Monday, 27 March 2017

BOOK CLUB REVIEW: Dramarama by E. Lockhart

Pages: 320
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Genre: Contemporary
Release Date: February 9th 2017 (This Edition)
Buy The Book: Book Depository

Two teen theatre-fanatics. One dream. And SUMMER DRAMA CAMP.

All-round theatre-enthusiast, Sarah - better known by her showbiz name, Sayde - is a girl with ambitions too big for the small and conventional town she lives in. Her life doesn't have the razzle-dazzle she craves. For once she wants to feel special, noticed and be the centre of attention.

This summer Sadye has her talents set on Wildewood's prestigious theatre summer camp. And with her best friend Demi - a flamboyant falsetto, who is equally thrilled to be leaving their small town of Brenton - they will both experience a season of hormones, hissy fits, jazz hands, song and dance, true love and unitards! But despite all the glitz and glam, there comes rivalry and competition, and Sadye will have to prove her talents more than she has ever had to before.

Summer at Wildewood will not only determine Sadye's future - but will also test her friendships.

My Thoughts:
This one sounded fun. Granted, it sounded more like something I would have preferred a few years ago, but I was still keen to read it from the blurb. After a lot serious topics I'd been reading about recently, I was excited to jump into the exciting world of musical theatre at a summer camp. But this book turned out to be nothing like I expected.

Dramarama follows Sarah, who gets a place at the summer drama camp of her dreams and completely reinvents herself as Sayde. With her best friend Demi by her side, she plans to have the most exciting summer ever, packed with fulfilling her passion for musical theatre. But predictably, it's nothing like Sayde imagines it would be, and everything starts to go wrong for not only the future on stage that she has in mind, but also the only close friendship she has.

The main issue I had with this book was Sayde herself. At first, she was fun and her friendship with Demi was great. But as the story progressed, she started to irritate me quite a lot. Characters make bad decisions and I often find myself wanting to give them a little shake to snap them out of it, but the thing with Sayde is that I didn't feel as though she redeemed herself. The way she acted wasn't part of some amazing character arc, she just got more irritating and stayed irritating as the story went on. I did enjoy the scenes in which she showed genuine self-doubt and they enabled

Demi was the character I found the most fun, and I was way more interested in learning about what was going on in his life than I was Sayde's. Whilst I enjoyed their friendship at first, I didn't like how sour their relationship turned later on. Maybe if this story had been a split narrative between the two of them, it would have been a little more interesting. But just learning Sayde's thoughts on everything grew tiring. Demi was a more entertaining character, providing some of the much needed wit and excitement in book.

The ending was the biggest point of frustration for me because it felt mostly pointless. It lacked good development and didn't offer a satisfying conclusion. Also, I felt like Sayde could have redeemed herself much better than she did. As much as I like musicals, the references and drama camp setting weren't enough to keep me hooked on this story. Apart from enjoying a few cute scenes here and there, I just wasn't as interested as I wanted to be.

Royal Rating:

Thursday, 16 March 2017

REVIEW: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Pages: 256
Format: Movie Tie-In Paperback
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: October 13th 2016
Buy The Book: A Great Read
An extraordinary novel of love, loss and hope

12.07. There's a monster at Conor's window.
It's not the one from his nightmare. But it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

Now a powerful and haunting film, Patrick Ness's modern classic is a heartbreaking but uplifting tale of healing and, above all, the courage it takes to survive.


My Thoughts:
I've been wanting to read this for a long time but it ended up being one of those books that kept getting lost in the ever-growing TBR pile. The lovely people at A Great Read kindly offered to send me a copy in exchange for an honest review, so since I seem to have been stuck in a massive reading slump lately, I decided to finally pick up A Monster Calls. And guess what? It immediately became one of those stories that made me furious with myself for not reading it sooner because it was truly beautiful.

This story follows Conor, whose mother is currently receiving treatment for cancer. His sleep keeps getting disturbed by a recurring nightmare, and one night he dreams about the yew tree in his garden becoming a monster. Only when Conor wakes up, he begins to wonder whether the monster was real after all. Over the course of the story, the monster reappears to tell Conor three tales, each not what he expected them to be.

Ness provides a heartbreaking look at life for children who have lived alongside cancer. Whilst Conor had a strong bond with his mother throughout the story that was touching to read, it was his troubled relationship with his grandmother that was the most interesting for me. The pair of them don't exactly get along, and Conor is resentful to her when she comes to the house to help out. He doesn't want to admit to himself that his mother needs her help, either. Their relationship was a difficult one, but it was developed in such a beautiful way, showing how each of them is dealing with the situation in their own very different way.

Another thing that stood out to me in this story was Conor's life at school and the challenges he faced with bullying and friendship. It showed just how easy it is for someone to become a target and not know how to get themselves out of that situation. It was heartbreaking to see that Conor didn't really want to change what was happening, almost feeling as though he deserved what he was going through.

The visits from the monster were some of my favourite scenes in this book. They managed to be witty as well as thought provoking, and I enjoyed Conor starting to form somewhat of a bond with the monster as the story progressed. Powerful seems like such a cliché word to describe A Monster Calls, but it's the truth. It definitely left a huge impression on me and my only regret is that I didn't read it sooner!

Royal Rating:


Friday, 10 March 2017

BLOG TOUR: Masquerade by Laura Lam

Hello everyone! Today I'm pleased to welcome Laura Lam for my stop on the Masquerade blog tour!

The Boy with Horns – 10 March

Hush, my child,
and fall into sleep,
to have your dreams of wild worlds
and oceans deep.
Let your troubles slip and fade.
You’ll dream forever, or so the doctor said.
— A banned Elladan lullaby

Every chapter in the Micah Grey series has a short found document at the start, ranging from a variety of sources: history books, diaries, songs, poetry, and more. It’s basically a sneaky way to add in more worldbuilding and detail about Ellada & the Archipelago. 

I’m not much of a poet or a songwriter, but I try now and again in these excerpts with varying degrees of success. A lot of lullabies are actually quite sinister (ring around the rosie, for one), so I wanted to play with that sentiment. As in our Victorian times, infant mortality is high in this world, so many women would have had children who might not live to toddlerhood. Or maybe it’s simply a dose for a fever and it seems like the child will dream forever, but may wake up after the medicine has worked its magic. I’m not sure myself.

If you buy Pantomime or Masquerade & send your receipt to Laura, you can claim a free 10k short story, “The Mechanical Minotaur,” set in the same world. If you buy all three, you can claim 60k of free fiction as well. More details here.

Laura Lam was raised near San Francisco, California, by two former Haight-Ashbury hippies. Both of them encouraged her to finger-paint to her heart's desire, colour outside the lines, and consider the library a second home. This led to an overabundance of daydreams. She relocated to Scotland to be with her husband, whom she met on the internet when he insulted her taste in books. She almost blocked him but is glad she didn't. At times she misses the sunshine. 

The gifted hide their talents, but dare they step into the light? 

Micah's Chimaera powers are growing, until his dark visions overwhelm him. Drystan is forced to take him to Dr Pozzi, to save his life. But can they really trust the doctor, especially when a close friend is revealed to be his spy?

Meanwhile, violent unrest is sweeping the country, as anti-royalist factions fight to be heard. Then three chimaera are attacked, after revealing their existence with the monarchy's blessing - and the struggle becomes personal. A small sect decimated the chimaera in ancient times and nearly destroyed the world. Now they've re-emerged to spread terror once more. Micah will discover a royal secret, which draws him into the heart of the conflict. And he and his friends must risk everything to finally bring peace to their land.

Huge thank you to Laura for stopping by! Be sure to check out the rest of the tour stops:

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

BLOG TOUR: How To Write A Sequel - Guest Post by Sarah Mussi!

I’m totally thrilled to be on day three of my blog tour for book two in The Snowdonia Chronicles: Here be Witches at Queen of Teen Fiction.


During my blog tour I am interviewing myself on HOW TO WRITE A SEQUEL! 

So here goes …

Sarah interviews Sarah on how to write a sequel in a thrilling and compelling romantic fantasy!

Welcome to the world of WRITING A SEQUEL.I am going to use Here be Witches to explain my thinking on how to give it a go.

OK. I’m going to continue to ask Sarah lots of questions to find out all her writing secrets!

For those who are just catching up with your blog tour – can you recap on what Here be Witches is all about?  

Here be Witches is the second story in the series The Snowdonia Chronicles


All Ellie Morgan wants is to be with her one true love, Henry. But she’s caught in the MIDDLE OF A BATTLE as old as SNOWDON itself. A battle between GOOD and EVIL.
A WITCHES’ SPELL, cast high on the mountain, has sped up time and made matters MUCH WORSE. The dragons are awake and evil creatures have risen.
And nearly all of them want Ellie DEAD.

Now I seem to remember that you promised to tell us then how you dealt with ‘off stage’ scenes and what devices you used to help the reader feel present at the action in Here be Witches?

Yes I did! Right, I sorted out the problem of Ellie not being present at the initial witches ceremony, by introducing it as a prologue written in the third person. This separated the action in the spell-casting ceremony, from the first person narration of the entire story by Ellie, my chosen point-of-view character. Some writers frown upon the use of prologues, but in YA fiction and often in the fantasy genre the use of a prologue is quite traditional. 

My rule of thumb is if it works use it and don’t be too worried about what so-called ‘wisdom’ says. I particularly liked the use of a witches’ spell-casting scene at the beginning of the story, as I felt it was reminiscent of Macbeth (can’t be a bad thing!) and it also acted as a hook to bring the reader into the story straight away before falling back to tell them what had happened in the previous novel of the series. 

Here is an excerpt. The witches must speed up the passage of time to break the high magic and release the dragons … I even used Macbeth-style poetry for the spell casting! 

As Above
29th February Leap Year
At the witching hour upon the eve of St David’s Day

THE GIRL TURNS HER MASKED FACE TO THE SUMMIT, above her the air shudders. Just seconds left. If only she can time it right. Heart pounding, blood hammering, she poises herself. She pulls out the mirror, angles it, catches the refection of the dark night and the stars.
I can do this, she tells herself. I am the High Priestess. I am the Supreme One.
Then she recites aloud:

‘Fair is foul – foul is fair –
By water, fire, earth and air,
Fair is foul – foul is fair –  
Let those who challenge me, BEWARE –
Fair is foul – foul is fair –

WOW! I can see what you mean by opening with a hook. I certainly want to know what happens next!

Well I can’t do a spoiler, but I can tell you that in the process of writing the sequel I had to decide about the character cast. I had to decide, should I keep the characters exactly the same as in book one – if not … who should figure in book two and did I need any new characters?

So tell me how you decided that?

Well, the opening of any story must draw the reader into the setting of the story, and reveal the everyday life the hero has been living. This is true of a sequel as well as a standalone story. The only problem is that if my reader has read book one they probably don’t really want to read a repeat of information that they already know. So I had to do find inventive ways of sketching out the setting and the world that my characters lived in for those that hadn’t read book one. However I still had to be sure that I had the main expected cast of characters in the story.

So what is the main expected cast of characters in any story?

I think there is a basic number of characters you cannot really go below: three or four, maybe. There is no upper limit on characters, and there are many archetypes, but the roles of these basic three or four characters needs to be evident in any story. They are:
The sidekick (George, I thought I would continue his role as sidekick as I thought readers would like to hear more about him.)
The romance character (that’s the one who everyone wants to love/save – and in this case it is Henry, the Dragon. I thought he better go on through in the series too (!) as definitely everybody would want to hear more about him – especially as he is the one that Ellie wants to be with forever).
The antagonist (Oswald has always been the major villain of the series, but he needed his own sidekick and supporters). 

Why do you think Oswald is a good antagonist? Good enough to last throughout the series?

Well, I think that the strength of a story lies in how much it challenges the protagonist, and therefore any villain who can challenge a dragon has to be more powerful than a dragon! There are very few things that are more powerful than dragons except perhaps bigger dragons. This is why I believe that Oswald is a good antagonist for the series. I also think it is important to make sure that the forces of evil that are challenging the protagonist are always much stronger and more in number. This meant that in book two I needed Oswald to recruit some villains to work with him. When the magic awoke all of the mythological creatures in Snowdonia this gave me a lot of range to decide which ones would work for Oswald and which ones would work against him.

Aha! I get it. Clever thinking!

Mythological characters could work for good or evil, and it was fun deciding  which side each creature would join – particularly when it came to the giants! QAre there giants in Here be Witches?
 AWell, you will have to read the story, but there is a clue in the dedication …

To IDRIS GAWR, Stargazer, Overlord and Giant of Cadair Idris

In the land of Merioneth in the parish of Dolgelly in the commote of Talybont is a mount or peak or large high hill that is called Cadair Idris. And on the highest crown of this mountain is a bed-shaped form, great in length and width, built of slabs with stones fixed thereon. And this is called The Bed of Idris. And it is said that of whoever lies and sleeps upon that bed, from sunset until sunrise, one of two things will happen to him: either he will be a hero or poet or bard of the best kind, or descend from that Great Mountain entirely demented.
From The Giants of Wales and Their Dwellings
Sion Dafydd Rhys, ca. 1600
Peniarth Manuscript

So interesting! Thanks Sarah for sharing that and we will carry on with the Q and A session in your next blog post.

Thank you for hosting this blog Queen of Teen Fiction!

We read more from Sarah in her next upcoming post – which looks at setting and dilemmas in sequels and how to make them fresh and enticing. Catch us for blog post four with Everything Alyce on 3 March and … HAPPY WORLD BOOK DAY!

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