Stop Giving Me ‘Strong’ Female Characters

I’ve been seeing more female characters lately, which one would think is a good thing. Unfortunately, female characters don’t mean much when they’re barely characters. Instead, they’re often one-dimensional props. You know the type I’m thinking of. Extremely sexy clothing & figure, sarcastic, literally kick ass aaaaaaaand . . . not much else. Deep background? Nuanced characterization? Complexities? Almost nonexistent.

In my experience, this doesn’t pertain as much to books, but then again I tend to mostly read books by female authors who aren’t as guilty of this (because women are *gasp* people!) That’s not to say this isn’t an issue, though. Because it certainly is.

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Damn it, Tifa. You better be glad I love Final Fantasy so much.

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It doesn’t help that Abrams straight-up admitted this scene was solely for the male viewership.

I don’t mind sexy, slim women. Truly I don’t. Physically fit and empowered women are by far my favorite characters to write, and are even inspiring in a way, but women are more than that. They are their backstories, their emotions, their inner conflicts. Instead of saying “okay, we have a walking pair of boobs that throws punches; diversity, check” and stopping there (please, please do not stop there–don’t even go there to begin with), instead give me more Furiosas, more Dana Scullys, more Marthas, and more Eowyns. (Also pls give me more PoC and LGBT+ characters thx.)

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I want women who are developed, fully dimensional characters, with flaws, backstories, and who’s importance isn’t relegated solely to her beauty or sexual prowess.

In short, don’t give me a female character who can throw punches, is therefore considered progressive, and stop there. Don’t give me a physically strong female character, give me a female who has strong characterization. That’s what makes all the difference.

Who are your favorite female characters? What do you like best about them?

Book Review: Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2)

17167166Title: Crown of Midnight

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Release Date: August 27th, 2013

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary: “An assassin’s loyalties are always in doubt.
But her heart never wavers.
After a year of hard labor in the Salt Mines of Endovier, eighteen-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien has won the king’s contest to become the new royal assassin. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown – a secret she hides from even her most intimate confidantes.
Keeping up the deadly charade—while pretending to do the king’s bidding—will test her in frightening new ways, especially when she’s given a task that could jeopardize everything she’s come to care for. And there are far more dangerous forces gathering on the horizon — forces that threaten to destroy her entire world, and will surely force Celaena to make a choice. 
Where do the assassin’s loyalties lie, and who is she most willing to fight for?” – Goodreads

I enjoyed the first book in this series, Throne of Glass, and I enjoyed this second installment even more.

There are tons of twists and turns throughout the plot, effectively keeping you on the edge of your seat. Though I admit I could see nearly all of them coming, (call it a spoilery sixth sense), I had almost no evidence for them, just gut feelings. However, that added to the suspense and casted a sense of foreboding and foreshadowing.

The characters got to stretch their legs and flesh out here more than previously. I really enjoyed seeing everyone’s continued characterization. Dorian and Nehemia were my particular favorites, setting the intrigue higher and giving the plot even bigger stakes through their actions and secrets.

The writing was good, though I feel like this book (as well as the first one) was a bit. . . I don’t know, overinflated? As if there wasn’t quite enough happening for it to justify the book being as lengthy as it was. I don’t mind a long read, (duh), but I don’t enjoy it when it’s just a tad slow. I’d rather books be too fast paced than the opposite, but that’s just me.

The highlight of this book for me overall was its emotion. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the emotions range from heart-wrenching to punch-in-the-gut to slaw-my-eyes-out suspense. Easily the best part of the book, carrying you throughout. This isn’t one of those books where everything merely sounds good yet you can’t muster any sympathy/emotion for it, it’s one that demands your feelings.

All in all, I highly recommend this book. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: She Pulls Off the Interstate

18755302Title: She Pulls Off the Interstate

Author: Eugene Ahn

Publisher: Self-Published

Release Date: October 19th, 2013

Rating: 2 out of 5

Summary: “On an evening like any other, a mysterious woman moves into room Four-One-Three of an apartment building in a new city with the firm determination to start a fresh life here. Running away from a horrible past, she seeks the solace and peace she hopes to find through isolation, loneliness, and a self-imposed clean slate.
However, despite her best efforts, she soon finds herself surrounded by kind and good people, people who genuinely care about her. Her co-workers at the local diner. The man who lives downstairs. His young and ever-cheerful daughter. People who want to be let into her life, people who might need her protection from a cruel and uncaring world…
Quiet, deadly, and haunted by a violent past, she quickly finds herself pulled between the desire to connect with another human being and the desire to fall back into her darker side…even as fate begins to set in motion a series of events that will lead to a cataclysmic encounter with a familiar and vengeful figure, someone she wished she could forever forget…” – Goodreads

This book has potential, but fell flat for me. The cover is intriguing and of much higher quality than what is usually seen in the indie market, – but a cover alone can’t support a story. (Still, kudos on the cover.)

The characters lack almost all meaningful characterization. At first I thought the author was going for an objective third person point of view, but he’ll occasionally hop into characters heads, so that’s obviously not what he’s going for. Or at least, not consistently. Granted, I like what I got of the main character. She’s powerful and carries the story almost entirely by herself, even if her emotions remain at a constant throughout.

The formatting is a distraction. The most glaring thing is that there are no quotation marks in the book. I understand this might’ve been a stylistic choice, but it’s a confusing and unnecessary one, making it difficult to separate out action and dialogue. No book benefits from not having quotation marks. However, they can easily suffer without them.

The plot lacked conflict for the first 80% of the book.

The writing has promise, but is bogged down by excessive description. (One might want to look at Chapter 4: Proportion in Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. It’s a gold mine of information.) Even the dramatic scenes suffer from this, stealing the appropriate “oomf” and punch from them that’d really make them pop.

Free the writing of unnecessary sentences/paragraphs, format it according to what’s standard, add in more conflict and tension throughout, and give the cast true characterization, and this book would jump right off the page. As it currently stands, it gets 2 stars from me.

Best of luck to the author in his future work.

Book Review: Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1)

13519397Title: Throne of Glass

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children’s

Release Date: August 7th, 2012

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary: “After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.
Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her… but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.
Then one of the other contestants turns up dead… quickly followed by another.
Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.” – Goodreads

Let me start by saying that I ADORE the protagonist of this novel. Celaena is hardcore, and while I see a lot of female protagonists in YA these days, very few actually get down into the nitty gritty of the fighting, usually leaving it to the guys. Not Celaena. (She knows how to skin someone with her bare hands. Yikes.)

The writing is pretty good! Occasionally it can be a bit clunky, but not often enough to detract from the book as a whole. Overall the writing style is descriptive and clear.

The plot is unique and draws you in. Don’t let the summary fool you; it’s nothing like The Hunger Games, whatsoever. That being said, it is a biiiiit slow moving around the middle, but quickly bounces back.

The cast of characters is great. All have depth and are well executed, – (though I’d like to know more about the King, but I feel that’s to come).

I highly recommend this book, especially to fans of fantasy. Great plot, great characters, – docked only half a point for some clunky writing and a sliver of a slow plot-, Throne of Glass earns a 4.5 out of 5.

Book Review: Fanged Outcast (Fanged Princess #2)

fanged outcast coverTitle: Fanged Outcast

Author: Elisabeth Wheatley

Publisher: Chengalera Press

Release Date: November 26th, 2013

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary: “How much would you sacrifice for a love that wasn’t yours? 
Hadassah managed to befriend her kind’s worst enemies and save her brother and the human girl he loves from the Vampiric King—once. After a month spent in quiet hiding under the protection of the Huntsmen, a surprise attack from a band of Kaiju shatters their brief reprieve. Faced with new challenges and new threats, Hadassah and the others must once more fight for her brother and the girl who stole his heart. And this time, the Vampiric King isn’t the only one they need fear… 
Action, suspense, humor, and romance collide in this anticipated sequel from teen author, Elisabeth Wheatley.” – Goodreads

I’ve been waiting ages for this book! And trust me, I was not disappointed. You won’t be either.

The writing was very tight in this installment, not a word going to waste. Everything that’s there exists to further the plot. The editing quality has vastly gone up too; I found very few typos, none of which I’d really sweat. (Heck, I find typos in NYT bestsellers. They just happen.)

The only thing that detracted from Fanged Outcast for me is that I wish there could have occasionally been a break from all of the action. A moment to catch my breath. From the first chapter to the very last, it’s a whirlwind of action and bullets and fighting. Don’t get me wrong. It was awesome. No, no, not like “oh yeah, that’s cool”, but really gritty, roaring action scenes. I just would have liked a little more room to breathe sometimes, y’know?

In this installment, we also got to interact with the characters more closely than before. Especially Madelyn, who was largely a stranger to me previously. Additionally, there were more twists and turns than before, some that really tear at your heart.

Overall, this is a fantastic book, especially for the paranormal genre fans out there. (Even if you’re not into that sort of thing, I’d highly suggest you check this one out.) For its writing, characters, twists, and action scenes, – deducted half a point for the perhaps too-quick pace -, Fanged Outcast earns itself a solid 4.5 out of 5.

No Angels is FREE today & tomorrow!

I’m doing a promotional period for my fantasy novel No Angels, and as such am literally giving it away for free!
All you have to do is follow this link to be taken to a magical land of free books, and kitties, and cookies. (Well, I lied about two of those. But I promise there’s a free book in it for you!) What’re you waiting for? Grab a free copy of No Angels right now!

Book Review: The Chalice of Malvron (Argetallam Saga #3)

17343974Title: The Chalice of Malvron

Author: Elisabeth Wheatley

Publisher: Chengalera Press

Release Date: July 2nd, 2013

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary: “A princess with no recollection of the past eight years. War on the horizon. Who to trust? Who to save?

Sixteen-year-old Janir Caersynn Argetallam wakes, sore and disoriented in the home city of her people, surrounded by relatives who seem concerned for her well-being. As she tries to recover, the Argetallams’ allies, the Stlavish, prepare to unleash a magical relic of untold power against the Argetallams’ age-old enemies, the Brevians. Janir watches silently from the sidelines until she meets a warrior elf and a strange wizard-boy who claim to know her and make her feel…confused. They claim that everything she’s been told is a lie, that her memories were stolen at the command of her father, the Lord Argetallam. As the eve of Brevia’s destruction draws closer, Janir finds herself with the power to stop the Stlavish. Conflicted and confused, she must decide whether she will allow Brevia to be conquered or if she will betray her father and destroy the relic—the Chalice of Malvron…

Nope, my love for the Argetallam Saga has not yet worn off. (I don’t believe it ever will, thankfully!) It was a pleasure to finally read the third installment in this series after what felt like an agonizingly long wait. Any amount of time spent waiting would be agonizing, really.

The world in The Chalice of Malvron is as wonderful as ever, with the readers getting a deeper glimpse into the home of the Argetallams. The characters were great as well, though I didn’t get to read about Saoven as much as I would have liked! Oh well. I suppose that is always how one feels about their favorite character. Also, the plot was well crafted and progressed at a steady pace.

When I say that the characters, the world, and the creativity of this series is strong, I really do mean it. It’s very strong, which hindered me from feeling able to knock my rating down a full point or more. Why would I knock it down, you ask?

I had just one problem with this installment. The writing was sloppy. Now don’t get me wrong, some parts were brilliant, so brilliant and original that I legitimately had to set down my Kindle and say, “dang.” Still, I came across multiple omitted words and entire clumsy sentences, sometimes full paragraphs. Wheatley has repeatedly shown herself to be a strong writer, so this might’ve just been due to the fact that she’s working on multiple series and installments at once.

Overall, The Chalice of Malvron was a highly enjoyable tale, with strong characters, plot, and world, docked only half a point for some writing issues.

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