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Book Review: 49th Mystic & Rise of the Mystics

(Sidenote thought that has no bearing on the review whatsoever: I have so many questions about how the whole “49th” mystic number works. So many questions. And while we’re at it, I have absolutely no idea why the second book was called “Rise of the Mystics”, besides the fact that it’s a fantabulous intriguing title.)

But onto the reviews. I am thrilled to be part of the Rise of the Mystics launch team, but had to jump back and read/review the first book of the series too.

The 49th Mystic

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The 49th Mystic invites us into the world of the Circle once again. The nostalgia is strong with this one. But it’s not just for Circle fans. It’s a new story, a new character to love, beckoning a new generation of Dekkies I suppose. The story feels familiar and new, all at once. A blind girl who falls asleep and dreams of another world. And the fate of both worlds rests in her hands. See? Familiar, and new. Dekker pulls off a satisfying ending with resolution while also including a cliffhanger that leads into the sequel. Go figure. The good news is, you don’t have to wait. The sequel, Rise of the Mystics, is at your fingertips so you can scoop them both up at the same time.


Rise of the Mystics

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Rise of the Mystics starts more or less where we left The 49th Mystic. Oh, except the story is turned on its head. I won’t spoil it, but it starts in a fresh way, not just same old same old. The pace of this book moves a little slower than the first, but it’s still a satisfying read. More than that, Dekker is one of the few (only?) writers who can weave a sermon into story without being preachy. A parable. A riveting story that makes you think, question your beliefs. And Rise of the Mystics builds to a great ending, a wonderful conclusion to the Circle world (although it’s not the end of Circle stories) that every Circle reader needs in their life. Snag this book for that alone, to end the journey with the promise fulfilled!


And a caveat to the whole Circle series I don’t know how to introduce…

One caveat I’ll give, something that disturbed me this time around about the Circle world that I wish I’d noticed years before: The representation of the horde and the albino seems racially insensitive, with traditionally black descriptors (for example, dreadlocks) assigned to the stinky diseased horde and typically white descriptors (like the name “albinos”) for those who have been cleansed. The story includes a brief phrase that clarifies the albinos are called that for the smoothness of their skin, not the color, but that felt a little forced when albino has always been about color not smoothness. I wrestled with this a long time, because I like to give honest positive reviews and I appreciate Dekker’s work. I’m mentioning it because it seems insensitive to me, and I’m surprised that no one else has raised this concern (although TV tropes lists the series under “Fantastic Racism”).


psychological thriller book review "In a Dark Dark Wood"
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Book Review: In a Dark Dark Wood

Leave it to me to bring this book on my vacation in a cottage in the middle of nowhere… (is there any other way???)
And leave it to me to pinpoint the psychopath right away. So I knew the murderer pretty quick, but I was still entranced by the story, wondering how it all went down and wanting to shake the other characters into seeing what’s happening right in front of their eyes.
If you want a book that keeps you guessing as to who kills and who gets killed, a book with a psychopath’s calculated plan, with clues piling up like a map for the reader, with a theater backdrop… this is that book. Oh, and also, my book is that too! This reminded me of I Know You Like a Murder in a number of ways. It’s like my book, but in grip lit or psychological suspense genre. It had characters like Cami’s BFF, Shy Boy (or in this case girl), Makeup Artist, and of course Cami herself. Read both stories and tell me if you see the resemblance.
If you need a gripping read while you wait for my book release, this can take a day or two of your time. But no longer than that, because you won’t be able to set it down for work, sleep, or social obligations. So grab a chai and settle in. It’s gonna be a long night.
short horror story greeting card by Ksenia Anske
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Why I wanna be like Ksenia Anske when I writerly grow up

Although, let’s be real: Ksenia and I don’t plan on actually growing up in our writerly lives. It’s more like staying daydreaming children forever, but then pretending to be grown-up long enough to do the business stuff.

I don’t remember how I discovered Ksenia. But I do remember what stuck in my mind about her:

  • She said, “Reader, you are my publisher. Share my books.”
  • She gave away her books for free, as in all of her older drafts of her story were publicly available to read (maybe still are) and you can even still download her stories for free.

Why did that grab my attention? She saw the value of her readers. That readers are what make or break a story. That’s what I want my philosophy to stay forever.

And she has a mindset of abundance, not scarcity. Those are artistic buzzwords right now, but they ring true. Artists can tend to want to hoard their ideas, their best work for themselves, as if there’s a finite capacity. But we need a mindset of abundance, that we can throw it all out there and celebrate others successes too, because creativity is infinite.

Why else do I want to be like Ksenia Anske “when I grow up”?

  • Curly haired people goals!
  • Quirky personality
  • You are getting to know the person through every online engagement.
  • She is authentic – what she’s learning, what she’s done wrong, it’s all out there. You’re following the journey, the person, not just book sales promos.
  • She’s always learning and sharing what she learns. I’m sure paying attention.
  • She’s not afraid to work out of the box, experiment.
  • It all comes back to her READERS! They support her because she supports them. She listens to their feedback and engages with them.
  • Need proof? Anyone who read her last email newsletter, she requested their address and she sent them a card with a personalized short story.
the story Ksenia sent me
  • Note the above bullet point also goes back to the concept of abundance rather than scarcity. She didn’t freak that she wouldn’t have enough stories in her for each person or that she wouldn’t be able to send cards to her readers because of the expense. She just said she’d do it, then she did it.
  • okay, I’m losing track of what these bullet points are for and when to use bullet points and when to not….
  • Switch gears!

I’ve read two books of hers:

  1. Rosehead. Magical realism at its finest. If you want a quirky read about a girl and her talking dog and a carnivorous garden, this is it! Everyone’s been looking for a book about a carnivorous garden, right? 🙂


  2. Blue Sparrow. A collection of tweets on writing, reading, and the creative life. Motivational, inspirational, even instructional (mostly “KEEP WRITING!”). My favorite detail would be that it’s 140 pages long, with 140 tweets. Like an inside joke for us Twitter users 🙂 And to whet your appetite, check out a couple of the tweets:


So now you know what I’m working towards. Quirky writing. Lovable hair. Personable interaction. Perspective of abundance. And reader centered. Check out Ksenia’s work for yourself….you won’t regret it!

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Book Review: Rabbit Legacy by Ellen Maze

If you weren’t quite convinced by my book review of “Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider“, I hope this blogpost will confirm that this series is worth the investment. The mythos of Ellen’s vampire world is crazy elaborate and believable, and you just want to jump right in (except, not literally. That might be a little too much.) Ellen Maze was kind enough to send me the 2nd book of the series, “Rabbit Legacy” and I am so psyched about this story now. I’ve already told Ellen she needs to hurry with the final installment so she is ON IT!

 Rabbit Legacy

What “Rabbit Legacy” is About

The crazy Christian vampire saga continues. The aftermath of wraiths turning to the Lord and transforming into humans. It’s not exactly a piece of cake to lose all that power and trust in God. And then there’s the remaining wraiths that denied God’s call, plus Isaac The Last and the demon Ta’avah, all ready to wreak havoc on these new believers.

Rakum have less power with the dispersement of their government – they actually are concerned about jail and fatal wounds and, ya know, the human law – perhaps not enough, but that’s beside the point. I thought Damien was crazy in the beginning for him to call 911 against a couple Rakum, but hey, it works now. That doesn’t mean that all Rakum behave though, and they still have powers that humans can’t fight against.

I’m still crazy stoked about the mythology behind this story: Rakum being wraiths that can “become” our idea of vampires or our idea of zombie, depending on what rules they live by. The Cows have been released, but remain obsessed as ever to find/serve the remaining Rakum. The Rabbits are still technically huntable, though less act on it, due to the Last Assembly and all. Still makes it very inconvenient for the Rabbits in the story though. And Beth Rider is a mom, who ya know, was hoping to live her white-picket-fence life in peace now that she’d completed her mission of bringing the Gospel to these creatures…so much for that.

Why You Should Read “Rabbit Legacy”

You may recall from my blogpost on the first book that the personality of the protagonist Beth Rider drove me a lil crazy sometimes and I wanted to whack her upside the head lovingly correct her for the arrogant hypocrisy misconceptions. I was totally cool with it in this book though. This book is written from so many points of view, there’s not really a main character. We hear from good and bad, old and new characters alike. And they all have their completely believable flaws and perceptions of others. Sometimes I wanna smack the characters upside the head and sometimes I want to give them a big hug. (Javie!!! *tearface*) I just wanted to scream all the answers to each and every one, but goshdangit, I’m not in the book to do that (and if I was….yikes! *shudder*)

I’m still sorting out my thoughts on this book, but let me just say it’s all good. It’s a risky call to switch point-of-view characters every chapter, which usually distances a reader from the characters, but this time the risk paid off and I loved it even more and grew close to each character, plus I was more okay with Beth Rider’s personality since I saw that wasn’t the narrator’s point-of-view.

And once again, Ellen gave the best book ending, which includes both a sigh of relief and a “Wait, but what’s next?! There’s still heaps of big danger right THERE!!!!” *frantically pointing every which way* And here’s why I’m sitting here twiddling my thumbs, wanting to leap into the story world and figure out what’s going on.

(Conspiracy theory: What if Beth Rider is REAL just like her books are real, and the last  book isn’t out  yet cause gulp Isaac and Ta’avah are still declaring war on this real-world earth and poor Javie and Canaan are still in danger and gulp gulp, I can’t even. Hurry up, Ellen!)

for the Bookworms, for the Writers, Showcasing other Creatives

Book Review: The World Split Open

Great Authors on How and Why We Write

This is a collection of speeches (in written form) on how and why we write. I have to admit some of the transcript seemed odd to have been spoken – it made me wonder if it was altered for text or if the person who spoke it planned in out on paper without thinking of how it’d come across orally. Then there were other parts that seemed more spoken than written. It was an interesting balance.

World Split Open

The speeches were given anywhere between 1988 to 2012. Some seemed outdated, but not in a way that made it less interesting, just in a way that made me wish there was a continuation of what this means now. For instance, “No, but I saw the Movie.” First given in 1999, much has changed, progressed in the book-to-movie world, and I wonder what new revelations there are.

Some speeches I loved, some I found more boring, and each was unexpected. So many great stories to be told in these pages. All of them made me think – of writing, of reading, and of humanity. Here’s some of my favorite quotes:

From “On Beauty” – My theory of narrative as a fundamental act of consciousness implies to me that paranoia might be entrapment in a bad narrative, and depression may be the inability to sustain narrative.

From “Childhood of a Writer”….(and you must read the story that led up to this quote!) – I believe nothing of any beauty or truth comes of a piece of writing without the author’s thinking he has sinned against something – propriety, custom, faith, privacy, tradition, political orthodoxy, historical fact, literary convention, or indeed, all the prevailing community standards together.

From “305 Marguerite Cartright Avenue” – And so my best friend, in her complaining, said to me, “Well, just kill the character already so we can hang out!” And I said, “What are you talking about?” And she said, “Well, in your writing somebody always has to die.” And I wasn’t quite sure how to take that – I was quite taken aback, actually – and then I thought about it for awhile, and I realized, you know, she is right.

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Book Review: The Young World by Chris Weitz

I am thrilled to have received an ARC of “The Young World” by Chris Weitz from a Goodreads giveaway.


A plague sweeps the world, taking adults and children, leaving only teenagers alive – with the guarantee that somewhere around their 18th birthday, they will die off as well. The world is ending. And how would teenagers run the world with the promise of imminent death? With violence, partying, power hunger, slavery, and factions.

But there is legend of “The Old Man,” a man who survived the mass-death. A brave few leave the safety of their turf to seek him out, hoping for a chance to survive and restart the world again.


I’m not sure what I think of this story. Well-told. Not just another YA post-apocalyptic dystopian. Original in the voice as well as the ending. Love the snarky teenagers and the world they’d created. I enjoyed the story as a whole, so I think it’s worth the read. And the second in the series will be on my Ones to Watch list.


Without spoiling it (and I really really REALLY want to), the ending is what makes me uncertain. As in I’d have to read the second in the story to see if I’m okay with how the story ended. And I think I am, because I was basicly wondering about NOT INSERTING THE SPOILER HERE throughout the entire book. But I still need some good explanation to be okay with it.


What About You?

Have you read “The Young World”?

Is it a cliched repeat of all the other YA dystopians out there? Or original?

And how about that ending?!


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Book Review: The Furies by Natalie Haynes

I am so grateful to have received this book through FirstReads. I gave this three out of five stars – BUT I highly recommend it for the right person.

Who is the “Right” Person?

I favor plot-driven stories – the more complex the plot, the more twists and turns, the more I’m drawn to the story. This book is not that – if you’re expecting it to build to some climactic unexpected ending, that is not the case. This is a wonderfully written character-driven novel – you’ll have much of the plot figured out as you go and just be interested in how it happens and why it happens. For this reason, I did really enjoy this book. So if you enjoy slow builds and exploration of characters, Natalie Haynes does this so well that you can’t put the book down.


What It’s About

The Furies by Natalie Haynes is about a drama teacher in a “last-chance” school, and the consequences of discussing Greek tragedy. I know some reviewers weren’t big on the book because of believability – the teacher should have never got the job “just cause” she had connections. Sure, I agree. But that wasn’t a point of the story, and it didn’t detract from the story I don’t think.

I loved the integration of mythology in the classroom environment – the literary side of me loved seeing students intrigued and engaging in the story in some fashion. I also think that the youth were not stereotyped one way or another, but were each unique and complex with believable backstory that provided room for both empathy and frustration at their behavior – like most real-life situations I imagine.


One of my favorite quotes:

“Like most ostensibly bad children, as Robert had long maintained, they didn’t want to be bad. They were keen to learn how to relate better to each other, to their families and friends. They wanted to be happier and less angry. They didn’t enjoy the tantrums they nonetheless felt compelled to throw so frequently. They could usually understand that just as they didn’t like being shouted and screamed at, other people didn’t either. And if they couldn’t always make the extra step from recognising that fact to acting on it, that didn’t make them desperately unusual, for teenagers.”

I feel like that quote is both a great philosophy on youth who act out, as well as a great debate waiting to happen between those who have experience with the youth and those who like to think they know what they’re talking about. So much controversy, but a beautiful way of framing the problem at least.

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Book Review: Then and Always

I am so thrilled I received this book through the FirstReads program.


How do I simply sum up Then and Always by Dani Atkins? It’s about parallel universes and what-ifs and second chances and, more thematically, loss and hope and faith. Imagine waking up from an accident with perfect memory of a traumatic 5 years. Only everyone else has a completely different memory of the past 5 years, as if the instigating traumatic event had never occurred.

Dani had me hooked, and bawling, from the first chapter – but then again I’m a sucker for the best-friend-your-whole-life romance (team Jacob, team Gale, team Eponine – and now team Jimmy.) Some of the characters seemed cliche and I guessed the plot ending, yet this book still gave me a sleepless night as I ripped through the pages to the end of the story hoping against hope – and what I was hoping for I wasn’t even sure. Which reality did I want to be true? And what did I want the explanation for the other reality to be? I guess I can understand the Rachel’s struggle, myself not sure of what I wanted.

I give this story 4 stars, plus 1 star for the best-friend-romance. I know, that last one’s biased, but it’s my review. Loved it!

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Hateable Characters

I just finished reading A Map of the World. I have very mixed feelings about it. The plot didn’t seem to go anywhere. The ending was anti-climactic. Yet the theme was excellently portrayed without being in-your-face. And I was interested enough to finish the book.

The most confusing part for me though was the characterization. The protagonist Alice was so off-putting, along with just about all of the other characters.

Describing her husband as reeking of manure from farming, tromping into the house with manure-covered shoes, later even entering the hospital for a visit with manure-covered shoes. Just shower already! Take the boots off at the door.

Or her daughter Emma who is a total brat, and she realizes it but just gives up. I wanted to whack her upside the head and tell her how to raise her child. Don’t give her breakfast after she throws it! Or better yet, tell her to eat off the floor what she threw down there….oh wait, no there’s probably manure all over it now.

And also every time Alice goes into a long monologue (which is often, she doesn’t listen well), I can’t help but think of Mrs. Marcus in the movie It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, jabbering away about absolutely nothing – only Alice isn’t funny.

Then there’s the kid Robbie who is a terror later to a preposterous extent, but I can’t see how he was specifically a terror back when Alice smacks him. A kid just standing there refusing to answer a question is frustrating, but really, slapping him over that? But Alice goes on and on the first few chapters about what a horrendous kid he always is.

Yet I read the entire book.

And it gets me thinking. These characters aren’t heroic. They’re not your likeable character with a couple flaws to make it realistic. No, they’re actually realistic.

Sure there’s people in the world that are like likeable characters in stories. But most? Most people have something that will drive you crazy if you stay with them for 200 pages of their life story. Many people in the world will jabber on and on to where you just want to make them shut up (me included, sorry.) Many parents will have days where they give up on their kid behaving and just try to placate them to get through the day. Many people have moments where they want to slap someone over something small, just because it was the last straw – all the little daily nuisances piling up to an unbearable height.

I’m not sure I liked the story. I’m certain I didn’t like the characters, except maybe Lizzie or Claire, the 2-yr-olds. I was frustrated and angry at the characters, wanting to strangle them or yell or run away, for the entire book. But maybe this story had some worth, something that held me, because I had to admit that I probably encounter more people like this, and am more a person like this, than any of my favorite characters from other stories. I don’t know if that makes this story alright or not. Maybe that means the story is crap. I don’t know.


Your Turn:

Have you read any books with unlikeable characters you’re pretty sure you were supposed to root for? What do you think – is this more real-world portrayal, and do we want that in books? is this type of chracterization crap writing or genius writing?