Retribution Rails is a YA western by Erin Bowman. It’s not a sci-fi/western, it’s not a fantasy/western, it’s not a dystopian/western, it’s straight up, 1880s western. And it’s so much fun.
The western is not a popular genre, especially with the YA crowd. You may be able to find crossovers with other genres, such as Firefly or Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton, but those are few. It’s even harder to find full-on westerns now. This should change.
I’m guessing many of you, including my Christian followers, have never heard of Larry Norman. He was a Christian musician from the sixties and seventies, the father of Jesus rock, and an influence on both Christian and non-Christian musicians alike.
Throughout his career, Norman struggled with balancing evangelizing and creating true art. He felt like most of Christian music was propaganda, only enjoyable by Christians. Unsurprisingly, he had a rocky relationship with the Christian community- at times they called him a backslider or a Satan-worshiper, and viewed him as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, luring the Christian youth away from the Christ.
The biography Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?: Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock by Gregory Alan Thornbury captures this struggle extremely well. I would go so far as to say that it’s a must-read for any Christian artist, whether a musician or a writer or any other kind.
The Raven Cycle, by Maggie Stiefvater, is a strange series. Technically, it’s about a hunt for an old Welsh king, but I think cars are described in more detail than the hunt itself. Technically, the characters are on a quest, but they spend more time street racing or working than searching. Technically, there’s romance, but the friendship struggles take up far more pages. Through these technicalities, Maggie Stiefvater captures real life on the pages of a fantasy series.
Maggie Stiefvater’s books are aesthetics come to life, with well-drawn characters and, above all, tons of atmosphere. All the Crooked Saints is her most recent book, and it’s so atmospheric. If you’re ever wondering how to write atmosphere, just pick it up.
There are many things to emphasize in storytelling. Some writers are great at creating unique, fleshed out characters, while their tone may seem uneven. Other writers start with an amazing premise, though their plots may wander.
Then there’s Laini Taylor and Patrick Ness, who wrote Strange the Dreamer and The Knife of Never Letting Go, respectively. Whatever other areas may be overlooked in their work, their writing takes center stage.
Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer is gorgeous. It’s almost like poetry with its descriptions and metaphors. It’s highly polished and absolutely beautiful, even when describing ugly things.
Ness’s The Knife of Never Letting Go, however, is anything but gorgeous. If Dreamer is polished, Knife is stripped down, raw. It’s the blood and meat of human emotions and perceptions.
But both books are excellent at what they do, and both styles fit their stories so well. Dreamer‘s polished language and Knife‘s raw writing show just what a range writers have to play with their language, and both are examples of how an emphasis on writing can involve the reader in a unique way.
No spoilers ahead.
Desert elves! Color schemes! Assassins! Memory scars! Kickass characters! Fear! Hallucinations! Determination! Evil sorcerers!
These are all things that make this reader very happy, as I discovered while reading the newest short story, Colors of Fear, by Hannah Heath. I’ve followed her awesome blog for a while now, and am thrilled that she published again.
I see a lot of confusion over what to call reading ages, both online and in real life. Most people know the term ‘young adult’ (usually shortened to YA), but what does that cover? And how is YA different from ‘middle grade’ or ‘children’s fiction’? And are there more categories?
The reading world is constantly changing. Terms that were used get phased out, and as public interest shifts marketing has to create new age ranges to cater to demographics that may not have existed before.
So then how do you keep the terms straight?
That’s where Harry Potter comes in. The Harry Potter series covers multiple age demographics, which is fairly rare. It’s a great tool for seeing just where those technical ranges fall, so you can know what to call your novel and so you can sound super educated when you’re talking about books.
Just to be honest here, YA contemporary lit isn’t my thing. Why? Because I don’t like reading about something I might live through- it seems like a waste of time. But I do like to stay current with my reading, and I appreciate John Green’s youtube stuff enough to check out Turtles All the Way Down. I’m not the target audience, though.
Although there were many aspects to the book that didn’t do much for me, there were two things I loved. First was the emphasis on mental illness. The portrayal of Aza’s OCD really helped me understand it better.
But what really stood out to me was Aza and Daisy’s friendship. Neither girl was the perfect friend, but perfect people don’t exist. The girls accepted that and didn’t give up on each other.
I think writers often get so wrapped up in putting words into their computer that they forget how gorgeous the final product can be. All they see is words and a blinking cursor, no beauty in sight.
But in a finished book, there will be touchable, textured pages, an illustrated, colorful cover, and solid, unmovable words. As any book-lover knows, these things are beautiful.
It can be easy to lose sight of the final product, especially during writing slumps. Sometimes you need a particularly lovely book to remind you of the potential of words on a page. Leigh Bardugo’s collection of short stories The Language of Thorns is just such a book.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
The third Beaumont and Beasley has arrived! (Okay, it’s been out for several weeks. I’m a little behind) You can read the synopsis for The Stroke of Eleven on Amazon and check out Kyle Robert Shultz’s website. You can also see my reviews for Book 1: The Beast of Talesend, and Book 2: The Tomb of the Sea Witch.
Does anyone else get stressed when there’s a book with a gorgeous cover, because they worry the story won’t hold up? This is definitely my favorite cover of the series so far (because colors), but that means heightened hopes, which means heightened apprehension.
I didn’t need to worry.
The Stroke of Eleven is just as good as its predecessors, even as it does so much more. Not only is this moving the main story forward, but it also expands the world and hints at further stories.
No spoilers ahead.