Seeker: A Review

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448 pages. Delacorte Books for Young Readers. Release Date: February 10, 2015

I received an uncorrected proof of this book through the publisher. I am not being compensated in any way for this review. All of the opinions expressed here are my own.

I always worry when new books are compared to bestsellers with a cult-like following. After all, shouldn’t writers strive to find their own voices and be proud of them? So when I saw a blurb comparing Arwen Elys Dayton’s newest book Seeker to Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games, and Divergent, I had the sinking sensation that a lot of readers would be disappointed by the literary world’s version of false advertisement. Comparisons like these tend to make readers form preconceived notions about what they’re about to read.

I start reading each and every book with an open mind and try to review accordingly. Unfortunately, there were too many flaws for me to overlook, and as a result I’ve stopped reading Seeker midway.

The story started out strong and captivating. I wanted to know more about the three young warriors and their quest to become seekers. The problem is, I was halfway through the book and still didn’t know what a seeker was. Or what time period the story was set in. And while the characters started off strong, they became more shallow and unbelievable with every new page. Their relationships to one another felt forced. As I read farther, things just stopped fitting together. There were too many unanswered questions, and while I’d like to believe that the ending ties up some loose ends, I was too frustrated to try and get there.

I loved the concept of Seeker, but this just didn’t work for me.

 

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The Case for Paperbacks

I love my local library. This past Summer, I spent every Friday afternoon there slowly browsing the shelves. I would check out a stack of books each visit and have them all read in time for the following week’s trip.

Then I had to join the real world, and my weekly library visits (and my free time) disappeared completely. I took to downloading audiobooks from my library’s digital collection so that I could “read” while cleaning and cooking or doing other mindless tasks. For the most part, audiobooks have been nothing but a positive experience. I’m so happy that I listened to Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being and Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch on audiobook, because hearing the different voices, fluent foreign languages, and accents really brought the stories to life. David Sedaris has become my trusted companion on long car rides.

The most recent audiobook I’ve listened to is Frog Music by Emma Donoghue, and it was almost a book that I was going to call it quits on. I was bored, confused, and frustrated with how slow the narrator was reading. Its only saving grace was the fact that I had some free time this past weekend to make a much desired trip to the library, and that the colorful hardcover spine of the book jumped out at me from its shelf. I decided to give it one more shot.

I began reading the paper version of the book from the place I left off in the audiobook. I’m glad that I gave the book a second chance, because I found the story to be much more enthralling in print. I finished the story in two days because I searched for every opportunity to read it, whereas it had taken almost two months to get through the first 3 hours of the audiobook.

I thought initially that the audio version confused me because I was too distracted while listening. With the print version in hand, I realized I was confused because the audio gave no indication of flashbacks. In print, the jumps in time are clearly marked, which made transitions seamless.

While it seems standard these days that every printed book eventually receives an audio version, I think this does a disservice to some books. Certain things are lost when you don’t have the text in front of you, especially in the case where time is manipulated. I wonder how many people have given up on a book because the audiobook ruined the story for them?

Book Review: Publishing, A Writer’s Memoir by Gail Godwin

226 pages Bloomsbury USA Release Date: January 15, 2015
226 pages
Bloomsbury USA
Release Date: January 15, 2015

As the title of this post indicates, I’m reviewing a memoir this time around. And, as always:

I received an uncorrected proof of this book through the publisher. I am not being compensated in any way for this review. All of the opinions expressed here are my own.

Gail Godwin would fit the definition of a successful writer. After all, she is the author of 14 bestselling novels, two short story collections, and two nonfiction works. Her newest nonfiction work, Publishing: A Writer’s Memoir, is the story of how Godwin became the writer she is today. Regretfully, it is the only work of hers that I’ve read to-date.

Initially I was worried that this memoir, like a few others I’ve read, would be nothing but a platform for bragging and snobbery. Thankfully, it was nothing of the sort. Godwin is a very down-to-earth individual. She opens the piece with her first rejection as a writer and continues to mention her mistakes and failures as much as she discusses her achievements. I appreciated the balance, both as a reader and as a writer. Publishing reminds us that though writing is a challenging profession, it is still an attainable goal so long as one is willing to work through the frequent disappointments. Even the best writers don’t always get it right.

I personally found this inspiring, and there were many instances when I felt compelled to drop the book just so I could go and work on my own writing. Regardless of what her reason was for writing this, Godwin serves as an inspiration for all of us struggling to make it in this competitive and ever-changing field. This is a great book for all, both writers and book lovers who would like more insight into how books come to be.

 

 

A New Novel and A Whole Lot Of Accountability

Any time someone finds out that I’m a writer, the conversation is usually followed up with, “Oh, I’ve always told myself I’m going to write a novel someday, when I have some more free time.” No, seriously, that’s the response. If I got paid every time someone told me they were planning on writing a novel, then I’d already be living on that 5-acre farm my husband and I dream about with some sheep, a cow, and an underground greenhouse. But I’m not.

In fact, the reality is that I’m not much better than those people, despite my intense hatred of that line. Yeah, I have two children’s books. Sometime this week, the article I wrote for an RA website is going live too. And yes, I’ve been submitting shorter pieces I’ve written to different publications. But it’s be a really long time since I’ve written a book. Maybe I haven’t been doing such a great job at this writer thing?

I’ve been itching to turn an idea I have into a middle school/young adult novel. A few weeks ago, I started writing the first chapter. It’s a terrible first chapter, quite frankly, but I wrote it. I started. The hardest part is finishing. Unlike past projects that I abandoned halfway through (cough, NaNoWriMo) I really want to stick with this one. I need to prove to myself that I’ve still “got it,” and that I haven’t turned into that whiny-pants person that’s always complaining about lack of time to do things. I’ve done a lot of excuse-making recently too, but I’m over it.

But just to be on the safe side, Internet, I want you to hold me accountable. I’m one of those people who can’t stick to a diet for more than two hours unless I tell a bunch of people (I hate being a disappointment). If I know that random strangers all over the globe can read this, then I’ll be less inclined to indulge in a cheat day and skip writing for TV.

Now, excuse me while I go cover my closet door in sticky notes that detail my entire plot.

 

Book Review: Since You’ve Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne

Disclaimer: I received an uncorrected proof of this book through the publisher. I am not being compensated in any way for this review. All of the opinions expressed here are my own.

 

224 pages Dundurn Group Release Date: February 17, 2015
224 pages Dundurn Group
Release Date: February 17, 2015

I hate to give negative reviews of anyone’s published work. I know the amount of effort that goes into writing and the sting of rejection that comes with it. Unfortunately, no matter how much I’d love to give every book I read a raving review, I would much rather be honest.

The back matter for Mary Jennifer Payne’s new young adult book, Since You’ve Been Gone, intrigued me. Edie and her mother are on the run. Things seem to be going well after their sudden move to London until Edie’s mother disappears. Now Edie is on her own and can’t run to the police for help.

Despite its interesting subject matter, I was disappointed. Payne uses mostly simile when giving any kind of description, but the similes are not very original or interesting. They’re also quite frequent, and at some points are found in every other sentence. They throw off the flow of the story rather than add to it.

The story as a whole, strangely, is both rushed and slow moving at the same time. The overall plot did not move fast enough to keep me entertained; I was halfway through the book and still had no information as to why they were running or why I should care about Edie’s life. On the other hand, smaller events in the book happened so quickly that they felt unrealistic.

I really disliked Edie as a character. So much so that I couldn’t connect to the story. Her inconsistencies made it hard for me to believe anything about her. Actually, I would love to see all of the characters in the book developed more fully.

So, overall, this one’s a no for me. The concept had great potential, but the execution left something to be desired. Of course, that’s just my personal opinion. There are plenty of positive reviews for Since You’ve Been Gone floating around, so give it a shot if this hasn’t deterred you.

Writing fiction is hard work. The same rules we’re told to follow are also rules we’re told to break. We have the task of creating complex plots and even more complicated and believable characters. Sometimes writers nail this formula. Many don’t, at least not on the first try. It’s a learning process. Maybe I’ll review Payne’s next book sometime in the distant future, and I’ll be pleasantly surprised when she blows me away.