Book Reviews

The Passage by Justin Cronin – A review

I’ve got to admit, I never really planned on picking this book up, but the moment I set eyes on it, I knew I had to read it. With its silver, almost holographic cover design, I couldn’t not pick it up. It wasn’t until I held the book in my hand and felt the weight of its epic 963 pages that I realised just how much of a committment I was getting myself into.

Justin Cronin’s The Passage is an epic sci-fi novel, centring around a devastating plague that begins to take over humanity, turning people into violent, vampire-zombie hybrids with a taste for – you guessed it – blood. Throw in an odd young child with an unknown ‘power’ and a ragtag group of youth with a taste for answers, justice and adventure, and you’ve got yourself a prime sci-fi read. But just how readable is Cronin’s novel?

Well, in all honesty, I have to say, I expected more from this book. The first few hundred pages were incredibly captivating. With a cast of intriguing personalities, each one with a well fleshed-out background, motive and voice. The plot was perfectly comprehendible – although a little wild, but nothing out of the ordinary for a sci-fi epic – and Cronin’s writing was the perfect cross between fast-paced, simple and descriptive.

However, as the book continued, I found myself getting more and more bored with the story. Sure, it had some interesting plot points and settings, but overall I found that the major let-down was the characters. As much as I read on, the less I began to care for each of the characters laid out before me. Although there was the occasional attempt to flesh-out characters, there just wasn’t enough characterisation to pull me in. No matter who the characters were or what was happening, every character seemed to have the same voice, speaking the same tone and using the same words (including a particularly frustrating over-use of the word ‘flyers’ as an expletive). In a novel that clearly outlines its central characters, having different language and personality traits was something that should’ve been vital, but there just didn’t appear to be any attempt at setting the characters appart in any means but their personal interests.

Plot, too, became jumbled the more I read on. Characters were introduced, developed, and then completely disregarded in later chapters. Action scenes were incredibly sudden in comparison to the resting phases of the novel, comprising of a series of long, relatively mundane descriptions, which could easily have been cut from the novel without affecting the story. Not to mention, there was a strange amount of cuts between letters, third-person narrations and military reports. In the end, I found it difficult to tell which character was which, what they were meant to be doing and what the purposes of each of the plot points were.

So, was it worth the read? Well, for me, the novel taught me a very valuable lesson: don’t judge a book by its cover. Sure, if you’re into science fiction and post-apocalyptic drama, I wouldn’t be one to stop you. The premise is interesting and it did drag me along long enough for me to finish the novel. However, if you’re after something with a little more depth and characterisation, I’d probably recommend Stephen King’s similar novel The Stand instead.

Book Reviews, Uncategorized

‘The Dry’ by Jane Harper – A Review

I’m going to be honest about this one: I never really wanted to read this book. Marketed as more of a piece about the Australian landscape than a book with a story line, I was always hesitant to read it. Sure, I find Australia interesting (I do live in Australia, after all)… but a book that’s main theme focuses around how beautiful the Australian outback is? Yeah, not so much.

But a few months ago my mother told me she’d booked tickets to see Miss Harper in person promoting her newest novel The Lost Man, and I knew I’d have to read it. I mean, you can’t just go to an author’s book release without reading any of the books they’ve written, right? With a sigh of defeat, I opened the first page and let me just say… Jane Harper truly surprised me.

IMG_6610

The Plot: When a young couple and their son are found dead on their property in the rural Australian town of Kiewarra, it’s originally passed off as a murder-suicide. However, former Kiewarra inhabitant and police investigator Aaron Falk begins to suspect there’s more than meets the eye to this tragic case.

Verdict: Jane Harper’s debut novel The Dry is nothing short of magnificent. With it’s fast-paced narration, it’s beautiful characterisation and actively intriguing storyline, it’s nearly impossible to put down.
From the very first chapter to the very last, Harper’s experience with writing and editing process (working previously as a journalist) shines through. With short and snappy narration and realistic dialogue – cutting out that long-winded description a lot of debut authors fall into the trap of writing – The Dry was nothing short of a breeze to read.
Sure, this book isn’t exactly the ‘game changer’ of all crime novels. It’s probably not going to go down as the ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ of our generation and it certainly does have its faults (especially in terms of a particular typography and style choice, which is quickly changed for the rest of Harper’s series) but it’s a fun, solid and creative crime novel set in a time where unique and readable crime novels can be few and far between.

Overall, yeah, Jane Harper’s The Dry was a great read! For anyone who’s a fan of a good crime story, pick it up. Trust me, you won’t regret it!

Purchase Harper’s novel here: https://www.panmacmillan.com.au/9781925481372/

Or visit Jane Harper’s site at: http://janeharper.com.au/Books/The-Dry

 

 

writing advice

Five Bits Of Reassurance All Writers Need To Hear

Ok, so you’re a writer. You’ve just finished writing a book or a short story or maybe even just a chapter of your latest work in progress. Adrenaline flows through your veins as you print it out for the first time and place it on your desk. It’s your baby, your beloved, your life, and it’s right there in front of you all in paper form. You stare at it, feel the weight of it in your hands as you inhale the luscious scent of fresh ink set on a wad of new paper. It’s beautiful. It’s all you’ve dreamed of. You sit down and you start to read.
But no.
Oh God no.
No… it’s… it’s terrible!

Sound familiar? Trust me, you’re not alone. Almost every writer feels like a bad writer at some point in their life. Most of the time, it’s completely unjustified, but no matter how much you tell yourself its all in your head, there’ll always be that little nagging voice at the back of your head telling you to give up.
Well, ladies and gents, I’m here to tell you that voice is completely full of it. Honestly. If that voice was a person, it’d be that weird uncle that always tells you about his wild adventures running from the CIA or that one time he was hired by the Mafia to run errons… yeah, it’s that full of it.
But, if you’re anything like me, no matter how unreasonable you know that voice is, you’ll still get disheartened; you’ll still feel like it’s all not worth it. So, I’m here to give you five pieces of reassurance that’ll keep you battling that voice during those tough times. Because there’s nothing more reassuring than receiving advice from a complete stranger on the internet, right? Right!

You’re Comparing it to Other Authors

Chances are if you’re a writer, you’re probably also an avid reader. Like most readers, you’ve got a preferred writing style. You might not notice it – a lot of people don’t – but almost every reader will be drawn to a certain type of writing. Maybe you like fast paced books. Maybe you read books that have shorter sentences. Maybe you like books with flowery wording and intensive world building. No matter what kind of reader you are, you’re always drawn to a certain type of writing.
But did you ever think that the reason you’re criticising your writing so much is because it doesn’t fit in your preferred reading style box?
Most writers will compare their writing to their favourite books, but there’s a hazard to that practise. The more you compare, the more similar you get and the more similar you get, the worse it is for your writing career. Yeah, it might sound fantastic to you, but sounding like another author is an instant no-no from not only readers, but agents, publishers and editors alike. Having a different writing style from what you normally read isn’t just right, it’s sought-after by publishers. So, before you put on your critical eye and go over your writing, make sure you’re not looking at it from the eye of your favourite author first.

You’ve Given it… What?… A Day?

Every professional author knows that reading through a piece straight after you’ve written it is a cry for bad editing. Not only does it mean you’ll probably skimp over a lot of the mistakes, but it can also mean you’ll pick up on a lot of mistakes that aren’t really there, too. This doesn’t just mess with your head, but it can be disastrous for your writing project, too.
The best advice? When you’ve written something, give it at least a day’s break. If you find you’re still being too harsh on yourself, give it a week, maybe even a month before coming back to it. Not only will you find it easier to read it from a reader’s point of view and pick up on inconsistencies more easily, but you’ll also find a lot of your doubts about your writing will disappear, too. Remember, nothing is a disaster beyond fixing. Nothing is worth giving up.

There are Successful Writers Who are Worse Writers Than You

Yeah, that’s right. I’m going there.
Believe it or not, it’s not all that difficult to get published these days. With publishing platforms getting bigger and bigger and a lot of them moving online, it’s really never been easier to publish a book. With a few dollars and a click of a few buttons, basically anybody can get published, and although this is usually a little alarming for most writers, it can also be a source of comfort for you, too. Because, yeah, with the amount of published writers out there, there’s always bound to be a few just…. terrible books for you to find. Funnily enough, there are also a lot of terrible books that’ve done pretty well financially, too.
So, if you’re ever feeling down about your writing, pick up a terrible book, read through it’s cringey dialogue and disastrous plot devices and let yourself think: well, at least I’m not that bad. Trust me, it works.

Most People Will Never Write a Book in Their Life

There was an old survey in America a few years back that showed that about 80-90% of Americans think they have a book in them. It’s common knowledge to most serious writers that almost everybody thinks they could write a book if they had the time or the patience or… whatever other excuse they can think of. But chances are, they won’t. Chances are, these people will never in their life actually write, finish and publish a book.
So why are you so hard on yourself? You’ve written something, for god’s sake! You’ve taken time out of your life and you sat down and you hand typed every damn word that you’ve printed out. Every single one of those words are yours! Do you know how impressive that is? Compared to the rest of the world, you’re already a rarity.
Calm down, put that critical thinking had down on the table for a second, and just let the reality of it all sink in. You wrote something. And what you’ve written, you can always fix!

Edit! Edit! Edit!

This should be a given, but to a lot of people it’s not. When you finish writing a book or a chapter or… whatever it is that you’re writing, your work is now ready for editing. It’s not just ready for editing, but it’s waiting for it. It needs it. Every single piece of work needs an editor, no matter how good that person might be at their craft. First, you self-edit. Go through all the things you think you should be fixing up. Then, send it out to other readers and get their opinions on it and finally, send it out to a professional.
These are the steps every single writer goes through. Don’t skimp out on them and don’t expect to have to skimp out on them! No work is perfect and no work will ever be perfect until it’s had an editor’s eyes on it – a few editor’s eyes in most cases.
You’re not a bad writer, you’re an unedited writer!

 

So, if you’re ever feeling down about your writing, remember, you’re not alone. Oh and also the Fifty Shades of Gray books are making billions of dollars and getting movie deals so there’s always hope for you.
Now stop procrastinating and get back to writing!