Book Review: Shadows of Lela

Feeling a presence beside me, I lifted my head saw the white unicorn. My heart softened, my shoulders relaxed. The unicorn was so close, I knew I could touch him. I reached out a tentative hand and placed it on his mud-splattered, white coat. A calm warmth flooded me.”

Sixteen-year-old Princess Cora has a dark past she’d rather forget. She’s found peace living in exile, far from the sorcerer who murdered her family. But her safety is compromised when she discovers a deadly threat. Unicorns are being annihilated. Her kingdom could be next…

To win the affection of his heartless bride-to-be, Prince Teryn must complete a dangerous quest. Instead, he finds himself at the end of Cora’s dagger. But when he learns Cora’s secret, he’s determined to help her, whatever the cost.

Trusting Teryn might be Cora’s only hope. But doing so could risk her heart… and Teryn’s life.

Goodreads | Amazon | Website


Last month was Indie April, a month for supporting independent authors and bookstores. About half-way through I made a promise on Twitter that if I reached 500 followers (I was just above 400) by the end of April, I’d buy an indie book and write a review. Well Twitter came through and then I was left with the daunting task of selecting a book from a slew of WONDERFUL suggestions.

What really drew me to Shadows of Lela was the cover art. Shout out to Merilliza Chan for the beautiful artwork. Sometimes I’d just stop reading and gaze lovingly at the cover! Haha! I also really love unicorns.

Disclaimer: I usually try not to get too spoilery in my reviews, and I don’t want to pick apart the novel, but beware there are some spoilers ahead!

Right off the bat, this book gave me Graceling and Red Queen vibes. It’s a high fantasy novel without the pretentiousness that can sometimes come with it. The book also deals with royal families and the complicated relations between them. Tessonja Odette has created a vast fantastical land full of ancient magic, lost lore, and many kingdoms.

The world building has been done really well. I found the part describing the Ancient Ones quite interesting and I would’ve loved to delve into the lore even more. I also would’ve loved more scenery descriptions. As a reader, I’ve been given this wide new world, and sometimes I felt like I couldn’t see where I was. Cora and Teryn are journeying across the land, but I wanted more descriptions of how the landscape changed as they moved into the different kingdoms. I wanted to be fully immersed.

Also, a map at the beginning of the book would’ve been a huge bonus! They’re always helpful when reading a fantasy with many different locations.

The book is written in first person POV and switches mainly between Cora and Teryn, with the occasional appearance of Teryn’s brother, Larylis, and the princess Mareleau. The characters are well-written and the separations between their points of view are distinct. So no confusion, which is great!

Reading Larylis’ and Mareleau’s POV, at least in the first half of the novel, seemed a little unnecessary, as it didn’t add much to the story. In the second half, I liked Larylis a lot more as a character and seeing his POV was much more important. Mareleau’s probably could’ve been left out completely.

Character motivations also seemed to shift very quickly, especially with Cora and Teryn. We get a first person look into their thoughts, but there isn’t much introspection when the characters are making decisions. Cora suddenly decides to leave her adoptive family of the Forest People to help the unicorns quite suddenly it seems. As well with Teryn, he leaves his quest to win Mareleau’s heart almost instantly to help Cora. These decisions make sense for the characters, but we don’t see the change of motivation in an organic way. A little more inner monologue would’ve been the key in these big moments of motivational change.

In the first half of the novel, the pacing seems a little off. We are rushed through the introduction of Cora as a princess and the introduction of the main villain. For example, we don’t get to see much of what Cora is like before she’s exiled or who the villain is before she’s exiled. And again, just as we start to see Cora’s life with the Forest People, she’s off on her quest to save the unicorns. The plot did need to keep moving, but I would’ve loved more establishment of Cora before and after her exile.

The same happened with the beginning of Teryn’s quest. It felt a little rushed, as we were trying to get to the point where Teryn and Cora meet.

The second half of the novel was better for me, pacing wise. I quite liked when we finally got down to the big conflict between Morkai, the sorcerer, and the royal families. The characters lived up to their potential, though I wanted to see Cora do a little more with her powers, especially against Morkai. But, all in all, the climax was satisfying.

I wanted the ending to be left a little more open for a little more incentive to get into the second book. It felt a little rushed as well into the conclusion that wasn’t as surprising as I was hoping.

But, it was a solid first book, with plenty to offer readers, especially those who liked Graceling and Red Queen. When I get through a few more of the books on my TBR list, I’ll probably pick up the next one.

My Favourite Bookstores

A couple weeks ago was Independent Bookstore Day and I celebrated by visiting my local bookstore, you know, as you do on Independent Bookstore Day. I promised myself I would only buy one book, but of course that quickly went out the window. I came home with two books and a pack of notebooks. Being a bibliophile is hard on one’s wallet.

I’ve been to my fair share of bookstores (not including chain stores like Chapters) over the years, most in Ontario, but some international. So, here’s a quick list of my favourite bookstores!

Starlight Books (R.I.P.) – Newmarket, Ontario

I had to start with this one because it is the sorely missed bookstore in my hometown. It was a mixture of new and used books, with many treasures to be found. The store itself was quite large, with multiple rooms and little back corners all filled with bookish adventures.

I bought my first Stephen King novels at Starlight, which started off a strange love of horror books.

The store closed down years ago now, because the lease was just too expensive and it was in the middle of the bookstore slump (thanks Amazon). I suspect if the store was open now, it would do better.

Sadly, no other independent bookstores have opened in the area, so Starlight has left quite a big hole.

Blue Heron Books – Uxbridge, Ontario

The next closest to me is my adoptive local bookstore, Blue Heron Books. It’s far enough away that I don’t get there as much as I’d like, but when I have visited, it’s been a delightful experience.

The atmosphere is so welcoming and friendly. The small(ish) store is full of books, books, and more books! It feels like a place where you could stay and browse for hours, with comfy chairs to sit on.

The bookstore hosts events of all shapes and sizes, author readings, “Books and Brunch” with local authors, and a book club. They even offer not-necessarily-book related classes in their studio.

As of this year (2019), they’re celebrating their 30th bookstore birthday! I’m super happy for them, because Blue Heron is such an amazing space. So glad the store isn’t that far away and I can pay a visit once in a while.

The Book Lady – Fenelon Falls, Ontario

A little bit farther a field is The Book Lady. This cozy little hidden gem has a wide variety of new and used treasures. It’s hard not to get absorbed by the close shelving in the fantasy/sci-fi/mystery/horror sections.

Like many bookstores, The Book Lady also offers coffee and tea and giftware for bookworms (like me)! I bought a cat and book themed mug during a visit.

I may or may not have taken a trip to Fenelon Falls JUST to visit this store…

The owner Dana Deathe (pronounced ‘deeth’), is living the dream honestly.

Read and Green Bookstore – Brighton

This bookstore was a bit of a random find on a camping trip last year. It’s a bit of a hidden gem, as Brighton isn’t that big of a place. It’s a used bookstore, which is means that it’s full of secret treasures.

The store is long and narrow and has a bit of a cozy chaotic feel, in only the way used bookstores can. There’s something magical about getting lost in the bookshelves. 

On this trip, I found a 40s vintage set of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne series. 

Mr. B’s Emporium of Reading Delights – Bath, England

This is my favourite international bookstore! It was one of the best places I got to visit in 2017 when I was in the UK for my cousin’s wedding. Bath is a wonderful city anyway and I wish we had a little more time there (the city and the bookstore).

Unfortunately, we had to be quick in Mr. B’s, so I didn’t get to fully immerse myself in the wonderland that is the store. It has a bibliotherapy room! BIBLIOTHERAPY!

But I did pick up The Power by Naomi Alderman, which was fantastic.

The place is book heaven. They offer book spa treatments and will ship personalized book subscriptions to your door. Just thinking about it makes me want to melt into a bibliophile puddle. They also host plenty of bookish events, book launches, author readings, etc.


There we have it, my favourite bookstores. If you live in Ontario, I hope this gives you some bookstore road trip ideas. Even if you’re just visiting Ontario, check these out. And if you’re ever in Bath, be sure to check out Mr. B’s… I mean it.

What are some of your favourite bookstores? I’m always looking for new recommendations, so feel free to share!

Favourite Books about Books

When I read a book/novel and one of its main plot points is a book or books in general or a bookstore, some weird thrill sparks inside me. It’s a strange sort of joyful feeling. Like something has really clicked.

I just love it.

Maybe it’s because I’m such a bibliophile myself, it’s a double-whammy of bookishness. It’s hard to explain and quantify, so hopefully you can relate (through another genre or trope) or you can pretend you understand.

Anyway, I want to share my favourite books about books and hopefully you’ll find a new favourite yourself or just something fun to read.


Bibliophile

Searching for perfect book lovers gifts? Rejoice! Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany, is a love letter to all things bookish. Author Jane Mount brings literary people, places, and things to life through her signature and vibrant illustrations. It’s a must-have for every book collection, and makes a wonderful literary gift for book lovers, writers, and more.

The title says it all really. It’s a book for bibliophiles and it’s all about books and bookstores and libraries. Like a bible for bookworms. It’s written and illustrated by the super talented Jane Mount.

My favourite part is the wonderful artwork, the illustrations of these book covers and spines. It’s like a whimsical illustrated encyclopedia of everything books.

Image: Bibliophile

There are stories about bookstores around the world (places to visit one day), and plenty of recommendations from fellow bookworms (as if I need MORE book suggestions). It’s just pure joy in book form.

The Little Paris Bookshop

Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can’t seem to heal through literature is himself; he’s still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.

After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country’s rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself.

I first read/heard this book via Audible just last year, and I was so impressed by the story. A book barge? In Paris? A man who can prescribe books like medicine? Yes, please! There’s even a character who’s a struggling writer, which is a bonus for someone who’s also a writer.

Nina George knows how to write a really cozy book. I felt like I was really traveling through France on the waterways. As we’re journeying, reading and books remain an integral part of the story. As Perdu and his motley crew make their way to the south of France, they spread the love of reading wherever they go.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco web-design drone, and serendipity, sheer curiosity and the ability to climb a ladder like a monkey have landed him a new gig working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days on the job, Clay begins to realize that this store is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few customers, but they come in repeatedly and never seem to actually buy anything, instead “checking out” impossibly obscure volumes from strange corners of the store, all according to some elaborate, long-standing arrangement with gnomic Mr. Penumbra. The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes, and soon he has embarked on a complex analysis of the customers’ behaviour and roped his friends into helping him figure out just what’s going on. But once they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the secrets extend far beyond the walls of the bookstore.

I think this is the first novel I read that gave me that “thrill” of reading a book about books. So, of course, it had to be featured on this list. The main characters works in this enigmatic bookstore and has a bookish adventure.

I actually haven’t read it in a while, so it might be time for a re-read.

I remember it was whimsical and slightly off-kilter, but in a really good way. I was constantly trying to figure out what was going on along with the characters. There are twists and turns and you end up in a place that is truly unexpected.

This book made me want to write about bookstores.

The Book Thief

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement. 

I don’t want to say too much about the plot of this book, because it can easily be spoiled. The ending is MAJOR. But if you haven’t read The Book Thief yet, I highly recommend it.

It’s pretty obvious by the title that books are going to be important in this story. While it’s not as cozy or whimsical as the other books, it’s still an important read. Maybe more so because of the historical factor. In the historical context of a place where certain books were considered dangerous, the idea of literature as rebellion is important.


I hope you enjoyed this little list of my favourite book books! If there are others that you know of, please let me know. I always need more books to read.

Yoga and Creativity (Part 2)

I couldn’t bend. Physically and mentally. I was sitting with my legs spread wide, then I was supposed to bend forward, forearms on the mat. Deep breath and bend. And… nothing. My body couldn’t do what I was prompted to do. All I could do is sit with my palms pressing into the floor, my head bent… because I could at least bend there.

This pose that I simply couldn’t do usually wouldn’t be a big deal any other day, but today it seemed like a bad omen.

I know my body’s limitations. I know that I need to bend my legs to get into a sitting forward fold, I don’t have the core strength to do crow pose, I’ve just started being able to do upward facing dog. That’s fine. 99% of the time. Today, my headspace was not a place of rainbows and unicorns, so this limitation was met with plenty of self-doubt and frustration.

This has happened before in my writing. Something just wouldn’t bend in my brain the way it needed to, in order to get onto the page in some remotely successful way. The words weren’t right, the feeling wasn’t there, the dialogue was unnatural. I knew what I needed to do, I could picture it in my head. But, when it came down to it, it didn’t happen the way it was supposed to.

And that’s okay.

Sometimes words don’t come out the way they need to; sometimes that yoga pose doesn’t look the way it’s “supposed” to. But, that’s life. Life is frustrating, it doesn’t bend, it’s a little awkward and messy.

My favourite yogi, Adriene Mishler of Yoga with Adriene, has a great saying that can be applied to life as much as yoga: Find what feels good.

Basically, it means that the shape of the pose doesn’t matter as much as how it feels. If your one-legged pigeon is a little wonky, that’s fine as long as you’re not hurting yourself and it feels good. If you look at it from a wider perspective, it can easily apply to most things in life. My process of writing isn’t going to be the same as yours. What you need to do to get your story out isn’t what I need to do. If it isn’t what the “professionals” are doing, that’s just fine, as long as it feels good for you.

The thing is not to let your feelings of self-doubt be in control, as it seems they inevitably will be when you compare yourself to someone else. That’s what I needed to take away today, after some self-reflection and mindfulness. Maybe there will come a time that I stop comparing myself to those I admire, but today is not that day.

Cheers!

Yoga and Creativity

I’ve been doing yoga on and off for about 6 or 7 years. My entry into the yoga world was actually through something called “Hoop Yoga” (Yoga with hula hoops! How fun is that?) in my first years at university.

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I will be the first to admit I have a complicated relationship with exercise. Growing up, I wasn’t completely uncoordinated, but I wasn’t great either. Organized sports sucked for me because I’m not a runner… I don’t like running. So after gym class was no longer required for me, I turned into a bit of a mushroom.

Going to university, I had free access to a wide variety of classes, so I was able (with the encouragement of much more active friends) to find alternatives to the exercises that I wasn’t crazy about. Hoop Yoga was a highlight for me, because it wasn’t an intense workout but I still felt like I was challenging myself. I had the flexibility of a wooden board, but I enjoyed myself.

It wasn’t until after I graduated and moved home when I realized I needed to do something to keep my body moving. No more mushroom! I dabbled in at-home Pilates (with Blogilates on Youtube) before transitioning more towards yoga. I found Yoga with Adriene on Youtube and it was like finding a cozy yoga nook!

Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

My yoga routine isn’t as consistent as I’d like, but any time on my mat is a treat. It has been a wild wonderful journey. It took a little time to accept that I would never have a typical itty-bitty, flexible “yoga body,” now I see that any body doing yoga is a yoga body.

While yoga has helped me touch my toes and connect with my body (aka stop seeing it as a meat sack I’m dragging around), it’s also helped me get into a better mental space. It’s one of the only moments where my mind will actually be quiet and I’ll be fully in the moment. A complete miracle moment.

Having those moments allows the clutter in my brain to clear and make room for more productive and creative things.

I find that when I don’t have much time to do yoga for a period of time, I also lose momentum in my writing. It’s as if yoga helps fuel my creative motivation.

The connection that I’ve formed with my body and my mind, and the process of checking in with myself, has improved my self-image and confidence in my abilities on the mat and off the mat. The clarity and confidence allows me to move through my creative project more sure of myself.

What’s great about doing an at-home practise is the pressure is off. As someone who constantly compares herself to others, doing yoga by myself has allowed me to use only myself as competition. It’s allowed me to grow in my practise more freely and at my own speed–which is a big plus for me in doing any sort of exercise.

My yoga practise is about showing up for myself, feeling good about myself physically and mentally, and finding peace in order to move forward in a positive mental place.

P.S. If you’ve ever thought about doing yoga at all, I’d recommend checking out Yoga with Adriene, she’s got a great selection of beginner yoga videos.

November Song

This is a short story I wrote for Neil Gaiman’s MasterClass: The Art of Storytelling. I liked it a lot, so I wanted to share it here! This is my first short story I’ve posted here, so I hope you like it.

Photo by Vlad Bagacian on Pexels.com

It was the First of November—the night of the burning—and Nan knew that something was different. A brisk wind blew the shriveled leaves, still clinging to the branches, making them shiver. No clouds hung in the sky, which meant no rain would spoil the fun. But Nan felt impending doom. 

Nan stood in the village square with Chase like they did every year. They were both dressed in white and not talking. Not many people were. 

No matter how long this tradition continued, there was always an uncomfortable feeling that accompanied the familiarity. Who knew what would happen the night of the burning? 

The bonfire would be lit at sundown and burn all night. The village square was already full of people. Pumpkins from the night before sat on porch steps and in windows. Branches of red and yellow leaves adorned the doors. 

Nan and Chase watched the sunset, in a display of pink, orange, and purple, and the officials—also dressed in white—lit the bonfire. In moments, the flame was above both their heads. Soon night cloaked the village, but the square glowed brightly. 

In the light of the inferno, the crowd quieted. The sound of drumming grew out of the crackling of the burning wood, like the heartbeat of the village. A deep thrumming Nan felt in her bones. 

Nan wanted to smile but didn’t. The calendar had turned. It was time for a release. 

She snuck a glance at Chase and found him looking back at her. She looked away, willing the redness to stay away from her cheeks. 

The village elders went first, as per tradition. Their voices rang out above the drumming, a traditional November song. As seasoned participants, they were full of all the wisdom and maturity of being an “elder.” The flame flickered as their bits of paper were tossed into the fire. Once they were done, the flame was open to all. 

As people were ready, they stepped forward and threw their own items into the fire. Sometimes it was a cardboard box, sometimes a shoe, sometimes a paper crane. 

Nan caught Chase looking at her again. He gave her one of his half-smiles. His eyes were sad, though. He always got sad on burn day. Nan did too, but she was better at hiding it. She was better at hiding everything, even from herself. But Nan could see something hidden behind Chase’s sadness. Things were changing, despite Nan’s best efforts. 

The past year, Nan and Chase had both turned fourteen. As if by magic, their lives changed overnight. Chase started spending more time alone; they didn’t share all their secrets anymore. There were some lines that had been drawn and couldn’t be crossed. 

Chase stepped into the flickering orange glow. He placed his hand on his chest and joined in the singing. His voice blended with the others’, but Nan could make it out. He sounded so sad. 

He didn’t stop walking. He didn’t toss an object into the fire. Singing, he disappeared into the flames, his back figure quickly consumed by the heat. 

Nan screamed. She reached forward as if she could still reach him. 

At the edge of the fire, where Chase had just been, there was a carved wooden heart. Nan’s own real beating heart broke. Whatever someone produced for the fire was a symbol. A regret. A negative “what if” from the year past. She knew everything had changed, but she couldn’t have imagined this. A friendship full of childhood innocence disappeared like smoke into the starry sky. 

Nan pressed her hand to her heart. A heart that was just starting to learn about life’s complications. In her hand, an object started to form. A carved wooden heart—the matching companion to Chase’s. Through her tears, she hurled the heart into the pyre of regret. 

Book Review: A Discovery of Witches

Disclaimer: I don’t write these fancy long book reviews for books that I didn’t love or had a big impact on me, but this book did have an impact on me. This book was the pinnacle of untapped potential. It had a great premise, but so much was left untouched. Anyway, I’ll get to that in a moment.

Before we get started, I wanted to pose a question. Does Deborah Harkness even drink tea?

Pushing one of the mugs toward him, I fixed my eyes on the sugar. He handed it to me. I put precisely half a teaspoon of sugar and half a cup of milk into my tea. This is just how I liked it–black as tar, a hint of sugar to cut the edge off the bitterness, then enough milk to make it look less like stew.

Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

Goodreads | Amazon | Chapters

I want to be honest up front and admit that I’m writing this review after not finishing the book. I made it just over halfway and finally decided I couldn’t take it anymore.

Now take a moment, dear reader, and reread the synopsis. I’ll wait…

Done?

Doesn’t that book sound interesting? Too bad that’s not the book I read.

The opening of the book starts with great promise. Diana is in the library and stumbles on a mysterious enchanted book. In general, I love books about books and libraries and witches. But the potentially great plot got thrown out the window and was replaced by repetitive descriptions of Diana’s clothing, Diana’s weird obsession with rowing and running, Diana’s weird way of drinking tea.

When we aren’t being told about Diana’s exercise routine, we are overwhelmed with scientific, alchemical, and historical information of questionable importance.

Part of me wonders if Deborah Harkness put so much effort into researching that she had to include every little bit of information she could.

When Matthew shows up as the brooding vampire love interest, the plot is still not the focus. We get more promises of plot: the possible extinction of witches, vampires, and daemons; the mystery surrounding Diana’s DNA; the looming threat of the Congregation. Instead, we get more descriptions of clothing, food, and now the addition of wine. We don’t even get any steamy love scenes! (At least not in the first half of the novel)

The book started to feel very much like Twilight, in a sense that we have a somewhat helpless female and a strong, overprotective and angry vampire. But what is worse, is that Diana doesn’t have to be helpless.

We are told in the beginning that Diana is the daughter of two very powerful witches and thus has a great amount of power. (Spoiler)  It is shown in her DNA for godsakes! She has every power known to man, but she refuses to use her magic. In the beginning, it seems like an interesting twist to the traditional “witch” novel, but as the “plot” thickens and Diana’s safety becomes more threatened, she still refuses to use her magic.

She’s the ultimate Mary-Sue! The audience is told that Diana holds all this power and she’s the only one who can break the spell on the mysterious enchanted manuscript, but god forbid she do anything other than allow her vampire love interest to sweep in and do everything for her. I kept waiting for her to decide to use her power to protect herself, or pretty much do anything, but no. Diana continues to be a stubborn helpless shell of a person.

Matthew the vampire is no different. He’s basically a better educated Edward Cullen. He acts as both knight-in-shining-armor and borderline abusive boyfriend. Everything he does is to protect her–he gives up on whatever he was doing with his life before he met Diana–and constantly reminds her how helpless and in need of his help she is. He’s at one point doing yoga and talking about New-Age DNA mumbo-jumbo, then he turns around and bares his teeth to show Diana how “scary” he is. I don’t buy it.

I could forgive this novel if the characters actually did anything than hang out, go to yoga class, and drink wine. The book could be half the length if Harkness took out all the superfluous stuff. Reading it, I felt like I’d been watching Diana from a security camera, seeing her every move. What would’ve been more effective, would’ve been to get to the goddamn plot!

Even the fact that a good chunk of what I read took place in a library at Oxford couldn’t save this for me. I had such high hopes for this novel, as I do enjoy witchy books, but this was just a dud.

If you like Twilight, but the protagonist doesn’t have the excuse of being a human in order to be helpless, then you’ll probably like this book. I’m sorry this became more of a rant than a review.

“It’s coming along”

Or

How to Tell Your Family You’re No Father Along with Your Book than the Last Time They Asked

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The holidays have just passed and I’m sure you saw at least some form of family or friends, and if they know you’re a writer I’m sure they asked you how your writing is going. It happened to me at least twice.

While it’s nice to have family that cares and is interested in your writing, it can be a little awkward if you don’t have much to report.

Here’s a quick and easy guide to come out of those situations looking like an impressive writer person!

Step 1: Be as vague as possible.

Depending on where you are in your writing journey, you can use different buzzwords like: draft, revising, narrative, plot, characterization, dénouement, Freytag’s pyramid… in the hopes that using such words will make you sound well-educated and knowledgeable about writing in general.

Example: “Thanks, uncle Darrel. I’m drafting my novel and really working on my characterization. I want to make sure the introspection of my protagonist through flashbacks is especially efficient during the falling action.”

Step 2: Prepare for the question, “When can I read it?”

There is a good chance that whoever is talking to you will ask if or when they can read it. THIS IS SUPER NICE! Having someone who wants to read your writing is the best thing. When you don’t have anything worth reading yet, it can be awkward.

Be honest! Tell them it’s not ready yet, but you will let them know when it is.

Example: “I’m glad you want to read it, cousin Carol. The story isn’t done, but I’ll let you know when it is and you can be the first to read it.”

Step 3: Appreciate having such a supportive family

Example: “Thank you so much, aunt Beth! I’m so glad you’re interested in my writing.”

Step 4: Believe in yourself and your talents

The fact that you have people who want to read your writing is amazing! You are putting in time and effort to create this piece of art and that is amazing! It might not be getting done as fast as you want, but the process of writing is a complex and unique journey.

Enjoy the journey and don’t sweat the awkward questions! You can do it! Keep writing! You’re a rockstar.

Book Review: The Changeling

To believe in only the practical, the rational, the realistic was a kind of glamour as well. But he couldn’t enjoy the illusion of order anymore. Monsters aren’t real until you meet one.

When Apollo Kagwa’s father disappeared, he left his son a box of books and strange recurring dreams. Now Apollo is a father himself–and as he and his wife, Emma, settle into their new lives as parents, exhaustion and anxiety start to take their toll. Apollo’s hold dreams return and Emma begins acting odd. At first Emma seems to be exhibiting signs of post-partum depression. But before Apollo can do anything to help, Emma commits a horrific act and vanishes. Thus Apollo’s quest to find a wish and child who are nothing like he’d imagined. His odyssey takes him to a forgotten island, a graveyard full of secrets, a forest where immigrant legends still live, and finally back to a place he thought he had lost forever.

Goodreads | Amazon | Chapters

I never would’ve known this book existed if not for Maggie Stiefvater posting on social media about this book. When I saw there was a section of the book titled: “shit, damn, motherfucker” I knew this was a book I’d want to read.

I was gifted the book by my parents for Jolabokaflod (aka the Christmas book flood) on December 24th. If you weren’t aware, Jolabokaflod is an Icelandic tradition of gifting books on Christmas Eve to read that day. My family started doing this last year and it’s such a wonderful thing to do.

ANYWAY, onto The Changeling…

Victor LaValle’s novel opens much like a fairy tale, even going so far as saying, “This Fairy Tale begins in 1968…” as the opening line. That sets the tone for the rest of the novel as this winding adventure through magic and mystery.

I was lulled into a false sense of security in the first part of the book when Apollo works as an independent bookseller and falls in love with Emma. But, in a fairy tale, nothing stays happy for long. Slowly the creepiness often found in fairy tales starts seeping into the story, in the form of nightmares.

I find often with books that relate to fairy tales, the magic it sometimes front and centre. But LaValle keeps the magical elements on the fringes of our vision until we’re in too deep to escape. And I LOVE it! The mystery and anticipation created wonderful tension as we marched toward the finale.

I won’t say anything more, because I wholeheartedly believe that everyone should read this book.

The characters were likeable and unlikeable in the most wonderful ways. Everyone feels amazingly real and flawed in relatable ways. *Vague Spoilers* The cast is full of mothers who’ve had to fight for themselves and for their children and I’m here for it!

This was a book full of secrets. Each character holds a secret that needs to be revealed and realized, and the world itself holds deep secrets for the privileged few to know. I feel like even the book itself is a wonderful secret.

The real-life horrors are just as scary (if not scarier than) as the mythological horrors. But everything is woven into a wonderful tapestry of creepy fairy tale goodness. As the layers of the story and its characters are revealed, I felt like there was so much left to explore even when the book ended. It’s definitely worth a reread.

I highly recommend this novel, especially if you like books based on/inspired by fairy tales.

2018: A Year.

2018 has been a year. January feels as if it was 5 years ago, and I swear it was October yesterday. But here we are, in the last days of 2018 and I have feelings.

It’s easy to get caught up in all the things one wanted to do in the space of 12 months, but it’s important to instead focus on one’s accomplishments (big or small). This year, instead of looking back and seeing all the things I didn’t do (*cough* meditate, eat better, finish novel *cough*), I’m going to focus on the positives.

This blog post is in three parts: accomplishments, favourite things, and goals.

Accomplishments

While I may not have FINISHED my manuscript, I did get it to its final draft. 11/29 chapters are fully edited and I’m happy with them. I’ve still got a little ways to go before it’s completely done, but I think I can safely say that I can/will start querying agents in 2019!

In 2018, I wanted to get more involved in the online writing community. I was more active in my online writing groups and I was better at maintaining my social media presence (aka actually posting on a regular basis). I also learned about twitter’s writing community and I’m more active in the weekly hashtag thingies.

One thing I feel especially proud of is investing in myself by starting a real, professional-looking blog. This one! I’ve been posting semi-regularly with content I’m passionate about, like the book reviews and blog posts about my writing journey. It feels more coherent and better put-together than my old blog.

Something that’s not quite so writing related, but I’m still proud of is that I read 36 books in 2018. That’s the most I’ve read in one year I think maybe ever. If you want to see what books I’ve read, you can find them here.

Favourite Things

Earlier this year, I wrote a blog post of my favourite books that I’d read up to that point. It’s time to look back and actually pick a favourite… I’m so bad at picking just one favourite anything…

Book:

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

I read Practical Magic before this one because I LOVE the movie version, but I found that I enjoyed reading The Rules of Magic a lot. A LOT.

A very close second (because I can’t resist including more than one) is The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden.

Movie:

Annihilation

There were a lot of really good movies out this year and with amazing diversity, which I am HERE FOR! But, according to the horrible rule I gave myself, I had to pick one. And I’m a sucker for Natalie Portman. Annihilation also happens to be based on a book, which I read after watching the movie. All I can say is… wow.

Honourable mention goes to Black Panther (obviously), Ocean’s 8, and Christopher Robin… and A Wrinkle in Time.

I’m very bad at picking one.

Food:

SOUP!

Photo by Ceyhun Özden on Pexels.com

This year I discovered the amazing power of eating soup. As a child, I didn’t really like soup, but this year my love for soup has gone up exponentially.

My favourite soup is a potato, bacon, and cheese soup. It’s basically a baked potato in soup form. A close second is the butternut squash soup from the Magnolia Table cookbook.

Honourable mention for “food” goes to the Lobster Tacos from Made in Mexico in Newmarket… SO GOOD!

Can you tell I’m not good at this?

Show:

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

This show technically isn’t from 2018, but I discovered it this year. I’m sad I didn’t check it out sooner! This show just tickles me in the best possible way. The first two seasons are on Netflix, so definitely check it out if you like Dr. Who but on Earth with Elijah Wood.

Honourable mention goes to The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Schitt’s Creek, Queer Eye, and Outlander.

These were a few of my favourite things!

Goals

Despite New Year’s resolutions being a bit over-rated, I can’t help but think about the things I would like to do in 2019.

  1. I’d like to finish my manuscript FINALLY and start querying it (does that count as two goals?)
  2. Write more book reviews. I only did three this year, so it won’t be hard to beat.
  3. Read more books! Maybe aim for 37?
  4. Continue research for viking novel! (At least it won’t be hard since I’m already doing it)
  5. Start research for fun blog project (it’ll be a surprise so look forward to it)!
  6. Focus on the positive!

If you have any goals, I’d love to hear them! Leave a comment and spread the love! Best wishes for 2019!