A Book Review: “Masters And Beginners”

I’ve followed Daley Downing’s blog “The Invisible Moth” for a long time. So I anticipated the release of her new book, “Masters And Beginners”. I was thrilled when she asked me to be an early reader.

You may recall my post from last week, where I explained that I was having a rough day and was delightfully surprised to receive a (bookish) package. Inside Daley thoughtfully sent some treasures and the most precious of them all: her new novel.

Here is the synopsis of Daley’s first book “Masters And Beginners” in her series “The Order Of The Twelve Tribes”:

“When Sophie Driscoll’s grandmother dies, her parents take over running the Annex, a warehouse facility that stores magical artifacts and documents proving, and protecting, the existence of faeries. Sophie and her brothers, Flynn and Cal, happily adjust to a new house, new friends, and a new way of living, joining the ranks of generations who have kept the fey and mortal realms separate for centuries. Before the first month of their new life is over, they’ll encounter romance, elves, talking cats, ancient secrets, and potentially lethal danger. What could possibly go wrong…

You had me at magical artifacts, faeries, and talking cats.

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But, what I really admire about “Masters And Beginners” is the world that Daley has created. She makes you believe that your neighbor’s barn/shed/garage could house magical cats and fairy documentation. I love when stories combine our world with a magical twist.

I enjoyed reading a YA story where the protagonists came from a solid, loving family and get this, both parents were alive!

(What…the parents are still alive AND wonderful people?)

I know, it was shocking and thoroughly refreshing. As an adult and a mother, I felt a special pull towards the Driscoll parents. I’m glad Daley included them as much as she did in the series. Often in YA writing we never meet the parents or we are repulsed by their behavior.

The main protagonist (Sophie Driscoll) is an admirable, likeable  teen. I adore the close relationship she has with her two brothers, especially her older brother Flynn. There is a story-line of romance between a few of the teens in “The Order” (humans (mostly) who protect the fay’s existence and magical artifacts), but romance doesn’t run the story. Mostly these kids are smart, adjusting “Order” kids, who are trying to do their best.

The excitement and mystery moves quickly. Daley has really mastered the art of pacing her story. (I read the book in less than a week. I was hooked.)

I can’t wait to read the next book in the series. I want to learn more about the many intriguing side characters like: Sophie’s love interest, her mysterious neighbor, Alex. Her cousin Madison. Flynn’s love-interest Emma. Really I just want MORE. (I’m a greedy book dragon.)

I’m honestly just so impressed with the quality of this one-woman writing/editing/marketing team. I know Daley has worked incredibly hard to release her novel and I can’t tell you how inspired I am after reading “Masters And Beginners”.

If you would like to experience the magic yourself, you may purchase a copy of “Masters And Beginners” here.

Happy Reading,

Rachel

Author Cecily Wolfe Responds To “Why Young-Adult Fiction Is A Dangerous Fantasy”

I was going though my reader feed when I noticed a new post by the fabulous blog SugarQuills. In the post, author Cecily Wolfe gives her opinion on the article “Why Young-Adult Fiction Is A Dangerous Fantasy” written by Joe Nutt.

I’m sharing it with you because it was so good. I must say I am team Wolfe.

Click on the image below to read the full article on SugarQuills.

Have a wonderful Saturday.

Love & Cheers,

Rachel McKee

A Book Review: Midwinterblood

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Seven stories of passion and love separated by centuries but mysteriously intertwined—this is a tale of horror and beauty, tenderness and sacrifice.
An archaeologist who unearths a mysterious artifact, an airman who finds himself far from home, a painter, a ghost, a vampire, and a Viking: the seven stories in this compelling novel all take place on the remote Scandinavian island of Blessed where a curiously powerful plant that resembles a dragon grows. What binds these stories together? What secrets lurk beneath the surface of this idyllic countryside? And what might be powerful enough to break the cycle of midwinterblood? From award-winning author Marcus Sedgwick comes a book about passion and preservation and ultimately an exploration of the bounds of love.

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick is a novel that will haunt your thoughts long after you finish it. I keep thinking of all of the different connections within the seven stories. Sedgwick did a superb job combining love, horror, mystery, and suspense.

Midwinterblood is reminiscent of The Giver in the sense that Sedgwick gives you these wonderful little clues to follow and feeds you information until you start to see the entire picture. I enjoy each separate story on it’s own (One still gives me the shivers when I think about it.) but as a whole this novel weaves an incredible pattern that you are anxious to understand.

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK. (All caps so you know I’m serious.)

Again, how cool is it when authors respond to their fans?

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On a personal note, I’m completely in love with this passage (my son’s name is Leif). I think I may have to  frame it for his bedroom wall.

There was Leif, walking into the center of the longhouse, to stand by the firelight, to give us his words.

He was a beautiful man, tall and thin, not one for fighting though he fought with the others when in was needed so. But his tools were words; those mysterious gifts from the gods, and while most men merely learned how to use them, Leif was one of the wizards who had learned the secret of how to make magic with them.

Have you read Midwinterblood yet? If so, please respond in the comments, I would love to have a discussion about this novel.

Happy Reading.

♥R♥

Four Things That Scare Me While Writing A Novel

As I close in on 20,000 words for my YA novel, I keep hitting the same anxiety hurdles:

  • What if I don’t finish?
  • Will I like my story when I finish?
  • What if a publishing company doesn’t want my book?
  • What if I self-publish and nobody wants to read my book?

These four questions swarm my head like flies buzzing around a overly-ripe melon. I’m constantly swatting at them as I write. Sometimes the questions become too much and I have to stand up and walk away from the keyboard, away from my doubt, and away from the swarm.

Combating the fear

I’ve always been a worrier, even as a child I would literally worry myself sick and give myself stomach aches. My mom would soothe me by asking,

“What is the VERY worst thing that could happen in the scenario that you are dwelling on? Discover what is in your control and the factors that are left to fate.”

So taking my mother’s advice, I decided to list my fears and examine the worst-case scenario for each.

What if I don’t finish?

Completion is entirely up to me. I have ultimate control on whether or not I finish this story, unless I die before it’s completed, but hey at that point i won’t care anymore. In order to finish I just have to get past my fears and procrastination.

When I rationalize this part of my anxiety, it’s really quite stupid. So, moving on…

Will I like my story when it’s finished?

What I’m really afraid of, or the “worst case scenario” is that I will finish it and then abandon it because I’m tired of it. What if the completed story is a cheap re-print vs. the original masterpiece I created in my head? (I’m abusing the word masterpiece here.) The mountain of edits and rewrites is daunting, and I don’t know if I will have the motivation to summit that mountain.

But again, I can control the outcome, I just have to battle the same demons above: fear and procrastination.

What if a publishing company doesn’t want my book?

Now we are getting to the festering part of my anxiety. This is where panic sets in and my manuscript is about to brutality end because my fears strangle my creative voice.

So I put a ton of time, energy, and heart into my story. I complete a solid draft and edit until I can’t edit anymore. I line up my list of book agents and publishing companies and write a snazzy cover-letter, attach my manuscript, hit “Send”, and nothing.

I don’t hear back. I don’t even know why my book was rejected.

Months go by, and I open my story again. The malleable story I thought I was sending out into the agent/publishing world to be critiqued, re-shaped, perfected, but nobody wants to work with my little fledgling story.

Where did I go wrong? What do I change?

This question breeds more questions and anxiety. This is a scenario where outside factors play a role in achieving my dream.

What if I self-publish and nobody wants to read my book?

Again, I complete my draft, pay multiple editors to review my book for grammar, structure, and flow. I pay someone to publish my manuscript, now I have time AND money invested in my story.

Then nobody buys my book. Or maybe a few people do and it gets horrible reviews. I literally paid to have my dreams crushed.

Pretty dismal right?

So how do I combat my fear?

When I start to panic and drown in a sea of self-doubt I remember this quote:

 

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I also remember what my mother would ask me, how much can I control? I realize that I can control most of the fate of my book. I may get rejected from my top choice of agents and publishing companies, but if I keep re-writing eventually someone will want to work with me. Or I can take my chances self-publishing and be content knowing that my loved-ones will read and enjoy my book (simply because I wrote it and they are biased). Neither of these outcomes are terrible, and most importantly by writing this novel, I am becoming a better writer.

What do you do to combat your fear of failure? Please answer by commenting below.

♥R♥

 

A Book Review: Sketchy

Sketchy

 

Bea’s life has been a mess ever since she got kicked out of private school and sent to rehab. Now clean, Bea is starting over at Packard High School, in a city shaken from two assaults on young women. The latest victim, Willa Pressman-the one who survived-doesn’t remember a thing. But Bea has a disturbing new “skill”: she can see-and then draw-images from other people’s minds. And when she looks at Willa, Bea is shocked by what she sketches. Bea might be the only one who knows Willa’s secrets-and who can take down the killer before he strikes again.

Olivia Samms stokes the flames of suspense in her book Sketchy. I really like the main character Bea, I would hang out with her in real-life. She is strong, smart, feisty, and isn’t afraid to be her unique-self. She’s unapologetic, and keeps it real. (She actually reminds me of my YA book’s heroine Rebecca.) Samms captures high school and college life through her accurate and detailed descriptions, setting the stage for this murder mystery. Samm’s attention to detail is what pulls you into Sketchy and forces you to walk beside Bea while she hunts for the killer.

I’m so excited to read the next book, “Snitch” in The Bea Catcher Chronicles.

Also, how cool is it when authors take the time to interact with their readers?

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Happy Reading,

♥R♥

A Book Review: The Caged Graves

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The year is 1867, and seventeen-year-old Verity Boone is excited to return from Worcester, Massachusetts, to Catawissa, Pennsylvania, the hometown she left when she was just a baby. Now she will finally meet the fiancé she knows only through letters! Soon, however, she discovers two strangely caged graves . . . and learns that one of them is her own mother’s. Verity swears she’ll get to the bottom of why her mother was buried in “unhallowed ground” in this suspenseful teen mystery that swirls with rumors of witchcraft, buried gold from the days of the War of Independence, and even more shocking family secrets.

The Caged Graves by Dianne Salerni is a FUN read. There is mystery, romance, and suspense that will make you gobble up the pages and keep you on your toes. The love triangle between, Verity, Mathew, and Hadley will keep you guessing until the very end. The Caged Graves is “historical fiction”. Salerni was inspired to write her novel based on two mysterious caged graves that are located in Catawissa, Pennsylvania.

HOW I MANAGE AS A WRITER AND MOTHER

 

I haven’t talked about my YA novel in a  LONG time. Mostly because I have prioritized other writing opportunities, and lets face it, writing time is precious and rare. A lot of my writing has been personal essays about motherhood because that has been the consumption of my life. It’s easy for me to write about funny, special, horrible moments about motherhood because they happen ALL OF THE TIME and I can complete a short essay while my son is sleeping.

While I want to continue writing about motherhood, I have also made my YA novel a priority again. With all of these writing goals and raising a son I have had to learn some time management and prioritization.

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This is how I attempt to manage writing and motherhood:

CREATE A SCHEDULE AND STICK WITH IT

This is what my average day looks like:

7AM-8AM

Wake up at 7am and build my social media platform i.e. IlluminatedLiteration (blog), Twitter: @Illuminate_Lit, Pinterest,  Facebook, and LinkedIn. I try to make my rounds as quickly as possible before my son wakes up around 7:30-8:00am.

8AM-11AM

Then I take care of my son (and clean house) until he goes to sleep around 11-11:30am.

11AM-1:30PM

Naps are PRIME writing time. I get two solid hours of uninterrupted writing when he takes a nap. I try to do a lot of my blog posts while he is napping, I also try to catch up on a lot of my blogs that I follow.

1:30-9pM

I’m on parent duty with my husband from 1:30pm- 9pm.

9pm-You can’t keep your eyes open any longer

So guess when most of my writing time happens… late evening and into the night. Sometimes I crawl into bed around midnight or later if I’m on a roll.

Don’t forget to make time to do your research.

If you want to be a successful writer you have to read A LOT. There are some evenings when I skip writing because my brain just can’t even because I know reading your target genre is crucial for a good artistic outcome. Sometimes, if I really need to multi-task I watch a movie adaptation (*gasp*!) and take care of my son. Honestly, the point of writing non-fiction is to tell a story, and watching the movie adaptation of a novel still teaches you structure.

Get Social

This is honestly my favorite part of writingmeeting other writers and professionals in the industry. Unfortunately, this is the step most writers struggle with because at the end of the day, they have to spend a ton of time on their own craft and when you are a mother you have other priorities that you need you RIGHT NOW! I try my best to read other blogger’s work and respond to comments between feedings and when my son is playing and really any time I can grasp a smidgen of time to interact with other writers.

Embrace Chaos And Accept That You Can’t Do It All

I have so many blog posts, stories, words, ideas floating around in my head. I also have a pair of hazel eyes that look to me for nutrition, exercise, learning, and loving. We CAN’T do it all, we can only do our best. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to do all of the things we want to do. I know that this blog post could have been 10x better if I had more time, but my son is going to wake up in 30 minutes and I really should eat SOMETHING today.

♥R♥

Infandous: A Book Review & An Examination of a Foil in Literature

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Infandous- Describing something too horrible to mention.

Infandous by Elana Arnold is one of the best literary pieces of the YA genre that I have ever read. There are numerous examples of literary devices throughout Infandous, today I am going to focus on onea foil.

Arnold plays with the literary concept of “a foil” between Sephora who is the main characterwho argues that she is actually only a supporting character in her life, second to her mother.

A foil, in literature is defined as:

“A character that shows qualities that are in contrast with the qualities of another character with the objective to highlight the traits of the other character. The term foil, though generally being applied for a contrasting character, may also be used for any comparison that is drawn to portray a difference between two things. What we observe in literature very often is that a foil is a secondary character who contrasts with the major character to enhance the importance of the major character. The etymology of the term foil testifies the aforementioned assertion as the word “foil” is taken from the practice of backing gems with foil (tool) so that they shine more brightly.”

Literary Devices.Net

Some of my favorite lines from Infandous are when Sephora explains her mother as a mermaid:

My Mom, Rebecca Golding, was born in the sea. She was the most beautiful of all the mermaids, her hair shinier, her tail shimmerier, her voice more captivating that any other fish girl’s…..And then a wave cameboiling, insistent, it bore her to the ocean’s surface and threw her far and fast, and she tumbled, head over tail, again and again, until she landed coughing and sputtering and drowning in air on the sandy beach…And she grew up like that, a fish out of water, too beautiful to really pass for one of us. Her hair, even on land, seemed to float as if in water. She moved like liquid gold, crossing her legs, gesturing with long, beautiful fingers, and her mermaid heartbeat in her chest all the while.

She sets up this glorious, otherworldly description of her mother, but describes herself like this:

I didn’t have her beautymy hair was frizzy with static, tangled and quarrelsome, not ethereal and floaty like hers. My movements weren’t liquid beauty. People didn’t turn to follow me with their eyes, not like they did with her.

Clearly we see how Sephora views herself when compared to her mother. There are pages that describe the beauty of Rebecca, but Sephora only allows a few general, unpleasant descriptions of herself. Arnold, in my opinion, used a foil very wisely to help the reader understand the way Sephora views her herself in comparison to her mother.

Infandous is bursting with literary themes. I highly recommend reading this book. The imagery, characters, and twists will haunt you.

Happy reading,

♥R♥

Writing a Negative Book Review

All of the book reviews I have written thus far have been very positive. I think I’m a pretty optimistic reader; I try to find the good in every book. Who am I to bash a book when:

A) I haven’t finished my own YA book.

B) I have never been published (except for that one time in college by SLAM magazine.. does that even count?).*Update I was published on xoNecole, but still it’s not on the level of a novel getting published.

C) I don’t like being a jerk.

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Authors bust their ass to get their work out there, even the “trashiest, cheesiest, male machismo” romance novels have a lot of time invested i.e.: Fifty Shades of Grey-read it, Twilight-read it, Christine Feehan’s Dark Series-read it, Sookie Stackhouse Novels-read it. Is it romance? I’ve probably read it.

In my humble opinion, there are certain factors that books must have to be worth a reader’s time. A book can be trashy BUT then it also has to be entertaining. Or a book can have a slow story, but it better be full of beautiful prose and STRONG interesting characters. The last book that I read did not have much going for it, and in my frustration I decided to write my first negative review and explain my letdown:

Like it Never Happened

When Rebecca Rivers lands the lead in her school’s production of The Crucible, she gets to change roles in real life, too. She casts off her old reputation, grows close with her four rowdy cast-mates, and kisses the extremely handsome Charlie Lamb onstage. Even Mr. McFadden, the play’s critical director, can find no fault with Rebecca.

Though “The Essential Five” vow never to date each other, Rebecca can’t help her feelings for Charlie, leaving her both conflicted and lovestruck. But the on and off-stage drama of the cast is eclipsed by a life-altering accusation that threatens to destroy everything…even if some of it is just make believe.

It’s almost laughable how apropos the title is. I turned the final page of this novel last night and I sat their wondering, why did I even bother? What was I suppose to get from the story? It was incredibly slow, the characters were as shallow as a thimble of water, and the language was mediocre.

Slow Story + Vapid Characters = Boring Read.

I do not recommend this novel. It’s just a bunch of high school drama with no lesson learned, no depth gained, and zero substance.

♥R♥

Cover Image Found @:realbusinessphotographer.com