Thursday, 10 January 2013

Reviews A'Rollin' In

One of the scariest things about self-publishing a book is that you don’t have an agent or a fancy publishing house telling you that your book is any good. If you really wanted to, you could self-publish a book without anyone telling you it’s good. The thing is, it’s possible that once readers get a hold of it, every single one of them will tear it to shreds, and as the author – the one who put her blood, sweat and tears into it – you will be flabbergasted. After all that work, you find out your book sucks?

I was really worried about this happening, but alas, luckily it hasn’t happened yet! I’ve finally gotten my first few reviews on The Keeper’s Curse and so far, they’ve all been fairly positive. It’s a relief hearing completely objectionable people informing the world that it’s good. That they enjoyed it. That they couldn’t put it down. As the author, I probably shouldn’t be reading my own reviews, but every time I see something like this I get all giddy and giggley. These aren’t my family and friends saying this (even though I believe them when they say they enjoyed it) but strangers who owe me nothing.

When I see this, it relieves me a little to know that it was better to self publish than to not publish at all. If nothing else, a few people got to read it and enjoy it. That’s better than none. So, as of this moment, I am happy.

And that’s my little self pat-on-the-back for today.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Review: Unspoken

By: Sarah Rees Brennan
Plot Summary:
Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.

But all that changes when the Lynburns return.

The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?
This book, despite what it says at the bottom of this review, did not take me a month to read. It took me a few days, because it was painfully addicting.
If you’re sick of dishmop, emo, boring heroines, then look no further; Kami is the girl for you! This is the first book of Brennan’s I’ve read, so I don’t know if it’s the author’s style or Kami’s character, but I loved the voice. She’s charming and witty and British. The whole cast of characters speaks in this quirky, funny way that had me grinning throughout the whole book. Even the dad. It was awesome!
The plot was fast-moving with a bit of mystery sprinkled in, keeping you on your toes the whole time. It’s a very easy read; it’s one of those books where you only intend to read a chapter or two and end up reading a hundred pages, and it feels like no time has passed at all. I found there was a good balance between the focus on plot and the focus on relationship/friendship drama, for people like me that need both a character-driven and plot-driven book to keep engaged.
Speaking of relationships, Brennan is so clever with the romance I just want to give her a hug. To have two characters fall in love within the span of a three hundred page novel is difficult, and many romances in teen books get the word “instalove” thrown at them because the two characters fall for each other too quickly. Yet Brennan kinda cheated in this way – Kami and Jared had known each their entire lives, and in a way, already loved each other. Yet at the same time, they grew to know each other in person, yet they already had those feelings established. Brilliant. I actually wish I had read this book before I had clicked the “published” button on my own novel because of an aspect of this connection was so, so similar to my own I almost feel I had ripped it off. (This isn’t a criticism or anything, just a comment.)
If you’re looking for a fun, breezy book with a hint of magic, check it out!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Author: Laini Taylor
Plot Summary:

Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

I wish I was Laini Taylor.

And here’s the part where you go, “Uh, Diana, I think you mean that you want to be LIKE Laini Taylor –”

Oh, no. Not at all. If I were to be just LIKE Laini Taylor, it would mean I would know my whole life that I was a sad shadow of the real thing, and would never be truly as awesome. I would always be reaching, and never really getting there. How horrible.

But seriously, Laini Taylor’s writing is some of the most luscious and poetic I’ve ever read. When I finished reading Lips Touch: Three Times, I attempted to write in this way, and I simply could not do it. It came off as cheesy and purple prose-y. Theoretically, Taylor’s writing SHOULD be cheesy and purple prose-y when she goes on about wooden puppets, ballerina tutus, yellow umbrellas, sugar dust and tinkling music, but it isn’t. It’s pure magic – whenever I read it, I feel exactly the way I’m supposed to feel.

For the most part, her characters are just as enchanting and interesting as her writing. Everything from this book is like a fairytale, from the streets of Prague, to the mythos of the angels (which is so far from the Christian conception of angels I wouldn’t even really advertize it as an angel book) to the dreamlike Karou, who really is like a modern-day princess heroine being pretty and brave and kind.

If you’re wondering, the reason I didn’t give this five stars was because I didn't care for the love story, which unfortunately, dominated the story to the point I couldn’t overlook it. But even still, this aspect did not overshadow my love for the book – I can’t WAIT to read the next one! 

Saturday, 8 December 2012

YA Books Being Made Into Movies

I love how, just within the past few years, ya has exploded. It's finally become its own standalone genre, and has become a wildly successful one - apparently, there are more adults that read ya than teens. I've also noticed that because of this, more teen books are being made into movies, which I just find so amazing! I read so many young-adult books (even being passed the intended age audience), and the action should just look great on screen. A few I've come across are:

The Mortal Instruments:
Beautiful Creatures:
And apparently Divergent is being made into a movie as well! I don't even know how that could go wrong - such a fast-paced, action-packed book like that should translate well to the big screen. So far they've only casted Tris:
But still, I'm pretty psyched. Eek! I wish the best of luck to all three movies. 

Monday, 3 December 2012

"The Keeper's Curse" Now Available

Now that I'm about 98.9% sure all has gone the way I believe it has, I am here with a public service announcement:

*ahem* Hear ye, hear ye, people of the ebook reading community! My book "The Keeper's Curse" is now available at all major retailers for just $0.99! Amazing, this is.

*rolls up scroll* That is all. What a great way to start off my 21st year (yes, it's also my birthday - awesome coincidence).

Have a nice day, everybody.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Review: Angelfall

Author: Susan Ee
Plot Summary:

It’s been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back.

Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel.

Raffe is a warrior who lies broken and wingless on the street. After eons of fighting his own battles, he finds himself being rescued from a desperate situation by a half-starved teenage girl.

Traveling through a dark and twisted Northern California, they have only each other to rely on for survival. Together, they journey toward the angels’ stronghold in San Francisco where she’ll risk everything to rescue her sister and he’ll put himself at the mercy of his greatest enemies for the chance to be made whole again.
This isn't a mystery review: FIVE FREAKIN' STARS, MAN.
To start off, the premise is smart enough in itself. Ee takes two of possibly the most popular subgenres in young-adult lit right now and mixes them together - angels and dystopian (or I suppose more accurately, post-apocalyptic). Now, I'll be honest, my experience with those two subgenres haven't been great. I'm sick to death of angel romances, bastardizing the mythology as badly as writers have been doing with vampires lately, using the paranormal aspect as basically a veil to create tension between the fragile human girl and the "dangerous boy" without any intention of creating a plot. All "romance" no "paranormal," if you will. Most of the dystopias lately also kind of suck too, basically only in existence due to The Hunger Games frenzy. And there are STILL awful romances in them (sappy romance has NO PLACE in a post-apocalyptic scene, people!). I only picked this up because of the rave views.
And I am so glad I did.
Ee not only restores angels back to their original hell-raising glory, but she creates an entirely new spin on them. There are things in this book that are gruesomely imaginative (I don't want to give away any spoilers, but the angels do far more than burn down villages in this book - the torture is in some ways even worse psychologically). The world Ee created - the creatures, the angels' politics - is entirely her own, with complexities that fit within the realms of angel lore. I read somewhere once that angel books are basically Bible fanfiction, and there needs to be a certain amount of respect there. It made me laugh, but it's so true! And Ee does this, balancing traditional mythology with her own imagination perfectly.
Since the world is realistic (well, in a fantasy setting), it made me feel all the more for the characters. Penryn is - simply put - a cup full of awesome badassery. She's one of the best heroines I've ever had the pleasure of reading about - she's smart, she's occasionally funny, she's brave, but more importantly, she's loyal to her family. Family is so underrated in teen books, so I loved how it guided the plot for a change. Penryn gets how bad things actually are - she has her priorities straight. Survival comes first, always. She gets stuff done.
Raffe's pretty cool too - he's got his own problems he needs to deal with, and the two of them make an excellent team. I loved the snark and the slow build-up to trusting each other. I can see a romance developing which (despite my earlier rant on romances) I have no problems with!
But what really got me was the action. This book grabs you right away (you know those books that take 70 pages to get the ball rolling? This isn't one of them) and never lets you go. Shit is always about to hit the fan (or hitting it) which makes it unputdownable - you always need to know what happens next.
If I could make one complaint, it would be that I wish a few things had been answered. This book raises a lot of questions, but doesn't really answer any. (LOST deja vu anyone?) But, it is the first in a series, so that is to be expected on some level.
Highly, highly recommend this one! This book both creeped me out and excited me days after I had finished it. Read it before the movie comes out - yes, that is happening!

Monday, 5 November 2012

Figuring Out Self Publishing Success

For the past couple of months I’ve been reading a ton of blogs by authors who started out in similar situations as I have. I try to stick with self-published young adult (and if possible, fantasy) writers for advice, trying to figure out the successful ones’ secrets to success. And after hours upon hours of reading I’ve come up with ... nothing. Most of the more successful self-published stories, like Amanda Hocking, Susan Ee, Tammara Webber, Jamie McGuire, Erin Kern etc. don’t even seem to know why things have worked out so well for them. Every time I see an FAQ page, I immediately click on it, and usually there’s a “How are you selling so many books?” question, and funnily enough, a lot of the successful authors don’t know. Some of them say they didn’t market much, or if they did, it didn’t seem to make much of a difference in sales. Some of them soar to the top of lists right away, and some of them are unnoticed for years, and suddenly see a surge in sales, leading them to book deals within months.

I - wha? - but - WHY?!? I CAN’T WORK WITH THIS!
Honestly, knowing this scares the crap out of me. It basically means I have very little control of the situation, and all my hard work may be for nothing. I’ve spent about a year preparing my baby for this, and it’s really depressing to know that a lot of what controls my fate is luck. I know the most important thing is to have a good book, but I have come to the conclusion there’s a LOT more to it than that. Of course I plan to do the best I can to help the book do well (despite my gut-wrenching panic at the mere IDEA of marketing), but still. It’s terrifying, but at the same time, in some weird way, it’s a relief. This’ll already be stressful enough without feeling like a failure if it flops. Now I’ll know - it’s not necessarily me if it doesn’t do well. There are so many factors, invisible to me, that I can’t possibly predict what’ll happen. I’ll keep my expectations low. Yes, that’s what I’ll do. *clears throat* I plan to not sell a single copy.
Now I’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Oh, God.