The Book of Dust

the book of dust.jpgThree stars.png

Publication Date: October 19, 2017

Author: Philip Pullman

Buy Now from Indiebound


The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman had so much potential. The world he had created decades ago with The Golden Compass was already fully fleshed out. He had a dedicated following of adults and teens who had grown up with his novels, and were just itching for this prequel to come out.

Sadly, I don’t think this book lived up to the hype. Which isn’t to say it wasn’t good. It was simply slow, and the characters mildly interesting. In fact, I only, truly got invested at the very end, and by then the story was over. Ironically so were the characters, because the next book in this series will be about Lyra, the protagonist from the author’s last series, set when she’s in her 20’s.

Okay, the good:

To read the full review, Click Here

The Immortal Rules

the imortal rules coverAllison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a walled-in city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten. Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them—the vampires who keep humans as blood cattle.

Until the night Allie herself dies and becomes one of the monsters.

Forced to flee her city, Allie must pass for human as she joins a ragged group of pilgrims seeking a legend—a place that might have a cure for the disease that killed off most of civilization and created the rabids, the bloodthirsty creatures who threaten human and vampire alike. And soon Allie will have to decide what and who is worth dying for again.


First thing first, yes this is a vampire book. Yes 99 percent of vampire books created in the post-twilight vampire fetish “how the heck did this get published” cringe-worthy love triangle angsty “don’t love me, I’m a monster” era were absolute garbage, so much so that even the word vampire will get your book tossed out of the publishing house faster than you can say “sparkly vampire abs”, there are several things that put Julie Kagawa’s The Immortal Rules above the rest.

To read the full review, Click Here

My Experiences (and Really Bad Advice) on NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo_logo_w_words.pngI won my first NaNoWriMo challenge when I was 13 years old. I also won my last NaNoWriMo challenge when I was 13 years old.

NaNoWriMo, or National November Writing Month, is a big global fiesta dedicated to getting reluctant or detail obsessed writers out of their ruts and into writing 50,000 words of pure garbage with the idea that actually getting your shit together and writing a novel is the hardest part of the process. And, as someone who is never quite ready to start, and who can never get past the first 10 pages because I’m always going back and fixing things, this is extremely true. Essentially, you are given one month to vomit out 50,000 words of a brand new novel. You go to, make a profile, join other struggling Wrimos in cafes and wine bars (we’re classy like that), to get together and write. It’s a super fun activity and quite the exercise in willpower and intention. There’s only one problem that I’ve had each and every year I participate.

November is busy as heck.

Midterms, finals, and holiday plans, all this has always fallen on November for me. After 8th grade (in which I was struggling with high school applications, so I really have no excuse for not completing the goal every year), I would make a heroic and valiant effort for the first two weeks before gradually falling behind in a rut of exam fueled misery.

However, all was not lost! Even though I didn’t win, I met up with some super cool writers, got inspiration from them, and now have 3 separate novels all started for a future date. In fact, I completed 30,000 words of my 2012 Wrimo novel, and gained a miniature following by posting it in sections online. Without Nanowrimo, there was no way that novel would ever have come into being.

This year, despite college hell, sleep deprivation, and a whole new group of Wrimos I’ve yet to meet, I have a solid plan to complete my 50,000 word goal. Here’s what I’ve gained from my many years’ experience in dismal failure:

  • Don’t stop at 1667 words a day. Write as much of the next week’s word count during the weekend as possible, because even one busy day can drastically and permanently throw you behind schedule.


  • Come up with at least the first quarter of the novel before you start. While I detest planning, as it limits the creativity that naturally comes out when you just shove words on paper without knowing what will come next, I always get to a point a week or two in where my novel doesn’t know where it’s going. My winning story in 8th grade, for example, was literally about two kids running around in a maze of alleys in San Francisco and meeting all these magical characters. There was no reason. It just happened. For 50,000 words. A masterpiece in the making.


  • Make Wrimo friends. The site allows you to see your friends’ word counts and them to see yours. Pride is a powerful motivator.


  • Don’t worry about plagiarism. This may sound like the worst advice ever, but it’s a fact of life. When writing that quickly you’ll inevitably find your story or characters sounding suspiciously like your favorite book or movie. Leave it alone. Just write. You can always go back in December and change your young wizard, Barry Lotter’s name.


  • If you’re not feeling the “muse” write boring gibberish anyway. Trust me. Better to write badly today and get it done then wait until you get inspiration. Because by then you will be rolling down hill of failure, your word count irredeemable in every way.

Most of all, have fun! The whole point of this is to do what you have never been able to do on your own. To create a solidly mediocre starting point from which to leap into success! Believe it or not, many published authors have started their books during this program, and many more will do so this year. However, if you find yourself drowning in work and responsibility, and the idea of forever being a NaNoWriMo winner (you get to wear the Winner’s Circle shirt and everything) is not enough to get you through, remember, there is always next year to try again.

And if you need a writing buddy to secretly judge you for your word count…you know, for your own good….. I am always down for more writing friends. My username is Secret Service (I was 13, I bet your usernames were worse). See you in November!

An Amazing Indie Read

bone roadI’ll be honest; I initially bought this book because one of the main characters shared my name. I really like my name, it’s beautiful, and unique, and I thought, “Gee, I can’t wait to read about this other Annalise and how cool she is.”

She was pretty damn cool.

Mary Holland’s Bone Road is one of those books that is so chock full of creativity, and flavor, and action that, despite only being 376 pages long, finishing the book felt a lot like finishing a fully fleshed out trilogy. The world building was glorious. So much is packed into this novel, from ancient customs and rituals, to nomads, to reincarnation, to what essentially boils down to an incredibly technologically advanced version of realspace Sims (I’m keeping that last little spoiler vague on purpose.)


To read the full review and book summary  click here


Queen of Katwe Review

queen of katwe coverAs a non-fiction book set in Uganda, Queen of Katwe is a novel I would never normally have picked up. However, something in the story called to me and, having read the entire book in a matter of hours, I don’t regret that decision in the slightest.

Queen of Katwe details the life and experiences of Phiona Mutesi, the young, female, Ugandan chess player from the poorest of the slums who somehow managed to learn chess and become the best player in the country, despite having virtually no resources, or even enough food to eat.

There is something to be said for a novel that so thoroughly immerses you in a world you can barely conceive of, and make you feel like you lived it right alongside the protagonist.

For the full review of this amazing book, click here

Congratulations Mother! (You should be paying me for this)

It’s been a while since I last posted. Sadly, I had to take a hiatus from reviewing while I moved into my new accommodations. However, I never stopped reading while away (I’m not sure that’s even possible), and I have a fresh batch of book recommendations and reviews that will BLOW YOUR MIND…or at least mildly entertain you for a few minutes.

However, I didn’t arbitrarily chose today to re-emerge from the shadows. Rather, I chose today because today is the release date my mother’s YA novel, Stolen Secrets. She has been working hard on this book for years and years and, today, all that work has finally come to fruition!

stolensecretsfront1After an abrupt move across the country to San Francisco, sixteen-year-old Livvy is shocked to find that her mother has lied to her. Instead of looking for work at a bakery, her mom is taking care of Adelle, Livvy’s grandmother, who Livvy thought was long dead. Suffering from Alzheimer’s, Adelle shouts out startling details, mistakes her own name, and seems to relive moments that may have taken place in a concentration camp. When Livvy and her new friend Franklin D. find journal entries from the Holocaust in Adelle’s home, Livvy begins to suspect that her grandmother may have a shocking link to a notable figure — Anne Frank.

However, as many of the authors out there know, you are not done with a book once it gets published. The marketing process can be just as grueling and, in many cases, not very fruitful. It’s difficult to get reviews, booksellers, and attention. So here’s to you Mom, to many years of hard work, and much more marketing than you will ever want to do in a million lifetimes.

Now, my mother has generously allowed me to post a sample of her novel on my blog (after I had snagged the PDF. copy off her desktop already, of course)

You can read the sample here: (Shameless Plug)

You can check the book out here: (Shameless Plug)




A Marketing Success Story: Who Knew it Could Actually Be Done?

business-commerce-salesmen-sale-sales_pitch-sales_strategy-desperate-aton3946_low.jpgEveryone knows the drill. You write a book, a literary masterpiece, and you decide to either send it to an agent and publisher for publication, or publish it yourself. Congratulations! Your job is now done! Finally your book can make its way into the world.

Sadly, you are so very wrong.

What many people, particularly traditionally published authors, don’t take into account is how much time and effort you have to put into marketing your own novel. Publication companies do help, however, unless you are already a top selling author, often you are given minimal pre-publication publicity (nice alliteration, me) and forced to either see your book sink into the endless depths of obscurity or take up the mantle yourself.

When I was fifteen, my mother published her first book League of Strays. After so many years getting rejected and improving her writing, her hard earned novel was finally becoming a reality. She created swag; bookmarks, pens, ect., and arranged a blog tour but, otherwise, assumed that her publisher would handle the rest.

Finally, the release date arrived. We had a fabulous launch party and my mother was the happiest woman on earth. Ever since she was young, she knew she wanted to be a writer, and here she was, realizing her dream. Sadly, things didn’t go as she expected.

After the launch, her book sold alright. Most people hadn’t heard of it, as her publishing company hadn’t prioritized her marketing. Worst of all, she became one of the many victims of “Goodreads Bullying”. I had to watch as her face fell,  as her Goodreads page got swamped by one woman and her cronies not only telling all her prospective readers how offensive her book was, but also bringing others in to give it one star and to leave reviews stating that, although they hadn’t actually read the book, they heard how offensive it was and felt that a one star review was necessary. Ironically, her book had been about bullying, and the dangerous consequences of responding to it with violence and aggression.

After her first book, she became rather disheartened. After what had happened with League of Strays, how could she possibly put out another, and have it be successful? I hated seeing her like that.

Ultimately however, she continued work on a book that had been close to her heart since the beginning. This book was terrifying to write; it contained the sensitive issues of the Holocaust, told from both sides of the war. Afterwards, she sent it out, and got accepted by a publisher. However, we both knew from her past experiences that this was only the beginning.

So, how do you let the world know that your book exists? It’s a scary process. Most authors don’t know where to begin, they’re worried about rejection, about wasting money on pointless promotional material and online scams. Well, I’m here to tell you those are very real concerns, however, there are some tricks to marketing that my mother and I learned after many hours of fruitless and fruitful effort.However, my mother did make one, very intelligent marketing decision right off the bat. She hired me. With cold hard cash and many, many burritos.

Marketing is a time consuming job. Having someone there to do all the research and emailing that is requires is definitely valuable. It doesn’t hurt to hire some tech savvy student who also has some knowledge of Photoshop. It’s cheap, and saves a LOT of time. It’s also effective, as long as you have a clear list of tasks for them to accomplish.

My mother and I have been struggling to figure out what to do and how to do it. We have no marketing background, and no one to help us. However, after 3 months of work, today we have accomplished something she hadn’t thought possible.

The National Holocaust Museum is selling her book, along with many other Jewish organizations across the United States.

This just goes to show, it is possible to market your own book successfully.

Over our time working together here is what I’ve learned:

  1. Don’t be afraid to contact the big guns. At first, we were reluctant to contact newspapers and large groups for promotional purposes. Especially after her last book, we were afraid of rejection. However, finally, we realized that these groups are just as actively looking for authors as we are for them. So we sent them Stolen Secrets. And the National Holocaust Museum agreed to sell it yesterday.
  2. Photoshop is your friend. 99 percent of all promotional material I was able to create on Photoshop, from bookmarks, to postcards, to professional looking posters. Hiring a designer is expensive, and a lot of the time unnecessary. Learn how to use Photoshop, or find a student who can. It’ll save you a TON of money. After all, who wants to spend a hundred dollars on bookmarks? I designed them in two hours, and we printed 250 full color bookmarks for $25 on
  3. Do the basics on Goodreads. Due to her previous experience, my mother wasn’t too keen on promoting with Goodreads. However, I submitted her books to Listopia categories there that her book applied to such as Books Published September 2017 and YA’s set in the Bay Area. This is very valuable, as readers who are looking at a book in one of those categories will have your book recommended for them. It’s a quick, easy, and free thing to do, although the author can’t do it themselves. However, never put your book in any “Best of” categories, as that is unethical and could cause backlash.
  4. Get Reviews. Make sure you have several reviews on Goodreads before your publication date. Most people I know primarily show interest in books with enough reviews, good or bad, to look professional. In addition, Goodreads uses algorithms to promote books using the number of reviews as an indicator as to the book’s popularity. So get your book out to as many people as possible! Just be wary, a simple spray and pray method like mass e-book giveaways rarely results in tons of reviews.
  5. Oh My God, Fix Your Cover. Professional looking cover art is a must. This is especially true for indie authors who often have to design their own. Please get it professionally done, or done by someone competent. It’s very difficult to get people to buy a book who’s cover looks homemade. It’s sad but true.

    league of straysThis is also the case for authors who’s publishers are in charge of cover design. My mother’s first book League of Strays, looked great, except for the vampire-esque guy brooding on the cover (Look at those thick eyebrows, that dark and hooded stare. He looks like Edward Cullen had an unholy lovechild with a serial killer). You don’t know how many confused reviews she got saying that they had thought this was a vampire novel. The cover repelled many fantasy haters, which was a shame because her book contained no fantasy at all.

    Now, for her second book, Stolen Secrets, the publication company decided to gostolensecretsfront1 all  out on the Jewish theme, and sent us a sample cover which was covered in faded sheets of paper, and sported a big, red, Jewish star on the front. Both of us thought it was ugly, and looked like the kind of book no teen would grab off the shelf. It looked boring. She didn’t know if it was okay to contact the publishers and reject the cover but, remembering her lack of action with her first book, proceeded to contact them with a redesigned cover I had made (It wasn’t fabulous, but at least it didn’t look like the kind of book teachers forced you to read in middle school). They responded, slightly annoyed, with a new, fabulous, eye-catching cover.

The overall moral of our marketing adventures together was that successful marketing can be done, you can contact those groups or organizations that you are afraid to even consider, and that you can reason with designers or publication companies. Your novel only comes out once. Give it the best entrance into the world you can and leave yourself with no regrets afterwards. After all, which would you rather face, a little rejection, or permanent obscurity?