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Top 5 Moments with Pierce Brown – Author of the Red Rising Series

 

One of the benefits of living in a major city is when authors come to town and you have the privilege of being able to exist in their presence for a short time. In February of 2016 I had the utter delight of basking in the literary genius of Pierce Brown, the author of the Red Rising series.

For those of you not familiar with the Red Rising series (you poor, poor souls) the three books in the trilogy, Red Rising, Golden Son and Morning Star, tell the story of Darrow, a lowly Red miner whose heart-wrenching loss leads him into the very midst of the high-society Golds to claim his revenge. What started out as a quest for redemption driven by the words of a young girl soon morphs into the reforging of an entire society, stretching across stars and planets to sweep even the most unwilling into its unfolding.

I’m not usually a fan of sci-fi, I will be the first one to admit it.  The mechanical and planetary backgrounds of sci-fi novels have often turned me off in the past, but this series is so much more then spaceships and stars. Each character is insanely fleshed out to the point where you are emotionally invested in several of them for entirely different reasons, the story telling is flawless and flows without a hitch, and those plot twists, oh be still my heart. And being the historical nerd I am, I can’t help but give a nod of appreciation to the Roman, Viking and other historical goodness woven into Brown’s world and characters.

I could remark on the obvious reality that Mr. Brown is most certainly eye candy, but I was much more impressed with the wealth of knowledge he possessed, how easily he interacted with the crowd (many of which were obviously die hard Red Rising fans) but more importantly, the wisdom he imparted for those writing their own stories who wanted to dig a little deeper into his creative process. Here are some of the highlights that I took away from my evening with Pierce Brown…

  1. Brown revealed that many of his characters were inspired by a specific song. When he needed to think, Brown would drive around in his car listening to different kinds of music, pulling inspiration from different genres and sounds. Sevro came to being after hearing a Notorious B.I.G song – and for those who have read the first book or all three of them, and have mad respect for Sevro, it makes complete sense.
  2. He’s not aiming to write an all-encompassing world, such as that of George R.R. Martin or Tolkien. He’s not interested in anthologies filled with maps and family histories. Everything he needs to know about the world is in his head and that’s how he wants it.
  3. One of the best pieces of writing advice he gave was that if you can’t fit the most important traits/major story line points/beliefs of a character on a post-it note, you aren’t ready to write that character yet. Short, sweet, simple.
  4. He writes to entertain himself. And Brown is just insanely grateful that other people find his story, and the nerdish and sci-fi references embedded in his stories, as interesting as he does.
  5. THERE IS ANOTHER TRILOGY COMING! Same world, some familiar characters, some new ones. Gory damn. And the Red Rising series has been purchased by Universal Pictures to be made into movies. Double gory damn.

I am sure there are countless other comments I could make about Brown and other people likely walked away with different favorite moments then mine, but either way, there’s no denying that Brown is a down to earth guy with a wicked mind for story telling. I personally cannot wait until we have another piece of Brown’s work in our hands and I have no doubt, with a slight homage to Sevro, shit will escalate in the most glorious of ways.

Devon – a1000booklife

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INSPIRE International Book Fair

On the snowy weekend of November 13th and 14th a few die-hard book friends and I found our way to the Convention Center in Toronto to enjoy the International Book Fair. I know it’s now 2015 but I wanted to share some of the pictures and thoughts from the weekend.

It was a fabulous event full of hundreds of author interviews, signings and sessions to help potential writers become inspired. There were 5 main stages and other countless smaller show areas, and the authors present represented every genre from Children Literature to Memoirs. There were also major vendors like Indigo and Harpers (props to Harlequin for their cute display!) and of course, the highlight for many of the attendees – the book signings where you could talk for those few moments with an author you admired!

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The highlight of the weekend was most certainly Ms. Maggie Stiefvater, Teen author extraordinaire. The crowd was fuuuuull of teeny fans but thankfully we camped out early enough to get front row seats. Stiefvater was highly entertaining and she shared stories that influenced her writing, including her love of fast cars and the quasi-supernatural experiences she’s had throughout her life. She moved around while talking and was extremely animated, which made it an extremely entertaining listen. After witnessing her awesome quirkiness in person, I have so much more respect for her writing style and storytelling. And yes, I got my book signed!

*Maggie Stiefvater is the author of the Raven Boys Cycle (The Raven Boys, Dream Thieves and Blue Lily, Lily Blue), the Shiver series and The Scorpio Races

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One of the speakers that I found the most interesting was Deborah Harkness, the author of The Discovery of Witches and its two following volumes. She is a Professor of History and spoke extensively about writing Historical Fiction, something I hold close to my heart (my Masters in History is giving a nod at the moment). I have to admit that I gave up on reading The Discovery of Witches early on but after listening to Harkness, I have vowed to give it another try. Listening to her describe how she did the historical research and the thought process for this series helped inspire my own ideas for future writing excursions based in historical settings.

*Deborah Harkness is the author of the All Souls Trilogy (The Discovery of Witches, Shadow of Night and The Book of Life)

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For you lovers of 50 Shades of Grey, turn away now. Sylvia Day’s Crossfire series blows Christian Grey out of the water. Not only is Sylvia Day one hell of a classy lady in person, but her intelligence is something fierce. It was crazy interesting to hear how her characters take on a voice in her mind who sometimes chastise her for what she has them doing in the story and how what started out as a 3 book series how now evolved into something much more (5 books in total by the end). I also had a run in with her in the bathroom that included a conversation about the Canadian delicacies of poutine and Beaver Tails, so props to Day for hearing out our weird, but delicious, food choices.

*Sylvia Day is the author of countless Romance novels but the Crossfire Series is likely the most well known (Bared to You, Reflected in You, Entwined with You and Captivated by You)

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I attended a session concerned with writing about topics that can be rather touchy, such as disabilities and harrowing personal experiences, which was headed by Amanda Lindhout and Lisa Genova.

Lindhout’s memoir, A House in the Sky, describes her terrifying experience of being kidnapped and held hostage for over a year while traveling through war-wracked Somalia as a reporter. I read this book and was both disturbed by what she experienced and yet impressed that any person could maintain their sanity while enduring the starvation, torture and mental deterioration that Lindhout did. In person, she was incredibly open and honest about her experiences and gave further insight to what she had written in her memoir.

Lisa Genova is best known for writing novels that include characters suffering from diseases such as Alzheimer’s or the very rare, Huntington’s disease. The screen play of her book Still Alice is currently receiving Oscar attention for its portrayal of a woman struggling with Alzheimer’s disease. Genova was incredibly well spoken in regards to giving voices to those who suffer from various neurological conditions and diseases, allowing her own expertise as a neuroscientist to lend further credence to how the lives of people change and the difficulties they face when they are inflicted by mental diseases.

*Lisa Genova is the author of Left Neglected, Inside the O’Briens and Love Anthony

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I have to admit that I ended up seeing Sarah Richardson and Tommy Smythe because Maggie Stiefvater was on the same stage afterwards and I wanted a prime seat, yet I have to admit that I really enjoyed listening to them! I’ve always known Sarah Richardson as the classy decorator from Toronto that my Mom is obsessed with (and who later received a signed copy of Richardson’s Sarah’s Style quite happily!). The chemistry between them provided a hilarious interview and hearing the stories of Richardson’s junk collecting made it well worth it!

*Sarah Richardson has numerous decorating shows on HGTV including Design Inc., Sarah’s House and Sarah 101.

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While those were the highlights, there were many other fantastic authors present including Margaret Atwood (while I missed her session it was the most packed of both days), Anne Rice (whose views on gender and sexuality are beyond her time), Eric Walters (who has an obvious passion for helping children living in poverty across the world), Will Ferguson (the author of 2012 Giller Prize winner 419) and Wayson Choy (an amazingly enlightened man who I had seen speak a few years prior as well). On the kid side of things there were also great writers present, such as Jeff Kinney the author of the Diary of the Wimpy Kid series and Jon Klassen, author and illustrator of I Want My Hat Back, This Is Not My Hat and Sam and Dave Dig a Hole.

There were also countless amazing workshops to inspire writing by the Humber School for Writing. I attended two that gave me a clearer vision of writing non-fiction: “Writing about Family: Fraught or Fiction?” and “How to Write a Memoir”. There were many others and it was a great opportunity for aspiring writers to hear tips and advice from seasoned literary veterans.

Unfortunately it was announced on February 9th that they will not be holding the event against next year. It was extremely disappointing news and I can only hope they change that decision in future years. It was a fabulous weekend, full of literary creativity and bookworm friends!

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Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

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“Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a new way of living—one without massacres and torn throats and bonfires of the fallen, without revenants or bastard armies or children ripped from their mothers’ arms to take their turn in killing and dying.

Once, the lovers lay entwined in the moon’s secret temple and dreamed of a world that was like a jewel box without a jewel—a paradise waiting for them to find it and fill it with their happiness.

This was not that world.”

I was saving Days of Blood and Starlight for a special occasion and that occasion was the holiday season of 2013. Even though it was released almost a full year prior and I had owned it for several months, I had to wait. Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone left such a lasting impression on me that I wanted to savor the reading of its partner, Days of Blood and Starlight (which, oh praise the lord, is the middle child in a trilogy), to finally consume it during a time that would only heighten its reading. And so in two short days I lay under a fur blanket with my Christmas tree twinkling before me while snowflakes coated everything in the world outside and lost myself in the exquisite, and equally exquisitely painful, world of Karou and Akiva.

Karou’s world has been shattered—both figuratively and literally. Her monster family has been snatched away from her and massacred, while their homeland city of Loramendi has been wiped from existence, both acts performed under the banner of vengeance claimed by the Angels. Worse yet, it is Akiva that set such tragedies into motion and that betrayal has forced her to return to what remains of her people. With Brimstone dead, the demons require a new resurrectionst and while she was not aware of it at the time, Brimstone has been grooming her to do just that her whole life. So it is now Karou who sorts through piles of teeth and rebuilds lost bodies, placing souls back into them but at the cost of her own physical pain. To make life even more difficult, Thiago the demon warlord, looms over her, a constant reminder of a painful past even as she struggles to come to terms with the memories awoken from her previous life as Madrigal. Akiva is also suffering, believing that Karou is dead and forced to watch as his kin track down demon farmers and peasants to be slaughtered. Both will soon make choices that will change the futures of their races and maybe, perhaps, bring their dream of peace to life again.

Once again, it is the complexity of her characters and the unparalleled telling of the story that make Taylor a master of her craft. I cannot say enough about how unique and captivating the characters are; Zuzanna and Mik’s deepening devotion to one another (a necessary happy love story to juxtapose the catastrophic state of Karou and Akiva’s), Ziri who is the last remaining member of Karou’s previous clan, Ten’s sly and spy-like presence, the arrogance of the emperor angel Joram and the conniving, ruthless intentions of his brother Jael. I especially loved how you were given a clearer view into the world of the angels, only to learn it is a truly hateful and soiled place. I came to admire Liraz, Akiva’s warrior sister, so much more and was thankful for a book that had not just one, but several strong female leads. Akiva’s pain is palpable through Taylor’s writing, as was Karou’s but I do have a huge thank you to send out to Ms. Laini Taylor. I have a theory. We’ll call it the Second-Installment-Heroine-Collapse theory (SIHC for short), based on the pattern I’ve come to see amongst Teen trilogies where the heroine was an extremely strong, intimidating, powerful figure in the first book, but then suffers an utter breakdown in the second book. I’m not by any means saying that what these heroines have suffered in the first book is not deserving of a breakdown, but it is disappointing to watch such kickass female characters dissolve into simpering fools of inability when really, all I want to see is the heroine own her emotions and keep the strength I admired so much about them in the first book. So, thank you Laini Taylor for doing just that with Karou. This story is dark, extremely dark, but while Karou has suffered, and continues to suffer unimaginable losses, she maintains her inner strength and sanity to remain true to who she is. I breathed a huge sense of relief when I saw this was not a book that had fallen to the SIHC philosophy.

I cannot say enough about this book and how much I loved it. The world that Taylor creates is one you can immerse yourself in completely, with returns to modern day settings here and there to keep you balanced. I craved those moments when she would reveal more about the glass citadel of the angels or the deep woodlands where demon peasants lived. It was an all-encompassing, imaginative environment and very few authors can draw me into their vision as vividly as Taylor’s writing does.

I’m aware that this review is quite longer than what I usually write but I suppose that is what happens when a book grips and compels me as much as Days of Blood and Starlight did. I cannot wait until the conclusion of this trilogy, Dreams of Gods and Monsters, is published in April and yet I am reluctant for that day to come because I just want this series to go on and on and on. Taylor’s writing is based on quite common themes- tyranny, betrayal, family, hope- but it is the wrapping of those themes that makes her series so breathtaking. I, along with numerous friends who have borrowed the first and second book from me, eagerly wait for another dose of magic from Laini Taylor.

Devon – a1000booklife

Other books by Laini Taylor: Dreamdark series (2007 and 2009), Lips Touch (2009) and Daughter of Smoke and Bone (2011)

 

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A thank you for the colorful bubble people!

I would like to give a huge shout out and endless thank yous to my friend Terry Ibele for the creation of a1000booklife’s new header and VP! It is teeming with fun and I notice something new every time I look at it. I can’t thank you enough Gentle Giant and you will be rewarded with ample amounts of pie!

Please take a second to check out his blog about stop animation: http://terrymation.blogspot.ca/. And for even more visual fun, check out his profile on Youtube to watch some of his amazing clay animation videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/terrymation.

Thank you, thank you, thank you GG!

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