Fantasy fiction, reading, Young Adult fiction

January Mini-Reviews: What I Liked, What I Didn’t, and What Brought All the Feels

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Yes, it is officially the new year, a new month, and we’re back to the routine of raving and flailing over our latest reads!

In November and December, I made time to focus on something that was not writing or preparing for holidays, and polished off a few things that had been on my TBR for most of fall.

There was excitement, disappointment, and some confusion in the whole experience.

Renegades by Marissa Meyer:

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This was a bit of a wash for me. It was the first time in quite a while I’d tried a Marissa Meyer (since I got to about page 25 in Cinder and was just completely, “What the blazing apricots is going on?!”). I noticed Renegades was rather thick, and got a bit apprehensive, as long books and I do not really go together. I ended up DNF-ing. By page 175, there just wasn’t enough going on that didn’t feel cliche or recycled. This novel could’ve taken the established superhero vs. supervillain genre and really shaken it up, but there were no new thoughts or ideas that I could find.

Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer:

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Yes, another Marissa Meyer! I actually didn’t realize that when I ordered it from the library. Nor did I know it was a graphic novel — and I don’t read graphic novels. SIGH. The moral of the story is: Library catalogs need to have their materials marked more clearly, and: Readers should do as much research as possible on a title before they request it.

Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr:

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Okay, this was just odd. I liked the way it was set in ancient Greece (historically, not mythologically), and how the author split the narration into prose and poetry to show different POVs. And this is a MG novel, so I figured it would be pretty easy and fun.

Wow, was I wrong. Nothing happens for most of part one. The book draaaaags on, explaining wilderness survival in ridiculous amounts of detail, and I can’t see your average 5th-grader being interested in that. Then, when a significant plot advancement finally does occur, the rest of the book turns into an ancient version of The Hunger Games. Huh?!?! So, Dragonfly Song gets a no from me.

This Savage Song by VE Schwab:

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For most of 2017, I’ve been hearing lots and lots about VE Schwab. Well, maybe I started with the wrong series, but after not finishing This Savage Song, I’m (weepingly) not very impressed. A few months ago, I accidentally read Our Dark Duet first — I didn’t know it was the sequel. Anyway, now informed of my mistake, I obtained This Savage Song with high hopes.

Gah. I found the writing to be endless repetition of the same descriptions of Kate and August; stressing that Verity City was infested with monsters (which were rarely seen before page 200); and that Kate wanted to be a bada** gangster like her father (but whyyyyyy?!?!) and August was a monster who wanted to act like a human (but whyyyyyyyy?!?!). I didn’t feel the author provided enough details on the characters’ motivations or ambitions. And there was so little information on what actually triggered the new territories forming, the monster apocalypse, and why society was still set on taking selfies at high school after literal soul-sucking blackness had invaded.

So, I’m a bit sad.

Also, why is this cover so much better than the one I got?!

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All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater:

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This was the first book I bought in months. I was very excited for it, and I even made myself wait to start it until I’d finished my library books. All the Crooked Saints is very interesting, unique, and it’s not that I didn’t like it or wouldn’t recommend it. Buuuut. It doesn’t read like a Stiefvater novel. Yes, her trademark lyrical prose and humor are very there. However, I had a really tough time getting going with it. I actually had to read it twice to figure out what was really going on under the surface of the premise. And it took me until about halfway through that second reading before something clicked for me that it didn’t previously, and then some of the motivations made SO much sense.

I also realized something: That, for me, it’s much better to concentrate on Stiefvater works told in the first person. The way she wrote The Raven Cycle and All the Crooked Saints is very far removed from how immersed in the main characters’ heads/feelings she was with The Wolves of Mercy Falls and The Scorpio Races. Her standing-back-and-acting-as-1930s-radio-show-host style of narration in this new release makes connecting with her characters a LOT harder (at least for this reader).

Plus, this title relied heavily on the magical realism element, much more than The Raven Cycle (which is saying something, as it featured prominently in that series). Magical realism and I, it’s becoming apparent, are doomed to never co-exist. I just have the bloody hardest time figuring it out, and it gets really distracting to me from the actual story. Maybe this is why I had such a struggle with All The Crooked Saints overall.

Warriors: Legends of the Clans by Erin Hunter

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Well, it’s probably no shock that I LOVED this. It delivered ALL THE FEELS. Legends of the Clans is a companion novella to the canon series. These short stories expanded on some of the characters that we didn’t know very much about, and tied in to the canon beautifully. I had a massive, stupid grin on my face one page, and then tears were streaming from my eyes the next. 10/10 for ripping out my heart once again, Erin Hunter. (Seriously, keep it up!)

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Fantasy fiction, reading, writing

2018 Most Anticipated Releases

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Okay, first: Obligatory moment of screaming incoherently because it is nearly 2018. I literally feel like approximately 57 days were removed from 2017 in the middle of the night sometime around Easter and no one announced it to the public. How do you explain where this year went otherwise?!?!

Anyway, in an effort to be supremely positive about this sad, sad turn of events, I shall look forward with delight to new releases I get to rave over with that flip of the calendar page!

Beaumont and Beasley continuations and spinoffs:

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Kyle Shultz has announced his official plans for 2018 publishing, and there is a lot to be excited about. He’ll be going ahead with his concepts for taking his “canon” series, Beaumont and Beasley, in new directions (I love it when authors are brave and try something new), as well as a prequel for The Beast of Talesend, and a spinoff featuring Malcolm Blackfire (the dragon who will be my husband one day, so SQUEEEE!!!), and he’s started a sort of Wild West series on Wattpad. (Although I am incredibly behind on that, since I currently do not Wattpad.) Almost everything will eventually be out in paperback, and I am definitely looking forward to those!

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black:

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I am beyond falling over with anticipation for this one. Since (finally) finishing The Darkest Part of the Forest last year and loving it, I am quite eager for Holly Black to write more fairy stories. Years ago, I tried her first fairy-related book, Tithe, and didn’t really care for it, but there was so much storytelling potential waiting in the wings of that and her Curse Workers trilogy. So I hung on and kept an eye peeled, hoping that one of her titles would finally grab my interest and not let go. Now I honestly feel that she’s matured as an author, found her style and honed it, so The Cruel Prince is high on my list.

A Thousand Perfect Notes by CG Drews:

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Here’s an interesting sort of confession — I may not actually read this. Why?, when I know the author, and Goodreads has exploded over how much people are dying for A Thousand Perfect Notes to hurry up and be printed already? Well, it’s the content of the plot. I simply don’t read novels involving abusive parents, because it features high among my personal triggers. I’ve actually already discussed this some with the author, and since she understands the ASD struggle herself, this will hardly be a surprise to her. However, it does not one whit distance or deter me from recognizing this shall be a huge release, and hopefully the internet can hold itself together in the meantime as the rest of you flail joyously!

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes:

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To say I am excited about this novel can be related thusly: EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!! It’s a historical fantasy, centering on Bonfire Night, which is one of my favorite British holidays, and the fact I have to wait until spring for it to be even close to being available is just: AAAAAAAHHHHRRGGHH!!!!!! I have not yet read anything else by this author, but I’ve heard very good things, and the concept is totally my cup of tea — hence the non-stop screaming until I get my hands on a copy.

(covers not yet confirmed) Volume 3 of The Order of the Twelve Tribes and How To Be A Savage by Daley Downing:

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What? Did you really expect me to get through this post without hollering about my own 2018 titles?

As of yet, there is no title or even cover art for Volume 3. It shall come to be eventually, when Kyle and I have survived the holidays and life throwing Other Stuff in our path. And no teasers yet, since Rulers and Mages just came out, and very, very few have had a chance to finish it.

How To Be A Savage will release first, anyway. I’m taking a break from an intense work schedule on my Order world to focus on my failed NaNo project that I’m now revamping into something awesome. As of now, there are no notions or schemes for the cover; I’ll cross that bridge sometime in January.

And there we have it! Now, let’s all run around panicking for a minute (or 23), because none of us are prepared for the new year!

Have fantastic holidays, moths!

Fantasy fiction, reading

Review: The Stroke of Eleven

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Note: I did receive an ARC of this novel, but I would’ve got it for myself before too long, anyway.

The Stroke of Eleven is the third installment in the Beaumont and Beasley series by indie author Kyle Shultz. Yes, I happen to be personally acquainted with this author, but that’s because his work is awesome. Anyway, the review…

This novel takes place shortly following the events in The Tomb of the Sea Witch, and includes secondary characters that we first met in that story, such as The Mythfits and Malcolm Blackfire. (I am completely in love with Malcolm Blackfire.)

Per his usual modus operandi, Shultz has taken a traditional fairytale from our own culture and turned it on its head. (In The Beast of Talesend it was Beauty and the Beast and Snow White, and in Tomb of the Sea Witch it was The Little Mermaid.) This time it’s Cinderella.

But these stories have never fallen into the tropes of typical fairytale retellings, and trope-avoidance happens even more so in The Stroke of Eleven. Shultz actually starts making many references to beloved classic tales of our time (especially Alice in Wonderland), and in what’s becoming a strong hallmark of his writing, indicates none of this is what it seems.

Now, in my goal to always avoid spoilers, a lot of this review will have to be summed up by the following:


Yup, that’s how I felt about the lead up to the ending. The ending itself was actually not really unexpected on my part. (What? Maybe I’m a genius?) However…the scenes that made the climatic action and the ending possible…THAT was the best. I love what Shultz is doing by blurring the lines between what the “right” and “wrong” decisions may be, and adding new complexities to characters and possible plot threads that give the reader a lot of food for thought.

With regards to the story itself, the twists in Cinderella’s tradition weren’t quite as dark or comedic as Shultz’s previous explorations of The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. (Yes, trust me, that all goes together in this series.) I enjoyed the author’s changes to those pieces of lore; yet, what he did with Cinderella was honestly fresh and unique and gave those characters a lot more meaning than the stereotypical “happy ever after.”

This is what’s lacking so much from modern retellings, and while I do appreciate a happy ending, one that’s reached merely by going through a bunch of fluff is highly unrealistic, and does not create a bond between me and the characters I’m supposed to be rooting for. Shultz’s developing circumstances/a universe where not everything will go according to plan and the characters are required to adjust and reconfigure and grow makes much more sense, and this I like.

Further adventures in this world are forthcoming from the author, including spinoffs involving Malcolm Blackfire (SQUEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!) and prequels of the established Afterlands plots. I’m thoroughly looking forward to all of it.

If you haven’t started on this series yet, I strongly suggest you do.

You can find the author at:

Fantasy fiction, reading, Young Adult fiction

How I Choose My TBR

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It’s a very simple system, really. It helps keep my stress down, by making sure my TBR doesn’t get too long or too unrealistic.

While I love to read, I am also a picky reader, so having a well-crafted TBR also helps to avoid disappointment (most of the time).

And, of course, spare time does not always exist in abundance in my life, so being prepared ahead of actually being in the library or on Barnes and is quite handy.

I keep a list on Goodreads (come on, who doesn’t?), which works sooooo much better than my old method (which was scribbling down a newly-released title on a random grocery list and praying I don’t lose it).

Now, here’s how I decide what actually goes on that list:

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Criteria 1: It’s by an author I already know I like. Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Erin Hunter, Maggie Stiefvater, Holly Black, Charles De Lint, JK Rowling — these are all names that will make me sit up and take notice in a newsletter or article. Sadly, some of these folks are no longer with us or aren’t releasing new material lately. And the back catalogs of others I have ploughed right through. Still, it’s good to have a go-to (or several).

Criteria 2: It’s by an author that comes highly recommended (by everyone I know). After seeing the same authors constantly named in the same raving reviews, I feel compelled to give them a try. In some cases, this has not panned out. In others, it’s been a huge success. In others still, I have yet to get to said titles. (What?! Sometimes the library has a long wait list!)

Criteria 3: White Fang may be interested in it. Yes, it goes on my TBR, even though he’ll be reading it. Why? Because otherwise I will very promptly forget that he mentioned that series or author or genre. Yup, mum of the year award for short-term memory does not go to me!

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Criteria 4: It’s likely to show up in my local library. Not that this is a strict rule, but it is a pretty regular guideline. Since the ratty old wallpaper peeling off my living room walls is not made of dollar bills, I need to save my money for things other than buying books. Hence, if I can’t get it for free, it will either be waaaaay down the TBR, or not turn up on it for a few years.

Criteria 5: It’s not coming out until next year, but it does sound really good, and I don’t want it to slip my mind. Take Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince and Nadine Brandes’ Fawkes as Exhibit A. The former has been sitting on my list for about 3 months, and finally it’ll hit stores sometime in January. The latter won’t even be out until sometime in 2018 (it’s so far away I can’t even remember without Googling it), but I will kick myself if the fact of its very existence just slips out of my brain.

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Autism, Fantasy fiction, reading, Young Adult fiction

Tantalizing Tidbits

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This is a new way of saying I have more sharing to do about my plans for the upcoming year. (By the way, if anyone can tell me just WHERE 2017 WENT IN SUCH A HURRY, it would be appreciated.)

So, remember when I said that there are going to be 4 volumes in the “canon” series for Order of the Twelve Tribes, followed by a “field guide” of sorts, and then a companion novel, i.e. most likely a prequel, and then I may attempt to write something else (or run away to New Zealand)? Well, here’s what happened with that:

I had originally decided to make a draft of Volume 3 my NaNo project. Then I scrapped that idea and wanted to try writing a contemporary for NaNo. Then I found out that I am not set up to write a straightforward contemporary, and proceeded to die a little bit. And two things kind of smashed together…

At approximately 5 a.m. one day in early November, I had an idea for a spinoff story (from the Twelve Tribes world), that had nothing to do with anything else I’d already developed. But it was too good to pass up. So I started developing it further — and as I was telling White Fang about it, he decided he wanted to join in.

So, we’ve put together a character/plot arc for a brand new, standalone sequel (that I anticipate starting on after the holidays). My goal is to release it sometime next summer.

This new character will be introduced in the “canon,” so I’ve given you a ton of stuff to look forward to!

Now the goal for the prequel is: It will become part of the field guide. I hope to answer all of your questions that any of you had that would’ve been addressed in a prequel (help a writer out, fill the comments with them!), as well as have fun with a few little notions that crossed my mind while planning out the canon.

Still more to do the happy dance of anticipation about!

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The other part of the smash was this: In about a 24-hour period, I went from nearly scrapping my entire NaNo project (yes, 35K words at that point), to figuring out how to 98% rewrite it.

This, obviously, will take time to explore and expand and make, well, not rough draft-y. But I love my new concept, and am excited to work on it.

Most likely I’ll get it ready for release after I finish writing/planning for publication the Twelve Tribes series (as I already have enough on my plate regarding the completion of my magnum opus).

The working title is “How To Be A Savage,” and it’s about… (drum roll, please) …

Autistic superheroes.

Yes, actual people on the spectrum who are also superheroes. They won’t be your standard fare along the lines of Superman, Batman, the Green Arrow, or Wonder Woman, either. They won’t wear those ridiculous spandex suits. They won’t be so foolish as to think no one will ever not recognize them if they wear a mask that only covers their eyes. They’ll have trouble creating and executing highly-sophisticated weapons or tech. Their chosen missions and reasons for fighting those battles may not make sense to anyone but them.

I am enthused.

Are you enthused?!

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Anyway… So, those are my writing plans as they stand at present.

Finish Volumes 3 and 4. (Okay, start and finish, in this case.)

Complete the field guide, along with its prequel-ish (and some sequel-ish) excerpts.

Work up White Fang’s character arc/plot arc more fully.


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I am also not planning on committing to anything else under the sun in 2018. I mean, that I wasn’t already expecting to do, like clean my house and feed my children and cat.

My Goodreads challenge for next year will probably be a very easy 25. I won’t be starting a newsletter or a Wattpad account.

My blog will stay pretty much as is — reviews, discussions, announcements, lots of cat pictures.

Hopefully, my fame will continue to spread and people will flock to my art like — ha, ha, I have to — moths to a flame.

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There are also local opportunities most likely opening up for me in the new year. I’ve been invited to speak at different readers’ and writers’ groups in town, through my local library, and this is exciting, too.

How can you help this little moth’s grand ambitions? Well, you can spread the word about my publications, my blog, my Twitter and Goodreads existence.

I now have 3 books available for purchase, Masters and Beginners, Rulers and Mages, and Dreamings and Muses, my short story collection. All can be found on Barnes &, at:

It’s coming up to the holidays, so take advantage of those coupons and free shipping offers!

AND…I will be giving away a free e-copy of Rulers and Mages! Just mention in the comments if you’d like to enter, and I will ask my trusted Hat of Randomness to select the lucky winner!

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blogging, Fantasy fiction

I Bring You Updates on Recent News…

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Okay, first, yesterday I put out a rather underwhelming Tweet, about how White Fang has started a blog — but I had no information on the site or the link or…well, anything. #EpicFail. Anyway, I cleared all that up this morning, and now I can tell you with certainty that it is a blog about the games he plays, and you can access it here:

Annnnd — the issues with Rulers and Mages have been addressed, and we are now a total go for Volume 2!


This link works for further details on my latest release:

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So, go forth, browse, read, subscribe, shop… Doggo here will love you muchly if you support our endeavors.

(Well, we will, too.)

Have a great day, everyone!


Fantasy fiction, Young Adult fiction

Rulers and Mages: Now on Sale!


UPDATE: My keen-eyed illustrator noticed a problem with the cover. So we had to correct the proof, and that means printing will be delayed another 24 hours or so.

The link below should be working soon. I’ll let everyone know via Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, and I’ll put a note on here, too, when the train to Purchase-dom has left the Printing-ton station. (Hey, it’s the best metaphor I could come up with at a moment’s notice.)

Hope you all had a great holiday, or a great weekend, and NaNo-lings, write on, we’re almost there!