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January 16, 2017

Books Being Read - January 2017 #MondayBlogs

by Donna Huber

I spent a lot of my Christmas holidays reading Christmas books that were all about fun reading. But I'm sort of back to reading books for reviews. Thankfully I had a couple of books I read in December for review that I could post the first couple of weeks this year. Here are the books I've read, currently reading, and hope to read this month.


cover The Summoner
The Summoner by Layton Green. The author sent me this book as a thank you gift. It is the only book in the Dominic Grey series that I hadn't read, though it is the first book in the series. I thought the story was a bit slower than I'm accustomed to in this series, but that may have been because I already knew the characters, and they were being introduced for the first time. I liked that I got a bit more background on Professor Radek.

A United States diplomat disappears in front of hundreds of onlookers while attending a religious ceremony in the bushveld of Zimbabwe. Dominic Grey, Diplomatic Security special agent, product of a violent childhood and a worn passport, is assigned to investigate. Aiding the investigation is Professor Viktor Radek, religious phenomenologist and expert on cults, and Nya Mashumba, the local government liaison.

What Grey uncovers is a terrifying cult older than Western civilization, the harsh underbelly of a country in despair, a priest seemingly able to perform impossibilities, and the identity of the newest target.

Himself . . .
~cover and summary from

cover Station Eleven
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. When I returned to work I had trouble with how quiet the office was so I quickly found an audiobook to fill the silence. While I enjoyed the audiobook, I kind of wish I had read it myself. The story is so rich with many layers that I felt like I was only getting the surface sometimes. I don't read a lot of books that get nominated for big book awards, but I'm glad I picked this one.

2014 National Book Award Finalist, A New York Times Bestseller

An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.

One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.

Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten’s arm is a line from Star Trek: “Because survival is insufficient.” But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.

Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.
~cover and description from

Currently Reading:

cover How to Manifest Money Effortlessly
How to Manifest Money Effortlessly by Bruno R. Cignacco. I found this book on my ereader and since January is about new year resolutions I thought it might be a good book to review this month.

This book is primarily focused on the most relevant techniques to manifest money effortlessly. The text pinpoints the main metaphysical principles related to the creation of wealth. It also sets out wrong assumptions about money and replaces them with positive connotations about it. The book goes on to highlight the main requirements to attract more abundance. It describes an overarching series of strategies to attract more prosperity, such as visualization, meditation, affirmations, Feng Shui, emotional release, objective setting, playfulness, generosity perspective, gratitude, intuitive insights, de-cluttering, positive thinking, chakra cleansing and energy management, among others. All these techniques are explained in detail, accompanied with easy practical exercises.
~cover and description from

cover Deadline
Deadline by Sandra Brown. I've listened to a few of Sandra Brown's novels and always enjoy them. I have only a couple of hours left of this story, so I'll probably finish it when I return to work on Tuesday. I like the characters and how the story is playing out.

Dawson Scott is a well-respected journalist recently returned from Afghanistan. Haunted by everything he experienced, he's privately suffering from battle fatigue which is a threat to every aspect of his life. But then he gets a call from a source within the FBI. A new development has come to light in a story that began 40 years ago. It could be the BIG story of Dawson's career--one in which he has a vested interest.

Soon, Dawson is covering the disappearance and presumed murder of former Marine Jeremy Wesson, the biological son of the pair of terrorists who remain on the FBI's Most Wanted list. As Dawson delves into the story, he finds himself developing feelings for Wesson's ex-wife, Amelia, and her two young sons. But when Amelia's nanny turns up dead, the case takes a stunning new turn, with Dawson himself becoming a suspect. Haunted by his own demons, Dawson takes up the chase for the notorious outlaws. . .and the secret, startling truth about himself.
~cover and description from

To Read:

cover Beauty of the Fall
The Beauty of the Fall by Rich Marcello. I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. I'm looking forward to trying a new author.


Dan Underlight, a divorced, workaholic technology executive, suffers lingering grief over the death of his ten-year-old son, Zack. When Dan’s longtime friend and boss, Olivia Whitmore, fires Dan from RadioRadio, the company that he helped create, he crashes and isolates himself.

Willow, a poet and domestic violence survivor, helps Dan regain his footing. With her support, Dan ventures on a pilgrimage of sorts, visiting Fortune 500 companies to flesh out a software start-up idea. When Dan returns home with a fully formed vision, he recruits the help of three former RadioRadio colleagues and starts Conversationworks, a company he believes will be at the vanguard of social change.

Guided by Dan’s generative leadership, Conversationworks enjoys some early successes, but its existence is soon threatened on multiple fronts. Will Dan survive the ensuing corporate battles and realize the potential of his company? Or will he be defeated by his enemies and consumed by his grief?
~cover and description from

What books have you been enjoying this first month of 2017?

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January 13, 2017

Review: The Earl's Return by Callie Heaton

by MK French

The Earl of Redgrave had abruptly broken off his engagement to Lady Abigail four years ago, marrying another woman and retreating to the country with her. After four years, his wife died in childbirth along with the baby. In need of an heir, the Earl returns to London to seek out another wife. In spite of himself, he is drawn to Lady Mary, Abigail's younger sister. Though Mary has no intention of getting to know him, they often meet at the orphanage where they both assist, or in social circles. In spite of himself, Redgrave is drawn to Mary, and soon can't imagine being married to anyone else.

I am a huge fan of Regency romance novels, and admittedly I don't know all the details of the time period. Still, it's a lot of fun to imagine the grand homes and balls, the gowns and the sights of London and the English countryside in that period. There is a distinct pattern that these novels take, and The Earl's Return is no different. There is a conflict between our hero and heroine that has to be overcome before they get together, and the couple certainly has their share of them here: a manipulative former father-in-law, a menacing ex-suitor, reputations to maintain, and family alliances. Mary is a very likable heroine, sure of her own feelings and needs and eager to help others. Redgrave is a tarnished sort of hero, but he does have a moral code that he follows to the best of his ability. They move within the noble circles of London and try to follow its constraints, even when it doesn't always suit them.

All in all, a very fun and enjoyable read in this genre.

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

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January 12, 2017

Review: The Hitwoman Plays Chaperone by JB Lynn

by Donna Huber

November 2016; cozy mystery
a copy was received as a gift
The Hitwoman Plays Chaperone is the latest book in JB Lynn's hilarious cozy mystery series.

I know when I pick up one of the Hitwoman books that I'm guaranteed a fun, quick read. As you may guess from the title, this one involved children. And in a cozy mystery kids are required to provided hilarious moments. Combine the kids with Maggie's menagerie and the laughs just keep coming.

While the story is relatively light, there are a few bittersweet plot threads. The mob boss's grandson is well enough to be discharged from the hospital and he is requesting Angel to return to the family fold to help with the boy's recovery. That means that Maggie will be left to tend with Katie on her own, well not completely on her own since she lives in the B&B with her aunts.

Maggie's long lost, and thought dead, sister decides to make her reappearance to the rest of the family by buying the house next door. To say the least, Darlene's return causes chaos. Though Darlene's return may relieve some of Maggie's responsibilities it does cause Maggie to have to make the most difficult of decisions.

There is a little detail that I hope will become clearer in future books.How did Teresa know what kind of parent Darlene be if Darlene disappeared when they were children?

The Hitwoman Plays Chaperone is another great hit and you are missing out if you haven't picked up this series.

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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January 11, 2017

Streaming Fantasy: Magical Series to Marathon

by Alison DeLuca

Marathoning television shows is a relatively new concept. Remember waiting to find out what happens? Viewing parties for Picket Fences? Entire summers wondering who killed JR or what the hell Lost was about?

Many series are now designed to be watched in a few days, if not 24 hours.

Amazon has become a Marathon Master. Mozart in the Jungle (Amazon) is an award-winner, and the site's Man in the High Castle was one of the first marathon feasts.

Netflix was one of the first in the marathon stirrups, showcasing works like Orange is the New Black and Jessica Jones. The second, a tie-in from Marvel, followed the amazing Daredevil series.

Poster for Daredevil Marvel series

I work from home, and often I'll run a marathon of a show as background while I write, clean the house, set up for dinner, or edit a project. When I have free time and can actually watch with undivided attention, I like to lose myself in a series with spectacular fantasy writing and amazing acting.

Luckily, they are easy to find.

Here's a list of great marathon fare, for those who are late to the genre. It includes channel originals like Luke Cage from Netflix as well as television offerings I would have missed if it weren't for Apple TV.

Screenshot of Eleven in the pool on Stranger Things
Eleven in Stranger Things
1. Stranger Things: I wrote about this series before. To date, I think it stays as the finest example of a marathon series. The characters (Eleven, Mike, and even poor Barb) were vivid, and the action was electric. If somehow you've missed this one, clear about ten hours and watch the entire series. You won't want to stop once you start.

Summary: When a young boy disappears, his friends investigate with the help of Eleven, a telekinetic girl. 

Their adventures lead to government experiments and alternate dimensions. (NETFLIX)

Screenshot of giant moths in The Kettering Incident
Influx of moths in The Kettering Incident
2. The Kettering Incident: If you like dense Scandinavian crime drama, The X-Files, and Fringe, you might enjoy this dark series from Australia.

I owe Rachel Tsoumbakos eternal gratitude for turning me onto this gem.

You do need to pay attention - in fact, I watched this twice through to pick up on the hidden clues, and I'm still mystified. Looking forward to the next season!

Summary: Anna Macy returns to Kettering years after her friend disappeared. When another girl goes missing, Anna has to try and discover what happened all those years ago. (AMAZON)

Poster for the SyFy series The Magicians
3. The Magicians: Originally from SyFy, this adaptation of Lev Grossman's novel showcases fascinating concepts, addictive magic, and an incredibly rich universe. This is a good one to stream if you have work to do - you can miss a few scenes and still keep up.

Just remember to keep this one for adults-only, since the series is like Harry Potter for college students.

Summary: Quentin's fascination with the fantasy land of Fillory gets him into the magical college called Brakebills. There he discovers Fillory is real and very dangerous. (NETFLIX, SYFY)

screenshot of magical ball in Faerie from Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
4. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell: This BBC miniseries does a wonderful job of condensing the huge novel about magicians in 18th-century England. Watch it for incredible acting and beautiful scenery/ costumes / CGI. This little sleeper is worth your time.

Summary: Strange and Norrell struggle to right things after Mr. Norrell raises a woman from the dead. There's so much more - including a lovely romance between husband and wife, as well as the POV of an African character who might be one of my favorite people ever. (NETFLIX)

Alison DeLuca is the author of several steampunk and urban fantasy books.  She was born in Arizona and has also lived in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mexico, Ireland, and Spain.
 Currently she wrestles words and laundry in New Jersey.

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January 10, 2017

Review: The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian

by Susan Roberts

January 2017; Doubleday; 978-0385538916;
ebook & print (304 pages); suspense;
a free book was provided for this review
I always look forward to a new book from Chris Bohjalian because I know that I am going to get a real reading experience and The Sleepwalker was another fantastic book by this author. It's a fantastic story full of twists and turns that will keep you turning pages to get to the end while, at the same time, you are savoring the story and hoping that it won't end. Once I started, I couldn't put it down and I am sure that I'll be sleepwalking through my day today because I was up most of the night finishing it.

Annalee has gone missing and her family fears the worst. Leanna and Paige, her two daughters, and her husband were aware that she was a sleepwalker and that she had left the house in the past when she was sleepwalking. The daughters call their father, who is away on a business trip, and the police when they realize that she isn't in the house. The police immediately start a search of the nearby woods and river. They don't find Annalee but they also don't find her body so no one knows if she is dead or alive. I can't say much about the plot because I don't want to give any spoilers.

I thought that the best part of the book were the characters of Leanna and Paige. The girls were very real in their grief and confusion and their need to make sense out of their mother's disappearance. As with Chris's earlier books, he is one of the few male authors who writes fantastic and very real female characters.

This is another fantastic book by a terrific author. Clear your calendar when you start this book because you won't want to put it down.

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling.  She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their grandson.  Susan reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on Facebook.

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January 9, 2017

Review: The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman #MondayBlogs

by MK French

January 2017; Roc; 9781101988688; ebook &
print (336 pages); science fiction
a free copy was provided for this review

Irene is a Librarian, a member of an organization that moves between parallel worlds to obtain rare and unique books to be kept within the safety of the Library. The Librarians are all well versed in the Language, a means of commanding others or subtly changing the world around them to achieve their goals. Irene and her apprentice Kai have gotten into trouble before, and as a result, she is on probationary status. There's trouble brewing in the Library, however, and it's a danger that can threaten not only countless worlds but the Library itself. Irene has to do her best to contain the damage, but there's uncertainty at every step.

As a fan of the TV show "The Librarians" and the made for TV movies that they were spawned from, I was excited to see the summary of The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman. I hadn't read the prior novels in this series but had no trouble getting the idea of the Library and the powers that the Librarians had. Irene refers to events from the prior novels (so I'll be spoiled for them when I go back to read them!) but there's enough of an idea about what happened that I could still continue with the current story. It's a fascinating mix of recognizable characters and subtle changes to show the differences between worlds. Vale lives at 221B Baker Street, for example, and is a detective that needs to solve complicated puzzles of cases. The magic of the Librarians, dragons, and fae described in the book is fascinating. There's so much action, and moving through the underbelly of London and the different worlds also reminded me of Neil Gaiman's "Neverwhere," another favorite of mine. It's a wonderfully detailed book but isn't bogged down by those details, either. If anything, that makes it feel immersive, as if this is a movie unfolding. Irene is a plucky and likable character, and I really liked Kai. A number of other characters aren't described as well, though it could be because more time had been spent with them in the prior books. There's such a sense of history in Irene's interactions with the other characters, but not knowing that history in detail doesn't ruin the flow of the story. Instead, it adds to the air of mystery and the almost claustrophobic sense that permeates the book as Irene is trying to figure out who is trying to kill her and help destroy the Library. I heartily recommend this book, especially to bibliophiles.

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

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January 6, 2017

Character Development: How to Raise Your Characters Right

by Chris

In my books, I usually write about people. People who do things, go places, think thoughts, and generally get up to no good. There are, of course, settings—the places in which these people exist are important—and sometimes they bear a brief description. However, to linger too long on a scene or image risks boring the reader, no matter how interesting the mouse holes and snowflakes are in your mind.

The balance of this is difficult to achieve; sometimes you don’t want to give a character’s thoughts away, so you describe what they’re doing, or wearing, or you spend some time discussing the importance of trivialities. Or you might fill the space with intense action, blow-by-blow sword fights and the whizzing of bullets past your ears. For many, this can be an easy out, because of course action is mindless and entertaining, and that’s exactly what many people want from their books: an escape from the realities of life.

But do it too much and you lose the dynamic of the story. Action needs to ebb and flow, rise and fall, come and go. There must be moments of reflection to offset the noise, or it all becomes too much and overwhelms the senses. This is true especially of film, where the temptation is to wow the audience with spectacle and no substance.

So how does one do it? How you do create interesting characters that can drive the action and plot, without overwhelming the audience with unnecessary background and/or intense action?

To start with, I think, it’s worth thinking about why the characters in a story are so important. This might seem an odd question—it’s difficult to imagine a story with no people in it. Mountains and buildings don’t generally do anything themselves, unless a person gets involved. You could film a rock for two hours and call it a movie, but it’s unlikely anyone would want to see it.

The implication, then, is that it’s people that are interesting, rather than the things that surround them. We want to know about what people do, what they think, and how they live. All the better if those people are somehow exceptional, though there are certainly great stories about relatively ordinary people. And if it’s people that are interesting, it only makes sense to fill your story with them, so that the people reading your book or watching your movie stay through the end.

If you choose to write about people (and I use ‘people’ in the loosest of terms: they can be aliens or robots, so long as they are still characters in some way), you then need to make sure that the audience can relate to those people. Why? There’s probably more depth to this question than I have the inclination now to explore, but for me it’s a question of imagination. A lot of people have very little of it, to begin with; asking them to imagine what it’s like to be a seven-tentacled sea-demon from Neptune can be a step too far. But if you give them a character they can relate to, it becomes easier for them to imagine how that character thinks, what their motivations are—what they want. Hence why stories about kings and queens are often far less popular than stories about farm boys and stablehands.

And of course, when it comes down to it, that’s all stories are, really: an act of imagination. As the writer, our job is to do the imagining for our audience, for those who struggle. I generally feel that people deserve some respite from the grueling fates of life, and getting lost in a good book or falling in love with a movie is a wonderful way of doing that.

So why are characters so important? Because they are the link to the audience, the connection with the reader and the watcher. Unless your audience is a fish, it doesn’t bear much relevance to describe the wetness of water. But describe how it quenches the thirst of a man lost in the desert, and it becomes suddenly real: everyone has felt thirst, or hunger, at some point in their lives and can understand how agonizing it must be for that poor, poor character—who, thankfully, isn’t them.

And as it turns out, it isn’t necessarily important for the audience to like the character, or even feel pity or empathy with them. You could have a cast of villains and still come out on top, so long as the audience cares about them. The reader needs to feel something for the character—love, hate, revulsion, fear—and a reason to feel that way. Snow White without the evil queen would be nothing, and the queen has very few redeeming qualities—yet we can fear the queen, as we would fear the tyranny of a vile parent. Remove Snow White and you still have a character that we can connect with, even if it’s in a dark and terrible way.

So if characters are the meat of the story, the main thread that ties everything together, it becomes important to write compelling ones. And this is, often, where the great difficulty sets in. Writing about people—real or fictitious—is easy. Writing about them in a way that actually makes them interesting and worth learning more about is insanely difficult. The writer doesn’t want to resort to tropes and clichés if they can avoid it, but there are only so many places to start.

When I started writing The Redemption of Erâth, I had to come up with a whole host of characters to populate the books. At first, I thought this would be no more difficult than coming up with their names, but it soon became apparent that much more was going to be required. And to that end, I ended up thinking of my characters almost as children—to be raised, grown, nurtured and matured until they were ready to take part in the story. I’ve at times been criticized for giving too much background information in the opening chapters of my first book, Consolation, but for every piece of information in the book, ten more were left out. I had to know what my characters went through before they ever showed up in the story so that their motivations in the story were as believable as possible. Why would someone want to kill another person for no reason?

This was a lesson I learned as I went on, and interestingly it has meant that some of the most compelling characters I’ve written about aren’t even the main ones. Although I know more about the central cast, there are wonderful side characters whose mystery and enigma make them, in a way, far more appealing. I’ve had a lot more fun in the end writing about the secondary protagonist than the primary, and the villains are even better.

The great thing about knowing a great deal about the characters and their motivations is that once you are ready to thrust them into the drama of your fictional world, their reactions will seem very real. Suspension of disbelief is a thing, but it can only take you so far: I’ll believe Superman can fly, but why does Lex Luthor want him to fight Batman so much?

The downside, of course, is that it hurts all the more when you have to do something terrible to your own characters. But then again, if it’s painful to the writer, it should be agonizing to the reader. If you can kill a character without blinking an eye, then don’t be surprised when your audience doesn’t shed a tear, either.

Now, there are scores of examples of when the development of characters was done beautifully, and quite a few where it was, for lack of a better term, botched completely. If you’ve read some of what I’ve written here before, you’ll know that Charles Dickens is one of my favorite authors of all time. He’s a master of engaging and compelling character writing, even though his characters are very often entirely unassuming. From thieving orphans to reclusive spinsters, every single one of the people in his stories have a story of their own, and although we often see only glimpses of these tales, enough is alluded to for us to understand exactly why Scrooge hates Christmas so, or why Miss Havisham keeps the shutters closed and the curtains drawn.

Of course, Dickens also wanted us to feel compassion for his characters, and rarely wrote a villain who deserved no redemption. Others, however, have been able to make us feel a terror for an antagonist so real that we keep our own curtains drawn for nights afterward. When I first read Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs, I was petrified of Hannibal Lecter. Yet at the same time, I was fascinated by him: despite his brutality and predilection for feasting on other people, he somehow became the hero—because the people he killed were, often, even worse.

This bizarre blend of terror and compassion transferred beautifully to the big screen when Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster portrayed the disturbing relationship between the FBI rookie and the infamous serial killer. It becomes even more difficult to develop characters successfully in movies since there is so much less to work with: instead of five hundred pages, you have a mere two hours in which to enamor the audience of your characters.

One of the modern marvels (pardon the pun) of character development in cinema has been the adaptations of Marvel’s comic book characters in movies such as Iron Man and Captain America. On paper, these movies shouldn’t have worked at all: their source material isn’t always known for being realistic or relatable to the everyday. But in nearly every Marvel movie that’s been released, including the Thor and Guardians of the Galaxy franchises, we are given not only believable characters but character-driven stories, as well. In what could have easily become mindless action (think Transformers), we instead got severely flawed and antagonistic heroes who are at each other’s throats as often as they are at those of their enemies.

Of course, we don’t have to have crippling flaws to have great characters; the original Star Wars films were centered around heroes and villains that, again, could have been cardboard cutouts. Instead, we’re given characters who have genuine motivations and good hearts, and just enough is said and left unsaid to keep us rooting for even the roguish Han Solo.

I find the Star Wars franchise an interesting one for this very reason, in fact: it runs the gamut from beautifully written characters to clumsy storylines and boring bad guys, depending on the movie we’re talking about. I recently watched Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (naturally), and came away thinking that, whilst is wasn’t bad, it could have been better. The primary flaw, as I saw it, was character development: unlike every previous Star Wars movie since A New Hope, we were introduced to a wholly new cast of characters—and were asked to care about them.

Regardless of the fact that we already knew how the movie was going to end (remember—many Bothans died), this required us to learn about new characters quickly, and feel compassion for them. Yet vitally important scenes from the very beginning left me feeling flat. When Luke’s family is killed by the Empire in A New Hope, we see his grief, his anger, and his determination. When essentially the same thing happens to our new hero, we suddenly skip forward sixteen-odd years with nary an explanation of what happened in the intervening time. Another character turns from a benevolent rescuer to a warlord with, again, little explanation. Yet more seem to have Jedi-like powers without probing into their past, and ultimately their deaths felt far less impactful for the lack of knowledge about these people.

However, Rogue One was rescued by a nonetheless interesting storyline and good acting, and while it certainly isn’t the best Star Wars movie out there, it by far isn’t the worst. Superhero movies, on the other hand, can be phenomenal, as we saw with Marvel’s cinematic universe—or appalling, as have been many of the DC franchise films of late. Another movie I watched recently with little enthusiasm was Suicide Squad, the story of a ragtag bunch of convicted villains sent to defeat an otherworldly foe to redeem themselves. The concept is great, and this could have been a wonderful movie: but the characters were so poorly written that even Will Smith and Margot Robbie couldn’t act their way out of it.

The essential, fatal flaw of Suicide Squad was in giving too many characters too little screen time. The same could be said of the Avengers movies, although I’ll give them a pass since they’re primarily based on much more successful films. But with Suicide Squad, we’re given only a fleeting glimpse into the lives of these antiheroes before the action takes over—and never relents. One character is madly in love with the main villain, yet we never know why; another would do anything for his daughter yet spends his time murdering people for money.

It isn’t that the characters are inherently unlikeable; it isn’t even that most of them have almost no dialogue; it’s simply that we’re never really given a reason to care about what happens to each one of them. Perhaps the best scene in the movie is where Deadshot is asked to kill Harley Quinn, and he doesn’t—it shows a maturing of the character. There was very little else like this.

In the end, the characters we write are vital to the stories we tell, and it’s therefore, all the more important to ensure that the audience can grasp on to something about them. Some tiny shred of mortality that allows us as readers and watchers to think to ourselves, yes—I could imagine myself doing that. I can understand where they’re coming from. Without this, the characters might as well be made of wood—and the stories would be just about as interesting.

What about you? Who are some of your favorite characters in fiction, and why?

Chris, features writer. Raised between the soaring peaks of the Swiss Alps and the dark industrialism of northern England, beauty and darkness have been twin influences on Chris' creativity since his youth. Throughout his life he has expressed this through music, art, and literature, delving deep into the darkest parts of human nature, and finding the elegance therein. These themes are central to his current literary project, The Redemption of Erâth. A dark epic fantasy, it is a tale of the bitter struggle against darkness and despair, and an acknowledgment that there are some things the mind cannot overcome. Written from a depth of personal experience, Chris' words are touching and powerful, the hallmark of someone who has walked alone through the night, and welcomes the final darkness of the soul. However, for now, he lives in New Jersey with his wife and eleven-year-old son. You can also find him at

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