Memory – Madison E. Grey

 

4/5 stars.

Initially, I wasn’t sure how much I was going to enjoy this book. The blurb sounds similar to a lot of YA fantasy that I’ve read, but after the disastrous attempt at reading (and enjoying) The Cabin (see my review here), reading Memory was a relief.

Ms. Grey did an excellent job of reeling the reader into the story. There were parts of the story that were less gripping than others, but overall, I wanted to find out what happened, and nothing got in the way of that throughout the story. There were a few slips in the editing throughout the book, but compared to many other YA authors that I’ve read (again, see my review on The Cabin as a direct comparison), Grey’s writing was a joy to read.

The only thing that caused me to rate this a 4/5 instead of a 5/5 was that the pacing in the last 40% of the book or so was a little rushed, and there were parts that were a little unclear. There was also a lot of action packed into the latter 40% or so, that seemed to serve little purpose but to move the story along. But again, these were not enough to be a detriment to the book overall or to decrease my enjoyment of the story.

Here is a list of what makes Memory work well for me:
* No insta-love and the romances are not the main focus of the story
* Main characters that are actually likable
* Humorous but realistic view of life/the world/the situations in which the characters find themselves
* Compassionate characters
* Not a lot of telling, but a lot of showing (YES!!!!!)
* Prose that is not clunky and a story arc that flows well

The only other issue that I have is that Memory ended on a kind-of cliffhanger that points to reading the sequel… but I can’t complain too much about that, since some of my favorite YA authors do the same.

Definitely would recommend to anyone who loves a quick, action-filled fantasy tale. Also for those who are burnt out on the typical YA protagonists and love triangles – this was a welcome breath of fresh air. I’m definitely going to be keeping an eye out for more books by Ms. Grey!

Advertisements

Relentless – T.L. Childs & T. Deebs

Many thanks to SOURCEBOOKS Fire, via NetGalley, for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

4.5/5

I loved this book.

I didn’t read the first in the series (Powerless) but I think I’m going to – at some point – because I loved the world that Childs and Deebs created. A world where maybe the heroes aren’t all good, and maybe the villains aren’t all bad…

Kenna and her “gang” were very much enjoyable – hilarious, fun, and interesting – although I felt a little like I was missing some information since I hadn’t read the first book in the series. However, Relentless is standalone enough that I understood the majority of what was happening. That being said, for anyone who wants to read this, I’d recommend starting with Powerless for a smoother ride through Childs’ and Deebs’ world.

Nitro cracked me up.

I did get a little tired of Draven being “the bad boy” at the start, but then that illusion disappeared.

The ending was amazing, and I could totally see it playing out in my head like one of Marvel’s movies. (And that is a definite plus!) That being said, I’m not vying for this book to be the next YA made into a film, since I think that would do it an injustice. Though I do think that it would be a very interesting and enjoyable movie, I am more excited about the world and the action scenes being so vivid on paper alone.

I’m not sure what else I can say about this without spoiling elements of the story, but I do recommend it to those who want a rather different take on the hero/villain world. 🙂 I whizzed through Relentless and even though I’m a fast reader, I’m pretty sure it would be a fairly speedy read for anyone.

Now I want to get my hands on Powerless… 🙂

Haven – A.R. Ivanovich

Many thanks to Alloy Entertainment, via NetGalley, for letting me read this book in exchange for an honest review!

5/5 stars.

I’ll be honest. I’ve read a lot of lackluster YA fantasy in the past couple of years – not enough that my interest in the genre is burnt out, by any means, but there certainly seems to be a lot of reuse regarding world building, etc.

I found nothing in Haven that I would consider a trope.

I also found myself enjoying Haven far, far more than I thought I would.

Yes, our protagonist, Katelyn, can be a bit of a brat. Yes, there is instalove (although I didn’t really find myself getting annoyed by that, since there was a lot of other stuff going on throughout the book as well).

But the world was amazing. Many of the scenes – if not all – that took place outside of Rivermarch (and even some that took place there) were ones that I could easily envision, almost like I were watching them unfold on a TV screen. The characters, the places – everything, pretty much – came alive for me.

I don’t really have any complaints about this book, at least not that I can think of right now. If any do pop into my brain, I’ll definitely edit this and add them. But for me at least, this was one of the rare 5/5 stars as well as a book that I think I’d be happy rereading (which is generally what I mean by giving 5/5 stars to a book).

Definitely do recommend to any fantasy lovers, YA lovers, etc. 🙂

Spinning Starlight — R.C. Lewis

Many thanks to Disney Book Group, via NetGalley, for an opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review!

4.5/5.

Warning: this review contains spoilers.  Some.

Wow. Okay, so this book is a retelling of a Hans Christian Anderson fairytale (“The Wild Swans”) but I wasn’t aware of this. Actually, that’s a lie, I probably was but I have such a huge number of books on my Kindle right now that I don’t remember the blurbs of every one.

Anyway, Spinning Starlight blew me away. I don’t even know how to express what about this book made me so happy. It’s YA sci-fi with the twist of being a fairytale retelling, but the fairytale element is really not that obvious, which is something I like — and it’s also not a super well-known fairy tale (as compared with ones like Cinderella, or Sleeping Beauty, or Bluebeard).

I really liked Liddi. Yes, there clearly were the “good” people and “bad” people. The good ones were mainly Liddi, her brothers, and then once the really interesting section of the book starts, there was Tiav and a few others on Ferrine, although there is some question about his loyalty at one point. The “bad” person was clearly Minali, so there was that black-and-white, good-or-bad aspect that’s very fairytale-ish. And the fact that Minali was the main bad guy instead of there being more than one is also fairly stand fairytale fare.

Spinning Starlight also had some plot twists that I didn’t anticipate, such as the introduction of the device implanted in Liddi’s throat that meant she couldn’t talk. Obviously this meant finding help from people on Ferrine was much more difficult — even more so because writing had disappeared from Liddi’s planet — replaced with communication tablets (think AI that are almost sentient). But obviously without the use of comm tablets and without Liddi being able to speak, she can’t explain her predicament — Minali wanting to kill all 8 of her brothers for “the betterment of technology” — and this gets her in a lot of trouble on Ferrine.

And the Khua. ♥ They reminded me SO MUCH of the Naaru in World of Warcraft (yes, self-admission, I am a gamer and love WoW, haha). Not to the extent that I feel it was copied directly from WoW or anything, but enough to make me be able to visualize them as Liddi describes them.
And the ending, oh, my heart!! I finished this book in a McDonald’s while waiting for my husband to pick me up, and I almost started crying. It was a good ending, but sad, obviously.

Anyway. Definitely definitely recommend, and R.C. Lewis is most certainly going to be on my “look up more books by this author” list. Well done, Ms. Lewis!!

Blog tour, part 3: My review of Downcast by Cait Reynolds.

Prior to reading this review, I urge you to read Downcast Blog Tour!!, the first post in this three-post installment, so you have a sense of what Downcast (and the blog tour!) is all about.

Many thanks to Booktrope, via NetGalley, for an opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review!

4.5/5 stars.

I really enjoyed Downcast.  The protagonist, Stephanie, was — to me — a very realistic portrayal of a daughter who is living a life that is almost 100% dictated by her mother.  At the start of the book, Stephanie didn’t really seem to realize just how peculiar her mother was, compared to her friends’ parents.  Nor did she realize that there was anything odd about her upbringing, lack of extended family, etc.  I really disliked her mom, though, because she seemed to be the absolute epitome of a “helicopter parent.”downcast cover large

However, as the book goes on, Stephanie begins to understand that her mother is not only peculiar, but she is — in short — “losing it.”  The very steady, very routine life that she and her mother lived for many years begins to change and become disrupted when Stephanie meets Haley at school — he and his brother Zack are newcomers to the area, and mysterious ones, at that.  Haley is very attracted to Stephanie and of course, vise versa (how could a living, breathing girl not be attracted to Haley’s mysterious nature, especially a girl who is accustomed to being an outcast?), but Stephanie’s mother doesn’t like the idea of her daughter spending time with boys, much less dating them.  Haley and Zack are polar opposites: literally as different from each other as light and dark.

The pace of the novel picks up when Stephanie decides to make some changes; in a normal teen’s life, they wouldn’t be considered large changes (wardrobe additions, new hairstyle, etc.), but in Stephanie’s life, they take on monumental proportions.  This is where the book becomes really intriguing, and from here I am not going to share any more about what happens — since if you really want to know, read the book.  It’s definitely worth the investment.

My only “problem” with Downcast — at least, at first — was the fact that although it’s a retelling of “one of mythology’s greatest love stories,” I didn’t figure out which myth it was retelling until near the end.  However, since having read it and thought about that a little bit, I take back what I said.  I think it’s a good thing that it wasn’t as plain as day, since if I had known which myth it was based on, I would’ve been able to foretell at least a little more of what happened in the book than I was able to.  And that, for me, would’ve made the ending less enjoyable (as well as less exciting).  So again, I am not going to share which myth it retells, although if you are more familiar with mythology than I am, you probably will pick up on it sooner than I did.

The ending was perfect in my eyes, as well.  Again, I’m not going to give it away, but I have a feeling that it will lead perfectly into the next book in the series, which I am definitely going to be snagging once it’s published. (After I read Downcast and realized that it was the beginning of the series, I got really excited.) Although Downcast is a relatively quick read, that doesn’t make it “less than” in my eyes.  It just means that Cait has the ability to hook readers with her words and pull them into the worlds that she so carefully creates.

I definitely recommend Downcast to anyone who is interested in novels that retell myths, as well as those who enjoy paranormal YA romance (although I’d say that this is very untypical from the average YA romance books, of course, since the paranormal element/mythology retelling was the main part of the story).

Well done, Cait.  I’m very excited to see what other books you will be publishing in the coming months and years!  Thank you for letting me be a part of the blog tour for Downcast — it was my privilege.

downcast banner

Blog tour, part 2: Cait’s Top 10 list.

Without further ado, I present Cait’s response to my question for her.

Ten Ways I Motivate Myself to Write Regularly

This is a horrible post to write.

It’s horrible because it makes me look all my faults in the eye without blinking. One of my greatest faults is that I struggle to write regularly. It’s like motivating myself to go to the gym. I want to do it. I enjoy it. It’s good for me. But, somehow Candy Crush and laundry always get in the way.

This topic is also a challenge because I’m a relatively new full-time writer, and I’m still trying to figure out what my groove will be. Am I a binge writer that can pound out a novel in two months? Or am I a Steady Eddie that cranks a thousand words a day? I’ve been both before. I could be both again.

That said, there are things that help me keep moving forward. I will list them out, but I will also talk about exactly what foible they counteract. Maybe, just maybe, something I say might have meaning for someone other than myself.

  1. I am a small business.

When I decided to become a full-time writer, I went into it eyes wide open. I knew that marketing and business management were going to be a large part of my “job.” Just like any job, the business of being a writer is 20% what you love doing – the writing, and 80% the stuff that has to get done so you can have the 20% – the editing, marketing, finances, social media, etc.

I put together a five year business plan. I didn’t write down any numbers because I honestly didn’t know how enough about the what, when, and how of income from writing. But, I made a list of the books I would write each year, and I vowed to stick to that list. Year One was a total disaster. I kept getting distracted by the shiny new thing. Year Two is going better. I am exercising a painful amount of willpower to resist shiny new things, and it’s paying off.

So, when I feel like being lazy or want to go out with a girlfriend instead of writing, I remind myself that I am the CEO and Human Resources Director of my own small company. If I don’t do the work and take myself seriously, then no one else will, and there won’t be any money to finance the semi-fabulous lifestyle I want.

Lesson: Take yourself seriously. You are a business. This is a job. Treat it like one. Be your own mean HR person who is a stickler for sick time and vacation.

  1. It takes a village.

In other words, I need an entire squad of cheerleaders egging me on. I have built a small group of beta readers that I love and trust. Their job is to read what I’ve written, praise what’s good, tell me what’s weak, and nag me for more. I’ve been well-trained in the art of guilt, and so the positive guilt and expectations my cheerleaders give me is a tremendous boost to my confidence and my productivity.

Lesson: Find 3-5 people you love and trust. Share your work. Share your struggles. Be open to their feedback. Know it’s given in love. You and your work will be better for it.

  1. The one that gets you.

Out of my group of cheerleaders, there is Britt. She is the one who ‘gets’ my writing as much as she ‘gets’ me. She is a writer herself, and she knows the effort it takes to produce a book. She knows me as a person and will call me out when I am hiding or denying things that bother me and keep me from writing. She will see the very first, roughest pages and give me her honest opinion. She will spend hours doing what she has termed ‘Story Yoga’ with me to work out plot points. She demands I do better in the most loving way possible. She makes me a better person and a better writer.

Lesson: Find a friend who can be a partner. Treasure them.

  1. Accept the inevitable.

There will be days of writers block. There will be hours when you feel like you are slogging through the worst, most awful drivel you have ever written, and that no human being should be subjected to reading such tripe. You will think that you should give up and go back to accounting/marketing/retail/human resources/waitressing.

That’s okay. It happens. If you fight it when that happens, you will find yourself mired in days and days of gloomy introspection. But if you accept that this is part of the process and probably part of the writer’s temperament, then, you can allow it to rise to the surface and pop like a bubble…and then get back to work.

Lesson: You will hate yourself at times. It’s okay. It’s not forever. Just let it be.

 

  1. Procrastination will happen.

Laundry. Dishes. Dog. Bills. Gym. Doctor’s appointments. Mom. Friends. Cooking. Dishes. Squirrel!

Yes, you will procrastinate. I have made procrastination into a high art form. I mean, what I do to put off writing is up there with Warhol and Da Vinci. I can think of ten thousand things to do instead of writing and justify them all beautifully.

But just like accepting that I will have better and worse days with my writing, accepting that I will find ways to procrastinate seems to defuse the bomb of indefinite procrastination. I now recognize that procrastination is sometimes the time my brain needs to mull over plot points, and sometimes, it’s the break my brain needs in order to recharge.

The trick to accepting procrastination is that you have to set a time limit. Take control of your procrastination. Use the timer on your phone. Round up to the nearest half-hour. Play until then. Then guilt yourself back to work.

Lesson: Procrastination happens. Let it happen. Then get over it.

  1. The merits of a husband.

My husband supports me wholeheartedly. He is unflagging in his love for me and his encouragement of my ambition. He also is my anchor to reality. He is my partner in the truest sense of the word. He stokes the fire of my dreams while reminding me that kindling (pun fully intended) doesn’t come for free. I have to be serious. I have to be realistic. I have to have a goal and drive toward revenue. We are in this marriage together, and we both have to bring our best to the table. He helps me remember this and supports me as I grope my way toward success, knowing that I’m committed to our family and our future.

Lesson: Find a husband. Or a wife. Or a boyfriend. Or a girlfriend. Or a pet. Someone to love you but still hold you accountable.

  1. Go for a run. Or a walk.

Breaking a sweat is one of the best ways I get myself to sit down and write. Running and walking clears my mind in a way that yoga never will. Once my antsy physical energy has been spent, my brain has room to kick in. After exercising hard, I generally need less time and write more. A twist on this trick is that I will tell myself after I get back that I have to write for 45 minutes or an hour before I can shower. Believe me, that gets my butt in the seat and working hard. And the shower afterwards is one of the best feelings in the world.

Lesson: Break a sweat with your body before you break a sweat with your plot.

 

  1. Get competitive. With yourself.

Writing is like going to the gym. It’s a habit you have to develop. Everyday I write, I get better at my craft, but I also develop more creative stamina. When I started writing seriously, I was lucky to get up to 500 words a day. I wasn’t impressed with myself. I knew I needed to do more if I was going to really crank out a book.

So, I set stretch goals for myself. Every week, I tried to raise my daily writing bar by 100 words. Today, I’m at the point where I can easily crank out 2,500 words a day, but I’m still working on increasing that. Eventually, I would like to get to the point of being able to write 5,000 words a day. Once I reach that goal, I will add in editing so that those 5,000 words a day are the best words I can put out there.

Lesson: Be firm in your word count goals every day. Don’t be afraid to push yourself to increase your creative endurance.

  1. Structure and routine are my friends.

I am a plotter, not a pantser. I have to have organization in almost every aspect of my writing, from setting up the routine of my days to how many words per chapter I write.

Believe me, I’ve tried to be the romantic, Bohemian pantser, writing when the spirit takes me and diving into a book without an idea beyond the basics. The only thing I have to show for those efforts are a folder on my computer full of half-baked, 10,000-word attempts at books.

Therefore, I have learned to embrace my OCD organizational needs and use them as strengths. I have developed a way of plotting that uses my entire double closet doors as a giant bulletin board where I tape up pieces of paper, index cards, and notes. I have perfected the 2,500-word chapter. I will either write two scenes of 1,250 words or one long scene of 2,500 words. I know how long it takes me to write 500 words, and based on that, I organize and schedule my writing time.

Lesson: Know how you plot. Know how you write. Know how much you write. Plan accordingly.

 

  1. Sprint like the wind.

This is probably the most important thing I do to get myself writing.

I am usually on Twitter every afternoon and evening, participating in numerous writing sprints. You can check out The Sprint Shack, Get Wordies, JuNoWriMo, Friday Night Writes, Write All Year, and others. I’ve met awesome people in these sprints, and they have become my friends and writing buddies.

There’s also something about being given a set time to produce then having to report back your word count that inspires me to be competitive and productive. I admit that I struggled a lot to drive myself to write when it was just me and a blank page. But, with the Twitter sprinting community, I get support, inspiration, a chance to vent, and a the direction and management that I need to get my butt in gear.

Lesson: If you have trouble writing by yourself, check out the sprinting communities on Twitter. It makes writing fun and companionable.

__________

Thanks, Cait, for being willing to answer such a horrible question. 🙂 It really is a difficult question to answer (spoken from my experiences while doing NaNoWriMo), but your answers are fantastic.

Stay tuned!!~ up next is my review of Downcast.

Downcast blog tour!!

A brief intro before I get into the “meat” of this post: Downcast — by Cait Reynolds — is a book that I had the pleasure of reading, courtesy of Booktrope via NetGalley.  Shortly after I had read (well, honestly, “devoured” is a better term) Downcast, I was contacted by Cait’s publicist to see if I wanted to participate in a blog tour promoting her book.  Since I loved the book and have time on my hands, I said sure!  So here is some information about the book, about Cait.  The next post will be a Top Ten list that she very kindly provided to me (based on my question* “What are the top 10 ways you motivate yourself to write regularly?”), and the final post will be my review of Downcast, which I have saved to post until today. (I didn’t want to overwhelm with a hugely long post, so hopefully this formatting will be okay!)

* When I was trying to come up with a “good” question for Cait, my friend E — a fellow book-blogger from from To Tell Your Story — helped me come up with the question I ended up asking. 🙂

First up — the blurb for Downcast and information about Cait Reynolds, the awesome author of Downcast!

About the book
What would you do when faced with an impossible truth? Written with heart and passion, Downcast by Cait Reynolds is ripe with twists you never saw coming and love that defies the odds in this intense new Paranormal Romance retelling one of mythology’s greatest love stories.
downcast cover large
It’s the start of Stephanie Starr’s senior year of high school, but sadly, this is no life of the prom queen. Stuck at the bottom of the high school social totem pole, Stephanie is forced by her domineering mother to wear lumpy linen dresses and eat organic tofu for lunch in a world of mini-skirts and pizza.

What Stephanie doesn’t anticipate is gorgeous and cocky Haley Smith who breaks social convention and pursues her with a determination that is both terrifying and flattering. Afraid that Haley is simply trying to set her up for massive humiliation, Stephanie does her best to push him away. But the more attention he pays to her, the more she runs, and the more everyone else begins to notice.

Instead of a loving family to support her as the mean girls make their play, Stephanie’s mother begins to unravel mentally, her possessiveness of Stephanie spiraling to new and frightening extremes. Stephanie is forced to grow up, find herself, and learn the truth about her past in order to save her mother, her friends, and her town. When the truth is revealed, nothing can prepare her for the outrageous reality of her existence…and nothing can save her from her fate.

Except Haley.

About Cait Reynoldscait reynolds

Cait Reynolds lives in Boston area with her husband and 4-legged fur child. She discovered her passion for writing early and has bugged her family and friends with it ever since. When she isn’t cooking delicious meals, running around the city, rock climbing like a boss, or enjoying the rooftop deck that brings her closer to the stars, she writes. Reynolds is able to pull from real life experiences such as her kidney transplant, and her writing reflects her passion for life from having to face the darkest  places and find the will to laugh.

Find Cait Online – http://caitreynolds.com/
On Twitter – https://twitter.com/caitreynolds
On Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8441258.Cait_Reynolds

Purchase Links
Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Downcast-Olympus-Falling-Cait-Reynolds/dp/1620159546/
Barnes & Noble – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/downcast-cait-reynolds/1121909253?ean=9781620159545

downcast banner

Stay tuned!!~ Up next: Cait’s response to the question: “What are the Top 10 ways you motivate yourself to write regularly?”