Review: Heartshire High by Charlotte Leonetti

Alice in Wonderland goes to a new high school…..

Heartshire High is a modern-day retelling of Alice in Wonderland, and debut novel by up-and-coming young author Charlotte Leonetti.

Heartshire High takes the reader through Celia’s move to a new town in her senior year, living with a less than caring dad, dealing with a new school and having to make new friends. While Celia is focused on just surviving her last school year, and counting down the days until graduation, Bunni befriends her and leads her into the woods, and into a world of drugs, parties, and death.

Once Celia discovers the mysterious death of Tim, she can’t help but dig into what happened. While the whole town tries to ignore what happened, Celia starts to ask questions which lead to her having even more questions. What really happened to Tim? Was it murder? Is somebody not telling the truth? Or is she prying into something she shouldn’t be?

I adore retellings. I love Alice in Wonderland. I really liked this book, but I would call it more a YA murder mystery, or even a YA crime novel. Sure there are some similarities to Alice in Wonderland, but they can be easily overlooked by someone not obsessed by the original story as the mystery of what really happened to the towns happy go lucky golden boy, Tim, unfolds.

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Charlotte Leonetti does a fantastic job developing the story, and we are given just the right amount of insight into the supporting characters to care not just about Celia, the MC, but them as well. I felt like some of the story could have been further developed, in particular the interaction between Celia and her father. As a present but absent father you don’t expect much interaction, but developing the short spurts they did have would have helped when uncovering his betrayal as well.

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Betrayal is a common theme throughout the story, not just in relation to Celia’s plot, but to the surrounding plots as well. Not to give too much away, but it is a betrayal that Celia uncovers to be the real cause of Tim’s death. I actually did not pick the right person when reading this story and so was surprised to uncover the truth right along side Celia.

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The voice is clear and perfectly written for the YA audience – though being a teenager herself might have helped a little with that, Charlotte is only seventeen after all. This is a fantastic first novel by an up and coming author.

I loved the little notes made throughout the story by Celia in her journal, Weather, Song, mood, overheard. These were lovely insights into the MC’s head that helped me connect to her.

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I rate Heartshire High 3.5 stars, taking away 1.5 stars for a few reasons. Firstly, there are some editing issues that should have been picked up by a professional editor. I know, I know, Charlotte is only seventeen, but if you are going to start your writing career, you want to do it as best you can. For example, changing the spelling of Celia’s dad’s girlfriend (Lorena and Lorina) should have been spotted by a proofreader.

Another small note which will not apply to future readers (they have been removed) is that there is a fair amount of song lyrics in this book. I did enjoy the inside these lyrics gave me into Celia’s state of mind, but research would tell you as an author, you cannot introduce lyrics lest they be in public domain. I quickly messaged the author’s mentor and this was rectified. It is a common mistake that people assume if you reference where something comes from then it is all okay. This is completely untrue. Make sure you can use what you want to before you hit publish.

The last little note is the cover. I am a cover snob. Really. I usually choose books based on the cover and expect them to tell me something about the story I am going to be reading. This book I would not have picked up in a shop or clicked on online. Nor would I have guessed any of the plot from it other than it is teen. This cover would suit a Heartbreak High kind of story, not the dark teen mystery that lays inside these pages.

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I really did enjoy Heartshire High and would recommend it to those wanting to read a quick and surprising teen mystery. I look forward to seeing what Charlotte publishes next, and will likely be one of the first to hit buy now.

 

 

Review: Collision by Alexandra Wright

When a collision of two parallel worlds creates a portal, Ella’s eyes-and heart-open to the impossible. Eighteen-year-old, tell-it-like-it-is Ella Beuchene is about to graduate from a prestigious high school, and yet she’s never felt more trapped. Her family is hell-bent on forcing her into a future she doesn’t want. Her boyfriend no longer gets her. And her best friend is keeping something secret. Something that could shatter their friendship for good. Ella is desperate to escape her “privileged” existence. Then, one warm summer night, Ella finds herself in the woods behind her house. The forest is lusher than ever before, the creatures of the night louder, and the moon brighter. Beneath its green canopy, she meets a mysterious, striking stranger. A man who gets her, who shifts her perspective of the world, and who…wait for it…glows in the dark. From that moment on, Ella’s not sure that it’s just her life she wants to escape. It may be her world.

Collision drew me in and held me prisoner until the *almost* bitter end.

An enticing out of this world romance – Collision is the story of Ella, an eighteen-year-old girl on the edge of adulthood. Trapped by the life her father has laid out for her, and terrified of the prospect of turning out like her alcoholic mother, she is delighted to wake up in another world completely, though she does take some convincing to begin with that she is in fact in another world and not simply dreaming.

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Setting this story in parallel worlds, Alexandra Wright gives us a look at what our world, the land of Australia in particular, could have turned out to be had we not achieved such technological advancements.

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The rough and tough nature of the world Ella visits is made softer by the connection she has with Colton, the handsome woodsman she met that first night in the woods. Their connection is forged by the power that brought her to his world, but their feelings for one another grows with each night they spend together, and it was far into this tale, that I was dreading where this story might lead, should Ella be forced to never return to Colton’s world.

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I became so enamored with Wright’s storytelling that I read the last half of this book in one sitting, unable to literally put it down.

Your heart will thank you for reading Collision, it is everything that love stories should be.

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I give Collision four out of five hearts, and can’t wait to read more form Alexandra wright.

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Rebecca Bosevski is the author of Enchanting the Fey, and Alpha Nine. Keep an eye out for her next novel, Uniting the Fabled due out later this year.

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?