Happy March! The Red Queen series, Dark Artifices and an update on my WIP

I have to say, as someone who usually enjoys winter, this one has been brutal! Between all the ice and snow I have hardly been outside of my house since December.

The bright side is that I’ve had lots of time to catch up on reading (and writing but I will get to that). This winter has been the season to finish some series that I have been following for years.

December and January were dedicated to completing the Red Queen series. I have to say, I have mixed emotions about this four book series from Victoria Aveyard. While I really liked the world building and the cinematic action, I was not a fan of the characters. I thought both Mare and Cal to be rather unlikable people that seemed to constantly throw away their happiness with both hands. This, coupled with the lukewarm heat level and an unsatisfactory ending, I don’t think this will make the reread shelf.

In February and the beginning of March I finished (for now) the Dark Artifices trilogy by Cassandra Clare. Well you all know how I feel about basically anything this talented goddess writes – I LOVED IT! This was probably my favorite to date of her series – although the Infernal Devices is a very close second.

Julian and Emma were such great characters – the perfect mix of hero and flawed human – as one would expect half angles to be. Mark, Christina and Kieran were also dynamite characters. The heat level of this series was so steamy I thought for a moment I was reading an adult book. I loved how in touch with their sexuality these characters were – yet still responsible and took sex seriously. Consent was always asked for and given – something that does not always make an appearance in YA books.

This was probably the darkest series yet by Cassandra Clare. Both death and fear mongering and racial hatred were big themes in the books. It was obvious that Claire’s writing has been affected by the dark and difficult times that we are living in. It was interesting to see such dark realism paired with unflagging hope and heroism. The Shadow Hunters realm has really matured, and Clare is not afraid to take on the real issues facing us today.

Okay, now on to my own writing. I am deep in editing land. I thought getting the words on the page was the hard part. Boy was I wrong! Editing is like hiking uphill in flip flops. I am spending most of my time sweating, slipping and falling on my ass.

This past weekend helped give me some guidance and some new perspectives on my work. I was privileged to work with Elly Blake (author of the Frostblood Saga) and three other very talented YA writers at the Toronto Romance Writers annual critique session. I got to see my story from a new angle and I have some concrete changes that I need to make. I am still hoping to meet my spring completion deadline so that I can start my new dark fantasy/horror novel this summer.

These last few months I have really started dedicating myself to my craft. I am putting my writing ahead of pretty much everything else (save my family). Hard work and dedication is the only way I will be able to finish my book, and start the next one!

How have you been surviving this winter? Any good books to recommend?

PS: Had the most AMAZING chocolate in my February #GoScribbler box – salted caramel dark chocolate from @sweetercards

Who would you choose as your YA boyfriend?

I know it’s hard to pick just one: Bad boy vamp? Sexy alien? Or flamboyant warlock? You choose, if you can.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

an-ember-in-the-ashes-by-sabaa-tahir“Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.”

Stars: *****

Thoughts:

This debut novel by Sabaa Tahir is the best book I’ve read this year. Full of page-turning action, inspired characters and set in a richly detailed world, An Ember in the Ashes rises above most other books in the YA fantasy genre. Can’t wait for the next book!

 

Written in Red by Anne Bishop

512N3p5W-4L._SX308_BO1,204,203,200_“As a cassandra sangue, or blood prophet, Meg Corbyn can see the future when her skin is cut—a gift that feels more like a curse. Meg’s Controller keeps her enslaved so he can have full access to her visions. But when she escapes, the only safe place Meg can hide is at the Lakeside Courtyard—a business district operated by the Others.

Shape-shifter Simon Wolfgard is reluctant to hire the stranger who inquires about the Human Liaison job. First, he senses she’s keeping a secret, and second, she doesn’t smell like human prey. Yet a stronger instinct propels him to give Meg the job. And when he learns the truth about Meg and that she’s wanted by the government, he’ll have to decide if she’s worth the fight between humans and the Others that will surely follow.”

Stars: ****

 

Thoughts:

Anne Bishop is an extremely talented fantasy writer whose carefully crafted worlds suck you in and don’t want to let go. As a teenager I fell in love with the fantasy genre through Anne’s Black Jewels Trilogy. Much of the detail and world-building in that series inspired my own works. In Written in Red, the first book of the Others series, Anne is able to create another fantastic world: similar to our own yet strange enough to envelop the reader in a sense of wonder. She takes the worn-out tropes of werewolves, vampires, prophets and witches and remakes them in her own unique way.  The characters come to life and are believable from the first page. Mixing just the right amount of humor, love, horror and mystery together, the story keeps you hooked from the first chapter to the last.