Book Reviews

Recommended Read: The Only Pirate at the Party by Lindsey Stirling

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YouTube is a fantastic expressive outlet as well as a trove of humble, yet amazing, talent. I’ve enjoyed following and discovering many independent musicians through YouTube, not to mention a host of other entertaining content–from video game demos, to comedy routines, to lifehacking vlogs, to backyard chemistry experiments. It’s wonderful to find so many contributors at all levels of various expertise having a good time sharing what they love. Further, as I carry on in my own career as a writer, I find myself drawn, not only to investigating the production work that goes into creating quality audiobooks on a budget that an independent author like me can afford, but also to observing the creative ways others utilize audiovisual social media to promote themselves, share their work and passions, and connect with their fan base on a more personal level.

YouTube is also a powerful tool. The art of producing an intriguing channel with quality video content, much like producing a quality podcast series, is a media form that fascinates and inspires me. Publishing fiction independently or through a small press is another platform with its own unique challenges to quality and visibility that I’m personally more familiar with, so I can at least sympathize with the amount of work, trial, error, and growth that must go into cultivating a great YouTube channel. This is notwithstanding the incredible advances in digital technology in the past decade that have made sharing one’s work with the world wonderfully accessible.

I discovered Lindsey Stirling on YouTube when the Piano Guys gave her a shout out on their Facebook page one day. She had her own quirky style–dancing with her violin–and I fell in love with her music as well as the beautiful videos she produced. She’s an independent LDS music artist who has made quite a career for herself that, in many ways, began with, and has been perpetuated by, that meek online platform (YouTube). I downloaded the audiobook of The Only Pirate at the Party because I was intrigued to learn more about the journey of this successful and delightful personality.

Lindsey’s memoir is both candid and wholesome. It is the story of how her faith, family, and upbringing are woven into her drive to keep learning, growing, and experimenting with her talents–even in the face of setbacks–and how these aspects of her life have informed her values and carried her through poignant personal struggles, including an eating disorder. It is an insightful and entertaining read (or listen, in my case), and it’s chock full of quirky humor. The audiobook is narrated by Lindsey herself, which is an additional treat.

Check out The Only Pirate at the Party here on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2gdyA7w

Or find the audiobook here on Audible: http://adbl.co/2fj1owt.

Recommended Read: Over Your Dead Body by Dan Wells

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Dan Wells is a cool guy. I first discovered him while listening to the Writing Excuses podcast with Brandon Sanderson, Howard Taylor, and Mary Robinette Kowal several years ago, and I’ve had the opportunity to speak with him in person at a few conventions.

I haven’t discussed the fiction of Dan Wells on my blog in much detail up to this point, but I’m a huge fan of his I Am Not A Serial Killer books. They’re creepy, they’re funny, they’re surprisingly deep and humanizing despite what they might appear to be on the surface, and they tell a fantastic story. Set up as thriller-style YA murder mysteries, a teenage sociopath named John Cleaver hunts down supernatural monsters while trying to keep his own violent and anti-social tendencies in check.

Over Your Dead Body brings John Cleaver and his pre-Marcy high school obsession Brooke closer than ever, developing these two broken characters and their relationship in surprising ways during their adventures to hunt down the Withered. The ending, of course, is a little heart wrenching. This is a horror book, after all. But it’s another fantastic addition to the I Am Not A Serial Killer universe.

It’s difficult to write a good trilogy, let alone a solid continuation of an original series. Dan Wells has done a masterful job expanding his series into new territory. The more I read about John Cleaver and his terrifying adventures, as well as his inner journey to balance the monster he could become with the protector of humanity and monster-slayer he wants to be, the more I fall in love with these characters. I can’t wait for the next installment!

Part of what I love so much about this series is that this author is so good at exploring and drawing something beautiful and meaningful (as well as terrifying) out of the pain of human experience, particularly concepts of mental illness. I don’t know much about sociopathy, but I’ve struggled with depression and have various family members who have struggled with mental illness, even going back a few generations. I love that this author is willing to have a discussion through storytelling about both what makes mental illness scary and sad, as well as what makes it interesting and human. He’s the sort of author that makes the horror genre beautiful because of its potential to explore the darkness and find the contrasting light of human nature’s potential in the midst.

Well done, Wells! Again, I’m a huge, huge fan of this series—it’s definitely one of my favorite sets of books. (In fact, I should probably put the series down on my little “favorite books” list under my About Me tab.)

You can pick up a copy of Over Your Dead Body, or any of the I Am Not A Serial Killer books here on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Over-Your-Dead-Body-Cleaver/dp/0765380692

Or you could do what I did and listen to the amazing Kirby Heyborne narrate this book over here on Audible:
http://www.audible.com/pd/Mysteries-Thrillers/Over-Your-Dead-Body-Audiobook/B01ENUTGHA.

Thoughts on “Tribe” by Sebastian Junger

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I really enjoyed this book and wanted to share it. Wonderful discussions about gendered adaptations and approaches to threat and conflict. Mental illness, and societal as well as evolutionary adaptations we possess for dealing with trauma. And our human need for strong social bonds and meaningful opportunities to come together as one to contribute to, protect, and heal our communities. Thought-provoking, sincere, hopeful, and deeply moving writing (or, in the case of the audiobook version I “read,” listening). Also a decent commentary on the challenges we face in America and other developed Western societies, where we have incredible blessings of health, security, technological advances, and prosperity that also tend to stratify us into social or political classes and isolate us from one another.

There are so many cool things I could talk about with this short book, but I’ll leave the discussion here. I feel greatly enriched by this book, and I’m growing rather fond of Sebastian Junger’s well-researched and thoughtful perspectives of humanity. There’s a lot more potential for good in our natures and tendencies than we often consider, and we humans need one another more than we know.

Highly recommended read!

You can find Tribe here on Audible (read by the author himself): http://www.audible.com/pd/History/Tribe-Audiobook/B01D57FN3I

Or here on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Tribe-Homecoming-Belonging-Sebastian-Junger/dp/1455566381.

Review: Writers of the Future Volume 32

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I love the stories in this anthology! There’s quite a range in style and variety, all of them intriguing in their own way, and that’s what I always love about the Writers of the Future works. I’ve enjoyed these stories and highly recommend this collection to aspiring writers and lovers of sci-fi and fantasy alike.

I want to highlight “Cry Havoc” by Julie Frost in particular. I know Julie from various Utah conventions and conferences over the years, and am delighted to see her make it into this collection after so much hard work and persistence submitting to the Writers of the Future contests. I’ve been meaning to keep a promise to write a formal review of her story (or, at least, the anthology) for a while.

“Cry Havoc” is a tale of revenge and redemption through the eyes of a werewolf named Nate who has seen the last of his pack mates taken out by a hunter’s silver bullet. Hunters and werewolves have a special kind of feud that the law turns a blind eye to, and Nate goes on a killing spree to wipe out the people he views as a threat to his existence–with one very clever twist of events that unfolds right at the end. This story sets a tone that is both intense and full of heart. It was unique and so much fun to read. I can only imagine that Julie’s full-length novel Pack Dynamics carries on her fabulous storytelling style with the werewolves she writes best.

Congratulations Julie! And to all the authors in this collection–great work. Your voices are all so different and I’m excited to see what else you all come out with as your careers flourish.

You can purchase a copy of Writers of the Future Volume 32 here on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Writers-Science-Fiction-Anthology-Presents-ebook/dp/B01BILD682.

Sarah E. Seeley is a fantasy and horror author, and an affiliate member of the Horror Writers Association.

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