Book Review: Theatrical by Maggie Harcourt

34615412Synopsis: Hope’s mother is well known in the theatre world but, in order to make a name for herself, Hope secretly applies for a career-launching internship… and gets it. Trying to balance school work and the internship is not easy, particularly when she’s been assigned to assist the actor playing the lead role. With the help of her two friends and a new love interest, the show must go on!

Continue reading “Book Review: Theatrical by Maggie Harcourt”

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Guest Book Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Note to Reader: Almost a year ago a friend of mine reviewed a book for me, that now another friend has reviewed. I thought it would be interesting to post reviews from different people, and so you can see the first review here.

DivergentSynopsis:  In a dystopian Chicago, the population is divided five different “factions”. Each faction is known for a specific attribute/virtue. When they turn 16, every member of the population submit themselves a special-high tech exam that helps them determine which faction they should devote the rest of their lives to, starting the next day.

The main character, Beatrice (later “Tris”), discovers that she is “Divergent”. Meaning she doesn’t fit into anyone faction, but has attributes of several. Unknown to her, a war is brewing.

Author:  Divergent is the New York Times Best Selling debut novel of Veronica Roth.

Cover: The cover reminds me a lot of “The Hunger Games” series. Like the Hunger Games, this series takes place in a dystopian setting with teenagers at the centre of the plot. In fact, someone recommended I read Divergent because I like “The Hunger Games”. However, the similarities in the covers between the two series is a little obvious. I feel this series could stand on its own merits and doesn’t need any help.

Pacing: The pacing of the novel was quite good. It was fast, and my attention was easily held. However, I felt too much time was spent on certain parts (such as Tris’ training). Though I understand this was needed to introduce subplots and character traits, it still felt drawn out.

The main conflict, the one that the book has been building towards, only begins in the last 75 or so pages of the book (I was reading on an eReader, so I can not be sure). We finally get to this point only to discover that the action continues in the next book (literally, it doesn’t skip a second in the timeline).

Plot/Subplot: The key subplot (at the start), involves the Divergent, the people like Beatrice, who do not fit in any one faction. The reader and Beatrice are told immediately her status as a Divergent is something that should be kept secret, no one must know. Eventually the subplot merges with the main plot to become the focus of the conflict. I felt that this should have been a bigger part of the main plot to begin with –possibly because the name of the book is “Divergent”. However, it is believable (as believable as any plot in a dystopian novel can be), and it wasn’t in the story for filler by no means.

Character/Character Development:  The character that stood out most was the main character, Beatrice (Tris), whose point of view the story is told from. She is a strong character that has been fully developed by the author. Her changes through out the novel due to her choice of a new faction are something Beatrice really struggles with. She believes in order to be happy with her decision she has to change herself. But her inner struggle shows she is still herself, and makes her actions later in the book believable.

Unfulfilled Promise: In the book the characters have electricity, technology, food, and clothing. However, it is said that they live within the walls/fences surrounding what was once Chicago. It is briefly mentioned that there are farms outside of the walls. However, it would have been nice to know how does the food get to them? How is it processed? What about the electricity, how is it generated? How about the textiles? With all the time spent on faction traits it does seem surprising that my concern is fluffed off or not addressed at all.

Quote: “A brave man acknowledges the strength of others.”

The Verdict:  I read this book because it was on an eReader I borrowed from my local library, and the staff member told me that because I like The Hunger Games, I probably would like this series too. I did enjoy the book, it was a nice easy read. I am currently reading the sequel and will probably read the third book due out next year. But I doubt I will read it again. Some books I feel the immediate need to run out and buy, so I have a copy to read again and again, with this one, I do not.

~Hil~

Teaser Tuesday (Aug-2)

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by Should Be Reading. Share the title and author, so others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences.

BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!!!

Divergent by Veronica Roth

“We believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another.”

“Becoming fearless isn’t the point. That’s impossible. It’s learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it.”

Book Review: Destiny’s Path by Frewin Jones

destiny's pathCheck out The Story Siren for a review on the first book of this series, The Warrior Princess.

Synopsis: In the end of the previous book, Branwen defeated the Saxons who were trying to invade her home. In this book, Brandwen must continue on the path The Shining Ones have put before her to fulfill her destiny. The old gods have sent a messenger to help guide Branwen and Rhodri on their way as they try to save a friend’s home from traitors and Saxons.

Author: I rather liked Frewin Jone’s other series The Faerie Path, and so when I found out about this one I had to read them. Frewin manages to put in just enough historical sounding names and facts to make it seem real, without taking away from the fantastic. For years Frewin wanted to write fantasy and sci-fi, but they were constantly rejected until Harry Potter brought the genre back into popularity.

Romance: In the first book Branwen was attracted to Iwan until he turned out to be a jerk, and then it seemed her interest was going towards Rhodri. In this book, it was hard to tell if Branwen was jealous of Blodwedd, the gods’ messenger, or just felt sorry for the owl-girl and half-Saxon’s attraction to each other. You can tell that Iwan is interested in Branwen, but that Branwen hasn’t quite figured that out yet.

Character: The women of Powys are amazing. The Saxons forced half into servitude and the other half into imprisonment, but the young women still kept their spirit. They were willing to fight for their homes and die, rather than be at the hands of the Saxons.  Because they had that inner strength, they died with courage or survived battle. These are some serious kick butt femmes.

Quote: You are but a thread in the tapestry… a single footprint upon the eternal road.

The Verdict: If you like strong female characters who are the heroes rather than damsels in distress, this book is for you. And if you like The Faerie Path series then you’ll like the Warrior Princess books.

Book Review: Masked by Norah McClintock

MaskedNorahMcClintockSynopsis: Who would have thought so much could be happening at a convenience store? Mr Mirelli owns the place and is working behind the counter, Rosie is there because her dad made her come downstairs to find something, Corey is there because he and Rosie are planning to run away together, Daniel is there on a secret mission, and a masked gunman is there to get what he wants. But what if nothing is like it seems…

Plot:  Like the other book I read by Norah McClintock, this book is very action–driven with very little character development. You don’t really get to know what the characters are like; it’s all very superficial. I generally have a preference for getting to know whom I’m reading about or I can’t really connect to the story. It seemed more like an in-depth magazine feature story, and maybe it was because what often inspires Norah is occurrences going on in the world.

Writing: Norah’s writing style is to keep things simple. Short paragraphs, short sentences, short words. Nothing dramatic or interesting grammatically, but very fitting for the reading level the book touts.  The catch being that I wouldn’t really suggest a grade three kid to be reading about armed robberies…

POV: This book is told from three voices: Daniel, Rosie, and the masked man. It is a format I’m not overly fond of, yet seems quite fitting for the story. You get to know what each character is doing, what is immediately motivating their actions in the store. Had this novel been written only from one point of view in Norah’s writing style, it would have been significantly less interesting.

Character: The only person you really get to know much about is the masked man. As I mentioned before, the reader only gets to superficially understand the characters, but the robber at least had more than a two-sentence back-story to explain why he is doing what he is.

Quote: I’ve already crossed the line. I’m in the store with a gun.

The Verdict: I would suggest it to grade six to eight student swho don’t often pick up a book.  It is short and simple for someone who doesn’t have the attention span of an avid reader, and just might be able to captivate them into reading more books.

Waiting On Wednesday (Feb-3)


“Waiting on Wednesday” is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine
that spotlights upcoming releases that we are eagerly anticipating.

I have been going through a phrase lately of rereading a book series I somewhat liked when I was younger. I had only read two of the stories when they had been given to me as a gift, but thought nothing of reading any of the rest. I happened to come across them again and decided to read the whole series… or at least the ones I could get my hands on. Now I am waiting from them to come in at the library!

Mandie books by Lois Gladys Leppard

Writerly Questions with Kaitlin Bevis

Warm weather has finally arrived and it is time to start thinking about what to read as you lounge around the pool, while your kids play in the park, or during your hour-long commute on the transpo. To help you prepare your summer-time TBR list, every Monday for the next few months I will be talking with some really fabulous authors about their latest or upcoming books.

Summer is well on its way and things are starting to heat up! But things get very hot in Kaitlin Bevis’ new book when the main character takes a little trip to Hades’s home in Persephone

How would you summarize your book in one sentence?
There are worse things than death. Worse people, too.

Oooh, that sounds interesting already!  How long did it take you to write this book?
I started writing Persephone summer of 2010, just about the time Clash of the Titans came out. That quote “damn the gods” just got in my head and wouldn’t leave. Somehow I got to thinking about the Persephone myth, and how much more there may be to that story. I wrote an outline but wasn’t able to devote much time to the story for another six months. In that six months I had a baby, graduated college, and moved to Athens where I joined a local writers group. With a lot of help from that group, I managed to write something worthy of publication in about a year.

Yes, it sounds like you were very busy! How many drafts do you go through?
I revise a lot while I write, so it’s hard to tell. I know I had at least five distinct drafts. The first draft of Persephone was written in third person and was about a third of the length it is now. The next draft was in first person and maybe twice what it was now. I kept adding and whittling away for a few more drafts before I got the plot whipped into shape.

When do you write best: in the morning, afternoon, or at night?
I tend to write at night, but my best brainstorming happens in the car. I live a good thirty minutes outside of town, so if it’s just me and my toddler in the car I have nothing to do but think. I talk through entire scenes and conversations while driving. The other drivers probably think I’m nuts, but it’s honestly when I get the most done. At the end of the day, I hop on the computer and write out all the ideas I had.

If anyone asks, you were talking to your child *wink* Where is your favorite place to write?
The couch. That way I can keep one eye on my daughter, and one ear on whatever show my husbands watching. I can bounce ideas off him if I get stuck, and I don’t feel as much like I’m spending too much time away from my family. It’s a comfortable routine.

That is a great way to spend time with your family, but still get some work done. But what do you use when youre on the couch: a typewriter, laptop, or pen & paper?
iPad. It’s so light and portable. I can bring it with me anywhere. It fits in my purse, and when I’m stuck in a doctor’s office or stopping for lunch I can just take it out and get right to work. I can write, edit, stop and google something, and you can’t beat the global find and replace.

Note to self: get the awesomeness that is an ipad What do you drink or eat while you write?
Soda. Caffeine is my only vice. I need it to stay awake and get all my ideas down! I don’t tend to eat much while I’m writing. Most of my writing happens after dinner.

Do you ever listen to music while you write?
I can’t, it’s too much of a distraction. The song lyrics get stuck in my head. My husband tends to have the TV on while I’m writing and that’s not typically distracting. Though one time my writers group noticed Hades had started channeling Dr. Who (David Tenant). I fixed it, but it kind of works. He’s got the whole timeless thing down.

Guess we know what your hubby likes to watch!  What do you wear when you write?
Pajamas. Sweatpants and a t-shirt. It’s comfortable, it’s the end of the day, and I’m ready to relax. I write until I’m ready for bed.

I wish we all could wear pajamas to work, they are the best attire ever *grin* Do you have any other writing rituals?
The problem with rituals is that they become necessary to your concentration. I’ve moved eight times in the last five years. My husband and I both work, both have school, and now I have a toddler in the mix. Right now I write best at night, but next semester my school schedule may shift and I may do most of my writing in a coffee shop between classes. I have to stay flexible, at least until my life settled down into a more predictable routine.

How do you plot? Chapter by chapter or an overall synopsis? Do you use detailed outlines?
I kind of work backwards. I typically have a very clear scene in my head when I think of a story. I write that and let the story shape itself for awhile. After an initial draft, which really reads more like a summary with a few very detailed scenes, I write an outline. I write another draft, then fine tune my outline, making sure each chapter has something that actually happens in it and furthers the plot of the story. That’s typically when I add subplots. Having an outline really helps, but I’ve never been able to start there.

Well, it obviously works for you which is all that matters! How do you decide which narrative point of view to write from?
My characters decide. Persephone started in the third person but it just didn’t work. It was too distant. I have another novel I’m working on that just didn’t work in first person. It’s just a matter of finding the right voice that works for my characters, and some of them need more distance than others.

How do you choose your characters names?
For Persephone it was a tough decision whether to go with the classic Greek names or rename the characters something more modern. It was a tough call, but I’m glad I stuck with the classics. Sometimes the names find me, and that creates the character.

While I was researching the Persephone myth, I stumbled upon Melissa, which was a title for a priestess of Demeter. To me, Melissa sounds like a young name, a modern name. Not some ancient title. That contrast got me thinking of whether or not the modern gods would have modern priestesses, and what that dynamic would be like.

Ive always been a fan of mythology myself, so the original names hold so much more connotation for me. Who is the first person to read your manuscript?
My writers group. They get to read it a couple of times as I go through each draft. They helped shape the manuscript and I trust their judgement completely. It took awhile to get to that point. It’s hard to let other people read your work and actually ask for criticism because I’m always so excited about my story that I can’t imagine someone having a negative reaction.

A writers group thickens your skin, and they represent all the readers that might react to your book if it gets published. If multiple people in my group aren’t getting something that I think is clear as daylight, then I obviously didn’t do a good job explaining myself in the manuscript.

What did you do immediately after hearing that you were being published for the very first time?
Posted it on Facebook. I called my mom, told my husband, and announced it to my writers group. I think every person I’ve ever met knew in about ten minutes. I was excited :).

It says something about our society that a facebook status is posted before phone calls are made *L0L* Im the same way *grin* If your book were to become a movie, who would you like to see star in it?
Chloe Grace Moretz to play Persephone for sure. She was awesome in kick-ass and everything else I’ve seen her in. She definitely has the range to pull off the changes Persephone is going to go through during the series. Hades is tougher. I picture someone like David Tenant or the guy from Grim, but they’re quite a bit older than Miss Moretz. I wouldn’t want to cast Hades as a teenager but I don’t want him looking like a creepy old pedophile either.

Ive seen Hugo and thought Chloe did a wonderful job. It was a great family movie, though I havent yet read the book. What is the first book you remember reading?
I have vague memories of some story about the mayflower in kindergarden, but the first book I have very, very clear memories of is The Boxcar Children. My mom was worried that I would catch my older brothers “reading isn’t cool attitude, so she offered to pay me a dollar for every book I read. So I read the boxcar children series and the sweet valley series. She still owes me several hundred dollars. 🙂

I loved reading both of those series, and the BSC books, myself  when I was younger. How about now, what book is on your nightstand?
Dragons of Winters Night. We read out loud every night before bed, and right now we’re working through the Dragonlance series. I’m rereading the Hollows series by Kim Harrison right now on my own. And when I’m not reading either of those I’m reading classical literature to study for the GRE: Subject test in English Literature.

Do you have a guilty pleasure read?
Nope. I’m not ashamed of anything I read. I love young adult fiction. I love fantasy, urban fantasy, science fiction, classic literature, everything. I even like Twilight. I think people who get all smug about their preference in literature are a bit silly.

All that matters is that people are reading, right? *grin* How do you organize your library/book collection?
I don’t. Not until Kindle updates their app and lets users organize their books by type on apple products. I am such an eBook person. I’ve bought books I own in print just for the convenience of having them on my phone and iPad. The only print books I own either don’t come as ebooks or are autographed copies. They’re arranged by author on a bookshelf in my office.

Did you always want to be a writer?
For as long as I can remember. My over-active imaginations gotten me in a lot of trouble. I’m glad it’s finally paying off.

If there was one book you wish you had written what would it be?
Tamsin by Peter Beagle. I love that book. It’s so well written, and all the characters were so well developed, even the cats. The book seems to completely change genres about a third of the way through, it starts as this coming of age accepting a major life change plot, then transforms into this ancient ghost story. There’s not a lot of writers who can make that large of a shift feel organic, but Peter Beagle does.

That is rather impressive; Ill have to take a look for that book myself. If you could talk to any writer living or dead who would it be, and what would you ask/talk about?
I’d love to have a chat with Kelley Armstrong. I love her books, particularly her YA series. It’s my dream to go on the supernatural summer tour with her and just about every other author I’m a fan of. I have no idea what I’d talk about. I’d probably freeze up and shove a book at her to autograph like I did when I met Peter Beagle. I seem to lose the ability to form coherent sentenced when meeting famous people. It’s pretty embarrassing.

I met Kelley Armstrong at the Word on the Street Festival in Toronto. She seems really nice, so I wouldnt worry about freaking out! Her stories are amazing and her characters are so interesting.  If you could be any character from any book, who would you be?
I don’t know that I’d actually want to be any of the characters from any of the books I read. There lives kind of suck. I’d like to live in their world with their powers, but all the death and drama that’s so fun to read would not be that fun to live through.

What is the best gift someone could give a writer?
A multi-million dollar book contract :). Short of that I’d say an iPad. I have my word processor, every book I own, all my songs and pictures, and the entire Internet on one device that can easily fit in my purse. What more could I possible need?

Other than food, nothing! *L0L*  What is the best advice someone could give a writer?
Join a writers group and listen to their criticism. They aren’t being stupid, and they aren’t trying to hurt your feelings, they’re working on making your book accessible to other people. Readers don’t have the luxury of being in the writers head and getting an instant explanation for something, and as a writer it’s hard to get that distance when you know your characters and your world so well. A good writers group makes a huge difference.

 What is one random thing most people don’t know about you?
I love cartoons. Sailor Moon, Gargoyles, X-men, Spiderman, Jem and the Holograms, every Disney movie, Pirates of Dark Water, anything with a decent plot. I love them. I’m so excited that my daughter is getting old enough to like at least some of my favorites because now I have an excuse to buy them all.

*starts singing: The musics contagious, outrageous. Jem is my name, no one else is the same…”

 Previous Interviews: Lauren Hunter InterviewSharon Ledwith InterviewEmma Lane Interview