Book Covers Copyrighted by Delacorte Press
James Dashner’s Maze Runner Trilogy focuses on a young teenage boy named Thomas and his journey through a mysterious (heavy on the mystery) dystopian world in which he not only struggles to figure out where he is, but more importantly who he is. The story begins as young Thomas awakens from a mysterious metallic box and finds himself surrounded by a group of teenage boys of varying ages. Wearing ragged clothing and speaking with a strange slang, Thomas’ confusion is exacerbated by his immediate surroundings. The lush grounds and vegetation are starkly contrasted by looming and ominous concrete walls that keep the boys sealed in the Glade. Haunted by strange and disparate visions, Thomas’ quest for answers truly begins when he steps out of the confines of the Glade and into the surrounding maze.
Dashner hits the mark in his attempt at creating a unique world where every seemingly apparent truth is anything but. Readers will find themselves second-guessing every “revelation” not because the explanations seem unbelievable, but rather because Dashner has masterfully weaved that sense of mistrust into the plotline. Reminiscent of Lord of the Flies, moral questions that come into play between contrasting perspectives of basic survival versus the quest for truth is handled expertly throughout the series. Dashner’s characters also come to life through the pages with unique personalities and motivations. From Thomas to his best friends, Minho and Newt, to Theresa and Brenda and the ensuing love triangle between them, Dashner fills his world with characters readers will be rooting for and against—and even torn between others.
From The Maze Runner (Book One) to The Death Cure (Book Three), Thomas’ adventure ramps up with every subsequent installment. The Scorch Trials (Book Two) really kicks the pace into overdrive. Readers will flip through pages at a rapid pace in an urgent need to discover the answers as to why Thomas and his friends have endured such horrific obstacles that include needle-stabbing-robots, crazed humans called Cranks, and the ominous WICKED organization that appears to be behind everything. The stakes are ratcheted up as the series progresses with unforgettable moments of heartache and pain (let’s just say there was a betrayal in book two and three that left me feeling a little red in the face) leading to an epic conclusion with a satisfying payoff in the final book.
As much as I enjoyed the Maze Runner Trilogy, of which I do recommend, there were a few areas of which I could’ve done without. First off was the unique slang. Although I truly applaud Dashner (and any author really) for trying to push the envelope and create something new and original, I found the slang to be slightly disruptive to my reading experience. After trying to figure out if these slang terms were substitutes for curse words, I eventually found myself making the switch naturally to make the reading experience go more smoothly. Secondly, I found that The Maze Runner starts off rather slow. I understand the need to setup the world and plot, but only at about three quarters of the way through the book did the urgency begin to pick up. Once it does, it’s a nonstop journey to the end, but there were still some moments where I found it to drag.
Overall, the Maze Runner Trilogy was an enjoyable and great read that I highly recommend to lovers of young adult mystery and adventure. Fans of dystopian themed worlds combined with a hint of love, comedy, sci-fi, and sort-of zombies will be pleased.
My latest work, Shadows of Kyrus, is almost ready for launch! I'm finalizing the cover image as we speak and aiming for a release date of July 31st. But here's the description and an excerpt from the novella so you can get a taste of what's coming. Happy reading!
Pilgrim of Fate Captain Bram Paxus has kept vigilant watch over the small outpost village of Kyrus for the past eighteen years. But when the local blacksmith is mysteriously murdered, peace is shattered and the village is thrown into disarray. To catch the killer, Bram unexpectedly finds himself teaming up with a youthful monk named Hydas to solve the grizzly crime. As clues are uncovered, the unlikely duo discovers traces of a sinister plot that goes deeper than they both could’ve imagined. With enemy warriors threatening from beyond the Shaded Woods and the Winter Solstice now in jeopardy, Bram must race against time to find the killer before it’s too late and the village is lost forever.
Lance stood ready at a moment’s notice. His sword and shield gripped tightly in each hand. Lance already knew the Jaguar Knights were exceptionally quick but as fast as lightning like some believed?
Within seconds the first Jaguar Knight’s macuahuitl collided with Lance’s shield, the clashing steel ringing loudly in the deep forest. The Anahuac’s strength was unreal as Lance almost dropped his protection. Momentarily rattled, Lance quickly regained his composure. I will show you my skills, Captain!
Lance swung and blocked, his combat training proving its worth. His eyes were focused as he watched the enemy swing and twirl his blade around his body. The movements were mesmerizing, but he refused to let his focus be shaken again. Lance took a quick step with his left foot and pushed off with his right. With the move, he closed the distance between them within a fraction of a second. His sword was already pushing forward, aimed directly at the enemy’s heart.
The Anahuac spun to his left, dodging Lance’s sword while bringing his own macuahuitl across Lance’s ankles. In an instant Lance was on his back. The Jaguar Knight leaped into the air. Both of his hands gripped the savage blade tightly as he prepared to swing it down upon Lance’s head.
The blade smashed into the dirt, sending clumps of grass and mud everywhere. Lance had managed to roll to his right, just barely avoiding the fatal blow. He grabbed a hold of the Anahuac’s wrist and kicked him square in the face, sending the Anahuac stumbling backwards. The powerful warrior wiped the blood off his mouth with his empty right hand. Lance stood up and kicked the macuahuitl off into some nearby brush. He dug his feet into the ground and prepared for another attack.
Bram moved on instinct. He had been through enough battles in his lifetime thus far to understand the heightened sensations of combat. His sword clashed against the wooden blade of the Anahuac time and again. High and low attacks combined into a mesmerizing dance of death, each of their blades dashing dangerously close to their jugulars. This Jaguar Knight was definitely older and more experienced than his counterpart who was currently engaged with Lance. He was more calculated and patient, making him all the more difficult to predict. The Anahuac twirled his weapon above his head, writhing his body like a snake as he gnashed his teeth with excitement. He feinted forward and jumped back to his original position within an instant. Bram knew he wasn’t going to win this battle by speed. I need to slow him down and keep him still…but how? Bram raised the top of his shield just below his eyes, narrowing the view of his target. He held his sword straight out in his right hand, ready to go at a moment’s notice. Bram took a cursory look at his surroundings, seeing if there was anything in the environment that he could use in his favor. Unfortunately, they stood in a small clearing within the Shaded Woods. Nothing advantageous immediately presented itself.
The Anahuac must’ve seen Bram glance around because he instantly launched his next attack. He feinted again, but this time he landed a mere foot away from Bram’s face. Bram slashed across his body hitting nothing but air. The Anahuac ducked and dove low against Bram’s feet. Bram slammed his shield to the ground just in time, catching the macuahuitl with the bottom half of it. With the enemy’s weapon immobilized, Bram swung at his enemy, but the Jaguar Knight had vanished. Bram spun around quickly only to feel the Anahuac’s shin land flush across his jaw, the powerful quick almost knocking him unconscious. On wobbly knees he struggled to stay upright.
The Jaguar Knight charged at him, kicking his macuahuitl from off the ground in one motion and catching it in the air. He swung hard against Bram with deadly intentions. Bram just managed to raise his shield in time to deflect the blow but the impact rattled the shield right off his body. The Anahuac wasted no time, slashing at the sword in Bram’s other hand, sending it flying off into the distance.
Bram stood there weaponless while still trying to clear the cobwebs from the earlier kick. He could see the Anahuac draw near once more. C’mon Bram. Get it together. Bram watched the blade swing towards his head. He knew he wasn’t quick enough to dodge the blow as the black blades approached with stunning velocity. Bram needed to act now or his head would no longer be attached to his body. Bram stepped in towards his enemy and caught the arm holding the macuahuitl. He twisted the arm upwards and pulled it down, driving his knee across the back of the Anahuac’s elbow. Bram could hear the audible snap of bone. The Jaguar Knight hollered in pain as the weapon fell harmlessly to the ground. Bram backhanded him across the face but still refused to let go. The Anahuac tried to land a desperate blow with his free arm, but Bram caught it in the air. He drew the enemy close and head-butted him with such force that the Jaguar Knight’s nose gushed like a fountain. I have to end this now! Still holding him tightly, Bram buried his forehead into his foe’s skull over and over again until the enemy no longer moved. Feeling the Anahuac’s weight suddenly slump, Bram released the broken arm and dropped the dead warrior to the ground.
Excerpted from Shadows of Kyrus by T. Sae-Low. Copyright © 2013 by T. Sae-Low. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.
Into the Dark by Kristen Pham is a refreshing entry that stands out amongst the overly saturated genre of Young Adult Fantasy novels today. Her protagonist, Valerie Diaz, is an emotionally abused orphan who has already had her fair share of tribulations spanning her young 14 years of life. Where the cliche "unwanted hero saves the world" prototype could fall flat elsewhere, Pham expertly illustrates Valerie's motives and inner-struggles in a way that proves believable and honest. Valerie's time at the hospital beautifully portrays who Valerie is at her core, and sets the stage for her forthcoming globe/dimension trotting adventures. Accompanied by her once-imaginary friend Cyrus, bodyguard Thai, and wise-cracking-2pac loving Kanti, Valerie is whisked away to the magic-filled land of the Globe. When it comes to world-building, Pham is at her best, describing the colorful and distinct lands that exist within the Globe, including underwater cities, roaming temples, candy-filled dormitories, diverse peoples and creatures, and even unexpected means of transportation (roller-coasters and self-guided elevators) that children and adults will enjoy reading about.
On their journey to save Henry, a special child who unknowingly reaches out to Valerie for help, Valerie and gang encounter an assortment of monstrosities who stop at nothing to keep her from her goal. Even these villains prove to be more than simple run-of-the-mill ogres and what not, especially Sanguina, as she is cleverly crafted to make the reader both hate, yet wonder, where she's from and who she is.
The one area where Into the Dark does stumble slightly is in its pacing. As a fan of fast-paced adventure novels, I love it when an author can make me feel like I'm running out of breath, yet still manage to balance that between moments of self-reflection and doubt. Pham accomplishes this in most parts, but there were some scenes that felt a little rushed (the group seems to learn how to fight rather quickly). The story definitely builds up to an epic climax, but even still, it could've used a bit more developing in certain areas to have the payoff be even more rewarding. With that said, this is one minor flaw in an otherwise epic adventure.
Pham triumphs in her debut novel, invoking the grandiose worlds, mythological elements, and strange creatures that all lovers of the Fantasy genre will love and seamlessly combines them with the modern day. Teenagers will find themselves right at home with all the pop culture references and familiar struggles that only a teenager could truly empathize with. Readers of all ages will find themselves immersed in Valerie's mission of discovery through epic battles and subtle indications that point to something more sinister on the horizon. The first book in the Conjurors series is a wonderfully engaging read. Book two can't get here soon enough!
4 out of 5 stars!Available at Amazon
Find out more about Kristen Pham at www.kristenpham.com
Cover Image Copyright Broadway Paperbacks
With the movie hitting theaters, I wanted to read the novel before going to watch it. There have been times where I've watched a movie based on a book, proceeded to read the novel afterwards, and found myself visualizing everything through the movie's perspective. Not a bad thing really, but the greatest thrill from reading a novel comes from each person's unique experience. Anyways, I'll save this topic for a later blog, on to the review!
World War Z by Max Brooks, published in 2006 as a follow up to his popular Zombie Survival Guide, is a wonderfully entertaining read and a pleasant surprise. Admittedly, I'm a casual fan of the zombie/living dead/undead/whitewalkers/whatever you want to call them. Most of my knowledge of the genre stems from the ubiquitous Walking Dead TV series (great show!), horror flicks, and the "I wanna eat your brains" character that we all know and love. So going into World War Z, I was expecting slow-as-hell Resident Evil type monsters chasing down a ragtag group of survivors (an old military vet, a young child, an attractive teenage boy and girl who fall in love, etc...). What I didn't expect was the unique perspective Brooks uses to tell the harrowing tales of survival from multiple global experiences. Stories of being attacked by throngs of decomposing zombies was just the teaser. The heart of what makes World War Z such an engaging read is the belief that Brooks' scenario seems almost plausible today. His social-political commentaries about the inefficacy of modern forms of government rings true - and the direction they will lead us down during a major crisis is a startling scenario. What would really happen if the world went to hell? (Literally). The Redeker plan proposed and utilized by many nations to quell the zombie uprising is shocking not because of what it proposes (basically it suggests using the population of survivors who have no practical survival skills as a diversion), but because its coldly calculated details sound like the only logical plan to ensure humanity's survival. And still, even after the tide is turned against the "Zacks" and humanity has repositioned itself once again as the top species on Earth; the post-war stress, trauma, and memories continue to haunt each and every single survivor. The last bastion of hope is when the next generation, and subsequent generations thereafter grow up in a time when the Zombie Apocalypse is relegated to a single unit in a history textbook. Only when you are that far removed from it will you finally feel completely safe.
Aside from the well-written and uniquely crafted plot, I truly have to commend Brooks on his level of detail and research. A litany of military terms and weapons, war strategies, and tie-ins to actual historical events (complete with footnotes) sounds like a monumental undertaking for a writer, but Brooks pulls it off effortlessly. At times, I did find myself glancing over some of the details about X-28Z-SS Missiles (ok, I made that up) but it sure sounded real to me.
World War Z doesn't have much to truly criticize; it's well-written, thoroughly researched, has an engaging plot full of action and human emotion. The only thing that slightly bothered me was the amount of interviews. I understand the need to have as many global perspectives as you can to paint a full picture, but some tales probably could've been left out. Many are memorable (the Chinese Submarine Commander, the two Japanese survivors, Yonkers, the female pilot, and more) but some I don't really remember either (I can't list them because I don't remember them).
All in all World War Z was a fantastic read, amongst a proliferating genre of zombie this-and-that coming out now, Brooks' work stands above the rest. I highly recommend this book to anyone, especially before you see the movie (although I hear the movie's script is a bit different anyways). Fans of horror, thriller, action, political, historical, and social (wow, he really covers everything) intrigue will find themselves turning page after page of this outstanding piece of literary work.
Oh, and the scene where the monkey pees in the soldier's face made me laugh out loud for a good straight minute.
Genesis is now available on Smashwords for $1.79! Available for immediate sampling and purchase in multiple ebook formats, readable on virtually any ebook reading device! Start your adventure today!
T. Sae-Low's Smashwords Author Profile: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/tsaelow
Book page to sample or purchase Genesis (Prophecy Rock Series, Book 1): http://smashwords.com/b/317349
A vivid portrayal of the inner turmoil that is inherent to being human. Stevenson's creative allegory of man's desire to be righteous and socially accepted juxtaposed by his sinister and more animalistic wants is beautifully crafted and cleverly paced. A classic that will always remain relevant.
Here's my full interview with BookGoodies. I share a lot about my inspirations, my own writing process, and the current state of the publishing industry. Check it out! For the original post, go here
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. The youngest of three siblings, my parents emigrated from Thailand to the U.S. in the late 1970′s, setting up residence in a one bedroom apartment in the Koreatown District of L.A. As a child, I spent my early Saturday mornings watching my favorite cartoons and playing video games with friends. The rest of my time I spent reading and collecting comic books and anime with my older brother. Inspired by titles such as X-Men, Akira, and Robotech, I buried himself in these imaginary worlds, drawing my favorite characters and creating plenty of my own. I transformed a corner of my family’s small living room into a makeshift art station. Mock covers of my favorite comics and magazines adorned the wall. At school, my journals and homework were filled with doodles in the margins, much to the chagrin of some of my teachers. As I grew older, my love for incredible stories led me towards a degree in history, where I found fact to often be more amazing than fiction. I graduated from UCSD with a degree in History and a minor in Education. Shortly after, I received my teaching credential and have been teaching since, finding it to be a rewarding yet challenging profession, all the while continuing my love for brave new worlds with my insatiable appetite for books and graphic novels. What inspires you to write?
Truth be told, I’ve always been a writer at heart. I can remember back when I was little, creating a comic strip for an elementary school project. I think we had to come up with a poster for an anti-smoking campaign, and I remember creating my first superhero named SmokeKill. He wore these colorful orange and blue tights, and he could inhale all the bad smoke in the world. I honestly thought he was the coolest character ever, so I turned the poster into a full-on comic book. I recall my teacher being impressed with it, and from that point on, I was always creating strange new worlds filled with fantastic characters. (Well, at least to me they were fantastic).
As far as inspiration goes, I find inspiration for my stories everywhere. Whether it be from a great book, movie, news story, or just being on the train and people watching. I love taking that small spark of inspiration and developing it into an entire story. I enjoy the challenge of seeing how far I can take it. Tell us about your writing process:
For me, I always have a journal and pen with me (if not I’ll take notes on my phone), but I discover ideas for my stories everywhere. I have to jot them down otherwise I’ll forget, because the next story is already taking its place! Once I have a solid concept for a story, I’ll do the necessary research to make sure I’m comfortable with it. Be it setting, time period, etc…I need to make sure that the world I’m going to create makes sense to me.
Next, I’ll work on my characters, fleshing them out in detail and creating back stories for all of them. That way, I keep details and facts consistent, but I always make changes here and there as the story develops. Afterwards, I’ll outline the story from beginning to end. With a solid outline done, I’ll frame the book scene by scene on index cards. I find index cards easy to use, and I can always have them with me. (Tablets are great and all, but I don’t like typing on them, I prefer to write things down). Once my scenes are complete, I’ll begin writing from beginning to end, and then going back for multiple revisions until I’m happy with the final manuscript. For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
Yes…yes I do. I often find myself sitting at my computer, or driving in my car having a full conversation with my characters. It feels odd, but it definitely helps me discover what attributes and motivations best suit their unique personalities. I loosely base some of my characters on people from history, so as to give me a solid starting point. As I write, my conversations with my characters delve deeper and begin to shape and mold them into their own persons. What advice would you give other writers?
Write and read a lot. Write to practice your craft, and read to see how others are doing it. The difficult thing for me to do at times is to balance out the two. I find myself in “writing mode” where that’s all I want to focus on, but often times I’ll get stuck on a scene, or plot line, and I’ll usually find great inspiration from other works. That’s why I feel it’s a healthy idea to balance the two. How did you decide how to publish your books?
I decided to self-publish my novel because my original intention was to share my story. It sounds simple, but as I discovered in my research, going the traditional route can be a lengthy and difficult process. At the end of the day, I wanted to get my story out to as many people as possible because I believed in what I wrote. Self-publishing has allowed me to do that with minimal upfront investment. I liked the fact that all I really needed to do was to focus and write my story. The self-publishing process is fairly straightforward, and next thing you know, it’s available to millions of customers.
I think at the end of the day, every writer wants to be published by a traditional publisher, but you can hit a brick wall trying to break through, which can be frustrating. I would advise anyone who wants to get their story out to pursue every path available to you, but know that self-published authors are growing, and are starting to garner more attention (making it to NY Times Bestsellers List, Top Amazon Rankings, etc…). A fair bit of warning though. Know that with the ease of self-publishing available today, there’s a lot of new books entering the marketplace. For your book to stand out, it has to first of all, be a great story. Secondly though, as a self-published author, you don’t have a team of marketing execs getting your book out to the world. You, the writer, will also become a marketing exec because you’re the only person who can really make it happen. I’m finding this step to be a challenging, but very rewarding process as well. It really tests how badly you want to share your story. What do you think about the future of book publishing?
With the advent of ebooks, and all the myriad of other electronic forms of reading, the amount of books available are growing at an astonishing rate. Traditional brick and mortar bookstores are struggling (Borders went bankrupt), and there’s a shift now towards everything being online. I still love the tangible feel of a book in my hands, and the joy of browsing around a bookstore, but when I see my third grade students going to the “store” on their Kindles, it’s a telling sign of how and where books are being read and seen by potential readers. I personally hope bookstores aren’t replaced entirely by virtual ones, but it would be prudent to stay connected with the industry as it shifts from one medium to the next. What genres do you write?
Fantasy, Teen, Young Adult, Fiction, Middle Grades What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print Website(s) Author Home Page Link Your Social Media Links http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6927279.T_Sae_Low https://www.facebook.com/tsaelow.author https://twitter.com/TSaeLow
I love this book! Must be my fifth or sixth time reading it, and I always discover something new each time. Make it a mission to discover what your Personal Treasure is, and the universe will conspire to help you achieve it.
Genesis was featured on @BookGoodies with a short interview attached. The full interview will be coming soon. Stay tuned for that! Check it out here
. Bookgoodies is a great site to check out the latest free and bargain books, and to learn more about up and coming authors.
Yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity to speak at Temple Intermediate School. A special thanks to Mrs. Zhao and Mr. Alvarez for organizing the event. I had a great time talking to the students about writing and storytelling, and how I used those skills to write my book Genesis. The students had great feedback about the book itself, also asking me when the sequel will come out (Book 2 will be out next year sometime, I'm writing it as we speak!).
A number of students in Mr. Alvarez's class also wrote their own "mini-sequels" to chapter one of Genesis. I read all of them and thoroughly enjoyed each one. The image above comes to us compliments of Jenny Lam. Her manga-inspired imagery of Raden, Kimi, and Octavius is a terrific example of how readers interpret and imagine each story their own unique way. I wanted to thank and acknowledge each student who wrote a "mini-sequel."
Thanks again for the opportunity Temple Intermediate, and I look forward to coming back someday soon. Also, don't forget that the winners of the two autographed books will be announced on Friday. Students have untill Thursday to enter the raffle.