wayfarer book review

img_2408After a VERY LONG YEAR of waiting, the sequel to Alexandra Bracken‘s Passenger was finally released earlier this month, and I had to wait two whole days after it came out to receive my copy in the mail.

I could have gone to the bookstore, but seeing as how I ordered it the day before it came out, I was responsible. And I waited.

Once I got the book, I was semi-thankful that I was under the weather, because I finished it in approximately 32 hours– and that was only because I fell asleep and dropped the book on my face. Otherwise it would have been shorter.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I will admit it didn’t wrap me up in the world of time travel and history as much as the first one did. Perhaps it’s because the two characters we came to love together so much, Etta and Nicholas, weren’t together for almost the entire book… or perhaps it was something else I can’t put my finger on. But before I go into more (without spoilers, I promise), here’s what Goodreads has to say:

All Etta Spencer wanted was to make her violin debut when she was thrust into a treacherous world where the struggle for power could alter history. After losing the one thing that would have allowed her to protect the Timeline, and the one person worth fighting for, Etta awakens alone in an unknown place and time, exposed to the threat of the two groups who would rather see her dead than succeed. When help arrives, it comes from the last person Etta ever expected—Julian Ironwood, the Grand Master’s heir who has long been presumed dead, and whose dangerous alliance with a man from Etta’s past could put them both at risk.

Meanwhile, Nicholas and Sophia are racing through time in order to locate Etta and the missing astrolabe with Ironwood travelers hot on their trail. They cross paths with a mercenary-for-hire, a cheeky girl named Li Min who quickly develops a flirtation with Sophia. But as the three of them attempt to evade their pursuers, Nicholas soon realizes that one of his companions may have ulterior motives.

As Etta and Nicholas fight to make their way back to one another, from Imperial Russia to the Vatican catacombs, time is rapidly shifting and changing into something unrecognizable… and might just run out on both of them.

I did absolutely love the secondary characters in the book. I loved getting to know Etta’s father, Julian, Li Min, and more layers of Sophia, Nicholas, and Etta. But, like I said earlier, the fact that the fight for Nicholas and Etta to be together took almost the ENTIRE book… I found myself desperately wanting to skip ahead to the part when they FINALLY REUNITED. This, I’m sure, is the romantic in me.

Since the first book took us on a crazy adventure that brought these two lovebirds together, I hoped the second would bring them together at least halfway through so we could experience more of their balance in the midst of the craziness. This wasn’t the case. However, in a few months I’m hoping to reread both the books in succession and perhaps I won’t feel as torn about my feelings for Wayfarer then.

Overall, this book was beautiful. The places we got to go and the emotions I felt through all of the characters wrapped it up in a wonderful end as a sequel. I especially loved all the toying with history and the potential repercussions of what that could mean.

If you loved Passenger, I would still highly recommend picking up the sequel. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!

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blue tide review & giveaway!

I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of Jenna-Lynne Duncan’s new book, BLUE TIDE– released January 9 (next Monday)! While I am honestly not usually a solely romance fan, this book had so much more to offer than swooning over the pirates. Here is what Goodreads has to say about it:

Seventeen-year-old refugee Lux plots her escape from the island where her family is stranded, denying that her home was lost in the Floods. Lux is determined to get her old life back by any means possible. But before her feet even leave the sand, she’s taken hostage by a vengeance-driven pirate nearly as young as she is.

Her capture is the key to his freedom…

Captain Draven’s scarf veils more than his face. Underneath, he struggles between morality and survival. When Lux sees deeper into his motivations, she’s torn. She can commit mutiny to escape to a home that may no longer exist, or she can try to help Draven escape the clutches of the person responsible for the deaths of half the world. Staying would mean entrusting her life to a pirate. Helping Draven would mean losing her heart to one.

I am not offering any spoilers, but this book did a wonderful job of pulling me in right off the bat. With the Middle Eastern influence and dystopian background underlying it all, I could not back away until I was done (which I luckily had a sick day to do just that!).

While there were some moments that made me roll my eyes every now and again at Lux, the MC, I loved the supporting characters that were a part of her life. I wished for more of Lilou, Ahmend, and Leif– so perhaps we’ll be lucky enough to get a second book? The ending left me aching for more Draven as well, but I won’t say more than that!

One last thing I really wanted more of was the history of the floods. While Armodeous seemed to elaborate on some of this, I wanted more details of what happened during the catastrophe that brought all the characters to where they were when we met them. I wanted to feel the disaster as much as I felt the pain Lux associated with the loss of her previous life.

That being said, if you don’t follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and/or Twitter, now is the time! I am hosting a GIVEAWAY for this very book- a copy of BLUE TIDE (digital or paperback) that will be ordered/sent your way on its release day of JANUARY 9th! To enter, check out my other pages for more details.

Good luck, and happy reading!

 

the rose & the dagger book review

img_0975The Rose & The Dagger is Renne Ahdieh sequel to The Wrath & The Dawn. I went through this book as quickly as I did the first, though I must admit there were slower places in this one, where the first one kept me intrigued and desiring more and more.

Not saying this one didn’t do that, juuuust saying that there were a few places that we were in character’s heads for a little too long for my taste. More action would have been nice to break it up a bit, though I understand why the thoughts were necessary.

Here’s what Goodreads has to say about it:

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad is forced from the arms of her beloved husband, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once thought Khalid a monster—a merciless killer of wives, responsible for immeasurable heartache and pain—but as she unraveled his secrets, she found instead an extraordinary man and a love she could not deny. Still, a curse threatens to keep Shazi and Khalid apart forever.

Now she’s reunited with her family, who have found refuge in the desert, where a deadly force is gathering against Khalid—a force set on destroying his empire and commanded by Shazi’s spurned childhood sweetheart. Trapped between loyalties to those she loves, the only thing Shazi can do is act. Using the burgeoning magic within her as a guide, she strikes out on her own to end both this terrible curse and the brewing war once and for all. But to do it, she must evade enemies of her own to stay alive.

The saga that began with The Wrath and the Dawn takes its final turn as Shahrzad risks everything to find her way back to her one true love again.

 

I loved the new characters we got to see in this book, as well as the old. Being introduced to Shazi’s sister was a definite plus for me, since I have two sisters of my own and understood the struggle Shazi had with that relationship and the secrets she had to protect.

However, with new characters meant that I was taken away from my two favorites for longer periods. While it was necessary to the story, and it helped tie some loose ends, I thought that there could be a little more between Shazi and Khalid to help bring their relationship even more to life in this second book.

Over all, Ahdieh did her story justice, and I was sucked in the second book as quickly as I was with the first. I would recommend these books to anyone who loves One Thousand and One Nights. I’m really looking forward to Ahdieh’s next project, which is said to focus around the legend of Mulan.

trackback thursday: the mountain meadows massacre

mountain meadows massacreIn September of 1857, a wagon train that originated of families mostly from Arkansas, was held under siege for four days until they were lead to their deaths.

These emigrants were headed to California, and consisted of a few wealthy cattle and horse herders, as well as others looking for a better life out West.

When they traveled through Utah, at the time under the “theocratic” ruling, if you will, of Brigham Young and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (commonly known as LDS or Mormons), they were refused supplies in Salt Lake City and Cedar City due to the Mormons suspecting them or taking part in the murders of some of their church members back East, including their late leader/prophet Joseph Smith.

On the first day, the settlers were attacked at Mountain Meadows, Utah by the local Indians, but when they were lead to their deaths it was under the direction of the local Mormon Militia.

The Mormons rode in under a white flag, offered the settlers help to escape the siege of the Native Americans, and had them march on as though leading them back to Cedar City. The settlers were then attacked by Mormons disguised as the Native Americans, so as to skirt away from blame. Around 120 settlers were killed, leaving only children under the age of seven alive.

There were around 17 survivors.

This massacre has been under debate since it happened. The LDS of the time first claimed innocence. Brigham Young did an “investigation,” which was then blamed on the local Native Americans. But upon further investigation and pushing from the national government, Brigham Young and the Saints sought to blame it on Major John Lee, the one who supposedly lead the attack under no orders from anyone higher ranked.

This post could be incredibly long, for this massacre is the setting for my YA historical fiction novel. So, I’ll just sum it up. But you can visit the Mountain Meadows Association site as well as read witness reports from all those years ago if you are interested.

After completing my novel and preparing to query, I got to visit the massacre site in December 2014. I was mixed with emotions of excitement and heartbreak. For somewhere so beautiful to be ever tainted by these innocent Westward travelers was haunting.

mountain meadows selfie

The massacre itself happened on September 11, 1857.

“between shades of gray” book review

imageI previously read Salt to the Sea and decided I needed more Ruta Sepetys in my life. I feel behind the times this year, catching up on so much YA that I missed out on in the last couple of years. But this book…oh, this book.

While I enjoyed from salt to the seaBetween Shades of Gray is more my style. With only one POV and Lina as the narrator– I connected with it so much more.

Here is the Goodreads description:

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously–and at great risk–documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

When I read Ruta Sepetys’ books, I feel as though I’m being plunged into areas of history I previously had no knowledge of. I suppose when we learn things ins school, or even on our own time, we focus so much on what is closest to us. With WWII, I am very aware of the American part, and more of Britain and the Western European front than anything else. But Ruta Sepetys has introduced me to something I hadn’t thought of in so long, and that is what happened to so many others.

This book pulled on my heart and opened my eyes to Lena’s world. I wanted, more than anything while reading, to see her drawings. While Septeys describes everything so vividly, I kept hoping to flip the page and find an illustration. I know that many times this is the beauty of novels, that we can see without seeing, but this was an exception where I wanted it in front of me so badly. I wanted to see the pain in her charcoals, and her twisted views like Munch.

I want to call this book beautiful, but in fact the images that come to mind are anything but your standard “beautiful.” They are heart breaking, and stomach churning, and mind blowing– as they should be.

If you have yet to read this book, or any of Ruta Septeys books, might I suggest changing that– especially if you are a lover of YA historical fiction.

 

book review: the wrath & the dawn

imageThe Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh is one of my favorite books that I have read thus far. Based on A Thousand and One Nights, the story of Scheherazade. It was one that I could not put down, and now all I want to do is life my self-inflicted-book-buying-ban to get the sequel, The Rose & the Dagger.

The Wrath & The Dawn was released in May of last year, and the sequel was released in April of this year.

Here is what Goodreads has to say:

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

 

When I was young, one of my favorite books was The Shadow Spinner, by Susan Fletcher, was one of my favorite books. It was also based on Scheherazade, but was from the perspective of a young girl who was taken into the story-tellers confidence to fuel her with more stories to share with the Sultan so she may continue to live.

The Wrath & The Dawn was like the story went even further for me, only better. Being able to see from the perspective of many characters, and get to know Khalid and Shahrzad in an entirely new light, I literally could not put down the book.

Another thing that it did was make me desperate for the food and colors of this Arabian world that Ahdieh created. With the descriptions of costumes, foods, surroundings, and traditions– I wanted to dive deeper and deeper into it, and Ahdieh did an amazing job of providing me with enough to fuel my imagination in technicolor.

There were a few parts of the story that I found myself questioning the tale, but then I felt like a ‘traditionalist’ and wanting all the stories of One Thousand and One Nights to come to life, not just the love story between Khalid and Shahrzad. With a killer cliff-hanger ending, I can’t imagine how readers who bought this book when it was first released felt without having the sequel ready at their finger-tips. I’m already itching as it is because I didn’t buy the two together at the same time!

This book gets 5/5 for me. Shahrzad, Jalal, Khalid, Despina– all the characters in this story have a voice of their own that makes a reader love (and sometimes dislike) them. If you haven’t read it (and I already feel late to the game), you must. And heed my warning: buy The Rose & The Dagger at the same time so you don’t end up like I am right now.

my love for historical fiction

historical fictveion loI come by my love of historical fiction honestly. Growing up in a family of historians, writers, readers, artists– all of it added up to my creation.

It started when I was young and I would hear my parents talking about historic events at the dinner table. Whether it was Biblical, American, Russian, European, it didn’t matter. Any topic was open for discussion, debate, and ultimately giving my sisters and me history lessons. As I continued in my education, it shocked me that others didn’t know the things I knew already. Not to say that snobbishly, only to say I was blessed in knowing what I knew because of my parents.

Not only did I know it, but I appreciated it. I lived for it. And I always wanted to know more.

I’m pretty sure I only read historical fiction up until I had required reading in school. Even then, the classics to me are from the same pot of tea, so I was always wanting to get my hands on more. However, there are three authors who made me want to read more, and more, and more– and with that, study more, and more, and more.

Ann Rinaldi

Samuel Shellabarger

Elizabeth George Speare

These three authors, to me, filled pages with adventures, challenges, and history that everyone should want to learn more about.

When I first started writing, I knew I wanted to write historical fiction. But it frightened me. I was afraid of the hours dedicated to research to get the details right. I was intimidated by the idea that someone could read my book and decide that I was no true historian, and give me a raving review that was less than mediocre.

I. Was. Afraid.

So I avoided it. I first wrote a YA Contemporary, which I love and hope someday others still might as well, but my editor and CP pointed out the language was very formal. I didn’t understand the concept of it being anything but, and realized that perhaps that came from my choices of reading. When I started reading contemporary novels, I tried to refocus my own into language that wasn’t ‘antiquated’.

Then I moved West, and something clicked inside of me. Having gone through my own adventure of moving with my family cross-country, I remembered books I read about families doing the same in covered wagons. And that’s when I realized I needed to stop being afraid of chasing my passion, and go for it.

I wrote my first historical fiction. And it’s what got me my agent.

History, the past, is a part of all of us. The amazing thing is that we all have our own lineage, our own pasts, our own family stories that have been passed down for generations– but the bulk of it is we all come from somewhere.

That, to me, is the beauty of historical fiction. These stories bring everything that we may have learned or wished to learn to life. Even if we know they aren’t straight facts, they help us feel a part of that time in history. They make us crave for ‘simpler’, or harder, times. And many times, they also make us appreciate the here and now.

You will find me reading just about every genre, and if you question that you can take a look at my bookshelves. But, if we get down to it, I write historical fiction because it made me who I am as a reader and a writer– and I’m so thankful for that.

 

how working with an editor changed the way i write

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I was never good with criticism, good or bad. I have never been good with rejection, and I have never been good with someone telling me how to do something.

This sounds like a, “DON’T WORK WITH ME” advertisement as an author. BUT I PROMISE THIS WAS IN THE PAST!

After I finished my first true novel, one that had been years in the making, I sat down and was excited and ready to query. I wanted to start sending out my amazingness and have everyone faun over my words.

This was the dream. Isn’t it everyone’s?

Luckily, at this point in my writing I was blessed with a wonder CP who gently suggested that maybe I should consider working with an editor to work through some slow parts and make my manuscript the best it could be. While I wasn’t sure of cost and the idea of someone openly criticizing and making suggestions with my book-baby, I decided to give it a shot.

After e-mailing and going over some details back and forth, I began working with Katelyn from Stark Contrast Editing. I am blessed because I was basically her first client, and I think this is one thing that really made it easier on me to be open to criticism. She was patient and quick to respond, and understanding of many things I didn’t want to change at the time.

I can’t review Katelyn’s services justly, because she completely changed the way I write. She opened my mind to little things (action, not description) that I was pretty terrible at. Words or phrases that I overused (“sigh” and “that” and descriptive actions of the eyes), and so much more.

Though my first book was unsuccessful in scoring me an agent, I was confident that Katelyn had given me the tools to do even better. Once more, she encouraged me to start writing what I really wanted to write. I had worked with her on a YA Contemporary, but Historical Fiction was my passion, and ultimately I think my calling with writing.

I took her advice to heart and worked hard on my next manuscript. When consulting the very same CP who introduced me to Katelyn, she raved how much better this first draft was, and it was only off of her suggestions that I worked, queried, and scored an agent. Although I didn’t work with Katelyn on this one, I cannot deny that she didn’t completely makeover my writing process.

Yes, your book may be that good to begin with, but it seems to me there is no writer that has never had a typo or even just a sentence that didn’t make sense.

I would always suggest working with an editor over not– even if you don’t think you need one. Everyone needs an editor, and every writer is not an editor. Whether you hire someone or work with another writer in a personal way, it needs to be a trusted relationship that can help develop your story into a true masterpiece.

 

While I didn’t write this as a plug for Katelyn’s services, if you are looking for an editor I cannot recommend her more. She and Nikki (aka my wonderful CP I talked about) at Stark Contrast Editing are masters at what they do, and you couldn’t ask for better people to work with.

 

 

an author’s dream

an author's dreamWhen I was younger, I used to dream about being famous.

Didn’t we all?

It started with writing. From a young age I loved to read and write so much, I dreamed of my books being in the book fair catalog, and it only escalated from there. Every couple of years it would switch– pop star, movie star, Broadway star, symphony member–but overall it was the same concept:

I wanted to be known. I wanted to be recognized. I wanted to be famous.

That’s the world we live in. We want to be set above everyone else and talked about by people we don’t know. Even, sometimes, if it’s negative.

As I’ve gotten older, the dream has settled with my writing. While I still admittedly dream of being the next Ann Rinaldi or Janette Oke, mostly I just want to get my stories out there.

I want to release them into the wild. I want them to be read. I want them to be appreciated.

The written word is a beautiful thing. Someone has slaved away to string sentences together in a new style, his/her style, to form a story of his/her imagination.

I’m not trying to give myself too much credit here. But writing is work. Don’t be fooled in to think differently.

It is fun, of course, too. It is amazing when those voices come to life and everything flows like a stream in the desert–but the times when the water runs dry are the times you wonder what the heck you’re doing, and then realize how your passion is also work.

I know there are still those out there who dream of being famous. Who write to make the bestsellers list or hope their works will be turned into movies. There’s no shame in that.

But I think, over all, authors–writers–write because they have to. Because there are these stories inside just bursting through every pore of their bodies, and if they don’t come out, it’s like they’re purposefully trapping a dream from coming to life.

And we wouldn’t want that, would we?

If you are able to make your dream come to life, to the best of your ability, the only person who you harm if you don’t–is yourself.

If you’re an author, keep dreaming. You’re going to make it.

My coffee mug was a birthday present from my amazing CP/BFF. You can get yours here. Also, if you missed it & liked this piece, make sure to check out: own the word: you are an author.

own the word: you are an author

imageI used to say I was “just a writer.” That I “just write.”

Whenever someone would call me an author, I would humbly respond, “I’m just a writer. I haven’t been published.”

Somewhere in my mind was this idea that I wasn’t a true author until my book was published. Not until I could see it on Amazon or a shelf at Barnes and Noble. Only then would I be a real author.

Not before. Not now.

Right now, I just write and dream of being an author. I’m an aspiring author.

But what does aspiring mean?

aspire

to long, aim, or seek ambitiously; be eagerly desirous, especially for something great or of high value.

Do I long, aim or seek to be an author?

author

person who writes a novel, poem, or essay; the composer of a literary work….

Well, according to those definitions–no. I don’t aspire to be an author.

I AM an author.

If you ask if I’m a person who longs, aims, and seeks to write a novel, poem, or essay, that’s wrong.

I’ve already done that.

I’ve already written a novel. I’ve written two, actually, and I’m working on a third. I’ve already developed the words and sentences and chapters and characters and everything that goes into the literary work.

So, I am not “just a writer.”

(In fact, according to the dictionary, there isn’t a difference. A writer is an author. They can be simultaneous. If someone is in the business of writing books, he or she is an author.)

It doesn’t matter if you haven’t been published. It doesn’t matter if you’re only halfway, or a third, or a fourth of the way through a piece of work.

YOU are an author.
You have come up with a beautiful, new idea. You are writing that idea. You are slaving away over every word choice, every twist and turn. You are getting to know your characters and bringing them to life. You are breathing the story in and out so others can one day do the same.

You ARE an author.
If you have queried a book that has been rejected countless times or you got an agent on your first try, you are an author. If you have gone on rounds and rounds of submissions, only to have to turn to another project, you are an author. If you have self-published and gone through the hard work of promoting your own story, you are an author.

You are an AUTHOR.
You have created a story, a life, a world out of nothing but words and your imagination. You have stayed up countless nights, lived off of coffee alone, and missed opportunities to make a deadline. You have sacrificed favorite characters or storylines for the sake of your art and stuck to your guns when you weren’t willing to sacrifice your hard work.

When you say you’re an aspiring author or you’re just a writer, you are saying that you are TRYING to be something, or you are MERELY something.

Don’t belittle yourself. Enough people are going to try to do that for you as time progresses.

YOU ARE AN AUTHOR.
Own it. Be it. Write it.

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Get your “own the word” tee in pink, blue, yellow, or purple ombre. Available in various styles and colors!

 

This post was originally posted on Stark Contrast Editing‘s blog and has also been featured on Golden Wheat Literary‘s blog.