Category Archives: Book Review

Eclectic Reader Challenge Update

It’s been a while, a long while. Well, I’m sorry. Next week, I’ll explain where I was but for now, here’s an update of of my progress in the ERC.

The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel

Links: Author Page,, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Having never read a Sherklock Holmes novel makes my adventure into House of Silk strange because I am well acquainted with his many, many popular incarnations throughout the media today (and my childhood). That said, I probably will check out the originals after this because it was quite fun and has been said to stay in the same vein (albeit 2x longer for current audiences).

I found Watson and Holmes interesting characters to read and tried very hard to separate them from the BBC’s Watson and Holmes and Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law’s interpretation, though I think the BBC’s modernized men would fit quite well into Horowitz’s world. The story line shocked me but overall the book was really enjoyable. I’d definitely recommend it and would love to hear what Holmes’s fans have to say about it!

Extremes: Surviving the World's Harshest Environments

Links: Author Page,, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Middleton’s book is a telling of how some indigenous peoples live in extreme environments. I read this to research survival to help my boss write a survival unit. Middleton is a geographer so he has a great perspective on the actual environments but he’s also entertaining to read. He has the knowledge but knows he’s a Brit that couldn’t survive a day on his own. If you want to learn a little about the world, specifically Greenland (arctic wasteland), the Congo (jungle), the Tenere Desert (part of the Sahara), and Papua (swamp). I kept a great many notes to help me with my book so this is a great piece for research when world-building.

The Maze Runner (Maze Runner, #1)

Links: Author Page,, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

I’d heard good things about this book, it even has a 3.99/5 on! You know what though? That was all phooey. It is a bad book. The “mystery” is melodramatic and a bad play at a crazy dystopian-style experiment. The main character is horrible and unrelatable. I have one word to explain this book and that word is “stupid” if I’m going to expend a few more, those would be “a waste of time.” If you’re curious, read the Wikipedia page for it.

Surviving the Extremes: What Happens to the Human Body at the Limits of Human Endurance

Links: Author Page,, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

This is another book I did on survival research and it’s amazing. Written this time from the point of view of an adventure-seeking medical doctor, Kamler explains quite a few things about surviving in extreme cold, extreme heat, and many other (including space). It’s another book that is not only entertaining but educational. Another one to keep an eye on for world-building research!

Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #1)

Links: Author Page,, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

I’m a bit on the fence about this book. I may read the sequel in the future, if I get through a bunch of other books and I remember to come back to it. The thing is that the main character has blue hair. Now, I recognize that it’s explained and yada yada yada but there is just something about characters having blue hair that bothers me. I don’t know what it is, it’s a me thing. Anyway, this is a decent story. It’s got a lot of interesting plot points but I feel like it’s only touches the surface of the story. If I had the sequel on my night stand, I’d read it. But I don’t and I’m not rushing out to buy it any time soon.

Me Talk Pretty One Day

Links: Author Page,, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Sedaris’s memoir is entertaining. I wouldn’t call it a comedy because I didn’t laugh out loud at it at all and definitely not as much as other books. That said, it’s a good read. Sedaris is a good story teller with great moments to talk about in his life. I find his honesty enjoyable and the truth behind his experiences is really cool, for lack of a better word. He has some really unique experiences but he moves through them as a lazy human that makes the stories real and relatable.

Eclectic Reader Challenge Update

I committed to Book’d Out’s Eclectic Reader Challenge and have been chugging right along making progress, though I haven’t really gotten completely eclectic yet. So far I’ve been bouncing around the same genre’s but that’s okay. I have all year to get there.

One book I’ve committed to reading, Anna Karenina, is taking a long, long, long, long time because it’s really long and really slow and kind of like a lullaby. So whenever Goodreads tells me I’m ahead of schedule for my 100 books goal, I go back to it. So, after a few days on Anna Karenina (and only 10% progress), I started on some more books.

Miss Me Not

Links: Author Page,, Amazon

Miss Me Not is an independently published novel only available in ebook format.

When I started Miss Me Not, I hated the narrator/MC. Her negative attitude was all too familiar in a bad sense, but something kept me going. When I finished the book, King had successfully used Madison’s negative attitude on life and helped her find happiness in completely legitimate ways (confronting issues, counseling, and work) that made it work. I felt like her writing could use some work, but this book was a good read.

One thing that threw me was the “New Adult” genre tag. This was supposed to fit in my ERC category but its definitely too young for NA. The MC, Madison, is a high school senior dealing with issues that meet YA. It’s good, just not NA.

First Grave on the Right (Charley Davidson, #1)

Links: Author Page,, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

I picked this book for the Romantic Suspense category. I was pleasantly surprised. The main character, Charley Davidson (yes, like the motorcycle), reminded me strongly of Anita Blake from Guilty Pleasures (which I reviewed in January). I liked Charley a little more, she was less cheesy and fit into my personality more. Every since Dead Like Me, I’ve loved the idea of a grim reaper, which made the character of Charley really fun to get into.

At the end of the book, however, I’m feeling like Jones should’ve spent more time with the mystery of the story and less on the “oh, this strange attraction to the mystery man.” It started as a focus on the mystery but that faded away, which I didn’t mind until the end.

A Writer Teaches Writing

Links: Author Page,, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

This book was my epiphany book. I read the first half and was scribbling in the margins constantly as I read each line, each paragraph. Most valuable to me was Murray’s revelation of the writing process. I have read a lot of books about teaching writing and a few on writing, but none so perfectly summed up the writing process like Murray so much so that I feel lighter and more prepared for writing more now than I ever have in my life.

If you are a writer, read this book because it helps you to understand your writing process, but to help you develop your reading of your own writing and others. You will become, if you read this book, a writer and a teacher of writing. Don’t say, “I don’t need to teach writing,” because your first pupil will be you. So yes, you do need to know how to teach writing to yourself and to your writing buddies. If you are a teacher, read this book and keep in mind that when you talk about writing, it’s all abstract until you do it. So don’t think this will help you to become a better writing teacher without actually writing–it won’t, because it will be abstract and useless until you heed Murray’s (and countless other’s) advice.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Links: Author Page,, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

I am on the fence about this book. I like some of the ideas Lamott shares but they’re mired in these ideas and personal philosophies and quirky (look at me) stories I didn’t like trudging through. I read the book for my thesis and will use it but I won’t recommend this book. It reminded me of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones but instead of inspiring me to write, I felt drained.

This did inspire me to think about honesty, which is a virtue that comes easily to me most of the time (and by easily, I mean it perches on my shoulder, the ever obnoxious parrot). But there is an honesty that is, at it’s core, honest, and honesty that is not and this is decided by it’s delivery. There is inherit in the Lamott’s delivery this showy side of pointing out the hardships and the oddities of her life with a false, flashy bravado. I started Stephen King’s On Writing and he has the honesty I employ, the honest honesty that when delivered is not meant to hurt, just be honest because it just is. It is not to be looked on with pity or sorrow. It just is. SO, as I told a friend, even my virtues have virtues.

Déjà Dead (Temperance Brennan, #1)

Links: Author Page,, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

WHILE the main character, Temperance Brennan, DOES share a name and occupation with our TV favorite, Bones, that’s where the comparison’s stop. I aint mad, bro. I really liked Reich’s writing, I liked the story, I liked the description, I liked that I read it in Emily Deschanel’s voice. I missed the characters from Bones, but that’s alright because I watch the show. I don’t need to double up on this one (which is exactly how I feel about the Sookie Stackhouse novels). I don’t know when I’ll pick up another novel in this series, but I will.


I’m just putting this book in here to say, guys, this is the kind of stuff I have to read to do my thesis that I can’t even say, “Yeah, I’d recommend this book for pleasure reading.” I can’t. I can recommend that if your local library has it, that you browse through it and recognize that we’re all scientific researchers using the heuristic research design. Yep. I’m not even kidding. If you need a design for a study, this is easy-I’d-rather-just-write-a-novel-so-I-did-now-how-do-I-pretend-it’s-a-thesis research. That’s Moustakas, you’re one part of the equation to why I’m going to graduate in May.

Also, you can’t get more eclectic than a book on scientific research next to some a murder mystery, just sayin.

I hope you enjoyed this installment of “What Melanie is Reading.” See you next time, folks!

Back to the Drawing Board!

This weekend I spent hours and hours reading for my thesis. I stumbled upon this book called “A Writer Teaches Writing” by Donald M Murray which made me really think about my writing process for my book but also for other stories. He breaks the process down as COLLECT PLAN DRAFT. The thing is, for his process, it’s not linear. It’s not just collect, plan, draft, DONE! It’s a revolving cycle until the final draft–meaning revision is just a rehash of the process. He refers to editing basically how I referred to correcting.

What does this mean? I’m re-thinking the Abassi Expedition. I’ve collected, planned, and drafted and now as I look at it–it doesn’t feel right. Something, mostly a fire, is missing from it for me. I think that I need some more collect, another plan, and another draft.

So, I’m probably going to collect my thoughts–break the draft down into the issues that I’m having, which for me, is primarily Alice and William at the end of the book. Morris grew into the most perfect character for me, save for maybe one or two scenes that feel forced. But Alice and William? They were planned before they were collected. So I’m back on the collect. I really want to better understand who they are, their backgrounds, how they’ll act as life comes at them. I had planned to be done with the Abassi Expedition by fall but honestly, I don’t know if that will happen.

After I collect, I’ll plan… I have legitimate scenarios for Alice and William to experience but I don’t think I have the right responses and actions on their part. So I might re-plan the rising and falling action. I like the climax, I like the end.

Then I’ll draft and when I do, I might use some old scenes but I also plan to use some techniques in that book like writing my lead over and over again in the different options (direct statement, anecdote, quotation  news, informing detail, dialogue, surprise, description, mood, face, scene, first person, third person, tension, problem, process, voice, second person, rhetorical question, background, introduction) with a focus on honesty, simplicity, immediacy, information, and voice.

I think it’s time for me to accept and be okay that my first draft is a discovery draft and it helped me to discover what I need to know, what I need to explore, what was left out. I have that draft off to my good friend Sabrina right now, so we’ll see what she says.

Another thing I’d like to do is to answer all the questions Murray gives that are more directed for non-fictional writing but still carry meaning to me:

  1. Do I have enough specific, accurate information to build a piece of writing that will satisfy the reader?
  2. Do I see an order in the material that will deliver information to the readers when they need it?
  3. DO I hear a voice that is strong enough to speak directly to the reader?
  4. What do I know about my story?
  5. What do I need to know?
  6. Do I need to expand or narrow my scope?
  7. Will my reader’s questions get answered?

Murray also gives some great ideas about keeping the writing going such as setting a quota and keeping score, writing in parts instead of focusing on the whole, don’t stop to look at notes.

Before I start any of that, I need to figure out what is working well in my draft. My prose is good, concise, to the point, active, but my characters aren’t working for me the way they should. They’re not in the story enough. This plot is driven by the characters and the story needs to reflect that.

To really assess my work, I need to read it thrice (YES THRICE!) for content, structure, and language. Lately, I’ve been reading, instead, for language. That’s just not working for me. Because I can fix the prose but if the content isn’t right, that means nothing!

SO, now where am I? Well, I’m mired in the collect for my thesis. So the Abassi Expedition will have to wait a few months (hopefully just until March) before I can really delve into it’s collect. But I have a few books that I’ve recommended but never *fully* read, I’m going to link them AGAIN and finally read them this time! Cover to cover!

  1. Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time by Jordan E. Rosenfeld
  2. Word Hero: A Fiendishly Clever Guide to Crafting the Lines that Get Laughs, Go Viral, and Live Forever by Jay Heinrichs
  3. Plot Versus Character: A Balanced Approach to Writing Great Fiction by Jeff Gerke
  4. How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy by Orson Scott Card
  5. New to my list: On Writing by Stephen King
  6. New to my list: 20 Master Plots: And How to Build Them by Ronald B. Tobias

If I can work these into my thesis, I may, but until then, I’m stuck reading books and articles about writers teaching writing (if you know any, pass them on!).

Eclectic Reader Challenge Update

In December, my friend Stephanie at Misprinted Pages shared Book’d Out’s Eclectic Reader Challenge with me and I got on the train. I’m really enjoying the progress so far this January as I use it to work towards reaching my goal of reading 100 books this year.

So, let’s talk about what I’ve read so far and what I thought!

Guilty Pleasures

Links: Author PageGoodreads.comAmazonBarnes & Noble

My friend, Sabrina, loves Laurell K Hamilton and her work so I decided to give Guilty Pleasures a look before getting into my ERC reading list and then I realized HEY! This fits the ERC!.32

Despite all the smutty covers made for this book, it’s actually quite devoid of sex, which stunned me. It started,out similar enough to other books I’ve read in this genre at a CLUB. YEP. A CLUB. WHO WOULD’VE THUNK IT? NOT ME. NAW. Okay, this time it was an all-male, vampire revue which means that it should have a nice, Magic Mike-inspired scene should it be made into a movie. I don’t know why, but this club thing is grating on me. It’s numero uno on what not to have in my urban fantasy piece.

Hamilton did a great job with first person narration. It wasn’t too “I” heavy. A few things bugged me, which were, I assume, funny to most but  repetitive or stilting to me (such as the use of “Naw”). She over uses some of the same jokes that I thought, “once was enough, twice was pushing it, thrice–too far.” Other than that, the prose was good. The bad guy was pretty obvious making me wonder why Anita Blake missed it until he revealed himself. Why did I piece together the mystery before her?

A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange

Links: Author Page,, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

A Clockwork Orange was just too frustrating to finish. I didn’t get very far before giving up on the language. It was like reading a novel of Jabberwocky. I’ve seen the movie so I knew the language and understood what was going on which to me made reading the book pointless. If I’m only following along thinking “Oh, I remember that part of the movie,” that means I’m not enjoying the book. I’m just trudging along because lots of people like it. I’m not one of those people and that’s okay.

The Road

The Road

Links: Author Page,, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

McCarthy’s story is told with no chapters, no breaks. Just prose. I loved it. It wrapped me in this blanket and carried me along until the end of the story. A man and his child travel across the country and I’m not sure if it’s the apocalypse or McCarthy’s style, but if I could have, I might have held my breath the whole way. I was scared, worried, anxious about reading to the next page, the next paragraph because of what might happen if I continued. It was as if by not reading it, it would not happen. I don’t get this feeling very often when reading so that is a glowing recommendation.

Storm Front (The Dresden Files, #1)

Storm Front

Links: Author Page,, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

For me, Storm Front became an abandoned book about 20% in. In December, I blogged about another series by Jim Butcher, Codex Alera. When reading Codex, I was able to get past the poorly developed characters, the tropes, and the amateurish writing. In Storm Front, I couldn’t. The world, plot, and races of Codex Alera saved the series and made it worth reading but in Storm Front, it’s just not there. I just felt annoyed by the narrator, sick of the writing style, and not at all interested in any mystery. It was PI mystery mixed with all the crap I hate about urban fantasy. I know lots of people love this series, but I don’t.

No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller

No Crystal Stair

Links: Author Page,, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

No Crystal Stair is the first book I read that wasn’t for the ERC. A literary agent told one of my clients to read this to help her shape her novel so I too needed to read it. No Crystal Stair is a short, fictional, documentary (which is typically non-fiction?) book about the life of a Black Rights activist, Lewis Micheaux. The entire story is told from multiple view points all focused on Lewis. About 15% of the book is sources, acknowledgements, etc so this is a very, very short read. It’s labeled YA but I don’t buy that. There is nothing YA about this book; it might be helpful for kids to read with a history unit or to encourage self-research. The writing, in my opinion, was weak. The entire text was filled with generalized statements and showed a disconnect between writer and character probably because there were so many she attempted to write through. It was interesting and I enjoyed learning about someone but the delivery made me feeling unrewarded because of that big old word “fictional” up there. There were strange disconnects leaving plot holes over the course of the man’s life that made it frustrating in some parts. That said, it’s won awards and stuff so maybe it’s just me.



Links: Author Page,, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

In short, Elemental blew me away. For his dystopia, John used a place that most east coasters know–the Outer Banks. I vacationed at Hatteras Island one weekend and it was probably the best beach trip I’ve ever had so that paradise was set on end by John’s action/adventure story, making it even more powerful. He works to develop elemental magic though his world building is minimal, wasting no time on long info dumps, instead helps us to discover the way things work with the characters. His characters, I love. Especially Alice (what a spit-fire) and Griffin. I’m really excited for the next two books in this series.

Elemental is relatively short and is a quick, action packed read. I highly recommend this book. It’s my favorite this month.

5 Abandoned Books – Book Round-Up

Last year (2011), I decided to stop trying to force myself to finish books I really didn’t like. With the advent of the internet, my desire to figure out how things ended is quite easy to appease. Now, to abandon a book (not just set it down for a later time), a book has to be just really… bad. And that almost always applies to the writing. It’s not usually the story that I can’t stand, it’s almost always the writing. So let’s get to it and I’ll give you some details as to what I mean.

Daughter of the Blood

Links: Author Page, Amazon,, Barnes & Noble

I downloaded this book because I like epic fantasy and vampires. It was supposed to be pleasure reading. It was not.

Bishop seemed over-worried about people thinking her fantasy world was detailed enough which led to her characters CONSTANTLY talking about the world and it’s design so much so that I was confused (cliche names were flying everywhere attached to random colors). It’s like a draft of a manuscript in which the writing shows some clear attempt at revision (syntax was phenomenal) but lacks the development of the action of the scenes to properly tell the story.

Ignoring the confusion, the characters felt like cliche cardboard cutouts whom I developed absolutely no interest in. Good premise, horrible follow through.

I know quite a few people like this book and the rest of Bishops work but calling this high or epic fantasy is a joke. It’s horrible and horribly written.

City of Bones

Links: Author Page, Amazon,, Barnes & Noble

I started City of Bones because of the hype and hey the cover is neat looking. Also, it was listed as having steampunk elements somehwere (that was a lie). Okay… let’s get to business. I thought Clare was about… 14 based on the writing of this. From my understanding it started as a Draco/Ginny fanfic. NOW I wrote Draco/Ginny fanfics when Iw was fourteen, and upon returning to those (I’m linking this but I think it’s a bad idea: HP fanfics for my intense embarassment [it’s the 2nd story]), I can verify they are better written. I’m not saying little 14 year old me deserves to be published, she doesn’t, and neither does Clare. I’m sorry for all the people that love her books, they’re crap. She attempts to add detail by adding adjectives, horrible ones at that, and it’s just… torture. I have nothing else to say other than–no. Just no.

Aaron and Keja

Links: Author Page, Amazon,, Barnes & Noble


This book was so bad it made me angry enough to post a really nasty Goodreads review. Just move on.

Dark Prince

Links: Author Page, Amazon,, Barnes & Noble

Sometimes, my friend Sabrina has really great book recommendations (Mistborn Trilogy), and sometimes she doesn’t. This is a time she didn’t. I tried to read this but… my opinion of this serious is so black it’s raven like the hair of the MC, RAVEN. Yep. Moving on, Sabrina said that Feehan created a really cool fantasy world in which vampires start out as good (Carpathians) but loneliness drives them to become animals. I agree with Sabrina, this is a really interesting idea. The writing, however, and characters were so bad that I just couldn’t keep going. If you don’t mind bad writing, check it out.

Maximum Ride

Links: Author Page, Amazon,, Barnes & Noble

I don’t know much about James Patterson, but after reading a few chapters of this book–I actively don’t want to know any more. The idea behind Maximum Ride is similar to one I have toyed with–genetically altered kids. This group are all bird children with gimmicky comic book nicknames and the narrator–annoying.  I think this guy Joe got it right on the money with his review:

The stilted narration, provided by the “edgy” Maximum Ride, perhaps one of the most grating heroines in YA literature, is weakened by attempts to provide three-dimensionality to her character through her thoughtful analyses of those around her. Unfortunately, Patterson’s creativity as a writer is strictly limited to half-baked and poorly described battle sequences, so Ride’s introspection is relegated to heinous platitudes like, “It was like I had just lost my baby sister. And like I had lost my little girl” (p.25). (Guess what, Sister Girl… you did.)

The premise was fine but Patterson tanked it with this crappy, crappy story about a group of kids I couldn’t care less about.

I get a little meaner about books I don’t like than books that I do. I’m sure some of you have read these books and love them, that’s cool. There’s a reason why we’re different people! 🙂

See you Wednesday with a great reblog!

4 Classics – Book Round-Up

I’m really bad at schedules sometimes. I’m sorry about that. I promise to do better in the future.

Here’s a cute picture of my dogs and my feet to make up for it:

OKAY back to my review of some classics!

The Giver

Links: Author Page, Amazon,, Barnes & Noble

I read the first half of the Giver when I was in 7th or 8th grade and never finished it (I’d borrowed it from a friend) but this year, I decided to buy and finish it. My thoughts? It’s great… surprisingly small (I remember it being thicker…). I loved it. It’s dystopia back before dystopias were the *thing.* I really enjoy the characters, the world Lowry built, and the message she’s sending. If any book is Brave New World for kids, this is it. It’s got the same homogeneity of BNW which leads to the same message, as before mentioned, that constant happiness relies on removing our sense of individuality and in part our sense of humanity.

I highly recommend The Giver. It makes you rethink your memories, your place in society, and your own happiness.

To Kill A Mockingbird

Links: Author Page, Amazon,, Barnes & Noble

I love TKAM and that’s not because I’ve spent over 12 weeks teaching it to ninth and tenth graders (actually, DESPITE spending 12 weeks talking about TKAM with teenagers I still love it–that’s no small feat).

Harper Lee is a wordsmith, she’s truly amazing at the written word. She’s also a genius at plot–everything ties together, it all works together, this is one of the greatest novels ever written in my opinion. This is a prime example of how to write a novel. I personally am using her description of Maycomb as inspiration for describing New London in my own novel. That is probably not the last time I’ll use TKAM as inspiration.

I first read this when I was about a year out of college because I saw the above cover and got interested. I never read it in high school so I had no clue what I was in for. I fell in love. Scout is me, Jem my brother. We grew up just like these kids (though 60 years in the future) with similar experiences (especially that snowman thing). When I re-read it this fall, I fell in love with the writing. Lee’s writing is just… impeccable. No word is wasted in this novel. I only wish I could write one novel like that.

If you haven’t read TKAM, do so.

Joy Luck Club

Links: Author Page, Amazon,, Barnes & Noble

I picked up Joy Luck Club because it’s a commonly taught novel in the high school classroom. I devoured it in short order. It’s a series of stories that admittedly I need to read again to get them straight BUT the stories flow together in the same way a family does–in confusing swirls and sworls. Though the characters are friends, friends can and are family too. Tan jumps from the POV of second generation Chinese women living in California and women living or escaping China.

I probably will re-read this again in the next few years, may even send it off to my mother to read. It’s probably the kind of book labeled chick lit but it’s good. It’s about family and especially about the mother/daughter relationship. I recommend it. I’m curious if any guys out there have read it and what their thoughts are.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Links: Author Page, Amazon,, Barnes & Noble

One Day is another book I read because it was being used in the high school classroom. It took me a few starts to get moving along in this book but it’s a really interesting read once you do get into it. It is quite literally on day in the life of Ivan Denisovich and Denisovich is a prisoner in the Russian Gulag. As someone with a literary background, this book is right up my alley because nothing REALLY happens but everything happens.

Goodreads claims the book is only 176 pages long, but I think that can’t possibly be right… I remember something like 115 so it’s a quick read.

This is one of my favorite ways to learn history–reading novels from people who lived through historic moments and chose to share their lives with us. It’s the most essential function of literature and to me it’s no surprise Solzhnitsyn won the Nobel Prize for Literature–he put his life in danger publishing this and lived through hell to get the experience required to do the story of the Gulag justice.

I recommend this for anyone who doesn’t mind a book that doesn’t go anywhere or likes history.


That’s all for today! I’m going to work on Monday’s post so it goes up right away! Please let me know if you’ve read these books and what your thoughts are! I’m curious about my readers.

4 Stand-Alone Novels – Book Round-Up

Last week, I was feeling a bit under the weather so I kind of just chilled. It was nice but I’m sorry for breaking my schedule. I’m back however with my Stand-Alone novel reviews.

I want to point out that a few of these novels are part of a larger/longer series so they’re not stand-alone in the truest sense of the word. They’re stand-alone in that I only read one book of the series and I’ll go into why I didn’t finish the series during the reviews.

Howl’s Moving Castle

Links: Author Page, Amazon,, Barnes & Noble

I decided to read Howl’s Moving Castle because I really enjoyed Studio Ghibli’s cartoon film of the same name. The film addes to the storyline of Jones’s original story and while I really enjoyed it, I found it had some really interesting but not fully explained plot points. Jones executed a better plot line–better flow and no gaping plot holes like that of the film.

Another thing I loved about Howl’s Moving Castle is that it was a quick read. It’s really nice to devour a book within a few hours instead of a few days.

Howl’s Moving Castle is part of a series, but from my understanding, the subsequent books do not feature the same characters only the same world of magic. I didn’t continue on with the series because I wanted to know more about Howl and Sophie not the world.

I’d recommend everyone to check out the whimsical world Jones created, it’s a fun read.

Haroun and the Sea of Stories

Links: Author Page, Amazon,, Barnes & Noble

I absolutely, positively love Salman Rushdie. He’s a prolific author, penning really famous works such as The Satanic Verses and Midnight’s Children. I haven’t read The Satanic Verses yet but I am familiar and in love with Midnight’s Children. The thing with MC is that it’s really, really difficult to get through. I read it as a 20 year old undergrad student and after every chapter I had to write down what happened to keep track and each chapter was a 1-2 hour endeavor. It was literally the hardest fiction book I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading, but it was so, so enjoyable.

So, what does that have to do with Haroun and the Sea of Stories? Well, Haroun is Rushdie’s children’s story that is accessible to all. It’s a great story about Haroun helping to defeat a fantastic evil that threatens to ruin all stories and to save his father from never being able to tell stories again. It’s a fantasy story that plays on the themes of heritage that Rushdie is a master at. This is an impeccably written, one novel story; Rushdie’s Harry Potter of sorts.

There is another Children’s story that Rushdie wrote, similar to Haroun, called Luka and the Fire of Life. Both stand alone and I currently have Luka on my to-read list. I strongly urge you to check out any of Rushdie’s work. He’s an amazing man that has put his life on the line to share his thoughts and the history of his people.

The Princess Bride

Links: Author Page, Amazon,, Barnes & Noble

The Princess Bride was actually the first book I read this year and it was a fun, quick read that inspired the cult classic film by the same name. I think we call all spend a bit of time discussing our favorite lines: “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” and of course “As you wish.” (Please feel free to share your favorite if I missed it).

Anywho, movie talk aside, the book was interesting–things were different but much along the same lines as the film mostly because Golding also worked on the screenplay. It was an interesting read and I’d recommend it but not overly strongly. I would, however, say that the film is a must see for all people. Ever.

Ascension Point

Links: Author Page, Amazon,, Barnes & Noble

I did a full length review of this novel in November: Book Review: Dan Harris’s “Ascension Point.” However, because Harris is a new, independent author, I thought I’d give him one more plug.

Ascension Point is a great piece of sci-fi that I’ve found myself craving because of his novel. I actually decided to seek out more sci-fi because of Ascension Point. It’s a first novel and so it’s not pristine like the work of Rushdie but it’s an amazing first novel and a great read. If you love or even like sci-fi, check it out.


Check back Wednesday for my take on four “classics.”