June 28, 2013

Book review: Ten by Gretchen McNeil

Buy from Amazon
Buy from B&N

Don't spread the word! Three-day weekend. House party.
White Rock House on Henry Island.
You do not want to miss it.
It was supposed to be the weekend of their lives—three days on Henry Island at an exclusive house party. Best friends Meg and Minnie each have their own reasons for wanting to be there, which involve their school's most eligible bachelor, T. J. Fletcher, and look forward to three glorious days of boys, bonding, and fun-filled luxury.
But what they expect is definitely not what they get, and what starts out as fun turns dark and twisted after the discovery of a DVD with a sinister message: Vengeance is mine.
Suddenly, people are dying, and with a storm raging outside, the teens are cut off from the rest of the world. No electricity, no phones, no internet, and a ferry that isn't scheduled to return for three days. As the deaths become more violent and the teens turn on each other, can Meg find the killer before more people die? Or is the killer closer to her than she could ever imagine?

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Ten has been on my TBR list for a few months, and I finally got around to reading it for the A to Z reading challenge. One thing I have to say about this book is that it keeps up the pace, and I had a hard time putting it down. There's something happening in every chapter, and the book is written in a simple language that makes the story speed by.

The plot itself is fairly standard, taken straight out of a typical teenager horror movie. Even most of the characters are the stereotypes you find in other stories in the genre, complete with their own flavor of high school drama. And like the teens in many horror flicks, I couldn't believe it took so long for the characters in this book to figure out that something bad was happening. If the author had made the characters smarter and focused less on their high school problems, I might have given this book 5 stars.

Despite the criticism, I did enjoy this book and will read others from the author. If you're looking for a fun story that entertains but doesn't challenge you intellectually, Ten will do a pretty good job of that.

I read this book as part of the Authors A to Z reading challenge. Next up: Headhunters by Jo Nesbo.

June 22, 2013

Pet peeves in books I read

As a reader, there are certain things about the books I read that turn me off of them. If a novel has one of these "flaws", I won't like it as much as one without any.

Books that are too long:
I can't recall ever reading a novel of more than 400 pages where I thought every page needed to be there, even when it comes to some of my all time favorites, like the latter books in the Harry Potter series. It's always been the case that I would have enjoyed the book more if it were shorter. (And I'm not the only who thinks recent books are too long.) For me, the sweet spot for the length of a novel is between 300 and 400 pages. That's enough to tell a rich story while keeping it interesting. This is one of the main reasons why I'm not a fan of Stephen King. That guy suffers from a severe case of "diarrhea of the typewriter," as he calls it. Another recent example is The Passage by Justin Cronin. Weighing in at almost 800 pages, I had to wade through 200 of them before anything interesting happened. If not for the rave reviews from readers with similar tastes as mine, I would've stopped reading The Passage by page 100.

Love triangles:
For some reason, love triangles are a staple of young adult novels, which also happens to be my favorite genre to read (and write!). I don't understand why YA authors feel the need to include a love triangle in their books. Is it because they feel that they need to stick to a formula? Honestly, in real life, how many of your romantic relationships involved a love triangle? Maybe I've led a boring life, but a small minority of the ones involving me or my friends have ever included a third person. It's tough enough for two people to get together. Why the need to throw in a third?

Character actions that don't make sense:
Part of this pet peeve has to do with the one above regarding love triangles. When there is a love triangle involving a girl and two boys (which is almost always the case), the girl will choose the bad boy, the mysterious one, rather than the one that I think is best for her. A perfect example of this is Matched by Ally Condie. There was no rational reason for Cassia to even consider Ky over Xander except that there would be no story unless Cassia kept making one decision after another that didn't make sense. I was frustrated with Cassia by the end of the book and don't plan to continue the series.
It's not just with love triangles where a character's actions don't make sense. If a protagonist starts off as being timid and later becomes a hero, there had better be a good reason why she turns into a hero. I can understand when someone has to do something heroic because the situation offers no other choice, or if a character does something heroic because her goal is really something else, but "because I need a hero" is not a good reason for an author to turn Clark Kent into Superman. Better to have the protagonist start off having heroic qualities so that it's more believable.

I'm a firm believer that every book should resolve the major plot lines that it introduced. As a marketing hook, writers are sometimes told to end a book in a series on a cliffhanger so that readers will buy the next book. I think this is cheating and unfair to the reader. I continue reading a series because the first books are so interesting that I want more of the same, not because I have to due to a cliffhanger. If anything, I've stopped reading a series that could have been interesting because the first book ended with a cliffhanger. With cliffhangers, I feel that the author is just resorting to marketing schtick rather than caring about the quality of the story.

As a writer, it would be hypocritical of me to include one of my own pet peeves in my novels. So far, I believe I've managed to avoid them. The closest that I've knowingly come to carrying out a pet peeve was in Beyond New Eden, when I hinted at a possible love triangle. I tried to nip it in the bud when it looked like it was blossoming, and I hope I was successful.

You can continue to look forward to more novels from me that are less than 400 pages, do not have love triangles for the sake of love triangles, where the characters do things that I believe have real motivations, and conclude without a cliffhanger!

June 15, 2013

Book review: Legend by Marie Lu

Buy from Amazon
Buy fromm B&N

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic's wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths - until the day June's brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias's death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Full of nonstop action, suspense, and romance, this novel is sure to move readers as much as it thrills.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

Legend has been on my TBR list for a few months. Looking back, I can't believe I've waited this long to read it. It's probably the best book I've read so far this year!

As a fan of YA dystopian novels, Legend has everything that I want: an exciting (albeit sometimes predictable) plot, characters I connect with, and a dash of romance in a way that makes sense (not the I-don't-get-it relationships or love triangles that I come across too often in YA). The writing is also fantastic and really thrust me into the story. I found myself rooting for Day and June almost from the beginning, even when they were enemies.

This was a book that I couldn't put down once I started reading it. I finished it in two days, which is fast for me. As far as dystopian books go, I'd rank this somewhere in my top 5. I was happy to learn that the second book in the series, Prodigy, is already out, but the third book, Champion, isn't scheduled for release until November. I'm not sure if I want to read Prodigy now because Legend was so awesome or wait until Champion's release in case Prodigy ends on a cliffhanger. Regardless, there's no question that I will continue with this series.

I read this book as part of the Authors A to Z reading challenge. Next up: Ten by Gretchen McNeil.

June 9, 2013

George and the Galactic Games is 99 cents this week!

From now until the end of the week, the Kindle version of George and the Galactic Games will cost only 99 cents on Amazon! Get it while it's on sale!

George is the new kid in school. He also recently lost his father to a heart attack. In an effort to cheer him up, George’s mother takes him on a camping trip. That’s when their troubles really begin. Extraterrestrials abduct both mother and son. Now George finds himself an unwilling participant in the Yumal Contests, a galactic game against an alien species. He must overcome his fears and limitations to win because these games are not just a casual sporting event… his life hangs in the balance.

June 1, 2013

Should I give up?

Every once in a while, I'll read about indie authors considering quitting because their books aren't selling. In some cases, I think it's just a case of unrealistic expectations. IMHO, any author who has just published a first novel and wonders why it hasn't sold a thousand copies in the first week is delusional. On the other hand, there are also authors with multiple books that have been available for years, and their books still aren't selling. Should they quit? That's a tougher question.

I know how they feel because I've entertained the same thoughts recently. My publishing career is still relatively young (about two years), but I now have three novels and two short story collections for sale. I thought that I had somewhat realistic expectations going in, but sales still aren't up to my modest goals or compared to what other indie authors are seeing. Fortunately, I have a full time job and don't need to rely on book sales as my primary source of income. However, my sales results still make me wonder sometimes if I should give up.

Whenever I think about it, however, my answer is no. The simple reason is: I've been writing all of my life, so even if I "quit", what does that mean? I don't see myself not writing anymore. It's just not going to happen. So does quitting mean that I won't publish what I write? Perhaps, but given the ease with which authors can self-publish their books nowadays, I don't see a reason why I wouldn't want to publish a story that I believe is good and that people will want to read. It would be another situation altogether if readers gave my books bad reviews and told me that my writing sucks. Then I would feel bad about putting books out there for public consumption, much less making people pay for them. But the few reviews I've gotten so far have been positive for the most part. My problem doesn't seem to be that I'm writing crap, just that people aren't finding what I write. To me, that isn't a good enough reason to quit. I don't know if enough readers will ever find my books, but it shouldn't stop me from writing them.

For other authors out there who are thinking of quitting, I think the decision boils down to why you started this business in the first place. Is it to make a lot of money? Is it because you have an urge to write? Some other reason? For me, unless I don't want to write anymore, quitting isn't even an option.