Tag Archive: YA novels

Accidental Outdated Slang in YA

When it comes to writing for teenagers, the general rule regarding language is this:

Don’t use slang in your YA novel.

I abide by this rule, yet it’s come to my attention that I may be using slang accidentally! WTF?


Let’s back up for a second and state why putting slang in your YA novel is not a smart move. First of all, it’s highly likely that you the author are not a teenager, so your slang will either not be current or be current but used incorrectly. For example, if you tell your kids you’re going to “watch Netflix and chill” tonight and they give you a disgusted look, that’s a hint that you don’t actually know what that expression means to young adults. However, if you’re confident your slang is up-to-date and used accurately, beware of this second reason: all slang dates your book. By the time you publish, teen terminology will have changed drastically. Hell, current slang will probably be obsolete before you finish your 1st draft! So unless you’re writing a period piece or historical YA, or making up your own teen terminology (like in THE MAZE RUNNER), save yourself the trouble and just don’t use slang.

Okay, no problem! I won’t. Except then I read this article and kind of freaked out:

8 Words That Totally Reveal You Are Not a Millennial

Eek! There are words in there that are such a natural part of my vocabulary that I don’t even consider them slang! For those of you who didn’t click the link, here’s the rundown of words that apparently out me as an old person (though I’m not old enough to be Generation X, I’m apparently too old to be a Millennial. Also, whatever happened to Generation Y? Online sources say Y and Millennial is the same thing… but a birth date span of early 80s to early 2000s is, like, way too big. So I consider myself part of the Lost Y generation.)

Okay, back to those words that teens allegedly don’t use. Here’s the list:

1. Totally

2. Bummer

3. Sweet

4. Downer

5. Cool

6. Right

7. Awesome

8. Bonus

Confession: I still use all those words. Okay, not “bummer” but I never liked that one. And “downer” and “bonus” I can see are kind of slang-y. But the others? Are you kidding me?! The rest have been around for decades! Especially “cool”. And now… teenagers don’t say cool anymore?!

Maybe I should calm down. It’s just one source. The smart thing for me to do would be go talk to some teenagers. Since I don’t have any of my own, I’ll do the next logical thing: ask Facebook. Oh, and I’ll ask some real live teenagers too. Here’s what I found out…

This article doesn’t reflect the millennials I know. They told me they still say “cool” and “awesome”. Teacher friends also confirmed they hear their students say these words all the time. Even “totally” and “sweet” and “right” get some love.

Now if I was a good reporter I’d have gotten some sound bites and testimonials from verified millennials to back up my research, but I started coaching gymnastics this weekend and I was way too busy managing chaos to be organized enough to get proof! So you’ll just have to take my word for it. Or ask the millennials in your life.

The conclusion from a writer’s perspective? Even though some slang endures for decades, keep it to a minimum in your writing. A general rule is not to overuse any word, let alone colloquialisms.

But… some may worry if their teenage characters don’t use slang words, they won’t sound like teenagers and teenagers will hate the book! To that I say – hogwash! And read YA. You can convey a teenage voice without slang. Plus, though teenagers (and adults for that matter) tend to repeat certain words a lot (eg.: “like” and “you know” and their favourite positive exclamation – mine admittedly is “awesome”), they rarely know they’re doing it and often find reading a character who speaks in such a way annoying.

Whew! I don’t know about you guys, but I feel a lot better about slipping the occasional “Cool!” into my manuscript. What about you? Do you worry about slang or the lack thereof in your writing?


Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/writing-craft/writing-ya/accidental-outdated-slang-in-ya/

What We’re Reading: SHADOWSHAPER

Fall Reads

shadowshaper_coverSHADOWSHAPER by Daniel José Older

Paint a mural. Start a battle. Change the world.

This is the author’s first YA book, and it’s urban fantasy at its finest. When I classify this book as an urban fantasy, I mean that the city setting of the novel is almost a secondary character. Brooklyn is alive and critical to this story; I loved the neighborhood descriptions. From an all-age Latin dance club, to the community newspaper offices, to Coney Island, I understood how much the lead character, Sierra, loves her city. And I could relate to the protagonist’s pain as she watched her streets slowly change and become more gentrified. The setting in this book jumped off the page, and wrapped me in the textures and energy of New York.

The book developed a fantastic new magic system called shadowshaping, infusing spirits into artworks to make the art come alive. The author expanded on the history and laws of the magic system gradually, and by the end of the book I believed. It seems perfectly logical for a secret society to be bonding the spirits of their late family and friends into public murals. I think this is some of the best magical realism I’ve read in a long time.

More importantly, this book is packed with outstanding character diversity. Sierra is Afro-Latina and her Hispanic family is realistically depicted. I appreciated how the author remembered to include all the extended family dynamics so common in Hispanic culture. Sierra’s family relationships are complicated, she fights with her aunt who likes to downplay their race, and she worships her godfather who embraces it. She even respects and reveres the local Hispanic business owners who serve as her community elders. All these characters reminded me of people I have encountered in my own life. Sierra’s friends are just as interesting and diverse, including two of her best friends who are involved in a same-sex relationship with each other.

I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads and honestly I wanted to give it more, but there were a few murky plot issues that kept me from giving that last star. It’s a perfect pick for even younger teens. There are some scary moments and one make-out session between Sierra and her boyfriend, but it’s not extreme. For a reading group looking for a good book to start a discussion about writing inclusive characters and for weaving strong, but non-preachy messages into young adult fiction, this book is a great fit. And it’s perfect if you’re craving a slightly spooky read for a cold night.

Story Blurb:
Sierra Santiago planned the perfect summer vacation. She would paint a huge mural next to the junkyard near her Brooklyn home. She would hang out with her friends. She would finally talk to the new cute guy from school, a fellow artist named Robbie. But the murals in her neighborhood begin to move, and weep tears. Later a reanimated corpse crashes the first big high school party of the summer, and he seems to be looking for Sierra and Robbie. Sierra’s in trouble and Robbie knows more than he’s saying. Everyone is leaving Sierra in the dark about a troubling family secret, and that could get her killed.

Sierra and Robbie are shadowshapers, people who can infuse ancestral spirits into paintings, music, and stories. And someone is systematically killing off all the shadowshapers to gain their powers. It’s up to Sierra to stop the killer. To do that, she must decipher her grandfather’s riddle and defeat an army of reanimated dead. If she fails, it might mean the end of all the shadowshapers and the enslavement of the spirit realm under the power of a madman.


Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/book-reviews/what-were-reading-shadowshaper/

Y is for Young Adult Fiction

BLAST_YHeather and I both read and write young adult fiction, so we have a solid understanding of this market and what makes it tick. In the last decade, the popularity of YA has hit the stratosphere. Author megastars rise up from nowhere almost overnight. Big movie franchises and huge book deals are becoming normal events. It has encouraged countless writers to consider jumping into YA. Today I’m sharing my three top tips for aspiring YA writers and trust me, I’m pulling no punches.

3 Tips if You’re Considering Writing YA

Read YA and lots of it! Of course you could write YA without being a fan, but why would you? Read the big books, the ones that break all the sales records. Read the books critics rave about, but don’t get as much media attention. Subscribe to some blogs that review YA fiction. Make sure you find the ones that don’t give every single book an automatic glowing or five-star rating. Write your own reviews and compare them to those of other readers. Do you notice the same things? Or did you notice something others missed? It’s okay to read predominately in the genre you plan to write for, but also read across the spectrum so you get a feel for the market. If someone drops the names Rowell, Bardugo and Levithan, and you have no clue who these writers are, your homework phase is far from over. Go back to the book store and try again.

You want to write for kids because you think it’s easier than writing for adults? Here comes the biggest knock of all. No market in the world is more competitive, harder to stand out in, or filled with more high-quality talent than YA. In fact, all kidlit is impacted so you shouldn’t expect the situation to improve even if you want to write picture, chapter or middle grade books.

Perhaps you think you’re magically on target to write the next must-read book. If so, please snap out of it! Teens don’t even know what they want to read next. Luck and timing play a huge part in all writer success stories, but perhaps the tipping point is even greater in YA. Everything about teen life moves at a rocket’s pace. Trends come and go and everyone connected with this reader demographic either tries to grab the comet’s tail as it goes by or they fight the G-forces to get out into deep space and hope the comet comes their way. If YA success is your long-term goal, try to remove your attention from writing for the latest trend and focus on making your story the best. Nothing else will potentially save your book from plummeting into a teeming asteroid belt of forgotten YA titles.

2 Examples of great YA
Heather and I have written extensively about the YA books we like, love, or wish we’d written. You can look back at our reviews, or better yet, read the books we’ve reviewed and form your own opinions.

Nothing will help you understand the YA reader like reading the books they crave. Of course, any potential YA writer who has not been reading the hottest authors around should start there. If you’re over 25, YA is nothing like you remember from your teen days. Or read this post by Heather, 7 YA Books that Inspire me to Write Better, to get some ideas.

1 Link for more help
One of the best sources for high quality information on the YA reader, is the Young Adult Library Services Association. That’s why their site is always conveniently linked on our sidebar where I can get to it in a hurry. They have already collected the top 24 teen-nominated titles published in 2014. How many have you read?


Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/writing-craft/y-is-for-ya/

Top Ten Books I Want to Read for my Book Riot Book Club

TopTenTuesdayTop Ten Tuesday is a blog hop created by the book loving crew at The Broke and The Bookish. Every Tuesday is a different topic and everyone is invited to join in the fun by creating their own top ten list.

I’ve joined Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge. This is a read-a-thon geared toward making me read outside my comfort zone. It includes 24 reading tasks. Some task are easy, such as read a Indie book. Others take a bit more shelf surfing, like reading a novel set in Asia. All my picks fit the Read Harder Challenge task list in one way or another. I’ll be reading them all over the course of the year.

It’s only January, if you want to join in here’s a link to the full details. Book Riot’s 2015 Read Harder Challenge!

Warning: Entry number 10 is the second book in a series and that blurb contains spoilers.

Salsa Nocturna1. SALSA NOCTURNE STORIES by Daniel Jose Older (Adult)
This book meets my task of reading a collection of short stories. I’ve been looking to add more cultural diversity to my reading list, so when I stumbled on a review of Older’s new book (Shadowshaper – which also sounds amazing) I added him to my list.
The story: A 300 year-old story collector enlists the help of the computer hacker from next door to save her dying sister. A half-resurrected cleanup man for Death’s sprawling bureaucracy faces a phantom pachyderm, doll-collecting sorceresses and his own ghoulish bosses. Gordo, the old Cubano that watches over the graveyards and sleeping children of Brooklyn, stirs and lights another Malagueña. Down the midnight streets of New York, a whole invisible universe churns to life in Daniel José Older s debut collection of ghost noir.


bacigalupi-the_doubt_factory2. THE DOUBT FACTORY by Paolo Bacigalupi (Young Adult)
This book fits my book requirement because it’s written by an author of a different gender. Yes, that really is a category, one I don’t require Book Riot’s incentive to deal with, but any reason to read one of Bacigalupi books is fine by me.
The story: Everything Alix knows about her life is a lie. At least that’s what a mysterious young man who’s stalking her keeps saying. But then she begins investigating the disturbing claims he makes against her father. Could her dad really be at the helm of a firm that distorts the truth and covers up wrongdoing by hugely profitable corporations that have allowed innocent victims to die? Is it possible that her father is the bad guy, and that the undeniably alluring criminal who calls himself Moses–and his radical band of teen activists–is right? Alix has to make a choice, and time is running out, but can she truly risk everything and blow the whistle on the man who loves her and raised her?
Feed3. FEED by M. T. Anderson (Young Adult)
This book fits my National Book Award finalist category. Unfortunately, it didn’t receive the honor in the last decade (which is also part of the requirement) but I’m not changing my pick. Somehow I missed reading this book when it came out, and I want to read it.
The story: For Titus and his friends, it started out like any ordinary trip to the moon – a chance to party during spring break and play with some stupid low-grav at the Ricochet Lounge. But that was before the crazy hacker caused all their feeds to malfunction, sending them to the hospital to lie around with nothing inside their heads for days. And it was before Titus met Violet, a beautiful, brainy teenage girl who has decided to fight the feed and its omnipresent ability to categorize human thoughts and desires. Following in the footsteps of George Orwell, Anthony Burgess, and Kurt Vonnegut Jr., M. T. Anderson has created a not-so-brave new world — and a smart, savage satire that has captivated readers with its view of an imagined future that veers unnervingly close to the here and now.
Armada4. ARMADA by Ernest Cline (Young Adult)
This book is not out yet, (Pub date July 28th, 2015) so it fits my book published this year requirement.  I loved Ready Player One, and the wait for a new book by Cline was too long.
The story: Zack Lightman is daydreaming through another dull class when the dropship lands in his school’s courtyard-and when the men in the dark suits leap out of the ship and start calling his name, he’s sure he’s still dreaming. But the dream is all too real; the people of Earth need him. As Zack soon discovers, the videogame he’s been playing obsessively for years isn’t just a game; it’s part of a massive, top-secret government training program, designed to teach gamers the skills they’ll need to defend Earth from a possible alien invasion. And now…that invasion is coming. As he and his companions prepare to enter their ships and do battle, Zack learns that the father he thought was dead is actually a key player in this secret war. And together with his father, he’ll uncover the truth about the alien threat, race to prevent a genocide, and discover a mysterious third player in the interplanetary chess game he’s been thrown into.
Prudence5. PRUDENCE (The Custard Protocol #1) by Gail Carriger (Adult)
Not out yet so I will have to wait a while, but it takes place in Asia! Okay fine, it takes place in India, so I’m stretching a bit. I really want to read this book. After all it’s Gail Carriger, the undisputed Steampunk Queen.
The story: Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama (Rue to her friends) is given an unexpected dirigible. She does what any sensible female would under similar circumstances – names it the Spotted Crumpet and floats to India in pursuit of the perfect cup of tea. But India has more than just tea on offer. Rue stumbles upon a plot involving local dissidents, a kidnapped brigadier’s wife, and some awfully familiar Scottish werewolves. Faced with a dire crisis and an embarrassing lack of bloomers, what else is a young lady of good breeding to do but turn metanatural and find out everyone’s secrets, even thousand-year-old fuzzy ones?


It's Kind of a funny story6. IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY by Ned Vizzini (Young Adult)
This book fits the author who was under 25 when they wrote the book category. It’s one of those books I keep meaning to read, but it gets shifted around on the to read stack and I end up reading another book instead. This is the year!
The story: Like many ambitious New York City teenagers, Craig Gilner sees entry into Manhattan’s Executive Pre-Professional High School as the ticket to his future. Determined to succeed at life-which means getting into the right high school to get into the right college to get the right job-Craig studies night and day to ace the entrance exam, and does. That’s when things start to get crazy. At his new school, Craig realizes that he isn’t brilliant compared to the other kids; he’s just average, and maybe not even that. He soon sees his once-perfect future crumbling away. The stress becomes unbearable and Craig stops eating and sleeping-until, one night, he nearly kills himself. Craig’s suicidal episode gets him checked into a mental hospital, where his new neighbors include a transsexual sex addict, a girl who has scarred her own face with scissors, and the self-elected President Armelio. There, isolated from the crushing pressures of school and friends, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety.
Lavinia_Novel7. LAVINIA by Ursula K. Le Guin (Adult)
This book works to fill the category of an author over the age of 65 when they wrote the book, and it’s also a retelling of a classic story – yet another task to cover.
The story: In Virgil’s version of The Aeneid the king’s daughter, Lavinia, never speaks a word. Now, Ursula K. Le Guin gives Lavinia a voice in a novel that takes us to the half-wild world of ancient Italy. Lavinia grows up knowing nothing but peace and freedom until her suitors arrive. Her mother wants her to marry handsome, ambitious Turnus. But omens and prophecies spoken by the sacred springs say she must marry a foreigner, that she will be the cause of a bitter war, and that her husband will not live long. When a fleet of Trojan ships sails up the Tiber, Lavinia decides to take her destiny into her own hands and tells us the story of her life—and her life’s greatest love.


Marina8. MARINA by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (Young Adult)
This book fits my book originally published in another language. I read a lot of Spanish fiction, so this category isn’t a big deal for me. However, this book sounded pretty darn good and it is YA, my preferred read type.
The story: When Fifteen-year-old Oscar Drai suddenly vanishes from his boarding school in Barcelona, no one knows his whereabouts for seven days and seven nights. His story begins when he meets the strange Marina while he’s exploring an old quarter of the city. She leads Oscar to a cemetery, where they watch a macabre ritual that occurs on the last Sunday of each month. At exactly ten o’clock in the morning, a woman shrouded in a black velvet cloak descends from her carriage to place a single rose on an unmarked grave. When Oscar and Marina decide to follow her, they begin a journey that transports them to a forgotten postwar Barcelona–a world of aristocrats and actresses, inventors and tycoons–an reveals a dark secret that lies waiting in the mysterious labyrinth beneath the city streets.


9. HAUNTED by Lynn Carthage (Young Adult)
This is another book that will be published this year, and it’s a young adult novel, another category to fill.
The story: Moving to my stepfather’s English country mansion sounded so promising. But the Arnaud Manor is neglected and unwelcoming, and I get the feeling it isn’t exactly uninhabited. Something wants to hurt us–especially my little sister. Okay, so I might be a little sensitive lately. My parents act oblivious to me, my old life is far away in San Francisco, and the gorgeous guy I just met tells me terrible stories about the infamous Madame Arnaud who lived here long ago, and about missing children and vengeful spirits. The kind of stories that are impossible to believe–until you’re living in one of them, fighting to protect everyone you love…


Cover_of_Brandon_Sanderson's_book_-Firefight-10. FIREFIGHT (The Reckoners #2) By Brandon Sanderson (Young Adult)
This is my science fiction novel, and it’s written by a man, and it was just published this month. I loved the first Reckoners, and the ending left so many questions, while still giving the reader a true ending. Sanderson gets a huge shout-out from me for not messing that up. I’m so sick of series books without endings.
Spoiler ahead!!!!!
The story: Newcago is free.They told David it was impossible, that even the Reckoners had never killed a High Epic. Yet Steelheart–invincible, immortal, unconquerable–is dead. And he died by David’s hand. Eliminating Steelheart was supposed to make life simpler. Instead, it only made David realize he has questions. Big ones. And no one in Newcago can give him answers.
Babylon Restored, the city formerly known as the borough of Manhattan, has possibilities, though. Ruled by the mysterious High Epic Regalia, Babylon Restored is flooded and miserable, but David is sure it’s the path that will lead him to what he needs to find. Entering a city oppressed by a High Epic despot is risky, but David’s willing to take the gamble. Because killing Steelheart left a hole in David’s heart. A hole where his thirst for vengeance once lived. Somehow, he filled that hole with another Epic–Firefight. And now he will go on a quest darker and even more dangerous than the fight against Steelheart to find her, and to get his answers.

So that’s a sample of the books I’ll be reading this year. 2014 was not a great reading year for me. I’m much more optimistic about my reading selections this year. And I think the Book Riot Challenge is going to help. I’ve already started HAUNTED. I love a good ghost story!


Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/top-ten-tuesday/top-ten-tuesday-books-read-harder-challenge/

Incarceron: A Mother/Son Book Review

IncarceronINCARCERON by Catherine Fisher

This fantasy novel was recommended to my son (just turned 13) and since I’d never read it, we decided to do a Mother/Son review.

The synopsis: Trapped without any memories of how he got there, Finn is stuck inside a vast, living prison called Incarceron. Plagued by fragmented visions of his old life, Finn struggles to survive in the harsh, lawless environment Incarceron fosters. Claudia is the only daughter of the warden. He’s a ruthless and ambitious man. In a bid to increase his own power, the warden arranges for Claudia to marry the next heir to the throne, a boy she detests. Finn and Claudia find their paths converging in unexpected ways when they stumble upon a pair of magical keys. Soon it’s clear they will need each others’ help to escape the horrible fate life dealt them.

Son: The story featured lots of twists and turns that kept me guessing. Additionally, the characters felt real. Their desires and regrets are incredibly realistic, and as a reader, I could actually care about them as if they were alive.

Mother: I was less enraptured by the main characters. However I found several of the supporting characters engaging and I wanted to know more about them. Finn’s blood brother, Keiro, struck me as someone with a secret from the earliest part of the story, and I wasn’t wrong. Claudia’s determination to save herself, Finn, and the Kingdom she loves is admirable, but I never connected with her. She always seemed a bit cold and impersonal to me.

Son: There was one thing I did not like about this book: the violence. I know that the author wanted to make it clear that Incarceron was a dangerous and vicious place, but in the beginning, there was just too much of it, and it seemed mostly like unnecessary violence, such as kidnappings, betrayals, and one killing.

Mother: There are about half a dozen killings before the one my son noticed. I’m not sure what that says about the book. Did the author downplay the early killings too much? Did they mean less because they happened to characters we didn’t know that well? Also, the killing that bothered my son the most, while the most gruesome in terms of description, was a bad guy. The earlier killings were all innocents, just people in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Son: Mom said when she started reading the book, she was unsure whether Finn and his friends were good guys or bad guys, a feeling I had too. I’m still not sure as many of the characters have both good and bad traits.

Mother: Absolutely true. These are not black and white characters. We see the seeds of good and evil in each one. This is something I tend to love in books. I don’t like my characters too squeaky clean. I’m also a fan of books with lots of characters, and on that score, the book didn’t disappoint.

Son: Besides that, everything else was very good, and I am now reading the sequel, Sapphique. I love it.

Mother: My son flew through this book and the sequel in a few days, whereas I struggled to stay interested and to finish the book. While I usually enjoy books told in dual viewpoints, this one didn’t mesh well. It often picked up a bit too far along in the story, and I spent the first few pages of the new chapter thinking I’d missed something and I should go back and reread. Although my son didn’t catch it, I guessed the big dramatic mid-book development of the plot just a few chapters in. So I felt let down rather than excited when my theory proved correct.

Mother & Son: We understand this book has been slated for a movie adaptation, and we both can understand why. The world building of the different prison wings is truly noteworthy. The book would make for some amazing cinema, and the fact that the characters read a bit distant (in Mom’s option) would be mitigated by casting some charismatic actors.

Mother: I think the book is best suited to hardcore middle grade or younger YA readers that don’t mind some violence in their stories. It’s also best for those who, like my son, are pretty easygoing about their fantasy books and don’t look too closely at the little plot holes.

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/book-reviews/mother-son/

Top Ten Tuesday: 2014 YA Releases I Meant to Read But Didn’t Get To

TopTenTuesdayTop Ten Tuesday is a list created by the book loving crew at The Broke and The Bookish. Every Tuesday is a different topic and everyone is invited to join in the fun. Let’s do this!

Like most voracious readers, I never have time to read all the books I’d like to, so putting together this list wasn’t tough. Hopefully I’ll get to read these 2014 releases in 2015. Better late than never!

1. THE YOUNG ELITES by Marie LuBookCover-YoungElites

I loved the action-packed but thoughtful Legend series and am just as excited about Lu’s latest saga of complicated characters in a dangerous dystopian world.

2. THE WINNER’S CURSE by Marie Rutkoski

I enjoy high fantasy chock full of secrets and deadly stakes (like this book is supposed to be) and am intrigued by the concept of a general’s daughter buying a slave and falling in love with him. Admittedly, that story will be tough to pull off (please no instalove!), but I’m hoping the rave reviews are right about this novel.

3. HALF A KING by Joe Abercrombie

A disabled prince battles to regain the throne he never wanted. Sounds like everything I want in a book – action, adventure and a tortured main character coming told terms with himself.

4. THE TRUTH ABOUT ALICE by Jennifer MathieuBookCover-TruthAboutAlice

This is a story about a “Alice the slut” told from the POV of those around her. Even though I’m many years out of high school, I’m still fascinated and horrified with how the rumour mill and the opinions of one’s peers can destroy a girl’s reputation. Therefore I want to read this book.

5. PANIC by Lauren Oliver

This book is supposed to be scary. I hope all the hype is true. Scary YA is hard to find.


I loved Please Ignore Vera Dietz even though I’m not usually into contemporary YA. This just proves that A.S. King is a brilliant writer. Now she’s written a book with a paranormal / fantastical twist. I can’t wait to read this! Luckily, I don’t have to wait because it’s already 2015.

7. THE WALLED CITY by Ryan Graudin

In this innovative and adrenaline-fueled novel, the teens come together in a desperate attempt to escape a lawless labyrinth before the clock runs out. Well damn! Sign me up!

8. THE PERFECTIONISTS by Sara Shepherd

This is a revenge mystery that explores female friendships. Reading books about psychologically abusive gal pals (like Beautiful Malice and Lessons From a Dead Girl) has become something I do. So let’s give this novel a whirl.

9. SHE IS NOT INVISIBLE by Marcus SedgwickBookCover-Afterworlds

A book within a book about coincidences and a blind girl – sounds original and intriguing.

10. THE TYRANT’S DAUGHTER by J.C. Carleson (contemporary political thriller)

When her father is killed in a coup, Laila and the remaining members of her royal Middle Eastern family are exiled to an American suburb. This is written by a former CIA officer. How can I not want to read this?

11. AFTERWORLDS by Scott Westerfeld

UGLIES is one of my favourite book series. Of course I want to anything else by Scott Westerfeld.

Okay, I know, that’s eleven, but I couldn’t decide which book to cut so they all made the list! Here’s to happy catch-up reading in 2015!

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/top-ten-tuesday/7246/

Top Ten Tuesday: 2015 YA Debuts



Top Ten Tuesday is a list created by the book loving crew at The Broke and the Bookish. Every Tuesday is a different topic and everyone is invited to join in the fun. So here we are! As part of the 2015 site revamp, the WriteOnSisters are taking up the Tuesday challenge.

Here is our first post: Top Ten Most Anticipated Debut Novels For 2015.

I’ve selected YA books since I read and review mostly YA. I’ve picked these based on blurbs. It’s hard to tell if I found any books featuring characters of diversity. I’m hoping at least a few of them will.

I’ve sorted my picks by release date and not by preference. There is a huge crop of new YA authors, and they all show tremendous promise. Selecting just ten books wasn’t easy. In fact I couldn’t and included a bonus 11th pick.


The Conspiracy of Us1. THE CONSPIRACY OF US, by Maggie Hall
When: January 13, 2015
Why: The armchair travel factor is huge with me – the better the location, the better I like it. This one had me at Istanbul back alleyways. That sounds both exotic and sleazy, a great combo.
What: Avery West’s family can shut down Prada when they want to shop in peace. She’s part of a powerful and dangerous secret society called the Circle. The Circle members believe Avery is the key to an ancient prophecy. Some want to use her as a pawn. Others want her dead. Avery must follow a trail of clues from the monuments of Paris to the back alleys of Istanbul. But as Avery learns the truth about herself, she exposes a stunning conspiracy the might plunge everyone into World War 3.


Tunnel Vision2. TUNNEL VISION, by Susan Adrian
When January 20, 2015
Why: A cool superpower! And I’m all for more male YA protagonists.
What: Jake Lukin just turned 18. He’s decent at tennis and Halo, and waiting to hear on his app to Stanford. But he’s also being followed by a creep with a gun, and there’s a DARPA agent waiting in his bedroom. His secret is blown. When Jake holds a personal object, like a pet rock or a ring, he has the ability to “tunnel” into the owner. He can sense where they are, like a human GPS, and can see, hear, and feel what they do. It’s an ability the government would do anything to possess: a perfect surveillance unit who could locate fugitives, spies, or terrorists with a single touch. Suddenly he’s juggling high school, tennis tryouts, flirting with Rachel Watkins, and work as a government asset, complete with 24-hour bodyguards.


Shutter3. SHUTTER, by Courtney Alameda
When: February 3, 2015
Why: Creep factor! I’m hungry for YA books that can create some shivers! Plus, I’m a fan of group dynamics, hearing about a “team” grabs my attention.
What: Micheline is a tetrachromat—a girl who sees the auras of the undead in a prismatic spectrum. With an analog SLR camera as her best weapon, Micheline exorcises ghosts by capturing their spiritual energy on film. She’s aided by her crew: Oliver, a techno-whiz and the boy who developed her camera’s technology; Jude, who can predict death; and Ryder, the boy Micheline has known and loved forever. When a ghost hunt goes wrong, Micheline and her team are infected with a curse known as a soulchain. Micheline learns that if she doesn’t exorcise her entity in seven days or less, she and her friends will die.


Red Queen4. RED QUEEN, by Victoria Aveyard
When: February 10, 2015
Why: Politics, palace intrigue, and rebellion! Along with whiskers on kittens, these are a few of my favorite things.
What: Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood—those with common Red blood serve the Silver-blooded elite who are gifted with superhuman “abilities.” Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief. When Mare discovers she has an “ability” of her own, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard—a growing Red rebellion. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal.


Mosquitoland5. MOSQUITOLAND, by David Arnold
When: March 3, 2015
Why: Who doesn’t love a road trip? Mention quirky characters and a Greyhound bus trip and I’m intrigued.
What: Mim Malone lives in a medicated milieu with her dad and new stepmom. But when she learns her real mother is sick, Mim boards a Greyhound bus heading home. During the thousand-mile journey, Mim meets a cast of quirky fellow travelers and her life takes a few turns she never saw coming, Mim must confront her own demons, redefining her notions of love, loyalty, and what it means to be sane.



Duplicity6. DUPLICITY, by N.K. Traver
When: March 17, 2015
Why: I’m hoping for lots of hacking and cool nerd talk before the magic and romance part kicks in.
What: In private, seventeen-year-old Brandon hacks bank accounts just for the thrill of it. In public, he looks like any other tattooed bad boy with a fast car and devil-may-care attitude. Two things shatter his carefully-built image: Emma, the kind, stubborn girl who insists on looking beneath the surface, and the small matter of his mirror reflection, which starts moving by itself.



We all looked up7. WE ALL LOOKED UP, by Tommy Wallach
When: March 24, 2015
Why: A ticking clock, and I love those. This book has the prospect of both deep personal soul searching and epic public chaos. Bring it!
What: They always say that high school is the best time of your life, but for four seniors an asteroid on a collision course with Earth puts that notion to the test. As the four wait with the rest of humanity to see what damage an asteroid will cause, they must abandon all thoughts of the future and decide how they’re going to spend what remains of their present.



Denton Little's Deathdate8. DENTON LITTLE’S DEATHDATE, by Lance Rubin
When: April 14, 2015
Why: Another ticking clock, with a male protagonist! (Insert happy dance here.) With all the action crammed into just 48 hours, it should be a fast and fun read.
What: In a world where everyone knows the day on which they will die, teen Denton has just two days left. When a strange man shows up at his funeral claiming to have known Denton’s long-deceased mother, and warning him to beware of some suspicious government characters. . . . Denton’s last days of life are filled with mysterious questions and precious little time to find the answers.



Ember in the Ashes9. AN EMBER IN THE ASHES, by Sabaa Tahir
When: Apr 28, 2015
Why: Duel viewpoints, lavish world building and epic stakes. I’m in!
What: Set in a terrifyingly brutal Rome-like world, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy to save her bother. Elias is the academy’s finest soldier— and secretly, its most unwilling. When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.




10. LOCK & MORI, by Heather Petty
When: September 15, 2015
Why: What I really want is a historical female version of Holmes, it would explain so much about the Holmes/Watson relationship dynamic. But I’ll take a modern version with a female Moriarty in a pinch.
What: 16-year-old Miss James “Mori” Moriarty, is looking for an escape from her recent past and spiraling home life. She takes her classmate Sherlock Holmes up on his challenge to solve a murder mystery in Regent’s Park. The answers lead Holmes too close to all that Mori has been hiding.

Bonus Pick:
Because you'll never meet me11. BECAUSE YOU’LL NEVER MEET ME, by Leah Thomas
When: June 2, 2015
Why: A male coming of age story with a couple of twists that make it sound like it might be a pretty good read. This is one I’ll be picking up for my son to read.
What: Ollie and Moritz are best friends, but they can never meet. Ollie has a life-threatening allergy to electricity, and Moritz’s weak heart requires a pacemaker. If they ever did meet, they could both die. Living as recluses from society, the boys develop a fierce bond. But when Moritz reveals the key to their shared, sinister past that began years ago in a mysterious German laboratory, their friendship faces a test neither one of them expected.


Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/top-ten-tuesday/2015-ya-debuts/

What We’re Reading: Friday Reads Bonus Edition

Starting in 2015 the WriteOnSisters will be doing their best to add more book reviews to the the blog. Today we jump-start that commitment with this bonus Friday Reads review of two Young Adult books.

Robin’s Pick: THIS IS WHAT HAPPY LOOKS LIKE by Jennifer E. Smith

I’m no15790873t traditionally a big fan of love stories, but this one got to me. This is a smart funny book that opened with a clever hook and just kept right on delivering.

When Ellie O’Neill gets a misdirected email asking her to walk a pet pig, she quickly responds back to clear up the mistake. What follows is an exchange of emails that soon has Ellie confiding her biggest dreams and aspirations in a total stranger. Over time an online relationship evolves and Ellie counts on her mystery friend for moral support and guidance.
When the summer brings a movie company to Ellie’s small Maine town, she and every other teenage girl is talking about the film’s star, Graham Larkin. What Ellie doesn’t know is Graham is her longtime pen pal. He’s come all the way from California to arrange a meeting with the witty, charming, “real” girl he’s fallen for. Of course Ellie has secrets of her own and being thrust into the spotlight of a teen hottie’s paparazzi-filled lifestyle is the last thing she needs.

This book has all the feels, solid friendships, loving parents and even a pig named Wilbur. Ellie is everything a teen girl should be: smart, funny and self-assured. She is never willing to change who she is or what she wants for Graham’s sake. Graham is a nice guy who respects Ellie and wants what’s best for her. Together they make a few mistakes and show some poor judgment but overall these are kids any parent would be proud of.

As I said, I’m not a huge romance fan, but I wanted these two to work things out and get their happy-ever-after. This book is sweet and well-suited to even younger teen readers.


Heather’s Pick: RED RISING by Pierce Brown

BookCover-RedRisingLike Robin blogged about here, I too have had a string of disappointing reads. Even “Best Of” lists don’t guarantee I’ll love – or even like – the book. But with fingers crossed, I selected RED RISING from Goodreads Best Of YA Fantasy list.

I was not disappointed. This book is a tour de force, a mix of HUNGER GAMES and DIVERGENT, but with a world so unique and a story so well crafted that it can’t be shelved under “just another YA dystopia”. Nope. This novel is epic.

It takes place hundreds of years in the future on Mars. The main character, Darrow, is the lowest caste of human – a Red. He lives and works miles underground in the mines preparing Mars for human inhabitation, until he discovers that Mars has been inhabited for decades, maybe centuries, and the Reds aren’t preparing it for civilization, they’re simply slaves. Thus begins the journey of turning Darrow, a powerless Red, into an impressive Gold (top caste) so that he can infiltrate and take them down.

It’s a classic underdog-takes-on-the-world story.

A lot of people die in this book. There’s violence and cruelty. But there’s also redeeming transformation when our hero figures out how to overcome instead of surrender to the Golds’ worst characteristics. In my opinion, this is what makes the book great. It’s not just exciting plot twists, duplicitous characters and clever reveals, though I enjoyed all that too, it’s that the hero grows. This makes Darrow a hero worth rooting for!

If you love epic fantasy or political intrigue or action thrillers or all three, this book is for you. I’m actually going to read it again so I can study the expert plotting of the story. Yep, it was that good.

Update: RED RISING was voted Goodreads Best YA Debut! Yay! I’m not the only one who loved this book.

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/book-reviews/friday-reads/

What We’re Reading: Goodreads Best of 2014

Like most writers, we at WriteOnSisters are all big readers. The end of the year brings reflection and a sense of accomplishment; we have navigated another fun and rewarding year of books and blogging. To do something a bit different this month, we decided to pick books off the Goodreads Best Books of 2014 list.

Robin’s Pick: ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER by Stephanie Perkins

isla-and-the-happily-ever-after for webThis is the third (and reportedly last) companion book in the Anna and the French Kiss series. This time we follow high school senior Isla. Super smart, but socially awkward, the shy little Isla finally attracts the attentions of Josh, the slacker, bad boy artist she’s adored from afar since freshman year.

Although opposites, the pair fall madly in love and the book is really about their rocky path to a Happy Ever After ending. On the plus side the book is set in a host of wonderful locations: Paris, New York, and Barcelona. I found the few chapters set in Barcelona represented the best of the book’s settings, and I really enjoyed that section. Also all the lead characters from the first two books make cameos for a handful of pages at the end of this book, which I’m sure delights fan of the series.

I had high hopes for this book, but sadly it lacked enough action or conflict to keep me interested. Granted any book that tells me up front it ends in a HEA isn’t aiming to keep me on the edge of my seat, but I do expect a bit more than I got in the way of plot. I’m willing to concede lots of other readers found Josh very crush worthy and Isla adorable, so if you’re already a fan of the series, my bet is you will want to see it to the end. However, don’t expect to be as entertained by Isla’s journey as you were by Anna’s.

Heather’s Pick: RED RISING by Pierce Brown

BookCover-RedRisingLike Robin blogged about here, I too have had a string of disappointing reads. Even “Best Of” lists don’t guarantee I’ll love – or even like – the book. But with fingers crossed, I selected RED RISING from Goodreads Best Of YA Fantasy list.

I was not disappointed. This book is a tour de force, a mix of HUNGER GAMES and DIVERGENT, but with a world so unique and a story so well crafted that it can’t be shelved under “just another YA dystopia”. Nope. This novel is epic.

It takes place hundreds of years in the future on Mars. The main character, Darrow, is the lowest caste of human – a Red. He lives and works miles underground in the mines preparing Mars for human inhabitation, until he discovers that Mars has been inhabited for decades, maybe centuries, and the Reds aren’t preparing it for civilization, they’re simply slaves. Thus begins the journey of turning Darrow, a powerless Red, into an impressive Gold (top caste) so that he can infiltrate and take them down.

It’s a classic underdog-takes-on-the-world story.

A lot of people die in this book. There’s violence and cruelty. But there’s also redeeming transformation when our hero figures out how to overcome instead of surrender to the Golds’ worst characteristics. In my opinion, this is what makes the book great. It’s not just exciting plot twists, duplicitous characters and clever reveals, though I enjoyed all that too, it’s that the hero grows. This makes Darrow a hero worth rooting for!

If you love epic fantasy or political intrigue or action thrillers or all three, this book is for you. I’m actually going to read it again so I can study the expert plotting of the story. Yep, it was that good.

Caryn’s Pick:  SKIN GAME by Jim Butcher

BookCover-SkinGameI adore Harry Dresden. He’s my favorite type of male protagonist: smart-mouthed, sarcastic, irreverent, flawed… and hot. Oh! And he just happens to be a wizard!

Jim Butcher’s newest installment is number 15 in the well known urban fantasy series: The Dresden Files. I haven’t read them all, mostly I’ve bookended the series, a few at the beginning and now this last one.

The story begins on a mysterious island where Harry has been ordained as the warden of a frozen prison for some of the Underworld’s most notorious creatures. Butcher paints a vivid world to wander through, not over-doing description, but bringing you into his fantasy world with skill and aplomb.

Harry is also saddled with the dubious job of being the Winter Knight to Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness. Mab trades Harry’s skill to pay off one of her debts and forces him to help a group of supernatural villains break into a high-security vault. The one in Nevernever. It’s a smash and grab job to recover an important artifact in the vault that just happens to belong to Hades, Lord of the Underworld. But Harry suspects that there is another game afoot that no one is talking about. And he’s dead certain that he and his crew will not survive the experience.

I’ll admit a lot has happened to Harry since the first few books, when he was a struggling private eye type, not a semi-supernatural string-puller who hangs out with deities on a regular basis. It seems that Butcher is now writing something more like… epic urban fantasy, rather than paranormal investigation.

I didn’t find the antagonist terribly threatening or scary, more like a mobster than a supernatural creature, but the other monsters? Definitely. Butcher has the uncanny ability to dream up creepy beasts who do terrible things to humans, and wizards too. The kind that will give you nightmares.

Butcher had me intrigued, wondering what the valued commodity hidden in that vault was and why they are so desperate to steal it. The ending has an interesting twist, and the book definitely kept me hooked until the very end.

I have a confession to make: I always thought this was a YA series. Maybe it’s because it’s written in first person like so many YA novels and the tone is similar too. So when I read an explicit sex scene (which turns out to be a dream…I hate that!), I took pause. The early books seemed safe for a YA reader but now that I’ve done a little research I understand it is an adult fantasy series…more of an adult Harry Potter.

Overall, I recommend this book, and the entire series. One of these days I might just snuggle in and catch up on Harry’s escapades over the last few years. Did I tell you how much I love Harry? Oh yeah. I did.


Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/book-reviews/reading-november-goodreads-best/

Who Do You Write For?

This weekend I spoke on a panel at TAAFI (Toronto Animation Arts Festival International) about Writing for Animation, and it got me thinking about who writers write for. For example, as a screenwriter I write for the people who hire me (story editors, producers, broadcasters) and through them there’s a lot of focus on writing for the target audience. When I began writing novels, people assumed the reason was because I wanted to write “for myself” instead of “for someone else.”

RETRO PHOTO: young Heather writing for herself in her journal.

Retro pic: young Heather writes for herself in journal.

It’s true that I was itching to write characters and worlds that I created, rather than ones created by others. And when I started coming up with book premises, I was drunk on the freedom. I had so many ideas! And for so many genres: fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, horror, comedy, historical, etc. What did I want to write? The only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to write YA, but what genre of YA was undecided, so I threw everything at the board, combined genres, turned realistic fiction into fantasy and back again, just experimenting over and over…

Until I was completely overwhelmed and longed for the days when I had a story editor to tell me, “That one! That’s the best idea.”

Yet if I was writing for myself, why did it matter which idea was “the best”? Just write something! For fun. For me. I remember what that’s like – it’s how I wrote in high school. I never gave my stories to anyone else to read. I simply wrote because I liked to create. But later my reason for writing changed: instead of a cathartic hobby, it became about connecting with others.

I wanted to write stories that would challenge how people saw themselves and the world. I also wanted to make people laugh, cry, cringe and scream. I wanted to entertain them while moving them.

So I’m never truly writing just for myself. I always think about my target audience: Who will read my book? What do I have to say to them? How will this story impact their lives? I write because I want to connect, the way my favorite books connect with me.

In conclusion, I’m not writing novels because I’m tired of writing for other people. I always write for other people. The real reason I want to write books is because the teen market for TV is very small, making the likelihood of getting my stories to my audience very slim. Whereas YA lit is a huge market – many genres, many readers – so I have a better chance of sharing my stories. And if I’m lucky, maybe my novels will be turned into a TV series or film one day.

Who do you write for? Yourself? Others? The market? Your kids?


Up next from Heather… I read a disappointing book this past weekend, so it’s time for another Reading For Writers 101 lesson: Character Change Can’t Come Out Of Nowhere!

For more posts from Heather, click here.


Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/writers-life/who-do-you-write-for/

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