Tag Archives: Oreo

The best dang book I’ve ever read with such a Sh*tty beginning

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Ha!  Nothing like letting it all out in the title.  Note to self … never write a book review when you’re in this kind of mood… but I am in this kind of mood, and I already started, so here we go…

Today, we’re going to talk about the YA novel Crux, by Julie Reece.  Now for starters, I am going to openly admit that Julie Reece is the author I spoke about several months ago who jumped out of the Scribophile world and offered to help me when I needed a beta reader for Last Winter Red.  Will this skew my review?  (I think you know me better than that by now.)  I can honestly say I’ve never met Julie Reece, and wouldn’t know her if I tripped over her in a Wal-Mart.  So, no… no problems there.

So this is the deal.  I picked up Crux for two reasons.  #1:  Awesome cover.  Totally love it and I’ve made a note to find out who the cover artist is, ‘cause it stopped me dead in my tracks several times.  Brilliant cover in my opinion.

The second reason this moved up in the ranks of my “to read” list is because the author is uber nice, and really helped me out when I was in a bind.  (It’s that marketing think I’ve been talking about)

So, the basics…

This was written in first person “I” which I’ve subtracted a cookie for in the past, but I’m going to stop doing so now because I’m starting to see first person written well.  Crux is no exception.

Tense:  This was written in present tense.  Ugh!  Sorry, Ms. Reece, but it drove me a little batty.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  She did it well.  Once I got used to it the tense was okay.  The problem is I needed to “get used to it” every time I started reading the book.  I’m not sure why this is, and I am willing to admit that it could just be me.  Within a page of reading every night, I was swept away by the story and forgot the tense… but since it jarred me every time I picked up the novel, I need to subtract a cookie.

Were there any explosions?  Yes!  Well, no… Ummm… sort of.  Geeze!  I’m gonna say yes.  It wasn’t really an explosion, but it had to do with a whole bunch of water and it was uber-fun.  Loved it!  I will let this fall into the explosion category and give her the extra cookie for it.  (I can’t tell you what happens with the water or it will be a spoiler)

Okay, so starting with five cookies, she dropped to four and then hopped back up to five for the modified explosion.  Here we go:

The Oreo Cookie concept… Start with the crunchy goodness, dig into the gooey bad stuff, and end on a crunchy good note

The top of the cookie:

Crux is a wonderfully imaginative story, completely original with kick-but characters that are wonderfully easy to relate to (right down to the dog)  Even the bad guy is the sleazy gotta-love-him type.  There is a strong romantic plotline and the attraction between Grey and Birdie is both completely believable, and undeniable.  This is probably the most cleanly written relationship I have EVER read.  There was no doubt in my mind, for a single second that the characters were attracted to each other, and acted the way the way they did…

… and Grey… DANG.  For the first time ever I can understand how women can swoon over a guy from a book.  I don’t know if she just hit on exactly the type of guy I like or what… but his “package”  (tee hee) has more to do with his actions and personality than his looks.  Awesome Character.

Birdie, the female lead is a great “kick butt” chic.  She comes from a troubled past, doesn’t think of herself as strong, but all of the sudden the weight of the world is on her shoulders.  This is a “super hero like” story with a likable and believable teen in the role of hero.

The middle of the cookie:  The bad stuff

I already subtracted a cookie for the present tense, so I won’t go into it again.  There is actually only two other things I have to pick on about this novel because this sucker is CLEAN (not even any typos, come to think of it… I should have mentioned that earlier.

Anyway…

Near the end of the novel, our hero Birdie is holding someone’s hand and “thinking”.  She opens her eyes, and the person who’s hand she is holding is on the other side of the room and walking towards her.  Huh?

I read the passage over and over again, trying to figure out what I had missed.  This bothered me so much that before I wrote this review, I contacted the author and asked about it.  She sent back a marked up version of her manuscript page that clearly showed that when she was “thinking” she was in a flashback, and she was never actually holding the person’s hand at all (At that very moment in time).  It made complete sense to me as I looked at the marked up manuscript pointing out the elements that I’d missed.

However, I went back to my Kindle, prepped with my new information about what I’d missed… AND I READ IT EXACTLY THE SAME WAY I did when I had read it the first, second, third, and fourth time.  Now, I am willing to admit that this may be just because I am a bimbo, but I’m figuring I’m probably not the only bimbo out there.  If the author didn’t point out what I’d missed, and couldn’t explain the passage, I would have subtracted a whole cookie, but for this confusion I need to subtract at least a quarter of a cookie… just to make the bimbos of the world not feel so bad.

Another thing… The beginning.  Ugh.  I really didn’t like it.  I am Sooooo glad that I had already purchased the novel, because if I read the first few pages in a preview, I would have dumped it.  It’s a shame really.  A Kick-Butt novel like this should have a kick-butt beginning… something with more excitement.  Frankly, I was bored and completely uninterested.

When I finished the novel, I actually went back and re-read the beginning, and found it read WORSE than it did the first time.  Mainly it had to do with the character of Jeff, who I really didn’t like or understand the first read.  In the second read, I found everything in the beginning both out of character, and completely unbelievable in the realm of the overall plot. The beginning felt like it was written after the rest of the novel… I have to think that at one time it was written another way, but the author got some bad advice and changed it toooooo… ugh.  I’m gonna pretend the novel starts at the point of Birdie running into the restaurant and meeting Grey and his family for the first time.  That is followed by a KICK BUTT car chase.  From this point on, the novel is an awesome roller coaster ride.  The beginning would have been better taken care of in “gentle” backstory and inner thoughts, in my opinion.

Since many reading Crux might dump this novel before it gets good enough for us action lovers, I need to drop another quarter cookie.

The bottom of the cookie;  Ending on a crunchy good note.

About three quarters of the way through the book, a little light bulb went off in my head.  It had to do with the dog.  When that little bulb blinks for me, it is a do or die trigger for the novel.  I think “If I’m right, it will ruin the entire novel for me”.  As I read the end, my neck muscles tightened, because it looked more and more like I was right… but in the last seconds, what I was dreading didn’t happen.  “Whew” what a relief.  I’m still not completely convinced that I’m not right… but at least it did not ruin this book for me (although it might blunder a sequel if not done well)

The ending was action packed and exciting.  Lots of swords and mayhem and even a few heads getting lopped off for those of you who are in-to that sort of stuff.  It was all done without the gore factor though, and the person doing the lopping was not enjoying it one iota.  Even with the violence, I have added this to the Monomaniacle Middle Grade Reviewer’s reading list, just to see if he enjoys the book as much as I did.

The only minor thing I will mention about the ending, is that I think it could have sewn up just a little faster.  Yes, I know sometimes I complain things sew up tooo fast, but I think this dragged on just a touch too long.  I realize though that the next book was being set up, and a few things needed to be ironed out…. Which is good.

Everything is ironed out… even the minor side plotlines, but a few things are left “kind of open” which leaves us ready for a sequel, without leaving the reader feeling cheated.  Yes, there is an ending, and it is solid.  Nicely done.

So… the verdict is?

We start with five cookies.  She lost one for present tense, but gained one back for the “water-kinda like an explosion” thing.  We lost a quarter cookie for the beginning of the book, and then we lost a quarter of a cookie because I’m a bimbo.  (Sorry, my review, my rules)

So, we have four and a half out of five Oreos for Crux… and a firm place in the top five novels I have ever read, (despite the Sh*tty beginning… which says a LOT about the strength of this story.)

Pick up Crux to research:  Great character development, relationship building, realistic dialog, pacing, and just for an all-around fun read.

 

Review of the Novel “Oracle” by JC Martin

About a month or so ago, I was sent a copy of Oracle by the publisher, and was asked to do a review.  It sat in my inbox for a while.  I had too many books that I WANTED to read, and I really didn’t want to trudge through a police-case style mystery.  Just not my thing, you know?

Honestly, reading the blurb, the story didn’t really interest me, but after reading a novel that I purchased because I wanted to read it–and being disappointed—I decided to give this one a try.

Once again, I will use the Oreo Cookie Concept for reviewing:  Start with the crunchy goodness, dig into the squishy bad, and then end on a crunchy good note.

To start, were there any explosions?  (mild spoiler)  Yep, there are.  Freebie cookie there. (Yeah, I know that’s not fair, but it’s my rating system)

What POV was it written in?  First Person “I”.

UGH!  I hate first person!  Lose half a cookie.

Wait a minute… it’s also in third person.  Huh?  Lose another half a cookie … Let’s get back to this in a little bit.

The Top of the Cookie:  The Crunchy Goodness:

The characters in this story are very believable.  We have a detective and his family facing his own personal problems who is put on a murder case that develops into a serial killer case.  JC Martin did a great job of portraying a man devoted to his family, but dedicated to finding a killer.  The sideline characters are also well played out.  None are stale and forgettable.  Even the rough and tough boss gets to show her soft side, giving us a giggle.  Well Done

The creamy filling… the bad stuff

I’ve harped on typos before.  I was delighted to not find any through most of my reading.  Then, unfortunately, BAM… there it is.  Now, I would have forgiven just one, but it was in the middle of the climax.  I mean, we’re in a life or death situation.  I am completely in the story.  Then SNAG.  What?  I had to stop and re-read the sentence.  I hate that.  The typo reminded me I was reading.  Sorry.  Lose half a cookie. If it were somewhere else, I may have overlooked it.

Points of view:  (Minor Spoiler) The novel starts in the POV of a magician.  It was fine, until the end of the first chapter.  Let’s just say he’s no-longer in the story anymore.  Okay… he’s dead.  I said it.  He’s victim #1.

From here, we are thrown into chapter #2.  This chapter is first person “I” from the POV of the detective.  To me, it was very jarring.  Moving ahead, we will be inside the head of the detective, the killer, and also in the POV of each victim right before they get killed.  After a while I got used to it, but it did bother me in the beginning.  (Cookie already subtracted above)

Now, there is one other POV in the story that I will keep to myself.  Even as I read it, it bothered me because I knew the author was “cheating”.  I cannot tell you more without spoiling the story, but I didn’t like it.  It was done just to add added tension, and I found it unnecessary.  Lose half of a cookie.

Pacing

For the most part, the pacing was great.  Somewhere right before the climax, I was thinking.  “Wait, there’s gonna be another murder? Get on with it.”  Now, I am perfectly willing to admit that I read a few novellas before this, and may have become accustomed to a faster read… but I did get a little impatient in the middle of the story.  This could just be me, though, so I’m not subtracting a cookie for this.

The bottom of the cookie:  Ending on a good note.

Believe it or not, I Actually liked this novel.  Not loved, but liked it.  On a great note, I picked out the “killer” early on in the story.  (I tend to do this a lot)  And I thought I was right until the last few pages.  If I was right, I would have subtracted another cookie.  I really enjoyed that JC Martin gave enough plausible suspects to keep us guessing.  Well done.

POV Switching… while I didn’t like it at first, I did get used to the different POVs once I realized what she was doing.  If I was suddenly thrust into a random person’s head I thought:  “Okay, this one’s a gonner,” and I moved on.  It worked.

Writing style.  JC Martin’s style is sleek and very readable.  She pulls you in to the story, and keeps you reading.  Normally, I am a chapter a night kind of reader.  Frequently, I’d read for longer.  Especially during the climax.  I didn’t want to put the book down.  I kept jumping and biting my nails.  Nicely done.

So… how’d this all pan out?  She got one extra cookie for an explosion… that’s starting out with six cookies, but she dropped down to five because of the POV switching.  I took away half a cookie for the typo in the worst possible spot in the story.  I also took a half for the extra “cheat” POV that I thought was unnecessary.

So that leaves four out of five Oreos for JC Martin’s Oracle

Am I now a mystery fan?  Nope, I’m still not hoping on this bandwagon.

Would I buy another JC Martin novel?  Yes, if the topic seemed interesting.  I’ll have to see if she’d be willing to write something with dragons.  🙂

Review of The Sword: A Novel (Chiveis Trilogy) by Bryan Litfin

I started reading this novel with the “free excerpt” from Amazon, and I immediately purchased it once my free pages were done.

Click on the image to go to B&N Site

This novel was everything I was looking for…  A Medieval setting with a very original twist.  My son (the middle grade reviewer) read over my shoulder one day and said “That looks great, can I read it?”

I had to finish it first before I could answer, but even looking over my shoulder, he picked up on the sharp writing, and compelling plot.

Despite all this, I finished the book disappointed.  Why?  Let’s discuss.

The “sharp writing” swayed a little further on.  The characters lost “their voice” a few times.  At least from my perspective it seemed wrong.  Also, there were too many points of view, and too many characters.  Yes, I understood the necessity of each of them, but with their odd names, I had trouble remembering who was who.

The novel is cut into three “books”.  At the end of book one, I sat back and said.  “Wow, that was cool.”

I was still enjoying it at that point, but then it turned for me.  It got very wrapped up in what happened at the end of book one.  Yes, I suppose that is what the writer wanted to do, but he had me so in-tune to the relationship development of two characters at that point, that the interjection of the new plot element was jarring.

I just really couldn’t get into the second and third books, (the second being the worst of the two)

What I learned as a writer:

I keep going back to that one blog post I read a year ago (I really wish I could remember her name) where she said “The first chapter is a promise to your reader”

That is what my problem was.  I was promised a very different story than the one that ended up the novel.  I supposed the “second story” was good, but it wasn’t what I was interested in at that point.

I would also be careful to follow the rules of POV.  For instance, there is a scene told in a beggar’s POV.  It is only a few pages long.  It is there because the author wanted someone had to see the two Main characters walking through the forest. – WHY?  You never see or hear from this character again.

Little things like that annoyed me, and made me feel less standoffish about the POV cuts I have done in my novel.  There could have been a much easier way to do that scene (above) without injecting another random character in the story.

In the end, I was jumping back and forth from head to head so much, I don’t even know whose side I was rooting for. (You get the POV of the good guys and the bad guys.)

So, Book one I would give four solid Oreos.  But the overall novel… all three books, I would give three stars.

I would recommend this to anyone really interested in religion, and the development of religion.  That is what this novel is about.  Granted, religion is mentioned in the “blurb” but after looking at the cover, and reading the first several chapters, I was ready for something very different.

Bummer for me, because I was really ready to enjoy this.

Book Review of THRONE by Philip Tucker

I will never read another book the same as I used to.  Every little thing that’s wrong JUMPS out at you when you become a serious Beta Reader.  Have you ever noticed that?

Anyway, let’s chat about THRONE by Philip Tucker.  I am going to use the general “Oreo Cookie” concept for reviewing this.  Start with the crunchy goodness, dig into the squishy bad, and then end on a crunchy good note.  Not actually hard to do on this one.

THRONE is one of those novels that starts you in the real world in someone’s everyday life, and then catapults you with a slingshot into a new world that you never knew existed.

THRONE takes you on an exciting and action packed journey in a very unique and eventful plotline with a very interesting premise.  Throughout the first half, you know the two main characters are going to meet, but how… and “who is who” is a mystery until it practically happens.

And once they do meet… strap yourself in, because the rollercoaster is heading up the hill, and the ride is about to begin. (I can’t really tell you more without spoiling anything)

The five phases of my monotonous reading mind….  Everything falls into one category:

Before I dish out the creamy filling on this novel, let me point out that I really liked it a lot.  Loved it?  No, because of what I’m about to discuss, but I would definitely consider reading another of  Philip Tucker’s novels.  I just need to pay closer attention when I start reading.  Let me explain…

Imagery

Part of the top of the Oreo cookie is the amazing imagery in this novel.  I want to read some of it again because people have said that I use too little imagery  in my writing.  I want to study how the author did it.  The good part was that I knew exactly what the scenes looked like.  The reason why I am mentioning this in the “creamy filling” section is because the imagery went on for TOO LONG in almost every case.

I got a clear view of the scene, started skimming, and clicked my kindle three times to advance, and the character is still looking down the street.  – Again personal preference.  It was EXTREMELY well written, and I can learn a lot from this… it’s just too much for me personally.

Point of View Confusion

If you decide to read this novel (and yes, I would recommend it)  Keep in mind that it is written in two very regimented Points of View.  To be completely honest, I did not realize it was in two points of view until about 16% of the way through it.

The novel is written with one chapter in Maya’s POV, and then the next chapter in Maribel’s POV.  Then it interchanges back and forth.  For some reason, I did not pick up on this until 16% of the way in.  I thought it was the same character.  I thought one chapter was in the current time, and every other chapter was a flashback.  Yes, they have two different names, but for some reason that didn’t click.  Maybe it is because both names started with “MA” and one was older than the other.  I’m not really sure what happened, but for some reason I just didn’t “get it”.

Sooo…. You can imagine my confusion.  I was having trouble keeping track of what events happened to which character.  If you read this, keep in mind that there are two POVs and you will have no problem.

When your dog starts talking to you

My third problem is talking animals.  That is just personal preference.  Watership Down, Charlotte’s Web, Secrets of NIMH, Homeward Bound…No problem… but I just don’t like animals talking to people. (Totally a personal preference—I realize that)

Reactions to suddenly talking animals:  Place yourself in a city.  You are running from something freaky.  You hide in a building, and all of the sudden this fox pops up and starts talking to you…

I’m sorry.  No matter what is going on, if a fox starts talking to me I am going to be FREAKED OUT.  I didn’t buy the character’s reaction to this happening.  She was too quick to be okay with this.

Unanticipated change in Characterization

Another thing that disappointed me was the sudden change in one of the main characters.  Yes, it had to happen for the story to move forward, but after the detailed imagery and wonderful characterization throughout the novel, I felt a little cheated by this sudden change, and it seemed out of character to me.  If someone acts in one way, and then has an extremely DRASTIC turn in characterization, I need to SEE IT COMING to buy it.  Even after finishing the novel, I still don’t buy what happened right after the one character “changed”.  When she did “what she did” only seconds after the “change” I was stunned, and not in a good way.  She did remain in her “changed” state quite well after that, though.  It was just that transition that didn’t seem believable to me. (Gosh, I wish I could explain that better-but I don’t want to drop any spoilers)

After all this happens, jump on to the rollercoaster for a huge, and I hate to use a “trendy word” – EPIC battle scene.  This scene goes on FOREVER… and I mean that in a good way.  I was not bored for a single second.

At one point I thought the battle was going to be over in a very cliché way, but “Oh no!  It didn’t work!”  Run everybody run!  Get out of there!  WHEW!

The pacing was excellent, and I didn’t see the resolution to the conflict before it was in the process of happening.  Nicely done.

The close of the novel

The novel winded down and closed extremely quickly, in a slightly unexpected way, but very satisfying.  (To pop back over to the creamy filling, I would have liked one more chapter in the other Main Character’s POV, because I don’t think her story really closed enough to my satisfaction)

I would have liked a little more of a wind down, but again… I realize that is personal preference.  After being in the middle of that roller-coaster battle scene, I had a bit of that “whiplash” feeling when the high-speed coaster’s breaks hit the tracks.  BOOM!  Last page.  It’s over.  Get out.  You’re done.  A little too abrupt for me.  Again—not going to subtract a cookie for this, since that’s just my preference.

I will give this novel four out of five Oreos.  It loses one-half an Oreo each on two points… because I was confused to start… and it had too much imagery for my tastes.  From me that is a glowing recommendation.  I really liked it despite what bothered me about it.

This author is extremely talented and has a great writing style.  Great story, great premise, very nice execution.

I would recommend this to any writer looking for an example of well-written imagery (I’d just suggest cutting your imagery a little slimmer if you want people like me to read it.)

I’d also recommend it for anyone that would like to experience a GREAT battle scene… and I mean that.  You won’t just read it.  You will experience it.

Good stuff.

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