Review: Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

**Also published on Goodreads**

Dear Reader

I picked up Wicked Lovely because it was one of those books that I kept seeing around and hearing some little chatter about here and there, mostly positive, but didn’t really know anything about it. It then sat on my shelf for what was pretty close to forever before I finally got a little time and was lacking a lot of options, so I sat down and read it.

Surprisingly (I say this because it’s not my typical genre), I tore through it. Maybe it’s partially because it’s a pretty easy read and maybe it’s also because I’ve been sick and had time to just sit there and veg. Either way, I enjoyed it. It wasn’t the kind of book that made me desperate for the next one, though. I’m curious and should I come across Wicked Lovely #2, I would read it I think, but there are so many other books I’m dying to read that it falls fairly low on the list. So I wouldn’t seek it out. That’s why it gets 4 stars instead of 5. I really did like the book and am glad I read it, but I’m not obsessed with it.

A couple of notes: I don’t really like alternating POVs in stories, but I thought this was done really well and it wasn’t overly jarring. It also helped, because Wicked Lovely, although an easy read, has a complex mythology that is difficult to understand from only one side. I also wanted to say that, I enjoyed the romance that there was in that it was unexpected as it unfolded and I was satisfied with how things ended up.

All in all, I would definitely recommend the book, thoroughly enjoyed it, but wouldn’t call it my favorite.

**I wanted to mention here at the end that my opinions of this book have shifted slightly. I spent some time away from it – then came back and suddenly, it was better than the first time I’d read it. I was suddenly in love with the characters (ahem, ’cause Seth is sexy…) and the story intrigued me. It’s hard to say why, but some books take a little time to cure in your head and once they have, they hit you. Amazing. This was one of those books.

So, go ahead. Give it a try. I dare you.

Sincerely

E.C. Orr

Book Information:

wicked-lovelyTitle: Wicked Lovely
Author: Melissa Marr
ISBN: 0061214655
Language: English
Approximate Length: 328 pages
Stars: ★★★★☆
I had an e-book version.

Review: Before Life Happened by Isabel Curtis

**Also published on Goodreads**

Dear Reader;

This is one of those moments where I almost wished I simply hadn’t read this book so that I wouldn’t feel obliged to review it. But here I am. Here again, I have a book where I wish I could like it. I want to like it. I tried to like it. But I couldn’t. And it wasn’t because the topic was ridiculous or the intentions of the author were wrong, but because it simply wasn’t good. And I just hate that.

This is a 1.5 star rating. I received this book for free from the author for an honest review. (Unfortunately, this is going to be brutally honest, I think.)

So, I would actually rate this lower than I have except that I appreciated the intended outcome of the book. I liked that the focus wasn’t romance or popularity or being rich and famous. It was about going through trauma and having to live with yourself, which is especially hard as a teen. I also liked that she touched on a bit of everything: self harm, drug and alcohol abuse, rape, homosexuality, thoughts of suicide… the whole shebang.

But in the end, I think that might have been part of the problem.

This story had WAY too much going on. High school drug cartels? Gangs? Road trip? Rape (kind of just tagged on there as an afterthought, too)? Cutting? I mean, all important, but this was too short of a book to adequately deal with these issues.

Additionally, the writing was pretty poor. Not unsalvageable, but it needs a lot of work. The writing was stilted in 3rd and too loose in 1st. I didn’t have any attachment for Hayden and actually cared a lot more for her brothers despite not getting to know them nearly as well. The dialogue is all over the place, sometimes confusing, and just as stilted as the rest of the novel. (Why are so many new writers against contractions? Write like you speak, especially when it’s dialogue or 1st person… it’s okay to be casual.)

Honestly, I needed so much more from this book than what I got out of it. Hayden ended up a whiney, bratty character and everyone else was too underdeveloped to care about. The series of events was not only implausible, but also occasionally impossible (you can’t shoplift cigarettes unless you get behind the counter). And the writing wasn’t good enough to carry any of it.

I wish I could say otherwise, but I would not recommend this book.

Sincerely,

E.C. Orr

P.S. Looking back on this review, I’m a little surprised that I gave this two stars (or rather 1.5 and rounded up). I wanted to leave a brief note here and say that I would never read this again. Ever. Not even for class. Because it was really not enjoyable. That being said, I think I gave this a higher rating because it dealt with some difficult subject matter. Even so, I wouldn’t really *recommend* it to anyone.

Book Information:

Before Life HappenedTitle: Before Life Happened
Author: Isabel Curtis
ISBN: 1523286156
Language: English
Approximate Length: 260 pages
Stars: ★★☆☆☆
I had a Kindle version given to me by the author (it had the duct taped duck cover).

Review: The Dare by Hannah Jayne

**Also published on Goodreads**

Dear Reader;

I give this one 3.4 stars.

So The Dare was one of those books that I wanted to like more than I actually did. It wasn’t that the book was bad or poorly written or I didn’t like the premise. I thought it was well done and I thought that it was a fairly interesting idea of guilt and mistakes and friendship, but I was never really in to it like I normally am.

I think it dragged a little in the middle and sometimes there was too much going on so there wasn’t enough character development for the minir characters, I also guessed the end before the end, but all in all I liked it and I would recommend it if you like books about guilt, self destructive behavior, and murder mystery.

I have a couple other books by Hannah Jayne and I do hope that they are better. For whatever reason, I really want to like her as an author, so I hope that these books fair a little better for me.

Sincerely,

E.C. Orr

Book Information:

the dareTitle: The Dare
Author: Hannah Jane
ISBN: 1402294573
Language: English
Approximate Length: 304 pages
Stars: ★★★☆☆
I had a used paperback version.

Review: Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

**Also published on Goodreads**

Dear Reader;

So, I’m torn between a 3 and a 4 star review. On the one hand, I was a little disappointed by the ending. I liked the whole witch boarding school thing and to discover what was really going on in the end with her grandmother and what she was… well, it was a little disappointing. I didn’t care for Archer and his badboy routine and I really wanted this moment where we saw that Elodie used a glamour to somehow seduce the general population. We didn’t. I thought having demons involved just wasn’t the direction I was hoping for, and I thought havin “other magical creatures” in the school just wasn’t working since we saw so little of them in the story. I did like the shifter Taylor and I liked the healer sexy lumberjack Cal, but we didn’t see enough of them to be good additions to the story.

Now that I’ve spent the first half of my review blasting the book, I wanted to talk about what I loved.
The boarding school for magical rejects. Very cool and pulled off nicely. The fact that Jenna was a lesbian vampire and it wasn’t weird at all to have her as a BFF. That Elodie really was a jerk, even if she wasn’t just a one dimensional jerk. That there were people who died in the story and that the mystery was rather surprising at the end. I loved Sophie’s snark and her freckles and how she has big boobs but it’s not anyone’s focal point. I loved the moving objects and the weird classes and the mixmatched tables. The school was delightfully weird in all the best ways and the magic was believable for a witch story.

It wasn’t as good as I had hoped, but it *was* good. I would definitely recommend it and will be reading the sequel.

Sincerely,

E.C. Orr

Book Information:

Hex HallTitle: Hex Hall
Author: Rachel Hawkins
ISBN: 1423121309
Language: English
Approximate Length: 323 pages
Stars: ★★★★☆
I had a slightly used hardback version.

On the Writing Side

Dear Reader

I don’t know how many of you avid readers out there double as would-be-authors as well (I fall into this category myself), but I always wonder how other people process their ideas. Do they coalesce into interesting and crazy stories as you write? Or did you outline the whole thing before even starting? Did you start off with a character name that EXPLODED into a whole new universe of other things? Or do you just drabble until things finally start looking like a story, piecing them all together after the fact?

And biggest of all: How many things are you working on at once?

My computer is full of dozens of unfinished stories. I used to just have them all gathered into a single folder that was titled “Originals” (so titled because I used to write Fan Fiction and I’m not ashamed!). As things have progressed, however, I found that there were too many random stories for a single folder like that. So I created sub folders based on categories (I’m all about categories). Paranormal, realism/human, shapeshifter, vampire, mythology based, witches, ghost, (most of these are paranormal, but for those that don’t quite fit in the others, I have a separate folder for them), dystopian / apocalypse… Pretty much all of them are YA, so I don’t organize based on that specification. So I had all of these subfolders so that I could organize what I had, but that still wasn’t enough. I found there were too many folders and sub folders and so on. So now I have a “Currently Working On” folder which has all of my current projects (which have their own folders because I’ve got a ton of notes and scenes and character bios which don’t all go into one document because… uh, yeah, I’d never find anything in those). That’s helped to narrow down a couple of things to me, but mainly it’s shown me what’s important to me now.

I’ve had most of these stories for so long that my writing style isn’t even the same anymore! I’ve changed and so have my stories, so organizing things into the “what I’m working on now” category has helped me sift through to find the gems among the wreckage. (I encourage all you avid writers out there to try this out and see what you think.)

But here’s the thing: I still have about a dozen on-going projects that I’d like to do something with. It’s difficult for me to focus on just one, because I have a tendency to get tired with them or not know where to take them or get distracted, because I’ve suddenly had this new brilliant (I say this only moderately sarcastically) idea. It’s meant that I’m left with all of these half written stories and nothing finished. On the plus side, having this many stories allows me to keep from getting too tired of something. Whenever I get bored with a project, I can put it aside and work on something new for a while, then come back to the other one again with fresh eyes. I think that may be beneficial, but it’s so time consuming. I worry that I’ll never finish anything and I wonder what other people’s thoughts are on this one.

Have you finished something? (Feel free to share a link below if you have! If I can check it out I will and maybe I’ll make an Author Spotlight post for you, too.)

Do you encounter a lot of writer’s block?

How do you deal with too many ideas or not enough?

And, what do you like to write? (Because, it’s fun!)

Share your thoughts on the matter below and as I’ve mentioned, feel free to send me links to your book if you’ve got one published. I’m always on the lookout for something new and interesting!

Sincerely

E.C. Orr

The Right Medium: On Paper or On Screen

Dear Reader

Few and far between is the phrase I use to describe a screen adaptation (whether TV series or movie) that is better than the book it is based upon. But it happens. I think usually this has more to do with the failings of the book than the quality of the screen version (though not always, I suppose), resulting in the screen version becoming what you had *hoped* to find in the book version.

I have two examples right off the top of my head – and could probably find a few others if I did enough digging. But first, to clarify.

I’m not talking about movies that are “good in their own right, existing in an equally good universe of their own, separate but just as awesome as the book series.” I’m talking about a book series (which may or may not have a relatively large following on it’s own) which is transformed by the TV show and/or movie. For example, I would say that the new Divergent series was decently done as a movie, but I wouldn’t call it better than the book. As the movies continue, however, I find that I like the sequels to Divergent better in screen format. But on the whole, I wouldn’t say that the series is better as movies rather than books. (It’s a subtle difference, but I promise it’s there!) The same could be said of The Hunger Games, which has been done really well as movies – but I wouldn’t say they’re better than the books.

The examples I have in mind of book series that failed as books, but flourished as on screen adaptations are Bitten by Kelley Armstrong and The Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith.

Both have been turned into TV series which have done (in my opinion) remarkably well. In the case of Bitten, I watched the show first and liked it so much that I got several of the books (the first six as a package deal, I think). I was so excited to start them, because I’d gone through the TV series on a Netflix binge the other night and was going through withdrawals.

bitten02

When I finally got the chance to read the book I was so disappointed. Everything I’d loved in the TV show was suddenly mutilated by this poorly written piece of literary garbage. I was devastated. (I’m told that the series gets *much* better as it progresses, but I’m not sure I have the energy to waste on a book series that has started off so awfully.)

The TV show showed us the intricacies of the relationships between the characters, built a complex world, and made us understand the choices that characters inevitably made (for better or worse) and how those choices were ultimately made out of a place of necessity (and often resulted in regret much later). The characters had a density that you just didn’t get in the book.

Worse still, I’m pretty sure that the book confuses the line between choice and coercion (and rape), while the TV show explains to us how interpersonal relationships are complicated and maybe we don’t always have the whole story – and I never really felt like Elena was doing something that she just flat out didn’t want. In the book, I wasn’t so sure. In fact, I think it was more like she was trying to convince herself that she did want things so that she would be okay with what was happening.

Which, not okay. Ever. It was a big reason for why I hated the first book and why I’m not really all that interested in reading the next book.

So, the second series was The Vampire Diaries and I actually read the first two books of that series before ever seeing the show. (Which makes the fact that I gave the show a chance at all really sad.) I read the books thinking that it was just awful! I hated the characters, the style, found the plot to be implausible (even for a vampire series!) and ultimately was so annoyed with everything that I’m a little shocked I made it through even one book, much less both.

Vampire Diaries2

When I tried the TV show, I think it may have been out of morbid curiosity – I’m not sure. And while I’ve grown tired of it now (I don’t know how many seasons it’s made it, but I’m burned out on it, because after a certain point it just felt like it was the same stuff happening over and over again), initially I found it incredibly well done, especially since it was based off of a generally terrible book series. The TV show had characters with a lot more depth and history, a main character that you didn’t automatically hate by her mere presence, and vampires who were both scarier and more likable. There was real danger going on, but at the same time, you understood why Elena (ironically, both main female characters from Bitten and The Vampire Diaries are named Elena) would risk those dangers to be a part of a world that she maybe didn’t belong in. All in all, the show was oodles more entertaining and you didn’t have to sift through terrible writing.

I’m sure there are other examples of this strange phenomena (though there are a heck of a lot more examples of movies and TV shows bombing after turning a perfectly good book series into an awful screen adaptation), but those are the only two that I’ve experienced both mediums and come to this conclusion.

Secret Circle2

I do have my suspicions though. I think Secret Circle, despite only having one season as a TV show, was probably better than the book series (I say this because it was written by the same author, L.J. Smith, as The Vampire Diaries) and possibly Witches of East End, though that one is really hard to say, because I haven’t read the books and haven’t encountered the author elsewhere. (I am starting Blue Bloods which is by the same author, so maybe I’ll have a more informed opinion there and I can update afterwards.)

Witches of East End2

The point is, amidst horrid adaptations like Vampire Academy, Blood and Chocolate, Twilight (though there was no saving that particular disaster), Cirque du Freak, and about a thousand others that should have been awesome and simply weren’t, there are examples of putting a good idea that was poorly written and making it into the awesomeness it was always meant to be.

I’ll also make a quick note. I didn’t mention The Mortal Instruments  here, because I didn’t want to pick a fight, but I think I need to. First, I will say I have only read the first in the series – then I had to stop. The reason for this is because I learned a lot about author Cassandra Clare after reading the book. (I have also seen the movie and go back and forth about whether or not I’m okay to watch the TV show, which looks loads better than the movie.) She has been accused of plagiarism (and not just for the current similarities to Sherrilyn Kenyon, which is incredibly convincing based on the evidence that’s been made available to the public). It’s been there since her fan fiction days, and if you’d like to take a look, I’d recommend this post and this site. (I can’t find the original one that I stumbled across which was so compelling, but these are equally good and should give a decent perspective of why I can’t support Clare anymore.)

City of Bones

Anyway, the reason that I’m mentioning Clare and her series here is that I think the book was okay. It wasn’t amazingly good, but it wasn’t wretched either. The movie was horrible, but the TV show looks decent. All of these points seem interesting to me, because they speak of something else that’s going on: Selling out.

Authors don’t make a lot of money. It’s a small business and if you’re writing for a living, you’re likely losing your ass on it. You fall into the “starving artist” category as easily as musicians and painters. It’s inevitable unless you are one of the few like Rowling and Collins and Roth who have hit the proverbial jackpot of writing. They’ve lucked out (and while it is talent, much of it is also luck), but most authors, good or bad, do not.

Which means that Clare, who has stolen the work of other authors (good authors), has become famous by walking on other people’s backs and she is still winning at a game where most will fail. It’s rather despicable and nourishes the idea that I simply can’t support her in any way. (So, I suppose I won’t be watching the series, despite it looking good and my utter love of redheads.) It also says that she’s sold out – to publishers where she’s churning out cookie cutter books for the masses; to producers who are creating yet more filler trash based on her books, because people will watch them regardless of whether or not they’re good; to TV stations that could care less that they are supporting someone who is, for all intents and purposes, a thief.

Welcome to the world of writing, where it doesn’t matter how good you are or the kind of quality you are capable of, but whether or not you sell.

I encourage you to perk up your ears and listen when someone starts insinuating that an author has plagiarized, because she’s taking money from the hands of people who have put their hearts and souls into their work and don’t have much to show for it. (And do your research, because you never know who is right and who is wrong and who is just trying to sue for a little bit of money and attention. Both happen. And if anyone can give me strong counter evidence to say that Clare *hasn’t* plagiarized, then I’d love to look at that, too.) Be a wary reader and not just one of the masses.

And now, I’ll step down off my soapbox, because I’m a little disgusted with myself for making so much of this post about Clare when it wasn’t supposed to be at all.

Feel free to tell me what you think below, but let’s keep it classy, folks!

Sincerely

E.C. Orr

Quitting While You’re Ahead: Series That Shouldn’t Be

Dear Reader;

Recently I just read a book that is the continuation of a series the first of which I really loved. (Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr is the series and I just finished book 3, Fragile Eternity.) That first book was beautiful, though it’s one of those books where the beauty sneaks up on you. The first time you read it, it’s only so-so, but the more you mull it over in your mind, the more it grows on you. I slowly gravitated towards liking it more and more until I was just shy of obsessive. So naturally, I read one of the other books in the series.

And oh how disappointed I was.

The first book was beautiful and poignant, unexpectedly deep and intricate. It has to do with a love triangle that isn’t so much a love triangle as it is a bunch of people trying to avoid destiny – and they circumvent it when they can’t. It makes the novel unexpected. You’re not sure who to root for, you’re not sure who should win, because there’s what *needs* to happen and then there’s what you *want* to happen. These things are mutually exclusive, unfortunately (though they find a way to work around it in the end) and it makes for a very intense novel.

The sequel is about different characters (called Ink Exchange by the same author), so I do admit that I skipped over it for the purposes of continuing with the characters I currently loved. I will go ahead and say that I don’t think reading that middle book would change my overall feelings towards the third book.

The third book was… disappointing. It was still well written and very detailed, the folklore and worldbuilding very impressive, but that wasn’t enough for me. The characters who hooked me were completely destroyed in this book. (I don’t mean dead necessarily, just not the same characters I fell in love with.) They shifted so much that by the end of the book, I didn’t like *any* of the characters I had once loved. It left me feeling as though I wished I had never read the other books in the series at all. Which got to me to thinking: Are there other books that left me feeling like this?

The only one that immediately comes to mind is Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. The first book was *incredibly* good. Addicting and beautiful and everything I wanted out of the book. I was so excited when I found out it was a series, picking up that second book as soon as I could. (Linger by the same author. The series is called the Wolves of Mercy Falls, I believe.) And low and behold, it was such a stink bomb. All of the awesomeness of the first book seemed to have disappeared and I was left with this lingering dregs of what had been the first book.

It was terrible. But I hoped for more in the third book – which was so bad, I still haven’t finished it. I’m about half way through and I don’t think that will ever change.

I don’t know why this happens to some authors, but it does. And I know that it’s incredibly difficult to write a book, much less a really good book, but when someone writes a deliciously good book, you come to expect that quality in the next book. And sometimes authors just don’t deliver.

So what about you out there, Reader? Are there any series that just broke your heart with the sequel? (And I’m not talking about books that *started off* terrible. I mean books that were so incredibly that the sequels just couldn’t live up to expectations.) If you know of any, feel free to comment below and let me know! Or message me – or even write your own blog post about it! Leave me a link and I’ll check it out.

Sincerely,

E.C. Orr

Book Comparisons: Vampire Academy vs. Strange Angels

Dear Reader

So, this happens a lot, but I noticed it a lot with two specific series which I’ll talk about here: Similar books. Now, I’m not talking about plagiarism (which is deplorable and won’t win any favors from me), but rather a similarity that just sort of happens sometimes. I think it comes up when you read a story that you loved and got so hooked that you ended up unintentionally incorporating pieces of it into your own work. That’s not stealing so much as imitation, which is how virtually all stories start.

And, it’s the highest form of flattery, right?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that taking bits and pieces from others is natural. It’s going to happen no matter how much you try not to do that. And that’s okay. But sometimes, the stories end up noticeably similar to the point where it just can’t be ignored. I don’t think it qualifies as plagiarism. In fact, I think it has more to do with what’s popular at the time rather than stealing from another person. If everyone’s into Vampires, guess what, there’s going to be a lot of Poor Boy Twilights out there. If everyone’s into Dystopian, then look out for more Hunger Games (or Divergent, if you prefer).

What I’m saying is, it’s inevitable. I don’t think it’s wrong until you start intentionally stealing things from other authors, don’t credit them, and blatantly lie about it. (I’m not going to talk about Cassandra Clare, even though I’ve heard all sorts of terrible things about her!)

Now, on to the books!

I read the series Strange Angels by Lili St. Croix first a couple of years ago. It’s a five book series about Dru, a special girl who has lived on the edge of the supernatural for years now with her someone crazy father. But when things go south for him, Dru’s left all alone to figure out what’s really going on. And reality is way stranger than fiction.

SA_REVISED.indd

During the course of the novels, Dru encounters werewolves (second class citizens, as it were) and vampires – which are dhamphirs and strigoi (the bad ones). Starting to sound familiar yet? She ends up at a cool boarding school / castle place to learn all about how she’s special. Caught on yet? I won’t spoil how it turns out, but there is a love triangle, Dru is very special, and there are both good and bad vampires. Go figure.

Now, I didn’t know it at the time, but this is remarkably similar to the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead. There are dhamphirs, strigoi, and moroi. (Good and bad vampires.) There’s a boarding school where they learn all about being vampires and how to be badass guardians! There are no werewolves and there’s kind of a complicated love triangle going on, though it’s not your straight up two boys love a girl thing. It’s more complicated than that.

Vampire_Academy

Anyway, the point is that these two series (Vampire Academy has six books; Strange Angels has five) are remarkably similar, but I don’t think they really fall into the plagiarism category. I think maybe Lili St. Croix took some from VA (which came out first, I’m pretty sure), but ultimately she told her own unique story with elements that were already pretty common. (I came across strigoi and dhamphir in my Slavic folklore class, so it’s not an original idea in the first place.) A powerful, strong, special girl trained to take care of herself, thrown into a world of forces that are difficult to manage for any normal girl. Love, familial secrets, friendships, etc. All of these are more or less concepts that are so widely spread that I don’t think you can really say that VA was so original that anything like it is plagiarism.

(I know, now that I’ve beat that topic like a dead horse.)

Instead, what I’m talking about here is which one is better? It’s a personal opinion, I think, and maybe has more to do with the personalities of the main girls (Dru versus Rose) who are incredibly different from one another, and the writing styles of each author.

I really enjoyed both stories, but at first I didn’t care for VA, which is unusual since most of the people I’ve talked to have absolutely loved VA and didn’t care for Strange Angels. I was opposite, and I think it’s because I gave Strange Angels a try first. VA I thought looked silly, because I picked it up around the same time the movie came out (which was dreadful). It may have colored my initial reaction to VA and made it harder to get into. When I did, however, I was charmed. Rose is such a strong, fun character in contrast to Dru’s seriousness. Lyssa was sort of annoying, but Rose balanced her out, making them the kind of packaged deal that you rooted for.

As for the mythologies in each story, I think I preferred SA, however, I didn’t like the end and how the female dhamphirs fit in with the world. (I won’t tell you as there are spoilers for SA.) I preferred the idea that dhamphirs were second class citizens used as cannon fodder in the VA series, BUT SA had werewolves and that may have been the tipping point. (Plus, I really liked Graves.)

Ultimately, it’s weird how one series gets a lot of love while the same people hate the other series that is so much like it. I think it’s because we are so on board with one series, such huge fans, that we feel any similar series is a knock off or just not as good as the one we are first introduced to.

And I kind of think that’s not fair.

Both series were good in my opinion. I’d recommend either of them, but I’d give a shout out to SA first because it has such a smaller following and is less well known. It might be hard to get into at first (a lot of people have told me this), but in the end, it’s a series worth taking a look at. Give Dru a shot, because she may take some getting used to, but she’s all right in the end.

But don’t get me wrong, VA is impressively awesome and I’d recommend that side of the series, too. I just think that more people know about Rose and Lyssa, and Dru deserves a little love, too.

Sincerely

E.C. Orr