Books & Reading · Story & Characters · Writing Insight

The Complete “Guardian” Trilogy

About The Guardian Trilogy:
The Guardian Trilogy delves into the harrowing trials of Alexander Croft, a security guard and seemingly average 30-something-year-old man, whose life is forever changed in a violent instant. After being accused of a series of heinous crimes he didn’t commit, Alex is sentenced to life in a hellish prison.

Or so his fate seems.

Because unbeknownst to him, Alex is no ordinary man. He is a Voror, a magically-gifted being commissioned with the protection of the Realms – and nothing can keep him from his true destiny.

In The Guardian Trilogy, follow Alex’s life-changing and life-challenging journey, from his training at the Voror Council in the least-admired Task of all, to a chance at love and romance with a woman whose people have wronged him, to his encounters with an enemy who has stalked him since birth, to his personal mission to clear his family name and protect the Realms from encroaching darkness. As evil rises, Alex must stand to meet it or watch everyone he has grown to love be destroyed.

Books in The Guardian Trilogy:

Book One: The Guardian

Description: Ever since Alex Croft was little, robed beings have shadowed his every move. But after he is wrongfully incarcerated, the robed strangers have apparently abandoned him. Or so it seems. When Alex’s true identity is revealed, he enters a world he has always seen but never really known. A realm where he learns how to protect the innocent from an evil that desires to control everything in its path. Especially Alex. As he trains as an apprentice within the Voror Council, Alex uncovers a sinister secret seeking to destroy him. To save himself and others, he will have to endure the same darkness he sought to escape. In this first installment of The Guardian Trilogy, Alex Croft will not only learn magic-infused Words and make strange, new allies but also discover the truth about himself and his past. A truth that will become either his destiny or his downfall.

Direct Link (Paperback):
Direct Link (Kindle):

Book Two: The Guardian Prophecy

Description: Handler Apprentice Alex Croft is invited by Sunniva, the Council’s Head Healer, to accompany her on a journey across the Realms as she seeks out an exiled Voror. Along the way, Alex encounters old friends, new enemies, and discovers a growing attraction to the hauntingly beautiful Niobe of Ryncheon. Yet the threat of Belial of Rastaban’s forces shadows their every move as they race to uncover a truth that many have desired to conceal – a truth Rastaban has killed for in order to obtain. Past grievances come to seek vengeance as Rastaban’s rebels seek to set up their own regime. And the only way Alex can hope to stop them is to make the ultimate sacrifice. In this second installment of The Guardian Trilogy, Alex Croft learns what it means to fulfill his destiny as a Guardian, which may cost him everything.

Direct Link (Paperback):
Direct Link (Kindle):

Book Three:
The Guardian Wars

Description: After miraculously surviving torture at Rastaban’s hands, Handler Alex of Croft knows the hour grows short as war among the Realms draws closer. Mustering his friends and unexpected allies, Alex assumes the role of the prophesied Halcyon and decides to cut off his enemy at the place where it all began, the infamous prison Erebus and home to the Gates of the Dead. The Guardian Wars concludes Alex of Croft’s  journey as a man of divided bloods.  But can he be a shining light in a dark place or will the darkness finally consume him?

Direct Link (Paperback):
Direct Link (Kindle):

Background on The Guardian Trilogy
The Guardian Trilogy is project over a decade in the making and started with a rather odd mash-up of ideas. As the author puts it, One summer, I was reading the “Harry Potter” novels and watching reruns of the Fox drama series “Prison Break.” The two stories merged in my mind as I thought, “What if Michael Scofield [chief protagonist on “Prison Break”] was a wizard?” That sparked a mental chain reaction and I had to write it out. Eventually, it evolved into The Guardian Trilogy.

Thus, The Guardian Trilogy is a fantasy series that hopes to pay respects to classic hero quest epics while remaining an entirely original piece, chiefly through the introduction of the Vorors, a magically-gifted race charged with protecting the Realms, and the Sangres, a vampiric people who are siblings to the Vorors. Both worlds collide with Alex Croft caught in the middle.

Book Review · Books & Reading · Story & Characters

Book Review – “Roar”

The Story: [from GoodReads:]
In a land ruled and shaped by violent magical storms, power lies with those who control them. Aurora Pavan comes from one of the oldest Stormling families in existence. Long ago, the ungifted pledged fealty and service to her family in exchange for safe haven, and a kingdom was carved out from the wildlands and sustained by magic capable of repelling the world’s deadliest foes. As the sole heir of Pavan, Aurora’s been groomed to be the perfect queen. She’s intelligent and brave and honorable. But she’s yet to show any trace of the magic she’ll need to protect her people.

To keep her secret and save her crown, Aurora’s mother arranges for her to marry a dark and brooding Stormling prince from another kingdom. At first, the prince seems like the perfect solution to all her problems. He’ll guarantee her spot as the next queen and be the champion her people need to remain safe. But the more secrets Aurora uncovers about him, the more a future with him frightens her. When she dons a disguise and sneaks out of the palace one night to spy on him, she stumbles upon a black market dealing in the very thing she lacks—storm magic. And the people selling it? They’re not Stormlings. They’re storm hunters.

Legend says that her ancestors first gained their magic by facing a storm and stealing part of its essence. And when a handsome young storm hunter reveals he was born without magic, but possesses it now, Aurora realizes there’s a third option for her future besides ruin or marriage. She might not have magic now, but she can steal it if she’s brave enough.

My Take: Often, I can make up my mind about a new book right after finishing it. But in some cases, it takes a second read for me to decide whether or not a book is worth keeping on my shelves or not. Roar, a YA fantasy, is one such book; and unfortunately, the second go-around for me revealed some very stormy areas in this meteorological magic-based story.

But to start, I think the cover is stunning! In fact, I was drawn to this book thanks to its cover, and it’s one of these covers that looks better in person. It has three dimensional elements to it so the title stands out, which is a nice touch. Also, though you can’t see it here, the art is actually a panorama that wraps around the entire dust jacket so it’s a continuing scene rather than a solitary snapshot. Likewise, I love the organic color combination of pink, purple, green, grey, and white, and I think this works to establish the story’s overall tone and setting, which is chiefly outdoors. So, all, in all, I give major props to the art department!

Concerning the story itself, Roar focuses on the titular Roar (aka Aurora, aka Rora) who, in keeping with typical YA fantasy court intrigue tradition, is a princess who, despite coming from a magically-gifted family, lacks any magical talents herself. (So in Harry Potter terms, we’d call Roar a Squib.) Roar’s mother, the queen, has done her best to hide this fact from the public eye as the populace looks to the royal family to protect the kingdom when dangerous, magically-infused weather strikes. Roar’s only hope of preserving her people is to marry a magically gifted Stormling prince, the sinister Cassius, who fulfills the obligatory “bad boy” trope.

Naturally, Roar doesn’t want to marry him (though once we get to know Cassius, who could blame her?), so she runs away. She eventually comes into the company of a group of storm hunters who steal the magical “hearts” of storms. The leader of this band of rebels is Locke, who fulfills the third corner of the obligatory “love” triangle. For most of the story, Roar aligns herself with Locke and his magical rebels as all sorts of magical dangers and court politics ensue.

Please stop me if you’ve heard all of this before…

Seriously, I won’t be offended.

As you might have deduced, Roar is a run-of-the-mill YA court intrigue story complete with a love triangle, drama, and magic. In short, if you remove the magic system, which is the story’s only interesting element, you get the usual recipe that has dominated the YA fantasy market for years. (Though I would categorize this as more New Adult than Young Adult for reasons I’ll get into later on.) Thus, the general plot, when divorced from its magical element, was very ho-hum for me.

That being said, I didn’t dislike everything about the plot as it has some good action scenes, especially when characters confront storms, and the magic system is fairly innovative. Here, magic is weather-centered as characters can master, conquer, and (in a sense) kill meteorological phenomena, from dust storms to raging tempests. While we’re not told exactly how these storms obtained their magic, we do learn that each one is driven by a magical center, a heart, that can be removed and reused as a magical talisman or retained as a trophy. While weather-based magic is nothing new (Maria V. Snyder’s Glass trilogy, which borrows elements of meteorological magic, comes to mind), I still think it’s a fun literary device.

It was the magic system that ultimately saved this book for me (as I awarded it one star on GoodReads), but it was not enough to conceal the problems I had with the story. Aside from its color-by-number plot and characters, Roar not only suffers from trite love triangle-itis but also presents its two “romantic” male leads as less than honorable gentlemen. This “love” triangle (that’s more like a lust triangle) involves Roar and two male suitors, the dark and mysterious Cassius and the not-as-dark yet still mysterious Locke. I’m not a fan of love triangles in general on the principle that they have been overused and seem to be a writer’s default way of inserting dramatic tension into a story. Though I think some love triangles do work, especially when they’re not the crux of the plot, the triangle here does not thanks to its components.

Roar is the typical beautiful swan character caught in the middle of two would-be suitors and who doesn’t seem to know what she wants out of a relationship. On one side is Cassius who sees Roar as a trophy for him to claim and conquer, and on the other side is Locke, an ultra-alpha male. Rather than present the reader – and Roar – with two equally worthy male love interests, the novel instead offers up two questionable choices.

From the start, Cassius is depicted as a villain and views Roar as a challenge to be won, not a woman to cherish. His actions are dictated by a possessive nature and he displays a clear lack of respect for Roar’s boundaries, reading her refusals and her anger as turn-ons rather than signals that he’s overstepping his bounds. One such scene in which Roar and Cassius throw knives at each other (in a moment redolent of a similar scene between Tris and Four/Tobias in Divergent) puts Cassius’ callousness on display when he seems to take great pride in sticking a knife straight into Roar’s arm. To its credit, the novel rightfully treats Cassius’ actions as manipulative and doesn’t have Roar fall for his charms.

However, what the novel initially declares as unhealthy and possessive is later depicted as romantic and swoon-worthy when Locke comes on the scene. Locke is a cliched alpha male, which isn’t an immediate negative as he does make for a good leader and rallying point for his fellow storm hunters. However, his actions towards and perceptions of Roar mirror Cassius’ behaviors and thoughts yet the novel never calls these out. Rather than view Roar as a woman worth getting to know and cherishing, Locke seeks to possess her because he finds her mesmerizing. However, there is a fine line between being intrigued by someone and wanting to get to know them better as a person and being drawn to someone and obsessing over them. Obsession isn’t synonymous with love and, much like unwanted weeds in a flourishing flower garden, has no place in a healthy romance.

To add to Locke’s unlikable factor, he, more than once, recalls how Roar reminds him of his deceased sister, and the same traits he saw in his sister he also sees in Roar, which further fuels his obsessed lustful attraction.

So let me get this straight – we have a guy who is lusting/obsessing after a woman, with whom he is eventually physical with, who reminds him of his dead sister.

Um, yeah. Nothing weird about that at all (insert sarcasm here).

As expected, Locke and Roar eventually become physical; however, during some of these scenes, Locke becomes rough and manhandles Roar. Yet rather than shove him away, Roar either enjoys being treated as such or just resigns herself to being roughhoused under the guise of “intimacy.” I’m sorry, but any intimate act, from a hug to anything else, that involves manhandling or even the implication that one party is struggling or fighting against the other is NOT an act of genuine affection! But rather than paint Locke’s actions as abusive, the novel glosses over them, covertly declaring them “romantic.”

I know this topic has consumed the bulk of this review, but it’s a major issue in the novel that deserves to not be dismissed. A couple of things concern me about the depiction of abusive relationships as healthy, normal, and romantic. The first of which is that Roar is marketed as a YA novel; however, this is closer to a new adult or an adult novel (ages 18+) than a book for teenagers (ages 13-17). Roar is no more a YA novel than Watchmen is a suitable picture book for preschoolers. While Roar is devoid of excessive language and violence, its sensuality factor and depiction of questionable relationship dynamics make this a poor pick for teens.

I also believe Roar is riding on the coattails of the abusive-relationships-are-romantic trend that was kick-started by the Fifty Shades of Gray trilogy (which I’ve never read nor would I though I’m familiar with its basic premise). This is a dangerous message to present to female readers, teens especially but also to women of any age. While Roar manages to keep its fantasy focus, its central “romantic” thread presents unhealthy dynamics where lust is elevated over love, possession is preferred over gentle protection, and obsession is prized over mutual attraction.

Language – Minimal; any language used is few and far between and primarily consists of PG-level words.

Violence – Violence is chiefly contained in the fantasy violence lane where characters track down storms and harvest their magical hearts. Storms are also shown to be destructive forces that can turn lethal, but they can have their magical powers harnessed for either good (as a means of protecting others) or bad (as a weapon). Some characters employ traditional weapons, such as blades, at times, but there are no instances of gory, graphic violence other than passing mentions of bleeding wounds.

Sexual Content – The chemistry between Roar and Cassius and Roar and Locke simmers with sensuality that scantily avoids any outright sex scenes. Cassius views Roar as more of a possession than a person and makes vague mental comments about her body and their pending wedding night (which never happens as the two don’t wed). Locke also treats Roar in a possessive manner and the two are often physical. One scene near the novel’s end barely avoids being a sex scene as Locke and Roar caress and make bodily contact while clothed. (This scene, along with others, depicts Locke’s actions as controlling yet also somehow “romantic” as Roar succumbs to his rough advances.) Finally, it’s worth noting that author Cora Carmack chiefly pens adult/erotic romances, and while there is nothing here quite at that level, this supposedly YA novel is decidedly not for teens.

The Run-Down:

Overall, Roar has only one redeeming value – its magic. When the novel spends its time and attention on the various storm hunter characters and their meteorological magical arts, it’s entertaining and creative. However, when this is subtracted from the equation, all readers are left with is a by-the-numbers YA fantasy riddled with tropes and cliches. In and of itself, this doesn’t make the book terrible but it does make it predictable and bland. However, when the story delves in Roar’s sundry “romantic” relationships, it depicts some highly questionable dynamics that, in real-world settings, would be unhealthy at best and abusive at worst.

book tags · Books & Reading · Story & Characters

2018 Mid-Year Reading Recap

Just to note, I’ll be discussing books I’ve read this year in general, so I’m not limiting my choices to books that were released in 2018 as some were not. So let’s get started! 🙂

1. Best book you’ve read in 2018 so far.

Silver on the Road
by Laura Anne Gillman
It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book (that I’ve never read before) that really engrossed me. Thankfully, Silver on the Road is one such book. It hooked me from the first page and didn’t let go. It does a masterful job of creating a unique world while utilizing facets of the American West. Mix in an engaging male-female mentor-apprentice relationship (that never turns romantic or creepy) and some innovative, refreshingly non-flashy magic, and this book lives up to reviewers’ claims of it being a “weird West” tale. Simply put, I loved every page and I look forward to the rest of the trilogy.

2. Worst book you’ve read in 2018 so far.

Spindle Fire
by Lexa Hillyer
I’m officially done with YA fantasy unless any new books promise something genuinely innovative or intriguing. Otherwise, I’ve taken the genre off my reading radar. In any case, Spindle Fire is yet another run-of-the-mill YA court intrigue novel complete with paint-by-number plotting and characters. Not to mention it tried way too hard to evoke character sympathy by emphasizing the main characters’ “disabilities,” which, while I’m sure was unintentional, seemed in poor taste and quickly got on my nerves. Overall, it was one of the least interesting books I’ve read in a long time and was simply a bore to read.

3. Best sequel you’ve read in 2018 so far.

Gone Rogue: Wires and Nerve, Volume 2
by Marissa Meyer
This sequel picks up right where Wires and Nerve, Volume 1 left off and wraps up all of the characters’ story arcs masterfully. While I thought some portions near the end dragged a tiny bit, it wasn’t a deal breaker and ultimately this entry was just as enjoyable as its predecessor. The downside? We only get two Lunar Chronicles graphic novels! 😦  I would have enjoyed a few more, but, alas, two is all we get. In the words of SpongeBob SquarePants, Tarter sauce!

4. Worst sequel you’ve read in 2018 so far.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany and Jack Thorne
To be fair, I don’t think Cursed Child is the worst sequel or the worst all-around book I’ve read thus far, but it’s certainly one of the weaker entries. I’ve already expressed my in-depth thoughts about this play, which you can read here. In brief, while I appreciate some liberties this story takes and some of the themes it touches on, it’s essentially glorified fan fiction that the world didn’t need. Oh, and that little revelation about Lord Voldemort? No. Just no.

5. Most anticipated release for the second half of 2018.

Thrawn: Alliances
by Timothy Zahn
I’ve had my copy pre-ordered for a while now and I’m so excited to read this follow up to 2017’s Thrawn, which focuses on the titular Grand Admiral himself. I trust it will be nothing short of awesome! 🙂

6. Biggest disappointment of 2018 so far.

Gunslinger Girl
by Lyndsay Ely
Judging by this book’s blurb and cover, I was expecting a fun, exciting romp through a re-imagined Wild West. Sadly, this is another run-of-the-mill, fill-in-the-blanks, socially progressive YA novel. I’ll give it props for at least trying to create an interesting setting, but everything else fell flat for me as the pacing was slow, characters’ actions were predictable, and there was nothing truly engaging about this corporation-ran dystopia that wears its socio-political views on its sleeve (i.e. big companies, leaders of big companies, Christianity, and White men = evil). Oddly enough, I’ve read two Western-themed speculative books so far this year, and Silver On the Road surpasses this not-so-subtle social justice warrior novel by several big country miles!

7. Best surprise read of 2018 so far.

The Music Shop
by Rachel Joyce
This was one of those rare books where I finished it in a single sitting because I couldn’t put it down. It has a rather basic premise – a lonely man with emotional baggage runs an old school music shop that only sells vinyl. At first, I feared this might be too character-focused and lack enough action to carry the plot along. However, much to my surprise, the plot is carried fairly well thanks to its characters’ growth on the page. This isn’t a flashy book full of jaw-dropping moments, but that’s perfectly fine. It’s a simple, pleasant, engaging, feel-good read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I don’t doubt it will earn a spot in my top favorite reads of 2018. 🙂

8. Worst book cover of this year so far.

The Silver Music Box
by Mina Baites
I wouldn’t call this cover horrible but it’s perplexing and safe. For starters, the novel (which I ended up marking as DNF) is about a music box keepsake that gets passed down in a Jewish family. For this heirloom to play such a big role in the story as both a prop and a motif, it has no attention called to it here. Secondly, the cover’s shading is so dark, it’s difficult to make out the figures (and the boy is the only figure who has a face and it’s a partial glimpse at best). For such a title as The Silver Music Box, nothing here evokes anything about music. (Even the cover for The Music Store has an image of a record in the background and a character-specific central image). In short, this is a rather bland, unattractive cover that doesn’t seem to tie in with its story.

9. Best book cover of this year so far.

by Anne Ursu
This was one of the first books I read in 2018 and I think the cover is gorgeous, from its colors to its use of lighting. I love how the corners seem to blur and the trails of flying snowflakes swirl inward so your eye is drawn to the central image and the vibrant horizon just past the inky trees. It does a good job incorporating elements from the novel as well as present an accurate impression to readers of what to expect from the story – it’s youthful but mature, it has adventure but also danger lurking about, and it touches on some emotionally frigid subjects but it’s not entirely dark and cold. Overall, this is a lovely cover that makes the most of its tasteful and simplistic delivery and design, and it represents its story well.

10. Fictional crush of 2018.

Newt Scamander from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling
I’ve yet to see the film but I did peruse the screenplay and found it to be a fun adventure. But every time I envisioned Newt while reading, I immediately pictured him as Eddie Redmayne. Not exactly a bad mental image to have. 😉

Book Memes · Books & Reading · Story & Characters

Whatcha Readin’ Wednesday

I’ve just started two novels this week (I’ve linked the titles out to GoodReads in case you’re interested in checking out these books for yourself):

The Cold Eye 
by Laura Anne Gilman
Cover Musings: I think the hardcover edition (pictured here and the edition I own) visually ties in better with the cover of the first novel in this trilogy.

My Thoughts: I loved Silver On the Road and it’s one of the better novels I’ve read in quite some time after feeling rather underwhelmed with my recent mini summer book haul (most of the titles of which were fine but not engrossing). But Silver On the Road, which is dubbed as a “weird West” tale, totally engrossed me, so it was an easy decision to snatch up the second novel in its trilogy, The Devil’s West. I haven’t perused this follow up novel yet but I hope it’s just as good.

From GoodReads: In the anticipated sequel to Silver on the Road, Isobel is riding circuit through the Territory as the Devil’s Left Hand. But when she responds to a natural disaster, she learns the limits of her power and the growing danger of something mysterious that is threatening not just her life, but the whole Territory.

Isobel is the left hand of the old man of the Territory, the Boss—better known as the Devil. Along with her mentor, Gabriel, she is traveling circuit through Flood to represent the power of the Devil and uphold the agreement he made with the people to protect them. Here in the Territory, magic exists—sometimes wild and perilous.

But there is a growing danger in the bones of the land that is killing livestock, threatening souls, and weakening the power of magic. In the next installment of the Devil’s West series, Isobel and Gabriel are in over their heads as they find what’s happening and try to stop the people behind it before it unravels the Territory.

Thrawn by Timothy Zahn
Cover Musings: Anytime you have a novel where the focus is on a single character, it only makes sense to put that character, front and center, on the cover. I think this cover does Thrawn perfect justice and – let’s face it – he makes for a very striking central image.

My Thoughts: This will be my second time through this novel in preparation for Thrawn: Alliances, which will be released in late July 2018 (which will see both Thrawn and Darth Vader – yes, Darth Vader – together. I know: mind = blown!). Naturally, I’ve already pre-ordered a copy and I can’t wait to read it! I love the character Zahn has created through Grand Admiral Thrawn and I’m happy to see Thrawn get his own series. He’s a fascinating and complex character indeed.

From GoodReads: One of the most cunning and ruthless warriors in the history of the Galactic Empire, Grand Admiral Thrawn is also one of the most captivating characters in the Star Wars universe, from his introduction in bestselling author Timothy Zahn’s classic Heir to the Empire through his continuing adventures in Dark Force Rising, The Last Command, and beyond. But Thrawn’s origins and the story of his rise in the Imperial ranks have remained mysterious. Now, in Star Wars: Thrawn, Timothy Zahn chronicles the fateful events that launched the blue-skinned, red-eyed master of military strategy and lethal warfare into the highest realms of power—and infamy.

After Thrawn is rescued from exile by Imperial soldiers, his deadly ingenuity and keen tactical abilities swiftly capture the attention of Emperor Palpatine. And just as quickly, Thrawn proves to be as indispensable to the Empire as he is ambitious; as devoted as its most loyal servant, Darth Vader; and a brilliant warrior never to be underestimated. On missions to rout smugglers, snare spies, and defeat pirates, he triumphs time and again—even as his renegade methods infuriate superiors while inspiring ever greater admiration from the Empire. As one promotion follows another in his rapid ascension to greater power, he schools his trusted aide, Ensign Eli Vanto, in the arts of combat and leadership, and the secrets of claiming victory. But even though Thrawn dominates the battlefield, he has much to learn in the arena of politics, where ruthless administrator Arihnda Pryce holds the power to be a potent ally or a brutal enemy.

All these lessons will be put to the ultimate test when Thrawn rises to admiral and must pit all the knowledge, instincts, and battle forces at his command against an insurgent uprising that threatens not only innocent lives but also the Empire’s grip on the galaxy—and his own carefully laid plans for future ascendancy.


Book Memes · Books & Reading · Story & Characters

Whatcha Readin’ Wednesday

Here are some books I’m currently in the process of perusing. (I’ve linked the titles out to GoodReads in case you’re interested in checking these out for yourself.)

Heir to the Empire
by Timothy Zahn
Cover Musings: I like the sketch-like quality to this cover and the fact that it’s neither too flashy nor too dull. It’s functional and catches the eye, especially the image of Grand Admiral Thrawn (I mean, how can a blue-skinned, red-eyed alien not stand out?).

My Thoughts: This is my second time through the original Thrawn trilogy and I absolutely love the character Zahn has created that is Grand Admiral Thrawn, who ranks as my all-time favorite book villain. I’m actually reading all of my Thrawn books again to gear up for the release of Thrawn: Alliances, which is slated to come out later this summer. It’s definitely on my must-read list for sure!

From Amazon: It’s five years after the Rebel Alliance destroyed the Death Star, defeated Darth Vader and the Emperor, and drove the remnants of the old Imperial Starfleet to a distant corner of the galaxy. Princess Leia and Han Solo are married and expecting Jedi twins. And Luke Skywalker has become the first in a long-awaited line of Jedi Knights.

But thousands of light-years away, the last of the Emperor’s warlords, Grand Admiral Thrawn, has taken command of the shattered Imperial fleet, readied it for war, and pointed it at the fragile heart of the New Republic. For this dark warrior has made two vital discoveries that could destroy everything the courageous men and women of the Rebel Alliance fought so hard to build.

by Marissa Meyer
Cover Musings: I love this cover for its simplicity. The basic, dark colors cause the central image to stand out and the font adds in a fantasy quality through its calligraphy design. This cover basically tells you everything you need to know about the gist of this novel, and that’s what all great covers do.

My Thoughts: I’ve revisited this series for the past few years in a row now and I love it very much. To me, this is a genius retelling of some classic fairy tales that manages to breath fresh life into them without being a paint-by-number version. This series as a whole ranks among some of my favorite books, so it’s a treat to come back to them time and again.

From Amazon: Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Book Memes · Commentary · Writing Insight

Tell Me Something Tuesday

For this week’s Tell Me Something Tuesday, let’s discuss the dreaded WB – writer’s block!

Most writers are often posed the question of what do they do to manage or defeat writer’s block. It’s a fair question because all writers, from professionally published to persons who pen works just for themselves, have faced writer’s block in some form or another and for various stretches of time. Some bouts of writer’s block are mercifully brief while others seem to persist for a while. To be fair, there is no one right method of overcoming writer’s block nor do I believe it’s entirely unavoidable. (Thus, if anyone ever tells me, “I never get writer’s block,” I tend to disbelieve them.)

For myself, here is what I do to help keep myself afloat when I feel my writing gears winding down.

Primarily, I try to have multiple projects going simultaneously, usually one editing project and one drafting project if possible. At other times, I may be revising a draft manuscript’s skeleton by crafting a new outline or character bios or backstories before diving back in and making edits to the story itself. And I might be doing this while writing new material or perusing an old draft and making revision comments/notes. Occasionally, I will switch and work on older things that I want to do something with while letting newer manuscripts sit a while to get my mind off of them. By changing what I work on, sometimes daily, it keeps me from getting too mentally drained. Granted, all writers have off days where it seems like nothing comes. But by having various projects to go between, I’ve found myself stuck in those creative dry spells for shorter periods of time.

To make a comparison, it’s a bit like working a crossword puzzle or a word find. Some clues come to you quickly while others stump you to no end. Some words you can locate in a matter of seconds while others remain seemingly hidden. However, many times if you sit the puzzle aside for a day and go back to it, those clues don’t stump you or you can find those previously elusive words. In either case, there’s something about sitting a project you’re working on aside for a spell and returning to it at a later time that seems to reboot your thought process. It’s as if you can view it again with fresh eyes.

The same holds true when writing. My typical process goes like this: I’ll get an idea; draft an outline, notes, character backgrounds, etc.; generate a rough draft; sit the draft aside for a little while; go back and read through and make comments on the rough draft; sit those comments and the draft aside for about a month; then go back and start making revisions or additions. Again, this is my process – it’s what works best for me and it’s what I’m comfortable with, so this isn’t meant to be a guide or standard to follow. For myself, it helps to sit a draft aside for a while (at least a month or so) before returning to it.

Doing so helps me spot troubles in the plot, continuity errors, sections that don’t belong or move the story along, weaknesses in character background that need fixing, and run-of-the-mill errors. Similarly, I feel like I can read a draft with fresh eyes, forgetting the details of the story after taking a short hiatus, and seeing what works and what doesn’t or what needs improvement and why. On the flip side, I believe if you constantly read and revise the same material over and over with no break from it, you start to belabor your own work and it can suffer from it. Your writing can benefit from stepping back and stepping away from it for a while, however long you need to take.

Again, this is my method, so while it works for me, it might not be a good fit for you. So this is one of many ways to help combat writer’s block, not only while writing but also while editing and revising. Remember, sometimes the best thing you can do for a story is to leave it alone, putting it on the proverbial shelf and returning to it at a later time. Doing so helps clean your mental slate until you feel ready to tackle the project with a renewed energy later on.

So that was today’s Tell Me Something Tuesday! Hopefully, you’ve found it helpful. Until next time, happy writing! 🙂

Book Memes · Book Review · Books & Reading · Story & Characters

Throwback Thursday

For today’s Throwback Thursday, I’m going to share two quick reviews of some favorite books from my childhood. 🙂

Once Upon a Time in the Meadow by Rose Selarose

From GoodReads: Six little girls who live by themselves without any grownups enjoy a lovely day highlighted by a picnic and a parade.

My Thoughts: This was one of my favorite books as a little girl, and even now I still think the story holds up. Being a picture book, the tale is a simple one but not simple in terms of being intellectually insulting. Six young girls, who live together, decide to dress up and have a tea party. But their adventure is interrupted when they discover a rabbit caught in a bear trap. The girls then band together and nurse the little rabbit back to health and all’s well that ends well. All in all, it’s a solid story that, in terms of teachable moments, advocates love of family, friendship, kindness, and compassion towards animals. The artwork is gorgeous and is not merely pictures but miniature paintings. While some of the faces are a bit overly emotive (though probably for the sake of helping young readers understand the emotions conveyed in a given scene), the artwork as a whole is quite impressive, especially in a book for children. I loved this story back then and I love it now – certainly a classic worth passing on to any young, beginning readers.

Bailey Goes Camping
by Kevin Henkes

From GoodReads: Bruce and Betty were going camping. Bailey had to stay home. “You’re too little,” said his brother. “You can go in a few years,” said his sister. But Bailey didn’t want to wait. And, with the help of Mama and Papa, Bailey went camping right where he was!

My Thoughts: This book was a much-requested favorite of mine when I was little.

Plot-wise, this is about little Bailey who wishes he was a Bunny Scout like his brother, Bruce, and sister, Betty. However, when Bruce and Betty go on a camping adventure, Bailey stays home because he’s too young to go along (though Betty assures him, “In a few years you can.”). With his siblings away, Bailey’s parents do their best to raise his dampened spirits. Finally, his mother gets the idea to let him “camp” right there at home; thus, the remainder of the story shows Bailey doing everything from pitching a makeshift “tent,” to roasting hot dogs, to telling ghost stories, to even falling asleep under the stars. It’s a simple, straightforward story but, for the target age group, that’s perfectly all right.

The illustrations here are tastefully done, being neither too cartoony nor too dull and muted. Even more importantly, the book’s themes (i.e. the importance of waiting, making the most of one’s situation, and the power of imagination) are age-appropriate and presented in a non-preachy way. Much like Bailey, children will have to wait to grow up before they can participate in certain activities, so this story does a good job explaining that concept chiefly by showing rather than telling. Likewise, children get to see how Bailey makes the most of things right at his fingertips during his at-home “camping” experience while also employing his imagination. Lastly, I also like the fact that Bailey includes his mom and dad in on his imaginative fun, which shows how parents should be active in their child’s/children’s playtime and imaginative excursions.

Overall, this is a cute little story with softly-colored pictures and good messages. I’ve kept my copy all these years and I trust it’s a tale most little bookworms-in-training will enjoy.