5 Star Review: Characters

So what is 5 star review?  Well, this is where, as a reviewer, I let you know what makes me rate your book 5 stars – or not.  This week’s topic: characters.

Please note that some things that turn me off to your book as a reader/reviewer turn others on and vice versa.


Characters

There’s so much I could write about characters, so I picked just a few things.  Characters in books I rate 5 stars are likeable, evolving, and complex.  Characters are the “who” of the story.  We typically think of them as people, but animals, and even objects can be personified and become characters.

  1. You could describe an ant as hardworking and persistent.  You could write a story about how an ant overcame seemingly impossible odds to find food and feed its colony.
  2. You could write a story about a train that wants to take a trip off of the tracks – oh, wait…that’s called The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper.

But there needs to be someone or something that is the center of the story.  Someone that we can connect to as a reader.  Someone that is likeable.  This would be your POV (point of view) character.  The reader needs to be able to “feel” and “care” for the people telling the story.  Would you go to a random person’s wedding or high school graduation?  Do you cry when you read the obituary section in the newspaper?  If you have nothing invested in these people, then no…you don’t care.  The closer you become with the people, the more you are affected by what happens in “their” life.

I love You.  I hate You.  Either way, I care enough to notice you.

Now, don’t confuse “likeable” with good.  Sometimes the villain is more likeable than the hero – like Hannibal Lector vs Will Graham in Red Dragon by Thomas Harris or Megamind vs Metroman (yes, I know…a movie!).  Sometimes the hero is horribly flawed like Sherlock Holmes – socially inept.  Humpert Humpert in Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov – pedophile.  And if you can make both the villain and the hero likeable, that’s even more awesome.

And likeable certainly does not mean perfect.  Think about it.  Would you want your best friend to be rich beyond belief, gorgeous, athletic, brilliant, and extremely lucky?  And why don’t we also make this person have a few supernatural powers and be the Chosen One.  No, I don’t think you want to be friends with Mary Sue.  Besides the obvious jealousy, readers have trouble relating to a character like that.  You have flaws, therefore your characters should have flaws.

And CLUMSY is not a big enough game changer of a flaw to be the only flaw.  Unless…you plan on your character tripping, smacking into the villain and the villain’s extended knife, which is perfectly positioned to plunge into the heat, and the character dies.  If that happens, I can say, “Man, I’d rather be ugly than clumsy.  At least no one ever died from being too ugly.”  Then, and only then will you get full points in the character department with an otherwise completely Mary Sue character.

The Story of Evolution

There are two types of characters:  those that change over the course of the novel (dynamic) and those that stay the same (stagnant).  Most novels have both characters.  The key to having dynamic characters is to make their evolution from the starting person to the end a very believable transition.  The change in the characters need to be proportional to the situation for it to be believable.  You can either have a lot of minor events that contribute to the change or you can have one major event that triggers a change.

Character trait:  Character is a loyal wife.  Then she has an affair.

  • Believable:  Scene after scene we have the wife doing things without her husband.  He spends no time with her and she grows increasingly lonely, until she meets someone to fill the void – a neighbor.
  • Not-believable:  Husband forgot take out trash.  Wife screws her neighbor when she sees him at his trash can next door.

Character trait:  Character used to love spending all her time with animals.  Not anymore.

  • Believable:  Character quits veterinarian job after own pet dies and there was nothing she could do to save Fluffy.  Every animal she sees reminds her of her dead dog and she can’t bear it.
  • Not-believable:  Character quits veterinarian job because ants have invaded her kitchen and THIS MEANS WAR!  Every animal is a potential enemy now.

A thousand faces

Do you act the same way in front of your parents or your boss as you do your friends?  Your lover?  If the answer is yes, then please find the nearest exit and “get a life”.  teenagers especially treat different people differently.  They might be more joking around their friends.  Quieter around someone they like.  And more conservative (both in dress and speech) in front of their parents.  There might be conflicting information for the reader.

Example:  Suzy tells John that she can’t stand Bobby, but Suzy then tells Bobby that she likes hanging around him.

What does this mean?  It means that either Suzy is hiding her true feelings from John about Bobby or Suzy is hiding her true feelings from Bobby about himself.  To one of these guys, Suzy is honest.  To the other guy, Suzy is a liar.  She is still one person, but has conflicting character traits.  She is complex and that’s how I like my characters.

Readers:  What do you think makes a character likeable?

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Booking Through Thursday: Cover Story Part 2

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Booking Through Thursday asks a random question to bloggers each week.  This week’s question:

Are there any good books that you read IN SPITE OF the cover and ended up wondering what on earth the artist and publisher were thinking to pair up a cover that so badly represented a perfectly good book?

And … if you didn’t like the cover, what made you pick up the book? The author? Assigned reading from school? A recommendation from a friend?


I’m going to get blasted for this one, but I did NOT like the Harry Potter book covers.  I thought that they were cartoony and childish.  Despite all of my friends saying how awesome the books were, I waited until book 5 was released before I finally picked up the book.  I loved it.  I’ve read it probably 10 times since then.  I wrote Harry Potter fanfiction.  I played Harry Potter RPGs.  I took hundreds of sorting quizzes online – I’m a Slytherin by the way.

Don’t judge a book by its cover.  Seriously, I was so wrong on this one.

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5 Star Review: Pacing

So what is 5 star review?  Well, this is where, as a reviewer, I let you know what makes me rate your book 5 stars – or not.  This week’s topic: pacing

Please note that some things that turn me off to your book as a reader/reviewer turn others on and vice versa.


Pacing

Since we’re talking about good pacing this week, I promise that I won’t ramble on like I have with these topics before.  I’ve read quite a few books that suffer from a lack of good pacing.  I think one of the biggest amateur author mistakes is including too much non-relevant information.  There has to be a point to every scene.  Worse is when the pacing slows on the “boring” parts of the characters’ stories and speeds up when the “exciting” stuff happens.  It’s frustrating to read four or five pages about Mindy drinking her morning coffee and then two sentences about how she ran over a guy last summer.  Why couldn’t there be five pages about the hit and run instead?  Even as a flashback, it is much more entertaining than reading about someone eating or driving a car or sleeping.

So, what is the pace of a story?  It is how fast the plot advances in the story.  The plot advances much faster in action scenes than in narratives and the writing on the page should reflect this change.  Let’s start by focusing on this post.  The top section of the post is wordy and the text takes up the entire page from left to right.  It will take you, as the reader, double the amount of time to read these two paragraphs than to read the next two “sections”.

How to speed up the pace:

  1. - Shorter sentences
  2. - Less descriptions
  3. - More action
  4. - Back and forth dialogue.

How to slow down the pace:

  1. - Long, complex sentences
  2. - More descriptions
  3. - Minimal action
  4. - Monologues/narrative

Of course, there needs to be a balance.  Too much white on a page is just as tiring as too little.  I like a very fast pace “thriller” feel to the books I read.  In my mind, if the characters aren’t talking or the characters aren’t moving, then it’s not important.  Long narratives lose my interest quickly and so do long monologues, which tend to happen when the author is trying to “info-dump” through dialogue.  Other readers might enjoy the slower sections of the novel to relax their mind and “take a breather” so to speak.

Reader:  Do you like fast paced books, leisurely paced books, or something in between?  Or does it depend on the genre?

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Booking Through Thursday: Cover Story

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Booking Through Thursday asks a random question to bloggers each week.  This week’s question:

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but there’s no question that it can make a difference!  What book(s) have your favorite covers? Something that’s perfect for the story, the tone, the colors, the mood…  And did you pick up the book BECAUSE of the cover? Or were you going to read it anyway, and the cover was just serendipitous?

Well, there’s one book that I did pick up for its cover.  Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson.  I just love the vibrant orange color.  I haven’t finished reading it because my review list keeps getting in the way, but I’m glad that I did pick it up.  Tinkerbell was my favorite Disney character for a few years and its such a delight to read a retelling of Peter Pan from her point of view.

Book Description:  Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair. . . .

Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn’t believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.

Peter is unlike anyone she’s ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland’s inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she’s always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.

With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it’s the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who’s everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Peaches comes a magical and bewitching story of the romance between a fearless heroine and the boy who wouldn’t grow up.

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Book Review: Fire Baptized by Kenya Wright

I originally agreed to review this book back in August and expected to get to it on my TBR list last month.  Had I known how much I would of liked it, I would have read it the instant the author sent it to me.  I suppose that one good thing about waiting is that the sequel The Burning Bush released September 28th, so I don’t have to wait long before finding out what happens next with Lenore.  You can check out more information on Burning Bush (Habitat #2) on Goodreads.  I haven’t had much luck with Urban Fantasy books, but Fire Baptized changed my mind about removing that genre from the list of books I review.  Check out my review below and then make sure you pick up your own copy.

And dare I say this….I’ve had amazing luck with books this week.  I think I’ve loved every single one of them!


Fire Baptized (Habitat #1) by Kenya Wright

Publisher:  Dragonfairy Publishing

Genre: Urban Fantasy

You can buy it on ebook or paperback Amazon or Barnes & Noble.  More reviews available on Goodreads.

Review:

Overview:  I was seriously done with urban fantasy and paranormal romance.  I’ve began to feel like it’s the same old characters with the same old problems and they all end the same.  Urban fantasy in particular has disappointed me lately and I admit that it took me much longer than it should have to finally read this book.  After reading the first chapter of Fire Baptized, I KNEW that this was special and different.  First off, this main character is not a detective or in law enforcement.  Secondly, Lenore is not your average female.  Thirdly, this book is much darker and more disturbing than most urban fantasies.  This book never scared me but there were several disturbing and gory scenes that gave it a horror feel at times.  Fourthly (is that a word?), Lenore is part of the underclass and the segregation and class differences/lack of rights is really compelling.

Characters:  There is a love triangle, but this is no love triangle you’ve ever read before.  Lanore has two male companions who both want to be with her.  She refuses to be exclusive and instead chapter by chapter she alternates between the two men becoming more and more involved with each one.  This drives MeShack and Zulu crazy with jealousy, but they only pursue her further.  In other words, Lanore is a playa.  This role, usually reserved for males, makes for a very entertaining read.  I couldn’t guess which one she wanted and I’m guessing that she would have been happy with both – had the guys agreed.  There are some awesome lines in this book:

“I don’t need your protection.”  I extended my hand to the side, pushed a large fireball out of my palm, and said, “Wow, look at that.  Isn’t that amazing? I did it all by myself. I can dress myself and wipe my own ass, too.”  - Lenore to Zulu.

Plot:  The book begins with Lanore witnessing a murder and the murderer knows.  Lanore notifies the police but she’s unsatisfied with being idle and searching for the identity of the murderer on her own.  Be careful which characters you get attached to in Fire Baptized, but the murderer is not satisfied with killing only one person.I appreciated the details the author made to make this fantasy world seem authentic.  There were several references to historical events that she put an urban fantasy spin.  Like, the black panthers were actually black panther shapeshifters.

Ending:  The mystery of who the killer is (and who Lenore will be with) is solved, but Lenore (and the reader) gets a glimpse of something at the end, which will change everything she thought she knew.  It’s a decent end to this part of her life, but I’m so thrilled that the next book is already released so that I don’t have to wait too long before finding out what happens in her life next.

Book Description:

Since the 1970s humans have forced supernaturals to live in caged cities. Silver brands embedded in their foreheads identify them by species: a full moon for Vampires, a crescent moon for Shifters, a pair of wings for Fairies, and the list goes on, for each supernatural species has been tagged and categorized by humans.

Lanore Vesta is marked with a silver X, the brand of Mixbreeds, second-class citizens shunned by society. She stays to herself, revealing her ability to create fire only during emergencies. All she wants to do is graduate college and stop having to steal to survive. But when she stumbles upon a murder in progress, she catches the attention of a supernatural killer. Now all she wants is to stop finding dead bodies in her apartment.

Enlisting help from her Were-cheetah ex-boyfriend MeShack and a new mysterious friend named Zulu, she is steered through the habitat’s raunchy nightlife. But their presence sometimes proves to be more burden than help, as they fight for her attention.

While the corpses pile up, and the scent of blood fills the air, Lanore is left wondering: will she find the psycho or die trying?

Rating:  A

An urban fantasy containing a love triangle with almost too much love.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

Kenya Wright always knew she would be famous since the ripe old age of six when she sung the Michael Jackson thriller song in her bathroom mirror. She has tried her hand at many things from enlisting in the Navy for six years as a Persian-Farsi linguist to being a nude model at an art university.

However, writing has been the only constant love in her life.

So here we are Kenya is publishing her first book, Fire Baptized, the urban fantasy novel she always wanted to read. This novel is the first book in a series.

Will she succeed? Of course.

For she has been coined The Urban Fantasy Queen, the Super Iconic Writer of this Age, The Lyrical Genius of Our Generation. Granted, these are all terms coined by her, within the private walls of her bathroom as she still sings the Michael Jackson thriller song.

Kenya Wright currently resides in Miami with her three amazing, overactive children, a supportive, gorgeous husband, and three cool black cats that refuse to stop sleeping on Kenya’s head at night.


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