Review: The Arena

The Arena is a science fiction novel by Santana Young and the Prequel to the Chronicles of Everen.

I read a lot of books. A LOT OF BOOKS. So believe me when I say this book was refreshingly original. I was captivated with the settings, with the characters, and the whole tone of the book. The combination of antiquity and science-fiction tech was brilliantly disorienting. You’d honestly forget you weren’t in Rome for whole chapters and then BAM you were back in space-times. It was so much fun.

The book was dark at times, and brutally honest, but the friendships between the characters and the idle banter, along with Duncan’s strength of personality, kept the book from being depressing.

As a prequel it did its job beautifully. I’ve never read anything in this series and now I want to. If anyone had read this series first they’d find a rich and entertaining story waiting for them.

A hearty five out of five stars.

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Review: The Ultimate Tragedy

It’s is Monday morning following Mother’s Day that I am typing this review. I mention this because this book deals with the loss of a child and on this weekend, as we celebrate mothers, this book is especially moving.

The Ultimate Tragedy is a memoir by Doreen Pchajek. Doreen lost her daughter in a car accident and originally wrote this book 5 years after her daughter’s death. She added an update at the end when she released the second edition roughly 10 years later. It was this second edition that I read.

Reviewing a memoir is hard. To criticize any part of it feels like you are criticizing the author’s life. There were parts of this book that were difficult to read, emotionally, but also technically. There were a lot of medical terms that I found difficult to follow.

The story itself was very sad. Losing a family member is hard, losing one in a sudden accident, well I wrote an article on sudden passings and slow deaths. I don’t know which is worse but I do know that to lose your daughter so young in an accident while you were driving the car must be devastating.

Doreen does a good job of conveying the despair and helplessness she felt.

Doreen has started a memorial fund in honour of her daughter. The Stacey Pchajek Memorial Fund provides scholarships to senior 4 grads in Southeast Manitoba, as well as awards to grade 8 grads.

Doreen’s journey has been a difficult one. She’s right – you never “get over it” but I think she’s reached a point where she can fit her grief into the rest of her life without it constantly overwhelming her.

Review: The Seeker’s Storm

The Seeker’s Storm is a fantasy novel by Lea Carter. I would describe this as a steam-era fairy tale.

The world in this book is exceptionally detailed yet descriptions are doled out only when needed and in short, easily digested bursts. There is rich history and tradition here. While the character building was good I found the cast a little large too soon. I had trouble keeping first and last names connected to the right people. I also had trouble pinning down a time and technology period early in the book. Once I was into the book however everything flowed smoothly, it just took me a few chapters to get my bearings.

The plot is quick paced and intriguing though I found it very streamlined. Secrets were discovered easily, bad guys posed little true threat.

Honestly though I enjoyed the book. I liked the airships and the lightning machines. I liked the threat of winter because I know the isolation that comes with living in a rural area with an unreliable car and knee high drifts. I liked the characters and their light banter.

I got to the end and read through the author’s notes on names and places and realized this was not the first book set in this world. It is, however, the first book I read in this world, which may have added to my initial confusion. That being said – this is a stand along novel. You can read this and enjoy it without having any knowledge of the world.

Overall I give this book 4 out of 5 stars and I look forward to exploring more books by Lea Carter.

Feel the Thunder

We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming for this word from our sponsors. Well, not really, but I would like to ask you all for a bit of help.

Schreyer Ink Publishing is running a Thunderclap campaign for Open Minds, an anthology that I have a story in. We have 9 days to get 48 more supporters and I know we can do it.

18053318_10158611225740613_2134971717_o Open Minds features 6 authors, including me. The theme for this anthology was tolerance and acceptance. The stories are amazing, all of them.

We need your help to spread the word about this book. I think you should support this book because we need stories like this. We need stories that shine a light on acceptance in terms of race, religion, and gender/sexuality. We need to give these stories a platform to share their message because it’s a message that’s crucial right now as fear and mistrust runs rampant in our world.

I’ve included a sneak peek at the story I have included in this anthology:mixed up teaser

There will be more sneak peeks at the book launch on June 1st. You can join the launch here.

In the mean time please head over here and add your support to our Thunderclap campaign. You can add your Twitter, Facebook, and/or Tumblr account. Reblog this post, share the campaign on Facebook and Twitter. Every person counts and we appreciate your support.

Real Women have Curves and Other Sexist Bullshit

Can we just stop it with the “real women have curves” bullshit already? Because by that logic I was some fairy tale daydream until I was 26 and had two kids (and my curves are not in flattering places). And don’t come at me claiming I’m fat shaming now. I don’t do fat shaming and I’ll tell you exactly why.

I was about 8 years old. My mom and I were getting ready to go somewhere, or maybe I was watching her get ready. It was somewhere fancy ’cause she was pulling on stockings. Dark grey. I sat there watching those stockings, the way they stretched and changed colour. I said to her “It looks like elephant skin.”

She told me I couldn’t say things like that, that it was hurtful, that people would be mad, embarrassed.

I remember being confused and defensive. I didn’t say she was an elephant, I didn’t even say she looked like an elephant. It was the nylons, the colour, the texture, not her. I was hurt that she was mad at me for something I didn’t do.

Looking back I understand she was hurt and embarrassed. At 8 years old I didn’t understand fat shaming because my mom was beautiful to me, inside and out.

She lived with grace and tolerance and acceptance. I know know how many friends told me they were surprised by her acceptance of them. This Catholic woman with a good marriage and two straight, cis-gender girls with A-averages who didn’t party and went to church with her every weekend – she accepted people. Didn’t matter to her if they came from single parent homes, if their parents were divorced or divorcing or how nasty that divorce got, if they liked to party, if those parties involved drugs or alcohol, how they dressed, who they dated, who they prayed to, if they prayed at all – she welcomed them all and treated them all with respect until they gave her a damn good reason not to.

She was diagnosed with cancer. She fought with strength and bravery. She died with grace and dignity. She was beautiful. And I have never in my life deliberately shamed a person for their size or shape because at 8 years old I hurt the feelings of the most beautiful woman I knew, I learned that words hurt, that insulting someone’s weight directly, or through implication, hurt.

My problem with this whole “Real women have curves” thing isn’t the curves. Go be curvy. Go be skinny. Go be plain or fancy or flouncy or frilly or rough or brash. Go be you. My problem is those first two words.

“Real women”

Thank you sexist patriarchy, you can shut the fuck up now.

This “be skinny”/”real women have curves” shit is just us fighting each other over something that doesn’t matter – it’s another set of unrealistic expectations that will always conflict. Be healthy, whatever healthy looks like for you. I am never going to be a size 0 again, NEVER. And when I was a size 0 it was a gift of genetics and metabolism, not will power (though I was a lot more active then too). My goal isn’t to be a size 0 again. My goal is to have more energy, to keep up with my kids, to feel good about my body, to feel sexy in the clothes I wear. What that looks like on me is going to be different than it looks on you.

As for this whole “But men really want …” WHO GIVES A FUCK. First of all, each man wants something different. Second of all, my husband fell in love with me when I was a size 0 and he stuck with me through two pregnancies and the resulting baby weight. Doesn’t matter that I’ll never rock those low-cut pants from high school ever again. He loves me for me, not for the size of my clothes. Isn’t that how it should be? I get it, we’re biologically programmed to find certain types of people more physically attractive than others – but everyone is programmed differently.

So let’s knock this off, right now. Let’s stop comparing ourselves to each other. Let’s stop it with the “real woman” labels and the in-fighting. We have more important shit to handle in this world right now so if we want the fat shaming to end, let’s start by ending the weight wars between us.

 

Review: The Cursed Seed

The Cursed Seed is the first book in the science fiction series The Society of Immortals by Geralyn Wichers. It can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Cursed-Seed-Society-Immortals-1/dp/1945018038/

I read this book as part of my book club reading list and really enjoyed it. Most of our book club ranked it in their top three books they’d read this year. It was my favourite thus far.

Be warned, there are two story lines running through this book, one that takes place during the modern day and focuses on Jack and Alannah, and one during the 1500-1600s that focuses on Alexander and Zoran. The modern day timeline also features some flashbacks to the 1950s or so. It took us a little effort to keep all the characters straight and to try to figure out the timeline – but it was worth it.

The story is about a society of immortals, with Jack being their newest member. Book 1 keeps you guessing the entire time, slowly unwinding the history of this society – where they came from, why they are immortal, how many of them are there, etc. There is tension and strong emotions through the entire narrative and the story asks some very deep questions about life and death, about our right to live, and our right to die. I think this made the book very relevant.

The characters were unique making it easier to keep the large cast straight. Jack is rough and struggles with depression. Alannah is scholarly and has an anxiety disorder. Alexander is old-fashioned, naturally, conservative, but very kind. Lia is more outgoing and exuberant. Cy starts out this level-headed, almost bland character, and then he’s told his wife will be home in a few days and he’s like “I’m taking the next week off. Good-bye!” and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop him. Zoran is passionate and driven to the point of obsession. There’s a strong sense of humour all the way around.

The time periods the book visits feel authentic and well-researched.

The book ends on a high note but not after dumping a laundry list of questions on your head. I desperately need book 2.

Five stars. Loved it. Highly recommend it.

Review: 90 Seconds to Sanity

90 Seconds to Sanity is a psychological thriller by C.J. Wilton. This is definitely a book for adult readers.

I’m not sure I can say much about the plot of this book without giving everything away. The book was a little jumpy and hard to follow but at the same time I think it suited the twisty nature of the story. It was a quick read, only about 110 pages, but it was fast paced and very intense.

Michael is a lawyer in a smaller city/town south of Chicago. For most of the book you and Michael, the first person narrator, move through what can only be described as a psychotic break. Memories and facts tell different stories.

The writing was sharp and direct. The story kept me guessing until the end. I give this book 4 out of 5 stars but only because I did find some parts hard to follow. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who likes a book that keeps them on their toes.

Nothing Everything Nothing – A Book Review

Cool! A review of my debut novel.

Angil Grafton

This review was originally written November of 2014, when I was given the wonderful opportunity of reading the book before publishing.

 Casia K Schreyer has done an incredible job of capturing the voice of a teen spiraling down the drain. She commits to this heartbreaking, difficult topic and emerges us onto the cold black marble of rock bottom, leaving us with no where to go but through despair’s inky emotional tunnels. Molly’s downward spiral is triggered by the familiar desire for acceptance in the demanding world of teenage popularity. Molly may have been ready to climb the social ladder, but she was not prepared for the devastating fall that would follow her ascent. Nothing Everything Nothing – Amazon.ca10410969_10152857807173010_4239561775827246109_n

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Book Review – Dragonfly

Dragonfly is a young adult paranormal romance by Alyssa Thiessen. You can find it on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Dragonfly-Alyssa-Thiessen/dp/0994021003/ (Please note this is not an affiliate link).

Dragonfly is a quick, easy read, but perfect for grades 8 and up. It’s clean, so no sex, no graphic violence, no major swearing. What really sets this book apart are the wings. No dragon, bat, or angel wings here. Not even hawks like the Maximum Overdrive stories by Patterson. No, this time we have dragonfly wings.

I read this book with my book club so the first week we read chapters 1-9. In our first discussion we were listing all the possibilities for how the main character, 18 year old Joshua Miller, had ended up with dragonfly wings. Born that way? Mutant? Science experiment? Alien? What? Halfway through the book and you still have no idea.

The plot of the book is people centered. It’s about Joshua, a boy who has always hidden from the world for as long as he can remember, a boy with no family, no friends, no connections. Until he meets Lexi. His connection with Lexi triggers a whole series of mishaps that lead him to the only piece of his past he remembers. And from there we find out everything that Joshua doesn’t know about himself.

The book follows that winning YA romance structure: bored rich girl, roguish bad boy, becoming friends when they shouldn’t. Lots of him holding back because he’s no good for her and her stubbornly holding on because she’s never met anyone like him. But it was still a fun book to read. Really, Joshua and Eric and Nik aren’t so bad, Lexi was my only complaint with the book.

I gave this book 4 stars and would recommend it to young readers and anyone who likes YA fiction. I’m looking forward to her second book, which is not tied in to Dragonfly in any way, titled Infusion.

Review: Foul is Fair

Foul is Fair is the first book in the Fair Folk Chronicles by Jeffery Cook and Katherine Perkins. I would describe the book as a YA modern fairy tale adventure.

The main characters are two sixteen year old girls, Lani and Megan. At the beginning of the story Megan is coping with some form of mental health or educational delay sort of issue by taking medication. Her friend Lani is very concerned about her and the way the medication is changing her.

Very quickly they are swept up into events that spiral completely out of control and the reader is introduced to the realm of Fairy. There is a lot of information in this book but the uniqueness of the characters and the fast paced action keeps the book from feeling like a data dump. I don’t think I could pick a favourite character, there were so many wonderful ones!

The authors use some familiar fairy characters, like the Huntsman and his hounds, pixies, satyrs, and such, but also introduced some that I wasn’t familiar with. They created a world that is vibrant and interesting and completely captivating. So much happens in this book and I feel like I can’t summarize any of it without giving something away.

I will say that it was refreshing to read about two sixteen year old girls and not have any of the usual drama or self-pity or whiny attitudes.

The story was quick and fun and super fast paced. I enjoyed every minute of it. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars and I cannot wait to read book 2.