Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hushed by Kelley York

by Kelley York
Entangled Publishing
Available Now;
Amazon Barnes and Noble

He’s saved her. He’s loved her. He’s killed for her.

Eighteen-year-old Archer couldn’t protect his best friend, Vivian, from what happened when they were kids, so he’s never stopped trying to protect her from everything else. It doesn’t matter that Vivian only uses him when hopping from one toxic relationship to another—Archer is always there, waiting to be noticed.

Then along comes Evan, the only person who’s ever cared about Archer without a single string attached. The harder he falls for Evan, the more Archer sees Vivian for the manipulative hot-mess she really is.

But Viv has her hooks in deep, and when she finds out about the murders Archer’s committed and his relationship with Evan, she threatens to turn him in if she doesn’t get what she wants… And what she wants is Evan’s death, and for Archer to forfeit his last chance at redemption.

Archer, in the beginning of the story is a cold calculating guy who's one thought is revenge and trying to win Vivian's love.  He seems like he'll do anything for her, yes including murder.

But Archer's been protecting and defending Vivian for years and she's never treated him as more than a best friend.  Maybe run to him for a night, but he's always known it wouldn't mean anything so he's never settled for that.  He's a man that's alone in a crowd.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Poison Diaries Nightshade by Maryrose Wood with the Duchess of Northumberland

The Poison Diaries Nightshade
By Maryrose Wood with the Duchess of Northumberland
Harper Collins
October 2011

A dark, Gothic tale of romance… and murder.
The latest book in the gripping dark series, The Poison Diaries.

Our heroine, Jessamine, has lost her faith in the men she loved, and her innocence as well. She turns to the dark side and plots to kill her father, using his own poisons, before becoming an assassin, a poisoner for hire. Can she recover from her heartache and reunite with her true love, Weed? Find out in this thrilling story where poisons, darkness and horror are a part of everyday life, and love is the only cure.


Nightshade picks up shortly after where the first book in this series left off.  Jessamine is no longer sweet and innocent.  She is bitter and full of vengeance.  She knows of her father's betrayals, his evil nature and it eats at her soul every day he's alive.  She's sure Weed's departure has something to do with her father though he tells her he was a weak man and left when he thought she was dying.

The tone of this novel is even darker than the first and the paranormal elements take over more of the story.  The evil prince invades Jessamine's mind almost forcing her to do things she'd never do on her own.  She must flee the abbey and the voice of the prince guides her on her travels.  He promises to lead her to Weed, but not of course until he's used her for his own purpose's first.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Poison Diaries by Maryrose Wood with the Duchess of Northumberland

The Poison Diaries
By Maryrose Wood with the Duchess of Northumberland
Balzer and Bray
May 2010

In the right dose, everything is a poison. Even love . . .

Jessamine Luxton has lived all her sixteen years in an isolated cottage near Alnwick Castle, with little company apart from the plants in her garden. Her father, Thomas, a feared and respected apothecary, has taught her much about the incredible powers of plants: that even the most innocent-looking weed can cure -- or kill.

When Jessamine begins to fall in love with a mysterious boy who claims to communicate with plants, she is drawn into the dangerous world of the poison garden in a way she never could have imagined . . .

This Gothic tale takes place in Northern England in the middle of nowhere.  Jessamine and her father live in a burned out crumbling abbey.  As I read it I imagined dirt floors and crumbling stone, wind blowing through the chimney and an eternal chill in the place.  Jessamine is lonely, her father doesn't speak to her unless it's to say he's leaving and her only companions are her diary and her plants.  But not the secret garden.  She knows about it, but her father keeps it locked and she is not allowed in, even at the age of sixteen.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Dig: Zoe and Zeus by Audrey Hart

Dig:Zoe and Zeus by Audrey Hart

Zoe Calder has always been an outsider. Stashed away in boarding schools since her parents died, Zoe buries herself in the study of ancient worlds. Her greatest thrill is spending her summers with her archeologist aunt and uncle on digs around the world. And one day, while investigating a newly unearthed temple in Crete, Zoe discovers a luminous artifact that transports her to ancient Greece.

As Zoe quickly learns, the Olympian Gods are real, living people—humans with mysterious powers… Powers that Zoe quickly realizes she has come to possess, as well. However, when the people of ancient Greece mistake Zoe for an Olympian, the Gods must restore the balance of the ancient world… No matter what.

Zoe is forced to play a confusing and dangerous game as Hera rallies the gods against her—all except for Zeus, the beautiful, winged young god who risks everything to save her.

Out of time and out of her element, teenager Zoe Calder finds herself in ancient Greece, battling against the power of the Olympians and the vengeance of a scorned goddess—all for the strange and mysterious boy she has come to love.

I received a copy of this from the author for free.  This in no way influenced my review of the novel.

As I read Dig, I kept smiling through it and thought, what other book had me smiling like this as I read it.  I realized it was Stephanie Perkins Anna and the French Kiss.  This is a lot of light romance but does he or doesn't he.  And it's light and fluffy and was fun to read.  I don't know if the author intended it that way, but I never really felt a sense of doom and gloom in the book.

Zoe's parents are dead and she lives with her aunt and uncle who are archaeologists.  Zoe attends boarding school during the year and spends her summers with her aunt and uncle at whatever archaeological site they are working on at the time.
She's a bit of recluse, a social outcast by desire, and a bookworm.  She's awkward with people unless it's on a dig site.

In this novel, she is getting ready to leave for summer to an archaeological dig in Greece.  When her aunt and uncle pick her up they are excited because the site is a previously undiscovered Temple.  Zoe breaks the rules and wanders in it before it's been explored by the archaeologists and time travels back to 1000BC.  I won't tell you how, but it's a bit unorthodox.

The book blurb pretty much tells the whole story so I'll tell you my impressions.  I enjoyed the book.  It was a nice break from some of the other things I've been reading lately and from writing.  I loved reading about the gods and goddess of Ancient Greece as teenagers.  They acted a little like teenagers but they are much older.  They've been teens for 500 years.

Hera of course is supposed to be with Zeus so she is understandably threatened when he pays attention to Zoe.  She is a first class b****.  She knows how to make a dig sound like a compliment and Zoe in her unconventional clothes and awkwardness is a perfect target.  The other gods and goddesses are no better following Hera, they snub her.

Zeus is not the Zeus we are used to reading about and Zoe is aware of that.  She keeps picturing the older Zeus with his anger and his lightning bolt.  She conveniently forgets his dalliances with other women, but Hera alludes to the fact that she's not the first girl he's toyed with.

Yes, you have to throw out all your old preconceived notions of the gods and goddesses.  There are a few surprises.  And the ending definitely makes me wonder how it will affect the world of Ancient Greece and the mythology we've grown up with.
I can see a lot of problems in store for Zoe and Zeus with the next novel.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

IMM Nov. 20th 2011

IMM is a meme started by Kristi at The Story Siren which allows bloggers to share what they received during the week or weeks so that other bloggers can see what new books, old books and upcoming books there are.  Here's what I got this week.

 Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood received from Early Reviewers at Library Things

The Secret Life of Prince Charming by Deb Caletti and Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier from Paperback Swap

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi purchased from Amazon

Touch by Jus Accardo and Hushed by Kelley York from Entangled Publishing for review  Thank you Stacey at Entangled Publishing!

Farsighted by Emlyn Chand of Novel Publicity.  Thanks Emlyn!

Sliding Beneath the Surface(The St. Augustine Trilogy: Book 1) by Doug Dillon for review.  Doug is a  fellow Gator alum and the setting is one of my favorite cities in Florida that I have visited often.  Thanks Doug!

I'm hoping to get all of these reviewed before the new year!

From Jessica at Confessions of a Bookaholic during a Halloween giveaway.  This came from the Etsy shop Stupid Shiny Designs
and it's really beautiful.  I almost want to wear it as a necklace!
Thanks to both Jessica and Mandy.

Also, I won The Hollow in the Spooktacular Blog Hop from Bookworm Lisa.  Thank you Lisa!!

So, I got a pretty nice mailbox I think with some books I'm really looking forward to reading.  What did you get and what are you looking forward to reading???


Friday, November 18, 2011

In the Forests of the Night by Kersten Hamilton

In The Forests of The Night by Kersten Hamilton

The battle against goblinkind continues . . . but which side will Teagan be on? 

Teagan, Finn, and Aiden have made it out of Mag Mell alive, but the Dark Man’s forces are hot on their heels. Back in Chicago, Tea’s goblin cousins show up at her school, sure she will come back to Mag Mell, as goblin blood is never passive once awoken. Soon she will belong to Fear Doirich and join them. In the meantime, they are happy to entertain themselves by trying to seduce, kidnap, or kill Tea’s family and friends. Tea knows she doesn’t have much time left, and she refuses to leave Finn or her family to be tortured and killed. A wild Stormrider, born to rule and reign, is growing stronger inside her. But as long as she can hold on, she’s still Teagan Wylltson, who plans to be a veterinarian and who heals the sick and hurting. The disease that’s destroying her—that’s destroying them all—has a name: Fear Doirich. And Teagan Wylltson is not going to let him win.

Oh I was so happy to receive an ARC of this second book in the Goblin Wars trilogy!  And sometimes, second books disappoint, but this one didn't.  Now, I'll say right now, if you didn't read TYGER,TYGER, there are SPOILERS in this review that will ruin it for you.  You've been warned.

People had problems with how the death of Teagan and Aiden's mother was handled in Tyger, Tyger.  I did not.  She died.  I wanted the rest of the story.  I didn't want to read a book about the year they spent grieving for her and how hard it was on them.  Of course it was!  I'm not stupid, I can fill that part in with my imagination.  I wanted the revenge part.  That's why I had no problem when the story picked up a year into the future and life was going on just as you would expect after the death of their mother.  This second book delves into the grief a little more. There are touching moments between Teagan and her dad where he is trying to remember or remind himself that his wife, the mother of his children is dead.  Fear Doirich stole those memories from him while he wandered Mag Mell in Tyger, Tyger.  And angry moments when the evil social worker, Ms. Skinner brings up the death of their mother, knowing how it affects Aiden and he stops singing (Cruella de Ville, a very appropriate song).  Some moments made me misty eyed even.

There was a lot of humor in the book and get ready because you know when I love a book I love to quote!  
Here's a conversation between Teagan and her father-
"Mamieo cooked rumpledethump for dinner."

"She made cooked cabbage and Aiden's still in the house?"

"Yes. Dad, I just told you Thomas turned into a raven, and you didn't even blink."

"I'm a librarian," Mr. Wylltson said.  "We practice believing seven impossible things before breakfast."

"Like rabbits with pocket watches?"

"Like library funding will be available next year." (page 53)

 Such great characters, I just cannot express to you how much I love these characters. Teagan, is everything to everyone.  She is protector to her brother, memory and healer to her father, best friends with Abby, possibly a girlfriend to Finn and savior to everyone else that she can be.  What does she want?  She still wants that plan she started out with in the first book, going to Cornell, but she'd like to fit Finn in it now. But  how can the Mac Cumhaill be in love with a girl that's part Highborn?  The romance is there chaste, but hot still.  I don't know how Kersten does it, but it's definitely swoon worthy material. Then there's Finn himself, The Mac Cumhaill.  He's protective, so sure of himself when it comes to killing anything that comes after Teagan and the only thing he's scared of is Mr. Wylltson, Teagan's "da'." (Love that accent!)  And you know, a guy that can kill someone with a spoon, well, he has a right to be pretty sure of himself!  And he always seems to know the right thing to say, making Teagan his equal, never a weak woman that has to be taken care of.  He's strong, fierce yet sensitive but not in a fragile way at all.  He just knows.  That's the best way to describe it. 
 And let me tell you  something, if I was picking friends, Abby would be the first one I'd choose.  She may not be able to see all the weird creatures from the "multiverse" but she can kill them and call in reinforcements!  The Turtles, yes you read it right, Leo, Angel, Donnie and Rafe.  And there is little Aiden who is so sweet he'd make you're teeth ache and so delicate it seems a strong wind would break him.  But he's only fragile sometimes.  Like when there's an EI around, an Elvis Impersonator.  Or the evil Ms. Skinner.  Otherwise, he is wise beyond his years and incredibly intuitive.
Mamieo is one of the greatest senior citizens in all literature!  She has conversations with "The Almighty" like the one I'm going to quote to you now

"I spent the whole night complaining to The Almighty that you'd dragged a damned lbiannon-sidhe home with you; you and that aingeal."

"And what did the Almighty say?"

"He said 'Watch your language, Ida.' And after I'd apologized for my Irish tongue, he asked, "Why don't you go right down and kill the creature now?"

"I couldn't do it now, and you well know it' I told him. 'Not after I've seen that he loves the girl as strong and right as I loved my Rory."

"'Would you have killed him the day he lied to Roisin, before his love grew strong and right?' the Almighty asked. 'I don't think I would,' I says. 'Not if I knew what was growing in him.'

"'Then how about the day before he met the girl?' the Almighty asked. 'Before he ever loved at all?'"

Mamieo was quiet, considering... 

"And what did you say, Mamieo?" Teagan asked at last.

"I told Him I'd get back to Him. It's something I have to think on." (p.116)

Again I love the dry humor and more so, I love Mamieo's wisdom throughout the book.

Teagan's enemies know her better now, but she knows them better too. And she is better prepared to fight and to die if she has to, to keep her family safe. She's a very strong character, with a softer side when dealing with hurt or dying things, yet tough in battle and protective of weaker things, whether they are human or some other creature. She's got a strong sense of right and wrong which might cause trouble for her in the final installment of the series.

I can say that this one builds steadily to the action and is then so fast paced I could scarcely keep up. The last few pages are filled with loss and triumph. Enemies are taken down as well as friends and the final book will definitely be a war, there is no doubt about it. Again, I was spellbound by the story woven by Kersten Hamilton with the intricacies of the Celtic folklore and the seeming beauty of Mag Mell despite it's horrible inhabitants. And I am so entranced by Yggdrasil, which I've seen more and more in YA lately, showing up in Mag Mell and Celtic lore, as Mr. Wylltson says, " A Nordic tree in a Celtic world. I always told your mother that was a literary drift." (p 50).

I highly recommend this novel to anyone that enjoyed Tyger, Tyger. It's a must before you read this one. And it's great for anyone that loves Celtic folklore, nature, and the battle of good versus evil. And maybe nature versus nurture. I haven't quite figured that one out.

I received this ARC free of charge for a fair and honest review. No monetary compensation was received for this review.
Now, go get it and read! 
Finn MacCumhaill might give Zachary from the Shade series some serious competition in my personal book boyfriend competition!


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

SAY WHAT? Jus Accardo Guest Post

Touch by Jus Accardo 

When a strange boy tumbles down a river embankment and lands at her feet, seventeen-year-old adrenaline junkie Deznee Cross snatches the opportunity to piss off her father by bringing the mysterious hottie with ice blue eyes home.

Except there’s something off with Kale. He wears her shoes in the shower, is overly fascinated with things like DVDs and vases, and acts like she’ll turn to dust if he touches her. It’s not until Dez’s father shows up, wielding a gun and knowing more about Kale than he should, that Dez realizes there’s more to this boy—and her father’s “law firm”—than she realized.

Kale has been a prisoner of Denazen Corporation—an organization devoted to collecting “special” kids known as Sixes and using them as weapons—his entire life. And, oh yeah, his touch? It kills. The two team up with a group of rogue Sixes hellbent on taking down Denazen before they’re caught and her father discovers the biggest secret of all. A secret Dez has spent her life keeping safe.

A secret Kale will kill to protect.

Sounds exciting doesn't it???  Well I don't have my hands on the book yet,  but I have the next best thing, the author Jus Accardo agreed to do a blog post and since I'm doing NaNoWriMo this month I asked her to write something about writing.  Lucky for me she sent a post about dialogue, one of my problem spots.  So I'm eager to read  what she has to say and I hope you are too.  I put some links to Jus at the bottom of the page and links to where you can get the book.

Without further ado I bring you Jus Accardo---

 Say What?

Dialog. Ya can’t have a book without it. Well, I guess you could…but it 
wouldn’t be very interesting.  
Sure, setting the scene is important. Details and descriptions--the five senses--are a huge part of writing, but so is the dialogue. We all talk different way. Have different accents. Use different phrases and slang.  

We’re all individuals—and our characters should be too.  Pick up your favorite novel. Really pay attention. What is it about the dialog that keeps you reading? For me, it has to be real. Feel authentic and unforced. There should be a natural flow to the conversation. If you head to the mall, or pop a squat at the local diner, you’re not generally going to hear people talking like robots.

Make it real. Observe. Go out and listen to the way people talk. Write your characters using slang. Times change. The dialog has to change with them. Peachy keen, neato, and golly gee jeepers, have morphed into things like epic, awesome (awesomesauce is also acceptable J ), and holy crap (also acceptable *holy Batman in a tutu, holy hand grenades, holy hot sauce, holy house of hogs getting blasted by the red birdie brigade). Anything that will showcase your character’s personality and individual voice.  Unless of course you have a totally retro character in which case, golly gee jeepers works just fine. Might make me cringe a little, but works just fine. ;)

Whenever I’m out and about, I’m always listening. Kinda makes me sound like a conversation stalker, but I’m not so much paying attention to what people are talking about, so much as how they’re talking about it. It's inspiration as much as research.

How about everyone else? Any tips for making dialog more authentic?

Great tips Jus and now I don't feel so bad sitting at the door listening to my son and his friends Skype.  I'm really just trying to get the teen speak down, really!!  There's a lot of Dudes involved.  Apparently Dude has hundreds of meanings of which I only know a few.

To learn more about Touch or Jus Accardo you may find her 
in these places

and to find the book Touch you can go to Amazon or Barnes and Noble

Touch is being published by Entangled Publishing and has already been released at the beginning of this month.

Thanks Jus and Stacey from Entangled Publishing!


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Weaver by Kai Strand

The Weaver by Kai Strand

The Weaver is a Middle Grade story about a little girl named Mary who lives in a town of word weavers and Mary's mother is the best word weaver of them all. But Mary is still in Novice Word Weaving, for the third year. In a town called The Tales, this story is told in small short chapters making it easy for intermediate readers. It's a little heavy on the life lessons, but the story is so cute it makes up for it. Or as I think about my 11 yr old, perhaps it isn't so heavy on the life lesson. It just has to be repeated a lot for this age group to receive the message.

Mary, in the course of going to the dairy, is knocked down by a passing cart and falls into a mud puddle. When she picks her bottles up, she only has three instead of four. She has to wrestle with something to get her fourth bottle and loses it to a gnome-elf. He's half of each, so he has half magic. He gives her a wish and while she lays there passed out from the magic, he steals away with her milk.

Over the course of the story, Mary finds that she didn't word her wish exactly as she should have and that this comes with consequences. She also learns some life lessons which I'll let you read. The book is only ninety pages long but in it Mary has friends that you can tell she values and parents whom she loves that love her very much. It's Mary that has to come to terms with who she is.

It's a very sweet story and shows that parents love their children no matter what. I only wish that it had pictures to go with it. I think the words are wonderful and the story is written well. I just felt the need for pictures to go with it.

I'd recommend this to anyone who is a lover of words and for chapter readers and up! I hope to see more from Kai Strand! She's a talented writer!


Monday, November 14, 2011

Ode to Book Bloggers from LM Long

HERENot long ago, I posted that I'd be doing NaNoWriMo this month and that any author that wanted to use my blog for a guest post could do so. Well, I've actually been busy with blog tours I'd forgotten I'd signed up for, something I won't forget when next November rolls around I'll say no to. But LM Long, author of  Founder which I reviewed HERE.

She sent me this post and it's so lovely and appreciative of us, book bloggers that I decided Monday was a great day to share it with you all!  Thank you so much L.!

Hey Heather!

Hope Nano-mom-o (I swiped this from someone else because I think it's cute) is going well!

Here's a guest post I whipped up for you, it's short, but I hope you can use it this month.  :)

When most kids leave for college they bring a laptop, some clothes, maybe a couch, and if they’re living on their own, some food.  You know, the necessities for life.
When I left for college, I brought my books.
My roommate brought her upright piano. 
We were quite the pair.
I would lie on the floor of our tiny apartment, absorbed in a great book, while she tapped out the melody to Les Mis.  We discovered the piano bench made an okay couch in a pinch, and my books could be stacked for shelving.  So for a while we were perfectly content in our choices, until it became time to attend classes.  We quickly realized our necessities weren’t going to cut it for college life.   Emergency phone calls to our parents led to the purchase of a couch, a computer, and a dining set.  We had to succumb to some of the more traditional comforts of college life, and some of the not so comfortable parts too.  Classes, homework, sports, and part time jobs took over our schedule, as the piano keys grew dusty, and the only reading I did was no longer for pleasure.  
This went on for a few months, before one day I got home from work and she was playing again.  I walked in the door to Jaime completely absorbed in her music.  I sat on my rump and just listened, letting the chords wash over me.  She played for over an hour, her fingers dancing with the keys, switching from one piece to another, leaving me dizzy.  She finally finished, turned around, and said, “I needed that today,” before heading to her bedroom and collapsing into bed.
Even though the only thing on the piano I can play is “twinkle, twinkle little star,” I understood.  I understood the need to escape for a little while.  The need to slip into something great.  It’s why I love a great book.  The complete absorption.  The escape.  
And now every time I hear Les Mis, I crave a good Roald Dahl novel.  I hear Beethoven and need Jane Austen.  
Almost like an alcoholic walking into a bar.  Keep me away from the music, and for that matter, keep me away from a good bookstore,
Or even worse. . .a good book blog.
Book blogs.  A whole group of people just like me.  Who understand me.  Who understand why thirty boxes of books would be considered a necessity, and a special moving truck to move a piano is no big deal.  
Enablers to my addiction.  That's what you are.
And I love you for it.

Much Love!

Sunday, November 13, 2011


IMM is a meme started by Kristi at The Story Siren as a way for bloggers to share what books they received over the week or weeks . That way we can discover new books, old books or books we may have over looked and see what may be coming out in the future that we want to keep an eye out for.
I haven't done one in a couple of weeks so here's what I got!



These books were all for review except Mistwood which I won in a contest several weeks ago.  And I'm sorry I don't remember who sent it to me, but I know I thanked her on Twitter.

So the books I received were both Poison Diary books The Poison Diaries and Nightshade by Maryrose Wood with the Duchess of Northumberland and if you will notice there is a giveaway going on for a signed copy of Nightshade.  I read both of these in one day and loved them, obviously.  Gothic paranormal romance.  Loved it!
Thank you Balzer and Bray and Harper Collins!

Also you'll see I received Unlovable by Sherry Gammon.  I just started this one, but already can't put it down! Thanks Sherry!

The Weaver by Kai Strand is a cute MG story that I read in about an hour.  My review for that is coming up, but it's a cute story. Thank Kai!

Dark Passages by Kathryn Leigh Scott is a book I won through Library Things, but it never came.  It finally showed up, but it will have to sit on the back burner for now. Thanks Pomegranate Press!

The Dig: Zoe and Zeus is by Audrey Hart and was just released this week.  I haven't been able to get too far into it.  But it's got a jealous Greek goddess, time travel and an archaeological dig!  And romance.  All the makings of a great YA story for me!  Thanks Audrey and Backlit Fiction!

And lastly NoahZarc Mammoth Trouble by D. Robert Pease.  This one came about two days after I agreed to review it and I read the first few pages to my 11 yr old (the one that may not make it to 12) and he was hooked.  So I'm hiding it from him until I get a chance to read it.  But it's about a boy who rescues animals from extinction throughout time!  Noah's Ark-NoahZarc.  He's a parapalegic, but that doesn't slow him down.  If the first chapter is any indication of what the rest of the story is going to be like it's face paced, action packed and has just the right touch of humor with a very authentic voice.  Thanks Robert!

So, I gave you a rundown on everything I got.  What great things did you get in your mailbox?


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Little Women and Me by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Emily is sick and tired of being a middle sister. So when she gets an assignment to describe what she'd change about a classic novel, Emily pounces on Little Women. After all, if she can't change things in her own family, maybe she can bring a little justice to the March sisters. (Kill off Beth? Have cute Laurie wind up with Amy instead of Jo? What was Louisa May Alcott thinking?!) But when Emily gets mysteriously transported into the world of the book, she discovers that righting fictional wrongs won't be easy. And after being immersed in a time and place so different from her own, it may be Emily-not the four March sisters-who undergoes the most surprising change of all. Lauren Baratz-Logsted's winning confection will appeal to fans of Little Women as well as anyone who enjoys a modern twist on an old favorite.

Let's see, first I'll have to admit this isn't the most exciting book, but then, Little Women wasn't a barn burner either so what can you expect going in.  That being said, this one moved slowly for me.  Just like Little Women did for me.  There just isn't a lot of action.  There's a lot of thinking and telling, but no action.  Not until the very end and it isn't enough to make up for the lack of action throughout the story.
I think the story probably portrays a very typical New England life back in the 1860's.

So, let's talk characters.  I loved the main character Emily.  She was a middle child and suffered from not knowing where she fit in, not the oldest, not the baby.  Just who was she?  Having an older sister, I know how annoying it is to be bossed around, so when she goes through time to live in the world of Little Women (that isn't a spoiler, if you don't know that's what happens then you haven't read anything about the book) she has two older sisters to boss her around.  And if Jo March was my older sister we'd have come to blows.  I don't remember the characters all that well from the original book, but in this one, they are all a bit grating.  Amy so prissy, Beth so sickly, Jo so bossy and Meg so prim.  I wish the author had really shaken things up.  Had the girls wearing mini skirts and tube tops or something.  But no, that didn't happen.
But as I said I liked Emily.  She did grin and bear it and tried to figure out why she was there.  She accepted things for what they were.  And tried to make changes.  She seemed to take a sudden character growth towards the end of the story and then it's all tied up.

Truthfully, it was okay.  But not that exciting, not unforgettable.  Emily had so much potential, but she just didn't do anything much in the end.  So, not really liking the original story, reliving it with one extra person in it, really didn't make me like it any more than before.  There were some funny things like Emily introducing new words like "dude" and hearing Laurie answer the door with "Dude".  And Emily wondering what the fake love letters between Meg and Mr. Brown contained-him"I find your ankles, when glimpsed beneath the bottom of your voluminous skirts, irresistible." and her-"I do love the idea of you looking at my ankles, but do wait until I am a bit older before gazing at them so forthrightly". The mind reeled."(p. 237)  So Emily's wit does help.  

Who would like this?  I think anyone that loved Little Women but does mind a little change up in the story.  I just wasn't into the story.  I thought the writing was easy to read and Emily was witty, it just wasn't my kind of story.  It doesn't mean you won't find it to be one of your favorites.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Guest Post with Susan Quinn on Building a World Without Dumping Info

Building a World Without Dumping Info
by Susan Kaye Quinn

One of the comments I keep hearing about Open Minds is how the details of the world come alive to readers without there being a lot of info-dumping (large paragraphs of text that go into excruciating detail about the type of furniture or technology in the world). This makes me very happy, because if you read some of my first writing, when I started out about three years ago, you would realize this weaving in of backstory does not come naturally to me.

Given that I'm a technical person by training (that Ph.D. in Engineering can feed the tendency to be hyperspecific), and that I like to build worlds packed with cool technology, social change and complicated backstories, you can see I'm swimming upstream against my natural tendency to info-dump. I love to create gadgets like the flushable trash in Kira's house or the mindware interface of her refrigerator, as well as more complicated things like the transportation infrastructure that replaces major tollways with a system of trains, buses, and auto-programmable taxis. But more than a passing reference to these things will leave my readers glassy eyed and flipping pages. Too much detail, just like too little, can weaken a story.

There's no short-cut to integrating a complex world or backstory into your novel without sending your reader off to snooze-land. But there are a few guidelines I keep in mind, even today, as I'm drafting the beginning of Closed Hearts, the sequel to Open Minds (beginnings are the trickiest, where every word can either pull your reader in or put them off for the rest of the story).

Horde Your Reveals Like Treasure
Got a cool invention you want to place in your story? Make it meaningful to one of the characters and hold off on revealing it until the last possible moment, where the impact of that reveal is greatest.

Got a juicy tidbit from your character's past that explains everything about who they are and why they do what they do? Save it, create a scene around it, then ramp up to the reveal of that bit of backstory. Even better, plant something earlier in the story that hints at this crucial backstory piece, but don't reveal it yet. Then, when the reveal comes, the reader will connect the pieces together and have a deeper understanding of your character. If you give everything away in the beginning, you're robbing your reader of this very satisfying experience.

Go Deep into Your Character's Head
Info-dumping is almost always the author's voice sneaking in, trying to whisper some crucial bit of information to the reader so that the story will make sense. But the story should already make sense to your character. Diving deep into her (or his) head and telling the story from there will keep you from going into extraneous detail about the exhaust system of the hydro-propulsion engine of her mom's car or the international banking system that has replaced all currencies with a single, universal credit system. (Are you yawning yet?)

If there's some backstory or aspect of the world that's crucial for the reader to understand in depth, then have your character discover it along with the reader. Understanding the world of mindreading and mindjacking was an important aspect of Open Minds, and Kira (the main character) discovers all the details of how these things work as the story moves along. But the story isn’t about mindreading and mindjacking, even though there is a lot of that going on. It is about the struggle of a girl to find acceptance in her world, and ultimately acceptance of herself.

Treat Your World Like a Character
Kira is in deep conflict with the world of Open Minds. At first she’s a zero, an outcast in her world. Then she’s a mindjacker, someone so outcast they are hidden beneath the surface of society. That conflict creates a lot of the tension that drives the story forward. Treating your world like a character will help you find ways to reveal aspects of that world, and have the world evolve, just as a character would.

Trust Your Reader
Readers are crazy smart. Not only are they intelligent to begin with, but years of reading books and watching movies has trained their intuition to pick up clues about a world as they read along. If you tell every detail of your world to your reader, they will start tapping their toes and peeking at their iPhone, waiting for the good stuff to start happening. Keeping ahead of these very savvy readers, keeping them guessing about the story, is no small trick. Trust your reader to pick up the clues that you leave, to read between the lines. You’ll have to work hard to keep ahead of them!

Overall, it was great fun to build the mindreading world that Kira lives in, but it was a challenge to craft the story such that the world was revealed at just the right pace to keep readers interested and moving forward. But I’m already having fun doing it again in Closed Hearts, taking the world I built in Open Minds and diving deeper to find all the cool gadgets, powers, and story still to be revealed.
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