A Major Rule Breaker!

*Disclaimer: This review includes major spoilers. And, of course, you should take my opinions with a grain of salt. I don’t pretend to be the end all, be all for YA books. This is just what I thought of the book.

The first book I picked off my to-read pile was a solid 7.

This next one would have been a 6 or a 7…but now I can’t give it anything above a 5.5. And that’s being generous. I’ll tell you why…

I recently read “The False Prince” by Jennifer A. Nielsen. I recognized the title off an old to-read list.

I was surprised when I first opened it up. I wouldn’t really call “The False Prince” a YA  book. It’s really a “middle” book, meaning I would have loved reading it in middle school. You know what I’m talking about: shorter sentences, simple vocabulary, a smaller world, and short chapters. (2-3 of these chapters could actually fit within one of the chapters in one of my normal level books.)

After I got over this initial shock, it was actually a refreshing change. I’m not going to apologize for reading and (mostly) enjoying a “middle” level book. It’s a rather simple and unimposing book, but the story is still interesting.

Here’s the rundown (**I can’t make my point without spoilers, so here’s your second warning!):

“The False Prince” is the story of orphan Sage who, along with a group of other orphaned boys, is “bought” by a noble man named Conner. Conner trains them to be gentlemen, promising that, by the time he’s done with them, they will be able to pass for the missing Prince himself. (Ominous music plays)

The other boys seem eager to go along with Conner’s plan to impersonate the royal heir to the throne. Sage is the only one who refuses to be used by Conner and genuinely doesn’t want the crown. He is an ornery, rebellious, sarcastic, untrusting and untrustworthy little thief, and it seems like he might be keeping some secrets from Conner.

Sage intrigued me from the beginning. He seemed to be the epitome of a false hero. I enjoyed reading about him just to see what other tricks he had up his sleeve. I had a few inklings that he was keeping some part of his past a secret from everyone else, but I was content to watch his story unfold slowly as I got a sense of who he was…The author had other ideas.

I was breathing in Sage’s story, fully prepared to rush through the last half of the book and run out to find the sequel, when I got to chapter 42.

Chapters 42-43 killed the book for me.

Nielsen did something that just made me want to cry. He broke what I believe to be a major rule. He was on a roll, the story was heading up the arc towards the climax, Conner and Sage were about the set off for the palace, and then Nielsen paused for backstory. He just paused everything to give away the entire tale of what happened to the prince, and it wasn’t even important at the time.

If you have some complicated backstory for a character, you should really include a prologue or dole it out in suspenseful and informative chunks. Make the telling of the backstory crucial to the plot. Don’t pause and leave the characters hanging at a critical moment to tell us someone’s  backstory.

I mean, I had already guessed that Sage wasn’t who he claimed to be, but you don’t give your readers that little to go on and then just pause everything right before the climax to explain every little detail of what really happened to the protagonist before the book even began.

That’s something I would have expected in a detective novel. Everyone knows that the detective comes out at the 2nd of the story and explains, in painstaking detail, how the butler killed Mrs. Norris in the library with a crowbar. How? Because Sherlock Holmes tracked his laundry down with a piece of lint and used the key left in one of the coats that, judging by the type and extent of rust, led him to a safe buried in the bottom of the lake. But why? Because 10 years ago, Mrs. Norris told her niece to refuse the butler’s advances and he never got over the affront. And here is the secret diary to prove it!

That’s what you’d expect right? That Sherlock would make everything come together? You might have started picking up the pieces yourself, but you would never have gotten the whole picture if he didn’t tell you every little thing that started the domino effect that led to this murder. That’s the climax of virtually every detective novel.

Well this isn’t a detective novel! I didn’t need all of that, and I didn’t want it. You might be thinking, Well that doesn’t sound so bad. Trust me, do not read this book unless you want to be disappointed.

The one good thing I can say at this point is that at least Nielsen didn’t try to go for a Disney Anastasia twist: the prince was running and he hit his head and forgot everything, but now he has suddenly regained his memory! I would have been delighted at the originality of this author’s idea, if he had presented it correctly. This was just lazy writing.

Maybe I’m overestimating younger readers, but even they could have been able to figure it out if given the chance.

I guess the only way to describe my feelings towards this book and author is that I feel betrayed. You won’t understand if you don’t love books. If you do, I urge you to be careful when picking up one of Nielsen’s books. I wouldn’t want to come across the same surprise in another one of his books.

Confession, I stared at “The False Prince” for a few days after reading those chapters, but I did eventually pick it back up. I wanted to see how Sage’s story ended. Nielsen could have made this a stand alone novel. The climax was suspenseful. The ending was strong. The final twists and turns were wonderful. And, most important, the little facets and surprises that surrounded each of the well-rounded characters were still polished to a shine.

I could have really liked this book. I might have even put it on my shelf, if I didn’t feel so betrayed.

Okay, rant over. Have anyone else read this book or anything else by Nielsen? What did you think?

Have you ever been disappointed be a book you read?

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What Is Your Biggest Pet Peeve as an Editor?

I wanted to address this question. Multiple people have asked me, “What is your biggest pet peeve when you edit _____?” The “___” refers to whatever I was talking about at the time: academic papers, manuscripts, freelance work, my own work, etc.

I usually don’t know what to answer, but I’m going to try my best now.

Everyone who knows me heard stories about the people I worked with at my college press. One author in particular gave me a lot of grief. I called him “hyphen guy,” because he loved to use hyphens in his text. And he’d put them in such awkward places: stop-light, inter-state, etc. As you can imagine, it got to be quite annoying.

Even hearing me talk about it now, two years later, you can’t miss the exasperation in my voice. You’d think that hyphens are my biggest pet peeve.

I don’t think that’s true. My biggest pet editing peeve is actually…commas.

Notice I didn’t say people who use too many commas or “comma guys.” My problem isn’t with people who use commas. (Unless I find someone who doesn’t believe in the Oxford comma. Then I’m ready for a showdown.) It’s with commas themselves. I’ve thoroughly convinced myself over the last few years that commas are the most confusing part of this utterly confusing language.

If you’re still a student, I’m about the blow your mind. Those rules your English teachers are trying to cram down your throats…they really don’t matter!

Well, okay, I’ll back up for a second. They do “matter.” You have to know  how to write in proper English. For instance, items in a list have to set apart with commas. Introductory phrases and clauses also have to be set off by commas. Commas are used with dialogue and strings of adjectives. And, of course, the rule of thumb is that a comma should be inserted wherever you hear a pause when you read a sentence out loud.

Ah, the age-old rules of comma usage. I remember them well. These are actually a paraphrase of the rules in one of my grammar books. But if someone tells you that these these rules are set in stone, they are sadly mistaken. In fact…

If you really want to rattle some cages, look your professor in the eye the next time he says, “There shouldn’t be a comma there. There isn’t a pause.”

Look him in the eye and say, “There is a pause.” Then watch the look on his face while you overly pronounce the pause where you placed your comma. It’s either going to be comical or frightening.

If you can’t take that, I would strongly suggest you stay out of a career that requires you to pour over manuscripts, or documents, for that matter, with a red pen.

In the real world, you’ll hear things like: “Oh, I’m sorry, but we follow an editing standard that doesn’t recognize the Oxford Comma” or “If the author wants those commas there, then you should drop it. It’s just her writing style.”

I’ve heard both of these statements. They made me feel sad…and mad…Yes, I’m smad. It’s a real emotion. It’ll catch on. 🙂

The hard part is, I have problems with commas, too. I could say a sentence five different ways, with five different commas. Does that mean they’re all correct? No…wait, yes…maybe? It’ll probably depend on who is “grading”  writing and if they care about the intent behind it.

I can pretty much guarantee you that someone out there is going to have a problem with one of the commas in this article. So go ahead, let me have it! Just remember that the comma is the one who actually deserves your scowl and disrespect.

That’s right. I don’t respect you, comma!

*Jumps under desk and curls into a ball* Please don’t tell any of my commas that I said that. I don’t want to get ambushed by commas in the next manuscript I  read.

🙂 So…whatcha’ thinkin’ guys?

Quotes for the Book Reader’s Heart #1

I heart books

Everyone needs a little inspiration in their lives…including me. I’d like to add a little inspiration into the minds of my fellow book lovers. I plan to make this a series of posts featuring inspirational, beautiful, and/or interesting different topics or genres, if anyone is interested.

Since I’m running this show, I think I’ll start with the genre that is closest to my heart: YA literature. So here are 15 of the most inspirational YA quotes that I’ve come across:

  1. Being fearless isn’t the point. It’s impossible. It’s learning how to control fear, and how to be free from it. –Divergent by Veronica Roth
  2. You could rattle the stars. You could do anything, if you only dared. –Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
  3. Perhaps there could be no joy on this planet without an equal weight of pain to balance it out in some unknown scale. –The Host by Stephanie Meyer
  4. Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear. –The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  5. There you go…let it all slide out. Unhappiness can’t stick in a person’s soul when it’s slick with tears. –Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
  6. Books have to be heavy because the whole world’s inside them. –Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
  7. Where ever you go, you take yourself with you. –The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  8. Don’t be afraid of death; be afraid of an unloved life. –Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
  9. Books are my friends, my companions. They make me laugh and cry and find meaning in life. –Eragon by Christopher Paolini
  10. It it our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, more than our abilities. –Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
  11. Life, with its rules, its obligations, and its freedoms is like a sonnet: You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. –A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  12. Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet? –Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery 
  13. When people don’t express themselves, they die one piece at a time. –Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  14. Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like clouds, and she would wring them out, like the rain. –The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  15. Everyone in the world was programmed by the place they were born, hemmed in by their beliefs, but you had to at least try to grow your own brain. –Pretties by Scott Westerfeld

Well there they are…

Do you remember these? Did one jump out at you?

Do you want to know why I picked one of these quotes or these books when there are so many out there to choose from? Ask me.

Is there another YA quote that has touched your life? Please share it with me.

Also, let me know if you would like to choose the next list topic. I want to hear from y’all!

Taking Stock of My Library

I recently read an article on BookRiot.com entitled “An Exercise in Interrogating My Bookshelves.” I decided to take a page out of the author’s book and do a thorough analysis of the books that currently reside on my bookshelves. Here’s what I found out:

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I can’t create a color coordinated, digital image of my bookshelf, but I can create pretty tally marks with colored pens. Intrigued? Keep reading.

Basically, I’ve found out that I own 77 fiction books and 61 non-fiction books – a whopping 138 books in all! Other than that, not much else shocked me. I’ll expand on what I found out about both bookshelves.

Fiction Bookshelf—77 books

  1. Read: 46 sounds like a small number to me, but it actually means quite a lot. These are the books that I’ve read and kept in my heart. The last book that I read from my personal library was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Although, now that I think about it, it’s probably time to re-read a few more of my old favorites.
  2. Intending to Read: These are the books that I bought at the B&N clearance sale that are waiting in a little pile next to my bookshelf. They’ll have to earn their place on the shelf, but I have high hopes for them. Unless something else catches my eye in the library, I’ll be steadily working my way through this stack.
  3. Half-Read: There are a handful of books that I only started to read and then had to put down for some reason. The most notable of these would be my storybook versions of the “Grimms’ Fairy Tales” and “One Thousand and One Nights.” You just don’t sit down and go through all of the tales found in these books in one night.
  4. Pretend that I’ve Read: Okay, okay, so there are a few “gift” books that I’ve never read. I won’t be talking about any of those. When I looked at my shelf, “The Guide to Harry Potter” jumped out at me. When I acquire a “Guide to” type book for a series that I love, I tend to treat them like Fiction books and shelve them accordingly. “The Guide to Harry Potter” is the only such book that I own and haven’t read…but I like to pretend that I know everything about Rowling’s books anyway.
  5. Saving for when I have more time to read: There are a few anthologies that I’ve been saving for a rainy day when I can sit down with a jumbo latte and allow myself to be immersed in multiple fictional worlds. I’m particularly fond of a recent acquisition of mine entitled, “The Book of Dragons.”
  6. I will never read: It was hard for me to look at my shelf and realize there are some books that I will probably never read. I remember I was in a bookstore with my husband (boyfriend at the time.) They didn’t really have anything I was interested in. I felt bad, because K had taken decided to go to this bookstore just for me. In order to avoid telling him the truth, I pretended to browse the shelves and then insisted on paying for my own “find.” Sorry, sweetie, but I’m never going to read that book.
  7. Only for show: I’m not really the kind of person who likes to have fancy books that I  place on coffee tables. That being said, I count my storybooks as both “show” books and “save” books, because they are beautifully ornate. I definitely wouldn’t mind acquiring more of them and sitting them out for my fellow English nerds to gawk over.
  8. I can’t remember anything: There are six books on my shelf that I can’t remember anything about, but I would have told anyone who asked about them that they were among my favorites. Six! I’m truly ashamed of myself. It’s time to wipe the dust off those old novels and take another look at them.
  9. Regret that I Read: 0! I do not keep books that I don’t enjoy reading on my shelves. That would be completely counter productive. I’m going to get rid of those few “I’ll never read” books right now.
  10. *I’m going to add a last category just for fun. I wanted to count all of the books that I’ve read more than once. Here’s the tally: 36. 36 out of 46 isn’t bad. As I mentioned earlier, my most recent re-read was the Harry Potter series. If I have some time to re-read another one of my old favorites, I think I’d like to read “The Host” again. I’ve read it twice, but it’s been at least five years. For some reason, I keep telling people it’s my favorite book. I think that warrants a thorough reading every five years. Do you agree?

Non-Fiction Bookshelf—-61 books

  1. Read: I’ve only read 20 of the non-fiction books on my shelf. Or, I should say, I’ve only read 20 of them thoroughly. My non-fiction shelf is a mixture of devotional books, dictionaries, old textbooks, sign language books, and books on writing. I’ve gotten fond of perusing the non-fiction sections of bookstores and libraries as I’ve grown older. I’m more likely to buy a random non-fiction book that looks interesting, or at least educational, than a random novel that might disappoint me. The last non-fiction book I read was a writing book called, “The First Five Pages.”
  2. Intending to Read: Like I said, I’m more likely to put unfamiliar books on this shelf. These six books on my “to read” shelf are all devotions or writing books. I’m slowly and surely making my way through the writing books as I have time for them. “Hooked” is on the top of that pile. 
  3. Half-Read: There are several old textbooks or writing books that I started to read, thought might be helpful, and decided to put them down until I needed them. I’m actually proud that I kept several old technical writing and bibliography books, because they’re proving useful at my internship.
  4. Pretend that I’ve Read: There are a couple of textbooks that I had to get for classes and decided that I never actually needed to read. However, I feel bad about the money my parents had to spend on them, and they look really impressive on my shelf, so…shhhh!
  5. Saving for when I have more time to Read: Chief among these are a small collection of Joyce Meyer books. I fell in love with Joyce Meyer’s writing after reading “Battlefield of the Mind” and “In Pursuit of Peace.” Someone was giving away her books for free. I found out that day that I cannot say no to anything written by Joyce Meyer. She is so inspirational. I plan to pull one of her books off the shelf as soon as I have time to sit down and actually think about what I’m reading.
  6. I will never read: Again, I’m referring to some of those old English textbooks. One sounds like it might be helpful in an editorial field, the other one is probably just boring nonsense. I should probably get rid of it…but I just can’t.
  7. Only for show: These mostly refer to my dictionaries. I have 9 🙂 . Impressive, right? You can come borrow them anytime. My favorites are a big 10lb desk oxford dictionary that my husband gave me as a gift while we were dating (he’s so romantic), a comprehensive sign language dictionary, and a dictionary of mythical creatures.
  8. I can’t remember anything: Huh, I would have expected to remember more of the fiction books that I’ve read and less non-fiction books. Still, I can understand why every word of “Longman’s Student Grammar of Spoken and Written English” might not have stuck in my head. It was useful at one time, and I’m sure it will be useful  again. I’ll just have to reread it when the time comes.
  9. I regret reading: Again – 0! There is no place for books I don’t enjoy in my personal library. That includes textbooks. I would rather give away useless textbooks to someone who can use them rather than leave them sitting on a shelf gathering dust. I guess that means I do need to get rid of those textbooks I know I’ll never read.
  10. *Read more than once: The nine books that I reread have all been helpful in some way. They’re either devotionals that I’ve gone through multiple times or useful textbooks. I have a habit of rereading my favorite scenes from particular fiction books. In the same way, I like to go over truly inspirational or helpful passages when I find myself in need of their particular wisdom. I would say it’s more likely that I’ve reread non-fiction books piece by piece rather than cover to cover.

So what do y’all think? Do your bookshelves match your expectations, or did you find something that you weren’t expecting? I challenge you to go find out!

Here’s the link to that article on Book Riot: http://bookriot.com/2014/06/06/exercise-interrogating-bookshelves/

The Key of Amatahns

*Disclaimer: This post does include a synopsis of the book, but no major information is given away. And, of course, you should take my opinions with a grain of salt. I don’t pretend to be the end all, be all for YA books. This is just what I thought of the book.

I did something that I usually don’t do, but it was a special occasion. My birthday is two days after my husband’s birthday. As a special treat, we both went down to a B&N clearance sale and just went crazy! We got a box full of books plus what we could fit into a book bag. It was awesome! I strongly suggest that you go to a clearance sale sometime. It’s not a good place to find specific books, but you can easily wile away a few hours shuffling past tables covered in stacks of books, talking about books with complete strangers, grabbing a good find off the table before anyone else gets to it, and, my personal favorite, starting a new book while you wait in a check out line that wraps around the whole building.

Between both of us, we spent about $50. I’d say that over half of that was mine, but I still got a pretty good deal. For my 30 or so dollars, I got 15 new books. Out of those, there was one I’d already read and I just wanted to add to my personal library. There were five books that I’d heard about and knew I wanted to read. The remaining nine were books I’d never heard about. I don’t usually like to buy random books, but they were $1-2 dollars a piece, so I decided to take a chance on them.

The first book I picked up out of the box when I got home was The Key of Amatahns by Elisabeth Wheatley. The book’s name was the first thing that captured my attention. It seemed like an interesting story and I loved that it was written by a high school student. You don’t see that a lot.

Here’s a basic synopsis of the story: Janir is born as the heir to a kingdom that is ruled by the ruthless, bloodthirsty Argetellams. When her traveling convoy is ambushed by a group of people from  another kingdom, they almost kill her just because of her heritage. A knight takes pity on her, however, and decides to take her into his home. They manage to keep the secret for many years, but she is forced to flee to the mountains when someone finds out that she is an Argetallam.

Along the way she meets a young (and foolish) wizard who convinces her to go on a quest to find the fabled “Key of Amahtans,” which is said to have the power of an entire magical race locked inside it. Before she knows it, Janir is caught up in a quest that involves an elf, her Argetallam half-brother, and an ancient race of magical beings.

Will Janir be able to save herself and her friends with her emerging Argetallam powers? Who will end up with the key? Will the power inside of the key be unlocked? These are the questions that will be racing through your mind while you read this book.

Now, while I love Wheatley’s story, I don’t love this book. I’m sure some of my opinion comes down to a dislike of the author’s personal writing style. That can happen in any circumstance. Sometimes a writer’s writing style, or quirks, just don’t sit right with a reader. For instance, the sheer number of run-on sentences that occurred when Wheatley was describing something or the chapter/paragraph breaks. They didn’t take away from the awesome story line, but they did annoy me at times.

One of the biggest turn offs for me was the repetition that occurred throughout the book. I really don’t like it when an author shows or tells you something twenty times. I get it. I see the connection. You don’t have to spell it out for me by repeating the meaning behind something again. Also some of the descriptive words or phrases became a little repetitive.

I don’t think the pacing was ideal. This can be a rather touchy subject. I work in publishing house. I understand the importance of jumping straight into the action and getting the reader’s attention. When openings are too slow, you can lose readers. However, I’ve read a lot of manuscripts recently where I think the story could have benefited from a little more background or world building in the beginning. (Or more time in the “ordinary world,” if you will.) I think “The Key of Amatahans” could have benefited from more time spend in the “ordinary world.” After the first chapter, Janir was all grown up. On top of that, she was a completely different character in a completely different place. There are a lot of questions about Janir’s background that were left unanswered. I want to know more about Janir and her world, which is a good thing, but it did take me longer to get “the feel” of her as the main character.

The characters were relatable and well-rounded. I found myself becoming emotionally involved with them all. I even felt sympathy for the “bad” characters, which is saying a lot. It’s wonderful whenever an author can cause readers to feel something for her evil characters. Except when repetition showed up, their interactions were quite genuine.

Through all of that, I got to the end of the book. The ending was perfect! Wheatley knew how to keep her readers on the edge of their seats. Just when I thought her denouement was starting to draw out, she added a twist that left the character’s hanging in the balance.

All in all, I love the story! I’m kind of “eeh” on the book. I haven’t decided whether it has earned its place on my shelf yet. I  don’t think I’ll go to any extremes to look for the rest of the series, but I might check out the next book if I can find it at my local library.

I’d love to see if this author is still writing, because her writing style might have changed. I’m sure she’s grown in her craft since high school. I’m in no place to judge her first book, because I’m embarrassed to read my old attempts at writing. I’m just amazed at the character and world building skills that she already possessed. And she knew what she wanted! She went out there and she found someone who would publish a book written by a high school student! That fact alone might be enough to get me to check my library for more of her books. We’ll see 🙂 .

The Winning Review

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I’ve told y’all about the three book review/articles that launched by freelance writing career and piqued the interest of future employers who did not care one iota about YA books.

I asked if y’all wanted to read one, and here’s the one you chose. Enjoy! Let me know if this piqued your interest.

A Fresh Perspective on Dragons

I have a confession to make…I am obsessed with dragons. I love them!  As a fellow bibliophile, you must understand my concern when tales of space exploration started to fill up the bestseller lists. Books about dragons and vampires no longer dominated the shelves. My dilemma became this: How could I feed my hunger for a book that featured a new, fresh perspective on dragons? I thought my search was doomed to end in heartbreak…

Then I discovered Rachel Hartman’s YA novel, Seraphina. Hartman’s book breathes life into these iconic, scaly creatures. I should make one thing clear: If you are a die-hard “Knights of the Round Table” fan, you will be disappointed. If, however, you enjoy stories that are not focused solely on killing these magical beasts, you must read this book.

Hartman’s creatures are the Vulcans of dragon-kind. They are cunning, smart, and emotion-less. Hartman’s world-building skills are impressive, to say the least. The reader is instantly plunged into a post-knight, post-war world where dragons converse with humans, disguise themselves as humans, and, yes, consort with humans.

It is through the eyes of one of these half-human, half-dragon Ityasaari that readers are introduced to the politics of Goredd. Seraphina, however, is not your typical modern, kick-butt heroine. Like the dragons she calls kin, her strength lies in her intellect and her struggle to control her emotions. Hartman’s world comes alive on the page as Seraphina answers the questions that all young adults ask at some point in their lives: Who am I? Where do I fit in? Her unique heritage adds a new level of intrigue and drama to these queries.

Every new character, every new kingdom, shines with the authenticity of a well-researched story. And yet the history of Goredd is not laid out in page after page of boring commentary. Rather, Hartman lets her characters tell their own histories. You will be caught up in Seraphina’s world from the first page. You will hear her melodious symphonies. You will feel the tension in the air as she encounters enemies and makes allies. You will stand with her as she discovers the secret of her dragon heritage and takes her place among the hidden world of the Ityasaari.

This book has everything that the YA dragon lover could wish for: dragon battles, rich settings, complex characters, and perhaps even a few love interests. Hartman’s book does not disappoint. Pick up a copy today!!