Thursday, June 14, 2018

Confusion, Catastrophes and Carnivores (no really I feel like a lot of people almost get eaten)



Author: Mark Marrison
Published: February 21, 2018 by Mark Morrison

Goodreads summary: Sarah and her twin brother Jon are heirs to an ancient magical realm and its most valuable treasure, an enchanted library. The library endows readers with the supernatural means of crossing into the uncharted inner-sanctum of the second dimension, inhabited with peculiar and sometimes perilous creatures. 

The children are emboldened with a wondrous mystical gift that no other being has ever possessed. But fate intervenes and triggers a disastrous inter-dimensional war that disrupts the fabric of time and space spanning multiple universes, tearing destiny a new and savage pathway. 

The two must rescue their world from a phantom hybrid alien race controlled by a demented dark-wizard, Jeremy Sermack. They will either assimilate or be exterminated. 

Will they be the saviors the prophets spoke of, or will they retreat to the perceived safety of their distant homeland?

My Thoughts:

This is a really good idea for a story. The plot is complex and the characters are likable. Mysteries abound throughout the book. The idea of a magical library where you can enter the books is fantastic, and I loved the descriptions of TwoSpells and the magic creatures that dwell within or roundabouts.

I liked that Tornado Abaddon was easily bought off with pickles, and that Sarah and Jon acted like 13 year olds.

I liked that the woodworm Boose was also sweet, this was a theme throughout the story that animals are often just misunderstood, not inherently evil, and can learn to be kind and tame.

However, I got lost lots of times and had no idea what was going on. Characters seemingly appeared out of no where, and others were lost just as easily. Characters also adapted to magical creatures with an ease that was uncanny. For instance, take the drive to the grandparents home. Percy (the Mom's boyfriend) is driving and while in the car the family experiences multiple phenomenon that seem as if they will be explained later, but aren't. Was that a werewolf? Did Percy get bit? Why in the world were they suddenly back in time, and why did an arrow penetrate the side of their car???

Things at the house are also strange, the missing mirrors is never explained, and neither is Clyde's betrayal (at least not thoroughly). Once the family gets to TwoSpells things go into overdrive. Catastrophe after catastrophe occur back-to-back-to-back with no time for breathing room or plot explanation. 

See the beginning of the book goes at a good speed, and then suddenly everything begins to happen and characters that weren't mentioned before are suddenly running amuck and there's this strange virus that I still don't understand and suddenly the bad-guy has a sidekick, and the bad-guy is also the twins dad and their mom is a monster AND I GOT SO LOST!!!! (PLEASE SEND HELP).

I mean like, things got weird. I felt like it was three stories mashed into one. Each catastrophe could've had about three more chapters and even then it might not be explainable. 

Basically I read the whole book and still don't really know why or how things happened, and did Jon really get sucked into a wormhole? Because it was kind of unclear, and I don't know about you but if any of my siblings got sucked into a blackhole, I would be a wreck for days, and not be as cool and rational as Sarah was. 

So overall, this story has A LOT of potential, good characters and a great setting, but everything needs to be expanded. Things need explaining (like where in the freak did Jeremy come from) and emotions need to be better expressed (looking at you Sarah), this book could really be great if given more attention and care.


Thursday, June 7, 2018

In which Erin questions her own sanity after reading Jeffrey Bardwell's Rotten Magic rewrite

Title: Rotten Magic
Series: The Artifice Mage Saga (#1)
Author: Jeffrey Bardwell
Genre: Fantasy / Steampunk / YA 
Publisher: Twigboat Press

"It's their hidden fire we fear, that horrible force waiting to burst out. But they're not monsters. They're human beings lost in their own power." - Rotten Magic


Would you sacrifice your future to practice magic?

Artificers are the gilded princes of the Iron Empire. Mages are violent criminal outcasts. Devin competes to become the best artificer in the empire . . . but he's secretly a mage.

All the apprentices in the Artificer's Guild compete by building crude prototypes of powered armor for mock battles. When Devin transforms himself into a mechanical dragon to slaughter the competition, his rival Benson steps into the role of dragon slayer. But Devin's secret grows heavier as he claws his way to the top. He's started hearing eerie voices in his head: the stout words of the being he calls 'the artificer' and the oily voice of 'the mage.' How long can Devin be satisfied with fake dragon armor when the promise of true arcane power whispers in his ear?

Embark on Devin's dark epic journey in Book One of The Artifice Mage Saga. Join the fantasy steampunk brawl of metal vs. magic where sorcery is bloody, science is greasy, and nobody's hands are clean.


If you're thinking, "Hey, wait, didn't she already review this book?" The answer is "yes and no." 

Previously on this blog, I reviewed Rotten Magic 1.0

This is Rotten Magic 2.0. 

I thought the first one was pretty perfect when I read it, so when the author (Jeffrey Bardwell) asked me if I'd like to review a "new and improved" version, I was all on board. But I was a little dubious. How could anyone improve on the fast-paced, delightfully dark story of metal and mages that was Rotten Magic 1.0? 

Regardless, I gave it a read.

I. Loved. It.

Guys, Rotten Magic 2.0 is even better than the first version!

The main story is still intact, as are the characters. There's just more of it, and of them. 

The biggest change from version 1 to 2 occurs in the character of Drusilla: Devin's best friend and fellow apprentice artificer. In version 1, she's more of a minor character. In 2, she's one of the story's two narrators (the other is Devin). 

In my opinion, Drusilla's vamped up role and voice add a lot to the story. It's cool to compare her background, personality, and attitude with Devin's, and it's nice to get a female narrator along with the male one - it brings dimension and depth. Drusilla also comes from a sympathetic background: her family is poor and her father is abusive. 

That said, I'm a little perplexed over Drusilla's actions at the end of the story. Encouraging Devin to free himself by exposing his mage powers to the Black Guards seems like a very roundabout way of helping out your best friend. That said, it's such an insane chain of reasoning that I kind of dig it. (Petition for Drusilla to return in a future book where we realize she's completely nuts.)

Even if she's not bonkers, it's conceivable that the pressures of being an artificer apprentice, together with the stressful time of year (it's evals), her troubled home life, and her frustrations over Devin's actions would drive her to think in illogical ways. So I guess what I'm trying to say is, I don't see any sane person doing what Drusilla did to Devin; but I can buy it if Drusilla herself is a little off.

Now that I think of it, she's not the only one. Devin is constantly struggling to remain in control of himself and his powers (this is another element of the book that I love and could probably write a whole nother blog post on); and the fact that he goes along with Drusilla at the end indicates that maybe the two of them are unhinged in the same way. Drusilla's father is a bit wacko; and so is Devin's nemesis, the bully Benson. Even some of the established artificers show signs of being a little off-kilter. Shoot, is anyone in this story completely sane? 

This is partly why I love Jeffrey Bardwell's books so much: his characters are flawed. When it comes to fictional characters, I'm all about the Lokis, the Lady Macbeths, the Victor Frankensteins.

Why? These characters are just so interesting to read about. It's fascinating to get inside their heads and explore their twisted logic, or to guess at what they'll do next when every move they make is so unpredictable. Devin is a Victor Frankenstein if ever there was one. So while I compared him to Ender in my previous review (albeit a warped Ender), I'm sticking with Frankenstein here. 

Here's where I mention that this book is steampunk and fantasy, and what a delightful thing it is to get a book that's cross-genre in my two favorite categories. Thank you, Jeffrey Bardwell.

Another thing I love about this book - in both its incarnations, but especially in the second one - is its pacing. While I usually avoid reading other reviews of a book until after I've written mine, I accidentally read one on Goodreads that compared reading Rotten Magic to watching a train crash in slow motion, and boy is that accurate! I know it's all going to end in tears, but I can't tear myself away!

"We are in control of this situation. The phrase echoed through Devin's mind. For so long, I've wrestled to stay in control. And for what? ...Everything still burst into flames in the end."

Why do I find a train wreck so fascinating? Is it possible I, too, am a little sadistic? A little bit... off?

This is a book review, not a psychoanalysis session, so I'll leave it at that.


Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Why I would probably sell my soul to Rick Riordan if he asked me to

Why do I love Rick Riordan so much?

Is a question I have never asked myself because, let's be real, what's the point? Also it's just sort of obvious. Who doesn't love Rick Riordan? (OK, you can leave.)

That being said, here are a few possible reasons behind my enthusiasm for the man and his books. Feel free to share yours in the comments, or tell us your favorite Rick Riordan book and/or quote.

Rick Riordan Camp Jupiter Camp Half-Blood
(Rick Riordan's only rival is himself)

Reason 1: His books just keep getting better

Once upon a time there was this MG series called Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and it was like nothing else that came before it. Percy Jackson was this king of sass who was also vulnerable and had adorable friends, and they got up to all these crazy adventures involving ancient Greek monsters and gods in modern times. It seamlessly blended ancient Greece and contemporary America, and it was chalked full of originality, wit, humor, and pretty non-stop action. My favorite novel in the series was The Titan's Curse, which I read in about 24 hours, I think.

When we finished that series, with Annabeth challenging Percy to a race down the hill (ah, bittersweet memory), it kind of felt like an era in our lives had ended. But I bet you all remember reading Rick Riordan's acknowledgements at the end of the book and snagging on the line where he thanks someone for helping him with his "first Camp Half-Blood series."


And there were more. And if we thought that first series was good (it was), the next books just kept getting better and better. Sure, some of us will always have a rose-colored view of that first series, and sure, some of the following books have been better than others. But then Riordan drops something like The House of Hades, or The Hidden Oracle, or The Dark Prophecy, and it's like, "dang, Riordan, I knew you could write, but - well, dang!"

Reason 2: He throws out fabulous one liners like nobody's business

"I confess I lost track of the specifics after he explained about the exploding chain-saw Frisbees."

"You hit the Lord of the Titans in the eye with a blue plastic hairbrush."

"With great power... comes great need to take a nap. Wake me up later."

Rick Riordan is the master of one liners. His off-the-wall brand of humor is one of the things that made those first Percy Jackson books so great, and now it's become his hallmark. What other book (except the ever-present Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) contains lines of such memorable, well-aimed goofiness?

Reason 3: He is the master of the subtle art of haiku

How many of us could come up with an original, clever haiku for each chapter of a book? And then do the same thing for two more books?

Reason 4: He is the master of the subtle art of killer book dedications

You all know what I'm talking about.

Reason 5: He pretends his fans have a love/hate relationship with him but everyone knows we'd probably jump off a cliff into Hades after him

Riordan knows he has us wrapped around his finger, but he plays it cool, pretending we hate him because he's such a troll (we pretend that too, but let's be real, his trolling only makes us love him more). And he keeps giving us more of what we want, and it's pretty consistently awesome. Like how much stuff has this guy churned out, now? Not just novels, but all those things like The Demigod Files and Percy Jackson's Greek Myths. To say nothing of his other series that take place outside of Camp Half-Blood.

Reason 6: He's giving us a whole series about Apollo

'Nuf said. Now you know
Rick Riordan is our man
We love him a lot

Happy birthday, Rick Riordan! Here's to many more demigod adventures.

Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Light in the Darkness

Between the Shade and the Shadow


Author: Coleman Alexander
Published: The Realmless LLC - June 21 2018

Goodreads Summary:    In the deep heart of the forest, there are places where no light ever shines, where darkness is folded by pale hands and jewel-bright eyes, where the world is ruled by the wicked and kept by the wraiths. This is where the Sprites of the Sihl live. But Sprites are not born, they are made. On the path to Spritehood, spritelings must first become shades. They do so by binding a shadow: a woodland creature, who guides them through their training. Together, they keep from the light and learn to enchant living things, to bind them, and, eventually, to kill them.  Yet, not all spritelings are born with malice—they must earn it or they are condemned. What happens then to the spriteling who finds a shadow where she shouldn’t? What happens if that particular spriteling wasn’t born with malice at all? 

Ahraia was that spriteling. She ran too close to the light and bound herself to a wolf, a more powerful shadow than any that came before it. Now a shade, her shadow marks her for greatness. But a test is coming, and the further they wander out of the darkness, the deeper they wander into danger. Ahraia’s time is coming and what awaits her at the end of her test will either make her or kill her

My Thoughts: 
     I don't know where to start with this book. It was phenomenal. The story is dark - literally, sprites, spritelings, and shades can't leave the shade or they burn. These creatures sleep in patches of homemade darkness during the day and wake once the sun has set. This story is not set in our world, the night sky holds two moons, not one. 
     At first the reader is inclined to believe that the sprites, spritelings and shades(I'm just gonna call them dark elves, okay?) are in the right. The main character is one of them after all, aren't we supposed to root for their success? No. I don't believe so. This becomes more and more apparent as the book progresses. While spritelings can be kind and loving, sprites can not. The very essence of a sprite is malice and death. Some shades turn to sprites easier than others, this is not the case for Ahraia and her shadow Losna. 
     Before becoming a shade, a spriteling must go into the woods and bind themselves to an animal - think familiar - with home they create a bond. On the night of her binding, Ahraia considers running away and never coming back, until she sees Losna. A huge black and silver wolf. They moment they meet a strong bond is formed. They bind tighter than most. And for a while everything is fine, but then things start to happen. Ahraia's mother the Astra (leader of the tribe) is cast out and replaced by another woman. Life shifts. And shifts again three years later when Ahraia's eldest sister becomes a sprite, and the sprites learn that Ahraia has not been using magic to kill as expected - Losna is instead doing the killing of food.
     On a hunt gone awry they learn that humans will be passing near a place which two of Ahraia's brothers are at. The pair rush to warn them but arrive too late. They meet a terrible evil and find the bodies of the brothers and their shades. Oh, and get seen by a human. A human who Ahraia doesn't kill on site like she should. Her other brother takes the blame for this blunder and is exiled to the shadow woods where he is quickly eaten by the Shad-mon. These sudden deaths push Ahraia to the top of her nit (group of siblings) and suddenly the Masai (queen of all dark elves) arrives and claims Ahraia as her own - a shade powerful enough to bond with a wolf is needed in her tribe. There are many protests - Ahraia is too young to become a sprite and does not want to leave her younger siblings who will die without her help. She doesn't have a choice, and so begins the shadow tests.
     The first test is to kill an innocent - an enormous elk - and to do so using her magic. But to use that magic means killing the creature while mind-melded with it, and Ahraia refuses. Instead she still manages to kill the elk with assistance from a pack of wolves. As soon as this is accomplished she plans on escaping the nit with her younger siblings, but the Masai takes Losna as prisoner and leaves. 
     The second task is to kill an enemy and take his head to the Masai where she will get to see Losna. This is perhaps where we see the most character development. Ahraia has been raised to see humans as enemies, but she finds that this is not true. While she doesn't have any positive interactions with them she recognizes their family units and decides she cannot kill one. Eventually severing the head of an already dead man.
     She arrives as the Masai's darkness longing to see her shadow only to learn that she is not allowed to be with her until the final task - killing her shadow. This is why sprites have no love and seem cold and withdrawn. A sprite is creating when a shade and shadow die. Ahraia is horrified, she will never kill Losna. Days begin to tick away as she tries to plan how to escape with Losna. Oh, also, her younger siblings were killed.
     During her stay with the Masai she learns that the Masai was behind the deaths of her siblings. A wolf-binder is powerful and a threat to the power of the Masai, so the Masai killed Ahraia's older siblings making her next in line to become a sprite. Once she was a sprite the Masai had planned to kill her. For most dark elves, this would have worked. They follow orders and do not question the chain of command or the authority that rules. Ahraia is different. Maybe because she bonded with an animal that also has a strong sense of self, family and the light. Maybe because Ahraia's spirit is a wolf just like her shadow. 
    Ahraia is caught while trying to escape and condemned to the shadow woods, and thereby death by the shad-mon. But Ahraia is not like other dark elves, she has walked in the light and been scarred and come away better for it.
    Ahraia escapes the shad-mons (yes there are two) a thing that had never before been done. Because instead of using her magic on animals to kill, she has been using her magic on plants to bend them to her needs, and to learn the paths of the forest. She outruns and outsmarts the shad-mon and then frees Losna. But, they have still to escape the prison that holds Losna. This is accomplished by fire. Fire burns dark elves, but Ahraia is not like other dark elves, and endures pain in order to survive. Finally she and Losna are almost free when they are stopped by the Masai. The most powerful Sprite there is. But she is not like Ahraia. She is strong and can bind the body, but does not think of the trees. Ahraia uses magic to call the trees and roots into action easily ripping the arms and head off the Masai. The pair then crosses back to the shadow woods.

     This is where the theme of the book and the character of Ahraia really meld. All her life she has been taught the three rules of the Shadow woods - Don't make a sound, don't touch the trees, and don't drink the water. She and Losna do the exact opposite bringing the monsters to them instead of being hunted. They attack the shad-mons showing them their lack of fear and cross unattacked through the rest of the shadow woods.

Okay, sorry that was a long synopsis. Maybe not totally necessary, but it helps me to think. Ahraia and Losna survive because they don't do everything they are told, they question orders, and learn that trying new things can work better than the old. Instead of taking life, Ahraia saves lives. Instead of fearing the day, Ahraia uses it to her advantage and finds that while it burns, it will not kill her. Instead of using animals as tools to selfish ends, Ahraia treats creatures with respect and tries to ask as little as possible. Ahraia is powerful because she does what feels right to her, not what society tells her. 

I loved this book. My review cannot do it justice. The plot was complex, but everything had a place. The characters were intense and interesting. And maybe most importantly of all, this story made me feel. I was emotionally tied to the story, I cared about the characters and I was on the edge of my seat. I read it in three days, and it's a pretty long book. If you want a complex, compelling story about the trust and love between a girl and her dog, this book is for you. And if you don't want that, read it anyway. It's fantastic.


Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Doppelgangers and Dragon Riders

Rescuing the Prince

Rescuing the Prince

Author: Meghann McVey
Published: 2017 (kindle) by Meghann McVey

Goodreads Summary: During the afternoon fantasy parade, a dragon swooped down and carried off my boyfriend. I am not making this up. 

So begins Leah’s adventures that lead her to another world. At home in California, Leah’s boyfriend Gerry is her rock and motivation. Now, trapped in another world without him, she must find her own courage. During her quest, Leah impersonates a missing princess, learns magic, and meets new friends and allies, including the shy, handsome Tolliver. But in the end, does she have what it takes to defeat Gerry’s fearsome captor, the Dragon Rider?

My thoughts:
This story was riveting. I found myself staying up late into the night to finish it. The main character - Leah, was real. She wasn't some warrior-ess just waiting to save the day. She frequently did things wrong, and was timid and full of anxiety, yet tough. Most of the characters in the story were well rounded and carefully crafted. I especially enjoyed the characters at Valeriya the school of magic, and the two guards - Tolliver and Faxon were well written too.

However, this story didn't seem very linear, it actually felt like multiple stories in one book. First, Leah is set on rescuing her boyfriend who was carried away by a dragon, but then she is caught up in the search for a missing princess and used as a fake, in order to keep the kingdom stable. After showing signs of magic, she's sent to a school where she can learn more about her new powers. Then, a civil war breaks out and she is rushed back to the first kingdom she entered. While there she finally decides to do something about her boyfriend and goes on a hunt (with a gypsy) to rescue him from the Dragon Rider. 

In total about 2 years pass between the beginning of the book and the end. The main plot of the book which seems to be rescuing Ger (the boyfriend) gets lost among the more exciting things that Leah experiences during her adventure. She not only learns how to be a princess, and how to weld elements, but also falls in love with a great guy. That's a lot to cover. The plot was good, but towards the end of the book things became very confusing and events didn't seem to connect. Were we supposed to believe that Leah was fine with her boyfriend being kidnapped and probably tortured for two years? It just seemed a little improbable. 

At the end Leah finally faces the Dragon Rider and learns that it is not who she thought! It is Lady Ariana the kind woman who dwells in the village, but no! Wait! It's actually Mersania last of the first people. Immortal and alone, she used to be lovers with Ger, who is actually also from this world, and also immortal. She kidnapped him as revenge. What???? If you're confused by that, so was I. Especially because during the book, Mersania's story is told multiple times, each time she is illustrated as a sad lonely child wandering the world. In one version of the story she lives with the gypsies for a time before continuing her life. At no time during any of the recitations of her tale did I feel like she was malevolent, and yet she had captured a man and held him captive for two years - yes, he was her ex-lover, but still. It seemed out of character. 

At the end of the book everything wraps up, the civil war ends, the missing princess turns up (she was actually in disguise as a dude the whole time), and Leah ends up with Tolliver. 

But wait! It's not over! Suddenly Leah and Tolliver are transported back to modern day California right into the amusement park (think Disneyland) where Leah used to work. Now it's over.

This book left me with more questions than answers. I'm still very confused over a few key points. 


Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Alligators, druids, and time travel, oh my! Review of 'Some Very Messy Medieval Magic' by C. Lee McKenzie

Cover image of Some Very Messy Medieval Magic

Title: Some Very Messy Medieval Magic
Series: The Adventures of Pete and Weasel #3
Author: C. Lee McKenzie
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy / Time Travel 
Publisher: Dancing Lemur Press LLC
Buy: Amazon

What Goodreads has to say:

Pete’s stuck in medieval England!

Pete and his friend Weasel thought they’d closed the Time Lock. But a young page from medieval times, Peter of Bramwell, goes missing. His absence during a critical moment will forever alter history unless he’s found.

There’s only one solution - fledgling wizard Pete must take the page’s place. Accompanied by Weasel and Fanon, Pete’s alligator familiar, they travel to 1173 England.

But what if the page remains lost - will Pete know what to do when the critical moment arrives? Toss in a grumpy Fanon, the duke’s curious niece, a talking horse, and the Circle of Stones and Pete realizes he’s in over his young wizard head yet again...

What I have to say:

An alligator familiar? A woefully inept young wizard? An introverted best friend? A time-traveling author who may or may not have been turned into a horse for writing something nasty about the druids? 

There was nothing about C. Lee McKenzie's Some Very Messy Medieval Magic that I did not love, unless it was the fact that it eventually ended. 

I haven't read the first two books in the series (now I will) but I didn't feel lost at any point. The author does a great job summing everything up concisely and entertainingly, along the way dropping hints that make me want to go back and read those first two books.

Right from the start, this book was awesome. As soon as I read the first couple of paragraphs about a substitute teacher named "Dread Wraith" making life difficult for his middle school students, I knew I'd found a good thing. The tone is so entertaining and the two main characters are so lovable.

Pete and Weasel are two eighth graders who in many ways couldn't be more different: Weasel seems to know everything - Pete is pretty clueless and at any given time you can probably find him screwing things up. Weasel puts out a grumpy, leave me alone vibe - Pete can't understand why anyone wouldn't want a hug. For better or for worse, they're best friends. And I am so in love with their friendship dynamic. 

Also hallelujah, Weasel is an introvert! I want to see more introverted characters in fiction! Especially in YA and MG fiction. Especially in YA and MG fantasy and science fiction. So thank you, C. Lee McKenzie, for doing that.

This story also has a nice element of mystery, and that coupled with the fun voice and quick pace is what kept me reading. Plus, there are delicious touches of all the things that make up a great story: mysterious standing stones, a dark forest, ghosts on Halloween night, illusive castles, time travel disasters, and even a bit of old English politics. I mean really what is there not to love?

I'll stop rhapsodizing now and try to actually talk about the book.

Pete and Weasel have to go back to medieval England to fix a time inconsistency left over from Pete's great Time Lock disaster (one of the instances in which he screwed things up). Pete knows he has to save the young duke, but he doesn't know how, when, or what from. And to make things worse, it looks like there may be an assassin in their midst. 

Complicating matters still further is the fact that Weasel can't wear his glasses because glasses haven't been invented yet and he and Pete need to blend into medieval England, that Pete has no idea how to ride a horse or wield a sword, and that the druids keep interfering in everyone's affairs.

Also there's the fact that Pete's alligator familiar (?!) is 100% done with Pete after getting left in a smelly moat for several days, and the startling revelation that Pete's horse is definitely not what she seems. I can't - I just freaking love all of it. 

In short, if you're looking for a fun, engaging middle grade adventure that will make you laugh out loud but also keep you up at night reading, and if you like your novels sprinkled with an element of the supernatural and a bit of time travel, you really can't go wrong with Some Very Messy Medieval Magic. And don't let that title fool you - there is nothing messy about this book. It's pure perfection.


Ah, what the heck? I'll give it five trees. YOLO.

Until tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Why I stopped writing for four months - guest post by author Chris Bridge

Hello readers! 

Today we're happy to bring you this guest post from Chris Bridge, author of Girl Without a Voice. The topic is something a lot of writers can probably relate to.

Why I stopped writing for four months 

by Chris Bridge

One morning, nearly three years ago, I got up early, as usual, and began to write. My novel was called Long Lost then. Later it morphed into Girl Without a Voice. The story had been skipping along. I had an outline so I knew where I was going but not exactly how I was going to get there. I aim to write 1000 words before breakfast. That morning I remember I was way over my target.

I’d written quickly but with a sense of unease. As I wrote, a new idea crept into my mind and stayed there. It wasn’t what I ever intended to write. It was in none of the plans I’d drawn up. But it was perfect. It fitted everything and would add wings to the plot. This new thought suddenly seemed like a really good idea.

My characters seemed to think so too. I realized they had been heading for this confrontation for a long time. It was absolutely true to both of them at that moment. It was exactly what each of them would have done. So I wrote the scene.

When I read it back I was appalled. I’m a man who tends to write about women. Leah is not only my main character, she is my narrator, so I had written the scene from her point of view. I read it back and thought, you’ve no right to do that. As a man you can’t know enough to make the scene real. It could seem horribly gratuitous.

I re-read it and my doubts intensified. Every writer has their red lines. I’d crossed one of mine. I’d already saved what I’d written. I’d done this from habit before I read it over.  I didn’t delete it. But I shut down the computer and abandoned the more than 30,000 words I’d already written, all that planning and the extensive research.

I didn’t go back to it for four months. But when I read it through it came alive off the page. I was excited by the trajectory that lead to the scene, and then both moved and disturbed by the scene itself. It worked. It really worked. Women friends of mine agreed.

So much of what we do as writers exists in our imaginations. I think we have to be true to all the experiences we have had, and to all the observations we have made, and every story we have been told. Truth is the only red line. We are not confined by gender or by age but only by the way in which we have opened ourselves up to so many layers of experience and the way we stay true to what we think we know.

Nice, right? If that left you wanting more, here's the scoop on Chris Bridge's new book Girl Without a Voice:

Robbed of speech and ignored, Leah exists on the margins. Then Patrick arrives.

Bullied as a child by her siblings, Leah is so traumatised that she loses the power of speech.

Being mute has made her acutely observant, so years later she notices how her mother, Izzy, becomes energized the moment the funeral of Leah’s father is over. She soon learns that Izzy is searching for the son she gave up for adoption.

Patrick is found and Izzy is delighted. He soon becomes a frequent visitor. Leah is so enthralled by Patrick that she changes her usual look of long cardigan over men’s trousers for a more appealing, womanly look. The change is not lost on Patrick who responds in a very non-brotherly way.

Leah runs away to the only friend she has and, after regaining the use of her voice, enlists his help in discovering the truth about her supposed half-brother.

Their search leads them to Leah’s estranged uncle and a run-in with the cult of the Living Saints.

Can Leah convince her mother that all is not as it appears with Patrick?

Can she and her family rescue their mother from the religious cult and escape Patrick once and for all?

Happy reading,
Erin & Anna