Review: Flawed by Cecelia Ahern

Seeing as this blog is supposed to be about reading, writing and reviewing, I thought I had better review an actual book!

The last book I finished that wasn’t in the middle of a series was Flawed by Cecelia Ahern, so I thought I’d start there.

 

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3.5 stars

Having read several of Ahern’s adult contemporary books, and really enjoyed most of them, I knew I wanted to check this out as soon as I heard she had written a YA novel.

I loved PS. I Love You and Where Rainbows End (Love, Rosie), and enjoyed The Time of My Life and If You Could See Me Now. Some of Ahern’s books are pretty straight contemporary, and others have fantasy/supernatural elements.

I would describe Flawed as YA dystopian. It’s not quite fantasy, there were no magical or fantastical elements to speak of, but it’s set in a not-too-distant future where a devastating mistake by high-powered officials has caused a separate court system to be set up in addition to the legal/judicial system, whereby non-criminals who commit legal but ill-advised mistakes and errors of judgement are tried and punished accordingly.

Our MC is Celestine North, a self-confessed perfectionist who completely agrees with and abides by the system for punishing the Flawed.

“I am a girl of definitions, of logic, of black and white.”

Coincidentally, her boyfriend’s dad is the head judge. He joins them for Earth day dinner every year. And sits at the head of the table.

As Celestine’s granddad says,

“Never trust a man who sits, uninvited, at the head of the table in another man’s home.” 

Her granddad was one of my favourite characters, partly due to this comment at the beginning of the book. It foreshadows the action later perfectly. Everyone else is terrified of Judge Crevan. Not Granddad.

As you are probably already imagining, Celestine soon falls foul of this system and faces the ultimate punishment: being branded (physically branded, with a hot iron) Flawed, and having to live the rest of her life under a different set of rules to the rest of society.

A set curfew, specific seats on public transport, no alcohol, bland food only, and even their own section of the supermarket.

Worst of all, the rest of society is at risk of being punished if they so much as help a Flawed person, even if they’re injured or sick (except doctors), causing a pervading sense of fear that further alienates the Flawed from their peers.

Overall, I enjoyed Flawed and found the premise fascinating.

At times I felt tense and frustrated, because I could imagine it really happening, and the way that most characters treated the Flawed made me angry. It felt like a comment on other, real-world prejudices, such as race and sexual orientation, and that comparison made it all the more difficult to read some of the scenes where the fear, contempt and hatred of the Flawed was exposed.

I liked Celestine as a character, she wasn’t perfect, but that’s what made her feel real and relatable. She starts off convinced that the system is right and just, and gradually she starts to question it, and eventually sees the injustice and corruption at its heart.

“Everyone who goes through the Flawed court is found guilty; otherwise they wouldn’t be taken in the first place.”

It takes for her to be accused herself before she truly questions the fairness of making someone who made an error of judgement live an almost completely separate life to the rest of their family. But, wouldn’t most of us be the same?

At seventeen years old, would I have thought twice about the justice of a system I had been raised with and (up to a point) worked in my favour? Almost definitely not.

That’s the great thing about Flawed, it really makes you question your own principles, and think about how far you would be willing to go to defend them.

I give Flawed 3.5 stars – for a first foray into YA it’s definitely enjoyable and thought-provoking, but there were times when Celestine bothered me, she seemed to be swept along by the action rather than effecting it. I would have liked to have seen some of the other characters fleshed out a little further. For example, Art, her boyfriend, and Juniper, her sister. Both were a bit like cardboard cut outs.

One of my favourite parts was when Celestine became a reader, after always preferring fact to fiction:

“Sometimes I’ll read a sentence and it will make me sit up, jolt me, because it is something that I have recently felt but never said out loud.I want to reach into the page and tell the characters that I understand them, that they’re not alone, that I’m not alone, that it’s OK to feel like this. And then the lunch bell rings, the book closes and I’m plunged back into reality.”

Relatable, no?

I would liken Flawed to The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and 1984 by George Orwell. It’s almost set in Scotland, at least that’s the impression I got from Highland Castle – it was very similar to Edinburgh castle, and the summit Celestine and Art meet on reminded me of Arthur’s Seat.

If you’ve read Flawed, what did you think? Did you enjoy it? Are you looking forward to the sequel, Perfect?

See you next time!

 

Lyndsey

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Review- Flawed by Cecelia Ahern Lyndsey's Book Blog

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Current word count: 66,680

Currently reading:

PaperbackThe Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury

*spoilers for The Sin Eater’s Daughter*

I’m finding this slightly harder to get into than The Sin Eater’s Daughter, but I’ve read that it’s even better than the first so I’m hoping the action ramps up soon. Silas is definitely intriguing, and the infliction that Errin’s mother suffers from is an interesting new factor.

The things I liked about the first book were the relationships between Twylla, Lief and Merrick, and the ruthless cunning of the queen. She was a captivating antagonist.

My favourite thing about the book was that Twylla and the reader are lead to believe that the Gods are real and the magic that allows her to survive the poison in her skin but kill others really exists, and then it is revealed to be a ruse.

My least favourite thing was when the Sleeping Prince turned out to be real and magical elements were reintroduced. Am I alone here?

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AudiobookCareer of Evil by Robert Galbraith

This is my first of J.K. Rowling’s crime novels, I downloaded it in the Audible sale for 99p and didn’t realise it was the third in a series. Luckily, you don’t need to have read the others in order to enjoy it, it gives you enough back story and context to really get into the story and understand the characters.

Robin and Cormoran, private investigators, receive a woman’s severed leg in the post with a song lyric from the band that Cormoran’s mother was a huge fan of (she is literally described as a “super groupie).

This sends them on a manhunt for the person who has possibly murdered a young girl and chopped her leg off. They cover almost every inch of the country, and Scotland, tracking down three men Cormoran put away when he was a military policeman, and the step-father he always suspected of killing his mother with a drug overdose.

The book is written in multiple POVs, we even get to see into the mind of the killer as he stalks Robin, hoping to make her his next victim in a bid to get back at Cormoran.

Career of Evil is so well written, with multiple layers and subplots running concurrently. I haven’t finished it yet, so I’m still waiting to see how they all converge, but the twists and turns along the way have been excellent.

I expected nothing less than the best from Queen Rowling, and I have not been disappointed so far. I do love a good crime novel!

Read my prologue

Hi fellow readers and writers!

Today, I thought I would share some of my writing with you. (I’m genuinely having palpitations right now.)

As I’m almost finished with my first draft-seriously, THE END is so close I can hardly breathe-I thought it would be fun to let you read my prologue.

I know, I know, prologues are a controversial topic. I’ve even read that some agents and publishers won’t even read a submission if it includes a prologue (I’m hoping this is just an exaggeration, if only because they would miss out on so many amazing novels.)

Some of the most famous and popular books by some of the world’s best authors have prologues. Several of the Harry Potter books have prologues, and if it’s good enough for JK it’s good enough for me.

From what I’ve read, there seem to be a few accepted rules for prologues, for example where there is a large time gap between the prologue and chapter one, and the information from the past is important to the story.

That’s the kind of prologue I have written for The Fair Queen.

OK. Let’s bite the bullet. Here’s my prologue (if you want to check out a brief synopsis for my novel first then here you go):

 


 

PROLOGUE

 

The harsh, fluorescent lights blinked audibly overhead as he slipped unseen into the hospital room. Row upon row of cots stood before him, occupied by pink mewling creatures, the air thick with the heady scent of new life.

The tightly wrapped bundle in his arms squirmed, and a face peered up at him from deep within the folds. He looked down at the child, his heart breaking inside his chest.

This was the only way.

The only way to keep his new born daughter safe. The only way to protect his people and ensure the future of his kingdom.

Footsteps in the corridor brought him out of his reverie and he tore his eyes away from the face of his child, scanning the cots until his eyes fell on a bundle wrapped in a pink blanket.

Holding his precious cargo in the crook of one arm, he lifted the small human out of the cot with his other hand. He carefully removed the hospital-issue cellular blanket, wrapping it lovingly around his own daughter before placing her in the empty cot.

He bowed to bestow one last kiss on her forehead, and watched as the shimmering lights in her bronze eyes faded, leaving them an unremarkable shade of brown.

“Be safe,” he whispered, “I’ll be watching over you, my child.”

Another sound in the corridor made him take a step back, thrusting the spare human child inside his cloak and stepping behind the door just as it opened and a plump woman in nurse’s scrubs bustled in. She cooed as she picked up the King’s daughter from the cot, chattering about feeding time.

With one last look over his shoulder, the King slipped soundlessly from the room.

 


 

What did you think? Leave me your thoughts and suggestions in the comments, I’d love to hear what you liked and disliked.

Do you love or hate prologues in books? Are you one of those readers who (heaven forbid) skips the prologue? Let me know!

 

Lyndsey

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Beautiful Books

I’m a little bit late to this particular writers link up, so if you don’t mind I’m going to jump back to the beginning. I’ll be brief and try to answer each question in one sentence (there are thirty of them, after all). Thanks to Cait of Paper Fury and Sky of Further Up and Further In for creating this linkup!

Here we go…

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Part One, October:

What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea? 

I got the idea last summer, so about seven or eight months, and it’s inspired by Sherwood Forest where I live and walk my dog every day.

Describe what your novel is about!

It’s a YA Fantasy about 17 year old Aria who discovers she is the daughter of a king from another realm, a realm where magic and monsters are real.

What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like!

I actually have a Pinterest board of inspiration for my WIP, you can check out my ideas for the setting and locations, character aesthetics etc.

Introduce us to each of your characters!

I wrote a post introducing all my characters, so you can read that here!

How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?)

I am definitely a planner, I spent weeks just thinking and ruminating on the idea, and then at least a month outlining, creating my characters, plotting etc.

What are you most looking forward to about this novel?

Just getting it down on the page and finally writing a novel, this will be my first so I’m really excited about the whole experience.

List 3 things about your novel’s setting.

It has two settings, the Human Realm, which is loosely based on the village where I live, bordered by Sherwood Forest. The Fair Realm is set deep within the forest and is similar to Idris in the Shadowhunter Chronicles – it’s there but mundanes can’t see it and don’t know it exists. It’s like an undetectable extension charm, there is way more inside than you would know from the outside.

What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?

Aria is scared she’s going to be left behind when all her school friends go off to University, she wants excitement and adventure, and she definitely finds it! She also wants to know who she really is, she wants to find her real father, the Salamander King, and learn the truth, but the evil Celeste King has other ideas…

How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?

She starts off bored and a little bit self-absorbed, as a result she’s reckless and impulsive, but by the end she knows and accepts that she’s got a destiny to fulfil and a responsibility to protect her people from the evil king.

What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?

It’s a coming of age tale with a fantasy twist, so there’s a lot of ‘growing up’, ‘taking responsibility’ and ‘accepting who you are’ themes.

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Part Two, November:

Overall, how is your mental state, and how is your novel going?

Pretty good, I’m still chipping away at my first draft and almost at the end. I didn’t win NaNoWriMo but I am nearing 65k words now so I’m really proud of myself for sticking it out this far.

What’s your first sentence (or paragraph)?

The harsh, fluorescent lights blinked audibly overhead as he slipped unseen into the hospital room.”

That’s the first line of the prologue, which I love and want to keep, even though I know they’re unpopular.

Who’s your current favourite character in your novel?

It’s so hard to choose! I love Kiefer, he’s a rebel with a heart, but I also really love Rainer, who is my mentor character and really helps Aria to understand her new world, as well as being a good friend.

What do you love about your novel so far?

I love the characters, they’re all so different and fun to write. I also love the magic system I’ve created and the various fantasy creatures. You can read more about them in my previous posts Magic, myth and mystery and Magical monsters and where you may discover them.

Have you made any hilarious typos or other mistakes?

I’ve got a whole list of things I need to go back and change in the second draft, but I can’t think of any funny ones…

What is your favourite to write: beginning, middle, or end — and why?

The middle! The end is coming and I’m still dragging out the middle because I’m worried about how to wrap it up neatly, whilst setting up the sequel. The beginning is definitely going to need the most work in draft two.

What are your writing habits? Is there a specific snack you eat? Do you listen to music? What time of day do you write best? Feel free to show us a picture of your writing space!

I always make a cup of Earl Grey before I start writing. I started listening to music recently, before that I actually had the TV on in the background, which can be equal parts distracting and inspiring. I definitely write best at night, I actually got up and came downstairs to write one night when I couldn’t sleep because ideas were swirling in my head.

How private are you about your novel while you’re writing? Do you need a cheer squad or do you work alone (like, ahem, Batman)?

I prefer to write alone, if only because my husband keeps trying to speak to me and it’s really distracting, but the dog is always here demanding my attention so I guess I’m never alone!

What keeps you writing even when it’s hard?

I know that the sense of achievement when it’s finished will be amazing, and I don’t tend to start things and not finish them so it’s not really a question of giving up. When it’s tough I just take it slow, and if I need to get away from the computer I take a break. I usually figure out my writing problems while walking the dog, so taking time out from writing is really important for me.

What are your top 3 pieces of writing advice?

I know a lot of people are pantsers, but I would say plot and outline the major scenes and events before starting, that way you’ll always have a vague road map of your book to follow when you start to get lost around the middle.

One thing I did in preparation for Nano was to bullet point thirty scenes I needed to write, so that I would never be struggling for something write about – that was an absolute lifesaver and I would recommend it whether or not you are taking part in Nano.

Lastly, I’ve gotten stuck a few times and lacked inspiration, but if I just persevered, even just for a few minutes a day, I eventually pushed through the block and got back into the swing of writing. Whatever you do, don’t give up, just keep writing. If it’s terrible, you can just fix it in the second draft.

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Part Three, January:

What were your writing achievements last year?

2016 was the year I actually got an idea that wouldn’t go away, and decided to sit down and write my first novel. I took part in my first every NaNoWriMo, and even though I missed the mark by 15k words, I still see it as a major achievement. I also started this blog and took part in Raimey Gallant’s NaNo Blog Hop, so I’ve made lots of new writing friends online *waves*.

What’s on your writerly “to-do list” for 2017?

To finish draft one, draft two, editing and revising, and hopefully have a finished manuscript by 2018, in time for querying!

Tell us about your top-priority writing projects for this year!

The Fair Queen is my only writing project for this year, but I’ve already started to have ideas for other books, and there’s also the sequel to plot and write.

How do you hope to improve as a writer? Where do you see yourself at the end of 2017?

I’d love to be at the point of querying literary agents at the end of 2017. I also hope to get the timescales down for all of the stages of writing, I’m taking my time as it’s my first novel but I need to reduce the time it takes me.

Describe your general editing process.

I’m not sure yet, as I’ve never written a book before, but I intend to do a second draft and rewrite, and then give my book to a few trusted beta readers. Then I’ll take their feedback and do a third draft, before sending it to a professional editor probably.

On a scale of 1-10, how do you think this draft turned out?

It’s not quite finished, but I am a bit of a perfectionist so I’m quite happy with how it’s going because I can’t help editing it as I go. I know, cardinal sin of first drafts. But, I feel like my second draft is going to be quite painless because I’ve got most of the scenes down how I want them, so it’s going to be more about adding necessary scenes and little details, and removing extraneous bits, rather than a full rewrite.

What aspect of your draft needs the most work?

Erm, I might need an independent adjudicator to tell me this because I can’t see the wood for the trees, to be honest. I think it needs more foreshadowing and little hints and details woven through, personally.

What do you like the most about your draft?

I think the friendships between my characters are probably my favourite thing, it’s got a much stronger emphasis on friendship than romance, which I think is important. A lot of YA is about falling in love, and whilst I love reading those types of books, I also like the ones that take a different tack and focus on friends instead of lovers, because not all teens are in love or meet the one at that age.

What are your plans for this novel once you finish editing? More edits? Finding beta readers? Querying? Self-publishing? Hiding it in a dark hole forever?

All of the above! Definitely editing, beta readers, more editing and then querying, fingers crossed.

What’s your top piece of advice for those just finished writing a first draft?

I have no idea because I’ve never finished a first draft myself! I would say put it away for a few weeks, get some distance, read a couple of books or start on another writing project, and then come back to it with fresh eyes. That’s the advice I’ve absorbed from reading other people’s blogs on editing. I think you need to come back to it as though you are an editor or a reader, if you’re still in writer mode you’ll miss mistakes and you won’t be ruthless enough to polish your manuscript up for publishing.

Phew! Longest blog post ever. That was fun. I wish it was that easy to write 2k words for my novel!

Are you taking part in the Beautiful Books linkup? If so, pop your blog link in the comments and I’ll have a read!

 

Until next time,

 

Lyndsey

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