Book Review: The White House

The White House
I, Q #2
by Roland Smith

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Children’s spy thriller

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

New step-siblings Q (short for Quest) and Angela delve deeper into the world of espionage as they try to help Angela’s mother, who was until recently believed dead, work against the terrorist cell she has infiltrated. Q and Angela are staying at the White House while their newly married rock-star parents prepare for a show for the president. Can they help flush out the bad guys in the White House and keep the first family safe?

This book really hits the ground running, with not much in the way of reminders from the first book, either about plot or about who’s who. I’m glad I made some notes and also didn’t wait too long to continue the series. It was a fast-paced story, building on what the first book set up, and even giving us Angela’s mom’s perspective throughout. Angela and Q were a little less involved this time, more watching, listening, reacting, even lucking into things, but on the other hand, it’s a little more realistic. Still, I like seeing Q’s and Angela’s smarts and abilities come into play.

I’m looking forward to seeing where the story goes from here, and I would recommend this for younger readers who want something exciting or thrilling, or even adults who don’t necessarily care for adult spy thrillers but enjoy a good adventure story. This series is the type where the whole thing tells one long story (from what I’ve seen so far, at least), so keep that in mind if you consider reading it—start with #1.

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Book Review: The Wide Window

The Wide Window
A Series of Unfortunate Events #3
by Lemony Snicket
read by the author

My rating: 2 / 5
Genre: Children’s fiction

The three Baudelaire orphans have been set up with a new guardian, Aunt Josephine. She’s afraid of everything, including cooking food, and thus only serves cold food, insists on correcting everyone’s grammar, and lives in a house that’s nearly falling into a lake, of which she’s also afraid. Count Olaf trying to get the kids out of her guardianship seems like a blessing this time, except that he’s happy to commit murder to do so.

I do not get what people have seen in this series that it went as far as 11 books and spawned 2 adaptations. I’m not necessarily against formulaic series—sometimes the formula is what makes something work well, but not when the formula is held to this strictly. Not nearly enough changes, and the “dark” tone is just unpleasant, in my opinion. After the first book, I thought surely it would get more interesting or creative, but it’s really just a rinse and repeat of the book before it. Except that while the guardian in the previous book was a nice, somewhat normal-seeming guy, Aunt Josephine was an over-the-top, ridiculous loony.

What made it all worse for me was that I started into this series primarily because the books were narrated by Tim Curry, but the places I have access to audiobooks for free only have a version narrated by the author for this one and the next 2. I almost ended the series right there, and maybe I should have. But they’re short, quick listens, so I figured I’d stick it out. For now. We’ll see how it goes from here on.

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NaNoWriMo Day 27

The Words: 1686 words today, starting with a 15-minute sprint with my daughter and the @NaNoWordSprints feed on Twitter. Then I realized I was close to the end of the draft, so I just kept going on my own and finished it!

The Story: A lot of explanation ended up needing to fit into the final scene, and it wasn’t very organized. And then I realized I left something (smallish) out. During revision, I’ll have to figure out if it all needs kept or not, and how to make it flow better. But that’s future-me’s problem, along with the fact that the draft is 20k words too short, so I’ll need to figure out something else for it, maybe even an entire sub-plot. Now-me is just glad to have finished the draft as planned.

Final word count: 54,756

If you want to join me in my journey through the second year of NaNoToons (with a storyline), check out the NaNoToon from November 27, 2011. (Though you’re on your own to finish them, since this is my last of these posts for the month!

Oh, and be sure to watch the wrap-up of the NaNoMusical!

NaNoWriMo Day 26

The Words: 1864 words today, all in one 30-minute sprint with the @NaNoWordSprints feed on Twitter. I didn’t write at all yesterday, which wasn’t intentional. I usually try to at least get some words in on Thanksgiving, but it was an unusual Thanksgiving for us this year, and I completely forgot to write until after midnight. I’m a little annoyed that I ruined the daily writing streak I’ve had going all month, but not as much as I would be if I wasn’t already planning to stop early if I finished the draft before the end of the month.

The Story: Today was all post-climax falling action. I’m on the last scene of the book, though it’s probably going to be a fairly long scene. We’ll see. Maybe I’ll finish the draft tomorrow.

Total word count: 53,070

If you want to join me in my journey through the second year of NaNoToons (with a storyline), check out the NaNoToon from November 26, 2011!

Book Review: Elinor

by Shannon McNear

My rating: 3 / 5
Genre: Historical Christian fiction

Elinor Dare arrived in the New World pregnant and full of hope for the future. She, along with her husband, her father, and the other settlers who’d made the voyage, are ready for a new start, even with the difficulties that come from being dropped off in the wrong location. The island of Roanoke will be their home, at least for a time, but as history tell us, that colony did not fare well in that location. Though its true fate is still a mystery, in this book, Shannon McNear offers a possible glimpse into the colonists’ fate.

The idea of exploring what might have happened to the lost colony of Roanoke was really intriguing to me. And it’s clear, both from the book itself and from authors’ notes before and after the book, that McNear did her research. The atmosphere she painted really took me back to that time. However, the plot moved very slowly for the first half of the book, and I really struggled to get through it. I was confused about the title focusing on Elinor, when it seemed to be about so much more than her—her father’s and husband’s points of view were shown about as often as hers, and then sometimes a Native American from an opposing tribe. I was really uncertain about what the true plot was for a while.

Then just after the halfway point, a major event happened, and the story hurtled forward. It was a plot point I fully expected, but it came much later than I expected or would have preferred, considering the synopsis and that one of the genres the book is listed as is romance. I almost put the book down then, because I knew where the book was going, and I really didn’t want to go through it. But I kept going, and the 2nd half of the book came through for me better than I expected.

One of the things that I liked most about the book was the spiritual journey that Sees Far, the Native American I mentioned earlier, went through. I would have liked to see that fleshed out more in the second half, and the first half pared down. I like McNear’s writing in the couple of books of hers I’ve read so far, but this time, for me, the story just got bogged down by the history. However, I do think a lot of fans of history and Christian fiction will like this book.

Thank you to Netgalley and Barbour Publishing, Inc. for providing me a copy of this book to review.
Publication date: December 1, 2021

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Book Review: Princess in Love

Princess in Love
The Princess Diaries #3
by Meg Cabot
read by Anne Hathaway

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: YA contemporary fiction

Still preparing for her impending trip to the country for which she has recently discovered she’s a princess, Mia Thermopolis finally has a boyfriend. The only problem is, she doesn’t really like him that way. When he claims to love her, all she can do is thank him. And she doesn’t really enjoy kissing him. In fact, she’s in love with someone else…who has a girlfriend of his own.

Mia’s dire, the-world-is-ending proclamations are less common in this book, compared to the previous ones, which is nice. She still complains a lot though. Overall, it seems like a fairly simple high school (overly)dramatic story, but where the MC is also adjusting to being princess of a small European country. I really don’t think I would have liked it nearly as well if I hadn’t listened to the audiobook that was narrated, or really more like acted out, by Anne Hathaway. I did enjoy it, though, but I don’t think I’ll read any more of this series, since this is the end of Anne Hathaway’s narration.

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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!

NaNoWriMo Day 24

The Words: 1188 words today, written in a couple of sprints with my daughter. I have a tendency to allow the day after I hit 50k to be a lower word count day, and today was a good day for that. I only have about 3 scenes left to write before the draft is finished, and while the last few years I’ve tried to get the story to take me to the end of the month, I realized that it doesn’t bother me to stop early this year.

The Story: Today was the climax of the story. I struggled a little to keep the narrative from the right character’s perspective during it, so I’ll have to pay attention to that during revision someday, but I think it came out okay.

Total word count: 51,206

If you want to join me in my journey through the second year of NaNoToons (with a storyline), check out the NaNoToon from November 24, 2011!

With 6 days left of NaNoWriMo, be sure to check out episode 5 of the NaNoMusical, where the stresses of the month catch up to the characters in my favorite song of the whole thing!

NaNoWriMo Day 23

The Words: 4323 words today, starting with a 10-minute sprint with my daughter, who was at the end of her writing time for the evening by then. Then I did a sprint myself and joined in with the @NaNoWordSprints feed on Twitter for a 15-minute sprint and then a #1k30 sprint. That last one ended 15 minutes before midnight, and when I entered my total words from it, I saw I’d just squeaked by the 50k mark!!

The Story: Between knowing that I was close to 50k words and writing a couple of scenes that were leading up to the climax, my adrenaline was pumping a bit tonight. Seriously, my leg still won’t stay still. And now I’ve just started into the climax, which I’ll continue tomorrow.

Total word count: 50,018

If you want to join me in my journey through the second year of NaNoToons (with a storyline), check out the NaNoToon from November 23, 2011!

NaNoWriMo Day 22

The Words: 2404 words today over the course of 4 sprints with my 11-year-old daughter. She’s been behind for a good portion of the month, but she wrote extra today, too, and bridged the gap a little more. I think she’s got a good shot at hitting her YWP goal of 20k words before the month’s end.

The Story: I came to a spot in my outline that I left blank. Earlier in the month, I saw that and assumed that I’d put it there in case I came up with something to put in it later, and just never did. So I figured that meant nothing went there. But as I approached that spot today, I realized something did go there, because I remember having an idea of what needed to happen to bridge the gap from a trap being laid to it being sprung in the climax. Those ideas are in a character interview somewhere, so I’ll read through it tonight so I can fill in the gap before tomorrow’s writing, when I’ll actually tackle that spot in the outline.

Total word count: 45,695

If you want to join me in my journey through the second year of NaNoToons (with a storyline), check out the NaNoToon from November 22, 2011!

NaNoWriMo Day 21

The Words: 2430 words today, starting with a 5-minute sprint sitting in the pew before church started. Then my daughter and I did 2 sprints alongside the @NaNoWordSprints feed on Twitter, though I almost gave up before the 2nd because I’m super tired after getting up early this morning. My daughter pushed me to do the 2nd.

The Story: The main character was arrested for murder while trying to do a little investigating of his own. I don’t really like the way the information is unfolding for the reader, so I will have re-think some of the story flow in revision.

Total word count: 43,291

If you want to join me in my journey through the second year of NaNoToons (with a storyline), check out the NaNoToon from November 21, 2011!