Review: The Calling

The Calling
The Calling by James Frey

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I can see from the comments on Goodreads that this book draws some controversy, but I quite enjoyed it. It’s a solid 3.5 stars from me. The author’s name didn’t really ring a bell for me, so I had no preconceptions going into it, and the comparisons to The Hunger Games are really way off base. Yes, there are points of superficial similarity in the premise, but the story is entirely different. *Entirely.* It’s a fast-paced and quite gripping story in which you never know which characters will live or die, and the idea behind the plot is intriguing. It made me think back to books like Chariots of the Gods, which I read in my teens, and which probably shaped a lot of my ideas about life in the universe (take what you will from that). I listened to the audiobook and it was excellently narrated by Sunil Malhotra, who managed to give a diverse cast of characters very recognizable voices.

My only quibble was that some parts (long strings of words and/or numbers which the characters must decode) did not translate well for audio. Not sure how you’d fix that problem, but it serves to pull the reader out of the story, which you never want to do.

At any rate, I’d read the next one.



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Review: Strictly Analog

Strictly Analog
Strictly Analog by Richard Levesque

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really loved this book! Like the author (who mentions this at the end of the book), I have a real love of noir detective stories, and pairing them with sci-fi and/or fantasy stories. I was immediately pulled into the time and place of this book, and immediately rooting for our damaged but resourceful PI. The characters are great, the story is fast-paced, and the virtual world intriguingly realized. I’m not sure if there are more books about him, but I’m off to find out! Highly recommended if you like a scifi/mystery combination.



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5 Quick and Dirty Tips for Increasing your NaNoWriMo Word Count

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Pssst! Hey, buddy, you want some NaNoWriMo tips?

Disclaimer: These are not tips for good writing. However, it’s the middle of November, and if your word count needs a boost, you may find these ideas helpful. Just don’t forget to fix it all in revision. ;)

Names: give all your character double or even triple names — Betty Lou or Nanny Lola or Master Sergeant Bob. Every time you type a name, it’s at least a two-fer.

Chapter Titles: Name every chapter descriptively, like so:  Chapter Seven: In which Nancy tells Sue Ellen a Secret, Heather Loses a Toenail, and Officer Joe discovers something Terrible in the Bathtub.

In-line Annotations: Don’t waste perfectly good plot and character notes by placing them in the margins, comments, or a separate document. Stick those things right into your text. You typed them, didn’t you? They count! And when you go to rewrite, BAM!, there they are, exactly where you need to be reminded of them.

Description: If your characters don’t want to talk to each other and nothing much seems to be happening, describe the surroundings while you wait for the muse to come back from her coffee break. It’s not a full description until you’ve included at least one sensory detail for sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. Throw in the weather for good measure. Soon your characters will be chatting and moving just to break the monotony. Bonus: You don’t need to remove all of these in revision. Having at least some of them is actually good for your story!

As-you-know-Bob: Although instances of this info-dumping-disguised-as-dialogue must be excised in your later drafts, having characters tell each other things they should already know is a great way to bump up a sagging word count. Bonus: Sometimes having your characters discuss these things will actually make the resolution to a plot problem come clear for you, the writer. And then you can get on with more exciting words for your next writing session.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and write…

Photo Credit: Dand8282

Review: The Book of Lost Things

The Book of Lost Things
The Book of Lost Things by Cynthia Voigt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I found this book to be an absolute delight. It was fun and engaging, with real mysteries and intrigues while also being very whimsical. Max was so much fun, with his acting and painting and very real need to “figure things out” on his own, and the supporting characters were just as great. I liked the almost fairy-tale feeling that overarched the whole story. I sure wish I’d had it to read when I was in grade 4 or 5 because I would have absolutely loved it then, too. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.



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Review: The Square of Revenge: An Inspector Van In Novel

The Square of Revenge: An Inspector Van In Novel
The Square of Revenge: An Inspector Van In Novel by Pieter Aspe

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Some people don’t like reading translations, but often I find them interesting…it’s an intriguing look into a different culture, just to see that the writing “conventions” we set such store by do not necessarily apply everywhere.

This was a quite decent mystery and although some of the characters acted strangely by our standards, I don’t think that means it was poorly-written in its native tongue, or poorly-translated, either. It’s just different. I did enjoy it and the narration was very well done.



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