Review: Bring Her Back

Finished: 10/17/2019

Frank calls himself ugly, but is also clearly socially awkward too. His story starts out happy enough when he falls in love and starts dating the flower girl down the street. It’s when he gets mixed up with some drug dealers that his life goes sour quickly.

The tone of this book is a lot of fun despite hor dark it is. Strand knows how to pack a lot of character into Frank’s voice and it’s a fun, compelling read.

As things go bad for Frank, the action picks up, and you’re cheering him on through dangerous and violent decisions. Finally the book ends on some gruesome body horror that I ultimately had to skip through.

Although I’m not a fan of body horror, that’s ultimatelyl not what made me knock a star off this book, it was for a very different reason that I’ll explain with…

SPOILERS START

(Highlight the white space below to read them.)

Abigail grew on me as a strong, reasonable woman and even when she’s kidnapped, she doesn’t lose herself. However when she is ultimately killed, I was frustrated because she was the only woman in the book. When it happened “off screen” though, that only made it worse for me. For the rest of the book she’s the reasoning for all of Frank’s actions, and I wanted to at least hear what her last words to him would have been.

SPOILERS END

Despite this and the body horror, this was a good book. If you’re not a stickler for these details like I am and you love a book with multiple horror facets, I think you’ll love this read! For readers who love dark, bloody horror alongside humor and fun movie references, this is definitely the book for you!

My Overall Rating: 4/5

Review: August Prather Is Not Dead Yet

Finished: 9/13/2019

Danielle K. Roux is one of my fellow Parliament authors, and when I read the blurb for this book including LGBT characters and a road trip, I knew I had to pick up a copy!

Garnet is a trans woman who is a diehard fan of August Prather’s books – so much so that she breaks into her car to read her unfinished manuscript of her next book before it’s even been published. Being the quirky and unpredictable person that she is, August isn’t even mad when she finds out either. Before Garnet knows it, she’s dragged into a road trip and an adventure that helps her put her life and goals into perspective.

First of all, this book is experimental. You can tell from the structure and from the plot that this story is different from most other books on the shelf. If you’re looking for a book that has a single, easily understood storyline, you probably won’t like this book. There are three different timelines going on concurrently throughout this book, and one of them you don’t understand who the narrator is until the end.

That said, this book explores some big topics. From gender identity, to mental illness, to trying to figure out your place in this big hamster wheel of life, this book will change your perspective. I can feel the characters reaching for purpose, I can feel the juxtaposed glossy sheen that is so opposite from the rawness of our characters.

Garnet’s apathy and floating through life makes little sense until you understand what all she’s been through. Each stop they take on their road trip lets you see a little bit behind the curtain. Each incident helps you understand your ragtag group a little bit more.

Also there is a lot of explicit sex, assault, and dark moments of mental illness in this book. Just a heads up if any of that makes you uncomfortable.

Also that ending! I never saw it coming but it just so fits!

Even three months later, I can still confirm that this book is still just as good at getting under my skin as it was when I first read it. When I’m asked what’s a recent book I’ve read that has made me think, this one immediately comes to mind. I’m so looking forward to reading more of Roux’s work!

My overall rating: 5/5

Review: The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative

Holy cow, I knew it had been a while since I had posted a book review, but I didn’t realize it had been since August, you guys. Oops! I guess you can tell I’ve been balancing a bunch of projects lately. Expect to see several posts over the next few days as I catch up!

Finished: 7/10/2019

I checked this book out from the library on a whim, trying to find a book to read that was light, but still interesting. I wanted to find a book I could learn something from. Writing fiction all the time means I sometimes have to be picky with how engrossed I get into fiction books. I’m always afraid I’ll fall into someone else’s story and world and have trouble crawling back out again.

I really enjoyed this book! I learned quite a lot from it and found it inspired me to get outdoors more. Even though it’s a few years old, the examples of lush cities, nature bathing, and using nature to treat PTSD were still just as relevant and eye-opening.

What caused me to knock off a star was the occasional negative tone the book would take. It didn’t happen very often, and for most readers it probably wouldn’t bother them like it did me. However the narrator at times was just so pessimistic and almost insulting occasionally. For someone who was a world traveler I was shocked by some of the phrases that were supposed to be quirky but weren’t.

However if you’re looking for a book to motivate you to head into the forests for a weekend, or want to learn more about how nature influences the mind and body, this is a great read! Just prepare yourself for the few weird anecdotes and occasional tone shifts.

My overall rating: 4/5

Writing Goals for 2020

Each year in January, I sit down with a pen and a pad of notebook paper and write out all of the pieces that I’m working on. That includes any works in progress, stories looking for a home, plot bunnies, and trunk babies. It really helps me to wrap my head around where I do (and don’t) need to focus.

These are just writing goals. It doesn’t really focus on the final edits and checks that are still to come in for Broken and The Seeking. Nor does it include all the marketing work that will also be going on behind the scenes throughout the year. This list only focuses on writing.

The first thing I noticed, especially comparing this list with my 2016 and 2019 writing goals is that I have a bunch more novels on the list this time! Yes, most of them are admittedly plot bunnies, but I’ve already sketched out character concepts and plotlines for some of these. I’ve also begun writing on a couple of them!

I really enjoy writing series especially in YA Fantasy, and my Two Sorceresses (title TBD) book is going to be the beginning of that. I’ve been turning the plot for that book over and over in my mind to figure out how I want to pace it, who the characters are, and how the plot will ultimately go. It’s going to be dark, magical, beautiful, and sincere.

The Smiling Man (title TBD) is a YA Horror book that came directly from a nightmare. Some of the scenes in this book will be so creepy and unsettling, that I almost decided it was too frightening to put down onto pages. But then again, I decided if it scared me, it should scare others too.

Chosen is my current work in progress. It’s book 3 of the Stolen series and I am both excited and overwhelmed by the prospect of finishing my first original series. There is so much I want to say still and only a single book to pack it all into. My next project, once the Stolen series is done, will be The Blood of Kanta, the sequel to The She-Wolf of Kanta. This will be a full-length book, unlike the novella that is already published. I’ve planned out the basics already, now it’s just a matter of finding the time to write it.

I’ve also listed all of my short stories that are currently either out on submission, to be published, or looking for a home. Some of these I think I could tweak a little and get them out in the world, but generally I try to prioritize my books over short stories.

You’ll notice a few of those short stories are already available to read, such as The Mysterious Disappearance of Charlene Kerringer, Against Our Better Judgment, and The Blade Filled with Stars. That last one is automatically available when you sign up for my mailing list!

I’m so excited for this year, but I’m also anxious about the number of releases I have. I sure do hope my books live up to expectations, but I guess that’s a fairly normal fear for an author, right? Especially one who has only been doing this for a couple of years and is still figuring this all out? It would probably be my boggart.

What are your writing plans for 2020? If you post your plans as well, please tag me so I can see them! Let’s all cheer each other on to becoming better writers this year!

Cover Reveal for Masks!

For some, Mardi Gras is a celebration
For others, it’s a dangerous game

I visited New Orleans once in 2000 with several online friends. I was a senior in high school at the time and it was stressful meeting people who I had never really seen in real life. This was the age of anonymity on the internet, and all I had was a picture of them.

This was before 9/11 happened, so the flight over was completely different than it is today. It was also before Katrina hit and I remember us driving over bridges and seeing all the buildings underneath, all the homes that in a few years would be seen on TV underwater.

For me, it was a special moment, a way of letting go of the stress of my academics and visiting someplace new. At the time, I was stressed out from applying to colleges and I didn’t know where I would be the following year. It was a period of transition and a period of reflection.

When I was asked by the wonderful editors of Filles Vertes Publishing if I wanted to participate in an anthology about New Orleans, I jumped at the opportunity. You see one of those online friends of mine passed away a year ago, and she was absolutely in love with the place. She was also a big supporter of my work. I wanted to honor her with a story about the city she always wanted to move to.

I am thrilled to share the cover reveal for Masks an anthology about Mardi Gras and the themes that surround it. My story, “La Femme en Rouge”, is a tale of transformation and of reflection. I associate New Orleans with a place to help me make big decisions in life, and I think my story reflects that. I wanted to capture the lights, the smells, the sounds, the moods, the mixture of perspectives, and the economic struggles.

I hope you’ll dare to explore the fantastic tales within, and maybe you’ll also find yourself transformed. After all, Mardi Gras is all about shedding your skin. Coming 3/31/2020.