Friday, December 28, 2012

Review: Darklandia by T. S. Welti

by T.S. Welti

Available as: paperback, Kindle edition
Pages: 201
Publisher: Blackhill Publishing
Release date: October 22, 2012
Suggested tags: young adult, dystopia, science fiction

From Goodreads:
"Manhattan, 2147

Seventeen-year-old Sera Fisk gleefully celebrates the death of her 114-year-old great-grandmother, the last Atraxian alive who still remembers what New York was like before Felicity.

There is only one principle of Felicity: Suffering is optional. Those who disagree or forget this principle, as Sera's father did, are detained and “purified”. Through the use of the Darklandia virtual reality and mandatory water rations, the Department of Felicity has transformed metropolises all over the country into happy, obedient communities.

Inspired by her great-grandmother's last words, Sera stops drinking the water rations and is soon recruited by Nyx into a rebel organization in the midst of planning a full-scale attack on Darklandia. When Nyx attempts to override the Darklandia system, he stumbles upon shocking information about Sera and her family. After years of living in a haze of virtual reality and drugs, Sera finds herself running from a powerful surge of raw emotions and a government agency intent on keeping reality a secret.

{ I received a Kindle edition for free through Early Reviewers on LibraryThing. }

My wishlist for Darklandia:

{ I wish I could come up with such an amazing dystopian idea. }
The idea of Felicity and a virtual reality amusement park are truly brilliant. So much potential behind them. I love dystopian novels that really create a sort of other-worldly atmosphere, despite the fact that they're set in familiar places. Welti nailed it.

{ I wish we had gotten to see a little more of Darla. }
As Sera's closest friend, I wanted to be shown more about her character. It was like she was there but not, always on the periphery, not really totally involved. So much so that when I got to the revelation of her fate, I read it and thought, "Eh." Which I'm pretty sure was not the reaction Welti intended readers to have. If I had gotten to know Darla a little better, I'm sure I would have had a much stronger reaction.

{ I wish we had gotten a little more romance between Nyx and Sera. }
It's pretty clear from the moment Nyx appears in the story that he's going be Sera's romantic interest. And while I did really like the slow building of their relationship, I just wanted a tiny bit more romance. I kept waiting for a big moment between them, but the romance stayed subtle and subdued. Which, under the circumstances they were facing, is understandable. But still, they were a cute couple and I just wanted to see them act on it a little more.

{ I wish I understood the ending. }
I have no idea what it meant. I read it three times and I still don't know. I have ideas (SPOILER - highlight to read: Is Sera still trapped in virtual reality? Was the entire book a dream? An extended virtual reality session? Was the final chapter just a flashback to previous events that Sera doesn't remember? But...the dates don't make sense. Sera in 2147 vs Sera in 2015?), but none of them seem like the right answer. I generally love when writers spring a surprise ending, but this one went right over my head. I really wish I understood what happened; since I don't, the whole thing feels rather incomplete.

Overall, it was a great story with a brilliant dystopian setting and I tore through it in a matter of days, which is why I gave it 4 stars despite some of my wishes. According to T. S. Welti's website, there will be a sequel to Darklandia, so I'm definitely going to pick that up and see if it explains/expands upon the ending.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Learn more about T. S. Welti on her blog,
and follow her on Twitter and Facebook!

Sunday, December 23, 2012


So sorry for being absent for so long! I even missed my blog's one year anniversary! :( Things have been getting a little overwhelming. I decided I would apply to grad school, which was a much bigger undertaking than I anticipated. And of course the holiday season is always chaotic, no matter how much you try to plan and prepare. But my application is due by January and the holidays are winding down (already?! where does the time go?), so hopefully I'll be back to giving this blog the attention it deserves soon!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Author Q&A: Kenechi Udogu

Kenechi Udogu, author of the YA fairy tale retelling The Other Slipper (you can find my review here), very kindly allowed me to ask her some questions about her writing and herself. The Other Slipper is a retelling of the Cinderella story which asks, what happened to that other glass slipper...?

{ About The Other Slipper... }

How did the idea for The Other Slipper come to you?
The idea for The Other Slipper came to me on my way home from work one day when I misread a cafĂ© sign that said “The Other Side” for “The Other Slipper”. This got me wondering about what might have happened to Cinderella’s other slipper after she left the ball and I came up with a story where the glass slippers have an adventure of their own.

Without spoiling anything… Jo grows throughout her journey, but she realizes she’s not the only one who’s grown. Did you start out with the idea to develop multiple characters along the way or was that something that evolved as you wrote?
The story took a life of its own pretty much after I wrote the first few chapters. I had an outline written down but once I started writing down conversations, the characters took over and drew me in a slightly different direction to what I had planned. You’ve read the story so you know what happens in the end but that was definitely not what I had in mind originally and I blame all the eclectic characters who kept popping into my head.

What do you hope readers take away from reading The Other Slipper?
That nothing is ever as it seems.

How long did it take you to finish The Other Slipper, from idea to finished work?
I work full time as an Architect so the only opportunity I get to write is at night and weekends, so most of my novels take a long time to finish. It took just over a year to complete the first draft of The Other Slipper then a little longer to get it ready for publishing.

If you wrote another fairy tale retelling, which fairy tale would you pick?
I recently read a collection of Grimm fairytales and discovered Bearskin. I was surprised I’d never heard of it as it is such a lovely but dark story. If you haven’t read it, go find a copy now.

{ About writing... }

Can you describe your writing process?
Day dream about the idea for ages, jot down notes when I finally have a coherent plot, sit in front of my PC, surf the net for facts, google unrelated nonsense as a distraction, type a few words, stare into space, watch some telly, type some more, play an online game, more typing, decide it’s time to shut down for the night. Recommence the next evening.

Where do you find you do the best work?
In my head, hahaha. Seriously though, I work best if I’m in the right frame of mind so it doesn’t matter if it’s on the train, in front of my PC or lying in bed. Recently I’ve found that I prefer writing on digital mediums than on paper because I love, love, love the undo button. So much better than crossing out bad ideas.

Did you always want to be an author?
As a child, I read a lot of books and comics and it didn’t take long for me to start forming ideas about what I wanted to read. Then I started to write the ideas down and draw comic strips in my note books. My family was always supportive of my work even when what I produced was probably laughable and I’m eternally grateful to them for that.

Do you have any words of advice for hopeful future authors?
Don’t give up! Listen to your critics but try not to get too upset when their opinions are different from yours. Instead, keep an eye out for the criticism that can make you a better
writer. Oh and edit, edit, edit.

Any projects in the works you would like to share?
I’m currently scheduled to release a new YA paranormal romance in December. It’s called Aversion and is about a girl who can push thoughts into people’s heads. There will no werewolves, angels or vampires in sight as I’m trying to make it a little different from a lot of books currently out there.

{ About reading... }

What is your favorite genre to read?
I’m a sucker for fantasy, romance and comedic fiction (even better if they’re all in one book). I also need a good horror story every now and then to get rid of all the fluffiness.

When a book is made into a movie, do you read the book first or watch the movie first?
I’d rather read the book first because if it was good enough to inspire a movie, I want to know why. The only problem is that I tend to be too critical of movies when the adaptations don’t stick to the original story.

Do you prefer to buy books or borrow them from the library?
I buy books then give them away (to a friend or a charity bookshop) when I’m done. I’m in full support of keeping libraries open though.

Do you prefer to read print books or ebooks?
E-books for my train commute to work and print books for bedtime reading or when I’m on holiday. As a result, I tend to have two books on the go.

{ About everything else... }

Do you prefer coffee or tea?
I have a special combination of a cup of tea with a quarter teaspoon of instant coffee added. Don’t question it until you try it. .

What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?
It sounds really boring but it’s vanilla (I’ll hang my head in shame). Let’s be honest, you can’t go wrong with vanilla. But to redeem my bland favourite choice, my second favourite flavor is Pralines and Cream.

What is your favorite quote?
If you can’t beat them, form you own group.

Learn more about Kenechi Udogu and her books on her blog,
and follow her on Facebook and Goodreads!

Find The Other Slipper on Goodreads and Amazon!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Review: The Other Slipper by Kenechi Udogu

The Other Slipper
by Kenechi Udogu

Available as: paperback, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 268
Publisher: CreateSpace
Publication date: September 27, 2011
Suggested tags: young adult, fairy tales, retellings

From Goodreads:
"When Jo finds a lone glass slipper on the night of the royal ball, she realises that there is more to the seemingly ordinary object than meets the eye. Searching for its owner, she is led to the palace where the princess sets her on a journey that thrusts her into an unexpected world of magic and illusions. It soon becomes clear that there is a lot more to her mission as she discovers startling secrets about her past and struggles to embrace her destiny."

{ I was kindly provided a free Kindle edition of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. }

The Other Slipper is a fairy tale retelling based on a creative idea: what happened to Cinderella's other slipper? Jo works at the palace where the prince has just found his beloved, thanks to some magic glass slippers. On Jo's way home one night, she finds some curious items in the middle of the path, including one of the slippers. She decides to take these things home with her, which turns out to be a life-changing decision.

This is an interesting story based on a very imaginative idea. The Cinderella character is only in the story briefly as a rather minor character; Jo, the palace worker, is the heroine here. Udogu creates a world with magic and far-off mysterious lands that Jo and her traveling partners navigate to get to their ultimate destination, the Land of Ould, where the slippers need to be returned.

The Other Slipper kept me reading to find out where the story was going to go. However, the narration was a little distracting. The narrator seemed to be a bit too omniscient; we're taken into the head of every character, bouncing back and forth at times. Thoughts are shared even when they don't seem necessary to the plot. Also, Locke was a great character, but I couldn't quite tell whether he was intended to be Jo's romantic interest or not. It was like sometimes there seemed to be a little something between them, and sometimes that would fade into the background entirely. I kind of wish that something had happened between them, because it seemed to be slowly leading towards that, and I think the story would have been nicely spiced up with a little romance. I also wish that the meeting with the Lady of Ould had been a little more dramatic; we are told throughout the book how intimidating and powerful she is, and finding her is the ultimate destination on their journey, but when they finally do get there it's just a little anticlimactic.

Otherwise, I did enjoy The Other Slipper and I would read another book by Udogu, as she is clearly very creative and can weave an interesting story. A little editing would take The Other Slipper from good to great.

Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars

{ Coming tomorrow: author Q&A with Kenechi Udogu! }

New Release Round-Up: December 3-9, 2012

Young Adult

Never Let You Go
by Emma Carlson Berne

Release date: December 4, 2012
Available as: paperback, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 240
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Suggested tags: young adult, thriller, contemporary

From Goodreads:
"A love triangle goes horribly wrong in this dark, romantic suspense-thriller from the author of Still Waters.

Megan never meant to hurt her best friend, Anna. She made a mistake, and she’s spent all year trying to regain Anna’s trust. So when Anna invites her to spend the summer on her uncle’s farm, Megan is excited…and relieved. The past is finally behind them.

On the farm, Anna quickly falls for Jordan, a rugged summer-hand. Megan and Jordan have their own spark, but Megan’s betrayed Anna once before and she’s not about to do it again.

Still, the more time that Megan and Jordan spend together, the harder it is to deny their chemistry. But Anna doesn’t like to be ignored—and she doesn’t forgive and forget. What started out as the perfect summer is about to take a very dark turn....

The Friday Society
by Adrienne Kress

Release date: December 6, 2012
Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 440
Publisher: Dial
Suggested tags: young adult, steampunk, mystery

From Goodreads:
"An action-packed tale of gowns, guys, guns –and the heroines who use them all

Set in turn of the century London, The Friday Society follows the stories of three very intelligent and talented young women, all of whom are assistants to powerful men: Cora, lab assistant; Michiko, Japanese fight assistant; and Nellie, magician's assistant. The three young women's lives become inexorably intertwined after a chance meeting at a ball that ends with the discovery of a murdered mystery man.

It's up to these three, in their own charming but bold way, to solve the murder–and the crimes they believe may be connected to it–without calling
too much attention to themselves.

Set in the past but with a modern irreverent flare, this Steampunk whodunit introduces three unforgettable and very ladylike–well, relatively ladylike–heroines poised for more dangerous adventures.

Other YA new releases for this week:

Middle Grade

The Daring Escape of the Misfit Menagerie
by Jacqueline Resnick

Release date: December 6, 2012
Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 272
Publisher: Razorbill
Suggested tags: middle grade, fantasy

From Goodreads:
"Smalls the sun bear and his friends are an unusual bunch. That's why they're known as the Misfit Menagerie. The four oddball animals live on Mr. Mumford's farm, where they play games and do tricks for neighborhood children. It's an idyllic existence--until a cruel circus owner named Claude Magnificence comes to town, and life as they know it ends. The Menagerie is snatched away to a traveling circus, where Claude and his buffoonish sidekicks force them to perform death-defying tricks.

At the circus, Smalls and his friends only have slop to eat. They live in filthy, cramped cages. And they're bullied by a rough band of trained animals called the Lifers. It's worse than awful--it's despicable! But then young Bertie Magnificence comes along, and he and Smalls form the kind of friendship that inspires hope. They decide that something needs to change...and fast. With the help of an acrobat named Susan, Smalls and Bertie set in motion a heroic plan.

Can a lonely boy and a misfit bear hoodwink cruel Claude and save an entire circus of captive animals?"

Other Middle Grade new releases for this week: