Thursday, May 25, 2017

Review for Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

4.5 Stars.Groundhog Day meets Mean Girls. Before I Fall was both hilarious in parts and painfully serious in others. I loved and hated this book at the same time. It was beautiful and utterly heartbreaking all at once. I loved watching Sam's journey. She's not the most likable character in the beginning, but her journey is incredible and her relationships with the people around her are what make this book worth reading.I found myself comparing my own high school experiences to those in this book, both the times where I'd dealt with people like Sam's mean-girl friend, Lindsay, and times when I'd done things like Lindsay. Sam's perspective was incredibly real and thought provoking.

As usual, Lauren Oliver's writing was beautiful. She easily paint's a picture with words and perfectly captures the viewpoints of teenage girls, including their flawed perceptions and ability to be cruel. Sam goes on a journey throughout this book where she learns to see things from other perspectives. She learns to question things and to do the right thing.

The ending, however, is heart-wrenching. There are some books where I feel sad at the end but overall justified that things worked out the way they were supposed to. I don't know if I feel that way about this book. <Spoiler> Maybe I'm just a sucker for happy endings, but it just seemed like this book didn't have to end with Sam's death. And, I actually felt a little like her death didn't really change anything. I wanted her death to have more meaning. Yes, she saves Juliet, but Lindsay is the same person and even if Juliet saw Sam give her life for her, what's to stop Juliet from trying to commit suicide tomorrow. I feel like if this book was going to end the way it did, then we should have gotten a scene from Juliet's POV to assure the reader that Sam's sacrifice made a difference. Otherwise, I don't see why both Sam and Juliet couldn't have lived. Mostly, I feel bad for Kent. He didn't deserve to lose her after all that. </Spoiler>

Thursday, May 18, 2017

5 Tips from Buffy for Writing a Book that Resonates with Readers

Saturday marks the 14 year anniversary of the last episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. With this anniversary coming up I've found myself thinking about that iconic, cult-classic show and wondering what about it captivated its audience. The same question could be asked of Star Trek, Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings and a dozen other stories that have held audiences captivated decades after their release.

After a movie, sevens seasons on TV, a spinoff, and comics that are still being published today Buffy has not only entertained it's viewers and readers for over twenty years but has also spawned academic courses and inspired philosophers to write books discussing it's characters and content.

Buffy found a way to resonate with its fans. So, how do you write a book that resonates with your readers? I think for most writers this is the goal. We all want to write something that creates lifelong fans. I'd love to create a book that inspired fan-art and fan-fiction.

So what makes Buffy so special that 20 years after it first aired on TV people are still watching it and talking about it?

5. It was scary and funny. Buffy explored all kinds of serious life issues from surviving high school to the loss of loved ones, along with the fear of being in real danger and averting the apocalypse, but it still managed to be funny. Life is a rainbow of emotions. If you're writing a horror story it doesn't need to be scary every second. And sometimes comedies need a serious moment. Buffy worked because it found a balance between serious and silly.

“Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke.” - Joss Whedon


4. There was always a secret you were waiting to be revealed: Whether it was finding out about the prophecy in season one, or why Jenny Calendar warned Buffy to stay away from Angel in season two, Buffy always had a question looming overhead that when revealed changed everything. Foreshadowing and secrets are super important, and so is having a big pay off when you hit the big reveal. If you're going to tease your reader with something, it better be good. The secrets on Buffy led to death, heartbreak, and sacrifice.

3. The monsters were metaphors: Buffy may have been about vampires and demons, but absolutely everything was a metaphor for something real that the audience could relate to. Everything had a purpose. Angel losing his soul was the ultimate metaphor for sleeping with a guy who turned out to be a jerk. The truth is real life can be more terrifying than monsters. So, if you're writing about monsters or characters with supernatural abilities think about what they can represent in your story.

2. Everything came back to the characters: Buffy, as amazing as it was, was also riddled with inconsistencies and plot holes. [Ex: How strong characters were would fluctuate depending on the situation, Sunnydale's geography was constantly changing, Spike knocked out Dru once by strangling her even though she was a vampire and didn't need to breathe,  Buffy got her butt kicked the first time she fought an uber-vamp then later her human friends easily took them out.] But it didn't matter because what the viewers craved was seeing these characters interact and overcome obstacles. Buffy was empowering. So, work on filling in all those plot holes, but make sure your focus is on your characters!

1. Joss never gave the characters what they wanted: Not giving your characters what they want is what drives them -- and your readers! Buffy wanted a normal life but she was chosen. Buffy wanted to be with Angel, but their relationship was star-crossed. Have your character want something then hold it just out of reach. And, if your character ever manages to get the thing they want it should backfire on them terribly [Ex: Buffy and Angel finally sleep together and he loses his soul and turns evil.]


If you liked this post, you might also like:

When to Ignore Your Outline

The Vampire Diaries just like Buffy?



Thursday, May 11, 2017

Review for Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

5 Stars. An Excellent, Twisted Mystery. This book blew me away. It starts out as a murder mystery, then becomes so much more. There are a lot of little clues and red herrings along the way, leading you through an excellent mystery. The writing was great. There's some really awesome imagery, but I didn't like all the parenthesis.

I have to recommend not spoiling this book before you read it. Don't see the movie, just read the book. It's a mystery and the fun in reading it came from trying to figure out what was going on.

The beginning is a little slow. There's lots of backstory, and a lot of information to set the scene. There were things to keep me interested, things I noticed that I wondered about, but it wasn't until the half-way point that I couldn't put this down. Everything in the first half of this book it building to a serious turning point in the middle. Once I reached that part, everything changed.

I didn't like Amy at first because she sounded pretentious. You hear her side of the story, and get flashbacks of her and Nick's past through diary entries. As the first half of the book went on I started to like her and I started to believe that Nick had killed her. By the end, I was rooting for Nick.

The ending was satisfactory, but not entirely satisfying. <Spoiler> I really really wanted Nick to kill Amy in the end. It felt like she deserved it, but doing so wouldn't have given him a happy ending. There was a part of me that rooted for Amy at times, and there were even parts that wished Nick and Amy could have what they used to -- so a part of me was very satisfied with the ending, but at the same time, I know its all fake and so it's not really. </Spoiler> It's a very twisted book, but I loved it.



Saturday, May 6, 2017

April Wrap-Up

April was a busy month. So, in case you missed anything, here's everything I was up to last month!




READING:

Books Reviewed in April:

The Iron Queen (Daughters of Zeus #3) by Kaitlin Bevis - I liked this. The first two were my favorites, but it was a great book.

Ethereal by Addison Moore - There were some great ideas in this book, but it didn't blow me away like I wanted it to. Still, if you enjoy YA PNR you'd probably like this.

Books Read in April:

Persephone's Orchard by Molly Ringle - This was okay. I was still craving the Daughters of Zeus books, and this was really different.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - This was one of my New Years Resolution Books and I LOVED it!


Books to read in May:

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver - This is one of those books I don't know how I haven't read yet.

Normally, I list at least two books here, but I'm not sure what the next one will be. Big Little Lies is on my list, but I'm not sure I want to start that next.



WRITING:

I definitely got more writing done than last month when the plot-bunnies were hopping around my head. My muse is back, and I've been chipping away at the first draft of the third book in my Cereus Vampire Chronicles Series. I know I still haven't published the first book, Unearthed after Sunset, but I'm working on it! I promise it's coming soon.

Also, Into the Deep and Hidden Beneath are getting new covers! So, stay tuned for the cover reveal. I'm also thinking about doing some kind of promotion or giveaway alongside the reveal as well. [If you are a book blogger and are interested in participating in the cover reveal e-mail me at laurynapril@gmail.com.]



BLOGGING:

I'm glad that I've been able to stay consistent with blogging. I've been posting book reviews or writing related posts every Thursday, and my monthly wrap-ups post the first Saturday of every month. Also, I was really active on Twitter in April. If you don't already, follow me @LaurynApril and I'll follow back!

My Favorite Blog Posts in April:

Favorite Post Written: Psychology Tips for Better Writing (Part 1: Believable Characters) I have a BA in Psychology, so this was really fun to write. Thinking about what makes people do the things they do is part of why I love to write and it's really important to me to write believable characters.

Favorite Post Read: A-Z Bookish Survey on Heather's Reading Hideaway - I just discovered book tags this year after returning to blogging from a long hiatus, and I love them!



PERSONAL:

My husband and I spend the last week of April in Mexico. We had a much-needed vacation on the beach, and I'm missing the sun already!


How was your April?




Thursday, May 4, 2017

Review for Persephone's Orchard by Molly Ringle


3.5 Stars. Fascinating and new twist on an old myth. I loved the concept of this book. It mixed ancient Greek mythology with reincarnation and looked at the Greek gods more as immortal people than actual gods. I also liked that it explained how they became viewed as ‘gods.’

There were moments where I feel like the dialogue could have used a little work, but it was otherwise well written. I liked the plot; it was very focused on Sophie and Aidan’s relationship. But, there was a subplot involving a secret society, Thanatos, that was opposed to immortals and sought to kill them. I liked that both Aidan and Sophie made some smart decisions to avoid them and eventually overcome them in the end.

I liked the flashbacks to past lives, especially getting to see Hades and Persephone, but I felt like they took away from Adrian and Sophie’s story some. Much of Sophie’s time is spent remembering flashbacks and I would have liked a little more adventure in the present between her and Adrian – not that there wasn’t any. The story just felt a little heavy on the Hades/Persephone memories. Adrian and Sophie do spend a lot of time getting to know one another, but I would have liked the focus to be on their present selves just a little more.

One thing I really enjoyed was reading Adrian’s POV in the beginning while he waited for Sophie to remember him. He has a mix of longing and giddiness surrounding his thoughts that I loved. The sexy scenes between Sophie and Aidan and their memories of Hades and Persephone were well written, but I wanted a little more of that “build-up” feeling. They were very fun and free moments, but I wanted a little more intensity.

I also liked Sophie much more than Persephone. I really connected with Sophie, but not so much with her previous incarnation. I’m not sure why exactly, but I wished I had liked Persephone more, especially as so much of the story is in flashbacks.

I did start the second book of this series, but it lost me after about ten chapters. The story started to focus more on the other characters and less on Sophie and Adrian.