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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Q & A With Author Sarah Stevens



Hi, Sarah! Let's get started. What are your ambitions for your writing career? 

My ambitions for my writing career would include writing and writing and hoping to one day make the best sellers list.  

What would your career look like in an ideal world? 

In an ideal world my career would look like I could support my family with my writing and have a name for myself.


Those are great goals! What’s your guilty pleasure TV show?  

I love to watch Once Upon a Time. I'm not really a big TV watcher because you will find me with a book in my quiet time. 

I love OUAT too! Do you believe in fate or love at first sight? 

I believe that there is someone for everyone, that date plays a roll in it. It is possible for you to fall in lust at first sight but not so many people are lucky enough to find their forever with them.  

What is the strangest fact about you? 

Strangest??  I'm pretty boring so I'm not sure about a strange fact. 

Which writers inspire you? 

Micalea Smeltzer, R.K. Ryals, Colleen Hoover, Ella James. All authors I love and respect and have guided me with releasing my first novel.  

Colleen Hoover is quickly becoming a strong force in the writing world. What are you working on right now?  

Bren's Book, currently not titled but it is a stand alone to follow The Night He Saved Me

Why do you write? 

I write because I love it. I get a story or character in my head and I just write. It started as almost a therapy for me, an escape from everyday stress and life now I write whenever I can! 

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

Write! Write because you want to and write because the story lives inside you and needs to get out.  Besides that make sure you find an editor and formatter before you hit the publish button.

That is good advice. Some many authors get too excited to publish and they do it before the book is really ready. What books are you currently reading? 

With holidays and kids and writing I really haven't had the time to read.  

How can readers discover more about you and your work?  

I'm on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I'm currently published on Amazon but getting ready to publish on other outlets.

Thanks again for joining me, Sarah, and good luck in your writing career! 






Monday, January 30, 2017

Q & A With Author Linda Bloodworth



Hi, Linda. Thanks for joining me. Let’s get started. What are your ambitions for your writing career? 

I assume one day become insanely famous and be able to call the shots without someone wanting to change things. 

That sounds nice. What would your career look like in an ideal world? 

I’d have the freedom to write at my own pace, and to work with people I admire.

What’s your guilty pleasure TV show? 

Oh, do I ever love reality TV. It’s awful, when Jersey Shore started I could not stop watching this train wreck. Now, I love Hell’s Kitchen and House Hunters.

HGTV is taking over the world. Do you believe in fate or love at first sight? 

I do, it happened to me.

What is the strangest fact about you? 

Oh gosh, where do I begin. I used to sleep with one eye open due to a childhood surgery for lazy eye. Not so much anymore.

That sounds unpleasant! Which writers inspire you? 

Stephen King. Peter Straub. Ursula K. Le Guin. My main character’s name is Ursula after her.

What are you working on right now? 

The sequel to A Raven’s Touch, which is called A Raven’s Revenge.

Good luck! Why do you write? 

Or I’d go crazy. It’s in my blood, it’s in my DNA, I can’t stop lest the voices drive me mad. Sounds about right.

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

Write every day. Most likely whatever you wrote for your first draft is crap. Have someone read it. Listen to them. 

What book are you currently reading? 

The Unseen (Rushed, Book 2) by Brian Harmon. He’s fantastic! I highly suggest everyone pick up his work. 

How can readers discover more about you and your work? 


Thanks, Linda! Good luck with your sequel! 






Sunday, January 29, 2017

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children | Ransom Riggs

“I used to dream about escaping my ordinary life, but my life was never ordinary. I had simply failed to notice how extraordinary it was.”


Genre: Young Adult Fantasy.
Number of Pages: 352.
Perspective: First.
Location: Wales

This is the story of a boy who witnesses his grandfather’s horrific death. He learns that the crazy stories of people with strange talents that his grandpa used to tell are actually real people in a hidden orphanage off a remote Wales island. He decides to go find these people to help him mourn and move on. For a complete summary, you can go here.

The coolest part about this book is that it contains the pictures that the author based his characters off of. They are either real people or slightly manipulated to show people with strange traits or talents, such as levitation. 

I finished this book as I was sitting in the theater waiting for the movie version to start. This forced me to compare the movie and book quite heavily. The movie version was good on its own, but they changed many things from the book. I preferred the way the book presented things and the way the book ended. I do recommend reading the book and seeing the movie. They are both great separately. 

It was an interesting book unlike anything else I have ever read, which is rare these days. The author did an amazing job creating descriptive and believable characters. I am looking forward to reading the next few books in the series! I hope they don’t disappoint like so many other series. 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! 





“We cling to our fairy tales until the price for believing in them becomes too high.” 




4/5 Stars 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

You | Caroline Kepnes

“I don't say anything. I know the power of silence. I remember my dad saying nothing and I remember his silences more vividly than I remember the things he said.”


Genre: Thriller.
Number of Pages: 422.
Perspective: Second.
Location: New York.

You is the story of a bookstore manager, Joe, who quickly becomes obsessed with a beautiful and quirky customer. For a complete summary, you can go here.

The main draw of this book is that it is written in second person and the narrator is a stalker. So it seems as though you are the object of his obsession. Sound creepy? Yes, it was. However, I think the author dropped the ball on how creepy it could have been. But maybe that’s the point. You start to think that Joe isn’t really that bad, or that his actions are justified, when they are actually illegal and very messed up. 

I do think there was the potential for a huge twist at the end. I was waiting for it, but I think the author ended up going with an easier direction. There were all the clues throughout the whole book for the twist, but they all ended up being red herrings. 

The book was an interesting concept, but was a tad bit too drawn out. I think about 100 pages could have been cut out. The first half really intrigued me, but then it started to fall flat in the second half. However, I do think it has a purpose. I think it'll make people think about what information is online about them and how much someone can figure out just from social media. 

There is a lot of sexual content, so be warned. This book is definitely not for everyone. I would recommend it to people who like creepy thrillers. 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! 





“Work in a bookstore and learn that most people in this world feel guilty about being who they are.” 


3/5 Stars


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Red Queen | Victoria Aveyard

“The truth is what I make it. I could set this world on fire and call it rain."


Genre: Fantasy/Dystopian.
Number of Pages: 383.
Perspective: First.
Location: Post-Apocalyptic United States.

There is a divide between the people in this post-apocalyptic dystopia: red or silver bloods. Red bloods are lower class. Silver bloods are upper class and have extraordinary abilities. But what happens when a red blood has an ability of her own? For a complete summary, you can go here.

When I first finished this book, I planned on giving a 5-star review. It was a quick and interesting read and very fascinating. However, after discussing it with my book club and digesting the book a little bit, I decided that the familiarity of the story knocked my rating down to 4 stars. It was too similar to many of the other Young Adult dystopian books out there. Sometimes I can’t remember what happened in Red Queen versus Hunger Games versus Divergent. A relatively normal, bland, nondescript teenage girl suddenly finds herself being the leader of a rebellion. Very relatable for your average teen [sarcasm]. 

Overall, this story was very complex with lots of twists and turns. I did devour it and I am looking forward to reading the rest of the books in this series [yes, I know I always rant about why I hate series, but I’ll give the rest of these books a chance]. 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! 





“Flame and shadow. One cannot exist without the other.” 




4/5 Stars 


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

It’s a Writer Thing — Goals vs. Outcomes

This is a guest post by Jessica Bayliss. 



Happy New Year, wonderful writers! Welcome back to It’s a Writer Thing. 

Today, I want to talk about goals. In my work as a clinical psychologist, I help people set goals to improve their health and overcome challenges. I’m a firm believer in making commitments to ourselves, regardless of what our life strivings are. 

But the way we set goals matters. 

Here’s what I mean. Take someone who is trying to lose weight. Their goal might be to lose ten pounds or twenty pounds or whatever. But actually, number of pounds isn’t actually a goal; it’s an outcome. A goal is something completely different.

DEFINITIONS

Outcome: the long-term thing we’re trying to accomplish through our day-to-day efforts: losing ten pounds, quitting smoking, being more socially-active, writing a book, being a successful author. All of these are outcomes.

Goal: the day-to-day behavioral steps needed to reach our outcome. 


APPLYING THESE CONCEPTS

In the weight-loss realm, a goal might be to cut 500 calories a day or to exercise for 30 minutes, five times a week. This will result in the outcome of fitting into those super-cute jeans. 

In writing, a goal might be to write every day from 5AM to 6AM and for 3 hours on Saturdays. Or, to write 1k each day. Or five hundred. Or five thousand. If we’re revising, we could aim for one chapter a day or send our MS to three critique partners by the end of the week. For querying authors, an outcome is to sign with an agent. The goal might be to query two new agents each week or to always have ten queries out at any given time. Or to learn how to actually write a query because that’s another totally different skill we must master (and it’s frickin’ hard). 

These goals can all help us reach the outcomes of writing that novel, getting an agent, and being a published author.

WHY DOES THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN OUTCOME AND GOAL MATTER?

There are two main reasons:

1) Outcomes aren’t always behaviorally-driven. In other words, the thing we’re trying to accomplish isn’t directly under our control. 

We can cut calories at will (even though that’s frickin’ hard too), but we can’t lose weight at will. Whether we shed or gain pounds is due to many complex factors, including our behaviors and processes inside our bodies; we can’t predict exactly how much we’ll lose or how fast. 

In the writing realm, there is a mind-boggling number of uncontrollable factors, like what others think of our work. We can (and should) always practice to get better, but we can be the best writer the multi-verse has ever seen, and someone will still call our book very bad names. We can’t control when the agent will read our query or whether that editor will request the full.

Another challenge of writing is, we can control the number of words we write, but we can’t control how those words will come together to form a story. Or, to be more specific, we can control how the words come together, but it takes many passes to get it right.  That brings me to number two.

2) Outcomes require many steps and sustained effort. In other words, we can’t accomplish them quickly in one day or one sitting, and they require multiple types of behaviors to be successful. 

In weight loss, we have to cut calories, change the kinds of things we eat, and increase our physical activity.

In writing, there’s drafting, revising, editing, getting and incorporating feedback. And don’t even get me started on the process of querying and submissions. There are many steps (and sub-steps, and sub-sub-steps, and sub-sub-sub-steps) that are needed to become a published writer.


IT’S ALL ABOUT MOTIVATION

If our jeans are still tight after a week of effort, or if that book doesn’t simply pour out of our fingers onto the computer screen, it’s easy to quit, to say we’re not cut out for success, or—worst yet—to say bad things about ourselves for not being successful.

If, however, we focus on behavioral goals, we stay tuned-in to the small but steady ways we are making progress toward our outcome every single day. If I hit my calorie count, even if my jeans are still making my feet go numb after a week, eventually they’ll fit better. They have to, as long as I don’t give up. If I get my 1k, that book may not be done this week or this month, but it will get done as long as I don’t give up. 

We need to celebrate our goal-achievement every day. And when we nail it, we have more motivation to hit it hard the next day.

As always, a HUGE thank you to Amber Gregg for having me on “Judging More than Just the Cover.”

And, until next time, 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. 








Check out Jessica's other posts:

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Girls | Emma Cline

“That was part of being a girl — you were resigned to whatever feedback you'd get. If you got mad, you were crazy, and if you didn't react, you were a bitch. The only thing you could do was smile from the corner they'd backed you into. Implicate yourself in the joke even if the joke was always on you."


Genre: Historical Fiction.
Number of Pages: 355.
Perspective: First.
Location: California.

The Girls follows Evie in 1969 as she becomes obsessed with learning more about a mysterious free spirit girl who she keeps seeing around town. Evie learns that this girl is a part of a rumored cult, and then begins to get caught up in a dangerous scheme. For a complete summary, you can go here.

First of all, I took way too long to write this review. I read this for my book club a few months ago and we had a really amazing discussion, but now it feels hazy. This book tends to be advertised as being about the Charles Manson cult. Now, there are many parallels, but don’t go into this book expecting an action-packed murder/cult thriller. This book follows a girl that sort of sticks her toes into the “cult” water, but she is never actually there for anything that suggests that this group is a cult. 

The book is really a coming-of-age story that happens to be at the time and place of a famous cult. It is actually pretty slow moving and introspective. The author excels at giving a look into the mind of a teenage girl. In the last part of the book, we do get a little more of the action I was hoping for, but it takes a long time to get to that point. This book also alternates between present time and Evie’s childhood. I think the present day storyline could have been completely cut or reworked. It had the potential to be really important, but ended up not going in a good direction. 

Overall, the story was actually pretty interesting and worth a read. It definitely made me more curious about the Manson murders, and I am going to watch some of the documentaries about it. This book does make readers think about conformity and peer pressure in teenage girls. Even though this book is about a fourteen-year-old, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone younger than sixteen due to some adult themes. 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! 





“Other people's admiration asked something of you. That you had to shape yourself around it." 



4/5 Stars 


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Best Book of 2016!


Throughout the year, I have been awarding books with my Best Book Award if they receive a five-star rating from me. In order to receive a five-star rating, it needs to be an incredible book that leaves me with nothing bad to say. I have read many outstanding books this year, but a few have stuck in my head and really made a lasting impression. It was hard to pick my favorite book of the year, but here is the winner and a few that almost made the cut. Please comment with your favorite book of 2016! 



Best Book of 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. 

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


“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.”  


Other Nominees: 


A Monster Calls | Patrick Ness


“You do not write your life with words...You write it with actions. What you think is not important. It is only important what you do.”

Pages: 205. 
Perspective: Third. 
Time to Read: 2 hours and 3 minutes. 
Genre: Fantasy / Young Adult. 
Location: England.

This is a story about a monster who comes to visit a young boy in the night. The boy, Conor, is bullied at school, and his mom is dying from cancer. His daytime and nighttime are filled with nightmares. For a complete summary, you can go here.

The first thing I said to my husband when I finished reading this book was, "Man, that was depressing." It was depressing, but it was so much more than that. It was truly beautiful. The writing and storytelling were just incredible. It included illustrations that were dark and creepy, but also magical. This is a story of loss and grief, and how to cope. I think this book could be very powerful for any teen who has had someone close to them die. 

As a daughter of a cancer survivor, I know that depression and fear can feel like a monster inside. This book breathtakingly paints a picture of that exact feeling. I devoured this book and I cannot wait until the movie version comes out.

I would recommend this to anyone over 13 due to some thematic elements. If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here

“There is not always a good guy. Nor is there always a bad one. Most people are somewhere in between.”


Furiously Happy | Jenny Lawson


“Don’t sabotage yourself. There are plenty of other people willing to do that for free."

Genre: Memoir/Humor.
Number of Pages: 329.
Perspective: First.

This book is a collection of stories by Jenny Lawson as she tries to combat anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses by being “Furiously Happy” instead. For a complete summary, you can go here.

I normally HATE memoirs. I don’t know why I keep reading them. But THIS is why. This is the memoir that I have been wishing for! This book is the first memoir that I truly loved. I ate this book up. But, I really think this will be a polarizing book. Some people won’t get her humor and will not enjoy this book at all, other people will relate or at least empathize, and will absolutely love this book. 

Jenny is vulgar, an exaggerator, and self-admittedly crazy. But, boy, is she hilarious. I found myself laughing out loud, and not many books can do that to me. I more likely to cry from a book than laugh. Warning: Do not read this book in public if you get embarrassed by laughing to yourself. 

Sandwiched in between crazy hijinks, Jenny shares a few serious stories about her struggles with her mental illnesses. Even though she tries her hardest to combat them, there are still tough days, weeks, and months. I think this book is eye -opening to people who brush off anxiety and depression. It can also be a beacon for people who do struggle with similar issues. 

My favorite part of this book was her story about renovating her house. My husband and I are nearing the end of our home renovation, and Jenny perfectly summarized all of the ridiculousness that is contractors and renovation projects. 

I recommend this to people who struggle with mental illness, or to people who just need a good laugh. If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here

“Don’t make the same mistakes that everyone else makes. Make wonderful mistakes. Make the kind of mistakes that make people so shocked that they have no other choice but to be a little impressed.” 


Me Before You | Jojo Moyes


“Some mistakes... Just have greater consequences than others. But you don't have to let the result of one mistake be the thing that defines you."

Genre: Chick Lit / Contemporary Romance. 
Number of Pages: 369.
Perspective: First (A few alternating chapters). 
Location: England.

Me Before You is about Lou, a woman desperately looking for a job so she can help provide for her parents and sister. She ends up becoming the caregiver for a quadriplegic, Will. It becomes Lou's goal to teach Will how to love life again. For a complete summary, you can go here.

Let me just say, I NEEDED THIS BOOK. I have recently been in a book rut. I couldn’t seem to find an amazing book. I’ve read a lot of pretty good books lately, but I haven’t found one that completely and utterly engrossed me. Until now. This has been a crazy week for me, but I was impatiently waiting each day for a few free moments to engulf myself in this book. Once I finally got a few solid hours of free time, I couldn’t put the book down until I was finished. That alone is the sign of a great book. But overall, this book was one my favorite books.

I will admit, I am a sap. I have cried during commercials, and I have definitely cried during movies. But there are only two books that have ever made me cry actual tears: The Time Traveler’s Wife, and now, Me Before You. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but some people hated this book because of the controversial ending. Yes, I think a bad ending can ruin a good book, but I can’t dislike the ending just because I don’t morally agree with it. I may not like all the actions and decisions of the main characters, but I accepted them. 

This book tells a beautiful and heartbreaking story. Some people call it a love story, but it is so much more than that. It is more so an eye-opening life story. It makes you think about people with disabilities in a whole new way. It gives us a glimpse into daily challenges and interactions. 

I want to also add that I appreciated that it wasn't a back and forth perspective between Lou and Will. I think that dual-perspective books are way overdone right now. There were a few random chapters that were in the perspective of the secondary characters, which was okay, but not necessary. 

I recommend this book to everyone—well, probably just women. I can’t wait to go see the movie now. I’ll try not to judge it too much… If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here

“You can only actually help someone who wants to be helped.” 



What is your favorite book of the year? Let me know in the comments!


Check out my favorite books from 2015!