Book Review:All the Impossible Things

Alright, so I’m back to that middle grade reading spree! Granted, it hasn’t felt like much of a spree yet since this is only the third middle grade book I’ve read this summer…

Spree or not, I received a free copy of All the Impossible Things from Netgalley  and read the whole thing in one night.

The first thing I want to say is that I want to meet Gandalf the dog and give her treats and play fetch and be her friend. Really, I want to meet and befriend all the animals.

Second, this book was beautifully written and made me cry more than once. Even though at times it was heart-breaking, it was also heart-warming and up lifting. 

In some ways, All the Impossible Things was a book of contradictions. There were times when on the surface, it felt like not much was happening, but below the surface, everything was happening. There may not have been much as far as external action or adventure, but the internal growth was incredible. 

All the Impossible Things is a story about a girl with magic wind adjusting to life in a new foster home, one with two loving retired people and a whole bunch of amazing animals: dogs, goats, horses, a donkey, chickens, and a giant tortoise. The author did a fantastic job bringing the setting and all its four-legged inhabitants to life. The sense of wonder never flagged. Additionally, there was never a page with no emotional beat. Red/Ruby was constantly learning, growing, being set back, and moving forward throughout the book.

As someone who is used to reading genre fiction, this book was quieter than what I’m used to, but I was never bored with. I was invested enough in the character and her arc that despite its quietness, I just had to keep reading to find out what was going to happen to Red. It was a good reminder to me that the action in a story can be small as long as what is happening inside a character is compelling.

I can’t really comment on the accuracy of the foster-related representation. I have no first hand experience with foster care, and only have acquaintances who have adopted children through the foster care system.

I can say the sentences, character and story are beautiful, thought provoking, and emotional. Based on that, I’d recommend All the Impossible Things.

Book Review: Smoke City

Smoke CitySmoke City by Keith Rosson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I got a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. And I’ll admit, after the first couple chapters, I didn’t think I’d be giving it five stars, but I read on, and was won over the by the characters, subtle magic and tightly woven plots.

The end to this book left me feeling pretty good — in fact, this one was one the rare occasions where the book ended almost exactly how I hoped it would. Something that started our grimy and depressing had a surprisingly happy ending.

But enough about the ending.

It took me a little while to engage with this. The protagonists were two middle aged men who were more or less a wreck, way more of a wreck than I am now, but as I read and thought about how they were the kind of wreck I could be if I wasn’t careful, I found common ground with the characters.

Meanwhile, the gritty, grimy realism was being seasoned with the paranormal. I was intrigued by the smokes and specters and the snippets of Marvin’s past lives. There were lots of threads in this novel, but they were also tightly knit together.

It’s a hard novel to describe ( if you want a better idea of the premise, read the back cover copy that comes with book). However, if I had to compare it to other books, I’d say it’s a strange blend of Breakfast of Champions, Cloud Atlas and American Gods.

It may have a slow build, but Smoke City is worth it in the end.

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Sunlight Filters through the Fog of Rejection

I know rejections are part of being a writer, but when they come in waves, they can be hard to take, especially when I know I gave 110% to a piece.

Getting two stories on nonpaying e-zines boosted my confidence for a while, but the subsequent  slew of rejections from paying markets was starting to erode it. I’ve gotten at least five rejections in the past three days.

I can deal with quick rejections, but the ones that really hurt are the ones that told me I was close. We enjoyed your story, but

  • you didn’t make the final cut
  • You didn’t get enough votes to get into the third and final round of voting
  • I loved x, y and z about it, but have to pass anyways because we have so many submissions

They make me feel like I am wandering around in pea soup fog, within sight of the lighthouse, but unable to find the harbor entrance.

Fortunately, there are flickers of sunlight slipping through the haze of rejection.

Yesterday, I found out I am a finalist for a writing contest I entered in December. Over 200 hundred have been eliminated leaving the judges with 50 to sort through. I’ve been told the top 20 will get prizes(cash or gift cards), and the top ten published.

Today, I returned from work to find ten new emails appeared in my inbox during my 15 minute commute. They were mostly twitter notifications that came around as a result of winning Cracked Flash competition for the second week in a row. I suspect there is some magic in their prompts and time limit that brings out the best in me. I’m always surprised to see what I can do with three hundred words on a Saturday. Even though there is no prize for winning, it is a welcome reminder that someone likes my writing. And that gives me hope that if I keep at it long enough, I will eventually break into the paying markets.

Thank you to the good people that run Cracked Flash.

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Here is the winning story:

The Phoenix

By Sara Codair

We all knew he was going to set himself on fire, and we were right. Henry and I just never imagined how our son, Dane, would go up in flames.

It happened over summer vacation. The sun was scorching and the black top was so hot you could cook stir fry on it. Dane was angry. The wheels on his favorite skate board had melted. His face was beat red, aching with sunburn. So when Billy Jones tried to steal his Nintendo DS, he just lost and burst into flames.

The medical examiner said it was spontaneous combustion, but he wasn’t there when it happened. He didn’t see his son out on the street raising a fist to punch a kid twice his size, just go up in flames when the sun hit his fist. He didn’t see how quick the body blackened. He didn’t see the naked baby screaming in the ashes – a baby that looked exactly how the burning boy had looked twelve years earlier.

The papers said all that was left of Dane was a charred skeleton. They don’t know about the infant that wakes me every night crying for milk or to get his diaper changed. No one knows save Henry, and no one else can know. Not even my mother.

We’re already packing. Henry has an apartment picked out across the country, and a buddy at work who can hack the system and get baby Dane a fake birth certificate and social security number. I don’t know what Henry told his friend, just that it wasn’t the truth.
Like a phoenix, Dane was reborn from his ashes, starting life anew. So we, too, would start over, in a new town where no one knew our names.

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