Book Events, New Releases

Hold Your Fire Anthology Now Available!

I’m excited to announce the book Hold Your Fire anthology is out today on AmazonBarnes & Noble and Kobo

Hold Your Fire is available for purchase in hardcover, paperback, and eBook formats. 

I have two stories in this anthology, “Hyde Park” and “White Feather.” They’re both stories that arrived on the page pretty much fully formed and while they’re very different in tone, I think they fit the theme of the anthology very well.

Proceeds from the sales of this anthology go to fund scholarships for Superstars Writing Seminars, which you can read more about here.

About Hold Your Fire:

Creativity comes from many places, but often the initial spark of inspiration can be traced to something or someone who challenged us to first put pen to paper or brush to canvas, to pick up a camera, to look at the world with new eyes. Maybe it was the lyrics of a favorite album. Maybe it was the encouragement from a beloved teacher. Maybe it was seeing a wonder of the natural world.

Maybe it was just a feeling deep down inside that demanded to be set free, a voice ready to be heard, a story begging to be told.

Hold Your Fire is a collection of nineteen short stories celebrating the power and influence of inspiration in all its forms—art, literature, music, astronomy, science, inventions, epiphanies.

Here you will find stories of people being inspired as well as stories of people inspiring someone else. Stories not only of artistic inspiration but of scientific discoveries. The “Eureka!” moments that change the whole world and the small moments when someone dares to fight one more day.

From a romance about a teenager’s attempts to win over his first crush with poetry to musicians and artists harnessing the inspiration of unexpected muses to a fairy tale princess seeking for happiness, every story in this anthology shines brightly. And since every fire casts a shadow, there are also a few horror stories that thrive in the dark.

We also received some exciting early reviews and press about the anthology which you can check out in my last post here.

I hope you’ll consider ordering a copy!

Order from Amazon

Order from Barnes & Noble

Order from Kobo

Anthology, Fiction, Personal, Publications

Hold Your Fire Anthology Available for Pre-Order

I’m excited to share that the Hold Your Fire anthology is now available for pre-order! Right now just the ebook links are live, but the paperback and hardcover should be up soon!

I have two stories in this anthology, “Hyde Park” and “White Feather.” They’re both stories that arrived on the page pretty much fully formed and while they’re very different in tone, I think they fit the theme of the anthology very well.

This is a cool project because the proceeds from the anthology sales go to fund scholarships for Superstars Writing Seminars, which is a fantastic fiction writing conference held annually in Colorado Springs. The next one will be in 2022 due to the pandemic, which means we have even more time to fund the next round of scholarships for the conference!

About Hold Your Fire:

Creativity comes from many places, but often the initial spark of inspiration can be traced to something or someone who challenged us to first put pen to paper or brush to canvas, to pick up a camera, to look at the world with new eyes. Maybe it was the lyrics of a favorite album. Maybe it was the encouragement from a beloved teacher. Maybe it was seeing a wonder of the natural world.

Maybe it was just a feeling deep down inside that demanded to be set free, a voice ready to be heard, a story begging to be told.

Hold Your Fire is a collection of nineteen short stories celebrating the power and influence of inspiration in all its forms—art, literature, music, astronomy, science, inventions, epiphanies.

Here you will find stories of people being inspired as well as stories of people inspiring someone else. Stories not only of artistic inspiration but of scientific discoveries. The “Eureka!” moments that change the whole world and the small moments when someone dares to fight one more day.

From a romance about a teenager’s attempts to win over his first crush with poetry to musicians and artists harnessing the inspiration of unexpected muses to a fairy tale princess seeking for happiness, every story in this anthology shines brightly. And since every fire casts a shadow, there are also a few horror stories that thrive in the dark.

Right now, there’s also a cool pre-order promotion going on from the publisher, Wordfire Press! When you pre-order Hold Your Fire by February 18th, you can go here to submit your receipt and get a free ebook of the Dragon Writers Anthology.

We also received some exciting early reviews and press about the anthology which you can check out in my last post here.

I hope you’ll consider ordering a copy!

Pre-Order from Amazon

Pre-Order from Barnes & Noble

Pre-Order from Kobo

Reviews, Year in Review

2020 In Review

Better later than never with this review! In 2019, I read a grand total of fourteen books. In 2020, I’m proud to say I significantly improved that and read forty-eight books.

Part of that was the pandemic. It helped that my life got dramatically unscheduled, though not unbusy. Part of that was me finally settling into my new life. I have noticed whenever I have a major life change, my reading takes a hit. I know I’m figuring things out when I start reading and finishing books at my old pace. It always take a few years to balance and stabilize so as crazy as 2020 was, I’m grateful for that!

I have a lot of book reviews to catch up so look for those coming soon along with some news!

HOW MANY BOOKS READ IN 2020?

–48 books

FICTION/NON-FICTION?

–  25  Fiction /    22 Non-Fiction

MALE/FEMALE AUTHORS?

–    25  Male /   12 Female

OLDEST BOOK READ?

Recreational Gold Prospecting for Fun and Profit by Gail Butler (1998)

NEWEST BOOK READ?

Essoe’s Guide to Writing Sex Scenes and Essoe’s Guide to Writing Action Sequences both by Joshua Essoe (October 15th, 2020)

LONGEST BOOK READ?

Collapse by Jared Diamond (608 pages)

SHORTEST BOOK READ?

Essoe’s Guide to Writing Sex Scenes by Joshua Essoe (44 pages)

ANY IN TRANSLATION?

Not this year!

BEST BOOK READ IN 2020?

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy

MOST BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN BOOK IN 2020?

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

MOST SURPRISING (IN A GOOD WAY!) BOOK OF 2020?

The Surrender Experiment by Michael Singer

This one was recommended to me and I didn’t really know what to expect when I started it. Honestly, this book is so interesting because when I think about it, I’m so surprised it had such a big effect on me. But it turned out to be really life-changing and I’m super, super grateful I read.

MOST THRILLING, UNPUTDOWNABLE BOOK IN 2020?

Both books in M.H. Boroson’s Girl With Ghost Eyes series, Space Throne by Brian Corley, The Newton Cipher by Steve Ruskin, and Ghostwalkers by Jonathan Maberry.

Read tons of fun, exciting books in 2020!

BOOK THAT HAD THE GREATEST IMPACT ON ME IN 2020?

Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday and The Surrender Experiment by Michael Singer.

BOOK THAT HAD A SCENE IN IT THAT HAD ME REELING?

The Girl With No Face by M.H. Borosan had a crazy mid-book twist!!

BOOK I MOST ANTICIPATED IN 2020?

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

MOST MEMORABLE CHARACTER IN 2020?

Several from Space Throne by Brian Corley and M.H. Boroson’s Girl With Ghost Eyes series.

HOW MANY RE-READS IN 2020?

Clockwork by Mike Michalowicz

BOOK I READ IN 2020 I’D BE MOST LIKELY TO REREAD IN 2021?

Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy

Fix This Next by Mike Michalowicz

BOOK I RECOMMENDED TO PEOPLE MOST IN 2020?

Treasure of the Blue Whale by Steven Mayfield.

FAVORITE NEW AUTHORS I DISCOVERED IN 2020?

M.H. Boroson and Alix E. Harrow

MOST BOOKS READ BY ONE AUTHOR THIS YEAR?

3 from Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

FAVORITE COVER OF A BOOK I READ IN 2020?

FAVORITE PASSAGE/QUOTE FROM A BOOK I READ IN 2020?

“The greatest illusion,” said the mole, “is that life should be perfect.”

– Charlie Mackesy, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse

DID I COMPLETE ANY READING CHALLENGES OR GOALS IN 2020?

Yep! I hit my reading goal several times over so I kept bumping it up throughout the year.

BOOK I CAN’T BELIEVE I WAITED UNTIL 2020 TO FINALLY READ?

So this answer is a little complicated because I think maybe I actually read Clockwork by Mike Michalowicz in 2019 and re-read it again in 2020. But maybe that’s not true and I actually read it multiple times in 2020. Anyway, there you go! If you have a business, this book is amazing and absolutely essential reading! It’s so good, I’ve read it cover to cover twice and sections of it multiple times.

FAVORITE BOOK OF 2020?

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy

A short, but important and beautiful read.

Fiction, Historical, Reviews, Romance

A Holiday by Gaslight

A Holiday by Gaslight by Mimi Matthews

Sophie Appersett is quite willing to marry outside of her class to ensure the survival of her family. But the darkly handsome Mr. Edward Sharpe is no run-of-the-mill London merchant. He’s grim and silent. A man of little emotion—or perhaps no emotion at all. After two months of courtship, she’s ready to put an end to things.

A Last Chance for Love

But severing ties with her taciturn suitor isn’t as straightforward as Sophie envisioned. Her parents are outraged. And then there’s Charles Darwin, Prince Albert, and that dratted gaslight. What’s a girl to do except invite Mr. Sharpe to Appersett House for Christmas and give him one last chance to win her? Only this time there’ll be no false formality. This time they’ll get to know each other for who they really are.

My book club always tries to pick out a holiday read every year, though most of them end up rather disappointing in my opinion. However, this was one I discovered via an online list and I recommended it for this year’s Christmas read. And surprise – I actually loved it!

If you’ve spent any length of time looking through the books I read and review you’ll notice there aren’t many romances among them. Hardly any at all. I don’t really find straight romances intriguing, though I’m fine and happy with books that include romantic elements. So all the romances I read are usually bookclub picks – because that’s the point of the bookclub, to stretch yourself and read things you wouldn’t normally.

However, as I said above, I picked this one and really enjoyed it. So maybe Victorian romances are my thing? But contemporary romances are not? If anyone reads a lot of historical romances, leave me a comment below – I am curious about how they compare to contemporary romances and what ones you would recommend.

Anyway, about the actual book! Yes I’m posting this on Christmas Eve, but the good news is it’s available on Kindle so you can still read this one before Christmas is over! It’s a novella and a super quick, cute read in general.

This story felt right up there with a Jane Austen novel, albeit one set around Christmas and written in a slightly more modern style. I think the author definitely did her research and did a great job capturing the time period and crafting a period-appropriate romance. I really loved the two main characters, Sophie and Ned. We get both their viewpoints in this book, which was nice. That also makes it a little different than a typical Jane Austen novel.

Above all, I felt this book did a phenomenal job painting a picture of a traditional Victorian Christmas complete with snow, garlands, roaring fireplaces, and glowing lights. I definitely wish I could visit Appersett House! As I’m not traveling to Colorado this year for Christmas, it made me nostalgic not only for travel, but for snowy woods and cold temperatures. In the meantime, this Christmas read will have to suffice.

Personal, Short Stories, Writing

Hold Your Fire Anthology News!

I blinked and somehow it’s Christmas. Christmas in the weirdest of all years, but Christmas just the same.

I also blinked and it’s been over a month since I updated my blog and I have a couple things to share! Well, more than a couple things, but we’ll see how many posts I get to over the next few weeks.

Starting first with the most important! Some time back I announced I will have two stories in an anthology coming out next year, Hold Your Fire. Recently, there were two pieces of good news for the anthology I am extremely belated in sharing with you all.

The first is that Hold Your Fire was reviewed by Publishers Weekly, which is super cool! You can check out their review here. As the review says, “Readers looking for short bursts of inspiration will be pleased.”

Hold Your Fire also received an advanced review from Kaye Lynn Booth at Writing to be Read. She mentioned one of my stories, “White Feather” in her post! You can read her review here.

Hold Your Fire will feature my stories “White Feather” and “Hyde Park.” The latter also appeared in Monsters, Movies, & Mayhem which came out this summer. Hold Your Fire is a charity anthology to benefit scholarships for Superstars Writing Seminars. The next seminar will be held in 2022.

Personal

Spooky Book Giveaway!

We are a week away from Halloween and I wanted to share a Spooky Book Giveaway to celebrate!

I totally meant to do this earlier this month, but, well, life. Regardless, spooky season is all year long, right?

Here’s what I’m giving away:

-A signed hardcover copy of Monsters, Movies, & Mayhem. This one will be signed and personalized for you by me. My short story, “Hyde Park,” is included in this anthology.

-A signed paperback copy of Cursed Collectibles. Also signed and personalized by me! My short story, “The Garden Party,” is included in this one.

To enter here on the blog, all you have to do is:

  1. Subscribe by email or follow Isle of Books
  2. Leave a comment with your favorite Halloween tradition.

I’ll be picking a winner on Tuesday October 27th!

Fiction, Reviews

Rainbow Bridge

Rainbow Bridge by Dan V. Jackson

OUR BEST FRIENDS NEVER TRULY LEAVE … THEY AWAIT US AT THE BRIDGE.

Our dogs are our friends and companions, guardians and defenders. Their love enriches our souls, and few things bring us greater joy than their loyalty and devotion.

Until that inevitable day arrives when we have to say goodbye.

But what if that is not the final farewell? What if there comes a time and a place where we can be reunited with the dogs we have loved and lost? For Nathan Wilkinson, this magical realm of which all grieving families dream will one day become a reality.

At each juncture of Nathan’s life, he experiences friendship, guidance and personal growth from his canine companions. First comes Shiloh, the wise German shepherd of his youth; followed by Lindsay, the miniature schnauzer whose misfortune changes his adult life. When called to battle, he befriends Georgie, the stout war dog, whose courage under fire inspires all who serve with him. Finally there are the Labradors, whose seemingly mindless antics mask an iron-willed devotion to protecting his growing young family.

Each of these remarkable dogs shares with Nathan countless adventures, love and companionship, and ultimately, the heartache of loss. And then one day, an unexpected tragedy provides him the chance for a brief but joyous reunion with those very same dogs at the place where all departed pets await their human companions…the Rainbow Bridge.

(A copy of this book was provided by the publicist in exchange for an honest review.)

I don’t know about you, but this increased time at home has made me especially grateful for my animals. They bring joy and entertainment to our house on a daily basis.

My dog is a senior citizen. He’s somewhere around 11 or 12 years old. He’s also a big dog which makes me want to make time slow down to hold onto the years I have left with him. I knew when I adopted him we’d have less time together, but nothing in life is a guarantee. While I’m in no hurry to get another dog, my thoughts do occasionally stray to my next dog and what that experience will be like.

Rainbow Bridge is the story of Nathan Wilkinson and all the dogs that have left pawprints on his heart over the years. For fans of Marley & Me and The Art of Racing in the Rain this is a sweet story of a life lived in and shaped by the companionship of dogs.

Jackson is a great storyteller and I found myself eagerly flipping the pages. His understanding of dogs means that every dog in Rainbow Bridge feels real, whole, and distinct – which anyone who’s ever had a pet knows. No two are the same and every dog in Rainbow Bridge feels unique. As unique as Nathan’s life is, though any reader who’s had a dog can surely see themself in Nathan’s story!

For anyone who’s loved a dog or loved a pet, this book is for you!

Author Spotlight, Fiction, Humor, Reviews, Sci-Fi

Space Throne: Review and Interview With Author Brian Corley

Space Throne by Brian Corley

Parr never meant for any of this to happen. All he wanted to do was pilot the Aurora around the galaxy and avoid his royal duties for a while.

Now, in the wake of his parents’ mysterious demise, it’s time to un-fake his death and take up the mantle meant for him since birth.

Unfortunately, it won’t be easy.

A pirate king and the galaxy’s most dangerous bounty hunter stand between him and the gates of his home, Bilena Epso Ach.

Parr will need the help of two unlikely friends. Manc Yelray, a wise-cracking old pirate with money on his mind and an appetite for strange similies. And Ren, a smooth-talking outlander with a plan, and a shadowy secret of her own.

But do they have what it takes? And what will they eat along the way? Because there’s only one rule in space: never eat the hot snack.

ANYTHING but the hot snack. 

Let me start by saying it’s been a LONG time since I read five of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy novels (I’m unclear if there are more than five. I read the big compendium version), but from the very beginning, Space Throne gave me strong Douglas Adams vibes. And I do mean from the very beginning – I was lucky enough to read an early draft of this book from Brian. Which I loved and never quit loving. Now, there’s a book in the world I had a hand in shaping!

Lest you think my review is extremely biased (I mean, I’m sure it’s at least a little biased) let’s start with what Space Throne isn’t. It’s not a serious book. It’s not a sweeping treatise on the human condition (though it does succeed mightily in comically skewering some facets of our existence). It’s not a true space opera (though I might call it a comedic space opera).

Instead, Space Throne is a fun romp through a galaxy far, far away. It’s a breezy weekend read to distract you from the general madness of 2020 and the bat-shit crazy madness of the weeks leading up to the 2020 election. Ever wish you could escape to someplace where COVID-19 doesn’t exist, the news headlines don’t resemble a screwball comedy, and the good guys still mostly triumph over evil? (I refuse to comment if that last bit is a spoiler or not.) Here’s your ticket. Space Throne just released into the world today! If you like accessible world-building, colorful characters, wacky hijinks, jokes on jokes on jokes, and a plot you WON’T see coming a mile away, give Space Throne a try.

To celebrate Space Throne’s release day, I have Brian back to do another interview for the book. Some of you longtime readers might remember when I interviewed Brian after his first book, Ghost Bully, came out. I lured him back by promising not to ask (all) the same questions.

Shannon Fox (SF): What inspired you to write Space Throne?

Brian Corley (BC): One of my earliest memories is watching Star Wars at a drive-in theater outside of Dallas, TX. I was two years old and just the right age to grow up with the original trilogy.

(I also remember being extremely jealous of the kids beside us that had a pallet set up on the roof of their van with blankets and pillows … that sure was a next-level 70s family)

My earliest foray into storytelling were scenes staged with the old Kenner Star Wars action figures, so it was really a no-brainer for me to have a go at my own little Sci-Fi adventure.

SF: What do you hope readers take away from the book?

BC: A desire to write glowing reviews everywhere they can and purchase other books by me.

Kidding.

(kind of)

I want people to have a good time with it. I meant it to be a breezy read with a nuanced message if you want to look for it.

SF: How was writing this book different than writing Ghost Bully?

BC: Both had kind of a false start. I wrote the first couple chapters of Ghost Bully then set them aside for a year or two, but once I picked it back up, it came together all at once. With Space Throne, I got about 30,000 words into it before setting it aside for a while. Once I picked it back up, I finished it at a more methodical pace.

Of course, the most significant difference was workshopping Space Throne with my writer’s group. Shout out to Tornado House.

SF: What was the hardest part of the book to write? The easiest?

BC: Once I figured out everyone’s voice, it was pretty easy. Manc started with a voice like the tordaver, but I switched it up about halfway through (that was a tough re-write).

SF: Who is your favorite character in Space Throne?

BC: Manc Yelray. Not even close.

I’m not sure if it’s because Parr, Ren, and our antagonists did most of the heavy lifting to drive the plot, but Manc’s parts were super-easy to write. I mostly wrote him with the characteristics of Peter Ustinov in Blackbeard’s ghost, but with a deep, gravelly voice somewhere between Vin Diesel and Hagrid.

Although, someone in our writing group said that she thought of him as more of a Jason Mamoa type, and I couldn’t help but work that in on subsequent passes.

SF: If you, like Parr, found yourself living in self-exile in the Sixteen, how would you survive?

BC: I think these COVID times, or whatever we’ll end up calling them, give me a great sense of what I’d do. Work a set amount of time each day, exercise for a little bit, then consume as much media as possible via Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, and Prime before falling asleep.

I think I have a leg up on Parr since I can garden and go outside without a breathing apparatus*.

*Except for last month when we couldn’t go outside because of the air quality in Portland.

SF: What has it been like finding your style as a cross-genre humor writer? Any tips for anyone who wants to get into writing humor? Or make their work more humorous?

BC: I guess like the Talking Heads sang, “Same as it ever was.”

I’m not really trying, it’s just the way I tell stories right now. What’s cool about indie publishing is that if my style changes, I can just write those books too.

I guess I’d say, don’t force anything. That doesn’t mean don’t try, you have to try. Just keep working on the spot where you want a joke or comedy until you’re happy with it. You won’t always nail it on the first go.

Listen to people you trust—if no one thinks it’s funny, don’t be afraid to either hone or cut it.

SF: When I last talked to you, it was shortly after Ghost Bully came out. What have you learned about indie publishing since then?

BC: Oh man, I want to say “so much,” but it doesn’t feel like it.

Indie publishing is kind of this mercurial troll market. Just when you think you know where things are or where they’re going—poof, they’re gone.

I think the biggest thing I’ve learned since the launch of Ghost Bully is the power of AMS ads. Amazon has something like 70% of the book-buying market place, so their ads are targeted at just the right people.

Newsletter promos help too, but I usually save those for special occasions like Kindle Countdown deals.

Was that too inside baseball?

SF: What’s next for Parr, Ren, and Manc?

BC: Two more books, hopefully. We’ll see how Space Throne does.

(Two more books for two of the three of them, maybe)

SF: And what’s next for Brian Corley, the man behind the curtain? 

BC: Me? Who knows. If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s to stop thinking I have any idea of what’s coming next.

Writing-wise, I’m working on a contemporary fantasy set in and around my new hometown of Portland, OR. I already have a book with ghosts, one in space, so now I need some weird, trippy elves in my life.

It should be out next year.

Hopefully, I’ll be on Book Two of the Space Throne trilogy shortly after. Come visit me over at www.brian-corley.com and read Chapter 1 of Space Throne for free!

(Thanks for having me, Shannon!)

How to Win a Free Signed Copy of Space Throne

Thank you to Brian for agreeing to give you a chance to win a signed copy of his newest release! All you have to do is leave a comment below with the name of your favorite sci-fi adventure (book, movies, or tv) to enter. For extra chances to win, hop over to my Facebook and Instagram.

Personal, Writing

Writing Update: Starting Something New and Winter’s Cry Reprint Available

It’s been a minute since I’ve done a writing update. Not because I’ve had nothing to report, but because I’ve been basking in the magic of starting something new.

Last fall, I had an idea for a short story that I started, but didn’t finish until spring of this year. I loved the seed of that little idea so much, but it was a tough one to get going, to turn it into all I felt it could bee. I finally had a spark of another idea to help me this spring and finished my little short story. I loved it immensely and was tremendously proud of it. I remember thinking, “This is the best thing I’ve ever written.”

I took it out to a couple of my beta readers. The three of them have been reading early drafts for me for years. And they loved it too – enough to set me in the direction of taking my little short story, a germ of an idea that took half a year to incubate enough to get it to roughly 6,000 words, and encouraged me to do more.

In the midst of a hellish year where the truth is stranger than anything fiction could devise, that little short story got a revamp and is now the entry point to a new novel.

Fast-forward a few months and I’m now coming up on 45,000 words into the draft of a book I never intended to write. And I still love it with all my heart. It’s lovely and odd in all the right ways. Dark, but also punctuated with moments of hope and beauty. A tribute to both a world that no longer exists and one that never existed at all. It’s the book that only 2020 could write, but also just a step past where I was headed all along.

There’s something very strange about creating inside a year that’s haunted by darkness. Anyone who’s started something new this year, made a positive life change, gotten engaged, married, had a baby, bought a house, I think understands the friction that exists when you set your personal happiness alongside a year that continues to staunchly declare itself itself the worst year of our lives. Many creators have stopped creating entirely, unable to make art or create beauty out of the ether.

It’s also why those of us who HAVE found a way to create, to carve happiness in small fits and starts, who are experiencing some of the most profound joys of the human experience even against a backdrop of darkness, find these moments taste a little bit sweeter, as if to compensate for the bitter taste of life that is the year 2020.

I’m so excited to finish this draft, to get all the pieces down so I can really shape it into something I think is special. Even if it’s special to no one else, but me in the end, I think there will be something unmatched about a creation that sprung unbidden out of the wasteland and that for its creator, presents an ever-refilling well of ecstasy, light, and hope.

This is getting a bit longer than intended and I do have some other things I wanted to drop into this update since it’s been a while so let’s shift gears!

-I’m still continuing to query Shadow of the Magician. Doing that during a year like 2020 is about as soul-crushing and wearying as you’d expect. Nothing much to report here.

-In happier news, an older short story of mine, “Winter’s Cry” was reprinted in The Magazine of History and Fiction this spring. You can read it here.

-My recent short story, “Hyde Park,” received a mention in this awesome review on The Nerd Blitz for the Monsters, Movies, & Mayhem anthology. You can check it out here.

-I wrote a new short story this fall and am continuing to shop around a short story from earlier this year that I received a nice, personalized, and very encouraging rejection for from a publication I really admire. Fingers crossed it finds a home somewhere soon!

-And in non-writing news, we officially have a date and venue for our wedding!

Fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal, Reviews, Young Adult

A Map of Days

A Map of Days by Ransom Riggs

Having defeated the monstrous threat that nearly destroyed the peculiar world, Jacob Portman is back where his story began, in Florida. Except now Miss Peregrine, Emma, and their peculiar friends are with him, and doing their best to blend in. But carefree days of beach visits and normalling lessons are soon interrupted by a discovery—a subterranean bunker that belonged to Jacob’s grandfather, Abe.

Clues to Abe’s double-life as a peculiar operative start to emerge, secrets long hidden in plain sight. And Jacob begins to learn about the dangerous legacy he has inherited—truths that were part of him long before he walked into Miss Peregrine’s time loop.

Now, the stakes are higher than ever as Jacob and his friends are thrust into the untamed landscape of American peculiardom—a world with few ymbrynes, or rules—that none of them understand. New wonders, and dangers, await in this brilliant next chapter for Miss Peregrine’s peculiar children.

I loved the original three books in the Miss Peregrin’s Home for Peculiar Children series so I was apprehensive when I heard the series was continuing on. I’m always afraid that some things are better off left where they are, rather than continuing to try to create more story in order to continue to move forward and sell more books.

As a result, there’s been quite a gap in time since I finished Library of Souls. Enough time for books 4 and 5 to come out in the series. So starting A Map of Days, I realized I’d forgotten quite a bit about the earlier books. Much of the finer plot points and certainly what all of the kids’ peculiarities were. I wish this book had come with an appendix to help you get back up to speed, but alas, I had to make do with contextual clues. Luckily, the story does a good enough job situating you in the story that, after a little patience, I got it figured out. Enough to start sinking back into the story again at least. Though if you, like me, are returning to the series after a long absence, I would probably do a reread first.

Perhaps owning to a pandemic year that has all stuck at home, I find I’ve been really enjoying books set in own backyard, in America, the country I know best of all. As much as it is to escape to exotic locales and worlds, there’s something special about seeing the country you know in the pages of a book. Particularly a part of the book that is intimately familiar to the author (Ransom Riggs spent some of his life in Florida). And of course, it’s always a treat to see a part of the US that’s not commonly depicted in books and film (Florida that’s not Miami and the rural south).

In contrast to other series I’ve read where the books extended beyond the author’s original pitched and sold vision e.g. was a trilogy and now it’s 4, 5, or 6 books, there feels like enough new story here to keep the story going without it feeling boring or tiresome. This book still had all the quirky fun, magic, and inventiveness I’ve come to associate with this series. I also enjoyed how different Peculiar America is from Peculiar Europe and I look forward to exploring more of that contrast and how the kids have to learn to navigate a world that’s unlike anything they’ve ever known – for both Jacob and the original Miss Peregrine’s crew. I’m excited to see these characters continue to grow up and struggle to find their place in the world as young adults, not children. And I’m hoping the new books might inspire a film or tv series reboot that does the books more justice than they got the first time around.