Wednesday, 26 August 2020
Haven and her crew may be considered heroes, but they arrive back in Penryth harboring dangerous secrets. Plagued by nightmares, Haven struggles to control her newfound magic while Bell shrinks under the weight of their shared lie.
When an emissary from Solissia shows up in Penryth and drafts Bell in a magical tournament, Haven is once again forced to follow the prince to foreign lands, this time to the bloodthirsty court of Archeron’s mother.
Trapped in a shifting landscape of dark politics, duplicitous immortals, and cruel sovereigns, Haven fights to keep Bell alive all without revealing their secret. But a terrible evil brews on the horizon. One that threatens the very fabric of the realm.
Haven might be their only hope of stopping the impending darkness. But first she must learn to accept her own darkness and follow her heart—no matter where it leads.
Given that this is the third book in a four (or possibly five) book series. I was expecting this book to be padded with filler. I wasn't expecting to launch back into this awesome world so quickly and with such a great plot!
Haven's character development from book one has been brilliant and the revelations about her past and what it means for her future have been really great. It's hard to believe the brash, arrogant character I was rolling my eyes at in the first chapter of book has grown into one of my faves.
My main issue with this book, and why I didn't rate it five stars I the love triangle element which I've not been a huge fan of from the start. Not my cup of tea, I guess. While I never really bought Archeron a viable love interest in this series (it's felt pretty obvious to me that the author had thrown her lot in with Stolas) I didn't particularly care for how he was thrown under a bus to push Haven more towards Stolas. Characters mature and change so having someone grow out of their attraction to the guy who was the main love interest book one is absolutely fine. It's not necessary to completely rewrite Archeron to make him a bad match now. The changes Haven has been through from book one alone are enough to explain why they're not suited anymore.
I was glad that we finally got some revelations about Haven's past and the history of the realm. Some I saw coming, some I definitely didn't! I can't wait to pick up the next book in the series!
Sunday, 19 July 2020
What is a beta reader?
How do beta readers fit into the writing process?
Do I really need a beta reader?
A different perspective
Less work for your editor
Honest, candid feedback
Pre-publishing feedback from your audience
Friday, 17 July 2020
Thursday, 4 June 2020
After reading good things about The Girl Who Would Be King by Kelly Thompson while setting up my blog, I picked it for my second review, expecting to take a week or so to read and review it properly. Instead, I stayed up until the early hours of the morning reading because I simply could not put it down. It’s that good!
Featuring a pair of kickass female leads, TGWWBK tells the story of teenagers Bonnie Braverman and Lola LeFever, both gifted with god-like superpowers on the event of their mother’s deaths. While Bonnie is driven to help and protect, Lola is set on death and destruction. Drawn to each other by destiny and a history which goes far beyond the two of them, the two girls take very different paths with their powers, paths which collide in spectacular style in the lead up to the inevitable confrontation.
Dual protagonist novels are notoriously difficult to write and usually difficult to read without the temptation to skip pages. But to call TGWWBK a dual protagonist novel would be untrue. What Thompson has done is even trickier; tell two interwoven stories through the eyes of a protagonist and an antagonist. The story itself may not be ground breaking - it’s your classic good vs evil, with a helping of “teenager with magical powers” thrown in - but the characters of Bonnie and Lola are what makes this book come alive. Relatable even when they’re punching helicopters out of the sky or setting their broken bones, both girls are damn near close to character perfection. The inner dialogue and first person point of view storytelling paints each character with her own vivid personality, there’s certainly no danger that you’ll forget which character you’re reading! Thompson is a truly gifted author (one who makes me positively green with envy!) who does a fantastic job of writing in two distinct voices. There are symbols to tell you which girl is narrating, but you likely won’t need them. The care that's gone into creating these girls as three dimensional characters, rather than just "skins" that the reader can slip into to experience the story, is clear to see. There's also some fantastic artwork online which is worth checking out.
As with all novels that feature more than one lead character, it’s hard not to play favourites, but whether you lean towards good or evil, this book has you covered. Bonnie is your more traditional YA novel heroine. Her gift is her curse, and she takes a while to accept what she is and decide to use her powers for good. She’s introverted and guarded, but ultimately kind and selfless, rising up to become what she was born to be. Maybe it says something about me though that my favourite character was Lola. Hand on heart, I found her to be one of the finest characters to come out of YA lit in a long time. She begins the book by killing her own mother for her powers, then driving off to Vegas on a motorcycle with a black cat suit and a vague plan to set up an underworld empire. She’s twisted, she’s evil and she’s seriously screwed up, but good lord is she fun to read! Brutally honest (as well as downright brutal) and utterly clueless at times, she’s like a comic book supervillain who grew up in Hollywood, and her descent into madness is utterly riveting. If the book had one flaw, it’s that Lola was such a fantastic character that she left Bonnie a little in the shade. I found myself rooting for the bad guy! That’s not to say at all that Bonnie’s chapters left me cold, but they were much more familiar territory for an avid reader of YA books.
Speaking of which, the book is a little edgier than most YA, with more graphic violence and a sprinkling of PG 13 sex, but that’s just another thing that sets it apart from the rest of the pack. There’s always the risk when setting this type of story in the real world rather than some mythical kingdom far, far away that a fair bit of suspension of disbelief will be required, and this is certainly true of TGWWBK. But the storytelling, and most importantly the characters, are so enthralling that you won’t even notice!
In summary. Five stars! Loved it, and cannot rate it highly enough! If you like ass kicking female leads, comic book violence, superpowers and an old fashioned good vs evil throw down, then this book is for you. Oh, and if you’re a guy? Please don’t be put off by a female lead, trust me when I say you will not be disappointed by TGWWBK. The only problem is I’ll need to clear my diary when Thompson’s next book comes out. I certainly won’t be getting much sleep!
Sunday, 24 May 2020
With that reality burrowing into her bones - along with the guilt of the lives she will sacrifice - Nym returns to her homeland of Faelen to raise an army of peasants through promises of freedom. But when the few friends she has left, along with the world and citizens she loves, are staring down the face of a monster and his undead army, will Nym summon every element her blood is capable of controlling, or surrender to a different strength - one of sacrifice? Because in the end, death may be more merciful for them all.
*** I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, but this has in no way influenced this post. Honestly, it doesn't need to, because this book is frickin' amazing!***
I had mixed feelings about finally reading the final book in the Storm Siren trilogy. One one hand I was dying to get my hands on an ARC so that I could start it as soon as possible, and when I got approval I almost did a happy dance.
On the other hand, I didn't want to read it for two reasons. One, I've loved this series and these characters so much that I don't ever want it to end. And two, I wasn't sure my fragile constitution could take the ending I was fearing.
My fears were unfounded. This book, this series, is absolutely incredible. If you're thinking about maybe, possibly at some point checking it out ... please, please, please do it! I'm lucky to read a lot of books. Most I like, some I love, and others are ok. And then there's that one book that you can't stop raving about. The one that you want to give 10 stars to even though your rating only goes up to five. Books and series that make you remember why you read. Siren's Song is one of those books, and the Storm Siren trilogy is one of those series.
After narrowly escaping Draewulf at Tulla, Nym and her allies race to build an army to stop him before he can absorb the five bloodlines of the Hidden Lands and claim infinite power and immortality. From the crystal castle of Cashlin with its mind-reading Luminescents to the dreamy Valley of Origin with its dirt poor peasant farmers, every land, every character is lushly imagined and realised. I've loved the idea of five kingdoms with five powers in this series, each land and its people unique. Where Cashlin and even Faelen have gotten a bit of a short shrift until now, this is well and truly remedied here. This in one of my ultimate favourite fantasy worlds! It wasn't entirely perfect, there was one aspect of the story that kept bothering me by rearing its head time and time again. It seems unlikely that the king of Faelen would offer to step aside so easily for a seventeen year old girl with zero political experience, even if she is an Elemental. We're told that the throne of Faelen is Nym's birthright because she's the last Elemental, but there's no suggestion that her father was royal and her mother was a mortal, so does that mean anyone with the magic of a kingdom can be in line for its throne? If Colin had been the last Terrene, would he have been handed the crown of Tulla? Are all the Luminescents lining the crystal palace of Cashlin somewhere in line to inherit it? It's a frustratingly fuzzy logic in such a vividly painted world. But it's a minor quibble in an otherwise epic story.
As for the characters ... oh the characters! After spending much of the second book under Draewulf's control, I was so glad to have Eogan back! He may be the king of Bron rather than a humble trainer like he was in book one, but he's still the same wonderful character he was in Storm Siren, the same perfect contrast. His fledgling relationship with Nym against the backdrop of an approaching war that neither are sure they can win is just beautiful. I have to admit I prefer my romances with a little more action and a little less restraint, but it works perfectly in this story. With Rasha missing for a big chunk of the book, it's left to Nym's ragtag group of soldiers to fill the gap in the friendship department. They don't quite manage it, most are fairly interchangeable and nameless, although seven year old Kel is just adorable! I do kind of miss the deliciously slimey Lord Myles too! There's something to be said for the bad guy turned good, but I loved him as the secondary villain in book one!
And then there's Nym. I love her so much! She's the heart and soul of this book, this series, and the journey she's been on from the opening of Storm Siren to the end of Siren's Song is beautiful, heartbreaking and enthralling. The story's central themes of choice and freedom play out through her. After everything's she's been through she'd be totally within her rights to run away and hide, leaving the people who've shunned her to face Draewulf alone, but it's a testament to the strength of the story that you believe that she would stay and fight, that perfect strangers would flock to her banner and that maybe, just maybe, this is a fight she can win. She's a perfectly imperfect character and I'm genuinely so disappointed that I won't get to read any more of her adventures now that this series has ended.
The story itself is fairly standard. In the face of an approaching army that gets bigger and stronger at every turn, Nym is left to rally what's left of the Hidden Lands' nobility and their people under a promise of freedom. But somehow, even though I've read that story what seems like a million times, this time it feels brand new. There's a bit of an overload of prophecy and half-revelations - honestly, this book would clock in at about 10 chapters if characters just said what they knew instead of spouting crytic talk and giving no answers! - but there's something about Mary Weber's writing and the incredibly vivid characters that makes everything feel unique to this series.
I won't spoil the ending, but suffice to say I feel like I've been on an emotional rollercoaster reading this book, and I loved every minute of it. The final chapters in particular are a breathtaking whirlwind where storms rain down upon wraiths, mirages flutter across the battlefield, bombs drop from airships ... it has the potential to be a horribly confusing mess. But instead, it's utterly brilliant. If I was being nitpicky, I'd raise an eyebrow at the convenient powers and plot points that show up in the final act. But honestly, I loved this book too much to care! The conclusion is beautifully fitting, and I'll say no more because once I start raving I won't be able to stop.
Monday, 10 December 2018
I haven’t left my house in over a year. My doctor says it’s social anxiety, but I know the only things that are safe are made of paper. My room is paper. My world is paper. Everything outside is fire. All it would take is one spark for me to burst into flames. So I stay inside. Where nothing can touch me. Then my mom hire a tutor. Jackson. This boy I had a crush on before the world became too terrifying to live in.
Jackson’s life is the complete opposite of mine, and I can tell he’s got secrets of his own. But he makes me feel things. Makes me want to try again. Makes me want to be brave. I can almost taste the outside world. But so many things could go wrong, and all it takes is one spark for everything I love to disappear...
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The descriptions of Zoe's paper world were awe-inspiring. It was an interesting touch for her character - I would pay money to see that paper galaxy! - and I absolutely loved the chapters of her online chats with Jackson. Neither knows who they're speaking to so they're free to be as honest and open as they like which made for a nice contrast as the two gradually opened up to each other. I did enjoy Jackson's chapters a little more than Zoe's though, simply because I've read plenty of contemporary YA books from the pov of a female character suffering from mental health issues, but far less from the pov of a male character experiencing homelessness.
It was nice to read a book where the author didn't go for a "love cures mental illness" cop-out which is what I was fearing. Zoe herself does plenty of hard work with her therapist to overcome her fears and take her first steps towards normality and the book is refreshingly pro-therapy. There's no quick win or big revelation that causes Zoe to suddenly "get over" her issues; mental health recovery takes times and hard work and Paper Girl doesn't shy away from that fact. That said, Zoe's recovery was more than a little rushed and she was seemingly comfortable in situations that would give a person without agoraphobia anxiety. Still, the author had a story to tell and struck a pretty good balance between realism and storytelling.
Paper Girl is a strong debut - with an absolutely gorgeous cover! - and a must-read for fans of contemporary YA.