Sunday, January 26, 2014

Reviews: New Series Starters

New series can delight or disappoint. In this selection of reviews, there's a science fiction tale of love, a dystopian with enough twists to give a reader whiplash and a fantasy tale of love across lines and sacrifice for survival. None of these books disappointed and though I enjoyed them on different levels, I plan on seeing these series through to the end. Now if only the sequels would come sooner, rather than later...


Pawn РAim̩e Carter
Blackcoat Rebellion series

Released November 26, 2013

In the dystopian America where Kitty Doe lives, there are seven levels of society. Just when it seems like Kitty will never make it higher than a III, she’s offered a chance by the Prime Minster to become a VII. She’s remade into the Prime Minister’s beloved niece, Lila Hart, who passed away a few weeks before. Quite suddenly, Kitty is ensconced in the ruling family’s lies, manipulation and special brand of evil.

The steady flow of secrets revealed is what catapulted Pawn to unputdownable, especially near the end. The characters, from Kitty to boyfriend Benjy to the entire Hart family, are distinctive, intriguing and all clearly motivated. The only thing that threw me was the pacing, as the beginning read slowly and the middle quickly. It steadied as the story neared the climax, and that plus the unbelievable revelations, kept me reading to the end. Captive, the sequel, is expected later this year.

These Broken Stars – Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Starbound series

Released December 10, 2013

Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen are the only survivors of a luxury spaceliner crash on an uninhabited planet. When it’s clear that rescue teams aren’t coming, Lilac, a privileged daughter, and Tarver, a young war hero, must learn how to survive on this uncharted planet. They are barely succeeding when Lilac begins hearing whispers in the surrounding countryside.

Immediately upon opening this book, I was intrigued by the format. In snippets of conversations between chapters, Tarver is being debriefed. I looked forward to his sarcasm in the midst of the dense, detailed chapters. This novel has an epic feel, as it is not only science fiction, but romance and adventure as well. Yet, there are only two main characters and a handful of secondary ones who make appearances. I loved that Lilac and Tarver, their adventure on this planet and their slow, uncertain romance were the sole focus of the tale. Also, not only are two sequels in the works, but a TV show adaptation as well!   

The Winner’s Curse  Marie Rutkoski
Winner’s Trilogy series
To be released March 4, 2014

In the simplest sense, The Winner’s Curse is the story of love in the midst of war. And yet, it is so much more: a story of slavery, romance, betrayal and sacrifice. Kestral, a general’s daughter, lives in an empire that enslaves those it conquers. Even though she shies away from the idea of slavery, one day she spots a young man for auction and buys him on instinct. He’s intriguing and defiant, and soon their growing friendship cannot be hidden.

The romance between Kestral and Arin is slow, which makes it realistic, and barely explored, which makes it heart-wrenching. I adore that Kestral understands strategy but is just a fair fighter, which makes her different from a lot of YA heroines. Kestral’s imperfection is her strength (and makes her human). The fact that Kestral and Arin are both masters and puppets of their own fate is ingenious. The book is expertly plotted and the characters expertly crafted. The Winner’s Curse is powerful, unforgettable and a must-read of the YA genre. I’m beyond thrilled that it’s going to be a trilogy!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sharing my Work In Progress

I’m a writer. I’m comfortable saying it, sharing it even. But the next part, when I’m asked the follow-up question, is tougher. What do you write?

My instinct is to keep it to myself, hold my story close to my heart, wrap it up in a blanket with me, hide it on a USB. Call it precious.

But I can’t do that. I know I shouldn’t. So my answer usually goes something like: “Well, I write YA fantasy and I'm currently working on a story about teenage girl who’s an assassin but doesn’t like being an assassin but is trapped into service by an evil Empress.” Which is about the time it starts sounding weird in my head so I stop and say I’m still writing/editing/working on it. And that’s where the conversation ends.

But something AMAZING happened this week that makes me think it’s time to share a few tidbits of my WIP. Of course that something amazing didn’t come without a little internal wrangling.

I won a 10 page critique from Kate Brauning at YA Stands. I was so excited when I found out (and still am) that I opened Scrivener, cut the first 10 pages to a Word document, re-read it for the 100th time and sent it off before it occurred to me that I was SENDING MY WORDS TO ANOTHER HUMAN BEING.

This, turns out, is frightening.

That’s about when I started being pelted by my own thoughts. What if my story sucks? What if I’m crazy to think it’s a workable, decent draft? What if it doesn’t have potential? What if I’m a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad writer? What if what if WHAT IF?

I had to tell myself to STOP. Wait. Trust.

Stop thinking degrading thoughts. They’re no use to anyone. Wait to hear back. Whether the response comes sooner or later, I can’t freak out the entire time my words are elsewhere. I shouldn’t be freaking out at all. This is a great opportunity and a logical next step.

And I should trust in myself and in my words. Trust that my passion isn’t foolhardy. Trust that no matter what the critique says (good, bad, great, devastating), I will be able to read it, learn from it and use it to make my story better. And hopefully become a better writer in the process.

So, I’m going to do something new today. I’m adding a tab up top with some information about my WIP. It’s a long time coming. I mean, I have been working on this thing for almost four years. WHOA. It’s time to put a little bit of it out into the world.

And think happy thoughts.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Five Things I want from YA in 2014

Last week I wrote about my goals for 2014. But there are also some things I'm hoping/wishing/DYING for in the YA genre this year. In no particular order, I want...

More News like this:

Also an announcement from John Green re: new book. I know he’s writing and I don’t want to rush him (okay, maybe I do a little) but I just want NEWS that another book is coming. I just want the knowledge. It will comfort me.

More Diversity
YA books can be boundary-breaking, but the genre is strides away from being where it should concerning diversity. I desire a wider range of characters when it comes to race/creed/orientation/background/situation. As a reader, I have to seek this out, and I would like it to be reflected on the shelves. For that to happen, it has to be a group effort. Let’s get this done, folks!

Movie Releases/Announcements
TFIOS. Divergent. The Giver. If I Stay. Maze Runner. Mockingjay. I WANT THEM ALL. Now, please. Also, I want optioned movies moving to development. And in development movies moving to filming. You get my drift. I want more YA books becoming movies.

Series Endings
I need Ruin and Rising (by Leigh Bardugo), The One (by Keira Cass), Dreams of Gods and Monsters (by Laini Taylor). I want the closure they will provide. And authors, be nice. No one needs to die. Except maybe the bad guys…

The Next Big Thing
I love a good dystopian novel, but it recently came to my attention that the subgenre is waning in popularity. Dystopia burned bright and fast due to the popularity of Hunger Games and Divergent. Even though they are still on our radar with the upcoming movies, I’m curious as to what will be next. Because right now, I have NO IDEA what's coming.


Honorable Mention:

Debuts, series and authorial (or NEW BOOKS)
Winner’s Curse, Side Effects May Vary, The Inventor’s Secret, Death Sworn, PANIC. The book by Lauren Oliver… I’m not actually panicking. Though I’m starting to as I realize there is not enough time to read all of this awesomeness. Sigh, just another reason I need a timeturner.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

My Writing Goals for 2014

My list of goals for 2014 is long. Like one whole Word document long.

Why? You ask. I must be INSANE. Well, it’s not about finishing them all, per say. (Though that’d be pretty awesome if I did.) It’s about having something to work toward in every aspect of my writing life.

Last year, I wanted two things (finish my WIP and publish a short story). Neither of which I accomplished. I’m a little frustrated with myself, even though I did a lot last year. In 2013, I rewrote my WIP, became a repeat NaNoWriMo winner, read 64 books, signed up for a writing course (though I’m still working on finishing it) and hit 500 Twitter followers (on the last day of the year).

However none of those things were on my list for 2013, which is why this year I’m being more thorough. Goals for EVERY SINGLE aspect of my writing life. Here are some of the highlights:
  1. Finish editing the draft of my WIP. Send to beta readers by summer. (This is the big one. The kahuna. If I do this and none of the others, I’ll be one happy writer girl.)
  2. Read over 60 books. (Because books are the BEST.)
  3. Re-read Harry Potter. (It’s been too long since this has happened.)
  4. Keep posting here! (I’ll hit my two year anniversary in May and my two year anniversary of posting every week in September!)
  5. Interact with more YA authors/readers/bloggers on Twitter/Tumblr/blogs. (I want to get to know you ALL and hear about what you’re writing/reading.)
  6. Write WIP sequel in NaNoWriMo 2014. (Yeah this is almost a year away, but that’s where I want to be by November—ready to write my SECOND book.)

Having such an extensive list will likely mean some of the goals will go unaccomplished, but hopefully I will take strides toward each of them. And I’m already craving the day in early 2015 when I can say I accomplished three or five or even ALL of my 2014 goals! 

Here’s to a happy, healthy 2014, full of words and coffee and heroines and… well, I could go on forever. Here’s to 2014!