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. 🙂

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

Illustration courtesy of Ally Grosvenor.

The twenty-eighth 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 going to keep things extremely short this week, the reason being that I’m sick and scarcely have the energy for anything that’s not Tik Tok. 😦 It’s NOT the coronavirus, but it’s been a nasty enough virus to keep me home from work for most of last week, and I’m not totally convinced I’ll be good to go in tomorrow either. My appetite is slowly starting to return, but the fever I thought I ditched yesterday came back this morning. So here’s to everyone’s health and happiness–I hope everyone is feeling better than I am! Have a great rest of your weekend, and enjoy Chapter Twenty-Eight.

House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas: First Impressions

I was super excited to get an email from Netgalley a couple days ago with an invitation to read a five-chapter excerpt of SJM’s new series. I’ve been a fan of SJM since she was posting the first draft of the Throne of Glass series on Fictionpress circa 2004ish, so of course I was interested in this new series.

The first chapter was rough for me, I’ll admit. While I was reading, I was having visions of writing some clickbaitey title for this post: I read an excerpt of SJM’s new series and it was… okay… Here’s the thing: Maas tends to write in a very samey way. A lot of readers won’t notice it, but she loves characters that “swagger” or “stalk” into a room, and she loves discussing the sharp “tang” of blood. (I could give lots more examples, but these three are the ones that really spring to mind, and all of these pop up in the excerpt.) I think that tendency in her writing isn’t so apparent in SJM’s earlier books, perhaps because she had more time to write them, but I suspect that the book-a-year trend, combined with the long length of her books, makes it so that her most recent books blur together for me prose- and tone-wise.

But I also don’t think this is just a SJM thing, but a me thing. As a writer myself, I’ve been actively developing and honing my craft for the past five years, and my tastes have changed. I’m not huge on pages of snarky dialogue anymore, which SJM tends to sprinkle liberally throughout her books. I also have pretty strong opinions on adjective, adverb, and dialogue tag use, opinions that I do now find at odds with SJM’s writing–but just because another author writes differently than I do, it doesn’t mean their work sucks. So I think part of what had me raising my eyebrows while reading the first chapter of House of Earth and Blood was due to me being a different reader than I used to be.

I liked the later chapters, though. I do anticipate I’ll pick up this book and finish it, though perhaps I’ll wait until I’ve finished up the Throne of Glass series. (I still have the last one to get through.) The book has some really interesting worldbuilding: a modern, urban fantasy-like feel set in another universe with angels, fae, witches, and everything in between. It’s three stars for me at the outset, and I’m curious to see how the rest of the book turns out.

I’m also curious to hear your thoughts on whether you like your favorite authors’ books to feel “samey.” Do you mind if an author’s books all feel very similar to each other? Do you notice when an author uses the same words and phrases frequently throughout their work, and does that bother you? Let me know what you think!

ARC: A Longer Fall by Charlaine Harris

Thank you to NetGalley and Saga Press for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. A Longer Fall debuted January 14th.

Oh man, I’m falling in love. There’s nothing like a book by my hero, Charlaine Harris, to do all the things–thrill, terrify, and inspire love and hate and everything in between, all with rock-solid prose. The first book in the Gunnie Rose series, An Easy Death, was a very solid four-star read for me, and A Longer Fall takes it to the next level.

If you’re not familiar with the series, it follows sharp-shooter-for-hire Lizbeth Rose on her perilous adventures in an alternative history America that’s been split into multiple countries: Texoma, New America, Dixie, Britannia, the Holy Russian Empire. (I might have missed one in there.) Since this is a book by Charlaine Harris, there’s more than a dash of magic sprinkled over the book (there are real wizards here who work real magic), as well as a good dose of mystery and thriller elements. I’ve long thought that the Western genre is due for a reboot, and this genre-bending series feels like a perfect step in that direction.

I’ll admit that it took me a little bit of time to warm to the main character in An Easy Death, as she is over-the-top practical and straightforward. In this next entry in the series, I really felt the characters got their moment to shine and grow. Yeah, yeah, the plot’s good and all, but it’s on a book’s characters to propel a book from good to great. As the book wrapped up, I was on Goodreads immediately searching out info on the next book. The good news is that it’s coming; bad news is that I can’t find a date listed. Mehhhhh.

Basically, if you are looking for a genre-bender or you’re a Harris fan, you should be reading this series. I loved it, and I’ll be first in line for a copy of the next book.

ARC: Diamond City by Francesca Flores

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. Diamond City debuted January 28th.

I requested an ARC for Diamond City because I’m a Sarah J. Maas fan, and (flawed though it may be) I think the conflicted lady assassin trope is pretty fun. The first chapter or two of Diamond City started in an okay spot, but it unfortunately went swiftly downhill from there. Where Maas was able to make her main character assassin mostly work, Flores unfortunately flounders; the MC in this book often wonders things like, Would my parents be proud of me even though I kill people for a living? or Do you think this cute boy and I might have a romantic future even though I tried to kill his older brother?

As people funnier than me have said, the short answer to both these questions is no. The longer answer is noooooooooo.

I just can’t buy the main character. She’s a badass assassin, but she’s deathly afraid of spiders, opts for knives over guns, and spares key characters’ lives at multiple points in the book. It’s an issue I often see with these types of killer characters: they’re supposed to be oh-so-hardcore, but the author can’t let the characters be their brutal selves on the page because it will turn off readers.

But even beyond the characters, I couldn’t find much to recommend this book. The world-building is a confusing mishmash of heritages and cultures that were difficult to keep straight, all with a vague backdrop of an outlawed religion and magic system that places heavy importance on diamonds–diamonds which are traded at high price on the black market, but actually there are oodles of them around. (???) The language of the book, too, did not help matters; the fight scenes especially were wooden and very “this happened, then this, then this”–not good for a book about assassins where there’s bound to be a lot of fighting. There’s also not much of an artistic or lyrical quality to the prose, and I found myself predicting plot points at every turn, so… without compelling characters, beautiful language, a riveting plot, or engaging world-building, I really came up empty on this book. I do feel bad about the poor review for this debut author, but Diamond City is in need of significant revision and critique.

Short Tuesday #39: “Alligator Point” by S.P. Miskowski

This week I returned to Nightmare Magazine to read “Alligator Point” by S.P. Miskowski. You can read it here for free here…

This short story didn’t inspire much horror in me, I’m afraid to say. Not much is happening throughout the story–you get some vague details about a woman escaping an abusive relationship with her two daughters, but nothing really comes together into a tangible story, to the point that I skimmed back through a couple times because I felt like I was missing something. (Maybe I am; correct me if I’m being an idiot over here!)

In terms of scariness, there’s not much here beyond a foreboding mood and a scary dream. Don’t get me wrong; in the right hands, an eerie mood and some well-written bad dreams can pack a wallop, but this short story wasn’t doing it for me. That’s a real shame, because I’m a sucker for horror set in the swampy South (Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, for example). Maybe with some expansion (this short story weighs in at a scant 2700 words) there could have been something here, but as is I can’t recommend it.

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

Illustration courtesy of Ally Grosvenor.

The twenty-seventh 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.

This past week I’ve been crawling my way out of a reading slump. Nothing of what I’ve been reading has really grabbed me, and I think that lack of forward momentum, combined with a knowledge that I have to get through these books because they’re ARCs, has just dragged down my mood in terms of all things books. I find it so much easier to write when I’m reading something great–anyone else with me? Good books just get my creative juices flowing.

I’ve been working on adding texture to my Beauty and the Beast and Aliens WIP these past couple weeks. That oddly involves a lot of details about plants, which is hard because I’m not a plant person. My mom, though, has a very green thumb, so I’m lucky enough to have an expert just a text away to answer such questions as, How long does it take tomatoes to grow from seed to a stage where you can eat them?, or, How many black bean bushes do you need to plant for a one-person crop? Yes, I really do need the answers to these questions for my book about aliens; you’ll see how it all comes together in the end. Thanks, Mom. XD

I also need a copy of the 1971 edition of The Anarchist Cookbook, for research purposes. Yup, that book.

Anyway, I’m going to head off and get some work done on my WIP. Hope everyone’s having a great weekend, and enjoy Chapter Twenty-Seven.

Short Tuesday #38: “Elo Havel” by Brian Evenson

This week I went back to Old Faithful, i.e., Nightmare Magazine, to see what new short fiction they had on offer. I didn’t actually realize until I got to the end of “Elo Havel” that it’s by Brian Evenson, who wrote the excellent short story “Cult.” You can read Elo Havel for free here…

I liked “Elo Havel” okay, but it didn’t measure up to “Cult” in my opinion. The writing is strong, and there’s a lot of forward momentum, but the letter framework and the ending took away from the overall piece. This is one of those short stories that feels like it could be part of something larger, but because there isn’t any continuation of the story, what readers do have to work with ends up feeling hollow and incomplete. What’s going to happen to the main character? How did he even end up receiving a letter in his current state–did it just simply appear? Why is he so impatient to take action, when it seems he has all the time in the world in his changed state?

Some short stories manage to make their ambiguity satisfying, but that’s a tightrope line that most often ends in disappointment. I’m definitely up for reading more by Evenson, but “Elo Havel” was just so-so for me.

ARC: Shall We Dance? by Shelley Shepard Gray

Thank you to NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. Shall We Dance? debuts January 28th.

Shall We Dance? started with a cute premise; a woman getting to know her two birth sisters purchases a dance studio and moves in with them above the studio. As she’s getting to know them, she’s simultaneously falling in love with her hot cop student.

Unfortunately, the plot spiraled off into a side plot that took away most of the attention from the main romance: the hot cop’s sister is hard at work overcoming her PTSD from a gang rape when she realizes she’s being stalked by one of her previous attackers. Normally I’m a big fan of strong subplots in romance, but this was such a large part of the book that it often felt like the romance plot between the MC and the cop had been entirely abandoned. Wooden dialogue did not help, nor a host of missed opportunities for good scenes. One of my romance pet peeves is when the author skips over important life events, and this book missed several, namely the proposal and the wedding. Surely I am not the only one out there who thinks it is absolutely senseless to gloss over a wedding when the entire point of the book is supposed to be the romance? Anyone with me on this? Because I see it allllll the time.

Anyway, Shall We Dance? remains very surface-level from start to finish; it never got past lukewarm for me, whether in the character relationships, the chemistry, or the plot. There will of course be sequels to this book–romance authors adore their big families!–but I won’t be picking up the next in the series.

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

Illustration courtesy of Ally Grosvenor.

The twenty-sixth 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.

Work (the real, boring kind) has been the theme of the past couple weeks. It’s the busy season at my job, and I’m just happy to get home every day and curl up with my dog, a glass of wine, and season three of True Blood. So I won’t say I’m off my game exactly, but I’m just kind of waiting out the days at this point until things calm down again work-wise and my creative well refills.

Nevertheless, my WIP is still ever on my mind, and I was really happy this past week that my husband took a look at my last few chapters and gave me some much needed feedback. My writing process and writing brain both work really well with an alpha reader, and my husband just so happens to be an excellent one; he’s forever finding the plot holes in TV shows and picking apart character motivations. It means we’re not True Blood buddies (alas), but that’s a small price to pay for having a strong manuscript. 😛

Anyway, I’m going to try to get some drafting done. Hope everyone’s having a great weekend, and enjoy Chapter Twenty-Six.