Reader Rambles – Touched by Venom

Last week, I had an interesting experience I had missed out on for a while. I stayed up past my bedtime to finish a book.

The book was Touched by Venom by Janine Cross, and it was the first of a trilogy titled The Dragon Temple Saga. I picked the entire trilogy up at a yard sale on the same day as one of my baby showers. I remember being heavily pregnant and squatting down to look at piles of books laid out on a blanket in someone’s yard was no easy task, but I was lured by the sight of dragons and a woman on the covers. In case we aren’t friends on Facebook, I am very much into dragons at this point in my life, which may or may not be the result of a very popular HBO show. I’m enchanted by dragons, and Touched by Venom promised a different take, where dragons are not only revered, but they produce a highly addictive venom.

I will just say that this book, while accurate to the blurb on the back cover, was not what I expected. For the first half of the book, the dragons were largely in the background and not a major part of the story. Naturally, they’re a huge part of the culture and traditions in Cross’s universe, but they weren’t the center of the story to begin with. What was the center of the story from the start, however, was a spiral into deep poverty and a mother’s guilt and a daughter’s desire to have her mother’s affection and approval.

This is not a sunshine and roses book. There are some very dark themes in this novel that took me by surprise and I think, had I been ten years younger, I might not have finished this book because of these elements. As it was, I was very into Cross’s crafted detailing of the world and the events that our main character faced. I committed a massively stupid act when I looked at the reviews for this book on Goodreads and one of the biggest criticisms seemed to be that the main character just let this happen to her, that she was very passive. Well, she was nothing but a child for the majority of this first book. Many of these circumstances were beyond her control but in this day and age of Harry Potter and child heroes that save the world and defeat the big baddy all without any parental supervision and guidance whatsoever, it’s really not so surprising that people held this against her. I didn’t. Nor did I blame her for how she reacted in certain situations or the choices she made, even the icky ones.

One thing that I saw in the reviews that really irked me was the comment that strong women wouldn’t let these things happen to them, no matter what. No matter the time or place. No matter the circumstances of poverty and abuse. I think that’s incredibly indicative of a privileged life and naivety when you think we can always stop the bad things that happen to us, and that if we don’t, it’s a sign of weakness.

Another thing that really hit me hard about this book was the mother daughter relationship. As a new mom myself, I am imagining if it were me in that situation, being forced to make these decisions. It hurts my heart to see the main character so psychologically damaged because of her mother’s obsession with getting her sister back, and that deep seeded desire for her mother’s approval and affection despite all the wrong she’s done. That part felt so authentic. I can’t imagine the guilt of knowing what happened to my oldest daughter and making decisions to try to get her back, even if those decisions are harming my youngest child. That’s just a hard situation for all involved.

This is a high fantasy novel that revolves around some very real themes of family relationships, poverty, and a cycle of addiction. It’s not for the faint of heart, but if you can stomach it, it’s worth the read. To me, it almost had a Conan the Barbarian feeling at times, it was truly barbaric in places. I really liked this book and I cannot wait to continue the trilogy, but I can’t help feeling I need a palette cleanser before I go on to book two, it was that dark.

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The Unpopular Opinion

When I published Shadows Rising almost four years ago, I knew nothing about marketing and author platform. One thing I very quickly learned was that my readership did not need to know everything about me. What I mean by that is before I hit the self-publish button, I used my blog frequently to share my thoughts about religion, especially as I identify as something other than the mainstream faiths. Even though it stuck in my craw a bit, my mom was the one to point out that maybe it wouldn’t be a good idea to advertise it so broadly as I tried to sell a book. Reluctantly, I agreed with her, and this single decision seemed to reverse my personal rules about interaction online.

In college, I was not opposed to getting into arguments in the comments section. I’d happily jump in and share my two cents. However, age has made me a little wiser, wise enough to realize those arguments on Facebook are utterly pointless. Not to mention, if I ever hope to build an author platform, I need to leave that sort of thing for someone else. I hate to say I need to remember I have a public image to uphold, but it’s almost like that, only not anywhere near the sketchy, cover up your sins Mr. Politician level.

Nowadays, even without an official author platform to uphold, I’ve entered into a realm of silence where politics and religion are concerned. I very rarely get down into the nitty gritty here is what I believe on Facebook anymore. I share peace, love, and coffee with the occasional side of babies and puppies. I try to avoid sharing or posting anything that I know could stir up a fuss. In other words, I keep my mouth shut and my opinions to myself…and my husband when I can’t take it anymore. That being said, I want to get something off my chest, and this will likely be the last time I do this until I feel so strongly again.

These days, I have very unpopular opinions. I’m not going to share them all, but I am going to openly criticize those who condemn anyone who opposes their beliefs as bigoted, racist, or homophobic. There seems to be this illusion among a certain sector of the political spectrum that they have the moral high ground, that they are the only ones that are or can be correct. The rest of us are just petulant children incapable of rational thought or decision making, living in the past and refusing to let go of bygone times where we made laws based on the fact that guns only held one bullet. I’m sure you can imagine what straw broke this camel’s back.

You don’t have to be a feminist to be for equality between the sexes. If you believe in the 2nd amendment, that doesn’t make you a child refusing to let go of a toy. If you support the right to a safe and legal abortion, that doesn’t make you a monster child killer. If you don’t think Trump is the devil incarnate, that doesn’t automatically make you a racist, sexist, homophobe. If you don’t think the government should pay for healthcare or higher education, that doesn’t make you a bad person. If you don’t support gay marriage, then you just need to sit in the corner and be quiet, that ship has sailed. Oh, and don’t marry someone of your own sex, ya idiot. Let others live their lives the way they want. It’s not hurting you. Love is love. It’s a very simple concept.

[DISCLAIMER: I know there are some crappy humans out there marching under the banner of hate, empowered by Trump and things he said. I’m not denying that, and those people deserve no defending. I’m not here to defend them.]

The world will continue to spiral into madness the longer we deny each other, the longer we name call and continue to refuse to work with our neighbor to achieve a common end, just because we disagree on the details and get snide with each other over where we stand politically. What do I believe that common end is? Opportunity. The opportunity to make something of ourselves, to have a safe place for our families to live and grow, to have access to the necessities in life like a BASIC education and BASIC healthcare.

No one owes you anything. This is the land of OPPORTUNITY and democracy. We have the potential within these borders to change the world, if we can only come together. Our country does not suck. We are blessed in ways I think many of our fellow citizens can never truly understand, because they don’t realize how bad things can truly get. To them, Trump being elected was the end of civilization as we know it. I hate to be the one to tell you this, but the sun will still rise. You will still be able to go out and do your thing. I think we all know someone who thought Obama would be the end of all that is good and just and guess what, we’re still here. Americans can survive more than we know, especially loud mouthed politicians. Most of us don’t realize this because we may think we’ve been tested, but we really haven’t.

I guess the bottom line of what I want to say in this blog is this: Be nice to your fellow human. Don’t belittle them because they don’t support a gun ban. Don’t be angry at those who do support a gun ban. Be angry at the shooter. Be angry at a government who, for all their resources and supposed brilliance, cannot come up a way to stop these mass shootings from happening. But then again, they’re not god. In fact, I’d say our elected leaders are the most flawed of us all. There’s only so much they can do, and so much we can do. We cannot control the tragedies of the world, but we control how we respond. Respond with love and an outstretched hand to your fellow man. I’d be willing to bet most Americans, both gun owners AND anti-gun, were horrified by what happened in Las Vegas, and want to find a solution so it doesn’t happen again. We just disagree on the best way to achieve that end. Even with blood on the ground, that is the truth of it. Just because it’s not simple doesn’t make it not true. Love is simple, everything else is messy.

Be nice to your fellow human. Believe it or not, we’re all in this together. And that’s the last I’m going to say of it. Back to our regularly scheduled writer nonsense.

Kelswitch, over and out.

PS: If anyone, ANYONE, tries to pick a fight or argue in the comment section about ANYTHING, I will drop the ban hammer on your head so fast you won’t even see Tweety Bird before you hit the ground.

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A Brand New Jelly Bean

It’s been a while for the Kelswitch. The last month in particular has been crazy. On Friday, June 16th, I was admitted to the hospital with gestational hypertension. My blood pressure had been high for a few weeks and that day, I had another doctor’s visit and it had gone up even higher. My doctor was concerned about it progressing into pre-eclampsia and posing a threat to my baby. So she sent me to the hospital with the initial thought of just twenty-four hours to monitor me. That then progressed into a two night stay and they began talking about moving my induction up a few days and doing it right when I hit 36 weeks the following Wednesday. My little girl would have been a solstice baby, but that wasn’t going to happen.

Sunday morning, I was woken up by nurses swarming my hospital bed. The baby’s heart rate dropped, and it dropped a few more times even after I moved around. So early that morning, my doctor came in and said they didn’t have time to try to induce me. That only left one option, emergency c-section.

I wasn’t given any time to really freak out about them cutting me open. I didn’t have time to think about what could possibly go wrong, or even really that we weren’t quite ready for this yet. We thought we had a couple more weeks.

So Jelly Bean was delivered at 35 weeks and 4 days. Even though she was/is tiny, she is healthy and doing really well. After she came, my blood pressure almost immediately went back to normal and my doctor reaffirmed what Bear has been telling me all along, that the hypertension wasn’t my fault. But it was hard not to feel like it was, and not to feel like my baby had to spend a week in the NICU because of something I did wrong.

Apparently being a mother comes with all sorts of guilt, deserved or not. Being a mother is also humbling as hell. It blows my mind every time my Jelly Bean blinks up at me that Bear and I made her. The two of us came together and made a new human, which is such a gift and so amazing that I don’t understand how some people can be so blase about having a baby.

As tiny as she is and as much as I adore her being so tiny and everything she does is adorable, I cannot wait to see her grow up. I cannot wait to see her personality emerge and learn what interests she’ll have, if she’ll be as different from me as I am from my mom, or if she will really be my mini me and we’ll share not only small facial features but interests and beliefs.

Although I’m suffering no delusions that she and I won’t butt heads, especially when she hits her teen years.

I am enjoying being on maternity leave and dreading going back to work, even as part of me misses my daily routine. Routine is nice. Routine makes me happy. I’ve been subject to Jelly Bean’s rather sporadic schedule these last few weeks and I’d love to get her on a specific schedule that she sticks to, hopefully before I go back to work. And then there’s writing.

My write every day streak ended on day 55, the day before I had my c-section. I’m still writing though, and I’ll go more into how that’s been going with a new baby over at I Write Dangerously. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading this quick little update!

Kelswitch, over and out.

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Death of the Browserlust

I’ve always loved bookstores. I’ve always loved the simple act of being in bookstores, browsing the shelves, smelling paper and ink and often coffee. It is my zen place. Walking through a good bookstore, surrounded by thousands of ideas and dreams made reality, it makes me feel like anything is possible. Naturally, being so enamored of bookstores, I have given into their temptation regularly for years. Especially since I became a self-sufficient adult, I have indulged myself heavily with new books over the last three years and enjoyed every minute of it. However, as with a lot of things lately, my perspective is changing.

I think my browserlust has died a quiet little death. It’s been in recent months, since I’ve been pregnant and my husband works third shift, that whenever I have the opportunity to go to the bookstore and just browse, I would just as soon pass it up. As my TBR pile has gotten larger and larger, I’ve begun to think that I would rather focus my purchases on authors I already know I love, including two extensive series that I’ve lost touch with over the years but absolutely adore. The TBR pile monstrosity isn’t the only reason I think my browserlust has died either.

The house we bought last year is more than decently sized, but when you have seven bookshelves of various sizes, all of which are filled to the brim, it eventually becomes a question of where to put them, and how to store books you purchase in the future. We have three bedrooms, one of them is our master and the other is slowly being morphed into a baby room. That leaves a single room left to store bookshelves filled with books, movies, and geek paraphernalia. As of now, there is only one bookshelf in that room, but our living room currently holds four bookshelves. No, wait, five. We actually have nine bookshelves altogether, the last two narrow and short, and I cleaned one of them off to put in the baby’s room to start its book collection on.

I’ve been having conversations and debates with myself lately about which books deserve to be kept, and how materialism plays a part in our day to day lives. I like having stuff, but with a baby on the way and plans to not stop at just one child, I am beginning to wonder where do we draw the line. Where do I draw the line of how much stuff I keep? Our kids will want to have their own stuff as well, and they will need somewhere to put it. I want them to have stuff.

I have no objection to materialism, but I’m beginning to think the idea of moderation applies here as well, especially when you’re going to start a family.

This is probably the main factor in my sudden lack of browserlust. The only thing that really makes me sad about it is right now, a trip to Barnes & Noble doesn’t have the same zen feel to it that it did before I got pregnant. When I’m constantly thinking about our finances and how to best be prepared for this baby and all the worries that come with those two things, I miss that feeling. I may find it again, but it may or may not be in the bookstore. It is kind of funny though that I have no desire to go hang out in the bookstore right now, but I’ve been on a strange reading kick here lately. I have already read eight books this ear, which is a lot for me in recent years.

I wonder if the two have any real correlation…

Until next time, Kelswitch over and out.

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The Serpent King

The Serpent King, by Jeff Zentner. It’s a book I would have never bought on my own from Barnes & Noble, or even for a few bucks at Ed McKay’s. It came into my possession as the first book I received as an OwlCrate subscriber, last March. The theme that month was Writer’s Block.

This book takes place in rural Tennessee, and follows three friends entering their senior year of high school, with all that that entails. One of them, Lydia, is headstrong and sure of where she will be after graduation. Her two friends, Dill and Travis, are not so sure. Dill’s father is a zealous preacher with a penchant for snakes and watered down battery acid, and is currently in prison for possession of child pornography. Travis comes from a broken home, where his father constantly laments his lack of football accolades, comparing him to his brother, who was killed in action overseas.Lydia is the only one of the three with a good home life, though Travis and Dill’s mothers both try, in their own ways.

I did not expect to like this book. When I first started reading it, it made me feel a little melancholy, remembering what it was like to feel left behind by my friends and lonely in the world. Also, living in rural North Carolina, a VERY watered down version of Forrestville, I can still see shards of southern life that are familiar to me in this story, good and bad. I really liked Lydia, and the way she thinks is very reminiscent of how I thought at that age. I felt empathy for how trapped Dill felt, stuck between family obligation and what Lydia tries to convince him he can be. I adored Travis, a gentle giant who immersed himself in fictional worlds full of honor and glory, wearing a dragon necklace and carrying a staff around. I saw a little of myself in all three of these characters, lame as that might sound, and I cared what happened to them.

This is a contemporary novel, a lot of small town bite and coming of age elements. If you’re looking for a quick read that’s just about people, about being human, I recommend this book.

 

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Daughter of the Blood – Fangirl Gushing

The dragons spiraled into ebony, catching stars with their tails. Everything has a price. Blood shall sing to Blood. 

When I was fourteen years old, I read a three in one collection of novels called The Black Jewels Trilogy, and it changed my world. Everything about it spoke to me, sang to my reader’s heart in a way few stories do. I joined my first forum online to discuss and dissect the books at length, and had a fantastic time doing it. I can still recall with sharp clarity various quotes from all three books, and through the various sequels and additions to the series over the last few years, it has always held a special place in my heart.

I was fourteen when I read the original trilogy for the first time. When my husband and a friend of ours engaged in a friendly competition on Goodreads to meet a goal of 50 books read for 2016, I knew what I wanted my winner’s prize to be should I come out having read the most books. I bought the friend a brand new copy of Daughter of the Blood and plan to force my husband to read one of my copies sometime soon.

Here. Read this book that made me what I am today. Read this story that shaped so much of my experience as a reader. But I haven’t read the original trilogy in eleven years. Curious and somewhat nervous what an adult’s perspective would do to my love of the original trilogy, I too began reading Daughter of the Blood at the onset of 2017.

I just finished it, and I want to steal a phrase from Harry Potter to BEGIN explaining how I feel: ” ‘After all this time?’ ‘Always.’ ”

I see the brutality in this first novel of The Black Jewels Trilogy, that I will henceforth refer to as BJT, and honestly, if trigger warnings had existed ten years ago, I’m not sure if my parents would have let me read it. I will not say anything past that, but when I was fourteen, I went in already knowing that it was coming. I had read a collection of short stories first that take place in the middle of the trilogy and after. Even so, reading it now was almost shocking. I’m not sure if I was just less sensitive at fourteen or if the descriptions went over my head, because they were pretty vivid.

Still, something about this entire story still…sings to me. The way the sentences are phrased, the descriptions of the magic, the characters I wouldn’t mind sharing a glass of wine with myself and exchanging book recommendations around a roaring fire. I love these characters, and my favorite two weren’t even primarily featured in this first installment.

Some things made more sense reading as an adult, things I had either glossed over or forgotten from my first reading, and some things hit me harder now than they did when I was fourteen, especially with our first baby on the way. All I could think today as I rushed towards the end of this first book was the qualities I wanted to take away from these characters as I become a mother.

Fierce like Titian. Loyal like Daemon. Wise like Tersa. A teacher like Saetan. Mischievous like Lucivar. And most of all, loving like they all were to Jaenelle, intent with their desire to love, nurture, and protect.

If you’re thinking about reading this trilogy, all I can say is you will either love it or you won’t. But if you’re the type of person who hates a cliffhanger ending, do yourself a favor. Either get all three at once or buy the three in one. I have the three in one and the ending of the first one would have been maddening otherwise.

Until the next time, probably when I finish Heir to the Shadows, may the Darkness embrace you.

Have some fan art!

http://ichan-desu.deviantart.com/art/Commission-oshirigaitai-166255621

 

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Final Tally – 2016 in Review

2015’s totals for all the writing: 95,786 words, 952 pages of handwritten stuff.

2016’s totals for all the writing: 21,372 words, 423 pages of handwritten stuff.

I didn’t meet any of my writing goals this year, but it was still a major priority in my life when I wasn’t distracted by the stressful process of buying a house, and that’s important to me. I did meet my goal of 50 books read in 2016 but just barely, finishing Sandman Vol. 7 right before midnight on December 31st. 2016 was the year of the Sandman, a series of graphic novels I was introduced to by Bear’s cousin and that I fell in love with. I can’t wait to continue with them in the new year, but even so, they did not make my list of top five books for the year. It was tough to choose, honestly.

5. Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling – The funny thing about this one is this is where I originally STOPPED reading the series. The beginning with the tournament just seemed so boring to me, but the second time around, as an adult, I loved it.

4. The Beast by J.R. Ward – RHAAAAAGE! This book had me laughing and almost crying in turns as we revisited Hollywood’s relationship with his Mary. It was everything I’ve come to expect in Black Dagger Brotherhood novels, continuing their hold as one of my favorite series.

3. Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas – The third book in the Throne of Glass series, and to date my favorite, though Empire of Storms comes pretty close. I loved everything about this book, most of all that it was where we were introduced to Manon Blackbeak, who has become my favorite character in the series. I absolutely adore her.

2. Fried Green Tomatoes by Fannie Flagg – Finally! The reading of this book was overdue and at the same time, read at the right time. I have always loved the movie and having finally got to read the original novel the movie was based on, I was not disappointed. I loved the insight into southern women’s minds and lives across time. Fantastic read all around.

1. Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake – This novel made it to number 1 largely because of how much it surprised me. It came in one of my Owlcrates and I took it on vacation with me, only to be blown away by it. I devoured it like I was starving and it was the last piece of food in the house. I loved all three of the queens and the ending had me squealing, jumping up and down out on the balcony of the hotel we stayed in at the beach. Fantastic read, I highly recommend!

In 2017, I am going to lower my reading goal to 40 books. I want to write at least one to three pages a day, with an ultimate goal to just finish what I start as a writer. I want to catch up on Nalini Singh’s Psy/Changeling series and Yasmine Galenorn’s Otherworld series. I also want to keep up my calendar journal I started back in July.

As big as last year was for us, this year promises to be even more so. One way or another, it will be an adventure for my household.

 

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