Review: Phantom by Laura DeLuca

Book Reviews, Writer Wednesday


Laura DeLuca

Advance Review Copy

Grade: *

Grading Scale: 1 (*) – 5 Stars (*****)

The “Phantom” was a musical phenomenon that Rebecca had always found enchanting. She had no idea that her life was about to mirror the play that was her obsession. When her high school drama club chooses “Phantom” as their annual production, Rebecca finds herself in the middle of an unlikely love triangle and the target of a sadistic stalker who uses the lines from the play as their calling card.
Rebecca lands the lead role of Christine, the opera diva, and like her character, she is torn between her two co-stars—Tom the surfer and basketball star who plays the lovable hero, and Justyn, the strangely appealing Goth who is more than realistic in the role of the tortured artist.
Almost immediately after casting, strange things start to happen both on and off the stage. Curtains fall. Mirrors are shattered. People are hurt in true phantom style. They all seem like accidents until Rebecca receives notes and phone calls that hint at something more sinister. Is Justyn bringing to life the twisted character of the phantom? Or in real life are the roles of the hero and the villain reversed? Rebecca doesn’t know who to trust, but she knows she’s running out of time as she gets closer and closer to opening night. Only when the mask is stripped away, will the twenty first century phantom finally be revealed.
—Synopsis courtesy of the author’s website.

This book had a lot of potential. There was a potential for a great interpretation of the Phantom of the Opera, but the way it was carried out was a bit clumsy, and a little too reverent to the Andrew Lloyd Webber version of the story. When they referenced the musical, or were singing from the musical, none of the song lyrics were from the show at all. I’m guessing they were excerpts from the original story by Gaston Leroux, but it felt…off. I can understand from a business standpoint why an independent press might not want to take on the financial aspect of using lyrics from the copyrighted show. I felt that should have been taken into consideration when referencing the show almost exclusively in the text. Using made-up lyrics when Becca and Justyn are singing for example, Point of No Return, was something that should not have happened.

“Lord Justyn” only had one or two good lines in his dialogue, and the rest seemed pretentious and overbearing, like he knew he was trying too hard to be a Byronic-style hero. He was a brooding, stereotypical Goth high school student, who practiced Paganism and wore only black. I wanted a little bit of a variation from this stereotype, and truly wanted to like Justyn. But he was too flat and one-dimensional to be relatable, and his lifestyle as a Pagan was one-dimensional as well. Instead of showing the reader that Paganism wasn’t all black cats and pentagrams, it seemed to do the opposite in my opinion, by seeming a bit comical.

Becca, the heroine of this novel, reminded me a bit of Bella Swan from Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga. She had her good moments, but those didn’t outweigh the terribly cliched areas of her character.

The plot had an interesting twist near the end, and that justified some of the moments that dragged, but I really wanted to like this interpretation more than I had. I felt that the publishing company could have presented this novel in a better way and might have possibly hindered any sort of positive reception to the book by their choice of cover and cover artist in the edition I received. I had to use a black book cover over the design because it was so distracting. A reader’s first impression of a book is always the cover, and this one wouldn’t have made me pick it up off the shelf if I saw it in a library or in a bookstore.

Even if this interpretation of the Phantom of the Opera wasn’t what I expected, I think I would give this author another try anyway.

Visit Author Laura DeLuca’s Website

Writer Wednesday: Novel Infidelity

Writer Wednesday

It started with Wuthering Heights. Out of the blue, an idea for a book—while I’m deep in the editing of my primary manuscript—sprang out of nowhere the following morning. It consumed every thought, and I could do absolutely nothing until that story idea was written down. For seven days I could not sleep well…I forgot to eat. I became haunted by this idea as a lover is haunted by her affair.

I had to see this idea through, no matter the consequences to my health. What followed was a twenty-three page synopsis of this story idea. Every element, down to the conversations and blocking movements of the characters were written down, something I never do.

Throughout those seven days I believed I was cheating on my marriage…to my other book.

Now, I believe that something as serious as infidelity cannot be compared to an author and her books, but it felt exactly how I imagined it would be. Every thought was consumed by this idea, something that has never happened in my entire writing career. But what did it mean? Is the manuscript I’m working on not as satisfactory as that first flush of emotion I get with an exciting idea? Possibly.

So how does one remedy the fact that a story idea this prominent is demanding to be written, when a manuscript I’ve been working on for a very long time still must be edited and polished further?

An affair?


Or a marriage?

Has anyone else experienced this strange phenomena, and if so, how did you deal with it? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

Writer Wednesday!

Weekly Features, Writer Wednesday

Oasis for YA

Writer Wednesday is a weekly meme started by Oasis for YA, and features topics for writers! Please post your own WWs in the comments!

This week’s post is courtesy of Author Maggie Stiefvater, whose newest book, “Forever” will be in stores this July.

I reckon this must be the time of year for starting novels, because I’ve gotten asked about ten times in the last month how it is that I get going with my novels. I thought I remembered posting something about it before, and I had: here and here. I read back over them, trying to see if they would have helped me back before I’d written a novel, and I guess they are sort of lacking in the practical nitty-gritties that I would’ve wanted. So I’m going to try again. I’m in the beginning stages of another novel right now, myself, so I’m going to try to pick apart my current process. It’s weird to think that this will be published novel #7. One would think I’d be quite handy at this by now.

Okay, I think I have what I want to add.

1) Are you telling the right story?

I can hear the gritty sounds of millions of eyes rolling in their sockets now, but come on, bear with me. Before you sit down and drive yourself crazy in front of the computer, I want you to be sure. I want you to be in love with the story. I want you to be unable to stop thinking about it. I want you to be on fire with the desire to write this story. Because if you aren’t, save yourself the trouble and stop now. Before I ever write a single word of any of my novels, I spend days brainstorming about them — the characters, the plot arcs, the villains, the ending. If I can’t bring myself to spend a week doing nothing but contemplating the possibilities behind the idea, then I’m writing the wrong story. It’s like getting married. If you aren’t in love with it now — and I’m talking the sort of love that is so overwhelming that it annoys onlookers — it’s not going to get any better.

2) Do you know the ending?

I have dozens of unfinished novels from my teen years. I would zoom off the mark like a crazy person, pounding out tens of thousands of words, and then . . . fizzle. The aliens would come and kill them all. The characters were turn on each other and die in pools of blood. It was ugly. It took me a long time to figure out that I needed to know the end of the story before I started, or they’d always end in travesties. And by “ending”, I mean a final(ish) scene. I don’t need to know how everything works out, but I do need a concrete destination point.

3) Do you know your characters?

I can’t start my novel until I know what my main characters need and want (often two very different things). I need to know why they don’t already have these things. I need to know how they’re going to change from beginning to end. Because I have to signal all this this subtly to the reader — if not in the first scene, then pretty darn close. If readers don’t know what the conflict is going to be until halfway into the novel, I’m in trouble. My mom’s kind enough to give me that long to build up my story, but no one else is.

4) Do you know your setting?

If your answer is “in a suburban town somewhere,” you haven’t done enough homework yet. Setting counts as a character, and that means that it deserves as much brainstorming time as your people. Why does your story take place there, and why can’t it take place anywhere else? Setting often requires hands-on research for me. That’s why I was so insane in visiting every set of cliffs I was anywhere close to last year. You never know when you’ll be standing on location and a great idea for your novel will hit you.

5) Are you ready to stick it out?

I generally swing from wild elation to deep depression with my story in the first 10,000 words — I don’t know my characters as well as I want to, I don’t know if the pacing is working, I haven’t gotten to the first big switch on a switch, everything is slow and uncertain. I need more chocolate and tea than should be humanly possible to keep my spirits up. But for me, 10,000 words is that magic switch. That’s when I hit my stride. Until then? It’s only the knowledge that I’ve done this before that keeps me going.

If the answers to 1-5 are yes and why yes and of course yes and double ja, then take one of the following options:

A) Find beginnings you like and pull them apart.

Back when I first started, I did this a lot. I would pull five of my favorite books off the shelf and study the first pages to see why it was I found them so compelling. And then see if I could apply those broad principles to my writing. You’ll notice I said BROAD. I’m not talking about reading a chapter about a dead body and then putting a dead body in mine. I’m talking about picking apart where in the timeline a novel starts, what sort of character voice pulls me in, how much action or inaction I see working in a novel.

B) Have the whole first scene in your head before you start writing.

Basically this is the same thing as having the end of your novel in your head before you begin. I don’t need to know everything that will happen in a scene before I start, but I need to know the purpose of it.

C) Make absolutely certain you chose the correct narrator.

Sometimes your story isn’t at fault. Sometimes you just picked the wrong person to tell it or the wrong side to look at it from, and this is hard to change later. So think about these things now.

D) Write until you don’t know how the next scene will end, then stop.

If you push forward in a frenzy of delighted word-count-checking, you might end up traveling quickly to places you don’t know how to get out of. I like to use the end of scenes as stopping points. If I know my story three scenes in advance, great — that’s what I right. If I know one and a half scenes ahead? I’ll write one. If I know half? I brainstorm more.

E) Ignore all these rules.

This is really my process, and it’s not a lot like my critique partners’ process, and their process is not like mine. It’s good to start somewhere, but if you feel like you’re being cramped by one of these rules and something else is working, don’t be afraid to follow the muse.

New Feature—Writer Wednesday!

Weekly Features, Writer Wednesday

Oasis for YA

Writer Wednesday is a weekly meme started by Oasis for YA, and features topics for writers! Please post your own WWs in the comments!

This week’s post is courtesy of YA Outside the Lines. You can read the original post here.

Fake it until you make it – April Henry’s
tips for success

I’ve been
writing full time for over three years now. Before you get too jealous, know
that I spent the 18 years before that working in a cubicle (or for a few heady
years, a shared office).  Nine of those years I was publishing books – and still
working and raising a kid and (sort-of) exercising and (often Trader Joes)
cooking dinner.

Over time, I’ve become a better writer.  Here’s what I’ve

Butt in chair.
I used to think that writing was a matter of inspiration. And that if you
weren’t inspired, it wasn’t going to be very good. But if you wait to write
until you are inspired, you might be waiting a long time. Here’s a little secret
I’ve discovered: You can always edit crap. You can’t edit

Keep reading craft books. In the past year, I’ve
read at least a dozen. I put them on hold at the library two or three at a time.
I’m far enough along now that I know if they don’t speak to me. I recently
read Techniques of the Selling Writer, an older book (you can tell it’s
older, because the author is Dwight V. Swain – when was the last time a kid was
named Dwight?), and it was so useful! I found myself taking tons of notes on
scenes and sequels.

Have a cheat book. This is especially true if
you are writing for a living. You probably already have a book or two under
contract. But you should have a book you are sneaking off to write every now and
then. A book you are having an affair with. A book you are writing just for you!
(Which may later end up being shared with the world).

. Force yourself to work on a scene you don’t want to for 15 minutes
– after five or ten minutes you might strike gold. Or use any of the exercises
in Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook (you don’t have to have read the
companion book for it to be useful). One I like goes something like this:  “What
is one thing your character would never, ever say? What is one thing your
character would never, ever think? What is one thing your character would never,
ever do? Find places in your manuscript where your character says, thinks and
does these things.”

Make friends with
other writers.
Writing is a lonely business. Online friends are great. Real
life friends can be even better. I’ve been to many conferences or meetings where
I felt lost and knew no one. You know what? When I took a chance and started
talking to the other people there, I discovered they often felt the same way.
I’ve written congratulatory notes to writers I’ve never met. Reach out! The
worst thing that can happen is that they won’t respond.

Reading is
also part of your job.
Don’t feel guilty about reading. I tended to put it
off, thinking it was a “treat” that I only deserved if I had crossed everything
off my to-do list. But then I read something from Amy Kathleen Ryan where she
said that she considered reading part of her job. That changed my

Get Freedom, a program that cuts you off the Internet
for the amount of time you set. You might think you are an adult and that you
are able to control your own behavior.  You are wrong. It costs 10 bucks, but it
is definitely worth it.

These are the things that lead to great writing days for me.