Angelfall: Penryn and the End of Days

Today I'm going to review a book that I absolutely ADORED! In fact, you seriously need to read my review so you can convince yourself to check this one out too!

Cover Beauty Score: 6 out of 10
Good Reads Score: 5 out of 5

Plot Blurb: The book starts with a young girl, Penryn, and her crazy mom and her cripple little sister surviving the the post-apocalyptic streets of Los Angeles. We soon learn that the angels have come to earth and have brought about something like the biblical Revelation where the angels are killing humans. Essentially society is completely destroyed and there are scavengers and cannibals and other gross apocalyptic stuff. So as Penryn and her mom and sister move across the city they encounter a few angels attacking one white winged angel. Penryn ends up kind of helping him, but the evil angels/demons get away with her little sister in the process. Her crazy mom makes a run for it and leaves Penryn to help this one angel that is almost (but not quite) dead. Penryn essentially blackmails the guy, Raffe, and together they make their way across the countryside to try and find her angel-napped sister.

My reaction: I have to admit, this sounded a little cheesy when I first picked it up, but it was free on Amazon Prime so I thought I'd give it a try because the reviews were so awesome. And boy, was I not disappointed! Literally the only negative thing I can think of is that it was so short. The writing was concise and to the point, yet incredibly funny! I felt like Penryn and Raffe had such good chemistry that it literally carried the entire book. Their relationship was very believable, and thank God there is a YA romance out there that doesn't revolve around a triangle. How sick am I of the best guy friend being in love with the heroine? I'll tell ya, really tired. It's been too long since I've seen a book where the two leads hate one another and grudgingly come to love one another. This, my friends, is a tale as old as time, and it just works.

In regards to the writing itself, I think it was very well done. It could be considered a little choppy, but that seemed to work with the story. I find myself a lover of flowery wording... I prefer prose that borders on poetry, and this book certainly wasn't filled with that. But the plotting was well done, and there were some twists that I didn't see coming, for certain. It was surprisingly graphic, which added a touch of realism and horror that was great for the book.

In all, by the time I finished the thing I was looking for the second one to buy right away. I was bummed to discover that not only does the second one not come out until October (bummer!), but this is Susan Ee's first book. What? How has she not written anything else? Are you ready for this?

Angelfall was rejected by too many agents/publishers that Ee decided to self publish this beauty. WHAT!? How did anyone pass this puppy up? I hope they are kicking themselves in their little tushies because Ee is now making a considerable percentage of her profits because she decided to go the self-publishing route. And I'm thankful for that, because then we wouldn't have this wonderful story to enjoy!

On a side note, this certainly gives struggling writers (hello!? me!) some hope. If my agent/publishing house dreams don't pan out, I can always self publish and tell all those naysayers to shove it!

Just kidding. (sort of).
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And there it is...

The thing that every writer dreads will come has finally caught up to me. After two weeks of dread about submitting my queries and only hearing two positive requests (partials! eep!) I finally received a rejection. And this was from one of the agents who loved my query last year! She said her door was always open to future queries, and I had big hopes for that one. Alas, my dreams with her were not to be. I'm struggling with this ridiculous waiting game. I feel like a guy on a fifth date and I know if someone would just let me into their bed it would be fabulous! But I keep getting cockblocked at the door.

Ok so maybe that analogy is not the most eloquent, but it's the truth!

So what's my plan now? Well I talked to some writer friends and have established a query plan that goes something like I send out a new query for every rejection I receive. That means I have to pick a new agent today... currently I have 15 out there floating around and only three have actually responded so far. I wonder if I'll hear back from all of them eventually.

So the rest of my day will consist of starting my new manuscript (holy hell, am I there already?!!?), sending out a new query, and scrubbing the crap out of my kitchen floor that has some Godforsaken stain on it from the adorable rug I bought from Pier One. Any ideas for that? I thought not.

Fighting the writer blues.
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It's hard not to get excited...

I hope I'm not alone when I say that I am hard pressed not to get really excited when I receive requests for my manuscript. I have to admit, my last book felt like an exploration into the writing world. I learned how hard it was to actually finish an entire novel and how to discipline myself to write every day to finish it. But I will be the first to admit that I didn't know much about plot development or characterization. Sure, I can write. I've always been good at that. But I wrote that first book without any idea of where it was going in reality.

I never understood how authors could say 'I let the characters take me through their story.' How can they do that? You created them, you ninny! But with this second book, I really honed my craft. I studied and read and read and studied before I attempted to do another one. I really knew my characters as people before I decided they were perfect for one another and crafting something that would throw them together. And in doing that, I was able to understand that the characters CAN take you on their journey.

And so I'm happy that this second time around I'm getting a little more of a positive response from the agent world. Queries are awful and hard and difficult, but when they ask to see a little more, you just can't help wanting to jump up and down. You are validated! Your idea, at least, doesn't suck!

Now to start that waiting game where they decide if your writing is crap. I think I'll send up a prayer to sweet baby Jesus to keep his eye out for my work. Like Jesus reads romance novels.
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The Iron King - Iron Fey Series

So today's review comes from a book I read a while ago, but I'm currently in the middle of the second book in the series. I read The Iron King by Julie Kagawa about two months ago...

Cover Beauty Score: 8 out of 10
Good Reads Stars: 3 out of 5

Plot Blurb: Follows the story of a girl, Meghan Chase, who is bored with her life (and honestly I found her life in the beginning pretty boring) and she has plans of her job for the summer and all sorts of craziness. She lives far away from school and isn't very popular, she really only has one friend named Robbie who is a little weird. Long story short, she comes home one day and her little brother, who she loves, has been replaced by a changeling. Her friend Robbie reveals he's really from the fairy kingdom and is in fact Puck from Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream and he's been charged by Oberon (king of the seelie court of the fairies) to protect her. Turns out she's the daughter of a fairy king! So she goes there trying to find her brother but then realizes there's something huge that's attacking the fairy kingdom and it has kidnapped her brother too! Adventure ensures... yadda yadda yadda.... Oh yeah, and there's a hot prince that helps/is a dick to her along the way.

My reaction: I honestly wasn't blown away by this story... The beginning was really slow, so much so that I almost put it down. But after she got to the land of the fairies, things sort of picked up. I love that Kagawa is true to the maliciousness of the fairies, because that's how they really are in legend. She's obviously done a lot of work on this to make it realistic (yes, in my world, fairies are realistic). Once we meet Ash, the unseelie court prince, it starts to pick up a bit. I never really liked Puck, he seemed fake.

So I made my way through Meghan's story and it really had a lot going for it by the end. The plot was very imaginative and I really enjoyed the idea as a fantasy enthusiast. I like that Meghan really became a sort of kick ass chick and saved the world and all that, and the chemistry between her and Ash was well done. But by the end, I have to admit that I was resolved it wasn't good enough to read the rest of the series.

But then I read a review from a guy that had similar tastes as me who said this series was his absolute favorite. What had I missed? Which is why I am now in the middle of The Iron Daughter (#2 in the series) and it is fabulous so far. I don't know what happened, but Kagawa suddenly understands her characters much better!

So should you read it? Definitely! As I said, push through the beginning and it redeems itself. Besides, you need to get through this one to get to the awesomeness of the second book!

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Query Away...

Queries are an interesting thing. I feel like there is no real 'correct' way to go about writing them, and yet every agent has a special way they like it submitted. In general, my method is to write the body that introduces the reader to the story... then I'll go in and add personal details pertaining to the agent in particular that I'm querying. I thought I'd provide a few rules that I find helpful when I go about the process:

Rule #1
Always always ALWAYS make it personal. Some agents may skim over your words, but always make an effort to speak to their heart. Research the person, see who they represent... add that into your query! I once received the nicest rejection with some great advice and she mentioned that it was my lovely query that intrigued her to respond in the first place. So is IS worth it!

Rule #2
Don't go longer than one page of Times New Roman 12 pt font. I've heard some people say the query should be as short as 200 words, but I honestly don't see how that can happen. I generally aim for a page or under, which ends up being around 600-1000 words. You don't want them to look at the letter/email and be all 'there's no way I'm reading that.'

Rule #3
Remember the structure- One small paragraph with salutations and on the basics of the book (word count, genre, title). Two or three paragraphs describing the book (GET THAT INCITING INCIDENT IN THERE!). One paragraph about your individual accomplishments (awards, school, anything that makes you stand out) and a little polite groveling.

So it's finally that time... I've come to the end of my second manuscript and finished editing and am now ready to send out my queries! Why is this always so scary? In today's world, self-publishing is making headway with crazy speed so even if I get rejected and rejected and rejected I feel like I can stick it to them by becoming famous with my self-published masterpiece!

But I have to say that would be a big step. Part of getting approved by an agent and eventually a publisher is the validation of the entire thing. But why do we, as writers, torture ourselves with the rejection? It's widely known that everyone has different tastes and God knows how many times I've heard that JK Rowling was rejected a bajillion times until she was living on the streets with only the rats and her children for comfort. Seriously though... How many times can you take rejection without having your heart ripped out?

But onward and upward! I have finished my query for my second book in record time, only revising it about a hundred times. So with my head held high I sojourn on into the wide blue yonder... praying that someone will find my story as beautiful as I think it is!

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Mortal Instruments City of Bones

Blurb on plot: Clary, the leading lady, witnesses what she thinks is a murder in a club in New York City where she lives with her mother. Her dad died when she was little (or did he?) and her mother is way overprotective. She essentially figures out that what she witnessed was these other hot youngsters killing a demon. In fact, because she can see them she finds out that she is a demon hunter as well. Her mom gets kidnapped and there are some demon fights and obviously she falls in love with the guy that does the killing, leaving her best friend (who happens to be a nerdy guy) to pout frequently.  

Review: My first reaction to this book is meh. I know that we have to have these things to keep young adult audiences happy, but is it too much to ask for a writer that really stands out? Don't get me wrong, this is a great idea for a story! The plot was well thought out, except I felt like the ending was a little too quickly resolved. I worry sometimes that all editors are looking for is a crazy idea and the writing be damned. I have to admit that I struggled through some parts... I mean come on! I couldn't help it! And don't even get me started on the female teen protagonist that has to have a best friend that's a guy. What girl do you know of that only has one friend that's a guy? Yeah. Nobody. I swear, it's like the fifteenth YA book I've read with this element. I'm sorry, but any girl that has a best friend who is a guy is thinking about him in a romantic sense. It would never be the other way around. I think I would have just liked to see Clary kick a little more ass. I like my leading ladies in my YA fantasies to have some major butt-kicking power stored up in them. Jace just kept saving her over and over.
 ***SPOILER*** And I think the element of the incest thing was just too much. I don't care what happens in the other books... I just will never get past the fact that at one point they thought they were brother and sister and were still all over each other. Bleh. And they would never get past it either. Just saying.

So should you read it? Overall do I think it's worth taking a look at? Sure! It was entertaining, if only to see if Clary would eventually grow a back bone. Besides, don't you want to be able to say you know what it was all about when you see the movie? You know you do!
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The beginning of a beautiful adventure...

So this is it, then. The beginning of my trek down the road of book reviews and writing about writing! I'm excited to get started and interested to see where this goes. Hopefully I will have enough discipline to keep this up to date as well as my own manuscripts... but we know that in order to write one must write. And write and write and write and write! I hope that I can give some great reviews that people will enjoy as well as some good info about writing in general, as I'm new to trying to get published and my journey can give people insight that I'm looking for right now someday. Well then... allonsy! ;-) Jess
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