Book Review: Ender’s Game

Ender’s Game
by Orson Scott Card

My rating: 2 / 5
Genre: YA sci-fi

This book was a rough ride for me, and I’m not sure I can write an adequate review. It has long been a book my husband has really liked, but I’d never read it and not had much desire to read it. And for the first few chapters, I did not care for it at all. As my husband promised, it did pick up after that, though I still struggled with a lot of the content. I did somewhat anticipate the “big reveal,” though to be honest, I thought there’d be another twist coming after that. 

I had a really hard time following and caring about all of the politics, both on earth and at Battle School. The chapter and later sections about Peter & Valentine frankly went over my head and bored me, and I didn’t understand the point of them. I know that some of this is delved into a lot more in other books, but it’s really not something that interests me, so it detracted from the book for me. And while the end was mostly good, the last chapter felt like a tack-on, and I could have done without it.

What really turned me off in the beginning, while I was waiting for things to really get going, was Card’s writing style. I do not care for it. It bugged me so much that the narrative and characters would reference things off-hand as if they’d already been explained to us and then expand on those thoughts, and I was left mentally sputtering as I tried to keep up. I think that, in the end, this kind of writing just does not mesh with my way of thinking, my personality, my preference in reading…whatever the case may be, it frustrated me, where most seem to be fine with it.

I’m surprised to say that I was not actually put off by Ender’s tendency to be the best at everything. I mean, that was kind of the point. He was genetically bred to be that way (though to be honest, I barely picked that up from the book itself, but the synopsis does state that). I couldn’t imagine him as a 6-year-old, though, and had to just think pre-teen from the start. My daughter is 9, so I couldn’t get past how ridiculously unrealistic it was, but I’m not saying it didn’t make sense for the story…it just didn’t make sense in my head.

Overall, I don’t fully get why it’s such a classic. I get why people like it, but do not understand the fanatical draw. This was my second Orson Scott Card book (the first being Lost and Found). I didn’t particularly care for the other, either, and it’s interesting to note that they were published decades apart. I kinda think that maybe Card’s writing just isn’t for me.

Find out more about Ender’s Game

See what I’m reading next.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Top Ten Tuesday: My Spring TBR

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. Today’s topic is my spring TBR. I don’t choose books based on the season (except at Christmas time), but I do keep a short list of the next 5-10 books I want to read out of the longer TBR. In the 3 months since posting my winter TBR, the way that I choose my next few books has become more structured. I didn’t want to leave any books on the list too long, or leave a series sitting too long before going on to the next book. And I’m not a mood reader. So I decided that whenever my short list gets down to 5 books, I’d add 5 more to it based on specific criteria. Each addition of 5 will include:

1 book recommended to me by family/close friends OR a book that was self-published
1 book I own
1 book to continue a series
1 book that’s oldest on my full TBR list
1 book that’s an ARC, if needed (and it always is)

Based on past experience, the below list of my next 10 planned books should be approximately half of what I read during spring. (I don’t think the social distancing will affect how much I read by a lot, since I tend to stay home a lot anyway, and I already work from home, so don’t see a lot of extra time to read in my future. Note: I’m not complaining.) The actual order in which I read these will probably change as I go (plus more will probably be added in amongst some of these):

1. The Cat Who Could Read Backwards by Lilian Jackson Braun
I read a bit of the Cat Who… series when I was a teenager and really liked them. Straight mystery was my favorite genre back then, but I’ve barely read any since coming back to reading. I’ve picked up 1/3 of the 29 books in the series over the years, from garage sales and bargain bins. It’s finally time to get back to my mystery roots, start at #1 (which I own), and go through the whole series.

2. The House at the End of the Moor by Michelle Griep
This is a Netgalley ARC. I read my first Michelle Griep book back at Christmas time and really liked it, so I’m looking forward to reading a non-holiday book of hers.

3. Landry Park by Bethany Hagen
When I first started to get back into reading seriously, before I built my TBR list up to even what it is now, I found this book at Half Price Books and decided to buy it, with no knowledge of it whatsoever. So this book is currently the oldest one on my TBR list.

4. The Outcast by Taran Matharu
This book qualifies as one that continues a series. It’s technically a prequel to a trilogy, but I’ve read the trilogy and don’t feel like it’s complete until I read this. So not only will this book continue a series, it will actually end a series for me, and let’s be honest–how often do we actually finish series we start?

5. The Treasure Map by Tyler Scott Hess
This self-published novelette is apparently a Christmas book, but I probably won’t have Kindle Unlimited for much longer, so I want to read it while I can do so with that service.

6. The Dandelion Killer by Wanda Luttrell
I’ve had this book since probably not long after it came out (2003) and read it a couple of times back then. Along with the criteria mentioned above, I also want to re-read at least 1 book a month, because I do have a lot of books I haven’t read in years that I want to read again and write reviews for and will ignore them if I’m not intentional about it.

7. Star of Persia by Jill Eileen Smith
This is also a Netgalley ARC, the story of Esther, who saved her people from extermination in Persia in around 486 BC. I’m pretty excited to read it.

8. Storm by Evan Angler
This is book #3 in the Swipe series. I wasn’t terribly excited with the series at first, but it really picked up with book #2, so I’m anxious to see what happens next.

9. The Wounded Spirit by Frank E. Peretti
I’ve had this book for a long time, but haven’t read it yet, even though it’s written by my favorite author. That’s probably just because it’s non-fiction, which I’m not usually very interested in. But I do plan to read it soon, checking off another book that’s been on my TBR for a while.

10. Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery
I’ve enjoyed the Anne of Green Gables series so far, and I’m looking forward to continuing with book #3.

Have you read any of these? What do you plan to read over the next few months?

Weekly Writing Update: March 3

I went through a bit of a slump this week while working on “Outcast,” (book #2). At first it was simply due to an early morning because of work, but then everything start hitting the fan at once over the last few days because of COVID-19, so it’s been difficult to focus.

I made up for the rest of the week with a lot of progress today. The word count is now up to 70k, which is awesome! It also means I only added 2500 words this last week…oh well. I did some revision in there too. I have 3 more scenes to fix up and 1 new one to write, so I won’t be adding much more at this point. But I wonder if my main beta reader right now will say there’s a lot more she’d like to see. Problem with that would be that I don’t think there’s anywhere to put more of the story arc I’ve been adding without taking away from the main arc. But I’ll worry about that if it happens.

I’m anxious to get through this stage of the revision, so I can look at all of these new scenes at a glance, amongst the existing scenes, and figure out how on earth to order them. Then the real revision can begin, and I’m really hoping it won’t be a long, exhausting process like it was with book #1 (Pithea).

While I work on continuing the series, if you’re interested in reading where it all starts, Pithea is available on Amazon as both an e-book and paperback (it’s also on Kindle Unlimited).

Book Review: Stealth Retribution

Finished Reading: Stealth Retribution
Nanostealth
#3
by Vikki Kestell

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Christian sci-fi thriller

Stealth Ret

Spoiler notice: The following review will contain some spoilers for the first 2 books in the series, Stealthy Steps and Stealth Power.

Again picking up where the previous book left off, right there in the cave where the nanomites and Gemma became Super-Gemma, she and her friends hatch a plan to start thwarting the evil military general who has been after the nanomites’ creator and, due to the mites infesting Gemma, after her too. Gemma is about to have more on her hands than escaping General Cushing, though, as a young friend of hers is in danger, and her own twin sister is in town to muck things up as well.

I enjoyed this book through most of it. I really liked the way the storyline with Cushing played out, taking Super-Gemma from Albuquerque to the White House and back. By the end of this book, I could easily compare it to a comic book super hero origin story. If my review and rating were based just on the resolution regarding Dr. Bickel and Cushing, I would have given it 4 stars, maybe more. However, things got really weird on the theology side of the story, and I felt very strange about the whole thing by the end.

I thought it a little odd at the end of Stealth Power, when Gemma became a Christian, and then the nanomites felt the presence of Jesus inside her. But I let it go, accepted it as the fiction that it is, and moved on. But by the 2nd half or so of this book, the nanomites are receiving instructions from Jesus. Surrendering their will to Jesus. And…being forgiven by Jesus? It took a lot more suspension of disbelief than I prefer to swallow all of that. Add to that the fact that the associate pastor who was once my favorite character had become simply a vehicle for faith-professing in the book, and even as a Christian, I felt very Bible-thumped (I don’t know if that works in this context, but I’m sure it’s clear what I mean). And in the end, I have no idea what the real purpose of Gemma’s twin, Genie, was in this book, other than to be another convert for Zander’s cause.

The first book was mostly in 1st-person from Gemma’s point of view, with a little 3rd-person if the author wanted to show things happening with other characters. This was explained in the fact that Gemma was keeping a journal of everything happened after she became invisible. However, the journal aspect was sort of abandoned in book 2, and by this point, it’s more like half-1st person, half-3rd person. Which is strange and confusing. The writing style as a whole still put me off a bit, especially in the 1st-person parts. It’s incredibly casual and conversational. In the end, I think the author’s style isn’t really for me, but the story about the nanomites, the invisibility, and Gemma escaping the bad guy is unique and interesting! I only wish there hadn’t been so much else to bog it down.

The series continues on for one more book (at this time), which from the synopsis is clear is a divergent from the main story arc in the first three. I plan to read it soon, because I did come this far. At this point, I would still recommend the series to fans of Christian mysteries & thrillers and lovers of this type of sci-fi, especially since I think many others wouldn’t be so bothered by the things that bothered me. Some other reviews do mention being put off by the nanomites’ seeming religious experience, but also express that the story outside of that is good.

Find out more about Stealth Retribution

See what’s coming up.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Writing Wednesday: Prompt

WW Prompt

Here’s today’s Writing Wednesday Prompt:

Set a timer for 5 minutes and write without stopping about the following topic:
The next great adventure (for you, your character, your pet, or anyone!)

If you write something from this prompt, by all means let me know! Feel free to share what you wrote, if you want!

**If you’re looking for more like this, you might want to check out the story seeds posts I wrote for NaNoPrep a few years ago. They are not specific to NaNoWriMo, and each contains a list of several different types of prompts or ways to generate story ideas. You can find them here: Story Seeds 1, Story Seeds 2, Story Seeds 3, Story Seeds 4**

Book Review: North! or Be Eaten

North! or Be Eaten
The Wingfeather Saga
#2
by Andrew Peterson

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Children’s fantasy

North

Spoiler notice: The following review will contain spoilers for the first book in the series, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness.

The danger is real as the Igibys escape the clutches of the Fangs of Dang and head north toward the Ice Prairies. The Lost Jewels of Anniera begin to realize their full potential along the way, but there are a lot of obstacles to overcome. Surviving Fangs, the Stranders, and even the wilds of Skree itself, the Igiby family gets separated, and that’s when things really get bad for young Janner, the Throne Warden of Anneira. Worse yet is when he loses his little brother, the High King of Anneira, whom he is meant to protect. Surprises await around every corner in this action-packed, heart-filled fantasy!

I don’t know if I can adequately express how much I enjoyed this book. The imagination that went into the characters, the creatures, and the plot itself is vast and enviable. I was swept up in the horrors, the betrayal, and the victories right along with the characters. I was annoyed every time I had to put it down and plunged back in with voracity every chance I got.

As in the first book, the main character really is Janner, the oldest of the Igiby children, and in this book it was even more clear why that was the best choice. He grew up so much in this book, even though only a short time passed (I don’t know how much for sure…months, maybe?). Leeli really blossomed in this book as well, even though we didn’t get to see her as much. She’s courageous and has a beautiful spirit, and I love her! Tink, who is know more and more as Kalmar, has a rough time of it in this book, but boy was that ending incredible.

At times, I felt like the action didn’t slow down enough for me to catch my own breath, but looking back at it, I don’t think it was a bad thing. There were some pretty dark moments, so I wonder about the age range it’s meant for, considering that my daughter falls into the middle grade range. I don’t think it would scare her, necessarily, but I wonder if she would still be bothered by some of it, though she is on the low end of that range.

I highly recommend this book, and the series so far, for folks of all ages who enjoy clean, fun fantasy adventures. Also, you might see it labeled as Christian, and there are some references to a deity that many of the people believe in, but it is not overtly Christian. I have a feeling I’m going to love the rest of this series and want to re-read many times. There’s no way I’m waiting for the new versions of the last 2 books to come out before I read them.

Thank you to Netgalley and WaterBrook & Multnomah for providing me a copy of this book to review.
**Note: This book has been out since 2009, but a new hardcover edition will be released tomorrow, with a beautiful new cover and new illustrations inside.

Find out more about North! or Be Eaten

See what I’m reading next.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Weekly Writing Update: March 2

I was pretty productive this week, adding a total of 5676 new words to “Outcast,” (book #2), as well as doing a little revision to make some freewriting from the past fit into the book.

When I started working on this step, I was hoping to add at least 10,000 more words to this book, if not 15,000. At current count, I’ve added 12,750!! I have a few more scenes to write or adapt, so I think I may just hit or pass 15k, which will bring the book up to a total word count of 70k. This is so much more acceptable to me as a follow-up to a book with 105k words. And early feedback says the scenes are generally good additions, too, not just filler. So far, I’ve been filling in a gap of time that the couple of people who’ve read the book have wished to see more of.

After I finish writing new scenes, I’ll go back and fix up the new stuff based on that early feedback, and then I’ll have to lay out the scenes and find a new flow for them. Then there will be further revision stages after that, but my biggest concern about this book was that I wouldn’t be able to adequately expand it to a higher word count. Now my biggest concern is how long it will take to get through the revision and be ready to publish it.

While I work on continuing the series, if you’re interested in reading where it all starts, Pithea is available on Amazon as both an e-book and paperback (it’s also on Kindle Unlimited).

Book Review: Home Song

Finished Reading: Home Song
Cape Light
#2
by Thomas Kinkade & Katherine Spencer

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Christian drama

Home Song

Spoiler notice: The following review will contain some spoilers for the first book in the series, Cape Light.

Fall comes on strong in the quaint New England village, and relationships and dramas from the previous book are continued. The focus in this story is on 2 key people–Mayor Emily Warwick, who is busy with her re-election campaign, and Sara Franklin…the mayor’s long-lost daughter, who hasn’t actually told her birth mother that she’s the daughter she gave up 20+ years ago.

I gave Cape Light 3 stars, and was really happy to find this second book a huge improvement on the first. I liked the main characters so much more this time around, and the storylines were much more compelling. By the second half of the book, I was really caught up and highly anticipated seeing what would happen.

In the first book, the closest things to main characters were Jessica Warwick and Sam Morgan. Though many characters were introduced, and many story arcs were established, they were the driving force. Their romance was the story goal–the only thing that was tied up in that book. Their personalities suffered greatly because of the daunting task of setting out an entire town’s worth of characters and stories, so there wasn’t much time left to develop them or their relationship to my preference. Unfortunately, that made it all the worse that their relationship drama continued in this book. The fruition of it was good, but frankly, they both made me angry in this book. Fortunately, their parts were small.

In a similar vein, another romance that developed in this book was in some ways like a rehashing of the Jessica/Sam storyline of the previous book, wherein the woman didn’t want a relationship because she didn’t know how long she’d be in town. The big difference is that the two characters in this case had more depth. They had actual lives and their own stories to tell. I liked them so much more, and their story definitely took a different turn.

Other arcs that were set up in the first book were continued in this one in some way, or even came to fruition. Since unraveling the lives of the different people in this town was what made me care enough about the first book to want to continue the series, I was glad to see this happen. And there is still plenty more to carry my interest into the next book. I’m looking forward to the next much more than I was after finishing the first one, and now I feel safe recommending this book, and the one before it, to fans of Christian fiction, especially involving romance.

Find out more about Home Song

See what’s coming up.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Finished Reading: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Historical fiction

GLPPPS

In the aftermath of WWII, a writer in London named Juliet receives a letter from a stranger living on the island of Guernsey in the English Channel. This begins a correspondence that expands to other members of the islander’s literary society, as Juliet wants to hear more about their society. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was formed during the German occupation of the island, and became so much more.

The book started out a little slow, but when it took off, it really took off. It’s written entirely in epistolary style, with letters and telegrams between various characters telling the story. The characters are endearing, and as the trials they went through during the war are revealed, the lasting effects are shown alongside them. The emotions are real, and I found myself swept up in them.

Early in the book, I was mostly annoyed with Juliet and her tendency to complain. It was establishing her background and life, I know, but maybe specifically because of the book’s format, since we saw everything directly from her perspective, she just seemed whiny. Around the time she got the first letter from Dawsey on the island, her character deepened enough that I didn’t dislike her so much. And then her sincere interest in the literary society and what the people on the island went through endeared her to me a lot more.

The format of the book is done well–each letter has a header stating who it was written to and from, so before you even start reading the letter, you are fully aware of that. It helps a lot, as eventually there are quite a few characters to keep straight. Some become more familiar, and others fall away, but overall, I only had a little struggle sorting through them.

Unsurprisingly, the characters are what make this book so great. I loved the way that the heart of the literary society was never even physically present in the book, once characters came together in the physical space, yet she was still a big part of the story. On the other hand, Juliet has this suitor that is pretty terrible. I don’t get why she doesn’t see how incredibly misogynistic he is, even in that somewhat different time.

This book is split into 2 parts, and by the time I got to part 2, I was completely hooked. It’s a fairly short book, and I think the epistolary format makes it particularly easy to read, because there’s not a lot of description. I read the bulk of it in a day. This is one book I am definitely going to re-read in the future. I recommend it for all fans of historical fiction, but even others, especially those who like character-driven stories.

Find out more about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

See what’s coming up.

If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Writing Wednesday: IWSG Mar 2020

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The first Wednesday of the month really snuck up on me this month. Time for another Insecure Writer’s Support Group post! Here is this month’s question:
Other than the obvious holiday traditions, have you ever included any personal or family traditions/customs in your stories?

Holiday traditions are actually less likely to make it into my writing, since most of my writing is speculative fiction, and our holidays either don’t exist in that world, or are vastly different. Though I did do some writing practice once that adopted a Christmas Eve tradition I’m often part of, but it’s not likely to make it into any of my books.

The biggest thing that comes to mind is the main character’s dad in my first published novel Pithea, and his instruction book. My dad is a blacksmith, and the main character’s dad is a bladesmith, which is a pretty close comparison for my purposes. For many years, my dad has had a binder in which he keeps track of material needed and steps taken to produce every item he makes and sells. And so, the bladesmith in Pithea does the same thing. And in fact, that instruction book is going to be pivotal in a future book in the series, so having the real-life example makes it all the more special.

I know this next part doesn’t really count as customs or traditions, but this question also made me think of a character in a short story I wrote years ago who tells anecdotes from his childhood, usually involving a rivalry with his brother. One of the stories he tells is from my own childhood, and even more fun for me, one is a story that my dad once told me about my grandpa and his brothers.

For my fellow writers, what customs, traditions, or pieces of your own life have you put into your writing?

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