Read the Flower: Part One – a review

I’m…not really sure what I’ve been doing the past two weeks.  Have gotten almost zero reading done, and though I have added a few words to my stories, not nearly enough to justify two weeks gone.  So when I checked my GoodReads account yesterday and saw that I was two books behind schedule for my yearly challenge, I figured I should, you know, get on that.

So I read two books tonight.

Short books, but they count.  Kind of.  Well.  Okay.  Both were by Alexandra Lanc, a woman I found while searching for New Adult books, and one of the “books” I read tonight is…a fragment of a book.  It’s a first part.

Read the Flower: Part One by Alexandra Lanc.

This story does something that I haven’t seen before in a work that costs money.  It’s being released in parts and the readers get to help tell the story.  Read the book, then go to her website and vote on a poll about something that will happen in the next part.  The next part is being released in July, supposedly with the readers’ wishes in mind.  I don’t know how many parts are planned, but ultimately, the author will bring them all together into a novella. 

At the end, the author explains that the reader-help was inspired by fanfiction.  As in, it’s like the readers are writing fanfiction because we get to say what will happen.  It’s also kind of like reading fanfiction, since it comes out in chunks and we have to wait months to get the next installation, but anyway.

The story itself is about a young woman, almost ready to head off to college, going on one last family vacation before she leaves.  She’s got a very cute little brother, a frustrating mom, and a boring step-dad.  Her biggest dream is to become a painter and get custody of her brother and give him all the love and affection he deserves that he isn’t getting from their parents.  Sounds like quite the long shot, and she knows it.

While hanging out in France, she meets an attractive man who is almost too attractive.  He’s captivating and keeps staring her down.  When he invites her to a nightclub that is located inside a castle, how can she refuse?

Yeah, it’s about vampires.  But it was first written right after Author Lanc read Stoker’s Dracula, so I rather enjoyed them.  The main character, Lorine, isn’t that fascinating to me but she isn’t terrible.  I had trouble relating to her, I guess.  Her brother is definitely cute.  Her mom is well written, and her step-dad has no personality whatsoever, though that might have been intentional.  The vampire is great—but then, I like the charming vamps who have no problem ripping out throats.  And I’m in love with the castle.  Let’s just say there’s an unexpected twist to it that, had I spoken French, I may have predicted. 

I have to admit that I was intrigued by the poll at the end of the book.  I looked forward to it, and, well, I was disappointed.  I wanted something big like, “Should Lorine live or die?”  I won’t say what the question was, but it wasn’t anything like that.

Ultimately, fascinating story and any other parts that I read this year will not be counted additionally towards my goal of reading 55 books this year.

3/5 GR stars.

Posted from my phone, so please excuse extra typos! ESJ

New Adult

I love YA.  Regular ol’ Adult books are often less fun for me to read, for a variety of reasons.  With this in mind, I recently learned about the category New Adult, and was immediately interested.  Not nearly as popular as YA, New Adult is more likely to focus on characters between the ages of 20-25, sometimes up to 30.  Characters in college or just leaving their parents’ house, their first roommates, first big kid job, first serious romantic relationship, etc.  Characters my age, that I can relate to now rather than a few years ago, but apparently still with a somewhat YA feel to the books.

Sadly, I did a little more research and found that the vast majority of New Adult books are romance and include erotic scenes—getting the category nicknamed “YA erotica.”  Sigh, that’s not what I want…

I do not care for detailed sex scenes.  I barely care for non-detailed sex scenes.  Just not my thing.  And while I enjoy the theory of romance books (and for some reason keep buying and reading them), I have yet to find many that don’t leave me cringing horribly at how foolish people tend to be.  Many popular themes in romance books (soul mates, jealousy-is-love, double standards, non-communication, etc.) make it difficult to get through the books without laughing to keep from crying.  Completely ignoring the heteronormative/monocentric natures, but whatever.

However, I think if any category is likely to change up the romance genre, it could just be New Adult.  YA likes to play it safe when it comes to relationships—can’t be handing out anything too taboo, must be wary of children’s eyes.  (In The Hunger Games, for example, Katniss can kill children but when I mention the possibility of her dating both Peeta and Gale at the same time, people balk.)  And the generation of 35+ has, I think, proven to be fairly rigid in regards to how relationships “should be.”  It’s people my age who are, slowly but surely, coming around to the, ahem, queer side of things.  So, who knows? 

My novel will be New Adult, I suppose.  The characters are the right ages and they do some of the things that people mention when talking about the category (move out, partners move in together, get fancy big kid jobs, etc.).  The novel I’m writing (rather than editing, like the first) now is going to be very much New Adult.  I’ve decided to put a lot of the characters in college classes and everything.

So, I’m going to give this category a shot.  Any suggestions on New Adult books I might like, please send my way!  I joined a group on GR, but the banner on the group’s profile scares me.

Posted from my phone, so please excuse extra typos! ESJ

Feeling like a writer

I’ve heard you say a lot of creepy things. You have a lot of creepy ideas. Never before now have I seriously thought I could tie you down to prevent you from going through with one.

I don’t smoke, but I happened across an old pack of Black & Milds and decided, why not? I lit one up at two-thirty in the morning and sat in the rain to smoke it.

Feeling like a writer is wonderful. Cranking out six thousand words to finish a novel’s first draft; listening to the Rent soundtrack and hurting in ways you know non-writers don’t hurt; playing Minesweeper until you finish the Expert level in 99 seconds (and then twenty minutes more); sitting in the rain, in the wee hours of the morning, smoking a tiny cigar.

Instantly, the characters who have been giving me the most trouble started vying for my attention, and I gave it to them in pairs. Some of them smoke; the ones who don’t got with one who did and I listened to them have chats next to me, about smoking and other things. I made that tiny cigar last half an hour before sitting down and putting the conversations in black and mild white. The above quote was my favorite to make an appearance. And the best part is, the speaker is someone who has almost no personality just yet. Maybe there’s hope for him, after all.

Posted from my phone, so please excuse extra typos! ESJ

Scarlet – review

The long-awaited Scarlet by Marissa Meyer!

I wish I had written a proper review for its prequel, Cinder, but all I have on GoodReads is: “Loved it! Can’t wait for the sequel–seriously, when is it coming out?”

Ahem.  But that was almost an entire year ago, back before I wrote reviews for each book as I read them.  So.  You know.  I guess I’ll do that now (beware SPOILERS, since this entry is really supposed to be about the sequel). 

Cinder is a retelling of Cinderella, with the added twist that the main character is a cyborg.  Teenage Cinder works as a mechanic, trying to earn her stay in her stepmother’s home.  I can’t remember reading a book  told from a cyborg’s point of view before, to be honest, and our first glimpse of Cinder is when she’s removing her own foot.  The foot is too small, because her stepmom won’t spring to buy her a new one, so Cinder has been making due with a foot that should have been replaced years ago, and honestly, I was hooked from that moment.  It’s so well written, I still cringe when I think about it.  You can get the first five chapters on Amazon for free, so you can go see what I’m talking about. 

Cinder’s world is shaken up when the super dreamy Prince Kai comes by her little booth, asking to see New Beijing’s best mechanic, some old dude named Cinder.  Prince Kai is wearing a disguise, but Cinder’s computer brain-parts easily identify him and she is star-struck, despite openly hating that so many people (including her sisters) fawn over the prince.  What follows is Cinder trying to figure out what’s wrong with Prince Kai’s very old android, why he didn’t get the royal mechanics to fix it, and why he won’t just throw the decrepit thing out, all while balancing on one foot and trying to hide the fact that she’s a cyborg, made all the more difficult when Cinder’s own android returns to the shop with her brand new foot and almost gives her away.

There’s also a plague going around, picking off people easily and quickly.  Oh, and a moon colony with a queen who wants to marry Prince Kai and then kill him. 

And the book ends on such a cliffhanger, I was horrified that the sequel hadn’t already been released.

Which brings us to Scarlet!

Scarlet is Author Marissa’s version of Little Red Riding Hood.  Scarlet’s grandmother has disappeared, and the police aren’t too concerned—as far as they can tell, the old lady perceived by everyone they interviewed as “crazy” probably went about her own merry way without telling Scarlet where she was going.  But Scarlet doesn’t buy it. 

At the beginning of the story, she meets a lovely street fighter chap who goes by the name Wolf.  Hint, hint.  Nudge, nudge.  He’s about as loveable as Prince Kai.  Author Marissa continues to impress me with her charming dude characters who are varied while still tugging at my heartstrings, and considering I’m cynical in regards to hetero-love-interests, that’s quite the feat.  Her lady characters are a given, but since people seem to find it so difficult to write strong, well-developed ladies, I feel like I should mention that she does a fantastic job there, as well.  Cinder and Scarlet are opposites in a lot of ways, but they both rock.

After getting to know Scarlet, we switch POV and get to see what ol’ Cinder is up to.  She’s still going around and being awesome, of course.  In prison.  Heh.  But not for loooong.  Cinder is starting to glamour people, now that she can use her Lunar powers, but she isn’t happy about it…but she also can’t deny that it’s rather useful.

Cinder learns that she was brought to Earth as a baby by a woman named Michelle Benoit who was trying to save her/Princess Selene—and who happens to be, gasp!, Scarlet’s grandmother! 

So, Cinder and her new friend Thorne who helps her escape from prison start looking for Scarlet’s grandmother, while Scarlet and Wolf do the same thing.  Meanwhile, Prince Kaito is trying to figure out what exactly he’s supposed to do, now that Cinder has escaped from prison and Queen Levana is livid.  I mean, he really wants to avoid a war with Luna, but he also (secretly) doesn’t want to hand Cinder over, and he definitely doesn’t want to marry Levana since Cinder warned him that doing so would be suicide.  Rock, Kai, hard place.

If I’m honest, and I have to be here, I preferred Cinder to Scarlet, but it’s still a lovely continuation of the story.  If only I didn’t have to wait another year for the third installation.  Sigh. 

4/5 GR stars and a strong recommendation to check out the series.

Posted from my phone, so please excuse extra typos! ESJ

My experience with my Kindle, Pebbles.

I have an Amazon Kindle–it’s one of the originals.  It’s all grey-scale, no touch screen, no movies or games (other than Minesweeper, which I LOVE).  The only internet access is to the Amazon book store.  When I don’t turn the internet on, it can go a long time (8+ hours of use) without being charged and it takes almost no time at all to charge up.

My Kindle’s name is Pebbles.  I got it when my mom decided to upgrade to a Kindle Fire and thus didn’t want her old one anymore.

I’ve always loved books.  Animorphs was my original love.  Harry Potter is my forever love.  I enjoy most genres, with the exception of things centering on graphic violence or sex.  I also don’t typically care for the classics (though I have a fair number on Pebbles because they’re free to download).

When I was young, I thought I was a fast reader because I could get through a book in a day and people were really impressed by that.  It wasn’t until a friend of mine and I were reading two copies of the same book on a long bus ride and she got through twice as much as I did that I realized I’m actually a very slow reader who happened to do nothing else.  I’m also not a good reader–I have a lot of trouble with negative contractions, like didn’t, can’t, shouldn’t, wouldn’t.  Sometimes I don’t notice the n’t and see them as did, can, should, would.  Other times, I read the positive versions and mentally add the n’t.  I don’t know why, but it has made for lots of very confusing times, while I try to figure out why someone suddenly is asking for help with something they just said they couldn’t do.  I often mix up words, as well.  

Perhaps as a reaction to constantly misreading things, I also reread words, phrases, and lines…at random.  My eyes go over things several times–not every word, just some things.  It’s hard to explain?

For example, I tend to read tend to read things like this.  These are mistakes, I mean to write them like this like this.  These are mistakes, I mean to write them like this. These aren’t mistakes, I mean to write them like this.

No wonder I’m a slow reader.

I love books.  Like many readers, I love books separately, with no mind paid to the stories they tell.  In a room filled with books filled with terrible stories, I would still love being there.  I love book covers, jackets, pages, the ink, the spines.  I want my room to be lined with books. My dream home has a library. 

However.  However.  Pebbles makes reading so much easier for me.

Since Pebbles is so old, it has a Text-to-Speech option they don’t put on the fancier Kindles.  That means I can pop in my headphones, slip Pebbles in my pocket, and listen as it reads books to me in a generic robot voice that has surprisingly good cadence.  It’s absolutely perfect at work, because I can work and “read” at the same time.  And when the story is being read to me, I don’t mix up words or ignore the n’ts or reread a million things.

So, see, I’m torn.  I don’t want to pay for all my books twice, but I want them in two forms: one for the book and one for the story.

Sometimes, I don’t mind paying twice.  I own all the HP books in both forms, as well as The Casual Vacancy (another great thing about Text-to-Speech is it helps so much at getting through boring parts because Pebbles doesn’t get bored and then distracted–it just keeps going and eventually it gets me to a good part, heh.  TCV is great…eventually.  It would have taken me so much longer to get through it without Pebbles).  I want a complete Sherlock Holmes collection in realbook form.  As I may have said in another entry, I want Cinder and its sequels in realbook form once they are all released.

Despite doing most of my book buying on Pebbles now, I would hate for book stores to go away.  I still love walking around in book stores.  They’re beautiful places.  I even kind of got engaged in one.

Anyway, I sometimes feel like I have to defend myself when people see Pebbles.  They get all defensive like I’ve personally called their preferred way of reading “primitive” and they respond by insulting Pebbles and ereaders of all kinds.  So I wanted to post this to give my side of the story.  People with ereaders don’t necessarily hate realbooks or want to see them gone. I love books, just like you.

Chears.

Scarlet (intro)

At Barnes & Noble today, I found Scarlet by Marissa Meyer and it stopped me in my tracks.

I was sure the release date was February 5, and it is not yet February 5. I went over that a few times, seeing as I have stared at that date more than I would like to admit, and wondering how I could have misremembered.

I had not gone to B&N for books–had gone to get a birthday present for a roommate–and anyway, I wanted the book on my Kindle. So I passed it up only to find out, hours later, that the ebook release date is, indeed, February 5.

For FREE on Amazon, however, are the first five chapters so I downloaded that and have read them. (I had fully planned to drop everything, both books I’m currently reading, to get through Scarlet tonight. I’ve looked forward to this book since last May, when I finished Cinder and thought the next two novels in the series had already been published, only to reach the end of Cinder on a huge cliffhanger and discover I had almost a year to wait before I could get the next book. Not that I’m bitter about that or anything.)

Author Marissa has, so far, shown an ability to write dreamy dudes far better than most people. My taste in dudes might also be different than that of most people. Most “dreamy” MMCs have me rolling my eyes or snorting derisively pretty quickly. Prince Kai from Cinder is possibly my favorite FMC’s-romantic-interest ever (followed closely by Gale from The Hunger Games, who wasn’t “dreamy” as much as just awesome). And in the first five chapters of Scarlet, we’ve already met a good-looking street fighter who makes me swoon. After falling for him, I learned his name is, well, Wolf, and since the book is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, I should be hesitant to continue loving him…but I can’t help it, he’s so sweet. So far. Maybe. I need the rest of this book.

I think when the series is complete (Cinder, Cinderella; Scarlet, Little Red Riding Hood; Cress, Rapunzel; Winter, Snow White) I will want the set in hardback. Alternatively, I may be unable to wait.

Posted from my phone, so please excuse extra typos! ESJ