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Monday, December 19, 2016

Never Never: Part Three | Colleen Hoover & Tarryn Fisher

This is the continuation of Never Never: Part One and Part Two


“Trust your gut. Not your heart, because it’s a people pleaser, and not your brain, because it relies too heavily on logic."


Genre: Mystery/Romance.
Number of Pages: 92.
Perspective: First Alternating.
Location: New Orleans, LA.

This is the final part of the Never Never novella series. It is about Charlie and Silas, a couple that keeps simultaneously losing their memory. They have to solve the mystery of what happened before they lose their memories again. For a complete summary, you can go here.

So for those of you who don’t know, Colleen Hoover writes romance stories with super crazy twists. Tarryn Fisher writes really dark anti-love stories with crazy twists. So of course, I expected an epic twist when both of them are writing together. In reality, the ending left me rolling my eyes. The build up in the first two books was great! The wait in between books was not so great. The combination left me feeling disappointed with the final installment. 

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! 



“I’d rather trust the versions of ourselves we don’t remember than trust people who don’t know us at all.” 




3/5 Stars 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Hex | Thomas Olde Heuvelt

“Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay 'til death. Whoever settles, never leaves."


Genre: Horror.
Number of Pages: 384.
Perspective: Third.
Location: New York.

Hex is the story of a town that is cursed by a witch with her eyes and mouth sewn shut. She shows up in houses and just stands and stares for days at a time. The people of the town can never leave and are plagued by the fear of what would happen if the witch’s eyes and mouth are ever opened. For a complete summary, you can go here.

This book started off kind of funny and light-hearted. The middle starts to get a little creepy and suspenseful, and the end is downright strange. It was an enjoyable book, but you’ll have to wait a long time for the climax. The bulk of the action happens in the last 50 pages. For me, that felt rushed and left me with more questions than answers. 

Hex was originally written in Dutch and translated to English. With that in mind, I am utterly impressed with the flow and readability of the story. There were  a few phrases that were  a little confusing, but overall the author did an amazing job altering it to suit American audiences. He even completely changed the setting to make it more Americanized. In his author’s note, Olde Heuvelt explains that he even changed the ending because this was his second chance and opportunity to do so. I would love to figure out what the original ending is, but my internet research has come up dry. I hope that the Dutch ending was more fulfilling than this one. 

I read this book for my October book club. We wanted a super creepy book so that we could have our book club meeting at a cemetery—which we did and it was awesome! Some members of my book club were very freaked out by this book and couldn’t read it alone. It didn’t have that same effect on me, but I have also been binge-watching American Horror Story and The Walking Dead, so perhaps my scare-sensors are dulled. Rather than making me feel scared, this book just left me feeling pretty unsettled. The ending was weird and made me just question society as a whole. It actually reminded me of the movie/story The Lottery because of the mob mentalities and the power of paranoia in a small town. I just really questioned the motive of some of the main characters at the end. One main character in particular made some choices at the end that seemed rather odd. You’ll have to read it and let me know if you agree. The ending brought the story down from 4 to 3 stars for me.

This book was worth a read and definitely requires some discussion afterward. 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 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

I’ll Give You The Sun | Jandy Nelson

“Maybe some people are just meant to be in the same story."


Genre: Young Adult/Romance.
Number of Pages: 371.
Perspective: Alternating First.
Location: California. 

I’ll Give You The Sun follows a set of twins, Jude and Noah, through middle school and high school. The perspectives alternate between Noah’s, when the twins are still close at the ages of 13 and 14, and Jude’s, when they are 16 and no longer speaking. It pieces together a puzzle of tragedy, secrets, and longing for forgiveness. For a complete summary, you can go here.

Wow. I have been in a review rut lately. I’ve been waiting to write reviews for a while after finishing a book, but I had to write this review immediately after finishing reading. I honestly feel like I am in the middle of a book hangover. I wanted so badly to finish the book to see how it ended, but I am sad that I have no more book left to read. I would love for the story to keep going. This is now one of my favorite books, and I already cannot wait to read it again. I even gave it my Best Book Award

This story was beautiful. It felt raw. It’s about transformation, loss, love, acceptance, and family. It’s about being true to yourself and loving others freely. I love the LGBTQ subplot in it. I love all the love! I even loved the metaphysical aspect to it (which very easily could have been a flop). 

The writing was incredible. I usually hate flowery metaphors, but it seemed to fit with the artistic imaginations of the main characters. I read fast when the narrator was anxious and I felt those emotions. I could easily pick up all the feelings of the characters in the wording. That is a sign of a talented author. At times the story fell into place a little too perfectly, but that fit with the theme of the book. 

This book made my heart ache in all the right ways. My favorite part was the  tumultuous relationships between the twins and each of their parents and how they could fall apart and then fall back together. One line from the dad at the very end of the book gave me hope for our society and made me cry like a baby! 

I recommend this book to everyone! There are some adult themes, but I think it is a great coming-of-age novel for teens. I think adults can really appreciate it too. Parents of teens could get a new perspective from this book. 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! 






“Meeting your soul mate is like walking into a house you've been in before - you will recognize the furniture, the pictures on the wall, the books on the shelves, the contents of drawers: You could find your way around in the dark if you had to.”  



5/5 Stars 


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Inventing Your Own Novel Setting

This is a guest post by Melissa McClone.


Christmas at the Castle is the tenth Christmas-themed romance novel I’ve written, but it’s my first holiday story set outside the United States. I created Alistonia in my book The Cinderella Princess, but that country was nothing more than a name suggested by one of my readers on my Facebook page. So when I decided to use Alistonia as the setting for my Christmas book, I had a little work to do.

First, I needed to figure out where the country was on the map. I finally picked the eastern slope of the Alps. That sounded like a place that would be Christmassy and have snow. I also needed to determine what kind of Christmas traditions the characters and countries might have. I didn’t just want to carry over what is familiar to me, so I researched European Christmas traditions.

My favorite thing I discovered, and something I want to experience in person someday, is the Christmas Market. These street markets happen throughout Europe during Advent/December. They’ve been around for a long time with a history of a forerunner event dating back to the late thirteenth century.


The pictures of various Christmas Markets in Europe appealed to all five of my senses. I could feel the chill in the air and snowflakes against my face see the holiday decorations lights, hear the entertainment and laughter, smell the hot mulled wine (Glühwein), and taste all the yummy bake goods for sale at the various stalls.

It sounded like the perfect place to not only go Christmas shopping, but I knew the capitol city of Alistonia needed to have a Christmas Market and I wanted to set a scene in my book there.

Here’s how I describe the Christmas Market in my story:

She stopped. Her lips parted, and she gasped. “What is this place?”
“Our Christmas Market. Every town in Alistonia has one.”
Rows of booths had been set up on the closed-off street. Portable shops were decorated for the holidays with lights and garland. Some sold food. Others offered gift items. Several displayed holiday decorations, including Christmas trees.
Excitement shone in her eyes. She rubbed her gloves together. “This is amazing.”
Gill thought she might like this. “Where would you like to start?”
“Let’s begin on one end so we don’t miss anything. I have a feeling I’ll be able to finish all my Christmas shopping tonight.”
“You sound happy.”
“I am.” Her shoulders wiggled. “Thanks to you.”
He extended his arm. “Shall we, milady?”
Beaming, she hooked her arm around his. “Let the shopping commence.”
Booth after booth, they explored, examined items, and tasted food like the town’s famous Christmas cookies. She purchased several handmade Christmas tree ornaments as well as knitted items. Her looks of awe made him feel like a super hero. This was one of his favorite holiday traditions, but seeing the market and his hometown through Kat’s fresh eyes made him savor things he’d forgotten and taken for granted.
I’ve since learned that some towns in the US do have similar Christmas Markets. I found this list that lists several of the German style Christmas Markets happening in 2016 by state in case you’re interested visiting one!



Giveaway:


Melissa is giving away this amazing prize pack (within the US), make sure you enter below!

$10 Amazon gift card
Thirty-One Gifts Zipper Pouch
Autographed paperback copy of The Cinderella Princess
Footies
Christmas at the Castle Bottle top keychain
Recipe Card
Bookmark







Melissa McClone’s degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University led her to a job with a major airline where she travelled the globe and met her husband. But analyzing jet engine performance couldn’t compete with her love of writing happily ever afters. Her first full-time writing endeavor was her first sale when she was pregnant with her first child! Since then, she has published over twenty-five romance novels with Harlequin and been nominated for Romance Writers of America’s RITA award. When she isn’t writing, she’s usually driving her minivan to/from her children’s swim and soccer practices, 4-H meetings and dog shows. She also supports deployed service members through Soldiers’ Angels and fosters cats through a local non-kill rescue shelter. Melissa lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three school-aged children, two spoiled Norwegian Elkhounds and cats who think they rule the house.



Monday, November 28, 2016

Q & A With Author Julie Archer



Hi, Julie! Thanks for joining me today! Let's get started. What are your ambitions for your writing career?

I’d like writing to be my only job! Ideally, I’d like to become a traditionally published bestselling author. It would also be great to have a strong following of people that are interested when my next book comes out. But in all honesty, if I can break even some day, that would be great!

What would your career look like in an ideal world?

Pretty much the same as above. I’d love to just focus on writing and not have the variety of other jobs as well.


What’s your guilty pleasure TV show?

Just the one? I have several! Hollyoaks (UK soap), Made in Chelsea (UK reality TV series focusing on the lives and loves of the rich people in Chelsea) and Pretty Little Liars (US teen drama).

Do you believe in fate or love at first sight?

I believe that things happen for a reason. If something doesn’t work out for you, then it wasn’t meant to be and something better will come along. For example, I lost out on a piece of recruitment work earlier this year, but that enabled me to focus on writing and editing and getting Cocktails, Rock Tales & Betrayals published. And I got a job in a bookshop instead!


That's awesome! I agree that things seem to fall in place the way they need to. What is the strangest fact about you?

Hmm, that’s a tough one! I guess one of the strangest things that happened to me was hanging out with Duff McKagan (Guns N’ Roses bass player) after a gig he did in London. He’s surprisingly shy in real life, which is something you wouldn’t necessarily expect from a global rock star!

So cool! Which writers inspire you?

Gosh, that’s a hard one! There are authors that I love, such as the late Jackie Collins, Louise Bagshawe, Tilly Bagshawe, Tasmina Perry and Ilana Fox. I pretty much have every one of their books and it would be amazing to be as successful as them. But I’m truly inspired by those writers that have done it themselves and made a success of it, such as Carrie Elks and Marissa Farrar, who then pay it forward to new and aspiring authors like me. Oh, and Jenny Kane/Kay Jaybee/Jennifer Ash who has a million pens names and personas and still manages to make time for newbies.


What are you working on right now?

I’m about a quarter of the way through the first draft of book two. It’s a standalone/sequel to Cocktails and picks up what happens next. I took a couple of minor characters and made them the main focus, as well as adding some new people into the mix. It’s called One Last Shot and I plan for it to be out in April 2017.

Wow, that's awesome! Good luck! Why do you write?

I don’t know what else I would do if I didn’t write. It’s something I’ve always done, even as a child – although that may stem from being an only child and having imaginary friends to make up stories with. I like the sense of escapism it can bring. Your characters can say and do things that you might not be brave enough to. And it can be quite cathartic. Although I wouldn’t always let everything I’ve ever written be read!

Do you have any advice for someone wanting to publish their own book?

I’d say just go for it! I have a fantastic support network and had loads of advice from other authors who had self-published. Anything from how to format an ebook to how you should set up your marketing plan to pointing me in the direction of forums and websites that will be useful. It gave me the confidence to do it myself and I couldn’t be more proud of what I’ve achieved.

What books are you currently reading?

I have a couple on the go. One is Truman Capote’s Breakfast At Tiffany’s. I saw the film ages ago and loved it and wanted to see how the book was different. The other is Survivor by Marissa Farrar. I also recently read my first Agatha Christie novel.

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

You can find me procrastinating on Facebook or on my website. Cocktails, Rock Tales & Betrayals is available for Kindle, iBooks, Nook, Kobo and Scribd and is available in paperback from Amazon or my website.

Great! Thanks for joining the Judging More Than Just The Cover family! 




Monday, November 21, 2016

Q & A With Author Holly Tierney-Bedord


Hi, Holly! Thanks for joining me! What are your ambitions for your writing career?

I have many partly written stories, and even more stories in my head. I want to get them all out there!

What would your career look like in an ideal world?

I'm pretty happy with my career as it is right now. I get to write a lot, and I also have a regular job I love working for a group of local restaurants.

What’s your guilty pleasure TV show?

I love TV. Love it. All reality shows. Especially the Real Housewives, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, and Survivor. Junky daytime shows like court shows and Dr. Phil. Comedies like The Big Bang Theory and Brooklyn 99. I love watching the news. True Crime shows. The Simpsons. I'll watch just about anything. I went for years without a television, because I felt like TV was unhealthy and made people dumb, but when my husband and I got married about ten years ago he insisted we have a TV, and now I'm like one of those kids raised without candy who just wants to eat sugar all day long.

Too funny! Do you believe in fate or love at first sight?

If we're talking about baby animals, then for sure. As for humans? Sort of. But I think it's very rare and most people never experience it. 

What is the strangest fact about you?

I was going to say nothing, but I came up with something: I love dollhouses and miniatures, and I have chronicled my mid-century "mini house flip" featuring homemade mini furniture and decor on the blog flipthisminihouse.com. I hope to create a non-fiction about my mini house project someday.


Very interesting! Which writers inspire you?

Sylvia Plath, Mark Twain, Sophie Kinsella, Barbara Kingsolver, Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, and lifestyle bloggers. 

What are you working on right now?

Several books. A few novellas that are pretty light-hearted. Novellas are my thing lately. They're perfect for my short attention span. Also, a dark, layered ghost story that I've been working on for years. Those are my main focuses lately.

Why do you write?

It's fun. I get a kick out of creating ridiculous characters. 

Do you have any advice for someone wanting to publish their own book?

First, try to find an agent and go about it that way. Why not at least try? Then you won't have to worry about all other parts of self-publishing. But if that doesn't work and you're going to do it on your own, have high standards. Be picky about proof-reading and editing. This might mean you read your book twenty times. Three of them aloud. For real! Be picky about the cover. Be picky about the plot and the characters. Understand why all the parts you put there belong. Get rid of the pieces that don't fit. Get rid of the boring parts. If parts of it don't seem great, or right, then you're not done. Keep working. Put it aside for a few days. Sleep on it. Ask for all the help you need. Seek out other writers and learn from them. 

When it comes time to turn it from a manuscript into a book for the world to see, don't go broke in the process. I've been to writers conferences where there are "success stories" where someone spent tens of thousands of dollars on a team of people to "get their book out there" and it barely sells. To me, that is not a success story. It's predatory! But I guess if someone's lifelong dream is to have a published book, and they're happy, then it's a success story to them. If you know WHY you want your book out there (to make money? to have your story told? to see your name in print?) it will help you make decisions about the route you take and where you spend your money. Finally, you must have an eBook. If your book is only in print, you're missing 99% of your audience.


That's some great advice! What books are you currently reading?

I'm a slow reader. I start a lot of books but don't finish many. Books in progress right now are C.S. Lewis's The Magician's Nephew and Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible (a favorite, but I'm rereading it).

Magician's Nephew is a great classic. How can readers discover more about you and your work?

Read my books!

Great! Thanks again, Holly! Good luck with your novellas!


Thursday, November 17, 2016

It's a Writer Thing -- It's All About Control

This is a guest post by Jessica Bayliss. 


Hello lovely writers! Welcome back to my It’s a Writer Thing mini-series on stimulus control and generalizability. As you may recall, I’m a clinical psychologist, which means I get to take advantage of all those great psychological theories and put them to work for me in my writing, and I want to share that with you.

In my last two posts, I talked about the benefit of ingraining a very powerful urge to write by creating a habit. Writing under the same circumstances every day for a few weeks can create stimulus control in which the environment triggers our writing behavior. But I also cautioned that we can sometimes hinder ourselves if we limit our writing to only that special circumstance. We don’t want to limit ourselves! We want to be productive no matter where we are, right? So, to avoid that, once we’ve established a good habit, we need to vary our writing environment (while still sticking with our routine) so we can train ourselves to write under a variety of stimuli. This will allow for optimal productivity.

Today, I want to add in two new concepts: cognitive control and locus of control.


DEFINITIONS:


Cognitive Control: The way people’s behavior can be driven by mental constructs such as plans, instructions, goals, and prior events. It also refers to the way our behavior can vary in real time, allowing it to change as our plans, goals, and values (etc.) vary. This allows our behavior as a whole to be flexible instead of rigid.

Locus of Control: In other words, to whom or what we attribute our success (or failure). Is it because of things inside of us (i.e., internal locus of control) or things outside of us (i.e., external locus of control)?

How does this all fit in with stimulus control and generalizability?

STEP 1:


First off, we must recognize that external stimuli impact our behavior. That’s exactly why stimulus control and generalizability work, right? Whether we’re talking writing behavior, eating behavior, study habits, whether we get on Facebook or get to work on that MS instead, we can’t ignore the impact of external factors on what we do. If we try to, we’re losing out on some potentially helpful stuff and maybe even setting ourselves up for failure (like if we minimize the impact of a coworker bringing donuts to work when we’re trying to count calories).

So, step 1, just remember that external factors impact us.

STEP 2:


External factors don’t have to be the end-all be-all of our behavior. Yes, stimulus control is powerful, but so is your brain. We need to remember that the executive control of our behavior lies within us. 

All too often I hear people saying things like: 

I can’t work out today, because I got stuck in traffic. Or 

There’s no point eating a healthy lunch because I’m going to have an unhealthy dinner. Or 

There’s no point writing; I’ve only got a half hour and I need at least 45 minutes to make it work. Or 

Why try to write? My kids are being all loud and making a mess.


What do all of these situations have in common? They all are examples of external locus of control. In other words, they’re all examples of situations where we assume the external environment has the ultimate power to decide what we do.

Cognitive control is like our trump card, the one that bypasses all of these barriers. By putting the locus of control back inside us, we exert cognitive control. Instead of letting the environment drive our behavior, we can use other important stimuli to drive it instead. Stimuli like: our goals, our values, our decisions, our plans, our prior preparations, the deadline we committed to with our editor/agent/critique partner.

Stimulus control and generalizability are tools to increase our writing by training our behavior around external stimuli. They’re perfect for helping us get productive. Cognitive control and an internal locus of control mindset are tools to overcome barriers and stay productive even if the environment isn’t aligned in our most optimal set-up. 

Your comfy chair and tatty robe won’t write your story for you, right? YOU write your story. And you can do it whether you’re in the perfect spot or in your really uncomfortable work clothes or surrounded by a lot of distraction or with a glass water instead of a huge-ass mug of coffee or jazz instead of polka (you know who you are). 

No matter how powerful the stimuli in our environments, we are always the ones with the executive control. We are in the driver’s seat. We get to veto all the other stuff and put our brains to work for us. So, when I use the mantra shared with me by my dear friend, You can do it! You can write!, I’m literally invoking our powers of cognitive control. 


This concludes my mini-series on stimulus control and generalizability. How will you put these powerful psychological tools to work for you and your writing? Feel free to leave a post in the comments and share.

Thanks to Amber Gregg for hosting my posts on her fabulous site, “Judging More than Just The Cover,” and don’t forget…

You can do it! You can write!



Jessica Bayliss is an author of commercial fiction who loves nothing better than getting lost in a good story, whether in print or on film. When not busy with her latest fiction project, she can be found loving her friends and family—especially her husband, Eric—playing with one pesky Havanese, or trying to appease an ornery cockatiel, typically with a cup of coffee near at hand.