Category Archives: Review


Creepy Carnivals & Steampunk

REVIEW: “The Three Lives of Lydia” by Delilah S. Dawson

a Blud Short Story, included in CARNIEPUNK

Reviewed by Meaghan Walsh Gerard


carniepunkFull disclosure: I don’t read romance books. They’re just not my thing. I do however love creepy carnivals and some steampunk literature so I was thrilled to see Crossroads veteran Delilah S. Dawson had a short story included in a book called “Carniepunk.”

Let’s just take a minute and acknowledge how cool that title is. Alright, proceed.

The entries vary but most are in some way related to fantasy worlds. Titles include “The Demon Barker of Wheat Street,” “The Werewife,” “Freak House” and “Hell’s Menagerie.” One can already hear the rusted calliope cranking out a tune in the distance…

In “The Three Lives of Lydia,” Dawson tells a tale connected to her already-established Blud series. Lydia wakes up in a field, unable to remember what happened. As she slowly comes to, she recognizes the unmistakable features of a traveling circus. Right away the reader is hit with sharp descriptions.

Running a finger over the crooked heart tattooed on her left wrist, she inhaled the scent of grass and cold iron and waited for something to happen.

“Am I dead?”

Her voice was overloud in the moon-bitten night, and she suddenly felt like an extra in someone else’s movie. Pg. 24-5

Though Lydia is confused, and perhaps a bit shaken, she is not useless. She examines her surroundings and knows that to blend in she will need new clothes. One of my favorite passages is the description of the costume car.

A series of Victorian-looking sconces lit with an orange glow. She was in luck: the room was a jumble of mannequins, hats, and sequins. Costumes sprouted from dress forms, half finished in harlequin diamonds or lurid stripes. Feathers exploded from upturned top hats, and blots of cloth swooped across the ceiling like gypsy tents. Pg. 26

Lydia meets Charlie, her guide through this strange world called Sang – a world where her myriad tattoos are revered. She is to be put on display for the other inhabitants to gawk at. But other carnies are jealous of Charlie and newfound girlfriend. Lydia is in danger, in both our world and Sang.

As with any good story, there are universal themes to be found, regardless of genre or setting. Lydia must use her wits to navigate Sang, while dealing her feelings for Charlie and her fears of the unknown. She is the fish-out-of-water archetype, who isn’t so sure she wants to get back in the pond.

So, yes, this story was a bit out of my normal realm of reading, but it’s a good reminder that these short story collections and anthologies are a great way to get a taste for a new genre and to find new authors.


Paperback: 448 pages | Publisher: Gallery Books; Original edition (July 23, 2013)

Language: English | ISBN-10: 1476714150 | ISBN-13: 978-1476714158

Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 6.7 inches

firecracker david iserson cropped

Review of FIRECRACKER by David Iserson

David Iserson, a writer for “SNL,” “The New Girl” and “Up All Night,” made his YA debut with “Firecracker” this May. He was interviewed in the Los Angeles Times, reviewed at Reading Rants and featured in Entertainment Weekly’s Shelf Life and on And you should love his star-studded book trailer for “Firecracker,” which you can watch below. This will be his first visit to Crossroads and we’re geeked. Meet him at Crossroads when you register by clicking here

Meaghan Walsh Gerard reviews FIRECRACKER by David Iserson

firecracker david iserson

“Firecracker” by David Iserson

Only once before have a read a YA book most of the way through before realizing it was categorized as such. I haven’t got anything against YA per se, but having been 29 for a couple of years now, I am generally uninterested in the adolescent themes they explore. But occasionally (though rarely) a YA novel manages to defy its genre conventions and just be a darn good story.

Our tempestuous heroine, and narrator, is Astrid Krieger and she lives in a rocket ship. Yes, you read that right. Astrid is the teenaged daughter of very wealthy if aloof parents. In short, Astrid is bored. Her only amusements are pulling the strings of those less perceptive than herself. She’s been recently expelled from her very exclusive high school for cheating – something she never denies doing but only determines to find out who turned her in.

Her therapist (and former dean) instead challenges Astrid to do at least three things that she doesn’t want to do. As an embittered, independent teen, the list of potential tasks is quite lengthy. But as Astrid embarks on her emotional scavenger hunt, she realizes that she doesn’t hate everyone/thing quite as much as she thought.

FIRECRACKER is a smart and funny novel, with a freshly modern voice. Angsty without being desperate, it also has a dash of classic 1980s high school movie mixed in. Astrid breaks the fourth wall quite often and speaks directly to her readers – and it works.

I probably don’t need to tell you what it’s like in a public school cafeteria. I mean, it’s very likely that you’ve been to one (or are sitting in one right now). And it you’ve seen one, I’m sure you’ve seen them all. But I’ll describe it anyway in case you are home-schooled (in which case, your mom is probably really upset that you’re reading this book because of the cursing. Loc 619 of 3004

And her descriptions of others are hysterical and spot-on.

Talia was feebly drunk. Drunk-Talia was like one of those inflatable people with swinging arms outside car dealerships. Loc. 808 of 3004.


Mason was an aspiring bully, and that’s why I figured he would be outside smoking with Melty. They must’ve thought smoking cigarettes ft the part. But they should have known that if they really wanted to effectively inflict pain on a victim, it would help if they didn’t get winded while chasing someone up the staircase. Don’t smoke because it makes it a lot harder to beat someone up. That’s my public service message. Loc. 1974 of 3004.

Despite her flippant manner, Astrid is a complex and sympathetic character. When it comes time to implement her plan that is so-crazy-it-just-might-work, we are firmly in her camp.

Even if you are out of your teenage years (like me, by a good amount), this fast-paced book is highly enjoyable. I can only imagine if I had had Astrid to look up to when I was in 6th or 7th grade.

Watch the book trailer for FIRECRACKER below.

FIRECRACKER by David Iserson

ISBN 9781595143709 | 336 pages | 16 May 2013 | Razorbill | 9.25 x 6.25in | 12 – AND UP years


Creative writing professor Sarah Domet is author of "90 Days to Your Novel"

Review: 90 Days to Your Novel

90 Days to Your Novel: A Day-by-Day Plan for Outlining & Writing Your Book

By Sarah Domet

Writer’s Digest Books, ISBN-13: 978-1582979977

90 Days to Your Novel by Sarah Domet

Fiction writers are divided on the topic of outlining a novel. Some believe the process is vital to producing a great story – “couldn’t write otherwise.” Others dismiss it as stifling to creativity – “shoot me now.”

Sarah Domet’s book, 90 Days to Your Novel: A Day-by-Day Plan for Outlining & Writing Your Book, will please believers while giving non-outliners a number of reasons to reconsider.

So, why ninety days? “It’s difficult to write without a deadline,” Domet explains. More importantly, a finite time period requires a daily commitment – one of the book’s chief tenets. Domet suggests two to three hours per day.

90 Days to Your Novel embraces four key philosophies:

“1. If you do not write on a daily basis, or a near-daily basis, you are not a writer.

2. Outlining is an essential component of novel writing.

3. Novels are written scene by scene, not character by character or action by action.

4. It’s possible to write a book in months, not years.”

The book has two sections. Part One is relatively short, about 35 pages, and dissects the pros and cons of several outlining techniques. Domet then presents a mini-class on scene structure and type. Part One is meant to be read before the challenge starts.

Part Two is where the actual work begins. The first three weeks have daily assignments for brainstorming and outlining as Domet reviews the components of a novel – plot, character, setting, conflict, point of view, and more. The prize at the end of those 21 days is a scene-by-scene outline.

But don’t relax yet. Weeks four through thirteen dig deeply into the writing and assessing of those scenes, examining details like pacing and characterization, within the three act structure. Your story is deconstructed, clarified, and strengthened following Domet’s progressive roadmap. At day 91, you celebrate a solid, first draft novel that is ready to be sent to outside readers while you take a break before tackling revisions.

As Domet points out, many famous authors, including Joyce Carol Oates and Stephen King, complete more than one novel a year. Sarah Domet’s book, 90 Days to Your Novel: A Day-by-Day Plan for Outlining & Writing Your Book, gives you an effective method to do the same.