Over on The Writing Bloc, where I am a contributor, we have big plans, starting with an Anthology we are releasing in the New Year. On 1 January 2019 we are publishing Escape! An Anthology featuring twenty diverse stories by a great cohort of writers.
"As readers, we open books ready to be swept out of our seats and deposited in a world entirely new and exciting. Reading is an escape from our normal lives and thoughts," says Michael Haase, founder of Writing Bloc.
Inside the book, you can expect contemporary fiction, westerns, science fiction, fantasy, paranormal fiction, as well as genre-bending tales. We have stories by published authors such as Tahani Nelson, author of The Last Faoii, Jason Pomerance, author of Women Like Us, and Patrick Edwards, author of Space Tripping. We also have stories from a number of talented emerging writers who you'll want to get to know. You can read the full press release here.
My book of the month is The Fireman, by Joe Hill. It came to me as a recommendation from one of my editors, which is high praise in itself. The Fireman is an apocalyptic horror by best-selling author Joe Hill. It takes us to a version of our world that is burning. Literally. A mysterious disease, known as dragonscale due to the markings it creates on the body, is causing mass spontaneous combustion. With the sheer number of people catching fire, almost everything else seems to be going up in flames too, including civilization. Into this setting we meet Harper, an uncompromisingly positive nurse with a fondness for Julie Andrews. Harper is amazing. She’s a charming mix of innocence, courage, and intelligence. Experiencing the world through her point of view is a delight.
“Harper put the novel back on his desk, cornering the edges of the manuscript so it stood in a neat, crisp pile. With its clean white title page and clean white edges, it looked as immaculate as a freshly made bed in a luxury hotel. People did all sorts of unspeakable things in hotel beds.”
The story is a slow burn, building the intensity as the disasters mount. The world is well-realized and the dragonscale fascination, but throughout it’s the characters and the prose that shine. The novel telegraphs each of the disasters and betrayals beautifully, letting you stress as the tension builds without spoiling the moment when it finally arrives.
“Almost as an afterthought, she put a box of kitchen matches on top of it as a paperweight. If her Dragonscale started to smoke and itch, she wanted to have them close at hand. If she had to burn, she felt it only fair that the fucking book burn first.”
If you enjoy dystopian / apocalyptic fiction, you should absolutely read The Fireman. You can find it on Goodreads here or Amazon here.
Sparked, by Helena Echlin and Malena Watrous, is a young adult urban fantasy that is a joy to read. I read a wide range of genres, including more than a few YA novels. Reading the novel, I felt it was potentially written for a younger age group than me. Before you start, yes, I know I don’t come anywhere close to qualifying as “young” adult. However, there’s a lot of YA books out there that feel they're written for a more mature group within the bracket. Or maybe they just try to be edgier. Either way, there’s something distinctly innocent about the teenagers who take centre stage in Sparked, and it fits the story well.
Speaking of story, Sparked follows Laurel as she tries to work out what’s really happened to her sister, who goes missing early on. Circumstances leave Laurel convinced her sister is in danger, but no one else will believe her. As she digs deeper, she begins to discover the situation is far more complicated and dangerous than she ever thought possible.
Both Helena and Malena have previously published novels, but never before together as a team. Their skill is obvious, with slick prose and well-structured scenes throughout. There’s nothing in the world or the plot that makes it stand out as something completely unique within the genre, but there’s nothing too derivative either, and the execution is excellent. My only real complaint is that when Laurel finds someone who can give her answers, those answers are a little cliched in delivery. While that small sequence pulled me out of the flow temporarily (I got back into it soon after), I suspect it wouldn’t bother its target audience as much. The rest of the novel avoids such a trap, and the supporting characters are great — indeed, the group dynamics are part of what makes the novel click.
If you’re looking for a YA urban fantasy, but sick of Twilight clones packed full of Edwards, pick up Sparked. It delivers a quality story with panache and leaves the door open for more to come. You can read more reviews of the book on its Goodreads page here. Alternatively you can order a copy from: