Empty Pages Writing Club: Madness of the Midnight

As you might recall back in March I talked about what it means to review writing and why it’s so important. As part of that, I shared that in April I would be the impartial judge in a writing competition for the Empty Pages Writing Club. Everyone submitted up to 30 pages of anonymous text to be read, critiqued, and ranked with their peers. I read these stories and ranked them according to Plot/Conflict, Setting, Character, Symbolism/Theme, Point of View, and Writing Style. Each category was worth up to 5 points meaning a story could earn up to 30 points total. Stories have been read, reviewed, and ranked– and now it’s time to talk about the stories! For my other Empty Pages short story reviews, check out: One Sentence At A Time  103PB-1930-35-1117: Just a Drive in the Country Recyc   Title: Madness of the Midnight        Length: 29 pages          Genre: Fantasy Madness of the Midnight and 103PB-1930-35-1117 both tied with a score of 20/30. I didn’t want there to be a tie for 2nd, so I ranked this story 3rd after considering which story I enjoyed reading more overall. That said, something key to my enjoyment…

A Darker Shade of Magic
Book Review / March 21, 2017

Title: A Darker Shade of Magic Series: Shades of Magic, #1 Author: V.E. Schwab Genre: Fantasy Publisher: Tor Books Release Date: February 24th, 2015 Format: Hardcover Pages: 400 Source: Library Kell is one of the last Antari, a rare magician who can travel between parallel worlds: hopping from Grey London — dirty, boring, lacking magic, and ruled by mad King George — to Red London — where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire — to White London — ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne, where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back — and back, but never Black London, because traveling to Black London is forbidden and no one speaks of it now. Officially, Kell is the personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see, and it is this dangerous hobby that sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves…

Threats of Sky and Sea
Book Review / March 15, 2017

Title: Threats of Sky and Sea Series: Threats of Sky and Sea, #1 Author: Jennifer Ellision Genre: Fantasy Publisher: Smashwords Release Date: May 16th, 2014 Format: eBook Pages: 360 Source: NetGalley Sixteen year-old Breena Perdit has spent her life as a barmaid, innocent to her father’s past and happily free from the Elemental gifts that would condemn her to a life in the Egrian King’s army. Until the day that three Elemental soldiers recognize her father as a traitor to the throne and Bree’s father is thrown in jail—along with the secrets from his last mission as the King’s assassin. Secrets that could help the King win a war. Secrets he refuses to share. Desperate to escape before the King’s capricious whims prove her and her father’s downfall, Bree bargains with him: information for their lives. It’s a good trade. And she has faith she’ll get them both out of the King’s grasp with time. But that was before the discovery that she’s the weapon the King’s been waiting for in his war. Now, time is running out. To save her father’s life and understand her own, Bree must unravel the knot of her father’s past before the King takes…

Steelheart
Book Review / February 20, 2017

Title: Steelheart Series: The Reckoners, #1 Author: Brandon Sanderson Genre: Science Fiction Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers Release Date: September 24th, 2013 Format: eBook Pages: 384 Source: Library   Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his will. Nobody fights the Epics…nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them. And David wants in. He wants Steelheart — the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David’s father. For years, like the Reckoners, David’s been studying, and planning — and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience. He’s seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge. (via Goodreads) GoodreadsAmazon   Brandon Sanderson is a powerhouse of science fiction and fantasy writing. He has published over thirty novels in his 41 years of life and continues to write more and more and more. He has announcements for…

Gilded Cage
Book Review / February 14, 2017

Title: Gilded Cage Series: Dark Gifts, #1 Author: Vic James Genre: Dystopian Publisher: Del Rey Books Release Date: February 14th, 2017 Format: ARC Pages: 368 Source: NetGalley Our world belongs to the Equals — aristocrats with magical gifts — and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world. A girl thirsts for love and knowledge. Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price? A boy dreams of revolution. Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution. And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts. He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy? (Via Goodreads) GoodreadsAmazon Guys! I’m actually…

The Bad Beginning
Book Review / January 23, 2017

Title: The Bad Beginning Series: The Series of Unfortunate Events, #1 Author: Lemony Snicket (aka David Handler) Genre: Fiction Publisher: Listening Library Release Date: September 9th, 2003 Format: Audiobook Source: Library Illustrator: Brett Helquist First Published: September 30th, 1999 Dear Reader, I’m sorry to say that the book you are holding in your hands is extremely unpleasant. It tells an unhappy tale about three very unlucky children. Even though they are charming and clever, the Baudelaire siblings lead lives filled with misery and woe. From the very first page of this book when the children are at the beach and receive terrible news, continuing on through the entire story, disaster lurks at their heels. One might say they are magnets for misfortune. In this short book alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, and cold porridge for breakfast. It is my sad duty to write down these unpleasant tales, but there is nothing stopping you from putting this book down at once and reading something happy, if you prefer that sort of thing. With all due respect, Lemony Snicket  (via Back Cover) GoodreadsAmazon   A Series…

Akata Witch
Book Review / January 12, 2017

Title: Akata Witch Series: Akata Witch, #1 Author: Nnedi Okorafor Genre: Fantasy Publisher: Viking Children's Release Date: April 14th, 2011 Format: eBook Pages: 369 Source: Library Twelve-year-old Sunny lives in Nigeria, but she was born American. Her features are African, but she’s albino. She’s a terrific athlete, but can’t go out into the sun to play soccer. There seems to be no place where she fits. And then she discovers something amazing-she is a “free agent,” with latent magical power. Soon she’s part of a quartet of magic students, studying the visible and invisible, learning to change reality. But will it be enough to help them when they are asked to catch a career criminal who knows magic too? (via Goodreads) GoodreadsAmazon   A fantasy novel about an albino girl in Nigeria who, on the cusp of adolescence, discovers she is a witch and works to save the world with her newly found best friends. On the surface, Akata Witch sounds like it will be ripe with predictability and poorly represented characters filling tropes. But it is so much more than that. Prejudice begets prejudice, you see. Knowledge does not always evolve into wisdom. Sunny is twelve-years-old and can’t seem…

Clockwork Angels
Book Review / January 5, 2017

Title: Clockwork Angels Series: Clockwork Angels, #1 Author: Kevin J. Anderson & Neal Peart Genre: Steampunk Publisher: ECW Press Release Date: January 1st, 2012 Format: Hardback Pages: 315 Source: Borrowed from Friends Illustrator: Hugh Syme A remarkable collaboration that is unprecedented in its scope and realization, this exquisitely wrought novel represents an artistic project between the bestselling science fiction author Kevin J. Anderson and the multiplatinum rock band Rush. The newest album by Rush, Clockwork Angels, sets forth a story in Neil Peart’s lyrics that has been expanded by him and Anderson into this epic novel. In a young man’s quest to follow his dreams, he is caught between the grandiose forces of order and chaos. He travels across a lavish and colorful world of steampunk and alchemy with lost cities, pirates, anarchists, exotic carnivals, and a rigid Watchmaker who imposes precision on every aspect of daily life. The mind-bending story is complemented with rich paintings by the five-time Juno Award winner for Best Album Design, Hugh Syme. GoodreadsAmazon   When I was in middle school, I adored binge reading series books. In fact, I had decided in 7th grade I would read EVERY SINGLE Star Wars Universe novel (now called…

Mini-Review: The Sigh
Book Review / December 19, 2016

Title: The Sigh Author: Marjane Satrapi Genre: Fairy Tale Publisher: Archaia Entertainment Release Date: December 13th, 2001 Format: Hardcover Pages: 52 Source: Library First Published: 2004 Rose is one of three daughters of a rich merchant who always brings gifts for his girls from the market. One day Rose asks for the seed of a blue bean, but he fails to find one for her. She lets out a sigh in resignation, and her sigh attracts the Sigh, a mysterious being that brings the seed she desired to the merchant. But every debt has to be paid, and every gift has a price, and the Sigh returns a year later to take the merchant’s daughter to a secret and distant palace. (via Goodreads) GoodreadsAmazon A variation on a traditional Azerbaijani fairy tale, The Sigh is a breath of fresh air for those used to the saccharine-sweet Disney tales. More in line with traditional Grimm and Scheherazade tales, Satrapi’s interpretation isn’t completely gruesome but contains all the iconic fairy tale details a lover of this genre would appreciate. The Sigh tells the story of Rose, the youngest daughter of a merchant who promises to bring his daughter’s heart’s desires upon returning from…

The Girl From Everywhere
Book Review / November 7, 2016

Title: The Girl From Everywhere Series: The Girl From Everywhere, #1 Author: Heidi Heilig Genre: Magical Realism Publisher: Greenwillow Books Release Date: February 16th, 2016 Format: Audiobook Pages: 443 Source: Library Nix has spent her entire life aboard her father’s ship, sailing across the centuries, across the world, across myth and imagination. As long as her father has a map for it, he can sail to any time, any place, real or imagined: nineteenth-century China, the land from One Thousand and One Nights, a mythic version of Africa. Along the way they have found crewmates and friends, and even a disarming thief who could come to mean much more to Nix. But the end to it all looms closer every day. Her father is obsessed with obtaining the one map, 1868 Honolulu, that could take him back to his lost love, Nix’s mother. Even though getting it—and going there—could erase Nix’s very existence. For the first time, Nix is entering unknown waters. She could find herself, find her family, find her own fantastical ability, her own epic love. Or she could disappear. (via Goodreads) GoodreadsAmazon The Girl From Everywhere is everything and nothing like I expected it to be. Time-travelling pirate…