Monday, August 30, 2010

To "Michael"

Hello there, "off-putted" and "ticked off" reader o' my blog,*

I am glad you stumbled upon my blog, and I would hope that my review of Bree Despain's novel The Dark Divine did not upset you enough that you did not read more of my reviews or other posts that I have done. I hope you come back often (even though I doubt you will judging by your comments) and see what other things there are to see. I have taken your comments to heart. So much so that I am going to go through and respond to the whole thing. Here we go:

"Michael" said:

I came across your blog while I was looking for reviews of this book because I was interested in learning more (have not read it yet). Frankly, I found your post quite off-putting and the more I thought about it, the more it really started to tick me off.

I said:

First off, you have not read the book, therefore you really cannot defend it too much. I hate to say that. Even if I did not compare this book to Twilight then it would still be poorly done and it would get the same rating from me. The only reason I read it was because it was there and I was going through a phase where I wanted to read young adult literature. Honestly, I think my review has done you a favor of not wasting your time with the book. Unless you like books that are severely predictable and dull, not to mention poorly written.

Michael said:

I think it is actually you that are suffering from Twilight Syndrome. This "formula" you complain about is what we call Paranormal Romance. It's a genre. One that has been around for hundreds of years. If you are tired of it. . . read a different genre! Twilight just swung the genre back into the foucs of the general public.

I said:

You misspelled focus. Maybe you're too worked up over this to type correctly. I really am sorry for the heartburn my opinion, I mean, review caused you.

Exactly how am I suffering from Twilight Syndrome? I have never made it a big secret that I have qualms about Meyer's saga (by the way, they call it a saga but, really, it shouldn't be called a saga. Sagas take place over several years...moving on). But really I don't understand how I suffer from a syndrome that I made the definition for and came up with the term for (I'm sure someone else has used it in some other way. I don't claim full credit for it). Basically the Twilight Syndrome is this ghastly formula so prevalent in young adult literature today. Go to Barnes and Noble, "Michael", and just browse that section for a bit. Guarantee at least 80% of the books you pick up will have some sort of paranormal element (meaning a hunky werewolf or vampire or angel) that has this girl's heart in knots and her life in his ever-loving hands. Then try to tell me there is not some sort of significance to that. Just try and convince me that Stephenie Meyer's success has not, in some way, influenced the type of story we see on the bookshelves.

I wouldn't exactly put this or even Twilight in the paranormal romance genre. If you do then it would have to be on the same shelf as the trashy romance novels you see in Barnes and Noble that have the half-naked man with an eight-pack and a sword on the cover. This is young adult paranormal romance. I'll compromise.

I actually really like books that have a magical element in them. I have nothing against the genre. What I want to see in this genre is not what is actually there. I would like to see books that don't involve a girl falling for the mysterious guy that ends up being some sort of monster. That storyline has been hashed and rehashed to death. If I'm going to read that kind of story I would like there to be some sort of spin on it. And I would honestly like to see a reason for the two to fall in love besides an "undeniable attraction" (a.k.a. lust and hormones) or "bad-ass-ness" (a.k.a. the girl has daddy issues and so she turns to a man who will also treat her just as badly as her dad did/does). In neither Twilight, Hush, Hush, nor The Dark Divine is there really any reason for their attraction. As much as girls love Edward, how many can really say they would love the ice-cold, sparkly marble skin?

In other words, some depth would be nice. Maybe you're right. Maybe I'm asking too much of young adult authors. And maybe it's not completely their fault. I'm glad they're getting young people to read. But it would be nice if someone would have a little faith in teens' intelligences and actually write a book that makes them think. What a concept! Truth is, however, most teens would probably not read a book with depth. So it's just a vicious cycle. If I were a teen today, perusing the books in Barnes and Noble, in a section that is dedicated to me I would be slightly offended that my intelligence does not require more than just the same story over and over again told in different ways with different characters.

So you're right. I will steer clear from young adult paranormal romance if this is all that it holds.

"Michael" said:

Seriously, I am so tired of people claiming that authors are sitting there thinking "I should just copy Meyer because she was so successful." Have you been an aspiring author for long? Because I don't think you have the first clue as to what it takes to get published. If you did, you'd realize what a load of crap that is. And to make such an assumption is extremely presumptuous and arogant. Though I'm sure your stories are completely original and devoid of any formula or cliche.

I said:

Blah blah blah. How many people have tried to copy J.K. Rowling? You cannot tell me that this sudden influx of vampire books you see in the young adult literature section was not, in some part, influenced by the popularity of Twilight.

To answer your question I have been an aspiring author for, oh, slap a number on it, ummm...fifteen years. I would say that's awhile. Sure, some of what I've written on here may come to bite me in the butt when (notice the when) I become a published author, but for now I'm going to let my opinion be known. And I have a really good idea of what it takes to get published. I've been researching and reading up on it for years. Oh and there's this thing called a bachelor's degree that I got in English that pretty much says I have been to school to find out what it takes to be an author, so let's not even go there.

Originality is hard to come by these days. I do not claim to be all-original in my stories. The best you can do as an author is to write something that people will read even if it's formulaic. I did finish Despain's book, didn't I? Like I said, maybe I'm asking too much of this genre by asking for some originality and less of a formula. I usually don't finish books that drive me nuts, but I finished this one. Where's my award? Again, I did you a favor. I suffered for you. Maybe it was luck that brought you to my blog so you could read my review and save your money and spend it on a book that is better.

Formulas and cliches are ingrained in our heads since we are little. It's hard to escape them. The good writers use them to their advantage. You cannot tell me that you have not seen the same formulas going on in the young adult paranormal romance (man, that's a mouthful) genre. I would actually read more of Becca Fitzpatrick's stuff. Her book may not be original or anything but her characters had enough life to them that I would read more. I may not enjoy every second of it but I would still read it. Comparing Fitzpatrick's book to Despain's I would say Fitzpatrick is the better writer, but not by much.

You misspelled arrogant. If you're going to write a complaint to someone (especially someone as nit-picky as me) you had better use spell-check.

"Michael" said:

I'm sorry for being so negative, but you really ought to think this stuff through before you go spouting off. Especially if you are trying to break into the biz yourself.

Apology accepted. I really do appreciate you taking the time to let me know how you feel. This blog is meant to be an outlet for me to share my opinion on books I have read as well as thoughts on my life, updates on my writing, and so forth. Go ahead and read Despain's book. Let me know what you think. If you love it that is great. You are entitled to your opinion and I respect you for that. I, however, am also entitled to my opinion and should not be belittled for giving a book one lousy moonstone out of five moonstones.

Oh and, in case you were wondering, I looked it up for you:

The definition of opinion is:

1. a belief or judgment that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty. (Meaning my opinion only goes so far. It's not set in stone. You can form your own and we'll all be happy.)
2. (My favorite) a personal view, attitude, or appraisal. (Italics were added for clarity. I don't think I really need to spell this one out.)

The other 3 definitions have to do with law and judges and stuff. You can look them up here.

Finally, I really don't see why having an opinion is going to haunt me later. I love how you left with a little threat as if I'm not going to break in to "the biz" if I'm spouting off reviews of books. I know good literature. I went to school to study literature. My credentials are there. Just because I'm a nobody doesn't mean I am not entitled to an opinion. And it is my opinion that Bree Despain's novel was not good literature.

Like I said, read it for yourself. Form your own opinion, "Michael," and then we'll talk more.


Jake Taylor
Aspiring Author
Opinionated Book Reviewer
Apparently Doomed for Having an Opinion

P.S. "Michael" If you do, in fact, read this response to your comments, please know I mean no personal disrespect and I sincerely do hope you will respond to this as well as other posts that you have an opinion on. Thank you and have a fantastic day!

*To all those outside of this conversation: If you want to know who "Michael" is and know what this post is all about read my post from August 29, 2010 and then the comments below.


Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Light Bulbs

This book is pretty much like a package of dynamite. It packs a huge punch in a tiny little package. It boasts only 105 pages but it is powerful and gives a great insight into the beginnings of Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism.

Rand uses color to show contrast and I think that is fantastic. The sky which, in just one page, goes from purple to green to vibrant blue, shows more life and character than the society in which Equality 7-2521 (the main character) lives. Rand ties this in nicely, later on, when Equality has left his society and the world around him shows just as much life and beauty as the sky has.

My favorite chapter is when Equality finally starts using "I" instead of "We" when talking about himself. The whole book feels oppressive because of this constant barrage of "We did this" and "We said this." And that's exactly what it's meant to do. I seriously gave a huge sigh of relief when, finally, Equality discovered the word "I."

This truly is a beautiful story and it is a quick read, so I would suggest it to anyone who wants to learn more about Ayn Rand but doesn't want to tackle her behemoth books like The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged. One of these days I will read those but, for now, I feel great having been able to finish this one.

By the way, another great author who writes using the Objectivism philosophy is Terry Goodkind. His Sword of Truth series is outstanding.

I give this book 4.5 out of 5 light bulbs!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Dark Divine

Rating: 1 out of 5 Moonstones

I finally finished one of the six books I am working through! It is a miracle. Another miracle within this miracle is that it was this book I managed to finish.

If you have not read my review of Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick you will understand my qualms with young adult literature. They all follow this same formulaic pattern and fall under what I like to call the Twilight Syndrome*. I think Despain tries to bring some freshness to the werewolf myth but it just doesn't do it quite right in my opinion.

The main character's family name is Divine. Wow. Can you get more cliche? I think I wouldn't have minded it if she and Daniel, the love interest, didn't make such a big deal about it. Oh and to add to that the main character's name is Grace. Yeah. Grace Divine. Gag me.

What's with the headings? I know they were meant to give you grounding on where you are as far as time goes but I think there are better ways to do it. Honestly, a good writer does not need to make headings to catapult the story along. That may be just a personal opinion of mine. Also, it feels choppy when I'm constantly bombarded with 15 Minutes Later or Later that Evening or The Next Day.

The love between Daniel and Grace is only lukewarm and merely superficial. I really don't understand the connection. Yeah they grew up together. Yeah she had a crush on him when they were young. Yeah he's oddly gorgeous, tall, lean, and whatever. Give me a break. I'm so sick of writers writing love stories that have the characters fall in love because there needs to be a romantic element. Honestly, I would have loved this story a whole lot more if maybe Daniel never returned Grace's love for him which would make her sacrifice at the end all the more meaningful and touching.

Speaking of her sacrifice (I won't spoil it), Despain never really delves too deeply into the werewolf myth. And when Grace discovers that Daniel is a werewolf she seems to take it way too well. I don't get that. If I found out a childhood friend of mine was, in fact, a werewolf, I would freak out a little more.

There are some contradictions with Despain's myth too. The moonstones protect the werewolf and help the human side of them be stronger than the wolf side. Ok. That doesn't make sense because it's the full moon that, later in the story, causes so much havoc and makes the wolf side stronger. In my mind I would think a moonstone would make the wolf side stronger. It would be like having a full moon constantly around your neck so to speak. Call me crazy.

Despain's writing is ok. It's somewhat mundane at times. By the end I was skimming because she has a lot of added stuff that doesn't need to be there. Her dialogue is believable and her imagery is nice. Some of it just seemed too nice and subdued. I wanted there to be some more vivid imagery and detail that she just would not give.

On that note, I think Despain needed to delve more into the characters. Parts of the story and the timeline were a little confusing. She tried to explain it but the more it got explained the more confusing it was. She would go back and forth in time at random moments but I didn't feel like I learned anything more just by going back. The story felt too neatly packaged and showy as far as it just seemed to do things because that was the cool thing. Stephenie Meyer did it with vampires, why can't I do it with werewolves? Ummm...sorry but no. In other words it just felt too confined and slushy that it was hard to get really involved.

Oh AND the whole April and Jude thing. Despain spends a little bit of time explaining how April, unlike every other girl in the school, is not friends with Grace just to get to her handsome brother, Jude. Then a few pages later Jude and April are making out all the time and dating and whatever and, suddenly, Grace doesn't have her best friend around. If it were me I would be ticked and feel a little betrayed but Grace, again, just takes it in stride.

Grace. Gracie Pooh. Gracie Divine-ness. You are too weak to be a main character. Granted, she's not as bad as Bella. Not nearly as wishy-washy, but she's forgettable and doesn't really have anything to set her apart from the rest of the crowd. At least Bella had the white skin and the brown hair that turned red in sunlight. Those are memorable qualities even of a character I cannot stand in literature. We don't even get a brief description of what Grace looks like.

I must say the ending is interesting but I was done thinking "So what?" I just wasted all that time.

I was going to give this two moonstones but I think I'm dropping it to one. I am trying to think of good things to say about the book but I can't. Sorry, Ms. Despain. Better luck next time. Here is your one out of five moonstones rating.

*I'm sorry for the constant comparison to Twilight. As much as I have issues with Meyer's books, even I cannot deny that she has had a HUGE impact on young adult literature. Something I have run into with my own writing is that if you're going to write a vampire story, be prepared to be compared to Stephenie Meyer. While she may not be the best writer in the world, she has created a new breed of vampire that has altered the myth for decades to come. I am not saying the Twilight Syndrome is bad. I just think that we can stifle our creativity if we are constantly trying to reinvent the wheel.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Book ADD

Ever since I finished The Imperfectionists I've had such ADD when it comes to books. I am not one to read more than one book at once, but I think I have started six in the last little bit.

1. The Outside Boy: Very well-written so far just not something I'm in the mood for, so it has been put back on the shelf.

2. The Sound and the Fury: Faulkner is amazing but I just could not get myself to want to read this. I am going to try again. I just need to be more in the mood. Back on the shelf you go. For now.

3. Anthem: I started a book club on Facebook and this is the first book I chose to read for it. It is a short read and I will finish it in the next couple days I think. I'm very interested in Ayn Rand's objectivist theory and the commentaries this and her other books make on society.

4. The Constant Art of Being a Writer: Yeah. I've been plugging through this one for awhile now. I'm just not a nonfiction reader. While this book is very interesting and I like what I'm learning from it, I would much rather pick up a fiction novel than pick up a book that tells me all the things I'm doing wrong as a writer.

5. Mockingjay: YAY! Suzanne Collins' final book in her trilogy of The Hunger Games. It is really good so far and I'm betting it will cure me of my book ADD.

6. The Dark Divine: I'm almost done with it. It's another teen fiction novel. I'm pretty sure I'm about cured of stories like this one. It follows the same formula as most teen fiction does these days thanks to Twilight. I really wish there could be some more originality and better writing in the teen fiction world. Good thing we have Suzanne Collins and Cassandra Clare to bring some hope to that genre. I find myself snickering as I read this book when it's supposed to be serious. I will give more in my review.

So you see my dilemma. I know some people can handle having so many books going on at once. Some people thrive on that, but not me. I like to give one book my full attention. As a writer I like to think that people will give my own books that same courtesy. I can hope, can't I?

I guess one good thing for all this is that I will be giving a lot of book reviews in the next few days. You may not think that's a good thing...but that's just your opinion. Jerk.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Playing Games

So I was going on my merry way (yes, I just used "merry" in a regular sentence. Deal with it.) thinking life was going fantastically swell. No, this is not the beginning of a fairy tale or anything like that. I realize that first sentence, without the parenthetical, was pretty cheesy. Ok, even with the parentheses. Sheesh, get off my back.

Anyway, on with the story.

I just got a new phone that I love. It's a Motorola Droid X2. It is such a fantastic little smart phone and I am constantly learning new little things it can do. However, this is not the point of the story. Just a little side information.

On my new phone you can do apps, games, get on the internet, all sorts of joyous things. Today my mom informed me that there were some weird charges on my card (we have a joint she can see my activity on my card which is both a good thing and a bad thing...). Puzzled, I quickly went to check my account online and, sure enough, there were some mysterious charges from


If you look up you see that it is this weird role-playing game thing. Something I probably would have done in high school but not in a million years would I do it now.

There were $100.00 worth of charges made to my debit card from this place! So I quickly called my bank and got that all straightened out. I feel good that we caught it in time but I'm just sick to my stomach at the thought of someone knowing my card information.

So there ya go. I don't understand how people can think it's okay to get access to someone's hard-earned money and use it to play freakin' online games.

The reason I brought up my new phone is because, at first, I thought it was Verizon giving me hidden charges and I was actually being charged every time I used an app. Call me paranoid. Turns out, though, that it was not Verizon doing it.

Moral of the story: People are dumb.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Befall Teaser 2

“All right. Whatever. If it happens, then great. If Grady is psychotic then I will know tomorrow for sure and Jesse and I can go on our date as if nothing happened.”
I yawned and my eyes watered a little. “This is silly.” The clock by my bed showed that it was 2 AM. Work was going to be really fun tomorrow with so little sleep.
I dropped my shoes and put the coin on my nightstand, and then crawled into bed, turning off the light. Just before I closed my eyes I saw an orange-ish glow on my nightstand. The coin.
It was glowing as if it were on fire. The light was getting brighter and brighter.
“What the---?” I turned my light back on and it actually drowned out the unnatural light coming from the golden coin.
“I must be dreaming,” I sighed even though I knew that was not true. I grabbed the coin, half expecting it to burn my hand, but it felt normal.
“All right. Fine,” I said. Yes, I was talking to the coin now. Don’t judge me. “I’ll make the dumb wish.”
I grabbed my shoes, just wanting to go back to bed and forget this night ever happened. It was a good thing I was alone because I was already embarrassed enough as it was.
Ever the drama queen, I raised the coin high above my head and called out into the empty air. “I wish Jesse Phillips would fall madly in love with me forever and ever.”
It might have been my imagination but it seemed like the coin vibrated after I said those words.
“This is creepy,” I muttered, stuffing the coin into one of the shoes.
I put the shoes back in the closet and climbed back in bed again. As soon as the light was out again and my head hit the pillow I was fast asleep.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Imperfectionists

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 Ink Blots

For some reason Tom Rachman's novel reminded me of Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather. I think it's because both books are written in vignettes that don't seem to fit together until the very end. While Cather's book is a little more obscure, Rachman's definitely is a little easier to grasp.

Honestly, when I first started reading this book I did not think I'd make it to the end. It starts out with Lloyd who is a writer for the international newspaper based in Rome. His story is just depressing. His wife is openly cheating on him and he won't leave her, the paper doesn't want any of his writings, he's washed up and aging but not old enough to quit his job and retire, and his kids are distant from him. I just kept thinking that if this is how the book starts and it's a downer I don't want to know how it ends. Usually it can only get worse from there.

And it does. But it's not a bad thing. Each character gets a spotlight. All of them have the paper in common but they also have another thing in common: loneliness. It is actually delightful to read because they are all so easy to relate to because loneliness is something we all feel at some point. Each of them struggles with a different kind of loneliness or a need to be accepted. Walter Cheung's story gets frustrating because he is manipulated by another writer and you just want to smack both the manipulator and Walter for all of it, but then you realize that "Wow, this is a good writer that can bring this frustration to life in his reader." At least that's what I thought. Sometimes I get so mechanical when I read. But ultimately I kept feeling for these characters and it surprised me.

The ending, however, is a little disappointing, but I don't see any other way for it to have ended. This is a great study on the human circumstance and experience. I highly recommend it. If you want to read (and you're close by me) I will gladly lend it to anyone interested. Otherwise, go to the library or your nearest bookstore and get it quick! I give it 4 and 1/2 inkblots out of 5.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me! Pt. 2

Why I split this up into two posts, I haven't a clue. Just wanted to keep you in suspense.

The second half of my birthday went as follows:

  • Wrote a blog about the first half of my birthday.
  • Checked Facebook. Felt loved from all the birthday wishes on there.
  • Read outside in the nice warm sunshine.
  • Finished the book (a book review to come so stay tuned).
  • Watched two episodes from the first season of Glee.
  • Went to dinner with my parents, Gigi, Kate, Rico, and the twins at Texas Roadhouse. It was delicious!
  • Ate some delicious coconut cream cake at Kate and Rico's house.
  • Got Pinocchio on DVD, a set of Dominoes, and an armband for my iPod from the parents and a Barnes and Noble gift card from Kate and Rico (They know how to please me. Mike was a smart guy).
  • Talked to one of my best friends, Jeremy Young, on the phone. He called to wish me a happy birthday. We reminisced a little about his conversion to the gospel. I really needed to hear the things he said so it was also an inspired phone call. Thanks, Jeremy!
  • Got a date lined up for Friday.
  • Checked my blog. Got more lovings and birthday wishes. Thanks, Tianna and Megan!
  • Completed Part Two of the blog-post for my birthday happenings.
All in all it was a really great day full of relaxation, shopping, family, friends, and fun! Here is to another year of life and great things!

27th Year of Life Here I Am!

Happy Birthday to Me! Pt. 1

Today is my 27th birthday!!! Happy Birthday to me!

Thus far this is what I did today:

  • Rolled out of bed at 9:30 AM when I fully intended to get up early and workout.
  • Ate Frosted Flakes for breakfast. I knew it would be a good day because I got the end of the box which is my favorite part. Mmmm...sugary goodness.
  • Went to Idaho Falls with my best friend, Mike.
  • Got $25 gift card to iTunes from Mike.
  • Browsed at Barnes & Noble. Mike talked me out of buying some books because he said I might get gift cards (which is likely because my family knows how to please me).
  • Went to Macy's and splurged. I'm so excited for the clothes I bought though. Mainly a blazer-jacket that will be awesome.
  • Went to American Eagle and splurged again.
  • Mike told every worker we ran into at every store we went to (except Barnes & Noble...which is good because I'm there a lot and don't want to have to feel embarrassed to show my face there again) that it was my birthday. I played along and asked for a birthday discount. No go.
  • Ate lunch at Red Robin. It was delicious! They gave me balloon ears and sang to me. It was embarrassing. Thanks, Mike.
  • Mike's car window (previously taped by scotch tape because it would no longer stay up on its own accord) came loose again and he had to hold it up most of the way from Idaho Falls to Rigby. I got a kick out of it.
  • We had the birthday song they sang to us at Red Robin stuck in our heads the whole way back from Idaho Falls.
And now I'm just enjoying peace and quiet while my parents are out riding their ponies and Gigi is at the babysitter. What a great day!

To Be Continued...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Where is 2010 Going?

Seriously. It's August?!?!

Where has the time gone? This question reminds me of that Snickers commercial where they ask where does your hunger go and they show a guy in...Iceland?...or somewhere that says "I just keep eating!" It cracks me up every time.

Speaking of commercials. I saw a funny Target one for back to school where there's a math teacher saying "Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah-blah-blah. Blah. Quadratic equation. Blah-blah. Blah." LOVE IT! That is how I feel about math.

Speaking of back to school. Where has the time gone?!?! Oh, I said that already.

So what am I doing with my life right now? The same old junk. Yeah. I wish my life were more exciting. I still work at a job I only tolerate now. Although I love SOME of the people I work with and will miss them on the blessed day I no longer work there. I am currently job-hunting like mad. I've had a couple interviews with no luck.

I'm working on Befall and am madly in love with the story. It's seriously flowing so well. It's already getting rave reviews from friends and family (not that those are terribly reliable because, hey, they'd say it was wonderful even if it wasn't but this time I think they're truthful).

Also, on a more personal note, things are changing for me. I won't go into details but I've had some of the lowest of my lows in the last 2.5 years and it seems that that is finally changing. All it took was a little initiative on my part and now I feel the best I've felt in a long time.

And, also, after 1.5 years of being under the radar at my ward, I have finally received a calling. I am a greeter which I never thought I'd be excited about, but I really am. It all goes with the whole "change" thing. My perspective on life and a lot of things is changing for the better. (I realize I'm being vague but I'm doing that to protect the innocent. ha!)


I am currently a tv show fanatic. Glee, The Glades, The Closer, Rizzoli and Isles, Leverage, Covert Affairs, White Collar....Yeah. Good thing for DVR!

But, seriously, what is with 2010 running on by like a freight train? Slow your roll, 2010, this is not a race.