Recommended: Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

unearthedPublisher’s Description

When Earth intercepts a message from a long-extinct alien race, it seems like the solution humanity has been waiting for. The Undying’s advanced technology has the potential to undo environmental damage and turn lives around, and their message leads to the planet Gaia, a treasure trove waiting to be explored.

For Jules Addison and his fellow scholars, the discovery of an ancient alien culture offers unprecedented opportunity for study… as long as scavengers like Amelia Radcliffe don’t loot everything first. Despite their opposing reasons for smuggling themselves onto the alien planet’s surface, they’re both desperate to uncover the riches hidden in the Undying temples. Beset by rival scavenger gangs, Jules and Mia form a fragile alliance… but both are keeping secrets that make trust nearly impossible.

As they race to decode the ancient messages, Jules and Mia must navigate the traps and trials within the Undying temples and stay one step ahead of the scavvers on their heels. They came to Gaia certain that they had far more to fear from their fellow humans than the ancient beings whose mysteries they’re trying to unravel. But the more they learn about the Undying, the more Jules and Mia start to feel like their presence in the temple is part of a grand design–one that could spell the end of the human race…

Rebecca’s Thoughts

Aliens secrets in ancient temples? Puzzles reminiscent of an Indiana Jones movie that must be unlocked to continue exploring? Traps have already left members of the first International Alliance team dead? A scholar and a scavver who have opposing reasons for coming to Gaia but must work together to survive? YES PLEASE!

Unearthed is full of conflict and action from page one. It’s a quick read. And its promise of alien mysteries and confusion about their motives don’t disappoint. I wouldn’t have minded a bit more hard science in the space travel and communication. Travel times from Earth to Gaia seemed rather short even with a portal left behind by the aliens to help things along. But the richness of this book is in the two teens, each on Gaia for something they desperately need and with opposing goals. A slow burn romance as Jules and Mia learn they must work together facing the highest stakes propels the story forward as much as the action. Highly recommended!

No advanced reader copy on this one! I was excited enough about the concept to request from the library right after it released. You can check it out on Goodreads or order from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Indiebound.

Need more book suggestions? If Unearthed sounds good, you might also like some of the young adult fantasy and science fiction releases I’ve reviewed including:

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
5 Must-Reads from the CYBILS YA Speculative Fiction Award nominees.
– 5 More Great Reads from the CYBILS YA Spec Fic Award nominees.

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes young adult science fiction with heroines much braver than she is and middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure. She reviews young adult books, is a judge for the CYBILS YA Speculative Fiction book award and fangirls all things bookish. Find her on Twitter and Instagram, or on TheWingedPen.com.

Advertisements

Get Ready for WriteOnCon!

WriteOnCon is near and dear to our hearts at the Winged Pen because it’s where a lot of us first connected. I’ll be attending this year and I hope you will be too! If you haven’t before, here’s some tips on making the most of it.

What is WriteOnCon?

WriteOnCon is an online writing conference. No pricey registration fees. No hotel rooms required. No extended time away from the family. All you need is $5 and Internet access.

And if you’re asking yourself if it’s worth $5, let me tell you, it’s worth a whole lot more! Not sure? You can check out a the keynote presentations for free. If you want access to everything, pay a few dollars more. Check this post for all the details.

The presentation schedule opens this Friday, the 9th, but the forums are open now. Check them out!

How Do You Do WriteOnCon?

First, Register and Create Your Profile

Register here. You can add as much or as little info as you like in your profile, but remember, what you get out of WriteOnCon depends on what you put in. Yes, you can be anonymous and just view/read the presentations. But we’re writers so it’s all about the words. Don’t you want to meet some writers in your favorite genre and/or category?

A quick bio is all you need to introduce yourself to other attendees. Don’t have a bio? Start with a simple one. Just give us a glimpse of what you write and a bit about your personality. Need an example? There’s one at the bottom of this post and every other Winged Pen post.

Don’t forget to include your social media accounts. You can keep up with new writer-friends more easily after WriteOnCon if you’ve followed each other on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

Check Out the Schedule

There are three-days’ worth of presentations, some video and some written. The conference covers everything kidlit from picture books to young adult. And new this year — new adult! Craft topics include researching historical fiction, creating strong character voice, writing romance, outlining plot and character arc and more. Gain insight on the publishing industry by checking out talks by literary agents and the truth about being a New York Times best-seller from Beth Revis. You can even pitch agents your manuscripts! Whether you’re a newb or have been writing for years, there is something worthwhile!

The Forums: Get Feedback on Your Writing and Help Other Writers

Now that you’ve gotten your feet wet, it’s time to dig into the central part of WriteOnCon, the words. You can post your query, the first page of your story, and/or your first five pages for feedback by other conference attendees. You can also pay it forward by helping other writers hone their words. To do this, go to the forums. The forums are broken up by category, so head over to picture book, middle grade, young adult or new adult whichever is appropriate. Remember to be kind and use the critique sandwich – something you liked, something you think can be improved, and a last shot of encouragement.

If you get a great AH-HA! moment from comments you receive, revise real-time. Post revised queries or pages at the top of your entry so that new readers will see that, not point out the mistakes others have already noted. And remember, the best way to get help revising your own work is to reach out and help others.

Superheros

The WriteOnCon Superheroes are authors, agents and editors who will be visiting the forums and providing pro-level critiques. This is a great opportunity!  Because the early fund-raising campaign for WriteOnCon was so successful, the superheroes will be trying to provide feedback for everyone. I can’t image how they could make it through all the queries and pages. There were hundreds of posts last year. But that’s the plan. Look for superhero comments on your own posts and on others because you can a learn a lot from their critiques even if they aren’t on your writing.

Will I see you at WriteOnCon this week? I hope I do! Stop by and say hi! And remember amid the rush to hear all the presentations and to give and receive tons of feedback, to relax and enjoy the words and make sure you make a couple new writer-friends!

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes young adult science fiction with heroines much braver than she is and middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure. She reviews young adult books, is a judge for the CYBILS YA Speculative Fiction book award and fangirls all things bookish. Find her on Twitter and Instagram, or on TheWingedPen.com.

Book Review: THE HAZEL WOOD by Melissa Albert

hazel woodPublisher’s Description

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: Her mother is stolen away–by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began–and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

Rebecca’s Thoughts

The Hazel Wood is as dark and creepy as the Grimm fairy tales its main character Alice has spent her childhood reading. The author’s vivid description pulls you first into Alice’s life in New York City and then into the stranger world of Hazel Wood and beyond. Alice’s thirst for the truth about herself and drive to find her mother propel the story forward, and obstacles at every turn and keep the pages turning quickly. I particularly liked the stories within this story–excerpts from her grandmother’s book provide glimpses of the twisted characters and deeds that lie ahead on Alice’s path. The Hazel Wood is a great pick for fans of Stranger Things and Holly Black’s novels.

Continue reading “Book Review: THE HAZEL WOOD by Melissa Albert”

5 More Great Reads from the CYBILS Young Adult Speculative Fiction Nominees

Must-reads from the 2017 CYBILS Spec Fic Nominees(2)My last post shone a spotlight on Five Must-Read books from the CYBILS 2017 Young Adult Speculative Fiction nominees. But there was too much awesome to fit in just one post. If you love fantasy, science fiction and magical realism as much as I do, you’ll love these books too!

The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell – In the present day, magic is all but extinct and magicians are trapped in a Manhattan by the Brink, a dark energy barrier that strips them of their powers and often their lives, if they try to leave the city. Magicians are hunted by the Order, the group that created the Brink and is trying to rid the world of magicians. To find out how to defeat the Order and free her kind, Esta must use her unique ability to manipulate time to travel back to 1902 and steal an ancient book containing the secrets of the Order before it is destroyed, dooming modern-day magicians to a hopeless future. But when the Order closes in, Esta risks losing not only her magic but also her way back to her own time.
I loved the world – early 1900’s plus magic!, the action, and the fight for magic played out through time.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo – One of our favorite superheroes gets a new origin story. A ship is bombed just past the border hiding her home, the secret island of the Amazons, from the human world. Diana rescues a survivor, breaking the prohibition against bringing mortals to the island and risking her own exile. The survivor Aila is the Warbringer, a descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about a world war. Diana and Aila are determined to keep that from happening. They battle enemies – both mortal and divine – as they try to stem the tide of war. I loved Diana as a female, kickass superhero, intense action scenes, surprising bad guys and the twisty plot.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

Continue reading “5 More Great Reads from the CYBILS Young Adult Speculative Fiction Nominees”

5 Must Reads from the 2017 CYBILS YA Speculative Fiction Nominees

YA books, speculative fiction, CYBILS book awardsOne hundred and thirty books were nominated for the 2017 YA Speculative Fiction Award. 130! That’s a lot of books for seven judges to read in three months! As one of those judges, I’m overwhelmed by the volume but even more overwhelmed by the talent!

I still have many books to read and can only mention some I love, not give away clues about which will make the short list. But I believe books make wonderful holiday gifts. For just $50 I can come home with 6-7 presents that will provide hours of enjoyment for family members! Therefore I wanted to shine an early spotlight on a handful of stellar books. So get out your holiday shopping list…you might find some titles here that match up nicely with your loved ones!

They both Dies at the End, CYBILS, YA books, speculative fiction, book reviewThey Both Die At the End by Adam Silvera – Imagine you receive a call telling you you’ll die within the next 24 hours. A call that encourages you to live your last day to the fullest. How would you spend that day?

Two teen boys get this call. They’re strangers but both looking for someone to spend their last day with and meet through the Last Friend app. Their last day is epic, moving, and reminds us of what a gift life is. I loved the premise, the teens’ determination to have one last great adventure, and the boys’ touching relationship.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

Strange the Dreamer, CYBILS, YA books, speculative fiction, book reviewStrange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor – If you’ve read Laini’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series (and if you haven’t, you should), this is more of her special brand of awesome. It’s an epic story with mortals and monsters, and sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which. The settings range from a re-imagined Library of Alexandria to a barren desert to a palace floating in the sky. Laslo Strange is has one chance to travel to the lost city of Weep and find out why it was cut off from the rest of civilization 200 years ago. And to learn about the mysterious secret its people now need help solving. I loved the sweeping world-building, the three-dimensional characters, the gorgeous writing and the charged action scenes.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

Continue reading “5 Must Reads from the 2017 CYBILS YA Speculative Fiction Nominees”

Twitter 101 for Writers: Building Your Twitter Writing Community

Twitter 101 for Writers, Building your writing community

Back in February, I wrote my first post in the Twitter 101 for Writers series. That post covered the Twitter Writing Community hashtags writers can use to find resources for every stage of the writing journey, from getting words on the page to finding a literary agent. At that point, I had the idea that Twitter 101 could be a series, but wasn’t sure what to cover next. Then I met Abby Matthews, who was new to Twitter but trying to get up to speed fast so she could publicize her new podcast Mom Writes, featured on this blog last week. Abby asked me questions about Twitter and as I answered them, I came up with material for several more posts. This first one will be about Building Your Twitter Writing Community.

Abby’s question:

“To me Twitter is a lot of it is SNIPPETS of stuff. That’s where it loses me. I always feel like I’m eavesdropping on someone else’s conversation and it makes me totally uncomfortable. Plus, the vast majority of people I follow on Twitter are total strangers. So I’m like, WHY? Why would I want to listen anyway? I’m great at Facebook, but I think because Facebook was initially geared towards people you actually know in real life, I always felt more comfortable there.  

How you turn the Twitter Writing Community from a bunch of strangers writing snippets to a group of friends who will help you along your writing journey is a complicated question. Some of my friends on Twitter I’ve met in real life and that certainly helps. Others, I’ve met through in-person or online writing conferences and we had that connection, but they would probably be gone from my life without Twitter. Then there are people who I really met through Twitter. And there’s the Winged Pen which is a whole other thing. I think the best way to show how I created my Twitter Writing Community is to give examples of how Twitter helped me build relationships of different types. Continue reading “Twitter 101 for Writers: Building Your Twitter Writing Community”

Recommended: NYXIA by Scott Reintgen

Nyxia, young adult books, book reviewEvery life has a price in this sci-fi thriller that has the nonstop action of The Maze Runner and the high-stakes space setting of Illuminae. This is the first in a new three-book series that will take a group of broken teens to the far reaches of the universe and force them to decide what they’re willing to risk for a lifetime of fortune.

Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family.

Forever.

Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden—a planet that Babel has kept hidden—where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe.

But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.
Excerpt taken from Netgalley.com

Could you turn down an offer of immense wealth and free healthcare for your mother with cancer? What if that offer would send you to the far end of the universe? Emmett and nine other teens are given the opportunity to join a team to mine Nyxia from a far planet. We accompany Emmett as he fights for a spot on the team, faces the bait-and-switch tactics of the company running the mining operation, and strives to find friendship amidst the cut-throat competition he’s been thrown into.

Continue reading “Recommended: NYXIA by Scott Reintgen”

Recommended: THE CLOCKWORK DYNASTY by Daniel H. Wilson

The Clockwork Dynasty, Daniel H Wilson, science fiction, books

In the rugged landscape of eastern Oregon, a young scientist named June uncovers an exquisite artifact—a three-hundred-year-old mechanical doll whose existence seems to validate her obsession with a harrowing story she was told by her grandfather many years earlier. The mechanical doll, June believes, is proof of a living race of automatons that walk undetected among us to this day. Ingeniously hidden inside the ancient doll is a lost message, addressed to the court of Peter the Great, czar of Russia.

Russia, 1725: Peter and Elena, two human-like mechanical beings, are brought to life under the watchful guise of Peter the Great. Their struggle to serve in the court of the czar while blending in, and to survive‎ amid those who fear and wish to annihilate them, will take Peter and Elena across Russia, Europe, and, ultimately, across the centuries to modern day.

The Clockwork Dynasty
 seamlessly interweaves past and present, exploring a race of beings that live by different principles than humans, but ultimately value loyalty. As June learns more about these beings, she is quickly drawn into a fierce battle that has spanned the centuries, and will ultimately determine the survival or extermination of this ancient race. Richly-drawn and heart-pounding, Wilson’s novel expertly draws on his robotics and science background, combining exquisite characters with breathtaking technology—and unmatched action.
Excerpt taken from Netgalley.com

I was pulled into this book right from the first chapter. The June, as a teenager, is caught trying to break into her grandfather’s lock-box. She expects to get in trouble. She doesn’t. Instead, she gets to touch an ancient and beautiful fragment of clockwork. Her grandfather can’t explain how technology this advanced can be so old; he can only explain the extraordinary events of the day he found it. June is captivated.

Continue reading “Recommended: THE CLOCKWORK DYNASTY by Daniel H. Wilson”

What Can We Learn About Character Arc and Pacing from GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY II? (Spoiler free)

guardians of the galaxy
Photo courtesy of Marvel.com

Months ago, my fourteen-year-old son saw the trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy II, and insisted we see it in the theater. We all liked the original movie and the trailer looked good, so on a cloudy, not-too-promising Saturday morning, we planned it as a family outing. By the time we arrived at the theater, my son, my daughter and I were still excited, but my husband looked up at the now-clear sky and said, “If I’d known, I’d have planned a hike.” This was prescient of further differences of opinion.

The movie started out strong, with well-loved characters fighting off an enormous and seemingly invincible alien. The plot moved swiftly, with all the dashing, diving and blasting you’d expect from a science fiction blockbuster. And then, after the first plot point in the story structure was hit, things slowed down for character development. This slowdown was the source of the diverging opinions.

The first movie in franchise, fans among you know, had five beloved characters: Peter, an adventurer who lost his mother to cancer when he was young and has never known his father, Gamora, raised to be the perfect weapon by the antagonist of the first movie, Drax, who lost his entire family to that antagonist, Rocket, a genetically engineered racoon who has never known any more family than Groot, the sentient tree who is his constant companion. To these characters, GOTG II adds Gamora’s sister, Nebula, and Yondu, bandit and father-figure to Peter.

If you are not a GOTG fan, you may have found yourself skimming through that long list of characters, so imagine what happens when the script writers slow down the sci fi special effects and bad-guy bashing to explore the wounds of each of these characters. All seven. In most cases, the characters are paired off so that their wounds could be explored in duos as opposed to seven separate scenes. Still, by the second of these scenes, I leaned over to my husband to whisper, “and now we will pause for character development so that at the end of the movie, we’re satisfied everyone’s issue has been resolved.”

Continue reading “What Can We Learn About Character Arc and Pacing from GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY II? (Spoiler free)”

Recommended: SONG OF THE CURRENT by Sarah Tolcser

song of the currentI requested an advanced reader copy of Song of the Current in exchange for an unbiased review.

An immersive fantasy debut set along the waterways of a magical world. Caroline Oresteia is destined for the river. Her father is a wherryman, as was her grandmother. All Caro needs is for the river god to whisper her name, and her fate is sealed. But at seventeen, Caro may be too late.

So when pirates burn ships and her father is arrested, Caro volunteers to transport mysterious cargo in exchange for his release. Secretly, Caro hopes that by piloting her own wherry, the river god will finally speak her name.

But when the cargo becomes more than Caro expected, she finds herself caught in a web of politics and lies. With much more than her father’s life at stake, Caro must choose between the future she knows, and the one she could have never imagined.
From Netgalley.com

I loved this watery world! The reader slips easily onto Caro’s small boat, feeling the wind in the sails and the current of the water carry them through the story. Caro’s careful listening for the voice of the river god, a voice her father says she will hear in the language of small things, the quiet whispers of animals and plants along the river, and the motion of the water itself, makes the world feel real.

Continue reading “Recommended: SONG OF THE CURRENT by Sarah Tolcser”