Book Review. A Touch of Darkness by Scarlett St. Clair. 3.5 Stars.

Warning: Some reviews contain minor spoilers, but I keep the best parts vague. Check out my Reading Ranting page for more reviews and thoughts on reading.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I love all things mythological, so this was a fun book to read. However, I found that for everything I liked in general, there was a huge exception that put me on the fence with this book. I would have given it 2.5 stars based on that, but it had a certain… “je ne sai quoi,” to it, so it got an extra star for that. 

What I liked…

  • I love how the mythological gods were brought to life in the modern world very much how the myths depicted. 
  • I liked how Scarlett played on Persephone’s sexual inexperience without making her sound naive or like she has no idea what to do. It was a great balance in that respect.
  • I like how Persephone was conflicted over Hades based on her mother’s warnings and the stories of impossible bargains. 
  • I like the god of the underworld trying to maintain his reputation as the bad guy until Persephone comes along and makes him want to look like the good guy. 

Image here… Hades-and-Persephone-by-Procastle

What I didn’t like… which were exceptions to what I did like…

  • The contract??? It was too unclear for my liking, and I couldn work out how a card game lead to Persephone being tied to a contract with Hades. I mean, they agreed to terms of the card game, but then suddenly, it becomes a whole contract. Maybe it was me.
  • Persephone felt too naive when it came to everyday things. I get why some things were confusing to her because she’d been kept away from people until a few years ago. But it’s been a few years. Sure she’s figured things out by this point.
  • Her surprise over the backlash of her article seemed unrealistic. She’s a journalist who’s probably seen it happen to other writers. Again, might just be me.
  • The prose was a little… ho hum for my liking. It felt like a newer writer’s prose rather than a bestselling author’s. 
  • The love scenes fell short for me. All the actions were there along with some thoughts, but they felt rushed and lacked the physical sensations to complete and well-rounded emotional moment.

Like I said, I generally liked a lot about this book, but some of the issues made it less enjoyable than it could have been. Still, I read it and have just finished book 2, so it was worth the read.

Book Review. The Kingdom of Flesh and Fire, and Crown of Guilded Bones by Jennifer L. Armentrout. 2 stars.

Warning: Some reviews contain minor spoilers, but I keep the best parts vague. Check out my Reading Ranting page for more reviews and thoughts on reading.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Disclosure: I didn’t finish book 3 because I just gave up. Also, this is a pretty negative review. I liked book 1 for the most part, but the series went downhill from there, and I’m truly sorry to Jennifer since I loved her Wicked and Titan series a lot. Also, I purposely put books 2 and 3 from the Blood and Ash series together because I had the same feeling during both books.

What I liked…

I liked Poppy’s gradual transition from innocent, naive, and sheltered Maiden to someone who sees and accepts the realities of the conflicts around her. 

I also liked her realistic sense of inner conflict over everything she thought she knew compared to everything she’s learning. That’s not easy to flip beliefs like that, so her processing and continuous questioning of the truth felt pretty satisfying.

Poppy’s growth of magic. I had issues with explanations of this (see below for what I didn’t like) but I loved how her powers grew and evolved in stages.

What I didn’t like…

So many bad sex scenes. 

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again. I love a good love scene, but i don’t like over descriptions or dragging scenes. Also, I thought this series was YA with the MC being 18. That doesn’t mean to say the book can’t have sex scenes. Teenagers have sex whether others approve or not. But the frequency and narration and over description of the sex scenes did not fit my idea of a YA love scene. And I’ve ead some really good sex scene from YA authors that are obvious as to what’s going on without going into detail on… plunging. Like… sounds painful.

The inappropriate timing of sex scenes was insane. Like in book 2, just after Poppy kills a significant character, she and Cas get hot and steamy in the carriage that brought said victim to their location. And in book 3, just before she meets with someone important for the first time in ages, the conversation during that love scene was seriously off base. Also, the scenes just dragged with long conversations before and after. Ugh, not sexy or romantic IMO.

Overdone character traits…

Poppy has questions… Obviously, because she’s been sheltered all her life and knows nothing about the big wide world and the people thought to be extinct.

Cas always accuses her of being violent after some very acceptable violence in very limited and warranted situations against people who genuinely hurt her in very deep ways. 

As for the big wide world… why are we just learning about everything that should have been hinted at sooner through Poppy’s curiosity or Casteels’ loooooong explantations about stuff. This is mainly a book 3 issue, but I feel so much was left out that it’s all just being dropped on the reader as it happens. This just feels more convenient for the author rather than building up to major things with mentions here and there that make sense when they need to.

Poppy’s powers… I know I said I liked them, and I did, but her sudden ability to control said powers was unrealistic. I can understand a one-off because of emotional desperation, but this seems to just happen without a struggle.

Willamina Collins’ diary. This is a saucy journal that Poppy found in book 1, but Cas (when he went by Hawke) discovered her stealing the book from the library and just won’t let it go even though he’s the one who brought it on the trip and keeps going on about it. It also seems to be a source of sex education via Cas, I mean, Poppy’s worked out a lot from the book, so why Cas needs to give more explanation is beyond me.

After everything Poppy’s done with Casteel, I find it ridiculous that she still gets squeamish over his mention of the book or anything sexual. I totally get some uncontrollable blushing because some people genuinely can’t help that, but the outright protesting and constant defensiveness was way overdone on multiple occasions when she’s actually up for it when the the moment happens. That needed levelling out a lot.

Overall, I was disappointed with both books, and don’t plan to finish book 3 any time soon or read book 4. Jennifer should stick to the more modern/urban fantasy like Wicked, which I finally read. I’ll definitely have a more positive review of this book along with the movie of book 1 on Passionflix.

New Logo!

I know I’m a long way off publishing and branding. But it doesn’t hurt to ponder these things as I work up to the whole marketing stuff.

I keep dipping into my lapsed graphic design skills and thinking about the general look I want to go for. I’m still deciding, but I have a possible logo to share.

It’s purely experimental and just for my own purposes. But here… enjoy…

And…

I have more ideas that might lead to something completely different. But the whole point of this site is to log my progress. This is my latest progress.

It’s never too early to start thinking about these things. But don’t forget to put your writing first. Logos and websites mean very little without the writing to showcase.

Pearlescent

A little poem from my random Bursts of Words collection.

I once had a collection of pearls in an iridescent shell. Each one contained a piece of my heart. Some I wore on a necklace when I needed them while others were safe away from the cruel world.

They shimmered in the sunlight and brought me strength when I doubted myself. With so many, I occasionally gifted one to the people I cared deeply for. Sometimes, they gifted one back.

One day, a man came into my life and shared his heart’s pearls with me, so I shared mine with him. A woman soon joined us, and our pearls glimmered as if from the same shell. They were beautiful together.

That was until I stumbled, and my pearls rolled away. My friends did not reach out to catch them. Instead, they stomped and crushed them to dust until my heart had no joy, no laughter, only emptiness. Once there were no more pearls, the pair left me to pick up the pieces.

I collected all the dust I could and placed it back in the shell. For weeks, months, I stared at that shell with my broken heart, occasionally peeking at the destruction inside. 

Each time I did, I cried until I was out of tears for the day. Begging my friends did nothing, only left more anger and pain within me.

Those who broke my pearls did not take responsibility but blamed me until I blamed myself. 

Eventually, I stopped looking in the shell, but the memory of the cracking pearls haunted my days and nights. I was adrift in this fog with no strength or solace. 

I ached with more pain than I could handle. It drained me, stole the last of my hope. Days, weeks, months passed as my heart remained pearlescent dust. I wandered aimlessly in a fog, going through the motions as one does when they have little to live for.

I cannot recall what made me look in the shell one day. A speck of hope or desperation. But when I looked, a pearl had reformed, and a piece of my heart along with it. 

Now, I open the shell to find more reformed pearls. 

They do not shine the way they once did, but the pieces of my heart come back one by one. 

Image by Myriams-Fotos at Pixabay.com

I Dare You!

Warning: Graphic images of adult content.

How many ways can you be daring in your writing? 

It’s all about showing the most vulnerable side of your characters, which might represent your most vulnerable side, too. No matter your experience, there are certain emotions that can push our writing to its limits. 

There are many events in a book that can make readers uncomfortable, angry, or thrilled for your characters. I’d call any of them a compliment if that was your intention. I’ve read many a torture scene that grossed me out (it’s only fiction) or a sex scene that had me raising my eyebrow or an emotionally tragic scene that brought a tear to my eye.

Death.

Sex.

Insanity.

Abuse.

I’ve read a few pieces inspired by extreme emotions or devastating events. They mean so much more when they come from a place of true emotion, good or bad. This is what connects me to a story and what I hope connects readers to mine. I’ve had amazing responses from my crit buddies to the emotions I’ve poured into my work. 

Don’t fear that vulnerability. Own it and write your heart out. Trust me, it feels amazingly empowering.

Show your crazy. 🤪

More Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Things!

Steampunk, Time, Clock, Brass, Victorian, Dream Factory
Image by Greendragon-Gecko at Pixabay

Oh, if only I had a time machine so I could get everything right 1st time around. But I don’t. I have to change and adapt what I have to make it work. Also, time travel is a tricky thing. Even the smallest change can cause a ripple effect through everything you know and love. Just ask Doctor Who and Marty McFly. So when things aren’t working, we have to settle for starting over as best we can. 

Fun fact: I moved to Spain in 2009 with no real clue if I was going to have any more luck with building a life here. I even changed my career from tech support to English language teacher. 

It was terrifying at first, but part of me felt the change for the better, and I changed everything in my life—except my parents, who moved here to retire—in the hope that I could start again being a little older and hopefully a little wiser.

Writing is just as scary when we’re talking major changes, and still a little daunting when we cause ripples from smaller changes. Trust me. I’ve been there. I’m often there and so are many writers more skilled than me. It’s just part of the process.

Whether from our own ideas or prompted by feedback, it’s recognising the need for changes that makes us grow as writers. Rewrite a chapter. Swap scenes or POVs. Kill your darlings if you have to. They are all worthy sacrifices I’d you see a change for the better.

Don’t fear change. Embrace it.

Why Zombies and not Dinosaurs?

Many of you may know the joke about using the passive “by zombies”.

Don’t know what the hell I’m talking about? Here… 

Okay, you get the point. But why zombies? Why not werewolves or vampires or dinosaurs? Who knows? It’s still funny and can make for a fun game when editing your work with writing buddies. How many zombies can you find? I’ve recently changed it to dinosaurs. Why? Because it felt appropriate for my writing buddy. But yeah, why not dinosaurs?

Dinosaur Riders WIP

I actually made a Halloween grammar and vocabulary game for my ESL students where I have sentences like…

The villagers were chased by…

I was bitten by…

I was scared off by… 

Then I have various monsters which the students can make the sentences with and then make them active. It’s a great and fun game for teenagers and adults learning English. It was both fun and educational and just an interesting way to teach grammar. 

But it has a point in literature, too. If your characters know who did an action, then they should use an appropriate subject. But if not, then sure, let people think it’s zombies. Just keep the flamethrowers on hand.

Random Thought about Cats and Dogs!

Animals, Fantasy, Composing, Books, Book Stack, Cat
Image by Blende 12 at Pixabay

Have you ever noticed how different the various breeds of dogs are compared to the various breeds of cats? 

What does this have to do with writing, you ask? 

Many pets, especially felines and canines, are in our everyday lives. So it makes sense they’d be in books too. But can you write any animal or creature into your novel? Whether real, mythological or completely invented by your own mind, animals need to exist to give more dimensions to a story or world. It could be the pet of a key character, a random interaction, or part of the story itself. 

Meet Tigerlily, my 5-year-old kitty.
She likes to join my online classes.
She likes to sit on my mouse pad and meow when I try to move my mouse.

Lily inspired a pet cat that features in one of my novel series. But I have many animals and creatures, both wild and domesticated, who show up in my novels on realistic worlds as well as the fantastical ones. It helps with realism to make sure you understand the animals you’re writing about. I’ve had dogs and cats all my life, so I know their behaviour well. However, my feline and canine are not the domesticated kinds, so I did a little research on the fundamental differences between domesticated animals, and wild ones. 

I have two characters who can shapeshift who display common traits of their respective animals. Feline and canine being the more dominant. It got me questioning what traits they should have. For example, some species of big cats don’t have the ability to purr like domesticated cats. Wolves and domestic dogs are highly family orientated, but wolves are significantly less accepting of newcomers and will stay away from humans unless they feel threatened. Most dogs will let anyone pet them or take them for a walk. At least most of the dogs I know will. 

From lions, tigers, and forest cats to tabbies, short hairs, and Persians, all these cats have amazingly common traits, both physical and behavioural. Canines, however, vary massively, especially in physical traits. Jack Russels, collies, chihuahuas, and Great Danes, to coyotes, foxes, and wolves, dogs are incredibly different in instincts, builds, and general behaviour.

Here’s a couple of interesting mini-documentaries I found that confirm my point on cats and dogs. 

Found this after writng this post and couldn’t help but add it in here.

Animals also feature in mythology and folklore. As far back as ancient Egypt, cats have interacted with humans. They even worshipped them as guardians on the Underworld and protectors. Foxes feature in many folklore as cunning tricksters or shapeshifters. 

Of course, you have a multitude of purely mythological creatures who pop up in fantasy fiction all the time. Unicorns, gryphons, sirens, phoenixes, and my favourite, dragons. There are many more creatures that would take me all day to detail and talk about. These animals are an incredibly important part of worldbuilding for fantasy realms. They can also be part of the story in holding magic or guarding treasure or protecting the hero or villain from harm. Each one has key elements to consider when incorporating them into your literature.

Pisces OC - 12 Zodiac Ladies
Pisces-OC-12-Zodiac-Ladies
Alicanto [Mythological Creatures]
Alicanto

Check out Deviantart for more…

Don’t forget a furry, scaly, feathery, leathery, animal friends. They might just prove useful to the plot as well as enriching the reading experience.

Gifts in the Pages!

As a writer, I leave many pieces of myself in my work. It’s what connects me to my writing as an expression of myself rather than writing to a formula. As a reader, I like to find pieces of authors in books. It makes it far more personal if I believe writers leave these as little gifts for others. There’s no better gift than giving yourself. 

It’s what us artists do. We throw ourselves into our work and give it to the world to experience pieces of our creativity and imagination and emotions. Visual art, literature, music are all ways of expressing this. One is no less expressive than the other to the right audience. But all move us one way or the other.

My bookshelf probably says more about me than my clothes do. Modern and classic books. New and old from my childhood. Even educational books from when I was studying. These pages all sparked knowledge and imagination. Each one says something about me or left something with me as I read it. They are literary gifts to be cherished and looked after unless the cat decides to scratch the cover. Meh, nothing I couldn’t stick back, and luckily not my more cherished books. 

I’m still discovering my musical emotions and pouring them into the amazing pieces that inspire me to play my own renditions. 

The above videos incorporate many amazing art forms like music, animation, and a fantastic story behind the images. It’s one of my many inspirations that combine my favourite things. 

Dancing is one of the most physical forms of expression. You use every muscle to convey any emotion you want, and when you dance to the right music, there’s no limit to what you can express.

I could go on all day about the many gifts I receive every time I read a book, listen to my favourite music, and watch a beautiful dance. And I want to give gifts through my own writing and music. My point is that the gifts in art stay with us, immortalizing ideas and imagination for others now and in the future. That’s a big gift to give to the world.  

What gifts will you give?