My 2 Cents… Blade Runner 2049

blade runnerBlade Runner 2049 – A young blade runner’s discovery of a long-buried secret leads him to track down former blade runner Rick Deckard (played by Harrison Ford), who’s been missing for thirty years.

I can’t say I loved this one, but I definitely enjoyed it. It had the gritty feel of the original Blade Runner and Ryan Gosling was perfectly cast as ‘K’! With that said, the computer graphics really bothered me, pulling me out of the film and back to reality all to often. I was on the edge of my seat, waiting for Harrison Ford’s character, Rick Deckard, to make his appearance. When he did – the story blended the two films together perfectly. I was excited, devastated, angry, and a slew of other emotions as K learned the secrets the film has to offer.

The ending definitely leaves the door open for another sequel. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but that’s Hollywood for you… if it’s making money keep squeezing it!

Have you seen it? What did you think?

Watch the official trailer here:

 

Through The Dark (A Darkest Minds Collection)

Through The Dark

TITLE: Through The Dark
AUTHOR: Alexandra Bracken

RATING OVERVIEW
Writing: ★★★★
Story: ★★★
Characters: ★★★
Appearance: ★★★★★
Overall: ★★★ (3.75)

AMAZON DESCRIPTION:
Don’t miss this breathtaking collection of stories set in the world of the best-selling Darkest Minds trilogy, now in paperback:

IN TIME
A desperate young man is forced to make a terrible choice between his own survival and the future of a little girl who won’t speak, but who changes his life in ways he could never imagine.

SPARKS RISE
A spark of light brightens a brutal world when a girl named Sam encounters her childhood best friend at the government-run “rehabilitation” camp, Thurmond. Lucas and Sam form a risky escape plan, but sometimes even love isn’t powerful enough to overcome unspeakable cruelty.

BEYOND THE NIGHT
The camps are closed. A tyrant president has been deposed. But for many Psi kids living rough, there is no home to return to, no place for them in a country devastated by the past and anxious about the future. Every day is a struggle for Sam, who knew all the rules at Thurmond and has been thrown into a terrifying and uncertain new life. But there’s more at stake than Sam’s own survival. She once made a promise to someone she loves, and the time has come to fulfill it.

From New York Times best-selling author Alexandra Bracken comes a collection of three hauntingly beautiful novellas set in the world of the Darkest Minds series. In the most harrowing of times, it takes a ferocious strength not only to survive, but to stand up for those who cannot fight their own battles. The characters in these stories–some new, some familiar–face impossible missions, and the hardest of all may be protecting the last flicker of hope in a seemingly endless night.

Buy it HERE on Amazon!

THE CRITICAL POINTS

WRITING: Overall the writing in this set of novellas meets the level you would expect from a Bracken story. She is a wonderful author, one of my new favorites. Definitely one of the newest authors to join my list of “I’d buy their book even if I didn’t know what it was about.” The only reason this book is getting a lower overall review rating is because of the third novella, Beyond the Night. I just didn’t really care for the story… or maybe it was the Character Mia. I just didn’t feel like her character was that fleshed out. Compared to all the other characters in the series, I just didn’t care for Mia.

STORY:
I’ll take this section one story at a time…

• In Time
If you were to read these stories in chronological order, In Time would come right after book one. However, having read the first three books in the series before picking up this one, it is my recommendation that you read the novellas after you read the first three books… Why? Because in order to truly appreciate the story of Gabe, a want to be skip tracer, you really have to have a deep hatred for skip tracers in the first place.

Gabe is just like all the other adults living out in the world Bracken has created for us. Those too old to be afflicted by IAAN but those not pulled in to work for the government at the “rehabilitation” camps. He is struggling… hungry… down on his luck… Basically, he is just barely surviving. He sees becoming a skip tracer as a way to turn his luck around. Through his struggle… his journey… we, as readers, get to see a completely different side of the story. We get to sympathize with “the enemy” in a why we never could have only reading the main books of the series. Bracken does a wonderful job telling Gabe’s story, and even though I didn’t want to, it was hard not to understand his decisions.

On its own, I would give this story a ★★★★ (4 star) rating.

• Sparks Rise
This was my favorite of the three novellas. I LOVED glimpsing into the mind of Lucas (a RED) and learning more about Sam (a GREEN), who we only briefly meet in book one. I loved the tragic love story Bracken introduced with these two characters. Their struggle… their pain… their anger… their innocence. Everything about Sam and Lucas feels right and yet… Well, I won’t tell you what happens, but if for no other reason, you should pick up Through the Dark to read this story.

Well done, Bracken. I would give this story a ★★★★★ (5 star) rating.

• Beyond The Night
I didn’t love this story. I didn’t hate it either, but comparing it to everything else in this series, it just feel flat. Although I love the characters of Sam and Lucas, Mia just fell short for me. She seemed like an afterthought… as if her character wasn’t fully fleshed out. Mia felt to young and yet to mean-spirited for her age. I’m not really sure that is what Bracken was going for, or maybe it was. I didn’t believe Mia as a stand-alone character, but instead felt like she was pieces of other characters pulled together haphazardly to form one.

This story started on page 217, but it wasn’t until page 289 that I feel like the character issues I had with Mia finally started to fade away and I actually started to enjoying it. If this had been a Stephen King novel that wouldn’t have been a big deal, but it was a 183-page novella not a 500-1000 page mega-novel. At page 289 the story did get good and I quickly finished after that, turning page by page eager to find out how it would end. And end it did, beautifully.

On its own, I would give this story a ★★★ (3 star) rating.

If this had been the last book in the series, I would have been satisfied, but it isn’t. The Darkest Legacy is up next… Not sure I will read it right away as I have a number of other books on my list, but I’m sure that I will eventually get to it.

CHARACTERS: I gave characters a 3-star review… only because 2 out of 3 of the stories had excellent character development. 2 out of 3… That third story, Beyond the Night, just didn’t meet my expectations for what I have become accustomed to when reading Bracken.

APPEARANCE: Beautiful! Stunning! Breathtaking! I’m sure you’ve learned by now that I absolutely love Bracken’s covers. This one is no different. You can almost feel the fire burning just beneath the cover. The character quote for this one is, “I want to feel every ounce of pain and happiness life can serve up, because it’ll mean I’ve survived.” When I first read the quote, before reading the book, I though I knew who would have said it… and maybe that character would too, but I was wrong. I was wrong in such a good way. Hold your breath… wait for it… You’ll be glad you did!

Check out my YouTube channel and the video review here:

Make sure you hit subscribe so you never miss a video!

Picking the right editor!

editorAs a self-published author, the idea of finding an editor can be very daunting. Everywhere you look, there are a thousand people, with a wide range of experience, offering editing services that vary in price and level of detail. To say that making a decision on which editor is right for your project is easy would be stating a blatant lie. With so many choice… to many choices… you may be tempted to just hire the first editor you meet, but that could turn out to be the biggest mistake you could make for your manuscript. 

I consider myself lucky, in that I was able to find and connect with an editor early on who I feel really “gets” my writing style and author voice. Does that mean I would never hire a different editor? No, but it means that while things are working… we’ll keep working. Writing is a very personal experience. You spend days… weeks… months… and often years planning and writing your manuscript. It is important to find an editor who not only values your project but also your individual voice and style as an author. 

Considering I only published my first novel, Awaken (book 1 ~ The Blood Angel Series) back in 2012, I still think of myself as fairly new to the publishing game… publishing world. However, in that short time and with 7 novels (and a few author assistance guides) under my belt now, I have come up with a list of things that I believe are important to do/think about when picking the right editor for you. 

#1. Decide what type of editing help you’re looking for

  • Beta-Readers
  • Developmental/Substantive Editor
  • Content Editor
  • Copyeditor
  • Proofreader

Keep in mind that you will more than likely need more than one editor/edit pass on your book. I usually do a series of beta-reader edits and then a minimum of 3 professional rounds of edits. For more detail on the different types of edits, check out Shayla Raquel’s blog post, What Kind of Editor Do You Need?

#2. Determine your budget
It is important, before choosing an editor, to know exactly how much you have available to spend on editing. Be realistic, spend what you can afford right now, not what you think you can cover with book sales. Editing is important. In fact, it is essential to the success of your book. However, it DOES NOT SELL YOUR BOOK ON IT’S OWN!!! The book cover and the story you’ve written are what sells the book… the editing plays a huge part in the readers decision to continue reading, what kind of review (if any) they give your book, and whether or not they buy your next book. 

Once you’ve decided on a budget, don’t deviate. I recommend having an editing price range… What I want to spend and what I’m willing to spend if I find an editor that I just love!

#3: Do your research and make a list
Do your research and create a list of editors to include contact information, experience, offered services, pricing, client reviews/ratings, and what genres the editor works in (if applicable). An editor whose only experience is in technical manuals might not be the right editor for your Sci-Fi novel.

There are a thousand ways to get this information, but I recommend doing a Google search; request recommendations from fellow authors; Search LinkedIn and upwork.com; search online author forums on NaNoWriMo, Goodreads, and any other author chat boards you can find!

Once you have a complete list of editors you should be able to find those that stand out above the rest.

#4: Narrow down your options
Start by deleting editors off the list.

  • Delete anyone that is absolutely out of your price range
  • Delete anyone who doesn’t offer the editing services you need
  • Delete anyone with less than adequate education or experience
  • Delete them if they just seem like they won’t be a good fit
  • Delete them if they don’t have experience in your genre
  • Delete them if their turnaround time wont meet your deadline
  • Delete them if they have negative client reviews/ratings

Don’t feel bad about being picky – you should be picky when picking your editor! What you should have left is a list editors whose price range, turnaround time, service offerings, education and experience, meet your expectations.

#5: Request a sample edit and complete reviews
Now is the time to make sure you select an editor you can work with. This person is someone you have to be able to trust… trust to help you mold and shape your manuscript… your creative baby! You can’t just pick an editor because they offer the services you need at a price you can afford. You want to be confident in your choice and the fact that their assistance is going to help move your story forward, and not backward.

The best way to do that is to review sample edits. Most good editors will offer a free sample edit or consultation on a few pages of your manuscript. If the editor isn’t willing to do this, delete them off your list and move on.

Take advantage of this opportunity for a sample edit, but don’t expect to send a different chapter of your manuscript to twenty different editors and call that a round of edits.  This is your chance to really get a feel for what it would be like to work with a particular editor. Send the same 2-3 page sample to all your prospective editors so you can compare their work – apples to apples. The more samples you get the easier it will be to choose the right editor for you.

Once you have as many sample edits as you can get, compare them! Look to see if the editor did a good job marking errors in punctuation, grammar, syntax, and work usage. (Tip: I like to include some specific errors when I send my sample… It allows me to test the editors and see who catches the errors and who doesn’t.) If the editor made suggestions/comments on sentence structure or dialogue, or how was their tone? Did they seem constructive or condescending? Did the editor keep their text suggestions within the same voice and style that you prefer? 

You are looking for an editor who not only has the technical abilities to edit your manuscript but also the skills to work with one on one with you and respect your creative process and writing style. This isn’t just about one book… on manuscript. If you can find an editor you work well with, an editor who understands your style and is willing and able to work within it, then you can build a wonderful working relationship with them. Like I said before, I’ve been working with the same editor now for 7 novels and I know exactly what I will get from her every time… LOTS OF AWESOME SUGGESTIONS AND CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM!  

#6: Hire your editor
Hopefully you were able to find an editor that gave you a great sample edits, with lots of awesome suggestions, who also respected your creative voice that seems like they would be easy to work with. If so, HIRE THEM! Hire them A.S.A.P. before someone else scoops them up and they are no longer available. There are a thousand editors ready to offer you their services, but finding a good one can be hard. When you find that good one… the needle in the haystack you grab them fast!

On the other hand, if you weren’t able to find the perfect editor – try again. Hiring an editor can be expensive, don’t settle for someone you aren’t excited about. Wait until you are sure you’ve found the right editor before putting out the money.

I have one last piece of advice and I say this not to scare you but to prepare you – The editing process sucks! You’ve worked long and hard to write your story… It isn’t easy to get it back from an editor who has had it a couple of weeks, maybe a month, and see it covered in bright red markings. Each edits poking at your soul like a personal insult.

With that said, as hard as it is to see your marked up manuscript, you don’t want an editor who will just tell you everything is great. That isn’t what you pay an editor for and in the end it would be a waste of your money. You want someone who will be completely honest with you, no matter how bad it hurts. 

When I got my first manuscript back from my editor, I cried. I took one look at it, flipped through the pages and cried. I didn’t pick it back up for a month. Then, when I finally took the time to read her edits, consider her suggestions, and really think about my story I knew she was right. In the end, my story is so much better because of the care and time she and I spent working through the issues the original manuscript had. It doesn’t matter how good of a writer you are, in the end your editor will – if they are good – find things that MUST BE CHANGED in order to make your story the best it can be.  

Don’t pick an editor who makes you feel great about yourself, pick the editor that cares more about making your story great than coddling your feelings.  

My 2 Cents… Breathe

BreatheBreathe – The inspiring true love story of Robin Cavendish (played by Andrew Garfield) and Diana Cavendish (played by Claire Foy), an adventurous couple who refuse to give up in the face of a devastating disease. Their heartwarming celebration of human possibility marks the directorial debut of Andy Serkis.

WOW… Just WOW! Everything from the script (written by William Nicholson) to the casting, to the set and the costumes, to the soundtrack was beautifully constructed to work seamlessly together. I can’t say enough about how much this film touched my heart and spoke to me not just as viewer but as a member of a society that all to often forgets about the small pleasures we can find in each and every day.

This film brought out all the feels… laughter, shock, tears of joy, and yes… tears of sadness and grief. Even if your life is nothing like the ones portrayed in this movie, you’ll be able to relate to them on some level simply by sharing the act of breathing.

Have you seen it? If so, what did you think?

Watch the official trailer here:

 

In The Afterlight (The Darkest Minds #3)

book

TITLE: In The Afterlight
AUTHOR: Alexandra Bracken

RATING OVERVIEW
Writing: ★★★★★
Story: ★★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Appearance: ★★★★★
Overall: ★★★★★ (5)

AMAZON DESCRIPTION:
Ruby can’t look back. Fractured by an unbearable loss, she and the kids who survived the government’s attack on Los Angeles travel north to regroup. Only Ruby can keep their highly dangerous prisoner in check. But with Clancy Gray, there’s no guarantee you’re fully in control, and everything comes with a price.

When the Children’s League disbands, Ruby rises up as a leader and forms an unlikely allegiance with Liam’s brother, Cole, who has a volatile secret of his own. There are still thousands of other Psi kids suffering in government “rehabilitation camps” all over the country. Freeing them–revealing the government’s unspeakable abuses in the process–is the mission Ruby has claimed since her own escape from Thurmond, the worst camp in the country.

But not everyone is supportive of the plan Ruby and Cole craft to free the camps. As tensions rise, competing ideals threaten the mission to uncover the cause of IANN, the disease that killed most of America’s children and left Ruby and others with powers the government will kill to keep contained. With the fate of a generation in their hands, there is no room for error. One wrong move could be the spark that sets the world on fire.

Buy it HERE on Amazon!

THE CRITICAL POINTS

WRITING: minor editing issues peppered throughout the book, just like the first two, but editors are only human. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where there weren’t at least a few editing issues. Bracken is a wonderful writer, and minor editing issues can’t distract from that.

STORY: I loved book one… I enjoyed book two… but, I think this one is my favorite. I was on the edge of my seat reading the whole time. I cried. I was shocked. I was afraid for the characters. Bracken made me care about the characters so much that I was afraid for them. On page 417 was when I knew something terrible was going to happen. I won’t tell you the what happened just before or even after but lets just say my world turned upside down on page 417 and it wasn’t until much later that what I anticipated came true. Well done, Bracken.

CHARACTERS: Being the third book in the series, Bracken has already fully fleshed out the characters for us. We know them well enough to guess how they will react in different situations and to feel their hesitation, fear, pain, excitement, and sometimes – not often – their joy almost before they do.

APPEARANCE: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again now, Bracken’s covers are beautiful. I wish I knew who designed them because I would hire him/her to do mine. My favorite part of all the covers is the second full-color cover with the character quote. The quote for this book, “They don’t burn, do they? Not like us.” It was an unexpected character who said this one… and I loved it.

Check out my YouTube channel and the video review here… and make sure you hit subscribe so you never miss a video.

https://youtu.be/xe-Cu1MRVfw

I am still new to this YouTube things, so please be patient with me while I figure it all out. I promise my videos will get better. lol

My Summer Reads!

booksI love reading, but sadly, with family, work, and writing commitments I don’t get a lot of time to just sit down with a good book. This summer I’ve made a commitment to myself to spend more time reading. Not only because it is important for self-care to take time doing the things you love but also because as a writer, reading is an essential part of my growth and development.

I think Jan Fortune nailed it in her blog post ’14 reasons why writers need to read’.

Here are Jan Fortune’s 14 reasons why writers need to read, but honestly… you need to click the link above and read her full article to fully understand the list!

  1. Because reading is your world
  2. Influence is good
  3. For the love of language
  4. To encourage imagination
  5. To see what works
  6. To see what doesn’t work
  7. Because the more you read, the more you understand the human condition
  8. Because the diversity of history, culture and thought is all contained in writing
  9. Because it will encourage you to take more risks with your writing
  10. Because it’s good for you
  11. Because books are the best place to escape
  12. Because reading increases your ability to be alone with your thoughts
  13. Because the best writers read
  14. Because you know what it’s like to want readers

Now for my list, in no particular order… MY SUMMER READS:

  1. Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline (Video Review)
  2. A Wrinkle In Time, by Madeleine L’Engle (Video Review)
  3. The Darkest Minds, by Alexandra Bracken (Review) (Video Review)
  4. Never Fade, by Alexandra Bracken (Review) (Video Review)
  5. In The Afterlight, by Alexandra Bracken (Review) (Video Review)
  6. Through The Dark, by Alexandra Bracken (Review) (Video Review)
  7. Cujo, by Stephen King (Review) (Video Review)
  8. Dead Boy, by Laurel Gale (Review) (Video Review)
  9. Gwendy’s Button Box, by Stephen King (Review) (Video Review)
  10. Origin, by Dan Brown (Review) (Video Review)

Because I started my summer reading list at the end of May, when my kids got out of school, I’m already a few books in… Reviews will be posted as I get to them. With everything life throws at me, I’m not sure I’ll make it though this whole list by the end of summer (actually I’m positive I wont), but I’ll try my best. What I don’t get through during summer will remain on my list till I get it read. I plan to post reviews as I get them done and will make sure to add the links above. Check out the reviews and share your thoughts on the books too.

 

My 2 Cents… The Post

The PostThe Post – A cover-up that spanned four U.S. Presidents pushed the country’s first female newspaper publisher and a hard-driving editor to join an unprecedented battle between the press and the government.

WOW!!! As always, Meryl Streep (as Kay Graham) and Tom Hanks (as Ben Bradlee) blew me away. They were perfectly cast and flawless in their performances. The whole cast was incredible, down to the smallest of parts.

Director Steven Spielberg brought this true story to life in a way that made you feel like a voyeur eavesdropping in on private conversations.

The pacing of the film kept me engaged without feeling rushed. I was on the edge of my seat with anticipation to find out what they would do at every roadblock. I highly recommend seeing The Post, if you haven’t already.

 

See the official trailer here: