Friday, May 18, 2012

Book Review: Hero's Guide -- Christopher Healy

Cinderella. Rapunzel. Sleeping Beauty. Snow White. Four massively popular fairy tales, retold time and time again…
                And the Princes Charming always get the short end of the stick.
                In The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, by Christopher Healy, the story begins where the old stories ended – but in an ‘after’ that’s really not so ‘happy’.
                For one reason or another, nothing’s gone as expected for these princes. They find themselves separated from their princesses, each dealing with their individual problems – cowardice, life in the shadow of sixteen mighty brothers, lies spread by a rotten (ex)fiancĂ©, and a sore lack of friends (as a result of general craziness).
                Princes Frederick, Gustav, Liam, and Duncan band together in order to stop an evil witch and save the day. And some hostages. Not to mention their reputations (which are a bit lackluster, thanks to the bards’ failure to fact-check before spreading their stories).
                As someone who loves fairy-tale retellings, I was very excited by the premise of this book.
                And Hero’s Guide exceeded my expectations. It addresses common questions asked by fairy-tale lovers everywhere --“Why didn’t the prince in Rapunzel go get a ladder?” “Why did the prince in Cinderella send a servant to track her down instead of going himself?” “If two people have never even spoken before, can it really be ‘True Love’s’ kiss?”
                The book also crafts deep, connectible characters who develop widely over the course of the book. They’re all so plausible that you wonder why you never imagined them in such a way to begin with. Watching the friendships grow (especially in the case of two certain characters) was wonderful. The princes have very different personalities – each uniquely their own – and yet they fit. Together, they make for a fabulous tale—even if they’re not always sure exactly what’s going on.
                Aside from the characters, there’s the fact that Hero’s Guide is absolutely hilarious. A quirky, fun book that had my inner critic relaxed and laughing from the first page onward.
                The story (and the accompanying artwork) remind me a lot of movies like Tangled, and How to Train Your Dragon. It’s a whole-heartedly fun read. You’ll fall in love with the Princes Prince Gustav characters, and be rooting for them the whole way through.
                I, personally, am very glad that this is only ‘Book 1’, and have placed it prominently upon the family bookshelf so that my younger brother can read it, too. Frankly, I think that’s the highest praise I can give to a book.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Book Review: Storybound -- Marissa Burt

Storybound, by Marissa Burt, was another book I read for the 2012 YA/MG Fantasy Reading Challenge. I loved the premise; I think every reader/writer has dreamed about being pulled into a storybook world. In Storybound, that’s exactly what happens to Una Fairchild.

                “When Una Fairchild stumbles upon a mysterious book buried deep in the basement of her school library, she thinks nothing of opening the cover and diving in. But instead of paging through a regular novel, Una suddenly finds herself Written In to the land of Story—a world filled with Heroes and Villains and fairy-tale characters.

                But not everything in Story is as magical as it seems. Una must figure out why she has been Written In—and fast—before anyone else discovers her secret. Together with her new friend Peter and a talking cat named Sam, Una digs deep into Story’s shadowy past. She quickly realizes that she is tied to the world in ways she never could have imagined—and it might be up to her to save it.”

                I really liked the idea. I still do. And it was fun to see characters walking about, from many different genres, going to classes like Advanced Heroics, Villainy, and Backstory as they figure out what kind of tale they’d like to be in. As a soon-to-be college freshman, thinking about potential careers, I really connected to this concept.

                Unfortunately, I didn’t really connect with some of the main characters. They were amusing at times, and I liked certain qualities of each. But some just didn’t quite ‘pop’ for me, and I ran into that accursed disconnect that I get when I just don’t understand what’s going through a character’s head.

                When the summary says that Una ‘thinks nothing’ of diving into a storybook world, they mean it. Cloaked figures in her school basement? ‘No big, just find another corner to read in.’ Waking up on a stone dais, in strange clothes, with no idea how she got there? ‘Must’ve found a secret passage. Whatevah.’ The moods – of Una and other characters – flip flop occasionally, like, they’re mad, and then cheerful, with very little transition between.

                I liked the academy in Story. It almost gives off a Hogwarts kind of feel. And yet sometimes, the school and standard classmate-related conflicts seemed to overshadow the Uber-Important Events that are supposed to be going on.

                Like, when Una first appears in Story, her ‘new friend Peter’ spends at least eleven pages thinking Una is a student, even after she gives him every hint that she is not supposed to be there. Then, instead of leaping into action and ‘digging into Story’s history’, etc… he goes to check if he just failed his exam. Then we actually sit in on a few classes, and they still don’t do a whole lot of ‘digging’. Even when they (mini-spoiler) go to find some all-important books to try and figure out how and why Una was brought to Story, Una thinks something about how ‘she’s never gone so long without reading an actual book.’ Like, the act of reading is more important to her then figuring out what the heck she’s doing in Story.

                To paraphrase Ron Weasley: “These guys need to sort out their priorities.”

                The action picked up a lot toward the end, almost to the point where things moved so fast that it was hard to understand. It cuts off in a weird place too. Things are kind of resolved, but it leaves a very major strand of the plot dangling. It’s a cliff-hanger, but it’s a cliff-hanger that we last heard about several chapters from the end. Then it was never mentioned again. By the time the last page rolled around, I’d almost forgotten about it—not good, considering it left some of my favorite characters of the book in danger.

                Bottom line, I wasn’t really pulled in by the characters, and some of the pacing seemed off. However, it’s an alright, fun little read, and younger readers will probably enjoy the Hogwarts-y feel, and descriptions of the characters in Story. Writers will also appreciate the references to things like dialogue and backstory, I think.

                I just wasn’t pulled as deeply into the world of Story as Una was, I suppose.

                Have you ever imagined being pulled into a storybook world? Have you read Storybound yet? If so, did my observations line up with yours? If you haven’t read Storybound yet… Will you?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Post-Hiatus List of THINGS

Okay, so I did that thing where I forget the blogging world exists. And, like last time, it lasted almost exactly one month. And like last time, I believe it happened because I've been participating in a NaNoWriMo-related event. Last time, it was NaNoWriMo. This time, Script Frenzy.

But considering my comic book script died on day... four? It really shouldn't  have affected my blogging sched--

--So, anyway!

I'm back. I'm still busy with a whole slew of things related to graduating high school, but I am back. In the near future I'll have some book reviews going up (Storybound, Nightspell, and The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom) along with some actual posts related to writing! I promise.

And if these actual posts fail to happen, I hereby give all my followers permission to slap me with assorted unpleasant objects (for example, fish, shovels, walruses, etc.).

Lurkers who with to participate in any potential slap-fests are encouraged to follow. ;)

Now then. The bad news is, my script died. I quite quickly realized that I did not want to write a script in April, despite what I thought all through March. Instead, I wanted to work on my novel.

So I did, a bit. I've been exchanging chapters with my fabulous critique partner, I've had a few more of those world-shaking epiphanies that I tend to get every time I start thinking "No way this series' plot could possibly get any more intricate!" Also, I might be getting a crocheted doll of one of my characters from a lady in my writers' group. *is super excited at this possibility*

I've also made some goals for the coming months. Failure to meet these goals may also be acceptable grounds for smacking me.

  1. I will finish my current WIP (a rewrite) by the end of May. This will mean writing NaNo style, but I'd really like to get it done so that I'll be all set up for...
  2. Camp NaNoWriMo: June. I've got an outline of a Middle Grade novel just waiting to be explored. It involves living gargoyles, a boy who talks to pigeons, and a little girl with a bag of twenty tricks. And I'll be happy to get it on paper. Quickly. XD And when it's over, I should have just enough time to get ready for...
  3. Camp NaNoWriMo: August. I've had another idea knocking about in my head for a while. Not sure if it's MG or YA yet, but I like this idea, and I think it's got potential.

Oh, yeah, and there will also be more exchanges with my critique partners, a writer's conference this summer, and uh-- oh yeah, COLLEGE. o.o Which starts in the fall. And I am terrified to find out how that's going to affect my posting schedule. *gulp*

Well. There you have it. Where I've been, what I'll be doing, and what penalties you'll be able to give me if I decide to fail at life some more...

I think that covers everything for now. :)