Guest Post: Author Spencer Hoshino

Today’s post is a guest post by the lovely Spencer Hoshino, author of Paper Wishes (The Magical Girl Series #1). I am incredibly honored and excited to have this chance get to know her and to work with her to promote her awesome novel! Please make sure to check out Spencer on her website and social media. My full review of Paper Wishes will be posted in a few days!

Aloha (Hello)!

 

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Hello! It’s me, Spencer Hoshino

It’s nice to meet you all! ヽ(*・ω・)ノ

I’m Spencer Hoshino, author of The Magical Girl Series. I am a 4th generation Japanese-American and a lifelong resident of the state of Hawaii, where I live with my husband and two children, thanks to my great-grandparents, who came to Hawaii decades ago to work on a sugar plantation. (I’m sad to share that the last sugar mill, the one my great grandparents and maternal grandma worked for, closed down late last year.) 

I was very honored when Ariana asked me to write a guest post for her (totally awesome) blog. I wasn’t sure what I could share with you all, so I decided to write about my publishing journey. I’ve never written a guest blog before, so I hope that you will all bear with me. (*/_\) 

 

Paper Wishes & Lucky Stars

 

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Paper Wishes’ original cover made for Swoon Reads. Image used with permission from Audrey Faith Lim

The road to finishing and publishing Paper Wishes (The Magical Girl Series, #1) was a long journey, but the catalyst was my mom’s passing. I’ve always struggled with depression, but my mom’s death put me in a dark place I’d never been before. I was struggling to cope, when a friend of mine, who is like a sister to me, that I hadn’t seen in years made a surprise return to our hometown after living in Japan for a while. We met up for dinner and caught up with each other.

During our conversation, she encouraged me to be happy. She asked me what I wanted to do, and I told her that I’d been trying to write a book for years, that I wanted to finish it and be a writer. After some introspection, I made the decision (with the support of my husband and children) to quit my job as a web developer and finish writing my book, which I later submitted to Swoon Reads.Although my book was not chosen for publication, I made many wonderful friendships with amazing writers, like Gigi McClure and Macy Filia, which was the best prize of all. (*^^*)♡ 

Digressing, despite the amazing connections I made through Swoon, I still had my manuscript that had no home. At Gigi’s urging, and with Macy’s support (thank you for all of your tips and tricks), I started posting Paper Wishes to Wattpad. Best. Decision. Ever. I lucked out! Paper Wishes was well received on Wattpad, gaining about 700,000 reads within the first year. Thanks to Wattpad (and Gigi and Macy), I was able to share my work with people and they were reading it! I was elated! After working on my book for so many years, I had readers! But, beyond that, I was able to connect with so many wonderful people and my readers became my friends. (ノ_<。)ヾ(´ ▽ ` ) I’ve been incredibly lucky to have the most fantastically supportive readers, whom I call Lucky Stars because I’m beyond lucky to know them. 

Self-publishing & Non-traditional Media 

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Paper Wishes 2nd edition with gifts

On the back of Paper Wishes’ success on Wattpad, I tried querying it to agents and boutique publishers with little success. At some point, there were three different boutique publishers considering Paper Wishes. Unfortunately, two decided to pass on it while I ultimately decided to pass on the third because I realized we weren’t a good fit. The thought of self-publishing was attractive because I would have complete control over my work and its design. I reached out to two of my favorite writers who had self-publishing experience, J.M. Wilde (The Eva Series) and Dan Garcia (The Succubus in a Red Dress Series), and they gave me a wealth of advice. (Did I mention how lucky I’ve been throughout this writing journey?) Having decided to self-publish, Paper Wishes was released on February 14th, 2016 as a Kindle e-book first, then as a physical copy a couple of weeks later. 

Aside from believing strongly in the possibilities of self-publishing, I am a huge fan of non-traditional media. I have so many apps, like Tapastic (now Tapas), Spottoon, and TappyToon downloaded into my phone. I love supporting creators and purchase new chapters/episodes on a weekly basis. I have been fortunate enough to be invited to share my work on Radish Fiction and Tapas (formerly Tapastic) apps. In September 2016, Meteor Garden was released as a serialized book on the Radish Fiction app. It is the companion novel to Paper Wishes and tells the story of Vilvian and Kai’s mothers, Maya and Eri, their friendship, and who Vilvian’s biological father is! ∑(O_O;) 

On February 14, 2017, the 2nd edition of Paper Wishes was released (much to my excitement) on the Tapas app. Upon releasing Paper Wishes on Tapas, I pulled the e-book from the Kindle store so that it would be exclusive to them. It has been such an honor to have Paper Wishes on Tapas. They are seriously the best, especially Editor-in-Chief, Gabby Luu, who has been so flipping supportive of me and my writing. (T▽T) 

A hui hou (until we meet again)!

So, that’s been my experience with writing The Magical Girl Series and publishing. While I think traditional publishing is great, and I love that there has been more awareness regarding diversity in publishing, in the end, I felt that self-publishing and non-traditional media were what would work best for me. I was very fortunate to have everything come together the way it did.

Aside from the support I received from my Lucky Stars and the friends that I’ve made through writing, I was also very lucky to be given the opportunity to share my work through non-traditional media, like Tapas. (Did I mention how much I love being a part of the Tapas Media Family? Because I do!) To any of my fellow writers, if Tapas Media reaches out to you about potentially publishing your work, I encourage you to seriously think about it. I have nothing but good things to say about them and hope to have other works published through their app in the future.) 

If any of you decide to give Paper Wishes a read, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving it a chance. If you read Paper Wishes on Tapas or the unedited version on Wattpad, please be sure to comment and let me know that you found me through Ariana’s blog! 

♡ ~(‘▽^人)

Thank you so much for reading! And, an especially big thank you and hug to Ariana for allowing me to share a little about myself and my journey.

http://spencerhoshino.com

Review: Pretend We Are Lovely by Noley Reid

pretendwearelovelyPretend We Are Lovely by Noley Reid

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: July 18th, 2017

Publisher: Tin House Books

Pages: 284 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Consuming and big-hearted, Noley Reid’s Pretend We Are Lovely details a summer in the life of the Sobel family in 1980s Blacksburg, Virginia, seven years after the tragic and suspicious death of a son and sibling.

Francie Sobel dresses in tennis skirts and ankle socks and weighs her allotted grams of carrots and iceberg lettuce. Semi-estranged husband Tate prefers a packed fridge and secret doughnuts. Daughters Enid, ten, and Vivvy, thirteen, are subtler versions of their parents, measuring their summer vacation by meals eaten or skipped. But at summer’s end, secrets both old and new come to the surface and Francie disappears, leaving the family teetering on the brink.?

Without their mother’s regimental love, and witnessing their father flounder in his new position of authority, the girls must navigate their way through middle school, find comfort in each other, and learn the difference between food and nourishment.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

Pretend We Are Lovely is one of those novels that really makes you think—both during and after—but where the real impact of the plot and themes within it hits you a little while after you have turned the final page. After you’ve let it simmer in your mind for some time. This is a story that revolves around hunger and nourishment of both the body and soul. And behind the façade of food and hunger, starving and eating, the true needs of this family shine through the cracks. It is a perfect warm, summer day read, whose pages will fly by quickly, but will simultaneously strike the reader with the surprising depth and heaviness of the subject matter.

This story follows a few months in the lives of the four members of the Sobel family. Mother Francie is struggling to deal with a great loss as well as the mental and emotional scars that come with it. Thirteen-year-old Vivvy and ten-year-old Enid are dealing with their own coming of age and new place in the world, all while attempting to cope with their struggling family life and their mother’s overbearing rules, primarily about food. Father Tate is trying his best to hold his family—and all of their lives—together as Franice begins to spiral out of control, further cracking the household’s foundation.

I’ll admit when I first started, I wasn’t quite sure if I was going to end up enjoying this novel. It took me a little while to really get into it, but as soon as I did, I was fully captivated. This story is full of broken and lost, but deeply and utterly beautiful souls. They are surprisingly loveable and incredibly easy to connect with. Each one has their own distinctive voice and personality, and I found that they were very realistically portrayed. Reid demonstrated remarkable insight and skill in her creation of this fractured family.

The element of food and hunger becomes very prominent as we begin to get to know each of the characters and the dynamic of the household. They all harbor a hunger for something more on an emotional level that masks itself in a battle with their eating or dieting behaviors. And these battles manifest uniquely in each person. Vivvy and Enid each look to a different parent for cues on how to treat food. Enid follows her father’s habits of carefree eating while Vivvy mimics her mother’s struggle with food and obsessive dieting.

The relationships and constant instability of the foundation of this family was incredibly poignant. We watch Enid and Vivvy coming of age and learning to deal with many of the harsh realities of life. Francie and Tate are drifting further and further away from one another, and Tate is struggling to hold the family together as best he can for the sake of his daughters. Vivvy’s and Enid’s relationship with each other was my particular favorite to watch as it changes with the highs and lows of growing up. Tate’s love for his daughters was another one of my favorite aspects of this novel.

The writing style used in this novel might not be a hit with everyone. The perspective alternates frequently between each of the four members of the Sobel family, so the reader gets an intimate look at everyone’s perspective on the events of the plot. I found it quite interesting to see the shift in the behaviors and outlooks of the all of the characters, but it can be a bit confusing at times. There is quite a bit of jumping about, and this can make the plot a little tricky to follow. However, once I started to get used to it and became more aware of each character’s personality, it flowed a lot smoother.

The other aspect of the writing to note is the almost stream of consciousness-like style that Reid uses. For me personally, it really worked well and I enjoyed the tone that it set. It truly feels as if we as readers are intimately following the lives of a realistic family, and that brings so much depth into the novel and the messages it sends. However, I realize that, though it adds a great deal to the realism of the plot and characters, it can be somewhat of a difficult writing style to follow—so there are definite pros and cons to it for the reader.

It reads just the way a person’s train of thought would go, but that can also make things feel a bit disjointed. On top of that, the constant shift in perspective takes a little while to get fully immersed in, especially prior to really knowing the family. As a whole though, I ended up loving the format in which Reid wrote this novel. There were a lot more pros that out-weighed many of the minor cons in the style, and she completely sucked me in.

Overall, this was the big-hearted and consuming read it promised to be. Reid beautifully set the painful, destructive, yet loving atmosphere of a family in turmoil. I felt like I really connected with everyone, and found that I truly cared about each and every one of them. I experienced the hurt they both felt and inflicted, but also the small moments of caring, love and hope. Every emotion was tangible and I was completely wrapped up in their lives. The bittersweet final few chapters particularly stood out from the rest, and they are the ones that held onto me the longest.

4.0 TARDISes

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Review: Birthrights by J. Kyle McNeal

birthrightsBirthrights by J. Kyle McNeal

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Revisions to the Truth: Book One

Date Published: June 6th, 2017

Publisher: Elevate Fiction

Pages: 402 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: To escape the burden of his family’s past, Whym accepts an apprenticeship with a master his parents fear and revile. He soon finds himself entangled in a web of treachery and on a perilous journey to locate a creature of myth and magic-a journey that will transform Whym and shape the future of the realm. 

Meanwhile, Quint, the son of a powerful religious leader, abandons his faith to join the fight against a corrupt council. As the adviser to a remote tribe, he must find in himself the wisdom and fortitude to save the people from the invading army-and their own leaders.

Civil war looms, defeated foes plot revenge, and an ancient deity schemes to destroy them all. While navigating the shifting sands of truth, the two young men must distill what they believe, and decide on whose side they will stand in the coming conflict.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

This was an extremely solid start to a very promising new fantasy series. Richly detailed, thought-provoking, and highly intriguing, I was very easily pulled into the narrative. Though it took a little while to fully immerse myself in the world and its history—the lore at the heart of every character’s life—once everything was set up, I felt completely absorbed into the words. There was something to find engaging about every moment of the narrative. This is intrinsically a coming of age story, but past that, you begin to see the intricate complexities of not only the characters but the of society they live in.

In this novel, we follow multiple characters’ lives as they weave together into one, captivating picture of the Lost Lands. Primarily, we follow two young men named Whym and Quint. Whym has reached the point of his life where he must begin an apprenticeship, and he is willing to do anything to break away from the poverty of his parents’ lives—even if it means working with a potentially dangerous man who has a past that connects darkly with his own. Quint comes from the most powerful religious family in the Lost Lands, his future laid out solidly before him. But when his long-held faith is ripped from him, he begins a journey to bring the truth to light.

Despite its initial appearance, this is not just a simple tale of two young people coming of age. It is a story about faith and beliefs. About corrupted politics and the inciting of a rebellion. About history and finding out where you fit into that which is being made around you. About discovering the meaning of truth and extracting it from the harshness of deceit. These characters are having their eyes opened to the society they are living in, one where the foundation is deception and the currency is lies.

By Fire

As in most fantasy novels, there are always some aspects that take a little while to fully grasp. Building up the world, introducing the many characters, laying down the backstory and lore, all take a while to set up and for the reader to become involved in. It took me about a third of the novel before I felt I had truly gotten into things, so the beginning was a bit slow. However, this minor sluggishness in the beginning took the place of a short but massive and confusing information dump. The opening chapters are not fast-paced and packed with action, but are a gradual and meticulous composing of an intricate world.

I was a bit confused toward the start as I began piecing the backstory together but, at the same time, there was never a moment were I did not feel very engaged in the plot. The measured construction of each and every element ended up serving the narrative well. By using this method, McNeal allows the reader to take the time needed to become connected to the story and its expansive cast of characters. He also saves them from the confusion that can come with trying to convey too much information to quickly. As a whole, though the pace might feel slow, it establishes a solid foundation for the reader right from page one.

McNeal did a wonderful job building and growing his various, multi-dimensional characters, as well as giving them each a distinctive voice and personality. They were vivid and very easy to like or dislike, as the case may be. Whether hero or villain, each one was memorable and well-developed, which worked favorably with the regularly shifting perspectives of the narrative. I also highly enjoyed the dynamic and relationships between the various characters—they were very interesting to follow. I was particularly intrigued by the relationship between Whym and Kutan.

Wood Pile

I have to admit, there were a few times where it was difficult to remember who a minor character was and what role they had played in previous chapters of the novel. This was due in part to their short appearances, stemming from the frequent jumps in perspective. Another issue that I had character-wise was that I never quite understood the concept of “the Rat-Man”. I also wish that there had been a bit more of a glimpse at some characters’ storylines, but I am hoping this will be rectified over the course of the rest of this series. All-in-all though, these were very small problems for me, and did not detract much from my overall reading experience.

McNeal’s writing in this novel was absolutely spectacular. The scope of this enchanting world that he has created leaves him endless opportunities to spin an absorbing story in his unique voice. I found him to be a brilliant storyteller; the prose was beautiful. His writing flowed incredibly well, and it was very easy to be carried away by his words. This was a strong debut novel, and I believe that he has shown a great talent and will go far in the future.

Overall, I had quite an enjoyable time delving into this tale. Once I began to feel involved in the characters’ lives, I found myself lost among the pages. This novel held so many of the elements that make me love the fantasy genre. I now feel extremely invested in these characters and their futures, so I am highly anticipating the upcoming installments in the series. If you are a fan of high fantasy or, especially, if you are just discovering the genre, this is a series that I would definitely recommend giving a try.

4.0 TARDISes

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Review: The Magnificent Flying Baron Estate by Eric Bower

themagnificentflyingbaronestateThe Magnificent Flying Baron Estate by Eric Bower

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: May 16th, 2017

Publisher: Amberjack Publishing

Pages: 242 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Waldo Baron awakes one morning to find his inventor parents have turned their house into a flying machine, and they intend to enter into a race across the country in the hopes of winning the $500 prize. His parents’ plans go astray when they are kidnapped by Rose Blackwood, the sister of notorious villain Benedict Blackwood, who intends to use the prize money to free her brother from prison. But Rose is not what she seems to be, and Waldo finds himself becoming friends with their kindly kidnapper as they race across the country in the magnificent flying Baron estate!

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

This is such a fun, adorable, and hilarious little novel. It is an extremely quirky adventure on a crazy flying machine, filled with ruthless bandits, insane inventors, and quite possibly the clumsiest kid in the world. While it is an incredibly over-the-top and outlandish story, I personally loved the randomness and absurdity of these characters’ journey. Every aspect of this novel is charming, having an overall atmosphere of warmth, family, and love. Though I am far from the target age-range of the intended audience for this book, I still had a fantastic time reading it—I could hardly keep a smile off my face.

In this novel, we follow a young boy named Waldo “W.B.” Baron as he wakes up one day to find out that his crazy inventor parents have renovated their house into a flying home. They plan to enter a competition where they are meant to fly around 1890’s North America on a scavenger hunt—the first people to return with every item on the list will win five-hundred dollars.

However, their plans take a twist when Rose Blackwood, the sister of the country’s most notorious criminal, sneaks aboard their flying house and holds W.B. and his family hostage. Her plan? To complete the race with the Baron family, then rob them of the prize in order to break her brother, Benedict Blackwood, out of jail. But, Rose Blackwood turns out to be much different than W.B. expected, and soon, relationships change and unexpected alliances form as they flounder through one outrageous event after another.

I absolutely flew through this novel, and not only because of its length—with nonstop action, there was not a single moment that dragged along. The readability as well as the weirdness of this story are really what pulled me in. There is a twinge of childishness to it, which is to be expected from a middle grade novel, but personally as an adult, this did not deter me in any way.

Bower’s characters were a fantastic part of this novel. W.B. was loveably dorky and clumsy, and someone you can’t help but root for. His parents are welcoming and kindhearted, and unabashedly goofy, but also highly intelligent scientists. Rose Blackwood was easily the most complex and interesting character in the whole story—and she has quite a bit in common with W.B. They both feel like outcasts in their own lives, in their families, and are struggling to assimilate. But along the way, they both learn their significance and where they fit in the world, as well as how to love themselves, faults and all.

This novel felt very jumbled, which many times negatively impacts a story—however, in this case, that was not necessarily true. Each individual event that occurs all come together in one nonsensical escapade—and honestly, it works, at least it did in my experience. It adds to the craziness and quirkiness of the characters and how they handle the obstacles that are thrown their way. Much of the humor comes from this element of as well—from both how utterly random and out-of-the-blue every event is, to how the characters flounder around on their way through each stage of the challenge.

This is a novel that readers will only enjoy if they suspend their disbelief and just immerse themselves in the unique world of W.B. and his gang. There are parts that become a bit repetitive, and certain scenes feel like they are rushed through much too quickly, but these are really just signs of the genre and length of the novel. That is one of the reasons I found this to be one of those middle grade books that is going to primarily garner a younger following rather than a much more universal one.

As for the actual writing itself, I really liked Bower’s style. His writing flowed very well and carried the story along at a fast yet easy to follow pace. Bower’s humor was wonderful and absolutely perfect for a middle grade novel. There is a very child-like feel to this story overall that makes it, as I said, something that is a bit less of a multi-generational read than some other middle grade stories.

This primarily focuses on being a novel for a younger audience. However, I do think that it can be fun for both children and those who are children at heart. It is a novel that anyone of any age can fall right in to and love every second of. With plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and heartwarming relationships, it’s hard not to become invested in the lives and escapades of these characters.

It is a big-hearted story of learning to accept both who you and the people in your life are. It is about learning to hold your own, be happy with yourself—inside and out—and finding out where you fit into the great puzzle that is life. Though the eccentricity of the plot might not strike the right chord with everyone, I would wholeheartedly recommend giving this story a try.

4.0 TARDISes

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Mini Review: Leave This Song Behind by Teen Ink

leavethissongbehindLeave This Song Behind by Various

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: April 26th, 2016

Publisher: HCI

Pages: 216 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

This was a poetry collection that I wholeheartedly enjoyed. It is a wonderful and broad compendium of some of the fantastic teenage voices in the literary world. Full of beautiful prose and sentiment, these poems were stunningly thought-provoking and held such meaning and depth. It definitely shows the true power and significance of the written word, particularly that which comes from the mind of a young person. Each poem is so poignant and pure, which shows the beauty of the young mind. The writers have allowed themselves to enter the depths of their mind and soul, and bravely expressed what lies there.

I absolutely love how much Teen Ink encourages young people to express themselves and find their voices. Poetry—and writing in general, really—was something that helped me a great deal during my teenage years once I discovered it. It was a way to get my feelings out when I felt like I had no other option. And I always felt very thankful to be in a situation where I had a lot of support and reassurance from the people in my life in regards to my pursuit of writing. It is wonderful to see that there are some great resources to give teenagers this much needed support. I truly enjoyed my reading experience. This is an important and highly inspiring collection of words that I hope many people will read.

4.0 TARDISes

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Mini Review: Send by Domenico Capilongo

sendSend by Domenico Capilongo

My Rating: 2.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: April 1st, 2017

Publisher: Guernica Editions

Pages: 110 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

Send is a collection of poetry that focuses on the many different forms of communication that we have in our world today. With the plethora ways we have to access each other these days, I felt like this would be very interesting and topical book of poems. But, though there were a few poems that did stand out to me, overall, I did not end up enjoying this particular collection. Every poet has their own style, and there is so much room for creativity in this form of writing. Because of this, not every style is going to click with every reader, and Capilongo’s style was just not for me.

Each poem in this collection is relatively short, which I found to be a good reflection of our condensed communications with one another over text, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. Many are written using stream of consciousness, which is yet another hallmark of communication these days.

Capilongo touches on the jumble of thoughts we throw out into cyberspace, sometimes in a rather narcissistic way, and how technology can completely take over every action, every moment of our lives. He tells a relatable story in a very abstract format. And while all of this was quite entertaining, the majority of this collection just fell a bit flat for me. Personally, I found that a large portion of this poetry felt more like a random jumble of words, rather than a meaningful message. These poems did not click with me—they felt far too disjointed and at times unintelligible.

2.5 TARDISes

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Review: Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault by Candace Robinson

quinseywolfesglassvaultQuinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault by Candace Robinson

My Rating: 3.5/5 TARDISes

Series: The Glass Vault Series

Date Published: May 16th, 2017

Publisher: CreateSpace

Pages: 242 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Some see it… Some don’t…

 People in the town of Deer Park, Texas are vanishing. There is a strange museum, known as Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault, that appears overnight. Perrie Madeline’s best friend and ex-boyfriend are among the missing. Perrie, along with her friend August, go on a pursuit to search for them in the mysterious museum. Could the elusive Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault have anything to do with their disappearances? 

A book that intertwines horror elements and retellings, with humor and darkness.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

I tend to frequently gravitate towards retellings or reimaginings of well-known stories that have a bit of a twist into horror and darkness—and this is definitely one of those novels. Just as the museum itself proclaims, this story is not for the faint of heart. We follow characters who are falling into the gruesome and gritty parts of dreadful worlds, based in both reality and fiction. Though, as I said, this book may not be for those on the squeamish side, it takes those who are not “faint of heart” on a macabre adventure through multiple retellings.

In this novel, we follow a young woman named Perrie Madeline as she is thrown into a dark realm of nightmares come to life, in her efforts to rescue those she cares about. The town of Deer Park, Texas is being plagued by a string of inexplicable disappearances that leave absolutely no traces of the victims or potential leads to follow. These mysterious occurrences seem to center around a museum that appears overnight—in fact, it appears and disappears at the most random, and sometimes inopportune, moments.

It came out of nowhere, this giant stone structure claiming to be a museum named “Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault”. Though it comes as quite a shock when she first sees it, Perrie doesn’t think much of this strange place until her ex-boyfriend disappears after mentioning it, followed rapidly by her best friend’s disappearance after the first night she should have spent working at the Glass Vault. Soon, Perrie puts two and two together, and journeys with her friend August into the bizarre and twisted world of Quinsey Wolfe in a desperate attempt to save Neven and Maisie.

I thoroughly enjoyed how unique this story turned out to be—it was a fun and highly imaginative experience. Robinson definitely breaks away from many of the commonalities of the genre, creating her own surprising and highly effective twists and turns to what could have been a typical retelling. There is very little predictability in this complex and atmospheric plot that she weaves. This not only pulls her readers in, but keeps them hanging on every moment, over every turn of the page.

There were only a few elements of this novel that were a bit problematic for me. This narrative is sort of split up into two halves—it begins in the natural world and moves into many fantastical alternate realities. Though I enjoyed being in both settings, I felt that the transition between the two was really rough. The way it came across was less fluid and more like being plucked out of the first story and dropped into a completely new one.

Though Perrie and August were equally confused at their new surroundings, they both seemed to handle this sudden change a bit too well at times. It didn’t take them as long as it probably should have to come to terms with the fact that something extraordinary and magical was taking place—though they were pretty freaked out, they also appeared as if they knew and understood almost exactly what was going on in a matter of minutes. One would expect them to have to take far more time to process their situation, and therefore, this made the transition into the fantasy side of the novel seem very rushed.

The characters were a very strong part of this novel—in fact, this is a very character-driven novel overall. Each one was very well-portrayed and likeable, and Robinson did a good job building up their personalities. She took the time to make each character very three-dimensional and distinctive—highly relatable and memorable. Perrie was a fairly strong narrative voice, and I really loved how her relationships with the other main characters, particularly Maisie, were portrayed. I fully connected with, felt for, and rooted for all of them throughout the trials they experienced, and that really drew me further in to the novel as a whole.

Though Candace Robinson’s writing did not flow with me quite as well as I would have liked, I could definitely see a huge amount of talent and strength in her words. She built up the worlds and the atmospheres with ease, and her depictions of the various settings were very vivid and not at all difficult to place oneself in.

One of the only negatives I came across in the writing itself was the tendency to rely on brief and concentrated info dumps, which simultaneously bogged down and rushed the plot. Robinson did a considerable amount of telling rather than showing, which did not serve a story as intense as this one could be well. This is a narrative that needed to feel fast-paced, not rushed, and while it was a mesmerizing story, too much of it dragged on with explanations.

I would have liked to have seen and experienced more of what the characters were going through rather than read paragraphs of them flat-out explaining where they were and what was happening. Because everything about this plot was so unique, I really wish that this novel could have been a bit longer, allowing Robinson time to flesh out each individual setting and its accompanying retelling, as well as Perrie’s and August’s experiences handling the hurdles of each one. In the end, it felt like there was a bit too much information crammed into too short a space and timeframe.

Though I had some mixed feelings on certain aspects of this novel, I overall really enjoyed reading it. With unique and vivid world-building, Robinson creates a very gripping reading experience. Though it is not devoid of some minor issues and the pacing does not quite hit the mark, it is still an intriguing, humorous and, at times, chilling read. If you are a fan of dark retellings or horror stories, I would highly recommend giving Robinson’s book a try. This novel ends on a massive cliffhanger, so I am definitely looking forward to picking up the next installment once it’s released.

3.5 TARDISes

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