The Book Club

We are starting a new category here on the blog–the book club. This is a series that will cover all things books–what we are reading, what we recommend to you, and anything else book related that we want to share with you! Today we have a collaborative post covering two books that we have read recently. Should you take the time to immerse yourself in these books? Keep reading to find out!

The last book I read was, Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake.

A little poem for a quick synopsis on the book:

“Three dark queens
Are born in a glen,
Sweet little triplets
Will never be friends

Three dark sisters
All fair to be seen,
Two to devour
And one to be Queen”

I don’t really go on social media very often, and I am terrible at posting (if you couldn’t tell), so I didn’t even know there was a lot of hype about this book. But I subscribe to Owl Crate, and this came in one of the boxes. I am a huge fan of young adult, especially fantasy (I tend to write fantasy), so I decided to go ahead and read this book without knowing basically anything, without having any pre-conceptions at all. After I finished the book, I was so confused, frustrated, and a bit over-whelmed that I looked up this book to find out what the hype and the not-so-hype comments and reviews were.

I don’t usually give bad reviews when it comes to books, but because the summary of this book was written so well, I had some expectations. What I got after reading was an anger disorder. Instead of giving bad reviews, I tend to try and analyze the book to see what went wrong as either a writer or a reader. Me and the other editors just did a podcast about beginnings, and I remember saying for fantasy, “beginnings are hard because of world-building.” This book is a prime example of where and when you should not start.

I was so confused trying to keep track of the world, the rules, the cultures, the game the princesses are playing, the relationships, the cliché tropes, and the horrible side characters who were more important than the main characters. And now I realize I am getting off track, but might as well keep going–you don’t really see any of the promises the summary of the book gave until you are 400 pages in. And now, I am done going off track.

This particular book taught me that as a reader, writer and an editor, I took a point-of-view of being snobbish with what I thought might be a cool book. There are a few things I learned to stray away from when writing my own stories, as I have painfully learned from reading this book.

1.       Don’t over promise and not deliver: I think a lot of people got sucked in like I did with the idea of this book that it could be something cool—and it was not!

2.       Pacing: pacing in a story is sooo crucial and this novel had terrible and slow pacing which made people want to give up reading.

3.       Clichés and tropes: be careful on how these are used, don’t use them only for an idea and plot line structure. Enough said, so many people can rant about this, it seems not to get heard, though.

4.       Characters: main characters should be focused on solely when driving the plot forward, secondary characters are there to support—not to act. (So many people in the reviews and comments got caught up hating the secondary characters and said that the main ones were hard to focus on. As the reader I find this funny because I didn’t think there necessarily were supporting characters).

5.       Having too many characters: this can actually harm the story rather than give it complexity if not done well.

6.       World: for fantasy and sci-fi writers, the world building is what we are all about. (I pride myself on being a good world builder). I can understand it’s hard for any writer to make up a world and then describe that world to readers even, if it’s the world we are living in and it’s realistic, everyone’s story is different. That is what makes every novel different. Blake’s world building was not well thought out. She used rules and society norms to change her plot when she needed a turn, a no-no. World building is a setting which can be used for several things, but should not be for turning the plot. No-no and I am doing a finger no-no wag at this book.

7.       Lastly, I promise: so many people said this book was dark. Show me where?!?! This book wasn’t twisted or dark at all! If we are going dark, I want cruelty, murder, mayhem, crazy cray murder plots towards the sisters, the torture of souls and bodies. If this world is supposed to be dark, then why doesn’t the world get Dirty Harry? I don’t get it. There was barely any killing at all, and when it did happen, the author glossed over it! The hell, don’t tell, show, that is what makes a horror/twisted little fairy tale good–the details in how the deed was done.

I now rest my case. If anyone has read this book, let me know in the comments below if you liked it! I thought I was the right audience for this book, but maybe I am not and cannot appreciate it the same way someone else can. If you did not like this book, I feel your pain. If you want to read this book to see if the reviews or comments are true…I will give you a dare this year as a goal to read this book!

And now, on to Addey’s thoughts on a decidedly different type of book…

I went through a bit of a drought when it comes to good books at the end of last year.  I tend to read books that fall into one of two categories: classics or historical fiction.  I am also a Christian, so a good chunk of what I read falls under the category of Christian or inspirational fiction, too.  Towards the end of last year and during January of this year I read two books, neither of which were very good.  I have some tried and true favorite authors who were some of my favorites when I was first introduced to inspirational historical fiction, and one of those said authors came out with a new series towards the end of last year.  Through a fortunate series of events I was given autographed copies of the first two books in the series, so, of course, I had to read them.  But they were disappointing. 

I can usually get through a book in a week, but both of these books took me several months to finish!  I think this may be due to the writing style—when I fell in love with this author I was in high school, and that was a shockingly long time ago once I get to thinking about it—and I also think it’s because this author has started churning out books at an alarming rate, which leaves little time for thoroughly developed characters and plots.  They are the kind of books that follow similar plot lines.  Where a reader can tell what’s going to happen next and where characters seem to be watching the plot go by but not participating in or feeling the events of the story.  I felt like I needed to finish them, but I won’t be getting the third book.

You may have noticed that throughout this whole description I have not mentioned the author or series, and that is because these books are not actually what I’m going to write about today!  I’m going to be telling you about a different, older book by one of my favorite authors that I finally tracked down and ordered online.  It’s not autographed and is, in fact, a slightly tattered copy retired from a Midwestern library district with stamps and bar codes over the cover to prove it.  And it’s such a good book!  I finished it in less than a week compared to the months that dragged by before I finished those other two.

The book I’m actually going to be talking about is The Frontiersman’s Daughter by Laura Frantz.  It’s Frantz’ first novel, and one of only three that I hadn’t yet devoured by the author as of a month ago.  I can see, now, why this book started off Frantz’ career—it’s truly a good read!

First, a little backstory.  Sometimes when I am in need of a good book to read, I will go to the library and walk up and down the rows of shelves, pulling out books at random.  I don’t always take them all home with me (for only three weeks, don’t worry—I’m not a library thief!) but it gives me some new authors to check out.  I tend to go for books that have covers that are eye catching and that look like my kind of books.  If you are familiar with the inspirational historical fiction genre, then you know what I’m talking about.  There’s usually a beautiful heroine on the front, dressed head to toe in period attire, surrounded by some bits of the story’s setting.  On one of these library excursions a year ago I found a series of books called the Ballantyne Legacy.  The covers fit the bill, and I decided to give them a try. 

…and that’s how I was hooked by Laura Frantz’s books!

In the year since I discovered her books, I slowly tracked them all down at the library, and even purchased one of her newer books from good old Barnes and Noble, but I was having a hard time finding a couple books, one of them being The Frontiersman’s Daughter.  Recently, then, after my disappointing re-introduction to the author I mentioned previously, I wanted to read something good!  So I looked online to see what I could find and ended up ordering five books, one of which was The Frontiersman’s Daughter.

Unlike Nicole, I was very pleased with my choice!  The story is set in the time frame right around and after the American Revolutionary War, but most of it takes place in the territory of Kentucky, or Kentucke, as it was first called, and is largely unconcerned with the Revolution.  It’s a really good story that left me wanting to know what happened next.  There’s a bit of a love triangle, which I usually despise, but actually worked in this story (although one of Lael’s—the main character—love interests’ story lines is never really resolved, which left me wanting more).

One of the reason’s I like Frantz as an author is that she doesn’t shy away from using historical vernacular.  I find that in a lot of historical fiction that falls into the not-so-great category the characters speak like they were born yesterday.  That doesn’t add up if the character is, in reality, 200+ years old, so I appreciate when authors trust their readers enough to use the spelling and speaking styles that are accurate to the time period the characters are in. 

Frantz also just has a knack for writing believable storylines and love stories.  There’s nothing I hate more than a rushed story, or one that barely focuses on the love story and suddenly has characters get married in the end seemingly out of nowhere.  Love takes time to develop, and I appreciate that Frantz’ plotlines allow for this time.  The books are, consequently, sometimes on the longer side.  I often find, though, that I get so engrossed in the story that I wish there was more!

To sum up this lengthy examination of my reading habits: go read Laura Frantz if you are a fan of historical fiction!  Even if you aren’t a reader of “inspirational” fiction, her books don’t hit you over the head with it, so I’d still recommend giving them a try.  The Ballantyne Legacy series is a great place to start, but The Frontiersman’s Daughter is an excellent place to dig in, too.

Images courtesy of Goodreads (1, 2, 3).

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