2017 Reflections: Year in Review

Well, 2017 has been quite the year. I don’t really want to spark any political debates on this blog tonight, so I’ll refrain from commenting on what has happened in the United States–and the world–in general during 2017. Still, I think it would be worth my time to reflect on how this year has gone for me personally and this blog.


Image retrieved from Whatsapp Status

I can’t believe that I only launched this blog in March. It feels like a lifetime ago, and it has, arguably, been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, along with deciding to apply for my Master’s in Creative Writing program. This blog has provided me with a way to share my wisdom and opinions with other writers, connect with more of the publishing industry, and vent in ways which I just can’t achieve through normal social media outlets.

This blog isn’t the only major change to happen to me in 2017. I’ve gained a steady stream of freelance writing, reviewing, and editing jobs (mostly through Fiverr), and I started working for MeowShare part-time. I joined OnlineBookClub.org and experienced Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party for the first (but certainly not last) time. I was even long-listed for the CWA’s Margery Allingham Short Story Competition. Best of all, my new puppy, Bubba, danced his way into my life!

Not all of 2017 has been good, though. Unfortunately, the toxic socio-political climate in my country isn’t all that caused me stress this year. I’ve been up to my eyeballs in work, both paid work and for school. I’ve been deprived of crucial sleep lately. My beloved, geriatric cat, Hunter, passed away in October. My performance in grad school has slipped below my standards (although I’m still passing). 2017 has also decided to leave my mother’s side of the family with a two-fold low blow, which is all I want to say about it on my blog.

Have the good changes outweighed the bad? It depends on your perspective. From my point of view, things could have turned out a lot worse. They could have been better, but they also could have been a lot worse, too. In that way, 2017 has been just like any other year.

Overall, I’m kind of relieved that the year is over. The year “2017” seems to be so tainted now that I’m ready for a new beginning. But do I think 2018 will be any different? Again, it depends. It depends on the way we decide to look at this coming year. It depends on how we choose to view our own lives and the paths we can take. The outcome of 2018 all depends on us.

Until we’re further into the year, though, 2018 has the potential to be much better than its predecessor. It’s a new year, after all, a fresh start. We just have to take it.

Happy New Year, everyone!

 


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011

Book Reviews: All These Things by Mark Tiro

Trigger Warning: All These Things by Mark Tiro briefly depicts incidents of violence and rape. If you are triggered by such events or wish to avoid reading them, proceed with caution.

Happy Sunday, everyone, and Merry Christmas Eve to my readers who celebrate it! As my holiday gift to my readers, I’m posting another review. Today’s review is for All These Things (The Spirit Invictus Series Book 2) by Mark Tiro.

All These Things follows Maya as she faces the strangest case in her history as a Public Defender. The District Attorney has filed murder charges against David for the death of his young daughter in a car accident. The DA’s argument? He was trying to kill himself and, by extension, his daughter. The truth, though, is much stranger than the DA or Maya could have ever imagined.


Image retrieved from Amazon

Tiro illustrates Maya’s journey as she not only attempts to prove David’s innocence but as she faces the ghosts of her past. All the while, the reader is left to wonder: What exactly happened leading up to the car crash? How—and why—is David so peaceful when he has lost his daughter and is facing life in jail for something he did not do? Most importantly, how is her experience with David going to alter Maya’s view of the darkness clouding her life? The result is an emotional roller coaster with many twists, turns, and spiritual revelations.

Tiro has written another gripping, mind-altering piece of fiction, albeit in a very different style than the first book in The Spirit Invictus series. All These Things is much more straight-forward than Implicit: Soul Invictus, and so I think it will appeal to a wider range of readers. Still, it is no less spiritual or deep. David presents a theory about reality which is very much in line with the lessons about love from Implicit: Soul Invictus. His arguments about the world being an illusion also align with Plato’s The Cave, an allegory which I have discussed previously on this blog. (I’m not afraid to admit that I’m kind of obsessed with it and so appreciated this sort of view being depicted in Tiro’s work.)

Readers watch as Maya struggles with David’s lessons about reality and the illusion that is the world, and I could feel her struggle every step of the way. Tiro presents Maya in a way that her resistance—and, later, reluctant acceptance—of David’s views makes complete sense and is entirely relatable. After all, who would want to accept that the world is just an illusion and all that is real is love? Maya’s horrific personal experiences make her even more relatable and likeable as a character, even though her anger and competitiveness can get in the way of her relating to anyone—including the reader.

The relationships between Maya and her friends are perfectly complex and enjoyable to read. I especially appreciate her relationships with the other women at the Public Defender’s Office and with the man with whom she shares her office, Donald. The relationships are playful and fun yet also deep and prone to disagreement, as all real friendships are. Maya’s love life is, understandably, unstable and unhealthy. Tiro justifies every complexity in Maya’s relationships and ties them, sometimes indirectly, with a particular set of tragedies from her childhood. Through these relationships and her encounters with David, Maya becomes a truly three-dimensional character, perhaps even more so than in the first book.

The legal jargon in the book, fortunately, is not a huge focus. Tiro realistically discusses the procedures and use of penal codes throughout the novel, but this usage never distracts from the main story nor does it slow down the narrative too badly. I am in no way versed in legality terms but I found it easy to make it through the passages which contained them and still understand what was going on.

All These Things is meant to be the sequel to Tiro’s Implicit: Soul Invictus, which I reviewed here a couple weeks ago. However, this book reads more like a prequel than a sequel in many ways. We get to see Maya before she becomes a law school professor, back in her days as a PD, and learn more about the bizarre case which she wanted to write about in Implicit: Soul Invictus. Tiro has admitted that All These Things was the first of the books he had written with Implicit: Soul Invictus coming later, and I think that that order shows in the books. In fact, I wish that I had read this book first. I came to understand Maya much better, including her experience with the spiritual world before the events of Implicit: Soul Invictus. Such background would have helped me to understand Maya’s journey in the first book much better, and I feel that I should go back and re-read Implicit: Soul Invictus now that I am armed with this new knowledge.

Overall, All These Things is an excellent piece of fiction with an engaging plot and dynamic characters. I spotted a few minor proofreading errors along the way, but they did not detract from the novel in general. While it is out of the intended order, I would actually suggest reading this book before the first book. Much more will make sense in the first book if you do. Even if you read them in the intended order, I think that fans of the supernatural and spiritual fiction will love both of these books, although for different reasons each time. You don’t get the same reading experience from both books in the series, but that’s part of the appeal to Tiro’s work.

If you want to read All These Things by Mark Tiro, you can order it as a Kindle book from Amazon. The Kindle book also includes a preview of Implicit: Soul Invictus and a note from the author about his process. To learn more about Mark Tiro, you can visit his website or check him out on Facebook.

Do you know of any books I should read? Want your work reviewed on this blog? E-mail me at thewritersscrapbin@gmail.com or message me on Fiverr and we can arrange something.

 


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011

Special Announcement: Free Fantasy eBooks on Instafreebie

Hello again! I got a tip about a promotion for some free fantasy eBooks on Instafreebie, and I wanted to share the news with my readers. Most excitingly, one of the books involved in the giveaway is Sister of Echo: The Making of a Villain by our very own Ameel Koro!

The promotion began Decemember 22, 2017, and ends January 11, 2018. All you have to do is follow this link to Instafreebie during this time frame and then choose which books you want to download. The list of possibilities is a mile long, and there are no limits to how many you can download so long as you do it before January 11th.

I’ve only read Sister of Echo, but one look at the list tells me that I’ll be wanting to download most of them. (I am a huge fantasy nerd, after all.) Some of the eBooks are only previews, not the entire books, including The Lion Prophecy by Alexander Grant and Wyvernette: Hatchling by Kaye Fairburn. Still, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed if you check those out as well. Most of the covers are also impressively professional, including the new cover for Sister of Echo.


Image retrieved from Instafreebie

If/when I read any of the other books on this list, I’ll let you know and provide a full review of the book(s). If you read any of the books, please let us know in the comments what you think of them and which of the books you would recommend. I’d love to hear what other fantasy lovers–or even non-fantasy fans looking to read more diversely–think about these sorts of novels.

Do you know of any special book giveaways or discounts? Is your own book currently discounted/free or will be in the near future? Drop a line in the comments below or e-mail me at thewritersscrapbin@gmail.com and I will mention the promotion(s) in a future post.

Happy holidays, beloved readers!

 


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011

Novel Writing Contest: James Jones Fellowship Contest


Image retrieved from Atheist Revolution

Happy Saturday, everyone! Sorry for my scarcity again this week. The holidays are hectic and I’ve had quite a bit of work thrown my way (and Bubba has been keeping me up at night). Anyway, today I want to tell you about a special writing competition called the James Jones Fellowship Contest. Given that last month was NaNoWriMo, I figured that this particular contest would interest many of my readers.

I got my copy of the latest Poets & Writers earlier this week. As I was skimming the “Deadlines” section, a brief section on the James Jones Fellowship Contest caught my eye. It’s a contest specifically for novels-in-progress by writers who have not previously published a novel. Needless to say, I was intrigued and decided to go to their website to learn more.

Here are the most important highlights of the contest:

  • Writers who have not previously published a novel and are U.S. citizens are eligible to enter
  • Self-published novels are ineligible for submission
  • Writers may enter if they have published any other type of work, including non-fiction articles and short stories
  • Submission can be done by physical mail or through their online submission form
  • The entry fee is $30 for snail-mail entries and $33 for online entries
  • The submission must include a (maximum) two-page outline or synopsis of the entire book and the first fifty pages of the novel-in-progress
  • Grand prize is $10,000 and an excerpt from the winning novel will be published in Provincetown Arts (July 2019)
  • Two runners up will receive $1,000
  • Deadline is March 15, 2018, at midnight Eastern Standard Time

For more information on the James Jones Fellowship Contest and to enter your novel-in-progress, please refer to their website.

I highly recommend anyone with a novel-in-progress who has not previously published a novel to enter. As far as exposure and financial support goes, the possibilities attached to winning this contest are worth the entry fee. If you try and lose, at least you can take comfort in knowing that you tried. If you don’t even try, you certainly won’t win.

You can see what else Poets & Writers has to offer by visiting the magazine’s website. And for even more contests and publishing opportunities, be sure to snag your free PDF copy of Winter 2018 Guide to Writing Contest, brought to us by The Writer.

Know of any writing contests or publishing opportunities with approaching deadlines? E-mail me at thewritersscrapbin@gmail.com or drop a line in the comments below and I’ll make sure to include the information in a future post.

Happy weekend, everyone, and Merry Christmas to those who celebrate the holiday! To everyone else, Happy Holidays (including a Happy Kwanzaa to my African American readers and a belated Happy Hanukkah to my Jewish readers)!

 


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011

Book Reviews: Famous STEM Inventors by Sumita Mukherjee

Happy Sunday, everyone! I want to talk about a book which is specifically for children, although I think that adults could benefit from it as well. At the very least, adults will learn fun facts that they most likely had not heard about elsewhere. Today I will be reviewing Famous STEM Inventors by Sumita Mukherjee.

Famous STEM Inventors tells the stories of nine young inventors and their unusual inventions. These stories explain the processes the inventors went through to plan and build their inventions—i.e. the scientific method—and include activities which encourage readers to participate in the process themselves. Colorful illustrations accompany each story, and definitions are provided for all words which may be too advanced for young readers to understand on their own. Parents can read this book with their children (which I always encourage) or let their children have at it so that their imaginations can go wild.


Image retrieved from Amazon

American children aren’t typically taught the scientific method (or the Engineering Design Process, as it’s narrowed to the specific process for engineering here) in-depth until they’re older, probably around middle school (if I’m remembering correctly, it’s been so long). Mukherjee ensures that readers are introduced to the wonders of this process long before that point, and she does it in such a way that children can easily follow along. More importantly, she makes the scientific method fun by showing children all of the cool things which can come from it as well as showing them that even children can be inventors. Mukherjee lets readers know that, with the scientific method, the only real limits are their imaginations and how hard they’re willing to work.

I would have loved to read a book like this as a child. Of course, I was a nerd. I pretty much came out of the womb a nerd. However, this book isn’t just for nerds like me. Mukherjee’s examples of inventions include glow-in-the-dark paper and chewing gum, both of which would be appeal to children of all interests and backgrounds. The activities may appeal more to children who already harbor STEM interests, but it would be hard for any child to read this and not feel their imaginations ignite.

At only 33 pages, it won’t take a child too long to read it if they only read the inventors’ stories. The illustrations also help the book be a quicker read and keep readers’ attention. Still, you can count on it taking them much longer as they will want to take part in the activities as well.

I really have no qualms with Mukherjee’s work. The illustrations utilize multiple drawing styles but, considering I didn’t even notice that until I read the book a second time, this fact does not detract from the experience. In fact, it might enhance the reading experience because the style used matches the inventor and the invention discussed in the accompanying story.

One particular element makes this book stand out from others like it: diversity. Mukherjee includes inventors of multiple backgrounds. They are not just of different ages and from different times; they are male and female and come from a variety of races and ethnicity. I know from experience that many books like these focus on Caucasian males, which can be discouraging to children who do not fall into this category. I love that Mukherjee addresses a wider variety of backgrounds, and I genuinely hope that she writes other books like this so that she can highlight even more kinds of backgrounds.

Overall, I think that children and parents will both love this book. Children will love the fun facts, activities, and illustrations, and parents will love watching their children get their first real taste of STEM and the scientific method. Not only will this book nurture preexisting interest in science, but I think it will also change a few lives for the better.

You can order Famous STEM Inventors on Amazon both in paperback and as a Kindle e-book. Also make sure to check out the other books in Mukherjee’s Wizkids Club series and visit her website.

Do you know about a book I should read? Do you want your work reviewed on this blog? E-mail me at thewritersscrapbin@gmail.com or message me on Fiverr and we can arrange something.


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011