What I'm Reading: "Nevernight" by Jay Kristoff

Genre: Adult Fantasy

As a fan of Jay Kristoff’s The Illuminae Files, which he wrote with Amie Kaufman, I was excited to read one of his solo projects. According to Twitter, Instagram, or wherever else you get your book reviews, Nevernight is one of the more controversial books in the adult fantasy genre. Its protagonist is a teenager, orphan, and assassin with more than one grudge. While Mia (MC) is only sixteen, I feel the need to emphasize that this book is not YA. It features graphic and violent actions and non-PG, sexual scenes. With that said, I hate to like this book. Going in, I knew to expect possibly not to like it. But I did like it, just not for the reasons I expected. 

For starters, Mr. Kristoff uses footnotes to supply readers with supplementary, world-building information. While I appreciate this for the fact that we are able to jump right into action without wasting too much time on back-story; the humor within said footnotes seemed forced, and I didn’t find them funny or, most of the time, necessary. I know, I know. But I found myself wanting to skip the footnotes, simply because they annoyed me. (Also, is Mr. Kindly the narrator?)

“. . . if the unpleasant realities of bloodshed turn your insides to water, be advised now that the pages in your hands speak of a girl who was to murder as maestros are to music. Who did to happy ever afters what a sawblade does to skin.”

“. . . if the unpleasant realities of bloodshed turn your insides to water, be advised now that the pages in your hands speak of a girl who was to murder as maestros are to music. Who did to happy ever afters what a sawblade does to skin.”

Going into Nevernight, I didn’t know much about the story, other than Mia is an assassin and there’s some love interest (which is introduced pretty early on). I honestly didn’t even realize this was a book about an assassin school. Personally, I enjoyed the Harry Potter-esque class structure and the professors quite a lot. Think a demented, even-more-deadly, Hogwarts meets Celeana from the Throne of Glass series. Certain aspects of the story were surely inspired. But I found the story-line altogether to be surprisingly original, and it kept me on my toes. I finished the entire book in a matter of days, despite having many other things to be working on. Oops. 

The cast of Nevernight is wonderful. I loved Mia and her shadow-cat, Mr. Kindly. Where can I get a shadow-cat? I love the fact that, despite everyone in the story being ruthless assassins, we see some real pivotal moments within the character’s relationships and self-views. That’s not to say there’s no bad guys. There are bad guys, and you will get angry and potentially throw the book across the room. (Or in my case, angrily slam my Kindle closed and refuse to pick it back up for the rest of the day.)

One such pivotal relationship is Mia and Tric. One thing I really appreciated about this relationship is how raw it was. We see all the insecurity and conflict that comes with a real-life, teenage first relationship. The only difference is they’re being trained to kill, and that could include killing each other. Mia also acquires her first set of female friends and foes. Overall, I felt the character relationships and character building was spot on. 


Despite some of my early misgivings and disdain for the footnotes, I will be reading Godsgrave in preparation for the release of the third book in the Nevernight series. Anyone interested in a buddy read, comment below or reach out to me on Twitter (@autumnB_editor).

INDIE SPOTLIGHT: "Desperate Forest" by Cece Louise

Genres: Medieval, Fantasy, YA, Romance 

For ages: 12-16

Desperate forest.jpg

If you’re like me, sometimes you’re in the mood for some good ol’ fashioned romance. I’m not talking about romance. I mean the girl-meets-boy-fall-in-love-save-the-kingdom-along-the-way type romance. I’m also always on the lookout for books I’m comfortable recommending to younger audiences (16 and younger) and don’t feature adult language and themes. I’m not sure why it has been such a challenge to find “clean” YA books, but here we are. 

Desperate Forest by Cece Louise meets all those requirements. Not only is this a classic princess story, but the princess is also kind of awesome. She saves herself, her friends, and her kingdom. And, of course, there’s some romance along the way. 

In Desperate Forest, Princess Roselyn has fled her home after finding out that her uncle is plotting to murder her for the throne. She finds herself traversing a dangerous forest in order to reach her betrothed, and hopefully defeat her uncle with her fiancé's backing. However, the forest proves to be more challenging than she expects. Soon, she finds herself in the company of a group of travelers with questionable pasts––pasts that are more connected to her own than she realizes. 
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, its twists, and its characters. I’m excited to see what Cece has in store next, and I hope she continues on her path of writing clean YA. Go ahead and pick up a copy of Desperate Forest from Amazon for your favorite teen.

How to Become a Better Writer

It might seem like you’re either born a good writer or you’re not so fortunate. The truth is, most good writers spend years honing their skills. Almost all your favorite books were written, rewritten, reviewed, edited, and rewritten again. Writing is hard, and don’t let anyone lead to believe otherwise. So, this leads to the question: How does one become a better writer?

Practice

Just like any other skill, you cannot get better at writing without first doing it a lot. I mean, a lot. To continue progressing, you should aim to write a little bit every day. This means even when you don’t feel like it, you should be writing. The more you do something, the more it becomes second-nature. The more you produce, the better the outcome. For example, the hit singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran once said that he writes a lot of bad songs every day to get one good song. The same goes for any kind of writing.

Read

Writing is like a sport––you have to study it to be good. Read and reread your favorite books. Study how your favorite authors write. By doing this, it’s like having them as your personal mentor. By constantly reading, you’re soaking in what works and what doesn’t. Pick up a pencil and write notes while you read. This will make you more conscious of storyline, structure, dialogue, and pace in your own writing.

Use your resources

There are so many books out there for authors, some of them written by authors. Listed below are a couple resources to start with.  A good editor is also a great resource. We spend our days studying what makes a good book, and we’re always happy to help you improve as a writer.

On Writing by Stephen King

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne & Dave King

Write for you

When you’re writing a story, don’t spend time worrying about what readers will want. Write the story you want to read, and chances are other people will want to read it too.

 

Why self-publishing authors need an editor.

So, you wrote a book. What’s next?

 I view the editing process kind of like spring cleaning. You’ve been holed up writing––sure it’s cozy, and you probably straightened up a little bit as you went along––but now it’s time to get down to business. Editing your own work is always an option, but consider a couple reasons you might want to hire an editor.

You’re too close to the story

 Sometimes (all the time), it’s good to get an outside perspective on things. Fresh eyes are going to catch the grammatical errors and inconsistencies that you would have looked over. As an editor, I serve the reader first. You know your story. The reader does not yet. I want to make sure your story gets to the reader as clearly as possible.

We know our stuff

Editing includes more than spelling and grammar. Editors study what makes a good book good.  You’d be surprised how much editing goes into some of your favorite novels. I’m not here to berate your spelling and grammar. But I will make sure no embarrassing mistakes get through to print. I’m not here to tell you how to write your story, but I have read a lot about telling stories, and I can give you suggestions on how to improve on your already awesome one.

 Consider an editor your book’s best friend. We have the same goal, and it’s to make your story as amazing as it can be.