What to Write About… What to Write About…How About…Books!

Between my concert tour dates, Time magazine interviews and single-handedly diverting an asteroid from colliding with earth, I’m swamped.  Fortunately I found time in my ludicrous schedule to read and review a couple of books. I know, I know what you’re thinking:

‘But Sean, you shouldn’t have done this just for us!’.

And I chuckle to myself and say,

‘I didn’t’.

Love you guys.

READYSETGO!

BEYOND THE REFLECTION’S EDGE by Bryan(interesting spelling) Davis:

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After his parents are murdered during a corporate investigation, 16-year-old Nathan Shepherd teams up with a friend to solve the case. They soon discover mirrors that reflect events from the past and future, a camera that photographs people who aren’t there, and a violin that echoes unseen voices.

This book tricked me. I picked it up at a church book sale for a dollar. The fact that it was being sold at a church should have alerted me that it is, in fact, a Christian based book, published by a Christian publisher, Zondervan.

Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against faith books that reach out to people using mass marketing. I’m a Methodist myself and am very actively involved in the church.

But…Christian books that try to come off like this make me feel a little…awkward? Is that the right word?  Sometimes authors have a tendency to shove their religion down your throat and permanently turn people off to it.  Not cool.

Fortunately, this book didn’t do any religion shoving so it was all good in that respect.

PROS:

  • The writing was good. Sometimes with these books that have a special message the publisher doesn’t give a flying flip whether the words are coherent enough to have an engrossing story, they just want to get the message out.
  • The story was good. The concept for the mirrors was very clever and the author did a good job of describing very difficult scenes involving mirrors.
  • The bad guy was good. That’s saying something. Sure he may have been a little generic but he wasn’t boasting an evil laugh while twirling his moustache or anything.

For every good there must be a bad and this book had a few bad things. Again, I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that it was Christian themed. I don’t know. I haven’t read enough Christian themed books to know.

CONS:

  • The main character was TOO perfect. I mean, this kid practiced his violin, didn’t really disagree with his parents, and was all around just a perfect guy. He never did anything wrong, it seemed, which to me is almost worse than actually doing anything wrong. I don’t know if the author had to be careful to portray a Christian kid as good, but it just came off odd. Christians aren’t all perfect, we’re normal people too, believe it or not.
  • The writing was a little slow paced for me. It wasn’t bad by any sense, like I have any right to talk. It just didn’t seem as fluid as it could have been.
  • The character interactions were weird. Let’s just say that the interactions between the main guy and girl were not as realistic as they could have been. I work with youth about the same age as these kids and both the kids must have been homeschooled by retired Catholic Private School teachers with Grammer Nazi and Super Nanny as legal guardians. More or less.

Meh…it was a good book. I have to say, I’m not one for books that are all high and mighty, which this one was NOT thankfully. But reading Christian fiction is still a little strange to me. I must be a sinner.

 

THE HOUSE OF HADES by Rick Riordian:

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At the conclusion of The Mark of Athena, Annabeth and Percy tumble into a pit leading straight to the Underworld. The other five demigods have to put aside their grief and follow Percy’s instructions to find the mortal side of the Doors of Death. If they can fight their way through the Gaea’s forces, and Percy and Annabeth can survive the House of Hades, then the Seven will be able to seal the Doors both sides and prevent the giants from raising Gaea. But, Leo wonders, if the Doors are sealed, how will Percy and Annabeth be able to escape?

I need to tread carefully here with a powerhouse like the Percy Jackson series. Rick Riordian is a good writer, make no mistake. I devoured the Percy Jackson series when I was younger and was ecstatic when this series started.

The only beef I have with the Heroes of Olympus spin-off is just that—it’s a spin-off. I loved the main vein Percy Jackson books and honestly, Riordian could have just stopped there and it would have been fine. I still love the series but it kind of lost that charm and wit it had from the beginning.

PROS:

  • Characters. What’s not to love? Everybody from the original series is back and Rioridan does a great job of making up new ones. Each character has their own unique personalities and quirks.
  • Story. The story is still good. Yeah, if he keeps trying to make stuff up Riordian might eventually go down Maximum Ride I-have-the-same-thing-happen-in-each-book-holy-crap-this-is-annoying path, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
  • Really, everything else about it was good. I know it’s not as fun to hear about good books, but from Riordian you can always expect a stellar story.

Yep, there are a couple of

CONS:

  • Characters. ‘But SEAN…You just said you LIKED the characters’. I do, whiners, but I don’t like how they constantly switch between their viewpoints. This is just a me thing, really. I just don’t personally like books that do this. Also, with so many ‘main’ characters, it doesn’t really feel like they’re all as developed as they could be.  Not paper thin by any means but just not as fleshed out, especially after three books.
  • Too much running around. Hypocritically speaking, I do this too. My characters are always running around solving one quest or plot point or something. It just seems laborious after a while.

Other than that, it’s Percy Jackson, cue the happy screaming.

 

The Beyonders: Chasing the Prophecy by Brandon Mull:

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Jason and Rachel were not born in Lyrian. They did not grow up in Lyrian. But after all of the battles and losses, the triumphs and adventures, and most of all, the friendships forged in this fantastical world, Lyrian has become home to them in a way they never could have imagined.
And so, armed now with the prophecy of a dying oracle, they have gone on their separate quests;each surrounded by brave and powerful allies;knowing that the chance for success is slim. But Jason and Rachel are ready at last to become the heroes Lyrian needs, no matter the cost.

Oh, Brandon Mull, what am I going to do with you? I have a love/not so love relationship with his books.

If you look at one of my other book reviews, you will see I did his last books in this series, Seeds of Rebellion.

Mull’s books confuse me. The guy has amazing ideas. Seriously, he could make up every single idea Disney needs for the next century and still have enough fodder to fill ten thousand books.

But the writing…it’s…dense. Again, it’s not bad, but it’s not really engaging either. It’s very slow paced and doesn’t leave much tension to where we care.

Pros:

  • The characters. One good thing about how dense Mull’s books are is that it takes a long time to read them. So when you keep coming back to the book day after day you sort of look forward to being with those characters again. I actually wanted to find out how the book ended to see how the characters ended up.
  • The ending. Definitely a little deviation from the norm which is great. I was sad and happy at the same time. It was like the end of a legacy.
  • The world. Lyrian, the world Mull creates is the epitome of this guys’ creative genius. I have yet to read about anything as varied and diverse in any other book.
  • The bad guy. Was not a pushover. That’s always nice. The way to defeat him seemed so simple in the first book, but Mull took it a step further and notched up the difficulty a bit which was nice.

 

Cons:

  • The characters. Wow, I have a nasty time making up my mind, don’t I? There were too many characters. I lost count way back in the first book. It took me until I was nearly halfway through this book to realize who some of the characters were and by then I was like, ‘meh, didn’t really add anything’.
  • The writing. As I said earlier, it wasn’t bad, per se. It was just more old school than I was used to. Again, dense, comes to mind.

For me, Mull’s books will always fall into that awkward category between  Great and Okay. Never AMAZING and never BAD. They’re just solid reads all around and can certainly entertain somebody for hours. I hope for future books Mull tightens up his writing a bit and cuts some of the more extraneous parts. That will be something I look forward to, and since he’s done with this series, I can’t wait to see what he comes out with next.

 

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting:

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Violet Ambrose is grappling with two major issues: Jay Heaton and her morbid secret ability. While the sixteen-year-old is confused by her new feelings for her best friend since childhood, she is more disturbed by her “power” to sense dead bodies—or at least those that have been murdered. Since she was a little girl, she has felt the echoes that the dead leave behind in the world… and the imprints that attach to their killers.

 

Such potential. If you read the excerpt above then you’ll see the good and bad of this book.

PROS:

  • The idea. I was interested in the ‘powers’ Violet had. The ability to sense the murdered. The author does an amazing job of having these powers revealed in ‘senses’. Each murdered person has a different sound or smell or taste that Violet can follow to find the body, or the murderer. This was written very well and, if the story was mostly focused on Violet controlling and using these powers more, could have been much better.
  • The suspense. There were some parts in this book, especially when the main character was following or simply around the killer, that the tension was real. It was great and I wanted to yell ‘Just tell them where the freaking axe murdering scum bag is!’ and wake everybody in my apartment. Fortunately, I did not.
  • The killer’s perspective. Every now and then there is a chapter in all italics told from the killer’s POV. The author did this very well. From my own research for a sociopath of my own creation, the emotions and purpose for the killer to do all these horrible things was spot on. Much of what he did was for the ‘thrill’, the high and there was a lot of sick and backwards justification and thinking done on the killer’s part. It was just well done.

 

CONS:

  • So if the good part was the powers, what was the bad part? Well, pretty much everything else. The book describes the main character as having a crush on her best friend. Okay, that’s cool and all and I’m somewhat interested in seeing the tension between the two. And then I wasn’t.

The main character suffers from ‘Bella syndrome’. Named after the horrendous character Bella from Twilight, a character afflicted with this fatal disease does nothing with their life except dream about his(yeah, it can be a guy too)/her love interest. The main character spends no time during the day being productive, and consequently the author must spend pages describing their crushes’ good looks, flat personality or how great it would be to feel their lips against their own—OKAY! OKAY I GET IT! STOOOOOP!

Sorry. The second part of ‘Bella syndrome’ is even more annoying. What books need now days are good strong female leads. Annabeth Chase is a good example, but even she is falling to this terrible affliction. Tris from Divergent is another example but she fell a long time ago. What are the symptoms, you ask?

The main female character, who until the point of getting a boyfriend, kicks butt. She is capable and smart and amazing and can take care of herself. Cue boyfriend. And my annoyance. After the author has any sort of relationship going the main female character is useless, stupid and the boyfriend is controlling and even more stupid.

What gives?

That, in a nutshell, was what happened to Violet. The banter between the two leads was fun at first, because it focused more on actually FINDING THE FREAKING SERIAL KILLER WHO’S RUNNING AROUND SERIAL KILLING PEOPLE, and the relationship was more of a compliment to the story. Then they get together and the author now has two useless characters and pages upon pages of making out to write about while the SERIAL KILLER KEEPS A KILLING.

That’s the second major issue with this book. It says it’s a serial killer mystery, but it’s more of a teen romance. If it could be divvied up I’d say twenty percent was spent on finding the guy who’s killing everybody, and the other eighty percent worrying about relationships. That seems a TEENSY bit skewed in my opinion.

The book should have gone like this is some parts:

Stereotypical Cheerleader #1: I wonder who I’m going to the homecoming dance with!

Violet: Oh my gosh! I just found Lizzy’s murdered body! That horrible serial killer is still out there preying on innocent girls!

Stereotypical Cheerleader #2: That’s horrible! I wonder if John’s going to ask me to the dance…

Stereotypical Cheerleader #1: Cynthia’s going with John.

Violet: Oh my gosh! I just found Cynthia’s murdered body! The serial killer is getting closer and killing more frequently! We could be next!

Stereotypical cheerleader #2: With Cynthia gone, I guess that means John can take me to the dance!

Awkward pause

Stereotypical Cheerleader #2: You think it’s too soon?

 

This is the level of worry and tension I get from a book that’s supposed to be focused on finding a killer.

I could go on and on about that, but you get the idea. I actually kind of liked the book. It was stupid and cliché in most regards and wasn’t much better than half the YA crap on the shelves now a days, but it held my interest.

 

So I’m not as funny in this blog. Finals are killing me and all power was diverted to studying, and away from funny.

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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