Review: ILLUMINATE by L.L. Hunter

Emma Raine looks like your average eighteen-year-old.

But she holds a secret deep within her.

She is a magical being, a powerful queen of a faraway mythical land who fled her destiny.

No one will ever know.

And she’ll kill you before you ever will.

By day, Emma is a journalism intern in one of Sydney’s top media companies.
By night, she researches ways of keeping magic hidden, of keeping her world separate from the life she lives now.
But something is stirring in the streets of the trendy Australian city.
There are whispers of magic, and Emma must stop it before it takes hold.
Her search leads her to the mysterious forests of New Zealand, the one place she swore she’d never return… and the man who rules it all.

In the enticing first novel of the spin-off of the Dragon Heart Series, can Emma keep her magic hidden from the one man she thought she’d never see again?
Or will his interest in her illuminate everything?

You can’t run from your destiny.

An illuminating tale of magic and immortal love.

Hidden magic Book 2, Illuminate reveals many aspects of what has now become Emma’s life in a mostly normal world. Tormented and alone, Emma keeps herself busy killing magical creatures that dare show themselves to humans – though it is clear early on that her desire to kill the other magical beings stems from her anger towards her own magic and the path it led her on.

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L. L. Hunter has created characters that you connect with immediately, their personalities are portrayed perfectly, and Hunter really shines when writing the dialogue between them.

I love the interaction between Darcy and Emma. Their love/hate relationship is driven by a passion born the moment they laid eyes on one another.

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They are both immortal, and though Emma once trapped him in his house, he feels a longing for her that keeps him near her even hundreds of years later. I am excited to see how their relationship develops over the course of the series.

I can’t wait for Hidden Magic Book 3 – Where will L. L. Hunter send Emma next, and will Darcy be there beside her?

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I give Illuminate four stars. My only wish was that it was a little longer, but I guess with book 3 on it’s way out, I won’t have wait long to discover more of Emma and Darcy’s story.

 

The Elements Of A Great Story – PLOT

This month on Aussie Owned we are talking great stories and what the elements are that make it great. Firstly we will be talking PLOT.

Plot is the driving force of your story.

So what is plot? Plot is more than story, it is the large scale events that both move your story forwards and change your character from who they were in the beginning. It is essential that the characters are driving the plot, not the plot moving along on its own or without any connection to the characters key to the story.

After the brief introduction, there will be an inciting incident, a climax, and a resolution.

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The inciting incident should happen as close to the beginning as possible. Too soon, and we won’t care about the character so the inciting incident won’t have impact. Too late, and you run the chance of leaving the reader bored.

A great example of this is Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy. Within the first chapter we learn that the two main characters are mentally linked, one is a princess, and the other is her ‘body guard’. Oh, and they’re on the run. Their close bond draws the reader in and makes you care about them by association. After this brief set up, the inciting incident is when they are found by the people they’ve been running from and are dragged back to the academy.

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The climax is the turning point in the story. It is the moment that the character decides to do something about the incidents facing them. After this point the main character will never be the same.

A great example of this is Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight. Bella decides to go after James because he claims to have her mother. She doesn’t tell Edward or the other Cullens of her decision. This confrontation in the story is a well-timed climax. Far enough into the story to have led to it with other driving incidents, but close enough to the end to give the protagonist time to develop the resolution.

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The resolution is simply what happened at the very end. It is where you show how the character you started with those many pages ago, has changed due to the incidents and climax they have experienced.

A great example of this is J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. As a whole the series has a perfect resolution. All three characters are pivotal to the story and each have their own resolutions, but the story ends with them together. Reflecting on how they have grown and changed from the meek, nervous and shy eleven year olds to the badass near-adults of the final pages.

The resolution of the story and not just the change of the character is important too. In Harry Potter, there is a very clear line between good versus evil and this resolution was made clear when Harry chooses to use Expelliarmus instead of one of the Unforgivable Curses.

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For more in depth education on the importance of plot in a story, you can check out this cool PIXAR tutorial – https://www.khanacademy.org/partner-content/pixar/storytelling

 

Time After Time

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This month on Aussie Owned and Read, we’re giving out advice to newbie writers and filling you all in on the things we wish we knew starting out.

Everyone before us has given some incredible info, so we’re here to focus on time.

Publishing is a slooooow business and no one is exempt from the wait. There are things you can do to help this process which we will touch on below.

These are our stories:

Heather started writing about seven years ago. She is part way through her fourth full length novel and has a short story published in Words With Heart charity anthology. She signed with Carrie Howland of Empire Literary at the end of 2015. To get to this point, there were countless rewrites of the first two books, various beta readers, and SO much feedback. Also rejections. You need to prepare yourself for the fact people won’t like what you’re writing.

Rebecca began writing  about the same time, often crediting Heather with reigniting a fire she thought was long extinguished. She self published her first novel Enchanting the Fey in November of 2016, and her second, Alpha Nine July this year. The completion of both in large part, is thanks to the support and encouragement of her writers groups, beta readers and bestie Heather. Right now she is frantically writing the sequel to Enchanting the Fey.

All of your favourite authors have been through the wait no matter which path they chose to take. Even those people who seem to be an overnight success have put in the hard yards, and trust me when I say you will be no different.

So what can you do about it? Not a lot, unfortunately. However there are a few points to help speed up the process.

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  1. Make a Plan

Figure out where you want to be in X amount of years and break down the process. And make sure these are things you can control. Saying ‘I want to be on the NYT Bestseller List next year’ is not something you can control. Make it SMART. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time bound. Something like this:

Heather: Between 1st July and 31st August I will write a minimum of 1,000 words a day to have WIP4 complete as measured by finished novel. – Heather works well with structure, having strict timelines and a solid plan in place. She thrives on knowing exactly where she needs to be and will push herself hardest when she sees her goal in sight.

Rebecca: Between Alpha Nine launch in July and my family holiday in September I will write every day! – Rebecca’s plan is more directed with life events to guide her, and with no expectation of number of words to reach per day, but rather a goal to simply write every day, she doesn’t feel discouraged when she has time to only get down a few lines.

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2. Edit, edit, edit!

The cleaner your manuscript is, the better in the long run. Go over your book again and again and again. No matter if you’re the greatest writer in the world, there are always edits to be done. And if it’s your very first book ever, there will be LOADS of edits. (No, you are not the exception). Leave your work to rest for at least a month. Make loads of writer friends, ask them to beta read. If you can afford it right now, hire an editor, if you can’t… save your dollars and then hire an editor. Editors are worth the cost. They not only find the little spelling errors or misused words, but offer you a wider overview of your work. They find the holes and help you to fill them in. Not every editor is for everybody, so take the time to find one that understands you and your style, it will make the process a lot smoother.

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3. Self Publish 

Traditional publishing is the slowest of slow. You need to be prepared to wait at every stage: querying agents, submitting to editors, waiting on your book to hit shelves. It is literally years between signing a publishing contract, going through edits, and having your book in your hands.

PLEASE KNOW – SELF PUBLISHING IS NOT THE EASY OPTION!

To be clear, the common misconception that ‘self publishing is easy’ is so far from being true it’s laughable.

But it can be a hell of a lot faster, because when you self publish you control the process yourself. It is up to you how long it takes for writing, editing, formatting, cover design etc. But the time you save with the actual publication needs to be put into marketing your book because that thing isn’t going to sell itself. Marketing is one of the hardest aspects.

As a self published author, Rebecca is still learning and will always be learning the different ways she can market her books to get them into the hands of more readers. Facebook and other social media platforms offer a great and often affordable avenue, but if you have the money, you could employ professional marketers to help you push your books.

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Now you know a little more about how we got here, please tell us a bit about where you are in your author journey. What is your author story, and did it take copious amounts of coffee to get you there? It did for the both of us.

 

 

 

Review: Into the Dark– Book Two of the Into the Mists Trilogy by Serene Conneeley

Carlie coped with moving from her home in Sydney, Australia to a small village in England to live with a stranger. She battled her way through the mists she thought would drown her, and emerged transformed. She was even starting to think she’d survive the death of her parents. But now an old diary, which promises to reveal the mystery of her mother, threatens to tear her world apart. How will the words she reads affect her? Will she wish the truth had died with her mum? And what is the connection to her own life hidden within the pages? In the second book of the gripping Into the Mists Trilogy, a new relationship with her grandmother is opening Carlie’s soul to the energy and power of the earth. A new friend is opening her mind to the magic and potential within her. And a new love is opening her heart to the sweetest enchantment of all. Yet betrayal hovers around her, and she will face an ultimatum, a sacrifice and a cruel choice that might just break her. Will Carlie find the courage to go into the darkness of her own heart and seek the wisdom and strength she needs to survive, or will the tragedies and the pain of her life break her into a million little pieces?

Narrated beautifully by Gabrielle Baker, Into the Dark was hard to put down. Carlie is finally beginning to see a life for herself, to overcome the loss of her parents and her path to self discovery is brighter every day.

Her understanding of the magic she holds within and her relationship with both Rhiannon, and her grandmother deepens throughout. But it is her discovery of the life her mother had before running away and moving to Australia that I found most enticing.

Carlie unravels the pieces of her mother’s past and is shocked by the similarities to her own life. A love interest. Older. Gifted. Secret? – Carlie has been warned of betrayal, I feared this new love would undo her.

But it was a collection of horrific events her mother endured, written with a raw emotion that had me welling with tears.

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The final chapter of this beautiful tale hits with a shocking blow, so much so, that I rewound to be sure I had heard correctly. But do not let that deter you – Into the Dark will captivate you. And you, like I, will be rushing out to get book 3 – Into the Light to discover the rest of Carlie’s story.

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Rebecca Bosevski is the author of Enchanting The Fey, a fairy tale for grown-ups. She lives on the sunny coast of Australia with her husband and three children. When not writing she will often be found with her nose in a book.

Falling For Words

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For us, the most important part of writing is to make our reader fall in love, and an author can do this in a few ways.

Firstly with a relatable or sympathetic character. This doesn’t necessarily mean a hero, or even a generally nice person, but it is someone who the reader can connect to. For example Myrnin from The Glass House series. Myrnin had his quirks, wore bunny slippers, and was losing his mind; all of these things added to the reader feeling for him and connecting to him. He also killed his former assistant to connect her brain to his computer so that he could try to find a cure for his insanity. Not exactly a hero, but a memorable and favoured character.

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Then there are high stakes. The higher the better. Putting good characters in bad situations or facing insurmountable odds pushes your reader to root for them, to become invested emotionally in the outcome of the characters you created. For example, Vampire Academy (major spoiler alert) uses high stakes throughout the series to keep the readers on edge but completely invested. The series starts with the Strigoi as the big bad, the stakes escalate when they begin targeting the royal line of vamps–the MC’s best friend is one of these royals. The series builds again when the main love interest is turned into a Strigoi, prompting the MC to hunt the man she loves.

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Another way is to give us an unexpected ending. Turning your reader on their head can leave a lasting impression, especially when that final scene is one of happiness and joy. I do not know anyone who has said, ‘oh that book where the main character dies and the guy she loves is left alone forever, yes that book, I sooo wanna read that again’. Sorry, but give us a struggle and take us to some dark places but you better leave us and the MC in a better place at the end if you want a place in our heart.

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Finally, and this could be considered the best way to secure a pace in our heart–Make us swoon. Sweep us off our feet. We need the characters to interact with each other in a way that connects to the reader. Give us the friends to lovers, enemies to friends, friends to enemies to friends to lovers.

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The books you fall for are the ones you re-read. Rebecca fell for Vampire academy, and fell hardest for Last Sacrifice which she read three times. Heather fell hard for VA too, but also for The Lunar Chronicles and Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda.

What words have you fallen for? What books are forever in your heart?

 

Review: Alice in Murderland (Magical Bookshop Mystery #1) by Samantha Silver

When Alice Calliope takes over her recently deceased aunt’s bookshop in Sapphire Village, Oregon, she’s not expecting her world to be flipped upside down, but that’s exactly what happens when her cousin Cat reveals to Alice that she’s actually a witch. Add in the fact that the two of them stumble upon a dead body, and Alice’s first day in town ends up being a lot more eventful than she could have possibly imagined!

What was supposed to be a simple cross-country move winds up with Alice having to learn how to navigate a whole new magical world while at the same time trying to clear Cat’s name as she emerges as the main suspect in the murder. Add in the eccentric Grandma Cee, witchcraft lessons, a whiny old ghost and the laziest cat ever, and Alice definitely has her hands full.

With pressure mounting for the super-hot local sheriff to arrest her cousin, will Alice be able to hunt down the real killer before it’s too late?

Let me begin by saying the general story here is pretty good and the characters quirky and easy to relate to. That said, I feel like this book skipped a step in its path to publication. There are some rather large distractions from the story that, though I pushed past them to finish the story, would have normally had me closing the book after the first few chapters.

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The writing is a lot of telling, something that I can overlook if the plot has substance, but this too was lacking in many parts; I felt like there could be so much more to this story.

The main character is in her late twenties, speaks like a teenager and even after finding a dead body feels no need to call and speak to her mother, the woman who raised her. In no part of this story does she even contemplate calling her.

The ‘pressure’ implied is being put on the Sheriff to arrest her cousin, is no more than one person accusing her cousin of the murder shortly after the body is found. There is no other times that it is mentioned about her being a suspect, except by the main character herself and this is assumptions based off the initial rant of the dead woman’s best friend, not off actual interaction with or pressure from the Sheriff.

There are many contradictions that I found extremely frustrating, more so, because I know that they could have easily been picked up by a good beta reader. The witchcraft lessons with Grandma Cee consisted of one afternoon and only three different spells, that are not even spells, but simply thinking about what she wants to happen then pointing. How does someone need lessons in this?

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Also, if this is all that is needed and Alice is so good at it, why hobble up the stairs on her crutches, why not float herself up, why not just think about her sprained ankle and make it better? The idea behind how they use magic is somewhat different to what is already out there, but leaves wondering about the rules.

The Others were introduced by implicating them in her aunt’s death, and used as the basis for calling Alice to the town, but that was all. Why tell us about the Big Bad and then give us nothing? I felt like this part of the story might be setting up for future books, but I don’t think I will be reading them.

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I wanted to review something this month that was fun and easy to read. Alice in Murderland was somewhat fun, but was not easy to read. The inconsistencies in writing style, no real feel for time, contradictions and even character name changes made it a struggle.

A solid 3 star read with a cute cover. Alice in Murderland will suit younger readers that will potentially miss the flaws that perturbed me throughout.

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Review: Into the Mists – Book One of the Into the Mists Trilogy by Serene Conneeley

Enter the swirling mists of an enchanted land, and open your heart to the mystery…

Carlie has the perfect life. A wonderful family and a best friend she adores. A house by the beach so she can go surfing after school. A clever, rational mind and big dreams of becoming a lawyer. A future she’s excited about and can’t wait to begin.

But in a split second her perfect life shatters, and she is sent to the other side of the world to live with a stranger. In this mystical, mist-drenched new land, she is faced with a mystery that will make her question everything she’s ever known about her parents, her life and her very self. A dark secret that made her mother run away from home as a teenager. An old family friend who is not what he seems. A woman in blue who she’s not convinced is real. A shadowy black cat that she’d swear is reading her mind. A deserted old cottage she can’t always find. And a circle of wild-haired witches who want her to join their ranks.

Will she have the courage to journey into the mists, and into her own heart, to discover the truth? And can she somehow weave together a life that she’ll want to live – or will she give up and allow despair to sweep her away from the world forever?

A Melodic tale of loss and a magical journey of self-discovery and acceptance.

This beautiful story follows Carlie as she tries to come to grips with the loss of her parents and the sudden upheaval of her life. Serene has written the tale to include quite detailed descriptions of casts and rituals Carlie and her mother perform. You could easily complete such rituals yourself following the descriptions in the story. The story inspires the reader to look at their own life as the main character Carlie does hers.

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Gabrielle Baker narrates the audio book. Her beautifully calming voice tells the story in a tranquil tone, switching between a few voices slightly with each characters dialogue. She does well with the mix of Australian and English accents, only once or twice did I giggle at her pronunciation of an Aussie word. I listened to the story at 1.3x speed. As a faster reader myself, I felt the original a little slow for me, but the story allows for the increase without feeling rushed.

I loved the backwards and forwards timeline that Serene used to intertwine Carlie and Violet (her mother) stories. Flashbacks, diary entries and dreams are each employed in telling this magical captivating tale.

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When Carlie began to read from the book her mother had owned as a teen, I did not at first realize it was Carlie reading. When reading a physical book you would see the change in script or a detail to show that the character is reading a letter or diary entry of sorts, but when listening to an audio book, the transition wasn’t as easy to keep on top of. This of course did not take away from the story or my enjoyment of the novel as a whole.

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I look forward to reading more of the Into the Mists Trilogy, and if you have not tried an audio book before, click HERE and you can get your first book free. Why not give Into the Mists a chance to captivate you the way it has me.

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Rebecca Bosevski is the author of Enchanting The Fey, a fairy tale for grown-ups. She lives on the sunny coast of Australia with her husband and three children. When not writing she will often be found with her nose in a book.