• Book Review: DISSONANCE by Mariella Hunt

    Book Review: DISSONANCE by Mariella Hunt
    Mariella Hunt is one of my dearest online friends. She and I met some time ago, but it’s only recently that we’ve begun talking and collaborating more often. When Hunt rereleased her debut YA urban fantasy novel Dissonance, she was kind enough to send me a paperback copy.

    I was even more excited to dive into this book when she told me she’s been working on the sequel. I’m not big into series (I know, I know), but this is one I can definitely see myself reading more of.

    Before I get to the review, here’s the Goodreads summary:

    Fifteen-year-old Allie Grant lives crippled by her illness. Though kept in isolation, she’s never alone: A spirit named Song lurks in the silence of her bedroom.

    When Song reveals its dark nature on the night of her recital, the show ends in tragedy. Verging on death, Allie’s taken in by an uncle she’s never met.

    Julian claims to be a Muse with power over music and answers that’ll heal her. The cure she needs is rare, requiring of him a difficult sacrifice. Allie soon suspects her uncle has a secret that’ll turn her world around.

    But with days left to live, she might fade without learning the truth…like the finishing chord of a song.

    First off, Dissonance is urban fantasy, which isn’t a genre I’ve read much of–although my novel Reflections is urban fantasy, too, so maybe I should read more in that genre… Anyway, although the story is urban fantasy, it was fairly easy for me to navigate the events and setting of the novel. My only issue with regards to worldbuilding is that there were a few places I found it difficult to follow along with the mythology. Hunt has clearly invested a great deal of time, thought, and effort into developing a cohesive magical system and environment for this novel, and this degree of consideration definitely shows. However, at times, the terminology and social hierarchy confused me.

    Nevertheless, I found the characters, plot, and the writing compelling. Dissonance is a strong debut, and as the first book in a series, promises some more exciting things from the author. As a bonus, this book also features a protagonist dealing with chronic illness, which is refreshing. If you’re looking for a good YA urban fantasy novel with likable characters, an engaging setting, and a memorable plot, I wholeheartedly recommend picking up a copy of Dissonance.

    What did you think of Dissonance? What book should I read next?

    Tweet tweet:

    Do you like urban fantasy? Find out why @brianawrites enjoyed @mariellahunt’s debut urban fantasy novel DISSONANCE! (Click to tweet)

  • Book Review: Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder

    As a writer, I’ve heard a great deal about Blake Snyder’s screenwriting Bible, Save the CatI first learned about the book way back in my freshman year of college, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head ever since. Finally, I gave in to temptation and bought it for my Kindle. Here’s what I discovered.

    In Save the Cat, Snyder shares his popular screenwriting structuring method, involving the use of “beat sheets.” These beat sheets allow writers to break their stories down into basic thematic elements to make structuring a breeze. Some of these beats include the Opening Image, Break Into Two, Midpoint, and Bad Guys Close In. Even if you haven’t read Save the Cat, chances are you’re familiar with some of these phrases.

    When I first started writing, I had little idea how to structure a story. Although most of this book is geared towards screenwriters, the principles and techniques in it can easily able to novel writers as well. Snyder makes structure simple–there’s no need to overthink it. In this book, he shares the storytelling skeleton for you to fill in as you please. It may feel a bit formulaic, but there’s no arguing it works.

    I only have two points of contention with this book. For one thing, when I pick up a book on craft, I don’t want to hear much about the author’s personal experience. I only want to hear what’s relevant to the book. In Save the Cat, Snyder references his own work too many times for my liking–but, as I mentioned, that’s all down to personal preference.

    The other thing that bothers me about Save the Cat is that I fear writers who read it may adhere too strictly to the formula it proposes. Don’t get me wrong–Snyder’s storytelling beats are incredibly helpful. I just worry that newbies may try to shoehorn plots into strict beats and sacrifice originality in the process.

    It bears mentioning once again that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to writing. If you want to follow Snyder’s structure, then by all means, go ahead. But don’t spend so much time trying to get your story to fit neatly into beats that you stop having fun.

    After all, if you’re not having fun, what’s the point in doing it?

    In spite of some of its shortcomings, Save the Cat is one of the best, most straightforward books on story structure I have read. Whether you write plays, screenplays, novels, or short stories, I highly recommend you take a look at it.

    What do you think of Save the Cat?

    Tweet tweet:

    Have you heard of SAVE THE CAT? Check out @brianawrites’ review of it here. (Click to tweet)