What’s discussed in this post
In the last chapter of the Style Series: Grammar 101 post, we learned all about the 7 basic sentence patterns. These form the core of every sentence. Without them, you cannot have a complete, grammatical sentence, or an independent clause.
But you may have noticed that your nouns, verbs, and predicates are more complex. Each part of the independent clause can be expanded, or added onto, to create complexity and interest. This is where phrases and clauses, and subordination and coordination come into play.
The difference between a clause and a phrase
When you look up "clause" and "phrase" in the dictionary, their definitions sound similar. Both are a group of words, but phrases only form a syntactical unit with a single grammatical function (ex. adverbial phrase), and clauses contain a subject and predicate.
For example, let’s look at the following sentence:
When I walked up to the counter, the barista scanned me from head to toe.
The independent clause is the barista scanned me (noun + transitive verb + direct object). But as you can see, I naturally made a complex sentence with two add-ons:
When I walked up to the counter, the barista scanned me from head to toe.
The first part of the sentence is a clause because it has a subject (I) and a predicate (walked up to the counter). It can easily become a complete sentence by removing the introductory when. The final part of the sentence is a phrase because it has no verb but still forms a grammatical structure, an adverbial.
What is Coordination
Coordination occurs when you expand your sentence by linking like grammatical structures with punctuation and/or conjunctions. There are three types of conjunctions:
Ex. Not only did Milo and Greg dance, but they also sang; however, they were terrible at both, and we all had a good laugh.
We’ll explore this sentence further as we review the types of coordination.
Types of Coordination
There are two main types of coordination: coordination within a sentence, and coordination between sentences.
indirect objects (noun phrases), and compound predicates (verb phrases). Let’s look at the intrasentence coordination in the example from above.
Not only did Milo and Greg dance, but they also sang; however, they were terrible at both, and we all had a good laugh.
There is only one example intrasentence coordination in this sentence. The compound subject Milo and Greg uses the coordinating conjunction and to form a noun phrase. Below is the sentence recast to create a compound predicate:
Milo and Greg danced and sang, and they were terrible at both, which made us laugh.
The first type of intersentence coordination uses the correlative conjunction Not only–but also to connect two independent clauses. Notice the Not only clause is an inverted sentence, where the verb comes before the noun, and a different emphasis and rhythm are created. You may have also misidentified this conjunction because but also is split up by they. While not only is always one unit, but also can be together or split up, depending on what you want to emphasize. See how the emphasis changes when new move the also:
The second type of intersentence coordination is ; however. However is an adverbial conjunction, and in its current position, it requires a semicolon to prevent a run-on sentence. Like correlative conjunctions, adverbial conjunctions have flexibility. They can move them throughout the sentence to change the emphasis. In most cases, you’ll want to enclose the adverbial conjunction with a pair of commas or a semicolon and a comma.
Not only did Milo and Greg dance, but they also sang; they were, however, terrible at both, and we all had a good laugh.
Not only did Milo and Greg dance, but they also sang; they were terrible at both, however, and we all had a good laugh.
The third type of intersentence coordination is the coordinating conjunction and. (If but wasn’t part of a correlative conjunction, it would be a coordinating conjunction too!) This is probably the simplest form of intersentence coordination, and the one writers, no matter their level of expertise, are most familiar with.
Not only did Milo and Greg dance, but they also sang; however, they were terrible at both, and we all had a good laugh.
With some exceptions, a comma comes before the coordinating conjunction when it is connecting two complete sentences.
Types of Subordination
You create subordination through dependent (subordinate) clauses. These clauses begin with a subordinating conjunction and include a subject and predicate.
There 8 types of subordinating conjunctions:
Types of Subordination
There are three types of subordination: adverbial, adjectival, and nominal. But each of these types of subordination has subtypes.
Like other adverbials, an adverbial clause modifies a verb phrase. They can be tricky to identify because adverbials are movable, so they can appear anywhere in the sentence, depending on what the author wants to emphasize. Therefore, a good clue that you’re working with an adverbial is that you can move it.
I used an adverbial introductory clause in my coffeehouse sentence to tell the reader when the barista scanned me:
When I walked up to the counter, the barista scanned me from head to toe.
A variation of the adverbial clause is the elliptical clause, in which something is deleted. The elliptical clause is always introduced by either while or when. When you use the elliptical clause, the subject of the main clause is always the understood subject of the adverbial as well.
Adjectival clauses, also known as relative clauses, are clauses that modify a noun phrase, which includes subjects, direct objects, indirect objects, subject complements, complements, and objects of prepositional phrases. They are introduced by a relative pronoun (that, who, or which) or a relative adverb (where, when, or why).
Let’s add an adjectival clause to the barista sentence as an example:
When I walked up to the counter, the barista who was steaming milk scanned me from head to toe.
There is often more than one barista behind the counter, so by adding the adjectival clause to the sentence, we specify which barista scanned me. We also add a little suspense because of what the barista is doing when they scan me. It hints at their intention (to check me out), and it hints at what may come—some romcom meet-cute shenanigans.
Sometimes adjectival clauses that start with which don’t refer to any specific noun, but instead refer to the whole main clause. These are called broad reference clauses.
When I walked up to the counter, the barista who was steaming milk scanned me from head to toe, which thrilled me.
In the case of When I walked up to the counter, the barista who was steaming milk scanned me from head to toe, the adjectival clause provides identifying information and therefore no comma is necessary.
Nominal clauses are clauses that fill noun phrase positions. Essentially, if the clause functions as a noun, you have a nominal clause. Two of the most common types of nominal clauses are the nominalizer and the interrogative.
A nominalizer is introduced by the relative pronoun that and fills the place of direct objects, subjects, or introduces indirect speech.
I suspect that the barista liked what she saw.
That the barista over steamed the milk proves she liked what she saw.
She said that the barista scanned me from head to toe when I walked up to the counter.
The other type common type of nominal clause is introduced by an interrogative (who, what, when, where, why, which, or how), so I’m going to call it an interrogative nominal clause.
I wondered why she was checking me out.
Who I was going on a date with was kept secret.
I didn’t know anything about how the rules of football work.
My main question, why she was checking me out, can only be answered by the barista.
While that can often be omitted in a nominalizer, the introductory interrogative word cannot be omitted from the clause.
Chapter 4, “Coordination and Subordination” in Rhetorical Grammar: Grammatical Choices, Rhetorical Effects, 6th ed., by Martha Kolln and Lorette Gray
Pages 157–166, 180–185, 201–202, “Coordination and Subordination” in Rhetorical Grammar: Grammatical Choices, Rhetorical Effects, 6th ed., by Martha Kolln and Lorette Gray
“What is a Subordinate Clause,” Grammar Girl blog and podcast
Style Series, Grammar 101: The seven basic sentence patterns
Style Series: What is a Writing Style
Commas with a direct address in dialogue
“Duke, you need to stop talking.”
If the direct address comes in the middle of the sentence, the expression is set off by a pair of commas:
“C’mon, Addy, let’s go to the park!”
If the direct address comes at the end of the sentence, a comma goes before the expression:
“Go home, Martin!”
Commas with an indirect quotation within the question
1. A subordinate clause with a direct quotation – In this case, you'll put a comma between the subordinate clause What do you mean and the independent clause Lola ate all the cheese, and you’ll add single quotations around the independent clause.
“What do you mean, ‘Lola ate all the cheese?’ ” she said.
2. A dependent clause followed by an indirect quotation – This utilizes the scheme of elision, which is when you omit or drop words that are easily understood by the reader. In this case, the omitted word is by. When you utilize elision, a comma replaces the omitted word.
“What do you mean by Lola ate all the cheese?” she said.
“What do you mean, Lola ate all the cheese?” she said.
In either case, commas are needed between the subordinate interrogative What do you mean and the independent clause. Which style is up to you, but aesthetics should be a consideration. In the manuscripts I edited, I chose the indirect-quotation style because the direct-quotation style looked busy.
Commas with relative clauses
Relative clauses are dependent clauses that begin with relative pronouns. Who, which, what, and that are the most commonly used relative pronouns. Whether or not you need to set off a relative clause with a comma depends on whether the clause is restrictive or nonrestrictive.
Restrictive clauses include information that is essential to the meaning of the sentence. They should not be set off with a comma or pair of commas.
The woman who lives upstairs needs to soundproof her bedroom a little more.
Nonrestrictive clauses include information that is not essential to the meaning of the sentence. They should be set off with a comma or pair of commas.
Janet, who is my upstairs neighbor, needs to soundproof her bedroom a little more.
Is it identifying? Then it is restrictive. Do not set it off with a comma.
Is it commenting? Then it is nonrestrictive and should be set off with a comma or pair of commas.
Many proofreading and editing softwares will pick up on vocative expressions and introductory subordinate clauses and will suggest a comma or pair of commas, so use those to your advantage. Always keep in mind that a comma is required between an introductory subordinate (dependent) clause and an independent clause, and vocative expressions should always be set off with a comma or pair of commas. Otherwise, your reader will trip over the sentence, and they’ll be pulled out of the manuscript.
What's covered in this post
You need a good foundation in grammar to curate and intentionally use your style. So, we are embarking on the Grammar 101 section of the Style Series. This week we’re going to learn all about the 7 basic sentence patterns.
Be patterns involve any verbs derived from the infinitive “to be.” They include is, am, are, were, was, been, and being. Being Verbs have a bad reputation as weak verbs, but when used correctly, they can be powerful. There are two basic sentence patterns that use being verbs:
In the first pattern, the being verb is followed by an adverbial . An adverbial is any structure that modifies a verb. But in this pattern, it is usually an adverbial of time or place, or answers the questions When? or Where?
Example: She is in the chair.
She + is + in the chair = Subject + Be + Place Adverbial (where)
In the second pattern, the being verb is followed by a subject complement, which is either an adjective or a noun phrase called a referent. Referents rename the subject while adjectives describe the subject.
Examples: The playroom is a mess.
The playroom + is + a mess = Subject + Be + Referent
The playroom is messy.
The playroom + is + messy. = Subject + Be + Adjective
Linking verb pattern
Linking verbs are all verbs other than “to be” that are completed by a subject complement, such as taste, smell, feel, become, remain, look, appear, seem, and prove. There is only one basic sentence pattern that utilizes linking verbs:
But the linking verbs still serve different functions. The sensory-based linking verbs (taste, smell, etc.) usually link the subject to an adjective.
Example: This book smells amazing.
This book + smells + amazing = Subject + Linking Verb + Adjective
Other linking verbs, such as become and remain, link a noun to a referent.
Example: This house remains a mess.
This house + remains + a mess = Subject + Linking Verb + Referent
Intransitive verb pattern
An intransitive verb is an action verb (also considered a “strong” verb) that doesn’t take a direct object, such as ran, jump, laugh, and bark. Therefore, the intransitive verb pattern is the simplest pattern.
Example: The T-rex ran.
The T-rex + ran = Subject + Intransitive Verb
Transitive verb patterns
Like intransitive verbs, transitive verbs are action verbs. But transitive verbs take a direct object, which is a noun phrase that answers the question of What? or Whom? There are three basic sentence patterns that use transitive verbs:
In the first pattern, the transitive verb and direct object complete each other. You don’t need anything else to understand the core sentence.
Example: We eat pizza.
We + eat + pizza = Subject + Transitive Verb + Direct Object
In the second pattern, an indirect object completes the meaning of the sentence. An indirect object refers to whatever receives the direct object, or whomever the action is performed for.
Example: TikTok gave many writers a community.
TikTok + gave + many writers + a community = Subject + Transitive Verb + Indirect
Object + Direct Object
In the third pattern, an object complement follows the direct object. Like a subject complement, an object complement is a noun or phrase. But an object complement describes the direct object.
Example: My son calls quesadillas piñatas.
My son + calls + quesadillas + piñatas = Subject + Transitive Verb + Direct Object +
Exercise 2: Identifying Your Sentence Patterns
What's covered in this post
What is writing style?
This is because Writing Style has more to do with rhetoric than grammar. Rhetoric is how an author uses diction, sentence structure, punctuation, and sentence and paragraph arrangement to convey emotion, evoke empathy, form a logical path of thought, and create narrators and characters that readers will trust.
The 4 Elements of Style
While an author’s style may vary from project to project, it will remain consistent and recognizable overall. An author creates their writing style through the following elements:
(1) Sentence length and complexity is the most basic aspect of style, in that it is the most recognizable. When you open a book or look at your writing, you can tell at a glance whether you use shorter or longer sentences, and simple or more complex sentences. The punctuation gives it away. More commas, dashes, parentheses, and semicolons are an indication you use longer, more complex sentences. You'll see a lot of ending punctuation marks (periods, exclamation points, question marks) if you use shorter, more simple sentences. You're going to have a variety of both, but you will notice that you're more likely to use a complex over a simple sentence.
(3) Word choice focuses not only on the connotation and denotation but also on the word size and how you create compounds.
(4) Favorite figures of speech (schemes and tropes) are how you add embellishment and decorate your prose, although that is not their sole function. Schemes involve the transference of word order, and tropes involve the transference of meaning. We'll be discussing the different types of schemes and tropes later in this series, but some examples of schemes include polysyndeton (many conjunctions), parallelism, and elision. Some examples of tropes are: metaphor, puns, and personification.
4 Factors that affect Style
While the above four elements remain consistent overall and therefore recognizable, your Writing Style varies from project to project through the following four factors:
Exercise 1: Sentence length and complexity
What's discussed in this post
What is a comma splice?
A comma splice occurs when two grammatically correct and complete sentences (independent clauses) are joined (or spliced together) by a comma. Here it is in a formula:
Comma splice = [Independent clause] , [Independent clause].
Example: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . . (From A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens)
Is a comma splice ever correct?
Comma splices are considered nonstandard, but CMOS Fiction+ Shop Talk writer Russell Harper and the infamous The Elements of Style authors Strunk & White both point out that a comma splice isn’t always an error. It’s an option, but it should only be used when it is the best option. How do you know if it’s the best option? That depends on context, tone, and intended emphasis. In general, a comma splice is an option when:
Since comma splices can be viewed as an error by discerning readers, it needs to be used sparingly and with obvious intention. Below, we are going to talk about three ways to use a comma splice intentionally through asyndeton.
Asyndeton and comma splices
Asyndeton is a scheme of omission in which you leave out, or omit, conjunctions between coordinate words, phrases, and clauses. Often, you use a comma to indicate the elision, which is allowable per CMOS 6.54 (“Commas to indicate elision”). When you utilize asyndeton between independent clauses, you create comma splices.
Asyndeton between independent clauses is most effective you need to create a hurried rhythm, show dichotomy, or show an emotional reaction.
Comma splices to create a hurried rhythm
Here’s a famous sentence popularly attributed to Julius Caesar:
I came, I saw, I conquered.
This sentence checks most of the boxes in the guidelines outlined above: The sentences are short and closely related, they have parallel structure, but since we don’t have context, the tone is vague. The lack of conjunctions here allows us to say the entire sentence in one, short breath, which gives us the impression that not only was Caesar successful, but the three actions were done in such quick succession and with such ease that he didn’t even break a sweat.
A less experienced (or less brave) editor would edit this sentence according to current standards and conventions, but we would lose a lot of the meaning.
I came; I saw; I conquered.
I came. I saw. I conquered.
I came, I saw, and I conquered.
The semicolons and periods (also known as hard stops) still create a hurried rhythm, but there is too much breath, too much distance between the actions. They also read a little sarcastic in tone, like the speaker is annoyed and talking down to the listener. The conventional use of “and,” doesn’t have this tone, but the hurried rhythm is lost. In all three conventionally combined sentences, the three actions feel more laborious. He broke a sweat completing all three tasks.
This balance between tone, rhythm, and convention is something I had to consider recently. My client Stephanie K. Clemens uses comma splices to create asyndeton in Stripped Away, her political fantasy Kindle Vella, to create a hurried rhythm:
The break in parallel structure with the third clause, nothing happened, also serves the sentence. Breaking the repeating structure creates a tone of relief and confusion, which is precisely how Kennara feels. Since simultaneity and tone are essential to the meaning of the sentence, I kept the comma splices/asyndeton, explained why in a comment, and told Stephanie how awesome she is.
Comma splices to show a dichotomy
Dichotomy is “a division between two especially mutually exclusive or contradictory groups or entites.” The most famous display of comma splices and dichotomy is the first paragraph in A Tale of Two Cities:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way . . .
It grounds the reader in the historical setting of 1775, it’s setting up the main conflict of the book between the aristocratic class and the impoverished. The string of comma splices weaves together these two goals, showing how tangled the conflicts and setting are. If we separate the clauses and recast them conventionally, we lose the entanglement of conflicts and worlds.
My client Jesse Harvey used comma splices and dichotomy recent in her book, Uthraith Tauristar: Book Two of The Dark Stellar Legacy:
The first sentence utilizes a compound predicate, which highlights subject complement inseparable and the verb phrase forever entwined. Anything other than a simple and would disrupt the closeness of that relationship between the two worlds.
The second sentence continues describing this relationship. And it stands out. Never touching, always together has both fragments and a comma splice. The two fragments contradict, just like the worlds contradict—they are the tangible world, and an invisible world called the aether—and the comma splice serves as a bridge between the dichotomic relationship and existence.
It also sets up the last two sentences, which show the two characters' relationship to these worlds. We finally get two short, simple sentences that are repetitive. A comma splice would've been an option here if it weren't for the context. But separating the two subject compliments into two sentences adds the forceful staccato tone Jesse was going for in this training scene, and it also sets up the two roles the characters play between the two worlds.
If I had edited the comma splice in the second sentence to a more conventional method, we would've not only lost the meaning in the second sentence but also the meanings in the rhythms of the surrounding sentences.
Super cool, right?
Comma splices to create an emotional reaction
We talked a little about this with the example from Stephanie K. Clemen’s Stripped Away: The combination of the comma splice and structural change in the last clause created a sense of relief for the POV character Kennara.
My client Arabella K. Federico also used the rhythm of a comma splice to show an emotional reaction in her character Kara in The Mark of Chaos and Creation:
The tone is informal—these are Kara's thoughts, only heard by her and the reader—and the clauses also hit the marks of being intimately related, short, and there's even some repetition of sounds in the interjections (the repetition of S in Sure, I suppose) and in the prepositional phrases (at some point, in some way), which tie the clauses even closer together. The comma splices here serve to show the winding thoughts of Kara in an introspective moment. They create a soft tone, which contrasts headstrong and intense, and feel almost lonely. It also highlights one of the main struggles Kara has throughout the book: the longing to belong and the constant feeling of being left out.
It just breaks your heart, doesn’t it?
If I edited this conventionally, the tone would’ve shifted dramatically:
Sure, I can be headstrong and intense sometimes. I suppose. But it’s like at some point, in some way, everyone leaves me.
With the conventional structure, we get more of a pointed staccato, which conveys some incredulity of the judgment that Kara's headstrong and intense sometimes. That’s not what Arabella wanted to convey. Kara already believes these two things are true. The doubt Kara has is whether she is capable of being loved unconditionally. So, we’ve lost that expression of her core belief and true doubt.
We’ve also lost the winding rhythm and the softness, which adds to the loneliness and doubt Kara feels and allows the reader to feel them with her.
Sometimes nonconventional sentences are the best sentences.
Another excellent way to show an emotional reaction with a comma splice is to break the rhythm of a sentence. Unfortunately, I don't currently have an example for this, so if you find out, let me know!
Even for the savviest readers, comma splices can be jarring, and they can look like an error to more casual readers, so it is understandable if you’d prefer to avoid them in your writing style. But I wouldn’t discount them completely. Comma splices are voicey and add character to dialogue and narration. Therefore, you may also stipulate that comma splices are only allowable for certain characters, or in dialogue, thought, or free indirect discourse. Whatever the case, make sure you tell your editor your comma splice preferences; they’ll know the best way to edit out the asyndeton while maintaining as much rhythm and meaning as possible.
What's discussed in this post
Welcome to Editor’s roundup, a monthly post of common edits I’ve made in the last month. This month, we’re discussing 3 compounds that authors commonly mix up, and I’ll give you some tips on how to self-edit for word compounds.
Door frame or doorframe?
We’ll start with an easy one. Often, I see authors split doorframe into 2 words, and I’ve even caught myself splitting the compound in my own writing! Merriam-Webster says doorframe is the correct spelling, so I looked into why we have a tendency to split the word. According to the Google Books Ngram Viewer, which checks how words and phrases are used over time, doorframe became the more common spelling in the 2010s. The use of door frame tapered off in 2013, and the use of doorframe peaked in 2017.
While door frame is still in use, a quick google search for entries of door frame yields results for doorframe in Merriam-Webster, Cambridge, Dictionary.com, and others, so I would stick to the one-word version.
On to or onto?
One of the fun things about being an editor is that I second-guess every grammatical rule I know, and then I end up down the rabbit hole. Along with lay vs. lie conjugations, I research onto vs. on to regularly, because if you mix them up, you can change the meaning of your sentence.
To know whether you need to use onto or on to, you need to know 4 things.
The first thing to know is that the confusion with onto and on to we’re discussing here lies with using onto and on to as prepositions of direction.
The second thing to know is that when you use on to, you’re actually using two distinct prepositions of direction: on and to. So, you need to look at these two words individually to see if they both fit the context.
Therefore, you’d only use the prepositions on and to together when you’re describing an object moving toward a destination and into a position. Often, you’re working with a verbal phrase (moved on) and–or an infinitive phrase (to become) when you use on to.
She went on to become a bestselling author. (The object she moved toward and into the position of becoming a bestselling author.)
They led them on to the upper landing. (The object them was led toward the position of the upper landing.)
She moved on to her next lover so fast. (The object she moved toward and into the position of a new lover.)
The fourth thing to know is that onto and on are interchangeable. So, a good trick to know if you should onto instead of on to is to drop the to. If you drop to without any meaning changing, you can use onto.
I set my phone onto the charger and I set my phone on the charger mean the same thing, but I set my phone on the charger sounds better.
Compounds beginning with half
Half can precede verbs, nouns, and adjectives to create compound words. Those grammatical functions determine whether the compound is one word or two. According to The Chicago Manual of Style, the following general rules apply:
There are two major exceptions to these rules:
Editing for word compounds can be tricky. Spellcheck will often not recognize if a compound should be two words, one word, or hyphenated. Using a grammar check like Grammarly (although I think you need the premium version) or ProWritingAid can help you eliminate a lot of needless two-word compounds. Additionally, if you edit in Word, you can install a macro that will enable to you look up the word in Merriam-Webster with a couple of clicks.
Here are some final tips:
Finally, as you learn which compounds you tend to mix up, make a Find+Replace list for future reference.
Google Books Ngram View: doorframe and door frame
Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, s.v. “onto,” accessed September 25, 2022, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/onto.
The Chicago Manual of Style 7.89
“Using word macros for editing,” Rabbit with a Red Pen
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As an author, one of the most important things you can learn is how to describe and practice your unique writing style. This not only helps you use your writing style more intentionally, but it also enables you to discuss your choices with your editor.
So beginning in June, I'm going to post a series on Writing Style.
What you'll learn in this series
Each post will include a breakdown of the week's topic, a link to my TikTok, and an exercise. Currently, I'm planning on the exercises to build off one another. The goal is that, at the end of the series, you'll understand your writing style and be able to describe it to others.
Content Guidance: This book contains grooming, on-page SA, and religious trauma related to purity culture and the patriarchy, and therefore this review includes discussion regarding the treatment of those issues.
I'm going to preface this review by saying this book is important. As someone from a similar background, I found the confusion and tension Emma feels throughout her sexual awakening and exploration relatable and portrayed well. Emma was raised to believe that her body was not her own and in order to be good, she had to deny her very natural feelings and bodily functions. So her choice to deconstruct those beliefs and search for a healthier relationship with her body, sexuality, and feelings is something I loved to see on the page, and I'd love to see more books explore this.
Generally, I loved the relationship dynamics in this book. They interweave and overlap in a way that is very high school. Tanner and Emma's romance is fast-paced and intense; Emma's friendships are loving and challenging; and Emma's changing relationship with her dad is frustratingly understandable. C.L Walters created complex characters with complex relationships, and the way the changing relationships challenge Tanner and Emma's beliefs and romance is the star of this book.
However, this book felt about 150 pages too long. I think Walters fell into the trap of wanting to tell all the stories in one book (a trap I know all too well). As a result, several side plots and backstories felt tagged on rather than integral to the story. Unfortunately, this includes the sexual assault and grooming backstories. I know from the author's note at the end of the book that Emma's #metoo backstory and her consequent struggle with her self-worth due to her religious background were especially important to Walters, and while I agree it's an important story to tell, it felt like it should've been part of a different story or novel. Emma's purity culture upbringing was enough for me to believe she would struggle with her desire for Tanner.
This is the same with Tanner's grooming backstory. While I agree it's important to show that all people can be grooming and sexual assault victims, it didn't feel essential to Tanner's story in this book. I think it would've been better represented with a different character and a different story.
Finally, the Tanner's-favorite-book subplot didn't feel essential to the story, and I didn't understand the excerpts throughout. I loved the scene where Tanner and Emma are reading it together, but I don't think Tanner's secret bookishness added any actual depth to his character or story. It could've been removed without harming their love story or the friendship and family subplots.
Since these stories felt more tagged on than essential, they distracted from Emma and Tanner's emotional journeys, which involve learning that their self-worth comes from, well, within. And while the underlying lesson is the same, each comes to the lesson differently and separately. I'm a sucker for a love story where fulfillment is NOT found in the romance, and Walters delivers. But Emma's journey to learn this was a little more frustrating than Tanner's. While I understand it may have been more difficult for her due to evangelical theology ingrained in her, I think the book's length detracted from her journey and character in the end.
That being said, I would recommend this book to those interested in purity culture representation and those who love sex-positive non-HEA love stories. If you enjoy Katie Cotugno's 99 Days, Erin Hahn's Never Saw You Coming, and open-door sex scenes, you'll enjoy this book.
You can purchase The Stories Stars Tell on Amazon (Amazon affiliate link) and learn more about C.L. Walters at https://www.mixedplatepress.com/
In this sequel, Natalie Cammaratta teases out the tension and anticipation the end of "Falling & Uprising" creates while playing on the themes of knowing vs. feeling, friendship, trust, and societal backsliding. It seems that an uprising and seeming environmental disaster (Where did the ocean go? How does that even happen?) isn't enough for Kaycie and its islands to forgo their corrupt government and false sense of security.
Sounds familiar, right?
The complicated political climate of this dystopia reminds me of "Star Wars: Episode III, Revenge of the Sith," in the best way. Serenity, like Padme, fights for a more fair world, and even with the amnesia shot, Serenity knows something is wrong with the Establishment, and she knows it's more than what she's told. Her sense of right is intact, despite the efforts of the people around her. She feels there is something wrong. The tension between knowing and feeling within Serenity builds out her character and makes it more interesting and complex than it was in Book 1. I liked Serenity in "Falling & Uprising." I LOVE the journey she goes through in "Scattered & Breaking."
Natale also expands the world for both the characters and the readers through Bram--and a third POV (which I am not going to name because I'm not sure if it's still a secret). Through Bram and the third POV, we see and learn more about the islands, how the uprising affected them, and why and how the sea disappeared. While their understanding of the world expands, friendships are tested, and they don't know who to trust. The interweaving of personal and societal relationships is intricate and, well, cool!
Basically, if you liked "Falling & Uprising," you'll love "Scattered & Breaking." It's STEAM-filled and passes the Bechdel test with flying colors. There are also several gay characters (one will surprise you!). I stand by my assessment that this series is for people who like "Downton Abbey," (Season 2!) and "Catching Fire."
And yes, Jase is still sketch. I also stand by that assessment.
Visit Natalie's website and purchase "Scattered & Breaking" through Amazon.
Sarah Hawkins is a geek for the written word. She's an author and freelance editor who seeks to promote and uplift the authors around her.
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