February 27, 2013

Book review: The Kill Order by James Dashner

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Before WICKED was formed, before the Glade was built, before Thomas entered the Maze, sun flares hit the earth and mankind fell to disease.

Mark and Trina were there when it happened, and they survived. But surviving the sun flares was easy compared to what came next.

Now a disease of rage and lunacy races across the eastern United States, and there’s something suspicious about its origin. Worse yet, it’s mutating, and all evidence suggests that it will bring humanity to its knees.

Mark and Trina are convinced there’s a way to save those left living from descending into madness. And they’re determined to find it—if they can stay alive. Because in this new, devastated world, every life has a price. And to some, you’re worth more dead than alive.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

The Kill Order is a prequel to The Maze Runner series. It takes place before the Maze was built, shortly after the sun flares scorched the planet. I liked the Maze Runner books but felt that the series ended on a low note because the last book in the trilogy, The Death Cure, didn't answer the important questions satisfactorily (like why did they choose to build the Maze when there were easier ways to accomplish what they wanted to?) and it was also only a so-so book overall. I hoped The Kill Order would complete the task that The Death Cure didn't.

I was disappointed. This book offered few additional answers to the questions I had. It read more like a new adventure that takes place in the same universe as The Maze Runner. The other problem I had was that I didn't particularly care for the main character, Mark. He seemed like a weak, childish protagonist. Not to spoil too much of the plot, but if what happened to Trina in the second half of the book had happened to Mark instead, I doubt that I'd care about the outcome. It's too bad that Dashner didn't devote more words to Trina instead. On the other hand, the story itself wasn't boring. The plot took me through many twists and turns, albeit predictable at times and hard to believe at others.

I wish Dashner had used The Kill Order to tie up more of the loose ends that he left after The Death Cure. I don't know if this book is the start of a new series or if it's meant as a standalone book. If you loved The Maze Runner trilogy and can't get more of that universe, then this book is for you. Otherwise, I recommend that you pass on it.

I read this book as part of the Authors A to Z reading challenge. Next up: Angelfall by Susan Ee.

February 22, 2013

Free short story collections!

My two short story collections, Numbers Plus Four and With Five You Get Fortune Cookies, will be FREE for the next 5 days on Amazon!

This is a great opportunity to sample some of my writing without having to pay or to read an entire novel. However, unlike my MG/YA novels, these short stories are for grownups. There's nothing raunchy in them, but they may be a little scary for younger readers.

This free promotion will run until Feb 26.

February 16, 2013

Just when I thought I could write

It's natural for writers to have doubts. When I read what I've written, I sometimes think that what I wrote is brilliant and sometimes I think it's crap. The funny thing is, I'll think the same thing about the same passage, depending on when I read it.

With my latest book, I thought that I did a pretty good job overall. It was no Hunger Games, but I thought it was the best novel I'd written to date and maybe even better than at least half of the traditionally published books I read. I thought I finally had a handle on this whole writing thing.

Then I heard back from my proofreaders. I received more feedback on areas to improve with this manuscript than any other that I've written before. At first, I was bummed out. How could I have been so wrong about the quality of my book? Then I was in denial. They just didn't get what I was writing. The fault couldn't possibly be with me. Then after a couple of days of ignoring the manuscript, I examined every criticism and realized that almost all of them were valid. I've been editing my book again as a result, and I think it's even better now than before. I'm determined to make this the best book I've ever published, and I hope the readers who read the finished product will agree.

February 10, 2013

Book review: Die Trying by Lee Child

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When a woman is kidnapped off a Chicago street in broad daylight, Jack Reacher’s in the wrong place at the wrong time. He’s kidnapped with her. Chained together and racing across America toward an unknown destination, they’re at the mercy of a group of men demanding an impossible ransom. Because Reacher’s female companion is worth more than he imagines. Now he has to save them both—from the inside out—or die trying…

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

Last year, I read the first Jack Reacher novel, Killing Floor, and  thoroughly enjoyed it. It'd been a long time since I found a new thriller that I liked so much, and now I plan to read the rest of the books in the series. Die Trying is the second Jack Reacher book, and it's as good as the first.

As a protagonist, Jack Reacher reminds me a little of Dirk Pitt from the Clive Cussler novels, before Pitt became a caricature and Clive started adding himself to his books. He's infinitely capable but is low-key about it. He's like a bomb that's harmless if you leave alone but will do a lot of damage if you mess around with him.

Like Killing Floor, Die Trying is written concisely with short sentences, lending to the plot's already fast pace. I found myself absorbed in the book for long stretches at a time without being aware that an hour had passed. (Yes, reading uninterrupted for an hour is a long time for me, but that's another discussion.)

For those who are sensitive to violence, this book probably isn't for you. Or if you're the type who tends to criticize how unbelievable the things that a Dirk Pitt or a James Bond can do, then you'll find fault with this novel too. I, for one, am happy to suspend my belief for these types of stories, so I thought it was a very entertaining book.

I read this book as part of the Authors A to Z reading challenge. Next up: The Kill Order by James Dashner.

February 6, 2013

Edits done on third novel

I'm done with the rounds of self-editing that I plan to make on my latest novel! It was probably a combination of thinking the manuscript was in good shape and my getting sick and tired of editing that made me stop. Seriously, although I enjoy writing, I don't like the editing process. Besides, based on my experience with my previous books, I've found that each subsequent round of editing leads to diminishing returns because any major flaws that I'm able to find on my own have been found by the second or third round of edits. Now it's time to hand the manuscript off to proofreaders and let other pairs of eyes go over it. So I've got a little bit of a break to work on something else before it's time to revisit this story again. There are already a couple of short stories I've been wanting to write but haven't had time to. Now I get to play, in the writing sense, of course.

February 2, 2013

Book review: Outpost by Ann Aguirre

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Deuce’s whole world has changed. Down below, she was considered an adult. Now, topside in a town called Salvation, she’s a brat in need of training in the eyes of the townsfolk. She doesn’t fit in with the other girls: Deuce only knows how to fight.

To make matters worse, her Hunter partner, Fade, keeps Deuce at a distance. Her feelings for Fade haven’t changed, but he seems not to want her around anymore. Confused and lonely, she starts looking for a way out.

Deuce signs up to serve in the summer patrols—those who make sure the planters can work the fields without danger. It should be routine, but things have been changing on the surface, just as they did below ground. The Freaks have grown smarter. They’re watching. Waiting. Planning. The monsters don’t intend to let Salvation survive, and it may take a girl like Deuce to turn back the tide.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

Outpost is the sequel to Enclave, a novel I read last year. I gave Enclave 5 stars, but Outpost is even better!

Whereas the first book focused on Deuce's journey topside and was more of an awakening in terms of her experiencing new external environments, this book explores Deuce's internal awakening as a person. Once considered a grownup and a Huntress, in the beginning of Outpost, most of the other characters view Deuce as a child who doesn't fit in. As she learns to find her place in Salvation, she also learns what her relationship to Fade means.

Ann Aguirre does a wonderful job of mixing action with character development. There are happy events and tragedies, and both ends of the spectrum are written effectively. There is also the dreaded love triangle, but even that is handled better than in many other YA books I've read.

It's hard to say more about this novel without spoiling the details, but let's just say that I was sad when the book ended. I can't wait for book 3!