New Adult: Weak Women are Awesome, I Trust Plebeian Wisdom, and Lizzy Bennett Matches My MC

In between my panicking that my MS isn’t actually the genre I say it is, and vlogging about such things too, I stumbled upon the Wikipedia page for New Adult fiction (turns out that Wikipedia lists it as ‘New-Adult’ with the hyphen), which I had been looking for at the beginning of my foray into understanding the genre.

Now, I don’t trust Wikipedia, but, for the same reason that it takes the knowledge of everyone across the world, I appreciate its simple opinion influenced by the readers more than the writers. Plebeian wisdom, one might remark.

One paragraph under the ‘themes and issues’ section of the page remarks that, whilst there is an overlap with YA themes such as bullying in NA (I’m looking at you, page one of manuscript), there are NA themes that are entirely separate from YA:

“Some common examples of issues include: first jobs, starting college, wedding engagements and marriage, starting new families, friendships post-high school, military enlistment, financial independence, living away from home for the first time, empowerment, loss of innocence, fear of failure.”

Wedding engagement and starting new families is at the core and stakes of my novel. I asked one Beta what she thought one of the themes was, and, instead of ‘love’ as I myself expected, she said ‘family and loyalty,’ which is, in fact, totally true of the book. Financial independence and living away from home for the first time – check, on both Aidelle and Phillip’s sides, but especially Phillip’s, since he protests that he doesn’t want to rely on his inheritance, but yet struggles to get away from it when Rion uses it as blackmail. I’m not going to tell you whether or not Phillip decides on financial independence at the end.

I’m also going to argue for ‘empowerment’ and ‘fear of failure’ as being checked off, too, this time from Aidelle’s perspective.

I don’t write powerful women. I believe that they have become an expected and overdone trope in writing, making them unrealistic of real life. I’m not a strong woman, nor, I bet, would many of my female friends say they were if I asked them. A lot of women are going to break down when they hear their pacifist fiancé is going to war instead of marrying (‘military enlistment’ – check). I can’t find the blog at the moment, but I recall to mind a blogger who argued that Bella’s depression when Edward leaves her is totally justified. I say that maybe it’s not compatible with how she’s acted before (or maybe it is. I hated Twilight from the start.), but it makes sense. Emotionally.

Some NA women are weak. Some can’t control their temper and do burst into tears at love’s loss (yes, I fall into this category). However, this doesn’t make them bad characters unless they’re badly written. For instance, over at the Notebook sisters blog, Mime talks about how Disney women are not the pink-dress-wearing damsels about which many complain. She points out that, although, in the first movies, the princesses needed men to rescue them, this didn’t make them weak. They had other qualities, as shared by most women, be they modern-day, Victorian, or a combination of the two in my alternate universe.

Yes, Aidelle is the younger of the MCs at 20, but, because of the nature of the class system in The Continent, she’s been sheltered by her middle-class parents, who want only for her to enter into a good marriage. She’s stubborn, but not strong. She agrees to meet the man who has chosen her for marriage – and little do either realise that their temperaments are a perfect match, even if Aidelle was Phillip’s ‘worst’ wife-card out of his second Selection.

Aidelle says she’d rather not marry – and, yet, as soon as she falls for Phillip, she wants to be his bride. So much so, that one might call her a flighty fawner when we meet her in chapter one.

“Oh, to be wed at the age of twenty!”

At that point in time, failure for Aidelle is the failure to achieve her biggest dream of being Mrs. Costello. I don’t think Aidelle was ever afraid of being a failure to conform to her family’s ideals, even if she did agree to them. Sometimes, one has to say yes to the demands and protestations of family.

One of the arcs I hope is clear in the novel is that Aidelle has got to learn to separate her desires from her fear of failure, to learn empowerment as her own, unique person, rather than being a) the daughter of an Oil Physicist or b) Phillip’s wife. Pretty much her only options in 2010. Through meeting and experiencing the future in the character of Zara (who, whilst not entirely at the dreadful level of real-life feminism, lives in a more balanced society), Aidelle must realise that she has more to herself than what she looks like or who she aspires to be in mente.

Her current self, regardless of weaknesses, should be a state of empowerment. Full stop.

download (2)Moving topic, I was day-dreaming about Pride and Prejudice’s take on the way the absence of love can physically affect the body (as a Philosophical Psychologist would, right? :P) and it occurred to me that Lizzy is, after all, 23 at the beginning of the novel Just looked this up, and she’s actually 20. My MC is the same age as Lizzy Bennett and she shares her regency attitude and overbearing girls-must-marry mother (and her loss of love…), though maybe not so much her wit or patience!

*cough* Anyway, I was about to remark that, along with many classical books, one could consider Pride and Prejudice as being New Adult because of the age-range of the sisters, the ideas of friendship within society and that of independence versus the requirement of a husband for success.

Lastly, I do not believe NA is a marketing scheme. Many of us had been writing NA for years before it became a ‘thing’. I was 5 years younger than Aidelle and Lizzy when I started writing, but it’s taken me a good three years to understand that their story/ies are not YA, even if the themes of moving out and moving on may be like those ideas of YA. When I queried when my MS wasn’t ready, I didn’t know about NA so I queried as YA – though, in my heart, I knew it didn’t fit.

Whilst some NA has been recognised by the industry now, I still argue that it needs more attention and importance as a category. Its themes are difficult to really encapsulate in YA and some degrees of adult fiction. The biggest problem, however, is the subjectivity, and I suspect it will be this way for a while.

Steampunky Love

It seems that I will have one of those months where I write consecutive posts one week, but fail to get anything in the next. I’m very sporadic and crazy at the moment. As I did say, I am trying to revise for my exams, so I have been putting my entire collection of ideas on the back burner.

Anyway, I promised a snapshot of my crazy, steampunk ghosts dream. Whilst I have a proper chapter of the new novel idea, it tracks into the 3.5K words; therefore, I’ve just delivered a snapshot of what I wrote. Enjoy!

TableClock_AlexB

The click of Alexander’s heels together raised her face from her hands. He slid from the sitting chair to the wooden floor. His fingers worked at a hidden bolt, a hidden trapdoor of which only Charles’ best occupants knew. Alexander wandered down the steps onto the Evening Platform, a platform-balcony of wooden boards and struts spanning the length of the conservatory – and, rightly, on which it balanced – and Cathy, determined not to creep with her tail between her legs, followed.

“Where are you going, Alexander?”

He’d strode to the square opening in the middle of the platform, from which dropped a stiff, vertical ladder of raw iron rungs. Alexander descended. Smugly.

“You cannot stay another night in New York without your four bags. Yes, I counted.”

Cathy huffed. She didn’t care that she travelled heavy. “I’ll get them after The Passing.”

“No, you shan’t. No woman should walk at night…lest words be spoken.”

Alexander was halfway across Charles’ outer court before Cathy had pushed herself onto the well-traversed steel ladder. She clamped a boot on the rung above hers where it clanged as it landed. “I’ll be comfortable without my bags.”

“I do not mind. My pleasure.”

This time, Cathy bit her lip so the taste of blood fuelled her. Far from his stubborn dismissal of her all afternoon, she fumed at his audacity to risk his life against the post-dusk for the retrieval of her bags.

No. She unwound the heel of her boot from the iron rung and jumped to the ground. Flakes of mud rose to her gown hem.

“Alexander, you shan’t.”

He spun, and Cathy almost crumbled under his fierce glare. “I shall do what I please, thank you, Miss.”

She took one step back, as if the force of his words had smacked her across the face. Certainly, her weak-womaned form made her a lesser creature (in his eyes…in the world’s eyes), but Cathy still curled together her hands. She didn’t understand his need to fetch her items for her.

With one last look of disdain, Alexander spun. He fixed his thumbs into his pocket-edges and stormed through the wooden sidegate.

Fine. She didn’t need him. Not like that. Cathy shifted her hands onto her hips and sashayed back to the scaffolding structure under the conservatory. Well, almost. She’d just checked her gloves (had Charles even seen the mess the iron rungs shed onto ladies’ white fingers?) when her breath caught in her throat, crystallised, and spewed out of her mouth in a broken rush.

Coldness. More than coldness: water-bare, lifeless coldness from her toes to the strand of hair falling across her forehead. Cathleen Worth-Hamilton raised her eyes to the entrance of Charles’ complex.

Heads and hands materialised at the far gate. First, blue lips puckered through the atmosphere, then a nose more beak than skin, and eyes as pinpricks. Cathy wilted. They’d come. The first phantasma drifted in the shape of an elderly women, her white hair stained by the darkness. It had taken no more than a metre’s way before another pulled through the air, this an apparition of maybe eleven with her grey hair loose around her shoulders. A male phantasm followed them, a young man of Alexander’s age, perhaps.

Alexander. With The Passing hitting every New York abode, he’d be caught in the way. If he didn’t move fast enough to a platform with distance between it and the floor, the ghosts would Pass through his soul.

“Cathy!” Charles called. When had he climbed out onto the balcony? “You must move. Now!”

She shook her head. Unnatural fear smudged through her body, rooting her to her place.

Charles’ gloved fingertips weren’t even close to her shoulder. “Take my hand.”

“Alexander’s out there.”

~

Five Years of Jackets and Phones (and murder and explosions and poisonings and Agnetha…)

It’s almost Easter 2014, and, aside from the obvious to celebrate, I realised that I technically have a writing milestone to celebrate: five years since I decided to write a novel and succeeded. Well, pretty much.

So, how did I really become a writer? What was my story beyond being an only child who sat on the hill in her garden talking to herself and wrote A Bug’s Life fiction in bright pen*?

Barmy to think it, but it’s been five years since the completion of my first proper manuscript. I’d written before, sure – hey, I’d written a full script (as well as three shorter ones) by the time I was eleven – but I’d never written a full book** before.

Holidays seem to be my inspirers – in the Easter of 2009, I journeyed to the balmy sand-dunes of Jordan, to casually tell my story of the mystery game we’d played in our school library. Death in the library. How very Christie, as Agnetha would remark in her sniping tone.

When it was suggested I write down what I had narrated, I don’t think I first took the comment in true seriousness. Don’t get me wrong: I wanted to write, but I was writing in the back of my school notebooks (I was thirteen at the time) without chapters, without thought to progression and arcs and tone.

Look out! it’s a nerd

Look out! it’s a nerd

When it was time to copy the story from the notebooks and into a Word doc, I did the same, absent-minded activity, checking for SPG, but not so much for the right way to tale or the elegance of foreshadowing. I’m sure every writer remembers the brilliance utter rubbish of that first novel. Agnetha was maybe not as Mary Sue from the outside as she could have become, but both my poor MC and the tale that unfolded were Mary Sue-ish in their reflection of everything I’d repressed.

I’m sad to say that it took me good time to realise. To even know what a Mary Sue is and that aggressive, selfish, self-depreciative, and dare-I-say-wise Agnetha represented a good part of me.

It sucked.

And I cast it aside for a good two years or three, partly in total fear of having to scrape through the mess I’d made of the prose (by this point, I’d joined a writing site and was starting to realise I was not so much of a genius as a underdog flawed in so many ways), partly because writing every day hadn’t become a task of mine at that point and the kind of stories I focused on were my new drafts and the collaborations in which I found myself. At least this meant I had an acute objective eye for editing by the time I told myself I needed to do a serious rewrite…and beyond the ‘draft three’ I’d tried.

I’ve been going back and forth on the story (I’m not brave enough to call it a ‘manuscript’ yet) throughout this academic year – sometimes out of pure curiosity (because I miss the tale), sometimes to take my mind off WTCB and its might-be-mess. I umed and erred over the shape of the first chapter again this week, but, quite by chance and boredom, I started on a much-less-than-perfect (read: full of telling and indirect writing) chapter. I blinked. And there I was, taking the suck out of the succubus*** and adding secrets that readers would only knew if they read on fully.

It definitely came in dribs and drabs. I can’t remember how, once upon a time (!), I changed from draft 3 to draft 4 – but I guess that’s why I don’t really like to use draft numbers. When I opened the manuscript earlier this week, however – for what better way to procrastinate is there than to lose one’s self in a mirror? – I was starting to marvel at the quality of 54,000-ish words.

I’d lost the drooling 13-year-old’s hilarity of tone. Things were getting serious. And – possibly – my black humour, or some flavour of it, was starting to infect the novel. In a good way. Black humour kind of needs to infect.

And thank goodness the novel is coming together now – five years after I first devised the idea for my own murder mystery. Somehow, I can hope that once I’ve scratched through the layers this time and changed so much more of the draft I currently have, I can call it ‘readable’ for the Betas.

The moral of the tale? Work gets better. It always does.

What’s more – this is the 400th post on the Miss Alexandrina blog! More celebrating to be had!

Oohoo, look what I did for you. I created a Spotify playlist of some sort of ‘soundtrack’ for OJAP‘s birthday, twenty tracks, one for each chapter. Everything from classical to indie rock. There is a point to there being two ABBA tracks, as you’ll get if you’ve been paying attention to detail. I doubt anyone on the blog has read any part of any version of the story, but, just for the record, the tracks aren’t in chronological order. Yes, one per chapter, but I liked the Bach to start – just because. ;)

14-year-old Agnetha fights the police to find her favourite teacher’s murderer, but she might not like his secrets his ex-girlfriend and close-to-death mother reveal on the way.

 

Oh, and a quick extract. ;)

Summer_n

I don’t deal in missing people cases. I bit into my thumbnail to stop the words spewing out.

“Yeah, I’m…sorry. I see why you kept her from me. But,” I added, pointing an upturned hand her direction, “I promise I won’t write about that in the article. I wanted to focus on Joshu— Mr. Craig’s life, not his death, after all.”

“What? Oh, yes: the reason you came.”

“You’re in this with us now, Miss King,” Ms. Peterson said with a sly sideway glance about the flakes of plaster clinging to my roots. I scooted to face her and the mischief glinting behind the layers of mascara.

Maybe they’d never believed the paper cover story.

I sighed. “Look, I’m sorry.” Mrs. Craig reached for her handkerchief and I avoided her glance as she blew her nose. “How old was Joshua when Elizabeth…disappeared?”

 

*True story. I lost the story in the corridors and that makes me incredible sad.

**I was later to find out that what I’d crafted wasn’t a novel, but at 25,000, a novella, and a marred one of sorts.

***That’s a Sims2 joke/reference… I’ve started playing Sims again, not hiring she-devils. Sorry. It just wasn’t necessary.

New Adult Rants, Steampunk Squeeing, and Poetic Thoughts: A Writing Process Blog Hop

I was tagged by Yawatta Hosby to post for the Writing Process blog hop today. My task? Answer these writerly questions…

What am I working on?
My writing is mostly taken up by my New Adult Fantasy Romance about two lovers separated by alternate realities. Love, loss and time-travel. I’m also working on the fourth/fifth draft of my first completed novel, Of Jackets and Phones (which is now actually novel length, yay!), a YA cosy mystery, and typing up WTCB’s sequel.
A Tale of Jackets and Phones Cover1No, I know: that’s very general summary. I might as well give you a list of all the stories I’m not giving up on yet. But what am I working on right now? Removing excess qualifiers from WTCB and panicking that my updated first chapter is too long; telling everyone about the beginning chapter to my Steampunk haven’t-decided-genre-yet story, Horology – I dreamt it up this week, you know; ducking in and out of what I hope will be my proper rewrite for the themes, tones and character consistency of OJAP before I sent it to Beta readers.
 
How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Let’s start with the NA, which, as you probably noticed, is not contemporary. I recently sparked a discussion in which I pointed out an agent’s tweet that, to generalise, said that NA Sci Fi-Fantasy doesn’t exist (I believe the gist is that sf/f can feature young protagonists, but remain prominently category-neutral); it might be a thing in terms of characters, but, in terms of the market, it’s not sellable. Okay, I’m fine with that. I can recategorise if it comes to that, since WTCB is not my first novel with protagonists over 25 (in pure coincidence, 5/4/14 marked the year anniversary of that post and my completion of Triangle. My baby is old. :’) ).

On the other hand, what’s wrong with diverting from the norm? I believe I have the themes of NA in my novel – moving in together, moving away from the clutter of a family house and opinions but still considering family in the whole scope of things, and, to a much lesser extent, protagonists aged 18-30 – and I believe it could sit amongst other NA books I’ve seen on Amazon and Goodreads. Yes, both the contemporary and the sf/f ones. WTCB is neither alternate history nor time-travel romance nor Steampunk, but a mix of genres across the idea of this world of two Continents at war and two lovers fighting time to win.

I don’t, however, think this is all of what makes my prose different from others of its genre. I write without a voice at first – and isn’t every first draft an experimentation? – and the one that tends to appear as I edit is not one of typical commercial prose. The voice is my head is rather more grandiose than contemporary, but I would be lying to say that doesn’t please me. Let differences differ. My style makes my writing differ from most other Young Adult and New Adult ideas: that, whilst not as heavy as including a message specifically, it plucks at ideas I’ve had in my head for years – ideas of existentialism, causation and theoretical theology. I’d like to think that my use of symbolism is novel, too.

Why do I write what I do?

WTCB_Aidellequote1There’s no definite, I-want-to-change-the-world reason for writing. I mean, yeah, I want to change the world, but that’s not my primary reason for writing. I write because I would go mad if I didn’t write. It’s warm escapism, and, on many levels, hope. I write not because I like to see my characters suffer (if you think this sounds strange, you only have to talk to Miriam Joy!), but because I love to see them hope, to see them through the dark and the depression. You see, doesn’t everyone want a happy ending?

Too, I express my feelings through my fiction – like in this heartbreaking quote I posted recently. If the thought of marketing didn’t scare me so much, I think I would like to write a literary novel where writing is also poetry and I can let my metaphors unfurl across the canvas. One Beta and good friend of mine, Lillian Woodall, shares my love of the antiquated tone and description in fiction. It saddens me that, as brilliant writers as people like Dickens and Austen where, they would probably have found it hard to get an agent in this modern age where lengthy description (I reread Pride and Prejudice and Zombies yesterday and, as lovely as Darcy’s truth-telling letter is, it’s almost six book pages long) and poetic notions are easily dismissed.

Some of my stories are my way of explaining philosophy, too. In OJAP, for instance, the MC is a fatalist and she remarks thus, which means I can inject some of my degree into my writing. In the same way, I like having science and real knowledge in my stories.

 
How does my writing process work?

I go through a variety of processes. I tend to edit as I first draft longhand, but not extensively. I’ve been trying to type up the majority of a full novel in a notebook – but one needs time away from university to do that. I’m trying to edit the sentences into sense as I go, but the resulting computer draft will not be Beta-eye standard yet. I’ll go through at one more draft yet.

I’m not a pantser nor a plotter. I think I started writing as a pantser – and that left me with a muddle of a novella with a concept I still love (see OJAP, above) - but the novel I now consider my most polished was planned at least some of the way for NaNo ’10 – with an A4 page of bullet-notes.

Nowadays, my first drafts are sporadic, but tend to be freer. I can definitely say that removing the middle-man of typing up has helped me restrain the inner editor. It helps that I’m a slow thinker, so my work is better first-off anyway! At least…I hope.

 

Well, that’s it. I have no one to tag, myself, but if anyone wants to pick up the four questions (or perhaps design some of their own), be my guest. I’ll be interested at your answers. 

How I Know It’s Time to Buy a Book

PhoenixRising

No matter how many times I look at it, I still don’t like this cover

Unlike many writer-bloggers, I’m not a voracious book-a-holic. Sure, I love reading and I love finding new plots, but when term starts, I have to cull how much I read. Why? Because I’ve realised, in recent years, that if I like a book, it will linger in the forefront of my mind non-stop. Not what I need when I have to write essays and lab reports weekly. I fiction (yes, I just made that a verb) and do a whole bunch of extra-curricular stuff already. I don’t need more distraction from my studies.

But, sometimes, just sometimes, books won’t leave me alone so easily.

Once upon time (started every rejected story…), people looking for something new to read ducked into bookshops and headed for their favourite set of shelves – romance, fantasy or crime – and leafed a book with a pretty cover from its place, read the blurb, maybe settled into a nearby comfy armchair to read as much as they had time to read if the books intrigued that far.

Of course, nowadays the allure is different. I rarely go to bookstores unless they’re in walking distance or I happen to be in town with time to spare (time? what is this strange word?). Instead, to get my fix, I rely on Amazon – and, yes, I use both the UK site and the US site.

The problem with using Kindle and the Amazon snippets function is that you are indeed restricted by the immateriality of the ebook. I’ve nothing against not being able to hold a book when reading it, but I’d like to be able to see what I’m buying – apart from numbers of pages, ebook samples give no evidence to how ‘big’ the book is. Yes, I know it’s meant to be about the writing and the writing alone, but I can’t help making my decision to buy a book in part by its physical size and accessibility.

Another thing… Am I the only one who likes being able to rifle through the book I might buy, catching all chapter titles and little secret ideas, etc? Ebook samples are so selective; what we see in the sample is chosen by the author. With books in bookshops, we can flick to any page – halfway through the book or wherever we chose – to check the consistency of style and language. In ebooks, on the other hand, there’s no way to know if we’d not like the evolution of the book.

Excuse me for being so picky, but I don’t take buying books lightly.

So, do you like the immaterial nature of ebook buying? Or do you, like me, prefer to have a print book to help decide if you truly want a book to keep?

In this way, I’m not so keen on buying ebooks – unless I have been absolutely taken by a concept or a sample – or both. (Somehow, I think I’d be a good agent.)

dawnsearlylightHowever, one sample has come back into my mind more than the others. The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series byPip Ballantine and Tee Morris has been lurking in my brain as of late – especially the heroine and her spunky tongue. I just couldn’t help myself, so I bought it! Granted, Phoenix Rising, the first book doesn’t have as classy/elegant/beautiful cover as the third book (which first led me to the series), Dawn’s Early Light, but STEAMPUNK! I want to write more Steampunk.

Funny (or not) story, actually, I dreamt in Steampunk last night. Best recurring dream for a while. Steampunk ghosts a la Doctor Who’s The Unquiet Dead. I hope to get a first chapter (detailing my dream) up soon…ish.

I guess I’m sad now that I can’t take these books on the go. One of the reasons I don’t read so much is money. I may be able to spend some pennies on ebooks, but real books, print books cost not only their over-a-fiver amount but also shipping.

 

download

More Creative Quotes

Another ‘creative’ quote from my manuscript, this time from Aidelle’s side of the separation. Of regrets and chilling thoughts of being away from him.

(It’s larger – and the picture was, sadly, more cumbersome than my previous, horizontal photos – therefore, I have to say, the quote carries less elegance than the other, but I still thinks this brings a certain bundle of ‘feels’ when I read it. I highlighted some of the phrases that have stayed with me throughout writing.)

WTCB_Aidellequote1

Poem: Fingermarks on the Glass

Summer_n

Too many drinks make a hazy head –

A thin line ‘tween clarity and peering through a traffic of images

For the harmony of your tenor,

For a stupid, goofy grin

We both once shared.

In drabs, our souls drip away;

Though the clear transparency of your tone

Mingles with my opaque dossier,

One look is not as simple as one glance used to be.

Reliving through a blanket shell,

The “mirror darkly”, the apt quote,

Now feelings fracture the edge of new circumstances.

I collect them in a decanter,

You see, for my pleasure

At reconvening evidence, pocketing it

Like copper coins. You abandoned

Your place at one whisper –

Hold on to sailors’ hats! He’s done it again! –

Yet, simultaneously, you crept away

Into a veiled concept like a spice element amongst my dew,

Performed a tidy show for all the eyes,

But neglected my introspective, skip-a-beat type care.

Instead, I play with the remains of my alcohol.

I thought I heard a strain of some lyric once –

In the dark, that sound might be you –

Or it was a simplified version of hope,

Threaded by some Demon

With a promise of a sweeter success

With a headache.

Forget the chorus and the organ

Or the “operas and musicals” in mountains of my taste;

I want to hear your solo,

And the lightness in your cocktail accent,

And your questions – unimposing for now –

And every word, unspoken, that will follow.

An affair of the soul, indeed!

If flirtation begins, the thirst must be quenched;

If one eye closes, it must be opened by the other.

I drain the last of the second cup,

And the memory of your smile

Is nothing more than fingermarks on the glass.

~

If I took a sip for every thought of you…

You’re right. It should be free.

Miss Alexandrina:

Fauxpocalypse, in which I have a short story, is free on Story Cartel for the next couple of weeks. Download it, [hopefully!] love it, review it. Please. ^.^
The post on the official blog: http://fauxpocalypse.wordpress.com/2014/03/26/free-book-download/

Originally posted on The Matticus Kingdom:

And so, for a limited time, it shall be FREE .

Fauxpocalypse is currently being featured on Story Cartel, and you can download a copy of the book… for…  FREE!  That’s zip, zero, nadda, nothing.  Did I mention FREE?

All those stories.  All the drama.  The love.  The action.  The mystery.

FreeFreeFreeFreeFree.

Your money is no good.  (“Nobody drink the beer, the beer has gone bad.” – Can’t Hardly Wait.  Anybody?  Anybody?  Okay, moving on.)  We don’t want your money.  Though, we wouldn’t mind a review or two or twenty, anywhere and everywhere you can post a quick word about it.

Oh, and before I forget, have I already said it is FREE!?

So, pop on over to Story Cartel (http://storycartel.com/books/fauxpocalypse) and pick up your FREE copy of the book.

What are you waiting for?

Do you need…

View original 108 more words

Review of Vicious (by VE Schwab)

Okay, everything about this review is unusual. The review is long (sorry! I had a lot to discuss, on both sides of the spoiler warning). The novel is an adult novel, though a lot of the flashback is set in a uni with the characters aged only two or three years older than me. And I read the book in three days.

Yup, you read that correctly. This was one of those books.

Let me say firstly that, right from the beginning, this was one of those books I knew I needed to have. To hold. And now I have a print copy, I don’t regret the extra money or shipping time at all.

vicious-book-cover-v-e-schwabVicious by VE Schwab came out in the US in September 2013, and the UK paperback came out in January. (Another unusual move by me, since I usually wait a year before reading ‘new’ books.)

What started as a senior thesis on the possible existence of ExtraOrdinaries – people with, to dress it up, superpowers – turned into an experiment testing the boundaries of human adrenalin. Ten years later, Victor’s broken out of jail to find his college roommate, Eli. The reason? Their experiment succeeded, but now Eli’s bent on destroying every other ExtraOrdinary – including Victor and a young girl with deathly cold skin and a habit for trouble.

(Summary by me. It’s good practise.)

Note: this review doesn’t really have spoilers until the capital spoilers bit.

Things I loved:

Victor, protagonist. I don’t read a lot of books with anti-heros, so I can’t compare, but Schwab does a brilliant job of removing the cliché super-powered bad guy, removing most of the cliché villain reasons and giving us a truly human character. A lot of Victor’s motives are powered by, firstly, jealousy and a desire for rightful recognition, and, later, intense revenge for betrayal, but this is what makes him the ideal anti-hero. He knows ‘right’ and ‘wrong’; he just twists them so he can create. He’s almost a modern Frankenstein. Calculatingly brilliant.

Victor wondered about lots of things. He wondered about himself (whether he was broken, or special, or better, or worse) and about other people (whether they were all really as stupid as they seemed).

In that way, I relate a lot to Victor. Feeling, not feeling; understanding; being locked within the prison of my own mind. Broken or special… Who knows?

The setting. Firstly – the name of the university and town, Lockland and Merit, respectively. I’ve been trying to think of a name for the fictional university in which an NA romance I’m planning will be set, but it escapes me. The lunch area shortened to ‘LIDS’ reminds me of my friend’s college, where their eatery is called The Loaf; the shortening is so typical of new adults.

In addition, whilst there’s not much explicitly said about the visuals of the university, one gets a feel for it through the guys’ eyes. Also, the alternate universe, the like-ours-but-not is handled so well. Believe me, I know how hard it is to create a like-but-not world.

The black humour. And, boy, there’s a lot of it. Victor’s voice – his coldness, his cynicism – is gripping and appropriate for the overall feel of the novel. Something about the tone is morbidly fascinating.

The pacing. It wasn’t too fast and it wasn’t too slow. I wanted more and I snapped it up easily. Hence the short reading time. ;)

Schwab handles her prose in a tight, elegant manner, so that styles I normally despise read naturally. The prose skips back and forth between the present day actions and the past, background of the two ex-friends ‘ten years ago at Lockland University’. The writing is deliberately set up so that certain plot twists are revealed through the characters’ present-day contemplation, yet leave enough space for the reader to wonder. For instance, we know right from the beginning that both boys gained ExtraOrdinary gifts, but not how or why, and the pieces are revealed through tense back-and-forth. It’s almost a whole other story. And that’s a good thing.

Of course, as with every countdown, the tension is ramped up by the time ticking on. The days – and the chapter labels saying their times – move forward, but the prose does feel as if it is building back to the showdown…

I had no favourite characters because each have their own unique compositions. From the special to the unusual, I could praise any of the MCs and SCs in terms of both development and stability.

There is also a small romance triangle at one point. I refrain from calling it a love triangle because it’s more of the guy-in-love-with-his-friend’s-girl trope. And it’s introduced with the brilliant apophasis ‘He was not in love with Angie Knight. She did not belong to him.’ The thing about Angie is that she never really felt anything more than friendship for Victor whilst he evidently cared for her, though I cannot say how much she felt for Eli amongst the smooching. In actuality, I think Victor’s passion added to the story – villains can be loveless (like my Rion), but they can also get lonely. Back then, Victor was bound to feel something like this.

Her face was red from track, and his was red from her…

Although it may be considered a triangle or a trope, I felt that there was so much realism in the way Victor told the parts of the story involving Angie and Eli. Jealousy, yes, but it was real jealousy. The kind of anger, envy, confusion he felt rings so true.  Gah, so real!

Things I wasn’t so keen on:

At times, especially the beginning, I felt the writing lapsed into headhopping, so, instead of reading in the eyes of one character, we were hearing the thoughts of others. I preferred the Lockland story for the reason that I knew I was seeing the scene through Victor’s eyes definitely. In a similar way, I guess I’d have preferred not to have chopping and changing POVs during the last few chapters. Yes, they added to the shock and other dramatic emotions of all the characters, but we didn’t really need to witness each character’s reaction directly. Thinking about it, the POVs of over five characters featured in the entire novel. Conversely, I found very few moments where the POV changed mid-chapter and left me ignorant to whom the camera was pointed.

A lot of the pacing relied on the mystery of EOs – who, how and why. Once the big Sydney reveal passed and the present became more the focus, the pacing dragged. Luckily, after the middle, it built up again.

The interesting bits. SPOILERS:

Angie’s death! Noo! I was shocked when she died. From the blurb, I had thought that she’d be assisting Eli in his assassinations of the other EOs (excuse me for being presumptive. In hindsight, Angie wouldn’t be the type. But, you never know; she could have been flipped evil). To be fair, I wasn’t invested in her as much as I probably should have been meant to, but I appreciated her as a woman [and] scientist, as a curly redhead with a sharp wit and mind. I didn’t cry for her, but I did feel sad that she had to go for the sake of plot.

Surprisingly, I didn’t feel uncomfortable when Eli and Victor committed suicide to give them their powers. For the idea of science, it worked. Too, it was written so well – not focusing on the suicide, but on the boys’ determination to pass through suicide to life again.

I didn’t get it straight away that Eli was The Boyfriend with the gun, yet I had a feeling about five chapters before it was mentioned that Eli had shot Sydney. Funny how the same threads don’t knot together, eh?

Some reviewers have said that Eli’s change into mad EO-slayer was too sudden, but I don’t think he’s that sort of ‘villain’ (I’m not sure how loosely I’m using this term here) in the book – it’s not the type of story with villains or saints. Put yourself in his position – he lost the woman he loves to his best friend’s mad experiment; and, as Eli said, dying changed him. Maybe it took away his fear to remove the world’s unnatural talents. But he’d, as he said, always had that bent inside him – that something missing. True to life, we all have a different, unsettling side, and for some it doesn’t take much pressure to come out. Maybe hesitance was his…his saving Grace?

Why didn’t the police catch Eli before Serena careened onto the scene? He was careful – and a genius – but one would’ve thought that the police would’ve been onto him after Professor Lyle’s death. “Are you coming or going?” Ha – wouldn’t that have been obvious? Detective Snell is a character who annoys me. He should have seen beyond Eli’s acting. Yet…no one ever did… That’s part of Eli’s natural, pre-death ability to charm and wow the crowds with a smile alone. Thinking about it, Eli would never have been a killer had he not already had the skill of being unsettled/unsettling that comes with the killer actions.

Mitch. A fascinating case study of human psychology. Exposed to so many moments of wrong-place-wrong-time, Mitchell Turner has given up because of the blame heaped on him and the ‘curse’ following him by the time he meets Victor. If Mitch has any position in the literary meaning of Vicious, he shows us that one doesn’t have to be an EO to have some sort of ‘aura’ or power – we are all capable of being powerful. Or – one could take Mitch to be the evidence of some natural strain of ExtraOrdinary power in this world, a fully human, not twisted or ‘missing’ genetic evolution. Certainly, he explicitly symbolises that ‘normal’ humans can escape death by normal means (running, trickery, a bullet-proof vest…) – therefore, having powers is not only not preferable, but also not necessary.

Either way, he’s an interesting character to observe. I definitely got to liking him – I gasped aloud both times he ‘died’, and, yeah, I kind of felt cheated when he didn’t, but it was a satisfied feeling of being cheated, if you can comprehend that.

The ending: both predictable and a surprise. Of course, with Sydney on his side, Victor’s death, however deflating for me as a reader and supporter of this MC, was always going to be temporary. On the other hand, it didn’t occur to me that, with Serena’s death, the mind control was gone. And I didn’t feel many anti-climax feelings, though the final chapters poured from one to another too quickly and without that much happening, in terms of temporal progress. Also – however random it was – I didn’t expect the wire cord with which Eli kills Victor. Weird move. :P

END SPOILERS

My one sad is that I didn’t get the hardback. It has a glorious cover (see above!), almost a scene from the book, an echo, whereas the paperback (the top cover) seems too cliché and straight to mimic the nature of the prose. In a way, it detracted from the smooth comicbook style one expects.

Anyway, I loved the book, yay! I don’t usually like to give five stars, but I couldn’t really find a decent reason to rate this down (is the writing too good?? xD).

The moments that define lives aren’t always obvious. They don’t scream LEDGE, and nine times out of ten, there’s no rope to duck under, no line to cross, no blood pact, no official letter on fancy paper. They aren’t always protracted, heavy with meaning.