Book Review: Girls of Paper and Fire

Trigger/Content Warnings: Sexual abuse, sexual assault, rape, physical abuse, slavery, and homophobia (which is addressed on page)*.

*Please note that this is an own voices book, I am not a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, and I will make no determinations as to what the homophobia makes someone of that community feel except to say you should look to own voices reviewers (most of whom seem to love the representation).

girls of paper and fireOfficial Blurb: 

In this richly developed fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class of people in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards for an unknown fate still haunts her. Now, the guards are back and this time it’s Lei they’re after — the girl with the golden eyes whose rumored beauty has piqued the king’s interest.

Over weeks of training in the opulent but oppressive palace, Lei and eight other girls learns the skills and charm that befit a king’s consort. There, she does the unthinkable — she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens her world’s entire way of life. Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.

My Take: 5/5 Stars

“I know what it means to dream about the past. To dream about things you have loved, and lost.” ~ Natasha Ngan

From only a few sentences in, I knew I was going to love GIRLS OF PAPER AND FIRE. I was so sure this would be one of my five-star reviews that I basically started crafting this post right around Chapter Three. Natasha Ngan’s stunning, Asian-inspired fantasy grabbed me with both its content and its characters. Ngan’s world building is unique and rich,  her characters multi-faceted and complex. There wasn’t a single person (or demon) I met that I didn’t want to know more about, who I didn’t want to sit and imagine.

But more than anything, I loved the fact that this was a book about girls saving girls, in every way imaginable. There was no knight in shining armor, because there didn’t have to be. There was plenty of courage and magic and badassery in Paper House. There were strong female friendships and romances, but there were also complicated rivalries; something I love seeing on the page. Ngan’s characters are complex, and that complexity makes them messy. Anyone who knows me knows I love a little mess in my literature. Because messy is emotional, and emotions will have me coming back for more, which is a good thing, since this is only book one!

Buy Links:

Amazon

iTunes

Barnes & Noble

Who else read this one? And who else feels like it didn’t get the hype it deserves??

❤ Always, Aimee

Why I Use Trigger Warnings

You’ll notice that in my last review, which you can read here, I made a point to lay out trigger warnings. In the short stories I used to post on this blog (but no longer do because they were for an adult audience, and I am a young adult/new adult writer), I also made sure to preface them with trigger warnings. Now I’m about to explain why.

For those who don’t know or haven’t been around this blog for awhile, I have Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I’ve been around the block with other mental health issues, too. Throughout the years, I’ve run up against generalized anxiety disorder, depression, self-harming behaviors, eating disorders, agoraphobia, touch aversion, and insomnia. These are the things that (in my mind), make my C-PTSD not “complex” as much as it is “complicated.”

For those who do know me, they’ll be the first to tell you I am also someone who does not like the way “trigger” is thrown around these days.

Trigger has a specific medical definition. A trigger is a stimulus such a smell, sound, or sight that triggers feelings of trauma. This is why it is most closely related (or used to be) to PTSD. A trigger is not something that makes you feel upset. A trigger is not something that makes you feel uncomfortable. A trigger is not something that makes you grimace and wish you hadn’t read/seen/heard/touched that thing. A trigger is not the predecessor to a mildly uncomfortable feeling.

A trigger is something to be avoided at all costs. A trigger causes anxiety, panic, flashback, nausea, fainting, vomiting, sweating, nightmares, shakes, and tremors. A trigger is, in short, the recipe for a very, very bad time.

A trigger is hearing a mother scream at her children, then having your mind go blank and your eyes glaze over before finding yourself, hours later, with your hands clasped over your ears rocking back and forth in the empty bathtub, all your clothes on, mumbling incoherent protests against a phantom from the past.

A trigger is a boy who looks like that boy brushing up against your arm on the bus, and your mind stealing you away to years before, when it wasn’t just a brush against your arm, and you weren’t on a bus, then only coming out of the fog of memory when a kindly black bus driver kneels in front of you and tells you as gently as her contralto can, that this is the last stop, and is there somewhere you’d like to go?

I rarely use the word trigger. Words have power and when I say the word “trigger” I want it to mean something.

Because it does.

It does not mean uncomfortable or upsetting. Literature is supposed to be uncomfortable and upsetting. It is supposed to make you feel. If literature makes you uncomfortable or upset, it is doing its job. There were a lot of things I listened to in Educated that made me uncomfortable and upset. There are a lot of things I read in books I will five star review in the future that made me uncomfortable and upset. None of them have been triggering to me.

But that last bit is the most important part of this whole thing: to me. I am thirty years old. I have been in and out of therapy seriously since I was nineteen. At this point, I know what most of my triggers are (although sometimes one will sneak up on me). I’ve been able to beat some of them back into the realm where they’re no longer triggers but are just experiences that make me uncomfortable. I’ve had that opportunity, to seek and destroy the things that make life hard to live.

Others haven’t. Not only because some may still be young (this is a blog that is supposed to be teen friendly, for goodness sake), but also because others might not have had the privilege I have had. I know what it’s like to choose between therapy and food. I’ve been there, in my younger days when mental health coverage was worse than it is now and I was poor. Food will win. Every time. I’m fortunate in that I don’t have to make that choice anymore. Others aren’t so privileged. And I recognize that. They haven’t had the time or the means to seek and destroy. Not yet. Maybe not ever.

So I write trigger warnings. Not to devalue the word, far from it. I write trigger warnings because I know how powerful words can be. And I would never, ever want to intentionally shove someone before an altar of their own demons and make them pay.

mental-health-3285625_1280

As always, take care of yourselves.

❤ Aimee

Book Review: Legendary

Author’s Note: Hey! Look at me! Posting another review! I’ve had some new subscribers, so for any of you who are new here, welcome to my 5 Star Reviews. Here, you’ll only find books I LOVED. Want to know why? See the first 5 Star Review post here. Interested in learning more about my books? You can read their blurbs here and get the prologues here. Want to know what I’m reading/have read that didn’t make an appearance here, or what is next on my to-read list? Follow me on Instagram at: writingwaimee. And now, with all the business out of the way, let’s get on to this week’s 5 Star Review.

legendaryOfficial Blurb:

A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.

After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister Scarlett from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name.

The only chance of uncovering Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more―and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets…including her sister’s. Caraval has always demanded bravery, cunning, and sacrifice. But now the game is asking for more. If Tella can’t fulfill her bargain and deliver Legend’s name, she’ll lose everything she cares about―maybe even her life. But if she wins, Legend and Caraval will be destroyed forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…the games have only just begun.

My Take: 6/5 Stars

“Only those who persevere can find their true ending.” ~ Stephanie Garber

When I read Stephanie Garber’s debut novel, Caraval, I thought it wasn’t possible to like a book (besides my beloved Crooked Kingdom) anymore. LEGENDARY proved me wrong, which is why you will notice it has received a whopping 6 out of 5 stars on my rating index. Legendary is truly legendary. It breaks its own mold. The second book in the Caraval trilogy, Legendary takes all the good bits of Caraval and cranks them up a notch. It’s faster, bigger, bolder, darker, richer.

To accomplish this, Garber gives us a new lens by which to view this dark, dangerous “game.” She gives us Tella — the daring younger sister of Caraval’s protagonist, Scarlett. Tella was made for Legendary. She is not Scarlett cranked up a notch, but in many ways, is the opposite side of a perfect coin. She is all edges and distrust and brash, sometimes reckless bravery. But like Scarlett before her, Tella grows throughout the novel. And like Caraval, watching this growth happen throughout Legendary is equally as fulfilling as watching the game of Caraval unfold.

But this time… it’s much less of a game. This time, the stakes are higher. This time, the winner is not so clear.

Buy Links:

Amazon

iTunes 

Barnes & Noble

Who else is excited for Finale?! Because I know I am! Preorder it here.

Hope everyone is having a great week!

❤ Aimee

 

 

Book Review: The Belles

Author’s Note: Hi all! I know I haven’t been around a lot, life has been extremely hectic. However, I do have a few posts I’ve been chewing over I hope to get to soon, about agency (eek!) and failure (double eek!). In the meantime, I’ve decided that in an effort to support other authors, I’m going to start doing BOOK REVIEWS! Woo! They’ll be sporadic as I intend to ONLY review those books I think deserving of five stars. Why? Well, because: (1) I want to support other authors; but (2) I like to keep it honest here, and I don’t five star like every single book I read; but also (3) I’m also an author who empathizes with anything less than five stars. So! I bring you my five-star only book reviews. To begin, I offer a review of Dhonielle Clayton’s, The Belles, which was my most anticipated read of the year and which definitely did not disappoint. Without further ado, here we go!

23197837Official Blurb: 

Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orleans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orleans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.

But it’s not enough for Camellia to be just a Belle. She wants to be the favorite, the Belle chosen by the Queen of Orleans to live in the royal palace, to tend to the royal family and their court, to be recognized as the most talented Belle in the land.

But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favorite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie, that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision.

With the future of Orleans and its people at stake, Camellia must decide: save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles, or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.

27783510_10105455140147238_344651365_nMy Take:

5/5 Stars.

THE BELLES, Clayton’s first high fantasy novel, is a stunning take on the concept of beauty in society. THE BELLES transports the reader to the world of Orléans, a place in which beauty is bought and bartered for and those with the power to give the people what they so desire, The Belles, are revered.

Clayton’s prose is warm and lush. It drips and flows, so I want to drink in every word. Beauty is reflected in every aspect of the piece, but so is the price that must be paid to obtain “perfection.”

In addition to the take on beauty that permeates the page, Clayton’s depiction of female relationships was something that had me thinking for hours after I left Orléans behind. Her characters were relatable but not perfect. Never perfect. Camellia Beauregard (“Camille”), the story’s protagonist, makes decisions I cringed at, not because I judged her, but because her choices forced me to examine myself. Put in Camille’s shoes, I might have done some of the same things, and Clayton’s intricate use of language allowed me to make that connection both instantly and deeply, leading to a greater appreciation of Camille’s situation and the world of Orléans.

In short, I highly recommend picking up a copy, and I can’t wait to see where this series goes.

Buy Links (click me and buy Dhonielle’s book because it’s so good, and I want everyone to read it and love it):

Amazon

iTunes

Barnes & Noble

Google Play

That’s all for now! Hope everyone is doing well!

❤ Aimee

 

Launch Day! The Blood Mage

Well… it’s here! Today, my second book, The Blood Mage goes out into the big wide world for your consumption. This book has a really special place in my heart. They’re all different: the books, that is. They all occupy different spaces in my heart, but this one is the book I felt like I needed to write. So I’m excited (and nervous) to share it with you.

Anyhoo, before I get too reflective, there are some special people I want to thank for making this book (and all the books in this series) possible. You can find the following in the Acknowledgement section of The Blood Mage, but I wanted to share it here as well. These people can’t get enough props in my mind. So without further ado, here are my thank yous to those who helped me put the book of my heart into the hands of others.

Acknowledgments:

Self-published authors often find themselves labeled as “go-it-alone” types. In my experience, this isn’t true. I’m fortunate enough to find myself surrounded by people who have all helped make me who I am and who have helped make this book, and this series, what it is.

First, I want to thank my little brother, Tyler, who has given me not only encouragement, but hope. His unrelenting optimism and shameless promotion of this series has brought me so much joy. TJ, I’m honored to call you brother.

To the rest of my small but mighty family—thank you. Always and forever, thank you.

I also want to thank the entire town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, who seriously showed up for the first book. Punxsy brought me my first reviewer, my first signing, and the first time I ever sold out of copies of The Wheel Mages. Y’all are fantastic (or should I say y’uns?).

To my best friend, Jen, I will never be able to say enough how grateful I am to have you in my life.

To my beta readers, especially Emily and Kelly, thank you. And a special shout out to Emily who was the hand behind getting my first book into its very first library, who has been an ardent supporter, who has pushed me to always keep challenging myself, and who has been a shoulder to cry on—your friendship has meant the world to me.

Always to my editor, Katie, but most definitely this time. This book has seen more revisions than I thought possible, and you never once faltered. When I was sure the problem was insurmountable, you made me readjust my vision and see a molehill instead of a mountain. I honestly don’t know how I could have done it without you.

To Nikki, my copy editor, who probably doesn’t get as much credit as she deserves because copy editing is too often overlooked—you’re awesome, and I appreciate everything you do. Also, I’m sorry I didn’t send this Acknowledgement section to you for copy edits, but I wanted to surprise you. Sorry if there’s something in here that’s making your eye twitch (and I’m sure there is).

Big shout out and continuous thanks to my cover artist, Fiona, whose cover design inspired the words, “I want to marry that cover.” Indeed. I don’t know how you do it, but you are a rock star. Also new to the team, I want to thank Tamara, my formatter, who saved me lots of time and cursing and made this print book much lovelier than its predecessor. I’m so excited to have you on board and to not ever have to format a book myself again.

Book bloggers, reviewers, bookstagrammers, and booktubers, y’all are incredible. I appreciate you so, so much. Thank you for supporting not only me, but indie authors in general, and promoting our work. Special thanks to those of you who have given me not only your time, but also your friendship.

Thank you to my coworkers at my 9-5 who have been amazingly supportive of my moonlight career as an author and have purchased, read, reviewed, and plugged my work. You guys are seriously like a family to me, and I’m so overwhelmed by your constant support and kindness.

Finally, to my readers, I want you all to know you mean the world to me. Even if we’ve never met, even if I’ve never said a word to you, even if we have met and I’ve been incredibly awkward about the whole thing, I care about you all so much. Every day, you’re the ones who make my dreams come true, and there is no amount of praise or thanks I could ever truly assign to that.

With every bit of love in my heart, thank you,

Aimee

#PitchWars #PimpMyBio

*Waves shyly* Hi #PitchWars peeps and regular readers. Regular readers, I interrupt your regularly scheduled blog post to bring you a #PitchWars special! For those who don’t know what #PitchWars is go ahead and read this. And for those who are interested in what this whole #PimpMyBio thing is all about I offer this.

So I guess the cat is out of the bag… I’m doing #PitchWars y’all! And I’m here to talk about my favorite thing (my current WIP) and my least favorite thing (myself) because this hybrid author hopeful is all about blending these days! Without further ado, let’s cut to it.

THE KING’S BLADE (aka the #DeepSeaWIP)

Anyone who follows me on Twitter or has been around this blog for a little knows I’ve been hinting at this top secret #DeepSeaWIP. Well, today’s the day I’m finally going to reveal it all.

THE KING’S BLADE, a dark and twisted retelling of The Little Mermaid, is (shocker) a young adult, high fantasy.

Thyra Skovgaard, First Assassin to the Deep Sea, has never met a mark she can’t handle. That is, until Valdemar Sørensen, her king and mate, assigns his First Assassin the task of taking the life of the Farrish prince. To do so, Thyra will have to relinquish her beloved tail to assume human form and go ashore. What she finds there will change her, and the Deep Sea, forever.

THE KING’S BLADE started as a sort of a joke between one of my most trusted betas and me. We were discussing the trends of our favorite genre (YA fantasy) and retellings in general. I mentioned that retellings looked to be falling out and lamented they would do so, yet again, without a gritty, twisted Little Mermaid retelling. During this conversation, we also discussed the assassin trend in YA fantasy, and one of us (I honestly don’t remember who) might have made a flippant comment about how the two (the retelling and assassins) should be blended. My beta, an oceanographer, loved this idea, as did I, but I brushed it off. I had other books to work on and I thought people might think an assassin mermaid was a bit… well… silly.

The idea, as these little buggers tend to do, wouldn’t leave me alone, though. I started to put my feelers out to other readers in my circle. Assassin mermaid, anyone? To my surprise, the response was positive. The idea dug its heels in. A few weeks later, I sent my beta a message: “I may have started the assassin mermaid book.” She was delighted.

But if I was going to do this, I wanted to make sure I did it right. The sea is not a kind place, mermaids are not people, and assassins aren’t warm and fuzzy. If I did this, I wanted it to be accurate. For it to be accurate, I would need to do a ton of research. So, for the next several months, I immersed myself in sea science. Fortunately, I know an oceanographer. Before I knew it, we were having long talks about swim bladders, how heavy metal dumping impacts apex predators, bizarre shark mating rituals, red tides, and the mysterious deep sea. My scientifically accurate and brutal Deep Sea folk were born.

Now, months later, I’m hoping to bring them from the depths and find them a home in the traditional publishing world. Here we go!

ABOUT ME

For those new here, I’m Aimee! I’m a 29-year-old Pisces who lives in the Philadelphia suburbs with my German shepherd service dog, Gabriela (“Gabi”) and two cats, Apollo and Maia. I’m a self-published author of two books, The Wheel Mages, which debuted last November, and The Blood Mage which comes out on July 18th! I went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where I majored in English literature and minored in creative writing and dreamed of going to the University of Iowa for an MFA but got sidetracked by some mental health complications.

Speaking of which… I have complex post traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and am severely touch averse. Though I don’t like to be defined by my mental illness, it is something that affects my writing, and if you stick around for any length of time, you’ll see I talk about it a lot. It’s part of the reason I chose to self-publish my other series, the second book of which is very much a self-insert piece exploring the complications that come with post traumatic stress disorder.

That said, I’m looking forward to starting a new journey with THE KING’S BLADE and am hopeful to make some new friends along the way! I can’t wait to meet you!

❤ Aimee

Always his blade never his queen

 

 

 

Impromptu Blog: The Blood Mage

The Blood Mage came back from copy edits last night, and before I dive into final edits (!), I wanted to take a minute to share some thoughts.

First, I’ve decided to change the dedication to this book. I’ve written about this particular dedication before and how important it is to me. These sentiments remain true, and the current dedication for The Blood Mage will find a new home in a later book in the series. Because the series has now been expanded, some of the text that belongs with this dedication has been moved to later books, so I thought it appropriate to move the dedication as well.

The new dedication, which you can see in the published copy on July 18th, was inspired by some notes from my copy editor. She wrote: “Alena’s pain and anger over the previous events in The Wheel Mages is profound and realistic. She doesn’t simply bounce back like a superhero; she needs to work out her demons…”

Reading this brought tears to my eyes. My developmental editor and I worked hard to convey this message because, as I’ve written, it was essentially the whole point. But when you’re working on something over and over again, sometimes you lose the forest for the trees, so knowing my copy editor saw this was a really important moment for me. This story is about struggle and despair and hope. It’s for those who couldn’t find themselves in the heroes who bounce back. It’s for those who battle their demons, who win and lose with unequal measure. So the dedication now reflects that.

Second, to anyone who hasn’t started this whole editing process or who is struggling with it, I want you to know it gets easier.

Seriously, the first time one of my manuscripts came back from an edit (developmental at that point), I threw a fit. The first time something came back from copy edits, and I saw all the red washed across the screen, I thought I might crawl into bed and never get up again.

Now, I’m excited to receive critique from my editors. I can’t wait to see what they have to say, to dig in and fix things, to make the story better. When my manuscript came back last night, I was so excited to open it up and see all the changes. Because each one represents a change that will make the story more sound, more solid, more real. The red-line is making it shiny and polished and beautiful. This process has gone from dreaded to beloved.

Don’t get me wrong, editing is still hard. It’s an emotional labor, but it’s one I now relish, because I know what the end looks like and the end is awesome. So if you’re stressing out about edits or working with editors, or you’re dreading an edit coming back, it does get easier. Like most things, practice makes perfect.

Speaking of practice–my third and final thought for today: Indie authors, you need an editor. All the writing advice in the world won’t get you far enough away from your work to edit it with the same eye a professional editor can. I’ve said before (multiple times) what a difference my developmental editor makes and how she helps me solve problems with an ease and an eye that I don’t possess because I’m too close, but right now, I want to spend a minute extolling the copy editing process.

I’ve written on this blog about common crutch words like “just” “very” “really” “so” “and” and adverbs. I’ve railed about them on Twitter. I’ve been (I thought) meticulous about killing them in my drafts. The parenthesized comment in the aforementioned sentence is important because, ahem:

Picture1

This comment from my copy editor can be found on page 4 of my manuscript. Page. Four. I’ll note she says “throughout.” I thought I came for these words in my many drafts (there are 11 drafts, by the way), and I might have done, but I didn’t catch them all. Not even close. This is one of the many reasons why editors are crucial to creating a polished product. Good editors are expensive, but they’re worth their weight in gold. I really cannot say that enough. Especially for us indie authors. We have stigma to contend with already, and if you’re publishing in a popular, saturated genre like I am, you’re competing with the Big Five presses, so I encourage you to do everything you can to prove that stigma wrong. Good editors will help you.

So, thank you to my incredible editors, Katie and Nikki. I can’t wait to share the shiny with the world.

And to all my blog readers/aspiring authors/writers, keep your heads up, keep writing, keep dreaming. The end is a beautiful thing.

❤ Aimee

TheBloodMagePromo
Coming July 18, 2017

This impromptu blog brought to you by procrastination. Check back next week for the regularly scheduled blog which is about my thoughts on Kindle Unlimited. Don’t want to miss it? Make sure to follow!