Standalone piece from WIP Novel

This is a mini-standalone piece I wrote based on a character from a novel I’ve written. This is the first time I’m publicly sharing anything in regards to this novel, as it’s been a work-in-progress of mine for many years. But I finally have a draft of it completed — not just a draft, but a second draft that I rewrote from the first draft, essentially doing a side-by-side rewrite and update of certain things.

This scene does not appear in the book, but was something I wrote to engage with the character more, and to have some shorter pieces that I felt okay sharing with people. I’m sure as anyone who’s worked on any project, especially an art project (writing, drawing, music, etc), you can become connected to what you create, because in a sense, it is a piece of you.

I’ve worked on the novel for many years, and it’s a piece of me, but I’m trying to remember that I don’t grow if I keep myself locked away, so this is an attempt to help me step out of my comfort zone.

Ember suckled the cool night air. It was a cruel fate to be torn away from your home against your will, but she had one more night. She would take her peace here, though she knew she’d have no peace from her family and guests. It was her own wedding after all, and here she stood. Alone on the balcony, hidden from plain sight, wrapped in the warm breeze that cradled her in a secure embrace.

No matter where you go, you’ll always belong here, it sang its lullaby through the trees. No matter where you journey, here is always home.

And she would go far. She had been condemned to it. She had converted herself from a native to foreigner in just the utterances of a few words. A sacrifice, one of which no one could comprehend the intensity.

She said her silent prayers of gratitude towards singing winds. Thanks for all it had given her, and even for choosing her for this fate. It could’ve been another, either of her closest companions.

But she tried not to think of it, for if that had come to pass, she couldn’t imagine their own fate.

Then again, did she really even fathom the destiny she herself had accepted?

She breathed in the night air once more, and with the wind and trees making their own songs, she could hear the music reverberating off the walls of the hall inside, calling her back to the world of humanity. But she couldn’t face it. There had been too much humanity most of this day.

She didn’t know what it was, for it certainly wasn’t a sound, but she turned, and found him standing there, stealing her moment’s utopia. He grinned from his place in the shadows, craving her attention. She obeyed.

“I’m shocked that you of all creatures cannot hide better,” she whispered.

A dark chuckle came from motionless lips.

“Why would I hide from my own bride?”

They kept their distance; they were the strangest couple in creation—a union of man and beast.

“You’ve angered them all tonight,” he announced, stepping towards her. “They’re all glad to see you leave. That fierce attitude of yours finally put them off.”

“And you believe that wasn’t in my plans?” 

“The loss of dear friends and family, and you don’t mourn for them?” he pondered. “What a strange creature you are.”

“You are not deceiving me,” she breathed. 

His smirk evaporated and darkness descended upon his eyes.

“You believe you hide yourself from everyone. But you haven’t fooled me.”

“No.” The edges of his lips tugged. He blinked. But when his eyes returned to hers, they were black. She nodded. “Nothing can be hidden from you.”

“Perhaps you know me better than I think.”

His smile was wide now. Another flick of the eyelids and he resumed his guise.

“And I won’t let you hurt any of them.” Within a blink, Ember found herself alone once more. She pursed her lips, willing her strength to return.

“Even if it means separating myself from them,” she vowed. She left paradise behind, and returned home.

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GoodReads Review – The Girl in the Tower

My review for The Girl in the Tower, book 2 in the Winternight Trilogy, by Katherine Arden. I read The Girl in the Tower several months after reading The Bear and the Nightingale, and I read this book as an audiobook as opposed to reading a physical copy, which I think altered the reading experience for me.

Nonetheless, I think The Girl in the Tower is a strong follow-up to The Bear and the Nightingale. I don’t know when I’m going to get to read The Winter of the Witch, but I’m equally excited to see how the trilogy comes to a close.

The Girl in the Tower (Winternight Trilogy, #2)The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Girl in the Tower is the second book in the Winternight Trilogy, following the Bear and the Nightingale. It had been several months since I read the Bear and the Nightingale book, so it took a little bit of jogging my memory to get back into this series, but once I got myself back there, I enjoyed it. I admit, I liked the first book a bit better, but I still enjoyed this one thoroughly.

I think part of the reason why I didn’t enjoy this as much as the first is simply because I read the first in the Winternight series in a paperback book, whereas for this second book, I listened via audiobook, so the experience was a bit different this time around. I feel I would have enjoyed this book more had I physically read it, as I did the first. That being said, I think it’s important to note that the narrator did a good job, but I did end up speeding up the narrator’s speaking towards the end.

Overall, the story was engaging, and I loved the variety of characters throughout. I do wish there was a little bit more of the supernatural/mythology-based things going on, as that seemed so central to the first book. The Girl in the Tower still has some of that Russian folklore and mythology going on, but to me it felt like it wasn’t as prevalent, and I did miss some of that added fantasy element.

This was a great follow-up to the Bear and the Nightingale, and I’m excited to read book 3.

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GoodReads Review – The Bear and the Nightingale

The Bear and the Nightingale is the first in Katherine Arden’s Winternight series, and what an awesome start it was! There was so much about this first book that I loved, and it was difficult to try and condense it down into a review that did not contain spoilers. And honestly, a lot of what I loved was hard to put into words.

But it’s a great start to what’s sure to be an interesting series with a female lead who I already love based on this first book.

The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight Trilogy, #1)The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s been a bit since I read this book, but what a page-turner it was! I struggled to put it down the entire journey.

I was enthralled with the incorporations of so many different Russian faery tales and creatures. Admittedly, I know little about Russian folklore, but it was weaved in so beautifully throughout the entire story, and it made for a delightful read. If you’re interested in a full book made to feel like an adult faery tale, this will be right up your alley.

I loved Vasya as a main character who we followed on this journey, and her unique gift of seeing and communicating with the spirits of the world. I loved her strength and resilience as she went through life in medieval Russia, constantly being told and reminded of who she must be as a woman of the time, but also recognizing she was not that and did not wish to be that.

I also thought it was great to see how the “real” world commingled with the spirit world — to see that people’s actions affected the spirit world, and the conflicts that arose in the spirit world as a consequence affected the real world as well. Seeing that from Vasya’s view, and the converse of it from Father Konstantin.

I felt like the whole story blended well together and flowed so nicely; Arden is a gifted writer to be able accomplish both with engaging characters and varying storylines that directly mirror one another. I got through it quickly, and was eager for another after finishing it.

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Ranting About Literature – Victorian Authoresses and Their Badassery

I’m surprising even myself with all I have to say on Victorian literature, the heroines of the time, and the authoresses that wrote them. Why didn’t I have more to say on this when I was in college? Too bad I’m so far removed from my undergraduate years that I can’t get extra credit on this…

But female authors in the Victorian times. I think one of the biggest reasons why people might overlook these authoresses as being badasses is because their stories are often romances. And if most of us are honest, we don’t look at romance and love as badass. I’d argue that many of us look down on romance as a genre, so reading books that feature similar will-they-won’t-they love of two characters probably doesn’t seem badass at all.

And before I can dig into this idea too much, there’s something even more encompassing that needs to be addressed first, and that’s simply the fact that women of the time were writing.

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Ranting About Literature – Victorian Heroines and their own Badassery

A follow-up from Ranting About Literature — Shakespearean Characters, and the Need to Time-Travel When Reading. Now featuring Victorian literature and its famous heroines!

If you think I had a lot to say about a random occurrence in my Shakespearean literature class in college, I have a lot more to say about both Victorian literature and the heroines it produced.

Because I admit it: I have a bit of a soft spot for them.

Recently, I saw a review of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, where someone talked about how much they hated Victorian literature and denounced the heroines of the time as being boring or “not badass”.

And it was the above review that actually started me on the rant-path.

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Ranting About Literature – Shakespearean Characters, and the Need to Time-Travel When Reading

I’ve gotta go off on a rant right now — a rant that I started on Twitter a while back, but let’s be honest: Twitter isn’t always the best outlets for rants. There’s only so much you can fit into a tweet, and inevitably something gets interpreted the wrong way.

Though that could easily be said about blog entries too, but at least I have more space to work with.

I’ve been finding myself exhausted by people of today’s world reading stories set in the very distant past, and judging them without ever removing themselves from the world we live in today. I’ve read reviews of Victorian literature that state those heroines aren’t “badass” because “they don’t do anything”. I’ve heard classmates denounce Shakespearean characters for being gullible.

But the arguments always seem come from one who is looking at the particular piece of literature from a modern outlook, and without considering what the world was like back in the time the story was written.

And I don’t mean to argue that we shouldn’t look at these pieces through our own vision and the world we live in today. But it shouldn’t be the only way we look at literature.

Personally, I feel we need to do a little bit of mental time-traveling when reading literature of the past.

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GoodReads Review – The Winter People

My review of The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon. I loved diving into this book. I was really enraptured by it within the first few pages, and stayed hooked throughout. The writing and tone had a nice flow, and all of the different characters and perspectives were intriguing.

I did struggle with the ending, as I felt a little let down by it. I personally didn’t feel it met the build-up we’d been seeing and reading about from the rest of the story. I touch on this a little more in the actual review, though I try to be vague about my issues, so as to avoid massive spoilers.

But overall I still enjoyed the book and would recommend it to others. Even if I felt unsatisfied by the ending, others might disagree, and I’d love to hear other perspectives.

Very vague spoilers ahead. I promise I kept them as vague as I possibly could.

The Winter PeopleThe Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Haunting and intriguing, this was a really engaging read and I couldn’t put it down. There was a good pace to the story-telling, and I loved all of the creepy haunting imagery throughout. There were some scenes that really stuck with me and had me in goosebumps as I continued listening. The characters were all intriguing in their own way, and I enjoyed hopping from each point-of-view to the next.

Audiobook note: I think it’s important to note that I did enjoy the audiobook version of this. The narrator had a good reading voice, kept me engaged, and at no point did I find myself bothered by the narration.

Minor spoilers below; keeping it as vague as possible
However, I did take a star off simply because I wasn’t the biggest fan of the ending. Closer to the end of the novel, I had to suspend my disbelief quite a bit. Not so much at some of the more supernatural elements, which I was fine with; but more at the strange way the women in “present day” all ended up in the same room, which just felt a little forced. But I let that go and moved past it, as I eager to get to the end and hear how everything was closed up.

But it was the very end, the closing pages of the novel, that really left me feeling unsatisfied. Perhaps if it had ended with Kathryn and the knock at the door, I would’ve felt content. Perhaps if I hadn’t have heard the phrase “it was like it was meant to be” so many times in those final pages. Perhaps it was just that final diary entry from Sara that just left too much open, and didn’t ultimately leave me feeling with the creeps.

While I wasn’t super satisfied with that, I did really enjoy the book overall and I would love to read similar haunting tales in the future. It’s a good standalone scary, creepy, mini-mystery, and I would still recommend it.

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Making the World Kinder

So this is a mini-rant coming off of some stuff I’ve seen on social media. Various images going around that encourage people be kinder to one another — suggesting that maybe people would be less sad and depressed if we all could just be more understanding and kinder to the people we meet every day.

Immediately, people were arguing that being nice to others is an oversimplification of depression and the needs of a depressed/anxious person.

On the one hand, I totally agree with the sentiment: being kind alone cannot fix or solve depression and anxiety in people.

But those types of attacks and arguments occurring almost make it seem like people are arguing, “No, let’s keep society as cruel as it currently is because changing that does not fix mental illness.” And I understand that that is likely not the argument going on, but to argue against kindness and insisting it won’t fix everything does imply that it’s not good enough.

The thing of it is: we, as individuals, cannot always do a lot for others who are struggling with depression and anxiety other than be kind, understanding, and gentle with them. I, as an individual, cannot prescribe medication or insist that someone seeks help, especially in the event I’m not even aware that someone does have a mental health condition.

What I can do is be kind. It’s what all of us can choose to do in our daily lives.

Kindness makes every bit of difference when we see how cruel and heartless the world can be. Kindness changes everything when we see just how badly bullying can affect others. Hell, simply smiling at another human being on the street can make or break their day. Don’t tell me that kindness isn’t enough when often times kindness is the only thing we can offer.

If each individual took a stand and tried to treat everyone they meet with compassion and understanding, I believe it would help improve the world immensely, even for those who are suffering from mental illness of any kind. Perhaps if we work to create that world, and people who are mentally ill see that and feel that — that people DO actually love and care about them and their well-being — perhaps they won’t feel as scared about opening up and then we can be in a position to help them in the ways they need.

It may not fix everything, but it cannot hurt to try.

GoodReads Review – Dreams of Gods and Monsters

And we’ll finish out this series of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series with the final book – Dreams of Gods and Monsters. I felt like this was the perfect conclusion to the series. It finished cleanly in three books, and it didn’t feel drawn out or overdone. And it concluded so smoothly that I truly felt satisfied by it. I did have a bit of book-withdrawal at the end, but equally I wouldn’t have wanted it to go on more; if it had, it would’ve felt forced.

But through this entire series, I’ve loved all of the characters; the plot always captivated and interested me; the writing flowed so well between chapters—I still in some ways miss this series, and I know it’ll be a joy to re-read as well.

I did the audiobook version of this book, and I felt the narrator also did a great job with this. Her voice was pleasant to listen to, and I enjoyed each of the different voices she applied to different characters. I would recommend this audiobook to anyone who’s considering listening.

Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #3)Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a week I finished this series, Books 1-3, and my only regret has been that I didn’t pick it up sooner.

This final book in the series does a wonderful job at closing the saga of the war between chimera and angel — and then the combined forces against more angels, and beyond — as well as getting an ending for our war-torn lovers.

It’s been a joy to read this series, as it’s all been fun and enjoyable, and always I was left wanting more. I’ve praised the author before, and I must do it again: Laini Taylor writes in such a way that you are compelled to read more, unstopping, until before you know it, you’ve consumed it all and you’re hungry once more. That’s how I was with this series. I loved the prose. There was descriptions so vivid I could see world, and feel the deepest parts of characters’ hearts, but Taylor never went overboard into “too-wordy” territory. There was a fine balance, and it never got dull.

For anyone thinking about doing the audiobook, I would highly recommend it. The narrator does a wonderful job at sharing the story, her voice is enjoyable to listen to, and none of the character voices she does become annoying (at least not for me) or feel inappropriate to the characters.

Overall, I think this book did a great job at tying up all the loose ends of the trilogy and ended in such a way that I feel satisfied. I’m happy it ended where it did and how it did. It’s feels… complete. Closed. And it feels rare for series to leave you that way. While we know our characters do have a much greater journey ahead of them, where they end does feel like a closed book, perfect and final. I think if more were to come, it might be overkill to the story, especially in terms of the love story aspect.

But who knows. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Laini Taylor’s writing in these three books, so I’m sure if she did decide to continue the story of Karou, the tale would be just as thrilling as these have been.

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GoodReads Review – Days of Blood and Starlight

Well, then. Here we are with another review of another Daughter of Smoke & Bone book. This time, Book 2, and again I finished it within two days.

I was completely and utterly enamored with this series, and I ate it the way I eat cereal (which is to say for all three major meals of the day and be content). All of the characters had life and believability, feeling in many ways genuinely real. The writing flowed so well, and chapters always ended leaving you hungry for more (cereal… I’m really hungry while typing this out…)

As I wrote in my other review, I’m sorry I waited so long to read this series, but I am incredibly glad that I did pick it up. It was such a pleasure to read (listen to) this entire saga — and, yes, I did finish Book 3 in the matter of two days as well, and that review will be posted shortly as well.

But for now, onwards to Book 2 review (and maybe some cereal…)

Days of Blood and Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #2)Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Again, another book in this series read within two days, another book that unputdownable. Again, I loved it.

Laini Taylor has such a good ebb-and-flow in her writing. Though this was book two in a series, there was no ill flow from first book to the second — and considering I just finished the first book less than a week ago, I remember it well. So often, you can feel the jump from books in a series, but these two flowed effortlessly together, as though they were both written as a whole book without any separation between them, and I’m excited to see if the third book does as well.

Taylor also does so amazingly with pacing and knows how to keep readers hooked. As soon as I’m lured in and dying to know what’s going to happen in one aspect of the story, I’m groaning because I know I’ll have to wait at least one more chapter while I’m updated on other characters — and then I find myself frustrated when we go back to the first characters because I’ve become so engrossed in the second characters. I’m serious when I say I struggled to put this book down, and this is part of the problem: there were so few times where I felt like I could say, “Alright, I’m satisfied for now, and I think I can finally go to bed.”

More praise for the author: it’s amazing how many characters get introduced in this series, even just by name, that I’ve been made to care about and feel for. She’s created a world, a history, a people, a story that feels so real, which makes it that much more enjoyable. I know I’ve had instances in other books where I’ve struggled with some of the modern writing — whether it be cringey blog-post style writing or something similar. But I enjoy it here. It’s not cringey, it flows well, and it fits the characters that Taylor has created, as several of these characters come from our modern world and are teenagers themselves.

Those who enjoyed Book 1 will enjoy the next in the series. Tomorrow, I start Book 3 and I can’t wait!

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