Book Reviews

The Reflections of Queen Snow White- A Book Review

Posted on Updated on

51qjp7z3kdl-_sx311_bo1204203200_The Reflections of Queen Snow White by David Meredith

What happens when “happily ever after” has come and gone?

On the eve of her only daughter, Princess Raven’s wedding, an aging Snow White finds it impossible to share in the joyous spirit of the occasion. The ceremony itself promises to be the most glamorous social event of the decade. Snow White’s castle has been meticulously scrubbed, polished and opulently decorated for the celebration. It is already nearly bursting with jubilant guests and merry well-wishers. Prince Edel, Raven’s fiancé, is a fine man from a neighboring kingdom and Snow White’s own domain is prosperous and at peace. Things could not be better, in fact, except for one thing:

The king is dead.

The queen has been in a moribund state of hopeless depression for over a year with no end in sight. It is only when, in a fit of bitter despair, she seeks solitude in the vastness of her own sprawling castle and climbs a long disused and forgotten tower stair that she comes face to face with herself in the very same magic mirror used by her stepmother of old.

It promises her respite in its shimmering depths, but can Snow White trust a device that was so precious to a woman who sought to cause her such irreparable harm? Can she confront the demons of her own difficult past to discover a better future for herself and her family? And finally, can she release her soul-crushing grief and suffocating loneliness to once again discover what “happily ever after” really means?

Only time will tell as she wrestles with her past and is forced to confront The Reflections of Queen Snow White.

This one is another book I read in exchange for an honest review.

On first look, The Reflections of Queen Snow White is right up my alley. I absolutely adore books/movies/television shows that are re-tellings/reworkings/what-have-you of common tales or fairy tales. However, once I began reading, one thing struck me very clearly from the very start of the book.

That is, David Meredith’s style of writing is best summed up in three (alliterative) words: “Pretty Purple Prose.”

Purple Prose is regularly agreed to be prose that is flowery and extravagant (often to the detriment of the story) and heavy handed with usage of adjectives and metaphors.

Generally speaking, I prefer my stories to be nitty-gritty and get straight to the point. And at first, I thought this manner of prose was going to be tiresome. However, as I read, I realized that this wasn’t a story that would “get straight to the point.” The Reflections of Queen Snow White is just that: a collection of her (with a little help from The Mirror) reflecting on her life and the events that led up to where she is now.

Now, all of this makes it a book that is far removed from what I usually read. I like action and adventure and excitement and stakes.

However, this is the first book in a long while, that has actually and fully made me cry. Though there is no true adventure, at least in the traditional sense, there is change, and there are stakes.

Snow White changes, and you can see that very clearly. Perhaps even more clearly than in my preferred “action-packed” adventure novels. The stakes, while not clear, I understood at the end. If she hadn’t changed, she would forever stay a “wraith,” estranged from her daughter and from her people. Alive, but not living.

I’m rating this 5 stars out of 5.

(And broadening my horizons, by looking for more books that house internal, rather than external, conflict.)

About the Author51s58vmezzl-_ux250_

David Meredith is a writer and educator originally from Knoxville, Tennessee. He recieved both a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts from East Tennessee State University, in Johnson City, Tennessee as well as a Tennessee State Teaching license. On and off, he spent nearly a decade, from 1999-2010 teaching English in Northern Japan, but currently lives with his wife and three children in the Nashville Area where he continues to write and teach English.

LINKS: Amazon | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter

 

The Bottle Stopper- A Book Review

Posted on Updated on

BottleStopperThe Bottle Stopper by Angeline Trevana

“Too much trouble, and you’ll end up just like your crazy mother.”

Maeve was six when they took her mother away, and left her in the care of her Uncle Lou: a drunk, a misogynist, a fraud.

For eleven years she’s lived with him in Falside’s slums, deep in the silt of the Falwere River. She bottles his miracle medicine, stocks his apothecary shop, and endures his savage temper.

But as his violence escalates, and his lies come undone, she devises a plan to escape him forever. Even if it means people have to die.

A dark and gripping thriller set in a future dystopia. If you like stories of oppressive governments, genetic selection, mass murder, and the fight for freedom, if you look for unlikely heroes and always root for the underdog, you’ll love The Bottle Stopper.

The Bottle Stopper started a little slow for me. In fact, were it not for the fact I promised a review of the book, I may have stopped reading it altogether before I made it to the first quarter mark. However, now that I’ve finished it, I’m glad I stuck with it and am heartily looking forward to the second book, The Matching, which is due to be available this spring.

The Bottle Stopper is definitely very dark, with no holds barred when it comes to abuse, death, secrets and lies. Angeline’s style of writing is easy to fall into, though for me, the physical descriptions of Falside could be expanded upon more. (Though, this is purely due to personal preference). While I could picture the apothecary and the bakery and individual places, the city as a whole somehow seems to escape my grasp.

There is a certain death at… around the 1/3 mark (one of many), that leaves the protagonist, Maeve, with feelings of (misplaced) guild and remorse, as well as (righteous) hatred for her uncle Lou. However, to me as the reader, the death didn’t have as big an impact. The character was there, and present, and was friends with Maeve, but I just never came to care about the character. That death could have been much better handled. I feel like that death had as much impact as the numerous others that are detailed in the remainder of the book.

Now, recall how I said the beginning of the story started slow? I figured out why it seemed that way at around the halfway point. Angeline reveals little tidbits of truth through the novel. So, obviously, at the beginning, we know little about the circumstances surrounding Maeve, other than she was left with her abusive uncle. (At this point in the book, all we are meant to do is form an attachment to Maeve; and, I’ll be honest, I flinched or cringed every time Uncle Lou became angry.)

Through the remaining book, we are given snippets of other’s lives, and how the actions of this one little slip of a girl on the Floor can have far reaching consequences. Not only that, but we are introduced to some other characters and, rather late in the book, are given more snippets of truth regarding Maeve’s mother, and father, and the bookshop, and everything starts coming together like the pieces of a puzzle.

Despite the slow start and everything, I love, Love, LOVE the setting, and the characters, and the questions. And I’m giving it Five out of Five stars. Amazing, no question.

About the Author:

angeline-trevena-800

(Image used from her website linked above.)

Born and bred in a rural corner of Devon, Angeline now lives among the breweries and canals of central England. She is a horror and fantasy author, poet, and journalist.

In 2003 she graduated from Edge Hill University, Lancashire, with a BA Hons degree in Drama and Writing. During this time she finally decided that her future lay in writing words rather than performing them.

The most unlikely of horror writers, Angeline is scared of just about everything, still can’t sleep in a fully dark room, and goes weak at the mere sight of blood.

Still religiously checks the back of every wardrobe she comes across for a passage to Narnia.

Writes regularly for horror blog The Horror Tree, and write music and television reviews for cultural magazine Vulture Hound.

LINKS:  Amazon UK | Amazon | Goodreads | BookBub | Email

Outlining Your Novel

Posted on

Stole the title from K.M. Weiland‘s A-mazing book, Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success.

One, because that what this post pertains to. 

Two, because it’s freaking amazing. 

Three, because I’m reading it right now. 

Four, because it taught me a lot about outlining and planning 

 

But what the book taught me wasn’t so much in the words or instructions, though those are helping me a LOT right now, too! One thing, the big thing, that I learned while reading this, is what it means to be a writer. To be a writer is to question. Why do people act the way they do? What makes people tic? (tick?)  In any case, this post is part regular blog post, part book review (even though I’m only half-way through it.) 

Back to being a writer. You must question. Question everything. Question the obscure, the normal, the obvious. Question the way we’ve always done things. Question history, question science. Anything and everything. Nothing is too outlandish. To be a writer, you have to have an unquenchable thirst for questions. Not for answers. We’re not here to provide answers. We, as writers, are here to make readers feel. Now, onto plotting and the book. 

 

Plotting is a thing that is met with either derision, or ever-lasting love. There isn’t much of a middle ground. You either swear by it, or swear it off. I used to swear it off. I hated the idea of plotting or outlining. Now, I hesitate to start anything without giving it a go again. But I wasn’t quite sure where to begin, as I am still in the “discovery” part of Blame the Moon, and didn’t think I knew enough about the novel or the characters or the world to even start planning. So I did some world building. But I stopped, because I am one of those people who could over plan a world to the point where the story would be forced to mold to the world. Instead of the other way around, as it should be. 

So I stopped world building. But then I was stuck, how to start figuring things out? On Twitter a day or so ago, I saw a link to a blog post with another writer talking about her experiences reading Outlining. I’ll admit, I didn’t read the blog post, but I did remember that I had the book on my kindle. So I pulled it up and started reading. 

And let me tell you, it sparked so many ideas for Blame the Moon, you have no idea. The one thing that really kicked it into high gear was the use of “What If?”s and “What’s Expected?” I will leave it at that, but to me, it was revolutionary. 

I highly recommend any writer, plotter or pantser, get this book. Not only for the plotting/outlining itself. But from taking your idea from that first spark to a full-blown novel. I know I am. 

Bad Books

Posted on

…well, that’s a bad title, but it’s accurate.

I was indecisive between that title and “Still Learning…”

So, I finished another set of books recently. These were… Eh… not so good. It was the Aberrant trilogy by Ruth Silver.

Now before you get the idea in your head that this is a post with me bagging on her and saying the books are bad, they’re not. I mean… not really. I like the story, it’s why I read all three books. However, the story-telling is… well, I wouldn’t have held back had I been a beta reader. I’ll list some of the problems I had with the books, and ways you (and I) can hopefully avoid making them.

Episodic

Now, if you’ve read as many “How-To” books on writing as I have… you’ll have come across this term.

It refers to when events in a book don’t flow organically from point A to B to C.

The way to fix this, is to make sure Point A CAUSES Point B, and so forth.

Flat, Two-Dimensional Characters

You know what these are. The characters who are just there. They don’t change, they don’t learn, they just DO. And they grind at you like no other when you’re reading. Honestly, I cared more about the six-year old child than I did for the two 18 year-old main characters.

Hell the Female Main Character almost felt like a Mary Sue. And the male a Gary Stu. Mary Sue’s are easy to write, because they’re basically a blank slate. The reader imagines THEMSELVES to be the Main Character. It’s good for fooling readers. Not so good when your readers are also writers.

Simple way to fix this. Give your characters dimensions. Short-term goals, long-term goals, goals not related to the Main Plot. Likes, dislikes, idiosyncrasies.  Many things that Ruth Silver’s characters didn’t have.

Unclear Writing

Reading her writing was… almost painful, in certain areas. Let me see if I can find an example.  Here’s a good one. It’s from Isaura, the third book in the trilogy. I’ll type the short passage, and then explain my issue(s) with it.

I tried to think. Tried to reason where Craynor would go. We’d destroyed his home. He wouldn’t be stupid enough to travel back to Genesis. I doubted he had a vehicle, unless he commandeered one in Torv. The nearest town to Torv was Haven. It had been destroyed months ago, and though I hadn’t been back there, I couldn’t fathom that anything remained standing. Maybe I should consider checking it out.

“How?” I shook my head in confusion. He wasn’t one of the representatives of Torv. He was my father.

“You’re asking for volunteers, right?”

Now, aside from the poor writing over all, which I’m not going to get into, before in this scene, there has been no indication that the MC is anything but alone. Then suddenly, her dad is there talking to her. Things like this happen continuously in the books. Also, another similar thing, often she’ll skip weeks or even months, without even a scene break. Just… new paragraph, seven months later. Dun-dun! Like it’s no big deal.

Oooh.. and exclamation points. Gah! Just don’t use them. She didn’t use them THAT much, but she even used them in the narrative. I mean, Jesus. Honestly, they’re not needed. Surrounding sentences/words and the scene itself should lend enough to the tone to know when something has an understood exclamation point.

Anyway

I think that’s enough of my harping about what is (in my opinion) sub par writing. Like I said though, I enjoyed the books because of the story and the idea behind it, if the execution was somewhat lacking.

Also, do you have any idea what a huge kick in the pants it is when you read something and go “That’s just bad.” Because there’s that part of your mind (well, my mind anyway) that goes “Well how many books do you have published?

 

What I learned…

Posted on Updated on

Hey guys!

I just finished reading Book three of The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, and let me just say OH MY GOD. This is kind of a book review mixed with a teaching post. Anyway, The Lunar Chronicles, thus far are three books. Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress. (Which is kind of a lazy way of naming books, because they’re just character names, but hey. It works.)

I’ll post the synopses of the first, but the other two I won’t because that would be some major spoilers.

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless Lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Now, I don’t read much science fiction, it’s just never been my cup of tea. But I read The Lunar Chronicles because I’d seen the book trailer for Cress and I was like… That sounds bad ass. So I looked up the books and bought them on my kindle. Read all three of them in like a week.  They’re amazing. I loved them as both a reader AND a writer. I love it when that happens. Because not only did I enjoy the book, it taught me things. I’ll tell you some of those things and also this, if you’re a writer OR a reader, check out these books. They’re great.

So. What I learned.

Don’t Explain Anything

I know it sounds counterproductive, but especially if you’re writing science fiction or fantasy, you don’t want to explain the world to your readers. Give them credit. Readers are smarter than we often give them credit for. When I was reading Cinder, I was first confused about the world, and then as I continued reading, I didn’t care. Marissa Meyer has mastered the art of giving you just enough information to keep you interested.

Misunderstandings and Coincidences

Basically, they have to make sense. Books two and three, Scarlet and Cress respectively, were full of these. And it was great. Because characters made assumptions based on small pieces of information and person conjecture, and they were wrong. Now, that’s fine, and normal even, but what made it even better, was the fact that you, as the reader, KNEW that they were wrong. But the conclusions that they came to made sense.

That’s misunderstandings. Now for coincidences. I noticed it especially in book three. Characters split up, bad things happen, and they reunite without meaning to. But, it made sense. I’m being honestly obtuse, because I don’t want to spoil anything, and honestly, that was one of the greatest surprises.

Antagonists

Basically, motivations, back story, etc. Simply put, they have to have it. You have to know it, but the readers doesn’t, necessarily. Marissa Meyer doled it out a little bit at a time. Honestly, the antagonist wasn’t explicitly named until… Well, halfway through the first novel? I think. Yet we didn’t know much about her aside from her race until the next book. Even then, we didn’t know much about her personally until nearly the end of book three.

Now, I’m not saying you have to agree with the antagonist, or feel sorry for him/her/them. Honestly, I HATE Levana. You’re meant to.

Cinder is called YA – Young Adult, but I hate that classification of books. To me, YA is a redundant classification. I didn’t start reading YA books, until highschool. When I was in middle school, I was reading adult books. Example- I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy in middle school. So Young Adult? What does that even mean? Bleh. My point is, when choosing a book to read. Don’t look at whether it’s YA or “normal”, look at the genre. YA is not a genre. Science fiction is a genre, and it’s what I consider The Lunar Chronicles to be. -End of Rant-

Your not-so-regular-update

Posted on Updated on

Hey guys!

I don’t really have a writing post today, I just wanted to get up on my soap-box and announce some upcoming happenings. Also some things that have already happened that you may or may not have noticed.

1. I added another page. At my WIP page, you can keep up with where I’m at with The Forsaken at the moment.

2. You guys remember awhile back, when K.R. Green and I did that interview with S.M. Boyce? I don’t blame you if you don’t. That was awhile ago. Well K.R. and I finally got off our arses and those posts are planned for August. Yes, that was posts plural. There are multiple of them. I will keep you in the loop.

3. You may or may not recognize the title The Forsaken K.R. Green commented a few posts back when I asked for other F-words for Cursed. Well that’s what she came up with and I LOVE it. Thank you SO much girl!

4. I’m also taking part in a blog hop in August. My post is a book review set to go live on the 25 of August and I will be reviewing an entire series of books! Look forward to that!

I’m losing some steam on posting, as you all may have noticed, but I am REALLY trying to get back into posting regularly. Sunday’s will probably always be Short Snippets. But do you guys have anything you would like to see on the site? Perhaps a series of posts (I would need some ideas), a single post, or perhaps a weekly thing like Sundays?

Leave any suggestions in the comments below!

Lichgates (Book Review)

Posted on Updated on

Lichgates Cover
The cover for S.M. Boyce’s first book, Lichgates.

Lichgates by S.M. Boyce

“The Grimoire turns its own pages and can answer any question asked of it…and a Magari is its next target.

Kara has no idea what she’s getting herself into when she stumbles across the old book while hiking along a hidden trail. Once she opens it, she’s thrown into Ourea: a beautiful world full of terrifying beings that all want the Grimoire’s secrets. Everyone in this new world is trying to find her, but most just want to control the new-found power the Grimoire bestows upon her. 

Braeden Drakonin grew up in Ourea, and all he’s ever known in life is lying. The Grimoire is his one chance at redemption, and it lands in his lap when Kara Magari comes into his life. He has one question to ask the book—one question that can fix everything in his broken world—and he’s not letting Kara out of his sight until he gets an answer.

There’s no escaping Ourea.”

When Kara stumbles through a Lichgate, (which, I may add, should have been better marked) she is thrown into a world unlike that which she has known her entire life, she is hunted by creatures she barely understands, and has, understandably, a hard time knowing who to trust. Braeden is the first remotely friendly face she meets in Ourea, and even he may lead her to ruin, or worse, her death. However, he has been trustworthy thus far and she is loathe to give up her constant companion as she slowly redraws her definition of normal.

S.M. Boyce has created a vibrant world full of memorable characters. The writing is simple and easy, making for a quick read. The plot is easy to follow, with few subplots to detract from it over all. Written in a limited omniscient style, we as readers are given a glimpse into the minds of Kara and Braeden, immersing us into the story that much deeper. There are a few spelling errors and the like that were sadly missed during the editing process, but only one or two are so egregious that they pull the reader out of the story.
The beginning is artfully done, showing a view into Kara’s “normal” life, just before she is thrown for a loop and pulled into Ourea. The first few chapters bounce between Kara and Braeden’s view points until the two finally meet, each chapter ending with a well done cliff-hanger. I quickly came to empathize and fall in love with the characters. Also well done was the introduction of the antagonist. Carden is a well-created character, and S.M. Boyce has no hesitation in painting him in the worst light possible. It was hard for me to find a redeeming quality in him, though I do admire the reasons for doing what he does, most would agree his means are evil by definition.
The meat of the book shows us Ourea in all its glory. Boyce paints the landscape fully in the mind of the reader, with minimal, succinct descriptions, letting us fill in the blanks. It is done tastefully and with a light hand. In the middle of the book, we are introduced to, I think, all the characters that will play a role in the later novels. The middle moves quickly from place to place, staying just long enough for Kara to grow to love, or hate, it before moving on.
The end of the book is quite sudden. The forward movement of the rest of the book seems to be picking up speed, and it’s just go, go, go, and then when it comes to the end, it’s jarring. It ends on a large cliffhanger, which is nonetheless well done. In the epilogue we are introduced to a character who has, until this point, only been spoken of in absentia. This reader was left wondering just what his role in the grand scheme of things would be.
Things I liked: Characters, Description, Easy-to-read, Pacing
Things I disliked: Too Fast, Some errors, Ending too sudden
Overall, I absolutely loved the book and can’t wait for Treason which comes out this month (the 27th to be exact). Four and a half out of five stars.
You can visit S.M. Boyce here, and I highly recommend you buy the book here, or the paper back here.
[EDIT: The minor errors I mentioned have sense been fixed in later rounds of editing.]