November 30, 2013

Cover reveal: Through a Tangled Wood

For the last few months, I've had the privilege of collaborating with a group of talented authors on an anthology of fairy tale re-tellings. Not only was it a great experience for me to participate in this project, but I think the end result was a great collection of short stories based on some of your favorite fairy tales. 

Our anthology, titled Through a Tangled Wood, will be available on December 6th, and the best part is, it's going to the FREE! Seriously, you ask? Stories from six fantastic authors - and me - for nothing? Yup. Consider it our early Christmas present to all of you readers. So stay tuned for the release of Through a Tangled Wood in just one week!

A variety of writers come together to twist traditional fairy tales into unusual and mysterious stories. From Beauty and the Beast, to Hansel and Gretel, to the Ugly Duckling, these stories will be sure to pull you into a fantastical world of princes, romance, and maybe a little science fiction.

"Plan B" by Katie French. When Nolan is selected as one of the few candidates to work in the Breeders’ hospital, he thinks all his troubles are over. Now he can afford precious medicine to save his ailing father. He’s heard of the Breeders’ cruelty, of their inhuman experiments, but he’s sure they’re fabrications. Then he stumbles into the Plan B room and learns how truly awful the Breeders can be.

"Tailless" by Ariele Sieling. A retelling of the Ugly Duckling, set on a far away planet in an unknown galaxy. While fighting a war with her people's biggest enemy, young Bode struggles to understand why she feels out of place in her community, and why she, unlike her comrades, was born without a tail.

"I Am the Maid" by Sarah Dalton. A hostile zombie killing Maid Marian meets an ill-behaved ex-soldier Robin in this post-apocalyptic retelling of Robin Hood. When a young girl falls deathly sick, the two are forced to join forces in order to outwit the Sheriff, and the mysterious Guy Gisbon.

"Three Wishes" by Marijon Braden. When Aladdin rubbed the magic lamp, things went pretty well for him. But a few thousand years later, the world has changed and the genie is old, cranky, and doesn't play fair. Young Alison thinks she's found the answer to all her prayers, but instead finds that having wishes come true isn't all it's cracked up to be.

"Killing Snow White" by Jamie Campbell. A magical retelling of the story of Snow White, told entirely by the Evil Queen who supposedly tried to poison her. Think Snow White is innocent? Think again.

"A House in the Woods" by H.S. Stone. At the conclusion of a scavenger hunt for Old World artifacts, Hansel and Gretel find themselves lost on the outskirts of the city after dark. They stumble upon a house in the nearby woods, hoping that they will find help inside, but the house's inhabitant has other ideas.

“Flight” by Zoe Cannon. A retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Dragged to the palace at swordpoint, commanded to cure the cursed prince with a kiss, Lucia wants nothing more than to return to her solitary world of books and magical study. But she soon discovers that she and the prince share more in common than she could have imagined… and that the truth behind his curse could destroy—or save—them both.

November 23, 2013

Book review: Rebel Heart by Moira Young

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It seemed so simple: Defeat the Tonton, rescue her kidnapped brother, Lugh, and then order would be restored to Saba’s world. Simplicity, however, has proved to be elusive. Now, Saba and her family travel west, headed for a better life and a longed-for reunion with Jack. But the fight for Lugh’s freedom has unleashed a new power in the dust lands, and a formidable new enemy is on the rise.

What is the truth about Jack? And how far will Saba go to get what she wants? In this much-anticipated follow-up to the riveting Blood Red Road, a fierce heroine finds herself at the crossroads of danger and destiny, betrayal and passion.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Blood Red Road was one of my favorite reads of 2012, and I can't believe it took me so long to read the sequel. In hindsight, I didn't need to rush. Rebel Heart wasn't bad, but it didn't nearly live up to the great book that Blood Red Road was.

After the events of the first book, Saba is haunted by her deeds. As a result, she spends much of Rebel Heart acting guilty, angry, confused, stubborn, and just plain annoying. The book spent way too much time inside her head, in my humble opinion, rather than focusing on the action, which was what made Blood Red Road so awesome. It didn't help that Lugh, Saba's objective in the first book, wasn't a very likeable character either.

Ironically, my biggest complaint about Blood Red Road, the writing style, was Rebel Heart's saving grace. Knowing what to expect this time around, I appreciated the way that the author told the story. The narrative is as fluid in this book as in the first, and I felt like I was there with the characters.

Rebel Heart wasn't a bad book by any means. I still think it's good, even better than the average YA dystopian story. I just wish it was more like the first book. There is supposed to be a third book coming out in the beginning of 2014. Despite what I thought of Rebel Heart, it was still good enough that I plan to follow the series to its conclusion.

I read this book as part of the Authors A to Z reading challenge. Next up: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

November 16, 2013

Everything is a story idea

Last month, I read a news story about the discovery of a toxin that has no antidote, a toxin so deadly that the scientists who discovered it had to withhold its DNA sequence for fear of it falling into the wrong hands. So did I panic? Was I worried? Of course not! When faced with such information, my first response is naturally going to be, "How can I turn this into an awesome story?"

It's not just news of killer toxins that spur my imagination into action. Almost anything that I run into in life, it seems, triggers the fiction writer in me, even something as mundane as my kids talking about their day at school. Some questions that I inevitably ask myself include:

  • What if some aspect of the event was different?
  • What if this event happened under a different set of circumstances or a different universe?
  • What happens next?
  • What could have happened in the past to one or more of the characters that led to the event?

Even before I became a published author, my imagination ran wild, but it admittedly happens more often now that I write regularly. So which came first? It doesn't matter, because the two feed off each other, and hopefully, the ultimate beneficiaries will be my readers.

November 9, 2013

Book Review: The Cave Man by Xiaoda Xiao

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The Cave Man is an exceptionally moving portrait of a brutalized man named Ja Feng, who has survived punishment in a 3 x 4½ foot solitary cell for a miraculous nine months, a time that has forced him to question his basic human faculties.

The Cave Man follows Feng as he is released from his solitary confinement and as he integrates with fellow prisoners who view his skeletal figure and screaming fits as freakish. It follows him through his heartbreaking attempts to assimilate, to reestablish familial bonds, and to seek an ordinary human experience.

Rating: 2 stars (out of 5)

As I expected, it was nearly impossible to find a novel written by an author whose last name starts with X, so from my slim pickings, I chose The Cave Man by Xiaoda Xiao.

To my surprise, the story started out well, with the description of Ja Feng's solitary confinement and the effects of his brutal punishment. When he's first released back into the real world, I could sort of see how his experiences caused the problems that he encountered. But as the book wore on, I lost interest in Ja Feng's life. Perhaps it was the writing, which just didn't seem to flow for me, or perhaps reading about the protagonist's everyday life became boring after the first weeks. Regardless of the reason, after the first quarter of the book, I found myself struggling to get through the rest. Even worse, it felt like many of the things that happened to him weren't related to his imprisonment but rather to his faulty character. That made the story even less interesting. In the end, I finished it only because I had to in order to give an informed review. Needless to say, I don't recommend this book to anyone else.

I read this book as part of the Authors A to Z reading challenge. Next up: Rebel Heart by Moira Young.

November 2, 2013

Re-reading Ender's Game and Catching Fire

I'm re-reading Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game in anticipation of watching the movie, which just hit the theaters. It's been over thirty years since I first read the book, and aside from the basic premise, I've forgotten what happened in the story. I'm almost done with the re-read, and I think I enjoy it more as an adult than when I read it as a kid. From the trailers, it appears as if the movie adaptation is fairly true to the novel, but I'm afraid that they revealed the big surprise already.

After this, I plan to re-read Catching Fire, also in anticipation of its movie release. It's only been two years since I read Catching Fire, so the story is still pretty fresh in my mind, but I wanted to re-read it anyway, if only because the Hunger Games trilogy is one of my favorites of all time. I can't wait to see the movie, especially to watch how they bring the game arena to life this time around.