What Am I Reading?

Happy Tuesday to my reader friends!  Here is what I am planning to read and review this week!

“Liberty and Means: A Novel,” by Kristin Dow

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; December 5, 2015

liberty and means

Synopsis: Someone is tracking Shannon Clark, altering the course of her life in a most unexpected, thrilling way. But as the familiar is gradually stripped away, she starts to feel disconnected and doesn’t know who to trust. Family, friends, dating, work…nothing is the same and everything is complicated. Will Shannon learn to embrace her new world filled with golden opportunity or get lost amongst its trappings? She now has the chance to follow her dreams. Trouble is, she doesn’t know what they are.

“The Story of Our Life: a bittersweet love story,” by Shari Low

Publisher: Aria; July 1, 2016

story of our life.png

Synopsis:

So what would you do if your husband slept with another woman?

Colm strolled into my life fifteen years ago. If there’s ever such a thing as love at first sight, that was it for us both.
A few weeks later we married, celebrating with those who cared, ignoring the raised eyebrows of the cynics.
We knew better. This was going to be forever. The dream come true. The happy ever after.

Until it wasn’t.

Because a couple of months ago everything changed. We discovered a devastating truth, one that blew away our future and forced us to revisit our past, to test the bonds that were perhaps more fragile than they seemed.
So now I ask you again, what would you do if your husband slept with another woman?
Because this is what I did.
I’m Shauna.
And this is the Story of Our Life..

“Splintered Souls” (Flames of Time, Book 1), by Erica Lucke Dean

Publisher: Red Adept Publishing, LLC; September 22, 2015

splintered souls

Synopsis: When Ava Flynn walks away from a scholarship to Georgetown and moves into her grandmother’s abandoned summer home in coastal Maine, she steps into the center of a centuries-old curse. On her first night, she notices a mysterious leather-clad stranger looking up at her third-story window. For weeks, everywhere she goes, Ava catches more glimpses of him, but she can never get close enough to find out who he is.

Over three hundred years ago, Lady Catherine Fairchild risked everything to protect her unborn child, sending a ripple through time that would change Ava’s future. As the mystery unravels, the horrifying consequences of Lady Catherine’s choices drag Ava deeper into a world she never knew existed, trapping her in a conflict that’s been raging since before she was born. A winner-take-all battle for her soul.

“The Promise of Jesse Woods,” by Chris Fabry

Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.; July 1, 2016

promise of jesse

Synopsis: The summer of 1972 was the most pivotal of Matt Plumley’s childhood. While his beloved Pirates battle for back-to-back World Series titles, Matt’s family moves from Pittsburgh to Dogwood, West Virginia, where his father steps into the pulpit of a church under the thumb of town leader Basil Blackwood. A fish out of water, Matt is relieved to forge a fast bond with two unlikely friends: Dickie Darrel Lee Hancock, a mixed-race boy, and Jesse Woods, a tough-as-nails girl with a sister on her hip and no dad in sight.

As the trio traipses the hills and hollers, Matt begins to fall for Jesse, and their promises to each other draw him deeper into her terrifying reality. One night, the wrath of the Blackwoods and the secrets of Jesse’s family collide, and Matt joins Jesse in a rescue that saves one life and ends another . . . and severs the bond of their friendship.

Years later, Matt is pulled back to Dogwood and to memories of that momentous summer by news of Jesse’s upcoming wedding. He could never shake the feeling that there was more to the story of that fateful night, and he’s determined to learn the truth behind the only promise Jesse Woods ever broke.

“The Love Code: The Secret Principle to Achieving Success in Life, Love, and Happiness,” by Alexander Loyd, PhD, ND

Publisher: Harmony; Reprint edition; May 10, 2016

love code

Synopsis: Did you know that most self-help programs that follow the standard success blueprint have a 97% failure rate? The truth is that the typical personal improvement mantra of tapping into your willpower and using the power of positive thinking is actually a recipe for failure.  In The Love Code (previously published in hardcover as Beyond Willpower), bestselling author and psychological counselor Alexander Loyd, PhD, ND, reveals the definitive self-help program to help you finally achieve the life you want and the success you deserve.
Science has proven that stress is the primary source of virtually any problem– physical, spiritual, emotional, and even circumstantial. Loyd believes that we need to understand how love works in our bodies to combat stress. By harnessing love’s power and learning to live in the present moment, you can define your life goals and live mindfully in a state of peace.
Rooted in science, ancient wisdom, and proven therapeutic techniques, The Love Codeoffers three important mental, physical, and spiritual tools and a revolutionary 40-day holistic program based on more than 25 years of clinical experience in removing the obstacles that sabotage us. You’ll also have free access to the unprecedented “Success Issues Finder” test, which accurately diagnoses your unconscious and subconscious issues related to success and failure, happiness and unhappiness. No matter how you define success – as wealth, career satisfaction, healing of health issues, or resolution of relationship problems – The Love Codewill help you achieve it once and for all, quickly and for the long term.

Have a great week of reading and let me know if there is a book I should add to my list!

 

 

Book Review: Chasing Symmetry

“CHASING SYMMETRY” (RILEY’S PEAK SERIES BOOK 1), BY TEMPESTE BLAKE

PUBLISHER: POCKET ACORN PRESS; 1 EDITION; MAY 25, 2016

chasing symmetry

Wow, do I have a good book to review for you today! I just finished “Chasing Symmetry,” by Tempeste Blake and was blown away at how fantastic this novel was! Let me begin by saying that Tempeste Blake is actually a collaboration between two writers Nancy Smith and Cat Trizzino who met in an online writers’ group, but there is not one moment in the novel where you would ever guess that this was co-authored. “Chasing Symmetry” is part romance, part crime, part suspense and is an absolute finish in one sitting read.

I hate to do a bulleted list but there are several characters and they are all important, so here is a quick run down!

  • Bianca James – an art professor at Brookefield college, used to be in a relationship with Dylan Tierny
  • Finn Tierny  – a local cop in Riley’s Peak, helps take care of his ailing father
  • Dylan Tierny – was a cop until there was an accident that caused him to quit the police force and turn to drinking and being crazy.
  • Mack Tierny – Finn and Dylan’s father, used to be a cop, has brain tumor, his wife Rose left them when the boys were young
  • Chief Carmichael – Chief of police in Riley’s Peak, married, not nice
  • Tucker Baranski – a local cop in Riley’s Peak, close friends with Dylan, works with Finn, hearty eater
  • Maris Romero – Bianca’s best friend, also a professor at Brookefield
  • Jewel Glasser – shrink at Brookfield, dating Dylan Tierny
  • Charity Beacham – prissy, high-society woman in Riley’s Peak
  • Helen – Bianca’s elderly and eccentric neighbor

Back to the novel, Bianca is in her classroom at Brookefield one evening when she discovers a woman bleeding and dying in the storage room. Although Bianca tries to help save her, she dies, and Bianca lands at the top of Chief Carmichael’s suspect list. Bianca learns that Finn has returned to Riley’s Peak and their police force, and she quickly realizes how intent he is on protecting her. Everyone seems to have an opinion on the murder and while the investigation is under way, strange and threatening things start happening to Bianca. The more Finn tries to protect her and find the murderer, the more they realize they have feelings for each other.

The reason I list all of the characters is this… This novel is a page-turner from the first word making you wonder “whodunnit” and why. There are so many characters intertwined in various ways, that the authors make it impossible to figure out who has done which things (murder, breaking and entering, creepy phone calls, etc.). There are other creepy characters,and not-so-creepy characters that are very important to the story, but those listed above are either trying to solve the murder, are suspected of murder or other strange happenings, being questioned, helping Bianca, or trying to kill her.  There is also – of course – a love triangle involving Dylan, Bianca, and Finn. Bianca ended things with Dylan when he started drinking and acting a fool. Now Bianca and Finn are falling for each other, but Dylan is still in love with her and trying to clean up his act. Then don’t forget Jewel, who is in love with Dylan, but she is nothing more than an on-again, off-again thing to him. This all equals romance, tension, excitement, and anger all wrapped up together.

Overall, I thought Tempeste Blake’s first collaboration, “Chasing Symmetry,” was outstanding. This novel is a shining example of incredible, suspenseful and engaging writing. There are enough clues and side-stories to avoid frustration in trying to figure everything out, but yet you will still be shocked several times as the characters continue to unravel. As you read you will quickly cheer for Finn and Bianca, hoping they end up with their happily ever after, and you also grow attached to Dylan as he’s trying to turn his life around. There’s just enough of romance, suspense, family, hardship, and victories to make this a damned-near perfect book! “Chasing Symmetry” is a must read novel and Tempeste Blake is an author to watch!

Want to learn more about Tempeste Blake?  Visit: http://www.tempesteblake.com/

*Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Fading Memories

“Fading Memories,” by A.M. Willard

Publisher: A.M. Willard; May 30, 2016

fading memories

“Fading Memories” was not on my reading list this week, however, the other day I was trolling around the Kindle store on Amazon, saw this and wanted to read it! I have never read anything by A.M. Willard but so glad that I did! This was the perfect way to spend a summer afternoon sitting out on the deck, and imagining I was actually on Tybee Island watching the waves crashing. This is the story of Isabel Nichols (Izzie), a teacher on summer break that is beginning to redecorate her beach cottage. Izzie has had a heart breaking year of losing her Dad after a long illness and having her fiance Peter break up with her the day of the funeral. She has great friends – Kelsey, Leah, and Joseph – but hasn’t really been herself since everything fell apart at once. Then one day, she has a new neighbor, and this neighbor is incredibly hot, sexy, and sweet! Dakota moves into the cottage next to Izzie and begins shaking up her safe, controlling, heart-broken life. Dakota comes on pretty strong as far as wanting to just hang out and spend time with Izzie, and her friends love him so they keep encouraging his presence, but she is all cranky and impolite about it. Eventually, she softens to Dakota and considers the possibility of falling in love again, but of course, Dakota has something he hasn’t told her, so enter more complications.

Let me start by saying that I didn’t like Izzie at all until about halfway through the novel. Then I started liking her a little bit, then decided I loved her! While reading, I tried to remind myself of the things that had occurred in her life to make her such a bossy, cranky person, but as the story develops, so does Izzie. I loved Dakota from the start except he was somewhat pushy at first, and then you find out what he is keeping from her and sort of wonder why, but otherwise, he’s fantastic. This is not a life-changing read by any means, but is definitely a page-turner and you quickly find yourself invested in the characters and worrying/wondering about the resolution of the story! “Fading Memories” stands out to me as far as romance novels because of the message of letting go of the bad that’s happened in our lives, and how important it is to rebuild yourself and find happiness. People have a tremendous ability to move past heartache and loss when they are ready and willing to let happiness back into their lives. Overall this novel reminds us to be grateful for what we have now and what we have to look forward to in the future. Additionally, it touches a little on soul mates and some things just being meant to be, which I always love. I truly enjoyed this novel and look forward to reading more from A.M. Willard in the future!

Want to know more about the author?  Visit: http://amwillard.com/

Book Review: The Last Minuters

“THE LAST MINUTERS,” BY OLIN WISH

PUBLISHER: GRAY SKY PUBLISHING; MARCH 15, 2016

last minuters

So you’ve decided that you want to commit suicide, but now what? Olin Wish’s novel, “The Last Minuters” is the story of a recent divorced Margaret and her visit to the famous Precipice Hotel. Not your typical hotel, it is infamous for being extremely expensive, luxurious and indiscreet. It is also where many go to commit suicide, jumping off of their balconies into an enormous gorge.

Upon Margaret’s arrival, she meets an infomercial star, Shannon Japan, whom she has swooned over for years, and they very quickly become intimate. There are other unusual guests, but no one really talks about why they are there because it’s basically understood and there are strict privacy rules. The rooms are designed and decorated just for you based on a questionnaire prior to your visit, and the service and food are impeccable. Wish’s novel takes us through the life and death of various characters that for various reasons have chosen to end their lives but weaves the tale through stories of the hotel, monsters and green flames in the fireplace that has been lit since the hotel opened in the 1900’s. We learn about some of the characters’ pasts and troubles that have brought them to The Precipice Hotel, in addition to gaining some insight and history about some of the hotel’s employees. Throughout the novel, there is a strange mix of romance, passion, sadness and the unexplained.

Now…  What to say about “The Last Minuters?”  First of all, this is an odd novel. I applaud the author for his quirky, unusual story idea, especially the setting. The hotel is intricately described and Wish’s writing easily transports you to being at The Precipice Hotel, taking in all the sights and sounds. I also feel that for such a short novel, the author developed Margaret rather well. You cannot help but empathize with Margaret as you read about her life and events prior to her visiting the hotel. Other than Margaret, however, I was left with a lot of questions about the other characters. Wish provides background information about what they had done in their life professionally but leaves you feeling like you missed some things about them overall. There were things I loved about this and things that I truly didn’t understand why they were included, such as the monsters in the gorge, but it was overall an interesting read. If you like quirky stories that are a mix of fantasy, horror, and a little romance then this should be next on your list of books to read. Although this wasn’t really my kind of book, I was very impressed with the author’s writing, use of language, and dialogue. And again, definite points for creativity and for imagining a strange, magical place.

*I received a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Where Did Your Heart Go?

“WHERE DID YOUR HEART GO?” (THE HEART TRILOGY BOOK 1), BY AUDRINA LANE

PUBLISHER: AUDRINA LANE; 1 EDITION, JULY 17, 2013

where did your heart go

Typically I review things that are advanced or new releases, however, last month I was contacted by the lovely Audrina Lane offering a copy of “Where Did Your Heart Go” in exchange for a review. So now I sit at my computer having finished reading and listening to the playlist for this novel, The Heart Trilogy. Have I mentioned that I absolutely love it when an author provides a song playlist for their novel? Anyway, back to the novel, “Where Did Your Heart Go,” which is such a sweet yet sad story about finding and losing your first love.

Audrina takes us along a journey of reminiscing with her character Stephanie and her teenage daughter, Charlotte. When she comes home crying one day after being dumped by her boyfriend, Stephanie gives her daughter her own diary, detailing her first love and first heartbreak from many years ago, a heartbreak that she never received an explanation. The novel shifts between flashbacks from Stephanie’s diary, to present time moments as a radio DJ, and with her daughter.  Stephanie’s diary tells the story of her and her first love James, as well as, friends Sarah and Chris. Charlotte’s father, Mark, had been killed when she was a baby and the diary doesn’t really give her much insight into who he was. However, through reading her mother’s diary, Charlotte learns a great deal about her mother and James, and also about herself and what she wants for herself and from a relationship. The reader slowly sees Stephanie becoming happy and light-hearted again as Charlotte reads her diary, and Charlotte’s amazing talent as a dancer brings many unexpected surprises and love into her life, as well as, Stephanie’s.

“Where Did Your Heart Go” will propel into your own past remembering how quickly you can become consumed and head over heels with another person as a teenager.  You will find yourself thinking back to the time when you thought you knew everything and that you were destined to a fairy-tale life with your first true love. In reality, most of us do not find our true love until much after our high school years and have to kiss a few frogs before finding our prince (I didn’t meet my prince until I was 38, but worth the wait!), but this novel touches your heart and makes you think that regardless of age or circumstances when two people fall in love, they could truly be destined for each other. Lane also reminds us how bad it hurts when your heart is first broken, and can continue to hurt for long after. As a person that is almost as obsessed with music as books, I loved that this novel tied in so many songs from when James and Stephanie were young, and how revisiting those songs evoked so many feelings in each of them as Charlotte also builds her own connections with her boyfriend Mitch through songs, lyrics, and dance. This novel was a beautiful connection between mother and daughter, with Stephanie trying to assure her daughter that she is not the first to have a broken heart, and with Charlotte trying to help her mother open her heart again. Luckily, there are two more novels in The Heart Trilogy that I anxiously await to reading, so stay tuned for future reviews regarding Audrina Lane.

P.S. The author really, really has a thing for Rick Astley.  And George Michael..  But I’ve enjoyed rocking her playlist while writing this review!

Want to learn more about Audrina Lane?  Visit: http://www.audrinalane.co.uk/

What am I reading?

Here is my latest list of what I plan on reading this week!  I hope that you have some great books planned also, but if not, here are some ideas.

“Where Did Your Heart Go?” (The Heart Trilogy Book 1), by Audrina Lane

Publisher: Audrina Lane; 1 edition, July 17, 2013

where did your heart go

Synopsis: Stephanie never truly let go of her first love James in 1988. When the relationship ended she kept her diaries, letters and memories safe in the attic and her heart locked away from any future heartbreak. Now her daughter Charlotte is experiencing the same relationship break up that she did. Handing her daughter the diaries she hopes to save her from the bleakness she felt at the loss of first love. The diaries inspire Charlotte to strive for true love as she realises that finding the right man is worth the wait.

Can Charlotte heal two broken hearts at the same time through a strange twist of fate, destiny, music and dance?

Linking the lives of a mother and daughter together you can join them on their journey of discovery through the highs and lows of first love. Will Stephanie finally face the future after the scars from the past, and find out why James left her? Charlotte starts to discover that dancing with Mitchell will be the time of her life. Does anyone ever forget their first love and can you go back?

“I Like You Just Fine When You’re Not Around,” by Ann Garvin

Publisher: Tyrus Books (May 6, 2016)

like you just fine

Synopsis: Everything is falling apart in psychologist Tig Monahan’s life. Her mother’s dementia is wearing her out; her boyfriend takes off for Hawaii without her; and her sister inexplicably disappears, leaving her newborn behind.
When a therapy session goes horribly wrong, Tig finds herself unemployed and part of the sandwich generation trying to take care of everyone and failing miserably. Just when she thinks she can redefine herself on the radio as an arbiter of fairness, she discovers a family secret that nobody saw coming.

It will take everything plus a sense of humor to see her way clear to a better life, but none of that will happen if she can’t let go of her past.

“The Last Minuters,” by Olin Wish

Publisher: Gray Sky Publishing; March 15, 2016

last minuters

Synopsis: When recent divorcee Margaret Ayinger decides to end her life, she wants to go out in style. For those who have done their homework and for whom money is no object there is only one place for that: The Precipice Hotel. Like a hospice for the terminally eccentric, it has stood for over a hundred years in a region plagued by yearly forest fires. Upon arrival, Margaret finds the old place nothing like what was advertised.

Oh sure, the staff are friendly. And the food? Positively four-star! Something about it though just doesn’t sit well with her. For instance, the people who randomly swan dive from their balconies late at night into a thousand-foot gorge, the impossible thing living in her bedroom, and the automatons in black body stockings roaming the halls like creeping specters. Oh, and the purple monster named Fred who lives in the gorge.

“Chasing Symmetry” (Riley’s Peak Series Book 1), by Tempeste Blake

Publisher: Pocket Acorn Press; 1 edition; May 25, 2016

chasing symmetry

Synopsis: Someone had been trying for the perfect shade of red . . .
When art professor Bianca James tries to save a dying woman, the grudge-holding chief of police is all too quick to catapult her to the top of the suspect list. As if that isn’t enough, her ex-boyfriend’s younger brother, Finn Tierny, is assigned to the case, and she’s faced with a trilogy of dilemmas: go head to head with the chief, stop a cold-blooded killer on her own, or trust another Tierny.
Finn’s return to Riley’s Peak is bittersweet. He’s flooded with memories, both good and bad, as he battles doubts about being a cop, a cantankerous father, a jealous brother, and a drug dealer with a rap-sheet longer than the list of addicts he’s been supplying.
Threats escalate, the suspect list grows, and it becomes clear—the murderer’s resolve to kill Bianca is almost as strong as Finn’s desire to keep her alive.
Almost.

“First Comes Love,” by Emily Giffin

Publisher: Ballantine Books; June 28, 2016

1st comes love

Synopsis: Growing up, Josie and Meredith Garland shared a loving, if sometimes contentious relationship. Josie was impulsive, spirited, and outgoing; Meredith hardworking, thoughtful, and reserved. When tragedy strikes their family, their different responses to the event splinter their delicate bond.

Fifteen years later, Josie and Meredith are in their late thirties, following very different paths. Josie, a first grade teacher, is single—and this close to swearing off dating for good. What she wants more than the right guy, however, is to become a mother—a feeling that is heightened when her ex-boyfriend’s daughter ends up in her class. Determined to have the future she’s always wanted, Josie decides to take matters into her own hands.

On the outside, Meredith is the model daughter with the perfect life. A successful attorney, she’s married to a wonderful man, and together they’re raising a beautiful four-year-old daughter. Yet lately, Meredith feels dissatisfied and restless, secretly wondering if she chose the life that was expected of her rather than the one she truly desired.

As the anniversary of their tragedy looms and painful secrets from the past begin to surface, Josie and Meredith must not only confront the issues that divide them, but also come to terms with their own choices. In their journey toward understanding and forgiveness, both sisters discover they need each other more than they knew . . . and that in the recipe for true happiness, love always comes first.

Emotionally honest and utterly enthralling, First Comes Love is a story about family, friendship, and the courage to follow your own heart—wherever that may lead.

 

Have a great rest of the week and happy reading!

 

 

Author Interview: Alison McLennan

Today I am so excited to post a recent interview with author Alison McLennan!  Alison is the author of the amazing, “Ophelia’s War: The Secret Story of a Mormon Turned Madam,” which is released today.

 

  • Alison I know you live in Utah and apparently are a history buff, but what inspired you to write Ophelia’s War?
    • I read an anecdote about a Madam named Kate Flint who had an ongoing battle with Brigham Young on the subjects of polygamy and prostitution. One version of the story is that when Brigham’s 14th wife divorced him he had to put up his gilded carriage for auction. The legend is that Kate Flint purchased it and paraded around town to snub him. One day I found myself alone in a remote desert graveyard near the ghost town of Grafton. That’s where Ophelia was conceived. Spending time alone in haunted places makes me wonder about the nature of inspiration, and whether we choose the characters and stories or they choose us. 

 

  • Through your research did you find that many girls ended up like Ophelia if “ruined” for a husband?
    • Girls and women who were raped often killed themselves out of shame. Of course, they couldn’t tell anyone, so they’d try and hide it, or they’d run away and inevitably end up in the brothels. This is women’s secret history that is not on record. I’m shocked and saddened at how many girls feel the same way today. If you read about the LDS girl, Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped and assaulted for over a year, you will see that she dealt with similar feelings of being damaged goods and those feeling may have kept her from being rescued sooner.  

 

  • Besides Ophelia, who was your favorite character in the novel and why?
    • I like Charlie (Chas) Siringo. He is based on a real man who wrote several books about his life, which provided me with a great primary resource. His undercover work living with outlaws makes him accepting of Ophelia, where most men would not be able to see past her profession. I also like Pearl and wrote a short story about her called Sisters of Grace and Mud. I hope it will be published some day.

 

  • You are considered an expert commentator regarding Whitey Bulger.  How did that come about?
    • The character, Johnny, in my first novel Falling for Johnny is based on James “Whitey” Bulger. About four years before the FBI apprehended him, I realized that he had once lived across the street from me in Quincy, MA. At the time, he’d been missing for sixteen years, and I thought he’d be a great character for a novel. I spent a ton of time researching him and reading about his life. I even listened to the FBI surveillance tapes to get a feeling for how he spoke. He was caught the day before my fortieth birthday. I had just finished Falling and was looking for an agent or publisher. I ended up corresponding with him in prison. And then I did a lot of news commentary during his trial. It was all very strange.

 

  • Think about your top 10 favorite books…  What is one of those favorites and why?
    • My favorite books are the ones that resonate, when long after I’ve stopped turning pages the story still inhabits a place in my mind. The Grapes of Wrath is woven into the fabric of my being. Even though I didn’t live through The Great Depression, I feel like I did because of this novel. I didn’t read it as a requirement for school. I first read it while I was living on the road following a similar route to the Joad’s. Steinbeck uses simple language to convey deep sentiments. I’ve since analyzed the novel and it’s really unique and intricate. I think it’s better not to analyze a book while you’re reading it though. It’s better to just enjoy it the first around. My MFA program helped my writing but it took some of the enjoyment out of reading because I’d find myself picking things apart instead of getting absorbed into the story.
  • As a teacher and a writer, what’s your most important piece of advice that you give aspiring writers?
    • Creative writing as an income producing profession is really difficult, especially in fiction and poetry. The YA (young adult) genre is probably a bit better. I once went to a pitch conference where they told us we were more likely to get struck by lightning than obtain a traditional publishing contract! It was terribly disheartening. But even if fiction writing doesn’t pay the bills, it is a journey into the subconscious and the imagination. This journey can deepen your life, your perspective, and your connection to places, people, and the past, or even the future. It’s kind of like reading, but a lot more work.

      Don’t get discouraged by rejections. Most writers have piles of rejections. All kinds of writing will help you become a better fiction writer. Grant writing, blogging, technical writing, travel writing, curriculum writing… are ways to earn a living as a writer that aren’t quite as difficult as being a novelist or a poet. But don’t forget what feeds your soul.  And read as much as you can.   

 

Thanks so much to Alison for allowing me to pick her brain a little and share with my readers!  Visit Alison’s website: Alison Stories to learn more about her and make sure that you get a copy of “Ophelia’s War: The Secret Story of a Mormon Turned Madam,” released today! If you missed my review of “Ophelia’s War,” check it out here Book Review: Ophelia’s War.

 

Book Review: Mystic Summer

“Mystic Summer,” by Hannah McKinnon

Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books; June 7, 2016

mystic summer

Today was my first time reading Hannah McKinnon, and specifically, her new novel “Mystic Summer.”  This novel was a wonderful, easy, girlie book – that I really enjoyed. “Mystic Summer” introduces us to Maggie Griffin, who is preparing for her best friend’s wedding, finishing up another school year teaching, and getting fired from her beloved job. Maggie is dating an actor named Evan and is otherwise preoccupied with Peyton and Erika as Erika’s wedding day approaches. When Erika’s wedding plans fall through, they decide to move the wedding venue to Mystic, where Maggie and Erika grew up. Once Maggie realizes that her first love, Cam, has moved back home to Mystic with a new baby (and no wife or girlfriend), she begins questioning what she thought she wanted as she reconnects with Cam and grows attached to his daughter.

Hannah McKinnon’s latest novel is the perfect summer read. There are some serious and concerning moments in the storyline, but overall it is a book about friendship, long-lost love, and really looking at what makes you happy in your life.  Maggie is dating Evan, Erika is getting married, Peyton is already married and trying to get pregnant.  All three friends are at such different stages in life, yet still bonded and committed to their friendships. When Maggie and Cam reconnect, she is also enormously aware of the different places they are in life. Evan is a great guy, but early on in the novel, it becomes obvious that there is just a certain something missing in the relationship. McKinnon pulls the reader into following Maggie’s story, emotions, and decisions throughout the novel.  At times, you may find yourself frustrated with Maggie, as well as, a lot of the other characters. “Mystic Summer” is a wonderful journey of looking inward and acknowledging one’s true feelings and dreams. This novel also reminds us that you can get second chances and that even when life gets messy, it can still be wonderful.

Want to know more about Hannah McKinnon?  Visit: http://www.hannahmckinnon.com/home.html

*Disclaimer:  I received an ARC of this novel from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: A Thousand Yesteryears

“A Thousand Yesteryears,” by Mae Clair

Publisher: Lyrical Underground; April 26, 2016

1000 yesteryears

Looking for something totally different that is fabulously suspenseful? “A Thousand Yesteryears” by Mae Clair should be next on your to-read list. This book is fascinating, intriguing and absolutely a page turner.  First, let me try to explain the setting and inspiration for this novel without giving away too much of the plot. This book is fiction but inspired by real events that occurred in Point Pleasant, WV in 1966-67.  From 1966 until 1967, people in the Point Pleasant area began reporting sightings of a large flying creature, referred to as The Mothman.  I have no clue if Mothman is real, but there were reports of Mothman sightings up until the Silver Bridge collapsed.  The Silver Bridge was also real and unfortunately collapsed into the Ohio River on December 15, 1967, killing 46 people.  Again, there were reports of Mothman sightings right before the bridge collapsed. Having addressed those little tidbits, the story begins with a young girl Eve walking down the street in Point Pleasant with her friend Sarah, just as the Silver Bridge collapses.  At the time of the collapse, Eve’s father is on the bridge, as well as, Eve’s best friend Maggie and her brother Caden.  Caden is one of the few survivors of the collapse (and Eve had a huge crush on him).

Fast forward 15 years and Eve is returning to Point Pleasant for the first time due to the passing of her Aunt Rosie, who willed her home and historic hotel to Eve. Initially, she is returning just to prepare her aunt’s house so that it can be sold, and most likely to also sell the family hotel in downtown Point Pleasant, but as soon as she gets there, odd things start happening. Eve reunites with old friends Caden and Ryan (Maggie’s older brothers), and Eve quickly learns that Caden continues to blame himself for his sister’s death. She also builds a friendship with an acquaintance from her childhood, Katie, who had become very close to her aunt over the years prior to her death. As things get more and more spooky and peculiar, the characters in this novel have to rely on gut instinct and blind faith to try to figure out what secrets have been kept in Point Pleasant all of these years.

“A Thousand Yesteryears” was a perfect mix of suspense, mystery, paranormal legends, and justice. There are people in this world that believe legends and folklore, such as the story of Mothman. Then there are also those people who would never believe such things, the people who need concrete, indisputable evidence. Clair’s characters in this novel are no different  – some believe and some do not. Whether the characters believe in Mothman (or some of the other paranormal, spooky stuff in the novel, they have to cast aside their doubts and follow their instincts, even when it makes no sense. This is not a book that you easily solve the riddle or figure out who did what. I was stumped quite a few times, suspecting that one person was a bad guy/girl, when really they were not. I was immediately drawn into this story and it’s characters, flying through this novel to find out the ending. Mae Clair’s writing keeps you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end and blends the perfect amount of fantasy and realism to appeal to a wide audience. Even if you are not typically a huge fan of this type of novel, I still highly recommend it for an exciting read! I can’t wait for more to come in Mae Clair’s Point Pleasant Series.

Want to learn more about Mae Clair?  Visit: https://maeclair.net/

*I received a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Ophelia’s War

Ophelia’s War: The Secret Story of a Mormon Turned Madam, by Alison McLennan

Publisher: Five Star Publishing; June 22, 2016

ophelias war

I feel like whenever I am reviewing a book it’s always positive, and I’ve had people even mention that.  One reason they are mostly positive is I try to really look at the synopsis before I read and review a book or check out other reviews if available, to see if I will enjoy reading it.  Some things I may be unsure of but give them a chance and end up thinking it was great. When I received a request to review “Ophelia’s War: The Secret Story of a Mormon Turned Madam,”  I didn’t hesitate because it sounded like a fantastic book.  I completely underestimated this novel and had no idea how amazing and well-written it would be.  Before even getting into my review, I rank this up there in my top ten reads ever, and believe me, I’ve read a lot.

This story begins with Ophelia Oatman, her half-brother Zeke (who is mixed ethnicity) and their parents heading to the Promised Land from Nebraska to Utah.  Early in the novel, we learn that as Ophelia’s mother lays dying, she gives Ophelia a ruby necklace which they sew into her doll.  Her mother tells her that it could bring her a fortune but it is also cursed. After the death of their parents, Ophelia and Zeke try to do the best they can and receive some help from the other Saints, but Ophelia fears becoming an older man’s 3rd or 4th wife.  Their mother had written to their Uncle Luther before her death, so his impending arrival prevents her from being married off. However, upon his arrival, they learn that Uncle Luther is a card shark and gambler, and loves his whiskey. Ophelia also learns that Luther has come to Utah for only one thing, the ruby necklace.  Luther’s arrival in Utah brings one heart-wrenching moment after another until Ophelia is separated from her brother and on the run across the frontier.

Once Ophelia is on her own and has left her home behind, the author takes us on an incredible journey of bravery, survival and coming of age. “Ophelia’s War” follows this young girl from her teenage years into adulthood, painting detailed pictures of what she does to survive and be successful as a madam in a small frontier town. On her journey to survive she goes by various names such as Elizabeth, Ruby Doll House, and Peach, but she remains the same brave woman from beginning to end. Ophelia is confronted with every type of person one could imagine encountering on the frontier. People try to kill her, people try to help her, people use her to gain wealth, and some people genuinely care. Moments in this novel will infuriate you and break your heart because it’s unimaginable that one girl could endure so much and survive.  Other moments you will cheer for Ophelia when she seems at peace with herself and her decisions.

Alison McLennan’s writing in “Ophelia’s War” is simply fantastic.  As you go through the novel it is moving, emotional and exciting all at once.  To read this novel is to think that McLennan herself has lived on and survived the frontier, the Mormons, and the devious thieves that one could encounter. This is not a sweet, light-hearted novel but instead, an honest look at what one does to survive, whether ideal or not. Alison McLennan has gone above and beyond exquisite writing and story-telling in “Ophelia’s War,” setting the bar extremely high for other writers in her genre and beyond.

Want to learn more about Alison McLennan?  Visit: http://www.alisonstories.com/

*I received this advanced copy from the author in exchange for an honest review. It is scheduled for release June 22.