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.

 

 

Do people know you’re a fraud?

This month, we’re talking fear on the blog.

At first, I was stumped. I’m one of those strange people who love scary movies, who thrives on books that set my hair on end and who gets a thrill out roller-coasters. I haven’t been truly afraid in a very long time–

Or, so I thought.

And then I remembered the thing I am most afraid of. People finding out my dirty little secret.

Before I tell you what it is, let me share with you a few things about myself. Let’s get to know each other a little before I dump my heartache out.

  1. I’m a hybrid-published author of nine books. I make a living in this industry, and love working on all things fiction.
  2. In my time as an author, I’ve hit the top of several lists. I’ve had some glowing reviews, and a decent number of downloads.

BUT here’s the thing: while I can write that down, categorically note it as fact, it doesn’t change the fact that at least once a week, I wake in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. No, it’s not menopause. It’s fear that someone is going to find out I’m a fraud. Fear that the rug will get pulled out from under me when people realise I’m just pretending to be a writer.

You see, I worry that people will find out I’m a fraud. Don’t get me wrong, I pen my own work. But I worry that the things people seem to like about it will fall away. They’ll realise they made a mistake, and that they want their $2.99 and hours of their life back, and I won’t be able to give it to them.

And while I have had many lovely reviews for my work, they’re not the ones that stick in my head. They’re not the ones I remember. At two a.m, when the world is quiet but the voices in my head are SO LOUD, when people sleep but I feel as if I’m running on a treadmill in my mind, all I see are the negatives. The bad reviews that I can remember word for word, because for some reason, they cement themselves in my brain.

Yes, you can chuck me in a screening of Stephen King’s IT and I’ll leave the cinema with a smile, but tell me you’re onto me and that you’re going to let everyone know I’m a fraud, and you’ll send me into a cold sweat.

So why have I written this post? Well, my theory is in order to conquer your fears, you need to face them. I’m putting this out there into the universe because I want this fear to go away.

I’m also sharing it because I feel like I’m not alone. Ever since I told a friend of mine about this horror, she said she felt it too. I think a lot of us just feel as if we’re winging it, when really, we’re not doing so badly.

In order to try and quiet the voices in my head, I’ve started a mental checklist I go through before I sleep. This helps me feel better about my choices, and I hope, if you feel fraudulent at times, that it helps you too.

  1. Did I do the best I could with the time and resources I have? If you can answer yes to this, you at least know you gave it everything you had.
  2. Did I learn something? If you’re learning, you’re improving. If you’re improving, you’re on track to become better tomorrow than you were today, better next year than you were this.
  3. Did I enjoy it? And this is the kicker. Because there’s so much about writing that’s hard, so much loneliness, so much self-doubt and negativity, that if you’re not having fun, you have to reassess. And invariably, for me, the answer to this question is always a resounding yes. I am having fun. I’m having the time of my goddamn life.

And that’s how I manage to keep the mental boogey monsters away.

What about you? Do you have a fear of people figuring you out?

 

lauren k mckellar_ms
Lauren K. McKellar is the author of romance reads that make you feel. You can find out more about her at her website or on Facebook.

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.

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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.

Birthday Terror

October is the month of scary and here at Aussie Owned and Read we’re looking at all things frightening.

I’m not looking for singing or anything (🙂) but last week was my birthday.

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My terrifying Tasmanian Tiger cake

Not just any day last week but Friday…. Friday the 13th. In October. I was kind of expecting something bad to happen.

It didn’t.

(I was amazingly spoilt in fact, although I did get another year older)

However, it made me think of how often in books a birthday plays an important part and it’s not always a good one. A birthday is a time of change and in some cases of fear. Not just of getting old but of a shift, in society. In contemporary books that can be the shift of being able to drive or drink legally. Leave home, vote or leave school.

All of which can be a source of fear for a character (or a reader).

Then there’s becoming a wizard in a certain series.

Or perhaps a time of a choice that must be made and can determine one’s whole life like in Divergent by Veronica Roth. Then there’s Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins where every birthday gives you a greater chance of being selected.

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Are you afraid of a birthday?

Should a character be?

 

🙂

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: 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.

 

 

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.

Halloween Reads for Cowards

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Image via Pixabay

October means ghosts, ghouls and all things ghastly for those who enjoy Halloween. So this month on Aussie Owned and Read we thought we’d tackle the frightening and scary in all its different manifestations.

I confess, I’m not a fan of scary. I won’t be lining up to see the new remake of Stephen King’s IT. Ever. I’m more of a Ghostbusters kinda girl. You know, where the ghosts and ghouls are tempered down with quirk or humour (and a dose of Chris Hemsworth). So here’s a list of Halloween ‘horror’ novels for scaredy Kats like me:

  1. The Life of a Teenage Body Snatcher by Doug MacLeod (Penguin)

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Thomas Timewell is sixteen and a gentleman. When he meets a body-snatcher called Plenitude, his whole life changes. He is pursued by cutthroats, a gypsy with a meat cleaver, and even the Grim Reaper. More disturbing still, Thomas has to spend an evening with the worst novelist in the world.
A very black comedy set in England in 1828, The Life of a Teenage Body-snatcher shows what terrible events can occur when you try to do the right thing. ‘Never a good idea,’ as Thomas’s mother would say.

I read this wacky Aussie historical when it was first published seven years ago. It’s got its share of the macabre but it’s not exactly scary. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments as well as gross bits. Not one for the squeamish, but heaps of fun.

2. The Dead I Know by Scot Gardner (Allen & Unwin)

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You wake in the middle of the night, your arms and feet pinned by strong hands. As you thrash your way to consciousness, a calm voice says, ‘Steady. We’re here to help.’ Your mind registers a paramedic, a policeman, an ambulance. You are lying on the lookout at Keeper’s Point, the lookout Amanda Creen supposedly threw herself off. And you have absolutely no idea how you got there.

Aaron Rowe walks in his sleep. He has dreams he can’t explain, and memories he can’t recover. Death doesn’t scare him – his new job with a funeral director may even be his salvation. But if he doesn’t discover the truth about his hidden past soon, he may fall asleep one night and never wake up.

The Dead I Know is an intense psychological thriller, but it also fits a Halloween theme nicely because the protagonist Aaron works in a morgue. Interestingly, it’s not the dead people who he needs to be afraid of most.

  1. The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinx (Allen & Unwin)

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Nina became a vampire in 1973 when she was fifteen, and she hasn’t aged a day since then. But she hasn’t had any fun either, because her life is so sickly and boring.

It becomes even worse when one of the other vampires in her therapy group is staked by a mysterious slayer. Threatened with extinction, she and her fellow vampires set out to hunt down the culprit. Trouble is, they soon find themselves up against some gun-toting werewolf traffickers who’ll stop at nothing.

Can a bunch of feeble couch potatoes win a fight like this? Is there more to being a vampire than meets the eye?

I love me a good vampire spoof and this book delivers. Not only does it provide a hilarious alternative addition to the vampire genre, it’s got romance and action to boot!

  1. Gap Year in Ghost Town (Allen & Unwin)

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The Marin family run a two-man operation in inner-city Melbourne. Anton has the ghost-sight, but his father does not. Theirs is a gentle approach to ghost hunting. Rani Cross, combat-skilled ghost hunter from the Company of the Righteous, is all about the slashing.

Anton and Rani don’t see eye to eye – but with a massive spike in violent ghost manifestations, they must find a way to work together.

And what with all the blindingly terrifying brushes with death, Anton must use his gap year to decide if he really wants in on the whole ghost-hunting biz . . .

I am yet to read this, but it looks PERFECT for horror-cowards like me. According to the publisher it’s smart, snappy and funny. And scary. It DOES say it’s scary. Still, the cover alone might be worth the risk.

What are some of your favourite scary – or not so scary – Halloween reads?

 


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 is definitely more swoony than scary. Learn more on her website, or come say hi on FacebookTwitter and Instagram!