Sunday, November 12, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: A More Perfect Union

Disclaimer: NetGalley provided this copy in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to NetGalley, Bold Strokes Books, and Carsen Taite.

People often seem surprised when I say I read romance. I don’t read them as often as I’d like because I’m a fairly slow reader and generally focused on sci-fi and fantasy and because there are so many romances books out there that sometimes it’s hard to dive in. I requested this on a whim from NetGalley, and I’m glad I did! I read the majority of this in the space of a day.

The setup is fairly standard (not a bad thing). Lt. Colonel Zoey Granger is a whistleblower scheduled to testify in front of Congress on a corruption scandal. Rook Daniels is a hotshot spin doctor who “fixes” scandals when they appear. Their paths cross, sparking both attraction and frustration, but neither thinks it will go very far. Then their professional lives collide, and they have to investigate a case close to Zoey’s heart while navigating their growing connection.

I liked both the main characters. Zoey is a stand-up person with a strong sense of morality. She’s also a bit lost since the army’s been her family for years and exposing the corruption scandal has partially ostracized her. Rook is charming and devoted to her job but, like the best love interests, has a painful past that she doesn’t like to talk about. Their quick attraction to one another feels real, as do the issues that initially keep them apart. Zoey, who is honorable and truthful, dislikes Rook’s profession and feels spinning stories is akin to lying. Rook has a distrust of the military that stems from her past and can’t understand Zoey’s comfort with taking orders and her devotion to the army.

Despite the military being a large part of this story, there’s pretty good gender balance. While a lot of the characters in the military are male, women hold powerful positions, too. One of the driving forces behind the plot is Rook’s friend Sarah, who is the White House Chief of Staff. In a smaller part is her girlfriend, who’s a Chief Justice. (Details might be a little off because I read this fast.) There are some cool women on Rook’s team, and Zoey is shown to be respected by her higher-ups and to know the men who don’t respect her aren’t worth it. I liked that it took place in D.C. and the military world. I don’t know much about the military, but things seemed accurate. I especially liked the climax and the phones (can't give anything away, but you'll see when you get there). The writing was nice and clean and kept the story flowing.

One area for improvement would be the diversity. On the one hand, I enjoyed that the characters didn’t have to deal with homophobia. In a sense, it would be more realistic if they did, but it’s nice to see a lesbian couple treated like any other couple. They have their issues, but they’d have the same issues regardless of sexuality. I think there’s room for telling both kinds of stories. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure most of the characters are white. If there were clues to the contrary, I missed them. Maybe I was reading too fast!

Overall, I very much enjoyed this book, and I’ll definitely read more from Taite in the future.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Road to Book Two--Part 2

I'm back with an update on Book Two, tentatively titled The Shadow of the Endless Night! If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen that I posted a picture of the complete first draft. Here it is in all its glory, which isn't very much, to be honest! Right now, it stands at about 96,000 words, which is on par with what the first draft of Book One looked like. For reference, the final version of Book One is around 129,000 words.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: The Wife Between Us

Disclaimer: NetGalley provided this copy in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press, and Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen.

The tagline for The Wife Between Us is, “A novel of suspense that explores the complexities of marriage and the dangerous truths we ignore in the name of love.” The synopsis doesn’t tell you anything, really, because it’s hard to talk about the plot without giving anything away. The books starts out alternating between two points of view. One, told in the first person, is Vanessa’s. She’s recently divorced and has found out her ex-husband is getting remarried to a younger woman. The other point of view, told in the third person, is Nellie, who is the younger woman marrying Richard. On the surface, it seems fairly standard, but the seeming simplicity of the plot is meant to draw in the reader and make them question what they know.

In this respect, The Wife Between Us is very good at keeping the reader off-balance. Hendricks and Pekkanen make full use of their unreliable narrator, to the point that when you think you’ve got your feet, they add another wrench to the mix. However, I almost felt like some creative decisions, particularly one at the end, were made for the sake of throwing readers for a loop. In that sense, it’s a thrilling read. The writing is smooth, and the story keeps you interested.

One of the things that’s always on my radar as I read is how female characters are written and treated. Without giving anything away, I was pleased with how this tackled issues women, in particular, face and how it portrayed relationships between women.

My biggest complaint is that after each big revelation, the pace slows way down. This could have been cut by fifteen or twenty percent, and the story would’ve been much tighter. Although it was an enjoyable read, it left me a little unsatisfied. You rush right through it, which makes for an enjoyable reading experience, but it doesn’t stay with you for very long. That knocks it down to a 3.5 for me, but I rounded up because no half stars.

I would recommend this to readers who enjoy fast reads and to fans of suspense novels, especially ones who want something familiar but a little different.

Friday, October 20, 2017

FRIDAY FIVE: Favorite Supergirl Episodes

The third season of Supergirl started last week, and so far, I've been enjoying it! I'm not invested in much television anymore, and I didn't agree with every creative decision they made in season two, but this show is always a solid bet for me. So, this week, I'm talking about my five favorite episodes, which were frustratingly hard to narrow down. These are in chronological order. First up:

Episode 1.06, "Red Faced"
Kara faces frustrating circumstances in her job at CatCo and in her life as Supergirl. Meanwhile, in the non-superheroic story line, James has dinner with Lucy and her Army general dad who disapproves of him. What makes this episode stand out for me is the exploration of anger. Kara and James bond while boxing (James with a punching bag and Kara with an actual car) and talking about how, as a woman and a black man, they're often told not to express their anger. It's a good reminder that anger can be a force for good.

1.13, "For the Girl Who Has Everything"
I'm a sucker for episodes focused on the Danvers sisters. They're definitely my favorite relationship on this show (with Alex and J'onn being a close second) and pretty much my favorite relationship on television. With that said, it's no surprise this episode is on my list. It features Kara succumbing to a Black Mercy, a parasite that traps her in a vision of a life on Krypton had the planet not been destroyed, and Alex risking her life to save her. I love that the show allows Kara to be saved because it argues that strength doesn't have to mean being the hero and being alone all the time. Sometimes, it means letting people help you. It's pretty wonderful, too, that Alex is the one doing the saving because fiction, in my opinion, doesn't focus enough on relationships between women, sister relationships included. The Danvers sisters save each other because they love each other, and I love them.

2.04, "Survivors"
I love this episode not because it's heavy on the drama and mythology (as much as I appreciate the feels) but because it's just bad-ass and fun. Dichen Lachman guest-stars as Roulette, a villain who runs an underground alien cage-fighting club. That single sentence in promo form was enough to get me excited about this episode, and it really followed through with the premise. This episode also introduced us to M'gann M'orzz, a white Martian living in self-imposed exile, and lets Alex get to know Maggie, who was introduced in the previous episode, a bit more. And since Maggie's a National City detective with the science division, I like getting to know her more.

2.09, "Supergirl Lives"
Another one of my favorite things this show does is explore Supergirl's humanity. Sometimes, that exploration is figurative, like when Kara has to deal with very human emotions. But sometimes, like in this episode, it's literal. She ends up on the planet Maaldoria, which has a red sun. Since her powers come from Earth's yellow sun, she has to figure out how to be a hero without them. The ending isn't a surprise. She's our protagonist. Of course she's going to save the day. But the fun comes from watching her figure it out, and there's something to be said for stories where you know the good guys are going to win.

2.15, "Exodus"
This episode has so much going on. Jeremiah betraying Alex and Kara. Forced alien emigration. Alex getting benched at the DEO. Maggie figuring out just what "ride or die" means when talking about a Danvers sister. Kara facing a crisis of conscious at her job. But amidst all that, this episode has what might be my favorite moment of the entire series. Alex hops onto the ark that Cadmus is using to forcibly emigrate aliens right before it launches, because she's selfless like that. The only catch is once it hits the upper atmosphere, it's going to jump right to FTL and take her and everyone else to who knows where in the galaxy. Supergirl diverts from her original mission to help stop the ship, but it seems she might not be strong enough. She's pushing against the ship right below the windshield, which means she can see Alex in the cockpit and Alex can see her. Alex puts her hand against the windshield to give her sister strength, and I'm getting all goosebumpy just writing about it because it's such a great moment between the sisters. They use the same music theme from "Red Faced," and I love the Supergirl soundtracks (by Blake Neely) in general, but that's one of my favorite themes.

Friday, October 13, 2017

FRIDAY FIVE: My Favorite Things from The Last Jedi Trailer

REY being a complete bad ass. This is what I've been waiting for since she first picked up that lightsaber in The Force Awakens.

General Organa. I'm going to miss Carrie Fisher and her presence in both these movies and the world, but I'm excited to see her on the screen again. 

I've been completely entranced by this red sand (soil?) since the teaser trailer. Excited to see at least one new planet and explore the Star Wars galaxy more.

This ice fox thing will probabyl have no function beyond giving detail to this world and will probably appear only briefly, but I love it.


Monday, October 9, 2017

APPEARANCE: Indie Author Day at Westlake Porter Public Library

This coming Saturday, I'll be at the Westlake Porter Public Library to help them celebrate Indie Author Day

My event starts at 2:00 PM. Join me as I discuss the process of independent publishing--from writing and editing to formatting and marketing--as well as the experience of setting up Sky Forest Press, my micro-press that focuses on fantasy and science-fiction novels featuring female protagonists.

Also joining me will be fellow local authors, including K.W. Taylor and Matt Betts. We'll have a panel and answers questions. Additionally, there will be a training on Self-Publishing with Pressbooks & SELF-e at 10:00 AM.

See you there!

Friday, September 29, 2017

FRIDAY FIVE: Five Comics that Changed My Reading Life

I've had some issues lately with people driving a wedge between what they see as "important" research, information, and culture and the things I like and try to bring focus to. That's vague, I know, but what I'm trying to say is in reaction to being implicitly told that comics are juvenile, I'm writing this blog post to explore some of the reasons I enjoy them so much. So, here are five comics that have changed my reading life.

Pride and Prejudice
Getting into comics was daunting for me. Part of it was because the history of superheroes is so long that I didn't know where to start, but a lot of it had to do with being a girl. It was hard because every time I'd walk into the comic shop that was down the street from my college, I was always the only woman in there. That took some getting used to, but one way I did it was by finding something I really wanted to read. I've been a nerd for 19th-century lit since I was a teenager, so Jane Austen was a natural entry point into comics for me. Haven't read this one in a while, but it taught me that comics aren't all superheroes. There are lots of different stories for lots of different readers.

DC's Bombshells
I love the idea of superheroes, but I never knew where to start with reading them and it was hard for me to find any female superheroes outside of Wonder Woman and Supergirl (not that I don't like them--I love them--but it's nice to have more than two characters). Then a friend recommended this, and it combines so many things I love, namely history and a good number of women from the DC universe. This series plops them down in WWII. It jumps around to different story lines to introduce you to more characters and let you take a look at how the war affects different people in different places. And, obviously, I love the amount of girl power in this one.

Morning Glories
My feelings about Nick Spencer aside, this title sucked me in. I picked up volume one at the comic shop on a whim. By the time I finished it, I was itching to get my hands on the next volume. (And I'm currently contemplating reading it all again.) Like Pride and Prejudice, this isn't a superhero comic, though people have strange powers and there are unexplained phenomena. The approach to storytelling in this series is interesting and roundabout--a lot of secrets and questions and little answers that get you reading in hopes of bigger answers. It makes for a fast read. While ultimately, I was disappointed in the lack of resolution, I'm still hanging on and waiting for the day Summer Vacation #1 drops because Casey remains one of my favorite comic characters.

The Legend of Wonder Woman: Origins
By now, I've read a good number of Wonder Woman comics, and, honestly, they don't thrill me too much. I hardly ever get beyond volume one. But this one is heads and shoulders above the rest. The art is gorgeous, the storytelling is lovely, and de Liz makes great use of Etta Candy. The story makes use of Diana's long history while still making it feel fresh and exciting. This is just a joy to read and demonstrates that comics can be accessible to a wide audience.

Listen. I can't even explain this comic. It is so. good. The art is stunning. Stunning, people! (And yes, I love this so much that I can't really be coherent.) But the characters? Also stunning! They're complex and move through a richly detailed world, and Maika is one of my favorite kinds of characters--damaged and prickly and in possession of a big heart. Kippa and Master Ren are also standouts for me. Just . . . I can't even explain what this is about. Please just go read it. The next issue comes out in January, and I think I'm going to start reading them issue-by-issue because I can't wait. I cannot wait.

In conclusion, I believe value is what you make of it. I've learned things--about comics and about fiction writing and about life--from each of these titles and from many more. Popular culture is valuable even when it's not being studied simply because people enjoy it, and that's that. But if you want me to prove it with a twenty-page paper, I will for sure do it.

Friday, September 15, 2017

FRIDAY FIVE: Dark Matter

A few weeks ago, the last episode of Dark Matter's third season aired on Syfy. A day or two later, SyFy canceled it. Since then, there's been a fan-led movement on Twitter to persuade Netflix to pick up the show for two more seasons so the story can be finished. To contribute to that (and because I haven't done a Friday Five in a while), here are my five biggest reasons I'd love to see this show renewed.

1. The characters
The six main characters (not including the Android) wake up on a spaceship with no memory of who they are. Because of this, they start out more as archetypes than characters. Then they find out that five of the six are wanted criminals, and they have to decide who they want to be--good guys or bad guys. It's a fantastic setup, especially because it allows for some phenomenal character growth. Even the Android gets in on it, going from a machine who thinks she has a glitch to a fully realized individual who accepts her glitches. And with her badassery and big heart, Two has become one of my favorite characters of all time.
2. The relationships
Remember when a wounded Three tried to get Five to leave him behind by telling her he didn't care about her? Yeah, I'm crying, too. I've loved watching the relationship between all the characters grow in different ways. Six and Five love each other like siblings, and I was sobbing right along with Five when he left in the third season finale. I love the friendship between Two and Three, who are always kind of annoyed with each other but actually work well together. Also, Two is the boss and everyone respects that. Because she's awesome. The found family trope is one of my favorites, and this one takes place in space!

3. The sci-fi silliness 
Season three alone featured a time loop episode that saw Three learning French from the Android and singing with her while playing the ukulele as well as an episode where they go into "the past," A.K.A. our present day. But throughout all the seasons, we've experienced jumps into alternate dimensions, alternate versions of the characters, the Android cooking with love and discovering hot chocolate, and all kinds of craziness. I have a fondness for shows that can balance serious questions with humor.

4. The potential
Each season has expanded the universe, but there's still so much more to explore! Will Five find her sister? Did Six survive the season finale? (I hope so!) What's going on with Sarah? Will Two decided to try to find the daughter she forgot she had? What's up with the black ships? Will the Android get a new outfit? I'd love to have these questions and more answered in the final two seasons.

5. The big questions
For me, great sci-fi deals with the big questions of life and morality, and the central axis around this show is built is the question of what it means to be human? All the characters struggle in the first season with who they are, who they learn they were, and who they want to be. Then you throw sentient androids into the mix, and the question deepens into what makes a human? Is it flesh and blood, or is it consciousness? With Zairon at war and the galaxy being run by corporations, it also questions the nature of war and freedom.

In conclusion, I'd love to see this show saved--by Netflix or something else!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Exclusive Bonus Content

I'm trying out something new! 

At the end of each of my e-books, I've put a password that will unlock a bonus, unrelated short story. For now, I'm hosting them on a WordPress sister site. You can find one for The Dying of the Golden Day, The Stroke of Thirteen, and "Where You Can See the Stars."

For those who have previously purchased the e-books, tweet/email/send me a picture of the book on your device, and I'll message you with the password!

Hope you enjoy!

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Road to Book Two--Part 1

I've gotten a number of questions, especially in the past week, about the release date for The Heartfriends Book Two, so I'm starting a multi-part blog series to talk about updates! This will be semi-regular and discuss how close to finishing a draft I am, what goes into finishing drafts, and my writing process in general.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

GIVEAWAYS: The Stroke of Thirteen

For the release of The Stroke of Thirteen, I'm giving away four copies total! A Goodreads giveaway will run from July 13th through July 21st for one print copy. Starting tomorrow, you can enter using the link below.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Stroke of Thirteen by Carrie Gessner

The Stroke of Thirteen

by Carrie Gessner

Giveaway ends July 21, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

If you prefer to read electronically, I'm giving away three Kindle copies through Amazon. That giveaway also runs through the 21st. 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

RELEASE DAY: The Stroke of Thirteen

The Stroke of Thirteen, a contemporary fantasy novel, is now available!

Synopsis: When Grace Pembleton inherited her grandfather's business in rural Pennsylvania, she had no idea what else she was in for. She thought life as a bed-and-breakfast owner would be a quiet one, that the only trouble she'd encounter would be making enough coffee for guests.

What she gets instead is a violent gnome, a resident ghost, a secret society, and continuous brushes with the supernatural. Even with new friends at her side, she struggles to fulfill her family's legacy of protecting the town.

Then a new threat arises, and it wants Grace.

The print edition, available on Amazon, contains the bonus prequel short story, "Where You Can See the Stars." The e-book edition will be released on July 11th. You can pre-order it on B&N Nook, Google Play, iBooks, Kindle, and Kobo.

Friday, June 23, 2017

FRIDAY FIVE: Wonder Woman

So, I saw Wonder Woman for the second time the other night. Because there have been a ton of reviews already and I'm not sure if anyone would care to read it if I wrote one, this is more a list of things I found AWESOMELY COOL about it.

I want to live on a beautiful island that frees me from the patriarchy and where Robin Wright teaches me how to be a badass. Also, the wildlife! The cow that witnesses Diana's jump across the valley to retrieve her weapons amused me, and I loved the goat watching teenage Diana spar with Antiope, but my favorite were the white peacocks.

Diana's relationship with Hippolyta
One thing I dislike is when writers confuse 'fighting' with 'conflict.' They end up writing shouting matches and physical violence when conflict can be shown in other ways. So when Hippolyta found Diana and Steve before they left the island, I braced myself for something similar. And when it didn't, I knew I was in good hands. Instead of a shouting match or even an actual, physical fight, Hippolyta wants to know if Diana knows what she's getting into and then says, "You have been my greatest love. Today, you are my greatest sorrow." The moment beautifully encapsulates their mother/daughter relationship. Hippolyta knows she can't keep Diana on Themyscira because she's meant for greater things, but she also can't and won't hide her heartbreak at the prospect of losing her.

Diana's relationship with Antiope
First of all, Antiope's amazing. I need all kinds of Antiope backstory. I need to know everything about her, especially her years mentoring Diana because we only get a glimpse of it in the film even though it's such a formative relationship. And it's important to depict that relationships between women can be supportive and nurturing.

I wish there had been way more screen time for Etta, but what we got was pretty amazing. She's funny and welcomes Diana immediately, and she delivers the most meta line that takes a shot at a well-worn trope: "Specs. Suddenly she's not the most beautiful woman you've ever seen." This movie is filled with rich little moments, and all of Etta's are completely endearing, especially the one where she just rolls with Diana entrusting her with her sword and shield. I respectfully request of Patty Jenkins a sequel set in the roaring 1920s with Diana and Etta tearing down gender expectations while saving the world.

No Man's Land
As far as I'm concerned, this sequence is iconic. It is the bar by which I will judge every superhero movie from now on, and it's made even better by Rupert Gregson-Williams's score, which you can listen to on Spotify. For the first time, I watched a woman be the hero rather than just part of the ensemble (and usually the smallest part at that). And not only was she the most powerful figure on the screen, but her power came from love. She loves the world, and she loves mankind and wants to protect them from war and pain, even if they don't always deserve it. In a world that seems to get meaner with each passing day, seeing a protagonist driven by love matters, and that's why I'm looking forward to watching this one again and again and seeing what the second movie brings.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

New Platforms

My epic fantasy debut, The Dying of the Golden Day, is now available on more platforms! Find it at:

B&N for Nook

and Kobo!

Monday, June 12, 2017

REVIEW: Whispers at the Altar, Allan C.R. Cornelius

Obviously, I'm a lover of fantasy fiction. I've particularly loved epic fantasy, but the more I read of it, the less excited I was about it. Although I still love the atmosphere of the genre, all the stories were beginning to feel the same. So, I was pleasantly surprised with Whispers at the Altar. In this first book of The Altar Trilogy, Allan C. R. Cornelius combines the best aspects of the genre with fascinating characters in order to tell a fresh, exciting tale.

Christa is half-elf and half-human in a world where the elves and humans live in separate spheres. Through her story, Cornelius explores the ramifications of such a separation on individuals and on society as a whole. When Christa is accepted at a school for magically gifted elves, she has to fight for respect from both professors and classmates. It's at this school that the story is at its most compelling--not only for Christa's internal journey, but because of the supporting cast. Too often, friendships among girls are depicted as trivial or unnecessarily catty, but here, Christa's relationships with Sinna, Westrel, and even Vaniel are formative and given the opportunity to change and grow.

In a book world that gets hung up on the "likeability" of female characters, Cornelius is unafraid in his portrayal of his young heroine. A far cry from the perfect heroes of the genre, she's headstrong and eager to prove herself and in doing so, makes mistakes. It's that exploration of Christa's character--who she is, what she wants, and what she's willing to do to get what she wants--that is the book's core strength.

While Christa is the book's main focus, Steven provides a perspective of what's going on in the world outside the school and broadens the novel's scope. His relationship with Brogan grounds that story line and lets Cornelius explore the theme of family set against the backdrop of a shifting world. The imagery of Steven's chapters is a particular strength, and the two story lines meet up in a satisfactory way during the climax.

Cornelius's first installment in The Altar Trilogy is a must-read for fantasy fans, especially those who are looking for a fresh take on the genre.

Whispers at the Altar is available for pre-order and will be released in July! Check Allan out on Twitter and on his website.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

APPEARANCE: Uniontown Public Library Author Series

“Creating a Fantasy World”
Saturday, January 21, 2017
4:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Join us for an evening with Carrie Gessner, author of The Dying of the Golden Day. Carrie will discuss how a rich setting built on magic, culture, history, and more can enhance speculative fiction. A Q&A session with the author and book raffle will follow.

Free tickets available at the Main Desk!

Throughout 2017, the Uniontown Public Library will showcase the talent of novelists, short story writers, and poets. Each month, a writer will visit the Library to share their experiences as published authors. They will offer a short talk on a subject related to their genre, do a reading from their work, and participate in a question and answer session with the audience. A meet-and-greet and book signing will follow.

These events are free and open to the public — you do not have to be a member of the Uniontown Public Library to attend! Each event will be ticketed, with the free tickets becoming available at the Library’s main desk before each author’s visit. Seats are limited, so we encourage you to get your tickets early.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Favorite Books of 2016

In terms of reading, this past year was an improvement! I still have trouble focusing when I first pick up a book and sticking with books, but I'm working on it. I'm also hoping to listen to more audiobooks in the coming year.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette? - Maria Semple

Funny and out there in a perfect way. I like books about lost people.

Kindred - Octavia Butler

I can't believe I hadn't read this before last year. Looking forward to reading more Octavia Butler.

Code Name Verity - Elizabeth Weinstein

This book broke my heart, and I liked it. I love historical stories, and I love that this one revolved around the bond between two female protagonists.

Postcards from the Edge - Carrie Fisher

I ordered an audiobook from my local library before Christmas. It didn't come in until the 29th, two days after Carrie Fisher died, and when I went to pick it up, I decided to browse the shelves, which I don't typically do. This has been on my to-read pile for a while, but when I saw it that day, I knew the time to read it had come. It was lovely and dark and did exactly what the best fiction does--make me feel a little less alone.

Under the Banner of Heaven - Jon Krakauer

I am unusually fascinated by religions as well as true crime, and this was an interesting, well-written look at one time those two interacted.