Friday, May 31, 2013

[Book Reviews] Short Stories (May 2013)

Yet another month of short stories. 

Fallen From the Train by Chris Ward

Kindle Edition
35 Pages 
3.5 Stars

Summary (from Amazon):
Carl Weston finds a young man lying unconscious by the train tracks. Who is he? Where did he come from? Carl knows the man can't have got off the train because the trains don't stop anymore ...
Fallen from the Train is a short story of 6000 words. It is set in the world of Chris Ward's Tube Riders.

Plot: I found myself bored and confused for the first 20%, but then the story started coming together. 
Characters: The characters were very strongly lit for a short story and I loved that. 

Relationships: I really liked the relationships in the story. There wasn’t hardly any romance, but the way the characters cared about each other, was really cute. 

I believe the main purpose of the story in the end was to give hope.   

The Perfect Crime by Bill Bernico

Kindle Edition
10 Pages
4.5 Stars

Summary (from Amazon):
Is there such a thing as the perfect crime? Can you get away with proxy. The plan seems perfect. All you care about is the end result--that Kevin will end up dead. It doesn't matter that you can get someone else to do it for you. Or can you? Let's find out.
This is just one of more than 140 short stories I have available here on Amazon.

Plot: For a short story, it really did have a lot of twist and turns that I did not expect. I loved that.
Characters: I loved the main character and thought he was hilarious. I have to guess that it’s a lot to do with how the writer wrote him.

I really enjoyed this short story. 

Dangerous Voices by Rae Carson 

Kindle Edition
15 Pages
5 Stars

Summary (from Amazon):
From Rae Carson, author of the acclaimed Fire and Thorns trilogy, comes an original short story about music, magic, and the healing power of friendship.
Errik has been a prisoner--and alone--for a long, long time. He lives for the moment each day when the window of his dungeon cell shines a bit of light onto his bearded face. But everything changes when he gets a new neighbor, a young girl with a voice as beautiful as the springrise. 
They both know the rules: No singing. No speaking. Voices are dangerous. But they can't help themselves. And soon enough, Errik begins to remember himself, why he's here in this dark place, and why his captors will stop at nothing to ensure his silence.

I was hesitate to read it at first convinced it was part of her series, but once I found out it wasn’t, I dove right into it. 
I would have loved to have gotten more backstory as to what led up to the main character being held hostage, but it’s a short story. You get used to the incomplete feeling. 

P.S. Read the author’s note at the end! It’s very adorable!

A Boy and a Hero by Nikos Kalpakis 

Kindle Edition
10 Pages
1 Star

Summary (from Amazon): 
John always carries a blade on him, just like his grandfather taught him. 
So when John sees a man about to do harm, he steps forward, towards his destiny.

I had a hard time keeping up with what was going on. Honestly, I think there were way too many characters for such a short story. 

Honestly have no idea what the main idea of the story was supposed to be. 

A Promise Worth Keeping by Cyndi Faria

Kindle Edition 
16 Pages
3 Stars 

Summary (from Goodreads): 
Clayton has a real mess on his hands. Not only have garden vandals threatened the Remy Estate's Valentine's Day celebration, but Clayton’s girlfriend, Sarah, has proposed to him despite knowing he doesn't believe in lasting love. 
By hunkering down in the garden all night, Clayton hopes to at least solve one of his problems and catch the vandals in the act. Instead, will Clayton finally face his fears and become a man worth loving?

I got this during the Valentine’s Day sales. So it makes sense that is it set during Valentine’s Day. Honestly, I feel like if this was turned into a Hollywood movie, it’s be one of those romantic comedies.

Thanks for taking time to read my reviews! 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

[Author Interview] Jessica Spotswood

Last October I was willing to try anything to get out of doing an oral report for one of my classes. I mentioned to my teacher that I have a blog and often did book reviews. She offered me an out if I got an interview with one an author. I asked a couple of authors and Jessica Spotswood and she responded always instantly. 
The original plan was to then put it the school newspaper, but that didn’t end up happening. So, I asked Jessica if she would mind if I posted the interview on my blog. And she agreed! 
So, here’s the interview! Keep in mind that this was last year so... yeah.   

First things first, what’s your book about?
The short version: sisters + witches + kissing! And the longer version: BORN WICKED takes place in an alternate version of 1890s New England. Cate Cahill and her sisters Maura and Tess are witches, but magic has been forbidden by the priests of the Brotherhood. If anyone finds out their secret, it could mean an asylum, a prison ship – or worse. 

Why did you pick witches?
I wanted to write about smart, independent girls in a society that doesn’t value them – that is afraid of their power. Making the Cahill girls witches in a country where magic is forbidden heightened that and put them in very real danger. 

Was there ever a point where you wanted to write it in modern day or was writing in another time era part of the fun?
Writing in another era was definitely part of the fun for me with this story. I love reading historical fiction, and although this is an alternate history, I really enjoyed the research and worldbuilding. I think I wanted to highlight the romance of the Victorian era (candles, fancy dresses, carriages) with the Puritanical restrictions against women. 

How do you come up with the plot and characters?
I come up with the characters first and build the plot around them. What is the worst possible thing that could happen to my main character? What does she fear; what does she want? What are her strengths and her weaknesses? I go from there.

There’s a lot of romance in your novel. Do you feel like romance is a big element in writing today?
I do. I don’t think every YA book needs a romance – but I prefer to read and write books that do. I love kissing scenes! 

How long did it take your book to get published? Did you do anything special to celebrate?
Everything happened very quickly with BORN WICKED. It took me about a year to write and revise, and then it sold to Penguin in a week, and less than a year later, it was on shelves in bookstores! (This is not typical. It took me two years to write and revise my first book, which got me an agent, but then never sold. And with most books it takes 18 months between sale and publication.) To celebrate my book deal, I had a party with some of my best friends and cupcakes and lots of pink champagne. To celebrate my release day, I signed stock at some local bookstores, and then went out to dinner with my best friend and my husband.

When you pitched the idea to your publisher, did you already know it would be a trilogy or is that an obstacle you had to face later?
We pitched it as a trilogy, and I wrote very brief synopses of books 2 and 3. But we changed  the end of BORN WICKED so much during edits that those synopses basically fell by the wayside.  

What is your writing ritual like?
I don’t have much of a ritual – I write in coffee shops in the afternoon and in my office late at night. I do like to have tea, though. 

What type of music, if any, do you listen to while you’re writing?
I don’t listen to music while I’m writing, but I listen to it in the shower and during plot-brainstorming walks. My playlist for BORN WICKED involves lots of Snow Patrol, Florence + the Machine, and Mumford & Sons.

Most authors admit to being outcasts when they were younger. What was it like for you growing up?
I was pretty shy and anxious as a child. I was bullied in middle school and definitely sought refuge in stories – both reading and writing them. In high school, though, I was pretty revoltingly cheerful. I started doing theatre and got involved in marching and jazz bands, and I had a huge wonderful group of friends. 

Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? If so, what triggered it?
Yes and no. I started writing in fourth grade, and throughout high school I wrote books – big, sprawling historical YA novels. I loved writing more than anything, but I grew up in a small town in PA and didn’t know anyone who was a writer; I never thought of it as a real career choice. In college and grad school I studied theatre. It wasn’t until after grad school that I realized I was miserable, and really missed having a creative outlet, and started writing again.

If you had not become a writer, what do you think your profession would be?
In grad school I was studying dramaturgy, with a focus on working with playwrights on new work. I do love theatre – but not as much as I love writing. 

Who are some of the authors who inspire you?
My favorite books of 2011 and 2012 were CHIME by Franny Billingsley and BITTERBLUE by Kristin Cashore. 

What is your biggest goal as far as writing?
To keep writing and support my family doing what I love. I hope to have a long career writing YA (and maybe eventually adult historical romance) that readers enjoy. Three of my big writing goals have already come true – to see my book on shelves in stores, to have a shelf of foreign editions (BW is being translated into eleven different languages so far!), and to go on tour. Of course I’d love to be a New York Times bestseller or have a TV show made – but those are more epic daydreams.

Let’s say your book gets turned into a movie, are there any particular actors you could see playing certain characters?
I can never seem to think of an actress for Maura. A younger Reese Witherspoon would be a fantastic Cate, with her pointy chin! Elle Fanning would be a perfect Tess. And Andrew Garfield is my modern hipster dreamcast Finn, with his crazy hair, although he’d need some freckles and glasses! 

So, now that you’re published, how is your response with fans? Any weird/bad/favorite fan encounters?
I received my first handwritten letter from a reader the other day, which was a lovely treat. Going on the Breathless Reads tour last February was amazing because I got to meet lots of smart, passionate readers in person! Really, every time a reader takes the time to email me and tell me how they felt about the book, it makes my day!

What’s something your fans would be surprised to learn about you?
As a teen, my favorite book and movie was GONE WITH THE WIND. You know how sometimes your family will latch onto one thing you like and give you gifts based on that? I had a big collection of GWTW memorabilia – various editions of the book, an original 1939 movie program from the premiere, music boxes, china plates, and a life-sized cardboard cutout of the hero, Rhett Butler!  

What is your advice to aspiring writers?
Find people you trust to read your work. I have writer-friends who read for me now, and my husband – who’s a playwright – is my first reader and best critic. But at first I just asked friends who were former English majors and voracious readers. They told me what they liked and what confused them and what they had questions about, and really listening to their opinions helped me learn to revise. As a writer, you will always get criticism, so you should learn early on how to take it constructively, how to use what helps you and discard the rest. 

I know for me it’s seems like forever before the sequel to Born Wicked comes out. Do you think you’re as excited for it to be out in the world as your fans are to read it? 
Excited and nervous! STAR CURSED was the most difficult book I’ve ever written, my first book under contract and my first sequel. It took fourteen months, and I rewrote it almost from scratch and then did another round of extensive revisions with my editor. I’m really proud of it now, and I hope readers will love it! 

Is there anything you fan girl about? Absolutely! I get super-excited about books by my favorite authors. The two 2013 books I’m most excited about right now are Stephanie Perkins’ ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER and Gayle Forman’s JUST ONE DAY. 

What news can you share with us about your future work? The sequel to BORN WICKED, STAR CURSED, comes out June 2013. In it, there’s a book-burning, a kissing scene in a library, and an enormous betrayal – and Cate will go inside the place of her nightmares, Harwood Asylum. 

Lightning Round:
Sprite or Coke? Diet Coke

Favorite Color? Pink!

Superman or Batman? Batman

Mornings or Nights? Night owl
Chips or Candy? Candy (Reese's Peanut Butter Cups)

Coffee or Water? Tea

Current TV addiction? Revenge, Vampire Diaries, and Hart of Dixie 

Book you are reading right now? Minx by Julia Quinn (Regency romance)

Movie that makes you cry? Titanic 

Comfort food? Sugar cookie dough

iPhone or Blackberry? iPhone

Most played band on iPod? Snow Patrol

Favorite author? Kristin Cashore

Number of books you own? 6 bookshelves full & constantly culling! 

Thank you Jessica Spotswood for your time! 
Readers, don’t forget to get STAR CURSED on June 18th! 

Monday, May 13, 2013

[Book Review] Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead

Summary (Goodreads): 
It's springtime at St. Vladimir's Academy, and Rose Hathaway is this close to graduation. Since making her first Strigoi kills, Rose hasn't been feeling quite right. She's having dark thoughts, behaving erratically, and worst of all... might be seeing ghosts.
As Rose questions her sanity, new complications arise. Lissa has begun experimenting with her magic once more, their enemy Victor Dashkov might be set free, and Rose's forbidden relationship with Dimitri is starting to heat up again. But when a deadly threat no one saw coming changes their entire world, Rose must put her own life on the line - and choose between the two people she loves most.
443 Pages. 

I didn’t like the way Richelle Mead ended Frostbite. I don’t think anyone did. She killed off a character that may not have been loved by all the readers, but he didn’t deserve to die the way he did. So, I was curious as to where the story would pick up and where the characters would be emotionally. 

Plot: I’ve been curious as to exactly what Rose being Shadow Kissed meant. I knew all along that it was a title of one of the books. So, I figured all would be discovered then. For the most part, that is the case. I do, however, still think there is more to it, but that’s just me speculating.   

Characters: The headstrong characters are what I love about this series. I love how each of them has their own view of how their world should be and really none of them keep their mouths shut up about it. 

Relationships: As always Lissa and Rose’s friendship and sisterhood is one just another reasons this series is amazing. I love how Rose gets jealous of how close Christian and Lissa are. 

Romance: Both Christian and Dimitri were written at their best (so far) in this book. This made the romances more enjoyable.
This was my favorite book as far as the romance goes. Up until now I’ve known I love Dimitri, but it was this book that made me realize why. He is overprotective and demanding and well, that’s hot.
While Dimitri is all of those things, Christian has the jealousy thing going for him. It worked for him in this book.

Twists: I loved where Richelle Mead left the book off. Actually, I hated it, but I loved it because it frustrates me. A book that makes me angry, is a good book. 
I’ve said this before, but thankfully I have all six of the book at my reach because if I didn’t, I’d be beyond anxious waiting to read the next one. 

4 out of 5 stars for Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead.