Sympathy for the Devil

Just before the holidays, I turned on the Fellowship of the Ring movie in a fit of nostalgia and passively watched as I cleaned the apartment. And somewhere between vacuuming at Rivendell and swiffering at Lothlorien, I realized something I’d never realized before: Sauron is a terrible villain.

I mean, once you get past the admittedly terrifying lidless-eye Panopticon thing, Sauron is pretty simplistic as a villain. He’s evil–that’s about it. Why did he secretly forge the One Ring in the first place? To rule all the other Rings of Power. Why would he want to rule the elves, the dwarves, and mankind? Duh–evil! Why did he send his Host against the army of the Alliance on the plains of Dagorlad? Evil! Why is he obsessed with getting the One Ring back from Frodo and taking over Middle-earth? Evil, evil, evil!

Now I get it.

Now I get it.

As a writer, you hear a lot of the same advice over and over again. And when it comes to villains and antagonistic forces, the advice is always the same: one-dimensional villains just don’t cut it. Your villain must be more than just evil–he or she must be as well-rounded and complex as your other characters. The villain must have a backstory that explains his actions and lends his motivations depth and flavor. Furthermore, the villain’s actions must arise from a place of logic; even if it is a flawed, unsound logic, his actions must be comprehensible, if not sympathetic, to the reader. The villain’s role is to challenge the hero to reach great heights. He must act as both a catalyst for heroism and a foil for the hero’s own complex motivations.

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Review: The Dream Thieves, by Maggie Stiefvater

The Dream Thieves, by Maggie Stiefvater

The Dream Thieves,
by Maggie Stiefvater

In Maggie Stiefvater’s sequel to 2012’s The Raven Boys, the Cabeswater ley line has been awakened, but Blue, Gansey, Adam and Ronan are no closer to finding the lost Welsh king Glendower. In fact, things are more complicated than ever. Adam’s sacrifice Cabeswater seems to have worked, but he doesn’t know what the ley line wants with him, or how to hold up his part of the bargain. Blue and Gansey’s relationship is suddenly complicated by romance. And Ronan–angry, troubled, violent Ronan–travels deeper and deeper into his dreams, even while his dreams begin to intrude into his waking life. Meanwhile, dangerous people circle closer, bent on locating Glendower before they can. Ronan must find a way to channel his dreams for good, or else the ley line might disappear, ruining Gansey’s hopes of ever finding the lost king.

I’ve read and reviewed several of Stiefvater’s novels, and I have liked each better than the last. The Dream Thieves surpassed my expectations in nearly every way. The novel is haunting, beautiful and unsettling and delicious, the kind of book that gets under your skin so much that you think about it for days after you’ve finished the last page. As Stiefvater grows as an author, her writing becomes more abstract, relying on simple images to convey complex ideas, and vice versa. Her imagery is incredible. It speaks for itself: here, Stiefvater describes a political gala attended by Gansey and Adam:

The party had become a devil’s feast: will-o’-the-wisps caught in brass hunting lamps, impossibly bright meats presented on ivy-filigreed platters, men in black, women jeweled in green and red. The painted trees of the ceiling bent low overhead. Adam was wired and exhausted, here and somewhere else. Nothing was real but him and Gansey.

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9 Fictional Besties You Wish You Had in Real Life

Have you ever wanted to hang out with your favorite fictional characters? I know I have! Here’s my top nine (I’m an iconoclast that way) fictional besties I wish I really had.

Step. Off.

Step. Off.

1. Katniss Everdeen, from The Hunger Games

She’s tough, she’s loyal, and she’d be willing to sacrifice her life if it means saving yours. Best friend and security detail. Plus, the odds are apparently always in her favor. Can anyone say Las Vegas?

2. Cameron, from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

This guy would (reluctantly) let you steal his dad’s precious sports car to go joy-riding around the city while you play an elaborate game of hooky. That’s true friendship.

3. Dr. Watson, from Sherlock Holmes

The best case scenario of random roommate assignments: John Watson. He doesn’t mind when you flash your erudition, dazzling everyone around you with your brilliant genius. He also doesn’t seem to care if you shoot up cocaine and play your violin all night long (I mean, if you’re into that kind of thing.)

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Review: The Bone Season, by Samantha Shannon

The Bone Season, by Samantha Shannon

The Bone Season, by Samantha Shannon

For most people living in Scion London in 2059, clairvoyance is the stuff of fantasy, reserved for frightening unruly children away from meddling with things they do not understand. But for Paige Mahoney, clairvoyance is all too real and all too dangerous. Part of a crime syndicate who uses their voyant powers for financial gain, Paige fears execution when she is arrested by Scion police.

But instead, Paige is shipped to a voyant prison colony in what used to be Oxford, where her wardens are a powerful, otherwordly race known as the Rephaim. They treat voyants as slaves, feeding on them psychically and forcing them to fight the horrific monsters that stalk along the boundaries of their prison. Paige is desperate to escape Oxford, and the only way is to delve deep into the history and motives of her Rephaite masters. Will she learn enough to defeat them? Or will they devour her, body, mind, and soul?

I picked up Samantha Shannon’s debut novel on the recommendation of one of my beta readers, and I’m so glad I did! Although I usually shy away from novels with a great deal of hype, for once I thought the novel in question deserved the praise heaped upon it. I really enjoyed this novel, from its spunky heroine to its sizzling pace to its creep-tastic monsters.

I had only a few problems with the novel, and the bulk of them appeared in the beginning. The first few chapters are difficult to get through, because Shannon has the unfortunate habit of drowning the reader in information about her world, her characters, and their histories. Granted, Shannon’s world is complex and deep, but I would have appreciated a bit more showing and a lot less telling. I was so overwhelmed with nonsense words, names, and terms that I barely made it past the first few chapters.

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Cover Reveal: World of Ash, by Shauna Granger

Hey readers! I’m so stoked to introduce the gorgeous, scary, stylish cover for Shauna Granger’s upcoming release World of Ash. Make sure you check out this crazy-talented lady’s book when it comes out in December!
World of Ash
by Shauna Granger
Release Date: 12/2013
Book Summary:
There are two inherent truths in the world: life as we know it is over, and monsters are real.
The Pestas came in the night, spreading their pox, a deadly plague that decimated the population. Kat, one of the unlucky few who survived, is determined to get to her last living relative and find shelter from the pox that continues to devastate the world. When it mutates and becomes airborne, Kat is desperate to avoid people because staying alone might be her only chance to stay alive.
That is, until she meets Dylan. Dylan, with his easy smile and dark, curly hair, has nowhere to go and no one to live for. He convinces Kat there can be safety in numbers, that they can watch out for each other. So the unlikely couple set off together through the barren wasteland to find a new life – if they can survive the roaming Pestas, bands of wild, gun-toting children, and piles of burning, pox-ridden bodies.


About the Author
Like so many other writers, Shauna grew up as an avid reader, but it was in high school that she realized she wanted to be a writer. Five years ago, Shauna started work on her Elemental Series. She released the first installment, Earth, on May 1, 2011 and has since released four sequels, with the series coming to an end with Spirit. She is currently hard at work on a new Urban Fantasy series, starring a spunky witch with a smush-faced cat named Artemis.
Author Links:

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Cover Reveal
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Review: Delirium, by Lauren Oliver

Delirium, by Lauren Oliver

Delirium, by Lauren Oliver

Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing.

But now, everyone knows better. In the not too distant future, amor deliria nervosa has been classified as a disease and the root of all the bad things in the world; war, suffering, violence. Thankfully, a cure has been discovered, the administration of which is mandatory for anyone over the age of 18. Lena Haloway has just graduated high school and only has three months until she can get the procedure; she can hardly wait. She’s seen the havoc the infection can wreak, and she knows the truth; love kills you when you have it and kills you when you don’t. A life without love, on the other hand, is safe. Happy. But when she meets Alex, things start to change. Will she be able to stave off the infection until she can get the cure, or will the unthinkable happen–will Lena fall in love?

I had mixed feelings about this book, so I’ll start off with the things I didn’t love about it. Primarily, I thought the execution of the premise of Delirium was absolute rubbish. In theory, the premise of Delirium is fascinating; future society has classified love as a psychological disorder requiring extreme treatment. Oliver’s execution of the premise, however, leaves something to be desired. She offers the reader zero scientific proof or research behind the demonization of love, nor any biological/chemical/hormonal basis for the disease. She only tells us that Scientists know it’s a disease, and Scientists found a cure using Science. As someone who happens to know that Science isn’t a monolithic organization who know everything and always agree, this premise was silly bordering on laughable.

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I remember the first journal I ever had. I was in 4th grade, and the journal was a gift for my 10th birthday. Square, slim, and emblazoned with a photograph of a beautiful horse on the cover (I was really into horses at the time), the journal was initially something of a mystery to me. What does one write about in a diary? I wondered as I flipped through sheet after sheet of blank, unlined paper. Is there anything going on in my life that’s worth journaling about?

(Okay, so I’m paraphrasing. My thoughts probably ran more along the lines of: Ooh, horsey! ….What now? Words are hard.)

Although I would never, ever dot my i's with hearts.

Although I would never, ever dot my i’s with hearts.

Either way, my journaling habit got off to a rocky start. I remember my first ever diary entry consisted of a laundry list of what I’d had for breakfast. Snoozers. I also spend an inordinate amount of time naming all the horses I would eventually own in some distant, unrealistic future. But eventually, I got into the hang of it. I started writing about the interesting or funny things that happened to me at school. I discussed my hopes and dreams for the future: professional show jumper; jockey; equine veterinarian. (I was really into horses.) I even penned my first work of fiction in those pages: a tale about an orphaned warrior princess named Jade and her trusty unicorn, who roamed the Forbidden Forest in search of the lost Wizard Bendar. Although the story was repetitive and heavily (and I mean heavily) influenced by Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain, it was a start.

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By Anonymous

In the summer before my senior year of high school I got a series of emails from someone who was, quite literally, my secret admirer. The anonymous author had gone to great pains to conceal his or her identity, to the extent of setting up a dummy email account and keeping secret any personal details that might have given me any hints or clues as to who he actually was. The notes were, besides being flattering, very well written and polite, and we corresponded for a short while before the emails abruptly stopped. Years later, I still have no idea who the secret admirer was. And the thing that bothers me the most isn’t that I may have missed out on a chance to get to know someone who purportedly cared for me, but that I never knew who he was. It still drives me a little bit crazy that this person was, simply put, Anonymous.

"Girl, why'd you have to pour hot wax on my shoulder?"

“Girl, why’d you have to pour hot wax on my shoulder?”

Fatal curiosity is nothing new for humanity as a whole. I trust that we all know the saying about the cat by now. So many myths, legends, and folk stories tell of the dangers of excessive inquisitiveness. The fall of man in Genesis is a great example of the dangers befalling men and women who allow their curiosity to overcome them. Pandora and her box. In the Greek myth Eros and Psyche and the Norwegian tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon, young women who have married mysterious men are tempted into spying on them at night, betraying their lovers trusts and setting them upon difficult and harrowing quests. The legend of Bluebeard. The theme is repeated over and over again: secrets are better left untold, and anonymity is best preserved.

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Open Sesame: Great First Lines

Maybe be a little more creative...

Maybe be a little more creative…

Happy Monday, folks! This Monday has afforded me the dubious pleasure of starting work on my third round of revisions now that most of my beta-readers have gotten back to me with edits. Although I gotta say, so far work has been going very sloooowly. On the upside, I’ve been able to take a long hard look at the way my novel opens: first line, first paragraph, first chapter. And it’s got me thinking a lot about openings in general.

There are so many amazing first lines in literature. No two are the same, but all share one important feature: they hook the reader’s attention, and then make the reader ask questions whose answers only lie in the following pages. Some begin with a musing or a remembrance from the main character. Others employ the technique of beginning a story in media res, dropping the reader right into the middle of the action without any context or background. But all great opening lines make the reader want to continue reading.

So, with no further ado, I present to you my top 10 favorite opening lines from literature!

10) “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.” The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger

9) “I’d always welcomed war, but in battle my passion rose unbidden.” Nightshade, Andrea Cremer

8) “A writer never forgets the first time he accepted a few coins of a word of praise in exchange for a story … a writer is condemned to remember that moment, because from then on he is doomed and his soul has a price.” The Angel’s Game, Carlos Ruiz Zafon

7) “There is no lake at Camp Green Lake.” Holes, Louis Sachar

6) “Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she’d been told that she would kill her true love.” The Raven Boys, Maggie Stiefvater

5) “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

4) “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen

3) “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” 1984, George Orwell

2) “Birthdays were wretched, delicious things when you lived in Beau Rivage. The clock struck midnight, and presents gave way to magic.” Kill Me Softly, Sarah Cross

1) “The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.” The Gunslinger, Stephen King

Do you have favorite opening lines in literature? What do you think makes a successful opening? Leave you thoughts in the comment section below!