August 23, 2010

Book Review: City of the Dead

Book Two in the Seven Wonders Series by T. L. Higley.
I'll be honest, the cover made me a little edgy when I first saw it. It kind of had that 'romance novel' look to it, and I am really not into romance novels. Rest assured, dear readers, this is not a romance novel! Yes, a romance does develop between two of the characters over the course of the story, but ... well, that's different.
Anyway, the main character, Hemiunu, or 'Hemi' to his friends, is Grand Vizier to the pharaoh Khufu, and the designer and architect for the Great Pyramid at Ghiza. He and Pharaoh Khufu grew up together, and both are hiding a dark secret regarding the mysterious death of a young woman many years ago, when they were still boys. Both of them are hiding the secret, but neither of them actually knows the full truth of it...or so they claim.
When Hemi's friends start being murdered, he begs Pharaoh for permission to investigate, but uncovering the murderer may mean uncovering the truth of an event they have both sworn to keep secret forever. It also leads Hemi to meet some new and surprising people who introduce him to a God other than the statues he serves in Egypt's temples.
This books makes a fabulous read; it combines an historical adventure with a delicious murder mystery. The only problem I found with it was that it is written in first-person from the viewpoint of a man. Being written by a female author, I think it sometimes doesn't accurately reflect the way a man would view or think about a given situation. But, the character development is deep and thorough, and we the readers get the feeling that we know Hemi personally.
City of the Dead gets a great rating from me (in which case, I should probably develop some sort of rating system to go by) and I will definitely be adding it to my bookshelf at my first opportunity!

August 18, 2010

Back-with a book review!

Hello all, and sorry for missing my posting last week. God blessed me with the opportunity for a rather impromptu vacation, so I jumped at it and basically spent all week catching up on sleep and reading. I did venture out to make a library run, though, and brought back some fabulous finds! Namely, I have discovered the astounding work of T.L. Higley. I absolutely love this author, and I suspect she'll become a common post-topic here at The Lair. So to get started, here's a review of her book, Shadow of Colossus.
Set on the Greek island of Rhodes, Shadow of Colossus is the story of Tessa, a slave since childhood. Tessa is hetaera to Glaucus, a powerful politician. In the opening scene of the book, she is planning to kill herself, convinced that suicide is the only way that she can ever be free.
Then Glaucus meets an accidental death--but the circumstances make it appear that Tessa murdered him. If charged with the crime, it is almost certain that she will be executed. But quick-thinking, clever Tessa isn't about to let it go at that, and she sets in motion a dangerous plan to hide Glaucus' death and use it to escape to the island of Crete.
This book doesn't 'open with a bang' by any means. In fact, the first few pages were a little slow getting started. However, once you do get into it (which doesn't take long--by Chapter 2 I was completely immersed) it is absolutely riveting. I sometimes have trouble letting go of my Analytical Writer side and letting myself become completely engrossed in a book as a reader and nothing more. That was not a problem with this book. After years in slavery, Tessa has let herself become impervious to emotions in order to avoid pain and sorrow. Then she meets Nikos, who encourages her to let herself feel, because feeling is what makes you alive. This causes a huge struggle for Tessa, and I the reader could feel every part of that struggle.
Another great aspect of the book is that the romance that develops between Tessa and Nikos actually feels natural, unlike so many books in which the main male character and the leading lady seem to fall in love simply because the writer wanted to include some romance in the story and there was no one else around for them to fall in love with.
And as if all that weren't enough, T.L. Higley transports you completely to ancient Greece with her fabulous descriptions and writing style that presents Rhodes to you as easily as if it was right outside your front door. Reading this, I felt like if I were suddenly transported to ancient Rhodes, I would know my way around (and know which creepy characters to avoid).
Read this book, you guys! If nothing else, use it as a textbook on how to take your readers on a thrilling journey they will not soon forget!

August 3, 2010

Beyond Character Developement

"Strong writing requires an intimate knowledge of humanity."
~From Creating the Story
It's true: elaborate, detailed character development is important, but it won't get you anywhere without deep, familiar knowledge of human nature. A writer has to know and understand the workings of the human mind and apply their knowledge to their characters in order to effectively transport a reader into that character's thoughts and struggles. A reader cannot identify with a character on a deep level if that character's mind doesn't function like a realistic human mind.
So that leaves us, the writers, with the task of learning and studying human nature. You'd think it would be totally easy--after all, we're humans, aren't we? Of course we know how we think!
But it's not always that easy. We tend to take our human nature for granted; it's part of us, so we don't think about it that often, just like you probably take your right leg for granted. Have you ever just sat down and studied your right leg, the way the muscles fit together, the way the tendons flex and move when you bend your knee, the way the components of your knee joint work together? I'm going to venture a guess and say that most of us probably haven't. So have you ever sat down and analyzed your own thought processes and mental gear-grinding?
A warning: don't become over-analytical! You don't want your writing to become bogged down with the minute details of every character's thought processes, nor do you want to get so into the habit of analyzing yourself that you spend all of your time analyzing potential decisions rather than actually making them!
The microscopic details of characters' thought processes aren't what's important. What's important is the understanding of the character's nature that you bring to the page. Even if you don't openly display your understanding in a lengthy dissertation on why Character A made this particular choice, if you have that deep, intimate knowledge of human nature and the workings of the human mind, it will show. And if you do it well, the reader will benefit from it without even realizing that it's there.