Posted in Book Review, Reading

Book #18: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Name: Uprooted

Author: Naomi Novik

Pages: 456

Genre: Suspense, Fiction, Fanasty

Available at and/or More Information:

Amazon / Goodreads / Author Website

My Rating: 

When I bought this book, I was expecting a cute fantasy about a village girl growing into a self-confident woman in a world full of magic, witches, wizards, and typical evil. I was very, very wrong, but in a pleasantly surprised way.

Agnieska lives in a village bordering the Wood, a forest known for its unrelenting evil and poisonous atmosphere. The people living in the valley rely on the Dragon, a wizard who protects them with his magic. In exchange, a young girl must be given to him once every ten years. To refuse would mean certain death for the entire valley, not that anyone has ever been brave enough to oppose a wizard. The girls return as high-class ladies with dreams of a life in the city, dreams too big for the village they once called home.

Agnieska and her village are positive that the Dragon will choose Kasia, Agnieska’s best friend. Kasia is everything that Agnieska is not: beautiful, talented, refined. However, on the day of the feast marking his arrival, the Dragon does not choose Kasia, much to everyone’s shock and dismay. He chooses Agnieska, the tomboy with a curse of never having clean clothes.


My Thoughts:

‘Uprooted’ is like nothing I’ve ever read before. Naomi Novik created a world that is totally original – a combination of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘World of Warcraft’, with undertones of Book #3: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones and Book #8: Princess Academy by Shannon Hale.

The Wood is an evil entity that is generally accepted as unbeatable, as a concrete part of life in the valley. As I read, I could feel their terror. I could sympathize with their feelings of resignation that nothing could be done to stop it. Once I learned the origin of the Wood and why it was so determined to kill everyone and everything in its sight, I was blown away. I’ve never read anything quite like it.

There weren’t many things I disliked, except for one thing. Wizards and witches were separated from the normal villages at a young age. They were born with magical powers, sometimes in a family never touched by magic. They’re immortal, but able to be killed. My problem is they weren’t described in great detail, besides basic information about their hair and skin. Are they normal people visual-wise, like Agnieska? Or slightly different, like the Dragon? As a reader, I would’ve liked to know more about them.

I like Agnieska’s determination and her unwavering love for her friends and family. However, I was a bit annoyed that she cried over everything. You don’t have time to cry, girl! Your home is under attack by something you can’t touch and you’re curled up into a ball, crying your eyes out!

Overall, though, I loved this book. You need to read it. Seriously. But, be warned: the trees around your house will suddenly seem evil and the bushes will try to grab you as you walk by. There is a lot of death and torture in this book, definitely not for the faint of heart.

 

Posted in Book Discussions, Book Review

Death Comes to Pemberley: Book vs. Mini Series

I can’t believe I’m actually saying this, but this is one of those rare times when the movie is better than the book. To summarize the plot, Elizabeth and Darcy have been married for six years since the end of ‘Pride and Prejudice’, have two young sons, and are comfortably living in Pemberley. Elizabeth has taken over her role as Mrs. Darcy with flying colors and even the gossips who thought she only married Darcy for the money are begrudgingly agreeing that she actually is a nice, intelligent person.

But their peaceful life is interrupted (once again) by Lydia Wickham, Elizabeth’s wild-child younger sister. She appears at their front door, hysterical and crying, saying her husband and his closest friend are dead. As the master of the house and the local magistrate, Darcy sets out to investigate. What he finds confirms his fears: he’s once again entangled in another of Wickham’s schemes, one that might cost them both dearly.


Elizabeth Darcy’s Role:

I was disappointed with how P.D. James portrayed Elizabeth in the book. She sort of characteristicobserverdissolves into the background and becomes just another typical wife during that time period. She’s not the feisty, brave heroine we all came to love in ‘Pride and Prejudice’.  Granted, it is more realistic that she stays behind while Darcy handles all the legal business, but still…

What the book lacks, the mini-series made up for. Elizabeth is the protagonist – she’s the one who pieces together the mystery surrounding Wickham’s life, the one who ultimately saves his life and the one who rescues Pemberley from disgrace.

Mr. and Mrs. Darcy’s Relationship:

While Darcy says several times throughout the book that he misses and loves his wife, they have maybe two conversations and short ones at that. As a fan of ‘Pride and Prejudice’, I was looking for a lovely sequel to their roller-coaster affair, not a few sweet references here and there. As I said before, Elizabeth dissolves into the background and Darcy is so overcome by Wickham’s trial that all he does is worry.

On the other hand, the mini-series treats the underlying issue of Georgiana’s future more gravely than the book does and this dilemma causes friction between Elizabeth and Darcy. Elizabeth is for one suitor, while Darcy is for the other. There are moments where it’s suggested Darcy regrets their marriage and Elizabeth fears for their own marriage. It adds extra drama to the story, while the book is pretty monotone and laid-back.

Darcy’s Role:

I was also disappointed with Book Darcy. He loses that spark, that gentlemanly mysteriousness that women fell in love with. Darcy is overwhelmed by Wickham’s trial; he worries constantly, he simpers and mopes, and, to be brutally honest, he’s annoying. Again, it is more realistic that he lets the legal system do its thing while he watches from the sidelines, but that realism is what made the book slow and dry.

In the mini-series, we see that strangely endearing Darcy temper. He’s a handsome man who walks with confidence but is also not afraid to show his wife and family affection. While Book Darcy lacks personality, Movie Darcy takes Wickham by the neck and demands answers (figuratively speaking).

Final Verdict:

The mini-series is filled with surprises, drama, and Darcy magic, while the book falls short with a dry, monotone narration and laid-back plot.

I seriously recommend the mini-series to anyone, not just ‘Pride and Prejudice’ fans. It was beautifully filmed and the actors fit into their roles perfectly. The book…not so much. I’ll still include information for anyone interested, but I’m actually really curious about your opinions. Am I being overly critical or do ya’ll agree?


Death Comes to Pemberley:

Author: P.D. James

291 pages

For more information: Publisher Website / Goodreads / Amazon

Mini-Series:

3 episodes

For more information: IMDb Overview / PBS / BBC Trailer

Posted in Short Story, Writing, Writing Prompt

Word Magic: Jump

Whenever I need to exercise my brain or get the ideas flowing, I like to play a game called “Word Magic”. It’s pretty simple to play: just think of a random word and then create a story that revolves around that word.

My latest attempt was using “Jump”


For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a debilitating fear of heights. Just the thought of standing on a chair to hang a picture in my kitchen sends my stomach on a violent roller-coaster ride. Using an elevator? No thanks, I’ll take the stairs. Going to a friend’s housewarming party on the fifth floor? Not a chance. Taking a plane to the super-important conference that I absolutely can’t miss? I’d rather take the train, thank you very much.

My friends and family say I’m ridiculous. They joke that I need professional help to overcome this phobia. They laugh when I’m on the verge of tears after they literally shove me into an elevator.

I never argue or get upset with them because, deep down, I know they’re absolutely right.

This fear stems from an incidence back in elementary school, an incident that is permanently seared into my brain. I am not athletic by any stretch of the imagination and that day almost twenty years ago proved it, both to me and the dozens of other kids watching on the sidelines. The activity sounded easy enough, just run and jump over some hurdles barely a foot off the ground. You’ll finish in five minutes tops, the teacher promised us.

I made it half-way around the track before the inevitable happened. I was actually quite proud of myself for making it that far and I let my guard down as I waved to my friends, to signal my accomplishment for all to see. And then my ankle caught on the hurdle and I fell face-first onto the asphalt.

I was dazed at first, then the pain set in. I looked over to see all the other kids, my ‘friends’, laughing hysterically and my teacher shaking his head as he casually strode over to me. The skin of my face was busted and bleeding badly, but the shame felt so much worse. My entire body recoiled with sobs and all I wanted was to just disappear and transfer to another school.

Every time I run into one of my old classmates, they smile and ask me if I remember that day I face-planted in front of half the school. I just laugh and say, “Not really”.

This phobia has constricted me and controlled me for most of my life and I’m finally ready to concur it, once and for all. The local gym has a track and a few hurdles that I can rent by the hour. As I stand here at the starting line, the asphalt under my feet and the sun glaring in the distance, I take a deep breath and put one foot forward.

To beat this phobia, all I have to do…is jump.

Posted in Book Review, Reading

Book #17: The Murder House by James Patterson and David Ellis

Name: The Murder House

Author: James Patterson and David Ellis

Pages: 451

Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Horror, Romance

Available at and/or More Information:

Patterson Official Website / Amazon / Goodreads

My Rating:

Detective Jenna Murphy has returned to her hometown after being away since she was child. Her uncle is chief of police and she’s rented a decent apartment of her own, but she just doesn’t feel like she fits in, like she belongs. When she begins to have terrible night-terrors about a screaming girl and voices telling her to move faster, she regrets ever leaving New York.

Soon afterwards, a local woman named Melanie is murdered, along with her boyfriend and famous talent scout, Zach. Their bodies are found in the infamous ‘Murder House’, a multi-million dollar mansion that’s been the center of several deaths and disappearances over the years. Jenna is sent to investigate and is horrified by what she sees. The killer didn’t just kill them – he ruthlessly tortured them, keeping them alive long enough to watch each other suffer.

As Jenna follows leads and draws her own conclusions, she’s taken off the case and suspended. To discover the truth and finally stop the brutal killings shaking their town to the core, Jenna must put everything on the line and risk losing her career.

…I have to know, I have to finally know. Even if it kills me.


My Thoughts:

Wow, this book was a whirlwind of cliff-hangers and sudden twists. Poor Jenna just couldn’t catch a break. She isn’t my favorite heroine, probably doesn’t even rank in the top 10 to be honest, but she is pretty badass. When most people would throw in the towel and escape, she dove forward like a bulldozer.

Now, I love this book. It had me hooked within the first chapter. My only problem is that all the sudden twists make ‘The Murder House’ pretty confusing. If you don’t read the entire book in one go, but read it in installments around work or school or just life in general, then you’ll be absolutely lost. There are many characters to remember, all of whom have dark pasts and some angle in the mystery. My advice? Set aside a weekend and read the entire thing. Trust me, it’ll be pretty easy after you read the first chapter.

‘The Murder House’ is beautifully written. Patterson and Ellis masterfully mixed past and present together in a serial murder case that spans generations, plus all the injustice and backstabbing will just make your blood boil.

Don’t get attached to a suspect – it changes just about every other page. One chapter it’s this guy, the next it’s another guy, and then it’s both of them, with maybe a third somehow connected. It’s gets easier to understand the more you read, but in the beginning it’s a bit much to swallow all at once.

Posted in Book Review, Crime

Book #16: Where Are You Now? by Mary Higgins Clark

Name: Where Are You Now?

Author: Mary Higgins Clark

Pages: 289

Genre: Suspense, (Somewhat) Horror

Available at and/or More Info:

Amazon / Goodreads / Publisher Website

My Rating:

Carolyn MacKenzie’s life has been in limbo ever since her older brother, Mack, disappeared. Every year he calls on Mother’s Day to tell them he loves them and will one day return. After ten years, he still hasn’t kept his promise and Carolyn has lost her patience. Their mother lives in agony, not knowing the fate of her son, and their father died without any closure. This year, she tells Mack she will look for him and she will find him, no matter the cost.

The following day, Carolyn’s uncle receives a note during one of his sermons at church – a note from Mack begging Carolyn not to look for him. The family thinks they should respect his wishes and move on with the knowledge that at least he’s alive somewhere. Carolyn, on the other hand, sees the note as a call for help.

Uncle Devon, tell Carolyn she must not look for me.

As she begins to dig up the records of her brother’s disappearance, the police are baffled by another young woman suddenly vanishing off the streets. The first woman went missing shortly before Mack, and the latest victim has just contacted her father and told him she’ll call again on Mother’s Day. Is Mack to blame, or is he just another victim?


*Spoilers Ahead*

Honestly, this is hands-down once of the best books I’ve ever read. I couldn’t put it down and ended up reading the whole thing in a day. Carolyn is an awesome heroine; she fights back when people accuse her of harboring a killer, she doesn’t simper over her love interest, and she bites back sarcastically when the police get too rough. Unlike other books, she looks at things logically. She believes her brother is innocent, but is open to the possibility that he’s guilty of the crimes he’s accused of. Even though she faces a horde of angry, bitter people, she doesn’t give up.

I also enjoyed the format. The book is broken up into short, yet perfectly adequate chapters. There are no long, rambling paragraphs that accomplice nothing but take up space on the page. Carolyn thinks things through, then acts. No annoying what-ifs. She has a goal and she runs toward it.

My only problem is the epilogue. I wanted more of an apology toward Carolyn. She was all but accused of being the killer herself, but was only offered a quick, “Well…uh…my bad.”. And the motive is still a bit sketchy. It’s not explained in great detail, so you’re left with unanswered questions.

Posted in Short Story, Writing, Writing Prompt

Word Magic: Bus

Whenever I need to exercise my brain or get the ideas flowing, I like to play a game called “Word Magic”. It’s pretty simple to play: just think of a random word and then create a story that revolves around that word.

My latest attempt was using “Bus”…


Hayley sat bolt-upright in her seat of the inter-city bus, watching without truly seeing as other passengers boarded and settled down around her. Her mind and heart were racing. She wanted out; out of this damn city. Away from all the heartbreak and disappointment. She wouldn’t be disillusioned anymore. No, her mother was never coming back. There would be no one at home to welcome her, to support her.

The bus swayed as the driver pulled away from the curb and Hayley felt herself relax. Within a matter of days, she’ll finally be able to start over, to live her own life.

After her mother left, Hayley was left with an apartment with no electricity or running water. She worked dead-end jobs every night and dropped out of high school. The only salvation she had was the man who lived next door, sweet Mr. Fieldwick. He was in his seventies, retired, widowed. Never questioning her choices or criticizing her efforts, he just smiled and offered to cook her dinner.

No judgement, just acceptance and love.

Until the day his heart gave out and Hayley had to watch him die.

She promised him through the tears that she would be happy one day, that he could look down from Heaven and smile proudly at what she’d become. It wouldn’t be the same without him, but she would never forget his teeheehee laugh or his words of wisdom or the way he smelled like coffee and morning sunshine…

Jolted back to reality by a pothole in the road, Hayley realized for the first time that a young man around her age was seated beside her, humming softly and swaying in rhythm with the bus. Surreptitiously wiping her eyes, she smiled slightly in greeting. His returning grin was breathtaking.

Holding out his hand, he said, “Hey. The name’s Sam Fieldwick. What’s yours?”

 

Posted in Book Review

Book #15: Fatal Tide by Iris Johansen

Name: Fatal Tide

Author: Iris Johansen

Pages: 338

Genre: Suspense, Psychological, Romance

Available at and/or More Information: 

Author Website / Goodreads / Amazon

My Rating:

Melis Nemid is a marine researcher who lives on her own private island, tending to two adolescent dolphins she rescued as a teenager. One day out of the blue, her foster father calls her with a cryptic message. His closest friends also say he’s been acting strangely. He was involved with some shady characters in the past and Melis is worried, so she hurries to find him. Only to watch him die.

With her past trauma crippling her, she must now cope with the loss of her father figure, while also striving to keep his secrets from other greedy treasure hunters. As those closest to her begin to disappear, she must decide if those secrets should really be kept secret after all…

In order to survive, she must seal off all emotions and do what she believes is best, even if it may cost her everything.

**Be Warned: Contains rape and pedophilia from Melis’s past**


While this plot is totally unrealistic and far-fetched, it was definitely suspenseful. It’s too dark for my tastes, but it was given to me by a friend so I had to read it, you know? Anyway, it’s not the greatest book I’ve ever read, hence why I only gave it 3 stars. For being so closely related to several open murder cases, the main characters were given enough freedom to leave the country and essentially ignore the police. Don’t expect too much logic, in other words.

Melis Nemid undoubtedly has a tragic past, but it’s once again totally unrealistic. A complete stranger rescues her and then pays for her entire college degree, with no strings attached. Plus, how did she meet her foster father? Why did she leave her savior for some shady treasure hunter? And nowhere does it mention that she was ever reported missing, even though her orphanage sold her on the black market at a young age.

Her character development is nonexistent. She’s cold, distant, and generally emotionless throughout the book. In the beginning, she trusts no one. Then she wakes up one day totally trusting two strangers with shady pasts of their own, both of whom are obviously using her for their own reasons.

Basically, this is a good book to pass the time. Don’t expect anything to make sense. Fatal Tide will leave you confused and unsatisfied, but I do have to admit that it was suspenseful and an excellent look into the mind of someone truly evil and sick.

Posted in Writing, Writing Prompt

Writing Prompt #2

Some Ideas:

  • A hacker(s) has infiltrated the country’s most used electrical company and has shut off power to millions of buildings across the country. When the government attempts to temporarily switch to another company, it too is shut down. How can the FBI track a hacker(s) without any electricity?
  • Is the Vice President a serial killer, or is someone close to him/her planting evidence that is near impossible to discredit?
  • What is the strange goo-like substance being found in the water supply? Is it man-made, or something else entirely?

Good luck!

Posted in Reading, Writing

How to Make Lovable Characters (feat. Draco Malfoy)

Who comes to mind when you think of a book character that you connected with on a truly emotional level? A character you rooted for, you cried with, you wished would have a happy ending, you wished would kick ass and succeed in all ways…?

For me, that character is Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter.

In the beginning, I hated his pretentious little guts and hoped his schemes would blow up in his face. As he aged (as we aged), I realized that it was much deeper than that. He’s just a lonely boy craving love and acceptance, and the only way he knows how is through fear and manipulation. He’s a fictional character, but I still felt some kind of kinship with him. And that’s why he’s the perfect book character.

To Connect and Emphasize:

If Malfoy were just an average spoiled brat, then we’d all hate and ignore him. He would be a lost cause, something we wouldn’t bother with. But every now and then, that facade would break and we’d get a glimpse of the pain underneath. Everyone has, at one point in their lives, felt alone and misunderstood. We know that pain Malfoy must feel, and that’s why we sympathize with and pity him.

If you, as a writer, want your readers to feel just as invested in your book as you are, then a Malfoy is a must. Think of it this way: would you rather read a book narrated by Malfoy or by…her:

Name one person you know of that actually likes Umbridge. You can’t, can you? That’s because she was purposely written to be a complete bitch. Imagine reading a book with a protagonist as selfish and evil as Umbridge. You probably wouldn’t even make it past the first two chapters. She isn’t relatable and, therefore, a perfect antagonist.

Remember: don’t be an Umbridge.

A Flawed Character

No one is perfect. A character with no history, no tragedies is just…boring. Would you read a book about a perfectly normal high schooler who went to school, came back home, and repeated the process for two-hundred pages? No, something needs to happen to make them special. We read for entertainment, after all.

An example would be Cho Chang. In the books, she’s an ‘A’ student. Beautiful, talented, dating the school prince. The only reason she was invented was because Harry needed needed another distraction from his studies and to show that Harry was growing older.

Yaaaawn…

Your protagonist shouldn’t fade into the background, but be the colorful spark of life that attracts and brings together the whole book.

A Character Who Makes Us Laugh and/or Cry

If your readers truly connect with a character, then they’ll cry as hard as they did when Fred Weasley or Sirius Black died. After awhile, we think of them as family, as our friends. And then they’re taken away and we feel actual grief.

While you’re writing, stop and think. Would my readers care if I suddenly killed off this character? If not, then maybe they need a change of personality. Or maybe they should be eliminated from the story altogether.

Make us invested in the lives of the characters and we will gobble it up like candy.

 

Posted in Book Discussions, Reading

Book Discussion: The Bennet Family

Pride and Prejudice has been recognized time and time again as one of the greatest romance novels of all time. Society’s expectations are challenged, alliances are made and lost, familial ties are stretched to the very limit, confessions that make female readers swoon with jealousy…and that’s just the first chapter. As a fan myself, I’d like to share my thoughts on P&P‘s iconic centerpiece: the Bennet family.

Obviously, I didn’t live during this time period and only have novels to go by, but I honestly believe that, if they were real, the Bennet family would be complete outcasts of society. They wouldn’t be invited to balls or dinner parties, and the daughters definitely wouldn’t have so many suitors. In modern terms, they’d be that weird family that lives at the end of the street whose kids you wouldn’t be surprised to learn ran away with a drug dealer boyfriend (Lydia, cough…)

I never caught what exactly Mr. Bennet did for a living, but he apparently made enough money to support six women. I’m curious, though…did his business partners think he was strange? Or was he self-employed?

Continue reading “Book Discussion: The Bennet Family”