BOOK REVIEW: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air, #1)The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book stole the breath straight from my lungs. It is rare that I fall so hard for a book that I feel somewhat lost after it is over.

This is one of those stories.

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black follows the story of our MC, Jude, who is taken to live in Faerie with her twin sister, Taryn, and older sister, Vivi, after some…um…family drama. She is mortal, while her….family…is not. While she is raised in Faerie, she is constantly reminded of her mortal status. She is belittled by classmates and bullied. At first, I thought this story would be just any old ‘bullying’ story, showing an MC overcoming their fears to stand up and fight for their dignity.

Boy, was I wrong.

Jude is CRAZY. I LOVE HER. She is so complex (as are all of the characters), that Black manages to knock the old tropes out of the park and completely re-invent character development. There are no “good guys” vs “bad guys” here. Everyone is a little bit grey…and that is what makes them all so interesting. You fall far into Jude’s head, her motivations, and her desires. You feel her heartbeat. My hat, truly, is tipped to Black for her amazing character development.

“Before, I never knew how far I would go. Now I believe I have the answer. I will go as far as there is to go. I will go way too far.” -Jude

The world building is also excellent. I was hoping for a little more geographical expansion as there are places only described to make the world feel bigger, however, most of the action actually takes place in 3-4 settings. I am hoping by Book 2 the world maybe opens up a little more.

The plot is deep, twisty, and dark. Some twists I expected and others were a complete surprise. The politics and drama of the fae world do not seem like ones I would want to get involved with!

Fans of fae fantasy stories, strong female leads, anti-hero tropes, drama/politics, and spies will love this one!

This book is appropriate for younger readers as you will not find explicit sexuality or inappropriate themes. Triggers include violence and bullying.

View all my reviews

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Tackling YA Fiction Tropes: Too Cliché?

TROPES AND CLICHES

“He stands there, alone and silent, in the moonlight—tall, dark, and handsome. He pulls his shirt off, there’s definitely scars there, but he won’t tell me why. His crystal blue eyes peer through the part in his dark hair above his knitted brows—wet from the rain—and stare straight into my soul. If only I knew what he was thinking…or why he makes me feel this way.”

He’s mysterious. He’s a bad boy. He’s emotionally unavailable and SMIRKS A LOT. He’s…the brooding YA (Young Adult) male love-interest trope!

Does this character sound familiar? Anyone ever read Twilight?

What is a trope? A trope is a recurring literary device that may show common conventions and devices used within a story. Similar to the idea of a stereotype, these literary tropes become well-known throughout a genre. In YA (young adult), there are some common ones you will recognize. All stories have tropes in them. A good story depends on how they are swiveled to drive the story the right way.

What is a cliché? Cliche refers to an overused device such as a saying, idea, expression, or description such as a character’s eye color. They are so common or predictable that they lose meaning or novelty. Don’t use these when you write. NO ONE’S EYES ARE CERULEAN BLUE.

Clichés are tropes, but not all tropes are clichés. 

Carrie Ann DiRisio is the brilliant creator of Brooding YA Hero. You simply must check Broody out on Twitter and buy Carrie’s new book: BROODING YA HERO: BECOMING A MAIN CHARACTER (ALMOST) AS AWESOME AS ME.  Her book is a parody of YA tropes, perfect for writers wanting to dive deeper and learn how to twist them to their advantage.

Key takeaways from Carrie’s recent trope discussion webinar I attended:

-Tropes are the building blocks of a story. They are NOT necessarily a bad thing. Tropes are like comfort food: We don’t want to read the same story 10 times. We want just the essence of tropes in stories so that they are familiar.

-Clichés are done so many times that they aren’t interesting anymore. Cliches lose originality and lose readers quickly.

So what are writers to do? No one wants to fall into a cliché rut. They key is to be original and twist common tropes to work to your story’s advantage. Use them as a device to drive conflict and drama!

Here’s some top tropes you may recognize:

  1. FEMALE PROTAGONIST blind to her own beauty. Typically has “dark hair” and thinks she’s “plain”.
  2. INSTA-LOVE! “Their eyes met over a steaming bowl of pasta.” Ooh, pasta. Now that I can fall in love with at first sight…
  3. SUPER-PERFECT MODEL-HOT LOVE INTEREST. Flawless is BORING!
  4. BROODING MALE LOVE INTEREST. Perhaps closely related to Mr. Perfect, this guy has flaws, and he’s tight-lipped about his DTP (Dark Troubled Past)…and he’s bad for the protagonist…and it makes him SOOO hot.
  5. LOVE TRIANGLES! “They are both so hot, I can’t just pick one until the very end of the story (or entire trilogy)! Which leads to:
  6. …TRILOGIES! Why is almost everything YA in a 3-book series?
  7. PARENTS ARE JERKS! Or dead.
  8. INSTANT LEADER OF THE RESISTANCE. “Down with the king!”
  9. SUPER CLUMSY PROTAGONIST…but is amazing at fighting. Why? 
  10. UNDISCOVERED ABILITIES! “OMG, I’m a wizard?”
  11. SECRET ROYALTY! “OMG, I’m a PRINCESS?”

 

Do What You Love & Love Yourself For It

Valentine flatlay 3

“Don’t compare your Chapter 1 to someone else’s Chapter 20.”

I’ve been told this a hundred times.

Doing what I love—namely reading and writing—has made a big impact in my personal happiness and well-being. As an act of self-care, it has changed the way I see the world, opened my creativity, strengthened my relationships and friendships, and improved my perception of stressors within the world around me. When I let go of trying to compare my achievements and skill level to others, it completely liberated me.

It’s ok to love what you do. It’s ok to be a beginner. It’s ok to do something purely because it makes you happy. Don’t compare where you are to another’s success. 

On this Valentine’s Day, we are inundated with images of the L-word and what we picture it should be. Of course, love is romanticized through iconic images. Couples kissing, fuzzy stuffed animals, and mountains of chocolate and candy flood our Instagram feeds. What we forget, sometimes, is that love extends far beyond romantic love. Self-love, for example, is fundamental to the human condition. Self-acceptance, self-care, and the ability to embrace the things that drive us are what fundamentally let us celebrate being human.

Doing what you love not only improves quality of life, but there are literal changes in your body’s chemistry when this happens. In the presence of something perceived as “Good”, the brain releases four main chemicals, creating desirable states of the brain and keeping us coming back for more. I like to call these guys The Fab Four: Dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins.

  1. Dopamine motivates us to take steps toward our goals, needs, and desires, then gives a wave of supportive gratification when attaining them. Why do you think it feels so great when you hit your daily word count?
  2. Serotonin circulates when you feel significant or confident.  When Serotonin is absent, feelings of loneliness and depression appear. Being outside in the sunshine promotes Vitamin D and serotonin production, a bonus for us outside-loving readers and writers!
  3. Oxytocin creates strength and trust within relationships. Released during sexual intimacy, touch/massage, childbirth or breastfeeding, and eating food (AMEN to that), Oxytocin is also famous for lowering blood pressure, increasing pain thresholds, and lowering anxiety.
  4. Endorphins are released in response to pain or stress and help to relieve anxiety and depression. That feeling after a workout you get is thanks to the release of endorphins. Laughing will bring this same feeling. Remember that mountain of Valentine’s Day chocolate? Studies have shown that dark chocolate can cue the brain to release endorphins. Reading books? If you recall my recent post about Books vs Technology, you may remember the chemistry lesson about the beloved book smell, which included the scent of vanilla. Vanilla and lavender scents have actually been linked to the production of endorphins in the body. Bibliophiles, buying books really DOES buy happiness! 

So do what YOU love. Do it often. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.

Create what moves you, and you will move the world.

With love on this Valentine’s Day,

Laura_Sig

 

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: R.M. Schultz

R.M. Schultz

Ryan M Schultz takes us on a fast-paced adventure to ancient Egypt in his novel, “Eve of the Pharaoh”, which recently hit #1 on an Amazon best-seller list!

Check out my review HERE and grab your copy today! I had the opportunity to ask a few questions about his writing process and inspiration for this historic adventure:

When did you first start writing? Do you remember the first piece you wrote? 

In high school, I wrote a full-length, terrible fantasy novel after reading the classics and great works in the genre. But I still enjoyed creating a story and characters, and wanted to become a writer.

My grandfather once told me: If you love it enough, you will find it.

No, actually he never said that…he mostly told the same stories over and over again, but I wanted to come up with something inspiring.

How do you get into writing-mode? Do you do anything specific to warm up? Where do you write?

Spending time outdoors: watching the ocean, lake, mountains, fog, rain, trees, or snow. Those things put my mind in a special place, and I see things I otherwise wouldn’t. When I haven’t spent enough time outside, I have to force myself to sit and start writing. What comes out, in the beginning, is garbage this way, but I eventually find myself immersed in the story again and can get back into the groove. Editing the material hundreds of times afterward is then part of that process.

I’d like to write while viewing that outdoor scenery, but so far I’m in my office, typically late at night after the family has gone to bed. Maybe one day, if I sell enough books, I’ll write during the day, in a room overlooking water or the mountains.

What brought you to the idea for “Eve of the Pharaoh”? 

When I entered the tombs of the deceased, and read the writing that spoke to others long before you and I walked the earth. To feel that same stone, breathe the same air, and read the same stories within images upon the walls…

There’s probably no better way to tell a story than to experience and feel it internally and externally—to tread the same ground and sail the same river.

Through that experience, I believed a modern thread would help the story connect with people today.

What did you find most difficult while writing it? 

The past story flowed out of me. The present was more difficult, but weaving the two threads together and making sure the timelines of events fit with the actual past, as well as the discoveries in the present (and in the story) was very difficult.

When writing the storylines of Gavin and Horemheb, did you write them simultaneously, or did you write their stories separately before weaving the chapters together? 

In the first book of the series, I wrote them simultaneously and wound up creating the most difficult aspect mentioned above when going back through and editing the storyline of both threads.

For the second book, I wrote them separately and then wove the threads together. We’ll see if it is any easier once I attempt my editor’s and beta readers’ suggestions this time around.

How did you conduct research for this book?

Traveling, exhibits, classes, and reading about 15 books about ancient Egypt. The books included textbooks, travel guides, art, hieroglyphic translations, literature, and architecture from ancient Egyptian stories.

When you’re not writing, what are you doing?

Attempting to raise my daughter and working as a veterinary radiologist, which takes a combination of art, imagination, medicine, and science. I tried to incorporate all of these aspects into Eve of the Pharaoh.

Name three things you can’t live without:

Wow, this is a hard one. So many…family (including pets), adventure, and creating/experiencing other’s stories.

What was the best money you’ve spent as a writer? 

Cover design. I loved making the movie trailer, writing the script, and how it all turned out. Editors have been hit or miss.

In six words, write down your personal narrative story:

Small town kid turned inquisitive adventurer.

What else are you working on?

I’ve completed book 2 in the first draft form and am starting to go through the outline for the third and final book while putting words on paper.

And, for years, trying to come up with a completely original storyline and premise that millions of people will love—one that will make them feel the way I do when experiencing a great story. Does the opportunity exist? I hope one day to find it.

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You can catch up with Ryan on his website at www.rmschultzauthor.com to check out the official book trailer, reviews, and more!

Lovers of adventure, history, and travel will love “Eve of the Pharaoh”, available now!

 

 

Health & Wellness for Creativity

What is the greatest enemy of creativity? Stress! 

Like so many writers, I only have the opportunity to write part-time. My full-time gig as a veterinarian can be physically and emotionally draining, especially those nights with heavy caseloads and high mortality rates. Barricading this kind of stress from my creative side is a real effort, and it has taken years to develop the power to affect how my mind perceives and processes stress.

When the flow of creativity is imbued with a healthy mind, you can shatter these barriers. An unhealthy mind and body limit the capacity of your brain and ability to create. Stress makes your brain go into survival mode. Think about it: when you’re “running from a bear” (a fun mnemonic my physiology professor used to use in vet school), you need to GET OUTTA THERE, not write him a novel or paint his portrait. There is no space in your brain to create when you’re trying to stay alive and function. When we are stuck behind the glass wall that stress puts up, we see where we COULD go, but we can’t get there—we are “locked out” of our creative vision.

Everything I read seems to portray the goal in reverse: Creativity is needed for health & wellness, especially mental wellness. I don’t necessarily see this as a one-way street, however. Mental and physical health are what feed creativity in your brain, thus one being mutually beneficial to the other.

Increasing blood flow to vital organs (including your brain) can not only balance hormones, even out your sleep cycle, decrease anxiety, and strengthen your immune system, it can also create a healthier outlook, decrease your chances of Alzheimer’s, and allow wider creative impulses.

So how do you get to the overflowing wellspring of creativity? It’s simple: MOVE. Move your body, move your mind.

Here are some simple ideas to get your blood pumping or de-stress, and get your creative juices flowing!

-Use a fitness tracker. I use the Fitbit Blaze and absolutely love it based on my lifestyle needs. If I am sitting too long, it prompts me to stand and take a specific minimum number of steps per hour.

-Walk regularly, jog, run, skip, or ride a bike. I can’t stress this enough: walk regularly, even if it’s just 15 minutes a day.

-Regular stretching, focusing on the back, neck, and shoulders. Staring at a screen will wreak havoc on your neck. Consider a professional massage or even acupuncture.

-Yoga, Barre, pole fitness, or aerial dance (silks, hammock, or Lyra hoop). Download the MINDBODY app HERE to explore classes and pricing near you.

-Meditation, recite mantras/affirmations for writers such as WriteNow cards which you can purchase HERE

-Photography and Videography. Train a different creative channel in your brain. You’ll see the world in a whole new way.

-Voiceover, podcasting, songwriting. Hear yourself in a new way. Record yourself reading your writing—it’ll blow your mind.

-Listen to music, play piano, learn guitar. Have a playlist blasting while writing to inspire certain moods or emotions. Pandora and Spotify are a great start. Noise-cancelling headphones are a must if you’re in public.

-Art galleries, painting, drawing, quilting, knitting, ceramics, Paint & Sip classes.

-Live performances, dinner theater, bands, acting workshops or theater groups, Shakespeare festivals in summer!

FURTHER READING: Psychology Today:“Our study supports the idea that engaging the mind may protect neurons, or the building blocks of the brain, from dying, stimulate the growth of new neurons, or may help recruit new neurons to maintain cognitive activities in old age” (American Academy of Neurology, 2015).