Thursday, August 22, 2013

TBC: All the feels



          The Book Chewers are having another awesome linkup!

Prompt: It's all about the feels this week! Walk us through the books that have had a profound emotional impact on you.

                                                           Be warned, this is not spoiler free.

          Made me laugh: Hm, a good many books do that. Eh, not always because they mean to either. . .  I'll pick two. The Burning Bridge by John Flanagan and The Knight by Steven James.

         Made me cry: The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle. The end. It follows Hood's life; so you know what happens in the end? And he was betrayed for such a petty reason! That book had me balling, almost in front of people too. *sniffles*

           Made me feel nostalgic: Emily of New Moon by L. M. Montgomery. The whole trilogy. It does have an Anne of Green Gables feel, but I relate even more with Emily. Kindred spirits. :)

           Made me depressed: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snickett. I love his style. But I just couldn't finish the series. I moped the whole week it took me to read.

           Made me angry: The Secret Garden by ? The girl made me so angry; she was such a brat! I didn't finish the book, so I'm not sure this counts. I don't normally finish books that make me angry. . . kind of like the depressing ones. Oh, AND my English textbook. It's a book- and I finished this one. You see, I was quite certain that it lied to me when it said that verbs could become nouns. I had refused to believe in gerunds. There were other issues I had with my textbook. I kicked it across the room once. Its sharp corner bit the bottom of my foot. Heh, that's why it only happened once.

           Shocked me: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. I haven't read the back of the book. If it's a series and the author's gained my trust, I don't read the back of the book. It ruins the surprises. So I didn't know Katniss was going back into the arena. It totally devastated me, as much as it did Katniss. As soon as she found out, I closed my book. And didn't pick it up for another week. I realized it was because, I didn't want to go back into the arena again. I didn't want to follow Katniss and go through all that again. That's how amazing a writer Collins is. She really gets you into the world and mind of the character. (I did finish it by the way.)

           Satisfied ending: Any mystery by Sibella Giorello leaves me with a grin on my face. That refreshing, aaahh moment. When you know everything's alright, justice has been served, mercy given, but we don't have to say good-bye to our beloved FBI Agent just yet because the next book will be out soon. :)

           Astounding, yet inevitable ending: Insurgent by Veronica Roth. I. love. this. book! And the end, wow! All readers gasp and before we can let it out, we read THE END. The end? What?! But, really, it was inevitable. I was itching throughout the whole two books to know- What is outside the fence? What is the rest of the world doing? Why does the gate not lock things out, but instead locks them in? And now the answers! Can't wait for the next book!

           Worst ending: I'm blanking. Perhaps it's one of those books I haven't finished because they make me depressed or angry?

          Terrified me: The Cooper Kids series by Frank Peretti. Chilled me when I was younger. And it didn't help that I read at night either. The most frightening were The Deadly Curse of Toco-Rey and Escape from the Island of Aquarius. Eck, still get the be-jeebers thinking about it. Steven James' The Rook was pretty creepy too. A villain who truly cannot feel physical pain. Then add spiders.

          Mixed feelings: The Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. They never made it inside Snow's office. They didn't even encounter him before their mission was foiled. It felt very incomplete and rushed. Yet there were those perfectly planned, vital moments with her and Peeta. Then Prim. Prim! May I say, Prim, again? I know, I know, I should've seen it coming. But cut us some slack. Prim? Wwwhhyyyyyy? The end ending with Katniss and Peeta trying to mend the shattered pieces of their lives was really kind of sad. Hopeful, yes, yet still sad. But the end, with Katniss and Haymitch, Snow and Coin, and the arrow. Oh, it was genius! And, maybe I should've, but I didn't see it coming. And it was the best surprise of the whole book. :)
          
          Okay, so maybe I fell to using italics more often than I ought have. Again Emily Bryd Starr and I are kindred spirits. :)

          And now I realize that if you haven't read these books, then I've just written a very unintelligible post. :P I apologize.

          By the way, according to the Classics Club's spin on Monday, I'll be reading The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allan Poe. Uh, as soon as I find it. The possibility of the library not having it didn't seem relevant when I made my list. :P

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Knight by Steven James


           I took a break from reading fantasy so I could continue one of my favorite mystery series. The Knight is the third book in the Bowers Files by Steven James. (And if you ever have a chance to hear him speak, he's great.)

           I could give you a summery. I realize that I don't often do that. But since I dislike giving too much away because suspense is one of my favorite elements of reading, I'll just say that it's a psychological thriller. So it's filled with very unusual murders, and it makes you think. I love books that make you think. And it's high-energy. Don't forget that.

           "Pat, since Friday you were nearly burned alive, bitten by a rattlesnake, sealed in a mine, blown up, and crushed by a boulder."

           Let me start out by saying, the POV was excellent! It was a little shaky in the first book, The Pawn, because when the author would change to a woman's POV you could still kind of tell it was written by a guy. In The Rook, the POV improved, and now it's amazing how well each chapter or scene is distinctly one person's thoughts alone. You get to know the characters well and they each have their own distinct voice.

           Also even though the POV level is really deep, James isn't afraid to have many POV characters. I like that. The protagonist is spotlighted with first person and the other characters have third person. I could go without the italics because basically it's all internal thought in a way, but that's okay. Best POV I've read in a while!

           Something is always going on. The tension never stops. It also makes you think and not just about the mystery itself, but about life. Patrick Bowers, the main character, deals with a lot of large questions. What is more important: the truth or justice? He also continues to deal with other questions he wrestled with in the previous books, like the right and wrong way to carry out justice, and what's the difference between ordinary people and the criminals, who happen to have ordinary lives too? That last one always has me thinking long and hard. What causes people to do something so unfeeling like murder and then turn into monsters? And how do you react to that without becoming like them?

           It was also hilarious.
J The conversations between Patrick and his step-daughter. Priceless. The romance was more or less on the funny side too.

           Okay, now for the characters.
J Who, or course, were amazing. (no, I'm not telling you the mystery half. You must find out for yourself.)

           Ralph is one of Patrick's co-workers and close friends. Their conversations outside of FBI talk are hilarious. They're really kind of like brothers. Both Ralph and Patrick are smart and strong. But when they're together, you always see Pat as the brains and Ralph as the brawn. They make a good team. I was kind of sad that Ralph wasn't in this book as much as he was in the others, but that's okay.
          
           I folded my arms. "I'm just eating a meal in her general vicinity."
           "Sure. Gotcha."


           Cheyenne is also a co-worker. . . and a love interest. I have mixed thoughts on her. The best part: Wow, can she shoot a gun! And ride a horse. She's versatile, confidant, compassionate, and she has a great sense of humor. But maybe I’m a little old-fashion like Bowers, the guy is supposed to ask the girl out. Right? She just seems to be a little too strong in ways to me. If that makes any sense.

           Amy Lynn Greer. She's a newspaper reporter. Need I say more? She's determined and focused. And she has one goal: herself. Ugh, that lady drove me crazy! She might as well have been a mini-villain in her own little world.

           The villain is, wow. If you ever need tips on how to make unfeeling, creepy villains, read Steven James' books. He always has the best villains. I mean, the best worst villains. Uh. . . oh, never mind. . . Giovanni is my favorite out of all of them. He's so unfeeling. How do you get like that? Forget that; I don't really want to know. But he was so brilliant too. And the whole fact that –spoiler- he considered himself a storyteller and based his crimes off the Decameron, was so intrigue and new. Just amazing -end spoiler. He's very composed and meticulous. Every detail is so well thought out and preplanned. He's scary. I know that's putting too simply, but it's the plain truth.

           Let me divert here on the note of the villain. I love how the author writes the mystery itself. He keeps you guessing at who the killer is. All the time. I love to try to figure it out (duh, Ashley, that's what you're supposed to do). He always sets it up where even at the end there's still a few people who could possibly be the killer and but he doesn't reveal it until the end. And more than likely you've guessed correctly halfway through the book, but he throws more possibilities at you and so you forget about that person. Like he said in one of his seminars once, the ending is always "unpredictable yet inevitable." Amazing, people. You should read the book.

           Back to the characters.

           "You listen to death metal and sleep with a teddy bear."

          
           Tessa, Bower's step-daughter, is one of my favorites. She's a typical teen,  sort of. She wears black, enjoys reading Poe, and edits her classmates' essays for a small fee, of course. And yet, she's always squeamish around blood and, well, anything that has to do with her dad's work. Even though she always wants to know what he's doing.  She's so intelligent. I love her humor. And her winsome incongruities.
J

           Special Agent Patrick Bowers is my favorite of them all. He's intelligent. He has a strong sense of justice. But he's also very honest. He just can't lie, even if he tries. He can think in stressful situations and always seems to push his limit of endurance.

           What I really like though is Patrick and Tessa together. With his dry sarcasm and her ironic, caustic humor, there's never a dull moment. Or a want of tension. They're one of the best father/daughter characters. They never fail to have some ongoing dispute, but when it really matters, they'll remind each other that they always love the other.  
         
           I stopped and stared at the door. "It's cool that I was almost burned alive?"
           "That you were
almost burned alive." The door opened a crack, and her head appeared. "If you had been, it would have totally sucked."
           Oh. Well in that case.



Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Snippets

           Today I'm linking up with Whisperings of the Pen to share some snippets of what I've recently written. Hm, let's see if I can find anything good. . .

           "I think we should just keep heading north, like we've been," Oddball said.
           "But have you seen those mountains?" Rocky gestured out the tent. "They're giant!"
           That's why they were mountains. Not hills.

                                                                                                      
-Oddball

          "You're in a really good mood today," Rocky said.
          Oddball glanced back at him. Suspicion in his eyes. "You make that sound like a rarity?"
           It was. But maybe he shouldn't break the good mood. "Uh, I was just saying."
           "Uh, huh."
                                                                                                       -Oddball

           Their footsteps and the jostle of equipment echoed into the deep reaches of the cavern. Spark let out a lonely whistle. But there was no other noise beside. Their very presence seemed to like an intrusion in this silent, dark world.
           "I can't think of anyone who'd want to live here," Rocky whispered.
           "You don't choose where you're born," Oddball said.
           True. All too true.
           "But how do you live without light?"
           Oddball remained quiet.
           "How do you live in pitch black and- and such suffocating silence?"
           "I- don't know," Oddball finally said. "Maybe. . ." He sighed. "Maybe you don't so much as live, as you do survive."
           Rocky glanced back at Oddball, but he was staring at the ground.

                                                                                                         
-Oddball

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Ranger's Apprentice


           I've been told I need to read more fantasy if I want to write fantasy. I used to ignore such advice. I mean, you just need to know how to create stories and write well. Fantasy is really just anything that comes out of your head that boring, reasonable people would never consider possible.

           (Well, okay that was a broad definition. Sci-fi could go under a definition like that too at times. And Steampunk, and . . . okay, I'll stop there.)

           And I have plenty of imagination of my own. Besides I wouldn't want to steal from other fantasy books. That is the first reason why I avoided reading them. I've heard too many complaints that all fantasy books were alike and took too much from Tolkien. So I figured if I didn't read any other fantasy, then I could never be accused of that.

           Ahem. Uh. Well, some friends convinced me to read Tolkien. And. . . It seems I had written a scene very much like the Hobbits' spiders in Mirkwood without realizing it. (And in defense of all fantasy writers against the accusation that we take from Tolkien too often I say: Tolkien took everything! He almost wrote every fantasy situation, creature, kingdom, etc. imaginable. Have you seen how thick his books are? But I do say almost. :) )

           But maybe there is something in the advice people give about knowing your genre. ( *sighs* Why do they have to be right?)  So I've been reading fantasy books lately. I've rather enjoyed it.

           I just finish the first book in The Ranger's Apprentice by John Flanagan. I've heard about the series from many blog friends. But I finally decided to read it when one of the writers at the conference told me she and her son read it together and it's absolutely hilarious. And if it's rumored to be funny, I'll read it.

          The bad stuff?

           The POV was atrocious. (I considered putting it mildly, but I couldn't, I'm sorry.) I was close to setting the book down. And sometimes the head-hopping messed with the funny parts. The funny parts would've been better if it was done from one POV at a time. It would've been so hilarious. It was still funny, but better POV would've made it even more so.

           Tons of adverbs and telling. But I won't say too much, because I'm guilty under the same charges. *hides face in shame*

           It would repeat itself. The text would tell us something, then the dialogue would do the same in a not-too subtle way. Information was given through the dialogue and most of the time it was information that the reader was smart enough to already figure out.

           Somehow, the truth was more stirring, more inspiring than any fantasy he could have made up over the years to sustain himself.


           The good stuff?

           Once I got past the POV, I really enjoyed the story itself. The Rangers are awesome. Just saying. Kind of like Tolkien's Rangers, but Flanagan had developed them more and I love how he did it. The weaponry is cool. Archery is one of my favorites in fantasy. Along with espionage. The Ranger's cloak is so neat.

           And the dialogue was hilarious! I love Halt's exchange with Salt Peter. That was probably one of my favorite parts. I could just see them standing in the snow and Halt trying to be patient.

                "Why do young people invariably answer a question with another question?"

           There were monsters. But not goblins or some other known fantasy creature. Flanagan created monsters of his own. *applause* I love it when authors do that. I'm always afraid that the readers won't be able to envision a creature of my own. But Flanagan was good, and brave. At first, I didn't quite see the Kalkara very well. But once the characters actually saw and encountered the Kalkara, I had a clear picture. Which seems reasonable since Will was the protagonist and he had never seen the Kalkara.

 "See what you've done?" he said to Will. "You've got him answering questions with questions now!"

           He had great fighting scenes too. I'm always afraid mine fall flat and seem all alike. But I could picture what was happening and they were always different. And nail-biting. :)

           Another one of my favorite parts: The Solitary Plain and the Stone Flutes. It set my teeth on edge. I could just hear it (and that didn't help the headache I had). Talk about eerie. I could see myself riding beside them. Halt would be out of patience with me because I'd probably be so crazy anxious from the sound alone. It was the best, unnerving setting to track the Kalkara.

           The characters! Okay, the characterization wasn't quite as strong as I would've liked, but I think that's because the POV was everywhere. If the POV had been sharper, I think the characterization would have been strong and natural. That aside, I still loved the characters. :) Here were my favorites:

           "It's just that Halt seems to be so grim all the time," he said.
           "He certainly doesn't have my sparkling sense of humor," the Baron agreed, then Will looked blankly at him. . .

           The Baron! I love his wit. And I could relate to him. The poor man's humor is always taken too seriously and nobody gets that he's joking. I really liked him. He was a Baron, but he saw himself as just another person, really.

                                                                Do you mind?

           Tug. :) Okay, so there were POV problems with Tug's character development. But I love that Flanagan gave voice to Tug's thoughts. You don't see that often, and I love it when the author is brave enough to give the animal companion a voice. Tug's such a daring, witty pony, speedy too. And I loved the friendship that Will and he had.

           Will was a good protagonist. His overall character was a lot of fun. From his infamous pranks to how he matured more at the end. Even though I agree with Halt on his asking too many questions. But he was skilled to be a Ranger. His courage, diligence, and humility are admirable. I'm so glad him and Horace became friends in the end. And I love how with very little description, it didn't take me long to see him. It's great when an author can give you a good mental picture without dragging on details; it's hard to do.  Actually Will and his story reminded me about a story that I scrapped and plan to bring back one day. Which just makes me like him all the more. :)

              "He said names weren't important. He said supper was important, but not names."

           My favorite though was Halt. I kind of wonder where Flanagan got Halt's name because it fits him so perfect. From the very beginning when he just appears in this camouflage cloak, I knew I'd like him. I like how he's. . . not over-enthusiastic. About anything. His aloofness. His intelligence. His humility. And when he smiled at the end- I could see it. :) And it happened at the end, at just the right time.

           "That's right, a castle. Now, go to the guard at the gate. . ."
           "Is it a big castle?" asked the old fellow.
           "It's a
huge castle!" Halt roared at him.