Saturday, November 29, 2014

Tea Time: Evolution

**Warning: Spoilers May Abound**

Evolution, Kate Wrath (E #2)

Outpost Three is still standing… barely. But the deadliest threat it has ever faced is on its way-- a violent force that will annihilate every man, woman, and child.

With the Sentries under his control and Grey’s army defeated, Matt is more powerful than ever. Eden is little more than his prisoner, but that line is blurring as her affection for him grows. Now, as the Outpost faces total destruction, Matt must sacrifice the possibility of attaining Eden’s love in the vague hope that her past might hold the key to saving them all.

Eden’s journey will begin to unravel the mysteries of her previous life, reveal dangerous new questions, and change not only the future of Outpost Three, but shape the course of history.
This eagerly anticipated sequel to Kate Wrath’s E begins an epic quest into the dark, dystopian landscape of Eden’s world. (source:goodreads)

Narrative-As with the first book in the series, EVOLUTION is told from the first-person POV of Eden. Also as with the first book, this one started out with the same kind of entrancingly beautiful language, Eden's voice coming through in an almost poetic way as she made her way through the strange world around her.

What made me sad, though, was that the poetic language disappeared. I remembered a lot of it in the first book, and I found myself a bit disappointed when I blinked and realized that it was gone.

However, that didn't stop the book from retaining an overall enjoyable voice for Eden. It's still incredibly readable and easy to get lost in.

Plot-In the first book, what I liked so much was the way in which the plot was kept largely internalized: in terms of Eden's person life, and in terms of the futuristic world that Wrath built (as in: there wasn't much to be said about anything outside of Outpost Three). The setting was extremely well set, so even when I entered EVOLUTION I knew my way around enough to not be disoriented (as can sometimes happen when you wait a few months/a year between books). This, I liked: the world building she'd already accomplished for Outpost Three was continued in this sequel, so much so that I felt as disoriented as Eden probably was when she and a small band left.

However, a few things started to get bumpy. The plot of this novel revolves around Eden finally getting answers about who she is, how she knows things about the Sentries, what the deal is with those white towers she always sees in her dreams, and also touches slightly on the fact that she has no clue what she and Jonas meant to each other back before being 'erased'. As a reader, I was stoked: finally, we get some answers too; as Eden adventures into the world, so, too, will the reader finally get a picture of what things look like outside of Outpost Three and how things got so...desperate.

Yet I wasn't sure I got as firm of a hold as I'd hoped. Eden travels with Jonas and Apollon (mainly), through different cities that are still standing (such as Minneapolis, St. Louis, Baton Rouge) in order to make her way to the white towers that each have, until finally finding the one tower that holds her answers. Along the way, the cities are mad. Completely crazy, in more ways than one (and one of them is literally going crazy, mentally). And while a few of them had interesting events happening, there wasn't any explanation to how the cities managed to get themselves under these particular rules: one of them is overcome with gang violence, while one of them is a city completely ruled by women. Why? There were so many of these moments that I wondered how many of them could be completely cut out of the novel without completely changing the plot.

So the lack of answers is what particularly got to me. Which kind of messed with the pacing a bit.

However, what I liked about the first book did reappear in terms of: while the world is going to hell, Eden's also trying to find her place in it. Will she try to be Lily, her past self from before getting erased? Will she try to simply be Eden? How can she live with herself when she has to kill, strangers or people who put their trust in her? How could the people of the past create such a desolate future? Where do people go to get erased? how does the erasing procedure work? Who's the one who does the erasing? I mean, I feel like there were hints that there's a larger force at play, here; whether I'm right or wrong, there was never any proof to let me know, no windows to toss me a few scraps.

I mean, I love when a character's mental state and emotions are put through the blender a few times, though. So that was incredible, simply getting a grasp of what, exactly, is going through Eden's mind through every test and trial she's put through. So it remained on an internal level on that sense; I guess I kind of just wish that, regardless, there was a little bit more information made available to me.

Characters-Once again, Wrath did an absolutely fantastic job with her characters. In EVOLUTION, the main players include Eden, Jonas, Apollon, and Matt. not for the first time, Eden proves to be an amazing kick-ass character, willing to do whatever it takes to protect the people she cares about.

Even though that normally involves other people dying. The first part of the novel was completely about Eden trying to grapple with her new status at Matt's side within Outpost Three, knowing that everyone in her old family (Jonas, Apollon, Miranda, Neveah) probably hate her, and knowing that she risked other people's lives in order to keep them alive. It's a heavy burden, and Eden's character is definitely forced to grapple with a lot of questions about who she's going to be now that she's got everything at her fingertips except the things she wants most.

Jonas and Apollon: once again, they're such awesome blood brothers. Jonas was a tad moody throughout the novel, but Wrath gave him good reason: he's basically struggling with the same things Eden is, since he led a revolution and it failed. He's also dealing with the fact that he and Eden knew each other once upon a time, and they had some kind of weird history together. Apollon, though, is a giant goofball. His character is really revealed during a stint where he and Eden are travelling, alone, through the winter woods, and he becomes more of a big brother to Eden during the course of this book than I ever saw coming.

Matt's just trying to...well, he's trying to be Matt. And he goes a little Christmas crazy, which was funny and a tad adorable.

I think what probably made this novel the best was the development of characters I'd already grown to love. Nothing popped out as strange or stuck in without reason; it's just a bunch of characters trying to figure out what the hell they're doing with their lives, and the lives around them.

Alright, so who's looking forward to the third book with me? I expect lots of answers, and lots of the same amazing characters. If ya'll haven't read E or EVOLUTION, yet, I suggest ya'll do so, now.

Final Answer: 4 / 5

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Love great character development? EVOLUTION @KateWrath (E #2) earns 4 / 5 stars. Read the review via @Rae_Slater. (Click to Tweet)

@Rae_Slater reviews EVOLUTION @KateWrath and gives it 4 / 5 stars. Find out how it holds up to its predecessor, E (Click to Tweet)

Special thanks to Kate Wrath, who provided me with a copy of Evolution to read and review. Everybody, please go check her out.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A 2014 Thanksgiving

Quick post today, because not only am I eager to officially kick-start my Thanksgiving, I'm sure ya'll are, too (if ya'll haven't already).

I just wanted to give all of ya'll a quick thank you: to my readers, to my friends (old and new), and most of all to every other writer and author out there who continues to inspire me to keep writing and following my dreams. It's because of ya'll that so many great things have happened to me this past year, and so many opportunities have led to me being extremely hopeful about my future for once in my life.

Ya'll are incredible. Truly.

Now, if you're American and you're reading this: go eat lots of good food. Even if you're not: still go eat good food because good food is fantastic.

Hppy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Flashbacks: Do Them Right, Or Not At All

Alright, here's a disclaimer: I think flashbacks are one of those things that some like and some hate and some are indifferent toward; please keep in mind that my comments about this aspect of novel-writing are coming from a mostly inexperienced writer currently learning the craft and trying to improve, and that I'm probably coming as much from a reader, today, as I'm coming from a writer. Also, every novel is different, and, obviously, I cannot tell you what to do with your life or your books.

So that being said: flashbacks. Also, I'm going to try to work on making my posts not-so-exceedingly-long, so I'll just dive in, shall I?

There are reasons to use flashbacks, and there are reasons not to use flashbacks.

Do not rely on flashbacks to give out simple background information about any aspect of your novel. If you find that you're using flashbacks a lot to let the reader know about things that happened in the past, then maybe consider starting your book earlier?

Do use flashbacks as a garnish. Or a frosting. Or sprinkles. Whichever metaphor you choose, you want more of the actual meat of the novel than the extras.  They're supposed to enhance the narrative, not completely overwhelm it. Don't make your reader search for what's happening in the here and now (besides, too many flashbacks can give your reader whiplash much in the same way that changing POVs too often does).

Do not mix flavors that have no business being anywhere near each other (to go back to the food metaphors). Flashbacks are like those random memories you get in the middle of your day: something somebody says or does, or something you see, or something that happens, etc. brings up certain and specific memories. Those are flashbacks. Which means that if you're using a flashback, it should have some kind of connection to what's happening in the here and now of your character's life. Don't let it be something random; otherwise, it looks like you panicked, opened to a random page, and just kind of shoved it in. Give the reader a lead-in, and make it obvious why you're putting it where you're putting it.

Do give it some sort of emotional significance. This is my personal alternative for using them as background information: the narrative of the here and now should explain to the reader why this event is important. Use the flashback to explain to the reader exactly how the character felt. Emotion and tension go a long way in putting the reader in the shoes of your character and explaining to them why the event is so significant in their mind (that is: why they're thinking of it).

Basically use flashbacks far and few between. My advice is to stay away from them if you can, but then again there are some instances where they will do a far better job at getting your point across. I've personally used them, and I enjoy using them only if I know I can do them right. Likewise, I love reading them only if they're done right.

My biggest pet peeve goes all the way to point number one: if you're relying on a flashback to give background information to the reader, please reconsider your options. They become tedious that way, and you want every word that you write to pack the biggest punch.

So, honestly: what are ya'll's thoughts on flashbacks? When should you use them, when should you shy away? I'm genuinely curious: let's have a discussion about this, shall we?

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Tea Time: The 100

**Warning: Spoilers May Abound**

The 100, Kass Morgan

In the future, humans live in city-like spaceships orbiting far above Earth's toxic atmosphere. No one knows when, or even if, the long-abandoned planet will be habitable again. But faced with dwindling resources and a growing populace, government leaders know they must reclaim their homeland... before it's too late.

Now, one hundred juvenile delinquents are being sent on a high-stakes mission to recolonize Earth. After a brutal crash landing, the teens arrive on a savagely beautiful planet they've only seen from space. Confronting the dangers of this rugged new world, they struggle to form a tentative community. But they're haunted by their past and uncertain about the future. To survive, they must learn to trust - and even love - again.(source:goodreads)

Narrative-This book is told in the third person POV from the perspective of four different characters: Clarke, Wells, Glass, and Bellamy. Three of them report from Earth, and one the spaceship hovering in outer space, and while I did like seeing what was happening both in space and on the ground, I found the narrative extremely jolting at times.

To start: there are too many points of view. Period. One of them I'm fairly sure wasn't even needed, which means this book could have easily been cut to three POVs maximum. Because there are so many characters telling the story, it was hard to get a grasp on any of them, and I felt like I only got to skim the surface of each before a new chapter came and the perspective shifted, which didn't do much in the department of shaping well-crafted characters.

Also, there was a huge reliance on flashbacks to tell the backgrounds of these characters. There were too many, almost one per chapter (not always, but almost) and it took a lot of time away from shaping the present; in addition, I couldn't really see a connection between many of the flashbacks and their present counterparts (as in: the present part of the novel is supposed to offer some kind of lead in, but it seemed totally unrelated to the flashback that came with it most times).

I love books with multiple character perspectives; there's so much that can be done with them, and I like that they offer so many different outlooks on the events happening. Overall, though, there was so little depth to the characters and the plot that I feel like having so many characters tell the story, as well as relying on flashbacks to tell the reader what's already happened, was a setback.

Plot-The plot of this book is what pulled me in. From the moment I read the back cover blurb, I thought to myself: "Teenage criminals being sent to Earth as an experiment and they're expected to make a community? Totally Lord of the Flies-esque. Sweet!"

The idea still appeals to me. The basis of the story is: 100 young criminals are sent to Earth in order to determine whether the atmosphere is livable. Right as the dropship is launching, a sibling of one of the siblings fights his way on board, and in the midst of the struggle one of the criminals escapes back into the ship. That criminal is pardoned (for nefarious reasons, certainly), and the rest of them crash-land to Earth, where they attempt to create some semblance of a civil society and where it doesn't quite work out that well.

Like I said, a plot line that I thought would be incredible. But:

-I felt like this is only the beginning of a story. Yes, there's a sequel, but what I mean is that I feel like the events of the story were an exposition. There wasn't enough depth, and I ultimately felt like not enough happened within the story to give me enough satisfaction upon finishing.

-This story also relies heavily-too heavily, in my opinion-on a series of love stories between multiple characters. And I mean, I love a good love story, but not when it's done so...stereotypically? Superficially?

-The flashbacks told more of a story than the actual narrative did, and I, as the reader, was kept in the dark about way too much for way too long. Halfway through the book I was a bit angry at the fact that there were always these almost moments, and then it was dropped. I almost didn't finish the book for that reason.

-I mentioned this before, but: depth. The story was too shallow. There wasn't enough background delivered in a comprehensive way, so I didn't feel like this book was fleshed out too much.

-There were a lot of plot holes and things that were sort of glossed over in a not-so-nice way. Like when Glass is pardoned, when all her mother did was leave, come back, and then say: "It's all taken care of!" Why was she so easily pardoned when she could have just been executed? What did her mother do to smooth things over? Basically, things like that.

Characters-Okay, I would love to go through these one at a time, but let's just say that I found the same problems with each of the characters:

They were all too shallow. What was a bit disconcerting was that each of them was portrayed as a love-sick fool. Even Clarke, who I wanted to love (I wanted to love her so freaking bad because her first chapter was so freaking awesome). She's definitely the strongest of the group, in my opinion, and I loved that she actually had some kind of knowledge inside of her: she's dubbed as the medical expert when they land on Earth, since she was a medical apprentice under her parents-both previously well-respected researchers.

Yet everything kept coming down to hormones. Clarke kissed a guy she barely knew; right after that she kissed a guy she was supposed to hate. Her best friend, lying injured in a tent the entire novel, keeps going on and on about Clarke is meant to be with Wells. Glass breaks every rule conceivable to get back with her old boyfriend, who she rudely dumped instead of trying to talk things out with him. Then they get back together and can only say and do mushy things towards each other.

Wells does everything in his power to be with Clarke, which by the end (learning a few of his secrets) came off as more of an obsession than a cute, "he'll do anything to be with her" type thing.

Bellamy? Well...I really have no clue what he was doing there except for providing a weak love triangle for the Clarke-Wells thing.

Basically: a lot of their decisions didn't make sense. They all have extremely powerful pasts, and I think those pasts could have been used to make their characters a lot stronger. Yet...they were all a bit cardboard. Which made me really sad.

Also: the minute anybody disagreed with anyone, or asked a question "the wrong way," or attempted to figure things out, the answer was always: "You Phoenix girls are such snobs and sluts and why did I ever think you were different?"

Yeah, that was the result for every single girl who came from a particular section of the spaceship. First result for all of them. The only kind of response that the one guy from this section got was a series of battles in which he and the other boys flexed their muscles and eventually...nothing happened. He eventually got everyone's respect, and I felt like it happened really quickly.

Again: I really wanted to love these characters. Especially Clarke. I think she was the best-developed character out of all of them, but even she fell flat sometimes.

Final Answer: 1.75 / 5

I might pick up the sequel. Maybe. Because I kind of would like to know what happens next. Yet, at the same time, I felt like there was a lot of work that could have gone toward polishing this book, and if the next is the same way?

Well, we'll see.

Have ya'll read this book? What'd you think? Am I just missing something?

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THE 100 @kassmorganbooks looked promising, but fell flat in quite a few ways. Read the review via @Rae_Slater (Click to Tweet)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Work Never Stops

Don't take that phrase lightly, because it is absolutely true.

As I write this, I have one class and four hours of work standing between me and disappearing from college for a week. I'm celebrating Thanksgiving with my family at home (as usual, and I honestly wouldn't have it any other way), but guess what's coming with me?

That's right, you probably guessed it. I'm in college, which means I'm bringing homework with me. I've got a monster amount of final projects to start and attempt to finish (or at least make some semblance of progress).

But instead of talking about that, let's look at this as if I weren't in college.

I'd still go home. I'd still bring with me lots of work to do. Because I'd have my writing, I'd have my blogging. I'd have books to read. And while that all might not sound like work, I'm not qualifying "work" as things that are occasionally a pain in the rear end to do.

I'm talking: you will always have something to do that's important to you. Particularly if you're in the blogging/writing business in some form or another. There's another post to write, another book to review, another hundred words that needs to be written.

It's totally awesome. Why is it awesome? Because that is everything in life I love to do, no matter how many times writing, reading, editing, etc. makes me want to bash my head into a wall. It's basically my favorite thing to do (the work, not the bashing my head into a wall).

I just really wish that's all I had to do next week. Let's drop back into reality: I've still got school (until December 13th. Then I'm free for a month until the spring semester starts in January).

So what's my point: you will always have work to do. Just try and make it the kind of work that you enjoy. We don't always get a choice, but when we do: take it and run far, far away.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Rae's 20th Birthday Bash

I think I'll make this post short: in exactly one week, I turn 20 years old. And it is the season of giving, and Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and one of my favorite things to do for my birthday is to give things to people.

Therefore: I'm holding a giveaway, because who doesn't love free book money?

Weird, non-bookish people, that's who.

Since I'm turning 20 years old, I'm giving one person a Barnes and Noble Gift Card worth $20 (US only). You'll have exactly one week to enter, and the winner will be chosen at random. Just fill out the Rafflecopter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, November 17, 2014

Antagonists: Make Them Unique

Once again, I was completely at a loss for what to write about today (seriously, please make recommendations about what ya'll would like to see me talk about in regards to writing. It would be beneficial for all of us). Then I woke up this morning, got my coffee and cereal, sat down and started watching the news.

No, this isn't about the news. Once I sat down and turned on the television, I started thinking about IN A HANDFUL OF DUST, by Mindy McGinnis. Also known as: the book I reviewed last Saturday.

What got me thinking were the "villains." I'm using quotes because they aren't really the "villain" of the story, just a variety of antagonists; unfortunately, my mind tends to make certain words synonyms for each other instead of leaving them as related terms. Basically, I'm apologizing right now for jumbling up the two words.

Right here is where I stopped writing this post, stared at the title (which read: "Villains: Make Them Unique") and decided to change it to "Antagonists: Make Them Unique. Definitely makes more sense, now.

Anyway, what got me thinking was the fact that there are a number of antagonists in McGinnis' most recent book (off the top of my head I'm thinking three, but there could most definitely be more). Each one of them was completely different from another.

How's that possible, though? They all want the same thing: food, water, weapons, survival. And, yet, they all manage to have their own personalities, their own wants and fears, and their own methods for getting what they think will suit them best.

Their differences are extremely important when it comes to writing antagonists. Heck, it's important for writing any character in your book (villains, protagonists, side-characters). Consider the fact that they need to stand out; they need to have a shape all their own, and if they start looking/sounding/thinking/acting the same, then what's the point of having more than one? It doesn't matter how many you have (although, really, don't go overboard; like I said, IN A HANDFUL OF DUST had, like, three, and that's basically three groups, with certain people at the head. Those are the antagonists I'm talking about), just remember to treat them all like people.

Look at Harry Potter. Draco Malfoy is an extremely consistent antagonist whose attitude stems from basically being the spoiled little rich body with a superiority complex. He hates being shown up, and he also kind of hates the fact that Harry Potter is a more well-known name than his own. Later in the series, he simply becomes desperate as Voldemort claims a hold over his entire life. His attentions even switch from making Harry's life miserable to struggling with his own demons.

What about Dudley, Uncle Vernon, and Aunt Petunia? Their antagonism comes from their belief that anything that is not human is freakish. Also consider the fact: Petunia's sister got killed by bad magic. She'd already alienated Lily for her freakish tendencies, and then she gets killed by them? Well, by golly, she knew all along there was something wrong and dangerous about magic. Why on earth would you want your nephew following in the same footsteps?

And don't forget the Minister of Magic, who, through the entire fifth book, did everything in his power to make Harry and Dumbledore and anyone associated with them look like crackpot fools. Because he was afraid; nobody wanted to return to the dark days of Voldemort.

Fear really is an excellent motivator for people, don't you think?

Those are just three examples (and I think we all know by now that there are countless antagonists in the Harry Potter series).

To wrap this up, here are just a few things that I feel are good things to look at and think about when drudging up an antagonist:

Setting-more than just the overall world (since that's impacting everyone), look at their individual experience with the world. How have certain events and people influenced them through their life? How has that shaped and molded their outlook?

Background-before they entered the present world of your novel, before they met the protagonist: what was their life like?  Who or what made them the way they are? How did they survive to their current age and mental state, and how did those experiences make them see things differently?

Motivation-extremely key for any kind of character: why are they doing what they're doing? What's in it for them? What's fueling their actions?

Relationship to the Protagonist-here's a big one. See, the antagonist wouldn't be an antagonist unless they were somehow keeping the protagonist from their goal, right? Which means that at some point, in some small or large way, they're going to interact with your main character. What about the protagonist makes them tick? Why are they at odds, what's the conflict between them?

Limits-how far are they willing to go to get what they want/keep the protagonist from getting what they want? What's their limit? How far will they go until they refuse to go further? Will they kill? Will they blackmail? Torture? Subject themselves to someone else's power, sit back and watch another character do dastardly deeds and say nothing?

So, that's not the entire list. By far. But I mean, just some things to think about when thinking about the character(s) that pop up in a bad situation just to make things work.

So I ask you: how do you think up your antagonists?

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Tea Time: In a Handful of Dust

Guys I'm going to be squealing so much about this book. You have been warned.

**Warning: Spoilers May Abound**

In a Handful of Dust, Mindy McGinnis

The only thing bigger than the world is fear.

Lucy’s life by the pond has always been full. She has water and friends, laughter and the love of her adoptive mother, Lynn, who has made sure that Lucy’s childhood was very different from her own. Yet it seems Lucy’s future is settled already—a house, a man, children, and a water source—and anything beyond their life by the pond is beyond reach.

When disease burns through their community, the once life-saving water of the pond might be the source of what’s killing them now. Rumors of desalinization plants in California have lingered in Lynn’s mind, and the prospect of a “normal” life for Lucy sets the two of them on an epic journey west to face new dangers: hunger, mountains, deserts, betrayal, and the perils of a world so vast that Lucy fears she could be lost forever, only to disappear in a handful of dust.

In this companion to Not a Drop to Drink
, Mindy McGinnis thrillingly combines the heart-swelling hope of a journey, the challenges of establishing your own place in the world, and the gripping physical danger of nature in a futuristic frontier. (source:goodreads)

Narrative-IN A HANDFUL OF DUST is told from the third person POV, largely from the perspective of Lucy (whereas in NOT A DROP TO DRINK the story was told in Lynn's perspective). Anyway, McGinnis is basically a master of snark, and it shows through the narrative and the dialogue, and it's something that was constantly able to make me smile. There's careful attention taken to the kinds of knowledge Lucy does and doesn't have (such as the importance of a five-gallon bucket versus what a pool is), and I feel like it just catapults the writing to a whole new level.

By the way, remember how excited i get reading a book in the third person POV? This book made me so happy just for that reason.

The one downside I have (and it is truly painful taking one star away because of this) is that, occasionally, the writing felt a bit jumbled. One sentence felt weird beside another; maybe it was a repetition of words or something, but more than a few times I was tripped up. Also, while I love poetry (and McGinnis took the title of this book from a T.S. Eliot poem and T.S. Eliot is my favorite poet ever), there were a few smatterings of poetry in there when the characters were quoting straight from a book they'd read in the past, and occasionally it just felt...weird?

Fortunately, this didn't happen often. All that really matters: the style of narrative is almost perfect, and it is so easy to get lost in.

Plot-Now, let me tell you right away that this book, just like McGinnis' NOT A DROP TO DRINK, is not completely action-filled-edge-of-your-seat-thriller. It's definitely slower paced than many other novels, especially considering its genre and setting in the post-apocalyptic of sorts.

I will beg ya'll not to let that be your deciding factor.

The charm in this book is that it's a book about survival. In the direst circumstances, in the nastiest of ways (both literally and figuratively). Lynn's a girl (well, now a woman) who grew up with a cold-ish heart, doing whatever necessary to stay alive and protect what's hers; Lucy's one who was mostly spared from a grisly childhood. Both of them have now been thrust into a scenario that neither of them are prepared for, in surroundings that are both the same and different.

And what I love most of all? It's filled with so many truths. About life in general, about survival. It all applies both to the situation created here and in our own lives, and every time I came across one of these moments it felt simply natural.

I also almost cried. Damn it, and my record for reading a book without crying has actually looked pretty good, lately.

The bottom line, is: no, there's not a lot of action. And yet, there is, and a lot of it is a beautiful mental game interspersed with some truly wicked people that Lynn and Lucky meet out on the road. Every now and again they find someone decent, but the fleetingness of those moments are truly quick to pass and actually reminded me of how short times last. Nothing good can last forever, right?

A bleak look at a future, but totally hopeful. None of the stories ever really ended, and it was absolutely beautiful.

Characters-Based on what I said previously, it should come as no surprise when I say: there's really only two main characters worth actually talking about. Therefore, this might get long because I absolutely adore the both of them.

Are ya'll ready for this?

Lynn. I cannot express how excited I was to see Lynn again after the events in NOT A DROP TO DRINK. She's independent, trusts nobody, and at least pretends to know what she's doing. Considering that's basically me in a literary nutshell. And guess what? IN A HANDFUL OF DUST is roughly ten years later, and she's still got all of her coarse and mistrusting sass with her, along with that fabulous rifle of hers. And it's even better, because Lucy is all grown up and can sass her right back, and let's face it: she might not be Lynn's biological daughter, but Lynn managed to pass along all of her stubbornness and will to survive. Even better? Her love for Lucy and her determination to keep her alive and happy make her an even rougher human being; she's a mama bear protecting her cub, no matter what, and she literally will not die if Lucy forbids it.

I'm not even kidding. Read the book and you'll find out, and your respect for Lynn will skyrocket.

Lucy. She is such a sweetheart and just as stubborn as Lynn and I can't even hate her for it. I mentioned already how the two girls are basically the same, but they're also both incredibly different. Where Lynn would prefer to shoot every stranger she meets and never find out if they were good or bad, Lucy, for the most part, is willing to think them good until they do something bad. Now, mark my words: she's not trusting them. That's something she's learned from Lynn. But more often than not her softer heart is more likely to give them chances that they might have missed otherwise. She's had an opportunity that Lynn never had: a chance to grow up in relative safety, around people who more than likely weren't trying to kill her. This means she has a capacity for more compassion, and throughout the entire novel there's an inner struggle for Lucy over whether this makes her weak or not. There's a few references to her real mother (who is only present in NOT A DROP TO DRINK), and her thought is that since her mother committed suicide, then she, too, must not be strong enough to survive without the help of somebody like Lynn by her side.

And I think that struggle is real for many people, that question of whether being dependent on somebody makes one weak, and whether their traits are carried biologically or through the caretaker. Is Lucy meant to carry on in the steps of her birth mother, or of the woman who raised her?

These characters are obviously special, and they will probably always have a place in my heart. There's other characters that show up, too: Vera, Stebbs, a man named Fletcher, a woman named Joss, a Ben, Ben's father, a Dan...that's a pretty good sum, and they're listed in no particular order. What I loved about all of them? There's no formula to know who's good and who's bad. And all of them have reasons for doing what they do, which brings up one of my favorite questions in terms of survivalist tales: how far would you go to live another day?

Okay, is there any real, comprehensible way for me to tell you how much I adore and love this book? And McGinnis in general? If ya'll haven't already, put up the first book set in this world, NOT A DROP TO DRINK, starring a younger Lynn. It's not required to read it before IN A HANDFUL OF DUST, since this one is a companion novel, and not strictly a sequel, so there really is no excuse not to read both of them. I'm sorry, did that not make sense?

Yeah, that apology wasn't exactly sincere. Go read these books. You won't regret it.

Final Answer:  4.75 / 5

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One road, two stubborn girls. IN A HANDFUL OF DUST @MindyMcGinnis gets almost 5 stars. Read the review via @Rae_Slater (Click to Tweet)

@Rae_Slater raves over IN A HANDFUL OF DUST @MindyMcGinnis, giving it 4.75 / 5 stars. Read the review (Click to Tweet)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Dreams and Nightmares of the Stupidly Optimistic

So a certain someone told me last week that they wanted to hear about my nightmares and crazy fantasies of freedom and wealth. I'm actually not lying, either:
In case ya'll can't tell, Chris is awesome. Just one of the few of the awesome people I've met and interacted with since joining the Twittersphere. But this post isn't about Twitter. I decided to take Chris up on his offer and spill my guts.

Are ya'll ready for this?


First, I wanted to be a detective. When I was little, I got my "real" start in being a bookworm by reading the Nancy Drew novels, and to this day I have the entire collection on my bookshelf. Nancy was such a strong, smart, and fashionable heroine that I fell in love and wanted to do everything she did.

Then I wanted to be a zoologist because, well, zoologists get to work in zoos and be around animals all the time. Which I thought was awesome.

Then I wanted to become a forensic anthropologist because I loved the show Bones and thought, "I want to do that!"

Each and every one of those things had the same thing in common (although, for the second one, I can't remember where the spark came from): what I wanted to become had a base in fictional worlds. So, eventually, I thought: why not take my dreams, and shove them into a world that I create on my own?

Therefore, I started writing, and I found my niche. I love the fact that I can be whatever I want just by diving into the minds of my characters. They can be the detective, the animal lover, the investigator of dead bodies. And they can do so much more.

So my dreams and my "crazy fantasies" involve me, sitting in a cozy studio apartment somewhere in New England, and tapping away at my laptop. There will also be a mischievous cat named Mako trying to knock my coffee over. It's that kind of life that makes me happy, and even if I don't make millions, if I can somehow pull off making enough to get my somewhat comfortably, then I'll be happy.


Okay, so a recurring nightmare I've had since The Dark Night movie came out: the Joker is coming to kill me. To this day, that's the most terrible and frightening literal nightmare that I've ever had (go ahead and laugh, you know you want to).

As for my real nightmares, I think it's something that a lot of people share: what if I don't make it? I'm one of those stupidly optimistic people who thinks, "Eventually, it'll happen," and I like to think that I have the drive, commitment, and motivation to get me at least somewhere close. Even worse, though, is the fact that so many in my family, and so many of my friends, have the kind of confidence I try to exude, only they have it in so much excess that it scares me. If I don't make it, I can deal with it after a few weeks of dark depression and a whole heck of a lot of chocolate and apple pie, but my biggest nightmare and fear has been letting down those people who've supported me for six years, now. I've always hated failure, mainly because there were other people who I think had more faith in me than I had, and it makes me feel terrible to not succeed in the way they think I should.

I mean, I'm a people pleaser. I want to make others happy, and I want them to be proud of me. So sue me.

And...those are my thoughts. And I think I've either stated the obvious, or stated too much, but there's my thoughts for today.

What are your dreams and nightmares?

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@Rae_Slater accepted @chris_mahan's challenge and spilled her dreams and nightmares; they all have to do with writing (Click to Tweet)

@chris_mahan asked @Rae_Slater what her dreams and nightmares are, so she spilled and asks: what're yours? (Click to Tweet)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Release Day Blitz: Evolution

Everybody, I have excellent news.

Over the summer I read and reviewed Kate Wrath's book, E. You can read the review here, but I can summarize it for you by saying that I absolutely adored it. It was a bit long, but I devoured it in two days, and it subsequently became one of my favorite books.

And guess what? The sequel comes out today!

I'm super excited. Ya'll should be, too. Because from today (November 12) through November 19, both E and Evolution will be available on Amazon for .99 cents each! Which means ya'll can go read them, yes?

Kate Wrath

Outpost Three is still standing...barely. But the deadliest threat it has ever faced is on its way-a violent force that will annihilate every man, woman, and child.

With the Sentries under his control and Grey's army defeated, Matt is more powerful than ever. Eden is little more than his prisoner, but that line is blurring as her affection for him grows. Now, as the Outpost faces total destruction, Matt must sacrifice the possibility of attaining Eden's love in the vague hope that her past might hold the key to saving them all.

Eden's journey will begin to unravel the mysteries of her previous life, reveal dangerous new questions, and change not only the future of Outpost Three, but shape the course of history.

This eagerly anticipates sequel to Kate Wrath's E begins an epic quest into the dark, dystopian landscape of Eden's world.

Amazon * Goodreads

Read an Excerpt:

We run down the narrow alley and take the first turn, then another. We keep running, moving. I don't even notice my surroundings until, at last, we slow to a stop. The smell hits me first—the stench of piss, of something rotten, all condensed into a small space. Breathing hard, we stand in the street and look around us. We're in a main thoroughfare now, judging from the traffic, but it’s still narrow. I feel squashed, smothered. On all sides, a crowd throngs around us. Most of them are dressed in rags. Hollow faces huddle three or four bodies deep against both edges of the road, dirty, hopeless, and lost. Many of them are children.

I'm scanning their faces frantically before I even realize what I'm doing. "Oscar," I hear myself whisper. It hits me, and I break off before I can call out his name. Before I can start running again, sifting through the masses of them.

Apollon's hand clamps onto mine, but he says nothing. He and Jonas are focused on Jacob, who is shaking violently. Tears are pouring from widened eyes down his face. I want to help him, but all I can do is stand here trying not to break down, myself.

"We need to find somewhere to regroup," Jonas says quietly. "Get out of this mess."

I cast around for somewhere to go, but as far as I can see, it's piles upon piles. People, and people, and buildings looming over them. There's no breathing room. No space. I have to force my breath to steadiness. It's too much.

There is a commotion on the street ahead, maybe a block away. The ragged masses push away from the center, squashing and trampling each other in the process. We're caught in a wave of motion and carried backward, but still we try to look. Where the commotion started, there's a group of figures, similarly dressed in black with blue bandanas. They're moving down the street toward us.

The wave of people suddenly backlashes from the other direction, and we're pushed the opposite way from before. We manage to finally see why. On our opposite side, there's another group of people. These are dressed primarily in white. One of them, clearly a leader, wears a purple doo rag and carries what might be the biggest gun I've ever seen. He raises it toward us.

Join Kate for the Evolution Release Day Facebook Party:

You're invited! Come hang out November 12th from 8-12 pm Eastern and celebrate the release of Evolution!

Meet the Author

Kate Wrath lives in the Southwestern US. Much like other authors, she has both a [family] and a [pet]. She believes in literature as an art form, world peace, and animal rights, but aspires to write total trash that is full of senseless violence, with characters who eat house pets.

[family = three crazy-but-lovable, exceedingly adorable people with longer eyelashes and better sense of humor than Kate]

[pet =lovable-but-crazy giant German Shepherd who seems to be able to read, but pretends not to understand when something is required of him]

Kate is the author of E, the first book in a dystopian series, and two fantasy novels that are soon to be released. (source:goodreads)


And, how about a giveaway? Kate Wrath is giving away some incredibly special prizes, including a signed page from the original E manuscript (US), a signed page from the original Evolution manuscript (US), five (5) eBooks of E, and five (5) eBooks of Evolution.

I really hope ya'll are convinced to read the book based on that what're ya'll waiting for? And, in case you'd like to know my opinion on it, stay tuned: I've been gifted a copy by the lovely Kate Wrath, herself, and I'll be providing a review on it soon. Until then, go find out for yourself why I'm always talking about these books.

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Happy book birthday to EVOLUTION @KateWrath. Come celebrate #E2Evolution with an excerpt and a GIVEAWAY via @Rae_Slater (Click to Tweet)