Book Reviews, Young Adult

Review: Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner

The war between humanity and Faerie devastated both sides. Or so 15-year-old Liza has been told. Nothing has been seen or heard from Faerie since, and Liza’s world bears the scars of its encounter with magic. Trees move with sinister intention, and the town Liza calls home is surrounded by a forest that threatens to harm all those who wander into it. Then Liza discovers she has the Faerie ability to see into the past, into the future, and she has no choice but to flee her town. Liza’s quest will take her into Faerie and back again, and what she finds along the way may be the key to healing both worlds.

Janni Lee Simner’s first novel for young adults is a dark fairy-tale twist on apocalyptic fiction as familiar as a nightmare, yet altogether unique.

Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner

Bones of Faerie was really very dark, so here is your official content warning. If the death of children or abuse are subjects that you would not want to read about, this is not the book for you.

In the first page, it becomes evident that the main character Liza’s father had burned her baby sister to death. Throughout the book, this type of content comes up again many times. The book, however, is good, very interesting, and it kept me up way too late when I was reading it. It’s the type of book that you know is kind of twisted, but you just have to know what happens next.

I thought that the characters were strong and interesting. Liza was the main character, and I liked seeing her develop her powers. Overall, there was just a cast of good characters; in addition to Liza there was Matthew, Kate, Allie, and Caleb. Matthew surprised me with how he turned out to be. Allie was the perfect portrayal of a child, which was nice to see. She wasn’t overly tough or overly annoying–she was just a child.

My only complaint with the characters is that most of them weren’t very memorable. The two that I’ll probably remember are Caleb and Liza’s father. I’ll only remember Liza’s father because he was so horrible, but Caleb was fascinating and I am excited to see what happens to him in the rest of the trilogy.

Overall, this book was well-written, had a good set of characters and an interesting, compelling plot. I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Articles

22 LGBTQA+ Authors

If you’re looking for a few LGBTQA+ authors to read, here is a list of authors, ranging from well-known to indie, and a few notable works to get you started.  

Charlie Jane Anders

All the Birds in the Sky


J.M. Barrie

Peter Pan


Imogen Binnie

Nevada


Jennifer Finney Boylan

Long Black Veil

You Are You


Zac Brewer (published under Heather Brewer)

The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod

The Slayer Chronicles


Truman Capote

In Cold Blood

Breakfast at Tiffany’s


E.M. Forester

Maurice

A Room With a View

A Passage to India


Edward Gorey

The Gashlycrumb Tinies


Radclyffe Hall

The Well of Loneliness


Violette Leduc

La Bâtarde

Therese and Isabelle


Audre Lorde

Zami: A New Spelling of My Name


Seanan McGuire

Every Heart a Doorway

Rosemary and Rue


Marcel Proust

In Search of Lost Time


Jane Rule

Desert of the Heart


Maurice Sendak

Where the Wild Things Are


Sarah Waters

Fingersmith

Affinity

The Night Watch

Tipping the Velvet


Walt Whitman

Leaves of Grass


Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Importance of Being Earnest


Tennessee Williams

A Streetcar Named Desire

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof


Jeanette Winterson

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit


Virginia Woolf

Mrs. Dalloway

Orlando

Moments of Being


RoAnna Sylver

Chameleon Moon

Interviews

Interview: Ann W. Shannon

Thank you for joining us, Ann! To start off, why don’t you introduce yourself to our readers? Tell us a bit about yourself and the anthology We Are Not Alone.

I’m Ann Shannon. I’m an author, blogger and avid reader. I write romance and erotic romance. My blog is the Manic Writer and its focus is on Indie Authors. I review indie books and run a monthly spotlight called the Indie BLT where I feature a different Indie author each month amongst other things. I also read a variety of books, about 4-6 a month. I read a mix of Indie authors, writing craft books, and others. My favorite genres are romance, and paranormal.

The idea for We are Not Alone came up when Skye and I had a conversation about some poems and short stories we’d written concerning mental illness. These pieces had been written from the heart and we felt people needed to see them and be encouraged that they were not alone. Finding a place where they belonged, however, was proving difficult, so we decided to make our own and open it to others who also had something to say. The anthology will be a collection of poems, letters, essays and short stories that all focus on the impact mental illness has on everyone, not just the individuals who are ill. It’s purpose is to raise mental health awareness. All proceeds will go to a mental health charity.

Nice to meet you, Ann!

In your perspective, what is the connection between mental health illnesses and creative writing? How do you see that played out with the anthology, We Are Not Alone?

I think there’s a huge connection between mental health illnesses and creativity in general. That being said, I don’t think there has to be. I’ve known many creative people who did not suffer from mental illness. But I do believe that mental illness tends to make us look for ways to express ourselves, as a cry for help, or just as a way to communicate what we are feeling. In my case it’s an amazing outlet when I feel pain that I can’t express in other ways.

That’s one of the reasons We Are Not Alone came to be. Often the pieces we write in our pain are dark and sad and, as a result, hard to place. I wrote just such a piece. A short story called “A Terrible Mistake.” It looks at the pain a young teenager feels as she copes with the death of her baby brother while she babysat him and her thoughts of suicide to end that pain. Skye read it and felt that people needed to know that pain was real and normal, but that death shouldn’t be allowed to win. We decided the anthology was the place for it and for others. We wanted to gather people’s stories for others to read and know they were not alone.

You refer to writing as a means of expression and communication. Have there been times that writing has fallen short? Have you faced any difficulties in using the written world as a vehicle for self-expression and communication?

I think every writer has had times when their chosen outlet has failed them. As an individual who lives with bipolar disorder there have been times when I’ve been so down I couldn’t imagine writing. I was literally too depressed to put words to the page. My brain too befuddled to organize them.

Fortunately, for me, those moments don’t last for more than a day or two, if that long. I have an amazing support network and my husband is a chief part of that. He is always willing to listen to me and help me work through what is bothering me so I can move on.

Can you offer any advice to those who, at times, are unable to use writing as an outlet?

I think the best advice for those times is to allow yourself to take a break and not see it as an end. Sometimes we just need to step back and allow our minds to run free.

When I’ve hit a wall and not felt like writing I used to panic and worry that I’d never write again. I know now that isn’t true. I may not write for a while, it might be 2 days, 2 months or 2 years, but I will always be a writer. I think also, during those times it’s important to be sure you have another outlet for your creative energy.

Let’s transition to the anthology. What are your hopes for We Are Not Alone?

I hope the anthology will show people living with mental illness, either because they have it or have a loved one who does, that they are not alone. I hope it helps to normalize some of the feelings and experiences that are unique to mental health problems. It’s why we chose the title we did. There is a stigma attached to mental health issues, people living with them sometimes are left to feel as if they are the only ones. We want to end that misunderstanding.

Thank you for tackling the important task of fighting the stigma!

Is there any significance as to why the title is in the plural (“we”) and not the singular (“you”)?

The significance of the title being plural is that we recognize (1) that mental illness is not a solitary disease. It always affects those around us, and (2) that it is not rare. We probably talk to, work with and associate with people every day who are dealing with mental health issues, if we used the singular “you” we felt we’d be insinuating that is was an individual problem.

Most definitely!

What are your thoughts on tackling mental health issues as a collective or community, instead of or in addition to addressing them as individuals?

I think like other community issues we need to gather as a community and offer love, friendship and help to those who need it. We need to campaign for and vote for leaders who will support those dealing with mental health issues and then support them in our own communities. If we are going to consider ourselves a first world country then we are required to care for those who can’t care for themselves.  Globally we need to break down barriers and end the stigma that mental health issues are rare, or only happen to “other” or are a sign of depravity or defect.

We can start this individually amongst our friends, but it’s not enough. It needs to happen in literature, and other media and in the government as well.

Well said!

I understand the anthology is in progress. Are submissions open? If so, what kind of pieces are you looking for how should writers submit their pieces?

If anyone is interested they can contact me at my email, annwshannon@gmail.com

Is there anything you would like to add in regards to your anthology or mental health?

In regards to my mental health, I’d like to add that it’s important to ask for help. I was the primary caregiver for my elderly grandmother when my bipolar symptoms became unmanageable but I didn’t seek treatment for 5 yrs. That was easily the most difficult 5 years of my life. I think I was afraid to admit I couldn’t do it all. We are taught to be independent and not ask for help but with clinical or bipolar depression, and many other mental health issues, you can’t do it alone. You can’t just buck up and get better.

Also, don’t be afraid to gently suggest help for a loved one. And support them after they get help. Mental health issues will not go away on their own, and they take time to heal. Be patient with yourself and your loved ones during the healing process.

Thank you so much, Ann, for joining us!

Thank you for interviewing me.

 

Book Reviews, Young Adult

Review: The Wizard, the Witch, and Two Girls from Jersey by Lisa Papademetriou

When mortal enemies Veronica and Heather get hit by a bar code scanner while fighting over the last copy of a hot fantasy novel, they are transported into the novel. Having accidentally killed the book’s heroine, Vero and Heather have no choice but to try to save the land of Galma from the Twilight Queen.

— back cover of The Wizard, the Witch, and Two Girls from Jersey by Lisa Papademetriou

This lighthearted and refreshing book was a quick and fun read. I was intrigued by the blurb and the author did not let me down. Hasn’t every reader imagined what it’d be like to live in their favorite book world before? Now imagine actually being taken there, but not just taken there–you accidentally kill the main character and now your real-life nemesis takes their place.

This book is meant to be fun, so I don’t feel as if we can expect to get too attached to the main characters. Veronica and Heather were good characters, and they were entertaining to read about although I don’t think they are all that memorable. They serve their purpose: to make you laugh and enjoy the story. They are not the type of characters that are unforgettable, but sometimes a story as light as this one has its own type of magic. My only complaint is that, at times, Heather could be very annoying.

The plot was intriguing and held me captive until the end.

The writing style was good. There wasn’t anything too exciting about it, but it did not distract from the story, and, in my opinion, if it doesn’t distract from the story it is a good writing style.

I give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars. I’d suggest it to anyone who is looking for a fun fantasy read.
Finding Inspiration, The 'Write' Information

Finding Inspiration to Overcome Writer’s Block – June

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 other forms of art. Once a month I’ll be trying something different and discussing the results.

For June, I decided to keep to the theme of Pride month. I attended an event at the Starving Artist Cafe for an open mic night put on by the BATA (Brantford Advocacy Transgender Awareness). It was refreshing to find a gathering of supporters representing all different sexualities coming together in a very much ‘be who you are‘ atmosphere.

The evening started out with the announcement of the M.C. For the night, the beautiful Blair Bitch, a well-known local Drag Queen and musician. I first met Steven B. Andrews at this same event last year and I am a huge fan of his music in every persona. He performed several songs, including my favourite of the evening, Karma Chameleon, and had the room dancing and clapping along.

Throughout the evening various attendees took the stage to showcase their talents ranging from improv acting to music and poetry. I enjoyed every single one as well as the constant stream of Sangria that kept my glass full. Christina, the owner of The Starving Artist, makes a particularly tasty one.

Are you wondering about the results of my experiment? I couldn’t help but be inspired by such a talented group! Expect to see some new announcements in the near future. I feel a new series brewing. This evening was a success!

I’m looking forward to finding a new adventure in July. I hope you’ll join me for those results next month!

Thanks for reading The Write Information.

Genre of the Month, June - SciFi

Sci-Fi LGBT+ Novels that don’t Suck

It’s a sad thing to admit but there is a distinct lack of well-written sci-fi books featuring LGBT protagonists.  They do exist, but they seem too often lost in a sea of romance books masquerading as sci-fi.  If you are looking for romance, well then that’s all well and good, but if you really just want a true sci-fi book with all the techno-jargon, space travel, dystopian futures, and a diverse cast but without the constant angst and love scenes, you might have a difficult time finding one you like.  Worse yet, you may find yourself in the midst of the swamp of clichés, the graveyard of throw-away characters, or the pit of faux diversity.  Hopefully, we can alleviate some of that pain by slogging through the mediocre to bring you some true science fiction gems.

Warchild Series by Karin Lowachee

Superbly written sci-fi with a wide cast of characters, this space opera is well worth the read.  Lowachee is able to craft characters you care about in a world that feels deeply developed while still remaining character-focused.  The three current books delve into multiple issues, some quite dark, each from a different character’s perspective.  For the most part, they are light on the romance as well, although Cagebird brings it front and center.  The fourth book, The Warboy, is currently awaiting a release date.  

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin 

LeftHandofDarknessLeGuin.jpg

This classic was published in 1969 as part of the Hainish Cycle. However, each book can be read as a standalone.  It focuses on a human emissary to the alien planet of Winter, where the local alien species can shift their gender.  For its time, it was groundbreaking.  The romance is still downplayed, left to subtext for the most part but the characters are interesting, well-developed, and don’t stoop to clichés.  The world building, too, is what you would expect from LeGuin.  It has a wealth of details and depth, all presented from both an outsider’s point of view and from the perspective of an insider.  Despite its age, we highly recommend this book.

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Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey

SantaOliviaCarey.jpg

The synopsis of this book can seem a little misleading, making it seem like another played-out werewolf fic.  It is not, though, and more than worth a read.  It’s set in a not so distant future in which the US and Mexico are in an ongoing war, resulting in a DMZ along the border of Texas and Mexico.  The story takes place in the town of Santa Olivia within this demilitarized zone.  The setting is a gritty, realistic dystopia, but not so much one of overt malice and oppression but rather more like neglect.  The characters are all very well developed.  No one feels like a two-dimensional caricature, resulting in antagonists who are sympathetic and good guys with flaws. The lesbian romance is more central in this, but very well-written with a fully developed arc complete with both emotion and action.  If you like a bit of superhero flavor with your dystopian sci-fi, this is the one for you!

These are just a few we think break the mold and stand out as well-written and developed, with LGBT protagonists who are not simply clichés, throw-away, or there to fill a quota.  If you know of more LGBT Sci-Fi books, we’d love to hear about them! Post your favorite in the comments and

Post your favorite in the comments and Happy Pride Month!

Book Reviews, Young Adult

Review: A Summer Promise by Robin Jones Gunn

As 14-year old Christy leaves her family’s Wisconsin farm to spend the summer at her wealthy aunt and uncle’s beach home in Newport, she realizes this could be the best season of her life. Through it all, will Christy keep her promise to her parents not to do anything she’ll regret?

–back cover of A Summer Promise by Robin Jones Gunn

There are some parts of this book that are good and some parts that could be improved, but overall this was a pretty good read for the right audience. I think that this book is definitely for younger teens, and I also think that it may be more so a book for Christians than for those of different faiths. I think that some things said in the book may have been said in an offensive manner.

I think that Christy is a great representation of a fourteen-year-old girl. It shows the awkwardness and insecurities that often come with this age. Christy experiences self-image issues and an aunt who is so concerned about Christy’s appearance passes down some of that fear to her. This can happen so often in families, and I think that Gunn portrayed this wonderfully.

That being said, her aunt drove me crazy. I think that she was unnecessarily cruel throughout the whole book. I loved her uncle’s carefree approach to life though. Todd, the love interest, occasionally drove me crazy, because he didn’t seem that interested in Christy. He seemed more interested in leading her to God and controlling her. He could be inconsiderate and a bit of a jerk at times, but he could also be really sweet when he wasn’t being a jerk. Overall I found him immature and annoying.

The two characters that I liked the most were probably two of the secondary characters, Tracy and Allissa. Tracy wasn’t in this book much, but she seemed like she was a lot more well-rounded than the other characters, and a lot less judgemental. Allissa seemed to be one of the more interesting characters because of her lifestyle. It was like she was being shamed by the author for being sexually active, though, and I did not appreciate that.

As for the writing style, I felt as if she had done a great job. I have no complaints here, really. She did well.

The plot was interesting, especially around the climax. The author held my attention throughout the whole book, but I think that the plot was used as a tool to preach to people. I understand that in Christian fiction there will be Christianity, but I think that this went too far. It wasn’t intricately woven into the plot; it was literally a character standing in front of others speaking to them in a preachy manner. There were also strong undertones of, “if you don’t believe, you will be thrown into hell.”

For the right audience, this book would be enjoyable, but I still found some issues with it despite that. So, I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Articles

Speed Reading

There is a new trend that is taking single book lovers and pairing them together. That’s right! It’s a brand new way to date – speed reading.

How can you find a round? Check your local libraries and bookstores – even a few local coffee shops might be hosting this type of event.

The idea is simple and follows the same basic principles as speed dating. Anyone can register for an event in advance. The only rule is you must like to read. Once at the event, individuals are paired up. Possible matches are made based on specific genre preferences. A timer is set and the couple has four minutes to talk everything books to see if they can make a connection. Before the round ends each party comes up with a book suggestion the other to try. When the buzzer sounds, it is time to rotate to a new partner and do it all again.

Individuals can make their own decisions about dating either after the four minutes or when they finish reading the book suggestion. To those who adore their books, this is a fun way to meet new people. After all, how can you have a relationship with someone who doesn’t understand the one you already have with the written word? 

Even if you don’t make a love connection, this is an amazing way to come up with a new reading list you might not have otherwise tried.

If you can’t find one in your area, why not start one up! Ask around at small cafés and bookstores in your area to see if they are willing to provide a venue for an event like this! You’ll be surprised how many would love to be asked.

Thanks for reading.

Interviews

Interview: Markie Madden

Thank you for joining us, Markie! First thing’s first! Introduce yourself! Tell us a little about yourself and your books.

Hi, I’m Markie Madden. I’m a married mother of two and a cancer survivor. When I got sick in 2014, I couldn’t work. So, I turned back to my love of writing.

I’ve been writing since the 4th grade and wrote my first full-length book in high school. It was my first published book, Once Upon a Western Way, published in e-book in 2012. It’s had a rewrite and new cover and is now available as Clash of Times: The Quest.

It’s a little fantasy, a little steampunk, and a lot of steamy romance!

I’ve also published 4 books in my crime/paranormal #UndeadUnit series set 100 years in the future. These books are Fang and Claw, Souls of the Reaper, Blood Lust, and Siren Song.

The Pharaoh’s Destiny is my first historical romance, and the first book in a trilogy centered around 3 important women in Egypt’s history. The first book follows the life of Hatshepsut, the first woman to claim the title of Pharaoh. But, it’s alternate history, too, for Hatshepsut makes sure that all the Pharaohs after her are women.

I also have a short horse care guide (an Amazon #1 best seller in free books) called Keeping A Backyard Horse, and my memoir, the story of my battle with cancer, called My Butterfly Cancer.

Wow! That’s amazing. You’re quite a prolific writer and such an inspiration!

The Pharaoh’s Destiny certainly sounds very intriguing. What inspired you to write it?

Ancient Egypt has always fascinated me, and Hatshepsut is probably the very first famous woman in known history. I felt her story grab me and I had to write it!

Many times, there’s a substantial amount of research behind books, particularly historical fiction or alternate history. How did that aspect of the writing process play out for you? What difficulties did you encounter when researching?

I loved it! In preparation for this book, I actually took one of those free college courses on Egyptian history. I enjoyed the course so much, and it turned out one of my instructors’ site a book about Hatshepsut’s life.

Sounds fun! Would you say you enjoyed the preparation stages more? Were they any easier or more difficult than actually writing the book?

Writing the book was more difficult than most of my others. I wanted to present an accurate account of the way of life, even though I changed a bit of the history to an alternate ending. But as far as the food they ate, the manner in which they lived, I tried to remain true.

Because of the difficulty with names and certain words, I included a glossary and a pronunciation guide to further enrich the reading experience.

Thank you for being so considerate! That’s very thoughtful of you to put in some extra effort to further engage your readers.

I know how I feel when I can’t pronounce a character’s name!

Many writers are also avid readers. Do you consider yourself primarily a writer or a reader, as well?

I’m an avid reader, too, like most authors. My favorite books are the Clan of the Cave Bear series, anything by JD Robb, Patricia Cornwall, or Kay Hooper.

Do you find yourself generally writing the same genres you read? Or are they distinct?

I do read a lot of crime. But I spent half my life in law enforcement, so I guess it’s only natural that I started writing a crime series.

How interesting! Do you feel writing crime is different from writing other genres, given you have extensive experience in the field?

Crime can touch on subjects uncomfortable to some, such as assault or murder. But, those things do happen in our world, and writing about them increases awareness.

Do you feel, on a similar level, that there’s a need to increase awareness about Hatshepsut and her story?

She is a misunderstood historical figure, one we could learn from.

In what sense would you consider her misunderstood? What lessons do you think we could learn from her?

She led the country in a prosperous time, even though it was not “normal” for a woman to be king. After her death, many of her monuments depicting her as a king were removed or defaced. Those depicting her as just a queen were left alone. It wasn’t “proper” for her to rule. Then again, 100 years ago, it wasn’t proper for women to wear slacks or pants. Hatshepsut is an inspiration to those who aspire to break the mold of their gender.

How do you feel you, in a sense, engaged with her story on a creative level, and how did Hatshepsut’s going against the status quo influence your writing or your very self, if at all?

Historically, royal women of Egypt are meant only to marry the king, and were never allowed to marry anyone else if their king should die. But, history speaks of the possibility that Hatshepsut had a relationship after her husband died, though no one can confirm this. The story started out being a straight historical. The romance part was a complete surprise to me! I guess Hatshepsut didn’t want to go through life alone.

It’s crazy how our writing sometimes takes us to unexpected places!

Yes, it really is! I often speak of my characters like they’re real people who talk to me. Because often, they do.

It’s interesting that you say that, since I, personally, often struggle to connect with characters from different time periods. Did you experience any cultural, temporal, or spatial barriers when writing your characters?

Well, writing ancient history was certainly a culture shock! Especially since I went from it to the 5th book in my crime series, which is also set in Egypt, only 100 years from now!

What advice would you give to other authors who are also writing books across several generations?

Do the research, especially if you’re wanting to really nail the authenticity. Yes, research can, at times, be boring, but it’s necessary for a great story.

Great advice!

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about yourself, your books, or writing in general?

I love hearing from readers, so follow those links and stalk me! Also, the first book in my crime/paranormal series is now free across all e-book retailers, so it’s a great way to get to know my writing. The Amazon link for that one is: http://geni.us/4BBh

Marvelous! Thank you so much, Markie, for sharing your wisdom and insight with us!

You can find Markie Madden online at the following sites:

Social Media Links:

Official Website: https://metamorphpublishing.com

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/markiemaddenauthor/

The Pharaoh Queens Trilogy Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pharaohqueenstrilogy/

The Undead Unit Series Home Page: https://metamorphpublishing.com/the-undead-unit-series/

The Undead Unit Series Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/undeadunitseries/

Official Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/booksbymarkie

Twitter @metamorphpub

GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/httpsgoodreadscommarkie_madden

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/naddya81975

Instagram: http://instagram.com/naddya81975/

 

For The Pharaoh’s Destiny:

Kindle: http://geni.us/dest

Nook: http://geni.us/destnook

iPhone: http://geni.us/destap