Check out 5th Grade Challenge on Audible!

“Ted, the 5th grade genius and Veronica, his arch-rival, are constantly pranking each other. When the pranks spill over and ignite a grade-wide war, the teachers organize a girls vs. boys competition.”

This is a project I’ve been working on during 2020 with author Jamaal Fridge! I absolutely loved voicing his characters and discussing his work with him. It was so much fun and such a great learning experience as both an actor and an author!

You can find the audiobook on audible and read along!

Somethings Wrong With Us – Manga Review

The other day I finished reading the first three volumes of Somethings Wrong With Us by Natsumi Ando. I picked up the first volume after looking it over a few times. I thought the cover was beautiful, and the blurb on the back was intriguing.

From Goodreads: A spine-chilling and steamy romance between a Japanese sweets maker and the man who framed her mother for murder–Something’s Wrong With Us is the dark, psychological, sexy shojo series readers have been waiting for!


This series has gone above and beyond my expectations. That’s not something I usually say when it comes to shojo. Most are predictable and follow the same set of rules, but this one reminds me of thriller series like Monster or Blood on the Tracks. It still encompasses shojo elements and tropes, but there is so much more to this story than two characters who seem drawn together. There is an eeriness…or a loneliness that lingers in the text. It’s almost worse than a cliffhanger. This is one of those series that I couldn’t put down. I had to know what was coming next. I needed to see how this mystery unravels.

Surprisingly…at least to myself, I don’t read a lot of mysteries. I enjoy them immensely, especially when I watch them. I read more of them as a kid but for some reason as I got older I strayed away from the genre. These types of books are always so much fun. I love trying to guess whats going to happen next. I love the how high the stakes are raised in these types of stories! It’s exciting!

This series blends genres so well, and on top of that the artwork is gorgeous. I can also tell that a lot of research went into this series. I’m not a confectioner or anything, but I’ve really enjoyed learning about how much work goes into creating sweets and the amount of attention to detail confectioners have. This really adds something to the characters…and although the two leads have this in common, their approaches to it are vastly different.

The leading lady of this story is Nao. It’s hard not to connect with her off the bat. She’s determined, thoughtful, and passionate. She seems like the type of person who would be a very loyal and compassionate friend.

Tsubaki on the other hand is difficult to read. His character is a puzzle itself, especially to Nao who knew him when they were children. His actions often don’t reflect what he says. The one thing that is clear about his character, aside from his disciplined actions is that he’s lonely.

I like that Nao and Tsubaki both contrast and compliment one another. Their dynamic is interesting. Nao seems to have a push and pull method to their relationship. She’s constantly fighting herself internally, as she doesn’t want to get close to him, while Tsubaki’s intentions are often confusing.

Personally, I think that he feels drawn to her but doesn’t know if he can trust her. He can’t even trust his own family members…which is sad. It’s as though both him and Nao are orphans, despite Tsubaki’s mother still being alive.

I’m very curious to see what’s in store for these two in the next volume!

My rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Editing Tips!

I made this video back in 2020 after having several people mention that when it came to editing they felt overwhelmed. Most pointed out that they had know idea where to start.

I thought that by putting my tips into a video format, that it would make it easier for people. I wanted to keep it short, and to the point. I’m someone who enjoys this process, but after years of tutoring and editing for others I’ve learned how quickly a person can stress themselves out. A lot of them will say things like, “I just wanted to write a story! Why do I have to do more work?”

I get it. I do. You feel like you’ve finally completed something and then BAM, you get hit with this realization that there’s a lot more work to do. It’s okay. It’s perfectly normal to be a little stressed out by that, especially if this is your first time completing a book.

I hope that this video will be helpful to those who get overwhelmed by this process. I spend a lot of time editing myself, and something that I have learned…and this is probably one of the most important tips, is that it is important to take breaks. Step away for an hour, go for a walk, call your folks, play a game…whatever it is, take a few moments to allow yourself to unwind. Your thoughts will flow better, and you’ll be able to edit more effectively while you’re in a good headspace.

Happy editing!

Absolutely Delightful…

Have you ever been so immersed in a book it’s almost as if you were in a dream? I love when that happens, that moment you escape. I’ve read a lot of different books lately and with each one I’m praying for that experience of being drawn into the pages and disappearing inside them for hours.

I’m not sure why books induce this almost dream-like state but I feel well rested after as well. Writing about this now, I’m a bit embarrassed because I can’t help but think “this sounds insane” and yet I know there are people who’ve experienced this same thing.

Reading to me is no different than when I used to play dolls. Letting your imagination take charge and creating and exploring (sometimes the impossible!) in your head. It’s like the perfect balance between fiction and reality because you know in fact that it’s all a play but you engage with it because it’s absolutely delightful…or disturbing if you’re reading a horror novel…but then again some books (and films) can be disturbingly delightful.

In my last post I felt almost betrayed by what I’d read. Books for me have always been my favourite place…not just thing…but a place, because every book has a new setting, a new set of character’s to meet and new things to discover along the way. I love that about them. I like to venture into spooky old mansions, or travel across space…just from the comfort of my bedroom.

Each time I read a good book, it’s like being in a long dream. A good dream. A dream that keeps you guessing. A dream that gives you a warm feeling. A dream that lingers with you after you wake up. Books are beautiful in that sense.

Absolutely beautiful.

Book Talk Episode 17: Illustrated Covers

The other day at work, a co-worker of mine was admiring this beautifully illustrated book cover. I wish I could recall the name of the book so I could show an example, but her comment really made me think. She said, “I’m so glad that they’re going back to the illustrated version of this cover. I hate how boring a lot of covers have been these past few years.”

The two of us then went on to discuss how, since the first Twilight book came out a lot of book covers began to mimic the style and then ultimately readers were bombarded with stock images and lifeless photographs. Now, not to bash the creators of those types of covers…I believe that the covers for Twilight and their simplicity was actually well thought out. The issue that we discussed was that it seemed as though the plan was to get readers to buy a book because it had a similar cover to that of the Twilight series, versus coming up with something significant to the actual story.

I can clearly remember being a 13-15 year old wandering around my favourite bookstores and sighing at the cover art. I know that they say not to judge a book but it’s cover, but it’s the first thing a reader sees, not the review. Not the synopsis. Not the first page. The cover is what’s put on display for us.

Illustrated covers have always captured my attention. For example, the cover of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. It’s absolutely beautiful. When I saw it, I immediately was drawn to the book! That is what a cover is supposed to do. It’s supposed to capture your attention.

The design itself isn’t too complicated, and yet it captures the eye. It stirs curiosity. It makes you wonder what’s inside.

Illustrated covers, in my personal opinion, do a better job of conveying certain types of stories. Especially within much of fiction. It makes them stand out more.

If you compare the classic horror book covers to current ones, you’ll find yourself greatly disappointed. A few of my friends who are avid horror readers lament over the lack of character given to horror books today in comparison to the ones printed in the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Look at this cover of Misery by Stephen King.

The illustrated version of this cover is eye catching, whereas the version with the snow covered cabin doesn’t peak my curiosity as much. It doesn’t pull me in as much. This however, is my personal opinion. I have however, seen some horror book reviewers (along with friends of mine who adore the genre) discuss this in more detail.

I recommend checking out the video, Horror Books Have Lost Their Identity. I’ve linked it below because I think it really summarizes what I’m discussing in this post.

As YouTuber In Praise of Shadows states in the video, book covers are supposed to give the reader some indication of the genre as well as what the story is about. However in recent years they have had to scan the covers for small clues…such as a single word in a review in fine print on the cover like, “haunting,” “shocking” or “disturbing.”

The older covers made it very clear what the books were about. Right now all of the covers, across these vast genres are blending together in a mess of bright colours and large font.

This video really grasps what my co-worker and I were discussing the other day. At some point all the books blend together.

I know many people who believe that The Hunger Games and the Divergent series are the same, simply because of how the covers were designed. People who know nothing about the plots for either series. This assumption came with how the books were marketed. I know that when I first saw the Divergent cover, I thought it was a Hunger Games spin off series. That was until I read the synopsis. I remember being almost…frustrated by how so many of the covers that came out that year, resembled The Hunger Games (and Twilight). I was so frustrated by it I missed out on reading a lot of potentially good books, and lost interest in much of what was published that year.

Now, as someone who also reads comic books and manga, I know how much work has to go into the covers for those. I’ve seen examples of some of the covers done for the more recent releases of the Jughead comics. There were several options done for the front cover, before one was selected by the team as the perfect cover. Guess what? I bought that comic solely based on the cover art.

Based on the cover you already know that Jughead and Sabrina are going to get themselves into some kind of mess (or fun!). Your eyes are draw to the different parts of it. The colours are eye catching. It makes you interested in the story.

When I look at some of the books being printed over the last few years, my curiosity isn’t peaked. A catchy title may draw me in but it’s the cover that makes me flip to the synopsis to learn more. It’s the cover that captivates me visually and draws me into this world created by the author. It’s the cover fills me with excitement.

I’m not saying that today’s covers are boring or lacking creativity. I know that design takes a long time. I just think that the genres are all blending together…to the point where each cover is more or less the same.

Even earlier this morning while I was looking at books. I was trying to guess where they went in the store, solely based on the covers. The adult romance books and the teen romance books were all clearly romance however the contrast between them was almost non-existent. I wasn’t able to tell which was YA and which wasn’t. Normally the shirtless cowboys are a dead giveaway. Not anymore. The majority of the books that I assumed were adult romances were actually YA. Some weren’t even romance books at all. They were coming of age novels. I must’ve blinked the confusion from my face at least 30 times while going through these books.

The fact that myself and many other readers are excited to see these unique, illustrated book covers just shows how much is lacking on the shelves. We want books that upon first glance make us excited, curious and capture our attention. We want to run our hands along the covers as we examine every detail, before continuing our individual book choosing rituals. Reading is an experience and for those like myself who read a lot and collect books it is extremely sad when books lack character in their design.

Sure, we shouldn’t judge books by their cover but covers convey so much. Like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Reviewing Book Previews on Amazon: Sloane, The Flawed Attraction Series and The Dawn Thief

I decided to review book previews from books on Amazon to help promote authors who released books during the early half of this chaotic year. My goal with this is to share these works with potential readers, who may enjoy these stories and also help these authors get more reviews on Goodreads and on Amazon.

If you, or anyone else you know has released a book this year, feel free to leave a link to it in the comments with a brief description (perhaps a single sentence pitch) for myself and others to check out. Please be sure to include the genre and other links that you feel would be beneficial (social media, where to purchase the book etc).

Alright, the first book is…

Sloane by Nick Kurch

Sloane is a scandalous force of nature! From the first page, this blonde is weaving tales of mobsters, monks and love affairs in a hotel lobby. This somehow landing her a room, free of charge.

The way in which she prays on the sweet clerk, Mary, and pulls her into her story is astounding. Even when she slips up, she finds a way to draw Mary back into her lie. As the promotional tagline for the book reads, she’ll make you want to believe!

About the Author:

Nick Kurch is a Hawaiian author and self-proclaimed, boring man with not much going on. He lives vicariously through his ridiculous characters and their misadventures.

Nick dabbles in writing books in both fiction and non-fiction and has written for publications such as ClutchPoints, The Manifold Magazine and Love Knot Books.

You can follow Nick on Twitter @authornickkurch and find his debut novel Sloane on Amazon.


Next is…

Final Year and Vice Ride by MJ Moores

For this one I will be covering two novels, both apart of the author’s Flawed Attraction series.

The first few pages of Final Year are intense. This thriller romance follows Beth and Jeremy, two complete opposites who find themselves on campus during a lock down, hunting Jeremy’s not-so theoretical chem project.

In this first chapter we follow Beth as she gives into her gut and runs back to help Jeremy as the other students on campus make their way to the stadium. Alarms are blaring and she continues to tell herself to go with the group, but instead heads back to help him. Her gut knowing that something is very wrong. When she finds Jeremy he’s on the floor, barely able to stand. His insulin is low and it is clear that he needs to see a medic stat.

Jeremy on the other hand is more concerned about his work.

MJ Moores novel Final Year received a 5 star review on Favourite Readers.

The next book in the Flawed Attraction series is Vice Ride.

Vice Ride is MJ Moores newest addition to this romance series, which follows Amber and her ex-boyfriend Josh across the Kawartha Lakes region in Ontario (yay Canada!).

In the introductory chapter, titled Venus Fly Trap, we meet Amber, who is moving back home after being away for eighteen months at school in London.

It isn’t going as she planned.

For starters, she gets stuck moving her luggage on her own and to make matters worse someone is watching her from across the street: her ex-boyfriend Josh, who she tries her best not to give the finger.

It’s very clear in this chapter as Amber’s frustration grows that she wanted nothing more than to move back in without Josh catching a glimpse of her. To her the entire relationship was a mistake and being near him and back in the Kawartha makes her uneasy.

About the Author:

MJ Moores has had a passion for storytelling since she was nine years old. Starting her career as an English teacher in Ontario, she writes and has an adoration for multiple genres. MJ has written for Authors Publish Magazine and Indyfest Magazine. Her work can also be found in many anthologies, such as Unbound II, Brave New Girls and more. She has also written and published several works including a steampunk serial, available on Amazon.

Her Flawed Attraction series follows characters in their early 20s, going beyond the initial stages of a crush and getting to the deeper roots of what draws people together. In this case, two people who are polar opposites and how each moment in the novel brings them closer together as they learn to see past each others initial impressions, their personal prejudices and also the realization of their feelings for one another.

You can follow MJ on Twitter @AuthorMJMoores or visit her website: https://mjmoores.com/


Onto the next book…

The Dawn Thief by Amelia Thorn

In the opening chapter of The Dawn Thief the reader is met with a scene of a young man chained up in a cell, known to the town of Cresvy as Evil Incarnate, a cell that he’s been in for seventeen years of his life. This mysterious man, has silver sewn into his clothing and has memorized each and every sound both within and outside his cell. His only friend, a cat named Whiskey, who he is drawn to for their similarities…that being, his other form, a wolf.

The young man (and wolf) Silas believes his entire existence could put those he loves in jeopardy. Spending his life, he has always been an outcast feared by the people of Crevsy. Doomed to a lonely existence.

About the Author:

Amelia Thorn is an author from West Yorkshire.

After suffering from a back injury in their youth, Amelia was forced to bed rest, where among her limiting activities–homework, watching television and reading–she discovered her love of writing.

She claims the book she wrote during this period was gobshite, but the passion for writing remained with her ever since.

The Dawn Thief is her debut novel.

You can find Amelia on Twitter @AmeliaGThorn

Fake Blood Book Review

Summary:

“It’s the beginning of the new school year and AJ feels like everyone is changing but him. He hasn’t grown nor had any exciting summer adventures like his best friends have. He even has the same crush he’s harboured for years. So AJ decides to take matters into his own hands. But how could a girl like Nia Winters ever like plain-vanilla AJ when she only has eyes for vampires?” – Whitney Gardner, Fake Blood.

Rating: 5 Stars!

Review:

This is the first Middle Grade graphic novel that I have read in a long time, and it did not disappoint.

Fake Blood had me howling (pun intended) with laughter. Each and every character was likeable and fun in their own way. Plus it had a fantastic twist that I’m still thinking about 24 hours after finishing the book. It almost made me wish it was longer. I would have loved to see more of these characters.

My favourite character overall was Aj’s older sister, who is a 15 year old vlogger and great advice giver. She was hilarious and very sweet (in a big sister kind of way). I love reading books where the siblings have a good, healthy relationship. Even when she suspected her brother of stealing her things to give to his crush, both her and AJ retained that loving sibling relationship throughout. It was obvious how much their cared and looked out for one another, even when they argued.

AJ was extremely relatable as well. I can definitely remember a time when I too was the smallest amongst my friends, and a bookworm who preferred to read during recess versus run around…oh…wait a second I’m still a short bookworm. I miss recess.

Anyway, haha, AJ was such a great character to follow. I think many of us, especially when we were 12, had crushes that we never spoke to and prayed for some way to get them to take notice of us.

AJ takes that longing to the next level, despite is friends and sister telling him to “Just talk to Nia!” and decides that since she loves Vampire’s so much, he’ll learn everything he can about them.

AJ goes so far that he even begin watching and reading Fake Bloods versions of Twilight and Vampire Diaries. There are even references to Buffy and Teen Wolf.

Unfortunately this doesn’t go as planned. Nia takes everything related to vampires very seriously. Like, very, very seriously. In fact, she plans on becoming a vampire slayer!

This little twist creates a ton of problems for AJ, as Nia and other character’s, like their mysterious new teacher Mr. Niles, start believing that he really is a vampire.

I have to say, this twist had me turning the pages faster and faster. I was scared for AJ. Who knew the sixth grade could be so dangerous?

Nia was also a really fun character. I loved her hair (mainly because I wore mine like that in the sixth grade). She was really sweet…to bad about the whole killing vampires thing. But hey, if Buffy is your hero I mean…can you blame her?

I also love how in AJ vision, when Nia drinks from the water fountain, rainbows spill out and it’s all sparkly. That was a cute touch.

Amidst all the confusion with Nia, AJ is also dealing with other problems. He feels left out constantly by his friends Ivy and Hunter, and is starting to grow impatient with their constant betting. AJ ends up even emulating the cold attitude of the vampires in the books he’s been reading and as a result ends up hurting his friends and family. It isn’t until after this that he realizes how much he needs them by his side…especially with all the craziness going on.

Overall, this book was a fun read! I finished it in one sitting and couldn’t put it down. I would definitely recommend it to Middle Grader readers (and up) and am exciting to see what this author comes up with next.

Book Review of Sweat by Lesley Belleau

At the beginning of her novel, Lesley Belleau acknowledges missing and murdered Indigenous women, with a lovely dedication.

Belleau’s novel Sweat addresses the issues that come with the absence of women within a community and how their absence not only has an effect on their immediate family but the community as a whole, and all the generations that follow.

Her chapters weave within the spaces between fantasy and reality as it bounces between the perspectives of its two protagonists, Jolene and Beth. In it a woman falls down into the abyss, like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, memories resurface that try to engulf Jolene, knocking her about like rough waves and Beth creates a haunting painting that follows the reader throughout the novel.

Lesley Belleau structured the novel in a way that allows the chapters to connect to one another. Each character has their own story but these stories beautifully blend together, creating one large tapestry. A decision that Lesley seems to have made puposefully. It relates to the way in which she discusses the missing and murdered Indigenous women, as their absence becomes loose threads in the tapestry. Although these women may have never met, their lives are still connected. The absence of these women is haunting and the remaining motherless children, widowed husbands, broken sisters, mothers and daughters echo throughout Belleau’s novel Sweat.

Lesley Belleau is a participant in the Idle No More movement, which she mentions at the end of the novel. She mentions the organization through a dialogue between Beth and her two young sons Juno and Keith, who Beth has been educating on Indigenous culture and current issues facing the community in Canada. Belleau did a beautiful job of incorporating this cause into her novel, in a way that seemed natural, and at the same time was able to educate the reader on its importance.

The novel strongly focuses on the absence of mother’s but also discusses the death of children, in a way that is both haunting and heartbreaking.

The first being Beth’s painting of the dead babies, and the death of her infant son Daniel. The next being a scene with the death of children, and the cutting open of mother’s wombs on page.84 of the novel. It hauntingly echoes the events that happened within Residential Schools and during The 60s Scoop, in which children were stripped away from their mothers and the rest of the country turned a blind eye. There is another scene where the children’s wombs violently cut open by the doctors and the one doctor just sits and sips from his cup while looking at a picture of his own family.

There is a disconnection to the acts which have been committed and the guilt that the people who have committed them should have felt in this scene. It gives a strong sense of the treatment of Indigenous people. The brutality of it all…done with blinders over the eyes so that they don’t have to see the blood of innocence on their hands.

Art by Tristen Jenni Sanderson

Belleau’s novel can by found on Goodreads.