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Cora has commented on (24) products.

All Our Yesterdays (All Our Yesterdays) by Cristin Terrill
All Our Yesterdays (All Our Yesterdays)

Cora, January 23, 2015

There’s nothing better than stumbling upon a book I can’t put down. Reading until the wee hours of the morning because I’m lost in the story is one of my guilty pleasures.

I don’t often gush about a book, but I can’t talk about All Our Yesterdays, a debut novel by Christin Terrill, without raving.

I bought this book about eight months ago, but only got around to reading it last week. The book starts out with a bang and never lets up. It’s a roller coaster ride through time and emotions. The story pulls one way and then another.

The characters engaged me from the beginning, and throughout the story I wondered how things could be resolved. To say the ending is bittersweet is an understatement. An everyone lives happily ever after ending would have been impossible.

The genre is young adult science fiction. I’ve seen the book labeled as a thriller, a time travel novel, an action adventure, and a dystopian novel. I’d say, yes to all those and add that it’s a complex, sometimes heart wrenching love story. The book is tightly plotted. On the surface the story might seem to be a political thriller/dystopia, but on a deeper level it’s about the complex relationships of family, friends, and lovers.
Brief Summary
I don’t want to give too much away because I’d like a reader to be as surprised and as enchanted as I was reading this story.

The book begins in the not too distant future with Em and Finn, two young adults, imprisoned for unknown reasons. They have information the Doctor and the government wants, and the world has turned into the kind of nightmarish place that our contemporary, reactionary politicians warn us about.

Add to this dystopian world a time machine, which the protagonists have already used to travel back and try to undo the things that have caused the current problems. They’ve failed each time. This story is about their sixteenth trip back and their last hope of changing the future.

Em and Finn travel back four years to when they were sixteen and their world changed. The contrast between their sixteen year old selves and the people they have become emphasizes the enormity of the difficult decisions they make and those they can’t make.

The tender and sometimes harsh loved story that plays out is one most people can identify with: will the person you fall in love with as a teenager be the same person when he or she becomes an adult? Will you be the same? An age old dilemma that many who marry their childhood sweethearts or who fantasize over unrequited love address.
What I Liked
I liked it from beginning to end, but here are three things I thought were especially good:

The time shifts and time travel; the reader experiences the shifts and begins to piece together the story; a reader is never confused about who the story is about and where the character is in time; plus, each, shift adds more to the mystery; reading becomes very much like putting a puzzle together one piece at a time.
The tight structure of the story and plot; a lesser writer could have mangled this, but not Terrill, who does an excellent job of tightly weaving the story pieces together.
The action pace of the story; from page one, the story is off and running; there is no middle sag; the quiet moments in the story were perfectly pace to give the reader and the characters a much needed breather.
The story never takes the easy way out and everything is worked out in a logical, satisfying way.
A Couple of Things I Wasn’t Crazy About
These two areas grated against my sensibilities and hovered in the back of my mind as I read.

Upper-middle-class, white, spoiled, self-centered girl; genius upper-middle-class, white, boy; plus, one, smart, white, poor boy going to a good school on a scholarship and friends with the other two. Sound familiar? The ubiquitous and stereotypical nature of characters did intrude on the story.
The girl in love with the wrong boy, while the right boy is in love with her felt a little too strained and predictable. One of the reasons I don’t read romance novels is because of this overused, predictable triangle story. Give me something new and different. I can imagine someone saying, “But there is complexity in these relationships.” I’d agree, which might have saved the story from falling flat.

I longed for the diversity around me to show up in the books I read.
It’s A Great Book
There’s still time to run out and buy it for yourself or give it as a holiday gift for your favorite young adult.
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Summer Knight: Book Four of the Dresden Files (Dresden Files #04) by Jim Butcher
Summer Knight: Book Four of the Dresden Files (Dresden Files #04)

Cora, January 21, 2015

I’m In
Okay, Summer Knight sealed it for me. I’m in for the series. If you read my other reviews of the Dresden books, you’ll discover that after book two I wasn’t sure if I would continue the series, but because I bought them, I decided to read Grave Peril(#3) and Summer Knight(#4).

Book four is the best so far. Pretty much everything gets a better in Summer Knight. Harry Dresden’s world is more developed. He gets honest and up-front with Murphy, his cop friend, which I wanted him to do much earlier.
Spoilers ahead: if you don’t like spoilers, skip the Brief Summary.

Brief Summary
Okay, here we go. At the end of the last book, Susan, Dresden’s girlfriend, has become a vampire and left town. Summer Knight opens with Dresden depressed and as low as low can be. He’s been trying to find a cure for Susan.

He’s desperate for rent money, so he agrees to meet a client, but the client turns out to be Winter’s Queen Mab. His fairy godmother sold his contract to Mab, who hires him to find out who killed the Summer Knight, the Summer Queen’s knight.

Things are pretty much a mess. Dresden is now contracted to Mab. As bad as his fairy godmother is, she’s preferable to Mab, who is far more devious and dangerous. With the Summer Knight dead, there’s an impending war among the fairies, which has already started to upset the balance of nature and could lead to the destruction of the world. The Red Court of the vampires is on the war path, a conflict from Grave Peril��"they want Dresden delivered to them. Most of the White Council wants to strip Harry of his wizard title and turn him over to the Red Court. Someone’s put a hit out on his life.

If things could get worse, I’m not sure how, but of course, they do get worse.
As you might imagine, Harry’s in deep, deep dodo and all hell breaks lose. There are lots of fights, werewolves, fairies, an evil unicorn, vampires, and sundry creatures. The White Council of Wizards continued to be pedantic, dangerous nincompoops. Enemies might be preferable to the White Council.

It’s a fun, sometimes frightening ride, and Harry comes to terms with some of his past. And, no I’m not going to tell you who killed Summer Knight.

What I Liked
1) The story is fast paced and complex.

2) World building: things are getting fleshed out. We learn a lot more about the faeries, which probably isn’t exactly what people into faeries would expect or like. I liked the faeries. They are dangerous, unpredictable, and zany. Zany matters.

3) The puzzle is coming together. I could be wrong, but I think we’ve got the major puzzle pieces of the series in place: the wizards’ White Council, the vampire’s Red court, an archenemy lurking in the background, the Faerie Courts (winter and summer), the Never-never, and the werewolves.

4) Butcher does an excellent job of linking all these groups and creating complex characters.

5) As I said above, I like that Dresden is finally opening up to Murphy and the werewolves. For the most part, the White Council members are jerks, and keeping Murphy in the Dark was causing more harm than good.

6) The plot is tightly woven and fast paced.

Negatives
Either I’ve gotten used to his sexism or it was toned down in this one. I think it was toned down a bit, but he does have a knight in shining armor complex, poor man. Let’s hope that Harry keeps growing up into a man instead of staying a thirteen-year-old boy. Since I’ve mentioned this about each book, this is going to be my last hurrah about Harry’s sexism. I think he’s probably going to continue to be an ass, but I’m hoping for better.

For the most part, I became so engrossed in the story that I didn’t get too picky, which is always good.
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The Time Machine by Hg Wells
The Time Machine

Cora, January 14, 2015

Traveling Back in Time:

I decided to take a little trip back in time and re-read The Time Machine by H. G. Wells. I don’t remember how old I was when I first read the book, but having read the as an adult, I’m surprised that as a child, I enjoyed a book with a lot of philosophy and philosophic discussions. The nice thing about returning to a book I read decades ago is that it was fresh and often surprising.

Brief Summary:

Our Victorian time traveler, invents a time machine, and travels forward to the year 802701 C.E. By anyone’s standards, it’s an ambitious leap into the future. In this far distant future, the wealthy and upper class in England have evolved into the Eloi, carefree, simple-minded beings. They spend their days eating, playing, having sex and generally waltzing through life. Although the buildings are in disrepair and the Eloi are frighten of the dark, the land is beautiful and the time traveler seems to have landed in a utopian society.

As soon as the time traveler lands, he has a sense that he’s being watched and that all isn’t exactly right. But his feelings are put aside as he spends the day with the Eloi. When he returns to his machine, it’s missing, and the suspense he felt when he landed returns. His top priority is to find his machine so he can return home.

He makes friends with Weena, a female Eloi, and discovers that the Eloi are not the only inhabitants. The Morlocks, a race of subterranean beings who evolved from the working class, maintain the underground machines that support the Eloi. The Time Traveler quickly realizes the Morlocks are dangerous. The story question at this point is will the time traveler find his machine and return to Victorian England? And will he stay put if he does get back?

General Observations:

I think I appreciated this book far more reading it as an adult than I did when I read it as a child. I can see the historical issues and philosophies being played out in the story. However, the first time I read The Time Machine the story was intriguing and fun. So, I guess I can say it still works for the young and the old.

In Well’s time, culture and society were changing. Rights and the treatment of the working classes were issues, which this book brings those issues to the foreground. The upper and middle-classes with too much leisure and little work have deteriorated into weak, simple minded beings who play all day. While the working classes are underground, out of sight and out of mind, but they come out at night and are excessively dangerous��"a warning of ignoring the plight and needs of the working-class.
Often the narrative is flavored with discourses on the class structure and problems of Wells' time. This works because the Time Traveler is telling a group of friends what happened to him. His side commentary seems a natural part of the story.
For people with a good grasp of high school sciences, much of the story’s science wouldn’t hold up today, but I don’t think this is a problem. I don’t insist that my science fiction is based on hard science, so it was easy enough to suspend my disbelief. The book was written over a hundred years ago, 1895, so it’s easy to make allowances.

What I Liked:

1. The story holds up surprisingly well. It’s a simple story, much less sophisticated and complex than contemporary stories, but enjoyable.
2. The descriptions have a wow factor. Well’s is exploring the ideas of evolution and how the earth and people might evolve. The vivid descriptions were a pleasure to read and not overwhelming as some Victorian literature.
3. The philosophical discussions were engaging. Yeah, this one surprised me, but the observations did fit into the tone of the novel and seemed natural.

Negatives:

Okay, I like to balance the “What I Liked” section with something equal to “What I Didn’t Like”; however, I’m having some trouble coming up with list of negatives. As I said earlier, some of the science could be griped about, but I’m not inclined to do that.

I have one gripe, but really, it’s more of a personal opinion than a critique of the story. I don’t agree with the way the Eloi and the Morlocks evolved. I don’t think all violence and intelligence would disappear from the Eloi race; nor do I think the Morlocks would have the intelligence to run the machines for the Eloi and have evolved to be aggressive and violent without somewhere along the line rebelling, pushing to live above ground, and creating weapons.

I understand that during the industrial revolution that many wealthy people couldn’t adjust to the changes and thus were not progressive and didn’t understand the need to change or lose everything; however, I think Wells underestimated human intelligence and human aggression in both the Eloi and Morlocks. Even in Wells’ time, many adjusted and flowed along with and changed with the times, and the time period was rife with working-class demands and rebellions, which we know resulted in change. However, I won’t fault Well’s for not having a prophetic knowledge of the future. So the basic instinct for survival, human aggression, and human intelligence would survive evolution.

All that aside, it’s a fun story. If you haven’t read it in a while or if you’re never read it, do. Take a stroll back in time.


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Firelight #01: Firelight by Sophie Jordan
Firelight #01: Firelight

Cora, December 23, 2014

I have to say upfront: I am not a fan of romance novels. I am, however, a big fan of dragons. I didn't realize when I bought this book that it was primarily a romance.

I'm evaluating Firelight by Sophie Jordan on it's own merits, trying my best to be fair and balanced. Some of my favorite people, including my youngest daughter, love romances.

Brief, Not Spoiler Free, Summary:

Jacinda is a dragon, who can shape-shift into human form. As a matter of fact, she mostly lives in her human form because it's dangerous to take her "draki" form.

In this world, there are dragon hunters, who kill "drakis" in their dragon forms.

Jacinda is special, a rare fire dragon who is valued among dragons and set apart from ordinary dragons.

When her mother explains the reality of being a fire dragon, she realizes she is not only in danger from dragon hunters, but also from members of her clan.

She, her mother, and sister flee and hide among the humans. Her mother hopes Jacinda, who isn't supposed to take her dragon form, loses her ability to shapeshift. However, Jacinda doesn't give up shapeshifting. She feels free and happy in her dragon form.

Living among humans, Jacinda meets Will, who is handsome, kind, and stirs her inner "draki" desires. So strong is the power he has on her that she is often in danger of shape-shifting when she is near him.

What I liked:

I loved the "draki" culture and the conflict between dragons. Although it seemed to be a tight-knit, harmonious community, the reader quickly realizes there is discord and division among the "drakis." There is a dark side to the close community.

Also, the conflict and danger from the dragon hunters is real and creates a deep sense of suspense and pending trouble.

The cultural conflicts are complex.

The dragon culture wasn't all good, but as with any culture a mixture of positive and negatives. The dragon hunters were primarily a group that is bonded together by their hatred of another group they fear. However, even among the dragon hunters, Will is different. He finds dragon hunting barbaric, but he is trapped in a family business.

Will's stance suggests that among the dragon hunters, there's a slim chance there might be others who are uncomfortable with their occupation.

The overarching reality is that these two groups cannot possibly live in peace, which makes for a good story.

What I Found Challenging:

I would have liked the story to be more focused on the darki culture, the conflict and crisis Jacinda's dragon shaped caused, but my challenge is unfair to the story. I think if I had started reading Firelight knowing it is primarily a romance, I would have felt differently about the novel as a whole. Early on, I realized the genre and shifted my thinking.

Jacinda is all over the place with her emotional response, which is typical teenage stuff; however, there were times when her emotional swings were a little too much for me.

Except for Will, The dragon hunters were dark, evil, racist, misogynistic. The group shared a mass antisocial disorder, reminding of the KKK. However, I wasn't satisfied with Will being the only dissenter; I wanted to see a glimmer of human softness, perhaps in one of the brothers or even the father. Even evil villains need a speck of good.

People who like or love fantasy romances will enjoy this book. It does an excellent job of telling an interesting romance story. I suspect for its genre, it's a strong story. I'd definitely recommend it to my daughter. The plot was predictable, but as I pointed out at the beginning of this review, I'm not the best judge.

All-in-all, it is a good read. Keep in mind that I would have stopped reading when I realized it was a romance, but Jordan's storytelling kept me engaged and reading.


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Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish (Write Great Fiction Series) by James Scott Bell
Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish (Write Great Fiction Series)

Cora, November 13, 2014

Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish by James Scott Bell may be the best book for plotting and creating structure in fiction stories that I’ve read.

I have a few instructional writing books I reread; this is one of them.

Plot & Structure works for writers who don’t use outlines and for those who do. Throughout Bell acknowledges and addresses how his ideas about plot and structure can be used by all writers. This isn’t a “my way or the highway” kind of book. Bell gives practical advice for all writers.

What’s so great about Plot & Structure? The biggest plus is Bell’s practical and down to earth strategies and clear explanations.

Here are the other greats:

Bell’s approach isn’t a how-to formula; it’s more of a guide. His genre is thrillers, but he addresses the needs of other genres as well as those of literary fiction.
He provides many strategies writers can use to approach plot and structure; plus, he encourages readers to find their own way of working.
The exercises at the end of the chapters are practical. If you try some of them, you’ll discover that they aren’t busywork but helpful approaches to solving writing issues.

Unless you’re a pro with so many publications behind you that you don’t need help, this isn’t a book to read once and put away. It’s a book you’ll come back to and get more out of with a second or third reading.

If you want a formula or step-by-step program, this isn’t a book for you. He gives choices so you can find you own style and way of working. Which is one of the things like I about the book. It’s like going to a writer buffet and choose the strategies that work for you.

If you are someone who writes without an outline, you are going to be surprised because Bell doesn’t leave you out of any of the equations. He has strategies for all writers.
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