M. K. Theodoratus, Fantasy Writer, blogs about the books she reads--mostly fantasy and mystery authors whose books catch her eye and keep her interest. Nothing so formal as a book review, just chats about what she liked. Theodoratus also mutters about her own writing progress or ... lack of it.


Monday, October 5, 2015

Hanging On to the Can-do Spirit When the World Collapses

    Don't know about you, but I tend to think books over 400 pages get tedious. Besides, they make my thumbs hurt. The last two books in Mike Mullin's Ashfall trilogy -- Ashen Winter and Sunrise -- just underline my aversion to long books even when they are good. In this case, I think they would've been better books if they had been shorter.

   First off, let me say -- even though I read it a couple years ago, most of the plot of Ashfall remained in my mind. An achievement all by itself. The trilogy is a dystopian YA story about surviving the perpetual winter after the Yellowstone volcano blows its top. Maybe it had something to do with me living a day's drive from Yellowstone. All in all, a suspenseful book about trekking across Iowa to Illinois to reunite with a teen's family while the world's falling apart. Yeah, it's a coming of age story.

   The second two books -- Ashen Winter and Sunrise -- weren't all that suspenseful. In fact they read like an adolescents male's dream of always being "right" when the adults were "wrong". Mullen gives a lot of different, interesting coping strategies to the disaster, including cannibalism, with Alex, the MC fighting for right and fairness. I found it interesting that the coping patterns led by women seemed to be more functional and in tune with current American political values...as well as effective.

   Other things that annoyed me about the book? Well, there're mentions of coughing...but none of drippy noses. I should think a volcanic cold snap would produce at least some runny noses.

   Sorry, but while well-researched, the book has some glaring loopholes, like nutrition. I don't think kale is quite the super food to take care of most of human food requirements beyond its lack of calories. The third book read more like a tie-up of the loose ends. I also thought the ending a cliche. ... Yeah, I could keep nitpicking, but I won't.

   So, why did I keep reading -- besides the first book was a thrilling cliffhanger and Yellowstone is a day's drive from my house?

   Weeeellllll. Did I mention that the main characters jump into one disaster after another and manage to escape them by the skin of their teeth with hardly a pause for breath? Yeah. The action never stops or, more important, gets boring. The readers always knows that disaster is lurking just over the next snow berm. More important, you're rooting for the characters to escape.

   While I think Alex was a too-good-to-be-true character, he did have his faults. Mullen did create a crew of believable characters in combinations varied enough to make you believe there might really be hope in the midst of disaster after disaster.

   Perhaps Mullen's best creation of the lot was Darla, Alex's companion, partner, savior, and the mechanical genius without whom the survivors of the super volcano would have failed. The research, especially the mechanical stuff, was exceptional. Nice to have the mechanical genius be a girl.

    Recommended, even through the problems faced by the characters in the last two books got solved too easily? Mullen created characters just rounded enough you care for them and their family as well as the people they meet along their travels. Not only is Alex's heart in the right place, but he and his family combine their skills to create a tale with a can-do spirit. Hooray for Mullin.
Read excerpts and more reviews at Amazon and B&N Nook.

Interesting Links

   It's been awhile since I posted a link to another blog. Part of it was vacation. Part of it was I was visiting "personal" blogs rather than "business" blogs.  But Sandra Beckworth posted a guest blog on building "Book Buzz" by Randi Lee which I found interesting enough to share because it offers a way to break out of the Twitter-herd. You can access "Book Sales Skyrocket When Author Adds Social Media Images" by clicking link.

My Writing Rut

   And then, there's the snail...me. I don't know what's slowed me down. I had the chapter about Gracie more than half-way done. Still, it took all week, and to tell the truth, it's still not done. Because I ended Gracie's chapter. I'm going to be writing another new chapter before I get to the demon fight. Ugh. Still, On the Run progresses. Hope to get the last chapter before the fight written this week.

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