Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Review: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

YA Fantasy Books
Author: Megan Whalen Turner
Series: The Queen's Thief
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication Date: October 31, 1996
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pages: 280
Get it on Amazon
I really had to take a few days and think about The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner after I finished it. The ending was so unexpected that I couldn't process this story at all. But now that I have, I have so many feelings about this book and this style of bait-and-switch plotting that I need to just get it off my chest and move on with my reading. I just need to vent.

"And the Earth had no name. The gods know themselves and have no need of names. It is man who names all things, even gods." -The Thief

Gem considers himself the best thief in the world, even though he's been caught and been in the king's jail for quite some time. One day the magus, the king's adviser, comes and gets Gen out of jail for a quest to steal something. Only Gen has no idea where they are going or why. He is just seemingly along for the ride with the magus' group that includes his two apprentices and a bodyguard. They travel across their country into a neutral territory, Eddis, and finally into a hostile territory, Attolia. Gem eventually discovers they are searching for a rare stone that bestows legitimate rulership over the land. The magus believes he knows where the stone is and Gen will have to prove his skills in order to save their lives.

"It was a race between the tortoise and the hare, but the tortoise had just enough head start, and he had the magus to drag him along." -The Thief

There were a lot of good things going on in this book. First of all, Gen is quite an interesting character. He's smart, witty, sarcastic, and not easily manipulated. He has his own agenda and is much more clever than he lets on, but plays along with the magus because he's curious. Reading from his perspective keeps the long chapters of the group just traveling to Attolia much less boring than if we would have read from another character. Gen's experience is unique. Also, Whalen Turner is very good at weaving in ancient religious tales that immulate Greek and Roman mythology. The importance of these tales that Gen and the magus tell are apparent but the connection to the main story line isn't clear until the end of the book. Lastly, I really enjoyed the relationships and bonds that were formed between Gen and the magus and Sophos. They all had their place in the social hierarchy when their journey began, but became equals in respect and station at the end.

So, the thing that bothered me the most about this book was the secret that Gen keeps. The book is told from his perspective, but yet the reader knows nothing of this secret or his real plans. You would think reading in a first person POV, inside Gen's head, he would mention something. Think something about the real story. But no, there is no indication there is a second plot happening behind the scenes where Gen is in control. It is just thrown at you at the very end. There is no way a reader could have even potentially guessed what was going to happen because the clues weren't apparent and were very small. It's kind of a slap in the reader's face where the author is like "Ha ha, you were reading this one story but something else was really going on that you didn't know about!"

Despite the ending kind of being a cheap cop out, it does make sense. I think I might continue on with the series with caution. I don't want to be blindsided again. However, this book is very well written and interesting even when nothing important seems to be happening. I would recommend this book if you like YA fantasy or books dealing with ancient mythology. 4 stars

Reading Order:



Sunday, March 20, 2016

Weekly Roundup March 14-20

New Releases

Books Finished This Week:

Adult Contemporary Book
Adult Contemporary

Young Adult Fantasy Book
YA Fantasy

Currently Reading:

Psychological Thriller book
Psychological Thriller

Young Adult Contemporary Book
YA Contemporary

Up Next On My TBR:

Historical Fiction and Time Travel Books
YA Historical Fiction/ Time Travel

Book News & Articles:

New Book Reviews:

Exciting New Releases:

New Releases March 2016
YA Historical Fiction- March 8

New Releases March 2016
YA Fantasy- March 15

New Releases March 2016
YA Contemporary/ Mental Health- March 15

New Releases March 2016
YA Contemporary Romance- March 13

Cheap Ebooks This Week:

Cheap Ebooks
YA Action Adventure- Free

Cheap Ebooks
Thriller- Free Kindle Unlimited

Cheap Ebooks
Paranormal Mystery- Free

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Twitter @ jami_pack

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Review: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: A Graphic Novel

Graphic Novel Reviews
Author: Robert Louis Stevenson/
Andrzej Klimowski
Series: None
Publisher: SelfMadeHero
Publication Date: April 1, 2009
Genre: Graphic Novel/ Classics
Pages: 128
Get it on Amazon
I am not well read in terms of graphic novels. I've literally only read Maus and Maus II before Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: A Graphic Novel. But despite this fundamental lack of knowledge, I actually enjoyed this little gem. Maybe because I have read the original source material, but I found reading this particular graphic novel to be a little creepy and conveyed the basic tone of this gothic novel rather well. It doesn't have great reviews online, but I think you should be the judge especially if you are a Robert Louis Stevenson or a gothic novel fan.

"'If he be Mr. Hyde,' he had thought, 'I shall be Mr. Seek.'" 

Mr. Utterson is on a walk with a friend when he witnesses a strange scene where a man plows over a young girl and just leaves her lying on ground. He later finds out it is Mr. Hyde, who he knows works for his good friend, Dr. Jekyll. Utterson is confused by this horrible man being employed by such a nice doctor. Later, he begins to suspect Mr. Hyde as the culprit in a series of strange occurrences in town, including a murder. Utterson takes it upon himself to solve the mystery, only to discover that his friend, Dr. Jekyll, is hiding more secrets than he could ever have imagined.

"Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened but go on in fortune or misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm."

There were several good things happening in this graphic novel. Like I said, it kept to the dark tone with the black and white sketching and using original lines from the novel. But what is really great about it is how closely it follows the original in picture form. This would be a great companion resource for teachers teaching this novel in class. And the best part is the end everything is neatly explained with Dr. Jekyll's letter with corresponding pictures. The drawings really help clarify what is happening where Stevenson's flowery language can be confusing to people unfamiliar with victorian/gothic style writing. Plus it's a quick read.

The only complaint I really have is the confusion in the beginning. Sometimes it was unclear in the drawings who Utterson was, and the other people he was talking with. Some of the characters looked very similar in the simple black and white drawings and some of the dialog was confusing as to who was speaking. However, at the end, the letter clarifies everything that might have been confusing in the beginning. I just suggest taking your time reading through this graphic novel and make sure you look for identifying markers on certain characters, so you remember who they are later.

All in all, I really did like this graphic novel. I think it would have made Stevenson proud particularly in creepiness. I would suggest reading it with the novel or just after reading the original novel because it can be confusing in some parts. I really like the idea of classic novels being turned into graphic novels, so let me know if you have read any others that you like. 3.5 stars


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Review: Flawless by Jan Moran

Adult Contemporary Books
Author: Jan Moran
Series:Love, California Series
Publisher: Sunny Palms Press
Publication Date: August 8, 2014 
Genre: Adult Contemporary
Pages: 310
Get it on Amazon
Flawless by Jan Moran is one of those rare Adult Contemporary novels that I adore. For me, adult contemporary, romance, and chick lit books are just too formulaic and predictable to really get invested. Many times they have flat characters that are just driven to do things that fit the plot formula rather than realistic choices that don't always turn out in the protagonist's favor. However, this book does not fall into those pratfalls and was actually incredibly fun to read. And since it's been bright and spring-like outside really added to the ambiance of the story and made Flawless hard to put down.

 "When you've faced the worst that life can serve up, and pushed on, moment by moment, day by day, until you've finally overcome your challenges, there isn't much that can ever faze you again." -Flawless

Verena Valent is the head of her grandmother's skin care company, VSS. They are on the brink of an international expansion when disaster strikes; the banker who had secured her expansion funds mysteriously dies leaving VSS in a desperate financial situation. Her fiance, Derrick, is a venture capitalist, whose boss is intent on buying out VSS in its distressed state. By chance, Verena meets a world-renowned chef named Lance just as her world starts spiraling out of control.

So, like I said earlier, this book is not your typical romance/ chick lit novel. And that is a good thing in my opinion. First of all, much of this book is dedicated to Verena and VSS's financial situation. You basically learn how 'vulture capitalists' steal other companies right out from underneath it's owners and there is legally nothing they can do about it. But it's not filled with legal and business jargon. The process is easy follow but it's incredibly frustrating. I felt my shoulders and my chest literally tensed up while reading about the underhanded and tricky tactics Verena was going through. The romance aspect takes a back seat to the business so if you're not interested in how business works, then you will not enjoy this book very much. However, I loved it. I also found Verena to be a great strong female character with impressive dedication to her family, friends, and her business. Plus, hot chef... need I say more?


The only minor problems I had with the story were a few cheesy lines of dialog and as much as I liked Verena, she was a little too flawless. I mean she was freaking perfect in every way. Her only major flaw was trusting people she shouldn't. But I mean the title is Flawless so whatevs, I still liked her. The one red glaring problem I found was Verena's problems all ended a little too conveniently for my taste. She didn't come out completely unscathed, but it was just a little too neatly wrapped up to be believable. But the main parts of the story and the romance between Lance and Verena easily make up for the rest.

All in all, I surprised myself by really enjoying this book. It made me miss L.A. so so so so much though. But I am happy I was able to step outside my comfort zone and read something different that exceeded my expectations. I highly recommend this book as a beachy, fluffy, enjoyable read. Plus it's free! And I may actually spend money to get the rest of the series. There is a first for everything. 4 Stars.

Reading Order:



Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Top 5 Tuesday: Best Writing Books

Top 5 Tuesdays

If you didn't already know, I have a MFA in creative writing. So, obviously I have read a ton of books on writing because that's what you do to get that signed slip of paper. Books about style, voice, grammar, plotting, setting, character, publishing, marketing, etc. Since I have read so many good ones as well as duds, I thought I would share with you the writing books that I go back to over and over; the ones that have made a difference in my writing. These 5 are books that you should consider spending your money on, if you are a writer and need a little help or inspiration.

30 Day Novel by Tara Maya

Tara Maya is a successful self-published author. She wrote this ebook specifically for NaNoWriMo but it really works at any time. Her ideas for planning, mapping and graphing out your storylines to avoid giant gaping plot holes are particularly helpful and extensive. I like to plan out my story down to the scene before I start to write anything and Maya really takes you step by step in a process that will help you streamline your story so it makes sense for your plot, genre and themes. She also gives you tips on increasing your word counts and preventing writer's block. This little e-book is the one I go back to the most because her writing style is fun and light while being informative. You can skip around if you want to or read it front to back because if you need to outline and plan your novel first, you are bound to find something useful in this book.

The Everything's Guide to Writing Your First Novel by Hallie Ephron

Best Writing Books
Get it on Amazon

I saw Hallie Ephron speak at a writer's conference a few years ago, and I had to get this book. It's very simple and easy to understand how Hallie comes up with and organizes her ideas. She gives very specific examples and there are tons of references available in this book. She also lays out ideas on making your novel sellable and marketable from the beginning. And she provides a nice and easy schedule for completing your first draft in 6 months and sections on what to do after you type "the end."  But the main reason I go back to this book over and over, are for the sections on writing character, setting and dialog. She has some great ideas that are great to review while you are writing to make sure you haven't fallen into any traps, tropes and cliches. I recommend this book for new writers that are thinking about starting their first novels. Take the time to read this all the way through and you will be confident and inspired to start your draft. 

Story by Robert McKee

Best Writing Books
Get it on Amazon

Ok, so this book is about screenwriting but many of the principles that he talks about are valid in fiction writing as well. Plus his ideas are loaded, and I mean loaded with examples from films. Sometimes it helps to visualize your book as a movie to make sure your readers can "see it" right along with you. Although Robert McKee is a little pretentious in voice and assumes that all great works follow the same formulas, he does give thought provoking perspective on setting, dialog, voice and character. I like to read through the Elements of Story and the Principles of Story Design when I am feeling stuck, uninspired, or just unhappy with a section of writing. I would recommend you read through this book first all the way through because he builds on ideas mentioned in the beginning in later chapters, but then you can go through it later for inspiration or clarification or maybe if you are feeling like you need to change it up and write a screenplay instead.

Making Shapely Fiction by Jerome Stern

Best Writing Books
Get in on Amazon

This book is incredibly useful for when you have an idea but you can't figure out how to get it into a workable story arc. Stern provides what he calls "shapes" of fiction that work kind of like prompts to get you thinking about your idea in a certain light. There are 16 shapes that correspond to a great glossary in the back of the book that explain many terms that you would only study in advanced writing courses. But the best part about this book is the "Don't do this" section where it spells out some of the biggest 'no no's' in the publishing world. From cliches to deceiving the reader to bad character names, it's worth a look over to make sure that you're not falling into these categories and if you are, do you have a damn good explanation for doing so? Read this book when you are planning your novel or are stuck with plot direction. Then come back to it during your revisions and go over the "Don't do this" section, just to double check.

Merchants of Culture by John B. Thompson

Best Writing Books
Get it on Amazon

Now this book is different than the rest. This book is not about writing but how the publishing world works. In my opinion, it is important to know the industry you are trying to work in. And this book is your best bet going over everything from agents to sales to how corporations and you make money from your book. It also covers how the publishing world is adapting to the digital revolution and what the future holds for big trade publishing. Just know that the most successful people do their research. And writers are no different. You should know how the process works if you plan to publish traditionally, or if you plan to self publish, you should know what you are up against. It's a complicated process to get a book in to print and being informed is the first step in protecting your work and career. Get your information on and start here.