Adult, Book Reviews

Review: Wrecked in Love by Roxanna Cross

 

Wrecked in Love is an adult romance short with some scenes that may not be appropriate for younger audiences.

This Novella/Novelette follows the story of Josephine. She’s a city girl who visited her country family every summer as a child, where she spends time with her cousin and their best-friend Derek. That sets up – you guessed it – a love triangle.

I wouldn’t call this paranormal in any way, as the blurb suggests, but I would suggest reading the information there on Derek as much of that isn’t explained in detail in the story itself.

It’s a short with a sequel. That means from the get-go you know the plot won’t be resolved in this book. I can confirm that it leaves you wanting just a little bit more.

I love the story. Derek, however, I absolutely detest. I need to give a certain amount of credit to Cross for being able to muster up the emotions in me to hate a character as much as I can’t stand this man. Just to be clear, it isn’t his fetish that bothers me, it is his values. He, in my opinion, appears to use women without thought of the consequences when they find out. 

I want Josephine to run & I’ll be checking out book two to find out if she does.

Four out of five stars ~ 18+ readers.  

Book Reviews, Diversity

A River of Lost Footsteps: Histories of Burma by Thant Myint-U

In teaching largely refugee populations, one of my top priorities is to learn more about the histories and cultures of my students. This is essential in connecting with them as the basis of any good educational system is relationship. In Minnesota, we have a large population of Somali, Karen, and Hmong refugees, whether first, second, or third generation. There are plenty of other refugee and immigrant populations from every continent. It’s really a melting pot!

When I worked in adult teaching, many of my students were from Burma and ethnically Karen. I learned a great deal about Burma and the Karen in many different and deeply personal ways. Because of this, I was excited to discover the book A River of Lost Footsteps: Histories of Burma by Thant Myint-U. As an avid history fan, I was eager to read this and learn even more about what my students were telling me about.

Thant Myint-U was raised in the US amidst Burmese political academics, which is evident in the course his life has taken. In the preface, he discusses his graduate work in modern history. His thesis focused on 19th-century history of Burma and this book is somewhat an extension of that, seeing the time period on through to more recent events and how events that occurred 200 years ago have rippled through now, both for Burma as a whole and with familial accounts.

Here is a man, an author, who very clearly cares about the country of his family and what has led up the current political climate. This book, his first, gives a great analytic overview of the history, colonialism’s effects on Burma’s development as a country, and modern perspectives. It is rather evident that it is written by an academic, which makes sense as Thant Myint-U has a Ph.D. and works in academia, and is heavily involved with humanitarian work and politics (with over two decades of experience in peacebuilding, research, and political advising). Even so, it was an easy, beautiful, intriguing read.

I doubt I could pick a favorite part of the book as I was so thoroughly engaged in his historical analysis, the way he describes people and events, and really–the learning. It’s relatable, especially for history buffs (and even if you’re not!). However, as it is an overview, there are things that are either left out or not discussed as thoroughly. I think that is only because what he could do with these items would each be an extra full-length book on their own.

If you enjoy colonial history, politics, or academic works, this is a book for you. It doesn’t read as a stuffy book in the slightest, so if you’re reading for fun (even while learning), this is also a book for you. If you’re looking to be introduced to the country, again, this book is for you. Basically, I definitely recommend it. Happy reading!

Book Reviews, Young Adult

Review: World of Shadows by Emily Rachelle

In this urban fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast, modern-day teenager Beila Durand is plagued by nightmares that lead her to discover – and wind up trapped in – a cursed underground world. The invisible people that live in this medieval village depend on Beila learning the truth behind their curse – and why she is the only one who can set them free.

In her quest for answers, however, all she seems to find are more questions. Where do the echoing screeching at night originate? Who is the isolated man that speaks with Beila from the shadows of his cloak? What does this New York girl have to do with any of it? And will she ever find a way back home?

–back cover of World of Shadows by Emily Rachelle

Before this book, I hadn’t really read a fairytale retelling, but this book made me want to read a lot more of them. This book was charming and magical.

I loved the characters. Beila was relatable and lovable. I cared about what happened to her almost instantly. Shadow was also great. He was mysterious and most of the book he kept me guessing. I think that my favorite though were the invisible people. They were such a twist on the Beauty and the Beast story. I fell in love with all of them, especially Adelle and her daughter.

This book was hard to put down. Even though it was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, a lot of the story was different, and that is what I loved. I recognized the story but so much of it was different that I was entertained the whole time.

While I loved this story there were a couple of downsides. I feel like sometimes her writing style was weak. There were several times that there was telling instead of showing. That could have improved the book in some areas. There also was a period where the author took the reader back in time and while it was information that we needed I did not enjoy this. It interrupted the climax and slowed it down for quite a bit. I also found the sentences of French kind of annoying. It would draw away from the story for me.

Overall though, this was a really good book. I give it 4 out of 5 stars. I think that most people would enjoy this book.

Finding Inspiration, The 'Write' Information

Finding Inspiration to Overcome Writer’s Block – March

 

How do you deal with writer’s block? That’s probably the most frequently asked question of any author and their least favourite to answer. I decided to tackle finding an answer in 2017 by drawing inspiration from other forms of art. Once a month I’ll be trying something different and discussing the results.

For March, I attended Mysteriously Yours Mystery Dinner Theatre in Toronto, Ontario, for a murder mystery birthday celebration.

The evening begins with dinner. You have your choice of soup or salad. I chose the salad which was an excellent choice for me. The mustard dressing reminded me of one my mother used to make, and I, even with her recipe, have never been able to recreate it. The main dish was a choice of four: beef; chicken; fish; or vegetarian. We then had a choice between two scrumptious desserts, which we chose to have served with coffee at intermission.

The fun begins with each of the characters making their way around the room and visiting every table. This isn’t your typical theatre event as the stage is hardly used and everything is very interactive with the audience. In fact, if you are celebrating an event you can tell them and they’ll make you a part of the show.

Our showing was called Murder By The Books and each character was a take-off on a famous British Mystery Author or character. Of course, after meeting them, there was a murder…

I can’t share any more details with you since it could ruin your evening, but everyone has the same clues and a chance during intermission to ask questions of the suspects as they make a second tour around the tables. At the end of the night, you write down who-done-it and why. If you are right, you could win one of five prizes. It is unfortunate that not everyone who figures it out wins, but there are a lot of guests.

Are you wondering about the results of my experiment? It was a great evening out with family and I enjoyed myself immensely. If you haven’t tried Mysteriously Yours, I urge you to make a night of it. I came home with the need to read a few detective novels.

March’s visit to a murder mystery was, in my opinion, a success from a social and mental standpoint! I craved a new mystery to solve and found a few over the next forty-eight hours! I’m ready now to get back to writing. Don’t be surprised if there is a mystery twist in my future works.

Let’s keep that creativity flowing. In April, I’m planning a new destination for my Easter. I hope you’ll join me for those results next month!

Thanks for reading The Write Information.

 

Book Reviews, Young Adult

Review: Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown

Kendra has always felt overshadowed by her older brother, Grayson, whose OCD forces him to live a life of carefully coordinated routines. The only way Kendra can stand out next to Grayson is to be perfect, and she has perfection down to an art — until a cheating scandal threatens her flawless reputation.

Behind the wheel of her car, with Grayson asleep beside her, Kendra decides to drive away from it all — with enough distance, maybe she’ll be able to figure everything out. But eventually, Kendra must stop running and come to terms with herself, her brother, and her past.

With undeniable grace and humor, acclaimed author Jennifer Brown explores OCD, the pressure for perfection, and the emotional highs and lows of a complex sibling relationship. –back cover of Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown

Upon starting this book I devoured page after page, but after a couple of chapters I put it down. It took weeks for me to pick it up again and when I did, I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I did the first 50 pages or so.

It wasn’t that this book was atrocious, it just wasn’t as well written as the rest of her books so it was a disappointment. There were some amazing parts about this book, but there were also some weak points.

Her writing style was just as well done as the rest of the books. It always seems like I’m watching a movie in my head when I’m reading her books, which may be her strongest point as a writer.

As I read this it became evident that her marvelous writing was, this time, a fairly boring movie. Throughout most of the book the plot was not engaging, because not much was a surprise or significantly interesting. In my opinion, the best part of the book was within the first 50 pages, but there were just enough entertaining parts after this to keep me reading.

Another downside of this book was that I really didn’t find the characters extremely interesting. They weren’t exactly cliche or boring, they just weren’t very compelling.

Despite these imperfections, there were some amazing parts that may make this book worth reading. I wouldn’t read it again, but I don’t regret reading it.

First of all, Grayson’s OCD is about as realistic as it can get. I was hesitant to read this book when I saw that he had OCD because writers tend to not represent this illness correctly. This book was an exception. If you want to know how OCD works you should read this book.

This book had an overall wonderful message. At the beginning of the book the world was spiraling out of control, but I parted from the book with the notion that the world, as terrifying as it may be, isn’t always as horrible as it may seem. We have the tendency to think up worst case scenarios and oftentimes they don’t come true.

I give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Book Reviews, Children's Books

Review: Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

Every reader at some point wishes that they had the ability to read a favorite character to life. Unfortunately for Mortimer, this ability is all too real, and his and his daughter Meggie’s lives are drastically changed when he accidentally reads characters out of the epic fantasy drama Inkheart. Though Mortimer tries to shelter Meggie from the truth of what happened that night nine years ago, it all comes back to haunt him when one of the characters shows up in the middle of the night with a warning and a secret.

Inkheart is full of intriguing and unique characters, from the cranky bookworm Elinor to Dustfinger the fire-eater to the somewhat narcissistic author of Inkheart, Fenoglio. Most of the story follows Meggie, a twelve-year-old girl who loves books almost as much as she loves her father, who is forced to uncover the secrets her father has been keeping from her. Though her father’s ability to read characters off of a page is the cause of their troubles, Inkheart teems with enough magic and wonder that the reader will wish they possessed the ability as well.

The magnificence of Inkheart comes from the relationships and complexity of each character. Meggie quickly learns that no one is completely good, everyone keeps secrets, and magic always has consequences. But even when it seems that everything she thinks she knows is wrong, there will always be people she can depend on to set things right again.

FOR THE PARENTS:

Inkheart contains mild swearing and violence. At around 150,000 words (a length somewhere between the third and fourth Harry Potter books), Inkheart is larger than most children’s books, but the story is so well-written that it is still doable for many kids. My first experience with this book was when I was nine years old and my mother read it aloud to me and my brother; if you have the time to read this book to your kid(s), I highly recommend it. It was, and still is, my all-time favorite book.

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke (translated from German by Anthea Bell)

Book Reviews

Review: Air Awakens

Air Awakens is a young adult fantasy book written by Elisa Kova as part of a series. The book is set in a typical fantasy kingdom, ruled by an Emperor and his two sons (the Princes). Citizens of the Solaris Empire are ranked according to status. Their lives revolve around where they are meant to work and those they are meant to socialize with. People hail from the North, South, East or West with each area having its own traits and, in some cases, magics. A religious war of sorts is currently being waged.

This book is a definite page-turner. I completed it mere hours after starting, but have mixed emotions as to rating it. The storyline is interesting and I fully enjoyed the use of magic. For the most part, the characters are enjoyable, although not always fully developed. As this is the first book in a series, they do need some room to grow.

Where the story fell short for me was with the heroine of the story. Vhalla has little self-confidence and seems to idolize the regime under which she is being suppressed. I might have been able to overlook that fact, assuming that she would evolve through other books, if it weren’t for the mental and physical abuse she suffers as a result of the actions of her possible love interests. When a girl spends a large portion of a book covered in bruises, broken bones and blood, there might be a problem.

The Princes are, in my opinion, without honour in this novel. I may be old-fashioned but I would have preferred at least one of them to be a gentleman of sorts. Everything that happens to Vhalla is either directly or indirectly caused by them – yet, Vhalla continues to idolize them. That, to me, is an abusive relationship.

Hopefully future books will rectify that situation. Kova has an uphill battle to show character development and growth in the next book. I plan to give benefit of the doubt and pick up a copy to see. I really do enjoy the writing style and would like to know how the story ends.

Warning: Violence and abuse. 3.5/5 stars

Book Reviews

Review: Shift or Treat by Josette Reuel

I recently had the opportunity to meet Ms. Reuel at an author signing event. While she is known for her steamier works, I was assured that this was a tamer side to romance;. an odd combination of innocence with paranormal romance. Being the romance novel lover that I am, I needed to give it a try. A signed copy is proudly displayed in my office library.

This Novella/Novelette follows the story of Simone. She’s curvy, which in the romance world means overweight which is confirmed by her constant diet battle – the reader’s imagination is allowed to fill in the details from there as to appearance. The love interest is Austin, the office eye-candy, who seems to tease her unmercifully.

There’s a Halloween party, complete with costumes, which sets the stage for anything paranormal to seem normal. Simone will need to decipher if Austin is joking at her expense or truly revealing his secrets.

It’s a short story so I won’t give away anything from there. It is, however, a sweet romance that would be perfect for a young adult audience.

Four out of five stars. Recommended read for those who enjoy true romance.

Interviews

Interview: Shannon L. Miller

Author Shannon L. Miller recently released her new Sci-Fi novel, Orphans of War.   

Tara Nóra Éirinn: To start off, could you tell us a little about your book, “Orphans of War”?

Miller: “Orphans of War” is a science fiction I have been working on since 2007, back when I lived in China. At its roots, it is the story of trying to find oneself, of not being able to fit in, always sticking out. Being a foreigner in another country, these ideas were always in the front of my mind. The names of the 2 main human characters come from those of some of my ancestors roughly 300 years ago. It was a way to explore myself, while still maintaining my roots.

Éirinn: That sounds really intriguing. Is there anything else that inspired you to write “Orphans of War”?

Miller: I have always loved science fiction since as far back as I can remember. Before I ever got into fantasy, Sci-Fi was the genre I lived in. I think I put off finishing a work of Sci-Fi because I was waiting for the right idea that fit me.

Éirinn: I love sci-fi too, and fantasy; it’s fascinating as both a writer and a reader to be able to explore all the different worlds offered to us in books or our own imaginations. When did you first realize you wanted to be an author?

Miller: I remember wanting to be an author as far back as elementary school. I actually used to write all kinds of nonsense stories back in kindergarten. When I was in 1st grade, I wanted to be one. I think I really contemplated it as a profession as early as 4th grade. Back in elementary school though, some adults tried to stomp out my creativity, and so I would hide anything I wrote, even writing under my bed sheets so I wouldn’t feel ashamed. A 7th grade English teacher brought me out of my shell, and my 11th grade English teacher helped me realize it isn’t crazy to want to be an author. Since then, I have never looked back on or questioned my decision.

Éirinn: I love when teachers step up and encourage their students to follow their dreams and to let their creativity shine. Those sorts of teachers truly are the best. Who or what would you say has inspired you most in your writing?

Miller: My mom and dad reading me stories as a kid really made me fall in love with the written word. My brother and I had a massive book collection. My favorite part was never the pictures but the words. My mom also used to babysit older kids, and I used to be jealous, watching them write. I put a lot of effort as a kid into learning how to read and write, learning new words, and reading up on how to become a better writer.

Éirinn: Just one more question. Do you have any advice for other writers?

Miller: Never let anyone’s doubts get to you, and especially your own.

Éirinn: That is great advice. Thank you so much for your time and for answering my questions. I can’t wait to read “Orphans of War.” It sounds really interesting.

Miller: Thank you very much!

Shannon L. Miller’s Orphans of War can be purchased in paperback from Amazon or on Kindle.

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Book Reviews, Diversity, Uncategorized

The Shadow Speaker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu

I first picked up The Shadow Speaker because I have recently become an avid fan of Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, recent Hugo award winner for her novella, Binti. Not only was I intrigued by the fact that her stories of magical realism set in Africa (whether partially or wholly) but I was also excited by her featuring girls coming of age and into their own power. The Shadow Speaker does not disappoint. This full-length novel centers on Ejii, a 14-year-old Muslim Nigerian girl living in 2070. She also happens to be able to speak to shadows, for which she receives lessons in fluency and ability.  It’s a story of her journey from a girl uncertain of her abilities and place in the world to standing up for what’s right.

I wish I knew before I started reading got most of the way through it that this is a sequel to Zahara The Windseeker. Likely, that story has certain things in it that could shed some light on this book. However, it worked well enough on its own that reading the first book will only add to it. Nothing in this book was really confusing without having read the first book.

Being what this story is, a coming-of-age story, much of the character development does occur for the main protagonist. It’s a story through her lens and her journey to tell. And it’s done really well. Her development doesn’t have any surprises that come too soon, she doesn’t grow in ways that are unnatural to her or too early for her, even as there are some missteps and her uncertainty of her role in life. At one point, she must literally journey on her own from her home to another city in order to become an apprentice.

Along the way, she meets Dikeougu, a boy about her age. After Ejii, he is the one to go through the most change. What’s believable about them is that they don’t change at the same rate or for the same reason – they are their own people with separate desires and needs and changes that must happen. The other characters in the story are there to either help Ejii (or Dikeougu), like her mom, her instructor, her friends, even her abusive half-brother, or they serve to be the counterpoint to Ejii. While we understand each of the character’s motives and they react predictably, they don’t change or grow in the way that Ejii and Dikeougu do. In a way, it makes the changes they go through more acute.

The story in of itself is very cool. It’s at once familiar and new. The familiarity is in the journey Ejii undertakes, the new is in the combination of interesting characters, changes in the world that make it different from ours, and an introduction to worlds vastly different from our own, but with people not so different from us. The crux of the story is very familiar – violence versus peace, environmentalism, anger and fear versus love, and self-acceptance all play a role in the plot. It’s what each character does in response to the events as they unfold that make it interesting and vivid.

Okorafor-Mbachu is skilled at making this relatable, which is important especially for teens who reading this. She is able to take these magical elements, explain and present them in such a way that it is utterly normal even if daunting in certain instances, and make it easy for the reader to access the story. The one major hang-up I have about this particular novel is that Ejii carries something similar to a tablet but we only see two pages as though she has written something on it as a journal entry. It pulled me right out of the story since it happened only the one time and seemed out of place. Also, as a personal preference, I would have loved more information on the races she encountered in one of the other worlds.

Overall,  

for each one, you can have more than one thing. (keep it together tho… all the good about character, then all the bad) But alternating good and bad, and ending with the best, helps soften the blow while still telling the negative parts you need to tell to be honest