Shattered Worlds reading challenge – a book about a boy???

Well, this week’s story taught me not to be so prejudiced, frankly. There are 21 books in Shattered Worlds (minus my own) and my target is to read twelve in twelve weeks, so I need to cut them down a little.

Available in Shattered Worlds. Click to grab your copy.

I only glanced at Richard’s Story, thinking I’d have a quick look and knock it right off the list. I rarely read books with a male POV, and I really don’t like sport, so a book about a boy whose aim in life is to get a soccer scholarship (even if that gets interrupted by the apocalypse) wasn’t going to be my thing, was it?

Blimey, I shouldn’t have written this one off so quickly! I was gripped in the first page. It is about a boy, the eponymous Richard, but it’s not about football at all. Rich is a rather fabulous, perfectly ordinary teen whose plans for life are destroyed by a terrorist apocalypse. His narration was spare and emotional, heartbreaking and terrifying in places (especially given how the world is right now). I was utterly gripped.

So that’s me told!

I’ll be back next week to chat about The Pirate Episode, which is next on my list. I read a quick extract of this before publication and loved it, so that one was an easy pick.

If Facebook is your spiritual home, and you like a bit of company in your reading, the Shattered Worlds authors are holding a read-along. Check it out and jump in when you have questions or comments about the books you’ve read.

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Life is full of challenges

… And I’ve found a new one.

Having enjoyed my Alphabet Challenge tremendously, I’ve found myself a new challenge to keep me focused on my reading for the next twelve weeks.

Today marks the start of my Shattered Worlds challenge. My new book, The Clockwork War, is one of the YA novels in Shattered Worlds, which became a USA Today bestseller last week (yippee!). The collection will be exclusive to Amazon (and Kindle Unlimited) for the next ninety days, and I’ve set myself the challenge of reading and reviewing one of the books each week that it’s out.

(Please note, I’ll be reviewing here and on the Paisley Piranha blog, not on Amazon itself, because I’m a contributing author to the set and impartiality and terms and conditions, blah, blah.)

I have already read one of the other stories. I started with Cortney Pearson’s The Perilous In-Between, because that was the other steampunk story in the collection and I wanted to read her take on the genre. Check out my review on the Paisley Piranha blog, but in short: it’s deliciously glorious.

So, I’m moving on to the apocalypse. Check back next week to see what I’ve made of Rebecca Rode’s Richard’s Story.

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Hooray for holiday reading!

Oh my goodness, I thought I might slacken off when I didn’t have my Alphabet Reading Challenge to keep my nose in a book. I’m delighted to say that hasn’t happened at all!

Rachel E Carter's Black Mage series

Start with the prequel and I bet you won’t want to stop.

Since blogging last I’ve had a lovely week off, taking a holiday by the seaside. I also caught up on some of the books I wanted to read “just because” rather than because they start with the necessary letter of the alphabet to fit my challenge.

Try the preview

I got through the whole of Rachel E Carter’s Black Mage series (terrific – the list of imaginary worlds in which I want to take a holiday grows exponentially!). I read an out of left field 5* book that just happened to catch my eye in a Facebook group I’m a member of. Ember Burning was unsettling in the best way – creative, eerie and populated by fabulous characters.

Cover of Cortney Pearson's The Perilous In-BetweenAnd finally, I read a book by a fellow author in the Shattered Worlds collection. I decided to start with Cortney Pearson’s The Perilous In-Between to check out her take on steampunk, and it’s glorious – delightfully fantastical and beautifully written.

I’m now back to work and writing hard on my clockwork war series – book two is about to go to my proof-readers, and I’m on the home straight to complete the writing of book three. While I’m doing that, my reading is research for what I’m going to write next (ideas are coalescing, but I’m not certain which story I’m going to pick just yet). I’ll keep you posted!

He could be my book boyfriend any day!

If you’ll excuse me a plug, Shattered Worlds is out now and today is the last day to get it at launch-day-bargain price of .99. Next week it will be going up to the regular price of $2.99, so if you’re dithering, dither no longer and grab a copy!


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My Reading Alphabet Challenge – sum up

I had terrific fun with my alphabet challenge. It made me look beyond the books and authors I always choose, with the result that I’ve found some absolute treasures that I’ll be looking out for more from.

Rachel E Carter's Black Mage series

Start with the prequel and I bet you won’t want to stop.

Having to (mostly) stick to a particular letter of the alphabet provided some structure and there was a lot less dithering over what I was going to read next, which probably gave me more time to actually read. Although to counter that, there were a couple of letters where I spent far too much time trying to find something that fit the alphabet criteria but also seemed bearable to read. I admit to being fussy, but I was also surprised by how incredibly difficult it is to browse Amazon if you don’t know what book or author you’re looking for.

One book/review a week felt like a hectic schedule at times, but I managed it pretty much consistently (even if there were a couple of weeks where I needed to cheat mildly). I do read a lot and this challenge demonstrated that a book a week is more than do-able for me.

Cover of David Kudler's Risuko

Click to start reading

I will definitely be back with another challenge, although I’m not sure what. Shout out if you have a suggestion, otherwise I’ll think something up for myself in a week or two. Until then, though, I’m going to have fun reading more from some of the new writers I’ve discovered. Rachel E Carter and Rhonda Sermon are priorities (I’m halfway through First Year already), but I also want to find out what happens next in the Clearwater world created by Madeline Freeman, I hope David Kudler will be releasing a follow-up to Risuko soon, and I just saw on Facebook the other day that there’s a new Kitty Peck novel available.

Cover of Rhonda Sermon's The Midnight Society

Click for the preview (bet you’ll love it)

Maybe that’s the best result of my alphabet reading challenge – it’s reminded me what terrific writing talent is out there and what wonderful worlds are waiting for me to step into them. Now, please excuse me, I have reading to get on with…

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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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