Princess of Thorns

by Stacey Jay

Cover Beauty Score: 4 out of 10
Goodreads Score: 5 out of 5

Plot Blurb: Sleeping Beauty's happily ever after never really came about and she sacrifices herself so her daughter, Aurora, can escape their kingdom which has been taken over by evil soul sucking ogres. Ten years later, Aurora becomes a warrior and a hero in her own right as she travels across the lands, trying to raise an army to save her brother from the evil ogre prophecy. Along the way, she enlists the aid of a Swan Prince that has a few problems of his own, pretending to be a boy to help her win the support of those she meets - because who would follow a woman into war?

My Reaction: This book was fabulous! I fell in love with Jay's writing when I read Of Beast and Beauty (read that review here), and I can't believe I forgot how amazing it is. Seriously, this book blew me out of the water and it was freaking awesome! The beauty of the writing along with a nearly flawless storyline makes it hop right up into my top ten favorite book list quite easily.

The thing I like most about Jay's writing is the dark beauty of it - her ability to create a poetic type of prose that captivates a semantic junkie like myself all while weaving a dark fairy tale style with a modern young adult flair... it is the kind of book I would love to be able to write someday. Just take a look at this:

Beyond the city the feeding hills loom like giants... They are monsters in dusty white hats, dressed in humorless gray robes of evergreen trees.

or this:

"And if you neither care for her nor lust after her... then you'll look straight past her. Like a shadow on the ground."

or this

I remember pulling away to watch the spark to fade from his eyes, sucked away like smoke up a chimney after the fire is put out, leaving nothing but an empty hearth, waiting for me to fill it.

This book is filled with gems of imagery and breathtaking descriptions - so much that the book securely stands out in your mind and the world building is executed perfectly. I've heard that some reviews say this book is slow - although I think that opinion is born from a lack of appreciation of her descriptions.

That's not to say the dialogue isn't superb, because it is! In this book especially, Aurora and Niklaas really bounce off each other perfectly. The speech is witty and bouncy and flows through your mind as eloquently as if you were watching it on screen. The combination of it all makes it one superb example of a great Young Adult novel.

And getting to the plot - I'm usually a pretty harsh judge on this kind of thing, but there was seriously little, if anything, that I would change. The characters were well developed and both changed greatly from beginning to end. I read a review that mentioned Jay went into too much detail of minor characters... um... what? It was pretty much perfect in my mind. The romance between Aurora and Niklaas was freaking fabulous and their characters were perfectly matched - they had chemistry out the roof! I waited in anticipation for each quarrel they would have, eager to see what they would yell at each other about next.

And no one has really ever done a bad job at the whole "I'm a girl pretending to be a boy for my safety (or some other such craziness) and I've fallen in love with a guy that thinks I'm just his best friend." I mean... there's a reason Shakespeare wrote it first - that is an excellent plot to go with! The anticipation of Niklaas discovering the truth gives you a bundle of tension that carries their love story through and gives you a great deal of conflict for the reveal.

That being said, Princess of Thorns has a decidedly open feminist message. And usually I HATE those, because they're always too forceful or angry - but this was beautiful. It was an eye opener and made me think about the subject instead of just getting pissed off at the author for injecting a political undertone in the story. I haven't seen such a graceful approach to the topic of a woman that's a hero without apologizing for it since Buffy. That, Stacey Jay, is a serious compliment. I just compared you to Joss Whedon.

The only tiny wee itty bitty little thing I might suggest could have been different is to have seen the resolution of Ekeeta's story. When things converge at the end and the shit hits the fan, we never are really given a glimpse into her personal resolution of her side of things, which feels a little off kilter since the reader is seeing things through her pov for a portion of the book. I feel like it might have been there at one point, but then was cut? Anyways, it would have helped dramatically in tidying up the loose ends. The theme of forgiveness was powerful, and I feel this would have only made it more so.

All in all, I could write about this book for days on end. It was amazing and a great piece of fiction that I'm so proud to have on my shelves. After talking about it practically nonstop over my Christmas vacation, I'm sure my family will be glad that I finally finished it and can now shut up about it. But you, dear reader... if you haven't read it yet? Go and get a copy now! What are you waiting for?!
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Stitching Snow

by R.C. Lewis

Cover Beauty Score: 10 out of 10
Goodreads Score: 3 out of 5

Plot Blurb: Essie is a girl that lives on a frozen mining planet, helping the locals with their productivity by engineering 7 mining drones that have far superior intelligence than any other AI that has been created so far. After a ship crash lands on the planet, Essie must hide her identity from the all too attractive Dane - a guy with his own secrets that came to the frozen mining planet from his own wealthy one in search of something secretive. Essie helps repair the ship, and ultimately starts a chain of events that will force her out of hiding and back into the forefront of a war that has ravaged the neighboring planets for years. Think Snow White in space.

My Reaction: Dang, that cover is beautiful. I mean really. Look at it! The digital format doesn't do it justice... I mean when I picked this puppy up in the book store my eyes were salivating! All that swirly feminine circuit board detailing is embossed and shiny and beautiful. Seriously, the most creative and pretty cover I've seen lately. I think it's my first 10/10 cover beauty score.

I thought I was going to fall in love with this one! I really did!!! After becoming a tad obsessed with the Lunar Chronicles, I thought for sure that I had found another winner. I mean, classic fairy tale reset in space? And it seemed darker and more serious, so I thought I could really get into and enjoy it. Which I did, to a certain point.

First, can we address how closely this plot resembles the Lunar Chronicles? (If you haven't read my reviews on those books, you can do so by clicking here). At first, I thought that this was an older book, and that Cinder had gotten all of its ideas from here. But low and behold, this book JUST came out! Like in Oct 2014 - which of course means that it had to rip off Cinder! I mean. Lost princess. Body hopping. Tomboy girl technician. Space. How close does a book have to get to another to be considered plagiarism? Because this one has to seriously be skirting the line...

Anyways, on to the substance! I really liked Essie's character. I loved her spunk and her gumption - her rough and tough attitude on her frozen planet was awesome. And she held her own in the ring with the big ol' miners. She isn't afraid to take a hit. I like that. So the story gets off the ground and as soon as Dane shows up, it really starts rolling. They have a bit of a dud meeting, but golly, as soon as he flips the tables on her, their chemistry ignites. I can really see how these characters mesh well.

The story was great - I loved the characterization and the plot was well decided upon. But ultimately, this book fell flat because of its inability to tie up its loose ends. There were so many story arches here that were never given enough time or attention. Lewis just wasn't able to follow through with her promises in terms of the emotional grab here. Not to go into too much detail, but to name a couple, Essie's relationship with her father and her coveted ability to program emotional AI were just kind of brought up and dropped. So much more could have been done here! It was one of those books that I wish I could have gotten my hands on. If Lewis had just given herself more room to expand on these plots and themes and characters... it would have been fabulous. Instead, it felt that by the end of the book, she just wanted to throw it all out there and get it over with, leaving the reader with a sinking "that's it?" feeling.

Ultimately this book has a great story to start and hits you with an intriguing bang - only to fizzle out with a sad little hiss by the end. Try it, if you'd like - at least it will look gorgeous sitting on my book shelf. ;-)
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Democracy is in you!

So I know this doesn't have anything to do with books or writing or anything, but I've been awfully neglectful lately and wanted to write about something that matters. I sincerely hope that you voted on election day. If you didn't, that's ok... you have a right to NOT vote just as much as you have a right TO vote. But I sincerely hope that you'll think about going out to the polls next time.

It has long been my theory that democracy is an entity that can only exist if the people themselves have faith in its ability to work. That is, if we lose faith in the power of the system, then it will actually begin to lose power. It's kind of like Santa Claus. Belief is the most important aspect to maintain a functioning democracy! We are one of the few countries in the world that if we see something that needs to be changed in our government, with hard work and dedication, it TRULY can be changed! I'm talking about you... sitting right there reading this. If you really truly believe that something needs to change in this country, then you have the ability and the fundamental right to go out there and make it happen.

Now, please don't misunderstand me. Things don't just change because you think they should. It takes a lot of time and dedication and extremely hard work, but trust me... you can completely make a difference if you put your mind to it. This country isn't, nor has it ever been, about instant gratification. That type of mentality is for monarchs and caste systems. I worry that our selfishness will lead us towards that someday.

Giving power to the government and allowing them to force selflessness is wrong. Plain and simple.

We have to believe in the fundamental goodness of humanity and encourage self regulated selflessness. That can only come from a common belief in the same system.

So hop back on that wagon! Understand what a great country this is and how you can change it, because it won't work until you do. Perhaps the only way to get back to that degree of faith is to put us through the tribulations of a different government. I can only hope that I never live to see that!

Get your butt out there and stand in a picket line, sign a petition, fill out a ballot... anything to show the rest of the world that you believe!

p.s. I promise I'm working on a book to review ;-)
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by Veronica Roth

Cover Beauty Score: 6 out of 10
Goodreads Score: 4 out of 5

Plot Blurb: In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue--Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). When they turn 16, every member must choose which faction they wish to live in based on a personality test that tells them which way they lean. Beatrice makes a crazy choice and chooses Dauntless - leaving her family behind in Abnegation.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows in the toughest faction, Beatrice renames herself Tris has to undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. She also meets Four, the brooding instructor of her initiate class that gets pretty cozy with her by the end. But Tris also has a secret - her test results didn't show just one personality trait, classifying her as divergent. With Four's help, Tris learns that there are some in their society seeking out the divergent - and that things could be a lot more complicated than they appear.

My Reaction: I really didn't mind this book. The writing wasn't horrible - but it wasn't great, either. It didn't blow me away, but I didn't want to kill myself by the time I got through one page of it. It's a pretty easy read, with a unique concept. I've heard some people compare this book to Hunger Games, and it's really not. The only similar quality is that it's dystopian, but that's where the similarities end.

Tris' character is unique - she seems very real and has flaws, but is also pretty likable (unlike Katniss, who I felt was a grade A bitch). Tris makes a decision to leave everything she's ever known to seek out who she believes she is. We see her start as a pretty weak person, both physically and emotionally, and the initiation in Dauntless helps make her a stronger person. It's like it unlocks who she was meant to be.

There are some pretty great scenes with Four - he's a character that is a great contrast to Tris. And I'll say again how freaking relieved I am to have a book that isn't centered around a love triangle! Roth was really able to focus on Tris and her own maturation as a character instead of constantly freaking out about which boy to kiss. Because if we're being real, Four is pretty much the only dude I'd want to be kissing anyways. He's strong beside Tris, not behind or in front of her. It was a lovely little romance thrown in there.

By the time the revolution bits start happening and then up until the end of the book, I was a little disappointed. I felt like there could have been much more. And the climax was a bit rushed. But I suppose that is because Roth has a whole series arch in mind (which honestly can hurt a book more than it helps, imho). But overall it's a good read - not incredibly stellar, though.

But what about the movie? you ask! Honestly, I love the movie so much more than the book. Roth's bland writing style turned me off from really connecting to the characters. Everybody who knows me knows I have an insane girl crush on Shailene Woodley. The girl is so real and down to earth, not to mention a kick butt actress! She really made me connect with Tris in a way that the books failed to do. Going back to read the book after seeing the movie makes me like it about 1000 times more. And I really think they did an elegant job of translating it to screen. The part with her mom - man that got me to cry in the theatre.

So - final consensus? You should probably read this one - but it might help to watch the movie first.
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by Lauren Kate

Cover Beauty Score: 5 out of 10
Goodreads Score: 2 out of 5

Plot Blurb: We follow the cryptic story of a teenage girl named Lucinda, who gets sent to a reform boarding school after she is involved in an awful accident in her old prep school. When she gets to her new prison, er, I mean, school, she meets a boy named Daniel whom she is inexplicably drawn to. Unfortunately, he wants nothing to do with her whatsoever. Lucinda has to figure out who Daniel is, and why he knows so much about her - not to mention the weird vibe that the rest of the students give her at Sword & Cross...

My Reaction: I expected to like this one, but alas... it seems more often than not I'm disappointed in the world of YA Literature. At least when I choose a book from the best seller list. I heard this one is being made into a movie, and it seems to pop up in my face everywhere I look these days, so I wanted to give it a shot. Ultimately, I'm depressed that I stuck through to finish the whole thing, hoping (beyond hope, it seems) that it would pick up somewhere in the middle. And then by the time you get 3/4 of the way through, you might as well finish it.

This book felt very much like 50 Shades of Gray to me. Deplorable writing fit for an elementary school reading level and a plot that wheezes out by about page 10 or so. And there was such potential for a good story, here! 5th grade writing aside, there was literally nowhere for the plot to go. I feel like Kate was so focused on creating a story to arch across multiple books that she neglected this one. We literally learn nothing by the end of this book that we didn't know by reading the back cover. Like. Don't insult your reader, please.

Why would I read a book in which nothing happens? Apparently I did anyways.

None of the characters experience any growth, as a matter of fact, we don't even really get to meet the characters at all. I felt like the climax of this story should have been the opening hook... instead we get a long drawn out fiasco of epic proportions and cryptic snakes and weird visions and lots of teenage boys dying. It's no fun if I literally know what the big secret is - if I know what the climax will bring - just by reading the back of the book. Plotting 101 - keep your reader guessing.

And let's not even get started on Daniel... so he's good looking, but that just doesn't make the reader want to swoon over him. He's a grade A asshole, selfish weirdo. So your gf dies when you kiss her. Here's a tip... put it back in your pants and just let her live without jumping her bones! There was no chemistry between them whatsoever.

And that painfully awful scene where they swim to the rock? I was having horrible flashbacks of those stupid Lux books running through my head.

In summary, this book stinks. If you like it, please consider reevaluating your priorities in life, and go take a class on plot/character development.

Here's one that we can only hope will be slaughtered by the movie execs to make a decent motion picture. Because that's the only way it will ever make it in Hollywood.
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These Broken Stars

by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Cover Beauty Score: 9 out of 10
Goodreads Score: 3 out of 5

Plot Blurb: This story follows the two protagonists - Tarver and Lilac - as they are stranded on an alien planet after their spaceship (think of a cruise liner in space) is torn from its hyperspace progression. Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the galaxy, a man who also happened to own the spaceship that crash landed his daughter, while Tarver is a lowly war hero. Their paths cross only as a result of Tarver's recent shoot to fame, and it's nearly hate at first sight. Needless to say, being the last two humans alive on a planet and trying to survive and find a way to be rescued is only one of their issues.

My Reaction: I was so excited for this book. I really was! That cover is freaking gorgeous, despite the fact that I usually veer away from books with people on their covers (I think it detracts from my imagination of the characters). The premise seemed genius, and the reviews that existed were stellar!

And although I'm sure you're waiting for a scathing review, it really wasn't horrible. The writing was very well done, and that really is saying something. I think I'm a super picky judge when it comes to prose critiques, and these ladies did a fabulous job. There were moments in this book that were so eerie and creepy that tears came to my eyes... and that is excellent writing! I have never been really 'scared' by things happening in a book, and this was superbly creepy.

So as I sit here writing this review, I'm digesting my reaction and trying to figure out what didn't work for me. I really respect that these characters were very well thought out and they were certainly complex. But did they have a sufficient amount of chemistry? I don't think they really did, for me. I think the element where Lilac was only trying to protect Tarver by making him hate her struck a sour chord somewhere... it would have been much more satisfying had they truly hated each other at the beginning. We could have seen Lilac really change throughout her trials and tribulations. She certainly came to terms with her own strength, but her true element never changed. She was honorable in the beginning and she ended honorable.

Tarver, on the other hand, did make a big change. He went from being selfish (in the sense that he only thought of his own family and his wants and needs), to being willing to give up the things he holds dearest to be with Lilac.

And the whole aspect that she was a copy was too weird for me. I kept hoping beyond hope that she would have merged with her old self and brought that story line to a close, but it never happened. It just left things too unsettled for my tastes. How could he love something that was only a copy? I don't think that human nature would allow us to forget that. Props for making me think about some serious topics and digest that story line... but not what I was expecting at all, and certainly not what I wanted for the characters.

Ultimately, I picked up this book hoping for some awesome space adventures (which only about 15% of the book actually takes place in space - the rest is a basic survival deal) and funny bantering between a spoiled princess and a hardened soldier. That was most certainly not what I received.

This book left me feeling like I had just watched Prometheus... weirded out by the concept of thinking about what makes us human, a little sick from the constant suspense, and disappointed at the lack of humor. Read at your own risk!
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7 Point Plot Structure

So I was introduced to a fabulous structure method this past week. It has been widely circulated by Dan Wells, a murder/mystery writer, and he has a fabulous youtube playlist where he outlines the general theory and gives plenty of examples - but I'm going to describe it as briefly as I can. And hopefully you'll get the gist and be able to refer to it. (And you can bet I'll pull this up when I get stuck.)

So the 7 Point Plot Structure is relatively simple for the overarching storyline of the story. It goes as follows:

Hook - this is where the story begins, it's what your characters start out as or the situation they're in or the actions that are happening at that moment
Plot Turn 1 - the part that forces the character or action to move forward
Pinch 1 - where something serious happens that really puts pressure on the character to fall irrevocably into the arch of the story
Midpoint - the point of no return, where the character makes that conscious decision to change or move forward on their own (this is where we transition from the Hook to the Resolution)
Pinch 2 - the point where the story really dips and something extreme happens (the mentor is lost, the friends disappear, the protag is left alone and in dire straights)
Plot Turn 2 - this is where the story reveals the tools or secrets needed to triumph (the power is in you!! the climax of the arc)
Resolution - the story has concluded and we find ourselves in an opposite state from the initial Hook

There. Simple enough for ya? Now hold onto your hats, folks, because this is where it gets a little bit awesome. You have to have many different plots in one story - all the best ones do! There are character development plots, action timeline plots, romance plots, betrayal plots, friendship plots... this list goes on and on! To REALLY make your story pop, you take all of these 7 points in each plot an weave them together into a complex tapestry of awesome novel.

I've been working on my new idea this way... and it's pretty awesome to have a grasp on it like that. I don't know how anyone could go about writing a novel without knowing, at least a little bit, where they intend to go. It's amazing to me that some authors actually do that.

Armed with my tools, I feel ready to conquer this fabulous idea that's been rolling around in my head for the past month or so! I am SO ready for NaNoWritMo... one book in a month? Bring it on!!
Oh, and if you want to watch Dan Wells' in depth presentation on the 7 points, you can watch it below! He does some great examples to really help you grasp it. From Harry Potter and Game of Thrones to The Matrix, Star Wars, and even Pride and Prejudice... he drives the theory home! And to make sure I really got the concept, I took a few other stories and movies myself and applied the 7 point structure (of course I threw in some Heroic Journey here and there). Enjoy!

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Sticker Contest Success!

So I guess I can officially call myself a "Lunartic" now (the term used for those fans of the Lunar Chronicles). After finishing up the three books in that series, I was doing a little googling on the characters and the author, Marissa Meyer. This is something I regularly do when I find a fabulous author that I admire... I like to see what their story is and how they got around to doing so well!

Upon reading her most recent blog post, I saw she was hosting a graphic design "sticker contest" for the series... Well what would a graphic designer like me do in this situation? Of course I spent an hour putting together a little sticker option because, let's be honest, it was a fun idea! Now of course I realized I'd probably be competing with tweens and teenagers and that it would be pretty embarrassing if mine sucked. BUT! I DID IT ANYWAY!

And low and behold if I didn't place with the finalists, and received a nice email from Marissa Meyer herself complementing my design and letting me know I have a goodie bag coming my way soon. So all in all I think it was a pretty successful venture... :-) This was my sticker design to the right!

And admittedly I need to write more than I need to design stickers for other people's books... but this was just some good fun! You need that every once in a while... right?
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Day Job Blues

Been working all day but just wanna go home and write!! That inspiration is a beautiful beautiful thing...

Designing logos and websites can get exhausting fast...

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Currently reading...

So I checked out Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater this week to get started on. Probably because the cover is pretty and I keep seeing it anywhere. Against my better judgment, because this book has some pretty stellar crappy reviews on Goodreads. But what the hell! I'm gonna throw caution to the wind and try it out...

Despite this review that was freaking HILARIOUS!!:

A brief synopsis.

I'm staring at you, I'm a wolf.
Oh wait I got shot, now I'm a boy.
I love you.
Here's a poem.
Oh look you're crying.
Let's go to sleep.
Stay on your side of the bed.

I mean, honestly... this just makes me want to read the book so I can make fun of it. 

But in all seriousness, I've been known to love books that tons of people hate on. So bring it on, Shiver!  
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Of Beast and Beauty

by Stacey Jay

Cover Beauty Score: 8 out of 10
Goodreads Score: 4 out of 5

Plot Blurb: Isra is the blind princess of a city on another planet that is magically protected against the harsh desert lands and mutating influences of the rough environment. The people that live outside the safety of the city walls are called Monstrous, with animal-like features and seemingly savage ways. When the city captures one of the Monstrous, named Gem, Isra reluctantly becomes friends with him and learns that perhaps everything she's been brought up to believe is wrong. Together they unearth the secrets of their world and as Isra regains her sight, she begins to truly see things as they are for the first time in her life.

My Reaction:Wow, that was some fabulous writing! And I'm talking really fabulous writing!! Every time I open a book and get that type of talent, I'm blown away. You go through all of these books, YA book especially, and you think that nothing good will ever come your way and all of these authors are just sitting on their asses fan-ficitoning their way to the top. Then someone like Stacey Jay comes along and restores your faith in literature. Just read this bit:

The though of being with a man I didn't desire was disturbing before I knew what desire felt like, but now the notion sickens me. Soft hands on my skin, instead of Gem's rough fingertips. Thin lips on mine, instead of Gem's full mouth. My name whispered silkily in my ear, instead of growled against my throat.

I mean... doesn't that just give you goosebumps?! Her poetic imagery is captivating and helps establish a beautiful world.

That being said... why did I give the book a 4? Well, there was something I couldn't quite put my finger on. The characters were harsh and real and well developed... but the ending felt a tad bit rushed. I know that the ending is the hardest bit to get right... and this just felt forced in some way. Ultimately, this book would have made a fabulous 2-parter instead of a stand alone. There was so much more that could have wrapped up the story.

I wanted to see Isra take her rightful place as ruler. I wanted her to lead her people once she broke the curse. I wanted her to run into the desert with Gem and have her experience what it's like to be hated because of who she was. And to do it anyways because she wanted to be with Gem.

The ending was happy in a sad way and it all wrapped up in the space of a few pages. I just feel like with all that complex character building, they weren't given enough justice at the end. They struggle and struggle and get about two seconds of limelight - most of which we don't even get to see. The whole bit where we don't even get to know what's going on with Gem just didn't sit well. I felt like there was something left out.

But ultimately you still need to read this book. It's amazing writing and the story is a wonderful fairytale in the sense that it is dark and scary and wonderful all at the same time. It's Beauty and the Beast in a backwards, twisted kind of way that will make you glad you decided to pick up a copy.

You may not think you'll find snake scales on a dude sexy... but damn if they weren't. That, folks, is called good writing.

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Across a Star-Swept Sea

by Diana Peterfreund

Cover Beauty Score: 7 out of 10
Goodreads Score: 3 out of 5

Plot Blurb: A stand alone novel that connects with the first book in this world, For Darkness Shows the Stars (read that review here), Across a Star-Swept Sea is a futuristic dystopian retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel. We follow the story of Persis Blake, a rich aristocrat that has reduced blood. Like in the first book, the entire world was reduced (made mentally handicapped) after messing around with their genetics too much. On the islands of Galatea and Albion, they have developed a cure for the reduction. Of course this leads the newly cured generations to rise up against the aristocrats that have lorded over them since the original reduction occurred.  But really, they're out for revenge and are forcefully reducing the aristocrats left and right - in comes Persis who sneaks the aristocrats to safety in disguise. In her everyday life she's a vapid, air headed lady of the court. She runs into Justen Helo, a scientist from the revolutionary's side that now wants to repent and mend the things he's done in the fight. This looks like a recipe for intrigue!

My Reaction: I have to say that this book was very cute! Persis was a kick ass character that knew her shit and didn't let anyone tell her what for. I mean, who isn't going to like a character that pretends to be stupid so she can rescue refugees in the midst of the night?

That being said, I didn't really dig Justen Helo. He was a bit of pansy. Sure, he was a scientist that could probably fix the issues that was going on, but in my humble opinion, I didn't feel like he meshed well with Persis. She needed somebody to stand with her on even footing, and he was just... not that guy. I don't think that a girl that is confident in her own belief of right and wrong would be able to stand a dude that gets pushed around by his uncle into doing morally bad things. I mean... his little sister had more gumption than him!

I loved the island vibe of this book! Obviously I was imagining Hawaii or some other South Pacific location as I read... I would kill to be able to go to the Blake family home! And the star cove? How beautifull that was described! Not dissimilar to the glow worm cave in the first book... very magical and appropriate for a little romantic interlude.

Not that there was much. Romantic interluding, I mean. Again, I just with Peterfreund would give us a little more action! Even though I have to say that this one was better than the first...  that Persis knows what she's doing in a way that Eliot never will!

So overall reaction? Well, I finished reading it, so that must be a good sign. If I hate a book, I stop. I guess the chemistry between the two characters could have been better for me and that's the only reason I gave it a 3 instead of a 4. Ultimately, Peterfreund is such a good writer that she carried the book even though the plot was a bit "meh" and the romance was kind of "blah." But who knows... it might be right up your alley! I would definitely recommend trying it out! :-)
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So in my endless journey preparing myself for my next book, I remembered this little weird word I'd been seeing everywhere on blogs and social media feeds. So what, my dear friends, is NaNoWriMo? I'm not gonna lie; it took me about five long and very strangely worded searched on Google to find this little gem and get the name right. It stands for National Novel Writing Month (why they couldn't have just used NNWM is beyond me, but I guess that nanowrimo is fun to say?).

But I digress. Essentially, you make a profile on the site and it acts as a little support system for you to finish a novel (with a goal of 50,000 words) during the month of November.

I think that this year I'm going to try my hand at this thing. I mean, 50,000 words is rather short in my estimation. I personally think that a satisfying story lies somewhere in the realm of 80k-90k words, unless you're Hemingway or Fitzgerald and can write the next great American novel. Which, let's be honest, isn't going to happen in a month of writing.

But I DO believe that in a month of writing a 50k word book you could make some real progress. It's more about having the drive and supporting yourself and believing that you can do it and get that huge hunk of writing out there. Because let's be honest, folks... nothing is as satisfying as seeing a huge hunk of words that you poured out and shaped into a story. Even if it's unpublished... it feels pretty fucking great.

So if you're struggling to get there, think about hopping over to NaNoWriMo and checking it out. If nothing else, reading the "pep talks" from your favorite authors should be able to cheer you up. Just check out this little blip from one of my faves, Neil Gaiman:

The last novel I wrote (it was ANANSI BOYS, in case you were wondering) when I got three-quarters of the way through I called my agent. I told her how stupid I felt writing something no-one would ever want to read, how thin the characters were, how pointless the plot. I strongly suggested that I was ready to abandon this book and write something else instead, or perhaps I could abandon the book and take up a new life as a landscape gardener, bank-robber, short-order cook or marine biologist. And instead of sympathising or agreeing with me, or blasting me forward with a wave of enthusiasm—or even arguing with me—she simply said, suspiciously cheerfully, “Oh, you’re at that part of the book, are you?”

I was shocked. “You mean I’ve done this before?”

“You don’t remember?”

“Not really.”

“Oh yes,” she said. “You do this every time you write a novel. But so do all my other clients.”

I didn’t even get to feel unique in my despair.

If that right there doesn't make you feel better about the shit you're writing right now, I don't know what will!! Excuse me while I go and re-evaluate that piece of crap I started a few months ago...
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Judging Contest Entries

So I've been putting off judging the 15 entries that I signed up to judge for the contest my RWA chapter hosts and that's probably not a good choice to have made. I know that 15 doesn't seem like a lot of contest entries to judge, but at 30 typed pages a pop I'm looking at 150 fully typed pages to read and critique. That's in size 12 font, people!! I feel like curling up in a ball and crying. Don't get me wrong, I love seeing how many other people have great ideas that they are trying to get out there. But I'm gonna be honest right now. For every 1 legitimately good entry I come across, there are about 6 bad ones. And it's terribly difficult to be nice to someone that can't write but hopes desperately that they can. Why do I have to be nice? Why can't I be the Simon Cowell of contest entry critiques? Brutal honesty only helps in the long run! So my big dilemma this evening is whether or not to put off the judging even longer... I did just start a new book (Across a Star-Swept Sea) that I would rather dive into. Decisions, decisions.
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by Marissa Meyer

Cover Beauty Score: 7 out of 10
Goodreads Score: 5 out of 5

Plot Blurb: Picking up where book 2 left off (Scarlet - read that review by clicking here), we get to finally follow the story of Cress, that charming little computer hacker from Cinder. A modern take on the Rapunzel tale, Cress has been kept in a satellite orbiting earth for 7 years, acting as the evil Lunar queen's go-to hacker and computer aficionado. Convincing the gang (lead by Cinder) to rescue her is simple until it all goes wrong. The crew has to get past the obstacles and figure out a way to stop the Royal Wedding before the Earth really becomes doomed by Queen Levana's rule.

My Reaction: So I just read that book in under 24 hours. Thankfully after enjoying Scarlet so much, I was prepared to be in love with this one. And it didn't disappoint! Cress was an adorable character with a lot of gumption of her own, despite her sheltered existence and rather sheepish personality. You root for Cress from page one and just thinking about her hooking up with the vain and in-your-face Thorne has me grinning from ear to ear. I just knew from the idea itself that this was a match made in entertainment heaven.

I'm amazed at Meyer's ability to really create unique characters. I mean, these women are all their own individuals interacting with their own partners and each other with a talent of writing that I haven't seen in a while. I think it's difficult to establish these real, likeable people and have them all be so different at the same time.

Cress and Thorne. I mean, I can't even describe the smiles I got from these two. I have enjoyed Thorne's easy banter and humor from the first time I read his lines, and boy do they work playing off of Cress' sentimentality and naive eagerness. I'm sure I'm not the only one that was rooting for that "before death" kiss... I mean... is it hot in here? I think I need to go fan myself a bit...

And Scarlet! Poor Scarlet! WOLF!!! My two favorites have been thrown for a loop and it nearly breaks my heart! This bit right here:
She’s my alpha.
Like the star?
What star?
In a constellation, the brightest star is called the alpha. I thought maybe you meant that she’s…like…your brightest star.
Yes. Exactly like that.
I mean... it makes me want to cry all over again!!!! The feels!!

All plot details aside - I love the style of writing that Meyer uses. It's very theatrical, in the sense that it's almost like watching a movie. This is so difficult to accomplish in a readable way, but she kills at it! And I really think that dialogue makes or breaks a book... if she decides to quite novels, I think Meyer has a credible future in screenwriting. 

We finally get to see Cinder take up some responsibility in a real way, which is gratifying in and of itself. And she FINALLY gets back together with Kai. I mean, that is why I picked up book 2 even though I wasn't really into their relationship... I just wanted to see it through. And I'm so glad I did because I never would have found Scarlet and Cress.

Meyer has found her niche and I, for one, will by buying book 4 when it comes out next year.
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In the midst of Cress

Enjoying the third one in this series! Excited to review it soon!

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by Marissa Meyer

Cover Beauty Score: 10 out of 10
Goodreads Score: 5 out of 5

Plot Blurb: Picking up where book 1 left off (Cinder - read that review by clicking here), we are introduced to a girl named Scarlet Benoit who lives in France with her grandmother and farms vegetables. When her grandmother mysteriously disappears, Scarlet runs into a guy nicknamed "Wolf" that is pretty mysterious himself. When she finds out that he may have connections to her grandmother's kidnapping, she is forced to team up with him to follow the leads to find her, before it's too late. We also get to follow along with Cinder's story as she makes her way to find Scarlet's grandmother as well, who may have the key to her shrouded past.

My Reaction: Holy hell, where did that come from?! I mean, I enjoyed the first book well enough... obviously enough to pick up the second one. But I never even saw this little gem coming! Scarlet was a kick ass character... tough and independent in all the right ways without coming off as a bitch, which is a pretty tough thing to write, in my opinion. And Wolf blended perfectly with her... his brooding and mysterious nature mixed with the bit of danger he presented seemed like an excellent match for Scarlet. His gruff affection was swoon-worthy, and I can almost see how you could fall for him in the space of 24 hours.

But let's touch on the only shit thing about this book... a romance after a day? I mean... how much effort would it have taken to give him that job on the farm so she could fall for him over the space of a few weeks? Love at first sight stories make me want to vomit, so that should tell you how good the rest of this book was if I'm willing to skirt past this part as an afterthought. Hubba hubba, break me off a piece of any of those Lunar monsters... I like !!LOVE!! me some bad boy turned good!

And let's not forget the excellent pairing of Cinder and Thorne in this one... begrudgingly witty and snarky best friends? Yes, please! Thorne is a character that I really freaking enjoy. I felt like their adventure scenes were straight out of Firefly... the suave debonaire captain that is slightly less than morally driven (but really we know he's a good guy) is one of my favorite tropes! I'm super excited to follow him in the next book, because I'm sure it will be entertaining as hell!

The writing flowed well throughout the book, and I didn't find any slow parts. It was faster paced than the first one, sublimely more humorous, and contained a dark reality that I love to find in my fantasy sci-fi choices. I feel like Meyer just used Cinder as a jumping off point to catapault her into awesomeness with this one. Who ever said second books can't be better?

Go read Cinder if only to get you to Scarlet. It will be well worth the read!
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Cruel Beauty

by Rosamund Hodge

Cover Beauty Score: 9 out of 10
Goodreads Score: 5 out of 5

Plot Blurb: We follow the story of a girl named Nyx who has been betrothed since birth to the evil demon lord that rules and controls their land. She resentfully takes her place as his bride and lives in his enchanted castle/house, but she has trained her whole life to take the evil lord down. Desperate to save her people, she fights against her attraction to her demonic husband and struggles to find a way to bring his rule to an end.

My Reaction: I'm not gonna lie. I thought this book was a bit slow at first. From the beginning, I disliked Nyx, the main character, and thought she was self centered and pretty bitchy to be a hero. I mean, she was totally unfair to her sister and unbelievably cruel when she finally left home! There was a lot of poison in her heart and I just can't admire that in a person! But then EVERYTHING CHANGED!

As soon as Nyx started really interacting with her new husband, Ignifex, it's like her character came alive! I could see the complexities of her character and how true love was able to change her and help her let go of her past hatred. Even if it was at the hands of a demonic evil lord, unconditional love taught Nyx how to love for the first time in her life. The interactions between Nyx and Ignifex jump right off the page and make you fall in love with their romance in a very real way. They are two characters that play off of one another and in so doing, they come alive as individuals.

Despite her love, Nyx has to make a decision that has haunted stories and mythology (something that Hodge obviously loves, as myths are alive and well and living in this book). She has to ultimately choose between her love and the fate of the world she knows. There is some deep shit that goes on here, and it is real and heartbreaking... I may or may not have cried.  

Is there a love triangle in the book? Yes, but not in the way you would think. I had an inkling early on that this would be the case... but no spoilers so you'll have to read for yourself!

So going beyond the complexities of the characters and their changes, the plot of this book is fabulous! A house that is magical and tricky and alive in and of itself? Yes, please! It felt like Alice in Wonderland mixed with Tim Burton, Doctor Who, and Howl's Moving Castle... rooms of water, rooms of beautiful sunshine filled fields, neverending spiraling staircases, moving doors and floors, and rooms full of darkness that you must never enter (but let's be honest. Do you really think any good heroine would listen to a "it is forbidden!" command? No. I didn't think so.).

Just when you think you have Ignifex's castle and Nyx's world figured out, BAM! Hodge throws you for a loop. There's nothing that I don't appreciate more than a well conceived and complex plot full of hints that you don't understand until you finally do!

Overall? Stick it out through the whiney beginning and you won't be disappointed. The writing is excellent, the characters are fabulous, the romance is intoxicating, and the story will confuse and delight your detective skills... Go out there and buy it right now!

(Did I mention that the cover art is GORGEOUS!?) Seriously folks... this is the book that I wish I had written. Just make it happen.
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by Marissa Meyer

Cover Beauty Score: 5 out of 10
Goodreads Score: 3 out of 5

Plot Blurb: Set in futuristic Beijing, a girl named Cinder, who also happens to be a cyborg, runs a repair shop in the slums and supports her spoiled step/adoptive mother and two step sisters. A unique take on the Cinderella fairy tale, obviously there's a prince of Beijing (who is also kind of prince of the world) that meets her and lovey dovey feelings ensue... along with quite a bit of darkness and sci-fi gore, but in a good way! Cinder is suddenly the key to curing an incurable disease that has plagued the world for years... but she fears it may cost her life. She also learns some pretty big things about her past (which she can't remember) along the way.

My Reaction: I was a little bit prepared to dislike this book, honestly. Although I've seen it taunting me from the bestseller shelf for quite a while, I've been resisting trying it out for the mere reason that I felt the cyborg thing would be a bit cheesy. But Marissa Meyer really followed through and gave me a good story and likeable character to read... it's a very refreshing take on a good story (I mean, who doesn't like Cinderella?)

Did it flounder a bit at times? Yes. Was it a bit Twilight reminiscent in its juvenile simplistic writing? Certainly. But that's not to say I didn't enjoy it! I read that puppy in like 1.5 days because I just wanted to get to the good stuff. Although I found Kai (the prince) to be a very admirable character, he was a bit too tame for my taste. I'm excited to read the other books where I hope I'll see a little more characterization for him. While I found the romance quaint, it didn't make jump up and down on my couch like a lunatic, which is really what I quite like in a book.

Did I just buy the second one in the series, though? Yes. Yes I did. It was fun!

And can we discuss for a second how Sailor Moon this book is? As if having a princess exiled from the moon was bad enough... naming her Selene? Selene... Serena... see where I'm going with this? And then she is in love with the prince of the earth? You might as well have just been honest that this is Sailor Moon fan fiction. Not that I don't enjoy the nod to the best anime ever created - I'm a bona fide Sailor Moon buff... nobody loves the moon kingdom as much as this gal! I was just waiting for Cinder to throw her cyborg-y hand up in the air and shout "MOON PRISM POWER!"

Sadly, this never happened. More's the pity.
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Shadow and Bone

by Leigh Bardugo

Cover Beauty Score: 9 out of 10
Goodreads Score: 4 out of 5

Plot Blurb: A young orphaned girl named Alina Starkov grows up in a Russian-esque fantasy realm is drafted into the King's army with her best friend (a convincingly roguish boy... obviously also an orphan). After a brush with death and nearly losing her bestie, Mal, Alina finds a mysterious power within herself that sets her apart from the regular soldiers and elevates her to the rank of Grisha - the sorcerers that also serve the king's army. Torn away from Mal and her soldier life, Alina has to figure things out with her new powers and this whole situation where she is the chosen one sent to save the kingdom from doom.

My Reaction: I thought this book was great! I was very impressed with the writing and the story. It was very original in terms of what you find out there in the YA. Sometimes you just yearn for a well done fantasy and I felt like Shadow and Bone really delivered. Alina is a hero that you feel like you can really get behind... she has some guts and sticks up for herself, but I did think she's a little caught up on Mal. I was excited to see her develop and leave him behind for the Darkling (who was a phenomenally attractive character) who helped her grow, I felt.

But then Bardugo just plopped Mal back in there like nothing had happened. I would have really liked to get to know him a little bit better before suddenly having to jump on his ship. He's just all of a sudden there and like "oh yeah... I guess I loved you all along... sorry about that whole sleeping with the entire army and grishas thing..." without ever explaining why Alina should love him in the first place.

The action was very good and I felt like there was a sufficient amount of gore to support the darkness of the tale. Did I enjoy the highschool feel of the training camp for the Grishas? Meh... not really... but I guess it makes sense if that's your target. There was fantasy and science and romance galore, so that made me a happy camper.

Ultimately I saw the story going in a completely different direction than it ended up, and I kind of feel like I was super excited about it because of where I THOUGHT it was going to lead. Then by the end of I was just bummed out because the characters ended up being a bit flat. Bardugo leads us into the promise of complicated characterization and never really followed through.

But hey! I loved the writing and the concept of the story so that will keep me reading well into books 2 and 3 where I hope to get a little more of what I wanted... Mainly I just want to see the Darkling again. Damn... I am such a sucker for a redemption story... Here's hoping!
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The struggle to stay on the horse, as with everything these days, seems to be taking a hold of me. I haven't written a damn word in 6 months. 6 months!! This is awful!

The fact that I'm writing about it now makes me feel better. If I acknowledge it, perhaps that is my first step to getting back into it. Man... those rejections just kill me!! I mean the struggle for self worth and motivation is a real and true thing that totally encompasses you and pulls you down after a while.

What am I supposed to do now? Write. Write. And write some more!!!
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