100 Days of Productivity Challenge: What I Learned

 

MY BLOG HAS MOVED! This article can now be found by clicking here. 

Advertisements

2015’s Bad Book Compilation

As some of you may know, I don’t do negative book reviews any more. I don’t have the time to invest in something that ultimately does no one any good, nor do I have the mental energy.

Mfw+_c0621582cf6025140d8e5a5df7b5be47

However, as any storyteller knows, negative reviews have one big, fat benefit. They show you what doesn’t work, and you can then in turn look for x, y, or z in your own stories. Since everyone’s trying to improve their craft, it doesn’t make sense to at least not take what we can from an otherwise less-than-positive-reading experience.

Without further ado, here’s what I gleaned from my not-so-great (read: terrible) reads of 2015!

How to Murder a Murder Mystery

  • Don’t leave any clues. ANY.
  • Don’t explore the mind of the killer until the last 5 pages, and, even then, skim.

How to Let You’re Reader Know You’re Smarter than Everyone Else (aka How To  Be Generally Annoying)

  • Abuse and exploit the thesaurus.
  • The more confusing the sentence structure, the better. If your reader doesn’t follow what you’re trying to say, good. It’s their fault for not being as smart as you.
  • Name drop important people and places every other sentence.

How to Write High-Brow Fantasy that Only You are Worldly Enough to Understand

  • Use a plethora of made-up deity and object names without ever explaining or contextualizing them.
  • Never explain or explore the characters’ motives. It’s fantasy; who needs motive when you have magic and monsters?

How to Write a White-Noise Dystopian Novel

  • Combine elements from Hunger Games, Stung, etc. to form a generic world.
  • Your protagonist MUST BE “the special/chosen one” or unique in some discernible way.
  • If there isn’t a love triangle, you might as well quit already.

How to (Not) Write an Action Novel

  • Only ever write action scenes. Leave no room to breathe, no exploration of the character’s psyche, etc. Only fighting, all the time.

Stand-Out Character Guidelines

  • Do not give your characters distinguishable personalities; readers should ONLY be able to tell who’s talking/thinking when you say their name.
  • Making literally every character in the book a straight white old male. (LITERALLY. EVERY. CHARACTER.)
  • Only give teh womens lines like “Oh, goodness Papa!” or “I’m a delicate flower incapable of deep thought!” (Bonus points if they’re breathy exclamations or shy exchanges.)

—————————–

The very least a bad read can give you is a writing lesson, so run with it! What lessons did less-than-enjoyable books teach you in 2015?

 

Book Review: City of Heavenly Fire

8755785Title: City of Heavenly Fire

Author: Cassandra Clare

Publisher: Margaret K. Elderry

Release Date: May 27th, 2014

Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary: “In this dazzling and long-awaited conclusion to the acclaimed Mortal Instruments series, Clary and her friends fight the greatest evil they have ever faced: Clary’s own brother.
Sebastian Morgenstern is on the move, systematically turning Shadowhunter against Shadowhunter. Bearing the Infernal Cup, he transforms Shadowhunters into creatures out of nightmare, tearing apart families and lovers as the ranks of his Endarkened army swell.
The embattled Shadowhunters withdraw to Idris – but not even the famed demon towers of Alicante can keep Sebastian at bay. And with the Nephilim trapped in Idris, who will guard the world against demons?
When one of the greatest betrayals the Nephilim have ever known is revealed, Clary, Jace, Isabelle, Simon, and Alec must flee – even if their journey takes them deep into the demon realms, where no Shadowhunter has set foot before, and from which no human being has ever returned…
Love will be sacrificed and lives lost in the terrible battle for the fate of the word in the thrilling final installment of the classic urban fantasy series The Mortal Instruments!” – Goodreads

It’s always bittersweet when you finish a series you’ve been reading for years. I began reading The Mortal Instruments series five years ago, and to see it come to a close now is like parting with a piece of my younger teenage years. Better yet, it was a good ending! There’s nothing worse than being disappointed with the conclusion of a series’ that you’ve seen through to the end.

The characters are in full form, complete with dynamic interactions between each other and the world around them. In the past few books, I just wasn’t quite “feeling it” character-wise. They were good, but didn’t get me in the heart. Yet there’s no more of that here, and the story does all that much better because of it.

I’ll admit I initially didn’t care for the Jules, Emma, & co. side story, but by the end I had better feelings towards them. Plus, they’re getting their own series soon! It’ll be interesting to see where that takes us.

Oh boy, the plot!It took some much-enjoyed twists I didn’t see coming. The *big surprise twist* at the end I did predict though. Huh. Funny how that works, but throughout the rest of the book that was probably the only thing I got right. I’d much rather be able to guess one big plot point correctly than the small ones that make up a larger part of the ride.

The scope of the story was rich in depth and imagination, as the previous books had been as well. The one downside of the book is that I felt it was a bit overinflated. I don’t mind reading long books, but it just took a little too long to get from point A to point B sometimes. A bit much fluff for my liking.

Overall, City of Heavenly Fire is great conclusion to a fun series, with wonderful characters, an involved plot, and twist after turn. I’m sad to see it go, but I could think of no better send off than the one it was given.

Book Review: The Maze Runner

6186357Title: The Maze Runner

Author: James Dashner

Release Date: October 6, 2009

Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary: “‘If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.’ 
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers–boys whose memories are also gone.
Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out–and no one’s ever made it through alive.
Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.” – Goodreads

Picture a burger stuffed with plump, juicy beef, gooey golden cheese, and fresh vegetables sweetened with a crisp . . . slapped between crusty and tasteless bread slices. For me, that was The Maze Runner. The beginning and end weren’t my favorite, to say the least. But the middle? It was absolutely to die for.

My issue with the beginning was its clunkiness. Also, – oh sweet lord -, the wild overuse of made up slang got old real fast. Not to mention the slang itself was grating.

While the outline of the plot was predictable, the details are what kept me interested. The tension was kept at the perfect pace, keeping me enticed but still giving me bits and pieces to work with.

My other irk was with the ending. I couldn’t get past its overdramatic nature, not to mention that it left me confused as to what the heck was really going on. Though I know such questions will be answered in the next book, I would’ve liked a bit more wrap-up.

Overall, this book is very accessible and enjoyable for readers of all ages. The characters have enough depth to intrigue a bookworm looking for more, and also enough initial appeal for the light reader. The same goes for the plot. The writing too, partly, though it has it’s failings. (It tells more than shows. “Thomas was [scared/angry/happy/etc.]” and so on, throughout.)

All in all, The Maze Runner earns itself a solid 4 out of 5 for its appeal, tension, and characters, being docked a point only for its beginning & ending, and one writing issue. Highly recommended for readers of all ages!

Book Review: It’s Kind of a Funny Story

248704Title: It’s Kind of a Funny Story

Author: Ned Vizzini

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Release Date: May 1st, 2007

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary: “Like many ambitious New York City teenagers, Craig Gilner sees entry into Manhattan’s Executive Pre-Professional High School as the ticket to his future. Determined to succeed at life-which means getting into the right high school to get into the right college to get the right job-Craig studies night and day to ace the entrance exam, and does. That’s when things start to get crazy.

At his new school, Craig realizes that he isn’t brilliant compared to the other kids; he’s just average, and maybe not even that. He soon sees his once-perfect future crumbling away. The stress becomes unbearable and Craig stops eating and sleeping-until, one night, he nearly kills himself.

Craig’s suicidal episode gets him checked into a mental hospital, where his new neighbors include a transsexual sex addict, a girl who has scarred her own face with scissors, and the self-elected President Armelio. There, isolated from the crushing pressures of school and friends, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety.” – Barnes & Noble 

It’s Kind of a Funny Story is a breath of fresh air. It takes on a serious topic without an overly serious tone, and portrays a serious problem (mental illness) negatively while much of the media chooses to glamorize it. Part of my enjoyment might be because this book hits close to home, as I myself have gone through many of the same things the main character Craig did. To anyone wondering whether it’s an accurate portrayal of depression, anxiety, etc., well, it’s spot on.

The writing is clean cut, getting straight to the point without being too clipped. The story is realistic to how teenagers act, not sugarcoating their behavior and yet not trying to cast them as the Troublesome and Misunderstood Miscreants. Almost everyone is likable, – at least in their own way. Even the characters who I’m pretty sure were written in just to highlight how irritating an environment like this can be have their own distinct charm.

Despite the lack of a traditional climax in the novel, I find the book to have momentum and a flowing pace. I kinda want a bit more of a tangible goal or conflict near the end, but am still pleased with how the novel handled its ending.

Overall, It’s Kind of a Funny Story is an enjoyable read filled with endearing characters, a nice flow, and wonderful insight. I’d highly recommend it, (especially if you’ve gone through similar troubles of your own.) A solid 4.5 out of 5.

Book Review: The Moon Queen – Another Book of Rhyme

20819540Title: The Moon Queen – Another Book of Rhyme

Authors: Bex Pavia, Jackie Pavia, Boo Shaw

Publisher: Self-published

Release Date: February 15, 2014

Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary: “From the author of The Soul Bearer – and other poems comes a second collection of rhyming verse. This book offers twenty pieces of poetry that take a walk on the dark side as well as the light; from the fantasy-tale to the slightly humorous – by way of the emotional. Be taken away to an imaginary world in ‘The Tower’, and chuckle at a common human failing in ‘Thick Skin’. Includes four excellent poems by the author’s daughter and mother.” – Goodreads

As The Moon Queen is a brief collection of poems, I’ll keep my review of it brief as well.

First off, if you want to read it but worry you won’t have the time or are too busy, fear not! I read this all in one short sitting and didn’t feel rushed at all. The Moon Queen hits the perfect sweet spot in it’s length.

However, due to it’s short nature, one can see overarching patterns in it. Most of the pieces in The Moon Queen are very similar to one another, all with a dark, gloomy, and foreboding atmosphere. I don’t mind the themes, but I would’ve liked a little more variation. But don’t misunderstand; variation was in fact present, – from Thick Skin to Mistletoe to Snowman -, but it fell the slightest bit short in the amount I felt was needed.

The writing was enjoyable, with differing melodies and lush imagery. The descriptions draw you in without you even realizing it, the writing style painting a clear picture without drawing too much attention to itself. Another plus of this book was that it had multiple authors, which means that the reader has the pleasure of experiencing the distinct voices of each.

I feel this collection was put together quickly, with attention to detail falling a bit by the wayside. The melody in certain lines didn’t add up where I didn’t see a use for dissonance and the language could’ve been shaped up some more. None of the aforementioned was very present, but it still caught my attention where it did.

Overall, The Moon Queen earns a solid 4 out of 5.

Book Review: Dracian Legacy

19314566Title: Dracian Legacy

Author: Priya Kanaparti

Publisher: Reuts Publishing LLC

Release Date: February 14th, 2013

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Summary: “At seventeen, Ren Pernell knows the meaning of tragedy.
But then, a year after losing her parents, Axel Knight walks through the door and changes everything. Strange creatures start to appear, her best friend suddenly finds her irresistible, and an undeniable, unexplainable bond with Axel threatens to drive her insane. She knows he’s the key. There’s something he’s not sharing, and she’s determined to find out.
Demanding answers, she finally learns the truth: everything she ever believed is an illusion. Caught in a centuries-old blood feud between races she never knew existed, Ren discovers her true destiny. She’s the chosen one, the Echo, preordained to end the bloodshed.
There’s just one catch–in order to save those she loves and a homeland she’s never seen, she’ll have to die.
With the clock running out, she’ll have to navigate a new world of betrayal, lies and deceit. If she can forgive, finding love even in the darkest places, she just might be able to escape the prophecy. But how much is she willing to sacrifice for a cause she didn’t know she was part of? And what will it take for her to be free?” – Goodreads

I originally read this book when it came out in 2013, and now that it’s been rereleased with a publisher I’ve gotten a chance to experience it again! There are definite improvements in this updated version, which serve to make the entire story more professional and enjoyable. I still had a few issues with it, but hey, that’s the way it is with most books.

The plot isn’t anything new, yet the execution doesn’t leave you feeling as if you’ve read it before.

I liked the spunk of the characters. Too often in YA books characters come off as flat, especially supporting characters. Not here! Even the minor characters had depth to them, whether they were there for two pages or two hundred.

The writing was well done, with the exception of two things. It was a bit cluttered, as in I feel it would’ve benefitted from cutting certain words and/or sentences. Also, I didn’t care for it when. The. Author. Would. Punctuate. Simple. Sentences. Like. This. I get that it’s for emphasis, but it rubbed me the wrong way. Still, it wasn’t too common.

I have to thank Kanaparti for not overdoing the angst. What with the main character having lost both of her parents, there were quite a few opportunities for the author to beat the audience over the head with sobbing and pity. Which gets old quickly. Nothing of the sort here!

Ren and Axel’s relationship progresses very naturally throughout the story as they fall into each other’s rhythm. No insta-love in this book! They were a bit obnoxiously cheesy with one another though, and not in a “squee-so-cute” way. More in the “ugh-please-god-stop” way. (That being said, some couples are actually like that. I think.)

The pacing was good. I felt a constant momentum throughout, pulling the reader through the book’s pages.

Overall, Dracian Legacy earns a solid 3.5 out of five.