Monday, June 22, 2020

Kimber: An Out of this World Q&A and Giveaway

Haven't we all had enough of reality? Crazy Covid-19. Social distancing making you feel isolated and alone. Who hasn't turned to books to escape the chaos around us? The hard reality though is that sometimes that TBR pile at home finally reaches the bottom of the stack and needs replenishing. The HORROR!!!

I am here to help. Who needs a new book to read? How about something out of this world? In fact, let's leave the whole world behind and venture to another land. With the help of KIMBER, you can do exactly that! What is KIMBER? How about we find out a little more directly from the author, L.K. Hingey.


Thank you for joining us to talk about your new book. Tell us what KIMBER: Book One of The Elyrian Chronicles is all about:

L.K. Hingey: KIMBER is a dystopian young adult novel set in the year 2209 that takes readers from the depths of an underground city to the surface of a world scarred by war and ravaged solar winds. Kimber is one of 23 of a brand-new subspecies of humans called Auroras, secretly bred by the government with the genomes of Earth’s most radiation resistant animals. The book follows Kimber on her journey through the wasteland of post-World War III America in search of proof of the inhuman genetic experimentation that could free the Auroreans from a life of lies and servitude.

Sounds fantastic and definitely otherworldly. Who do you think is your audience? Who will love The Elyrian Chronicles?

Hingey: I think KIMBER and the subsequent books in the series to come will appeal to fans of The Hunger GamesDivergent, and The Maze Runner trilogies. Also, to the fans of the movie Avatar! Anyone who likes suspense, action, romance, immersive worlds, or becoming fiercely attached to characters, should definitely check out this fun new dystopian series!

Those are all amazing books! I'm sure you will hit the mark with plenty of people with it. Can you share where you draw your inspiration from when creating The Elyrian Chronicles?

Hingey: I draw inspiration from the amazing world around us. Life is full of beauty and wonder, love and friendship, and sometimes heartbreak and terror. After my spinal injury and separation from the military, I took five months to backpack the Appalachian Mountains. After years of hardship, it was the first time I could truly let my mind wander. Creativity blossomed as my husky, Colefax and I hiked over 1,800 miles. As we watched spring turn into summer, and summer turn into fall, the idea for KIMBER was born and has stuck with me ever since.

That sounds like an amazing adventure ripe for contemplation. No wonder your found inspiration. Can you tell us a little more about your book? What are some of the underlying themes that readers may pick up on in KIMBER?

Hingey: My favorite novels are the ones that not only have strong character development and immersive scenery but are layered with deeper meaning. I spent countless hours researching the science that is interwoven into Kimber’s story, and then did my best to lace a high degree of scientific plausibility with deeper themes: themes that prod and explore the complex world around us, such as government, social movements, and the institution of religion.

The question all readers will want to know once they read Kimber—What is next in The Elyrian Chronicles series?

Hingey: I am so excited to announce that I have not only begun working on books two and three of The Elyrian Chronicles but have laid out the stories for books one and two of The Elyrian PrequelsCHEYENNE: Book Two of The Elyrian Chronicles, is on schedule to debut around Christmas!

There are more books to come readers!!!! 

Now is the time to grab a copy of the first book and this is the best part. I can get YOU a copy of Kimber! Contest runs until June 28th. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

L.K. Hingey was born, raised, and enlisted into the U.S. Army out of Detroit, Michigan. She graduated from the University of North Dakota in 2012 as a private and commercial helicopter pilot with a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautics, before commissioning as a U.S. Army officer. She has since medically retired from the military and continues the Army lifestyle as an Active Duty spouse. She resides with her husband, Jonathon, who is U.S. Army Blackhawk pilot.

L.K.'s many interests include her dogs, fitness, backpacking, traveling, and writing.

Upcoming works include Books Two and Three of The Elyrian Chronicles, and Books One and Two of The Elyrian Prequels.

KIMBER is available on Amazon and through all major booksellers.

For more information, visit or connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

The Wondrous and Tragic Life of Ivan and Ivana

The Wondrous and Tragic Life of Ivan and Ivana, by Maryse Condé, translated by Richard Philcox, ©2020, World Editions

Time for a trip into a wondrous life. Get ready for a look at a tragic life. Get them twinned together in one package as I jump into The Wondrous and Tragic Life of Ivan and Ivana by Maryse Condé, as translated by Richard Philcox. Not only do I have a book review for you, but today is publication day (in the US) for this Winner of the 2018 Alternative Nobel Prize in literature.

The Wondrous and Tragic Life of Ivan and Ivana

Ivan and Ivana are twins born in Guadeloupe. While all twins tend to have a preternatural bond, the link between Ivan and Ivana seems stronger than most. Joined in the womb, they struggle to separate in life, even as the world pushes them in different directions. 

Ivan is the first born, headstrong, and a rebel in their small town on the island nation. Ivana on the other hand is smart, kind, and loved by all. Their mother looks for ways to set them both on the best path, which isn't always easy. Her solution—to send them to their erstwhile father, whom they have never met, in faraway Mali. A solution that neither of the twins embraces, but finally acquiesces to, to please their mother. 

While life in Guadeloupe has its challenges—poverty, racism, classicism—it doesn't get any better on Mali's shores at their father's side. Their former experiences are mirrored in this new setting. Ivan is dropped into a corrupt military, and again finds himself friendless, but for his sister. In contrast, Ivana works in an orphanage helping the least fortunate, at the same time as building a strong bond with her father and others in their new community. While outsiders don't understand their deep bond, it remains unshakable. At times, almost illicit. 

As the narrator continues to spin the tale, we see brushes with terrorism, anti-immigration sentiments, and the struggle to escape ingrained poverty. Where Ivan and Ivana seem destined for different paths along these continuum, they remain inexplicably linked. They cannot live with each other, but cannot live apart, and time just seems to make this bond worse for both of them. Location doesn't seem to have a hope to change the outcome. 

Novel or Social Commentary?

So why does Condé use a third person narrative? It gives an omniscient feel to the events, as we oversee the struggles of the fated twins. In that voice, she has the ability to point out the bleak world that Ivan traverses and contrast it to the more hopeful Ivana. Can we have one without the other? The struggle we see the twins grapple with suggests the difficulty in that. The world still holds a tragic divide between the haves and have nots and that divide continues to have the power to destroy lives. 

Are the twins destined for destruction due to their entwined lives? Is the world? Can we separate these disparate halves to see one or the other survive or do we need to look closer at the reasons behind their struggles—the world's struggles—and work at resolving its woes for the better of all? It would seem so, but the question becomes how. 

There is a depth to the novel that Condé offers us. While it is a work of fiction, she has seen firsthand many of the scenes depicted in her book. Maybe we should take a moment to see how we can learn from her experiences. As the world suffers through a pandemic that is sweeping the globe and touching everyone, regardless of race, education, or economic class, perhaps now is the moment to break down some of those barriers. For aren't we all in this Wondrous and Tragic Life together?

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

One Good Reason

One Good Reason: A Memoir of Addiction and Recovery, Music and Love

Written by Séan McCann and Andrea Aragon, © 2019, Nimbus Publishing

One Good Reason

"I carried my heavy secret around for thirty years because I was ashamed of myself and afraid to tell my parents what happened. Over time this shame grew into anger and eventually into a sense of immense betrayal. Each year it took more and more booze and drugs to keep my hidden suffering at bay. My dark secret was slowly eating away at me from the inside, like a caged animal trying to get out." 

Séan McCann was sexually abused by a priest—a trusted member of his community and personal friend of his family—when he was 15 years old. He told no one, until standing in front of an audience in London, Ontario on September 26, 2014. That was nearly three years after he got sober, but was preceded by thirty years of hard drinking, excessive drug use, and the mental struggle to keep those memories at bay. It almost killed him. 

Andrea Aragon met him along the voyage, as Séan rocked out the tunes of Great Big Sea on a twenty-year-long party tour. She had her own demons, but the two of them clicked. Together, they made a life, but that life didn't erase the secrets or stop the drugs and alcohol from flowing. Somehow Andrea held onto the love that brought her and Séan together throughout many dark and confusing years. That love and a tribe of support buoyed her up and helped her remember the reason why she was there in the first place. Sometimes all it takes is one good reason.

And together they share their journey through addiction, abuse, music, recovery, and love with us.

My Reasons

Full disclosure. I have always been a big fan of Great Big Sea and love their rollicking party tunes. I saw them more than once on their constant tours and was always excited to be part of the joyous event. The energy in their music is intense, and their live shows never disappointed.

I even met Séan one evening during the Home County Music & Art Festival in London, shortly after he left Great Big Sea. He had just played a solo set on the main stage and was now part of the audience enjoying the next musicians to hit the stage. I noticed him standing behind my children and I.

"Do you know who this is?" I asked them excitedly. "It's Séan McCann. He was just onstage. And he was one of the lead singers of Great Big Sea!"

He smiled and said hello. We chatted briefly and then I thanked him for sharing his music with us. He was gracious and real, in a way I always appreciate in celebrities. Musicians might hold epic rock and roll status, but they are people with lives of their own, and stories that mirror anyone's.

Those stories are often the power behind their lyrics. The words get inside you and make you feel like the musician knows your intimate details. Ordinary Day was one such song for me after my husband's death.

"In this beautiful life, there's always some sorrow
And it's a double-edged knife, but there's always tomorrow
It's up to you now if you sink or swim,
Just keep the faith that your ship will come in.
It's not so bad...

I say way-hey-hey, it's just an ordinary day
And it's all your state of mind
At the end of the day,
You've just got to say... it's all right, it's all right"

~ lyrics form Ordinary Day by Great Big Sea

Yes, there was always tomorrow. And I learned to live with that double-edged knife, as awful as it felt in the moment. What I didn't realize though, was how double-edged that party was for Séan or how his story would mirror mine again later.

Séan was trying to drown his past; to forget it in a haze of drink and drugs. But life doesn't work that way. You can try to ignore past hurts, but they have a way of integrating themselves into every fibre of your being, and shaping everything. A friend recently revealed to me that he was sexually abused as a child. That revelation clarified and changed everything I knew about him. He too hid in plain sight, his pain so obvious to see, now that the secrets were cleared away. I am beginning to understand the many bad decisions he made—drinking, drugs, poor relationships, emotional detachment—in light of the trauma he went through. The journey to heal has only just begun and, in light of our current pandemic, seems harder to navigate. But as I turned the last few pages in One Good Reason, I have hope that like Séan, hopefully my friend too can heal.

Even more than that, I see a message to the wider world. Séan found healing through the power of music, but more importantly, through honest human connection. The journey isn't always easy. Sod that, it is damned hard! The whole world needs healing and connection right now. But hold faith that our ship will come in. It's not so bad...

But the book... Would I recommend it? Yes. I loved the reflection between Andrea and Séan. You see both sides of a life lived. We are offered more understanding in how the hurt and harm of secrets buried can radiate. But you also see the pure strength that can come from holding those secrets out and letting them go. It is far from easy and the road stretches farther than from where you can see. But you don't need to be alone. And that is reason enough to carry on.

Thank you for sharing your words, your music, and your love Séan and Andrea.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Conversations with Grace

Conversations with Grace by Julianne Haycox, ©2020, Köehlerbooks

Conversations with Grace

An Awakening

"We GO, GO, GO—chasing after the day, the night and the 'list'. The lists are all around us.

They are stuck to our planners, refrigerators, dashboards, phones and computers. They are everywhere. These lists take up prime, front-row space in our daily lives and keep us working into the night. Keep working out at the gym more than the next person. Keep buying everything that the 'it girl' is obsessing over. Keep doing what everyone else is doing and what others want us to do so we don't miss out. The words YOU ARE MISSING OUT should be stamped in bold, black ink across every list out there.

I realized that I was missing out when my life took a sharp turn..."
~ Julianne Haycox

Start the Conversation

Anyone relate to this? That you were missing out? That you needed to do more? That you weren't enough? This was so many of us a mere few weeks ago. Chasing lists. Running after our days. Feeling like we could never get ahead because there was always something to do, someone to impress, some task yet to master.

Well guess what? Life has definitely taken a sharp turn for everyone. Shopping malls are closed, as are gyms. The only place to go is the grocery store, but that now feels like a game of Russian roulette—has anyone touched these bananas, picked up this box, or coughed in my vicinity? You might welcome the change in scenery, but find yourself scampering back to the relative safety of your home to resume a vigil on what new drama the world is grappling with this hour. It is a scary time. And no one is immune to it.

But take heart.

There are others who have faced challenging times before, including Julianne Haycox. She is the author of Conversations with Grace and has learned a thing or two over the years. She has dealt with death, loss, and upheaval more than once, and has found grace through the process. And she shares some of that hope in her newest book.

How did she do that? Mostly through letting go of old constructs that no longer served her. She surrounded herself with people who sought to ease her suffering, and in this way found love once more. Love of self, love of life, and an embracing of the miracles that can be found each day, if we but only look for them. It is not necessarily an easy process, but Julianne understands the power found through the journey.

Right now we are all on a journey. Life looks different for each and every one of us across the globe. People are being asked to physically isolate themselves from others in order to protect our collective society. The beautiful part is that so many are going beyond to show their love for others in big and little ways. Governments are working together on all levels to coordinate responses, actions, and relief support. Businesses are changing their production to fill needs on local and nation-wide levels. And everyday people are checking in with friends, family, and neighbours in careful ways (video chats and phone calls help!) to make sure that we are all coping the best we can. It is heartening in a huge way and a reminder that we will all get through this together.

Life is always a journey, but today's course feels more powerful than most. If you find yourself struggling, don't be afraid to reach out to others for a little support. Turn to whatever means of solace helps you through this time, whether that be books, your favourite television shows, or hobbies you can do at home. Maybe now is the time to pick up your own pen and write the story of your journey through this difficult time? Sharing how you cope can be a balm and looking to those who have found a way through to grace in the past—like Julianne Haycox—serves as inspiration for us all.

Stay safe and healthy friends. 

Friday, March 6, 2020

Boekenweek 2020: Rebels and Dissenters

Boekenweek 2020

Rebels and Dissenters

Welcome to Boekenweek 2020! I am pleased to launch the North American leg of this year's Boekenweek celebrations. It is the second year that World Editions has brought the Dutch literary festival to North America and there is plenty to celebrate. Not only are there seven fantastic books in translation on this year's tour, but there are also six bloggers reviewing those books. Make sure to stop by my fellow writer's blogs to see their take on this year's Boekenweek novels.

Boekenweek runs from March 7th through to March 15th, 2020. This year's theme is Rebels and Dissenters. It is apt that Esther Gerritsen's book is therefore one of those books. And I was lucky enough to get a copy of the book to review for this year's Blog Tour.


Roxy by Esther Gerritsen, translation by Michele Hutchison, ©2020, World Editions

Originally published in 2014, Roxy has sold over 20,000 copies in the Netherlands. It released to the US market on March 4th and I am sure Esther Gerritsen is waiting to see the response to her gripping novel. With a protagonist whom you don't know what to expect from, Roxy is the perfect image for this year's theme of Rebels and Dissenters.

The novel opens with middle-of-the-night visitors for our main protagonist, 27-year-old Roxy. Her 3-year-old daughter lies sleeping upstairs. Middle of the night visitors never bode well, usually only mean one thing, especially when they are police officers. And Roxy is correct when she assumes it means her husband has died. While you might assume the novel to come is about grief and the process of it, Gerritsen throws in a twist that throws Roxy off and has her coming unhinged—her husband died in a car accident in a compromising position with a woman. While Roxy immediately tries to downplay the circumstances, it is no good. Her husband and his intern were found naked in a car together. Cue the unravelling.

Death is enough for any one person to deal with, but throw in infidelity and you've got a whole lot more to process. And as Roxy begins to process that, we begin to see a bigger picture of who she is, the choices she has made in the past, and how her underlying instabilities might be enough to see her come completely undone.

It calls for a road trip with unlikely companions; her husband's assistant, the babysitter, and her daughter. Roxy is running from grief, from life, from responsibilities—but she just can't shake them. You never can. As her reckless behaviour escalates, it looks like this rebel might implode. Or maybe she already has and is just coming back around again? It is a bumpy ride for sure and it's hard to know where it will end for Roxy or her companions. But there is definitely far more than just a grief journey going on in this novel. Roxy bucks the 'poor widow' motif and it is hard to understand where she will go from there. When you are barely holding onto reality on a good day, a major catastrophe is enough to make things untenable everywhere. But is she that much different from her road trip companions? Is her reaction that much different from anyone else's?

Give Roxy a chance and you just might be surprised by how drawn in, and repulsed, you are by Gerritsen's heroine. Michele Hutchison does an excellent job of translating Gerritsen's unbalanced characters into ones you can understand and relate to, and also be shocked by. It is a bumpy ride, so hold on.


The Darkness that Divides Us

The Darkness that Divides Us by Renate Dorrestein, translation by Hester Velmans, ©2019, World Editions

Another rebel in the making is 6-year-old Lucy. She lives in the draughty old rectory on the village green, and her mother is different than other mothers. Her mum dresses in black, reads tarot cards to the local women, and is sought after by the local men. They live with the Luducos; two bachelors of indeterminate age and vocation, who no one seems to know much about. None of them tend to leave the house and an air of mystery surrounds them all. But feisty Lucy is a magnet for the other children in the housing development. Her magnetism changes in tone as the novel progresses though.

We are given a glimpse into the future fate of Lucy in the opening pages. She is brutally bullied by the local kids and they can't seem to get enough of tormenting her. It wasn't always that way though. Lucy has an indomitable spirit that draws people in. Like her mother, she enchants people, but she too is different. And while she starts as a leader amongst the children, a fateful event quickly divides them all. The other children still can't help but be attracted to her, but the attention shifts to a darker tone, one that none of them seems capable of breaking.

Renate Dorrestein presents the story in three parts; Lucy's life at age 6, age 12, and age 18. The first section is narrated by the other children in the village. They take in Lucy and her strange family, and then the tragic events that unfold. Their loyalty sways when Lucy becomes numb, but she is always a focus of their attentions. Only it changes from adoration to dismay, and then that attention becomes downright vicious.

By the second section—Lucy at age 12—she herself is the narrator. Where the other children try to coax by their favourite playmate by any means possible, Lucy herself is unravelling. She feels like she deserves all the anger and sorrow that comes her way. As the reader, you slip inside her head to see her personal torments and can't help but feel for the outcast child. Events whisk them away, but the shame remains and Lucy can't shake it, no matter where she lives. By the time we reach the last section though, Lucy is 18 and is ready to face the demons she has battled with for so long. Demons that have kept her apart from everyone.

I for one was rapt throughout the journey. Hester Velmans does an excellent job in translation, as evidence by my devouring the book in short work. You want to know what makes a rebel? Sometimes you have to look behind the scenes and Dorrestein holds by the curtain for us to see. A great read in my opinion.


While these are my takes on a couple of excellent books in translation, there are other stops on the blog tour. Be sure to visit them all this week to see their take on these books and the others in the second World Editions blog tour celebrating Boekenweek. Pick up a copy of one or all of these books to join in the literary celebrations all week.

Veel leesplezier! Happy reading!


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