Monday, June 11, 2018

May 2018 Reading and Life Recap

Favorite Read of May (excluding rereads)
Dark Life by Kat Falls was a random pick for me. I was participating in a reading challenge that needed a book that was set under water and found the audiobook on my library Overdrive account so decided to give it a listen. And I ended up really enjoying it.

It's a post-apocalyptic story that involves the colonization of the ocean, which in itself is a really interesting concept. It was also well written, attention grabbing, and had a cast of fun characters. I'm definitely planning to pick up the sequel in the not too distant future.

Bucket List Item 
Maybe that is a bit of an extreme discription for this, but I have been wanting to go to a Drive-In movie for a long time. And I finally did in May. The first weekend in May I saw Avengers: Infinity War at a drive-in and it was really fun. I wish that I lived even closer to one than I do so I could go regularly. It has great prices, the staff is fun, and it's a laid back venue. I will definitely be going back again. I shared a picture on instagram that incorporates some bookish fun into the movie experience: Books & Movies

Being Bold
For the past nine or so months I have worked full time doing something that I was not really enjoying. Yes, it was a job, but I want something that will give me more satisfaction than just getting a pay check. In May I decided to take a risk and give some of my other plans a try. I'm at the point in my life where it's kind of a now or never type of thing. It's scary, I'm not always great at it, and I don't know how it will pan out yet, but I'm taking a shot at following some of my dreams and I'm excited to do so.

I have been working on a fantasy novel for several months now and finally decided to push myself. I moved up my first draft goal from January 2019 to September 2018. If I don't quite meet this goal that's fine, but I think that I can make it work. If I don't push myself to grow then I will never be able to develop as a writer and share all of my work with the world. Fingers crossed that I have big news in regards to this project next year. That's the goal at this point.

These are just a few of the highlights of my month. I'm trying to motivate myself to reach farther and try harder. Some days I feel like an utter failure and others I'm on top of the world. I'm hoping that means I can fall somewhere in the middle most of the time and keep a steady pace that moves me forward.

I would love to hear about some of your weekly/monthly/yearly highlights. Let me know what things are making you happy or challenging you to be the best you you can be.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Kathryn Bywaters | Interview

Kathryn Bywaters is the author of The Past is Rising, which you can buy now. The sequel will be hitting shelves later this year, so now is the perfect time to give book one a try. You can read the first chapter on Kathryn's blog.

Before we get into the interview, here is a little more about the book:
The Past Is Rising is a compelling fantasy epic that revolves around the uprising of dark forces bent on wresting a kingdom from its rightful rulers. Several warriors will discover that their true destinies are to salvage their kingdom and defeat the rising evil.
At fourteen, Erik dreams of past glories. He was not alive when the False Kings marched against their nephew and laid siege to the city of Meraview. Now, perched on the outer wall, Erik imagines the two great armies battling on the plains outside the city. His excitement mounts as he spies a horse and rider racing to reach Meraview.
This lone messenger is Eve, cousin to the High King—and she brings troubling news. The False Kings, once again, are gaining power. When Eve leaves to spy on the False Kings, Erik and his friend Hobble follow her. Along the way, they will learn about lost regal bloodlines, battle against ancient magical forces, and make new allies in the fight against evil.
Sinister forces closely watch Erik and his new companions. Are these young people ready to face the return of the False Kings? Or will they simply be anonymous casualties in the coming war?

When did you first know you wanted to write a book?

One night when I was 10 years old, trying to sleep but being kept awake by a storm, I started to compose a poem in my head. When I finally had it right I jumped out of bed because I had to share it with my father. I loved the way it felt, making something that was mine. After that I wrote other poems and short stories. Then I started writing my first book, the prequel to The Past Is Rising, at age 12; I finished it at 17. My family had moved to Saint Petersburg, Russia and I think being exposed to a very foreign environment helped push my imagination to dream of new worlds.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’m a pantser for sure! I have no idea where the story is going until my fingers are typing the words. However, in life I would have to say I’m a little of both. I love lists and planning but would also never let a spur of the moment opportunity go to waste. I believe the Yiddish have it right with their adage, “Man plans, and God laughs.”

Have any of your characters been inspired by people that you know?

Aspects of some of the characters most definitely have been inspired by people I know. For example, the fiery strength of my sister can be seen in Ann. Situations and places in my life have also inspired moments throughout the book.

Do you have any favorite books you would recommend to other readers?

Lord of the Rings, I think, will always be my favorite. Umberto Eco’s Baudolino, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre and William Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night's Dream are all masterpieces. If you are looking for a fun, easy read: Hunger Games, Harry Potter and lately I’ve really been liking Sarah Maas.

What is one piece of writing advice you would give to aspiring authors?

If it is what you truly love doing, do it. It’s hard work and very time consuming but so are most things worth doing in life. So, do what you love and it will all seem worth it.

Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what kind?

I’m more of a go to the park and lie on the grass or turn off the lights and light candles type of writer. As I write it’s like a movie starts playing in my head and sometimes I can’t write fast enough to keep up. Even if I had music on, once I started writing I don’t think I’d even hear it.

What inspired you to write fantasy?

Lord of the Rings and visiting palaces in Russia and castles in the South of France. The idea of kings and queens became real to me. I started imagining what it would be like if that was how the world was still governed. In the South of France there are legends of the Knights Templar and each castle has its own story. I think hearing about the tales of the Knights Templar and the Albigensian Crusade illuminated the good versus evil dichotomy – the struggle is real!

What type of research is involved in your writing?

At this point none, just imagination and inspiration but I do have some ideas for historical fiction that I would like to write.

If your book was being adapted for the screen, who would you want to play the leading role(s)?

Oh that’s a hard one! I’m not really an actor buff and don’t follow what’s going on in Hollywoord but I’ll give this a try…
Keira Knightley - Eve
Kristin Kreuk – Sarah
Emma Watson– Ann
Christopher Hemsworth – Aeron
Jesse Williams – Reddoc
A young Josh Hutcherson - Erik

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Kill Shot~Susan Sleeman | Review

Title: Kill Shot (White Knights #2)
Author: Susan Sleeman
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Length: 336 Pages
Release: February 2018

A copy of this novel was received through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

When you begin a Susan Sleeman book, get ready for a thrilling ride! She hits the ground running with pulse-pounding excitement and continues throughout the book without giving you a chance to get off this powerful roller coaster ride of suspense.

Sleeman has created a great cast of characters for this book, her second in the White Knights series. These men and women are FBI agents who have all served in the military, and now they work to bring down criminals of the worst sort. The author keeps the reader invested in her characters from the first page, even the secondary ones.

There are two main characters, Olivia and Rick. Dr. Olivia Dobbs is a Christian therapist who counsels mainly ex or current military who suffer from PTSD. When her last patient is murdered nearly right in front of her eyes, the FBI team, White Knights, are called in. There is something indeed very ominous about this case or the regular police would have handled it. A serious threat to national security is in play here and the agents are in a race against time to track down the culprits before there are unimaginable consequences. Agent Rick Cannon, fighting demons of his own, is assigned to guard Dr. Dobbs because she is in the line of fire as well. He doesn't trust her and believes she is involved in this case.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Storm Front~Susan May Warren | Review

Title: Storm Front (Montana Rescue #5)
Author: Susan May Warren
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Length: 336 Pages
Release: May 2018

A copy of this novel was received through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Susan May Warren continues the story of Montana’s PEAK Rescue team members in “Storm Front,” which focuses on former chopper pilot Ty Remington and journalist Brette Arnold.

Ty is still struggling to find his role in life. He feels like he’s just the muscle and go-getter for PEAK, feeling deeply inadequate and inefficient. And he still struggles with the fact that the woman he fell madly in love with, Brette, has walked out of his life without one single look back.

But what he doesn’t realize is that Brette, who is currently working with a storm chasing group as a photographer and blogger, has had struggles of her own — devastating struggles that she feels she must face on her own.

When the two are brought together after a devastating tornado in Minnesota, can they put aside their fears and doubts to help friends — new and old — find missing loved ones? And can they come together in truth and honesty to build a relationship?

“Storm Front” is an action-packed, heart-thumping novel that quite simply is difficult to put down. With devastatingly powerful storms, missing people and search parties, it also includes toe-curling romance.
Once again Susan May Warren develops incredibly real and relatable characters — filled with doubts, fears, insecurities, hopes and lack of hope, and just about every other imaginable flaw. It deals with overcoming great loss, and she also does a brilliant job of not only providing an incredible story, but also teaching amazing lessons.

The main theme, as the title hints at, deals with weathering the storms of life, and how each of us chooses to weather those storms. She reminds us to “accept the storm and ride it out without a whimper”. “Storm Front” reminds us that we must look past the storm and find the sunshine, or the hope, in each situation.

And through Brette’s personal battles, this novel also hits on the topic of beauty, both inner and outer, and the difficulty in finding the beauty in ourselves.

This is the fifth book in a series, but could be read as a standalone, although I would highly recommend reading the rest of the books. However, I do feel Warren offers enough background if this is your first experience with the Montana Rescue series.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Crooked Staircase~Dean Koontz | Review

Title: The Crooked Staircase (Jane Hawk #3)
Author: Dean Koontz
Genre: Thriller
Length: 462 Pages
Release: May 2018

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

This third installment in the Jane Hawk series keeps the action amped up as Jane continues to hunt down members of the secret organization that is slowly overtaking the world with its control mechanism that turns even the most willful individuals into slaves. All it takes is a round of three injections and your mind is no longer yours. 

These books are frightening because they are realistic. It does not seem that far fetched to imagine a world where corrupt people with a little power have developed a way to control the population. This adds an eerie quality to the story, particularly when you end up in the head of one of these "adjusted" people and are privy to their reactions. 

There were a lot of heartbreaking moments within this installment. At this point, it's amazing that Jane can keep going. And the woman is only twenty-seven years old. Her well of hope seems to have an endless spring, and she is going to need it. 

One thing that I appreciate is that Koontz has written a strong woman, who is extremely capable, but doesn't make it so that she can take on fully grown men with ease. He shows her struggle to fight against men and women alike and it's often her training that gets her out of situations, which is always a good thing. She is not superhuman, but she is well trained and is fighting for the good of the world and her family. 

My main criticism of this series is that it seems never ending. There are already at least two more books announced and I don't see how the story can be wrapped up satisfactorily. If anyone can do it, Koontz can, but I'm eager to see the end of this journey. They are emotional rides and the end of this one has me sweating. 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Beneath the Surface~Lynn Blackburn | Review

Title: Beneath The Surface (Dive Team Investigators #1)
Author: Lynn H Blackburn
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Length: 352 Pages
Release: March 2018

A copy of this novel was received through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

I am always on the lookout for new and exciting inspirational suspense novels, and Beneath the Surface did not disappoint. Lynn Blackburn delivers a novel that balances action with fantastic interpersonal interactions, careful criminal investigation with plenty of tension, and a light-hearted joy despite the depravity of the crimes. Beneath the Surface was a very enjoyable novel to read.  Lynn H. Blackburn earns her way onto my list of favorite romantic suspense authors with this book.

Leigh Weston has returned to her hometown, eager to escape the memories of a patient who turned stalker. But what was supposed to bring peace and security only brings more chaos when the local dive team investigation unit discovers a dead body in the water just off Leigh’s lakeside home. Homicide Investigator Ryan Parker didn’t enjoy discovering a body on one of his team’s routine training sessions, but he is glad for the excuse to spend more time with his childhood crush (and his best-friend’s sister), Leigh. But the case becomes personal when Leigh finds herself targeted by a dangerous killer.

The thing I loved most about Beneath the Surface was the way it mixes intense suspense and investigation with lighthearted banter between friends and the growing relationship between Ryan and Leigh. While some romantic suspense novels seem to focus solely on the investigation details and other stretch believability for the sake of romance, Lynn Blackburn gets the balance just right. As the events unfolded, I felt like I really had time to get to know the characters. From Ryan’s teammates to Leigh’s colleagues at the hospital, all the characters were richly detailed and add multiple layers to this story. I particularly enjoyed hanging with the dive investigation team. Their camaraderie shines through the small squabbles, idea-sharing sessions, and the way in which they have each other’s backs. I look forward to continuing the series with this team, watching as other members fall in love and catch some bad guys.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Pelican Point~Irene Hannon | Review

Title: Pelican Point (Hope Harbor #4)
Author: Irene Hannon
Genre: Contemporary Christian Romance
Length: 368 pages
Release: April 2018

A free copy of this novel was received through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Once again Irene Hannon delivers a sweet love story wrapped up in the comfort and caring of the delightful town of Hope Harbor and its eclectic residents. I love the way Marci and Ben meet: hero recusing a hurt kitten stuck up a tree or a dangerous intruder, wandering around the backyard? - it’s kind of hard to tell between the two at night. Marci’s strong emotions get her into trouble, but her compassion and caring nature balance that out. Both Ben and Marci are hurting from recent events in their personal lives. There is an undeniable connection between Marci and Ben, and while neither want to pursue it for various reasons, events keep pushing them together.

There was a touch of suspense in the last section of the novel, which really pulls everything together and makes for an exciting conclusion. I wasn’t entirely sure of the way in which mental health was used an excuse or causation for the malicious character’s actions. It seemed a little unfeeling or stigmatizing, but it worked for the progression of the plot.

Despite everything that I loved about this novel, the thing I perhaps loved the most was the secondary story of Marci’s colleague and Ben’s neighbors, Greg and Rachel. They are a young, married couple whose marriage is struggling under the emotional fallout of an injury Greg sustained while serving overseas. Their story of reconciliation, gradual acceptance of outside support and their journey back towards a loving and supportive relationship was powerful. Perhaps overcoming depression and the emotional fallout of such an event may not be so easy in real life, but it was a delightful addition to the Pelican Point story.

Pelican Point is a wonderful addition to the Hope Harbor series. This stand-alone novel is a delightful and engaging story of sweet romance and overcoming fears.