Book Review: “The Thief,” “The Queen of Attolia,” and “The King of Attolia,” by Megan Whalen Turner

I know, I know, another book review.  I’ve been enjoying myself lately by reading a lot of books, and these three were ones I really enjoyed.  You know when you finish a book or a series and you can’t stop thinking about the characters?  Well, that’s how this was for me.

The first book (a Newberry Honor book) is about Eugenides, a thief.  It starts with him in prison and where it ends is actually quite surprising and unexpected — and therefore great.  The second book is about Eugenides’ role in a war going on between his kingdom and the neighboring kingdom of Attolia.  I don’t want to say too much more for fear of ruining it for someone.

The last book, and probably my favorite, was really the one that left me thinking about the characters, their motivations, their fears, and their humanity.  It was really good, mixing political intrigue, war, and romance.  The characters acted because of who they were and not becasue Turner wanted a particular result.  Sometimes you wanted to hit them and tell them to get real, suck up, and do what they know they should.  Sometimes you hurt right along with them.  Either way, it was a good book.

Because of the way the third book ends, I assume there is going to be a fourth, and I can’t wait to read that one!

Book Review: “The Ranger’s Apprentice” series by John Flanagan

I’ve read the first four of “The Ranger’s Apprentice” series and I have enjoyed them.  I don’t know that I can say I absolutely LOVED them, but they were definitely good and I didn’t want to put them down.  I think the first and second were the best, but I am excited to read the fifth.

The basis for this story is that a young boy who is too small to be a knight gets chosen to be apprentice to a “Ranger.”  Rangers are a group that serves the king and works more behind the scenes.  The boy finds that being a ranger entails more than he initially thought.  He acquires skills he never would have imagined and becomes good enough to participate and help the kingdom and his friends.

I like the characters here, especially those of Will and Halt — and Horace in the later books.  The stories are creative and the world feels real.  I would recommend it to those who like fantasy.

What do you think???

As I’ve been researching the YA fantasy market over the past year, I’ve run across a few interesting things.  First, a lot of fantasy in the “children’s” section is focused on middle grade.  Yes, there’s YA also, but it seems to me that a lot skips from middle grade all the way to adult. 

The second thing I’ve noticed as I’ve read agent blogs is that a lot of them want fantasy, but some only want urban fantasy, which really seems to be almost all the YA fantasy these days.  There are quite a few who don’t rule out the traditional quest fantasy, but then they stipulate it has to be new or different.

That leaves the question:  what really is new or different in traditional fantasy?  Many of these same agents, or others like them, also make comments that there are really only five or so different basic storylines.  What makes one book stand out, is the way that age-old story is told.

That leaves me to the question I’d like to know (and I used the cool new poll feature on wordpress).  For those of you who like fantasy, does it bother you to see the same story over and over again (you know, magic, overcoming the evil ruler, kingdom is at stake, etc.)?  I personally don’t mind it.  I mean, you always know the good guy is going to win, but how that ends up happening can be so different and if it’s interesting enough, I keep reading.

Book Review: “Brisingr” by Christopher Paolini

I finished “Brisingr” yesterday and thought I’d give my review — just in case anyone out there wants to know whether it’s worth it or not.  There will be a few spoilers, so read at your own risk.

I liked the book a lot.  I liked where Paolini took his characters and I liked how he shaped the events that will lead to the last book (which I hope doesn’t take as long to come out, but have a feeling it will).  I had three things about the book I especially liked.  First, when Arya was in the book, I liked the interaction between her and Eragon better.  There wasn’t that “are we friends, or not” stuff that kept going through “Eldest.”  In my opinion I think she should just admit she’s in love with him and get it over with.  But, I’m not the one writing the story.  Second, I predicted after “Eldest” that Brom was going to be Eragon’s father, not Morzan.  And I was right!!  (I so love being right.)  It just always seemed that it made more sense for Brom to be his father.  And third, I loved the whole search for a sword thing.  I was a little disappointed with how the “find the weapon under the Menoa tree” went (it seemed a little anticlimactic), but then when they made the sword, I liked how it all worked out.  And the name of the sword and what it  does are awesome.

One thing I liked and didn’t like at the same time was the interaction between Nasadua and Roran.  I can kind of see how she handled things (and it does seem in her character and it does make Roran stronger), but I think there would have been other ways of dealing with the siutation.

In conclusion, I really liked the book.  However, as with his other books, sometimes the paragraphs and paragraphs of descriptions (i.e. what it looks like for Saphira and Eragon to stare down at the Jiet river — again, and again, and … well you get the idea), just get monotonous for me.  I want something to happen.  I want a little more action here and there.  In the acknowledgement section at the end, Paolini says that his editor had him cut 200 pages.  I think there might have been a little more to cut,  but that’s just my opinion.  I like to get a feel for the scene, but when I start skimming because there’s just too much description, well…you get the idea.

I really like this series and would recommend it, especially to people who like fantasy.  The story is great and original and the characters are interesting.  It’s definitely worth the read.

“Brisingr” — Christopher Paolini

I don’t know how many of you have read Christopher Paolini’s books, but I personally like them.  Sometimes I think he gets a little long-winded (and I seriously wonder why his editor didn’t cut more material), but the story is great!!  I read “Eragon” after it had been out for about a year and “Eldest” right after it’s release.  I’m excited to get “Brisingr” tomorrow.  I hope it is as good as I want it to be.

Anyone who follows this series probably already knows that this third book was originally supposed to be the last in the series.  Not any more.  Paolini decided he had too much story left to tell and he added a book.  So…there’s still one more to come.  I sincerely hope he doesn’t wait another three or more years to release the fourth book.  I honestly think that because it’s been so long since the release of “Eldest” that some of the hype has died down and that people aren’t as interested.  I may be wrong, but I just don’t know very many people (besides those I’ve give the books to) that have read this series.  Maybe I just know the wrong people, though, because it’s been a New York Times Bestseller.

So everyone go to your local bookstore tomorrow (or Wal Mart, in my case) and pick up a copy of “Brisingr.”  Hopefully it will meet expectations.

What book haven’t you read?

A few days ago Nathan Bransford did a post asking what book are you embarrassed not to have read.  The answers varied from Shakespeare, to Austen, to Lord of the Rings (which Nathan himself has never read!!!).  I didn’t post a comment over there, but it kind of got me thinking.  I’ve come to the conlcusion that there are lots of things I should have read, or should read in the future, particularly the classics.  I read a ton of them in high school and even more in college, where I minored in English.  Since then, I don’t think I’ve read one.  I heartily admit that now I read entirely for fun and entertainment.  I know, I know, think of all the great literature.  BUT, now I have three kids, a house, homework to help with, dinner, laundry, you know…and I need to read for fun.  It’s one of my only breaks.  So, while those classics will always be out there, let’s face it, I probably won’t read a ton of them.

It almost wrote itself…

So, to continue with my writing saga…

After I got the idea for the story, I started writing.  I kept taking notes on various scraps of paper (I didn’t want to forget any great ideas as they came), and just kept typing.  I didn’t even write the first book in order — at all.  In fact, some of my favorite scenes were written during the first month of my writing.  I would be laying in bed at night or doing dishes, or whatever, and suddenly I’d have this great line of dialogue come into my head and a whole scene would be born.

Surprising to even myself, the (very, very) rough draft was complete in about four months.  And believe me, it was rough.  Then I wanted someone’s opinion, so I emailed it to my sister to read.  Now, a lot of credit goes to her for seeing the story through all the mess.  She didn’t have any names of people or places, no title, and no tag lines for the dialogue, and yet she still liked the story.

So then I had to start cleaning it up.  I had to come up with names for all my characters and cities (some of which changed), and I had to add all the descriptive dialogue terms that make the story come to life.  I must admit, this part of the writing process isn’t my favorite, it’s just a lot of work cleaning up details.  But it had to be done, so I did it.

I finally felt I had a version that was at least workable, and I got really brave and gave it to a few of my friends.  I waited nervously while they read it, hoping it wasn’t absolutely terrible, or boring, or whatever.  And, guess what, they loved it!  (One of my teenage readers even told me she liked it better than “Twilight.”  Now, even I wouldn’t go that far, but when other readers told me the same thing, I thought maybe getting published was a possibility.)

After getting such great feedback, I decided I really needed to put some detail work in.  I checked all my punctuation and grammar rules and proof read who knows how many times before I finally thought it was pretty polished — or at least an agent wouldn’t send it back because the commas were all out of whack.  Then I had my mom read it (she’s great with critiquing), and she worked over the portions that didn’t flow well or where the language just wasn’t right.  And she fixed a lot. 

When I was done with all of this, I knew I had to take the next step.  I had to get a few other writers to weight in.  Talk about scary.  To put something out there you’ve worked so hard on, knowing you want critiques, but also knowing that they would be harsh, was a bit intimidating.  Next post, I’ll tell you what I learned.