Book Review: King’s Blood

Wow, guys, it has been so long since I’ve done a book review! School has been crazy this past few weeks, and I haven’t had much time to read. And I was reading a 180,000 word novel, so that takes a while to get through. So today, I’m reviewing King’s Blood by Jill Williamson.

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Buy it here.

This book fulfilled my “over 600 pages” slot for my TBR challenge for 2017. While in page length, it was exactly 600 pages, the print was so small that the word count was around the same as Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling. So this book took me about a month to read, but I enjoyed reading every word of it, and I was never bored with the story, even though it was super long.

If you don’t know anything about this series, this is the second book in a multi-perspective, high fantasy, with slightly Christian influence. The Christianity is not the in-your-face type, and if you are not a Christian, you can still enjoy the complexity of the story.

Since there are multiple perspectives in this series, I’ll just talk about one of them, Wilek. In the first book, he is the crowned prince, who is preparing to become king. But he is captured by Charlon, a mantic who can do magic. Charlon wants to become the Mother of her tribe  by having a child through Wilek, but she is too scared of men to produce a child. A lot more happens in this book, but there is too much to explain here. You’ll just have to read it. The first book ended with the coming of the Five Woes (this world’s version of the apocalypse), and all the characters board ships to escape to the rumored lands which they hope to inhabit.

The second book is their voyage between realms and is filled with love, hope, betrayal, and jealousy. Again, this book follows many different characters, although some of them are different from the first book. My favorite part of this book is how the characters develop from the last book. In the first book, Trevn, Wilek’s younger brother, is care-free and doesn’t care about the rules. And while we can still see some of that in this book, he takes on more responsibility. We also get to see Wilek become king and take on the challenge of running the kingdom from a boat when his rule is threatened by many different sides. It had been a while since I read the first book, but Jill creates such wonderful characters that I instantly fell in love with them again and wanted to keep reading to know what happened to them.

I also really liked how this book began to tie into her other series, The Blood of Kings. When I first learned about this new series, I knew that it was a prequel series to the Blood of Kings, but there was no evidence of that in the first book. But there were several elements of the Blood of Kings series that were included in this book, and I liked how it is all starting to tie together. I hope there is more of that in the third book.

The only thing I didn’t really like about this book is that it felt like the same things were happening to different characters. Both Wilek and Trevn got married, both of them grew up, and they both had to face the same problems, just from different angles. I wish there had been some different things that each character had to face and overcome.

Overall, I gave King’s Blood a 4.5/5 stars, and I am so glad that I was able to read this book. The third book, King’s War, releases in 2018, although there is no date set yet. But it will most likely be at the beginning of the year since that is when the last two were released.

I will be reading several of my TBR challenge books on my car ride to Chicago, so I will be having more reviews coming soon, so be sure to look out for those. And if you want more reviews or book recommendations, please check out my YouTube channel. I post four videos a month, my next one being my March book haul, coming out March 27.

Until next time, happy reading!

Exciting News!

I don’t have a book review today (I’m reading my 600 page book right now, so it’ll be a few more days).

I started a YouTube channel and the first video is up now! You can watch it here. I’m really excited about this channel, and I have several more videos planned out. I am still learning the fine points of making videos, so this first video is not the best quality. But with time, I hope to make them better.

I plan to do a monthly wrap up and TBR, book haul, reviews, and other special videos. If you love books or are trying to decide what to read next, please check out my video!

That’s all for now! My review of King’s Blood by Jill Williamson will hopefully be up by the end of this week so be looking for that.

Happy reading!

Character Development

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About a week ago, one of my friends asked me for advice on how to develop her characters. I couldn’t think of anything off the top of my head, so I told her I would think about it and report back later. And so this post was born.

Whether we realize it or not, we all have a sense of what makes a good character. That’s why we celebrate Hermoine Granger and diss Bella Swan. Our subconscious reminds us that we want characters who have drive and purpose and emotion instead of those who are hopeless, useless, or emotionless. We can easily recognize a good character, but what about when you want to write one? How do you translate what you know about good characters into an actual person who people will like?

I think the biggest part is showing your audience who your character really is on the inside. Write scenes that test your characters to their limits and see their reactions. Example: I was writing a scene recently and wanted to make it longer. I asked “What does my character want? Well, he wants ‘x.’ Okay, I’m not going to give him ‘x’ until he does ‘y’ first.” In the scene, my character wanted to get to the Carpathia (he had just escaped the Titanic). Before I let him get there, I made one of the passengers of the life boat fall into the water. At this point, I made my character decide whether to jump into the water to save someone who was getting on his nerves moments before, or to leave her in the water and get the rest of them to safety.

Because of this action, I not only added to my word count, but I showed my reader what kind of person my character is. Is he someone who will save the ungrateful survivor, or is he only looking out for himself? In the end, he did jump in, showing my readers that no matter who the person is, he will choose the right path.

Put your characters in the worst case scenario and leave them there for several pages. Explore what happens when the bomb does go off and half the city is destroyed. Or when you snooze your alarm too many times so you’re late for the job interview that was going to help pay the rent. People show their true colors when things don’t go right, and the same is true for your characters. Let me see their emotions. I want them to laugh, to cry, to hit the wall in frustration. Instead of “I was sad” or “I was angry,” show me how the challenges they face change them as they grow as a character.

Don’t let them be the same person that they were at the beginning of the book. In the fantastic novel The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan, at the beginning, Apollo was an arrogant kid who couldn’t care about Meg or anyone else. It was all about him and how he could get back to Olympus. But by the end, he was willing to die for the campers and is going on a quest to find Meg, even if she doesn’t want to be found. Page 1 Apollo would have never done that. He would have left everyone to die while he stayed safe.

Another way you can add depth to your characters is to make them special. Give them that little quirk that makes them different from any other character in literature. Does your character like to put ketchup in their mac’n’cheese or do they sing musicals to cars while changing the oil or do they only buy a certain type of Poptart? All of these things sound crazy, but that’s the point. Readers don’t want characters who are flat with no personality. They want to feel like they’re talking to their best friend. Which means that you’re character has to have so much life that they can come off the page.

Or you could give them an irrational fear. These kinds of fears are unique to everyone and will add depth to character. Personally, I’m scared of being locked in a freezer (which is ironic since there are giant freezers where I work). To make these fears even more personable, make them contradictory to an elemental part of the character (like working where there are freezers). This allows you to write scenes that put characters in these situations and see how they react.

But I think the most important thing to do, in my opinion, to make your characters more likeable is to not make them perfect. Whenever I am critiquing someone’s work for them, and I find that I’m having a hard time connecting to the character, usually it’s because the character is the model human being. They get straight A’s, have perfect hair, and never ague with anyone. While it’s good to give your character’s redeeming qualities, no one is perfect. Your audience is flawed, and when they read, they don’t want to see someone who has their life together. They want to see someone like them: someone who burns dinner and accidentally flushes their phone down the toilet or slaps their boyfriend in a fit of anger.

In short, makes your characters human (unless they’re a dog, then that might not be the best option). Make it seem like you could pass your character in the street. If you ever need any inspiration, go to Starbucks or the mall, with a notebook and pencil in hand, and people watch for an hour. Notice what people do, how they talk, their funny habits, their stressors. Then take your observations and apply some of them to your characters.

There are a few literary characters that I can say are truly well developed (the boys from The Raven Cycle, Cath from Heartless, Thomas from The Maze Runner). Literature needs more well developed characters, and it’s my hope that authors will start writing more personable characters. Let’s flood the market with great characters whose memory will remain with us for a long time after we close the cover.

 

Book Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

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Well, I’ve finished another book! With the school books I’ve read, this makes eight for the year. I’m on track for my goal of reading 100 books this year. To fulfill the “Backlist from a new favorite author” category, I chose The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. Recently, I fell in love with her Raven Cycle series, and couldn’t wait to read another book by her. (And she just released the title and release date for her next book! I will definitely be pre-ordering that as soon as possible.)

Puck Connolly and Sean Kendrick have lived on a remote island their whole lives. Although they’re isolated from the rest of the world, there’s one thing that keeps them on the island: the capaille uisce. These water horses are brought in once a year from the ocean to participate in the Scorpio Races. The journey is tough, and the races are dangerous, but the winner walks away with fame, and most importantly, money. Puck and Sean both want to win for different reasons, but there can only be one winner.

While I did not enjoy The Scorpio Races as much as her other series, Stiefvater still provided a thrilling story filled with action, suspense, and a hint of romance. My favorite aspect of this book is that you want both Sean and Puck to win, but know that they both can’t. I really enjoy the emotional pull of this. She makes both of her characters so likeable and their reasons for wanting to win the race so touching, that there is a constant war in your mind over which one should win. At one point near the end of the book, I punched the pages and threatened not to read any more of her books if she did a certain thing (which of course was a hollow threat, but thankfully I don’t have to live up to my threat.)

I also enjoyed that, although this book is about horses, they do not take up every page of the book. I’m not a big horse lover, and if the plot had been more about the horses and less about the humans, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much. But Maggie is so good at writing believable characters that sometimes I forgot I was reading a horse story – it seemed like a story about two people who were struggling to get what they needed in life, and the horses were just the tool they used.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this earlier novel from Maggie Stiefvater, and her ability as a writer continues to amaze me. I definitely hope that one day I can write as great characters as she does.

I’m reading a couple of time travel novels that aren’t on my reading challenge next, so I won’t have a book review coming up for a little while. But I have written a post on how to develop your characters more which I plan to post in a week or so.

Until then, happy reading!

Book Review: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Well, school is underway and I have finished the first book on my 2017 reading challenge. I’ve read other books in the month of January, but none of them were on my challenge.

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The first book I can mark off my 2017 TBR is Heartless by Marissa Meyer. This book fulfilled the “Can’t put down” category of my challenge, and Goodreads wasn’t wrong when it said that this Queen of Hearts retelling was a page turner.

This retelling follows the story of Cath, the daughter of a Marques whose lifelong dream is to open a bakery with her best friend and maid, Mary Ann. But her mother has other plans for her: she wants Cath to marry the king and become the next Queen of Hearts. But the king, a socially awkward, frightened man, who only likes Cath because of her desserts, does not compare to Jest, the mysterious court joker who has captured Cath’s heart and affection.

I listened to the first half of this book while I was traveling to Atlanta, and I instantly fell in love with the story. Meyer does such a great job of making you forget that Cath is eventually going to be the murderous Queen of Hearts. Frequently, while I was reading the book, I asked myself “How does this sweet girl, who just wants to open a bakery, end up being this notorious character?” I was wrapped up in the story that Meyer was weaving that I could easily forget the expected outcome of the book.

My favorite part about this book is how independent Cath was. You can see this character trait in the Queen of Hearts, but in Cath, her determination comes from a desire to live her own life and marry who she desires. She’s not afraid to stand up for what she believes. But she also is willing to do what is right in order to save those around her, even if that means marrying the king. And the last line of the book was just what I was hoping:

“Off with his head.”

My only critique of this book, is that at the end, Cath is very flippant in her feelings on whether she wants to marry the king or not. Frist, she wants to marry Jest, then she’s so mad at him that she accepts the king’s proposal, then when Jest presents himself to her again, she runs away from him. I think a couple of scenes could have been cut out to maintain Cath’s ability to know what she wants from life.

But overall, I gave Heartless a 5 out of 5 stars. I’m pretty sure this is the first fairytale retelling that I’ve read, and it was definitely a good one to start with. If you’re a fan of retellings, or just of a good story in general, pick up Heartless at your local library or bookstore. And it just came out in paperback, so that’s always a plus (although I like the hardback cover better than the paperback).

Tell me in the comments below what your favorite retelling is or what your favorite book of 2017 is so far. I just started reading The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater today, so I hope to have that review up sometime next week. Until then, happy reading!

 

 

 

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everyone! I can’t believe that the year is almost over and 2017 is right around the corner! I know everyone says this every year, but I really do think that time is moving quicker with every new year. Maybe one of these days it will slow down. But I highly doubt it.

Since it’s been so long since I’ve posted, I haven’t had the chance to share that I’ve recently become obsessed with BookTubers (people who talk about books on YouTube). My favorite one is Epic Reads, but I also enjoy Sasha Alsberg. Watching their videos has enlightened me to the fact that there are so many YA books that I haven’t read (and how small my book shelve is). So my goal for 2o17 is to read more books. I have only read 13 fun books this year – very shameful. So to increase the number of books that I read this year, and to push myself to read different books, I have decided to participate in a reading challenge that I found on Pinterest. The challenge consists of 26 books (which should be quite a challenge for me, considering how many books I read this past year). But I think this reading challenge will allow me to read more books and increase my knowledge of YA fiction and other books that I’ve never read. Posted below is the different category of book and which ones I’ll be reading. Please feel free to join me on this challenge! Let 2017 be the year that you read the most books.

*just a note* All but three of these books are already out, but I’m such a Type A person and have to have all the books I want to read planned out in advance. So I will most likely be sticking to most of the books on this list, and if a book happens to come out in 2017 that I really want to read, I’ll try to fit it in somewhere.

Chose for the cover: The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye

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I mean, just look at this cover! This is the first book in a duology that takes place in the Ottoman Empire. From what I gather from the summary on Goodreads, it kinda sounds like there’s this game and the prince must fight for the girl he loves. But things go wrong and stuff happens. Sorry that’s a terrible summary, but when Margo from Epic Reads explained it, it sounded really good. And the cover looks amazing.

Reputation for being un-put-downable: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

This is a fairytale retelling, and Goodreads said that it was worth loosing sleep over, so it’s made its way on the list!

Set somewhere you want to go: Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

This book is set in London, and if you know anything about me, I’ve always wanted to visit London. And any book about someone who tries to hunt down Jack the Ripper sounds really cool.

A book I’ve already read: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

I really just love this series, and I want to read the first book again. And after having read The Fever Code, I think it will take on a new meaning.

A memoir: A Stolen Life by Jacie Duggard

I’m pretty sure that this is a book about a girl who gets kidnapped and then escapes several years later. It was just the only one I recognized when I was looking at Goodread’s list of good memoirs.

About books or reading: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I know, I know, I’ve never read this book, despite everyone telling me that it’s really good. So I will be reading it this year.

A genre you usually avoid – When We Collided by Emery Lord

This is a contemporary YA love story, set on a beach in the middle of summer. I always shy away from these kinds of stories, because I feel like they have no plot. Although this book is a contemporary romance, I’m kinda cheating because it’s about a girl who has bipolar which does sound interesting. So I’m not going for the cheesiest beach read, but hey, I can’t torture myself too much. And maybe if I read this book in June, I’ll like it better. Who knows?

Won’t admit to wanting to read it: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Okay, okay, this book seems pretty stupid, but the movie was good, and it’s Pride and Prejudice, so I have to give it a try.

Backlist of a new favorite author: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Although this book isn’t that old, I’ve recently become obsessed with Maggie’s writing in The Raven Cycle, so I want to read more of her books. And her older books are a part of four book series, and I’d rather not take the time to read that big of a series when I’m trying to read so many other books.

Recommended by someone: Wonder by RJ Palacio

People having been telling me to read this book for years and I’ve never gotten around to it. So I’ll finally be reading it this year!

Excited to buy but haven’t read yet: King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

Okay, so I’m kinda cheating on this one. This is my most highly anticipated book of 2017, and I will definitely be buying it when it comes out in February. But I might wait a couple weeks after I buy it to fulfill this part of the challenge.

A topic I already love: A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

I am obsessed with Sherlock Holmes and this series is a genderbent, teenage version of Sherlock and John when they meet at boarding school. It sounds really good, so I’ll be reading it this year.

Newberry Winner: Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

I honestly have no clue what this book is about, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about it, so it’s on my TBR for this year.

Translation: Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

This is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood written by a German author. And the only translation I could think of.

More than 600 pages: King’s Blood by Jill Williamson

This is the second book in The Kinsman Chronicles, and I have been waiting to read it since I finished the first one earlier this semester. And thankfully it’s over 600 pages so it meets the criteria for this category!

A play: The Cursed Child by JK Rowling

I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews about this book, so I’m eager to form my own opinion about it. And it’s Harry Potter, so that’s always a plus.

Addresses current events: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This book won’t be out until February 28, but I’ve already heard a lot about it. It follows the story of an African-American girl whose friend is killed. I’m not much a fan of current event stories, but I know this book will push me out of my comfort zone, and it was the only one I could think of that fit this criteria.

An immigrant story: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

I’m not entirely sure what this book is about, but I assume that it’s about an immigrant who comes to New York. And I’ve wanted to read this book for a long time, so this challenge gives me an excuse to read it.

Published before I was born (1997): Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

I know this book was published way before I was born, but I don’t read much classics, except for school, so I wanted to read another one.

Three books by the same author: Shadow and Bone, Seige and Storm, and Ruin and Rising (The Grisha Trilogy ) by Leigh Bardugo

This trilogy is about a soldier girl who is fighting against these two opposing kingdoms, and that’s about all I know. The main reason I want to read this trilogy is because I’m pretty sure it’s the prequel for Six of Crows/ The Crooked Kingdom and those covers look amazing, and I’ve heard good things about it.

#diversebooks author: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

I looked at the nominees for the Diverse Books category in the Book Shimmy (Epic Reads) awards and the second book in this series was listed, so I’m pretty sure the first book would qualify too. This series is based on the Arabian Night stories about a girl who becomes the queen to someone who kills his bride every night in order to take a new one. But the MC wants to marry this king because he killed her best friend. Sound interesting to me, so I decided to give it a try.

Unreliable narrator or ambiguous ending: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

I had to look up books with unreliable narrators because I had no basis of books to choose one, and I recognized this book on Goodread’s list. I know it’s a WWII novel, which always sounds interesting to me.

Nominated for an award in 2017: TBA

Obviously, I can’t pick this book out yet, but I will let you know which one I do pick later on this year.

Pulitzer Prize or National Book Award: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

This book has been on my TBR list for a while, and I was happy to see that it had won a Pulitzer. It’s another WWII novel, although I’m not sure what it’s about beyond that. Only that a lot of people have been talking about it, so I should probably read it.

And that’s it, folks! Man, was that a lot of books! I want to start doing book reviews on this blog, so I’m hoping to review all of these books for you, explaining why I did or didn’t like the book. It should be a fun year in 2017, and I can’t wait to read these books. If you’ve decided to do this book challenge, let me know which books you’re going to read (or the ones you’re most excited about).

I hope you all had a merry Christmas, and if I don’t talk to you before the New Year, have a great rest of the year. Hopefully we can all read more books (and more celebrities won’t die).

Till next time!

NaNoWriMo 2016

Since it’s 4 days into December (how is the year almost over?), I thought I would update all of you on how my NaNo went. I was behind for much of the month, with homework and Thanksgiving cause me to not meet my word counts. But after days of writing 3-4,000 words, I managed to write 50,010 words! This was my second year to participate, and win, NaNoWriMo, and although this year was more of a challenge, it was very rewarding.

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I chose to write the second draft of my novel Saving Andrea. Throughout the month, this book went through several changes. I changed the title to Starcatcher, one of my characters decided to be a 350 year old time traveler, and I decided to expand it into possibly a duology or a trilogy. But the most important, I fell in love with these characters again. It had been a couple months since I had interacted with them, and it was nice to learn more things about them.

So now that November is over, what are my writing goals? I’m taking the next six weeks off to give my brain a break from writing. As much as I adore my characters, there comes a point when you need to put them on the shelf for a while or your brain is not going to release their story. At least, that’s how it is for me. So until the spring semester starts in the middle of January, I am focusing on my editing skills by critiquing the stories that the writers on my online forum have posted. I am also spending more time reading my fun books (since that activity fell by the wayside in November). Right now, I’m enjoying Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater. If you’ve never read The Raven Cycle, I would highly recommend it. With her complex characters, intricate plot, and beautiful language, Stiefvater will enthrall both teenage and adult readers. Okay, now that you have your next series to read, I’ll continue with my goals 🙂 By the end of Summer 2017, I hope to have my complete series completed (whether it’s two or three books – we’ll see how much I can actually write). After that, I plan to edit it again and prepare it to query to agents.

Now I’m just preparing for finals week (which crazily, starts next week) and Christmas break. Congratulations to all the writers who completed NaNoWriMo – that’s a great accomplishment! And to those who didn’t, just know that however many words you wrote was more than you started with on November 1, and you should be proud of every single one of them. Writing is hard – I won’t lie – and every word that you write is a victory! So take these next few week to replenish your creative juices and plan to start back soon, ready to conquer this story!