Saturday, June 30, 2012

Book Review: Partials by Dan Wells

Title: Partials
Author: Dan Wells
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genre: YA (science-fiction)
Why I read it/how I found it: 2012 Debut Author Challenge.

Humanity is all but extinguished after a war with partials—engineered organic beings identical to humans—has decimated the world’s population. Reduced to only tens of thousands by a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island. The threat of the partials is still imminent, but, worse, no baby has been born immune to the disease in over a decade. Humanity’s time is running out.

When sixteen-year-old Kira learns of her best friend’s pregnancy, she’s determined to find a solution. Then one rash decision forces Kira to flee her community with the unlikeliest of allies. As she tries desperately to save what is left of her race, she discovers that the survival of both humans and partials rests in her attempts to answer questions of the war’s origin that she never knew to ask.

Whew! This book is pretty amazing, I have to say.
While Dan Wells isn't a "debut" author, this is his YA debut. I haven't read any of his adult books, but I 've been to several writer events and he's talked, and I've always found him very engaging when talking about writing. He's got it down pretty good.
I love the plot of this book. There's so many different threads that all interweave together to create their world and their conflicts.Oftentimes, I feel like YA science fiction is skimpy on the science. But this is definitely not Partials. Which, ok, I'm no science major, but to me the science here seemed to be sound, and rather than putting together some shoddy details to twist around the author's plot, the science behind this one is logical, and as far as I can tell, pretty legit. 
It takes a little while for the story to really pick up. Part One builds up the world, but for me was just barely keeping me there. Part Two and onto Part Three is when I really became invested in what the characters were doing, because they had a clear path ahead of them, rather than a sort of looping around their world to get a feel of it.
I was shocked a few times during this, with twists I didn't expect to happen. And when you read so much, it can become hard to be shocked. But this one got me a few times.
However, if you're a pretty hard-core YA fan, this might not be the one for you. While YA in the fact that Kira is 16, it doesn't feel YA. Not in the writing style, and certainly not in the characters. Kira's a medic, has a job, and has a boy talking to her about getting married. Their Senate has passed the Hope Act, which demands that women at a certain age (at the start of the book, it's eighteen), must be pregnant in order to produce subjects for them to find a cure for the RM virus and continue the human race. The Senate talks about lowering the age to sixteen, Kira's age. While I've read YA books that has a teenager with a job, or married/thinking of marriage, or pregnant, I've never seen one with all three. Or, for that matter, had the few teenagers in the book acting like adults.
The love story in this one kind of fizzles for me. Kira and Marcus are already dating when the book starts, and I just never got the connection with them. The romantic storyline is very minimal, and I feel might have been thrown in there just for the sake of making the more YA-ish. But I do now ship Kira with another character, Samm. I don't know if it'll happen in other books or not, but I ship it.
Also! This book is great if you're looking for racial diversity. Kira's Indian (she doesn't specify if that means Indian or Native American, but still, diversity!). Several other characters are Japanese, Hispanic, and black. 

Other information: A second book, Fragments, is due out February 2013. Dan Wells's website is here.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Avoiding the Stupid Protagonist Syndrome

Have you ever read a book, watched a movie, or seen a TV show in which a character makes a stupid choice? Not a mistake. A mistake would be yelling at your mom when she hasn't done anything because you've had a rough day. That's a mistake we as human beings make, and help our characters become three-dimensional. A stupid choice is if a character puts themselves in a dangerous position for no good reason when they know there's danger.
A comment I often see on Goodreads reviews from low ratings is the reviewer complaining that the main character is "stupid." And they then go on to list the stupid things the character does. I've read some books lately which made me think, "Wow this character is stupid."
So how do we avoid our own protagonist from being stupid? I think that this clip from The Office explains it:
Just ask yourself "Would an idiot do this?" If you look objectively and see that yes, an idiot would do it, then don't have your character do it. Easy peasy. In theory, at least.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Book Review: Of Poseidon by Anna Banks

Title: Of Poseidon
Author: Anna Banks
Publisher: MacMillan
Genre: YA (paranormal)
Why I read it/how I found it: Debut author challenge, book signing, and MERMAIDS.

Galen, a Syrena prince, searches land for a girl he's heard can communicate with fish. It’s while Emma is on vacation at the beach that she meets Galen. Although their connection is immediate and powerful, Galen's not fully convinced that Emma's the one he's been looking for. That is, until a deadly encounter with a shark proves  that Emma and her Gift may be the only thing that can save his kingdom. He needs her help--no matter what the risk.

I love mermaids. LOVE. Which makes me sad I chalk this up as another mermaid book that didn't work for me.
But let's start with the good stuff. I liked a lot of the dialogue. It was snappy and oftentimes funny, so I enjoyed the humor. And I think the premise was interesting as well. And the mermaids. Because a book automatically gets a point for mermaids.
Now, the rest of it...not so much.
One thing that rubbed me wrong was Emma's reaction to her best friend Chloe dying. Within the first three chapters or so, Chloe's dead. Emma's depressed for about two weeks, has a rough first day of school, and then figures, "I'm not going to be sad anymore because Chloe wouldn't want me to." Uhhh...I have never known anyone to react to a death of someone they're close to quite like that. They might think that, but no matter what, you're emotionally effected. But instead of catching moments of missing Chloe deeply, or having any negative reaction to her friend's death, Emma traipses along flirting with Galen and not even remembering her "best friend." Also, for those sensitive to racial issues, Chloe's black and she dies pretty much right off. This probably wouldn't bug me as much if Emma's porcelain skin weren't mentioned over...and over...and over. 
Let's just say the romantic relationships here are wonky. Galen and Emma...well, I think I could have liked them, if Galen weren't so obsessive and Emma weren't so pigheaded to the point of stupidity. Their relationship's just plain unhealthy. Emma creates a game in which she tries to get Galen to barf. She makes a game to hurt him. How is this a good, romantic thing? And Galen's freaking possessive. I'd say he's between Patch from Hush, Hush and Edward from Twilight in terms of possessive qualities. 
And Galen and Emma isn't the only bad couple. Rayna and Toraf just have issues. I'd have to get into spoilers to explain, but it's just bad. Trust me on this.
And overall, I think this had a slow pace. A lot of introduction rather than action, and the plot doesn't really start until the end of the book when we get a cliffhanger.

Other info: Sequel Of Triton will be coming out sometime. My guess is next year. Anna Banks's blog is here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Begone, repeating words!

This is going to be a short post, but I think it'll be very helpful.

When I was at the LDStorymaker's Conference, someone told me about Wordle. You can copy and paste an entire novel at It then makes a cloud of your most-used words. Obviously, your character's names will probably be the biggest, but then looking at the rest of the cloud, you can find your tick words. I had "back" as the biggest word after the names of my main characters, and also "like" was surprisingly big.

This is a really helpful tool in finding those repeating words that we automatically gravitate to.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

How to make twitter work for you

All right, so my last post is about twitter pet peeves of mine. So I thought to balance that negativity, I'd follow up with a post on how to make twitter work for you, and things that I like seeing on twitter.

  • The @ reply. I was recently followed by someone who has a book coming out in 2013. After I followed her, she engaged me in a conversation. I'm a lot more likely to buy her book now, because I feel like more than a number, and I feel like I know her better based on our personable conversation.
  • Tweet! Sometimes, I see a tweet and I realize that I'm following someone I didn't know I followed because they never tweet. So, this might be really obvious, but tweet. It doesn't really help you if you're so seldom on that people don't know about you or your book.
  • Share industry and craft-related articles. I always love it when people share articles on writing and books. This can be from your blog, someone else's blog, an article in PW, anything. Maybe this is just me who likes this stuff, but it gets me to notice you on twitter.
  • Get involved with a hashtag. #fridayreads #kidlit #writingtip any of these and others can get you connected. #confession I don't use hashtags much, but when I see people who do use them for this and others, I always get the feeling that they have more of a network around them on twitter. And for these hashtags, I mean more than what's trending. Instead, get involved with a permanent hashtag.
What have you found works in your favor when using twitter?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Giveaway Winner + Twitter Pet Peeves=This Post

First, the winner of my 200 follower giveaway is...Leslie! I'm emailing you about the details, Leslie. Please respond within 48 hours or the prize may be forfeited  to someone else.

And now, today I'm going to be talking about twitter.
Ah, yes, that social media sight in which we writers must hone our want to be wordy and keep it all in 140 characters or less. Many writers use it in hopes of building their audience and platform, helpful if they have published a book or want to prove to an agent they have a platform. Others are book reviewers and again, want to increase their traffic so they're more likely to get ARCs and such. Well, these are a few of my personal pet peeves when it comes to twitter and might make me less inclined to follow the person back, buy their book, or read their posts.

  1. Tweeting about your book and only your book. One gentleman I followed (and ended up unfollowing) only tweeted about where to buy his book, what reviewers said about his book, when a sale was happening for his book, etc. I didn't know a thing about him other than he wrote this book. First, when tweeting every hour to buy your book, it gets old. Second, I didn't know anything about him. I didn't feel like he was a friend or that I had any knowledge about him. Tweet about your crazy morning or your delicious lunch or about a book you've read and loved. Keep us up-to-date on your WIP. And then yes, go ahead and tell me where to buy your book or if there's a sale. I might actually buy it at that point if I feel like I know the person behind the tweets.
  2. Over-tweeting. Some people tweet A LOT. I'm going to be honest. I've followed some people where I constantly see a block in my feed of just their tweets. Yes, sometimes you need three or more tweets to get something out. But when I constantly see one tweeter taking up blocks of my feed once a day or more, I start to skip those tweets. I don't read them. That's not the point of tweeting. You want people to read what you're writing. But in order for them to find it interesting, you have to keep it low. That doesn't mean you can't tweet more than once a day, just, have courtesy to your followers' feeds.
  3. The contest tweets. This kind of goes along with over-tweeting, but I feel this has its own category. Now, tweeting about a contest, I like that. I've entered contests because I see someone else's tweet. I tweet about contests myself. But tweeting for an hour straight as you enter all of your contests, well, I tend to start overlooking your tweets again. If you like entering contests and they want you to tweet it, maybe get another account just for your contests. And then tweet about the ones you really want to get exposed on your twitter for networking.
  4. Unfollowing when you don't get the follow back. I've started to look at people's twitter before I follow them back, so I don't go through all of those things above that bother me. Now, obviously I don't follow back the people who tell me that their tweets will help my finances or my mental well-being. But when their bio says something about writing or reading, I bite. I look. And sometimes, I can tell that what they tweet about I don't want to follow. This happens rarely with readers and writers for me, but it does. It irks me when people follow, and then they unfollow me after I've gotten on, followed other people, made a tweet. I get they're trying to network and don't want to follow many more people than who follow them. But here's my thing: don't follow someone on twitter who you don't want to keep following. I'm not irked that they unfollowed me. I'm irked that they find twitter nothing more than a marketing tool. Your followers and the people you follow are not numbers. They are PEOPLE. I don't like Justin Bieber. So I don't follow him. I wouldn't follow him and then unfollow if he doesn't follow me back. And I'm following people right now who don't follow me, and I'm talking more than celebrities here. But I don't unfollow them because I like what they tweet. I want to see what's going on with them. 
Do you use twitter? Have any pet peeves about it or advice to people trying to market their work?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Book Review: The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy by

Title: The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom
Author: Christopher Healy
Illustrator: Todd Harris
Publisher: Walden Pond Press
Genre: MG (Fantasy)
Why I read it/how I found it: 2012 Debut Author Challenge.

Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You've never head of them, have you? These are the princes who saved Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel, respectively, and yet, thanks to those lousy bards who wrote the tales, you likely know them only as "Prince Charming." But all of this is about to change...

Rejected by their princesses and cast out of their castles, Liam, Frederic, Duncan, and Guztav stumble upon an evil plot that could endanger each of their kingdoms. Now it's up to them to triumph over their various shortcomings, take on trolls, bandits, dragons, witches, and other associated terrors to becom the heroes no one ever thought they could be.

This book is hilarious. It's competing with The Princess Bride for the funniest book I've read, which, if you've read that, is really saying something. The characters are what really make the hilarity come off the page, with their extreme personalities making it comical. In addition to its humor, this book has a great plot to it, twisting what you expect to happen. I also really enjoy this twist in perspective and seeing the fairy tales through the Princes' point of view. Healy has a unique take on fairy tales that sets this book apart from other retellings. Also, while this book has a sequel and it's been set up in this book, the plot has concluded, so it can stand alone. Except for the love affair with dialogue tags (lots of characters gripe) it's also well-written.

Other information: Hero's Guide will have a sequel, due out next year. Fox Animation has bought the movie rights to this book (fingers crossed it gets made, it'd be hilarious). Christopher Healy's website is here. Todd Harris's blog is here.