Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Smoke Thief

Pages: 292

Yes, I have read this book before (uncountable times). Yes, I greatly enjoy it every single time. Yes, it is a romance (mixed with fantasy, how cool is that?). No, this review is not biased because of any of this. I want to make this perfectly clear. I want and expect my reviews to be truthful, as I'm sure you do too. I work to point out the good as well as the bad. If you think I'm not doing well with this, please tell me.

The story is told well, good word choice, great character portrayal, enthralling plot. Of course, some of the descriptions are kind of gooey (to use my word for descriptions that are almost gag inducing) but it's a romance. Example, pg. 264: She'd wanted him to, even turned her cheek to his-sandalwood, smoothly shaved skin-but he'd only settled back into the other seat when he was done, watching her silently with hooded eyes. This book isn't incredibly gooey as some romances are (not that I've read any others besides this one, they're usually not my thing) but there are still areas of the book that are just dripping with gooeiness. Though, if you think about it, that's why a lot of people read romances, I suppose, so that's not necessarily a bad thing. The only other writing hitch that I found was this. Exhibit A, pg. 190: And with just that, the sight of another drakon with his hand upon her, hard white fingers over the pale shimmer that was Rue, the last scrap of clear will that was Christoff scorched to ash. That's all fine in itself. Now view Exhibit B, pg. 238: And the silky smoke that was Christoff began to gather, dropping to her palm, sliding into a corkscrew down her arm. Notice anything funny there? I did. And if it stuck out to me who knows how many other people caught it. Somebody's editor should have noticed that (have I mentioned that's what I want to be when I'm actually old enough?).

Now, this is a romance. It has sex scenes. That's why it's called a romance (sort of). I have owned this book since I was 10 (let's get any gasps out of the way). You have to understand that with where I live, and with my friends, you have to be careful with things you say. They can turn anything 'bad'. So, things like sex scenes aren't really that big of a deal to me. I hear stuff like that every day, and probably things that are a lot cruder. Of course, they're still a big thing to my parents. I feel weird reading this book around grown-ups sometimes. If you're over, let's say, 16, you may not have this problem but if you're not, I recommend reading it hidden away in your room if you want to thoroughly enjoy it. The sex scenes are written well, a little gooey, but which ones aren't? It makes me feel things and that's what good writing is supposed to do.

It also has a great deal of fantasy. I mean, the main characters are drakon. They can turn into smoke as well as dragons. Their are also plenty of thieves walking around, from Rue, who takes precious jewel items from London's richest families, the other runner (Tamlane Williams) who steals pearls and Mim who helps find buyers for these stolen stones, to Zane, the street urchin. The main conflict is also centered more around the fantasy than the romance. It's a good book for people who love both genres.

Overall, this book is great, in my opinion. It's the beginning of a trilogy that continues with The Dream Thief and The Dragon Queen. I've been fortunate enough to read The Dream Thief though I do not own it and I can't wait to get my hands on The Dragon Queen. Shana Abe is an awesome writer who knows what she's doing.

The next book along the Reading Trail? Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. This is the Treasury of Illustrated Classics edition so I'm fairly sure it's condensed.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

By George, I think I've Got It!

It only took me a whole six days but I've finally figured out what's going to happen in Chapter Four. Are you ready for this? I'm going to introduce Richard and Redstone into the story. It's a little early but I think I have a way to make it work. It's a great plan for taking only six days, don't you think? (Sometimes I wish there was a sarcastic button built into the keyboard.)

I'm going to have to seriously work on Redstone. I need to work on his character, then I have to work on portraying it more. His appearance is also going to change quite drastically. He will no longer be a 'little person' and he's going to be about 10-20 years younger.

I'm being kind of weird about starting Chapter Four. I'm deliberating between writing on the computer or in my notebook. I feel like doing both but also don't. Does that make sense? I think it does. I'll figure it out soon. I have my Word document pulled up and my notebook out so I guess we'll just see which one I just happen to start writing on/in. Here's to hoping my muse chooses soon.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Haunting of Derek Stone: The Red House & The Ghost Road

Pages: 282

Yet again, this book is two books in one and, yet again, I have read this book before. Most of the books I'm going to review during the Reading Trail I have read. With some of them it's been a while and with some of them it's been forever since I've read them. A few of them will be new to me. It all just depends.

I would have to start out by saying that The Haunting of Derek Stone: The Red House & The Ghost Road was much better than The Haunting of Derek Stone: City of the Dead & Bayou Dogs. The writing quality was much improved and the story was portrayed nicely. Most of the problems from the last book were barely evident if at all. Again the book started out telling what was going to happen but in a much less subtle way. It started with a scene from later in the book then went back and explained it. This is a writing technique I haven't tried yet but it seems to work for quite a few people. The scenes were all spaced out just right except for fighting scenes, where the narrator (or Derek) was slightly confused and it was portraying the scenes as he saw or remembered them. Everything that happened in this book made sense. Well, as much sense a a book about dead souls taking over bodies can make.

You learn a lot more about Derek's personality. For instance on page 261: "This isn't going to kill us, is it?" Abby asked when I lowered the hatch over us and shut it tight.  "You bet it will," I said. No laugh? Fine. At least she was there. Throughout the book he says things like this, joking in times of stress. I find it strange that the author is showing more of Derek's personality when he has just found out that really he is one of the 'translated' dead, Ulysses Longtemps. I guess it's just a case of poetic irony. I wonder if the author (Tony Abbott) even realizes that's what he did.

The ending of the series was pretty standard. Though it ended like a lot of the Syfy movies I watch with my Papa. You know it's over but they still leave something just in case they decide to make another one. And it's just enough to make you think. At the end of this book the First escapes (pg. 280) leaving you to wonder if he's going to open the Wound again or still attempt to go after Derek. K still has the book (pg. 216) leaving you to wonder if he has some own personal reason to want it (maybe I should start posting spoiler alerts at the beginning of these). Who knows? No one but Tony Abbott, most likely.

Overall, I would recommend this book (if you like things like zombies and ghosts), though you'd have to read the first one to understand everything that's going on. You'll appreciate how the author's writing gets better and how the story progresses. The character's are lively not flat or dull. It may not be the best thing you've ever read but it still may be a great way to escape your real life and problems for the ones of Derek Stone.

The next book along the Reading Trail? The Smoke Thief by Shana Abe (oooh, a romance).

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Three Down (Er... Up)

Yesterday, I finished chapter three (Be Very Careful) of my rewrite. I've been writing a little bit of it everyday and now I'm one step closer to that first ledge. I'm not too sure if the ending is as strong as I would like it to be but when I reread it, nothing stands out as truly terrible or even close. If something needs to be changed, well that's what editors are for right? (If I ever have the honor of getting one, that is.) With the completion of this chapter, my rewrite now stands at 3,309 words. I'm so proud. XD

I'm thinking about posting the ending just to get some opinions on it (that is, if anyone besides my friends on Neo actually reads this). I'm trying to decide between that and a section from one of the other two chapters. But then again, this post is devoted to Chapter Three. I guess that settles it then.

“He hasn’t done anything wrong!”

Shouting in the next room jerked Tilo awake. He groaned and pulled the covers over his head.

“Not yet, he hasn’t. But he’s going to. And soon. You know the details of Temp’s vision just like the rest of us.” The voice that replied was calmer and Tilo recognized it instantly. Thorn. Tilo frowned. What was Thorn doing here in the middle of the night? And what was he fighting with his mother about? Pulling the covers off his head, he turned to hear better.

“But maybe it changed. Maybe it’s not going to happen anymore. Temp himself is always saying how the future is not set in stone. He hasn’t done anything to suggest he would run to the humans and turn traitor.” The desperation rang clearly through his mother’s voice. Tilo could feel his rage burning. Thorn had no right to do this to his mother! Who was this he they were talking about anyway?

“Tilo hasn’t done anything to suggest he won’t either. We can’t be too careful. What if he figures out a way to let the humans come here? You know we can’t let that happen. I’m just suggesting we keep him under watch. He doesn’t even have to know. Why are you getting so upset?” Thorn’s deep voice made everything seem even quieter after he stopped talking.

Him? They thought he was going to turn to the humans? What had Thorn said? Something about one of Temp’s visions? A million questions started flying through his head. What was he going to do? Could he even do anything? The room started spinning. He squeezed his eyes tight. He waited to hear his mother’s reply. She would set Thorn straight. He shouldn’t be worrying.

The silence dragged out. Why didn’t she say something? What was she waiting for? Finally, the sound of a long drawn out sigh drifted into his room. “He doesn’t have to know?”

Thorn confirmed his mother’s betrayal, “He doesn’t have to know.”

Long after the front door clicked shut, Tilo stared into the dark, thinking. Planning was a better word. He didn’t think he could act normal when he knew someone was watching him. They would definitely find him if he went anywhere in Syng. The only solution was going through the tunnel. They were all so worried about him sneaking off to the humans, he wondered how they would feel if they knew they had driven him to it.

He didn’t feel good about his decision but what else was he to do? He curled up into a ball and tried to go back to sleep. He would need every ounce of energy during his escape. His eyes were closing and his mind was going fuzzy when the bird started to sing, “Be very careful with the games you play.”

Would this keep you reading? Would it make you throw away the story in disgust? Somewhere in between? I really want to know. Need to know. If my story's not interesting, I'll never get that editor and I'll be stuck on the first ledge for the rest of my life (though if you think about it, if it's not interesting it's not worth reading so I wouldn't even be at the first ledge).

For the next chapter I'm planning to switch over to Cassie. I don't know exactly what I'm going to write about. It's too early for Tilo to show up. I need to think about it. Here's to hoping I figure it out soon.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Haunting of Derek Stone: City of the Dead & Bayou Dogs

Pages: 255

The first thing I should probably mention is that The Haunting of Derek Stone: City of the Dead & Bayou Dogs is actually two books in one. They don't all come that way but my copy did. That's why I put the & sign in there. To make it a little more clear. I should also point out that I've read this story before. I know what happens. I just reread it for the sake of an accurate review and for the sake of the Reading Trail, reading to help me write.

The book is written in first person. Nothing wrong with that, though I have a hard time writing this way (I'll explain this more some other time). What does bug me is the way the main character tells the story. Not as if it's happening right then or they're telling you about what happened but making obvious hints about what happens next, or what will happen later in the story. No, this book, at the beginning anyway, clearly states what happens next. Not my favorite kind of first person. Don't quite get what I mean? Here's a direct line from the story as written on page 2: My father is... was... a nut about vintage railroad stock, the kind that rumbled through our state until about thirty years ago. It clearly shows that his father is going to die. After the introduction though, the narrator (or Derek) doesn't really talk like that anymore. Unless he's pointing out things in his story that don't really matter. Example, pg. 198: But that was the old Derek thinking. A banged-up car would mean less than nothing in a war against the dead. So skip it. Keep going. There are lots of places in the story where he says things like this. If the author thought it didn't matter, why bother putting it in the story?

The story is also fast-paced. Not in an action-packed way, like something major is happening every moment. It's more like the scenes are switching into each other too quickly. It's like you're in one scene then suddenly you're in another with barely any recognition to the fact. The whole book isn't like that but large pieces of it are. The scenes just sort of melt into each other, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but isn't necessarily a good one either.

Some of the things that happen don't make sense. They would never happen that way in real life. Like how Big Bob Lemon just randomly shows up. This happens twice. Once when Derek and his dad are on the streetcar fighting the dead (pg. 125-126) and once when Derek and Ronny are hiding in an old building from the dead (pg. 153). This eighty-year-old man just happened to be wherever they needed him to be when there was trouble? I don't think so. Another thing that did a slight possibility of really happening, but most likely wouldn't have, was how Bonton pulled out the envelope with the picture in it out of his boot just as he was dying (p. 251). I mean, this guy works in a bayou. Do you think he would be carrying something around in his boot that could be water damaged? No, he wouldn't. Now, there is a possibility that since he knew Derek was coming, he could have put it in his boot to make sure he had it with him to give to Derek. But then why didn't he give it to him earlier when they were in the shack (pg. 216-220)? I know this book is fiction but it still has to make some sense.

Overall, the book wasn't bad. The plot is actually pretty interesting and interwoven. The writing style just needs some work. I won't say I'm eager to read the next one since I already have and know what happens. I also won't say I was overjoyed with this book because it got kind of tedious to read. I will say that I am going to read the next one and that I am happy to be accomplishing something.

The next book along the Reading Trail? The Haunting of Derek Stone: The Red House & The Ghost Road by Tony Abbott.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Lullaby

Yesterday, I mentioned the novel I am currently rewriting and how my first ledge (or goal) would be making it worth reading. Today, I finished rewriting an important aspect of my novel, the thing my novel is named after and centered around. I want to post it here, the rewrite as well as the original, so maybe you'll be able to determine for yourself whether I'm getting better or not. But before we get into that I want to tell you a little about my novel.

The title is The Lullaby. It is the first novel I have ever completed and my first NaNo novel. The first draft was completed at 30,236 words. Not a full NaNo novel but good enough for a 12-year-old participating in the YWP (this year I'm going for the full thing). It's mostly YA fantasy, I guess, though there's a little bit of realistic fiction in there. Weird combination, I know, but those are my two favorite things to read so it makes sense if you think about it. The original novel was set in 1914 in London but I don't think I pulled it off well so now it's set in modern times in New York City. I even found this cool tunnel for them to live in that really did exist. The new setting is working much better for me

The plot is kind of hard to describe. Most writers know theirs inside and out and I do but it's hard for me to talk about. I hate when people ask me about it. But basically, it's about a young Giant named Tilo from a sort-of-alternate-universe called Syng who comes into our world. He meets a group of homeless kids on the London streets. Not realizing what it will do, he sings a lullaby to some of them that his mother used to sing to him. It ends up changing them genetically so that they can do things that humans normally can't. There's a few major side plots but that's the main story.

You may have guessed by the title that the major aspect I rewrote today was the lullaby that Tilo sings. I actually really enjoy writing poetry, I run a whole site dedicated to it hosted by Neopets. (I may set up a page for my poetry on this blog as well, my top bar looks kind of empty.) Now prepare yourself to see a major difference between the before and after.


Far far away
There is a land
Not so lovely made
Where humans roam
Laying down the earth’s tomb
But you my love
Are safe right here
To the ones you love always near


Do you hear?
The sound
Of chipmunks chattering
In your ear

Do you see?
The sight
Of future happenings
Between you and me

If you do
Which you may
Be very careful
With the games
You play

You can see the improvement (I hope!) and differences, in subject, length, and form. The first version is about how humans are wrecking their world but the Giants are safe in Syng. The second version is about the Giants' magic and how Tilo's special kind of magic hasn't been discovered yet. I've been singing the rewrite to myself all day, something I never did with the original. I'm hoping that means it's much better as a lullaby.

I didn't do any better with time, I think this post may have actually taken me longer. I'm feeling positive about my blogging so I guess it's worth it. I'm about half way through The Haunting of Derek Stone: City of the Dead & Bayou Dogs. Here's to hoping I can post my first review tomorrow.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

At the Bottom

Everyone has to start somewhere. Your first step onto the mountain doesn't bring you directly to the top. The first word of a novel doesn't bring you straight to the end. Most people don't think about the process of climbing the mountain when they hear someone's finally made it to the top. They don't think about how hard it was to write that story when they're looking at the finished product. But there is a process and it is hard.

Unfortunately, I'm at the bottom of the mountain. Fortunately, I'm prepared to climb. I know what needs to be done and I'm pretty sure I have all the tools to do it. I know good writing from bad, amazing plots from the not-so-amazing ones. A pretty large vocabulary from years of reading resides in my head. I even have a completed novel (though that's currently undergoing a huge rewrite, I'm talking the size of the Sun) and a few more okay ideas. I'm lucky enough to have supportive friends and family and the NaNo site when I need real help and suggestions. Here's to hoping it's enough.

My current goal is to get this novel polished enough to actually be worth reading, by an agent, an editor, or just my neighbors. Let me tell you, that's going to require a lot of work and time. The main idea and plot isn't too bad, I suppose, but the writing is pretty much garbage. The reason I'm doing a complete rewrite. It's not going too bad but I have a long way to go. We'll call that my first ledge, shall we?

During this section of the climb, I'm also going to be reading through all 415 of my books. I'm calling it the Reading Trail, training for the climb. I know now is probably not a good time to decide to go on a reading extravaganza but I'm hoping it'll help me relax when I get stressed over getting it just right and show me that if I work hard enough I could be holding my own book, if not soon then someday. I have a list of my books set up on my computer in alphabetical order by the author's last name and the first book on my list is: The Haunting of Derek Stone: City of the Dead & Bayou Dogs by Tony Abbott. I'm going to be posting reviews of the books I read on this blog as well as how my rewriting is going. Here's to hoping I'll have lots to talk about.

I think it's taken me thirty minutes to write this post. XD The result is pretty good though. Wish me luck on narrowing down that time. I'm going to need as much of it as I can get. Now, I'm off to explore the different ways to edit my blog.