Book Review: Portraits of a Faerie Queen by Tay LaRoi

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I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t this. I’ve somewhat distanced myself from the fantasy genre over the years because it often felt tired and unoriginal. Thankfully, Portraits of a Faerie Queen was anything but that.

What drew me in most was how real the relationships felt between the characters. The romance develops naturally and is well paced. It was also nice to see diversity considering many books of this genre don’t feature LBGTQ protagonists. It was refreshing to say the least and the book felt much more with the times because of it.

I will admit that the plot was predictable, however it didn’t take away from the novel being a fun read.

Overall, it was an easy, enjoyable read. I look forward to the sequel!

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Book Review: Beartown by Fredrik Backman

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Ok, let me start by saying that for the first fifty pages or so, I had a hard time getting into Beartown. Maybe it was my mood, maybe it was the amount of characters introduced (there are many), but I almost gave up on it. This, friends, would have been a huge mistake.

Beartown is set in a town much like my own; tiny, somewhat dying, where people have little to hold onto aside from their hockey team. With the whole town’s hopes and dreams riding on them, the players are left with a heavy weight of responsibility to carry. The pressure is high and morality often takes a backseat to winning. When one act of violence brings a family to their knees, Beartown forces readers to evaluate their own ethical standpoint. It’s smart, honest and feels very real.

Beartown is beautifully written and touches so many important subjects from rape-culture, to homophobia, to peer pressure, that I feel like this novel should be a mandatory read in every high school. I’m embarrassed to admit that I had never read anything by Fredrik Backman before. After reading Beartown, this will change. And if you haven’t picked up any of his work yet, it should change for you too.

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Book Review: Salsa With the Pope by Samantha Wren Anderson

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Salsa With the Pope by Samantha Wren Anderson is a quirky, women’s fiction novel about a struggling actress going through the ups and downs of finding love – and in the end, herself.

I’ll say this; Salsa With the Pope is funny. The situations that Samantha finds herself in and her inner thought process throughout it all are downright hilarious at times. And although it isn’t necessarily the deepest novel that I’ve ever read, you know what? It doesn’t have to be. A fluff read is fun once in a while.

My only issue here is that I wonder how closely this novel walks the line between fiction and creative non-fiction. I couldn’t help but notice that the author and main character share many similarities and I have a sneaking suspicion that we have a “Mary-Sue” situation going on here (if you aren’t familiar with the term, click here).

Overall, I liked Salsa With the Pope and would recommend it for fans of the pop fiction / women’s lit genre.

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Book Review: Contamination (Feast of Weeds #2) by Jamie Thornton

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Sequels can be hit or miss, however Jamie Thornton nailed it with her second book in the Feast of Weeds series, Contamination.

Although the story picks up roughly where the first left off when it comes to timeline, Contamination follows a brand new set of characters in their journey to survive the outbreak that is quickly turning the population into rabid zombie-like beings.

I really enjoy how Thornton ties in the past characters to the new ones, and I appreciate that the author gives some explanations as to how the virus began and the scope of the spread.

Another aspect of the novel that I like is Corinna’s backstory. The glimpses into her past make it easier to understand her decision making throughout her stuggles. As for Dylan and her “friend” Jane, well… I didn’t like them much however I don’t suspect that the reader is supposed to.

Honestly, I preferred Contamination over the first book of the series. It’s just as action packed as Germination however since Contamination is a full-length novel instead of a novella, I feel that Thornton was able to offer so much more to her readers.

All in all, Contamination is a can’t-put-down zombie thriller that will have you reading into the wee hours of the night.

NOTE: I received a free copy from the author in exchange with an honest review.

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Book Review: A Dog and His Boy by T.F. Pruden

 

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Set in northwest Canada during the nineteen seventies, A Dog and His Boy by first time author T.F. Pruden follows one unconventional family and their lives in an isolated ranch as they learn to survive lost childhoods and broken homes.

Let me start by stating that A Dog and His Boy was a decent novel. While exploring themes of isolation, loss and family relationships, Pruden does a good job at giving the readers a sense of what life in northern Manitoba must have been like. I especially liked the strained dynamic between Tommy and his father and imagining how desolate it must be being a child growing up the way they did.

This being said, I found the novel to be very slow paced and I have to admit that I struggled to complete it. This could be blamed simply on personal taste; these types of novels/movies rarely appeal to me. Still, it didn’t keep me as engaged as I had hoped.

NOTE: This novel was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: He Knew a Firefly by Smita Bhattacharya

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He Knew a Firefly by Smita Bhattacharya centers on Akshara who has the ability to see the futures of the people she loves. However her “gift” is more of a curse than a blessing as it seems that every life she touches is thrown into turmoil. Akshara must try to light the dark paths of her loved ones before fear and guilt consume her.

Bhattacharya writes in a graceful, almost lyrical style that I’ve rarely encountered in past novels and this poetic talent is certainly her strong suit. Seriously, her writing is exquisite.

I also really enjoyed having a glimpse into some of the different cultures of India. The author does this with ease, even adding words from her native tongue into the dialogue of the story without losing her English readers.

Where I encountered some problems was in the plot. Bhattacharya has created three loosely connected stories, all tied together by Akshara’s relationship with them which in theory is great however I found the storylines were somewhat difficult to follow. Because of this confusion, it made it hard to connect with some of her characters.

If I were to give a rating on the story alone, He Knew a Firefly would get 3 cups of java. However, because I feel that Bhattacharya’s writing itself is so beautiful, I have given the novel a 4 out 5 cup rating.

NOTE: I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Book review: The Mine by John A. Heldt

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Time travel stories tend to be a hit or miss for me however John Heldt’s The Mine manages to fall somewhere in the middle. I liked the premise of the novel and the quality of the writing was very good. My main issue is that I feel it needed more drama. Given the situation that the main character was thrown in, I was expecting a fair amount of conflict and chaos. The transition into Joel’s new life and every situation that he subsequently faced seemed to go a little too smoothly for the protagonist. Where is the terror at the realization that he’s just been sent nearly 60 years back in time? Where is the panic?

Overall, the characters were likeable enough. The standout for me was definitely Ginny, who had just the right amount of sass and candor to really bring the character to life. Personally, I believe that Heldt’s strong suit lies in his well developed description of the era. The world the author built made it easy to imagine what life was like in the early 40s.

Did I enjoy The Mine? Sure. Was it an edge of your seat page turner? Not quite. However it did have enough substance and redeeming qualities to make up for the aspects it lacked. Bonus; the twist at the end was absolutely brilliant.

Note: I received an ecopy of The Mine from the author John A. Heldt in exchange for an honest and unbiased review of the novel.

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“Dear author, we regret to inform you…”

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Let’s not kid ourselves here; being rejected by a literary agent sucks. And being rejected by several agents sucks even more. You spend hours upon hours perfecting your query letter and emailing it to every literary agent you find online only to be met with a slew of very impersonal rejection responses weeks (or sometimes even months) later. Worse are the times that you aren’t even graced with a reply and instead find yourself in literary submission limbo – a place of both wishful thinking and utter hopelessness. As dismal as this may seem, it’s important to note that you’re not the first person to be subjected to this cold fate. Bestselling authors such as J.K. Rowling, Agatha Christie and Dr. Seuss were all rejected by literary agents numerous times before making it in the industry.

Last week, I attended a business seminar and the guest speaker made mention of Howard Schultz who was rejected by banks 242 times before someone loaned him the money to start his business. 242 times – let that sink in for a moment. Today, Starbucks has a net worth of 70.9 billion. I get that this anecdote has little relation to books however it has everything to do with persevering in the face of rejection. If everyone who faced rejection threw in the towel, then my favorite nonfat pumpkin spice latte wouldn’t be available every fall, we wouldn’t have grown up knowing the joys of Green Eggs and Ham and The Boy Who Lived would have never left the cupboard under the stairs.

Basically, what it all comes down to is this: will you have the ability to continue believing in your work no matter how many doors are slammed in your face?

Here are a few lessons that may help you:

  1. Rejection is often an opportunity in disguise. It allows us to examine what we did wrong and gives us insight on how to do it better for the next time. Perhaps your query wasn’t the best pitch for your novel. Or maybe you were sending it to agents that don’t represent your genre. Whatever the reason, a next time is coming if you really believe in your work. See rejection as a challenge and a source of motivation to do better in the future.
  2. Know your worth. Don’t underestimate yourself just because someone has passed on the opportunity to represent you. Allow rejection to build your courage and raise your determination. When you know that your work is of value it’s easier to accept that you may have to crawl through the trenches in order to reach the top.
  3. Ask yourself “What is the worst that can happen?” Seriously guys, being rejected hurts but it’s not a zombie apocalypse. If an agent (or several) turns you down then absorb the blow, brush yourself off and try again. Be unrelentingly tenacious. Most importantly, have the audacity to try again and the determination to understand that rejection doesn’t mean failure.

In short, rejection is unavoidable. In writing especially. You may call it an occupational hazard, but I call it a building block.

“If you aren’t getting rejected on a daily basis, then your goals aren’t ambitious enough.” – Chris Dixon

(Photo above courtesy of Tumblr)

Book Review: Keep from Falling by Amy Vanessa Miller

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This book is different… in the absolute BEST way possible. In a literary world filled with sparkling vampires and bleak dystopian futures, Miller’s novel Keep from Falling is refreshingly unique. The characters are relatable and you quickly find yourself loving them despite their issues (and believe me when I say that they have many). Themes of trust, sexuality and self-discovery are explored throughout the novel in a very believable way and Miller skillfully avoids stereotypes. There are no lulls in this story. The drama begins from the very first page and the twists and turns definitely keep you on your toes. Saying that I couldn’t put it down is an understatement. Miller’s biggest strength (in my opinion) is her ability to write dialogue that feels completely real.

Miller’s work is a prime example of how great books aren’t always published through traditional publishing houses anymore. You got rejected by the literary agents you queried? Doesn’t matter. If your book is good, publish it anyway.

Keep from Falling is a solid debut from self-published author Amy Vanessa Miller and I eagerly look forward to reading more of her work in the future.

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