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

Uncategorized

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

YA Romance Reviews

TORN by Erica O’Rourke–Evocative YA Paranormal Romance

torn
Image from Goodreads.com

TORN is lesson in how to write immersive, visceral fiction. I’m blow so far away, I’m drifting in the stratosphere.

Here’s the blurb from Amazon.com:

Everyone has secrets.
Even best friends.

Swirling black descends like ravens, large enough to block the glow of the streetlights. A dull roar starts like a train on the ‘L’, a far-away rumbling that grows louder as it pulls closer, until it’s directly overhead and you feel it in your chest, except this doesn’t pass you by. Verity, white-faced and eyes blazing, shouts through the din, “Run, Mo!”

Mo Fitzgerald knows about secrets. But when she witnesses her best friend’s murder, she discovers Verity was hiding things she never could have guessed. To find the answers she needs and the vengeance she craves, Mo–quiet, ordinary, unmagical Mo–will have to enter a world of raw magic and shifting alliances. And she’ll have to choose between two very different, equally dangerous guys–protective, duty-bound Colin and brash, mysterious Luc.
One wants to save her, one wants to claim her. Which would you choose?

I am huge, huge, HUGE on setting description, and this is where O’Rourke shines. Mo’s reality–all the details of her life–are rendered sharp and clear. These intense descriptions bleed into the paranormal world, making magic that much more believable.

Mo is an incredible character–a good girl driven out of her corner by incredible circumstances. This book is a tale of friendship lost as much as it is a romance. Flashes of Verity make the pain of her death fresh and real. Mo is bent on revenge, and we’re right there with her.

I’m not huge on books with love triangles, but this element works very well in TORN because Mo isn’t just torn between two guys. She’s torn between two worlds: family mob-ties in her everyday life and a world of magic introduced by hot-as-hell Luc. If I were to choose a “team,” I’d be Team Colin (sorry Luc!). Colin–construction worker by day and muscle by night–is hired by Mo’s uncle to protect her after Verity’s murder. Colin is the strong, blunt alpha-type I just can’t resist.

O’Rourke has an incredible, authentic voice, and a dark, unapologetic story-telling style that draws the reader in. She is true to her characters and is unafraid to take risks. I hope you check out this incredible title!

Read more about Erica O’Rourke and her books here!

Michelle Joyce Bond

Projects · Uncategorized

Projects

THE RAVINE: New Adult Paranormal Romance. This is my newest project.

Both can see ghosts after dark. Both struggle with silence. They’ll need to work together if they hope to defeat his malicious poltergeist and stop her ex-boyfriend’s blackmail by the end of the summer.

THE RAVINE finaled in the following contests (2018):

 

THE TWENTY-EIGHTH KISS: New Adult Paranormal Romance

A gamer geek puts all the guys she kisses to sleep. Her former high school enemy will try to break the curse.

This project has stand alone series potential and has finaled in the following contests (contest dates range from 2016-2017):

 

BENEATH US: Young Adult Paranormal Romance

A Reaper princess turned lifeguard and a skater boy, soldier of Death are our only chance to save the Netherworld’s most powerful city.

This project took first place in the YA/NA category of Virginia Romance Writers’ 2016 Fool for Love Contest! It also finaled in the Chicago-North Romance Writers’ Fire & Ice Contest, North Texas Romance Writers’ Great Expectations Contest, Celtic Hearts Romance Writers’ Golden Claddagh Contest, and New Jersey Romance Writers’ Put Your Heart in a Book Contest.

 

STARCHILD: Young Adult Time-Slip Romance

The concept behind STARCHILD is best described as THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE meets WUTHERING HEIGHTS. This project finaled in the 2015 Orange Rose Contest for Unpublished Writers.

 

Uncategorized

THE GHOST CHRONICLES by Marlo Berliner – YA Love Beyond the Veil

The Ghost Chroncles
Image from Amazon.com

I just finished THE GHOST CHRONICLES by Marlo Berliner and had to give a shout out to my fellow Jerseyite for this incredible YA Paranormal! Berliner’s high-concept storytelling and sympathetic hero had me hooked on this title immediately.

Here’s the summary from Amazon.com:

Can Michael get to heaven before the devil gets him first, and if it means leaving Sarah is he sure he still wants to go?

Michael Andrews had everything – a loving family, a great girlfriend and a promising basketball career. That was before the accident that took his life. Now, he’s a ghost, wandering among the living, struggling to understand why he’s stuck. All he wants is to move on.

That is until he meets Sarah, an attractive young girl who died just as tragically as he did. The only trouble is falling in love and binding oneself to another soul is forbidden, for it may keep one or both of the souls bound to earth for longer than they should be.

To make matters worse, there’s also a danger in going too far with Sarah, because the “joining” of two souls in the afterlife is also strictly forbidden and they don’t know what will happen if they do go that far. Each time they touch they can feel the boundaries of their energies slipping perilously into one another.

Things get even more complicated as Michael learns he’s being pursued. Demons are after him because he’s a marked soul, a soul the devil wants very badly for some unknown reason.

So, maybe falling in love in the afterlife isn’t such a good idea.

I can’t help beginning with the setting because (holla!) a large part of it takes place in New Jersey. Michael, our ghostly hero, grew up in central Jersey. The description of this area is especially fun for local readers who can connect to the landmarks mentioned a la Evanovich.

The heart of the setting, however, is the Angel of the Sea, a gorgeous bed and breakfast in Cape May, NJ that’s rumored to harbor the ghost of a teenage girl, Sarah. Love crosses boundaries of time, space, and death as Michael falls for Sarah.

Berliner pulls out all the paranormal stops by rolling explanations of other paranormal creatures besides ghosts into her world-building. I don’t want to give these pieces away, but look forward to meeting incredible creatures as well as historical figures.

Michael himself had me hooked from the beginning–a teen character who looses his life, his girlfriend, his future in basketball, and his family. He begins the book alive, so this loss is more deeply felt, and his journey to move on from his ties to the mortal world has its own perils. Travel with Michael to several historic locations as he seeks the answers to the big questions of his afterlife and flees the demons that want his soul.

Be sure to check out Berliner’s webpage!

Michelle Joyce Bond

 

 

Uncategorized

BENEATH US Is Now a Double Finalist!

imageI’m proud to announce that my YA paranormal, BENEATH US, finaled in the specialized division of the NTRWA’s Great Expectations Contest! *shamelessly dances The Charleston* The final results will be announced in March.

BENEATH US also recently took second place in the YA division of the CHRW’s Golden Claddagh Contest!  I owe so much to my critique partners and beta readers–Aryn Youngless, Arell Rivers, Noella Phillips, Kimberley Ash, Keri Elizabeth Parry, and Barbara Zjawin. I couldn’t do it without you guys. ❤

Michelle Joyce Bond

Stick Figures

End of Summer Reflection

imageDid you accomplish everything you wanted to this summer?  We technically have a few weeks until the end of the season, but as August closes, many of us come to the end of a significant chunk of time we spend reading, writing, and relaxing with our families.

This summer was incredible for me for several reasons–the top being that I attended my first RWA Conference!  I finaled in my first writing contest: the Orange Rose Contest for Unpublished Writers with my YA time slip romance, STARCHILD.  I took road trips, caught up with family, and read, read, read.

I also completed another manuscript and began revising it with my critique group.  The new baby’s working title is BENEATH US.  This YA paranormal is as strange as anything else I’ve written (no vampires, werewolves, or “normal” paranormal here), but I’m going to hold off on specific details for now.  I used Scrivener to reverse engineer BENEATH US, strengthen, and rewrite it.  I’m feeling very good about it now. 🙂

During the conference, I connected with new writers, have been communicating with some of them online, and have been checking out their social media.  I learned from YA and adult romance author Marty Mayberry about Pitch Wars which I plan on participating in during their next run.  She’s a Pitch Wars mentor and it seems like an incredible program!  Contemporary romance author Aly Grady clued me in about Pitch Madness which begins on September 10th.  This is a twitter pitch session which lasts the entire day.  I’m getting my 140 character pitches ready for that now.  So excited!

How about you?  How did your summer go?  What are you up to now?

Michelle Joyce Bond

Stick Figures

May the Muse Be With You: What I Do When She Is

imageYes I do imagine my muse to be a tiny Woodstock-sounding thing, buzzing about my shoulders, and she won’t shut up.  Just before NJRW’s February writing challenge, she ripped me away from a speculative WIP to write my first contemporary YA since high school.  I won’t give specifics now, but I’m feeling very good about this one and thus owe a lot to that buzz in my ear.

Usually, I will take months to plan a book, but with the writing challenge so close and the muse so insistent (swatting the air over my shoulder), I decided to take the plunge and just write.  With only two days of intense planning under my belt, I wrote, mapping out scenes as I came upon them and then drafting in earnest.  This was how this book wanted to be written and written fast.

My last WIP, in contrast, felt like a long push uphill.  For this paranormal romance, I spent a long time mapping out characters, plotting, re-plotting, creating scene cards, etc., so when it came to the actual writing I felt constrained by that structure.  I had to tear everything down more than once and even started the manuscript over, dumping 15,000 words in the process.  Currently, I feel very good about this quirky paranormal, but it was a long haul.

Lesson learned?  Some books will be a push no matter what, but it helps to leave more breathing room than I’ve been as of late.  My characters will always find a way to undermine my best-laid plans because they want to drive the plot, and more power to ’em.

How insistent is your muse?  Is she monotone or melodic–does she push you in the same manner through every book?

Michelle Joyce Bond

Stick Figures

Going Contest Crazy

image

Alright, maybe not “crazy,” but I’m doing the Charleston because I’m really excited about entering these contests.  Until this point, I’ve been focused solely on craft and doing my best to stand out in the slush pile.  Recently, a writer friend of mine pointed out that another great way to set your writing apart is to participate in contests.  She even found her first agent that way.  So here we go. 🙂

This week, I entered three contests advertised in the RWA’s trade publication.  They are:

  • The Cleveland Rocks Romance Contest
  • The Fire & Ice Contest
  • The California Hooker Contest

There’s a contest through the RWA’s young adult chapter that I’ll submit to in March–very excited!

Now, I need your help!  I want to enter more contests, but I’m being picky because I know there are a lot out there–some more reputable than others.  I’m wary of reading the fine print when entering my work in anything like this (are you guys?).  I’d love to find a contest for unpublished writers–particularly those writing YA, romance, or paranormal.  If you know of any good ones, please post below!

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