Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Cover Reveal: Heart Strings

I'm excited to present (a little bit late due to e-mail issues) the cover for an upcoming romance that combines period drama and music, a couple of my favorite things.

Gently bred young ladies don’t run away from home to find employment, but when forced to choose between marrying a brutish oaf or becoming another man’s mistress, Susanna makes an unconventional decision. Following her passion for music, she flees to London with dreams of securing a position as a harpist. Becoming entangled with a handsome violinist who calls himself Kit, but who seems too aristocratic for a working-class musician, may be more problematic than sleeping in the streets.
Kit's attention is captured by Susanna’s breath-taking talent, admirable grace, and winsome smiles…until a lawman exposes the new harpist as a runaway bride and a thief. With peril lurking in the shadows, Susanna’s imminent danger not only forces Kit to choose between his better judgment and his heart, but he must also embrace the life to which he swore he would never return.

Donna Hatch is the author of the best-selling “Rogue Hearts Series,” and a winner of writing awards such as The Golden Quill and the International Digital Award. A hopeless romantic and adventurer at heart, she discovered her writing passion at the tender age of 8 and has been listening to those voices ever since. She has become a sought-after workshop presenter, and also juggles freelance editing, multiple volunteer positions, and most of all, her six children (seven, counting her husband). A native of Arizona who recently transplanted to the Pacific Northwest, she and her husband of over twenty years are living proof that there really is a happily ever after.Determined to help her father with his political career, Jocelyn sets aside dreams of love until she meets a mysterious gentleman with dangerous secrets. Working undercover, Grant’s only suspect for a murder conspiracy is the father of a lady who is getting increasingly hard to ignore. They must work together to find the assassins. England’s future hangs in the balance…and so does their love.

Enter the Giveaway Below!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Detour to Maturity: "Accidentally Me" blog tour

I got an e-mail a while back asking if I'd be interested in blogging about this book.  You can tell when I'm skeptical about a book because about halfway through the blurb, I'll squint like I've got pickle juice in my eye and sigh "eeeeeeeeeh."  It doesn't mean I'm uninterested, just that I'd have to be in the right mood to pick it up.  Nevertheless, the person with a skepticism-inducing summary seemed nice enough and in bookstores, I always read the blurb, first chapter and last chapter.  I asked if I could read an excerpt before making my decision.

Two chapters later, I was absolutely in love with the characters and signed up without any further hesitation.  That now brings us to Kim Karras' "Accidentally Me."

"WANTED: Pretend stalker. No experience required. Tall, dark, and quirky preferred. Sabrina is desperate to go to her dream college, but her parents want her to stay close to home. If she wants to maintain her perfect child image, Sabrina must break rules that even her rebel sister keeps . . ."

I've read enough YA novels over the years that I know the inevitable disaster that follows a pretend anything.  Either the person falls madly in love with their fake stalker/boyfriend or, if it's written by someone like Christopher Pike, they end up dead.  I wasn't rooting for either of those options, so I was curious to see what the middle ground would be.

With this search for a compromise, I guessed that the middle ground be one of Sabrina's own invention.  The person who appears under the name of the main character in the first few pages seems unlikely to attain that level of maturity.  She resents her older sister, a single mom who has invaded the house with two kids.  (I was hooked when one character was only referred to as The Noise, I have to admit.)  She strains against her parents' good intentions.  

What made me tell my friends that this is one of the best-written cast of characters in a YA that I've read in years is this:  Not a single person who has a principal role in this book is someone who is acted upon.  Sabrina wants to go to college in California, but she doesn't make her objections to a state college known and then just wait for her family to have a miraculous change of heart.  She independently prepares to succeed if they aren't moved by her impassioned pleas.  Her parents are appropriately reactionary when it comes to a threat to their daughter.  Her sister is constantly in search of what will help her fulfill her goals in life.

The ending was one that seemed foreseen from the beginning of the book because the characterization developed naturally.  Well done, Kim!

Buy now!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

In the Steps: Blog Tour for Jessica Blackburn's "The Echoing"

Worth A Few Reads

I'm excited for the next two days.  I have back-to-back reviews of books that really captivated me.  Tomorrow, I'll be reviewing a very different type of book, but right now, I'd like to introduce you to this semi-morality-taleish novel that I got to read with a very interested heart.

Rylee is a teenager in Stevenson, OR.  One day, she meets a blind witch in a cottage and is given the power of balancing.  She now becomes something like walking karma.  A man changes her tire and wins the lottery the next day.  A bully spills his soda all over the principal.  This is a power that can be used for immense good and consequently immense evil.  When it turns out that someone is trying to manipulate her power for the latter, things get complicated.

There, that's as unspoilered as I can make it.  Like I said, it's semi-morality-taleish.  It becomes less semi- when you read the prologue and it starts by talking about the imbalance caused by Adam and Eve sinning against God and ends with a verse familiar to everyone who ever set foot in Early Morning Seminary:  "Adam fell that man night be and men are that they might have joy."

Even with that Sunday School lesson as a prologue, I don't have a problem with this being sent to a broader audience.  Having a working knowledge of holy writ would help at two points, but the author lays it out for those who might not be so inclined and I like that.

Where the book has some challenges for me involves the number of subplots.  It's 200 pages, 100 full pages shorter than my debut novel, and tells a lot more side stories than mine did.  There's a family illness, a burgeoning romance, a friend's struggles to finance her college education, a relationship with her younger brother...  And that's ancillary to "Holy crap.  I just got my friend a grant interview because she shared her french fries with me!"

Don't get me wrong.  I want to hear about all of those things.  But in more pages.  The strongest threads are the family-based ones, not the social ones.  This isn't just because of the morality tale element.  It's a function of how strong the story-telling is.  To put it more simply, the school antics never kicked me in the feels the way her closeness to her mother did.

Thanks for the chance to read this thought-provoking book, Jessica and Cedar Fort!

Caveat Lector  (You can skip this if you don't want my long-winded input on one single subject)

The characters are remarkably engaging with one exception.  With 2 Nephi 2:25 at the end of the prologue, I was prepared to give Jessica props for having an effective LDS main character.  (I've seen some horrendous examples in my many years of getting books from family.)  Instead, that's the sassy best friend Shyler and my only beef with characterization is that Shyler is a very token Mormon to this story.  Her faith isn't moving the plot forward and it doesn't play a role in Rylee's understanding of her gift, even when it's revealed that this is not a new kind of magic.  (It's almost Narniaesque.)  In Chapter 6, Shyler stays behind to argue about Mormons and polygamy with a teacher.  In Chapter 9, she refuses to like a boy because he says that Mormons aren't CHRISTIANS!  Late in the book, Rylee even wishes that Shyler were in on a conversation so she could explain everything using what she'd learned in early morning seminary.

I have no problem with Mormon characters.  I've written a few myself, most memorably when I wrote the missionaries meeting the Twilight vampires during tracting.  But if Shyler were a Jewish character, she'd be listed as campaigning for kosher options in the cafeteria and arguing with the history teacher about him referring to the Shoah as the Holocaust.  Rylee would refer to something she heard at Rylee's bat mitzvah.  With all the wonderful things this book does, everything leading up to Shyler yelling "REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE!  CHOOSE THE RIGHT!  PROTECT YOUR VIRTUE!" on page 124 is heavy-handed depiction that almost comes across as a caricature.  Going back to Shyler's alternate religious identity, she might as well have had her sign off her phone call with "Oy vey!  Next year in Jerusalem!"  There were other ways to accomplish the effect of a Mormon friend in this book.

Before you assume that I don't like outgoing Mormons, let me put this into context:

I was that kind of person in high school.  My US History teacher gave me a copy of the textbook that he would be using to discuss the Mormon church and I returned it to him with pages of notes on doctrinal inaccuracies.  When I was in my choir interview, I was asked my favorite verse of scripture and I quoted both Deuteronomy 4:29-31 and Doctrine and Covenants 78:18.  Friends came to me with questions about Mormon doctrine ranging from "How true is the story about Mormon cannibals in Sherlock Holmes?" to "Does your brother smell now that he can't change his holy underwear?"  When a person introduced his topic at Chapel as "How to deal with Satanists, cultists and Mormons," I took the time where we sang before his devotional to let him know there were Mormons in the audience (My sister and I) and we would be answering anything he said when people asked us about it.

Why did I do all of that?  Because I was the second Mormon to graduate from my school in its history.  Because I went to Lexington Christian Academy knowing that this was a place for me to do recitation of the Gospel of John for my monologues class.  Because my first role in a play at that school was as Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist and Liza, an anti-abortion protester.  Because I knew that people would misunderstand my Christianity as the school taught it.  With a few exceptions, they treated me very well for my actual and obvious faith.

I know someone who, after reading lots of internet stories about cons, expressed her eagerness for some fat loser at Salt Lake City Comic Con to tell her she's not a REAL fan and for her to prove that she is because she knows much more about ___________ fandom than they do.  She's not the only one who talks like this.  The thing is, nothing happens the way it sounds on the internet.  In all my years as a fangirl, I've been mistreated once and it was because I told Sir Patrick Stewart that I was a domestic violence survivor who wanted to thank him for his charitable work.  I feel like Shyler was written as a "This must be how every Mormon is treated for DARING to have faith!" while in most high schools, religious differences really don't come up on this kind of level.

There is a time and a place for that kind of character and it wasn't as a background character.  She took up more space in the energy of the book than the main character and that balance is what threw me.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Book blitz for A Chaotic Courtship

For as long as she can remember, Bethany Swafford has loved reading books. That love of words extended to writing as she grew older and when it became more difficult to find a ‘clean’ book, she determined to write her own. Among her favoriteauthors is Jane Austen, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Georgette Heyer.

When she doesn’t have pen to paper (or fingertips to laptop keyboard), she can generally be found with a book in hand. In her spare time, Bethany reviews books for a book site called More Than A Review.

Connect with the Author here: 

Twenty year old Diana Forester, a country bred young woman fears that her inexperience and uncertainties has driven Mr. John Richfield away. On arriving back home from London, she learns that he is already there, ready to continue their acquaintance. If Diana thought that it was difficult in London, courting takes on a whole new aspect when Diana's younger siblings become involved. She finds herself dealing with her own feelings, her sister, her younger brother, jealous members of a house party, a jilted suitor, and a highwayman as she falls in love with the charming Mr. Richfield.

Find all of the Authors books on:
Amazon ~ Goodreads ~ Amazon UK ~ 

Top Ten List:

Top Ten Favorite Books

1.      Persuasion by Jane Austen
2.      The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (technically this is more than one book BUT I’m counting it as one)
3.      Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
4.      The Enola Holmes series by Nancy Springer (again, this is six books but I’m counting it as one because they are all so good)
5.      Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
6.      Frederica by Georgette Heyer
7.      Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
8.      A Spy In the House by Y.S. Lee
9.      My Particular Friend by Jennifer Petkus
10.  The Occasional Diamond Thief by J A McLachlan

Official Facebook Event page:
Book Buy Links:

Author Social Media Links:

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Friday, August 5, 2016

Blog Tour: 31 Ghost Stories to Read Before You Die

Today, I'm pleased to present some information about 31 Ghost Stories to Read Before You Die.  The title is something that I would pick up immediately in a library or book store, so it's fun to participate in this tour.  

10 Things About Me (Deb Atwood)
1.  I like spiders, but I'm afraid of yellow jackets (the insect, not the garment).
2.  My hair is purple.
3.  I love to wander around old cemeteries.
4.  I have traveled throughout the Korean countryside (and treasured every minute).
5.  My heart goes pitter patter for big dogs and fat cats.
6.  If I had to choose one mode of travel, I would choose the train.
7.  I suffer from math phobia.
8.  One time in London I inadvertently spent a night in a homeless hotel, and it changed me.
9.  I'm a scaredy cat passenger in a car (as my husband will attest).
10. I'm passionate about ghost fiction and ghost movies.

And now, an excerpt!

So, here's the question: Was my insomnia the result of an inability to abandon Bag of Bones until the final sentence?
All I know is the night I started Stephen King’s novel, 2:53 AM found me munching cheddar cheese rice crackers and ploughing through page after page of Bag of Bones.
I was in love with this story from the first, empathizing with writer Mike Noonan as he struggles to come to terms with his wife's untimely death. I could not help but root for widow Mattie, her precocious daughter Kyra, and Mike who falls in love with both of them and joins their battle against a heartless and powerful grandfather.
I have to say that two thirds of the way through the book, the narrative veered into dark territory, and I experienced reader shock. My mistake. This is, after all, Stephen King. What began as a sweet damsel in distress love story (I don't mean that in a pejorative sense as Mattie possesses plenty of spunk and courage and strength) of the good guy vs. bad guy variety morphed into GOOD vs. EVIL on a magnified scale. (I’m thinking of the Richter scale here, and yes, I was quaking.)

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Blog Tour: My Pineapples Went to Houston

Lee Gaitan is a wife, mother, teacher, author and speaker, but above all she is passionately committed to overcoming life’s obstacles, surviving sometimes by the skin of her teeth, but always with humor and optimism. She shares her experience with anyone who will listen with the intent to encourage others to use humor to their benefit.

In the past twelve years Lee has had to deal with more than a healthy helping
of “are you kidding me?” moments. In 2002, she hit rock bottom. It was so bad shelovingly refers to it as a year of “shock and awfulness.” That year her father died,her mother was in the hospital, semi-comatose from grief, and her husband of 22 years lost every penny of their money BEFORE running off to Arizona with his girlfriend, who just happened to be a former stripper. 

That was just the beginning. She spent the next decade struggling with loss and challenges on every front, from finances and family to health and career.

While there have been many bounces up and down over the years, Lee has finally
bounced back and it was well worth the effort. She has happily remarried, working at a job she loves and has published her second book. She even has children on three continents and a granddaughter far too far away!

I love memoirs, but am always looking for something that adheres to what I consider to be the right way of addressing personal nonfiction.  I expect detail and depth with sides that include well-crafted realism as well as authentic characters.  Good thing I picked up this release by Lee Gaitan.

I definitely enjoyed reading this book, which I admit to having signed up to review based on the mysterious title.  It references an anecdote in the first chapter that effectively proves that the best laid plans of mice and men gang oft to Houston.

The plot and characters were something straight out of Jacquelyn Mitchard, where men are unreliable monsters except for one true treasure and women are articulately strong against them.  The real antagonist has awful grammar and tells the narrator to cross her 'faaaaaaaaaaangers' that she doesn't get fired.  That line alone made me want to bump off the antagonist to make everyone's life better.

If this had been fiction, I would have saved it for my "feminism-conquers-all" reading binges where I insist on reading books that make me feel better about the plight of undervalued women and read something paranormal.  Because it is non-fiction and an at-times harrowing account of a life gone temporarily off the rails, I read it one sitting and laughed and sighed at the elements of my own life that I could relate to it.

I took issue with moments of inconsistency.  The book promises to address a death in the family, a dissolution of marriage and a mother on the verge of a coma in a single year.  Two of the three happen.  Then later on, she introduces "The Lucifers," so named because they are the real estate scam artists from hell.  She notes that she will call the husband Mr. G for the rest of the story,   Then Mr. G is called Lucifer for the rest of his time in the book.

I heartily wish that it had ended with the chapter "Dedicated to the One I love" because the rest of the story belongs in a separate memoir.  If it had done  so, the losing and finding of love would have been wrapped up really well, but it continued on to talk about real estate and her beloved dog.

I hope to read more since she definitely has compelling and inspirational experiences to share.

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Monday, July 4, 2016

Blog Tour: Time after time--Melanie Bateman's "The Time Key"

I will freely admit it.  It takes a lot to get me to genuinely appreciate time-travel.  By and large, when I read something time-travel related, I spend a lot of the book rubbing my temples and sighing heavily because it just doesn't work for me.  (I'm a Whovian, so it takes complicated paradoxes and unexpected twists for me to stop yawning.)

Don't worry, the introduction is not me saying "Here's how many times I fell asleep while reading htis book."  (The answer is once, but that's my fault for reading in bed after a very long day.)   "The Time Key" is one of the more rewarding and unconventional takes on time travel that I've read in years.  The story starts with the attempted suicide of Stanley Becker, a widower who tries to end his life on the spot where his wife and daughter were killed six years before.  It then follows his personal saga and adventures due to the possession of a complicated fob watch and the eponymous Time Key.  It is a device that has the power to change time and the rest of the book explores what might just be done with that tool.

I'll leave the rest of the plot for you to discover, but let me talk about what impressed me:

1)  The narrative style.  You start the book reading a third-person limited point-of-view, but an objective and mysterious narrative voice starts breaking in by stepping back from that perspective to give you hints of other things.  It took me back a bit to Jane Eyre or, at times, Terry Pratchett and I really liked that tweak of the conventional narrative.

2)  The ensemble cast.  Whether it's Mr. Becker's household staff or the Roma travelers who help and hinder him when he goes looking for a man he chanced to meet in the opening chapters, there is a wide variety of persons and personalities.

3)  The Time Key.  I looked at this device, which has clock hands to set things like days and hours, and was impressed by the almost mechanical mythology of it.  It was more complicated than the Time-Turner in Harry Potter and less technical than a DeLorean.

4)  The historical setting.  We know the landmarks and times of the storyline.  There is a reference to a barber's wife buying magazines weekly to pick up the latest adventure of Sherlock Holmes.  The costuming is very well-done.

My beef:

The dialogue is sometimes inconsistent.  There were parts where accents that were painstakingly transcribed disappeared entirely.  With the narrative voice, it's mostly true to the style and period of the characters, but when it slips, it reminds me of the time that I watched The Crucible in theaters and noticed a Greyhound bus traveling across the countryside behind a couple from the 17th Century.  This is a minor flaw, but one that took me out of the story when it happened.