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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Love and Miss Communication | Elyssa Friedland

Love and Miss Communication is the story of Evie, a woman who decides to give up the internet after several very public technology-related embarrassments. In the process, she discovers herself, love, and what it really means to be a great friend. For a complete summary, you can go here.

This is chick-lit in its truest form. It is about life, love, and friendship. It is a little sassy, relatable, and relevant. Chick-lit is not always the deepest or most insightful genre, but it is definitely entertaining. This book will probably resonate with a lot of people—myself included. I sometimes wonder if I rely too much on the internet, but I would not have a job without the internet. In regards to my personal life, it is so much easier to post pictures or updates to my hundreds of “friends” than it is to make personal phone calls to real friends and family. But social media leaves a lot to be desired, specifically true relationships. Evie discovers how easy it is to be forgotten without the ease of the internet. She learns that she must put forth an actual effort to stay connected to her true friends. 

I love the transformation that Evie makes in this book. She starts off as self-centered with an “oh, pity me” vibe going on. Throughout the book, she slowly makes a transformation into an authentic and genuine person and friend. I also really appreciated the slow progression of Evie’s love interest. Too often chick-lit features extremely fast-moving relationships that are entirely unrealistic. I felt like the progression of this relationship was believable. 

My one big question about this book was, “Why didn’t Evie give up her phone too?” She makes a big deal about giving up the internet—and therefore emails and social media—and she also gives up texting. But why not phone calls? I thought that too much of the book was phone call dialogue. I would have preferred more face-to-face conversations, as that is the purest form of communication. I also worry about this book being too modern. It references a lot of specific social media sites and apps that are super popular right now, but it will make the book irrelevant very quickly. New apps and sites are constantly being made. This isn’t a book that people will be able to read in ten or twenty years and be able to relate to the same way that people can now. 

I still think that this book was entertaining and worth a read. I would definitely recommend it to females—especially those like me, that may need to distance themselves a little bit more from the internet… 

If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it hereAfter you have read it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

4/5 Stars
*****

o Amber Gregg


*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book, but it did not alter my review in any way.*






Check out my Q & A with the author, Elyssa!











If you like books like this, you should also check out these books:






Something Borrowed



























Monday, July 27, 2015

Q and A with Author Sharon Bayliss


I had the honor of chatting with Sharon Bayliss, the author of Destruction (and winner of my Best Book Award!). She has an amazing imagination, and I wish her the best of luck with all her new and upcoming novels! 
What are your ambitions for your writing career? What would your career look like in an ideal world?
My dream is to write full-time, essentially just to make enough money with my books to support my family comfortably without a traditional day job. Fame and fortune would be nice (well, at least the fortuneIm not sure about fame) but all I really want is enough to pay the bills and afford vacations to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. :D
Which writers inspire you?
J.K. Rowling is probably my biggest influence (big shocker). Lately, Ive also been enjoying V.E. Schwab and Hugh Howey. When I was younger, I was really struck by the novels of Margaret Atwood, Cormac McCarthy, and Ian McEwan.
What is the significance of the butterfly in Destruction?
The butterfly is a powerful symbol of transformation. The lowly, slimy caterpillar becomes something entirely different and breathtakingly beautiful. It always felt right for the December People Series because it shows how beauty can come from unexpected places. It also symbolizes hope and faith that things can be better, another critical underlying theme.
Will we learn more about light wizards in Book Two of the December People? 
Very much so! There are four books in the series, and each focuses on a different season (while still centered on the Vandergraff family). In book 2, we learn much more about summer wizards. In book 3, we spend time with spring wizards.
Give us an insight into how you create your main characters.
I try to think of my characters as living, breathing people who werent really created by me, I just discovered them. Obviously, I did create them in my mind, but I try not to do it in a deliberate way. I put them in situations and see what they do, letting them create themselves. And yes, that was the most new-agey, pretentious, author answer ever. ;) 
How do you pick names for your characters?
Well, I think about what their parents might have chosen. I like to create a sense of reality in my work, so I try to pick normal names that dont distract from the story. The Vandergraffs all have fairly common Biblical American names, as I think Amanda especially would strive for that normalcy. In book 2, the Prescott children do all have names that have meanings of goodness and light. Their parents are proud to be summer wizards and as such, would be more likely to consider magic in their naming.
What are you working on right now?
Book 3 in the series! Its actually in the hands of my beta readers now. After that, Im going to work on book 4. I also have a December People novella series Im considering.
What draws you to writing fantasy books?
I live in boring reality every day. When Im writing, I like to add magic because unlike in the real worldI can!
Is that also your favorite genre to read?

Definitely. About 90% of the books I read have some kind of speculative element (sci-fi or fantasy). However, I also enjoy thrillers and mysteries on occasion.

How much research do you do before writing a book?
I actually do my research after writing, as opposed to before. Due to the nature of my stories, most of it can just come from my imagination. But I do research real magic and concepts to weave in during the editing process.
Why do you write?
Its hard to answer that question. Ive never considered not writing. I have always been a serious daydreamer and writing is a way to make my dreams reality.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
Id say its tied between staying motivated and editing. I love writing the first draft, but I always struggle through the editing process. Im a big picture thinker and worrying about all the minor details makes my brain hurt. Also, like most authors, I have many competing priorities. I dont dedicate as much time to writing as I would like because there are so many other more pressing issues, like paying bills and taking care of my children and home. 
What is the easiest thing about writing?
The actual act of writing comes naturally to me. I dont have to struggle much coming up with ideas and bleeding out words. When Im in the zone, its hard not to write. The rest of my life feels like an inconvenience.
What book/s are you reading at present?
I finished Deceptive Cadence by Katie Hamstead yesterday. Shes a friend and a fantastic writer. Im also reading the first in Bella Forrests vampire series. It wouldnt be my first choice, but Im ghostwriting a vampire romance right now for extra cash and I wanted some inspiration.
Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?
Book Bub and Kindle Daily Deals are worth their weight in gold. Do anything to snag those spots. Other than that, just be active in the writing and reading community. Seek out book bloggers, and not just big names, all book bloggers and prolific readers are incredibly valuable as fans. Theyre the ones who will tell their friends about your book!
What do you do to get book reviews?
I ask! It can be time-consuming, but there is no quick way to get lots of genuine reviews. Just contact book bloggers one by one.
What is your favorite quote?
I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” – Thomas Edison

How can readers discover more about you and you work?
I am active on social media, so you can always get the most information on Facebook and Twitter. You can also check out www.sharonbayliss.com and sign up for my newsletter. I dont send out many mailing, just notifications of new releases!





Check out my review of Sharon's book Destruction






Thursday, July 23, 2015

Q & A with Author Corey Ann Haydu


Was “Life by Committee" inspired at all by Post Secret?

Actually, no LIFE BY COMMITTEE was inspired by a film I fell in love with-- LOVE ME IF YOU DARE. I loved the way the film explored how something fun can turn into something dangerous. I do love comparisons to PostSecret, though, as I think that's a really cool project!  

There were also some parts of the book that reminded me of the movie Mean Girls. Did you feel that way too?

You know, the part of the book that tends to remind people of Mean Girls-- namely the ending-- was based on something that happened at my high school when I was a sophomore. It never occurred to me that it was similar to Mean Girls at all, since the scene was so much based on my own experience. But again, that's a movie I love, it simply wasn't an inspiration here. My own life was the real inspiration for this book!  

I love that Tabitha buys used books with annotations. Is that something that you like to do too?

Yes! I love active reading. It helps me engage more with books when I write in the margins and underline things. It helps me focus and feel more excited about what I'm reading. I also love seeing what other people have noted in their copies of books.  

What are your ambitions for your writing career? What would your career look like in an ideal world?

I really honestly just hope to get to keep writing books and exploring new ideas. Of course I want the best for my books-- tons of readers and attention and love-- but above all else I want to keep living a creative life and to be able to be a professional writer. It's a total dream come true. 

Which writers inspire you?

SO many. Growing up I loved Sylvia Plath and John Irving and Lois Lowry and Sandra Cisneros.  I was really inspired by all of them-- they all have different strengths as writers. They also taught me to write what you care about and to explore the themes that interest you. I think with all of those writers you can see what they care about. 

Give us an insight into how you create your main characters. 

There's a fairly organic process to finding characters. I think a name is really important, and so is their general physical look, including their personal style. Those superficial things help me learn more about who they are inside. I'm interested characters who are very complicated. I don't have interest in writing inauthentic, perfect characters. I stay very aware of what bad choices my characters make and what their flaws are. I think you learn the most about characters through their mistakes and flaws.  

What are you working on right now?

Currently I'm working on a middle-grade novel that deals with grief and magic as well as another YA novel that is a little bit of a departure for me-- it is about community and the pressure we put on young girls, as well as love and tragedy.  

How much research do you do before writing a book?

It absolutely depends on the book. My most researched book was my first, OCD LOVE STORY. That required many levels of research-- academic, intellectual and emotional/personal. LIFE BY COMMITTEE probably required the least amount of research. I did do some research on teenagers in communities online, but otherwise I didn't need to do much research.  

Why do you write?

I've always written, it's a part of who I am. I'd like to say I have amazing, lofty intentions. And certainly I love when my books reach people and help them. But honestly I just love writing. It's my calling, it's a huge part of who I am and always has been.  

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I've learned a lot, writing my first few books. I think I'm more and more interested in taking risks-- structural, plot-centric, genre-wise. I've learned that I want to push myself and challenge myself always. I think my creativity has really opened up as I get more and more comfortable with the idea of trying new things.  

What is the hardest thing about writing?

Not comparing myself to other writers is what I struggle with most. Not letting things like jealousy occupy my brain and steal time away from the work.  

What is the easiest thing about writing?

For me the easiest thing is showing up. I know that's not true for everyone and may not be true for me forever. But at this time in my life I find discipline and self-motivation come easily. Everything else is hard, showing up (for me, right now) is easy.  

What book/s are you reading at present?

I just started Adam Silvera's MORE HAPPY THAN NOT and I'm very excited about it. I recently read Courtney Summer's ALL THE RAGE, which I recommend highly.  

How can readers discover more about you and you work?


I'm always on twitter: @coreyannhaydu. That's the best place to find me and hear about my writing, my life, my books! And you can keep up with me on my website: www.coreyannhaydu.com










Read my review of Corey Ann Haydu's book, Life by Committee!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Kindle Beginner Tips

This is a  guest post by Kurt Olson. 

I have been writing and publishing Kindle eBooks for six months. I had no real writing or publishing experience before this. I studied up on Kindle eBooks for about a month before diving into it. I got started because I had a four-year period where I briefly summarized and journaled my thoughts on the entire Bible. Chapter by chapter. So I thought it would be fun to turn each one of those journals on each book of the Bible into a Kindle Bible Study eBook. Then, I added more personal thoughts and questions, so as to make it more interesting to the readers. And the reviews have been good on my five I have out in the series so far.

After two months of producing three studies, I was given advice by a more successful Kindle author to change the title to make it more “keyword” rich and to rewrite my descriptions—which he helped me with. So my title went from “Through the Bible With Someone Like You” to “A Bible Study With Someone Like You”, and I improved my descriptions to be more interesting and “keyword” rich. Those two things were big for me. Another big thing for me was getting a Facebook auto-poster to promote my studies three times a week for about two months, and then cutting back to one to two times a week. This software also finds groups in my niche. So I post to Kindle specific groups and some Bible Study specific groups too. Combined, it totals about 250 groups. Search “Bible Studies” in Kindle and you will see there are about four hundred pages, which is thousands of books. With what I have just mentioned, it catapulted my Bible Studies into the TOP 100! (Yeah this advice really does work!)

I have three other books that I have outsourced. Those three are not selling well at all. I’m in the process of changing titles and descriptions and promoting them in niche-specific groups to see if I can turn them around. One thing that I didn’t keep in mind in outsourcing these books—I am just recently realizing the importance of this— is picking the right niche! I bought some software that tells me where people are buying high volumes of books. What they rank, how many pages and reviews each has, the popularity, potential earnings, the competition of the niche,  and how much they approximately make on the book each month. So my next book which I’m having outsourced now is based on my extensive research and I’m confident it will do well.

Another thing I’d recommend that an author do, if they are not already doing it, is hyperlink a landing page in the front and back of the book to collect emails. If you don’t know how to do this, just go to Youtube and find out. I just started doing this in my Bible series about the middle of June and I have about thirty or so emails already. I tell my subscribers that I will notify them when one of my Bible Studies in this series is .99 cents or FREE. Some people, depending on their niche, can also give a report. It is all about giving your readers something of value.

One last bit of advice I’d like to give authors is to have book links made that will be good internationally. Just go to “Booklinker.net” and they will turn your Kindle book link into a link that will take your prospective readers to their Amazon Kindle store in ANY country. Then Booklinker will actually track your book clicks as to what country they are coming from.

Happy writing and publishing!





Kurt Olson has been doing Kindle writing and publishing for about six months. His choice of writing so far has been in Bible Studies. He has been a Christian for over forty-three years. By trade, he is a Vascular ultrasound technician for over twenty-two years. He hopes to write some books soon from his career field. He was raised thirty miles north of New York city and has resided with his family in the Fort Worth, Texas area for over twenty-six years.


Sunday, July 19, 2015

What The Vandergraffs Are Reading This Summer: A Companion to "The December People"

This is a guest post by Sharon Bayliss. 

The members of the Vandergraff family from The December People Series aren't that different from you and me...well except for the dark magic thing. In any case, like all cool people, they have invested in some new books to enjoy over the summer. Strange, not one of them is reading a book about wizards...


Here is what each character is reading now:



DAVID

David Vandergraff has been a fan of Stephen King ever since he read The Shining when he was twelve. He has been regularly reading new Stephen King novels ever since and was happy to pick up the latest release from the horror legend.


Description from Barnes & Noble:

“Wake up, genius.” So begins King’s instantly riveting story about a vengeful reader. The genius is John Rothstein, an iconic author who created a famous character, Jimmy Gold, but who hasn’t published a book for decades. Morris Bellamy is livid, not just because Rothstein has stopped providing books, but because the nonconformist Jimmy Gold has sold out for a career in advertising. Morris kills Rothstein and empties his safe of cash, yes, but the real treasure is a trove of notebooks containing at least one more Gold novel.

Morris hides the money and the notebooks, and then he is locked away for another crime. Decades later, a boy named Pete Saubers finds the treasure, and now it is Pete and his family that Bill Hodges, Holly Gibney, and Jerome Robinson must rescue from the ever-more deranged and vengeful Morris when he’s released from prison after thirty-five years.

Not since Misery has King played with the notion of a reader whose obsession with a writer gets dangerous. Finders Keepers is spectacular, heart-pounding suspense, but it is also King writing about how literature shapes a life—for good, for bad, forever.


AMANDA

Perhaps she was drawn to the title...although she was also swayed by the fact that this is a Pulitzer Prize winner. Other than the occasional mystery, Amanda prefers literary fiction--anything that looks really nice sitting on her bedside table.

Description from Barnes & Noble:

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE

From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.



PATRICK

Okay, you guessed it. This is from Patrick's required summer reading list. And there's nothing wrong with that. He's a good student. He did have the option to select between several classics and chose Crime and Punishment, so you can take what you will from that.

Description from Barnes & Noble:
Few authors have been as personally familiar with desperation as Fyodor Dostoevsky, and none have been so adept at describing it. Crime and Punishment—the novel that heralded the author’s period of masterworks—tells the story of the poor and talented student Raskolnikov, a character of unparalleled psychological depth and complexity. Raskolnikov reasons that men like himself, by virtue of their intellectual superiority, can and must transcend societal law. To test his theory, he devises the perfect crime—the murder of a spiteful pawnbroker living in St. Petersburg.

In one of the most gripping crime stories of all time, Raskolnikov soon realizes the folly of his abstractions. Haunted by vivid hallucinations and the torments of his conscience, he seeks relief from his terror and moral isolation—first from Sonia, the pious streetwalker who urges him to confess, then in a tense game of cat and mouse with Porfiry, the brilliant magistrate assigned to the murder investigation. A tour de force of suspense, Crime and Punishmentdelineates the theories and motivations that underlie a bankrupt morality.


XAVIER

Although frequently pestered by his family for doing nothing but playing video games, Xavier does read for pleasure on a regular basis. He likes to do anything that gives him a good excuse to avoid human interaction, and reading fits the bill. Hugh Howey is one of his favorite authors and it's not surprising that he might be drawn to this particular story...

Description from Barnes & Noble:

In 2007, the Center for Automation in Nanobiotech (CAN) outlined the hardware and software platform that would one day allow robots smaller than human cells to make medical diagnoses, conduct repairs, and even self-propagate.

In the same year, the CBS network re-aired a program about the effects of propranolol on sufferers of extreme trauma. A simple pill, it had been discovered, could wipe out the memory of any traumatic event.

At almost the same moment in humanity's broad history, mankind had discovered the means for bringing about its utter downfall. And the ability to forget it ever happened.

This is the sequel to the New York Times bestselling WOOL series.




EMMY

To be honest, Emmy isn't proud of the fact that she likes mainstream YA fiction. She'd rather like books that were a little more unexpected, but what can you do? Around friends, she pretends to be far too mature and interesting for young adult. However, her latest book purchase was Saint Anything by the immensely popular YA author, Sarah Dessen. Perhaps she was drawn to the description for some reason...

Description from Barnes & Noble:

Sydney has always felt invisible. She's grown accustomed to her brother, Peyton, being the focus of the family’s attention and, lately, concern. Peyton is handsome and charismatic, but seems bent on self-destruction. Now, after a drunk-driving accident that crippled a boy, Peyton’s serving some serious jail time, and Sydney is on her own, questioning her place in the family and the world.

Then she meets the Chatham family. Drawn into their warm, chaotic circle, Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance for the first time. There’s effervescent Layla, who constantly falls for the wrong guy, Rosie, who’s had her own fall from grace, and Mrs. Chatham, who even though ailing is the heart of the family. But it’s with older brother Mac—quiet, watchful, and protective—that Sydney finally feels seen, really seen, at last.

Saint Anything is Sarah Dessen’s deepest and most psychologically probing novel yet, telling an engrossing story of a girl discovering friendship, love, and herself.



EVANGELINE

Evangeline is the most prolific reader in the family, by a long shot. She usually reads 3-4 books a week, and to her parents' annoyance, she only reads paperbacks and won't accept a Kindle. This means that they have to take her to the used bookstore or library at least once a week, or technically, they make Patrick do it. In any case, they don't understand why she can't just download books like a normal person.

Her family is also mystified by her taste in books, which appears to span just about every genre. You can't analyze Evangeline by examining any single reading choice, and trying to analyze the books as a group might cause a severe headache.

Here are some of the books she's read recently.

The Stand by Stephen King - She got that from her father's collection.

War Brides by Helen Bryan - That one came from Amanda.

The Theory of Everything by Stephen Hawking - She picked that one up from the library after she learned about Stephen Hawking's existence from the popular movie. And yes, she read every word.

Cat Crimes II: Masters of Mystery Present More Tales of the Cat by Martin H. Greenberg and Ed Gorman, Beverly Hills Dead by Stuart Woods, A Rogue of My Own by Johanna Lindsey, and Fatal Revenant by Stephen R. Donaldson - All bargain bin selections from the local used book store.








Sharon Bayliss is the author of The December People Series and The Charge. When she’s not writing, she enjoys living happily-ever-after with her husband and two young sons. She can be found eating Tex-Mex on patios, wearing flip-flops, and playing in the mud (which she calls gardening). She only practices magic in emergencies.


















Read Amber's review of Destruction.


Also, check out the Q &A with Sharon

Destruction | Sharon Bayliss

Destruction is about a man that finds his long lost children from his affair after the death of their mother. The two new children have to move in with his other three children and wife. They soon learn that they are actually all a family of Dark Wizards. For a complete summary, you can go here.

I’ll be honest, when I am given a free copy of a book to review, I generally don’t have high hopes. Sometimes I get a good book, but usually the free books are terrible or just okay. This book was incredible. I have been waiting a long time for a fantasy novel to be original and interesting. Lately, all the fantasy novels I have read have either been too close to other fantasy novels, or they are innovative but boring. Destruction took its time to build the plot and develop the characters, but yet it never got boring. It was the perfect pace to build up for the rest of the series. I am also so tired of fantasy books with a clear villain and a clear ending, but this book had lots of surprises without seeming forced. So, I am awarding this book with my medal, The Best Book Award!

It is amazing to me how a book with so many main characters can develop each character better than some books with only one main character. They each had their own strengths and flaws. I loved and hated them all for different reasons, but I wanted them all to succeed. That is pretty powerful. 

For a book about wizards, it really was innovative in the way that wizards were portrayed. They don’t sit around reading spell books or creating potions. All the spells are much more natural (and sometimes on accident). I also loved how good and evil (or should I say, dark and light), are presented in this book. It isn’t so black and white as some wizard stories. The family of wizards are all Dark Wizards, but that doesn’t make them bad people. I see it more about intent. Dark magic is destructive by nature, but it doesn’t have to be used to destroy good. Bayliss describes all of this brilliantly and beautifully. 

If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

 *****   5/5 Stars


**Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this book, but it did not impact my review in any way.**









Check out the companion post to this book by Sharon Bayliss herself! 


Also, check out my Q &A with Sharon










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Friday, July 17, 2015

Nightmare Dilemma | Mindee Arnett

Nightmare Dilemma is the second book in the Arkwell Academy trilogy. It’s a young adult fantasy novel about a girl, Dusty, who is a Nightmare. She literally feeds off of other people’s dreams. Her and her dream-seeing partner, Eli are called upon again to solve a mystery at their school of other paranormals. Dusty are able to see the future while in Eli’s dreams. For a complete summary, you can go here.

My feelings about this book are pretty much the same as my feelings about the first book, The Nightmare Affair. It was a really cool idea about Nightmares being actual creatures. I guess I was hoping for it to be a little bit darker. The Nightmares should have been creepier, not happy-go-lucky. 

There were also so many things in this book that seemed way too close to Harry Potter. For instance, the bad guy from the first book comes back to life, but in a different form. Why can’t the bad guys just die?! There are also the bad guy professors who keep getting replaced by other bad guy professors. 

This was a fun, enjoyable story, but it left me wanting more. I will be reading and reviewing the third book in this series in a few weeks, so I hope that it gives me everything I was hoping for. The whole premise really has a lot of potential! However, I am a little concerned because I notice that in trilogies, the books get worse as the series moves forward. But we’ll see!

If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read it, leave a comment and let me know what you think!



 ***   3/5 Stars








Check out my review of Mindee's book The Nightmare Affair.
















She also agreed to a Q&A with me, so check it out here!














If you like books like this, you should also check out these books:







Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone










The Scorpio Races










Cinder