Lessons from November – #NaNoWriMo Edition

Okay, so I’m going to go off the beaten track a little bit with this post because… I didn’t read a single book in the month of November. Shocking, I know. I even went through withdrawal, but it was an interesting experience. Why didn’t you read a single book, you might be asking. It’s because I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo for my very first time. I’ve been circling the periphery of NaNo for years – feeding friends who are participating, arranging write in spaces at the venues where I worked, cheering peoples on, etc – but had never joined in as a writer. So, this year when work said they would give me time every Friday to host in our library on the condition that I also write (leading by example for the students and all) I jumped on the opportunity. And while I didn’t quite make the 50k word count (I came in at 45k) I came away from this month with some lovely insights.

1. Writing every day is HARD. Like holy shit balls hard. It’s like life demands far more of your time when you’re trying to be creative than when you’re trying to relax. Got a great idea? Bring on the snow storm of the century that will leave you plowing for days.

2. Having a daily goal forces you to move post those plot holes. I’ve dabbled in creative writing in the past, but whenever I hit a plot hole/ writer’s block I would always end up walking away because I couldn’t figure out how to move past the issue. With the subtle pressure of NaNo’s imaginary deadline I simply plows through, and in most cases the issue resolved itself later on. I now have about 40 notes throughout my document on stuff I need to fix. And I’m actually looking forward to the revision process.

3. What you produce is likely going to be a burning trash heap of words that needs the intervention of the gods. And that’s entirely okay. It’s also why in the day’s following wrap up you see all these lovely tweets about ‘don’t query your baby-fresh mess now, fix that shit first’. It’s true. So, so true.

4. The writing community on Twitter is freaking AMAZING. As a first time NaNoer, having some pretty successful authors comment on your nobody account and cheer you on gives you the goosebumps. I’m kind of in love with the community that springs up out of this monthly touch of magic.

5. I will likely never publish my little trash pile of words. And I am at peace with that. Also, this is not a bad thing. I didn’t go into this with the desire to write a publishable piece. I went in wanting to put on paper a story that had been bouncing around my brain for years. I did that, and I am delighted with the process. *pats self on back*

6. The target is helpful, but not worth the stress. Seriously. I’m wasn’t getting paid to go through hell, I had no hard deadline from a publisher to meet. I fell 5,000 words behind, so what? I can write the rest of them whenever I want. And maybe it’s because this was my first NaNo that the experience and community seemed to be more important than the final product. But unless you’ve got a good (legally binding) reason to drive yourself into the ground, it’s not worth burning yourself out.

7. Finally, my respect for writers has increased tenfold. I’ve always valued and adored authors for their ability to craft a story and make me want more, but right now that awe is insanely amplified. Seeing how things start out, the creative energy it takes to see these things through, and the amount of work that goes into polishing said trash pile of words is just insane. Thank you writers, for being brave and determined, because this writing thing isn’t for the weak of heart.

Thank you to everyone who cheered me on throughout the month, and to those lively book bloggers who checked in to see if I was still living when I wasn’t sharing reviews, you are freaking fabulous.

Regularly irregular reviews will now resume.

J.

#ARC #Review: The Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi #YAFiction #YAFantasy

AHHHHH!

Everyone is losing it over Queen of Nothing (no judgement, I’mma get on that right quick like) but here I was sitting in my snow covered hills and reading an ARC for The Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi – it was beautiful. The writing is magical, the characters mesmerizing, and the plot is oh so delicious. Get ready to dive back in to the wonderful workings of your favourite group of outcasts, and maybe buckle up, because it’s a rather fantastic ride!


serpentsTitle: The Silvered Serpents

Author: Roshani Chokshi

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Expected Publication Date: September 22, 2020

Genre: YA Fantasy, YA Fiction

Themes: Family, Friendship, Betrayal

Features: N/A


My Rating: 4.5/ 5


Synopsis

Returning to the dark and glamorous world of her New York Times instant bestseller, The Gilded Wolves, Roshani Chokshi dazzles us with another riveting tale as full of mystery and danger as ever.

They are each other’s fiercest love, greatest danger, and only hope.

Séverin and his team members might have successfully thwarted the Fallen House, but victory came at a terrible cost ― one that still haunts all of them. Desperate to make amends, Séverin pursues a dangerous lead to find a long lost artifact rumored to grant its possessor the power of God.

Their hunt lures them far from Paris, and into icy heart of Russia where crystalline ice animals stalk forgotten mansions, broken goddesses carry deadly secrets, and a string of unsolved murders makes the crew question whether an ancient myth is a myth after all.

As hidden secrets come to the light and the ghosts of the past catch up to them, the crew will discover new dimensions of themselves. But what they find out may lead them down paths they never imagined.

A tale of love and betrayal as the crew risks their lives for one last job.


My Review

Okay, before I get into this review I should be upfront in saying that I loved The Gilded WolvesLike, loved it so much that putting together a marginally comprehensible review was nearly impossible. Cue The Silvered Serpents. I basically melted into a puddle of gibbering goo on the office floor when the ARC was approved in NetGalley. Or if you prefer more realistic expressions, loved it so much that I burned a batch of jelly because I was so focused on the pages that I missed the kitchen timer and was only roused by the smoke detectors. Yeah… oops.

Also, so worth it.

The Silvered Serpents is a decadent adventure filled with action, intrigue, and just enough crazy to keep you on the edge of your seat. Now don’t get me wrong, this book gets dark, and fast. But after the ending of The Gilded Wolves this really felt like a natural progression. In the wake of a traumatic and unexpected death, our core group of characters grapple with the effects that this loss has on their lives while simultaneously trying to prevent the death of another. Chokshi tackles grief and trauma head on, inviting the reader into a world of complex and challenging emotions. It might not be all action and wit the whole way through, but the details and exploration of the characters are both deep and realistic. A patient reader will be rewarded with nuance, so don’t rush through the ‘slow’ bits – it’s all good stuff!

And the world building, my word! Transporting the setting from France to Russia was simply divine, as it allowed for layer upon layer of mythology to be built up over time without ever feeling onerous. I was in love with the ice palaces, mechanical leviathans, enchanted winter animals and stories of long dead goddesses. It is magical, steeped in folklore, and the perfect setting for a tale that is darker and more turbulent. The parties were spectacular and opulent, the challenges imaginative, and the villains not at all what I expected. Everything came together into another perfect cliffhanger ending, and I simply can’t wait for the third book to come out.

I loved how much time we got to spend with Sofia and Hypnos, gaining greater insight into their personalities and the effect that they have on the group dynamic. Sofia remains one of my favourite characters, and I can’t wait to see how she will develop in the next instalment. For someone that is often seen as weaker than the others, she has some truly spectacular moments, and the real beauty was seeing her recognize that she’s not just a sidekick. Laila and Severin too, were particularly show-stopping, with their raw feelings and excessive tension. We are all fools for love, and it seems these two are fond of playing games with higher stakes than most.

This delectably dark tale is wrapped up in Chokshi’s spellbinding prose. It evokes the heartstrings, the imagination, and offers a veritable cornucopia of diversity without going the line of tokenism. Through it all she highlights the value of all life, and addresses through subtle undertones the issues arising from colonialism and cultural destruction. It is a testament to the intelligence of a younger reading audience, but I know that many of the issues and undertones addressed will not be appreciated by all.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, yes, yes! A hundred times over! My only real complaint is that I will have to wait so long for the third book to come out – especially after that EPIC ending…


Many thanks to NetGalley for providing a galley in exchange for an honest review.

#Review: Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford #YAFiction #YAFantasy

Today I am delighted to be taking a break from NaNoWriMo to share my review for the FABULOUS Crown of Coral and Pearl by Mara Rutherford. It’s deep, imaginative, and filled with fantastic worlds with a touch of mystery and magic. If you’re in the mood for some wonderful YA to transport you to sunshine and oceans on a gloomy winter day, and then take you on a fantastic and consuming ride, this baby will surely do the trick!


coral and pearlTitle: Crown of Coral and Pearl

Author: Mara Rutehrford

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Publication Date: August 27, 2019

Genre: YA Fantasy, YA Fiction

Themes: Family, Arranged Marriage, Oppression, Rebellion

Features: N/A


My Rating: 4.5/ 5


Synopsis

For generations, the princes of Ilara have married the most beautiful maidens from the ocean village of Varenia. But though every girl longs to be chosen as the next princess, the cost of becoming royalty is higher than any of them could ever imagine…

Nor once dreamed of seeing the wondrous wealth and beauty of Ilara, the kingdom that’s ruled her village for as long as anyone can remember. But when a childhood accident left her with a permanent scar, it became clear that her identical twin sister, Zadie, would likely be chosen to marry the Crown Prince—while Nor remained behind, unable to ever set foot on land.

Then Zadie is gravely injured, and Nor is sent to Ilara in her place. To Nor’s dismay, her future husband, Prince Ceren, is as forbidding and cold as his home—a castle carved into a mountain and devoid of sunlight. And as she grows closer to Ceren’s brother, the charming Prince Talin, Nor uncovers startling truths about a failing royal bloodline, a murdered queen… and a plot to destroy the home she was once so eager to leave.

In order to save her people, Nor must learn to negotiate the treacherous protocols of a court where lies reign and obsession rules. But discovering her own formidable strength may be the one move that costs her everything: the crown, Varenia and Zadie.


My Review

The people of Varenia live a unique life in stilt houses built from shipwrecks on shoals above the sea. They value family, honour, and beauty amongst all else, and whoever their ruling nation of Ilara has a crown prince come of age the Varenians offer their most beautiful daughter as the future queen.

But this idyllic life is not as simple as it seems. The oceans have been overfished and the oysters, which produce the coveted Varenian pink pearls that support this community, have been grossly over harvested. Both food and funds are in short supply, and this isolated community is regularly cut off from fresh water and essential supplies at the slightest whim on the Varenian King.

So when the chosen bride Zadie harms herself to avoid being sent to Ilara as future queen, it falls to her twin sister Nor to take her place. But instead of being a pliant and pleasing bride Nor has other plans in mind such as advocating for her people, clandestine meetings with Governors sons, and a touch of ill-conceived spying within the castle. And to make matters even more complicated, Nor has to do everything in her power to conceal the truth behind Varenian health, long life, and healing abilities of her people lest it be exploited the ailing Ilarians. And all the while she is exploring the source of her own powers and their apparent connection to an accident involving deadly blood coral when she was just a child. Can we say drama?

But things go awry when the Crown Prince Ceren proves to be a cruel and calculating ruler, more focused on pursuits of vanity and tormenting his subjects than than improving the standing of his people – despite an impending war. Nor must learn to tread carefully in his presence, and fast, for if it’s discovered that she replaced her sister Zadie she is sure to meet a fate worse than rejection. And here’s the trump card my friends, Nor finds herself dangerously attracted to Ceren’s half brother Prince Talin. Because who doesn’t love a good romantic battle between brothers who represent good and evil?

It is a bad thing to say that what i loved most about this book was that nor was like like a fish out of water? She doesn’t fit into court life, she’s too impetuous to make for a very good lady, and she never takes the easy way out – even when huge personal benefit stands in the balance. She adheres strongly to her Varenian morals, saving the lives of even those who would hurt her and offering kindness to all when cruelty serves as currency within the Ilaran castle. She is brave, and at times incredibly foolish, but those moments in which Nor took those ridiculous risks were among my absolute favourites.

The brothers too, were extremely interesting. They were perfect foils for one another as well as for the relationship between Nor and Zadie. Where the sisters represented love and loyalty, the brothers emanate complicated toxicity. While the brother’s certainly added different elements to the narrative, with Ceren bringing in fear and tension while Talin offered romance and longing, they never pull too much attention away from Nor and her objectives.

It was interesting to see the types, and degrees of prominence, of the roles assigned to parents in this book. Zadie & Nor’s parents took on a dynamic similar to that of Mr. & Mrs. Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, with a doting and on-confrontational father and a mother determined to see her daughters wed advantageously. Both the Governor and the King are particularly absent in their parenting duties, and overall presence, though they are much talked and thought about by their children. And we even have a does of the manipulating stepmother waiting to make a play. And while I really enjoyed what they brought to the story, I really would have liked to see all of the adult characters developed into roles beyond mealtimes and deathbeds. Don’t get me wrong, the focus stays on Nor where it firmly belongs, I just wanted a little more. But, with a book two on the horizon, and so much fantastic world building already under way, I have no doubt that this particular scenario is about the change.

Filled with strong characters, tantalizing events, some super steamy romance, as well as distinct peoples and places A Crown of Coral and Pearl transports you into a world that is entirely it’s own. Rutherford’s writing is deep and imaginative, and her debut lays a solid foundation for what is sure to be an exciting series. I can’t wait to see what twists come next in the Ilarian fight for succession, in Zadie & Nor’s fight to save their homeland and loved ones, and whether or not everyone will make it out the other side of what appears to be an impending civil war. Oh, and I REALLY need to know more about Nor’s strength and power, the properties of the blood coral, and those damnable pink pearls! Way to leave off on a cliffhanger, because now I’m into this series hook, line, and sinker.


Many thanks to NatGalley for providing a galley in exchange for an honest review.

#Blogtour #Review: The Grateful Boys by Françoise DuMaurier @fayerogerspr @authoright @FranDuMaurier #TheGratefulBoys

The Grateful Boys Banner2.png

Today I have the pleasure of hosting a stop on the blog tour for Françoise DuMaurier’s thrilling own voices YA novel, The Grateful Boys. If you’re a fan of fun twists on the vampires genre, feel like getting in the mood for halloween, or maybe you like to seek out multi-perspective and diverse reads, then this one is definitely for you!



FdM v1.2.jpgTitle: 
The Grateful Boys

Author: Françoise DuMaurier

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing

Publication Date: 1st October 2019

Genre: YA Fantasy, YA Fiction

Themes: Family, Vampires, Romance

Features: N/A


Synopsis

When seventeen-year-old Hailey’s multi-racial, single parent family migrate to the tiny rural town of Corpus, Georgia (population 700), she would rather have moved anywhere but there.

That is, until she spots him. Mysterious definitely, perhaps even supernatural. Where Hailey is awe-struck by the young man of her dreams, her little brother, Mason, sees a soulless creature of the night, a half-man who may be responsible for a series of grisly murders across the southern gothic town.

Antwan Zeddman, the town’s first African-American Sheriff, must enforce a curfew in Corpus to ensure the safety of the townsfolk. He must contend with sightings of hellish winged beasts and investigate the slaying of an innocent young couple traveling through town. There is a growing sense of racial unrest. Hailey will find herself caught between her family, the residents of Corpus, and the vampire she’s falling in love with.

The Grateful Boys is an otherworldly Young Adult novel which explores the challenges of growing up mixed raced in the southern states of America, and the troubles of a young woman coming of age in a town full of danger and temptation.


My Review

I’m always on the hunt for own voices and diverse reads, so when the opportunity came around to join the tour for The Grateful Boys I simply couldn’t pass it up. And one of the main reasons that I enjoy own voices reads so much is that they challenge the reader to take on a perspective so vastly different than their own – and putting myself in the mindset of two teens in a racially divided southern town certainly did the trick. It took a few chapters to get into the dialects and perspectives perspective presented by Mason, Hailey, and Antwan but once I did it was impossible to keep the pages from turning.

I loved how Mason’s gung-ho approach to discovering and destroying the vampires in  Corpus balances out the romantic elements of Hailey’s involvement with Percy. And the dual perspective means that there is something relatable for everyone one who picks it up. I did, however, feel like some of the relations ships were a little on the simplistic side. But keeping in mind that this is a YA read and the age of these characters the naivety its which their infatuations are approached is entirely believable. And this is not to undermine the fact that some serious issues such as consent, rape culture, and bullying are all tackled in tasteful and poignant ways.

And can I just say how fun it was to read about a group of boys confident in their geek culture and independent interests in a town that is sole dedicated to football? I mean, if I’d had the chance to be part of a horror movie and video game club in middle and high school you can bet your butt that I would have been there. Plus, it provides the perfect opportunity to LOAD this book with pop culture and cult classic references. I think the only thing it was missing was a Buffy-style Giles (I mean, this librarian isn’t biased…).

I really enjoyed the parts where we got to see from the perspectives of Percy and Gregorious, and was left wishing for more passages from their POV as they really added tons of intrigue and tension to the plot. Antwan too, added a nice rounding-out to the experience in taking on the brunt of the racial divide in the town without it falling on to Hailey and Mason. It was nice to see the difficulties of being an elected official so explicitly detailed in a book aimed at teens, as the popular vote and public perception is something we spend so much time telling kids that it doesn’t matter.

Altogether The Grateful Boys is a fun twist on paranormal YA and a smashing start to a series with tons of interesting avenues to explore. Whether you’re looking for a little vampire romance, or on the hunt to chase the evil out of town, DuMaurier has it in abundance. Just in time for halloween it’s time to get all Lost Boys and tackle vampires anew.


About the Author

FullSizeRender.jpgFrançoise DuMaurier is a Special Education Case Worker who works out of a small town in rural Georgia which inspired the Southern Gothic setting of The Grateful Boys. To get to work, DuMaurier passes through miles and miles of farms, as far as the eye can see. Before entering education, DuMaurier attended the Ernest G. Welch School of Art and Design where he studied visual art and creative writing. Having worked with an array of students along with his own experiences, DuMaurier is uniquely suited to provide a wry voice that encapsulates #ownvoices fiction.


Many thanks to Faye Rogers at Authoright for inviting me to join in this tour and for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.

#BlogTour #Review: The Man at the Door by Desmond P. Ryan @BakerPromo @RealDesmondRyan

Text placeholder-2

Today I am delighted to be taking part in another blog tour for Canadian crime fiction writer Desmond P. Ryan. His third novel The Man at the Door brings back detective Mike O’Shea, his delightful mother, and the motley crew down at the precinct as they take on yet another complicated case and I must say, I loved this book even more than 10-33 Assist PC and Death Before Coffee.


MATD cover.jpgTitle:  The Man at the Door

Author: Desmond P. Ryan

Publisher: Copper Press Publishing

Publication Date: 

Genre: Fiction, Crime Fiction, Police Procedural

Themes: Friendship, Relationships, Crime

Features: N/A


My Rating: 4.5/ 5


Synopsis

Man At The Door, the third in Desmond P. Ryan’s Mike O’Shea Crime Fiction Series, Detective Mike O’Shea solves a homicide, juggles an increasingly complex personal life, and continues to hunt for the cop-killer who has remained at large for the past thirteen years.

It all begins at 6:10 a.m. on a Friday morning when Glen Brebeuf calls demanding answers. He had reported his former lover, Elizabeth MacDonald, missing the previous day and Detective Mike O’Shea finds himself cleaning up the mess some rookie had made of the initial call.

Within hours, Mike takes over the investigation and is on the doorstep of the missing elderly woman’s home, determining that Elizabeth MacDonald—Sibby Mac to her friends—is not missing.

Sibby Mac has been murdered.

Along with Detective Ron Roberts and Detective Sergeant Amanda Black, Mike kicks the investigation into high gear. Very quickly, the ex-lover and a high-profile political figure become prime suspects, but, without a body, would there be enough evidence to charge either of them?

A day spent sifting through rancid garbage at one of the city dumps comes up empty for Mike and Ron, but a foul-smelling steamer trunk reported in another jurisdiction provides the eureka moment they need to proceed.

Meanwhile, Mike is doing double-duty, still investigating what he believes to be a link between the accused he has up in court now and his old partner’s killer.

And then there is his mother. Sensing that her son needs her, Mary-Margaret O’Shea has moved into Mike’s home—and his personal and professional life—pending further notice.

As the pieces of the Sibby Mac investigation start to fall into place, Mike follows up on a hunch and decides to take a detour on his way to work one morning. Using every trick in the book, he ends up saving a life, nearly ending another, and almost getting himself killed in the process.

Whether as a stand-alone or as your next step in the Mike O’Shea Crime Fiction SeriesMan At TheDoor will keep you reading far too late into the night following Detective Mike O’Shea through the twists and turns of a homicide investigation. Once you’re done, take a breath and get reading for Blind Spot, coming out in early 2020!


My Review

The Mike O’Shea books are fast becoming one of my go-to crime series when I’m in the mood for a police procedural. There’s drama, a wide cast of strong characters, and some genuinely interesting cases. And, they just so happen to have a Canadian twist that’s too rarely seen in crime fiction – and I’m a sucker for Canadian fiction!

Mike, is by far, my favourite emotionally damaged and yet amazingly functional detective. He’s got some serious PTSD trailing him after Sal’s shooting, a touch of permanent brain damage after taking a beating from a lead pipe, some serious trust and relationship issues after his wife walked out, a sweet little romance budding with a crackerjack lawyer, and momma that’s in full helicopter mode to help Mike through his troubled times. Through it all he still manages to be an ace detective, tracking down leads that no one else sees or believes in (in this case a touch more forgetful than normal) and is well worth his reputation on the force. I love the dynamic between Mike and Ron, but more than anything I love how Ron manages to retain his humanity and sensitivity despite the horrible things that he has witnessed and investigated.

The personal narratives in this third book though, were truly a step above! Mary-Margaret stole the show, Amanda Black stole the show, Ron stole the show – there was show stealing on every freaking page. Which, of course, keeps the pages turning and makes the logical part of my brain that tells me to go to sleep because I have work in the morning stop functioning. Hello 3:30 AM. But also, where the heck is book four? I need to know what happens with Amanda’s family! She is such a strong, badass, boss lady that it’s difficult to read her in a scenario that she isn’t 100% in control of.

What’s beautifully done though, is the interweaving of elements from all of the previous books into the current narrative – like death before coffee, Sal’s investigation, the Robby scenario, and the guest appearance from old team members – as they all work together to create a sense of unity an continuity. But the best part is that you can read the individual volumes independently from one another without ever getting lost because they are standalone episodes in Mike’s life.

My only, and I mean only, complaint is that I would have liked to see some of the ongoing cases wrapped up, just for a selfish and personal sense of closure. I mean, we have two whopper cases on the go (one being investigated, one on trial), and a third that is about to consume Mike and Amanda’s lives. Again, where is book four?! But I get it, cases get dragged out in the courts more often than not, personalities get in the way, the media is a circus, and people ca be judgemental jerks. Sure, it would be nice to have a straightforward case and a win but the complexities of juggling court, investigations, personal lives, and recovering from workplace injuries makes for a much more grounded reality.

This little bite of crime is worth every minute of the read. Ryan’s experience on the force shines through in abundance, infusing his stories with both reality and depth. The Man at the Door is snappy, infused with humour, and just plain good. Read crime lovers, you won’t be disappointed.


About The Author

thumbnail_img_1467For almost thirty years, Desmond P. Ryan began every day of his working life with either a victim waiting in a hospital emergency room, or a call to a street corner or a blood-soaked room where someone had been left for dead. Murder, assaults on a level that defied humanity, sexual violations intended to demean, shame, and haunt the individuals who were no more than objects to the offenders: all in a day’s work.

It was exhilarating, exhausting, and often heartbreaking.

As a Detective with the Toronto Police Service, Desmond P. Ryan wrote thousands of reports detailing the people, places, and events that led up to the moment he came along. He investigated the crimes and wrote synopses for guilty pleas detailing the circumstances that brought the accused individuals before the Courts. He also wrote a number of files to have individuals deemed either Not Criminally Responsible due to mental incapacity, or Dangerous Offenders to be held in custody indefinitely.

Now, as a retired investigator with three decades of research opportunities under his belt, Desmond P. Ryan writes crime fiction.

Real Detective. Real Crime. Fiction.


Many thanks to Shell Baker at Baker’s Blog Tours and Promos for inviting me to join in this tour and for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.