ARC: Safe Harbour by Christina Kilbourne

Thank you to NetGalley and Dundurn for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. Safe Harbour debuts December 10th.

Safe Harbour is one of a few books I’ve read this year that I’d put in the category of “issue books,” i.e., books that focus on particular real world situations that might not affect all readers, but help give insight and understanding. Myself I wouldn’t normally peg as an issue book kind of reader since I can really bristle at anything that feels too preachy, but Safe Harbour really spoke to me; I was rooting for the MC from page one, especially because she’s in such a perilous situation: a fourteen-year-old on her own in Toronto waiting for her transient father to arrive on his boat. All she has to her name is a tent, a meager stash of cash, a maxed-out credit card, a phone, tuna cans, and soda crackers–oh, and she has a dog that she also has to provide for. And winter is coming, and the MC, who is used to warmer Florida weather, has no idea of the scope of a northern winter.

It’s an unlikely story, but Kilbourne does a great job helping readers see how events could have led to this point. Be prepared for a harrowing story: Safe Harbour illustrates real nice and clear how easily someone can become a victim of sex trafficking, lose a finger to frost bite, or let love (for example, for a pet or a family member struggling with mental illness) keep you from taking steps toward safety. Things worked out okay in the end, but I was praying for the MC along the way.

The characters are the shining feature of this story. For once, I was fully on board the unreliable narrator wagon–I’m not always into unreliable narrators, but I thought it worked splendidly for Safe Harbour. I did think the end wrapped up a bit too neatly and wasn’t that believable, but it didn’t spoil the book in any way. If you’re looking for an issue book that will take you on a roller coaster of emotions and doesn’t get too preachy, Safe Harbour is a good choice.

Short Tuesday #35: “The Secret Life of the Unclaimed" by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

This week I returned to Nightmare Magazine for Short Tuesday to read “The Secret Life of the Unclaimed” by Suyi Davies Okungbowa. You can read the story for free here…

I loved this short story! It’s set in Nigeria and incorporates tons of the local flavor, in terms of the dialogue, setting, and local superstitions. I’m realizing that maybe I have a thing for African horror, since I also love the South African duo S.L. Grey–maybe I should put in a conscious effort to read more genre fiction from that area of the world, since I always find the African-tinged worldbuilding so fascinating.

All the body horror fans listen up, because this story is for you. If you’ve ever wanted a first-person view of what it’s like to turn demonic, with all the gory teeth-gnashing and claw-growing details, definitely check this one out. That’s the story in essence–as simple as a poor high school boy who is unlucky enough to go through a second monstrous puberty. The author gets it done with vivid imagery and a pacing and tone that I found riveting and oddly poetic. It was the kind of story where I just couldn’t look away; if you’re looking for a quick horror read, this is one I highly recommend.

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

Illustration courtesy of Ally Grosvenor.

The twenty-third 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 now also on Wattpad!

In writing news, NaNo is over!!! I was writing up until just a few minutes before midnight; I still came a little short of my goal (21k), but I still managed to hit 18.5k, which is still a very good writing month for me. That puts me at what I’m thinking will be the halfway point (35k) for my Beauty and the Beast and Aliens WIP–hard to say though, because who can tell how long it will end up being. I have a spidey sense that it will be a bit shorter than my previous books, but that’s just guesswork on my part.

This next week I’m going to be picking up all the other pieces of my writing life: blogging, Instagram, ARCs, Goodreads updates, etc. All that’s been terribly neglected in this NaNo push, and I don’t want everyone on social to take my radio silence as a sign that I’ve perished. 😛

Hmm, maybe I should also real quick jot down what I learned this NaNo so I have a historical record. First off, I’ve learned that my stamina doesn’t necessarily die after a couple hours of butt-in-chair time. I do have the capability of writing for eight plus hours and achieving a 1000+ word day. (That might sound ridiculous to some faster writers out there, but I am sloooooooow, and I do a lot of editing as I go, so more than a thousand words is a great day.)

I’ve also learned that I like letting other people know about my NaNo goals! I used to be pretty secretive about my writing life, but now I share it with the world. XD It’s pretty cool to go into work and have my coworkers ask me about my word count–I found it to be really motivating, since I didn’t want to be all “Oh, I’m doing this thing, but actually I’m slacking off on that thing, so just forget I said anything.” Nobody wants to be that guy. Gal. You catch my drift.

Lastly, I learned that getting out of my house to write really is the key for me. I wrote everywhere this month: many multiple coffee shops, a couple different libraries, work (sorry, boss!), an AirBnb writers’ retreat with my friends, on a Thanksgiving trip (another shout out to my amazing friends and husband who didn’t give a fig that I was desperately typing words while they were duking it out on Smash Bros).

Anyway, I’m going to wrap this up here. I’ve missed being present in this space, so expect way more posts for me in the run-up to Christmas. (Yay, Christmas!) Have a great rest of your weekend, and enjoy Chapter Twenty-Three.

Blog Tour + Review: The Princess Plan by Julia London

Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. The Princess Plan debuted November 19th.

Hey, everyone, I’m “alive”! Quotation marks because I’m just barely kicking; NaNoWriMo is attempting to beat me to a bloody pulp. I’ve been really pushing myself this past week, and even hit a new personal best for a daily word count: 2083. I’m really satisfied with my progress on my WIP, but also reaching a point of absolute exhaustion. Seven more days, and then I can be a normal blogger again…

Anyway! Today I get to participate in my very first blog tour–oooh. I’m new to Julia London, and everything about The Princess Plan was speaking to me when I signed up, from the almost fairy tale premise to the cover. Let’s get the nitty gritty out of the way, then get down to the review…

The Princess Plan 
London, Julia 
Mass Market | HQN Books | A Royal Wedding 
On Sale: 11/19/2019  
$7.99 USD
$10.99 CAN


Princes have pomp and glory—not murdered secretaries and crushes on commoners.

Nothing gets London’s high society’s tongues wagging like a good scandal. And when the personal secretary of the visiting Prince Sebastian of Alucia is found murdered, it’s all anyone can talk about, including Eliza Tricklebank. Her unapologetic gossip gazette has benefitted from an anonymous tip about the crime, prompting Sebastian to take an interest in playing detective—and an even greater one in Eliza.

With a trade deal on the line and mounting pressure to secure a noble bride, there’s nothing more salacious than a prince dallying with a commoner. Sebastian finds Eliza’s contrary manner as frustrating as it is seductive, but they’ll have to work together if they’re going to catch the culprit. And when things heat up behind closed doors, it’s the prince who’ll have to decide what comes first—his country or his heart.

Author Bio

Julia London is a NYT, USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of historical and contemporary romance. She is a six-time finalist for the RITA Award of excellence in romantic fiction, and the recipient of RT Bookclub’s Best Historical Novel.


Buy Links

Harlequin | Amazon | Apple Books | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Google Play | IndieBound | Kobo


This is my first foray into Julia London, but I’m already a fan. I thoroughly enjoyed The Princess Plan; it’s swoony, it’s funny, the prose is rock solid, and the character voices were excellent. The MC, Eliza, is a real hoot, and she’s smart. It often takes me a bit of time to build up rapport with the female leads in romance, but with Eliza I was on her team from page one. The prince male lead, too, was great; you can’t help but feel for him as he tries to navigate a world of politics, all while falling head-over-heels for a woman too far beneath his royal station.

Speaking of character, there wasn’t a single character in this book that made me groan. So often in historical romance the female MC is surrounded by friends who are either a) one-dimensional, or b) annoying to the extreme. I actually loved the relationships between Eliza and her friends; their repartee was charming, and I’d love to see more of these characters. (And I’m sure that we will, given that there’s already a second book in the series listed on Goodreads.)

I also want to commend the author on incorporating a suspense plot that kept me guessing. I’ve read a decent amount of historical romance this year, and I’ve learned that I really appreciate a strong non-romantic plot thread; this book delivers on that front, all while keeping the heart-pounding bits front row center. Basically this book kind of has it all, and I was engrossed the whole way through. If you’re looking for a historical romance, I’d definitely keep this one on your radar.

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

The twenty-second 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 now also on Wattpad!

First, I just want to give a quick update that Specter is still free on NetGalley right now. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to keep it up on NetGalley through the end of the year, but still not sure about that, so I’d grab a copy while you can! It’s also free on Kobo through the end of today. I’m curious–does anyone use Kobo as an alternative to buying ebooks through Amazon? I know it’s big in Canada; the majority of my sales through Kobo are from Canadians.

In writing updates, my NaNo’ing has been less than stellar this past week. One of my region’s municipal liaisons sent out a little note at the start of the second week reminding everyone to buckle in because the second week is always the toughest, and man, was she right. Not that I’ve gotten nothing done, but I’ve just had a couple little things happen personally that have sapped my energy. Nevertheless, I’ve managed to get a decent amount done, and I have to keep reminding myself that a decent amount is way better than a negligible amount, which was my output prior to November. 😉

Looking ahead to this next week, I’m excited–I’ve taken three days off work to relax and get some writing done, so I have a five-day (!) weekend coming up. 😀 Could not be more thrilled. Maybe I’ll also get the PDF/EPUB/MOBI packet up for the first part of The Gold in the Dark; I’ve only been promising that for, oh, months?

Anyway, I’d better wrap this up so I can get back to my NaNo words. Have a great rest of your weekend, and enjoy Chapter Twenty-Two.

Short Tuesday #34: “Growing and Growing” by Rich Larson

This week I returned to Nightmare Magazine for Short Tuesday to read “Growing and Growing” by Rich Larson. You can read the story for free here…

I thought this short story was great! It follows two Mexican brothers who discover a baby in the middle of the road while they’re walking home from a night spent drinking. I was really impressed with the atmospheric tone Larson sets immediately, as well as the quick characterization that nevertheless totally allowed me to understand the dynamic between the two brothers in the story. Larson accomplishes a lot in this quick short story; the whole thing wraps up within 1500 words!

The Mexican cultural details contributed a lot to the piece, and everything had just the right amount of ambiguity–I’m never on board with horror that shines a light on every detail. I also loved the author’s voice, and would definitely read more by Larson. It didn’t have that extra je ne sais quoi to take it to a five-star read, but nevertheless, I really recommend giving this story a read if you have ten minutes to spare.

ARC: Hart & Seoul by Kristen Burnham

Thank you to NetGalley and Mascot Books for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. Hart & Seoul debuted June 4th.

I’m digging all the Korean- and K-pop-themed YA recently; this is the first of them that I’ve read, but I have a whole slew of them on my TBR. I used to be a big K-pop fan back in middle and high school–ya know, a hundred years ago or thereabouts–so it tickles me pink that everyone’s feeling the Korea love nowadays. 🙂

Anyway, Hart & Seoul is a cute, fast read that is not without its flaws. I enjoyed the MC’s voice, and I especially liked the banter between her and her K-pop star love interest. The details about the K-pop super fans were tons of fun, and I was so craving Korean food by the middle of this book that I had to make a pit stop at Bonchon on the way home from work.

However, I had some difficulties with this book. First off, I initially had a hard time placing Hart & Seoul as a YA book; for some reason I was getting the impression that it was New Adult from the first chapter, then had to walk back the age of the MC in my mind by a couple years. I also found all the plot twists very predictable, most of them by at least fifty pages. Reading was still enjoyable, but I was forever waiting for the very obvious other shoe to drop. I also wasn’t satisfied with the love interest’s explanations for some of his behavior at the end of the book. His words seemed cheap–no spoilers, but I wouldn’t keep dating this guy. Of course, I’m also a thirty-year-old lady, so I’m not exactly smack dab in the middle of this book’s target audience. 😉

I think if you’re into the K-pop scene or interested in Korean culture then you should really consider reading this book. I had fun with it, but that’s fun** with a couple asterisks attached. Now let me wrap up this review quick, before I start craving Korean barbecue again. 😀

ARC: A Midnight Clear by Sam Hooker, Alcy Leyva, Laura Morrison, Cassondra Windwalker, Dalena Storm, and Seven Jane

Thank you to NetGalley and Black Spot Books for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. A Midnight Clear debuted November 5th.

I’ve made a concerted effort this year to read more short fiction; the vast majority of my weekly Short Tuesday series focuses on dark genre fiction. So I was intrigued by this short story collection from Black Spot Books, which has a dark holiday focus. Like a lot of short story collections, this one was kind of all over the place. I’m going to give each story a mini review, since there’s only six of them.

“The Dauntless” by Sam Hooker was a strong start to the collection. Great prose, fun details, and a gripping premise: the ensuing legal fallout when a ship of Santa’s elves is sent to deliver Christmas joy to one of Lovecraft’s monsters. If you’re a Lovecraft fan, I could see picking up A Midnight Clear just for this story. 4 stars.

“Tidings of the New Moon” by Alcy Leyva was well-written, but didn’t grip me–more a me thing, I think, than anything else. I’m generally a fan of werewolves in fiction, but this story was maybe a bit too on-the-nose for me in terms of some of the details. Nevertheless, Leyva is clearly a talented writer. 3 stars.

“Movin’ On Up” by Laura Morrison was a fun one for me, since I’m letting a Hell-themed project percolate in my mind right now, and that’s what this was: a trio of three inhabitants of Hell trying to persuade a woman destined for Heaven to venture downstairs instead. I wish this story had been given more room for growth, by at least a few thousand more words; it felt rushed. Yet it was tons of fun overall. 4 stars.

“The Poetry of Snow and Stars” by Cassondra Windwalker was a story that I unfortunately did not get along with. It has an adverb-soaked voice and tons of backstory that put me in mind of those romances you read where the author is trying to catch you up on all the previous characters in the series–I’ve never been a fan of that myself, and that sentiment counts doubly for a short story, where no word should be wasted. The maybe-murder-maybe-not plot didn’t catch me, and the Stanley Hotel setting felt wasted. 2 stars.

“Sleep, Sweet Khors” by Dalena Storm is actually the second work I’ve read by this author in 2019; I was introduced to her by her debut novel, The Hungry Ghost. Like Ghost, this story has a strong mythological spine, this time from the Slavic tradition. I didn’t like the mythology infodump in the middle of the story; I always prefer these kinds of details to get threaded through the narrative. As with Ghost, this author feels like she is currently developing her voice; she has some great ideas, and I’m digging the mythology threads she interweaves with her stories, but I’d like to see a bit more lyricism to her prose. 3 stars.

“Snow Angel” by Seven Jane was a weaker end to the collection, sadly. The prose felt overworked, and much of the narrative was spent in the main character’s head, which got tiresome for me as a reader because the MC was just bemoaning the holiday season the entire time–I didn’t want to spend any more time with her than need be! When we got to the big magical climax, I had a difficult time believing that all this was happening to the main character; was she really special enough to have all this magical attention lavished upon her? So this story and I sadly didn’t mesh. 2 stars.

In sum, this collection was a bit of a bumpy ride, but there were some fun, bright moments. If you’re looking for some Christmas-themed stories and you like your fiction with a dose of darkness, consider giving this a go.

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

Illustration courtesy of Ally Grosvenor.

The twenty-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 now also on Wattpad!

First just a quick FYI that Specter is once again free on NetGalley through the end of the month, as well as free on Kobo through the end of today. Not to sound like a #ad, but Kobo is a great ebook distributor for anyone who’s leery of the Amazon juggernaut. This post is in no way sponsored, I just love Kobo to pieces and will keep shouting it from the rooftops.

These past few days have felt so festive because it’s the start of NaNoWriMo! I love how it feels like the entire bookish community comes together in November; even if people aren’t participating in NaNo, everyone’s still cheering all the participants on.

I’m so into this year’s steampunkish NaNo design; I’m going to try to pick up some swag. Also, I’m on track with my words. (On track with my own slower pace, that is–I’m trying for 21k this month, not the full 50k.) For anyone participating, my number one tip is to go to as many meet-ups as possible. That’s how I got to know all my writer friends, and it’s so motivating to be in that supportive, butt-in-chair environment.

Anyway, I have to get back to my NaNo words. (Literally writing this real quick at the start of a meet-up, shame on me!) Have a great rest of your weekend, and enjoy Chapter Twenty-One.

For all the NaNoWriMo pantsers out there who need a little help…

Okay, so I’m a plantser, with an emphasis on the pants. (And if that’s mumbo jumbo to you, it means that I by-and-large dive into my books with only a vague plan. :D) So as the start of November looms, I was intrigued when Reedsy sent me an email about their plot generator! This is a lot more thought-out than other story/character generators I’ve seen; you can set your genre (drama, romance, mystery, fantasy, sci-fi) and lock in the elements that ring true to you, until you have your perfect story.

So you can lock in any of the elements that catch your eye and keep generating more suggestions until the story’s the way you want it!

I decided to treat the “kicks off” bit as a scene in the book, rather than the very start of the book, since I already have the opening part of my project written. Some of the character jobs I treated a bit loosely, given that I already have a decent conception of my characters, but the whole thing really got me thinking and helped me come up with some decent ideas.

I’m doing a Beauty and the Beast soft sci-fi retelling, so because it has both sci-fi and romance elements I did two of them! Here was the sci-fi version I came up with:

An airship pilot, who has an obsessive nature. A supercomputer, who has the patience of a saint. It’s a soft science fiction story about what it means to be human. It kicks off in the dunes with a fight to preserve alien culture. (Note that: someone in the story has recently lost someone dear.) And there’s a twist! There is an accidental bodyswap at one point in the plot.

And here’s the romance version:

A model, who grows carnivorous plants. A prince, who tends to brood. It’s a paranormal romance story about hoping again. It kicks off at a botanical garden with a botched order for a mail-order bride. (Note that: someone in the story has been struggling to live up to societal expectations.) And there’s a twist! The protagonists don’t speak each other’s native languages.

Anyway, I know a lot of book bloggers are doing NaNo this year, so I just wanted to give everyone a useful tip in case you’re scrambling to figure out your story for tomorrow. 🙂 Check it out here, and good luck with NaNo!