Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

 I am about to get covered in cookie dough, glitter and wrapping paper. I will likely be buried in  Christmas books that my children want me read if I ever sit still.  I won't hear my networking and email notifications because the Christmas music will be blaring.  Towards evening I will be adding cake batter and frosting to the things I'm covered in because it will be time to bake our annual Happy Birthday Jesus cake ( and I will have some very enthusiastic helpers hence the messiness!) :)

Before all of this happens I just wanted to say:


"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

"For to you is born this day in the town of David a Savior, Who is Christ the Lord!" Luke 2:11

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Weekend Book Reviews Part 2

I didn't write any reviews during NaNo and then I got caught up in Christmas preparations so instead of doing one massive book review post I decided to break it up into two parts. 

On Thin Ice by P.J. Sharon
Genre: YA/Contemporary

First thoughts:  I was expecting a book that centered around ice skating so I was surprised to find it was hardly even a back drop to the story, just another element that was swirled in.

What it's about:   Penny loves figure skating but she doesn't like living up to her mother's dreams, not her own.  Her home life is stressful so when she finds the perfect guy she lets him think she is older than her seventeen years.  Trouble follows.

What I liked:  The story kept my interest even though it wasn't at all what I was expecting it to be.  

What I didn't like:  This story raced from one drama to the next.  I think it covered everything that could possible happen to a teenage girl.  It reminded me of the ABC family show "Secret Life of an American Teenager".  I was a bit overwhelmed.

Who I'd recommend it to:  I'd recommend it to older teens and adults that like non stop serious issues mixed with teen drama.

What I'd want to know as a parent:  This book deals with a lot of mature themes, cancer, rape, homosexuality, teen age pregnancy, eating disorders ect.

I received an ARC of this book for review purposes through NetGalley.

Where Courage Calls by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan

Genre: Christian/Historical

First thoughts: I grew up reading Janette Oke books.  Her Canadian West series was one of my favorites so I was excited to see she had a new one out.  This latest installment was everything I hoped it would be, sweet, inspiring and relaxing to read.

What it's about:  Beth Thatcher has grown up in a sheltered environment under the watchful eye of her mother.  When she takes a teaching position out west in a tiny mining town her horizons and her faith are stretched beyond what she was expecting.  

What I liked:  There are a lot of things to like about this book.  Beth changes from a rich sheltered girl to a woman of courage with a heart for others.  The setting was wonderful. I loved the town.  The people in it were unique and their struggles added depth to the story.  

What I didn't like:  There wasn't anything unexpected about this story.  In a way, that was good because it made it like the Janette Oke books I loved as a girl but part of me was hoping to be surprised.  

Who I'd recommend it to:  I think anyone who loves a very gentle and inspiring story with whispers of romance would love this book.

I received an ARC of this book to review from NetGalley.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Weekend Book Reviews

I'm trying something new with my book reviews, something with a bit more structure.  I'm also adding what my parental thoughts are if the book is intended for a YA or younger crowd as I'm realizing that how I feel about a story for myself and how I feel about handing it to my children are sometimes very different.

  Chasing Hope by Kathryn Cushman
Genre: Contemporary Christian

First thoughts:
When it comes to inspirational fiction I almost always prefer historical or fantasy stories.  That being said, I loved this book!  It is my favorite Christian contemporary to date.  

What it's about:
  Sabrina knew what God's plan for her life was from the time she was young.  She was going to be an Olympic runner and use her platform to reach others for Christ.  Life was going according to her plans until a tragic diagnosis stripped her of her dreams and possibly even her faith.   When Sabrina's path collides with a troubled teenage girl, she doesn't want to help her.  The girl, Brandy, has an incredible talent for running and Sabrina isn't sure if her heart handle seeing someone else have what she lost.

What I liked about it:
I think that the best part of this book was that it faced issues that are common but not often addressed in Christian literature.  A lot of books deal with salvation, faith and trusting God to direct your path.  This book had all of those things in it but it also dealt with Christians being judgmental to each other.  It is so important to know the facts before speaking negatively about someone and to remember that not everything is on the surface.  Everyone has battles we might not know anything about.

What I didn't like:  
 Sabrina was a bit annoying to me at first but as her faith grew I liked her a lot more than I initially thought.  

Who I would recommend it to:
I'd recommend this book to anyone who enjoys inspirational fiction.  It is a clean and gentle read with touches of romance.

I received a free copy of this book for review purposes from Bethany House publishing.

Switched by Cassie Mae 

Genre: New Adult/Contemporary

First thoughts:  It was oozing enthusiasm both from the characters and the writing itself.

What it's about:  It is about a love tangle (a mere triangle doesn't cover this story)!  Kayla is in love with a guy named Talon but Talon is dating her best friend Reagan.  Kayla turns to Talon's best friend Wesley, who just happens to like Reagan, hoping that the two of them can rearrange things a bit so that they can each have the relationship they are pining for.

What I liked:  I enjoyed the bubbly tone of this book.  Kayla's personality was so fun to read about and Wesley was the perfect, attentive, slightly awkward guy friend.  I didn't see the ending coming either, which is always a good thing!

What I didn't like:  While I wouldn't call this book overly steamy some of the situations, while funny, weren't my taste.  

Who I would recommend it to:  I think the romantic comedy crowd would love this story.  The author definitely knows how to make fluffy, fun romantic read.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley for review purposes.  

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

Genre: young adult/ paranormal

First thoughts:  The writing is stunning, gorgeous and enough to make an aspiring writer want to cry and smile at the same time.  (Most of Maggie Stiefvater's books have that effect on me...)

What it's about:  I don't know how to explain this book without giving anything away.  It picks up where the Raven Boys left off.  While the first book focused heavily on Gansey and Blue, this one shows a lot more of Ronan who just so happens to be able to bring objects back from dreams.  

What I liked:  I love the depth of the characters.  How one book can have so many deep, rounded characters, I do not know.  It is amazing.  I love how more of their back grounds were revealed and how the creepiness seeped in from several different factors.  Noah is my favorite character with Blue a close second.  

What I didn't like:  It is not the sort of book that makes sense when you read it while chasing a two year old and answering hundreds of questions from the older children.  In other words, it has lots of threads to follow which I liked when I could truly focus on them and hated when I didn't have enough brain to devote to it.

Who I would recommend it to:  I would recommend it for older teens and anyone who likes unique twists on old legends.

What I'd want to know as a parent:  This book has a heavy dose of supernatural elements and a fair amount of language.

I received and ARC of this book for review purposes from NetGalley.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What's Up Wednesday!

It's time for What's Up Wednesday!!!

What I'm Reading  I'm reading Just One Day by Gayle Forman.  I want to hop a train to Paris now but alas, I live in Florida.  I'm also reading Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo.  We won't even mention the review books I should be reading...  
  The kids and I are still reading Jotham's Journey for advent and Farmer Boy for school.  I can't wait for Christmas break when we don't have so many things to read for school.  I'm going to pick a read aloud book that has nothing to do with history at all, a fantasy perhaps.

What I'm Writing  I've been looking over my current WIP, trying to get the story flowing again.  I tried to write yesterday but technical problems took over.  I have them all sorted out now so today I should be good to go!  I have about 30k left in to reach the length I'm hoping for.  

What Inspires Me Right Now Christmas Cookies!  I have some healthyish , not Christmasy cookies cooking right now and I can't wait to make some decadent, non-healthy, totally decked out ones later this week.  To balance out my current inspiration I will add that I have also been inspired by working out with my husband.  He is more into circuit style workouts and I tend to go for yoga/dance/Pilates type of exercise paired with walking or running but trying something different and spending time together is wonderful.

What Else I've Been Up To  I've been standing in line at the post office with three small children.  Yup, I couldn't even get it all done in one trip so we went twice.  I don't recommend it.  It's a relief to have all of the presents in the mail though.  Now I can focus on making cookies and crafts and sparkly white play dough (since it is to hot here for snow and we need to make snowmen!).  
I'm still working on the Lego table I'm making.  The old finish was much harder to remove then I thought it would be but I am finally to the point that I can start painting it.  

I will be blogging sporadically throughout the next few weeks as there is no What's Up Wednesday in honor of the holidays.  


Monday, December 16, 2013

Bollywood Steampunk!

I was going to use a boring title for this post, something that included the words "book launch" but then I thought of the reason I was making this post at all.  It is because the words "Bollywood Steampunk" caught my eye. I find both of these things fascinating and the thought of them combined into a book made me stop and check it out. 
   I can't wait to read it!  I'm making myself check some books off of my massive TBR pile first...  I'm hoping it will be the motivation I need to get caught up!
While I'm waiting to read it I thought I could share my excitement and participate in the Third Daughter book launch.  Don't forget to scroll to the bottom of the post.  There is a giveaway!

Book & Author Details:

Third Daughter by Susan Kaye Quinn
(The Dharian Affairs Trilogy #1)
Publication date: December 13th 2013
Genres: Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Steampunk

The Third Daughter of the Queen wants her birthday to arrive so she’ll be free to marry for love, but rumors of a new flying weapon may force her to accept a barbarian prince’s proposal for a peace-brokering marriage. Desperate to marry the charming courtesan she loves, Aniri agrees to the prince’s proposal as a subterfuge in order to spy on him, find the weapon, and hopefully avoid both war and an arranged marriage to a man she does not love.

  Third Daughter is the first book in The Dharian Affairs Trilogy (Third Daughter, Second Daughter, First Daughter). This steampunk-goes-to-Bollywood (Bollypunk!) romance takes place in an east-indian-flavored alternate world filled with skyships, saber duels, and lots of royal intrigue. And, of course, kissing.

Check it out on Goodreads.

Purchase:  Amazon   Barnes&noble  iTunes  kobo


Susan Kaye Quinn grew up in California, where she wrote snippets of stories and passed them to her friends during class. Her teachers pretended not to notice and only confiscated her stories a couple times.

Susan left writing behind to pursue a bunch of engineering degrees, but she was drawn back to writing by an irresistible urge to share her stories with her niece, her kids, and all the wonderful friends she’s met along the way.

She doesn’t have to sneak her notes anymore, which is too bad.

Susan writes from the Chicago suburbs with her three boys, two cats, and one husband. Which, it turns out, is exactly as a much as she can handle.

Author Links:

Friday, December 13, 2013

Celebrate the Small Things

This week I am celebrating thoughtful friends.
One of my very close friends got me this massive cup to help keep me awake during late night writing sessions.  So perfect!

I'm also celebrating a slower week after several crazy ones. 
 Oh, there is always plenty to do but not having as many outside things pressing in gave me time to enjoy the season with my family.

Have a great weekend!!!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The One Year Book of Amish Peace

    I love it when I find an author that inspires me not only with their work but with their life.  I remember reading Tricia Goyer's book Night Song long ago.  It was before I had children, before I had even met my husband and before I took my dream of being a writer seriously.  I loved that book.  I passed it to my friends.  I shared it with my mom.  I searched the local bookstore for more of her work.  Years later I was reading another one of her books and I noticed the author bio.  She was a writer, a homeschooling mom and, at that time, lived in Montana.  I was a homeschooling mom and I also lived in Montana.  I was inspired.

   When I had the opportunity to help promote her new devotional book I jumped on board.  I am so glad that I did!  Fiction might be my favorite type of book but life gets stressful, crazy and unbalanced.  Devotions can be hard to fit in.  This book is perfect.  The devotions are short enough that they aren't daunting, even on a busy morning and they are full of simple wisdom, Amish wisdom and scripture.  Tricia Goyer has always caught my attention by how open and relatable she is and this book is no exception.  I love it!

 Her website and blog are also full of information on parenting, Christian living and even writing. Her tips for writers was one of the first places I went when I decided to pursue writing.

It can be purchased at:
Amazon  Barnes and Noble  CBD

My Goodreads review

The One Year Book of Amish Peace: Hearing God's Voice in the Simple ThingsThe One Year Book of Amish Peace: Hearing God's Voice in the Simple Things by Tricia Goyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Brief, to the point and written in a very relatable way, this book is becoming one of my favorite devotionals. Each devotion includes an inspirational quote, a prayer and a verse of scripture along with the devotion itself. I love how they tie in with the changing seasons! There are even a few recipes. This is the perfect book for those seeking to fit more scripture and a bit of a slower lifestyle into their day. I love starting my day with this book, my Bible and a cup of coffee. I highly recommend trying it!

I received a free copy of this book for review purposes.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Whats Up Wednesday

Its time for What's Up Wednesday!

What I'm Reading  
Does teaching my five year old to read count?  I've been doing a lot of that lately along with reading aloud to my kids.  Currently we are reading Jotham's Journey for advent and Farmer Boy as part of my older son's history.  I did manage to finish reading The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black.  Most people seem to love it and I honestly didn't.  I enjoyed the writing style, the characters and the world building but I didn't enjoy the blood.  I am not a blood and gore sort of girl and this book was full it (all cleverly and descriptively written which made my stomach all queasy even as I admired the writing).  I'm now reading Strait of Hormuz by Davis Bunn and I am dying to start Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo.

What I'm Writing  
I didn't write anything this week.  I got distracted by my new laptop...

What Inspires Me Right Now  
I've been finding family time to be very precious and inspiring.  My husband has had some time off for the first time in forever.  I love spending time together and watching him play legos with the kids.
    I have also been inspired by this month's YA Buccaneer's Truth or Dare challenge.

"This month, I dare you to disconnect. Limit your online activities as much as is comfortable for you. Turn off your phone. Read a real, physical book instead of the e-book version. Call a friend on the phone with an invitation to coffee. Give up Facebook or Twitter or blogging or Pinterest or whatever takes up more of your time than you'd like, takes you away from the people you love."

It got me thinking about the time that I waste on the internet.  I don't mean the time I am actively networking or connecting with friends and family.  I don't even mean the time that I spend looking up specific things on Pinterest.  I mean the time I spend looking at Facebook because real life feels to crazy and I want to hide, or the time I spend aimlessly looking through all the ideas on blogs and Pinterest just because its more fun to dream then it is to actually work towards dreams.  I also waste a considerable amount of time checking my phone for messages and emails. 
   I don't want to cut social media completely out of my life or stop checking my email but I do want use my time constructively.   I'm going to (attempt) to limit my Facebook, Twitter ect. by only checking it in the evenings when the kids are tucked in for the night.  My email will be more like twice a day but that is so much better than being tied to my phone.  Blogging is something I love and I feel that it helps me with my writing goals so I'm going to keep working on that, just at a pace that allows family time to be my priority.  I want my family to know that they come first, now and always.  
Feel free to hold me accountable and ask me how its going! (just don't do it on twitter or FB lol)

What Else I've Been Up To  
  Birthdays!  My oldest son turned 7 so we had a roller skating party for him.  He loved it!  I'm still working on the lego table.  My son knows I'm up to something but he hasn't figured out what yet.  
  I also got older this past week.  My husband surprised me with a new laptop for my birthday/Christmas present.  Not just any laptop  either. He got me the one I've been drooling over for months.  I was in shock for two full days!  It is so nice to have a laptop that has a decent battery and that doesn't freeze when I open up more than one tab (I've caught myself giggling at how fast I can switch from one tab to another!).  Now that I've played with it a few days it is time to use it to get back to my writing :)

  What have you been up to?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

What's Up Wednesday and IWSG!

Its time for What's Up Wednesday!

What I'm Reading  The last month was so busy that I didn't read nearly as much as usual. I finally read Rick Yancey's The 5th Wave though!  It took me about a quarter of the book to get to the place where it was hard to put down but I enjoyed it once the back story was in place and the events started moving forward.  I'm currently reading The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black and I'm still reading Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.  I sat it down during NaNo and I'm ready to dive in and finish it.

What I'm Writing  I'm still drafting my NaNo book.  I'm trying to time the events in my story to coincide with those in the original fairytale in a way that keeps my main characters in the foreground.  I think its working but it takes a lot of thought to get it right.

What Inspires Me Right Now  I had a wonderful visit with my Mom a few weeks ago and our long chats over coffee are still inspiring me.  Talking in person is the best!  

What Else I've Been Up To  Pinterest hijacked my life.  I saw a pin where someone took an old end table and turned it into a lego table.  It looked perfect, not to big, but enough room for some serious building.  I decided that my son needed one for his birthday and I found a battered, yet solid wood, end table that even had lots of built in storage space.  The only problem is that since I homeschool I have my children with me all the time.  When am I suppose to hide for a secret project?  Yup. After bedtime I can be found out in the garage, clinging to the one patch of light, sanding up a storm. I was sanding by hand but a friend lent me an electric sander.  I'm so excited! 

I can't wait to see what everyone else has been up to this week!

Insecure Writer's Support Group

I completely forgot that it was IWSG time until I saw a fellow blogger's post!  This month my insecurities have mainly been about feeling inadequate and unoriginal.  I'd like to be that writer that readers go to when they want something unique, something full of emotion and unforeseeable twists, yet still lyrical and atmospheric.  Knowing what type of writer I want to be and becoming that writer are two very different things. Until I get where I want to be the only thing I can do it to keep writing and learning but sometimes it would be nice to know if I'm going in the right direction, if my work even has the potential to turn into what I want it to be.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Slowly Coming Back

   I didn't mean to disappear for the entire month of November but that is exactly what I did.  It was a smart move. The entire month was so full I could hardly keep up and that's without adding NaNo to the mix!  I didn't win NaNo but I did write 28k on my new project.  I'm not sure what is up with this story but it won't let me write it quickly.  The words sort of dribble out bit by bit.  I can usually write 1k in an hour or even 1.5k but this month it was more like 500 an hour.  Oh well.  I love this story.  I've been wanting to write it for a long time now and I love getting lost in the icy world I created. It is more complex than my previous work and the timeline has to be more exact as it takes place on the perimeter of an existing fairy tale.  I can't wait to get caught up on what all of you have been working on this past month!

   Before I go, I can't resist sharing a bit of what I've been hiding away to work on.
This is the blurb I put together before I started.  I ended up writing it in third person but this gives an idea of what it is about. 

"She was perfect.  Everyone knew it.  Even I knew it deep down.  Who would see me when someone like her was around?  I could change that.  I could make her nothing but a reflection of what she had been, or...  or I could make her reflect others back to themselves.  It would be like she did not even exist. "

This is a quote from the story itself.

“Why, why would you do that? How did you even know about me?”
“I was spying on Galina, of course. She too picked you ahead of Claire but she soon saw what everyone else did. A heart that was true. "

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

NaNoWriMo Induced Blog Break

I'm dedicating as much time as I can to my NaNo project this month so I hope everyone understands when I don't post as much as usual.  I was trying to think of things I could cut out and it came down to blogging or sleeping... so blogging is going on the back burner this month.  I will be on when I can:)
I hope everyone has a great week!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What's Up Wednesday

 It's time for What's Up Wednesday!

What I'm Reading  I spent a lot of this week hiding with a book... It wasn't a bad week, just a long, tedious one.  I read Chasing Hope by Kathryn Cushman and Switched by Cassie Mae (thanks to NetGalley) and I'm gearing up to start Rose Under Fire.  I'm almost scared...  Code Name Verity made me cry but it an amazing book.  I should make sure I have something lighthearted to read as soon as I finish it and maybe some chocolate.

What I'm Writing  I'm revising Slumber.  I noticed I tend to get stuck on the same small portion and beat it to death instead of moving forward.  I'm trying to remember that it won't be perfect after one round of revisions and focus on plot/pacing issues, not all the smaller ones.  Its hard!!!  I'm also working on Mirra, my NaNo book.  I'm not much a plotter but I'm figuring out my characters and their motives.  I'm also attempting an extremely loose plot...  Hopefully it will fair better than the last plot I wrote out.
  If your joining NaNoWriMo this year and want another writing buddy I'm Simply Sarah on the NaNo site.  It seems to be hard to find people on their site though.  I'm @SarahChafin on twitter.  I tend to hang out there a lot when I'm writing...
What inspires Me Right Now  Writing itself is being inspiring this week.  Putting my thoughts into stories is incredibly satisfying. 
What Else I've Been Up To  I've been baking and cooking healthy (mostly!) meals and snacks for us and hiding from the dishes.  I'm still in clean out mode.  I hope that it starts to show soon.  Right now it seems like there are piles of stuff everywhere.  Homeschool group is today so I need to get off of the computor and go make copious amounts of playdough for a building project.
and no, I haven't outgrown playdough yet :)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Celebrate the Small Things

Its time for VicLit's Celebrate the Small Things!

This week I'm celebrating:
  • the Writer's Helping Writer's Amazing Race!  I've found it so helpful and they have some awesome prizes. 
  • coffee, cool afternoons (for here anyway!) and lazy afternoons watching the kids play at the park
  • impromptu field trip opportunities.   Yesterday we left our school books behind and watched a sea turtle get released into the wild.  I love living on the coast!
I hope you find simple joys and celebrations of your own and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What's Up Wednesday

What I'm Reading  I just finished a beautifully written book I received from NetGalley called A Bird with the Heart of a Mountain by Barbara Mariconda.  My review is here.  I'm also still reading Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.
What I'm Writing  I'm revising Slumber.  I think I will be for a long while yet. I did make some progress this week though!  I even submitted my first page to the Writers Helping Writers Amazing Race and received some helpful feed back!  If you haven't checked it out yet I would highly recommend it.
What Inspires Me Right Now  This week I am inspired by the gigantic jar of coconut oil that is sitting in my pantry.  I love coconut oil and I've always had a small jar so a big one is full of so many tasty possibilities. 
What Else I've Been Up To  I don't even know.  I feel like I spend my life grocery shopping.  My children eat a ton!!!  When I'm not shopping I'm washing laundry or dishes.  Such is life, I suppose.  I'm still in the process of cleaning out and simplifying our home.  Its sort of like revising.  There is no end in sight...  but making progress is very satisfying. 

What have you been up to?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

This Week's Book Reviews

Here are a few of the books I have been reading lately. I would highly recommend all of them! The first one is Inspirational Romantic/Suspense and the other two are Young Adult. I read The Near Witch as part of the YA Buccaneer Reading Mutiny Challenge. It was an excellent choice! 

Stranded (Alaskan Courage, #3)

Stranded by Dani Pettrey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Darcy St. James joins the crew of an Alaskan cruise ship to aid her journalist friend Abby on an undercover investigation she expects to be given information on the case. Instead a person goes overboard and Darcy can't find Abby anywhere. The crew denies that it was her friend that went overboard but if it wasn't Abby, where is she?

Gage McKenna has spent the last few months trying to forget about Darcy. He isn't ready to trust his heart to another woman. The last place he expects to find her is on the cruise ship where he is leading the adventure excursions. It doesn't take long for him to realize that she is on the trail of something dark and dangerous. Now if he can only protect her without loosing his heart...

I love this series and Stranded might very well be my favorite one so far. Gage is rugged and just broody enough to be interesting, Darcy is petite and fearless, and the setting is frigid and exhilarating. I now want to go kayaking in Alaska and see the area myself. I would recommend this series to anyone who enjoys a clean romance/suspense story.
 If you are interested in my reviews on the previous books in this series go here and here.
I received a free copy of this book to review from Bethany House.


A Bird with the Heart of a MountainA Bird with the Heart of a Mountain by Barbara Mariconda
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Drina doesn't belong anywhere. She is half Spanish, half Gypsy and not fully accepted by either side. The Spanish civil war is raging all around, taking everything that matters away from her. Everything, that is, except her love of dance and the name that her mother called out from her death bed. When she needs help the most she finds it in the form of a family that she never knew she had but being a Gypsy in war torn Spain is complicated. She must decide who she is and what she values most.
I have always loved historical fiction and have long been fascinated by the Gypsy culture. When I saw this book I knew that I had to read it. I was not disappointed. Barbara Mariconda tells the story of Drina in a picturesque, haunting manor that kept my interest until the last page. I felt the characters emotions, saw the brightly colored skirts and felt the pulse of the Spanish music. It reminded me of some of my favorite books from my childhood. One thing to be aware of is that though this book is written for young adults, it deals with some dark parts of life and is quite graphic in places. I would recommend it for older teens.

I received a copy of this book to review from NetGalley.

The Near Witch (The Near Witch, #1)The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Long,long ago, the Near Witch lived in a small house on the farthest edge of the village, and she used to sing the hills to sleep."
Lexi's father used to tell her the story of the Near witch, he used to teach her to listen to wind blowing on the Moore but now he is dead and it is her turn to pass on the old stories to her little sister. One night, after her sister is asleep, Lexi looks out the window and sees someone looking back. In a town that has no strangers the appearance of one raises suspicions. When children begin to disappear the entire town blames this stranger, except for Lexi. Her father told her to listen to her heart and her heart says that he is not evil they seek. Her heart says that there may be some truth in the tales from her childhood.
My first impression of this book was that it was beautifully written. The town of Near and the surrounding woods felt like something from a fairy tale. The songs and ancient stories added depth to the setting and the thread of romance held it all together without taking over the mysterious quality of the book. I loved that it had an eerie atmosphere but was not overdone. It was the perfect choice for a fall read.

View all my reviews

Friday, October 18, 2013

Celebrate the Small Things

It's time for VicLit's Celebrate the Small Things!

This week I am celebrating:
  • a misty, rainy sort of day.  
  • deer running along my back fence
  • freshly baked lemon muffins
  • a clear idea of what needs fixed in the chapter I'm working on
  • a mostly potty trained toddler
  • my mom is coming to visit next month.  I haven't seen her in over a year.
What are you celebrating?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What's Up Wednesday and YA Buccaneer's Truth and Dare Challenge

It's time for What's Up Wednesday!

What I'm Reading  I finally received my copy of The Near Witch from Amazon and I promptly devoured it.  I loved it and will hopefully have a review read for my Saturday book review post.  I also finished reading Stranded by Dani Pettrey.  I'm currently reading Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman and The Great Gatsby. 
What I'm Writing  Very little.  I keep hoping to take off on my revisions but I keep finding myself tired and out of time.  I guess some perseverance is in order.
What Inspires Me Right Now  Friendship and lazy afternoons watching the kids play outside. 
What Else I've Been Up To 
I've been doing the Women Living Well make your home a haven challenge.  It has inspired me to simplify and clean out my home so I've been working on that.  I've also been running whenever I can.  I can run about 2.5 miles now and that's a huge improvement from where I was! 
  I also am taking part in YA Buccaneer's Truth and Dare Challenge.  This month the challenge is:
"This month, I dare you to let go of something--something big, something small, something you barely even noticed was there--to make room for something else.  Whether that something else is a huge, long-cherished dream or simply a little more extra closet space, let it go.  
And then tell us all about it." 

I am letting go of trying to crochet blankets for every special baby to be that I know of.  I love crocheting and I always feel like I should make a baby blanket but crocheting with a two year old around is really hard.  I end up trying to squeeze it in after the kids are in bed but that is also when I squeeze in my writing, exercising, any cleaning I didn't get done and everything else so...  I get frustrated and feel like a failure because I can't fit it all in and sleep too.  I have two partially made blankets that stare at me every night when I climb into bed.  I am not going to finish them right now, instead I'm going to use the yarn to make "bite" sized projects.  Projects that I can easily complete in a few sittings.  I started making a small "lovey" bear blanket yesterday (instead of the full sized ripple pattern I had been doing) and I feel like a weight has lifted.  I think I found a compromise, a way that I can still make the sweet homemade gifts that I love without the stress of trying to fit another huge project into my life. Crochet is supposed to be fun and relaxing, not stress inducing, and there will be time for larger projects some other time when my kids are bigger.

Donut Dwellers episode #8

 This was suppose to be the series finale but my imagination got away from me again.  There will be at least one more episode after this one.
Donut Dwellers episode 1
Donut Dwellers episode 2
Donut Dwellers episode 3
Donut Dwellers episode 4
Donut Dwellers episode 5

Donut Dwellers episode 6 
Donut Dwellers episode 7

There you are." said the strange girl.  
August could only stare.  The girl almost looked like a flower.  She was dressed in green and had a wreath of yellow daisies around her head.
"Can you talk?" the girl asked.
"Of course I can talk. I'm just confused.  Who are you?  Were you expecting me?"
"I'm Annabelle.  I'm friends with your sister."
Now August was really confused.
"How can you be friends with her?  This is the first time she's every even been outside."
Annabelle smiled.  
"Sometimes it doesn't take long to become friends."
She whispered something else but it was to quite to hear.
"Where is she?"  August asked, looking around.  
All he could see was grass and rocks.
"I'm right here." said a familiar voice.
August ran towards her but he wasn't used to running outside.  His foot caught on one of the rocks.
"Ahhh." he yelled as he fell right on top of Zandy.
"I'm so sorry." he said.  "I made you mad enough to run away and then I come and fall on top of you."
"It's ok."  Zandy said.
"It is?"  You’re not mad?"
"Of course I'm not mad.  I never should have taken off like that." she said, reaching up to brush some dirt out of her hair.  

"Why did you do it then?" "Well, I started out mad.  Just a little bit and then I got this idea."
August scratched his head. 
What kind of idea would cause his sister to run off in the night like that? 
"It really is a fantastic idea."  Annabelle said.
She had been so quite that August had almost forgotten that she was there.
"What is the idea?" he asked.
Zandy and Annabelle looked at each other just as a chorus of voices burst out from the depths of the grass.
"We are."  the voices said.
The voices belonged to three boys that looked oddly familiar.
The tallest one stuck out his hand. 
“Do I know you?” August asked.
“You should” he said. 
"I'm Sirus”
He pointed to the other boys.
"  We are your cousins."
 to be continued


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Interview With Becca J. Campbell (Author of Empath)

 A few weeks ago I hosted a giveaway for Empath and now I am pleased to be a stop on Becca Campbell's Empath blog tour!  I even got to interview her.  Enjoy! (and don't forget to get a copy of Empath while it's on sale for $0.99!)

1.      When did you fall in love with writing?
When I was writing my first book (which happened to be Empath). For me, the falling-in-love process was two-fold. I had a love-at-first-sight moment when I began writing. In the beginning it was all a big experiment, an attempt to discover if I could write a novel (and, even though I didn't realize it at the time, if I would enjoy it). I came up with some characters and a plot-ish scenario (which wasn't fully developed at that point in time), and just started writing. I spewed out the first handful of chapters in a few days, completely infatuated by this shiny, new writing thing.

But true love doesn't blossom until it's put through the fire, and it was about two thirds of the way through the book that I got stumped and frustrated with my story. Hanging on past the halfway point is often the most difficult part for new writers, and I was no different. There were times I had no idea what was going to happen next, no idea what should happen next. Thankfully, I had a few great mentors who helped guide and encourage me when it came to the rough spots. I might have given up altogether if it hadn't been for those seasoned authors.

I made it past the midway hump; I finished the book, and when I had a complete (albeit unedited) manuscript in my hands, I realized that the whole "writing thing" had made it past crush, beyond infatuation, all the way to genuine, head-over-heels love. I haven't looked back since.

2.      If you could only have five books for the rest of your life, which ones would they be?
Oh man. I hate questions like this. I feel like it's a trick question, or one that has no right answer. I'd get sick of any book if I had to read it over and over! That aside, I'll do my best to pick five. They shouldn't be trendy... Hmm, okay, here it goes. #1 The Bible. #2 These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder. #3 Magnificent Obsession by Lloyd C. Douglas. #4 Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. #5 The Host by Stephenie Meyer. (Okay, that last one is pretty trendy, but I've already read it twice and I could see reading it again. Such a great love story!)
3.      What influenced you to write a book focused on empathy?
I actually didn't set out to write a book about empathy. I set out to write about people with superhuman flaws, and when I began sketching out the cast of characters, I quickly realized that I had to write this book in Jade's point of view. (Random piece of trivia: the book was untitled until well after the first draft was done, probably a year after I began.) With Jade's empathic ability being a secret, it would be nearly impossible to write about her from another point of view--at least until I had already developed her character. The other books in the Flawed series don't focus on Jade--in fact, she has no point-of-view scenes at all in books two and three.

Outsider (Flawed #2) focuses on Josh, and Protector (Flawed #3) is about Logan. Jade isn't in most of book two except for one scene, though she's a pretty integral part of book three. I also sprinkle new characters into the other books, and I'm excited for readers to get to meet them as well.

4.      I love the name Jade, how do you come up with your character's names?
The ones I like often come from unused baby names. I've always kept lists of names I like, and I have plenty that didn't get used on my kids, for one reason or another. Jade was one of those names (I think my husband vetoed it). Other names come from characters who inspired me. Logan was from X-Men, Henry was from The Time Traveler's Wife, and Jade's last name, Edwards, was actually inspired by Edward Cullen. For Ethan, I wanted a really trendy, handsome-guy type of name, because though Ethan is pretty horrible, not many people who meet him would suspect his dark intentions. He's attractive, charming, and everything about him--his name included--screams clean, wholesome guy you could take home to Mom and Dad. That tactic works well for him.

I also search baby name sites online when I have a character who's difficult to title, and the same goes for last names. Sometimes I even create my own names.

5.      What scene was the most fun to write?
You may think me creepy and/or demented, but the most fun ones to write were Ethan's scenes. Once I embraced getting into his psychopathic brain (which took a bit of getting over, at first), I really enjoyed writing his points of view. The scene where Ethan unveils his collection to Gabrielle sticks in my memory. I won't spoil it for those who haven't read it yet, but after I wrote what was in those glass jars, I was trembling with exhilaration regarding the evilness of this antagonist.

I added one short Jade scene in revision #11 (I'm not even joking about the number of drafts...) that hadn't been in the story previously, and I really enjoyed writing that, too. It's the one where she's trying to enter the hospital and she can't get past the vibe of the suicidal guy. That was a new angle on her empathy I hadn't played out yet, and I liked exploring that.

By the way, if you didn't know, we writers are evil. We take pleasure in torturing our characters, and writing bad-guy scenes is just plain fun. :)

6.      Are there any songs that spoke to you while you were writing this book, or ones that just seemed to fit the mood or theme of your story?
I love that you asked that. I have a playlist for the story and I actually haven't posted it yet. The song best conveying the theme of the book is "Crowded Head" by Collective Soul. Here's the full playlist:
·         “Better Now” – Collective Soul (Cam)
·         “Middle Man” – Jack Johnson (Jade)
·         “Think About Me” – Sister Hazel (Jade)
·         “Stranger Things Have Happened” – Foo Fighters (Jade’s & Logan)
·         “Fuzzy” – Collective Soul (Cam)
·         “Vent” – Collective Soul (Jade, Ethan)
·         “Crowded Head” – Collective Soul (Jade)
·         “Free Me” – Foo Fighters (Jade)
·         “You Are All That I Have” by Snow Patrol (Jade, Logan)
·         “Everything” by Lifehouse (Jade, Logan)

7.      What is your favorite snack or beverage to keep your energy up while writing?
I write a Starbucks a lot, and my beverage of choice is a Toffee Nut latte, salted, extra hot. If I'm at home, it's whatever I can find, but usually involves chocolate.

8.      Before I let you go, I have just one more question! If an aspiring novelist came up to you and asked you for one piece of advice on the craft, what would you say?  (I may or may not be the aspiring novelist referred to in my question...)
Write, and write a lot. Write because you love it. Write for yourself. Stick with your story(ies) and don't give up until you get to the end--don't you dare leave a book half-written! Beyond that, find a support group--preferably several peers and several who are seasoned authors--and lap up their wisdom. If you want a great place to find other writers, check out JuNoWriMo.com. I'm the co-creator, and next June will be our third year with this event. A bunch of us all hang out online and write novels in June. It's a great way to make friends and form critique groups.

During the Empath Blog Tour (September 16th - October 20th), the first book in the Flawed series will be on sale for a discounted price of $0.99. Grab it for cheap while you can!
Amazon US | Amazon UK  | Amazon CA  | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo

Empath (Flawed Book One)

Supernatural empathy isn’t a gift, it’s a curse. Anywhere she goes, Jade’s emotions are replaced by those of the people around her.
Jade grew up in a suburb of Colorado Springs, protected from other people by her parents. Now she faces college—and the world—with nothing to shield her from unwanted feelings.
When Cam, a classmate with a major crush on her, unintentionally hijacks her emotions, Jade struggles to keep from being carried away in feelings of attraction. When Ethan, a psychopath with a thirst for fear, fixates on her, the emotional impact could be lethal.
Caught in a deadly trap, Jade must untangle the emotions and find a way to use her empathic curse to overcome this killer or be overcome by him.

Author Bio

Becca J. Campbell is the author of the New Adult Romantic Science Fiction novels Foreign Identity and Gateway to Reality, New Adult Romantic Paranormal Thriller Empath (The Flawed Series #1), and  Sub-Normal, a series of Science Fiction short stories.
An avid lover of stories that tiptoe the line between fantasy and reality (even when they plunge off one side or the other), Becca looks for new angles on bridging the gap between the two. She holds a special place in her heart for any story that involves superpowers or time travel. Her passion is defying the limits of her own creativity. You can find her on her Author BlogFacebookTwitterGoodreads, Pinterest, and Amazon.