A Writer Reads

A Writer Reads

I don't know how much I'll put on here, but I read a ton and you may find me posting reviews occasionally. My main loves are fantasy and sci-fi, but I'll read pretty much anything. I am also a writer. I write mostly novels and poetry.

2 Stars
Off the Page
Off the Page - Samantha van Leer, Jodi Picoult
I said that the first book, although it should feel like your typical YA romance that annoys me, was actually really cute and enjoyable. For some reason, though, this one was way more generic and felt more juvenile. I didn't really like the plot, and a lot of the drama between couples felt unreasonable. The present tense still didn't bother me at all, so that's a bonus. I'm still pretty impressed with that.
4 Stars
Between the Lines
Between the Lines - Jodi Picoult, Samantha van Leer
I have no idea why I enjoyed that so much.

I found the premise fairly interesting, so I decided to read it, but I wasn't expecting that much out of it, since I really dislike most YA romance.

And from the get-go, all the red flags were raised. Delilah is pretty stereotypical, as teen protagonists go. She loves reading, is a loner, everybody at school hates her, etc. Oliver is better, but not much, although he does make some pretty big mistakes that steer him fairly well out of the Gary-Stue territory.

Furthermore, most of this book is written in first person present tense, switching between the viewpoint of Oliver and Delilah. Normally, I have two problems with this.

1. I hate present tense. I can get through it, but it's always distracting.
2. Often with YA I can't actually tell the main character's voices apart and I wind up confused when they change viewpoints. Not always, but often.

Neither of those things happened. Both voices were clear and distinct. I was especially surprised that I wasn't distracted by the present tense, since not only is it in present tense, the chapters that tell the story of the book Oliver is from are in past tense, and whenever they switch between the two it normally bothers me. But it didn't here. In fact, I didn't even notice it was in present tense until 75% of the way through the book, which shocked me. It was written that well.

And that's really what it comes down to. On the surface, it feels rather flimsy. I kept telling myself "these characters aren't, critically-speaking well-rounded. So why am I enjoying this so much?" Somehow, the writing is just delightful enough that all of that is overcome and the characters just spring off the page. It's a cute, delightful read, and definitely for younger readers. The illustrations are lovely as well, although I couldn't appreciate them fully because I was reading on a Kindle.

I'll admit, I wasn't crazy over the ending, not because it felt unearned but because I'm pretty sure (spoilers) Edgar's mom would be devastated over losing her son.

Regardless, it was a delightful read. I don't think I've ever had a reading experience quite like it. Will definitely be reading the second one!
3 Stars
The Merchant of Death
The Merchant of Death - D.J. MacHale
I'm reading the series because my sister really wanted me to. Honestly, it was closer to 3.5 stars, especially towards the end, but I didn't feel like rounding up.

It's not bad, just nothing special, although I've been informed it gets a lot better. I hope that's true! My main issue with it was that all of the major female characters were warrior/sports-y types who were always rude to the heroes and, I'm pretty tired of that archetype.
4 Stars
Kidding Ourselves: The Hidden Power of Self-Deception
Kidding Ourselves: The Hidden Power of Self-Deception - Joseph T. Hallinan
I quite enjoyed it. It seemed very well researched and reasoned. I liked it way better than other, similar books about the power of perception (like The Secret), probably because it detailed scientific observations of this power, instead of going "OH MY GOSH THIS IS SUCH AN AWESOME SECRET THAT WILL TOTALLY CHANGE YOUR LIFE IF ONLY YOU DECIDE TO BE THIS UNREALISTIC, HAPPY-GO-LUCKY PERSON."

Okay, The Secret wasn't that bad. My mom just took it way too literally and now often has this long-suffering, overly cheery and irritating attitude. Plus, I just appreciate this kind of writing style more. I really liked how the author detailed both aspects of self-deception - how it can help us, but also how it can hurt us, something seriously lacking from the Secret.

So, yeah, it was good. I received it as part of a Goodreads giveaway a few months ago and have finally gotten around to review it.
2 Stars
Doctor Who FAQ: All That's Left to Know about the Most Famous Time Lord in the Universe
Doctor Who FAQ: All That's Left to Know about the Most Famous Time Lord in the Universe - Dave Thompson
Firstly, this is not a FAQ. It reads more like an encyclopedia/analysis of various aspects of Doctor Who, all very colored by the author's biases. However, it can be really hard to get through without an extensive knowledge of the classic series, simply because 90% of the book is about the classic series. I found myself skipping over quite a few of the classic series' companions and monsters, partly because I couldn't bring myself to care and it was hard to keep track of, and partly because I'm currently watching the classic series and don't want everything spoiled for me. Also, there were a couple inaccuracies, like calling Martha a nurse and saying that the Time Lords had already ascended to a higher plane of existence at the start of "The End of Time." I took off 1 star for this.

Now on to the author's opinions, which he makes abundantly clear throughout the book, to the point where every Doctor and companions' profiles are highly colored by it. The First, Second, and especially Third Doctor seem to be his favorites, and he adores Jo Grant, calling her "flawless" an saying the Doctor "adored the ground she walked on." This certainly doesn't fit with what I have seen of her. In all the (admittedly only 3) serials I've seen her in, she was basically fairly brave and kind, but by no means the sharpest knife in the drawer. He acknowledges that, but doesn't seem to mind. And I don't think the Doctor has ever adored the ground anyone walked on.

Now, I have no problem with the author stating his opinions. But his bias pervades the book to the point of making some of the descriptions questionable as far as their factuality, and it is more than a little annoying, especially if you disagree with him. But I could live with that if he would at least back up his opinions well. But even when he gives his opinions support, it is often insubstantial and/or not very well reasoned.

When he praises something, he describes it in a vivid, flowery way with lots of adjectives, (he seems to have a gift for descriptions) but he rarely shows what make those adjectives describe it. For just one example, when he said the Doctor worshipped the ground she walked on, he did not cite any examples of the Doctor's supposed admiration for her, nor did he adequately explain her abundance of virtues.

He seems to have a great hatred for most of the new series, but especially Steven Moffat, saying that all of the 11th Doctor's (and the 6th Doctor's) stories' "sole purpose is to likewise devour the viewer's own joy and will to live." Now that's just harsh. The only 11th Doctor episode he actually likes is "The Doctor's Wife." And he hates the 11th Doctor, mostly because his childish mannerisms irritate the author (which is a just a matter of personal taste and doesn't bother me) and because he thinks that, with everything the Doctor's experienced, he shouldn't be behaving like a child. This is where his reasoning fails. The 11th Doctor, as it has been shown multiple times (such as in the 50th and "The Doctor's Wife"), acts like a child with his silly antics, horrible metaphors, and his generally childlike attitude most of the time because it is a coping mechanism. He is the Doctor who forgets because he cannot bear to remember the Time War, in contrast to the 10th Doctor, who couldn't bear to forget. The most ironic thing about the author's failure to see this is that the 9th Doctor, who is the author's favorite new series Doctor, employs a similar strategy, only his mask is much thinner.

There are many more examples of the author's opinions throughout the book, and are too numerous to fully list. I have merely stated a few of the more irritating ones. While it had great information, the biases prevalent throughout the book made it a lot less enjoyable. I kind of wish I had just borrowed it from the library instead of buying it.

There are a couple of good things, however. His information on the classic series it complete, and as far as I can tell, accurate. It will be very helpful as I watch the classic series. The other great thing about it is that it has a complete list of episodes in the back, as well as a large list of Doctor Who audio plays and books, and in order by Doctor, no less, which I'm sure I will find immensely helpful. Overall: read it, but be prepared for the author's bias and get it from your local library so you can decide afterwards whether it's worth adding to your shelf.
1 Stars
Cloudstar's Journey
Cloudstar's Journey - Erin Hunter
This was a disappointment, plain and simple. I was really hoping to read about the actual journey and learn more about what caused Skyclan to split apart, but all I got was what happened up until the journey started. Furthermore, the majority of it was a work for word repeat of various scenes from Battles of the Clans, Code of the Clans, and Secrets of the Clans. There were one or two new scenes, but that was it. It probably only took a month or so to throw together. Very disappointed.
1 Stars
The Other Side of Dark
The Other Side of Dark - Joan Lowery Nixon
This book was painful to read. And I don't say that about many books.

I admit it probably deserves a 2 star rating, but I couldn't bring myself to give it to it because it was so disappointing. You see, I came to this book expecting a heartwarming story about a girl gradually assimilating herself into society again and learning to cope with what happened to her. (Which I admit was my fault, as I didn't do any research on Nixon and didn't know she wrote mysteries.)

This was a mystery, and a bad one at that. Her assimilation back into society was glossed over, and, in the parts it wasn't, it was badly written. She seems to swing from about to burst into tears to in a murderous rage over her mother's murder to perfectly fine. It's really jarring. The characters and the dialogue was so unrealistic that the book was almost confusing. I kept thinking I was missing something that would make the characters seem human, but I wasn't.

The ending was overly simplistic for a murder mystery. I will admit I was wrong about who I thought was the murderer, but only because I was certain it wasn't the really obvious one. (Spoiler: It is.) I thought it was a character who's possible involvement was a lot more subtle. I'm not sure if that red herring was intentional or not.

The romance also felt weird and forced.

And, finally, the last line topped it all in what is probably the cheesiest line I have ever read, especially since it's the last line of the book.

I only made myself finish it because it was on the Battle of the Books list, so I had to read it. I'm really disappointed that such a lousy book made it on the list, since normally all the books are really good.