Wednesday, 21 August 2019

#bookreview: Speak No Evil | Liana Gardner

Speak No EvilSpeak No Evil by Liana Gardner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. Liana Gardner sure pulls at your heartstrings with Speak No Evil.

Melody Fisher has been shunted from foster home to foster home ever since the death of her mother and the disappearance of her father. Every time she has spoken up to defend herself, something even worse happens, so she gradually falls into silence. But now, she needs to speak again, to tell her side of why she stabbed Troy.

Gardner brings you on a journey of recovery through song and memory as Dr Kane, Melody's therapist, uses the one thing that holds Melody together to help her communicate again: music. She anchors each chapter in a song, using the lyrics--beautifully written by Lucas Astor-- to bridge Melody's present and her traumatic past. Melody's gift may be the gift of song, but Gardner's true gift is evoking the emotions of a vulnerable young girl and giving her voice through this story.

Melody's story isn't an unfamiliar one. Right from the beginning, I knew why she stabbed Troy. Discounting insanity--and Melody is definitely not insane--there can only be one reason why a young girl would attack a bright, promising young athlete. Only one reason why courts and public opinion would want to side with a promising, white jock against the word of a troubled, mixed-race girl. We've seen it in the news all too often. She must be lying. Gardner holds no punches, describing the things that happened, not in a voyeuristic, pornographic or erotic way, but in Melody's dark memories and trauma--take this as a content/trigger warning.

Yet, in the midst of the darkness, shines a beacon of hope:
It is not your fault.
You are more than your past.
You are stronger than you think you are.
You are a survivor.
We will stand with you.

If these are the words you need to hear, let Gardner whisper it to you again and again through Dr Kane's patience, Rebecca Prescott's persistence, and Quatie Raincrow's love and wisdom.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Vesuvian Books via Edelweiss. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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Speak No Evil releases on 1 October 2019.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

#bookreview: Claiming T-Mo | Eugen Bacon

Claiming T-MoClaiming T-Mo by Eugen Bacon
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The most I can say about this book is that it wasn't quite what I was expecting. The narrative flits between the lives of the women in T-Mo's life and how his dual personality and subsequent disappearance impacted them.

It was interesting, in a way, but also felt disjointed as you jumped from his mother to his wife to his daughter and his granddaughter and it's really not about them, but it is. It's mostly still about him, in a roundabout way. It's also about abuse and abusive relationships and the perpetuation of it over generations, whether the self-serving coldness of Novic that sets T-Mo on his path, or the casual cruelty of Pastor Ike Drew that chased Salem into T-Mo's arms. And it's finally about freedom, about each woman chasing what it means to be herself in the lines of her life, whether in conjuction with or despite of her husband and her family.

At least, I think that's what it's about, between the jumping from person to person and the switches in POV and the alien things that are happening all over the place. I wish I had liked it much better.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Meerkat Press via Edelweiss. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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Wednesday, 7 August 2019

#bookreview: Pale Kings | Micah Yongo

Pale Kings (Lost Gods, #2)Pale Kings by Micah Yongo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pale Kings starts off slowly, picking up where Lost Gods left off. Yongo takes his time to orient you: The Shedaim Brotherhood is broken, magic is stirring once again, dark beasts have arisen… and gods now walk the land. Strange visions come upon Neythan, Sidon must navigate his way through court intrigue and betrayal, and Daneel and Josef wrestle with the choices that pull them in opposite directions. The slow-build and the changing POVs are slightly disingenuous though. As revelations build, so does the tension, until you’re gripped by the events unfolding before you.

If there were an overarching theme to Pale Kings, it’s trust and betrayal. Nothing is as it seems—and that’s the beauty of this novel. As layer upon layer of history and the hidden past are revealed, Neythan soon discovers that everything he once believed in may not be the truth—and the things he thought were myth and children’s stories may prove truer than fact. Visions and prophecies don’t add clarity either, muddying perceptions of what is to come. When everyone and every faction is working to their own purposes, hiding secrets from each other, each new piece of information necessarily forces a fresh evaluation of who can and should be trusted.

There’s so much more to be unpacked in this epic about the gods who once walked the land and seek to do so once again. And that ending sets up so much excitement for things to come!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Angry Robot via Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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Pale Kings releases on August 13! Preorder your copy here.

Read my review of Lost Gods here.

Saturday, 3 August 2019

#bookreview: Etania's Worth | M.H. Elrich

Etania's Worth (Daughters of Tamnarae #1)Etania's Worth by M.H. Elrich
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

On the planet Tearah, where the various human races possess different Neuma, or powers and gifts granted by God, Etania doubts herself and her gift. Chosen to help save the world? Yeah, right. Cute bodyguard falling in love with her? Double yeah, right. Why would anyone, especially Melchizidek the God of Tamnarae, love or believe in her when she can't even keep the attention of her own father?

Etania's Worth is a Christian allegorical quest fantasy with coming-of-age and chosen-one themes, plus a side of clean romance. Elrich doesn't hide the allegory or the Christian themes--it's stated clearly in the glossary which characters/symbols are meant to reflect Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Melchizidek also obviously has twelve followers (disciples), one of whom betrays him. None of this detracts from the story, and whilst bits of the plot may seem rather apparent or predictable to people well-versed with chosen one or Christian/faith-based stories (whether Biblical stories or fiction), the way it unfolds is nevertheless interesting.

I especially love the extensive worldbuilding you catch glimpses of as Etania, Jakin and Kayel travel throughout Tamnarae on their quest. However, "glimpses" is a key thing here--it sometimes feels as though you're rushed through the world like a tourist without fully experiencing it, which ended up more than a little confusing at times. I guess what I'm saying is that I would have liked a little more immersion, if that makes sense. Still, the Glossary was stuffed with information you didn't know you didn't know so that helped a little.

One of the key themes Elrich addresses in Etania's Worth is the idea of self-worth and acceptance, but in the Christian sense. Etania and Keyel both doubt themselves, their gifts, and their statuses in society because of their youth, experiences, and past. Elrich works with the concepts of redemption as well as reliance on God to build their confidence in both their worth, value, and acceptance of self.

My major bugbear with this novel, which is probably inordinately affected by the fact that I'm currently doing my own edits, is that it could really, really do with another round of editing. The writing is clunky in parts and, whilst readable, could have been tightened up a lot more.

The book will probably suit female YA readers (aged 15 - 20-ish) the best. Whilst there is war and fighting aplenty, there's also a huge chunk of MAYBE HE LIKES ME MAYBE HE DOESN'T WHY WOULD HE EVER LIKE ME I'M UGLY AND TERRIBLE AND USELESS that may turn off teenage boys after a bit.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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Thursday, 1 August 2019

#bookreview: The Escape Manual for Introverts | Katie Vaz

I know it's not my usual book review day! And also I've missed a couple of weeks. I've been away on a roadtrip and in my head, I thought I would have time to keep reading and reviewing. Obviously not. So I'll be slowly catching up a little over the next few weeks.

Here's a short one to tide you over until I actually get stuff done.

The Escape Manual for IntrovertsThe Escape Manual for Introverts by Katie Vaz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a cutesy, off-kilter "manual" on how to escape social situations you really don't want to be in. Not all of them will actually work* though they're sure to elicit a few laughs.

It's a quick read, so perfect for a short getaway from real life. Which is just what every introvert needs.

* not if you want to be an actual relatable, not-weird (adult) human being. And want to keep your job and your friends.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Andrew McMeel Publishing via Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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Monday, 22 July 2019

#guestpost: Why Writing Poetry is Valuable | Matt Nagin (@mnagin)

When I was 16, I wrote tons of poems. I must have filled up fifty notebooks with random scribblings. One day, completely entranced by my new hobby, I told my mother I wanted to be a writer. She was less than pleased. She goes, ‘Oh Matthew! Become a doctor and you can write prescriptions!’

I still write poems today, at 42 years old. Some say I have a bit of a Peter Pan Complex. I still live in a bachelor pad, I’m unmarried, no kids, still have many of the same habits I developed as a teen. This may be accurate. Not sure. But what I do know is that all these years of writing poetry have been valuable.


Poetry taught me to write better. To trust my voice. To listen. To hear. Poetry made writing fun for me. It filled me with a sense of possibility. It also taught me that the most important rule is to be willing to break them all.

A good poet can write cover letters, novels, screenplays, resumes, grant applications, graduate admissions essays, blog articles, contracts, advertising copy, speeches, you name it. It is insanely valuable. Ok. It’s not being a doctor. But it can enrich your life and help you succeed in a wide range of careers.

Am I sometimes disappointed in book sales? Definitely. But just because my newest book, ‘Feast of Sapphires,’ isn’t a best-seller, doesn’t mean I’m not glad I wrote it.

I’m an actor too. Many of the parts I’ve played, on television for example, have reached millions of homes. Still, if only a handful of people read my poems, it’s more rewarding to me. Because this is something I feel intrinsically connected to, something that feels necessary. I wouldn’t be happy without it.

So, no, you can’t trade poetry on the NYSE (Symbol: PTRY). Venture capitalists aren’t squabbling over every last stanza. Nor is Netflix paying billions to have poets read their work at The Beacon Theater. Still, poetry is insanely valuable. It can save your life. In certain ways, at least, it saved mine.

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Matt Nagin is a writer, educator, filmmaker, and standup comedian. His poetry has been published in Antigonish Review, Oxford Magazine and The East Bay Review. Kirkus Reviews deemed his first poetry collection, ‘Butterflies Lost Within The Crooked Moonlight,’ ‘powerful verse from a writer of real talent.’ His second collection, ‘Feast of Sapphires,’ reached #12 on the Amazon Best Seller List. Matt has performed standup in seven countries, and acted in numerous film and tv productions. His first short film, Inside Job, won acting and directing awards on the festival circuit. More at mattnagin.com

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

#bookreview: Fight Write: How to Write Believable Fight Scenes | Carla Hoch

Fight Write: How to Write Believable Fight ScenesFight Write: How to Write Believable Fight Scenes by Carla Hoch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I once attended Carla Hoch's session in a Realm Maker's Conference, where she demonstrated various fighting techniques for a bunch of writers. This is kinda like that, in book form.

Fight Write is a great writing resource. It doesn't just give you basic information about various fighting styles and weapons, but it also directs you to think about how to write a fight scene, and what sort of stuff you should think about when writing it. (Tip: it's not so much about the technicalities that most readers won't know, but about how it feels).

Hoch is hilarious, both in person and in text, so this doesn't turn into a dry and boring textbook. It also goes a little into the psychology of fighting and how and why people react in different ways, gender differences, scene and environment... and how you can "test" fight scenes and scenarios without getting yourself actually beaten up. (Eg.: Never been punched in the eye? Think about how you reacted when you poked your eye; same reaction, just worse injury)

*bonus: there is a chapter on Fighting Aliens and Stuff if you're writing SFF. ;)

Biggest takeaway: When writing a fight scene, it's not just about the fight. It's about the people involved and their motivations.

I mostly read this because I've been struggling with some fight scenes in my WIP and I've bookmarked like a lot of things to re-read as I fix the WIP, so I can safely say this is a very useful book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Writer's Digest Books via Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Purchase a copy here!