Friday, April 5, 2019

Review: The Death Cure by James Dashner

About the Book

The Death Cure by James Dashner
Published on October 11, 2011 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers



GoodReads Description

It’s the end of the line.

WICKED has taken everything from Thomas: his life, his memories, and now his only friends—the Gladers. But it’s finally over. The trials are complete, after one final test.

Will anyone survive?

What WICKED doesn’t know is that Thomas remembers far more than they think. And it’s enough to prove that he can’t believe a word of what they say.

The truth will be terrifying.

Thomas beat the Maze. He survived the Scorch. He’ll risk anything to save his friends. But the truth might be what ends it all.

The time for lies is over.


My Thoughts

Well, my student is rather proud of me!  I told him that I would finish these books and I have.  I guess he still expects me to read the prequels too, so you can look forward to those reviews as well.

I liked the way that this installment started.  It was fast-paced and I cared about what happened to Thomas. I was excited to figure out what the cure would be and to finally understand why WICKED was good.  

As I read further, my opinion changed drastically.


What I Liked

  • I thought that the relationship between Minho and Thomas stayed strong.  I loved that this was the one thing I could count on throughout all of the books.  They definitely had each other's backs when the going got rough, which was most of the time.
  • I loved that Brenda went from being a relatively small character to an important one.  I am a sucker for character development and there was a little bit more with Brenda than with the others.  

What I Didn't Like

  • What in the world was Newt's note supposed to be?  I really don't understand the secrecy? Why didn't he just pull Thomas aside and tell him what his wishes were? That way, Thomas would have been able to fulfill his request sooner and Newt wouldn't have needed to suffer.  I felt like this was simply added drama that detracted from the rest of the novel.
  • This book did not answer any real questions.  This open ending left me still wondering why in the heck WICKED is good.  Why did the head of WICKED simply give up after so long? There was so much work put into this project and they simply gave up? This does not seem very believable.  
  • I hated that there was very little character development in this novel.  Growth is necessary in a world where you have to fight for your life.  You have to learn so much and endure too many things to remain the same person that you always were.  And yet these characters remain flat.

I'm truly hoping that many of my unanswered questions are answered in the prequels.  There is simply too much left wide open and too much that is underdeveloped in this series.

My Rating





Tuesday, April 2, 2019

An Interview with Sebastiano Lanza

Hi there!  Today, I'm excited to share my interview with Sebastiano Lanza after the publication of his novel That Which Must Happen.

That Which Must Happen is a literary novel about Benjamin, a child able to foresee and forestall events unfolding in his life and that of others. Yet he dreads to reshape them, for these events intertwine each and every existence in a delicate balance. However, when he senses his sole caretaker’s imminent death, he feels he must intervene.

In a fevered state, Benjamin was abandoned in the midst of a winter night, and is now sheltered by Ms Penter, a woman grieving over the loss of her own child. As he’s nurtured back to health, and his presence helps the woman to partially let go of her grief, Benjamin is devastated each and every time he glimpses her imminent demise.

Despite his attempts to alter the events leading to her death, Benjamin knows he won’t be able to save Ms Penter without damaging the delicate balance which entwines each and every life. The same balance he was born to preserve.

That Which Must Happen tackles the theme of fate.
Not to be understood as a series of immutable events leading to a predetermined destination, rather, as a series of interconnected events which can be influenced by our choices.

What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?

The saying goes, "Never judge a book by its cover." The publishing industry is based on, "Judge a book by its back cover." While, yes, there must be a criteria to decide which books get an in-depth look and which don't, I feel it's oversimplified. Still, I wouldn't say it's unethical. There's also a tendency to avoid risk altogether, hence stagnation in the long run.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Definitely energizes me. The writing in itself is the better part. To imagine all those tiny details, and to see what was on your mind on paper is one the best feelings ever. Especially when that one thing you thought would be great to write turns out to be even better than you could have ever imagined. There's something to it that makes you think, "I'm the greatest!"

What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Wanting to overdo it. Possibly, I'm guilty of it as well. Assess your level at first, and be realistic about it. Then work to improve it, and strive to be the best in what you do. Never be afraid to go down unbeaten paths.

                                                                      Does a big ego help or hurt writers?

Definitely! This is no walk in the park. As a writer, you'll hear just about anything about your novel. That same novel on which you spent countless hours obsessing over the best placement of an innocuous comma. A big ego helps, as long as it doesn't become overly so. You'll still need to be able to pick up the useful criticism to mould yourself into a better writer.

What is your writing Kryptonite?

My big ego says I don't have one thus far.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

The day I'll stop trying to write original stories about concepts and ideas that have rarely been looked at in depth, I'll probably stop to write altogether. So far, writing has felt so good to me because it gave me the tools to put to paper ideas I've always been fascinated with. In short, it kept me entertained and interested. For me, that's crucial to try and produce the best writing I can.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

As long as this hypothetical individual is a good observer, I don't see why not. He doesn't need to feel a situation strongly, he just needs to observe it in his imagination and describe it. He'd also be subtle about it. A slight facial expression is worth more than hundred and hundred of words. A situation described so accurately can make the reader feel an emotion, whilst the writer doesn't necessarily need to. Hypothetically.

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I'm definitely not the type to write a series. On the long run the chances are high for it to become watered down and to make little sense. I much prefer for every novel I write to stand on its own. It makes it more enjoyable for me and, I hope, for the reader. Still, I guess one could say that my works (future ones, I hope) are loosely connected by concepts and ideas.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

"You're doing good, kid. Maybe...don't try so hard. And that comma is fine right there, don't move it any longer!" - "Also, buckle up. It's going to be a long ride."

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

Not that I lacked structure before, but now, having seen all the work that goes on before publishing, I'm even more organized. It keeps me from proof reading my work over and over again while producing even higher quality content. This was a problem for That Which Must Happen. As a side effect, the writing in itself goes a little slower, but that's ok.

How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?

I tend to demand a lot from the reader, I'm not going to lie. If someone would read That Which Must Happen quickly, chances are that someone wouldn't understand a great deal. He'd probably think, "Rubbish! This is a bunch of random events!" And that's not the case. It's not a light read. On the other hand, I reward readers by trying to write compelling, interesting stories. That's what I was aiming for all along.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

My puppy, of course. Musetto. Well, he's not a puppy anymore, he's grown a bit. He had the patience to listen to my proof reading, and my reasoning for everything that happens in the novel. To be honest, he did look perplexed at times. It mustn't be easy for him.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Currently I have a comic book that I would like to finish somewhere in the near future. Mostly it's an idea that never went on to be much else. But it has lots of potential. And the other novel I'm currently working on. It involves a priest in pilgrimage to Turkey and a village in Romania. Not so long ago I published a sample chapter on my Wattpad profile. 

What does literary success look like to you?

Like everything else in life, I tend to take one step at a time. Six years ago I was quite sure I wouldn't ever be able to write a full-length book. Two years ago I was quite certain I wouldn't get past page 1 of That Which Must Happen. Four months ago I wasn't quite sure I would ever publish That Which Must Happen. And today, here we are. The key is to keep your head down and put lots and lots of work in what you do. That way, chances are something above average is going to happen sooner or later. It's been an interesting journey so far, I reckon it'll keep being interesting for the foreseeable future.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

The kind of research is dictated by the core matter of the novel. For That Which Must Happen there was a lot of thinking involved, I had to come up with a way for this "active fate" I had imagined to work. It wasn't easy, and I'm sure it's not going to be easy for readers to grasp as well. You really, really need to pay attention to the details, they tell a lot. I became fixated with subtlety whilst writing it. And it shows. For my other novel, which has more historical and folklore elements, I had to dig up quite a lot of material. I'd like it to be as accurate as possible. I read a lot of information before I put pen to paper, but I left the details for last, so they'd be fresh in my mind while writing.

How long were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one?

I still am a part-time writer! I like the struggle, it keeps me focused.

How many hours a day do you write?

I write as many hours as I can. Even when I don't write, I think about scenes for my next novel and I try to think about how I will put them down. I think about how the plot will evolve and I make diagrams to see how it'll flow. As for a precise amount of hours, I'd say I average 5 or 6 a day.

What did you edit out of this book?

I edited A LOT out of That Which Must Happen. Whilst writing it I recognized that some scenes and concepts would have made it just too long and difficult to grasp. I was definitely biting more than I could chew. Also, the original story did look quite different from the end product, but overall, I like the finished product better. It's neater.

How do you select the names of your characters?

It depends on how important the character in question is. I won't give much thought in naming a secondary character whose role is very limited. Obviously, that changes with main characters and supporting characters. You'll probably find out that the name Benjamin is quite important to understand Benjamin's role in That Which Must Happen. That and a few more hints I give out throughout the novel.

If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?

I'm a land surveyor, so yes, there's that. On the other hand, I could still give a thought about being a chef, or a football manager (I do plan to get a license in the future). Or a professional chess player. I tend to hold many interests, so it's rather difficult to say!

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

I like to imagine That Which Must Happen as a book-sized riddle. It has a defined story, defined characters, and everything else on the surface. But the deeper you dig, the more story and plots you'll find. Some will get it, others will not. I tried to create this interconnection between chapters which fits the underlying theme of the whole novel, fate. In the end, I think it's important to say that this is not my story, I merely wrote it, discovered it. The story came to me on its own, as if it had its own will.

Do you Google yourself?

Sometimes. For research purposes.

What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?

I'd give up absolutely nothing. To get to your destination without a journey is no fun at all. I enjoy seeing my writing getting better day after day; as they say, no pain no gain.

What is your favorite childhood book?

Fiabe Italiane - Raccolte e trascritte da Italo Calvino. I still have it. Definitely one of my favourites. It's a collection of Italian fables; the first one, the orc with feathers is the best probably. 

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

What comes after writing. Editing. It’s terribly slow and headache-inducing. It’s also terribly useful, without it I probably wouldn’t be publishing That Which Must Happen by now. I’m not saying my first draft was a total mess, but close to it. A lot was edited out and in.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

Anywhere between 6 months and one year. It also depends on day to day life. As is natural, sometimes something of unexpected will happen and the writing has to wait. Right now I'm looking at finishing my next novel inside the next year, but without obsessing over it. It has to happen naturally.

Do you believe in writer’s block? 

I guess it can happen if you don't know yourself well enough as a creative individual. Like everything else in life, it'll come a point when you just can't create anymore if you force it and overdo it. It'll all come to a stop, at least for a time. There needs to be that balance between rest and the creative process. It's very much alike to a self-sustaining cycle. Balance is key to everything.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Review-Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich et. al

About the Book

Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich et. al
Published on October 9, 2018 by Poppy

GoodReads Description

From the show's creators comes the groundbreaking novel inspired by the Broadway smash hit Dear Evan Hansen.

Dear Evan Hansen,

Today's going to be an amazing day and here's why...


When a letter that was never meant to be seen by anyone draws high school senior Evan Hansen into a family's grief over the loss of their son, he is given the chance of a lifetime: to belong. He just has to stick to a lie he never meant to tell, that the notoriously troubled Connor Murphy was his secret best friend.

Suddenly, Evan isn't invisible anymore--even to the girl of his dreams. And Connor Murphy's parents, with their beautiful home on the other side of town, have taken him in like he was their own, desperate to know more about their enigmatic son from his closest friend. As Evan gets pulled deeper into their swirl of anger, regret, and confusion, he knows that what he's doing can't be right, but if he's helping people, how wrong can it be?

No longer tangled in his once-incapacitating anxiety, this new Evan has a purpose. And a website. He's confident. He's a viral phenomenon. Every day is amazing. Until everything is in danger of unraveling and he comes face to face with his greatest obstacle: himself.

A simple lie leads to complicated truths in this big-hearted coming-of-age story of grief, authenticity and the struggle to belong in an age of instant connectivity and profound isolation.

My Thoughts

I'll be honest with you here.  I bought this book on a whim.  I happened to see that it was half off at Barnes and Noble and knew that a lot of people liked it.  This is DEFINITELY one of the best whims that I have ever taken a chance on.  I LOVED THIS BOOK.

Before buying this book, I had never even heard of the Dear Evan Hansen musical.  That seems to be what happens when you live in the absolute middle of nowhere.  I started blogging as a way to keep in touch with the bookish world, and here we are two years later with no clue.  But, I digress.

I strongly believe that every middle school and high school teacher needs to read this book.  It is a stark reminder of all of the things that can be going through our students' minds while we are expecting them to stay focused on whatever our content area is.  Our students have their own lives and their own issues out of school.  Too often, we neglect their present in our efforts to help them create a better future.  This book is living proof that we need to help them with both parts of their lives.

My favorite character, by far, was Connor.  I know that seems a little weird as he spends most of the book dead, but he is the one who has the easiest time staying true to himself.  Yes, he makes some bad choices.  Yes, he is another example of a student that fell through the cracks and was failed by the people around him.  However, he is also the way that Evan learns to own his truth.  He is the way that Evan's world is set right again.

Evan, although the main character, was my least favorite.  I believe that the authors did a fantastic job displaying his struggle with anxiety and depression, but I despised his willingness to let a lie live on.  Perhaps it is because of my own moral code, but a lie of that sheer size and magnitude is not one that I could ever live with.  I was just as relieved as he was when he set things back on the right course.

This was an absolutely beautifully written novel.  I am so in love with it.  It is one that I will most likely reread as each new school year begins.

My Rating





Friday, March 15, 2019

A Guest Post with Dan O'Brien






First of all, I want to thank you for hosting me today.

My name is Dan O’Brien and I’m probably best known for my Lauren Westlake books, especially the bestselling Bitten. I stopped by today to talk about the ongoing series, as well as a limited-time sale on the Lauren Westlake eBooks in preparation for the next release, Besieged.

Before I pitch you on the first five books for only 99c, I want to take a moment and answer a few questions so you can get to know me a little better, dear reader.




Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Writing has always been an important psychological outlet for me. I can’t imagine a life where I don’t write in some capacity. It certainly energizes me. And perhaps more importantly, it rescues me when I feel alone or if I’m having a poor mental health day. I think writing means different things to different people. For me, writing is a grounding principle in my life. If I need to work through something, I write about it. Sometimes that catharsis even becomes a part of a book.




How do you select the names of your characters?

It really depends on the genre. Unsurprisingly, many of my characters are based on aspects of people I have met during my life. Sometimes, I name them based on who they remind me of; other times, I keep trying names until I feel like the name reflects the character. For the Lauren Westlake series, the names came quite naturally. When I work on a science fiction or fantasy story, I will research traditional names from ancient societies or combine base terms with interesting prefixes and suffixes to create something unique.




If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?

I imagine I would have been a scientist in some capacity or taught math. I studied psychology in graduate school and even entertained getting my PhD and teaching at a university. However, I decided on a different path that took me away from that possibility. Teaching is such a brave profession. As well, I might have pursued a career in film. Once upon a time, I really wanted to be involved in the filmmaking process, but I didn’t go to film school. I could see myself on that path as well.




Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Always. Much like TV shows and movies hide things in plain sight for eagle-eyed viewers, I like to leave clues along the way that are much more than simple foreshadowing. Often, someone’s name will reference something that will happen later or is a part of a larger theme. I also like to leave references to some my favorite novels and films.




When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I always liked telling stories. When I was a child, I would create entire plays with people on Popsicle sticks and small stages built from scratch. I also used Legos and other toys to tell elaborate tales. The more I read, the more I wanted to be a storyteller. I published my first story in 2002 and never looked back.




How long does it take you to write a book?

That depends on the book itself. If I am in the middle of telling a larger story, I can sometimes finish a first draft in 6-8 weeks. I wrote a novel in 10 days once because I was so interested in the story that I didn’t want to do anything else. For the Lauren Westlake novellas, I finish a draft in a couple of weeks in order to get it to the editor.




What does being a successful author look like to you?

As many people as possible reading what I write. Being well known might be interesting, but I would prefer that readers enjoy what I write and want to read more.





Now that you know a little more about me, I’d like to talk about the Lauren Westlake series. This weekend, Bitten and its sequels will be only 99c as a promotion for the release of Besieged. Here are the synopses and links for those eBooks that are on sale.






Bitten: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005METJLU

A predator stalks a cold northern Minnesotan town. There is talk of wolves walking on two legs and attacking people in the deep woods. Lauren Westlake, resourceful and determined F.B.I Agent, has found a connection between the strange murders in the north and a case file almost a hundred years old. Traveling to the cold north, she begins an investigation that spirals deep into the darkness of mythology and nightmares. Filled with creatures of the night and an ancient romance, the revelation of who hunts beneath the moon is more grisly than anyone could have imagined.




Drained: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00RJI8DVO

A frightening new case. A mysterious journal. The beginning of the end. Lauren Westlake has left behind the horrors of northern Minnesota to investigate a strange package with a cryptic return address. Crossing the country to the city by the bay, Lauren discovers that Locke was only the beginning. Crossing paths with a stoic SFPD detective and a surprise from her past, she must figure out what hunts the foggy streets of San Francisco in this new novella. Is it vampires? Is it something more?





Frighten: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KJD12BS

Lauren’s time in San Francisco hasn’t gone as planned. After reconnecting with her brother Billy and discovering that vampires are at the heart of the murders in the foggy city, Lauren is faced with a terrible decision that will affect her career. Can she find a way to bring the killers to justice? Will she be able to find the Stranger in time to stop the nightmares in San Francisco?






Burned: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KJ9V3SJ

Lauren’s pursuit of the Stranger has led to Las Vegas. A series of supernatural murders leads the team to believe that warlocks are behind the deaths. The return of an old ally and a new threat complicates Lauren’s investigation. Can she stop what’s coming in time to avert the apocalypse?






Awaken: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07LH7GFVP

Lauren’s world is turned upside down when she is introduced to the Order and Elder Andras. The Stranger’s plan to wake Awanyu begins to take form, threatening not only Las Vegas, but all of reality. Can Lauren put together the puzzle pieces in time to stop the Stranger and save Winona?





I hope that you will take advantage of the opportunity and catch up on the Lauren Westlake series. You can connect with me on Twitter and Facebook, as well as visit my website. Happy reading!





Twitter: https://twitter.com/AuthorDanOBrien

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/authordanobrien



Website: https://authordanobrien.com/

Friday, March 8, 2019

Review: The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

About the Book

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner
Published by Delacorte Press on October 12, 2010

GoodReads Description

Solving the Maze was supposed to be the end. 

Thomas was sure that escape from the Maze would mean freedom for him and the Gladers. But WICKED isn’t done yet. Phase Two has just begun. The Scorch.

There are no rules. There is no help. You either make it or you die.

The Gladers have two weeks to cross through the Scorch—the most burned-out section of the world. And WICKED has made sure to adjust the variables and stack the odds against them.

Friendships will be tested. Loyalties will be broken. All bets are off.

There are others now. Their survival depends on the Gladers’ destruction—and they’re determined to survive.

My Thoughts

When I started this book, I was incredibly bored. This is one of the most accidentally slow beginnings that I have ever read!  I know that there was a lot of action going on that I was supposed to care about, but I just didn't.  Because on of my students chose this series for me to read (I made him read The Hunger Games), I knew I had to do it.  I most definitely did not want to.

Luckily, however, the book started to pick up some speed. When Aris was introduced and we were given a little more information about the second phase, I wanted to know what was going on.  If that hadn't have happened, this would have been the world's longest book.  Oy.

However excited I was to be getting more information, the story did not pick up.  I was very frustrated that this book continued to be mostly predictable.  There were a few places that truly surprised me, but they were infrequent and did not really seem to connect to the story as a whole.

I will continue to read this series at the request of my student, but I truly hope that it picks up a bit.  Although this book was not impressive, The Maze Runner was decent.  I hope that Dashner picks it back up with the next book.

My Rating


Thursday, February 21, 2019

Whispers of Shadow & Flame Cover Reveal

Welcome to the Cover Reveal!

Today we have the cover reveal tour for book 2 in L. Penelope’s Earthsinger Chronicles, Whispers of Shadow & Flame. 

The first book in the series, Song of Blood & Stone was named one of TIME Magazine’s top 10 fantasy books of 2018. Check out the cover reveal and giveaway below!

Title: Whispers of Shadow & Flame (Earthsinger Chronicles, Book 2)
Author: L. Penelope
Published by: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: October 1, 2019
Genre: Fantasy

Book Description

The cursed will face the gods. They have nothing to lose. 

"A master class in fantasy world-building.” - TIME Magazine on Song of Blood & Stone

The Mantle that separates the kingdoms of Elsira and Lagrimar is about to fall. And life will drastically change for both kingdoms.

Born with a deadly magic she cannot control, Kyara is forced to become an assassin. Known as the Poison Flame in the kingdom of Lagrimar, she is notorious and lethal, but secretly seeks freedom from both her untamed power and the blood spell that commands her. She is tasked with capturing the legendary rebel called the Shadowfox, but everything changes when she learns her target’s true identity.

Darvyn ol-Tahlyro may be the most powerful Earthsinger in generations, but guilt over those he couldn’t save tortures him daily. He isn’t sure he can trust the mysterious young woman who claims to need his help, but when he discovers Kyara can unlock the secrets of his past, he can’t stay away.

Kyara and Darvyn grapple with betrayal, old promises, and older prophecies—all while trying to stop a war. And when a new threat emerges, they must beat the odds to save both kingdoms.

Pre-order the paperback today!


Amazon | BN | BAM | Indiebound


Catch up on the Series


Song of Blood & Stone, Earthsinger Chronicles Book 1 – Special Edition Paperback releases July 16, 2019. (Ebook & hardcover available now).

Breath of Dust & Dawn, Earthsinger Chronicles Book 1.5 – Available now!




Cover Reveal Giveaway


L. Penelope is giving away a signed, hardcover copy of Song of Blood & Stone. International welcome!

Enter the giveaway

About the Author

L. Penelope is an award-winning fantasy romance author. Equally left and right-brained, she studied filmmaking and computer science in college and sometimes dreams in HTML. She lives in Maryland with her husband and furry dependents. Sign up for new release information, exclusives, and giveaways on her website.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Youtube | Instagram | Bookbub | Amazon 



Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Review: Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

About the Book

Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore
Published on October 9, 2018 by Feiwel Friends

GoodReads Description

The biggest lie of all is the story you think you already know.

The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters; they’re also rivals, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dangerous game that will leave one of them a girl, and trap the other in the body of a swan.

But when two local boys become drawn into the game, the swans’ spell intertwines with the strange and unpredictable magic lacing the woods, and all four of their fates depend on facing truths that could either save or destroy them. Blanca & Roja is the captivating story of sisters, friendship, love, hatred, and the price we pay to protect our hearts.

My Thoughts

It is very likely that Blanca & Roja will be the book that is the hardest for me to review this year.  There was so much that I learned from it and so much that I liked about it.  Unfortunately, the things that I didn't like were things that I abhorred.  This may be a book that I have to go back to and read later in life, after some serious consideration and growth on my end. 

What I Liked

  1. I adored the relationship between the two sisters.  It can be very difficult for an author to authentically write about sisters without adding jealousy over boys or making the girls sound so unrealistically catty.  McLemore did it right.  Is there drama over boys?  Yes.  But that drama is portrayed in a believable manner, not just for the sake of adding it to the story because that's what books about sisters "need."  My sister and I would do just about anything for each other and it was wonderful to see Blanca and Roja sharing that same kind of bond.
  2. Page intrigued me.  Although I am a teacher, nonbinary individuals are not commonly seen in our building.  I had absolutely no experience with them before this novel.  I will not act like Page helped me to completely understand them and know everything about them, that would be foolish and arrogant.  I will admit, however, that Page has brought the subject to light in my world.  I enjoyed having my eyes opened to a new way of life.
  3. McLemore knows her way around atmospheric writing.  She truly brings all of the aspects of this world to life with a writing style that definitely sets her apart from many other authors.  I was entranced by the way that the world around Blanca and Roja changed as they went through different parts of their story.

What I Didn't Like As Much

  1. McLemore tried to hard to do too much with this book.  There were at least four different fairy tales that she mushed into one novel.  Alone, that would have been fantastic.  But then she added drama in the Holt family and a very confusing relationship between Page and Barclay and I was lost.  I was simply overloaded with information.  I wish that she had just spent her time focusing on the girls and writing about Barclay taking down his family in a later novel.  That way, there would have been some resolution of the Holt story as well as the girls' story.
  2. I spent so much of this novel being confused.  I thought that it was set in a much earlier time period for most of the book, and then there were debit cards and jeans and gas pumps?!  Even after finishing this piece, I have no idea when it took place.  It would have helped if McLemore had clearly stated the year or if she had given more clues as to when it was taking place.
  3. While I appreciated that Blanca's relationship had some resolution, I hated that Roja's relationship had none.  Roja's relationship was the one that caused the most drama.  It was the one that I cared about the most!  And, there was nothing.  Loose ends must be wrapped up and woven in.  

My Rating



Monday, February 18, 2019

Review: What Could Possibly Go Wrong? by Jodi Taylor

About the Book

Published by Accent Press on August 20, 2015

GoodReads Description

Max is back! New husband, new job, and a training regime that cannot fail – to go wrong! 

Take one interim Chief Training Officer, add five recruits, mix with Joan of Arc, a baby mammoth, a duplicitous Father of History, a bombed rat, Stone Age hunters, a couple of passing policemen who should have better things to do, and Dick the Turd.

Stir well, bring to the boil – and wait for the bang!

My Thoughts

WARNING!  I WILL DEFINITELY HAVE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW!

OK.  Who the heck thought it was a good idea to let Max be Chief Training Officer???  I definitely did not see that one coming or going well! And, with that title to boot?  It would have been more appropriately named "What ELSE Could Possibly Go Wrong?" 

Much like the rest of the St. Mary's books, this one is meant to keep the audience on their toes.  It seemed to me, however, that this book starts to show that Taylor may be running out of ways to keep her audience in suspense.  With all of Maxwell's concerns about Hoyle, I was not surprised when he went nuts.  If she had been more concerned about Atherton, for example, then I would have been so much more blown away.  I will admit, however, that the end of this book made my heart leap with joy.  She definitely got me there!

Despite somewhat stifled suspense, Taylor is still able to turn out a well-developed book.  This is especially proven by her use of characterization.  So far in the series, Randall has not been someone that the audience spared a thought to.  The letter he leaves behind with his will is so surprising and so heart wrenching, that he becomes a strong character in his death. 

Once again, I'm leaving a short review so I can go find out what happens in the next installment.

My Rating


Thursday, February 14, 2019

Review: Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

About the Book

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
Published by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers on August 30, 2016

GoodReads Description

This is a love story.
It's the story of Howling Books, where readers write letters to strangers, to lovers, to poets.
It's the story of Henry Jones and Rachel Sweetie. They were best friends once, before Rachel moved to the sea.
Now, she's back, working at the bookstore, grieving for her brother Cal and looking for the future in the books people love, and the words they leave behind.

My Thoughts

If I had seen Words in Deep Blue on a library or bookshop shelf, I would not have picked it up.  I would have passed over it completely.  Why?  The cover does not draw me in, though it is gorgeous.  The story does not sound like something that would be filled with adventure or excitement.  Luckily, I did not find this book on a shelf.  It came in the mail from a good friend of mine who told me that it was one of her favorite reads of 2018.  I set it on my bookshelf and promptly walked away from it.  One night, out of sheer boredom, I picked it up and started reading.  Less than 48 hours later, I finished it.  I was in love with it.  I was suggesting it to people around me.  I know that 2019 has just started, but I truly believe that this will be the title that surprises me the most this year.

This book deals heavily with loss and acceptance.  Both can be difficult concepts for the human mind and emotions to deal with.  They are especially difficult for Rachel as she loses everything she once knew.  She has no idea how she fits into the world anymore.  Instead of undergoing some form of huge and dramatic change, Crowley allows her audience to see the subtle and realistic changes that a person must go through in order to deal with such an extreme amount of pain and loneliness.  There is no extraordinary depth to Rachel because the depth isn't realistic to the character.  What's needed is some brutal honesty and that's just what Rachel delivers.

Henry, on the other hand, struggles with regret, confusion, and loss.  He is forced into a peacemaker role that was never should have been his role to fill.  Life forces him to learn the difference between love and lust. He is steamrolled by the consequences of his decisions.  Again, Crowley delivers a very subtle character because we don't need all the fancy bits for this novel to create magic.  We simply need to see the portrait of stark reality that her words paint.

Additionally, the plot of this novel is rather predictable.  I know that this has been a huge issue for many of the reviewers that I've read.  For me, it makes perfect sense.  I believe that Crowley wrote this novel to bring us a beautifully written snapshot into the lives of these characters.  Life is often predictable.  It would have taken away from the poignancy of her words if the story was filled with wacky twists and turns.  After all, this is not a book to make us laugh or send us on a crazy attention.  This book simply hands you the lives of the characters and asks you to love them the way they are.  Even if it is a little predictable.  Even if the characters don't change in a gigantic way, they learn from the things life hands them.  That, in itself, is a lesson we all need to learn.

My Rating


Monday, February 11, 2019

Audio-book Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

About the Book

The Diviners by Libba Bray
Read by January LaVoy
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers on September 18, 2012


GoodReads Description

Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.

Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.

As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened.

My Thoughts

One of my personal goals for this year is to listen to more audio-books.  This has been a struggle for me.  I am not very good at auditory tasks.  It is much easier for me to read something and carry out a task than it is for me to remember directions or a plot line.  It's especially difficult when the story is interrupted.  The constant stopping and starting of the audio-book is absolutely terrifying.  I started with shorter books, but The Diviners was a HUGE task.  I was terrified.  January LaVoy made it so much easier to follow along despite all of the required interruptions.

LaVoy is an absolutely wonderful reader.  I was always excited to hear the different voices that she used for the different characters.  This made it so much easier for me to follow along with the plot for the entire audio-book.  I will definitely be watching for her as I shop around for future audio-books.

Not only does The Diviners have a wonderful reader, it has a wonderful author.  Bray's writing style entranced me from the beginning to the end of the novel for a variety of reasons.

First, she creates and brings to life a large number of characters.  These characters are vivid and realistic and they have so many layers that the reader feels like they truly will never know enough about them. Then, slowly but surely, Bray connects the dots.  She brings them together and uses their unity to introduce new information about each one.  I was absolutely amazed by how well Bray was able to accomplish this seemingly impossible feat.

Second, her villain was hauntingly terrifying and absolutely brilliant. I loved that Naughty John was such a smart aleck!  Without this charming characteristic, he would not have been the monster that he was.  Naughty John filled me with dread.  He is not a man I would ever want to come across.

Bray uses her characterization of the main characters and the villain to pull off some absolutely wonderful world building in this well-researched novel. Instead of relying on descriptions of the world, she uses the perspectives of her characters to show the audience around.  Nicely done!

There was one character, however, that I was a little disappointed lived through the novel.  I HATED Evie O'Neill!  I thought she was the most annoying and selfish piece of crap character that I have ever read about.  I was very excited to see that the ending was going to go well for Jericho, but Evie's evil selfishness destroyed that for me.  I can only hope that Bray purposefully wrote a nasty character to do some impressive character development in the following books.

My Rating




Friday, February 1, 2019

Review: No Time Like the Past by Jodi Taylor (Some Spoilers Too)

About the Book

No Time Like the Past by Jodi Taylor
Published by Accent Press on February 28, 2015

GoodReads Description

Jodi Taylor’s best-selling series The Chronicles of St Mary is back with a bang…

St Mary’s has been rebuilt and it’s business as usual for the History department.

But first, there’s the little matter of a seventeenth-century ghost that only Mr Markham can see.

Not to mention the minor inconvenience of being trapped in the Great Fire of London…and an unfortunately-timed comfort break at Thermopylae leaving the fate of the western world hanging in the balance.

Re-join Max’s madcap journey through time in Jodi Taylor’s fifth inter-dimensional installment No Time Like the Past.

My Thoughts

This book was not fair.  You can't just take a reader's emotions and destroy them like that.  People are likely to cry when you do that!  It's not nice!  But you do it anyway, Taylor, and I come back for more.

This series, you guys!  It's going to be the end of me, I swear!  Let's start with the obvious statement, here.  Just like the rest of this series, Taylor knows how to hit you right where it's going to hurt.  After five books with these characters, one cares about their well-being.  And then, *spoiler alert* someone jumps off a building or characters are found DEAD and DETERIORATED.  Just when you get used to that, Taylor happily swings your emotions back the other way with a huge amount of happiness and *spoiler alert* matrimony! Not to mention the reappearance of a certain car and a happy little tree...

On top of the emotional experience, this book contains a wonderful plot.  St. Mary's is back at it again.  I am so excited to see that Taylor's world building and characterization skills have not suffered even though she's been carrying on a series for this long.  Too often, when an author writes the same series for as long as Taylor has, it seems that they start to add things that simply don't fit or exist purely for the sake of continuing the series.  If it's done, let it end.  Taylor's not done and I'm so glad that she has not let this end.  I still have four more books and a new one coming out in 2019!  This series is a drug and I am one proud addict!

I would love to stay and write more, but I'm already reading the next book!

My Rating


Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Review: Breath of Dust & Dawn by L. Penelope

About the Book

Published by Heartspell Media on January 24, 2019

GoodReads Description

This novella begins after the events of Song of Blood & Stone—it’s both an extended epilogue AND a prequel, so it’s advisable to read that novel first.

For Jasminda ul-Sarifor, the war may be over but her conflict is not. New, overwhelming duties leave her caught between two worlds but belonging to neither. She turns once more to Jack, hoping the bond that got them through the first battle is strong enough to weather a new storm.

For Jack, Jasminda’s struggles hit close to home. To help her find her way, he entrusts her with a tale from his past where, after another war, a young Jack Alliaseen must also adjust to new responsibilities. But his take a lethal turn when prisoners of war start showing up dead on his watch. With the aid of a mysterious young man destined to change his life forever, Jack must save the lives of those under his protection before it's too late.

As his story unfolds, will Jack’s memories help Jasminda conquer her present trials?

My Thoughts

As you may remember from my review of Song of Blood and Stone I was absolutely blown away by the first book in this series!  I could not wait to get my hands on a copy of Breath of Dust & Dawn as soon as I knew that it was coming out!

I was most definitely not let down.

Just as it's advertised, this book is both an extended epilogue and a prequel.  At first, I was concerned about that concept and felt like it would be too much in one single novella.  However, Penelope was definitely up to the challenge!  I loved that she was able to use flashbacks so skillfully.  Too many authors use them to fill blank space or to give unnecessary information.  This novella is a perfect example of flashbacks done well! 

Once again, Jack and Jasminda's relationship falls together quite naturally.  For them, it really is as easy as breathing.  They simply fit.  While the trope of lovers from two different worlds is one that I find quite overplayed, Penelope does it wonderfully.  This novella helps to continue the story of their relationship as they move from a simple couple to planning their wedding.

I loved Penelope's choice to use the story that brought Jack to Jasminda as a way to further their story along.  This was so beautifully done that I was upset we didn't get to hear more about his time before her.  I am definitely eager to hear more of this beautiful adventure.

My Rating


Monday, January 28, 2019

Review: Final Exam by Shaun J. McLaughlin

About the Book

Published on December 7, 2016 by Raiders and Rebels Press

GoodReads Description

Final Exam begins a series, written in the classic sci-fi visions of Asimov and Heinlein, that examines human society as people expand through our galaxy. In this future, there is no dystopian dictatorship, no cyber-menace overlord, and no inter-species warfare. Humanity faces its historic enemy, humankind, but under different skies. Even as civility and civilization advance through the millennia, greed, gangs and malice remain as wolves chasing down the weak and vulnerable. 

Final Exam introduces Shane O’Ryan, an idealistic, rich kid, about to graduate from an elite and secret academy that trains special agents. He and his secret fraternity investigate infractions of the colonization charter related to protection of intelligent species and the ecosystems on which they depend.

For his final exam, Shane and his student partner visit a snowy vacation planet to solve a mystery—how could a sub-intelligent species leap 50,000 years in evolution in months to harness fire and develop a language. Their investigation leads them into deadly conflict with a sophisticated gang trying to gain control of the planet for its mineral riches.

My Thoughts


What I Liked 

  1. The characterization in this novella is decently done.  I wasn't a huge fan of the fact that everyone looks the same, but I definitely understand McLaughlin's reasons behind doing so.  This also helped Alana to stand out which helped him to make his points throughout the piece.
  2. McLaughlin definitely has a strong imagination.  This piece was filled with whimsical yet believable aspects of a futuristic society.  I would be interested in reading more from this author.  However, I believe that he truly needs more space to write more effectively.

What I Didn't Like As Much

  1. I didn't think this book was long enough to truly build up suspense.  I would have loved to see more of the characters and to truly delve into their personalities to understand who they were.  That would have made me care so much more about them and what was going on.
  2. I have so many leftover questions!  What happened to Alana and Shane's relationship?  Did they stay friends?  I hated that I was left wondering about so many different things.
  3. What the heck was up with their teacher being so very concerned with Shane's sex life?  As a teacher, I was pretty disturbed by this.  I found the ending the most disturbing.  There are just some lines that should not be crossed in the teacher/student relationship.  

Again, I didn't completely hate McLaughlin's writing.  I strongly believe that his writing is more suited for a longer piece of literature.

My Rating




Thursday, January 24, 2019

H. M. Gooden Excerpt and Author Interview



H.M. Gooden

H. M. Gooden has been scribbling on everything since she first learned how to hold a pencil. While often told that her handwriting was atrocious, she persisted, and upon discovering computers and learning how to type, she realized that she was no longer limited by her (admittedly) messy writing.

Unfortunately, life and work and family have conspired to make it only possible to write in the wee hours or at coffee shops, so most of her love of reading and writing are indulged at times when only vampires and insomniacs abound.

Beginning in October of 2017, her love of writing and the characters in the world she has created burst into public view in her first book, Dream of Darkness, which follows the adventures of a group of girls fighting evil with abilities that H. M. Gooden would love to have. As a result, 4 am has become even busier trying to find out what will happen to her paranormal buddies in the future, and book six, seven and eight are in the works.

Contact Information:
| hmgoodenauthor@gmail.com | https://www.hmgoodenauthor.com |

Social Media:
| Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon Author Central | BookBubGooden’s Summerland Gate |




Dream of Darkness

Rise of Light Series Book 1


Tired of moving yet again, Cat McLean finds herself in the town of Valleyview when her dad is transferred to a new job. Along with her older sister Vanessa, she must find a way to fit into another new school for what feels like the millionth time. And if that wasn't enough to deal with, shortly after their move, Cat and Vanessa are involved in a near-fatal car accident. Waking to find that she has the ability to see auras and to heal others, Cat is horrified to also discover an ancient evil that means to destroy her new home. Cat must join forces with her sister and a new friend to defeat it, or die in the attempt. Will she learn how to harness her new powers before the darkness comes for them? Or will she succumb to the darkness she fears?


| Amazon | Kobo | iBooks | Barnes & Nobel | Goodreads | Books2Read |






The Excerpt:

The girls finished lunch without any attention from other students, other than an occasional glance. As they walked back to the office, Cat tried to avoid catching anyone's eye, wishing again that she was more outgoing or had a thicker skin. Vanessa stopped abruptly and Cat had to pull up short to avoid running into her.

"How's the first day working out?"

A boy Cat didn't know smiled at them and she felt herself color involuntarily.

Damn it!

"So far so good!" Vanessa chirped.

The boy flashed another smile, and be damned if his hair didn't appear to ripple when he moved. He looked like a movie star, with his dark blond hair, dimples and grey eyes. He was probably about six feet tall, slightly taller than Cat, and well built. He looked directly at Cat, giving another blinding, toothy smile.

"We haven't met, but I guess you must be Catherine. It's not every day we get new students. I'm Declan Boyer. I'm in History with your sister."

Cat found herself feeling uncomfortable, but not because of his good looks. A weird, cold, and empty sensation washed over her. It felt completely out of place in the bright hallway, standing next to a guy who could be a homecoming hero.

"Hey, nice to meet you, too. It's Cat. Um, people call me Cat, generally." She managed to croak out her reply, wincing at how dumb she must sound.

Vanessa immediately noticed she was off and came to her rescue.

"Hey, Declan, do you know who we'd talk to about a track or running team? Cat was on the team back home before we moved and wants to try out here."

He nodded. "Of course! You want to talk to Ms. Fisk. She's the Art and Music teacher, but doubles as the cross-country coach. There aren't a lot of teachers here, I mean, the school only has 300 students from grade nine to twelve, so a lot of the teachers double as coaches." He looked at his watch. "I have a few minutes, I’d be happy to take you to her office."

Cat followed behind Vanessa and Declan, trying to figure out what felt so off. It was more than her usual discomfort with new people. This felt bigger and she knew she needed to listen to the feeling. It reminded her of the time she'd gone swimming with Vanessa and some of the neighbourhood kids. She'd refused to jump off the dock into the water when she was dared, walking out instead because of a weird feeling she'd had telling her not to do it. The next kid who'd jumped had hit a broken board and torn their leg badly. She had the same cold, dark feeling now that she'd had while wading in the water that day. Something about this beautiful guy made her as scared as she'd been back then.

"And here you go!" said Declan, bowing and waving his arm as though producing a rabbit out of a hat. "Ms. Fisk, in person."

A short and powerfully built Asian woman in her mid-forties smiled at him.

"Oh, Declan, always the charmer!" she said, as she fluttered and preened at his attention.

Declan smiled suavely, turning back to Cat. "I hope you find what you need. I'm on my way to a quick drama club meeting before lunch is over."

Vanessa straightened up, looking interested in something for the first time. Declan noticed and extended the invite to her.

"We're planning the show for the annual spring review. It's going to be a big one this year. We could use more players, if you're interested in joining us."

Vanessa looked at Cat with excitement. "Do you want to come?"

Cat shook her head. "You go ahead. I'll be busy here for awhile. I'll meet you outside after school, at the parking lot doors."

Vanessa smiled and gave a quick 'see ya' wave, before turning and following Declan down the hall without looking back.

Cat watched them walk away, still feeling an odd sense of unease, turning to see Ms. Fisk watching Declan walk away fondly. Ms. Fisk switched her attention to Cat, giving her a friendly once over.

"So, what brings you here today? Are you a budding artiste, looking for extra work perhaps? A musician? What can I help you with today, my dear?"

Cat smiled, finding the friendly warmth from the teacher relaxing after the oddness that had come with meeting Declan.

"Sorry, no. I'm not the artist in my family. But I'd heard you were the person to talk to about a cross-country or distance running club? I was on the track and cross-country team at my last school. I'd like to continue here, unless I missed try-outs, or whatever." Cat felt calm asking this teacher, warming to her open and attentive face.

Ms. Fisk smiled, regretfully. "Well, the track team is done until spring, but we do have cross-country into November, depending on weather. It isn't a very large group, so there's no need for try-outs. I can introduce you to the other students at the next practice on Wednesday and you can consider yourself officially a part of the team now, if you want. The last actual meet is in a couple of weeks."

Cat took down the rest of the information on a corner of a notebook, promising to be at the practice. Maybe she'd get a chance to talk to someone outside of class in an environment she was comfortable in. Feeling more optimistic than before, Cat checked her schedule and headed to her next class, English. Apparently they were learning Shakespeare, according to the titles on her book list. She sighed again, and prayed to whoever listened to high school students. Please spare me from a group read along...




The Interview

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

I find that writing is a soothing activity for me. It allows me to escape into my imagination and create worlds and solve problems in a way my day job doesn’t. So, in that sense I would say it is energizing. However, editing is exhausting at times!

Have you ever gotten reader’s block?

Yes! I had two children within 14 months of each other and I would say that I went almost 18 months, if not longer, without reading anything of mention. I was too tired and just had no interest, which is huge for me, as I can often read a book a day!

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

I have, but in the end I guess my ego told me to keep things easy and write under my own intials. That way it is easier to point out my work and be believed ;)

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

I have been lucky to have found a community of writers on facebook that I have become close with. They are supportive and amazing, and have written books I adore. I really feel that having a group of people that will critique your work helps so much in growing as a writer.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

Once my first book was published, it was real suddenly. It added a bit of extra pressure, but also excitement, knowing that my book babies were out in the world for people to enjoy.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Embarrassingly, I have no idea! At least 6 right now are waiting for edits, maybe eight! I never half-finish though- I need to see how the story ends. The only one not finished is my current work in progress.

What does literary success look like to you?

Success is when your books pay for themselves and the time to create them, and seeing my name on someone’s TBR/ Favorite books lists.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Carving out the time!

Does your family support your career as a writer?

100%. They are fabulous and have been wonderful.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?

That completely depends on the book! I have taken as long as 4 months, and as little as 3 weeks to write a full length novel of 60,000 words. It depends on the amount of free time and the drive I have to get to the end.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Review: A Trail Through Time by Jodi Taylor

About the Book

Published by Accent Press on July 24, 2014



GoodReads Description

St Mary’s is back and is facing a battle to survive in this, the fourth instalment of the Chronicles.

Max and Leon are re-united and looking forward to a peaceful lifetime together. But, sadly, they don’t even make it to lunchtime.

The action races from 17th century London to Ancient Egypt and from Pompeii to 14th century Southwark as they’re pursued up and down the timeline, playing a perilous game of hide and seek until they’re finally forced to take refuge at St Mary’s – where new dangers await them.

As usual, there are plenty of moments of humour, but the final, desperate, Battle of St Mary’s is in grim earnest. Overwhelmed and outnumbered and with the building crashing down around them, how can St Mary’s possibly survive?

So, make sure the tea’s good and strong…

My Thoughts

Jodi Taylor's done it again!  I am so in love with this series!  This book was definitely no exception to that rule.  It is so hard to believe that I'm over halfway through this series!

Once again, Taylor's ability to build a world is absolutely phenomenal!  This time, her work was definitely cut out for her!  Many of the characters had different roles than in any of the previous novel.  She made sure that each character did a good job but still seemed out of place in this new role. By the end of the book, everyone was back where they should be!  This definitely showed how much more sense life makes for everyone when Max and Leon are back at St. Mary's where they belong.

Taylor definitely did not spare my emotions in this novel. Luckily, they were mainly happy tears.  I was so excited to see several characters who had died in previous novels come back.  Additionally, they were in much better shape than the previous books and were ready to jump!  I was so happy to be reunited with my old friends.

I'm here trying to think of something I didn't like about this book.  The ONLY thing that comes to mind is that in order for Max to die in this world, she'd needed to make some very non-Max decisions.  I felt like this left a decent sized plot hole, but one that could be looked over.

I'm so excited to share my review of the next book soon!

My Rating



Friday, January 4, 2019

Review: Jamhuri, Njambi & Fighting Zombies by Ted Neill

About the Book

Published April 20, 2018 by Tenebray Press

GoodReads Description

A Delight for Young Readers and the Young at Heart. 

A princess trapped in a high tree and a brash young man determined to “rescue” her; a devoted daughter searching for a magical spring to save her ailing father; a teenage girl who is forced to replace her mobile phone with a machete to protect her family from zombies—all their stories interweave in a stirring alchemy set in a rich African backdrop. Ted Neill moves readers from folktale to action, comedy to cosmology, rural to urban, material to spiritual, with the ease of a master storyteller, crafting an adventure along the way that will appeal to the head, the heart, and the soul.

About the Author: Before becoming a writer, Ted Neill worked in Global Health and Education. These stories were inspired when Neill was volunteering and living at an orphanage for HIV+ children in Nairobi Kenya. He wrote Jamhuri, Njambi, & Fighting Zombies when the children requested stories featuring people and places that reflected their own culture and their own world.

My Thoughts

What I Liked

  1. The world-building in this piece is amazing.  Although Neill doesn't take much time to explicitly describe parts of each scene, he truly brings the African backdrop that this world is set in to the reader's mind.  It is absolutely obvious how beautiful Sia's home is and how breathtaking the spirit world is.  I think there are several authors who could learn from Neill's expertise here.
  2. In many anthologies, the short stories never connect.  I was blown away by how well the first two stories connected in and with the third.  Everything finally comes together.  Although I don't know a lot about African culture, I understand that connectivity is very important to them.  I like that the culture was represented in this way as well as in the scenery, animals, plants, and people described.
  3. This book would be a lot of fun to teach.  Many textbooks have African literature that is very difficult for students to relate to.  The characters in this piece would give them the connectivity and relevance that they require.  Neill takes his time to introduce foreign flora and fauna which would give World Literature students a great place to dive in to foreign literature.

What I Didn't Like As Much

  1. This book definitely needs a pronunciation guide.  I was sooooooooooo beyond grateful for the audiobook because it was the only way I knew that I was pronouncing so much wrong!  I felt very culturally insensitive because of my mistakes.  I always expect my students to pronounce names as intended, but this book did not make that easy for me to do.  
  2. Several concepts were explained once and then later revisited.  However, they were often revisited much later, so I'd already forgotten what that concept was.  It would be helpful if there was a little bit of a refresher for these ideas.
Overall, I really liked this book!  The description is not kidding when it says this book is for young readers and those who are young at heart.

My Rating