Book Review: The Saturday Night Ghost Club

The Saturday Night Ghost Club
by Craig Davidson

My rating: 1 / 5
Genre: Coming of age drama

The blurb for this book says that it’s about some kids who spend the summer investigating local urban legends and ghost stories. It mentions the MC’s uncle with whom the MC spends most of his time. And in some places online, the book is compared to Stranger Things. None of these things is accurate. Oh, and you may see the book listed as horror. It’s not.

What really happens is that the summer passes quickly and only 5 local legends are investigated, the MC (Jake) goes long stretches without seeing his Uncle Calvin, and the only comparison that can be made to Stranger Things is that the book is set in the 80s and there are kids who do things.

The very first legend this club investigated was nice and creepy, and I thought it would ramp up from there. Instead, it ramped down. And the characters were limp and/or cliched. The girl felt like such a stereotype, and from the moment she’s introduced, Jake sees her as a goddess…for what reason, I still can’t tell you. Because she’s older, I guess?

Each chapter begins with tales of adult Jake’s life, from stories about his neurosurgeon cases to an account of his son being born. The reception of these parts seems to vary widely from reviewer to reviewer. I could have done without them, especially the too-descriptive explanations about how a brain looks and feels, and what it’s like to do surgery on one.

The “reveal” wasn’t very exciting, and I found it strange that the previous events didn’t all tie together like it seemed like they should (hard to explain what I mean without spoiling). Also, the book is possibly meant to be YA–it depends on where you look, but the MC is 12, after all–but there is some language and references to adult situations.

So clearly this book was a miss for me. I’m not generally one for horror anyway (and the fact that I read it a few days before Halloween is completely coincidence, as I don’t really do Halloween), but I thought it’d be a fun, intriguing read. Instead, I found myself wondering what the point of it was. And though I generally rate lower than the average book reviewer, this is the first book I’ve ever rated 1 star (I gave 1.5 stars once last year). I hate writing a review like this, and I know that the author put a lot of work into the book (as every author does) and that other people really liked it.

Find out more about The Saturday Night Ghost Club

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

Book Review: Anne’s House of Dreams

Anne’s House of Dreams
Book #5
by L.M. Montgomery

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Children’s/YA classic

See my review for book #1, Anne of Green Gables.

After the first book in the series, I have liked each one just a little less than the one before it. It didn’t seem quite the same anymore and also began to feel repetitive. Fortunately, this book brought me back to the love I had for the first book.

It’s not as if there are no more characters or situations that in some way mirror those from earlier books. But there was a lot less of that, and overall, everything felt new and fresh again. I’d say the characters introduced in this book, as well as getting to see Marilla and some of the others a bit more, really made the book for me. Not to mention Gilbert and Anne starting their lives together. I loved Captain Jim and got a kick out of Miss Cornelia, especially the way she and Captain Jim bantered.

Then there’s Leslie Moore. Of all the ways her story could have gone–and I had a few different predictions, believe me–I never imagined that twist.

Overall, I loved this book about as much as I loved the first book in the series. Unfortunately, it only highlighted the slower, drier books in between. I have no idea what to expect of the rest of the books in the series, but I can’t wait to find out.

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

Book Review: Redshirts

Redshirts
by Ernest Cline

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Sci-fi comedy

As one of the new transfers to the Universal Union flagship Intrepid, Andy Dahl has a lot to learn. Including how to avoid being sent on an away mission at all costs, because the low-ranking members of the crew have a high mortality rate on away missions. There’s a pattern surrounding five particular high-ranking officers, though, who seem to be able to defy the laws of physics and biology. But while other crew members simply do their best to stay alive, Andy is determined to find the cause for this phenomenon and put a stop to it. And he can’t do it alone.

For a character writer/reader reading a book with not much in the way of character development, I really enjoyed this book. The humor that comes from seeing it all as characters in a scripted TV show being real people, especially for a fan of the Star Trek franchise, is what drives this ship. And it’s great! This book takes meta to a whole new level and had me laughing several times, especially during the first third.

It probably helps a lot, too, that I don’t mind the shallowness of the scenes. When I read my first Scalzi novel, Lock In, I noted that his writing style suited me–no frivolity, not much description. This is the case in this book as well, which I think turned a lot of people off. I didn’t mind.

My biggest complaint is two-fold: Too many characters had too similar of names (Dahl & Duvall, Hanson & Hester), which, combined with the lack of character development meant that I usually didn’t fully retain which character was talking at any given time. So basically, they were mostly interchangeable. Add to that terribly repetitive dialog tags, and conversations were difficult to get into.

The three codas were a little strange to me. I didn’t understand the need for the 1st person, 2nd person, 3rd person–the 2nd person one especially was awkward from that POV, and would probably have been better as 3rd person. I did appreciate getting some of this information, but only the 3rd coda really meant much to me.

This book seems to be a hit-or-miss kind of thing, even for fans of sci-fi/Trek shows. For me, it was a hit. I enjoyed it for what it was meant to be, and really liked the way it all turned out. I do recommend that any fans of formulaic sci-fi in the ilk of Star Trek give this book a try.

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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:

Combine the following 3 elements into a scene, short story, story synopsis, etc:
aging clown
undeveloped roll of film
blackout

(These elements were 3 randomly drawn cards from my Storymatic deck.)

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: The Fellowship of the Ring

The Fellowship of the Ring
The Lord of the Rings #1
by J.R.R. Tolkien

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Classic fantasy

Like with my “review” of The Hobbit, this is going to be my less of a real review and more just my thoughts on my experience with this book. After reading The Hobbit, I knew I had to go on to read the LoTR series. However, I also knew that I would never make it through if I read the text. My sister once suggested listening to the audiobook instead, so though it’s not normally my preferred method of reading a book, I gave it a try. For something like this, it turned out to be great.

As someone who has seen these movies many times, it’s interesting to read the source material. I can also see now how other authors and books I’ve read are very influenced by this series of books. It was again, and even moreso in this book, interesting to get more depth on the story, on the world, and on some of the characters that are in the movies I’ve so enjoyed.

The main downside to me is that it just feels like the adventure takes way too long to get going. The events in the Shire before Frodo even leaves weren’t so bad, but I was astounded by how far into the book I was by the time the Hobbits got to Bree. After that, everything else felt super fast by comparison.

I know my reading of these books will be tainted in many ways by having seen the movies first, but there’s nothing I can do about that. But while I knew some things were made up or expanded in The Hobbit movie, and of course I knew that several events and characters were left out of the LoTR movies, I was surprised by some of it. Frodo selling Bag End was a sad shock. Arwen is barely mentioned in the book, and both Legolas and Gimli feel much less important than the movie makes them to be. And again, the amount of time that passes between plot points just amazed me (Frodo is 50 when he begins the journey!).

I am so glad I read The Hobbit first, too, because it adds a connection and even some emotion to know who Gimli’s father is, to know who Balin is, and to understand a bit more about who the dwarves that died in the Mines of Moria were. It’s also interesting to me that the elves know of Frodo, through Bilbo, and that Frodo even knows some of the elvish language! That’s completely lacking in the movies, but makes total sense, given the events of Bilbo’s adventure.

I’ve already started on The Two Towers, and look forward to finishing the series.

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

My 2020 NaNoNovel

Here is the synopsis I whipped up for the novel I’m writing for NaNoWriMo starting on Sunday:

Morano

In the underground prison of the Class of Morano, a band of mercenaries who live in a hidden desert base, a brutal battle is coming to a head. In four different cells, there are four different people, whose stories are important to the battle.

Rusalki Morano, leader of the mercenaries. She will do anything to stop those intent on destroying her family. But what will happen if she turns out to be more of a threat than any enemy?

Juris Aganar, second-in-command of the Pithean forces. He has every reason to want to make it home alive and whole, but he knows that the odds are against him.

Acronis Morano, one of many adopted Moranos. He knows Rusalki will elevate his brothers and sisters to a whole new level, but will the cost be too high?

Evan Thossan, a soldier in the Pithean army. He believes he is more than qualified for anything the Moranos can throw at him…but is he?

Are you participating in NaNo this year? What are you writing?

For anyone out there who is participating, feel free to check out my series of tips and tricks for the month, and also to add me as a writing buddy! (Let me know you came from here, and I’ll add you back!)

Weekly Writing Update: 10/25

I have finished the revision I was doing with one of my sisters, and any further revision of  “Outcast” is up in the air right now. I may be completely done with revisions, but it’s difficult to know, and I’m not in a huge hurry to make that decision. I have started on line edits, though, because I don’t anticipate any large revisions from here forward. By the end of this month, though, I think I’ll know for sure what I have left to do, and be able to set a publishing date (or know if I need to push it back a little instead). I don’t like being so up in the air at this point, but such is the life of a self-published author with no budget.

NaNoWriMo starts in a week, and I think I’m as prepared as I’m going to get. I finished the character interview I started last week, and though it didn’t lead to any wild “Aha!” moments, it still helped me get a firmer handle on a character that has only been in one book so far, but will have a prominent role in what I’m writing for NaNo (first draft of book #4 in the series). I also got my outline, which had been only in the notes sections of Scrivener, into a printable form, so I can have it with me wherever I may write next month. I’m ready and excited to start!

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: P.S. Goodbye

P.S. Goodbye
by Tari Faris

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Christian romance

When Caroline Williams, expecting a proposal, is dumped instead, the last person she wants to see is Grant Quinn, on whom she had a huge crush when she was thirteen. But he’s moved to town, and comes to the store she runs with her sister, looking for work. Caroline offers a trade–he can work for them if he lets her help him find a more permanent situation…somewhere else. But Grant is a harder nut to crack than she thought he’d be, and she can’t afford to let her ordered, list-driven life fall apart by letting him in.

This is a short book, only about 170 pages. Grant’s character has some depth, but I think Caroline stayed in the shallow end. The most interesting thing about her was related to love letters she wrote to Grant when she was thirteen, and then letters she wrote him after the two had a short-lived connection when Caroline was 18. But that part of the story wasn’t fleshed out nearly enough for me (especially considering that the title of the book is related to it). Caroline also had a tendency to impose ground rules, only to break them herself. She was said to live her life by lists, but in the end, her actions did not prove that about her.

There were also some romance tropes in this book that aren’t my favorite, like one pretending to be the other’s girlfriend/boyfriend to get family off the one’s back. And then the pretend girlfriend/boyfriend initiating a steamy kiss just to make it seem more real. And this leads to one of the other things I didn’t like about it–it was more about the physical than I prefer, especially in a Christian story. There was nothing graphic at all, but definitely more emphasis was put on physical attraction and touching than I like.

I did enjoy this book more often than not, which was mostly due to Grant, because Caroline was a flat heroine/romantic lead. This is a prequel to a short series of full-length romances, and I would be interested in seeing how the author does with a novel-length story.

Find out more about P.S. Goodbye

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

 

Book Review: The Truth about Us

The Truth about Us
by Brant Hansen

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Christian living

The truth about us is that we are not all “basically good, deep down inside.” We are flawed, sinful humans. Yet we tend to believe at some level that we are better than average. We are biased towards ourselves, whether we consciously recognize it or not. Starting with this and going on to other cognitive biases, radio show host Brant Hansen challenges us to examine the way we view ourselves and the world around us and to maybe, just possibly, admit that we’re not “good” and that we need help from the only One who is.

This book intrigued me, entertained me, and challenged me. He has a way of getting to the heart of the matter, and he infuses insight and humor into the points he makes along the way. Early in the book Brant describes various studies that show how our brains work. I was fascinated, and at times astounded, by these studies. It’s surprising, really, to learn how little we actually observe and retain, and how we can fool ourselves. And yet, when someone who isn’t me forgets something important, how often do I give them grace?

Though I have more of an inferiority complex in some of the areas he talked about, there were some that were right on point for me. One easy example is about driving speed. I am one who tends to think that if I come up on you on the road, you’re driving too slowly (and sometimes you’re also ruining my day). But if you come up behind me, or pass me on the road, you’re driving entirely too fast. Clearly my chosen speed is the perfect speed (and no, it’s not usually exactly the speed limit), and while I don’t usually think about it more than in the moment (and no, I don’t get road rage), I can easily recognize this bias in myself. This book changed my viewpoint in a lot of areas, hopefully for the better.

One of the biggest take-aways from this book is the need for humility. We’re truly not as amazing or good as we think we are, but that’s okay! It’s good news, and understanding how it’s good news can be very freeing. I think everyone can benefit from this book, even those who hear about it and think they don’t need it, or think about others they know who need it. In fact, maybe the ones who are thinking those things are the people who need to read it the most. No matter who you are or what you’re thinking about this book, though, I suggest you check out The Brant & Sherri Oddcast.

Find out more about The Truth about Us

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

Book Review: The Scorch Trials

The Scorch Trials
The Maze Runner #2
by James Dashner

My rating: 2.5 / 5
Genre: YA dystopian

Spoiler notice: The following review may contain some spoilers for the first book in the series, The Maze Runner.

I liked The Maze Runner. It had its issues, sure, but I enjoyed it and was looking forward to seeing what came next. This book almost killed my interest in the series. I was happy to see more of certain characters from the previous book, but the plot was convoluted and Teresa was a bad caricature of an angsty teenager.

So much of this book seemed completely unnecessary. The things that were designed by WICKED felt like such obvious contrivances, especially by the end, that I can’t help but wonder what Dashner was doing. Did he have the entire trilogy figured out in advance? It seemed more like he wrote himself into a corner with the first book and just decided to go with it. I’m trying to have faith that it will make actual sense in the end, but I don’t see how head-eating liquid metal is something that will help anyone save the world.

And as for the relationship between Thomas and Teresa…I just couldn’t care less anymore. I was good with it in the first book, even liked the uniqueness of their bond. But now, they’re just a vehicle for angst. And a pointless love triangle. And angst. Seriously, the teen drama in this book… Maybe it wouldn’t have bothered me if the plot had advanced really at all, if any real questions had been answered.

I’m invested now, though, so I’ll read the third one and soon, so I can put to rest the questions and The Question of whether or not it delivers on the interest I had after reading the first book.

Find out more about The Scorch Trials

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