Series review: Exo/Cross Fire by Fonda Lee

100 years ago, the Zhree came and conquered Earth., Humanity tried to fight back, but we lost. 100 years later humans live in a cast system under Zhree rule, it is in this system that Donovan lives comfortably. That is, until he is captured by the rebel group Sapience and his world is turned upside down.

Going into this series I expected it to be good. Having read Jade City I figured her scifi series couldn’t be bad. A series where humanity lost the invasion and we have a perspective, not from the rebels but from someone who works for the military in  support of alien occupation.

I didn’t know what to expect with this series but boy, oh boy did it deliver. The divide between good and bad is murky and nothing is ever quite what it seems. This series tackles questions of colonization, power, responsibility and the divide between what society says you must do versus what is right, and what is really right?

All of the characters, rebel, soldier and Zhree are complex and nuanced, and the relationships between them are intense and add so much to the story. And arcs that start in Exo end in Cross Fire in fantastic ways that add to the intensity of the end.

I went into this series assuming it would be good, but this series was an absolute ride that had my mind spinning from beginning to end. An absolute must read.


Writing Mental and Physical illness

Mental illness, disability and other chronic illnesses impact billions of people globally to varying degrees and severities, so it is no surprise that it often comes up in writing. Unfortunately, it is also a subject that is also frequently glorified, exaggerated and sensationalized by people who haven’t done enough research or in some cases are looking to exploit some condition for sensationalism. Looking at you, Hollywood.

That said, there are also many works in different forms of media that portray mental illness very well. So how do you do it? How do you write a mental illness that you may have no experience with.

The first thing you should do, whether you’re portraying something you have or not, is research. Not all experiences are the same, and it can’t hurt to know too much. Another thing you can do is talk to people who have experience with the condition, as they will give you real-life examples of people living with it.

I would also recommend a site called The Mighty. It’s a massive blog where people post about living with various illnesses, both physical and mental. It’s a great place to connect with people who have your same condition and also a great place to learn something about the daily experiences of people dealing with a certain condition.

In the end, doing research and showing respect for the subject and the people who deal with it is the best policy when writing about illness people struggle with, both mental and physical. Avoiding stereotypes is an absolute must as well. It can be difficult to write these things well, but when done, it provides characters that we need in fiction, and portrays people who in some form or anther exist in real life.


Coup De Grace By Hollie Hausenfluck and Avrin Kelly

Hayden is living a normal life. She is a successful career detective, she lives with her fiance, everything is going well. Until, that is, a murder case becomes more than it first appears. Now Hayden is in a race against time in a battle with forces she didn’t know existsed.

When I first went into this book I didn’t know quite what to expect, except that it was a detective novella that featured a wizard. So shoving all Dresden Files comparisons out of my head I dove in.

Overall I thought it was a good book. Both Hayden and Theirry are great characters who play off of each other well, the pacing is good through most of it and it had a satisfying ending. I was a bit confused on the POV at the beginning but that resolved itself quickly and did not waver through the rest of the story. I also thought it was a bit slow at first, but that could have been me waiting for the wizards and magic to happen, and it never felt slow once that revealed itself.

That said, I still enjoyed this story and would recommend it to Urban Fantasy fans.

*disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review


Writing and self care

Some days writing is easy. Some days the words flow, your schedule is open and everything seems right.

And sometimes they don’t Sometimes you just can’t seem to write anything, you’re busy all of the time and sometimes your body and mind just will not cooperate.

We love the former and hate the latter, and they exist on a fluctuating spectrum. But there is something important to remember for the bad days.

It’s ok. It’s ok to take a break. It’s ok if you can’t get your brain to cooperate and get words down, it’s ok if you haven’t had time to write because life got hectic. It. Is Ok.

A lot of the time we can get caught up in productivity, the idea that we must always be productive, and if we don’t write every single day we are somehow failing as writers. That idea is wrong. You write at the pace that you can, that you can fit into your schedule, that your body allows you to do.

Don’t forget that writing is work, even when it’s fun. It taxes the mind and after a few hours its normal to feel tired because even if you haven’t done anything physically, you’ve been using your mind vigorously for awhile.

It’s not healthy to work all day every day, there’s a reason we now have weekends. You wouldn’t tell someone they should work 7 days a week at work, why demand you write every day or your not a writer?

Consistent writing at your own pace is far more important than getting words in every day, writing is a difficult thing to do that requires a level of persistence and dedication. But don’t forget to take care of yourself too. If you take care of your brain and body, they will take care of you and the writing will flow all the better.

How about you? What does self care mean to you? What kinds of things do you do when you need to do self care?


The Poppy War by Rebecca F. Kuang

Rin hates her life. Her adopted parents are abusive and attempting to marry her off to further their Opium smuggling operation. That over her head, Rin see’s the national exam to get into Sinegard university as the only way to get out. As she goes to Sinegard however, past and present collide and as she learns of her connection to long-forgotten gods, she holds the power to change the world.

The Poppy War… what can I say about this book? The world, which took heavy inspiration from China, absorbed me in an instant. The characters were compelling and the plot was engrossing. The magic system was unique and well done.

I should probably mention this is dark fantasy. While it takes place in a fictional land, the conflict is based on the Sino-Japanese war that happened in the 1930’s and 40’s and this book pulls no punches. It shows the horrors of war in full color and, without spoiling things, things get especially dark in part three.

And yet somehow Rebecca F. Kuang manages to make it all feel real without making any of it feel gratuitous or glorified. All of the emotions are processed by the characters and nothing is glossed over. Throughout the book you feel the pain the characters do, which makes their later actions that much more believable and that much more painful to watch.






There is so much I could dig into with this book, more than I have time to in one post, but The Poppy War is one of my favorite books of this year so far. I recommend this to any fan of dark fantasy or historical fiction, but I do want to caution that this book is not for the squeamish. I also want to mention content warnings for rape, child abuse and gore.

How she managed to include all she did and not make any of it feel gratuitous I don’t know, but The Poppy War is a deeply intelligent book deserving of multiple read-throughs. If you think you can manage some of the darker parts than I highly recommend this book.


The Saviors Champion by Jenna Moreci

Tobias is miserable. As the only member of his family able to work, this artist at heart faces a future as a laborer. A dream forestalled due to tragedy. When the Soverigns Tournament approaches, he thinks nothing of it. That is, until he hears of the cash reward. Enough to support his family for the rest of their lives. The catch? The tournament is a contest to the death. With the money, his family is safe, but will he survive to fulfill his own dreams.

I’ve known about this book as long as I’ve known about Jenna Moreci’s youtube channel, but shortly after I finished Eve: The Awakening I was more than willing to give this book a shot. And it delivered.

The characters in TSC are amazing. Each feels like their own person and they all jump off of the page. The plot is well paced and the challenges they face are interesting and creative.

Also the diversity in this book is awesome. There are multiple characters from varying backgrounds and sexual preferences. The diversity of health issues was an unexpected surprise as well. Tobias’s PTSD was portrayed very well and I loved his sister Naomi as a character.

She has no use of her legs due to an accident (something learned in chapter 1) and as a result struggles with constantly wanting to do more than her body will allow and having days where she can’t get out of bed due to her pain. Yet she doesn’t wallow in this state and while she hates being coddled, accepts that she needs help when she needs it.

Going into this book I expected the relationship between Tobias and Leila to be good on the strength of the relationship in Eve alone. Multiple reviewers said it was one of their favorite parts and after reading it I agree. Their relationship is as cute as it is healthy and you cheer every step of the way for them to be together.

Overall TSC was a very good, strong book and I would recommend it to any fan of fantasy books. It is dark fantasy and there is blood, gore and violence, but it never felt overdone or overly dramatic.


Your book isn’t for everyone

I’ve noticed recently that sometimes when I see bad reviews of books i like, I get a bit defensive. Now, I don’t comment on these bad reviews, I just move on, but it does bring up something important.

Not every book is for every person. In an opposite vein, I really could not get into Ready Player One, no matter how hard I tried. I just felt like it kept explaining things to me I already knew, or didn’t need to know for the plot. I stopped at about chapter five.

By many counts, this book is super popular. And just because the book wasn’t for me doesn’t mean others wouldn’t enjoy it, and I and they all have a right to our opinions about it.

Same goes for writers.

Not everyone is going to like your book either, some people are going to leave bad reviews, it is going to happen. It happens to everyone.

And that’s ok.

No book is for everyone, but every book is for someone. If someone doesn’t like your book, they probably weren’t your target audience.

And that’s ok.

Are there popular books that you don’t like? Unpopular books that you love? Let me know in the comments below!