February 23, 2014

Book review: Duma Key by Stephen King

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Six months after a crane crushes his pickup truck and his body self-made millionaire Edgar Freemantle launches into a new life. His wife asked for a divorce after he stabbed her with a plastic knife and tried to strangle her one-handed (he lost his arm and for a time his rational brain in the accident). He divides his wealth into four equal parts for his wife, his two daughters, himself and leaves Minnesota for Duma Key, a stunningly beautiful, eerily remote stretch of the Florida coast where he has rented a house. All of the land on Duma Key, and the few houses, are owned by Elizabeth Eastlake, an octogenarian whose tragic and mysterious past unfolds perilously. When Edgar begins to paint, his formidable talent seems to come from someplace outside him, and the paintings, many of them, have a power that cannot be controlled.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

For my "Read a Chunkster" selection in the Reading Outside the Box challenge, where I have to read a book of at least 600 pages, I thought it appropriate to pick a novel from an author who I consider to be a king (pun intended) of verbosity: Stephen King. It's no secret to readers of this blog that I'm not a big fan of Stephen King's novels, but I wanted to give them another try. I asked King fans which book they considered to be their favorite, and the title most often recommended was Duma Key.

The premise of Duma Key was interesting enough. Edgar Freemantle suffered a construction site accident that took his right arm and affected his mind in such a way that he can paint pictures that exhibit magical powers. If the story focused on this plot line, it could have been a very interesting book. Instead, King lost me in pages and pages of details about Edgar's life that I had no interest in. Therein lies my problem with long books. There's nothing wrong with a long book as long as all of the scenes need to be there, but in this case, I could do without about a third of the book. I don't need to know what Edgar does everyday. Just give me the important points. Some people might call it character development, but I call it boring. Besides, shouldn't a good author be able to develop his main character without resorting to over 600 pages?

While the second half of the novel was better than the first, the last 100 pages dragged on again more than I liked. In the end, Duma Key was a so-so novel that could have been better if it was shorter.

February 16, 2014

Snuggle Up and Read Giveaway

With a brutal winter hitting many parts of North America this season, what better way to escape the weather than with a book? Now you can win one as part of the Snuggle Up and Read Giveaway! Eight YA authors joined together to give away books to keep you warm during the winter season. The contest is open until Saturday, February 22, and there will be FOURTEEN winners in all!

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February 8, 2014

On not selling much

I don't sell many books, and I'm not afraid to admit it. Sure, I'd love to become the next Amanda Hocking, Joe Konrath, or Hugh Howey, but I realize that just because you publish a book doesn't mean readers will snap it up. What surprised me, however, was learning just how many other authors see the same meager sales figures as I do. It's natural for the stories that you read about indie authors to only focus on the successful ones. Stories like mine don't sell newspapers get eyeballs to websites. Even in author communities like KBoards, you hear a lot about the successful authors and how much they're selling, or new authors bemoaning that they only sold 100 copies of their first book in the first month.

So I felt a bit of relief when I ran across a post on KBoards last week titled "It's normal not to sell a lot." It was nice to see that others were in the same boat as me (and that boat would be the S.S. Don't-Sell-a-Lot), although I wouldn't have minded being in the boat by myself all that much. Like me, many other writers do it because they enjoy writing, and just having books published and read is an accomplishment in itself.

Then, to my surprise, none other than Hugh Howey weighed in on the topic by expressing the same sentiment as me. This is an author who's sold over a million books, and he's telling us that he derives joy from the act of making his book available to the public, regardless of whether it sells. (In his case, it most likely will.) The end of his post summarizes what I believe. Given that most books don't sell, will your reaction be to give up in frustration or to continue on with your next book because you enjoy the process of writing and publishing? You know where I stand. :-)

February 1, 2014

Book review: Beautiful Creatures (The Manga) by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

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In crisp black and white manga pictures, Ethan Wate narrates his dreams, haunted an unreachable raven-haired beauty. When she moves into the small Southern town Blackwood mansion of her protective Uncle Macon, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her. As her 16th birthday nears, Lena must choose - or will the family curse choose for her?

There were no surprises in Gatlin County .. the middle of nowhere.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
There was a curse.
There was a girl.
And in the end, there was a grave.

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

Beautiful Creatures is a book that I've heard lots of good things about, but from reading the description, I didn't know if it was really for me. The fact that it's over 500 pages long also made me hesitate putting in the effort to read it, so when I found a graphic novel version of the book, it sounded like a great way to try out the story without too much investment and also check off a box for my Reading Outside the Box challenge.

It's a good thing I did. If the graphic novel was a faithful adaptation of the book, I would've suffered through the 500+ pages. The story wasn't for me. The relationship between Ethan and Lena didn't make much sense to me, and too much time was spent on their relationship rather than on the world of magic that Lena came from, which was the interesting part of the book.

The graphic novel itself was OK. I got confused a few times during scene transitions, like when they first received their vision of the past. It took me a while to understand what was happening. However, I think I would've liked reading the book even less. Overall, a mediocre rating for Beautiful Creatures (The Manga).