Review: The Red Queen

Hello, book lovers! Today we are going to talk about The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. It is the winter read on the Epic Reads 365 Days of YA. I’m super pumped to say that I have been doing my best to participate in the 365 Days of YA. I’m not going in any particular order, but you will get a few reviews from me this year in accordance to the list. By the way, let’s just go ahead and give the Epic Reads team some major props. This list is the bomb. There are seasonal, monthly, weekly, and daily reads. I mean. What more could we want in a YA #tbr list?

Anyway. Back to The Red Queen. Aveyard is debuting strong with her first installment of a fantasy series that takes us to a world where physical power, courtly beauty, and twisty shifts are all wrapped up into a tidy bow and presented to us like the finest present.

10212034Mare Barrow is a red-blooded commoner. She is forced to live menially with her large family: A father who is war-wounded, a mother who wishes Mare didn’t thieve, and a sister who is better than her in more ways than one. Oh, and let’s not forget her three heroic brothers at war.

Not only are the Silvers the elite, but they are all gifted with power and unwilling to send their own into the fringes of war. As you can imagine, the racial divide is gaping. Some Silvers can move the elements, some meld the mind, and their blood runs pure silver. So, what happens when a Red—Mare—can manipulate electrical currents?

Mare finds herself in an intriguing match between accepting her fate, or having it force fed to her. She is brought into a dangerous court, smashed between two brothers (princes I might add), and forced to chose a cause. Be the obedient puppet, or take up a role as a spy. What happens is nail-biting and well worth the read.

The writing is immediately captivating and sharp. Mare is instantly likable. She deals with extreme guilt, and a huge inferiority complex. What’s not to love about that? Don’t we all deal with feelings of inferiority?

I loved the character and plot development. Each character goes through obvious changes in the story. Each of them are changed by the conflict in the book. I have to say…when even secondary characters are changed by the tension, you know the author is doing something right.  Also, the plot. You won’t see some of this stuff coming. I promise. So, props Aveyard, props.

This is very well-writen, and is set up to be a great series. Now we just have to wait a year for the next book! Noooo! 🙂

What did you think of The Red Queen? Is it on your #tbr list for this year?

Top 5 Books That Made You Think

All right! Today’s topic is Books That Made You Think.

This one is especially hard for me because I tend to figure out plots pretty quickly. *Ahem* the humility is overwhelming, I know, but really I LOVE to dig into my writer brain as I am reading and try to puzzle out what’s going on. I don’t always get it right, but I’d say that I can hit pretty close the majority of the time. I would try to give you a percentage, but me + numbers = nothing good. <<< See I can get a word equation going, but try to add numbers in there, and we have a real problem. I could probably confuse John Nash or Will Hunting. I know…told you it’s bad.

Nothing, though, is more disappointing than to be plot sleuthing and realize at the end that it was a let down. I won’t share those books with you though. That would just be rude.

So, without further ado. My Top 5:

1. The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson – Let’s just say this was not what I expected in the least. My gloating brain had it figured out, but NO Pearson decided to be tricky. It is up to the reader, really. What you interpret as one thing, someone else with interpret as another thing entirely. I loved having my #writenight pal and friend Sara Ella read this. She saw things SO differently than I did. The turn in this book dumped me on my head, and I loved it.

Processed with Moldiv2. Stolen by Lucy Christopher – This one was hard for me to read. Okay…with that said, here’s why: Without spoiling anything, (this is in the book description on Amazon), our narrator has been kidnapped by a long-time stalker. This book will cause you to open your eyes. Be aware of the world around you. It will challenge you to see a protagonist/antagonist relationship from a girl under extreme duress, and even struggle with the emotions that go along with the situation. In my happy world things would be black and white, but that is just not the state of things. A balance exists between the cut and dry—whether I like it or not—and this book forces the reader to grapple with a very difficult turning of events.

3. The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen – I adored this book. I haven’t read a character like Sage in well…never have I read a character like him. Yes, I said “him.” So, confession: I read mostly YA and mostly books from a heroine’s perspective. I just love when the girl kicks butt and takes names, but Nielsen did a spectacular job of introducing me to a boy who is complex and compelling. Not to mention the plot is stellar and had me going: “Hmm?! YAY! Oh MY Goodness!!!” by the end.

4. Storm Siren by Mary Weber – I’ve reviewed  this book, but just want to say again: THE PLOT TWISTS!!!

5. The Jewel by Amy Ewing – This is another that will rip you from your comfortable cushioned world, and make you ask yourself very hard questions. I would not recommend it for everyone because there are some very serious topics that arise. So, if you have teens make sure to be a companion reader on this one. However, I will say that is well written (great characters/plot/point of view), and I am challenged by what this author chose to address.

Here is a complete list of Wednesday-er’s on Goodreads. What books make you think? I’d love to know! Leave me a comment, and we can chat about it!

Top 5 Books You’d Save in a Fire

Hey guys! It’s a Goodreads Top 5 Wednesday today!

I am so pumped to be starting this weekly post in March. The first topic is Top 5 Books You’d Save in a Fire… Wow. I don’t even…can’t….*checks pulse*

You want me to choose? Well, okay…

First of all, I would just like to start by saying I would take them ALL. This would be especially easy for me because I LOVE reading on my iPhone in my iBooks app. I found a few years ago that I focus better, comprehend more, and read faster with the small screen. Also, digital reading appeals to my love of organization and my hatred of all things clutter. So, I really don’t HAVE to choose, but I will.

Let’s just also assume that the Bible would be on the top of my list, but since we are referring to YA fiction here is the rundown:

Processed with Moldiv1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling – I would choose the entire series, but for the sake of the game I’m being selective.

2. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare – I remember reading this book like it was yesterday. I remember the time of year, the smells outside, the rain, the coffee, the feel of my iPhone in hand. (I know, I know. All you tactile bookies are flipping out right now).

3. The Selection by Kiera Cass – There is nothing like having some sassy America to keep you company. She is leading-lady sunshine on a cloudy day! Maxon isn’t so bad either. 🙂

4. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis – This one is for my kids. Okay, so it’s for me too, but I couldn’t pass up listing it. I just recently bought the audio books. I’m like a giddy kid again!

5. Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas – Currently reading this again, and passing the TOG virus to my #writenight gals too. They love me for it.

What would your Top 5 be? Leave me a comment. I’d love to know!

 

Review: Ignite

Whew, guys…SO long since I posted, but I am so glad to be talking about Ignite today by Sara B. Larson.

IGNITE_CVRIgnite is a perfect second installment in the Defy series. If you are unfamiliar with Defy…familiarize yourself. You will thank me later.

Ignite is again from Alexa’s point of view, and I love her voice. She is extremely relatable, and if anyone knows me, they know I like the characters to be real and vibrant. That is what YA is all about. Yes, we love plot, world building, etc., BUT if we can connect with the emotional journey of a character—and maybe their dreamboat too—we are hooked!

Sara B. Larson gives us loads of dreamy moments, but also reminds us that we are dealing with a formidable warrior who will stop at nothing to save those she holds most dear. 

The evil in this book is cut from the cloth of the most maniacle kind. Lady Vera and her brother Rafe are incredibly fearsome, and I didn’t know how Alexa was going to overcome all the she was thrown into. I was truly worried by these characters, but Alexa is not deterred. I love that she shows us real fear, but yet she continues to fight until the last moment.

AND. Let’s just give a nod to Rylan. Bro has high hopes, and he isn’t letting them die. I’m proud #teamrylan, and maybe it’s just a root-for-the-underdog-complex, but he needs to have a shot!

I would 100% recommend this book. It’s got everything that you want in a YA read, and BONUS for teen moms out there, its clean.

New Years Eve, Babe

After the release of her last album Flags with feel-good titles like “Something in the Water and “Coachella,” Brooke Fraser went into a creative incubator and didn’t come out until she was fully cooked in 2014.

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Brutal Romantic is chock full of mountains and valleys made out of leather and    glass. This is why I LOVE it. I’ve heard so many albums that are diving for rich, thick, woodsy scents or plush, grassy sounds that are sadly as synthetic as a silk “flower” from Hobby Lobby. Man-made production isn’t really something I’m looking for, but here it works. Masterfully.

Fraser pits her soothing vocals against digital textures to create mood, tension, and conflict. In novel writing we can learn something from her music. The beauty of what we want our story to portray by the end needs to be set against goals, motivation, and conflict to arrive at a resolution. BUT…back to the album…

The sounds Fraser has aimed for—and hit—have accentuated her poetic songwriting. “Psychosocial” is a pithy take on social media and the way our generation connects with one another. I always appreciate Fraser’s writing because it is soul-searching and provocative in the way it makes you think about life. Many times listening to this album I have been encouraged and challenged by the lyrics.

New Years Eve“, however, is the track that is most relevant for today. It’s calming and reflective. The lyric shows a desire for quiet (not always a bad thing), and to ring in the New Year alone. While I am an advocate for family and community, I also know that sometimes we need to take a step back, reevaluate, and clear our minds of replaying the past and worries of our future. Tonight, I will be with my family. Then I will take time to pause. To be alone for a moment—at least—and reload my arsenal. To take up courage again.

Cheers to a peaceful 2015!

Review: Storm Siren

Author Mary Weber‘s debut novel, Storm Siren is artfully written, compelling, and has a stellar plot twist (or two…or three).

As a YA fantasy, Storm Sirenis expected to live up to the rich worlds in it’s competing genre, and it does just that. Faelen is falling, and it’s slave, Nym, may be the only thing to save it. She’s the only female Elemental known to have been born, and she holds the power to end war—only she doesn’t know how to control it. Nym is bought by Adora, a woman with miles of secrets and plans, and plans that have secrets. Adora wants Nym to be trained by Eogan, but Nym must use her power to free Faelen. Not-to-mention she can’t have anything to do with Eogan outside of her training, even though her heart is screaming to disobey.

Nym is surrounded by disgusting frivolity, and dangerous wills at Adora’s estate. Kings, princesses, ladies, and lords, all gather there. Luckily, she has the help of Breck and Colin—a brother-sister pairing who form friendship with Nym—to help navigate. The politics leave Nym reeling, and unclear of what part she wants to play in the war. She is tired of having innocent blood on her hands, and is desperate to control her powers. However, her internal war is between saving Faelen at the cost of more lives, or doing nothing at the cost of her country in which she is an unwanted anomaly.

Nym’s trainer, Eogan, is a source of peace, and yet she can’t pin him down. He has multiple secrets that could possibly wreck Nym forever, but does love span the gap? Does love win the war?

What I love about Weber’s writing is that each character is multi-dimensional. Even the secondary characters have as much depth as other novels’ primary characters. The plot is deep, and the prose is captivating. Not many authors can hold those two trophies at the same time. Weber does a fabulous job of sweeping you up, and switching the rug out from under you while you are floating.

Bravo, Weber! Thank you for surprising me for the first time in a while. What a refreshing read!

Make sure to check out, Storm Siren, you won’t be sorry you did!

Feature Fridays – Christen Krumm

Today is about Christen Krumm.  She is a friend, #writenight pal, and author who’s imagination has helped me over multiple hurdles.  She guest blogged this week about “Giving a Darling the Axe,” and now we get to find out more about her!

Interview Questions:

1.  When did you decide to be a writer?

I think I was around 6 or 7. At the same time I wanted to be a doctor (I know right?), but I also knew that I ultimately wanted to be a mommy. I didn’t want to go through all the schooling and stop to be a mommy (all or nothing). I knew I wanted to be a writer because I could be anything I wanted to be through my characters.

2.  What genre do you write and why?

I write YA Fiction. I tried to write adult fiction for a while, and it was awful. It was like I was trying to cram myself into a box. Adult fiction is not my voice. I love YA Fiction so it just makes sense that I write it.

3.  What are your writing rituals, if any?

Coffee—but that’s kinda my life ritual so I’m not sure it really counts. I try not to have to many rituals because then it gives me excuses not to write, and I’m already pretty good at making those excuses…

4.  What inspires you?

Other writing, a good television show or movie, music, and life.

5.  The best thing about being a writer?

Creating.

6.  What tools do you use/have used to study the craft of writing. Do you have any formal training?

I have a BA in English, but I’m not really sure that qualifies as formal training. I used to think that you should read every book on the craft that you possibly could before you got started. While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, there are hundreds of books on the craft—many on opposing sides. If you try to read to get it perfect, you’ll drive yourself crazy. I figure as long as you have your favorite books to study, you should be good.

7.  Would you rather read a good book or write a good book?

Yes.

8.  Best time of the day to write and why?

I have three kids, any time that I can sneak writing in is the best time to write.

9.  Do you write by the seat of your pants, plot first, or a little of both?

I’d have to say a little of both. I kinda pants it and then go back and plot it. Backwards probably, but it works for me!

10.  What keeps you motivated?

Coffee, my #WriteNight people, and getting the story out there.

11.  What are you currently reading? Any recommendations?

I’m about to dive into Chelsea Jacobs’ Happy to be Alive, Because. It is the perfect summer read—you should probably really track down a copy and read it (here I’ll make it easy): http://www.amazon.com/Happy-Alive-Because-Chelsea-Jacobs-ebook/dp/B00K1NQIWK/ref=ckrumm-20)

I will always and forever be recommending Shannon Dittemore’s Angel Eyes series, Keria Cass’ The Selection series, The Hunger Games, and anything by Lauren Oliver.

12.  A Bible verse that encourages you in your writing?

Philippians 4:6-7, 13

13.  Where can we find you online?

website – http://christenkrumm.com

Facebook – http://facebook.com/christenekrumm

Twitter – http://twitter.com/christenkrumm

Instagram – http://instagram.com/krummcake

Thank you, Christen for chatting with us! Leave a comment for Christen below, read her guest post, or check out more about her by clicking the links above.

Character Series Part 4: “Giving a Darling the Axe” by Christen Krumm

Hello wonderful readers!  Today I have a special nugget for you in our Character Series brought to you by one of my favorite people and #writenight authors, Christen Krumm.  She is a book lover, YA fiction author, a Litfuse Publicity Group‘s Nester, a lover of coffee, tea, and reading.  She has a super-hero husband, a daughter Elsie, and two sons Drew & Oliver.

You can find her at LitfuseFacebookPinterestTwitter, or you can email her at thekrumms@gmail.com.

Enjoy!

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“WARNING:  If you haven’t read/seen Game of Thrones or Harry Potter (aka: living under a rock like me) you may not want to continue reading as there are HUGE spoilers.  You have been warned.

Confession:  I love tragic romances.  I love killing characters – especially the main ones or the love interest (and with that, 75% of potential readers just walked out the door).  In my first book, The Black Knight (working title), there are a whole lot of character deaths.  Some of these had to die prior to the story beginning and others had to for the story to progress, but what happens when you have to kill that one darling character you want to hold on to?  How do you axe them without losing your readers?

First, you are not going to be able to please 100% of your readers 100% of the time.  I can’t promise the readers who adore you will not throw your book across the room when they reach that pivotal point of death for your character. As authors sometimes we just have to take that leap.  We have to do what our hearts (and characters) are telling us.

There are also wrong ways to go about killing your characters.  I think George R. R. Martin (creator of Game of Thrones) has this down.  From what I hear, (yeah, I’ve never seen/read this series) if fans start liking a character too much, he kills them.  “I will create character you love then kill them all,” he says.  I, for one, say this is a horrible idea, but then again look at the following he has.  So maybe he does have a point.  Maybe this is actually brilliance.  *Mentally makes note to kill all the darlings.*

And then, there are those character’s deaths that are a huge plot twist no on saw coming, but have to happen to continue moving the plot.  The best example I can come up with -the killing of Dumbledore in The Half Blood Prince.  Just think about it.  If Dumbledore hadn’t died, Harry wouldn’t have grown into the man he needed to be to defeat Voldemort.  Not to mention the Elder Wand’s progression from a unknowing Draco Malfoy to Harry Potter – bypassing Voldemort – no matter his efforts. The series just couldn’t have gone on without the death of this very special character (and tell me you didn’t throw the book across the room when it happened)!  Now as for the other 92 deaths in the Harry Potter series (note: exaggeration)…I’m not sure I agree they had to happen, but eh, I wasn’t the author.  Had I been, well, I wouldn’t be blogging about it now would I?

In the words of Albus Dumbledore, “Sometimes we must choose between what is right and what is easy.” Sometimes the right thing may be to save the day, and sometimes the right thing is to kill the beloved character.  It won’t be easy (it never is), but it is the right thing.”

Thank you Christen for such a fun post!  Leave a comment for Christen below, or check her out over at her blog: christenkrumm.com.  If you liked what you read today, stick around and get to know Christen a little better on Feature Fridays this week!

 

Character Series Part 3: “The Character Arc”

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So, in this Character Series, I felt it important to address what I call the “character arc.”  I can’t honestly say that I have studied this, or that it’s the correct terminology, but I am referring to the emotional journey of a character.  It is important to address this because so many times I have read books where the character is stays flat throughout the story.

We as writers are essentially in control of taking our characters through their journeys – holding their hands and becoming their voice.  It’s our responsibility to put a character through trials, joys, testing, peace, and turmoil.  If we don’t then there is really nothing to read about is there?

There are three things (in my opinion) that create the perfect opportunity for a character’s emotional growth, and a couple of them relate to Joseph Campbell’s A Hero’s Journey.  

1. The Call – For a character to emotionally grow, something has to happen.  There has to be a change either abrupt, sought out, supernatural, or naturally dramatic.  Essentially, the ordinary world MUST be rocked in a way that will send the protagonist on a journey to find “self.”  We know that the majority of our human nature response is to fall into rhythms and patterns.  We tend to get comfortable in the ‘norm’ of our lives, whether that is a job, family, misery, depression, business, etc. So, a character’s normal world has to be altered forever sending them in search of meaning and purpose.

2. Testing/Trial – I think we would be naive if we thought that life didn’t come with these two things sewn into the fabric of each personal journey.  It is imperative that a character experiences setbacks to the goal of finding one’s purpose and true sense of self.  I have a very wise uncle who said that “pressure builds character,” and yes, I am going to say it….Diamonds are only rare and beautiful after experiencing extreme temperatures and gobs of pressure.  Would they be beautiful if they didn’t?  Would we value them?  In the same vein, our characters must experience pressure to build the character they need to save the world, overcome illness, die in grace, or defeat any enemy.  Who wants to read about a hero who is self-centered and whiny, or one who couldn’t be bothered to sacrifice something for the good of a cause?  It’s in the testing and trial that a person gains all they need to finish their personal race.

3. Choice – This is probably the most important element in my opinion.  There is always a choice.  Even if someone experiences trials, that doesn’t mean they are ready to be a hero.  It is only by choice.  We need our characters to, at some point, rise up and say “I choose this.”  They have to chose to get up again.  To slough off the person (even if they were a good person) they were before and continue on to greater things.  Our characters must choose to acknowledge their giftings AND their weaknesses, to accept help, to lead with understanding, and extend grace, even forgiveness.

I encourage you to re-read all of your favorites and examine why the protagonist was so easy to connect with.  You will probably find one if not all three of these things present in their journeys.  Also, ask yourself as a writer: “Where do I want my character to be emotionally/as a person by the end of this book?”

Hopefully this helps in your writing journey!

From,

The Unprofessional – Neysa 😉

Links:  A Hero’s Journey