Book Review: Grave Beginnings by R.R. Virdi

4.5/5 stars

This indie book was a fantastic read.  It opens with a man trying to claw his way out of the shallow grave he’s been buried in – or the body he now inhabits was buried in – and trying to determine his identity.  I mean, seriously, who wouldn’t be able to keep reading?

Set in New York City, the story follows a soul who calls himself Vincent Graves.  Vincent is shuttled between bodies periodically, forced to determine the cause of their supernatural deaths and take care of the creature responsible.  Why?  Who knows.  Vincent can’t remember who he is or even what his real name is, but the powers that be promise the information when he’s earned it.  In the meantime, he solves paranormal mysteries under a time limit – for Grave Beginnings, he has thirteen hours to find out who and why and figure out a way to kill the creature responsible.

What I loved most about this book was the characters.  Vincent is a very real, very three-dimensional person who leaps off the page with his ego, his sharp wit, his determination, and his resolve to do what needs to be done.  The other characters, even those you only see for a page or two, are also very real and unique without resorting to being cliched or trope-y.  I feel like these are characters I can learn to obsessively love over the course of a series.

I also have to give props to Virdi for uniqueness.  For spoilers’ sake, I won’t say who/what Vincent has to kill, but it’s not a creature you see regularly in supernatural/paranormal novels.  I love dragons, werewolves, vampires, demons, and ghosts as much as the next person, but when those are the only monsters we ever get to read about, they can get old quick.  Virdi gets props for going with a lesser-known monster and also describing it with a lot of terrifyingly beautiful imagery.

So…why the half star taken off?

Grammar.  I feel like this could have gone through one last proofread/line edit before publication.  There were no grammar issues that impeded understanding, but they were noticeable.  Little things like commas where there should have been semicolons, redundant phrasing, etc.  Small, so only the half star taken off.

Overall, though, I really liked it.  I don’t feel like I wasted my money buying it and I’ve already added book #2, Grave Measures, to my Books-A-Million wishlist (my husband put me on a book-buying freeze until I finish the 6+ I have on my shelf waiting to be read😦 ).  If you like monsters and sarcasm, you won’t be disappointed with Grave Beginnings.

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Book Review: 11/22/63 by Stephen King

4/5 stars

I really, really enjoyed this book.  It took me a while to plow through (the paperback version clocks in at a whopping 1,080 pages, plus a foreword and afterword) but it was definitely worth it.  The only other Stephen King novel I’ve read so far is Carrie, so it was very interesting to see his evolution as a storyteller going from a fairly short novel about a troubled, telekinetic teen girl, written in 3rd person with epistolary elements, to a massive tome about a 30-something divorcee who time-travels to stop JFK’s assassination.  Despite their differences in subject matter and overall tone, there are still the elements I’ve learned to really like about King’s writing – sharp wit, strong insight into human nature, realistic characters, and supernatural/science fiction/paranormal elements that blend seamlessly into the narrative of normal people leading normal lives.

That said, in my opinion, it was just a tad too long.  Out of the 1,080 pages I read, I would say about 150-200 of them were unnecessary.  The bits about the swing-dancing teens in Derry, the references to It (I guess when you’re as famous as Stephen King, you can allude to your own work and get away with it, but still), some of the details about the Templeton family, and so on – while interesting and well-written, I don’t feel like they really added that much to the overall story arc of Jake Epping trying to change the past.

All in all, I highly recommend this book to just about any reader.  Sci-fi fans, paranormal/supernatural fans, history buffs, and just about anyone should really enjoy 11/22/63.  The ending was amazing (and amazingly heart-breaking) and I’m looking forward to hitting Books-A-Million soon to grab some more of King’s books.

Book Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

3/5 stars.

Disclaimer: I am not a huge sci-fi fan.  It’s just not something that tends to appeal to me, though there are exceptions, with Star Trek: Next Generation being the biggest.  That said, I did enjoy The 5th Wave enough to recommend it to people who do like science fiction.

Overall, this was an enjoyable book.  I didn’t mind spending money on it.  I plan to read the rest of the trilogy because I want to find out what happens.

So, I knocked off two stars because of the way it’s written.  It jumps back and forth between points of view, Cassie and Ben, and it can get a bit confusing because this happens at least a dozen times.  It’s difficult to keep the story line straight when things change so often.  There were parts in the action scenes where time seemed to skip, or things weren’t clearly explained so I wasn’t 100% certain what was going on.  I see that a lot in action scenes, where bullets are flying and things are exploding and you’ve got a lot of detail to cram into a short space and make it seem real.  It’s a tough trick to pull off, and while the book was good overall, I don’t think Yancey quite pulled that off.

But, I am looking forward to starting book #2 in the series, so definitely go out and buy The 5th Wave if you enjoy sci-fi, aliens, dystopian fiction, or all of the above.

The Book High

Today is going to be a very distracted day for me.  I am exhausted.

While “exhausted” is nothing new to me (mom of a toddler here), this is a different kind.  Mental exhaustion.  I’m tapped out.  Coming down off a rollercoaster ride type exhaustion, although really, I’ve been mostly sunk into an armchair the last three days.

Three days ago I picked up Jennifer McMahon’s Dismantled, a book that’s been on my to-read list for quite a while.  I’d just finished Catherine Coulter’s Bombshell and I was looking for another good mystery, but something deeper and not of the police procedural type.  And thus began my rollercoaster ride.

Ending a good book always feels kind of like coming down off a high of sorts.  It’s always been that way.  I remember sitting in bed one night and feeling this way after I finished The Sword of Shannara.  I’d gotten it as a Christmas present and, not even 12 yet, it was the biggest book I’d ever read.  One of the best.  To this day I am still obsessed with Terry Brooks’ work.

It was the same after I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Dracula, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, and the myriad of other great books I’ve come across over the years.  I bought into the propaganda they peddled in libraries and shows like Reading Rainbow when I was young– books can take you places, teach you things, amaze you, infuriate you, leave you breathless, and, most of all, hungry for the next one.  I’ve already got Frog Music and Behind the Scenes at the Museum checked out and waiting on my desk.  It’s like how addicts start planning how to get their next fix while lighting up the first.

By the way — support your local libraries.  They help junkies like me get our high in safe, cheap/free ways.  Like a literary methadone clinic.

http://www.ala.org/advocacy/advleg/advocacyuniversity/toolkit/talkingpoints

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HOW To Finish Your Damn Book

CATHERINE RYAN HOWARD

At the beginning of this year I wrote a post for that treasure trove of writing and publishing information, Writing.ie, about why you should finish your damn book. You can read that post here. It proved really popular. So popular that it seems to me like a lot of you are in the same place I was until last summer: wanting nothing more than to have finished your book, but finding yourself doing everything but writing it.

It’s all well and good for me to tell you why you should finish your book (nutshell: a finished book is the one thing everyone who ever got published/successfully self-published has in common) but how do you do it? How do you overcome procrastination? How do you finish your damn book?

I only know what worked for me, but maybe you’ll find something in there that works for you. Let’s see…

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16 Questions to Ask Someone When They’re Reading Your Manuscript

Ivy Reddington

Interrogation

My friend Skye has been reading my novel-in-progress as I write each chapter. She is only four chapters into it and I just created a list of questions to ask her to get the maximum amount of information out of her, without getting what she thinks I want to hear.

I hope this could help someone!

  1. Can you describe the main character to me?
  2. Can you describe the setting or major place to me?
  3. What did you think when this character did this? (Some scene specific to your story… May have to ask this about many scenes)
  4. What thoughts did the end of that chapter leave you with?
  5. Who was your favorite major character?
  6. Who was your favorite minor character?
  7. Who was your least favorite character?
  8. What was your favorite scene?
  9. Are there any characters that seem vague in your memory?
  10. Are there any places that need more detail?
  11. Did…

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