Akata Witch, by Nnedi Okorafor: A Review

I chose to read Akata Witch, by Nnedi Okorafor for the 2019 ATY Reading Challenge prompt #20, a book featuring indigenous people. This book first came to my attention through a Goodreads group that focuses on science fiction and fantasy.

I was drawn in by the description:

Twelve-year-old Sunny lives in Nigeria, but she was born American. Her features are African, but she’s albino. She’s a terrific athlete, but can’t go out into the sun to play soccer. There seems to be no place where she fits. And then she discovers something amazing – she is a “free agent,” with latent magical power. Soon she’s part of a quartet of magic students, studying the visible and invisible, learning to change reality. But will it be enough to help them when they are asked to catch a career criminal who knows magic too?

Though the main character identifies herself as American, the story takes place in Nigeria. Sunny’s friends are indigenous people, except for one. The indigenous culture is a significant part of the magic and the plot of the story. The magic in Akata Witch is fun and interesting, probably my favorite part of the story.

I have to admit, I was really excited to read this book, but I feel a little bit let down. The description set up a major conflict – four twelve-year-olds against a career criminal? The bulk of the book, however is more like an African Hogwarts. It’s magic school. Don’t get me wrong, I like magic school. And this one has a unique African flavor. But I wasn’t prepared for a Harry Potter-like adventure. The major conflict promised in the blurb almost feels like an accidental afterthought.

For the most part, I enjoyed this book, but it left me wishing for more. I will likely try the next book in the series at some point.

The Aeneid, by Virgil: A Review

ATY’s 2019 Reading Challenge prompt #29 is to read a book published before 1950. While there are likely several books on my TBR that fit the category, I decided to take this opportunity to read The Aeneid, by Virgil. I had purchased this book on audio a while back when I was on an epic poetry kick.

In this book, Virgil writes about Aeneas, a survivor of the Trojan war who is now homeless along with others of his city. Following a prophecy, Aeneas sets sail with his people, bound for Italy. This journey is not an easy one, nor is it a foregone conclusion that they will be welcomed upon their arrival in Italy.

Though written eight centuries later, The Aeneid takes up where The Illiad leaves off, and is filled with the same sort of exaggerated adventure. There is a lot of violent warfare. The gods intervene frequently whether for good or ill. This book is viewed as Virgil’s attempt to legitimize the Roman emperors, giving them a connection to the ancient gods through Aeneas.

I didn’t enjoy this book all that much. I probably should have read it back when I was on my epic poetry kick. It is a classic, and if you’re studying ancient literature, it likely has its value. But it was definitely not a pleasure read for me.

Unlock the Muse – March 26, 2019

This month I’ve talked about momentum – how to build it and what sort of things can disrupt it. I’ve had some small successes in battling my writing inertia. I banished the time-consuming distractions and I committed to taking my laptop to work with me every day.

But it isn’t enough. I think it’s going to take a more significant push to get the words flowing consistently again. Something like Camp NaNoWriMo. I haven’t signed up yet for the April session, but I think I need to. And I’ll start writing again. Right after vacation.

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Blindfold yourself for 10 minutes, and take in your environment. Later, challenge yourself to write a story from the perspective of someone who cannot see. The ability to empathize with others is necessary if you want to be a good writer.

The ability to put yourself in another’s shoes is vital to a writer. Do what you can to experience life through other perspectives. Though more than likely, we can’t alter the physical truths about who we are, we can read stories. Read widely, and read well.

It’s play week. So here’s your roll of the Rory’s Story Cubes, brought to you this week by my youngest minion. Have fun!


Happy writing!

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick: A Review

For the 2019 Popsugar Reading Challenge #16, a book with a question in the title, I chose to read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. I have long been wanting to read more classic science fiction and fantasy, and this book was the first that came to mind when I set about looking for books to read this year.

This book is the future, post-apocalyptic story of Richard Deckard, a bounty hunter who tracks down and “retires” rogue humanoid androids. Due to massive nuclear pollution following a world war, most humans have been mass emigrated to Mars. Many animal populations have died off entirely. Android technology is so advanced, they are nearly indistinguishable from humans. Therefore, elaborate psychological tests have been developed in order to identify them.

I found this book a little confusing, but interesting. It’s a short book, and maybe that is part of my difficulty with it. It has more of a short story feel than a novel. I think it could have benefited from a bit more world-building details.

Published in 1968, the imagined technology is fun to read about. By the year 2021, we have hover cars, vid-phones (that aren’t mobile), and androids so life-like they can’t easily be distinguished from the real thing. Aside from the androids, the technology in this book actually has a sort of archaic feel to it.

This was a fun book, and I enjoyed reading it.

Illuminae, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff: A Review

For the 2019 Reading Challenge, a book with no or unusual chapters, I chose to read Illuminae, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. This book joined my to-read list sometime last year after seeing it discussed frequently on Goodreads. The premise had me intrigued…

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra – who are barely even talking to each other – are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

To be honest, though, I was a bit daunted by what I’d heard about the format of the book. It is an epistolary novel, told through IM messages, military briefings, emails, transcripts and so on. My experience with this sort of novel hasn’t been that great so far.

This book tells the story of Kady Grant and her ex-boyfriend, Ezra Mason. They live on a planet which is an unsanctioned mining operation. It is invaded by a rival corporation and thus begins a massive chase as the survivors flee through space, pursued by the invaders. Besides this pursuit, they are beset by internal issues as well. Such as an AI system that took damage in the initial attack and a mutating virus spreading quickly through the refugee fleet.

Because of the book’s format, you are never directly involved in the action. But I was never disengaged from this story. It is intense. The suspense is executed superbly, and the characters feel real and relatable. This book had me at times furious, terrified and devastated. In a word, thrilled. I am definitely continuing with this series!

There There, by Tommy Orange – A Review

I chose to read There There, by Tommy Orange for ATY’s 2019 Reading Challenge prompt #45, a multi-generational saga. I think I first encountered this book when I read a review on Goodreads by one of the authors I follow. I can’t now remember which one wrote the review, but then I was intrigued enough to add it to my ever growing “want to read” list.

This book follows the lives of twelve Native Americans in and around the area of Oakland, California. These lives circle and weave around each other, their journeys ultimately, but separately leading toward a community pow wow. Through these characters, Orange brings to light many issues facing Native Americans – alcoholism, depression, domestic abuse, unemployment, fetal alcohol syndrome.

In writing about why he wrote this book, Orange says, “I wanted to have my characters struggle in the way that I struggled, and the way that I see other native people struggle, with identity and with authenticity.” Orange brilliantly brings the reader into the world of his characters, so that you can’t help but feel what they are experiencing. To say I was deeply moved by this story seems an understatement.

I think this is an important book. One very much worth reading. If you haven’t read it yet, I would urge you to check it out.

Unlock the Muse – March 19, 2019

I’m a day late in getting this post up this week. But as they say, it’s better late than never, right? Here is your bit of writing inspiration for the third week of March 2019.

Last week I talked about momentum killers. This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to build momentum. I came up with three basic strategies to build momentum in your daily writing routine.

Remove obstacles. This might be as simple as removing a distracting and time-consuming game from your phone or mobile device. Other obstacles aren’t so easy, and may even be impossible – family and day jobs, for example. But even these can be put in their proper place, and writing can fit among them.

Create opportunities. For me this week, this meant packing my laptop along with me to work every day. It’s a lot easier to ignore the writing if you don’t have access to your tools. Keep a notebook handy, make sure your writing space is well equipped. Don’t give yourself an easy excuse not to write.

Build slowly. Begin building where you are right now. If that means you start with the tiniest of goals, then start there. Build on your goal, and set the next one before the first is fully achieved. This will help keep your momentum moving forward.

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

$2.50 a second. That’s how much Michael Jordan made in 1997, when he earned $78.3 million. How fast can you type?

We may not be destined to be the Michael Jordans of the writing world. But maybe there is something to be said for writing fast. Especially in the drafting stage. Write fast, write lots. Then take your time in editing.


1. The quantity of motion of a moving body, measured as a product of its mass and velocity.
2. The impetus gained by a moving object.

The word momentum dates back to the 1690s in the scientific use in mechanics, as in “product of the mass and velocity of a body,” or the “quantity of motion of a moving body.” It comes from the Latin momentum, meaning “movement, moving power.” Its use in the figurative, as in “force gained by movement, an impulse, impelling force,” dates back to 1782.
(from etymonline.com)

Happy writing!

The Sun is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon: A Review

I chose to read The Sun is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon for the 2019 Popsugar Reading Challenge prompt #24, a book that takes place in a single day. I picked this book off a list of such books, having no idea what might fit this category.

This is the story of Natasha and Daniel. Seventeen-year-old Natasha is the daughter of Jamaican parents in the United States illegally. She has her future planned out – college, career. Until her father has a run in with the law setting her entire family on a course toward deportation. Daniel, also seventeen, is the second son of Korean immigrants. Until recently, he has been the disappointing son, never as good as his golden boy older brother. Now, however, his brother has disgraced himself and it is up to Daniel to pursue life goals that bring honor to his family. These sudden life changes set Natasha and Daniel on a collision course leading to an otherwise impossible romance.

This book isn’t only about Natasha and Daniel and their whirlwind romance, however. It is also the story of a depressed security officer at the immigration office. It is about mothers and fathers and brothers. About dreams unrealized and goals unfulfilled.

I listened to this book on audio, narrated by Bahni Turpin, Raymond Lee and Dominic Hoffman. Their performance is outstanding. I loved having different voices for each of the characters.

I loved this book. It has fantastic energy. I laughed and I cried. I will definitely read more by Nicola Yoon!

Unlock the Muse – March 12, 2019

There are three basic kinds of momentum killers – life events beyond your control, events you can decide how to involve yourself in, and those things you take fully into your own hands. I’ve been beset by all three of these momentum killers this past week.

My son had a birthday, and for some reason, thinks a party should go along with that. A birth of a child, a death in the family, these and so many other events happen when they happen and life doesn’t stop for them. Writing must necessarily give way to these things, but it doesn’t have to derail completely.

Also this week, was a baby shower for the daughter of a good friend. This beautiful mama to be is not directly related to me. I have the power to choose my level of involvement. I could spend a few minutes purchasing a lovely gift, an hour or two at great party and my commitment is done. Instead I chose to spend my spare moments for a week crafting a baby afghan.

My third momentum killer this week is a gloriously huge novel. My favorite books to read are epic fantasy novels that often 500 pages or more. The one I’m currently reading is over 800. I have complete control over my reading time, yet I continue to choose that activity over writing.

Not all momentum killers are negative. In fact, many are very happy events. The key is to prioritize effectively. Don’t allow the writing to get set aside completely.

Your writing prompt for this week is:

What if you were a famous author? Pretend you’re being interviewed by a journalist. Write a transcript of it.

What question are you hoping they will ask you? You know, the one for which you have the answer already worked out. What are you really hoping they don’t ask (even though you know they probably will)? There’s an element of infamy that inevitably goes along with fame and nothing sells like scandal, so you know they’re ask you about that time when you…

A final thought for today…

momentum quote 2

Stay curious. Keep moving forward.

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – March 5, 2019

It’s a new month. Spring is trying to emerge in my neighborhood, but it’s still been frightfully cold. I’m looking forward to warmer weather fun. Spring break vacation with my kiddos. Snuggling up with a book. Daylight Savings Time. Camp NaNoWriMo.

Okay, so not all of these things are fun. And some, though fun, will prove to be somewhat trying. Still, spring is in the air – a season of new birth, new beginnings.

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Write a journal entry about someone close to you who is no longer in your life.

This exercise is potentially a difficult one, but it could lead to a moment of catharsis. Let emotion loose on the page.

Newton’s first law of motion: An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

This month, I’m focusing on MOMENTUM. If an object in motion stays in motion, than a writer must stay busy as well. Too much inactivity tends to stay that way. This is where I find myself of late. I allowed myself to take a break following November’s NaNo frenzy. The problem is, once idle, it is very difficult to start moving again. So what I need is that “unbalance force” to act upon my inertia. What do you do to kick your writing back into gear after staying away for too long?

Happy writing!