Pop. Edit. Lit

Reading, writing, editing and all things publishing. I'm also a freelance editor.

Book review: Black Widow: Forever Red

— feeling sad


Stars: 3/5


Blurb: Enter the world of the Avengers' iconic master spy.


Natasha Romanoff is one of the world's most lethal assassins. Trained from a young age in the arts of death and deception, Natasha was given the title of Black Widow by Ivan Somodorov, her brutal teacher at the Red Room, Moscow's infamous academy for operatives.


Ava Orlova is just trying to fit in as an average Brooklyn teenager, but her life has been anything but average.The daughter of a missing Russian quantum physicist, Ava was once subjected to a series of ruthless military experiments-until she was rescued by Black Widow and placed under S.H.I.E.L.D. protection. Ava has always longed to reconnect with her mysterious savior, but Black Widow isn't really the big sister type.


Until now. 


When children all over Eastern Europe begin to go missing, and rumors of smuggled Red Room tech light up the dark net, Natasha suspects her old teacher has returned-and that Ava Orlova might be the only one who can stop him. To defeat the madman who threatens their future, Natasha and Ava must unravel their pasts. Only then will they discover the truth about the dark-eyed boy with an hourglass tattoo who haunts Ava's dreams. . . .


Black Widow: Forever Red features all the heart-pounding adventure readers expect from Marvel, written by #1 New York Times best-selling author Margaret Stohl. Uncover a new side of the Marvel Universe that will thrill loyal fans and newcomers alike, as Stohl reveals the untold story of Black Widow for the very first time.


As I sit down to right this, Marvel has just announced that Captain Marvel’s movie has been pushed back to 2019, to make way for Ant-Man and the Wasp. Not The Wasp in her own movie, mind you, she’s got to be tacked onto Ant-Man’s movie – you know, the guy with the weakest opening yet of all the movies. By 2019 there would have been frigging 10 years without a female-led Marvel movie.


Sighs. And in all this, not one peep about Black Widow’s movie.


Which is why I picked up this book – Marvel’s movie studio sure isn’t interested in females, so I thought I’d get what I could elsewhere.


The book has everything going for it – Widow is its focus, as is her past and the Red Room about which I am dying to know more. I’m not a comics reader, but I’ll buy the dvds, books and POP Funko figures. Margaret Stohl is the author of Beautiful Creatures, which I’ve never read but I know was loved and successful.


And, for the most part the book delivers: Stohl captures Natasha perfectly – her pragmatic approach to life, to SHIELD and the Red Room is clear when she rescues Ava, a child from Ivan Somodorov, her old teacher from Red Room. Eight years later, Ava is homeless and having strange dreams that don’t make sense, while Natasha is everywhere, post-Avengers and her dumping SHIELD secrets online. Ava hates her, hates that she couldn’t rely on Natasha, despite what she said years ago when she rescued Ava from Ivan.


Those dreams also bring Alex into Ava’s life: a kid she keeps dreaming about, but does not know why. They all come together one afternoon when Natasha comes to warn her that Ivan is alive, and he’s coming for Ava.


Stohl writes an action-packed novel, with efficient prose that clearly draws the lines of her action scenes – which, given that Widow is an efficient killer, I appreciated. Ava and Natasha are linked – in more ways than one. They are reflections of each other, and perhaps tell the story that once part of the Red Room no one is really free – not Natasha and not Ava. But the point is I guess, what they make of that freedom they do have. Naturally, there’s something more to their link – an experiment that explains what Ava is capable of in most of the book, and requires the presence of Tony Stark for some SCIENCE! Much to Natasha’s consternation.


Ava and Natasha are the strongest part of the book, and should have been the only part of the book… but sadly, they weren’t. Alex. Alexi. And Spoiler Alert: Widow’s brother.

He is by far the weakest link in this book, and really adds nothing to it but a male presence for the YA romance factor, I guess? According to the story, he and Natasha were separated when they were young, so they have only vague memories of each other. Natasha, being Natasha, isn’t particularly over-emotional about him thought her regrets about him are palpable. Alex’s “relationship” with Ava is rushed, and in essence over the space of days they apparently fall in love.


I’m still trying to puzzle out the purpose of him and I am drawing a big fat blank. Here you have a book with two strong, fabulous female characters who drive much of the action and are the core of the book, with a male sidekick thrown in for no reason other than romance.


While there is much goodness in the book, Alex is there from beginning to end like a third-wheel, which a character does point out, and serves no purpose. At all. I’d like to blank him out, take some white-out and just erase him from this. The worst part of it is that is driving me nuts? His ending only underscores how little he mattered to the story.

Natasha really cannot catch a break, no matter how much the audiences want more of HER. And in this case, Ava.


I'm so disappointed by this book. And I hate that feeling because this is Natasha, and I adore her. The only reason this is getting a 3 is because I enjoyed parts of Natasha's story. Have you read this? Shouldn't Black Widow fans deserve better? Shouldn't Black Widow?

Melissa Keil author interview: writer, editor, nerd

If you google Melissa Keil, you'll find a link to her site describing her as a writer, editor, nerd.


I think I might have heard harps playing when I heard that because it's wonderful to see a writer embracing their inner nerd like that.


Melissa's day job is as a children's book editor, while her secret identity -- or rather not-so secret identity -- is an acclaimed YA author. Life in outer space is the kind of book I wish I had growing up -- one that celebrates being a geek. Yes, I'm old aren't I? However, becoming a writer wasn't all that easy: she's worked as a high school teacher, Middle Eastern tour guide and IT Help desk person, to name a few of her eclectic jobs in her career.


Her most recent book is The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl, a story about a comic-drawing Alba facing change -- it's about growing up and embracing it the best way you can.


Read on to learn more Melissa about her writing, how she became a writer and why YA is where she wants to be.


Who was your favourite author as a child?

The earliest author I remember reading obsessively was Enid Blyton (The Wishing Chair and The Faraway Tree books were particular early favs), and a little bit later, LM Montgomery. I was given The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy when I was about eight or nine, and Douglas Adams is still on the top of my favourite ever author list. I think he was probably the most influential in terms of steering my reading tastes to this day.


After everything you’ve done in your life, how did you become a writer? Was it something you expected, or hoped for in the back of your mind?


It was something I dreamed about when I was young, but thought was completely out of my reach. Books always seemed like these magical things, and the idea that they actually had mere mortals as creators never really crossed my mind. I think lots of writers have pretty similar stories – I was always book obsessed and always wrote stories for myself, but it took a long time to even contemplate pursuing that in a serious way. Getting a job in publishing, being trained as an editor, and working with other writers helped give me a push to start writing seriously – seeing other ‘normal’ people who wrote books for a living suddenly opened up a world that always felt quite remote and exclusive


You’ve written for ‘older readers’ and YA – what is about this age range that appeals to you as a writer?


It’s such an amazing time to write about – the nebulous space between childhood and adulthood that is really rich with possibilities for characters and stories. It’s a huge time of transition, of so many firsts, and of intense, powerful emotions – I think one of the reasons YA is so appealing to people of all ages is because those experiences leave pretty indelible marks, even on adult psyches (or as Joss Whedon said, no one ever really gets over high school).


Have you considered venturing out into writing for an older genre?

Right now, YA is where my heart is – apart from the fact that I adore writing stories with teen protagonists, I feel like I’m part of a really warm and supportive community of readers and writers, and I love being part of that world. And, a huge number of YA readers are in fact adults - I don’t feel the need for any sort of ‘legitimacy’ in saying I write specifically for ‘grown ups’ (whatever that means!)


What is the most important thing to keep in mind for you as a writer as you work?


When I started writing I wrote without any expectation or mindfulness that anyone was going to read my work. It’s incredibly freeing to write just for yourself, and so I suppose the hardest thing to maintain is that creative ‘openness’ when suddenly deadlines are involved, and other people are reading and commenting on your work too. It’s a nice problem to have – but I still want to write stories that resonate with me, characters who I love and whose worlds I want to be immersed in for the year or so it takes to finish a novel.


Has being a children’s book editor and your experiences there negatively influenced you as a writer? Or has it always been a positive?

If anything, being a children’s editor has been incredibly positive and beneficial to my writing. Learning how to evaluate a book through editorial eyes – how to pull it apart and look at the components, how to make decisions on what’s working and what’s not, and more importantly, how to solve (or suggest solutions) to problems, was all invaluable when I started writing my own manuscripts. Though, knowing all the pitfalls that writers make still didn’t make me less precious with pulling apart my own work (just ask my editor!)


What do you wish children’s authors did more of/wrote more of?

Diversity is the big push at the moment, and rightly so – there is so much scope in the children’s and young adult world for stories featuring all sorts of writers, and all sorts of protagonists in all kinds of stories, and it’s great that this is actively being discussed at the moment. Personally, I want to see more books for kids of all ages that defy ‘gender segregation’ – less marketing of ‘boy books’ and ‘girl books’, and more great stories that are open to all readers, regardless of the genre or gender of the protagonists. One of the loveliest surprises with my books is that they seem to be equally popular with both girls and boys (at least, judging from the gorgeous letters that I receive and the kids that I talk to at schools), even though as ‘romantic comedies’ they’re part of a genre typically kept out of the hands of boys.


Both Alba and Sam are such wonderful geeks in your books – are they you? Speaking as a fellow geek, I can only wish I’d had such books growing up, telling me I was cool in my own way! What inspired you to create them?


Thank you! Neither of the characters are entirely me – they both felt like very real, independent people in my own mind while I was writing them – but of course, there are little pieces of me in both of them. Both characters are somewhat inhibited creative people, whose way of interacting with or understanding the world is primarily through their respective fandoms (Sam wants to be a horror movie screenwriter, Alba is a comic book artist). I’ve always had a soft spot for geeks, nerds and outsiders, especially the creative kids with rich internal lives, who don’t necessarily have the easiest time in the real world, at least in the small fishbowl of high school. And both of my books allowed me to be immersed in geek culture for research, which was nice!


What unexpected differences did you find in writing Alba and Sam?

If they were to meet, I like to think that Sam and Alba would be good, if sometimes querulous friends – I think they would get along well, but would also confound each other on a fairly regular basis! While Sam approaches the world with a kind of naïve, world-weary cynicism, Alba has a positive and generally cheerful outlook on life. While Sam is quite internal and fairly repressed, Alba is full of bubbling energy and is confident in her own skin. They were such fun, interesting characters to write back-to-back!


What is up next for you in 2015?

I’m working on my third novel at the moment, as well as juggling all the wonderful stuff that comes with having a few books out in the world – talking to kids at schools and appearing at writers festivals and so forth. I’m looking forward to having my new manuscript completed by the end of the year (all things going well). And both Life in Outer Space and The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl are venturing out into various places around the world this year and next, so I’m looking forward to seeing some overseas editions (and hopefully some fabulous new covers, which is always super exciting!)


To learn more about Melissa, check out her website .


What do you think of Melissa's books? Is your inner geek envious of such gorgeous tales that you didn't have growing up?! I am!

Source: http://editingeverything.com/blog/2015/06/15/melissa-keil-author-interview-writer-editor-nerd

The 10 Best Literary Songs for a Bookish Dance Party

Reblogged from Quirk Books:

Long has the world believed that the kids at the rock shows could never be the same ones devouring books in their free time. Of course, "the world" is wrong about a lot of stuff, but they definitely missed the mark when it comes to smarts and songs. We've collected ten great pop and rock classics for your partying pleasure. Rock on and read on!

read more
Source: http://www.quirkbooks.com/post/10-best-literary-songs-bookish-dance-party

The 7th Victim: not your ordinary Criminal Mind

Verdict: Definitely a series worth following!


Blurb: The Dead Eyes Killer lurks in the backyard of the famed FBI Profiling Unit. His brutal murders confound the local task force, despite the gifted profiling skills of Special Agent Karen Vail. But along with Vail’s insight and expertise comes considerable personal and professional baggage. On leave pending a review of her assault on her abusive ex-husband, Vail must battle forces determined to bring her down, as she fights to find Dead Eyes before he murders more young women.


But the seventh victim is the key to all that stirs this killer...the key that will unlock secrets perhaps too painful for Vail to bear. These are secrets that threaten to destroy her, secrets that will bring down her storied career. For Karen Vail, the truth rests at the heart of a lie. And uncovering it could get her killed...


With material meticulously researched during seven years of study with the Bureau’s vaunted profiling unit, Alan Jacobson brings refreshing realism and unprecedented accuracy to his pages.The 7th Victim is a page-turner as only Alan Jacobson can write, with a stunning twist of an ending that will satisfy even the most discerning thriller reader.


The first book in a series is always the hardest thing to pull off I think. There are so many things to consider: how much to let readers know about characters, how to pace out revelations about characters and all the while ensuring that you don’t tell the readers too little because you’ll lose their interest. Where this first book in the Karen Vail series succeeds, is that it was never intended to be the first in a series. It was received well enough that Jacobson made it into a series eventually.


Therein the lies the strength of this novel: there’s a sense of a writer going all in with his characters here, letting readers in on details that they – or well I – wouldn’t have expected in book 1, knowing this is a series.


Like the blurb above describes, Karen is part of a task force hunting the Dead Eyes killer, a serial killer that has been escaped capture and continued killing for far too long. The task force is getting nowhere fast, as the story progresses Karen’s position is threatened by the fallout of her divorce from an abusive husband and her desire to save her son from him.


She’s told to take a step back, to leave the team and focus on herself, and it’s refreshing to find a character that actually does just that. Sure, she’s invested in the case, but her life is falling down around her and at this point in the story, it makes sense for her to regroup.


At this point, threads of twists place Karen at the centre of the Dead Eyes killer case. But Jacobson's restraint in his writing, in writing Karen in particular, makes these twists work within the story so well.


Karen returns to the task force in an unofficial basis as Dead Eyes begins to focus on her more and more. But, Jacobson never lets up on the focus on Karen’s immediate family as well, and that’s what this book is about – family, the ties we make and how they shape us (very vague, but twists people, I want to save them for you!).


And, in other news, check out my interview with Alan Jacobson on Wednesday this week!


Source: http://editingeverything.com/blog/2015/05/11/the-7th-victim-not-your-ordinary-criminal-mind