history · Reading · Reviews

Book Review: On A Cold Dark Sea

On A Cold Dark Sea by Elizabeth Blackwell is about three women who were aboard the Titanic. No Jack and Rose here, so no need to debate if they could have both fit on their makeshift raft, but there is still a touch of tragic romance. I give this Titanic tale four stars. While there are romantic elements to it, the story focuses more on the human element and how the tragedy impacted the lives of survivors and not the excitement of the sinking.

This book is about three women from varying backgrounds and social standings: Charlotte, Esme, and Anna. The book switches between perspectives effortlessly. Charlotte winds up on the Titanic with a man she loves but can’t marry. Esme is struck in a loveless marriage while she falls for a man named Charlie who sweeps her off her feet. Anna is leaving behind her home of Sweden to make a new life in America while her best friend prepares to marry the love of Anna’s life. Each woman survives the sinking, but they don’t escape unscathed. They all lose someone close to them and in the aftermath struggle to come to terms with their lives post-tragedy. None of them can fully escape the past while Anna prepares for a marriage of her own, Esme fights to hold onto her new love, and Charlotte mourns what could have been. This book explores what it means to be a Titanic survivor.

The book shows us snippets of their lives before boarding the Titanic, their time aboard, and how they fared after surviving including coming to terms with those they lost in the sinking. This makes it easy to see the big picture and the impact the tragedy had on their lives and in some cases, how it changed the course of their lives. The actual sinking of the ship itself gets little screen time, which is unfortunate for those of us interested in it, but it also keeps the sinking from taking up too much of the book.

Continue reading “Book Review: On A Cold Dark Sea”

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Reading · Reviews

Book Review: The Last Namsara

The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli was a book that originally wasn’t high on my reading list, but I ran into it at the library and picked it up and I’m so glad I did. I give this book 5 stars. The little stories included in it were beautiful and I was hooked for the whole ride. As an editor I see a lot of authors struggle with world building, but this book is a great of example of how to do world building gradually without overwhelming readers. The world building was fantastic and one of my favorite aspects of this book.

32667458In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be darkness—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer.

These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up learning in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.

Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her. Continue reading “Book Review: The Last Namsara”

Reading · Reviews

Bad Parents in Fiction

A trend I’ve noticed a lot recently is bad or abusive guardians in young adult fantasy. I’d say out of the last five YA fantasy books I read, three of them included abusive guardians. I find it curious, but I admit it’s something I’m growing tired of.  This is a topic I’ve been wanting to get off my chest and explore. I’d like to believe there are heroes who have happy families but still choose to go on the adventure. Admittedly I had a rough childhood at times myself, which is why I like to see portrayals of happy families to know that well you know, they actually exist.

Off the top of my head I can think of quite a few examples of YA fantasies that include abusive or awful parents/guardians. The list includes Caraval by Stephanie Garber, Glitter by Aprilynne Pike, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao, The Cruel Prince by Holly Black, Dividing Eden by Joelle Charbonneau, Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire, and Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller. All but one of those books (Caraval) I’ve read this year. I’ve noticed this concept is often used to do one of two things: be a motivator for the main character to go on their journey, or to motivate a character to succeed by making their parent proud while on that journey because then they will finally get the love they’ve been searching for from their parent. And other times the parents are bad parents in that they are just so uninvolved that the main character can do anything without the parents noticing. I know it can be so hard in YA to let characters act on their own without being parented, but sometimes the oblivious parent role is just too obvious. Continue reading “Bad Parents in Fiction”

history · Reading · Reviews

Book Review: The Traitor’s Wife

I recently read The Traitors’ Wife by Allison Pataki. I mentioned this book in my previous post about observers in historical fiction, but I’m going to cover the overall story in deeper detail. I give this book a 3.5, mostly due to the issue mentioned in my previous post, which I’ll explore again. This is a read intended for those interested in the American Revolution and the women involved. We often hear of men like George Washington and Benedict Arnold, but less often we hear about their wives, the women who helped support their causes. The Traitor’s Wife follows the story of Peggy, Benedict Arnold’s wife.

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Peggy is not a character you want to root for, quite the opposite. But that works well in this story since otherwise the ending would be tragic instead of satisfying. It’s not often I see a main character who I dislike but want to keep reading about. Peggy is a fascinating woman as is her sly plotting. This book gave me a whole new perspective on her, albeit a negative one. The book also gave some insight into Philadelphia during the Revolutionary War as it changed between British and American hands. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers about Peggy, but she was if anything a stubborn woman set on getting her way, making for a great villain. Continue reading “Book Review: The Traitor’s Wife”

Reading · Writing

Historical Fiction From the Observer

I read a lot of historical fiction and something I’ve noticed lately is a lot of stories of famous people being written about from the perspective of someone close to them, an observer of their story. This keeps us out of the famous person’s head and shows us how they appear through the eyes of someone else. I’ve seen this device done very well, but I’ve also seen it done in ways that made the observer come off as too lackluster and boring. In the worst case, I went into a book expecting a prominent figure to play a central role only for them to be in less than half the book, for example as in The Wardrobe Mistress. The book was called a novel about Marie Antoinette, but she was more of a side character as the book followed the story of one of her undertirewomen. While reading my latest historical pick, I finally figured out what makes writing from an observer’s point of view work for my personal tastes and what doesn’t.

Let’s start with an example of a story of a famous person’s life playing out through an observer’s eyes that worked. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller did a wonderful job of showing us Achilles’s story through the eyes of his lover Patroclus. One of the reasons I enjoyed seeing the story from Patroclus’s point of view was because it shrouded bits of Achilles in mystery and gave us a view outside of Achilles’s own thoughts on himself, which is my experience seems to often be the reason why an observer’s point of view is used in the first place. However Patroclus played a large role in the story. Yes he observed Achilles’s rise to fame and his demise, but he didn’t just observe, he took part in that story and helped shape it. Ultimately that’s what sold me on Patroclus’s POV. I didn’t just get an outside perspective of Achilles, Patroclus’s character was fascinating enough in his own right for me to enjoy getting his story as well. Continue reading “Historical Fiction From the Observer”

Editing · Writing

The Benefits of Multiple Editors

Let me lay down some knowledge for you from my time spent in the editing trenches. I’ve worked with five plus houses, three literary agencies, and indie clients. That comes with a whole lot of editing experience. Let me tell you a secret: one editor on a book often isn’t enough and especially not if that book needs a lot of work. As an indie author it can be daunting to hire and afford more than one editor, but the end result will be so worth it. Having more than one editor means more fresh eyes to iron out issues. If you’re a a traditional author, this means you will likely work with more than one editor at your house.

Want to know how the Big 5 get their books so polished and shiny? It’s because those books often have a developmental editor and then a copy editor who also proofreads if they don’t also have a separate proofreader. This means they get an editor to focus on all the developmental issues without being sidetracked by copyedits. Then the copy editor gets to focus on copyedits without being sidetracked by developmental edits. Then finally the proofreader gets to ax any remaining issues still hiding. With all those fresh eyes focusing on one type of editing, the manuscript goes through a lot of rounds and gets put through the wringer. And to add to that many of those books were also edited by agents before going to the house. Continue reading “The Benefits of Multiple Editors”

Reading · Reviews

Book Review: Baby Teeth

Right before PitchWars 2017 I held a series of interviews with mentors and previous mentees. One of those mentees was Zoje Stage and you can read the interview here. Well her thriller Baby Teeth comes out July 2018 from St. Martin’s Press and I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of it. I couldn’t put this book down and I give it 5 stars. I have a few aspects of this book I’m excited to talk about.

First, let’s take a look at the cover and description.

35410511Sweetness can be deceptive.

Meet Hanna.

She’s the sweet-but-silent angel in the adoring eyes of her Daddy. He’s the only person who understands her, and all Hanna wants is to live happily ever after with him. But Mommy stands in her way, and she’ll try any trick she can think of to get rid of her. Ideally for good.

Meet Suzette.

She loves her daughter, really, but after years of expulsions and strained home schooling, her precarious health and sanity are weakening day by day. As Hanna’s tricks become increasingly sophisticated, and Suzette’s husband remains blind to the failing family dynamics, Suzette starts to fear that there’s something seriously wrong, and that maybe home isn’t the best place for their baby girl after all. Continue reading “Book Review: Baby Teeth”