Happy Book Birthday, RULES FOR THIEVES

My critique partner, Alexandra Ott’s, debut novel is out today, MG Fantasy RULES FOR THIEVES! Eee, exciting. Look at that glossy cover! (And did I mention I had a hand in choosing the title? 😉 )

Twelve-year-old Alli Rosco is smart, resourceful, and totally incapable of keeping her mouth shut. Some of these traits have served her well during her nine years in Azeland’s orphanage, and others have proved more troublesome…but now that she’s escaped to try her luck on the streets, she has bigger problems than extra chores to contend with. Surviving would be hard enough, but after a run-in with one of the city’s Protectors, she’s marked by a curse that’s slowly working its way to her heart. There is a cure, but the cost is astronomical—and seems well out of her reach.

Enter Beck, a boy with a gift for theft and a touch of magic, who seems almost too good to be true. He tells Alli that the legendary Thieves Guild, long thought to be a myth, is real. Even better, Beck is a member and thinks she could be, too. All she has to do is pass the trial that the King of Thieves will assign to her. Join the Guild, collect her yearly reward and buy a cure. Plus, Alli hopes the Guild will be the home—the family—that Alli has always wanted. But when their trial goes wrong, innocent lives are put in danger, and Alli has to decide how much she can sacrifice in order to survive.

Give it some book love, woo! *throws confetti into air*

Publisher: Aladdin/S&S
Release Date: June 6, 2017
Genre: Fantasy
Ages: 8-12
Pages: 320
ISBN-13: 9781481472746
ISBN-10:  1481472747

Amazon Barnes & Noble Alexandra Ott’s website

Review of Image and Likeness

Image and Likeness: Short Reads Reflecting the Theology of the Body, with a foreword by Damon Owens

If St. John Paul II ever summarized his Theology of the Body, it may have been when he said, “Man cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.” But how does this sincere gift look when lived out by human beings with all their failings? What happens to our humanity when we withhold that sincere gift? What does life require of us when we give most deeply? Full Quiver Publishing brings you this moving collection of poetry and prose, featuring some of today’s brightest Catholic literary voices.

I was gifted an ebook copy of IMAGE AND LIKENESS: LITERARY REFLECTIONS ON THE THEOLOGY OF THE BODY quite a while ago (it launched on 27/10/16 and I have been sadly remiss in keeping to my word) and, to be honest, I finished reading it about a month ago. But I’m so behind on my blog schedule, with all of these half-written pieces, particularly of reviews, that I never got around to sharing it.

There’s something incredibly wholesome about this collection of prose and poetry. Don’t get me wrong: at times, it touches on dark and heavy topics, pertinent for this age we live in, but each piece finished in a way that left me feeling satisfied, even for the short pieces. Yes, the pieces centre around the Theology of the Body—integral to what makes this collection so unique and pleasing to me—but that is not their only or engrossing focus. Some might argue of overly-religious undertones to the idea, but it’s not the feeling you get when you read the pieces themselves. If you’re looking for those kind of tones, you’ll find them here, but if you’re looking for interesting pieces of fiction and poetry and reflection, you’ll also find them here. Just like any other piece of writing, with its themes and ideas.

My personal favourites were No Turning Back by Leslie Lynch, Movements by Michelle Buckman, Nice by Gerard D. Webster.

I definitely recommend this collection of poetry and prose if you’re looking for something different, contemplative with all great, short plots.

You can get IMAGE AND LIKENESS from good retailers, Amazon.com, or straight from Full Quiver Publishing, available in both paperback and Kindle formats.

For the Love of Libraries

In which libraries are awesome and gorgeous, and one must always love them, whatever their shape or size.

Aussie Writers

To celebrate V-Day, here at Aussie Owned, we’re dedicating the month to love. And how can we talk about things we love without giving libraries a mention?

Most book worms can track their love of reading (or writing!) back to these houses of art. Growing up, Heather used to BEG to go to the library, so her Mum caught on pretty quick and this became her good-behaviour treat.

Heather’s local library was a standard, small space, with mostly donated books and little government funding. The shelves were a definite safety hazard, the books were falling apart, and the whole place had that funky kind of smell that hangs around a constantly damp place.

And she loved it anyway.

Rebecca grew up with much the same in way of her local library, but she never had to beg to go there. Her mother was quite happy to take her and her two sisters…

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7 Quick Takes: A Recap of the Vanished

I know I’ve been absent from 7 Quick Takes Friday for a while now. Some of it has been out of my control – moving and all that jazz – but some of it, I must admit, has been laziness on my part. So, of all the things, this is a Friday catch-up, I suppose.

Seven Quick Takes

~1~

Oh, September, how you are a tricksy month, particularly for someone like me who took a rather distended break from blogging and writing et al, and whose mind now is struggling to settle back into routine.

~2~

I think I will relish returning to the normal routine of student work getting in the way of writing work, though. Giving myself a reason to get out of bed will surely aid my brain into inspiration during the day.

~3~

Speaking of which, that’s coming up soon. I get enrolled soon, and then lectures after that, though it still feels like a lifetime away. I know it will pass so quickly; and part of me wishes so, whilst the other is perfectly happy to freeze time in the here and now.

~4~

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What am I reading? Oh, wow, what a question, since, if one goes by my Kindle app, I am reading quite a number of things at once. For my own amusement, I recently stumbled back into reading THE SECRETS OF GHOSTS by Sarah Painter and published by Carina, a small press that has impressed (!) me with its selections of titles and way with voices.

~5~

Image result for heart of brassThere are a few books I’m reading for writing style inspiration:

THE DARK DAYS CLUB by Alison Goodman; HEART OF BRASS by Kate Cross; A GATHERING OF SHADOWS by VE Schwab.

A theme, right? Well, I have to read up in my fields. 🙂

~6~

On the writing front, I’m slowly rewriting my novel H, a historical fantasy that floats about from New York to Italy. Here, our plucky young heroine, Cathleen ‘Cathy’ Cattoway, returns to New York in the dead of night to question the man who last saw her betrothed.

~7~

When they docked unceremoniously in New York—Cathy’s boots slid her across the moisture-sleeked deck like untethered weights—the morning hung dark and heavy over Ellis Island, mist-less yet crammed with whispers of forbidden conversations out of their reach. Even the residue of last night’s Passing made Cathy’s hair stand on end. Out here the air was a mixture of gaslight fumes, the smell of bitterly cold air, and fouler scents, too…

THE TROUBLE WITH DEMONS review

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For seeker Raine Benares, a demon infestation on the Isle of Mid couldn’t come at a worse time. Already fighting the influence of the Saghred, a soul-stealing stone, Raine discovers she is also magically bonded to a dark mage and a white knight, two dangerous and powerful men on opposing sides.

Turns out, the demons want the key to unlock the Saghred. As a seeker, Raine should be able to find it first. As the axis of light and dark powers, she’s a magical cataclysm waiting to happen.

Well, there was certainly demon troubles.

Unfortunately, I just didn’t love THE TROUBLE WITH DEMONS as I did the Raine Benares books #1 and #2. I can’t really pinpoint why. Well, okay, I can think of a couple of reasons.

But first – the good:

Demon-Squishing

I enjoyed the introduction of new types of demons in this novel, and I was intrigued by the way Raine and the Saghred handled them. The threat-level has definitely increased, both internally and externally, and it’s great to read how Raine, despite her new power, struggles with it.

Getting to See More of the Baddies

Because it’s been a while since I’ve been in Raine’s world, I was always going to feel disorientated at characters saying “oh, it’s so-and-so here to do threat to us. Sigh”. However, I didn’t feel like I needed to well know the characters. Sure, it would be a bit awkward to start reading at book #3, but the plot stands-alone in its arc and even the main characters are pretty summarised by Raine when she interacts with them. “Until a week ago, so-and-so did not know…”

So, being faced with some baddies that I’d forgotten about from the first two books, I wasn’t scratching my head and wondering how they fitted in, which is always something I like to read. I wasn’t confused.

First-Person Raine

You really get inside Raine’s head with the narrative. I guess whilst I didn’t like how plain the language and description was (see below) it well suits Raine’s style of speaking and, well, living. She rough and doesn’t take anything from any of the baddies or the I-know-what’s-best-for-you heroes.

Me – crying over not enjoying a novel I ought to.

And now – what I didn’t enjoy:

The Pacing

Demon-fighting, talking, demon-fighting, talking. My biggest problem with Demons was that I got bored. It felt a samey progression like a) the previous books and b) every other paranormal fantasy. I wanted more from the writing, which felt plain, and more from the plot. The characters did the same thing at each location.

Love Triangle

Granted, it’s also a magically enhanced love triangle, as mentioned in the blurb, but character-shipper in me just finds one of the guys irritating whilst the other is the sexy, white-magic guardian every girl wants. #teamMychael

And whilst I loved the flirting (at least, where I felt it between Raine and Mychael), I didn’t feel there was enough of it/in the right place to satisfy. Then after all’s said and done, Raine is contemplating her love life and it just…seemed too arbitrary at the end.

In Conclusion

I find more positive points than negatives, but unfortunately, the negatives were what would’ve sold the book for me. It is, unfortunately, about personal taste, and I just didn’t feel that THE TROUBLE WITH DEMONS was my book.

TableClock_AlexB2 - Copy.jpgRegrettably, 3/5 steamy cogs. I will be reading on…when I can get my hands on the next novels. I am invested in Raine’s story, and hope I get to see more variety to the description and action in book #4.

HOUR OF MISCHIEF Review

(What’s this? Another review? Well, I read on the way to work, okay.)

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Born in a whorehouse in the slums of Fortuna and burdened with a prosthetic arm, seventeen-year-old JANET REDSTONE doesn’t think she owes the Clockwork Gods anything—which is why she makes a living stealing from their temples. But when she lands her team in prison, making a pact with the God of Mischief, ITAZURA, is the only way to right her wrongs and free her friends.

Janet doesn’t trust Itazura as far as she can punch him, but with her soul in his hands, she has no choice but to do what he says. The clockwork gods and the bad-tempered elder gods of the ancient past are locked in a game of cat and mouse and the human realms are caught in the middle. If Janet can’t somehow convince the gods to step in a save the world, humanity is in an abyss of trouble.

Using her unconventional wits, an impressive tolerance to alcohol, and a strong right hook, Janet has to convince the gods that humanity is worth saving. Unfortunately, it’s a lot more difficult to stop an apocalypse when you’re slowly being driven crazy by the Lord of Mischief, especially when he starts growing on you.

(Also, yay, an excuse to use Steampunk gifs!)

Author Aimee Hydman is someone I admire, having acquired an agent and deal during college/university. So, I was eager to get my teeth into her debut, particularly as it’s Steampunk right off the bat.

It’s hard for me to pick a favourite element of the book. The setting was luscious but not over-described – Fortuna, Janet’s home city lies on part of a clock-shaped world. I am rather jealous, actually, of how Hyndman incorporated her world-building into the Steampunk aesthetic of the novel and explained through it the human characters’ relationship with the clockwork gods.

Speaking of the characters, they were also engaging. Janet’s the kind of spunky heroine that my teen MC, Agnetha, would hate and be best friends with. It wad great to have the book narrated by Janet; she makes a number of questionable decisions – yet, one understands her reasoning and even supports her. Not only because we see it through her eyes, but also because she is fearlessly faithful to her friends.

Speaking of which, I was sad we didn’t get to see more of the Pendulum Thieves, but, again in retrospect that the is a book1, My favourite character, however, was the goddess Laetatia. Despite being world-weary and as assertive as Janet, she is a foil to Janet with her femininity and elegance. She combines Janet’s strong qualities with a softness that makes her an appropriate companion/big sister figure in the novel.

There was also a lot of set up for later, with hints of foreshadowing here and there that I appreciated. Got to love some subtle foreshadowing (though, Shakespeare does tend to ram it in your face…). Granted, I didn’t realise this was the first of a (potential) series until the final chapter, so I was expecting the mysterious elements to be wrapped up by the end. Okay, I’ll admit that I was a little disappointed they weren’t, but at the same time, I liked that they weren’t all solved. Hyndman avoided rushing the reveals with some deus ex machina explanation or the old “as you know, Fred…” trope. (You can tell I’ve been editing the end of my first-draft novel, cant you? *grin*)

I planned not to be interested in any potential sequels (I have too many books on my to-read list to be involved with series at the moment) but the cliff-hanger-esque feeling to the ending meant that there are so many questions still unanswered in the novel that I want to snatch up the sequel if it’s published.

4 Steampunk pieces out of 5.

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I took a star off for the typos I noticed. I consider this not the fault of the author but of the editor, who I would expect to have caught these things before publishing, and whilst I do admire Curiosity Quills Press, I have heard of a few editorial problems from them.

Would I recommend the YA Steampunk novel? Absolutely. It’s an adventurous quick read with a take-no-trouble-from-anyone heroine and, yes, a somewhat dreamy god who’d rather give you a trick than be a hero.

~

About the author:

Aimee Hyndman, by Aimee HyndmanAimee Hyndman has been writing ever since her toddler fingers could grasp a pencil. A lover of all things speculative fiction, she spent many a night penning the beginnings of novels that would never see the light of day. Now attending college in Iowa, double majoring in Creative writing and English, she has clearly never lost her love of the craft.

When not writing and avoiding her school work, Aimee enjoys reading, singing, and acting at her school’s theater department. She is also a lover of anime and all things Disney.

Her area of specialty is fantasy of all sorts but she dabbles in many genres— whatever she feels compelled to write at the moment. The plot bunnies are never ending but, luckily, so are the words!

 

Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Book

I missed the chance quite a while ago to write about the finesse of mystery accompanying the Five Nights at Freddy’s game series by Scott Cawthon that has almost haunted me since I learnt about them. Never played, but always fascinated.

The thing is, it didn’t translate well to book form. Don’t get me wrong: I wanted to love it and I did, but…there were some things I couldn’t overlook and that I still questioned once the novel was over.

It’s been exactly ten years since the murders at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, and Charlotte has spent those ten years trying to forget. Her father was the owner of Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza and the creator of its four adult-sized animatronic animals, and now Charlie is returning to her hometown to reunite with her childhood friends on the anniversary of the tragedy that ripped their town apart. Curiosity leads Charlie and her friends back to the old pizza place, and they find it hidden and sealed, but still standing. They discover a way inside, but things are not as they once were: the four mascots that delighted and entertained them as children have changed. The animatronic animals have a dark secret, and a murderous agenda.

(blurb from Amazon)

As the premise is based on the (not so secretive) reveal in the games that it’s not only the animatronics coming alive but also that the pizzeria has a deadly history of child murder – of the thriller of a past murder and the paranormal element that surrounds the automatons – this was the appeal to me at first, but then the story itself caught my attention.

I liked the characters; although they were mostly stock characters: the love interest, the popular girl, the smart one, they still helped to aid the story forward with their own qualities, and I think that is what made this big cast effective. I liked Charlie, and I appreciated that we saw from her perspective, as she seems to be the most sensible of the characters.

The setting, too, was well brought out. The sleepy town still reeling in the wake of the murders. The residents there, who still have their theories and hold their guards up. And, especially of course, the dark mall built around the remains of the pizzeria. I lost track of some of the rooms and the layout of the pizzeria, as the characters all darted around them repeatedly. And whilst this was disorientating – and I’d say the layout of the pizzeria should be obvious, as it’s the main location of the inciting incident and the present of the plot – it’s not that important to reading the story, as long as one knows the main rooms.

On the other hand, some turns of phrase jarred with me, or read as if they could have done with more polishing. I think the problem partly comes from the high standard I set myself for writing and precise syntax. I tend to expect it from all I read, which is no fault of the authors themselves. High expectations = being letdown somewhat.

So, 3/5 stars because it was a great story, a little roughly written at times, and missing just that added sparkle to make it a great novel. I can’t say what it was, but I expected something more from the surprises and so the reveals weren’t that dramatic to me.

That is not to say that I didn’t enjoy it, though. If you like teen voice and tense storyline that can be read quickly, I’d say give Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Silver Eyes a peruse.