Book Giveaway!

Happy Tuesday! It’s release day for this lovely anthology that I did with the folks over at Damien Hanson Books (or Sconnie Books, as we call ourselves).

Boxes—rigid rectangular containers usually made of wood, metal, or cardboard. But what happens when boxes become more than the boring definition they’re given? When the contents become more important than their exteriors and entire journeys center around them… What happens when a box becomes your entire world?

Eight different authors deliver a genre-mashup anthology that includes dark fantasy, post-apocalyptic, game-lit, and horror short stories all centered around the same topic—a mystery box. The collection will rocket you into a space-themed video game, throw you into a fantasy world filled with undead, have you gritting your teeth in a barren, near-future wasteland, and spin you headfirst on a psychedelic trip through time. Discover a diverse cast of characters who are guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last page.

I wrote a post-apocalyptic story, which is a little out of the ordinary for me!

My blurb:

Following a global climate collapse, where the world that remains is nothing but a barren tundra from heatwaves and blizzards back to back, mourning-mother Abigail York is on a mission. She carries only the bare necessities—and a single cardboard box. Her mission is to deliver the box to the safe zone in Boston.

No excuses. No mistakes.

But the road is filled with Thieves, and when she gets entangled in their web, it’ll be a matter of survival just to get her box to safety.

In honor of our release day, we’re doing a giveaway of TWO (2) paperback copies of the anthology! Although they won’t be signed due to us being authors from all different corners of the world, you can guarantee they’ll be only the best quality.

Click the image below to be forwarded to the raffle website! Good luck! You can also subscribe to this blog to have updates throughout the week!


Book Review #35: Pomegranates and Olive by Jane Gundogan

Olive is a hot mess. She’s been with the same guy for nearly fifteen years, she’s obsessed with Shakespeare, and she’s got a job that she loves as a librarian! Oh, that doesn’t scream crazy? Well, on top of all that, she also vomited all over her proposing boyfriend, fled Australia in order not to face him, stole a stranger’s coffee in the airport, and then proceeded to… make out with him?

Tame Librarian Olive is ready for a new start as she struggles to find herself and happiness in Turkey. Her mission is further complicated when she discovers that her Tall, Dark, and Sweater Wearing airplane companion is also going to be in Turkey with her– staying on the same property! Can Olive find happiness again? And maybe even love?

This is the second book by Jane that I’ve read. I don’t know why I didn’t review the first one on my blog, lol. I might have to go back and re-read it.

I’ll start off by saying that I am a HUGE fan of Jane’s writing. The first book in this series was one of my favorite 2020 reads, and I was literally racing to my computer to buy this one when it was released. I knew it was going to be good, and Jane did NOT disappoint me.

Pomegranates and Olive is a romantic comedy, and boy, does it fit the bill. You’ve got the hilarity that goes with the genre as well as the spicy scenes that will have you fanning yourself and turning your screen (or book, if you prefer physical copies!) away from whoever is nearby. This book had me ROLLING. But then I was about to cry? To say I was invested would be an understatement.

What I also love about Jane’s books is that the female leads are always more than I expect them to be. They’re not textbook “pretty” or idiots or shallow. Olive is a curvy gal with a brain to match and a personality that might be described as a wildfire. And Deniz (her love interest) has his hands full at every twist and turn. But that’s what makes her so magnificent. It’s a real portrayal of femininity, and I am definitely down for it. I also loved that Jane touched on Olive’s fragile mental state and treated it with extreme respect. She doesn’t shut down the depression that Olive’s going through or sweep it under the rug. She gives her lovely character a chance to figure it out (with or without the help of a Turkish dreamboat).

Without giving too much away, in typical rom-com fashion, all of Jane’s books are HEA guaranteed, which is just what I needed right now. 10/10. I cannot wait for the next book in this series!

To close out, I want to share some of the comments I made, not in the book, but to my best friend, whom I was texting as I was devouring this book.

“*sends screenshot from the book* I swear to you, I want him to DIE.” -Amy in regards to a not-so-lovely ex-boyfriend of Olive’s.

“I SWEAR IF SOMEONE DOESN’T GET PUNCHED, I WILL GO THROUGH THIS SCREEN MYSELF.” -Amy, speaking of a certain ex-boyfriend of Olives (maybe, definitely the same as the last quote)

*sends another screenshot* “OMG, is that not the hottest thing you’ve ever read?” -Amy, who is turning pink with shame as she reads this SPICE

And last but not least, a quote from the book to win you over….

“Sweet Baby Jesus! He’s a half naked cowboy!” -Olive, oogling Deniz. Honestly, honey, same. Same.

You can buy Pomegranates and Olive on Amazon using the link below. Seriously. Do it. You will not regret this purchase.

Book Review #34: Dear Pink by Michelle Angelle

After catching her high-school sweetheart in bed with another woman, Hannah’s life starts to spiral into a dark, dismal state. Not only are her dreams of going to art school crushed, but she’s also alone without her parents or best friend. That is, until she receives the bucket list: a set of things Libby says she must do. Hannah will have to do wild and “crazy” things. Will the list get her out of the box she’s lost herself in? Will it help her find love?

Gabe is sick and tired of fake women throwing themselves at him all because he’s attractive. After his social media influencer ex cheating on him, he’s determined to stay single and run his vet office in peace. That is, if his six Italian sisters will leave him alone long enough. When he runs into a gorgeous woman dressed head to toe in pink, totting a pink bike to match, his place for a life of celibacy might be over.

Hannah and Gabe are both tragically unprepared for the rollercoaster they’re both thrown into. Will they come out new people or be drowned by their own pasts?

I don’t read rom-coms as much as I should. I forget how much I love them until I pick one up and get swept away in it. Someone in our book club (where I read this) said that it has a “nice warm feeling after a long, hard day.” It’s almost like coming home for me. These are the books I read for a break from the heavier topics I tend to read and write. While I could never write a rom-com myself, they’re my guilty pleasure, comfort reads.

All that being said, I think it’s pretty obvious I loved this book. Michelle Angelle’s style is simplistic enough that the writing was super easy to follow but you could still easily visualize the events and characters through it. The comedy was, of course, a bit overdone, but I feel like that’s a staple of the genre. I can understand why some might see it as overdramatic, so this may not be a book for EVERYONE. But lovers of the genre will understand and appreciate the humor and drama of it all.

The characters were also extremely well-written. They were both heightened (Gabe and his gorgeous self) but also incredibly and perfectly flawed (past traumas that cause hinderance to the plot). Hannah isn’t just a gorgeous modern woman; she’s a self-conscious, nervous, anxious individual whose drawn so far into herself that even her two closest coworkers don’t know who she really is. I enjoyed how realistic her portrayal way, even amidst the drama of the story. She’s constantly looking for ways out of things, which I can 100% relate to, and failing time and time again.

Not only are the writing style and the characters well-created, but the storyline is also expertly crafted. You have this lighthearted comedic love story on the surface, and a more serious motivation underneath. Libby’s list really brings the touch of severity that you need to deepen the personality of the story.

Overall, I adored this story. If it wasn’t for other reading responsibilities, I would have picked up Michelle Angelle’s second book instantly after finishing. As it stands, it’ll have to wait, but just know, I’m very, very excited to read more from these two.

Book Review #33: Muck World by C.G. Lewis

Following the Ever Rain, a global superstorm that melted ice caps, rose sea levels, and forced the survivors to seek higher ground, society exists in makeshifts towns and villages, barely scraping by the best they can in the horrific, muddy circumstances. Civilization as we knew it fell with the rain, and with its fall, divides arose between factions of those who remained.

Out of the rain, a new enemy arose– The Citadel. Inside its walls, the rich and powerful enslave the less fortunate and live in splendor while those outside survive however they can. Jessie and Calvin are two “mudders” who find themselves suddenly alone when both of their families are captured by the Citadel. On their quest to retrieve them, Jessie will discover secrets about her family that could change the dynamic forever and maybe even their world as they know it.

Muck World (a Post-Apocalyptic Adventure): Ever Rain Series Book One by [C.G. Lewis]

Lewis has crafted a splendid example of dystopian literature. The story has a double-edged sword kind of conflict, one where man faces both nature and man, simultaneously at times. The struggles of living in this muddy world (for lack of a better word) are painted clearly and aid in strengthening the even-more-dangerous dissension between the opposing factions of people. Also in terms of world- and story-building, I particularly enjoyed that there was no sprawling exposition in the story. Instead, the settings and personalities unfold with the events of the story. That alone speaks to the talent of Lewis!

While you’re following the explosive plot that Lewis has written, you’ll also be able to enjoy a large cast of unique characters. Each one is fabulously designed to be an asset (or a hinderance, since some are obvious villains) to the mission of the main characters. From young children screaming in anger and demanding people to fight to old men running both the town and a moonshine still at the same time to mildly psychotic snipers, you’ll never be bored with the phenomenal characters.

Overall, Muck World is a thrilling read that will keep dystopian lovers enthralled until the very last page. Lewis is a very talented author, and I cannot wait to read more from him.


A Shameless Self-Promo

You like that title? Lol Because I couldn’t think of anything else.

I don’t talk about my own writing too often! I’ve tried to keep this blog ALL about other books! That seems to work well for me.

But today, an editorial review of Caged went live on Reedsy Discovery, and I want you all to see it.

Leigh Minarapa wrote:

Caged is the first of two books in Amy Johnson’s Idyllic Series. The story follows the character Eden Cavalleri in a world where machines have gained control and humans are being captured, imprisoned in zoos, and used as lab rats in atrocious experiments. Humans now hide and live in underground tunnels, and it is Eden’s role to forage above ground in search of supplies. During one of these missions Eden is captured by machines and is imprisoned in a human zoo. Threatened by the possibility of being killed, or even worse, being turned into a machine, Eden must find the strength and determination to stay alive. 

“Johnson presents a fast moving and ruthless world within this man versus machine narrative. The action promptly unfolds within the first moments of the story, and this fast paced tempo does not cease as it is continued throughout. The swiftness of the rising action at the start of the book isn’t to be taken as the author’s failure in the lack of exposition, but rather a success in their ability to assert the necessary details of characters, setting and backstories in such a short timeframe.

“Eden’s experiences in the zoo are difficult to follow as Johnson does not shy away from depictions of violence and brutality. This graphic nature casts a sombre feeling throughout the majority of the story. The plot itself is well crafted and wonderfully executed. Johnson’s writing style is effortless and clear, creating a flow in the narrative which is easy to follow. 

Caged is a novel fit for any readers of the science fiction genre given they have a stomach for violence and brutality. Those more sensitive to this type of content may struggle with Eden’s experiences in the human zoo, but those that are drawn into sci-fi narratives with glimpses of horror and instances of gore will not be disappointed.”

I think it’s wonderful, don’t you?

If you’ve read Caged (or if you haven’t and just love me), drop by Reedsy Discovery and upvote the review for me! The more reviews I get, the better my chances are to be featured on their newsletter.

You can find the review here:

Book Review #32: Delusion by Joseph Phelps

Fair warning: This is a review for a sequel. Now, while the book would work as a standalone, I think they still need to be read in order. You can find my initial review of Illusion (Book #1) here!

The Faction War in The Life ended with the digital world in flames. For Kitty, though, her *actual* world is in flames, too.

After blowing up her lab– and a small island off the coast– Dr. Catherine Hardage (aka Kitty) faces the US Senate to face the consequences of her experiment. The hearing goes awry, though, and suddenly Kitty is the pirate she’s always wanted to be– running from the US Navy in the middle of a hurricane. Meanwhile, Blacklight (the creators of The Life) approach her with an offer to beta test their new game Deadeye. Kitty agrees and is thrown into the fully-immersive, Western style game.

Nothing is as it seems, though, both in real life and in the game world. The game quickly turns into something nightmarish and twisted, and Blacklight’s hold on her real world life is questionable at best. Can Kitty evade and ultimately escape the two very different enemies that she faces?

Now, I want to start by pointing out that I didn’t do a long review of Phelps’ first book. It was a four star rated book for me. That essentially means it was good, but there was something I didn’t necessarily LOVE about it. When I first started this sequel, I knew I was going to enjoy it. A lot of the same things are true about this book, but when I tell you it HITS DIFFERENT. I mean, it hits different, okay? Let me explain.

Phelps has this intricate style of writing about him. His descriptions are rich and vivid; his action scenes are clear and easy to follow. While he does tend to be long-winded with his book (this one was 433 pages according to amazon, which I know it shooting low), there’s not really a second of wasted time. I love the raw talent that Joseph portrays in the stories that he tells. While it’ll take some time to read these books, you’ll be absolutely absorbed. I wasn’t that in with Book 1 because some of the parts seemed to drag. Maybe it was the game style, because I’ve never really been interested in GTA-style games. Either way, with this almost-too-real Western format, I loved it from the very first moment. Plus, there’s a very real sense of discovery as we follow along Kitty. She doesn’t know how the game works, and so we get to follow along as she learns. All this to say: I didn’t mind the length this time!

Last thing I have to say about style is this: This book gave me multiple goosebump moments. Books don’t often do that for me! It’s those moments that I live for, friends. They make me put the book down, say “woah” out loud, and tear up just a little bit. I’m jealous of authors that can do that for their readers. I don’t think I’m one! So let me tell you about the moments where I just was blown out of the water by this story.

  1. There’s a moment where a certain character (name redacted for spoiler purposes) who happens the be an NPC looks at another NPC and admits to knowing she’s a “plaything, meant to amuse beasts from another world.” Aka, she broke the virtual forth wall. When I tell you that I gasped, I mean it. This character had an absolutely heartbreaking past, and her growth and arc were just phenomenal. This was a real turning point, and it took my breath away.
  2. Closer to the end of the story, after the baddies have cornered them, everything’s taken a turn for the worse, and thing don’t seem to be looking up, Kitty corners one of the players and says she’s sorry. Now, I cannot and will not go into any detail for you, because that would be a HUGE SPOILER. But it’s important, because over the course of the story, Kitty admits that she tends to use and choose her friends for her own personal gain. They all have something she can benefit from. But in this scene, with this one character, she says she’s sorry for exactly that. For using this person when they needed her to not. And its just…. the character arc, you all. That did it for me.

Now, I’ve kind of already talked about the character development a little up there, but I do want to consider it just a little more. Because in this book, you see the return of several characters from book 1, and a lot of them have already changed and grown. But a few of them, I really got a deeper look at them. That needs to be discussed.

So as far as main characters go, you’ve got quite the cast: Kitty, Kurt, Jimmy, Gadot, Nels, Abraham, and Jacob. At least, those are the players. Then, there’s NPCs like Mitchel, Grace, Earl, Grandma Gore… and on and on and on. Now, I’m not going to talk about every single one of these. That would take me four years. Let’s hit on the highlights.

Kitty– Catherine Hardage is everything you want to see in a female lead. She’s intelligent, snarky, bold, ingenius, and definitely not afraid to get what she wants. I was a bit concerned about a female lead being written by a male, but there’s no issues here whatsoever. Plus, with Kitty, we get so see so much growth, as I already mentioned. Kitty goes on a bit of an emotional journey through this, and it’s heartbreaking and phenomenally written. Kurt– A return character but not one that is without change. Kurt’s always been a bit of an anomaly to me, because as the main character of the first book, I didn’t think he fit into the big shoes set for him. I understand the importance of his personality, strengths, and weaknesses. I feel Kurt and Kitty’s friendship building, if they can just understand each other. Poor Kurt’s inside Blacklight, though. Abraham– A new character! And a…. tricky one. I won’t go into deep detail, but do sum it up: the man’s a cannibal. And his backstory outside of Deadeye really builds upon that status. Abraham is by far one of the most intriguing characters in the story. I love it.

NOW Jacob– This is the villain. The baddie. The monster inside Deadeye. Except, he isn’t really your typical bad guy. Not in the traditional sense. It’s hard to explain. It’s just that, originally, his only crime in the game was to NPCs. And that’s a line that is difficult to justifiy crossing when the NPCs think, act, and speak, so much like people that you start to become confused who’s-who. I would like to have known more about Jacob outside of the game, because like unnamed-character-because-of-spoilers, it’s almost like it’s Kit’s morals that make him BECOME the baddie. Idk, okay? There’s a lot of LEVELS here.

WE MADE IT. Take a deep breath with me. Inhale. Exhale. We’re almost done.

So, Joseph Phelps is a master in what we call LitRPG, meaning that it’s a story within a story. I’ve read more GameLit than ever before since I started reviewing books, and I’m coming to really like this particular genre. What I enjoy is that there are two stories. You follow Kitty’s real life adventures escaping the US Navy, and then you follow Kit’s game life as she explores this horrible wild west with its monsters and cannibals and killer snakes. And this book is different in that Kit starts to forget what’s real and what’s a game. That was an interesting added touch.

I have no complaints about the way the plots (both real and game!) unfolded. Unlike book 1, there’s no unnecessary space. I didn’t even graze over all the specs for items, lol. It was well paced, kept my attention, and honestly, to sum it up, a breathtaking read. Well done, Joseph.

I’m giving it a bright and shiny 9/10!🙂

You can buy Joseph’s book at the link below! Bye, friends!

A Little More

TW: This post contains discussions around intense grief.

I went back to work this week. For the first time in two months. At first, it was a bittersweet feelings. I’ve missed my colleagues; I’ve craved more structure in my life. Yet, at the same time, I wasn’t ready to put summer behind me.

You would have understood that. We probably would have talked about it Monday afternoon. You might have even called me when I was on my way to work.

But you didn’t. You couldn’t.

I was fine. Holding it together like cheap school clue clinging to the pieces of a shattered, priceless vase. The mask was in place. Today, I wasn’t going to cry.

Then, my best work-friend, my partner-in-crime, asked that dreaded question.

“How are you?”

She knew. She could see past the porcelain designs, past the carefully painted serenity and hand-crafted pottery. I swallowed. Hard. And said, “A little better.”

And that was partially true! I wasn’t lying.

I am a little better. I’m a little bit better at pretending everything’s normal. I’m a little bit better at covering up the hurricane inside my stomach and chest, and I’m a little bit better at swimming through the tsunami-ridden seas of nightmares and guilt. I’m a little bit better.

But I’m also a little more.

A little more sad because everyday that passes is one that you aren’t here with me. With us. And I don’t know how to deal with that because I miss you so much that it hurts to even talk about. It hurts to face the sun rising on a day you can’t check on me.

A little more mad because you didn’t have near enough time with us. You loved me for 25 years of my life, and thats NOT enough. It’s not enough. I feel cheated because we were supposed to have so much more time left. You weren’t supposed to leave us. Don’t take this wrong; I’m not mad at you. You tried so, so hard to stay. It’s not your fault. I know that, but I’m just so angry.

And I’m a little more regretful because when you needed me, I wasn’t there. When you knew it was your time, I was at home. In my soft, warm bed. Sleeping. She told me that you asked for me. I’m sorry that I didn’t know you wanted me there. I’m sorry that I was so selfish and went home that night. I should have been there. You’ll never know how many nights I’ve been kept awake by crippling guilt knowing I. Wasn’t. There. I never got to say I loved you one more time. Never got to say a real goodbye. Never got to hug you. So many things I didn’t do one more time.

I’m a little more happy, though, too. Happy that you aren’t in pain. You aren’t suffering with this sinking ship of a world. You’re not unhappy anymore. Up there where you are, you’re driving lap around a pearly city with someone in the passenger seat. You’ve probably for your arm hanging out the driver’s side window– if cars are even a thing in Heaven. I like to think they are. And even if they aren’t, you have to be happy up there. That’s my beacon of comfort, my little candle light in this shadowy corner that I inhabit most days.

I miss you a little more each and every day. “It’s going to get easier,” they say. “It won’t be so hard as time passes.” But I don’t want time to pass in a world YOU don’t exist in.

Is there a happy medium? I genuinely do not know. Maybe I’ll find it.

But in the meantime, I’ll just be a little more.

Book Review #31: Resolve (Book 3 of the Sensorians Trilogy) by Brigitte Morse-Starkenburg

Hi, friends.

First of all, I want to say that I’m incredibly sorry for being so silent for the past month. I hated being absent, but I couldn’t bring myself to type any words. I think I’m finally ready to crawl out of my self-inflicted hole. When I’m ready, I’ll share what I’ve gone through, but in the meantime, let me tell you about the books I’ve been reading to distract myself with. There’s several, lol.

So, without further ado, A BOOK REVIEW!

**Spoiler Alert: This is a book 3 review, meaning I may spoil the first two for you. Please check out those reviews here and here first!**

After throwing herself in danger in order to chase her father, Eliza’s back with the Sensorians. In isolation. Again. That’s where she seems to spend most of her time. This time is different, though. Markus is intent on keeping her and Zack completely cut off from the world and under his thumb.

It’s supposed to be to keep them safe, but does ensuring their safety take priority over the compound’s real mission? Aren’t they supposed to help people?

When Eliza’s father, Rick, shows up and says that her mother is in trouble, a whole new threat appears. Eliza and Zack will be thrown headfirst into danger, again, but this time, the ending will be one that no one will forget.

Cover is unfinished! This is simply a teaser cover!

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Starkenburg is the queen of a simple, throw-your-feet-up kind of read. The book simply glides by, and this is a series that I could see myself never getting tired of. It’s not overly complicated or drawn out.

It just is. In the best way possible.

I really enjoy anything Starkenburg writes. This entire trilogy has been an absolute joy to partake in. I feel like I’ve really grown to love these well-written characters. Not only that, but I’ve gained a friend in the author, someone I can see growing my own craft with as time progresses. That’s irreplaceable. Truly.

Now, I’ve had the exact same issue throughout all of Starkenburg’s books. We’ve discussed this. I am of the belief that this trilogy could easily be expanded into a series. Many, many books. The world is a rich one. I wish Starkenburg would slow down and really SHOW me the depth of it.

Your favorite cast reappears for the third and final installment in the Sensorian trilogy. I’ll try not to drag on forever, but I do what to talk about how these individuals have changed. Mainly because one thing we look for as we read series as a whole is character development. A character, like any human person, should change and grow into a better (or worse? that’s your opinion) version of themselves. A stagnant character is no fun to read! So, did these young adults grow? Let’s see.

First, you’ve got Eliza. Precious, precious Eliza. She started out as this “rough around the edges,” snarky kid. I know she was grown, but some of her antics made the mom in me shake her head. Lol. She thought she could do everything on her own in book one and didn’t like following directions. But this is a new Eliza. She leans on the people around her, trusts Zack wholeheartedly, thinks on a much larger scale when making decisions. She’s grown and matured, and I am here for it.

Now, Zack. Baby Zack. This child is my favorite. He’s no child. He’s a MAN. (Insert TikTok of “Here comes the boy”). Haha. But seriously. Zack has consistently been the controlling, absolutely respect-demanding leader of the group. His temper reined supreme, and he was 100% percent in control. That hasn’t changed over time. He’s still a leader, still incredibly strong, still powerful, still in control. But he knows what he wants now and isn’t afraid to get it. He doesn’t blindly follow orders; he questions his superiors and does what’s RIGHT. If anything, I’m even more Team Zack than I was at the beginning. Lol

I feel like on average, MOST of the characters grew and in a way that I really liked! There was just one… tiny… exception. Zaphire…

I’ve always been anti-Zaphire. I don’t really know why, other than the fact that she got between her brother and Eliza. This book just solidified it. There are part of Zaph that I like: she’s committed to her friends, she’s a strong female, she’s level-headed. But here’s what I don’t like: she’s selfish. Zaph wants what she wants, and if she doesn’t get it, it’s over. Even until the very end, she CLUNG to Eliza for dear life. I get it, she loved her, blah blah blah. No. Eliza and Zack literally loved each other so much more and on such a deeper level, and instead, she had to project her jealousy on them both. (“It’s super realistic, Amy. You’re being too harsh.”) Maybe… Maybe…

No complaints, no comments! It rolled along splendidly without any holes or continuity issues. I just loved it. *chef’s kiss* It wasn’t predictable; it kept my attention. It wrapped up neatly. All excellent.

Resolve (Book 3 of the Sensorians) hasn’t been released yet, but you can follow Brigitte for updates on any of the following platforms!

Book Review #30: Letting Go by Carrie Lange

TW: This review contains mentions of intense grief and suicide. Please read with caution if you struggle with these topics.

When Dan put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger, he hoped his life was over. He was so ready to be done, to free his fiancee from being engaged to such a weak, hideous man. What he didn’t know was that his death would be the beginning of something much darker.

Anne, left alone after Dan’s death, will struggle with her own darkness in order to come out the other end of her grief. Letting Go follows her path through unimaginable despair, a world of hallucinations and spirits, and a loneliness that no one can comprehend.

Hopefully Anne can remember this– “Life means hope. You are worth saving. Don’t give up–” before she too pulls the trigger.

Letting Go by [Carrie Lange]

I’m used to be a crier. When I was pregnant with my son, I vividly remember crying at the sight of a chipmunk crossing the road because it was, and I quote, “was just so cute.” The first book that made me really CRY– not just shed a tear, but violently sob– was Looking for Alaska by John Green. I can still visualize myself in the car on our way down to the beach. Sobbing. I cry when I’m mad. When I’m upset. When I’m happy. But, more often than not, those emotions have to be really intense. I don’t cry near as much as I use to. Books don’t move me as strongly as they used to.

I say all this to make it abundantly clear– I finished this book with a knot in my throat. I read the author’s note with fat, ugly tears rolling down my face. Yes, this was a powerful, moving, dark, spine-chilling read, but it was also real. That was the final nail in the coffin (“You’re really joking at a time like this?” -Bo Burnham) for me. Those god-awful words “every ‘real’ thing that happens in this story is exactly how I experienced it”– that’s what got me.

Because this books is horrifying. Not boo-scary. I wasn’t wanting to hide under the covers or leave the lights on. No, no. In our book club, I said it was like a car wreck. You really want to look away, but you just can’t. That’s not to say I forced myself to finish the book. Lord, no. My brain wouldn’t have let me stop if I wanted to. I absolutely had to see this through. I was clinging to every single word.

The “real” storyline follows Anne– a tortured soul who is dealing with the unimaginable grief that follows the loss of her husband. People constantly tell her to “just move on, he was only your boyfriend.” They ignore her. Don’t reach out or ask her what she needs. Anne wastes away for months without a single human soul to lean upon.

The “paranormal” storyline follows Dan– who simply cannot forgive himself for leaving Anne in this position and subsequently can’t move on because of his guilt. Dan meets the spirit of Tar (who tries to help him move on) and Rale (who seems to embody despair itself and clings to Anne as she spirals downward). He’s forced to watch helplessly as the woman he loves plans her own death.

I was more attracted to Anne’s storyline.

Because her grief is so REAL. Her experiences are so heartbreaking. The absolutely beautiful prose that is used to paint these horrible emotions that she feels. It’s all…. amazing. I honestly can’t think of another word to describe what I’m talking about. I’m sort of at a loss for words.

Instead, how about I tell you what I learned from this.

  1. Grief is a spectrum. There are different levels to it, and just because I think I’ve experienced it before doesn’t mean I can understand EVERYONE’S grief. There’s no one-size-fits-all glove that can just be stamped on top of it. No one pill to fix it all.
  2. I need to stop saying, “I understand what you’re going through” and instead ask, “How can I help you? I’m here for you. Let me help.” Because let’s be honest– I don’t exactly understand. Instead, let’s focus on offering someone a helping hand to lift them out of this. Anne deals with so many people telling her to just get over it. That’s not unrealistic. I mean, I’ve been told that before when dealing with hard times. Why not just try to be there for people, no matter what they’re going through?
  3. Depression, like grief, is a spectrum. My experience with it isn’t the same as someone elses.
  4. Dealing with depression, of any level or severity, does not make you weak. “Say it louder for the people in the back, Amy.” DEPRESSION DOESN’T MAKE YOU WEAK! It just means you have to work a little bit harder. That you might have to ask for help. That your brain needs to be managed a bit differently. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with having that diagnosis.
  5. Suicide, while it might seem like a solution in the moment, never truly is. To quote Lange, “When a person commits suicide, their pain doesn’t end. They just hand it over to the people who love them most.” It’s easy to think, Oh, they’ll forget about me pretty quick or they’ll be better off without me. I’m guilty of that second one. The truth is that they won’t be better off. They won’t forget. Your unanswered questions haunt them. The gaping hole you left will destroy them.
  6. We need to remove the stigma we’ve given to suicide. Instead of dancing around it and telling everyone that it’s a shameful way to die, let’s teach children and adults how to deal with those shadowy emotions. How do I quiet the intrusive thoughts that tell me I’m not good enough? How do I convince myself that people do care about me and I’m not really alone? Suicide needs to be something we discuss. It’s not shameful. It’s heartbreaking. And it’s so common that we ought to be ashamed of ourselves for letting it get this far.

I’ve rambled on long enough. Let’s close with this:

Letting Go by Carrie Lange is an absolutely heartbreaking read that takes you through the all-too-real world of grief and suicide. It’s packed with beautiful prose that will make you feel things, whether you like it or not. It’s definitely not a read for the faint of heart, but anyone who is strong enough– like Anne and Lange– to embark on this journey will most definitely benefit from every moment. I’ve learned so much from reading this book.

I hurt. I raged. I cried.

But then, I smiled with the hope that Anne was going to be okay.

I’ll end with this quote, “Hang on for one more day. Life means hope. You are worth saving. Don’t give up. Don’t give up. Please, don’t give up.”

If you or someone who know struggles with suicidal thoughts, help is always available to you. Call (800) 273-8255, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You are not alone.

You may purchase this book on Amazon here. All proceeds go to support the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. Help Lange end the stigma.

Book Review #29: Resonance by Nicholas Dabideen

In a post-pandemic world, technology is king. Equipped with the fully automated CHIPS, humanity relies entirely on the new computers they have inserted in their wrists. It can do everything. If you don’t have a CHIP, you’re seen as an outcast. 

Sage has always seen himself as different. He yearns for the peace of a chip-less world, for the human connections that people made before computer screens replaced face to face conversations. When he decides to take a much needed vacation to Hawaii, something out of this world answers his calling. A strange artifact reveals itself to him, and Sage is thrown headfirst into a world that feels more paranormal than real.

Dabideen’s writing is very smooth. This was a splendidly easy, engaging read, filled to the brim with pop-culture references and intelligence. Dabideen does an excellent job of world building and painting the image of a sprawling, futuristic metropolis. The only downside to the city? An evil (or is it really?) AI at the center of it all. 

Resonance raises some important questions, ones that science fiction has been asking for decades. How far is too far when it comes to technology? Is there a way for tech and spirituality to coexist peacefully? What does technology take away from us, and is there a way to ever truly get it back? To be honest, it’s a lot for one book to tackle, and at times, the writing feels a bit preachy. It dragged on, digging into the bigger questions, when I was just really into the plot. 

Speaking of the plot, I liked it! That’s a shallow answer, I know. It started off kind of slow. By the midway point, though, where we get an insight into the Nile company and the Second Moon (the corporation that runs the CHIP program and the massive satellite that houses the data collected from the CHIPS, respectively), things really started picking up. I care more about Sage and his friends than I did about answering all those metaphysical questions. 

The biggest issue for me, though, is actually an easy fix. The story is told in third person narration. It helps the reader see different points of view as we travel between Sage and the Second Moon. About halfway through, though, the author switches to first person. I was caught off guard by the sudden change, but I preferred the first person POV. This may have been an intentional shift, following Sage’s sudden connection with the “alien” object that appeared to him. I don’t think it was, though. My advice would be to tackle a rewrite and pick a POV to stick with. First person would work best, I believe! That’s just preference, though. 

Overall, worth a read! I definitely enjoyed it. Well done, Dabideen. 

You can buy Resonance here: