Review of Jack Blank and the Imagine Nation

I don’t normally review books, but this one needed to be reviewed.  So here it is.

I had two people recommend this book (and the rest of the series) to me, so I decided to try it.  After getting extremely annoyed at my library’s e-book selection, I figured out how to put the book on hold (it was a new library, with a different system…I’m not completely computer-illiterate, I swear), and when I got to the library, I picked it up.  I realized, then, that I had no clue what the book was even about.  Oops.  But, really, if someone who has good book tastes and whose opinion I respect and/or value recommends a book to me, there’s a good chance I’ll try it.  Especially if it’s two someones.  (Unless there’s a lot of said someones.  Then I have a bad habit of avoiding the book like the plague.  Hence why I haven’t read Divergent yet.  Oops.)

Anyway, for those people who actually like to know what they’re reading before they put it on hold, here’s a summary stolen—ahem, borrowed—from Amazon, with my actual review following it.

All Jack Blank knows is his bleak, dreary life at St. Barnaby’s Home for the Hopeless, Abandoned, Forgotten, and Lost—an orphanage in the swampland of New Jersey. Covertly reading old comic books is Jack’s only solace. But his life changes forever when he meets an emissary from a secret country called the Imagine Nation, an astonishing place where all the fantastic and unbelievable things in the world originate. Including Jack.

Jack soon discovers that he has an amazing ability—one that could make him the savior of Imagine Nation and the world beyond…or the biggest threat they’ve ever faced.

I went into the book with not much expectation, since I barely knew anything about it, but I had heard it was good.  Hopefully it really was good as I’d heard.  The first sentence caught my interest pretty quickly, which is always good.  I ended up getting stuck at a little church on Monday for twenty minutes while my brother was part of a “meeting” thing for a Boy-Scout-like-troop-thing that he’s in, but I didn’t mind, because I had my library book!  Yay!  My mom started teasing me about how I was being so “loud” while I was reading.  Ha-ha.

Anyway.  The more I read, I realized, the more I was enjoying it.  I liked Jack fairly well.  He seemed like an interesting protagonist, and his “ability” was also pretty interesting.  The other characters I liked, too.  Particularly Jazen, though I don’t really know why.

I think, though, the thing I liked the best about the book was the setting.  I’m not really sure why, but I thought it was awesome.  I enjoyed seeing the different parts of the Imagine Nation.  There wasn’t a whole lot of description, but I thought it was really cool anyhow.

The other thing I really enjoyed was the ending.  In my experience, an ending can make or break a book, sometimes.  If the ending is not very good, it kind of screws up my perspective of the entire book.  But I didn’t have this problem here, thankfully.

In fact, the only issue I had with the ending was that my mom decided sixty pages until the end was the perfect time to have me make tacos for dinner.  I also just so happened to have after-dinner dishes that day, so I spent about two hours trying to act civil with my siblings until I could go back to the book and finish the climax.  I think I did okay.  Maybe my siblings have finally learned that talking to someone who’s been interrupted from an exciting part of their book is not good for their health.  I get…kind of cranky and snappy.

Anyway, throughout reading the book, I kept thinking that this book would make a really cool video game.  If there isn’t one already, someone needs to write one.  Brain, why are you reminding me of those IOS programming books I have on the shelf? Oh yeah, right, I’m supposed to be reading them and learning it…

Overall, I think I’d give this book about four and a half out of five stars.  I can’t decide if I should round that up or down, so I’m just going to leave it at the half.  I’m definitely going to read the second book.

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The End

Sitting here, right now, I’m trying to figure out the answer to a question.  I know I’ve wondered about it hundreds, maybe even thousands of times, but I still can’t answer it.

The question is, what do you do after you finish reading a book?  Are you supposed to just move on and pretend that you didn’t really get anything out of the book?  Even when you really did?  Or are you supposed to sit and think about it, even if you’re getting strange looks from your younger siblings because you’re sitting on the stairs, with a book in your hands and tears streaming down your cheeks?

About a month ago, I was sitting next to a friend at church, right before the sermon started.  Her friend had just given her back a book that she had borrowed.  It was a book I’d heard of before, but didn’t know much about, and, of course, hadn’t read yet.  My friend offered to let me borrow it, and there was no way I could turn it down.

The book was titled The Book Thief.  Basically, it’s about a girl living in Germany during World War II.  It’s not a simple read that you can demolish in one afternoon as a time waster.  You might be able to read it in one afternoon, I don’t know, but it’s still not a simple, easy book.  It took me a month to read it.  I feel really ashamed about that, but I was having a hard time reading anything.  It wasn’t until yesterday that boredom finally cured me.

And so, I finished it today, about ten minutes ago.  It was a good book.  I enjoyed it.  It did make me cry, but I am a female who finally understands the taste of grief, so I’ve been crying at a lot of books lately.  (Believe it or not, A Mango Shaped Space by Wendy Mass is in my list of books that I cried at.)

So, now I’m just wondering.  When a book really touches you, what are you supposed to do?  I’m not particularly fond of the idea of sitting on the stairs while my brothers half-argue with each other over something ridiculous and half-stare at me like something weird happened.  But, at the same time, just continuing on with my life like nothing happened feels wrong, somehow.  Like I’m not giving those poor characters what they deserve—even if they’re entirely fictional.

As you can tell, I ended up writing this blog post.  But I still don’t have an answer to that question.  Do you?

It’s the End of the World as We Know It! And I Feel Fine…

So, I find myself coming back from a weekend up in San Francisco. Well, one of the smaller cities nearby it, anyway. My family and I went up for my aunt’s graduation from college and my cousin’s third birthday party. It was fun, I’ll say. I think my aunt and uncle are convinced I am a very quiet person because I spent most of the time writing or reading.

I am not a very quiet person.

Unless I’m absorbed in a book, though. Just since Friday, I’ve read most of the first Ranger’s Apprentice book, The Ruins of Gorlan, and boy am I enjoying it. It’s very fun and exciting and I love the humor, too. I will definitely be continuing the series.

On another hand, I have also gotten quite a bit edited. Well, to be precise, rewritten. Editing is mostly rewriting, right? Just…not rewriting from scratch. Doing it from scratch is what got me into trouble before, but now I’m actually on draft two of my novel. My mother isn’t quite sure whether to believe me, though, especially since I’ve mentioned that I’ve had to rewrite some things.

Including the climax and ending, which is what I got written over the weekend. I’m very happy about it, too. There’s nothing more exciting and more satisfying than writing a good ending. Or reading one. Now, the hard part is to hope that the ending is actually as good as I think it is. I’m sure my cousin’ll help me, though. There was one ending I wrote a while back that was confusing and rather anti-climatic. She pointed this out to me, and I realized she was right. I hit some inspiration, and the ending I gave back to her was amazing.

The thing I’ve realized with endings is that there are so many key parts to it. You have to explain things to the characters and the reader that they didn’t understand before (and that’s why you so often find the “villain’s monologue” at the end), you have to find a way to solve the problems you’ve been building up for the entire rest of the book, and tie up all of the other loose ends, all while staying exciting. And, if you are writing a series, then you have to find a way to tie the next book in as well, whether through a cliff-hanger or not.

I think I have it, though. Exciting and dangerous? Definitely dangerous, and I was excited as I wrote it, so I hope it shows through. Informative? Yes, maybe even a little much. I may have to cut down a few things, but usually that’s easier than adding in, anyway. Tying up the ends? I think so. That’s what a lot of the information was for. Cliff-hanger? Yes, yes I do have one of those. Good last sentence? I love my last sentence, both to the book itself and to the epilogue afterwards.

Long story short (pun intended), I am quite satisfied with this weekend. Now this week’s goals are catching up in my school, particularly science, working on some character development, and get some of those drawings done that have been percolating in the back of my head….

The Adventure Began… Where?

So, I haven’t posted anything in like…. I’m too lazy to go check how long it’s actually been, so I’m gonna say it’s been something like a week. Or more. Probably more.

Anyways, though, I have a reason to be gone! I’ve been writing! Or, rather, re-writing. I’ve been working on the novel I wrote outside of NaNoWriMo—half of it was written in October, the other half in December. My NaNo novel itself is getting itself ready for a total re-write, probably for NaNo next year.

But what exactly have I been doing? Rewriting my beginning. And since I haven’t posted anything in forever, I thought that would make a nice discussion—what makes a good beginning? Let’s start with figuring out what a beginning is. The dictionary states it as:

    The event consisting of the start of something.

But the thing with stories, is there’s two beginnings. The beginning of the story, and the beginning of the book. What’s the difference? The beginning of the story is, well, kind of self explanatory. It’s where this whole thing starts—something happens, and it sets off a chain of events that is the story.

The beginning of the book on the other hand, is where Chapter One starts off. Some writers start the book right before this event that starts the story, so that we have a chance to get to know the characters and world. Some authors start us off right when this happens. And some authors use the In Late, Out Early method, and start right in the middle or right after, so that we start off with some action.

So, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get back to what makes a good beginning. Let’s try a checklist.

A good beginning…

  • catches the interest in the reader and makes them want to keep reading,
  • represents the story,
  • and makes a promise to the reader.

What do these mean?

A good beginning catches the interest in the reader and makes them want to keep reading. This is kind of self-explanatory. You’ve probably learned all about “hooks” in school, and how important it is to have a good first sentence, first paragraph, first chapter. You’ve probably even picked books up to read them and then put them back onto the shelf because they weren’t interesting enough. So, find something interesting to start it off with. Think—if you found this book in the library, would you want to keep reading after glancing at the first page? If yes, then you’re probably on the right track. If not… try again.

A good beginning represents the story. Now what does this mean? Let me reword this. The beginning needs to set the tone of the story. It hints to the reader what will happen in the story and what kind of story they will be reading. If you’re going to have a bouncy, goofy make-fun story, then your beginning needs to reflect that. If you’re going to have a serious story, the beginning needs to be serious. (Want to know more? Listen to this.)

And, a good beginning needs to make a promise to the readers. There are several ways of going about this, but they all make the reader want to keep reading. The first way is to build on the last point I made. Set a tone and show me characters that are fascinating, that I want to keep reading about.
Another thing is to, well, make a promise. Sometimes you do this through the character—the character vows that she’ll find her brother after he was kidnapped, and I’ll keep reading to see this promise fulfilled—to see her rescue her brother.
A third way is to make the reader ask a question. “How does this work?” “Why did he do that?” “What happened to her?” Make me ask questions that I can only find the answer to by reading. The key to this is that the reader has to ask the question. If you put the question in there, and I, reading this, agree, then it won’t be quite so important. But if I ask it to begin with, then you know for certain I want to know the answer—and I’ll keep reading to do so.

And you know what? You can use these techniques for more than just the beginning of a book. Use it at the beginning of a chapter. The beginning of a scene.

Another thing to keep in mind—a good beginning can improve your ending. If you end the book by fulfilling that promise you made at the beginning, then your ending seems more satisfying. Some authors like to end books in cliffhangers, to make the reader want to read the next book. The thing you have to do here is, don’t leave the promise unfulfilled. Complete it. Keep your word. But give me a new promise, a new question to ask. Then I’m satisfied, but wanting more at the same time.