Alaskan Adventures/Writing Updates

Alaskan Adventures/Writing Updates

Well, here we are, Day 6 of Alaska Adventures. I’m down in the main house sitting in the delightful heated kitchen with wifi and electricity and indoor plumbing only a room away. It’s been…a character building experience so far. The cabin I’m in is waaaaay more rustic than I originally thought. I’m actually in a dry cabin the generator powered electricity and water are in the common kitchen and bathroom. That’s fine and all, but the water pump is currently frozen so the camp does not have any running water. Good news, a quarter mile from the cabins are the outhouses guests use when tours start up.

Lemme tell you, walking a quarter mile through cold drizzle and old growth forest at 2am to pee is an experience. I have never in my life believed more in Bigfoot than I did during that long cold walk through the pitch black darkness with nothing but a headlamp.

The cabin is unfinished. There’s no insulation whatsoever and that tiny woodstove doesn’t do much. So lots of character building has happened the last 6 days.

But the dogs are cute. All 180 of them. I know about 30 of their names right now and routinely forget my 6 coworkers’ names. So I’m still on brand. We did some test runs yesterday with the teams and those dogs can haul. It was so much fun. Tours start Monday and Sunday is dedicated to more test runs and I’m really looking forward to that.

But, right now in the kitchen one of the dock managers and drivers are regaling us with some incredible tales of ship shenanigans. I’m loving being here. Also, these two are amazing cooks. They made scratch three cheese macaroni with ham a couple nights ago and tonight they’re doing a company dinner that is either going to be prime rib or roast.

So I’m having fun. Nights are a little rough still. I’ve bought three more blankets since I got here and the stove doesn’t hold enough wood to get through the night so unless you wake at 1am and toss three more logs on you’re going to wake up cold.

There’s also a pack of wolves somewhere on this island and there’s a bear that creeps around the main house down here. I’m looking forward to the tours starting because we get comp’d or do a straight switch with some companies. Most of my writing is going to be longhand because I’m not sure the generator will be able to efficiently charge my computer, but we’re going to see how it goes. I know at least once a week I’ll be able to get down here to the main house and do laundry and shower and get online.

Updates will be sporadic, but I’ll start getting pictures up on the next post.

oOo

As for writing! I haven’t done any of that in six days. But I have a plan sketched out for Constellations and plenty of jelly beans. If I get this chapter knocked out today then I should be able to get it posted next week after I get it proofed. By firelight no less. I’m really getting into method writing for this story. Here’s hoping I can avoid supernatural night monsters and life threatening dehydration.

Also!! Yes, this does call for double exclamation points, I have an idea for a Soundwave/Shockwave story. I’ll be writing that by firelight as well. But I’m sticking to my two WIP limit so until either Spark or Constellations is finished you won’t be seeing that one. But now you know it’s there.

I still want to post my Shiro angst but that can wait. I’m still trying to find my footing here so writing has been nonexistent. But hopefully once tours start and I have a better idea of routine and schedule it’ll be easier to get the words out. I need to make a writing nook in my cabin, preferably near the fire.

Things I’ve made headway on since the last update: Decepticon Ratchet story hesitantly titled One Sun in the Sky, a Prowl/Red Alert story with the working title of Midnight, a William Lennox story—gasp!—with the working title of Will because I’m practical like that, and a Blaster/Ratchet—fight me—story with the working title Blaster, because again, practical.

As far as writing goes, things are moving slow, but they’re still happening. So if I don’t get eaten by a bear or run over by a dog team, updates will be forthcoming in the next two weeks!

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Review: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Review: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Blood and Bone

By Tomi Adeyemi

YA, Fantasy

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed once magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, the maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leopanaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest threat may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feeling for an enemy.

oOo

Oh. My. Gods. Not only is the cover of this book absolutely stunning the writing is for sure swoon worthy. I have tried for three days to write this review and honestly, all I can say is READ THIS BOOK!

The writing is lyrical, the world building is gorgeous (I want a leopanaire), and the story itself is heartwrenching and empowering. This book is an experience that is made all the more powerful if you’ve spent any time whatsoever listening and learning about the struggles of Black Americans.

This is one of my favorite books this year and I can’t wait to see the rest of this trilogy.

BUY THIS BOOK!

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Learn more about Tomi Adeyemi at her website: http://www.tomiadeyemi.com/books/

 

Review: Chimera (Weregirl Trilogy #2) by C.D. Bell

Review: Chimera (Weregirl Trilogy #2) by C.D. Bell

Chimera (Weregirl Trilogy, Book #2)

By C.D. Bell

YA, Fantasy

The forest if full of secrets. Nessa Kurland is adjusting to life as a weregirl–she is transforming with ease and running with a pack she cares for deeply. Her boyfriend Luc is a fellow shifter, and Paravida, the corporation responsible for unethical genetic experiments on the residents of Tether, has pulled out of town, leaving the community safe. But that’s just how it appears on the surface. Nessa returns home from a run with the pack to find an FBI raid and the shocking news that her mother Vivian is being held without bail for violations so serious she may be facing life in prison. What did Nessa’s mother, a small-town vet tech, do to threaten Homeland Security? Vivian’s secret past leads Nessa to discover there is more to her own story than she ever imagined. The wolves that are running through Tether’s woods are not the same pack Nessa knew before. These are not all natural wolves. And they are breeding. Nessa’s transformation is only just beginning.

oOo

I was really excited to get into the book after reading Weregirl. Chimera is still a good read, but it feels like one too many things are trying to be set up in this book for the third book and it made everything feel cramped. I think what the author was going for was a breathless pace trying to keep up the tension but with all the information on each page it felt more claustrophobic than anything. The writing is still done well, I think if more had been set up in the first book this would have been an excellent follow-up.

Some new characters are introduced in this book, Aunt Jane, who becomes the guardian for the kids when Vivian is led away in handcuffs. She’s not as fleshed out as the other characters in the book, like the—now absent—Magical Native American character, she seems to exist only to convey information.

Daniel Host is another new character that I think should’ve been alluded to in Weregirl since he plays such a pivotal role in this book. His story arc is big and complicated and could be its own trilogy. And there’s just so much going on that there’s a big thing that happens while Nessa is at Daniel’s house and it gets buried under everything else that happens.

This book didn’t hold up as well as Weregirl. There’s just…too much happening. The writing is still good, but this book should’ve been two or one of the subplots should’ve been cut. The story has no room to breathe. So we’ll see how the third books does.

 

You can find Chimera at:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Review: Weregirl by C. D. Bell

Review: Weregirl by C. D. Bell

Weregirl (Book #1)

By C.D. Bell

YA, Fantasy

Nessa Kurland is running for her life.

High school junior Nessa Kurland is a cross-country runner with her eyes set on one thing: a college scholarship as her one-way ticket out of Tether, Michigan, a town on the brink of shutdown since it was devastated by corporate polluter Dutch Chemical.

Talented teammate, Cynthia, invites Nessa on a nighttime run through Tether’s overgrown forest trails. But she speeds ahead, leaving Nessa alone to discover a trapped wolf. Nessa tries to free the animal but is badly bitten, seemingly ruining her hopes for a strong fall season.

Instead, Nessa’s freakishly quick recovery is followed by improved running times. All her senses are heightened. Nessa has transformed.

She has become a werewolf.

In her new state, Nessa learns that Tether has many secrets. What is really going on at the small-town clinic? Can she decipher what the wolf pack she’s been running with is trying to tell her?

Nessa must navigate true human darkness and the uncertainty of young love, while making peace with her new, wild nature.

oOo

The cover for this book is what drew me in. It’s gorgeous. Get into the pages and it’s a good read, too. I like Nessa, she’s an active character that makes things happen in the book. The initial bite is the most passive thing she does. After that, though, she dives straight in to figuring out what secrets are hiding in the woods and the clinic. Nessa is pretty generic in her looks—blonde hair and blue eyes—but at least she’s fit because she runs cross country and not just because.

Nessa’s little brother, Nate, is autistic. I wasn’t able to find any reviews that noted how this representation shook out, but as an allistic person I thought Nate’s character was well done. He was well rounded, he’s not treated as a burden or a plot device. Nessa often comments on how she reads his body language to know how much physical contact he’s familiar with at any given time. I think he was a positive representation for autism, but, again, this is coming from an allistic person. If anyone finds or writes a review about Nate and his representation I would be really interested in reading it.

We do have a “Magical Native American” in the book, sort of like the “Magical Negro” trope in a lot of fantasy movies. This character exists solely as a way to convey information and pops up in some cringe worthy deus ex machina ways. So I wasn’t thrilled about that and it takes some of the luster away from this otherwise tightly written story.

There’s one other Native American character, his name is Luc, but he reads like a white character slipped into brown skin. He’s also portrayed as mysterious and standoffish for the first half of the book.

This story starts off sounding like it’s going to be a Chosen One trope, but in a nice twist, while Nessa is important to the story, it’s teamwork that solves the mystery and brings down the baddies. Nessa’s best friend, Bree, is a great character. And the two never fight. Even when they’re both crushing on the same guy, there’s no girl-hate or catty behavior between the two of them or any other girls they interact with. I was really excited about that because it’s all too easy in YA books to have girl besties turn on each other for dramatic tension. Even if they make up at the end, it’s still tiring to read.

Speaking of tiring things to read: There’s no love triangle! I thought for sure one was being set up, but NO! And I am thrilled. It was so nice to read a book and not have to slog through a seventeen year old try to decide if she wants to go with tall, golden, and handsome or tall, mysterious, and dark.

Honestly, for that alone I would recommend this book. But the story is very good and the mystery isn’t resolved until the final ten pages which will keep you up. So our Native American representation is…nonexistent, but I think we have a great character with positive autistic representation. Nessa is a take charge character that doesn’t have all the answers and her becoming a werewolf doesn’t make her all powerful or The One.

You can pick up Weregirl by CD Bell at:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

 

Also, check out Book 2 Chimera

 

Review: A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge

Review: A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge

A Face like Glass

By Frances Hardinge

MG, Fantasy

In the underground city of Caverna, in virtual darkness, the world’s most skilled craftsmen create the extraordinary—wines that remove memories; cheeses that bring on visions; and perfumes that convince people to trust the wearer, even as he is slitting their throats. Like their goods, the people of Caverna appear normal. But their faces show no emotion; they are as blank as untouched snow. Expressions must be learned, and only the famous Facesmiths can teach someone the art of displaying joy, despair, fear—or how to fake them.

Into this shadowed and distrustful world comes Neverfell, a girl with no memory of her past, and a face so terrifying that she must wear a mask at all times. For Neverfell’s expressions are as varied and dynamic as those of the most skilled Facesmiths—and real. That makes her very dangerous indeed…

oOo

This story reminded me a great deal of Alice in Wonderland with its dark whimsy and strange foods that alter the mind and reality. Neverfell is apprentice to the reclusive cheesemaster, Grandible and spends seven years of her life locked away in his tunnels helping him craft cheeses and keeping her face hidden behind a mask on the rare occasion someone stops by.

She escapes one day—chasing a white rabbit no less—and the cat is out of the bag, so to speak. She’s an Outsider. The people of Caverna never leave their subterranean burrows, but they do trade with other people who live in the above ground. But they themselves never leave because they think the sun will scorch their skin off. It’s illegal for Caverna people to bring Outsiders in because they believe they carry diseases. So Neverfell is promptly caught and thrown in the dungeon where someone immediately tries to murder her.

It’s a really rough day.

From there, she’s thrust into a spiderweb of political alliances, lies, murder, and more assassination attempts. There’s a great deal of political intrigue in here as well which is complex enough to keep older readers interested but simplified in explanation so it remains accessible to younger readers.

I’m on the fence as to whether or not I like Neverfell. She grows up with no memory of her early life and extremely sheltered in Grandible’s tunnels so the first time she gets out she’s like a baby chick and imprints on the first people she sees. She decides this girl, Zouelle, is her friend because she likes that she’s pretty and graceful and an eloquent speaker. Again, she’s super sheltered and it’s clear from the way Zouelle speaks to her that Neverfell is another playing piece in her complex game, but Neverfell doesn’t see it.

Neverfell spends the first two thirds of the book as other people’s pawns in one way or another, but she’s never passive. The trouble she gets into is mostly her doing it or her trying to make it better, so I can’t complain there. But she takes everyone at face value, even though she knows people are taught different faces and can use whatever face they want whenever they want. She still believes what they say, unerringly. And that—as someone whose cynicism increases exponentially every year—is really annoying.

But I get what Frances is doing; the learning curve Neverfell has of who she can trust and how to separate what someone’s face says versus who they are. As you read, you’re learning with Neverfell and that’s a pretty neat thing to do. Her wide-eyed naivete is still frustrating, but I can appreciate the reason why it’s done.

It seemed to me this book had three endings. Every time we reached a point where the storyline could neatly resolve I looked and realized I still had a hundred pages left. I think the front third of the book should have been loaded a little heavier with the different problems that needed to be resolved so that it makes sense for the book to keep going even when there’s a natural ending point.

If you like Alice in Wonderland then I think you’ll enjoy A Face like Glass. The world building is excellent and so subtle you don’t question when the floor becomes the ceiling or vise versa. It’s a very well written novel and trusts young readers with a fairly complex web of political intrigue and alliances which I really enjoyed.

You can find A Face like Glass at:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

And you can learn more about the author, Frances Hardinge at her website: www.franceshardinge.com

Review: 27 Hours by Tristina Wright

Review: 27 Hours by Tristina Wright

27 Hours

By Tristina Wright

YA, Sci-Fi

Rumor Mora fears two things: hellhounds too strong for him to kill and failure. Jude Welton has two dreams: for humans to stop killing monsters and for his strange abilities to vanish.

But in no reality should a boy raised to love monsters fall for a boy raised to kill them

Nyx Llorca keeps two secrets: the moon speaks to her, and she’s in love with Dahlia, her best friend. Braeden Tennant wants two things: to get out from under his mother’s shadow and to unlearn Epsilon’s darkest secret.

They’ll both have to commit treason to find the truth.

During one twenty-seven-hour night, if they can’t stop the war between the colonies and the monsters from becoming a war of extinction, the things they wish for will never come true, and the things they fear will be all that’s left.

oOo

I wasn’t sure if I would even review this book since an arc reviewer, Aimal, did a really great job of laying out the good and bad of this book. I really encourage you to read her review.

So Tristina Wright does a great job of gender/sexuality inclusiveness; Rumor is bi, Jude is gay, Nyx is pansexual, Braeden is ace, and Dahlia is a trans girl. Nyx is also deaf and uses ASL and reads lips for the entire story. Again, great representation in this area and I know a lot of people are going to be moved to happy tears reading about characters that feel the same things they feel. And good, that is awesome and we need so, so much more of that.

Where we start to go off the rails is when we look at the ethnicity of our main characters. And by that, I mean there is none. If there weren’t a few sentences of each character listing their heritage there would be nothing to distinguish these characters from any other white sci-fi heroes/heroines.

27 Hours is set in the future, it’s never said how far in the future, but humans boarded a generational ship and then landed on a forested moon. Our main characters are the first generation born on the moon and they’re all about seventeen. Now, all these humans live in colonies and they’re a cross-section of humanity. And yet the only human-on-human prejudice we see is against the “forest-humans” who live with the Chimera outside of the colonies.

I know we would all like to believe that one day we’ll move past racism, but I can hardly believe that just because you put a bunch of humans on a ship and blast them off to a moon they’re going to come out of it with perfect equality. And maybe Wright is more optimistic than me, but if you’re going to tell a story with POC characters who never once experience a microaggression or any sort of racism, you’re gonna have to dedicate a paragraph or two to how that came about. We’re one hundred and fifty years removed from the Civil War and there are still people on TV right now who will say without hesitation that black people aren’t people. There are people on Youtube right now posting vlogs about genocide. How much time has passed in 27 Hours that this generational hate has burned itself out?

**Slight Spoiler Alert**

No major plot points are given away, but it might take some emotional suspense out of the end of the book.

I will say, one thing I found particularly cringe worthy that I haven’t seen anyone else comment on: Dahlia’s near death experience. The book revolves through four different POV, Dahlia, our black/latinx trans girl doesn’t have any chapters. She’s not quite a side character but not really a main character. When we get down to the wire and war is imminent it’s pretty obvious our plucky little group is going to suffer some losses. And Dahlia takes the hit, literally. I don’t want to bombard you with statistics, but one of the most vulnerable populations in the US today are trans women of color. They’re more likely to be homeless, more likely to be beaten, more likely to be killed. They’re also one of most underrepresented groups in…well, everything. So when Dahlia, a trans girl of color, who is essentially without a voice in this narrative is the one who gets mauled and almost dies…Yikes. Maybe I’m reading too far into it and I don’t think there was a ‘better’ character who could have been attacked, but again, Yikes.

**End of spoiler**

I didn’t really connect with any of the characters, except Angel and George, two Chimera that only get a handful of pages each. But they seem like fun people. Rumor is so driven by hate for the Chimera he flings himself into suicidal battles and drags everyone else along with him. He has nothing left to lose and it shows in the decisions he makes.

Jude was a bit more interesting since he had a lot more at stake, since he is a human who lives among the Chimera in a commune thing. He’s an enemy to colony humans because he lives among the Chimera and many of the Chimera see him as an enemy because he’s human. Divided loyalties are always interesting.

Braeden also has divided loyalties, his mother is in charge of the colony military that are tasked wiping out the Chimera, but he’s also open to Jude’s way of life. He’s also ace, so I enjoyed his chapters because they were the only ones not saturated in teen hormones and sex.

Nyx spends her chapters pining over Dahlia. That’s it. That’s what she does.

Overall, I think if the characters had just been white and not airbrushed darker, this would be an enjoyable middle of the road YA science fiction story. But the gaps in the world building in regard to how humans have shed all of their racial biases left me wondering more about those questions than anything going on in the story.

 

You can find 27 Hours at:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

And learn more about Tristina Wright at her website: www.tristinawright.com