Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Girl Who Could See: Release Day Review!

 Hello, all! Today is the release day of The Girl Who Could See, a novella by Kara Swanson. I was lucky enough to be on the launch team and receive an early copy of the book, so I'm releasing my review today.

All her life Fern has been told she is blind to reality—but, what if she is the only one who can truly see?

Fern Johnson is crazy. At least, that's what the doctors have claimed since her childhood. Now nineteen, and one step away from a psych ward, Fern struggles to survive in bustling Los Angeles. Desperate to appear normal, she represses the young man flickering at the edge of her awareness—a blond warrior only she can see. 

Tristan was Fern's childhood imaginary hero, saving her from monsters under her bed and outside her walls. As she grew up and his secret world continued to bleed into hers, however, it only caused catastrophe. But, when the city is rocked by the unexplainable, Fern is forced to consider the possibility that this young man is not a hallucination after all—and that the creature who decimated his world may be coming for hers.



What a title (and storyline), am I right?
Cover

I know I'm on a roll with loving the covers I've reviewed lately, but this one is truly exceptional. It even won a cover contest, so I'm not the only one who thinks so. 

Characters

Okay, but who couldn't love Tristan, the boy from another world who's protected Fern from childhood? That's adorable, right? I think it is. Tristan sort of reminded me of one of my own characters at the beginning of the story, but as I read more of him, he was quite different, multi-faceted, and kind of precious in a tough warrior boy sort of way. I liked Tristan an awful lot. 

Our main character, Fern, is the star of character growth. She starts the book pretty much legally insane and trying to keep it a secret that she's illegally raising her niece. Seeing Fern's character development from someone who was afraid to even think about her childhood, to a strong woman willing to fight for those she loved was pretty incredible. 

I also have to mention that I enjoyed the use of the F.B.I as major players. You don't see this a lot in fantasy books, so it was a fun and unique addition. 

Story/Plot

Getting everything you want to say into a 50,000+ word book is hard. Getting your story into a novella? Crazy difficult, in my experience of writing novellas. I prefer novels because you can get so much more information in.

But Kara Swanson takes that thought and turns it on its head. Not only does she write a good novella, she writes one with just enough detail and a perfectly sized plot to fill her pages just right. The story is action packed, doesn't drag with needless exposition, and keeps you on the edge of your seat. I saw someone mention this as a good beach-day read and I agree. If you want a quick summer read that isn't a romance novella, this is a good choice. Action packed and it will only take a couple of sittings. 

I really enjoyed this one and liked that with its short length, it was easy to get through, but also well-developed. I was left with some questions, so I wouldn't be adverse to a sequel, but if there isn't one coming... I think this novella stands well on its own. 

Guess what? This novella is only 99 cents today because it is release day. You should grab it here while you have the chance!

About the author: As the daughter of missionaries, KARA SWANSON spent sixteen years of her young life in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. Able to relate with characters dropped suddenly into a unique new world, she quickly fell in love with the speculative genre and was soon penning stories herself.
At seventeen, she independently published a fantasy novel, Pearl of Merlydia. Her short story Distant as the Horizon is included in Kathy Ide's 21 Days of Joy: Stories that Celebrate Mom. She has published many articles, including one in the Encounter magazine. Kara received the Mount Hermon Most Promising Teen Writer Award in 2015.



Congratulations to Kara!

~ Bethany



Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Lost Girl of Astor Street: A Book Review

Hey, Guys. Still not a lot of writing news to share, but I have loads of books to share! One of my favorite reads this Winter (so much so that I've been reading it to my mom) was The Lost Girl of Astor Street by Stephanie Morrill. I received this book in the mail in exchange for my honest review.


Lydia has vanished.

Lydia, who’s never broken any rules, except falling in love with the wrong boy. Lydia, who’s been Piper’s best friend since they were children. Lydia, who never even said good-bye.

Convinced the police are looking in all the wrong places, eighteen-year-old Piper Sail begins her own investigation in an attempt to solve the mystery of Lydia’s disappearance. With the reluctant help of a handsome young detective, Piper goes searching for answers in the dark underbelly of 1924 Chicago, determined to find Lydia at any cost.

When Piper discovers those answers might stem from the corruption strangling the city—and quite possibly lead back to the doors of her affluent neighborhood—she must decide how deep she’s willing to dig, how much she should reveal, and if she’s willing to risk her life of privilege for the sake of the truth.

From the glitzy homes of the elite to the mob-run streets of 1920s Chicago, Stephanie Morrill’s jazz-age mystery shows just how far a girl will go to save her friend.

~~~
A well-written mystery is a good thing. A well-written mystery in the Jazz Age? Even better.

If you can't tell, I adore the YA genre. Though I'm now twenty-one, I still love to read a well-written young adult novel, often more than their adult counterparts. It may be because I mainly write young adult. Whatever the reason, I'm so excited to see a young adult historical mystery novel. Maybe I'm just missing something, but I haven't seen too many of these in recent years, so that already made me anticipate this novel.

Let's look at the elements of this novel.

The Cover

Maybe I just love all covers (doubtful?), but I do adore this one. Blue and green are some of my favorite colors, so their presence n this covers probably makes it more attractive to my eye. Still, I think this cover is nice. The greenish sky is a nice contrast to the standard sky-blue and Piper's inclusion doesn't feel too staged. I'm rather glad she is seen from a side view. I also like the buildings in the background. A really nice cover.

The Characters

Okay, I'll be honest. These days when I hear the words "strong female character" I often want to roll my eyes. Okay, we get it. The main character is tough, can do big things, and can do it alone if necessary. Maybe that's just how I see it. The strong female character clones often seem to be so similar and unrealistic. 

That's why I love how Piper Sail turns that stereotype on its head. Yes, she is a strong female character, but she is also weak. She is human. She has many strong character traits. She is determined, a wonderful friend, and brave. She also has negative aspects that reveal the utter humanness of her. She can't do everything alone. Sometimes she does foolish things, even if they are for the right reasons. She needs help. And there is nothing wrong with that. Piper is better when she has support, and what can be truer than that?

There were several characters in this book of note aside from her heroine, including the many men in her life. We have her brother, Nick, and her dad. In somewhat larger roles, we have Jeremiah Crane, a suave newspaper man who I sort of adored, as well as Walter, Piper's best friend, the son of the housekeeper. Lastly, we have Cassano, a young police detective who has some obvious chemistry with Piper. (I would argue that Jeremiah also has obvious chemistry, but you should read the book). Each of these characters was unique and well-developed. I loved the supporting cast. The missing Lydia was also an important player, literally affecting almost every part of the story. The characterization was great.

Plot/Story

The plot is probably one of my favorite things about this book. At times misleading, at times heartbreaking, at time romantic, the storyline sews everything together quite nicely. There were twists to be found (one big shocker about halfway through the book) but also some calms in the storm involving sweetness. This is Stephanie Morrill's first historical and I think she did such a fine job. I love it and I really really hope we get to see more Piper Sail in the future!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Unblemished: A Book Review

 Okay, so in my old schedule, Tuesday was the day for theatre-related goodness. Now I do the bulk of my theatre fangirling over at The Fangirl Initiative, a site dedicated to all things fandom, which you should check out. Still, I plan to share some of the events going on in my theatre life, but that will have to wait. Today I am going to share another book with you. Unblemished by Sara Ella. I received this book free, but the review containes my thoughts and opinions.

Eliyana can’t bear to look at her own reflection. But what if that were only one Reflection—one world? What if another world exists where her blemish could become her strength?

Eliyana is used to the shadows. With a birthmark covering half her face, she just hopes to graduate high school unscathed. That is, until Joshua hops a fence and changes her perspective. No one, aside from her mother, has ever treated her like he does: normal. Maybe even beautiful. Because of Joshua, Eliyana finally begins to believe she could be loved.

But one night her mother doesn’t come home, and that’s when everything gets weird. Now Joshua is her new, and rather reluctant, legal Guardian. Add a hooded stalker and a Central Park battle to the mix and you’ve gone from weird to otherworldly.

Eliyana soon finds herself in a world much larger and more complicated than she’s ever known. A world enslaved by a powerful and vile man. And Eliyana holds the answer to defeating him. How can an ordinary girl, a blemished girl, become a savior when she can’t even save herself?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I know what you're thinking. Ugh. Another story about dark brooding heroes who have a secret that will change the boring heroine's life. And maybe that's sort of right. But this is not that story.

The Cover:

First, I must take a moment to comment on the cover. The saying about judging a book by its cover is true, but I love a gorgeous cover like this one. Sometimes having a face on a cover is interesting, but I like the sort of lower face approach here. The font, all lowercase, goes well with the ethereal glimmers of white and the pattern swirling about her face is curious and pretty. I also like how the image of the trees and building were included at the bottom. This is a well-designed cover and definitely eye-catching. So A+ as far as covers go.

Extra:

Next, I have to point out that this book has a map at the start, which is always a good sign in my opinion. The book is also split into 'acts' which makes my theatre nerd self really happy. Many musical references are written into the prose, which also makes me happy. But onto the actual review...

The Characters:

Understanding a character is imperative to understanding the story. In Unblemished we have a relatively large cast of unique and developed characters. I can't talk about some of the characters without spoilers, so I will do my best to avoid those. We have the heroine Eliyana, a girl struggling with her self-worth. Many people suffer with it, me included at times, Eliyana has a strange red birthmark on her face that mortifies her. With all she goes through during the book, Eliyana is a character that grows a lot and one I liked for the most part. 

Other characters of note include Joshua, Eliyana's guardian just a few years her senior, and Ky, who I would describe as the bad boy to Joshua's nice-guy persona. Both of these characters are well-written and I absolute love how Sara Ella did not write them as tropes, but made them into layered and sympathetic people. They got on my nerves at times, especially one of them, but they are important to the story and a good character will aggravate you at times. Perfect characters are boring!

The villain is pretty chilling. I can't go into why he's so chilling, but trust me. One doesn't want to mess with Jasyn Crow. 

The supporting characters are pretty fabulous as well. In general, this book has a well-rounded cast.

The Story:

Ah. The thing that connects everything and keeps the characters and plot together... Unblemished obviously carries a message of self-acceptance, not a truly rare message, but an important one nonetheless. Self-acceptance is also rarely presented from a Christian perspective, so that's also a good thing here, even if the novel is a fantasy. 

This story does have some tropes in it (which I don't necessarily mind). There's the one where a person goes to another the world, the enduring love triangle, and the chosen one storyline (sort of). These actually all work pretty well into the fabric of this story. The other world is a reflection of our own and Eliyana's journey there is nothing like Lucy's peaceful journey into Narnia. In fact, it's kind of scary and worrisome. Goody. 

The love triangle. I hate love triangles. Okay, I dislike them. Sometimes. I've watched enough Korean dramas that I know my love triangles... The thing about love triangles is this: if they aren't done well, they are the worst. The girl in a love triangle (or guy, if the situation is reversed) is often so indecisive and flaky that the guys should just go find someone else. I found that to be much less promiYonent here. The love triangle had explanations. The reason the main character struggled had an explanation. It wasn't just because she couldn't decide which of the two buff, extremely hot guys she liked more.

Also, I want to note how much I love that looks are not highlighted here. Eliyana has a hideous birthmark. Ky has horrible acne. I just love that not everyone is porcelain skinned or the world's definition of beautiful. Thank you, Sara Ella, for that. 

The story is well-written and exciting. I spent a lot of time that I should have been sleeping during college last semester burning through this book. Yeah, I have no regrets. 

The worldbuilding is excellent. In one book Ella created an expansive universe of sorts full of exciting possibility. 

Also, I shall not spoil it, but there is a bit of a twist that I didn't see coming. As a person who often sees things coming (an annoyance when trying to watch a film), I was pretty surprised.

Unblemished is a great book about embracing who you are and your purpose and the characters go on both literal and figurative journeys that are incredibly engaging. Add to that Sara Ella's beautiful prose and you have a winner for this author's first novel. I can't wait to see what comes next!

You can buy Unblemished here or wherever it is sold.

~ Bethany


Monday, May 8, 2017

King's Blood: A Book Review

Hello friends of the internet. I have just finished up my first semester at an official university and I am aching to write lots of blog posts this summer. So here is my first. A review of King's Blood by Jill Williamson. This book was complimentary and I am giving my honest review. King's Blood is the second book in the Kinsman Chronicles series, so be sure to check out King's Folly first! Welcome back to Book Thursdays!

Image result for king's blood jill williamson

Back cover: The Five Realms have been destroyed. The remnants of the population who escaped now find themselves confined only to several hundred ships adrift at sea. Guided by hope, rumor, and a promise, they sail north into the unknown, desperate to find land that might become their new home.

As the king's illness worsens, Sâr Wilek takes authority over the expedition and struggles to rule the disjointed people, while assassination attempts, vicious serpents, dangerous storms, and dark magic endanger his life and the survival of his people.

One prophecy has come to pass, but another looms dauntingly in the future. Who is the promised Deliverer? And if the Magonians have him, what might that mean for the realm of Armania?



One thing Jill Williamson always does well in / her books is world building. World building is the time an author takes to develop their world, all the intricacies of each culture and the expanse of each world they portray. Each of Williamson's novels has a great level of world building that helps make the story more real for the reader. It is an important skill and one she excels in.

One thing every good story need is a good character (or several). Williamson always crafts remarkable characters. Two of my favorites in this series are Sâr Trevn and Hinkdan Faluk, two young men in some perilous situations. I've so enjoyed reading Hinkdan's character development over the first book and this one. He has become so courageous and I like him very much. Other characters are also lovely, though I disliked Charlon (another main character) more this time around. Other characters were written perfectly to disgust the average reader with a conscious, including Sâr Janek and Sir Kamran DanSâr.

The plot of this novel was quite expansive. The novel is nearly six-hundred pages and covers many characters in a detailed and exciting story. A helpful character appendix at the front of the book will help forgetful readers keep characters and relations straight. The story does not feel rushed. I think the pacing was handled well so that everything moved at a good speed. This is that rare type of book with light moments and parts that will make you sob... at least for me. I finished this book in tears, but still excited for the next installment. So if you prefer stories that only include happiness, then this book is not for you. But if you enjoy the realism of pain, the joy of life, and exciting fantasy, you may just in enjoy this story. It is well worth the time it takes to read (and really, it's so interesting that six-hundred pages aren't anything.)

I recommend this book and if you are interested in reading it, you can find it here or wherever it may be sold.

~ Bethany

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Silent Songbird: A Book Review

 Hello all. I apologize for my distinct lack of posts. It's a common excuse but a lot has happened in my life including moving into my college residence and starting a new school. There are some changes coming to the blog and with those changes I wish to resume a more regular schedule. But for now, I present to you a review of The Silent Songbird by Melanie Dickerson!


Evangeline longs to be free, to live in the world outside the castle walls. But freedom comes at a cost.


Image result for the silent songbird cover
Evangeline is the ward and cousin of King Richard II, and yet she dreams of a life outside of Berkhamsted Castle, where she might be free to marry for love and not politics. But the young king betroths her to his closest advisor, Lord Shiveley, a man twice as old as Evangeline. Desperate to escape a life married to a man she finds revolting, Evangeline runs away from the king and joins a small band of servants on their way back to their home village.

To keep her identity a secret, Evangeline pretends to be mute. Evangeline soon regrets the charade as she gets to know Wesley, the handsome young leader of the servants, whom she later discovers is the son of a wealthy lord. But she cannot reveal her true identity for fear she will be forced to return to King Richard and her arranged marriage.


Wesley le Wyse is intrigued by the beautiful new servant girl. When he learns that she lost her voice from a beating by a cruel former master, he is outraged. But his anger is soon redirected when he learns she has been lying to him. Not only is she not mute, but she isn't even a servant.


Weighed down by remorse for deceiving Wesley, Evangeline fears no one will ever love her. But her future is not the only thing at stake, as she finds herself embroiled in a tangled web that threatens England's monarchy. Should she give herself up to save the only person who cares about her? If she does, who will save the king from a plot to steal his throne?


I have to admit. This isn't my favorite Melanie Dickerson book. It's good, though, and a worthy addition to her collection of fairytale retellings. If you couldn't tell by the title and description, this is a retelling of Little Mermaid. There are no mermaids involved, however, since like her other novels, this is also a historical. 

So let's talk plot. Like in The Little Mermaid, our heroine, Eva, gives up her speech. Her reasoning is far different from Ariel's, however, and she only pretends muteness. Her plan isn't totally thought out, however, because she finds herself missing her ability to speak very quickly when she falls for the handsome and kind Wesley Le Wyse. *Bats eyes*. The plot was decent and for the most part Eva's choices made sense. Who would want to marry a horrible man way older than them? There were parts of the plot I wished were expanded, but to discuss them would provide too many spoilers. Let's just say that like in the original Little Mermaid, Eva has to save Wesley at one point and I wish that Eva would have had more interaction with some of the people involved in that. Otherwise, the plot was well-rounded and I enjoyed some of the historical details Dickerson included, like scratching pray requests on the chapel walls. 

The characters were fine, though I notice that sometimes Dickerson's characters in different novels are somewhat similar. Perhaps it is just the way I read them. I like the fact that Eva feels guilty over her lies and doesn't just let it go as a character would in many novels. Since this is a Christian novel, I'm happy to see Christian morals upheld and guilt to be applied to the act of lying. I liked Wesley, of course. Dickerson always writes swoonworthy male leads and Wesley is no different. He's kind, adorably sweet, and likes Eva even when he thinks she's a poor mute. Gotta love it when I wealthier guy isn't snooty. After the amount of 'bad boys' in recent fiction, it's so nice to see some kind-hearted ones as well. 

The rest of the cast fulfilled their roles as well. The villain was perfectly villainous and nasty and the king was completely out of it for most of the novel. I had to do some research and the young king from this story had a sad end in real life, dying several years after this story after his kingdom is taken over. I love that Dickerson included a historical character as a large part of her novel and overall I enjoyed this story! You can find a copy at Amazon or wherever it is sold.

~ a rambling author


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Lost Girl of Astor Street Clue Hunt: Clue #19

Hello, lovely friends and welcome to the Lost Girl of Astor Street Clue Hunt! The fabulous Stephanie Morrill's latest book has just released and here is a bit more about it:

Lost Girl of Astor Street_cover (2)Lydia has vanished.

Lydia, who’s never broken any rules, except falling in love with the wrong boy. Lydia, who’s been Piper’s best friend since they were children. Lydia, who never even said good-bye.

Convinced the police are looking in all the wrong places, eighteen-year-old Piper Sail begins her own investigation in an attempt to solve the mystery of Lydia’s disappearance. With the reluctant help of a handsome young detective, Piper goes searching for answers in the dark underbelly of 1924 Chicago, determined to find Lydia at any cost.

When Piper discovers those answers might stem from the corruption strangling the city—and quite possibly lead back to the doors of her affluent neighborhood—she must decide how deep she’s willing to dig, how much she should reveal, and if she’s willing to risk her life of privilege for the sake of the truth.

From the glitzy homes of the elite to the mob-run streets of 1920s Chicago, Stephanie Morrill’s jazz-age mystery shows just how far a girl will go to save her friend.

Now, I know you're really here for the clue, but first, Stephanie has some awesome content to share with you, including this snazzy list,

                                                                  10 Things to Love About the 1920s.

10. Men wearing fedoras and other kinds of hats. A pretty dapper time in men's fashion.

9. The general glitz of fashionable evening wear. Beaded dresses and sparkly diadems and fringe hems.

8. The cheesy slang. The bee's knees, the cat's pajamas, the elephant's instep. It's hard to pick

7. Handkerchiefs: I was so excited to finally write a book where a guy could offer a girl his handkerchief when she was feeling distressed.

6. The Fitzgeralds. The way that F. Scott and Zelda came to embody the 1920s just fascinates me.

5. The Charleston: I'm not a dancer, but that song lifts my spirits. I would have enjoyed learning that.

4. The simplicity of women's dresses. No corsets, no complicated buttons up the back of a dress. Lots of simple lines and comfort.

3. Bobbed hair. I currently choose to wear my hair long, but I love that this decade made it acceptable for women to wear their hair short if they wanted.

2. Improved health care for women. Now that women could vote, politicians started caring a lot more about things that women cared about. Birthing centers at hospitals improved greatly during this decade.

1. Cloche hats, those bell shaped hats you see flappers wearing. I seriously adjusted the year my story was set in when I discovered cloche hats were not popular until 1924.

Stephanie Morrill Low Res


Stephanie Morrill is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com and the author of several young adult novels, including the historical mystery, The Lost Girl of Astor Street. Despite loving cloche hats and drop-waist dresses, Stephanie would have been a terrible flapper because she can’t do the Charleston and looks awful with bobbed hair. She and her near-constant ponytail live in Kansas City with her husband and three kids.





Being a part of this hunt has been great fun. Write down the hint and head to the next stop. (Pst... if you can't find it, here's a hint--the text is a different color.) Onward and good luck!

Clue 1: Stephanie Morrill
Clue 2: Some Books Are
Clue 3: Gabriella Slade
Clue 4: Page by Page, Book by Book
Clue 5: Pens and Scrolls
Clue 6: Singing Librarian Books
Clue 7: Heather Manning
Clue 8: Annie Louise Twitchell
Clue 9: Noveling Novelties
Clue 10: Kaitee Hart
Clue 11: Classics and Craziness
Clue 12: Zerina Blossom
Clue 13: Rebecca Morgan
Clue 14: Keturah's Korner
Clue 15: That Book Gal
Clue 16: Anna Schaeffer
Clue 17: Hadley Grace
Clue 18: Lydia Howe
Clue 19: Ramblings by Bethany
Clue 20: Matilda Sjöholm
Clue 21: Lydia Carns
Clue 22: Broken Birdsong
Clue 23 & Clue 24: The Ink Loft
Clue 25: Roseanna M. White