Saturday, July 4, 2015

Erin Kellison Interview

Erin Kellison author of the Shadow Series


Becky:      Have you ever thought of any of your stories being adapted to film or TV?


Erin:       Not seriously. It’d be fun, of course, and often blogs will ask, “What actor would play such-and-such character?” So I have thought about it a little, but I don’t think of film as I write.


B: Why or why not?

E: I’m a word person. J I don’t know how that medium is structured or how the story comes together. Would be cool to learn, though!


B: Who would you want to write the screenplay if not yourself and why?

E: No idea. I’d probably want to tackle it myself.


B: Most writers have a habit of putting a “self” character in each of their stories.  Which of you characters in each book do you most identify with and why?

E: Shadow Bound, Talia (I had recently finished grad school, so felt comfortable with an academic.)
Shadow Fall, Annabella (My teen years were spent in a ballet studio. I was a wili in Giselle, so I knew the ballet inside and out.)
Shadowman, Rose Ann Petty (I had too much fun writing her.)
Fire Kissed, Ferrol Grey (I invested a lot in making the antagonist my friend and understanding what he wanted.)
Soul Kissed, Mason (I’m a parent, so his concerns resonated with me more.)


B: When you get an idea for a story, how does it come to you?  Does it start as an idea you then build on of does the story come to you in complete detail?

E: I usually start with the fairy tale I’m going to build the story on, and then I work with the characters to develop it in a new and twisted way. When I write, I don’t know the details of each scene—I’d lose the magic of the moment—but I do know where I am going. I know where the characters need to be emotionally at the end, so I write toward that and discover the rest along the way.


B: What sort of books do you enjoy reading?

E: I read everything (lit major here), but I love genre fiction the most. Fantasy has always been a favorite, obviously. Love Bujold. Urban Fantasy, too. Gobbled up Night Broken by Patricia Briggs. And romance. I just finished a new adult by Beth Hyland, Fall into Forever.


B: Do you model yourself after anyone as a writer, or aspire to be like any writer you read?


E: Nope. I’m pretty much myself (I think every author has to be). I pay attention to how other writers do things, but everyone’s process is individual. Every book is its own monster. But I admire many authors for their awesome ideas and craft.


B: Were you aiming for a specific genre or did the crossover happen on its own?


E: That was intentional.


B: Aside from your aspirations as a writer, what do you hope to achieve in your life?


E: I want to be a great wife and mom. Aside from that, I am open to possibilities.

B: What are your highest expectations for your work?

E: I try to write the best book I can. I read craft books to keep learning. I take apart books I love so that I can figure out what makes them work so well. And then I try to do my best again. And again.

B: Would you say you’ve met or exceeded them yet?

E: Nope. Still learning.

B: What do you see in the future of sci-fi/ fantasy literature?  What’s the next evolution?

E: No idea. Which is a wonderful thing.

B: Where did you get the original idea for the Shadow Series?

E: I was looking for a kind of supernatural being that was different from the shifters and vampires that were (are) so popular at the time. I was reading a book on mythology, and my attention snagged on a banshee. I did a lot more reading, and Talia’s character developed from there. I wanted to discover how she came to be born (as well as what her nature was), and so wrote the prologue, which informed a lot of the world and the story that was to come. 

B: How long did it take to develop the idea into a full blown story?

E: The sense of the story happened in a flash (always does), but it took seven months on and off to complete.

B: You have a unique view of death and the process of loss which in the prologue is juxtaposed with the creation of life.  How did you bring that passion and fear to the foreground of the story?

E: The prologue was never supposed to be part of the story. It was an exercise to figure out Talia’s origins and see if I could put on the page what was in my head about a person straddling the boundary between life and death. I wanted to know what that felt like so I enacted it with her parents. I think that sense of exploration was what helped shade the tone.


B: Do you have personal experience with death and/ or loss?


E: Yes. It impacted the writing of Shadowman in particular.


B: What was your process in bringing Adam and Jacob forward as brothers?


E: I needed Adam’s conflict to be very personal. He had to be at a breaking point, and it was his brother who had driven him to it.


B: Is there a specific ideal you were trying to convey with this relationship?


E: Monsters. Jacob was a monster by choice, and Adam (though still human) was becoming a monster while trying to find a solution. He was at the end of his rope, embracing violence.

B: When a wraith feeds off of life energy, killing its victim, would you think that the more pure the soul the more energy the wraith gets by feeding on it?

E: Nope. I generally don’t think in terms of purity, and definitely not in a world as dark as the Shadow world. My good guys have the potential to be as dark as my bad guys. It’s the choice in the moment, not the degree of purity, that decides who they are.


B: What’s a primary motivation for becoming a wraith, abandoning love, life, and hope?


E: Immortality and power. Someone who feared dying would find becoming a wraith compelling.


B: How would you define “soul”?


E: The immortal part of a human being.


B: Shadow Bound seems to focus a lot on desire.  What was your mental process to bring this into the story so vividly without losing the essence of the plot?


E: Desire goes hand in hand with Death. There’s a natural tension there—it’s how Talia came to be born, and it’s what saves Adam at the end. In a way, desire drives the plot.


B: In Shadow Fall, the bridge into Shadow is more clearly defined in passion, creation, imagination.  What helped you in the creation of this major plot point?


E: I was able to expand the world in the second book through Annabella’s artistry. The story of Giselle, the ballet she was performing, is about the boundary between this world and the next, so it was an ideal means to show how the veil is thin, and that it’s permeated all the time through acts of creation. When I was a teenager, I was utterly taken with the story, and it has stuck with me since.


B: You very clearly write in the 3rd person limited point of view.  In Shadow Fall, you chose to focus and alternate between Custo and Annabella.  What led you to this choice?


E: They’re the lead characters. I needed both of their viewpoints to develop both the love story and how each internalized the supernatural events that force them to change.


B: How did you manage the transitions so seamlessly?


E: Transitions are hell. I stare at the computer screen until my brain bleeds.


B: How did you land in young adult/ middle adult language for Shadow Fall?  It’s somewhat more of a grown-up feel to the language of Shadow Bound.


E: Hmmm… Not sure. I didn’t know I used different language except that the character’s voices were unique, as was the wolf’s. Could be I changed. Could be the story needed something different.


B: What led you to return to the story from the prologue of Shadow Bound in the conception of Shadowman as a close to the series?


E: When I first sold Shadow Bound, the editor was interested in more of Shadowman’s story initiated in the prologue. I knew he would be the hero of the third book while I was writing Shadow Fall.


B: Do you have any new concepts in the works that steer away from the Shadow Series?


E: Yep. Aside from the SFR novellas I’ve written, the first in a new series, Darkness Falls, will be released inside the Dark and Deadly bundle on April 14. It’ll also be released shortly after on it’s own, along with the second in the series, Lay Me Down.

B: Do you anticipate a potential genre crossover for yourself or do you think you’ll most likely stick to the sci-fi/ fantasy romance?

E: Laughing. I’m also working on a fantasy I hope to release later this year. It has a romantic component, but it’s not the dominant arc. I’ve wanted to write a series with a continuing character, and I have found her at last. I’m very excited.



B: If you could pick one book that defines your personal style which would it be?

E: Soul Kissed, my latest full-length novel. It most represents my current approach to character, structure, and craft. I’m proud of how it came together. That said, the next book will probably redefine my personal style. And the one after that…

Ender/ Maze Runner Analysis

For many reasons, science fiction has stood the test of time, branching across decades and even centuries for the simplest of reasons: common human themes.  The commonality of purely human themes from classic to modern science fiction is evident in Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and The Maze Runner by James Dashner.  These two novels are on different edges of the science fiction spectrum and so show the ease of evolution within the primary genre through subgenres.  It also allows the commonalities mentioned to hold fast vastly diverse audiences.  The Maze Runner, a 21st century dystopic science fiction work, presents the primary theme of society using a group’s purpose to define the relationships most prevalent.  Ender’s Game, by contrast is a modern, “pure” science fiction novel that uses a single protagonist to help define the society within the story.  Card uses a distinctly sparse dialogue style in his narration to help speed the reader along and emphasize a specific theme.  He also has a unique dual point of view between third person limited and first person for Ender’s thoughts which helps in making his themes more organic.  Dasher, on the other hand, is very specific in his narration.  The reader understands only what he wants them to understand, and he designs his scenes around the themes he’s presenting.  But both works have isolated societies as a main feature complete with language, culture, and customs.  Each author arrives at the theme a little differently, but the theme remains the same in both works.

            Society can be defined in part as an organized group of people who live within a standard set by leaders of the group.  Within the International Fleet of Ender’s Game, the children in Battle School evolve their own speech patterns and slang which Card uses to help differentiate not only between the children and adults but between groups of children and how they interact with each other.  From the beginning, this establishes the theme of society, without letting Ender define himself.  He can’t really fall into the role of “hero” that people are so eager to see.  This arc is due in large part to a sort of domino cause and affect scenario set up by Graff.  Ender is isolated purposefully by the adults in his life, and what they do or say has very calculated results, and the definition of the plot points are very individualistic.  The reader sees a few different levels within the social network of the IF starting with what they call “launchies” who are the youngest students in the school.  Launchy society is defined primarily with innocence initially, with few attempts at friendship within the small group.  Ender is instantly set apart from the other boys by Graff, forcing the boys to take their own action for peace within the group, but Ender is always above and out of reach it seems.  The establishment of Ender’s isolationistic role in launchy society is his first trip to the game room.   He promptly separates himself from his classmates to challenge an older boy to play him two of three on a harder game in the room.  The soldiers hold launchies in such contempt, however, that it takes some manipulation on Ender’s part.  By implying the other boy is scared of loosing to a launchy, he forces the boy to play him in order to save face, and masters the game by the third turn.  This scene is an important set up for when he becomes a soldier in salamander army and is recognized by the encounter by the boy who would soon be training him in combat, Dink Meeker.  When Ender finally manages to bridge the gaps in his group using his classmate Alai, he’s made a soldier with almost no training, isolating him further.  This leads him to start a free practice with the launchies, which is unheard of in the Battle School since soldiers do not associate with launchies.  It is through this isolation that the society really takes hold, with Ender at the center.  As the structure within the Battle school breaks down due to administrative interference in the game, Ender begins to understand that he will never be able to form friendships with his soldiers.  He will always and forever be the commander.  This draws Ender out from the society of Battle School and Command School isolating him in many ways but often allowing the group to define his personality, even if it is as a reluctant leader.  But because of this forced isolation whether emotional or physical, he brings a society to peace within the Battle School.  He brings together his most trusted comrades.  He succeeds in all he was trained to do.  And then, he’s shipped out.  After a particularly unrealistic game set up by the school’s administrators, he gets promoted to Command School, but during the short leave he’s allowed on earth to prep the larger vessel, he withdraws from the IF.  He comes to a realization about his teachers and the adults who are supposed to protect him, the crux of which is they will do nothing save lie and cheat.  The world treats Battle School and Command School like a game, as the teachers and students do.  Ender knows it’s not a game, but he finds out too late to save a planet and an entire species of intelligent life.  He banishes himself, colonizing a new planet with his sister.  His individual decision changed not only his small world but the larger concept of humanity.  The Maze Runner, on the other hand, develops a completely codependent society that the protagonist contributes to not merely taking over.

            In The Maze Runner by James Dashner, the Gladers have developed their own society and culture over the course of two years before the protagonist, Thomas, comes into the story.  Rather than take over, as some “heroes” tend to do in science fiction or speculative fiction, Thomas tries to assimilate.  He essentially attempts to stay on the sidelines while trying to figure out the idea of the maze.  He wants to help, but he has a hard time figuring out his role in Glader Society until he goes into the maze when the doors are closing, locking him and two other boys out of the safety of the glade.  Like Ender, Thomas is put into a completely foreign environment and has to make something of it.  Unlike Ender, Thomas is allowed to depend on others for help.  He’s not forcibly isolated as Ender is.  Rather than becoming the linchpin, Thomas becomes a support, essential for point of view and moral dilemmas.  Arriving in the glade, Thomas knows nothing about his life before.  He soon learns this is the case with all the boys occupying the glade and his brain asks questions he knows will likely not be acknowledged, secrecy being oddly important to the Keepers, who serve as a ruling body for the Gladers.  In fact, Thomas is not considered important, little more than a new kid on the block so to speak until Teresa arrives.  The last arrival and the only girl in the glade, Teresa makes quite the impression even though she’s in a coma for several days mostly because of her apparent connection with Thomas, which neither of them are able to explain.  At this point in the story, Thomas, somewhat molded by the glade society has to find his feet, has to come to understand who he is not only in terms of the glade or the experiment that keeps it running but of his own existence.  Ender longed to be part of the group, a soldier, a comrade, a friend, Thomas already was and his friends trusted him enough to follow him.  They follow him into the maze, into darkness, and amazingly, back into the world they came from standing in front of those who put them in the maze in the first place.  It’s an oddly empty victory to Thomas though after all those who’ve been killed in the process.

            Societies develop in different ways for different reasons.  Speculative and dystopic science fiction use small closed off societies to establish and develop a protagonist and theme.  In Ender’s Game, Ender is isolated from his society in the Battle School which develops their group dynamic and his own personal commander persona while still solidly establishing the society and how it is different from Earth.  The Maze Runner, however, has a codependent protagonist in Thomas.  The Glader society is already fully established and has been for two years before he gets there, and he has not interest in standing out.  Gladers work together to achieve the goals that define the themes of the story, even if the reader only sees it from Thomas’s point of view.  Common themes bringing science fiction back to the forefront of literature.  Ender’s Game and The Maze Runner proving that societies vastly different with protagonists vastly different can reach that audience in similar ways.        

1984 Analysis

There are many definitions of humanity different to each person, group, or belief that separate us accordingly.  In George Orwell’s 1984, what it means to be human is brought to life in various scenarios through different personalities.  The protagonist, Winston, seeks out humanity through individuality.  On the other end, the antagonist, O’Brian defines his humanity in terms of the group.  The focus of this novel is the discovery of humanity in a world where people are little more than animals to the powers in charge.  Using this totalitarian society allows Orwell to examine humanity in its basest forms while crossing the group dynamic of the Party which serves as an antagonist throughout the story.

Winston Smith, the protagonist for this work, takes a strange, lonely journey to figure out what his humanity is worth, what humanity even means in the larger scheme of things.  The society Orwell creates for this dystopia is oligarchical in nature, leaving little to the establishment of individuality.  Because of this, Winston has to define himself as a human without knowing what it really means to be human.  In the beginning of the book, he only understands humanity as its role in the collective, the Party, and not as an individual state of being.  He struggles with his disdain of the Party and how it has, in his opinion, warped society beyond compassion, which can be argued as a root of humanity.  Winston records his observations, experiences, and general horror regarding the totalitarian regime he’s stuck in illegally in a diary.  While this practice does not necessarily span the entire novel, it does help the reader to understand who Winston Smith is within the context of the dystopia he’s forced to endure.  “It was not by making yourself heard but by staying sane that you carried on the human heritage,” Winston realizes after briefly coming to terms with his own mortality in terms of a legacy he’d leave after the Party inevitably killed him.  Like most modern humans, Winston does not want to die and does all he can to avoid that fate, his very existence depending on his ability to hide his deepest thoughts.  Winston notes on several occasions the control of the Party over the perception of the populace.  By extreme censorship, the Party is able to control not only perceptions and observations, but the nature of truth and history itself. 

““Who controls the past,” ran the Party slogan, “controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”” The Party has made history an alterable state, leaving nothing to contradict societal beliefs, in a sense destroying the legacy of humanity so that only slaves to the Party are left.  Staying in third person limited, Orwell is able to focus wholly on Winston and his journey to understanding and his inevitable fall.  With this technique, Orwell is able to express how Winston sees these orthodox Party followers, often debasing them to speaking in animal noises or behaving as something less than human.  To that end, the proletariats, or proles, are seen as little better than animals by members of the Party, but to Winston they seem like hope.  To him, the freedom of thought the proles seem to enjoy is the greatest luxury available in their society.  From the point of view of a rebel inside the Party, the reader gets a true sense of how society really works, and in the observation of childhood within the Party, Orwell is able to drive home the point that humanity is a secondary or even tertiary role of the Party members.  In this respect, the definite challenge of the protagonist is his struggle to define his humanity in terms of himself and not the Party.  When Winston is captured and tortured by O’Brian, the reader gets a real sense of how his journey has come to a head.  He is finally able to define his own humanity and in the end understands the necessity of dehumanization within the context of the oligarchy.

Fahrenheit 451 Analysis

When classical dystopian literature starts to look like the modern world, the definition of dystopia has to change. Once it becomes reality, it can no longer be science fiction. Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is welcomed by people to this day simply because we can see our world becoming what he predicted. Using basic poetic devices and prose style, Bradbury takes a future and makes it the present in this generation. It is metaphor, personification, and simile that help express the torn feeling that the main character, Montag, is fighting as he grows in the story. Montag has a very unique journey as far as being a classic male protagonist. His view of the world as it is takes a total and complete turn from the first page to the last. Each section build’s Montag up by breaking him down completely. Bradbury uses a casual, modern language structure with Montag which he develops as the character changes to match the tone of the sequences as they go. After meeting Clarisse, Montag begins adopting patterns and characteristics of the people influencing him which is a very unique way to arc character development. Bradbury’s revolutionary style and the poetic characteristics and cleverly structured prose he uses in this novel are what make it speak to audiences even in the twenty-first century.
One of the most noticeable characteristics of Bradbury’s style in this work is his use of metaphor. He uses this device almost straight away and makes good use of it throughout the book. For Montag’s experiences, only a unique descriptive process is adequate because of the nature of the society the book investigates and the possibility it implies. This is where metaphor is most often used. When Montag discovers his wife’s mistake with her sleeping pills, he slips right into a metaphoric description of her, comparing the process of cleaning her body of the drugs to digging a trench, “the woman on the bed was no more than a hard stratum of marble…” which is to say that Mildred is unaware, unfeeling, and ignorant of what’s being done to her, not much more than an obstacle the technicians have to overcome to clean out her system. This is an important sequence as the story begins because it sets up the society very well in a very short amount of time. The reader can see the clash between society and Montag beginning in this scene. The moment he finds the empty pill bottle, he searches for his identity, for happiness, and he realizes just how far gone the world is. “Someone else just jumped off a pill box.” The technician tells Montag as they prepare to leave him alone with his comatose wife. This simple sentence with the casual demeanor of the man who says it very effectively sheds a small light on the world that grows as the story goes on.

Montag understands and begins to question the society they live in when he hears the McClellan family discussing its structure and how grotesque it has become. The reader follows Montag at this point in his curiosity and his fear of what his life has become. He begins to hate his involvement very slightly just at this moment, and he wonders what it would be like to be different than they are. ““I don’t know anything anymore,” he said,” his mind wandering as he falls asleep, confusion coupled with fear stay with him long after he wakes. He’s begun to question the very foundation of his belief system and all he’s ever known. This sequence allows juxtaposition later when Montag tries to explain what happened to his wife then speaks with Clarisse, the former expressing the obscenely frivolous lifestyle of modern society, the latter a sheer joy in experience. Montag’s perception of the world around him changes vastly from this point. Part one has a distinctly darker tone in Montag. As he learns about himself and grows into awareness, the tone becomes more hopeful with a dreamlike quality.

When Clarisse disappears, Montag is lost in this new awareness and he doesn't think he has anyone to ask for help. This is when Beatty takes time to throw his mind off even more. The lecture Beatty gives Montag very clearly shows the decline of their society, his fancy words saying little more than it’s their own fault things have become this way, and there’s no point trying to change it. Beatty succinctly bastardizes literature by metaphorically putting its decline in a centrifuge which “flings off all unnecessary, time-wasting thought.” His justification for the illegality of books in that time period centers primarily around the idea that people simply want to be entertained, not taught or scolded. To Beatty, and indeed most people Montag comes into contact with, books were only to make certain groups of people feel inferior, to argue and contradict ideas. From this point of view censorship is a matter of political correctness, but for Montag it’s a loss of something he doesn't understand. He knows he can change nothing if he’s burned with the books, so he hides within himself until he remembers his chance meeting with professor Faber and realizes that Faber could help him. “I don’t talk things sir… I talk the meaning of things. I sit here and know I’m alive,” so Montag lets himself hope just a little remembering what Faber told him that started him down this path so long ago. 
The extended metaphor that alludes to Montag’s childhood compares putting sand in a sieve to absorbing the knowledge of books, and Montag fights with all he has to keep some of the sand in the sieve. It’s a sense of despair that overtakes him to the point of madness on his way to meet Faber at which point he sees beyond the fear of the old man and helps him hope again. They are able to support each other through their mutual uncertainty until Montag is forced to run from his whole life just to live and be free. From Beatty, the reader learns one side of the journey that led to the dystopia Montag lives in, from Faber, there is another. These two monologues from opposite sides of the spectrum tie Montag’s journey nicely up into a neat package so that afterwards, he can rip it open and throw it in the river, and finally, he understands.

In his novel, Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury uses metaphor, simile, and prose style to mark the change, the journey of his protagonist, Guy Montag. Within the story Montag is faced with three different world views through Clarisse, Beatty, and Faber and in the end he finds his own opinion. This novel is a known classic that carries applicability even in the twenty-first century


Prodigal Son Review

Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein: A New Twist On An Old Legend

Book One: Prodigal Son


As far removed from Shelley as the time between their existences, Dean Koontz did what he’s done with every story he’s ever crafted: he evolved it.  He took the skeleton of the Frankenstein story and put a deeper emotion into it.  He made it human.  At it’s heart the story is a struggle for identity.  The primary focus is the “New Race” that began with Deucalion and the struggle to fit into the world… until they overcame it.


Victor Helios AKA Frankenstein sees himself as a god, a creator of life.  Roy Pribeaux calls himself an Adonis, a study in perfection who destroys life in his quest to make his all the more perfect.


I think a reason Koontz brings Roy Pribeaux in as the serial killer is to emphasize the flaws in humanity to make Victor seem almost a hero in his bid to create the “New Race” and to truly perfect the world.  By that contrast Harker, who is of the “New Race” and also a serial killer is the purest monster, and it can almost be said that even Victor fears him to some degree because he is something Victor cannot control.


Koontz employs a third person limited POV which serves him well in two ways.  One: it lets him settle into his characters.  Two: it allows for literary hold ups story telling junctions and surprises.


Something that’s great about Koontz is his ability to change his voice so effortlessly.  In a third person like Prodigal Son he can easily slip into and out of the personalities of his characters, whichever character he’s focusing on.  Koontz has been called the master storyteller, and I think a good deal of that ability has to do with his POV uses, voice and characterization


Another great addition to the Koontz library can’t wait to read more!!!!!!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Night Shift: Style Review

Lilith Saintcrow is the quintessential urban/ alternative reality fantasy writer. Night Shift is written in first person through the protagonist Jill Kismet. In some ways this helps the story, in others it’s somewhat detrimental. Generally for a reader this style is better understood but would be a lot more flexible in a third person point of view. Because of the point of view, the author is forced to use flashbacks for certain points of exposition which kind of slows the story down. The author should have put this story down in third person limited so that the narrator is able to jump smoothly from event to event and character to character without revealing plot twists to the reader making it a little less choppy in the exposition sequences. On the other hand, the first person point of view allows more emotion and connection with the protagonist.

The book starts in a flashback sequence, not a great choice for this story since the reader has no idea who this protagonist is and what the stakes are as she makes this Faustian deal. That exposition could have been done after Jill goes to the Monde and could probably have been done without reverting to a flashback. Another problem with the point of view the author uses is that she doesn't USE it. The reader can find it hard to follow the protagonist’s emotional ride and progression in some places.

Saintcrow tells a unique story in a unique way and has a very definitive style. She easily works in lingo for hunters, secondary characters, and the alternative reality as she works through the supernatural mystery her protagonist is pulled into.

Night Shift is a fast-paced, action rich modern fantasy with a pretty basic linear plot structure thanks primarily to the point of view, with the exception of the flashbacks of course. Saintcrow, like any other writer, has her own style of expression. In first person, Night Shift has a rough-and-tumble feel to it which matches the character perfectly, but some of the descriptive and exposition scenes are repetitive in wording and structure, although Saintcrow tends to overuse a number of adjectives in the same sentence structure, making much of her description and exposition seem redundant at times. If you like urban fantasy this book is definitely for you but it can be hard to follow at times due to the non-linear stream of consciousness point of view and flashbacks


Ender's Game Review


Ender’s Game is set in a type of dystopia that’s so far in the future, population control is one of the major issues of the day.  As is the potential for invasion from alien entities known as the Formics.  Having failed once the “buggers” as the Formics are more commonly named, are determined to destroy humanity, or so the International Fleet would have the people of earth believe. 

The story centers around a boy who is put through a rigorous education to become the best commander in history.  It can almost be called a psychological drama because the way the adults of the story play with Ender’s mind is like a sick joke at times.  They manipulate him and break him down until at the age of eleven he is unknowingly put in command of the fleet in an all out invasion on the Formic home world.

Ender is forced to murder, to command, to segregate and then without even knowing it, he commits a brash act of genocide.  It makes sense that he would break at the news, but to come so far and facing so much miscommunication, Card leaves the reader thinking Ender could have known better.

In his unique style, Card employs many simple techniques that in concert make a complex and intriguing story.  I think that the fractured way the story comes out works in his favor it makes for a more exciting story.  Once the reader gets past the set ups in the first few chapters and understands the context of the adult dialogue at the beginning of each chapter, the story flows well and really does pull the reader into it, page after page.

City of Ashes Review

The second installment in the Mortal Instruments series, City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare is an emotional roller coaster from beginning to end.  Clare really amps up the drama by very deliberately putting the emotions and character arcs at the forefront of the story.  The love triangle between Clary, Jace and Simon is nicely balanced out by the reluctant relationship between Alec and Magnus.  Clare’s dialogue while at times inappropriately witty brings a refreshing tone to the teen drama along with elements of fantasy, action, and some serious emotion. 

            With the world of the Shadowhunters established in the first book, City of Ashes is able to take the emotional journey of the heroine, Clary Fray to a whole new level.  Thankfully this does not mean an overabundance of teen angst which is very overdone in most YA that’s out right now. 

            Clare is very smart in adding plot points in such a way that transitions and sequencing don’t suffer.  When Simon is made a vampire, it simultaneously drives Clary away and brings her closer.  This is such a delicate plot point that could destroy the credibility of the book all by itself since so much vampire material is out these days, but Clare really takes it and makes it less about Simon being a vampire and more about dealing with change.  In fact I think it’s safe to say that’s the theme of the book: dealing with change.    Another example of this is the journey Jace and Clary take after finding out they are brother and sister. 

            Jace starts out feeling abandoned and alone after getting kicked out of the institute by Maryse Lightwood, Isabelle and Alec’s mother.  As a result of the anger he feels at this, he decides to get into a fight with a werewolf pack.  This leads to the introduction of a new character, Maia, and the spark of a relationship between Jace and Luke.  Jace starts to look to Luke for a sort of fatherly support because he understands what Jace is going through with the revelation that Valentine is his father, Clary is his sister, and what that entails.  Luke is equipped to understand this battle Jace is waging within himself better than most because he loved Valentine too.  The first book was extremely focused on Clary this one splits the story a lot more with an additional focus on Jace.

            City of Ashes is a good next step in the Mortal Instruments story, cleverly plotting and building new characters and story.  Clare does an amazing job keeping the story going through this book and into the next.  Brilliantly done and an amazing read.

City of Bones Review

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare is a masterful young adult title and has gotten a lot of notice which it very much deserves. This is a great kick-off to a fantastic series that pushes boundaries in so many ways. The way chapter one begins with basic teen rebellion that quickly escalates to show this strange world of Shadowhunters, demons and downworlders is so perfect. Clare so succinctly puts the emotion of a scene that is scary and new, especially for the heroine: Clary Fray, but also fun. Her language is fantastic. She really captures that young adult voice from page one, but also uses words that you would not normally find in a YA title, for example: insouciant on page two. Her diction and dialogue is great fun from beginning to end. She does amazing things with language and dialogue in the best friends Clary and Simon as well as teen Shadowhunters Jace, Isabelle, and Alec. While there is obvious overlap in the speech patterns of the characters since they were all written by the same person, they each have a defining quality in their dialogue.
Clare managed to start on such a high note with Clary discovering the Shadow world at Pandemonium and continue to build after that. The arcs of the characters and plot are amazingly well done. Clary Fray is such a fun character for many reasons. She’s a perfect heroine because everything she does is for the love of her mother which is just beautiful. Clary enters a world she doesn’t know and takes everything in stride (with the occasional stumble over her feet) and brings this story together nicely. In the beginning of the story she’s terrified of what she can see, and simply wants an explanation and a rescue. She’d just as soon forget everything she learns about that world from the moment she followed Isabelle, Jace, and Alec into the storage room of the Goth club she frequents with her best friend Simon. In a world of heroes, Clary becomes a heroine, her strength shining through in her persistence and initiative.
After meeting Jace, Simon can tell his affection for Clary would be wasted, but he doesn’t stop loving her, he can’t. Clary being a teenage girl falls for the bad boy, Jace, and almost abandons Simon in some ways. Though she does love him, Clary only sees Simon as a brother, which ends up breaking both of their hearts. Jace is opposite Simon in almost every way as far as Clary is concerned, and she realizes she needs them both for different reasons. There’s not a lot of solo work for Isabelle and Alec, but it builds nicely into the next installment.
Clare wrote this in third person limited which allowed her to jump around from character to character, but her main focus in this book is the relationships of Clary and Jace and Clary and Simon, building them sturdily within the fantasy and steampunk aspects of the story. It’s a character novel, but the myth and folk lore was done with great care and detail. One of the best things about the sequencing is the quotes from great literary works that begin each chapter. Clare is so smart about how she organizes her work, it’s brilliant how amazingly it falls into place so easily.
Readers will love this book! The language, plot arcs, and characters are so much fun you can’t help but get addicted to this world. Brilliantly written. Cassandra Clare takes YA fantasy to a whole new level in this first installment of The 
Mortal Instruments series: City of Bones. The steampunk phenomenon has begun!

Divergent Review

Divergent by Veronica Roth is an explosive and action-packed Young Adult novel about social revolution in a dystopian future.
It's written in the first person in the point of view of the heroine, Tris. 

This is such an amazing story.  It's so poignant in many ways, but the defining characteristics of Roth's style is her reluctance to water the language down.

She utilizes not only words most YA readers would have to look up, but she does it in such a way that it enhances the story.  Her transitions are amazingly subtle which also adds to her personal style.
The culture of this futuristic Chicago is so deeply developed, it's like reading a very well written newspaper article.  Roth really takes Tris to amazing places emotionally, building the strength of the character so that it doesn't become a gratuitous love story.

Tris isn't strong because of Four, she's strong with Four.  This unique approach to romance in a YA fantasy, and it is clear she structured it that way very deliberately.

That's number one on the long list of reasons to love this book, it focuses on the social aspects of the world and the one reason this book has been so well received is the emotional applicability it champions.

Another is the heroine Tris, who is not dependent on her lover for strength or stability.  She's strong and brave in her own way.  Tris and Four are very much equal partners, and that's a pretty new concept in the world of YA.

Roth is smart with her sequencing and arcs that despite the diction being more complex, young people will read it.

This is a great story, written so brilliantly in a time when TV and video games are more important.  Divergent is a book that brings readers back to print in a century where reading is unusual, and that in itself is revolutionary, and so desperately needed.

A victory for bibliophiles around the world.