Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Book Review: All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai

I liked it but I didn't love it.

Of course, this makes All Our Wrong Todays: A Novel an improvement over 4321 so I consider this a win.



It's a little confusing to start, or rather it's supposed to be, but it seemed more like a scatter-brained narrator than a confusing introduction, but that's just me. Of course, if I knew at the beginning what I discovered at chapter 43, I could have saved myself a lot of time. In fact, I was so pleased with chapter 43 that I ended up skipping ahead in search of another chapter just like it. This brought me to chapter 55 which, like chapter 43, served as a recap of the previous chapters and made the book SO much better in my opinion.

Why?

Because the first 42 chapters were not that exciting to me. Frankly, I don't feel like the book engaged me until somewhere after chapter 60 but then it definitely took off. Think The Butterfly Effect merged with The Time Machine (Macmillan Collector's Library). I actually enjoyed the second half or maybe the last third of the book. It ended a little abruptly given the amount of effort put into the build up, but that's a minor complaint.

In short, All Our Wrong Todays: A Novel is a worthwhile read for a rainy afternoon. Especially if you skip chapters one through 42 and then chapters 44 through 54. But....that's just my advice on the matter.

As always, this post contains affiliate links to Amazon. You won't be charged anything extra for making purchases via these links, but I get a little bit of money back and it just helps keep this blog up and running.

Next up: The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine



Saturday, February 25, 2017

#NationalTellaFairyTaleDay

I am not sure where I'd be without fairy tales.

I grew up on Little Golden Books that my parents purchased at the local grocery store. Mom stayed home with us until my brother and sister (twins) started school. As she tells it, I was a precocious child who begged her to read to me - a lot. Story time occurred while my brother and sister napped and, admittedly, I have vague memories of curling up with Mom to listen to stories, primarily fairy tales.

#NationalTellAFairyTaleDay

Many of you probably have similar stories, your reader origins, if you will. Have you ever stopped to consider the root of the very tales that shaped our young minds?

BBC did a write up on the history of fairy tales that sufficiently explains the roots of these age old stories with very similar themes. I'm not going to summarize that article for you but I am going to urge you to check it out. Consider the thousands of stories that have evolved over centuries of storytelling, many that began long before the written word was mass produced.

We continue to honor the tradition of oral storytelling. From audiobooks to campfire circles and everything in between, humans continue to share their favorite stories in a uniquely intimate fashion. What is more memorable than a storyteller adding inflection and drama to make a story their own?

I tell stories for a living, stories rooted in my life experience and my imagination. I tell my kids about worlds that don't exist anywhere outside my mind and allow them to build upon the worlds and create their own versions. Today, however, we will pay homage to the stories that started it all - fairy tales.

We hope that you'll join us.

Looking for inspiration? Try one of these from Amazon (you won't be charged anything extra for purchasing through these links, but I do receive a little money back that I use to keep this blog operating!).

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Book Review: 4321 by Paul Auster

Oh. My. Gods. I can't believe I finished. I don't think I've been this proud of myself for finishing a book since I muddled through the travesty otherwise known as Moby Dick : Annotated Classics. For those of you who don't know me, I hated Moby Dick so much that I did a spoof of it for my 12th grade AP English project. To compare 4321 to Moby Dick is NOT a good thing.

I had such high hopes for this one. Truly, I did. Remember, it was one of my "anticipated releases" not that long ago. I was SO wrong about it. A case of the description really selling a subpar book.



This is the description that sold me on this book:

"Nearly two weeks early, on March 3, 1947, in the maternity ward of Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, Archibald Isaac Ferguson, the one and only child of Rose and Stanley Ferguson, is born. From that single beginning, Ferguson’s life will take four simultaneous and independent fictional paths. Four identical Fergusons made of the same DNA, four boys who are the same boy, go on to lead four parallel and entirely different lives. Family fortunes diverge. Athletic skills and sex lives and friendships and intellectual passions contrast. Each Ferguson falls under the spell of the magnificent Amy Schneiderman, yet each Amy and each Ferguson have a relationship like no other. Meanwhile, readers will take in each Ferguson’s pleasures and ache from each Ferguson’s pains, as the mortal plot of each Ferguson’s life rushes on."

WHAT!?! A man's life splits off into four different realities? Like Fringe or Sliding Doors?! Awesome! I was like, this book is for me! Oh, how wrong I was.

4321 started off pleasantly enough, a neat little history on the family from the immigrant grandparents to the parents and finally landing on Ferguson. Interesting family dynamics paired with a solid narration held my interest for a while but then it all went to crap as the chapters dragged on and on and on with the most mundane details being expounded upon until I couldn't focus on the page any longer. 

People, this book is over 800 pages. OVER 800 PAGES!!! I still love the premise. I liked some of the characters. Hell, I enjoyed the stories but it was so overdone that I wanted to hurl the book across the room. And, don't even get me started on Ferguson 2 because that was enough to make me just stop reading. I won't go into detail because *spoilers* just know that if you read this and make it that far you will likely want to scream a little. I think my neighbors think I'm nuts because I absolutely dropped the book on my couch at that point and walked out in the backyard to shout a little of my annoyance out.

Honestly, I skimmed through the vast majority of this book because it was that ridiculously long and boring. It actually made intriguing parts of history into boring, tedious drivel. Have I made my point about how I feel about this book? I don't know. I could probably go on but I feel like I've given it more than enough bad promo for a while. If you're interested in checking it out, the links I've added here are for the Amazon purchase pages and, as usual, you won't be charged extra but I would get a bit back to help keep these awesome reviews coming your way!

Oh, and if you're looking for more on the book-loving life I lead, why not sign up for my mailing list? 

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Next up: All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai and The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine. 
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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

March 2017 Anticipated Releases

March was better than February in my opinion, but not much better. Here are my picks for the best of March's new releases. As usual, the covers link to the Amazon pages for each book if you are interested in purchasing them. You won't get charged any extra, but I get a little money from Amazon that I can use to keep my page up and running - and hopefully, upgrade it!!

The Beast is an Animal by Peternelle van Arsdale

Release Date: March 7, 2017



Mystery, fantasy, and magic. A village haunted by a beast, soul eating twins, and a dark forest. What can go wrong? A lot, I'm afraid, but I remain optimistic about this one.

The Roanoke Girls: A Novel by Amy Engel

Release Date: March 7, 2017


Sounds like a tale about family secrets that come back to haunt a woman years after she escaped. Here's hoping it lives up to my expectations.

Mr. Memory: A Novel by Marcus Sedgewick

Release Date: March 7, 2017


Another book I'm looking forward to, Mister Memory is a late 19th century tale about a man with a perfect memory who commits a terrible crime and is sentenced to life in an asylum. But the story doesn't end there. I'm looking forward to what I hope will be a psychological thriller.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Releases Date: March 28, 2017


With a character named Lazlo Strange, I can't help but be intrigued. But then, the teasers go on to discuss dreams choosing their dreamers and a mysterious place named the Weep, a champion who supposedly killed a God, and a journey from home. Interested yet? I am.


Honorable Mentions

Almost Missed You: A Novel by Jessica Strawser

Release Date: March 28, 2017


I'm just not sure about this one. It could be great, heartbreakingly great, but it could also be whiny and miserable to read so, we'll see.

The End of Oz (Dorothy Must Die Series) by Danielle Paige

Release Date March 14, 2017


Autumn and I have not started this series yet, but we are really looking forward to it. Consequently, I'm giving it an honorable mention.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Book Review: H2O by Virginia Bergin

I just don't know how adults can get so invested in some of these teen books. I didn't get Twilight or Hunger Games or Divergent. I don't get H2O.



The cover is catchy. The premise is interesting. The main character is obnoxious.

I really tried to like it because Autumn found it enjoyable. Generally, I agree with my daughter on books we read together, but, not always.

The good: as I said, the cover is awesome and the premise of the story (toxic rain wiping out most of the human race) is exciting and fresh. There are moments, but just moments in my opinion. I have zero desire to read the rest of the series. Zero. I'm just going to let Autumn fill me in. She likes to do that so she'll love this opportunity.

The bad: Oy. The main character, Ruby, was utterly obnoxious. Just a slight spoiler here to demonstrate her insanely moronic train of thought: she freaking dyed her hair in the middle of this apocalypse where water is a hot commodity and she's been struggling with dehydration because YOU CAN'T DRINK THE WATER! GAH! I wanted to throw the book at her utter stupidity. And, somehow she decides it's a good idea to go after her Dad.

So, I'm left wondering one thing after all of these teen books with idiot main characters: is this how these adult writers see teenagers? If so, I'm terribly sad for this generation because if this is the standard they are held to, if these are the "heroes" they are given, then why should they work harder? Why should they be respectful of older generations? I don't get it.

Next up: 4321 by Paul Auster.

 ** If you are up for reading H2O or know somebody who might be, do me a little favor and use the link attached to the image. Amazon won't charge you any extra, but as an affiliate I get a little money for each purchase through my site and it goes to keep the internet up and this blog operating!

Friday, February 17, 2017

National Drink Wine Day

It's no secret that I'm more of a beer gal but I do enjoy a good glass of wine from time to time. National Drink Wine Day is a great day to highlight the benefits of wine and how it has contributed to human history.

A wine glass painted by ME with a new red blend for me to try!

From religious ceremonies to festive celebrations, wine is tied to human life. It can reduce the risk of heart disease (in moderation) and enhance the flavors of food when you find that perfect pairing. Wine is a social drink that brings friends together and has become a staple for girls' nights.

Some fun facts about wine courtesy of Fact Retriever.

  • Cork-tease: somebody who constantly talks about a wine he or she will open but never does.
  • The only book in the Old Testament that doesn't reference wine is the Book of Jonah.
  • Romans mixed lead with wine to help preserve it and improve both taste and texture. However, lead poisoning has since been cited as a cause of the decline of the Roman empire.
  • Serving temperatures for white wine should be 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit and red wine should be served at 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • In 1922 when King Tut's tomb was opened, excavators found wine jars labeled with year, name of the winemaker, and comments on quality. Apparently, some jars were so specifically labeled that they could pass modern label laws in several countries.
Today I'm putting aside my craft brews for a nice red wine. I wish I had more time to swing by my favorite local winery - Plum Run Winery - to pick up a bottle, but sadly, time is short this week.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Book Review: Frostblood by Elly Blake

Sigh. We are in a bad way with these YA/teen books. Autumn is possibly more frustrated than I am. We really thought this one had promise but alas, it fell short.



There are good bones, no doubt about it, a cool world (pun intended) but the main character is irritating, time is the most curious thing, and it was highly predictable. My 11-year-old daughter figured out the major plot points about a third of the way in. Not a good sign even if she is precocious.

Sadly, we feel that many people will love this book because....Twilight, Hunger Games, and Divergent all succeeded too. If you liked those but want a little more magic and fantasy in your stories then this book is for you. We will not be continuing the series though.

As always, I include links to Amazon for these books. You won't be charged anything extra but I will get a little money from Amazon to keep this site going! If you're more into the ebooks, try this link here:Frostblood (The Frostblood Saga)

Next up: H2O by Virginia Bergin (Autumn read it already and loved it so I'm excited)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Please give a warm welcome to Author Carma Haley Shoemaker

Carma was nice enough to take some time out of her schedule to answer a few questions and share a bit about herself, her writing process, and her projects. You can connect with Carma via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Bookbub, Amazon, and of course, her website (where you an sign up for her awesome twice-monthly newsletter).

VP: What is your inspiration? What helps you get through writer's block?

Carma: My writing inspiration comes from many places – my family, friends, my writing group, my job, my experience. I take inspiration from what I know, what I’ve experienced, and things I’m passionate about.

To be honest, I don’t believe in “writer’s block,” in the traditional sense. Instead, I call it more of a literary dehydration. And if I find myself in that situation, I simply change things up and the words will flow freely again. Something as simple as moving from my office to the dining room to write, or writing at night instead of in the morning.

VP: Do you listen to music when you write? Have a completely silent space?

Carma: Again, it all depends on what type of writing I’m doing. However, the only time I write in silence is when I am either overstimulated, suffering from a migraine, or way behind on a major deadline. Other than that, I write with music and have several playlists from which I choose. My secret weapon? Harry Potter. No seriously. When I want to write and just want the words to flow, I turn on a Harry Potter movie and let it play (Goblet of Fire is playing right now! Harry is about to choose his dragon from the bag.)

VP: Who inspires you? What authors do you look up to? Why?

Carma: I am inspired by those who don’t give up, those who have overcome obstacles, or those who were told, “You’ll never make it,” and proved everyone wrong. One of the authors I look up to is Shirley Jump. She’s a mom, she’s had personal issues, and she went from being an ‘inactive’ writer to participating in Marathons and Triathlons. She doesn’t give up on anything. She even threw her first manuscript away only to have it published after it fished out of the trash and submitted. Another author I love and look up to is Judy Blume. She was one of my favorite authors when I was younger, and I had a personal connection with a few of her stories. The first book I ever bought with my own money was by Judy Blume.

VP: When did you first start writing? What genre do you prefer?

Carma: I think there are scratches on the inside of my mother’s uterus from my first novel brainstorming session. But I can’t confirm it. I’ve been writing stories since I was in grade school – little silly stories of course, but they had their own characters and worlds and (kind of) a plot. My poetry started in middle school and that still happens almost daily. I started writing nonfiction magazine articles in 1997 (it pays the bills and lets me work on my fiction).

As far as what genre I prefer, if I had to choose, I’d probably say paranormal. However, I dabble in several genres, including fantasy, sci fi, time travel, and various types of romance. Most of my works have some type of romance component – although the heat scale ranges from clean reads to erotica.

VP: If you had to choose another genre to write, what would it be? Why?

Carma: I’ve always wanted to try to write horror. I’ve never written anything truly, honestly, straightforward horror. I think that is going to go on my Writer’s Bucket List.

VP: What is your favorite book (or who is your favorite author) and why?

Carma: How does any author answer this question? I have many favorite books, and many favorite authors. And to be honest, I may give you different answers if you asked me at different times.
Favorite books include The Hobbit, Summer Sisters, Carrie, Feed ... I could go on forever. Favorite authors include Judy Blume, Janet Evanovich, JRR Martin, Maya Angelou, Shakespeare, Whitman ... again, I could go on.

VP: Do you have another job and if so what is it?

Carma: I am a licensed practical nurse with several certifications. I’ve worked in the medical field in some aspect since the age of sixteen, starting as a nursing assistant. While I no longer work as a nurse, I do keep my credentials current and use my knowledge and experiences as writing material. As I mentioned, my ‘job’ is as a non-fiction magazine writer. I’m lucky enough to do what I love for a living. 

VP: Tell about your first book and how long it took you to write the first draft?

My first published book was released in December 2015 and was titled Sheltered. It is a sweet and clean romance about a girl who is caught between two worlds – a world of wealth that she was born into, and a world of charity and love that she wants to be a part of, just as her mother was. Sheltered is getting a facelift later this year and will be re-released with a new cover and will be available in both print and eBook.   

VP: List all of your titles with a one-sentence synopsis of each.

Carma: Sheltered – When the world Lizbeth has tried to escape collides with the world she longs to embrace, who will pay the highest price?
Family Recipe – When Piper Mathis left home to join the New York City Symphony Orchestra, she left behind not only her mother, but also Ken, the man who had promised to love her forever.
Masque of DeceitIn a riveting tale of hope and deception, can Tessa find the man of her dreams, or will one deceptive act prove too much and drive her from men all together?

VP: Who is your favorite character? Why?

Carma: My favorite character is Piper Mathis. I can relate to her very much. She is a musician, and had to leave behind someone she loved in order to follow her passion. She is very independent, fun loving, and isn’t worried about what others think about her.

VP: Who is your least favorite character? Why?

Carma; I love all of my characters, but if I had to choose a least favorite, I would have to say Lizbeth. While I don’t want to give away too much of the story, Lizbeth knew what she wanted, but allowed others to place obstacles and roadblocks in her way. I wished I could have found a way for her to be more independent and still given the story the same impact.

VP: Which character was most difficult to write?

Carma: Piper was the most difficult to write. The things she had to endure were so heartbreaking. It was hard to cause her such pain, even knowing she was strong enough to shoulder it.

VP: What scenes are most difficult to write?

Carma: For me, I seem to have a hard time with the “wrap up” scenes. I’m one of those writers who likes to offer cliffhangers and surprise endings and leave the readers with those “WTH” moments. However, I can’t always do that, especially in romance. There needs to be a wrap up where everyone know what happens, loose ends are tied off, and fans know the “happily ever after” or “happy for now” details. It’s not always easy.

VP: Do you see yourself in any of your characters?

Carma: Yes. Honestly, there is a little bit of me in every one of my main characters. I’m not going to tell you which part of the character, but something about each one of them is a trait we share.

VP: Indie pub or trad pub?

Carma: Both. Sheltered and Family Recipe are traditionally published through Trifecta Books. Masque of Deceit is Indie published.

I have several other books coming out later this year that will also be Indie published. The next two are due out in April 2017, with others in May, July, August, and September. I also have a book that will be included in a collection that will be published by Trifecta Books, scheduled for release in October 2017.

VP: If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?

Carma: Whenever I answer this question, it gets harder because so many of the people I love are dying. My answer used to be John Lennon, or Janis Joplin. However, since David Bowie – and all the other inspiring creative minds – passed away in 2016, I’m not sure anymore.

VP: If you could vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go and what would you do?

Carma: This one is easy. I would vacation in Ireland. I would walk the countryside, take pictures, find local restaurants and caf├ęs, and write for hours. I would talk to the locals and take in every second of every conversations. And I would attend every celebration, concert, event, wedding, or other social gathering I could get myself invited to.

VP: What is your favorite TV show/movie from your childhood? What is it now?


Carma: I don’t really have a favorite show from my childhood. But now, I have several. Top of the list includes Big Bang Theory, The Walking Dead, Grimm, Sleepy Hollow, Vikings, and the Magicians.  

Now you KNOW you're interested, right? Check out Carma's published works here:



**Again, I do get a small amount of money from Amazon for any books or items purchased by clicking through my site so, help me keep this going and get yourself a great book in the process!!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Book Review: Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham

Though I've seen Ms. Graham in many other things, she will always be Lorelai Gilmore to me. As I read Talking as Fast as I Can, I couldn't help but picture Lorelai speeding around Stars Hollow and ultimately agree that the role could not have been more perfectly cast.



Full of anecdotes and witty humor, Talking is an easy read (I finished it in a few hours), and a much needed reprieve from some of the slush I've been wading through lately. I chuckled and appreciated Ms. Graham's ability to name-drop with ease because it just fit. It wasn't about telling her audience how many famous people she knows (because she is in fact famous as well), but it was about sharing experiences that have left marks on her both personally and professionally.

I'm not sure that younger readers will relate to all of the stories but anybody who has been around the block a few times, tried on a number of jobs (and significant others) that just didn't fit, and come out with a healthy "lesson learned" from more than one misstep is likely to enjoy Talking as Fast as I Can.

As usual, I'm including the link to the ebook version on Amazon. Again, you won't be charged anything extra if you click through and purchase these books, but I do make a small amount for every purchase made through the links on my site - just helps me keep the lights on and the reviews coming! So...if you are an ebook lover, here's the link....Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (and Everything in Between)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Guest Post: Dreams of Being by Todd Skaggs

Dreams of Being

Hello there, dear readers!  I’m not sure what you were expecting today, but your gracious host Violet Patterson has seen fit to let me bend your ear for a spell.  So, as this is a writer’s blog, let’s talk about being writers.  And if you’re a reader, this might give you insight into some of the insanity that helps us craft the tales for you to enjoy.

From an early age, I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. I wanted to live a life where what I did mattered to someone. I found that I had a gift for words, or at least I thought I did.
That led me to thinking that I wanted to be a writer.

When asked the age old question, “What do you want to be when you grow up,” I would rotate my answer between one of three life choices:  Astronaut, rock star (or rap star), and writer.  

The dream of being an astronaut was shelved when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after launch in 1986.

The dream of being a rock star was realized and lived out for 6 days and 5 nights in August, 2008. That wild week is a story for another time.

That left only the dream of being a writer.

Being.

By getting used to answering the question by saying that I want to be a writer, I trained my brain to make it some kind of future thing. At the risk of conjuring images of Tibetan singing bowls and incense, the simple truth is that by keeping it in a future tense, I never fully prepared myself to actually be a writer.  It was always something that I wanted to be...someday.

Someday I’ll share my poems.  Someday I’ll work on that novel. Someday I’ll finish that novel. Someday I’ll be a best-selling author.

Someday.

The dreams of being a writer were always locked in the realm of someday.

I’m not going to lie...that’s a slow death once you actually realize who and what you are.

I have been writing since I was seven years old. My parents have boxes of my journals and notebooks.  I have a journal or notebook in every room of my apartment. And rarely in my life can I recall a time when I did not have ready access to pen and paper or some other means by which to chronicle the myriad plots and stories floating in my brain bucket.

These things made me think I could be a writer. High marks in my English and Creative Writing classes throughout my academic career solidified the thought.

But I was always stuck in someday.

The dream of being a writer had no traction. No action. I wrote, but I didn’t share. I didn’t put myself out there. And I certainly didn’t have any kind of accountability.  I had a blog, which I still maintain, as my personal outlet for the crazy thoughts in my head.

None of that mattered, though. As long as I kept telling people that I wanted to be a writer, or had dreams of being a writer, I would never make them come true.

In 2016 the universe (sorry, maybe you will need those Tibetan singing bowls after all), gave me a nudge.  In my path, in my life, I suddenly found friends who were published authors. I found writing groups where people had the same dream that I had.

That’s when the shift happened.

I stopped telling people that I wanted to be a writer.

And I started telling people that I was a writer.

The first step of unlocking all of my dreams of being this amazing, well loved, and world renowned author starting with a simple acknowledgement.

I am a writer.

I’m not going to tell you how to become a writer. There are hundreds of books that will tell you that. Most of them, boiled down, reduce to two simple practices.

To be a writer you must do the following two things, without fail.
Write.
Read.

And to this list, I would add a third thing.  To be a writer, you must write, and you must read. You must do both of those things in earnest. They must be done with intention. They are the key. They aren’t all you must do, though.

You must also believe.

Believe that the book is inside you, waiting for you to acknowledge it. Believe that you would write the words, even if nobody were there to read them.

Above all else, you must believe one thing and one thing alone: YOU ARE A WRITER.

The someday’s are gone from my life.

I have and continue to share my poetry.  I have a finished (first draft of a) novel.  I have several books in process. This year is the year I will be published. And I am living my life as a writer.

Someday I’ll look back at my life before now and wonder why it took me so long to figure it all out.

And it’ll make a hell of a story.

Have a wonderful day my friends.

-TS



About Todd Skaggs:
Side stepping societal norms of what makes a writer a writer, Todd has happily wandered down the path of writing for one simple reason; It’s cheaper than therapy and is still the single best way to exorcise the demons.
Living in Ohio and enjoying all four seasons in a single week, Todd works in the IT world by day and plays with words any chance he can. The hobby has evolved in to a serious pursuit and he has several releases on the rails for 2017.
You can connect with Todd online here:
Blog: blog.twistedzen.com
Facebook: /AndrewToddWrites

Twitter: @atskaggs71