Bel and Joelene went to the Hachette blogger evening in Sydney recently to meet and listen to Holly Black speak. They had and awesome time, and here is the first of 4 videos they made to share it with us.

 



JoeleneHow long have you been writing for MDPWeb, why did you join the group, and what do you like about being part of it?

I started writing for the Burn Bright website in 2012. I wanted to get out of a reading rut and give some other authors or genres a chance and reviewing for MDPWeb seemed like the perfect opportunity. I’ve loved a lot of books that I otherwise would not have given a chance – Unidentified by Rae Mariz, Bitterwood Bible by Angela Slatter and One Small Step ed. Tehani Wessely being the stand out ones.

What creative piece are you working on, and what author would you liken your work to?

I’m in the process of writing the second book in what will hopefully be a trilogy. Stylistically, my writing is probably most similar to Sarah Rees Brennan’s. I prefer funny to angst; and what I lack in the plot and description departments, I make up for in dialogue and character.

What book have you most enjoyed reviewing for MDPWeb?

Lian Tanner’s Museum of Thieves. It was such an astoundingly good book that I needed to tell everyone about it. I began writing the review almost as soon as I had put the book down.

What’s your favourite thing to do in your downtime?

Sleeping ranks highly… At the moment outside of work I’m reading the WIP’s of two different friends so that I can give them feedback before they submit. I’m trying to get through some of my review shelf (and ideally write the reviews after). I’m working on my own story, trying to make time for friends and family, and getting ready for a Sydney trip. So right now, whenever I have the chance to sleep, I seize it.

Is there somewhere else online/in bookstores we can find your work?

Alas no. Perhaps someday, if I ever get around to submitting and someone actually accepts…

What’s your favourite TV series?

Avatar: the Last Airbender. Hands down best TV show ever. It’s funny, has consistent and believable characters, avoids shallow stereotypes, and is set in a fantasy world that is deeply complex – both physically and socially. For a kid’s cartoon, it is beyond amazing. Not only does it include a racially diverse cast of characters – including main characters – it is also inclusive of characters with disabilities, and has some pretty awesome female characters too.

Who or what is your current crush?

Agh. That’s a question. There are so many. Maybe Ada Wong? Or Marrow from the X-men? All of the X-men from the X-men? I’m just going to stop myself here; this list could get out of hand.



Joelene_tnJoelene

black -Darkest part of the forestCover

The white title nestled in twisting green foliage suits the novel. The font is reminiscent of old-fashioned hand-lettering and has sharp edges that give the impression of violence.

Characters

In a town twined so closely with magic, you’d hardly expect to find ordinary characters here. And happily, you don’t. The characters in Darkest Part are all unique – some of them making themselves unique because they were not born, blessed or cursed so. There’s the human and his changeling ‘brother’, the girl who hunts Fae and her brother who cannot escape what they gave him – no matter how much he tries.

Favourite

I’d really want to say all of them, but I guess that Hazel stands out the most for me. A bit dull considering that it’s a point in the book that everyone loves her – but I’m no exception. She’s fierce and determined and happy to be selfish if it means finding her vocation even when she knows that her vocation is not the slightest bit nice.

Least Favourite

Probably Alderking. Not because he was evil and you were supposed to hate him, but because I didn’t really feel much of anything for him.

Beginning

A horned boy sleeps in a glass coffin nestled in the woods. Through the long years, parties have pulsed around him, artists have painted him and two siblings have tried everything they could think of to free him.

Storyline

Fairfold is a town buried in the heart of an enchanted forest. Its citizens have learnt to adapt to the strange and sometimes terrifying creatures they live alongside. When the horned boy wakes, Fairfold is about to get a whole lot more dangerous.

Ending

I wasn’t sure that I liked where this story was going, but wound up loving the ending.

Thoughts

I read this in about a day while I was visiting my aunt because I’m the kind of person who will abandon my own kin if a book is good enough. Holly Black just has this way of writing characters that you want to spend time with – and one book was not enough with these guys. This feels like a stand-alone, but I will live in hope that it will turn into a trilogy.

Quote

There’s a monster in our wood

She’ll get you if you’re not good

Drag you under leaves and sticks

Punish you for all your tricks

A nest of hair and gnawed bone

You are never, ever coming –”

Belinda_kisses_tnBel:

black_forect blackCover

There are a couple of different covers to this book. I have an ARC (advanced review copy) Mine has the forestry against a brownie-orange backdrop, much like the ebook and the hardcover.

Characters

Holly has crafted some truly fun characters in this one.

Favourite

I would have to say Hazel. The girl kicks butt and is unapologetic about keeping her people safe.

Least Favourite

Hmmm… Ainsel.

Beginning

There’s a boy in the darkest part of the forest, in an enchanted sleep, held within a glass coffin.

Storyline

Hazel wakes him up and the crap hits the fan.

Ending

Dude! Read it and find out.

Thoughts

Holly Black can be a little hit and miss for me, but this book was a bullseye. I adore stand alone books that have you chomping at the bit for more. It would be great to have a bunch of books from the same reality, but not necessarily needing to be read in any particular order.

Quote

“Maybe. Just the other day, she made Carter carry dried holly berries in the pocket of his jacket. He got mad and chucked one at me. They sting like a bitch.” ~Jack talking to Ben

 

Krista McKeeth_2_tnKrista:

Black_dollCover

It’s eye catching, cute yet ominous. I prefer the white background over the the orange/brown one, personal preference.

Characters

Main character, Hazel she’s a very strong character, opinionated, and unselfish. Speaks her mind and is loyal.

Ben- Hazel’s brother. Somewhat competitive and some protective. He was bestowed the magic of music talent when he was young and is very gifted.

Severin-Horned boy coffin. He is focused and determined; on a mission, but finds time to make friends and build relationships with other characters.

Favourite

Severin- Because he’s different and has a great back story.

Least Favourite

Ben and Hazel’s parents. Nothing specifically regarding each, but I felt that the way they raised Hazel and Ben, and it’s contrast to how they are now, was sad.

Beginning

The introduction of the world and characters. They live next to a forest that has creatures of all kinds. Hazel likes to fight with her sword and pretend she is a knight. She is very protective of her brother. We learn of her guilt regarding a kiss that went horribly wrong, and Ben’s loss of his magic of music. Also there are ominous hints regarding a bargain that Hazel made, unknown to the other characters and readers until further along in the book.

Storyline

From the jacket: “Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.
At the centre of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground, and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

“Until one day, he does…

“As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?”

Ending

I really enjoyed the ending, things came full circle nicely, even though there was a bit of a surprise decision made. It fitted with the overall emotions of the book and made sense.

Thoughts

Once I finished reading the book, I sat and thought about if for a while. The characters really made the story for me and I found them admirable. The world building is imaginative and story line is exciting and full of adventure. I liked this book, and I recommend  it.

Quote

“Hazel kissed boys for all kinds of reasons — because they were cute, because she was a little drunk, because she was bored, because they let her, because it was fun, because they looked lonely, because it blotted out her fears for a while, because she wasn’t sure how many kisses she had left.”

“You and your sister are very dear to each other. To show your regard, you give each other lovely bouquets of lies.”

 

http://blackholly.com/

Hardcover, 328 pages

Published February 5th 2015 by Indigo (first published January 13th 2015)

ISBN 1780621736 (ISBN13: 9781780621739

 

Discussion Topics

Everyone has more than one self – though maybe not as noticeably as Hazel. Which of your selves do you not trust?

Hazel is overwhelmingly filled with thoughts of kissing. Funny side topic or distracting angst?

There are some side stories in which we learn about the townsfolk’s interactions with the creatures of the forest; which was your favourite?



Joelene_tnTomorrowland reviewed by Joelene Pynnonen

 

tomorrowland-movieThe world is hovering on the brink of crisis. Wars are escalating, climate change is an ever increasing threat, and too few people are doing anything to combat it. For Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) letting the world fail around her is not an option. She has high hopes for the future and is willing to break the law to see them realised.

When Casey is bailed out of jail, the unfamiliar ‘60s pin she finds in her effects seems innocuous enough. It’s only when she touches it that she realises that it is like nothing she has encountered before. When against her skin, the pin transports her to an advanced and beautiful world; the kind of world that she can’t help but want to be a part of.

Tomorrowland is a wonderfully hopeful movie about the future – especially given how many gloomy dystopias have been popping up lately. I mean, I love a solid dystopia as much as the next person, but sometimes it’s nice to think of the world in terms of positives as well.

There’s quite a lot to see in Tomorrowland. The special effects are terrific, the storyline is solid – if simple, and the scenery and cinematography is stunning. It’s the characters that kept me riveted though. They’re by turns funny, admirable and compelling. Athena (Raffey Cassidy) is a robot who is amazing at finding people with vision and integrity and is pretty handy in a fight but lacks the ability to understand the emotions of those she recruits. Casey is a visionary – a dreamer who will do what it takes to make the world something better. Frank (George Clooney) is jaded after being rejected by Tomorrowland and finding himself unable to fit back into the real world. On their own these characters are interesting, but together they have a dynamic that is difficult to ignore.

There could have been more depth to the world of Tomorrowland. We see very little of it in the movie and there is so much anticipation of it that it is a little of a disappointment. That said there are some really inventive scenes involving contraptions made by Frank, which makes up for a lot of that.

Tomorrowland is everything that the teaser trailer promised – a fantastical journey through a visually stunning landscape. It is adventure at its best with wonderful characters, a lashing of humour and vibrant visuals. It’s a refreshing break from all of the dismal futuristic visions out there.



westerfeld_afterworlds picBel:

Cover

An eye catching monochrome image of a water droplet (I think it’s supposed to be a teardrop) falling into an inky blackness. It represents the book really well. I also like the stylistic decision to add a grey header for the pages containing the story within the story.

Characters

Since there are effectively two books within one, there is a larger than usual cast, or at least it seems that way.

Favourite

Mindy, a sweet character who is successfully designed to bring out the protective urges in the readers.

Least Favourite

I think I’ll bug a few people here, but I really didn’t like Darcy. Maybe I see a little too much of myself in her to have sympathy for her.

Beginning

Darcy has sold her first book; she moves to New York to write book 2. We also read through Darcy’s first book.

Storyline

We follow the ups and downs of Darcy’s reckless abandon.

Ending

Reality checks and hard work.

Thoughts

I appreciate the artistry of a book within a book: both with female leads and both mostly credible in their execution. I usually have a major issue with guys writing women because there are parts of the fairer sex that don’t necessarily translate; however, Scott passes muster in my opinion. Darcy may have made me uncomfortable, but that is my issue, not the character’s.

I almost want to reread the books separately and see if they’re stronger or weaker without the other.

Quote

“Kill your darlings,” Imogen said. ~Imogen talking to Darcy

 

scottauthor_1200Joelene

Cover

The stylised droplet hitting inky darkness gives an attractive, high-contrast look.

Characters

There are two sets of characters. The ‘real’ ones; Darcy, her friends, family and people she meets on her publishing journey. Then there are Darcy’s characters – the ones that exist in her debut novel.

Favourite

Imogen. It’s hard not to like Imogen. She’s witty, smart and assertive. All of the awesome New York scenes involved her – whether she was demanding to be taken hostage in car trunks or typing phobias into her phone.

Least Favourite

Darcy. There were occasions that I liked her when she was with Imogen, but overall found her kind of Mary Sue-ish. She succeeds too easily at what she’s doing without seeming to have any ability to analyse her process or the themes of her writing.

Beginning

Darcy Patel has just scored the publishing contract of her dreams – now all she has to do is convince her parents to let her skip a year of college to write in New York City.

When terrorists target the airport that Lizzie is at, she finds herself hiding in the most unlikely of places – the afterworld.

Storyline

The story-line of Afterworlds is actually split. One plot follows the author, Darcy, as she navigates New York, publishing and dating. The other story is that of Darcy’s novel, Afterworlds, told in full on alternating chapters. It follows Lizzie who, having survived a massacre, now has to deal with being able to see the dead and cross into their world.

Ending

The endings are too different from each other to sum up; except perhaps to say happiness is not guaranteed.

Thoughts

I get what Westerfeld was going for here, but ultimately this six hundred page novel read more like the rough drafts of two three hundred page novels. Westerfeld has this crazy, unique imagination that’s evident in Lizzie’s story. Her amazing first chapter reels you in – but the rest of her story doesn’t live up to the potential of that first scene. I’m not sure if Westerfeld was holding back on that storyline so that it wouldn’t overshadow Darcy’s chapters, but from other novels of his that I’ve read, he’s capable of more.

Darcy’s part of the story should have been awesome, but it ends up being a glamorised fantasy of what author life is rather than anything resembling reality. Westerfeld has an entire scene dedicated to pointing out how vital conflict is to a novel, and then he fails to provide Darcy with any.

Afterworlds felt as though it should have sat on the back-burner a little longer. There are some valuable themes here – race, sexual identity, religion, but altogether it feels unpolished.

Quote

“I met the man of my dreams in an airport, just before midnight a few days into the New Year. I was changing planes in Dallas, and I almost died.”

 

Westerfeld_SpecialsKrista:

Cover

Much love for this cover because of how well it fits the story of Afterworlds (the fictional story within the contemporary NA story)  The teardrop and the the misty dark inky image at the bottom were a very good and fitting choice.

Characters

Too many to name; there are a lot of people that come and go throughout the book, but the focus is on Darcy and her struggle with taking her first steps into the publishing world and becoming an author.

Favourite
Yamaraj and Mindy. By choosing two of the most minor characters in the book as my favorites may reflect how I felt about the book overall.

Least Favourite

Lizzie and Darcy-Lizzie being the lead character in the actual fictional book Afterworlds, and Darcy being the lead in the whole book and author of Afterworlds. There was not particularly anything specific about them I didn’t like but I thought both characters were very bland.

Beginning

Darcy has just decided to tell her parents she is putting off going to college because she has sold her first novel. She intends to move to New York for awhile and has the budget to cover it.

Storyline

As the young Darcy sets out to make a career as an author she has a lot of learning to do and people to meet. Along the way the reader gets insights into her book ‘Afterworlds’ and the publishing world (social networks and marketing).

Ending

Lessons are learned, hope is gained, and the battle of the next book ensues.

Thoughts

I listened to the audiobook on this one, and it had two separate narrators: one who was entertaining to listen to, the other as monotone as could be. I would not personally suggest the aud-iobook; pick up the book on this one if you are interested. I had a hard time engaging with the story.

I was curious about Darcy’s story and the insides of publishing, but as it continued, I found myself becoming quite critical–how many times a word was used, when people or settings were not fully described. Through all of Darcy’s story, it felt like all the air was slowly getting let out of my balloons of inspiration in a writing career. Informative in an interesting way, but it depressed me.

Quote

“In a novel you always knew the moment when something Happened, when someone Changed. But real life was full of gradual, piecemeal, continuous transformation. It was full of accidents and undefineables, and things that just happened on their own. The only certainty was ‘It’s complicated,’ whether or not unicorns tolerated your touch.”

 

 

Discussion Topics:

The main storyline of this book revolves around Darcy. How does the title Afterworlds apply to her story (not the fictional one she is writing but her life represented in this novel)?

Darcy states that she “stole” ideas to help form her story. Do you think that is the correct word? How would you describe the process of idea-making?

It’s important to have a multicultural cast of characters in any novel, but where’s the line between inclusion and appropriation?



Keep in contact through the following social networks or via RSS feed:

  • Follow on Facebook
  • Follow on Twitter
  • Follow on Pinterest
  • Follow on Google+
  • Follow on GoodReads
  • Follow on Tumblr
  • Follow on LinkedIn
  • Follow on Keek
  • Follow on YouTube
  • Subscribe