Book Review – Green Angel

TITLE: Green Angel
AUTHOR: Alice Hoffman
FORMAT: Hardback
PUBLISHED: 2003

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Green Angel is a novella (or maybe even novelette) about a teenager named Green.  Her parents and sister set off to go to the market in the city and she gets left behind (because somebody has to).  Unfortunately, there’s a fire in the city, and almost nobody gets out alive.

The family of four becomes a sad, lonely teenager.  This book is about her dealing with her grief and continuing on as a human being.

So right off the bat, several things stand out.  First, while it is Green telling her story, it feels like we’re hearing it in her head.  There’s no dialogue, really, and in this case, that really works.  You feel one with the main character fairly quickly.  Second, the time frame.

I don’t have any idea whatsoever what time frame this story is supposed to be in.  The family carts vegetables off to market.  There are silversmiths.  But there is also a mention of the great traffic outside, which is a modern word that stands out (whether meant to or not).  I couldn’t tell if this was supposed to be ages ago or a simpler time in the future or something else.  And on one hand, I really wanted to know, because I couldn’t figure it out on my own, but knowing or not knowing doesn’t affect the enjoyability of the story.

I liked it though.  I thought it was really unique from everything I’ve read, and I totally enjoyed reading it.  The imagery from Green was just incredible, and I’m really sorry that I couldn’t see pictures of some of these things.  (From the cover artist – omg.)

Easy 5/5, for sure.

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This satisfies the Book I Can Read In A Day portion of the challenge.

4(I think)/52 books completed

Book Review – Alice in the Country of Hearts The Clockmaker’s Story

Title: Alice in the County of Hearts The Clockmaker’s Story

Author: QuinRose

Illustrator: Mamenosuke Fujimaru

Format: Paperback

Published: 2013

 

Having read one story about Alice and Julius and them being in a relationship I wasn’t so sure I’d enjoy this book as it was another take on them as a couple, yet I’m glad I decided to pick this up.  This story takes place right at the start of Alice’s time there in Wonderland and started at the start of the relationship between Alice and Julius.  It was not so random as the other book and followed a very logical flow and was simply sweet and romantic.

 

There isn’t much to the story plot wise when it comes to the deeper truths and mysteries of Wonderland save for a truth that has been known for a long time.  All those of Wonderland have clocks instead of hearts in their chest.  This is something that at the start of the story that Alice did not know and she learns it in this story which everyone was worried would cause her to want to leave Julius or Wonderland in general.  Of course it doesn’t, but really despite not having any major reveals happening in this story it was still a good read.

 

Over all, I would give this a 4 out of 5 pages.  It was a good read and vey sweet and romantic and the relationship between Julius and Alice makes sense and was cute and developed very well in this story.  Really if you are looking for something like this it was an enjoyable quick read, as it took me less than an hour to read.

Book Review – Flight of the Eagles

Title: Flight of the Eagles (The Seven Sleepers Series)

Author: Gilbert L. Morris

Format: Paperback

Year Published: 1990

The Seven Sleepers series is a Christian fiction series based around the idea that seven people will survive a nuclear war in our time – and wake up in 50 years to a world that is completely changed. These seven “sleepers” are thought to be the fulfillment of of a prophecy that would uplift Goél and bring about the defeat of the Sanhedrin.

Flight of the Eagles focuses on Josh Adams, a fourteen-year-old who is put into a capsule and wakes into a world he barely recognizes. He must come to terms with not only the loss of his family and his previous life, but he must also learn about the new world and life he has now found himself in. He is aided in this by creatures that he could never imagine – dwarfs and giants and mutants, all changed by the Terror that changed Earth into a place called Nuworld.

The first book of the series focuses on their journey to find all seven of the Sleepers, aided by a series of songs and a map left to Joshua by his parents. They travel across the land, waking each Sleeper one by one, and get into terrible danger along the way. As they travel, Josh and Sarah (the second of the Sleepers to awaken) begin to experience visits from Goél and gain strength by trusting him.

This book (and I assume series) is a very firm middle-grade book, which shows not only in the plot, but also in the writing style. The characters are, for the most part, rather flat (in many cases, this is because they are barely introduced). There’s a little bit of world-building, but not a ton. A lot of ground is covered several times, as the group travels to wake each Sleeper in turn.

I enjoyed the book, for the most part, and am looking forward to reading others in the series. I probably would have enjoyed it more as a young teenager.

Rated 2/5 pages due to limited appeal for adults.

Writer Wednesday – Benjamin Cheah

1. Who are you? (A name would be good here…preferably the one you write under)
Benjamin Cheah, indie writer, blogger and freelancer. Someday I will become a full-time writer.

2. What type of stuff do you write? (Besides shopping lists)
I write about the impact of disruptive technologies and ideas on people, how conflict between people and groups would evolve, and how society and individuals adapt. In my fiction I strive for high-intensity action sequences, plausible futuristic technologies, realistic tactics and strategies, and characters driven by personal codes and visions of tomorrow. My stories also tend to blend science fiction and fantasy tropes to varying degrees, with a strong bias towards hard science fiction, military and law enforcement, and spirituality.

3. What do you want to pimp right now? (May it be your newest, your work-in-progress, your favorite or even your first)
Keepers of the Flame, my first novel, which is the second entry in the American Heirs series. Set in a North America recovering from a global collapse, the Republic of Cascadia is attempting to restore civilization in the Pacific Northwest. However, at the edges of Cascadia’s Green Zone, the Sons of America are plotting to foment a revolution and restore the old United States. On the East Coast, a new American empire rises, and prepares to march west. And as the conflict heats up, in the digital infrastructure that underpins Cascadia, a machine god is born.

The full American Heirs saga is conceptualized as three core novels supplemented by three novellas. The novels cover the major events of the series, while the novellas focus on a single character. The first novella, American Sons, was published last year, and the second novella (the third entry) should be ready by the end of Q1 2015.

I’ve also sold a short story to Castalia House for its anthology Riding the Red Horse. Titled ‘War Crimes’, it tells the story of a shell-shocked solder who stands accused of massacring alien civilians and a journalist who wants to find the truth. You can find the anthology here.

4. What is your favorite book? (Okay, or two or three or… I know how writers are as readers.)
I don’t have favourite books so much as favourite writers, specifically those who inform my writing. Currently, the most important writers are:

Jim Butcher. His Dresden Files and Codex Alera series inspired my earliest stories. They still inform my writing, through their combination of high-octane action and characterisation.

Larry Correia. Guns, magic, B-movie monsters, fleshed-out characters, authentic action scenes, incredible worldbuilding, and he just keeps getting better. His Grimnoir series was also fairly similar to a story idea I had in my head – but much, much, better, so much so I had to revise it.

Barry Eisler. His flagship character, John Rain, is a Japanese-American hitman who lives in the shadows but yearns to get out of the life, a ronin looking for a cause but disappointed by what he found, someone with a foot in the East and West but fully belonging to neither. His characterisation is incredible, and so is his unflinching portrayal of counterterrorism and modern-day espionage. The realistic martial arts and well-researched technologies help.

Marcus Wynne. Former shooter turned writer, his stories capture the mindset of top-tier operators and how they see the world around them. Also, his Depossessionist series resembled another idea I had – but much better.

Tom Kratman. His Legion del Cid and M Day series are masterworks of military fiction. Not merely content with portraying modern war at the tactical level, they delve into politics, economics, impact of technology, strategy and philosophy. He even wrote a thinly-disguised handbook on training women for warfare. His works set the standards for my big war novels and series, such as Keepers of the Flame.

John C. Wright. Just about everything he writes is pure genius. His writing harkens to the Golden Age of science fiction and the pulp era, with fantastic technology and mind-boggling scales, characters who are true to their beliefs and products of their times, and his stories always point towards better and brighter tomorrows, albeit won through blood and fire.

5. What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat?
Professionally I write articles for lifestyle magazine Eastie Brekkie and website Mothership.sg, and work for local NGO the Pwee Foundation as a staff writer. I’m also available to take up writing and/or editing assignments. In between stories I write the script, churn out design documents, and hash out mechanics for my indie RPG project.

In other words…I don’t.

6. What link can we find you at? (One or two please; don’t go overboard here!)
I blog at www.benjamincheah.wordpress.com, while my professional writing page is at www.benjamincheah.com.

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Advice For New Writers

Figure out what kind of writer are you: why you write, and who you write for. This will inform the skills you need to develop.

If you’re a hobbyist, you write for fun and to pass time. The most useful skill to develop is perseverance. To finish the story, even if it feels bad or wrong or when it stops being fun. Finish the story, then work on the next one. The only reason to give up a story is to burn it up and write something better from the ashes.

If you’re writing for a community, you’re writing to entertain people. First, learn the above. Then, develop the craft and art of writing. The former are the tools of trade that build the story: plotting, characterisation, spelling, punctuation, grammar, and so on. The latter is derived from the former; how you wield the tools of the craft defines you, and makes you stand out among everybody else in the community. And keep in mind, how you feel about your story doesn’t matter; if your audience is not entertained, you’re likely doing something wrong.

If you’re writing stories for a publisher, you’re working. First learn the above. Then keep in mind that you are writing for your client, the publisher, and your audience. Sometimes your client and audience are one and the same, or else they have similar tastes. More realistically, both the writer and publisher will have different ideas over what the audience wants. You’ll need to work with your client to serve your audience, and that means reworking your story as needed and standing firm where you must, so that the both of you deliver the best story possible.

If you’re writing as a career, you’re a small business owner. Build upon the lessons of the above three stages of writing. Then, while perfecting your craft, study the industry. The industry is changing, and to make a career out of it you need to stay abreast of affairs and figure out how to best promote and sell your works. If you’re a self-publisher, you need to think like a publisher too, and study the ways of formatting, editing, cover and interior design, marketing communications, accounting, management and other business skills.

Notice that each step of the way builds upon the last, but at heart is the determination to write a good story and to keep on writing. Writing is no more and no less a skilled trade as any other; if you aspire to master writing, you must first master yourself.

Book Review – Peanut

TITLE: Peanut
AUTHOR/ARTIST: Ayun Halliday & Paul Hoppe
FORMAT: Graphic Novel
PUBLISHED: 2013

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Back to my reading challenge, I know I could count this for graphic novel, but I totally grabbed it because of the cover – it’s peacock blue with a single still-in-the-shell peanut on the front cover.  Let’s just say it piqued my interest.

So in Peanut, the main character is a girl about to switch high schools.  She’s an only child of a single woman and not looking forward to making friends again for the fifteenth (or whatever) time.  So she decides to do something stupid.  She fakes a peanut allergy.

Now, when I picked it up, I glanced briefly and pretty much only saw “girl with peanut allergy”, which means that when I read it, I was surprised that it was really “girl with FAKE peanut allergy,” but in a way, that kind of made it better.  I mean, when they’re trying to figure out what the EE-PINE-FRINE (“Isn’t that for asthma?” her mother asks…) is, the info we’re getting about it is because the character has no clue that she’ll need an Epi-Pen for her “peanut allergy” – not because a character is being overly preachy with us.

The minor characters are a hodgepodge of what you’d expect.  Her homeroom teacher-slash-algebra teacher is sort of out there, the nurse is pleasant enough, there’s a clique of preppy/mean girls, and there’s a boy that she’s really interested in, a luddite named Zoo.  (He calls her Peanut.)  And they all play their roles swimmingly.

There are a couple issues I had with the story – her old best friend is the catalyst of the whole thing, but never talks to her again after she moves, so it’s sort of a wasted character setup.  The teacher that is crazy out there is really out there, but he’s an important catalyst, and simmering him down would make it boring, so just get used to him.

But to balance that out, the story is paced really well, the illustrations are simple but good, and I really enjoyed reading it.  It’s a quick read, too.  I think I read it in a couple hours.

In the end, I’ll give it a 4/5.  It’s worth a read.

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Book 3 of 52.

This book satisfies the
“Pick a book based on its cover” requirement.

Book Review – Alice in the Country of Clover: Cheshire Cat Waltz 4

Title:  Alice in the Country of Clover Cheshire Cat Waltz 4

Author: QuinRose

Illustrator: Mamenosuke Fujimaru

Format: Paperback

Published: 2013

 

I feel like when reading a series that is done in small doses like this series it can get difficult to write reviews for each book.   I’m not saying this installment of Cheshire Cat Waltz was bad, as it was good but there was not a lot of plot.  The story starts out with a little bit of questioning of Boris if Alice loves him but not a lot.  The story then progresses to show that Alice might still be questioning her past life and as a result Peter White questions her relationship with Boris and how she feels for him.

 

To put that love to the test Peter challenges Boris to try and kill him and really has to push to get Boris to act in any way against him because Boris knows that Alice would be upset if he killed Peter.  Alice is held back and made to listen and not interfere because of Nightmare to try and show her not only how Boris actually feels about her but how she actually feels about Boris.

 

Giving you a very small spoiler warning here, (for what you read next will spoil things a bit)but things get a little more committed between Alice and Boris and actually gets rather steamy as well.  I won’t go into details here as part of reading this story is to see the drawings yourself and read the story.

 

As an added bit of this book there is set up for book 5 as Alice’s relation to the Hatter Family such as living at Hatter Mansion will come to be used against Alice and Blood Dupree as there are several who think she has a special sort of relationship with Blood rather than Boris.  Over all, I would give this a solid 3 out of 5 page review, good to read but not a must do.

Book Review – Obsession in Death

Title: Obsessed in Death

Author: J.D. Robb

Format: Hardback

Year Published: 2015

I’ve been a long-time reader of the J.D. Robb’s ‘In Death’ series, although I firmly feel that the best books of the series are books 4-8 (ish), before the novels start feeling formulaic. That said, I enjoyed this latest offering more than several of the more recent books.

I’ll admit, I much prefer mystery novels where we get to figure whodunit along with the detective instead of watching the detective chase the murderer around and try to catch them. The ‘In Death’ novels tend to vary between the two styles (and occasionally the author likes to add a third style in, where we try to figure it out, and then Dallas “talks it over with someone” and pinpoints the murderer based on “gut” but we’re not told who. I’ll admit, those drive me bananas). In this case, we are not told who the murderer is (but neither are the main characters) and we don’t really get a chance to solve it until the main characters do. We are told as soon as they know, however.

The story starts with a murder of a lawyer that Eve has had dealings with in the past – and a message left by the killer at the crime scene. The murderer views this death as a gift for Eve, and signs the message “Your One True Friend.” As the case continues to unfold, Eve is faced with the fact that the murderer has put her on a pedestal, and eventually all idols will fall.

The story takes us to visit most of the fan-favorites in the world – Mavis, Mira, Nadine, Peabody, McNab, Feeney – without throwing in others that aren’t necessary for this story (notably Trina, who often is thrown in there when it’s not logical, and Charles and Louise). There’s just enough action in the story without it feeling overwhelming and like Eve is just getting into fights all the time, and enough procedural work to make it feel like an actual detective novel.

Watching Eve face down the killer in the end, surrounded by her men, and realizing that they too were her family, adds another layer to her life – something that has stagnated a little bit over the past few books. (And, I admit, I have a fondness for most of her men – watching the way they interact with each other but always stand up for each other.)

A solid offering in the world, but not a stand-out book. 3/5 pages

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