Blind the Eyes, a YA dystopian paranormal fantasy by K.A. Wiggins, coming to bookstores near you and online Christmas 2017

YA Fantasy - K.A. Wiggins

Reviews, writing and publishing news and more from YA fantasy author K.A. Wiggins.

 

K.A. Wiggins is a Vancouverite who doesn't know how to live in the same place for long, a bookstagrammer and a fan of Islay Scotch and craft gin. She writes stories about being on the edges of things.

 

Her first published novel is BLIND THE EYES, a YA dark fantasy in which a not-quite alive girl and her not-quite dead ghost discover trusted authorities lie, allies have their own agendas and even the monsters wear masks in a story that evokes STRANGE THE DREAMER and THIS SAVAGE SONG with the flawed, challenging voices of PLACES NO ONE KNOWS. A free 5 chapter preview ebook and audiobook is now available for newsletter subscribers (along with other exclusive content) at https://kaie.space

 

Find her YA portal fantasy/post-apocalyptic survival thriller FLAME OF THE CONNARII, inspired by Disney's TARZAN-meets-Celtic-warrior-princess, and her NA horror rom-com THINGS GOT OUT OF HAND serialized on Wattpad under the pen name KAIE.

 

Small-town America for teens

Running Lean - Diana L. Sharples

Solid read for teens. Very smalltown America, not glam or supernatural or anything, just normal. Interesting how unusual that setting is; even the references to going to church or praying and stuff seem average in a way very few YA titles capture these days (not Christian Fic as far as I can tell; just part of the worldbuilding.) Flips between the perspectives of a dating couple: the boy's from a larger, poor family who lost a son recently; the girl's from a dysfunctional wealthier family and is developing an eating disorder. It was interesting how the motivations and progression of the disease developed slowly and how it impacted everyone's relationships. Kind of a tough read, with maybe some trigger warning-worthy stuff around the parent-child relationship and eating disorder. But nothing too explicit; should be okay for younger teens.

Teen contemporary/murder mystery

Because...Anonymous  - Diana L. Sharples

I was impressed by how coherent and tense this story was. The author was kind enough to share a pre-publication ARC with me. I read her first book, Running Lean, and for some reason, I was thinking this was just a short novella spinoff, but it's a fairly substantial read in its own right. It takes a side character from Running Lean and heads off with him into what's basically a murder mystery with a side of new-kid and awkward budding romance. Some of the teen subculture stuff felt a little odd at the beginning, but I really settled into the flow of things after the first few chapters and enjoyed the characters. Does a good job of delving into insecurity and the fear behind teenage bravado. Great action writing. Realistically worn-at-the-edges smalltown America setting. Trigger warning for situations of child abuse/spousal abuse (mostly offscreen). Should be okay for younger teens.

Fun non-Western fantasy . . . but with too many spiders TT_TT

Akata Warrior - Nnedi Okorafor

Entertaining fantasy adventure read, but WAY too many spiders for me, lol. The initial jolt of awe for the world building from the first book has worn off a bit, but it's enjoyable and seamless to settle back into. I recommended Akata Witch as a potential MG crossover, but the characters and their relationships have aged up in this sequel, so parental guidance is recommended. Nothing too explicit or anything, it's just that the discussion of adult relationships might not appeal to younger kids. Excited for book three!

Gorgeous, fierce YA historic fiction

Sky in the Deep - Adrienne  Young

Disclaimer: reviewing uncorrected pre-publication galley via NetGalley

 

This was an awesome read. To be honest, I decided to review it because it was getting so much prelaunch hype, but I kinda thought I wouldn't be the target audience. I really just couldn't care less about Vikings, and so much of the marketing around it emphasizes that element.

 

If you're in the same camp, not to worry. Sky in the Deep is incredibly well-done and tells an exciting, high-stakes story with a fierce multi-dimensional main character who goes through an incredible character arc and journey. I don't think it's positioned as fantasy, but to me, it felt as much like fantasy as historical fiction.

 

Eelyn is a warrior, and the book opens with her totally eviscerating guys in battle. Which . . . I wasn't that into. I think I was afraid she was going to be really flat, like some implausible, too-perfect super-warrior, but she becomes more of a sympathetic character pretty quickly because her dead brother shows up to the battle. So maybe she's crazy or in shock, but then he shows up again--and when she chases him, she gets captured by the enemy.

 

Eelyn lives by a sort of warriors' code and puts honour above all, so being taken captive and forced into slavery by the group they're perpetually feuding with is nearly grounds for suicide. However, this isn't really the story of Eelyn the Viking superhero shutting down the old-world slave trade. It's way more nuanced than that.

 

I really appreciated the slow development that shows how someone with a rigid view of the world could come to understand others and challenge her own beliefs and those of her family/community. The slow-burn romance wasn't bad either~~

 

I'm looking forward to seeing what else Adrienne Young has in store for us. This was a beautiful, powerful debut about a girl who's not only a wicked-strong warrior, but has the strength to learn, grow, and love others despite the cost.

Girl Harry Potter in Nigeria

Akata Witch - Nnedi Okorafor

Sunny is an outcast. Albino, returned from living overseas, ahead of her older classmates academically, and forced to live with the limitations of staying out of the sun, she has many challenges holding her down. When new friends introduce her to the magical world she was born to power in, she discovers that her flaws fuel her greatest strengths and she is absolutely necessary.

 

I loved this. The writing style is clear, direct, and seamless. The world-building is flawless and fascinating - I don't have any particular familiarity with Nigeria, but was able to understand everything I needed to just through context. The plot is unusual in that it doesn't seem to build in a steady arc toward the dramatic finale, but rather spends much of its runtime in letting its characters explore the limits of their newly expanded, magical world, and yet at no point was I bored or distracted.

 

I loved the way it treated the teen protagonists with respect; they were challenged to high standards, punished for failures and disobedience, and allowed to take risks for a worthy cause. There are good and not-so-good parental figures. The magic system was fascinating, believable (as far as these things go) and richly detailed. Loved the way knowledge was literally wealth, and the nuance it gave to abuses of power, morality/ethics, and navigating an uncertain, adult world -- there was a lot of scope to explore big ideas without putting them in boxes. Can't wait to read the sequel, and I'm ordering all her backlist to marathon as well.

 

The only trouble with books like this is that whatever I read next seems dull in comparison!

Water monsters and other beasts in the prewar Okanagan

Our Animal Hearts - Dania Tomlinson

Disclaimer: I won a copy of this book via the Goodreads Giveaways program.

 

I generally find literary novels to be a challenge to review/rate because they often aren't the sort of thing that you 'like'. They're not asking to be liked or to provide entertainment in the same way genre fiction does. So when I say I didn't like this book, that's not meant as a criticism, exactly. It was an engaging, well-written piece of fiction and an excellent debut.

Iris is a preteen of British descent living in the Okanagan around the turn of the last century. Her working-class Welsh mother prefers to be called by her first name, drifts around their fanciful house with her pet peacock generally defying propriety, and tells alarming legends or fairy stories. Her father is upper-class English and generally absent. Iris's mother may be a seer, a character from legend, a madwoman, an abusive parent, an epileptic, an abused child, unfaithful, or a mother of monsters. Iris is her mother's daughter and lives in her mother's world of magic and monsters. It is not a kind world.

 

I would have enjoyed more emphasis on the supernatural elements, and less of the dark heart of man, but that's not the sort of book this is. It reminded me of Gone With The Wind - selfishness, pettiness, jealousy, cruelty and a lack of taking responsibility for one's actions wrapped up in a story about coming of age as your world falls to the violence and loss of wartime. This is not a book about the redemptive power of stories. It is not a story about using magic to escape or defeat darkness.

 

However, there is much to like. The setting - a tiny lakefront settlement in the Okanagan in the early 1900s - is tangible, rich, earthy and otherworldly by turns and all at once. I appreciated the nuanced portrayal of diverse communities, both their existence and the challenges they faced. I hadn't previously been aware of a significant Japenese community in the Okanagan working the orchards, and while the book doesn't quite cover both wars, it does stretch up to the Japanese internment tragedy. The First Nations community exist mostly as ghosts or a marginal presence, quite literally unseen or half-seen at the edges of things, and the tension between British-descent Canadians and immigrants, and other white (specifically Eastern-European) immigrants and their children was also handled well. Supernatural elements similarly feature a blending of influences, most strongly in the water monster in the lake, who is referred to by Welsh, First Nations, and Japanese terms.

 

This story is both beautiful - ethereal, intricate, magical - and horrific in its portrayal of humanity. Its excellent quality, historical detail, imaginative format, and philosophical positioning will likely make it a polarizing read, with both fervent fans and those who won't appreciate its uniqueness. I wouldn't be surprised to see it shortlisted in more than a few of next year's literary prizes.

Rich portal fantasy with a dreamy pace

Blue Window - Adina Gewirtz

Disclaimer: reviewing uncorrected digital proof via NetGalley

 

I'm not too sure how to review this one. On the one hand, it's very well written, has many strong points, and is generally enjoyable. On the other, it consistently put me to sleep every night and took about 5x longer to read than my usual pace, so . . . I guess it's good fantasy, and most definitively does not follow the contemporary thriller-pacing that we're seeing more of in YA and MG books. Recommended for young readers who enjoy the classics of kid lit, rather than reluctant readers or those who prefer fast-paced stories.

 

This is a portal fantasy, in which five siblings ranging from early to late elementary age tumble through a window into another world where they discover powers. The third-person narrative lends itself to exploring the world from each character's perspective, allowing for insightful character writing and meaningful personality development, but also feels distant. The journey-of-discovery format means the pace is dreamy and meandering, although there is a clear goal that ties it all together (get home again). There is dark/violent/disturbing content, which may push the edges of younger children's comfort level, but is in line with content from many children's classics. Lots of descriptive writing creates a detailed high fantasy world with some interesting philosophical underpinnings.

 

In summary, there's lots to like here, but for me personally, it just didn't quite come together. Maybe I was just overtired. Again, I'd recommend this for young readers (and other fans) of dense, fantasy doorstoppers and classic storytelling. Rated 5 for quality, 3 for personal taste.

Funny, unsettling, fragmented literary thriller

Bellevue Square - Michael Redhill

Fascinating exploration of character, identity and perspective with excellent character writing. Not in love with the lack of closure in the wrap-up, but it's very literary and in keeping with the fragmented structure and unreliable narrator. Features nuanced depictions of mental illness, quirky character studies, excellent Canadian world-building/description, and some borderline horror/suspense elements. Despite a lack of traditional story structure, the reading experience was engaging; I basically inhaled this book in (almost) one sitting. Is there such a thing as a literary thriller?

Wing walking feminist during Prohibition

Nothing But Sky - Amy Trueblood

Disclaimer: reviewing advance uncorrected proof via NetGalley

 

This is a solid historical fiction debut with an interesting and unique premise. An orphaned teen is determined to win a contract with a film studio to keep her found-family together and hold onto her dangerously exhilarating job as a wing walker - an acrobatic who performs stunts on (and off of) flying ex-WWI planes.

 

I thought there was a good balance between period-accurate tone and characterization, and of-the-moment attitudes and values. Language use wasn't totally jarring, and especially at the beginning, there was a noticeable effort to avoid anachronism. Based on true-to-life examples, the wing-walking girl's fierceness and her (and her friends') push back against traditional expectations for women weren't totally out of left field. The structure of the story is not unlike a sports story - the big game coming up, the secret early morning training, the big snag etc. There is a fairly significant romance subplot that didn't really hold my attention, but that's just the way it goes sometimes. Very good twist at the end - some excellent slight of hand helps it land effectively, and if the wrap-up was a little pat, that's just the way of engaging storytelling. Generally an enjoyable read.

Dense, interwoven historic fiction within a conspiracy-mystery frame story

Minds of Winter - Ed O'Loughlin

Remarkable work of historical fiction. Intricate in structure, convincing and meticulous in detail, and surprisingly engrossing in character, this novel avoids typical plot, organization, and closure in favour of more challenging choices.

 

The modern-day frame story is of two lost souls in the high Canadian Arctic and, oddly, a historic marine chronometer. Nelson's brother (recent) and Faye's grandfather (long past) went missing in the area - but they're not there on a Dan Brown-esque mystery-thriller search for the truth. This case of missing, confused, and obfuscated identities resists such tidy progressions. Instead, the unlikely couple stumble their way into uncertain discoveries of questionable validity based on documents left behind by Nelson's apparently-missing brother. This modern day progression is interspersed with "found" documents and firsthand accounts of explorers, adventurers, and secret-history-movers of the last two centuries prodding at the edges of the unknown on journeys that range from Australia to the Arctic and very nearly everywhere in between. The dots don't connect - or maybe they do - but the real surprise is how enjoyable the ride is.

 

I don't usually enjoy fiction that lacks the classic rise-and-fall story arc or that evade neatly-wrapped endings, but the unconventional format of this book somehow worked for me. Strong research, a talent for authentic(-seeming) voice, and telling details bring to life far-flung locations and eras long since passed. I couldn't keep track of the location, time, character, and (potential, suggested, unconfirmed) links between the jumps for most of the book - and in fact, once I thought I'd worked out the trajectory, this book happily dumped the drawer upside down on me once more. In effect, the experience is like reading a loosely-linked series of short stories or historic records. I'm not sure if it's the inherently fraught circumstances of so many of the players, the exotically far-reaching locales, or the promise of a mystery to untangle, but this dense, interwoven narrative completely held my attention. Highly recommended read.

Unsettling, entrancing tale of escaping the traps we're born to

Along the Indigo - Elsie Chapman

Disclaimer: Reviewing pre-publication proof via NetGalley

 

I loved this. Vivid, strong character writing and a fully fleshed-out sense of place from the first page made this an engaging story, and the dark fantasy/paranormal elements, while light, tinted the story with a deliciously creepy atmosphere.

 

Marsden is saving up to skip town with her 8-year-old little sister before one or both of them get roped into joining Nina's girls like their mom. Their dad died (or killed himself) when she was her sister's age, and their mom started working the not-so-secret nightshift in the boarding house they live in/brothel.

 

Being pressured toward sex work isn't the only source of Marsden's misery. She's half Chinese in a white, rural American town. Her mother's job - and her likely future - are an open secret, and the predatory, bullying behaviour of her peers and neighbours has her self-isolating to survive. And she can't hear the voices of the dead - despite regularly visiting the covert behind the boardinghouse to strip the bodies of the dead for cash. It's the last remaining piece of family property, a sort of suicide forest, tainted by the murder spree of a mad ancestor.

 

So there's a lot going on here. The visible minority/POC/mixed ancestry thing is handled well and comes up in Mars & her sister's experience, as well as another boy in town's story. The absent/abusive parent thing is troubling but very well handled, as is the dysfunctional community. And the suicides. There's heaps upon heaps of messed up in this book, but the author doesn't bury you in it. It's an engaging read, atmospheric and challenging without feeling hopeless. It reminds me of Brenna Yovanoff's books, and Kendare Blake's Anna Dressed In Blood just a touch. I think it's set in eastern Oregon or Washington maybe, or one of the prairie/desert states further east of there, but it has more in common with Southern Gothic paranormals. Creepy, foreign and familiar at the same time, unsettling and entrancing. Will circle back to this author's earlier works and follow her future books with great interest. Highly recommended read.

Basically, sisters suck . . . plus magic~

Daughters Of The Storm -  Kim Wilkins

Disclaimer: Reviewing pre-publication paperback ARC/proof copy.

 

This wasn't the right fit for me, but the quality of writing and storytelling was excellent, so I'll try to give some detail so you can figure out if it's a match for your own tastes.

 

This is the story of five sisters as they try to save their father (the king) from a magical curse. Only, being as how they're sisters, they mostly fall prey to rivalries and selfishness and do more harm than good. It wasn't clear from the copy I had, but this looks like the first in a series, which makes a lot more sense. I found it pretty depressing, as it seems to be an excellent argument for sticking to one child per family, and it also delves into the sex lives (and terrible choices) of each sister, and as a general rule I find a person's sexuality to be the least interesting part of them. But, y'know, tastes differ and all that. It's adult fantasy, not really romance, so the scenes don't get excessively explicit or drawn out. Somewhere from 1-3 of the sisters have some level of spiritual/magical powers that get tangled with some potential psychosis, so that part was interesting and has potential. It was a surprisingly fast read considering its size.

 

I'm not terribly knowledgeable when it comes to high fantasy subgenres - this might be considered grimdark? Or crossover literary-fantasy? Not really to my tastes, but the writing was very well done and the storytelling was smooth, if a little slow at the start. It switches perspectives between all five daughters, their stepmother, their stepbrother, and maybe a couple more, I don't really remember, so that does make it hard to get into the story and build attachment to the characters up front. It was a fascinating choice in terms of storytelling and suspense, though, since it really lends itself to exploring the moral ambiguity and deceitfulness of characters. They each portray themselves as sympathetic and make observations on the others, and then you switch POV and get a different look at the same people and actions. So I think this would be an excellent book for the right reader (review: 3/5 for taste, 5/5 for quality), but just not right for me.

Forest Born - Shannon Hale

The best character in the series comes at the end - Rinna adds fascinating struggles and a whole new power to the mix, but I may have reached the end of my capacity to marathon Hale's books, as I found this one a bit more of a struggle to get through. Alternately, that could be down to the structure; there's a lot of running around in the woods with less of a traditional story arc and fewer clear stakes. Still, very worth the effort for Hale's trademark insight and nuanced character explorations. It looks like she's focused more on MG/early readers books in recent years, but it would be great to have more classic fairytale-style fantasies!

Help me show this newcomer to BL some love, please?

Reblogged from Grimlock ♥ Ultra Magnus:

Here she is.

 

I like to keep up with people who are amazing, and who read what I don't read.   So far, this looks like another booklover, who reads what I don't. Basically: looks amazing, I get to keep up with another genre/more genres, while reading what I love most. 

 

I'm not searching out the group, because I've already procrastinated on my mid-term long enough.  I need to disconnect from the net and get actually working on this.   But it turns out I hate Python soooooo much!

 

 

Blind the Eyes is competing in Kindle Scout - Please Vote :)

Blind the Eyes - K.A. Wiggins

I have a YA dark fantasy debut coming out this summer and it's currently competing in Kindle Scout. If you go to https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/E9IM6GHX3YIJ and nominate it and it wins, Amazon will send you a free preview copy before it releases to the general public!

 

So if you're at all interested in the book (or just want to help a newbie out!) please vote. :)

 

A little more on Kindle Scout:

 

  • Kindle Scout is the American Idol of publishing
  • Readers vote on pre-published books during a 30 day period
  • Editors read the manuscripts at the end of voting
  • Amazon publishes the best of the combined editor- and fan-approved books in ebook format
  • Amazon sends a free ebook to everyone who voted for (“nominated”) a book that gets published!

 

So if you want a chance to get a free copy of BTE, head on over to the Kindle Scout website, nominate it and hope it wins! And hey, why not vote for some other faves while you’re at it? You get up to three nominations at a time.

 

A little more about Blind the Eyes:

 

In a world where hope kills and dreams are deadly, obedience is the only way to survive. But when one girl learns her society's absolute control and guarantee of safety are both illusions, she risks her hard-won status, her home and her life to rebel and expose its lies.

A YA dark fantasy about identity, trauma & taking back your choices. Ghosts and world monsters in post-eco-disaster Vancouver.

From the back cover:

In the Towers of Refuge, regulation dictates every aspect of life.

Haunted 17-year-old Cole would do anything to shake her reputation as a failure. The only way to survive the nightmarish Mara is absolute obedience, and she's down to her last chance.

But when a charismatic stranger shows up claiming to know her and Cole discovers Refuge's absolute control and guarantee of safety are both illusions, she realizes hers isn't the only life at stake and goes on the run.

In the underground club Freedom, nothing's forbidden.

Cole needs allies to help her expose Refuge's lies and escape execution by nightmare. Too bad the only candidates are a hedonistic rebel, a childish ghost, a stylist with a secret and an imaginary friend with a talent for monster-hunting.

With enforcers in pursuit and the dead invading her dreams, Cole must figure out who to trust and stop the dying before the nightmares eat her alive.

Trusted authorities lie, allies have their own agendas, and even the monsters wear masks in this YA dark fantasy suitable for ages 14 and up. Ebook, audiobook and print editions coming in late spring 2018. Subscribe at https://kaie.space/newsletter for exclusive previews and extended content.

Classic fantasy feels like coming home

River Secrets - Shannon Hale

Another excellent fantasy by Hale. This third book pivots to a male POV with great success, and delves into political drama and learning to value your own uniqueness. Which, yes that's the heart of nearly every YA book, but Hale has a shockingly deft touch at it; she's a master of showing through meaningful character interactions rather than navel-gazing angsty ruminations. Sad that there's only one more entry in the series.

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Blind the Eyes by K.A. Wiggins
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