Friday, December 30, 2011

The Canary List [Review]

Title: The Canary List
Author: Sigmund Brouwer
Labels: Fiction | Suspense
Publisher: Waterbrook Multnomah
Publication Date: June 21, 2011
Contains: Touchy subjects
Buy It: Amazon | Book Depository | The Publisher

My Rating: (Didn't like it)
Blurb: Protected by the dark of night, Jaimie Piper runs. But is anywhere safe when Evil is hunting you? She’s just a twelve year-old girl, bumped around between foster homes and relegated to school classes for challenged kids, those lagging in their test scores or with behavioral issues. But her real problem is that she can sense something the other kids can’t—something dark. Something compelling her to run for her life.
          All Crockett Grey wants is to mark the anniversary of his daughter’s death alone. But when his student Jaimie comes to him, terrified, her need for protection collides with his grief, and a tangled web of bizarre events sends them both spiraling toward destruction. Crockett’s one hope of getting his life back is to uncover the mysterious secrets of Jaimie’s past and her strange gift. It isn’t long before his discoveries lead him to a darker conspiracy, secrets guarded by the highest seat of power in the world—the Vatican.
          This is going to be a relatively short review in comparison to my past ones, because in my opinion, The Canary List had little going for it. I really hate giving bad reviews, but this was one book where the cons outweighed the pros.

          The one thing I can say in the positive is the natural, believable voice of Jaimie Piper. I did like that in any chapters from her point of view, everything was portrayed just as a twelve-year-old girl would see it. The way she thought accurately showed the understanding she had as a twelve-year-old, while still giving way to things she couldn't understand due to her age. It was a good balance.

          As for the cons, well, I don't particularly approve subjects such as child abuse, or abuse of any sort for that matter. Anything pertaining to inappropriate sexual actions is a black letter in my book. Hence, I'm afraid I could not enjoy this book as the topic repeatedly came up as a prominent part of the plot.

          The other major element to this book that I didn't like was the involvement of demons and perversion in the Catholic church. I myself am not Catholic, but even so it turned me off to have to read of such things. True, there are such people today in any denomination of religion, but the book, to me, seemed to make it a ridiculously big conspiracy. And the apparent involvement of demons did nothing to help my opinion of this book. I'm afraid I cannot and will not recommend this book to anyone.

          I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for this review. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Courtship of the Vicar's Daughter [Review]

Title: The Courtship of the Vicar's Daughter
Author: Lawana Blackwell
Labels: Fiction | Historical Fiction
Publisher: Bethany House
Publication Date: November 1, 2007
Contains: N/A
Buy It: Amazon | Book Depository | The Publisher

My Rating:  (I liked it very much)
Blurb: In The Courtship of the Vicar's Daughter, Julia Hollis and Vicar Andrew Phelps are planning their December wedding and working toward blending their families together. With young Phillip Hollis about to leave for boarding school, and Elizabeth Phelps practically engaged to curate Paul Treves, both families seem prepared for the coming event.
          But Jonathan Raleigh, the Oxford rogue who broke Elizabeth's heart in the past, suddenly appears in Gresham professing to be a Christian and apologizing for his behavior. Then he takes a difficult position as Gresham's schoolmaster to prove he has changed. While Elizabeth will have nothing to do with Jonathan, she realizes she must come to terms with Paul Treves. The curate is handsome and godly and considered a "catch", but their romance is without the foundation of friendship she once had with Jonathan. Is this a love that was meant to be? Meanwhile, readers will be delighted when another unlikely romance blooms between two characters in Gresham who will need all the help they can get from an unusual source. [From Goodreads]
          Lawana Blackwell has my utter respect. Despite the rather large cast of characters in The Courtship of the Vicar's Daughter, each and every one had such a unique personality. All the characters - even minor ones - were well-rounded, believable individuals.

          The book itself almost seemed to have several different ongoing plots, though all, for the most part, involving a romance in the small village of Gresham. I'm really not even sure there was a single main character, but rather many. Now, while that may scream chaos to the reader, I actually found all the characters and plots neatly interwoven into an very good book. On a slight side note, I also love Blackwell's writing style (or at least the style she uses in this book).

          The only complaint I had against this book is that it didn't draw me in until I was a good chunk into the book. Actually, I didn't have any real interest in what was going on until the introduction of Seth (p. 69). Once he came onto the scene, I held out through the uninteresting parts for the sections of each chapter that spotlighted Seth. I am glad to say I eventually did become interested and drawn into the other character's lives and stories, but not nearly as soon as I would have liked.

          My two favorite characters were definitely Seth and Mercy. The Courtship of the Vicar's Daughter is a great read and I would most certainly recommend it.

          I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for this review. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Unpublished: *Notice!*

          Hello everyone! The Unpublished Series has been fantastic in the approximately two months of its existence. We'll call these few months Season 1, just for fun. Season 1 had a total five reviews, with a total of 23 page views combined. Those who viewed reviews from Season 1 came from the USA, Canada, Germany, Ireland, Belgium, and Japan. Cool much?

          Now, for the more depressing news. The Unpublished Series is taking a one month hiatus, until the beginning of February. With Christmas and family around, this week is going to be busy, and in January I am taking a two week college class, which will leave me with little to no time to write reviews. Sad, but a fact. I think it's best for everyone if this series takes a clean break until all the craziness simmers down.

          In the meantime I am going to be keeping an eye out for projects to be scheduled in for Season 2. I think that pretty much wraps up everything here. If you wouldn't mind, please take a few seconds to fill out the recommendation form, linked below. Thanks, and enjoy your Christmas!


Finished Manuscript and Other Updates

December 22, 2011:
          I finished my first complete manuscript! Ahhh! The Lighthouse (to be renamed) is complete (first draft) at   94,472 words, forty-two chapters, and roughly 271 pages. There is no set date for the starting of the second draft, but I will be taking approximately a one month break.

          In January I am taking a two week college class, so any serious writing/editing is on hold until I get back. Most likely no starting dates will be set any earlier than February. Even so, I'm starting to construct my list of possible people for my "editorial team", who will start coming onto the scene sometime after the second draft. Exciting stuff! I'm also looking into both independent publishing and traditional publishing. Hopefully by the time that comes around I'll have all my researching homework done.

          During my hiatus from writing The Lighthouse, I have a pile of books that need to be read and reviewed before my class in January, so that'll keep me busy in my spare time. When I get back, I'm going to be kicking butt on the school so I can finish up and put in a lot of hours rewriting before I start working this summer. Ah, the craziness!

December 23, 2011:

          Woke up today to about 3-4 inches of snow! Woohoo! It's about time it found its way to Vermont. However, it's melting fast :-(  I'm hoping it will snow again before Christmas - there's just something wrong with Christmas in Vermont with no snow. Makes me think of the movie White Christmas.

         Enjoy your Christmas!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Love Blooms in Winter [Review]

Title: Love Blooms in Winter
Author: Lori Capeland
Labels: Fiction | Romance | Historical
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
Publication Date: January 1, 2012
Contains: N/A
Buy It: Amazon | Book Depository | The Publisher

My Rating: 
Blurb: 1892Mae Wilkey's sweet next-door neighbor, Pauline, is suffering from old age and dementia and desperately needs family to come help her. But Pauline can't recall having kin remaining. Mae searches through her desk and finds a name—Tom Curtis, who may just be the answer to their prayers.
          Tom can't remember an old aunt named Pauline, but if she thinks he's a long-lost nephew, he very well may be. After two desperate letters from Mae, he decides to pay a visit. An engagement, a runaway train, and a town of quirky, loveable people make for more of an adventure than Tom is expecting. But it is amazing what can bloom in winter when God is in charge of things. [Taken from Goodreads]
          Love Blooms in Winter is not exactly what I would call the best book I've ever read. Yeah, I know, terrible way to start off a review, right? While it wasn't all bad, this book failed to capture and maintain my interest and attention. Plot itself was alright, but the characters kept making me want to bang my head against a wall.

          Let's start with one of the main characters, Mae Wilkey. She's a sweet girl born and raised in the small town of Dwadlo, but inconveniently has to take care of an elderly woman, Pauline, who has no family. She's also got this chump beau that had been courting her for forever but won't seal the deal with an engagement. Enter Jake, Mae Wilkey's beau. Why is he such a chump, you ask? Personally, I found him to be ridiculously stuck up and annoying as I'll get out. The more I realized the kind of person this Jake was, the more I lost respect for Mae and her willingness to put up with his garbage. 

          Then Tom Curtis came along. Now this guy I liked. Mae finds his name in Pauline's desk and automatically decides he must be kin. Reasonable assumption. But the poor guy gets dragged out the North Dakota to take care of the kin he's never met, gets the joy of falling in love with a great girl who just so happens be having a repeated brain fail as she continues to stick with her jerk of a beau. I felt really bad for him, but he did keep the book alive enough for me to keep ploughing through. The only other character that really struck my interest was Pauline. She was just...hilarious. She was probably my favorite character.

          The other thing that bothered me was random things that seemed totally out of place. (Due note, I read an advanced galley of this book, so hopefully the lines will be tweaked before the book comes out on January 1, 2012.) For instance, at the beginning there was a dating reference. Now, I'm not entirely sure exactly when the term "dating" really started to be used, but in the time period that this book is set in it felt totally out of place. Plus, it was never mentioned again, and instead the term "courting" was used. There was one other phrase that made me want to do a face-desk, too: "He was so...Tom." It immediately made me think of something I would expect to read in some vampire book (don't know why that came to me)...vampire books that I do not care for.

          As much as I hate giving downer reviews, I honestly didn't really like this book. It didn't draw me in, didn't hold my interest, and half the time I wanted to strangle one or more of the characters. Events that seemed random and out of place killed what might have saved this book for me.

          I received an advanced galley for free from the publisher through netgalley for this review. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Smitten [Review]

Title: Smitten
Author: Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Diann Hunt, & Denise Hunter
Labels: Fiction | Christian | Romance
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: December 20, 2011
Contains: Clean as a whistle.
Buy It: Amazon | Book Depository | The Publisher

My Rating: 
Blurb: Four friends devise a plan to turn Smitten, Vermont, into the country's premier romantic getaway-and each finds her own true love along the way.
          With Smitten Lumber closing, residents wonder if their town can stay afloat. Then four friends and local business owners-Natalie, Julia, Shelby, and Reese--decide the town is worth saving. How will they do it? They'll turn Smitten into a honeymoon destination!
        As Natalie, Julia, Shelby, and Reese work to save the town, each discovers romance in her own life. Meanwhile, the faith of a little child reminds the whole town what it means to have real faith in the God who is the always and forever Love.
          Discover a novel written by four of Christian fiction's most popular romance novelists- friends in real life who've drawn an amazing story of four friends! Includes a Reading Group Guide as well as "Conversation over Coffee with the Authors". [Taken from Goodreads]
          Smitten is best romance I've read, hands down. I'm not big on super sappy, or "steamy" romances, neither of which would describe this book -- woohoo! On the other hand, it was everything I had hoped for and more.

          It was neat that a quarter of the book was dedicated to the romances of each of the four main characters. Despite the separation of love stories, each was intricately connected to the others and carefully entwined together such as real life. Each and every character, from main characters to side characters, was so realistic - it was super easy for me to get into the story and feel involved and able to relate to the characters. I also really like that we got to see some chapters/sections from the guys' viewpoints, which I really appreciated. And they thought like guys. Maybe that sounds dumb, like "no duh", but seriously, male characters - particularly in romances written by girls (and vice versa) - don't sound like guys.

        That being said, there were parts were all I could do was crack up at the crazy thoughts of either character (male&female). Guys and girls really do think differently, and that really came out in Smitten. Sometimes it was funny, such as the last story were I just had to laugh because it was so ironic. Other times it was sad. And then there was an occasional time when I was like, "Kiss him/her already!!!" Good times.

          Maybe that second-to-last statement sounds like I was annoyed or something. To the contrary. I love books that stir up the reader's emotions, make me want to laugh, cry, or occasionally slap the character upside the head. But really, it's all good.

          Last but most certainly not least, I loved the fact that this book is clean. I hate reading books that give me too much info, or go into inappropriate boundaries. That is by far my biggest pet peeves with books. But Smitten was fantastic in this area! No grossness, no inappropriate behavior, zippo, while still maintaining an epic romance. Recommended 100%!

          I received this book for free from the publisher through booksneeze for this review. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Scroll [Review]

Title: The Scroll
Author: Grant R. Jeffrey & Alton L. Gansky
Labels: Fiction | Suspense | Christian | Futuristic
Publisher: Waterbrook Multnomah
Publication Date: September 6, 2011
Contains: A few crude comments.
Buy It: Amazon | Book Depository | The Publisher
Book Trailer: Click Here!

My Rating: 
Blurb: Dr. David Chambers, leading archaeologist, has spent his professional career uncovering the facts in the artifacts. His work sets the standard for biblical research in the Holy Land. But surrounded by the evidence, David has sunk into an abyss of doubt. A painful experience with a seemingly unresponsive God has left him without hope. The Old Testament scriptures that used to fill his mind with wonder now drive him to frustration. His unanswered questions have ripped him from both his academic pursuits and the love of his life, his fiancee, Amber.
          An old friend and mentor reaches out to David, enticing him with the riches described in the enigmatic Copper Scroll. Losing ground with his peers, his love, and his faith, David Chambers has a choice to make. Will he undertake one final dig to unlock a secret that could alter the course of history? Do the mysteries of the Old Testament hold the key to the political turmoil of the Middle East? In a world where faith has been eclipsed by the allure of doubt, The Scroll offers a different journey: a gripping adventure to find truth worth dying for.
          Suspense is definitely a well-suited label for this book. At first, when I found out the book is set in 2012, I wanted to plant my face into a wall. I couldn't help but wonder if this was going to end up being a end-of-the-world type book that would only feed the world's crazy contemplation of what next year will bring. Thankfully it didn't turn out to be like that...for the most part.

          While the book itself never actually came out and spelled out the end of the world coming in 2012 (supposedly), it occasionally alluded to it, particularly at the very end of the book and in the epilogue. But enough about that. That fact that is was set in the near future helped the setup, for sure. The team of archaeologists that David Chambers is recruited to comes into possession of some pretty sweet high tech devices, which I won't name specifically for the sake of keeping this spoil free. Even though most of these devices don't exist (at least that I know of....), it's easy to imagine such technology within the near future. The fact that the book is set within the next year also helped in that while the author's had some room to grow the technology, it was close enough to present times to keep most everything else the same as it is today.

          The obvious danger of the 'mission' Chambers and his colleagues are on makes this book ridiculously interesting. Something always seemed to be up, whether it was the paranoid head of security (one of my fav characters), ex-fiancee distracting him, annoying coworkers, name it. It was kinda crazy how many characters had died by the last chapter, quite a few of them extremely awesome, lovable characters at that. It added some sadness between all the epic explosions of events.

          I really don't know what else to say without blowing the entire plot. In short, the plot was just amazing. The characters were fantastic, well rounded, realistic...I'm pretty sure they're actually real, still hiding out in Israel and digging up holes. *wink wink*

          This book is now a new fav of mine. The suspense and excitement started on the first chapter and only grew, right up to the very end. Highly recommended! The ending also left off with a very interesting setup, should there ever be a sequel...

          I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah through blogging for books for this review. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Unpublished: The Other Side

Title: The Other Side
Author: Daediel
Contains: Curse words (8/30p.) 
Cover Thoughts: Love it!
My Rating:  ☆  (6/7)
Blurb: "I live in a world where caring is a gift only to be bought by the rich."
          Some people are born with their eyes open. Some people aren’t. And there are those who become something else.
          I never knew which one of those was me. No one cared enough to tell me. But I know what matters. I know I have to keep on watching what this city doesn’t. Picking up what everyone else scatters, leaves behind in the hurry of greed.
          I need to listen. 
Characters: This is probably one of the best character jobs I've seen in a long time. The main character, Tom, was extremely consistent, well rounded individual. I loved the way he thought, even though I did find him to a bit of a melancholy character (which is totally fine, we need fewer hotshots and more normal characters in the literary world :P) 

Imagery/Mood: Seems to me getting a good, desired mood to come across is a rather difficult thing to do -- few writers, especially unpublished ones, seem to be able to pull it off. Daediel's sure got it pinned down though! The imagery in The Other Side was fantastic, as well. Probably my favor line was “They’re a soundtrack without life.” Best of all, Daediel didn't overdue the imagery -- there was just the right balance. 

Plot: The Other Side currently (at the time of this review) has only four chapters up, a total of 30 pages. I've heard it said numerous times that the first 50 pages of a book are extremely important for catching the reader's attention; if you don't, there is a strong possibility of the reader putting the book aside and never picking it up again. While these first 30 pages in The Other Side weren't filled with fast-paced action, I found my interest kept through everything that was going on. The thoughts and feelings of a MC living in a boring, uncaring world was enough to make me want to continue reading. I'm interested in seeing where this story goes. 

Dialogue: I thought the dialogue throughout the entire story had a natural, believable flow to it. 

Other: Not much to be said here in the 'other' category. General mechanics were good, SPaG was good. Let's talk title. I really love the title The Other Side. I feel like there's a lot of meaning in it, a lot of back story playing into it. I can't wait to find out exactly how it ties into the plot. 

My Impression: I want to know when there's more. :) Fantastic piece of writing! The only thing that bothered me was the occasional foul language, which, as some of you probably know by now, is one of my biggest pet peeves, second only to sexually inappropriate content (The Other Side was totally clean in that way--hooray!). Still, in that way it fell within the bounds of what I consider eligible for a pick, which I'll most certainly be considering. 

Little Miss: The Rules of a Writer (First Edition) [Repost]

I thought this blog post was pretty hilarious at parts, as well as true. So, with permission from the wonderful Katherine Rae over at Katherine Rae, I've reblogged it here for anyone else to enjoy. Be sure to stop by and say hi at her blog!
The Rules of a Writer (First Edition)

As writer’s, we have no rules. We can tell our story how we please. Whether or not we’ll please everyone with that story, it doesn’t matter. As writer’s, we have free will of literature.

As readers, however, we have limits. We can read stories in whatever voice we please, make up our endings (just don’t tell the writer), and even change characters names that we can’t pronounce. However, there are a few rules that I suggest you don’t break.

Because as writer’s, we can simply put you into a book, and kill you.

To Judge a Writer, You Must First be a Writer
“How can you be a writer? You’re not that creative.” That comment will surely hurt anyone’s feelings, except a writer’s. You see, dear readers, are writers, we don’t consider it creative. We consider it those little voices in our heads, constantly in character, telling us what to write, when to write it, and how to write it. Yes, we make up a whole scenario, a whole plot, and even a whole title, but to us, it’s a habit. It’s a way of life. Some people dance, some people bake, some people breathe, we however, write.

A Writer’s a Writer, No Matter How Small
“You’re not a writer. You’re not published.” You caught me; I’m a chef. By the way, you just got the role of a main character… in which way would you like to die? Car accident, fire… gun shot?

You don’t ever tell a writer she’s not a writer. Whether or not those six novels that fill her college-bound notebooks are published, she isn’t exactly what Webster Dictionary defines as a ‘skilled cook who manages the kitchen (as of a restaurant)’. She’s a writer.

Never ask, “What are you writing about?”
It’s the same as asking, “So what are you deeply, too-personally thinking about?” better yet, it’s like asking a schizophrenic, “What are the voices telling you to do now?”

It’s our inner thoughts; our deep, personal conversations with ourselves that we have before we fall asleep. Something you just don’t go asking people about, no matter how close you are with them.

When a Writer Does Open up (which is rare), I Don’t Suggest Making Suggestions.
Truthfully, the chances of me wanting your feedback on my ideas when I didn’t ask are slim. That’s like me saying to you, “That’s a good outfit. Do you know what would make it better?...”

Now, if you’re a writer yourself, then sure, have at it, but those every-day-modern people that do things like hold office jobs for a living? What, exactly, do you know about making up characters and stuffing them into scenarios that are way beyond the human imagination? About as much as I know about holding an office job: zilch.

Never ask, “What are you doing?”

This rule has its exceptions, but you must remember: writer’s work in strange ways. We might write down everything you or the people around us are saying to get dialogue, take three hour long walks alone to get over writer’s block, or even study, too in-depth, the strangers in Wal*Mart to get characters.
No matter what you ask us though, we’ll just mutter a, “nothing,” and continue our unusual acts.

So, there you have it. As writer’s, you might think this is ‘wrong’ but this isn’t an opinion piece. It’s just an article, written by me and my free will of literature. Just my personal ways of life, I guess.

For those who want to bash my ideas of this article? Remember: I am one of those crazy writers, who will put you into a book, and kill you.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Christmas Singing [Promo!]

          Promo time! I'm sad to say I haven't had the opportunity to get a copy of The Christmas Singing, but I've read other books by Cindy Woodsmall, and I'm sure it's just as fantastic! You should definitely pick up a copy -- come back and tell me how it was!

          Mannnnnn. After watching the trailer, now I really want to go get myself a copy! *raids the piggy bank* Anyone up for an except? Follow the link below!

          You can even get 30% off and free shipping on The Christmas Singing (and any other title!) when you use the promo code CHRISTMAS11 at checkout on The coupon code expires on December 20, 2011. So hurry and get yourself a copy!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Mail Time: Random Book, Anyone?

          So I was expecting a book in the mail today, just not this book. To be completely honest, I've never even heard of it, the author, or the publisher. In short, I have no idea where it came from. I mean, technically I do. From the mailing address it appears it came from the publisher, but I've never even heard of the publisher! Nor is the publisher or author, as far as I can tell, in any way associated with any of the review sites I am on. No note was including, not even a request for a review. Just a bubble insulated paper package with the book. Random much?
          But hey, don't get me wrong - I'm not complaining the least bit. I am totally cool with getting free books from random sources. I've heard of such things happening, but it's never actually happened to me. Guess I can't say that anymore...
          I'm not really concerned about how it found its way to me...just curious. I am extremely careful about who I give my mailing address to, so I'm pretty sure I don't have any random stalkers; besides, what kind of stalkers send you books?
          My guess? Either the publisher was being awesome and decided to send it to me (yay!), or a relative or family friend ordered it and sent it to me without telling me ('tis possible).
          Whatever way you look at it, I have a new book to read and review! Thank you, random provider!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Writing Update

          Most of you who follow this blog know me from inkpop. Those of you who don't...well you should look me up :P. Anyway. Those of you who have known me on inkpop for a long time (or have 'liked' my fan page...because I post obsessively about my book on there...) know the project I've been working on for like, the past year and a half-ish, is The Lighthouse. Some of you may have even noticed that it's no longer on 'public' on inkpop. Sorry, dedicated readers.

          I took it off public because honestly, it stinks. Yes, I know I've had some really great comments on it from you awesome inkies, but lets be legit here. It is no where near being ready for anything. And at this point, not even reading.

          Yes, I know I'm a perfectionist at heart. But seriously. When I rewrite, the first half of the book needs to be rewritten into 1st person point of view, and the point of view narrowed to only two characters. No worries, no characters are getting ditched (at least, not at the moment....), but it seriously needs to be refined. But anywayy. That's not why I'm writing this post. On to the real reason!

          I just thought I should let you all know that my book has only 8 more chapters left until it's done!! *freaky girly squeal that you did not just hear* Also, it's a mere 7,000 words from being complete as far as word count! :D I'm so excited. And it has a deadline.

Deadline: December 24, 2011

          Yay! And then I am taking a mini break :P. I might work on some other projects that have been on the back burner, but I'm not touching The Lighthouse until after the Christmas season is done. Actually, I might not until the beginning of February. But that all depends. Ya see, I might be taking a two week college class in the middle of January, so if I'm gone and cramming for classes and what-not I'm not going to have time to be working on anything but school. Then again, if I don't get accepted into the classes, I'll be free in January and will start editing and rewriting then. So, we'll see.

          Speaking of The Lighthouse, though, I'm contemplating changing its name to Refuge. Any feedback on it? I'd love to hear!