Posts by Heather M Bryant

Love writing, being a mum, and enjoying life with my charming hubby.

Review: One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

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New York Times bestseller

One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.

Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.

Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.

Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.

Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.

And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

 

Is it just me, or does that cover totally sell the book? From the moment I saw this one I knew I had to get it. Until I saw it was multi-POV. I really don’t dig it. Multi-POV is sooooo hard to get right and from the top of my head I only know one author who has done it well.

That said, it wasn’t too bad.

One Of Us Is Lying was a great debut. The writing is strong, the concept is fantastic, and the characters were really relatable. Marketed as The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars is the most spot on comps I’ve heard of in a long time.

Bronwyn, Nate, Addy, and Cooper are the main narrators. I can’t say I like any one of them more than the others, but as the cover clearly states, they’re pretty cliché. The author did try to delve a little deeper into their personalities but with four perspectives we’re never with each character long enough to really care deeply about them.

That said, I seriously enjoyed this book. It was a great read, and I loved the mystery to it.

The only thing that disappointed me was the ending. The climax was great, and written really well, but I picked who ‘did it’ right from the start. That could come down to the enormous amount of YA I read, but I really would have loved to be totally surprised. I’m yet to find a murder mystery that has completely taken the ground out from under me.

I definitely recommend reading.

 

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Heather is rep’d by Carrie Howland of Empire Literary

Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

 

This, for me, is a hard review to write. Which is why I need to write it.

What Thomas has created with this book is talking point, a highlight to the divide in society and the racism that still exists. This is what ‘own voices’ books are all about.

Starr is a brilliant character who accurately portrays the struggle to find your place in the world. She’s an easy character to relate to and to cheer on. I loved her voice, I loved watching her grow, and I loved seeing how she faced up to the challenges in her life.

In case you have somehow missed hearing about this book, THUG is about a girl of colour who is raised in the ‘ghetto’ yet attends school with a predominately white population and tries to hide her ‘blackness’ in order to fit in. This book was written by a woman of colour, about a woman of colour, and there is no whitewashing to the story.

Because of this, the book is confronting to someone who usually reads stories through a white lens.

The quiet thought-provoking narrative really makes you question your own bias. It shows how racism isn’t just the intent behind your words, but also how society has conditioned you to subconsciously think. Thomas did such a great job introducing us to Khalil that when he is shot and killed by a police officer you feel it. It’s horrible.

And then the news reports start. Reports we’ve all seen following the shooting of a person of colour. Maybe they were a drug dealer, or had a concealed weapon. Maybe they were portrayed as being a threat. THUG then goes on to show the other side. The caring person who was doing whatever he could to support his family, who was sorely missed by the people left behind.

This mix of real world events and relatable characters force you to question which reaction you would have had under the circumstances.

As amazing as I found THUG, I did feel the beginning ran a little slow. It felt like a long book (I’m used to quick reads I think) up until the grand jury’s decision, but from there I couldn’t put the book down. The ending was so beautifully written I needed a moment to check out of real life once it was finished.

If you haven’t read THUG yet, I suggest getting it on your TBR pile. It’s no surprise it debuted on the NYT Bestseller List.

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(and a half)

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Heather is rep’d by Carrie Howland of Empire Literary and is on a mad dash to edit the crap out of MS 2

The badder the better, and this guy’s the worst.

This month on Aussie Owned and Read we’re talking Villains. Those guys who exist to make things rough for the hero by hopefully having waring goals.

What better way to wind up the month than doing a spotlight on the biggest of the Big Bad?

For us, the worst kind of villain is one who masquerades as a hero. Who genuinely believes in their misguided attempts at goodness. One name in particular springs to mind.

Can you guess who?

The actual puppet master himself: Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore

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“I’m the boss, bitch!”

“But he’s SAH GOOD!” I hear you scream. Don’t worry, I was fooled for years too. So let’s take a closer looker look at his various misdeeds.

 

Headmaster Duties – because what even is Duty of Care?

Segregates children based on 11-year-old personalities and encourages the belief this somehow defines them for the rest of their lives.

Casually sends kids into a dangerous forrest, allows peeps to keep illegal creatures, and abuses ministry time turners ~

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 “Hey Miss Granger” *winks suggestively* “Wanna help me break the law?”

Knowingly! Hires! a Werewolf! (who cares if a kid gets hurt and poor Lupin ends up riddled with guilt for evs?)

Dark Wizard on the loose and can’t hire a decent Dark Arts Teacher EVER in like 7 years!!!! ~ *looks at Dark Arts like geometry* “Eh. Not like they’re ever use this…*

No Triwizard investigation ~ Moody: “Only a powerful wizard could have hoodwinked it[the cup]!” Dumbledore: “I see no cause for alarm, bruh.”

Lets students battle with freaking dragons!%$#

Encourages Quidditch: a dangerous game that encourages belting giant balls at each other to send them falling to their possible deaths ~ “BUT WE HAVE MADAME POMFREY”

Obviously favours Gryffindors and robs Slytherin of the house cup ON PURPOSE ~ “Slytherin win the house cup!” Dumbledore: *sniggers* “Hold my Butterbeer”

(Which leads us to) Rewards students for their stupidity ~

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“Thanks for taking on ol’ Voldy. I had a prior engagement”

Turns a blind eye when students are in danger

Has a three headed dog, a basilisk, Lord Voldemort, a troll, a giant spider, and death eaters all enter the castle under his watch ~ “BUT I’M THE BEST HEADMASTA EVA! LOLZ!”

‘Guidance’ of Harry

Leaves him on a doorstop as a baby in the middle of the night and does nothing to help him through a decade of mistreatment by his so called family ~ “It’s just domestic abuse, kid, toughen up!”

Raised Harry like a pig being raised for slaughter ~

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“Long live the Chosen One! Lol jks”

General Crumminess

Mistreats an obviously neglected traumatised child leading him to become a villainous asshat all of his own ~ “Tom has problems, you say? Ehh. I have other shit to deal with, he don’t need me”

Withholds important information, like always!

Beffles with Grindelwald–where is this dude’s judge of character?

Totes cool with the rumours circulating about Aberforth and does zero to stop it ~ “But he was mean to me that one time”

Hero finally does what he’s planned him to do and he’s still being cryptic ~ “Thanks for killing yaself, kid. Ima talk in scribbles some more”

Pure Evil

Manipulates a loyal follower into murdering him and taking the blame and being hated and hunted by everyone ever

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Treatment of Snape! ~ “Ima keep reminding you of how you killed that girl you loved that one time so you have to do as I say always ROFL”

Possibly and most probably killed his own sister. For the greater good, of course.

Totally his fault James and Lily are dead ~ “Look, ol’ Voldy is looking for you guys, but ima really need that cloak. No probs right?”

Leaves Sirius in a house where he was emotionally abused for years “Totes won’t do anything drastic”

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We’re sure there are a tonne more examples, because Dumbledore is the gift that keeps on giving.

In all seriousness though, J.K. Rowling is a master of creating deep, complex characters. I mean, she fooled you, didn’t she?

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What other examples can you think of?

 

Review: Geekerella by Ashley Poston

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Anything can happen once upon a con…

When geek girl Elle Wittimer sees a cosplay contest sponsored by the producers of Starfield, she has to enter. First prize is an invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. Elle’s been scraping together tips from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck behind her stepmother’s back, and winning this contest could be her ticket out once and for all—not to mention a fangirl’s dream come true.

Teen actor Darien Freeman is less than thrilled about this year’s ExcelsiCon. He used to live for conventions, but now they’re nothing but jaw-aching photo sessions and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Federation Prince Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the diehard Starfield fandom has already dismissed him as just another heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, closet nerd Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.

Let me first start out by saying, Disney’s Cinderella isn’t my favourite. I enjoyed it, but it was no Beauty and the Beast, or Aladdin.

That said, for some reason Cinderella retellings are my weak spot. A Cinderella Story with Hilary Duff—yes please! Ever After with Drew Barrymore—LOVE! Cinder by Marissa Meyer—absolute favourite! Cinderella Live Action with Lily James—be still my beating heart!

So, yeah. I was kind of excited for Geekerella.

And I got through it in around 24 hours. With two little ones to look after that’s no easy thing.

Ashley Poston writing really draws you in. Told from alternating the POVs of Elle and Darien, the story unfolds to a deliciously addictive romance. Both characters are so full and imagined it was easy to work out who was who even without the chapter headings, and I fell for them both instantly.

This story uses the ‘anonymous text’ storyline where the downtrodden girl doesn’t realise she’s actually texting a heartthrob movie star. It may be an overused plot device but I still seriously love it. And when it’s as well-executed as in Geekerella, it helps to propel the story forward.

The chemistry was all there. The giddy kind that pulls a smile onto your face and makes you feel what the characters are feeling. And while Elle and Darien totally stole my heart, this book wouldn’t be what it is without the subplots and side characters.

Firstly, Sage. I heart her so much. Literally every scene with her in it was a joy to read—she was one hell of a fairy godmother. Jess, Darien’s co-star was fantastic, and the Frank the dog was described so perfectly I could have reached through the pages and scratched that chubby puppy’s head.

Then there was Starfield. I love books about fandoms because they throw me back to my teen years, scouring the Harry Potter forums and writing (bad) fanfiction. I felt all that and more through Elle’s passionate love for the cult series, and how it united her with her father, and later, with her fellow cosplayers at ExcelsiCon.

And, while a separate note to the writing, the quality of this paperback was off the charts. Thick paper, and a gorgeous cover. When you pick up a thin book with a bit of heft to it, you know the book is worth the money.

I would rec this book to anyone in an instant. You like a bit of cute romance? Geekerella. You like Cinderella? Geekerella. You like quirky characters? Geekerella. Books with fandoms? GEEKERELLA.

Do yourself a favour.

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Heather is rep’d by Carrie Howland of Empire Literary 

Marketing and the Potato

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As we’re talking about marketing this month, Rebecca and Heather are going to look at what different mediums have done to successfully gain viral attention. In doing so, we will break down what it was about these marketing ideas that we found so memorable, and look at how they would translate to literary world.

We’ve broken these marketing ploys down into four key areas.

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Curiosity

These were the ideas that piqued the interest of the target audience by withholding information. By only providing part of the picture, the consumers were left searching for more pieces of the puzzle which generated hype and global reach across social media.

Cards Against Humanity’s 30 second Super Bowl ad that was a single shot of a potato with the word ‘Advertisement’ etched into it. It sent Twitter into a frenzy as people tried to decipher what it was about.

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Yes this is the real ad

The Matrix and u: hygiene products used a similar concept. The Matrix advertising posed a single question–‘What is the Matrix?’ and had a site set up devoted to the furthering the riddle.

 

Every question needs an answer.

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The VIP Experience

Making your consumer feel extra special is a great promotional tool and can create lifetime loyal followers. Everyone loves exclusivity, we all want to be a part of that little club. As a whole, people have the ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ mentality, we all want more, and when given the opportunity to get something extra that no one else has, we more often than not jump at that chance. So using this main trait to your marketing advantage would be wise.

For example, Skyrim offered up free games for life, but the catch was you had to name your baby that happened to be born on the games release day the main protagonists name… Dovahkiin. You didn’t need to be one of the two people who actually went ahead and won this prize to be drawn to the weirdness of it.

You don’t have to offer up anything this dramatic, limited editions, and VIP tickets are also great draws, with youtube unboxing a few simple extras thrown in with your advanced copy can be the star of the show.

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Interactive

Get people involved. Get them out looking, talking, generating excitement. Your audience are the ones who can get word of mouth happening in a big way and usually drive awareness the most.

A great example of this was Bioshock 2s launch when they created ten promotional images and hid them in wine bottles. These bottle were placed on ten random beaches worldwide with clues for their fandom on where to find them. Kind of like what Willie Wonka did with his golden tickets.

You could do something as simple as a blog post scavenger hunt with a prize for the winner. Facebook launch parties get the word out there, and Instagram is a good tool to get people taking pictures with your book on launch day.

Resident Evil utilised a gruesome scavenger hunt where the winner would receive a trip to Africa. Which leads us into our next point.

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Shock Value (Trigger Warning for extreme gore)

Resident Evil rules shock value. Shocking your consumer either works for or against you, but either way it generates conversation.

With the scavenger hunt, body parts were scattered around Trafalgar Square in London. This gained media attention, and freaked out the onlookers who weren’t involved in the stunt.

Resident Evil 6 went a step further with a butcher’s shop in London’s famous meat-market Smithfield, selling ‘human meat’. The proceeds of these sales went to the Limbless Associate, a U.K. charity for amputees and other who have lost limbs.

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Now, obviously you don’t need to go to these extremes, but pushing the envelope so your marketing ideas go against the grain of what society deems ‘acceptable’ or ‘expected’ is one way to get people talking.

The most important part of marketing is to be memorable.

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Review: King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

 

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In this breathless third installment to Victoria Aveyard’s bestselling Red Queen series, allegiances are tested on every side. And when the Lightning Girl’s spark is gone, who will light the way for the rebellion?

Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother’s web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner.

As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare’s heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.

When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.

King’s Cage is book three in the Red Queen series.

Okay, so for some reason this series seems to be getting a lot of hate, and as soon as there’s hate, people get nit-picky and shred every aspect of the book.

For my reviews, I base them solely around whether the author kept me entertained. Did they do their job and help me escape the real world? Yes? Automatically at least three stars. The other two stars are made up by taking a deeper look at a combination of character, pacing, and plot.

I don’t believe this book deserves the one- and two-star ratings it has been getting but art is subjective and everyone has the right to an opinion. This is simply mine.

I loved King’s Cage. Mare is such as easy character to sympathise with because she is driven and has agency. She spends a lot of this book locked up as Maven’s—what? Toy, maybe?—and while that could have gotten old fast, Aveyard really amped up the tension between them in a way that keeps interest. She’s also grown a lot as a character. There is less brashness and more calculation and planning. I also loved when she realized what a dick she had been to people in the previous book.

As always, the secondary characters are on point. Evangeline is one of those characters I love to hate and she did not disappoint. There is a lot of character growth for her also, and it is easy to see her being the hero of her own story, despite how much her story opposes Mare’s.

Cal is still a hunk, and Maven is still a twisted lunatic who was absolutely addictive to read.

I with there had been more Kilorn, and I really could have done without Cameron’s chapters—I didn’t even remember who she was to begin with so by the time I figured it out, I really didn’t care.

And while they’re still knee-deep in rebellion, Aveyard has added even more depth to the struggle for Norta, which I won’t spoil here, but has the potential for her to take book four in literally any direction.

My favourite parts of all these books are the battle scenes, and the scenes with Mare and Cal. So it makes sense that when her and Cal finally reunite in the midst of a huge fight, I was cheering them on for days.

This book is on the long side for YA fiction and thankfully keeps the pace throughout. There are no areas that felt boring or stale and I loved how one scene propelled you on to the next. After Mare escapes Maven though, it kind of felt like the rest of the book was all epilogue, getting ready to set up the next book. I mean, there were some great scenes in there and I still loved reading it, but the highlight of the book was definitely Mare’s escape.

I totally recommend this book.

 

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Heather is rep’d by Carrie Howland of Empire Literary

Author Interview: Cassandra Page

This month on Aussie Owned and Read we’re celebrating the arrival of two new bloggers with round-robin interviews, and today I have the pleasure of interviewing the oh-so-talented, Cassandra Page.

 

  1. Let’s start off simple. Can you tell us a random, little-known fact about you?

Cassandra PageI’m left-handed. It’s not exactly a secret, but it’s not something I mention much on social media either. The way my mother tells it, I was showing signs of being ambidextrous until I broke my right arm when I was in kindergarten. I can’t write with my right hand, but I do a lot of other things with it, such as using a mouse and brushing my teeth. I can put mascara on with either hand.

Handy! :p

  1. You always seem to be working on something. What can you tell us about your newest project?

LD_CoverEbook_Fina_smllCurrently I’m editing False Awakening, the sequel to my adult urban fantasy, Lucid Dreaming. The goal is to have it ready for publication in the middle of the year. I’m also shopping a fantasy manuscript I describe as “Beauty and the Beast meets Ancient Greece”, and am about to start work on a stand-alone steampunk novel. Probably. There’s also a YA sci-fi kicking around in my noodle and I am notoriously fickle until the point where I start writing … so anything is possible.

  1. As a single working mum, who published FOUR books in six months, can you tell us mere mortals: how do you do it?!

The four books thing sounds much more impressive than it is — I didn’t actually write all four books in that time! I had signed my trilogy with a small press but, not long after the third one came out, the press closed. The rights were returned to me straight away, thankfully, and I decided to self-publish the trilogy as soon as possible rather than trying to find another publisher. Of course, I had already booked in the Lucid Dreaming release date for just a month later…

I was fortunate that my cover and interior designer, the lovely Kim Last, was able to fit me into her schedule. I couldn’t have managed that kind of turn-around without her help. Still, it was very stressful and I hope to never have to do it again!

More generally, my writing style can best be described as “slow and steady wins the race”. It took me about a year to complete a first draft of False Awakening. Then comes the inevitable revision. I am usually too mentally fatigued to write on a weeknight, so I’ve been cramming in several hours over the course of the weekend; I am for 2000 words a week. It does mean my son gets more screen time in that period than is recommended, but I tell myself it’s good for him to see his mum pursue her own dreams.

Plus he wants to be a writer when he grows up, too, so I call that a win!

  1. What is your favourite thing about writing?

I’m a plotter, though I don’t go crazy about it: I have a rough sketch of the plot but don’t go down to the chapter or scene breakdown level. Still, there are always particular scenes that I have in my head from very early on. Quite often, I conceptualise those scenes (often the finale) in great detail and work backwards from there to create the rest of the story.

So, to answer your question, I love writing those scenes. I refuse to write my books out of order, because those scenes are the carrot on a stick that keeps me going when the writing gets tough. They always flow easily from my fingertips because I’ve spent so much time thinking about them that I know them inside out. That effortless writing is rare and I treasure it when it happens.

Quick Qs:

Favourite holiday (Christmas, etc):

Because I’m a single mother, I only have my son every other Christmas. So even though I love it one year out of two (despite being agnostic), the other year is pretty hard! Instead I’ll say “summer holidays at the coast with my boy”. I cherish my childhood memories of time away, and I want my son to have similar memories of jumping waves and exploring rocks.

Favourite beverage:

Coffee. Coffeecoffeecoffee.

Favourite animal:

Dragons. They do too count as an animal!

Favourite thing to do in your down-time (other than write):

Read. I also like taking photos of books (I have a bookstagram account on Instagram) and playing Minecraft. I’m a proper grown up, me!

Favourite book or author:

I can barely even choose my favourite genre — though I can narrow it down to speculative fiction (and possibly to urban fantasy). That being said, one of my favourite reads from 2016 was YA contemporary: The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil. It’s the kind of geeky fiction I wish I’d had as a teenager.

 

BIO

Cassandra Page is a mother, author, editor and geek. She lives in Canberra, Australia’s bush capital, with her son and two Cairn Terriers. She has a serious coffee addiction and a tattoo of a cat — despite being allergic to cats. She has loved to read since primary school, when the library was her refuge, and loves many genres — although urban fantasy is her favourite. When she’s not reading or writing, she engages in geekery, from Doctor Who to AD&D. Because who said you need to grow up?

Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Google+ | Goodreads | Instagram

 

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Heather is rep’d by Carrie Howland of Empire Literary, and eats more chocolate than one person reasonably should.