fiction

Top Ten Tuesday

Thanks again to The Broke and the Bookish blog for all of these Top Ten Tuesday topics!

Top Ten TuesdayFebruary 3: Top Ten Books I Can’t Believe I Haven’t/Want To Read From X Genre (for example I feel like I’m pretty well read in contemporary YA but there are some STAPLES I can’t believe I haven’t read. Or if you just want to books you WANT to read in a particular genre..not necessarily long overdue)

This is a hard one because there are so many I have been meaning to read and just haven’t gotten around to yet, but here we go.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen – Gah! The only remaining Austen book that I haven’t read! I have the entire collection in one solid B&N collectible book but this is still the one that lingers on, waiting to be enjoyed.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman – Seen the movie, love the movie, have had this book recommended several times to me and so I really need to read it now.

The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – Seen the show, love the show, and I’ve been told that it’s not too far off from the books…except that it is more modern, so I own them, now I just have to read them.

1984 by George Orwell – Yup, this one is still waiting on my bookshelf. It beckoned me over winter break but alas, I was distracted easily by Friends and Dr. Who.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien – Also still waiting. I wanted to read it before I saw the last movie but unfortunately, that did not happen. Now, it is silently abandoned…and probably judging me.

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov – Recommended by a friend, apparently it is a devilishly good time, involving Russians, vodka, a black cat, and Pontius Pilate, must read soon!

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde – One of the few books I wasn’t required to read in high school and has been sitting on this list every since I went to Ireland and learned more about Wilde himself. If I come across a copy, I will buy it and eventually read it.

The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer – Classics that beckon, myth and man combined, this has been at the top of my list for awhile and I own both but somehow haven’t gotten around to them.

The Gospel of Wealth by Andrew Carnegie – I actually just learned of this book and cannot wait to pick it up. Astounded that I’ve never heard of it before. All about rich and poor and philanthropy, yes please.

Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler – I find Hitler to be a fascinating man of history so to read the story of his life from his perspective sounds amazing. Known about it for awhile and it just resurfaces so it’s slowly moving closer to the top of the queue.

Book Review: Snow Like Ashes

I don’t know about you but I enjoy a good book about a different world. Especially Primoria where thsnow ashesere is an entire kingdom that is in permanent winter! Not to mention ones that are dedicated to Spring, Summer, and Fall plus four others that get to appreciate all the rhythms of nature.

The book follows Meira and her exile: the life that has been cobbled together from the ruins of the Kingdom of Winter which was brutally taken over by Spring (ironic, yes?) sixteen years ago. She is with a ragtag band of rebels who managed to escape the labor camps that the rest of their people were forced into. Unfortunately, that means that they are responsible for intense and often frustrating burden of setting things right and giving Winter back to its people.

When half of the ancient locket containing the magic powers of their kingdom is found, Meria decides to disobey orders and go after it herself, creating more than one problem. But that’s not all the adventure in store for this young orphan. There is plenty of danger to be had in a world where magic and politics exist in spades.

If you want an action adventure story, one that isn’t about dystopia or the end of the world as we know it, if you want a love story about family and relationships that will knock the wind out of you on more than one occasion, if you want a strong female lead who never gives up, this book is for you.

Sara Raasch’s debut novel is amazing. It is well written, fast-paced, and makes you want to experience the world for yourself. Although I was disappointed that it contained a love triangle (as I’m rather sick of those), it was actually really well done. There wasn’t a ton of pining, longing, or indecision that lasted for 100 pages. Instead, Meira grudgingly accepts her fate time and time again, picks up the pieces of herself, and continues moving forward.

Meira is a great character who is far more capable than she thinks other people think she is. She is strong and willful, stubborn and courageous. There is fear but she doesn’t let that stop her. She takes risks and utilizes what she knows to be her best skills to gain the advantage for her kingdom. Truthfully, she is sometimes a pawn but even that won’t prevent her from doing what she thinks is necessary, even when she ends up in more trouble than if she had just listened.

The orphan is surrounded by interesting supports like Sir, her surrogate father who rescued her from the rubble of the capitol city, and Mather, the future king of Winter who she is desperately in love/best friends with, who help her in ways she doesn’t fully understand until the end of the book. She is also introduced to a handsome prince, his father–a selfish king, and the man who is trying to destroy everything the people of Winter have created, all of which shape various events in this book in their own way.

There is magic in these words and on these pages; it jumps out at you and won’t let go. There are plenty of secrets to go around and keep you on your toes plus a couple of twists that left me breathless, especially a character death. There is intrigue and mayhem, war and politics, often all happening at the same time. It’s a bit like Game of Thrones mixed with Eragon (minus the dragons) mixed with Legend: Sword fights, magic, and fighting for your country (kingdom).

If you liked The Lunar Chronicles, Shadow & Bone, and/or Throne of Glass, then this might be your next favorite addition to the bookshelf. It’s a book about fighting for what’s yours even if it’s been taken from you. About finding your identity within and your cultural identity from those who still knows what it means to be from there. It’s about knowing your worth even when others think you are worthless. And more than anything, it’s about finding a way to be true to yourself even when your life isn’t going as you planned.

Goodreads rating: 5 stars

My personal rating: 95

  • Writing style – 10
  • Plot – 10
  • Dialogue – 10
  • Personality of Main Character(s) – 9
  • Love story – 8
  • Invokes emotion – 9
  • Synopsis accuracy – 9
  • Consistent level of interest – 10
  • Stays on topic – 10
  • Accuracy of genre/genre blending – 10

Book Review: Transfixion

transfixion

I was asked to review this book and decided it would be a good opportunity to shine some light on a new author. So feel free to pass this along if the concept intrigues you! The novel is currently available on Amazon.com.

Transfixion tells the story of a teenager named Kaylee on the day the world lost its mind. A typical school day quickly turns into mayhem and the weeks that follow aren’t much better. There are weird sounds coming out of the televisions and radios that are turning people into blood-thirsty killer monsters. Kaylee is able to make it to a safe haven but life there isn’t all that great either. There are feuds and a lack of food, too many teenagers, not enough adults and more drama than should be happening at the end of the world.

The overall concept of the novel is very interesting to me. It’s an apocalyptic sci-fi type that twists and turns and makes you wonder what will happen next. Kaylee is resourceful and nerdy, an introvert forced come out of her shell in order to stay alive. She makes some hard choices after she is done with the initial fear that pay off for her in the end. You get to see a lot of character growth which is always a plus.

The plot struck me as a mix of “The End Games” by Michael Martin and “Ashes” by Isla Bick. It has zombie-like creatures but it’s not a virus or a bite infection. It has a female lead but one that isn’t instantly relatable to everyone, in a good way. I did like that she didn’t display swagger or become an instant hero but rather had a series of events happen to her that impacted who she became. The interweaving of a fictional book, reminiscent of “The Screaming Staircase” by Jonathan Stroud, within the story was a great asset.

The plot is well laid out but lacks explanation at some points. There are knowledge gaps where the narrator jumps to conclusions or refers to someone by name but it was never explained how she arrived at that point or idea. There are also plot points that aren’t really resolved.

The dialogue and word choice left something to be desired in my opinion, the use of the word “suttom” in particular really bothered me. It’s supposed to mean “something” but I’ve never seen it written quite like that. A couple of the characters also displayed abnormal behaviors or patterns of speech at times that didn’t seem to mesh with their personalities. It wasn’t an cohesive or polished as I was expecting for a published novel.

I wouldn’t say I disliked the novel but it isn’t the best one I’ve ever read. I liked the concept behind the plot but I think the execution was a little lacking.

Goodreads rating: 3 stars

My personal rating: 64

  • Writing style – 4
  • Plot – 7
  • Dialogue – 6
  • Personality of Main Character(s) – 7
  • Love story – 4
  • Invokes emotion – 6
  • Synopsis accuracy – 8
  • Consistent level of interest – 7
  • Stays on topic – 7
  • Accuracy of genre/genre blending – 8

Original Work Friday: Reality vs. Reality

Below is a story that I wrote when I was a sophomore in college. It was later published in a 4 part segment in my school newspaper. I have been very fortunate to get feedback and even some praise for it in the past but I would love to know what you all think (even if you don’t really care for it). Definitely leave comments if you have them.

 

Reality Versus Reality

By Kat Webber

He wasn’t sure how long he had been living in this place or what day of the year it was. Most days he wasn’t even positive of his own name. The fear that constantly crawled into his veins and through his skin was enough to make even the most sane of men go mad. He was constantly the victim of late night chases by creatures that seem to seek him out just for the sheer pleasure of the hunt. They sought out his flesh and warm blood, but could never get quite close enough to steal any. He was constantly on the move, but could not figure out a more permanent way to fend these creatures off. The ground wasn’t safe anymore. Almost constant were the cries of the lesser creatures that were being attacked and he, himself, had been lucky to escape a few times.

After a number of days of which he had lost count, there came one day when he was in hiding and witnessed what it was that these creatures could not do. They had been chasing a smaller being, but immediately had to stop when the being leapt into a tree out of reach; They could not follow it. He realized it was because they could not climb, but he could, so that’s exactly what he did.

A tree isn’t the most comfortable of places, but is definitely the safest. That was their weakness, the swaying branches and the blinding canopy of leaves. The creatures could not climb very well and the nature of a tree was such that it had almost a constant motion, even without a wind. Yes, the trees were the perfect place to escape, the best place to live out those dark, lonely nights.

Paul, that was the name he had chosen today, had been thrust into this place by mere chance; a place that no one but the few who remained even knew existed. It wasn’t quite a jungle, but it wasn’t exactly a forest either. He wasn’t even definite that it was like this all over, but, he had never been able to find a way out of the dense woodlands. There never seem to be enough time: enough hours in the day to go exploring and attempt to find an exit. Of course, nighttime was no time to be out in that wilderness either. That was the time when They roamed. He always had to be careful to avoid them, or else the worst might happen.

Paul had come to realize that the daytime would be best for anything that he had to do. It was rare to see the creatures during the day; They almost seem to know that Paul would be sleeping then, until he got up to find food. When he had seen them, their mere presence had been enough to shake him all the way down to his bones. Their bodies were that of a human, but They walked more like apes, almost on all fours and with arms longer than legs. The faces were jaundiced and one could see the blood vessels peering out from behind the thin, yellow skin that hid them. The eyes were as dark as coal, which were in sharp contrast to the color of the skin that held them. They wore no clothes and had neither fur nor hair; They would have almost seemed to be humans out of the Garden of Eden had They not been so horrifying to look at. Eventually Paul came to nickname them the “massive dangers” or MD’s for short. Nearly every day he had an encounter with at least one of these creatures but somehow always managed to come out of it unscathed.

During the day is when Paul looked for food. He managed to find some berries that he recognized from his days as well, he didn’t really remember what, but knew the berries were somehow okay. He also found a trickling stream which he made sure to try and always stay near. Sometimes, he would even pick at the leftovers that the MD’s didn’t finish, but since he had no way to cook or preserve the meat, never took more than he could carry or eat in a day. The climate was strange, it never rained and the sun was always about a steady 70 degrees beating down upon him. He could never seem to light a fire though; there was something unsettling about the air that made it seem almost as if it could explode with a single spark.

At night, Paul would often watch the creatures interact with one another and with other beings, which were not smart enough to stay away. He could see that the MD’s carried strange instruments with them; though had never had the displeasure of the tools being used upon him. They seemed to almost have a language between them, which was made of strange words and symbols, he once tried to figure out what it meant, but it proved to be too challenging and he quickly abandoned it. They had a need to be forceful and in control, there were some MD’s who stood out more than the others in this respect. Those walked a little straighter and often had their heads turned up as if to imply their higher status.

Paul enjoyed watching them, though he always had to look away when They came into contact with smaller living things. They were often cruel and poked at them with sharp objects, not caring if it caused pain. As far as Paul could tell, there was no one else in this place like him, so he didn’t want to interfere when the other individuals were being tortured. He stuck to himself and was an observer of this world; his goal was just to get out and get back to where he had come from. Paul wasn’t sure exactly where that was, his mind was a little hazy since he got here. He could barely even remember how he had gotten to this place.

The day he had come to be here was an odd one in his mind and lately he had begun to wonder if that day never happened. That maybe his life had always been lived like this, fending off demons and foraging for food. But after every time this thought crossed his mind, he quickly shook it off; he knew that he had once been a different man. There was only one reason he knew this to be true and that was because of her.

She was with him all the time, Paul could feel it, yet she always seemed out of his grasp, just beyond the reach of his hand. Sometimes he would see her wandering around with him; she would disappear in and out of the tree trunks. Never giggling, but almost always smiling. Her hair was a chestnut brown, with streaks of golden honey it in that seemed to attract rays of light. He would see the sun glinting off of her eyes in almost a playful manner. Her dress would always be blue; Paul had always known she looked good in that color. He could sometimes hear her voice fading in and out of the trees. He never saw her when she spoke, but oh, her voice was a smooth as silk with a soothing tone and always accompanied by a comforted feeling.

For the life of him, he could never put a name to the face, but what can one expect from a guy who can’t remember his own name. He did know, however, that she was the most important thing in his life. For everything that Paul couldn’t remember about his life before this world, he could always remember an event that included her in it. Whether it was strolling along a street of many shops on a bright day, dancing in the pouring rain, kicking up the snow on a walk to the movie theatre, or rolling on a sprawling lawn, he could never forget any time that he had spent with her. Paul could feel that she was out there, somewhere, waiting for him.

Most nights, when sleep finally came around dawn, he relaxed and let her soak into his mind, body, and soul, thinking of all the time he had yet to spend with her when he finally got out of this forsaken place. He always awoke from that sleep feeling refreshed and renewed, and knowing that there was still some hope. She gave him a strength that was unlike any that he had ever known and it was as if she was a part of him somehow, connected to him in an almost indescribable fashion. Love was probably the word that could best illustrate how he felt, but he could never know unless he truly ever saw her again.

Other nights, Paul kept having the same recurring dream. It was of the night that he had come to be in this place. He had been driving back home and seen a great flash of light as if the horizon had been torn apart. The colors of it were so incredible, almost as if he could feel them tickling his senses. He heard a loud crash and felt himself hit the ground, which then began to shake. Try as he might, Paul could not move from the spot, the earth was beginning to crack open and he began to fall. It didn’t feel as though he had gone very far when he suddenly hit something solid and became unconscious.

When Paul awoke, he was in this strange place, with humans that weren’t really human, and trees that seemed more alive than the creatures. Every day, he had to painstakingly listen to the woods, which always seemed to be whispering secrets to one another; as if they knew the reasoning and the escape, but could not divulge it to anything with a heartbeat. They teased him with their knowledge of “why’s” and “how’s.” He wanted to get out but knew not how, or at least to know why he was plunged into this place but had not the slightest idea. To Paul, it was a mystery of how this place came to be and why it was such a cruel world. But to the trees, it was as notorious as their own branches and leaves.

Sometimes Paul thought maybe he had died and that this was his own personal hell; that he had done something wrong to deserve these horrors. However, when he lived just for one more day and saw her face once again, he knew that couldn’t be the case. He knew somewhere deep inside that everything was going to be okay, he had to stay positive or perish at the thought of being stuck in this place forever. Paul would often sit and think, as he tried to ignore the shrieks around him, about when he would ever be able to get out of this place and back to where he belonged: in the arms of the woman with the most beautiful copper colored eyes he had ever seen. He just kept hoping that he would see her in person again.

Finally, it happened for Paul. There came a day when he heard her voice, and it wasn’t just one of those times when it was all in his head. It was just before dawn and he had creatures snarling just below him, but he heard it and They must have too, because They stopped trying to snag him for dinner and started looking around, not sure where it was coming from. He kept listening; she was calling to him over and over. “Can you hear me,” her voice begged, “Please don’t leave me.” It was in this moment that he let his guard down, and his foot too. One of the creatures reached up and snagged it, forcing Paul to fall out of the tree and on to the ground with a hard thump.

There were about four MD’s around him, a male and three females. They were batting at him as though he should be fighting back, but Paul felt as though he was frozen where he lay. They touched him with their cold hands and even colder tools. One of them came and sat on top of his legs, to keep him from flailing about, but it didn’t matter, Paul didn’t feel as though he could move anyway. Two others held down his arms to keep him from lashing out. The male came and knelt right next to Paul’s face. His eyes glared deeply, almost as if wanting to burn a hole in Paul’s scull. The creature then took his hands and placed them over Paul’s chest. He grunted something to the others, who released Paul immediately from their grasp. All at once, Paul felt a huge surge of energy rush through him; it was hot and intense, almost as if the creature had lit him on fire. He had seen the creatures perform this act on a lesser being once, and he knew what the result would be. The creature placed his hands firmly on Paul’s chest again and at once, the world became dark and Paul was no longer Paul.

When he woke up, he was in a place that he did not recognize. The walls were white and a light as bright as the sun was shining on him. He saw a picture on the wall of a path through the woods with the caption, “Success is a journey, not a destination.” He knew that must be correct because there she was, leaning over him as he lay there, helpless. She had a glow about her, as if she were an angel, and all he could see was her. When the rest of the room began to come into focus, he knew where he was. He could hear other voices around him and saw faces that he almost could remember, but couldn’t quite recall what the cold, dark eyes reminded him of.

When he glanced back at her face, he could feel the happiness radiated from it and that in turn made him feel more joy than he could ever imagine. He couldn’t remember her name but he knew that he was in love with her and that she was one who had been in the woods. She smiled at him as he continued to come out of his slumber. “Did you have a nice nap,” she asked, “you were gone for almost a year.” He answered her with a grin and said, “Yes, but only because I knew that you were with me the whole time.”

Book Review: The Screaming Staircase

screaming staircaseI can’t remember the last time I read a book this fast. And by fast I mean it took me less than 24 hours from start to finish. I don’t even think I read Illusion this quickly, but that could have also been that I didn’t want it to end. With this book, I didn’t have to wait for it to get interesting, it just was. Something that I find very attractive in my reading!

Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase is the first in a new series of books that grips you tight and doesn’t let you go. Think “Supernatural” mixed with “Sherlock”, only make the main characters ten years younger and give them rapiers; that’s about the sum of this novel. In the best way possible.

I was enjoying the plot and backstory so much that I didn’t even care that there was no explanation of what or where the “screaming staircase” was until I was over 200 pages into the story. It was such an effortless plot blend of current and past events that doubled-back on themselves that I was completely immersed in the tale before I even realized what was happening.

Lucy is our leading lady and narrator and she is accompanied by the over-zealous and cheerful Lockwood and the grating but highly intelligent George. The threesome make up Lockwood & Co. and they take on ghosts in London. The business isn’t doing very well after a fire that destroys a clients house, leaving Lockwood to foot the bill.

So of course, before long the three are mired up to their eyeballs in trouble and mischief. There is a locket and a murder and some really creepy ghostly behavior that trips them up.The team has its issues and strengths and of course, some entertaining bickering and a love of doughnuts.

The writing is fantastic, the plot flows very well, and the main characters’ banter is vastly entertaining. I think I will need to take a break from being creeped out to read the next one but I will definitely keep it on my TBR list!

Goodreads rating: 5 stars

Personal rating total: 92

  • Writing style – 10
  • Plot – 10
  • Dialogue -10
  • Personality of Main Character(s) – 10
  • Love story* – 5
  • Invokes emotion (mostly fear) – 8
  • Synopsis accuracy – 9
  • Consistent level of interest – 10
  • Stays on topic – 10
  • Accuracy of genre/genre blending – 10

*In this case, it wasn’t a main plot point, but the hidden love of Lockwood for his parents, and Lucy for her family, plus the murderer for his victim…