Book Review – Uglies Shay’s Story

Title: Uglies Shay’s Story

Authors: Scott Westerfeld, Devin Grayson

Illustrator: Seven Cummings

Format: Paperback

Published:  2012

 

It can be easily said that one of my favorite authors right out is Scott Westerfeld.  I have admired every single book of his that I have read.  I think this man is a master of his craft as he tells nothing but amazing and gripping stories even his weakest stories are still something I very much enjoy.  I envy him his skills in a good way.  So when I learned that there was a comic book that he had a hand in that gives more story to Scott’s amazing Uglies Story I had to read it.

 

To describe this book is difficult.  It was good the images were fun and gave me a lot of great visuals it was awesome to see some of the characters instead of just imagining them but at the same time, I don’t know the story was certainly not as strong as the original story. Really it has been a long time since I read them and I think that might have been some of my failing.  This book is certainly a companion to the main series and I think it would have helped if I had re-read the main series before getting to this story. As there were moments when the story crossed over with the book and in favor of not re-telling that story it left me going wait – what happened here? I know I should know what happened here but I don’t remember!

 

The book was good but really needs to be read shortly after you have read Scott’s book Uglies first.  Really this book has made me want to unpack my books and fine the Uglies series and re-read the story because it was that good and it filled me with nostalgia for the good read that the books were.  Over all I would give this a 3 out of 5 pages because it was a good read and it would be better if I remembered the original story better.

Writer Wednesday – Herika R. Raymer

1. Who are you? (A name would be good here…preferably the one you write under)
Herika R Raymer reporting!

2. What type of stuff do you write? (Besides shopping lists)
Right now writing short stories and working on my first novel and novella.

3. What do you want to pimp right now? (May it be your newest, your work-in-progress, your favorite or even your first)
Have some short stories in several anthologies, the newest being:
Children of Ghennharra in Luna’s Children – Full Moon Mayhem
Piasa Remains in State of Horror – Illinois

4. What is your favorite book? (Okay, or two or three or… I know how writers are as readers.)
Traveler in Black by John Brunner
E Pluribus Unicorn by Theodore Sturgeon

5. What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat?
Mother – this means keeper of schedules (bedtime everyone!), forager of foods (preferably sweets), driver to fun places (grandparents the most popular), tolerant of whines, healer of boo boos, maid, breakfast short order cook, and censor of movies.
Also wife (hehehe)

6. What link can we find you at? (One or two please; don’t go overboard here!)
Website – http://herikarraymer.webs.com
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Herika-R-Raymer-WriterEditor/218450834882572?fref=ts

 

 

 

*****

How To Take Critique

The hardest writing lesson I had to learn was how to take critique. I would ask for it, listen, and then hide the piece of work before anyone else had a chance to rip it apart. I really had to learn that if I was to get better at writing, then I needed a thicker skin. Yes, all my stories are my darlings, but if I want them to be the best I can make them I have to learn to listen when someone is offering critique – especially if it is from an author I respect. It took years, but I finally learned and I like to think my writing improves with every story because of this.

 

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Book Review – The Tenant of Wildfell Hall By Anne Bronte

Title: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Author: 
Anne Bronte
Format: 
Paperback
First Published: 
1848
Published: 
1994

Anne Bronte’s second and last novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall tells the story of young Gilbert Markham who falls for the mysterious Mrs. Graham who he believes to be a widow.  After repeatedly rebuffing him and gradually befriending him, she relents and gives Gilbert her journal as both a confession and defense for her behavior.  Most of the novel consists of the journal, which relates the history of her troubled marriage and increasingly abusive and negligent husband.

It’s not a happy story, though it has a few lighter moments.  Gilbert is rather wrapped up in himself and melodramatic in his feelings and declarations and a little violent when disappointed (not to the lady but to a perceived rival).  He looks good mainly by comparison to the other men in her life.

Helen (Mrs. Graham) is a creature of realism as much as Gilbert is a romantic, though she began much the same.  She’s a very religious young woman who is convinced her own good character will correct what she first sees as minor flaws in her husband.

It’s a nice counterpoint to the myth of being able to “fix him”.  For the most part it’s a realistic portrayal of an abusive downward spiral and how society (particularly of the time) can work to trap a woman into an abusive situation and deny her many of the avenues open to men, including opportunities to pursue a profession.  Some of the most biting and still relevant commentary has to do with childrearing and the dangers of a “boys will boys” philosophy.  Not in the sense of skinned knees and a love of sports but in the sense that boys should be more free to indulge vices than girls because somehow drinking and swearing makes them “manly”.

I picked this up expecting a gothic tale and was caught off guard by the realism.  The text is redundant in places but reasonably well written.  At times the cast of characters seems unrealistically minimal.  It’s a strongly feminist work and more than a little preachy.  The story could be better refined, but I think it’s an important cautionary tale if not a fun one.  It leaves no dangling plot points, though the character the story is narrated to is never really introduced and thus feels a little artificial given the personal details shared.

Overall, I give The Tenant of Wildfell Hall 4 out of 5.  It’s better than average, and there are many I’d recommend it to.  But I doubt everyone will enjoy it.

Book Review – Batman War Crimes

Title: Batman War Crimes

Authors: Anderson Gabrych, Devin Grayson, Bill Willingham, Bruce Jones, & Will Pfeifer

Format: Paperback

Published:  2006

 

I will start this review with a warning to readers that my next several reviews are going to be comics and manga as I went on a massive comic manga kick as they are quick and easy to read and I happen to really like them so bear with me during this time and I promise real books will come eventually!  Today I am presenting you with Batman War Crimes.  If you have read a lot of my reviews, you know that I am a big Batman fan particularly when it comes to the Boy Wonder Robin.  My affinity sits chiefly with Tim Drake also known as the Red Robin.  Considering that there isn’t a lot of Red Robin comics and a lot of other stories I have ventured out into other Batman and Robin comics, several of which I have not reviewed, for that I am sorry.

 

Anyway the back of this comic got my attention as this story takes place after the death of Stephanie Brown as Robin.  She was the next person to take on the role of Robin when Tim retired for a while from the cowl.  I had read the story where he retired and I would love to continue reading what happens there and I thought though I’m missing all of Stephanie Brown’s time as Robin this could be interesting this might be a really good comic!  I picked it off the library shelf and was excited to read it but it was nothing compared to the other comics I read.  Tim made an appearance but it wasn’t for long and it wasn’t a very strong or memorable story.

 

The gist of the story here is that Batman is getting blamed for Stephanie’s death and the death of other people as he is being framed for these other deaths as there is another person who is running around in the cowl pretending to be him.  This story follows Batman as he tries to get to the bottom of things and understand how and why Stephanie dies because it shouldn’t have happened.  It is to be honest a very dark time for the Bats as he deals with this and to me it is clear that he is dealing with a lot of guilt about the situation as well and thus becoming obsessed with his work.  To match and reflect the darkness of the story the drawing are very dark and gritty and the lines are very angular.  I’m not as fond of the artistic style found in this story.  There were really a lot of artists, letterers, inkers, and colorists involved with this story,  20 to be exact (this is why they are not listed in the specs about the book).

 

In short, I was not that enthused or gripped by the story like I have been with all other stories I have read of course this wasn’t focused on Robin and that might be the big difference as everything else I have read has a focus on Robin and I expected the same here to have a focus on a Robin.  So I will give this a 2 out of 5 pages as I wouldn’t really recommend this as a story to read or own.  It was what it was and I appreciate it for that but really you are not missing much if you skip this read in the overarching story of Batman and his Robins.  At the very least the plot important things found in this story can be easily picked up in other stories that have a much higher entertainment value than this comic.

Writer Wednesday – Terri-Lynne Smiles

1. Who are you? (A name would be good here…preferably the one you write under)
Terri-Lynne Smiles

2. What type of stuff do you write? (Besides shopping lists)
Cross-genre novels. Currently, The Rothston Series combines elements of science fiction and contemporary fantasy into a believable explanation for real world events. Next year when the series is finished, I have a number of other novels to be released, including a murder mystery without a murder, a futuristic thriller set on an isolated planet/colony, and a discovery story about a woman who finds herself wrongfully imprisoned. The commonality is that they all involve science in one form or another.

3. What do you want to pimp right now? (May it be your newest, your work-in-progress, your favorite or even your first)
The Rothston Series is what’s hot for me right now. The first book, Foreseen, introduces the college-age characters in an exciting romp into the world of adepts – people who can covertly change the decisions made by those around them. The second novel in the series, Choices, follows the two protagonists on a tense and sometimes terrifying trek around the globe as they flee for their lives. It leans slightly toward horror in some of their encounters but sets the stage for the final two installments of the series. Origins, the third book, will be out later this fall, with Common Ground concluding the series in 2015.

4. What is your favorite book? (Okay, or two or three or… I know how writers are as readers.)
I don’t have a favorite book (unless you count 20 Master Plots by Ronald Tobias), but I have several authors I enjoy for different reasons. I’ll spare your readers my long-winded explanations of the strengths and weaknesses of each and just stick to the list:

  • Edgar Alan Poe
  • Agatha Christie
  • Dean Koontz
  • Ray Bradbury
  • David Baldacci
  • J.K. Rowling

5. What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat?
I was a healthcare lawyer for over 25 years before leaving to pursue writing full-time (meaning almost every waking moment). Writing is much more difficult and absorbing than law. I’m also an active volunteer for a number of charitable organizations and the Board Chair of the Ohio Association of Nonprofit Organizations.

6. What link can we find you at? (One or two please; don’t go overboard here!)
Main Website – www.terrilynnesmiles.com
Facebook – Author Page – https://www.facebook.com/TerriLynneSmiles
The Rothston Series on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Foreseen-The-Rothston-Series/

 

 

 

*****

On Reading…

Reading is important for everyone – writer or not. I can’t say that enough. I read about an hour or two a day but don’t stick to any particular genre – I find that too limiting in terms of voice and style. For example, in the past two months, I finished Veronica Roth’s light YA novel Divergent, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and John C. Brewer’s international thriller The Silla Project. I am three-quarters of the way through Michael Williams’ literary Trajan’s Arch and failed at reading Brandon Sanderson’s high fantasy Elantris. I have also started Malcolm Gladwell’s nonfiction Outliers, and am re-reading from cover-to-cover 20 Master Plots by Ronald Tobias. During this same period, I also read two unpublished manuscripts – one romance, one contemporary fantasy – and portions of two proposed how-to books. I used to give up on novels that didn’t rivet me to my seat, but now force myself to finish if I can because each book I read provides more insight into writing – either by positive or negative lesson. Nonfiction, on the other hand, enhances my understanding of the world, which then informs my writing. That means if I’m not getting anything out of a nonfiction book by the end of the first chapter, I’m unlikely to go further.

Anyone who writes fiction has heard over and over that reading is essential to writing. This is one of the few “truths” for authors. If you’re short on time, don’t abandon your reading. If you don’t have time to read, your writing will stagnate.

 

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Book Review – Invincible Ultimate Collections Vol 7

Title: Invincible Ultimate Collection Vol 7

Author/Illustrators: Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley, Cliff Rathburn  FCO Plascenicia

Format: Hardback

Published:  2012

 

As promised the follow up review for the next book in the Invincible series, and I’ll start off with saying “Wow”.   There is so much packed into this one book that it is hard to believe and with that in mind I’m not sure where I stand on this installment.  Don’t get me wrong this was another great book and I enjoyed it, the art is fabulous as always and everything was vibrant and it popped but there was so much and it’s just I don’t know maybe too much in some ways and in others I just – I don’t know.

 

This time I’m going to be diving right into the spoilers of the previous books and so if you don’t want to know you want to go read the books and then come back.  Again as always you have been warned.  So Book 7 is the Viltrumite war as promised and so much more.  We are given action right off and the book flows more like a movie than a comic book I know both are visual media but I think the way the war effort was presented would be better on a big screen rather than in comic book format, particularly when the title character is not in action for a good portion of the story.  I won’t tell you why that is the case as that is for you to read. It was a good read, and it was neat getting to know Oliver and Mark’s dad a bit more but at the same time it read a little flat after the action as we prepared for the war.  That isn’t to say it wasn’t important to see it, it was needed to see the preparation it gave it a sense of reality.  Again visual audio media might have been more gripping than just images on a page but that is simply my opinion.

 

Anyway the action picks up and Mark comes back into play.  I will start by saying this is probably the most bloody of the books considering that this is a war and really how things progress and the conclusion of the war was really unique and it was kind of exciting to me because there is so much potential for future stories and really it was interesting, I really liked the imagery that went with it as well.   This gets us only halfway through the book and then things become a little episodic with small things here and there but at the same time these small things are of epic size and portions.  It was weird to me and it was different.  I think it was probably good in the overarching story to go with episodic moments instead of crafting such a large story as the series has been doing things for a while.   The characters deal with emotions from the war and it is true to human nature but it is certainly lacking in emotion.  In conjunction with this Mark is continuing to deal with the idea of who he is and what he will and won’t do – how far he is willing to go and the guilt of all the lives lost because of his failures and his actions.  Really, in a lot of ways Mark’s story bored me a little bit but it makes senses at the same time.

 

I will admit, that for me the most interesting part of the story was Robot now known as Rex and Monster Girl and what their alluded story is all about, something I very much want to learn about more because there is a lot of issues and emptions involved with that, but not much was alluded to.  I think the most bothersome and disappointing part of this latest installment was the end, it left it sort of flat and open, what Mark is doing makes sense and I like but everyone’s reactions at the same though in character just seems crazy and really it doesn’t leave a promise for a whole lot of action and I just have no clue what the next book will hold.  I always had thoughts and ideas and I was always left clamoring for more wanting to know what happens next but not this time.  Sure I’m curious and I want to know and when I can get my hands on the next installment I’ll pick it up to read but it won’t be agony to wait for the first few days/weeks after finishing the book like it usually is in the past.

 

With everything in mind, I will say the story is still good I still love invincible and there were some great moments but not enough to push this book past a 3 out of 5 pages.  Really this was a lot like the middle story in a trilogy a lot of stuff that needed to happen but not a whole lot to it.  Not to say the Viltrumite War conclusion wasn’t action enough but the war itself was maybe 1/3 of the book as the rest was the resolution and repercussions and one off stories that will I’m sure lead to bigger and better things in further installments.

Writer Wednesday – Tiffini Johnson

Who are you?
My name is Tiffini Johnson

What type of stuff do you write?
Writing anything is my passion! I’ve been known to use paper napkins, Kroger sacks and even my own hand to write on. But at my core, I am a relational activist: my heart hurts for abused and neglected children. Almost all of my books are categorized as YA and deal with societal issues like domestic abuse, neglect and child abuse.

What do you want to pimp right now?
The work I am most proud of right now is “Dance For Me.” “Dance For Me” is 11 year old Maelea’s story. Maelea lives a poor life in Cambodia with her parents and her little sister. When her sister becomes ill with dengue fever, Maelea is sold to a brothel. The next two years, Maelea is tortured and sold to men on a nightly basis. Escape is impossible until one horrific act of torture becomes an unlikely saving grace.

This book is special to me because of the research that went into it. Child sex trafficking is an atrocity that breaks my heart, the torture, an evil I can’t fathom. I hope this story awakens my readers to what these kids go through and helps us realize that we are the only heroes these girls have.

What is your favorite book? (Okay, or two or three or… I know how writers are as readers.)
My favorite books are “The Book Thief,” “To Kill A Mockingbird” and anything by Faulkner.

What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat?
In addition to being a writer, I teach, speak as an advocate for RAINN, volunteer and, most importantly, I am a mother to two beautiful girls.

What link can we find you at?
You can find me at storiesthatmatterblog.com and Facebook at Stories That Matter and @tiffinisstories at Twitter

 

*****

Ashes

There are ashes all around. There are ashes in the air, ashes on the ground, ashes on the hands. They are spread everywhere, all over the earth. When eyes are open, I smoke comes from the chimneys; the dreams, breaths, hopes, fears, families inside are disappearing, melting to the ground, until all that is left is a mound of ashes. I smell it; that bitter, foul smell of flesh burning, day in and day out. The smoke gets in the nostrils, blows up into the brain, until it marks an impression no amount of time will erase. The men in their shiny black boots, ironed uniforms with red armbands, have ashes on them too. They shake it off their hands but it clings to their hair. Those standing stock still for hours and hours in the snow, ignoring the burning in near frostbit fingers, they have the ashes on them too. Whether you have a number on your arm or not, whether you are paid a few coins to ferry papers back and forth or your last name is Mengele, ashes fall upon your head here. There is no escaping. There is nothing but hunger and a constant, subconscious, need for fresh air, to breathe without inhaling the ashes floating around, to know what it is to live away from that smell.

Is there life without ashes?

Is there, really? There are ashes around you, too. The tears you cry are coals from the fire surrounding you. When the tears stop coming, where do they go? When you dry your eyes and rise, you move on, but if I am deep enough, I create a scab you carry around with you for the rest of time. Divorce, loss of a job, death of a dream… no matter how much time goes by, you don’t forget me. If you poke at the scab I form, if you talk about it or something makes you remember it’s there, it’s as though you’ve moved a mound of ashes and found a live ember, one that’s still burning. The ashes cover our lives with a black cloud.

I breathe and move the ashes from town to town, from house to house. Before long, I find my way into Hitler’s home, into the President’s, into the soldier’s, into the widow’s, into the peasant’s, even into the child’s. I’m selfish like that, I want everyone to know who I am. My goal is to teach everyone that fairy tales aren’t real and that hope is nothing but a cleverly disguised fairy tale. Until her brother, five-year-old, mischievous Kaplan, was ripped from her arms moments after stepping onto the train’s platform near the barking dogs and screaming men, Adele hadn’t really believed in me. It wasn’t until she watched her brother walk in one direction, while she was ordered to walk in the other, that she saw me for the first time. When she lay on the wooden planks, crammed between other girls, praying for sleep, I hung around. She cried, wanted to know where Kaplan was.

“He’s nothing but ash now,” one of the women said. “He’s in the chimney.”

There’s an exact moment when a child’s heart breaks for the first time, when her eyes are opened to all the lessons I teach, when she stops wanting to climb trees and instead finds herself scared she will fall. I am always there when this happens. If I could capture every spark as it fell from a child’s eye, I would be brighter than the Sun. And yet, it fascinates me. I still watch as it happens instead of turning my eye away. This moment, this moment in which they learn who I am, should keep them from ever smiling again. I should scare them so much they never play or laugh or love ever again. But it almost never happens. Every once in awhile, someone will decide they can’t handle me. Several people a day run into the electric fence surrounding this place, on purpose, because of me. More jump from windows or slit their wrists in an effort to finally be free of me. The vast majority, though, never give serious credence to the idea death might be better than finding me again. The vast majority continue to work, go to school, talk, eat and drink, thereby deliberately prolonging life. It should bother me, make me jealous, how resilient Hope is. It should make me angry. But I’m not. Instead, it amazes me.

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