Monday, August 24, 2015

Through Waters Deep- Sarah Sundin

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Description: It is 1941 and America teeters on the brink of war. Outgoing naval officer Ensign Jim Avery escorts British convoys across the North Atlantic in a brand-new destroyer, the USS Atwood. Back on shore, Boston Navy Yard secretary Mary Stirling does her work quietly and efficiently, happy to be out of the limelight. Yet, despite her reserved nature, she never could back down from a challenge. When evidence of sabotage on the Atwood is found, Jim and Mary must work together to uncover the culprit. A bewildering maze of suspects emerges, and Mary is dismayed to find that even someone close to her is under suspicion. With the increasing pressure, Jim and Mary find that many new challenges--and dangers--await them.

My Thoughts: Through Waters Deep was an amazing story. Maybe it was just my love for Jim and Mary as a couple or the honesty of the historical context, but I really enjoyed this book and stayed up late one night so I could finish it in two days.

Mary is a girl after my own heart. Loving adventure while hating the limelight, I felt like she was a person I would have liked to have known. Jim was nearly the opposite, enjoying adventure while feeling perfectly at home with any attention he might draw by being himself. They complimented each other well, creating a pair whose happily-ever-after I could believe in.

The historical context, closely predating WWII, was well portrayed as an event that occurred rather than a drama to be amused by. It showed the often forgotten opinions of those who lived through it and the conflicts that stirred at home. These tensions are what drove the plot along and played the backdrop for Sundin's mystery to unfold.

I would give the story a full five stars, however, there were moments when the Nancy Drew aspects of the story came about as rather cheesy. If not for this, I believe that I would have give this the full rating.

I received this book through Litfuse in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Among the Fair Magnolias- A Novella Collection

My Rating:  3.5 Stars

Description:Four Southern women are at a turning point in history . . . and in their own hearts.

To Mend a Dream by Tamera Alexander

The Civil War cost Savannah Darby everything—her family and her home. When Aidan Bedford, an attorney from Boston, buys the Darby estate, he hires Savannah to redecorate. Can she find a mysterious treasure before her job is finished?

An Outlaw's Heart by Shelley Gray

When Russell Stark returns to Fort Worth, he’s determined to begin a new life. But when he arrives at his mother’s homestead, he discovers that she is very ill and the woman he loved is still as beautiful and sweet as he remembered. With time running out, Russell must come to terms with both his future and his past.

A Heart So True by Dorothy Love

Abigail knows all too well what is expected of her: to marry her distant cousin Charles and take her place in society. But her heart belongs to another. A terrible incident forces Abby to choose between love and duty.

Love Beyond Limits by Elizabeth Musser

Emily has a secret: She's in love with one of the freedmen on her family's plantation. Meanwhile, another man declares his love for her. Emily realizes some things are not as they seem and secrets must be kept in order to keep those she loves safe.

My Thoughts:

A Heart so True~ This novella is set in the same area as some of Dorothy's other novels, with main characters making an appearance as tertiary characters here. It is a short story about one woman's speed-bump to love. While the story was sweet, I did not see much in the way of a theme or message. I would have said that the theme was to marry only for love, yet Abigail states that she will marry whomever makes her mother happy. In the end, I believe she made the only decision which I could respect her from.

To Mend a Dream~ I have previously read To Win Her Favor, the novel precluding this in which Savannah was a secondary character. Thus I was well acquainted with her background and was interested in what Savannah would be able to discover in the box left by her father. While I'm not much of a fan of insta-love, the idea worked well for the length of this story and gave Savannah a perfect happy ending.

A Love Beyond Limits~ A Love Beyond Limits is less of a romance and more of a snapshot of history told through the eyes of fictional characters. The story was heartbreaking and bittersweet, if not really romantic in anyway. I think this is a story I would have enjoyed far more if it had been a full length novel, as there was so much more I would have liked to have seen with these characters.

An Outlaw's Heart~ This final novel felt the most complete, if a little rushed toward the end. It was an emotional read with broken characters who learn forgiveness. Like A Love Beyond Limits, I think it would have done more for me as a full length novel, yet it was still a good read.

Overall this is a cute collection of stories, showing off the authors' skills and abilities. I did not enjoy it as much as I had hoped or as I have other novella collections. Unfortunately, the stories did not feel like they were meant to be told in such a short page length, and instead felt like writing samples rather than full stories. But if you get the chance, they are still worth the read.

I received this book through Litfuse in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

To Capture Her Heart- Rebecca DeMarino

My Rating:  2.5 Stars

Description: It is 1653 and Heather Flower, a princess of the Montauk tribe, is enjoying her wedding feast when her groom is killed and she is kidnapped by a rival tribe and held for ransom. Though her ransom is paid by an Englishman, she is nonetheless left to die in a Connecticut forest--until she finds herself rescued by handsome Dutch Lieutenant Dirk Van Buren. Torn between her affection for Dirk and her long friendship with family friend Benjamin Horton, Heather Flower must make a difficult choice--stay true to her friend or follow her heart.

My Thoughts: The writing of this book is well done and captures the historical voice well, with each characters nationality reflected in their syntax and word choice. Daily life is well described and obviously heavily researched. DeMarino is certainly gifted at creating her historical setting.

Unfortunately, I could find little about this book that held my attention. The description tells of Heather Flowers kidnapping and rescue as though it were an important part of the story. Yet her kidnapping is only ever glossed over in the book and the rescue (though I hesitate to even call it that) was only the first three pages. As well, one of the male romantic interests determined he loved her within the first two chapters of meeting her.

The conflicts promised in the description were not the conflicts present in the novel. Instead, there is more tension between Dirk and Benjamin than between Heather Flower and either of them. And even this falls to the way side as the island's issues quickly overshadow the three of theirs. While this made for fully fleshed out setting, it introduced far too many characters for me to keep track off.

To Capture Her Heart deals with an interesting bit of history that is well told. However, since the plot was propelled mostly through conversation rather than action, I found it difficult to remain engaged in the story which was told from multiple points of view.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Victoria Howell and Using Word Choice- Guest Post

Five Ways to Boost Your Writing Through Word Choice
A Guest Post by Victoria Grace Howell

Writers often spend hours or even days finding just the right words for their sentences, ones that capture what they really want to say. Why do we spend so much time making sure each word is carefully chosen and strung together to create a novel or short story or etc.? Is the time spent worth it? I’m here to tell you it definitely is.

1.) Smoother Prose When a reader consumes your story, you want the words to flow, whether they read it out loud or in their heads. What words you use and don’t use affect this greatly. Some words to keep down to a minimum are: was (“is” if you’re writing in first person), that, which, there was, and most adverbs. Now, I’m not saying that these do not have their purpose—all words in the English language are there for a reason—but allow me to show you the difference.

Sandra was running down the street which was dark that her car was parked in. She opened the door fearfully and sat in the driver’s seat. There was a note on her steering wheel that said: Look behind you.

This isn’t ideal. It’s clunky and lacks flow. Now, let me reword it a bit.

Sandra bolted down the shadowed street to her parked grey Toyota Camry. Panting, she jerked open the door and planted herself in the driver’s seat. She pulled the door closed and locked it. Scotch tape held a note to her steering wheel, reading: Look behind you.

Do you see the difference? By eliminating ‘was’, ‘that’, ‘which’, ‘there was’, and the adverb, you get a cleaner read and a more vivid picture . . . which takes us to our next topic:

2.) Clearer Description The magic of stories lies in their ability to transport you into the scene. Some words are more powerful than others and can make the picture come alive. Let’s get back to poor, frightened Sandra.

A black figure sat in the backseat. He was really thin with a hat and coat and gloves. He leaned forward and said softly into Sandra’s ear, “Drive. They are coming for you.”

This is mediocre. Let’s use that dictionary Webster took the time to put together for us.

A gaunt figure sat in the blackness of the backseat, a hat tipped over his brow and the high collar of his trench coat obscuring most of his face. He gripped Sandra’s seat with his gloved hand and leaned in. Sandra caught a whiff of minty fresh breath as he whispered, “Drive. They are coming for you.”

Doesn’t the extra wording and the rearranged sentences make this come alive more than the previous paragraph? Do you feel more involved in the scene? This is what you want for your readers, but make sure not to go overboard with description. That’s called dumping. Tolkien is notorious for that. Basically don’t shy away from using that thesaurus.

3.) Mood and Tone General description is one thing, but it can be taken to another level to convey what the character is feeling in the moment. Changing wording to show what the character feels can immerse your reader even deeper into the story.

Happy: Sandra drove down the street. Sunlight shone through the window, warming her cheeks. A cross walk lay ahead with middle schoolers clustered on one end. She stopped and let the kids in their rainbow of clothing trot across the street.
Sandra smiled. So cute.

Angry: Sandra gripped the steering wheel as she gunned it down the street. Sunlight stabbed her eyes. She swatted the visor in front of the windshield to block the rays. A cross walk lay ahead with a bunch of middle school brats clustered on one end. She braked and let the entitled little nose-wipers scurry across the street.
Sandra scowled. If it wasn’t illegal, they would be pancakes. 
Not once did I said upfront Sandra is mad or happy in the excerpts yet you can totally get what she’s feeling by changing her perspective on how she see things according to her emotions. Let me show you a way to get even closer to the character in your writing.

4.) Character Voice Speaking of characters, what words you use to describe things and how they phrase their interior monologue can convey much about who the point of view character is. 
Sandra: Sandra walked into the office onto the plush, red rug, careful to keep her footfalls quiet. Streetlights bled into the large office. Old books lined the wooden shelves and a cherry desk lay in the center with a high backed leather chair behind it. A silver Dell laptop rested in the exact center of the desk.
She smirked. There it is.

Clyde: Clyde walked into the large office his loafers stepping lightly on the burgundy Karastan rug. Golden yellow light seeped in from outside. Sets upon sets of vintage tomes in wonderful condition resided on the mahogany shelves and a professionally polished cherry wood desk lay in the center, with a leather Wingback behind it. A gray, flat computer rested atop the desk.
He sighed. This man had taste. Now how to get the information off that confounded computer. 
The characters are seeing the exact same things yet they view the scene through their own unique perspectives. Now, we just have one more thing to discuss: 

5.) Author Voice Last but not least, the word choice also depends on the author. I haven’t even mastered this completely. I think voice is one of the toughest things to master in writing, but basically, some people are more straight forward and some are more poetic in their prose. Your voice must stand out. Yours + the characters. It’s complicated, but possible.

By using all of these techniques together, you can turn okay writing into amazing writing. It’s more work, but everything worth doing is. Thank you, Rebekah, for inviting me on the blog!

Do you have any questions about word choice? Do you have any advice to add? Do you know of any tidbits that used some great word choice?

Victoria Grace Howell is an award-winning, aspiring writer of speculative fiction. In 2014 she won the Teen Writer of the Year Award at the Florida Christian Writers conference and in 2015 she won the Beyond the Steeple Award. She also edits for the Christian site Geeks Under Grace. When not writing she enjoys drawing her characters, blogging, learning Kung Fu, cosplaying, and a really good hot cup of tea. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and her blog! On her blog she posts about writing tips, geeky things, her books, her journey as a writer, and tea reviews.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Jordan Update 6- Final Thoughts on the Dig

The dig season is almost over. In fact, we have completed excavations and only have a week of sightseeing left before we return to the states. I have some mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I am more than ready to sleep in my own bed, to see my friends and family. On the other, I will miss the culture of Jordan and the people I have met.

This trip was the first time I have ever left the country. What I have learned from this is that I love travel (if not the flight itself) as well as the middle east. I'm already contemplating another trip of some sort for next summer.

I hope you have enjoyed these updates, as well as the guest posts. There are a few more posts scheduled for this coming week, as well as a giveaway and the announcement of the winner of the goody box.

I will not have much time to get online this coming week, so you'll here from me inshallah!


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Jenelle Schmidt and Fantasy for the Family- Guest Post

Why Family-Friendly Fantasy?

When I tell people that I write “Family Friendly Fantasy” and that my target audience is “families” I often get some very quizzical looks. “What does that look like?” and “How does one write a book ‘for families’?” are some of the most common questions that are asked.

Growing up, books were a very important part of life. My mom read me the entire series of Little House books before I turned three. My dad read books to my siblings and me almost every night before bed. That was where I fell in love with Middle Earth, Narnia, Charles Wallace, Lad, Taran of Caer Dalban, and so many other worlds and characters. When I came home from college after my freshman year, my dad challenged me to write an “adventure tale” that he could read out loud to the family each night that summer. The idea intrigued me, and I set to work.

My family was my first audience. At the time, my younger sister was 11 and my brothers were 15 and 17. I had to work hard to make the story interesting for my high school brothers, enjoyable for my parents, and yet also understandable and not too scary or intense for my sister. When that summer was over, I knew I wanted to write more stories, and I wanted to find that perfect balance again and again.

That summer is one of my favorite memories. As my family was introduced to each new character, as each segment of ten pages unfolded more story before them, I saw a picture I wanted to be able to gift to others. My hope is that my books can provide entertainment to a whole new generation of families. I know mine isn’t the only family who reads out loud together, and I would count it the highest praise to someday discover that my books had made it into that honored position of evening read-aloud time for other families.

So, you parents who read out loud to your kids before bed and watch wonder unfold in their eyes and inspire their imaginations? You children who eagerly anticipate hearing stories come to life in the voices of your parents? I wrote this book for you.

About the Author
Jenelle Schmidt grew up in the northern-midwest. She now resides with her husband and their three adorable children in North Carolina where the summers are too hot and there is never enough snow. Jenelle fell in love with reading at a young age during family storytimes. To this day she enjoys creating exciting adventure tales filled with poignant themes and compelling characters in the fantasy and sci-fi genres.
To learn more about Jenelle and her work, visit her website.

King’s Warrior and Second Son are the first two books in Jenelle’s debut series “The Minstrel’s Song.” She hopes to release the third book, Yorien’s Hand, sometime this year. You can purchase her books through Amazon here and also here.


Giveaway: Jenelle is offering a copy of King's Warrior to two lucky winners. There is a physical copy for US entrants and an ebook for international entrants.
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Monday, July 20, 2015

Half Blood- Jaye L. Knight

Having read Resistance and King's Scrolls, I was super interested in Jace's back story. Half-Blood starts us with Jace at the age of six and takes us through until he is removed from slavery. If you are familiar with Jace's point of mind in Resistance, you know that he starts that book with a very low opinion of himself. In Half-Blood, instead of being like Resistance, where he gradually begins to see himself in a better light, we have the opposite, where he starts to see the worst of himself.

Half-Blood is not a light read. It is a story of the abuse Jace suffered before he came to be with the followers of the King. It is far from being a stand alone story, as it can only be appreciated after having experienced Resistance. However, it is well worth the read.


Tuesday, July 14
* Tour Introduction at Jaye L. Knight
* Review and Author Interview at 26 Countless Possibilites
* Review and Author Interview at Lianne Taimenlore
* Review and Author Interview at Crumpets 'n' Cream
* Review at Tialla's Tellings

Wednesday, July 15
* Review at The Destiny of One
* Book Spotlight at One Servant's Heart
* Review and Author Interview at Leah's Bookshelf
* Review and Author Interview at Red Lettering
* Review and Author Interview at Zerina Blossom's Books

Thursday, July 16
* Review and Author Interview at Sutori no Hana
* Review and Author Interview at Scattered Journal Pages
* Review and Author Interview at The Splendor Falls on Castle Walls
* Author Interview at A Writer's Faith
* Review and Author Interview at writinganyone

Friday, July 17
* Review and Author Interview at Written Rest
* Book Spotlight at Tell Tale Book Reviews
* Review and Author Interview at The Pen of a Ready Writer
* Review and Author Interview at Morgan Elizabeth Huneke
* Review at Poetree

Saturday, July 18
* Review at A Writer's Heart
* Review at Reality Calling
* Author Interview at The Art of Storytelling
* Book Spotlight at Thilly Little Nothings

Sunday, July 19
* Review at Through My Lens
* Review at Elvish Pens, Fantastical Writings
* Book Spotlight at Letters from Annie Douglass Lima
* Review at bookend

Monday, July 20
* Review at Pencils Can Change the World
* Review at Backing Books
* Review at Melody Jackson, Author
* Book Spotlight and Author Interview at In the Character's Shadow

Tuesday, July 21
* Review at A Vintage Girl in the Modern World
* Book Spotlight at However Improbable
 * Review at God's Peculiar Treasure Rae
* Review and Author Interview at Writings, Ramblings, and Reflections

Wednesday, July 22
* Review at To Be a Person
* Tour Conclusion at Jaye L. Knight

About the Book

The gasps and murmuring grew. Though some were hardly more than whispers, clear words reached
Jace’s ears—dangerous, monster, animal, soulless. He tried to back away from their accusing eyes, but the collar pulled hard against his throat and held him in place.

For all his years as a slave, Jace has known nothing but the hatred people hold for his mixed blood—one half human, the other half the blood of a race considered monsters. Always, he is the outsider and quickly learns it is better to keep to himself. But, when his volatile ryrik blood leads him to do the unthinkable, he is thrown into a world of violence and bloodshed.

Forced to become a gladiator, Jace finds more and more of his heart dying as his master works to break down his will not to become the monster everyone believes he is. When a stranger interferes with his master’s harsh punishment, Jace’s world is upended yet again. But with it comes the possibility of hope that has long since died. Could the man possibly hold the key to escaping the hopeless darkness that is Jace’s life? Is there such a thing as life beyond the cruelty of slavery?

See where Jace’s story all began . . .

Available on Amazon! Buy Now Add to Goodreads
Discover Ilyon in Resistance and The King’s Scrolls.

About the Author
Jaye L. Knight is an award-winning author, homeschool graduate, and shameless tea addict with a passion for Christian fantasy. Armed with an active imagination and love for adventure, Jaye weaves stories of truth, faith, and courage with the message that even in the deepest darkness, God’s love shines as a light to offer hope. She has been penning stories since the age of eight and resides in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

You can connect with Jaye on her website, blog, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Etsy, and on her new fiction forum where you can interact with other readers of the series.

Share in the excitement of the release and enter to win a themed giveaway pack! Prizes include an autographed copy of Half-Blood, a blue feather bookmark hand crafted by Jaye, a bronze sword pendant, and a $5 Amazon gift card! (Giveaway is open to US residents only. Cannot be shipped internationally.)

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