Thursday, 29 April 2010

Wings Review

Wings Laurel has an abundance of problems idiosyncrasies. She doesn't like meat. At all. She craves outdoors and sunlight more than is necessary; she never gets cold; she has never been ill (as far as she can remember); she has never hurt herself (as far as she can remember); and she doesn't menstruate (as far as ... hey!).

She also has hippie parents who abhor doctors and shun orthodox medicine for herbal concoction. The federal government has embedded strange devices in every single tablet, and once ingested your DNA is copied and recorded in a government database. Should the United States government choose to body-snatch you ... Oh, sorry, that's not part of the plot.

Laurel and her parents move to a new home, and in a surprising twist her parents kick their home-schooling tradition to the curb and enrol Laurel in a public school. Public school means sitting indoors, thus Laurel isn't pleased with this turn of events. Remember, she loves outdoors and sunlight.

Her irritation at everything public school soon dampens when she meets David, a cute, charming, understanding boy armed with a dashing smile that can evaporate the ozone layer. (God forbid he gets pissed at the world).

As the months go by, David and Laurel grow closer, a character journey that is both refreshing and engaging. The romance isn't forced. It flows and ebbs with effortless fluidity.

One morning Laurel wakes up to the discovery of bumps on her shoulder blades. She dismisses them as zits. But the bumps keep swelling, and after days of panicking and fussing, they disappear. In their stead are wings ... or petals ... or wings that look like petals. Beautiful wings. Laurel is both amazed and distraught.

With David's help, a visit to the forest at her old house, and Google searches, Laurel discovers she's a fairy. With a twist. I won't tell you what that twist is, but I will say it's a rather good twist.

Wings is not a complicated read and Aprilynne Pike is not a complicated writer. The plot is simple and flows from A to Z with hardly any hitch. Pike's prose does wobble a bit in some areas, and her tendency to over-rely on adverbs will grate on some readers. However, as many will tell you, Aprilynne Pike's mission is to provide entertainment, not literary tediousness, and she accomplishes that.


Characters: 6/10

A statement of fact: Laurel is the only almost-three-dimensional character in Wings. She's smart, vulnerable, confident, brave, reckless, understanding and a lot of things. These traits don't just burst out at once. As the book progresses, one misadventure after another, she picks up a new self-attribute, embraces it, and flaunts it.

David starts out great. He is tailor-made for the role as Laurel's love interest, hence his glorified characteristics. But in spite of his tendency to be perfect most of the time (devoted, sympathetic to Laurel's plight, always says the right thing at the right time), Laurel does not allow herself to be ruled by her emotions. She takes things one step at a time, and in the end theirs is a relationship that is very, very real and cute.

For a while.

Enter Tamani, super hot Edward lookalike fairy boy, and Wings tumbles into mediocre terrain, along with my respect and love for it. It takes Laurel more than half the entire book to fall for David. It takes her two paragraphs to fall head-over-heels for Tamani.

Tamani's role is to serve as the third side of a ridiculous love triangle Wings could have done without. It's the same cheap plot device we've seen female YA authors use time and again. Laurel is kissing David today. Tomorrow she's eating Tamani's face. And the weird thing: David doesn't mind. He doesn't react. Tamani touches Laurel in front of him and he does nothing. His devotion to Laurel never wavers. It's so sad, because in the end David looks less like a teenage boy and more like Laurel's obedient poodle.

World building: 7/10

Until Wings I had never read a book about fairies. I have to say I found Aprilynne's mythology unique and very interesting.

Prose: 7/10

A very easy read. The adverbs in the dialogue tags, however, were a constant annoyance for me.

Plot: 7/10

Wings' plot is linear, very easy to follow. But it's not perfect. There's something like this:

MASTER: Your phone will ring at 3pm every day. You must make sure your mum never answers it.

HERO: Why?

MASTER: Dude, do as you're told.

[Hero screws up at some point and Mum answers phone]

HERO: Master, I ... I failed.

MASTER: Your mum answered the phone?

HERO: Yes.

MASTER: Dude! For fuck's sake. Now the world is going to end.

HERO: Well, you could have told me that in the first place and I'd have done something more drastic, like, I don't know – unplugging the phone.

Then there's the main villain, who we know is the main villain the instant he makes an appearance, but Laurel doesn't know until the very end. Tut. Poor.

Final Score: 7/10

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Teaser Tuesday

Teasers are good for your health. The UK's Secretary of State for Health, Andy Burnham, and the United States Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius (awesome last name for a villain. I'm totally using it for one of my characters. Thanks Kathleen), said so. I kid you not :D

Just a little background info for those who haven't read my previous teasers: Giaan is Pakistani, hence his unusual name. (I don't find it unusual, as I have lots of friends from the international community, but some people do. So, no - in case you're thinking it, Giaan is not an alien name. It's not a traditional American or British name, but that doesn't mean it's a name from Mars.) Aletea is half-Indian-half-white British (again, Aletea is an Indian name). Aletea is Giaan's girlfriend and Mr Diggavi is Aletea's father.

In this scene Aletea and Giaan are on their way to Giaan's house after shopping in London.

Snippet starts:

*Snip snip*

Snippet ends.

Sadly Giaan's fun time has come to an end. From here on, it's going to be tough for him.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Teaser Tuesday

Today's teaser continues from last week's. Enjoy!

Snippet starts:

*Snip snip*

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Thursday, 15 April 2010

The curious case of bullying

Something happened yesterday involving an agent, a disgruntled writer, a bunch of people and twitter. The issue reached boiling point and people started taking sides, writing blog posts, pointing fingers, and demanding apologies.

At the earlier moments of its inception, I chose not to comment on it. But now that the whole thing seems to have died down a bit, I feel I should give my perspective on the affair.

Bullying is wrong.

Make no mistake; whatever you think, bullying does more harm than good.

However, as the wise Hogwarts motto goes, "Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus," or in English, "Never tickle a sleeping dragon;" if you decide to take up arms against someone you assume to be considerably weaker than you, and that person takes you down, you have only yourself to blame.

Here's a simple story that represents what happened between the agent and the disgruntled writer.

A wolf trots to a dark cave and spots a rabbit at the entrance. In a show of politeness, the wolf asks the rabbit for a piece of wood, to which the rabbit replies, "I'm sorry, Mr Wolf, but I can't give you my wood. It's the last one I have and I'm saving it for someone else. But please, do understand that there are many woods lying about the forest, and while I cannot help you, I'm sure someone out there will."

The wolf considers the rabbit's rejection, and after concluding that it has a bigger set of teeth, bigger paws and greater strength, the wolf devises a new tactic. It snarls at the rabbit.

Riled and unafraid, the rabbit accepts the wolf's challenge and steps out of the cave.

The wolf is surprised. Turns out, what it presumed to be a rabbit was in fact the nose of a giant bear.

The bear swipes the wolf, and yelping, the wolf retreats, defeated.

An agent received a query from a writer. She rejected the writer on professional grounds, though with fantastic words of encouragement. The writer didn't take it well. But rather than retaliate with the usual, "Screw you," the writer decided to put down the agent by employing gender prejudice (as well as attacking the authors she represents, among other things). The agent snapped and posted the writer's unbecoming replies and his name. People saw it, commented about it, and some took to twitter and began sullying the man's name.

Some other people saw this happening, grew disgusted, bristled in silence, got more pissed off, and finally – unable to cope with the itching – blogged about it. They pointed at the agent and accused her of bullying.

The short sequel to my awesome story goes thus:

A group of tourists are walking by. They stop when they see a wolf whimpering and seeking cover. Hot on its tail, a plethora of animals – snails, dogs, rabbits, kangaroos, et cetera – toss junk at the wolf, screaming abuses. The tourists are horrified.

Who's to blame? The wolf, the bear, or the animals who decided to attack the wolf?

What surprises me is how most people have taken this issue and made it entirely black and white, or victim and abuser – the victim being the man (or the wolf) and the abuser being the agent (or the bear). The agent has absolute power, they say, and as such is responsible for the campaign on twitter to destroy the poor writer's name.


The agent did NOT lead a campaign against the writer. She simply posted his replies along with his name on her blog. She was hurt and angry, and in the heat of the moment she decided to counter-attack the guy in public. Everybody does it. I've perused hundreds of writer, agent and editor blogs, and sometimes I see posts like, "Can you believe what this person did to me?"

The only contentious aspect in the agent's exploit is exposing the writer's name. Some believe she shouldn't have done that. Some believe she should have.

What do I believe?

I can only imagine what I would do if I were in her shoes. I'm not a woman. I don't know what it's like to be a woman. I know women take a lot of crap just for being women. It's almost like race. Now if I were an agent, and I rejected some guy, and he sent a reply demeaning me because I'm black, I'd be really pissed. I'd be so pissed I'd probably print his name and email replies on my blog.

Will I be justified in doing so? Hell yeah. It's my bloody blog. If I'm allowed to rant about mere books why shouldn't I be allowed to rant about something as serious as racial prejudice?

Does that make my doing so right? No. But still, I will neither judge the woman nor will I begrudge her, her right to defend herself on her blog if she chooses to.

What I've observed since I started using twitter and visiting a lot of agent/editor blogs is this odd opportunistic hypocrisy displayed by some writers (aspiring and published), a sort of weird insincerity. Please understand that this is not directed at any particular group, both those in support of the agent's conduct and those against it. This is general observation.

A bunch of people commented on the agent's blog post. Some of them went on twitter to attack the guy, because they chose to. She didn't send a mass email asking them to do what they did, but she didn't tell them to stop either. They did it anyway. Why? I don't know.

Maybe they felt disgusted and needed to air out their grievances. Maybe they felt a public show of annoyance would somehow gain the agent's attention and subsequent support when they send her queries. All I know is they, on their own, attacked the guy because he attacked a seemly popular agent.

Opportunistic hypocrisy.

Whenever an agent says something, people just ... agree with them without actually thinking, "Hey, you know what, maybe this dude is wrong."

Then there's the other group – those who disagreed with the whole thing. Most of them kept their mouths shut. They kept quiet and just watched. It took three or so agented/soon-to-be-published authors to come out and say, "Hey, this is bullshit," before they all came out of their nests, chests puffed out: "Yeah man, screw that agent. Who does she think she is? I applaud you. I'm proud of you. You're so brave. You're like Obama!"

Hannah Moskowitz said on her blog that as far as the industry goes everyone is equal; published/agented writers, agents or editors are in no way greater than aspiring writers, and vice versa.

That would have been true if this was an ideal world.

In this world we live in, the words of those who have at least one foot in the publishing industry carries more effectual power than those who don't, which explains why it took blog posts by agented writers to draw out the voices of dissent.

Even then, these so-called opponents fell short of accomplishing what I had hoped they would. All they did was repeat the same format – one agent says something; everyone jumps on her back without serious deliberation. One author says something else; everyone jumps on her back without serious deliberation. Let's all play Russian roulette – pull out our guns and fire, because she said it was that woman's fault. Or let's arm ourselves with snipers and shot that guy cos he hurt that agent.

First: they ignored the blatant sexism in the writer's emails (those who didn't ignore it failed to see the seriousness of it).

Second: they refused to comprehend that some people when confronted with something as upsetting as discrimination, be it on the basis of race or gender, almost always react the way the agent reacted, which was to blog about it. And they have a right to, damn it.

Third: they utilised the same let's-blame-it-all-on-this-guy bullying tactic by refusing to point out that though the agent may have published a blog post about the insulting writer, separate individuals attacked the writer of their own accord. Some of these individuals were agents, published authors and editors. I'm on twitter too. I saw them. I know their names. I followed the whole drama from start to finish. Yet – surprise, surprise! – None of the authors who blogged their disagreement aimed their crosshairs at the other guilty parties. They all made it look like it was a case of one mad woman grabbing a machete and rallying up supporters with the sole aim of destroying one poor, poor boy.

Call a spade a spade. If you want to take the moral high ground on this issue, grab the bull by its horns. Don't play double-standards. Point at everyone involved, not one woman.

As for me, this is simply a case of a bully who tried to bully someone else but got bullied instead. I have no sympathy for the guy. I don't give a fuck whether he needs an agent so badly to help him get published so he can pay his mortgage or hospital bills, or that he's mentally ill (and I'll bet my life he's not. Most people who behave this way aren't mentally handicapped), or whatever naive reason anyone can concoct; in my world, there is absolutely no excuse for sexism, racism or any form of gross discrimination. No excuse at all. I have zero tolerance for that kind of shit.

And while I agree that the agent should have left his name out, I understand why she didn't, and quite frankly, part of me applauds her for putting his name out there.

However, it's my hope that in the future the agent will exercise discretion when dealing with similar issues.

An eye for an eye makes the world go blind, but if history has taught us anything, it's that sometimes in order to get what we truly deserve we have to be prepared to fight in complete darkness.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Teaser Tuesday

Someone in AW suggested we keep our teasers in the range of 500 words. I couldn't agree more. Lol Actually, I agree because I'm running out of teasers. Also, because it's easier for me to read everyone's teasers in time to get back to my writing. I want to read everyone's teasers. I love doing it. Besides learning from them, I get that amazing feeling of visiting different worlds and meeting new, interesting people – characters born out of minds far more creative than mine. It's a blessing.

So, here's my teaser. It's short, but I hope you enjoy it, nonetheless.

Snippet starts:

*Snip snip*

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Monday, 12 April 2010

Should thou point the finger? Should thou kiss some ass?

On Twitter I stumbled upon this blog post:

You can choose to read the post in its entirety, but I'll go ahead and give you a snippet anyway. This is what attracted my attention and led to my latest inadvertent blog post:

"As a related aside, I do find it amusing when some reviewers say 'the book could have done with more editing'. An editor (not mine) commented on this at Eastercon recently – it's ridiculous for people to say that, because have they any idea just what work went into that manuscript in the first place? That an editor could have reduced a novel by half to have some clown still say it needs a good edit (when they might also mean, for example, that they didn't agree with the pacing)."

Some clown? Really?

I have to say, I am guilty of this (which makes me a clown). I've reviewed a bunch of books and I think at one instance I did point my finger at an editor. But only once. On the whole, I focus on a book's plot, characters and so on.

The question I have is should we refrain from accusing editors when their clients' books are guilty of plot holes or disjointed plots (baddie walks into a room which has one entrance and no windows. The room blows up. Many pages later, baddie reappears, claiming he escaped through the room's backdoor ... which doesn't exist), lengthy and unnecessary exposition (book is 900 pages. It could have been 250), spelling and grammatical errors, major silliness (character has green eyes in page 1. In page 5 he has blue eyes) (character is black but talks like an idiot, because writer assumed all black people sound like Lil Wayne), et cetera.

(Bear in mind that while editors make suggestions and request changes, some authors do ignore them – though I'm sure there's a limit to this).

Should editors be cocooned from reader/reviewer fulmination because they've worked too damn hard on their clients' books? Are they above criticism because we – readers and reviewers alike – do not understand the intricate process of book editing?

In essence, should thou point the finger?

As this is my blog, it's only fair I let you all know my stance on the matter.

Here goes: I don't know how to animate creatures or characters on screen. I can't act. If Osama Bin Laden strapped me in a chair, wrapped an explosive vest around my torso and told me the only way I was walking out alive was if I wrote a movie script, you had better believe I'd be blown to a million pieces. I don't know how to direct a movie or edit one. Cinematography? What the bloody hell does that mean? I don't know! (Actually, I do now, cos I looked it up :D)

But I do know this: Clash of the Titans remake and Terminator Salvation sucked. Banana. Balls. And we all know who's to blame for that.

Moving on.

This issue of pointing the finger at editors also got me pondering another matter. Should aspiring and published writers review books at all? If you're a writer and you read a book, the book sucked – like sucked really bad – and you knew coming out and stating your opinion about the book would draw unfavourable attention to you, would you alter your estimation of the book from, "You know what, this book should have been edited down to 250 pages. It was horrible," to, "OMG! I loved it! It was better than sex with my boyfriend"?

Panning a book on your blog or twitter is almost like spitting in the faces of the author, his or her agent, and editor of that book. And if you're an aspiring writer, one day, after years of toiling on your baby, chances are your manuscript will land on the desk of the agent or editor whose client's work you pissed all over. Or, even worse, the author whose book you ripped on would be asked to blurb your book. If they've read your blog, you know what they're going to say: "Hell no! Fuck her."

So, should thou kiss some ass?

Again – my blog, so I must state my view: I wake up in the morning, watch some episodes of CSI NY, and at 1:30 I shower. Then I head out to Waterstones. There I pick up a copy of your book. Pay for it with my Barclaycard – £9.80. I go home, sit down and delve into your book.

Three days later, I'm done. And I'm depressed. Why am I depressed? Your book sucked. Not that it had a small character development problem or the ending didn't work well for me – I mean, everything about it sucked. Really bad. I start thinking about what I could have done with £9.80. I start wondering what would have happened had I gone to that party with that girl in one of those three days I used to read your book. Maybe I would have got laid. I start regretting buying your book. I get pissed.

Will I kiss your ass and sugar coat my review?

Here's a hint:

"But Glen – dude, you're digging yourself into a hole!"

Look, let's be honest – I'm black. While my fellow aspiring white writers have to run to get published and recognised, I have to fly ... and probably shit gold along the way. And before you go there, no I'm not playing the race card and I'm not complaining either. Lol I'm stating a simple fact. By association, I'm already in a hole. Editors and agents are going to tell me my urban fantasy manuscript is great but, "Won't it be better if you wrote about Africa? Your name fits the description of an ethnic writer." Hahaha! I always relish a challenge. I can't wait to finish my book, start querying and finally stomp on the status quo.

So I'm going to keep writing my reviews. Even though I don't regret buying any book I've reviewed so far (not even The Forest of Hands and Teeth A.K.A Run Mary, Run to the Ocean, irrespective of what you may think), I know the day is coming when I'm going to purchase that one book that'll make me really, really mad.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Teaser Tuesday ... Interrupted

This is a teaser tuesday post. Sorry, forgot to add that bit cos I was testing blogging via a new device at my friend's place.

So, what's going on here? It's an unpublished blogpost by a certain character in my book. I decided to shift from Giaan and give you guys this. I hope you like it.

Snippet starts:

*Snip snip*

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