Classic Horror and True Romance

poorthingsA Book Review of Poor Things, by Daniel Barnett

Find it on Amazon HERE.

Anyone who has read my reviews for a while knows that I’m a huge Daniel Barnett fan. I was thrilled to hear that his latest book, Poor Things, might fall into the YA spectrum. Barnett’s writing is pure poetry, and this one is his goriest, grittiest yet. I’d say it rests rather precariously on the young adult line, and it would certainly appeal to adult horrorphiles, because this author never pulls any punches and his hits can be brutal. Poor Things is bloody and frightening, with language not meant for virgin ears. Parents, if you think your little miracle isn’t ready for something along the lines of Stephen King’s scariest tales, this isn’t their book.

For more mature teens: dive in. Poor Things is also beautiful and touching, a poignant coming of age story.

Main character Joel has it coming from the first pages, as the bullying, arrogantly jocular older brother to a wimpy, pimply, book-reading nerd. You’ll know immediately if you can’t handle Poor Things, because Joel loses everything (including that little brother) in a violent car crash before you can even blink. The change in him is swift and soul deep, and we experience this story through his new life as a crippled nobody in a tiny mining town.

This life changing event, this one tragic moment, serves to destroy and create. It’s a common theme with Barnett—tear it all down, build it all back up—and something worth pondering for any young reader, especially in those days before the brain has developed enough to understand consequences. Physically incapacitated by his broken body, Joel’s mind speeds ahead: “Adolescence is an earthquake, one that feels like it will never end while you’re living it, and eventually there comes a choice. You can crawl under your desk and hide, or you can stand up on top of that shaking desk and dance.”

He isn’t the only character I fell in love with, not by far. The heavy metal loving tomboy with a white-blonde buzzcut, Ash, is one of the strongest female supporting characters I’ve met in a long time. She’s cool, she’s smart, she’s tough, and she’s best friends with the biggest dork outcast in school. Ash is all soft underneath, and yes, though Joel is paralyzed from the waist down, there is the possibility of romance. It’s hard to say who is the hero of Poor Things, because throughout most of the book, Ash saves Joel’s derriere again and again. Without her, he could never have…sniff…well, you’ll cry at the end, too.

The town of Honaw itself has enough personality to be thought of as another character–an odd and mildly disturbing one from the beginning. Or, rather, the thing which lies beneath Honaw engineers that creep factor. Okay, that’s it! I can’t say any more or I’ll give it away. Yet, bells and whistles aside, this is a classic monster tale. No monster I’ve ever imagined, however. Only Daniel Barnett could imagine such a strange, sad, dangerous beast from the depths of time, and only this guy could make me love that thing by the end.

This review was written for YA Books Central. Check it out HERE to find out more about the book and the author.

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I Vowed I Would Never Make Hippie Dippy Jewelry, But…

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I do now.

With spiritual stones and crystals, no less! Above, you see CarnelianTiger’s Eye, and Jade–all of them used for their healing properties.

How did this happen? It’s not like I don’t already have enough creative projects running simultaneously to ensure I never finish them. Maybe that’s the point: keep creating regardless of the end game.

But, why jewelry?

It all has to do with two recovering addicts, a homeless friend, and a happy little boy. And, BANG! Jewelry making has become one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in a long time.

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About a month ago, I decided to work on balancing my chakras with Kundalini Yoga & Meditation. The fire wasn’t lit with, but was definitely stoked by, a book I found in my favorite hippie dippy shop in Orlando, Spiral Circle. By the way, if you’re interested in exploring this, I highly recommend starting with The 8 Human Talents, by Gurmukh.

My nature compels me to seek out every bit of information on a subject, no matter how seemingly insignificant. So, instead of simply working with the one book, each chapter devoted to yogic technique on enlivening each chakra, I went all out.

What is the special mudra (hand gesture) for muladhara (1st, or root, chakra)?

What pranayama (breath) do I use to focus during meditation?

What animal totem can I visualize for swadhisthana (2nd, or sacral, chakra)?

What incense to burn?

What tea to drink?

What sounds to listen to? (Turns out there are recordings of Tibetan singing bowls for each chakra, that you can buy on iTunes!)

And, of course, what crystals or stones are associated with each chakra? Because every piece of info I found led to another, as it often does in the information age, and I kept seeing references to crystals and stones.

Enter, two recovering addicts.

About a year ago, my best friend Sally (who I believe to be definitely recovered, but I guess that’s a thing: you’re always in recovery) was the lucky recipient of another person’s relinquished addiction. This lady was addicted to collecting gem stones, and I suppose the gem stones themselves. I don’t know if it was a hoarding thing, and then the power of the stones also took over? All I know is my friend now has a buttload of crystals and gems and stones–boxes and boxes and boxes of them.

Sally doesn’t necessarily consider that a good thing, and she surrenders them freely to anyone. She had even learned to make jewelry with them, to sell on eBay and such.

I didn’t really need them and I don’t wear jewelry much, though I thought they were lovely. Until the chakra balancing began…

Enter, a homeless friend.

Jeez, I’m not going into that here–that’s far beyond the scope of my humble post. Suffice it to say, homeless friends can complicate situations, and Sally and I…lost touch for a snippet of time.

But, I was knee-deep in my chakra balancing and I needed to put those stones on my body somehow! Thankfully, I had already procured the stones, yet I had no idea how to make jewelry, especially hippie dippy jewelry! Jewelry making was never in the plans.

Plans change, my friends. Float along or drown in the deluge.

And, as my favorite horoscope caster says of the Ares (me):

“Ares, the visionary, the optimistic heart, the one who believes a skill they don’t have is just something they haven’t learned yet.” —Gala Mukomolova, Galactic Rabbit

I drove to Michael’s, I bought some tools and wires and hooks, and I learned to make jewelry. Probably badly, but it’s really fun to see something beautiful completed so quickly. Most of my art takes months, if not years, to complete.

Enter, a happy little boy.

Well, at first he was very unhappy, and this is the strangest thing yet about chakra balancing with Kundalini Yoga & Meditation. My son and I are so close that he seems to be picking up on it, on the soul level.

I’ve been spending 7 days on each chakra, meditating and doing yoga every morning before Liam wakes up. Last week, I was working on my solar plexus chakra, the human talent of which is commitment and purpose. The shadow emotion (what you feel when you have problems with this chakra) is anger. My son had a couple very angry episodes, which were quite out of character, before I figured it out.

Yesterday was the first day that I worked with the heart chakra.

I’ll admit it, that first morning was rough and it continues to be. In the beginning, for me anyway, there seems to be a serious healing-from-old-wounds thing happening. Right before Liam woke up, and I was pondering my morning meditation (and all the angst and loves lost from years and years of dating), I looked at the Rose Quartz necklace I had made.

I am just not comfortable wearing a pink crystal necklace.

I don’t know why. I have a huge, gorgeous chunk of Rose Quartz that I keep on my woo woo altar for the morning soul purge, when I meditate. My psychic tells me it will be ugly and gray by the time I’m done with it. Works like a charm and I love it.

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A pink necklace just isn’t my style, though, so I chose one of the other stones that are supposed to be good for the heart chakra: Jade. About that time, my son woke up, sleepily surfed around for a minute on his iPad, and found a slice of what sounded to his ears like a sad love song: Clarity, by Zedd.

He started bawling.

This child knows nothing about complicated love stories. But his mom does.

In short, I let him wear the pink necklace. Rose Quartz is supposed to carry a “soft feminine energy of compassion and peace, tenderness and healing, nourishment and comfort.” Perfect for my sweet son at that moment.

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I’m so glad I opened my mind to jewelry making!

He wore it all day…and made me listen to that song all day, to which I privately, inwardly wept. Maybe I’ll wear the pink crystal myself next time. Better make another one.

Beauty and Hope Delivered by Disaster and Monsters

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A Book Review of The Threat Below, by Jason Latshaw

Find it on Amazon HERE.

Mountaintop. Humanity’s last stand, after near obliteration from the Threat Below, by which Jason Latshaw’s epic book is titled. The humbled hundred or so inhabitants of Mountaintop, called the Kith, rely on legend mixed with history of the Apriori, their ancestors who once ruled the earth. The Kith are walled into their home in the sky by fear and the persistent Cloudline that obscures vision of Down Below. Their world is meager and desperate, their society stratified and rigid. In the first few pages, a hard line is drawn between main character Icelyn, the prissy, intelligent Cognate daughter of the Kith’s leader, and Adorane, her Veritas best friend and possible brave, brawny love interest. Segregation and prejudice are accepted here as the way for a fragile existence to survive.

Not thrive. Imagine the peak of a mountain at the top of the world, after civilization has fled a deadly, mysterious plague and the planet has probably been flooded by rising oceans. The air is thin. Scrubby trees are more like bushes. Acorn cakes are a staple. Later in the book, Icelyn finds a comb Down Below and she marvels at it. Has she never brushed her hair? You’ll be amazed when you find out what ultrabears and ultralions are. Yes, Mountaintop is the kind of place that, should humanity survive, what’s the point? It’s clear this place is only half of the story. Almost immediately, Icelyn and Adorane wander beyond a rotting, three-hundred-year-old barrier between the apparent safety of Mountaintop and the rumored certain death of Down Below, and there is no doubt about where our heroine and her beau will end up.

But Latshaw keeps his readers guessing right along with the sheltered, pampered Icelyn. The mystery is compelling, even darn right frightening, and each revelation along the way is worth it, not rushed or predictable. In fact, every time I thought I’d figured it out—what the Threatbelows are, or how humanity met its fate, or even who Icelyn herself is—I was surprised by Latshaw’s imagination. He speaks through his vivid characters, some that I adored and others I’d like to choke, and the action happens in their choices, dialogue, and thoughts. Whether the cowardly Kith leader is squirming, the devoted and fearless Eveshone is rescuing Icelyn again, or the constantly shifting morals of Torrain are playing out, this world is revealed by those living in it.

My favorite part, however, is that Latshaw isn’t afraid to delve deeper than his own story. Though fantastical and unique, his world bears enough resemblance to ours to stoke fear and tickle conscience. Gun violence in Mountaintop mirrors the debate over our right to bear arms, especially when these fictitious leaders are using guns to proliferate fear and violence as a means to control the population. One of them has found an ancient text and quotes Jenny Holzer, “Fear is the most elegant weapon. Your hands are never messy. Threatening bodily harm is crude. Work instead on minds & beliefs, play insecurities like a piano.” Latshaw is good at turning a phrase to grab attention, and we find essential truths in gentle statements as well: “So much of life is lived looking away from each other, afraid to face a person as they really are, deflecting feelings and ignoring vital moments.” Or, not so gentle: “They live in a world of magic, but take it all as a matter of course. They didn’t realize it, but they were Gods.” This last is spoken of the extinct Apriori, when Icelyn sees their cellphones and flat screens in a memory. Gods who invented their own demise? Nervous laugher from the crowd…

The Threat Below would be equally enjoyed by both genders, with a strong, admirable heroine (feminine and regal, with very little whining) and plenty of action and violence (gruesome, though not gratuitous). Latshaw’s writing is top-notch, and teens ready to move onto more adult literature should be able to handle the language and the length of this book. Adults will love it just as much, because there are many layers of understanding in The Threat Below, sort of like a Disney movie that is fun for kids but only truly understood by their parents. Not that this book is an easy fairytale read, and don’t be looking for a sweet ending tied up in a pretty package. The journey is worth it, though, and you’ll love every step. Latshaw delivers beauty and hope in a way you’d never expect.

This review was written for YA Books Central. Check it out HERE to find out more about the book and the author.

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Calling For Book Review Submissions!

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To all my author friends and anyone who loves YA fiction, I am happy to announce my new position as a Staff Reviewer at YA Books Central!

This is a wonderful opportunity for indie authors to have their books reviewed right alongside traditionally published authors. We’re excited to bring some much deserved recognition to the indie scene.

So, send your work in, pronto! Here’s the skinny:

YA Books Central indie review requests are now open. Please send ONE pitch letter per book to indies@yabookscentral.com for consideration. A pitch letter should include the book’s title, genre, publisher (if any), link to Amazon listing (if available), release date, synopsis, and contact person’s name and email. If we think our staff reviewers would enjoy your book, we’ll contact you with instructions. Most of the time we will request ebook ARCs, but occasionally we will request print copies to be included in our monthly book haul video, which goes out to our readers and all of our staff reviewers.

Please note that not all requested books are reviewed, and some books might be reviewed several months after we’ve requested a review copy. Please do not send more than one pitch email per book. You will not receive a reply unless your book is requested.
While you wait, we encourage you to add your Indie book to our database here http://www.yabookscentral.com/add-books there is a $3.99 charge to add a book (even the publishers pay to list books with the site so that’s not just for indies).

An Author Spotlight on Hayley Barrett

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When thirteen-year-old Emily Jane MacFarlane is woken by her mother’s screams, she is certain someone has discovered her family’s secret – that they are Drifters, a race of people whose ancestors were genetically modified causing their blood to become a cure-all Elixir for the people of the City.

Her first thought is to save her Ma. When that becomes impossible, she promises to keep her little sister safe.

But her attempts expose her family’s secret to her entire village and Emily Jane is torn away from her sister. She is taken to Area D – the City prison where Drifters have their blood forcefully extracted again and again – where she is set to spend the rest of her life.

But Emily Jane can’t forget her baby sister, and although no one has ever escaped from Area D, she is determined to get out of there and fulfil the promises she made – even if it takes the rest of her life.

–excerpted from Hayley Barrett’s In The Cool Light of Dawn

Whoa! Now this I need to read. But, it’s Barrett’s brand new novella and a sequel, so I have to read book one first, right? She says absolutely not.

“In the Cool Light of Dawn takes place before Into Darkness with a different POV character.  It can be read at any time – you don’t need to have read Into Darkness to follow this book.  Emily Jane is a minor character in Into Darkness (she takes on a bigger role in the next book in the series), but I found that she had quite a back story.”

So the books are related, but not written in chronological order–this is a juicy extra in between the series of full-length books. I love that! When authors delve deeper into the history and landscape of their own invented worlds, you can be assured of a great read, with layers and layers of a rich story. Barrett tells me that there is a whole extra story between where this one ends and where Emily Jane first appears in Into Darkness but she hasn’t written that one yet. This is promising, and I’m so glad I’ve discovered this author!Hayley 01June15

Hayley Barrett began writing in the aftermath of the devastating Christchurch (New Zealand) earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 as a way of escaping from the ongoing terror of the natural disaster. In 2012 she commenced a novel writing course with NZ Writers College. Into Darkness, her debut novel, is the result of the course and two years hard work.

Hayley lives in Rolleston, New Zealand, with her husband and three children. When she isn’t driving her kids to their sports practices, games and other after school activities, she enjoys playing squash, relaxing in the sun and reading. Most days she wishes there were more hours available to spend writing.

You can find In The Cool Light of Dawn HERE on Amazon. Join the Facebook Launch Party tonight to celebrate it’s release!

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A Character Study with L.J. Higgins

coversL.J. Higgins’ dystopian trilogy takes place in a future world devoid of dreams…mostly. The MultiMind Corporation had released a Wristcuff to be worn over a microchip implanted beneath its host’s skin. Dreams were no longer created by the subconscious. However, there were those for whom this technology failed to work on: the Dreamers.

In book one, we met Amelia. She was a Dreamer, and the veil of ignorance was lifted when she met someone who helped her see through the lies and secrets. With her world shaken and changed, Amelia had to decide whether to fight for truth and the freedom to dream or remain bound by a controlled and manipulative society.

 

sketch In the new release, Fall of the Dreamer, we meet Harper. She’s an old school hippy stuck in 2024 and runs a little head shop complete with boho lanterns and dreamcatchers.

There was Harper with her baggy boho pants and white singlet, her dreadlocks tied in a mass behind her. The walls were adorned with various mandala sheets, and there was a multi-coloured wall hanging of a man with dreadlocks. Harper said his name was Bob Marley. When I’d told her I was unsure who that was, she’d laughed and told me to ask my grandmother. A small table with a purple cloth laid over it sat in the center of a handmade rug woven of all shades of colours, and the smell of patchouli hung in the air.”

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I can’t wait to meet her! Fall of the Dreamer is out this month and Higgins is throwing a Facebook launch party to celebrate, along with four other YA authors. Come join us at the 5 Author Extravaganza! There will be Dystopia, Romance, Sci-Fi and more. Chat with the writers, play some games, and win some prizes.

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L J Higgins hails from Queensland, Australia, and her love of books motivated her to return to her dream of writing a novel. The result is inspiring, showing dreams can be achieved if you have self-belief. She hopes to instill in her children the wonderful world of imagination and dreams.

“I think that for me, both art and writing (which is an art in itself), allow me to use my vivid imagination and allow people to see things, and the world around me, the way I see them. I guess it is giving someone a glimpse of the world through my eyes. I’m often told I am quite quirky and come out with strange ideas, but when they read my books or see my paintings I think they understand that those ideas and beliefs are what makes me who I am,” says Higgins.

Connect with her on her website, https://ljhigginsbooks.wordpress.com, on Facebook, Instagram, and Goodreads. Find her books on Amazon HERE.