Friday, December 7, 2012

Hand of the Tarot Review

SM will be awarding a Tarot Doll of their choice to a randomly drawn commenter (US/Canada Only) during the tour. More information:

The Hands of Tarot
Series: The Hands of Tarot
SM Blooding
Format: E-book & Paperback
Genre: YA Steampunk (Mature)
Length: 316 pages in paperback


She killed his father.
She imprisoned and beat him.
And now she thinks he’s her trophy.
Synn El’Asim will do almost anything to prove her wrong. But he’s only proving her right.
Queen Nix awakened his Mark of power and inducted him into the House of Wands. She knew what she was doing. The son of the two most powerful Families standing against her is the ultimate prize.
What she didn’t take into consideration was that maybe he was too strong for her.
The Families aren’t. They’ve been weakened, and it’ll take a lot more than one young man with a powerful Mark to take on the Hands of Tarot.

Queen Nix turned to me and smiled. “Do you wish to declare war, little boy?”
“Let them go,” I commanded, my voice ragged. “What have they done to you?”
She stalked toward me, her nose nearly touching mine, all semblance of beauty twisted with rage. “They refused to submit to me.”
I stared at her aghast, my hands clenched, my jaw tight. “So because you couldn’t control them, you’re going to destroy them?”
The rage turned cold across her features as she drew away, her shoulders back.
“Are you so weak?” The muscles in my cheek twitched.
Father took a step toward us. “Perhaps we can reach a mutual agreement.”
Someone in the cage screamed, the scream turning to ravaged sobs.
I let out a growl. “You will stop this!”
The queen turned her eagle-eyed stare to me. “I do not take orders from a mere boy.”
“Queen Nix,” my father started, “let us be reasonable.”
She took a step back and assessed him.
“The Umira have never been a harmful Family.” My father’s hands were wide at his side, his expression open. “They have always lived in peace with the Hands.”
Her eyes flared and she advanced on him. “You’ve allied yourself with them.”
Father’s eyes widened as he took a half step back.
I watched in alarm, unsure what to do. My father was the strongest man I knew.
The queen grabbed his coat and pulled his face close to hers. “The Umira have always been a peaceful Family, so imagine my surprise when they assaulted us with cannons and weapons.”
“They have the right to defend themselves, Nix.”
“Not against me.” She pushed him away and turned to her gathering guard. “Take him and his heathen son. Throw them on the pyre.”
My father drew his sword and faced the guard. “Go, Synn, now!”
Our men drew their weapons and stood by his side.
“I’m not leaving you, Father.” My sword was in my hand. I was ready to die an honorable death by my father’s side.
He backhanded me and roared, “You will protect our people, Synn El’Asim.”
I was torn. I wanted so badly to fight beside him, to protect him.
But my father had given me an order. One I could not ignore.
I turned and ran.

My Review:
I'm always on the lookout for steampunk, especially if it's something I can share with my students. This felt like a mash-up of Avatar: the Last Airbender and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, and is probably a little more fantasy than true steampunk. In this world, when people come of age, they receive a mark, which gives them power over elements, spirit, etc. That kind of magic, to me, falls into the fantasy realm.

I enjoyed the different envisionings of tech, particularly the idea of giant jellyfish, lethara, as ships and cities. That element of the world building was well done.

This YA is definitely mature YA, and not suitable for the middle-school audience. I'd recommend it to the fifteen-and-over set. The main character is seventeen-eighteen, and that's generally appealing for the kids two or three years younger. The relationship between Nix and Synn would make this inappropriate for readers younger than that. Parents might take issue with the violence, but that didn't bother me too much.

Unfortunately, this is not an Accelerated Reader book.

As an editor, I found several issues that bothered me: italics over or under used, inconsistent use of compound or hyphenated words, missing affixes, it's when its is needed... To someone that doesn't look for those kind of things, they may not distract, but they did disrupt my reading. 

About the Author:
SM Blooding lives in Colorado with her pet rock, Rockie, their new addition, Mr. Bird, who’s a real bird. She likes to hike the beautiful Rocky Mountains, and is learning to play the piano and guitar. Currently, she’s trying to MURDER them both. Friends call her Frankie.

She’s dated vampires, werewolves, sorcerers, weapons smugglers, and US Government assassins. Yes. She has stories.

She’s also an investigator with a local paranormal investigation group, Colorado Paranormal Rescue!

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Note: I received a free copy of this book through Goddess Fish.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Show, Don't Tell!

Another common error young writers make is telling a story, rather than showing a story. This is probably because many of the short stories they have been exposed to are fairy tales, which have a distant point of view and summary-like narration. They start with phrases like "There once was..." and use direct characterization, like "She was the kindest girl in all the land."

When we write, we need to show our stories, using vivid verbs, specific details, and deep point of view. Here's an example of a passage that is told. The action is summarized and the reader feels as if the action is happening far away:

It was June of 1943. Eric's older brother had gone away to become a fighter pilot. Eric wanted to be a pilot too, so he got in the family's crop dusting plane and started it up. He flew it out of the barn and crashed it into the old oak tree in the yard. He hit his head. The doctor had to come. His brother came back, injured from the war. The two healed together.
That right there is the plot for an ENTIRE short story, not a paragraph of one, but it's similar to many of the stories students turn in.

Here's an example of some of the same action -- Eric immediately after the crash -- but shown instead instead of told:
Eric raised a hand to his forehead. When he brought his fingers away, blood covered them. He blinked once, twice. The smell of burning filled the air, and the control stick to the plane, just in front of him, swam in and out of his vision. 
"What...what happened?" Eric said, but no one answered. In the distance, as if it came from miles and miles away, screaming began, and he thought, Who could that be?
Some things to notice about the second example:
  • It has dialogue.
  • It has internal thought.
  • It has active verbs.
  • There are no weak or passive constructions in the scene, or narration.
We should be aiming to make our short stories more like the SECOND example. The writing is more vivid, and makes a bigger impact on the reader