Threats of Sky and Sea by Jennifer Ellision


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They know that fire can burn. But they’ve forgotten how water can scald.

Thus ends Threats of Sky and Sea, a YA Fantasy by Jennifer Ellision–who is an awesome person, I might add, and allowed me to interview her here.

As far as greedy kings go, this novel is home to one with an unusual upper hand. He has Elementals working for him–in particular a Lady Kat, who terrorizes those around her with an affinity for air. In this world, if you’ve a gift with one of the elements, you have unusual power to make it help with your purposes.

And Breena Perdit is about to learn she is one, herself.

Lady Kat may be cruel and power-hungry, but Breena will hurt most from untruths in her own family–secrets that will make her question her own identity.

It seems impossible that she would be an Adept–because she isn’t seventeen yet, making her far too young to have discovered such ability. But she’s captured by the king on that suspicion, taken with her father away from home, and nothing will be the same.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me, because the first time I read this novel, I thought the beginning was slow. Looking back, maybe I was just reading too late at night. It really picks up about three chapters in, and you can’t put it down.

Although the plot was intriguing, what I found most memorable were the characters. They’re wonderfully surprising: We learn that Da has been keeping a secret all along, when he seems like the last person to do it. Princess Aleta, who really isn’t as bad as we think in the beginning. My personal favorite was Tregle, the Torcher who seems to have a greater sense of conscience than Lady Katerine would like.

I finished the book and missed the characters immediately.

Also, I really need to say this–Riders (wind Adepts) can send a breeze to catch a conversation. That is both awesome and very creepy, and I think it would be a useful thing to have. Wind power always seemed the least impressive in other stories, but here it’s given new significance. Here I’d like to have wind power.

Finally, the ending nearly made me cry. Not a lot of endings do that since The Book Thief (I’m not sure any book will ever beat that one.) The book was great at playing with emotions, making the characters people you will miss.

I really want the sequel.

You should read Threats of Sky and Sea, and check out the author interview.

4/5 stars.

Interview with Jennifer Ellision


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I’m always interested to learn how other authors see things. It’s a complex art, and though no two stories are the same, sometimes the craft itself has similar characteristics in everyone. I’m so glad Jennifer Ellision let me ask her some questions. You should check out her book here!

Q: Your characters in Threats of Sky and Sea are all distinct from one another. How do you achieve such characterization–and which one of them speaks to you loudest?

A: Hmmm, well the first part is hard to answer. I didn’t consciously decide to create characters that ranged in personality, it just sort of worked out that way. I really just wanted them to be people, you know? Meaning they’d have their flaws, strengths, innate personality quirks… I’m a pantser so I discovered those things as I wrote.

As for which of them speaks to me the loudest, that would be my main character Breena, whose POV Threats of Sky and Sea told from. Although I have a total soft spot for Prince Caden and Princess Aleta.

And, oddly, the antagonist Lady Kat’s voice got pretty loud for me too. So loud that I had to write her her own short story, Sisters of Wind and Flame.

Q: In the book, many characters control elements. Which element would you choose, and why?

A: Oh, if I could choose, I’d be a Water Thrower, hands down. I love the beach, I love the pool, and if I had no other commitments (and if I wouldn’t get sun-burnt in about 20 minutes flat), I would happily spend all day floating in the water!

Q: What do you think classical literature will be 100 years from now? What books from our generation do you think will make it?

A: Ahhh, classic lit. Well, I think the books that already have the labels of classics such as works by Austen, the Brontes, Shakespeare, and Dickens will likely keep their spot in the curriculum.

As for books that I want to make it to future generations, there are SO many books that I hope do. With the massive love and commitment so many people (myself included) I think I’m safe in saying that I think Harry Potter and The Hunger Games will make it to future years.

Elsewise, in the fantasy genre, I hope that The Girl of Fire and Thorn trilogy by Rae Carson and the Graceling Realm books by Kristin Cashore make it.

Others that I hope make it include: Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein, Chime by Franny Billingsley, Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour and Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

introducing a book cover artist


Even though the book isn’t out till December, I keep panicking and thinking I should have had it all ready by July. But I finally have one thing on the checklist secured: A book cover artist.

My long-time friend and pen pal Syd from Videmus Art is going to read my book and see what she comes up with. I’ve known her forever–literally–I can’t remember a time I was writing before Syd was my friend.

Someday we’ll meet and I’ll cry.

Go follow her blog. I’ll be posting about her a lot. She took the picture of books that I’ve been using everywhere forever. And this butterfly. She seems like just the kind of person who’d work with Muses.

I think she did write about one once.

It’s perfect. More updates to come!

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i just want to challenge people to see beauty in everything.

i currently live in Hong Kong and attend SCAD. most of the time i’m doing something else creative or woolgathering out the window.

Book Review: Scotch Rising by S. J. Garland


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Edinburgh 1707. The English supporters in the Scottish parliament have narrowly signed the Act of Union. The controversial paper bringing England and Scotland together into one Great Britain will not be uncontested. From the Acts inception it appears doomed to carry the blood of Scots and Englishman alike. Esmond Clyde-Dalton returns to London a broken man after his wife’s death. He only seeks a dishonorable discharge. His superior Colonel Manner’s, known for his extensive spy network, has other plans. Sent to the highlands of Scotland to become an excise collector on Scotch. Esmond quickly becomes embroiled in solving the murders of two Scots men. As his investigation continues, Esmond soon realises life in Markinch is not all it seems. Esmond’s peaceful retirement turns to a fight to save not only his life, but also the lives of friends he has made in the highlands.

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I didn’t know what to expect, because it isn’t a genre I try often; the historical part caught my interest. It was engaging and believable, so I found it a welcome breath of fresh air from my reading comfort zones.

In Scotland, the Captain finds himself sucked into a mystery. The tax collector before him died, and looking at the things he left behind, the story everyone tells explaining it seems dishonest. Suspicious Captain Dalton takes the mystery on himself, but it won’t be easy.

While the setting and hook were masterfully done, on retrospect I find it disorienting that he gets into so much trouble. The things Dalton did seemed rash at times. He seemed to act on impulse a lot and got hurt…very frequently.

It’s the one thing about his character that bugged me: He seemed to make a lot of decisions on a whim, even after recovering from injuries. But it doesn’t really take away from the story; those were moments I would have screamed at the television, were it a movie.

My favorite character was Kieran, who in his youth is brave and sometimes more prudent than the captain. I think he will develop to be one of my all-time favorite characters, the “small” hero who proves himself to be more for his age.

Something else I loved was the use of dialect. It made the characters very realistic, and as a whole added vibrant color to the pages.

I would read this book again, and absolutely do recommend it. Mine was a digital copy which was the only reason I didn’t finish it in a day (reading on iPad screens is a bit irritating.) Get a print copy–I want one myself, and I really want to read the next book!

Book Review: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly


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Heroes never really die.

We all make an impact on the world. Even if we don’t make major history books, it doesn’t change this truth: No life is an accident.

You will meet obscure heroes in strange ways, and Revolution is one such tale. Andi Alpers meets an obscure hero by finding her diary, and is swept into her life–into the French Revolution.

 

Andi’s father forces her to accompany him to Paris, hoping to bond a little. Instead of making new father-daughter memories, she spends the trip researching for a paper. If she writes a good report, she can go home early to care for her mother. Her little brother’s death has affected them all; Andi’s mother has been taken by crippling depression, with Andi barely hanging on.

 

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My thoughts don’t dwell so much on plot, but the realistic actions of these characters.

It was refreshing that having a love interest did not shake the main character’s resolve. It didn’t make her want to stay and tour the City of Light. It doesn’t boost her self-esteem either: There’s no magical moment where they make eye contact and she realizes how valuable she is. Her depression seeps through to the very bone, and every other feeling is only on the surface.

 

That being said, all the shifts to diary format made for a sometimes grueling read. It might have done good to space them out a bit; I kept getting confused about who the main character was. That may have been done on purpose, but it still threw me off.

The book is a bit heavy, detailed, something you approach attentively. Don’t get me wrong: It’s an impressive read if you drink it in. Revolution is deep, and I couldn’t recommend it more. I’ve read it twice, and enjoyed it both times!

 

Because it was a bit of a long read, I’ll give it 3 stars. Looking forward to reading more by this author!

Review: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa


This series is fascinating. The characters and concepts surprise me every time I visit.

With a writing style that draws me in, I’m off on an adventure to a place with beautiful things–magical creatures, dragons, beautiful courts, and people who hold to promises no matter what.

Don’t make a promise in the land of faery unless you really know what you’re doing. These creatures may be unpredictable and wild, but promises are kept.

This honesty gave them an odd, pleasant quality–I can’t describe it–like, expect them to eat you. Expect them to turn you in to their king or queen with a broad smile. But also, expect them to do what they say they will.

The creatures, characters, places here are wild–but this honest quality gives them something I can respect, compared to other books where they just do what they want.

Meghan Chase is looking for her little brother, Ethan, who’s been replaced with a changeling. Finding him isn’t going to be easy, and on her way to Ethan, she finds herself in new messes and battling new obstacles. Her best friend is a faery, and there’s a talking cat named Grimalkin who doesn’t tire of reminding her that she’s human and he is a cat.

Grim is an interesting character. I liked him most! The talking cat who’s shamelessly more intelligent is a nice change, an original character that someone needed to come up with.

This was my second read of The Iron King. I will never tire of this world and the people we encounter.

It’s definitely one of my favorite Young Adult series, funny and creative and engrossing. Give it a try–meet characters who will stick with you for a very long time.

I can’t wait to get to Book 2–my heart’s still in the Nevernever.

Find The Iron King on Goodreads!

Guest Post: How TV Shows Can Help You Plot Your Novel


by Alexa Skrywer

Yup, you read that title correctly. TV shows – and I’m talking the real ones, the epic ones, not the Disney ones – can help immensely with plotting out your novel.

Yeah, go ahead and laugh. I promise I won’t be offended. Finished now? Great.

I’m going to use Supernatural as an example, because that’s a show I’ve just started watching (Yes, I know I’m way behind) and I really like the character arcs.

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If you haven’t seen it, Supernatural is the story of two brothers raised by their father to fight all manner of supernatural creatures. The series also holds a bit of a detective edge since they have to figure out what sort of monster is haunting the area before they can kill it, and because, amidst all this, Dean (older brother) and Sam (younger brother), are also searching for their aforementioned missing father.

Yeah. These poor boys have a lot on their plate.

As a huge fantasy nut, I love the action in this series. There’s a new monster almost every show – from shapeshifters to the Grim Reaper – and Sam and Dean are totally boss when fighting them.

But what I love even more than the action, is the emotion of the story, the beautiful character arcs and the bond between the brothers. How they’re constantly killing evil spirits for normal citizens, all while battling the demons of their own pasts. I love how Sam takes care of Dean and Dean takes care of Sam and how, even though they have their share of arguments, they’re always there for each other.

Ahem. I’ll stop fangirling now.

On to how this can help with writing: The overall story is that of two monster-hunting brothers searching for their father. But, as I said above, there are supernaturals, too, new ones nearly every show. These create a host of mini-plotlines, keeping the action moving as our boys travel cross country, looking for their dad and learning to relate to each other.

And those mini-plotlines are exactly what we need in our novels. You have the overall plot “Character wants this and decides to do this to get it,” and then the little obstacles and helps along the way – the little tidbits you slip into the story, arresting the reader’s attention, while building up to the final climax (which I haven’t seen in Supernatural yet, so don’t spoil it for me if you know).

The obstacles/helps can come in the form of people (in one episode, Sam and Dean find an old friend of their father’s, and she helps them with a case) or difficult situations (…every single episode, but anyway). Sometimes, the smaller plotlines end during the story; they’re wrapped up in a pretty little bow and then we move on. Other times, they open fresh nuances in the overall plot, for instance the end of the very first episode and a certain discovery about Sam in the fifth. Both of them revealed more about the relationships of the characters, kept the story moving, and built carefully on the leaning tower that is every story, leaving me riveted, breathless, and desperate for more.

Which, of course, is the very feeling I want to inflict on some poor reader someday.

People always say the best way to master something is to study it, learn from the greats (practice, too, but we’re not talking about that today). So the next time someone accuses you of watching too much TV, laugh, roll your eyes like they simply do not understand, and inform them in the kindest way possible that you’re conducting writing research.

I’m an aspiring author and beginning blogger. Find me weekly here.

PARIS by Edward Rutherfurd


This book was 800 pages long.

It had been years since I even tried to read something so big. Even better, it covered different periods of time in Paris, following the same families and places. It is fantastic and completely swallowed me up.

My mind is blown–how does one become patient enough to write something like this? How long does the project take, from research to revising? A writer lives in the world they create, so Edward Rutherfurd has definitely spent a long time immersed in Paris.

The most exciting part of the book, in my opinion, was the beginning–where he covers Paris at the time the Eiffel Tower was being constructed.

Gustave Eiffel is a character in this novel, and so bold! He is not loved by everybody, but they all know his name. Everyone knows he’s going to build a tower many consider ugly. Very few believe in it, and there were repeated attempts to bring it down after it was completed. Now it's iconic–irony, right?

There is some adult content you could skim over, and language to make it gritty.

As a whole the book is powerful and I miss it already. If you want a read that'll cover your entire summer, I highly suggest this book. I've really got to find his other work…

Find it on Goodreads!

 

Paper Towns by John Green


Spoiler Alert!

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When Margo Roth Spiegelman beckons Quentin Jacobsen in the middle of the night—dressed like a ninja and plotting an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows her. Margo’s always planned extravagantly, and, until now, she’s always planned solo. After a lifetime of loving Margo from afar, things are finally looking up for Q . . . until day breaks and she has vanished. Always an enigma, Margo has now become a mystery. But there are clues. And they’re for Q.

I started Paper Towns on the plane to Vegas and finished it on the way back.

The book has such an undertone of melancholy to it. Even in humorous scenes, like when Ben is doing something crazy, we can feel that the author has an ache in his heart. Something’s missing in the character’s life and we, the readers, feel it as well: The void Margo left. We don’t care about the other kids having a good prom; we don’t care about anything except solving this mystery because we feel Q’s emptiness if he doesn’t. The main character is so real that we feel his pain.

When Q starts finding clues Margo left behind—or at least, we presume it was her—we go with him on a thrilling, heartbreaking journey. I watched Q crack the codes she left, discovering new leads. He’s in love with this girl and wants to find her, even if he doesn’t find her alive.

It’s not a happy kind of love: It’s a quiet, powerful, broken love. Margo fascinates him because she goes out of the box to live her life in ways he’d be scared to do himself. The first nine chapters made me smile because she has a whole plan to wreak havoc on town, and though he sometimes tries halfheartedly to talk her into sense, Q enjoys every bit of her craziness. He thinks it’s beautiful, and this is what causes him to fall in love—becoming one of the only kids in school obsessively searching when she vanishes.

I loved the book, but towards the end I did not like Margo. Compared to the first chapters detailing the adventure they had, Margo later on seems tired and out of character. Like Q’s other friends, I question if it was worth all the trouble they went through to find her. Perhaps for Q it was, since love is love, but she took the whole thing so calmly–as if she didn’t expect anyone to follow her, an unfair reaction. The ending in general didn’t satisfy me, but as a whole I would read this book again.

Note: If crude language bothers you, there’s quite a bit of it here, but all in character.

It was my first John Green novel, and I see why people enjoy his writing. It isn’t super complex, yet has a depth characteristic to him only. Soon I’ll get around to reading The Fault in our Stars. I’ve avoided that book for long enough!

Review: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain


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This book made me excited to be a writer. I could only dream of someday having such a gorgeous voice in my work.

Every now and then, we stumble upon the accidental read. There’s always that one book you guiltily buy because of the title–and for once, it doesn’t let you down. As this is  an adult historical book, there is some mature content. That being said, it’s a superb look into the life of Ernest Hemingway from a different perspective.

Does a writer ever really love one person more than their art?

This is the question we ask ourselves over and over throughout the book. It’s mostly written from the viewpoint of Ernest Hemingway’s wife, Hadley–though a couple of times, there are switches to his perspective, which I admit did catch me off-guard. They were all written in italics, which I suppose disoriented me.

This book is set in 1920, after the war; our world bears a scar that will never go away. Some people still try finding refuge in love, hoping to start their lives over. Ernest Hemingway’s scars run deep. Writing is clearly his one true love from the beginning. Still, he tries to be one of these brave souls. He settles with the main character, Hadley, and together they move to Paris. That’s where all the writers of the day wanted to be, according to Sherwood Anderson:

But if you want to do any serious work, Paris is the place to be. That’s where all the real writers are now.”
—Page 71

Ernest Hemingway in’t satisfied as a journalist. He feels they mock him, giving him jobs that seem ridiculous to write about. He wants to publish a novel that will make a dent in the literary world. While working to barely get by in Paris, he waits wait for the novel. He waits for the masterpiece that’ll launch him with the other greats–the “Lost Generation,” including F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ezra Pound.

In Paris, you’ve got to be bulletproof. This is impossible when love comes into the picture. We soon realize Hadley’s love is deeper than that of her husband. While he makes friends and his career grows, his wife is fading. She’s become distant to him, insignificant.

Paris has no mercy: She’s taken everything, and will continue till there’s little hope left. This novel is heartbreaking and beautiful, terrible and marvelous.

I want to share one of the most powerful excerpts to me, as a writer. All Hemingway’s work has just been lost, and this passage–I think–holds the overall feel of the story. It’s lost and hopeless, always about starting over without a clue how to begin.

“He puts his hand on the knob and pulls the door open and then he knows everything. There isn’t a page left in the cupboard. Not a note or a scrap. He looks and looks, standing there, wrenched out and hollow. As desolate as the cupboard is, that’s how he is too because the pages belong to him and are him. It’s like someone has taken a broom to his insides and swept them out until everything’s clean and bright and hard and empty.”
—Page 135

At times the writing sounds like a great poem, sweeping you away so that you’re hurting with the characters. When the book was done, I tossed it on the ground and stared at the wall miserably. Make sure you have thick skin: It’s not a light read.

This quote on the first page sums it all up:

It is not what France gave you but what it did not take from you that was important.
—Gertrude Stein

THE GODDESS TEST by Aimee Carter


*SPOILER WARNING.

So there are a lot of ‘fresh takes’ on Greek myths. I like Cassandra Clare but she wouldn’t be the first author I like to promote a fictional book about Greek mythology that’s just way overrated. I didn’t really expect much when I bought this book, but I was giving it a shot. Hopefully, some good books had been published since I was last an avid reader–and, thank goodness, this time I lucked out. The Goddess Test was an enjoyable read and really helped bring me back into happy reader mindset. I’d been writing for so long that I forgot what a good book was like.

Granted it took me a few weeks to go past the first chapter, though I blame this on the simple fact that I wasn’t that good at being a reader when I picked it up. That, and the prologue was a little hard to grasp; it wasn’t confusing persay but the characters were very difficult to relate to. I couldn’t picture them or what was going on. Maybe it’ll be different when I go back to read it again, but it did take me quite a while to make it past the prologue. Once I actually did I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I liked the main character. She isn’t a crybaby and she isn’t a damsel in distress. She’s just a normal girl pulled into a weird story. I think she might have believed everything a little too fast, but that’s just my opinion, I’m used to writing long and heavily detailed stories after all. Maybe it was longer as a first draft but to get published they made the author speed it up? Anyway, overlooking that she believed a little quickly for my taste, the rest of her was believable–right down to her emotions. Aimee Carter nailed it with this character, I liked her immediately.

Henry is sweet at times but I think it might be the way he speaks, a little bit forced, that made it difficult for me to visualize him. He is a powerful character and I like him, but I think he is ironically the rustiest character in the book, description-wise. There’s just something forced about him, though once again, it might get better when I read it a second time. It’s really no big deal and doesn’t take much from the story.

The romance isn’t too cheesy, nor is it dirty–when they do slip once, I appreciated that the author didn’t make it look like a good thing. No, slipping into the sin of lust was a very bad thing here, and it almost had grave consequences. Also it wasn’t really their faults either, but I won’t get into a deep discussion of what happened. Just know that it isn’t described, you don’t have to worry about your eyes falling out or even having to skip a page. I love the author forever for this and if she lets me down regarding this in the next books…I might burn them… It’s just refreshing to be able to dream without closing your eyes! Aimee Carter, don’t ruin this!

The world building and storyline was amazing. I like how she described locations. Even if I occasionally had trouble picturing a character, I never struggled with a scene. Great detail was put into location! The escapist in me approves. You can bet that I look forward to buying and reading the next books. I hope they live up to this one, it would be difficult but if they do, I have a new favorite author! Definitely give this book a try, it is worth your time!

A Disgruntled Englishman on Biscuit Dunking


Right, ok, I’ve told you how to make the perfect brew, here, so it is only proper that you are taught the correct accompaniment to this magic potion, the dunked biscuit.

Before we begin you are now English, it is a biscuit, not a “cookie”.

Right onto business. Get your cuppa (If you haven’t got one, why did you read this far?). Ok now for the biscuit – the perfect dunking biscuit is the rich tea biscuit (this also happens to be another miracle thing, as with the tea, but that is a lesson for another time) after that it is the chocolate digestive biscuit, luckily they dunk very similarly, so get one or the other.

Now take the biscuit and see if it will fit into your cup, I doubt it will. If I am correct then snap the biscuit in half, actually, just snap the biscuit in half either way, gives you more dunks.

Right, now the really important part. Time to dunk the biscuit. Take the edge of the biscuit (one of the corners where you snapped) between your thumb and forefinger and dunk it into your tea, you should hold it in for about 3 or 5 seconds, then gently pull it out. If you don’t leave it in long enough the biscuit will still be crunchy on the inside, if you leave it in too long it falls into your brew and you have to fish it out with a spoon while shouting “Mum me biscuit’s fallen in me brew” (Peter Kay reference, well done if you spotted it).

Finally place in mouth and enjoy.

Repeat with as many biscuits as wanted, drink the brew and become English.

By appointment of Their Regular Noones,
The Lonely Recluse.

P.S. This is a totally tongue in cheek post, Mariella had no control over me, except to ask that I wrote something. All insult is totally your fault for not having a sense of humour good enough to take it, but if complaints wish to be made, you may make them to me here. I repeat, Mariella is not to blame for my sense of humour, or your lack of one.

Boring Legal Bit:
Their Regular Noones (TRNs) had no real input and infact did not appoint The Lonely Recluse as anything, especially not The Even Lower Biscuit Dunker, in fact TRNs do not exist and there is no such role as The Even Lower Biscuit Dunker.