Friday, July 21, 2017

Looks Like Love by Brandy Bruce | Re:View

Looks Like Love will leave you grinning like your crush just asked you on a date! 

*** 

This book was sweet, funny, and real in the most beautiful combination. I jumped right in one Saturday morning and was hooked. Reading it was like talking to a really good friend who decided to let you into their life one day. It's written in first person so you really get to know Kasey well.

I appreciated Kasey's character because, though there are times you're frustrated with her and yelling at the book (um, maybe that was just me?) because you know she's making a mistake...you also see how real she is and what it truly takes for a person to grow.

I also really enjoyed Brandy's life-perspective. That may sound strange, but it is a Christian romance and yet you find realness in these pages. Kasey isn't perfect. She doesn't always turn to God when she should (just as we all don't do that every time we should) and we get to see what happens to her through it all. The good, the bad, the difficult, and the beautiful. And through it all there is the sweet fragrance of love.

And Lincoln... *sigh* He wasn't perfect either (another thing I appreciated) but he was real, sweet, honest, and a great "hero" for Kasey. I found myself appreciating the circumstances they both found themselves in because, again, it was real. He had flaws just as she did.

The only thing I would say is that there were a few sections that felt very much like we were just being told what happened in a list of "then this happened, then this" etc. Those parts were a little sluggish to me and momentarily took away from the sweetness of their story. 

In all, a definite recommend from me if you enjoy sweet romance or Christian romance. This book will leave you feeling happy and leave you thinking about love in the best way!

My rating: 4*
Purchase: Looks Like Love

Book Description
(from Amazon)
Following a break-up with her boyfriend, an unfulfilling career, and a general bad taste in clothes, Kasey Addison feels lost in her own life. With the help of her best friend, Amanda, Kasey embarks on an unexpected journey to rediscover life and love, starting with a whirlwind London jaunt. Surrounded by red telephone booths, double-decker buses, and men in fuzzy black hats, Kasey falls in love with mud baths, Jane Austen, and stone cathedrals. And in the middle of London she meets Lincoln Davis, a Texan with a really great tan, and her life gets even more unrecognizable. When her spur-of-the-moment vacation is over, Kasey, a junior marketing consultant, finds herself on the marketing team for LETA, a growing cosmetics company. Kasey's thrown into the fast-paced world of promotional galas, photo shoots, and magazine interviews. When the owners of LETA decide to release their very first fragrance, Kasey's new assignment is to find out what love looks like and then find a way to sell it. With the help of Amanda and a few new friends, and with a rekindled relationship with the Lover of her soul, Kasey discovers that sometimes love looks like what we least expect.

_______________
I received this book for free but was under no obligation to post a review. I do so under my own motivation and the opinions I have expressed in this review are honest and entirely my own.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Love The Novel Worlds You Create by Edie Melson | Guest Post


I write weird stuff.

In addition to writing nonfiction, I’m a speculative fiction novelist. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, speculative fiction is the umbrella that fits over the genres of science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, etc.

I was destined for this world of weirdness. I grew up in the sixties, and one of my fondest memories is of sitting on my father’s lap, watching the original Star Trek series. For me, writing science fiction is like coming back home.

So what does this all have to do with world building? I’m giving you a little context before I take you on an extra-terrestrial ride.

Being a scifi writer means I create worlds . . . from scratch. I invent the science, determine the natural laws, populate them with strange creatures, and even stranger flora. Effective world building is foundational for the kind of books I write. It’s important in every novel, but it takes on added importance when the reader is dealing with a setting made up entirely from the author’s imagination.

For example, it’s not possible for me to mention my heroine is climbing through an abandoned spaceship hatch embedding in the talarium-coated rock face to get outdoors where the Laisa trees are in bloom and expect my readers to visualize what I’m describing.

I spend a lot of time creating the worlds in my novels. For me, this is a labor of love.

As a matter of fact, I love it so much, that I now find myself doing it without thinking. Imagining worlds that don’t yet exist are an integral part of the daydreams that come upon me unaware.

I do have a system to take these worlds from daydream to digital, and today I’ll share it with you.

My World Building Checklist:

1. Believability:
It doesn’t matter if my story takes place in small town USA or on board a spaceship. I must infuse the place with believability.

2. Terminology:
The world I build must have the flavor of the environment I’m trying to convey. That means made-up words, different plant and animal life, and even a different way of measuring time and distance.

3. Flora, Fauna and Physical Locale:
My job is to make sure the topography makes sense. A big part of the imagery comes in description. I have to provide just enough of a snap-shot to anchor my reader, without overwhelming them with pointless details. I also want to leave room for them to have fun filling out the scene themselves. Speculative audiences are an imaginative lot. Once they have a good grasp of where they are, they can fill in some of the details—and they enjoy doing that.

4. Dialect and Language:
Obviously a novel that takes place on another planet or in another dimension doesn’t have English as the foundational language. So how do we convey a touch foreignness without leaving the reader grasping a possible meanings?
  • Sprinkle in some made-up words with plenty of context to make the meaning clear. For example: Even as the voice in the earpiece sounded, Josiah smiled at her. “Don’t worry, Bezek bellows like a bovine, but is gentle as a hesit.”
  • Utilize a different sentence structure. For example, in a normal conversation we’d say: She turned her head slowly, afraid of the pain, but only felt a slight echo of the injury. In a spec fiction book I’d change it to: She slowly turned her head, afraid of the pain, but only felt a slight echo of the injury. It’s a small change, but that kind of misplaced modifier will give the story a hint of foreignness.
  • Give them a different way to measure time and distance. As I mentioned before, using different terms for these things can add a great deal of depth—as long as we don’t overdo it. In Anne McCaffrey’s dragon novels she refers to a week as a sevenday. It’s different, but still recognizable to readers. But it’s important to strike a balance between new terms and readability.
5. Keep Your Setting Uncomfortable:
Settings can be a great way to bring in or escalate conflict. We want to build a world we love, but we don’t want it to be a world where everything is just right. A true utopian setting—without undercurrents of nastiness—is boring. A perfect setting can suck the life out of your story faster than almost anything.

Bottom Line:
World building may be something we love, but it still takes work. (tweet this) We have to be willing to go deep and wide to make our settings believable and vibrant. It’s up to us to plant the reader in a place that allows their imagination to roam free while keeping their attention firmly focused on story that’s unfolding.

_______
Find your voice, live your story…is the foundation of Edie Melson’s message, no matter if she’s writing for fiction readers, parents, military families, or writers. Her passion to help those who are struggling find the strength they need to triumph is reflected in the characters she creates and the insight she shares. As an author, blogger, and speaker she’s encouraged and challenged audiences across the country and around the world. Connect with Edie further on her website, through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Alone

After her family is killed in the cleansing, Bethany’s purpose in life has changed. No longer will she be allowed to work to save her dying planet. As a slave, endurance is her goal as she marks each day as one moment closer to an eternity spent reunited with those she loved. But when her planet is invaded, everything changes. Now she must decide either to align herself with those from her planet who condemned her faith and killed her family, or with the warriors who have conquered her world. Ultimately her choice will mean life or death for more than just her planet’s ecosystem. She alone holds the key to a powerful secret, and the fate of the entire galaxy depends on her decision.

Purchase: Alone



Edie has graciously offered a digital and paperback copy of her book, Alone! Enter below:


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Julie Hall {Writer Wednesday}

A little bit about Julie...

Before writing her first novel Julie worked as a film publicist and rubbed elbows with the rich and famous . . . as in she would gently nudge them to let them know their meal had arrived during press interviews.

She now spends most of her "office hours" with her two furry writing buddies, Bear and Coco. Her daughter thinks that mommy's superpower is “sleeping all day,” but that’s because she’s often awake until the wee hours of the morning weaving tales of adventure in worlds of her own creation. When asked in an interview what she wanted to be when she grew up, she’s quoted to have answered, “to never have to grow up.”

She currently lives in Portland, Oregon with her four favorite people--her husband, daughter, and two fur babies (because dogs are people too).

Connect with Julie....

Website: www.JulieHallAuthor.com
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14434144.Julie_Hall
Author FB Page: www.facebook.com/JulieHallAuthor/
Street Team FB Page: www.facebook.com/groups/282920128780213/
Twitter: @julieghall
Instagram: @julieghall
BookBub: http://www.bookbub.com/authors/julie-hall-7c80af95-5dda-449a-8130-3e219d5b00ee
Spotify Character Song List: https://open.spotify.com/user/julieghall01?fo=1&utm_medium=share&utm_source=desktop#_=_

Get to know Julie...

You and Writing

Tell us a little bit about yourself and writing...

I started writing a lot of years ago. Actually, more than I’m willing to admit considering how long it actually took to get my first book published. Young adult fiction was particularly interesting to me because first off, I enjoy reading it, and secondly, I have spent most of the past fifteen years of my life serving as a middle or high school youth leader and think that it’s such an amazing age.

I’ve always wanted to write a book, so it was natural for me to jump into the YA genre. Honestly, my maturity level is probably on-par with where my target audience is, so that’s a good thing. My motivation for writing my LIFE AFTER series came from wanting to write a fun, exciting, and entertaining book for young adults that also had God’s Word and Truth weaved in it, but without sounding preachy. My hope was to write a story that was engaging to anyone, but that also made the reader think about the God in heaven who loves them desperately.

Little did I know when I started writing that the YA genre in Christian Fiction was practically non-existent now. I finished my first book and it was like, “Surprise, Christian publishers aren’t really publishing Christian YA anymore.” Huge bummer, right? I once heard a Christian author who writes for the general market say the only way to reach young adults these days was to write clean fiction for the general market. At the time it made me really mad, but I now understand what she meant. Simply that it was hard to get your Christian work in front of a YA market. But I believe our God is bigger than that and can use lots of ways to reach people and not just one way. I hope I’m around to see him move in big and mighty ways in the Christian YA market.

Your Writing

Tell us a little bit about your books...



Do you have a favorite character? If so, why?
My favorite characters change all the time, but for a while now mine has been one of my secondary characters. Her name is Kaitlin. I think I like her because she’s just such a happy and upbeat person, and I’d like to be a little more like her these days. My writing and release schedule the last few months has been grueling. So Kaitlin’s levity is much appreciated!

What is one take-away from your books that you hope readers identify with?
My hope is that readers have a good time reading the books, but that their ultimate takeaway is that there is a God that loves them and has a plan and a purpose for their life, even when things look the darkest.

What was a challenge you faced while writing?
Health was a huge challenge I faced when writing these books. I got sick with a chronic illness in the middle and had to take a break. The illness not only effected my mobility, but also caused temporary brain fogs and just a whole bunch of nasty things. So, finding time to write where I was mentally and physically capable of doing so was a challenge.

What did you learn while writing them? 
A lot about grammar I never wanted to know! Ha!

Was there a passage of scripture you came across or used while writing it that you’d like to share?

Oh my books are chalked full of scripture. I just hid it in there so the reader didn’t know they were getting fed the Word. I’m a sneaky ninja like that!

Did you get to do any fun research for the book?
My husband and I took medieval sword fighting classes together so I could do research for my sword fighting scenes. The couple that plays together, stays together! LOL

What's the most random thing you had to Google for the story?
Well, while trying to remember the word “chum,” which is all the fish guts and blood people pour into the water to attract sharks I learned via google that CHUD is an acronym for “Cannibalistic Human Underground Dweller.” Huh, who knew? Not me!

What’s your favorite snack while writing?
Red Bull!!!!!

Writing

Let’s talk about your writing life....

How long did you write before you got published?
Too long! Haha! Actually I was traditionally published, and then decided to indie publish. Once the book was finished it took maybe a year total to get an agent and publisher. But at the end of the day, since Christian YA is a hard sell, I found that independent publishing was the way to go for me.

How many rejection letters did you get before being accepted by a publisher?
Thankfully I don’t know because I had an agent who was fielding all that lovely rejection for me at the time. LOL

From @CreateExploreRead Instagram
What does your writing process look like?
When I wrote HUNTRESS I just started writing. I had no idea what I was doing. How to plot, how to make a story arc, how to develop my characters. So there was A LOT that ended up getting cut out of the first book. After HUNTRESS I had a feel for the craft better and now I plot out my books before writing them. I may deviate here and there to make the story better, but it’s certainly a faster way to write a novel.

What is your favorite and least favorite part of the writing process?
Editing and editing. I LOVE editing because it means I actually wrote enough words to make a full novel! Yay! Also, my editors have taught me SO much about writing. They are invaluable. However, towards the end of editing when I’ve gone over the book like a million times (not exaggerating here), I end up hating editing and feel like I’m limping toward the finish line. Slowly. With a broken leg. And missing one eye.

Where do you find inspiration for your story/characters?
I have no idea. Like for real, I seriously don’t know where they come from. They’re just there. It’s weird.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, have a favorite artist or playlist to share?
Um, YES! I LOVE listening to music when I write. I’m one of the weirdos who actually likes listening to music with words when I write, which I know distracts a lot of authors. But no, not me. Just gets me pumped up! In fact I have a Spotify account with separate albums on it for each of my characters. When I find a new song that reminds me of a character or something that they are going through, I pop it in the album. I have to say I have a minor obsession with Imagine Dragons right now (and by minor, I mean major) and Christ Tomlin’s “Our God” has always felt like a theme song for the series for me. I usually like songs with a strong beat and a lot of emotion.

How do you grow in your writing craft?
I really relay on my beta readers and editors to help mold me into a better writer. In fact, I even hate doing stuff like this because I know it’s probably riddled with typos and wrong word choices and such. In a perfect world I would have an editor at my disposal to edit as I write anything! Including emails . . . and FB posts . . . and text messages . . . and, well, I think you get the point.

You

How did you like to celebrate the 4th of July?
We moved from Washington, DC to Portland, OR this past January. We flew back to the East Coast at the beginning of the month to visit with friends and family. I ended up writing most of the time, so that was sort of a huge bummer. Anyway, we actually decided last minute to drive up to New Jersey, near New York, to spend the 4th of July with my husband’s bother and sister-in-law who have five children. Three of which were born over Thanksgiving this year. Yep, that’s right, triplets! My sister has twins and my husband’s brother has triplets. So we have a couple sets of multiples in the family. We spent the day hanging with them and our five year old daughter got to play with her cousins. Then we watched their local fireworks. It was a great time!

What is your favorite activity during the summer?
Oh man, I grew up in Michigan and people always went ‘up-north’ to stay in cabins and hang out in one of the many lakes we have throughout the state. I really miss that from growing up. I love boating and just spending time on the water. I haven’t done much of that since moving out of the state after graduating college though, but I would have to say that’s my favorite summer activity.

Share a personal freedom you’ve experienced.
This is a really deep question. I would have to say a personal freedom I’ve experienced is the fear of death. And it has nothing to do with the fact that I’ve written a series on a fictional (meaning totally made up) version of the afterlife. Really it has more to do with my personal story. To give you the main points so I don’t write a novel here, I’ve been battling with Chronic Lyme Disease for about eight years now. A few of those years it was so bad I was bedridden. I was in my twenties and felt like I was slowly dying. I’d never had my body betray me the way it did, and through all that pain I guess it really hit me that this life is just temporary, and we do have a hope and something better waiting for us. I’ve always believed in heaven and life after death, but I think being so sick really made me understand that the suffering we go through here will end someday. And it freed me from the fear of death that I hadn’t even realized I was holding onto.

Now, I’m not saying I want to die tomorrow. I love my life. I love my family and friends and all the people (with and without fur) in it. I hope to live a nice long life. But now I no longer fear my own death because I really believe that what the Bible says about it to be true.

What are you currently reading?
Well, technically right now I’m not reading because I’m on a tight writing deadline . . . but who am I really kidding, I’m always reading. When I’m on a deadline my reading hours just become very nocturnal (aka off the kindle app on my phone late at night when the hubby is sleeping). There are so many great books out there these days, so I’m currently toggling back and forth between several young adult novels from some lovely authors I’ve met this last year. Right now it’s CURSED BY THE GODS, by Raye Wagner, THE RETURN, by Kelly St Clare, and SHADOW FALL by Audrey Gray. All great reads! I highly recommend them!

Emilie here: Thank you so much Julie! What a wonderful, transparent interview! I love your raw honesty and sense of humor. Looking forward to reading these stunning novels and I'm SO excited to share with my dear readers here. 

Friends, grab you copies of these books (my reviews coming soon!): 

Purchase: Huntress

Purchase: Warfare  

Enter below for the chance to win an awesome swag pack from Julie!!! 


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Amy Williams | Author Chat


Welcome my guest Amy Williams to the blog. We're sitting down with a beverage of your choice and chatting about real life stuff--embarrassing stories, normal days, books, and even a nickname you will not believe! So, without further ado, may I present you with Amy Williams...


...a novelist, freelance writer, founding member of Crosshair Press LLC, and professional nerd. You can find most of her work under the name A.C. Williams, but she also writes young adult fantasy (The Legend of the Lightkeepers) under the pen name Kimberly McNeil. Amy is single and lives in her family’s 100-year-old farmhouse on five acres in the middle of the Kansas prairie. She loves cats and drinks far too much coffee.

Let's Get Real

Would you rather live in a story world you’ve created for a year OR live three days in a story world someone else has created? If second option, which story world?
I would absolutely choose to live in the world I’ve built for my YA Fantasy series, The Legend of the Lightkeepers. No contest. It’s full of adventure and beauty and talking fox-people, and the local cuisine is Indian. I’d eat chicken korma with basmati rice every day and never get tired of it. And I’d learn how to fight with a laser sword too. I’d probably chop off my foot accidentally, but I’d have fun until then.
Amy and her cat Amelia Pond
Share an embarrassing story. (Come on, we know you have one!)
Oh, do I have to? The most recent embarrassing story from my everyday life happened at a conference. While I was there, I made friends with a wonderful older woman. She was just incredible, and she was also blind. Since we hit it off so well, we decided to go for ice cream after dinner. I got her down stairs, out of the hotel, up stairs, across the street, and helped her purchase the ice cream she wanted. Then, we went back to the hotel, and everything was great until we were getting out of the elevator on her floor. And, well, long story short, I kind of let her walk into a wall. I could have curled up and died right there. But fortunately she was gracious, and she still wanted to be friends!

Share about a failed meal you’ve made.
I had a bright idea to make cheese soup some time ago because someone had given us a huge bag of cubed cheese. But I’d never done it before. So I got a recipe offline and gave it a try. Yeah, the cheese didn’t melt. It cooked. And turned into rubber. So the soup was more like chewy orange plastic with salt broth. Nasty.

What’s one thing you must have/do in the morning?
Coffee. Someday I’ll be spiritual enough to say Jesus. But for now, it’s coffee. ;-)

What does a ‘normal’ day look like for you?
I’ve just recently started a new schedule, so I can answer this one pretty easily. I get up around 6:30 a.m. every weekday, and while I’m drinking my coffee I have quiet time and write in my prayer journal. Then, I walk two miles and take a shower, because I smell terrible afterward. I eat breakfast and usually get started on my work around 9:30 a.m. Then, I work for 50 minutes at a time and take a 10 minute break until lunch, which is around 1 p.m. And I start up again at 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. The only weekday that’s different is Wednesday, which is a “town day.” The city is 45 miles away, and I go in to meet with clients and drain the local coffee shop of its caffeine stores.

I try to write for 7 to 8 hours every weekday, whether it’s on a novel, an online training course script, a client copywriting project, or blog posts.

Crosshair Press LLC Founders Katie Phillips, Amy Williams, and Amy Davis
Name three places you’d like to travel to & why...
  • Japan. I have always loved Japanese culture, so Japan has been at the top of my bucket list since early high school.
  • Alaska. I love the wild, rural areas of the world. Honestly, I’d love to drive to Alaska, up through Canada and back home again. What an amazing trip that would be!
  • San Francisco. My YA Fantasy series The Legend of the Lightkeepers is partly set in San Francisco, but I’ve never been there! So Frisco is on my must-visit list for 2018.
Do you have a nickname? Care to share?
I got my nickname, Whirlygig (or just Whirly), when I was a freshman in high school. Those summers, my brother and I would go over to my best friend’s house every Wednesday afternoon and play video games on their N64. The game we defaulted to was Goldeneye. The only character I liked to play was the Helicopter Pilot, but he needed a name. So I named him Whirlygig. My best friend at the time was also named Amy, so to avoid confusion, the nickname stuck. To this day, half the people I know still call me Whirly. 

From @CreateExploreRead Instagram
Which of your characters do you secretly have a crush on?

Jim Taylor. He’s one of the main characters in Meg Mitchell and The Secret of the Journal, and I love everything about him.

Connect with Amy: 
Facebook: @AmytheStoryteller
Twitter: @AmyStoryteller 
Instagram: @AmytheStoryteller
Website: www.amycwilliams.com

Meg Mitchell and The Secret of the Journal
Kimberly McNeil (aka A.C. Williams)

Raised in an alien world by adoptive parents, Meg Mitchell fights Centaurs, trains as an Andai warrior, and chills in her favorite willow tree. But when she discovers her birth father’s journal, Meg learns that she and her brother and sister have a lost cousin. Together, the Mitchell kids leave the world they know to return to San Francisco.

When her sister is kidnapped, Meg enlists the help of teenage detective Barb Taylor and her genius little brother Jim. Following clues dropped by a mysterious benefactor, they embark on a cross-country adventure to rescue her sister and find Meg’s cousin.

Family is everything to Meg, but not all is as it seems. In her quest to reunite her family, she may lose more than she ever imagined.

Purchase: Meg Mitchell & The Secret of the Journal

Monday, July 17, 2017

On Love's Gentle Shore by Liz Johnson | New Novel News

On Love's Gentle Shore
by Liz Johnson

Published: July 4, 2017
Publisher: Revell
Purchase: On Love's Gentle Shore

Fifteen years after she left Prince Edward Island, Natalie O'Ryan had no plans to return. But when her fiancé, music producer Russell Jacobs, books their wedding in her hometown and schedules a summer at Rose's Red Door Inn, she sets out to put the finishing touches on the perfect wedding. But she can't possibly prepare for a run-in with Justin Kane--the best friend she left behind all those years ago after promising to stay.

Justin's never forgotten Natalie or the music career he always dreamed of pursuing. He'd been prepared to follow her off the island until his dad died and he was left to run the family dairy farm. He's done the best he can with the life that was thrust upon him--but with Natalie back in the picture, he begins to realize just how much joy he's been missing.

After Natalie's reception venue falls through, she must scramble to find an alternative, and the only option seems to be a barn on Justin's property. As they work together to get the dilapidated building ready for the party, Natalie and Justin discover the groundwork for forgiveness--and that there may be more than an old friendship between them.

Get to know Liz...

If your book became a movie, who would you cast for your main characters?
I always pictured Natalie as Jessica Chastain, all wild red hair and blue eyes, and I love the cleft in her chin. Justin has always resembled Christian Kane from the TV show Leverage. He’s not too tall and has the stocky build he needs to wrestle cows on his dairy farm. And he has long hair, which he keeps pulled back in a ponytail. Natalie still teases him about it.




Would you rather go to the future or go to the past?
I think I’d rather visit the past. I’d like to see (but not live in) Regency England. Maybe I’d have tea into Jane Austen. I’d definitely enjoy a country walk

Who is your favorite secondary character?
In my books, Aretha Franklin is by far my favorite secondary character. She’s such a wonderful woman. Despite suffering terrible heartache when her husband left her, she’s neither bitter, nor consumed by it. She’s defined by compassion and joy.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Gilded Cage by Vic James | Re:View

Imaginative and dark, Vic James explores a new dystopian fantasy world that will leave you shocked and craving more.

*** 

As per my usual, I didn't know anything about this book before diving in. I mean, I knew I liked the cover, knew it was a "hot topic" floating around the YA community, and probably knew it was a fantasy, but other than that I was flying blind. I'm happy to say I was pleasantly surprised.

Following the perspectives of several different characters throughout the story, we see the dismal future of a modern-day world divided by magic and no magic. A strange happening called "the slave days" causes all non-magic users to offer up ten years of their life in service to the elite. Those with magic. The political tone of the book is evident as well, creating a very real feeling atmosphere in a world not too different from ours, and yet worlds away.

The concept is creative and well executed, though it definitely has left me craving more information on the magic and what will happen to the characters. Twists and turns abound in way that will have you flipping pages quickly to the end!

I did find the timeline a little frustrating at times. Due to the multiple viewpoints, the reader is transported through weeks/months at a time per viewpoint. It can become a little jolting because things happen that we don't see (due to another characters involvement) and then the next character reacts to something we didn't experience with them. For the sake of the book and the events that transpire, I can see why it was done this way, but it left me feeling a little "left out" at times. I also had some serious trouble with the characters names haha. Not all, but some were just very difficult to wrap my reading brain around (likely a personal issue 😉).

I definitely enjoyed this book and look forward to continuing on in the series. It does get dark, just as a "warning". This is not a light and fully fantasy read. I recommend it to fans of urban fantasy, YA dystopian/fantasy, and dystopian.

*A note to my clean readers: There is use of language and some rather violent descriptions in a few parts of the book. Probably a 16+ read (with parental interaction) in my opinion.

My rating: 4*
Purchase: Gilded Cage

Book Description
(from Amazon)
MAGIC RULES. WE SERVE.

In a darkly fantastical debut set in modern-day Britain, magic users control everything: wealth, politics, power—and you. If you’re not one of the ultimate one-percenters—the magical elite—you owe them ten years of service. Do those years when you’re old, and you’ll never get through them. Do them young, and you’ll never get over them.

This is the darkly decadent world of Gilded Cage. In its glittering milieu move the all-powerful Jardines and the everyday Hadleys. The families have only one thing in common: Each has three children. But their destinies entwine when one family enters the service of the other. They will all discover whether any magic is more powerful than the human spirit.

Have a quick ten years. . . .
_______________
I received this book for free but was under no obligation to post a review. I do so under my own motivation and the opinions I have expressed in this review are honest and entirely my own.  

Tranquility: A Prayer and Refelction Coloring Journal | Re:View

Soothing, calming, tranquil. All perfect words to describe this lovely prayer and reflection coloring journal! 

*** 

I simply love this coloring and prayer journal. Ever since I got the gratitude one I have loved the whole concept of these books. The reality is...sometimes I want to do my devotions differently. It's not bad to sit and just read through my Bible (obviously, that's a good thing) but the way in which I process what I read is important too. Sometimes, I want to try something different in the mornings and coming to a journal like this is the perfect thing!

If the cover is any indication (which it really is) this journal is stunning in its craftsmanship! From the thick panels of the cover and back plate (which make it super easy to color/write in) and the beautiful interior layout, I find myself fully engaged.

For every two pages, there is a prompt, or prayer, and typically a scripture to go along with that. Then there is a way to engage--whether it's drawing, journaling, or coloring in. What a fun idea, right? The best part is that you can focus your thoughts on what you've read (the prompt/scripture/journal entry) while you're coloring. Yes, coloring may be "easy" or possibly even "mindless" but with this journal, it doesn't have to be.

I highly recommend this journal to anyone who enjoys journaling, coloring, and reflective prompts. You will not only find encouragement in these pages but fun too!

My rating: 5*
Purchase: Tranquility: A Prayer and Reflection Coloring Journal

Book Description 
(from Amazon)
Tranquility: A Prayer and Reflection Coloring Journal invites you to mix creative journaling and coloring into your personal time with God. Prayers that focus on topics such as being thankful, dealing with stress and heartache, caring for yourself and others, listening for God’s leading, and waiting patiently on Him will guide your thoughts and calm your spirit. Filled with more than 100 designs to color, plenty of space for journaling, and 40 needs-based prayers, Tranquility will help you express your devotion to God with your whole heart.
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I received this book for free but was under no obligation to post a review. I do so under my own motivation and the opinions I have expressed in this review are honest and entirely my own.  

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Illusionist's Apprentice by Kristy Cambron | Re:View

Mysterious and filled with the rich history of the 1920s, The Illusionist's Apprentice will romance you and leave you longing for an era passed.

***

I thoroughly enjoyed this latest book by Kristy Cambron. She's such a master at painting a vibrant picture with words, drawing you into the story and pulling on your heart strings at the same time.

I loved Wren Lockhart's character and her affiliation to Harry Houdini as well as her own eccentricity's. She's a strong character who will stand up for what she believes, but there's a softness to her as well. Something that, eventually, comes out and makes her feel whole in the reader's eyes. The true fruition of her character is a wondrous thing to behold through the story.

Slipping into the time-frame of this novel was a lot of fun for me. I enjoy the luxury and vibrancy of the 20's - a great decade to set this mystery in - and found myself thoroughly enjoying the delicate touches of information, description, and history. Kristy really has a beautiful way of drawing out emotion in her characters while painting a dynamic picture of what life could have been like during this time.

As for the mystery, I feel like it was well formed. There were a few elements that I felt were made to be a big deal (I won't reveal them here so as not to spoil) but ended up seeming to not matter as much in the end. That confused me a little, but it didn't distract from the overall idea of the story.

Also, as a larger focus of this book, Kristy deals with the ideas of illusion versus magic. I loved that she did this and had her characters learning as they went. It brings to mind another current book I'll be reading soon...but that's another review ;-)

I would definitely recommend this to those who like historical fiction, mystery, and anything to do with the 1920s and the idea of illusion versus magic. Kristy is a beautiful, lyrical writer who will stun you with her artfully painted words!

My Rating: 4*
Purchase: The Illusionist's Apprentice 


Book Description
(from Amazon)
Not all illusions happen on the stage.

Wren Lockhart, apprentice to master illusionist Harry Houdini, uses life on a vaudeville stage to escape the pain of her past. She continues her career of illusion after her mentor’s death, intent on burying her true identity.

But when a rival performer’s act goes tragically wrong, the newly formed FBI calls on Wren to speak the truth—and reveal her real name to the world. She transfers her skills for misdirection from the stage to the back halls of vaudeville, as she finds herself the unlikely partner in the FBI’s investigation. All the while Houdini’s words echo in her mind: Whatever occurs, the crowd must believe it’s what you meant to happen. She knows that if anyone digs too deep, secrets long kept hidden may find their way to the surface—and shatter her carefully controlled world.

Set during one of the richest, most vibrant eras in American history, this Jazz Age novel of illusion, suspense, and forgotten pasts is perfect for fans of The Magician’s Lie, challenging all to find the underpinnings of faith on their own life’s stage.
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I received this book for free but was under no obligation to post a review. I do so under my own motivation and the opinions I have expressed in this review are honest and entirely my own.  

Friday, July 14, 2017

You Are the Chosen One: The Future of Speculative Fiction by Mollie E. Reeder | Guest Post

Emilie here: Excited to feature this post by Mollie today! In a funny coincidence/happenstance, I had just heard this story (or part of it) from another author and am so glad she decided to write about it here. I know you'll find it as encouraging as I have!

***

In 1916, a fifteen-year-old newsboy in Kansas City sat in a darkened auditorium captured by a silent film - a fairy tale. A storyteller at heart, he enrolled in a correspondence course for cartoonists, squeezing in Saturday art classes between school and newspaper routes. During WWII, he was published in army magazine Stars & Stripes, and later went to work in illustration and animation, the early impact of that silent movie percolating in his young mind all the while.


In 1934, now a filmmaker, he gathered a group of animators on a sound stage and proceeded to act out the storyline of the fairy tale he’d seen all those years ago. He wanted to do something that had never been done before: the first fully animated feature film. In full color. With audio.

And he was going to produce it right in the middle of the Great Depression.

The movie he wanted to make was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and that fifteen-year-old midwestern newsboy turned Hollywood aspirant was Walt Disney. But Walt’s contemporaries didn’t exactly jump on board with his big idea. It seemed like a bad investment, and the industry jokingly titled the Snow White project “Disney’s Folly”.

Imagine if they could have seen the future.

Storytellers are innovators and inventors of though - we not only write to reflect culture but to shape it. I love Walt’s backstory because it illustrates the generational nature of creativity. In 1916, filmmaking was in its infancy. Pioneers of silent film blazed a trail for young people like Walt - and Walt’s legacy continues to impact my creative endeavors (and probably yours) to this day.

Speculative fiction is exciting because there are so few rules. We can create new worlds, new languages and new ideas. We can travel back to alter the past, fling ourselves forward into the future, or step sideways into alternate realms. Speculative fiction has been optimistic and cautionary, whimsical and technical, sometimes all at once.

When I think about the future of science fiction and fantasy - or should I just say the future? I think about you.

Somewhere, today, is tomorrow’s Walt Disney.


I started writing novels because nobody was writing books exactly like the ones I wished for. I hope that’s why you’re writing, too - because you have a story that’s meaningful and exciting to you. Something that gets your blood going. I hope you’re taking risks instead of fearing trends. I hope you’re writing the future you want to live.

Of course, with this power to shape the future comes responsibility (thanks, Uncle Ben). Not just to take big creative risks, to pursue new ideas and creative excellence, but to tell stories we actually believe in. As a Christian, everything I do is driven by a purpose, not just to entertain, but to transform. Walt produced Snow White because he believed it was a great story. He got it done, despite great odds, through sheer determination and creative passion. How much more will you accomplish if you are pursuing the story that God has set on your heart, not through your own might, but through the power and determination of Christ? When you are prayerfully aligned with the Heart of Jesus, walking intimately with him, you truly have not just an ability, but a destiny to impact the world! (tweet this)

Or, to borrow the language of the genre: you are the chosen one!


We owe a lot to Walt for taking that risk back in 1934. What seemed stupid then - an animated feature film? - now has its own category at the Academy Awards. “Disney’s Folly” turned out to be one of the most profitable films of all time, and inevitably gave rise to the modern giant the Walt Disney company is today.

I recently got to visit Magic Kingdom for the first time, traveling with fellow movie makers Nathan and D’Lytha Myers to represent our film at a festival in Orlando. One of my favorite photos is the three of us - freshman filmmakers ourselves, just like Walt once was - screaming our heads off on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which opened in 2014… seventy years after Walt first set out to make his movie!


Long after Walt, Walt’s stories live on. With any luck (grace!), so will ours. Write on, awesome people - and I’ll see you in the future!

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I’m a writer and a filmmaker and I really like dinosaurs!

Growing up in the suburbs of Texas, I memorized musicals, devoured paperback novels, and dreamed of someday working in Hollywood. In 2016 I co-wrote, produced and edited Aria Appleton Shines like the Sun, a musical family comedy featuring kids, dogs, singing, pyrotechnics and everything else they told us not to do in a microbudget movie. With its humor, drama, and great soundtrack, Aria Appleton is just the kind of movie I always wanted to make. 1990’s Mollie would approve!

I’m currently writing a series of science-fantasy novels about dinosaurs, and I blog about writing and filmmaking at www.writeratops.com.

Follow me on Twitter @writeratops


Mollie has graciously offered a giveaway of this AWESOME "Tea Rex" mug! Enter below via the Rafflecopter (please note this is for U.S. addresses only).


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Dragon Seed by Marty Machowski | Re:View

Dragon Seed by Marty Machowski is the tale of angry teen, Nick, and his path through reading a book handed down from his descendants that ultimately teaches the folly of pride and the reality of spiritual warfare.

I appreciated the reality of drawing attention to spiritual warfare in this book. Yes! It is so important for all of us (no matter our age) to be aware. I also thought that Mr. Machowski did a great job of pointing out the error (a grave one at that) of pride. It corrupts, taints all things, and separates us from God.

I also enjoyed Mr. Machowski's explanation of the dragon as representative of the devil's fall from heaven. His alterations to fit "the dragon" into Biblical stories was intriguing and created an interesting story to follow along to.

I think where this book began to break down for me was its intended audience. It's labeled as Young Adult and I therefore assume it's written for teens. The trouble for me upon first starting the book was the fact that it starts out in the mother's point of view. If I were still a teen, that would be very off-putting for me. How do I identify with a mom? Not to mention the fact that the "angry teen", Nick, is then portrayed as just that: an angry teen.

In my experience with youth ministry, the way to relate to teens is not by showing them exaggerated examples of themselves, but to establish common ground and then gently, lovingly, point out where there are issues. You build a relationship and then maneuver to the difficult subjects.

On that note, I also had trouble accepting the characters motivations and interactions with one another. I found it difficult to believe Martha would act as she did toward her friend Mia. I also was distracted by the head-hopping (switching from one characters POV to another within the same scene). I assume this was written in omniscient POV but it was distracting to me personally.

I did, however, really enjoy the "The Antidote" section of the book. A practical, 12-day devotional that would work well for a small group or Bible study.

All in all, I would say that this book could be useful to teens who already have an understanding of the Bible and are part of church culture so they would have some context to the story. I would be hesitant to hand this over to a teen who had no affiliation with Christianity. To me, Nick's character is described exactly how a parent would characterize him (at least initially) not as a teen a teen could relate to. He's angry, misunderstood, and volatile without reason (again, initially). Yes, I realize that is how teens act, but to a teen reading that, I think it could feel trite or off-putting. 

Rating: 3.5
Purchase: Dragon Seed

Book Description
(from Amazon)
An angry teen, a desperate mother, a missing father, and a shadow lurking in the background. Things were going from bad to worse for Nick and his family. Tempted to run away after yet another argument with his mom, Nick receives a handwritten, leather-bound copy of an old book a family legend passed down to him from his great grandfather. The book, called Dragon Seed, leads Nick deep into his family s history and introduces him to another angry young man who lived in the shadows (the shadows of the tombs). Like Nick, you ll be shocked to discover where he fits in this story of epic proportions! This page-turning, young adult fiction story invites older children and teens into the real-life struggles of Nick. But it also ushers them into an imaginative exploration of the life of the young man Jesus saved as he wandered through the tombs. Best-selling author Marty Machowski uses both stories to introduce the reality of spiritual warfare and how its shadows affect and change us. Machowski, a trusted teacher for children of all ages, presents a thoroughly biblical view of spiritual warfare that emphasizes the importance of humility and dangers of pride. Teens will be drawn to the story of Nick and his struggles and will learn, as they read, to also identify the shadows in their own life and turn from them. While the biblical teaching is evident throughout the narrative of Dragon Seed, Machowski also includes a twelve-lesson Bible study at the end of the book to help teens ground their understanding of spiritual warfare on biblical principles. Youth pastors, leaders, and parents will also want to explore with teens the small group study at the end of the book with its unique take on spiritual warfare that emphasizes the biblical theme of humility. This is a perfect book to read with a group and discuss together the implications of Nick s struggles for their lives.

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I received this book for free but was under no obligation to post a review. I do so under my own motivation and the opinions I have expressed in this review are honest and entirely my own.