Z is for … Zoikes, fetch an editor!

I have reached the end of my Alphabet Challenge! Whoop whoop, crack out the champagne!

I’d love to be able to gush over my final, Z book, but that’s unfortunately not possible. There were very slim pickings for the final letter of the alphabet. It took about three searches to find something suitable on Amazon, and having plumped for Z (The Abilities Series) by Lizzy Gomez (I mean: look at all those Zs!) I was determined to get to the end of it. Maybe I shouldn’t have bothered, but as a writer it’s sometimes useful to articulate what exactly is the matter with books I don’t like.

I was, frankly, amazed when I reached the acknowledgements to read that Z had been professionally edited. I can’t imagine what it must have been like before that. The best I can say is that it read like a book I was reading for a friend prior to revisions and editing. It was a complete story with a beginning, middle and end, and on a sentence level it was okay (so I’m guessing the editor was hired for a copy edit, not the content edit it so dearly needed). It was so flawed I would highly recommend a competent, professional content/structural edit and a re-issue.

For example (and I’ll cut this down or I’ll be here forever):

  • This was pitched as a fantasy. It started in the contemporary world and took far too long to introduce any fantasy elements.
  • Toby was lovely, but he was also a complete cliché. Many of the characters were flimsy, only there because the plot required it, and lacked any real depth or motivations.
  • When we finally got there, the fantasy world was completely unrealistic. If you say it approximates the 14th century, you’re going to have to make it somewhat like the 14th century. Just having long dresses and knights won’t cut it if people speak in 21st century slang, drink tea, eat sandwiches and feed sugar lumps to their horses.
  • While we’re on the subject of slang – the heroine spoke entirely in modern slang and swearing, neither of which made her an appealing character. There was an f-bomb probably once every two pages.
  • There were far too many exclamation marks!!!! All the way through!!!!
  • The heroine knew everything and could do everything and everyone else was wrong/stupid/both.
  • And much of the novel was just plain weird. (Spoiler alert): someone tries to kill our heroine (frankly, I’d have been relieved if they’d managed it and the story had ended there, but still…), she fights him off by using her magical powers to fix some unspecified “darkness” she finds when she pokes around inside his head? soul? not sure. After this he’s immediately cured of his murderous tendencies, and the heroine knows she’s safe with him and everyone who doubts the fact is an idiot – and to round off the scene, the would-be killer’s sister doesn’t ask any questions about what’s just happened, but simply says: hey, thanks.

Pah. Get a content/structural editor, writers. You are giving independent authors a bad name by not doing so – and more to the point, you are doing a disservice to your STORY. This could have been a good story, but its potential was entirely wasted. I think the author probably doesn’t care as she’s merrily gone on to write a sequel, and that would be fine if she were writing for herself/her mom/her children. But to expect other people to pay money for this? That’s an entirely different matter. I expect professionalism as an absolute basic, and I didn’t find it in the pages of Z.

And that crabby snipe ends my Alphabet Reading Challenge. It’s been a fun 26 weeks. Check back next week to see what has risen to the top of my TBR pile now that I don’t have a thing to read!

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Y is really for … young and flawed

So, I knuckled down and read a Y book at last. I chose Marie Lu’s The Young Elites, and it should have been right down my street, but most of it was just … okay.

I think a big part of it was because The Young Elites is written in present tense. I read the first couple of chapters, then we changed POV and my brain jumped out of the book to say, “Hang on, this is first person, that’s tricky.” And once I’d noticed, I couldn’t stop noticing. I think I’ve said before that my view of books is that you should slip straight through the words and just be in the story with the characters. I couldn’t manage that with this because the present tense kept hauling me back to awareness that I was reading a book.

Cover of Marie Lu's The Young Elites

Linked to Goodreads because I couldn’t find a Kindle version. That can’t be right, right?

I also think there are too many POVs. They’re all interesting, but my opinion is that it’s lazy to have loads – find another way to suggest what you want us to learn about a character without dipping into their head to do so (crikey, aren’t I an opinionated know-it-all this week? I do apologise; my brain may be fried from editing, normal service should be resumed shortly).

And while the plot was strong and the characters were interesting, the story just didn’t feel particularly remarkable. Teens with powers, and our protagonist is the most powerful and dangerous of them all … ho hum.

HOWEVER, the ending was an absolute stunner. I loved the twists and turns, and narrative rules were shockingly broken (to the good). And the little epilogue piece was also smashing. I’m not going to run out and grab the next, but I’ll take a look when it crosses my path.

I’m nearly at the end of my Alphabet Challenge (wipe away that tear!). Check back next week to discover what I made of my Z book, titled simply Z (spoiler alert, I’ve started it already and I’m struggling. I’m not convinced I’m going to end on a high!).

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Y is for … why aren’t there more hours in the day?

I’m sorry, I feel like I’m full of excuses lately. My alphabet challenge went so well for so long I think I thought I was home safe, but it seems to have derailed in the home straight.

I should have been reading a book whose title started with Y, but I don’t even have a Y book on my kindle, let alone read or partly so.

What I have been doing is reading my own book what feels like 37 times through as I complete proof-reading and formatting. I, frankly, ran out of time in the day to do any reading that wasn’t getting The Clockwork War ready for publication. However, I’m delighted to report that’s now done and the book’s uploaded and off my desk (it goes live on 8th August, so I’m nicely ahead of myself for once), so I should have more time to read (except that I’m straight on with the next book, plus a tie-in story. Some people just don’t seem to like a quiet life).

Cover of Kelly St Clare's The Return

And I have been reading! I could blame it on Kelly St Clare if I want to claim I’ve been led astray. If her The Return weren’t so utterly excellent perhaps I’d have found time to read a Y book. Instead, I was completely gripped by Romy and her friends’ ongoing adventures.

Oh my, reader, this series really is spectacularly good. Check it out for yourself.

Now, I swear I’m back on track. With this blog hanging over me I did another search on Amazon and asked for recs in one of my Facebook groups. I now have Saving Yesterday on my kindle, and when I’m in town tomorrow I’ll see about a paperback of The Young Elites either at the library or Waterstones. I’ll WILL get there, I promise!

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X is for … eXcessive fashion reports

I always knew filling the X slot in my alphabet reading challenge might be difficult, so when I spotted a book titled Xoe early in the year I grabbed it. Due to my lack of choice I wasn’t especially hopeful.

Cover of Sara C Roethle's Xoe

Click to try it for yourself

Fie on me for a cynical doubter! Actually, Xoe was mostly a fun read. The relationships between the female characters was great fun and well-depicted. The paranormal elements were good and intriguing (we had the introduction of demons to bring a different slant to the customary paranormal vampires and werewolves fare). What I enjoyed less was the romantic element which felt slightly forced and clichéd, as though the author had been told to make the romance more obvious. And there were an awful lot of fashion reports. Maybe this stuck with me because I rarely describe my characters, and never in detail (I’m often told off by editors for this). But what do you need to fix a character in your mind? I don’t think very much – maybe hair and eye colour, and then if something’s remarkable about them mention that: they might be very tall, or always wear a hat. But in Xoe we seemed to constantly get a run down of what each character was wearing when we met them, which I found unnecessary.

But maybe I’m the one out of step, reader – do you like a full and detailed description of characters, or just a broad stroke of description that you can fill in for yourself?

And it’s hard to believe I’m nearly at the end of my alphabet reading challenge! Check back next week to see what I’ve found starting with Y.

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W is for … why is it “double” U?

It’s always puzzled me why “w” doesn’t get its own name, but just gets called “two u’s”. I guess it didn’t need a name until it was written down, and then it does look a little bit like two “u’s” side by side. But in that case, why doesn’t “h” get called “long n” or “stretched n”?

Okay, so that’s a bit of a tangent, but this is the sort of stuff that keeps me awake at night, readers!

And it’s also aimed to be a bit of a distraction from the fact that I’ve stayed on the letter W for an extra week.

Cover of Vee Bergin's Who Runs the World?

Click to start reading

I could not tear myself away from Who Runs the World, readers. Virginia Bergin’s latest, it’s a post-apocalyptic treasure. I love Virginia Bergin’s books. The end of the world is real and messy and, in places, very dark. There are no easy answers, and she doesn’t bother with the usual YA fare of “shucks, the world ended, now just overthrow this evil dictator and everything will be fine.” The world ended. ‘Fine’ is going to take a while once that’s happened. There were some good, uncomfortable questions raised here, and River’s assumptions were illuminating in so many ways – as were Mason’s.

And writing in the future enables a sense of distance from now. I got a visceral sense of disappointment when the nudity conversation happened (why do women have to change their behaviour the moment a man shows up?), and River’s sense of puzzlement about how come men had matters stacked in their favour in the past got a wry smile.

I’ve – crikey! – just visited Goodreads and seen that it’s provoking all manner of strong feelings. That’s not a bad thing for a story. For me, I’m strongly on the positive side. Highly recommended!

The Alphabet Challenge

I’m reading my way through the alphabet at present. Nearly at the end – check back next week to see how I got on with my X book: Xoe.

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W is for … well recommended!

I joined Instagram recently, on a bit of a three-line whip from a group I’m working with. But I’m glad I got the push because Instagram (or, more accurately bookstagram, since I’m in it for the books) is fabulous. It reminds me of what twitter was like before everyone used it to promote and run: overflowing with book love and a fabulous bunch of like-minded people enthusing about books they’ve read or want to read. I’m in a couple of challenges to give me ideas and I’m thoroughly enjoying posting pretty book pictures and connecting with people who like the same kind of books as I do (if you hang out on Instagram, find me @katyhaye).

As I was scrolling through, finding my feet in my first few days, a few books stood out. There was lots of the Grisha chronicles (And anything by Leigh Bardugo got a “heart” from me) along with Cassandra Clare and Sarah J Maas (hmm, not so much of a fan). In particular, the book Caravel was getting a lot of love, along with a contemporary YA romance, When Dimple met Rishi. Ah-ha, thought I, I need a “W” book, and that looks good.

When I walked into Waterstones last weekend and it was right there on the promo tables I knew it was fate.

The cover of Sandhya Menon's When Dimple met Rishi

Click to start reading

Let me tell you, fabulous reader, Instagram was spot on. When Dimple met Rishi is a glorious book. You might guess from the names that it’s about a couple of Indian characters – in fact they are both Indian-Americans; their parents were first generation immigrants. It’s about family and expectations and culture and being yourself and finding your path in life, and it’s funny and touching and wry and I loved it. It does lose a little bit of pace towards the end, but it’s so entirely excellent I’ll forgive that.

Well done, Instagram – bring me more!

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U is for … Uh oh!

Okay, so it’s been a mixed week, to say the least. I haven’t found or read a “U” book yet. I tried several and discarded them. There’s another I could pick, but it’s by an author I’ve already read in this challenge and I’m trying to widen my reading experience.

Cover of Karpov Kinrade's Vampire Girl

How is that practical? White? As a vampire? Blood stains, you know…

So … I moved on and found a “V” book. Vampire Girl was picked based entirely on the “V” and on the cover. I’m intrigued as to why so many YA books have a girl in a floaty ballgown on the cover when they are vastly impractical for what said girl gets up to between the covers. Vampire Girl fit this mould, although there was a fun bit where she gets dressed up all fancy (against her own best instincts) only to find that she would have been better off in jeans and sneakers.

And then (my cup runneth over) I got the ARC of War and Wind flagged to me. War and Wind is next in the Tides series by Alex Lidell and her books have very swiftly become “drop everything” reads for me. I love them. So everything else was set aside while I swooped through that in the space of 36 hours.

Cover of Alex Lidell's War and Wind

Click to pre-order

In short: War and Winds is AMAZING, grab a copy now (well, grab a pre-order), and Vampire Girl was very good, although it lost a bit of impetus at the end with some strange and clumsy consistency errors which were a great shame given how sparkly the writing had been up until then.

However, while I’ve clearly been productive, I still haven’t covered off my “U” requirement. I think a trip to Waterstones and a talk with an actual, real, live bookseller might be needed…


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T is for … truly spell-binding!

There was a bit of a wobble this week, reader, I’ll confess. I had a “T” book that was recommended by a friend whose books I love. Sadly, the book wasn’t half as good as her own and simply wasn’t for me. Referring back to my “speed of reading” measurement, when I’d been reading for 3 days and barely reached a quarter of the way through I knew we weren’t a good match.

So I shelved that and tried to find something (I was only mildly panic-stricken; no biggie). Taking what I’ve learned about searching on Amazon I picked a likely word, “Truth” and went in. Anita Oh’s The Truth Spell caught my eye. Oh, my goodness, it was a delight! It’s a first-person narrative and Lucy was so lively and spiky and fabulous the novel was a joy to read.

Cover of Anita Oh's The Truth Spell

Click to check it out.

I zoomed through it in two evenings’ reading, it was that good!

And a first for me – this was the first book I’ve read entirely on my phone. I often have short stories on my phone in case I’ve got five minutes to fill, but I’ve never tried to read an entire novel on my phone thinking it would be annoying to be continually swiping, but not at all. Clearly, if the narrative is gripping enough it doesn’t matter how I’m reading.

The Truth Spell is highly recommended if you like a fresh and modern paranormal tale. I’m now going in to find myself a “U” book, with the keyword “Under” – check back next week to see how that goes.

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S is for … sand stunner

My S book for my alphabet challenge is Sand Runner, Vera Brook’s debut YA dystopian. Now, this was a last-minute addition and it offers a fascinating insight into my read/review process.

I review over on the Paisley Piranha website, with a group of other YA authors. Vera got in touch and asked if I’d like to review her soon-to-be-released Sand Runner, pointing out that maybe it could fill my “S” space (so points for paying attention, definitely). However, my heart sinks a little when I get asked to review pre-order books because one thing I do know is that I’m fussy. The number of books I start and discard is enormous, and the pile of books raved about by other people that have me scratching my head as to what the attraction could possibly be, is equally legion. What I always do is read the preview first to see if the book’s going to suitable – but that’s not possible with pre-release books (and, of course, I don’t want to ask the author for the first couple of chapters because then I’d have to say I didn’t want the rest and – argh! – confrontation!).

So, generally, if a preview isn’t available it’s going to be a no from me. However, Vera had a short story available, Look at Me (follow the link to check it out) so I could read that. It’s entirely excellent: well-written, unsettling, believable and a little bit heart-breaking. After reading that, I had no hesitation in saying yet to a preview copy of Sand Runner.

Cover of Vera Brook's Sand Runner

Click to find out more.

And it’s equally stunning. I loved it. The dystopian world is close enough to our own to be highly believable, with disturbing elements you could picture coming to pass. Just my cup of tea!

Sand Runner is out on June 2nd, so not long to wait!


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Summer Scavenger Hunt

Summer is nearly upon us. Have you got your summertime reading lined up? If not (and even if you have), check this out.

In June, the Alliance of Young Adult Authors is sponsoring a massive young adult scavenger hunt. This is a chance to meet some new authors, grab a bunch of free books, and sign up to win a whole bunch of epic prizes!

The whole thing is going to be fabulous fun.  So, please, check back on June 1st and join us!

Each author will be given a special keyword, which will be bolded and all caps like this: BUTTERFLIES.  All you have to do is visit all the author’s sites (below) in this order, write down the special keywords to discover the short story, then enter the giveaway with the completed short story HERE (not yet live – check back as the link will be posted soon).

There will be one main giveaway for the main prize, but most of the participating authors will also have smaller giveaways for free books and author swag (three lucky readers can win a signed copy of Discord from me, for example), so make sure you read their post carefully to see what else they’re offering while you’re on their site for the keyword.

THE MAP (participating authors)

  1. Cindy Ray Hale
  2. Katherine Bogle
  3. Melle Amade
  4. David Kudler
  5. A.M. Yates
  6. Alethea Kontis
  7. Stevie Rae Causey
  8. Katlyn Duncan
  9. Debbie Manber Kupfer
  10. Meredith Rose
  11. N.M. Howell
  12. Lara Ann  
  13. K.M. Robinson
  14. J.A. Culican
  15. Heather Karn
  16. Rob L. Slater
  17. Dylan Keefer
  18. Sarah K. Wilson  
  19. L.J. Higgins
  20. Gina Marie Long 
  21. Em Kazmierski
  22. Travis Hall
  23. Heather Young-Nichols
  24. Anna Santos
  25. J.L. Weil  
  26. Jo Schneider 
  27. Rebecca Fernfield
  28. Kristin D. Van Risseghem
  29. Martine Lewis 
  30. Tara Benham
  31. Stacy Claflin
  32. Beth Hammond
  33. Erica Monroe Cope
  34. Nicole Zoltack
  35. Char Webster
  36. Sabrina Ramoth
  37. T.J. Muir
  38. Raquel Lyon
  39. Beth Rodgers
  40. S.L. Beaumont
  41. Eva Pohler
  42. Melanie McFarlane
  43. Cheryllynn Dyess
  44. Audrey Rich
  45. Amanda Zieba
  46. Sandie Will
  47. Elle Scott
  48. Angie Grigaliunas
  49. Ashley Maker 
  50. Mandy Peterson
  51. Audrey Grey
  52. Elisa Dane  
  53. Amy McNulty
  54. Melinda Cordell
  55. Monica Leonelle
  56. Claire Luana
  57. Frost Kay
  58. Preeti C. Sharma
  59. Bentz Deyo 
  60. April Wood
  61. Lena Mae Hill
  62. Angel Leya
  63. Wendi Wilson
  64. Wendy Knight
  65. Chogan Swan
  66. Tamara Hart Heiner
  67. Norma Hinkens
  68. Patti Larsen
  69. Megan Crewe  
  70. Jamie Thornton
  71. Jessie Renée
  72. T.A. Maclagan  
  73. Lydia Sherrer
  74. Phyllis Moore
  75. P.D. Workman
  76. J.A. Armitage
  77. K.N. Lee
  78. Angela Fristoe
  79. Rhonda Sermon
  80. G.K. DeRosa 
  81. Erin Richards
  82. Ali Winters
  83. Larissa C. Hardesty
  84. Kristine Tate
  85. Debra Kristi
  86. Bella Rose 
  87. Cortney Pearson
  88. Jeff Kohanek
  89. Kristal Shaff
  90. Rachel Morgan  
  91. Emma Right
  92. C.L. Cannon
  93. Joanne Macgregor
  94. Lindsey Loucks
  95. Farah Kuck
  96. Erin Hayes
  97. Jesikah Sundin
  98. Dorothy Dreyer
  99. Danielle Annett
  100. C.J. Ethington
  101. L.C. Hibbett 
  102. Madeline Dyer
  103. Katie John
  104. Nicole Schubert  
  105. Rachel Medhurst 
  106. Tee G Ayer  
  107. May Freighter 
  108. Heather Dyer
  109. Jen Minkman  
  110. J.L. Gillham
  111. Karen Tomlinson
  112. Katy Haye
  113. Tom Shutt
  114. Martina Billings
  115. Jo Ho
  116. Brian King
  117. Inna Hardison
  118. Rachel Bateman
  119. Sally Henson  
  120. J.L. Hendricks 
  121. A.L. Knorr  
  122. T.M. Franklin  
  123. Konstanz Silverbow
  124. felisha Antonette
  125. Jake Devlin
  126. S.F. Benson
  127. Laurie Treacy
  128. Emily Martha Sorensen 
  129. Leia Stone
  130. T. Rae Mitchell
  131. J. Keller Ford
  132. Kat Stiles
  133. Jessica Hawke
  134. Elyse Reyes
  135. Sophie Davis
  136. Bianca Scardoni
  137. Jenetta Penner
  138. David R. Bernstein
  139. Olivia Wildenstein
  140. Derek Murphy



Authors will have their post up and visible on their site/blog, with their keyword, by June 1st. Readers just need to go through the list, find the words, and use the story to enter for the grand prize.

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