Thursday, June 7, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: Sparks Like Ours, Melissa Brayden


This was my third Melissa Brayden title (and I have more in my TBR pile). Even after only two books, I knew Brayden would deliver a solid, enjoyable read, and she certainly did.

Sparks Like Ours is the third book in a four-book series following a group of four friends. This is Gia's book, although Isabel, Autumn, and Hadley all appear throughout the story. Gia's a pro surfer and looking to make it to the number-one spot, currently occupied by Elle Britton, surfing's golden girl. While Gia and Elle have crossed paths on the tour, there's little love between them. Until they're presented with a joint sponsorship opportunity and are forced to spend more time together and get to know one another.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

BOOK REVIEW, Furyborn, Claire Legrand

I tried?

The cover's pretty cool, and I really like fantasy books with female protagonists, but unfortunately, this one just didn't work for me. I think I started this way back in January, but by this past Friday, I'd only made it to 24%. I sat down that night, intending to get a good chunk done, and after what felt like forever, I was only at 29%. So I decided not to finish this one.

I don't think I have much to add to what people have already said. Talking about believability in a fantasy book feels weird, but this story stretched mine. Eliana is supposed to be a serious assassin, but a lot of the times, she just feels incompetent. Her mom is supposed to be an assassin, too, the one who taught Eliana everything, but then she gets captured? It seemed like it just happened for plot purposes.

I also just didn't like anyone. I don't think every female character has to be "likeable," but I have to want to root for someone. The problem was I didn't connect with either Rielle or Eliana, and I can't really pinpoint why. I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that their stories didn't feel like they revolved around them, if that makes sense. As for the side characters, no one captured me. It feels like Simon was supposed to be charming, but . . . meh? Because of my disinterest for the characters, some moments that were meant to be emotional just felt silly to me. Like Harkan declaring his love for Eliana right before he does something unwise.

The writing didn't click for me. The prologue confused me rather than got me hooked on the story. Because of the time jumps, a lot of it felt repetitive. The pacing is a lot of action and not a lot of character development. A horse gets killed pretty violently, which I really hated.

All that said, this book obviously works for some readers. That's cool. It just wasn't for me, and that's okay, too. Different strokes, and all that.

Thanks to NetGalley, Sourcebooks Fire, and Claire Legrand for the e-ARC.

Friday, May 25, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: Riding the Track, by Kara Ripley


I wanted something short and fun to read, so I picked this one up. When Clara discovers that her boyfriend's cheating on her, she kicks his butt to the curb and goes on the trip they had planned together-- five days in the Australian outback, riding horses and herding cattle. Her group guide is Evie, a beautiful "jillaroo" (cowgirl) with Aboriginal ancestry. I'm not in a position to say if the Aboriginal representation was good, but it was there, which I appreciated.

Let me start with the things I really enjoyed. One was Clara. The story's written entirely in Clara's point of view. It's also written in first person, which I sometimes have a hard time getting into. Here, I had no problem, and a lot of that was due to Clara's voice. She's bitter and snarky, and I loved it. It works because she just got out of a relationship that ended very poorly, and I think Ripley did a good job conveying that her bitterness toward her fellow travelers (especially Michael and Louise, that lovely couple) was less about them and more about her own unhappiness. She also makes great progress in terms of her mood throughout the trip, which was nice to read.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Short Story Round-Up

In March, my flash piece "The Offerings" was released by Freeze Frame Fiction. You can check it out here. The other stories in the issue very cool, each has its own art piece by Luke Spooner, and it's all flash fiction, so they only take a few minutes to read.

Whispers in the Dark, an anthology from SEZ Publishing, dropped this week. That includes my story "How You Find It." It's available on Amazon. Right now, I believe it's only available in paperback. I think an e-book is planned.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Writing Update, April

I've been feeling a little burned-out recently, which is part of the reason I didn't reach my goal of 20,000 words for April's Camp Nano and instead wrote only 10,000. That's okay, though, and it takes the sci-fi manuscript up to 8,500. Plus, this time, I'm happy with those words. I think it's best to work on it without a timeline in mind for getting it finished.

The other 1,500 words belong to a short story that is currently not going anywhere. Maybe I'll pick it up again in the near future.

Better news is I'm currently revising Book II in my epic fantasy series. I'm over halfway through the manuscript as I make notes on what needs to be changed or fixed. Then I'll tackle writing the actual revisions. I'm planning on finishing that up by the end of May. After that, it goes to another beta reader, which means it'll be one step closer to publication.

So, still plodding away. The going may be slow, but it's forward going. Can't be upset with that.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

ECOSYSTEM Blog Tour -- Joshua David Bellin

I'm happy to be a stop on Joshua David Bellin's blog tour to celebrate the release of his newest book, ECOSYSTEM, which releases tomorrow.


 Don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway at the end of the post for a chance to win a signed copy!


Seventeen-year-old Sarah is a Sensor, gifted with the ability to survive within the sentient Ecosystem that swept away human civilization centuries ago. While the remnants of humankind huddle in small villages of stone, Sarah uses her psychic connection to the Ecosystem to travel freely in the wild in search of food, water, and fuel. Sarah doesn’t fear the Ecosystem—but she hates it for killing her mother when Sarah was a child. When she hunts, she hunts not only for her people’s sustenance but for revenge.

Then Miriam, an apprentice Sensor, is lost in the Ecosystem, and Sarah sets out to rescue her. Joining Sarah is Miriam’s beloved, Isaac, a boy who claims to possess knowledge of the Ecosystem that will help their people survive. The harrowing journey to find the missing apprentice takes Sarah and Isaac into the Ecosystem’s deadliest places. And it takes Sarah into the unexplored territory of her own heart, where she discovers feelings that threaten to tear her—and her society—apart.

A thrilling fantasy adventure from the author of Freefall and the Survival Colony series, Ecosystem is the first book in a YA trilogy that includes The Devouring Land (2019) and House of Earth, House of Stone (2020).


Ecosystem is a powerhouse of a novel. From the very first scene, Bellin draws you into a highly realized universe where the greatest threat to humans is the world around them. From bloodbirds to poisonrose to flameflies, there’s always something ready to harm or kill a person as soon as they step outside of their stone village.

Bellin’s writing is confident and clear, coaxing you into the world and the story. It’s apparent that he took great care in this project and that it’s close to his heart. As someone who reads a lot, I think that makes a subtle difference in the reading experience because it helps deepen the story.

What generally attracts me to stories is the protagonist. Here, it’s a fun and occasionally exasperating ride to step into Sarah’s shoes and find out where her journey—both physical and emotional—takes her. Like the stabbing nettles she sometimes encounters, she’s a bit prickly, especially at first. But as she learns to trust others and herself, she grows in confidence and grows on the reader.

This is a timely novel, too, that cautions against abusing the environment. It should seem like common sense, but in a time when recognizing climate change means going against business interests and profits, it’s a necessary and apt reminder.

Overall, Ecosystem is a thrilling, complex read. I’m eagerly awaiting the next book in the trilogy, The Devouring Land.

More About Josh 

Joshua David Bellin has been writing novels since he was eight years old (though the first few were admittedly very short). A college teacher by day, he is the author of three science fiction novels for teens and adults: the two-part Survival Colony series (Survival Colony 9 and Scavenger of Souls) and the deep-space adventure Freefall. His new book, the YA fantasy Ecosystem, releases on April 22, 2018 (Earth Day). Josh loves to read, watch movies, and spend time in Nature with his kids. Oh, yeah, and he likes monsters. Really scary monsters.

Find Josh online:

And find ECOSYSTEM at:

Josh will also be stopping by the Monessen Public Library on Saturday, May 19th.




a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, April 16, 2018

BOOK REVIEW: The Princess Deception, Nell Stark

I really enjoy Twelfth Night, and I'm an even bigger fan of She's the Man. When I saw this available on NetGalley, I jumped at the chance to read it. Modern adaptations of older works are always a lot of fun, especially when things get updated in unique ways. Because of that, I really, really wanted to love this one. However, I didn't.

The story is about Viola, the Princess of Belgium. When her twin brother, Sebastian, overdoses right before the month-long bid for the FIFA World Cup begins, she decides to play him while he goes to rehab so the bid can continue. Meanwhile, Missy Duke is a former pro soccer player who was forced to retire early because of a knee injury. Now, she's covering the Belgian-Dutch joint bid for a sports magazine/network. Cue the ensuing misunderstandings.

I don't think it's a spoiler to say that Duke finds out about Viola's ruse, but I think she finds out way too easily. Ultimately, I think that's what dissatisfied me. The whole conceit of Twelfth Night is that pretty much no one knows that Cesario is really Viola, and a lot of the drama and comedy come from the audience knowing. Instead of being intrigued by "Sebastian" and then having to reevaluate when she finds out Sebastian is really Viola, Duke spends the majority of their relationship trying to figure out why Viola's doing it so she can break a story. More than that, though, they actually just don't spend a lot of time together. We're 40% in before they have a conversation in private, and the black moment comes at 70%, which doesn't leave them much time to develop a relationship.

My main complaint is possibly my own fault. I went into this with high expectations because, like I said, I enjoy Twelfth Night and especially She's the Man. So, my expectation was that this would be funny. Instead, it's very dramatic. That's fine, and the drama is mostly earned. Sebastian's overdose and subsequent rehabilitation are treated with the weight they deserve. Duke is still depressed over losing her soccer career. I just wanted this to be a lot more fun and filled with more shenanigans than it was.

There are some nice moments and observations in the writing, though. At one point, Viola notes how much she appreciates her circle of friends. Both Viola and Duke treat Sebastian's addiction as a disease and defend him against people who would "out" his addiction as a scandal. While posing as Sebastian, Viola realizes she shouldn't say a lot because men are often laconic when it comes their emotions, and she wonders "whether men felt as constrained by the norms governing their behavior as she did emulating them."

Because there's such a focus on a woman pretending to be a man and having to wear "masculine" clothing and on how people present gender, it made me think a lot about transgenderism and gender expression and passing and the "proper" amount of masculinity or femininity. I don't know if this can be classified as transgender representation, especially whether it can be classified as positive transgender representation. What I can say is that it made me think and made me want to learn more about transgender history.

Overall, The Princess Deception is an interesting book, but don't go into it expecting a faithful representation of Twelfth Night.

Thanks to NetGalley, Bold Strokes Books, and Nell Stark for the advanced e-copy in exchange for an honest review.