Category: Uncategorized

Sundays are for Writing #19

It’s hard to believe we’re 19 weeks into 2019. Time is flying. I wish I could say it’s because I’m having so much fun, but that’s not exactly true. More like it’s flying because I’m so busy.

My schedule was a bit different this week. I was off on Monday to recover from a race, so I got in two writing sessions that day, one on Tuesday, and three on Thursday to hit my word count goal for the week. I also outlined five scenes and completed two lessons in my writing class this week.

I’m feeling a bit restless and unhappy with this manuscript right now, so I’m trying to push through and get to my happy place again. I start my Directed Project on Tuesday, which is a sort of internship. I’m re-designing a blog for a local faith-based nonprofit. This will make my schedule even crazier, so we’ll see how the writing fares.

Happy writing!

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What I Read in April (2019)

Books Read in April:  18

Books Read for the Year: 67/175

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

That Hideous Strength, by C.S. Lewis (classic). While I enjoyed the first two books in The Space Trilogy, this was a bit too much talking-heads to me. Or maybe I just wasn’t paying close enough attention.

I Declare War: Four Keys to Winning the Battle with Yourself, by Levi Lusko (spiritual). After hearing him speak last month, I was excited to read this book about beating the bad habits you don’t want to do anymore.

The Lost Girls of Paris, by Pam Jenoff (cultural). This is about female spies during WWII, and what happened to them.

Girl, Stop Apologizing, by Rachel Hollis (nonfiction). I love Hollis’ voice!

Two Princes of Summer, by Nissa Leder (from the TBR pile). Please see the “Left Unfinished” section.

For Review:

the girl he used to know

The Girl He Used to Know, by Tracey Garvis Graves. Ten years ago, Annika Rose and Jonathan had a relationship. But Annika isn’t like other people. She doesn’t like people, and she doesn’t know how to talk to them or how to interpret what they mean. Now that she’s run into Jonathan again, can she show him she’s different than she used to be? This is a solid read from the viewpoint of a character that looks at the world so differently…and knows it.

the devouring gray

The Devouring Grey, by Christine Lynn Herman. I thoroughly enjoyed this dark—very dark—modern YA fantasy. Everybody in this book has issues. Serious issues. And mysteries and secrets abound.

little lovely things

Little Lovely Things, by Maureen Joyce Connolly. Not for the faint of heart or anyone who is disturbed by violence involving children. Claire is driving her two children to daycare when she is overcome by sickness and has to pull into a gas station. She wakes up later on the floor of the bathroom…with her car and her daughters gone. The police have no clues, but Claire is convinced her daughters are alive…but the tragedy may destroy everything in her life. Emotional read.

15 wonders

The Fifteen Wonders of Daniel Green, by Erica Boyce. When a dying farmer pays a secret group to make a crop circle and bring attention to a dying farm town, the artist finds himself drawn into the family’s lives. This was an interesting, rather magical read.

the mother-in-law

The Mother-in-law, by Sally Hepworth. Why does the mother-in-law always have to be the villain? Well…Lucy and Diana never got along, but now Diana is dead, and Lucy—and the rest of the family—is a suspect.

redwoods and whales

Redwoods and Whales, by Phil Joel. Loved this read about stepping into the identity God has for you, and looking at life for yourself, not the way everyone else does.

brief chronicles

Brief Chronicles of Another Stupid Heartbreak, by Adi Alsaid. When Lu’s boyfriend breaks up with her, writer’s block sets in for the relationship journalist, and she’s on the verge of losing her scholarship. Then she meets Cal and Iris, who plan to end their relationship at the end of summer, and is fascinated, and determined to write about them, slowly finding herself drawn into their dynamics.

a pack of blood and lies

A Pack of Blood and Lies, by Olivia Wildenstein. This is a solid read about an all-male pack of werewolves, and the girl who dares to challenge the status quo.

one summer in paris

One Summer in Paris, by Sarah Morgan. Grace intends to surprise her husband with a trip to Paris for their 25th anniversary. Instead, he wants a divorce, so she goes to Paris alone, lost in memories of the past. She meets Audrey, on her own for the first time, and keeping secrets about her family as she refuses to let anyone close. The friendship between Grace and Audrey teaches them both important lessons. I’ve never had any desire to visit Paris, but this book made me reconsider. A wonderful read!

Getting Hot with the Scot

Getting Hot with the Scot, by Melonie Johnson.  On the trip of a lifetime, Cassie meets a hot Scottish Highlander in a kilt and soon finds herself in more than a one-night-stand.

belly up

Belly Up,  by Eva Darrows. An unexpected pregnancy at 16 changes Serendipity’s whole life and brings people into her life she can’t imagine being without. Love the friendships in this book.

only ever her

Only Ever Her, by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen (review forthcoming). The small-town feel of this is spot-on, but I found most of the characters disagreeable at best, and didn’t really care why Annie had gone missing.

Romanov

Romanov, by Nadine Brandes (review forthcoming). This fictionalized tale of Anastasia Romanov and her family was completely engrossing, and I highly recommend it.

Just Because:

rosie's traveling tea shop

Rosie’s Traveling Tea Shop, by Rebecca Raisin. Can we talk about how much I love this book? SO. MUCH.

Left Unfinished:

two princes of summer

Two Princes of Summer, by Nissa Leder. Beautiful cover that definitely made me want to read this. But…I quit at the 20% mark. Scarlett’s mother committed suicide, and now she’s grieving. Believable. Mentioning how everyone—including her—thought her mother was crazy for seeing things over and over and over…makes the impact completely disappear. Scarlett, while drunk, goes into another realm with Cade, whom she basically doesn’t know…and doesn’t even question this decision. And Cade is a little rape-y for my taste, thank you very much. Raith was moderately interesting, but not enough to make me continue reading. Thanks, but no thanks.

Tinfoil Crowns, by Erin Jones. The MC was just entirely to self-obsessed for me. I read about 10%, but I couldn’t put up with her narcissism anymore.

 

Sundays are for Writing #16

I did get in three writing days this week, meeting my goal of 2,250 words. I’m happy with that, but so far, as of Saturday around noonish, I have not done any scene outlines or writing lessons.

I dohave that planned for Sunday morning, though, so we’ll see how that works out. I really need some kind of plot for this story…

Book Review: Between the Lies, by Michelle Adams

between the lies
Image belongs to St.Martin’s Press.

Title:  Between the Lies
Author:  Michelle Adams
Genre:  Thriller/mystery
Rating:  3 out of 5

Chloe Daniels wakes up in the hospital with no idea how she got there, who she is, o what happened to her. She doesn’t recognize the strangers who call themselves her family, and she desperately wants to find out who she is.

As Chloe starts working to recover, some things just don’t make sense, and she realizes her family is keeping secrets from her. Life-shattering secrets. About her life. Her past. And what really happened the night of the car wreck.

Chloe’s family is horrible, frankly, and they made this novel difficult to read because I disliked them so much. I had trouble relating to Chloe as well, but she’s lost all memories of herself, so that’s a bit understandable. This is a pretty bleak read, but it does have a lot of secrets in it.

Michele Adams was born in the U.K., but now lives in Cyprus. Between the Lies is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Warrior Maiden, by Melanie Dickerson

 

the warrior maiden
Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:  The Warrior Maiden
Author:  Melanie Dickerson
Genre:  YA, fantasy
Rating:  3.7 out of 5

Mulan doesn’t want to stay home and marry the butcher’s son, but with her father dead, there aren’t many options for her and her mother. Rather than waste her life tied to a man she doesn’t love, she disguises herself as a soldier and goes off to war to protect her liege lord’s castle.

Wolfgang, a duke’s son, is eager to fight against the rampaging Teutonic Knights, but his brother, still bitter from a childhood tragedy, defects to join the Knights, leaving Wolfgang to fight his battles alone. Until he meets the young soldier Mikolai, who is inexperience but brave, and the two form a formidable team.

But there’s something that doesn’t quite add up about Mikolai, and when the boy is injured, Wolfgang realizes he’s really a girl—Mulan. She is still determined to be a soldier and to keep her mother safe, but Wolfgang just wants to protect her—and make a future for them together.

I love the Disney Mulan, and I love a good re-telling, so I was eager to read this. The story itself was solid and enjoyable, but I never did feel close to the characters. All of their emotions and motivations felt distant, and unconvincing because of it. I’m actually interested in reading more of these re-tellings from this author—I do love Disney—because she has a solid following and I’m hopeful this book just wasn’t a good fit for me.

Melanie Dickerson combines her love for history, adventure, and romance in her writing. The Warrior Maiden is her newest novel, a re-telling of Mulan.

(Galley courtesy of Thomas Nelson via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

 

 

What I Read in December (2018)

Books Read in December:  18

Books Read for the Year: 192/150

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

Olivia Twist (from the TBR pile). I thought this was a great twist on a classic!

The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis (spiritual). I’ve heard good things about this for years, and it was definitely an interesting perspective.

The Tuscan Child (cultural). Loved this tale, told by alternating characters in two different decades.

Out of the Silent Planet, by C.S. Lewis. This was an interesting read.

For Review:

fire & heist

Fire & Heist, by Sarah Beth Durst. This is about wyvern society, and girl whose family was disgraced because her mother failed in an attempted heist, then disappeared. She’s desperate to find her mother, so she plans her own heist—and uncovers secrets about wyvern origins. A decent read, but I’d place it more towards middle grade than YA.

once a king

Once a King, by Erin Summerill. I loved this book, about countries divided by years of hatred, and a girl who must work with the new king to solve the mystery of the drug trade that’s killing people. The worldbuilding is fantastic here, and I loved the characters as well.

the iron flower

The Iron Flower, by Laurie Forest. Another fantastic read, about Elloren, granddaughter of a murderess and part of the horrible Gardnerians, who are intent on destroying all other races. Elloren wants to help save her friends and stop the looming war and violence, but even the forest is calling her the Black Witch…and she has no power. An excellent read!

the queen's wing

The Queen’s Wing, by Jessica Thorne. At first, this seemed just on the edge of cheesy scifi, but I grew to like the characters, even if there were a lot of different things thrown in here (spaceships, swords, cyborgs, aliens, space travel…).

deadfall

Deadfall, by Stephen Wallenfels. Two brothers, whose father was an abusive drunk with ties to the underworld, end up fostering with a wealthy politician who’s hiding dark secrets of his own. This was dark, but I enjoyed the intertwined timelines.

what you hide

What You Hide, by Natalie D. Richards. A book about very heavy subjects:  abuse and homelessness, but a very hopeful book all the same. I do recommend this tale of Mallory, who’s terrified of her abusive stepfather and runs away. She ends up hiding in the library at night while she searches for a solution, where she meets Spencer, son of a wealthy family, searching for his own truth.

AccidentalBeautyQueen-2-610x947

The Accidental Beauty Queen, by Teri Wilson. Confession: I’m from Texas, and this book is pretty spot-on with the whole pageant-mom scene. I think my mom put me in one when I was like 3, but I’ve only seen pictures, no actual memories. I enjoyed this light read about Charlotte (she is ME, y’all!) who finds herself taking her twin sister’s place in a beauty pageant after her sister has an allergic reaction. I loved how this book actually skipped the typical beauty pageant contestant tropes, and the romance was sweet, too. Perfect for a weekend spent reading.

wicked saints

Wicked Saints, by Emily A. Duncan (review forthcoming). This one isn’t published for a few months, but I should have an author interview closer to release date, so I needed to do my homework.. I enjoyed this read, complex cultures clashing in a religious war, and I wasn’t expecting the ending at all.

the similars

The Similars, by Rebecca Hanover (review forthcoming). This near-future story blends attempted murder, clones, and a bit of romance and mystery into an intriguing read.

the me i meant to be

The Me I Meant to Be, by Sophie Jordan (review forthcoming). I enjoyed this light read  that explores what happens when love and friendship collide.

Just Because

The Black Witch, by Laurie Forest. This is actually the first book in The Black Witch series, but I read them out of order. I loved how much Elloren grew in this novel! Her eyes were truly opened to the truth of her world.

Lady Midnight and Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare. I read the first book when it came out, then forgot it entirely…AND misplaced the second one, when it came out. So, I finally re-read the first and read the second. I love this world, and these books.

Cozy Minimalist Home, by Myquillyn Smith. Can I tell you how much I loved the pictures in this book? I worked my way through this one, and am starting to implement some of the ideas here in my quest to live more simply.

 

What I Read in September (2018).

Books Read in September: 14

Books Read for the Year: 134/150

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

The Darkest Minds, by Alexandra Bracken (from the TBR pile). I actually didn’t know they were making a movie out of this when I got it, so I was a little surprised when I saw the trailer. This was way better than I thought it would be. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and the ending was both appropriate and painful. I’ve already purchased the second one.

My Antonia, by Willa Cather (classic). Why haven’t I read this before? It was a good read, and I wasn’t expecting it to be.

The Storyteller’s Secret, by Sejal Badanai (cultural). I have no words for how good this was. Go read it!

Beautiful Lies, by Jennifer Strickland (spiritual).

For Review:

the lantern's ember

The Lantern’s Ember, by Colleen Houck. This book was magical in a lot of ways, although I’d call it almost middle-grade as opposed to YA. I love steampunk, and I think this qualified. The tale of Jack, a Lantern tasked to guard the gateway to the Otherworld, and Ember, a witch desperate to venture there.

God Speaks

God Speaks Your Love Language, by Gary Chapman. I’ve never read The Five Love Languages (although I’ve now purchased it), but this was a wonderful read that I recommend.

warfare

Warfare: Winning the Spiritual Battle , by Tony Evans.  Tony Evans’ has a phenomenal voice (runs in the family, apparent;y, because so does his daughter) and this book is powerful, yet conversational in tone.

things I'd rather do than die

Things I’d Rather Do Than Die, by Christine Hurley Deriso.  Being held at gunpoint and locked in a gym is bound to change your perspective on life, so when total opposites Jade and Ethan go through it, they feel connected. Except Ethan is a star athlete and a Christian, and Jade is an agnostic who abhors the whole high school experience.

I do not trust you

I Do Not Trust You, by Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz. When Memphis realizes someone is following her, she takes him by surprise and meets Ash, a member of an ancient cult who needs her help to solve a centuries-old riddle and keep the icons of his god from falling into the wrong hands.

confessions

Confessions of a Teenage Leper, by Ashley Little. Abby is a popular cheerleader when her world comes crashing down around her when she’s diagnosed with leprosy. Soon she’s undergoing treatment and realizes what a horrible person she was in the past.

the tomb

The Tomb, by S.A. Bodeen.  Kiva grew up in ancient Alexandria. She was best friends with the prince, until he disappeared from her life three years ago. Now his first words to her are “Nothing is as it seems.” Kiva has no idea just how true those words are, until she wakes up in space.

after the fire

After the Fire, by Will Hill. Moonbeam grew up in a cult she thought was the only truth…until she realized it wasn’t. Now, after the fire, she relives what happened to her there—and how it all came crashing down. Fantastic read!

Under-My-Skin-768x1160

Under My Skin, by Lisa Unger. Poppy’s husband was murdered a year ago. Now Poppy is losing time and doesn’t know what is real and what is not. She just wants to find out what happened to Jack. A twisty, memorable psychological thriller.

For School:

Telling the Truth, by Fredrick Buechner.

 

 

What I read in May (2018)

Books Read in May: 16

Books Read for the Year: 72/150

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

Man, Myth, Messiah:  Answering History’s Greatest Question, by Rice Broocks (spiritual book). I’ve really enjoyed Broocks’ in-depth and detailed look into the arguments for the existence of God and of Jesus as the Son of God. If you have questions, these books are detailed answers.

Made to Crave, by Lisa TerKeurst (spiritual book). As someone who struggles with eating healthy, this book spoke to me on a lot of levels.

Stillhouse Lake, by Rachel Caine (from the TBR stash). I’ve read—and loved—pretty much everything Rachel Caine has written, so I don’t know why this languished on my Kindle for so long. Very creepy thriller about a woman who finds out her husband is a serial killer, and then spends her life running from the people who hate and blame her and threaten her children. This book left me pretty disgusted with people, I gotta say.

The Question of Red, by Laksmi Pamuntjak (cultural book of the month). I’m not sure what to say about this novel, set in Indonesia in the 1960s and the 2000s. It’s a tale of love and loss amidst a cultural revolution, and I found it quite sad, but very good.

The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood (classic). I know this isn’t technically a classic, but I’ve heard so much about it, plus the Chaucer reference in the title, and the style of the novel made it feel like one. And…I was completely underwhelmed.

For Review:

paper-ghosts-400h

Paper Ghosts, by Julia Heaberlin. A thriller about a girl ready to find out the truth behind her sister’s disappearance years ago. The man she thinks killed her sister now has dementia, so she convinces him she’s his daughter and takes him on a road trip to jog his memory. But does he really have no memories of the crimes he’s suspected of?

the stars at oktober bend

The Stars at Oktober Bend, by Glenda Millard. Alice’s electrics don’t work right, as a result of a traumatic brain injury, but she writes poetry and struggles to get beyond the “forever 12” perception even her family has of her. As she struggles to unravel the secrets of her past, she meets Manny, running from his own past, but hearing the words Alice doesn’t even speak. A fantastic, emotional read!

 

Elektra’s Adventure’s in Tragedy, by Douglas Rees. When Elektra’s parents decide to divorce, she ends up in a tiny town in California with her mom and sister and an eclectic bunch of neighbors. Her only wish is to go back to Mississippi with her father, but Elektra realizes there’s much more going on in life than she ever thought. I enjoyed a YA without a strong romantic plot (or subplot, for that matter), and Elektra is an intriguing, determined character.

the girl and the grove

The Girl and the Grove, by Eric Smith. I wanted to love this tale of magic, family, race, and the saving the environment, but the uneven characters made this a less-than-satisfying read.

the way you make me feel

The Way You Make Me Feel, by Maurene Goo. I loved everything about this book! Clara is the class clown and troublemaker, but when one over-the-top prank lands her in hot water, she ends up working in her dad’s food truck for the summer, with her arch enemy, Rose. Clara’s snarkiness and attitude kept me laughing, but her growth over the course of this book had me flipping pages to finish this book in one sitting.

the crossing

The Crossing, by Jason Mott.  This dystopian tale of a twin brother and sister who have only each other to rely on in a world where older people are just quietly falling asleep and never waking up sounded fantastic. But…Virginia, who remembers everything really annoyed me. She thought she was smarter than everyone else, and she was just unlikable.

how to walk away

How to Walk Away, by Katherine Center. Loved this story about Margaret, who has her dream job and her dream fiance when a plane crash leaves her paralyzed. As she struggles to heal, a grumpy physical therapist shows her the way through her pain and sadness. Fantastic read!

FuryBorn_final_111417_tagline-683x1024

Furyborn, by Claire Legrand. This is a story of two queens, a thousand years apart; one of them desperate to keep her best friend safe, the other desperate to find her missing mother. Both of them have magic they’re hiding from the world, and a darkness they are fighting inside.

cityofbastards

City of Bastards, by Andrew Shvarts (review forthcoming). I hadn’t read the first Royal bastards book, but that really didn’t matter. I loved the voice in this, and the characters are absolutely fascinating, even if I didn’t like the culture (totally agree with the title on this one).

neanderthal

Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe, by Preston Norton. I LOVED this! Cliff, known as Neanderthal by his crappy classmates because of his 6-foot-five-inches and 250-pound-physique just struggles to get through the days since his brother’s suicide a year ago. Then Aaron, superstar jock and total jerk has an epiphany from God—he must change certain things at their school, and he needs Cliff’s help to do it—and the two become friends. Cliff’s voice is hilarious! I don’t normally prefer male narrators, but I loved Cliff from the beginning. The supporting characters are just as quirky and likeable as he is.

Us Against You, by Fredrik Backman (review forthcoming). I loved Beartown, and I loved this follow-up just as much! I was invested in the hockey team…and I couldn’t care less about hockey in real life! The characters here are so richly detailed, that I was glued to the page to see what would happen..and which of them would die.

Left Unfinished:

Anger is a Gift, by Mark Oshiro. I wanted to like this. The diverse cast was promising…until everyone who wasn’t diverse—i.e. straight, Caucasian, traditional values—were judged and ridiculed by the main characters. I also did not appreciate that all cops were presented as bad people who abuse their power. I refuse to read a book where any group of people is judged entirely on the actions of a few. I only read about 15% before discarding this.

Blood Will Out, by Jo Treggiari. I read 25% of this. Billed as a YA thriller, I couldn’t even make myself care if the characters lived or died. Way too much distance from them, and they were too erratic for me.

Linking up with Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy for Quick Lit.

Book Review: The Stars at Oktober Bend, by Glenda Millard

the stars at oktober bend
Image belongs to Candlewick Press.

Title:  The Stars at Oktober Bend
Author:   Glenda Millard
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Alice is fifteen but to everyone else, she is forever twelve:  she has acquired brain injury as the result of an assault she can’t remember, and now her electrics don’t work. She can speak, but her words don’t always come out right. Instead, she writes poetry; beautiful, haunting, anonymous poetry that she leaves all over town, hoping that someday, someone will read her words.

Alice lives with her brother, Joey, and her grandmother, in a house that’s mostly hidden from the rest of the world. Alice doesn’t go to school. Instead, she writes, ties fishing flies, and takes care of her grandmother. Her family is her world, and she wants things to stay the same forever.

Then Alice meets Manny, a boy who reads her poems and wants to hear her speak. Manny was forced to become a boy soldier, and he still suffers from PTSD. In Alice he finds comfort. But not everyone in town wants Alice, her family, or Manny to be happy, and as Alice finds out more of the truth surrounding her life, she will be faced with her greatest fears.

I’m not a fan of stream-of-consciousness writing, nor with lack of proper punctuation or capitalization. The parts of this novel from Alice’s point-of-view employed this, and I initially considered not finishing this. However, I got so drawn into Alice’s tale that I stopped noticing these things—they absolutely made sense for Alice, and by the end of the book, I had forgotten they existed.

This is a book with a lot of sadness, but there is joy and hope as well. I found this very lyrical and compelling, and Alice and her family broke my heart, as did Manny and his story. The other people in town were infuriating, but typical for society, making this a highly believable book to read (even if it made me angry). A very good read, and one I highly recommend.

Glenda Millard is an award-winning author from Australia. The Stars at Oktober Bend is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Candlewick Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Anatomy of a Scandal, by Sarah Vaughan

anatomy of a scandal
Image belongs to Atria Books.

Sophie has been married to James for years. He’s a successful public figure. She stays at home and cares for their two children. On the outside, they live a charmed life, as part of Britain’s elite society.

Until James is accused of a horrible crime.

Sophie has protected James since college, and is determined to stand by his side as he faces the lies hurled at him now. Then Sophie realizes James’ story doesn’t quite add up, leaving her to question her husband’s version of the truth.

Kate is the lawyer prosecuting James. She knows the only way to win a case is to win the argument. And Kate is determined to win this argument. She believes James is guilty, believes it with knowledge born of experience, and she will stop at nothing to make the truth known.

Anatomy of a Scandal is told in alternating viewpoints and times, with the present-day storyline entwined with the relevant events from college. I have to be honest:  while I felt sorry for Sophie and Kate both, I didn’t actually like any of the characters in this novel. James is horrible: elitist, privileged, arrogant. I knew I wouldn’t like him. But I expected to feel more than sympathy for the female characters. The unfolding of the trial and the college-era timeline was very well-done, but my dislike of the characters colored my perceptions of the book. This is definitely a personal preference, and not an indicator of the book itself.

Sarah Vaughan is a former journalist who now writes fiction. Anatomy of a Scandal is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Atria Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)