From time to time, I’m going to put up non-spoilery book reviews of books I’ve been reading and have enjoyed.
There’s a reason for me doing this…

On the eve of 2020, a mere 5 months ago, I made a New Year’s Resolution.

It was a simple one.

Nothing earth-shattering – just a pledge to read more books.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve not been reading much. I’ve been so focused on Hunters and trying to get it right that every spare, waking minute has been devoted to my writing and editing. It’s like having a second full time job.

And then, of course, there are these blog posts to write, a website to update, Twittering to do…

Through it all, my pile of unread books on my bedside cabinet grew and grew. It is now less of a pile, and more of a tower!

…and this was that pile about 6 months ago. It’s BIGGER now!

To put that image into further perspective…we also have a bookshelf downstairs that has probably 30 or so unread books on it.  Plus the handful of books sitting on my office desk. Plus those that have been thrown onto the shelves in the den.  

In all, my unread book total was probably pushing about 50 or so books. Eeek!

Which is unprecedented because reading has always been a passion for me. My appetite for books is voracious!

An addiction almost.

To explain, let me tell you a little story…

When I was a small, wee boy, my parents used to let me read before bed. After my allotted time, I would be tucked in, my light turned off, and my book put to one side.

“Goodnight, Jonathan, sleep well.”

No sooner were they out of the room and I’d heard them trudge downstairs, than I was out of bed and reading again. My younger brother slept in a bedroom next to mine, but at that young age he was a little afraid of the dark. Mum and Dad would leave the landing light on, which was great for me as our bedroom doors had these Perspex windows in them. I could lie on the floor by the door and read by the light of the landing.

I got caught one day after falling asleep in that position and having my mum open the door onto my head.

After that light was turned off, I resorted to an alternative. I had a little remote controlled car, a Pontiac Firebird (like the one in Smokey & The Bandit, but red!).

This is EXACTLY the remote control car I had! Now that’s a blast from the past!

The thing is…it had working headlights. I’d lie in bed, switch on the car and read by its teeny headlights till the batteries went flat.

After wondering why the battery in the car was in a constant need of charging, my parents finally figured this one out, too.

Once that was confiscated at bed times, I started trying to read by the dim sodium glow of the streetlights outside through a crack in the curtains.

Eventually Mum and Dad gave up fighting the inevitable, and just installed a little wall light over my bed for me.

The written word has always been extremely important for me.

I devoured books, magazines, comics, graphic novels…and when the Internet came around, I was constantly looking for content articles or online stories the way most young adults would search for porn!

Book-buying became an obsession. I couldn’t pass a book shop without buying something. In Birmingham, my Saturdays were taken up with trips into the city center to visit Andromeda Books, and Nostalgia & Comics. My two favorite places to hang out and spend the little money I had.

Andromeda’, sadly, is no longer there. 🙁
nostalgia & comics‘ is still going strong! It was amalgamated into the ‘Forbidden Planet’ chain a few years back and changed its name to ‘Worlds Apart’, but is still my go-to place for my comic book needs! The staff here are AMAZING!

As is documented on this website in multiple places, around 2015 I started writing Songbird. Seriously started writing it.

Since that day, the number of books I’ve read has fallen off a cliff.

Hours that I previously used to spend reading had now been channeled into writing. I’d be tapping away on my keyboard, or scribbling in notebooks, with every spare second I had.

As such, I can literally count on ONE hand the number of books I’ve read over the past few years.

And that number is:

SHOCKING, I know! As a writer, I am ASHAMED of that number!

I still read magazines, comic books, graphic novels and website content like it’s going out of fashion, mainly because these are ‘bite-sized’ written content. But books have been a harder prospect. Mainly because of the time investment.

Up until the start of 2020, I’d read 5 books.

American Gods – by Neil Gaiman
The Skin Collector – by Jeffrey Deaver
Hail to the Redskins – by Adam Lazarus
Secrets of a D List Supervillain – by Jim Bernheimer

It isn’t that I didn’t want to read… I did. It just took a looooooooong time to get through a book when my concentration was focused on writing instead.

For this past Christmas, wifey bought me a new book to read.

Which brings me to the aforementioned 5th book I’ve read in the last few years.

It’s called Renegades by Marissa Meyer.

It’s the first of a trilogy of books that wifey knew should be right up my street. It’s about Superheroes and Supervillains!

I took my resolution seriously for about a week, reading the first half dozen chapters. I was enjoying them immensely…and then I got sidetracked, again, into writing and the book lay untouched since January.

Then Covid19 happened.

Suddenly, without the daily commute to work I realized that I was getting some quality time back in my life. So, I decided to buckle down and get back to reading. For a few weeks I’ve been making an effort to head to bed at a reasonable time and get back to reading. It’s working! I FINISHED Renegades.

To celebrate that momentous occasion, I’m going to give you guys a little *non-spoilery* review of the book.

RENEGADES
by Marissa Meyer

Before I start, let me get something off my chest right up front…

I’m really sorry, Marissa, but left to my own devices, I probably wouldn’t have bought this book in the UK.

Why?

Well, I know the old adage is ‘Never judge a book by it’s cover‘, but I’m one of those shallow types who is attracted to buying books by their cover art.

I’ll give you an example…

I bought Throne of Glass SIMPLY because I adored the cover art…

I mean, look at it! It’s GLORIOUS! Absolutely stunning!

Now, I’ve never read the first books in the series, and I haven’t gotten around to this one as yet. But the point is that Sarah J Maas made a sale to me by drawing my eye. I’m not even sure this series will be my cup-of-tea, but I’m willing to give it a whirl simply because the cover art is fantastic!

Now, contrast this to the cover art for the UK release of Renegades

Hmmmm…

I mean…*sigh*

It’s only my personal opinion, but this cover is terrible. It looks like it was done with felt-tip pens and in a hurry just to get cheap cover art onto the book release. Now, I’m no professional artist, but I’m fairly sure I could recreate that cover in about 5 minutes if I had a blue sharpie and a black sharpie.

(And now I feel bad for saying that because there’s probably some professional artist out there who created this and is extremely proud to be the cover artist for a Marissa Meyer book!  Sorry!)

Now, the big problem here is that *spoiler* I DID love this book so much that I went online and bought both the sequels AND bought the first book again in HARDBACK!

(I’m a sucker for a hardback book. It is truly what a book is meant to be!)

I bought the US versions…and they are works of majestic art!

Rarely have I had a better looking trilogy of books on my shelf. The design of these covers is superb. I mean…just look at them…

The colour theme running through, the art style, the lettering. 

Excuse me while I drool onto the screen for a while…

Okay, so you get the point. UK cover bad. US cover awesome-sauce!

Now, on to the review.

I’ll try and keep the book spoiler-free, but I will need to generalize a bit, so here goes…you have been warned!

So, here’s the set up…

The book details a world where society crumbled and is slowly recovering from chaos with the help of a group called ‘The Renegades’, people with extraordinary powers, known as Prodigies. Think of the Renegades as superhero-cops, if you will. There are a lot of them, hundreds in fact. They fight for peace, justice and etcetera. They basically act as government and police force.

However, not all powered folk are ‘good’!

There are a small group of Prodigies who are considered villains. These are ‘The Anarchists’. Basically, their philosophy is that the world would be better off without Superheroes. That the world has become lazy and complacent, expecting the Prodigies to sort out all their problems.

The book focuses on two characters, Nova and Adrian.

Nova is a young woman who lost her parents as a child. She was raised by the leader of The Anarchists and hates The Renegades for not being there to save her family. She has the ability to put people to sleep, something she never does for herself. She hasn’t slept since her parents died.

She goes by the Anarchist name ‘Nightmare.

Adrian is a young man who was adopted by the leaders of The Renegades after the death of his mother. He has the ability to bring anything he draws to reality. He is a patrol team leader for a Renegade squad.

He goes by the superhero name ‘Sketch.

These two characters become connected right at the start of the book in an almost throwaway moment that becomes more important as the story develops. 

That’s the setup…so what did I think?

Well, I love the characters of Adrian and Nova. Both have very different view points on the Superhero problem in Gatlon City (the place the books are set), but as the story goes on, you start to find that actually…they aren’t as far apart as they seem at first. 

There’s also the fact that there’s a duality to each character that skews them subtly towards each other in regards to how you think about them on a Hero-to-Villain sliding scale. I have to give Marissa Meyer a round of applause here for how she approaches these characters, as they are never less absorbing to read their points of view.

And then there are the supporting cast, who are all distinctly well-rounded out as characters in their own regards, and not simply ciphers to play the main players off of. For example, Nova’s little band of Anarchist friends are certainly not all painted as stereotypical villains. And Adrian’s Renegade friends are not all the heroes you’d expect. 

Marissa has also created a very interesting world in which to play. Gatlon City is a place ravaged by war, trying to get itself back on its feet. Perhaps this is where my only criticism really lies…

The setup is familiar to me. It reminds me very much of playing City of Heroes. In that game, Paragon City was a place that had seen war and devastation in the past, and was rebuilding. Thousands of heroes fought supervillains to maintain the peace. Even while playing it, though, I used to have these idle thoughts as to ‘Why is this the only city in the only place in the world with superheroes?’

To a degree, and although Marissa does talk a little about the larger world picture, it does feel similar. Very Gatlon City-focused. 

It makes me wonder if Marissa Meyer herself used to play City of Heroes…

The book takes a few twists and turns I didn’t expect. I remember having the thought process about a third of the way through wondering ‘Where is all this heading?’ Then, suddenly, the story took a turn in a particular direction that I didn’t see coming, but probably should have. 

Then, again, as I was approaching the end of the book, I had the similar thought process, but this time ‘How is this going to wrap up before the end of the book?’ Then, bang, a twist in the tale gave me the answer I needed and set up book 2 beeeeeyootifully!

For me, this book was paced brilliantly. It gave me answers exactly when I started asking for them. 

I REALLY hope I can pull this trick off in my books half as well!

So, my overall verdict!

SUPER!

A big Jon Ford thumbs up from me…

I’m already working on book 2 in the series, ‘Arch Enemies‘, and am determined to knock that tower down to mere ‘pile’ status over the upcoming months!

Love and books

P.S. – I have bought some books that have been written by some of the authors I follow on Twitter. I have every intention of reading them, but it might take a while to get around to it!  I’ll maybe try and throw up a review here or there when I’m done!

P.P.S. – I don’t often post piccies of myself, mainly because I am NOT photogenic. But there you go. What can you tell from this picture?

P.P.P.S – Well, I’m old!  And I love Battlestar Galactica and, yes, I made the model kit of the Viper you see in the background!

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20 Comments

  1. Jack Evans

    Reply

    That’s a sweet story of you as a young lad trying desperately to read just a few more pages. If only my parents could be so lucky. I have a habit of collecting Kindle ebooks that I’m definitely going to read – someday.

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      Reading was like an ADDICTION for me. Which is why it’s so shocking that I let it slip.
      The thing is, that every minute I have spare these days gets devoted to writing. Whether it be on my laptop or on my phone as I lie in bed, I’m always creating.
      But, it’s better for my brain to have some down-time, so I’ve been making an effort lately.
      I’m halfway through the 2nd book in the series so far and I AM LOVING IT!

  2. Evie

    Reply

    I just checked and Meyer’s books are on Audible and you’ve convinced me that this trilogy is worth a try. I’m loading the first book now. I listen to a lot of audiobooks due to time constraints. I can clean, drive, shower, and play with my cats while listening to an audiobook. I miss being able to mull the story over though.

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      I just started the 3rd book in the trilogy and I’m LOVING IT!
      Here’s hoping you enjoy them too!

  3. RaeY

    Reply

    Love this! I too love to read! I used to get in trouble for reading after I was told goodnight! I let my kids read for 30 minutes after I told them goodnight!
    Unlike you, I prefer paperbacks! I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve fallen asleep reading. The hardcover books hurt your face more when you drop them.
    I also judge a book by its cover! I’m headed to the beach next week and just bought 3 books off Amazon. I’m the girl laying on the beach chair trying not to burn with a book to her face!

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      I know EXACTLY what you mean!
      There is an element of me preferring Paperbacks for the actual purpose of reading, because you’re right… Hardbacks do hurt when dropped on your noggin.
      But I tend to by Hardbacks because I love how they look on the bookshelf. It makes our Den look like a proper little library. 🙂
      Enjoy your holiday! Let me know if you recommend any of the books! 😀

    • Samantha

      Reply

      Absolutely agree! I prefer paperbacks too. There is just something about turning pages. I’ve read many books on my Kindle but it’s not near as comforting as a paperback.
      I too pick books by the cover often.

      • Jon Ford

        Reply

        I tend to buy paperbacks for one of two reasons initially.
        1) They’re cheaper, so just in case you don’t like the book you haven’t spent that much
        2) Other than the dropping them on your face issue, they are easier to ‘travel light’ with. So when I’m holidaying or travelling with work they’re easier to take with you.
        If I really like a book once I’ve read it, then I’ll invariably replace it with the Hardback version to go in my library.
        And bonus third reason… I hate the way paperbacks get creased spines when you read them repeatedly. 🙂

  4. DesireeS

    Reply

    About time you put up a picture! It makes it all more personal.
    I have never read Renegade! Kudos to your wife for picking a book she knew you’d love. I’m pretty picky, my husband wouldn’t buy me one unless it was on my wish list.
    I’m an avid reader and at any one time I have 10 books to read. Paperbacks all the way! I like Rae have dropped them on my face far too many times.

  5. Matt

    Reply

    Hi Jon,

    This sounds like a great book! I like books in the fantasy genre, so I’ll definitely be adding this to my, “to read,” list. Have you had time to start the second book in the trilogy yet? Does the first book end on a cliffhanger? I know those are meant to build excitement and anticipation for the next book in the series, but it drives me a little nuts not knowing what happens, especially if the next book in the series hasn’t been written yet!

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      Hi Matt,
      I’ve now read the entire trilogy and loved it!! 😍
      I’ll pop up another blog post with a little review of the series soon!

  6. Dave

    Reply

    It’s interesting to read your website, as you are on the brink of being published. As an aspiring writer myself, I had the idea that I could promote my work on youtube, maybe by posting short stories or serializing longer stories, with accompanying images. Unfortunately my voice does not sound confident when recorded, but maybe it will get better with practice.
    I have found that actually speaking and recording the writing gives me another critical perspective on it as well.
    Anyway, do you think youtube is a good idea?

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      I’ve never thought of YouTube, but it might not be a bad idea at all.

      I’d also mulled with the idea of starting a Patreon at one point that I could put up short tie in stories or audio-chapters for anyone who follows me. Maybe start it at a really low price (or free if they do that) and then see if I can gather a following.

      I think book marketing has been stuck in a rut of traditional means for a while now. Self Publishing may very well be the way forward. Maybe ‘Stories on Demand’ could be a thing, like the ‘Spotify’ of books. Who knows. I do think it’s worth trying these things and seeing what happens. 🙂

  7. Paula

    Reply

    I am with you, Jon. I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but the cover art is what draws people in or turns them away from picking up a book and reading its summary. I really like the US cover art better than the cover released to the UK. The covers are so much richer in color, and the images draw you in. I’m not sure I would have picked up the book with the cover art released to the UK. I’m glad you gave it a chance anyway!

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      The thing is, if I’d read the blurb on the back then I’d probably have bought it anyway as it’s totally in my wheelhouse.

      BUT… I wouldn’t have plucked it off the shelf to read the blurb on the back because the UK cover wouldn’t have inspired me to do so. So they’d have missed a sale. It was fluke really that Wifey came across the book (maybe on Goodreads?) and thought I’d like it and got it for me for Christmas.

      I didn’t realise there were different covers till I went online to buy the 2nd and 3rd books and was like…”What is this? Why doesn’t my Renegades book look this cool?!”

      I’ve now bought the whole set in matching hardcover and they look glorious on my shelf! 😀

      • Paula

        Reply

        Jon, do you know who writes the blurbs on the back of the books? Is it the author or a publicist or someone else?

        In any case, those blurbs are super important, too. I’ve actually read some blurbs that make a book sound awful, but I’ve purchased it anyway because friends say the book is really good. And they were right – the book turns out to be fantastic. But you definitely wouldn’t know that just having read the blurb!

        • Jon Ford

          Reply

          Honestly… I have no idea!

          I’d assume that it depends on how you’re published. If you go Traditional, then I assume a Marketing Dept will be involved. If you go Indie or Self Publish, then I imagine you do it yourself.

          You’re right though, this is a big area of concern for me. A little like the #PitchMad stuff, I don’t know exactly how to condense my books down to ‘blurb. I’m going to have to work on that!

          • Nikki Anderson

            For indie publishing, many editors offer blurb review on the side. There are also services you can hire specifically for the writing of the blurb. They’re quite expensive, though, because obviously the person penning it would not only have to write it, but also read the whole book to know which direction to go.

            One of the good things about self-writing it is that you don’t need to run it past people who have already read it. When I wrote the blurb for my first book, the person who helped me the most had never read so much as a chapter, but he was able to tell me if it intrigued him enough to want to know more.

            I think it really just comes down to building some excitement for the reader and having folks in your camp who will honestly tell you if you hit the mark or not. Speaking of which, Jon, maybe I should start working on the Hunters blurb now since that book is such a pain in the ass to summarize. Haha! 😀

          • Paula

            Jon and Nikki, I’d be afraid that my friends and family wouldn’t tell me if my blurb didn’t do the book justice. I suppose that’s partly what a good editor is for.

            It is really wonderful to see what a great friendship you two have. It really seems like you can be honest with one another and the other won’t take offense. Everyone needs a friend like that!

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