Review: The Lake Season by Hannah McKinnon

The Lake Season by Hannah McKinnon
The Lake Season by Hannah McKinnon

PSA: Crying in public is highly likely when reading this book.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of traveling recently, which meant I had plenty of time for reading! On my flight back home last week, pulled up The Lake Season by Hannah McKinnon on my Kindle. It was a fun read that powered me through multiple flight delays. If you’re looking for a summer or beach read, this is it.

On the surface Iris has the perfect life. She’s dedicated her life to her husband and their three children, but still manages to juggle her work as a literary agent. That is, until her husband requests a divorce. Reeling from the shock, she flees back to her parents’ lake home in idyllic New Hampshire. Instead of taking the time to figure out her broken marriage, responsible Iris becomes overshadowed by her flighty, yet charismatic younger sister Leah. Again. In the midst of dress fittings and working on her mother’s organic farm stand, Iris finds a new love, discovers Leah’s secret, and tackles her imperfect life head-on.

The Lake Season by Hannah McKinnon

At first I found Iris really whiny and annoying, but I warmed up to her quickly. She’s been raised with the unrelenting pressure of being the responsible sibling in light of her Leah’s escapades. Even as adults, Iris is still cleaning up after Leah. Sibling rivalry is tough (says me, the older sister). However, as a mother, I totally relate to Iris and the struggle to follow our personal dreams versus taking care of our children. McKinnon creates a very compelling character that I wanted so desperately to find happiness.

I totally cried when I read The Lake Season. While my plane was landing. I probably freaked out my fellow passengers. I’m not normally a crier when I read, so that’s my PSA for you.

Add The Lake Season to your summer reading list. You won’t be disappointed. And grab some tissues.



17 Sci-Fi Fantasy Books by Diverse Authors

17 Sci-Fi Fantasy Books by Diverse Authors via From Left to Write

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17 Sci-Fi Fantasy Books by Diverse Authors via From Left to Write

Last week at BookCon (the book conference for readers immediately following Book Expo America), I discovered a new to me list of sci-fi fantasy books! We Need Diverse Books presented the panel In Our World and Beyond, whose panelists discussed everything from the politics of science fiction to the importance of different points of views in these genres.

A point that resonated with me (and I wholly believe this) is that writing diverse characters in stories NOT about diversity needs to be the next movement.

Sci-fi fantasy books cemented my love of reading back in middle school. While I don’t read this genre as often as I used to, I don’t love it any less. After sitting through this panel discussion, I have lots of new sci-fi fantasy books added to my TBR list.

WNDB Sci-Fi Fantasy Panel at BookCon 2015

L-R: Miranda Paul, Daniel José Older, Kameron Hurley, Marieke Nijkamp, Ken Liu, Joe Monti, Nnedi Okorafor

While this list is just the books written by the panelists, there’s lots more diverse authors of sci-fi fantasy. Definitely not an inclusive list, but it’s a start!

Sci-Fi Fantasy Books by Diverse Authors

Nnedi Okorafor at BookCon 2015

Nnedi Okorafor

I’m going to start with Nnedi Okorafor because I bought her book The Book of the Phoenix immediately after the panel and finished it in two days. I would have finished it sooner but I had to work, sleep, and feed the kids. The novel’s storytelling is reminiscent of Nigerian oral tradition–which makes sense as that is Nnedi’s background. (I met her in person and she signed my copy, so I can call her by her first name, right?)

Described as magical futurism, The Book of the Phoenix tells us the origin of Phoenix, a genetically engineered organism bred to be a weapon. Like her mythological namesake, Phoenix has the ability to die and become reborn. She looks 40 years old but has only existed for 2 years, all of which she has been a prisoner of Tower 7. Soon she discovers the extent of her abilities and must struggle between being the savior for other SpeciMen like her and becoming the villain her creators feared she would become.

Phoenix is the “prequel” (it takes place hundreds of years before) to Nnedi Okorafor’s multiple award winning Who Fears Death. Guess what my next read will be?

Other books by Nnedi OkoraforAkata WitchThe Shadow SpeakerLagoon,

Daniel José Older

photo via website

Daniel José Older

I snagged an ARC (advance reader copy) of Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older, which drops June 30. While I don’t normally read YA, Daniel’s bluntness during the panel appealed to me. Plus he curses like a sailor–which is how I’d be if I didn’t have little kids running around me all day. Isn’t that a gorgeous cover?

In Shadowshaper, Sierra Santiago is young artist who discovers shadowshaping, ” a thrilling magic that infuses ancestral spirits into paintings, music, and stories.” But someone is hunting down all the shadowshapers and the killer is after Sierra for a family secret.

Other sci-fi fantasy books by Daniel José OlderHalf-Resurrection Blues: A Bone Street Rumba NovelGingaSalsa Nocturna

Kameron Hurley

Photo via author website

Kameron Hurley

Hugo Award winner Hurley is a prolific writer (yay!). She’s written lots of short fiction, but I’m interested in her epic fantasies: Worldbreaker Saga and Dame Apocrypha (God’s War Trilogy).

More on Worldbreaker Saga: “On the eve of a recurring catastrophic event known to extinguish nations and reshape continents, a troubled orphan evades death and slavery to uncover her own bloody past… while a world goes to war with itself. ”

Books in Worldbreaker Saga: The Mirror EmpireThe Empire Ascendant (Oct 2015), The Broken Heavens (2017)

About Dame Apocrypha (God’s War Trilogy): “On a ravaged, contaminated world, a centuries-old holy war rages, fought by a bloody mix of mercenaries, magicians, and conscripted soldiers. Though the origins of the war are shady and complex, there’s one thing everybody agrees on–There’s not a chance in hell of ending it.”

Books in Dame Apocrypha trilogy: God’s WarInfidelRapture

Ken Liu

Ken Liu

photo via author Facebook page

I first learned about Ken Liu when he won the Hugo Award for his novella “The Paper Menagerie,” which will published in a short story collection The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories (available November 2015).

During BookCon, Ken signed copies of The Grace of Kings (The Dandelion Dynasty), the first book of his new epic fantasy. (Yes, I snagged a copy!)

More about The Grace of Kings: “Wily, charming Kuni Garu, a bandit, and stern, fearless Mata Zyndu, the son of a deposed duke, seem like polar opposites. Yet, in the uprising against the emperor, the two quickly become the best of friends after a series of adventures fighting against vast conscripted armies, silk-draped airships, and shapeshifting gods. Once the emperor has been overthrown, however, they each find themselves the leader of separate factions—two sides with very different ideas about how the world should be run and the meaning of justice.”

Which of these books do you want to read?

Review: The Gracekeeper by Kirsty Logan

The Gracekeeper by Kristy Logan

The Gracekeeper by Kristy Logan

As a promiscuous reader, I declare my love for a book every new moon. But every now and again, I become so smitten with a novel that I can think of nothing else. That’s how I’ve been with The Gracekeepers  by Kirsty Logan ever since I finished it. Really though, I knew I would fall hard for the book as soon as the folks at Crown Publishing told me about it. The novel has everything I wanted in a book: beautiful writing; an original dystopian world; rich, fully developed female characters; and a bit of magic.

If you’re not into dystopian fiction, don’t let the D-word turn you off.

Set a world where most of the planet is covered in water and land is at a premium, its people are divided between the landlockers and the damplings.  The landlockers are grounded in permanence on their small islands, which makes them feel superior to the folks that float from island to island to find works. The novel alternates between the a dampling North and Callanish, who has her feet in both worlds.

Callanish lives in between the world of damp and dry in her self-imposed role as a gracekeeper, a person who administers shoreside burials. On her lonely island of purgatory, she ushers the dead into the resting place deep into the ocean, where her only companions are the birds representing the dead she buries.  Part of a traveling circus, North has grown up on the sea. Her parents, who died when she was young, were also circus performers. The sea is in her blood, but the Ring Master has chosen her to become his daughter-in-law and purchase his family’s return to landlocker status.

A big storm is brewing, both meteorologically and socially, that will change these women’s lonely lives forever. Can they wade through their sadness to open their souls to the possibilities of a better future where the world isn’t divided into wet and dry?

The Gracekeepers feels like a fairy tale, which is not surprising as Logan was inspired by Scottish myths and fairy tales. Its characters’ desolation seeps through, but Callanish and North carry on because they know hope is on the horizon. There’s no knight in shining armor coming to rescue them. They must find solace in their own way.

Logan builds a watery world that hints at a deep history and tradition. I can easily imagine Callanish’ remote island and North’s floating home. Not many authors can create a well-developed fictional world in just one book, but Logan nailed it.

Make sure you pick up Kirsty Logan’s debut novel The Gracekeepers I think it’ll stick with you for a long time, just like it will with me.

Book Club Discussion: The Mapmaker’s Children

Mapmaker's Children FL2W Book Club Banner

Mapmaker's Children FL2W Book Club Banner

Book club discussion days are my favorite days on this site. Today is even better because we’re discussing Sarah McCoy’s The Mapmaker’s ChildrenThis novel tells the alternating stories of two women–an abolitionist and one from present day- and how one doll brings past and present together.

Based on the chatter in our private forum, From Left to Write members couldn’t get enough of McCoy’s characters. Our book club members were truly inspired by The Mapmaker’s Children. Don’t believe me? Check out their personal stories inspired by the novel.

Intrigued? Grab a copy of The Mapmaker’s Children and see what the fuss is all about.

Don’t forget check out Sarah McCoy’s website or follow her on Twitter. She loves chatting with her readers and is super nice. Tell her From Left to Write sent you!

Giveaway: Deborah Harkness’ Book of Life Bundle!

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

Deborah Harkness Book of Life Giveaway at From Left to Write

Let’s kick off Monday with a BANG! We’ve got an awesome giveaway for all you Deborah Harkness fans.

To celebrate the paperback release of The Book of Lifethe final book in the All Souls trilogy–Penguin is offering one lucky reader the ultimate The Book of Life Bundle! But first, more about the book.

The All Souls Trilogy Box Set

If you’re new to Harkness’ books (like me), you’ll want to clear your schedule for the trilogy (that’s what my friends told me). The best part about being a late adopter is that don’t have to wait for the next installment to be released. In fact, you can just pick up the All Souls Box Set and dive right in. Here’s some general info about the series:

The All Souls Trilogy follows the story of Diana Bishop, a historian and reluctant witch, as she solves the mystery of Ashmole 782, falls in love with a mysterious vampire named Matthew Clairmont, and learns how powerful it can be to accept who you are.

The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

Of course the conclusion of the series is The Book of Life:

Diana and Matthew time-travel back from Elizabethan London to make a dramatic return to the present—facing new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home, Sept-Tours, they reunite with the beloved cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency.

I don’t have any plans this weekend, so guess what I’ll be reading? I can even listen to Deb’s The Book of Life Spotify playlist of the music that inspired her as she was writing it.

If you’d rather read via audiobooks, you can sample the trilogy as read by Jennifer Ikeda (listen to Discovery of Witches, Shadow of Night, and Book of Life).

Make sure you follow Deborah Harkness via her website, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Book of Life Bundle Giveaway

Ready for the giveaway? One lucky winner will receive The Book of Life Bundle, which includes the following:

  • a copy of The Book of Life
  • a signed copy of Diana’s commonplace book
  • a  Book of Life mirror with ouroboros design
  • 6 All Souls alchemical buttons

What a fantastic bundle for a Harkness fan! Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. (If you’re reading this via email, click through to the post.) For U.S. addresses only–sorry to our Canuck neighbors. Don’t take it personally; it’s a shipping thing.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Club Feature: The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy

The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy

Mapmaker's Children FL2W Book Club Banner

I am so thrilled to feature another novel by Sarah McCoy as our second May book club feature! Our book club loved her The Baker’s Daughter and we’re excited about her new book!

The Mapmaker’s Children tells the story of two women–an abolitionist and one from present day.  Here’s more about the book:

When Sarah Brown, daughter of abolitionist John Brown, realizes that her artistic talents may be able to help save the lives of slaves fleeing north, she becomes one of the Underground Railroad’s leading mapmakers, taking her cues from the slave code quilts and hiding her maps within her paintings. She boldly embraces this calling after being told the shocking news that she can’t bear children, but as the country steers toward bloody civil war, Sarah faces difficult sacrifices that could put all she loves in peril.
Eden, a modern woman desperate to conceive a child with her husband, moves to an old house in the suburbs and discovers a porcelain head hidden in the root cellar—the remains of an Underground Railroad doll with an extraordinary past of secret messages, danger and deliverance.
Ingeniously plotted to a riveting end, Sarah and Eden’s woven lives connect the past to the present, forcing each of them to define courage, family, love, and legacy in a new way.

Grab your copy of The Mapmaker’s Children and join us on May 19th when we discuss Sarah’s novel.

The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy

Don’t forget check out Sarah McCoy’s website or follow her on Twitter. She loves chatting with her readers and is super nice. Tell her we sent you!

Have you read any of Sarah McCoy’s books?