Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Review for Valkyrie Rising by Ingrid Paulson

A Fun Read with a Twist on Norse Mythology

4.5 Stars.
This book took a little while to suck me in, but when it did I discovered a really intriguing storyline and wonderful characters. Paulson takes a few chapters to set up this story, but once Ellie gets to Norway things start to pick up and they continue to get more interesting once Graham and his best friend Tuck arrive.

Ellie was a likeable character. She was sweet, but toughens up and learns to stand up for herself as the book goes on. I loved the dynamic of Ellie and the boys around her. Other than her grandmother and the Valkyries all the other main characters are guys. Seeing Graham, Tucker and Kjell all being territorial over her was entertaining. I also liked Tucker a lot. He pushed Ellie’s buttons and could be a bit of a bad influence, but he was also a loyal friend and on the inside a really sweet guy.

Tucker’s jealousy was cute, and I liked his relationship with Ellie. She’s his best friend’s sister and they’ve spent a lot of time together growing up. Now that they’re older they realize they have feelings for one another, but to act on them would mean changing and potentially destroying the way things have been since they were kids.

Ellie has always lived in her big brother’s shadow. His overprotective ways have labeled her as “Graham’s little sister” and all she wants is to be able to make her own decisions. I think what this book is really about is Ellie growing up and becoming her own person. When she visits her grandmother, who lives in Norway, we see her wanting to do her own thing, but she has a hard time talking to her brother about this. Graham tends to just assume what she wants and isn’t a very good listener.

After Ellie and Graham get in a fight the plot really picks up, and Ellie is thrown into a dangerous situation that she has to deal with without the help or guidance of her brother or grandmother. There’s a lot more to Ellie than just being Graham’s little sister and she discovers some of these things and has to learn how to deal with them in a short period of time.

I liked the twist on Norse mythology in this book. There were some familiar faces, like Loki and Odin, but the storyline felt completely new to me. One thing that I was disappointed in with this book was that we never got to see Valhalla. We hear a little bit about it, but the characters never actually make it there.

Also I felt like the fight scene at the end was too easy. There were families fighting against their sons, it just felt like it should have been more emotional. But, instead it ended peacefully and without any casualties and then the whole town’s memories were wiped as if it never happened. I would have liked that scene to have been a little more meaningful.

I did like the little bit of drama at the end with wondering if Tuck was under the same spell as Kjell, and the scene with Tuck and Ellie on the roof made me smile.

Overall this book had nice imagery, an interesting plot and well developed characters. It was descriptive, but in a way that was fun and whimsical. It was a really fun read.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Rip-offs, Inspiration, and Coincidences

Lately I’ve noticed a number of reviews that focus heavily on comparing one book to another, instead of focusing on the pros and cons of that book alone. For example, I’ve read a number of blog posts and reviews, from people who obviously disliked Twilight, who point out all the ways a story is similar to Meyer’s vampire series. But “Twilight Copy-cats” aren’t the only books being labeled “rip-offs”. Have you heard these….

Image by AZRainman

Hunger Games rips off Battle Royale?

Harry Potter rips off Star Wars?

Percy Jackson rips off Harry Potter?

Eragon rips off Lord of the Rings?

LOTR rips off Harry Potter? (Which makes no sense since LOTR was written in the 50’s and Harry Potter came out in the late 90’s – but it’s been said)

And of course all the books that have been considered to be “Rip-off’s” of Twilight including Obsidian by Jennifer Armentrout, Promise by Kristie Cook, and Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion.


Then again Twilight could easily be considered a rip-off of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and if you read The Vampire Diaries just like Buffy? you may wonder if Buffy ripped off The Vampire Diaries (which was written before Twilight and BtVS). So then is every comic book hero ripping off Superman? Is every vampire novel a rip off of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (which wasn’t even the first vampire novel)? Is every love story ripping off Romeo and Juliet?

My answer: No.

As readers we should stop focusing on these similarities, many of which are coincidences, and others are simply an author finding inspiration in another’s work, and we should start enjoying the stories we read.

In my opinion, everything has been done before. And as authors we are inspired by what we read, watch, and experience and we incorporate those things into our own works. That’s what writing is, taking something we know and twisting it to make it our own. That’s not ripping something off that’s being inspired. Even E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey, which was surrounded by controversy when it was discovered that it was originally written as Twilight fan-fiction, is an original piece of work. I personally have problems with how James wrote it, as her characters were originally written to be someone else’s, but in the end her finished story is her own. (Read more about this in The Legality of Fanfiction a Grey Area)

T.S. Eliot once said, “Mediocre writers borrow. Great writers steal.”

Some of my favorite books lately are stories that take a classic fairy tale and twist it into something else. Are these books just ripping off the classics? No. They’re taking something wonderful and creating something new. After all, there are only so many master plots out there.

At the bare bones structure of any story you will find similarities with something that came before it. If you try hard enough you can find parallels between any two books, but unless a book follows another word for word (which would be plagiarism) there is going to be something different about it that makes it original. Maybe some stories are too close for your liking, maybe some stories feel cliché because of the concepts they borrow, but personally, I think if we could all stop comparing one book to another we’d all enjoy reading a lot more.

Even if a certain scene in a novel, bit of dialogue, or even the entire book was purposely inspired by another piece of work this does not mean that book isn’t its own original story. For me, unless a book copies another in a way that the entire story is spoiled by my knowledge of that book – which has never happened to me – As long as it’s a good book, I’m going to be happy with that read, regardless of similarities. In fact some similarities between a book I loved and a book I’m reading are a good thing.

Now I want to be clear, I’m talking about authors borrowing ideas in plot structure, concepts, character development, phrasing…I’m talking about pieces. To copy a story word for word, or so closely that you only make small changes is plagiarism, this is illegal and not what I’m talking about. (This is also not what T.S. Eliot meant by his above quote) But, I would like to think that we all learned the different between plagiarism and putting something into our own words by 8th grade English.

So writers, don’t shy away from writing that vampire novel that’s been eating away at you because you’re afraid it’ll be called a Twilight rip-off. Write what you love and work your magic to make it your own. You can’t appease everyone so at least write something you enjoy.

 For more information about “stealing” ideas check out this blog post Why Do Great Writers Steal

I hope reviewers will stop complaining that something rips off something else. Reviewers should feel free to comment on the similarities one book has to another, but they shouldn’t post nasty reviews demeaning an author of his or her creativity. Doing this only makes the reviewer look unprofessional and their review petty and unreliable. So please, reviewers, I rely on what you write to help me decide what to read next. And, those reviews that are 1-3 stars are sometimes the most telling about whether or not I would enjoy a story. But please, take the time to write a quality review that discusses the story and what you liked and disliked about it, don’t just a compare and contrast with the latest “it” novel. (Read 10 Tips to Writing an Excellent Book Review.)

What do you think? Are you sick of rants about rip offs? Are these books stealing from other stories or are these similar ideas inspiration creating transformative works?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Hidden Beneath Teaser (Into the Deep 2)


My first novel "Into the Deep" ended with Ivy Daniels coming to terms with her telepathic ability. The sequel "Hidden Beneath" will be out this summer and it picks up roughly a year and a half later. Ivy's junior year of high school has come and gone, but mysteries and dangerous situations havn't completely left her behind. Now as Ivy prepares for college she'll find herself pulled into a whole new adventure.

 For more information on the first book of this series, "Into the Deep" check out it's Goodreads page here. And, for a (unedited) sneak peak at "Hidden Beneath" keep reading.



TEASER:

Before I knew it my feet were wet and I was shivering. The water felt like needles against my skin. Step by step I made my way deeper into the water. Waves splashed at my legs and the tide tugged at me. I was shaking and with each pull of the ocean I grew more and more unbalanced. It pulled me down like the physical embodiment of my guilt, and gained strength as I moved deeper. I had to save him.

I heard Brant’s voice again. “God, Ivy, I’m so sorry.”

I kept walking. The water was up to my waist now, and my teeth were chattering so hard I thought they might chip.

“This is all my fault, please forgive me.” Brant’s voice echoed behind me.

Forgive me, forgive, I realized then that I’d done exactly what I’d been trying to prevent Brant from doing. I spun back around. I searched for Brant on the beach, but he was gone. The ocean surged around me and the salt water got into my mouth. I suddenly realized I was chasing after a dead man because I couldn’t stop blaming myself for his death.

I was hit by a heavy wave. It knocked me off balance. I reached my arms out to try and regain my equilibrium but I still stumbled. The tide pulled at my legs and uprooted them from the sandy ocean floor. As I sunk beneath the surface of the violent waves the last thing I saw was the empty, dark, beach.

Suddenly the world was calm. I swayed back and forth with the tide. Underwater I couldn’t hear the violent roar of the storm or the crashing of the waves. Submerged, everything suddenly began to still and I swam. Bubbles trailed from my nose and I swam underwater toward the beach.


For more information on Hidden Beneath check out its Goodreads Page.
To read another teaser click here.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Review for The Elite by Kiera Cass

A Wonderful Mix of Fantasy and Dystopian Concepts

5 Stars. I absolutely loved The Selection and The Elite had me hooked just as much as the first book. It was a wonderful mix of fantasy and dystopian concepts.

America is a really tough character but she gets scared of what the end of the selection will mean for her, and that’s really what this book is about. Either she wins and then she’s the future queen and she doesn’t know if she can handle that responsibility – if she can be a leader when so many of her ideals conflict with how the country is actually run, or she loses which would mean Maxon never cared for her like she did for him, and she really does love him. And then there’s always the third option of dropping out to avoid becoming queen, and heartbreak from Maxon, and returning home to be with Aspen.

America has a lot of doubts about Maxon in this book, partly because he keeps some things from her, and there were times when I was frustrated with America’s paranoia and rash decisions. But considering her situation I think these emotions were perfect. She does lash out and in turn make some bad decisions – decisions that she doesn’t think through or consider the consequences of, but I think it would have been unrealistic had she done anything else. It was obvious to me that Maxon wanted her the most, but being in that situation where she’s competing with all of these other girls for his attention I believed that she would feel unsure at times and question his motives.

I also enjoyed that we got to see so much more of Maxon’s character. He can be this perfect gentleman, caring, and wholesome, even a little naive at times; but there’s more to him than that. We see in this book that he’s not perfect, that he makes some questionable decisions as well, and that his life hasn’t been as easy as America has thought it was. This competition is wearing on him as well.

I was glad to see America work out her feelings by the end of this book. The love triangle in the first book didn’t feel that strong to me and I was glad to see that America wasn’t going to continue to string someone along in the third book. She does give both Maxon and Aspen mixed signals throughout the book, but I could understand why.

Like in the first book I liked the relationships between the girls, and I’m particularly interested to see how America and Kriss’ relationship continues in the third book, or if we’ll see more of Marlee.

Overall I cannot wait for the conclusion of this trilogy, The One, and highly recommend this book.

Read my review of The Selection.