Book Review: Slave Again by Alana Terry

Title: Slave Again
Author: Alana Terry
Genre:
Women’s Fiction/Suspense
Date Read: 11/09/2014 – 12/09/2014
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

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Quick disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

As with her 2013 novel, The Beloved Daughter, Alana Terry pulls no punches as she once again visits the topic of young women in North Korea. In Slave Again she focuses on human trafficking, and the situation faced by so many women who struggle to cross the border into China, only to end up in the sex industry.

While the book’s blurb only mentions one character, Mee-Kyong, the book really has more of an ensemble cast. Mee-Kyong has escaped from the prison camp she was born in, but she knows that once she reaches the border, it doesn’t necessarily mean that everything will be fine from here on in. There is also the naive Sun, who believes she is going to find a job across the border to help her struggling family. There is her brother, who is trying to find her and bring her home. And there are also Juliette and Roger, American missionaries living in China and secretly assisting North Korean refugees.

The book is often violent and harrowing; even when events are not specifically described, it is easy to tell what was happening to these characters behind closed doors. Some characters die, and sometimes it will take you by surprise exactly who the author was willing to kill off.

Mee-Kyong and Sun’s stories were definitely the ones I had the most investment in. I really wanted to see them escape to some kind of freedom. Mee-Kyong’s outlook later on in the book, after she has met Roger and Juliette, is also very interesting and raises some deep questions, such as the real meaning of freedom.

I actually felt a bit uncomfortable about Roger and Juliette, not because they were Christian (I’m a Christian, so that didn’t bother me), but because they seemed to treat the refugees they took in more like pets or projects to be worked on, rather than real human beings. Maybe that was an intentional character trait given them by the author, but I wasn’t entirely sure.

That was really my only qualm, however. Alana Terry’s writing is wonderful and this book is truly an eye-opener. I gather Alana has another installment in this series already in the works, and I look forward to it as well.

#WIPpet Wednesday – Jumping back on the wagon

Hello all. I have been rather lax at blogging as of late, and for that, I apologise. I have no excuse for disappearing last week. I was planning a WIPpet post, but then I ended up going up to my neighbour’s house on Wednesday evening and then it was bedtime when I came back down. Also, the last week and a half have basically been non-writing weeks, as even the NaNo planning has ground to a bit of a halt. Mostly I am stuck on the development of my antagonist, and her arc. I wrote a bit about that on the Plot Doctoring forum this morning. You can read that here, and if you have any advice to give, I would much appreciate it! (If you don’t have a NaNo account, feel free to answer on this post). I’ve also had my parents here the last few days; they were giving me their old car, but were worried about my apparent over-confidence with driving, and were therefore fussing. It was exhausting.

Anyway, since I haven’t any more cute character interviews or anything fun to give youfrom the upcoming NaNo, I will instead briefly return to Unicorn Love, the story I was sharing from a couple of months ago. I don’t actually know if this is still a WIP, but I am partial to the characters, so let’s work on the basis it will get returned to. This scene takes place a fair bit after the other ones I shared. Upon seeing how much Lexie would give to have it so that Davey never ended up in gaol, Grace Littlewood takes her on to figure out how to use a watch she has discovered, which she believes can allow the user to travel in time. Lexie tries it a first time, and it is a pretty unpleasant experience, and she suggests maybe it isn’t a good idea to use it. Miss Littlewood reacts quite angrily to that, and Lexie wonders why, prompting this explanation. My WIPpet maths is 22 lines from my Scrivener file.

Lexie moved a little closer. “Why is it so important?” she asked. “This isn’t just about helping me, is it?”

Miss Littlewood sighed and sat down. “When I was younger, still at school… the was a girl there. Her name was Anna Radcliffe and she was the sweetest girl I’d ever met.” Her expression became wistful. “We fell in love, and -”

“You what? With a girl?”

Miss Littlewood looked up sharply. “I felt as strongly about Anna as you do about your David.” Lexie was taken aback by the sharpness in her tone.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’ve just never heard of it before.”

Miss Littlewood gave her a wry look. “It’s far more common than you think.” Lexie decided to take her word for it.

“What happened to Anna?”

“We had plans to run away at the end of the school year. We were going to go to Melbourne, or perhaps Brisbane. We hadn’t really decided. We just wanted to be far away from here, somewhere where no one knew us. But we were careless. Anna’s father discovered us one evening… he didn’t see much but it was enough. He told me I was never allowed to see his daughter again. When she tried coming after me a few nights later, he…” Miss Littlewood pressed her lips together.

“What did he do?”

“He sent her away. Had her locked up somewhere so awful that within a year she’d become ill and died. Can you imagine sending your daughter to a place where that would happen?” Lexie shook her head. “And I’m not even sure he cared.”

“I’m sorry.” Lexie couldn’t think of anything else to say.

“A year or two ago, I had a dream about the clock. And Anna was there, too. I somehow knew that if I could find that clock, I could find her again. I need to save her, Lexie. Do you understand that?” Her voice was barely above a whisper. Lexie nodded.

In reference to Lexie’s ignorance/naivety, bear in mind this is set 100-150 years ago (I haven’t set it in concrete, but I think 1880s…) and Lexie’s not got a huge range of life experience. I actually as I was posting this figured out the plot point that I have been stuck on with this one, so I will definitely be filing it away for post-NaNo continued work. Yay!

Anyway, it’s past my bedtime and I was tired before, so I should hurry this up. To join in on WIPpet Wednesday, simply post an excerpt from your WIP that somehow relates to the date and then link up here. Many thanks to K. L. Schwengel for hosting. And now, I am off to bed!

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An Organisation Helping Support #Writers and #Authors: Please Pass On

Emily Witt:

Please take a moment of your time to read about this very important issue.

Originally posted on Cate Russell-Cole: CommuniCATE:

bfblogoEvery day, one in three authors will prepare to work, just to discover that they have run out of coffee. Medically, this leads to a short-term, debilitative state known as cafea ademptus. Long term, it creates a serious cultural vacuum in literature. Beans for Books is a non-profit initiative, which aims to stop this loss by providing community awareness, prevention strategies and research into eliminating cafea ademptus.

The effects of cafea ademptus aren’t limited to physical impairment, it also causes distress and is responsible for great losses to the International literary community. For example, it is a little known fact that Mahatma Gandhi, despite the encouragement of Henry David Thoreau and Leo Tolstoy, never got to write his thriller, “Dark Nights in Natal.” Historians have linked this loss to a voluntary lack of coffee consumption. [Ref] We have to ask ourselves how many other great treasures have been lost, as a result of…

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Book Review: The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon-Keeping by Ashley O’Melia

Title: The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping
Author: Ashely O’Melia
Genre: Urban fantasy
Date Read:
03/09/2014
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

dragonkeepingcoverAll right, I admit it, I am a sucker for baby dragons. Well, dragons of all sizes are awesome, but there’s something about the way baby dragons tend to fall somewhere between a puppy and a kitten in terms of behaviour and are definitely just as cute that makes me want to flail my arms and go “Aww!”

This book is a quick. delightful little fantasy story, centering on Aubrey Goodknight, who discovers a mysterious book, “The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon-Keeping”, just when she is feeling most alone. Next thing she knows, she is hatching a dragon in her oven, and raising him while trying to keep his presence a secret.

Hugo, as she names him, is completely adorable, and I was continually  “Aww!”-ing as I read. Aubrey was a well-rounded character herself, with equal amounts of insecurity and bravery when required. I also really enjoyed the character of Ben, Aubrey’s eventual boyfriend. He was just so far removed from usual romantic leads in novels: he wore glasses, was a bit dorky, and enjoyed LARP [Live Action Role Play] on weekends. Just as Aubrey is a Wanderer, it is revealed Ben is a “Believer”, which is just as important to Hugo’s growth and the future of dragons in general as the Wanderers are.

The mythology of the book is revealed at a nice pace, mostly through the texts of The Wanderer’s Guide, though towards the end, information is revealed through a few new characters. There are some intriguing bad guys that the reader is aware of for most of the story, though their motivations don’t become clear until later, which keeps up the suspense.

While I’m not 100% sure, I’m assuming that this is the first in a series, as there is still lots of the story to hear. I look forward to the next installment!

#WIPpet Wednesday – Introducing Armand

Hello! It is Wednesday once again, and because I went away with my writing group on the weekend, I am feeling rather behind on everything. However, I did get the first 9 or 10 chapters of my NaNoWriMo novel for 2014 planned out, scene-by-scene, and I have a bit more that I came up with today and still need to type up. I think I’m probably going to have to pad to reach 50k, but that’s okay. I have talent for writing pointless dialogue. Interestingly, as I was initially gathering my ideas for the story, I imagined Josephine would be the POV character, but as I was outlining, it was clear that was going to be Armand. Which does mean I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do when he is effectively rendered useless by the same witch who turned Josephine into a statue all those years ago.

I have an interview with Armand for you this week. Please ignore the part where I don’t know the character’s name. I really do need to stop calling my nasty side characters Embezzling Official, Bigoted Official and Rich Philanthropist. One of my friends suggested one of them being Gaston, what with this story being inspired by a version of Beauty and the Beast and all. I do like the way she thinks. Anyways. Here is Armand’s interview.

~*~

[there is a knock at the Keyboard and an Open Mind residence. Emily answers the door to reveal a young man with an olive complexion standing there. When he sees Emily, he gives her a nervous grin]

EW: Hi, Armand, thanks for dropping by today. Come on in. [she beckons and he steps inside, then looks around, not sure where to go next. Emily motions to a sofa.] Take a seat.

A: Thanks. [he runs his hand through his hair as he sits down and looks around] It’s an, um, nice place you’ve got here.

EW: Thanks. So let’s get down to business. Can you tell me about yourself?

A: [looks past Emily’s shoulder for a moment as he contemplates his answer] My name is Armand and I’m twenty-five years old. I’m studying a postgraduate degree in Esterfayan folklore at Merrowfort University.

EW: Esterfay is your country, right? And Merrowfort’s the capital?

A: That’s correct.

EW: So I take it you’re a bit of a bookworm, then?

A: Heh, yeah. My dad’s the police commissioner, and when I was younger I used to help him on cases. He wasn’t technically supposed to talk about cases in progress, but I was good at combing newspapers or archives for clues, so he used to enlist me anyway. Sometimes I wasn’t so keen, though, if I was already reading something more interesting.

EW: Totally fair enough. Can you tell me a bit about the events of the last few weeks?

A: There have been some weird things going on. A few people at uni reported strange lights in the woods near town, and I wouldn’t usually take the word of an undergrad, but I saw the lights myself one night. And people have been going missing. Some were people just off the street, but we’ve lost two government officials over the past two weeks, as well as [name]. He owns one of our major newspapers, sponsors some of our local sports teams and supports several charities. Everyone in this city knows who he is, but like the others, he’s gone without a trace. I’m barely seeing my dad at the moment; everyone’s looking to him for answers and at the moment, there just aren’t any. And then there’s Josephine appearing out of nowhere…

EW: Ah, yes, Josephine. What do you think of her? Do you believe her story?

A: I… she makes me want to believe it. She clearly believes it herself. But I can’t just believe she’s a character in one of the stories I’ve studied!

EW: Well, we’ll see. Do you like her, though?

A: Well, yeah, I do. Whatever it turns out her situation actually is, I want to help her out. But sometimes I feel like in spite of everything I’m doing, she’s… looking down her nose at me or something.

EW: Yeah, she’s… still working on not doing that. Let me assure you, she is grateful.

A: Really?

EW: Yep [winks] That’s all we’ve got time for. Thanks for coming over today.

~*~

That’s it from me. If you would like to join in on WIPpet Wednesday, post an excerpt from your current Work In Progress that somehow relates to the date (even though mine didn’t), and link up with us here. I’m going to take off now and either go read some more Gone Girl or watch the new episode of Forever. Cheers!

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#WIPpet Wednesday – Something a bit different

I deliberately skipped WIPpet Wednesday last week because I knew that with my parents visiting, I wouldn’t get a chance to read anyone else’s posts, and I was already feeling bad about two straight weeks of posting and getting lovely comments, and being too lazy to return the favour. I also haven’t really been writing anything, though I think I have found the story I’m going to write for NaNoWriMo and in the last couple of days I’ve started doing some planning.

As I don’t really have any proper writing to share, I’ll share a character interview I wrote with the main character yesterday. As for WIPpet maths, it’s the first of the month and this is the first actual character exploration I put into writing. :P It’s actually pretty vague at the moment because I’m still working on exact settings and plot points, and it’s a little inconsistent because I’m still playing around with the character, but I think you’ll get the gist. It’s a little long, but I don’t think it requires much explanation, so I’ll just launch straight in. Everyone, meet Josephine!

[there is a knock on the blogosphere door and it edges open. A young woman with wavy brown hair tied back with a silk ribbon sticks her head into the room]

J: Hello? Do I have the right place?

EW: [skids into the room] Hi! Yes! Please have a seat. Sorry about the mess. I’ve been a bit lax on the blog upkeep as of late.

[Josephine shows no sign of having comprehended anything that was just said, but she sits daintily in the lounge chair provided. She’s wearing a maxi-dress with short sleeves, which she keeps picking at, as though wishing they covered more of her]

EW: So… can you tell us where you’re from?

J: You know the story of Beauty and the Beast, don’t you?

EW: Of course.

J: Beauty was my sister. Our other sister, Christine, and I were always jealous of her. She was the youngest, and our father always doted on her. Christine and I couldn’t stand it. We were horrible to her, and she just took it all with good grace. That’s the type of person she was. When she married the prince, the same witch who had turned him into the Beast turned Christine and me into statues so that we would have to watch Beauty’s happiness until we became better people.

EW: What was that like?

J: I’m not sure it’s something you can imagine without having ever lived it. I couldn’t move or speak. I couldn’t even fall asleep. Beauty used to talk to us – she was the only one who remembered we were there. Even her husband thought she was odd for talking to statues after a while. At first, I thought she was pitying us and I resented her just as I always had, but it didn’t take long for me to start looking forward to those moments.

EW: You were stuck that way for a long time. It can’t have been easy once Beauty and her family were gone…

J: Not at all. I watched my little sister grow old. When she and the Prince were gone, one of my nephews inherited the estate, but after a few generations it left the family and not long after that it was abandoned for a long time. You don’t know how lonely it was.

EW: The witch said that you would be freed when you learned the error of your ways. But you were trapped for centuries… surely it didn’t take that long.

J: Of course not. It’s hard to remain spiteful when you can do nothing but watch someone having a far better time than you and reflect on why it can’t be you. I don’t know why the spell broke, or why it only broke for me and not Christine, but Armand says that my reappearance is only one of a number of strange occurrences lately, so maybe it’s all connected.

EW: As though trying to get used to a new century isn’t hard enough with strange things going on around you.

J: That’s true. I learned some things from the people who visited the castle over recent years – there wasn’t much to do other than watch and listen – but you only learn so much from that vantage point.

EW: Is anyone helping you adjust? [tips head to the side and gives a knowing look]

J: [blushes] Armand has been helping me learn. He’s been very sweet to me. [she sets her jaw] But I can’t stay with him much longer.

EW: Why not?

J: Well, it’s not proper for a start. I’m sure people are already talking. Not to mention he’s…

EW: What?

J: [she is trying to find the most delicate way to phrase it] Well, he’s hardly my…

EW: Your what? Equal? Are you trying to say you’re better than him?

[Josephine is quiet]

EW: You’re no longer the daughter of a rich merchant, remember?

J: [averts her eyes] I know. You’d think I’d have learned.

EW: [relenting] I think you have. We all have our faults. Anyway, look, I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of each other over the next couple of months, but right now I need to go and chop vegetables. Thanks for coming today.

J: You’re welcome. I’ll see you again soon.

~*~

So that’s Josephine. Armand will be the next character I try to expand, and then the wicked witch/fairy character who is my villain. I think you can probably grasp enough of the plot just from reading this. I’m excited to start plotting this properly. We’ve got a long weekend this coming weekend (just had one, too; everyone in Canberra loves this time of year) so some of my writing group, me included, are going for two-day planning getaway. Hopefully I’ll be able to bounce ideas off them and really get a sense of what’s going to happen in the story.

Thanks to K. L. Schwengel for hosting the WIPpet Wednesday blog hop. Join us by posting an excerpt from your WIP (or something like this) that somehow relates to the date, and then join us at the linky. I’m going to go and chop those veges I mentioned now. I’ll see you all soon! :D

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#MirthMusicMon – Tourists

I expect everyone has a bit of a love-hate relatonship with tourists in their city at some point or another (providing you live somewhere where tourists are likely to visit, of course). Here is a Whose Line Is It Anyway Hoe-Down about them (and also about kids in the cinema because the topics got a bit confused).

This second one needs a little explaining. There was a show here a while ago called “The Gruen Transfer” (later “Gruen Planet”) that analysed advertising. At the end of each episode was a segment called “The Pitch” in which two advertising agencies had to create an ad for something “unsellable”. This one was made around the time that the Government as coming under some fire for its laws regarding asylum seekers, so the brief for the Pitch was to create an ad to entice said asylum seekers to go somewhere else (so… not quite tourism, but you could probably use it for that, too). The “where the bloody hell are you?” part is a reference to a British ad for Australian tourism from a few years ago (it was controversial for featuring a pretty model asking “So where the bloody hell are you?”). Anyway, it’s probably taken as long for you to read this paragraph as it will to watch the video, so without further ado:

Here’s the other entry. I’m not actually 100% sure who won.

That one may just be funny to me because we are actually a tiny bit proud of all our “scary shit”. Though we maintain and healthy respect and healthy distance from most of it.

Come and join us for Mirth and Music Monday! I’ve had a not-so-great few days, so I’ll be keen to check out the other posts. You can find us here. See you all soon!

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