All posts by Katie Jane Gallagher

About Katie Jane Gallagher

Author of the Beauty and Her Alien series and Specter.

ARC: The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow

Thank you to NetGalley and Inkyard Press for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. The Sound of Stars debuted February 25th.

Apologies in advance that this review borders on a rant, but I feel a compulsion to fully express myself. Could be I get some anger for this post–I guess that’s just the risk you run sometimes.

If there’s one thing that can be said about The Sound of Stars, it’s that it doesn’t try to hide what it is. I was pretty excited to read this book–I mean, hello, I’m writing an alien romance, and this book is an alien romance–but from the very first paragraph I could predict this book would be a struggle due to its strong ideological bent.

The invasion came when we were too distracted raging against our governments to notice. Terror had a face and we elected it, my mom said. We were more divided than ever, and that division made our defeat easy.

Listen, I’m not saying that politics doesn’t have a place in books–if politics fit the plot, by all means have at it. However, this book (which is a YA alien romance, remember) is so steeped in progressive and leftist ideology that it’s not far off from propagandistic. In fact, as I read some passages aloud to my husband, he even asked me if it might be parody. (It’s not.) To give one example, Janelle, the MC, suffers from anxiety and frequently employs a counting technique to calm herself.

Five, Tamir Rice, Heather Heyer, Emmett Till, Oscar Grant, Nia Wilson. Four, little church girls, Addie Mae Collins, Carol Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley. Three, Tree of Life. Christchurch. Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Two, people out shopping, Maurice Stallard and Vicki Lee Jones. One, so many–too many–black transgender women to name.

Nobody is going to convince me that the above is good writing. Am I really supposed to believe that all that is going through her head while she’s warding off a panic attack? It’s like some bizarre leftist take on Arya Stark’s kill list.

Let’s go more in depth about the main character as well. Janelle is black, bisexual, “demi-ace,” overweight, with a thyroid problem, and diagnosed depression and anxiety. All of that is okay, of course.

Can you hear the “but” coming? I have a real issue with the current push for “representation” in books, because it has ruined many, many characters for me. Often it feels like authors, especially in the YA world, throw statuses and traits onto their characters like stickers, as if to tick off items on a checklist. I want to have all types of characters in books, but I want those characters to appear organically, rather than just so the author can triumphantly proclaim, Oprah-like, “Ah-ha, here is a person of color, and here is the LGBT character, and here is the character with a medical diagnosis!” So with an MC like Janelle, I found myself reading her characterization as basically a marketing strategy rather than anything that enhanced the book. Is that way of thinking fair to all the characters out there who are LGBT, suffering from various diagnoses, etc? No, but that is the sad place where the “representation” push has led me, and I’m willing to bet a lot of money that others feel the same. The whole thing is a catch-22.

So when it came to understanding Janelle, she felt incredibly surface-level, as if she had been designed by Tumblr committee, or perhaps Vice’s dildo-firing squad.

And setting character aside, the plot and the world-building weren’t gripping enough to get me to forgive all the politics. It’s a pretty standard aliens-taking-over-the-world story, and the tech wasn’t cohesive; it came across to me as magical hocus-pocus instead of futuristic technology that sorta-kinda made sense.

There is a cringiness to this book, too, that would not let up. The MC loves reading, especially YA, and there was all sorts of name-dropping that crossed the line from referential into self-congratulation. It gave me a strong “breaking the fourth wall” type of feeling.

I wonder if that’s how Wylan felt when he finally kissed Jesper, or Dimple and Rishi’s first–no, second–kiss…

Pair all that with many new world-building concepts being thrown in at the eighty percent mark of the book. Pair it again with a deus ex machina. Then add on unrelenting and awkward progressivism. (The alien love interest cannot tell if a human is a man or a woman, for example, until they identify themselves… Oh, but he can easily suss out that Janelle is a girl in the beginning of the book by her name alone. Hmm…)

Well, this was just a really tough sell.

I constantly found myself wondering while reading what an author of a book this political would say if she knew a conservative woman was reading–a conservative woman who, by the way, has not hesitated in the past to read and praise books with a differing ideological lens. I don’t necessarily write off books just because I don’t see eye-to-eye with the author’s politics. Would the author of The Sound of Stars be disgusted by someone like me, who just wanted to read a new-to-market trad-pub alien romance? Or would she not even suspect readers like me exist at all? Hopefully it would be neither one of those extremes, because both are very disheartening.

I remain a reader desperate for well-written alien books, especially alien romance. I was betrayed by aliens last year, twice, and I feel yet again extremely disappointed. (The Humans was great, to be fair.) I am begging the universe–please let the next alien book I read be good. And if there are any authors reading this post, please try to understand that readers like me exist and don’t hate me for it.

Chapter Thirty-One of The Gold in the Dark and a Writing Update!

Illustration courtesy of Ally Grosvenor.

The thirty-first chapter of The Gold in the Dark is out! New chapters, complete with brilliant chapter illustrations courtesy of Ally Grosvenor, release every other Sunday at 11 AM EST (and many times earlier)! You can get started on the series with Chapter One right here or on Wattpad.

So I’ve been absent from the blog for two weeks. 😦 I’ll be honest–worry about the coronavirus has been affecting me for a while, and lately I just… haven’t been in the mood to do much of anything. I’ve actually been following the whole coronavirus story closely since January; for anyone who’s read Specter, it probably won’t come as a surprise that a certain portion of my online hangouts are places that discuss conspiracy theories, “hidden knowledge,” etc (not that I’m necessarily a believer–I just like to read about these things for entertainment!). Anyway, my own personal experience living in China back in the day combined with talk about coronavirus on the websites I peruse has had me low-key freaking out for months–and that feeling has come to a head in the last few weeks as the virus has started to affect life in the United States.

Plus now I’ve woken up this morning with a sore throat and a ninety-nine degree fever. Fucking fantastic. Did I buy all those Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer for nothing?? D:

So as life has become a bit stranger in my area of the world (my husband is on indefinite paid leave from his job, I’m suddenly working from home, we’re ordering most of our necessities online, and all non-essential businesses are shutting down tomorrow at 8 PM), I find that I haven’t been so motivated to blog. That feeling will come back, I’m sure–actually, I’m finishing up an ARC that I can’t wait to write a review for.

What’s been nice is that with the shift from working in an office to working at home, I’ve been able to write more of my WIP. Beauty and the Beast and Aliens continues to crawl along, and like I’ve said before, I really like this book–it’s just that the process has been slooow. On a random note: does anyone reading this post kayak or have a friend who kayaks? Because there is an extended kayaking scene in the book, and I’m certain that some things are incorrect, so I’m on the hunt for someone to give me pointers. :XD

Anyway, I’m going to wrap it up here. Have a great (and healthy) rest of your weekend, and enjoy Chapter Thirty-One.

Chapter Thirty of The Gold in the Dark and a Writing Update!

Illustration courtesy of Ally Grosvenor.

The thirtieth chapter of The Gold in the Dark is out! New chapters, complete with brilliant chapter illustrations courtesy of Ally Grosvenor, release every other Sunday at 11 AM EST (and many times earlier)! You can get started on the series with Chapter One right here or on Wattpad.

Chapter Thirty marks the end of Part Two, and it’s one of the key chapters of the book. Reading through the chapter gives me such nostalgia, because I spent so long crafting the rest of the book so that it could lead up to this point. Unlike my other books, I spent a long, loooooong time brainstorming for The Gold in the Dark and working out plot points, since I was a new (and hesitant) writer. Now reading back through the chapter, I almost think this turn of events is too much, but I’ll stick by it–I’m mega proud of GitD as a first book.

This week I’ve been rekindling my love for my WIP. Writing the Beauty and the Beast and Aliens book hasn’t been the smoothest journey if you’ve been paying attention to these updates, but I do think that I’m settling into drafting again, as best I can. What can I say–I’m an editing kind of girl! I can edit for hours, but drafting is like pulling teeth, mostly because I just want to edit what I’m writing the whole time. And even though I hate drafting, I do really like how this WIP is progressing! Will anybody else want to read it, or just little ol’ weirdo me? Time will tell, hahaha.

Anyway, I’m going to keep it short and sweet this week. Have a great rest of your weekend, and enjoy Chapter Thirty.

ARC: Mageborn by Jessica Thorne

Thank you to NetGalley and Bookouture for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. Mageborn debuted February 18th.

Jessica Thorne’s book The Queen’s Wing blew me away last year; I fell in love with its characters, its science-fantasy feel, and the can’t-look-away plot. So when I saw that Thorne has a new series out, I immediately hit the request button on NetGalley. Mageborn was an all right read for me, but I don’t think that it measures up to Thorne’s other series, unfortunately. In all honesty, I do think that because I’ve read the other series and know Thorne’s potential, this knowledge kept me from fully falling in love with Mageborn.

The premise is pretty interesting–a woman who tracks down rogue magic users is given an assignment that puts her in close contact with the heir to the throne. There’s a lot of your standard fantasy tropes: court intrigue, prejudice against those with magical abilities, shaky or repressed memories, brewing rebellion. I saw some people on Goodreads complaining about the Graceling and Sarah J. Maas comps–I don’t see much of SJM in Mageborn, but I was reminded of Graceling throughout, especially because of the jumbled memory thread of the plot. The problem is that Graceling did it much better. It’s been a while since I read the trilogy, but it sticks pretty heavily in my mind, and I’m not sure if Mageborn will. I enjoyed it while I was reading, but there wasn’t one thing that stuck out to me as setting the book above other fantasy.

There’s another thing that I debated mentioning, but I’m just going to go ahead and say it: there are too many fragmented and repetitive sentences in this book for my taste. I don’t remember Thorne’s other series relying on these stylistic choices so much, or perhaps the intense plot of that series made it so that I didn’t notice. I noticed it here, though, a lot; it feels like you can’t go two sentences without a fragment or repetition. For example:

She didn’t pull away and for that he was grateful. Stupidly grateful.

Or this one, which takes the repetition to a ridiculous level:

“Tell him… tell him I didn’t want this. I didn’t want any of this.”

“He knows, pet,” said Simona. “Divinities protect and defend you, he knows.”

Did you count? That’s tell him, I didn’t want… this, and he knows, all repeated in the span of twenty-six words. Don’t get me wrong; repetition can be a powerful tool for writers to place emphasis on something, but you can’t go a page in Mageborn without seeing Thorne leaning on these writing tricks. It got old for me fast, sadly, in the same way that SJM’s writing can wear on a person.

Essentially, I had decent fun reading this book, but it didn’t leave me with a deep impression. Maybe I’ll pick up the next in series, but mostly I’ll be hoping for a third in Thorne’s other series, since there are still a lot of plot threads left to explore there.

Short Tuesday #42: “No Exit” by Orrin Grey

This week I returned to Nightmare Magazine to read Orrin Grey’s short story “No Exit.” (Not to be confused with No Exit by Taylor Adams, which has been making the rounds the last couple years.) You can read it here for free here…

I loved this short story! It features an MC whose sister was involved in a brutal, ritualistic killing at a rest stop by a cult based in Kansas. The bleak setting and the author’s rock solid voice had me sold from pretty much the first paragraph.

“No Exit” read extremely Lovecraftian to me, not just in terms of the evocative descriptive details and the too-monstrous-to-understand world-building, but also the format. I’m no Lovecraft expert, but a lot of what I have read by him involves pages and pages of exposition and set-up without any actual scenes, followed by a horrifying conclusion where we at last get a POV scene that thrusts us front row center into the madness. In this day and age where the popular writing style has such a focus on “show, don’t tell” and close first POV, it requires a really talented writer to pull off this kind of a story.

This is a fun one that has an eerie, slow crawl to the visceral details at the end. I can actually kind of see it as pairing well with another Nightmare Magazine favorite of mine, “Methods of Ascension” by Dan Stintzi. Anyway, I really enjoyed this and would love to read more by this author!

Short Tuesday #41: “Good Girls” by Isabel Yap

This week I was watching my favorite streamer play the game Dreadout 2, which is set in Indonesia, and it got me very curious to get better acquainted with horror from Southeast Asia! I feel like East Asian horror is fairly well understood in the West, but we don’t hear much about horror from the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, etc. Googling didn’t get me far, so I threw up a post on Goodreads for fiction requests and got some interesting responses, one of which is Isabel Yap’s story “Good Girls.” You can read it here for free here at the now defunct Shimmer Zine…

I had a really great time reading this short story! Yap’s language is very evocative, but the plot doesn’t get bogged down in language. The story is split between two different settings, the Philippines and California, and it has all sorts of textural details that just get me more interested in Southeast Asian horror. The imagery of the piece really caught me, and I was a big fan of the sudden, extreme body horror details. Normally I’m not big on trigger warnings, but anyone with young children or an aversion to icky might want to pass this one up. It reminded me of a short story by a Chinese author I read eons ago in college with a detail about an ant and a baby (no idea what it was or who the author was, but if anyone knows what I’m talking about, leave a comment below).

Also, can we talk real quick about one of Yap’s other works, Hurricane Heels? Because it totally sounds like a Sailor Moon send-up, and I would be really on board for that.

Anyway, this was a fun one, and it just wetted my appetite more for horror from this region. I’d love recommendations if anyone has them!

Chapter Twenty-Nine of The Gold in the Dark and a Writing Update!

Illustration courtesy of Ally Grosvenor.

The twenty-ninth chapter of The Gold in the Dark is out! New chapters, complete with brilliant chapter illustrations courtesy of Ally Grosvenor, release every other Sunday at 11 AM EST (and many times earlier)! You can get started on the series with Chapter One right here or on Wattpad.

I’m happy to report that I’m finally feeling better and my mojo is coming back! I’ve been in a serious funk lately, in terms of all sorts of aspects of my life: health-wise, reading-wise, writing-wise, and spirit-wise. Blerghhh–but things are on the up swing, and I’m finally making progress with my Beauty and the Beast and Aliens WIP! So much of writing is a mental game; I used to think topics like mindset were boring, but now I do pay attention to things like that, since I’ve noticed that my own well-being has such a profound impact on my productivity.

There is no question that I’m behind on my personal schedule of where I want my current WIP to be. I’d been hoping when I was planning my project timeline to be done with my first draft at the beginning of February and starting revisions mid-March. Now I’m hopeful to be done with my first draft by the end of March and starting revisions by mid-April. Yup–that’s how much my funk has set me back. Anyway, I’m not overly disheartened by the setback, since I still think a publish date of early July will be pretty easy to meet. I came up with that publish date, by the way, because I want to get on a one to two book a year schedule, and Specter released July 7th. I’ll be mega-proud if I can meet that goal, and maybe then I’ll push my next book release date up a little–perhaps April or May 2021.

All right, enough about me and my goals. Have a great rest of your weekend, and enjoy Chapter Twenty-Nine.

Books I want to read but don’t want to read

My writer friend told me last year that the TBR is where books go to die.

I pooh-poohed it at the time, but there’s a certain kind of demented truth to that statement, isn’t there? I know all y’all reading this have a TBR a mile long; I definitely do. And I have such good intentions, but somehow there are books on there that I know will sadly never get picked for their turn in the spotlight.

Ah, well. Such is the life of an avid reader; books take a long time to get through, and it’s just difficult to get to everything. So when I got tagged for this tag, I knew I wouldn’t have a difficult time coming up with my answers. 😛 Thanks to Sophie for tagging me–I had such a fun time putting this post together!

The Rules:

  • Link back to the original tag (this post, and Jami!)
  • Complete the questions with books you want to have read but don’t want to read
  • Tag some people at the end to do the tag next

A book that you feel you need to read because everyone talks about it

I felt like I couldn’t go anywhere last year without hearing somebody talking about this book. It has all sorts of elements that you’d think I’d enjoy–a sister relationship (duh), serial killers (double duh), and an interesting setting. I’m just not entirely convinced I’ll love it for some reason; something about it gives off the “trying too hard” vibe? Like this is a book screaming, Please love me! Or maybe that’s just me? I really should just give it a go, especially because it’s so short.

Speaking of length…

A book that’s really long

I love this series, but I’ve been feeling SJM’d out for a while, so this book continues to languish unread on my TBR shelf. (Actually, come to think of it, it’s in the back of my car. I took it to work to start reading it on my lunch break, then got intimidated by the length, so now it’s taken up permanent residence in the back seat.)

Maybe by the end of 2020. Hnghhhhhhh.

A book you’ve owned / had on your TBR for too long

I first learned about Adam Nevill because he penned the novel that later became the awesome movie The Ritual. And I’ve never read anything by him, but this book sounds so cool! The cover’s great! I love cult stuff! So why has this stayed on my TBR for years and years? There is literally no logical explanation.

A book that is ‘required’ reading (eg, school text, really popular classic – something you feel obligated to read!)

Here’s my shameful admission: I rented this from the library last year as a Halloween read, then I got intimidated by the preface because I couldn’t make any sense of it and I DNF’d the whole book. Because of a preface that is maybe four hundred words long. Perhaps the point of the preface is that it doesn’t make sense, or perhaps I was just kinda dumb that day. (My worst fear is that I’ll pick up this book again, only to discover that I am still that dumb.)

So this book scares me, even though literally everyone loves it. On the topic of books that scare me…

A book that intimidates you

Everyone loves it, and it’s so long, and the sequels are so long. And my sister said I have to read it, so I guess I gotta, but at the same time I am just soooooo unwilling to add an enormous trilogy to my list.

A book that you think might be slow

It’s 769 pages, and it’s historical fiction with a horror thread. Those first two bits make me want to run screaming in the other direction, but the last bit makes me want to give it a go, especially because I love arctic horror (The Thing, et cetera).

But it just seems like it would be such a slow read, so I just keep this one tucked away in the back of my mind for later.

A book you need to be in the right mood for

I really wanted to pick this up after I listened to an interview with the author, but I think it’s going to be a really atmospheric, introspective read. I need just the right gloomy, lazy day to read this, and that mood hasn’t presented itself to me, so for now I’ll keep it on my TBR.

A book you’re unsure if you will like

My husband and I recently watched the first Conan movie, fully with the expectation that it probably hadn’t aged well, and it was awesome. I mean, I seriously loved it, so I got really interested to read the fiction that inspired the whole Conan universe. But I’m having similar doubts about whether the Conan stories will hold up; I guess I won’t know until I pick this up.

I tag everybody, as usual, but also these very special people! Apologies if you guys have already been tagged–sometimes it’s hard to tell!

I’m so curious to know what books you guys really want to read, but just… haven’t. What’s keeping you from starting? We’re all in this together, guys. 😀

Short Tuesday #40: “Today’s Question of the Day in Waverly, Ohio” by Adam-Troy Castro

This week I returned to Nightmare Magazine to read “Today’s Question of the Day in Waverly, Ohio” by Adam-Troy Castro. You can read it here for free here…

I thought this short story was a really fun read! It’s quite short, and the set-up is fascinating: a mysterious entity who interviews a small town under the pretense of being a news crew, then deletes their memories of the interview. Aliens, perhaps? I’d really like to see more of this type of framework, as well as some expansion on the purpose of these interviews.

I thought the dialogue was great, and I enjoyed the wide spread of people who were interviewed, from a grocer to a truck driver to a reverend. I did start to lose interest when one of the interviews got political near the end, and I thought the ending interview was a cheap way to end the piece, but the whole framework of the short story really worked for me. It was short and sweet; if you’re looking for a quick read with a great hook, I’d try this one out.

The Perfect Book Tag

I was tagged by the Orangutan Librarian a while back to do the Perfect Book Tag, and as I’m struggling right now with drafting my own book (blerghhhh), what better way to procrastinate than by dreaming of the perfect book I’d like to write, rather than actually writing the damn thing? 😉

The Perfect Genre

pick a book that perfectly represents its genre

I’m going to go ahead and pick horror, because I think it’s a genre that gets passed over a lot of times, and there are so many hidden gems in the genre–like one of my absolute favorite reads last year, Here There Are Monsters by Amelinda Bérubé!

The Perfect Setting

pick a book that takes place in a perfect place

This one’s easy–the Downside trilogy by S.L. Grey, especially the mall setting in the The Mall, has some of my favorite world-building of all time. Just whimsical horror perfection.

The Perfect Main Character

pick the perfect main character

Gotta be Sookie Stackhouse from the Southern Vampires series–she’s just so smart, down-to-earth, and an overall badass.

The Perfect Best Friend

loyal and supportive, pick a character that you think is the best friend ever

Ooh, this is a hard one. I’m getting the sense that many of my favorite books involve loner main characters? XD I’m going to go with Eliza Tricklebank’s BFFs in The Princess Plan, Caro and Hollis. I adored their friendship, and their close dynamic makes me really excited for the forthcoming books in this series.

The Perfect Love Interest

pick a character you think would be an amazing romantic partner

Has to be King Zachary from the Green Rider series. I’ve wanted him and Karrigan to officially get together for like six years.

The Perfect Villain

pick a character with the most sinister mind

I will forever hate-love Professor Umbridge–she’s my ultimate villain.

The Perfect Family

pick a perfect bookish family

I’m going with all the sisters from Wildwood Dancing. I am such a sucker for sister stories, and I love MCs with big, boisterous families.

The Perfect Animal or Pet

pick a pet or fantastic animal that you need to see on a book

Has to be a dog, and let’s make it the fantastical, magical Disreputable Dog from Lirael.

The Perfect Plot Twist

pick a book with the best plot twist

Not going to give anything away, obviously, but the plot twist in Lock Every Door just floored me.

The Perfect Trope

pick that trope you would add to your own book without thinking

Slooooooow buuuuuuuurn~~~~~~~ See above: Zachary and Karrigan lol.

The Perfect Cover

pick that cover that you would easily put on your own book

If this were truly fantasy land and I could have any cover I want, I’d get a custom illustration by Leo and Diane Dillon. I’ve been a mega-fan of their artwork ever since I was a little kid and read Wise Child by Monica Furlong.

The Perfect Ending

pick a book that has the perfect ending

I’m going with another one of my great loves, Sunshine by Robin McKinley. The ending is desperate, it’s All The Things Go Boom, and the denouement blends the reality of picking up the pieces with an ambiguous ending that promises more. (The best and most achingly difficult part of Sunshine, I’ve always thought, is that there is no sequel.)

All right, so who’s going to write this book then? I’ll be the first one in line to read it. XD

Also, I tag everyone in this post! This is such a fun, unique tag, and I’d like to read everybody’s answers. 🙂