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The Magicians by Lev Grossman – Review

A thrilling and original coming-of-age novel for adults about a young man practicing magic in the real world.

Quentin Coldwater is brilliant but miserable. A senior in high school, he’s still secretly preoccupied with a series of fantasy novels he read as a child, set in a magical land called Fillory. Imagine his surprise when he finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the craft of modern sorcery.

Review:

Initially, I rated this book 4 stars, but as I was writing this review, I realized I leaned more toward 3.5. 

Spoilers for the book and show are present but probably not life-changing.

I read this book because I absolutely adore the show and after binge watching season 4, I decided I need more of the universe and I thought it might help throw me out of my reading slump. Admittedly, I watched the show first, which is something I try very hard not to do, but in this case I didn’t even know there was a book. 

For those of you that just want a short review: Just watch the show, it’s better.

Yikes! A show that is better than the book? Unfortunately I feel like this review is going to more of a comparison. Grossman tries really hard to immerse his readers into the world of The Magicians, but if I hadn’t already seen the show, I think I would have been quite lost. The thing that threw me off the most about this book is that the main character, Quentin Coldwater (who I love), isn’t even out of high school when he gets whisked away from his life and everyone he knows to go to Brakebills College, a school that teaches magic. At the start of the book, it’s clear that Quentin has some serious depression and that he feels like he doesn’t belong anywhere. However, the further you  get into the book, the more you realize that that’s simply how the narration is written. Unlike the TV show, this book talks about Quentin’s magical experiences over the course of at least 5 years. It jumps around quite a bit, but there were times I felt like it helped me understand parts of the show where I had been confused. However, this constant jumping around also made me feel like we were simply skipping over the nitty gritty details and jumping right into the most interesting thing to happen to him every year. This isn’t something I would normally complain about, but when you just get into his 4th year at Brakebills for a chapter and then instantly jump into his 5th year, it feels a little off.

The thing that really hit me was how bitter the characters all were. It was like Grossman was trying to convince me that magic was terrible and life-ruining. The characters were driven mostly by emotion, often betraying their friends and getting into screaming matches only to sleep with that person or forget an altercation ever happened at all. Strong characters that I love in the TV show suddenly were weak and quiet or considered obnoxious and scandalous. It was quite jarring. 

A side note: This book was published in 2009, but for some reason still used the outdated term “hermaphrodite” in one instance, which felt weird to me. No one in editing thought that should be addressed?

Throughout the whole book, you’re always been told about the books Fillory and Further because they are books that the main character Quentin was in love with since he was a kid and then continued to love long after his friends and peers had given that up. Believe it or not, Fillory doesn’t become a reality until the last 150 pages or so.  I mean they put the map of Fillory in the book’s end pages for god’s sake, you would think it was the main plot point. But the real plot point of the book seems to be “How will Quentin handle this next magical thing?”. It’s somewhat unclear. What is clear is the theme of “magic always comes with a price” or “dreams are never what you thought they would be” which is very Once Upon a Time, but accurate.

Overall, if you want a book that talks about the principles of magic and jumps around from interesting plot point to interesting plot point with characters that might all love or might all hate each other (it’s really hard to tell), then this might be the book for you! However, if you want a TV show packed full of action with badass females, an awesome magic concept, and multiple universes, I definitely recommend watching the show first and then reading the book to see what was supposed to happen. Honestly, the show runs relatively the same as the book, with a few tweaks here and there that were actually for the better.

Bonus points awarded for: unique magic system, book inside of a book, and map

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Book vs. Movie

It’s a long conversation that has been debated for a long time. What is better? Book or movie? In reality, there might not be a real answer and it definitely also depends on the book.

What are some of the things that lean people toward one or the other?

  1. Action/Intensity

Books like Lord of the Rings have been fan favourites for a long time and long before the movies were made. However, how many of you have actually read one of those books and seen the movie? If you had to include every single step in Fellowship of the Ring, you would be watching an extremely long movie. The difference between those books and those movies is simply that the movie is faster in pace. I’m not saying you can’t love a long book, but it’s much cooler to see Frodo and Sam walking through Middle Earth than it is to read about it.

2. Seeing characters in action

It’s one thing to read a book and have that little movie playing in your head. But actually seeing that movie on the big screen with sometimes exactly what you pictured can feel like a miracle. I remember when I first heard that they were making The Hunger Games into movies, I was so excited to finally be able to see the characters I had read about coming to life.

3. Details

Any Harry Potter lover wouldn’t be able to watch the first movie without pointing the missing plot points from the books. Since most people tend to watch the books first, it’s hard to know exactly what comes between point A and point B, but it’s another thing entirely when they skip point B and move on to point C without a problem. Fans love making sure that everything is going exactly as it should and taking away those key elements can be heartbreaking to a book lover.

There are literally dozens of reasons for people to pick one over the other and, most of the time, it’s entirely circumstantial.

What are some of the reasons you pick which one you like better?

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Book Writing #5: Genre Basics #1

Genre is one of the most important basic fundamentals to writing and finding that perfect genre to describe your book is one of the best marketing tools at an author’s fingertips. Here are some of the bigger genres to help with a basic understanding!

Middle Grade – Written for children generally in middle school in a bildungsroman style (coming of age) (i.e. Percy Jackson and the Olympians)

Young Adult – Written for a high school audience that usually have the main character overcoming a flaw or event that was pivotal in their life (i.e. Six of Crows)

New Adult – Fills the void between adult and young adult. Generally for older high school age children and college age people and contain more explicit content than young adult.

Adult – For adults and written in a more aggressive style. Leaves less to the imagination and it’s afraid to put explicit content and gore.

Sci-Fi – Commonly set in the future of Earth or some other planet with advanced technology or modern day Earth also with advanced technology or any new technology that seems possible but far from what we are currently capable of. Many sci-fi books include space in some form or another. Often paired with fantasy (i.e. Ender’s Game and Dark Matter)

Fantasy – Set in a completely fictional world made up by the author and is likely to include fictional intelligent species sometimes with their own language. These worlds often use medieval style living and technology (sword, bow and arrows). Often paired with sci-fi (i.e. Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones)

Mystery – Commonly set in a detective format where the main character is trying to solve some kind of problem that has alluded them for a time

Paranormal – Put simply, vampires and werewolves, but can include most creatures that are considered “paranormal”. Angels and sirens can fall into this category. Usually, there is a looming, dark, magic presence that is after the main character. Often paired with romance

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Book Writing #4 – Character Names and Personality

For some people, the names of characters can be the hardest part of the writing process. After all, names for main characters are going to stick with them through the whole novel. For some readers, the main character’s name can be a make or break point. Personally, if I run into a book with a name that I can’t even begin to start pronouncing, I usually don’t pick the book up. Names can make up a pretty solid portion of word count, so think of your readers when you type those names up, sci-fi/fantasy writers!

For me, I have a system with how to pick my character names. Just a fair warning, I generally write fantasy, so my process might be different for you!

  1. Go to some kind of name generator. If applicable, click the descriptors that fit what your character represents (ex. Irish, Elvish, Biblical) and just keep hitting that generate button like crazy
  2. Slowly compile a list of names that stick out to you as you go.
  3. Usually if I find two names I particularly like, I cut the best parts of them and mash them together to make the perfect name. But sometimes I end up finding the perfect name!
  4. Repeat for any additional names (middle, last) and other characters of importance.

I also come up with names by just picking bits of names or letters that I like and throwing them around until I find a name. Not gonna lie, some of my character names even start off as a joke and then they end up sticking!

Personalities can sometimes be easier, so I won’t bother going into as much detail about these. However, I recently got some advice that I had been doing anyway, so apparently not everyone does it this way!

Take personality tests in the mindset of your character.

Myers-Briggs, the Enneagram, the Sorting Hat, anything. It’ll help you when you come at a crossroads and wonder “would this character really do XYZ?”

Building the perfect character can be hard, but with enough work you can make the best character for your next novel and feel happy about the outcome!

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Beware the Temptation of Social Media Schedulers

Social media is hard. Let’s just be straight up about it. You have to take the time to set up all these different accounts all while trying to get matching handles so that people can find you. When you do that, you actually have to post content and interact with people to gain followers. Who has time to do all of that?

Clearly this is a problem that has been bothering people for a while. Some people just drop some of their social media accounts by disabling their account and just sticking with one main platform while others try to push through and juggle all of their social media. Sometimes people just decide to drop social media altogether.

To help combat some of this, social media schedulers have started becoming more and more prominent. Some of the more popular ones are Hootsuite, Later, and Buffer, but there are dozens of them floating around the internet. These scheduling sites make like so much easier. All you have to do is make your one post and blast it onto all your social media accounts.

But here is why you should take more care with these social media schedulers

  1. Each social media platform is different. If you aren’t aware of my recent post detailing how to write for some of the platforms, I recommend giving it a look.
  2. These sites make you forget the real point of social media. Social media is all about interacting with your followers and if you just do all of your work through these sites, it’s easy to forget to check your platforms. If you decide to use one of these, make sure you’re checking all of your interaction from followers and don’t be afraid to follow some people, throw around some likes, and reblog things from your friends. Social media is a gateway to companionship and interaction.
  3. Money. Call me crazy, but I think that a service like this isn’t really worth spending money on. Sure, these websites all have free versions of their services, but many of them are just gateways to making you pay in the future.

In the end, it’s much easier to make a schedule in a Word doc or a spreadsheet and set alarms on your phone if you need to schedule out your content. Some of the best content is what is made on a whim, so don’t be afraid to break those boundaries and just post something because you want to, not because your schedule says you should.

If you choose to use one of these sites, the biggest recommendation I can give is to make each of your posts specific to the platform you’re posting on. Changing your content to fit the platform will not only boost your interaction with your followers, it will give people the feeling that you actually take care in what you’re posting. After all, quality is better than quantity.

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WriterFest Nashville 2019 Reflection

This past weekend, I got to spend the weekend at WriterFest Nashville. WriterFest is an event made for writers of all kinds (book, movie, and song). There are 3 main keynote speakers and then several other panels were made to further develop writing, relationships, and marketing.

I could talk about the social media and marketing aspects of the event, but none of that really stuck with me. Of course, it was necessary information and useful. The part of my time at WriterFest, however, was the keynote speaker Kel Kade. Over the summer, I received an ARC of her first traditionally published book, Fate of the Fallen. So, when I heard she was going to be at WriterFest, I would intrigued by her name.

I’ll admit, I did a little fangirling and got a picture with her and asked her to sign my copy of her book.

Her conversation was different from other events I had been to with author talks. She talked about her life before publishing her first novel, barely able to pay rent. On a whim, she published an unedited book on Amazon with a cover she made herself and thought nothing of it, convinced that only a handful of people would read it. However, after the first month, her book had made over $32,000 and it continued to increase month after month. This spiraled to eventually get her a deal with Tor, a high fantasy publisher, and a deal for audio books. One of the questions asked by the audience was if she would be interested in a movie to which she responded in a very unexpected way. She said that if she was to get a movie done, it would have to be done the right way. And I think that’s the way everyone should be thinking in regards to screen adaptations.

Overall, WriterFest was a good experience and I’m thrilled I got to enjoy it along with so many amazing writers! I truly hope I get the opportunity to go again next year.

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Hands Up by Stephen Clark – Spotlight

About the Book

Officer Ryan Quinn, a rookie raised in a family of cops, is on the fast track to detective until he shoots an unarmed black male. Now, with his career, reputation and freedom on the line, he embarks on a quest for redemption that forces him to confront his fears and biases and choose between conscience or silence.

Jade Wakefield is an emotionally damaged college student living in one of Philadelphia’s worst neighborhoods. She knows the chances of getting an indictment against the cop who killed her brother are slim. When she learns there’s more to the story than the official police account, Jade is determined, even desperate, to find out what really happened. She plans to get revenge by any means necessary.

Kelly Randolph, who returns to Philadelphia broke and broken after abandoning his family ten years earlier, seeks forgiveness while mourning the death of his son. But after he’s thrust into the spotlight as the face of the protest movement, his disavowed criminal past resurfaces and threatens to derail the family’s pursuit of justice.

Ryan, Jade, and Kelly–three people from different worlds—are on a collision course after the shooting, as their lives interconnect and then spiral into chaos.

About the Author – Stephen Clark

Stephen Clark is a former award-winning journalist who served as a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times and as a politics editor for the Washington, D.C. bureau of FoxNews.com. As a reporter for the Utica Observer-Dispatch, he won a New York Newspaper Publishers Association Award of Distinguished Community Service for his investigation into the financial struggles of nonprofit services. He also won a Society of Professional Journalists Award for Investigative Reporting at the Stamford Advocate for his series exposing an elderly grifter’s charity organization. Stephen grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and now lives in North Jersey with his wife and son. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Arcadia University and a master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University.

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Buy the Book

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Wido Publishing