Saturday, February 7, 2015


I’ve dabbled in blogging for a half a dozen years (ever since I was assigned to write one for a class). That original one hasn’t been touched pretty since the day the class ended but I have started three others. Yes, three!

Here on Blogger I have two. To Read or Not to Read? which you are reading now and Writings and Musings where I write about my experiences as a struggling author, rant about never-ending book series that need to end already damn it,  and books that have been turned into movies among other things. (Basically anything and everything book/writing related that is not a book review or an original fiction piece).

And in late 2014 I started up a Tumblr where I post short story fiction because I need to practice being more succinct in my writing.

But having so many different things going on on different sites is driving me crazy so I came up with the perfect idea to consolidate them all into one! And not only that but I found the perfect way to do that because, here on WordPress, there’s an option to do categories so over there on the right hand side is a drop down menu. You can find it here:

Below is how things will be arranged on that blog:

The Short Story category is pretty self explanatory. If you’ve read/want to read my fiction, you can find it there. To Read or Not to Read? is what you’ll want to click if you only want my book reviews while Writerly Musings will be where you’ll find the kind of random hodgepodge of other ideas. Or you can choose to read it all, I won’t complain.

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Walled City by Ryan Graudin

Note: I received a free copy of "The Walled City" from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I finally got around to reading this book after having requested it months ago and I'm so disappointed in myself that I hadn't read it earlier! This was a wow book.

"The Walled City" by Ryan Graudin is set in Hak Nam, a fictionalized version of Hong Kong's very real Kowloon Walled City which was a densely populated settlement that was a hot bed of gambling, prostitution and drug use. And the three main characters are involved in it all (well other than the gambling...I don't believe there was any gambling?)

The chapters were told from the point of view of three very different and distinct characters who all have their own secrets. (And the author did a very good job of keeping the sections distinct, I never forgot whose section I was reading as I read it!) There's Dai: a boy who traffics drugs for redemption, Jin: a young girl posing as a boy in order to find her sister who has been sold into prostitution by their father, and Mei Yee: a girl who has been trapped in a brothel for two years and who, throughout the novel, learns that she has more strength than she could have ever imagined.

Just from the book blurb I knew how two of the characters were connected but I was very curious to know how they were all going to meet and it was splendid. It was dark and gritty and real and not the situation, the characters felt real as well. Every time someone pulled out a gun or a knife or interacted with the gang leaders I feared for the characters lives. And I was cheering them on as they raced to beat the clock and get what they needed to get out safely. 

And to add to my enjoyment (though it feels wrong to say I "enjoyed" a book with such horribly realistic dark situations like human and drug trafficking) I also decided to do one of those 2015 book challenges and I chose this one to qualify as my "book set in another country" because even though Ryan Graudin changed the names of the real locations it was very clear what city this was based on (there was even an author's note at the end of the book) and that city was in China.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Wishes and Sorrows by Cindy Lynn Speer

Note: I received a NetGalley free copy of “Wishes and Sorrows” by Cindy Lynn Speer in exchange for an honest review.

I still love fairy tale retellings but honestly I need to stop getting collections of short story fairy tales like this for one simple reason: when the stories are so short there’s really nothing all that new that can be said. It’s different when it’s a full book about one specific story because it means there’s a chance for the author to create a new background story, new information about the characters. That’s not really the case with 10-20 page stories.

There were a few segments that were more of an original idea/story than the others and while some of them were very interesting to read others were odd. I can’t remember the names of which ones stuck out but there were a few that just didn’t make sense at all, they were disjointed and kind of pointless. I understand the struggle of finding a balance between keeping a short story short and making an actual point because I’ve written some short stories myself but if you’re going to publish something in a collection I feel as though you should have to make it feel as though there was a reason for the story in the first place and some of these didn’t have that.

So out of the dozen or so stories there were maybe four really original ones, most of which didn’t make sense. The rest were more traditional and familiar, as though I’d read them before. And one story, the only one I really remember and enjoyed, was something I had read in a previous fairy tale collection. It’s called “Necklace of Rubies” and was a retelling of the story of Blackbeard. I especially loved this one because it was dark and creepy and it was based on a tale that wasn’t as common as some of the others.

From now on out I probably will not be requesting/reading fairy tale collections anymore just because, as I said earlier, the stories are too short to really offer anything new.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Imitation by Heather Hildenbrand

Note: I received a free copy of Imitation by Heather Hildenbrand from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I chose Imitation, the story of Ven who is an Imitation/clone, of a privileged young woman because it reminded me of the movie The Island. And in a way it was very similar. There is a whole building, called Twig City, where the Imitations are shown footage of the Authentic they have been created to look like. They keep their figures in shape according to what their Authentic looks like and they know little of the outside world beyond what they must do to help their Authentic. That includes being around if their Authentic needs an organ transplant or if they need to stand in for their Authenics during dangerous situations.

The latter (going undercover) is the case for Ven, an Imitation of Raven Rogen, the daughter of a man very important to the science world. Only she finds that the world as she knows it is not what she expected when she realizes her best interests don't matter to most anyone and in fact, society as a whole,does not even see the Imitations as real people.

So, in the realm of most futuristic/slightly dystopian, a rebellion is spoken of and begun though not much more than basic planning is started in the first novel. That's why I gave it only three stars, because this is definitely not a stand alone novel in any sense of the term. The story isn't complete and I don't like that. Even if there are more books to come in a series there should be some type of resolution and Ven finding out more about the rebellion is not a good enough one.

One complaint though: in the clone training center they are shown some footage of their Authentic's lives. But they aren't allowed to really experience any of the stuff for themselves. How are you supposed to act natural when riding in cars and elevators or talking to boys when you've never done any of that? That does not make any sense!

But other than that I really liked the book and will likely buy the second one when it comes out next month.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Thirteenth Tower by Sara Snider

Note: I received a NetGalley affiliated free copy of The Thirteenth Tower by Sara Snider earlier in the year (though I'm a little confused because even when I got it a few months ago it wouldn't have been an advanced copy and I'm used to having advanced copies but oh well, moving on).

I went into this book having read the blurb about it quite some time go. I remembered there was a female as a main character and that the story was about magic. What I had forgotten, and quickly found out while I was reading, was that The Thirteenth Tower was very much a "discovery of self" "coming of age" type of novel. Only coming of age with magic, which is always something I find interesting.

The story is about Emelyn, a supposedly orphaned housemaid from the village of Fallow. Throughout the story she travels far and wide and discovers quite a bit about herself, magic, and the world around her. And boy is it an interesting tale of travel.

I loved The Thirteenth Tower. The writing was tight and interesting. The characters were fairly well-developed and it kept me on my toes, especially as to what exactly a few of the characters were up to throughout the novel.

 And, even better, the story ended very nicely. It tied up enough strings to feel like a complete story but enough was left open that I could see Snider deciding to make it the first of a series if she so chose.

The only complaint I had was that some of the scenes with magic may have been handled a little better. I've read plenty of fantasy/magic stories and magic is something that can be hard to describe and that seemed like the case here. Descriptions of how the magic in this world works were long winded and slightly confusing. The magic battle at the end was VERY confusing.

But I still enjoyed what was going on. So as long as you're not afraid to be a little confused (because even if you do get confused, by the end of it you will know what happened) it's definitely a worthwhile read for fantasy fans.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Black Rose by Kris Thompson

Note: I received a free NetGalley copy of "Black Rose" by Kris Thompson in exchange for an honest review. And this review will get slightly spoilery.

I chose "Black Rose" to read especially for the Halloween season because it was creepy and horrifying. Not in an unbelievable "oh my gosh, vampires" kind of way but in a "this is something that could really happen. I mean look at the guy who kept the women hidden in Cleveland for years."

So if you aren't familiar with the Cleveland, Ohio man who abducted several women and stored them in a house for years this book definitely parallels that story. (Women held captive, raped with at least one pregnancy). Only in "Black Rose" Lillian, aka Lee, aka Lilly knows that the abductions are happening, she just doesn't think it could happen to her. And then it does.

Lee soon finds herself chained up in an underground room with nothing but a mattress and a bucket for human waste. Only she's not alone. The other missing girls are in rooms all around her and they share their stories. They were kidnapped months before and have faced various forms of torture including physical beatings, being lit by fire, and rapes.

The story flashes back and forth between Lee's perspective and that of her boyfriend Richard who is close to Lee's friends and family. He refuses to give up on his girlfriend until the end.

So content wise I both liked and did not like this. Of course it was kind of graphic (no overly gratuitous rape or torture scenes but descriptive enough to make me a little squeamish). And there were parts that I felt didn't make sense. As another reviewer mentioned, one of the first scenes where the captured girls talk they end up talking about sex even though they are being repeatedly raped. I'm not so sure that's believable but then again I have never been in, and hopefully never will be, in that kind of situation. So who knows.

I did like that the story went farther than I thought it would. I thought the book would end with the girls escaping. But instead it carried on through the escape, the hospital stays of the survivors, and the trial and verdict for the captor.

But even though I read it quickly, mostly because it was an easy read (not content wise but style wise) and because it was suspenseful enough that I wanted to know "what happens next" I wouldn't say I loved the book. Sure that might have something to do with the whole distastefulness of the situation but it was also because the characters didn't really come alive for me. Sure I rooted for Lee but I would have rooted for anyone in her position.

 So this is not on my top rated shelf. It just felt like so much more could have happened and that it could have been written better but it didn't and it wasn't.

And I'm going to complain about something else...something very spoilery. So here goes...

If you are abducted and raped and tortured and you knock your captor out (especially if you can't save all your fellow captive girls) why wouldn't you make absolute certain that the guy was dead?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wildlife by Fiona Wood

Note: I received a free advanced copy of “Wildlife” by Fiona Wood from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

When I requested “Wildlife”, a story about two teenage girls named Sibylla and Lou and their school term at an outdoor education program, I did not realize that it’s basically a sequel to another book that featured Lou. I actually didn’t realize that until now, over a week after I finished the book, when I happened to see that it was listed as ‘book 2’ on Goodreads.

Now I know that sometimes it doesn’t really seem to matter whether or not you’ve read the first book and I doubt it would have changed “Wildlife” all that much for me but I think it might have helped enough for me to rate this a bit higher.

I enjoyed the duel perspectives, the naïve Sibylla and Lou who had experienced so much (most likely in the first book I’m guessing) although at first I didn’t pick up on the whole multiple narrator thing and was very confused. Which was probably pretty stupid of me since some chapters were written in diary form while others were just first person but since narrator names weren’t mentioned for a few pages I got lost.

What I did like about the story was that some parts of it were very realistic. Lou’s depression was understandable and I liked that she merely isolated herself and observed instead of behaving more erratically like fictional characters often seem to do. But where I liked Lou I found Sibylla very flip floppy. Sometimes she had some great common sense and observations while other times, whenever her best friend and her new boyfriend were involved, she was horribly naïve.

All in all it wasn’t a bad story but it wasn’t really all that amazing either. Not much happened and I didn’t get pulled into the characters as much as I have in other books though I did like bits and pieces of the character’s personalities.