Thursday 27 November 2014

REVIVAL by Stephen King

In a small New England town, in the early 60s, a shadow falls over a small boy playing with his toy soldiers. Jamie Morton looks up to see a striking man, the new minister, Charles Jacobs. Soon they forge a deep bond, based on their fascination with simple experiments in electricity. Decades later, Jamie is living a nomadic lifestyle of bar-band rock and roll. Now an addict, he sees Jacobs again - a showman on stage, creating dazzling 'portraits in lightning' - and their meeting has profound consequences for both men. Their bond becomes a pact beyond even the Devil's devising, and Jamie discovers that revival has many meanings. This rich and disturbing novel spans five decades on its way to the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written. It's a masterpiece from King, in the great American tradition of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe...
I say this every time I read one of his stories, but I'll say it again: Stephen King is one of my favourite authors. So whenever he has a new book out, I can't wait to get my hands on it. Thankfully, Hachette made sure I got a copy early on. Thank you, Hachette. :)
This is the story of Jamie Morton and Charles Jacobs. Two men who meet when Jamie is just a boy and Charles is the new, young minister with the lovely family. Jamie is fascinated by Charles who is quite the inventor and shows him some pretty cool things he does by using electricity. Skills that help one of Jamie's brothers after a freak accident makes him lose his voice.
When tragedy strikes and the minister's life is turned upside down, he loses faith. He doesn't believe in what he's preaching, and after the Terrible Sermon he's fired. Jamie is devastated to lose his friend, but life goes on.
And that's what this book is. It's Jamie's memoir, starting when he first encountered the shadow of a man much older than himself and never quite escaped it. Jamie's life is full of sadness, hardship and addiction. An addiction so bad he loses everything and once again stumbles on Charles Jacobs.
Now the minister has a different name, and he isn't a minister. Instead, he fascinates people with his electric trick photography. Charles never stopped testing the limits of electricity. It became his new religion, the pursuit of the special electricity that can cure addictions and illness. Just as it cures Jamie so he can continue his life.

Until Charles resurfaces again as an evangelist and travels all over the country healing people.
It seems innocent enough, but there are dire consequences. Even Jamie experienced aftereffects from his miracle healing, but what happens to others turns out to be a lot more serious. And after he expresses his disgust, he makes an enemy out of Charles. One that will use the past against Jamie to force him to help with his one final experiment.
Something that reveals what Charles Jacobs is really obsessed with--death.
OMG. This book is so well written and so captivating that I was quickly hooked into Jamie's life, going through all his hardships and happy times. His story sucked me in so deeply that the disturbing elements--and there are many--slowly crept up on me. The horror is woven from the very start, but once it's revealed. Yikes!
Revival is as electrifying as it is horrifying. It's amazing and frightening. What seems to be the simple tale of one man's life soon reveals the obsession of another. I found this story addictive and very disturbing. I loved the study of religion and how it was portrayed by Jacobs. I was also shocked by the imagery these two men eventually experience, but not surprised because there were glimpses of it dropped like breadcrumbs along the way.
After seeing that, how can anyone have faith?
And this is why Stephen King is #KingForAReason

Revival, November 2014, ISBN  9781444789188, Hodder & Stoughton

Sunday 23 November 2014

I just validated my NaNoWriMo story!

That's right! After figuring out how to scramble my novel--because for some reason the website no longer tells you how, just sends you to some website to do it--I validated my story.
The second Sierra Fox spin-off is now done. Well, the first draft is done and ready for the revision process. Awesome! So excited.
This is actually the 8th time I've won NaNoWriMo! :)

Thursday 20 November 2014

ELEANOR & PARK by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor is the new girl in town, and she's never felt more alone. All mismatched clothes, mad red hair and chaotic home life, she couldn't stick out more if she tried. Then she takes the seat on the bus next to Park. Quiet, careful and - in Eleanor's eyes - impossibly cool, Park's worked out that flying under the radar is the best way to get by. Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mix tapes, Eleanor and Park fall in love. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you're 16, and you have nothing and everything to lose. Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR & PARK is funny, sad, shocking and true - an exquisite nostalgia trip for anyone who has never forgotten their first love...

This is actually a book that my daughter read before me (she borrowed it from the library) and kept telling me I had to read because it was sooo good. Well, now that I have, I have to agree with her.
Eleanor is the new girl, and she stands out. She dresses differently, her hair is red and she's a little strange. So she instantly becomes a target for bullies. Park is quiet and likes to keep to himself because it's best not to attract too much attention. The day they meet on the bus because there's nowhere else for her to sit, both of their lives change forever.
What starts out as mutual dislike for each other, soon becomes an accidental connection. Which blends into a comfortable, low-key friendship. And soon becomes an out of control love story.
These two are kindred spirits and via comic books, mixed tapes and weirdness they get to know each other and start something that's impossibly cool, and dangerously amazing. Together, they change each other. Their separate worlds collide and the fallout is devastating.
OMG. This book is SO good. No, it's better than good. It's awesome! I loved every minute of it. This is a love story like none that I've read before, but experienced as a teenager while watching John Hughes movies. I'm a kid of the 80's, and this book captured that time perfectly! Sometimes it felt like I was there in my teens, reading this amazing book that I could totally relate to and just couldn't put down.
The story is told in the POV of both Eleanor and Park so we get to experience every shattering and wonderful action they each experience. Eleanor's home life is messed up because of her deadbeat stepfather. Her mother's caught in a really bad relationship and her five kids are the ones paying for it. Everything is out of control and so chaotic that all Eleanor wants to do is escape. Park's family is great because he has loving parents and a lovely place to come home to everyday, but it's not without it's problems.
Eleanor & Park is the quirky story of two teenagers who come together and fall in love for the first time. It made me laugh, get angry, frustrated, and even made me teary. It's a touching tale of first love in a time that I remember very clearly. And it totally broke my heart--sometimes in a good way, others in the worst way possible.
I might have been a little younger than Eleanor & Park in 1986, but the nostalgia was in every word and action.
Also, I have to mention that ending... so if you don't want any spoilers, stop reading now.
After reading the author's note at the end of the book about those three words, I have to admit that at first I thought they were 'I love you'. But after thinking it over, I'm pretty sure they were: 'Nothing ever ends'. Yep, right out of Watchmen. And because it totally fits. ;)

Loved this book. So much!
Eleanor & Park, April 2014, ISBN 9781409120544, Orion

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Willow's first draft is done!

Yep. That's right.
The first draft of Willow's story is done & done. (As Homer Simpson would say, LOL.)
I'll probably start writing down bits and pieces that I want to add--because that always happens when I finish writing a story--but for now: the FIRST DRAFT IS DONE.

I'm so excited.
This is a story that I've wanted to write for months, so when I sat down and got started it kinda poured out of me. Willow was very chatty and I had a great time delving into her life. It's an urban fantasy book set in a fictional suburb located in Wollongong. That's where Willow ended up going to Uni, and she liked it so much she decided to stay. Oh, and it also takes place 5 years after A STITCH ON TIME.
Willow's all grown up and might be away from Sierra's influence, but trouble still has a knack of following her as much as it did her sister.
I'm so glad that both Lavie and Willow now have their own stories. Well, only the first draft of their stories are done at this stage. I need to revise both of them, but still.

I'm also really excited about these spin-off novels, because these two characters were screaming for me to write their book even before Sierra's series was written. But they had to wait. ;) Now that they're out of my head (because they wouldn't stop hounding me all year!) I might be able to concentrate on other stories--other worlds and characters.
Anyway, here's the word count:

I reckon that after the revision process is done, both stories will end up with a word count of 70-75k. There are a bunch of details and lists that I'll need to add/layer when I get stuck into them. And I'm really looking forward to it.
Anyway, just thought I'd post an update. I've been working so hard on writing this story as well as meeting my annual NaNoWriMo goal, that I think I might take the rest of the week off. Catch up on some reading, stationery sorting, and maybe even some brainstorming.
See ya!
BTW, if you're interested in finding out about the SIERRA FOX series, click below:

HANSEL & GRETEL by Neil Gaiman & Lorenzo Mattotti

Hansel and Gretel
The enduring story of the children, the breadcrumb trail and the gingerbread house is brought to life by master storyteller, Neil Gaiman. Who better to retell the Brothers Grimm's greatest, and perhaps darkest, fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel? Coupled with breathtakingly haunting illustrations from Lorenzo Mattotti, you will be enticed into the world and into the woods . . . so beware.
I love Neil Gaiman's work so I was keen to read this story.
Gretel and Hansel are the children of a woodcutter and his young wife. They live a modest life in a small cottage near the woods. The children love to spend time playing in the woods and lead a healthy, happy life. Until war strikes and everything starts wilting. Crops are drying, animals are scarce, and the family suffers. They go hungry most days, and that's when the young wife decides to take drastic action.

She decides the children need to get lost in the woods.
The woodcutter hates the idea, but he knows it's the only way they'll survive. So he takes the kids to work with him, something he never does. But Hansel overheard their conversation and manages to drop white stones to guide their way home. And when they return, their father is truly happy but eventually he takes them to work again.

This time, Hansel and Gretel really do get lost.
The children are in the woods by themselves, and find their way to a lovely-smelling cottage where a harmless old woman offers them food and shelter. They accept, even if they don't know the true nature of the woman. She isn't as weak as she seems, and like everyone else craves the meat missing from the land. So she keeps the kids prisoner.
Yet, the old woman, much like their parents, didn't think Gretel and Hansel's smart enough to hatch a plan of their own...
This is a lovely retelling of a timeless classic about selfish parents and smart children. But it's about more than that, because during extreme times people deal with things differently, and this shows just how far some are willing to go in order to survive. Even forgetting how resourceful they taught their children to be.

This beautiful hardback edition looks lovely inside and out. The dark illustrations enhance the story. At first they help set the eerie mood, and then keep the feeling going throughout. I loved how the artwork helped keep the tension between the pages of the story. Very clever!
Hansel & Gretel is a dark and familiar, but wondrous story. It was equal parts intriguing and disturbing. It's another timeless classic that will continue to be retold into the future. I also liked the history of the story. I thought that was a lovely way to finish off such an engaging book.

This is another Neil Gaiman keeper, and it's going right next to The Sleeper and the Spindle. 

Hansel & Gretel, November 2014, ISBN  9781408861981, Bloomsbury Childrens

Sunday 16 November 2014

THE 100 SOCIETY by Carla Spradbery

 For sixth-form student Grace Becker, The 100 Society is more than just a game; it's an obsession. Having convinced her five friends at Clifton Academy to see it through to the end, Grace will stop at nothing to carry out the rules of the game: tagging 100 locations around the city. With each step closer to the 100-mark they get, the higher the stakes become. But when the group catches the attention of a menacing stalker - the Reaper - he seems intent on exposing their illegal game, tormenting Grace with anonymous threats and branding their dormitory doors with his ominous tag.

As the once tight-knit group slowly unravels, torn apart by doubt and the death of a student, they no longer know who to trust.

 With time running out, Grace must unmask the Reaper before he destroys everything she cares about for ever...

I received a copy of this book on Friday and found the concept so intriguing that I started reading it that night. I got so caught up in what was going on that I ended up reading it in one day.

Grace and her friends attend boarding school. She's convinced them to join the 100 Society, which means they have to tag 100 different locations around the city. Actually, it's become an obsession for her. Something she feels she needs to do in order to prove herself to her father and brother, since this is something her brother wasn't able to achieve.
But when someone calling himself the Reaper starts stalking them, what started out as fun, challenging and exhilarating, soon becomes a dangerous game.
The mysterious Reaper starts out by tagging over the 96 tags they've already made. Then he seems to be one step behind them, always watching--going through their computers, lockers and rooms. But things get really bad when one of them is the victim of a vicious attack, and it becomes obvious that this Reaper has an endgame none of them are expecting.
Now, the group is falling apart and distrust runs deep, until Grace doesn't know who she can trust...
This book turned out to be an amazing read! I got sucked into this story as soon as I was thrust into the middle of Grace doing an actual tag. These kids are talented artists who want to make a mark and decide to do it via a very dangerous way, while breaking rules that can get them kicked out of their school. And once the stalker gets involved, there's just one red herring after another until you can't wait to find out who is responsible for all this madness. And then realise just how deeply the betrayal runs.
The 100 Society is an awesome, well written YA thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat. I loved how the story unravelled as quickly as this tight-knit group of kids, and kept me guessing until the end. Also, when the truth is revealed...wow!  
I loved this great book! And that cover rocks.

The 100 Society, November 2014, ISBN  9781444920086, Hodder Children's Books

Friday 14 November 2014

NaNoWriMo Goal Met!

As you can see, I crossed the NaNoWriMo 50k-word mark yesterday. Yay.
I'm very excited about winning another NaNoWriMo, but I'm even more excited about how this draft is turning out. The story is flowing fast and I'm really into what's going on, but I haven't finished yet. I'm still writing...
I'm hoping to get to the end of the first draft this week. So, fingers crossed.
Happy writing!

Monday 10 November 2014

Why NaNoWriMo Works for Me

It's that time of the year again. When a whole bunch of people from all over the world get together to write their own 50k novel. 

Like everything else, there are (many) varying opinions about NaNoWriMo. Some people love it, some people hate it, and others aren't fussed. Personally, I think the only opinion that matters is your own.

If writing 50k words in one month seems like too much for you, don't do it. If you think the goal of this exercise is wrong, don't do it. If you think it's a stupid gimmick, don't do it. If you like to revise while writing your first draft, then definitely don't do it. But, if you like the idea of writing the first draft of a novel before the end of the year, then by all means: GO FOR IT!
As you can see from the badges I've collected, I love taking part in NaNoWriMo. There are several reasons why I enjoy it...

I'm the kind of writer who writes quick first drafts, anyway. I love to tell my story as it comes--get the bulk written, and deal with everything else afterwards.

The first draft is about getting the story out of your head. The revision process is when you fix things, and make everything pretty.

I actually do a variation of NaNoWriMo more than once a year, and often aim to write more than 50k. So taking part is always exciting. Besides, you can also make your own rules as you go along. For example, my daily word goal is 4k. And I take weekends off.

Another reason I love to take part is because it's November. Getting one more first draft written before the year is over sounds very appealing to me.

So, there you go. This is why I like NaNoWriMo. :)

BTW, this is me.

Saturday 1 November 2014

BIRD BOX by Josh Malerman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Someone mentioned this book on Twitter because it was on special at Amazon, so I decided to grab a copy. The storyline sounded creepy enough to suck me in. And as soon as I started reading, I was hooked!

Malorie and her two young children live in a house with covered windows and locked doors. The world fell apart years ago, and as a result, you can't look at the outside world. You can still go outside but have to wear a blindfold because there are horrible creatures out there that drive people mad. As long as you keep your eyes closed and covered, you can survive.

She's trained her kids to depend on their hearing instead of their sight, and does pretty well herself. The house might be safe and they have well water, but when she wakes up one foggy morning she knows it's time to head for the river and search for a better, safer place to live. But heading out into the world with a blindfold is hard, especially while rowing along the river...

This is an amazing story! It's so tense. I couldn't wait to see what was going to happen next. And it's told in a way that takes you on Malorie's current journey while taking the reader back to when it all began. To a time when the world started to fall apart and she'd just found out she was pregnant. To when she decided to head out until she reached a safe house and met a bunch of survivors who made life worth living. Their positive attitudes and kindness kept them going for a while, but even that soon starts to crumble.

It's really great to watch the past and present unfold to reveal the core of each story.

This tale is a great study of how hard, or how easy--depending on the person--it is to break someone's mind. Is it the weak-minded who lose it when they see these creatures, or is everyone affected? Not to mention how even after something so serious is going on, there's always at least one asshole left to ruin everything.

I loved this very unique, frightening story not just because of the subject matter and the characters, but also because of the way it was written. This is fantastic!

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