How Fornasier Saved the Cat: the beautiful ‘The Things I Didn’t Say’

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If I was Kylie Fornasier, and this was my book, I would be so damn proud. ‘The Things I Didn’t Say‘ had me completely absorbed into the very heart of the narrator. When I put the book down I’d often feel like I couldn’t talk.

Just like Piper.

How did Fornasier do it? Sure, it’s written in first person present, which is a good start. I’ve been known to take a break from a book and be all jittery because somewhere out there Cato and half a dozen other tributes are lurking and all they want to do is knock my bow-and-arrow wielding self into oblivion. So, yes, first person present POV is a great way of immersing a reader.

But there’s more here. I was so taken by this thoughtful and clever book, once I finished and blew my nose a few more times, I analysed the innards out of it to try and pinpoint what made it work for me. Turns out Fornasier Saved the Cat. Don’t know if it was intentional, but it worked.

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Magnus Chase and the Remarkably Similar Plot Premise, a.k.a. If Percy ain’t broke, don’t fix Magnus

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This book was an entertaining read and I’m in no way dissing Rick Riordan. He’s one of the top-selling authors of 2016, with a eye-watering US$9.5 million in earnings. He’s doing many, many things super-right.

Naturally, I’d like to know what just a few of them are!

Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer is Book #1 of the Gods of Asgard Series. The thing that struck me as I read this was the definite similarity to Riordan’s best-selling Percy Jackson series. And why not? It worked once.

Heck – it’s working again.

And why? Because the premise is a good one, but Riordan changes things enough that we’re not bored.

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Deconstructing the awesome ‘Illuminae’ with a bloodied pair of pinking sheers and a sharpened spoon

illiminaeSeriously. If Unputdownable and Awesome met and had a book baby, it would be ‘Illuminae‘ by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. If you’re wondering whether to read it, just take this as a fist-pumpingly enthusiastic, big-brass-band in the background YES!

And go away now and read.

However if, like me, you now want to dissect the story structure and see what made it mind-blowing, then read on my friend.

I think the key areas where ‘Illuminae’ shines are:

  1. Story structure cranking the tension.
  2. Plotty plot plot + plot + more plot
  3. Challenging narrative structure
  4. Characters you bleed for.

And that’s not even mentioning how often it made me laugh out loud.

I cried too. My emotional control is about equal to that of a caterpillar, so this isn’t all that unusual, but there is understated beauty in the way ‘Illuminae’ is written.

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The joy of a good plot twist – ‘Waer’ by Meg Caddy

WaerWaer‘, SCBWI West member Meg Caddy’s debut, has been on my TBR list since its release a few months ago. I was keen to see what caught the eye of Text and led to its shortlisting in the Text Prize (and a contract!).

Getting a contract as a previously unpublished author seems about as easy as brushing your hair with a glue stick. So I LOVE reading debuts. Half of me enjoys hearing a new voice and celebrating their success. I firmly believe that the more great books published, the more kids will want to read.

One writer’s success is a win for all writers.

The other half of me hopes I will pick up that final, vital hint about how to write a novel publishers will latch on to.

So, what did I discover in Waer?

  • Seamless and brave world-building
  • Two vivid POVs
  • A decidedly unexpected twist.

And beware (be waer?) (sorry) the odd, tiny little spoiler ahead.

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Illustrations are the key in Ivy Pocket’s pocket

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Wandering past my local library’s “New to the Library” kid’s shelf last week, I was knocked dead by an inviting cover. The illustrations lured me in, then the title quirked my curiosity further.

But, alas, it was second in the series.

Fast forward five seconds to me searching under K in the Junior Fiction section, and then giving an understated fist pump. Because Book 1 was there: ‘Anyone but Ivy Pocket‘ by Caleb Krisp, illustrated by Barbara Cantini.

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The importance of setting and voice: Shadowhunters Part 2

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Books and a cup of tea… nice

Last week I talked about Cassandra Clare‘s characters, and why they appeal. If you missed it, here it is. Today is Part 2 of a Shadowhunting Deconstruction, looking at the other two areas that work really well. The books I reviewed were:

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Why your boys should hurt and your girls shouldn’t cry – the reason why Shadowhunters are so kick-ass

 

Cacityofbonesssandra Clare writes addictive and sexy YA full of plot twists and fab dialogue. ‘City of Bones’ was her debut, published in 2007. I just conducted a rough count, fragrant jasmine tea in one hand and 70% cocoa dark chocolate (four squares a night, please) in the other, and I think I can count 14 more books since then.

And a chocolate smear on my keyboard.

Clare is a writing machine, and I love her work.

So, what does she do to make her writing so clever? To make her into the mega-success she is? Today I focus on ‘City of Bones’, Book One of The Mortal Instruments series, as well as the first in The Infernal Devices prequel series: ‘Clockwork Angel‘. I found some recurring themes of awesomeness:

  1. Strong female leads and tortured love interests
  2. Easily accessible world
  3. Subtlety in voice.

The first point is so big in itself, I’m going to devote this entire post to it. And a Super-Supreme Spoiler warning on this one… seriously, if you want to read these series, don’t have me ruin the twists for you. Turn back now.

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What an assassin taught me about writing – the killer story structure of ‘Throne of Glass’

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The hype is everywhere. There’s not a YA bestseller list that doesn’t seem to have at least two books with the name Sarah J. Maas next to them. I had to investigate.

And I like to start at the beginning, look at the book that began the phenomenon.

So. Then. ‘Throne of Glass’ it was.

I picked it up with two parts excitement, one part expectation, and a dusting of cynic.

Hoping for a great read.

 

And, phew, I got it. This is a fab book. So fab, I didn’t want to just attribute its awesomeness to world-building or characters or clever writing. Because there was something else. Something more.

Tension. Timing.

Ever increasing levels of evil and excitement. Heavy-eyelids, can’t-stop-reading, catch-up-on-sleep-some-other-day kind of something more.

So after I’d read it once, I didn’t just reread it – I plotted out the entire book. What did I find?

  • Exponential increase in gruesome deaths
  • Story and character arcs
  • Kick-ass third act.

If you don’t like spoilers, stop now… otherwise…

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