If You Don’t Read, Tell Me Why…Please

No, I don’t have an agent or a job yet, but I’m still actively writing and looking. I’ve still been reading too—two books, in fact—but can’t really recommend either one. Let me  tell you a little bit about Glimmer by Phoebe Kitanidis and Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, because I think they’d both be worth reading for the right audiences, and then give a pre-announcement of sorts.

Glimmer

From Goodreads:

When Marshall King and Elyse Alton suddenly wake up tangled in each other’s arms with zero memory of how they got there or even who they are, it’s the start of a long journey through their separate pasts and shared future.

Terrified by their amnesia, Marshall and Elyse make a pact to work together to find the answers that could restore their missing memories. As they piece together clues about their lives, they discover that they’re in the idyllic mountain resort town of Summer Falls. Everyone seems happy there, but as Marshall and Elyse quickly learn, darkness lurks beneath the town’s perfect facade. Not only is the town haunted by sinister ghosts, but none of its living inhabitants retain bad memories of anything—not the death of Marshall’s mom, not the hidden violence in Elyse’s family, not even the day-to-day anguish of being a high schooler.

Lonely in this world of happy zombies, Marshall and Elyse fall into an intense relationship founded on their mutual quest for truth. But the secrets they’re trying to uncover could be the death of this budding love affair—and of everyone, and everything, they love in Summer Falls.

It’s well-written, but because Marshall and Elyse are amnesiatic, their lives are somewhat discombobulated and fragmentary, which makes it a little hard to follow and harder still to connect with them. I feel like I’m going to have to read this one at least one more time to fully understand it, but it may turn out to be much better on the second reading.

It is $3.99 on Amazon right now, for Kindle. It’s very much worth it, especially at that price, despite my perspective.

 

Life As We Knew It

From Audible, which is where I bought it:

Miranda’s disbelief turns to fear in a split second when a meteor knocks the Moon closer to the Earth. How should her family prepare for the future when worldwide tsunamis wipe out the coasts, earthquakes rock the continents, and volcanic ash blocks out the sun? As summer turns to Arctic winter, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother retreat to the unexpected safe haven of their sunroom, where they subsist on stockpiled food and limited water in the warmth of a wood-burning stove. Told in journal entries, this is the heart-pounding story of Miranda’s struggle to hold on to the most important resource of all, hope, in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar world.

It’s a story about the end of the world, told from a teenager’s perspective. As a writer, I’d say the author did a really good job with the voice of the book; it very much sounds like a teenager telling the story. As a reader, though, I think she did a little too good of a job. Her bubble-gum-popping tone and focus on things like dates and friends made me feel like the real plot was passing me by unnoticed by Miranda. Indeed, there didn’t seem to be much of a plot other than day after day of she and her family surviving the slow destruction of Earth. To tell the truth, I can’t finish this one, even though I’m more than halfway through. Very little has actually happened.

Life As We Knew It is only $6.19 on Amazon right now, which is a pretty good price too:

Announcement?

Preparatory to an announcement of some additions that I hope to be making to HeadOverBooks in the next few weeks, I’m doing some research. Would you mind completing this very short, three-question survey if you read 10 or fewer books a year, or even sharing it with your followers and friends online? I watched this dispiriting Jimmy Kimmel clip the other day, about how little people actually read, and want to understand why.

Don’t worry: I’m not doing this survey so I can try to convince more people to read; I just want to understand where they’re coming from so that I can plan changes to my website that will meet people’s needs. Hint: those changes might involve video games and movies. What do you think?

Book Review: Defy the Stars, a Roller Coaster Ride of a Read

Defy the Stars is one of those books that makes your head spin as your brain strives to process all the images being thrown at it. It’s classic space opera, with lots of space travel and planet hopping.

So What is it About?

It follows the stories of two main point-of-view characters: Noemi, a young female soldier from a far-away Milky Way planet called Genesis, and Abel, an artificially-intelligent android that she finds. Noemi, in an effort to save a friend who had been gravely injured in a space battle against their heavy-handed oppressors from Earth, boards what she thinks is an abandoned space ship looking for first aid supplies, but finds Abel and loses her friend. Her goal becomes to free her peaceful planet from Earth’s tight grip at all costs, and Abel’s goal, because he’s an android, helps her in that quest, even though it becomes apparent that, if they succeed, it will mean his own destruction, since his creator, someone he thinks of as his father, is a leading Earth scientist committed to the cause of Earth’s supremacy throughout the galaxy. 

The thing that I thought was most interesting about this book, other than the premise, the main characters, and the cool images of other planets, was the fact that Noemi’s whole motivation, and thus most of the book, is based on her desire to save a planet that we, as readers, are told relatively little about. While the space travel is definitely cool, and the relationship that develops between Noemi and Abel is heart-warming, one would think that one would need to see the planet more to understand her desire to go through all that she goes through to try and save it.

The focus, in fact, is very much the development of that relationship, as this is a YA sci-fi book. It’s a good read just for that. It’s also really fast-paced, which, as you know, I love. I would’ve liked to see a little bit more of Genesis, perhaps in her flashbacks, so that I could’ve understood Noemi’s motivations. In some ways, I understood and sympathized Abel better than I did Noemi, due to his frequent memories of his “father,” and his drive to return to him.

Visuals, Anyone?

via GIPHY

 Who Would Like Defy The Stars, And Why?

If you like anything by Beth Revis, particularly the Across the Universe series, you’ll like this.  If you liked Claudia Gray’s Thousand Pieces of You series, with its breakneck pacing, you’ll like Defy the Stars.  Obviously, if you like anything Star Trek, you’ll like this. If you like action, tough female characters, or romance, you’ll like this book.

 

Book Review: Love and Luck, A Supremely Enjoyable Read

What makes a book “supremely enjoyable” to read, as opposed to “spellbinding,” “rich,” or “charming?” For me, it has to be a mix of good writing, clever lines, fun characters, strong relationship building, and most importantly, heart. Jenna Evans Welch’s latest book Love and Luck is such a supremely enjoyable read because it has all of those things. To wit:

Good Writing

It takes a very steady writer’s hand to dole out details of a relationship, world, or situation fast enough to keep the interest of readers with short attention spans but not so fast that a story becomes predictable one-third of the way in. At the core of Love and Luck is the relationship between the main character, Addie, and her brother Ian, right after she goes through a really rough break-up with her boyfriend, and during a family trip to the Emerald Isle. They’re there for her aunt’s destination wedding, but Ian keeps bringing up the break-up, which gets him into all kinds of trouble with Addie. Then, she’s more-or-less forced into a whirlwind road trip with him and his Irish buddy Rowan. Addie finds a guidebook entitled “Ireland for the Heartbroken: An Unconventional Guide to the Emerald Isle” at their hotel, and uses that as her survival mechanism, but finds that she doesn’t need to rely on it so much as she needs to learn how to trust Ian, own her mistakes, and rely on her friends and family. Welch peels back the layers of Addie and Ian’s relationship bit-by-bit, through revelations of details about her relationship with Cubby, then wraps it back up again using the chaotic stitchwork of their shared roadtrip experience and previous history. It’s endearing and heart-warming, that’s what it is.

Clever Lines

Some examples:

(in a conversation with Ian and Addie’s older brother, Walt, and their mother):

Walt leaned forward, shaking himself free of me also. “Mom, please stop swearing. You’re awful at it.”

“You can’t be awful at swearing,” she said shakily.

“You have single-handedly disproven that theory,” Walt argued. “There’s a science to it; some words go together. You can’t just throw them all out at once.”

“I’m going to throw you all out at once,” Mom said.”

Or this:

(as Addie’s getting into Rowan’s tiny car and beginning this forced road trip):

I rushed over, eager to keep up the goodwill, but when I looked inside [the car], the glow that Ian’s smile had created instantly faded away. He had somehow managed to stack Rowan’s items into a teetering pile that almost touched the ceiling. The only actual space was behind Ian’s seat, and it was just the right size for three malnourished squirrels and a hedgehog. If they all sucked in.

Fun Characters

credit: Jenna Evans Welch. All rights reserved.

Addie is a high-schooler in the swamp of murky self-identity, yet her narrative isn’t angsty or depressing. In fact, it’s anything but. Through her interactions with Rowan, who becomes a co-commiserator in the Land of Heartbreak, she is revealed (to herself and others) as a kind, impulsive, dedicated, angry, helpful Person. Through her interactions with her brother Ian, which could have shown her to be nothing but selfish and mean-spirited, she is shown to crave harmony. In the end, her biggest problem is her ability to own her past mistakes, which is a very relatable character flaw. Somewhat whimsically, she follows the advise of the writer of “Ireland for the Heartbroken,” making paper airplanes out of losses and standing in the waters of Inch Beach until her legs are numb. It’s a joy to follow her journey.

Strong Relationship Building

All books, when it comes right down to it, are about relationships (all good books anyway), no matter the genre. To take a relationship–a sibling relationship no less–from a knock-down fist fight to a hug, realistically, is no small feat, but as I said before, it’s done in this book.

Heart

“What is heart?” you say. It’s that indefinable quality of (good writing + fun characters + strong relationship building) + emotion. The emotion has to be deep and woven throughout, not dramatically expressed in fits and spurts like a bas relief sculpture, just for show. It’s interesting to me that at the launch for this book, which I attended at Kings’ English in Salt Lake City, Utah, Jenna stated that this book came out of one of the toughest years of her life. It doesn’t feel like it; it’s too light-hearted for that. Or rather, maybe because of that, between the clever quips and mad dashes, the heart of this book reaches a very universal core:  who we are as human beings and whether we’re sufficient by ourselves or need others.

Who Would Like Love & Luck?

If you liked Love and Gelato, it’s loosely-related predecessor which I reviewed here, you’ll like this book. If you’re going to the beach and want a light read, you’ll like this book, although there’s not much romance per se. If you want a book for your teenage girl to read, one that has no sex and very little language, you’ll like this book.

My sister Heather, who is Jenna’s friend.

 

Book Review: The Lie Tree, A Spellbinding Read

You know those books that you can’t stop reading? You get so immersed in them that you read them for hours at a time, like you were watching a movie, and when you’re done, you feel…a little empty. Not only do I enjoy those kinds of books, but I take copious notes as to exactly how they achieve it. It’s one thing to feel it, it’s another to understand why.  The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge was one such book for me, but honestly, I’m still not sure if I fully understand why it moved me so much. Let me tell you about it, and see what you think.

What Is The Lie Tree About?

Here’s the description from the back cover:

Faith Sunderly leads a double life. To most people, she is modest and well mannered–a proper young lady who knows her place. But inside, Faith is burning with questions and curiosity. She keeps sharp watch of her surroundings and, therefore, knows secrets no one suspects her of knowing–like the real reason her family fled Kent to the close-knit island of Vane. And that her father’s death was no accident.

In pursuit of revenge and justice for the father she idolizes, Faith hunts through his possessions, where she discovers a strange tree. A tree that bears fruit only when she whispers a lie to it. The fruit, in turn, delivers a hidden truth. The tree might hold the key to her father’s murder. Or, it might lure the murderer directly to Faith herself, for lies–like fires, wild and crackling–quickly take on a life of their own.

Faith, in her pursuit of an outlet for her cleverness and answers to the questions posed by her father’s murder, nurtures the tree and ingests the fruit, but the things she discovers aren’t the things she thought she would.

What Makes It Great?

So picture a brambly English moor, like the one in Wuthering Heights, and a turbulent coast that hides lots of caves, like the kind in Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince, Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper (another great book I need to review here), or Willowkeep by Julie Daines. It’s moody and creepily magic. So a mystical setting is one thing that sets this books apart, but it’s not all.

And the prose is strong, as in this paragraph:

She was very aware of herself, of her own lungs filling and emptying. She could feel where the china saucer dented her fingers, and the shapes of her teeth against her dry tongue. Something warm was spilling from her eyes down her cheeks. Suddenly she was hotly, unbearably alive.

The whole book is like that, a great example to me as a writer of “showing” and not “telling.” But it’s more than the setting and the prose.

Its underlying theme of seeking respect, particularly women seeking respect from men who aren’t willing to give it, is one that was artfully woven into the plot and is relevant today. It’s Faith unwittingly seeking an answer, through the process of trying to solve her father’s murder, to the question of whether one should seek to demand respect from those who withhold it, or not worry about what anyone else thinks, even if that limits your circumstances. I think that’s a question all of us have sought the answer to at one time or another. So, it’s the setting and the prose and the theme.

But that’s still not sufficient. What makes The Lie Tree extraordinary is something that I’m not sure can be adequately articulated by anyone, and that is how it makes one feel. The reader wants Faith to get the notice she desires from her father before he dies, to have people recognize her intellect and help her nurture it, and to solve the mystery surrounding her father’s death. She’s a good, well-drawn robust character.

So, Who Would Like The Lie Tree, And Why?

There’s no romance, so if you like romance in your books, don’t read this. If you like mysteries like Shatter, you’ll like this. If you liked any book in the Harry Potter series, you’ll like The Lie Tree. It’s also a little like Colorless by Rita Stradling. It’s just a really good book!

 

Book Review: Anubis Gates

If you like complicated time-travel fantasy books, then I have a book recommendation for you: The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers. Its premise is that time travel is possible if one knows where certain “gaps” in the flow of time are. It was a difficult read for me, but those that enjoy adult sci-fi of the time travel variety might enjoy this.

What Is Anubis Gates About?

From GoodReads:

Brendan Doyle, a specialist in the work of the early-nineteenth century poet William Ashbless, reluctantly accepts an invitation from a millionaire to act as a guide to time-travelling tourists. But while attending a lecture given by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1810, he becomes marooned in Regency London, where dark and dangerous forces know about the gates in time. Caught up in the intrigue between rival bands of beggars, pursued by Egyptian sorcerers, befriended by Coleridge, Doyle somehow survives, and learns more about the mysterious Ashbless than he could ever have imagined possible.

Why Would a Reader Like or Dislike This Book?

While I think this premise had great potential, I didn’t think this book fulfilled it in the way I would like to have seen. Once Doyle gets stuck back in 1800’s England, the plot becomes really convoluted. He goes from one life-threatening situation to another, and then even from one body to another, with little or no time spent by the author on emotional development or plot building.

Most really good books, even adult sci-fi ones, are those that have main characters that grow, that start out as something, go through a bunch of challenges, and end up as wiser, more mature versions of themselves. Doyle starts out as a likable character, and does indeed go through a bunch of challenges, but ends up living out Ashbless’s life, which the reader doesn’t care about, by virtue of the fact that the story’s supposed to be about Doyle.

So, if you like hard sci-fi, time travel books, books containing werewolves, you might like this book. If you don’t, don’t read it.

Book Review: Quiet As A Church Mouse, an Imaginative Picture Book

Looking at a children’s book from the perspective of my children is always a tricky thing because their reading tastes continually change as they get older. What appealed to my oldest, who is now a teenager, when he was quite young, is not the same thing that has ever appealed to my youngest, who is now nine. Yet, I believe I’ve read enough of them (hundreds) by now, with them, that I can say that not all picture books are created equal. For one to be good, it needs to provoke the imagination, both with text and illustrations, engage as many senses as possible, and basically, just be fun. If it provokes thought, that’s a bonus. I Can Be Quiet As A Church Mouse, written by Stephen Bevan and illustrated by Jeff Harvey, is a picture book that does pretty good on both counts.

What Is Quiet As A Church Mouse About?

“I used to have trouble sitting reverently,” reads the first page of the book, “so my mom said I should be as quiet as a church mouse.” The rest of the twenty-seven pages of this book strive to answer the question in terms of what young Stephen Bevan imagined a church mouse to be. “Is it a spy?” he asks on one page. “Is it sneaky?” he asks on another. Each illustration depicts a mouse in the various scenarios he imagines, and they really are cute illustrations that are just detailed enough to draw in a 3 – 6 year-old child without overwhelming him or her. The question itself is a good one to provoke imagination in a child, since no one actually seems to know what a church mouse really is.

If there were one thing that might confuse a child, it is that the author refers to himself as “I” at the beginning. The fact that it’s the author speaking, as opposed to the main character of the book, a red-headed little boy, isn’t clear. As an adult, and someone who’s conversed with the author via email, I understand that, but a child might not.

Who Would Like Quiet As A Church Mouse?

Anyone, no matter the Christian denomination, who has kids who are toddler age on up to about 6 or 7.

Do You Want to Win a Copy of Quiet As A Church Mouse?

I’ve got an extra copy I’ll give away to a random entrant who uses the Rafflecopter form below and completes the steps:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And, if you’d like a “behind-the-scenes” look at the book and Stephen’s writerly process, subscribe to my newsletter!

Disclosure: I received a free copy of the book from the publisher, Cedar Fort, in exchange for my honest opinion.

Book Review: Memory of Fire, a Rich Read

I found myself jumping back and forth between four books this past week: Memory of Fire by Callie Bates (speculative), Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer (YA sci-fi/apocalyptic), Torment by Lauren Kate (paranormal?) , and Glimmer by Phoebe Kitanidis (sci-fi/paranormal?).  Let me tell you about Memory.

What Memory of Fire is About And Who Would Like It

Memory is the sequel to The Waking Land, which I reviewed here. Like that book, it is a rousing story of magic versus evil, told in vivid first-person. It is rich in storylines, thick in ambience, and strong in style. It’s the story of Jahan Korakides, who is called to broker peace with the nation of Paladis after he helps his girlfriend, Elanna Valtai, win peace over the despotic ruler of the smaller kingdoms of Eren and Caeris. Elanna and Jahan are both sorcerers, though Elanna’s magic is a much more powerful, land-based power.

As Jahan seeks that peace with the monarchs of Paladis, the story also becomes very much one of him striving to overcome the damage and trauma done to him when he was young by a woman hired by his father to grow his magical powers, and find his brothers, who were also hurt by her. The monarchs of Paladis want to eliminate sorcery altogether, and don’t know that Jahan is a sorcerer and tied so closely to Elanna. The citizens of Paladis want Jahan to lead a rebellion that would have sorcerers holding just as much political power, if not more, than non-sorcerers. He just wants to heal, find his brothers, and get to safety, but quickly finds his way blocked and a different course laid out for him.

If I were to depict it in a video, as I’m wont to do, it would be this one:

 

..only perhaps sped up a little bit and with multi-colored threads as opposed to only white ones. The finished product is intricately-woven, moves at breakneck speed, and satisfies not only those readers looking for fantasy, but also those looking for high political intrigue, romance, and deft world-building.

Nutrition Facts, Anyone?

There are a few swear words and one or two allusions to sex. There are many references to the importance of family ties, no matter how difficult they can be to maintain. There is mention of a gay relationship, handled in a very gentle way. A good amount of violence.

Anything Wrong?

If I gave Memory of Fire anything less than a full 10 stars on my 10-star scale, I’d have to dock all books with the trope of a power-hungry antagonist (or two), and there are too many of those to count. I’ve read so many books lately where the antagonist is a flat character only motivated purely by a lust for power. What does it say about me that I want a little more dimension in the antagonists I read about?

 

Disclosure: I received a free ARC of Memory of Fire from NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review of the book.

The Thorn Necklace: A Book and a Writing Journey

“Frida Kahlo had polio as a child,” said Francesca Lia Block in her book The Thorn Necklace, referring to the painter, “survived a horrific accident at eighteen that shattered her body and pierced her pelvis with an iron hand rail, and suffered through a number of resulting miscarriages. To add insult to injury, her husband…had an affair with her younger sister. But Frida produced hundreds of works of art…that elevate unbearable grief to shocking beauty. Some artists survive their pain, some do not. But all channel it into art.”

It is that channeling that Block refers to as the thorn necklace for which she names her book. Kahlo herself said: “my painting carries with it the message of pain,” and that pain is definitely evident in her painting Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, which you can see here. To be an artist, to a certain extent, is to take the pain that life gives you and channel it into something beautiful, to show that something good can come from something bad.  I believe it’s also to don a painful mantle as well. In the painting, Kahlo wears a necklace made of thorns. It pricks her skin and makes her bleed. To produce true beauty–no matter the artistic form–one has to undergo a certain amount of “pain” at worst, or challenge at least. To create whole worlds from nothing, in the case of science fiction and fantasy literature, and structure them into cohesive and compelling plots populated with characters that feel real is no small task.

Block’s book is a memoir of sorts, describing the challenging life path she’s traversed and couching that in her thoughts on writing. “A way to help a reader to identify with a protagonist,” she says, “(and thereby gain more life-enhancing insight from the story) is to the show that character’s…flaws. Flaws…get a character into trouble, which satisfies the reader’s need for story.” She provides this before describing the flaws of some well-known book characters as well as some of her own flaws and those of her parents. That reminiscing passage, as well as many others woven throughout the book, is somewhat rambling. She calls it “excess exposition in memoir” which “comes from being engulfed in a tidal wave of vague memories that haven’t solidified into scenes yet, and, in turn, [results in] a passive character…who feels and thinks but doesn’t do much.” She sums up her book quite succinctly.

But  there are undeniable nuggets of wisdom interspersed among the rambling, excessive parts, nuggets that could be very useful for a writer, such as:

  • When you claim your creativity, when you say, “I am a writer,” it becomes a vital part of your identity. You’re not only braver on the page, you’re also braver in the rest of your life because you’re a change agent, a builder of new worlds.
  • When we write from our deepest longings, our stories have broader appeal.
  • In order to get in touch with your obsessions [and thus flavor your character’s], try making a list of anything that fascinates you. Be as specific and detailed as possible.
  • One of the biggest mistakes writers make is not having a clear story problem from the beginning (or sometimes at all).
  • [The antagonist] must be complex and dimensional, not a mustache-twirling caricature.
  • Setting should reflect character.
  • [Voice]…is one of the most difficult aspects of writing for many people and can take years of hard work to hone. But don’t give up! Once you have your voice, the rest is much easier. To develop your voice, read widely, write consistently, and live fully. A strong writing voice can connect us to others, and more deeply to ourselves.

Some of these nuggets I’ve heard before in other writing books and at writing conferences, so they weren’t necessarily unique, but the way they were phrased helped me see better how I could apply them in my writing life.

So, The Thorn Necklace, while rambling and repetitive, was also helpful and encouraging. I would recommend it to my writer friends.

 

Where I’ve Been: Futurescapes

Oh, it’s been a busy week! You guys, it was awesome! I just got back from Futurescapes, which is an awesome, intense workshop for science fiction and fantasy writers. Hosted at the Sundance Ski Resort in Utah’s Provo Canyon, it was three days of meeting in small groups with agents, publishing house editors, and published authors to get their critiques (and those of other group members) of a couple of my manuscripts. Since attendance at the conference was capped at about 60 to allow for close attention by the agents, editors, and authors, I had to submit a writing sample. And, once accepted, I had to pay a relatively large sum to go, but it was so worth it.

I was assigned to three separate groups of about eight people each, each group led by a different literary agent. My first group (go Group A!) was led by Seth Fishman, an agent with the Gernert Company. The members of that group reviewed the first ten pages of my book Stranger in My Own Head. While I had already had those pages (and more) critiqued and beta-read, and I’ve queried (i.e., sent a cover letter about and the first few pages of one of my books) and revised that book several times, I still haven’t received an offer of representation for it, and the feedback the group, and especially Seth, provided was invaluable. Until I send that manuscript out for critique and no one finds anything wrong with it, I’ll keep working on it until it gets published.

Seth’s the one in the gray sweater in the back.

 

Seth being crazy.

My group B, led by Thao Le, an agent with Sandra Dijkstra, reviewed my query letter for Stranger, and my group C, led by Martha Millard with Sterling Lord Literistic, critiqued my Stranger synopsis. All of those agents specialize in science fiction or fantasy, and a couple of them specifically requested that I query  them, which is very exciting. The food was great, although the food served at the reception Tuesday night was…interesting (see below).

On Tuesday afternoon, I had to go down into the valley to get a signal to call and see how everything was going at home, so I went to the Orem Public Library, where I happened to find a few very well-priced books in their used books section. I’d also gotten a couple of books in the mail that day too. Look at this book haul!

 

The setting was beautiful, and the help and the camraderie were amazing. I have a long list of things to do to improve Stranger, and I’m excited to do that. Not only that, but my Highland critique group is looking at one of my other manuscripts, so I’ll need to make those revisions soon too. And I’m in charge of a Utah Valley Writers meeting tonight at which Shadow Mountain Publishing editor Lisa Mangum is going to speak. And I’ve been asked to join another critique group. Ah, the life of a writer. Now, wouldn’t it be awesome if I were making money doing all of this?

 

Book Review: Fallen is a Mesmerizing Read

A couple of weeks ago, I was watching my husband flick through Amazon Video options when he came across a movie called Fallen.  Its premise—that a teenage girl has to go to reform school because she was blamed for (and is sure she accidentally caused) the death of a young boy,  and she finds herself drawn to a fellow student at that school, unaware that he is an angel who has loved her for thousands of years—sounded intriguing to me. Since my hubby deemed it too “chick flick” to watch, I looked it up and found that it was based on a book of the same name. So, of course, I bought the book. It was indeed a “chick” book, centered as it was upon the relationship between Luce, the girl, and Daniel, the boy, and for that reason, as well as reasons of its own, it was a very enjoyable read.

What Fallen Is About

As mentioned, it’s about Luce (pronounced like “loose”) meeting Daniel and trying to figure out why he steadfastly avoids her and is even occasionally mean to her, though she keeps finding herself in weirdly dangerous circumstances from which he has to save her. It’s about the friends she makes while there, the terror she lives with every day because of her fear that whatever she saw kill that other young boy will come back, and the fact that memories of Daniel–many memories–keep surfacing in Luce’s head.

Why Fallen Is Enjoyable…Maybe Even Addictive

After reading the book, I had to get the movie, which was only available for purchase through Amazon Video (it’s not on Netflix or Redbox). I was struck, while watching it, with how much it resembled the first Twilight movie. They shared similar themes: a teenage girl inexplicably but powerfully drawn to a very handsome teenage boy, but he does everything he can to avoid her, even though he’s drawn even more powerfully to her. The Fallen movie and the first Twilight movie also shared a similar “indie” feel, drawn from rainy surroundings, non-mainstream music, and creative-and-definitely-not-high-budget special effects. There’s also a definite love triangle going on.

The books are thus easily comparable, and in that vein, there’s much less internal dialogue in Fallen than there was in Twilight. Luce is an intriguing main character who has a refreshingly good relationship with her parents, though they don’t feature prominently in this book. She’s kind, cute, and smart.

And while Fallen doesn’t end with a cliffhanger per se, it does end with at least as many open questions as answered ones. I immediately ordered the sequel to it, and the sequel to that, and expect that I’ll get the last two books in the pentalogy after that.

Who Might Like Fallen

Obviously, anyone who liked Twilight will like this book. If you like star-crossed love stories, you will love this story. If you like books with a bit of a gothic feel, you’ll like this.