Book Review: The Disharmony of Silence by Linda Rosen

I’ve been trying to expand my horizons in 2020, and have decided to read more books outside of my normal genre as well as more industry and craft books. Towards that end, my first full book of 2020 is a woman’s fiction novel with a historical slant. I received an ARC of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. As usual, I will be reviewing this book from a writer’s perspective as well as a reader’s perspective.

The Disharmony of Silence is by Linda Rosen and will be released on March 5, 2020. 

Book Summary: 

In 1915, jealous, bitter Rebecca Roth cuts all ties with her life-long friends, the Pearls. Eight years later, Rebecca’s son and young Lena Pearl begin keeping company in secret. Rebecca agrees to a truce when the couple marries. But the truce is fragile. Rebecca’s resentments run deep.

In 2010, Carolyn Lee, fitness instructor and amateur photographer, must come to grips with the fact that her mother’s imminent death will leave her alone in the world. While preparing her childhood home for sale, she realizes for the first time that her mother’s antique brooch is identical to the one pinned to the lady’s dress in the painting hanging above the fireplace. Coincidence or connection? Carolyn is determined to find out. What she discovers has the potential to tear lives apart or to bring her the closeness and comfort she longs for. It all depends on how she handles her newfound knowledge.

What I Enjoyed: 

This book hit me in a lot of very real places. For one, the Roth and Pearl families are New York Jews, having emigrated here from Russia. I happen to be of similar heritage, my maternal grandparents having emigrated here from Poland. While Lena Pearl and Jack Roth were being raised in New York, my mother was growing up just one generation behind them, and a lot of the stories from old New York as well as from Jewish tradition felt like they could have come from my family. 

I ended up converting when I was older, having been raised in a bit of a confusing situation as the daughter of Jewish and Catholic parents who really didn’t choose a side. Though religion has always been a complicated topic for me, the old traditions of the Jewish Holy Days stuck with me, and I teared up at a scene with a Passover Seder, just from memories and how eloquently they were conveyed. 

In addition, my mother recently fell seriously ill, and while she recovered, I also needed to clean her house out so she could move to a more accessible apartment. In that way, I could relate to Carolyn, as she cleared out her childhood home, and her curiosity as well as her inability to part with certain objects from her mother’s past. 

Therefore, I went into this with a deep connection to the main character. That connection never wavered. While sometimes, I found myself wanting to smack her upside the head, Carolyn felt like a real person with real flaws, and a deep seated need to form bonds. Those grumbly moments I felt as I went on my journey with Carolyn made her feel like a true friend. There were moments that were a bit like watching a train wreck, in that way where you cover your face, but peek between your fingers, because you want to know how things work out. 

I was wholly driven by the mystery and then, once the mystery was solved, I was driven by watching to see how Carolyn chose to handle it. 

What I’d Avoid: Truth time. I hate saying anything negative in reviews, especially when the author is relatively new and the publisher is independent, or they are self-published. The sales of a story can suffer so greatly from a bad review.

This book is a 4 out of 5. So this is not a bad review. Still, a slight bit of critique…there were places where the pacing dragged somewhat, and I think that was the result of the two separate storylines being told. I thought that while we were following Carolyn through part of it, and Lena through other parts, the weight of one story vs. the other would sometimes tip heavily in one direction or the other. I believe these two storylines could have been balanced better. 

Would I Recommend It: Yes. Definitely. I will admit, I don’t read Women’s Fiction, or Historical Fiction much, but that doesn’t really matter if you put the onus on story. And this story made me feel. The characters drew me in, and the resolution was well worth the wait. This story is for anyone who enjoys watching a character struggle with living the results of confronting their own long-held values. 

What Can I Learn From It: Anyone who has read my reviews in the past know the editor in me demands I turn every book into a lesson, so here’s this book’s lesson. If your story has a dual timeline, pay very close attention to the pacing of both stories. You want the pivotal parts of each storyline to weave together at the perfect point in the story. If one story drags behind the revelations of the other timeline slightly, it can dampen the effect. Dual timelines are difficult, so just be careful in your planning. 


All in all, The Disharmony of Silence (and my what a perfectly assigned title that is) was a great read that left me feeling satisfied. I enjoyed the characters, and the rich environment, and can’t wait to see more from this author. 

Mailing List!

Hello everyone!

I don’t really do New Year’s Resolutions, because they almost always fail and/or they feel to vague to actually provide a sense of accomplishment. Instead, I’ve made myself a few amorphous goals I’d like to pursue in 2020, and one of them is to make an effort to be more active and INTERactive with you, the wonderful people who actually care what I’m writing and why I’m writing it.

For one, I intend to post more here on the blog, and also on social media. However, algorithms add some snags to that. Therefore, in an effort to get information about me and my upcoming book release past social media algorithms and right behind your eyeholes (or something less invasive), I’m creating a monthly newsletter!

That’s only one email a month, unless a sudden but important announcement needs to get out there in between. Even then, it won’t be much more than one extra newsletter.

If you’re interested in signing up for my newsletter, please sign up here. https://mailchi.mp/ebb8bfa2eae4/justinemanzanosignup

I look forward to a monthly party in your inbox! 🙂

The End of a Decade (And What the Hell Happened to PeWriMoMo)

Happy New Year!

Hi everyone!

It seems I have dropped the ball here lately, and I’m sorry–but it’s all for exciting reasons. 

I received my developmental edits for The Order of the Key, and they were. . .a lot. But they were all amazing and thought provoking and the novel is so much better now that I’ve made them. On top of working on those, I’ve begun working on forming a marketing plan for the book, as these things don’t just happen, and small publishers have less resources in this area. 

So, I’ve been reading up on publicity and marketing practices, and have worked out the beginnings of a plan. And I’m really excited for it. 

Then, I got my line edits for Order. And I. Am. Tired. 

All of this + the holiday season, means that while I ended up abandoning my PeWriMoMo adventure in November, I probably wrote the requested word count in just new and rewritten scenes. But I didn’t keep track. Not really. So there that wonderful idea went. 

I was going to wait until I was finished with my line edits to give you guys an update, but I realized what an important time we were in, and I didn’t want to miss out on the recap. 

This decade has been very kind to me. In the last ten years, I became a mother. My relationship with my husband has grown stronger than ever. I stepped into my own as an author. I built my career as an editor. Sold seven short stories, two personal essays, one article, and a novel, the same novel, to three different publishing companies–although, this will be the first one to actually publish it (small publishing can be a damned landmine, you guys). I have found an amazing day job with incredibly supportive people. I have continued my relationships with my family, both born and found, and built on them some more. I have forged such wonderful relationships. I have found my writing tribe. 

This decade has also been pretty harsh to me. I received rejection after rejection on things I thought were destined to be successful. I have struggled with the aftermath of sexual assault. I have helped my wonderful, amazing son battle Autism, Attention Deficit Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, Depression and Anxiety, and he has done so like a dang soldier, but that doesn’t mean it was easy. I lost my Grandmother and my Uncle Bobby. I watched friendships I thought would be around forever dwindle into nothing. I’ve had surgeries and been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, and have wondered how long it will take for it to have a real and lasting effect on me. My mother nearly died. 

2019 was the hardest of these years, but all of these experiences taught me some amazing things about appreciation and perseverance, and anyone who knows me at all, knows that I have been knocked down, but I never stay down, and that I’m working on counting every triumph and blessing. 

This isn’t the first time I’ve done an end-of-year recap. The last times I’ve done one, I declared the next year to be “my year.” I’m not going to say that about 2020. I’m sure, in some ways, it will be awesome. And in other ways, I’m sure there will be struggle. 

But I am here for the fight, and I’ll keep swinging. And telling you about it. I always intend to include you for the ride. 

Thanks for another year. Get ready for The Order of the Key in July 2020. (You know I had to.) Have a wonderful holiday season and a joyous New Year. I’ll chat with you about the next adventure. 

All my love,

Justine

Indie Chicks!

Hi all!

This week, I was the featured guest on the podcast/Youtube channel Indie Chicks, where I talked to hosts Melissa Koberlein and Jeni Chappelle about dusting off an old story idea.

You can check out the video here, and please show the channel some love. They are a great pair and their series is a wonderful resource on all things writing.

Please excuse my face in the screencap. LOL

PreWriMoMo Week 1: UGGGGGH

So…last week I mentioned my desire to gain some more personal writing time, and my journey of PreWriMoMo began. I had a plan. I was going to write different parts from every project I had running in the background of my head. 

There were some complications. Because there are always complications. 

Day 1: I started out strong. 

772 Words – My blog post announcing PreWriMoMo.

43 Words – Landmarks. I absolutely love this fanfic, and yet, after I wrote a large chunk of it, I’ve been dragging along. This was a two line dialogue exchange. But it was something. 

117 Words – A Light So Dim. As I work on my edits for the first half of the story so I’m comfortable moving forward, I’m adding bits here and there. This was a descriptive paragraph, fleshing out scenery. 

103 Words – A Light So Dim Outline – Adding bits of plot and dialogue ideas, so I can flesh out the remainder of the story. 

A wonderful start! 1035 wasn’t the typical Nano 1670, but I’d take it. After all, I knew I couldn’t do the classic Nano word count. 

Day 2: HA HA HA HA HA. That didn’t last long. I didn’t write a word. Between appointments for Logan and a visit to my friend’s house for a party congratulating my friend on passing the Bar Exam, the day went on. 

Day 3: Well, I started out early and wrote about 182 words of dialogue for Nightmarescapes. I squeezed it in while waiting to leave my house. Then, I went out, got into a conversation that triggered my depression and anxiety majorly, and got absolutely NO WORK DONE. Nothing. What a waste of a day. For multiple reasons. 

Day 4: And I’m not getting much better. 

101 words – Jagged Shards Cut Deep. I’m just starting the outlining of this fic. A couple of plot points added. 

175 words – Landmarks. This fic is going to be the death of me. I can only write so much of it at a time. *bangs head on desk*

44 words – Living in the Past – This outline is killing me. I’m still really figuring out the plotline. I keep writing one plot point or two and then leaving it alone. *shrug*

Day 5: After thinking quite a bit about some of the edits I got back, I realized that my book needed a new opening and I worked towards crafting one today. Still awaiting edits on my new opening, which I adore. 

1201 words: Order Edits. 

53 words: I was on a roll, so I added a plot point on Jagged Shards Cut Deep. 

225 words: Landmarks. Added a decent chunk to the next scene.

Day 6: I was completely slammed at my day job today, which meant I never got a chance to write on downtime or breaks. So the fact that I pulled off as much of a word count as I did was kind of miraculous. 

155 words – Superhero Rom Com Outline. I just added the perfect character attribute for my new sidekick. This adds so much to the plot. I’m excited. 

327 words – Blog post. I wrote 90% of this blog post on day 6. The rest is getting written up on day 9. You’ll see why next week. 

39 words – A Light So Dim Outline. Added a teensy line of dialogue.

245 words – A Light So Dim Draft. Cleaned up a few lines and added a few explanations to make things make more sense. I think I’m almost ready to start writing new material for this one. 

52 words – Jagged Shards Cut Deep. Added a plot point. I’m starting to get a stronger idea of the places this story may go. 

Day 7: Oh booooooy. My day was super difficult at work and I was super tired. So when I got home, I fell asleep almost immediately. This amounted to:

59 words – Landmarks – wrote a line of dialogue. 

25 words – Living in the Past – literally added one plot point. 

Hopefully, next week is much better, but it’s not off to a great start. At the very least, I’ve written more? Baby steps…

PeWriMoMo–Personal Write More Month

Pardon my hyperactivity. I am very excited today, this is a spontaneous post, and I haven’t edited it. Bear with me.

In September, those of you who follow me on social media may have noticed I was gearing up for NaNoWriMo, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month. My plan was to use the website to track my progress, but to be a rebel. I would work on the second half of a YA dystopian novel I started a while back, A Light So Dim, something that I’m starting to believe may be the best thing I’ve ever written. And I’m not joking. I stepped away, walked back and was impressed and in love with my opening pages. I even started workshopping them in the attempt to get myself back into writing mode from the edit/query mode I was stuck in. 

And then, something SPECTACULAR happened. At the end of September, I got the news that Black Rose Writing had accepted my novel (another YA, but this time Urban Fantasy), The Order of the Key, for publication. And I got swept up in the edits requested of me by my publisher and I’ve just finally handed them off to my editors last week to await another round. 

And then I sat back and did nothing. Well, no. Not nothing. I began working at establishing connections or re-establishing connections in the writing world, because I’m rejoining the published part of it (which I had left after my last publisher for Order crashed). But I wasn’t writing. 

It bothered me. I’ve got a ton of projects waiting in the wings, and I’ve been cycling through bits of work on all of them, and now I had to wait to get my edits back, which are due in January, and there is no way I can possibly start writing A Light So Dim again in earnest, because I’ll get thrown off by the return of my edit letter. 

So. What to do? How could I keep going and stop myself from feeling dormant on the writing side of my writing career? Because you probably have figured this out already, but in order to promote things you’ve written, you have to write them first. 

Therefore, I have declared this Personal Write More Month, or PeWriMoMo. Yes, I’m aware this sounds ridiculous, and yes, I giggle every time I read it out loud. But if you don’t realize I’m ridiculous by now, you need to pay closer attention. 

The rules of PeWriMoMo (heh, heh) is as follows. I work on any one of my list of pending projects and get a word count on any work I’ve done. I try for the standard 1,760 words a day that come with NaNoWriMo, but don’t cry if I don’t make it, and I do it across all projects. 

And I get myself moving again. These stories ain’t gonna write themselves. 

So here is a peak into my mind, aka all the moving parts I have going in my brain at once. 

PeWriMoMo Projects

Order of the Key Edits
A Light So Dim Edits and Additions
A Light So Dim Outline

Blog Posts – Because you still deserve to hear from me. 
Nightmarescape — that multi-chapter fanfic I’m working on (fanfic is art too, people)
Landmarks — that adorable one-shot fanfic I’m working on (sshhhhh I know these won’t make me money, but I  want to work on them.)
Jagged Shards Cut Deep — that new fanfic I literally dreamed up on the train today that won’t shut up so it might as well make this list.
The Lost Key reread/comment for edits — An Order of the Key sequel? It could happen…if I can make what I wrote of it work after completely overhauling chunks of Order. We’ll see.
The Lost Key Outline — Or maybe I can rework the entire thing? 
Lucy Dies in the End Outline — my weird YA Fantasy Noir Detective story. 
Living in the Past Outline — could this be an actual Adult Supernatural tale?
Superhero Rom Com Outline — sort of New Adult, sort of funny, definitely superheroes, no title to speak of. 
Reality Check Outline – I’m still not sure what the hell this story is. I have spectacular ideas for it, and no structure at all, but I refuse to make this once Adult Rom Com, now maybe NA Rom Com die. SHRUG. At some point, I’ll figure it out. 

I’m going to be using this blog to keep me accountable, so join me on my weird journey. And feel free to actually join me and write all the things! 

While you’re at it, for the love of all that is holy, somebody get me a coffee. Or take away the Halloween Candy. Something.

772 words and counting…

Book Review: My Heart And Other Black Holes By Jasmine Warga

Not like my usual reviews, but I was so in love with this book and it’s message, and it was so deeply personal to me, I had to share my thoughts here. Trigger Warning: Depression Ahoy. Like, hardcore.

Summary:

Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. With a mother who can barely look at her without wincing, classmates who whisper behind her back, and a father whose violent crime rocked her small town, Aysel is ready to turn her potential energy into nothingness.

There’s only one problem: she’s not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers a website with a section called Suicide Partners, Aysel’s convinced she’s found her solution—Roman, a teenage boy who’s haunted by a family tragedy, is looking for a partner.

Even though Aysel and Roman have nothing in common, they slowly start to fill in each other’s broken lives. But as their suicide pact becomes more concrete, Aysel begins to question whether she really wants to go through with it. Ultimately, she must choose between wanting to die or trying to convince Roman to live so they can discover the potential of their energy together.

Review:

This was a difficult one for me. You may wonder why someone who struggles with depression, whose preteen son struggles with depression, would choose a book about two teens who make a suicide pact, but there’s an easy answer to that. I have been picking books lately by literally eeny meeny-ing my way through my TBR. Surprise! The book you put on your list years ago, when it wouldn’t be nearly as emotionally jarring for you, has you nearly sobbing and eating your nails off on the NYC subway!

And yet.

This book was gorgeous. So many beautiful lines on such a painful subject. So much hope hidden in the pages. The author’s use of principles of physics to highlight the potential energy in living and the relativity in how we each see our lives was just so beautiful, and ended up being discussed with my son who may be too young to read this book without turning it into a reason to be more depressed, but is actually intelligent enough to understand these two principles of physics. I loved the inherent hope in these universal principles.

SPOILERS AHEAD

While other readers thought the romance between the two main characters was trite and obvious in a YA book, I found it refreshing. The best part about it being that it’s not what saved them. What saved them was finally talking to each other about what they were going to. It was opening themselves up. Aysel and, we find, Roman, was not speaking to anyone about her internal life. When she opened herself up to Roman, she slowly began unburdening herself. It happens slowly, so slowly you may miss it (and many readers seem to have missed it) but you can see Aysel freeing herself the minute she starts speaking to people more, acknowledging this feeling inside of her, embracing her potential energy. And Roman is doing the same, even though we don’t see it outwardly, we can see it in the way he keeps trying to convince himself that nothing about their plan can change, in the way he holds Aysel tighter, in the way he tries to do it on his own before Aysel can stop him. He’s made himself this mission, and he feels it slipping and he’s grabbing on even harder because he’s afraid to let it go. In the end, when they both decide against it, it feels real. And it doesn’t feel like a solution, like an ending.

It feels like potential energy.