Midnight Quills

Just another writer’s page…

Category: Book Reviews

Honeymoon - James Patterson

Reviewed: Honeymoon – James Patterson and Howard Roughen

Honeymoon

You can do worse than learn to write fiction from an author who has sold over 300 million books in his career.

That’s how I picked up Honeymoon from James Patterson. I subscribed to his video Masterclass about writing novels. In preparation for the course, I was informed that this book is the one that is used for a lot of the coursework from an example point of view, so I decided that before I went too far into the class, I should at least read the book.

I’d be interested to see where Patterson rates Honeymoon in the ranks of the myriad of novels that he has produced over the years. Being the first of his novels that I’ve read, I have to admit that while I was impressed, I wasn’t overwhelmed by the story itself.

Patterson’s style is something I’m not used to. When I looked at the table of contents and saw over a hundred chapters waiting for me, I was a little intimidated; I’d bought it as an ebook, so I was missing the context of how thick the actual book is to give me an idea of how long it was. I quickly discovered that the reason there were so many chapters was because each one was only a couple of pages in length.

My personal feeling is that Patterson relies on action and pace, rather than depth, to keep his readers engaged and interested. To his credit, it does work. As I was reading Honeymoon, I found myself continuing to turn the pages (so to speak) – and I think the short, sharp chapters help this. There are times, reading more “typical” novels, where time considerations come into play when you reach the end of a chapter. Reading Patterson’s work, you get to the end of one chapter and it’s really easy to say, “Just one more.”

While the pacing is fast and exciting, though, Patterson’s character depth in this novel leaves something to be desired. We are introduced to Nora Sinclair, one of the two lead characters, early as a gold-digging interior decorator who is somehow managing to maintain two relationships with well-to-do men in different cities, but thanks, in part, to the pacing of Patterson’s style, we never really get a real understanding of the motivation behind her actions. The male lead is the same, leaving the reader confused about what he’s doing and why he’s doing it for most of the story.

Ultimately, it feels somewhat rushed and not overly thought out. The characters feel half-created, and the plot itself is just a little bit too far beyond reality to have allowed me to get properly into it.

Reading a Patterson book is like being dropped onto a busy freeway, the pace is frenetic and your best option is just to stay focused and pay attention until you get to your destination. You don’t really have much chance to see what’s going on around you, but you get a good ride and reach your destination fairly quickly. Which is fine, except when, like me, you’re used to leisurely drives in the country with the top down, enjoying the scenery.

All up, 2.5/5 Quills.

Feed - Mira Grant

Reviewed: Feed – Mira Grant

Feed (Newsflesh, Book 1)

It took me a while to get into zombies. As far as monsters went, I just couldn’t find them as interesting as vampires, werewolves, witches and the like. Then came The Walking Dead and somehow I got hooked onto that show, and have been a little more open to the concept ever since.

To be honest, though, I wasn’t sure how well I’d get along with the idea in literary format. There’s just something about them that makes me think you need to be able to see the blood flying, the rotting flesh, and those hungry eyes.

I picked up Feed, though, by Mira Grant in a stage of wanting to read something that was post-apocalyptic, rather than specifically zombies. The concept intrigued me, though, as I read the back.

See, Feed did something that was new to me – I’m assuming Grant isn’t the first author to come up with the idea of civilization managing to survive through a zombie apocalypse, but it was the first time I’d seen the idea. So when the blurb told me that the main characters were bloggers, I was kind of curious, even the fact that civilization had survived the zombie uprising went slightly against my original aim of post-apocalypse.

The truth is, Feed isn’t a zombie novel. There are zombies in it, sure, but first and foremost it’s a political thriller, where our two protagonists are bloggers, who’ve grown up in a world where zombies are just another part of life. On the plus side, they don’t have cancer any more. So here’s my first question: Was it worth it?

I’d probably say yes, but since I started watching The Walking Dead I’ve become somewhat of a zombie apocalypse fan. I’d be one of those people who can’t quite bring themselves to be scared about the rising of the undead, mainly because I would be too excited. Others? Well, let me know – would you rather be worried about dying from cancer, or zombies?

Georgia and Shaun, our intrepid bloggers, live in a world where blogs tell as much of the news as news sites. The world’s become one where you always have to have your blood tested for zombie infection. I mean, always. Grant goes into great depth and detail of reminding us over and over that these guys have to get their blood tested pretty much every time they walk through any door. I can understand some readers being annoyed by this, but it’s a reality of the characters’ lives, and Grant manages to drag the reader in on the monotony of this safety obsession in this world.

Like I said, this is a political thriller that just happens to have zombies in it. Kind of like The Walking Dead is a soap opera that just happens to have zombies in it as well. Georgia and Shaun find themselves on the trail of a presidential campaign, and things get… Complicated.

Ultimately, the book might be a shade longer than it really needs to be. Grant’s continual return to the blood tests didn’t bother me too much, because it helps to pain the scenario of the world they live in, but there are other things that we don’t need to be reminded about every few chapters.

The biggest thing it has going for it, is that it keeps you turning the pages. I found the characters interesting, if lacking a little bit of depth, and the story itself is paced well – if just a shade slow at times. These things said, the story still dragged me in. I fell for the characters, and their story, and I wanted to yell at the author on at least two occasions, which I always take as a great sign because it’s gotten me emotionally involved in the story.

This isn’t a zombie novel to pick up if you’re just after a fairly shallow story filled with gore, guts and action. It is a zombie novel to pick up, though, if you like twists, turns, and a bit of politics thrown into your thriller.

All up: 3.5/5 Quills.

Buy Feed on Kindle at Amazon.com

Dreamlander - K. M. Weiland

Reviewed: Dreamlander – K. M. Weiland

Dreamlander

It’s not that frequently that I reach the conclusion of a book and want to slap the author for not finishing it the way I want to. When it does, though, I have to recognize that they’ve achieved one of the highest goals that any author strives for: engagement.

It took me a lot longer to read K. M. Weiland’s Dreamlander than I would normally take. Perhaps it was because it’s the first time I’ve read a novel of this length on an e-Reader; perhaps it was the personal issues that I was going through during the time I was reading or perhaps it was the time taken to connect minds with a new author – whatever it was, it took me some time to really get into the novel, but the persistence was worth it. Dreamlander is based on an intriguing concept that I’ve found myself wondering at times also: What if our dreams are actually occurring in another world, or parallel universe and our consciousness slips back and forth between the two as we wake and sleep? This isn’t Inception in book form, this is a thought that, when I fall asleep, a completely different character wakes up in another world. When we’re born, we’re born in two places: Earth and this secondary world of Lael, connected by our spirit and witnessing what our other self does in dreams.

One thing I found myself wondering was how to make that work logistically with my sleep patterns. Weiland adds to this by creating a hero: Every so often, one person, a “Gifted” will actually travel between the worlds. Their consciousness from Earth will wake up in Lael, allowing them to, essentially, ‘walk between the worlds.’ Enter Chris Redston: Writer, cynic, skeptic and – frankly – whiny, annoying little brat. Seriously, this might be the other reason why I took so long to actually get through this novel, because almost every time Chris does something I want to slap him, too. Which is why I was surprised that, by the end of the novel, I was so engrossed in the tale and so passionate about seeing things wind up how I wanted them to end.

To do that, you have to care about the characters, you have to love them – and somehow Chris managed to endear himself enough to me by the end of the story that I actually cared what happened to him. This is obviously thanks to some talented writing by Weiland. It’s not easy to make an anti-hero like Chris loveable to the reader – especially when so much of his time is spent trying to convince himself that it’s not real, or that he’s not good enough, or that he can’t succeed. Instead of being the hero that we all wish we could be, Chris Redston is the hero we’d probably turn out to be: Doubtful, insecure and completely lacking in anything resembling confidence.

The story itself is one, like so many in the Fantasy and Science Fiction genres, where the fate of the world is in the balance. There are times where the setting and the ‘almost-apocalypse’ events actually get in the way of things, causing some detachment. I found myself needing to just step back from things a few times, especially throughout the climax – which seemed to go on and on. And on. And on. When you’re riding the crest of a wave for that long, the actual breaking point ends up feeling more like a reprieve than a climax, and this is pretty much what happened with me. Again, maybe this has something to do with the e-Reader against a real book. I didn’t have the same knowledge of the end coming because with a book, you feel those pages under your right thumb getting lower and lower, whereas there’s nothing with an e-Reader, but what I found was that the last few chapters were just this cacophony of excitement. It was a little overwhelming to try and deal with so much happening, and no time for me, as the reader, to breathe.

Nonetheless, Dreamlander is a story that succeeds in what I consider to be the important aspects of writing: It engages the audience, it contains relatable (if sometimes frustrating) characters, and it makes you think beyond just the words you’re reading. At the end of the day, I enjoyed it – and that’s probably the most important thing of all.

All up: 3/5 Quills.

Buy Dreamlander on Amazon.com

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