Wednesday, January 10, 2018

COVER REVEAL: Magic at Midnight: A YA Fairy Tale Anthology

Hey everyone! I'm thrilled to reveal the cover for Snowy Wings Publishing's first collective anthology, Magic at Midnight! It's a collection of YA fairy tale retellings featuring 14 Snowy Wings authors, including myself, plus a guest author, and edited by members Lyssa Chiavari and Amy McNulty. We'll all be reinterpreting different fairy tales, including Rapunzel, The Little Mermaid, Tam-Lin, Sleeping Beauty...

As for me, I claimed The Nightingale. It's been one of my favorites since I was a kid, though it's lesser known (and lesser done) than some. The story is about a plain brown nightingale whose songs enchant a Chinese emperor (the story was written by Hans Christian Andersen). One day, the emperor is gifted a beautiful, jeweled mechanical nightingale and forgets about the plain bird. But when the emperor falls ill and seeks the comfort of the mechanical nightingale's music, the machine breaks. The live nightingale returns to comfort him. 

This story has so many elements I love... the tension between the "real" and the mechanical, and, of course, music. For my retelling, I automatically thought, "well, what if the nightingale were an opera singer instead of a bird?" And then I did a little background research and found out that Andersen wrote the story as an ode to opera singer Jenny Lind (yes, that Jenny Lind who was so poorly portrayed in The Greatest Showman), who was known as the Swedish Nightingale. Which made things extra cool.

My version will take place on an alien planet... with a teen empress as the main character, a charming young tenor as the nightingale, and an AI singer as the mechanical bird. Except this isn't going to go the way you think... One of the most fun parts about retellings is getting to flip the established story on its head (like how Once Upon A Time made Peter Pan into a villain and had Red Riding Hood as a shapeshifter who transforms into the Wolf). I've been wanting to write this story for ages, so when Lyssa proposed the Snowy Wings anthology, I was like, "I have just the thing!"

Anyway, this was supposed to be a cover reveal post! Thanks for bearing with me... and now, here's the cover, which was designed by KimG Design (, @kimgdesign on Instagram, @who_is_kimy on Twitter). Isn't it gorgeous???


Once upon a time is eternal…

Turn the pages and fall into the enchanting worlds of beloved, age-old fairy tales made new again in this fifteen-story collection from Snowy Wings Publishing.

A girl with long, long hair is trapped in an attic, ensnared by promises of immortality, the radio her only companion. An android wants to believe in her life, that the feelings she has are real—and that she might be just as beautiful as her famous stepsister. A gamer must save her true love from the mysterious, dark entity that has ensnared him in their MMORPG. A modern teen is lured to the fantastical Land of the Dolls, and only her own cunning can help her escape. These are just a few of the bewitching tales found within Magic at Midnight

From sci-fi to fantasy, contemporary to historical, paranormal and more, there’s a fairy tale retelling in this collection for every reader. Featuring stories from bestselling and award-winning YA authors as well as emerging voices, this anthology will take you to distant worlds and back again—all just familiar enough to make you feel at home.


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

COVER REVEAL: Cinders Dance / Alicia Gaile

Today I'm helping reveal the cover for the second book in the Faery Trials series, Cinders Dance by Alicia Gaile! The cover was designed by Olivia Pro Design. Are you ready to see the cover? Check it out below!

Resigned to a lifetime in Faerie to protect the people he loves, Jack Sorley faces monsters of every shape and size. Shifters, goblins, and a living nightmare with a grudge lurk in the Ash Court plotting to corrupt him into serving their own schemes and designs. But when his friends lead a rescue mission that goes terribly wrong, Jack must journey deep into the courts of Faerie to lift a terrible curse. Meanwhile, viral footage leaked from Sheriff Doyle’s party reveals to the public that faeries are real. Armed with nothing but children’s stories, a new group of ‘fairy experts’ spread misconceptions and false information that puts everyone at risk. Between those who think faeries are harmless and the people scared enough to launch a preemptive attack, it’s only a matter of time before disaster strikes. Hailed as heroes by some and traitors by others, the Sorleys must come out of hiding if they want to protect the human race from itself. As the war in Faerie intensifies between the Solitary Fae and the Gentry, mankind faces annihilation if the wrong faction wins. Can Jack convince Queen Credeilia she still has a reason to fight before she hands over her crown at midnight during the Vernal Feriae Ball and tips the balance of power out of control for all time?
Title: Cinders Dance (Book Two of The Faery Trials Series)
Author: Alicia Gaile
Release Date: March 13, 2018
Publisher: Snowy Wings Publishing

Cinders Dance is available for preorder now! You can also add it on Goodreads here.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Water Into Wine / Joyce Chng

TITLE: Water Into Wine
AUTHOR: Joyce Chng
PUBLISHER: Annorlunda Books

Science Fiction

Water Into Wine tells the story of Xin, who cultivates an inherited vineyard in the shadow of an interplanetary war. Though the violence is never far, Xin tries to focus on cultivating a life and taking care of their family. It's a story of survival and self-discovery set against a sci-fi backdrop. Narrated in Xin's contemplative voice and written in spare, poetic prose, Water Into Wine is a haunting and atmospheric novella, so mesmerizing that I wound up reading the whole thing in a single day.

Xin is a complex character whose emotions and experiences feel as real on the page as picking up someone's diary. Though the story's set in the far future and on a distant planet, Xin's Southeast Asian roots and culture continue to play an important role in their life... from everyday things like food and names to matters of greater spiritual significance. Language, holidays, and beliefs from Xin's ancestors are all alive and well in their life. It's a wonderful and immersive take on sci-fi, and I was utterly drawn in from the beginning.

This is one of those books that's hard to review because there's so much to it, and I feel like my descriptive abilities aren't up to doing it justice. Every attempt to talk about what I liked and such feels like I'm reducing it to some simplified version. So I'll leave it here and settle for saying that this is a gorgeously written and hypnotic book, and that I highly recommend it.


Born in Singapore but a global citizen, Joyce Chng writes mainly science fiction and YA. She likes steampunk and tales of transformation/transfiguration. Her fiction has appeared in Crossed Genres, The Apex Book of World SF II, We See A Different Frontier, Cranky Ladies of History, and Accessing The Future. Her YA science fiction trilogy is published by Singapore publisher, Math Paper Press. She can be found at A Wolf’s Tale (

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Archangel Errant (Earthbound Angels, #3) / Elizabeth Corrigan

Title: Archangel Errant (Earthbound Angels, #3)
Author: Elizabeth Corrigan
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing
Purchase link: Amazon

Urban Fantasy

Full disclosure: Elizabeth and I share a publisher (Red Adept Publishing, which published my Jane Colt trilogy). I bought this book on Kindle with my own dang money, and neither Elizabeth nor Red Adept asked me to leave this review, which reflects my opinion as a reader.

I've been a fan of the Earthbound Angels series since Book 1 (Oracle of Philadelphia), which introduced us to a world of angels and demons in the modern-day world. Now, in Book 3, we get a glimpse of this world's version of Heaven.

Before I go on, I just want to say that this series is very much A SERIES, as in it only really makes sense if you start from the beginning and read in order (no, you can't just pick up Book 3 and jump right in... you gotta read the set up!). So if you haven't read Oracle of Philadelphia (Book 1) or Raising Chaos (Book 2) yet, get outta here and go check 'em out! Because the rest of this review will probably spoil their plots.

In Archangel Errant, the archangel Gabriel has returned to Heaven after spending two thousand years on Earth, doing what good he can in the mortal world. So has the Bedlam who, after millennia spent as a chaos demon for rebelling against Heaven, has regained angel status (but is still quite chaotic). The rest of Heaven is not happy about this, so when a mysterious attack traps the angels in their own nightmares, he's the prime suspect. But Gabriel believes in Bedlam's innocence (in this matter, anyway) and sets out to wake the angels and find the real culprit.

Archangel Errant is an imaginative retelling of Biblical mythology (I'm atheist, so it's all mythology to me) that depicts the angels as being as flawed and fallible as the humans they're meant to preside over. Which makes them really interesting to read about. Retelling Biblical stories from an alternate angle has become an important element of all the Earthbound Angels books, and Archangel Errant delves into that once more. It also expands the Earthbound Angels world by going deeper into the world of the angels (so far, we've had a good look at Hell and at how the angels have interacted with Earth, but this is our first real foray into their realm).

My favorite part of the book, though, was getting to know the archangel Michael, who up until now has been portrayed as something of a sanctimonious jerk. Archangel Errant has several chapters from his POV as he seeks the Oracle (Carrie/Khet/Cassia/Cama... she's gone by many names by this point), who he's always seen as an abomination because her powers were granted by Lucifer. Because the last two books were told from the POV of the Oracle and her best friend (Bedlam), all we saw was how jerk-ish Michael could be. Now, we get to know what's going on in his head, offering a completely different perspective on his actions. It's a fascinating character development, and it opens the door for much more interesting character interactions to come (according to the author, there are several more sequels planned to this saga).

With its imaginative storytelling and expansive world-building, Archanel Errant is a fantastic addition to the Earthbound Angels saga, and I can't wait to read on when Book 4 comes out! (But don't worry, there's no cliffhanger!)

Elizabeth Corrigan has degrees in English and psychology and has spent several years working as a data analyst in various branches of the healthcare industry. When she’s not hard at work on her next novel, Elizabeth enjoys singing, reading teen vampire novels, and making Sims of her characters.

She drinks more Diet Coke than is probably optimal for the human body and is pathologically afraid of bees. She lives in Maryland with two cats and a purple Smart Car.

Friday, December 15, 2017

All the Things that Bothered Me About Star Wars: The Last Jedi (SPOILERS ABOUND)

I've been a huge Star Wars nut since I was about 12, and I was well and truly obsessed with The Force Awakens when it came out. Obsessed to the point of writing theories all up and down the internet and even a tongue-in-cheek fan fic just for fun. I have a full Rey costume (the vest one from the island, which I'm hoping to visit in Ireland). Still, I tried not to get over-excited about The Last Jedi before it came out. I set my expectations modestly because I know how hard it is to be blown away. Critics built up good buzz with their rave reviews (it's got, like, 93% on Rotten Tomatoes), but I tried not to let it go to my head. 

"Just needs to be entertaining and satisfying," I told myself.

Entertaining, it was. Satisfying, it was not. And here's why.


Before I begin my list, I want to say that the thinkpieces out there saying that fans are divided in their reactions because "this is not the Star Wars I was expecting" or "this is different from the other Star Warses" are simplistic. And kind of condescending. I'm fine with change. In fact, I'm glad that The Last Jedi wasn't the rehash of Empire Strikes Back that it could have been.

What bothered me was that the new direction didn't feel well executed. Now, I've only seen it once, and it's possible that upon second viewing, I'll change my mind (I'm seeing it again tonight). Mostly, it felt like subpar writing and sloppy worldbuilding got in the way of what could have been a fantastic new chapter. Rian Johnson seemed to care more about being subversive and surprising than about creating a coherent story that fit in with the original saga. I think that's why the critics love it... they're so used to seeing the same franchise fare over and over that "different" automatically means "good."

Not for me. I like different, but different has to be done well too. And below are some of the craft issues I had with The Last Jedi.

The Force Awakens built up a lot of things that were left to fizzle in The Last Jedi.

Who are Rey's parents? How is she able to wield the Force so well when she didn't even realize it was a real thing until after the movie begins? Why did the Skywalker lightsaber call to her? Who is Snoke? How is he so powerful? What was Luke seeking at the first Jedi Temple? The Force Awakens left us with so many questions, and I was hoping they were all leading to something.


It didn't bother me that Rey's parents were revealed (by Kylo Ren) to be nobodies (I was hoping for a Skywalker legacy, but ah well), and that her backstory turned out to have no particular significance. What bothered me is that it makes her spectacular Force abilities a deus ex machina (more on that later). A lot of people were bothered by how she could so easily pick up high-level Jedi skills with literally zero training in The Force Awakens. I held out hope that The Last Jedi would explain it. Maybe she was trained as a child but had her memories blocked. When The Last Jedi failed to do so, it made her abilities feel unearned. 

Unlike Anakin, she didn't have to spend a decade training with a Jedi Master to grasp her skills. Unlike Luke, she didn't have to visibly and palpably struggle to understand her abilities and learn to use them. Even Kylo had to spend years and years training with Luke, and then with Snoke. Rey? As one tumblr joke put it, "LOL wtf is this glowstick." It's as if someone who's never seen a violin before can just pick one up and start playing like Joshua Bell. And with no explanation other than that she's Kylo's "counterpart". And to say "because the Force is strong with her" is to turn the Force into a deus ex machina that magically grants abilities even if you never learned a thing. It cheapens the Jedi and the whole Star Wars universe, in a way. 

Of course, they could always reveal more in the third movie, but I'm not holding out hope.

Meanwhile, Snoke turns out to be a lame-ass cartoon villain if there ever was one. No explanation is given for his rise and power. He just is. Until he isn't. And his fall is really, really disappointing. Palpatine is cackling at him in Sith Hell... and taking his lunch money.

As for Luke, the explanation that he came to Ahch-To to wallow in self-pity rings false. If he just wanted to impose self-exile, why choose a place so significant to the Jedi Order? It was somewhat implied in The Force Awakens that he might have been seeking some kind of special knowledge or understanding at the first Jedi temple. Instead... mwap mwap. He just came here because it was hidden. Except that doesn't even really make sense because he's closed himself off from the Force and wants nothing more to do with it. Why would he go to a place that would remind him every day of what he failed to become? Self-punishment is a possible explanation, but without any kind of dialogue discussing that, it just seems like Johnson wanted to be contrary without giving the contrary-ness any meaning.

Also, going back to The Force Awakens... everyone was surprised when R2-D2 conveniently woke up in time to give the Resistance the location of the last Jedi. I was hoping there was some explanation for that too... maybe R2 had been told by Luke to wait for the right moment to reveal his location. Instead, it was just another convenient coincidence that he just happened to have exactly what the Plot needed. Lazy storytelling through and through.

The Force is turned into a deus ex machina

In addition to the issues I discussed above ("How can she do that without anyone teaching her anything?" "Because the Force." "But..." "THE FORCE WILLS IT"), the Force's actual meaning becomes muddled in this movie. George Lucas worried about the new filmmakers making gobbledygook out of the Force. He was, unfortunately, right.

In the original trilogy, the Force is an energy field that, when wielded, can grant the user some telekinetic and telepathic powers, plus enhanced abilities. The new trilogy pushed its limits by making it far more powerful than before. Kylo Ren stopping a laser blast, for example. The Last Jedi goes beyond that, even.

Suddenly, Snoke is able to bridge Rey and Kylo's minds against their wills, without them knowing what's going on. And they both just accept that "the Force wills it." Suddenly, a Force ghost is able to cast down a giant lightning bolt that sets fire to a huge honking tree. Suddenly, Leia's able to survive being sucked into the vacuum of space, despite there being no indication that she ever developed her Force abilities. I didn't mind Luke's astro-projecting as much, but it was one more thing that can be attributed to "because the Force."

In a way, it makes the Force somewhat Biblical. How's Rey able to all these things? Because the Force is the Almighty God. I guess Star Wars has always had religious connotations (and is indeed treated as a religion by many), but from a storytelling perspective, it feels lazy.

Next movie, I won't be surprised if Rey shows up in a room full of stormtroopers and just blinks to make them all vanish into thin air. Because that's the level of hokey-ness we've reached.

Again, it makes everyone's abilities feel unearned. And at the end, when Luke declares that Rey is the last Jedi, the title feels empty. She's done nothing to earn that title. She hasn't had to work for it at all. Everything is just given to her. While I like her as a character, it would have been more interesting to see her struggle to control her powers. Maybe she's super powerful, but that makes her more susceptible to wanton destruction with unfortunate collateral damage (for a brief moment, it seemed like they might do this, but it was ultimately played as a gag). That could've been an interesting angle--her learning to rein in her raw strength. But instead, she just is. Because THE FORCE WILLS IT.

Threads are left dangling, and I'm not holding out hope that they'll be tied up.

Early on, Luke introduces Rey to the Force and warns her that there's a place close with the Dark Side, kind of like the cave he himself encountered on Dagobah. Rey goes right for it, which frightens him. She later jumps into the cave itself in search of answers, but finds only a mirror. And... that's it. There's no moment when it seems like the Dark Side cave will corrupt her, even that's what we're meant to fear. The whole thing seems like it was created to create tension for the sake of tension... and as an excuse for a trippy mirror scene.

After Leia's magical flight through space, no one questions how she was able to do that. Not even Leia herself. It's just accepted that this seemingly human woman, who up till now has been portrayed as very earthly, suddenly has goddess-like powers. No one asks why. No one cares. 

For that matter, it's never addressed why Leia never developed her own Force abilities. A few lines of dialogue would have done the trick. "I'm Darth Vader's daughter, and I know myself well enough to fear following his path." Or "I want to focus on the here and now, so I'll leave the Jedi stuff to my monk of a brother." And yet she clearly is still Force sensitive... what does that mean to her? How does she feel about suddenly defying reality, presumably because of the very abilities she rejected. NO. ONE. CARES. Except me, apparently.

And Leia doesn't seem to care that she's lost her husband, brother, son, and most of her Resistance fighters (including all her leadership) within days. Though considering her lack of reaction to Alderaan's destruction in A New Hope, maybe that is consistent. (Or maybe, as George Lucas did, Rian Johnson is waiting for the Star Wars novelists to pick up the slack via pained flashbacks).

Meanwhile, where the heck are the Knights of Ren? They'd better show up in the next movie...

Rey and Kylo's intimate Force conversations are the stuff of Tumblr fan fics.

#Reylo fans, rejoice! Rian Johnson is one of you! And he might be stealing your ideas!

The whole Reylo thing always grossed me out because 1) Kylo is nothing but creepy and abusive toward Rey in the Force Awakens and 2) I suspected that they were intimately related.

So #2 was a red herring. That's fine. What's not fine is that #1 is still the case. Rey is thrust into the position of being the girl who's sympathetic toward a jerk because he's misunderstoooooood. Admittedly, as an audience member and fangirl, I get Kylo Ren/Ben Solo's angsty appeal. But in the context of the movie, it just feels... like the stuff of Tumblr fan fics. 

In fact, there have actually been (very popular) Reylo fan fics that started off with the premise of Rey and Kylo Ren having intimate conversations from afar via the Force. Which is exactly what happens in the Last Jedi. Including one scene where Kylo is gratuitously shirtless. That the whole thing was a honeypot operation by Snoke to draw out Rey doesn't make it any less... annoying.

The whole movie lacked emotional resonance.

What made Empire Strikes Back such a great movie is that, for all its flaws, it rang true emotionally. Luke's struggle to understand the Force as he trained with Yoda felt real. Rey never had to struggle. She explores a bit, but her abilities are taken for granted. Luke's hero-worship of his father is turned on its head with the Darth Vader reveal, and despite the overacting, the devastation feels real. There's no equivalent for Rey, except maybe in her disappointment when Kylo fails to see the light. 

Even so, their relationship feels shallow. The two have barely known of each others' existence for a few days. Why should Rey care so much about redeeming Ben Solo? Some of it can be chalked up to her inherent kindness, but without a stronger bond, it just doesn't... mean as much. Meanwhile, Luke's been worshiping the father he never knew for a lifetime, so his connection with Vader rings true to the core.

Then there's the romances. Han and Leia had such palpable chemistry, every fan in the world felt validated when Carrie Fisher revealed her real-life affair with Harrison Ford. I thought Finn and Rey had great chemistry in The Force Awakens, but they spent most of The Last Jedi apart. Which is fine. What wasn't fine was Rose Tico's love for Finn being shoehorned in. I liked Finn and Rose as a duo, but they had zero romantic chemistry. Zero. They were partners in crime, siblings in arms. So when Rose suddenly said that she loved Finn and gave him a peck on the lips, I was like, "REALLY???" There was more sexual tension between Vice Admiral Holdo and Poe Dameron (now there's a romance I could've gotten behind).

And, as I mentioned before, Leia's lack of reaction to the devastating losses she faced made her whole storyline feel kind of empty. Which is a shame, since this was Carrie Fisher's last bow. (I think she did a great job with the script she was given. The issue was that the script didn't give her the opportunity to do more).

The Force Awakens actually had a lot more emotional resonance. Finn and Rey's friendship was palpable, so when they're constantly getting into trouble and worrying about each other, you sincerely want them to rescue each other so they can just hang out. Rey and Han's quasi father-daughter relationship worked too in a way that Rey and Luke's never did. Not only because Luke was always brushing Rey off, but because it never developed beyond that. The only moment in The Last Jedi that actually got me in the feels was when Luke and Leia reunited at last. And even that was cheapened when it was revealed that he was never actually there.

Aaaaaanyway, I could go on, but this post is already far too long.

To be clear, I don't dislike The Last Jedi. I'm just disappointed. And not for the reasons those condescending thinkpieces state. Maybe it'll grow on me upon a second viewing. Maybe.

In the meanwhile, I'm still planning to visit Skellig Michael dressed as Rey (with the vest and the boots and everything! And the staff if I can figure out how to get it on an airplane). Because despite everything, it's still Star Wars, and I'm willing to forgive a lot. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Star City / Edwin Peng

TITLE: Star City (Star City, #1)
AUTHOR: Edwin Peng
PUBLISHER: Evolved Publishing

Young Adult - Science Fiction

Edwin Peng’s debut novel, STAR CITY, is a YA sci-fi tale that tells the story of alien first contact from the point of view of two teenagers: Emma Smith, a college freshman who’s given the coveted position of student ambassador, and Sepporinen, a young alien who’s assigned to be her counterpart. The alien race, called the Ba’ren, are a technologically advanced and peace-loving society that hopes to be Earth’s benevolent allies. To prove their goodwill, they offer medical technology that can cure a form of childhood cancer and team up with human scientists to develop the cure. However, not all humans welcome the Ba’ren’s presence, and not all Ba’ren want to form an alliance with Earth. Between extremists on Earth who believe the Ba’ren to be an invading force to isolationist Ba’ren factions, diplomacy gets harder and harder every day. Emma and Sepporinen soon find themselves at the heart of the conflict, working desperately to salvage the fragile relations between Earth and the Ba’ren.

Emma and Sepporinen start the book in polar opposite positions. Emma is thrilled at having beat out thousands of applicants for her role as student ambassadors and sees this as a wonderful opportunity. Sepporinen, on the other hand, never wanted anything to do with this mission. He cares more about prospecting for riches, but was thrust into the junior ambassador position by his government for reasons that are unclear to him. Both are intriguing characters, especially Sepporinen, whose alien culture is thoroughly explored through fantastic world-building. It’s practically hate at first sight when the two finally meet. Over the course of the book, their relationship develops and shifts, until they find themselves unlikely partners.

But though the narrative centers on the two young protagonists, the story of STAR CITY is much, much broader. It’s essentially the story of two clashing worlds filtered through Emma and Sepporinen. Through secondary characters and news reports, we see the impact of the aliens’ arrival on Earth on not only the Emma’s country, the United States, but the world as a whole. In addition, Sepporinen’s dialogue with his people shows how various Ba’ren are reacting to the attempted diplomacy. It’s an expansive and richly wrought feat of both world-building and storytelling. And much of it rings true. The Ba’ren society is developed in detail (and is quite different from Earth’s), and Earth’s reactions—from religious fundamentalists claiming the Ba’ren are demons to internet-conspiracy-fueled extremists—seem all too believable.

It’s hard to believe Peng was able to pack such a big story into such a little book (maybe not little, but certainly not the 1000-page tome it could have been!). Personally, I enjoyed the efficiency of his writing and how fast-paced the story was. It was a quick, addictive read that kept me glued to the pages (well, screen since I had a Kindle version!). STAR CITY is the first book of a trilogy, though it has a conclusion of sorts while leaving the door open for its two sequels. I, for one, can’t wait to get my hands on them!

Edwin Peng lives in beautiful Lincoln, Nebraska with his beloved Pokémon buddy, Eevee. During the day, he indulges in super-villainy by performing high-power laser research at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. At night, his secret identity is that of a literary superhero fighting to make the Young Adult Science Fiction genre less clichéd and more inclusive.

Edwin is the author of the Star City series, which features badass heroines and space aliens who love blueberry pies. The first novel is released by Evolved Publishing on December 4, 2017.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Just the Trouble I Needed / Lauren Faulkenberry

TITLE: Just the Trouble I Needed (Bayou Sabine, #2.5)
AUTHOR: Lauren Faulkenberry
PUBLISHER: Blue Crow Books

Contemporary Romance

Seeking a refuge from her chaotic life, Kate McDonnell agrees to dogsit for a friend in another town. There’s one problem: the last time she visited the Bayou, she had a fling with the town’s good-looking sheriff, Andre, and she’s not sure where they stand. When the two meet up again, sparks are reignited. But Kate isn’t ready for a new relationship so soon after her last one blew up…

Just the Trouble I Needed is a lovely contemporary romance novella by Lauren Faulkenberry, full of character and charm. The whole thing is really well-written, especially the descriptions of emotions. It’s easy to feel as Kate feels, to find yourself wrestling with the same complexities as she does. As for Andre, well, what’s a romance without a swoon-worthy love interest? ;-) I love that he’s not a stereotypical “alpha male,” but has emotional depth of his own (and more than Kate gives him credit for at first). The two have great chemistry, and it’s easy to root for them. I also appreciated the lush descriptions of the setting and the way it seems to be a character as well.

While this novella is part of a series (the Bayou Sabine series), it stands on its own. I hadn’t read any of the other books before diving in, but I had no trouble getting into the story.

Sometimes, you just want a quick romantic read full of human drama and sympathetic characters, and Just the Trouble I Needed really hits the spot! It’s a fun, fast-paced read that gets you right in the feels.

Lauren Faulkenberry is author of the novel BAYOU MY LOVE (Velvet Morning Press, 2016), the novella BACK TO BAYOU SABINE, and the children's book WHAT DO ANIMALS DO ON THE WEEKEND? She is a contributor to the anthology HUNGRY FOR HOME: Stories of Food from Across the Carolinas With More Than 200 Favorite Recipes. 

Lauren divides her time between writing, teaching, and making artist books. Originally from South Carolina, she has worked as an archaeologist, an English teacher, and a ranger for the National Park Service. She earned her MFA in creative writing from Georgia College & State University, where she attended on fellowship, and earned her MFA in Book Arts from The University of Alabama. She was a finalist for the Novello Festival Press First Novel Award, won the Family Circle short fiction contest for her story "Beneath Our Skin," and was nominated for an AWP Intro Award. 

She currently lives in western NC, where she is at work on her next novel in the Bayou series.