Bright Smoke Cold Fire Review

IMG_3947.JPGAbout a month or so ago I had the great pleasure of reading Bright Smoke Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge. This book is a Romeo and Juliet retelling where we follow four main characters as they work on seemingly separate missions. Romeo Mahyanai and Paris Catresou work to expose the higher ups of the Mahyanai clan, who seem to be breaking various laws that hold the dying city together. Juliet Castresou and Mahyanai Runajo work to save the city through finding the ancient knowledge that could save the city. In this book the small city known as Viyara is the last living civilization in a world ruled by the dead, and seem to simply be buying time until they all become a member of the undead.

Overall I give this book four out of five stars. It was an awesome read that I couldn’t put down. Ultimately this book lost the last start because I wanted to see more of the world, watch the characters grow more, and learn more about the magic system, the Juliet, and The Sisters of Throne. I felt like these characteristics really set this book apart from others but we didn’t see a lot of it, which could really set this book apart from a traditional retelling.

If you haven’t read the book I urge you to stop here, but if you’re ready for some spoilers keep reading.

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Shadow and Bone By Leigh Bardugo

A few months ago I finally got around to reading Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo and  I’m very conflicted about how I feel about it. On the positive side I really did like the story and I got through the first two thirds in a day or two, but then I just sat on it and I didn’t end up loving it by the end. The story itself was very compelling, and I loved it, but I felt like many of the characters fell sort of flat and I didn’t really end up feeling like many of them grew over time. I am still going to continue with the series for two reasons. 1) I have the first book 2) I’m hoping the characters grow and become more 3D in the second book.

img_3608.jpgShadow and Bone is set in the Grisha universe, where the elite of the population have abilities to manipulate, create, or change things around them. Shadow and Bone is mainly about an orphan named Alina who lives in a country named Ravka and worked as a map maker for the military. Her best friend, Mal, knew her since she arrived at the orphanage and followed Alina as they both continue their paths in the military. That is, until the day they are sent on a mission to attempt to cross the fold, a great darkness that has taken part of the country hostage. While in the fold Alina releases a great power that fends off not only the darkness of the fold, but the monsters that live inside it. The problem? She didn’t know it was there, she doesn’t know how to control it, and she’s taken from her friend to be taken to the small palace and serve the Darkling. That’s where this story begins. During the book we follow Alina as she spends her time at the small palace developing her power, growing stronger, and falling in love.

Overall this book got a four out of five stars because I love the universe and the story was entertaining. I didn’t love the characters as much as I hoped to, but they have a lot of growing to do and I think in the next book is when that I will really happen because they are left to a much more difficult situation than what they’ve been used to. I also hope to watch as their relationship grows a little more.

Warning: stop here if you haven’t read the book. I recommend it if you’re looking for a new fantasy series, and I really do hope that you read it, but if you don’t want spoilers stop here. If you’re read it, keep going.

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Roar By Cora Carmack

The second book that I picked up this September was Roar (Stormheart)by Cora Carmack, and I feel in love with the book. I was introduced to this book through FairyLoot unboxings because it was the included book one month and I found that I really did want to read it. I went back and forth about buying it for about a month before walking into Barnes and Nobel for the first time in a year and buying both books. (You can see all the books I bought in August in my video August Book Haul.)

roar-by-cora-carmackRoar follows the Stormling princess Aurora as she starts her journey of preparing to take the throne once her mother steps down from power. As customs state Aurora must be married by a specific time, and although it’s normal for Stormlings to marry for love Aurora agrees, or is forced into, an arranged marriage with a Stormling prince (from another kingdom). Her to be husband, Cassius, is the second son of the king of a neighboring kingdom and upon first meeting him Aurora begins to develop a crush. As she begins to trust him Aurora begins to debate telling him the secret that she has sacrificed so much to keep, that she has no Stormling powers. Due to this secret Aurora secluded herself from her people and those of the court, and has spent most of her life simply trying to become the ruler that her mother wants her to be.

Shortly after meeting Cassius Aurora finds out that he may not be what he seems. With help from her long time friend Aurora sets off to follow Cassius to find out what he’s hiding. During this time Aurora finds that she needs to be saved, and meets the storm hunter Locke. This is when Aurora finds out something that she never could have thought about, that people were selling the magic she needs for her Stormling powers on the black market. Finding this out Aurora sets off on a new task, to become a great storm hunter and find a way to take her throne using the skills that she learns. That is where our adventure begins.

The only thing that I regret about reading this book is that the next one won’t be released until May of 2018, and I don’t want to wait that long. This book got a 5/5 from me because I enjoyed watching the main character Aurora become her own and force herself through the challenges that were put in front of her. I also just fell in love with the Stormling world and I can’t wait to read more stories that have to do with this world. (I really hope this series will last for a while, because I’m that in love with this world and there is still so much to explore.)

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That’s the end of the spoiler free part of this review, so if you haven’t read the book I would stop here. If you have read the book and you’re on the same hype I am, then keep reading!

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And I Darken By Kiersten White

IMG_3016A while back I was at Target to waste time before the next thing I had to be at. While I was there I bought Three books. The first was Flame in the Mist by , the second was Heartlessby , and the last was And I Darken by Kiersten White. I recently finished And I Darken, so I wanted to talk about it a little bit.

And I Darken follows Radu and Lada from birth into adolesence, in which tie they make friends, enemies, and even find love along the way. Overall the books was great, and I absoluetly loved it even though it took me a while to read.

The book starts off with Lada’s brith, and instantly compares it to her younger brother Radu’s birth. From there the two grow up a little so that they are children, and have one of their first interactions with their father. From there they move to Wallachia’s main castle and begin to find ways to “help” their father, or try to gain his favor. Lada attempts to win her father’s favor through learning how to fight, command armies, and simply attempt to make up for the fact that she isn’t a boy. Radu on the other hand tends to put more time into studying than anything else, and simply wants to survive the torment from his older sister and half brother Mircea.

Untitled designIn their early teens the two go with their father to find sanctuary in The Ottoman Empire. Both Lada and Radu are left by their father in the Ottoman Empire in order to work more on their studies, and overall just become more acceptable in Court. While the two work hard to study they meet new friends, such as Kumal and Nicolae who eventually help aid them on their adventures. Kumal becomes a great spiritual guide for Radu, while Nicolae becomes a great friend for Lada.

After meeting these two Radu and Lada find a crying boy named Mehmed, who turns out the be son of the sultan. With Mehmed as a friend the two find themselves to be more protected within the empire, and they end up following him to another estate in the country. There they begin the adventures once Mehmed finds that his brothers have been killed and he is next in line for the trone. From there the adventure begins.

Overall I really did like this book, and I think that the layered and complex story line was well relayed and well writen. I fell in love with many of the characters and ended up loving each of their stories. Overall the book was on the slow side, so be warned when you’re starting the book that it may take a while to get into. It’s definatly worth it, though, and you should “push through it”. It’s completly worth it.

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Ready, Set, Novel! Review

Today I want to talk about one of the tools that I use regularly while writing and planning any of my stories. Ready, Set, Novel!: A Workbook was a workbook gifted to me by mom parents back at the beginning of college, and it’s a book that I have loved and kept with me at all of my apartments. It’s something that I’ve absolutely loved, and I plan on keeping around for a long time. I originally found this book after my first time doing National Novel Writing Month, and after my parents saw me win that they decided to help me with the process. (And I asked for the book way too many times.)

Ready, Set, Novel!: A Workbookwas written and created by Chris Baty, Lindsey Grant, and Tavia Stewart-Streit. Chris Baty is the founder of National Novel Writing Month, and you can read more about him and what he’s up to on the National Novel Writing Month Board of Directors page here or on his website here . Lindsey Grant is the former Program Director of National Novel Writing Month, and you can find her written works here . Tavia Steward-Streit was helped publish novel writing workbooks in the past and has been a supporter of National Novel Writing Mont and she has been published in multiple fiction journals. Together these three created Ready, Set, Novel to help novelists work through and begin to put the thoughts in their heads onto paper, and we’re going to take a deeper look into it now.

I personally use this workbook a lot, and I sort of use it in an odd way. I go through the workbook and write down everything into a separate notebook that is reserved for that book/story. I do this because not only does it give me as much space as I need for everything, but it lets me add in pictures, notes, or just free write in the world as I need to before I even start with a blank page. This is a lot more work and takes more time, but it lets me reuse the workbook as much as I want, and makes the experience more personalized overall for me.

 

The first chapter of the book is called “Storming your Brain”, and the main point of it is to get your first ideas on paper and come up with what you want your story to do. I honestly don’t use this section much, because I normally know sort of what I want to and what the story will be about. I normally think and plan out ideas more than I should before I even start working in this workbook, so I don’t really use the first chapter. This chapter is great, though, because if you have a very early idea it makes you think it over and adjust it so that you’re able to write pages upon pages about it, and spend hours with this idea that you have before you even start. I see a lot of people using this chapter, I just don’t because it’s not how my mind works.

 

The second chapter focuses on your characters, and for me I think that it’s specifically your main characters. I normally go through this with the top five main characters that I know I will need to plan out. This is because there is so much in these chapters to help your work with your characters you’re going to want to work mainly with your top ones. I truly love this chapter because this is where I start to meet and really get to know my characters. There are so many worksheets from just a basic profile to here’s this person’s life history and here’s three pages about how they broke their leg when they were little or this was their most embarrassing moment. This chapter makes you go so in depth that I love it, and it’s my favorite chapter at of the entire book. The one complaint that I have about this chapter is that I wish it was laid out differently. The way that the book is laid out you go through step by step for all of your characters at the same time, so each character’s information is split up. I hate this, which is another reason for me to use the notebook instead of using the workbook itself.

 

The third chapter is just overall plotting your book and putting down what you want to do on the paper. This chapter is sort of tricky for me to explain. For me I always follow the work book and make several “Plot Machines” that follow not only the overall plot, but follow the story of each character and each sub plot. I do this because it makes me keep all of the parts in mind and focus on ironing them all out before putting them together in one large “Plot Machine” that’s color coded and works for the story overall. The hard thing for me in this chapter is that I don’t want to write everything down, I don’t want it to be final and set in store. So what I always do is stick a post it note on my work space to remind me that nothing in this stage is set in stone, it’s just brain storming the overall idea of what’s going on so that when I go to outline it’s easy to work with. I feel like this chapter is also laid out a little odd for me, but again working in the notebook alongside the workbook is perfect for me because I can jump around as much as I want.

 

Chapter four is a lot of fun. This chapter is about creating your setting and building your world. Although this chapter is sort of general if you are creating a world from the ground up it works well for most situations. My absolute favorite thing about this chapters the map activity, where you actually get to map out the world that you want your story to take place in. I find it difficult, because I’m not the best at drawing and I feel I have to be, but it’s so helpful when you’re looking at the overall picture of your story. IT also makes the area that you’re working in more believable because the arcade can’t be located in one place, and then is suddenly three blocks over in the next chapter.

 

Chapter five is the hardest chapter in this book, in my opinion. This chapter is all about setting up deadlines and figuring out how you’re going to finish this project. I find this the works because I am always changing my plans and deadlines, or I’m doing National Novel Writing Month and I have my deadlines set for me because I want to win. I’ve talked to other people though and this chapter has really helped them and they love it, so it’s just looking at how you work the best.

 

The last part of the workbook is pep-talks, a playground, and some coloring pages. The pep-talk at the end of the book is actually something that I read every now and then when I do get discouraged. I feel like there should be a few, though, so that you have variety, but for different pet talks it’s easy enough to look them up on the internet and find some different ones. I also really like the playground, because for me once I get past chapter 2 I like to try some prompts to get to know my characters better and find their voice. Often times these prompts and free writings are located anywhere and everywhere in the story’s notebook, because they’re just fun to try to see how they work.

 

Overall I really do like this workbook, and it’s one of the things that I keep going back to when I’m preparing a new story. I love the templates and questions that the workbook asks you, and I find them so incredibly helpful. Although I don’t like how the workbook is set up I find it easy to overcome through putting all of the information into a separate notebook, which also gives me the freedom to do whatever I want.

In the near future I plan on also purchasing No Plot No Problem , which is also promoted by National Novel Writing Month as a novel-prep workbook. What resources do you guys use to help prepare your novels and stories? What do you think is the best part of this workbook? Let me know down below in the comments.

 

See you soon,

Amanda Ann