Thursday, 30 April 2015

Blog Update

I've had quite the month, guys, one that's been unexpectedly fantastic. Let me break it down:

Nest Pitch 2015

Nest Pitch is a query contest, and I'm ecstatic to announce THE CLEARING made the cut! I'm on #TeamSugarRush, working with the lovely Louise Gornall to polish up my opening for the agent round on the 11th of May. Fingers crossed!

Oxford University Press

After several interviews, I've been offered an internship at Oxford University Press in the digital content ops department. I can't wait to get started, although I'll actually need to wait until June 29th before embarking on that stage of my career. 

Hidden Gem Awards

I've read all of my top picks - all were fantastic. I'm working on mini reviews and the rankings. If all goes to plan, I will be posting up the result next week. 

Cheers!

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Book Review: Fairy Keeper

Fairy Keeper by Amy Bearce

4 stars

Verdict:
Young girls will love this one!

Shorten blurb:

Forget cute fairies in pretty dresses. In the world of Aluvia, most fairies are more like irritable, moody insects. Almost everyone in the world of Aluvia views the fairy keeper mark as a gift, but not fourteen-year-old Sierra. She hates being a fairy keeper.

Fairy nectar can heal people, but it is also a key ingredient in synthesizing Flight, an illegal elixir that produces dreaminess, apathy and hallucinations. She’s forced to care for a whole hive of the bee-like beasties by her Flight-dealing, dark alchemist father.

Then one day, Sierra discovers the fairies of her hatch are mysteriously dead. The fairy queen is missing. Her father’s Flight operation is halted, and he plans to make up for the lost income by trading her little sister to be an elixir runner for another dark alchemist, a dangerous thug. Desperate to protect her sister, Sierra convinces her father she can retrieve the lost queen and get his operation up and running.


~*~

If you love magical folk, you’ll love this book. Fairies, merefolk, unicorns... Bearce has created a beautiful world with a beautiful name: Aluvia. I absolutely love how the fairies are like pesky bees, producing nectar that can be turned into a drug. It’s brilliant set up which I tip my writing hat to.

The idea that really sold the book to me was Flight: the illegal hallucinogenic that can be produced from fairy nectar. It makes a few appearances throughout the story, but it’s not really what the book is about. In a way, Fairy Keeper is really about how human greed can destroy beautiful creations.

Sierra is strong and likeable character. Because of her abusive father, Sierra has a darker side, but she realises what she could become and tries to act better. I enjoyed how she grew as a character, especially when contrasted against her best friend, Corbin, who has lived a sheltered life in comparison. The third main adventurer is Nell, Sierra's nemesis who has also had a rough lot in life. Again, fantastic set up. Nell definitely spiced up the story in more ways than one.

As much as I loved the set up, I have to be honest. Bits of it dragged. It felt overwritten in places, and the camping was a tad repetitive. I know its middle grade, but the main 'issues' wouldn’t progress and yet they would be discussed again and again through the third person, over the shoulder narrative. It grinded the pace to almost a halt at once point, but it did pass.

The love aspect was a bit tricky. At first I liked how the romance blossomed, and how things just weren’t going to be easy for Sierra. Ultimately, she has to understand another point of view, and I like how it didn’t turn into a love triangle in the traditional sense. Then again, something happens later which I can’t help feel the book would have been better if it didn’t go down that particular route. To avoid spoilers, I’ll just say it felt a bit forced.

This is still a fantastic read with a really exciting ending. There are lots of great action scenes, twists, well-built characters, and a great round up in one book. It won’t leave you hanging in uncertainty, and it definitely made me want to read on.

Source: Curiosity Quills through NetGalley.com

Friday, 10 April 2015

SP Book Review: Sleeping Tom

Sleeping Tom by E.V. Fairfall

3 Stars

Verdict: Brilliant first third. I can definitely recommend the first third...

Hitchhiking is a bad idea but Caden is desperate. 

When she accepts a ride from the first car to come by she meets Gabriel. He's her age, hot, and the closest thing she has to a savior. Problem is, he is a total jerk. With nowhere to go, Caden convinces Gabriel to let her stay with him for one night. He reluctantly lends a couch.

That night Caden wakes up to strange noises. Concerned, she rushes into Gabriel’s room, already anticipating his bad temper. Instead, he’s kind, sweet, and suspiciously harmless—nothing like the man who gave her a ride. He seems like a different person altogether, and claims he is. By night he is Tom, and by day he is Gabriel. Caden finds herself drawn to the mysteries hidden in his eyes.

For Gabriel, Caden is an annoying mistake. One night turns into many, and despite all his anger towards her, she stays. She even seems to accept him and his flaws, but he still doesn’t trust her—is she staying for him, or has she already discovered more than he's willing to share?


~*~

The Rating Breakdown

Enjoyment: 3  I enjoyed a lot of it.

Writing Style: 3 Strong with weak spots.

Plot: 3 Utterly gripped to start with, uninterested by the end.

World & Concepts: 3 More research needed perhaps.

Characters: 5 Interesting, broken, full of personality.

Finish: 3 Beautiful cover. A few weak sections.

Strengths: A curious 'condition' that pulled me in.

Weakness: An ethical dilemma overlooked.

~*~

Oh, this one started out strong. Strange occurrences and mysterious pasts - I couldn't put it down. We have a girl running from an abusive past, but why can't she go home? She used to be called Rebecca but now insists she's called Caden, as she tries to be a stronger person. She takes refuge with a stranger called Gabriel, who treats Caden badly despite also wanting her to stay close to him. But Gabriel has another side to him. At night Gabriel becomes Tom, a young boy that enjoys playing games with Caden and wants her to stay - he's like a a younger brother. 

There's a good balance of mystery and intrigue at the start. I had to know what was going on. 

Around two thirds in, I disconnected entirely. In my opinion, the author steered this story in a strange direction, and the story lost it's appeal once the mystery settled down. I'm going to have light spoilers in this section so I can explain why.

Light spoiler ~*~ I'll admit, Gabriel and Caden had chemistry. However, I was under the impression that Gabriel's other personality, Tom, was a child. Portraying a child was something the author did pretty well. Tom equals child. So when Caden coerces Tom to kiss her, it just felt wrong. After all, age is just a number that's closely linked to your maturity and development; it was clear that Tom didn't want to kiss her and didn't understood what kissing was. Eek.

I liked that Caden wanted to be stronger, but that made me disinterested in her choice of romantic partners. Caden's ex-boyfriend Sean was abusive, Gabriel is abusive, and Face is overly involved for someone she meets at a party once. Tom, as established before, was a ten year old boy in my mind, so although I liked him, I didn't consider him a viable love interest option even though it seemed as if the author tried to write it that way. 

My other issue was that I lost interest. The thing is, if you pull a reader in with mystery, you need a satisfying reveal. The last third sorta became about a love triangle, and the intense mystery sizzled away. Gabriel was a fascinating character, but we never really learn anything about him either. We still don't really know what's going on with him, and Caden ends up kinda where she started out.  ~*~ End Light Spoiler

There wasn't enough going on to string me along for a couple of books, so I was disappointed to find out that's what was intended.

There's also plot repetition. Caden has the tendency to run away from where she's living only to be offered a bed and food like she's a stray cat. It's a little coincidental and shocking that she only bumps into future love interests rather than rapists/murders.

This last quibble is probably entirely me, but I'll mention it anyway. I found it unrealistic that someone interested in metal illness was directed by a librarian to a book that's older than the librarian herself. To learn about mental illness you'd want the latest version of the DSM or ICD, or a modern book filled with recent research. Using a dusty old leather encyclopaedia is about as much help learning about mental illness as a medieval book of medicine would be on helping with cancer. Obviously, I can shrug this point off, but I'll make it for future reference. 
  
Towards the end, I had lost interest. It just didn't sit right for me. Then again, I know this book has a lot going for it too. I would still recommend you to give it a go if I haven't put you off too much!

Source: Author for a group read.