Hello again, and welcome back to another edition of In My Opinion. This post I’ll be reviewing a GREAT book by a GREAT author, who also happens to be a GREAT guy.
Buckle up, for I am about to regale you with a tale of woe and Russian women. A story of heartache and loss. A story of triumph… and then more Russian women. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you From Afar, by Frank Scozzari.
A little while ago I was lucky enough to get a tweet from an author pointing me towards an online hangout for writers to review each others work. I perused the place for a bit, then posted my novella and offered to do a review exchange with someone. I received a few offers, and among them was an exchange offer from a man named Frank Scozzari. In his email Frank was frank with me (heehee), sent me a copy of his book and asked for a copy of mine.
I had no idea what I was in for, but I am very glad I took the offer.
From Afar is labeled as a memoir, and Frank traveled to Russia several times in researching everything for it. It’s about a man, Morgan Stanfield, 38, single, who is lonely. Well, a little more than lonely. The story begins with him lonely enough that he might do something he will regret later. Morgan is looking for love, not just a woman or a girlfriend, but love, and he’s taken to the internet to find it. He has a fascination with Russian woman for some reason, and therefore gears his search for love towards that country. He meets a woman online who lives and Russia and is very warm, intelligent and wants to meet him. After some “careful” consideration, Morgan hops on a plane and jets over to Russia.
Plot: The plot of this story was painfully realistic in the beginning. I found I could relate to Morgan on a lot of levels when it started off. His friends, his thoughts, his feelings, all felt very accurate. And once he decides to head to Russia, I could not put down my tablet. I wanted to read it all at once, it was so good. The twists and turns that the story takes surprised me even when I thought I could call what would happen next. For all that it had going for it, the ending… was a little underwhelming. I guess I held out hope the entire time that somehow the story would end on a good note, but it didn’t. It just sort of happened. Like the story took so much effort, he just wanted it to be over. When I thought about, though, I wasn’t that put off by the ending. After all that Morgan goes through, it makes sense for it quit the way it did.
Characters: A+ Morgan, though a little heavy on the internal monologue at times, is funny and smart and not all a boring read. He has interesting flash backs that enlighten the reader to what is going through his mind during some scenes, and is always pretty honest. I found that I liked him right off the bat. He starts off as a wet blanket. A real sad-sap. But as the story progresses, he forces himself to be bold and go out of his comfort zone to experience life. By the end however, he’s more depressed than the beginning and just barely holding onto hope. Sad face.
Writing: As soon as I started reading and saw that it was in the first person, I thought this wouldn’t be a book I’d like. I usually don’t enjoy most 1st persons. Heck, I usually don’t enjoy most anything not fantasy or sci fi, but I really enjoyed this. Frank wrote very well, and you can tell from his vocabulary and use of language that he is highly educated. He got the skillz, is what I’m trying to say, and I might be a little jelly. But whatevs, it’s cool. Some paragraphs can run a little long, in my opinion, and by then end of the story, when Morgan is really down in the dumps, his bitter thoughts can turn into really long run-ons sometimes.
Imagery: Excellent. Frank actually went to Russia and all the places he writes about for this novel, and it shows in the imagery. He captures the feel of Russia perfectly, not just the visuals, but the actual aura and presence of the place. You actually feel cramped when he describes the underground tram, and you can feel the depressing grey when he talks about the run down neighborhoods. I say again, excellent job on imagery.
Verdict: As someone who normally doesn’t read anything unless it’s a type of fantasy or sci fi, I really enjoyed this book. Like I said, I couldn’t put it down and tore through it in a few days. I will definitely be talking about this book to others for its funny, unexpected story and great character. And great author. Turns out Frank isn’t just a prolific author with lots of published work, he’s a genuinely nice guy. He also wrote a kickass review for my novella, which made me feel all tingly inside.
Should you check out this book? Yeah, I think so. And you can find his site here and his book here. Persons of the female perspective might find a hard time relating with Morgan, but men will fit right in. It’s not long and it’s an enlightening read. In My Opinion.
Welcome back to another book review!
I shall be titling all my reviews under the category of In My Opinion, since everything written will be my own opinion. As always it’s done by yours truly, and sponsored by The Victor Foundation.
This post I’ll be covering a trilogy I started over the summer and just finished the other night by the prolific author Brandon Sanderson called Mistborn. Consisting of the books The Final Empire, The Well of Ascension, and The Hero of Ages.
The Mistborn trilogy is an epic of epic high fantasies, and regarded as one of the best works of fantasy to come out in the past decade or so by many avid readers of my generation. The story takes place in a desolate world that seems to be at the end of its life and has been rapidly approaching it for some time. There are volcanoes that spew ash into the sky constantly and every night mists creep out into the world and occupy everything. Most people are terrified of the mists, but no one knows where they come from. The world has magic in it, called Allomancy, and in a nut-shell it’s the ability to have certain powers based on “burning” different metals. If someone is able to “burn” pewter, then they get super strength. Burn tin, and enhance senses. Etc. The plot is that this world has been dominated by a Lord Ruler for a thousand years and he’s been doing a pretty awful job at it. He keeps an entire population of slaves handy for a rich society of nobles to use as they see fit.
And that, friends, is where we pick up our story.
The best way I can see to break this down is book by book, so here we go…
Book 1 – The Final Empire: This was a good book. The main characters were awesome, they grew as the story progressed, and they grew on me the more I read. At first a lot of the characters seemed too… cookie cutter? Too… already done before? They seemed like characters I had heard in dozens of other stories before and they had no uniqueness to them. But after about half way through the book, they developed their own personalities and I started to actually chuckle at a few of their conversations.
The plot was good and is pretty much the only thing that kept me going through this series. Assassinations, rebellions, wars, spies, death, betrayal. It was all there and done well. And the pacing of the plot was good, too. It didn’t drag at all, and there were equal parts contemplation by the characters, and action or conflict in the story. All in all, the first book got two thumbs up from me.
Book 2 – The Well of Ascension: This book sucked. Flat out, straight up, no way around it. This book was boring as hell and dragged from chapter four till the end. The plot didn’t go anywhere and took forever for anything to be resolved. I felt like so much time was wasted in reading the second book. The characters were LAME. So many chapters were pointless thoughts and ramblings of characters that were absolutely useless to their development or the overall story. The second book, I guess, opened up the world a bit more and let us see how the characters act when there is nothing to do. Which, you know, doesn’t make for a good story. I was really disappointed with the second book. To the point that I almost didn’t pick up the third. But I did.
Book 3: The Hero of Ages: First and foremost, I have to say that I went into this book with a bad attitude after reading the last one. I was not expecting much, and it turns out I wasn’t disappointed in that regard. The story picked up a little bit, but took a different direction than I hoped for and sputtered out at the end. The characters got better, much better when compared to the second book, and the pacing was actually noticeable in this one. The plot was also good again, which was a plus. But it did drag on in many places, and fell back into the habit of wasting a entire chapter for a character to ponder whether they should do something even though they know they’re going to do it in the end. It’s hard to explain, but pretty frustrating. That said, Brandon Sanderson did a good job bringing a end to the series. The action and conflict was good, the twists that I’d been waiting three books for did surprise me and I enjoyed them. The third book was a much better book than the second, but not as good as the first.
When all is said and done, I honestly probably wouldn’t recommend these books to others, unless they are hardcore readers and looking for a really big world to get into. i.e., if you’re looking to waste a lot of time. And that verdict hurts me, because I took a writing class by Brandon Sanderson and held to this belief that since he was giving awesome advice for writing and navigating the world of publishing, he must be a great writer himself. And though he is prolific as hell, his craft and prose is almost nonexistent. I was pretty let down with this series.
The world, the magic, the plot was so freaking cool. But the delivery was not able to handle it. In my opinion.
Welcome to a new segment of The Victor Foundation:
That’s right, I figured in the spirit of trying to write more I would start posting my reviews and thoughts on the different stories I am currently perusing through. Not sure if you know this, but I like stories. Not just books, no, I like stories, no matter how they are told. I like a good story even if it’s a musical, or a play, or a video game, or a TV show, or a book, or a screenplay, or an anime, or a comic, or WHATEVER. If it is a good story told well, then I’m hooked.
So as I start to write reviews for all the good stories I’m running through, I just want you to know that they are not at all limited to just books. Far from it, Jen! I’ll definitely post the reviews for books I’m reading, but I also just finished an impressive anime that I’ll be reviewing, as well as a popular TV show in the states, a good sci-fi movie and perhaps some video games. Basically, more of a snap-shot into what I’m enjoying at the moment and what’s influencing my writing. I’ll still post updates about my books, my writings, the novel I’m writing now (which is getting so good!), etc.
But now, without further adieu, I give you the first installment of my review category, Hellboy: The Lost Army.
First and foremost, this isn’t a graphic novel, or comic book for you old-timers out there. This is indeed a full length novel, written by a NY times best selling author, Christopher Golden. There are a few illustrations done my Mike Mignola that are strewn throughout the book, but very sparse and all black and white. The book was published in 1997 (I know, right?), but it takes place in the eighties and constantly references Ronald Reagan and payphones.
Writing: The writing started off choppy and hard to get used to. Chris uses two word sentences a lot and speaks in short bursts of information that don’t flow that well when describing scenery or characters. But it turns out that’s just because he’s really really good at writing fighting and action scenes. His style of writing is perfect for detailing fist-fights, gun battles and awesome magical duels. So once the slow beginning was through and the story started picking up, so did the writing.
Imagery: Chris does a great job of really nailing down a setting’s description. He has the right vocabulary to paint the right mental picture and uses the short sentences to throw imagery at the reader quickly and concisely. The illustrations don’t hurt either.
Characters: This will always be a big one for me, because besides the plot of the story, the characters are really what keeps me turning the pages and sticking around to find out what happens next. Hellboy, obviously, is the main character of the story, but has a female counterpart who compliments the story nicely. Hellboy is written as this empathetic character throughout the whole story, but by the end he’s basically just a walking pun generator, only speaking in lame jokes. I could have gone without that. Sidenote: So, if any of you have seen the Hellboy movies, you know that there is romance between Liz (the chick who controls fire) and Hellboy (the big red one). Well apparently, that wasn’t a thing until the early 2000s. This novel is the first time Hellboy actually has a romantic life, and it’s with this British archaeologist in the story. Liz is actually in this novel briefly, but only as a friend to Hellboy, a work partner. I just thought that was an interesting bit of information. The original characters from the graphic novels are present, Abe, Liz, Prof. Bruttenholm, but very minor. The female protagonist, again though starting off a little weird, really grew on me. She was strong, competent, funny, and British. What else do you need?
Plot: The plot was pretty sound on this one. I questioned some of the twists and advances in the plot at the beginning, thinking to myself, “Why would they do that, if they could just do this instead? It would be easier…”. But that only happened a few times in the beginning when the mystery and story was still being set up. There were a handful of times that I could see conflict being forced. Big time. But by the end, there was so much action it’s hard to remember the slow parts.
Verdict: All in all, this was a good read. Higher than your standard 3 stars, but not 5 star worthy. The story definitely had me hooked throughout and had very few slow points. There were many angles and plots going on simultaneously, and the different point of view characters were well written. My verdict: Thumb up. If you like action/adventure stories you should read this book. If you like humor and subtle romance, you should check out this book. If you get turned off by action, magic, supernatural stuff, or people overcoming dangerous odds, then stay away.