Categories
Fiction General Fiction Thrillers

Two (2-Star) ARCs and Authors Know We Can’t Unsee Things, Right?

I feel like I should talk about these books a little bit since they were sent as ARCs but honestly I just want to scrub them out of my mind and not talk about them anymore, so here is a brief summary of my rationales.

I was trying to (see the post’s main image) use a pretty tree to downplay how much I really did not like either of these arcs, my apologies to the publishers

How do you handle your rating system? I don’t have many 2 star reads, 1 is my DNF and 3 is my so-so/average/neutral rating… and that gray zone in the middle that is my 2 star rating, is hard.

The Outside is by an Icelandic author, Ragnar Jonasson, that I have enjoyed before. Sent from Minotaur Books via NetGalley. The translation is releasing in America in June 2022. I love Nordic noir. That said, Outside was repetitive, I guessed most of the twists right away, it wasn’t really thrilling, and the end left the characters in a weird predicament with more questions left than answered. I also think some of the phrasing was lost in translation. Maybe the movie will be better? This was a quick read with short chapters and alternating points of view, but at no point was I truly interested or invested.

The GoodReads rating is exceptionally low as well so I am not alone, it stands somewhere around a 3.2 right now

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Elsewhere was sent as an early physical copy from Celadon Books. While I loved Alex Schaitkin’s first book, Saint X, this one left me constantly either bored or grossed out. The mysticism worked in her first book but here, as a fantasy reader, I wanted that big question answered: what was the affliction? It was just too perverse as well, which was her intention but I’m 100% not here for that content. I cant unsee some of the things Vera and Peter did and I’m trying not to barf, like, wtf is this adding to the story?  The book had some good parts though and I felt like it was winding up to really reveal the mystery of the affliction, then it fell terribly flat by not giving us the big reveal but making things even weirder.

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Both of these books earn 2🌟 as I finished them, but can’t in good faith recommend them

Thanks again to the publishers for the advanced copies ❤

Categories
Fantasy Literary Fiction Paranormal

Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights (all the things I learned) by Salman Rushdie

The only thing I knew about Rushdie going into this read was that 1) his eyebrows are terrifying and 2) about 30 years ago he really, really pissed off the Ayatollah enough to receive a death warrant. I knew that he was known for magical realism and I thought a book about Djinn would be a fun place to start – plus Ursula LeGuin plugged the book, and it pays tons of homage to Scheherezade and the 1001 nights (see title).

I expected a stuffy old idealist, which meant that while reading I was shocked by the humor and strangeness mixed in with the idealism and colorful characters, sex and profanity, giggles and terrible acts and general ridiculousness found on the same page as much more serious themes and topics.

I watched a talk and Q&A that Rushdie did, mostly about his new book at the time called Quichotte, and he is HILARIOUS.  Brilliant clearly but also giggling about not wanting certain presidents in his fucking book, and he actually joked that thirty years later, only one of the two men (Rushdie vs. the Ayatollah) are alive, so things must have worked out.  I was laughing truly, he is a delight to listen to.

So what did I learn? Don’t assume an author is a stuffy old dude until you read something they write and hear their thoughts on their work.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Two Years Eight Months and Twenty Eight Nights
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Salman Rushdie
  • Publisher & Release: Random House, September 2015
  • Length: 304 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐ ⚡ I don’t think I would tell people to read this book of his first

Here’s the synopsis:

In the near future, after a storm strikes New York City, the strangenesses begin. A down-to-earth gardener finds that his feet no longer touch the ground. A graphic novelist awakens in his bedroom to a mysterious entity that resembles his own sub–Stan Lee creation. Abandoned at the mayor’s office, a baby identifies corruption with her mere presence, marking the guilty with blemishes and boils. A seductive gold digger is soon tapped to combat forces beyond imagining.

Unbeknownst to them, they are all descended from the whimsical, capricious, wanton creatures known as the jinn, who live in a world separated from ours by a veil. Centuries ago, Dunia, a princess of the jinn, fell in love with a mortal man of reason. Together they produced an astonishing number of children, unaware of their fantastical powers, who spread across generations in the human world.

Once the line between worlds is breached on a grand scale, Dunia’s children and others will play a role in an epic war between light and dark spanning a thousand and one nights—or two years, eight months, and twenty-eight nights. It is a time of enormous upheaval, in which beliefs are challenged, words act like poison, silence is a disease, and a noise may contain a hidden curse.

Inspired by the traditional “wonder tales” of the East, Salman Rushdie’s novel is a masterpiece about the age-old conflicts that remain in today’s world. Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights is satirical and bawdy, full of cunning and folly, rivalries and betrayals, kismet and karma, rapture and redemption.

I think the last line of the synopsis says everything.  The main issue for me is that the book was set another 1000 years in the future, so the first and last parts of it read like a historical textbook on the Djinn and an old war.  Not that this is a bad thing, but it caused me to switch over to the audio as that kind of literature gets into my brain easier when someone else is telling the story.

After a history of the Djinn, we meet Dunia, and then generations later we meet the descendants of her children. Many of these are described in the synopsis.  This was the highlight for me as things got quite strange.  For example – how does someone floating higher and higher off the ground take a crap once things start getting too splashy? Is a gardener capable of being a hero? Will the power destroy or drive mad or save it’s recipients when their Djinn blood is awakened?

“Bawdy and satirical” is an understatement an overall I liked those parts.  I didn’t love how he made religion the scapegoat of the dark Djinn, he pretty much dismissed a ton of people as sheep and clowns, but there were also some interesting ideas about God so who knows where he is really coming from.

The 1001 night war was a good idea, and I liked that he kept circling back to the storytellers.  Other themes obviously included repressed idealism, common heroes, how good and bad can originate much from the same place, and … right at the end there is a great piece on how history chooses it’s heroes and writes them accordingly

He also echoed a sentiment I have been feeling recently where people are so focused on immediate results (including in stories) that longer books and journeys aren’t appreciated so much anymore

One quick note on the narration – I love Indian accents, and Robert G. Slade did an awesome job.  The cackling comic book Djinn roughly quoted as saying “come get me mothafuckaaa” was one of the many, many things I thought he did well.  A large portion of the book also took place in America, and I think he has a great range of accents and voices to offer.  It was a no-frills audio and I think it was the right move for me to switch over

Overall: I think everyone should read at least one Rushdie book at some point, but the historical text parts of this one were a lot less interesting than the present tense chapters.  I would not recommend starting with this book.  I am personally going to try Quichotte next, but Midnight’s Children and The Satanic Verses (the one the sparked the Fatwa) I believe are his two most popular.

Categories
Author Interviews & Guest Posts Contemporary Paranormal Romance

Sunday Brunch Author Interview Series: Featuring M.A. Philips!

Another week, another awesome interview! Episode 13 of the Sunday Brunch Series features local author M.A. Philips, writer of the Rituals of Rock Bay trilogy!
I found M.A. totally by accident while looking at Shadow Spark publishing titles, and thought it was absolutely incredible to find someone writing books in and about NNY & the Thousand Islands area. What a thrill to have worked at the hospital mentioned in the book, picture the waters of the St Lawrence, and learn a bit about Irish Legends!
Come to find that M.A. is also an absolutely lovely person to chat with, and I was floored when she agreed to come onto the SBS!
Read on to learn about the author, book, writing process, some resources to explore druidry, and much more!

🍁Welcome to the SBAIS! Tell everyone a little about yourself and your books!

🎤Thank you for having me! I’m a writer and teacher from Upstate NY (near the Thousand Island Region).  When I’m not writing, I enjoy gardening, reading, sewing, cooking, watching anime, and spending time with my husband and daughter. Much of my writing involves modern Pagans because I’m part of that spiritual community. I want to portray our beliefs realistically while also weaving in lots of magical realism and romance. Next year, one of my short stories will be published in an anthology called Brigid’s Light: Tending the Ancestral Flame of the Beloved Celtic Goddess edited by Cairelle Crow and Laura Louella. As for WIPs, I’m currently writing a new novel about a witch who primarily works with plants.
🍁 I was so excited to find a local author! Your love for the St Lawrence is clear in your writing, did you always know you wanted to base the setting locally too?
🎤 I didn’t! The earliest iterations of River Magic, before it was centered in a village on the St. Lawrence River, was originally going to take place in Utica, NY! I grew up in that area and was writing what I knew at the time. After moving up here, I fell in love with the Thousand Islands. Over the last decade, I came to know the land and waters more intimately, and once the mermaid entered the picture, switching to a North Country-based story was right.

Now my current WIP takes place in Utica, though it’s more urban than my previous series. It’s been fun to explore and reconnect with that part of my life again.

🍁River Magic sparked a huge interest in magical realism for me, a genre that I have hardly read. How did the book change the most from your original idea or draft?
🎤I’m so glad you became interested in magical realism! The genre really captured my attention after reading some of Alice Hoffman’s books like Practical Magic and Indigo (especially the latter due to the inclusion of mermaids). In my original drafts, Lacey and Cian were part of a more fantastical world. I suppose it would have started as urban fantasy but become increasingly more of an epic supernatural romance. The characters were so drastically different back then, and it never felt right. The conflict was too global, and I decided I wanted to tone it way down and think about what messages I really wanted to send.
🍁I had no idea that druidry was a modern practice, or that we had a local chapter! Can you recommend some reading material or a website for anyone else who might be interested in learning more.
🎤Sure! If anyone who reads my books is interested in what Lacey, Cian, and Fiona do, I would suggest reading books by Morgan Daimler or Lora O’Brien. Irish Pagan School is a great online resource with many reasonable classes and teachers from Ireland. There are some wonderful intro classes for example. I’m also a part of a grove of Druids in the Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF) tradition, so that’s another option as well. Read or listen to the lore, take heed of what Irish (or Scottish, Welsh, Cornish) authors and scholars have to say, and listen to your own intuition.  Like my characters, I’m just a student who is trying to respect the living Irish culture.
🍁Did the rituals and practices described in Rituals of Rock Bay come from your own experiences? 

🎤They did, though not always verbatim, and I often simplified so as to not gum up the pace. When characters continually attend or perform rituals and magic in a similar manner, I ran the risk of those scenes becoming repetitive. I focused on the seasonal changes, how life events intertwined with these celebrations, and the characters’ development in regards to familiarity with the traditions, skill, and confidence. Some magical practices shown in the series are activities I’ve only witnessed or read about, though, but everything is based on authentic practice within the Pagan community.
🍁I loved the ongoing theme of holding to one’s convictions and doing what’s right! What would you like the new adult audience to take away from the Rituals of Rock Bay?
🎤I’m so glad you enjoyed that theme! I hope readers can relate to Lacey and Cian in their efforts to find their place in life and be true to themselves and their intuition. I also explore the importance of community throughout the series. You don’t have to be alone. Find your people!
🍁How do you feel about brunch? Any favorite items?
🎤I don’t get to enjoy brunch nearly enough! I’m always down for mid-day waffles and mimosas. 
🍁The Irish mythology elements in the series were cool too, do you have a favorite story from that lore?
🎤I’m very drawn to stories about the Tuath Dé Danann, the gods of Ireland. I also adore anything about selkies and other legendary creatures. I actually reference one of my favorite myths in River Magic: the story about the god Angus and his lover, Caer. As it involved dreams and romance, it was fitting for Lacey.
🍁One of the magical elements in River Magic included a river spirit in the shape of a Sturgeon! {{There are rumored to be some up the Oswegatchee and maybe Black River too but I’ve never seen one}}. I was wondering why you chose a sturgeon?
🎤The decision to move the setting to the St. Lawrence River and incorporate a mermaid happened around the same time, and I decided that she would be a sturgeon spirit shortly after that. In the book, there’s a scene where Lacey is standing in a hotel balcony looking down at the river, and she sees a creature who looks like a shark, but Cian explains it’s actually a sturgeon. That’s based on an experience I had in Alexandria Bay. I was blown away by the creature’s size. The more I read about them, the more I admired these beautiful swimming fossils. They quickly became my favorite fish, and incorporating sturgeon was central to the environmental elements of the story.
🍁Here is the easy round of rapid fire bookish questions! Do you have a favorite book or series that you always recommend? Favorite character? Any wonderful or strange bookish habits?
🎤Oh no, these are the hardest! Haha! The first favorite series I really obsessed over were the Redwall books by Brian Jacques. I devoured them and, for many years, emulated his style of writing. As a teen, I loved the concept of a medieval world of anthropomorphic animals. As I grew, I enjoyed the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and I will always admire Samwise. I’m also a fan of the Outlander series, and love the enduring relationship between Claire and Jamie. For more magical realism, I highly recommend Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen.  As for strange bookish habits…um…this is really divisive, but I dogear pages (only if they belong to me). Don’t judge me!
{{This is a judgement free zone!!}}

🍁Thank you so much for taking the time to interview! If there is anything else you’d like to say about anything at all, please do so here!

 
 🎤 Thank you for chatting! I’m delighted you found my novels and enjoyed the first one enough to share your thoughts and interview me. Experiences like this keep me writing. 
 
Your readers can find my books through Shadow Spark Publishing in e-book and paperback format. https://shadowsparkpub.com/ma-phillip

Meet the author!

“M. A. Phillips lives in Northern NY with her husband, daughter, and three cats. She is a writer, English teacher, & practicing Druid. Some of her short stories have been published in Stone, Root, and Bone magazine. Her debut, River Magic, is an adult magical realism novel featuring a friends to lovers romance, contemporary Pagans, & a vengeful mermaid.

When she isn’t writing, you can find her in the garden, sewing, or enjoying a book with a side of tea. You can read more about her spiritual and creative journey on her blog ditzydruid.com, or on Twitter & Instagram @ditzydruid