Friday, 29 January 2016

Book Review: The Art of Comic Book Writing by Mark Kneece

The Art of Comic Book Writing by Mark Kneece
Publication Date: September 8th, 2015
Format: eARC from Netgalley
A practical guide for beginner and advanced comic book writers that outlines the steps needed to successfully craft a story for sequential art.
 With this latest book in the SCAD Creative Essentials series from the esteemed Savannah College of Art and Design, comics writer and instructor Mark Kneece gives aspiring comic book writers the essential tools they need to write scripts for sequential art with confidence and success. He provides a practical set of guidelines favored by many comic book publishers and uses a unique trial and error approach to show would-be scribes the potential pitfalls they might encounter when seeking a career in comics writing. Supported by examples of scripting from SCAD's students, faculty, and alumni,The Art of Comic Book Writing strips away the mysteries of this popular artform and provides real-world advice and easy-to-follow examples for those looking to write for the comics medium.

Of course, being an artist myself, I had to request this book up. I try not to request for books that are going to be visual heavy, due to the fact that I have a Kindle Paperwhite and that doesn't translate real well on it. I'm not quite sure that it translates well on a Kindle Fire, either, though but it's too late to find out. But... still!! I've always wanted to attend SCAD and, due to financial reasons, I doubt that it'll be a possibility now. I'm incredibly grateful that an instructor decided to share their own tips by writing their own book.

As I've already attended an art school, some of this was already familiar to me - but that doesn't mean it didn't help me at all. This book introduces the reader the best route to starting their own comic on top of pointing out one of the many things they should avoid entirely. Alongside that, there are a lot of visuals that are perfect for those who are visual learners or just for those who just like a push in the right direction.

This book, however, really primarily focuses on comic book writing (well, yeah, but... follow me here) and that's it. If you feel like your story skills are lacking or you don't think your art style is up to par - you'll need more than this book. Even so, this is primarily a guide book. Eventually you will find a method that fits your needs but, at least, you'll have a good idea on what publishers might expect from you.

I have to be honest - I still want a physical copy of this book so I can read this in its full glory without images breaking everytime I turn the page on my kindle. Mostly, though, it would just be useful for someone like me to keep on hand - and useful for those who just want to know what the true mystery is behind their favorite medium's creation.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Yellow by Megan Jacobson

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week, my most anticipated release is:

Yellow by Megan Jacobson
Anticipated Release Date: 2016

Yellow is a YA murder mystery with a slight supernatural edge, but at heart it's about the redemptive power of kindness. Publishing in February 2016, it’s a beautifully written coming-of-age story about family, first love, finding your place and uncovering the secrets of the past.

If fourteen-year-old Kirra is having a mid-life crisis now, then it doesn't bode well for her life expectancy. Her so-called friends bully her, whatever semblance of a mother she had has been drowned at the bottom of a gin bottle ever since her dad left them for another woman, and now a teenage ghost is speaking to her through a broken phone booth. Kirra and the ghost make a pact. She'll prove who murdered him almost twenty years ago if he does three things for her. He makes her popular, he gets her parents back together, and he doesn't haunt her. Things aren't so simple however, and Kirra realises that people can be haunted in more ways than one.

I grew up in Darwin and the far north coast of NSW, Australia, but now I live in Bondi Beach, Sydney. The ocean always feels like home.

I write young adult novels, and my debut, Yellow, will be released by Penguin in February 2016. I've worked as a script storyliner for several TV shows, including the Seven network soap 'Headland' and the ABC children's series 'Dance Academy', but now I work in television news production at the ABC.

I started Yellow when I was living in New York in 2013, cold and homesick, and I finished it in the rice paddies of Ubud, Bali. Eventually I had to return to the real world, so I'm back in Sydney, working on my second novel, which will hopefully be released in 2017. 

Friday, 22 January 2016

Book Review: The Witches of Blackbrook by Tish Thawer

The Witches of BlackBrook (Witches of BlackBrook #1) by Tish Thawer
Publication Date: June 23rd, 2015
Format: Kindle
Through space and time, sisters entwined. Lost then found, souls remain bound.

Three sisters escape the Salem witch trials when the eldest casts a spell that hurtles their souls forward through time. After centuries separated, fate has finally reunited them in the present day.

One the healer, one the teacher, and one the deceiver.

Will their reunion return their full powers, or end their souls journey forever?

A Witches of BlackBrook novel.
Huge thanks to Xpresso Book Tours for giving me my own ecopy of this book in return for a honest review!

This is an interesting concept that really caught my eye. It does help that I am interested in books related to witches (yeah, yeah, I'm sure you guys have heard this from me a lot by now) and I liked that it involves three sisters fated to be together again in the future after their deaths at the Salem witch trials.

Now the girls have been reborn in the present US. They have been reborn in many time frames before this one but the sisters have yet to truly be together all this time. Because of this, they keep being reincarnated closer towards the future. This time, though, both sisters Trin and Kit are determined to finally reunite their third sister with them. They're still witches, just like their former incarnation, and they use their powers for their daily lives and for guidance to finding that third sister. They have to find each other - they have to.

Things start to go uphill, though, when one of the sisters have a connection with one of her clients at a spa job - one that normally indicates that they're of a magical connection and could be one of her sisters. Even though the last time she felt this certain connection during this lifetime ended up being a dud, she still finds herself determined to reconnect with this new person.

Now - on to one of the details that have irked me ever since I've even read this book: the characters' way of blending into their new environment as if they were born there. I know this sounds a bit tricky. It's a bit confusing because, as far as I know, it doesn't really state whether they're reincarnated as an actual infant and grow like a normal human or if they're automatically reincarnated as an adult. I don't even know if this line of reasoning makes even an ounce of sense. If it's the former, then I can see how they can fit in easily in the modern world as they actually grew up in it (but... how do they retain even a little bit of their memories?). If it's the latter, then... well, I'm still confused.

The point is - much of the backstory has been left to interpretation. The book doesn't really explain much on how reincarnation works in this instance. I know that the oldest sister cast a spell to keep all three sisters' souls bound, but I don't know what that really entails entirely. I know they don't recall most of their past lives, so what they do remember they hold on to, but how do they just... know their past and when do they recall that they have a interest in spells?

Another thing that remains constant is that they aren't the only three people being reincarnated into the next life. Why is that? Whyyyyyyy?

I know I'm overthinking a lot of things, which is why I decided not to let this train of thought affect the overall opinion on this book. Despite all of the information that I feel like that have been held back from me, I still felt pulled into the world with these girls and their story. I love it. I highly recommend it - I just want more backstory.

The plot twist though - the plot twist!! I never saw it coming and I'm sure future readers won't see it coming either. It really ties things together when it comes to the main arc and... yeah, I think it's awesome.

If you're looking for an adventure centered around three strong female leads, which does involve a love interest but it's not as emphasized compared to other teen fiction books, I would highly recommend it. Get it!

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week, my most anticipated release is:

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
Anticipated Release Date (UK): February 26th, 2016

What if everything you set yourself up to be was wrong?

Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside.

But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken.

Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances’ dreams come crashing down. Suffocating with guilt, she knows that she has to confront her past…
She has to confess why Carys disappeared…

Meanwhile at uni, Aled is alone, fighting even darker secrets.

It’s only by facing up to your fears that you can overcome them. And it’s only by being your true self that you can find happiness.

Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has.

Alice Oseman was born in 1994 in Kent, England. She is studying English at Durham University.

Alice's first book, SOLITAIRE, was published when she was nineteen. Her second, RADIO SILENCE, will be released in early 2016.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Recently Added TBR Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Every week they post a new topic that the participants come up with a top ten list for.

This week topic is:

 Top Ten Books I've Recently Added To My TBR

What are some of your recent books on your TBR list on Goodreads?

Friday, 15 January 2016

Book Review: Every Last Word by Tamera Ireland Stone

Every Last Word by Tamera Ireland Stone
Publication Date: June 16th, 2015
Format: eARC from Netgalley
If you could read my mind, you wouldn't be smiling.

Samantha McAllister looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden beneath the straightened hair and expertly applied makeup is a secret that her friends would never understand: Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD and is consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can't turn off.

Second-guessing every move, thought, and word makes daily life a struggle, and it doesn't help that her lifelong friends will turn toxic at the first sign of a wrong outfit, wrong lunch, or wrong crush. Yet Sam knows she'd be truly crazy to leave the protection of the most popular girls in school. So when Sam meets Caroline, she has to keep her new friend with a refreshing sense of humor and no style a secret, right up there with Sam's weekly visits to her psychiatrist.

Caroline introduces Sam to Poet's Corner, a hidden room and a tight-knit group of misfits who have been ignored by the school at large. Sam is drawn to them immediately, especially a guitar-playing guy with a talent for verse, and starts to discover a whole new side of herself. Slowly, she begins to feel more "normal" than she ever has as part of the popular crowd . . . until she finds a new reason to question her sanity and all she holds dear.

 I have fallen in love with Miss Stone's previous works and I got incredibly excited when I discovered a new book of hers. Because I was still wrapped up with her debut books, the Time Between Us duology, I thought it would be somewhat related to that. Yeah, I'm silly, I know. But, still, another book. Yay!!

This book is centered around a teenager named Samantha who has to deal with a mental illness called OCD since she was ten years old. Because of this, she's been seeing a psychiatrist in order to help manage it in a way that it doesn't hinder how she lives. None of her friends know about this, which is a good thing in Sam's eyes - after all, if they found out about what goes through her head constantly, they might not even want to be seen with her. Things are a bit stressful. 

At least until Caroline shows up - the one friend who has introduced Sam to what is considered the 'Poet's Corner'. This is where some of the students hang out and recite whatever poems they have written. Even though, at first, they didn't care for Samantha due to her constant bullying against most of them - but, thanks to the guitar-playing teenager, they give her a chance. But is it really worth shooting for something that she loves that she's forced to hide from her other friends?

I'll be the first to admit that I don't know much about OCD other than what may be common knowledge (those who have a need to do rituals in order to lessen their anxiety). I don't know how it feels like to deal with it on a daily basis. But, as I live with another form of mental illness, I had imagine that it would be more prevalent in Sam's life than what was portrayed in this book. There are some scenes that you can just tell scream OCD but they happened less than I anticipated.

On the topic of OCD, though- I can't really imagine that none of her friends wouldn't have realized what was going on with her. I don't think something like OCD would be easy to hide - especially at a young age when she was informed of her mental illness. If you're clueless on how to control your mental health, especially since it was recently discovered, it's hard to fall out of those certain routines without time. Even so, I imagine they would leak out in public somehow.

Just to give a little bit of perspective - I've been with anxiety for a long time... most likely since I was in elementary school but I wasn't diagnosed with it until I was in college. I recently went back to my meds back in mid 2014 when I found myself in a management position. Before those meds, you could clearly tell just how nervous I was. I remember getting so nauseated just opening the store - and I wasn't even anticipating anyone coming by until an hour. My managers knew. Probably all the customers knew. I felt like crying constantly. One day, my anxiety overtook me so bad, I threw up. I couldn't even consume water without it coming back out again.

I couldn't hide my anxiety. Even with my meds, anxious thoughts still run through my head, but at least I can manage being employed at a job. Sam may think she's hiding her OCD well, but... I find that hard to believe honestly.

But, still, I like how Sam started coming out of her shell and started to grow up a little bit. I imagine that she still has a long way to go but... she's still only a teenager. I find it encouraging that she let herself find her voice of positivity and explore it through poetry. I doubt that it would be possible to keep an actual group, even as small as it is, hidden from the school... but even just the thought of having something secret and your own in high school... I can relate to that.

The ending was a little bit confusing to me though. I won't say what happened, because I don't want to give spoilers, but it made me wonder if Sam's really only dealing with OCD... or if she's dealing with something on top of that and another mental illness. But, as interesting of a twist the ending was, I just felt like it was kind of thrown out there. If you read between the lines, though, it's possible to notice it... but the hints were so faint to me that I never caught on.

Overall, I really did love this book despite all the nitpicking I've done of it. The story is about a teenager, who's just trying to seem like a normal girl on the outside, with OCD while also trying not to get herself out of the protection of the popular girls clique. After all, I don't think this book is meant to to be an accurate portrayal of the mental illness. It helps bring the issue to light and, sometimes, that all you really need. It's better to have this sort of thing in teen fiction for young adults to discover rather than them being forced to remain ignorant.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Shades of Darkness by A.R. Kahler

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week, my most anticipated release is:

Shades of Darkness (Ravenborn #1) by A.R. Kahler
Anticipated Release Date: March 8th, 2016
American Gods meets The Secret History in this suspenseful start to a brand-new fantasy trilogy about a girl named Kaira Winters, the murders that keep happening at her artsy boarding school, and the lengths she must go to in order to protect the people she loves.

When Kaira Winters decided to go to Islington—a boarding school deep in the woods of Michigan—she thought she could finally get away from everything she has tried so hard to forget, including some things from her past that she refuses to believe ever actually happened.

Everything seemed great until the bodies of murdered students started appearing all over campus. The victims seem to have been killed in some sort of ritual sacrifice. And even worse, Kaira’s dreams are giving her clues to the killer’s identity.

Though she tries to resist, Kaira quickly realizes that she is the only one who can stop the violence, but to do so she must come to terms with her past. She’s going to have to listen to the voice that is buried deep within her…the one that claims to have unimaginable power…the one that claims to be an actual goddess.

But even if Kaira can harness the power within her, will it be enough to stop the darkness that has fallen over her school? And if it is strong enough, then what’s to stop the goddess from wreaking her own havoc once she’s released?

Filled with murder, mystery, and a little bit of magic, this fresh genre-bending novel is a thrilling page-turner you won’t be able to put down until the very last page.

Alex is many things, but first and foremost, he's a Sagittarius.

In the past few years he's taught circus in Amsterdam and Madrid, gotten madly lost in the Scottish wilderness, drummed with Norse shamans, and received his Masters in creative writing from Glasgow University. And that's the abbreviated list.

He is the author of many things, including THE IMMORTAL CIRCUS, BLADE OF WINTER, THE HUNTED, and RAVENBORN (yes, all series, because his brain doesn't condense).

When he's not writing or climbing in the rafters, he's probably outside, staring at the clouds. And seeing as he now resides in Seattle, there are clouds aplenty.

He is represented by Laurie McLean of Fuse Literary.