#TenThingsYouMayNotKnow – About #TeriPolen

I’m a guest over at Marcia Meara’s blog today for Ten Things You May Not Know About Me where I talk about snakes, KISS, vacations, etc. Hope you can drop by! While you’re visiting make sure to check out Marcia’s books. I highly recommend her Wake Robin Ridge series. Her character, Rabbit, has stolen quite a few hearts!

The Write Stuff

Today,  one of my favorite bloggers and writers is our special guest, and I know you’ll all make her feel at home here on The Write Stuff. (I will, too, in spite of the #1 item on her list! 😋) So please join me in saying welcome to Teri Polen! Teri, the floor is yours!


Thanks so much for hosting me on Ten Things, Marcia! 

  1. I hate snakes (I know Marcia has a different opinion, but I still consider her a friend). I’ll take rats, mice, spiders, insects, etc. any day and have been known to usher some of them out of the house/garage. When my sister and I were children and playing with our dog, we hid from him in a tall lilac bush.  I glanced down and saw the glistening of snakeskin in the sun, shoved her to the side, and took off.  I did a similar thing…

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Lock the Doors by Vincent Ralph #bookreview #YA #suspense #mystery #TuesdayBookBlog

Tom’s family have moved into their dream home. But pretty soon he starts to notice that something is very wrong – there are strange messages written on the wall and locks on the bedroom doors. On the OUTSIDE.

The previous owners have moved just across the road and they seem like the perfect family. Their daughter Amy is beautiful and enigmatic but Tom is sure she’s got something to hide. And he isn’t going to stop until he finds the truth behind those locked doors. . .

Will their dream home become a nightmare?

After a string of worthless boyfriends, Tom’s mom is remarried to a good man, who also has a teenage daughter and six-year-old son. With hopes of a fresh start that will unite this blended family, they move into a new home. After Tom finds disturbing messages and drawings in his room along with evidence of previous locks on the outside of the bedroom doors, he’s convinced the former occupants were mistreated and crying out for help. And he knows exactly who lived there before his family – because they now reside right across the street. Tom and his mother are no strangers to abuse. Before they escaped, former boyfriends of his mother subjected them to domestic abuse. Tom knows the signs and exactly how a person hides them. When he meets Amy, he recognizes some of those signs and is determined to save her.

Amy’s family is bizarre to say the least, but on the surface everything seems somewhat normal. I loved that Tom is persistent and refuses to accept what he’s told and recruits his friend Zak (a scene stealer) to help dig up the truth. He doesn’t want anyone to experience the same horrors he did and will do whatever it takes to prevent that from happening. Tom has always felt like he never quite fit in, and it was only him and his mom for many years, so it was nice to see him forge a bond with stepsister Nia over the course of the story.

A gripping read filled with shocking discoveries, this is easily a crossover for adults. It also deals with topics of OCD, PTSD, grief, and mental illness, all sensitively handled. Lock the Doors is a fast-paced story that doesn’t come with your typical villains.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Happy New Year!

I came across one of those word scrambles on a friend’s Facebook page that said the first four words you see will be your mantra for 2022. Mine were power, love, alignment, and purpose – I wish the same for all of you. Happy New Year!

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao #bookreview #YA #fantasy #scifi

The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain.

When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​

To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

When I saw Pacific Rim mentioned as a comp title for this novel, I jumped on requesting this from NetGalley. The main character sounded like she was ready to stir up some trouble, and I wanted to be around to see what would happen.

I can’t skip commenting on this beautiful cover. Besides being so striking, it does an admirable job of portraying Zetian’s strength and determination. I may be understating it when I say the girl is a force of nature and has maniacal tendencies.

Zetian has been raised her whole life to believe she’s basically a second class citizen and must make sacrifices for men. Although very few survive, she and her older sister volunteer as concubine-pilots so her family can use the death compensation to find Zetian’s brother a suitable wife. A loving family is as far from an apt description as you could get for these people. Zetian rejects these beliefs and has plans of her own to assassinate the pilot responsible for her sister’s death.

When Zetian survives the psychic link with one of the best pilots (after assassinating him), she’s soon paired with Li-Shimin, a death row inmate plucked out of incarceration and forced to be a pilot. He’s a talented pilot, but is feared by the others – the guy doesn’t exactly possess a welcoming personality – but Zetian learns he has many layers to be discovered. After Gao Yizhi, the boy who loves her, comes into the picture again I was sure a dreaded love triangle loomed on the horizon. I was wrong – it’s a polyamorous relationship. It’s the first time I’ve encountered this in a YA book, but it seems a natural development for these three characters and isn’t the primary focus of the story. As partnered pilots, Zetian and Li-Shimin battle the mecha aliens but soon learn they have enemies in their own camp. The cliffhanger at the end was a doozy!

With huge piloted robots that can transform into mythical creatues (seriously, how cool is that?), mind-blowing action scenes, and immersive world-building, I was glued to the pages. The novel also deals with themes of oppression and feminism and gets very dark and brutal at times, but it’s one I highly recommend. This may be one of my favorite reads of the year, and I’ll be at the front of the line waiting impatiently when the sequel releases.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

The City Beautiful by Aden Polydoros #bookreview #YA #historicalfantasy #LGBTQ #TuesdayBookBlog

Death lurks around every corner in this unforgettable Jewish historical fantasy about a city, a boy, and the shadows of the past that bind them both together.  
 
Chicago, 1893. For Alter Rosen, this is the land of opportunity, and he dreams of the day he’ll have enough money to bring his mother and sisters to America, freeing them from the oppression they face in his native Romania.
 
But when Alter’s best friend, Yakov, becomes the latest victim in a long line of murdered Jewish boys, his dream begins to slip away. While the rest of the city is busy celebrating the World’s Fair, Alter is now living a nightmare: possessed by Yakov’s dybbuk, he is plunged into a world of corruption and deceit, and thrown back into the arms of a dangerous boy from his past. A boy who means more to Alter than anyone knows.
 
Now, with only days to spare until the dybbuk takes over Alter’s body completely, the two boys must race to track down the killer—before the killer claims them next.

Set during the World’s Fair in 1893, this atmospheric, queer Jewish historical fantasy infuses real-life events with a dark murder mystery. I’ve read several of this author’s books, and The City Beautiful was on my list of most anticipated releases this year. It surpassed my expectations.

After tragically losing his father during the journey to America, Alter falls in with the wrong crowd and is soon scraping by robbing others. It’s not something he’s proud of, and after a particularly unsettling experience he leaves his criminal days behind and gets an honest job. He works long, hard hours to save enough money to bring his mother and sisters over from Romania. When his best friend, Yakov is the latest victim in a string of murdered Jewish boys, Alter finds himself in the middle of a mystery not many seem to care about. The police aren’t much help and the newspapers all but dismiss the murders, but he refuses to let his Yakov’s death go ignored and unsolved. With the help of his friends Frankie and Raizel, Alter is determined to discover who’s responsible. Yakov’s dybbuk is equally determined and possesses Alter’s body. Time is of the essence in discovering the identity of the murderer because former friend or not, two souls can’t inhabit one body for long and the possession takes a toll on Alter.

Sadly lacking in knowledge of Judaism, learning more about Jewish customs and traditions was incredibly compelling and enlightening for me. A glossary is included at the end of the book for help with some of the terminology. The author skillfully weaves those customs and traditions along with historic details involving Jewish immigration during that time into the story. He also touches on the racist themes of the World’s Fair and how The White City wasn’t the utopia the organizers portrayed.

This novel is dark and disturbing at times, but it’s also a beautiful story of love, friendship, community, and justice. As a trigger warning, it doesn’t shy away from the ugliness of anti-Semitism and social inequities so be prepared. I can’t wait to see what this author does next – he’s been on my auto-buy list for years.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Family, #AmWriting, and #BadMoonRising

Happy Monday! This will be a brief post because we spent the weekend with family in Charlotte. Nieces and nephews we hadn’t seen for quite a while, their kids (one we’d never met), Hubby’s parents, and others. I think the total count came in around 20 people? Lots of food, laughter, catching up, and good times.

Manic work continues on the Subject A36 sequel. I sent all the chapters I’d finished to my beta reader on Thursday, which now leaves me with two chapters to complete and possibly an epilogue. Bits and pieces are coming together in my head, and I’ve been making notes all weekend, so it’s just a matter of transferring it from my jumbled brain to the computer. Sure wish there was some kind of connection – something like in The Matrix, but maybe not with that ugly jack at the base of my neck – where I could think it and it would magically transfer. Have any of you writers ever thought about something like that? Just think of the time you could save and typos you could avoid.

It’s hard to believe, but Bad Moon Rising will be upon us very soon. I’ve been working on questions for this year, and I’ll be posting about signups later this week – probably Friday. Make sure to stop by!

Pride Month Book Recs and #AmWatching

I’m a little late recommending books for Pride Month, but I’ve come across some amazing ones in the past few weeks. You may have seen Blood Like Magic and This Poison Heart on my WWW Wednesday posts, and I reviewed Blood Like Magic last week HERE. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe came highly recommended by friends in my book club, and when I received an ARC of its sequel, I had to backtrack and finally get around to listening to the first. I had to mention The House in the Cerulean Sea again. I can’t say enough about this book. I’d love to find time for a reread.

I can’t believe I forgot to mention I saw A Quiet Place 2 in an actual movie theater a few weeks ago! Hubby had no interest in seeing it, but I have no problem seeing movies by myself. I actually enjoy it. I get there early for a good seat, then read my Kindle until the previews start. It was just as tense and compelling as the first and, being a Cillian Murphy fan, I was anxious to see what his character brought to the story. I was also excited to eat theater popcorn again – with butter, of course. Never even thought about not being able to taste or smell it, so it was kind of a letdown. I’ve noted a slight improvement in my sense of smell lately, so I’m hopeful it’s making a gradual comeback. Then I’ll get more popcorn.

Have a great week!

#BlogTour These Feathered Flames by Alexandra Overy #bookreview #YA #fantasy

Three Dark Crowns meets Wicked Saints in this queer #ownvoices retelling of “The Firebird,” a Russian folktale, by debut author Alexandra Overy.

When twin heirs are born in Tourin, their fates are decided at a young age. While Izaveta remained at court to learn the skills she’d need as the future queen, Asya was taken away to train with her aunt, the mysterious Firebird, who ensured magic remained balanced in the realm.

But before Asya’s training is completed, the ancient power blooms inside her, which can mean only one thing: the queen is dead, and a new ruler must be crowned.

As the princesses come to understand everything their roles entail, they’ll discover who they can trust, who they can love—and who killed their mother.

I’m not familiar with the Russian folktale The Firebird, but I’ve read a couple other books based on Russian retellings that were incredible.

In this world magic comes with a price. Once a spell is cast, the Firebird collects payment from the caster to maintain balance in the realm. Payment can range from a small amount of blood to loss of life depending on the complexity of the spell. Because of this the Firebird isn’t looked upon kindly.

At a young age it’s determined that Izaveta will be the future queen, while Asya trains to be the next Firebird. Their mother, the queen, teaches Izaveta that most interactions with people at court are usually power plays in disguise. She must constantly strategize and look for hidden meanings. As a result, she trusts no one. Asya’s training requires her to ignore emotion while exacting payment no matter how she feels. Balance must be maintained. It’s a constant struggle and she doubts she has what it takes to do the job. I found it interesting that each sister is envious of the other’s life and quite possibly better suited for it. Izaveta is a tough one to like initially, and she can’t even let her guard down for her twin. Asya is kind-hearted, but feared by most people and considered a monster.

There are a ton of minor characters which means lots of suspects in the death of the twins’ mother. That being said, they felt flat and difficult to distinguish from each other. Pacing is a bit slow out of the gate, but the twists and surprises come soon, and the last thirty percent moves at breakneck speed. I appreciated the pronunciation guide at the end and was surprised I actually said some of the names correctly.

With complex political schemes and maneuvering, this novel will keep you guessing, and the relationship between the sisters is a strong point. I’ll be interested to see where the author takes this story in the next book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

THESE FEATHERED FLAMES

By Alexandra Overy

On Sale: April 20, 2021

INKYARD PRESS

YOUNG ADULT FICTION/Fantasy/ Epic/Fairy Tales & Folklore/ Adaptations/Family/Siblings/Romance/LGBTQ+

9781335147967; 1335147969

$19.99 USD

496 pages

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/These-Feathered-Flames/dp/1335147969/ 

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/these-feathered-flames-alexandra-overy/1137165080 

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781335147967 

Books-A-Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/These-Feathered-Flames/Alexandra-Overy/9781335147967 

AppleBooks:    https://books.apple.com/lv/book/these-feathered-flames/id1518023051 

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/audiobooks/details/Alexandra_Overy_These_Feathered_Flames?id=AQAAAEBcPkN-DM 

ALEXANDRA OVERY was born in London, England. Ever since she was little she has loved being able to escape into another world through books. She currently lives in Los Angeles, and is completing her MFA in Screenwriting at UCLA. When she’s not working on a new manuscript or procrastinating on doing homework, she can be found obsessing over Netflix shows, or eating all the ice cream she can.

Social Links:

Author website: https://www.alexandraovery.com/ 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/alexandraovery 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/AllyWritesAndStuff/ 

Facebook: N/A

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19571930.Alexandra_Overy 

Stupid Ideas, Writing Classes, and #AmWatching

How is it Monday again already? Last week was a blur. We’ve had some wonderful spring weather the past few days, but Saturday and Sunday brought gale force winds to our neck of the woods. I’m talking winds that scooted our heavy iron patio furniture across the concrete. So of course hubby and I thought it was an opportune time to replace a couple screens on our screened porch. Honestly, we would have put it off, but one of the screens where Bond sits had ripped away from the frame. It was only a matter of time before escape plans would be made and executed prompting a search and rescue through our large neighborhood. Words that should have been censored were said (we’re glad the little boys next door weren’t outside), hands were cut, and trim was damaged, but all things considered, it could have gone worse.

I’ve mentioned here before about virtual writer’s classes/workshops/retreats I’ve attended hosted by The Writer’s Sanctuary. They just added several new events scheduled throughout the rest of this year. I registered for a class on marketing trends in November. If you’d like to check out their offerings, click HERE.

I think I mentioned the first season of For All Mankind last summer. The second season episodes are dropping weekly (I’m watching them first thing Saturday morning), and I’m enjoying it just as much. I don’t want to say much about it – no spoilers – but this alternate history version of the space race is totally compelling.

Cooking and #AmWatching

Cooking isn’t really in my skill set – I’m the first to admit it. It’s a miracle hubby and I didn’t starve the first year we were married. Since then, my skills have improved, and I’ve learned enough to keep us fed. Still, unless it’s something very basic – spaghetti (jar sauce), chili, tacos, etc. – I have to use a recipe. I’m not one of those people who instinctively knows what a dish needs, although my youngest son is. From an early age, he’s been interested in food and cooking – and he surely didn’t get it from me. My oldest son considers food an energy source and doesn’t venture much out of his comfort zone. I do enjoy subscribing to a couple of cooking magazines and trying new recipes. Some are winners (a peanut butter pie recipe I got from a magazine ad) and others completely inedible (a tragic waste of prime rib). Hubby is kind of a foodie, so we decided to try something new. Every weekend, we’ll take turns choosing a new recipe to try and work on it together. This past weekend, we tried Spaghetti alla Carbonara. We turned on Pandora, opened some wine, and split up the cooking duties. Although the recipe had fantastic reviews, we weren’t that thrilled with it – probably three stars. Since I still can’t taste much or smell at all (two months now – thanks, COVID), I had to rely on hubby’s opinions. If you’re interested in trying it yourself, here’s the LINK We plan to continue this every weekend (unless we’re out of town), so this could become a regular update on Mondays.

I’m a fan of the TV show Supernatural. I haven’t watched all the seasons yet, but I’m working my way through them on Netflix. When I saw Jared Padalecki was starring in a remake of Walker, Texas Ranger, I decided to check it out. Not that I ever watched the original, but I like the actor and figured it’s something hubby and I could watch together (it’s like an act of God to get him interested in anything). While the show’s not going to win any awards, after three episodes, we’ve decided to stick with it. It’s already been renewed for a second season, so it might be around for a while.

Hope you have a great week – stay safe and healthy!