Barry Allen *cough cough*) or even the ones where the main character is basically the author getting to fall in love with one of the characters in my story. If I’ve created characters likeable enough to warrant fanfics like that then I’ll be happy (as long as the romance stays appropriate.) In short, I would welcome good fanfiction, but bad fanfiction would almost make me mad.

If you have a fandom, you’ll probably get letters, emails, messages, etc. from fans. If you have a big fandom, you’ll probably get… more letters, emails, messages, etc. And then there are probably those really dedicated fans who send numerous messages and you either get really annoyed with or become friends with through the correspondence. (Not that I should know, since I have a fandom consisting of about fifty people, all of whom I know fairly well. I’m going from imagination here. Hey, what did you expect? I’m a writer. It’s what I do.) I think fanmail would be cool because it shows that people are enjoying what I’ve written, which makes me very, very happy. The only problem would be if there was too much fanmail and it was hard to respond to it all. That would disappoint me only because I would want to respond to all of it and I couldn’t. And it would be cool to make friends with those two or three or ten who write regularly. :)

If I inspired people to write with my books my life would be made, okay? That would just be spectacular. If someone wrote me asking for writing advice I would have to think about it for a while before getting back to them, but I would be more than willing to help out. Writers are awesome. I’d love to be able to encourage someone to finish their book and publish it for people to enjoy. *cough cough* My dad *cough cough* So bring on the requests for writing tips. I will do my very best to answer well.

Book signings. I have zero experience with these whatsoever. I’ve never been to one (though believe me, I would love to get a book signed by Wayne Thomas Batson. Or maybe seven books, you know…), so all of this is imagination and a few pictures of famous authors signing books at bookstores. Is it weird that I have actually practiced writing my pen name like a signature? Because I have. I am prepared. Other than signing books I don’t know how book signings work. Do readers ask questions? Do readers and the author chat? (Honestly, that would be cool. I’d love to hear specific things they liked about the book. Favorite characters, favorite scenes, etc. I love hearing what people enjoyed or didn’t in my books. ^-^) Anyway, since I have limited experience (as in, none) I can’t really make much of a commentary on this one, but whatever.

In general, I think it would be cool to have a fandom, but not necessarily one like J.K. Rowling’s or George R.R. Martin’s or Rick Riordan’s. I’m happy with just a couple hundred fans, I don’t need a couple thousand.

How would you respond to a big fandom? Let me know in the comments. :)

My Writing Role Models

There are certain authors that I look up to and seek to emulate as I write, as I’m sure there are for every writer out there. The list for each writer is unique and even when they overlap their reasons for looking up to an author can be entirely different. I’ve always found it interesting to learn who friends of mine look up to in their writing, and now it’s my turn to write a post on it. I’ve never really been the best at answering questions like “who is your role model” or “what author do you think your writing style most emulates,” so we’ll see how this goes.

A few authors I look up to are Wayne Thomas Batson, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis (a couple of classic answers, I know), Andrew Peterson, Livia Blackburne, Terry Brooks, and Marissa Meyer, and I’ll go into why I admire each of them in the rest of this post.

Wayne Thomas Batson

Wayne Thomas Batson (or, as I like to call him, Batman) is not an author that many people have heard of, but he’s who I always tell people is my favorite author. One my favorite things about him is his ability to craft interesting characters that you can really connect with and get attached to. I know with his The Door Within and Dreamtreaders trilogies the characters felt like family on the first read-through, and then rereading the books was like going to a family reunion. Except that family reunions tend to have a sense of awkwardness about them because there are those family members you only see at these family reunions and you don’t know them very well, while Batson’s characters aren’t like that. They’re like those dear aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents that you see all the time and are super close with. It’s really, really cool, and that connection is something I’d really love to be able to give my readers with my own characters.

And aside from his writing, he’s just a cool guy. He’s a Christian middle school teacher, and he’s really open to talking with fans, as far as I can tell. He opened a forum for his fans to chat with him, though he’s not been on it in a while, and when I messaged him asking for writing advice once he was really laid back and friendly in his reply. That’s how I’d like to act if/when I have fans of my own. :)

J.R.R. Tolkien

I know this is probably what everyone says when they mention Tolkien on their list of writing role models, among other things, but I admire Tolkien’s worldbuilding. Worldbuilding is something that I find fascinating, even though I’m not always the best at it. His world is rich and incredibly well thought out, and has an entire written history behind it. Another thing is his ability to write noble characters. Aragorn, Samwise, Faramir, Eowyn, they’re all noble, deep, rich characters. They have numerous layers (particularly Eowyn and Aragorn, among these examples), and they’re really interesting to read about. A lot of my characters are more morally grey, and while I like these characters as well, it’s often nice to have at least one or two of these truly noble, good characters because they’re just such good characters.

C.S. Lewis

Believe it or not, Lewis almost didn’t make it onto my list. However, there is one aspect of his writing that really means a lot to me, and that is the childlike wonder of his books. That childlike wonder is something that my early books had a lot and that as I’ve grown up I seem to have grown out of, and it’s something that I’m constantly trying to regain in at least a few of my books. For some of my stories, for instance those set on Themar, I like the more mature (in style, not content), almost harshness of what I tend to write now, but for others I wish I could recapture that wonder and it’s something I really struggle with. So I seek to write “childish,” wonderful stories like C.S. Lewis did.

Andrew Peterson

Andrew Peterson is author of The Wingfeather Saga, among others, and I really like that series because of all of the humor. It constantly has a layer of humor and that same childlike wonder that I mentioned before, and yet it also manages to be serious under all that when it needs to be. It’s a really interesting mixture that is really enjoyable to read. I’m really bad at writing humor into my stories, so that’s something else I’d like to work on.

Livia Blackburne

Livia Blackburne is extremely good at worldbuilding. I read her book The Midnight Thief and within seven chapters I was fully immersed in the world. She did a very good job of subtly working in that worldbuilding so that it wasn’t overwhelming or huge chunks of description, but enough when it was needed to make the world seem real and important.

Terry Brooks

Terry Brooks’ Shannara series is probably one of my all-time favorites because it goes on and on and on and I never get tired of it. The world is such that I could spend years and years in it and probably never know all there is to know about it, and the characters are nearly always likeable. The excitement to go back in and learn something else about the world or read about someone else saving the Four Lands again and the long Shannara family tree is something that I’d like my readers to feel as well with my stories (although of course not with The Four Lands and the Shannaras.)

Marissa Meyer

Have you seen that pin on Pinterest that says “You know a writer is good when they can build a villain’s backstory sad enough that you feel bad for them no matter how horrible they are”? Well this is exactly what Marissa Meyer did in her book Heartless. I highly recommend you read that book because it is so. Good. She creates lovable characters that you can really get attached to and root for. And when she writes witty characters… *insert heart-eye emoji here* Carswell Thorne from The Lunar Chronicles and Jest from Heartless are high on my favorite characters list, because they’re witty and flirtatious and I love witty, flirtatious characters because they’re so much fun to read. Her writing is just excellent, and I love her books.

 

Now, these are the professional, fairly well-known authors that I look up to and admire, but they’re not the only ones. I have writing friends that I look up to as well, some of them published and some not. Probably the two who I most look up to in my writing groups are Melody Jackson and Miranda Marie, who are both published authors.

Melody is another excellent writer, she has published three books – The Dragon Within, Dragon’s Bane, and Dragon’s Might – and I’ve actually only gotten around to reading The Dragon Within, but I really liked it. The characters were enjoyable, the worldbuilding was good, DRAGONS!, and a half-human half-dragon character is totally awesome. In addition to writing great books, she has also encouraged me in my own writing and helped me get through rough patches in my writing and she’s just a really good friend and supporter and stuff like that, so a big thanks to her. :)

Miranda is probably one of my biggest role models. Her book Echoes, which is slated to come out in mid-October, is a favorite of mine even though I’ve only been able to read half of it. The imagery and poetic writing style she uses in this one is captivating, and the characters… Ahhhhhh. I need to know what happens next! I’m so eager to read it when it comes out! But in addition to being an excellent writer, she’s also a strong Christian and her amount of faith is something I don’t feel like I’ll ever measure up to, but it’s something I’d like to grow in and that I really admire her for.

 

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.