The Castaways – A Review

TheCastaways1

*I received an advance reader copy on NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.*

Olive Gagmuehler, a bullied teenager, decides to go to the pirate-themed Castaway carnival that’s just come back in Texas. Unfortunately, her bullies gang up on her at the carnival. Left with no other option, Olive runs away into the maze where teenagers have been known to disappear until she lands on a lost island. Two groups of teenagers and kids, the Lions and the Panthers, are at war on that mysterious island, unable to go home. Olive joins them and tries to survive in the wild as well as break the island’s curse keeping them here. But is it really a curse or something much bigger than them that intends to teach them to face their demons?

There are few negative points in that novel, so let’s start with that! The first one is nothing major, only a few typos and mistakes here and there. It was not enough to be annoying, but another round of proofreading would make The Castaways almost perfect. The last point (I told you there were few) is the lack of plot about the mysterious island throughout the book. Sometimes it even seemed as though the kids were not living away from their family and friends, stranded like by magic on that island with no apparent way home. Although I understand the author meant to keep the mystery surrounding the island, I feel like this particular topic could have been tackled more times during the story. Instead, the characters appeared to forget or at least not think a lot about being in an unknown place with perfect strangers. Perhaps their questioning could be present? That’s what I would have loved to read. It would also make for a more realistic situation as I doubt we’d easily go about our business, forgetting how far we are from home and to question ourselves about how we can get home.

Now, how about we talk about the positive points (which are legion)? Let’s go! I found the subtitles to be enticing – it was original and gave a sense of foreboding, which I appreciated. The chapters are generally short, which makes for a fast read. The idea of mixing bullying with a magical island full of warring teenagers and kids is marvellous! Plus, the story’s got quite a lot of action. Just when you think you can start to relax, something unexpected happens and has your blood boiling with excitation! This book contains poignant bullying; it was well-done (unfortunately, I speak from experience so this story particularly moved me) and is laced with a lesson to stand up for oneself, a good surprise! It shows that bullying is eternal, it’s always been there and will keep on being unless we stand up to it. In my opinion, this book managed to show the effects that bullying can have on people, mostly on teenagers. As for the characters, the author made me care about them and more particularly about Olive’s dangerous yet adventurous situation. They’re all different and I could well imagine the teenagers, a feat in itself! The characters seem alive, which was fun to read. As for Olive, the main character, she is a strong heroine (more than she knows) and likeable. I could easily identify with her. Her development as a character was interesting to watch; it was done through highs and lows, just like in real life.

If you’re looking for realistic reactions as well as both inner and external conflict (beautifully conflicted Olive and others), look no more! The Castaways is a gold mine of realism, conflict, and solutions. Not only was this book thrilling, but it was also a pleasure to return to every single time. There were twists and turns I wouldn’t have expected and a pinch of humour that was more than welcomed in the midst of all these emotions. Speaking of emotions, they were well-woven in the tale, which will have you caring for the characters in no time! And they feel real, at least for Olive. By the way, there is a sweet romance in the story and even though I’m not overly fond of romance, I must admit this one was cute in its own right. It didn’t take the space required for the action. Did you know that the main character, Olive Gagmuehler, is somehow ill? She suffers from hyperventilation, which was probably caused by her being bullied. I found the idea of having her suffering from some kind of illness was different and a good move. I connected with her more easily and it makes us want to help her somehow, which only proves my point of the characters being unique and alive in our eyes. The basic needs and survival situations were respected – there was the matter of hygiene, odors, bladder, and else. The descriptive imagery used was great and the vocabulary was diverse. I felt as though I was once again a teenager, stranded on that island with those other kids. Last but not least, the ending wraps up the book quite nicely. It’s like a present with a cute bow on it.

The Castaways is a book I thoroughly enjoyed. It made me experience all kinds of emotions on that roller coaster ride and even managed to make me cry towards the end (and I rarely cry in books nowadays). It is perfect for fans of Peter Pan (yes, the classic story!), Lord of the Flies, and the Red Queen series because of the non-stop action and unexpected twists.

I give The Castaways a rating of 5 out of 5. It was that fun and really got me deep in the emotions, which I loved! I even have a hard time deleting it from my Kindle Fire to make room for other books – but really, I think I’m going to keep it. Who knows, I might just re-read it one day, something I like to do with books that left their mark on me. Honestly, I wanted to read more of it and I still do. While recommending this novel to other readers, I will definitely look forward to Jessika Fleck’s upcoming works.

It’s Raining News… Hallelujah, It’s Raining News!

lfHello, everyone!

I have some good news for you all. Do you remember when I told you I started learning Greek a few weeks ago? Well, my full Greek kit just came in last week! I’m simply delighted at spending nearly all of my time learning Greek. So far it’s going quite well. I’ve tackled numbers and plurals, people and family, and some essential expressions (along with a bit of grammar). Today I’m onto the verb ”to be” and the expressions ”there is/there are”. All I’m missing is a dictionary, then I’ll be all set up.

Moreover, I told you I’d keep you updated about my short story for the contest so here I am. Yes, the one I got edited! I found the courage to work on it again today after two weeks spent avoiding it – wait for it – intentionally! Yes, intentionally. I was so afraid of not getting the sentences and words right, that I looked to every distraction. But I faced myself yesterday, telling myself that I would miss the deadline if I didn’t put my pants on and go back to it! And so, I took a shower and forced – yes, forced! – myself to sit down at the computer and write what needed to be written according to the editing. God, am I glad I did it!

My short story is now done! All that’s left for me to do is format it and write a cover letter following the guidelines I found in ”Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript” excerpt from the Writers’ Digest Shop. I give myself one week to do all this, then I’m off to submit my work to the contest. I’m so excited! I’m so near the goal I gave myself this year: professionally participate in contests! One click on Friday and… hop! I reach my goal of participating professionally. It is a huge step for me. And one I’m glad I’m not letting go of like I was doing these past two weeks by avoiding reviewing my short story.

P.S.: Two reviews are coming your way in a few days. One for an awesome teen & YA fantasy book and the other for a sweet lesbian romance.

P.S.2: I’m currently juggling between three ideas for a novel. It’s a tough choice! I’ll let you in on my decision when I’ve finally made up my mind.

Thank you for reading and being with me on this journey!

Waters of Salt and Sin (Uncommon World, #1) – A Review

Waters

On Amazon

On Goodreads

*I was given an ARC in exchange for an honest review*

Let’s start with the positive sides! The writing is engaging and the author uses the five senses, which adds to the reader’s experience. She also writes detailed descriptions of the settings and events, and uses a good vocabulary (mostly linked to sailing, which makes it even more interesting). This story is intriguing, full of magic, adventure, and a realistic caste system! It is exotic with all the names, the caste system, the food, and the description of objects and titles. Moreover, the plot is interesting. There is drama, much conflict, and a sense of urgency. It is not a boring read due to its being action-packed! I felt as though I were in the story with Kinneret and her crew. Speaking of Kinneret, she is a strong main character – she makes decisions and gives her all to accomplish her goals, and her motives are clear. It was quite enjoyable. As for the characters in general, they are interesting; we care for Kinneret and Avi, and the rest are pleasant to read.

I find Kinneret headstrong and inspiring. Plus, she has a good dream: becoming a ship kaptan instead of the usual dream of piracy! The forbidden romance between Kinneret and Calev, her high-caste childhood friend, is bittersweet and well-done. It was quite fun to read. The story’s introduction was good and I’d just like to point out a thing that I liked: the author mentioned a woman’s bleed, which is rarely done in novels. Klapheke’s world-building is fantastic and exotic! It feels real because the people inhabiting her world live by their traditions, conventions, and social classes (mostly represented by the caste system). It feels both out-of-this-world and familiar. I greatly enjoyed her world-building skills!

Now, let’s talk about the negative sides. The dialogue is a bit too revealing and unrealistic. The characters disclose too much information and/or the sentences are too long. It could definitely be stronger and have more subtext. The action could use more description to make it even more engaging. The emotions could be more detailed. I could not identify them easily except for shame, anger, and love. Otherwise, it’s more telling than showing. The other characters (other than Kinneret) lack goals and motives or they’re not clear enough or too weak. Most of them just seem to fall in line behind Kinneret and whatever she does.

For all these reasons, I give this book a rating of 4 out of 5. I enjoyed spending time with Kinneret and her crew, living all those adventures at sea to rescue her sister, Avigail. Klapheke’s world is brilliant and exotic – a pleasure to read and travel to. However, the lack of showing the emotions instead of telling and the fact that nearly everyone goes Kinneret’s way are tiresome and unbelievable. This being said, I still recommend this book to those who love adventure-packed novels! One doesn’t grow bored with this novel! I will read the rest of Klapheke’s upcoming and past books about Kinneret and her crew and the Uncommon World.

News that Gives Wings

Hello, everyone!

I’m feeling GREAT. Do you want to know why?
Oh, come on, we both know I’ll tell you.

 
Remember that short story I sent to my editor? Well, it came back to me two days ago. The red “track changes” feature in Word has been less prolific than I thought it would! I am pleasantly surprised.

 
I am slowly going through all the comments and fixes. It’s a learning process I simply ADORE. It makes me feel more professional and serious about my writing, too. Let’s admit it: entering an important contest after having your work edited IS professional.

 
I wish you, fellow writers/authors, to have your writing edited one day. The feeling is pure bliss. At least it is to me. I am quite proud of how I’m taking all this – on the positive side.
Thank you all for accompanying me on my journey to become an established author. It all means so much to me!

 
I’ll inform you once I’m done polishing my short story and sending it to the contest.

Meanwhile, be aware that I’ll post about three reviews in the beginning of April. I hope you’ll enjoy reading them and discover new books at the same time.

Until next post, sweethearts!

A Quick Update & a Big Leap for Me

Hello, folks!

I hope you’re all doing well. As for me, I just sent my short story for the contest to my editor. It’s the first time for me sending any writing of importance to an editor, so it’s a big leap. I am both thrilled and nervous, although I can’t wait to get it back. I asked them to be as tough as possible to make it the best version it can be. Plus, this is how I’ll learn what works and what doesn’t.

I’ll let you know how it went once I get it back from the editor! They say I should receive it by Wednesday. I’m so excited I can barely stay still.

Until next time!

P.S.: Expect a few reviews for I have many that are due in the beginning of April. Be understanding. Thank you!

 

Not Everything Dies (Princess Dracula) – A Review

NotEverythingDies

On Amazon

On Goodreads

On Barnes & Noble

* I received an ARC of this book on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review *

I’ve been interested in Princess Dracula for a very long time so when I saw Not Everything Dies by John Patrick Kennedy on NetGalley, I jumped on it. I was lucky enough that this second book in the series is about Ruxandra suffering from amnesia, so even if I was new to the series, I could still read it starting with the second one.

Ruxandra, an amnesiac vampire, is fighting for control against the Beast within. She finds herself locked up in Countess Elizabeth Bathory’s castle. Ruxandra needs to learn the ways of royalty and help Bathory, her odd mentor, keep her lands. But in the end, is the countess friend or foe? Romance, magic, and supernatural elements are all part of this intriguing tale.

I must say this book about vampires did not disappoint me! The cover is simply mesmerizing and well-chosen. It is eerie, gorgeous, and true to the story. The author uses a good vocabulary throughout the book, which makes it pleasant to read. The battles are rough and realistic, just like his depiction of fear. The author makes it all believable. He writes an interesting transition between the Beast to Ruxandra, then back. We can feel the Beast’s anger and its ache for food. The descriptions of settings and characters are precise. There is also a clear difference in characters – I like that! Realism (even though there are supernatural elements) plays an important role in this book. I particularly enjoyed that the novel was divided in short chapters because it made for a quick yet entertaining read. Plus, everything that can go wrong does! There was a lot of conflict, which made it even more enjoyable. I liked how the author describes trivial matters – it’s marvelous to discover such things as soap through Ruxandra’s eyes. It’s as though everything is magnified and impressive.

The friendship between Ruxandra and Elizabeth Bathory was sweet to read. Speaking of the countess Bathory, I thought this was an interesting take on her character. I’ve read a good deal about her as a teenager and seeing her being used in a vampire story makes perfect sense. The character is weird and sensual – a good move from the author, I must admit. This book is true to the vampires’ sensuality. It is also worthy of original, bloody (no pun intended!) vampires with a remnant of a human side. Their cruelty is faithful to folklore with the harsh reality of deaths and tortures. The author is quite respectful of their powers too. Plus, there must have been a good deal of research involved to get the eras and settings well done along with the characters (mostly the countess Bathory), but the author aced it in my opinion.

Everything is logically put into place like pieces of a puzzle. The author pulled it off brilliantly. Let’s talk about dialogue… it was (thank God!) believable. The characters said just enough things to leave us wondering, yet they gave us the necessary information at the right time. Moreover, the way Ruxandra recovers her memories, how she learns of things past, and the way she discovers her powers is interesting and well-written. Finally, the ending was awesome! It was quite thrilling and intriguing, as well as gory and dark. The very end surprised me and I usually figure out the plot twists well in advance!

As for the negative points, the description of the action and fights and the drinking of blood could be expanded. It is quite short compared to the other descriptions. Or when it’s long, it’s because the description is mostly of sexual nature. I understand vampires are usually sensual, but I want to know more about the fights and how it feels to drink blood to survive! In general, more detailed descriptions are needed. Also, they were loads of typos and words that should have been erased. I really hope the book will go through another round of thorough editing because this novel deserves to be read without confusion. Moreover, there are a few inconsistencies in the wording, like in the beginning when Bathory tells her people to use the pronouns ‘’she’’ for the Beast, yet in the next line the countess uses ‘’it’’ too. Lastly, one thing that bothered me was Ruxandra’s lack of motives and goals while the Beast does not. She doesn’t decide anything for the most part of the story… Events just happen to her.

This book (and I bet the series too) is perfect for fans of Anne Rice’s vampires and the Vampire Diaries series and for those who love the sensuality of vampires and their gory life. Even though one hasn’t read the first one, they can jump into Not Everything Dies without any problem for we learn little by little of Ruxandra’s backstory just as she does (of course, reading the first one once you’re hooked to the series is probably a good idea). I give this book a rating of 4 out of 5 because of how true to the vampire’s myths it was and how much of a captivating time I had reading it.

I will definitely read the rest of the series. In fact, I cannot wait for the third book to come out! I highly recommend Not Everything Dies by John Patrick Kennedy – if you love vampires and action, you’ll probably love it just like I do.

Plot vs Story: What Is the Big Difference?

Hello, gals and guys!

Today, we’re going to tackle the confusing ”plot vs story” question.

plot-vs-story

Indeed! Why can’t they be used interchangeably?

I’ve been taking a writing class on Skillshare this week and finally came to learn the answer. The difference is so big, yet we never really hear about it. We keep on using plot when we mean story and story when we mean plot. I figured I’d share this information with you because I kept wondering why the heck were they different. Isn’t that all just the same thing?

No, it’s not. One might think that they differ subtly, yet it’s far from the truth. In fact, it is quite clear.

Plot is actually the physical action of your novel. Let’s use my novel Nightshade:The Death Stone as an example. Rosellia, the main character, travels to different dimensions (this is physical), then she is kidnapped (again, it’s physical), and saved by the Nightshade (physical). This has nothing to do with how she feels about all this. Plot is that: action. It’s what happens to your character in terms of events and situations.

As for the story, it is simply the contrary. Rosellia’s emotions and feelings towards the events happening to her and her growth as a character are what make the story. Story is emotions. Her relationship with herself? Story. With others? Story.

Story is emotions and feelings whereas plot is physical (action).

Don’t we just feel better knowing the big difference?

I sure do!

Now it’s easier for me to understand whenever I read about one of those two important pieces of the creation of a novel. I hope it is easier for you too.

Do you still have any questions about plot or story?

You’re always welcome to leave a comment.