This Hasn’t Been a Very Magical Journey So Far, by Homeless
Publishing on November 17, 2017 by Vegetarian Alcoholic Press
Vegetarian Alcoholic Press | Goodreads | Author’s Website
VAP’s first novel follows the adventures of Hank Williams, a troubled young man processing the loss of the love of his life, Patsy Cline. He’s greeted with the aid of Sid, a psychopathic cat who takes him on a deranged road trip in search of lost love and new meaning. Surreal obstacles meet them at every pass, leaving Hank Williams to question whether Sid is his savior or captor.
If you’ve been hunting for the perfect anthropomorphic, semi-erotic, off-the-rails, surrealistic feverdream of a book, look no further.
This Hasn’t Been a Very Magical Journey So Far is weird, there’s no doubt about it, but it’s weird on purpose and not by accident, which is an important distinction. It’ll only take a few pages for you to decide whether or not you like the style – if you’re intrigued by the off-kilter storytelling in the first few chapters, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by the rest of the story.
As for me, while I found the plot to be a touch predictable and occasionally too crass for my taste, the wonderfully strange way in which it was told won me over anyway. It’s very much like those dreams you have in the minutes after whacking the snooze button on your alarm – vivid, bemusing, and enjoyable in its oddness.
Your mileage may vary, but I had fun.
Worldwielder, by JM Vaughan
Published on July 30, 2017 by Aeternal Books
Amazon | Goodreads | Author’s Website
Melissa Mabrey isn’t like other sixteen-year-olds. From the time she was four, she’s been able to see the colors of people’s minds, colors that reveal to her their true feelings, desires, and fears. She’s only met one other person who’s like her—her best friend Kyle. But two years ago, Kyle mysteriously disappeared, and she hasn’t heard a word from him since.
Until today. In a book carried by a stranger, Melissa finds a desperate plea for help from Kyle. Following his clues, she’s hurtled from our world into the Gallery, a gateway to millions of worlds. Each world is entered through a painting, and each has a different “pull” on the minds of its occupants. There are pulls that make people grow calm in the face of peril, or flee from shadows in terror, or kill each other, or forget things forever.
But for Melissa, there’s nothing scarier than the unknown, and now she must traverse countless perilous worlds to find Kyle, fending off ruthless barbarians, the Gallery Guard, and her friend’s captors. Along the way, she’ll discover the truth about what she and Kyle are—a truth so terrifying her life will never be the same.
Worldwielder is nothing short of phenomenal.
Vaughan has woven one of the most creative and enthralling fantasy worlds I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. I’m not even sure how to begin explaining everything I loved about this book – do I start with Melissa, who isn’t a Strong Female Character™, but an actual strong female character complete with fears and flaws and the badassery to face them? Or do I start with the rest of the characters, major and minor alike, who all wrenched at my heartstrings in one way or another? Or maybe the writing itself, which was superlative – full of luxurious description without being overwritten, and so evocative that the most dramatic of the twists and turns made my heart start beating a little faster.
On top of everything else, this book avoids every YA trope and pitfall that tends to drive me nuts. No shoe-horned romance, no info-dumping, no nonsensical, unruly magic system, and no shying away from putting the characters in actual danger with actual consequences.
Look, I’m running out of adjectives, so I’ll keep it simple: Worldwielder is a breath of fresh air in the YA genre, and I cannot recommend it enough.
The Book of David: Chapter One, by Robert Kent
Published on June 23, 2016 by Middle Grade Ninja Press
Amazon | Goodreads | Author’s Website
The Walters family has just purchased the perfect home if only it weren’t located in the small hick town of Harrington, Indiana, and if only it weren’t haunted. David Walters is an atheist now, but his minister father taught him from a young age that Satan would one day deceive all mankind by pretending his demons were extraterrestrials. The day the Walters family moves in, they spot a flying saucer outside their new home. Things only get stranger from there. David Walters is about to learn what it means to be truly haunted, forcing him to confront his past, fight for his family, his soul, and his sanity.
Now this is how you start a serialized story.
This first installment in the five-part horror novel The Book of David is actually quite light on horror, but deliciously heavy on the suspense. The writing is rich and evocative, and it drew me in so deeply that when I turned the final page an audible “what no” escaped me because goddammit I wanted more. Kent introduces a wealth of mystery in this novella without making it feel like an info-dump. Couple that with the wonderful writing that made me care for David and company immediately, and Chapter One is one hell of a cliffhanger (pun perhaps intended). I’m itching to pick up the next chapter and see how quickly it evolves into the horror genre – the author obviously has a way of building a mood and I’m very curious to see how creepy it can get.
If irreverent Biblical UFO horror sounds like it’d be up your alley, please give this book a shot – and don’t be surprised when you reach for the next installments.
The Legend of Dollaretta, by Cherry Gunzenhauser
Published on August 10, 2017 through Amazon
Amazon | Goodreads | Author’s Website
The 17-year-old (vampire) Demi Chevalier is angry, fed-up and socially indifferent, yet she has accepted that Elizabeth Rose Convent will be her home for the next two years. She anticipates many hindrances, but does not expect her curiosity to be so deeply ignited by what she is told of the Convent’s infamous legend of Dollaretta.
According to the legend, those who speak of Dollaretta will find themselves fated to peril, and incidentally, the first student to tell Demi about the legend, finds herself in a grave situation. Demi refuses to acknowledge the strange coincidence, although there is a part of her that begins to feel a deep-rooted sense of paranoia. For the next few weeks Demi experiences vivid nightmares about the legend then as if to test her better judgement, she is confronted by a student who is convinced that the legend is real. Despite the eerie and suggestive nature of Demi’s nightmares, she tries to tell herself that paranoia is to be expected under the given circumstances.
Gothic? Check. Vampires? Check. Graphic novel? Check. The concept of The Legend of Dollaretta caught my imagination, and I really wanted to love it, but unfortunately, it kind of misses the mark for me.
The main issue is that the artwork just didn’t captivate me. All the characters look extremely similar – the same faces sporting slightly different hairstyles – and that made it difficult to differentiate them. The backgrounds are also rather plain, which doesn’t do the setting any favors. Take a look:
The writing wasn’t enough to carry the novel either. Between the occasional misspelling (‘heredatory’ for ‘hereditary’) and some awkward phrasing (‘a journey of paranormal complexions’), I just wasn’t hooked.
The premise was super intriguing, and I’d love to see Dollaretta reworked with stronger storytelling and a more diverse-looking cast.
I’ve been running this little corner of bookishness and snark for seven months now – if Bookish Creature were a baby, it’d be teething.
Over this better part of a year, I’ve received too many book review submissions to count, and I’ve started to figure out what separates the great ones from the good ones. In the interest of helping authors improve their chances with reviewers (not to mention helping bloggers get more great submissions) – and with some help from the lovely gents over at Striking 13 – I’ve put together a few best practices for taming that strange and flighty beast: the book blogger.
Pay attention to each reviewer’s guidelines! Most of us only accept a handful of genres and file types – no sense sending your book out to someone if it’s not their cup of tea. If they don’t have any guidelines listed, try taking a look at their previous reviews to see what genres they tend to read.
Put Your Best Foot Forward
Proofread your email. Twice. Typos happen to everyone, but an obvious lack of care in your message doesn’t give me high hopes for your book.
Put Your Best Book Forward
“Do not send every story you’ve ever written, pick one. Nothing worse than getting half a dozen emails, one after the other, from the same person, or getting a book series described in a single submission form with a multitude of attachments. If your book is well received, then by all means reach out to us again with another piece of work.” -Richard from Striking 13
Be a Tease
Back cover blurbs are great and all, but what we really want is a taster of your writing style before we commit to the whole book. If you’re not comfortable sending off a review copy right away for us to flip through, consider including the first chapter, or pointing us towards Amazon if you have their Look Inside feature enabled.
Link Me Up
Speaking of Amazon – most reviewers like to link around to various publishing outlets and social networks. Make it easy on us and include these links in your message. Amazon and Goodreads are the major ones, but including your personal website, Twitter handle, and Facebook page is also helpful.
We’re Only Volunteers
With books as in life: suggest, don’t demand. I can’t speak for every blogger out there, but if you give me a little wiggle room I’ll do my best to work within your marketing campaign – provided the deadlines are reasonable, of course. That said, life happens no matter how fast you read, and for most of us, this is just a hobby. Be patient with us. 😉
Ditch the formality! I love getting review requests that are friendly and full of personality – they stand out, they give me a sense of your writing style, and they’re far more likely to be accepted. So loosen up. 🙂 We’re all just a bunch of book nerds, after all.
Speaking of nerds – sound off in the comments! Authors, any questions? Bloggers, any more advice?