New Year, New Updates

New Year, New Updates

Well, it’s been a hot minute since we chatted, hasn’t it.

This post is an info-dump of updates on everything going on right now.

First off: I am back in the States. I don’t remember if I ever posted that. I’ve been back since April. But I got back and my blogging immediately fell off again so, sorry! But now that I’m back, I’m leaving again! I’m not going as far this time. I’m staying in the States but I’m heading to Alaska to work at a dog musher camp.

I’m excited and a little nervous. I’ll be giving presentations about the history of dogsledding to groups of tourists while I’m there and public speaking has never been my strong point. But people are on vacation and doing something new and exciting so that should make things a bit more relaxed. I’ll be heading up there mid-April and my blogging is likely going to fall off again because I don’t think I’ll have wifi where I’ll be staying. I’ll be close to Juneau, so I can take a bus to a Starbucks. That will have to be on my days off and, to be honest, I’d rather hike around glaciers than sit in a coffee shop. Nothing personal, I love you all.

From the initial interview it also sounds like the only two places I’ll have power in the cabin I’m staying at are in the kitchen and the bathroom. But that’s okay, I’ve got a stack of To Be Read books that are shoulder high. I don’t think I’ll have 24 hour sunlight, but I’m pretty sure it’ll still be something like 15-18 hours of light, so as long as I have a window I can read. This is also going to do wonders for my insomnia.

So that’s coming up pretty fast. We’ve only got a week left in January and February always flies by and March we’ll have spring coming through and April I’ll be running around like a maniac making sure I have all my stuff.


Other things: I opened my first Etsy shop, Photogenic Flowers, ( and I have a dozen photos up right now. I’ll be adding more in February, so if you want to drop by and take a peek or tell a friend, that’d be awesome. I’m really working this year toward becoming self-employed and having enough money and time to write.

I haven’t been writing as much as I did while I was in China. I was averaging about 40,000 words a month while I was in China. A lot of it won’t see the light of day, but I finished two or three fanfics and started Constellations which is at seven chapters and close to 100,000 words. I was writing a lot. And a lot of that was because for the first time since high school I was financially secure. My monthly salary was enough to pay for all my utilities and apartment and I was making enough I could save up and go on some cool trips.

And then I got back to the States and immediately fell back into the loop of crunching numbers to get my bank account on stable footing again.

Anyway, so I came up with some New Year Resolutions to help me break that cycle and push me in the direction I want to go. I’m working on becoming a better literary citizen by not just reading, but also reviewing what I read. Hence the two book review updates you got if you’re following this blog. I set my minimum at three books a month with reviews. I need to get the reviews written and posted, but I’ve finished reading five volumes of Transformers: More than Meets the Eye. So I’m doing all right on that one.

I’ve also put a minimum of 20,000 words to write for each month. I’m about 10,000 behind right now, but the whole job thing was a little shaky the first couple weeks of January. But I’ve got one now and hopefully when the first paycheck hits I’ll be a little less anxious and February will be an easier writing month.

I think those are all the major updates. I’ll be back in February with writing updates both for original work and fanfiction. But right now, I’ve got comic reviews to write and 10K words to crank out. So happy new year, let’s kick some ass.


Book Review: Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty

Book Review: Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty

Serafina and the Black Cloak By Robert Beatty

Fantasy, MG

“Never go into the deep parts of the forest, for there are many dangers there, and they will ensnare your soul.”

Serafina has never had a reason to disobey her pa and venture beyond the grounds of Biltmore Estate. There’s plenty to explore in her grand home, although she must take care to never be seen. None of the rich folk upstairs know that Serafina exists.

But when children at the estate start disappearing, only Serafina knows who the culprit is: a terrifying man in a black cloak who stalks Biltmore’s corridors at night. Following her own harrowing escape, Serafina risks everything by joining forces with Braeden Vanderbilt, the young nephew of Biltmore’s owners. Braeden and Serafina must uncover the Man in the Black Cloak’s true identity…before all of the children vanish one by one.


For some reason, the first twenty or so pages of this book were a little hard to get in to. But the book finds its stride about thirty pages in and it’s a quick page turner. This is a young middle grade novel, so some of the hints at Serafina’s true nature can feel somewhat heavy handed to adults, which might be why it didn’t grab my attention very well. But I think young readers will be just as intrigued at unraveling the mystery of Serafina as they will the terrifying specter Man in the Black Cloak.

Serafina is a feisty character and the Chief Rat Catcher of the Biltmore Estate, except no one knows she exists. Her pa is the chief handyman of the estate and they live in the basement in secret. Serafina has a complex inner life. She loves her pa but she wants more than anything to know who her mother was. I think what this book does best is illustrate that courage is not the absence of fear, but acknowledging it’s there and going forward anyway. Serafina is a smaller-than-average twelve year old girl facing down a supernatural foe and she is scared. She’s scared she’ll be caught, she’s scared her friend will be caught, she’s scared if the Man in the Black Cloak doesn’t catch her one of the Vanderbilt adults will catch her and put her pa in jail. But she goes on the hunt anyway, because leaving the Man in the Black Cloak to roam and harm others is worse than her other fears.

Towards the back end the book gets a little heavy handed again on morality and what makes one good and what makes one evil. I think that theme should have been introduced sooner since Serafina’s decision is an important turning point for her inner life and thoughts.

There’s also some folklore introduced near the ending, which again, I think should have been brought up sooner since it is a critical piece of information that ties the ending together. It’s not brought up by anyone until close to the 200 page mark. As much as Serafina reads, I think it could have been inserted much sooner when we were learning about some of her favorite books.

Young readers I think will enjoy the ending, the epic battle and how clever Serafina is, as well as the happy ending that leaves room for many more adventures. But as an adult reader I was put off by the winning-the-lottery levels of luck needed to make this ending so happy. I try to avoid spoilers in reviews, so I can’t say much else without giving things away, but the ending did leave me with one question: How? How did these characters just so happen to once again be in the same place at the same time?

Serafina and the Black Cloak is a good story for young readers if they want a Halloween vibe outside of October. For adult readers, I think it would make a good ‘car book’, that book you leave in the backseat to read when you have waiting time like at the doctor’s office or DMV.


You can find Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty at:


Barnes and Noble

And Robert Beatty’s website:



Book Review: Shadowhouse Fall (Shadowshaper Cypher #2)

Book Review: Shadowhouse Fall (Shadowshaper Cypher #2)

Shadowhouse Fall (The Shadowshaper Cyper, Book #2)

by Daniel José Older

YA, urban fantasy

Sierra and her friends love their new lives and shadowshapers, making art and creating change with the spirits of Brooklyn. Then Sierra receives a strange card depicting a beast call the Hound of Light—an image from the enigmatic, influential Deck of Worlds. The shadowshapers know their next battle has arrived.

Thrust into an ancient struggle with enemies old and new, Sierra and Shadowhouse are determined to win. Revolution is brewing in the real world as well, as the shadowshapers lead the fight against systems that oppress their community. To protect her family and friends in every sphere, Sierra must take down the Hound and master the Deck of Worlds…or risk losing them all.


This is the second book of Older’s YA series, the first is Shadowshaper, so if you haven’t read that one, skip over to a bookstore and pick it up or you’re going to be confused in the next few paragraphs.

Daniel José Older is one of my favorite authors. I thoroughly enjoyed his Bone Street Rumba trilogy, but I love his YA. We’re still following Sierra in this book and she’s tiptoeing into her role and Lucera. The crew is still with her and they’re growing with her as they all figure out their new abilities. The book starts right off though with hinky hijinks unsettling the tentative equilibrium Sierra picked up at the end of Shadowshaper.

On top of one of her classmates telling her the Sorrows haven’t given up on annihilating her and Shadowhouse, personal tragedy also strikes, shady cops seem to pop up at the worst times, and there’s also boy trouble. It’s a lot for one young girl with the ancient powers of ancestors to handle, but she’s got a cadre of ride or die friends helping her out.

The writing throughout the book feels like the breathless, breakneck, tumble Sierra is in as she tries to find answers to what the Deck of Worlds is and what it means for her and those she loves. Sierra is just trying to keep her head above water with everything happening in the spirit world and in the physical world. It’s not until you get to the final twenty or so pages that you feel like you can breathe. Finally, things start falling in to place, characters reveal their true motives and Sierra can go on the offensive.

All of Older’s books are rapid page turners and Shadowhouse Fall is no exception. Answers are always juuuuust out of reach and you’ll find the whole night gone as you tell yourself, “One more chapter, then I’ll go to bed.” But by then you should be at the end and you’ll have all the answers and you won’t be tossing and turning thinking about How’s the Scooby gang gonna get out of this one?

Let’s take a moment to talk about dialogue. If you’re a writer, take notes of Older’s dialogue. These characters come alive on the page because it’s not just the world of NYC that is fully realized it’s in how characters talk to each other, it’s in their nonverbal interactions, it’s in their silences. Take a page, any page from Shadowhouse Fall or any of Older’s book and read the dialogue out loud. Even when talking about spirits and otherworldly creatures it still sounds like a conversation you’d hear in the gas station or at a bus stop. I can’t get enough of Older’s dialogue. That’s the realness at the heart of Older’s work.

The stakes in Shadowhouse Fall in the spirit world are up a notch, because while her family and friends were in danger in Shadowshaper just for associating with her, now they’re targets themselves. In the physical world, Older keeps things true to a group of young POC running the streets of NYC. Illegal arrests and abuse from police and white teachers in primarily black classrooms tiptoeing through lessons on slavery and Civil Rights. And if that makes you uncomfortable then it’s time to have a good long conversation with yourself about why that is.

Anyway, I’m not here to get on a soapbox. Yet.

I really enjoyed this book as I did Shadowshaper. Sierra is a well rounded and conflicted character. It does seem to me though that she keeps making the same mistakes that she made in Shadowshaper of keeping secrets from people closest to her. The threat of a spy in this book makes it understandable, but there are a few chapters I wanted to knock my head against the wall. The goal though is to get Sierra to the point that she realizes she doesn’t have to shoulder this burden alone, that she has people who have her back and will step up next to her no matter what.


But if an MC doesn’t make you want to bang your head against a wall a couple times, are they really a good MC? People make the same mistakes all the time in real life and they, too, will make you want to jump out a window.

Shadowhouse Fall is an excellent follow up to Shadowshaper. You can read the first book and immediately pick up this one and feel like you’ve just turned to the next chapter. While I highly recommend all of Daniel José Older’s work, Shadowshaper Cypher series is at the top of the list.


As always, you can find Shadowshaper, and Shadowhouse Fall by Daniel José Older at:


Barnes and Noble

Read more about the author on his website:



Book Review: Oddity by Sarah Cannon

Book Review: Oddity by Sarah Cannon

Oddity by Sarah Cannon

MG, Fantasy

Ada Roundtree is no stranger to dodging carnivorous dumpsters, distracting zombie rabbits with marshmallows, or instigating games of alien punkball. But things haven’t been the same since her twin sister, Pearl, won the town’s yearly sweepstakes and disappeared.

Along with her best friend, Raymond, and new-kid-from-Chicago Cayden (whose inability to accept being locked in the gym with live leopards is honestly quite laughable), Ada leads a self-given quest to discover Oddity’s secrets while evading the invisible Blurmonster terrorizing the outskirts of town.

But when one of their missions goes sideways, revealing something hinky with the Sweepstakes, Ada can’t let it go. Because if the Sweepstakes is bad, then what happened to Pearl?


Full disclosure: Until I picked up Oddity I had not listened to Welcome to Nightvale, but now I am hooked. If you are already a listener, stop reading this review and get to the store to get this book because it’s what you need in your life.

For those that haven’t listened to that podcast, strap in because things are about to get weird.

Oddity jumps right in with the weird too, just to let you know you’re not in Oz or even Narnia anymore with students locked in the gym for ‘safety drills’ dodging and tranquilizing angry leopards. Ada comes out swinging as a delightful mix of sarcastic and confident, with a dollop of Mama-Friendness as she does her best to keep New-Kid Cayden alive.

Cayden is a nice touchstone for those of us who don’t live dodging carnivorous dumpsters and aliens. While Ada is the main character, Cayden gets more page time than Raymond because while he may flail and scream, deep down inside he’s just like the rest of us and knows an epic adventure is at hand.

Raymond is rock solid to match Ada’s fiery impulsiveness. Raymond is an excellent foil not only in personality but in the steadiness of his home life as well. He does seem to play a bigger role at the beginning when reigning Ada in is more important. He remains a constant character throughout the book but once the mystery is hatched there’s more a focus on Ada and Cayden.

Ada’s world is topsy-turvy—more than usual—since her twin sister, Pearl, won the Sweepstakes. Her father is working long hours as an animal control officer (and that is one hell of a job) and her mother is mostly comatose. For better or worse, Ada’s Aunt Bets is there to try and wrangle her. And, despite their warring ways, Aunt Bets is like Raymond. She’s solid and there for Ada, looking out for her, putting the fear of the gods in her. All the things solid parental figures do for us.

The first few chapters are a ride as you find your new ‘normal’ in this bizarre little town. Things like the sentient puppets that run the city, the Puppet Committee, the invisible Blurmonster who routinely tears up the outer edge of town, UFOs sticking out of diners, zombie rabbits that are cute in inexplicable ways, ghosts that haunt closets, and even a pirate.

And then things get weird even for Ada.

Which kicks off the race to find Pearl and to find out what dark secrets the strange and dangerous town of Oddity are hiding. But most important: Finding Pearl.

If you strip away all the fantastical elements, Oddity is a story about family. Ada’s family is holding on by threads after Pearl is taken away. Ada’s recklessness initially is about running away from the Pearl shaped hole in her family and her life, but soon she circles back and begins running toward that gaping hole and looking for a way to fix it. And if she has to burn the whole town down to fix that hole and get Pearl back, she will.

As someone with a younger sister, this was a refreshing book to read. So often in media siblings are pit against each other at first and their arcs are about finding a close relationship I think most of us already have with our siblings. Sure, my sister annoys me sometimes, but she’s still my sister and I’d do anything to protect her. Being twins, Ada and Pearl have a little bit different bond, but they’re still best friends at the start of the book.

If you’re a fan of Welcome to Nightvale or you love the old Twilight Zone shows, Oddity by Sara Cannon is a book for you, your kids, the ghost in your closet, and the aliens in your side yard.

You can find Oddity on:


Barnes and Noble

And at Sarah Cannon’s website: