I don’t seem like the type of guy who normally reads paranormal romance novels about Irish folklore, but if they’re as good as “The Selkie Spell”, I s...moreI don’t seem like the type of guy who normally reads paranormal romance novels about Irish folklore, but if they’re as good as “The Selkie Spell”, I should probably start reading more. I picked up “The Selkie Spell” for Kindle on a sale weekend because I follow the author on Twitter and Facebook and knew she was insanely talented, but I would have gladly paid a lot more for it.
The basic setup for “The Selkie Spell” is the Irish legend of the selkie (part seal-part woman) coming full-circle through modern actors. The selkie of the island in the legend was controlled and abused by a cruel and heartless man before committing suicide. In order to free the selkie’s spirit, her descendant must return to the island, find the hidden selkie pelt and complete the circle by facing her own cruel and heartless abuser. The novel is a healthy mix of genres and has romance, action, irish folklore, ghost tales, intrigue, and just enough sex to spice up the stew.
The Good: For me this was a fresh and fascinating tale, since I had no knowledge of selkies or really any traditional Irish folklore. The author did a fantastic job at developing presence and atmosphere. I found myself checking on prices for airfare to Ireland halfway through the book. The descriptions are beautiful and the characters are diverse and interesting. The pacing is perfect for this genre and the plot is believable and consistent all the way through. Though, to be honest, you have to realize that fate/destiny plays a major part driving plot points along in places that seem a little too convenient. The legend requires everything transpire in a certain way so all is forgiven. At least in my view. If you’re not as forgiving, this might bother you.
The Bad: There’s not much to criticize here except a few personal preferences. My only real complaint was that the abusive husband is more of a caricature than a character at times and I had a hard time shaking images of the movie Sleeping With The Enemy.
Recommendations: I’d recommend this to anyone and everyone, with the small exception of younger audiences. The sex and inclusion of spousal abuse isn’t appropriate for younger teens. I would HIGHLY recommend this to anyone going to Ireland for vacation who needs a fun, light read for those cozy nights at the pub.(less)
"How NOT To Write A Novel" is a great read for aspiring authors. It's the reverse approach to many of the popular writing books that claim to be able...more"How NOT To Write A Novel" is a great read for aspiring authors. It's the reverse approach to many of the popular writing books that claim to be able to tell you how to write that next best seller. As Stephen King so aptly writes in his treatise "On Writing", most of those writing advice books are complete crap. Writers for the most part can never be sure of the exact elements that make a particular book successful. Sometimes everything just comes together, but more often they do NOT.
So after you've read Strunk and White, and King, and maybe a few others, pull out that novel you wrote. You know the one. It's been sitting on your shelf for half a decade under a pile of rejection letters from agents and editors, and then sit down with this book and a big red pen. Go through your book and check off all the cardinal sins you've committed and you'll understand why you're not living in a NYC penthouse and going on world book tours.
It's important to note here that this book is intended for writers of genre fiction. It's not for journalists, non-fiction writers, biographers, or those awful, pretentious, self-aggrandizing, literary fiction douchebags. If you're writing literary fiction, then by all means throw out all the rules and head back to your co-op coffee house and sip on your organic, fair-trade, soy latte machiato and moan about the literary wasteland that is the NYT bestseller list.
In the interest of full disclosure, I've written two complete novels (queries and all) and several partials and I found myself guilty of some of the 200 sins in both books. What's interesting to me is that the first novel committed 6-7 sins, and the second only 2-3. So I must be learning from my mistakes and growing somewhere in the experience.
There are common mistakes that genre fiction writers make that can be avoided if you know what those mistakes look like. The book lays out the 200 mistakes, arranged by category (Plot, character, style, etc.) and gives you a quick, humorous example of the mistake and then explains why you should scratch out the bad passages with indelible ink...and NEVER do that again. The book covers all of the common subjects that writers deal wrestle with: point of view, tense, characterization, structure, language, heroes, villains, sidekicks, pacing, climaxes, and even the process of querying and selling your completed work.
Tons of great examples of why you're screwing up and shooting yourself in the foot. The examples are usually humorous and make the book a nice read. The authors take great care in the handling of writer's delicate sensibilities and offer great alternatives. The book is a comprehensive look at genre fiction and even someone who's written 2-3 novels can learn some of the nifty tricks that more successful authors use to great effect. The end section on writing queries is a fantastic resource for someone who hasn't studied the art and voodoo that is a successful query.
The book should really be subtitled "168 common mistakes and a couple of dozen examples we stretched, duplicated, or warped to make the book have a nice round number". Some of their examples are very thin duplications of already presented ideas, and some are just plain opinion based on individual choice. A good example of that is "A Novel Called It - wherein an abusive parent exists." Clearly you can't abuse the notion of having characters with bad parents, but you have to admit that bad parenting leads to interesting people. Not always "good" interesting, but interesting nonetheless. And all you have to do is watch the news to know that bad parents DO exist and are fairly common. I don't write with wicked step-mothers, but it's an archetype for a reason. And my last complaint is that by the half-way mark, the examples are no longer funny because they're beating the same too-clever characters/situations to death. Lastly, the examples are TOO LONG. I shouldn't have to read an entire page of bad writing for you to make your singular point.
I would recommend this book to anyone that writes fiction. It's a nice resource to put on your shelf alongside some of the classic writer's tools.
I really wanted to like this book more than I did. It’s the prototype for horror novels before there were horror novels. Oh sure, you could argue that...moreI really wanted to like this book more than I did. It’s the prototype for horror novels before there were horror novels. Oh sure, you could argue that horror novels go back much further, and really things like Beowulf and Greek legends have all the elements of a good horror story: heroes, monsters, death and destruction, and a bad, bad ending. But this novel and Brahm Stoker’s Dracula are the ones horror fans go back to for old school feel.
I’m actually surprised I hadn’t read this book before. It’s such a staple of English lit classes in high school and college that I wonder if I missed a reading assignment somewhere along the line. I skipped a lot of classes, so it’s entirely possible. The book is chock full of five paragraph essays, an infinite mine for essay themes like father-son and creator-creation relationships, moral duties in science, nurture vs nature in upbringing, etc., etc. If you’re pressed for time on an English paper, I wouldn’t choose this book as a basis. It’s a long, slow read and there are elements of the story buried in rambling passages where the protagonist describes how miserable he is for the eleventeenth time.
You should also be warned, kiddos googling for essay topics, that the classic horror movie of the same name bears NO resemblance to this novel. Do not put the words “lightning”, “castle”, or “Igor” in your essay. You’ll get an F!
A young privileged man from a good family and happy childhood goes off to University with dreams of becoming a master of natural philosophy (biologist/chemist). He abandons his study of alchemy and pursues knowledge of physiology with a passion that borders on OCD-like. He gets the brilliant idea to test his knowledge by piecing together a human body from spare parts and then reanimates it (though he never tells us how). He immediately flips out and abandons his now-alive creation to raise itself in the wilderness while he goes slowly insane.
The re-animated person (daemon, fiend, monster, whatever) finds out he’s a hideous abomination in the eyes of humanity and gets a little pissed off about being abandoned by his creator. He vows revenge and hijinx ensue.
The language in the book is beautiful. It was written when people still cared about five-dollar words and prose as poetry in the written word. It’s no wonder, Mary Shelley was married to a famous poet, and dabbled herself. The characters have depth and are fleshed out well, especially Victor and the Monster. You feel like you would know them if you passed them on the street and could have a conversation with them.
The scope of the book is also impressive. It ranges from the cities of Austria to the polar wastelands of the North and dozens of well-described locations in-between. Just reading the descriptions of the mountains and valleys of Switzerland, France, and Austria made me want to get on a plane and see the majestic sights for myself.
The underlying theme is brilliantly creepy and fitting of any horror story in any setting. You’ve created a monster with super-human abilities and it’s gotten free. Your creation is beyond your control and now it’s coming to get you and everyone you love. Pretty fucking scary if you think about it.
It’s pretty simple. Even though Victor Frankenstein is a compelling character, he’s a great big pussy. I’ll say that again really slow. He’s a cowardly, pathetic, impotent, dishrag of a man who makes you hate him by the end of the book. You don’t feel sorry for him, or empathize with him. You (or at least I) end up disgusted with him. He created this monster and set it loose on the world, and allows innocent people to die because he's too cowardly to admit to the world that he's made a colossal mistake. He spends most of the book telling the reader about how miserable he is. If he’s not in prison, or an insane asylum, then he’s in a sick bed, or moping around on a lake somewhere being pathetic. Just to give you an example; at one point, Victor knows the monster is coming for him right now and Victor gets pistols and a dagger to exact revenge. The battle is imminent, and when the monster appears on cue and does something completely evil…Victor collapses with the vapors. WTF.
Ultimately, the other thing that makes the book irritating is the grand finale is anything but. The ending isn’t satisfying. It doesn’t give anyone in the book completion of mission or revenge or retribution. I’m not going to give you the exact spoiler, but the reader is left to wonder if this creature will keep his word and end the story. Even the intrepid young explorer who relates the tale of Victor after finding him on the ice doesn’t achieve his goal. After many grand speeches and retelling of would-be adventures, everyone goes home a loser. And that just fucking sucks.
I would only recommend this book to classic horror fans who have patience, anyone interested in studying the philosophy of creation, or English Lit majors that need a book that can be debated endlessly without anyone really being right. (less)
I went to the library looking for "Lucifer's Hammer"--it was out--after writing a flash fiction piece about a meteor strike and wound up picking this...moreI went to the library looking for "Lucifer's Hammer"--it was out--after writing a flash fiction piece about a meteor strike and wound up picking this off the shelf for a quick read instead.
Written in 1993, this one of Clarke's last works and it clocks in at a relatively short 212 pages. It was actually a perfect length for the amount of story Clarke has to tell, which wasn't much.
Getting the basics out of the way, Clarke is a legendary writer, but his skills were more suited to the Golden Age of Sci-Fi than what I would expect from 90's or modern Sci-Fi. I grew up reading him and Heinlein (among others) so I still enjoy the slower pace and philosophical filler.
It's clear that at age 76 Clarke was more suited as a futurist than writer of gripping tales. The plot is simple, the characters are stock, and there's nothing innovative or original about how the story unfolds. At times, it feels like he's ripping off his own legacy in trying to get ONE MORE book on the shelves.
Basic premise: an asteroid is headed for Earth and will wipe out most of the population if it is allowed to hit unimpeded. Captain Robert Singh is in charge of the mission to push the asteroid off-course with his ship Goliath and ATLAS--a giant mass driver built in Deimos orbit.
I was really hoping for a futurist's take on apocalyptic scenarios with asteroids, but this part is very thin. If anything the book is PRE-apocalypic fiction. It never rises to the level of mass extinction, so most if not all of the emotional punch of the book evaporates at the end. This is compounded by the fact that Clarke's world has long-standing permanent settlements on the Moon and Mars, which means even if the Earth was obliterated by the asteroid--mankind is not in jeopardy of extinction.
The plot point I thought made this incredibly mediocre was that the Goliath's mission was singular and sabotaged. You have a space-faring civilization capable of great things, and a year of advance notice, and they send...ONE 30 year old ship to avert disaster for billions of people. If I know engineers--and I do--they don't allow single points of failure and razor-thin tolerances for missions this important. It's not like they don't have other ships;they do. They even have a TWIN of Goliath on the opposite LaGrange point and the ability to rapidly build ships at will. Yes, they were sabotaged by a silly group of religious fanatics, but it's a thin Deus Ex Machina to build SOME sort of tension at the end of the book.
Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy the book. If it had been any longer I would have felt cheated, and to be honest (SPOILER ALERT) I would have respected Clarke more if the Goliath had been destroyed instead of being saved at the last second by a technical glitch. There's some nobility in sacrificing your life for Earth's masses--even when they voted to nuke you. By page 200, I ceased to care about Robert Singh's future and I would have preferred he died a hero's death.
I'd recommend this book only to people interested in Arthur Clarke's work, or fiction about asteroids/meteors. He does a nice job of collecting research for apocalyptic fiction fans on this particular disaster from space, but there's no pay off for "end of the world" readers.
If you're not into Arthur C. Clarke and the Big 3 of Sci-Fi, give this one a pass.(less)