Uncategorized

Books With Friends: SANDMAN SLIM

Time to chat about the #BooksWithFriends challenge! I recently finished SANDMAN SLIM, a gritty fantasy recommended to me by my critique partner and friend, Aryn Youngless.

sandman slimHere’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Supernatural fantasy has a new antihero in Sandman Slim, star of this gripping, gritty new series by Richard Kadrey.

Life sucks and then you die. Or, if you’re James Stark, you spend eleven years in Hell as a hitman before finally escaping, only to land back in the hell-on-earth that is Los Angeles.

Now Stark’s back, and ready for revenge. And absolution, and maybe even love. But when his first stop saddles him with an abusive talking head, Stark discovers that the road to absolution and revenge is much longer than you’d expect, and both Heaven and Hell have their own ideas for his future.

Resurrection sucks. Saving the world is worse.

Darkly twisted, irreverent, and completely hilarious, Sandman Slim is the breakthrough novel by an acclaimed author.

One of the goals of the #BooksWithFriends challenge is to get readers out of their comfort zones, and lately, I’ve been reading a ton of–you guessed it–romance. I’m usually pretty good and will mix in literary works, but I don’t usually reach for books like SANDMAN SLIM unless I’m in the mood for a graphic novel. This book is packed with dark humor, magic, mayhem, and action, action, action.

There are several well-choreographed fight scenes punctuated by humorous dialogue. Stark’s temperament, history, and unique collection of artifacts make him a fun character to picture.

Stark is also prone to long interior monologues that perform noir-like deconstructions of LA…and I love them. These pockets are some of the best parts of the book.

Overall, I’m really pleased and am happy to have taken this challenge. It’s important for writers to read wide and read often. I’m thankful to have had this experience because Kadrey is an incredible author whose voice and tone is contagious.

Read more about Kadrey and his books by clicking here.

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

 

YA Romance Reviews

THE SIN EATER’S DAUGHTER by Melida Salisbury –Dark YA Fantasy

sin eater
Image from Amazon.com

This YA debut left me spellbound. The cover of THE SIN EATER’S DAUGHTER encapsulates both character and concept. Twylla is trapped–bound by duty and myth to her country’s castle. Destined to be queen, Twylla is also poison–her skin enough to kill anyone unfortunate enough to touch her. That is, except for the prince.

Here’s the blurb from Goodreads.com:

I am the perfect weapon.
I kill with a single touch.

Twylla is blessed. The Gods have chosen her to marry a prince, and rule the kingdom. But the favour of the Gods has it’s price. A deadly poison infuses her skin. Those who anger the queen must die under Twylla’s fatal touch.

Only Lief, an outspoken new guard, can see past Twylla’s chilling role to the girls she truly is.

Yet in a court as dangerous and the queen’s, some truths should not be told…

This novel’s high concept hooked me immediately, but it was Twylla herself that reeled me in. Conflicted by a duty assigned to her by fate and what she feels is right, Twylla is an incredibly complex character. And she isn’t the only one. The prince, the queen, and Twylla’s guard, Lief are each revealed to have incredible depth.

The play of imagery in this book and feast of the senses draws the reader deep into Twylla’s opulent and twisted world. Salisbury’s world-building reaches wide in terms of geography and deep in terms of history. She’s thought the fabric of this society through, its enemy kingdom upholding a different mythology, history, and set of values.

Twylla’s guard, Leif, is from that kingdom–a place that questions the traditions Twylla and her people have stubbornly held up for centuries. Through the course of the book, Twylla opens up to seeing both the world and herself from a completely different perspective. Salisbury achieves this transition in her character masterfully.

Check out Melinda Salisbury’s website for more on this author and her books!

Michelle Joyce Bond

Uncategorized

What Are You Dying to Read in 2016?

The list is out on the BNTEENblog for the most anticipated YA fantasy reads coming up in 2016!  Most of these titles sound like they’ll knock my polka dot socks off, but here are the two I absolutely can’t wait to read:

THIEF OF LIES by Brenda Drake

thief of liesHere’s the summary from Goodreads.com:

Gia Kearns would rather fight with boys than kiss them. That is, until Arik, a leather clad hottie in the Boston Athenaeum, suddenly disappears. While examining the book of world libraries he abandoned, Gia unwittingly speaks the key that sucks her and her friends into a photograph and transports them into a Paris library, where Arik and his Sentinels—magical knights charged with protecting humans from the creatures traveling across the gateway books—rescue them from a demonic hound.

Jumping into some of the world’s most beautiful libraries would be a dream come true for Gia, if she weren’t busy resisting her heart or dodging an exiled wizard seeking revenge on both the Mystik and human worlds. Add a French flirt obsessed with Arik and a fling with a young wizard, and Gia must choose between her heart and her head, between Arik’s world and her own, before both are destroyed.

THE LOVE THAT SPLIT THE WORLD by Emily Henry

LOVE THAT SPLITHere’s the summary from Goodreads.com:

Natalie Cleary must risk her future and leap blindly into a vast unknown for the chance to build a new world with the boy she loves.

Natalie’s last summer in her small Kentucky hometown is off to a magical start… until she starts seeing the “wrong things.” They’re just momentary glimpses at first—her front door is red instead of its usual green, there’s a pre-school where the garden store should be. But then her whole town disappears for hours, fading away into rolling hills and grazing buffalo, and Nat knows something isn’t right.

That’s when she gets a visit from the kind but mysterious apparition she calls “Grandmother,” who tells her: “You have three months to save him.” The next night, under the stadium lights of the high school football field, she meets a beautiful boy named Beau, and it’s as if time just stops and nothing exists. Nothing, except Natalie and Beau.

Emily Henry’s stunning debut novel is Friday Night Lights meets The Time Traveler’s Wife, and perfectly captures those bittersweet months after high school, when we dream not only of the future, but of all the roads and paths we’ve left untaken.

How about you?  What’s your most anticipated read?  It doesn’t need to be YA–just share away!

Michelle Joyce Bond

Romance Reviews

RISING FIRE by Terri Brisbin — Hot Jersey Author

risingfire
Image from http://www.terribrisbin.com

Next in this series of hot authors from New Jersey is Terri Brisbin whose blend of magical and historical elements in her new book, RISING FIRE, kept me turning pages.

Brienne of Yester, an innocent village girl adopted by a blacksmith, finds herself the sudden center of attention when her cruel lord and father, Hugh de Gifford, reclaims her.  He says he wants to train her in her ability to cast fire, but in reality, he’s planning on sacrificing her to the goddess of flame and chaos–setting the goddess free from her prison.

William de Brus, loyal servant to the king and fierce warrior, is sent on a mission to investigate Hugh de Gifford and the powers he is rumored to possesses.  When William meets Brienne, he is transfixed by this beautiful girl with a molten aura.   Brienne has little experience with men outside of her village, but is equally drawn to William, daring to meet him in the forest where he threatens to teach her why she should never go to a man alone.

Soon, Brienne and William find it is more than just chemistry that’s drawn them together.  William has also been blessed by the gods, possessing a warrior’s power.  He cannot resist the urge to protect her, but Brienne is allied with Hugh.  Will she prove William’s greatest weakness…or his greatest strength?

Brisbin is such a strong historical author–I appreciated the research she did to make her story world that much closer to reality.  As in many contemporary fantasies or paranormals, most characters are resistant to the idea that magic exists.  Even William doubts the existence of these rumored fire powers and worries for the king’s mental health.  There is a big payoff when the principal character’s powers are revealed.  🙂

The antagonist, Hugh, is a sadistic monster you will love to hate.  Brisbin did a great job building background so we can understand how he got to be that way, adding dimension too his character that is much appreciated in a genre where antagonists are often flat.

I really liked both William and Brienne whose chemistry is fueled on multiple levels.  They meet as village girl and lord–a couple for which marriage would be next to impossible.  The closer Hugh draws Brienne beneath his wing, the more she becomes an enemy to William’s cause.  William needs to be very careful around her, but his power and need to possess her make it difficult to control himself (absolutely love this!).

Here’s a link to Terri Brisbin’s website: http://www.terribrisbin.com/index.php

I hope you enjoy this gorgeous fantasy–first in Brisbin’s new Stone Circles Series!

Michelle Joyce Bond

Writing

Why (In My Opinion) Books Built Around Characters Are Better

imageThe best books are the ones that change you–the reader.  They stay with you for a long time and lead you to question or think about either yourself or the world around you in a different way.

That is–those are the best books in my opinion.  There are plot junkies out there who might say otherwise, but they may never have been shown how to find the deeper meanings in literature.  To read closely.  To probe.  Once you learn how to do this, you don’t see movies, read books, or even listen to music in the same way ever again.  You’re always searching for hidden treasure…and are sometimes disappointed when you find yourself treading shallow water.

There are so many facets or ways of looking at a good book that it’s really unfair to take it all apart.  What makes it work is the symphony all those pieces create when they work together.

But If I were to start in one place and say, “Here is the heart of the story,” I would start with character.  In order to create that depth of emotion and change in attitude so desirable in a well-written book, you need to be able to access the reader on a fundamental level.  The only way you are going to get there is through strong characters.  Characters are vehicles for the reader.  We follow them as they themselves are tortured, defeated, learn, grow, and change.  Build your book around a strong, multi-faceted character with flaws and goals.  Put them in a situation that is really uncomfortable for them–that will force them to change.  Raise the stakes and make their goals something they care deeply about.  Then, hold that carrot away from them.  What will your protagonist give up to achieve his or her goal?  Their job?  Their life?  A piece of their soul?

Concepts in books can also be powerful, but they fall flat without a strong character to drive the plot.  This is a mistake I sometimes see in the paranormal and sci fi / fantasy genres.  Writers get so carried away with the CONCEPT that they forget about CHARACTERS and wind up with these wishy-washy protagonist stand-in who has no real substance or goals.

Say, for example, you decide to write a book about mermaids.  You have a few ideas for scenes in mind and start writing an outline, including this really cool part where your mermaid chick sings the highest note ever and uses mermaid magic to create a giant tidal wave of awesome!  Then you begin to write–forgetting to develop your character (or unaware that you should).  As you draft, you put words into your protagonist’s mouth and force her to do things—not in order to achieve true change but moves that are completely (sometimes laughably) out of character.  You force your character to do these things because you want something in the plot to happen just the way you had imagined.  Really, it should go the other way around.  Character CHOICES should drive the plot, and these choices need to be based on significant goals.

Let me ask you something.  When a reader turns the last page of your book, do you want them to say, “Gee, such-and-such scene was pretty cool, and I really loved the magic at the end,” or would you rather hear them say, “OMG, that book really messed with me!  I couldn’t put it down because I had to see what happened to (insert your protagonist here).  It really makes me think…(insert personal insight here).”

Now I’m really interested to hear your thoughts because I have a feeling some of you will disagree with me. 🙂

Would you rather have a plot junkie as a reader who just eats up the cool stuff that happens or a reader who reads deeply and who might be changed for all time by your awesome writing?

Michelle Joyce Bond

YA Romance Reviews

Read Like a Writer: DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE By Laini Taylor

untitled          Readers crave the strange and unusual. Drop them into a setting that is beautiful–but in an odd way and dangerous–but in a subtle way. This is a powerful combination, and Taylor accomplishes it in her book twice over.

          First, she paints the gothic fairytale city of Prague as the backdrop for her unconventional teen protagonist that includes layers of history and modern/reinvented buildings that have seen their share of death. It’s a landscape dripping with sharp sensory details, dark humor, symbolism, foreshadowing, and–well–backshadowing. Writers, if you are lacking setting details in your manuscript, this is definitely a book you’ll want to pick up.

          Her scenes in Prague and other real-world cities, however, are only the warm-up act. Taylor later immerses us in the landscape, culture, and history of a parallel world. This place is populated by warring chimera and angels whose prejudices about one another come alive in origin stories—stories that offer us more than one lens through which to view their world.

          If you are writing a paranormal or fantasy in which your characters cross over into another universe, you should read this. The world Taylor creates is completely original, but at the same time, it serves as a dark mirror for our own earth.

           What other books have you read that include immersive settings?

           Michelle Joyce Bond

           Image Credit: goodreads.com