Monday, 30 June 2014

Monday Mini Reviews - The Fearless by Emma Pass, Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge and Glimpse by Kendra Leighton

The FearlessThe Fearless. An army, powered by an incredible new serum that makes each soldier stronger, sharper, faster than their enemies. Intended as a force for good, the serum has a terrible side-effect - anyone who takes it is stripped of all humanity, empathy, love. And as the Fearless sweep through the country, forcing the serum on anyone in their path, society becomes a living nightmare.

Cass remembers the night they passed through her village. Her father was Altered. Her mother died soon after. All Cass has left is her little brother - and when Jori is snatched by the Fearless and taken to their hellish lair, Cass must risk everything to get him back.

 My review

 I really enjoyed Emma Pass's debut novel ACID, so I was thrilled to be approved for an e-galley of The Fearless from Netgalley! This is a post-apocalyptic thriller with a scarily plausible premise - the Fearless are humans who've taken a serum to erase their fear, only for it to turn them into zombie-like monsters.

Cass lives on an island with a group of survivors, until one day they're attacked and her little brother is taken by the Fearless. She joins up with Myo, a stranger from the mainland (I love that this is set in the UK!) to rescue him, but Myo is hiding a secret. Cass is a likeable heroine. She makes mistakes and isn't perfect, but her determination to rescue her brother makes her someone to root for.

This is a fast-paced, action-packed read, and I was hooked from beginning to end. As the POV alternates between Cass, Sol and Myo, I kept turning pages to find out what would happen to each of them, and the story revealed twists I never saw coming!

The Fearless has great characterisation, romance and action - recommended to anyone looking for a fresh approach to YA post-apocalyptic!

Rating: 4 stars.

Cuckoo Song
The first things to shift were the doll's eyes, the beautiful grey-green glass eyes. Slowly they swivelled, until their gaze was resting on Triss's face. Then the tiny mouth moved, opened to speak. 'What are you doing here?' It was uttered in tones of outrage and surprise, and in a voice as cold and musical as the clinking of cups. 'Who do you think you are? This is my family.'

When Triss wakes up after an accident, she knows that something is very wrong. She is insatiably hungry; her sister seems scared of her and her parents whisper behind closed doors. She looks through her diary to try to remember, but the pages have been ripped out. Soon Triss discovers that what happened to her is more strange and terrible than she could ever have imagined, and that she is quite literally not herself. In a quest find the truth she must travel into the terrifying Underbelly of the city to meet a twisted architect who has dark designs on her family - before it's too late . . 

My review

Cuckoo Song is a delightfully creepy new novel from fantasy author Frances Hardinge. I've read and enjoyed some of her other books (Verdigris Deep and A Face Like Glass) and I couldn't resist picking this up after seeing the creeptastic cover! It's clear from the start that there's something not quite right about the heroine, Triss, who wakes up after an accident to find she has no memory of what happened - or of much else, either.

Frances Hardinge creates unforgettable characters and bizarre, unique magical stories, and this is no exception. The story moves at a slow pace but the unfolding chaos and creepiness kept me engaged. The characters are all vivid and memorable, from Triss and her sister Pen to the sinister Architect. Strange, creepy and wonderfully written - I'd recommend this to anyone looking for a magical read that's about as unique as you can get!

Rating: 4 stars.

  Liz just wants to be normal. Her life is anything but.

Seven years ago Liz lost her mother and ten years' worth of memories. When she inherits the infamous Highwayman Inn, she hopes the move will be a fresh start. Then she meets Zachary. Zachary who haunts her by night and in dreams; who makes her question everything she is and wants to be; who seems scarcely real - yet makes her feel so alive.

Inspired by Alfred Noyes' classic poem 'The Highwayman', Glimpse is a ghost story, a love story, and a story of a girl fighting for her future by confronting her terrible past.

My review

When I heard this was a retelling of the haunting poem The Highwayman, I couldn’t resist the chance to pick up a copy of this book. And I was delighted when it turned out to be such a wonderfully creepy and atmospheric read!

For a girl who can see ghosts, or Glimpses, inheriting the spooky old Highwayman Inn seems a bad idea for seventeen-year-old Liz. She’s struggling to piece her life back together after losing her mother in a terrible accident which left her with no memory of the first ten years of her life. She’s soon drawn into the mystery of the Highwayman and the history of her new home.

Liz is a relatable teen narrator and I really liked the supporting cast, including her new friend Susie, and the mysterious Zachary. The story keeps moving while the mystery and tension mount higher. I loved that the plot took turns I never expected, and yet made perfect sense. I was entranced from beginning to end, and I’d highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a spooky mystery with great characters and a fantastic plot!

Rating: 4.5 stars.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

#WIPMarathon Update #5

Last report wordcount and chapter count/scene count: After finishing my last draft (yay!), I was writing a YA contemporary fantasy draft and had reached 20K. I'd also just finished a mega-revision of my MG fantasy, The Clockmaker's Key, and was ready to send it to beta readers.

Current report WC + CC/SC:
I'm almost halfway through my draft (35K). Not amazing, but I had a few distractions this month...

I wrote a short story of around 6000 words, which I'm currently debating what to do with. So my word count total for June is 21K. My worst month this year, but still progress!

On the other hand, I've received feedback on my MG fantasy from some lovely readers, and WOW! :D I wanted to wait until I heard from everyone before I started my second big revision. So, that's next month's task! (And I'm thrilled to bits with the feedback! *bounce bounce bounce*)

I also worked on my outline and some planning for some possible future WIPs, because I just can't stick to one project. :P

WIP Issues this month: Having to take an enforced break from my draft due to a horrible viral infection. I found it really hard to get back into my WIP afterwards, especially as I'd just entered the Evil Middle of the draft!

Four things I learned this month in writing:
  • You can never do too much planning. Last month, I mentioned Rachel Aaron's tips for making lists of exciting things about each scene before writing it. Susan Dennard talks about Magical Cookies in this post about what to do when you're stuck in a draft - and it really helps! If every scene excites you, it'll excite the reader, too! And that's so important in the middle section of the book (which is where things always go wrong for me...).
  • Obviously, one of the most important things for writers to do is to read a lot. But I've been making a more active effort to read as a writer, and learn from every book I read. I'm a fast reader, but I'm trying to slow down and make notes on how the author controls the plot, develops characters, weaves information into the narrative naturally. By taking a close look at what works (and what doesn't work!), you can apply the lessons to your own writing.
  • I learned (or re-learned) that insecurity can be a good thing, even if it doesn't automatically go away when you're published!
  • Do not challenge the universe to distract you from waiting for beta feedback. Or it'll give you the be-careful-what-you-wish-for Plague. o_O Lesson learned.
What distracted me this month when writing: The Plague, which stopped me writing for over a week! I've not gone so long without writing a single word in about 2 years. I know taking days off wrecks my productivity, so I take my netbook on holidays and trips,  and I'm well-practised in writing through stubborn inspiration blocks! But this time, I physically couldn't even pick up a pen. I was very sad. *cries*

Goal for next month: To complete the next revision of my MG fantasy and send it to a second round of readers. I was also hoping to finish this draft, but with editorial emails and various other things coming up, I've decided to change this goal to mid-August. My MG fantasy deserves my full attention! :) It's not an intensive revision this time, but there are lots of little tweaks and changes which should hopefully make the story really shine! And then, one more revision to go before my self-imposed deadline of August. 

Last 200 words: Things are in flux with my draft at the moment, so let's backtrack to Chapter 3!

Her eyes flickered back to the painting currently trying to ooze off the page. Garish yellow, not remotely like flowers anymore - but she couldn’t tell what exactly it was. Only that she could see it, and so could Dorian.

Dorian, whose mouth was twisting into a smile.

‘I knew it,’ he said.

And suddenly she was angry. That self-satisfied tone, after everything that had happened….it ignited the rage that had been buried under her confusion.

‘You don’t know a thing,’ she said. ‘Shut that book. Now!’

He did, and the smile slid from his face. ‘Sorry. Saffron. I thought…’ He cleared his throat. ‘Wait. Here.’ He pulled something from his pocket - at first she thought it was a pen, then she realised it was a pencil crayon, the type artists used. Blue, sharpened to a point.

‘Found this over by the display…’

He pressed it into her right hand and fished a notebook from his pocket, which he held out to her. Saffron stared, not taking it.

‘I just want to show you something,’ he said. ‘No tricks. Honest.’

She narrowed her eyes, her fist clenching around the pen. ‘You’d better not be messing with me. What do you want?’

‘Just draw something on the paper.’

Her eyebrow shot up. ‘You’re kidding me.’

Friday, 27 June 2014

Interview with G. Miki Hayden, Author of Strings

This is the latest interview on the Writer's Nest, with fellow CQ author G. Miki Hayden, author of the intriguing MG novel, Strings!


Tell me three interesting facts about yourself!

·         I used to be a trade journalist and wrote about subjects such as robotics/factory automation, solar energy, and much more.

·         I teach online at Writer’s Digest University and have two books about writing in print.

·         I’ve always lived on an island: I grew up on Miami Beach and live in Harlem, a part of Manhattan (NY, NY), an island.

The really interesting stuff is secret. :)

Summarize your book in one line.

When the everyday world becomes odd and irregular, Robert, an ordinary boy, must travel through alternate dimensions to help restore stability.

Tell me something cool/crazy/quirky about the book—it can be anything!

People have doubles and even triples, taken from…no, no, that’s secret, too.

Why did you decide to write this particular book?

I wanted to show that the universe is truly magical without anyone having to perform an incantation or spell. And I wanted to show that order can be restored by someone who merely means well, even if he or she doesn’t have any special skills.

Best part of the writing process?

The writing is the most fun, always, but doing the necessary research and learning things—for this novel some things about basic physics—is lots of fun, too. And I’ve started a blog for others of all ages who want to learn a little science: 
Share one thing you learned writing this book.

Strings are thought by some physicists to form the fabric of the universe. Physicist Brian Greene of Columbia University says that if one atom was enlarged to the size of our solar system, a single vibrating string would still be no larger than a tree. So stings are unimaginably small. Smaller than small. 
Tell me about one strange experience you’ve had. Again, it can be anything!

I’ve had a lot of amazing experiences, maybe the most amazing of which was to “see” the potential in every moment for the miraculous to occur. Now obviously that’s an inner experience and not an outer one. I understand that as being what the world is to each of us—what happens inside of us is our “real” world. Luckily, it doesn’t take beauty or money or physical prowess to have an incredible inner life. We can all have remarkable experiences. 
Name one fictional place you’d love to visit.

How about Narnia, from the C. S. Lewis books? I hope everyone has read those—or will. The one difficulty with visiting Narnia, as with traveling to any fictional place, is that tremendous problems pop up everywhere. Sort of like life. Life doesn’t always glide along easily, and fiction certainly doesn’t. In fact, the author is instructed to heap as many complications on the hero and heroine as possible. That’s the cruel truth of the writer’s mission. Heh heh.

Name one real place you’d love to visit.

Oh, like my female protagonist in Strings, I’d like to visit the British Isles, maybe during the period when Queen Victoria reigned, the Victorian era. Oh, you mean a possible place. But no place is really impossible for a writer.

Share one sentence/mini-excerpt from the book!

Robert’s pocket pulsed as if he had a cell phone in it set on vibrate, and for a minute he thought he did have a cell phone. But he didn’t. He had a string. He took the supposed string out of his pocket as carefully as if he had a flea in there trained to star in a flea circus—something his father had once told him about. (Could fleas really be trained?)
Well, whatever Robert held in his hands gave out a powerful, radiant glow that cast a light over everything in front of the two travelers.
“Oh,” exclaimed Nila. “What in the world is that?” She peered into his cupped palm.
Holding his hand up like a lantern, Robert walked on. “I think you have one, also,” Robert recalled. “Didn’t someone give you something he called a stabilizing string?”
“No, never,” denied Nila vehemently. “That’s wonderful though. What is it, really?”
“I can’t actually be certain,” Robert said. “I think it’s a force from another dimension, possibly. Or not. But it’s scientific, anyway, and not magical.” He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye to see her reaction, which he then couldn’t read.
            In some way, Robert felt the piece of string was leading him, rather than that he was carrying the invisible, infinitesimal portion of the universe.


StringsRobert, an ordinary boy, finds himself in a newly chaotic world. Buildings move when and where they please, and time jumps around according to no known laws of physics. For Robert, getting to his regular school in the morning is next to impossible. As for getting home...

But then, Holden - a boy he and his friend, Nila, meet in a cave - offers them a string. No, not twine, but a string of the kind that forms the universe. Teeny and tiny, and invisible to the naked eye, this string will take Robert and Mila to their homes and way, way beyond...

Accompanied by a memorable cast of characters, Robert and his friends follow the string on a journey across time, space, and dimension to discover the answer to a mystery: Who has caused the world to fall apart?

 Goodreads | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble

G. Miki Hayden - Author Pic
G. Miki Hayden, strongly believes in alternate universes and has written about them in her adult novels Pacific Empire (which won a New York Times rave) and New Pacific. “Nothing in time-space is fixed,” Miki says, a distant look in her eyes. Miki won an Edgar for an historical crime story and has a couple of writing books in print. At the moment, she generally lives with millions of other people in New York City in a three-dimensional, temporal world but is exploring other realms.