May 14, 2015

The Secret to Good Sequels

It's no secret that sequels and series are a hit among readers these days.  Why? Because we want more.  Series novels give us more time to become invested.  It gives us more material to become attached to.  Generally, a win-win for readers and writers.

So, what do we want to see in a sequel?  What makes it powerful, without being redundant?  And why don't we want a book that's only an extension of the first?

As a rule of fiction, main characters are generally a little clueless in the first book.  If they had all the answers, the story wouldn't be as fun.  They have to learn something and struggle a little.  By the end of the book one, they've learned a little bit.  No one wants to read another book about clueless characters that still haven't learned a thing.  We don't want to see them make same mistakes again and again.
Obviously, there still needs to be conflict so they can't be a sudden know-it-all.
Exhibit A: Harry Potter  They grow (literally and figuratively, but still stay clueless enough to make mistakes.

Independent Story Arc
Cliffhangers are one thing.  Making me wait twelve months to reach the conflict or resolution of the first novel, not okay.  The thing about trilogies is that there are large conflicts and small conflicts.  Three tiny story arcs within one large story arc.  If we look at Twilight, it had three (four is arguable) books with their own (slightly weak) story arcs, and not much of a larger story arc.  People keep chasing them trying to kill them, basically.  ((Sorry to beat up on that series. I was a huge Twi-hard, but I needed an example)).
Exhibit B: The Lunar Chronicles, each novel, with its own story arc exists within one large story arc.

Something Old, Something New
I'll let you in on one of my biggest pet peeves…when everything I love about the first book is missing from the second book.  It makes me absolutely bonkers.  Sorry to beat up on another book, but The Daughter of Smoke and Bone was absolutely one of my favorites.  I could not put it down.  The conflict, the romance, the SETTING (it was Prague).  The cliffhanger.  Swoon.  But the sequel.  Ouch. Different setting, no romance, different story basically, and a completely different form of conflict.  Whoa, whoa, whoa.  What happened to the book I loved?  It literally took me so long to finish the second book, and I'll admit, I didn't even finish the last one.  I still feel bad about it.  The same thing happened with The Bronze Horseman's sequel.  It pains me so to even mention something I didn't love about that book.  It hurts.
Exhibit C: Throne of Glass.  It takes place in the same place, same character, but new romance, new conflict, new story.  Enough to make me happy and enough to make me interested.

Strong Characters
Let's face it, it's the characters we want.  Weak characters might not even get me through the first book, let alone pick up more.  And here's where Twilight redeems itself.  Hate on them as much as you want, but we all came back for the sparkly vampires.
There's that feeling we get when we pick up a sequel and we see the characters we love, and it just warms us.  
Exhibit D: Black Dagger Brotherhood.  Even if each book is about a new character, we still get to visit the old ones, and it feels like seeing old friends.

This sort of falls into the story arc category, but at the same time, it's something different.  I want to feel confident, as the reader, that the author knows where we are going. I want to know that there is direction and that he/she is not just making this up as he/she goes.  I hate to say it, but The Maze Runner did this to me.  As exciting as it was to follow along on that crazy adventure, it felt a little bit like the author had this crazy, awesome premise, but didn't exactly hash out the plan before he started writing.
Exhibit E: Outlander  She gave me confidence, from the very beginning, that the story was going to come back somehow.

You may have noticed by now that I am very critical of sequels.  It's rare for me to like a sequel as much as the first book.  But think about, if I'm picking up the second book then it must mean that I loved the original and it therefore, has large shoes to fill.  It's hard to make a worthy sequel (or series).  I get that.  It has to do so much more than the first one did, if you think about it.  But I think, if done right, the payoff is huge.

So, what do you think about sequels?  What do you love/hate about them?  Which ones are your favorites/least favorites?  What do you think it was that made you love/hate them?

If you'd like to join in on this conversation, link up here for The Book Chat!

Apr 30, 2015

The Real List of Kick-Ass Film Adaptations {the book chat}

It's just another day for book nerds when it's announced that your favorite book is being made into a movie.  I'm one part nervous, one part excited, and one part bitter that my favorite book is going to  be broadcast to the world like some mainstream trollop.  Terrible action figures and corny shirts at Hot Topic…end my torture.

And for the most part, the film adaptations are usually…okay.  Like, they're rarely mind blowing.  They're rarely original, creative or artistic.  They're just…the book…on screen.  And (book nerds, join me here) we don't need the book on screen.  WE HAVE IT IN OUR HEADS.

But pat on the back for you…making millions of dollars on something an author has already made popular.  I see what you did there.

It is possible though.  It's a truth universally acknowledged that a book in possession of film potential must be in want of an excellent director.

Sometimes, directors are inspired by fiction.  Sometimes, they make something artistic and original AND although different than the book, just as good in comparison.

Different and excellent.  Not different and just okay.  See the difference there?

Okay, enough chatter.  Here's the list:

5. Romeo and Juliet - Baz Luhrmann

It's basically my high school years, right here. Done. Teens get to understand Shakespeare, and it was pretty.  Well done, Luhrmann.

4. Clueless 

Fact: Clueless was the first modern teen flick based on classic literature. (No, don't quote me on that, I'm probably wrong) but the point is that most people walked away from this movie not even knowing that it is a film adaptation of Emma by Jane Austen, and then, whether or not they care, they just kinda learned something about Georgian England and youthful hubris.  Boom. Educated.

3. The Great Gatsby - Baz Lurhman

Maybe I'm biased, but B-Lurhmann could do no wrong.  I know this film was heavily criticized, but I thought it was fantastic.  It was everything the book was and more.  And I love that book.  The best part of this movie for me was the cast.  And the design.  Just all of it.

2. The Hunger Games

So, this was one of those insta-winner films that I thought was going to suck. Not sugar coating it.  It had a fan base to ensure blockbusters no matter the film's budget, talent or vision. (see: Twilight)  This is why I was most nervous about this adaption.  HOW were they going to recreate the games and really get it? How? Thank the J-Law Gods that they did not fail on any of those counts.  I knew from the shaky camera start that it was going to be amazing.  Artistic, not commercial.  Raw, not gimmicky.  Some of the people and scenes were too…pretty…but I'll let that slide on account of it being a teen film.  Still, it's a favorite.  (The sequels were…okay.)

1. Pride and Prejudice - Joe Wright

This movie.  Gosh, I just love this movie.  I get it…it's not the same as the book.  It changes some of the language and might not be what you envisioned, but what a vision it is.  It's so original.  The score alone gives me goosebumps.  I saw this movie before I read the book, true story, and I loved it so much that I actually read the book, cover to cover, after seeing it.  It made me love the book.  Everything was so beautiful and organic and real.
My idea of a perfect Friday night is book and wine in hand watching this movie for the twelve thousandth time and following along at my favorite parts.  I love, I love, I love you.


So, there's my list. These films just really went beyond "acting out the book." I should point out that I only included movies that I had both read the book and saw the movie.  Which is why you don't see any LOTR, loved the movies, didn't read the books.  Yeah, I know I suck.  I also didn't include movies like The Giver, The Maze Runner, or Divergent.  Read the books, didn't see the movies.  I'm sure I will someday.  Maybe.  probablynot.

So, let's hear from you!  What are your favorite film adaptations?  Do you prefer when they get creative or stick to the script?  Do you want true-to-life adaptations?  Do you get as upset as I undo when Hollywood messes with your things?  Tell me ALL about it.

Don't forget to link up!

(and forget the button.  I could NOT get the code right on that thing.  So, just link back to this post somewhere on your post so that people can join the fun.  I'm not sweating over buttons.)

Apr 23, 2015

Tell me what to read {the book chat}

So, I truly believe books make the best gift.  And I saw a thing somewhere (on Pinterest probably) that said:
"Next time your friend asks you what you want for your birthday, tell them you want their favorite book."
And I think this is just the best idea!  You can tell a lot about a person by their favorite book, I think.

So, that's what today's book chat is.  If someone asked you for your favorite book, what would you give them?  Even better if it's something in the past year.  Just something that knocked your socks off.  

And maybe start this tradition with someone.  A spouse, a friend, a family member.  Every year on your birthdays, gift them your favorite book of the year.  If you already do something like this, let me know!

Don't forget to link up!

Next Week's Prompt: Book to film adaptations!

Book Chat

Apr 16, 2015

My Favorite Self-Published books {the book chat}

Well, first I have to say sorry.  It's clearly obvious that I'm still a little rusty with the whole blogging thing.  I've messed up both book chats since it returned. It would seem that I set up the wrong link tool in last week's post.  Yikes.  If you wrote a post last week that you would like to share, you can still add it.  I've been in Ireland all week and well, maybe my brain is still there.
Then forgot to schedule todays.  Sheesh.  Bear with me. I'll get my stuff together.  Promise.

So.  I'm excited about today's topic.  Self-publishing has been something on my mind a lot this past year.  Not only have I read a bunch of excellent self-published titles, I've even considered self-publishing myself.  Which is why I chose the topic for today:

What are some of your favorite self-published books?  Do you ever read self-pub, why or why not?

I think it's very important to support indie authors (and artists for that matter).  They do the same amount of work as a traditionally published author, and sometimes more.  The publishing path is a choice and doesn't mean the work is any better or worse.

Indie authors are brave, tough, hard-working and passionate.

Just think about it, for the most part, they're going it alone.  If you self-publish, you are the author and publisher, and most times editor, cover designer, and marketer.  It is a no-nonsense business and self-publishers don't ask for permission.  They have a story to tell and they don't wait for someone to open the door for them.  They kick that sucker down.

I've spoken a bit recently about my favorite self-published books.  Last week, I shared the cover reveal for one of my favorite authors (period), Keary Taylor.  Then, on our first book chat return, I shared the indie series I was reading by Amanda Richardson.  I've reviewed quite a few other indie titles.  Like this.  And this.

Most of these, I found from doing reviews for Netgalley.  Others are friends of mine.  So, maybe you're do I even find good self-published titles?  Well, here are some ideas:
Alt Lit Library
Friends, Twitter, Facebook and word of mouth!

So, now I want to hear from you.  What are your thoughts on indie authors?  Do you read self-published books or have you considered it for your own publishing option?  I can't wait to hear from you!

Book Chat

Next week's topic: Next week is my birthday!  And for my birthday, I want a really good book recommendation.  Tell me what to read!

Apr 9, 2015

The Setting of my Dreams (The Book Chat)

Welcome back for another week of the Book Chat!

At this very moment I am either in transit to or in Ireland itself.  This has been a dream come true for me for as long as I can remember.  And it's why I chose the topic for today's chat.

The question today is…If you could travel to (or live in) a setting from a book, real or fictional, where would you choose?

What I really want to know is- have you ever read a book set in a place that really, really made you want to travel there?  Did an author ever just bring a destination to life?  Did that story forever create a feeling, an emotion, a mood tied to some location, and it just called to you?

I'm thinking…

Hemingway's Paris
Joyce's Dublin
Ruiz-Zafron's Barcelona

The list goes on.  When an author simply catches (or creates) the essence of a living, breathing city, it's pure magic.

Speaking of magic, I distinctly remember this topic last time, during the book chat's former life.  And I remember the majority of answers being, you guessed it, Hogwarts.  That was one of my favorite book chats, because everyone came together with that same feeling, that same something.  Each of you read that book individually, and yet, you all came away with that fierce adoration of the setting.

It was more than a setting really, it was more like a character in the story.

So, back to Ireland.  What does this book chat have to do with Ireland? Well, it all goes back to an early book-love affair for me.

The Mermaids Singing and In the Country of the Young by Lisa Carey were my young adult obsessions, long, long ago. (They're not actually YA, but we didn't quite have YA back then.  I'm old.)

These books are both set in Ireland.  The thing is…these books aren't necessarily happy, warm books.  They're mostly mysterious, foggy, beautiful, haunting, and more.  They're romantic. Ghostly legends and epic sagas.  These stories were set against the rocky crags and cliffs of this struggle-born nation's shores.  As were their characters.

The point is that I was there.  I could smell the sea and taste the salty air.  I felt the cold chill.  I heard the wind and stood amongst the waves on every single page.

Those books taught me something about setting and what it could be.

And now, my current WIP (work in progress), The Fiddler is set in Prague, a slightly futuristic, magic-soaked city, and this, this something we get from the settings of great books is what I want so badly for my book.  I want my readers to open their eyes in this magical city every time they open the pages of the book.  I want them to dream it, to feel it, to know it, without ever actually going there.  And maybe, hopefully, they will eventually go there because they read a great book that was set there.


So, I promise to share my Irish travels with you as soon as I get back.  I'm still in shock that I'm actually going.  If you would like to follow along, you can always follow me on Instagram. I always post photos there.  My username is JessicaB_writer.

As for the book chat, everyone is welcome to join!  Just answer the question in a blog post and link up here!  The more, the merrier.  I can't wait to read all of your answers!


If you would like to join in the Book Chat, here are the rules:
1. Please follow the host (me) via Twitter or Bloglovin...links on the left.
2. Write your post and link-it up below.  Please include the book chat button in your post.
3. Check out a couple other links and chat!

Book Chat

Next week's topic: Share your favorite Self-Published book! Promote indie writers!