Starry Night by Isabel Gillies


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I’m guilty of having bought this book mostly for the gorgeous cover and the title (Van Gogh is an inspiration.) It wasn’t until later that I noticed the reviews on Goodreads are harsh.

Way too harsh.

This book? I enjoyed it. I thought it was lovely.

Most of all, I enjoyed the writing style–which other people are fond of attacking. But really? I thought it was gorgeous, so poetic and fresh.

They complain that characters act older than they are. Some of the most popular YA books I’ve read also have this trait. They’re just not as beautifully written.

Maybe it’s getting hate for being a romance? For the sad ending? The title is a bit misleading, as the Starry Night painting doesn’t even appear until the end, but that’s the only thing that really bugged me.

One of the reviews on Goodreads says to tear it out of someone’s hands if caught reading it. Don’t. Heavens, don’t do it. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, but…

Really?

This book is among my favorites. If my opinion matters at all, I’d urge any romance lover to give it a try, and I’m definitely going to read it again.

I just know I held my breath and waited a moment when I read this part:

He turned around and caught me by the waist.
“You totally don’t have to come if you think you’ll get in trouble.” I was sort of suspended over him, still on the stairs, but leaning into him like I was a ballerina and he was going to lift me into the air.

This book was like poetry to me. I felt like the narrator was talking into my ear. It’s a good thing. Give it a try.

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Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman


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Goodreads | Barnes and Noble

Under the streets of London there’s a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks.

Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, is going to find out more than enough about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. And a strange destiny awaits him down here, beneath his native city: Neverwhere.

I found this book enchanting.

Even though I loved it all, the MC was my favorite. Richard’s this regular guy shoved into a world he does not understand, forced to survive horrific obstacles and prove to himself what he’s capable of. I was so sad when this book ended because it meant I couldn’t follow him anymore…good thing with books it is never truly farewell.

The setting was captivating. Ordinary things were made poignant and engrossing; it is so different, no wonder poor Richard became overwhelmed!

Since finishing it, I’m holding other MCs to a pretty high standard. Do try this book–you’ll find yourself engrossed, too!

Heather Says:


I have a beta reader named Heather. (Who had an epic summer and went to Spain. Visit her blog here!)

There should be more beta readers like her in the world. I’m so lucky that she’s agreed to read through my manuscript three times, and is willing to do a fourth.

Also I’m really glad she likes the book, too, which means she’s able to appreciate the characters almost as much as I do.

Usually what happens is I send her my book as a PDF file, and she’ll color-code her comments. Recently I’ve sent it as a .doc so she can kill any typos she finds (because chances are I won’t find them) and she still leaves hilarious comments. It makes editing so much fun.

This is a blog post to brag about my beta reader, and it should have come way sooner. Thanks, Heather! <3

Ignore things that need editing in these screenies–sometimes I don’t necessarily follow suggestions at once…

At the top of every page is this guide that’s helped me with the color-coded comments:

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This is one of my favorites:

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(The yellow part. I laughed until I cried with that one.)

This is hard. I have to skip so many quotes I really want to share because of major spoilers.

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And she raises points I might not have thought of while writing:

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(in case you’re wondering, no, he isn’t drunk and driving! :D)

Writing is a really hard job. You need great friends to keep you going, and believe me, I would not have made it this far if it weren’t for her. It started out as an emergency HELP I NEED CRITIQUE ON 5 CHAPTERS thing. And those five chapters became a huge project.

If it weren’t for friends like her, I’d have gone back to rewriting an eleventh time. Sometimes you just need guidance.

I’ll leave you with this gem–

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I really wish I could share all of them. Oh well.

THANKS, HEATHER! :)

Cover Reveal: Thicker than Blood


TTB official Bookjacket
Thicker Than Blood
The Magicians series #3
by Lindsey R. Sablowski

Release Date August 2014

Find on Goodreads!

Pitch:

Alaire Sencler is not the man he used to be. He left behind a foul and bloody past to be with the woman he loves, but the memories never allow him to forget what he did.

While the White magicians rise an army, their leader hides his true reasons for going to war. Meanwhile the Dark magicians seek out a new haven, one that might keep them hidden long enough to prepare for the war that is raging on outside their doorstep.

Though Alaire has a unique gift and the woman of his dreams by his side, he has yet to come to terms with Esmour’s death and what the future holds for him. New faces and the revealing of the fifth Dark magicians offers hope, but only the strongest will survive in the final battle.

Whoever said “blood runs thicker than water” never knew what it is like to be a part of the current.

I am so excited to be helping my friend Lindsey with the release of her third book. I remember when Cursed with Power was still up on inkpop–she was always passionate to have readers, and I’m proud she made it this far. She fought to get her book out there, even when things got hard, and I hope I can approach my audience with such persistence.

I hope you will give her series a look, and hope she’ll put out many more books in the future. She is truly very inspiring. Visit her website here!

Teaser:

We followed the noises and passed by more trees until Léal was in our sight. He performed a spell which hit the tree in front of him. Rostland held me back and gestured he would advance first.

Slowly stepping forward, Rostland said, “Léal, you need to stop before you hurt yourself.”

​He turned around and glared, but sweat covered his face and ran past his neck.

​Léal replied, “You knew her for one year; I knew her for five. She kept saying time and time again she was on my side, and I never once believed her until the end.”

​Rostland took another step forward, but Léal raised his hand. I considered moving closer to help if anything spun out of control, but I was confident in Rostland.

​“Do you plan to kill me again? Come now, you’re making a fool out of yourself,” Rostland said in a firm voice.

​Léal whispered a word and cast a spell, causing a ice shard to strike through Rostland’s chest.

Every muscle in my body tensed, but Rostland quickly ripped the icicle out and threw it on the ground.

The icicle broke apart into pieces, and the two men stared at each other.

Dialect in Dialogue by S.J. Garland


Recently I reviewed a historical fiction book by S.J. Garland, and it completely drew me in. One element that stood out most was her use of Scottish dialect, so I asked if she’d write a post about it. Dialect is an interesting technique I hope to try some day.

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find book review of Scotch Rising here

For an author, especially a debut author such as myself, the decision to write a form of Scots dialect into my dialogue was agonizing. I had to decide if the inclusion of all the aye’s and nays would give the text authenticity and therefore help build the narrative tension. Or if it would be cumbersome and make the reader set the book down and walk away without finishing. There are two ways an author can add a touch of dialect to their work, either by stating at the beginning of the characters speech something like: …he replied with a heavy Scottish brogue or with the addition of colloquial sayings relevant to their characters time and place. It is especially important in historical fiction to produce a balanced effort.

Historical fiction is all about setting the mood, getting the reader hooked at the beginning of the story and building enough tension they believe the narrative. The first way to add dialect into dialogue is by stating a character has a particular brogue or accent before they speak, giving the reader a signal to imagine how the character might sound. This choice also ensures the reader will not stumble over complicated sentences with misspelled words and hyphens. However in my opinion it is the weaker of the option, as it means the author must repeat the same signal many times in the text in order to keep the dialect moving.

The second alternative of writing the dialect into the dialogue gives readers the opportunity to experience the flavour of the character in an intimate way. Historical fiction is only one genre that can benefit from the use of direct dialogue. The key to being successful as an author using this method is to find the balance between realism and rambling gibberish. In my own work, Scotch Rising, readers found the addition of the Scots brogue into the narrative a good addition, although a couple of sentences had some people stumped. Writing is all about the learning process and I have toned the brogue down in places for the sequel Pretender at the Gate.

As my work is historical fiction, I spent time researching the words and phrases used by Scots during the time period. I narrowed my research to a Scots poet named Robert Fergusson, and used his poem Auld Reekie as the basis for my dialect. There is a copy available on the Internet at this address, which includes translations for the Gaelic words. With Auld Reekie as my basis, I chose a number of words I could integrate into my dialogue with the result the reader would be able to decipher the meaning after reading the whole sentence. In most cases it worked out well.

The experiment of using dialect in dialogue was rewarding, and it helped me grow as a writer. I will definitely continue to use it in my future work.

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.

Find on Goodreads

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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Goodreads | Barnes and Noble

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.

 

Find it on Goodreads.

 

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!