5 Star Review: Characters

So what is 5 star review?  Well, this is where, as a reviewer, I let you know what makes me rate your book 5 stars – or not.  This week’s topic: characters.

Please note that some things that turn me off to your book as a reader/reviewer turn others on and vice versa.


Characters

There’s so much I could write about characters, so I picked just a few things.  Characters in books I rate 5 stars are likeable, evolving, and complex.  Characters are the “who” of the story.  We typically think of them as people, but animals, and even objects can be personified and become characters.

  1. You could describe an ant as hardworking and persistent.  You could write a story about how an ant overcame seemingly impossible odds to find food and feed its colony.
  2. You could write a story about a train that wants to take a trip off of the tracks – oh, wait…that’s called The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper.

But there needs to be someone or something that is the center of the story.  Someone that we can connect to as a reader.  Someone that is likeable.  This would be your POV (point of view) character.  The reader needs to be able to “feel” and “care” for the people telling the story.  Would you go to a random person’s wedding or high school graduation?  Do you cry when you read the obituary section in the newspaper?  If you have nothing invested in these people, then no…you don’t care.  The closer you become with the people, the more you are affected by what happens in “their” life.

I love You.  I hate You.  Either way, I care enough to notice you.

Now, don’t confuse “likeable” with good.  Sometimes the villain is more likeable than the hero – like Hannibal Lector vs Will Graham in Red Dragon by Thomas Harris or Megamind vs Metroman (yes, I know…a movie!).  Sometimes the hero is horribly flawed like Sherlock Holmes – socially inept.  Humpert Humpert in Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov – pedophile.  And if you can make both the villain and the hero likeable, that’s even more awesome.

And likeable certainly does not mean perfect.  Think about it.  Would you want your best friend to be rich beyond belief, gorgeous, athletic, brilliant, and extremely lucky?  And why don’t we also make this person have a few supernatural powers and be the Chosen One.  No, I don’t think you want to be friends with Mary Sue.  Besides the obvious jealousy, readers have trouble relating to a character like that.  You have flaws, therefore your characters should have flaws.

And CLUMSY is not a big enough game changer of a flaw to be the only flaw.  Unless…you plan on your character tripping, smacking into the villain and the villain’s extended knife, which is perfectly positioned to plunge into the heat, and the character dies.  If that happens, I can say, “Man, I’d rather be ugly than clumsy.  At least no one ever died from being too ugly.”  Then, and only then will you get full points in the character department with an otherwise completely Mary Sue character.

The Story of Evolution

There are two types of characters:  those that change over the course of the novel (dynamic) and those that stay the same (stagnant).  Most novels have both characters.  The key to having dynamic characters is to make their evolution from the starting person to the end a very believable transition.  The change in the characters need to be proportional to the situation for it to be believable.  You can either have a lot of minor events that contribute to the change or you can have one major event that triggers a change.

Character trait:  Character is a loyal wife.  Then she has an affair.

  • Believable:  Scene after scene we have the wife doing things without her husband.  He spends no time with her and she grows increasingly lonely, until she meets someone to fill the void – a neighbor.
  • Not-believable:  Husband forgot take out trash.  Wife screws her neighbor when she sees him at his trash can next door.

Character trait:  Character used to love spending all her time with animals.  Not anymore.

  • Believable:  Character quits veterinarian job after own pet dies and there was nothing she could do to save Fluffy.  Every animal she sees reminds her of her dead dog and she can’t bear it.
  • Not-believable:  Character quits veterinarian job because ants have invaded her kitchen and THIS MEANS WAR!  Every animal is a potential enemy now.

A thousand faces

Do you act the same way in front of your parents or your boss as you do your friends?  Your lover?  If the answer is yes, then please find the nearest exit and “get a life”.  teenagers especially treat different people differently.  They might be more joking around their friends.  Quieter around someone they like.  And more conservative (both in dress and speech) in front of their parents.  There might be conflicting information for the reader.

Example:  Suzy tells John that she can’t stand Bobby, but Suzy then tells Bobby that she likes hanging around him.

What does this mean?  It means that either Suzy is hiding her true feelings from John about Bobby or Suzy is hiding her true feelings from Bobby about himself.  To one of these guys, Suzy is honest.  To the other guy, Suzy is a liar.  She is still one person, but has conflicting character traits.  She is complex and that’s how I like my characters.

Readers:  What do you think makes a character likeable?

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5 Star Review: Pacing

So what is 5 star review?  Well, this is where, as a reviewer, I let you know what makes me rate your book 5 stars – or not.  This week’s topic: pacing

Please note that some things that turn me off to your book as a reader/reviewer turn others on and vice versa.


Pacing

Since we’re talking about good pacing this week, I promise that I won’t ramble on like I have with these topics before.  I’ve read quite a few books that suffer from a lack of good pacing.  I think one of the biggest amateur author mistakes is including too much non-relevant information.  There has to be a point to every scene.  Worse is when the pacing slows on the “boring” parts of the characters’ stories and speeds up when the “exciting” stuff happens.  It’s frustrating to read four or five pages about Mindy drinking her morning coffee and then two sentences about how she ran over a guy last summer.  Why couldn’t there be five pages about the hit and run instead?  Even as a flashback, it is much more entertaining than reading about someone eating or driving a car or sleeping.

So, what is the pace of a story?  It is how fast the plot advances in the story.  The plot advances much faster in action scenes than in narratives and the writing on the page should reflect this change.  Let’s start by focusing on this post.  The top section of the post is wordy and the text takes up the entire page from left to right.  It will take you, as the reader, double the amount of time to read these two paragraphs than to read the next two “sections”.

How to speed up the pace:

  1. – Shorter sentences
  2. – Less descriptions
  3. – More action
  4. – Back and forth dialogue.

How to slow down the pace:

  1. – Long, complex sentences
  2. – More descriptions
  3. – Minimal action
  4. – Monologues/narrative

Of course, there needs to be a balance.  Too much white on a page is just as tiring as too little.  I like a very fast pace “thriller” feel to the books I read.  In my mind, if the characters aren’t talking or the characters aren’t moving, then it’s not important.  Long narratives lose my interest quickly and so do long monologues, which tend to happen when the author is trying to “info-dump” through dialogue.  Other readers might enjoy the slower sections of the novel to relax their mind and “take a breather” so to speak.

Books that I thought had awesome pacing:

Books that I thought had problems with pacing

Reader:  Do you like fast paced books, leisurely paced books, or something in between?  Or does it depend on the genre?

5 Star Review: Content Rating

So what is 5 star review?  Well, this is where, as a reviewer, I let you know what makes me rate your book 5 stars – or not.  This week’s topic: content rating

Please note that some things that turn me off to your book as a reader/reviewer turn others on and vice versa.


Content rating – What is appropriate for each age group?

At the moment, books don’t have content ratings like movies or video games on the cover.  The debate as to whether they should is split evenly according to this poll on Hellum.  So how do readers know whether or not there is offensive material within a book without these ratings?  Are there sex scenes?  Graphic deaths?  Make outs or just kissing?  Lesbian/Gay relationships (which I don’t find offensive, but some people do)?  Animal cruelty?  Drugs?

Books don’t have content ratings. Or do they?  Bookstores separate books by more than genre.  In fact, genres are a subcategory when searching for the book you want.  The primary division in a bookstore is age.

There is a section for children’s books, middle grade, young adult, adult, and erotica.  Although there are some books that bend the “rules” of an age group like Go the F*** to sleep, most adhere to what is and what isn’t appropriate for a particular age.  As a reviewer, I mention in my reviews whether I feel like a book is geared towards a particular age group or if it would fit better somewhere else.  I think practically any topic can be in any age group, but I do think that it needs to be handled very differently for each age group.  Please note that what I think is appropriate might be different that what you think is appropriate.  This topic, however, has impacted what I rate a book in the past.  So, let’s break this down, shall we?

Picture/Children’s Books:

Although I don’t typically review picture books on this blog, I will rate them on Amazon.  Picture books are meant for children under five and usually read out loud.  Sensitive topics like death, abuse, divorce, and sex need to be handled with care.  You shouldn’t have a character “die”.  Children don’t understand the concept of someone never coming back.  If they see someone die, then they think that the person is sleeping and not waking up.  Children want to be reunited someday with this person, so probably the best way to handle death is to say that the person went to Heaven, on vacation, or a special place.

As far as sex goes, I really don’t think that any parent wants to explain the physics of sex and making babies to a child.  Kissing is about as hardcore as you can get with this age group without having your book thrown into a fireplace or on the banned books list.  Abuse is a difficult topic but one that I’ve seen handled very well for this age group.  I don’t think that you should ever have the abuse “on screen”.  This is better told and not shown.  The most important thing when handling this topic is to emphasis that abuse is WRONG and the victim (whether a child or adult) is never to be BLAMED.  Like abuse, the important thing to remember when talking about divorce is BLAME.  It is not the child’s fault and parents shouldn’t badmouth each other “on screen”.

Middle Grade:

There isn’t much difference between what is appropriate for picture books and what is appropriate for middle grade books, except when dealing with death.  By this age, children understand that the deceased won’t be coming back.  Children this age still see the world in black/white, so convincing them that a murderer is the good guy or that a parent is evil is a hard sell.  They understand the simple equation that guy + girl = baby and even the parts required to make babies, but keep everything off screen but the kissing.  No naked people.  No touching the nether regions.  Sometimes there are four letter words in this age bracket, but the person who speaks these obscenities is always casted in a negative light or punished for speaking like that.  Likewise with drugs and alcohol.  Don’t glamorize these vices in middle grade books.

Young Adult:  

I’m a real advocate for anything goes in this age bracket.  Well, except hard porn.  Soft porn is okay.  Nipples.  Crotch.  Naked people.  The major difference between young adult sex scenes and adult/erotica is the focus on the scene.  In young adult the focus is on the emotion.  The characters are in love and awkward.  They worry.  They think.  There is more narrating about what the character is thinking than what the character is doing.  In adult/erotica the focus is about performance and orgasms.  The details are in the positions and not what the characters are thinking.

Violence and gore is something that I don’t have much of a problem reading, but many teens and adult fans of this genre don’t enjoy reading.  So, I would say that it’s okay to have someone get shot in the head.  It probably wouldn’t be okay to have the gray brain matter splatter all over someones else’s face and then start describing what it tastes like.  (I do wonder how authors know what things like this taste like.)  Also, animals and children are off limits.  You can kill them, but no torture at all.

Adult/Erotica:

I’ve downrated books in this age bracket for being too safe. When writing a book for children and teens, you should be concerned about what topics to tread carefully with.  When writing a book for adults, you should be concerned about telling the story and not about offending people.  Fade to black during fight or sex scenes makes me feel like you were too lazy to write it.  Sex is exciting.  It is way more exciting that reading about your character’s morning routine after having sex.  I also expect that the characters advance past first base – please don’t make the climax his tongue is her mouth unless this is chick lit.  Obviously, if I were to read an erotica novel that didn’t have graphic sex scenes, the book would be rated poorly.  A book about soldiers in battle should have detailed battle scenes.  Show.  Show.  Show!

TL;DR?

If the book is for people under 18, be careful how you write certain topics.

If the book is for people 18 and older, always show not tell.

Readers:  What rating would you give a book that had teenage characters but detailed sex scenes?  Would it be YA or Adult?  Would you let your kid read Go the F*** to sleep?

Book Review: More by T.M. Franklin

More by T. M. Franklin

Publisher:  TWCS Publishing House

Genre: YA Paranormal

You can buy it on ebook  or paperback on Amazon and on paperback only for Barnes & Noble.  More reviews available on Goodreads.

Overall:  The best thing about this book was that it used split perspectives effectively.  It was amazing how different Caleb and Ava viewed the world and how each one was essential to the story.  Caleb’s POV described the magical world and his role as protector.  Ava’s POV described the normal world and how Caleb’s attitude and protector status was downright creepy stalker at times (but at least he acknowledged that his actions did imitate that of a stalker, which added to the realism).  It’s true that there’s always three sides to a story, and the reader’s job is to connect the two versions and fill in the blanks.  I really think that this book was THE best dual POV book I’ve read all year.

Characters:  There is no instant love between Ava and Caleb and the back and forth between the two is quite entertaining.  I really liked Caleb’s attitude and the fact that he was willing to lie to Ava straight to her face repeatedly.  Ava kept asking Caleb if there was something strange about him.  Caleb’s answer?  “Nope…”  *touches Ava’s forehead and delete Ava’s memory of the conversation…again.*  He totally reminded me of MIB.  Lucy was a fun character too and I really enjoyed how she tried to push Ava and Caleb together when the couple kept resisting a romance.  Ava, herself, took a very realistic approach to the whole magic thing.  She didn’t outright deny that it existed (like most heroines) and sought instead to find evidence that things weren’t as they seemed.

Plot:  Ava always wanted to be a special girl.  She thought she did magic this one time.  But, she never expected how special she really was or how much her life would flip upside down when Caleb started tutoring her for college physics.  This was a fun, quick read for me.  The action/drama takes precedence over the romance, which is a good thing.  The only predictable part of the book was the romance.  The plot was definitely not predictable.  Ava kept doing the craziest things, which made me love her more and more.  There was a steady flow of twists to keep the reader busy if the chemistry between Ava and Caleb wasn’t enough.

Ending:  It took me the entire book to realise how the cover ties into the story.  Nice touch.  So, all I can say is “sequel, please?”.

Book Description:

Ava Michaels used to think she was special.

As a child, she fantasized about having magical powers . . . making things happen. But Ava grew up and eventually accepted the fact that her childish dreams were just that, and maybe a normal life wasn’t so bad after all.

Now a young college student, Ava meets Caleb Foster, a brilliant and mysterious man who’s supposed to help her pass Physics, but in reality has another mission in mind. What he shows Ava challenges her view of the world, shaking it to its very core.

Because Caleb isn’t quite what he seems. In fact, he’s not entirely human, and he’s not the only one.

Together, the duo faces a threat from an ancient race bound to protect humans, but only after protecting their own secrets—secrets they fear Ava may expose. Fighting to survive, Ava soon learns she’s not actually normal . . . she’s not even just special.

She’s a little bit more.

Rating:  A

This is how you use dual POV.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher (Netgalley) in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

(Picture and information borrowed from Author’s Website.)

T.M. Franklin started out her career writing non-fiction in a television newsroom. Graduating with a B.A. in Communications specializing in broadcast journalism and production, she worked for nine years as a major market television news producer, and garnered two regional Emmy Awards, before she resigned to be a full-time mom and part-time freelance writer. After writing and unsuccessfully querying a novel that she now admits, “is not that great,” she decided to follow the advice of one of the agents who turned her down—write some more and get better at it. Her first published novel, MORE, was born during National Novel Writing month, a challenge to write a novel in thirty days.

She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, Mike, is mom to two boys, Justin and Ryan, and has an enormous black dog named Rocky who’s always lying nearby while she’s writing. Whether he’s soothed by the clicking of the computer keys or just waiting for someone to rub his belly is up for debate.


Book Review: The Last Grimm: Red’s Hood by H.L. Wampler

The Last Grimm:  Red’s Hood by H.L. Wampler

Publisher:  Self-published

Genre: Fantasy

You can buy it on ebook  or paperback on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  More reviews available on Goodreads.

Overall:   I think that this book needs more polishing.  There were a few minor things that drove me crazy, such as Abigail saying that ten minutes had passed in the narrative but she didn’t know what time it was.  How exactly would she know how much time had passed if she knew what time she arrived but not the current time?

Characters:  I think the characters were the weakest part of the book.  Most of the characters were one-dimensional and predictable.  Abigail, our heroine, didn’t seem to act her age.  In some scenes she felt 15 and others she felt 18 or 20.  I didn’t feel like this was an adult novel.  Even the sex scene felt like an awkward teenage experience.  I think that the novel would have been stronger if Abigail was younger.  With her as an adult, the scary scenes felt cheesy and the romance felt juvenile.  Abigail was a very unlikable girl.  She was quick to throw a fit and threw tantrums in nearly every chapter.  She was mean to her co-workers and friends, but always thought SHE was the victim.  Connor was rather pathetic.  He followed Abigail like a lap dog, bowing down to her every whim.

Plot:  Although the transition between scenes felt clumsy at times, I really enjoyed the plot.  I liked the action, the deaths, and the back story.  If the characters were more developed then I think that this would’ve been an awesome story.  I think that Abigail tried to visit too many places in the novel and so there was less of a visual connection made to each scene.

Ending:  It was quite cheesy and rushed at times, but I couldn’t help but smile while reading.  Overall, I’d recommend passing on this book, however I do believe that the author has a knack for storytelling and future books are worth a second glance.

Book Description:

Abigail Grimm stopped believing in fairy tales years ago. She is a college freshman who just landed the internship of the year. Things were going great; she even met a devastatingly good-looking man, Connor, who could not seem to get enough of her.

Then she witnesses the receptionist mauled to death by a giant wolf in the middle of downtown. The skeletons in her family’s closet come falling out as Abigail discovers she is actually the last in a long line of fairy tale guardians. And Connor, well he is not quite what he seems and has a few skeletons of his own.

Abigail must abandon everything she thought was real for make-believe and fantasy. With Connor by her side and a forbidden love budding, she must track down the wolf and save humanity before it’s too late.

Rating:  D

This book is an interesting retelling of Little Red Riding Hood.

I purchased a copy of this book from Amazon.

About the Author

(Picture and information borrowed from Goodreads.)

H. L. Wampler lives in the great city of Pittsburgh with her husband, twin sons, bad dog, and one fat cat.

Along with writing novels, H. L. also blogs, tweets, Facebooks and works part-time as a HUC at Presby.

She is a woman of many talents.

She published her first novel, The Last Grimm: Reds Hood, on 8/1/2012. While getting rave reviews with friends and family, she strives to get it out to the strangers of the world.

Website  |  Twitter  |  Facebook  |

5 Star Review: Genre Expectations

So what is 5 star review?  Well, this is where, as a reviewer, I let you know what makes me rate your book 5 stars – or not.  This week’s topic: genre expectations.

Please note that some things that turn me off to your book as a reader/reviewer turn others on and vice versa.


What is genre expectation?

This is what the reader expects will occur within the context of your book based solely on the genre.  Title, cover, and blurb have no influence on genre expectation.  Most readers automatically drift towards one genre or another based on past experiences on reading books in these genres.  If they like a book, then they look for more books in its genre.  But if they don’t like a book, then they will avoid books that are in that genre.

As an author, you need to know what genre your book fits in so you can find your target reader.  This is also very important when looking for reviewers – each reviewer has different genre preferences, which may change based on mood.  Reviewers should have a policy that highlights the genres they read and enjoy the most.  If your book’s genre is not on that list – then don’t submit to the reviewer.

  • Best case scenario:  reviewer decides to start reading that genre.
  • Worse case scenario:  reviewer reads the book and rates one star because they are reminded why they DON’T READ that particular genre.

I know what I like in a book.  I like fast paced stories with the romance as a sub-plot and not the driving factor to what happens.  I like to have both minor and major characters go through life-threatening obstacles and I really like it when some of them don’t survive.  I like the ending to be bittersweet and NOT happy.  I like not knowing what to expect when I pick up a novel.

I don’t think it is fair for the author to be penalized because it is the genre I don’t like and not the book itself.

What are my genre expectations?

If you tell me that your book is a genre I read and review (and thus love reading), then be sure that your book meets and exceeds my expectations for the genre.  I have very different expectations for each genre I read.  Also, my expectations and appreciation for a book might be different solely on a genre.  I’m more tolerant of instant love in a paranormal romance than I am in a dark fiction novel.  I can handle a slower pace in a contemporary novel than I can in a thriller or horror novel.

Horror: I expect horror novels to be scary.  I expect there to be a chance in every single scene that the worst is going to happen.  No one needs to die, but I need to believe that it could happen.  I expect the bad guy to be more bite than bark.  I’m extra happy when character and monster stereotypes are broken.

Science Fiction: I expect there to be either aliens as major characters or humans in space.  I predict that the setting will take place in the future, but I won’t be disappointed if it doesn’t.  I’m extra happy when I don’t have to use a thesaurus because SAT words litter the chapters.

Paranormal Romance: I expect there to be superhuman qualities in major characters.  Typically there are vampires or werewolves.   The setting is modern and most humans do not accept the existence of the paranormal.  I expect there to be a romance between the two leading characters.  I’m extra happy when the leading characters are not attracted at first sight.

Fantasy:  I expect multiple strange races in a setting that is not modern.  Typically there are elves, dwarfs, or mermaids.  Humans accept that there are other races and sometimes there are no humans at all in the novel.  Typically there is a quest.  I’m extra happy when the quest does not involve finding some tiny object in a troll infested area.

Dark Fiction (Contemporary):  I expect the main character to be going through a traumatic experience that no normal human being would WANT to experience, but some of us can relate.  I expect the main character(s) to make some pretty dumb choices that make his/her situation worse.  I expect a lot of character development and that the character(s) evolve from beginning to end.  I don’t expect there to be anything in the book that cannot be explained by science – no paranormal, aliens, or religious savior.

Thriller:  I expect non-stop action and a very fast pace.  I expect more focus on the plot than on romance.  I expect the main characters to be put in dangerous situations.  I can tolerate less character development in thrillers than other genres.

The genres I turn down consistently:

Romance:  I turn down romance books because I feel that the ending is spoiled the second the main characters are introduced.  By the last chapter, the two character will be together and the story will end on a happy note.  Most romance publishers will turn down your book if the romance is not a HEA (happily ever after) ending.  Check out the requirements to publish a novel in Harlequin Romance Series.  From reading romance books, I’ve learned not to like them.  If I read your romance novel, chances are I won’t like it either.  I’m not your targeted audience.

Erotica:  I don’t review erotica (usually), but I do read it…I like violent and taboo erotica.  Regular sex and foreplay between a man and a woman bores me.  I know one or both will climax and either end book or end sex scene.  There are no surprises in normal erotica.  Now, where there are whips, chains, and a vampire or two…I enjoy.  My reasonings for NOT liking 50 Shades of Grey have nothing to do with the subject matter.  Basically, I review and read erotica when it crosses into one of the other genres I read, such as dark fiction or paranormal.

Contemporary:  I’m extremely picky with contemporary novels.  I like those that deal with death and break-ups.  I prefer the main character to be depressed, insane, or in deep shit for most of the novel.  Think Romeo and Juliet.  I like my contemporary novels to be disturbing on a psychological level.  At no time in the novel do I wish to envy the character’s life – I want them to envy mine.

Christian:  I don’t like to be preached to.  I actually like some of the stories (and music, while we’re on the subject), but I hate it when the story is interrupted so that the reader can receive some moral guidance.  Save the preaching for Church!  I want to read about what happens when we don’t listen to God, not have some author “tell” me I need to.

TL;DR?

It is important to find people who enjoying reading books similar to yours (same genre), particularly when looking for positive reviews.  If they don’t like books like yours, then they probably won’t like your book!


Readers:  What are your genre expectations?

Book Review: The Serpent’s Ring by H.B. Bolton

The Serpent’s Ring (Relics of Mysticus #1) by H.B. Bolton

Publisher:  Self-published

Genre: MG Fantasy

You can buy it on ebook  or paperback on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  More reviews available on Goodreads.

Overall:  I know that it might seem cruel to rate this mediocre when I liked the story so much.  The Serpent’s Ring hit a few pet peeves and if you aren’t bothered by these things, then this could be a 5 star book for you.  I let my 9 year old *nephew* read the first few chapters and he adored the characters and the action.  Now that I’m done reading, he can’t wait to finish.

Firstly, the beginning is slow and it feels like every other fantasy novel.  There’s a couple of kids who get an epic quest, some magical powers, and have to finish it before the world ends.  Another things is that there isn’t much “he said, she said” in this book.  There are quite a few “exclaimed, grunted, yelled, shouted, declared” and so forth.  Besides that, the book is very well written.

Characters:  What I really appreciated about this book was the fact that Evan and Claire had personality and attitude.  A lot of main characters in this age group are timid and follow adults without question, but not these two.  Evan is sarcastic and definitely thinks that he knows what is best for himself – just like a fourteen year old teenager does.  He does hold his tongue on a few occasions in this book, but only when an outburst might be lethal.  He’s blunt but not stupid.  It’s hard to say which sibling acts more mature.  Claire is better at keeping a calm head in stressful situations but she can be such a GIRL! at times.  I like how the two didn’t always get along, yet they knew the other sibling would always be there when needed.

Plot:  Though horribly predictable at first, I liked the twist and pacing after Evan enters the underwater world.  The first few chapters are bogged down with explanations about this magical world and Dr. Irving’s disappearance and connection to the serpent’s ring.  Once the world was established, then this book shined.  I just wish that the beginning was less dialogue and introduction.  The later chapters managed to create a believable and visual world underwater effortlessly.

Ending:  I kind of expected The Serpent’s Ring to end on a cliffhanger and it didn’t.  The plot was wrapped up nicely and there’s little teasers for what to expect in book two.  I was kind of surprised how long the children remained in the world after the plot wrapped up.  Typically in this genre, the honeymoon is over quickly and the kids are shipped back home in the next paragraph.  Not here.  Definitely a different sort of ending then I’m used to and I liked that.

Book Description:

Evan and Claire Jones are typical teenagers, forced to go with their parents to yet another boring museum … that is, until something extraordinary happens to make their day a little more than interesting. After following a strange little creature into a closed exhibit, Evan and his older sister, Claire, discover the Serpent’s Ring, one of the magical relics formed from the shattered Mysticus Orb. Purely by accident, they have awakened its powers and opened a portal to Sagaas, land of ancient gods.

Before the siblings can comprehend what has happened, the Serpent’s Ring is wrenched from Evan’s hand by an enormous bird and flown back to Aegir, the Norse god of the sea. Evan and Claire, accompanied by a band of unlikely heroes, must retrieve the Serpent’s Ring before Aegir uses its immense powers to flood all the lands on Earth.

Rating:  C

Kids and teenagers will love this MG fantasy.

I received a copy of this book from CBB Book Promotions as part of a tour in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

(Picture and information borrowed from Goodreads.)

Currently, Barbara Brooke resides in sunny Florida with her supportive husband, two adorable children, gorgeous greyhounds, and scruffy mutt. She is actively creating new worlds and interesting characters for the next book in one of her series. Shhhh, can you keep a secret? Not only does she write spellbinding, heart-pounding women’s fiction, she also writes books for the young-at-heart, adventurous sort who yearn to dive into a good young adult fantasy story. These particular books are written under the name H.B. Bolton, but that is another story altogether.

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Book Review: The Kindling by Braden Bell

The Kindling by Braden Bell

Publisher: Cedar Fort

Available in ebook or paperback format on July 10th, 2012.

(Some middle of the book spoilers, but not the ending)

I think this is the first book where I feel like it deserves two reviews, written in opposing perspectives.  One for the actual targeted audience of pre-teens and the other for the adults who adore this genre.  So here it goes:

Attention MG students:  (5/5)

This is a fun book to read.  Buy it.  There’s magic, whimsical characters, and a whole lot of kick-ass.  Dr. Timberi is the ringleader in this circus of people defending the Kindled students against the Darkhands.  There are many references to pop culture splattered through the book that will get you giggling.

Attention MG adults: (3/5)

 Certain discrepencies and cliches will drive you bonkers.  There are far too many characters for this book to handle and nearly all the adults are useless and have no depth.  Only Dr. Timberi feels like an actual person.  He’s a pretty cool character and definitely the star.  Also, some of the events aren’t logical.  No matter how magical a universe, if children disappear from their homes on the way home for school, there is zero chance that parents will continue to send their kids to school day after day, particularly when more and more kids disappear each day.  Not going to happen.  Also, if all of your children’s teachers tell Mommy and Daddy that there is an evil man behind these disappearances and only will proper training can they survive…they’re either going to skip town or they’re going to believe the teachers.  Mommy and Daddy aren’t logically going to tell the teachers that they’re full of BS and yet continue to allow their kids to go to that school.

I’d like to warn Braden Bell of a potential PETA picket for managing to euthanize the entire dog population of Nashville, Tennessee in a single sentence.  I’m not quite sure why Fluffy, Fluffy’s family, and all of Fluffy’s friends deserved to die.  But they did.

The plot itself is fairly action pack and fun.  The action scenes are probably my favorite part of the novel, as they feel authentic to what I’d imagine a MG would experience caught in a similar situation.  The author does put the characters in harmful, suspenseful situations, while still keeping the novel PG.  Overall, it is an entertaining story that middle grade students will like.  Adults will find the cracks in this story, but I doubt pre-teens will.

Characters 3/5

Concept 3/5

Pacing 5/5

Grammar 5/5

Ending 5/5

Summary:

All thirteen-year-old Conner Dell wants to do is pass pre-algebra, play lacrosse, and possibly kiss Melanie Stephens. He didn’t mean to set anyone’s gym shorts on fire or make school lunches explode. But now that the strange powers inside him have been ignited, Conner’s normal teenage life is about to go up in flames!

This fast-paced novel is non-stop fun for kids and parents alike. With characters you can’t help but root for, a plot that keeps you guessing, and plenty of humor, it’s a guaranteed thrill ride from cover to cover!

Grade: B

This book will appeal to middle grade students.

If you’re interested in purchasing this book, you can buy it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble on July 10th, 2012.  More reviews are available at Goodreads.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.  (On a side note, my ARC copy had a funny error.  The word “feeling” was replaced by “theeling”…and it cracked me up every time I caught it.  I’m sure it will be fixed in the published edition.  “Anyways, I have a theeling.”  Haha!)

Book Review: Crux by Julie Reece

Crux by Julie Reece

Publisher:  J. Taylor Publishing

Available in ebook or paperback on July 9th, 2012.

I feel guilty for not falling in love with this book.  Perhaps it had something to do with the main character, Birdie.  God, I loved her.  She acted exactly how I would of acted if someone told me that I’d eventually save the souls of her ancestors locked in a curse.  Not just with disbelief, but with sarcasm.  Her narration is both touching and hilarious.  A personality like hers needs to be more prevalent in the YA genre.  Her love interest, Grey, actually acts like a person I could stand being with for more than five minutes.  He has a sincere personality, a troubled past of his own, and although he likes Birdie, he doesn’t follow her stupidly.  I love this dialogue from him to her:

“First of all, not everything’s about you, is it?  You don’t know me, and you sure as hell don’t know my family.  Got that?  You think because we have money, we don’t have problems, or that we don’t know what pain is?  You’ve got a lot to learn about people, Bird.  Your arrogance amazes me.”

His line hit me as a reader.  As much as I hate to admit, I apply stereotypes often to characters in books.  I’m so used to watching characters act the same way book after book when I should be viewing each book with an open mind.  Although the story felt predictable at times, Julie Reece succeeding in creating unique and enjoyable characters.  I can match up the events in this book to other books in its genre, but I can’t find another Birdie and Grey duo.

I liked the beginning of the book and how Birdie gets dragged into this whole mess.  She’s homeless and walking down a street when she thinks she sees her old high school teacher, Jeff.  He ends up making a scene in front of seven people, including Birdie and spills open a briefcase full of money.

Talk about a great opening.

Unfortunately, it felt like the closer I got to the end, the more predictable the plot.  I guessed most of the twists.  The sappy parts bored me.  I was hoping for something more bittersweet or unexpected.  Either.  Both, preferably.  It still was a great book with amazing characters.

Characters 5/5

Concept 4/5

Pacing 5/5

Grammar 5/5

Ending 3/5

Summary:

She should have run. Now, she’ll have to fight.

Eighteen year old Birdie may be homeless, but she’s surviving, that is until a mysterious guy throws money in the air like a crazy game show host, and she grabs some with the idea she’ll be able to buy dinner that night.

In that singular moment, unassuming Birdie becomes the girl in everyone’s viewfinder. Thugs want to kill her. Money-guy wants to recruit her. The very hot, very rich, and very out of her league Grey Mathews wants to save her.

Birdie, though, wants nothing to do with any of them, until she realizes fate didn’t bring them all together.

Her heritage did.

Now, with only twenty-one days left, she’s got to decide whether to follow in the footsteps of those before her or risk her life for people she’s only just met.

Grade: B+

Fans of Fantasy and Young Adult novels will enjoy this book.

If you’re interested in reading this book, check it out at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.  More reviews and information available at Goodreads.

I received a copy of this book for review from J. Taylor Publishing.