Kiss that Writer's Block Goodbye

Let's get real. I've been dealing with some serious writer's block. And this block has lasted like ages. Like. Months and months of block.

Now you may be saying to yourself - "Well, Jessica, that sounds like laziness to me. Not exactly writer's block." You may be right. I will acknowledge that I've been in crazy town for a while with moving to a new state and getting a new job and all that life crap that sucks every ounce of creativity from your veins. Regardless - there hasn't been inspiration or motivation to carve out time for myself.

But this week, it's like something clicked. I finally got my shit together and my inspiration came flying back at me. I'm so psyched, it's ridiculous. I am like:

I mean seriously. If I had hair that long, I would literally go outside and swing around the trees.

So that's me. Updating you on what's going on in my corner of the world.

I also discovered this nifty thing that some writers use - a hashtag #1k1hr where you link up with other writers and sit down to write as many words as you can (shooting for 1000) in one hour. Talk about motivation! Those kids are crazy, and it's pretty motivational when you feel like you're about ready to fall asleep and somebody challenges yo to write more. I never could say no to a direct challenge.

So tonight I'm going home and pumping out a little more on my book and I'm going to kick that little puppy's ass. I've been living with these characters in my head for the past year and plotting it at least that long... it's about time to get them down on the page.
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by Veronica Roth

Cover Beauty Score: 5 out of 10
Goodreads Score: 3 out of 5

Plot Blurb: Picking up where book 2 left off (Divergent - read that review here), it continues the story of Tris Prior and the dystopian post-apocalyptic version of Chicago. Following the events of the previous novel, a war now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. While trying to save the people that she loves, including Four and her brother Caleb, Tris faces some of the toughest trials yet. She and Four make their way through the factions, trying to figure out what plan is behind the Erudite betrayal.

My Reaction: So I read this book a while ago - and I ultimately put the book down about 3/4 the way through it. After watching the movie that came out last year and falling in love with that version, it made me want to pick it up again to prep for the new movie. Perhaps I had been smoking a crazy pipe and just had an off week when I attempted it the first time.

What was my reaction the second time around? Meh. I realized why I stopped reading last time.

After Divergent established Tris so well as a stronger character, I found it hard to swallow that she was so wishy washy in this one. I found myself rolling my eyes at her whining. I mean... the girl really whines in this one. I get that killing one of your best friends' is a bitch, but seriously? Can we lay off the depression and self flagellation? It's degrading and not how I want to see my heroine behave. I mean... she essentially hates herself so much in this one that she willingly steps up to the execution block. She is crazy selfish - talking all the time about wanting to die so she can be free and be with her parents. After establishing this, quite honestly, real and bare relationship with Four, she goes and does something that would hurt him irrevocably. She totally deserved to see him tortured. Ugh - I'm getting preachy.

And then as I began to get weary of Tris' behavior, the writing style started to grate on my nerves. I realized that I really don't find Roth's attempts at sarcasm to be funny. They just feel like she's trying too hard - it's not a real humor that translates. If anything, it makes the characters all seem like total a-holes for being snarky. The bit where she mocks Jeanine to her face in the testing facility? It was gag worthy.

Ultimately I felt like Tris made things too complicated just for the sake of complicating things. She sees herself as this crazy important person that needs to make decisions for other people to "save" them when all she's really doing is fucking shit up irrevocably. She even admits to trying to "emulate [her parents'] self sacrifice" which is completely horrible - she doesn't do anything for real reasons. For me, at least, Tris became this fake person in this book. Even more unbelievable than I found her in Divergent.

And honestly, unless the writing is fabulous, if the writer loses me with the main character then I'm pretty much not going to invest myself in another book. Maybe with Allegiant I'll take the Cliff Notes version. I can only hope that for the movie Insurgent, Shailene will light up the screen and make me love Tris the way she did with the first movie. Sometimes there is something to be said for the movie version.
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Throne of Glass

by Sarah J. Maas

Cover Beauty Score: 4 out of 10
Goodreads Score: 3 out of 5

Plot Blurb: In a fantasy realm where magic has been outlawed and a powerful king has begun taking over all of the lands (killing all magical things in his wake), Celaena Sardothian is an orphan who was raised by the king of assassins - and she has become the most feared and dangerous assassin in the land by the age of 18. Having been betrayed, she landed in a death camp and is only brought out when the Crowned Prince chooses her as his fighter for his father's tournament. If she wins, Celaena will gain her freedom after working for the King for a few years. But things at the castle are a bit darker than she planned, and magic is closer to the capitol than anyone thinks.

My Reaction: This book started out so fabulous! I was crazy excited about it - I swear it was the first time I felt that an author really was able to do a love triangle well. I could feel chemistry with both of Celaena's love interests and it wasn't sappy or overdone. I liked Celaena because she had bigger things on her mind than screwing with two hot dudes. The story moved along nicely, and it seemed like Celaena was a pretty badass chick.

The writing is done very well - props to Maas for being able to write some decent prose. Not once did I find myself shaking my head over crappy imagery or the overuse of phrases. It was great writing for a high concept fantasy, with lovely bits of description like this:

A glass chandelier shaped like a grapevine occupied most of the ceiling, spitting seeds of diamond fire onto the windows along the far side of the room.

Throne of Glass was full of little trinkets like this - the world building was very elegantly done and we have a glimpse of this land pretty easily from the get go.

So where did it go wrong for me? I'm not quite sure I can put my finger on it. Perhaps it's when I found out Celaena wasn't really as badass as she appeared in the opening scene. She falls a little flat towards the middle of the book and the entire plot just kind of fizzles out. There's not enough intrigue and it feels like Maas attempts to make up for this by forcing the love triangle down our throats. The action grinds to a halt as Celaena gets into court drama - she seems more concerned about the ornate design of her dresses than she does with training for her freedom. Sure, she gets up in the morning and does some burpees and fancy pull ups, but it seems to me that a real warrior would be a little more concerned about being the best. She wouldn't have the free time to make out with the prince all night.

And where in the hell did the whole "I play the piano like a trained master" thing come from? It was in the book for like two seconds and felt like an immature writer's attempt to add in characterization. It didn't feel sincere at all and reduced the impact of the character tremendously. Expert assassins do not have time to learn piano (in the same way they don't have time for playing with dogs) - unless they want to fail and get their skulls crushed in a duel by crazy mofos three times their size.

I just think that this book was obviously written with the series arc in mind and in that respect Maas didn't give this story the attention it deserved. The duel in the end wasn't enough of a climax - it was more of an afterthought. And Celaena didn't even get to pull of the kill shot! Wtf... that was a super let down and something that she should probably be pissed about.

And can I talk for a second about how Chaol is a 20-something Captain of the army that has supposedly taken over the world and he has yet to make a kill? His emo reaction at the end of the book really just left a bad taste in my mouth. It didn't seem true to his character at all, and he came off sounding like a whiny 16 year old rather than a rough and tough Captain that has seen his share of battles. I mean, I get the Prince being a whiny teen, but Chaol? I thought he was better than that.

Just because you write a strong female heroine does NOT mean that you need to write her love interests weak. In fact, it should be the opposite! Strength calls to strength, and that's what I thought I was reading when I opened this book. Maas just couldn't live up to my expectations... maybe the other books will be better if they complete her ultimate story arc, but at this point I have to ask myself; is it worth my time?

I know I'll get some haters from this review... it has a crazy online following. The fanart is was made me hop on this bandwagon from the beginning. I've been abstaining only because of my cover art prejudice (yes, I know I have a problem).

Ultimately, this book fell short of my expectations. It was a little sloppily conceived and I wish the sappy crap hadn't overpowered our heroine. She had such potential!
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Can't wait to review this...

Loving this book so far - it's just sitting here on my desk at work, taunting me because I have to actually earn money and can't read constantly. But I'm so going to make it my bitch during my lunch break! What a surprise this book has been!

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Snow Like Ashes

by Sara Raasch

Cover Beauty Score: 4 out of 10
Goodreads Score: 3 out of 5

Plot Blurb: Meira is an orphan, saved by the few people from her kingdom of Winter that were fleeing the genocide brought on by the evil ruler of Spring. She has grown up as an exile, training to become a soldier to help win back her kingdom and reclaim the throne for the boy/man she loves - Mather. They live on the plains now with 6 other survivors while the rest of the Winter people are enslaved or worse. When Meira gets the chance to steal back a necklace - their kingdom's source of magic that could help them defeat the Spring kingdom, she sets into motion a series of events that changes her world forever. She finally gets to play her part in helping Winter, but it's certainly not everything she hoped it would be.

My Reaction: This book started off with an excellent little surge of action - I felt like I was reading a some sort of teenage Xena Assassin's Creed. And it was awesome! Meira started off as a kick ass character, wanting to prove herself and actually succeeding in doing so. It was only after the first bit of action happened that things started to get a little forced and stale. The Meira/Mather romance was hard to swallow - they didn't have much in the way of chemistry. I don't really think it's ever a good idea to start your story off with your heroine already in love. Needless to say - that turned me off a bit. And then there is this supposedly big betrayal and I just got a little bored with the way the characters handled the drama. Something about it was too fake - it didn't feel like I was introduced enough to the dynamics of it all to really care about Meira's reaction. Perhaps if Raash had spent a little more time on the familial relationships between the 8 survivors... if Meira had been a little more isolated... I can't put my finger on it.

All that being said - after this mess in the Cordell kingdom that shelters them for a while, that's where it kind of begins to kick off. Meira gets a new boy toy, the yummy Cordellan prince, Theron (I mean, I don't think anybody minded the shirtless training scene) and their interactions are adorable. He's quite the suitor, and I didn't mind one bit that Mather gets all huffy about it. Although I have to admit that I am sick to death of love triangles. But really - there's not much competition here from my humble pov. Theron is too noble, intelligent, and good (not to mention hot) for Meira to ignore (even if she thinks she's in love with her childhood sweetheart).

Meira follows the heroic journey pretty steadily from this point - really maturing and finding her inner strength when the shit really hits the fan. And I definitely guessed where this story was going - which isn't a bad thing. I was dying for what happened to happen, and I would have been disappointed if Raasch hadn't gone in that direction.

The writing was really fabulous, with just the right touch of imagery and simplicity to keep a younger audience captivated. The bits of action were great, and it was full of lush descriptions. Raasch is excellent at world building, introducing this whole land and its kingdoms with ease.

Despite my issues with the middle of the story, I'm excited to read the second book in the series - I think once Meira got a hold of her identity and worked through some issues, her character was more solid and believable in her sincerity. But let's face it. I also want to fantasize a little more about that golden haired god called Theron. Who wouldn't?
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