Made by me using Pablo
In the last few weeks, I’ve read two books that failed to hit the mark for me. And when I say failed, I don’t mean in a grand and epic fashion. I mean in a baffling and miserable sludge puddle.
Both books were fantasies, from bestselling authors. Fair share of hype. Great covers. Reputable publishers. Promising plots. Great writing. Rock solid world-building.
I tried, I really did. I’ve loved other books written by these authors. I read all the way through both of them, hoping to hit that point where the plot starts to consume me and the characters become real. And then the last pages came, and with them that sense of how many hours of my life I couldn’t get back.
Eager to salvage something from the mess, I pinpointed what I didn’t like about them. In my opinion, both books lemoned in two key ways:
- The main characters.
- The love interests.
And when I write it like that, it starts to make sense. So… what made these characters so unlikable?
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.
Made by me using pablo
Oh yeah… this book is still on my mind. Check it out here and my analysis here.
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.
Seriously. 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:
- Story structure cranking the tension.
- Plotty plot plot + plot + more plot
- Challenging narrative structure
- 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.
‘Waer‘, 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.
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.
Oh, and it was understated because, seriously, I was in a library. Continue reading
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:
I just got back from an awesome Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) retreat on the fabulous Rottnest Island near Perth. And amid the writing and learning, I had a peer group critique session that came with a side-serve of…
The start of a book is key.
Cassandra 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:
- Strong female leads and tortured love interests
- Easily accessible world
- 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.