Writing Corner: On This Is Not A Love Story, The Writing and Editing Process So Far

Hi all! I’m hoping to get one of these features up every month over the summer, since I’m not sure how busy I will be when I go back to Uni in September, so it will be nice to have some writing content up, in case I have to leave you with a few months without like I did in March and April when I had too much work to post 3 sets of long posts (discussion posts, reviews and these).

Today, I’m going to be talking about the process of writing and editing my first novel, This Is Not A Love Story, as I just sent it off to my critique partner after completing my first proper round of edits, so it seemed like a good time to talk about what the process of writing and editing it has been like so far. Just a fair warning, you may get a fair few of these types of posts, as This Is Not A Love Story is my main writing project at the moment and I’m hoping to get it ready for submission to agents and hopefully publication one day, so there will be a lot of updates here throughout the process.

For a little background, in case you are new to the blog and have no idea what I’m talking about when I talk about This Is Not A Love Story, I first started writing it in 2016, initially after a prompt from my uni’s Creative Writing Society, which was taking a first line from a famous story and writing something of your own based on that. The line I chose was “All stories are love stories”, and I wanted to write something to prove that didn’t necessarily have to be true, at least not in the romantic sense. I’ve written a lot on here about how frustrated I get that all YA stories seem to have to have a primary romance storyline, because although falling in love for the first time is part of a lot of teens lives, not all of us fall in love at 16 and personally when I was a teen, my friends were a lot more important to me than boys; heck they still are! Tiffany’s story is not defined by her relationships to the boys in her life, she’s not looking for romance, she wants the family and friends that she has never had and she finds that in Resistentia, the Resistance group she joins. Tiffany’s story is all about her journey to being able to use her new powers, learning to become a part of her new family and getting her revenge on the people she feels have wronged her.

I did my first draft of This Is Not A Love Story for NaNoWriMo in 2016. It was quite an intense experience, I’ve never written that much over that short a period of time before and I don’t really plan what I write as such, so there were some days where I got a bit stuck and didn’t really know where the characters where meant to go, but luckily, I have great friends and they were quite happy for me to bounce ideas off them. I didn’t actually finish TINALS during NaNoWriMo, but I was basically nearly there.

Then 2017 was kind of a dry spot for me in terms of progressing on TINALS. I’d never really had to edit my work properly before, when I did fanfiction, the most editing I would do is check for typos before I published it, so I’m not really used to looking to the flaws in my own work. I started on my second WIP, Underground Magicians and spent most of the year focusing on that, as all I was really able to do with TINALS was split it in to chapters (as I wrote it all as one long story) and check for typos.

Then this year, thanks to Megan Lally, I found #cpmatch on Twitter, a Critique Partner match up party, when you tweet about your book and people who are happy to work with you on it, will like your pitch and then you exchange chapters to see if you are a good fit. I got a few people liking my tweet about TINALS and sent my work out to them and I did get some decent feedback, but the one who gave me the best advice and has stuck, is my current CP Katie. I sent her over my first chapter and she had some really great insights onto how to make it better, I then sent over my entire MS and have spent the last four months revising TINALS before I finally sent it back to her this week.

Having a critique partner has been amazing for me. I’m not new to writing in the sense that I’ve been writing in one form or another pretty much ever since I learned how to, but editing? Yeah it is definitely something that I’m not used to, so having a second pair of eyes on my story to show where I’ve been going wrong and how I can make it better has been great for me. It was so much easier to see what needed work in my story when I had some outside impartial feedback about it. For me the hardest part about editing was knowing where to start, once I’d sent TINALS off to Katie and she’d read it, I had feedback about the bits that I needed to improve, so I had a starting point and once you have somewhere to work from, editing suddenly becomes a lot easier.

It’s actually kind of amazing how much TINALS has changed just in one revision. The bones of the story are the same, but I’ve gone for dual first person POV now, from both Tiffany and Cam, the main male lead (not romantic lead)’s POV which I think has made for a more well rounded story. People always talk about cutting in editing, but in actual fact, much of this first round of edits for me was adding in scenes to make my story more well rounded and reach the expected 70-80k words for YA fantasy. It was quite interesting for me, adding in Cam’s perspective, because he has quite a different view of the world and a different perspective from Tiffany, so having his POV allowed me to explore both the world I had created, and Tiffany herself through different eyes.

I also rewrote the entire ending, which was quite scary to do as it was the most changing I had to do anywhere in the story in my first round of edits, but after I had written the first draft, I had already decided that I wanted to change certain aspects of the ending (I don’t really want to say what, as it would be spoilers and I am hoping to get this story published one day) before I sent my story off to Katie for feedback and once I got her feedback on the ending, I entirely reworked it. I had originally envisioned this story as a standalone, but with my new ending, I’m definitely going to have at least one sequel, though I don’t know when I’m going to write it!

So that’s where I’m at right now; I’ve made my first significant revisions to TINALS, almost two years after I wrote the first draft. It has been a slow process but now that I have a critique partner, I am feeling a lot more confident about the revision process and I’m hoping that now I’ve passed the first major hurdle of initial revisions, that subsequent revisions will be a lot easier for me because I actually know what I’m doing now! I never really thought about the editing part of writing a book, it was much easier for me to focus on the initial writing part, but it is actually quite rewarding, taking what you originally had and making it better.

To round this all off, I thought I’d share with you a little snippet from TINALS so you guys can see what I’ve been working on for nearly two years. This is just the opening from the first chapter as I don’t want to give away too much! This is the first time I’ve ever shared my original writing on the Internet before, so please be kind!:

My name is Tiffany Sinclair, and this is the story of how I almost died. At this point you’ll probably feel the urge to go “Aww” or something equally sickening, but don’t. Note the almost. I’m very much alive. And I fully intend to take down the person who tried to kill me. No one hurts Tiffany Sinclair and gets away with it. No one. That person took away one of my best friends and for that they will pay.

The tale which led up to this tragic event, began on the day of my seventeenth birthday when I received the worst news of my life.

So there you have it, that has been my writing journey, at least for this story, in a nutshell over the past two years. There is still a LONG way to go before TINALS ever sees the light of day, but for now, I’m really happy to be working on Tiffany’s story, and I hope that one day, it will be on shelves and teens like me will be able to read it and see that not having romance in your life is not the be all, end all and you can still have exciting adventures without it!

Okay, fellow writers! What have you been writing recently? How long have you been working towards getting something publication ready? Any agented writers out there? Let me know in the comments!

I’m hoping to have another one of these for you next month, although I’m not sure what I’m going to be writing about yet. If you are a writer and you would like to be featured on this, then you can contact me on Twitter, @iloveheartlandX.

I will have my latest Top Ten Tuesday post up on Tuesday, so stay tuned for that.

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Top Ten Tuesday #163

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Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these. I’m going to be heading off to France tomorrow for a few days of sun and poolside reading (weather dependent!) so I’m super excited for that.

It also means that today’s travel topic is quite apt! Now the official topic is Books That Awaken The Travel Bug In Me, but honestly, I have such a severe case of wanderlust that all books awaken the travel bug in me, I just want to go everywhere and books are one way of me doing that (certainly a cheaper way!). So I’m going to go with Books That Made Me Want To Visit Specific Places (and tell you whether I’ve actually been to those places or not):

  1. Percy Jackson and The Olympians-Rick Riordan-Greece and New York

I’ve always been obsessed with the Greek Myths, but reading Percy Jackson just made me want to visit Greece even more and also gave me the desire to go to New York so I could visit the Empire State Building and try to get to the 600th floor (don’t worry, I didn’t!). I have now done both of these things, I went to New York with my family in 2012 (and we did go up the Empire State Building, though only to the 86th floor observatory as going to the top was too expensive. One day I would like to go back and go to the top) and I went to Greece with my friends to celebrate my 21st birthday last year.

2. Skulduggery Pleasant-Derek Landy-Ireland

Yes, I know, Ireland is right across the sea from me and I still haven’t been, it’s bad! I’ve always thought that Ireland was the perfect setting for any kind of magic, no idea why and the Skulduggery Pleasant books just confirmed that for me. So I would definitely like to go visit someday!

3. Daughter of Smoke and Bone-Laini Taylor-Prague

I read this book last year and thought that Prague sounded like the most beautiful, wonderful place to visit and I wished I could wander the streets with Karou and Zuzana, visiting Poison Kitchen and eating pastries and all of that. Luckily, this book made my friend Nicola want to visit Prague too, she’s been doing her study abroad semester there since February and I’m going out to visit in just over a week’s time! So yeah, yay for friends who travel to cool places!

4. The Crown’s Game-Evelyn Skye-Russia

I know I can’t visit Imperial Russia anymore, but Skye’s descriptions of St Petersburg in this book sounded so amazing, it really made me want to go and visit St Petersburg and skate of the Neva, and walk the streets and eat some of the delicious food she described. I haven’t yet been to Russia, but hopefully one day I will!

5.Virginia-Maggie Stiefvater-The Raven Cycle

Whilst I know Henrietta itself doesn’t exist, I would still love to visit Virginia, as I know it’s big for horses and I’m a massive horse person, so obviously I would love that and it also just sounds like a really beautiful state, so I’d love to visit it and see it for myself (and pretend to search for ley lines like the Gangsey!).

6. Hawaii-Heidi Heilig-The Girl From Everywhere

Granted, I can’t visit the 1884 version of Hawaii that Heidi Heilig describes in this book, but still, she describes Hawaii in such a way that makes it sound so beautiful that you just can’t help but want to visit!

7. Italy-Caroline Lawrence-The Roman Mysteries

The Roman Mysteries was one of my favourite series when I was a kid, I used to check them out from the library obsessively when I was a kid (unfortunately never managed to finish them) and I always wanted to go and visit the places that the characters in the books did! I did actually go to Naples back in 2010, visited Pompeii and Vesuvius and Herculaneum and Capri, and it was an amazing trip, but I would love to go back to Italy and get to visit Rome and Florence and Venice and all the other beautiful cities there.

8. India-Tara Sim-Chainbreaker (Timekeeper #2)

I love reading about places that I don’t get to read about often in books and Tara Sim’s Victorian India definitely fitted the bill. Her descriptions of India were so gorgeous, they made me feel like I was there, and now I really want to visit to see the place for myself!

9. Alexandria-Rachel Caine-The Great Library Series

I’ve always loved the idea of going to Egypt, it’s a place that is catnip for a History lover like me, and Rachel Caine’s Great Library series has definitely made me want to take a trip to Alexandria (especially because in the real one you have no chance of being chased by bloodthirsty automatons) as I’d love to see the few ancient places that there are left there, especially the ruins of the Serapeum of Alexandria (the daughter library of the main one) and just generally explore, because Caine’s book makes Alexandria sound like such a beautiful place.

10. Poland-The Storyteller-Jodi Picoult

Part of Jodi Picoult’s 2013 novel, takes place at Auschwitz as the main character’s grandmother is a Holocaust survivor. Reading books like this one really make me want to go and see Auschwitz for myself, not because I think that going to see a concentration camp would be fun (obviously going to see a place where people died is not fun) but because I feel like it’s something that I need to do. It’s so important that we don’t forget what happened to these people and I think that going to see the place where so many Jews died in the Holocaust is part of that.

So there we go, Books That Have Made Me Want To Visit Specific Places! Have you ever been to any of these countries? Are there any countries that you’ve read about that you really want to visit? Let me know in the comments!

Next week, I’m talking my Summer TBR, since it’s a week too late for me to choose books to read by the pool! In the meantime, I will hopefully have a Writing Corner post up for you guys very soon.

 

 

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) Review

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Book: Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2)

Author: Leigh Bardugo

This book was my #RockMyTBR book for June, and definitely one of the most anticipated books on the list that Twitter chose for me last year, as I had read the previous book for the same challenge last year and absolutely loved it. This one, I have to say I didn’t love quite as much. Don’t get me wrong, I love Kaz and the rest of the gang and I loved being back in Ketterdam with these characters, but I felt this time that the “job” plot was a little convoluted. In the first book, they had a clear goal, get to the Ice Court, get Kuwei out and get their money. The goal in this book is just as clear, take down Van Eck and Pekka Rollins, but I found that the plot for doing so got increasingly convoluted and it wasn’t as easy to follow because it kept changing! I also found it kind of slow. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off the most daring heist imaginable.
But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re fighting for their lives.
Double-crossed and badly weakened, they’re low on resources, allies and hope.
While a war rages on the city’s streets, the team’s fragile loyalties are stretched to breaking point.
Kaz and his crew will have to make sure they’re on the winning side… no matter what the cost.

Okay so yeah, I was kind of disappointed in this book. I loved Six of Crows, sure it was slow at the beginning, but I loved the characters, the heist was cool, the twists and turns were unpredictable but made sense and the characters were working towards a clear goal. It was a much more straightforward story.

Crooked Kingdom on the other hand? Yeah not so much. The pacing was hugely off, the chapter lengths were really uneven as were the parts, you’d have chapters of like 20+ pages and then suddenly one that was only 6! The first part had only 4 chapters, then the last part had like 12? Yeah not great. There was so much plotting and planning and scheming and then there’d be like maybe a couple of chapters with some action and then more plotting, I just didn’t feel really engaged with what was going on. Plus the job got increasingly convoluted as the whole thing went on, you had all the stuff with the silos that had basically no payoff whatsoever, the auction, getting Inej back, there was so much going on and yet at the same time it still felt like it was going really slowly? I don’t know, like I said, the pacing was just really odd.

I still loved the characters, well most of them anyway, I’m not overly keen on Kaz still, I felt like he needed to come across more stumbling blocks, the fact that he was this perfect criminal mastermind who always knew what to do when everything went wrong? Yeah, I might have liked to see a little more doubt. Plus, the whole, everything goes to shit, but it was really part of Kaz’s plan all along thing? That got old fast. For once, I would have liked it if the others had been in on Kaz’s plans as well. The great thing is though, that even if you don’t love one of the characters, you still want them there, because the dynamic of the six of them as a group is what really makes this story work, and without a single one of them, the banter would just die. I love the way Leigh Bardugo does dialogue, it really shows the dynamic of the group well, and I found myself laughing out loud more than once in this book.

Jesper and Nina are still my favourite characters and I enjoyed seeing their struggles in this book, Jesper with his gambling addiction and his relationship with his father and trying to get Kaz to forgive him after the last book and Nina with her struggles with parem and learning to use her new powers and everything. Plus the two of them really just lighten the mood when things start to get dark! I also loved that we got Wylan’s POV in this story, it was great to see him get some more development and to see his relationship with his father through his eyes.

Having said that I liked the addition of Wylan’s POV, I will admit that I felt like there were too many POVs in this book, which seems like kind of an oxymoron, but you would have one character’s POV, something exciting would happen and then we would jump to someone else and wouldn’t get back to them till like 4 or 5 chapters later. I feel like this story only really needed Wylan, Nina, Jesper and Inej’s narrations, Kaz’s and Matthias’ didn’t really add anything for me.

The plot was kind of repetitive for my taste, we’d have planning, plan goes wrong, new plan, that plan goes wrong and cycle, rinse, repeat. I feel like if we’d just had the Inej rescue at the beginning and then working towards the final plan at the end, the whole book would have been a lot more streamlined, the plot wouldn’t have been as convoluted and we could have avoided the repetitive cycle that the book got stuck in. The stakes also didn’t feel as high in this book as the other one, the Ice Court was the impossible heist, this book was just a series of mini jobs and never at any point did I feel like the characters weren’t going to make it out.

The relationships were…..well I had the same problem as in the first book, I didn’t really understand why everyone had to be paired up. Sure, the romance doesn’t overtake the plot of the book, and that was good, but I found that the only relationship I really felt invested in was Jesper and Wylan’s. Kaz and Inej, honestly I felt like Inej deserved better and watching them hide their feelings from each other just got infuriating, and Nina and Matthias? Well again, I just didn’t feel invested, although I could kind of understand more of what drew them together. I honestly preferred seeing the development of Jesper and his father’s relationship through the book than any of the romantic relationships.

Speaking of Jesper’s dad, it was really cool to see a fantasy book where a parent could actually be integrated into the plot and be useful for what the main characters are doing, just goes to show that a parent doesn’t have to be a hurdle to overcome for a YA fantasy, they can be useful for the narrative!

The backstory parts, much like in Six of Crows, I did like reading them, but it felt like they were clumsily integrated into the action and took us away from what was happening in the main plot. Inej’s backstory was particularly tough to read and just a warning for survivors of sexual assault it could be potentially triggering. Kaz’s journey with PTSD was equally intense, so again, for people who suffer from it, it could also be potentially triggering.

I probably would have appreciated the Grisha cameos more if I’d read the whole Grisha trilogy, but it was fun to see Genya, who I now know from Shadow and Bone and it did make me look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy.

I didn’t really understand what the point of Dunyasha was, she was basically employed as a distraction for Inej and I reckon she could have had the potential to be much more but was used in the wrong way.

I can’t really talk about certain things that happen at the end because of spoilers, but let’s just say that what happened really hurt, but it wasn’t the event itself that hurt, more the impact on the other people involved. I’ll admit, it did feel kind of gratuitous, I don’t think anything would have been lost if this particular event hadn’t happened, but it will be interesting to see how it’s dealt with in King of Scars.

The ending was kind of anticlimactic, I felt like Bardugo should have ended it with the last Kaz/Inej interaction because that was genuinely sweet and would have gone out on a high. I understand that if she had, then the whole Pekka thing would have been left unresolved, but it was clear enough that Kaz was going to get his revenge on him without us having to see it.

I wanted so much more from this book. I loved the characters, but the convoluted plot and the pacing and everything meant that this book never reached the heights of its predecessor. Having said that, I know Leigh Bardugo has said at some point that there will be a third Six of Crows book and I am so on board for that, because I still have questions and I’m not quite ready to say goodbye to the Dregs yet!

My Rating: 3.5/5

BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Nina and Inej have conversations that are not about men, Inej and Dunyasha’s conversations aren’t about men and although Nina is with Matthias when she meets the Grisha, her initial conversation with Genya and Zoya are not entirely focused on men.

My next review will be of my first YALC prep read Things A Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nicholls (if I don’t finish A Thousand Perfect Notes first).

 

Jo Talks Books: On Why I Don’t Believe In Guilty Pleasures

Hi all! Since we are now approaching the end of the first full week in June, I figure it’s time for me to do my first discussion post of the month. This month I’m talking about something more general, though obviously as always it does relate to books. I’m going to be talking about Guilty Pleasures and why I think it’s a stupid term.

It’s always something I’ve been uncomfortable with, the term Guilty Pleasure. It just seems like such an oxymoron, how can something that brings you pleasure make you feel guilty (unless it’s illegal, obviously) for liking it?  It’s a term we use to describe something that we like but feel we should be ashamed of, and why? Because other people think we should be ashamed of it? Because some arbitrary person somewhere has decided that what we like isn’t worth liking? It just doesn’t make any sense to me. When you love something, you should love it openly and joyfully and share that love with other people, you shouldn’t feel you can only admit it by saying, “it’s a guilty pleasure”.

This phenomenon is most common with things that have a large, predominantly female fandom (ah sexism, rearing it’s ugly head yet again). In books, we see this a lot with romance novels, they’re dismissed as a genre (despite, I think, being the biggest selling genre), often times, people describe a romance novel as their so called “guilty pleasure” because people have decided, hey women like these, so let’s deride them! YA is dismissed for the same reason, it’s a majority female authorship and readership, so of course people decide to deride it. No wonder we feel like we should be guilty about the things we like when society is constantly telling us that they aren’t worth anything. Look at any list of guilty pleasure reads and nine out of ten times if not absolutely every single one, the books will be written by women. That’s not okay and definitely needs to be more acknowledged.

When it comes to books, the books most likely to be derided as “guilty pleasures” are the ones that are seen as not having “literary merit”. You’ll never see a Dickens, or a Tolstoy, or an Orwell derided as something people should feel guilty about reading, not in the same way that you’d hear something like 50 Shades of Grey or Twilight called a guilty pleasure. And why? Just as many people love stuff like 50 Shades or Twilight as like any of the classics by the famous old white dudes. Now I do not have time to go into all of the sexist stuff surrounding the decisions as to what books are considered to have “literary merit” but whatever your own personal feelings about books like 50 Shades or Twilight, you can’t deny that they were super popular. So why the need to describe books like that as guilty pleasures? Because they were written by women and have a predominantly female fanbase? That is messed up! Besides, who says that books have to have “literary merit” for them to be enjoyed? And who decides “literary merit” anyway? If you enjoy a book, then it has done its job!

Aside from all the sexist bullshit that goes along with the whole concept of guilty pleasures, I have just never believed in feeling guilty about what I like to read, or watch or listen to. I love talking about all the books I read, whether they be YA, SFF, crime, contemporary adult fiction, anything, if I read it, I’m going to talk about it loudly and proudly. I feel like people who look down on certain books as guilty pleasures, are either ashamed that they like something because they’ve been societally conditioned that they should, or because they feel that their reading taste is somehow superior (and yes, I’ve been around a lot of those people). You’re not hurting anyone by liking romance, or erotica, or YA, or any other genre of book that is looked down on, derided as a guilty pleasure, so why shouldn’t you be able to share your love of them openly? Answer: you absolutely should.

I’ve also noticed that when it comes to guilty pleasure reads (or guilty pleasures in general for that matter), it tends to be the lighter, softer, fluffier entertainment that gets branded a “guilty pleasure”. Think books like The Selection, the Georgia Nicoloson books, Bridget Jones Diary, the Shopaholic books. Because they’re books focused on women finding love, rather than death or war or illness or anything like that, they’re branded as “guilty pleasure” books. But what’s wrong with liking something cute and fluffy? There are enough horrible things going on in the world as it is at the moment anyway, reading is a form of escapism, so it makes sense that people might want to escape into something cute and fluffy rather than something intense. There’s this notion that because something focuses on pain that it’s worth more, but I don’t think that’s true. It’s just as important to focus on the light in the world, the stuff that brings us joy, as it is to look at the things which cause us pain.

Guilty pleasures, it seems to me, is yet another way to police what people enjoy. Society tells us that such and such isn’t good for us, that it’s inferior to some supposed superior alternative and so we should brand it as a “guilty pleasure”, as if that somehow justifies our liking it. For books, it’s just another way of enforcing book snobbery, like you can like that lesser book as long as you know that my 200 hundred year old classic is infinitely better than whatever it is you’re reading. By using this term, we justify this kind of snobbery and not just for books, but for any other mass consumed media as well.

So the next time you’re picking up a book that’s maybe a little fluffy, or hasn’t won ten billion awards, or isn’t 200 years old, or is written by a woman, or is enjoyed by teenagers, and you’re about to call it a “guilty pleasure”, don’t! Embrace what you love, loudly and proudly. No one should be able to make you feel guilty about something you love. Guilty pleasures is an outdated, often sexist and just plain wrong term to refer to any kind of media that society has decided isn’t worth consuming. But guess what? If you love it, and it’s not hurting anyone? It’s worth consuming.

There we go, my thoughts on guilty pleasures, books and otherwise! What do you think? Have you ever described anything as a guilty pleasure? What? Let me know in the comments!

I will have another discussion post for you at the end of June, though I haven’t decided what it will be about yet. I’m hoping I will have a Writing Corner post up for you guys very soon, talking about TINALS and the process of editing it, but in the meantime, I’m very close to finishing Crooked Kingdom, so you will probably get a review of that very soon!

Ace of Shades (The Shadow Game #1) Review (e-ARC)

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Book: Ace of Shades (The Shadow Game #1)

Author: Amanda Foody

Published By: HQ Young Adult

Expected Publication: 17th May (whoops!)

Format: e-book

Thanks to HQ Young Adult and Netgalley for allowing me to read this early! This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2018 so reading it early was a dream come true (but in no way affected my review).

I was part of Amanda Foody’s Shadow Gang, the group that did promo for this book and was doing a lot of promo for it over on my Instagram through March leading up to the US release in April, so naturally I really wanted to get to read it early. I only got it a couple of weeks before the UK release, but that was better than nothing and I’m glad to say that I did in fact enjoy it. It was a pretty slow starter, but as the book picked up, I fell more and more in love with it and after the way it ended, I am definitely super excited for the sequel! Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Welcome to the City of Sin, where casino families reign, gangs infest the streets…
and secrets hide in every shadow.

Enne Salta was raised as a proper young lady, and no lady would willingly visit New Reynes, the so-called City of Sin. But when her mother goes missing, Enne must leave her finishing school—and her reputation—behind to follow her mother’s trail to the city where no one survives uncorrupted.

Frightened and alone, her only lead is a name: Levi Glaisyer. Unfortunately, Levi is not the gentleman she expected—he’s a street lord and a con man. Levi is also only one payment away from cleaning up a rapidly unraveling investment scam, so he doesn’t have time to investigate a woman leading a dangerous double life. Enne’s offer of compensation, however, could be the solution to all his problems.

Their search for clues leads them through glamorous casinos, illicit cabarets and into the clutches of a ruthless mafia donna. As Enne unearths an impossible secret about her past, Levi’s enemies catch up to them, ensnaring him in a vicious execution game where the players always lose. To save him, Enne will need to surrender herself to the city…

And she’ll need to play

So yeah, things started off quite slowly, the chapters were kind of long and there were sections that had a lot of infodumping, so I wasn’t totally enthralled by it at first, but I stuck with it and I would definitely implore you guys to as well if you get stuck in the beginning, the chapter lengths level out and the plot is a slowly unfurling mystery with a great payoff!

I loved the world that Amanda Foody created, I thought it was really inventive and cool, it’s a kind of 1920s Vegas style world, with casinos and gangs and motorcars and everything, so yeah, the setting was definitely very immersive and probably my favourite part of this book. The way Amanda Foody writes, you definitely feel yourself being pulled into the City of Sin, she writes atmosphere and setting so well, it’s like you are there with the characters. I also thought the magic system, with the blood and split talents, each one being inherited from one parent was really cool, although I kind of wish it had been expanded upon more and I hope that it will be in the sequel. This type of magic system allowed for lots of different types of magic, which I loved, because often in fantasies, everyone with magic has one particular type so it was great to get to see lots of different abilities showcased in this book. I could have done with a little more world building, what we did get was good, but I wanted to know more about the history of New Reynes, the Mizers and the talents and how everything came to be and more about how the volts worked, but that’s probably just me being a world building nerd.

The characters were also great. Enne annoyed me at first, but I think that was the idea, because her character development over the course of the book is amazing, she starts off as this uptight, proper girl but over the ten days that this book takes place, she really grows, she becomes this amazing badass girl but still retains her feminine qualities, like loving lipstick and dresses and heels and I loved that! So often authors will only let their female characters be strong and fierce if they’re also tomboys because god forbid a woman can be strong and fierce and still like lipstick, so it was refreshing to see Enne not be like that. Levi, I wasn’t quite as keen on, he didn’t stand out for me as much as Enne, I don’t really know what it was about him, I just didn’t really connect to him and I didn’t find him that convincing as a street lord, he wasn’t fierce enough, in fact I found him to be kind of a wimp and I didn’t think he was really clever enough for me to take him seriously as a con artist. Still I did love how much he cared for his gang, and for Enne, that endeared him more to me. I wished that the main side characters, Lola and Jac had been utilised more, especially Lola, because I found her really interesting and I liked her burgeoning friendship with Enne, so it would have been great to see more of her. Jac was kind of a brotherly figure to Levi, so it would have been nice to have explored that relationship more.

One thing I didn’t love about the worldbuilding was the made up curse words and some of the gang lingo. Stuff like muck, and shatz and missy, I found their use kind of irritating. I get that having some of their own special words is part of worldbuilding but this just felt like a lazy way of avoiding using actual swear words, and like why? This is a YA book, I can guarantee that the teens who are reading it will know swear words! Perhaps it’s me being British, we tend to be a bit more liberal around swearing, but it just really annoyed me!

The villains in this book were great, both freaking terrifying. Vianca, the mafia donna of the casino Levi works at, was awful, her power can be used to literally control people and it’s pretty darn awful, but I loved seeing an unapologetic female character and there are so few female villains in books, so it was great to see one here. The other main villain, Sedric Torren, is just incredibly creepy and is heavily implied (if not outright stated) to be a paedophile, so yeah, pretty horrible and you could definitely understand why both Levi and Enne were so scared of him.

There is some good diverse representation in this book, Levi is black and bisexual, and Enne’s adopted mother Lourdes is gender fluid (although she is kind of more talked about than actually seen so I don’t know if I can exactly call it rep). I think we could have done with some more, but it was definitely a good start. Lourdes is kind of an enigma through the book, but I kind of don’t feel like we’ve heard the last of her, I think she’s gonna pop back up in the next book, even with what supposedly happened to her in this book.

I liked how the plot around Enne’s family unfurled, I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but I liked the way things played out there, even if it was a little cliched and I look forward to seeing what she does next now that she knows about her heritage.

The romance was…..I don’t really know what to think about it. It was weird in that it felt kind of like instalove and yet still a slow burn at the same time. Half the time I was screeching at Enne and Levi to kiss already and the other half I was like, why? They barely know each other! So yeah, I haven’t really made up my mind how I feel about Enne and Levi’s potential romance yet-nothing really happened with regards to that in this book, so I’ll see how I feel about it in the next book.

I really liked the actual Shadow Game part of the book, but it felt kind of rushed, because it only came up right at the very end of the book. I understand why, but I wish we had maybe got to it a bit sooner and that the rules had been explained a bit better because I still don’t quite understand how it all worked. That was a problem throughout the book really, the pacing was off all the way through, it was too slow to start with and then the climax was rushed (this seems to be a quite common trend for me in a lot of the books I read).

Like I said earlier, I liked how Amanda Foody wrote the setting, that was cool, but I didn’t always love her writing, there were some overwrought YA type metaphors, like “She was a blade disguised as a girl” etc. It wasn’t so much that I hated it, but it definitely did niggle at me.

The epilogue was so intense, we get introduced to a new character, who seems very interesting and after the way everything went down towards the end of the book, it certainly seems like the sequel is going to be really intense!

Overall, I did enjoy this book. I don’t think it quite lived up to the potential of its premise, but the magic system and the world were really interesting and I loved the character development that Enne had throughout the book and the end of this book sets up for some really exciting stuff happening in the next book. I think this world is quite ambitious and Foody just didn’t manage to fit everything that needed to be explained in, but I’m hoping we will get more of this in the next book. I think it’s a really creative world that Amanda Foody has come up with here and I look forward to seeing what happens next.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Bechdel Test: PASS-Lola and Enne have several conversations in the book that don’t revolve around men.

My next review will be of the second book in the Six of Crows duology, Crooked Kingdom (well maybe, if I don’t finish my e-ARC of A Thousand Perfect Notes first).

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday #162

TTT-Big2

Hi all! I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these, once again, mine has been pretty quiet, but my family is going on holiday to France next week, so I’m pretty excited about that.

Anyway, since it’s Tuesday, that means another Top Ten Tuesday from Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl and this week we’re talking DNFing. Now the original topic was Books I DNFed Too Quickly, but I have the opposite problem, I always feel like I need to give a book another chance even if it is boring me to tears, so instead, I’m going to be talking about Books I Regret Finishing. Here we go, the books I powered through even though they were boring me and that I wish I had put down!:

  1. Not If I Save You First-Ally Carter

Honestly, if this hadn’t been a book I was reading for a Netgalley review, I would have DNFed it. I loved Ally Carter’s Heist Society books, so I was excited for this one but it turned out to be such a disappointment. I expect survival stories to be at least a little bit exciting but after 200 pages of wandering around in the wilderness, I was ready to scratch my eyes out. So yeah, kind of wish I’d just left this one.

2. Wintersong-S.Jae Jones

If I hadn’t received this from an #otspsecretsister, then again, I probably would have finished it, but I felt like I had to. I was so disappointed in this one as it sound so cool and different to anything I’d read before, but the story really dragged and I was so confused the whole time. I wished I had DNFed it rather than struggling through all 500 odd pages of it!

3. The Fandom-Anna Day

This was a really creative idea, but it wasn’t executed well. I liked the idea of falling into your favourite story and finding out that it wasn’t what you thought, but I struggled so much with the book, it was so slow, the plot was so predictable and it took me so LONG to read. If it hadn’t been an ARC, honestly, I would have put it down.

4. And I Darken-Kiersten White

I got into such a massive slump when I read this book last year, I was reading it for weeks and weeks and just wasn’t getting into it at all, but I stubbornly refused to put it down even though I should have, because I thought it would get better. I wanted to love it, because a female Vlad the Impaler sounded like such a great idea, but it was such a dense book, so full of politics and religion and it moved at such a slow pace that I was stuck on it for weeks. I should have taken a hint and passed on it before I got slumpy!

5. Glass Sword-Victoria Aveyard

This one pains me so much because I have my copy signed and personalised by the author, which means I am now stuck with it forever! This book was so slow and I found Mare so annoying and it just felt like way too much book for the plot that it had to accomplish. I should have cut my losses with this one and given up, rather than struggled all the way to the end for a series that I’m not going to finish.

6. The Invisible Library-Genevieve Cogman

This one was such a disappointment! You think that when you see a book with Library in the title that it’s going to be amazing right? Well not this one, at least not for me. The world in this was super confusing, the characters were flat and the chapters were far too long. I actually put this book down for like a month to read other books because I was struggling with this one so much and I really shouldn’t have picked it back up to finish it.

7. Stealing Snow-Danielle Paige

THIS BOOK, MY GOODNESS. Even being able to write a scathing review of it when I finished wasn’t worth the pain it put me through. If it hadn’t been a Netgalley book, I wouldn’t have finished it. There was a love quadrangle for crying out loud! The pace was so off, the world building barely existed, it was all just bad. I should have cut my losses and given up, even if the end was mildly interesting.

8. Graceling-Kristin Cashore

If this book hadn’t been part of my #RockMyTBR Challenge in 2016, I would not have finished it. I was so bored for most of the book, and Katsa really bothered me, she was the classic Strong Female Character trope that to be a Strong Female Character, you can only be strong and you have to not understand emotions and despise anything feminine. Honestly, I should have given this one up, but since it was quite a short book, I pushed through. I wish I hadn’t.

9. Allegiant-Veronica Roth

I swear, if I didn’t have Must Finish Series Syndrome, I would not have finished this book. It was so long and slow and really not a great ending to the trilogy. I actually didn’t mind the controversial end, it was the rest of the book that I had a problem with! I wish I hadn’t wasted my time with this last book in the series, it wasn’t worth it to read several hundred pages of padding just to find out how everything ended.

10. Slated-Teri Terry

This book was such a slog to get through! I had a pretty bad reading year back in 2015, and books like this were part of the reason why. Slated was so slow and Kyla was so bland and I hated the author’s writing style. I could have saved myself a lot of time if I’d just given this one up!

11. Panic-Lauren Oliver

Another one of my 2015 disasters. I expected this one to be totally different to what it was, so imagine my surprise when I opened this up, expecting a dystopian and getting a contemporary instead! The idea of the game of Panic was really cool, but I hated all of the characters and honestly the story just bored me. Again, I could have saved myself a lot of time if I’d just given up.

12. The Fault In Our Stars-John Green

I know a lot of people love this book, but it just wasn’t for me and I knew that before picking it up so honestly, I should have just left it, but I didn’t and I wish I had given it up rather than toiling through it because I knew it wasn’t a book for me and that wasn’t going to change no matter how far through I got.

13. The Curious Incident of The Dog In The Nighttime-Mark Haddon

This was quite a short book so I don’t regret finishing it quite as much as some of the books on this list, but I still wish I had put it down because it wasn’t particularly entertaining.

14. Lord of The Flies-William Golding

Honestly, if I hadn’t had to read this one for school, I wouldn’t have read it at all! So in this book’s case, it’s not so much that I regret finishing it, because I had to, in order to get a good grade in my English GCSE, it’s more that I regret that I had to read it in the first place.

So there we go, Books That I Regret Finishing! Am I being too harsh on some of these? Do you agree with me on any of these? Let me know in the comments!

Next week, we’re talking Books That Awaken The Travel Bug In Me, so I’ll be talking about places that I’ve been inspired to visit by the books I’ve read.

In the meantime, I just finished Ace of Shades, so I will have my review of that up for you guys tomorrow.

This Or That Book Tag

Hey guys! It’s been a while since I last did a book tag, and I was tagged for this one by my bookish partner-in-crime, Hannah (if you recognise the name, she’s the one who goes with me to YALC every year), who has just started a blog, it’s called Books, Life and Other Oddities and you should definitely check it out, because if you like my blog then Hannah and I have very similar tastes in books and she’s been one of my best friends for eight years, so it would be great if you guys could support her blog! Here’s the link if you want to go visit it:

https://bookslifeotheroddities.wordpress.com/

So anyway, on with the tag:

Reading in bed or on the couch?

In bed. Honestly, if I didn’t have to, I would pretty much never leave my bed, I do most of my reading in bed, pretty much all my writing in bed, Uni assignments, everything.

Male or female main character?

Female, because I think most of my favourite characters are girls, but I do think there should be more male narrators in YA, as they’re really hard to find!

Sweet or salty snacks while reading?

Neither, I don’t eat whilst reading, I’d rather my books didn’t get all crumby!

Trilogies or quartets?

I’m gonna go with quartets because I’ve been burned by a lot of trilogies! I’ve only read a few quartets but none of them have let me down in quite the same way that a lot of trilogies have.

Reading first person or third person POV?

First person, I feel like the character’s voice comes across a lot better!

Reading at night or in the morning?
At night, I’ve always done most of my reading before I go to bed, though often I do both.

Libraries or bookstores?

I love both, but I’ll have to say bookstores, as I love not having a return date on books, I don’t feel so much pressure to have to get to something right away if it’s something I’ve bought. Plus bookstores generally have a better selection of what I want.

Books that make you laugh or cry?

Laugh! I do love a good dose of humour in my books.

Black book covers or white book covers?

Black, I think they’re more striking.

Character driven or plot driven?

Plot driven. The characters do have to be well rounded of course, but you can have the greatest characters in the world, but if they’re not doing anything, then I will not care.

So there we go! If you want to do this tag then consider yourself tagged as I can never keep track of who has done what, I can barely keep track of my own tags! And go check out Hannah’s blog 🙂