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Book Review: The Book Charmer, by Karen Hawkins

the book charmer
Image belongs to Gallery Books.

Title:   The Book Charmer
Author:   Karen Hawkins
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   5 out of 5

Legend has it that when the Dove family has seven daughters, something special happens. Sarah Dove is that seventh daughter, and since she was seven years old, books have whispered to her. They tell her which person in town needs them—and the books are always  right. So when a cranky old book tells Sarah who is going to save Dove Pond, she listens.

Grace Wheeler moved to Dove Pond because dementia is encroaching on her beloved mother, and she hopes that returning to her mother’s hometown might slow its progress. She also has her niece to care for and giving up her high-powered financial job to move to a small town and take care of family wasn’t in Grace’s plans.

The town of Dove Pond is in trouble, and Grace may be the only one who can save it. But she’ll need the help of Sarah, Travis—her gruff neighbor—and everyone else in Dove Pond if she’s to pull it off.

I loved this book! I grew up in a small town (much smaller than Dove Pond) and have always been grateful that I no longer live there, but I’d move to Dove Pond. The town is such a character in this story. Its people are vibrant and quirky, and I wanted to hang out with all of them. Especially Sarah. As much as I love books and reading, she’s someone I could absolutely be friends with. And Grace is so strong. She’s like a force of nature. I cannot wait to read more of this series! This is labeled as romance, but that’s a secondary plot here, as the book is much more about friendship, family, and saving Dove Pond.

Karen Hawkins is a bestselling author. The Book Charmer, the first book in the Dove Pond series, is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Gallery Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Still Eyeball-Deep…

…in revisions on the werewolf story, but I think I’m making progress. Well, I feel like I’m making progress, anyway. Still loving this story, and the characters, even as I’m modifying them a bit. I’m getting close to the parts that will have to be totally-rewritten, which is something of a daunting idea, but I’m still excited about it.

The angel story is coming along well, too. Finished up the focus outline, and Muse tossed me some neat bits to help thicken the plot. Little things, but I think they’ll add a lot of depth and conflict, so I’m looking forward to adding them into the mix.

Apart from that, it’s SPRING here! Everything is beautiful and blooming, and the sun is shining. I get spring fever and want to spend lots of time outdoors. Not exactly conducive to getting a lot of writing done…

The Shifter

I’ve only read one book this week. Too busy with everything else—real life was a real you-know-what this week—for me to have any time to read anything at all, much less anything for pleasure. However, I did read The Shifter, by Janice Hardy.

From her website: Fifteen-year-old Nya is an orphan struggling for survival in a city crippled by war. She is also a Taker—with her touch, she can heal injuries, pulling pain from another person and storing it inside her own body. But unlike her sister Tali and the other Takers who become Healer’s league apprentices, Nya’s skill is flawed: she can’t push that pain into pynvium, the enchanted metal used to store person to person, a dangerous skill that she must keep hidden from forces occupying her city. If discovered, she’d be used as a human weapon against her own people. Rumors of another war make Nya’s life harder, forcing her to take desperate risks just to find work and food. She pushes her luck too far and exposes her secret to a pain merchant eager to use her shifting ability for his own sinister purpose. At first, Nya refuses, but faced with some difficult choices. As her father used to say, principles are a bargain at any price, but how many will Nya have to sell to get Tali back alive?

From the moment this book opened—with Nya caught red-handed while stealing eggs—I was drawn into the story, completely hooked. The magic system, Healers who can take and transfer pain from injuries, was fresh and new to me, and I immediately sympathized with Nya’s need to keep her true abilities hidden, as well as her urge to protect her sister. Her struggle for survival in her war-riddled home was vividly done, and even the secondary characters felt real. This book was fast-paced and kept me turning pages long after I should have been asleep. Definitely a good read, and I recommend it.

And So It Begins

After almost four months of blood, sweat, and tears with the HTRYN class, the real work has finally begun: the actual, hands-on revision. (Cue butterflies in the stomach. Big ones.) I almost had a panic attack before starting, but eventually I calmed down and got a grip. The first scene was technically a new scene—it was one I lost in the computer mishap—so I had to re-write it, as well as the second scene. I’m pretty happy with how they turned out, though.

I’m not trying to get too ambitious, but I’d like to have this revision pass done in four weeks. Not entirely unreasonable, considering there’s about 125 scenes. Some of them (a few), will only require minor work, but there are a lot of new scenes to be written—including the chunk at the end that I lost.

Judging from the marked-up pages I’ve already been through, I don’t think I’m going to have any “perfect” pages (ones that don’t need any changes). Stressful and intimidating, but at least it has begun.

Found: My New Favorite Author

That would be Maggie Stiefvater, by the way. Her two books, Lament and Shiver were part of my recent Amazon binge. And wow, am I glad I binged! (Trust me, that’s probably the only time you’ll ever hear THAT phrase come out of my mouth.) I read these two books this week, and loved, loved, loved them both! They were completely awesome, but if you’re looking for light, frivolous fiction, you won’t find that here. These books are darker, edger, and completely addictive (Sort of like good dark chocolate. Mmmm.)

I read Lament, the first of the Books of Faerie, first.

From Maggie’s website:

Deirdre, a gifted musician, finds herself infatuated with Luke, a mysterious boy who enters her life, at the same time she discovers she’s a Cloverhand—one who can see faeries. Trouble is, Luke is a faerie assassin—and Deirdre is meant to be his next mark.

So, I was completely entranced from the opening scene, when Deirdre is on her way to a musical competition, and she’s so nervous she has to immediately run to the bathroom to throw up (As usual), except that this time, Luke, the boy from her dreams, is there to help her (Not so usual.) Completely, utterly entranced. I loved the characters in this book. Even the minor ones are well-done and vivid, and I found myself actively disliking Deidre’s mom. As for her aunt, well, “dislike” isn’t quite a strong enough word. I read this in less than a day, desperate to find out what happened to Deidre and Luke, and how it was all going to go down. And, hello, evil faeries are pretty dang cool, too! (Although I have to admit, I prefer my faeries a little more…nice, I suppose. Like the Disney version, but not Tinkerbell. More like Legolas in LOTR. Okay, now I’m really digressing. Back on-subject.) Great book. When I finished it, I immediately went through my TBR pile hoping that I’d gotten the second book in the series, Ballad, so I could find out what happened next. Alas, I had not.

However, I had bought Shiver, which turned out to be a completely new take on werewolves–and not one I was sure I was going to like at first. Turns out I did. A lot. This is the first in the Wolves of Mercy Falls books. (The second one, Linger, comes out in July, the third, Forever, comes out in July of 2011.)

From Maggie’s site:

For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf—her wolf—is a chilling presence she can’t seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl.

Grace and Sam are wonderful characters. This book is dark–at least I thought so–full of a sense of futility and inevitability that had me almost in tears a lot of the time. Grace is something of an outsider, obsessed with the wolves, which no one understands. Sam is different than the other wolves. He’s wolf, but he wants so badly to be human and have a human life. The story is told from both their viewpoints, and I have to admit, I’m HORRIBLE at paying attention to chapter headings, so this was occasionally confusing to me as I had to stop and check who I was with a few times. I loved this book. At first, I was a little unsure, but I got so into it and the cold that haunts its pages that it was almost a shock when I finished reading it and went outside into the 70 degree spring weather. If Linger was out now, I’d be happily reading it right this second. Sadly, it isn’t. But as soon as it is…It’s mine.

Nothing To See Here; Move Along

I don’t have any startling revelations to report this week, sadly. The writing is going well. The revisions on Tempest are still going, although this week is kind of a slog through murky waters dealing with setting details. I’m getting the final things in order to begin the actual revision pass through the werewolf story, which starts next week. I’m a little nervous about that. I hope I can actually get the vision I have for this story, the vision that’s grown stronger with this class, down on paper and do it justice.

Let’s see, what else has been going on? I went to the Fairgrounds racetrack on Saturday to see 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra race. There were an estimated 12,000 people there, and it was a beautiful spring day, if a little bit windy. Sadly, Rachel got beaten, although it was a good race, and fun to watch. It was an interesting experience. I’ve never seen people holding up signs at a horse race before, and the track is always a good place to go for people watching. People will wear anything out there, and it cracks me up. Seriously, would you wear 4-inch stilettos if you knew you were going to be tramping around on concrete for 5 hours? Not me. I’d trip and break my neck. But it proved quite entertaining.

And…that’s pretty much it for me for now. I’ve two crits to work on for my crit group, along with various other odds and ends to keep me on-track for my goals for the year. Other than that, it’s all good.


Have you ever had one of those “AHA!” moments where something just clicks in your writing and everything just falls into place? I had one of those moments Sunday when I read the new HTRYN lesson. It was about time: flashbacks, flashforwards, etc. One of the exercises is to pick a scene and move it to the beginning and make it your opening scene.

I knew immediately which scene would work best as an opening, would create the most impact and conflict right off the bat. I felt like I’d been struck by lightening! I will definitely be moving this scene and opening the story with it, then I’ll go into more detail when I get to its proper place. I think opening with it will immediately draw the reader in and keep them hooked until they find out what’s going on.

So far, this lesson has clicked with me, and it definitely makes the top five best lessons I’ve learned from HTRYN. I think the class may be open again for enrollment, so if revision is something you struggle with, you should definitely check it out.


And not in a good way, either. I had a busy weekend, and I’m still struggling to get caught up. My to-do list is staring at me threateningly. My brain (or possibly my Muse) woke me up WAY early yesterday and today with a list of things I needed to be working on. And I have a lingering sense of guilt. All this means I haven’t been getting done what I need to get done.

The only thing going really well–and that I’m not behind on–is the writing. The “new” story is flying along pretty well, and I’m about 22k in, so it’s over a quarter of the way finished. This draft, anyway. Other than that…I’m behind.

Off to get some work done. I hope everyone else is being much more productive than I am lately.

Advantages Of Living In The South

When the forecast calls for the potential for snow (Or sleet, or a “wintry mix”), things shut down. Everything shuts down. The best part about that? My job actually cares about the safety of its employees, so they closed those of us in the “affected” area down for Friday. Which meant I had an unexpected–but very much welcome–day off. So I stayed home, and watched the record-breaking snowfall back home (the DFW area). It was beautiful, but I was glad I missed it. Meanwhile, all we got was rain. LOTS of rain. To the point that when I had to go outside, I was immensely grateful for my new rain boots, because there was at least three inches of water standing. Which would have been horrific if the temperature had dropped to the expected low and everything had actually frozen over (A lot of people said that was bound to happen, what with the Saints winning the Superbowl and all).

So instead of working on Friday, I got a lot of stuff done. I’m actually writing on the HTTS story. It’s going well so far. I’m working on revisions for the other three stories. The zombie story is coming along slowly, but surely. The werewolf story…Wow. The actual revision itself should be interesting. And the angel story…I find I’m very unhappy with the POV, but I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to do to fix it. For now, it’s enough for me to know that it IS an issue, and I CAN fix it. And I will. No matter how much work it entails.