Photographer, book reviewer, mama, cat-lover in Seattle. Originally from England.
You can find my reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, and Edelweiss+.
School library volunteer at my son's K8 school. Member of ALA and YALSA.
Review requests ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
It's present-day San Francisco, and ’The Waning Age’ is 10 years old. This means that at that age, it's expected that you will lose your ability to feel emotions. You will lose not only lose the ability to feel sadness, but also joy and everything in between.
Natalia Peña is the main character in this engaging novel, written as dated entries in a journal, and she has already waned. But her younger brother Calvino, who she calls Cal, has not, and he doesn't seem to show any signs that he will. Since their mother died tragically they have been living with foster parents, and while they show close bonds, it's only Cal who shows what would be recognizable as normal human responses to events around him, so much so that a company called RealCorp takes Cal to do tests on him to find out why he isn't waning.
They are also a major manufacturer of ’synaffs’ which are synthetic drops that basically only the wealthy can now afford in order to feel whatever emotion you choose. Ones that are bought on the street could be made of any unknown dangerous harmful chemicals causing the wrong emotional reactions. Most people instead choose to go through their lives feeling nothing, having forgotten what it felt like to have an emotion.
At the center of this illuminating book, beyond the fight that Natalia goes through to get her brother back from RealCorp, is a look at what humans are without their ability to feel. The absolute best sci-fi writing can feel so frighteningly real and believable, and this conversation about what humans are without - most importantly - being empathetic towards each other, touches on a nerve.
As someone who has always been emotional, having dealt with depression and anxiety and being the sort of person who has even lamented about how much easier life would be if I wasn't so empathetic (in contrast to others around me), this was eye-opening.
What has supposedly separated us from other beings is our ability to have emotions, to be ’sentient’, so what are we when we can't feel?
This is at the core of the characters in the book called Fish: they make me think of those who can commit baseless crimes without remorse or motive, they're basically psychopaths.
Questions came up in my head about how is this different from the thinking of someone who shows no emotion toward the victim and can commit serial murders.
What's the difference between thinking and feeling? How do we express emotion without feeling it? How do we have relationships without showing emotions? Is our own society going in the direction of where people aren't able to show or feel emotions? How have technology and social media contributed to this?
All of these questions come up and it really had me thinking!
I personally feel like one of the most essential problems today is that most people lack the ability to be empathetic towards each other. ’The Waning Age’ really made me sad (*emotion!) at the prospect of emotions disappearing altogether, good and bad, and how that would obliterate compassion completely.
Author S.E. Grove has managed to write a YA sci-fi novel that not only recognizes the bond between brother and sister, but she has also done some brilliant world-building, with just the right amount of action, and has brought some big ideas to the table. I will be thinking about this one for a long time, and I have already told a few other sci-fi authors about it.
'The Waning Age' is more profound than initial impressions would let on. And I have to say, this would make an excellent movie!
RELEASE DATE: February 5th, 2019 (add it to your TBR now!!)
I’m going to go ahead and post the info and giveaway, (and link to an excerpt!) for this wonderful fantasy book about to be released on November 27th, but I didn’t get to review it in time because my early reader’s copy has got lost in the mail (or someone is reading it at the post office)!!
Once I have received it I’ll be able to post a review but for now, I’ll tell you a little bit more.
Thanks, as always, to my friends at The Fantastic Flying Book Club for having me on the book tour!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, LYRA SELENE
Lyra Selene was born under a full moon and has never quite managed to wipe the
moonlight out of her eyes. When she isn’t dreaming up fantastical cities and brood-
ing landscapes, Lyra enjoys hiking, rainstorms, autumn, and pretending she’s any
good at painting.
She lives in New England with her husband, in an antique farmhouse that’s probably
not haunted. AMBER & DUSK is her debut novel.
You can find her online at LyraSelene.com
ABOUT THE BOOK
Amber & Dusk
by Lyra Selene
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: November 27, 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Sylvie has always known she deserves more. Out in the permanent twilight of the
Dusklands, her guardians called her power to create illusions a curse. But Sylvie
knows it gives her a place in Coeur d'Or, the palais of the Amber Empress and her
So Sylvie sets off toward the Amber City, a glittering jewel under a sun that never
sets, to take what is hers.
But her hope for a better life is quickly dimmed. The empress invites her in only as
part of a wicked wager among her powerful courtiers. Sylvie must assume a new
name, Mirage, and begin to navigate secretive social circles and deadly games of
intrigue in order to claim her spot. Soon it becomes apparent that nothing is as it ap-
pears and no one, including her cruel yet captivating sponsor, Sunder, will answer
her questions. As Mirage strives to assume what should be her rightful place, she'll
have to consider whether it is worth the price she must pay.
Here is AN EXCLUSIVE BOOK EXCERPT! Just click on this SCRIBD LINK!
And to enter the GIVEAWAY to get the chance to win a copy of book (US only), head over to the AMBER & DUSK GIVEAWAY! It’s running from 11/12 - 11/30
In the meantime, add this to your Booklikes TBR, and to your GOODREADS!
When someone recently asked ‘Katherine, can I send you some candy and a book?’, what on earth do you think I possibly replied?
There was a teeny catch - well, actually a few (and yes, luckily I knew the sender); there were some rules to this 'Wicked Reads' Halloween campaign...
I won't tell you the books but I WILL tell you the candies: they were TWIZZLERS, SOUR PATCH KIDS, SNICKERS, JOLLY RANCHERS, & SWEDISH FISH.
Which would have you have chosen?
I was hoping for a gory, bloody read, and my guessing wasn't too bad (I nearly matched the book to the candy I wanted!). I did get one of the books I hoped for though - 'There's Someone Inside Your House', by Stephanie Perkins - because I wanted to write a creative post about my favorite slasher/horror movies.
'There's Someone Inside Your House' is a YA thriller-horror of the slasher variety; someone is killing teens at the high school, so naturally the list is where my head went to...
I used to work in film production (I have a BA in film) and I had the devilish delight of working on a whole slew of 'highly-rated' and so-much-fun-to-make horror movies during my illustrious film-making career.
This is my favorite movie-watching season so this just had to be done!
*MY ULTIMATE MUST-SEE HORROR-SLASHER MOVIE LIST*
*I do give some details about the movies away but not too much; you may know some of these, yes?! Click on the titles to take you to the movie links on IMDb after you have read my blurbs:
HALLOWEEN (1978) - This really is the penultimate classic teen slasher movie, and it stars The Scream Queen herself, Jamie Lee Curtis. Michael Myers has escaped a mental institution and is on the loose in Haddonfield on Halloween night. Jamie Lee plays Laurie, and this movie made her a star. You won't forget that ominous soundtrack, and you won't get that masked face out of your mind.
*Subsequent 'Halloween' movies (not talking about the recent installment) weren't quite as good, but do watch the second one right after the first for full effect.
FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980) - This started yet another horror movie franchise (and again didn't expect to), but this time the star wasn't even in the original/first installment. Everyone seems to know about Jason Voorhees terrorizing the campers who come to Camp Crystal Lake, but this 'campy' debut in the series is one to watch because of how it's a little different from the ones that follow. The deaths are gory, there's lots of blood, and you will probably recognize only Kevin Bacon as one of the actors who went on to anything after this.
*Again, the second installment is alright too, as is the third; the Jason character has a metamorphosis in the films, but after that, the killings get to the point where they are laughable or gratuitous. The actor who plays Jason believes he has the highest body count of any horror actor, and takes great pride in doing his role.
SCREAM (1996) - A movie that turned the entire horror genre on its head, coming from the horror-movie making legend Wes Craven (of 'A Nightmare of Elm Street' fame), 'Scream' has its costumed killer targeting a group of teens by using the 'rules' of horror movies as his 'code'. Like Hitchcock's 'Psycho', when its star is killed off very early on, Drew Barrymore is the first to go, which totally threw the audience through a loop. This movie really is genius, and because it comes from one of the horror masters, there are gems in here (humor, pacing, the script, references to other movies), that would otherwise fall flat with another filmmaker.
*Inspired one of the most recognizable Halloween costumes (the 'Scream' mask) I can think of.
PROM NIGHT (1980) - Hot off her 'Halloween' success, Jamie Lee Curtis decided to take on another horror, shedding the veneer of being the vulnerable screamer. This time she's prom queen, and one of a small group of teens who covered up the accidental death of a friend six years ago. Naturally it's the night of the high school senior prom and what better occasion than this for a masked killer to knock off these teenagers who need to pay for what they allowed to happen to their friend all those years ago.
*Features some excellent disco tracks, rad dance moves and fashion.
THE SHINING (1980) - This film upped the ante when it came to horror because of all the perfect ingredients. First of all, its A-list director, Stanley Kubrick, was a master filmmaker, and he employed a brilliant cast, including Jack Nicholson in one of his most unforgettable roles. Based on the haunting book by one of the most profilic horror writers of our time, Stephen King, ‘Jack Torrance’, his wife and child, head to the deserted Overlook Hotel (could there ever be a more memorable movie setting too?!) to be ‘caretakers’ in the off-season and so Jack can write. But his descent into madness, played so well by Nicholson, directed perfectly by Kubrick, is captured on film and it’s movie perfection.
*Stephen King wasn’t too impressed with the adaptation, despite this being regarded as one of the best movies of all time, and one of the best of his book adaptations.
**Considered a ‘slasher’ movie because of the famous axe swinging (that axe lives here in Seattle at the ‘MoPop’ at the Horror Exhibit).
SHREDDER (2001) - Last but not least, I thought I’d include this straight-to-DVD slasher-horror movie that I worked on, quite a few moons ago now. It’s not great, it’s actually funny in parts, and it’s aimed at a teen audience, but I would have to say it was one of the craziest movie-making experiences I ever had. We filmed it up at Silver Mountain, Idaho, and the majority of it was filmed at night; standing in the snow for hours in the middle of the night making movies is a cold business (and we made a bloody mess wherever we went). I took the gig because I had friends working on it, and I wanted the challenge of working on a movie in the snow and on a mountain, and I was pretty stoked at myself.
Movie-making is fun, but it’s HARD! I worked on movies for about 10+ years.
*There’s nothing quite as funny as taking breaks with actors with ice picks in their backs...
I hope you enjoyed my list; are any of these new to you? What’s your favorite?
I’ll be finishing off my book right now; thank you to Penguin and the Wicked Reads campaign for the goodies and my signed copy of the pretty book you see below!
I have the super-duper fabulous honor of revealing the cover for the upcoming sophomore novel from the talented KATYA DE BECERRA today; I’m one of the chosen few to do so and I’m thrilled!
Katya’s debut novel, ‘WHAT THE WOODS KEEP’ has barely hit the shelves (9.18.18) but she’s ready to give readers another haunting, horror-adventure to set their sights on for their next Fall read. This time she’s going to take us on a terrifying trip to the hot desert sands of Dubai...
Katya de Becerra was born in Russia, studied in California, lived in Peru, and then stayed in Australia long enough to become a local. She was going to be an Egyptologist when she grew up, but instead she earned a PhD in Anthropology.
Alif had exciting summer plans: working on her father’s archeological dig site in the desert with four close friends... and a very cute research assistant. Then the sandstorm hit.
Their camp wiped away, Alif and the others find themselves lost on the sands, seemingly doomed… until they find the oasis. It has everything they need: food, water, and shade—and mysterious ruins that hide a deadly secret. As reality begins to shift around them, they question what’s real and what’s a mirage.
The answers turn Alif and her friends against each other, and they begin to wonder if they’ve truly been saved. And while it was easy to walk into the oasis, it may be impossible to leave...
Katya de Becerra's new supernatural thriller hides a mystery in plain sight, and will keep you guessing right up to its terrifying conclusion.
Now go and add it to your TBR here, and on your GOODREADS!
So here’s that beautiful, captivating cover I promised you...
It's here! One of my most anticipated books of the year; it's the follow-up to Emily Suvada's immensely successful debut 'This Mortal Coil', and it has one of the most unforgettable covers (another great design thanks to Regina Flath).
You MUST read This Mortal Coil before you read This Cruel Design, and I will be (and have been) the first person to shove it into your hands so you'll read it. And this may be categorized as YA, but it has to be some of the smartest science-fiction that I've read in some time, so I'd recommend it to anyone who wants a fast-paced, intelligent dystopian read full of twists all the way through to the end.
Read on, because TODAY, to celebrate the release of This Cruel Design, I have posted the Q&A that I had the chance to have with Emily.
Thank you, as always, to The Fantastic Flying Book Club for having me on this blog tour!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, EMILY SUVADA
Emily Suvada was born and raised in Australia, where she went on to study mathematics and astrophysics. She previously worked as a data scientist, and still spends hours writing algorithms to perform tasks which would only take minutes to complete on her own. When not writing, she can be found hiking, cycling, and conducting chemistry experiments in her kitchen. She currently lives in Portland, OR, with her husband.
ABOUT THE BOOK
'This Cruel Design' by Emily Suvada
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: October 30, 2018
Genre: Young Adult -- Science Fiction
Cat thought the Hydra epidemic was over, but when new cases pop up, Cat must team up with an enemy to fix the vaccine before the virus spirals out of control in this thrilling sequel to This Mortal Coil, which New York Times bestselling author Amie Kaufman says “redefines ‘unputdownable.’”
The nightmare of the outbreak is finally over, but Cat’s fight has only just begun.
Exhausted, wounded, and reeling from revelations that have shaken her to her core, Cat is at a breaking point. Camped in the woods with Cole and Leoben, she’s working day and night, desperate to find a way to stop Lachlan’s plan to reprogram humanity. But she’s failing—Cat can’t even control her newly regrown panel, and try as she might to ignore them, she keeps seeing glitching visions from her past everywhere she turns.
When news arrives that the Hydra virus might not be as dead as they’d thought, the group is pushed into an uneasy alliance with Cartaxus to hunt down Lachlan and fix the vaccine. Their search takes them to Entropia, a city of genehackers hidden deep in the desert that could also hold the answers about Cat’s past that she’s been searching for.
But when confronted with lies and betrayals, Cat is forced to question everything she knows and everyone she trusts. And while Lachlan is always two steps ahead, the biggest threat to Cat may be the secrets buried in her own mind.
I'm so thrilled to have been able to give these questions to Emily, as I'm a superfan of hers, so ENJOY!!
Q&A with Kat's Books
~ Thank you, Emily!!
YOU have the chance of winning one of the 2 prize copies of This Cruel Design by Emily Suvada (USA only) by ENTERING HERE!
And to ORDER THE BOOK, click on these handy-dandy links:
First, ADD to Goodreads
Order on Amazon
Order at Barnes & Noble
Or through Book Depository (International, Free Shipping *they have the UK edition with the cool DNA coil down the side)
I'm at the very end of this blog tour, but here is the link for the whole BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE!
I really hope you pick this one up, as well as This Mortal Coil, if you haven't had the chance to do that yet (you NEED to before you read this installment).
This is an excellent sci-fi series that will leave you breathless, and keep you guessing, and turning those pages deep into the night. I can NOT wait for the next, and final book in the series!
x ~ K
This book is OUT TODAY, everyone!!!! I am so excited to be posting about it and reviewing it TODAY. This is absolutely going to go down as one of my favorite reads of the year. I read all over the map (as in sci-if, horror, thrillers, you name it), but this was a truly fun read for me, with only a little bloodshed between the pages. So loosen your bodices and get comfy, and get ready for trip back home to London, England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth the First; it’s 1601.
*Thank you (again) to the amazing peeps at Rockstar Book Tours for including me on this blog tour!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, VIRGINIA BOECKER
Virginia Boecker is the author of The Witch Hunter series and An Assassin's Guide to Love and Treason. A graduate of the University of Texas, she had a decade-long career in technology before quitting to become a full-time writer. When she isn't writing, Virginia likes running, reading, traveling, and trying new things (most recently: learning to drive a boat). She has lived all over the world but currently resides in beautiful Lake Oswego, Oregon with her husband, children, a dog called George and a cat named Thomas.
You can visit Virginia online at virginiaboecker.com or on Instagram @virgboecker
ABOUT THE BOOK
Title: AN ASSASSINS GUIDE TO LOVE AND TREASON
Author: Virginia Boecker
Pub. Date: October 23, 2018
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
When Lady Katherine's father is killed for being an illegally practicing Catholic, she discovers treason wasn't the only secret he's been hiding: he was also involved in a murder plot against the reigning Queen Elizabeth I. With nothing left to lose, Katherine disguises herself as a boy and travels to London to fulfill her father's mission, and to take it one step further--kill the queen herself.
Katherine's opportunity comes in the form of William Shakespeare's newest play, which is to be performed in front of Her Majesty. But what she doesn't know is that the play is not just a play--it's a plot to root out insurrectionists and destroy the rebellion once and for all.
The mastermind behind this ruse is Toby Ellis, a young spy for the queen with secrets of his own. When Toby and Katherine are cast opposite each other as the play's leads, they find themselves inexplicably drawn to one another. But the closer they grow, the more precarious their positions become. And soon they learn that star-crossed love, mistaken identity, and betrayal are far more dangerous off the stage than on.
Did you know that Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night was written to capture the would-be assassin of Queen Elizabeth I?!
And what do you get when you combine a cross-dressing Catholic called Katherine Arundell, out to avenge the death of her father, and put her slap-dab in the middle of merry old London?
‘An Assassin’s Guide to Love & Treason’, of course, and it’s quite scrumptious.
This romp through 1601 will have you questioning any history you may think you’ve learned about Elizabethan London, about the dalliances of Shakespearean players, and about the tension between the Protestants and Catholics at that time.
Being from England myself, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a bit of ‘history’ from home to indulge in. I delighted in this witty, clever tale about young Lady Katherine Arundell from Cornwall, who witnesses her father’s execution for being a practicing Catholic. This was because England is now Protestant under Queen Elizabeth I, and to avenge her father’s death, she then goes to London and plans to assassinate Queenie herself. Tall order perhaps.
Katherine constructs a plan, along with her merry band of Catholic conspirators; this means she must infiltrate the upcoming production of ‘Twelfth Night’, and create a new male identity for herself, Kit.
This is really at the crux of how clever Virginia Boecker is being with ‘Assassin’s Guide’ (and I know she knows this, because of her most brilliant Author’s Note in the back; only I do hope everyone reads it!). As many of you may know, women weren’t players in Shakespeare’s plays, men were, and they played all the women’s parts too. In order for Katherine to disguise herself in London, she must become Kit (this was a name short for Christopher back then), as well as to be a player on the stage.
She then gets the part as Viola, who (if you haven’t read ‘Twelfth Night’) dresses up as a man in the play. It all becomes quite complicated when Kit becomes drawn to Toby, who is another lead player, and writer, and unbeknownst to Kit, a spy for Elizabeth Regina; he’s trying to deduce which of the Twelfth Night players is the treasonous one. Yet he’s falling for Kit, just as he did previously for the late Kit Marlowe (that’s Christopher Marlowe to you).
Katherine’s own confidence as a ‘man’ mirrors Viola’s growing confidence in the play, particularly as Toby and ‘Kit’ rehearse together, and the themes of bisexuality and questions about societal gender norms play like their own characters in the book. Just like the very irony we see in having men play the parts of women (who play men), this is a double irony, if you will, forces the characters to constantly question their identities, as well as their loyalties. At a time when many only had loyalty to the Crown or to God, questioning your identity was frowned against and was highly confusing, and naturally left you open to being cast out by all sorts of weaknesses such as witchcraft and going back to the Old Religion (Catholicism). You certainly didn’t admit to liking the same sex, even if you did put on a dress for all to see in the Globe Theatre.
The ‘supporting cast’ of William Shakespeare, the Wright Brothers, and even the Queen, lend so much color to the tapestry that Boecker has woven for this ‘Guide’, and readers will love it when familiar names and places appear in the story. I’d also say there’s a little bit of everything here to make this an all-round great read: we start off with a murder, and then we have action, romance, and a lot of wit and charm. Shakespeare would approve of all of that.
Virginia has actually taken great pains to do her research and in her Author’s Note points out where she has meddled with the history and where she has kept to the facts. I absolutely loved this small part of the book, as well as the long bibliography she has listed.
While you may not come out with a proper Elizabethan history lesson, or an actual assassin’s guide, you will be thoroughly entertained, and may (like myself) be inclined to read up on your English history and to even re-read some Shakespeare!
This was a solid 5 star read for me.
Jolly good show.
**I played Maria in my high school performance of ‘Twelfth Night’.
For a chance to win one of 3 copies (US only, sorry) of this amazing book click on this ASSASSIN’S GUIDE GIVEAWAY LINK!
And next...links to BUY THE BOOK!
And now to follow the rest of the blog tour, here’s the FULL SCHEDULE LINK!
I hope you have been totally inspired and pick up a copy of the book, and GOOD LUCK with the giveaway too!
x ~ K
“If music be the food of love, play on...”
*Guess how much this is worth?
This is a fantastic short story prequel to ‘This Mortal Coil’, giving a brief look at the five Zarathustra children who are being kept by Lachlan Agatta for his painful gentech experiments.
Jun Bei, Cole, Zianna, Anna, and Leoben feel as though, for a moment, that a new life is possible when a visitor from the Cartaxus headquarters, but work in the blackout program doesn’t look good to all of them after seeing a frightful display put on for them.
Within the short novella, we are reminded of the innocence of these kids when Lachlan was doing his work, and get a peek into some of their relationships.
The imagery of the dangerous but beautiful cactus (again, that gorgeous cover art!) is mirrored in Jun Bei/Cat, and is actually pivotal within the short story.
‘This Cruel Design’ has been my most anticipated book of the year, and I’m just starting it now (plus I’m on the blog tour), so this is a great lead-in. Like all of Emily’s work so far, there’s never enough, it’s full of complex imagery within this new world she has built, and I can’t wait to see where her new book takes me.
**You can read this free on Riveted Lit until November 30th!! Click HERE!
I fancied some ‘light’ horror and since a whole bunch of my pals on Litsy have been reaching for graphic novels this Halloween season, I thought I’d try this. And don’t be fooled: this version of Sabrina the Teenage Witch’ is most definitely HORROR with a capital H. If you are looking for something along the lines of what you would find on the CW when Sabrina was a sitcom, this is NOT it. Forget PG-spooky, it’s definitely the other end of the horror spectrum: S for Sabrina is now Scary.
Set back in the 1960’s, Sabrina is the illicit lovechild of a warlock called Edward Spellman, and a mortal named Diana, and she is raised by her aunts Zelda and Hilda (no news there). Sabrina is approaching her 16th birthday, which means she can become a fully-fledged witch, and pledge herself to the Dark Lord*. Complicating things are having a mortal boyfriend, and deciding if she can kill living animals on the spot. More fun ensues when Madam Satan shows up in town, and she is none too happy about having been sidelined by Edward for Sabrina’s mom. Enough said.
There are all sorts of horror goodies in this jumbo comic edition (it contains comics 1-5 of the ‘Chilling Adventures’, and in the back, has the variants that were printed with the different covers). The fabulous intro by the author Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa lays it all out for the reader, pointing out that the adventures are like ‘Rosemary’s Baby’, plus ‘The Exorcist’, ‘The Omen’, and Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’ all rolled together. It’s ALL in here. As well as Ray Bradbury’s ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’, zombies, and vengeance against men who have picked up innocent hitchhiking women.
The retro style of illustration harks back to comics of decades ago, and Roberto explains it’s because he wanted them to have the feel of a ‘period piece’, and it all works flawlessly. There’s plenty of dark humor (very dark), a definite feel of classic horror influencing every frame, and it’s actually no wonder that it’s being adapted into a show on Netflix. I hope they keep it just as gory, retro, and bloody though...
I’ll be continuing the series!
*To any heathens asking: no, REAL witches do NOT pledge themselves to ‘Satan’ or the ‘Dark Lord’.
**You can find this omnibus edition on hoopla!
‘We Sold Our Souls’ is one HELL of a ride. Grady Hendrix, King of horror at Quirk Books, has written a heavy metal masterpiece with a female lead guitarist, Kris Pulaski, as its star.
Less classic horror this time (his previous books are ‘Horrorstör’, and ‘My Best Friend’s Exorcism’), Hendrix has laden ‘Souls’ with conspiracy theory and real life horrors.
Kris Pulaski was in a heavy metal band called Dürt Würk two decades ago and they were on the brink of success when the lead singer Terry Hunt ripped the band apart and left to start his solo career. And it seems Terry’s rise to success was at the cost of selling the band’s souls.
That’s right, he sold their souls for rock’n’roll…or in this case, heavy metal.
Kris’ pitiful present day existence is working at the reception of a Best Western, and if you can stomach the ‘Welcome To Hell’ chapter (good horror always comes at the cost of reading things that make your stomach turn), then you can follow Kris on her journey as she gets whisked from Pennsylvania to a Satanic rehab center, and then across the country again to grimy Las Vegas. Years of grueling, crazy, exciting, challenging (to say the least), and often nasty experiences on the road with the band, were nothing compared to this trip, and it seems like all Kris’ heavy metal years were preparation and toughened her up. The journey to Las Vegas is overwhelming, but Kris has a mission she can’t ignore. There’s also a whole host of colorful characters along the way, but I do have to wonder if Hendrix has a thing against UPS (you will see what I mean when you read the book).
The greatest thing about this book is that Hendrix has chosen to write ‘Souls’ with a female protagonist. Not just that: a kickass, middle-aged (even though I hate that word, because that’s what I am now, I suppose), female as its lead. And she plays the guitar like a certain other Hendrix. She doesn’t take any bull from anyone and doesn’t stop fighting back once she starts on her new road trip.
While it seems as though she has given up with her hotel job, the revelation that she must stop her old bandmate Terry Hunt, lights a fire in Kris, and the book has that vibe of ‘don’t give up, don’t let the system win, don’t let the bullies push you’. That’s highly clear in the messages of conspiracy theory, our paranoia-laden country, and how culture is selling itself (its soul) particularly out to cell phones and shallow marketing. Reading the book will give you a greater sense of the way the conspiracy theory works in ‘Souls’ - I’m kind of at a loss as how to explain the genius behind how it’s woven in - but Hendrix has cleverly used snippets of radio and newspaper to show how ‘news’ travels and information spreads. This has always been the way conspiracy theories spread and this underbelly of the book is fascinating.
If you don’t know all the music in the book, this may be a little daunting, as there are a lot of heavy metal and music references, but I think if you have even the remote interest in or knowledge of decades old music such as Black Sabbath and Slayer, and remember the days when everyone thought that heavy metal listeners were devil worshipers, you will appreciate what Hendrix is doing here (and no you don’t have to actually like the music). Trigger warnings for sexual assault and creepy crawlies; this is definitely rated R.
Hendrix is an undeniable force in pop culture literature and has written an unforgettable book, one that’s not for everyone, but will be a cult classic, but not like any of the schlock he writes about in his awesome ‘Paperbacks from Hell’. No one writes like this guy; ‘We Sold Our Souls’ is funny, gross, complex, and a wonderful blend of horror, pop culture, conspiracy theory, and is infused with a heavy dose of music history. Only Grady Hendrix could have done that.
**I'm really lucky because this Friday I get to meet Grady here in Seattle at his book signing and I get to have my big stack of books signed.
*Kudos to Doogie Horner again, for another excellent book cover design for Grady. It's worth noting that the hardcover of this book has beautiful black ink-sprayed pages.
What an amazing ‘signing’. To anyone who gets to go to one of the signings on this book tour: Grady will blow your mind with the presentation he has ready for you; I wish I’d been prepared and been able to record it or something, so I could listen to it again (you hear/see that, Grady?).
The whole ‘secret history’ behind heavy metal and how it has rotted so many young minds (aka the wonderful conspiracy theories that set WSOS in motion) is the basis for Grady’s brilliant ‘lecture’, along with a slideshow and I wish I’d at least taken notes, but I chuckled too much to do that. It was the most funny, inspiring, thoughtful signing I’ve been to yet.
THANK YOU TO GRADY for revealing the personal background behind writing this book in particular; I really appreciated your message at the end, you have so much heart, especially for a guy who writes some of my favorite books which are complete with things like people getting their scalps ripped off, beetles crawling down their shirts, and high schoolers needing exorcisms. Plus you will say ‘fuck’ a lot right near the children’s department in the bookstore and do the ‘voices’ of the members of KISS.
And I have NO idea how you have the energy that you do (you delivered about 20-25 pages at cutthroat speed), especially since I’m someone who has zero energy most of the time, thanks to MS.
Us Seattlites apologize for the death of metal circa 1991 when Nirvana et al burst onto the scene (I thought it was funny that you started your tour here*), but you must admit jeans are way more comfortable than leather pants, so that was a godsend. I’d love to hear your take on whether that was a conspiracy itself.
So, thank you for coming and signing my massive stack of books, for your presentation, and for your writing genius. Thank you to librarians for buying secret copies of books for kids like a certain one did for you.
*We would like to reiterate that we did indeed have a very hot and sunny summer here this year (again) in Seattle, and now that it’s raining we are actually all quite relieved. Sorry you had to experience it for your trip though. Make sure you come back for your next book.
It has been two hundred years since an eighteen-year old Mary Shelley gave life to one of the most haunting novels of all time and the first true work of science fiction, so Kiersten White’s retelling of ‘Frankenstein’ couldn’t come at a more perfect time. To think that the original book was written when a young girl accepted the challenge of writing a ‘ghost story’, and she originally didn’t lay claim to her own work.
Kiersten White has chosen to write ‘Dark Descent’ as a retelling from Elizabeth Lavenza’s perspective, a feminist retelling if there possibly can be one, set in a time when women were taught to be objects to be acquired.
In Shelley’s story, Elizabeth Lavenza (later to become Frankenstein) is a ‘gift’ given to Victor Frankenstein, a socially awkward child, and she is taken in by the affluent Frankenstein family in Geneva, saving her from her own mother and a life of destitution. Young Elizabeth tries desperately to win the favors of the volatile Victor, and to secure her place in the Frankenstein household, and soon brings in another young girl, Justine, much like herself, saving her from a life similar to her own. Justine Moritz is brought into the home as a governess to the other Frankenstein children, a calling that she is a natural at, and she and Elizabeth become fast friends. Much of this background is given to the reader by way of flashback interludes, as are the times that Elizabeth and Victor spent together back in Geneva before he leaves.
‘Dark Descent’ traces Elizabeth’s and Justine’s footsteps as they travel to Ingolstadt to find Victor - and his friend, Henry - which is where he went to continue ‘his studies’, but recently haven’t heard from. Following clues that are found in his letters home, they don’t have much to go on, but Elizabeth fears Victor’s obsessions and fevers have overcome him, and only she knows how to help him.
She also comes to the realization of what his experiments really signify, and wants to protect them from being discovered.
Without going further (maybe there are some people out there who don’t know the Frankenstein tale), what I will say is that this is a captivating, dark, and tragic story; times were bleak for many, and even more dismal for women, and this is made painfully clear in this retelling. White has made sure to paint a vivid picture of the ugly prospects that women had in the times of Elizabeth Frankenstein: the choices she mulls over in her head constantly are framed by how society judged women’s place in society and expected them to behave. None of that was science-fiction, and it provides a fascinating historical perspective, and leading questions into feminism. It’s not by coincidence that Shelley herself was the daughter of radical social philosophers, with her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, being a writer of one of the most important founding works on family structure and women’s education in the eighteenth-century.
*It’s worth noting too, that the backstory and tumultuous early life of Elizabeth mirrors that of Mary Shelley (brought up by foster parents, suffered a lot of losses in her life). I find this fascinating, and feel that this permeates the writing of the original novel, and White tries to reflect this shadowing of tumultuousness, particularly in the flashbacks.
Initially I found the book slow to get into, but I later likened it to the slow discoveries that Elizabeth was making, and how the travel at the time must have felt, and I realized that this is the type of novel that I didn’t need to rush through after all. That said, at about half way, the pace picked up considerably and I didn’t want to put it down. Once the ‘monster’ comes into the story, everything seems to happen almost too quickly, and I had a lot of overwhelming emotions in the second half of the book that made it a weightier read as it went on, descending further into grief and desperation. The title is incredibly apt in that respect. I also especially love that the tone and prose feel in keeping with the period; Kiersten did an excellent job with this.
Few works of fiction can garner the status of crossing so many genres (horror, romance, sci-fi, literary fiction), have affected pop culture and so many types of media, for so many generations, and with one mention of the title, conjure up so vivid images and visceral reactions to its central story. Kiersten White has captured those images and the emotions effectively inside her version, without the cartoonish depiction of the modern monster, returning him to Shelley’s imagining. Upon reading, there is a sense that Elizabeth and the monster have much in common, and the misunderstanding from the world around them is palpable. There is a distinct uneasiness at the end though, and much like the end of the ‘Frankenstein’, and even ‘Dracula’, you’re left with the feeling that things are unfinished, and that the myth will continue. It’s a feeling I relish. If you have a taste for dark, gothic, or classic fiction, give this one a read; it’s also a fabulous pick especially for lovers of classic horror and science-fiction. Thank you, Mary Shelley!
*Kudos as always to Regina Flath for her brilliant design of the cover. Stunning.
My newly-formed little book club said they wanted a book possibly with poetry or essays, so this was one of my selections. I knew Joy McCullough’s book came with glowing reviews and it had been on my TBR for a while, but I wasn’t quite prepared for what I was about to read.
‘Blood Water Paint’, based on the true but heartbreaking story of the iconic young Italian painter Artemesia Gentileschi, literally took my breath away.
Reading a novel based in verse (with some portions written in regular prose) with historical facts at its core, was quite new to me, and thank goodness for those mental (natural) breaks that came with the way it’s written, because it was one of the most astounding accounts of rape and incest I have ever read. This may well be based in Rome in 1610 and written in a way that doesn’t reveal certain details of such events as a reader may be used to reading, but I would still put up a big, red flag for a trigger warning. I had to put down the book for a breather about halfway through because of the tragic events unfolding within the pages. It is brutal, heart-breaking, and so emotional.
Artemesia was such a talented artist, but she and other women - within the book, we also learn the stories of both Susanna and Judith - basically had no rights or the right to an opinion in those days; women were stoned to death, and other brutal punishments were served at the hands of men who saw women as property. Artemesia’s father sees his own daughter as such, having her do the paintings and call them his own, and turns a blind eye to the events in this own home while he drinks after his wife/her mother dies. It’s hard to read such things, but throughout, Artemesia stays adamant that she will persevere and not let these men steal her ability to show her truth on the canvas.
It’s uncanny that the ‘me too’ movement resonates so strongly when reading a book like this, but four centuries later we shouldn’t be having to make the comparisons, perhaps. I was so moved by this book, and by my own experience, and I hope many young women reach for this book and get a discussion going. I’m looking forward to our book club meeting; this isn’t ‘light poetry fare’ by any means, and this book SHOULD spark a lot of conversation. Artemesia’s life (and many others) shouldn’t be in vain, for these experiences are too common place.
A note on the writing: Joy McCullough, as a debut author, has written a masterpiece. She wrote this as a play and then adapted it to be read as a book in this form. It’s masterful, and so beautiful to read. Since she’s local to Seattle, I’m happy to say she will be at the book club that will be meeting today; I’m glad we connected. I can’t wait for our group discussion. Absolutely superbly written.
**Update: Congratulations go out to Joy for the announcement that Blood Water Paint is on the long list for the 2018 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.
I can't express how excited I am to be on this blog tour....
Many months ago I contacted Katya about her book, because I was drawn to the synopsis; here I am with it being a week away from it being on the shelves, and I get to review it for her (finally)!
This kicks off a thrilling season of books, I'm so excited. This one is perfect for all of you who love this witchy, cool season, when the leaves are falling and we are picking out our Halloween outfits.
**Thank you SO much to the amazing Cherry Karl (Karlita) of Tale Out Loud for having me on this one, and hosting this tour for Katya; I wouldn't have missed this one for the world. I wouldn't have allowed it!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, KATYA
Katya de Becerra was born in Russia, studied in California, lived in Peru, and then stayed in Australia long enough to become a local. She was going to be an Egyptologist when she grew up, but instead she earned a PhD in Anthropology.
'What the Woods Keep' is her first novel.
ABOUT THE BOOK
GENRE: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dark Fantasy
RELEASE DATE: September 18th, 2018
'What the Woods Keep' is the stunning debut of Katya de Becerra, who combines mystery, science fiction, and dark fantasy in a twisty story that will keep you mesmerized right up to the final page.
On her eighteenth birthday, Hayden inherits her childhood home―on the condition that she uncover its dark secrets.
Hayden tried to put the past behind her, and it worked. She’s getting ready for college, living in a Brooklyn apartment, and hanging out with her best friend and roommate Del. But now it’s all catching up with her: her mother’s mysterious disappearance a decade before, her father’s outlandish theories about a lost supernatural race, and Hayden’s own dark dreams of strange symbols and rituals in the Colorado woods where she grew up.
As soon as Hayden arrives at her hometown, her friend Del in tow, it begins: Neighbors whisper secrets about Hayden’s mother; the boy next door is now all grown-up in a very distracting way; and Hayden feels the trees calling to her. And among them, deep in the woods, Hayden will discover something incredible―something that threatens reality itself.
Add it to GOODREADS!
Now that you have read the synopsis, which really doesn’t come close to explaining how thrilling and complex this book is, let me get into the deep, dark woods of Promise, Colorado. Don’t enter without being prepared to read something that will test your belief in the supernatural, at the same time as serve up facts about physics and give you a story steeped in myth and old blood rites.
This book feels like it blurs the lines between science-fiction, fantasy, and mystery, targeting a young adult audience, but it’s a highly intelligent read (it comes from a real smart cookie of an author, so that doesn’t surprise me).
‘What The Woods Keep’ centers around an eighteen-year old girl called Hayden, who is suffering an identity crisis, as she inherits the Manor she grew up in, and trying to come to terms with her mother’s disappearance so many years ago and the dark secrets behind it. She struggles with how she sees her father’s work and his hair-brained theories that have got him ostracized from the scientific community, and also with what she knows about her mother’s contradictory beliefs of mythology, the rituals she seemed to practice in the woods, and her own frightening dreams.
Hayden’s friendship with her roommate Del, who she brings back to Promise with her, who seems to be her diametric opposite, and a grounding force in her life, is a constant source of support, and a voice of reason (I’ve always wished for someone like that); I thought their interactions were some of the most lovely things about book. Exploring relationships is key to this novel: the two friends, the loss of a mother, how a father impacts his daughter, reuniting with old friends, and navigating it all while developing a relationship with the inner self and growing up.
One of the key elements to the woods and town of Promise giving you nothing but the chills, is the way in which Katya is able to paint such a dark and vivid picture of the inhabitants. I don’t like making comparisons to other books (so I won’t) but since I’m a ‘Twin Peaks’ fan, I’ll go there; I definitely got that sort of vibe when I read this, and I’ll tell you that was my favorite show of the 90’s. The individual characters of Abigail Reaser, Hayden’s childhood friend Shannon, (now all grown-up), the bizarre Elspeth, even Hayden’s psychiatrist…they all are so original and/or fabulously strange. There is also so much atmosphere swirling around the small town, the weather being so stormy, the ravens flying near Hayden, the close by woods, you can feel it all when you’re reading the book; knowing that the girls are out there in that big house alone, it’s all what will make you stay reading with the lights on. The dark and stormy tone of the book, the loneliness of the house in the woods, and the creepy characters particularly make this the perfect autumnal read.
The story beneath the surface of the novel, of the ‘Nibelungs’, is fascinating and mysterious, and having it run concurrently in the same book with a basecamp where blood samples are being collected, mean (Norse) mythology and science-fiction are melded together. Katya’s background in anthropology, Egyptology, and with her traveling around the world, give the pages its personality, and I love how she used everything from her love of movies and books (references to Stephen King and David Cronenburg), to her sense of displacement as an expat (I understand this!) to influence her work. And the beginnings of each chapter are so brilliant, that you may want to have a notebook for all the useful facts**and pieces of knowledge that are shared.
This is seriously one of the most unique, intelligent, and mystical novels I’ve ever read. The twists and turns continue right up until the very end and the pages will take you to strange depths that are unexpected and exciting. And the further you delve into the woods, the more likely it is you will be pulled in to Miss Katya’s ‘Promise’; it’s quite the adventure, with an ending that will leave you hoping there’s another book coming.
**Facts and topics included: laws of thermodynamics, sleepwalking, Norse gods. If anything, you will be a smarter person for having read this book!
- Order on Amazon
- Buy from B&N.com (Barnes & Noble)
- Order at Book Depository
- Get at Books-A-Million
- Order from Indiebound
AND FINALLY....THE GIVEAWAY!
There are 2 COPIES of WHAT THE WOODS KEEP up for grabs, and all you need to do is ENTER *HERE* ~ GOOD LUCK!!
You can follow the whole blog tour and all my blog buddies by following this *LINK*
As always, HAPPY READING!!
PS. Katya, it was definitely to my liking.
*Warning: words en Francais may appear sporadically.
This book is…enchanting. I didn’t have it on my radar until quite simply everyone seemed to be asking about this novel about two sisters living in Paris during the French Revolution, one with the gift of magic, and with the desperate need to get themselves out of the dire situation they are in. They are poor, with Camille using her magie to turn pieces of metal they find in the dirt into coins, while Sophie is ailing, weak with a terrible cough. Their brother Alain is a drunkard and cruel, deeply in debt from his gambling, and the sisters just dream of finding a home away from their brother, Sophie perhaps marrying into aristocracy and money, while Camille has dreams of owning a print shop like her deceased father once did.
I’m not usually swept up into a book such as this, one that is a spell-binding combination of magic, romance, historical fiction, and fantasy, but although it’s a long book (some parts seemed overly long, and I felt like the whole thing could have been quite a bit shorter), I was entranced by the characters, as well as the setting.
Author Gita Trelease has painted a vivid portrait of Paris in the 18th century in ‘Enchantée’, when the contrast between the rich and the poor was stark, and Marie Antoinette was taking court. Readers will be pleased to know that they will served up ‘beacoup de’ servings of what it was like to live as a French aristocrat at that time, as Camille takes on a new persona, as the Baroness de la Fontaine, when she uses her ‘magie glamoire’ to gain entry to Versailles to play and turn cards. While there she rubs elbows with the rich she would otherwise detest, but ends up making friends as she makes enough money to change things for herself and Sophie. She internally struggles with her use of magie and the differences between the rich and the poor at that time, even though she is using it to change her fortune.
There’s a ‘rags-to-riches’/Cinderella tale here, a face-off between the handsome suitors (the handsome, devilish rogue, Seguin, and the more reserved but romantic ingenue, Lazare). The book provides a wonderful look at the culture of the time (I absolutely loved all the research obviously done regarding the use of hot-air balloons; that was probably my favorite part), as well as our protagonist wrestling with so many ideals and virtues. This gives a fantastic deeper edge to the book, and gives a real nod to climate preceding the Revolution. The poverty that was experienced by the ‘poor’ thanks to the disparity created by taxes and wheat prices, is fervently clear throughout, and it’s the thing that drives Camille all the way through her saga at Versailles, and pushes her use her magie. But the question is always, is it worth it? And does this make her just like the aristo? I think the answers are a bit murky at the end, despite the ‘happy ending’.
I would very much imagine that many of those who have fallen particularly for the setting of belle Paris, have not had the privilege, like myself, of visiting France, and may not even speak much French; the book is addled with short French phrases, for which, Trelease has put a glossary in the back of the book. It may remove a little enjoyment to keep looking things up, if you don’t know the meaning of those words, but my guess is you have rudimentary French knowledge to have interest in the book in the first place. I appreciate the explanation of all the historical facts and figures as they appear in the book, as they are fascinating.
The pace of the book picks up rapidly at about half way through the book, which I felt could have been a lot plus rapide; I feel as though a historical fiction/romance is a bit extravagant at close to 500 pages. If you’re looking for a book with lots of action and adventure, this one isn’t it, and thanks to the coy teasing nature of the romantic flirting, even that isn’t super juicy and doesn’t take up a wild amount of those pages. But of the ones that it does, they’re not overdone or too sickly sweet.
‘Enchantée’ is a fabulous romantic story set in Revolutionary France and I’d say ‘vas-y’ (that means go for it), if you’re enamored by historical romance at all. This has a sumptuous setting, unique voice, and made a change in all the YA I’d read lately.
By the way, Paris remains one of my most favorite cities today; take a plane and read ‘Enchantée on the way (sorry that you have to wait until February for it, malheureusement)!
It’s probably humanly impossible to not like a book with fluffy clouds and a little squirrel holding nuts on the cover. So far, I believe this to be 100% true.
‘Unclaimed Baggage’, while having nothing to do with now-endangered and very cute red squirrels, is just as adorable a book on the inside as it is on the outside, and if it’s that cover that draws you in (like it did me), so be it). It’s the goods inside though that will make you stay a while.
The title of the book is the name of the store that brings three new and unlikely friends together in small town Alabama. Doris has been working at Unclaimed Baggage for a while, and takes great pride in her work, unpacking suitcases that have lost their owners somewhere along the way on their journeys around the world, left at airports, unclaimed, unnamed. The contents of the bags are then sold in this unique store, which gets customers from all over the place, and even has an Instagram feed.
Nell is the newcomer, who has been made to move from the Chicago suburbs to this tiny Southern town, away from her boyfriend and BFFs, and at the start of the summer too. Forced to get a summer job by her rocket scientist mom, she fortunately meets Doris at the store.
And to round out the unlikely trio, we have Grant Collins, the hometown (but recently disgraced) football star, struggling with a drinking problem, having recently lost his girlfriend, as well as his way. His mom calls in a favor and gets him a job at the store, which is probably the best thing to ever happen.
Over the course of their summer (but barely a couple of my days) this trio is taken through a bonding experience like no other, and not only do they have infinitely a more exciting summer than I had, these unlikeliest of friends learn some big eye-opening things about the world.
Author Jen Doll is a smart writer, and beneath all the adorable quirkiness, she presents a whole host of issues that teens (and a lot of us, in fact), have dealt and might deal with: sexual assault, alcohol abuse (particularly how it’s accepted in certain groups in high school), grief and loss, racism, a particular brand of which is still especially pervasive in the South, as well as an expectation for everyone to subscribe to the same Christian dogma.
Doll also gives us these wonderful teen characters that challenge these issues in a way that I found, for a change, to be brave instead of obnoxious, to be thoughtful instead of preoccupied, and actually give us cause to be sympathetic to their faults (especially dear Grant).
One key element of this novel, underneath all that quirkiness which I just loved, is relationships, and since this is a contemporary YA novel, it’s worth noting that it isn’t filled with text conversations, and there are also positive family relationships in this book, with the parents actually feeling like real people. I’m finding this is becoming a rarity in my reading lately (is it really so bad to put that out there?). Additionally, the close relationship Doris had with her aunt Stella, who’s passed away, plays a big part in the book; the exploration of Doris’ grief and the influence she had on her, adds depth to this story and her character.
All of this though, is served up with heaps and heaps of Southern fried syrupy goodness and charm, or at least, a furry manatee, and suitcases with their own names. The ‘scenes’ at the store were so wonderful, I wanted more, with all these amazing artifacts and personal belongings from people all over the world ending up on their shelves with the teens wondering their backstories.
I also didn’t even mind the fact that Jen Doll uses the alternating ‘voices’ of Doris, Nell, and Grant, to tell the story, which is a writing device I was becoming tired of lately but in the case of ‘Unclaimed Baggage’, I found it worked well. The book is also divided up into the three months of the summer vacation, to give you a sense of time flow.
However ‘slow’ their (or anyone’s) summer went, I raced through this book. It is funny, quirky, thoughtful, and full of so much heart that I can’t help but love it to pieces.
*I gratefully received this ARC as part of Miss Print's ARC Adoption Program.").
This squirrel is being released into the wild on September 18th, ‘18.
It may not have been wolves that compelled me to get on this blog tour, but after a book-blogger friend raved about the book, and another said they’d buy anything that Nova Ren Suma writes, I definitely wanted to read ‘A Room Away From The Wolves’. I won’t lie - that beautiful skyline on the cover was a big draw too. When I read that this book is a story about a young girl who runs away from her home because she just can’t take the abuse there anymore, and it turns out to be a novel that is ghostly, as well as layered with human connections, it called to me.
So dig into my breakdown of this beautiful book and be sure to enter the giveaway at the bottom for a chance to win a copy!
*Thanks again to The Fantastic Flying Book Club again for having me on the tour!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, NOVA REN SUMA
Nova Ren Suma is the author of the YA novels THE WALLS AROUND US as well as the YA novels IMAGINARY GIRLS and 17 & GONE, which were both named 2014 Outstanding Books for the College Bound by YALSA. Her middle-grade novel, DANI NOIR, was reissued for a YA audience under the title FADE OUT.
She has a BA in writing & photography from Antioch College and an MFA in fiction from Columbia University and has been awarded fiction fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, the Millay Colony, and an NEA fellowship for a residency at the Hambidge Center.
She worked for years behind the scenes in publishing, at places such as HarperCollins, Penguin, Marvel Comics, and RAW Books, and now she teaches writing workshops. She is from various small towns across the Hudson Valley and lives and writes in New York City.
ABOUT THE BOOK
'A Room Away From the Wolves' by Nova Ren Suma
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Release Date: September 4, 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Magical Realism, Mystery
Bina has never forgotten the time she and her mother ran away from home. Her mother promised they would hitchhike to the city to escape Bina’s cruel father and start over. But before they could even leave town, Bina had a new stepfather and two new stepsisters, and a humming sense of betrayal pulling apart the bond with her mother—
a bond Bina thought was unbreakable.
Eight years later, after too many lies and with trouble on her heels, Bina finds herself on the side of the road again, the city of her dreams calling for her. She has an old suitcase, a fresh black eye, and a room waiting for her at Catherine House, a young women’s residence in Greenwich Village with a tragic history, a vow of confidentiality, and dark, magical secrets.
There, Bina is drawn to her enigmatic downstairs neighbor Monet, a girl who is equal parts intriguing and dangerous. As Bina’s lease begins to run out, and nightmare and memory get tangled, she will be forced to face the terrible truth of why she’s come to Catherine House and what it will take for her to leave...
This wonderful story has one step inside reality, and the other is deep inside somewhere quite otherworldly, which is also somewhere that Nova Ren Suma’s writing sits. Her writing is what gives this simple tale of a young girl ‘Bina’, who runs away from home to a boarding house in New York City, so much character, originality, and mystery.
Bina and her mother fled their home once before, last time to escape her cruel father. They never made it beyond the home Bina has to share now with a stepfather and two stepsisters that eventually has become a new hell she’s decided she must escape on her own. Bruised inside and out, she feels betrayed and let down by her mom, and sees no other way.
Eight years after her and mother once ran from her father, she heads for Catherine House, the place she heard so many stories about from her mom, and asks for the very room that she stayed in.
From the moment Bina arrives in Greenwich Village, something is strange, and somehow connected to the opal ring her mother gave her, and to the original owner of the house, Catherine herself.
I don’t want to go into too much explanation of the story because there would be too much given away. I’ll lead this by saying that if you like your stories served up on a platter, without beautiful prose laden with wonderful imagery, this may not be the book for you. Suma writes with so much mesmerizing imagery wrapped in every sentence, that you’ll miss half of the tale she’s written for you if you don’t dig a little deeper.
This is a modern ghost story as well as a heart-breaking tale about the connection between mother and daughter, and how families make mistakes and let each other down. This part of the book is the guts of why Bina ends up Catherine House, and made me long for my own mom who is thousands of miles away.
Bina feels betrayed by her mom and looks to her mother’s past for answers, but there’s so much that’s tragic about this; reading the book it felt like Bina carries such a weight for a young girl, but doesn’t truly complain. It’s especially tragic because her father has already let her down, and she’s now being bullied by her stepsisters.
The other characters in the novel bring out all sorts of thoughts and memories for her: Monet is the girl in the room below, and is a fascinating character and one who Bina is drawn to, without explanation. She makes Bina question everything and gives her clues as to what is really happening.
There are twists and portals and thrills in this novel that make it a page-turner, and it’s as beautiful as it is heart-wrenching. There’s some spookiness that might make you feel like you’re not alone when you’re reading this (maybe you’re not).
*Bonus points: cats involved!
*Trigger warning: suicidal ideation
WIN THE BOOK!
You have a chance to win a copy of the book by entering a GIVEAWAY! You just have to click RIGHT HERE TO ENTER! Good luck!
Prize: 1 copy of A ROOM AWAY FROM THE WOLVES by Nova Ren Suma
And finally here are the links to BUY THE BOOK:
Buy on Amazon
Order from Barnes & Noble
Order from Book Depository
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Indiebound
Get it on iBooks
And to follow along with the rest of the blog tour, here is the BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE!
Thank you for checking out everything that there is to know about this beautiful book! It’s out so soon now, so make sure it’s on your TBR, and get it ordered. It’s unlike anything else you’ll read any time soon.
Happy reading, friends!
PS. To easily start following my blog, just click on the BLOGLOVIN’ (assuming you have that!) to the left...
This was a hard one to put down, I'll be honest, even if I didn't rush to pick it up because of it being yet another psychological thriller in my hands. Immediately though, the story of Joe Lynch, English teacher, and devoted father and husband, drew me in very quickly.
Joe's drive home one evening with his 4-year old son William, takes a nasty turn and sets the whole book's plot in motion, when he sees his wife's car pulling into a hotel parking lot. It seems his wife Mel is meeting with another man and hiding behind a web of lies, and soon enough, Joe is pulled into a game of 'cat-and-mouse' with this man that is set to destroy everything he knows and loves.
From the very beginning this is an addictive read, with the action and twists never letting up from page one until the book ends, something that is vital for a successful psychological thriller. Since this is such a saturated genre (hence my earlier comment, not that I'm actually really complaining about so many thrillers), it's necessary to bring something fresh to the table.
Debut author T.M. Logan does several things to make this book different from the 'rest of the pack'. Perhaps drawing from what he knows best, Logan gives us a male lead over the stereotypical and usual neurotic and crazed young single female. Not only is our protagonist a family man he's deeply committed to nurturing his preschooler, is deeply aware of his environment, but he has a 'humble' teaching job and lets his wife take the job lead in the household, not minding that his wife is pursuing her career ambitions. Joe is the one who is the parenting heavyweight, and it really made a change to see this, and also write his character in a way that didn't seem contrived.
A few other things that I appreciated: not having yet another thriller with alternating perspectives or voices (this has been done to death lately), especially since I'd like to focus on one unreliable narrator at a time. Writing one voice at a time is often the best way to dig into the mind of a character and this is where 'Lies' is successful'; Logan really gets us into the mind of Joe so well that it's hard to get out of it. No wonder his character gets so little sleep (like myself).
Technology, like computers and cell phones, plays a vital role in this novel, and the way it's used is done so cleverly that, like all books written in this day and age, makes it especially current, and since these things permeate all our lives, there's no wonder they're good fodder for literary weaponry. They certainly leaves us feeling vulnerable and with a sense of constant uncertainty.
My biggest complaint about the book is the relationship Joe has with his wife, Mel, and her character, but since Joe finds he is surrounded by lies (surprise!), and nobody can be relied upon, it's hard to like many people in his life.
I can't give too much more away about anything but Logan weaves all the lies and twists fantastically throughout this novel, and the ending really is a turn that the reader won't expect at all. I'm mostly curious to hear what other people think about it, but I can't talk about it, because I'm spoiler-free girl! You'll have to read it yourself to see what I mean!
Super clever read by another new author. Hope there's more from T.M. Logan.
*Thank you to St. Martin's Press for my early copy of this book for review.