Monday, 27 August 2012

Review: Legend by Marie Lu

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem. From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.


The Basics
It took me well over a year to start and finish this book because I kept having to put it down. Though the synopsis paints it as some kind of political romance/thriller, I couldn't help but notice how incredibly slow the plot actually is. For most of the story there is no real villain and the reader is left to wonder what the point of the whole thing is. If it was to be some kind of show down between two teenage prodigys than it failed miserably. A lot of reviewers have said before and I wholeheartedly agree, if you take away the chapter headings and made the fonts the same, it would be almost impossible to distinguish between Day and June's voices. The world building could have been elaborated on a lot more as many of the aspects of the world were unexplained. On the writing front, Lu is a talented writer and I liked that she used a mix of long and short sentences to break up the flow of the story telling. It made the writing more interesting. Had it not been for the writing and the lack of love triangle, I don't think I would have been able to finish this one.

The Biology

One of the main reasons I bought this book was because it was written by an Asian author and claimed to have Asian inspired characters. This aspect of the book is by far the most disappointing for me. If I sound annoyed it's because I am. I can forgive outrageous hair and other characteristics in fantasy/paranormal novels but not in dystopia. Not when you're trying to make me believe your world could really happen. For a while now I've been wondering whether some writers or their editors EVER do any genetic research before they give their characters certain physical attributes. Let me give you a quick lesson now. You CANNOT classify a person as having dominant Mongolian attributes (I'm looking at you Day) and then describe them as being blond with blue eyes. In my books dominant means more than 50%. If you're 50% Asian, you will have dark hair and dark eyes. End of story. This is basic biology. If one of your parents is full Asian and the other is blond Caucasian, you will have dark hair and dark eyes. By the time you get to a point where two dark haired people produce a child with white blond hair and bright blue eyes they are no longer dominant anything. Above all else, and I don't think Lu would have meant it to come across this way, I am insulted by the way Day looks. It makes me feel like an effort was made to write an Asian character but somewhere along the publishing line a decision was made to "whitewash" the character to make them more palatable.

The Characters

June - Present me with a rich, spoiled, seemingly perfect child prodigy and I will immediately get my hackles up. Make her stupid on top of that and I'm checking out. In my opinion June was very difficult to warm to. Besides being utterly clueless for someone who is meant to be so smart, she has a self entitled air of importance simply because she scored well on a test. She experiences loss which is sad, but the way she handles it doesn't inspire any empathy. I was hoping for a strong female lead and though June is very handy in a fight, I think her attitude leaves a lot to be desired.

Day - I have a hard time believing in Day's characterisation. No one survives living on the streets in a Dystopian novel without getting their hands dirty. And if they do, they're not a well rounded character. I expected Day to be edgy. To be rough and snarky. He was none of those things. We get told very often that Day has done some incredible things such as breaking into a bank in 10 seconds but we never see any of this in action. Despite being the Republics most wanted criminal, he sure starts trusting people very quickly.


It was there. I did not like it. This novel really just wasn't for me.


Thursday, 23 August 2012

Writer's Corner: Careful Or You'll End Up In My Novel

Thanks to Jessica and her great but dangerously enabling posts about Etsy, I have become a bit of an addict. There are just so many wonderful hand made things you can't get anywhere else. Plus, a lot of the stuff is book related and I tend to go a bit nuts over that sort of thing. A few weeks ago I bought the necklace in the pic from The Book Fiend and I absolutely adore it. It feels like it was made especially for me. You see, I may seem normal (Ha!) but I do spend a great deal of my time in real life warning people that I'll write them into a book and kill them off. Even stranger, some people seem to think this is some kind of complement.
     The other day I started to get a little contemplative and annoyed that everyone else is having all the fun and I'm doing all the work. So I thought, screw it, people are going to think all the characters are based on me or my twisted fantasies of myself anyway. I may as well go the whole nine yards and just write a character who is actually based on myself!
    Am not sure if I'm going to make the character look or just act like me but I have until NaNoWriMo to figure that out. So tell me guys, have any of you ever contemplated writing a character totally based on yourself? Or at least thought about it?

Monday, 20 August 2012

Review: Forbidden Mind by Kimberly Kinraid

THE STORY (From Goodreads):

Sam thinks she's months away from freedom. After spending her life in a secret school, rented out to the rich and powerful as a paranormal spy, she is ready to head to college like any normal eighteen-year-old. Only Sam isn't normal. She reads minds. And just before her big going-away party, she links to the mind of a young man who changes everything. Drake wasn't raised as a 'Rent-A-Kid.' He was kidnapped and taken there by force. But his exceptional physical strength and powers of mind control make him very dangerous, especially to Sam. When they meet, Sam is forced to face the truth of her situation, and to acknowledge that not all is as it seems in her picture-perfect world. For what awaits her on her eighteenth birthday isn't a trip to college, but an unexpected nightmare from which she may not be able to escape. To survive, they must work together. But will their powers be enough to save them before it's too late?

I'm in love with the free samples on  Smashwords at the moment. Although lately I've started to think that it's a very clever marketing scheme though of by some corporate dark elves who know that curiosity and obsessiveness is my weakness. I must admit I was drawn to Forbidden Mind for superficial purposes. The premise of kids with super powers is one that I'm exploring in my novel as well. But that's beside the point for this review :)

The Basics
From the very first sentence, I knew what I was getting into with Forbidden Mind. Sam is like a female super-spy complete with telepathic powers. The only problem for her employers is that she has a conscience.And she wants out. That's when things go wrong and the plot begins to twist in some very unexpected and somewhat disturbing ways. I can't go into too much detail without revealing spoilers but let's just say that Kinrade has a gift for upping the creepy factor of an organization that is largely faceless throughout the story. You can see why I liked this book. Forbidden Mind does what many books on telepathy leave out. It provides stream of consciousness insight into the minds of the people Sam is reading and for the most part their thoughts were very entertaining. Even though the powers weren't new, Kinrade puts her own twist on the classics and I loved her idea of the Rent-A-Kid program.

The Novella Trap
As much as I enjoyed how quick the story leaped, I feel like Forbidden Mind suffers from the novella trap. Too much plot condensed into too few words. There are a number of aspects (plot/relationships/characters) that could have been fleshed out a lot more.I'm a big fan of sling shot pacing but I have to admit there were parts of the story which moved too quickly even for me. Characters were introduced and revelations made only to be snuffed out shortly after. Much too early for their existence to have much on an impact on me personally. Though they don't physically meet until long after their psychic relationship blossoms, I still didn't feel like the connection between Sam and Drake was realistic. Thumbs up for non physical attraction romance (even though they're both hot, it's still YA remember?), thumbs down for what could be construed as insta-love.

Sometimes Less Is More
Novella trap issues aside, Forbidden Mind is without many of the other YA traps which knock off stars for me. There was no angsty teenage psycho babble, no love triangle, no TSTL heroine and best of all no secretly bitchy best friend. There was just plot, action and powers.

What more can I say? Despite being so short, Fobidden Mind was interesting and fun to read. I actually stayed up late into the night reading this one which doesn't happen that often anymore.



Friday, 17 August 2012

Sulan: Free For A Limited Time!!

Next month I'm going to be participating in my first ever book tour for Camille Picott's new YA Dystopunk Novel: Sulan, Episode 1, The League.

It just so happens that Sulan, Episode 1, The League -- is available free download on Amazon from August 16th to August 20th. Download a free copy and tell all your friends! If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download a Kindle Reader for free onto your computer here.

About Sulan, Episode 1: The League: Sixteen-year-old Sulan Hom can’t remember life before the Default—the day the United States government declared bankruptcy. As a math prodigy, she leads a protected life, kept safe from the hunger and crime plaguing the streets of America. She attends the corporate-sponsored Virtual High School, an academy in Vex (Virtual Experience) for gifted children.

Beyond the security of Sulan’s high-tech world, the Anti-American League wages a guerrilla war against the United States. Their leader, Imugi, is dedicated to undermining the nation’s reconstruction attempts. He attacks anything considered a national resource, including corporations, food storage facilities—and schools. When Sulan witnesses the public execution of a teenage student and the bombing of a college dorm, she panics.

Her mother, a retired mercenary, refuses to teach her how to defend herself. Sulan takes matters into her own hands. With the help of her hacker best friend, Hank, Sulan acquires Touch—an illegal Vex technology that allows her to share the physical experience of her avatar. With Touch, Sulan defies her mother and trains herself to fight.

When Imugi unleashes a new attack on the United States, Sulan finds herself caught in his net. Will her Vex training be enough to help her survive and escape?

Camille and I will be discussing multiculturalism in YA novels so be sure to stick around for that hot topic!

Monday, 6 August 2012

Review: Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr

As a pastor's kid, it's hard not to buy into the idea of the perfect family, a loving God, and amazing grace. But lately, Sam has a lot of reasons to doubt. Her mother lands in rehab after a DUI, and her father seems more interested in his congregation than his family. When a young girl in her small town goes missing, the local tragedy overlaps with Sam's personal one, and the already worn thread of faith holding her together begins to unravel. In her third novel, acclaimed author Sara Zarr examines the coexistence of affliction and hope, and what happens when everything you thought you believed—about God, your family, and yourself—is transformed.


The Basics
If I  have one goal as a writer it will be to one day write a contemporary novel. As much as I'm a sci-f/fantasy/dystopian girl, I am finding that it's the contemporary novels which keep me glued to the page. Once Was Lost was no exception. Sam had a really enjoyable and very genuine voice, as did most of the characters. It wasn't difficult to immerse myself in the Sam's world and get caught up in the mystery/kidnapping. Zarr dealt with the competing threads of Sam's life seamlessly, showing the anguish Sam felt over the missing person's search in parallel to  her personal family tragedy. I stayed up late reading this one, something I haven't done in a long time.

Symbolism Free Zone
I don't get it. I had to read about it in a review by Jenny and from other Goodreads reviews. That's not saying that the symbolism wasn't well done. I am just very dense when it comes to that sort of thing. Now that I look back on the events, it seems pretty obvious.

Is Frustration Ever Good?
Everybody who sticks around long enough on my blog (is a legend!) will know that I'm a character driven reader. It's so hard to pin down what it is about characters that makes them especially relatable. Sometimes I like them tough. Other times I like them funny or playful. Sam was downright frustrating at times. In many of the situations she faced, I found myself literally screaming at her to open her mouth and let it all out. Instead she kept everything bottled up inside and got a little sadder each day. And yet there's a tiny part of me which respected her ability to let things slide. Goodness knows I would have whipped out a can of whoop ass on her dad a long time ago. I guess what I'm saying is that I liked Sam because she's not at all like I am. She has the ability to understand what other people may be going through and thinks things through before she says anything. As much as it frustrated me that she didn't go postal, I have to agree it wasn't in her character.

The Religion Thing
I wasn't sure if I should talk about the religion thing but then I figured, hey, this is MY blog. Even though there's not overly a lot of blatant religious teaching in this book, I still err on the side of "it's a religious book." There's a lot of soul searching and I personally felt that there was a tendency to forgive and forget and let's move on. From what I can see, Sam and her family don't really deal with their issues so much as wait for them to blow over. Maybe the category of this book as YA precludes it from going into too much depth, though I suspect it's really just a religion thing. That kind of disappointed me because I would have loved to see the issues being dealt with on some level. everyone just seemed to want to keep things 'nice.' Maybe it's just me. On the whole, I still enjoyed the book and am looking forward to reading more of Zarr's work. 


Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Just Plain Insecure

Insecure Writer's Support Group is a blog hop hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh where totally insecure writers can get together and share the things that are making us go argh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
       I'm getting stuck into edits at the moment and aside from the usual frustration that I'm so slow, I'm starting to get insecure about the quality of my work. It's funny how when you're actually writing, things seem to be so rigid. There's no way for you to say what you want without writing it a certain way. Then you get a little distance and come back to edit and it's almost embarrassing how many typos, plot holes and general inconsistencies there are.
       What if the writing is actually terrible? What is no one wants to read my book? What if there's too much Aussie slang for anyone to decipher? These are all the things running through my head at the moment and I thought it would be better to share and not just bottle it all up. Would love to hear from others who have had the same insecurities.