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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.
There.
Now I’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Hopefully.
Oh, God.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Cover Love

I finally got around to getting the cover of my book done, and I just HAVE to show it off:


Ack! It's so lovely. Pretty much got an eyegasm the first time I saw it finished.
If you're interested in a book cover, I'd highly recommend Robin Ludwig Design ( http://www.gobookcoverdesign.com/). Definitely worked for me!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Autocrit.com (and "Call Me Maybe" memes)

A few weeks ago I discovered possibly the most helpful writing tool ever.

Ever. 

Beta readers are awesome, don’t get me wrong. I’d be awful without them, in terms of characterization, plotting etc. But there are certain technical aspects of writing that unless you’re looking for specifically (which would be the most mind-numbingly boring job in the world to ask somebody to do for you for free), you might not even notice them. The lay reader might not even notice. To be honest, there were problems I didn’t even know existed that were in my writing until I used it. What is this magical tool?

 
 
 
Autocrit.com!  

It’s an online editing software designed to help you fix many of the technical problems in your writing. You put in a piece of text and it analyzes it for you. It’ll go through things like overused words (eg. reliance on adverbs, the senses, was/were, it/there etc), sentence variation and pacing. It will highlight what they believe to be your weak areas, and you can fix those problems as you go along.

When I first started I was furious. The majority of my text was usually highlighted, filled with the blaring red marks. I snottily decided I didn’t need to change anything. So what if I used “was” a lot? I write in the past tense! It only makes sense! But then I calmed down, and I checked it again, and sure enough, I began to notice my strong reliance on passive tense and simple descriptions – in other words, lazy writing. It took a long time to go through it, but I think it was worth it. The text is a bit more complex and less cliché, if anything. I have to keep reminding myself that this book is my first serious attempt and there’s so much I still don’t know about how writing works.  

So if you’re fairly new to editing, I’d suggest it. It’s a reasonable price for the work it does, and will help your technical writing fade into the background to not detract from your awesome story! If you're on the fence, they let you give it a free trial, so at least check that out.
 
~
 
On a more titillating note - I just discovered the world of memes! My goodness they're hilarious (*everyone groans*). I came across a bunch when I was searching up something about Carly Rae Jepsen and found all these awesome "Call Me Maybe" memes, like:
 
 
 
 
 
haha And like this one:
 

Hilarious, right? And:

 
*dies laughing* Okay, okay! Just one more! I saved the best for last:
 
 
 
THAT is how I want to be hit on! Aaaand done.



Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Review: A Great and Terrible Beauty


For my first review I’ll start out with one of my favourite young adult novels ever:
 

 Author: Libba Bray
 
Plot Summary:
 
It's 1895, and after the suicide of her mother, 16-year-old Gemma Doyle is shipped off from the life she knows in India to Spence, a proper boarding school in England. Lonely, guilt-ridden, and prone to visions of the future that have an uncomfortable habit of coming true, Gemma's reception there is a chilly one. To make things worse, she's been followed by a mysterious young Indian man, a man sent to watch her. But why? What is her destiny? And what will her entanglement with Spence's most powerful girls—and their foray into the spiritual world—lead to?

 

To be honest, I’m not always on board with “Ye Olde” stories, especially ones that take place in the Victorian era. But I loved this. It’s everything the synopsis promises and more. At first you’re wandering along thinking this is going to be a simple magical adventure story with catty girls, but by the end it sinks into your head, leaving you with more to think about once you’re finished reading.  

If you’re into feisty, sarcastic, brave, intelligent, redheaded heroines, Gemma’s your girl. She’s the kind of sixteen-year-old I wish I could have been friends when I was in high school; we could have mocked the popular crowd together in the back of the class, throwing parchment zeppelins at them or … whatever. Unfortunately, she does fine without me. The way she stands up to Felicity and Pippa (the “cool kids” at the British all-girls Victorian boarding school – yes, that’s a thing!), never backing down from what she believes in, yet does it in a completely believable teenaged way, made me adore her. She never took crap from anybody, always active, never passive. The story completely relies on her as a narrator for the story to progress, and does it ever get interesting because of it.  

Her three friends – Anne, Felicity and Pippa – are lovable in a completely unlovable way as well. All three have their faults shaping who they are, and it’s fascinating to watch unfold. The relationship dynamic between the four of them is so spot on for girls that age it’s amazing – they’re petty and selfish, but at the same time they grow into friends through their shared experienced and broken dreams, watching each other’s backs and having the time of their lives with forbidden magical powers. Um, yes please? Nothing pleases me more than healthy female relationships in YA books, which there aren’t enough of. Despite the stuffy time era, the girls are relatable to any group of teenage girls by their interactions – Libba Bray does this wonderfully.

So, obviously I think the characters were awesome, but so was the plot. Like I said, you think it’s simple, but a mystery starts up, and things are revealed about Gemma, her family, and the academy you don’t see coming, becoming a more complicated mess until you can’t tear your eyes away from the book. The stakes became higher and higher, and I couldn’t help but feel for these characters. The more complicated it gets, the darker it gets, revealing a sad yet realistic portrayal of what women had to go through in the 1890s. It’s in this that makes it more than just fun fluff – Bray actually has something to say. 

So, to sum up: Secret realms, Victorian boarding school, witty banter, family intrigue, strong message – GO GEDDIT!


Favourite quote:

"No one asks how I am or what I am doing. They could not care less. We're all looking glasses, we girls, existing only to reflect their images back to them as they'd like to be seen. Hollow vessels of girls to be rinsed of our own ambitions, wants and opinions, just waiting to be filled with the cool, tepid water of gracious complicance."

Creeps me right out …

Saturday, 20 October 2012

In Which I Introduce Myself

When I heard that it was necessary to have an online presence if you wished to become a published - especially self-published - author, it scared me. To be honest, I've never gone on twitter before. I actually know everyone I add on facebook. For about a year, I thought tumblr was some kind of website dedicated to videos of people doing stupid stunts involving motorbikes and cliffs. But, here I am, making my attempt.

Books are the one great love of my life - I love to read them, to talk about them, to review them, and to write them. Unfortunately, I don't have many (read: any) people in my life who enjoy books the way I do, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized blogging wasn't such a bad idea after all. And since I'm going to start my self-publishing journey in a couple of weeks or so, I thought the timing was perfect to start this baby up to have around whenever I get an itch to talk about writing or reading (or other stuff).

So, then: Hello there, nice to meet you, and thank you for stopping by!