Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Announcing the Winner

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Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Wretched of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler

cover of The Wretched of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler shows a bolder with a face carved onto it sitting in a clearing in the woodsThe Wretched of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler. 47north, 2013 (first published 2011). 287p. (9781612187006) Series: Legends of Muirwood, #1

A fun YA fantasy series that I got over a year ago as an Amazon freebie but hadn’t read until now. Shouldn’t have waited so long! Drawing richly from medieval and ancient history, world religions and human nature this imaginative tale drew me in and kept me turning the pages until I’d finished all three books.

Goodreads Summary:
Imagine a world where words are so precious they are only etched in gold, and only the privileged are allowed to learn how to read. Muirwood Abbey is one of the few places where learners are taught to read and engrave, and thirteen year-old Lia wants nothing more than to learn both of these skills - yet she is a wretched, an orphan, and doomed to remain in the Aldermaston's kitchen, forbidden to read and subject to his authority. Her future is destined for preparing recipes in a privileged household until, unexpectedly, a mysterious knight-maston abandons the wounded squire Colvin at the Aldermaston's kitchen in the middle of the night. Soon after, Sheriff Almaguer comes hunting for Colvin, and Lia is thrust into the greatest adventure of her life as she and the squire are forced into a partnership that brings her closer to her dream - and Colvin closer to his fear of dying on the battlefield.

My Review:
Lia is a great heroine; she thinks she’s a nobody, even though she will play an important role in the history of Muirwood Abbey and it is exactly what makes her a nobody that makes her perfect for the job. She’s spunky, she’s inquisitive, she’s loyal, she doesn’t know any better, and she wishes for a family.

We also get to know the supporting characters pretty well and they are a part of the story throughout the series. It’s nice not to be left hanging and the author does a great job of tying them in and then closing their parts.

I really enjoyed the world and its landscape and customs – since I’ve traveled in Europe it was easy to imagine the monasteries and cathedrals that no doubt influenced the author’s description of Muirwood Abbey and the other abbeys.

(Image Source)
If you enjoy fantasy novels that get their fantastical elements from mystical powers rather than from fantastical creatures or beings than this is a book for you. If you enjoy adventure stories with a strong heroine than this is a book for you.

The Wretched of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler - four star rating

Go read it! Find it at a library near you; Buy it from Amazon; Buy it from Barnes&Noble
Disclosure: I downloaded this book for free during a sale on Amazon. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission.

Remember - Anytime you visit Amazon.com or BarnesAndNoble.com or ChristianBooks.com use an affiliate link to get there. Any purchase you make from a link on my site generates a small kickback. You need not purchase the item I'm featuring, any purchase counts. It costs you nothing extra and is an easy way to support this site.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Dragonwitch Release Day Blog Tour: Anne Elisabeth's 10 Writing Quirks

Welcome! Today is the last day of the tour and it’s been very interesting reading all the interviews and fun posts over the last few days. 

☐ Be sure to check out the other blog tour participants - the list is at the end. I'm looking forward to reading the character interview. 
☐ Be sure to enter the tour wide giveaway and the giveaway happening on my blog. Two chances to win Anne Elisabeth's books! 

For my part in the tour I asked Anne Elisabeth to tell us about her writing quirks. I’ll leave it up to you to decide how quirky she is.  :-) 

Top Ten Writing Quirks

Okay, I don’t know that I am particularly quirky for a writer. In fact, I know many writers will share these little quirks and would, indeed, look upon them as normal aspects of the writing life. But, perhaps to non-writers these writerly habits might appear on the quirkish side, so here you go, in no particular order . . .

1. Cat in the lap, preferably two
One of her foster kitties!
Since I work with rescue kittens, we often have a collection of little fluffies in the house, making a two-cat-lap situation quite do-able. Currently, we have only my five adult cats, and none of them likes to share, so it’s one cat or nothing. But they serve as excellent anchors to keep me in the chair and writing. After all, one doesn’t like to disturb the cat!

2. Sitting cross-legged while I work
This probably ties into the cat-in-the-lap scenario, since it is difficult to fit two cats (or my big 16lb boy) in my skinny little lap without sitting cross-legged. And even when  I don’t have a cat, I often find myself assuming this position, whether I’m working with my laptop in my lap or sitting at my desk. (Just noticed that I’m doing it even now!) I just find it more comfortable . . . until my legs go to sleep.

3. Always wearing a sweater, no matter the weather
Despite growing up in the North Woods of Wisconsin, I am naturally a cold-blooded creature, and I can never quite get warm enough. So I always have my Writer’s Sweater on hand for a quick fix to that problem! I used to have this really ugly, old sweater that was affectionately known as “Yuck Sweater.” I used it throughout college, and it even has paint on it from art school days. Now I’ve moved on to a sweater of more attractive color, about five times too big for me. It’s very snuggly.

4. Writing openings by hand
I find beginnings particularly difficult to write. They intimidate me. So if I try to sit down and write them directly into my word processor, they usually come out really thin and insipid. Instead, I write all my beginnings by hand in a notebook. This keeps me loose and relaxed, knowing that I’m not trying to make it perfect right away. Often (though not always), the beginnings I pen by hand end up making it into the final draft of the novel!

5. Carrying a “brain”
This is another quirk carried over from college. I always have a beautiful journal with a magnetized front flap and a pocket in the back for important cards, and carry this instead of a purse. It’s more conveniently sized then a purse, and that way I will always, no matter the circumstance, have paper on hand should inspiration strike! I used to refer to it as my “Better-Than-A-Brain,” but my college friends shortened that to just “Brain,” and it stuck. So yeah. I carry a brain. Not a purse. People get used to it.

6. Won’t skip ahead
I feel if you come to a difficult scene in your novel, you shouldn’t skip ahead and write on a passage that’s more interesting or easy. I believe that each scene needs to be interesting to you as the writer so that it will be interesting to the reader. If a scene is giving me extra pain, I believe I need to figure out why, even if it means stalling in the manuscript for several days, even weeks. This way, when I get to the end, there are no holes in the draft, and each scene is interesting and carefully crafted to fit the rest of the book. If I skipped around . . . well, who knows what might happen?

Not everyone writes this way, nor do I think everyone should write this way. But it works better for me!

7. Writing dialogue-only scenes
colorful dialogue, text bubblesSometimes if I am particularly stuck on a scene, I will write it as a dialogue-only scene. No narrative, not even a “he said” or “she said” thrown in here and there. Just the dialogue. Often this helps me to find the core life of a scene without any distractions. Then I can go back and fill in narrative.

If I get a good idea for a scene that is several chapters ahead of where I am currently writing, I’ll plug dialogue-only bits into my outline. Again, I won’t skip ahead in the manuscript! But I’ll set the dialogue into the outline so that it’s there and ready to flesh out once I arrive at that scene.

8. Can’t write with hair down
I have quite long hair, and I really love it. It’s fun to style and curl and scrunch, and I always leave it down when I go out since I think it’s my best feature. But . . . I cannot concentrate if it’s down! When I am working on a manuscript, I have to tie it up out of my way, usually in a big knot on top of my head. This serves a twofold purpose: First, not bothering me while I work—second, it’s got a nice, curly wave to it when I pretty up at the end of  the day for my husband to come home!

9. NO MUSIC. Or basically anyone around
I cannot concentrate if music is playing. Sometimes, if I’m really in the zone, I can work through a little bit of light classical music turned way down . . . but only sometimes! This is why I don’t often end up “soundtracking” my novels as many novelists will. I don’t listen to music for inspiration, certainly not while writing! I also struggle to write if anyone is around. If I try to work on the weekends when my husband is home, he can be quiet as a mouse, and it’ll still sound to me as though he’s stomping around all elephant-like, clanging bells! So he usually goes out to work in the garden over a writing weekend, sweet man that he is.

So basically, I have to have it quiet and calm when I work. No classic writer-in-the-coffee-shop for this cookie!

10. Brainstorm out loud
When I get the first idea or two for a story, I usually don’t write anything out but just let it sit in the back of my brain for a few weeks or months. Then, when I’m starting to get ready to actually write it, I’ll first brainstorm out loud. I’ll call up my long-suffering mother and talk out the idea at her, figuring out answers to any questions she might ask. If she’s not available, my husband has learned to take on that role. They both say I, “Think with my mouth.” Heh. Yeah, kinda.

But, after I’ve talked out the idea, I’m ready to sit down and starting writing out all the various thoughts, putting them into logical, sequential order. And before you know it, a book is born!

So I suppose those are my Top Ten Writing quirks for you! What do you think: quirky or totally normal?


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Anne Elisabeth has offered a copy of Dragonwitch to a reader of Rina's Reading! That means you have two chances to win her books!

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Tour Schedule
July 14 - Day 1

July 15 - Day 2

July 16 - Day 3

July 16 Evening

Blog Tour Finale and Prize Awarded back at the Tales of Goldstone Wood!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

To Protect & Serve by Staci Stallings

My sincerest apologies for an extreme dearth of posts. Being back home for the summer has halted by review writing in a way I did not foresee. I'll try to do better! But I am traveling quite a bit this month and won't return to work and regular life in Africa until August. So no promises... Here's a review I wrote a while ago but never got around to formatting and posting. It is a good book though!

To Protect & Serve by Staci StallingsTo Protect & Serve by Staci Stallings. Spirit Light Publishing, 2013. 347p. (ASIN: B008391QB2) Series: The Courage Series, #1

The other night I was flipping through my Kindle and saw this one that I had gotten for free a while back. For whatever reason I was in the mood for a medical drama and this seemed close enough. I really enjoyed it. Enough to actually buy book 2 and 3 in the series and I hardly ever buy ebooks – less than 5 in the year I’ve owned my Kindle Touch. (Authors take note: It’s a great idea to include a preview chapter of the next book.)

Goodreads Summary:
To save others' lives, they will risk their own...

Houston firefighter, Jeff Taylor is a fireman's fireman. He's not afraid of anything, and no situation is too dangerous to keep him on the sideline if lives are at stake.

Lisa Matheson runs a semi-successful ad agency that's on the brink of falling apart. Her employees are incompetent and her schedule has become exhausting. When she takes on a client with a brilliant idea for a big conference, she thinks that maybe, finally this is her lucky break. However, the fire station wasn't what she had in mind for finding conference speakers. When she falls for a handsome but shy firefighter, it's possible that life might just be going her way for a change. The only problem is she can't control Jeff and the death wish he seems to have...

My Review:
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this tale of an extremely shy fireman and a I-can-do-everything-myself, take-charge business woman getting to know each other and fighting against falling in love and against allowing themselves to love and be loved.

I laughed aloud, I cried. Jeff is a fireman and tough situations come with the job. One fire in particular leads to heart break for many. The author does a great job describing the grief and self inflicted guilt the characters are faced with. Makes me wonder if she’s lost someone close.

Somewhere I got the impression that this book (and series) was Christian fiction. It is, but it isn’t. It’s “Christian” if all you mean by that is the characters pray and God is mentioned. It isn’t if you expect the characters to go to church, have a personal relationship with God and include the Bible in their daily lives.

There are several passionate kisses and the characters struck me as your average “good” people, trying to do what’s right, but in the end still living to please themselves. There is no bad language and no sex, though there is a bit of innuendo.

Disclosure: This was an Amazon freebie for a while. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 

Remember - Anytime you visit Amazon.com or BarnesAndNoble.com or ChristianBooks.com use an affiliate link to get there. Any purchase you make from a link on my site generates a small kickback. You need not purchase the item I'm featuring, any purchase counts. It costs you nothing extra and is an easy way to support this site.

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