Veronica Roth’s Latest Makes Its Mark

Veronica Roth’s Latest Makes Its Mark



… Literally.

OK, I promised you guys some reviews of some of the new books and movies I’m going to be reading/seeing, and it’s high time I made good to you on those promises. I am a girl of my word.


So, predictably, this first review is about Roth’s latest work, “Carve the Mark.” As per usual, there will be a substantial amount of SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW, so do NOT READ THIS if you’ve NOT read the book, and do NOT want to be spoiled. You have been warned.

Overall, I think Roth set the bar a little TOO high with her debut trilogy, “The Divergent Trilogy,” because “Carve the Mark,” fell slightly short of, well, HITTING said mark (if you’ll excuse my punniness.). That is not to say that I did not enjoy the story; it’s just not as good as the Divergent trilogy, is all. The story’s atmosphere had a Star Wars-y touch to it, like futuristic tech, planet-hopping while scavenging for useful goods (cough… Rey and jawas… cough…), a cruel dictator who seems to be related to one of the protags, etc. They even have their own version of the Force (no, I am not pulling your chain), called “the current,” that many of the peoples in this universe seem to revere or even worship. All this I can easily appreciate, without acknowledging she might’ve swiped an idea (or two) from George Lucas or even from the author of Shatter Me (my fellow book reviewer and good friend said the two sound quite similar in concept). There was also a predestination theme I thought some of my more Calvinistic friends would be appreciative of; every person in the universe has a specific Fate. Some of the Fates are not as always as they might appear, but they, combined with the current-wielding characters, are ultimately the driving force behind the plot.

So, while I won’t be spoiling EVERYTHING by revealing the WHOLE plot (I’m assuming that you WANT to read this book, if you haven’t already, and don’t mind spoilers by this point), I will be giving insight into what I thought Roth did well/could be improved. Here we gooooo…

Cons/What could have been improved:

  1. Some of the explanations were a little vague, and hard to follow at times. Sometimes, I would not fully grasp things until a bit later. But maybe that’s just me. It IS, after all, the author’s job to SHOW, not tell. It’s just I think there is the occasional time where they need to be more apparent, more explicit, in their showing. Of course, there are times (such as suggestive scenes) where I am quite satisfied with being spared all the explicitness, and just have a general impression that “such and such” happened, without knowing details. But some things are vital to the story, like organs are to a person’s being. While it may be good to not reveal everything at once, and thus keep your reader reigned in with some sense of mystery and suspense, when a clue about the mystery is dropped, you don’t want to be so vague that it almost entirely goes over their heads (again, maybe I’m just that oblivious, as per usual. But hey, maybe I’m NOT the only one…). Some vagueness is good, as long as it’s not overdone.
  2. Who’s the real villain? A lot of the time, it’s very obviously shown to be Cyra’s dictatorial older brother, Ryzek. And for the most part, I would agree with that. However, about halfway through, up to the end of the novel, I would also call Sifa, Akos’s mom, pretty manipulative. And not always in a good way. She’s an oracle, and can see all these Fates, all these possible futures, similar to Seth in Ted Dekker’s In the Blink of an Eye. Like Seth, she is able to manipulate people and events by what she does, and what she tells them, to her liking, so whichever future she wants to happen will happen. It makes me wonder if she has an ulterior motive or two in mind, and if Roth is going to write a second book that details that….


3. It moves pretty slowly throughout, with more of the action being placed at the beginning and ends of the book. Granted, this is how a LOT of books roll, so I can’t entirely criticize this; however, I will readily admit that much of the slowness of the plot, especially in the middle, along with some vagueness, genuinely made it tough to keep going, keep trudging through. Granted, now I am very glad I have, but a LOT of the plot twists and climatic point were kind of shoved together at the end, like several atomic bomb droppings that you really, really had no idea were coming, no implication of whatsoever. I mean, yes, you know a certain character *might* die. But that’s really, for the most part, the only real implication you actually get. If spread out slightly more evenly (naturally, you WANT the REALLY gripping stuff for last), it will keep people reading, and less tempted to give up siding in the quest alongside the protags. Keep it rolling, Roth, keep it rolling, and you’ll have us ALL in your snare. You are a talented writer. This is too important for super-slow middles.


Pros/What was done well:

  1. The romance. As we all know, there has to be a certain degree of romance for me in a good novel that SUPPOSEDLY has a bit of everything in it– what I like to call, “a buffet novel”. Too hot on the romance, and I start to feel sick-ish, like I ate a truckload of Peeps, and feel the need to immediately stop the story and close the novel, to lose the attention the author’s worked so hard to gain. Too cold, too distant, makes me think the romance unbelievable and inauthentic, and just not cut out for the story– in fact, the story, in this instance, may just be better off if the romance WERE cut out, period (and I have a high tolerance for non-romantic stories too, especially if they’re adventure/fantasy.). I have a special, happy medium, sweet-spot that few authors have succeeded in hitting with me. Roth, in this novel, has actually succeeded in hitting that mark, almost exactly. Akos and Cyra meet due to his being captured, and, since his Fate is to serve the family of Noavek (which, now that I think about it, makes for an even BIGGER possible plot twist at the end… #futurebetrayal?), he ends up having to be a servant to her. Now, hear me out, it’s a bit like “Beauty and the Beast”: Cyra’s the kind of cruel captor, and her currentgift is to cause herself and others (when she touches them) pain, via thingies called “currentshadows”. Her brother uses this ability to torture his enemies, etc, but the fact that his sister is incapacitated by it herself (rendering her essentially useless to him) he uses Akos’s currentgift, the ability to stop the flow of current/others’ currentgifts via physical touch, he gives Akos to Cyra as a servant. No, they do not do things together; initially, he is just for pain relief, but since he’s literally the only person she can touch without hurting (as well as her newfound friend and sometimes confidant), their relationship soon blossoms. It’s beautiful, but subtle. And it’s truly remarkable how they work together, how they would do almost anything for each other. Yet, their romance is NOT the main point of the book; it does NOT take it over. This is the one thing CTM does well, in where Divergent failed. Roth is getting better at this part of the writing game. 🙂


2. The currentgifts, and almost anything current-related. Basically half the stuff in this world (spaceships/shuttles included) run on the current. Special talents and powers are gifted through the current; what is interesting is that not all are beneficial. It’s interesting because normally when we think “superpower” we DO think, “beneficial,” like, “Oh, it’d be cool to fly or turn invisible, or have super strength!” We don’t think of the consequences of those powers, such as perhaps setting everything we touch on fire if we’re pyrokinetic, or, in Cyra’s case, causing her and everyone she touches excruciating pain. Roth develops a fascinating idea here. When you give a sculptor clay, they take it, and mold it into something beautiful after playing with it a while. When you give a word artist words and an idea, who knows where they’ll take it.

3. The plot twists. OH MY FREAKING,FLIPPING GOSH, ALL THE PLOT TWISTS AND CONSPIRACIES. Namely at the end, it leaves you drooling for more. Why and how did Lazmet Noavek survive, and if so, why is he no longer on the Noavek throne? What of Cyra’s heritage? Akos’s future loyalties? What does Sifa intend to gain by manipulating the future? Is Isae truly the real chancellor of Thuvhe? What was Orieve Benesit’s currentgift? All these questions, mostly burning in me due to the ending, are causing me to strongly suppose there will be a second installment, and this will not, repeat, will NOT be a standalone story. There is more here than meets the eye.

My rating: Overall, I would give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars. Needs a bit of work, but with possible improvements, it could truly be morphed into something great.



Image Credits: (for “Carve the Mark”) (warning: inappropriate content; this is just where I found Ryzek’s pic when on Google Images)

Letters From Eikon: The Catch-Up

Letters From Eikon: The Catch-Up

“Hey y’all,

Boy, was I in hot water. Livva just about hit the roof when she found out I hadn’t been written a letter for like three weeks. I made the point of pointing out that SHE kept procrastinating on posting too, but that only got me into bigger trouble. So, here I am. Unwilling, but chicken-pecking futilely at the keyboard with my paws.

When I started to whine to Livva that it had been a while, and I had no idea what to write about, she suggested I tell a bit more about myself, in addition to stuff that’s been going on in our lives since I last wrote. Well, I’m not a Miss Prissy like Ginger, but I’m not brainy like Livva, either (I don’t know how she does all that crazy school stuff, honestly). I’m not a dancer like Evelette, but I do love Lecrae, Skillet, Tedashii and sometimes Group 1 Crew. A. Lot. In fact, while I don’t normally dance, the other weekend I was blaring Lecrae while jumping up and down on Livva’s bunk screaming from one of Lecrae’s songs, “I’M A SAINT! I’M A SAINT! I’M A SAINT!” Livva’s warned me her roomies may not like that, but they can stuff it– I like having a great time, and they’re not about to put a damper on my mood when it’s a good one.

Speaking of her roomies, most of them are pretty chill. I love Tabitha’s and Molly’s sense of humor, and if I could use my Illusion to be human and chime in, I would (especially when they’re picking on the other roomie, Lyddie.). Their sass level is on POINT. I don’t really care for Lyddie. Livva says she’s nice enough, but she’s just kinda, errrr…. in conflict with my personality, as Livva often says. I actually don’t like that she’s all perky and kinda girly and stuff, and that she’s super, super messy. Don’t get me wrong; I myself like making messes, and I don’t mind Livva’s messes, but Lyddie’s messes are kinda EVERYWHERE. I mean, not limited to her areas, like a TORNADO. You just can’t escape it. I’ve considered hiding in a pile of her just sitting there laundry, using my Illusion to turn into something really terrifying, and popping out at her, screaming, “BOO!” just to scare the freaking daylights out of her and see her shocked expression. Like a deranged jack-in-the-box. (Hehehe…) But Livva stops me when she says I get that “look in my eyes, like I’m scheming something fierce.” Says it’s not nice of me, Lyddie has enough trouble and health issues going on, though I don’t think in all reality Livva would really object. But anyways.

A couple weeks ago, we went on a Mystery Bus Trip, Livva and Ginger and Evelette and me. Since we had no idea what to expect, I was practically itching with eager expectation the whole time. Unlike Livva, I love surprises. Ok, I take that back: Livva SOMETIMES likes surprises, but not as much as me. Maybe that’s because we Zorua love surprising, shocking, and taunting people. But I almost didn’t go, since the trip’s theme was apparently “elegance.” Yeeeeeeeccchhhh. That’s Ginger and Evelette, not me. Although in the end, I decided to come, mainly because I didn’t wanna be bored out of my gourd the whole stupid weekend long (plus, got to stay up waaaayyyyy past my bedtime!! 🙂 ).

That trip was AWESOME, except for the boring, dumb art museum that only Ginger and Evelette liked (though they, along with Livva, did not like one quilt in particular, and thought it should be burned. I offered to find a lighter, but Livva gave me “The Look” again, and reminded me of my promise to behave, if I was to tag along. 😦 ). Ginger felt that looking at art made her a “Pokemon of culture,” but I told her it just made her boring. She got pretty annoyed at me after that, but we made up after I snuck her some extra, spicy chocolate. We all love chocolate, but Ginger really loves her spicy foods (I think it’s because she’s a hot-blooded Fire-Type. Hehehe.). The dinner at the fancy restaurant was OK, would’ve been better if they’d had live entertainment, like skilled acrobats going from the balconies, or sword-swallowers, or fire jugglers! I suggested this to Livva, and she said she would think about talking to Randon, the guy who plans the trips, about it. Which in Livva-speak, means roughly, “There’s a very slim chance of me doing that.” Crap. The rest of the night was pretty fun; we watched people race in a derby with ridiculous masks on (I wanted Livva to, but she kept saying, “Not on your life!” Party pooper. ), and much later, after the boring art museum, we went to a WATER PARK!!! So much fun; I’ve never been to a water park before. Livva said that she’d never this particular water park since she was very, very little, so it was a treat for her, too. I think the only one not really pleased was Ginger even though she hung out around the hot tub area (didn’t get in, though. Big, prissy chicken. Was probably there just for the dumb heat.). Evelette loved the lazy river, wave pool, and the kiddie slides. Me, I loved almost everything. The lazy river was fun because I could pretend I was Jaws, and sneak up on people being lazy to nip at their ankles. The climbing was great, and they had all sorts of little water guns to spray other climbers with, once you reached the top (I had a field day with that). There were alllll kinds of slides, but of course I HAD to go on giant funnel ones like, “The Big Kahuna”. Soooo much fun! Ohhhhhhh, and THEY HAD A GIANT BUCKET THAT TOTALLY DOUSED YOU WHEN YOU STOOD UNDER IT!!! I kept looking to see if another Zorua was operating it, but Livva said it was mechanics. Ah, well. The only real disappointment was the wave pool; I was expecting these HUGE tidal waves, but Livva said that if they did that the park would be totally swamped, people would probably drown, and the owner would probably get sued or something. *Sigh* I guess she’s right, but STILL….

Lately, Livva’s been fretting a lot about her dumb classes for when she goes back to Geneva in the fall. I looked at her schedule; it was as dull as dull could be (except for her Dr. Williams class. Any class with Dr. Williams in it is pure golden. That man could make driftwood seem fascinating.); I was shocked when she told me she was thinking of replacing one of her somewhat interesting classes with a class about some boring Russian guy whose name I can’t even pronounce… When I asked her why would she even think of taking a dumb class like that, she said she may not even have a choice in the matter. If I was less selfish, I think I would tell her to take all the classes she needed/wanted, and I could use my Illusion to go as her on the other days, for other classes, so I wouldn’t be cooped up and bored all day long. Buuuuutttt, the idea of being cooped up with some professor yapping about some random Russian dude whose name I can’t pronounce doesn’t appeal to me, either, so think I’m going to have to pass on that…




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Should That Really Go There?

Should That Really Go There?

Ah, at last. A writing-based topic I haven’t at least mentioned a good bit.

Editing. AKA, what I hope to be doing once I officially graduate from college, along with freelance writing, in the hopes I myself get published.

Editing takes writing on in a bigger way. Before I started college, before I took certain, specific classes, I thought all editors were the same: They work at big-name publishing companies, editing and proofreading hopeful authors’ works, or behind a desk at the New York Times, scanning line after line, picking out and correcting typos and grammatical errors the way one would pick out and toss tinsel from a Christmas tree, after the season’s over.


Yes, that is ONE kind of editor. However, that is not the ONLY kind, and that is NOT all they do.

In fact, that is only the description of what the professional industry refers to as a “line editor” or “copy editor”– proofreading, correcting, catching boo-boos before a disgruntled reader does.  Design editors work on arranging the material on the page of a newspaper or book cover in a way that is presentable. A certain kind of editor is used to read the material, rather than actually edit it, and write down any suggestions or ideas they have for the author’s CONTENT (the actual story, that it makes sense, etc.), rather than spelling and grammatical corrections. Chief editors oversee the whole shebang; while editing and touching up the final project, they also handle complaints from readers, hold the team together, etc.

(Me? I wouldn’t mind being either a line editor OR a content editor. I think that would be fabulous. Heck, I might even like being a chief editor, or even just an editor-in-chief. We’ll see where God takes me!)


But the more I read up on the art of editing for my one class, Publishing, and the more I learning from my Tutoring Writing class, I realized that that isn’t even the average editor’s job. They look it over, yes, but they don’t just edit-edit. Their goal is to help authors, and to help develop BETTER writers,  not just better manuscripts and better books. You see, the whole idea behind that mindset is, if you help an author become better THEMSELVES, then in turn their writing, their books will naturally become better. Brilliant, eh? Help them help themselves. I love that notion.


But I’m getting ahead of myself. Some of you, actually probably a LOT of you, are probably looking at me like I just grew a second head and deer horns to boot. “WHAT editor?” you may say. “You act like I just have a professional editor to look over my stuff at my fingertips! I just write!” Fair enough. But in that case, you need to be your own editor, or start letting other people (preferably people you’re close to and who have a good sense of story, grammar, and spelling) read your stuff, and ask for their ideas, edits, suggestions, and overall feedback. The former can give you great practice if you’re like me, in training to be an editor/author. (Reading your works out loud, just to yourself, can also really help you. I’ve been in numerous instances in tutoring people where all I have to do is basically tell them to read it aloud to me, and they catch a LOT of snags they wouldn’t have otherwise!) The latter can give you a great sense of where you are story-wise, plot-wise, etc. So in short, both can be beneficial. If you want to learn how to write great, you must also learn to edit well– unless, of course, you are authoring something like messy poetry. 😉



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Ideas and Research

Ideas and Research

So, I think I milked this cow pretty thoroughly when it comes to the topics of characters, plots, problems, and conclusions. So now I’d like to talk about something a bit different: Ideas and research. If you already have an idea for a story, that’s fantastic, but if you don’t, that’s alright, too– I’m here to help.

So, as said in a previous article, and several other advice articles not authored by yours truly, ideas can come to you from almost anywhere or anything– dreams, when you’re in the shower, out for a casual stroll, or even reading. If you draw a blank, just free write, and word vomit whatever comes into your brain onto a piece of paper, not caring if it’s coherent.

As stated before, I get a lot of ideas and influence from books and movies, mostly books, but Star Wars has also (subtly) impacted my writing. BUT one of my biggest ideas (that I’m planning on hopefully someday making into a trilogy) actually started with a dream. Not even a daydream, mind, a night-dream. I woke up the next morning with that idea lingering, and a single name echoing around in my cavernous mind (not elaborating; that would go too much into spoilers). I started writing my story on my tablet for a very laid-back homeschool writing class I was taking at the time; people actually really liked it, so I decided to develop it and work it further, the way a potter works and kneads clay into something magnificent. Around that time, another idea popped into my brain, an idea related to the first idea and my original dream (it’s killing me right now to avoid giving you guys all the goodies…), and I got even more excited. I felt like this could be HUGE. So the second story I started, going off of the first, was, in my opinion, even BETTER than the first– a rarity for second books in a trilogy. But I genuinely and truly loved the idea, still do. And I can’t wait ’til it’s published, ’til people can read it and say what they think (feedback is always a value tool.).

But, now I’m getting ahead of myself.

The bottom line is, a good idea can just pop out of nowhere and almost literally smack you upside the head, so you need to be ready for that moment, whenever it comes. That’s why I try to always have a notebook and a writing utensil in my nearby vicinity– because you never know.

As for research, depending on your story, you may or may not have to do that. If you’re writing dystopian fiction on something that requires survival techniques, like The Hunger Games, Divergent, or  The Maze Runner, chances are pretty good you’re going to have to do at least SOME looking into things like how people manage to survive on a daily basis. What about shelter? How do they get food? Do they compete with other people or even animals/bizarre or dangerous beings for resources? Are they in a post-apocalyptic world, or are they part of a bigger conspiracy? What similar conspiracies and theories could you research and incorporate into that, to make it seem believable to your reader?

If you’re writing a book on the high seas, do research on ship life and sailor-speak. If your one character has schizophrenia, Google through various web medical sites (just not WebMD.). Research, research, research. I cannot emphasize this enough.

While sometimes you have to do research, other times research-based things will come to you; as I previously mentioned, I got ideas for my Junk Collector series from my Natural Sciences class, ideas I probably wouldn’t have the opportunity to study myself, otherwise. But do know what you’re looking for, when you have a new idea to work into your story or questions about something, it’s definitely handy. I myself have several ideas I’m actually planning on looking into and researching to make a future story more believable and to draw the reader in more. Even if you’re writing something like fantasy or sci-fi, you do want to keep at least a degree of realism. Would my character really do this if they were autistic? What if they lost their father in a war– how would they react in such and such a situation then? Medical research, place research, PTSD research and other kinds of research can really get you going a LONG way.


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Conclusions: Happy Endings?

Conclusions: Happy Endings?

Allow me to elaborate on that title: When you are writing, you do NOT have to make a cliche happy ending. Personally, I’d settle for at least a somewhat satisfactory ending, but it doesn’t have to be entirely strawberries and cream. Depending on your writing style and what your story is, it could be a real tearjerker. The trick is, you need to make it meaningful to YOU, and convey that meaning to your readers. You don’t always have to have a “moral of the story” at the end, but often there’s a subtle little lesson or theme.


For instance, in The Awakening by Kate Chopin, the main character, Edna, is frustrated with her life, and just wants to be a free, independent woman– a highly difficult feat to accomplish in that specific era. Throughout the novel, Chopin  cleverly weaves the themes of birds and water (more specifically, the ocean) into her novella, symbolizing luxurious freedom. However, we get a glimpse at the end that Edna has perhaps bitten a bit more off than she could chew, as clearly demonstrated by a bird nearby with a broken wing, that skydives down into the ocean and drowns; Edna too swims off too far, and it is implied that she will not be able to make it back to shore.


This is not to say you should kill off your main character; few authors actually do this successfully and with little upsetting reactions from their readers, but if it’s relevant to YOUR story, think it all ties together nicely that way, then go for it. Few fellow readers will agree with me on this, I fear, but I must say Veronica Roth herself actually pulled this off pretty well, in my humble opinion. I normally don’t like it when main characters (especially protags) are killed off, unless there is an EXTREMELY good reason for it. Many readers, after reading Allegiant, swore off the series simply because Tris died, forgetting she died for a very good CAUSE– to save MILLIONS of others’ lives in dying, herself. It was the ULTIMATE act of Love, a Sacrificial Love kind of death (that totally does NOT forecast Roth’s faith as a believer in ANY way, shape, or form. ). It was true, it was pure, it was “hauntingly beautiful” as one Facebook commentator once put it. I think it was a satisfyingly good ending. The same goes for Roald Dahl’s children story, The Witches (major spoilers ahead, if you haven’t read it!). No one but the villains are killed, but the ending may have been less than satisfying for some, who might have wanted the protagonist to change back into a boy, as he did in the movie (that was, by the way, the primary reason Dahl totally disowned that film); instead, the boy remains a mouse-boy, who has a shortened life span but has easily adapted to his new life very well, and excitedly plots with his also aging grandmother about how to sneak into witches’ secret lairs and “get them” before they do away with all the children of the world, before their time is up, and they pass away peacefully together, with their mission accomplished. It gave me the utmost feeling of satisfaction, the same feeling I believe Dahl must have felt upon completing that wonderful work. But the readers who wanted to change the boy back, and filmmakers who agreed, forgot to take into account one thing that Dahl had already thought of: If the boy had been turned back, and his grandmother died, he would literally have no one to take care of him, since he was essentially an orphan otherwise.


That being said, make sure your ending with the characters makes logical sense, too. Sometimes, we let our own feelings and affections bias us to certain characters, and it prevents us from letting them do what they need to do– like overprotective parents, we cushion our favorites, rather than shoving them out of the nest so they can fly. Don’t forget to give your characters flying lessons, of course, but let them SOAR. Soar off into a wonderful, and perhaps very meaningful, ending that neither you nor your readers will be inclined to forget. You won’t regret it, I promise.


Image Credits:








Play with

My head;

I should be



But instead

I laze,

My eyes


The monitor;

My attention


Into a


And then,

Quite suddenly,

it’s time for bed.



Image Credit:



Note: I rarely write this good poetry when I’m feeling tired and especially lazy (due to carbs, lack of sleep, and generally just feeling like not doing anything but needing to do everything…), so this one surprised me. I especially liked the punny little title I came up with, it being Sunday and all… 😉