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Sunday, 22 October 2017

STALKING JACK THE RIPPER by Kerri Maniscalco


In this spine-chilling gothic murder mystery set in gritty Victorian-era London, an intrepid society girl finds herself inescapably embroiled in the investigation of a ghastly serial killer known as Jack the Ripper.

Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord's daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father's wishes and society's expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle's laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.



I have to start this review by mentioning how beautiful the cover for this book is. It's such a perfect combination of pretty and eerie. Also, I've always been morbidly interested in Jack the Ripper, so of course I was interested in checking out this YA title! :)

It's 1888 in Victorian London, and while most girls are interested in having tea parties, gossiping and trying to snatch up a wealthy suitor, Audrey Rose Wadsworth only cares about science. She might be the daughter of a lord determined to restrict her every movement in order to keep her safe, but this doesn't stop her from secretly apprenticing with her uncle. And even sneaking into his forensic classes posing as a boy. 

This is how she meets the charming, but devilish, Thomas Cresswell.

Thomas is smart, works with her uncle, has many interesting medical theories, is willing to work alongside a girl, and is just mysterious enough to entice her attention. He captivates Audrey Rose in a way no other boy ever has. To the point where she even finds herself admiring the way he looks and dresses. But she's got more important things to focus on because the East End is under siege by a maniac who is slicing up ladies of the night and stealing their internal organs. This makes it harder for her to slink around at night to use her amateur sleuthing skills on this case, but certainly doesn't stop her. Not when everything eventually leads too close to home...

Yikes. I LOVED this. So much!

This book is an excellent and unique retelling of one of London's most notorious killers. Over a century after it happened, the mystery of Jack the Ripper is one that still haunts us, and the way it's tackled in this tale is outstanding.

Audrey Rose is such a compelling character and her voice is so honest and intimate that I was instantly drawn into her story and the restrictive world everyone is so desperately trying to strap her into. She's ambitious, unapologetic, isn't afraid to be herself, indulges in what others consider to be unsavory interests, and can even be somewhat conniving. I really liked how she was so clever and capable that the men around her had no choice but to take her seriously and even respect her choices.

And Thomas Cresswell. What can I say about this very interesting character? Well, he's certainly a match for Audrey Rose in every way, especially intellectually. They're both thrill seekers, problem solvers, investigators, and SO made for each other! I can't wait to see what other adventures they get up to next.

Also, Audrey Rose's cousin Liza might have been a minor character and mostly off-page, but I really liked her. On the surface the two girls seem so different, but Liza had an adventurous streak that hints at trouble. I hope we get to spend more time with her in future books.

Stalking Jack the Ripper is a fantastic and very atmospheric book that portrays Victorian London so vividly the events came alive in my mind. I was hooked, and didn't want to put it down because I wanted to go along on this macabre ride until the last stop. The mystery at the heart of the story might be familiar but it's presented in such a refreshing way that it thrilled me every step of the way, and kept me guessing until the very sad and shocking conclusion.

This book is part Sherlock Holmes, some Jekyll and Hyde, and even has a hint of one of my favourites, Frankenstein.

If you're looking for a well-written historical YA with strong characters, an intriguing mystery, quite a few creepy situations and a good dash of horror, then you must read this! You won't be disappointed.

Oh, and the inside of this book is as gorgeous as the outside. The morbid historical pictures randomly added throughout were a great touch.


Stalking Jack the Ripper, October 2017, ISBN 9780316273510, Little, Brown US

Monday, 16 October 2017

Writing Numbers


Since finishing my latest first draft a few weeks ago, I've been thinking about how I work through each draft. Especially first drafts.

So I thought I'd post a bit about how I tackle these projects by allocating daily, weekly and monthly goals. I always find it easier to break things down into smaller goals to reach the big one.

Even though my process is similar every time, each project is a little different. But they all start with brainstorming an idea that's been simmering in the back of my mind for months. 

When I pick my next WIP, I grab a notebook and fill it up with pages and pages of notes. Every thought, scene and/or dialogue relating to the story goes in here. As well as character names, descriptions, traits and research. Not to mention pictures. These help me visualise the characters, locations and some of the things the characters will do and/or face. Then I start the chapter breakdowns. Sometimes I'll have loose notes for the entire book. Other times I'll only have the first 5-10 chapters.

I just fill my brain with stuff before I even begin to create the Word doc. I keep going until it feels like I'm about to burst if I don't start telling the story. LOL.

Then I grab a calendar and figure out how many actual writing days there are in my chosen month. What I mean by this is how many Mon-Fri there are, because I take weekends off. It's important for me to make sure I don't work on weekends, and instead spend time with hubby, go out, read, go for walks, and have my brain working on the story in the background. That way when Monday hits, I'm ready to go.

Usually I end up setting a 4k words/day goal. That totally works for me because I write in the morning and then in the afternoon. I like to call my sessions: before and after lunch. It's nice to break for an hour to eat and get a breather before adding more words.

Although the 4k thing totally works for me because I write fast first drafts, the projects I've tackled this year have started with 3k/day goals. That end up turning into 4k+/day when my need to get the story out becomes a word count frenzy. 

The reason for the smaller w/c goal lately is because I have a tendency to needlessly push myself, and I'm trying to stop that. If I add 4-5k on any given day, excellent. If not, as long as I have my 3k, I'm good. 

It's all about not putting too much pressure on myself. Which I always do. And strangely, the story ends up doing because everything gets so vivid that I go nuts in my quest to reach The End.

Another thing I find myself doing is reading the last chapter I wrote (the day before) to get back into the story groove and get a feel for what comes next. I usually don't look back and keep moving forward but lately, if something doesn't work or needs to be changed for better direction/plot/motivation, I don't mind backtracking. It saves time later.

The bottom line is: get the raw story out of my head and onto a Word doc as fast as I can. Thorough revision comes later.

First drafts are all about getting the story out.

When I finish the first draft I spend a bit of time updating my chapter and story notes. Plus, I get rid of all the scraps of paper and sticky notes I've accumulated.

Then I feel mentally exhausted and lost for a few days. I miss the story. I miss the process. And start a Revision List before putting it aside for a while. I make sure to take a few months away from the story and start thinking and dreaming about other ideas.

BUT first, I take a few weeks off to refuel. I read, go for walks, search for inspirational pics and watch stuff.

This part is important to avoid burning out.

After that, it's time to either start a new story or revise a first draft.

Well, there you have it. 

This is my process. What's yours?



Thursday, 12 October 2017

NaNoWriMo is Around the Corner


I posted this tweet the other day:

 

I might have written a (YA horror) first draft during mid-September/beginning-October, but now it's time to start thinking about NaNoWriMo.

*rubs hands together*

What is NaNoWriMo? Well, it takes place during the month of November. The goal is to write a 50,000-word fast draft. Writers from all over the world sign up, take part and share their progress on the NaNoWriMo website. You also get badges and word count metres and a snazzy certificate after you verify your novel.

It's fun and a great chance to squeeze in one last WIP before the year is over. :)

I've taken part since 2006. Actually, I've only missed one year (2011) since.

So, this will be my ELEVENTH attempt. Yay!

Here's a breakdown of the stories/genres:
  • 2006: UF (Angie)
  • 2007: SFR (Shade of Grey)
  • 2008: SFR (Shade of Blue)
  • 2009: Horror (Sinful)
  • 2010: Futuristic (Embracing Sunlight)
  • 2011: N/A
  • 2012: UF (Torn from the Shadows)
  • 2013: SFR (Dash)
  • 2014: UF (Willow)
  • 2015: YA Historical (MixedTape)
  • 2016: YA Horror (Haunted)

It's interesting to see how many different genres I've tackled throughout the years. It's also exciting that several of these titles (4) were actually published. And another three were contracted. Even if the publishing companies are no longer alive.

Published is published, I suppose.

Back to NaNoWriMo...

As you can probably tell, I'm a fan of this process. It's pretty much how I tackle my first drafts anyway. 

So: of course I'm going to sign up for 2017! 

But before I do that I have to decide which of my current WIP ideas (there are currently 10) I'm going to focus on.

I've been riding a creepy girls horror story vibe lately, and would love to do that again. Yet, I've got my eye on a project that isn't horror. It's more a YA summer thriller with whimsy SF elements. It's kinda like The X-Files meets Stranger Things with a good dose of Roswell.

There will be some spooky stuff, a dangerous summer adventure, strong friendship bonds and romance. This is also a story that's been in my head for MONTHS, and 50k sounds like the perfect word count goal. So...

Yeah. It looks like I might be leaning towards this story because:
  1. Switching genres--after writing such a dark & emotionally overwhelming demonic possession horror story--will be refreshing.
  2. It'll be fun to write a story set in summer.
  3. I'm enjoying the research & finding inspirational pics for this project.
  4. This story is very much ready to be told.

Um, it looks like I might have made a next-WIP decision. Maybe. I still need a bit of time to think. In the past, I've picked a NaNo idea and then changed my mind at the last minute. Especially since I've got that pesky dragon idea bugging my brain... ;)

Right now I'm enjoying a wonderful, relaxing week with hubby. After everything that's been going on around here, I really needed this time off with him. When he goes back to work next week (*cries*) I plan to spend the rest of the month taking a break between drafts. I need a bit of a mental break. 

I'll keep you posted on what story I decide to write. Either way, I just wanted to share a bit about my NaNoWriMo love and experiences

Are YOU taking part?


Tuesday, 10 October 2017

A SEMI-DEFINITIVE LIST OF WORST NIGHTMARES by Krystal Sutherland


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My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After reading Our Chemical Hearts, I couldn't wait to read this book. And as soon as I started, I was hooked. The writing style is beautiful, Esther is fascinating, and her family so intriguing I was instantly addicted.

Each member of the Solar family is destined to die from their greatest fear. Ever since Reginald Solar met Death during the Vietnam War, his family has been cursed. Everyone in Esther's family suffers from one great fear: her father won't leave the basement because of his agoraphobia, her mother fears bad luck, and her twin brother is terrified of what lurks in the dark.

As for Esther, she has a list full of fears she calls her semi-definitive list of worst nightmares, and after reconnecting with an old friend from elementary school in the oddest way possible, he convinces her to face these fears.

Jonah Smallgood is an enigmatic young man with his own set of very serious problems. The more time they spend together, the more Esther realises he might lead her to that one big fear she's never wanted to face...

Wow. This book is: awesome! I enjoyed every single minute of it, and couldn't wait to see where it would end.

The only reason I took so long to finish is because I was super busy finishing a first draft last week, and had several things to tidy up, then we went out several times. There was so much going on. But hey, if you're going to take your time with a book, this is definitely the one to do it with. :)

Anyway, back to the story.

I loved every single damaged character in this book. I loved how the Solars used the curse as a way of justifying everything. I loved the way mental health was displayed so honestly and dealt with in such a raw way. Plus, I loved the whole Horowitz mystique. Everything fit so well, and when tied together formed a fantastic tale.

The kids were also awesome. Esther, with her anxious ways and always hiding behind some very cool costumes. Jonah, who is so kind and just such a wonderful human being but also a pickpocket. Eugene, with his desperate desire to not be consumed by the darkness of depression manifesting as fear of the dark. Hephzibah, with her selective muteness and ghostly but uplifting constant presence. And of course, the adorable Fleayoncé.

Each one of these characters affected me in a different way, but they all toyed with my heartstrings. And that, my friend, is some brilliant writing right there!

Yeah, I loved this story. It's dark, odd, sad, moody, heartbreaking & beautiful. Plus the ending was perfect, in so many ways!

I'll be looking out for more books written by this very talented author.

 
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