Thank you so much to Celadon Books for the ARC of The Plot in exchange for an honest review! I participated in the Little Free Library drive and then requested on #NetGalley so I could finish reading! Here is my review, a little meet the author blurb at the bottom, and then my Real Talk on author bullying!
Bookish Quick Facts:
Title: The Plot
Author: Jean Hanff Korelitz
Publisher & Release: Celadon Books, May 11th 2021
Length: 336 pgs
Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 sure for fans of suspense, fiction, publishing!
Here is the synopsis from Amazon:
Hailed as “breathtakingly suspenseful,” Jean Hanff Korelitz’s The Plot is a propulsive read about a story too good not to steal, and the writer who steals it.
Jacob Finch Bonner was once a promising young novelist with a respectably published first book. Today, he’s teaching in a third-rate MFA program and struggling to maintain what’s left of his self-respect; he hasn’t written―let alone published―anything decent in years. When Evan Parker, his most arrogant student, announces he doesn’t need Jake’s help because the plot of his book in progress is a sure thing, Jake is prepared to dismiss the boast as typical amateur narcissism. But then . . . he hears the plot.
Jake returns to the downward trajectory of his own career and braces himself for the supernova publication of Evan Parker’s first novel: but it never comes. When he discovers that his former student has died, presumably without ever completing his book, Jake does what any self-respecting writer would do with a story like that―a story that absolutely needs to be told.
In a few short years, all of Evan Parker’s predictions have come true, but Jake is the author enjoying the wave. He is wealthy, famous, praised and read all over the world. But at the height of his glorious new life, an e-mail arrives, the first salvo in a terrifying, anonymous campaign: You are a thief, it says.
As Jake struggles to understand his antagonist and hide the truth from his readers and his publishers, he begins to learn more about his late student, and what he discovers both amazes and terrifies him. Who was Evan Parker, and how did he get the idea for his “sure thing” of a novel? What is the real story behind the plot, and who stole it from whom?
This is a slow burning story that starts out detailing Jacob Finch Bonner’s sad writing career, and his cynicism towards it. I think his ranting about student writers was hilarious and probably pretty accurate, I can’t even imagine. Jake is a great character, a bit of a troll himself but he felt so real to me.
One cool thing I will say first is that as a Plattsburgh native who spent some time in the Cooperstown/Oneonta/Cobleskill area, I freaking love the setting in these towns 😂 Why Yes, I *have* been to the Price Chopper in that town, thank you!
As we start learning about “The Plot”, the mystery develops when Jacob loosely steals an idea from a now deceased former student. The book then took on a bit of a tribute aspect to the greatest plot ever written (cue Tenacious D music) *THIS IS JUST A TRIBUTE* heh heh.
But…then… An internet troll attacks Jacob. It seems pretty benign at first then gets more serious. Thus begins my favorite aspect of The Plot which is a mocking but also kind of true conversation about the publishing industry, reviewer culture, and people trolling authors. The damage it can do (even though it really shouldn’t), and how Jacob and the legal team handle the issue. I dropped the book and clapped when his publicist was ranting about GoodReads trolls and author morale, because someone finally said it. What is the industry coming to??
Seriously though, who could possibly be this upset about the book? Who has access to Jacob’s house to leave threatening letters? What … Really … Happened… In the “fictional” plot? Read to find out, it’s a slow burn but I promise it’s worth it as Jacob starts tracking down the truth
Meet the Author: (from Amazon)
Jean Hanff Korelitz is the author of the novels YOU SHOULD HAVE KNOWN (adapted for HBO as “The Undoing” by David E. Kelley, and starring Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant and Donald Sutherland), ADMISSION (adapted as the 2013 film starring Tina Fey), THE DEVIL AND WEBSTER, THE WHITE ROSE, THE SABBATHDAY RIVER and A JURY OF HER PEERS. A new novel, THE PLOT, will be published on May 11th 2021. Her company BOOKTHEWRITER hosts “Pop-Up Book Groups” in NYC, where small groups of readers can discuss new books with their authors. http://www.bookthewriter.com
I also wanted to just touch on GoodReads trolling and the bullying of authors. This is fully and solely my opinion and does not reflect that of the author or publisher in any way.
I think the main thing I want to say here is that Korelitz is pretty timely in satirizing this issue. It is out of hand. Jacob (in the book) did the right thing at first by “not feeding the trolls”, not engaging, and hoping the troll would peter itself out – then the publisher’s legal team got involved. Honestly I encourage authors going through these things to first consider letting it go away on it,s own without feeding the fuel, and if it doesn’t, consider seeking cease and desist letters from a lawyer against people slandering and bullying on social media. I also encourage reviewers to … Well.. Just stop this mob behavior and state your opinion, then let others form their own. What happened to literary criticism? Everyone is entitled to an opinion but that doesn’t entitle anyone to bully or attack. I also would go a step further and put out there that publicists, publishers, merch companies, and other businesses should stop working with these bullies and stop seeking them as reviewers, and we can all try to bring the book world back to an appropriate level of civility and conversation.
That’s my Real Talk for the night, what do you think??
Thank you so much to Bookish First and Michael Ray Ewing for my free copy in exchange for an honest review! It was also super nice that he signed the book!
Normally I am impeccable with these due dates but this arrived on it’s pub date, so I ended up pushing it back a bit.
Bookish Quick Facts:
Title: Satan’s Gold
Series: A Tyler Jackson Thriller, #1
Author: Michael Ray Ewing
Publisher & Release: Grand Canyon Press, 03/10/21
Length: 301 pgs
Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟 neutral
The entire financial world is networked, but banks have an Achilles’ heel…
An elusive ex-CIA financial analyst known only as Daemon has stolen billions from the Russian Federation, and now he’s determined to plunder the richest prize of all-the U.S. Federal Reserve.
Only one man stands in his way-disgraced former FBI Agent Tyler Jackson, who is destroying all he loves in his feverish attempt to capture Daemon and prevent a worldwide economic collapse.
Jackson has been chasing Daemon for two grueling years. But can Jackson and Dixie, a female hacker wanted for unleashing a deadly computer virus, find Daemon before he makes his next big move?
If you like page-turning suspense and characters who would stop at nothing to achieve their objectives, read Satan’s Gold today.
I don’t think I’m smart enough to enjoy this book. A genius computer/financial hacker basically threatens to shut down America via bankrupting the Federal Reserve, and it’s up to ex FBI agent Jackson and his outlaw team of hackers and retired military to track the terrorist down.
I’m not sure exactly how the guy did it, because computer jargon, but I get that they are all really good at computer hacking and that the FBI and CIA are at odds. There is a ton of fast paced action in this book and although I read it quickly and enjoyed the fast pace, I just felt this huge disconnect from the book itself.
I think it’s because I don’t understand one word of the computer lingo. I also see that this is a finished copy and honestly the typos are intense, mostly in people’s names…it would be ok for an ARC but all evidence points to this as a finished copy. The names would change from Ralph to Ralf, Quentin to Quinten, Byrnes to Keynes… Etc… and there were typos by omission. I will stick to my review policy and dock that star for a poorly edited finished copy.
The other thing is that there are SO many characters, I had to make a character map. Some of them added something to the book and others just confused me. I think Jackson, Dixie, Pavak, and O’Connell were a good team to start and hope that moving forward they stick together.
I think this would be a great movie though. I would cast Hugh Jackman and Raphaël Personnaz as Tyler and Alec, respectively.
Raphael Personnaz, who I think would make a good Daemon
Great idea for a book overall, but execution and overall presentation felt like it needed work. I would watch that movie though. Going with a fairly neutral 3🌟
Meet the Author!
(From Amazon): Michael Ray Ewing is the winner of the prestigious Emerging Writers Gateway Contest for best new crime thriller. Satan’s Gold was inspired by his work as a Bell Labs engineer on the United States Federal Reserve’s network, FEDNET. An avid mountain biker and resident of Arizona, Mike writes about people who risk everything for the sake of doing what they know is right.
Spinning Silver is yet another book that I have had forever and wish it hadn’t taken me so long to get to! I love the Temeraire books and some how never got around to reading her others .. Until now
Bookish Quick Facts:
Title: Spinning Silver
Author: Naomi Novik
Publisher & Release:Del Rey, July 2018
Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟✨yes for pretty much anyone!
Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:
Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father’s inability to collect his debts has left his family on the edge of poverty–until Miryem takes matters into her own hands. Hardening her heart, the young woman sets out to claim what is owed and soon gains a reputation for being able to turn silver into gold.
When an ill-advised boast draws the attention of the king of the Staryk–grim fey creatures who seem more ice than flesh–Miryem’s fate, and that of two kingdoms, will be forever altered. Set an impossible challenge by the nameless king, Miryem unwittingly spins a web that draws in a peasant girl, Wanda, and the unhappy daughter of a local lord who plots to wed his child to the dashing young tsar.
But Tsar Mirnatius is not what he seems. And the secret he hides threatens to consume the lands of humans and Staryk alike. Torn between deadly choices, Miryem and her two unlikely allies embark on a desperate quest that will take them to the limits of sacrifice, power, and love.
Part of me wants to just sit here and gush about Slavic/Polish fairytale tropes, or compare the magic in Spinning Silver to that in the Winternight trilogy, but I’ll mostly spare you and just talk about the book
The World-Building & Magic: Novik is such an amazing world builder. We are in a cold winter country of Slavic inspiration, where the Boyars own everything and the Tsar is unfortunately possessed by a demon. Frost vs fire/summer/chaos is a reoccurring theme in these tales and in this case it takes the form of a nameless, cruel winter king vs the flame demon. The magic of the Staryk (including the King’s Road) is introduced slowly until the plot turns to their kingdom and the real magic is revealed.
I think giving glimpses of the magic was a great tactic to build the tale slowly and not overwhelm Miryem’s story at first. The whole story has great descriptions though from the snow and weather to the people, lore, food, forests, animals and everything else. A standalone doesn’t have room to drown in politics or religion but we are given enough of both to understand the country’s issues and power struggles as they relate to the book, also giving it a depth that many retellings don’t achieve.
A power claimed and challenged and thrice carried out is true
The Characters: as much as I liked the magic and world building, the characters are brilliant too. Miryem was always strong and smart, a true thorn in the villagers sides, and eventually an equal to the Staryk King. The trope is “headstrong maiden takes on Winter King.” Novik’s take on it was fresh and interesting to me and I didn’t even dislike him a tiny bit at the end. Their arc included much bargaining and begrudging respect and was generally fun to read
I wouldn’t hold myself that cheap, to marry a man who’d love me less than everything else he had, even if what he had was a winter kingdom.
The rest of the characters, and there were many, all brought something interesting to the book. Women were the property of their fathers and husbands and Wanda totally transcended that to bargain for her own future. Irina surprised me by being cunning and strong when her people needed her. Stepon had a curious point of view in which he narrated a few interesting and exciting events, and I think there was a hidden significance there that was lost on me.
There were Staryk characters too that surprised me and Miryem’s parents were just lovely people. The found family aspect was ❤❤❤❤❤
Themes: oh gosh there were so many good themes, such as not judging people for their race or religion. Not taking people at face value. Keeping to your word and knowing the value of a bargain. Knowing your own self worth and standing defiant in the face of anything less. I think this is a really great young adult book as far as themes and content go.
A note on the audiobook: the audio is 18 hours long, distributed by Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group. LisaFlanagan is amazing with the Slavic accents and distinguishing between the characters. It was hard though sometimes to tell which point of view was speaking at first – and that is the only fault I found with the book as well is that I think we should have had headers or new chapter titles with the name of the speaker. I really enjoyed listening though!
Overall: if you like tales with a twist of magic, fiercely strong female characters, Frost Kings and equally frosty moneylenders, lore and lyrical writing in a cold, cold world…. This is definitely your book!
It was a good week when I had the complete and utter joy of requesting and receiving an early copy of Josh Greenberg’s memoir/journal/ruminations called Trout Water: A Year on the Au Sable! What was your last nonfiction read??
Bookish Quick Facts:
Title: Trout Water
Author: Josh Greenberg
Publisher & Release: Melville House, 3/23/21
Length: 176 pg
Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟✨ yes for fishermen and fans of nature stories!
Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:
It’s the beginning of trout fishing season, and Josh Greenberg — proprietor of one of the nation’s most famous fishing outfitters, on America’s most iconic trout-fishing stream, the Au Sable River in Michigan —is standing in the Au Sable at dusk when he gets the call that a dear fishing buddy has died.
The solace he takes from fishing — from reading the movement of the river water, studying the play of the light, and relying on his knowledge of insect and fish life — prompts him to reflect on the impact of the natural world on his life in his fisherman’s journal.
Over the course of a year, the journal transcends fishing notes to include some beautifully lyrical nature writing, entertaining stories of the big one that got away, cheerful introspection about a love that’s hard to explain, and yes, a tip or two.
Eventually, Josh Greenberg realizes he hasn’t been all alone in the woods, not really. Much of his relationship with his family and friends has played out on the river. And as he catches — and releases — trout after trout back into one of the most beautiful rivers in America, Greenberg comes to help us realize, too, that there’s more to fishing than catching fish.
What. A. Joy. The novel opens with the death of a colleague, where he is putting such importance on a phone call that he hardly remembered afterwards, but he remembered the trout rising that evening. Afterwards we follow him through memories, fishing trips, outings with his sons and family, and even an encounter with what might just have been an Indian skin-walker!
I liked the little bit of actual mysticism that was added in along with the generalized mysticism that anglers like to tie into fly fishing.
For non fishermen this book might drag at times, but I am seeing good reviews from casual readers that just Googled a few more perplexing terms. Don’t know what a hex formata is? Google the term and then let Greenberg take you there!
The descriptions of the waters, scenery, trout, flies, hatches, and life’s toll in general are borderline reverent. I felt so THERE while reading. I could have been wading in the shallows watching for a rise, the last reflection of the light dulling the waters. Greenberg offers a few good tips as well, of course, but I think his descriptive style is the strong point in Trout Water.
I grew up on a salmon river and it wasn’t until I went out west and started learning to fly fish that I started appreciating literature on the sport. I have so much respect for this author and think the book is a great addition to the growing body of fly fishing literature.
I don’t know so many non-fiction but readable stories for non-anglers, but this book would read as a simple good story as well. For fictional books I think Norman MacLean is a staple, obviously, and I have to recommend my dads book too! Anyone have any other good fishing book recommendations?
Thank you so much to By the Book VBP tours for having me on the Instagram tour for TheGuardian of the Palace! This is a fast paced, urban fantasy + invasion story mash-up that surprisingly works really well. I would recommend to contemporary fantasy fans!
Bookish Quick Facts:
Title: The Guardian of the Palace
Series: The Guardian League, #1
Author: Steven J. Morris
Publisher & Release: Indie, 01/22/21
Length: 358 pg
Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟✨ for fans of the genres!
The Plot & Story: So the book actually doesn’t list a synopsis, and I am going to give you the key points really quick. There is a huge four-block-wide building going up in NYC called The Palace, and Garnet “Red” Hernandez is hired on as a security head as construction continues. She is ex military special ops, and her team of three friends are the other main human characters of the story. Red sees something strange in the lower levels of The Palace, and before we know it there is a two fronted alien invasion going on. The fun part is finding out why, how, and who exactly these invaders are. To what lengths will the Guardians go to save Earth?
The prologue was incredibly gripping, and the book never let me go until the end…and I’m glad that book two is coming out soon.
The Characters: We also see a bit of Red’s military career to show where she and the rest of the characters came from, how they bonded, and what kind of people they are. Red is a strong person who believes in rights, humanity, and the power of a strong team. Rocks, Bear, and Scan are the rest of her group and I liked them too. The banter is interesting, they seem like real people, and extended amounts of good dialogue can be hard to find these days. The chapters tend to stay pretty short and are mainly told from Red’s point of view.
I REALLY like the non-human characters. Let’s just say there is an Elf, a troll, and a dwarf, and they are a little bit hilarious in their own ways.
The World Building: One of my favorite aspects was how Morris was able to blend the non-human and fantasy aspects into the modern day setting, giving plausible explanations for non-fantasy readers to follow fairly easily. He gives enough info for the Infected and the other aliens that the explanations make sense, without doing any huge info dumps.
Misc: The place where I docked half a star was that when the other characters start having point of view chapters, I didn’t think their voices sounded distinct enough. Not so much Agent Smith, but Rocks and Scan sounded very similar, and Grundle sounded extremely human in his thought processes.
I like how towards the end, the characters for the next book are set up and introduced more. Morris presented a clear path going forward, with a bit of a cliffhanger to keep me wanting to see the next book.
Thankfully, book two, Stars in the Sand, is coming out soon! I will be touring that book on June 2nd so keep an eye out for the review!
Hi everyone! As promised this week, I have a special interview to bring to you guys! Have you read the Crisanta Knight books?? If not, I guarantee you will want to after reading this amazing interview!
I want to take a quick second to thank Geanna Culbertson for taking the time to answer a few questions about her writing, content, content in general, and plans going forward! I originally became a fan of her clean content and writing style after winning a giveaway that introduced me to the books, and even more so once we incidentally got to chatting about inappropriate content! (See Question 3)!
Alright I’m done talking, here she is!
Meet the author!
Geanna Culbertson is the award-winning author of The Crisanta Knight Series. The series follows the kids and siblings of fairytale characters, all of whom live in a magical world called “Book,” where citizens train to be the next generation of main characters in stories. The majority of this coming-of-age series is told from the empowering, sassy perspective of Cinderella’s daughter—Crisanta Knight.
Her full biography can be found on her website, here:
1) How did the Crisanta Knight books take shape for you? Did you know from the start it would be a fairytale re-imagining?
When I was a sophomore in school I took a course devoted to classic and contemporary fairytale analysis. It was a fabulous experience that I loved. Having all that exposure to the classic tales filled me with so much wonder and inspiration, and one day on my way to class the name for the school in my book series: Lady Agnue’s School for Princesses & Other Female Protagonists popped into my head. Later that week I drew out a map of the world, aka the realm of Book and I wrote the prologue and first chapter to go along with it. So that’s how it all started!
In terms of the “reimagining” aspect—I am a girl who is a big believer in the power of change and moving forward. People remake stories all the time; I want to know what happens next. Furthermore, I am someone who is extremely passionate about heroic female characters and living a life where you are always challenging yourself to be better, stronger, wiser, etc. Those qualities helped my main character of Crisanta Knight take shape.
As the plot formed, fairytales were the main backdrop, but my love of superheroes, princesses, action-packed comedy, and elaborate world-building fused with that and started to grow. The idea for the story simmered in my mind for a little while and then eventually I came to a point where I had to explore it. And so the adventure began . . .
2) I like the focus on character, identity, and friendship in the books so far! What are some of the topics and themes you think are important for girls and young women to see on-page?
At the beginning of my author journey, I set out to write a story that would inspire others the way my favorite tales have inspired me, featuring characters who balance heart, humor, and a genuine sense of honor. I always thought it was important that a great story not just be about an exciting external plot—magic, adventure, larger-than-life stakes—the true power of story has to be in the internal arc. Some themes I explore throughout my series that I think are very important for girls, young women, and all people are: self-acceptance, trust, taking fate into your own hands, making proactive choices, fighting for what matters to you, understanding, respect, perseverance, and more. However, the overarching theme of my series is CHANGE. To paraphrase a line in Book One, change is a beautiful thing because within it is the opportunity to do anything and become anyone. I hope that as my readers experience the series, they are inspired by all these themes to try and live as fiercely, wisely, kindly, and optimistically as possible.
3) We talked a bit about “clean reads” and your philosophy on content, could you talk about that a bit?
There is a word I came up with in college: “scandalosity.” It’s a term that encompasses inappropriate, intimate things that take a movie from PG-13 to R, if you catch my drift. I tried to put that word into one of my college English papers lol, but the TA said she’d dock me a letter grade. Anyway, my books are scandalosity free. It’s not my thing, neither is extreme violence or gore—basically anything that would cause adults to want to cover the eyes of their under 18 children.
I think that there is a lot of unnecessary violence and scandalosity in stories these days. You don’t need to rely on that to create something compelling or intrigue an audience. Strong storylines should always take the lead and if you are going to have romantic moments, action, death, etc. it needs to serve a greater purpose and push the story forward. If it’s just being used for shock and awe, it has no point there and it is lazy writing—storytellers trying to make an impact through cheap shots.
Action and drama can be handled with style and class, and should genuinely matter to plot/character development. I once heard director David Leitch say something akin to: “You should learn as much about a character from a good action scene as from dialogue.” I agree with that. Death (the killing of characters) can also be a valid event in a story if it truly is integral to plot/character development. But again, there is no need to make it overly graphic. Like, maybe a death needs to happen, but there are many ways that it can be portrayed. No need to scar someone traumatically.
Also, if utilized in a story that targets younger audiences, death should be eased into. Take Harry Potter for example. You don’t start in Book One with characters dramatically dying left and right. The story progressively explores the themes of loss and death—each book getting more intense so audiences of different ages are eased into some of the harder moments as they grow with the characters and the scope of the story.
Romantic encounters are also fine if they meet the same criteria of being integral to plot/character development (though it’s important to note that you can get the feel of intimacy across without random boobs or whatever flying in your face). I come back to the idea of handling things with style and class i.e. the choices of how intense moments are portrayed.
I’m often quite surprised by the types of content targeting the YA and middle grade markets. I feel like every other TV channel is showing something with murder or scandalosity. However, I firmly believe that audiences of all ages want more than that. People watch those darker things because that’s what’s on; that’s what the media is putting out there the most. But there is plenty of cleaner, goodhearted programming out there that is beloved, proving my point. There just needs to be more of it.
That is what I have brought, and intend to keep bringing to the world. My stories will have action, romance, drama, and deal with intense topics—morality, loss, anger, and so forth—but they will always be handled with care, finesse, and consideration of all the above factors. Any book I ever write can be equally and appropriately enjoyed by an eleven-year-old, a twenty-five-year-old, and a seventy-two-year-old.
4) I wish I had read all the books to know where this is going, but so far (The end of book 3) you have Crisa worrying about herself before she starts worrying too much about boys! Is there hidden advice in that?
Growing up, most of my favorite stories have had male main characters. I think part of the reason for this is that while a male main character may have a love interest, that love interest/romantic relationship is never the point of his story; it is just another factor. Meanwhile, in most female-led fiction, the love interest/romantic relationship is of equal value and importance to that female protagonist’s individual journey. It shouldn’t be that way. She should come first. Most girls have more on their mind than boys. They just do. The complexities of growing up, taking ownership of your choices and goals, accepting yourself, and learning who you are and who you want to be is way more pivotal to a person than deciding which hot guy you want to end up with. So while there are romantic, shippable elements to my series, I do not belittle my female characters and their potential by limiting the scope of what they focus on to romantic entanglements.
5) What is your favorite fairytale? Do you have a favorite fairytale twist that you’ve written so far? (Mine is definitely everything you did with Aladdin, from the sarcastic cave to the flying furniture!)
In terms of my favorite fairytales—Cinderella has been close to my heart since I was very little. That’s why I made my main character Cinderella’s daughter. If we’re talking strictly about Disney interpretations of fairytales, The Princes & the Frog is one of my favorites. Then in terms of the classic, old-timey tales I have a lot of respect for Snow White because that story created the roots of the fairytale-loving culture we have today.
In terms of the twists I’ve written, that’s such a hard question!!
I have highlighted so many fairytales and classic tales in my series now—diving really deep into quite a few. For example, the majority of Book Five takes place in Camelot, so there are a lot of characters, myths, and settings I work with there. In that space, developing Merlin as a character has been really interesting, specifically regarding his relationship to Crisanta. However, as Book Eight is freshest to me, I would have to say that diving into Mulan and Alice in Wonderland lore in that novel has definitely been one of my most challenging and rewarding fairytale exploration experiences thus far. All of Book Eight really was an intense adventure to write—Toyland, Swan Lake, Rumpelstiltskin, there’s just so much!
6) Many books in the series have been nominated for and received Feathered Quill book awards (yay -congrats)!!! Can you talk about that a bit?
I feel very grateful for the many awards that different books in my series have won. In terms of Feathered Quill, I have won six awards so far. Winning such an array of awards in the last two years has been awesome—two awards for Best in Teen Fiction (13-18 years), two awards for Science Fiction/Fantasy, Best of Backlist, and The Write Companion Award for Best Overall TOP PICK (Adult, Children’s and Young Adult categories included).
Winning these awards, combined with the wide array of other awards that my series has won, is quite flattering. I think what makes me the happiest about this range though, is that it shows the huge scope of audiences that my series appeals to. I have always believed that one of the strongest elements of my series is how many different kinds of people it can connect with. If in one week I can get fan mail from a nine-year-old girl, a twenty-year-old college student, a forty-year-old woman, and a fifty-year-old father, then it means I have done my job right. Because, at the end of the day, this isn’t a story about a princess, or even fairytales. This is a story about a good-hearted, honorable person trying to figure out how to best live her life, live up to her potential, and do right by the world, the people she cares for, and herself. That’s a story anyone should be able to relate to theoretically.
7) As an author looking for feedback from reviewers and readers, what do you hope to see from those people?
I love positive reviews; I mean who doesn’t? But I particularly love it when people go into specific details about their favorite parts or moments in a book. Getting five stars is awesome, but knowing how specific jokes landed, or how twists affected my readers, what they connected with most, etc.—it is great feedback for me.
Also, I like to use a “Mario Cart” comparison when it comes to how reviews affect me (you know, the video game). So in that videogame, as you’re driving your racecar along, players can throw exploding mushrooms or other brickabrack at you. When that hits you, your car spins or you crash temporarily or slow down. That’s what negative reviews are; they don’t take you out of the game, but they can still hit you hard. Positive reviews are like the magical stars or rainbows or bonus coins that you pick up as you’re driving along. You could still keep going on fine without them, but they give you extra power and supercharge you. ☺
8) Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed! Is there anything else you’d like to talk about or add?
The Crisanta Knight Series is my beginning. I have so many other wonderful series and standalone novels coming down the line. For example, in addition to working on the Crisanta Knight finale right now, I am working on the first novel in my new “guardian angels” series that releases next year. Also, my magical, heartwarming Christmas standalone novel releases November 3, 2021—official book announcement and book trailer launching in June.
***Audiobook Two for The Crisanta Knight Series releases this summer as well.
This week I read another backlist TBR book! I read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo back in college but really didn’t remember it. What I can remember is talking about the book with my dad and being in complete disbelief that two people can read a book so differently!
So that’s my muse of the day: how do people read books differently, notice different things, focus on totally opposite aspects?
Bookish Quick Facts:
Title: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Series: Millennium, #1
Author: Stieg Larsson (trans- Reg Keeland
Publisher & Release: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, September 2008
Length: 465 pg
Rate & recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes but maybe on audio if the Swedish pronunciations throw you off!
Here is the synopsis:
Murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue combine into one satisfyingly complex and entertainingly atmospheric novel, the first in Stieg Larsson’s thrilling Millenium series featuring Lisbeth Salander.
Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption.
What a book and mystery!! I liked the format of having two separate storylines, one for Blomkvist and one for Salander – each storyline was vaguely connected, while not necessarily related. Salander’s storyline established her history, personality, and potential, while the other introduced the magazine, plot, characters. Once the storylines merged the book never slowed down!
As a younger person I was so interested in the action and kick-assery, that I couldn’t believe my dad read it and was focusing more on the characters. Throughout the years for some reason Salander was a favorite character study of his, and I can appreciate that a little more now.
After Salander wrapped up her…troubles …for the time being, she was able to progress as a person emotionally as well as professionally and I think she had a great storyline. I don’t think Blomkvist would have gotten the mystery and link about hating women without her. He was the more static character but multifaceted too at least. Henrik also haha I loved that old shark.
Anyway – I think the Swedes have a certain distinct style of writing thrillers and mysteries that also incorporates a little more horror and grotesque than most other cultures. I read The Wolf and the Watchman maybe last year and the absolute horror story involved reminded me of the hatred and violence in this book. Menthat hate women would have been a good title to keep😳. This book wasn’t just about a disappearing heiress – there was a corrupt sadist acting as a guardian of state Wards, biblical justifications for brutal torturing and murders in the past, a few romantic subplots, it was really a thriller once it got going. I wasn’t sure if the book wanted to be an investigative thriller or a psychological drama but it can be all of it, right?
Overall: I totally loved it, and I also was really glad for some reason that – now bear with me – anytime a Nazi pops up they are usually the criminal, but while the Nazi in this book was obviously a shithead – he wasn’t one of the main antagonists, more like some crazy old guy.
I had no freaking idea who the real criminal(s) were.
I also listened to a few chapters on audio and think Simon Vance is a great narrator. He took the guesswork out of the pronunciations and did fantastic voices.
My only gripe was literally the last paragraph of the book, why end it on a Misunderstanding? When that device wasn’t used throughout the rest of the book? I can’t wait to read the rest of these books!
Thank you so much to Angry Robot Books (Caroline, Gemma, and Sam are good eggs!) for having me on the book tour for Composite Creatures, an exciting new book that releases on 04/13/21! This is a low-key science fiction novel that is also a meditation on the future of healthcare ethics, growing up, growing older, and prioritizing what matters most
Here is the synopsis from Amazon:
How close would you hold those you love, when the end comes?
In a society where self-preservation is as much an art as a science, Norah and Arthur Ratare learning how to co-exist in their new little world. Though they hardly know each other, everything seems to be going perfectly – from the home they’re building together to the ring on Norah’s finger.
But survival in this world is a tricky thing, the air is thicker every day and illness creeps fast through the body. And the earth is becoming increasingly hostile to live in. Fortunately, Easton Grove is here for that in the form of a perfect little bundle to take home and harvest. You can live for as long as you keep it – or her – close.
Bookish Quick Facts:
Title: Composite Creatures
Author: Caroline Hardaker
Publisher & Release: Angry Robot, 04/13/21
Length: 400 pg
Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟✨ Yes for the patient readers
The Plot & Story: I honestly believe that the less you know going in about this book, the better. Health in the UK is going drastically downhill in the future as the air itself causes cancer, the animals are all extinct, healthy life expectancy is pathetic… and the NHS is handing the reins over to a private company. Enter an elitist group called Easton Grove, that promises health and happiness to those who can afford it, and pass all the tests.
What exactly is this little bundle that Easton Grove offer?
Hardaker makes us wait, and wait, and wait, and wait, and wait……and wait for it. Most of the reveal happens towards the end of the book so I definitely recommend this one for the patient readers. In the meantime we get a lovely meditation on life, losing one’s parents, falling out from our old friends, and co-existing with our chosen company. This one takes a good hard look at life’s hardships. The question becomes – is it worth holding out so long for the answers? It took until the very last page but I think so.
The characters: I also think that the less you know about the characters, the better. Norah and Arthur seem like a good pair, except it again takes a very long time for the book to reveal how they got together. I liked Norah a lot and really, really hated Arthur until almost the end. I think Hardaker did that on purpose though, she waited until page 400 out of 400 to make me forgive him, in that she also showed Norah as a “Composite Creature”
What does that even mean? Well – read it to find out
The World: Think of a slightly futuristic, overly polluted London with toxic soil, a sky with no birds, and a generally gray atmosphere. The book creates gorgeous reminisces of the past through artwork and Norah’s memories of her mother. I will give Hardaker endless Kudoes for the imagery in the book. Hardaker is a published poet and I think that shows in her debut novel quite a bit.
Miscellaneous: One other cool thing I noticed is that RJ Barker (you know I always rave about The Bone Ships) blurbed the book, so that’s awesome.
The only thing that I really didn’t like was that Hardaker made us wait, for EVERYTHING. She would mention a name, or a conflict, or a story, and give us absolutely no background until much later in the book. Luke and Aubrey were good examples of this – I spent half of the book feeling like I missed something, but eventually I realized that we would eventually learn what’s going on. I didn’t feel like these smaller reveals were necessarily worth waiting for though, which is where I docked the 1.5 stars. I would have liked an occasional “bone” from the author.
Overall: Definitely recommend for fans of twisty, meditative books, mysteries, speculative fiction, sci-fi, and strong character builds.
Thank you so much to the other for my finished copy of Minerva in exchange for an honest review! This is a post-apocalyptic dystopian for new adults, maybe older teens, that I think a lot of people will enjoy.
Author: Edith Pawlicki
Publisher & Release: Indie, December 2020
Length: 372 pg
Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟sure if it sounds up your alley
Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:
Action is driven by thought, thought is ruled by emotion, and emotion is controlled by Empaths.
Eighteen-year-old Minerva lives in a city of repurposed shipping containers, dependent on a hydroelectric plant for light and heat, while a nuclear winter blankets the world in snow. Hemp powder meals and patchwork clothes are a fact of life – as is human evolution. An unparalleled Empath, not only can Minerva sense emotions, she can read minds and influence thoughts.
Power has a price.
Starting with her mother’s postpartum depression, suffering has surrounded Minerva. But she has a core of steel, and to prove it, she joins the Guard like her dad. At first, Minerva loves the camaraderie she finds among the brash, strong Vitals, and she learns to use her Empathy defensively. Then two discoveries shock Minerva, and she starts asking hard questions.
The answers may cost her life.
This sounded amazing, so I readily agreed to read and review the book!
The Plot & Story: the synopsis does a pretty good job summarizing the story. Minerva is graduating from the equivalent of high school, and despite what the society recommends for her as am Empath, she is going into the Guard. I personally like stories where Underdog characters are training and beating the odds, so I enjoyed the parts that take place at the cadet academy.
There is plenty of action throughout the novel as well as a deep discussion of various ethical issues. Almost immediately Minerva learns that one of the cadet officers is using his Empathy to Compel women, which opens up the story to a meditation on the slippery slope from well intentioned to evil, PTSD, trauma, consent, and sexual coercion.
The Characters: Minerva is a great main character, she is learning to use her Empathy while dealing with a brutish training leader at the Academy. I liked her cousin, Rex is like a big Labrador but also has a serious side. There is a great group element among the group of cadets, and all of the characters contribute something meaningful to the story.
The villain…let’s just say the villain is multifaceted, and like an onion – Minerva just keeps peeling layers back to reveal who he truly is, and it’s a terrible but excellent story
There is also an enemies to friends to lovers element.. So… Yeah. I shipped it.
The World: we are set in a post nuclear winter, somewhere in what used to be Canada. We learned enough about the man made disaster to be content. I envision a city of shipping containers and repurposed materials, strict rules and strict government, and man is it always cold. The whole thing is surrounded by a defensive wall of snow that has been made over the years by the city. Great imagery. I liked that the setting directly contributed to the story and wasn’t just a backdrop for another story.
Others: I LOVE that the author created her own slang for the book, its pretty easy to follow but there’s also a glossary, which was awesome. I also liked that the society chucked labels and just calls everyone Inda – short for individual. It’s ridiculous how everyone today is so hyper fixated on labelling themselves – just be a good Inda. I mostly docked a star for editing mishaps and
I 100% recommend this book for anyone who likes post-apocalyptic settings, enemies to lovers, groups of found friends, strong family elements, ethics, or just a good story.
Hi everyone! I have been taking some time away from bookish media and just focusing on life, spring cleaning, and reading some older books from my home library!
Legacy of War is the 19th book in the Courtney series, publishing on April 15th, so it seems like a good time to chat about this amazing book. Thank you so much to Bookish First and Zaffre Books for my copy in exchange for an honest review!
Title: Legacy of War
Series: Courtney #19 (**can be read as a standalone**)
Author: Wilbur Smith
Publisher & Release: Zaffre, 4/15/21
Length: 417 pages
Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for fans of unapologetically gritty Histfic
Here is the synopsis from Amazon:
A nail-biting story of courage, bravery, rebellion and war from the master of adventure fiction.
The war is over, Hitler is dead – and yet his evil legacy lives on. Saffron Courtney and her beloved husband Gerhard only just survived the brutal conflict, but Gerhard’s Nazi-supporting brother, Konrad, is still free and determined to regain power. As a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse develops, a plot against the couple begins to stir. One that will have ramifications throughout Europe. . .
Further afield in Kenya, the last outcrop of the colonial empire is feeling the stirrings of rebellion. As the situation becomes violent, and the Courtney family home is under threat, Leon Courtney finds himself caught between two powerful sides – and a battle for the freedom of a country.
This is Historical fiction at it’s best, and not for the faint of heart! I love Smith because he has absolutely no filter, and I will continue to read anything he writes. This installment happens after the end of WWII, and the hunt for Gerhard’s Nazi Officer brother in on. Meanwhile, in Kenya, the Mau Mau rebellion is starting and the Courtney estate tribes are right in the war zone. Are they loyal enough to resist the uprising??
To touch on the series: this is, I believe, the third and final Saffron and Gerhard book (or maybe they are more of a duology, I’m not sure) but there is enough background given to read the end of their story as a standalone. Enough new things are revealed that readers new and old will be in love with this pair and the Courtney family.
This is an absolutely brutal and brutally exciting novel! All of the Courtney family books seem to have this gritty accuracy and I love them so freaking much. There does tend to be some gratuitous violence and murder, but these sadistic things happened in real life and I think they add to the nail-biting-ness of the novel.
This book, like the rest, is fast paced and unapologetic (but Saffron and Gerhard do apologize in their own sweet ways). Between the hair raising race to track down Konrad and the methods of the Mau Mau – chopped up babies, anyone? I couldn’t put this book down! Real historical figures like Jomo Kenyatta, Dior, Wangari, and a few others are present as well. Some events and people are given fictional names but mirror real life events, such as the broad daylight assassination of a chief in his vehicle.
Leon is an amazing character as well and I loved his friendship with the Kikuru chieftain. The Courtney family dynamics are so just wonderful. I was thoroughly choked up at the end of the novel but I think Smith brought this era to a wonderful conclusion. I have to wonder though – with the WWII storyline at a close and the Courtneys in Kenya kind of on their way out…will there be more books?