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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Where Should I Take This Blog?

Hello, fellow book lovers! Long time no write. I know, I know. That's just the thing, I'm not sure where to take this blog. A majority of my reviews have been being posted to goodreads first and I am finding it rather pointless to continue sharing the same things both places. There will be some reviews from myself and my sister (who I occasionally share reviews from) coming soon, but then I'm not sure where to take this blog.

What do you think I should do? Please share your thoughts with me! I don't want this blog to die, because I have spent a few years in this space and I still love it, but I also don't want it just to be identical to my goodreads. And honestly, I do more actual review interaction over there. Maybe that's a me thing, but it's still true.

Would you like more discussion posts? Recommendations? Monthly favorites? To talk about things that aren't books? Posts about the book events I attend (even if there aren't that many)? More author interviews and guest posts? Book to movie/miniseries comparisons?

I am open to suggestions and would greatly appreciate any input you have to offer. I want to revitalize this blog in the best way and I need your help to do so.

Comment away!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Karen Richardson~Interview

Karen Richardson is the author of The Ordinary Series which currently consists of The Ordinary and The Heir. You can (and should!) follow Karen on all of her social media (linked below):

Facebook

Here is a little more information about The Ordinary: 

Natalie, a recent college graduate, has waited her entire life to spread her proverbial wings to teach those with actual wings how to blend in with the Ordinary world they have been well hidden from most of their lives. Her father, a Historian, who stumbled upon the Essential world and somehow managed to insert himself into the fairy-like Kingdom, gave her the opportunity to merge her love of teaching with her interest in the magical, energy wielding group. However, her quiet days of teaching do not last long and she finds herself in the midst of surrounding Kingdoms’ conflicts and smack dab in the middle of a violent search for the Ordinary heir to the Kingdom of Kapleton’s throne. Haunted by a recurring dream and caught between Chris, the man she thought she would marry, and Jordan, an Essential she is unexplainably drawn to, Natalie tries to manage this new, tumultuous world she has become a part of. Natalie may have gone to Kambrasia to teach Essentials how to live in the Ordinary world, but will she survive in theirs?


You can find The Ordinary and The Heir in both physical and ebook formats on Amazon. I highly recommend you give the series a try if you enjoy Young Adult fantasy. And consider leaving a review on goodreads and/or Amazon if you do give it a read.

Now onto the interview! 

Interview

Are any of your characters inspired by living people?

One of the best parts of writing this series has been intertwining my real life with this fantasy world. I think most of my characters are inspired by living people. Natalie has a lot of the fears and anxiety issues that I have. Natalie’s father is a history professor…I’m married to one! Gage fathers Natalie in a way I see my husband fathering our children. Ky’s personality is definitely inspired by my daughter, Kyleigh. There are anecdotes throughout that really happened in our family or in my childhood. I could go on and on. Definitely a yes to this question!

What is one message you hope readers take away from reading The Ordinary?

This was meant to be a fun read—an escape from life for a few of hours before you have to settle back into reality. However, there is an underlying message. I think many of us go through times in our lives where we feel absolutely ordinary. We compare our worst to someone’s best and intensify those ordinary feelings even more. What I wanted readers (and my kids!)  to pick up when they read this is that there is some extraordinary in all of us. It may look differently than the person next to you, but it’s there. You are anything but ordinary!

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

I do not listen to music but in fairness, I haven’t tried. I’m pretty happy in my head and tune out much of what’s happening around me when I write. I doubt I’d hear much of it if I did play it while I wrote! Although, love songs inspire my writing!

Are you a plotter or an pantser?

Definitely a pantser. I have a loose plot in my head but can’t imagine plotting out the entire story. I know that is so much work and when I came to a place where the story wanted to take me somewhere else, I would definitely rethink that, knowing I would have to do all the work to redo the plot outline! Ha! Besides, for me, that’s what makes writing so fun and so therapeutic. Those parts that surprise me? I live for those moments! I write for those moments.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always enjoyed writing. I never thought of myself as a writer, though. I’ve always had stories running through my head and really enjoyed the writing I did, but never thought myself good enough to be considered a writer. Remember, Natalie gets her ordinary complex from me! My husband has been telling me for years what a great writer I am and that I needed to write a book. I finally listened. It’s still such a vulnerable place for me to be. I wrote the entire first book, The Ordinary, and only my husband and kids knew. Putting my writing out for the world is terrifying for me. Doing so has shown me how long I’ve sat in the shadows of my fear. Now I’m standing smack dab in the center of that fear and pushing myself every day. It’s so hard and so good! Looking back, yes, I always wanted to be a writer. I just didn’t have the confidence to tell anyone else until now!

What books have you loved that you would recommend to readers?

Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner taught me to love reading. I loved that series. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery will always be favorites. I loved The Help by Kathryn Stockett and aside from Nicholas Sparks’ pages of details I could live without, I really like his love stories and plot twists. I’m a sucker for a good fantasy. I want magic and wonder mixed with a good love story. I enjoyed Cassandra Claire’s series. I recently listened to Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn and while it was sometimes hard to follow (could have been we were on a cross country drive and kids interrupted a lot!) I fell in love with his storytelling abilities. I know there are more…I’m wishing I kept up on Goodreads better and had a good record of my reading ventures.

If your book were made into a movie, who would you want to play the leading role(s)?

I was just thinking about this! I need to explain something before I answer, though.
My daughter asked to read The Ordinary when I was deep in the editing process, so I handed her my marked up manuscript pages and told her to have fun. She came back ten minutes later and said she couldn’t understand it through all my editing. Ha! So, I began reading it to her. It was so awesome on so many levels. We literally began reading to our kids when they were tiny infants but eventually they became good enough readers they didn’t want to read with us any longer. It was really fun to share the magic of a story with her again…it was beyond amazing to share my story with her and see the characters come to life through her eyes. She would stop me as we read and give detailed descriptions of what she thought each character looked like (and lots of advice like Ordinaries and Essentials should definitely be able to have Essential babies!). It was so, so interesting for me to compare how I saw my characters to the way she saw them. Fascinating!
Now, to the question! I envision Natalie looking along the lines of Victoria Justice. I think one of the best parts of having your book made into a movie would be seeing your story through other creative minds. I don’t know…maybe that would backfire and it would end up nothing how I imagined! I want it to be a springboard for more awesome. That’s not too much to ask…right?

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

Keep detailed notes of all your characters. Even if they seem minor. You’d be surprised how often you need to remember what you named a character you thought you’d never “see” again! And, keep your notes organized. It takes me forever to find pieces of information I need and know I wrote down. Where was that again?

Is there anything you wish you had done differently in your writing career up to this point?

I wish I would have gotten serious about writing sooner. I always wrote. I always enjoyed twisting and changing words until they expressed how I was feeling on paper. It’s therapeutic for me. I just wish I would have been more purposeful about it sooner.

Are you currently working on any writing projects? If so, what can you tell us about them?

Yes! Right now I’m almost finished with the first draft of the third book in The Ordinary Series. It’s currently nameless but hopefully won’t be for long. My mind is in a bit of a creative struggle right now because I have an idea for another series that would really like some of the attention I’m giving The Ordinary Series. I’m excited because it will be the story of a minor character in the third book of The Ordinary Series. She kind of came out of nowhere and I can’t wait to tell her story.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Warbreaker~Brandon Sanderson | Review

Title: Warbreaker (Warbrekaer #1)
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 688 Pages
Release: 2009

Review
"My life to yours. My breath become yours."


The first time I read Warbreaker, in the summer of 2014, I stayed late into the night just to finish. I will admit, the middle has some slow points that did not hold my attention as well as I would have liked on either read. But when I think back on the book, there isn't anything that I feel could be taken out. And I wanted to stay up listening to those last few hours just as I had stayed up to read them before. Alas, I did not allow myself to do so. 

We follow four main characters with inner connected stories. There is Siri, who is thrown into a role she never expected and did not prepare for; Vivenna, Siri's older sister who suddenly feels useless when everything she was trained for--though not looked forward to--is stripped from; Lightsong, the god who does not believe in his own dividity; and Vasher, the man who is trying to atone for the many sins that litter his past. 

Each of the four stories has their own high points. Lightsong is my favorite character of the bunch and his story is phenomenal. It's interesting to see him trying not to care, wanting to be the idle man he always says he is, and then being unable to follow through. He cares, and it's his caring, along with his sense of humor, that make him such a standout. He has some beautiful moments that I would rank among Sanderson's best.

While overall Vivenna was not my favorite perspective on either reading, her character has excellent development. I think I found her more relatable on this reading and by the end she held a much higher place in my thoughts. We watch her go from a stuck up, naive princess into something more as she allows herself to think and feel all of the things she has been suppressing in order to be the perfect Idrian. 

Siri has a less dramatic character arc than her sister, but she does develop well throughout. It's fun to see her adapting to her new life and discovering that not everything she has been taught is true and not everything you see is what it seems. 

Vasher has the least amount of page time, but that makes more sense as revelations are made. He's gruff and grumpy, which might be one of the things that is appealing about him. He balances out the lightheartedness of Lightsong. Plus, he has a cool sword for a companion. What's not to like about that?

Now that I've talked about the main characters, let me touch on the plot a little bit. The main focus is the conflict between two nations that used to be one. Hallandren--a nation ruled by the God King and his pantheon of Returned (Lightsong among them), and Idris--a small mountain nation ruled by a family descended from the ancient ruler of Hallandren. 

The two nations are culturally and religiously different, which puts a strain on their already tenuous relationship. The marriage of the God King of Hallandren to one of the Idrian princesses causes a stir in the courts of the gods, pushing them toward war. 

And, of course, on top of all this is the magic system. The magic on this world is fueled by breath (or the soul, to the Idrians) and someone with enough breath can awaken inanimate objects and command them. Along with breath, the Awakener also has to have access to color, which is used, along with the breath, to fuel awakening. I probably say this about every Sanderson magic system but--this is amazing. I loved reading about awakening and all of its rules. I hope that he does revisit this world in the future. 

Overall, I enjoyed this reading as much as, if not more than, the first one. I just can't believe it took me over three years to revisit this. Sanderson's technique may have improved overall, but his characters and magic system are at their very best here. 

I did this reading on audio and Alyssa Bresnahan did quite well with the story. There wasn't anything that I disliked about her narration and I thought she did an excellent job voicing certain characters. Denth and Nightblood might have been the two that I liked best. 

And now, let me leave you with some Lightsong wisdom:

"Talking to you is like swimming in a river," she said. "I keep getting pulled along with the current and I'm never sure when I'll be able to take another breath."

"Watch out for the rocks, Vessel," the high priest noted. "They look rather insignificant, but have sharp edges under the surface."

"Bah," Lightsong said. "It's the crocodiles you have to watch for. They can bite. And...what exactly were we talking about, anyway?"