A total YA package – the clever and crisp ‘Spark’

SparkI’d heard a heap of good about this book, earning it a place in Swifty the caravan on my latest holiday.

I was not disappointed. This is classic YA.

It’s fab to see a debut book that is so polished. ‘Spark’ by Rachael Craw ticks all the YA boxes. Happily it does so without the sort of contrived staging that would drive me to make a list of all the ticks it ticks as I tick each off. If you get my drift.

…?

Anyhoo… Let’s look at what I think worked for this one.

What rocked?

  • Straight-into-it structure
  • Super-solid world-building
  • Intrigue with some good ol’ fashioned whodunnit
  • Off-limits romance.

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Get our boys reading! – ‘The Ruins of Gorlan’

ra_ruinsofgorlanIf you love unabashed epic middle-grade fantasy, you’ve probably heard of John Flanagan. Between the Ranger’s Apprentice series and Brotherband Chronicles, I count nineteen books. Each and every one with a totally awesome cover.

Today I’m heading back to where they started, in 2004 with ‘Ranger’s Apprentice Book One: The Ruins of Gorlan‘.

Hang on one book-devouring second…

Nineteen books in just over twelve years? And another one due this year? That is, hands down, awesome work. Bravo Flanagan!

So, what did I love?

  • Positive relationships
  • Incorporation of bullying
  • Mystery
  • World-building

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Because there are different ways to be awesome – ‘The Rest of Us Just Live Here’

restofus-342x513Maybe it’s a book-nerd thing, but I really loved how this book both pokes fun at, and pays homage to, the mighty Chosen One trope. I loved the nuances, I loved the giggles and I even loved the confusion.

Confusion…? What are you talking about Heather? Good books don’t confuse you! Except sometimes they do…

‘The Rest of Us Just Live Here’ by Patrick Ness had me scratching my head. Thankfully not nits (can you even catch them from a book?). Perhaps not even confusion, so much as mystery. I couldn’t get a complete handle on the world. Because I had too much of a handle on the world.

When was it set? Where?

Because everything seemed to be about now and about our normal world. Except for the blue lights and the zombies and the adults that don’t remember. Are they metaphors or are they real? Are they both? And… aaaah!

Must!

Keep!

Reading! Continue reading

A great read for younger fans of fantasy – ‘Eve and the Runaway Unicorn’

Keeper-of-the-Crystals.jpgUnicorns. An ancient prophecy. An enticing locked chest in a forbidden attic.

Perfect ingredients.

This was a fun read. ‘Eve and the Runaway Unicorn’ by Jess Black is the first in the Keeper of the Crystals series. Four books are currently published in the series, and the beautiful covers were what attracted me. Thumbs-up to the librarian who decided to arrange them artfully at (kiddy) eye-level.

Once I got past the start, which threw me (more about that later), I thoroughly enjoyed the story. I liked the subtle environmental themes, and the rhyming clues.

So, what are the stats for this one?

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Fist-pump book quote – ‘Vampire Academy’

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Made by be using pablo :o)

It’s about this point of the book that uber-hot Dimitri starts thinking Rose has a valid reason to be worried about Lissa. And it’s now we realise the same thing, too… I think it’s a pivotal moment.

Hence a fist-pump book quote! Go Rose!!

vampire-academy‘Vampire Academy’ by Richelle Mead is fun and enthralling. I avoided it for a while (the cover) (more vampires? really?) (and yeah, that cover…) but then a free book came my way. I read it, and finally I understood the hype. Action, kick-ass-ness (if that isn’t a word, it should be), strong world-building and romantic tension.

I’ll add a warning – this book involves cutting, I found those parts confronting. But they’re not in there for no reason, and they’re not glamourised.

Oh, and the cover. I’m almost embarrassed to have it on my bookshelf. But the book is fab, so I don’t care. There’s this saying about books and their covers, you might have heard it…

:o) Read on, people.

Heather

A sequel that lived up to my ultra-excited expectations – ‘Gemina’

geminaI was jigging-foot excited to read ‘Gemina‘ by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. Nervous too. Because, seriously, ‘Illuminae‘ was so damn mindblowing I wasn’t sure anything could ever come up to standard.

Thankfully, ‘Gemina’ came through for me. There was something about picking it up and leaping back into the unconventional, characteristic setup that had my blood singing so much those lamina would have sensed me from half a universe away.

Why?

  • Characters of zing
  • World-building of awesome
  • Plot of intricate amaze-balls

Hooray, ‘Gemina’ happily thumbed its nose at the Seriously Sucky Sequel Syndrome. Want to know more? Brace yourselves and read on…

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Rich, witty and enthralling: ‘The Iron King’

the-iron-king

Books are like diamonds. You can give two jewelers the same rock, and at the end of all their cutting and polishing, one will spray rainbows among dancing sunbeams, and the other might as well be a shattered fragment of soap-scummed shower-screen.

Likewise you can have several books set in the same world with a similar premise, and one will stand out. This book is one such sparkling delight…

‘The Iron King’ by Julie Kagawa is set in a world shared with many other novels. It involves characters brought into life by others. It follows many expected tropes.

But Kagawa takes her world and lifts it to another level. She cuts a fine diamond!

This is a successful series, with a lot of avid followers. I can see why. I’ve read another of Kagawa’s series before, so I was ready to be impressed. Things that worked especially well in this book for me:

  • Immersive world-building
  • Clever humour throughout
  • A tantalising romantic sub-plot.

If you don’t like spoilers, now is the time to nod sagely and stop reading… Otherwise, read on!

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Fist-pump book quote – ‘And I Darken’

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The book promised a ‘toxic triangle’ and mate, did it deliver.

This quote marks the point where uber-tough deposed princess Lada freaks the bojangles out of the Ottoman court and the ‘foul man’ chosen to be her husband. Andandidarken Mehmed, son of the Sultan, is so amused by her antics he makes her and her beautiful brother Radu his companions.

Thus starts the ‘toxic triangle’. It’s a pivotal moment, and you’ve got to hand it to Lada for pure attitude. I’m not a huge fan of toxicity, but if you are, jump on in! Because this is a brilliantly written book with a captivating level of world-building that absorbs you into 15th Century Transylvania.

Check it out – ‘And I Darken‘ by Kiersten White.

 

 

 

Editing: How to turn your manuscript mistakes into opportunities for awesome

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You’ve all been there. Late at night, at your desk, final check of your latest Work In Progress. You’re pretty happy. Close to hitting that big green metaphorical button that says GO FOR IT!

Then something makes you frown.

There’s a mistake… <head meets desk>

Happened to me last week. My kick-ass group of teens were driving across South America, hell-bent on getting evacuated the heck out of there because, you know, stuff was going down. But then I re-did my calculations and realised their car was going to run out of fuel 300 km before the town they actually refuel at. Ouch.

I was facing a plot crisis.

Solution? Brainstorm what to do, and reject all your initial ‘ordinary’ options

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Magnus Chase and the Remarkably Similar Plot Premise, a.k.a. If Percy ain’t broke, don’t fix Magnus

MagnusChaseSOS

This book was an entertaining read and I’m in no way dissing Rick Riordan. He’s one of the top-selling authors of 2016, with a eye-watering US$9.5 million in earnings. He’s doing many, many things super-right.

Naturally, I’d like to know what just a few of them are!

Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer is Book #1 of the Gods of Asgard Series. The thing that struck me as I read this was the definite similarity to Riordan’s best-selling Percy Jackson series. And why not? It worked once.

Heck – it’s working again.

And why? Because the premise is a good one, but Riordan changes things enough that we’re not bored.

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