Sunday, 31 January 2016

Longbow Girl


Schoolgirl Merry faces the loss of her family's farm. For centuries, the Owens have bred ponies in the shadow of the Black Castle, the wild Welsh home of their arch-enemies, the de Courcys.

In the roots of a storm-turned tree, Merry makes an extraordinary discovery; a treasure that offers her the chance to turn back time and change a past filled with untold secrets and danger. Merry is brave enough for most things. She's a skilled rider and archer; a born fighter. But is she ready for this, the greatest adventure of her life?

"Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, because I am the Longbow Girl."

I knew I would probably enjoy Longbow Girl, but I wasn’t expecting to fall utterly head over heels in love with it!

Longbow Girl is a tale of one young women in two different times. After losing her eye continuing her families heritage of producing longbow men, 16 year old Merry’s fierce independence puts her family's farm at risk to the neighbouring de Courcys, who are still holding a centuries old grudge over what they see as their land in the first place. To save it, Merry discovers not only a pathway back to Henry VIII’s tudor Britain, but that her part in her family's history goes back further she could have imagined.

Longbow Girl is a beautiful story. If you’re looking for a fast paced, edge of the seat page turner, then this book isn’t for you. The time travel aspect doesn’t happened until well over halfway through the story, far later than I was expecting. But I was enjoying it so much I hardly noticed. Set in the beautiful Brecon Beacons, the casual, almost meandering story follows Merry through her life, letting the reader discover the world, rather than being subjected to endless info dumps or a rushed set up to get to the action. Merry is a fantastic heroine, I absolutely love her! She’s badass! Handy with a longbow as per tradition, she also brave, resourceful, adventurous and smart. When she discovers the portal to the past, she doesn’t stumble ass backwards through it and get by on luck over judgement. She stops, she thinks and she prepares. In so many books, the protagonist gets a pass on stupid behaviour that would get them killed in real life just by virtue of being the main character. I love stories that give the heroine enough credit for you to believe in them, rather than rob the book of any tension because you know that the character is bullet proof regardless of what poorly thought out actions they take and how (in)capable they are of taking them.


Although she’s described as beautiful, it’s refreshing to read about a protagonist with a physical imperfection (in this case, a missing eye from a snapped bow) that isn’t their defining characteristic. Her relationship with her parents and fierce loyalty to her family is the beating heart of the story, maybe that’s why I loved the book so much! There’s such a warm, comforting feeling when you read it, even when the tension is amped up.

Once the story moves back in time, and Merry realises how much is at stake, the action starts to come thick and fast. I love anything old timey England, and I love the girl power as Merry takes a stand against those persecuting her family in a world where a longbow girl is unheard of. There are shades of William Manchester's A World Lit Only By Fire in the past setting, it's fittingly brutal and authentic, rather than coming across as a writer's impression of a medieval renaissance fair that so many tales set in the past tend to do (a pet peeve of mine!).

The story is told from the pov of Merry and her best friend, the de Courcy’s son James. There’s a brief mention towards the end of romance in their future, but their relationship is wonderfully simple and completely believable. I’ve just about had my fill of insta-love and love triangles lately, so it was great to read about a girl and a boy who are just friends. Believe it or not writers, it can happen! The ending is just perfect, although it did make me almost cry in public, something that hasn’t happened since Lorali. I know it’s a bit early in the year to be talking about best reads, but Longbow Girl currently holds the title of my favourite book of 2016 so far.


Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Blood Moon Blog Tour

If you're a follower of my blog, you'll know that I'm slightly obsessed with the Everealm series. (If you're not a follower of my blog, welcome! There's loads of entertaining nonsense on here so go, frolick!) I absolutely loved Everealm and Wildfire - reviews here - so I was so pleased to get a spot on the blog tour for book three; Blood Moon. Last time around I promised J.D.Wright that I'd review both books, something that took me forever to get around to, so this time I've stepped up my organisation and reviewed it in time for this post. A couple of long haul flights and serious airport waiting time helped no end with this! You can check out the review here, but spoiler alert; I loved it!

Summary

The aftermath of the wildfire has caused undesirable events to unfold in Everealm. When something precious is taken from Junacave, Bree and the others must hunt down a wizard and retrieve a stolen amulet in order to save their beloved. Little do they know, the amulet may very well be hiding secrets of its own.

On her journey to a better life, away from Labara, Rianne discovers that being on her own is more challenging than she had predicted. Determined to escape her betrothal to King Carneath, she must do everything in her power to avoid being captured or else face a certain life of misery. Along the way, she stumbles upon a new ally, who may be the answer to her prayers.
 
Bonds are broken, relationships are tested, and new love is forged under the Blood Moon, Book Three of the Everealm Series.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27885307-blood-moon

About the author


Writing has always been a hobby of mine, beginning as a young child. It was a way to cope with losing my father at seven years of age. I started with poetry and was featured several times on the amazing poetry blog, Autumn Leaves, by Sondra Ball. My love for poetry soon led to writing songs in middle school and beyond, which I still do occasionally. Music has always been an important part of my existence, so writing songs came naturally to me. In high school, I started my own novel, however, life got in the way and I never finished it.

Fast forward many years later and I find myself married with three children, absorbed in my busy life with commitments to my family, work, school, church, and charities, among other things. One day I came across my old binder, with notes from my first novel, and it was with those notes that I conjured up the elusive Everealm.

I write to please readers such as myself, who have a love for fantasy and romance, but like a little danger and sex in their reading. I wrote the book with a mature audience in mind, who can appreciate a hearty imaginary world with magic and the unknown, but want more than fluffy love stories with wizards in them. They want the romance, magic, and danger, all wrapped into one.

Author Links: 
WebsiteGoodreadsTwitterFacebook

I'd definitely recommend checking out JD's website. There are load of little gems abut the Everealm series and worlds, short stories, fantasy casting and a guide to the lands. Definitely worth a read if you're a fan of the series or thinking about checking it out.

 Writing playlist for Blood Moon

I have a strangely diverse taste in music and have favorites in nearly every genre (except disco… I really dislike disco). My playlists usually have country, rock, pop, oldies, and everything between. If a song has powerful lyrics, I could care less about the rhythm. However, I can also overlook the lyrics entirely if the beat is nice. Prime example: The Hills by The Weekend. I have no clue what that song is about but when the beat drops… so do my standards, apparently. ;)

I listened to a lot of music over the approx. two months it took to write and edit this book. Here is a short sample of what was on my writing playlist during the evolution of Blood Moon:

~ Switchfoot – Dare You to Move
~ Taylor Swift – Wildest Dreams
~ Little Mix – Black Magic
~ Nickelback – Savin Me
~ Brooks & Dunn – My Next Broken Heart
~ Ed Sheeran – Give Me Love
~ Celine Dion – Taking Chances
~ Taking Back Sunday – Slowdance on the Inside
~ Reba McEntire – Till You Love Me
~ Blackhawk – Almost a Memory
~ Cold War Kids – First
~ Taylor Swift – Red

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Book tour organised by
 

Blood Moon - Everealm #3


The aftermath of the wildfire has caused undesirable events to unfold in Everealm. When something precious is taken from Junacave, Bree and the others must hunt down a wizard and retrieve a stolen amulet in order to save their beloved. Little do they know, the amulet may very well be hiding secrets of its own.

On her journey to a better life, away from Labara, Rianne discovers that being on her own is more challenging than she had predicted. Determined to escape her betrothal to King Carneath, she must do everything in her power to avoid being captured or else face a certain life of misery. Along the way, she stumbles upon a new ally, who may be the answer to her prayers.

Bonds are broken, relationships are tested, and new love is forged under the Blood Moon, Book Three of the Everealm Series.


Ah Everealm, let me count the ways I love thee. Magic, romance, far away kingdoms, girl power, faeries, magicians. The first two books in this series had set the bar high, and I'm pleased to say that Blood Moon doesn't disappoint!

Set after the events of Wildfire, Blood Moon expands the Everealm world, introducing new characters, new threats and new adorable pairings. It dials up the female empowerment too, one of my favourite aspects of the books.


There are almost two parallel stories running, with the old characters in Junacave fighting it out with chief bad guy from Wildfire Mereck for the blood moon amulet and Labara princess Rianne fleeing her impending marriage of convenience to an aging king. I loved reading more about this expanded world! There's still plenty of hot and heavy romance too. One of the most refreshing things about the Everealm series is the healthy attitude towards sex. It's not a precursor to heroines immediately being punished by the plot, or the kind of "once in a book" thing that wraps up a female characters story by suggesting that she's complete now that she gets to share a bed with the lead male character. It's part of the characters relationships, with plenty of fire, but is a consequence of the plot, not a plot point in itself.

There's a lot more going on in this book than the previous ones, with a lot more characters to keep track of. Frustratingly, a lot of them have fairly similar sounding names. Rhea, Reeve, Rianne, Raven and Ruby, Xavier and Zander. More than once I was a bit confused which one was which, especially with the new characters. I was a bit put out that some of the more established characters got a bit sidelined by the newbies (what happens to Adelphie!?) so I'm glad that book four is already in the works! That said though, it's kind of nice to see the story moving towards the next generation of characters, like the guys from Everealm have had their story told, and things are now starting to move on. I don't ever want to stop reading about Bree and Rowan or Sidonie and Dagan though!

But it's official, Dagan and Sidonie have been replaced in my affections by my new favourite Everealm pairing; Rianne and Zander. Seriously, these two are just too cute together! And Labara princess Rianne is my new favourite character, just the right amount of determined and resourceful even though she's hopelessly out of her depth when she flees into the wilderness. Her burgeoning relationship with sorcerer Zander is adorable to read.

One of my criticisms of Wildfire was that there was no real big bad that Everealm did so well with Silas, and that's kind of true again in Blood Moon. He's still around, but is kind of a non-entity in this book and I think I'd have prefered to see him and Vallica jettisoned entirely or his angle beefed up a bit. Mereck is pretty good as villains go, but he's only really present for one of the two story threads, so I still feel a little short changed in the bad guy stakes.

Overall though, I absolutely loved Blood Moon! Just like with books one and two, things are explained just enough for you to get a clear picture of the wheres and why, without spoonfeeding you every aspect of a situation. One of my pet peeves in books is over description, and I love that the author gives her readers enough credit to be able to read between the lines and has enough faith in her story to paint pictures rather than explaining every aspect of situations and surroundings. Roll on book four; Aurora!


Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Rise Of The Reaper - The Broken Lands #1


Since the day Danny Stone's mother vanished, dreams of dark and strange places have plagued him nightly. Though years have passed, the burning pain of her disappearance still consumes him - as does his need for answers. Then one lazy summer day, Danny and his friends Katrina, Poppy, and Russell discover their parents' long-hidden secret - and their lives change forever. They enter a fragmented, broken world of magic, blades, and blood in a quest for answers, but the mystery of what happened to Danny's mother only becomes more terrifying.
It seems that Danny's dreams were only the beginning...

Rise Of The Reaper is one of those books where the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. It has all the magic ingredients for a perfect read. Magic, world building, friendship, peril, high stakes and a rich cast of characters. But while I liked it, I didn't love it.

Clocking in at 386 pages, Rise Of The Reaper isn't a quick read, and it's a book I feel would have benefited from a more ruthless edit. There's a lot of information to take in, a lot of worlds and history to get across and a lot of characters to get to grips with. The world building, and idea of numerous lands, some connected by portals, others sealed off for the safety of the rest, is superb, but the execution in getting all this information across is not easy going. The best comparison I can think of is JRR Tolkien and his Lord Of The Rings trilogy, with lots of surplus information that builds the world, but ultimately doesn't move the story along. There's a lot of meandering and a lot of plot threads are included which may have been better left for book two (or jettisoned entirely) to keep the plot tighter, and unfortunately a lot of this information comes from other characters sitting down and explaining things to the protagonists. There are some nice touches, like the introduction to the sport of Aquattrox, sort of like water polo on dagger-mouthed dolphins with water tornados (think what Quidditch is to Harry Potter) and a journey aboard a pirate ship to an otherwordly cove where the story really shines. I love this sort of stuff, where the reader is allowed to explore and see the world, rather than being given paragraphs of information about it, none of which is ever seen.

In a story like this, I like to have an anchor in the lead character. A grounding for the story and a constant in these shifting worlds, and while it was refreshing to see a quarter of friends in Danny, Katrina, Poppy and Russel, is makes for a confusion read at times. The pov changes between these four characters, sometimes from one paragraph to the next. Throw in their parents with their own stories, different lands and the people in them, prophecies and wars and I'm skipping back pages to try and remember who's who. Katrina, the first of the group to discover her own magic is my favourite character. Adventurous and determined with a sense of humour, I'd like to have read more of the story from her point of view. I think this sums up my biggest issue with the book. There's just too much going on, especially for the first book in a series, which usually means more and more is going to be introduced on top of the dangling plot threads.

Rise Of The Reaper is book one in The Broken Lands series, and now that the world are established I'm keen to see where this story goes from here. It sucks that some of the great supporting characters won't be back for reasons I won't go into because of spoilers, but it's a promising start to a new series. Hopefully I'll get more answers than question out of book two ...

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Bound - The Caelian Cycle #2


Bound by Vengeance. Bound by Loss. Bound by Fear.

Sadie has found the resolve to fight the man who caused so much pain in her life. Her tentative alliance with the HCA underground gives her the resources to train both her body and Talent for when she comes face to face with her grandfather. Being separated from her friends at St Vincent’s is harder than she could have ever realized and it doesn’t help that Kian has withdrawn from her as well. With help from a new friend, Sadie uncovers more about her past and that someone close to her has been keeping secrets from Sadie her entire life. Tragedy strikes close to home, giving a longstanding enemy, one desperate and willing to do anything to have Sadie on their side, an opportunity to arise. Allies and friends come together to stand against evil, but at a terrible cost. Sadie’s history and future collide while the world is thrown into chaos.

I really enjoyed Lost, the first book in the The Caelian Cycle series by Donnielle Tyner. So much so that I'm extra disappointed in the follow up, Bound. And I can sum up my disappointment in one word. Romance.

Don't get me wrong, I love a good bookish romance and some well written sexual tension between characters, even the odd love triangle/rectangle/occasional pentagon, as long as they don't overshadow everything else. Which is exactly what happens in this book. The stakes should be up from Lost. Sadie's dangerous Talent has been revealed to the world, and the human/Caelian groups are on the brink of all out war, with factions fighting amongst themselves to use Sadie for their own gain. But at a third of the way through the book, I was still getting none of that urgency, none of that drama. Only page after page of Sadie and Kian kissing, groping and making googly eyes at each other.

And then there's the love triangle.


It's needless, there's no suggestion at any point that Sadie will pick the siren Talented Luca over Kian, but it comes up over and over to inject unnecessary tension between the pair. Even a decidely non-urgent rescue operation of a fellow Caelian is an excuse to set up more sexual tension, arguments and make up kissing. Everything else is pushed to the side. Sadie gets captured for torture whilst on a date at some sort of make out point with Kian, and at one time she asks him if he wants to date exclusively when they've just been almost killed. Guys, you know there's almost a war going on right? Even an attack on Sadie's school and best friends is swamped in couplings and kissing. It robs the book of momentum and the story of impact, frustratingly confining it to a handful of characters when it should be expanding it.

There are bright spots that peer through the story. Sadie's capture and torture are fittingly brutal, and the attack on St Vincent's gutting in its consequences. These are the elements I was expecting in the sequel and if the story had focused on the bigger picture, I think I would have loved it. But I was disappointed that Sadie's grandfather, the big bad of the story resorted to what was essentially a custody court case to try and get hold of her. This is a world where people can conjure fire from the air, wield chains from their bodies like Doctor Octopus and drain life forces with a touch. Why am I reading a courtroom drama when I could be reading an all out, superpowered battle of epic proportions?!

I was disappointed with Bound, especially after enjoying Lost so much. It turns away from the large-scale epic struggle between good and evil that I so badly wanted it to be, retreating almost defiantly back into the underground of the HCA when it should be focusing on the bigger picture.


Monday, 11 January 2016

Le Fey Series - Henge #1 and Sword #2


As couple of disclaimers to get out of the way. 
 1) I was provided with free review copies of both Henge and Sword by YA Bound Book Tours, however this has in no way influenced my reviews. 
2) I recently watched a Will Smith movie marathon - Independence Day, Men In Black and Bad Boys 2 - so my reviews today come with excessive Will Smith reaction GIFs.
And now, on to the reviews!

Henge

Modern-day Camelot. Where knights no longer carry swords. Magic is dangerous. And those who seek control are not to be trusted. Sixteen-year-old Morgan le Fay is a fire user. An ordinary girl with an extraordinary skill, she has the ability to create and command fire at will. Her dream is to become the Maven - the right hand of the future King Arthur. In the chance of a lifetime, Morgan is selected to join Arthur’s Round, an elite group of young magic users from which the new Maven will be chosen.

Henge is my kind of dream read. A twisting turning spin on the legend of Camelot with a modern YA lean. Think Harry Potter meets The Hunger Games. I was expecting to like this book, but I wasn't expecting to love it as much as I did! Being a Cornish girl, I devour anything related to old English folklore, especially if it's got a tie to my beloved home county. The familiar characters in a modern day setting was so fun to read. I absolutely loved reading about a young King Arthur as a spoilt, moody teenager, Guinevere as an apprentice healer, Lancelot as the head of Arthur's guard. There were even a few mentions of Tristan and Isolde, who I utterly adore! The modern setting was a brilliant twist, the idea of the search for Arthur's mages being a televised competition in the vein of The X Factor was inspired. Knowing the legends already, it made it kind of hard to read the book without second guessing what was coming and where the story was going which was a bit of a shame, but I guess with a book based on a legend this can't be help. But it did feel like characters were dropping spoilers just by mentioning names or talking about certain events.
I wasn't expecting to like Morgan as much as I did. Initially, she seems a bit too much of a "tick all the boxes" type protagonist, with incredible magic, tragic backstory, men falling over themselves for her, but she really grew on me as the story went on. Sharp and guarded with just the right amount of optimism, by the end of the book I had my new book girl crush! Her budding romance with Merlin was sweetly written, and I loved her friendship with Gwen. Vivian was a bit too much of the stereotypical gorgeous, bitchy antagonist for me to like though, I felt she was a bit hard done by by the story! Given the tales of Morgan Le Fey and her reputation as a sorceress, it was sort of heartbreaking to read her desire to do good and redeem her mother knowing her fate in Arthurian  legend. I actually found myself tearing up at a few points!



The plot was perfectly paced and written (although given that the story was based in the UK, there were a few glaring "americanisms" in the text that were quite distracting), with twists and cliffhangers coming at just the first time to keep me hooked. Each time I though I'd just finish the chapter and put the book down, there was something else that kept me blasting through the pages. Before I knew it, I'd read the whole book in one sitting!
Or standing. On the tarmac at Barcelona airport. We were waiting for ages. My point is I couldn't put the book down.
Once Morgan enters the trials in Camelot, the book doesn't let up! From the trials themselves to a plot connected to her deceased mother to harm the young Arther, the twists just keep coming! It was a bit frustrating at the end of the book to be left with such a blatant hook for book two, leaving more questions than answers. Lucky then that when I'd finished Henge, I could move right on to Sword ...


Sword

After surviving a string of brutal trials, sixteen-year-old Morgan le Fay is an official member of Camelot. But beneath its shining fa├žade, Camelot is a crumbling government where loyalties are divided. When Morgan discovers that someone is plotting to assassinate the future king, she must take her destiny - and his - into her own hands. With the sword Excalibur beckoning in the distance, Morgan embarks on a seemingly impossible mission. And before her journey ends, everyone will know what she is truly capable of.

After loving Henge, the bar had been set high for Sword. Did it reach it?

Not quite.

After failing to fulfil her destiny to become Arthur's Maven, Morgan uncovers a plot to harm the young future king Arthur. So she decides to throw caution to the wind, and kidnap him to take him to the mythical Avalon to uncover Excalibur. Realm Lovejoy gets the the right balance of burning ambition and fierce determination in Morgan so that you can believe every one of her actions, even when they seem utterly insane. Every seemingly stupid action she takes is justified, and it's a credit to the author that nothing Morgan does seems contrived for the sake of the plot, even if in theory they seem ludicrous, especially for a character so intelligent.


Sword is very much a book of two halves.

The first sees Morgan and a reluctant Arther searching for Excalibur, following in her mother's footsteps. After uncovering the group working within Camelot to bring down the Pendragon family, Morgan finds no allies in the castle to help her protect the king. So she takes matters into her own hands. This half of the book; five stars. I loved it! Morgan is beaten and battered from what she sees as her failings and revelations about her past, and Arthur is a typically moody brat hauled out of the comfort of his castle for the first time in his life. They make a wonderful pair, their sniping eventually giving way to mutual understanding. I really wish their quest had gone on longer. Morgan seemed to find Excalibur ridiculously quickly considering that Camelot hadn't been able to find it in centuries.

The second half is where the book started to fall apart for me. After Morgan is captured and put on trial, the book devolves into a parade of characters saying how wonderful, powerful, beautiful, damaged and special Morgan is. The pace grinds to a halt. The not-quite-relationship between Morgan and Merlin is continued from Henge, even more heartbreaking here as Morgan realises what could have been between them. His visits to her in her prison are quietly devastating. I want these two to happen so much, but I know it's not going to happen, and if it does, it won't end well. I could have done without the needless love triangle with Lancelot though. Granted, he's described in book one as only a couple of years older than Morgan, but she's 16, he's in a position of power as the head of Arthur's guard (let's be generous and say he's in that role at a ludicrously early age, perhaps 19 rather than creepily older) and she's all sorts of screwed up when he spends the night with her in the dungeons. He calls her "kid" early in the book too and his early interactions with her are very much a teacher trying to coax a misbehaving child back to school, making his pursuit of her fall on the wrong side of gross.

I loved Morgan even more in this book than in Henge, her slow descent into madness beginning. She's a complex, almost anti-heroine, fighting for what she believes is right even to the detriment of everything and everyone aroud her. It's a shame that a big revelation about Morgan's heritage is robbed of its impact if you are familiar with Arthurian legend and it's an extra punch in the feels if you know them enough to have an inkling of where future books are going. As with book one, there were some "americanisms" in the book that would really take me out of the story as I was reading (for the record, no one in the UK says "making out". Ever.), and because of the story I felt that a book was alittle over descriptive at times, too much telling and not enough showing. Though as with Henge, the ending had me like



Honestly, I'm getting a bit fed up with books that end on such obvious cliffhangers for the sequels. Yes, give me a hook, but don't leave the story hanging mid scene. Books, movies, whatever, even if they're part of a series, should stand alone as a story with a beginning, middle and end. I want to be chomping at the bit to read book two, but I don't want to feel like a couple of chapters are missing from my copy of book one. The ending was just too abrupt for me and left me with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. But all in Sword was an enjoyable read, if a little fumbled in execution in places, and, moans aside about endings, I know I'll be reading book three.


Le Fey is a promising series with an fantastic premise. If you're looking for magic, legend, knights, kings, wizards and a female lead who can kick ass and take names for all her flaws, this is definitely a must-read for you!

It's only a pity I almost couldn't work an Independence Day Will Smith GIF into this post.
Phew, there it is.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Six YA Fantasy cliches and why I don't mind them














I love YA. And since starting this blog and chatting with other YA book fans I say it loud and proud! I get a lot of stick in some of my bookish circles for my love, particularly of fantasy YA. "It's so cliched" is one that is regularly leveled at me. True, there are certain ingredients that seem to make up YA bestsellers, and a few that seem to be legal requirements for the genre. But you know what? I still love them. And here's why.

The love triangle
The cliche - What's a girl to do? One's a sexy, mysterious, brooding and dangerous newcomer. The other one's a sexy, probably a big brother type figure that only gets his act together in pursuing the heroine when the other guy arrives on the scene.
Why I don't mind it - Come on, it's fantasy! Who doesn't want their pick of two insanely attractive guys? There's a reason this cliche pops up time and again in YA books too, it's often showcasing the different wants and desires of the protagonists, and interactions and dialogue between different characters paint so much more of a picture than infodumps or endless reams of internal diaglogue. Done for the sake of it, love triangles come off as needless. But done well, they up the stakes and ultimately say a lot more about the main and supporting characters than a standard "and they all lived happily ever after".

The Mary Sue
The cliche - She gorgeous. She's kickass. She's witty. Magic powers? She's got 'em. Master fighter in an obscure martial art? She'll pick up a weapon and put them on their ass like she's the one who's spent 20 years training. Plain at the start of the novel? All she needs is a "She's All That"-style makeover and boom. Stunner.


Why I don't mind it - First off, I'm not a huge fan of this term anyway. "Mary Sue" has become a bit of a redundant phrase used to describe any female protagonist who is gifted and doesn't have an immediately obvious, crippling flaw. For someone who complains about weak, ineffective heroines, I feel like a hypocrite for bringing this one up. There's a fine line between creating a believable, well-rounded character and the kind of mash-up of cliches that has me rolling my eyes to the ceiling, but it can be done. One of my favourite examples if Karou in Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, mainly because you believe she can do all these things because of what you know of her. She isn't breaking out unexpected ass-kickery out of nowhere, she's trained all her life. She speaks so many languages because she uses her wishes. Besides, I don't want to read page after page of training montages, or the scenes where the characters spends months in a library learning an obscure language. The fact is, that stuff is boring. I love a good Mary Sue character, all I ask is that her backstory supports it.

The calm before the storm, aka the kiss before the sh*t hits the fan
The cliche - Our protagonist finally gives in to her desire for the brooding hero, probably at the beginning of the third act. The next morning, it all kicks off. The moral ladies, as my catholic sex ed teach would say, is that sex will incur wrath. In this case, the wrath of the plot.
Why I don't mind it - Dramatic plot twists pack more of a punch when they come out of left field. One gut punch after another means that they start losing their impact, and reveals don't get the weight they deserve when you're still reeling from the last one. A nice bit of down time gives the reader a breather, and if you're "awwww"-ing while you read and grinning like an idiot, the subsequent betrayal or drama hits ever harder.

The Tragic Upbringing
The cliche - She's not a bitch, she's just guarded because of some trauma in her past, usually the lost of her family, which is why she's free to run around all over the kingdom pursuing action and adventure. But a regular tragedy won't do, it's probably somehow, almost, nearly but not quite the protagonists fault, possibly relating to powers that are revealed later, leading to guilt as well as trauma.



Why I don't mind it - As long as I don't feel like I'm being fobbed off, I have no issue with this cliche. Name a great adventure in books or movies, and it usually starts with a devastating loss for the main character. (Braveheart is stil the most haunting example of this. It still gives me chills to this day!) It's hard to explain a character giving up their life if they're happy and settled, or fighting for change if they have everything they want. If they're already living happily ever after, where's the motivation? Where's the journey? Where's the redemption? Where are the stakes? All key ingredients in a gripping read. Just don't use it to try an excuse your character having no redeeming features!

The insta-love
The cliche - Girl meets boy. Her eyes meet his, which will probably be described as the colour of some jewel or other, and, despite the fact they barely know each other, it's love. Not lust, although that's there too, love.
Why I don't mind it - A friend of mine is a relationship counsellor over in Australia, and part of her training was being shown a show reel of highlights from Disney, The Notebook, Dirty Dancing etc. to show what they're up against with people's expectations. We're conditioned from childhood to believe in happily ever after and the whole "Disney Prince" thing. So it makes sense that this would be a big factor in books. Eyes meeting across a crowded bar when you've had too much tequila or painfully awkward blind dates that you want to kill your friends for setting up do not make for good read in a fantasy book. Besides, the plot is usually trying to get enough information across, insta-love negates the need to spend chapter after chapter on setting up another plot thread. And we accept it because that what we've been taught.

The One
The cliche - Surprise! The heroine we've been following as she scrabbles around in the dirt with the commoners is actually the long lost princess from that long ago conquered kingdom that keeps getting mentioned. Who saw that coming? Except everyone, because it was obvious from the get go.


Why I don't mind it - Come on, who doesn't like to think that they're Anne Hathaway in The Princess Diaries with a long lost kingdom waiting out there for them somewhere? Who doesn't love a rag to riches story? Fantasy is just that, it's endless possibility and about reaching as high as you can and dreaming without limits.

So there you have it. A takedown of some of the most regular criticisms I hear about YA. And I don't give a damn, I still love it! Does anybody else get stick for their reading choices? Or are there a few cliches you're sick of seeing in the genre?

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Waiting on Wednesday #4 - Strange The Dreamer


Waiting on Wednesday ... where I increase my books to be read list despite my tbr pile already being tall enough to be a serious health and safety hazard. But still we do it, because there are too many books and not enough time! As always, thanks to Jill over at Breaking the Spine for this weekly meme.

My pick this week doesn't come out until September, and the wait is going to be torturous. I adore Laini Taylor. Her Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy are among my ultimate favourite reads, so haunting, beautifully written, awe-inspiringly imaginative and heartbreaking that I was in bits reading them. There are fantasy books, and then there are Laini Taylor books, and they're a whole other level. Seriously, if you haven't read this series yet, do it. I cannot recommend it highly enough! I'm already desperate to read her next book; Strange The Dreamer.

 
Strange the Dreamer is the story of:
the aftermath of a war between gods and men
a mysterious city stripped of its name
a mythic hero with blood on his hands
a young librarian with a singular dream
a girl every bit as perilous as she is imperiled
alchemy and blood candy, nightmares and godspawn, moths and monsters, friendship and treachery, love and carnage.
Welcome to Weep.


Or as Laini Taylor herself puts it:
There was a war between gods and me, and men won. The few surviving children of the gods have grown up in hiding, dreading the day they know must come: when humans find them, and end them.
That day is at hand.


As if it couldn't get any better, it's a duology, with the similarly awesomely-titled; The Muse of Nightmares. Although I shudder to think how long I have to wait for that one!