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.

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 ( Definitely worked for me!