The Mother In Law by Sally Hepworth

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The Mother in Law is a domestic thriller set in Australia. It follows Lucy and her mother in law, Diana, through a series of strange deaths and unexplained events. I got this one for free from Kindle Unlimited and finished it in one sitting on a plane. It’s dark, it’s twisty, and best of all, it’s unexpected.

The Good

I could not put down this book. When was the last time I finished a book in one sitting? I’ll wait….

Yeah, I can’t remember either. So this was a great one. I loved that there were two narrators, and their perspectives were completely different for a shared event. It’s so true to real life. We tend to think our perspective is the only perspective and that couldn’t be further from the truth. This book highlighted that in the best way possible.

I thought the writing itself was great. It’s the best when I can forget that I’m actually reading. The prose shouldn’t pull from the story IMO. (I’m totally guilty of this as a writer šŸ˜… what’s the point of a big vocabulary if I can’t use it?!)

I also enjoyed the story as a whole. It’s basically a murder mystery. I guessed the killer wrong the whole book until the reveal. Nothing worse than guessing whodunit in the first chapter and being right. Not so with this book.

The Bad

The only nitpicking thing that I can think of for the “Bad” section is that a chapter would stop and switch perspectives just as I was getting into that particular part of the storyline. This happened, like, a lot. By hour four or five of reading, it started to get a little exasperating. I totally get that the author wants me to keep reading, but it felt like I was in a constant state of my curiosity not being fully satisfied until the very end. For me, a little uncomfortable to deal with for the whole book. But I guess it did keep me turning the pages.

The Verdict

Solid 5/5, would absolutely recommend to anyone looking for a thriller or a mystery type thing. And probably one I will read again once I’ve forgotten some of the details. šŸ˜Š

today my horoscope said

I am in a soundless room
Buried under cloudy skies and forgotten promises
And the way you passed the one you love like a stranger

The first thing you said burned Ā 
But itā€™s not a bad thing to be certain, to be sureĀ 
We can still have the same happy endingĀ 

We are going on the road to the right place
You said it is the only thing that you needĀ 

Tomorrow is the first time I get to see what I haveĀ 
You have seen it the whole timeĀ 

Abarat by Clive Barker

Abarat is a very nostalgic book for me. It was published near 20 years ago and I remember reading it as a kid. The first edition I had at the time was filled with full-color illustrations done by the author himself. These works of art really brought the Abarat to life, and I’d recommend finding a first edition if possible, or searching for the art online.

See the source image
Clive Barker’s illustration of the main character, Candy Quackenbush

So, you might be able to tell from the main character’s name that this is technically a children’s book. In my opinion though, if you let that stop you from picking this one up, you’re missing out on a vibrant fantasy world. This story follows a bored, young girl as she is swept away from her home of Chickentown into the fantasy world of the Abarat. In this world, time doesn’t function how it does in our world. There are 25 islands, each accounting for one hour of the day – plus one mysterious island outside time. Not only are there strange creatures living here, one in particular is hunting Candy: Christopher Carrion of the Midnight Isle.

The Good

This book is so vibrant. I fall in love with the characters, the setting, and the story every time I read it. It’s one of those that you just can’t put down, and you feel like you truly know the characters. The setting is fantastic, and the author really brings it to life, especially with the inhabitants of the islands. There’s even tourism in the Abarat, which I think is such a cool detail for world-building.

I also enjoy that you can see the characters learning and changing as the story goes on, as opposed to being flat. There’s nothing worse than someone that never learns from their mistakes – I see this a lot in early 2000’s TV shows, and it really disrupts a good show binge for me.

The Bad

I really have to stretch to find something to dislike about this book for me. The only thing I can imagine is that there is death and danger and a creepy kind of stalking “love”, which some parents may find unsuitable for their kids. For me, even when I read it as a kid, it wasn’t off-putting. Then again, I was raised on graphic horror movies, so this was truly tame for me.

This book is also the first in a series. It’s intended to be five books, but only three have been published so far, with the last one released in 2011. So I guess one of the major “bads” about this is that I want more but can’t get it yet!

The Verdict

Abarat is one I will read again and again. Period. 5/5.

Night Walk

The sun dipped below the horizon. Broad brushstrokes of red and purple soaked the sky and the flowing water of the bayou. Night creatures were stirring in the half-light. They croaked and chirped to each other. It was time to hunt.

Grass shushed underfoot. Brio trotted beside his human, paws almost soundless. His tags jingled together in time with his gait. A glob of slobber flicked from his jowls to Aria’s leg.

“Buddy, that’s gross,” she said, swiping it away in disgust.

He snuffled at something on the ground and ignored her completely.

She rolled her eyes, then peered ahead. A bridge spanned the flow of water. The banks of the bayou sloped sharply downward in a roll of greenery and rocks and…

What is that?

A silhouetted figure stood in the water beneath the bridge. Lank hair framed its face and sank into the water. Yellow eyes shone glared at the trespassers.

Aria fumbled at her waist for the little flashlight she always carried during night walks. She couldn’t look away from the thing under the bridge. Wouldn’t.

The flashlight clicked on, and Aria pointed the beam of light under the bridge like a weapon.

The creature was gone, but water still rippled with its presence.

“What’s that, Brio?”

His head popped up at the cue, looking around for danger. A small wuff escaped his throat. His ears pricked forward.

A low growl started in his chest and radiated up the length of his leash.

He stared at the space under the bridge.

“Time to go,” Aria whispered. They broke into a jog. Brio didn’t look away from the space under the bridge, but kept pace easily with his charge.

The circle of light bobbed in front of them. A chill slid over her bare arms, raising goosebumps. They’d reached the road, and the bridge.

Do I go back along the bayou in the dark or book it across the bridge and get into the neighborhood?

Across the bridge, Christmas lights twinkled. A couple pushed a stroller, talking animatedly to each other. The child in the stroller babbled and pointed to a black cat streaking across the street.

Brio craned his neck, trying to see the creature. He looked up at his human. Ready.

“Let’s go,” Aria commanded. They sprinted over the bridge. When they reached the middle, an icy wetness scrabbled against the back of her neck, and she pushed herself harder. A stench like hot sewage choked her. The creature was close. She kept going.

Finally, they reached the end of the bridge. Brio craned his neck to look behind them, and his lips pulled back in a snarl. Aria followed his gaze.

The creature’s yellow eyes bored into hers. Mottled flesh pulled back from broken teeth in a snarl. Sludge dripped from its lips. Dripping, black hair hung from its scalp, surrounding Aria’s face like a curtain.

“Remember me-e-e-e?” the creature asked.

“Not real, not real, not real,” Aria said under her breath, squeezing her eyes shut. When she opened them again, the creature was gone.

Brio looked up at his human as he tried to herd her deeper into the neighborhood. They both knew the truth.

The evil wasn’t gone. Just hiding.

It would be back.

So… I (finally) started a podcast

If you follow any of my social media platforms, you already know the big news: I started a podcast! This is something I’ve been going back and forth on for…okay, too long for me to actually publicly admit šŸ˜… I’ve always been someone who loathes the sound of their own voice, plus, I’m really introverted. But then again, maybe my introversion is what would make me a good solo podcaster? Not saying I have practice talking to myself, but….

The podcast is called “You’re So Quiet,” and it’s a podcast by an introvert, for introverts. If you’re anything like me, you’ve gotten the “you’re so quiet” comment. (Let’s not forget the time I said “thanks!” to that…..) On YSQ, I’m not going to pretend to be anything but my socially awkward self and I’m inviting you all to come along for the ride! I mean, not like, together. More like…take our own transportation. But be together in spirit. From a distance.

It feels like there’s a lot of pressure to portray yourself as the ideal. Sometimes, this means showing only your highlight reel. This lessens the ability of people to just be themselves, no matter if their true self is on a completely different chart than the societal ideal. So, with this podcast, I’m aiming to inspire people to embrace who they really are, without the filter.

I’ll be dropping new episodes every other Tuesday, at least while I ramp up! I’m so excited to keep sharing with you. So let me know what you want to hear about, and I’ll catch you in a couple weeks. šŸ„°

In the meantime, you can listen to the podcast here. Donā€™t forget to rate, review, and subscribe!

The Creature in the Mirror

I’m always watching.

I watch the way you paint your face each morning, only to scrub it off each night. Why do you do that? Do you feel safer with your paint on? You’re never safe from me.

I’m the shadow at the corner of your eye in the middle of the night. I see you avoiding the mirror when its dark. You can’t avoid me forever.

I’m the prickly feeling at the back of your neck when you wake up at three in the morning on the dot. I can see you from my mirror in the bathroom. You should really keep your door closed.

Will you ever learn? Will you cover your mirrors like your grandmother did when she lived with you? You thought she was crazy, but she was the sanest person in this house. You shouldn’t have taken the sheets off the mirrors.

When will you join your grandmother and I in the mirror? She says she misses you.

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

Christopher Paolini is best known for his Inheritance Cycle, a fantasy four-part series beginning with Eragon. I don’t know about you, but Eragon was a teenage favorite of mine. It had the right mix of suspense, angst, and, of course, dragons. When I saw TSIASOS was released, I had to pick it up. Here’s a synopsis from Amazon:

Kira NavƔrez dreamed of life on new worlds.

Now she’s awakened a nightmare.

During a routine survey mission on an uncolonized planet, Kira finds an alien relic. At first she’s delighted, but elation turns to terror when the ancient dust around her begins to move.

As war erupts among the stars, Kira is launched into a galaxy-spanning odyssey of discovery and transformation. First contact isn’t at all what she imagined, and events push her to the very limits of what it means to be human.

While Kira faces her own horrors, Earth and its colonies stand upon the brink of annihilation. Now, Kira might be humanity’s greatest and final hope . . .

As a note, TSIASOS is hard sci-fi. Technology, space travel, aliens, the works. If you’re not into that, this may not be the book for you. It’s also an epic, coming in at nearly 900 pages including the appendices.

We have to give props for a stunning cover!

The Good

The characters in this story were very full, and I found myself really rooting for the main character, Kira. I liked that she wasn’t this perfect individual that would save the world or whatever. She was flawed. Stubborn, a little naive, and just plain difficult at times. This, to me, made her an excellent, relatable protagonist.

The world-building in this book is also truly amazing. The story takes place sometime in the distant future on a distant planet. The tech has (obviously) advanced far beyond what we have on Earth today. Paolini does well in describing this tech to me without it feeling like he’s just dumping info. The knowledge comes in an organic way, which I really appreciate. I also enjoy that this tech has limits and drawbacks. For example, humans can be placed in cryostasis, but it can have negative effects on their health. Ships can travel at the speed of light, but can overheat. These little details made the world feel very real, as opposed to fictional.

The Bad

In truth, it took me 300 pages before I really got into this book. After I got into it, I read the last 600 pages over 2 days. The first 300 pages, for context, took several weeks to get through. Many times, I felt like putting it down. It was my knowledge of the Inheritance Cycle and its payoff that kept me going. In my opinion, the plot didn’t really move much in the first third of the book after Kira finds the relic, and the stakes were quite low in the beginning (or at least that’s how I perceived them).

There were some romance elements in the book that just felt unnecessary, and I didn’t feel that they added anything to the characters or the plot. Maybe if they were fleshed out further and impacted the story beyond a chapter or two, they would work for me.

I was also slightly dissatisfied with the ending. After the climax, there was a second reveal — I’ll keep it secret, don’t worry! However, this second reveal felt like a tacked on ending to open up the possibility of a sequel. Personally, I don’t think every book has to be a part of a series.

The Verdict

I’ll give this one a 3/5. I don’t think I’ll be picking it up again soon, but I really enjoyed the last 2/3 of the book.

Let’s Talk About Rejection

I’m deep in the querying trenches for my first full-length novel. It took a year to write and a year to edit. Will it take a year to be picked up by an agent? Maybe. But that’s okay. Let’s talk about why.

Writing, like any art form, is highly subjective. What one person loves, another person might hate. Same for books. For example, one of my least favorite books of all time is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. I’ve had to read it at least three times for different classes in college and high school, and not one of those read-throughs has inspired any kind of love from me. As much as I dislike that book, I’m certain that it’s someone’s favorite. They have Scarlet Letter merch, dress up as a character for Halloween, re-read the book every year, the whole shebang. It’s just not for me.

This subjectivity means finding the right agent to be excited about your project might take some time. This whole querying experience is about just that: finding the right agent. Getting accepted by an agent doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the right agent for me or my project. Getting rejected by an agent doesn’t mean your piece is bad. It’s all just part of being a writer.

Something I see a lot of is people getting discouraged after being rejected, specifically because they feel like they’re not an author if they aren’t published. Here’s the definition of an author:

So, have you written something? Congratulations, you’re an author!

My rejections remind me of a favorite Sylvia Plath quote:

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I firmly believe that everything happens when it’s supposed to. I also believe the act of trying is very important. Failure is inevitable. We all fail at some things. Does that mean we should quit? Put down the pen and decide writing isn’t for us? Absolutely not. It’s hard, and it can be very discouraging to see yet another rejection email. But, to quote Walt Whitman, “Keep your face always toward the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.”

If you’re in the same hell – I mean place – that I am: keep trying, keep looking toward the sun, and never give up.

A Beginning and an End

It’s the first day of 2021! Is anyone else still stuck in March 2020?? No? Just me, then…

While it’s easy to look back on 2020 and think, “Oh my god, this year sucked,” (and let’s face it: this isn’t one we’ll look back on wistfully) it’s really important – for me at least – to take stock of what I learned this year.

  1. Time is valuable. For me, this was the number one lesson of this year. Time will continue to pass no matter what you decide to do with it. And, as we’ve all seen, your time and your abilities can be cut short at any moment. Whether it was by quarantine, illness, or a death, we have been hit with a reminder that absolutely nothing is guaranteed.
  2. Be in charge of your own happiness. For most of us this year, we were cut off from many usual sources of entertainment: travel, movies, concerts, hanging out with friends, even going out to eat. This meant we all had to get a little creative, or try new things. I personally found that I am really and truly an introvert. While I missed my tennis matches, Bachelorette nights, and writing group, I also enjoyed the time I was able to spend hanging out at home and learning new things. I learned how to garden, tried my hand at video game programming (learning still in progress), and found a new appreciation for at-home solo exercise (shout out to the Nike Run and Nike Train Club apps… you the real MVPs). I finished the manuscript for my sci-fi book and will be sending it out to agents this month (Eep!). The thing is, everything outside our own little worlds can change in an instant. This year was yet another reminder to me that I can choose to be happy and thrive no matter the circumstances.
  3. Technology is truly amazing. Maybe this goes without saying. Of course it’s amazing. But I know I take technology for granted. It’s not something I give conscious thought to, even though it’s in every single aspect of our lives, from our coffee makers to our smart phones to our jobs. It makes everything so convenient. This year, though, it became imperative. I meet with my writing group every Thursday via Zoom so we can critique each other’s work and provide new ideas. Without technology, we would have…sent each other letters? Tried to meet in a park in the Texas heat? More likely, we simply wouldn’t have met at all. How many people would have been cut off from the world entirely without technology? Social media can be toxic, but this year it became a lifeline.

Now for the resolutions. I’ve never really been much of a New Year’s Resolution type of person. You can choose to make a change any day of the year; no need to wait for January 1. However, moving into 2021, I think it’s important not to forget everything we learned in 2020. I’ll keep it short and sweet:

Keep learning. Choose happiness. Tell your people you love them.

What are your resolutions for this year?