Sunday, January 31, 2010

Book Review: The Reformed Vampire Support Group

The Reformed Vampire Support Group

By: Catherine Jinks

Book Review by: K. Carson

Blurb: Nina Harrison became a vampire in 1973, when she was fifteen, and she hasn't aged a day since then. But she hasn't had any fun, either; she still lives with her mum, and the highlight of her sickly, couchbound life is probably her Tuesday-night group meeting, which she spends with a miserable bunch of fellow sufferers, being lectured at.

But then one of the group is mysteriously turned to ashes . . . and suddenly they're all under threat. That's when Nina decides to prove that every vampire on earth isn't a weak, pathetic loser. Along with her friend Dave, she hunts down the culprit ─ and soon finds herself up against some gun-toting werewolf traffickers who'll stop at nothing.

Can a bunch of feeble couch potatoes win a fight like this? Is there more to your average vampire than meets the eye?

Characters: Jinks' characters were well contructed, especially the main characters, but often they seem just too damn submissive. I get that Jinks is trying to form characters that seem weak but are brave enough to overcome it, and by the middle of the book our protagonist Nina does that very well. But by that point we are reintroduced to the other characters who lack Nina's growth, and it just becomes dull. It's actually frustrating because Nina won't, rather can't, do anythign without the consent of these characters, and all they want to do is complain. It made the book just a little bit harder to get through. Oh, wait, and can we talk about contradictory? There were times where I stopped and literally asked what Catherine was thinking. Mostly due to her antagonists, in an attempt, I believe, to bring them all to a happy ending. Some of the characters were really well constructed, but others were very poor. Very contrasting.

I decree: 2/5

Plot: I liked the plot. I really liked the idea here, and this is probably why I stuck with the book so long. The flow of the plot works quite well and kept me guessing. Jinks covers all her plot holes quite well. There were a few nitpicky things that I had about it, but all in all each event poured from the previous, made sense, and really ept me guessing.

I decree: 4/5

Fundimentals: THIS is what pissed me off about this book. I probably would/'ve loved this book if it was just written better. First, Jinks switches tenses quite a bit and in the first chapter she canges POV. I'm exceedingly strict with my POV, and the fact that Jinks switches because "Nina is writing a memoir about everything that happened and she wants to make it more her style." Not to mention that Jinks utilizes first person POV as an excuse to tell. It got to parts where I was rolling my eyes and wondering when she would just show me what was going me on instead of telling me.

I decree: 2/5

Overall: I enjoyed the story, and some of the characters bothered me as well as her incesant telling, but the story wasn't bad. I will probably never pick up another of Jinks' books though, just based solely on her writing style.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Greats and Greatness

As some of you may already know, J.D. Salinger has passed away at the ripe old age of 91.

Most of you may know Salinger from Catcher in the Rye. Who doesn't know the infamous story of Holden Caufield, who believes the world is full of phonies and never wishes to grow up? Most of us read the story in school, where we were introduced to other classics such as 1984 and the works of William Shakespeare.

I did not like Catcher in the Rye. I didn't like the way it was done, I didn't like Salinger's narrative style, I didn't like Holden Caufield and as a plot driven writer I couldn't stand the fact that Holden, although he had many conflicts, never had a real solid plot.

Does that mean I didn't understand the themes Salinger was trying to present? No. Does it mean that since I don't apprecate this classic that I'm a bumbling fool? No.

I think the term of being a great writer is often thrown around. What constitues a great writer? I consider Shakespeare to be one of the "greats" because I adore his work. I have a friend who will fight tooth and nail about this because he does not believe that Shakespeare is a great. He believes that Shakepeare's work is outdated and like "trying to eat plastic." He's very intelligent and has read and understood Shakespeare, but it doesn't resonate with him.

So what constitues greatness?

Some will argue that Meg Cabot is One of the Greats, not J.D. Salinger. I consider James Patterson a hack, but a lot of peopel worship him.

Again, where does it all lie. Does greatness involve the amount of people who enjoy your story? Does that make Stephanie Meyer great despite the amount of people who hate her? And what about enjoying a story, when you find a book you absolutely love, does that make that author one of the Greats?

I think the answer to most of these questions is no. When you enjoy a book, you praise the book, but you don't hoist that author up on a pedistol and proclaim them as the greatest author of all times. And I think many acedemics would argue that SM is not a great author.

So what is it that constitues greatness? Is it lasting power? The loner people appreciate your work the longer you are considered a great writer?

No. It's what rings true with you. It's what resonates with the very pit of your soul.

Salinger's story resonated with so many people across fifty years. In the instance of Holden Caufield, it made them feel like they weren't alone. There was someone else out there who felt the same loneliness and depression, who felt that everyone around them was fake, who felt lost in a sea of actions or moments that didn't seem to string together to create an overarching theme or meaning.

But for me? It was just a whiny little kid who needed to stop being such a baby and actually do something.

Hamlet rang through with me. Here was another whiny kid who wouldn't take action, and yet I identified with him more than I did Holden. Why? What makes that resonance? What makes a reader feel that appreciation for a character and make them buzz with excitement? This goes beyound making a character sympathetic. This is about making him so real, so very powerful that a reader will actually ache to be that person or help them.

I think for someone to achieve greatness, they have to summon that resonation within so many people so it begins to grow until it become an orchestra of sound. They have to make something beautiful.

RIP J.D. Salinger. Whether you are truly a great, you did contribute something truly wonderful to a world you despised so much.



Thursday, January 21, 2010

Book Trailers

Frankly, I'm a huge fan of book trailers. I know there are a lot of others out there who don't like the idea of making a trailer for a book/don't think the marketing will work. Based on the arguements I've seen, there are three things that keep coming up: this form of marketing won't appeal to book readers, you can't get a good taste of the writing through a trailer and it's making people think of books in movie format.

Honestly, I think marketing will always be forced to change with the society. Marketing has to appeal to the consumer. I still think that one of the best way to get a message across is through advertizing on TV, but coming up second is advertizing on the internet. A lot of teenagers in North America spent a great deal of time on the internet, on Facebook, on Youtube. Musicians are getting record deals off of Youtube and Myspace. Hollywood is paying to have their movie trailers featured on youtube. This is the direction that the world is going and marketing is following along like the good little dog it is.

There's nothing wrong with marketing a book. I'm sick of seeing would-be authors talk about how writing is an art form and an author shouldn't be concerned with making money. Yeah, writing is an art, but publishing is a business. If you talk to successful authors, (And I mean people who've published a few books, not Stephen King... although I'm sure he'd agree) then it's not about art. You're selling a product. You have to be able to deliver on deadlines and do your job even if you've got "writer's block." Authors are encouraged by agents and publishing houses to get out there, make a name for yourself. Nothing sells a book more than that name on the cover. People eat up Stephen King and James Patterson, no matter what they seem to write. Nothing will sell you better once you've established that solid foundation.

And just to clear this up now, authors are artists, but they should also be businessmen. And like businessmen, they have to enjoy what they're doing. Everyone should love their job. I think writers should more so because they may not make a big enough paycheck to satisfy that urge.

We're not all going to make Stephen King's paycheck. So? We've still got to market ourselves. We've still got to sell ourselves. One way is to get out to those stores and sign, sign, sign those books. Shake hands. Kiss babies. Whatever. Just market yourself. A good way to do that is to make a book trailer. Spend a few hours on movie maker. Take your time, make it look good. Then shove it up on youtube. Marketing isn't just about seeing one thing, but generating an interst. If someone keeps hearing an author's name, they're more likely to go to the bookstore to see what the big fuss is about. Keep a website, blog, and grab a camera and have some fun. Generate an interest out there.

Now, the idea that you can't tell a writer's ability from a book trailer is true. Sure, there may be quotes or passages, but that still doesn't say much. But let me ask you, can you tell a writer's ability from an interview? Or from Amazon? No. But together it generates that interest. It may make a reader pick up that book in a store and see if they like the writing. Like I said, marketing is not about one thing, it's about a lot of things.

And as for making people think of book in movie format, well, people have always thought as books as movies. How many times have you caught a friend who doesn't read much say, "Hey! This book would make such a good movie?" And personally, I'm a fan of seeing books adapted into films. It's a completely different setting and I like seeing the way directors interperate each text. Sometimes it's horrible, sometimes not. I do not believe in any sense that these book trailer will make books themselves seem less appealing than movies. On the contrary, I think this will make heavy movie-goers more likely to pick up a book.

But that's just my opinion. Honestly? Book publishers are trying it out as well, and that's a definite sign that publishers think they're worth the time and money. From a homemade trailer or go for something more professional they're fun and informative. I really can't see the harm in them.

Of course, book trailers are still developing, and they may change over time. But as they stand, I doubt they're going away anytime soon.



Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Book Review: Three Days to Dead

Three Days to Dead

By: Kelly Meding

Book Review by: K. Carson

Plot: Honestly, I was surprised by how unimpressed I was by this plot. It had such an interesting premise, a Dreg hunter is killed and resurected by her Handler/would be lover and has three days to solve her own murder. But sadly, a lot of the plot twists in this book were sadly predictable. There was nothing wrong with them, but nothing took me by surprise. It was rather average. The thing that mostly bothered me, however, was the confusion the entire way through the book. Everything seemed to be disproved, making it very difficult to understand what was going on. It frustrated me. Of course, it kept me reading, so I guess that says something, doesn't it? Also, I felt there was an unneeded amount of death in this book. Characters we didn't know were dying, so when important characters did die it was dull and on multiple occasions I rolled my eyes. It seemed that when a character became unnecessary they died.

I decree; 3/5

Characters: I'd like to say that I grew attached to the characters, but I really didn't. They were the typical kickass fantasy heroine and her sidekick lover. They were well built characters, but I didn't find myself growing attached to them at all. Not in the least. I think this is what made this read so much harder for me. The only character I had an interest in was nearly killed off, brought back, and then killed off and brought back again. Also, I had a slight interest in her villian, which I thinkshould have had a bigger role. He was killed off too quickly for an interesting villian with an interesting power.

I decree: 3/5

Fundimentals: I did notice a few mistakes that made me pause and re-read, but it was not a poorly constructed book. Things made sense in the order that they appeared and there was nothing that threw me off too terribly. (except that it was written in first person, but hey, I can forgive my grievances)

I decree: 4/5

Overall: It wasn't a terrible book, and I'll probably read more of Meding's work, but I just found this book to be horribly... ordinary. Nothing made it stand out to me, which was really too bad.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Dream Agents

I think this is a pretty popular sets of words in the writer world. Every querying writer has an agent they wish would rep them. There's a million different reasons why a writer may want that agent. But what I keep seeing as I make my rounds is that writers are too blinded by their dream agent to really expand their options.

Don't just query your dream agent over and over, because if they don't want to work with you, that's tough love. There are plenty of other agents in the sea, and a lot of them are perhaps a better match for you than your dream agent.

Don't get bummed when your dream agent gives that polite 'no.' Open your doors. Don't let your depression limit you. You'll probably find that the agent that finally does say yes is that dream agent you've been searching for.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Celebrate the Little Things

In life, we all have little victories. Got a job, got a girlfriend, walked away from a bad deal. But do we celebrate them?

I don't know. Do you?

I know I do. Every little victory should be celebratd, especially if you're a writer. Did you reach your ord goal that day? Did you send out a personalized query? Celebrate i. Treat yourself to some yummy, watch your favorite movie, do something fun. Don't go crazy, but enjoy the little things. That's what makes writing-- and life--worth it.

Go ahead. Celebrate.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Book Review: Leviathan


By: Scott Westerfeld

Book Review by: K. Carson

Characters: Westerfeld has a grip of characters that astounds me. From the first page, you understand who Alek is based solely on that pesky concepts most writers struggle with known as Show, Don't Tell. The characters are not overwhelming in the story, but subtly creep up on the reader until they turn and say, "When did you become so awesome?" He uses patterns of speech and the societies he has built to create very absorbing and sympathetic characters. The Darwinists and the Clankers are both so well formed ideals and cultures that it makes it even more amazing when Alek (Clanker) and Deryn (Darwinist) can overcome their differences and work together. And when Deryn and Alek's stories finally cross, the interaction is heartwarning, exhillerating as well as incredibly tense. A wonderful combination.

I Decree: 5 stars.

Plot: After the first few chapters, it is obvious that Westerfeld is a plot-driven writer. For the beginning of the novel, (which is primarily necessary set-up) our heroes are forced into the situations by the goings-on around them. During the second half of the book, in which the storylines of our heroes collid, and they begin to make bold decisions that have dire consequences, the plot couldn't move smoother. The tension woven into the second half of the book left me begging for more-- precisely what you want from a reader. I was, admittedly, worried when I realized the book would take place in WW1. I'm a history buff, and was pleased that despite the "alternate" history of the book, most of it was acurate. The things that were changed were purposeful.

I decree: 4 stars.

Fundementals: Can I say how much I loved the illustrations in this book? I didn't see any problems with the way the book was written, (And it was in third person too! That made me happy.) But I honestly think the illustrations gave this book the leg up that made it beyond fantastic. I'm not normally a fan of illustrations in any books above the MG level, but Keith Thompson's illustrations are breathtaking. Dropping images here, here, and here.

I decree: 5 stars.

Overall: Go buy it. It was fantastic. Whether this is your first or twelelth steampunk, it's definately worth the ride.

14/15 stars.

And dropping Scott Westerfeld's blog here.

And Keith Thompson's website here.

And check out this book trailer too. It's awesome.

I think that is all. :)

Sunday, January 3, 2010


Today, I found an interesting video on TED with Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, talking about Nurturing Creativity.

I don't necessarily believe in everything said in this video, as I believe people should take full responsibility for their work and their failures, but I also can't help thinking about an old movie that really touched me called 28 Days. I'm not good at asking for help when I need it, and I don't think a lot of writers know when to stop and ask for help, and take some of that reponsponsibility off their shoulders.

Our society is very much so success-based and I think tht can be detrimental to authors who do make it big. I've always said I've never wanted to be a hit sensation, because what happens afterwards?

Yes, its about your writing, and yes it's about what you can do to make it big. But I think becoming a world-renouned success is not just abotu the author or the writing. Sometimes, people get lucky. As Gilbert said, sometimes the stars line up just right. Maybe someone reads the book and becomes so in love with it, they premote your book more than anyone else.

But back onto the topic that Gilbert was discussing, which was creativity. She mentioned the genius and the daemon, and I think a lot of writers still use that idea of someone else helping them, but they call it a muse. I used to write heavy fanfiction in my early teens and you'd hear that word thrown around everywhere. It was all about your muse, where she was, what she was doing, why she kept leaving and coming at inappropriate times.

But as I delved into forums dealing with more mature writers and established athors, that word seemed to melt away. Why? Do writers find it immature to beg some supernatural being to "please be polite as I'm driving and please come back when I have a moment to write the idea down"? Is it ego? Is it childish?

A few conflicting thoughts, but it's interesting to think about.