Category Archives: YA fiction

Cover reveal: The Faerie War by Rachel Morgan

 

The fate of the faerie world is in her hands…

 

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How amazing is that cover? I think the orange works perfectly. Although it’s pretty, like the other covers, there’s something intense about it too, which works well given it’s about a war. (Props to Morgan Media for another awesome cover design.)

I cannot WAIT to read this book. I loved the first two in the Creepy Hollow series (as you can tell by my reviews). Lucky for me, the release date for The Faerie Prince is only a couple of months away (October), so I’ll get my hot little hands on it soon enough! 🙂

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Filed under Writing, YA fiction

A character interview with Seb!

In the second stop of my blog tour, the awesome Rachel Morgan is interviewing The Big Smoke‘s main male character, Seb.

Rachel: First things first: How would you describe yourself? 

Seb: Um, I’d try not to. But if I had to, I guess I’d say that I’m a country guy who’s attempting to get used to living in the city and going to uni. And not doing a very good job at it!…”

Read the rest of the interview at Rachel’s blog. Rachel really makes Seb squirm!

And don’t forget to take part in The Year I Turned 18 Blogfest by the end of the week. A $20 Amazon is up for grabs! So far a grand total of ONE person has participated, so if you give it a crack the odds of winning the moolah are pretty high!

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Filed under blog tour, New Adult fiction, The Big Smoke, YA fiction

Mental illness in teen fiction

Today is the first stop in my blog tour to celebrate the launch of my debut new adult novel, The Big Smoke. I’m over at Michael Offutt’s blog talking about mental illness in teen fiction.

“…I’ve just launched my debut New Adult novel, The Big Smoke, which is extremely exciting, but I’m here to talk about a serious issue that is covered in The Big Smoke – mental illness.

Although things have improved a lot in the past decade, mental illness is still quite a taboo topic in many societies. I’m Australian and my experience of this is mostly home grown, but from what I’ve read and seen, the reluctance to discuss mental illness is also paramount in other parts of the globe…”

Read the rest of the post at Michael’s blog!

And don’t forget to take part in The Year I Turned 18 Blogfest by the end of the week. A $20 Amazon is up for grabs! 🙂

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Filed under blog tour, New Adult fiction, The Big Smoke, YA fiction

Book review – Build a Man by Talli Roland

Blurb (from Good Reads)

The perfect man is out there . . . he just needs a little work.

Slave to the rich, rude and deluded, cosmetic surgery receptionist Serenity Holland longs for the day she’s a high-flying tabloid reporter. Unfortunately, every pitch she sends out disappears like her clients’ liposuctioned fat, never to be seen again. Then she meets Jeremy Ritchie — the hang-dog man determined to be Britain’s Most Eligible Bachelor by making himself over from head to toe and everything in between — giving Serenity a story no editor could resist.

With London’s biggest tabloid on board and her very own column tracking Jeremy’s progress from dud to dude, Serenity is determined to be a success, even going undercover to gain intimate access to Jeremy’s life. But when Jeremy’s surgery goes drastically wrong and Serenity is ordered to cover all the car-crash goriness, she must decide how far she really will go for her dream job.

My thoughts

I’ve been a follower of Talli Roland’s blog since I joined the blogosphere, and her books have been on my to-read list for quite some time. I expected Build a Man to be a light read with liberal doses of romance and humour throughout, and my expectations were pretty much on the money.

However, I wasn’t expecting to be quite so irritated by the main character, Serenity. She makes so many selfish decisions and her justifications are more transparent than glass. Honestly, I just wanted to reach inside the book, shake her and say, ‘Wake up to yourself, woman!’ Thankfully, the plot did that for me. I won’t say any more so I don’t spoil the story, but I was pleased to see Serenity being forced to wake up to herself. In saying that, I thought Serenity’s character growth was a little too easy, kind of like flipping a switch.

But, overall, I still enjoyed Build a Man.  There’s great variety in the personalities of the support cast, and some of the scenes at the cosmetic surgery clinic had me giggling and raising my (non-botoxed) eyebrows. The descriptions of London were really well crafted and made me feel like I was right there on the street or in the pub beside Serenity.˜ I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, Construct a Couple, and hopefully seeing some of my favourite plot lines from Build a Man develop further.

(On the subject of reviews, Andrew Leon of Strange Pegs has written some thought-provoking posts on the importance of honest reviews – including negative ones – for self published books, called “Is It Better To Be “Nice” Or Honest?”. Have a read and let me know what you think. I agree with him, to a point…)

My rating of Build a Man

3.5-stars

3.5 stars

What’s your opinion?

Have you read Build a Man? If so, what did you think? If not, do you plan to?

My 1-5 scale
1: Terrible. I couldn’t finish it.
2: Dissatisfying.
3: Good but not great.
3.5: A solid, enjoyable read but still some elements not working for me.
4: Really enjoyable with very few flaws OR flawed, but I loved it anyway.
4.5: Unputdownable. Close to perfect. I’ll rave about it to anyone who listens.
5: Perfection (i.e. pretty much unattainable).

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Filed under Book review, Reading, YA fiction

Book review – The Reformed Vampires Support Group by Catherine Jinks

Blurb

Click to see Good Reads page

Nina Harrison became a vampire in 1973, when she was fifteen, and she hasn’t aged a day since then. But she hasn’t had any fun, either; she still lives with her mum, and the highlight of her sickly, couchbound life is probably her Tuesday-night group meeting, which she spends with a miserable bunch of fellow sufferers, being lectured at.

But then one of the group is mysteriously turned to ashes . . . and suddenly they’re all under threat. That’s when Nina decides to prove that every vampire on earth isn’t a weak, pathetic loser. Along with her friend Dave, she hunts down the culprit ─ and soon finds herself up against some gun-toting werewolf traffickers who’ll stop at nothing.

Can a bunch of feeble couch potatoes win a fight like this? Is there more to your average vampire than meets the eye?

My thoughts

This book is heaps of fun. It’s definitely not your normal vampire tale (as you can tell by the blurb) and that’s what attracted me to it. I enjoy vampire stories (yes, I’m a twi-hard) and I was keen to see how Jinks put a new spin on this age-old myth. I also chose it as part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge, in which I committed to read six books by Australian women authors and review at least three of them this year. This is the third book I’ve read but the first I’ve reviewed.

Anyway, back to The Reformed Vampires Support Group! Nina and her friends are a sorry bunch. I’m glad that I (as a reader) didn’t have to sit through a normal support group meeting, because they sound deadly dull (pardon the pun). Instead, I was taken on a crazy, pot-holed journey as the group of vampires and Father Ramon, their long-suffering priest friend, tried to work out how to deal with the vampire slayer in their midst. As you can imagine, when you’re weak, lethargic and likely to hallucinate if you go without your daily Guinea Pig, a vampire slayer is really bad news. But the way Nina and her friends try to handle the situation just makes things worse and soon they’ve got some homicidal werewolf traffickers wanting to kill them too. Oops!

TRVSP is told in first person, and for the most part, I really enjoyed Nina’s voice. She’s dry, sarcastic and somehow simultaneously down-trodden and light-hearted. Her scathing opinions of the other vampires in her group (and vampires in general) often brought a smile to my face, and I found her character arc both interesting and believable.

However, I felt that the narrative could have been a lot tighter (with many redundant sentences removed), and a narrative device used twice in the book (described by the narrator herself as ‘cheating’) broke me out of Jinks’ world and smacked of ‘the easy way out’. The multitude of dialogue tags drove me slightly nuts – murmured, ‘wanted to know’, nagged, advised, inquired, exclaimed, whined, mused, growled, demanded, added, chided, remonstrated, announced, protested, pointed out, squawked – and that’s just in the first chapter. I find colourful dialogue tags quite distracting, and I’ve read a few writing books that strongly advise against them. (To be honest, I’m not sure whether creative tags used to annoy me before all of the writing books brought them to my attention, but that’s another issue!) They probably would’ve annoyed me a lot more if this had’ve been a serious book, but I’ve got to admit they did suit the tongue-in-cheek tone.

The story lagged in some parts as the vampires spent pages upon pages deciding what to do next, but on the whole I was kept entertained and enjoyed getting to know the saddest bunch of vampires that ever lived existed. I’m looking forward to catching up with the characters again in the Abused Werewolf Support Group.

I recommend TRVSG to anyone who enjoys comical paranormal teen fiction. Avid fans of spine-chilling stories with sexy, violent vampires might want to choose a different book!

My rating

3.5-stars

3.5 stars

What’s your opinion?

Have you read The Reformed Vampires Support Group? If so, what did you think? If not, do you plan to?

My 1-5 scale
1: Terrible. I couldn’t finish it.
2: Dissatisfying.
3: Good but not great.
3.5: A solid, enjoyable read but still some elements not working for me.
4: Really enjoyable with very few flaws OR flawed, but I loved it anyway.
4.5: Unputdownable. Close to perfect. I’ll rave about it to anyone who listens.
5: Perfection (i.e. pretty much unattainable).

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Filed under Book review, Reading, YA fiction

What I didn’t like about The Hunger Games series

**WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS SERIOUS SPOILERS. ONLY CONTINUE IF YOU’VE ALREADY READ OR DON’T INTEND TO READ THE HUNGER GAMES SERIES**

In anticipation of The Hunger Games movie release later this week, I finally read Catching Fire and Mockingjay, books two and three in The Hunger Games series. I’ve got to admit, I didn’t enjoy them nearly as much as I’d expected.

Don’t get me wrong, I did like them. But I didn’t oh-my-god love them like I did the first book (I reviewed the first book a while ago and gave it 4.5 out of 5).  Catching Fire seemed a bit repetitive of The Hunger Games, and I wasn’t that enamoured with the clock concept of the arena or the majority of the characters Katniss and Peeta shared the arena with.

Despite this, I still burned through the pages of Catching Fire (pardon the pun), and read Mockingjay even faster. I loved the first two-thirds of Mockingjay, with all of the lead-up to the rebels’ attack on the Capitol. But it was the attack itself and the resolution of the series that really let me down. After all of the build up, having the attack end in a drug haze was really disappointing. I guess I was expecting an epic battle victory, like in Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. Maybe I missed something, but for me, even with the ceremony where Katniss shot Coin and Snow died, the finale to the war between the Capitol and the districts felt rushed and unfinished.

This is also how I felt about the resolution of the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale. When Katniss asked Gale whether the bomb that ended it all was his design, I had no idea that was going to be their last conversation. So I was dumbfounded when Greasy Sae told Katniss later that Gale had got a job in District Two, and that was the end of it. Where was the heartbreaking moment with all of them present where Katniss had to decide whom she truly loved? Gah! Ripped off!

I also felt that the reunion of Katniss and Peeta was nice, but not sufficient. After three books of a painful love triangle and a significant chunk of time of the last book spent with Peeta wanting to murder Katniss, all we were rewarded with was a couple of pages – mainly in summary-style – of Peeta and Katniss falling back in love. Really? That’s it? Sorry, but that wasn’t enough for me. Not after everything we went through to get there. I would’ve liked at least another ten pages or so exploring their relationship and also giving us more of a picture of how the world re-built itself post-Hunger Games.

And on a final note… Prim. Dear, sweet Prim, the reason Katniss got involved in the Hunger Games in the first place. Why did Prim have to be blown up?? Why why why?? That really hurt. I really wish that hadn’t happened. And I honestly don’t know why Suzanne Collins felt the need to do it. Couldn’t Katniss, Peeta and Prim have enjoyed the post-Hunger Games world together? Maybe I’m too soft, but I would have preferred that MUCH more.

I know almost everyone adores The Hunger Games series, so I’m interested to know whether anyone else had similar feelings to me? Were you disappointed by the lack of pay-off? If not, why not? What did you enjoy about the ending of the series? I’m really interested to hear what other people thought.

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Filed under Book review, YA fiction

Creepy Hollow launch!

I’m delighted to announce that my awesome blogger friend Rachel Morgan has launched her Creepy Hollow series, which kicks off with the release of the first story, GUARDIAN. I’ve had the pleasure of a sneak preview of GUARDIAN, and I can honestly say it’s a fantastically fun and entertaining read.

GUARDIAN introduces readers to the magical world of Creepy Hollow, a realm where fae creatures both safe and definitely-not-so-safe dwell. Things are cool as long the fae stick to their own realm. It’s when they find their way into the human world that things start going wrong…

1. Receive assignment.
2. Save a life.
3. Sleep.
4. Repeat.  

Protecting humans from dangerous magical creatures is all in a day’s work for a faerie training to be a guardian. Seventeen-year-old Violet Fairdale knows this better than anyone—she’s about to become the best guardian the Guild has seen in years. That is, until one of her assignments—a human boy who shouldn’t even be able to see her—follows her into the fae realm. Now she’s broken Guild Law, a crime that could lead to her expulsion.

The last thing Vi wants to do is spend any more time with the boy who got her into this mess, but the Guild requires that she return Nate to his home and make him forget everything he’s discovered of the fae realm. Easy, right? But Nate and Vi are about to land themselves in even bigger trouble—and it’ll take all Vi’s training to get them out alive.
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To help us celebrate the launch of Creepy Hollow, Rachel has dropped by to answer a few questions – in video no less! – about the series and her decision to self publish.
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Thanks so much, Rachel! (Readers, please don’t comment on the fact that Rachel raises one eyebrow more than the other. She’s very embarrassed about it. ;-))
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You can get your hands on an e-copy of GUARDIAN at Amazon US, Amazon UK or Smashwords now.
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The Creepy Hollow Series
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Author Info
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To find out more about Rachel, the Creepy Hollow series, and its characters, check out the blog tour that’s happening over the next two weeks.

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Filed under Rachel Morgan, Writing, YA fiction

WiP Part 1: off to beta readers!

Before I get onto the subject of tonight’s post, I just wanted to say a big HAPPY ANNIVERSARY to my wonderful husband, Mark. Seven years ago today, we promised to spend the rest of our lives together and I’m so glad we did. I was a month shy of 21 when we tied the knot, and Mark was 24. We may have been young, but we knew what we were doing. Here’s some photos from our special day:

The wedding party

Cally on her wedding day

Wedding: sitting among the flowers

Oh the memories! 🙂

Okay, enough reminiscing. On to tonight’s topic! I sent the first part of Tangled, my novel-in-progress, off to my Beta Reader Group One peeps tonight. It’s quite an exciting and scary feeling. Mostly exciting though. I’ve been working on this novel for so long, I’m really looking forward to hearing people’s thoughts about it.

I thought you might be interested to hear how I’ve approached this stage of my beta reading, so I’ll give you a look at the email I’ve sent my beta readers, which includes a link to my purpose-built reader survey.

Hi there

Thanks again for offering to beta read Tangled. I really appreciate the time and energy it takes to provide considered feedback. Tangled Part 1 (about 45K) is attached! This is coming to you a week earlier than I originally indicated, however if you can still have your feedback to me by 17 October, that would be great. Feel free to get it to me as soon as you like though. 🙂

You can go about providing feedback however you feel most comfortable. I’d really appreciate it if you could fill in this survey I’ve created, but if you find surveys stifling, please feel free to ignore it. At the least, it will provide you with a guide about the type of feedback I’m looking for.

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In addition to the survey, I’d appreciate more nitty-gritty feedback marked on the manuscript (either in tracked changes in Word or scribbled on a hard copy – I’m happy to pay for postage). Please mark any spelling or grammar errors, passages that read awkwardly, and passages that make you smile or cringe (either because of what’s going on or because of the quality of the writing!). I’m just as interested in the passages you like as the ones you don’t, because it’s always good to know what’s actually working!

Please remember, I’m after your honest opinion, so don’t be afraid to tell me what you really think. If you have any concerns about anything I’ve said here, please just let me know.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

Thanks
Cally

Your turn

What do you think of the survey? Too much? Too little? How are you going with your own writing? Please share. 🙂

23 Comments

Filed under Beta readers, Editing, Progress update, Revising, Tangled, Writing, YA fiction

Reflections from my first writers festival

For the past five days, I have been immersed in the wonderful world of writing and reading at the Brisbane Writers Festival. It was my first-ever writers festival, and I’m so glad I finally got my act together to dedicate time to the craft of writing. Here are my festival highlights.

Receiving feedback on my manuscript

As my regular readers know, I was fortunate enough to be selected for the 20 pages in 20 minutes session. In this session, I received personalised feedback on my YA manuscript Tangled (the first 20 pages and synopsis) from Farrin Jacobs, an editorial director of HarperCollins who focuses on contemporary teen fiction. Farrin gave me heaps of feedback, both positive and constructive, and I walked away overflowing with thoughts and ideas about how to improve my manuscript.

I’m not going to  share the specifics of Farrin’s feedback because I want to get feedback from my first group of beta readers before I make any major decisions about necessary changes and I don’t want to skew my readers’ judgement. But I will say that the session did a fantastic job of opening my eyes to how Tangled would/could be viewed from a commercial sense and that the feedback was simultaneously uplifting and challenging, not soul destroying. 🙂

Improving my industry knowledge 

On Friday, I attended a four-hour masterclass on the Australian writing marketplace, and on Saturday, I attended a three-hour masterclass on publishing in the young adult and children’s market. These sessions were chock-full of information about the Australian (and international) industry and included Q&As with multiple authors, agents, editors, publishers, publicists, ‘future of the book’ experts and publishing contract specialists.

Although much of what I heard in these sessions, I’d already learned from posts by my wonderful blogging friends, I also gained a lot of new information that I’m sure will help me when (not if! ;-)) I receive that first publishing offer. Rest assured, I’ll be blogging these hints and tips in the near future.

Meeting authors

One of the most inspiring parts of the festival was listening to authors speak about their journeys, their books and their writing processes. Some of the authors I heard from were Ann Patchett, Anita Shreve, Kate Morton, Christopher Currie, Ashley Hay, Emily Rodda, Kári Gíslason and  Linda Jaivin. There were a lot more writers at the festival including many others I would’ve loved to hear from, but unfortunately I couldn’t attend every single event on the schedule!

Some of the things I discovered (or re-discovered) from these talks were:

  • Every writer’s journey is different. In saying that, almost all authors I heard from were rejected at least once before they landed a publishing deal.
  • Every writer’s process is different. Emily Rodda hates detailed plotting and planning – she likes to tell herself the story as she writes. Kate Morton adores detailed plotting and planning, and she spends four to five months on researching and developing her stories before she writes chronologically from beginning to end.

Building relationships

Over the five days, I met so many wonderful people and made a number of connections that will hopefully one day help me succeed as a writer. I attended a networking event one night – alone. Daunting? Yes. Worthwhile? Absolutely. Although I had a few awkward moments of standing on the fringes wondering if I should just go home, I managed to strike up conversations with a few publishers, authors and fellow book lovers. I also managed to meet a few people who I’ve previously only known on Twitter – always nice to connect a real person to the Twitter account!

One of my most exciting connections took place before I even entered the networking tent. As I waited for the doors to open, I struck up a conversation with two women sitting beside me, assuming they were attending the event too. They were actually there to support their sons, who were part of the singing group Voices of Birralee – our entertainment for the evening.

It turned out their sons are both in year eleven or twelve and are avid readers. I now have two teenage male beta readers who will be providing me with a reality check for my teenage male protagonist – hooray! 🙂

(On a side note, the singing group’s performance was amazing, surprising, touching and beautiful. It added a wonderful dimension to the evening.)

Your turn

What have you been up to this week?

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Filed under Brisbane Writers Festival, Competitions, Professional development, Publishing, Writers, Writing, YA fiction

My first writers’ festival

This week, I’ll be spending five days at the Brisbane Writers Festival (BWF) — my first-ever writing festival. Naturally, I’m pretty excited about it. I’m taking three days holiday from my full time job (and devoting two weekend days) to immerse myself in workshops and masterclasses on writing, editing and publishing, and to network with Brisbane’s literary community.

When I tell people this is the first time I’ll be attending the BWF, they’re usually surprised that I haven’t been before. So why haven’t I? Mainly because I haven’t been organised enough! In previous years, by the time I realised the festival was approaching, it was too late to organise time off work etc. Perhaps this year I’ve also been more focused on my writing and determined to become the best writer I can be.

The session I’m most looking forward to is 20 pages in 20 minutes. In this session, I’ll be receiving personalised feedback on Tangled (the first 20 pages and synopsis) from an editorial director of HarperCollins who focuses on contemporary teen fiction. Isn’t that awesome?! 😀

I had to apply for the session and was one of about 30 chosen from an ‘overwhelming number’ of applicants, so that’s exciting in itself. Plus, the editor’s area of expertise just so happens to be my exact genre. So I will be hanging off her every word on how I can improve my chances of publication with Tangled. I’m a bit nervous about what she’ll have to say, but I figure that’s only natural. I’ll keep you posted on the feedback I receive!

I’ll also be attending:

I have no doubt that I’m going to learn an absolute truckload from all of those sessions, and of course, I plan to share the best bits with you! So, stay tuned… 🙂

How about you? Have you attended any writing workshops/events/seminars  lately? If so, what did you get from it?

17 Comments

Filed under Competitions, Professional development, Publishing, Writers, Writing, YA fiction