Posts by Heather M Bryant

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

Review: The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

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There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: the boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: the brooding, dark-souled guy who is dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose the Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be—whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both.

 

The Love Interest was one of my most anticipated reads for the year. A corporation that specifically manufactures people to fulfil a common YA trope? YES PLEASE.

It had everything. A m/m romance, a science geek girl, a SPY corporation *drools*

But for me…it fell kind of flat. I don’t know if it was because I was soooo excited for this book, or other factors, but I’ll try to break it down.

Okay, so this book was fun. Like a whole load of enjoyment. It didn’t take itself too seriously and I love the self-awareness from the characters and how they poked fun at the YA genre as a whole. To be clear, YA is totally my thing and everything can basically be done well, but breaking some tropes down to their simplest forms can make them sound seriously ridiculous. Like, ridiculous enough to make a Love Interest organisation which should have been all kinds of awesome.

Then there’s the ending. It wrapped up so quickly, and had a ton of action. I loved seeing some of Juliet’s inventions come in handy, and the scenes with Caden and Dylan smouldered.

To get right into it though, it felt kind of…simple? Basic? I don’t know.

There was some weird stuff going on. Like, it was so ridiculously meta it became its own parody? I dunno. We have the good guy vs the bad boy, but unfortunately Dylan is so UNREADABLE. For the first time in my whole entire life I was begging for a dual-POV so I could find out a little more about him other than he hated the roll he was assigned.

Then, everything was just way too convenient. Maybe its because the world building wasn’t detailed and fleshed out enough so everything that happened reeeally pushed my suspension of disbelief.

The struggles most characters go through were just kind of meh. There was never any fear for Caden’s life, and when building towards the big climax (and MAN was there some great build there) they ended up taking out this decades-old corporation in like one afternoon. They were literally home in time for dinner.

But, I will give the book credit where it is due. It opened conversations that are really important to have and break down. Homophobia, gender stereotypes, normalizing flaws in YA, and tokenising gay people were a few. The thing is, in trying to tackle them all at once, it missed the mark on them all.

This book was one great big sigh. I wanted to love it, I had fun with it, but at the end it fell short.

It was the literary equivalent to gorging myself on ice cream. I enjoyed it at the time, but there was no nutritional value and it left me feeling kind of off.

I’m glad I read it, because not every book has to be poignant or have a complicated plot, but I don’t think I’ll ever do a reread. I hate when books I’m dying for turn out to be nothing like I hoped.

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(and a half)

 

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Heather is rep’d by Carrie Howland of Empire Literary

 

Review: Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

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When BFFs Charlie, Taylor and Jamie go to SupaCon, they know it’s going to be a blast. What they don’t expect is for it to change their lives forever.

Charlie likes to stand out. SupaCon is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star, Reese Ryan. When Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.

While Charlie dodges questions about her personal life, Taylor starts asking questions about her own.

Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about the Queen Firestone SupaFan Contest, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.

 

I feel like I’m way behind the times, but this is the first time I’ve heard about Swoon Reads. It’s a pretty great concept, and if you’re an author looking to be published you should check it out.

Queens of Geek is told in alternating POVs. Charlie is a big-time vlogger turned movie star who is at SupaCon for the promo of her break-out movie The Rising. She’s openly bi, fierce, and trying to establish herself on an international level. Taylor is her BFF who’s tagged along to the convention in the hopes of meeting her fav author. She’s a full on fangirl, completely in love with their other best friend, Jaime, and is determined to get through the weekend without her anxiety holding her back.

This book is all kinds of sweet. The friendships are cute, the storyline is fun, and I love all things fandom which really helped moved the book along.

Charlie and Taylor were both completely separate and easily identifiable, their storylines were interesting and I had fun reading.

Taylor’s anxiety was another high point. It was well researched and I was able to relate to a lot of what Taylor went through from having social anxiety for a lot of my younger years. Every time Taylor stopped herself from doing something for fear of it drawing attention to her, I hugged the book a little tighter.

That said, after recently reading Geekerella, this book lacked the extra depth to make me fall in love. The writing was straightforward and easy to speed through, but I would have liked to see it go into further detail and really make me feel what the characters were feeling. Charlie’s relationship with big time vlogger Alyssa (who was a great character) fell short, and I wasn’t swept off my feet like I expect from a romance.

SupaCon was great, but the fandom aspect wasn’t well developed and I feel like extra details that would have made this book shine were cut down to accommodate the two storylines. Reese (Charlie’s ex) was also very two dimensional and had zero character development. Instead of making this a multi-POV book, I would have liked to see both storylines made into their own separate books so Wilde could give the world building the richness it needed.

Overall, it was a fun book and great if you’re looking for something light and fluffy.

 

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(and a half)

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Heather is rep’d by Carrie Howland of Empire Literary

 

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.

AOaR_4star (3)

(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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