Tag: music

Book Review: Return of the Song, by Phyllis Clark Nichols

returnofthesong
Image belongs to Gilead Publishing.

Title:   Return of the Song
Author:   Phyllis Clark Nichols
Genre:   Fiction, Christian
ating:   4.2 out of 5

Caroline Carlyle lost her fiancé six years ago and lost her music as well, at least the ability to finish the song she was writing for him. Now her days are a pleasant haze of piano lessons, church, and time spent with her neighbors. She doesn’t have the to heart to try anything new.

But change starts when Caroline hears someone playing her song—in her home—one night. The mystery of her stalker starts to stir things up, and soon Caroline is searching for her childhood piano, which leads her to Kentucky and a mysterious, reclusive gentleman. Change is coming—even if she’s not ready for it.

This was a calm, soothing read, with a vividly-realized setting and characters. It’s a quiet book, and one I enjoyed very much. I don’t know a lot about piano music, so some of the nuances were lost on me, but I loved every single page, and I was not expecting the resolution to the mystery of her stalker.

Phyllis Clark Nichols was born in Georgia during a hurricane. Return of the Song is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Gilead Publishing in exchange for an honest review.)

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Book Review: All the Wrong Chords, by Christine Hurley Deriso

all the wrong chords
Image belongs to Flux.

Scarlett Stiles has had a tough time since her brother died of a drug overdose, so she agrees—reluctantly—to spend the summer with her grandfather, who’s getting older and, according to Scarlett’s parents, needs help driving. Except Scarlett is the one who really needs help in that area, as a near-miss proves. Scarlett’s near-miss turns out to be Zach, a funny, thoughtful boy with a band in need of a guitar player.

Scarlett hasn’t played guitar since her brother died, but one look at the band’s hot lead singer, Declan, has her agreeing. Just once, Scarlett thinks she deserves the hot guy, so she pursues the attraction between herself and Declan. When conflict between Declan and the rest of the band comes to a boil, Scarlett is caught between what she thinks and what she feels, while she learns new things about herself and her brother.

All the Wrong Chords is, at heart, a light YA read with a heroine who is drawn to a boy that no one else can see good in. Scarlett isn’t a perfect character. She struggles with bad decisions, feelings of inadequacy, and a tendency to be selfish. In the midst of her grief over her brother, she fails to see the pain of those around her, which causes her to hurt people she cares about. This is a good read, full of emotion and some laughs. The secondary characters make this very worth reading, and the issues concerning drug abuse and being true to yourself lend a deeper tone to the story.

Christine Hurley Deriso loves words, so she became a writer. All the Wrong Chords is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Flux via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Watch the official book trailer here:

It Started with Goodbye, by Christina June

iswg-final-cover
Image belongs to Blink.

Christina June is a teacher who writes young adult contemporary fiction. It Started with Goodbye is her debut novel, out May 9th.

Tatum Elsea is not looking forward to summer. Accused of a crime—falsely—she’s under house-arrest with her less-than-loving stepmother while her father is out of the country. Tate is only allowed to be at home and her court-ordered community service, unless her stepmother approves it. Like that’s going to happen. So, Tatum starts a secret graphic design business, which leads to an email flirtation with a cello-playing client.

With her feisty step-grandmother in town, Tate starts to realize that maybe her way isn’t the only way, and soon she learns she’s not the only one in the family keeping secrets. Will Tate be able to use her new perspective to fix her relationship with her best friend and turn her family around? Then there’s the cello player…

I finished reading It Started with Goodbye in less than 24 hours. This is a fun, light read, but it delves into some deeper issues, like taking responsibility for your actions, healing relationships, and honesty. Tate grows a lot through the course of the book, and the author captures her growing pains vividly and emotionally, letting the reader see through Tate’s eyes and experience that awakening along with her. I loved how Tate’s relationship with her stepmother and stepsister evolved, and her step-grandmother is perfect; feisty and fun but not irresponsible. The email exchanges with the cello player are a cute finishing touch.

If you like young adult books, I highly recommend this one. It deals with some deep topics and isn’t just a fluffy romance.

(Galley provided by Blink via NetGalley.)

If Not for You, by Debbie Macomber

if not for you
Image belongs to Ballantine Books.

Debbie Macomber is a #1 New York Times best-selling author, and has written dozens of books in her career. She also loves to knit and help others, including her Knit 1, Bless 2 program. Debbie’s newest book is If Not for You, in the New Beginnings books, a series of stand-alone novels.

Beth Prudhomme loves her parents, but she’s had enough of her loving but domineering mother. So, Beth moves to Portland, near her Aunt Sunshine, a free-spirited artist. Beth gets the job she’s always dreamed of, as a high-school music teacher, and makes new friends, including Nichole and Rocco, who set up a blind date with Sam, a tattooed mechanic. Beth is reserved and proper, Sam is rough around the edges and unconventional:  the opposite of everything Beth’s mother wants for her.

After their awkward blind date, Beth and Sam leave, thinking themselves unscathed, but Beth is in a bad wreck, which Sam witnesses. He stays to comfort her, and finds himself drawn to her hospital room…and to Beth herself. Their attraction surprises them both, and they have many obstacles to overcome. Sam has the secrets of his past, and Beth her tendency to take trying to help a little too far. And then there’s her mother…

I loved A Girl’s Guide to Moving On, a previous book in the New Beginnings series, and some of those characters show up here, which I’ve always loved. The characters in this book really make it so worth reading. Beth is fighting a lifetime of habit and trying to forge a life of her own when calamity strikes. The she must deal with an injury as well as her own faults. And Sam has spent so many years hurting that he can’t imagine not hurting. As the two of them grow—together but separately as well—the reader is privileged to watch their choices change them.

(Galley provided by Ballantine Books.)

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Writing Inspiration: What Do You Use?

I’m not an expert or anything–well, I’ve been writing for around 15 years, so a semi-expert?–but I do have a few tips for when you need writing inspiration. Give them a try if you’re stuck, hopefully they’ll work for you.

Music. For me, it requires music without lyrics, so I don’t get distracted (although sometimes Enya works). YouTube is a good place to find new things that fit whatever you’re working on. If you go to the Music page, you can find songs grouped by genres, themes, or or even seasons. This could be really useful if you need a soundtrack to get in the heads of your character. (And I really have to start using music when I write again. Duh…).  Warning:  YouTube is distracting, so you can end up watching tutorials on obscure or impossible subjects if you’re not careful, eating your writing time.

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Pictures. Specifically, pictures of beautiful, magical places (if you’re wondering what to write about), or pictures of the place you’re writing about (if you already know). For Chasing Shadows, my story set in New Orleans, I looked at tons of pictures from the city. I also–since I lived nearby at the time–visited the areas I was writing about (Yeah, I know that sounds like a convenient excuse to spend time in the Big Easy. It was. Perhaps that book needs editing…). Pinterest is a good place to find awesome, inspiring pictures. I have several boards for this. Warning:  Pinterest can EAT YOUR LIFE, so you might want to set a timer or something to make sure you escape alive.

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Pay attention. Seriously. If you’re paying attention, you can find inspiration in the tiniest, most random things. My Muse loves to grab meaningless fragments and put them together. I can almost hear an audible click when this happens, and I know there’s a story idea brewing. This happened just a couple of weeks ago, working on my final essay for British Lit. I chose to re-write a scene from Morte Darthur from Guinevere’s POV. Boom! My Muse said “Hey wait, I’ve got an idea!” and suddenly my WIP isn’t quite enough to keep her occupied anymore, because she has a shiny new idea. (That will get written, I promise.) Just pay attention. Inspiration is like lightning. It strikes randomly.

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Any suggestions for getting or staying inspired?  I’d love to hear them!