Poison Study – Review

I RATE THIS NOVEL, FIVE OF FIVE STARS!

Over the last two months I haven’t read much, and this month I finished reading my first book in that time. I chose a book from my shelf, Maria V. Snyder’s Poison Study and boy was I impressed.

I have to say, a book in first person, especially from a female’s perspective isn’t something I’d usually read, but the concept intrigued me enough to keep moving forward.

Imagine you were a slave, oppressed by your master. Lead to believe you were special but was abused sexually, physically and mentally for years. Until one day, you killed your oppressor and ended up in prison with your sentence to be an execution. But, instead of being executed after a year of imprisonment, you’re given a choice, become the commander’s food faster (to check for poison) or be executed. What would you choose? That’s the choice the main character, Yelena is given.

The thoughts that go through Yelena’s head are logical and reasonable in pretty much any situation she ends up in throughout her story. The dialogue between characters worked well and I believe the story was a sad, but beautifully told one.

Now, there were a few things I didn’t enjoy, but they hardly lower the overall quality of the story.

Right away, on the first page, in three paragraphs, there was an excessive use of the word “had”. About eight or nine in all, that’s around three per paragraph and it took me out of the world already. By the end of the novel, I couldn’t even pick it up if this kind of thing happened again, I was so into the story that my proof-reading mind switched off. Which is honestly pretty hard to do to me.

I do have to say that she knows too much though. I mean that in a sense that we’re in her head and she seems to know so much about the world even though she grew up in an orphanage of sorts. It’s been said in the novel that she’s well educated, but I doubt with what she’d been through that she’d learn as much about the world around her as she has. From animals to politics. It just doesn’t feel realistic.

All in all, I had to say that first person from a female perspective wasn’t my kind of thing before reading Poison Study. After reading it, I can say I really enjoyed it. I didn’t really get surprised throughout the story but the content was original and fantastic to read. Since I already have it, I plan to read Magic Study, the next book in the series for my next read.

I can’t really rate it higher or lower when it comes to content, I’d say it’s five out of five, but writing style has me at about four. So I’d set it in the middle at four and a half out of five if I could actually put that as a rating. So I guess Poison Study, for me, is a solid five stars!

Poison Study – Review

Brotherband: The Outcasts – Review

I RATE THIS NOVEL, FIVE OF FIVE STARS!

Straight after reading Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, I dove into this book. I finished it quickly and I loved every minute of it. John Flanagan tells a wonderful coming of age story about a Viking boy on his path to becoming a respected member of a Brotherband.

On the very first page, John started a sentence with the word and. Sure, style can dictate whether one decides to do that or not, but most people (including plenty of English professors and a lot of authors) swear by the rule of “Never start a sentence with and or but.”

John often puts had after the start of a sentence, usually after a pronoun or someone’s name. He had, she had, Thorn had. I spotted four sentences in a row at one point that started off this way and it became a little jarring.

During one stage of the novel, the word “lawyer” came into the book and it didn’t feel right. People didn’t practice law in the form of an occupation until the 12th and 13th century, long after the Viking era had ended. The term lawyer wasn’t even used until the 14th-15th century, so reading that word used just didn’t work for the setting the book is in. And yes, I’m a total nerd, why do you think I read fantasy books?

I quickly got over all that though. Why? Because I love it, I can’t describe how much I do. The imagery is spot on and allows me to imagine almost everything that happens beautifully. The battle scenes flow well and even time spent aboard the vessels is interesting. John has done a marvelous job. The characters are well put together and each have their own personalities.

The story is one about Skandians, of Vikings. If follows the story of Hal Mikkelson, born half Skandian and half foreigner and is treated like an outcast. He’s a thinker, a tinkerer, an inventor. When brotherband (groups of Skandians who train together, fight together and die together) training starts, he joins one of the most outrageous brotherbands, one full of outcasts. But he quickly becomes determined to make it so they succeed in the trials to come.

It’s a coming of age story for young Hal and a great one at that. The action, the suspense and the great interaction between characters are brilliant. It is easily the best book I have read all year, for now.

On three separate occasions, I got goosebumps, I teared up a little twice, smiled many times and laughed a few. It might not be the usual kind of fantasy that I read, but I’d recommend it to anyone who would bother listening. I loved it. The end had me wanting more, much more. I’ll definitely get my hands on the next ones in the series and what makes me happy is that there are plenty more to read!

Brotherband: The Outcasts – Review

The Magicians – Review

I rate this novel, Four of Five stars!

I realize it took me forever to read this book, it wasn’t because I didn’t like it, not at all. I had surgeries, I moved houses twice and I managed to read 12 books before I finished this one. Now that I have finished it, I am quite glad.

I’ve heard this series referenced as Harry Potter’s and Game of Thrones’ love child. This isn’t the case, at least not in my eyes. Use our world as a foundation, add magic, add deities, add other worlds and add schools for this magic. Then add a depressed teenager that has lived his whole life in a world without magic, a world that seems to reject him and one that he rejects in turn. That teenager is Quentin Coldwater.

The book begins at a slow pace, a lot of learning for the characters and reader alike and that takes time. Magic is an art in this world and it can’t just be used with the flick of a wand and the muttering of a word, emotions are mixed in, times of day affect spells, you need to learn old and dead languages, there is so much going on with the magic that one would be beyond lucky to learn it all in one lifetime.

It’s a dark, depressing world and even with magic mixed in, that doesn’t change. It is just like the real world and I really enjoy that about it. It gave a genuine feeling of familiarity and realism to my mind and soul, something I could grab onto and carry with me.

But there were things that I didn’t particularly like as well, it was mostly to do with technique.

Lev’s use of “and” is a little draining occasionally. I once counted six ands in a single sentence. On the very rare occasion, there was a small error with the uses of tense. But, perhaps it was my mind just playing tricks on me. A few sentences ran on without a comma or full stop which brought me to re-read certain sentences a couple of times. Although it didn’t happen often enough to get me mad and put down the book, it was still irritating.

Every now and then, Lev would throw information into the story that never really amounted to much. It didn’t change the story and it didn’t add anything enjoyable, It was just information. For example, you read about a girl named Georgia that was almost institutionalized because she told her parents about a school for magicians. The information takes up half a page and it’s for a non-essential character that is never heard from or seen again.

I really wanted to give this book a higher rating. Maximum stars. But with the small errors and repetitive use of the word “and”, and the unnecessary information, I have to give it four stars. I think the editor (if there was an editor hired for the novel) didn’t to the best job they could. It stays at four stars for its brilliant worldbuilding, magic process, originality and great, realistic characters. If I could, it would be 4.5 stars out of 5.

I’ll definitely be buying the next book in the series, no doubt about it at all.

The Magicians – Review

Stealer of Flesh – Review

I rate this novel, Three of Five stars!

Stealer of flesh is another free ebook that I gained by being a part of Book Barbarian, a great newsletter for discounted fantasy and science fiction novels. It sends out a newsletter everyday with a new bunch of discounted books, some being free! But enough about that, here’s the review.

This is the story of Kormac, a slayer of evil, a man of strength and conviction. The story is something I enjoyed, but the way it is told didn’t particularly appeal to me. What did appeal to me was the darkness of the story, great dialogue between characters, interesting plots, fantastic creatures and enough suspense to keep me reading forward. Now, for the parts that didn’t particularly appeal to me. If you don’t want to read complaints and my little annoyances I had with the story, then don’t read on.

Almost right off the bat, I noticed punctuation errors, which would usually cause me to put the book down. But for some reason I continued on, part of me is thankful and the other part thinks it should have been put down.

Another thing I noticed was a large amount of info dumping the author slid into the book as soon as he could.There were times where characters sounded like history professors rather than who they were and descriptions that would lead to a paragraph or two of history.

There was often a lot of “telling, not showing” going on and it sometimes dragged it down. So many “there was’s” “he had seen’s” and “had been’s” spanning the pages and it became quite tedious to read at certain times.

Just a short break from all this to complain about a few pieces that got me wanting to stop reading:
At one point, early in the novel, Kormac says that the man he’s after has one day ahead of him. Afterward, he leaves and follows tracks through the snow. Tracks in the snow, after a full day there are still tracks… seems as though the writer got lazy there.
Too many times was something explained, ” His hand went to the hilt of his sword. If Razhak was present he would need to defend himself.” Of course, why else would someone go for their sword; to put out a fire? To chop some wood? I don’t think so.
Then, a little later, “…men stood stone faced as sentries, their faces like stone…” a little too redundant for my liking.

The main thing I want to say is that it could have been done better. Information could have been added more slowly so the plot advanced faster when it needed it, tense remaining consistent throughout the story (that one really got me a few times…), less vague descriptions, better/proper use of grammar and punctuation, randomly added words in dialogue and narrative (such as a, as, of, them, etc.) and words swapped out for others (there are quite a few of those. Like using ‘clearing’ instead of ‘clearly’ and other such things. Who would say that a werewolf has talons? Not me at least, claws are definitely what they have).

Often times while reading this book I wondered whether the book was professionally edited or not. If not, the author probably should have, If so, the author should hire a better editor.

I apologize for my condescending review, I quite liked the concept of the story told. I just think the delivery was poor. The saving grace was the concept of the story and the fluidity of the action scenes, if not for them I may not have been able to finish the book at all.

One last thing to add, when I finished the novel, I realized that the author’s first language is not English. Knowing that now, I think the story deserves more than what I put it out as in the previous paragraphs. A better editor of the translated work is definitely in order, but once that happens, for either this book or others in his future career, I think his books will become even better. I feel compelled to read the next books in the series one day in the future and will probably do so one day.

Stealer of Flesh – Review

Writing Active Setting Books 1, 2, and 3 and Writing Active Hooks 1 and 2 – Review

I rate these novels, Three of Five stars!

Considering each book is fairly short and I rate each of them the same, I decided to add all five novels to one review. It was hard to really review these novels after going over Jordan Rosenfeld’s, Make a Scene. I thought, since that novel had pretty much everything, that nothing would compare and happily, I was only half right. Mary Buckham wrote three great books that gave me a lot to think about.

Active Setting Part

Books 1-3: Mary Buckham writes three lovely novels on Writing Active Setting.

The first book consists of Characterization and Sensory Detail by using Active Settings. The novel stretches across a few topics within its pages, it touches on anchoring the reader, using subtext in setting, pacing, revealing character through setting, POV, and Sensory details. I already knew most of what I needed to with these aspects of writing, but I did take a mental note of adding emotion to setting details.

The second book consists of Conflict, Emotion, and Backstory. With emotion, she shows how using concrete descriptions, foreshadowing and reinforcement can aid in showing emotion through setting. With conflict and backstory, she also shows you multiple ways of implementing it within the setting.

The third book follows the same structure as the two before it and consists of Anchoring, Action Sequences, Setting as a Character and other Setting Details. One thing I realized is that many times in my writing, I tend to forget about anchoring the reader in each scene. The third book allowed me to think over this and apply it to my editing process.

Each of these books throws “assignments” at you so you can practice the techniques shown and get used to the ways in which they can be used. So not only do these books tell you how to do things, it helps those learn by DOING rather than SEEING. Although each of these novels did not have much I could take from them, they still helped me rethink a couple of things about writing.

Active Hooks Part

Book 1-2: Mary Buckham works on helping us further understand writing with these next two books. This time, she works on helping us hook our readers with certain scenes and techniques.

The first book of the two discusses the kinds of hooks you can use in your writing and each type of hook shown comes with those gold old “assignments” from Mary again. The kinds of hooks she discusses are Action/Danger hooks, Empowering Emotion hooks, Surprising Situation hooks, Totally Unexpected hooks and Raising A Question hooks. In the end of the first book, you learn the “correct” way to creating and using multiple hooks.

The second book starts off the same as the last, giving you a couple more hooks to learn about and then close to half way, we get to the part you would be waiting for, how and where to place your hooks. Mary goes into a lot of detail with this and now, after learning everything from the other two books, you can finally make use of all the knowledge you’ve learned. She talks about placement in the opening paragraph, in prologues, opening a chapter with a hook, ending a chapter with a hook, opening and ending scenes with a hook and ending the book with a hook.

One thing I often forget to think about is, “Have I hooked my reader? Are they going to keep reading?”. The two books on writing hooks really helped me understand what could help hook a reader into your story.

All in all, Mary’s novels did help me and I am thankful to her for that. But they didn’t give me anywhere near as much help as I was seeking.

Writing Active Setting Books 1, 2, and 3 and Writing Active Hooks 1 and 2 – Review

Worldbuilding from the Inside Out (and workbook) – Review 

I rate these novels, Two of Five stars!

This review is for two novels that are supposed to work off each other. Both World-Building from the Inside Out and its workbook did help me learn a thing or two by the time I finished reading them. But only one or two. The books go into detail about worldbuilding aspects such as Religion, Government, Societal Structure, Art & Media, Technology, Naming, Food, Appearance, Location, Health & Medicine, Military, and Education.

Now, although this is all well and good, the books span less than 70 pages each and touch each subject briefly. If you are completely new to worldbuilding, I would say you should give it a shot, but if you aren’t, then I would not. If you have researched worldbuilding or spent any of your time learning what worldbuilding is, then you could easily teach yourself everything in these books without even reading them. Janeen and Julia both wrote a beautiful book that touches each aspect that was previously stated with a nice tone and in an easy to understand kind of way.

For the $4 price tag, a 70-page book has the title of World-Building from the Inside Out, you’d expect a book that touches every kind of worldbuilding tool for a writer. And my expectations were thrown out the window. Not only that, but I bought both books at $4 each.

I’ve bought $4, $5 and $6 books that truly touch everything that they should, books on scene creation that show you almost everything to do with building scenes, character books that teach you everything you need to create wonderful characters. Each one of those books had 100-300 pages of great and insightful information.

I hate to say it, but World-Building from the Inside Out hardly helped me at all and it was a waste of $8.  I wish I could give these books a better review, but with how much I taught myself with worldbuilding thus far, I can’t say that I enjoyed or really learned anything with these two books.

Worldbuilding from the Inside Out (and workbook) – Review 

Make a Scene – Review

I rate this novel, Four of Five stars!

I found this book to be very useful. I was at a stage in my writing where I needed to improve before tackling the next stage of my novel. Make a Scene allowed me to see where a lot of my faults and weaknesses were and showed me how to start working on them. Jordan goes through the process of taking scenes apart and inspecting each element of what makes them work, then she tells us in a way in which we can understand it. She focuses on what works, what does not and how each element of a scene will affect the reader.

Just as the description of the novel states, Jordan takes you through Setting, Plot, Characters, Scene Types, Points of View and much more. Jordan explains to you, many building blocks to creating solid and beautiful scenes through easy to understand terminology and instructions. Included in the chapters within the book, are pieces taken from successful novels and then examined to show you why they work well in certain aspects of scene building.

I learned a lot by taking the information I needed from the pages within. I am sure that the things I learned will help me a great deal. Things such as character development, adding emotion to scenes, including senses to scenes, enhancing the plot, figuring out what types of scenes exist and a few other things will allow my ability to create scenes evolve further as I put the knowledge I learned, to good use. Most of all, when looking through your unpolished manuscript, the instructions within will help you beyond what I can explain.

After reading, you will be looking at things with a more critical eye, with scenes, you will be asking yourself:
Does this scene introduce new plot information? Does it relate to the main plotline? Does it flow from and build upon the last scene? Does it involve, inform, or affect the/a protagonist? Does it allow the reader learn more? Does it move forward in time?

Aside from these questions, with each element of writing a scene, you will have more questions for yourself about what you are writing.

This book is a great resource that will hopefully show you things you didn’t even think about when writing a scene. Whether you are a successful author, an aspiring writer or just a hobbyist, this can definitely help you in learning more when it comes to crafting scenes.

I used this resource to help in my editing stage to teach me about what I am missing, but it could be read at any time in your writing journey. I can say, without a doubt, this is a resource that is worth having, either in EBook or in print.

There were a few formatting errors within it that jumped out at me and the occasional grammatical error, but other than those, I have to say, it is an invaluable piece of writing that will help me in the days to come. Four out of five stars for Jordan Rosenfeld’s, Make a Scene.

Make a Scene – Review