Tuesday, February 9, 2016

45 Master Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt

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Title: 45 Master Characters: Mythic Models For Creating Original Characters
Author: Victoria Lynn Schmidt
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Adult Non-Fiction, Writing Tips
Rating: Fabulous
Alerts/Warnings: References to some movies/books with more adult content or behavior
Premise: "Create unforgettable characters your readers will love!Want to make your characters and their stories more compelling, complex, and original than ever before? "45 Master Characters" is here to help you explore the most common male and female archetypes--the mythic, cross-cultural models from which all characters originate" (GoodReads.com).
Opinions: I purchased this book on the recommendation of another author. Best decision ever. This book has catapulted the complexity and quality of my writing by cavernous measures. I love the detailed explanation of why each of the Greek Gods' characters resonates with readers and what makes them so memorable. But what I found to be the greatest asset in this book is the comparison for each segment of the character's growth to well-known and loved books and movies that I would never have originally connected to someone from Greek mythology. I am a very visual learner, and to have the examples of how gender differences, or the hero/villainous aspects of a character's nature played out in stories I well know was beyond enlightening.  I also loved the ideas the author provided of how secondary characters can impact the main character changing their story line or growth. Now I have hundreds of ideas how to take my writing to the next level. If you are a storyteller in any way, shape or form, then I recommend you read this book and take copious notes.

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale

To read our reviews of the other books in the Princess Academy trilogy click here: Princess Academy and Palace of Stone.

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Title: The Forgotten Sisters (Princess Academy#3)
Author: Shannon Hale
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: Fabulous
Alerts/Warnings: None
Premise: "Miri's eager to return to her beloved Mount Eskel after a year at the capital, but the king and queen ask her to first journey to a distant swamp and start her own miniature princess academy for three royal cousins, but once there she must solve a mystery before she can return home" (King County Library System).
Opinions: Shannon Hale is on my top ten list of incredible authors. If it has her name on the cover then there is a 98% chance that I'm going to LOVE that book. Once again, she did not fail. Even though The Book of A Thousand Days is my all time favorite book of Shannon's, the Princess Academy series is my favorite series. She does a fabulous job of taking the struggles of young women that apply to today and put them in a fantastical realm that lets the reader's imagination sore. When I read this conclusion to the Princess Academy series I was down with a cold. This may be cheating, but I'm going to share what I posted on Facebook: "Today I have had the luxury of recovering from a cold while reading Shannon Hale's Princess Academy: Forgotten Sisters and I rolled over and looked out my bedroom window. The clouds were so low that I could no longer see the mountains just outside and suddenly I felt like Miri, missing MY mountains."

I love that Miri is one again handed a twisted goal that she must deal with in the hopes of bettering the lives of Mount Eskelites. She takes the challenge head on and then realizes that not all is as she was promised. I love the continuation of Miri & Pedre's relationship to see how it grows from a distance. I love Miri's growth and how she finds a greater strength inside herself. I love the strength of women portrayed in the book, even if they falter, once they realize the truth each and every woman stands strong in her own way. This entire series is one that I long to and will be proud to read to my daughter.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Fires of Invention by J. Scott Savage

Sorry for the absence. I took the month of December off to recover from NaNoWriMo, help sick kids, and spend time with family. So be prepared for a load of updates over the next week as I finally type up the reviews on the page-turning books I read over the holidays.


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Title: Fires of Invention (Mysteries of Cove #1)
Author: J. Scott Savage
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Mid-Grade Steampunk
Rating: Fabulous
Alerts/Warnings: None
Premise: "Trenton Colman is a creative thirteen-year-old boy with a knack for all things mechanical. But his talents are viewed with suspicion in Cove, a steam-powered city built inside a mountain. In Cove, creativity is a crime, and invention is a curse word. Kallista Babbage is a repair technician and daughter of the notorious Leo Babbage, who died in an explosion--an event the leaders of Cove point to as an example of the dangers of creativity. Working together, Trenton and Kallista learn that Leo Babbage was developing a secret project before he perished. Following clues he left behind, they begin to assemble a strange machine that is unlike anything they've ever seen before. They soon discover that what they are building may threaten every truth their city is founded on--and quite possibly their very lives" (King County Library System).

Opinions: Steampunk Dragon. Need I say more. Well, yes, I probably do. J. Scott Savage has created a multi-level society living inside a mountain.  From page one I was drawn into the world by the laws the citizens of Cove lived by. I wanted to know why, and Trenton Colman was the perfect vessel to help reveal the details. Savage is a master at creating three dimensional characters that the reader can relate to. For example, Trenton is a skilled teen mechanic in a world where invention is considered evil. When he is beaten up by a girl then assigned to working on the farming level, Trenton is pretty sure is world is over. And yet, his world suddenly is filled with secret excursions to out of bound areas, budding relationships, and major character growth.

Trenton wasn't the only one who felt real to me, who I could connect with. I love his parents. There was true love that motivated each of the actions. Even if, at times, the presented a roadblock to Trenton's growth I could understand the whys and the love behind their actions. Then you get to Kallista. An girl orphan dressed as a boy, shunned by society, kick-butt steampunk gear and outfits, and has an incredibly sick secret workshop filled with brilliant tools and walls of books in a society where stories are forbidden. What isn't fascinating about that combo?

So basically: the characters were well developed and real, the plot was complex and intriguing, and the world...steampunk magical awesomeness. This is definitely a must read for kids, teens, young adults and adults. I, personally, cannot wait to read more.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Silver In the Blood by Jessica Day George

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Title: Silver In The Blood (Silver in the Blood #1)
Author: Jessica Day George
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Historical Fantasy Paranormal Horror (um take your pick...It's a little cross of several genres)
Rating: Fabulous
Alerts/Warnings:  Shape-shifting that leaves clothes behind, Wolves shown in battle (but described relatively cleanly).
Premise: "In 1897, seventeen-year-olds Dacia and Lou, New York socialites and cousins, visit their maternal homeland of Romania and learn the family secret--that they are shapeshifters, expected to take their rightful places and marry proper husbands" (King County Library System).
Opinions: I have enjoyed everything I have ever read by Jessica Day George. Having said that......Silver In The Blood is my favorite.  It was also highly unexpected. The majority of Jessica's other stories revolve around fairy-tale retelling or incredibly awesome twists on the young adult traditional fantasy with female main characters. I was expecting more of the same type of story when I picked up this book, not that I wasn't thoroughly excited to delve into a new story from one of my all time favorite authors.  So imagine my surprise when I realized that this book takes place in Romania in the 1800s and revolves around the ancestors of Vlad the Impaler (the genesis of the Dracula story).  The story didn't just draw me in, it sucked me in hook, line & sink your teeth to the very core.  The main characters were real to me, though from a different time, as they struggled with the teen struggles of the day, and yet when life opens up a horrible truth their reactions are real. My favorite character of all is Lou. I want to be her. I want her grace, her tenacity, her courage, her strength. Yeah, if I couldn't be her I would at least want to be really good friends with someone like her. Her cousin, Dacia, is a fantastic character, don't get me wrong, but personality wise I resonate more with Lou. With the ability to see the main characters' inner struggles through their letters and journal entries added to the traditional story telling the reader gets a more three-dimensional view into their growth throughout the story. I'm so fascinated by the story, its concept, and the imagery that I now need to add Romania to my research and places to visit list.  So, yes, you should read this book. And happily, it looks like Silver In The Blood is the beginning of a series.  Yeah baby!!! One happy reader here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Hippos Go Berserk! by Sandra Boynton


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Title: Hippos Go Berserk!
Author:Sandra Boynton
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Kids Picture Book
Rating: Fabulous
Alerts/Warnings:  None
Premise: "Larger and larger groups of hippos join a lone hippopotamus for a night-time party" (King County Library).
Opinions: It has been a while since I've posted a review for a children's book, but I've been going to volunteer at my library each week for the last month and picked up this book for my kids. Oh my gosh!!!! This book is awesome. The pictures are colorful, the story hilarious, and my autistic kindergarten loves this book so much that he is reading it over and over. So if you are looking for a fantastic book for your little ones to read, this one should be at the top of your list.

Monday, November 2, 2015

2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love by Rachel Aaron

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Title: 2K to 10 K: Write Faster, Write Better, and Write More of What You Love
Author: Rachel Aaron
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Non-Fiction
Rating: Love
Alerts/Warnings:  Mild Swearing
Premise: ""Have you ever wanted to double your daily word counts? Do you sometimes feel like you're crawling through your story? Do you want to write more every day without increasing the time you spend writing or sacrificing quality? It's not impossible, it's not even that hard. This is the book explaining how, with a few simple changes, I boosted my daily writing from 2000 words to over 10k a day, and how you can too."

Expanding on her highly successful process for doubling daily word counts, this book, a combination of reworked blog posts and new material, offers practical writing advice for anyone who's ever longed to increase their daily writing output. In addition to updated information for Rachel's popular 2k to 10k writing efficiency process, 5 step plotting method, and easy editing tips, this new book includes chapters on creating characters that write their own stories, practical plot structure, and learning to love your daily writing. Full of easy to follow, practical advice from a commercial author who doesn't eat if she doesn't produce good books on a regular basis, 2k to 10k focuses not just on writing faster, but writing better, and having more fun while you do it" (GoodReads).


Opinions: I ordered this book off of Amazon for my Kindle based on the recommendation of one of my writer friends. I have been a "pantser" author up until know (i.e. discovering the story as I go, writing by the seat of my pants). This book as enlightened me to the benefits of panning and plotting your story out in advance to help increase your ability to quickly turn out a book and get the edits done in a much more logical process.  Rachel's suggestions are practical and make total sense. My favorite suggestion is to start out your writing day by stating a goal of what you hoped to accomplish that day (or in a particular chapter) prior to writing, so that you know the basics of what you want to happen in that chapter before you actually write it. Brilliant, I know. I just wonder why have not tried plotting in advance a lot sooner.

So with it being November (a.k.a. National Write A Book In a Month - NaNoWriMo) I've decided to utilize her suggestions to rewrite an old story of mine from the beginning, plotting out the characters, locations, development, etc. prior to starting the storytelling portion. I have never completed NaNoWriMo before (though I've tried 4 times). I am planning on not making this number five. With the techniques suggested in this book I look forward to being a NaNo winner. 

I'll let you know if I succeeded at the end of the month. Here's to better, faster writing.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Happy, Happy, Happy by Phil Robertson

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Title: Happy, Happy, Happy: My Life and Legacy as the Duck Commander
Author: Phil Robertson
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Adult Non-Fiction
Rating: Like
Alerts/Warnings:  Instances of drugs, alcohol, but the consequences of those actions are also talked about.
Premise: "Life was always getting in the way of Phil Robertson's passion for duck hunting. An NFL-bound quarterback, Phil made his mark on Louisiana Tech University in the 1960s by playing football and completing his college career with a master's degree in English. But Phil's eyes were not always on the books or the ball; they were usually looking to the sky. Phil grew up with the dream of living the simple life off the land like his forebears, but he soon found himself on a path to self-destruction--leasing a bar, drinking too much, fighting, and wasting his talents. He almost lost it all until he gave his life to God. And then everything changed. Phil's incredible story tells how he followed a calling from God and soon after invented a duck call that would begin an incredible journey to the life he had always dreamed of for himself and his family" (King County Library System).
Opinions: I haven't had a lot of time to sit down and read a book lately. So instead I've been picking up books on CD from my library to listen to in the car while I'm driving my kids around or dropping my husband off at the train station. On a whim I picked up Happy, Happy, Happy by Phil Robertson. I knew of him from watching the show Duck Dynasty on A&E several years ago. But then we got rid of cable and I haven't seen it in years. So I figured, why not?

The CD of this book is read aloud by Phil's oldest son, Al. I was fascinated to learn about how Phil grew up in a very hard life, but that they had always been taught how to be happy, and really didn't understand that they were poor. Learning about how his mother struggled with depression and underwent electric shock therapy while being institutionalized, while around the same time his father had fallen off an oil rig and had to where a plaster cast from neck to hip for two years while trying to raise 5 kids during his wife's on and off absence.  I loved learning how he and Ms. Kay got together and I cried through their struggles as he went through several bad years of rebellion. Let's just say I have an new and incredibly high respect for Ms. Kay.

There were times I got lost when it came to Phil talking about all the types of ducks and their specific calls, but the stories about his life, his struggles, and how was blessed with family who cared enough and loved him so much, and how he chose his religion to help him through it all.

You may not agree with his life style, you may not agree with his political views, but after reading (or listening to this book) I believe you will come to respect Phil Robertson for his determination, perseverance, hard work ethics, and his love for his family and his God.   He has come far and is doing what he loves with a family he adores. That sounds like a great life to me. And listening to the story of his life has brought me a greater appreciation for my own. 

So yeah I think you should read this book.