Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Revision Plan Complete!

So. Here we are, two weeks later. And fast approaching the end of May. Yikes. 

I'm not happy about how quickly this year is moving. O_o

Last Friday I completed the third draft of my 1980's YA novel. Yay. I ended up cutting a bunch of words. Well, to be honest, I deleted a whole chapter and then some. Which was sad, because I really liked that chapter. It was a lot of fun to write. One of those vivid scenes I could see so clearly inside my mind, it felt like the montage part of the story. LOL.

Oh well. If this book ever gets published, maybe I can post this cut scene on my blog as an extra. :P

Now, let's get the numbers out of the way...

New word count is: 99,804.
Page count is now: 276.

I ended up cutting over 5k words.

I'm happy with that!

Yesterday, I opened the document again so I could take care of the sticky notes Tweak List I had left over from Friday. And that's also done, which means it's time to put it away for a bit.

Next week, I'll put the ms on my Kindle and read it from start to finish. The story always looks different when read on my Paperwhite. It makes glaring mistakes stand out. After that, it's time to pass it onto my daughter. She's gonna beta read the novel for me, and has actually been looking forward to it since I first showed her the very rough beginning.

Hope she likes it.

Well, there you have it. I'm one step closer to reaching the end of this story. That's why personal goals are so important. They keep your mind sharp and the hunger of writing fed. Until this project is done, I can't bring myself to concentrate on anything else.

I guess this means that the rest of this week will be dedicated to catching up on all the things I neglected during my frenzied third draft binge.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

RUIN AND RISING by Leigh Bardugo


SHADOW AND BONE. 
SIEGE AND STORM. 
Now Alina's story reaches its incredible conclusion in RUIN AND RISING. 

 The capital has fallen. The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne. Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova's amplifiers. But as Alina begins to unravel the Darkling's secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction - but claiming it could cost Alina the very future she is fighting for.


The other day I decided it was time to find out how the Grisha Trilogy ends, so I got stuck into it.

Alina Starkov might be hailed as a Saint by her followers, but after almost dying during her latest encounter with the Darkling, she's weak and damaged. So much that she can no longer connect to her power source because she's been living underground for months.

The Apparat is attempting to come across as someone who worships the Sun Summoner and is only concerned with keeping her safe, but he's doing the opposite. He's power hungry and wants to control every facet of her life. To isolate her from her friends and allies, keep her under his watchful eye so he can control the masses in her name, and make sure she doesn't go anywhere.

But Alina wants to find the firebird so she can amplify her power enough to defeat the Darkling. That's the only way they're going to overthrow and overcome the dark ruler who is obsessed with her power and is more determined than ever to destroy everything...

Yep. This is how you complete a trilogy.

The narrative and action is well balanced with the emotional and shocking events that unfold. The setting takes us from the depths of an underground cathedral to the exhilarating heights of a mountain fortress. Plus the twists and turns don't stop coming, and keep you guessing until the final battle. 

Ruin and Rising is an explosive conclusion to an intriguing and addictive trilogy. The mythology is as rich in this book as it was in the previous two books, and delves even deeper. The biggest revelation took me by surprise and turned out to be shocking and heartbreaking. The ending is both sad and exciting. It's also very satisfying

I especially liked that everything ended where it began.

Now it's time to read the new series set in this world...


Ruin and Rising, July 2015, ISBN 9781780621845, Indigo

Monday, 16 May 2016

So, I got my rights back...


Yep. That's right.

Remember that book I was really excited about contracting with Samhain Publishing last year? It was called RAISING SOME HELL and had an awesome cover made by the brilliant Kanaxa. RSH also happens to be the second book in the Elsewhere duology. The first one, HELL OF A RIDE, is already available, and will be until Samhain closes its doors.

As it turns out, the timing for RSH was (unfortunately) all wrong. Because we hadn't started the editing process at the time Samhain announced it was closing, this book didn't meet the cut-off. The positive outcome is that I was eligible to get my rights reverted. And last week, I got the letter. But, getting the rights back turned out to be a lot more bittersweet than I expected.

While it's awesome that Samhain Publishing were super efficient and emailed the letter to me ASAP, this story is now left in a weird spot called Limbo. I don't know what I'm going to do with RSH. The duology has been split. A duology I was very excited about sharing. 

You see, I was lucky enough to have the Sierra Fox series entirely published (in both eBook and paperback) by Samhain Publishing. Then I wrote the spin-off duology featuring two of my favourite secondary characters: Lavie and Willow. These two girls had a LOT more stories to tell and I was ecstatic about sharing their separate novels.

These two books were supposed to round out all the stories I had planned to write in Sierra's world. Willow's book takes place 5 years after A STITCH ON TIME, and we get to find out where Sierra is now. So it's disappointing that it wasn't released alongside the others.

Yeah, a total bummer.

I don't know where to go from here with this story. Not yet.

Do I sub RSH somewhere and hope someone is willing to publish a stand-alone that fits into a larger world? Do I think about self-publishing? Or do I just let the book sit on my hard drive? I honestly don't know. I've already got a bunch of homeless books sitting on my hard drive from the DB/EP debacle. 

So...

The state of the publishing industry is too shaky at the moment. Too many companies are closing, others are merging, a lot of authors are choosing the self-pub route. The competition is fierce, it's hard to stand out. It's all too hard and confusing right now.

I feel like I've reached a crossroads in my writing adventure. I'm looking to my left and right, trying to figure out where to turn.

One of these days I'm sure I'll make a decision about RSH, but for now--since no one's honking behind me yet--I'm just going to keep the engine idling at the crossroads.

Hold on, is that a semi I see in my rearview mirror? ;)

Decisions, decisions.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

IN THE DARK, IN THE WOODS by Eliza Wass

An unforgettable thriller from an incredible new author. Father wants sixteen-year-old Castley and her five siblings to hide from the world. Living in a falling-down house deep in the woods, he wants to bury their secrets where noone will ever find them. 

Father says they are destined to be together forever. In heaven. Father says the sooner they get there, the better. 

But Castley wants to be normal. She wants to kiss boys and wear jean shorts. 

CASTLEY WANTS TO LIVE.


As soon as I read the blurb for this book, I knew I wanted to read it. 

Castella Cresswell is sixteen and part of a big family. Castley has five brothers and sisters--Caspar, Mortimer, Delvive, Jerusalem, Hannan--and happens to be a triplet. The townspeople call them freaks because they live in a big rundown house in the middle of the woods, and because they dress like they belong in another century. Not to mention that their father is a super strict man obsessed with God and reaching heaven. He expects them to keep to themselves and doesn't accept outsiders. He also insists that God speaks to him. 

Since the authorities interfered and all the kids were forced to go to school, they've started to mingle with people their age. But the teenagers have also started to feel typical growing pains and personal desires--things their father doesn't approve of. Their mother is a damaged woman in a wheelchair. A devoted wife who believes everything her husband says, is always reading his scriptures, and isn't much of a mother. 

In spite of the way she's been raised and the isolated world she lives in, Castley is curious. She's adventurous, reckless and likes the freedom of escaping into the woods in the middle of the night with her brothers. The more she sees of the outside world, the more she starts to question everything her father preaches.

Will her rebellious ways lead to the truth about the Cresswells, or will she destroy the family? And what will happen when the awful truth is revealed? 

Yikes. Wow. Amazing.

The mysterious and very religious world the Cresswell kids are forced to live in is scary. The super creepy rules and regulations Father puts the kids through made for a very suspenseful read. The fear is vivid and leaps off the page as much as their need to not disappoint Father, and keep their faith strong. 

Castley is such a strong character. She's the heart and soul of the family. A shining star lost in all this darkness. She loves her siblings and is willing to do whatever it takes to save them, even if they turn against her. The relationship between Castley, Caspar and Mortimer is complicated, but it's a deeper bond than the other siblings seem to have. And the way Castley reacts and deals with her own attraction to a boy was outstanding.

In the Dark, In the Woods is a beautiful, creepy and heartbreaking book. It's lyrical, intoxicating and sad. This is the story of a bizarre family led astray by their secretive patriarch, and a girl who just wants the chance to be normal. And it will also haunt you long after the last page.

I LOVED this book SO MUCH. Not only is it going on my keeper shelf, but I'm sure I will read it again in the near future.

Brilliant!

I have to thank Hachette Australia for sending me a copy of this awesome book.


In the Dark, In the Woods, June 2016, ISBN 9781784299910, Quercus Children's Books

Friday, 13 May 2016

THE LEAVING by Tara Altebrando

The Leaving
Eleven years ago, six kindergartners went missing without a trace. After all that time, the people left behind moved on, or tried to. 

 Until today. Today five of those kids return. They're sixteen, and they are . . . fine. Scarlett comes home and finds a mom she barely recognizes, and doesn't really recognize the person she's supposed to be, either. But she thinks she remembers Lucas. Lucas remembers Scarlett, too, except they're entirely unable to recall where they've been or what happened to them. Neither of them remember the sixth victim, Max--the only one who hasn't come back. Which leaves Max's sister, Avery, wanting answers. She wants to find her brother--dead or alive--and isn't buying this whole memory-loss story. But as details of the disappearance begin to unfold, no one is prepared for the truth. 


This is another ARC I received from Bloomsbury Australia. As soon as I read the blurb and saw the creepy cover, I was intrigued.

Eleven years ago, six kindergarten children vanished. No one ever found out what happened to them and the police investigation went nowhere. Yet the town never forgot, and their families unravelled in their absence. Now, five of these kids have returned: dumped in a playground with no memories and vague directions on how to get home. They're sixteen, and don't remember where they've been all this time. Actually, they don't seem to remember much.

Trying to fit into their old lives is hard, because they don't even recognise their family. One of the kids even stumbles into tragedy. Plus everyone is quick to judge. Some people think they're lying. Others suspect they're planning something. And the rest just want answers, especially about Max--the kid who didn't return. The media goes crazy and plasters their story all over the TV, but no one can help these teenagers figure out what happened.

As the five start to recall strange glimpses and associative sensations, Scarlett and Lucas become obsessed with figuring out why they feel a certain pull towards each other. But all they get are dead ends and more questions than answers...

Okay, I finished this book last night and needed some time to process this story because I have so many mixed feelings about it. On one hand, I loved it. On the other hand, I didn't. And mostly, I think I was just disappointed.

The premise totally hooked me from the very beginning. Enough for me to ignore the odd, choppy writing style. The story is told in the POV of two of the kids: Scarlett and Lucas. Plus the younger sister of the boy who doesn't come back: Avery. While I found Lucas interesting at the start, I mostly looked forward to reading about Scarlett because I found her fascinating. But I couldn't stand Avery. She's annoying, rude, selfish, treats her supposed boyfriend and best friend like crap. She was a mean character and I found her POV painful to read. There was just nothing that made me want to invest time in her. Not even her family situation made me sympathetic towards her. She was just awful and the weakest link in this book.

Another thing that was flimsy was the romantic angle, which was going one way and then suddenly switched. The turn came out of nowhere and so abrupt that I just didn't buy the Lucas/Avery thing. At all. I did like the connection between the returned kids, though. And the mystery at the heart of the story was captivating, especially the whole memory study concept and that creepy book they find.

But there was something that kept me at arm's length... especially towards the end. :/

The Leaving is an intriguing book with a fascinating mystery and a concept that hooked me in instantly. There are some really cool things about this story--the returned kids, the memory angle, Scarlett's unique point of view--but the overall execution ultimately lets the story down. Even though there are answers, I was left feeling hollow after I read the last page.

Like I said above, there's just something about the story that didn't click with me. I have a feeling it was Avery. I think I might have enjoyed this a whole lot more if Kristen's POV, or even Sarah's, had taken Avery's place. But that's just me, *shrug*

PS. Am I the only one who noticed a code in Scarlett's name? ;)


The Leaving, June 2016, ISBN 9781619638037, Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

WHISPER TO ME by Nick Lake

Whisper to Me
'I love you. I'm sorry for what I did to you. I'm going to write it all down, explain everything that happened, why I broke your heart, and then I'm going to email it to you. I will be waiting for you at 5 p.m. Friday by the windmill hole at the crazy golf at the Pier where we played once. If you still want me then, when you're done reading this, come and get me. OK? Consider this the most screwed up love letter ever.' 

 So begins Nick Lake's brilliant tour de force romance which introduces readers to Cassie, a New Jersey Shore teen who, over the course of one summer, experiences the exhilarating highs of new love, the frightening free falls of personal demons and family tragedy, and the bumps along the way to forgiveness, acceptance, and self-discovery. Told entirely through flashbacks, readers will savour every moment of Cassie's relationship with a boardwalk boy and race to the last page to discover how it all ends. 


Last year I read an amazing book called THERE WILL BE LIES by Nick Lake. So when I received this ARC from Bloomsbury Australia, I was really excited. I couldn't wait to get stuck into another stand-alone book by this author.

Cassie lives in the New Jersey Shore with her ex-Navy SEAL father. She doesn't have many friends, and is actually considered to be a bit of a social pariah because anyone who gets involved with her seems to either become a tragedy, or at least witness one. She's lonely, isn't tech-savvy and pretty much doesn't know how to associate with others.

School's almost out for the summer and Cassie is determined to catch up on some drawing by the beach, while avoiding the creepy-crawly collection in her father's den. However, the day she discovers a shoe on the beach, she starts hearing a mean voice inside her head. A voice that insults her, tells her to hurt herself and is louder than her own thoughts. This is around the same time she meets a boy. A guy who's renting the apartment above her father's garage so he can work at the pier. He's nice and friendly, but she keeps him at arm's length.

Cassie's got issues. She's going through a lot of stuff and has trouble processing everything. Falling in love while trying to deal with the harmful voice inside her head and lying to everyone who is trying to help her cope, isn't great timing. But even her treatment is working against her, because this is how she makes a real friend. Someone who seems to understand her and lights up her life in an unexpected way. A friend who also inadvertently leads Cassie down the very familiar path of tragedy.

This is Cassie's letter to the boy she loves. An email she plans to send to the one person she hurt the most. She's finally ready to reveal her deepest secrets, fears and the very personal journey she embarked on during the summer... and hopes he'll forgive her.

Okay. Let me just take a deep breath and exhale, because this book is heavy. I'm not kidding. The sheer weight of the emotional impact of this story is something that I felt instantly. It kept building and hooking me deeper into the narrative, and didn't let up until the very last word.

Cassie is not an easy narrator to follow. She goes through so many ups and downs, her decisions are sometimes so frustrating you want to shake her because she truly doesn't see that the people she's pushing away and lying to actually want to help. They want the best for her, but because she's so caught up in trying to avoid the real issues, she's constantly trying to find somewhere else to put all her focus. In a way, it's how she escapes the truth. How she runs away from the one pivotal incident that changed her life forever.

I really liked the format. It's very informal and covers different storytelling techniques--all of them work for this engrossing book. I also appreciated the very complicated relationship she has with her father. They're both so fragile and afraid to be totally honest that it totally pulled at my heartstrings. And the boy she falls for? He was such a kind soul.

Whisper to Me is an intense and very captivating book. It's often odd and even bizarre. Sometimes, even uncomfortable to read because the sadness can become overwhelming, and the heartbreak tears the reader apart. I went through a roller-coaster ride of emotions while reading the heartfelt words Cassie spills onto the page in her desperate need to be understood by a person she truly cares about.

Just for the record, I liked Cassie. I felt bad for the sadness that affects and warps her. And I wanted to give her a hug.

I really enjoyed this touching book, and look forward to reading more stories by this author.


Whisper To Me, June 2016, ISBN 9781408853863, Bloomsbury Childrens

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

This week, I have a plan!


So. A new week is here.

After a super busy weekend, which included lining up early in the morning for Free Comic Book Day, this week I've decided to tackle the third draft revision of my 1980s YA novel. Yep. And I started yesterday.

I managed to revise 33/289 pages. That's actually quite good, considering that when I tackled the second draft in March I only managed 9 pages on the first day. Ouch! 

Of course, that draft turned out to be more of a rewrite than a revision. O.o

I've set myself the goal of getting this draft done by next Friday. That's two weeks to get the third draft done before passing it off to my daughter. This will be the second YA book I've written in the last few years. And yes, my daughter read that one too. She loved it, and also happens to be the only person who's read that dystopian YA.

So, what is this 1980's WIP I've mentioned before? Well, it's a story that hit me while listening to one of my favourite songs from my teens: HEAVEN by Warrant. I've always loved this song and even had the cassingle. LOL. Anyway, it's set in the late 80's and is the story of a teenager who is dealing with first love and strong friendships, while going through a lot of other changes. It's pretty much a contemporary story, but would be considered a historical because of the year/setting.

I'm really excited about working on this draft. I wrote the first draft during NaNoWriMo in a frenzy of words, hairspray, leather and loud music. :P I had a blast telling this story and reconnecting with my actual teenage years. Here's a fun fact: I was the same age as the narrator during the year it was set, and share a lot of interests with her. Plus, she's the same age as my daughter is right now! Fun, right? ;)

Another thing that makes this story stand out for me is that it happens to be the book that got me out of my horrible writing slump last year. Letting several publishing issues affect my output was awful, and getting lost in this book helped me find my way back to writing.

Well, that's my writing goals for this month. Asides from that, I'm still going to keep reading as much as I can and doing all the other daily odd jobs that come hand in hand with working from home. It's amazing just HOW MUCH you do in a day when you're at home most of the day!

Have a good week.

Friday, 6 May 2016

RETURN TO THE DARK HOUSE by Laurie Faria Stolarz


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My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved the first Dark House book, so when the library got this in for me, I couldn't wait to read it.

Two months have passed since Ivy survived the nightmarish events that the Nightmare Elf put her and a bunch of other essay winners through. Now she's in the hospital, still unable to forget about the other kids--especially Parker. She believes they're still alive and constantly hounds Detective Thomas because he won't take her seriously and keeps dismissing her theories.

So she decides to behave, and when she's released she gets a job doing something she loves. She takes her medication and pretends everything is okay. But things won't be okay until the killer is caught.

When she receives a weird video and gets in touch with the only other survivor, Ivy is determined to face the killer ruining her life. And that leads her to the abandoned August Preparatory School...

Man, I really enjoyed this book! It's nothing like the first one in terms of story, because it takes a whole new direction, but the spooky factor is still TOTALLY there.

It was so good to see how much Ivy had changed. Even though she couldn't let go of what happened, and was pretty much obsessed with the kids 'killed' at the Dark House, she was stronger. In this installment, Ivy is more convinced than ever that her paranoia about being watched is justified.

Getting some background into the killer's childhood was eerie. And I really liked Taylor. She was funny and interesting, and just as flawed as all the other characters.

Oh, and the last half of the book (especially everything that happens in that freaky school) is amazing. So creepy and fast-paced, the tension totally shredded my nerves. Love that. Awesome!

I'm glad a lot of answers were provided, but I really hope that there'll be another book to answer the rest.

After two failed attempts at reading what I hoped would be horrorish stories, this one didn't let me down. :)

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

BLOOD AND SALT by Kim Liggett


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My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've had my eye on this book since I first heard about it. The concept: Children of the Corn meets Romeo and Juliet really grabbed me because it sounded super creepy. So I was really happy when our local library ordered it.

Ash and Rhys Larkin are twins. All their lives, they've heard their mother tell them about the bizarre place she was born. Quivira sounds more like a cult than the utopia she makes out, but because Ash has had visions all of her life, she tends to believe her a lot more than her brother.

After her mother disappears, the visions come to her with greater intensity. And they soon start to feel like someone else's memories.

That's why she drags her brother all the way to Kansas to find their mother. Instead they end up in the weird village surrounded by cornstalks. The place where centuries of mythology all lead back to Ash.

Okay. This book started out really well. I liked Ashlyn. I liked what was happening. The mythology was interesting. Things were starting to get creepy. But once the twins actually reached Quivira, the creepy and mysterious feel started to slip away. Until it was pretty much gone.

I think my biggest problem was Dane. I didn't like him, and certainly didn't buy into their attraction. There was just something about them that felt kinda forced, and it has nothing to with insta-love because I'm not a hater of that trope. I actually think it fits teenage stories very well. :)

There were some good things about this book. It was well written, and I especially liked the whole thing with the twins. Plus I thought Beth was awesome! There were some high points, but they weren't enough to keep me hooked. By the time I reached the end, everything that happened started to not make as much sense as while I was reading it.

Also, there's no way I would file this under horror. Romance suspense/thriller, even dark fantasy, but NOT horror.

I get very disappointed after reading books marketed as horror, when they aren't remotely scary.



Tuesday, 3 May 2016

I'm still here!

And it's about time I popped in, right? :P

See this picture? That's me as a Mii. Hubby introduced me to the Miitomo app and I have a lot of fun changing her outfits. Plus making cute/cool pictures I can post on Twitter. As well as here.

This one seemed very appropriate since so many of the things that have happened this year have left me with more questions than answers.

By now you've probably heard that Samhain Publishing is closing down. And since I have all of my currently published books over there--that's 11 books--there'll come a time when none of these will be available in the wild.

Yikes!

So if you're interested in my Sierra Fox or Recast series, there's still time to buy the books from Samhain's website, as well as other retailers. You can check out all the buy links HERE (SF) and HERE (R). The publisher hasn't actually set a definite closing date, so it's business as usual until she does. The thing that's affected me the most is that even though RAISING SOME HELL has a beautiful cover, it won't be published. Which means that HELL OF A RIDE will be the only Elsewhere book available.  

I find this really sad because I always visualised Elsewhere as a duology. Bummer. :(

The above is not an ideal situation to be in and it kinda feels like being stuck in Limbo Land, but I'm just glad that, for now, my books are still available for sale. When Samhain actually closes, I don't know what I'll do with them. I mean, the Sierra Fox series is done and I'd kinda decided not to continue with the Recast series, so... Who knows what I'll do. 

I guess I'll have to think about this. But not today. 

I've already mourned this situation and am ready to face whatever happens next with these already written/published stories. I think that the best thing for me to do now is to concentrate on new stuff. I need to stop thinking about this and just get on with the actual writing. It's so easy to get caught up in the negativity of publishing, and I don't want my writing to suffer again like it did last year. 

Anyway. Like I said, nothing I can do about the above. I'll just announce when any sales are going on and keep hoping that readers get a chance to experience these 11 books before they're pulled. :)

So, what else have I been doing? A LOT of stuff. I've been hanging out with my hubby more than usual since our daughter got a weekend job. I've also caught up on a bunch of shows, become hooked on others, read many books, and keep trying to figure out where to go from here. I mean, the publishing industry is in a very unstable position at the moment, so it's hard to determine which way to go. The best thing to do is just write and revise, get caught up in what I love the most: writing!

Thanks to my very supportive husband, I actually get the chance to do that everyday.

This week is going to be another bits and pieces kind of week, but next week I'm going to work on the third draft of my 1980s YA novel. I had a blast writing it during NaNoWriMo last year, and am looking forward to finishing it so my daughter can read it. After that, who knows? But the one thing I do know is that there are several stories battling to get out of my head.

I'd also like to start blogging about my word/page progress, inspiration, etc. while I'm actually working on a project. Think I'm starting to miss blogging. I used to blog daily, and it became a part of my every single day so much that I never neglected my website like I do now. :/

We'll see what happens...

Sunday, 1 May 2016

HEX by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay until death. Whoever comes to stay, never leaves. 

 Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a seventeenth-century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Blind and silenced, she walks the streets and enters homes at will. She stands next to children's beds for nights on end. So accustomed to her have the townsfolk become that they often forget she's there. Or what a threat she poses. Because if the stitches are ever cut open, the story goes, the whole town will die. 

The curse must not be allowed to spread. The elders of Black Spring have used high-tech surveillance to quarantine the town. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town's teenagers decide to break the strict regulations and go viral with the haunting. But, in so doing, they send the town spiraling into a dark nightmare.


I received an ARC of this book and was very excited about reading it because I love horror, and I'm always on the lookout for super scary stories.

The town of Black Spring appears to be a lovely place with beautiful views and a dark mythology that attracts visitors. Yet, it's very different to other towns. For starters, a 300-year-old witch randomly appears wherever/whenever she wants. And the residents don't mind. The creepy Black Rock Witch is dirty, chained and has her eyes and mouth sewn shut. She's a curse the town lives with every day. A team called HEX keep an eye on her via some very high-tech surveillance and always know where she is. Plus all the residents are sworn to secrecy and are severely punished if they break the strict rules.

Anyone who moves to Black Spring does so for life. There's no leaving after settling in, because as soon as they try to leave they have the compelling desire to kill themselves.

Yeah, this isn't the best place to raise children. And when some of the teenage kids decide they've had enough of the witch's curse and mess with tradition, bad things start to happen...

Okay.

Like I said above, I love scary stories and according to the many glowing reviews that's exactly what this book offered. It started out pretty well. I was so intrigued at the beginning that I ignored the clunky writing and the weird phrases. I wanted to know more about this witch, and see where the story would lead. But the writing style just didn't grab me. I don't know if something was lost in translation, but I mostly struggled through the narrative.

As compelling and creepy as the witch appeared to be, I gradually lost interest. Found my initial intrigue slipping away with every new page I read, and really disliked every single character. Not to mention that the middle dragged on so much that by the time I reached the 'shock factor' portion of the story, I just didn't care.

Seriously, all the characters in this book were awful. I disliked everyone, so it made it really hard to care about anything that was going on. And don't get me started on just how politically incorrect some of the narrative--both in thought and speech--came across. Plus I didn't buy the total disconnection that parents seemed to have towards their kids. Or the very open and shameless favouring parents showed over their kids. And the dialogue? Oh man. Who actually speaks like any of these people? o_O

BUT for me, the most disappointing thing of all was that I wasn't scared. At all. Creepy atmosphere: check. Spooky location: check. Super ominous witch: check. But none of these things were coherently strung together to be effective.

*shrugs*

It's a shame, really.

Hex started out well enough, and I honestly did get caught up in the building tension and the creepy imagery, but it failed to keep me interested. The way it was written constantly threw me off, the characters never felt real, and after a while I just didn't care about anything/anyone. I found this book very average, and absolutely hated that ending.

I think Katherine van Wyler, the mute, blind witch was the only character with anything real to offer to this story. Actually, maybe if her POV was added to the second half of the book, it would have added a lot more to the overall story.


HEX, April 2016, ISBN 9781444793208, Hodder & Stoughton

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

THE INQUISITION by Taran Matharu

More demons, epic battles, and fights to the death: introducing the unmissable next instalment in the Summoner Trilogy... 

 On trial for a crime he did not commit, Fletcher must face the Inquisition who will decide his future - the process is gruelling, lead by those who will do anything to see him suffer and haunted by ghosts from the past with clues to Fletcher's tragic origins. 

But Fletcher has little time to dwell on these new revelations when the king announces a deadly challenge to the graduating students at Vocans. One that involves entering Orc territory to complete a risky mission. 

With loyal demons by their sides, commoners and nobles, dwarves and elves must overcome barriers of class and race and work together to triumph. The reward: a fortune in gold, the safety of an empire and PEACE. With the entire empire watching, Fletcher has much to prove, but there are those out to get him and it soon becomes clear that there's a traitor in their midst, trying to thwart the mission and create unrest within the Empire. 

With everything stacked against him, Fletcher must use everything in his power to fight his way to victory.


Last year I read an awesome fantasy book called The Novice. And this year, thanks to Hachette Australia, I got the chance to read the second book in this very entertaining trilogy. But first, isn't that cover gorgeous? 

A year has passed since Fletcher attended the Vocans Academy to become a battlemage. He's been imprisoned in his old town of Pelt and is awaiting trial for a crime he didn't commit. With only the company of his Salamander demon, Ignatius, and the books he's continually learning from, he's starting to wonder if he'll never leave his cramped cell.

When the time for his trial finally arrives, it becomes clear that the odds are stacked against him. The testimonies against him are damning and well rehearsed. Not to mention the Inquisitors are very keen to see him put to death. But when the surprising testimony of an old man, as well as a savage test reveal who Fletcher really is, his life is pardoned by an unlikely source.

Yet that doesn't mean he's free to enjoy life as a student back in Vocans, because he now faces a new challenge. A group of students are selected, split up into smaller groups and are sent off on a dangerous mission to rescue a noble and destroy the awful abominations the orcs are breeding. But that means trekking into the jungle, foreign territory that will make them targets.

With such a tight plan and so many people who still want him dead, how will Fletcher and his true allies make it out alive? And how will they be able to ease the mounting tension between the dwarves, elves and humans, while the whole world is watching?

Wow. This turned out to be just as captivating as the first book. And very different, which is always awesome. Not to mention that the danger levels are constantly getting higher, the twists and turns keep coming, and the revelations are so fulfilling.

This fantasy world is vivid, filled with lush places and amazing creatures. The characters cover a wide spectrum--some I absolutely adore, others I can't stand. There are many familiar faces and a few new ones, but they all add to the intrigue. This very well-written adventure not only explores a world on the edge of war, but also contains some very strong friendships and even stronger enemies.

BTW, I still want my own Salamander. Or maybe a gremlin, because I loved Blue! ;)

The Inquisition is an excellent, fast-paced, heart-stopping adventure that hardly gives you a chance to catch your breath. Just when you think things are slowing down: Pow! It picks up again and doesn't stop until you reach the amazing conclusion. An incredibly tense ending that perfectly sets the stage for what is sure to be an explosive finale.

After that final scene, I can't wait to see what happens next...


The Inquisition, May 2016, ISBN 9781444933260, Hodder Children's Books

 
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