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THIS SAVAGE SONG by Victoria Schwab

this-savage-songTHIS SAVAGE SONG is so much more than an incredible title. Schwab’s question of what defines a monster is pushed to its limits in this inventive paranormal. Kate, a teenage girl, fights for acceptance from her criminal father while August–a monster who takes the form of a teenage boy–fights to control his hunger.

Here’s the blurb from Goodreads.com:

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

What immediately set this book apart from other YA paranormals I’ve read recently is that there is no romance plot. Though I love romance, it was refreshing to read a book in this genre that didn’t automatically go that route just because two teenage characters are thrown together into dire circumstances and had plenty of alone time for kissy scenes. Kate and August don’t need a romantic relationship to know each other at the deepest levels. Each holds a mirror up to the other, girl to monster and monster to girl.

August is, at first glance, the farthest thing one could imagine from a monster. He has a poet’s soul and a near painful level of empathy. Regardless, his basic nature makes him a dangerous–a hollow hunger that, if not satisfied, could lead to a catastrophic loss of control. August is a “Sunai,” a paranormal being that seems a blend of siren and demon.

There are other monstrous beings in the story as well. Malchai have traits that remind me of vampires, and Corsai seem sort of like shapeshifters.  I think what Schwab has done is really smart. Many readers are tired of the more classic paranormal creatures, but Schwab was able to take the basic elements of those ideas and spin them into something all her own.

That leads me to the next and probably best part of this book–the world building. Schwab’s world is essentially a dystopia plagued by monsters. The city our main characters are living in is a Berlin of sorts that may fall once again into territory wars. In the midst of this, we have two teenagers (well…one might dispute that fact about August) from opposite sides of the wall who click despite their differences. These two grow to rely on each other when those they trust turn against them…when nowhere in the city is safe.

I hope you pick up this incredible title and check out more on Victoria Schwab’s website.

Happy reading!

Michelle Joyce Bond

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Books With Friends Challenge

Fall is almost upon us, and though it’s a stressful time of year for many, it’s important to take the time to relax and read. And what better way to do that than picking up a book friend’s favorite read??

book friend library bottle section

The ladies at Live Love Read YA have put together a reading challenge for the September and October. All you need to do to join the challenge is grab a friend, recommend books, read, and repeat. Check it out by following the link here, and remember to tweet about it with the hashtag: #BooksWithFriends!

Back? Okay. So for this challenge, I’ve asked my incredible critique partner and friend Aryn Youngless to recommend some books of awesomitude. (She once recommended READY PLAYER ONE to me, guys–so I trust her taste completely.)

This will be a cross-continental exchange of recommendations as Aryn lives on the west coast, and I’m on the east coast. We’ve had a lot of fun conversations about regional differences. And weather. Her’s is better. 🙂

Check our Aryn’s blog here.

Though our taste in books differs, there’s a lot of intersection. And since part of this challenge is about getting out of our comfort zone, we are recommending any book that just stuck with us for one reason or another.

six of crows
My first pick for Aryn is hands down the best book I’ve read this year: SIX OF CROWS. I plan on doing a review of it soon, so for now, all I’ll say is: This baby reads like an RPG!

 

sandman slim

Aryn’s first pick for me is SANDMAN SLIM a gritty fantasy which sounds totally dark and completely  up my alley–can’t wait to start!

 

lets do this reactions liz lemon its on

Will you take up the challenge?

Michelle Joyce Bond

 

YA Romance Reviews

EMERGE by Tobie Easton: YA Fantasy with Humor and Heart

emerge
Image from Amazon.com

Imagine being a teenager who has to deal with the challenges of not one but two societies: human and Mer.

EMERGE is a fun, unexpected read that adds some major twists to the classic Hans Christian Anderson tale: “The Little Mermaid.” For someone who grew up with Disney’s The Little Mermaid (and obsessed over the thing to the point that my entire bedroom was mermaid themed), this book has an added charm. I could tell Easton had a lot of fun defining her story against popular culture’s idea of mermaids and their history.

Here’s the blurb from Goodreads.com:

Lia Nautilus may be a Mermaid but she’s never lived in the ocean. War has ravaged the seven seas ever since the infamous Little Mermaid unleashed a curse that stripped Mer of their immortality. Lia has grown up in a secret community of land-dwelling Mer hidden among Malibu’s seaside mansions. Her biggest problems are surviving P.E. and keeping her feelings for Clay Ericson in check. Sure, he’s gorgeous in that cocky, leather jacket sort of way and makes her feel like there’s a school of fish swimming in her stomach, but getting involved with a human could put Lia’s entire community at risk.

So it’s for the best that he’s dating that new girl, right? That is, until Lia finds out she isn’t the only one at school keeping a potentially deadly secret. And this new girl? Her eyes are dead set on Clay, who doesn’t realize the danger he’s in. If Lia hopes to save him, she’ll have to get closer to Clay. Lia’s parents would totally flip if they found out she was falling for a human boy, but the more time she spends with him, the harder it is for her to deny her feelings. After making a horrible mistake, Lia will risk everything to stop Clay from falling in love with the wrong girl.

Easton takes time to lovingly build a story world around Lia from Mer including history, language, clothing, housing, cultural traditions and so much more. While reading, I not only felt like a part of Mer society, but I enjoyed all the little details Easton wove into her vivid descriptions of setting.

Humor is a huge part of EMERGE. Easton’s Mermaid puns had me laughing out loud, and her voice kept me turning pages. It’s fun to imagine being Lia (girl gets to live in a Malibu mansion and she’s a mermaid??), and I couldn’t wait for her to kiss hottie, Clay. 🙂

I hope you enjoy this book and check out Tobie Easton’s website!

What’s your favorite mermaid tale?

Michelle Joyce Bond

Resources for Writers · Uncategorized

Craft Books

Hey, fellow writers! The following is a list of my all-time favorite craft books with some of my thoughts on each and links to Goodreads for more information.

I’d love to hear from you about your favorites as well. Please feel free to share them in the comments section. 🙂

51INMIZnddLVERBALIZE by Damon Suede.

A fresh way of viewing and crafting fiction that will blow your mind and offer a blueprint to reassemble the pieces. Forget what you know about building a character. With humor, wisdom, and vivid examples from popular fiction, Damon offers a better way to go about building a book—from a character’s core outward and utilizing verbs. Helpful exercises make it easy to apply his craft advice whether you are a plotter, pantser, or an inbetweener. This book is a game-changer not only for the writers who pick it up but for genre-fiction as a whole.

on writing romanceON WRITING ROMANCE: HOW TO CRAFT A NOVEL THAT SELLS by Leigh Michaels

This is one of the first craft books I ever picked up. Once upon a time, I figured out that the romance plot was central to all my stories and began seeking sources to help me. This book was an incredible eye-opener. On Writing Romance begins with the history of the romance novel and moves to particulars about its craft including subgenres, character-building, and conflict.

Read more about this title on Goodreads by clicking here.

 

THANKS, BUT THIS ISN’T FOR US by Jessica Page MorrellTHANKS BUT

The full title of this book says it all: Thanks, But This Isn’t For Us: The Compassionate Guide to Understanding What’s Wrong With Your Writing and Leaving the Rejection Pile for Good. Morrell is one of my all-time favorites. You’ll see two more titles by her on this list. In this book, she uses her unique sense of humor and relatable examples to share common errors newbie writers need to know. Also, the cover is adorable.

Read more about Morrell’s title on Goodreads by clicking here.

 

GMCGMC: GOAL, MOTIVATION AND CONFLICT by Debra Dixon

This is an indispensable look at the very heart of any story. I’ve read blog and portions of craft books that cover this topic, but I enjoy the depth to which Dixon takes it. You can have all the beautiful prose in the world, but if your story lacks a strong foundation, you will lose your reader.

Read more about Dixon’s title on Goodreads by clicking here.

 

BULLIES, BASTARDS & BITCHES: HOW TO WRITE THE BAD GUYS IN FICTION by Jessica Page Morrellbullies bitches

Did you get a kick out of the title? I did. 🙂

In this book, Morrell goes deep into the antagonist–offering character types, pitfalls, and advice on strengthening your bad guys. Go deep into the dark side.

For more on Morrell’s book, click here.

 

on writingON WRITING: A MEMOIR OF THE CRAFT by Stephen King

An incredibly inspiring book by some writer of whom I’m sure you’ve never heard. 🙂 But in all seriousness, this is an incredible all-around book that is part life, part writing, part wisdom.

For more on King’s book, click here.

 

 

WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL by Donald Maassbreakout novel

This is an all-around great book that offers writing techniques to help your work stand out in the slush pile.

Read more about Maass’s book by clicking here.

 

 

between the linesBETWEEN THE LINES: MASTER THE SUBTLE ELEMENTS OF FICTION WRITING by Jessica Page Morrell

This is a fabulous book to read during the revision process. It’s a lot to take in, so I suggest reading a bit, applying, and going back for more. In this book, Morrell “shows you how to craft a unified and layered novel or short story by mastering subtle storytelling techniques” (Goodreads blurb).

Read more about Morrell’s title by clicking here.

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SHE LAUGHS IN PINK by Jessica Calla: Hot Read – Deep Characters

She Laughs in PinkLooking for a hot summer read with a cast of wild characters, a lot of fun, and just a touch of magic? You found it in SHE LAUGHS IN PINK!

Here’s the synopsis from Goodreads:

Four years after her twin is murdered, Juliet Anderson still struggles with guilt, her parents, and her relationships. Two things keep her from falling into a deep, dark place—dancing and her best friend, Ben. So when Ben decides to play football for New Jersey University, Juliet doesn’t hesitate. She follows. Finally away from her past, there is nothing to stand in the way. Juliet will win Ben’s heart.

Then she meets Ben’s roommate, Chase.

On probation and hell-bent on adhering to a “new life plan,” aspiring artist Chase leaves his New York City home for New Jersey University and meets Juliet before even stepping foot on campus. For him, their connection is instant. She’s the most vibrant girl he’s ever seen. Her colors explode on his canvas, and he’s never been more inspired in his life.

Too bad she’s madly in love with his seemingly perfect, good guy roommate.

Calla has an exceptional ability to create deep characters with dark pasts who we root for all the way. I never felt like I was overloaded with backstory and was eager to hear about Juliet and Chase. They are each, in their own way, fighting to move on with their lives and in doing so, smack right into each other.

Sheridan Hall, the dorm where Juliet and Chase reside, is always active. It’s diverse cast of characters help to create an atmosphere that makes the college experience very believable!

To backtrack a bit–I picked up this title after reading Calla’s THE LOVE SQUARE because I enjoyed the spin she put on the love triangle trope and was looking forward to another cool, outside-the-box read. I wasn’t disappointed.

The air between Juliet and Chase sizzles despite Juliet’s chasing her best friend, Ben and Chase dealing with pressures from home. Chase is an artist and sees straight to Juliet’s essence–sees it in color, in fact. Chase has the ability to see auras. He begins to paint them–ballerina Juliet dancing and laughing. Laughing in pink.

But before Chase and Juliet can have their happily ever after, they need to reassess their own goals, decide what really matters, and face a tragic event that sweeps in at the end of Act II. I’m all about bittersweet endings, and–not giving this part away–I have to say, the ending of this book was perfect. 

I hope you check out SHE LAUGHS IN PINK and Calla’s incredible debut title THE LOVE SQUARE! To visit her webpage, click here.

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BENEATH US Took First Place in The Fool for Love Contest!

Fool for Love WinnerOh my gosh–I don’t know where to start! I took the drive down from Jersey to attend the Virginia Romance Writers’ 2016 Awards Luncheon because I was excited to meet members of VRW as well as other finalists. The event had a tea party theme, and it was fun to see individual writers’ personalities reflected in their outfits from tiny top hat to fireman’s helmet. The air was thick with good humor, creativity, and the smell of fragrant tea.

Jacqueline Bragaw was one of the first writers I met and the organizer of the event. She was so sweet, welcoming, and witty as were many members of VRW. Guest speakers Carolyn Greene and Cynthia Holt Johnson delivered a humorous and heartfelt presentation of the origins of the VRW, The Fool for Love Contest, the Holt, and their their own journey as writers.

As Jacqueline–with poise and panache–began to announce the results of the Fool for Love Contest, my hands started to shake. I had no clue what to expect and was honored just to be a finalist in a contest that helped so many writers get their start. When she announced that BENEATH US took first place, I couldn’t believe it!

Sadly, the Luncheon soon came to an end, but I got to keep my tea cup, my memories, and hope to see members from the VRW visit the New Jersey Romance Writers for our October Conference!

To find more information about The Fool for Love Contest and VRW’s published author contest, The Holt, click here.

Michelle Joyce Bond

YA Romance Reviews

THE SIREN by Kiera Cass: The Perfect Beach Read

siren
Image from Goodreads.com

A good beach read doesn’t have to have anything to do with the beach. It doesn’t need sea or sand or romance. But if it contains these qualities and compounds them with a spark–a voice. Magic. Well then, that’s my perfect beach read.

This book is so much more than its gorgeous cover (though that doesn’t hurt–jeez, look at that thing!).  Here’s the blurb from Amazon.com:

Kahlen is a Siren, bound to serve the Ocean by luring humans to watery graves with her voice, which is deadly to any human who hears it. Akinli is human—a kind, handsome boy who’s everything Kahlen ever dreamed of. Falling in love puts them both in danger . . . but Kahlen can’t bear to stay away. Will she risk everything to follow her heart?

My desire for complexity in a novel will ebb and flow depending on my mood. There are times when I’m just not in the mood for extreme world-building, complex societies, etc. Sometimes (beachtimes) I just want something simple. A world with one type of supernatural being to track. A universe that is closer to our own–where most people don’t access the supernatural. A closed world. A tight, little romance.

THE SIREN is just that. This is not to say that this book doesn’t have high stakes–that its characters don’t have the same depth as other novels. Kahlen has her past, her pain, and her hope for the future. But the one thing she might need to sacrifice for that future (because romance, duh) is love. To love is to die.

The concept is simple, the world–beautiful, and who wouldn’t want their own Siren dress??

Hope you enjoy this read and check out Keira Cass’s website!

Pick up any good beach reads lately?

Michelle Joyce Bond

YA Romance Reviews

A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES By Sarah J. Maas — Gorgeous New Adult Fantasy

court of thorns and roses
Image from Goodreads.com

A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES is one of those books that I can’t help recommending to everyone. Maas not only has a phenomenal high concept (a loose Beauty and the Beast retelling with faeries) but Maas packs this book with a gripping plot, a multi-dimensional heroine, and gorgeous, lyrical prose.

Here’s the blurb from Amazon.com:

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin–one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow over the faerie lands is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin–and his world–forever.

This novel opens with Feyre out hunting in the middle of winter for her desperate family’s next meal–a family that doesn’t necessarily appreciate her. But this relationship is complex, and Feyre’s urge to protect her clan is something she will find in common with the incredibly powerful Tamlin.

Feyre isn’t perfect nor is she apologetic. She’s been hardened by her circumstances but still yearns for color in her life–her desire to make art driving her through the worst of times. Her character is tested–her values pushed to their limits, especially in the later half of the novel. Navigating through the world and trying to make the best choices is hard enough. Navigating through the faerie realm where your senses may deceive you, well…

I fell in love with this character but also with Maas’s voice. I’m more likely to sample a series than read it completely through, but in this case, I’m definitely picking up the next book!

Check out Maas’s site for more on her books!

Have you read any incredible NA fantasies or paranormals?

Michelle Joyce Bond

 

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BENEATH US Is Now a Four-Time Finalist!

four time finalistRecently, I received call from a Contest Chair, Megan Randall, who was happy to share the news that I finaled in the YA category of Virginia Romance Writers’ Fool for Love Contest! They read it. They liked it. Watch me as I dance the Watusi!

So now what? Lately, I’ve been drawing inspiration from Jodi Thomas’s RWA workshop, Why Write One Book When You Could Write a Series? and putting together a detailed plan for another three books. Quirky characters, strange magic, dark worlds, and three girls who will sacrifice everything for one small town–one small world to anchor them all. Can’t wait to get started. 🙂

What projects have you been working on lately? #amwriting much?

Michelle Joyce Bond

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BENEATH US is now a Three-Time Finalist!

imageI was absolutely honored this week to learn that I am a finalist in the YA category of Chicago-North Romance Writers’ Fire & Ice Contest!

My YA paranormal BENEATH US also finaled in the North Texas Romance Writers’ Great Expectations Contest and the Celtic Hearts Romance Writers’ Golden Claddagh Contest.

Here’s a micro blurb: Reaper by birth–not by choice–Gail hasn’t dared visit the Netherworld since she accidentally killed her boyfriend. When a quirky, hot messenger from Death crashes into her life, she’s faced with a choice between her surface-world dreams and the crumbling cities below.

If you have a manuscript that you feel is ready but haven’t entered a contest yet–consider it. Even if you do not final, the feedback you receive from the judges is invaluable.

Michelle Joyce Bond