For the Love of Words — gift edition

Words, words how I love thee. Let me count the ways …

Writing, reading, looking, wearing …

This month we’re talking about the love of words here on AO&R and I for one and utterly in love with prose. There are so many way to appreciate words, but let me go back to wearing. With Christmas fast approaching I want to tell you about some of the fabulous book merch available. Here are my top 4 picks for the upcoming festive season.

4. Book Quote shirts from Redbubble. A marketplace for custom designed shirts, you’ll find so many amazing and unique products there like this Fault in Our Stars T.

The Fault in Our Stars Typography T-Shirt

3. Bookish Jewelry from Zing. I adore these Harry Potter wrist bands!

2. You’ll find a whole world of bookish wearables on Etsy. My favourite are the mini book necklaces.

1. Anything from Litographs. Seriously, these people print the prose from famous literature onto t-shirts, scarfs, headbands and writing gloves. WRITING GLOVES, guys. Does life get any cooler?

 

Share the bookish love … have you stumbled across anything fun for the word lovers in your life?

Stacey Nash writes about characters who have to overcome their fears. To find out more about Stacey’s books or to connect with her on social media, check out these places: www.stacey-nash.com, instagram, twitter, facebook.

For the love of it

This month at Aussie Owned and Read we’re all looking at the topic ‘FOR THE LOVE OF WORDS’. I was super happy to be first up because I could probably write a sonnet:

Words how I love thee, let me count the ways…

With a slight nod to Shakespeare involved of course. I love to read and (mostly) I love to write. I am so lucky I get to spend a lot (never enough) of time doing both. It takes a certain love (insanity?) to write a whole book, let alone several. And I have so many books that I love (love, love). But today I wanted to focus on two trips I’ve made for the love of words.

Harry Potter words in particular.

Back in 2015 I was lucky to be able to visit Harry Potter World in Orlando. I think is says something to have a whole theme park in your honour. And it wasn’t a short trip. I wasn’t disappointed. My only regret was that I didn’t BUY ALL THE THINGS.

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Which brings me to a couple of weeks ago.

I may have mentioned this not-buying regret a few times, and to surprise me my hubby flew me to Brisbane to visit a Harry Potter shop – THE ROOM OF REQUIREMENT and told me to go crazy on the butterbeer and frogs and socks and all of it. Bliss!

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Back to Shakespeare, I have quite a fondness there too and visited Stratford-Upon-Avon to see his home a few years ago.

Any books you love like this?

 

🙂

Beck

beck nicholas_ bec sampson

I always wanted to write. I’ve worked as a lab assistant, a pizza delivery driver and a high school teacher but I always pursued my first dream of creating stories. Now, I live with my family near Adelaide, halfway between the city and the sea, and am lucky to spend my days (and nights) writing young adult fiction. My next book LAST DAYS OF US is out in Dec with HQ Young Adult.

Review: Drafted, Homeworld Trilogy Book One by Holly Hook

Five hundred years in the future, the Earth is dying, overrun with pollution that the Great Council refuses to stop. 16-year-old Tess is a proud Earther who wants to save the planet, but the government says that shipping all humans to Mars must happen for humankind to survive. Tess fears the day she gets drafted because no one ever hears back from the Red Planet.

When Tess’s turn comes to board a one-way ship, she discovers a horrible truth: an alien race has taken over the government and wants Earth for themselves. But Tess’s horror has only begun. The settlements on Mars are harsh, where colonists struggle to survive. All Tess wants is to get back to her rightful home, but by running into Matthew, a fellow colonist with some secrets of his own, she gets wrapped up in a dangerous plan to do so: Mars must invade Earth. Tess has no choice but to face war, and perhaps even to question the identity she holds dear.

This War of the Worlds retelling offers readers a unique and gripping story.

***Minimal Spoilers***

Tess is a likable ‘earther’ who prides herself on her status and her place with her parents in Woking park, one of the few green spaces left on earth. Tess is drafted, chased down and gassed, not exactly the school excursion she thought it would be. But after her escape, the betrayal of those closest to her send her into a spin and it is Matt who offers her stability and purpose, even if that purpose is to join a war.

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Holly Hook tells a fast paced story that shoots you almost immediately into the action and keeps pushing you forwards along with Tess and Matt as they reveal the truth of the Mars settlements and the plan to topple the alien power.

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As with many fiction stories the reader can be asking ‘why didn’t they just do this, or why wouldn’t they just do that? This is the problem with giving your characters powers or in the case of Drafted, weapons that could end the battle before there is even a war – It needs to be explained why they don’t use those at particular moments to save themselves, or even the world.

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The primary weapon used by Matt and Tess is a heat gun that kills the alien on contact but does nothing to humans, animals etc. So if you can develop this tech into a gun, and then into a larger cannon attached to a ‘walker’ (really cool tripod machines that are built by nanotechnology). Then why didn’t they create missiles that explode in the air and cover larger areas thus removing the world of the alien species in a few days at most? This was my only real question as I read Drafted. But it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of it.

Drafted is book one of a trilogy, and with book two being released mid November, I won’t have to wait long to find out what happens next in the Homeworld series. I am a fan of series and trilogies, however I believe that there needs to be a main story line that is resolved at the end of each book so that the reader is left satisfied but excited to continue the story. Drafted was left a little too open for my usual tastes, but because book two will be available so soon I am willing to overlook it. J

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I am a self-confessed cover snob – as you are all aware I usually base my purchases on the cover first, blurb second. Drafted is not a cover I would usually be drawn to, however you can grasp from the cover elements of the story and this is something I do like. I love more than just the pretty girl in a dress covers that seem to be overpopulating the market right now. They usually tell you nothing about the story you are about to read and for that reason I often avoid them.

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Overall I give Drafted 4 stars and look forward to book two’s release on November 15th.

 

 

IT scared me

Welcome to our spooky October month were we are looking at FEAR.

Let’s get this out there to start of with. I.Am.A.Wuss. That’s right. I don’t like scary movies. For some reason I can handle zombies and Supernatural (maybe Sam and Dean have a calming effect on me), but normally scary stuff makes me hide under the bed covers.

 

But I have read some scary-arse booIt_coverks. Again, not something I do often. When I was younger I went through a Stephen King phase. And the book that kept me up at night and had me being a major scaredy-cat was IT. Oh yeah, clowns in drains messing with kids messed with me.

THINNER and MISERY were also on my reading list then, but they didn’t scare me as such. THINNER definitely freaked me out though. That one was more of a psychological fear unlike the a-clown-might-come-out-of-a-drain-and-kill-me fear that IT created.

dark inside

I moved away from horror, and in general didn’t read it much until a friend of mine, Jeyn Roberts, wrote a book called DARK INSIDE (and the sequel RAGE WITHIN). That had me jumping at things that went bump in the night! It’s the only thing that has come close to IT for me (though I acknowledge that my wussiness status means I haven’t read widely in this genre and I will probably be more likely to check out the Halloween Reads for Cowards).

 

So obviously, I can’t cut it for recommending reads that might just cause jittery-jumping at late night noises (apart from IT and RAGE WITHIN), but I’m sure you can. What has been your scariest read?

And I’ll just be here shaking like jelly, and NOT going to the IT remake.

 

Sharon is a wuss91ADDexKlLL__UX250_y writer from sunny Queensland who writes across a range of genres, that does not include horror. She loves spending time with her family and making things with beads when she’s not writing or mentoring writers through groups like Pitch Wars and Teen Pit. Book 1 & 2 of her Open Heart series (YA Speculative Fiction), is out now with City Owl Press. Kick the series off with DIVIDED.

Not-so-fictional fear

Since October is traditionally (if you don’t live down under) the month of all things scary, we decided to go with a fear theme. From scary books to personal fears to writing fear–we’ll delve into it all this month.

Now, fear is a funny thing. It’s not rational. It’s not discriminatory. It often makes zero sense. It comes in all shapes and sizes and when it hits it can knock even the bravest of creatures out for six. And that’s what I want to talk about today … the biggest fears, those that knock you flat on your rear and don’t only make breathing hard, they make living feel near impossible. Some people would call them phobias, others might refer to them as mental illness. Either way, I want to share some books with you where fear bursts off the pages in such a realistic way the reader gains a first hand understanding of living in constant fear.

Image courtesy of graur codrin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Under Rose Tainted Skies (Louise Gornall): This is an amazing story about a girl whose fear of, well everything, leads to Agrophobia (fear of the outside world). By the time I reached the end of Gornall’s book I really understood how fear could take over.

The Boyfriend List (E Lockhart): The main character suffers from anxiety and although her fear doesn’t define the story it’s a very realistic recount of what living with anxiety is like.

Am I Normal Yet (Holly Bourne): OCD is about way more than compulsive hand washing and a fear of germs. Holly Bourne does a great job of showing this through relatable characters and a riveting plot.

Fangirl (Rainbow Rowell): This book portrays social anxiety beautifully. A fear or phobia of interaction with strangers and even friends is something that many people can’t relate to, but let me tell you, Rainbow Rowell nailed it.

I love that modern fiction has cast awareness on what it’s like to live with fear. I read Tomorrow When The War Began in my early teens. The concept of that series still sticks with me as an adult, making me fearful of situations happening in our world today. Statistics say that 1 in 5 Aussies are affected by mental illness. It’s surprising that with the sheer number of affected there’s still so much stigma around the issue. So much in fact, that many sufferers don’t seek help or feel accepted.

It’s mental health week here in NSW, the perfect time to pick up a new read focusing on a real life issue. These books showcasing fear are a wonderful empathy-creating tool.

Have you read any books featuring characters who live with fear? I’d love to hear about them.

Stacey Nash writes about characters who have to overcome their fears. To find out more about Stacey’s books or to connect with her on social media, check out these places: www.stacey-nash.com, instagram, twitter, facebook.

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.

AOaR_3star (3)

(and a half)

 

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Heather is rep’d by Carrie Howland of Empire Literary

 

So You Think You’re Funny? 3 Ways to Add Humour to Your Writing

Funny Girl

Image: Ryan McGuire via Gratisography

September is all about exploring genre on Aussie Owned and Read, so I stuck my hand up to look at humour. Okay, so technically humour isn’t a genre, rather more an element of style and voice which can be employed across any genre, but if you look at the genre categories in physical and online bookstores, there’s usually a humour section. So I’m sticking to my guns – or in this case, maybe water pistols.

I love reading fiction with a humorous voice, so it’s no surprise my own writing is sprinkled with good doses of humour (or so I’m told). Like most people, though, I can’t really pinpoint what makes someone else’s – or my own – writing funny. So I Googled! Don’t judge. You would have too! Why reinvent the wheel when somebody else’s wheels have come off so nicely for the sake of a laugh?

  1. Think Ks for Giggles

Words with sharp ‘k’ or ‘c’ sounds are apparently king when it comes to laughter mileage, and words with ‘g’ sounds aren’t far behind in the giggle stakes. Go figure. This phenomenon is widely known in comedy writer circles as the K Rule. Now you know why words like ‘discombobulated’ or ‘gargoyle’ and ‘goggles’ make you smile. Put them all together – a discombobulated gargoyle wearing goggles – and you’ll have readers rolling between the pages! Okay, moving on.

2. Go NUTS on the Metaphors and Similes!

Punchy metaphors and similes are a comedy writer’s best friend, which is a good thing because I love metaphors and similes like a newly washed Labrador loves rolling in garden fertilizer. A well crafted metaphor or simile can only add to the humour in your story. The trick is to keep it fresh and creative, and to avoid cliché. Apparently you can overuse this brilliant comedic tool in your writing, or so my editor tells me. We agreed to disagree – after he made me edit out a good chunk of my metaphor and simile brilliance. I’m okay bout it. Really.

3. The Rule of 3s

Patterns are generally a useful device for writers, but a pattern of three, where the first two items set up the reader to expect one thing only to be given something unexpected in item three, is a great tool when writing humour.

‘Meredith couldn’t understand why her friends didn’t want to come hang at her place on a stinking hot day like today. She had her own air conditioned teen retreat. The fridge was stacked with heaps of cold soft drink. And she had found twelve of her fifteen pet tarantulas that had escaped their terrarium that morning.’

You get the idea.

And because all good things come in threes, here are three of my favourite YA titles that do humour really well:

If you’re after more tips on writing funny, check out Four Commandments to Writing Funny by Joe Bunting and How to Mix Humor into Your Writing by Leigh Anne Jashway.


Kat Colmer AuthorKat Colmer is a Young Adult author and high-school teacher librarian who writes coming-of-age stories with humour and heart. She lives with her husband and two children in Sydney, Australia. Her debut YA The Third Kiss is out now with ENTANGLED TEEN and may or may not contain a few too many humorous metaphors and similes. Learn more on her website, or come say hi on FacebookTwitter and Instagram!