Tag Archives: novel

Review of STRANGER by Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith

via amblingbooks.com

STRANGER is a YA sci-fi novel that features the voices of five distinct teenagers living in a post-apocalyptic town called Las Anclas. The book starts on an exciting note with Ross Suarez, one of the main characters, running away from a bounty hunter who is after a book in Suarez’s possession. The primary villain, Voske, hired the mercenary to get this special book, which is described as being quite important. Although I got echoes of the Book of Eli in these scenes, I found the chase to be quite entertaining.

Without spoiling too much, Suarez finds himself in the tight-knit, structured community of Las Anclas where like every fort trying to survive in a new harsh world has citizens with specifically assigned roles: rangers, teachers, farmers, sentries, engineers, etc. Also, some people have mutant abilities due to radiation from past nuclear wars and are called Changed. An X-MEN theme surfaces where a group of people dislikes the Changed and others defend them. The Changed, however, are an integral part of the town.

Aside from Ross, we get to intimately know the four local inhabitants of this city such as Mia, the incredibly intelligent but socially awkward engineer; Yuki the cool and collected ‘prince’; Felicité, the haughty, brown nosing town scribe; and Jennie, the smart and strong ranger. I must admit I was a bit confused with all the different characters in the beginning, but that dissipated as I continued reading.

I also think it’s important to note that all of these characters are young people of color. I can’t remember the last time I read a YA science fiction novel that featured so many distinct voices from different backgrounds. And Yuki is gay, so the book scores high on diversity overall without making a big deal about it. As a person of color myself, I found it pretty refreshing.

We jump from one POV to the next as Stranger unravels the daily on goings of Las Anclas. I found the middle to be quite weak in terms of conflict and tension. I kept waiting for something to happen, which I rightly predicted would have something to do with some big confrontation with Voske, a powerful man fond of overtaking cities and putting people’s heads on spikes as a warning to outsiders.

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy learning about each character individually; usually I’m all for strong character driven stories, but conflict plays an essential part as well. We don’t see much happening until the final arc of the book when war breaks out between the people of Las Anclas and Voske’s army. STRANGER shines in these final scenes because you care very deeply about these characters and don’t want to see them to lose.

Overall, I enjoyed STRANGER, despite the lagging middle, and look forward to reading the next book in the series. However, this novel is a stand-alone. If you’re looking for a diverse book that mixes post-apocalyptic survival with minor X-MEN themes, then this book is for you.

I give STRANGER a 4.3/5.0

Stay Amazing,


The Secret to Making Your Dreams Come True Revealed!

When I was in the third grade, my teacher gave us an assignment in which we had to use the week’s spelling words to create a story. I wrote about a detective bunny rabbit that solved a very difficult case. I enjoyed the assignment tremendously and had a fun time making up the story.

I’ve got a mystery to solve!

The next day, while I was chatting with my friend during our snack break, my teacher, Ms. Bess, a very kind petite woman with long blond hair, called for everyone’s attention. Her next words would change my life forever. She said, “Everyone, listen to Carla’s story!”

I jumped at the mention of my name and my heart kept beating faster and faster as Ms. Bess read my story to the whole class. My classmates all clapped for me at the end and told me how much they liked it. I was elated and couldn’t wait to get home to tell my parents. My older cousin was visiting that day and she, along with my folks, complimented me.

It was one of the happiest days of my childhood.

OMG, you loved my story! Waaaah, so cool!

From then on, I set out to write more stories and read more books. I devoured the written word, allowing myself to be transported to different worlds while envying the power of these authors to share their stories and stir up so many different emotions inside of me. I wanted to be a writer. An author. A creator of worlds. It was my dream to share my stories with as many people as possible.

There is power in the pages of books.

At thirteen, hungry for powerful female characters, I embarked on the journey of writing my first novel. I called the book The Fusion Girls, a tale of three remarkable sisters who possessed a dangerous power capable of saving the world from an intergalactic threat. The title of my book changed from the Fusion Girls to the Elementals to The Daughters of Destiny to Truth and Destiny and then finally to Children of Tokua.

The story followed me throughout the rest of my adolescence and onwards to college to graduate school and now to my late twenties. It has changed so much since its conception that I’m not even sure how many times I’ve rewritten it while keeping the same core theme. The book has grown with me, reflecting my changes in attitudes, philosophies, and perspectives in life. What began as the dream of a thirteen-year-old tomboy had become one of the defining features of my life.

I call it passion, but I wouldn’t judge others who would call it insanity.

Set your imagination free.

I am in the final stages of closing this incredible chapter in my life. Although the characters are creations of my imagination, they have become something more, taking on lives of their own a long time ago.

They are my children, my siblings, and my friends—tenants forever taking up space in my head.

So, what is the secret to making dreams come true?

2 Things: Tenacity and a willingness to change.

These two cannot be underestimated nor ignored. If you really want to see your dreams come true, you must persevere against all odds, frustrations, negativity, rejections, and failures. Most of all you must face yourself, which is oftentimes your biggest enemy.

But none of that means anything if you aren’t willing to be flexible and change to find out what works and what doesn’t. It pays to be humble and acknowledge your mistakes, to learn from your failures and listen to wise counsel. With that you can move forward intelligently while believing that victory is yours. Because if you have tenacity and a willingness to adapt, you can accomplish anything. Anything.

Keep going, but keep going intelligently.

It’s been almost fifteen years since I first started writing with the hopes of becoming published. I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way, but I’ve learned so much and know how to move forward now. It’s only a matter of time before my dream is a reality. And when it is, you’ll be the first to know.

What about you? What do you think is the secret to making dreams come true? I’d love to hear your response!

Stay amazing,


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Excited About My Writing!

Wow, it’s been forever since I last updated, but I have not forgotten this blog. Not at all.

So, I’ve queried about twenty agents and received ten rejections so far. It’s funny, but I expected these rejections, but what I didn’t expect was how they would inspire me to make my writing go up several notches. I’m currently rewriting the first chapter of my book and I find myself falling in love again with the story. Now, this is a story that has been with me for a long time. Even my mother can attest to that. Sometimes she wanders to my computer station and shakes her head. “Are you still revising that book?” she asks. I usually don’t reply because I don’t know how to explain my revision process with her. I usually sigh instead. Great things take time, but I know I can’t work on one thing forever. I have to branch out. And I will, but I’m so close to making COT (that’s my book) perfect that I can’t let go now. Sometimes, you can’t let go. You can only keep going until you reach that horizon and change your life. I believe and KNOW that I’m close to changing my life. I can’t stop now.

How about you? What has you excited? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Stay amazing,