Apr 22, 2015

The Hollow City-by Ransom Riggs: Book Review

Back again, this time to review book two in the “Miss Peregrine Series”! Let's get started. (Minor Spoilers Ahead)

The Plot:

We pick up right where we left off in the last book, with the Peculiars and Jacob beginning a rescue mission to save Miss Peregrine, and all of peculiardom. Their journey takes them all over the place, and on top of being chased by Wights and Hollows, they're right in the midst of World War II.

I did find this book to get quite slow in the middle and towards the end, but the last few chapters leave you dashing to get the next book. Which, unfortunately, does not come out until September of this year. :(

The Characters:

We see all of the familiar faces and plenty of new ones as well, including peculiar animals. Addison is a talking dog, there are chickens with exploding eggs, Peculiar Pigeons and Deirdre is....an Emu-Raffe. We also meet a new crop of peculiar children; Joel-and-Peter, two boys who are inseparable and blind echo-locators, Melina a girl with mind powers, and Miss Wren, another ymbryne.

Things I liked:

The story is still very odd, and growing odder as time goes, with another batch of creepy pictures to go along with it.

The end brings a plot twist that you don't see coming at all because it is so well covered up and explained away. Round of applause to the author.

Things I didn't like:

The peculiar animals weirded me out a little bit, even though I like animals. It was a little bit far fetched and some of it was just plain weird.

To Sum it Up:

Still as peculiar as it's predecessor, though I think I liked the first book better. Slow in the middle with a fast paced ending, I can't wait to find out what happens to Jacob and his friends come September.

~Ria Faith

Apr 20, 2015

Interview with Tessa Emily Hall

Hey, guys! I am super excited to say that today we have an interview with the awesome Tessa Emily Hall! If you don't know who Tessa Hall is...

Tessa Emily Hall is the 21 year old author of the YA Christian fiction novel, Purple Moon. She spends her days sipping on lattes, cuddling with her Shih-Tzu and singing along to country music. She sacrificed her high school years to write about a teen whose life was far more interesting than hers. This resulted in her debut novel, Purple Moon, which was published by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas and was a finalist in the 2014 Selah Awards. Also, she runs an awesome blog for teen writers called Christ Is Write, in which she talks about faith, fiction, and coffee. 

Now, onwards to the interview!

1.      When did you start writing?

I started dictating stories to my mom when I was 3-years-old. That's when my passion for storytelling began. Throughout my childhood, I would spend my free time sitting at the dining room table with a stack of paper, a pack of crayons, and write book after book. I did it for the pure enjoyment that came from using my imagination to create a story, with only a pen and paper as my tools. 

2.     How long did it take you to get your first book published?

I started writing the first version of Purple Moon when I was 15. I completed it at 16, and it was also then when I attended my first writing conference. I wasn't intending to pitch the book at the time; however, a published had asked to see the first chapter after hearing that I wrote YA fiction. He proceeded to ask a few questions about the story, then asked if I could send him the entire manuscript. OF course, I couldn't say no! I was ecstatic. A few months later, he offered me a contract, which I signed when I was 17. Purple Moon was then published when I was 19. =)

3.     Who was/is your biggest inspiration?

As a writer, I would have to say that my biggest inspiration is the Christian fiction author, Karen Kingsbury. I admire the way she is able to write stories that are entertaining yet life-changing, ones that radiate God’s love and grace on every page. Even though she is known as the “Queen of Christian Fiction”, Kingsbury has remained humble and treats her readers as if they are her close friends. I am also inspired by the way that she doesn’t just settle for only writing books; rather, she also enjoys screenwriting, has her own radio talk show, and creates a card & gift line with her daughter.

4.     Is there any one of your stories/characters that you like above the others you have written or are they loved all the same?

So far I have fallen in love with every full-length novel I’ve written, and the same goes with the characters as well. But that’s not to say that I don’t strive to make every story better than the one before. In fact … the book I’m writing now is one that is really close to my heart. I’ve been working on it for the past three years, and I still enjoy it just as much as I did when I first had the idea. It’s going to be very hard to pry this one away from my hands … lol! 

5. Were you ever discouraged by anyone from writing? Who encouraged you the most?

When I was 14, I emailed a best-selling author asking if she had any advice for an aspiring author. The response I received was not the one I’d expected. Instead of encouraging me to pursue this career, she told me that it was a difficult profession and that it might be best to pursue another area instead.

Looking back, I can see that in some ways she was right: Being an author is not as glamorous as some may assume. However, my passion for writing is far greater than the difficulties, and I am very thankful that I did not follow to her advice. 

My parents have always been supportive of my writing. When I was little, my mom completely supported my dream of being an author; in fact, it is her belief in my writing that convinced me I would become published some day. I was also blessed with teachers growing up who recognized my writing ability and encouraged me to pursue it as well. But honestly, if it wasn’t for my parents, there is no way I would be where I am today. 

6.     What kind of writer are you? (Plotter, Pantser, Plantser)

I could never be a panster. I have to at least have an idea of what Act 1, Act 2, and Act 3 will consist of before I start writing. I can’t map out every scene of the book without writing it first, either. So I would definitely say that I am a planster: I don’t plot without writing, and I don’t write without plotting … if that’s even possible! Haha. In other words … my writing process is very complicated. Let’s just leave it at that! ;)

7.     What parts of a story are your favorite to write?

Great question! I absolutely love writing endings: The part of the story when everything comes together. No, it might not end “happily” since that’s life; however, the character has learned through the process. She has fought a battle, which in return has helped her grow into a stronger person. I don’t always know exactly how a book will end. But that’s another reason why I find so much joy in writing the ending: It’s incredible to witness how God helps me tie up the loose ends and put every piece of the puzzle into place.

8.     Where is your favorite place to write/what time of day do you write best?

My favorite time to write is in the mornings—my brain seems to be less cluttered at that time. I also love sipping on coffee as I write. ;) My current favorite place to write is in my bedroom, at my desk that overlooks a pond. 

9.    What inspired you to write Purple Moon?

I wanted to write a character-driven story that followed the journey of a teen girl struggling to overcome her past and longing for a new beginning. It was very much inspired by the song “By Your Side” by Tenth Avenue North, as well as the skit that many churches have performed to the song “Everything” by Lifehouse (which you can watch on YouTube). The setting of the book—Lake Lure, NC—was inspired simply based on a picture that I found of mountains over the lake.

10. You run an awesome blog for teen writers. Do you have any advice for bloggers that are newer to this (like us)?

Thank you! Blogging is a great way to connect with other readers and writers. First of all, I would advise trying to stick to a certain schedule. It can become easy to think of blogging as a hobby rather than a priority. But if you want to establish a readership, then readers will need to know when they can expect to see a post. Once a week? Twice a week? Blogging is also great practice for striving to reach a deadline.

While trying to build a readership, it also helps to only write in specific categories. For instance—on my blog, I try to only write posts that could fall under the categories of faith and fiction. This will help to keep your blog focused, build a consistent audience rather than just spontaneous readers, and establish your brand (which always looks good to a potential agent/publisher).

11. Finally, if you could be any fictional character, who would you be?

That’s a really good question! Growing up, I always wanted to play Wendy in the musical Peter Pan. It’s one of my absolute favorite Disney stories. And Wendy seems to have such a maturity and boldness about her that I admire. Besides, who wouldn’t want to fly away to a land where you would never have to grow up?

That's it for today! Thanks, Tessa for answering our questions!

~Katheline Hansen

Apr 15, 2015

Villainously Lovely: Twisted Hearts

Ok I know that is probably a lame title in comparison with the others in this series, but I suck at titles and couldn't come up with anything else better suited. XD I am going to talk about...*drumroll*....THE TRAGIC AND MISUNDERSTOOD VILLAINS. There are probably going to be spoilers, but like before, I'll try to hide them.

First up we have:

Loki Laufeyson from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Usually people save the best for last, but I couldn't resist putting him first. He is probably my all-time favorite villain. Loki Fangirl here. #noshame :)

Why do I love Loki? Because everything about him screams TRAGEDY. (Spoilers:Abandoned by his parents, then rescued by Odin whose plans for him go very wrong, he doesn't know who he is, or what he did to deserve the events of his life. He is broken and hurt and confused, and as he told Thor later, he, “never wanted the Throne, only wanted to be his equal”. Like any kid, he just wants his Dad to love him.) There are so many layers to him that you have to peel apart, and I think he is so much more than a devious universe-wrecker. True he is the God of Mischief, and he knows it, at times even enjoying it, but I can't help but feel sad for him. Throughout the story he is constantly involved in a mental game of tug-o-war, “Am I good?” “Am I bad?” “Do I love Thor?” “Do I hate him?”

Loki is one giant jigsaw puzzle with broken pieces and a story that makes you unable to resist pulling out the sympathy hat. Only time will tell whose side he will eventually choose, but i am sincerely hoping for redemption.

Second in line:
Murtagh Morzansson from The Inheritance Cycle. His story is a difficult one to sort out, with a lot of family confusion and inner demons, and that makes me pull for him sometimes more than Eragon.
People define him by who is Father was, and that makes his life pretty miserable. All he wants is to just be left alone and be himself, not an image of what someone else thinks he is. The fact that he spends a lot of his time on the run from the Evil King doesn't make things any better. (Spoilers: And once he's captured and becomes a Dragon Rider, he doesn't submit to the King's control willingly, and he hates every minute of it once he's trapped. On top of that, the half-brother that he fought alongside before is now the one he has to fight against and while he is angry and jealous of Eragon, deep down he doesn't want to kill him) While he has a hard side to him, his soft one comes out, and eventually he redeems himself and makes up for the bad things that he's done.

Phantom/Erik: from Phantom of the Opera: Yes I love Phantom of the Opera. The entire story is just one big tragic mess (with beautiful music) and at the center of it all, is the Phantom. I know a lot of people see him as a creepy stalker/murderer, but I can't help but look to the sadder side of him. Here is a mysterious individual, who is hated and feared his entire life for something he cannot help-his face. He is desperate, in a way, to find someone who he can love and who will love him. But really his love for Christine isn't a true love, it is only an obsession, because he doesn't really know how to love. No one ever taught him. In the end of the play though, I think he realizes his mistake, and gets a glimpse of what real love is.
Dustfinger from the Inkheart Series: Dustfinger isn't technically a villain in the way the others are, but for our other Protagonists in the Inkheart book, he starts out kind of that way. Trapped in a world he doesn't belong, and desperate to get back to his family, he is willing to do anything to find his way home again-(Spoilers: Including betraying Meggie and Mo to the Evil Capricorn) And while a lot of his actions appear to be selfish, it isn't too hard to see that underneath is a sad man who just longs for his loved ones, and by the end of Inkheart, and through the rest of the series, his true colors become pretty clear.

To Sum it Up:
I love the Villains that make me cry buckets or feel sorry for them. I like the ones that you can route for, in a way, instead of just hate them completely because they are bad or in opposition to our Protagonists.
Do you agree with me? Do you like any of the villains I’ve described? We love to hear from you, so leave a comment.

~Ria Faith

Apr 6, 2015

"Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children"-by Ransom Riggs: Book Review

As you can probably tell from the title and cover, this story is peculiar, and the people in it, are also peculiar. I discovered it when I watched a video that the Author put together about his travels to Belgium to look at some of the old abandoned houses that were, in some ways, an inspiration for the house in the story. The video was amazing, and so I had to check out the book.

The Plot:

One thing I can say about this story is that lumping it into one genre, one category, seems rather difficult. It has monsters, History, Time Travel and modern time (cell phones, etc.) all rolled into one big plot. The story centers around Jacob, his Grandfather Abe, and a box of old photos that are so, well, peculiar, that they couldn't possibly be real. Like any grandfather, Abe tells Jacob stories, tales of an old home he used to live in as a child, with a girl who could levitate and a boy who was invisible, and many more strange things. Eventually, Jacob grows out of the storytelling stage and no longer believes the impossible tales his grandfather weaves. But when Abe is murdered, and Jacob catches a glimpse of the monster who killed him, he begins to realize that his grandfather's tales are not as false as he believed and following his grandfather's last words, sets off to find the children in the photographs.

The Characters:

Jacob is a sixteen year-old kid with a dysfunctional family, trying to get himself fired from the family-owned drug store chain, and keeping an eye on his grandfather whom everyone deems is going crazy. He has an odd sense of humor, a somewhat foul mouth, and a belief that there was so much more to his grandfather than anyone ever knew.
Miss Peregrine, is the head of the “orphanage” for her peculiar children, a “ymbryne” (a time manipulator) charged with keeping them safe and within the bounds of her time loop.
The Children, known as Peculiars, are many in the story, but the main ones are Emma, a girl who can work fire, Bronwyn, a girl with exceptional strength, Millard the boy who is invisible, Horace, who has dreams that sometimes come true, and Enoch, a boy who can a heart from something, put it into something else and bring it back to life.
The Villains in this story are monsters that can be seen only by some, and Wights, that try to steal Peculiar Children for Hollows to feed upon.

Things I liked:

The Author does something in his story that I have never seen before: includes many old black and white photographs of his characters and elements in his story, so we can see what Jacob is seeing. They are both interesting, and in a way, slightly creepy.
The mixture of elements in the tale keeps it unique and interesting, even if some places in the book drag ever so slightly.

Things I didn't like:

The language is a little crude, but it's not so peppered throughout the book that it makes me want to burn it.
Horace's talent for “prophetic dreams” isn't something I'm generally a fan of, but so far we've only encountered his talent once.
Enoch's talent was the other thing that weirded me out, taking hearts from mice to animate his wooden dolls, and eventually using a sheep's heart to bring a corpse back so Jacob can talk to him.

To Sum it Up:

This is a very unique tale, so if you're looking for something different and somewhat creepy, then you'll enjoy Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. I'm waiting for the second book “The Hollow City” to come in the mail, and will be interested in seeing the film version that is to come out in 2016.

~Ria Faith

Apr 1, 2015

Villainously Lovely: Whose Side Are They On, Anyway?

From Moriarty and Loki to Draco and the Joker, villains are everywhere, and they definitely get us talking. That's why we at Character's Shadow are starting another new series, this one focusing on our favorite types of villains. First up, we have those not-so-villainy antagonists. Those characters who sometimes act as double agents, or who sometimes change sides at the middle or end of the story. Maybe they're sympathetic, maybe they're hard to understand, but it's these characters that make my favorite type of antagonist.

Who are these villains, anyway?

Note: Spoilers will probably follow, but I'll try to warn you just before, and hide (the best I can) them. A lot of them, I think, are probably just minor spoilers, but it's better safe than sorry.
  • Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter
I love Draco. He's one of my favorite characters in the series (mind you, all of my opinions on HP are based on the movies since I have yet to read the books), next to, of course, Luna, Dobby, and Snape. If J.K. Rowling were to write one of the HP books from a different character's POV, I would be ecstatic if it were from Draco's POV (and, of course, it probably push me to actually read the series).

Why do I love Draco so much? Because he's so complex, of course! SPOILER ALERT FOR HARRY POTTER!!! HIGHLIGHT TO READ.I get it, the first 3/4 of the series, he was a complete and total jerk, but then in the end, the pressure was put on him to be this Bad Dude for the Deatheaters, and he didn't want to turn away from his parents; he wanted to please them, and he didn't know what to do. You could really see this struggle in the end of the series, and it made me love Draco as a great and complex character. 
  • Severus Snape from Harry Potter
Again, in the first half of the series, you think that Snape is a Total Jerk. But then, you start to see his backstory. You start to catch glimpses of his story. SPOILER ALERT FOR HARRY POTTER AGAIN!!! HIGHLIGHT TO READ.You start to realize that he wasn't really working against Harry, per se, the entire time. You find out that he's really been a DOUBLE AGENT THIS WHOLE TIME WHICH IS TOTALLY AMAZING. He's a super duper complex character who not only manages to trick the reader but who also manages to trick half of the characters in the book!!
  • Peter from Divergent
Maybe it's because I read the books a while back, but I didn't appreciate Peter's characters in the books as much as I appreciated in the movies, specifically Insurgent. He's a great, super complex character. SPOILER ALERT FOR DIVERGENT!!! HIGHLIGHT TO READ.I don't know how many times he changes sides, and it seems that he's always got some trick up his sleeve. You just never know with this guy! And that makes me love him.

  • Caleb from Divergent
I love Caleb for the same reasons I love Peter. He's so complex, and you never know what he's going to do. Also, he's such a coward, but he's not a terrible person. I think this is what makes him such a complex character- cowardly without actually being a complete jerk. He's so unpredictable, but I think, for the most part, it seems that his heart's in the right place. Sometimes he just lets his self-preservation and fears get the better of him. 
  • Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin from Once Upon A Time
This isn't from a book, but he's a great example of this type of antagonist. He is probably one of the most unpredictable (fictional) antagonists I've ever read/seen. SPOILER ALERT FOR ONCE UP A TIME!!! HIGHLIGHT TO READ.  He changes sides so many times as well throughout the series, much like Peter. He started off a villain, changed, apparently, for the better, and now he's back to being a villain, with possibly some sympathetic traits (if he isn't acting, of course!). I've never been able to fully say whether I like him or not (but of course, as a character, of course, I like him, or else he wouldn't be on this list, but that's just my writerly brain kicking in. XD) and stick to that opinion for more than a few weeks.

In Summary....

Basically, I, personally, love those antagonists that are unpredictable, changing sides, or are double agents. I love the not necessarily sympathetic antagonists, but those who never make it clear whose side they're really on. If they can keep me guessing, they're a great antagonist, in my opinion! 

What about y'all? Do you guys agree with me? Disagree with me? What's your favorite type of antagonist?