Tag Archives: YA

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. ❀

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. ❀

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. ❀

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.

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. ❀

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. πŸ˜›

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

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

Illustration courtesy of Ally Grosvenor.

The twenty-fifth 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.

These past couple weeks have been slow writing- and blog-wise, just due to Christmas and lots of time with friends and family. I’m chugging away at drafting as best I can, but I’ll admit that I’ve been making very slow progress. Regardless, I’m still looking at hopefully getting my first draft of the Beauty and the Beast and Aliens book complete by sometime in February.

For any writers out there, I also want to give a quick shout-out to the Six Figure Authors podcast, which I’ve been enjoying a lot in the last couple weeks. Their last episode featured an in-depth interview with Dean Wesley Smith, who had some really fantastic, unique advice about (not) editing, and the podcast before was just one revelation after the next about selling direct. I do sell direct already from my website, by the way, so if you’ve been meaning to pick up a copy of Specter and you want a little more cash going directly to me, please consider purchasing the book through my store!

I’m also working hard on getting my end of 2019 posts ready; I’m waiting until January to get them up because I do have the sense I’m still going to be finishing a book or two in the next couple days and I want all my stats to be accurate! I love seeing everyone else’s year end posts–best ofs, worst ofs, and everything in between. I think I’m also going to do a “state of the blog/business” post, with some New Year’s resolutions as well. I’ve always enjoyed setting New Year’s resolutions, even if my follow-through is only halfway there. πŸ˜‰

Anyway, hope everyone’s having a great weekend, and enjoy Chapter Twenty-Five. ❀

ARC: A Violet Fire by Kelsey Quick

Big note at the beginning of this review is that not only did I receive an ARC of A Violet Fire for a free and honest review by the author, but that Kelsey Quick and I have become author buddies along the way! I helped her with some of the late-stage editing of AVF, provided cover feedback, and we also talk shop about author stuff. So this review is biased fo sho! But I still wanted to get up a review. πŸ™‚

I had tons of fun reading A Violet Fire. Anyone who’s spent time around these parts knows I’m a big vampire fan, and A Violet Fire was just the right strain of different to keep me glued to the page. I loved the world-building; save for The Passage by Justin Cronin, which I didn’t entirely get along with, I’ve never read a vampire book where vampires have taken over the world. The premise here is simple and makes for great romantic power dynamics: vampires in this universe own humans like cattle, and our human MC, Wavorly, is a blood supply unit of hot vampire bad boy Zein. Yeah, it sounds a little fucked up on paper, but if you’re like me and love a Beauty and the Beast backbone, then this is a book to put on your list.

Quick has a voice for YA, and the book moves swiftly. It does have a first book feel; by that I mean that you can tell it’s gone through a lot of editing and has some patches, but I don’t really deduct for that since every author has a first book. It was all the little touches I enjoyed most: Wavorly’s friendships, the way she uses French to her advantage, her insistence on human dignity, the dark and lush imagery. Reading AVF is kind of like eating candy; the two are nothing alike story-wise, but I was reminded of the momentum I felt when I read The Selection a few years back. It’s just fun.

I’m excited for the sequel to AVF, which I believe is slated for release next year. Vampires are back in YA, thank the lord! And a big congratulations to Kelsey again; as I said in my interview with her, I’ve never seen an indie author put so much effort into a release, and I admire her as a fellow author businesswoman. I will definitely be reading book two.