I love novels, but I hate their beginnings. The beginning of anything, actually, is tedious. When you learn a certain skill, or begin a project, there’s so much prep work, so much basic training you have to suffer before getting to the good stuff. This is why I hate the beginnings of novels; I have to wade through the sticky sludge of exposition and world-building before the plot shows itself, and before I feel I know the characters. I’m sure this is why editors also hate the beginnings of novels. Oftentimes, editors (and readers) don’t manage to get through them.

This is one of the key reasons why writing a novel is hard. I feel every novelist’s pain. If the first chapter is crucial, the following three chapters are more crucial. Over the past two years, I’ve been rewriting no fewer than four novel beginnings. Yes, the novels themselves are getting better, thanks for asking. No, the process of rewriting isn’t getting any easier, damn it.

For the sanctity of fiction, I must put out a NOTE TO ALL AUTHORS: I couldn’t care less about the social reject’s problems. Not at first. What I care about is how he feels when his head is in a toilet while he’s getting a swirly.

I have an odd aversion to reading any novel when it comes home fresh from the library. Writers, take pity on your readers. We have to stick our heads in your writing and swirl it around until we’re drowning. Make that flush so strong you knock off our glasses with your writing-metaphor-toilet-water, or so articulate the water picks up our glasses and folds them for us.

I’ll work on my own writing. No one is perfect, but the beginning of any novel should be worth a try. …Right?

On to the Mercy Challenge, authors A!  (The 26-letter alphabet will be divided into 20 posts, give or take some letters.)

My one law of reviewing during the Mercy Challenge:

Be nice. I understand the work that goes into a novel. I also understand I only write good reviews when I’m bashing someone over the head with it. Every “review” I write for this challenge will be short, sweet, and—I hope—somewhat positive. To your benefit, I don’t stop reading a novel until I find out what, exactly I don’t like about it. This helps me grow as both a reader and a writer!

My star ratings:
0/4 In the words of Homer Simpson, “AAH! Burn it! Send it to Hell!”
1/4 It was bad, but I’d still recommend it to people who don’t like books.
2/4 It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good enough for me to want to finish it.
3/4 It was good enough for me to finish but it wasn’t fantastic.
4/4 It was fantastic!

 

Cold Glory (Nick Journey #1) Five Star Billionaire 

 

author: Anderson, B. Kent

title: Cold Glory

published: 2011
special sticker: none
guess the genre: Modern day history drama!
pre-read impression: Old objects, suspense, and cops? I’m in.

LAST impression: …Or not. I gave up exactly on page 128. The plot was really starting to rev up, but there  were a few things I couldn’t get past. First, I wasn’t too invested in the characters. Anderson didn’t spend as much time personally getting to know these people than he did coming up with plot points to get them moving. It wasn’t enough for me to feel as if I, the reader, personally knew these people. Then again, I’m someone who spends way too much time getting to know her characters than she does coming up with things for them to do.

There was one character in particular who was trying to hard to be this Strong Female Character everyone is searching for these days (as well they should). She was good enough until two things happened. I’ve just finished reading a different novel in which the female protagonist goes out of her job description to risk her life solving a case because, for some weak reason, she makes it personal. I saw smatterings of that plot device here. On page 128, to be exact. I’d normally let that slide, but it happened soon after I was confused by one of her actions: she went to a meeting without her shoes. Erm…uh… women don’t do that. No matter how “strong,” self-possessed, or confident she is, a woman simply doesn’t step outside, get into a car with her supervisor, and lead a meeting in which she has to convince other people to work with her just because her feet hurt. I give Anderson some slack because he isn’t female. Sometimes writing the opposite gender is difficult. I get that. Of all the objects she left behind because this character was frustrated or in a hurry, I don’t understand why it had to be the shoes.

Lastly, there were one too many mentions of “Perry Mason.” This is a minor offence, and a stupid reason for me not to like something, but I have a deep loathing for that show strictly for personal reasons.

Despite the above events that turned me off, the writing was exciting enough.

stars: 2/4. That’s not bad! Although I didn’t care to finish this book, I would recommend it to anyone over fifty years old or anyone who loves government conspiracy novels.

 

 

author: Aw, Tash

title: Five Star Billionaire

published: 2013
special sticker: none
guess the genre: Soap opera set in Shanghai? I’ve seen a few action films from China that were pretty good, so I’m a little excited for this.
pre-read impression: A small cast of characters might be puppets to a billionaire.

LAST impression: Let’s start with the good points. Like the movies I mentioned above, it was cool to hear/see a language different from what I’m used to. (That’s right, I don’t read many books set in China. I don’t know why.) I had to look up a few locations and words, but I’m not complaining. Aw did a wonderful job putting me in another setting with food, descriptions of strangers, and unfamiliar Asian vocabulary, but it’s where he also lost me; every single one of his characters appeared to be depressed for one reason or another that the most stunning parts of the book weren’t any of the main characters. Every protagonist was a depressed body surveying the landscape. I can’t sink my teeth into a book like that. Why is it general/literary fiction tries to be depressing all the time? This shouldn’t be a breakthrough concept in fiction anymore. 100 pages in, it was evident I wouldn’t finish this novel, just like the last one. I spent 147 pages wondering when the story would begin, and once it did begin I still wasn’t intrigued.

stars: 2.5/4. Even though this rating is about the same as above novel’s, this one was still better. The writing was better and that counts for something. I would suggest this book to nearly everyone; my experience with it shouldn’t force others to be down about it.

Needless to say they didn’t knock the glasses off my face. But that’s OK. I’m glad I found out what they were about. You should read them yourself! Tell me what you think.

 

MercyChallenge

 

My brain will reboot for the next batch of randomly selected books. On to the B authors!

Barney, James The Genesis Key

title: The Genesis Key
published: 2011
special sticker: none
guess the genre: Thriller about biology?
pre-read impression: Archaeology! Genetics! Intrigue! Washington DC!

Brackston, Paula The Winter Witch

title: The Winter Witch
published: 2013
special sticker: none
guess the genre: Historical romance.
pre-read impression: Well, it’s about a witch. It’s about a witch with powers. It’s about a witch who can’t control her powers and falls in love. Should be interesting.

Burton, Mary You're Not Safe (Texas Rangers, #3)

title: You’re Not Safe
published: 2014
special sticker: none
guess the genre: Looks like it might be a thriller/horror.
pre-read impression: This is technically a third book in a series that seems to feature different protagonists per novel but… Okay. Wow. Murder thriller. Will break the rules for this one.

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