Monday, September 18, 2017

Book Review: A Tale of Mist and Shadow by M. R. Laver

Hello, fellow readers! Here I am with my second book review. Today, it is M. R. Laver's A Tale of Mist and Shadow, the first book in his series by the same name. It is classified under Science Fiction and Fantasy, but I would definitely call it pure Fantasy. The book itself is 450 pages long and can be purchased both in e-book format and as a paperback through Amazon.

I started reading this book shortly after I "met" Laver online through a mutual friend of ours. When I found out he was a fellow author, I knew I wanted to read his first book and throw some support his way. We independently published authors need to stick together, after all. Knowing he was a Fantasy author and a fellow Christian, I figured that chances were pretty high that his work would be right up my alley. So I downloaded the book and got to reading. In truth, it took me far longer to get through this book than it should have, and that was my own fault. I had to stop reading for awhile to get a different book in, and that may have made some details revealed earlier in the book a little fuzzy.

The story starts off by throwing the reader into a bit of a battle and some conflict between those in charge (and those who think they're in charge) of a small town, and it really doesn't slow down much from there. Laver's strength is definitely writing battle scenes. Actions are precise and easily pictured, explaining what is happening and with what kinds of instruments and types of people involved without talking down to the reader. These scenes were easily my favorite. I will say that there were one or two battle scenes that felt drawn out for longer than they should have been, but even then, these were the scenes where the storytelling really shone.

As a whole, the book is not without its flaws. There are multiple grammatical issues, inconsistencies, and some characters that you just don't like. Even the worst villains have some sort of quality that makes you want to read more about them. Unfortunately, that is not the case with the demi-villain in this book. She has no redeeming qualities about her and I honestly sighed every time she was involved in a scene because I knew there would be some sort of subtle (often far from subtle) allusion to sex.

The plot doesn't feel fleshed out enough, which says something for a book that is 450 pages long. There is so much thrown into the novel that not enough time is spent on a single element to get the reader truly invested in it. I was always taught that a good novel in a series takes two or three big ideas and focuses on them while weaving the smaller elements around them, saving other big ideas for later books in the series. It felt like Laver took all his big ideas and stuffed them into this first novel, which left me feel a bit chaotic. There were so many things to learn, characters to keep track of, myths to separate, that sometimes I felt overwhelmed, which made me not want not read as much. Not a good thing.

Dialogue between characters was 50/50. Sometimes it felt extremely organic and believable, others had them pausing in the middle of very serious situations to have a slapstick comedy moment full of laughter. Sometimes reactions were so out of the ordinary that it took me out of the story to wonder about it. There were also moments of swearing which took me completely off guard and just didn't sit well with me. It felt thrown in there to try to make the scene more intense or important, but it just made it awkward.

I did love some of the characters. Grace was definitely my favorite bar far. She felt the most real to me, and her story had a distinguishable arc to it that I thought was beautifully handled. There was even a side character or two that I wished we could have seen more of or learned more about, but again, this was an area where there was just so much that there was not enough time spend on any one character.

My overall rating for this title:

If you would like to check out this title for yourself, check out the Amazon page. 
If reading isn't you thing, you can also find it on Audible
M. R. Laver can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

If you are an author and have a book you would like me to review, leave a comment down below and I'll get back to you as soon as I can. The wait list is rather long at the moment, but I am still taking new titles.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Practicing the Pause

My father has never been a very patient man. If you asked him, he'd be the first to admit it. He hates sitting in traffic, complains loudly over the commercials that come before theatrical trailers, and mumbles, mutters, and curses under his breath when something isn't finished when he believes it should be. Out of all the traits I have inherited from my dad, I am thankful this was not one of them. The thing is, he's not alone in his impatience. While I may be more of a “go with the flow” type of person, there are many people who are the complete opposite.

This morning, I decided to walk down to my local craft store. Unless it's a holiday or there is a major sale going on, it's unusual for more than a couple of people to be in line, especially on a Monday morning. For some reason, today the store was packed. Even with multiple registers open, the line was quite long. When I was ready to check out, there were five people in front of me with more people quickly falling into line behind me. One of them was an elderly gentleman. He heaved a great big sigh behind me when he saw how much of a wait there was. It was the first of many. His impatience was not hard to understand. I certainly hadn't expected the store to be so busy. As more and more sighs sounded behind me, I was torn between amusement and annoyance. We all needed to buy things. We were all stuck in the line if we were intent on purchasing the things we wanted. How was expressing irritation over and over helping? It did nothing but make me feel rushed and cause his wife to question whether or not she really needed the things she had in her cart.

A trip to Market Basket is always a lesson in patience, no matter the time of day. There are people everywhere. All the time. No matter what. I have learned to go in with the expectation that it's going to be chaotic, and rushing will only raise my already high anxiety level. (Little known fact about me: grocery shopping stresses me out, and by stresses me out, I mean I would rather sit naked on broken glass than grocery shop because it raises my anxiety level so much.) I had a list with me, as I always do, and was strolling through each aisle, grabbing what I needed, waiting when people were in my way to move before taking what I needed. As it seems to happen when I grocery shop, I kept going down the same aisle with the same people, one particular woman standing out. She was quite a bit larger than me, and tended to walk (and park) her cart right down the middle of the lane, making people either have to wait for her or shimmy around her if they could. We happened to be down the frozen veggies aisle together at the same time, both of us heading for the other end. An elderly couple entered the way we were looking to exit and stopped to discuss whether or not they wanted frozen tilapia. The woman with the cart stopped, waiting for the couple to move. They blocked the aisle as they talked for all of fifteen seconds at most, a much shorter time than her own record for blocking the way. Instead of politely asking if either of them would step aside, she let out a loud, obnoxious growl, whipped her cart around, nearly taking me out in the process, and stomped back down the aisle saying rather rude things about impolite people who don't take anyone else into consideration in a loud voice.

How many times do we do this? How often are we oblivious to the ways we hold other people up, yet feel impatient, angered, even outraged and abused when we feel like someone else is hindering our ability to accomplish or complete something? Why do we feel like we deserve to have every want and need met the second we realize it is there, but if we see a want and need in someone else, we react to fill them with much less speed and conviction than our own? I don't have any real answers for this, but it's something I intend to be more aware of. This “righteous indignation” that tends to take root when we are faced with obstacles that remove situations and outcomes from our control gets us nowhere. What of, instead of huffing away or sighing loud enough so that everyone knows you're unhappy, we took a breath? What if we paused?

Life moves so quickly and we've become so accustomed to getting what we want exactly when we want it. It's killed our ability to wait and made patience practically an antiquated ideal. We rush through everything, looking for the quickest way and in doing so, we sacrifice so much: experiences, memories, interactions. Sometimes our inability to take a second before reacting makes us say or do things we wouldn't normally, simply because we're giving knee-jerk reactions.

Practice the pause before you give that tell-tale sigh. Practice the pause before you speak. Practice the pause. Let it be the action that comes before your reaction. It isn't easy. I'm working on doing this myself, and I'll be the first to tell you that it doesn't feel natural. I can also tell you that it's incredibly freeing to not be bound by impatience and frustration.

I'm in the middle of a rather long pause myself, and it's certainly testing my patience. I've promised a new website and blog, and neither has been able to see the light of day yet. Unfortunately, this has not been a good year for book sales and I'm definitely feeling the pinch of it. Stay tuned. The website is still coming, the new blog with guest posts, reviews, and interviews is still coming.

In the meantime, in the breath before the exhale, I wait to see what's going to happen instead of jumping ahead, opening my mouth before I take a second to think and make things worse. I'm going to try to do that more often. Hopefully others will do the same.

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