Hello, hello! Welcome to the last Wednesday of August. That means it’s time for another book review. This month, I’ll be looking at Edwin Hill’s debut novel, Little Comfort. It came out on August 28th. It’s a new cozy mystery series that I actually forgot I had requested from NetGalleyuntil I received the approval notice. I must thank them and Kensington Books, the publisher, for sending me an Advanced Reader Copy in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Without further ado, let’s get to it.
Little Comfort introduces us to Hester Thursby. She lives with her partner (but refuses to marry him) in Boston, though she maintains a separate apartment area above his for when she needs time alone. They have recently been saddled with taking care of his niece because his sister/Hester’s best friend took off. So, Hester took some time off work until they could find a new life rhythm. When things seem to be quieting down, a woman contacts Hester and asks her to track down the woman’s brother. Since finding people had been Hester’s side business for a while, she agreed. From there, things went very wrong.
This book was a little different from the cozies I’ve been reading because it shifted POVs. We start out with Hester (an interesting character), then jump to Sam, Gabe, and a couple of other characters (all interesting in their own right). The story shuffles back and forth around them. I, personally, like that method. I mean, following one character throughout the whole book as she figures out the crime is fine, but it wouldn’t have worked here. This way, we not only get to figure out what’s going on, but we get better insight into the minds of the bad people. The story isn’t really about whodunit, but how they ended up in that position and why they chose to do what they did. That’s why the rotating POV works here.
As far as the plot itself goes, there are plenty of twists and turns to keep it intriguing. My only complaint would be that the climax felt a little rushed. Normally, I’m all for a quick “end it while cutting off the villain’s monologue” type thing, but considering the person who actually ends it, I wanted more. More struggle, more explanation, more conniving on the bad guy’s part. I wanted the niece to have a bigger part because I didn’t believe the guy would just let her loose. That whole scene just felt too quick and easy. Granted, there’s some stuff after the climax that kind of makes up for it, but I expected a little more.
The writing was a little shaky at times. A lot of it was tight and pulled me along. But sometimes, especially in the beginning, there was a lot of focus on tits. Like, a lot. It was borderline comical/annoying. Don’t get me wrong, tits are great, but it felt like the author was overcompensating for something and I couldn’t decide what. Mostly, though, things either went along at a really nice pace or they went too fast.
Ultimately, I enjoyed Little Comfort enough that I’ll look for future Hester Thursby books. Hester was a great character and I’m interested to see what happens with the kid and the partner.
Overall, I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. My issues with the story weren’t big and could be attributed to the fact that it’s the first book. If you’re into these kinds of stories, give it a shot. However, I’d say if you’re legit sensitive to certain kinds of topics or just have a tendency to say things need “trigger warnings,” this book probably isn’t for you.
Hello, hello! August is chugging along. My revisions are going surprisingly well so far. I keep waiting to hit a wall or something, but my sticky notes are keeping me on track. Sometimes, my main character feels a bit too feminine, but I like him that way, so I’ll deal with it later if I have to. Otherwise, I don’t have much to ramble about this week. Because of that, I decided to share my reading-list-thus-far for September through December. This list may or may not include books for my monthly reviews. I haven’t decided on those yet.
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse. I’m reading this for the reading group I’m in. It sounds like something I’ll enjoy. Here’s the description from Amazon:
While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.
Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last best hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much more terrifying than anything she could imagine.
Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel the rez, unraveling clues from ancient legends, trading favors with tricksters, and battling dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.
As Maggie discovers the truth behind the killings, she will have to confront her past if she wants to survive.
Welcome to the Sixth World.
Dim Sum of All Fears by Vivien Chien. It’s the second in the Noodle Shop Mystery series. You can find my review of the first book here. I enjoyed it enough that I’m giving this one a shot. Here’s the description from Amazon:
Lana Lee is a dutiful daughter, waiting tables at her family’s Chinese restaurant even though she’d rather be doing just about anything else. Then, just when she has a chance for a “real” job, her parents take off to Taiwan, leaving Lana in charge. Surprising everyone—including herself—she turns out to be quite capable of running the place. Unfortunately, the newlyweds who just opened the souvenir store next door to Ho-Lee have turned up dead. . .and soon Lana finds herself in the midst of an Asia Village mystery.
Between running the Ho-Lee and trying to figure out whether the rock-solid Detective Adam Trudeau is actually her boyfriend, Lana knows she shouldn’t pry into the case. But the more she learns about the dead husband, his ex-wives, and all the murky details of the couple’s past, the more Lana thinks that this so-called murder/suicide is a straight-up order of murder. . .
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss. I’ve been meaning to try this one since it came out, but never quite got around to it. Now, the reading group I’m in chose it for October, so I have no excuse not to read it. Here’s Amazon’s description:
Mary Jekyll, alone and penniless following her parents’ death, is curious about the secrets of her father’s mysterious past. One clue in particular hints that Edward Hyde, her father’s former friend and a murderer, may be nearby, and there is a reward for information leading to his capture…a reward that would solve all of her immediate financial woes.
But her hunt leads her to Hyde’s daughter, Diana, a feral child left to be raised by nuns. With the assistance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Mary continues her search for the elusive Hyde, and soon befriends more women, all of whom have been created through terrifying experimentation: Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherin Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein.
When their investigations lead them to the discovery of a secret society of immoral and power-crazed scientists, the horrors of their past return. Now it is up to the monsters to finally triumph over the monstrous.
Two Girls Downby Louisa Luna. This one’s a bonus suggestion from the reading group. It sounds cool, so I’m going to give it a shot. I’m putting it down tentatively for an October read, but I might save it for later. Here’s the description from Amazon:
When two young sisters disappear from a strip mall parking lot in a small Pennsylvania town, their devastated mother hires an enigmatic bounty hunter, Alice Vega, to help find the girls. Immediately shut out by a local police department already stretched thin by budget cuts and the growing OxyContin and meth epidemic, Vega enlists the help of a disgraced former cop, Max Caplan. Cap is a man trying to put the scandal of his past behind him and move on, but Vega needs his help to find the girls, and she will not be denied. With little to go on, Vega and Cap will go to extraordinary lengths to untangle a dangerous web of lies, false leads, and complex relationships to find the girls before time runs out, and they are gone forever.
European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss. The second in her series. The reading group I’m in decided to read both of Dora’s books in a row because she’s amazing. I admit the length of this one is a little daunting (720 pages), but I can do it! Especially if I can start a little early on it. Here’s Amazon’s description:
Mary Jekyll’s life has been peaceful since she helped Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson solve the Whitechapel Murders. Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherine Moreau, Justine Frankenstein, and Mary’s sister Diana Hyde have settled into the Jekyll household in London, and although they sometimes quarrel, the members of the Athena Club get along as well as any five young women with very different personalities. At least they can always rely on Mrs. Poole.
But when Mary receives a telegram that Lucinda Van Helsing has been kidnapped, the Athena Club must travel to the Austro-Hungarian Empire to rescue yet another young woman who has been subjected to horrific experimentation. Where is Lucinda, and what has Professor Van Helsing been doing to his daughter? Can Mary, Diana, Beatrice, and Justine reach her in time?
Racing against the clock to save Lucinda from certain doom, the Athena Club embarks on a madcap journey across Europe. From Paris to Vienna to Budapest, Mary and her friends must make new allies, face old enemies, and finally confront the fearsome, secretive Alchemical Society. It’s time for these monstrous gentlewomen to overcome the past and create their own destinies.
Sea Witch by Sarah Henning. I’ve been looking forward to this one since I found out about it six months ago. I was super happy when the reading group I’m in decided to give it a shot. For now, I’ll save it for December, but if I get a chance, I might tackle this one earlier. Here’s the description from Amazon:
Ever since her best friend Anna died, Evie has been an outcast in her small fishing town. Hiding her talents, mourning her loss, drowning in her guilt.
Then a girl with an uncanny resemblance to Anna appears on the shore, and the two girls catch the eyes of two charming princes. Suddenly Evie feels like she might finally have a chance at her own happily ever after.
But magic isn’t kind, and her new friend harbors secrets of her own. She can’t stay in Havnestad—or on two legs—without Evie’s help. And when Evie reaches deep into the power of her magic to save her friend’s humanity—and her prince’s heart—she discovers, too late, what she’s bargained away.
I’ll need to pick at least two more books to keep up with my two books a month goal, but I haven’t decided on all of them. Plus, I have to wait for NetGalley to get back to me about some books to review. I should probably get something festive for the holiday season. Maybe a Christmas cozy? Otherwise, this is my reading list until next year. What’s on your list for the foreseeable future? Feel free to share your list or suggestions or comments here or on my social media pages!
Howdy, howdy! Another week gone by in the blink of an eye. It seems like the only way I can keep up with the days is by the difficulty of the crossword, and that’s not a reliable measure. Maybe I’m just being over-dramatic. Anyway, this week, I wanted to talk about another new-to-me revision technique that I’ve been trying. It’s another suggestion from the same book I mentioned last week, The Last Draft by Sandra Scofield. Basically, you type up the new draft in a blank file.
In pre-word processor days, writers had to type up each new draft with their trusty typewriter (or write them out by hand if you want to go back that far). There was no copying and pasting. No saving the source file under a new name and making changes in the text you’ve already written. Sure, they had the hardcopy next to them, but still… it sounds like a long and tedious process. But it’s worth a shot when you’re having trouble getting into the revision flow.
I’ll be honest and say that I haven’t followed Scofield’s advice as thoroughly as I could. She suggests printing two copies your first draft and doing a bunch of exercises and making notes on the hardcopies and all of that, then revising into a new document from there. That’s too much work for me. I’m not being lazy, just mobility-impaired. Why struggle with shuffling a bunch of papers around when I can use track changes in Word to make notes and achieve similar results? Technology makes my life easier and more independent, so I try to make use of it when I can. If I get stuck in the revision process, then I’ll back up and try it another way.
However, I did decide to follow her advice about typing the new draft up from scratch. I open the first draft, highlight the next 1,000ish words (because it gives me a visual of how much I want to get through that day), then open my current draft file and get to typing. Even though I was skeptical at first, it has been super helpful. It allows me to focus on the voice of the narrator, which was shaky early in the first draft, and to fix things in my head as I type up the new version. I’ve added stuff and taken stuff away. I play with paragraph breaks and punctuation. It just feels more acceptable to change things around on a blank page than it does on a completed draft. I’m not disrespecting what I’ve already written, I’m making it better. Even the stuff that I’ve sworn I was going to type up verbatim ended up getting tweaked to fit the new flow. It’s been a freeing experience.
I, personally, like starting at the beginning and working through things paragraph by paragraph. But even if you like to jump around and work on different scenes in different orders, typing everything up in a new file could be helpful. I know people who write their first drafts by hand and type their second draft from that. There are so many ways to do this whole writing thing. I’m constantly tweaking my own method, in case you haven’t noticed. So, if you’re stuck or just haven’t found a way that consistently works for you, don’t be afraid to try a new process.
As always, feel free to share your own methods, comments, or questions here or on my social media pages!
Howdy, howdy! How is everyone’s August going? I’m still on track with the goals I posted last week. Writing and revision are slow, but I’m doing something every day. As far as books go, I’m currently reading Sandra Scofield’s The Last Draft: A Novelist’s Guide to Revision. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it as a craft book. It’s not bad, but half the time she seems really into genre fiction and the other half it seems like she’s looking down on it. I’m just getting mixed messages from it. However, I have found many of the exercises in the book useful! I wanted to talk about one of those today: making timelines.
In all of the fiction writing classes I’ve taken, there’s always been at least one hardcore plotter (sometimes, it’s even the teacher). These are the people who swear by creating outlines and timelines of every little thing before they even begin writing. I’m not one of them. Sure, I plot things out in my head, but writing it down feels constrictive. I like to let my first drafts form organically. There’s no theme in my mind, no worry about subplots, none of that. I know point A and point B. Getting from one to the other should be an adventure. That’s just how I like it.
I admit that my approach makes revision difficult. I have nothing but the manuscript to work with, so trying to rework it into something readable can be a daunting task. That’s why, when someone in my writing group suggested the above-mentioned book, I decided to give it a shot. And you know what? It offered suggestions that I had never thought about before. Did you know that you could write your first draft with no guidelines and then make timelines and outlines and all of that plotter stuff after you have that shitty draft finished? Because I had never really thought about it. And now I feel like a complete idiot for not thinking of it sooner.
So, guess what I did! I bought a bunch of sticky notes and wrote out the main plotline, filling in stuff and taking stuff away as needed. In other colors, I took certain characters/groups of characters and wrote out what they were doing and important tidbits that needed to show up in the novel. Dad stuck them up all over my mirrors and now they taunt me every day until I do my work. I can’t say I did it correctly. I didn’t give each little plot point its own Post-It (only the major ones got that honor). I’m sure I could’ve used different colored pens for different plots and all that crap. But for my first time, I’m happy with it and it’s working for me so far.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that just because you’re not a plotter doesn’t mean you can’t try their techniques during the revision process. The book offers a lot of different suggestions, some of which I skipped in favor of others. I’ll read about the ones that I know don’t work for me, but it doesn’t mean I have to do them. If you’re having trouble finding a toehold in the revision process, pick up a craft book and try something new. Make timelines. Use sticky notes or index cards. Have fun. See what kind of pretty pictures your story makes. Or keep it simple like I did. Whatever works for you.
Speaking of things that work for you (or don’t), how do you go about revision? Do you make timelines before or after the first draft or not at all? Feel free to share your thoughts, comments, and techniques here or on my social media pages!
Howdy, howdy! Can you believe it’s already August? I feel like I’m still stuck in June. Time just keeps getting faster and faster. Am I alone in this feeling? Yeah? Well, okay then. I don’t really have much to talk about at the moment, though I am trying my hand at some revision techniques that are new to me. If they work out, I’ll probably talk about them more next week. Anyway, since this Wednesday actually falls on the first, I decided to simply share my August goals with you.
So, without further ado and in no particular order, I present to you…
1. Submit stuff 8 times (2 every Monday) to semi-pro markets or higher. This is one of my goals for the year (submitting two stories to magazines or anthologies every Monday) and I’ve been doing really well with it. I haven’t missed a week yet, though I do believe I submitted stuff on Tuesday a couple of times. Sometimes, I’ve dreaded submitting or felt like I’ve submitted everywhere I possibly could, but I pushed through it and found new places anyway. Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep it up!
2. Write 50+ words OR revise 1+ pages EVERY DAY. I’m back to the small goals every single day thing. It’s just really helpful to me when I feel like I’m between projects. In my head, I know I’m prepping for in-depth revisions on LR, but if I don’t keep track of words or pages, I don’t feel productive. This goal might change once I find my rhythm with LR. For now, though, it’s good for me.
3. Read 2 books. This is another one of my goals for every month this year. Honestly, I’ve kind of lost track of how many books I tend to read in a month because some overlap months and others I deliberately read over a longer period of time (almost always craft books). But I do know I’m up to 18 books this year (thanks to GoodReadstracking feature), so I’m ahead of schedule.
4. Make time for people. I’ve been a bit reclusive recently, though I still try to answer every message I get. I just don’t initiate as many conversations as I should. This is nothing new. It’s something I struggle with all the time (as you know if you’ve read earlier posts). I’m just far too comfortable not talking to people and stalking them on Facebook instead. Yes, I’m creepy like that. My friends know this and many of them do the same. But I really do want to be better about socializing. I swear.
5. Finish timeline for LR. This is one of those new-to-me techniques I mentioned earlier. There’s about one more day’s worth of plotting before I have a timeline that I can work with (I’m plotting it on the computer before I write anything out). I even bought a bunch of Post-It notes in pretty colors to make everything easy to differentiate. I just have to figure out where to stick them that’s easy to see. Then, I have to recruit Dad to do the sticking. I bet he never thought my novel writing would include work for him.
6. Work on revisions of LR. Hopefully the timeline will make revisions go more smoothly than usual. It’s already given me ideas for new scenes and how to rework some old ones, so I’m cautiously optimistic. I should have some updates on this in the next couple of weeks. Wish me luck!
Those are my goals for the month. What about you? What are you hoping to accomplish before September? Feel free to share your goals or thoughts here or on my social media pages!
Hello, hello! It’s the last Wednesday of the month already. Time flies when you’re having fun (or just going about daily life), I suppose. Anyway, you all know what happens today: a book review! This week, I’ll be talking about The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw. It was published back in March of this year by Simon and Schuster. I read it with the reading group I’m in and decided that I have too many thoughts about it to not write a post. I usually try to keep my posts as close to spoiler free as possible (sometimes a couple will slip through), but that’s going to be impossible here. Spoilers this way lie. You’ve been warned.
The Wicked Deep is the story of a small town called Sparrow and the curse that has plagued it every summer for two centuries. Why is there a curse? Because the town sentenced three sisters to death by drowning for acts of witchcraft, of course. What is the curse? The three sisters possess the bodies of three girls from the town and lure boys to their death in the harbor. Poor Penny, a seventeen-year-old who lives on an island with her not-quite-all-there mother, has accepted that it’s the town’s fate to suffer the wrath of the witches every year. That is until Bo, an unwitting outsider, shows up and she decides it’s her mission to protect him. Things go all kinds of wrong from there.
I have to admit that I was totally in love with this book as I was reading it. The setting was wonderful and the writing pulled me along. Even after I finished it, I was prepared to give it five stars. Then, I took a breath and started thinking about it. Really thinking about it. That was when things got super dark, and not in a good way.
I ended up feeling sooooo bad for Penny. First, she’s possessed by Hazel (violation much?), but then there’s the whole Bo thing. I mean, there’s sex. That means Penny is basically ghost roofied and forced into sex without any say. To be fair, Bo doesn’t know about Penny being Hazel at first. But after everything is over, he keeps dating Penny like everything is normal and he was in love with her all along. At the same time, he keeps pining over Hazel. So, he’s not in love with Penny, which means she’s stuck in a relationship with some guy who’s not really into her. It all just got very rapey the more I thought about it. By itself that’s fine (not every story has to be a happy one), but there will be people who think this is a great love story and that’s what really makes me sad.
Aside from that, I also expected more from Penny’s mom. She supposedly has some kind of psychic powers and knows when people are on her island and all that, but she doesn’t kick Hazel’s ghostly ass? She doesn’t really do much at all. It’s apparent during her conversation with Hazel that she knows things, but she doesn’t act. It was just a little disappointing.
Ultimately, I had a love/hate relationship with The Wicked Deep. I’ll still keep a look out for other books by Shea Ernshaw, though. It was good enough that I was swept along, which makes it worth looking into other stories by her.
Overall, my issues with it dropped my rating down to a 3 out of 5. I definitely suggest picking it up if you’re into stuff like that, but really think about the story. Maybe I’m making too much out of something small. Maybe you’ll find it creepy too. Who knows?
Howdy, howdy! I know, I’m not supposed to be posting today. But there’s something I wanted to celebrate now that Dad has finally given me the go ahead. And since next week is a book review post, I thought I’d just write this one as something special in between. First, say hi to Dad from my Stonecoast years!
That was when he was around 270 lbs. He maintained that weight for a while after losing 60 lbs (yeah, he was 330 at one point). Then, a week or so after Thanksgiving last year, we went to see a new doctor who came into the room and immediately said Dad was dying because of his weight and diabetes and all that stuff (dude was a real ray of sunshine </sarcasm>). So, he told Dad to lose 70 lbs through diet and exercise. He gave us a crappy little paper that showed what the diet would consist of (not helpful at all), said to do 30 minutes of cardio a day, then sent us away to figure everything out ourselves.
So, we did.
The doctor said 1,200 calories a day, so I found an app to keep track of that. Dad got a new Polar A370 watch to track his exercise and that H10 heart monitor we posted about a while ago, plus the corresponding apps. And for almost 8 months (November 29, 2017 until July 18, 2018), Dad religiously stuck to between 1,200 and 1,300 calories a day. The calorie app would yell at him if he was under 1,200 because, for men, that’s considered starvation levels, but he rarely went over 1,250. He walked on the treadmill 6 days a week and did some strength training as well, but had to give up the exercise for a few weeks when the doctor put him on a statin and he had some adverse reactions. It was hard work and I’m super proud of him! Say hi to Dad now!
He’s lost about 80 lbs! He weighed 191.1 on the 18th! He went from a 2X down to a large. He bought a new belt a few months ago and is currently in need of another new one (he’s been drilling extra holes into it as needed for now). He did an awesome job!
Now, we’re slowly figuring out a maintenance plan. That’s all. I just wanted to brag about Dad a bit.