Sunday, 27 January 2013

Review: Zom-B Underground - Darren Shan


***Please note: This is a review of the second book in the series, so if you haven't read book one there may be spoilers. Proceed with caution***

Published: January 17th 2013, Simon & Schuster
Pages: 212 pages, hardback
Series?: Yes, this is book two of twelve
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Waking up in a military complex, months after zombies attacked school, B has no memory of the last few months. Life in the UK has turned tough since the outbreak, and B is woven into life- and battle- in the new military regime quickly. But as B learns more about the zombies held in the complex and the scientists keeping them captive, unease settles in. Why exactly was B saved? And is there anyone left in the world to trust?

My review: I’ve been a long time fan of Darren Shan’s writing. I remember picking the first few titles from the Vampire’s Assistant series when I was at the beginning of my university days and devouring them. He’s the undisputed master of teen horror and the Zom-B series is Shan at his absolute horrifying best.

I read and loved Zom-B, the first book, last year so feel free to take a look at my review here, if you are so inclined! After enjoying Zom-B so much I was hoping the second installment, Zom-B Underground, would be just as enjoyable and I’m really excited to say this one is even better and bloodier than book one. Isn’t it brilliant when a series just gets better and better?

In Zom-B Underground we learn a lot more about the zombies and how they came to be, as well as getting an insight into how the country is dealing with the outbreak, though I’m sure this is going to be explored in a lot more depth in further installments. The potential for this series is phenomenal and I’m so excited to see what Shan does with the next ten books. There’s so much scope for the Zom-B series to explore the origin and ongoing effects of the zombie outbreak and Shan does hint at this in Zom-B Underground.

B goes from strength to strength and really grows as a character throughout this installment, an admirable feat of writing when you consider just how much B changed in book one alone. To compare the moral, heroic B we see in Zom-B Underground to the sullen, angry teen in Zom-B just goes to show how fantastic Shan is at characterisation.

Aside from B we are introduced to a few new characters in Zom-B Underground, who are some of the most memorable figures I’ve come across in a while, especially Josh and Rage. They may not be the most pleasant characters but you sure as hell won’t forget them in a hurry. One of Shan’s greatest strengths is creating believable, flawed characters and this is certainly true for the cast of Zom-B Underground.

I absolutely can’t mention characters without touching on Mr Dowling, who is one of the most utterly horrifying creations in YA horror. I won’t reveal too much about him but he’s the complete embodiment of everybody’s childhood fears. I like to think of myself as a hardened horror fan (though I love a good scare) and, gee whizz, he freaked me out.

Despite only being two books in, the Zom-B series has become known for its twists and surprise revelations throughout the story. The twists in Zom-B will BLOW YOUR MIND and I wasn’t sure that anything in Zom-B Underground would be able to shock me as much. However! While the ending of Zom-B Underground isn’t as much of an outward surprise as book one it really stayed with me afterwards and I love the choices that Shan made.

The ending of this one felt so filmic; it’s completely different but it reminded me of how I felt the first time I watched the ending of Saw (yes, the franchise went to shit but the first one is still brilliant). I thought I knew where things were going, I thought it was a well-executed but fairly run of the mill horror and then OMG HUGE GIANT CURVEBALL. EPIC MUSIC. DRAMA. WHAT IS GOING ON? And that is also how I felt at the climax of Zom-B Underground. All it needs is some epic music played over the top (I’m thinking Clubbed to Death?) and you have yourselves a book blockbuster, folks.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Blog Tour: Writing Tips from Celia Bryce


Hi all! Friday - FINALLY. Good lord it's been a bit of a week, hasn't it? Snow and slush and ice and rain, bah, I cannot wait to kick back and chill out this weekend. Well, I say chill out but I'm actually off to the races tomorrow - as long as the weather doesn't mean it gets called off. Wish me luck, guys, I could be off to win my fortune.

Anyway, I've got Celia Bryce, author of Anthem for Jackson Dawes, here today to dispense some brilliant advice about writing. I'm getting ready to send my novel out to agents in the next few months so these tips have come at just the right time for me. In a market as saturated as YA making your story unique is one of the most important things to consider and, luckily, that is exactly what Celia is focusing on in her post today. So, feast your eyes, chaps!


MAKING YOUR STORY UNIQUE

When I was asked to write these blogs and was given the topics I could cover, I wasn’t sure how to approach this one.  I read the title and my mind went blank, much as it does when I’m trying to start a new story. You’ll know exactly what I mean. It happens. But then I got to thinking. Throughout the previous four pieces I’ve tried to explain how I like to write, how I like to use different ways of showing the reader what’s happening in the story, showing who the characters are in an interesting way, and hopefully anyone reading Anthem for Jackson Dawes will feel that I have achieved some of what I set out to do, though I know there’s still a long way to go and I will be forever learning something new.

Thinking about the topic made me wonder why I write the way I do,  and I can’t really answer that except that I always have done, but also I’ve listened to the advice that people have given me and I’ve tried to improve on some things. I learned a lot from listening to a teacher at school. Top year, Juniors. Mrs O’Hagan. On one particular occasion she read a poem I’d written and loved it so much that she wanted to show her husband who was a teacher in the senior school. It made me feel special to be singled out like that. Mrs O’Hagan loved the poem for so many reasons, but I wasn’t really paying enough attention, so can’t actually say what those reasons were. I wish I’d listened.  I wish I still had it, so that I could look at it and try to work out what was so special. Ah well. One thing that did stick in my mind was this: Mrs O’Hagan told me never to give up writing. And I never did, though I don’t think for one second she meant me to be a writer, which is probably why I trained to be a nurse. Much safer and steadier, especially when you come from a town which for a very long time had lots of unemployed people in it.

When I go to schools and work with children  and young people, when I read entries for story competitions, or listen to work read out in writing groups, some stories just seems to leap out at me from the very first sentence or paragraph and I know that what I’m about to hear or read is going to be just that bit different, just that bit more interesting and my heart soars. It really does. When I see that the writer has thought about the words and has tried to reach beyond the usual, either in the words themselves or in the way they’re arranged in a sentence, or the story itself, when the writer is being creative, I’m really filled with a kind of joy that is impossible to describe.

It doesn’t matter what you want to write about, but to make your story stand out, try to think about ways to make it different.  Try to edge away from the usual. Read lots of stories, look at lots of writing styles, from page turning adventures which have you hanging off the edge of your seat to the kind of books which make you want to pause and think just a little longer before turning the page.  Try to identify what it is about a certain book or even just a section of a book that makes you think, I want to write like that and give it a go.  Every book that you pick up from a shelf has been published because it’s a little bit different, in style or subject matter. Each one is unique for a reason. You may prefer to write in the page turning style of the adventure book which is scene after exciting scene, or you may prefer the complete opposite. That’s fine. Choose a style you’d be most comfortable with and start writing. Finish the story right through to the very end. Then read it through. Be prepared to cross some, even lots of it out. Be prepared to change some things, add something here, take away something there. Be prepared to make it just that little bit different. Put it away for a week or two, if you can, or a day or two or even an hour or two. Go away from it completely. Then come back and re-read it. You’ll discover other things that still need to be re-written, or even put back the way it was originally. That sometimes happens. Try this out and you’ll be on the right track to making your story unique.  


Sunday, 20 January 2013

January Reading List: Update

So, as we're a little over halfway through the month I thought I'd stop and take a look at the reading list I set myself in December and see how I'm doing. At the beginning of the month I was doing really well and was well on the way to completing my list but things have started to slow off a bit now, so I need to get things back under control and get reading!

I did have to take some time off of reading as much to get as much of the next draft of my book done, so I could send it off to my reading group on time. I've done that and I haven't got too much to do for the rest of January so I really want to concentrate on reading as many brilliant January releases as possible.

The books I've managed to read off of the list so far are:


Splintered - A.G. Howard
Broken - A.E. Rought
The Prey - Andrew Fukuda

I also read Zom-B Underground and am now half way through The Last Minute, which is a great new release I received from Random House a few days ago. It's deviating from my list but it just looked SO good I couldn't wait - and it's great, so definitely go and look it up, people.

The books I want to read before January is out are:

Just One Day - Gayle Forman
The Tragedy Paper - Elizabeth LaBan
Teeth - Hannah Moskowitz

The only book from the list I'm definitely not going to be able to read is The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd; I had pre-ordered it from The Book Depository but unfortunately they're not going to get stock in for two to four weeks so that one's a no go. I did read the first few chapters of Just One Day and really loved it, so as soon as I'm done with The Last Minute I'll be picking that one back up.

If I can finish my list then I'll have read eight books in January, which I'll be really pleased with. I think I can do it; I just need to get a wiggle on and not get distracted by shiny new review copies I get sent! Which books do you guys want to read for the rest of January?

In other news, last month I started a new blog called Life from the Tub, which focuses on beauty and lifestyle and random bits and bobs that don't fit in here at Writing from the Tub. I'd love it if you could stop by and check it out; so if you have a minute you can take a look here.



One last thing! I have been very much enjoying the snow, as has Bertie:




Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Penguin Chats!

Along with a few other lovely book bloggers I was invited to become an official partner in the Penguin Chats project, which is a super exciting new Twitter event that will be taking place in conjunction with Penguin and some of their fantastic authors.




Penguin themselves describe the project as:

'Penguin Chats are a 30 minute Q&A with a Penguin author on Twitter, hosted by @PenguinUKBooks and using #PenguinChats. We’ll be inviting anyone and everyone to put their questions to the author to receive an immediate and live response!'




The first chat is with Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, who I'm sure you all know as the duo behind the Beautiful Creatures series. The chat is due to take place on Sunday January 27th at 8pm on Twitter, where you can pose your burning questions to Kami and Margaret by using the #PenguinChats hashtag. Tomorrow Penguin will announce all of their blogging partners so do make sure you swing by each blog for extra and exclusive content about the series!


Kami and Margaret on set with Lena and Ethan!

Penguin have been kind enough to send me some exclusive quotes from Kami and Margaret, about some of their favourite moments of the series:


The most tear-jerking moment…
Kami: The most tear-jerking moment would have to be the last scene in which Lena and Macon appear together in Beautiful Creatures...
Margaret: The end of the book. When we first gave it to my teen to read, and then found her weeping over the pages, we knew the end was finally right.

The funniest moment…
Kami: It’s hard to choose the funniest moment, but in general the scenes with Link are always the funniest.
Margaret: Everything with Link!


I completely agree with Kami about the most tear-jerking moment - that one had me ruining my mascara when I first read it!





So if you're a fan of the series or just want to find out more about the books and upcoming film, make sure you head across to Twitter on January 27th to chat with the masterminds behind the series! For more information and details about the project visit the Penguin blog, which you can find here, or their Twitter, which is @PenguinUKBooks.



Friday, 11 January 2013

Review: The Prey - Andrew Fukuda


Published: January 31st 2013, Simon & Schuster
Pages: 322 pages, paperback
Series?: Yes, this is book two of a trilogy
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): For Gene and the remaining humans—or hepers—death is just a heartbeat away. On the run and hunted by society, they must find a way to survive in The Vast... and avoid the hungry predators tracking them in the dark. But they’re not the only things following Gene. He’s haunted by the girl he left behind and his burgeoning feelings for Sissy, the human girl at his side.

When they discover a refuge of exiled humans living high in the mountains, Gene and his friends think they’re finally safe. Led by a group of intensely secretive elders, the civilisation begins to raise more questions than answers. A strict code of behaviour is the rule, harsh punishments are meted out, young men are nowhere to be found—and Gene begins to wonder if the world they’ve entered is just as evil as the one they left behind. As life at the refuge grows more perilous, he and Sissy only grow closer. In an increasingly violent world, all they have is each other... if they can only stay alive.

My review: Any regular readers of Writing from the Tub will know that The Hunt was one of my favourite books of 2012. I completely fell in love with Fukuda's writing style and the way he's made vampires back into the bad guys in the most horrific way possible. I was obviously excited to read The Prey but nervous it might not live up to the original, particularly being the notoriously difficult second book in a series.

Luckily, The Prey is triumphant. Possibly even better than The Hunt. Either way, it's incredible.

Gene, Sissy and the boys are back and fighting for survival against the vampires that are desperately hunting them. The action is rife from the very first chapter and one of Fukuda's main strengths is the atmosphere he can build up through his words. Some scenes are so nerve wracking the tension is palpable and I honestly can't think of any other series that so seamlessly weaves horror and action together.

The Prey delves further into the mythology that was hinted at in book one and I was seriously impressed with the history behind the vampires. It's definitely an original take on things and I loved the origin story. With vampires so frequently written about in YA it made such a lovely change to hear a unique perspective on vampires and how they came to be. It just goes to show that vampires can still be wonderfully terrifying monsters when in the hands of the right author. There's hope yet!

We continue to be treated to some horribly gruesome scenes that made me want to retch and cheer all at the same time. The Prey is such an exciting adventure and the pacing was excellent - I loved the mixture of heart-racing action and quiet, reflective scenes that really help us get to know the characters, particularly Gene, who I just love more and more as this series progresses. He's the perfect hero; a little reluctant but always noble and definitely more than capable of kicking serious ass. What more could you want?

This series has gone from strength to strength and I cannot wait to get my hands on the final installment. I have no idea where the story is going but I love the mystery and Fukuda has absolutely nailed the perfect cliffhanger. Absolutely recommended to anybody who loves a bit of horror or action, or any of you whose New Year's Resolution is to step outside your comfort zone.


First line: 'We thought we were finally free of them but we were wrong.'

Read if you liked…: The Hunt - Andrew Fukuda, I Am Legend - Richard Matheson

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Review: Broken - A.E. Rought


Published: January 8th 2013, Strange Chemistry
Pages: 366 pages, ARC
Series/standalone?: Standalone
Acquired: Kindly sent for review by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads): Imagine a modern spin on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein where a young couple’s undying love and the grief of a father pushed beyond sanity could spell the destruction of them all.

A string of suspicious deaths near a small Michigan town ends with a fall that claims the life of Emma Gentry's boyfriend, Daniel. Emma is broken, a hollow shell mechanically moving through her days. She and Daniel had been made for each other, complete only when they were together. Now she restlessly wanders the town in the late Fall gloom, haunting the cemetery and its white-marbled tombs, feeling Daniel everywhere, his spectre in the moonlight and the fog.

When she encounters newcomer Alex Franks, only son of a renowned widowed surgeon, she's intrigued despite herself. He's an enigma, melting into shadows, preferring to keep to himself. But he is as drawn to her as she is to him. He is strangely... familiar. From the way he knows how to open her locker when it sticks, to the nickname she shared only with Daniel, even his hazel eyes with brown flecks are just like Daniel's.

The closer they become, though, the more something inside her screams there's something very wrong with Alex Franks. And when Emma stumbles across a grotesque and terrifying menagerie of mangled but living animals within the walls of the Franks' estate, creatures she surely knows must have died from their injuries, she knows.

First line: Cold seeps through my jacket while I lean on the wrought iron fence, staring at the rows of headstones parading across the lawn of Memorial Gardens cemetery.

My review: Broken is a book that really intrigued me last year. I was grabbed by the cover and the idea of a Frankenstein retelling. I've loved Frankenstein since I studied it for my A-levels so I was really keen to get stuck in and find out whether Broken could capture the tension and atmosphere of the original classic.

Broken is an interesting read and does feel relatively quick, despite it being fairly lengthy, though I do think it could benefit for being fifty or so pages shorter, as I found it began to lose its way ever so slightly in the second third. Most of the action took place in the last forty pages or so and those were an absolute highlight, full of excitement and brilliantly executed action sequences. This is where Rought's writing really shone and I hope to see more of this in her next release.

Of course, the love story is one of the central elements to Broken and I think this is where readers will be divided. I won't go into too much detail in regards to the love story but it was too much of a case of insta-love for me. There are reasons for this which are explored during the novel but I found it a little too all-encompassing and smothering to really be enjoyable, for me at least. I know a lot of readers do enjoy that so, each to their own, but it's not quite for me.

Love story aside, Broken does have some major positives, such as Rought's often beautiful turn of phrase and a seriously kick ass denouement. My only other quibble is that almost the entire plot is revealed in the blurb, so if you've read the back cover you'll pretty much know the vast majority of the story, which did ruin some of the tension but I think Rought did a brilliant job of creating a creepy, gothic atmosphere. I think Dr Franks is definitely one of the high points of the book - he might not be likable but he's definitely an unforgettable character.

Despite the niggles I mentioned above I would recommend Broken for fans of paranormal romance, so if that's your bag, you will more than likely love it. Rought has nailed building up creepy tension until the atmosphere is almost at breaking point, a skill I was seriously impressed by and I have to give a big old thank the lord for the fact this is a standalone paranormal romance - which made a really nice change to the tried and tested series format!

Friday, 4 January 2013

Guest Post: Suzanne Johnson - Dishing the Dirt

Today I've got urban fantasy author Suzanne Johnson here at Writing from the Tub to let you in on some secrets about the characters in her 2012 release, River Road. I haven't read the book myself but I love finding out more about a writer's process and how they bring their characters to life so I had a great time reading the guest post and learning about the characters Suzanne has created.

And now I'll hand you over to Suzanne.



Dishing the Dirt on the Characters of River Road

Think you know everything about the characters in your favorite books? I guarantee you, the sneaky authors of those books are keeping secrets. Sometimes it might be some kind of background detail that wasn’t important enough to include in the books. Sometimes, the right moment to reveal it hasn’t presented itself yet.

I’m no exception, and all of the characters in my Sentinels of New Orleans series are holding onto a few secrets (well, besides all those secrets they’re keeping from the humans who live around them in South Louisiana). But I’m feeling like a Gossip Girl today, so here are a few things you might not know.

DJ Jaco, Green Congress wizard and Co-Sentinel of the New Orleans region. DJ’s job is to help protect the borders between modern New Orleans and the world Beyond and keep the preternaturals under control. Did you know DJ refuses to eat soft-shell crab, a Louisiana favorite, because her mentor ordered it for her at a restaurant once time as a kid and she was traumatized at having to rip the crab’s legs off? She still has a few queasy issues with dismemberment, now that I think about it.

Alex Warin, Co-Sentinel of the New Orleans region and Enforcer for the wizards’ Congress of Elders. We all know Alex is a big, tough guy who likes to shoot things. Did you know that Alex’s first name, taken from a Cajun uncle on his mom’s side of the family, is Basile? (Don’t tell him I let it slip; he hasn’t even told that one to DJ.)

Jake Warin, Enforcer trainee, wizards’ Congress of Elders, and owner of the Green Gator Bar in New Orleans’ French Quarter. We all know Jake’s a former U.S. Marine injured in Afghanistan, but did you know that he ran track in college at Ole Miss?

Jean Lafitte, early 19th-century French-born pirate and now a member of the historical undead, is New Orleans’ most famous citizen, of course. But did you realize that Jean spelled his name differently than history has spelled it? Quite a few handwritten and signed documents from him still exist, and he clearly spelled his name Jean Laffite—when and how it got changed to Lafitte, I’m not sure. His brother Pierre also favored the Laffite spelling.

Rene Delachaise, the merman who heads the Delachaise clan of merpeople in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, just southeast of New Orleans. Rene is a shrimper and owns his own trawler, but did you know he and his brother Robert are one of two sets of twins in his family? He has older brothers named Claude and Cheney, and a twinless older brother, Toussaint Jr., aka “Son.”

So there you have it—a few secrets of the characters of Royal Street and River Road! Of course, I have some MAJOR secrets I can’t tell yet…stay tuned.

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Thank you, Suzanne, for taking the time to stop by at Writing from the Tub! To learn more about Suzanne and her books you can check out her website here.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Reckless Update

Ah, Reckless, my book baby. Still a work in progress, still being edited. Still. Yes, I know. I wrote the first draft of Reckless in the summer of 2011 and I've been working on it ever since. Well, except for my severe slacking off in 2012 but we'll gloss over that for now.

When I started Reckless it was in third person, past tense. I quickly realised third person wasn't the way to go to carried on in first person. It resolved a whole host of issues and made the story so much better; all was well. However, for the last few months I was very aware that something just wasn't quite right about Reckless in the format it's currently in. I loved the characters, the plot, the location but there was something I couldn't put my finger on that was dragging it down. Finally I realised it was the tense. God damn it.

And so I'm rewriting Reckless, for the gazillionth time, in the present tense. It's a long, long process and is going to include a massive edit after I've finished changing the tense but I'm confident it's going to make everything a hundred times better. Hopefully, at least.

My wonderful writing group have been so helpful over the last year so I really hope they think this change is for the better. We're going on a big writing holiday next month to go over each other's books so I'll find out then, eek! At least if it's not working I'll still have the past tense version to work off of. Gah! It's a bit stressful trying to get everything done in time but hopefully I'll manage to have changed enough that they'll be able to let me know if it's a good idea or not.

Anyway, I'm going to keep you guys updated with my progress so wish me luck. By my next update I'm hoping to have gone through another 20k words or so to sort out the tense. It's a long old slog but I know it'll be worth it when Reckless is shiny and finished and as close to perfect as possible!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

New Year's Resolutions

It wouldn't be New Year's Day without a few resolutions to improve myself over the next year so I thought I'd post up a few of my book, blog and writing related resolutions in a bid to try to stick to them as closely as possible.

1. Say 'no' more

This is the big one for me and something I've been trying to work on for a long time now. Like so many of us I do lead a hectic life and often find myself getting guilted into taking on more work than I can really handle. I always seem to have an endless to do list so this year I'm determined to focus on a few projects rather than take on too much and be too busy to enjoy myself.

2. Be more disciplined with my writing

2012 was a complete failure for writing, mostly because I totally fell out of my routine and procrastinated pretty much an entire year away. BAD CARLY! In 2013 I'm going to dedicate at least an hour a day to working in the rewrite of Reckless. Hopefully I'll get to spend more time than that most days but, whatever happens, I have to do that hour a day, even if it means I stare at a blank screen and just think about edits or go for a run and figure out a plot problem.

3. Read books that I want to read

As I mentioned earlier, I'm terrible for getting pressured into doing things I don't want to do and in 2012 I found myself agreeing to look at numerous books for review simply because when I tried to say no a copy plopped through my letter box anyway. From now on I'm only going to read what I genuinely want to read and any unsolicited review copies will be being donated to my local library. I'm hoping this will stop reading slumps and blog burn out, fingers crossed!

4. Go for quality over quantity when it comes to blog posts

Writing from the Tub is going in a slightly different direction in 2013, with more focus being put on discussion posts, observations about trends and writing updates, rather than reviews. I'll still be reviewing but not as often; I'm aiming for one review a week at the moment as I'm hoping posting every two to three days rather than every day will give me a chance to give you guys better quality content, rather than barraging you with rushed posts. That's the plan, at least! If you have any ideas of content you'd like to see at Writing from the Tub please do let me know in the comments.

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So those are my writing and blog related resolutions for 2013. What are your resolutions? Let me know!