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(I do not own this image. Image courtesy of Bethany House Publishers.)

(I do not own this image. Image courtesy of Bethany House Publishers.)

Dina L. Sleiman is a resident of Virginia Beach where she spends a lot of her time outdoors, when she isn’t writing or editing. She is a graduate of Regent University, and she writes inspirational fiction. Her new novel, Chivalrous, is the second book in the Valiant Hearts series.

Gwendolyn Barnes wishes she were a man. Then she could become a knight and compete in tournaments: her secret dream. Instead, Gwendolyn is at the mercy of her domineering, brutal father and her submissive mother. Her father intends only to see her married to a man just as controlling as he is so she will further the family’s fortunes. So Gwendolyn keeps her knightly training a secret, not wishing to raise the ire of her father.

In disguise, she competes in a tournament, where she meets the handsome Allen of Ellsworth. Allen is determined to prove his worth as a knight, but he sacrifices his chance to win the tourney to save a child. His sacrifice results in Allen’s whirlwind rise through the ranks, and soon he’s living a live he never imagined. Gwendolyn could see herself by his side, but fate conspires to keep them apart as murder, mayhem, and marriage stand in their way.

Chivalrous is a tale of days gone by, a story straight from the world of Arthur. There is action a plenty: knights, battles, courtly intrigue, and betrayal. Gwendolyn must learn her own worth, and how God values her, while Allen must place his faith wholly in God, instead of man. Chivalrous is an entrancing read that will keep readers glued to every page.

(Galley Provided by Bethany House Publishers via NetGalley.)

Real Life Update:  I started my new job last week. This week, I was in Dallas for training. Wednesday morning, I had a brief visual disturbance (double vision) that scared the crap out of me. My doc wanted me to get checked out, so I had a brief eval from paramedics, then spent several hours in the E.R. at Baylor Dallas. CT and everything was clear, so they released me. My new boss came to check on me. I was horrified, but that was awesome of him. I’m off until Monday to rest (so I missed almost all of Wednesday, and all of Thursday, but that’s it). I feel fine. No issues since, and they’re pretty sure it was stress-related, but I see my neuro next Friday to get his take on it. (In case anyone is wondering, I had a stroke two years ago without warning. Haven’t had any of these issues in about 15 months.) I took it easy yesterday–pedicure and a nap–and I’m taking it easy today as well. I feel fine, but I think a nap is next on the agenda.

Writing Update: Got my words in on Siren Song last week. I’ll get a few more today/this weekend, as well as some editing.  My Personal and Professional Editing class should be interesting. This week, we learned about Style Sheets (which I’d never heard of), so I’ll be grabbing that idea and running with it. If you’re interested in how editing has changed, our textbook is Editors on Editing (ed. by Gerald Gross), and the essays are pretty fascinating to me.

I started the new job Wednesday.  So far just basic stuff like safety videos, which is normal for the healthcare field, but I did go see my new clinic very briefly on Thursday.  “Wow” is all I can say.  It’s beautiful!

I’ve gotten a bit of writing on Siren Song done this morning, with more on the agenda for the day.  I think I can play in this world for a good long time, with loosely-related stories set in the Mystic World.  (At least, that’s what the Muse told me this morning.)  I’ve already revised two chapters of Witches today.  Mainly just a POV switch, with some thoughts for a deeper revision to come. I’ve started doing some reading for my editing class as well, and learned about style sheets:  the formal name for the set of notes I’ve been keeping on this story for years. Good to know.

Okay.  I’m off to get back to work on both stories again.

(I do not own this image.  Image belongs to Severn House.)

(I do not own this image. Image belongs to Severn House.)

J.M. Gregson is an English writer who taught for 27 years before moving to writing full-time. He writes about a variety of subjects, from golf to murder. His newest book, Skeleton Plot, is a Lambert and Hook Mystery, and hits shelves September 1st.

When a teenager helps his grandfather with the gardening, he finds a skull buried in the ground. An old skull. No one knows whom it belongs to, or if they do, they aren’t admitting to it. Now detectives John Lambert and Bert hook are investigating a cold case from 20 years ago.

In the small community where the skull is found, most people know everyone else, so it’s no surprise that everyone has a theory about who killed the victim. A lucky break identifies the remains, but doesn’t help narrow down the suspect list. The pair of detectives will have to see past the pointing fingers and festering animosities of bygone conflict if they are to figure out who’s responsible for the mysterious skull.

Skeleton Plot is the latest in a long line of Lambert and Hook books, but new readers will have no problem keeping up. The characters are distinctive and realistic, with all the drama common in small towns. This is a standard police drama that will feel comfortable to readers of this genre.

(Galley provided by Severn House via NetGalley.)

Recent Reads

I’ve been doing quite a few book reviews, since I usually get a bit behind with those during the semester. I’ve also started going through the plethora of e-books I got for free at some point. There are so many of those hanging out on my Kindle that it gets discouraging when I think about it.  Sure, some free e-books are worth about what I paid for them, but some of them are truly worthwhile finds.  The last two I’ve read have actually been really enjoyable.

Lulu’s Cafe, by T.I. Lowe:  Honestly, I enjoyed this book so much!  The main character, Leah, has been through a horrific, abusive relationship that she is desperate to escape from when she ends up in the small town of Rivertown.  She’s taken in by Lulu, who recognizes a woman in need of healing, but Southern gentleman Crowley is not so easily convinced. Leah’s journey is wrenching, but life in Rivertown is so enchanting that I wanted to move there!

Embers, by Karen Ann Hopkins:  I do read a lot of YA paranormal, but this one was different, and I enjoyed it so much.  I had a few personal issues with the mythos here, but I liked the characters a lot.  The setting was a totally different choice for a paranormal, too, and that made it really refreshing.

(I do not own this image.  Image belongs to Disney Press.)

(I do not own this image. Image belongs to Disney Press.)

Liz Braswell was born in England but now lives in New England. She produced video games for a decade, but now writes full-time. She used to write adult horror stories, but now writes young adult books (not horror). Her newest book, A Whole New World, is a re-imagined fairy tale and hits shelves September 1st.

Most people know the story: Aladdin is a street rat in the city of Agrabah, living on the streets and stealing food to get by. He meets the—disguised—Princess Jasmine and rescues her, but gets captured by the guards and thrown in the dungeon. While there, a mysterious old man makes a deal with him: he’ll get Aladdin out of prison if Aladdin will dare the Cave of Treasures to bring him the lamp. A double-cross ensues from the old man, really the evil Jafar in disguise, and Aladdin ends up with the lamp and the genie, and wants to become a prince so he can marry Jasmine.

That’s not what happens in A Whole New World. Aladdin lives in an Agrabah wracked by poverty, starvation, and despair. When he meets Jasmine and is thrown in the dungeon, he agrees to bring the old man the lamp in exchange for his freedom. Aladdin procures the lamp, but the man abandons him in the cave. When Aladdin frees himself, he discovers that Jafar is now the most powerful sorcerer in the world, and rules Agrabah.

Desperate to make the people and Jasmine love him, Jafar’s grip on the city tightens, aided by monstrous magical creatures. Jasmine must lead the people in rebellion to try to free them from Jafar’s tyranny.

A Whole New World is not the Disney tale readers remember, but it contains elements of it. This tale shows the true story of life in Agrabah, and what could have happened, in a world where the good guy doesn’t necessarily win.

(Galley provided by Disney Press via NetGalley.)

I do not own this image.  Image courtesy of Life on Michigan Ave.)

(I do not own this image. Image courtesy of Life on Michigan Ave.)

I’m pretty sure I can’t be the only person out there looking for ways to stay inspired.  Naturally, while “researching” this topic, I hopped on Pinterest and found this list.  (Seriously, Pinterest has the best pictures that my Muse likes to play with.  I have a board entitled “Inspire Me: Toys for the Muse” where I collect them.)  This list obviously isn’t a picture, but it has some great ideas.  I’m fond of numbers 1, 5, 6, 9, 10, 14, 15, 18, 19, 22, 26, and 27.  What about you?

(I do not own this image.  Image belongs to GPK Publication LLC.)

(I do not own this image. Image belongs to GPK Publication LLC.)

Mary Karlik is a native Texan with an MFA. Though she lives in New Mexico now, her heart still belongs to Texas. Her book Hickville Confessions is the second book in the Hickville High series.

Ryan Quinn is new to small town life. She wants a fresh start, far from the darkness of her past, and will do anything to get it. Including joining the conservative Purity Club, a far cry from her “old” self. However, when the members of the Purity Club discover her secret, their vicious attack leaves Ryan helpless.

Good thing Justin is there to rescue her. But Justin is everything Ryan thinks she needs to avoid, harboring secrets of his own. Justin is the only one who understands Ryan, and she needs that, as the secrets of her past threaten to surface. Justin’s own secrets terrorize him, and he’s not sure he can trust Ryan with them. Will the two of them be able to overcome the shame of their past to heal for the future?

Hickville Confessions is filled with difficult issues, but the characters face them with courage and strength, becoming an example to others. The book is not light reading, but the relationships between all of the characters make it a worthwhile experience. The setting captures all the good—as well as the bad—things about living in a small town.

I swear, lately, my brain just seems like it’s shut down.  I’m not even asking very much of it mentally, and it’s still like “Nope.  I’m done.”  The basic desire is for sleep.  Not mental exertion.  This is not a positive thing when classes start in just under two weeks.I barely watch TV, so that isn’t distracting me. Making myself read is even a challenge, sometimes.

Any suggestions for combating a mental slump?

(I do not own this image.  Image belongs to DarkFuse.)

(I do not own this image. Image belongs to DarkFuse.)

Craig Saunders is an English author who writes dark fiction and horror. His latest novel, Left to Darkness, hits shelves today.

“Death by meteor” is an epitaph that only a few people ever imagined, but now it is the future for the entire planet. A meteor is coming. Large enough for catastrophic, world-ending destruction. And even knowing about it in advance doesn’t give humanity any chance of escape. But the end of the world takes an unexpected turn. Darkness holds sway, with cannibalistic cult members wearing barbed wire crowns, led by their king, James Finley. Not to mention sadistic siblings Sid and Silvia.

Paul Deacon is a long-time police officer who ends up blind after the meteor hits. Dawn Graves is a very pregnant woman whose husband was recently murdered. And Frank Liebowicz is a hit man out for revenge. Dawn is desperate to find a safe place to have her baby. Paul needs help to survive. Frank is gravely injured but still looking to defeat his enemy. The three must survive the end of the world and avoid the Little Kings if they are to reach safety and security. But they don’t realize that the cult is after Dawn’s baby, and will allow nothing—or no one—to stand in their way.

Left to Darkness is a dark, disturbing novel about the end of the world and the evil that results. Graphic violence shares space with a fight for survival in this novel filled with unexpected heroes facing a menace with a thirst for cruelty.

(Galley provided by DarkFuse via NetGalley.)

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