All Our Yesterdays – By Cristin Terrill

All Our Yesterdays

I love this book. This is one of those novels that book reviewers pull out all the clichés; a real page-turner, I couldn’t put it down, had me up all night. Because it’s true, I’m ‘exhibit A’ – The kid’s dinner went by the wayside, I was up all hours, zombie eyed; I was obsessed. Every moment I had, the book made its way back to my eagerly awaiting hands. I needed to know what was happening to the characters that had so quickly taken up residence in my life.

A quick plot outline – the two main characters travel back in time to try and save themselves and the world. To do this they must kill someone, but they find this more difficult than they thought.

That’s the gist of the plot I don’t want to spoil anything by giving too much detail. This book is the perfect example of “How to Start a Novel” Terrill puts you straight into the action –tick, questions are forming in your mind, has you curious – tick, tight plot – tick, early attachment to the characters – tick. The story has the essence of The Terminator films, which is fine with me, as I’m a huge Terminator fan; the fiction world has been waiting for a good time travel book for sometime. All I want to say is if you enjoy reading YA fiction then put this one on your shopping list.

 

TITLE: All Our Yesterdays

AUTHOR: Cristin Terrill

GENRE: YA

NB: was awarded the 2014 Thriller Award for Best Young Adult Novel by the International Thriller Writers

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The Tragedy Paper

The Tragedy Paper

The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan
Let me first start by saying; I love the cover of this book. It’s the perfect summation of the novel.
Blurb
“Every year at an exclusive private boarding school in New York State, the graduating students uphold a historic tradition – they must swear an oath of secrecy and leave behind a “treasure” for each incoming senior. When Duncan Meade inherits the room and the secrets of Tim Macbeth, he uncovers evidence of a clandestine romance, and unravels the truth behind one of the biggest mysteries in the school’s history”

This is a simplistic summary, and it is a simple story, but it has rich characters and a captivating setting (who doesn’t love a boarding school setting). The main character, Tim, is an Albino, LaBan uses this to emphasize the teenage struggles of ‘do I, don’t I, fit in’. I don’t feel Laban was exploitative or insensitive, I feel she used this condition as an effective tool to express the feelings of many young people.
The “treasure” Tim leaves Duncan, is a set of audio CD’s telling his story of the previous year. Duncan discovers their lives are taking similar and often parallel paths. As Duncan plays the CD’s the story unfolds and we hear how Tim deals with his social inadequacies  at a new school, and as a teenager in love. Tim’s insecurity and self doubt ultimately leads to “the tragedy’. Duncan learns from Tim’s mistakes and discovers insight to himself and his own doubts are reassured through the therapeutic effect of Tim’s CD’s.

What I enjoyed most about the book, is the suspense that LaBan creates. The rhythm of the novel is like a ticking clock. The characters and the reader are hyper aware of time passing. This creates tension and a sense of urgency. We are left waiting for Tim’s words to reveal the secret, and wondering what the tragedy will be. As Duncan is continually drawn back to Tim’s CD’s, so are we. We are given clues throughout the book and can piece together a vague idea of the coming tragedy, but this, in no way, detracts from the book.

I really enjoyed this book, and LaBan’s writing. I found I was grabbing the book at every moment.

Published: 2013
Publisher: Corgi Books
Pages: 308

Book Cover Design 101

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Author: “Make my cover look like a bestseller”

Designer: “ No problem how’s this?”

If only it was that easy.

How do you choose a book? This question has been poised numerous times and the most common answer is “by its cover”. The cover design of a book has always had an important role in it’s marketing, and choosing the design is a complex process. With a growing number of authors self – publishing, understanding the psychology behind this choice is crucial.

Unfortunately in traditional publishing an author’s opinion isn’t always listened to, especially if the vision for their book does not match the publishers marketing strategy. There have been cases of authors leaving publishing houses due to disagreements on the cover art. This rang true to me recently when another blogger recommended the book Selection by Keira Cass; I had previously dismissed this series solely because the cover art projected an image that was ‘girly’ and ‘prissy’. I have now read the book and feel the cover has done the book an injustice.

In the traditional publishing world, there are whole departments devoted to cover design. The publishing houses give a brief to a designer, which usually stipulates that the design should articulate the contents of the book. You’d think this was obvious, but a book might be more suited to a more conceptual design.

A self- published author can be left in a quandary as in how to approach this subject. Authors can emulate the process that the publishing house use, but the main thing is to take time and consider carefully, what you want, as it is your brand.

Some suggestion to get you thinking:

 

  1. What is the image/feel you wish to project? E.g. A “Literary” novel cover is often understated, serious and elegant, withy heavy weighted paper and considered fonts.
  2. Decide on your budget. Can you afford to hire a graphic artist? If you have a large budget then Chip Kidd is the designer you want, probably no.1 in book cover designs at the moment. Have a look at his gallery www.chipkidd.com/gallery If you have a small budget approach some design schools and see if a students work catches your eye and negotiate with them.
  3. Look at current trends I personally do not like this. Remember when “Twilight” became a phenomenal success and every book following had a black cover with a single image.
  4. Do some market research, get a group of beta readers and have them read your book and give feed back on a selection of cover designs.
  5. Research psychology of colour and the emotions it creates.
  6. Research graphic/art techniques. For example the eye is drawn firstly to the top left hand corner of an image and then moves in a clockwise direction. This might affect your placement of images.
  7. Look up The Golden Mean/ Fibonacci Sequence used by artists for centuries. Many advertisers also use this technique.

 

If anyone has some suggestion on cover design please share.

Bridge of Swords

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Sometimes the name of the leading character in a novel can make all the difference to me –I mean how great is the name Katniss Everdeen? I had one of those ‘name moments’ while reading Bridge of Swords by Duncan Lay. The protagonists name is Sendatsu, his name will not leave my thoughts, I keep saying it over and over again, I try to sleep and his name pops into my mind Sendatsu, Sendatsu! Lay has obviously created a memorable character. Its not just names that makes this fantasy novel memorable, Bridge of Swords is the first in the Empire of Bones trilogy, and it is an epic novel with a tale to tell.

Sendatsu is an elf, who passes through a protective barrier that shields the Elfan world from the human world; he was forced into the unfamiliar world to find the answer to the loss of Elfan magic. Sendatsu becomes involved with two humans named Huw and Rhiannon, these two characters provide the novels subplot. Wars are being fought in the human world and no matter how hard Sandatsu tries to stay uninvolved his warrior skills come to the aid of many and his involvement is set.

The plot and subplot explore the themes of power, greed, family and love. The themes are gently woven between the beautiful, cultural, Japanese like Elfan world to the raw, gritty, rough, medieval human world. Duncan Lay is a talented and skilled writer who manages to bring scenes to life. His action scenes are the breath holding, edge of your seat type, that have you page turning for more.

I have some catching up to do as the third book in the series was recently released, but am looking forward to see how the story unfolds.

Valley of Shields (Book 2 Empire of Bones)

Wall of Spears (Book 3 Empire of Bones)

Is the beginning the end?

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The start of a novel can make or break a book for me. It has to grab my attention with the very first line. As everyone today, I am too time poor to hang around hoping the book will get better. Am I too harsh? If an author has not put everything into their opening sentence then where is the respect to the reader? But here lies the problem, what makes a good first sentence? Every reader has different taste and I know what I like and if the writing is good,  I’ll stick around and give the book a fighting chance.

I recently attended a talk by the author Alexander McCall Smith. McCall Smith discussed the importance of a great opening line. He then delighted us with one of his favourites from The Tower of Trebizond by Rose Maccauly.

“Take my camel dear,” said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass.

Has the reader curious. No?

My favourite is a little more subdued, from the master himself, Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. Whenever I read this I wonder whether Dickens sweated over every word, rearranging, rewriting, putting in a comma and then removing it again or was he hit by inspiration and it flowed in one sitting. Here it is, for your pleasure.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness. It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity. It was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness. It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair

My son wanted to add his favourite, it’s the opening line of J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit

“In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit”

What is your favourite opening sentence?