12 Books—Month 9

It’s time for another Twitter friend book review and this time it’s Roselle Lim’s Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune.

I didn’t think twice about picking up this book. It has everything I love – a romance, a little bit of magic, a girl finding her place in the world. I wouldn’t think of missing it!

Natalie Tan's Book of Luck & Fortune

What I found when I opened the pages and dove in did not disappoint. In fact, it’s such a unique story that I almost don’t want to delve into the details and give anything away…

Suffice it to say the story follows a young woman who returns home to San Francisco’s Chinatown after many years away (and a not-so-happy parting with her agoraphobic mother). She returns because her mother has passed away, and she’s plagued with sorrow and guilt at having left her mother on bad terms. She finds her community in disrepair and longs to help in a way she couldn’t have before she’d left. According to a mystic, the neighborhood will prosper if she makes three recipes to help three neighbors.

Because Natalie Tan’s recipes come from her grandmother’s magic recipe book–a book that features recipes for the tastebuds, but ingredients for the heart, her cooking contains just as much magic, repairing damaged relationships and helping love to flourish. It’s the story of a woman who finds her place in this world.

But it’s also a story of suspending disbelief, of allowing magical realism to take over. Lim’s descriptions are poetic, her writing lyrical. The book was a delightful read full of mouth-watering recipes that made me wish I had my own personal chef.

In the end, I have only one question. Who cleans Natalie’s kitchen after all that meal preparation?

12 Books—Month 8

Hooray, we’ve reached one of my favorites in my Twitter friend book reviews. This month, I read Jean Grant’s Will Rise From Ashes. If her name looks familiar, it’s because I’ve mentioned Jean before on my blog. Several times, actually, as Jean is a critique partner and beta-reader extraordinaire. In fact, I mentioned Will Rise From Ashes when I featured an interview with her several months ago.

Now I get to tell you all about how much I loved it! Will Rise From Ashes is a women’s fiction, near apocalyptic, mother’s journey and romance that will take you on a ride. (And not just because A.J., the main character, is traveling thousands of miles to find her missing son.) I’m talking emotional rollercoaster.

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Before I had kids, stories like this would have been entertaining. Now? Now they’re terrifying. As a mother, there is nothing more horrifying than the feeling of helplessness where your kids are concerned, and Grant captures it perfectly.

Our main character A.J. has already faced emotional loss with the accidental death of her husband a year prior. Now, with help from her brother, she vows to take her two children to Yellowstone National Park–a vacation they were supposed to take as a family before her husband died. There’s a catch, though. It’s not an easy trip. A.J.’s older son Will is on the autism spectrum, which makes hectic airport environments challenging. When Will has a meltdown in the airport due to a delay caused by an overbooked flight, A.J.’s brother insists that she and Will take the last two seats, that he and her younger son Finn will catch the next flight.

The only problem? The super volcano beneath Yellowstone erupts, causing devastation and havoc while A.J. and Will are safely on their way home. When A.J. learns what happened, she’s determined to get to Finn at any cost, even though all flights are grounded. She loads Will into the car and the two begin a cross-country journey from Maine to Colorado (where her brother and Finn were supposed to catch a connecting flight). If they are still alive, that’s where they’ll be.

As if the tension weren’t enough, Grant throws in a hero by the name of Reid, and a sizzling sweet romance to last the ages. It’s a fantastic read that has everything one could want in a book. I keep hoping the right person will read this and make it into a movie… (Hollywood, you hear me? I’m talking to you!)

12 Books—Month 7

Yes, I’m playing catch up. Since we’re actually in the 10th month of the year, I’m reviewing 2 books by Twitter friends in one month, but this one was an easy pick. Why? Because it’s The Ventriloquists by E.R. Ramzipoor, and I had the pleasure of getting to meet Ramzipoor in person when she visited my lovely little library just a few weeks ago for an incredible presentation as part of Literatour Berks. (<— That’s an amazing program, by the way, and I’m honored to have been a part of the committee that’s helped pull it together.)

The Ventriloquists

The Ventriloquists isn’t the kind of novel I would have picked up on my own. While the cover is gorgeous (It is, isn’t it?), I have a difficult time with historical fiction. It’s not that I’m uninterested, but I get bogged down in the details. But this…this I couldn’t resist.

Inspired by true events, the novel follows a ragtag gang of journalists and resistance fighters in 1943 Belgium who risk their lives for an elaborate scheme to undermine the Reich in the practical joke of the century. When we think of World War II stories, we tend to think of the war stories told time and again—the soldiers’ tales, the bombings, the rescues, the planes and the ships, the big picture heroes. Often overlooked is the story of the everyday resistance fighter, and that’s what Ramzipoor brings to light in The Ventriloquists.

The Ventriloquists features a large cast that can be overwhelming in the beginning (not going to lie), but is well-worth the time spent getting to know them. Beloved characters with charm and wit, LGBT representation that’s more often than not erased from history in most works, and a precocious child (our narrator) at the center of it all.

In all, 60,000 copies of a fake newspaper (Le Soir) were distributed at the Nazis’ expense on November 9th, 1943. The newspaper was real enough, you see, but it wasn’t the paper that should have been distributed that day. Instead, it was a spoof paper written to poke fun at the Nazis, at the Reich, and at Hilter himself. It was a prank of epic proportions and a story I can’t believe hasn’t been told before.

Do yourself a favor. Pick up The Ventriloquists, read, and enjoy history coming to life before your very eyes. Ramzipoor has crafted a winner in this incredible debut.

12 Books—Month 6

Okay, okay, so we’re a little more than 6 months into the year. Perhaps I was being a tad ambitious about reading 12 Twitter friends’ books in a year, especially when my own book launched a few months ago and I’ve had several signings and events and I’m still trying to keep up on recommended reading from friends and coworkers (which will bring me to 12 Books—Month 7 in a few short weeks).

Without further ado, I bring to you Planetside by Michael Mammay. It’s been a long time since I’ve picked up a science fiction novel. I veer more toward fantasy. What can I say? I’m a sucker for magic and dragons, and I tend to get a little lost when it comes to hard sci fi.

Planetside

That said, there was no way to get lost in Planetside. (I mean, there is, but that’s getting lost in the very best of ways.) I’m not even sure I would classify it as hard science fiction. Does it take place in space? Yes. Are there space stations, and aliens, and hostile planet takeovers? Yes, yes, and yes. Okay, I guess it really is hard sci-fi. But that’s difficult to remember that when the entire novel is wrapped up in what’s essentially a murder-mystery. (Missing person mystery? Can it be a murder mystery if there’s no body?)

I must say one of the most surprising aspects of this book…was finding out that the protagonist wasn’t a misogynistic jerk.

What’s that, you say? Why should that be surprising? Well, I’ve read a number of mystery-thriller novels with a smart-ass male protagonist who’s on the tail-end of his career, but somehow manages to solve an incredibly difficult case no one else possibly could have cracked while snagging a beautiful woman half his age, while also admiring eight other women’s asses in the entire length of the novel. It gets old. Really old. Is it a male fantasy thing? Probably. But I like a good mystery, too, and I love a smart-ass protagonist! (Still…he doesn’t need to be checking out every woman’s breasts or rear throughout the entirety of the book!)

Guess what? Mammay not only doesn’t have a misogynist as his main character, but he also HAS MANY WOMEN CHARACTERS ALL THROUGHOUT THE BOOK AND YES I AM SHOUTING BECAUSE I AM HAPPY. Do you know how annoying it is to see 90% of the cast as male in just about any random book (especially science fiction)? Not only is the main character in Planetside happily married and looking forward to retirement, but he also happens to interact with dozens of female officers, soldiers, and hospital personnel throughout the book, all of which is done without a bat of the eyelashes. Women. Treated as equals. It’s a novel concept. (See what I did there? Novel concept.)

All in all, this book was stellar. My only hitch is in the ending because now I have to pick up Spaceside… Well-played, Mammay. Well-played.

Who’s Who? Volume IV

Twitter is a blessing and a curse in one, but following the right people makes all the difference. Here’s a list of some of my favorites to follow. Get them on your list, too!

Maria Stout (@MariaStout) – I’m a writer, so I really enjoy following other writers, especially upbeat ones who give their all, cheer on others, and never let life get them down. Maria checks all three of those boxes. When I met Maria at the Philadelphia Writer’s Workshop two years ago, we blathered on about how excited we were to be there (‘blather’ is accurate for both of us, right Maria?), and we’ve stayed connected ever since. Also, I like to keep up on the buzz. No, not the gossip. The buzz. On top of being a teacher, a writer, a mom, and a wife, she’s also a beekeeper.

 

Piper Drake (@PiperJDrake) – I started following Piper because of her role on Writing Excuses, a writing-related podcast I enjoy immensely. Piper was a guest host for a year and I really related to some of the insight she shared on the show. Plus, her romance books are full of heroes with dogs, and everyone knows the way to my heart is with dog hair and drool. Piper doles out tons of great advice when it comes to balancing a day job with writing, the roles of agents and editors, really beautiful and mouth-watering food, and of course – all things Corbin J. Drake. And who wouldn’t love to follow that?

 

Geraldine DeRuiter (@everywhereist) – Because every good Twitter account needs a healthy dose of feminism, Geraldine should top your list. She’s smart, quick, and covers a range of topics from travel and politics to television and current events. Journalism, feminism, and opinionism at its finest! (I desperately wanted to share one of her wittiest moments, but I think this one already says it all.)

 

Jennifer Lane (@Metal_and_Earth) –  Jennifer is a fellow eastern Pennsylvanian and Indie Author who recently released her second novel, Stick Figures from Rockport. (Yes, I wrote about that one just recently.) She’s fun to follow and when she posts things like this, she makes me feel so much more normal inside…

 

E.K. Thiede (@ethiedee) – A writer after my own heart, Emily is a blast to follow on Twitter. Much like the other ladies on my Very Female list today, Emily’s Twitter will give you a hearty does of feminism. (Insert cheer! We all need more of this.) There’s rarely a tweet of hers that I don’t instantly ‘heart’ and if I manage to refrain, it’s only because I don’t want her thinking I’m a creepy stalker.

 


Don’t see yourself listed here? Don’t despair. There are so many amazing people to follow on Twitter. Hang around! You might be in my next issue of Who’s Who!

Also, if you missed my last Who’s Who? and you want to discover more great people to follow, click here!

Preorder Giveaway for A Thousand Years to Wait!

—- THE PREORDER GIVEAWAY IS FINISHED. THANK YOU TO ALL WHO PLACED THEIR ORDERS & PARTICIPATED!—- LRS 3/12/19

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So much fun stuff going on in my author’s universe! What’s next? You can preorder the ebook or paperback of A Thousand Years to Wait. And guess what? I’ll even make it more interesting…

If you’re one of the first 15 preorders to 1) send a screenshot of your purchase to WritingUpStorms(at)gmail(dot)com, 2) follow my author account on Facebook or Twitter (either one!), and 3) share my post (FB) or tweet (Twitter) about preorders, I’ll send you a one-of-a-kind talisman necklace just like Reina’s!

 

Talisman necklaces
Limited one-of-a-kind talismans!

Where to preorder? Click here.

Who’s Who? Volume III

It’s time for another Who’s Who! Here’s a list of people I love to follow on Twitter, and if you’re a writer, a reader, or just enjoy ramblings by intelligent, fun people, you should follow them, too!

T.S. Bazelli (@tsbazelli) – She’s super fun, great at tweeting and quote-tweeting, and posts the best literary advice! I often find myself clicking that little heart below her posts. Plus…her food photos make me drool a little. I long for a personal chef to prepare meals for me (as I hate cooking) and when I see her images…well it makes me just a little sadder that I don’t have a chef in my house. And yet, I can’t look away.


Mads Bertasio (@MadsBertasio) – Mads prefers they/them pronouns and they are an inspiration. I was thrilled to get to spend time with Mads in NYC this past summer, and they’ve taught me so much about what it means to be true to yourself. They’re a whole lot wiser than I was at 26 for sure. Mads is incredibly open about their experience as a queer #ownvoices writer. Their honesty and willingness to share stories about their journey makes me smile every time. Plus, Mads is 99% of the reason that hedgehogs show up regularly in my TL. And who doesn’t need that?


Ralph Walker (@RW_Igloo) – Ralph is a SUPER-writer. Yes, that’s like Superman, but with words. He can do it all. Short stories, full-length novels, screenplays—you name it, he’s done it. Even better? He’s a SUPER-motivator. With his #5amwritersclub tweets, he’s up and tackling words before the sun rises every day. (Which is completely and totally, 100% opposite of my late night writing strategy, but somehow we see eye-to-eye when it comes to putting in the work!)


Angela Caldwell (@AngelaMCaldwell) – I’m not really sure there’s anything Angela can’t do. She’s a teacher, a photographer, an author, a mother, a caretaker, and I’m sure there’s about eight other titles I must be missing… She’s been a wealth of knowledge when it comes to self-publishing and she’s eager to help! And…she’s another super-optimistic writing friend who’s really good at cheerleading!


Yas (@TheWritinStylz) – I love Yas’s Twitter. She’s so much fun to follow, has an amazing personality, and I enjoyed celebrating with her online when she just attained agent representation as a writer! (Say it with me – WOOOHOOOOOO!) Yas is a tremendous and much needed voice when it comes to writing and to life and I only realized as I’m typing this that she just celebrated her 1-year anniversary last month! Congrats on the celebration of a lovely union, Yas!


Mariely Lares (@laresmar) – Aside from the fact that Mariely has a great sense of humor and frequently makes me laugh with some of her tweets, she’s also an amazing writer! Mariely is an incredibly talented Latinx writer who left me hanging (and crying) as a beta reader…because her work is SO intense and I only got to read the first 30 pages. Yes, she’s really THAT talented. I’m not exaggerating. I read the start of her story over a year ago and I’m still thinking about it. The intensity of those first few pages rivaled published authors I’ve read, and I look forward to the day that Mariely’s work is on the shelves of the bookstores. You can bet I’ll be first in line to buy one!


Don’t see yourself listed here? Don’t despair. There are so many amazing people to follow on Twitter. Hang around! You might be in my next issue of Who’s Who!

Also, if you missed my last Who’s Who? and you want to discover more great people to follow, click here!