Confessing my fear: failing as an author

Happy Halloween, dear readers! As you’ll already be aware, this month on Aussie Owned and Read we’re talking fears. I’ve already blogged about a couple of mine previously — during our 2014 Haunting Halloween blog hop, I shared a scary (and true) story of the last time took part in a seance, and talked about […]

via Fear of failing as a writer — Aussie Writers

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Review: ‘The Lovely Dark’ by K. A. Last

Three teenagers.
One witch.
Twelve souls.

Harvey Anderson always knew the universe was against him, but there’s a lot of stuff he never expected to happen, like having a crush on the most popular girl at school, and then falling into a giant hole in the middle of nowhere with her. And if that wasn’t enough, somehow they managed to release a soul-sucking, ancient witch as well. So yeah, there’s that. You’d think it’d be pretty hard to beat, but knowing Harvey’s luck, it’s about to get a whole lot worse.

I was lucky enough to nab an ARC (advanced reader copy) of The Lovely Dark, which is scheduled for release later this month — just in time for Halloween. The release date is particularly appropriate, because this story is atmospheric and occasionally creepy as all get out. I was reading it in an empty house when the sun was going down, and brr!

The story starts with Harvey, his best friend Toni, and popular girl Lian as they get lost orienteering in the Aussie bush on school camp (who hasn’t done that — amirite?) and fall into an underground cavern that opens up during an earthquake. Toni is injured, so Harvey and Lian explore the cave system, trying to find a way out. Of course, given Harvey’s luck, they manage to release a soul-sucking, murderous witch instead. Whee!

Harvey is the point of view character. He’s afraid of the dark, which makes the scary night-time and underground scenes in this book twice as confronting as we see them through the filter of his terror. He is also very conscious of what the other teens think of him, and would prefer to escape into Netflix rather than deal with what is going on.

All of this made him seem realer to me than your average young adult protagonist … at the same time that I occasionally wanted to shake him a little, not gonna lie. But those moments where Harvey took action were glorious, just because I’d been cheering for him to step up for so long.

Toni is far and away my favourite character. She has a little bit of Hermione about her — she is the one who figures out what is going on and tends to be the voice of reason and competence throughout the story. I loved her. Lian was nice enough, and I could see why Harvey had a crush on her, but she was no Toni! 😉

K. A. Last hasn’t just gone for the wicked witch stereotype here, which is a relief (I’ve dabbled in paganism in my past, so I hate a bad stereotype). While there’s no doubt that the witch they release is evil, she has a tragic backstory and her nastiness is more than offset by the awesomeness of the other witchy characters that pop up throughout the story. (I won’t provide details, because spoilers.)

Other than how atmospheric this book is, my favourite thing about The Lovely Dark is the dialogue. There were actual, for real laugh out loud moments for me (something that doesn’t normally happen when I’m reading). Plus there’s a nod to Evil Willow from Buffy, which basically earned the book a star on its own. ❤

If you love your books spooky as all get out, with creepy birds and a high body count, then this is the story for you!


Review: ‘Fast’ by Lauren K. McKellar

Quinn Hamilton had it all—A grades, a loving family, and a spot on the waitlist for the latest Hermes handbag. The one item left unchecked on her to-do list was her brother’s best friend, Liam, and that was only because Braden was overprotective when it came to his mates.

When tragedy struck, Quinn was left with nothing. Not even the handbag made it.

Three years later, Quinn’s focused on the things that count—getting a steady job, looking after her mother, and playing it safe. Her dreams of working for a fashion magazine haven’t just left the building—they’ve dived into the gutter, never to be touched again.

But when completing a two-week internship in the city, Quinn meets someone who makes her do the one thing she’s been trying desperately to avoid—feel. Will this sexy man who knows so much of her history help her go after what she wants? Or is their brand of passion as outdated as last season’s trends?

She’s running from her past, but her past is running faster.

Life has been pretty hectic for me lately, so what better to read than a novella by the amazing Lauren K. McKellar? Her prose flows so smoothly and her story so quickly that this is truly a fast read — I gobbled it up in two sittings and was left with that satisfying “plentiful and delicious dessert” feeling. And I say this as a person who doesn’t generally read romance.

For fans of the genre, all the goodies are here: the girl, the guy, the obstacles that draw out the process of them getting together (but not too far; this is a novella). Quinn has scars on the inside that are worse than the scar on the outside: a massive case of survivor’s guilt means she subconsciously believes she doesn’t deserve happiness. Liam is an A-grade hottie who struggles with a minor case of the same. Together, they manage to muddle their way through to a place where they might be able to start healing.

Through Quinn’s eyes we also get another glimpse into the world of magazines, a place that the author knows well. It was nice to see Madison, the leading lady from Fame — although Fast had none of Fame‘s steaminess, unless you count the smooching.

I love Lauren’s writing. Regular readers of my blog will recognise the name; she is my editor, the one who I (as a professional editor myself) trust with my books. What this means is that you can buy her books — most of which are self-published — safe in the knowledge that they will be beautifully written and professionally treated. She has a keen eye for story and her editing game is amazing.

If romance is your thing and you’re keen to try a new author, why not give this novella a try? It’s a great way to discover someone new. You won’t regret it.


Bookstagramming Aussie books

Today on Instagram I decided (on a bit of a whim) to post pics of Aussie books. Because Aussie books are the prettiest — and they look even better when placed beside Funko PopVinyl figures (of which I have, err, rather a lot).

So, on a similar whim, I decided to share some of them here too. Taking bookstagram pics is one of my new favourite hobbies! I could post a ton more, but these are some of my most-recent photos. I decided to stick to those, primarily because I’m really digging this style of pic. Angles! Origami stars! Pops! Yay!

… and yes, I snuck a pic of some of my own books in there. I couldn’t resist. And it is a pretty picture! (In case you weren’t already aware, the first ebook in my Isla’s Inheritance trilogy is available for freeeee! The links are up there, at the top of the screen. *points*)

For my Australian friends, have an awesome public holiday … especially if you’re working. For everyone else, HAPPY THURSDAY!

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AussieOwned_ContributorToday over at Aussie Owned and Read, we’re talking why we love being an Aussie writer, and why we set our books where we do. Check it out!


Three of my 2016 Australian Women Writer reads that you should definitely check out

Like I did in 2015, I set myself the goal of reading and reviewing fifteen books by Australian women writers. I’m currently at fourteen and on my last read now — hopefully I’ll be able to get it finished in the next couple of days, despite various holiday commitments. I’ll review it and then post a wrap-up post when I’m done.

Still, I’m confident in being able to recommend three reads from these fifteen books already. I was originally going to make this a top five for 2016, but that got too hard. I’ve already listed my top five YA reads over at Aussie Owned and Read; three of those were by Australian women writers — Gemina, The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl, and Every Word (as well as Every Move in the same series) — and I didn’t want to be repetitive. Consider all three of them already heartily endorsed.

I’ve also excluded the Aussie Owned and Read girls’ books because I am friends with them (though you should check out Fame, Pretend and Shattered).

So, with that in mind — and noting that I’m basically recommending nine books here, not three 🙂 — here are three you should definitely check out.

‘Heart of Brass’ by Felicity Banks

Regular readers of my blog will know that I only reviewed this one last month. It’s by a Canberra writer who I only just discovered, and is a steampunk set in gold rush Victoria. In the space of a couple-hundred words, we get to see the main character, Emmeline, go from proper society lady who conforms to (most) social expectations while chaffing at the restrictions they impose to convict and criminal rebelling against an unfair system.  The last 100 pages of the paperback are a Choose Your Own Adventure. Seriously!

‘Faking It’ by Gabrielle Tozer

Faking It is the sequel to The Intern, which I reviewed last year; however, it stands alone. It’s very light, fun and easy to read, with a fair number of cringe-worthy moments. But, for me, the shining treasure in this book is the dialogue, especially Josie’s. Her intermittent verbal filter meant that she often came out with lines that had me giggling, and at other times were raw in their honesty. The other thing I really enjoyed was catching a glimpse of Josie’s mother recovering from her shattered relationship and starting to date again. Even though Josie was quietly horrified, I was all, “You go, Josie’s mum!”

‘Their Fractured Light’ by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

This is the third and final book in the Starbound series; I also read the second book this year, but I enjoyed the third one more. However, unlike with Faking It, you really need to read the entire series to fully appreciate the conclusion to the meta-plot that flows through all three books. You won’t regret it, though. (By the way, I know that Meagan Spooner isn’t Australian, but Amie is — in the same way that I included Gemina as an AWW read despite the fact that Jay Kristoff is a dude. It totally counts!)

Now, since I’m planning on doing the AWW challenge again in 2017, this is your chance to recommend me some awesome books by Aussie women from your own reading lists. Please leave a comment! 🙂

 


Review: ‘Shattered’ by Sharon M. Johnston

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Mishca needs to save her sisters, but only Ryder can save her.

The truth about Mishca’s past shattered her heart. She deals with the pain by focusing on a new mission: saving her newfound family from their creator. With her sisters scheduled for termination, Mishca and her friends set out on a journey up the North Queensland Coast to save them before someone else dies.

Ryder understands the need driving Mischa. It’s in her DNA. But he’s not giving up on the chance they can still be together. She’s the only one to have seen him levitate. The only one to watch the sparks dance across his skin. The only one he trusts enough to know what is in his heart. And now, he might be the only one who can stop Mishca from losing her humanity.

Driven apart by secrets, will they come together in time?

Shattered is the second book in the Open Heart series by Aussie writer Sharon M. Johnston. For those that missed it, and in the interests of full disclosure, I was part of the book launch for Shattered at the start of the month; Sharon is also part of the Aussie Owned and Read blogging team.

I originally read the first book in the series when it was published under another name by a different small press; it had a not-quite-cliffhanger-y ending, and I had to wait for years for the sequel. (Not quite a GRRM number of years, mind you, but still an inconvenient amount of time!) I was delighted to see that Shattered picked up where Divided left off; Mischa, having discovered the truth about her origins and a threat to her previously unknown sisters, is determined to save them.

Thus begins a road trip across Queensland. I loved the Australian setting and speech patterns. Americanisms are one of those things that Aussie readers get used to seeing in our fiction, to the point where, when Mischa commented that she had to go to the loo, I sat back and grinned about it. (That being said, I’m curious as to why the publisher chose to refer to cell phones rather than mobile phones. Or maybe it’s a Queensland dialect thing?)

There’s a fair amount of action in Shattered, and quite a few different supernatural factions at play. At first I had categorised the series as modern-day sci-fi, but in hindsight it’s more of a mash-up between that and urban fantasy. The nature of the different supernaturals would be a spoiler (and in one case a guess, as it hasn’t been revealed), but it’s a really interesting combination. I’m looking forward to learning more about the reasons for it in the third book.

Ryder and Mischa make an adorable couple, and I was glad to see that whole pesky “Colin” complication take a back seat in Shattered — though I expect Colin is less pleased about the situation! Each of the pair has comic-book-style “origin story” issues as a result of being adopted as babies, which gives them something to bond over and makes their lives more than a little freaky.

The only reason this isn’t a five-star read for me (and I say this with much love for Sharon) is that I feel like her press has let her down in the final copy edit department. There were a few grammatical errors that made me twitch. To my mind, if a press is taking a cut of the profit, they should do a better job at weeding those out — the author can’t really do it because they are too close to their own work to see them! Gah! <end rant>

Still, if you want a fast-paced Aussie urban fantasy/sci-fi with kissing and a supernatural mystery, why not give the Open Heart series a try?

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Four stars


Today I launched a book (but not mine)…

Today I was honoured to introduce Sharon M. Johnston, networking queen and fellow Aussie Owned book blogger, at the launch of her new release, Shattered.

Shattered is book two in Open Heart, a modern day sci-fi/superhero young adult series set in Brisbane, Australia. I originally reviewed the first book, Divided, when it was released under a different name. Still, I just re-read it this week and the review is still valid if you want to investigate.

Now, those who know me will know that I am kinda sorta terrified of public speaking. But I managed to squeak my way through introducing Sharon and didn’t faint or anything, so I call that a win. (She, on the other hand, did brilliantly!)

You can find Sharon’s books on Amazon if you want to investigate further. As part of a launch day deal, Shattered is currently 99 cents (US).

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Not only did Sharon write these books, but she made the bookmark too. So talented! O.O