Buying the Farm: Kimberly Conn

Author: Kimberly Conn
Book Name: Buying the Farm
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Literature/Family Drama
Rating:  Really Good

4+stars

Blurb: Missi Jennings has no family, with the exception of her cold, critical mother, who makes her feel like a perpetual disappointment. She muddles through life in Washington, D.C. despondent, yet unmotivated to do anything about it. When a horrific accident on a Downtown street leaves Missi shaken, numb, and wealthy beyond her wildest imagination, it also becomes a catalyst for unthinkable change, launching her on a journey to a place completely foreign to her—rural Mississippi. The cynical, solitary city girl must confront a lifetime of lies created by the woman she always knew to be her mother and contend with a large, loud, extended family she had no idea existed. Missi’s fortitude is tested by strange new surroundings and a cantankerous grandfather, but it is a child-like woman with Down syndrome, with whom Missi shares an unbreakable bond, who changes her the most. Buying the Farm is a poignant story about loss, gain, and both the joy and pain that come from being a part of a family.

This was a truly heartwarming kind of book that had a wonderful balance of emotional responses, which is one of my favorite kinds. If you can evoke laughter and tears, both happy and sad, all rolled into a single story then you have done an awesome job as an author.

The one thing that kept me from rating this higher was how nearly every single character in this book fawned over Missi as though she was some sort of perfect paragon deserving adoration just because she exists, even those she just met 2 seconds ago. There are a few exceptions. Her boss, but he is such a tiny, minor character as to not make a difference. Nina, one of the few people that SHOULD have treated her that way, but again, still kind of at a periphery level. And her grandfather who is the only major character to kind of go the opposite direction. The near hero worship from so many characters nearly became too much and lessened some of her realism for me.

I did love the family story here and the various turns this took. It made the story feel very unique and atypical, which I loved. And the emotional touches were incredibly well done.

A Slight Change Of Plan: Dee Ernst

Author: Dee Ernst
Book Name: A Slight Change of Plan
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance
Rating:  Okay

3+stars

Blurb: Kate Everett is about to begin her “second act.” She’s been a widow for eight years and thinks it might be time to start looking for someone to share her life with again. She quits her high-pressure job for something that will allow her more leisure time. She gets rid of the huge family home and moves into a fabulous condo that’s smaller and easier to manage. She’s pretty much got the rest of her life figured out. All she has to do is sit back, relax, and let the pieces fall into place.

But her real life never gets the memo. First, her son moves back in with her—along with his girlfriend. Her dream job falls through, leaving her unemployed. Her mother, whom she hadn’t spoken to in years, can no longer live alone and has to move into her basement. And her only daughter is planning the smallest and simplest wedding in the history of all weddings, much to Kate’s dismay.

Kate thinks that she and Jake, her former college love who has reemerged on an online dating site, of all places, can build something real, and that maybe her happy ending is in front of her at last. But the arrival of Edward, her daughter’s future father-in-law, presents Kate with an unexpected choice.

It looks like real happiness may require a slight change of plan.

I liked the idea of a book centered around adults in this age range, so was excited when I picked this up. Sadly, the attitude and actions of most of the characters put their maturity level back in their late teens to early twenties rather than in their 50’s so I might as well have been reading a new adult book, except the characters all have older/adult children.

I could have gotten past that and enjoyed the story if this book had been able to evoke even a lick of emotional response from me, but… nada. I felt nothing other than irritated with the relationship between Kate and Jake and there was absolutely nothing to suggest that Kate and Edward had anything stronger than a friendship. Everyone, including Kate, Edward and Jake just left me feeling rather meh. It was just incredibly bland.

When I finally got to the ending, I was kind of “Wait. That was it? Um… why did I read this?”

So this was one of those I didn’t hate it but didn’t particularly like it either books.

 

Slowly Moving Forward

I sent off my manuscript to my editor over the weekend and got confirmation that we are about 3 weeks out from getting started on it. I’m pretty sure I’ve found who I want to work with on my cover design as well after confirming they will work with my photo. It is all kind of terrifying and nerve wracking, but it is forward movement.

Resonance

I obviously enjoy a wide range of books across many genres, but the ones that tend to stick with me the most are the ones that can give me a story about the imperfections of humanity and do so with a strong emotional impact, be it through humor, joy, anger, love, tears or grief. As long as the story fully engages my emotions, I’m probably going to really enjoy it, but even more so if it has a central focus on family.

Continue reading “Resonance”

A Family For Keeps: Rheland Richmond

Author: Rheland Richmond
Book Name: A Family For Keeps
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/LGBT
Rating:  Okay

3+stars

Blurb:

Tristan was devastated when his sister died. His only consolation was her newborn daughter. He promised to take care of her like she was his own, but he’s broken that promise.

After growing up in foster care, Nathaniel’s finally built the life he’s always wanted. Now one case of human error could tear it all apart.

An unthinkable mistake that could never be rectified. Two men. Absolute strangers until tragedy and unforeseen circumstances bind them together. They must now find a way to co-parent and make the best of a bad situation. With no shared history to help them and two little girls caught in the middle, they now have no choice but to make it work. What could possibly go wrong?

Can two men put their differences aside for the sake of their children? They both have difficult choices to make, or what they love most will be taken away.

When I first read the blurb for this, I was pretty excited because it checked a lot of boxes for me on things I love in a good story. The premise and idea behind the story is really good, if maybe a little bit over the top. Sadly, the execution of that idea kind of flopped. There were just too many things that kept yanking me out of this story for me to ever really sink into it emotionally and I hated that.

The majority of this book is contained inside the characters heads, giving the reader very little dialog. Even a lot of character interaction is handled this way, even several situations being a character’s remembrance of scenarios instead of allowing the characters to experience them as a natural flow of events. That hampered my ability to connect with the characters and feel their connection with each other. This is a classic example of needing to show, not tell.

What little dialog you get was painfully one sided. There was almost no actual back and forth conversation, only one character speaking without getting any feedback, either in words or actions, from the other character(s) in the scene, leaving you with this bizarre kind of monologue. The few times you do get a little back and forth between characters, it is nearly impossible to tell who is speaking, which made all the dialog scenes even more convoluted because you couldn’t always tell if it was a monologue or back and forth. I honestly got lost several times in the dialog parts.

This is written in a dual POV between the two main characters. Sections were made clear as to who’s POV the reader was getting, yet there were still these random jumps where we get a tiny bit of perspective that came out as the other character, lasted maybe a sentence or two or even a paragraph before shifting back to the designated character’s POV. These always tripped me up and I had to go back and reread to try and figure out if I misread something or had missed a noted POV switch.

While I do really like the concept idea of this story, the details to make it happen are just too pat. Both main characters are stupidly good looking and stupidly wealthy. Tristian has the added benefit of being surrounded by stupidly good looking, talented, equally stupidly wealthy friends and adopted family. The kids are all insanely perfect, docile little dolls that roll with every single change like it is nothing. Anyone that has kids or even knows a kid will tell you this is straight up fantasy, because that would NEVER happen no matter how you work to justify it. Yes, there are a few historical challenges and difficulties as well as the issue of the medical thing (which also turns out perfectly), but… there just are no character imperfections to make them feel realistic, believable or relatable. Even the one real struggle towards the end seems overly simplistic.

And as much as I hate harping on editing mistakes… this just had too many obvious and annoying ones that just made all the other annoying issues combine to make me just not enjoy the story. I’m pretty sure I even ran into a few character history/background contradictions (massive peeve of mine). This story is okay, but this is one of those books that could have been really good if some of those issues had been noted and fixed before someone hit publish.

Cover Photoshoot Round 2

BG and I had another fun evening trying to get my cover image for my book. I THINK I may have gotten what I want. I need to do some playing with it, and then have an actual conversation with a cover designer, but… I’m seriously happy with what I have so far.

Continue reading “Cover Photoshoot Round 2”

Refining My Perspective

BG graciously agreed to help me work on my book cover concept this week. I adore the fact that she is not only willing to help, but pretty excited to be a part of this with me.

Continue reading “Refining My Perspective”

Searching And Questioning

My steps towards finding an editor have been… interesting. Yet again, expectations and reality didn’t quite meet up. After a few initial conversations and some deeper digging, I’ve discovered that I am probably looking at several thousand dollars to go through an entire process of different levels of editing as well as cover and design work for my book.

Continue reading “Searching And Questioning”

Ready Or Not, Here I Go

I took the first terrifying step and sent of my initial contact to an editor. I’m not even 100% that this will be the editor I end up using, though from the research I’ve done it is a pretty good chance, but I took that step. It was huge and nerve wracking, but I did it. Now I’m back to sit and wait mode. Can I vomit now?

This Bright Beauty: Emily Cavanagh

This Bright Beauty
This Bright Beauty

Author:  Emily Cavanagh
Book Name: This Bright Beauty
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Family Drama/Literature
Rating:  Okay

3+stars

 

 

Blurb:

A long-buried secret changes everything two sisters thought they knew about each other.

Franci and Lottie may be identical twins, but that’s where the similarities end. Franci has always been the stable one, while Lottie has bipolar disorder, constantly battling depression and mania. After years of taking care of her sister, Franci moves across the country to build a life for herself. Now, all the two share is distance.

But when Lottie gets in an accident, Franci reluctantly steps back into her familiar role as protector. She returns to find her sister’s life in complete disarray and makes a shocking discovery: Lottie has an infant daughter she never told Franci about. Although Franci swore she wouldn’t get sucked back in, she can’t leave the baby alone in Lottie’s care.

As Lottie further unravels, a secret is revealed that she has kept since childhood—one that has the power to reframe the sisters’ entire relationship, forcing Franci to ask herself if the secret was too much for Lottie to bear. Was the accident really an accident, and who has been protecting whom all these years?

I wasn’t a huge fan of this one. For one, it was so tediously slow to get through. I was doing pretty good and enjoying what I was reading for a while when I started wondering where we’d hit that secret reveal moment promised in the blurb. I look down and I’m only at 35% or so when I expected to be so much farther into the book. From there, everything just really started to drag.

Nearly the entire book is done in memories of each character. I don’t mind that so much, but that is part of why this felt so slow. You are waiting and waiting for the promised build up that takes forever to get to and are constantly dropped into yet another memory with nothing ever really coming out of those other than background. When you do finally get to it, way farther into the story than I expected, it wasn’t anything I hadn’t already expected and when it is all said and done, it doesn’t actually change a thing. Not really.

I had a hard time connecting or getting invested in either of the main characters as I felt that they were both petty and spiteful to each other which made them not very likable. Sure, there are some potential reasons, but those reasons didn’t change their likability.

All the wait and plowing through to get to the end and, again, it wasn’t anything that I didn’t already think was going to happen and I kind of felt like I was left with a “That’s it?” kind of a feeling which is pretty irritating as a reader.

Overwhelmed

So, I started my research for an editor and a cover designer. Then I just kind of hit this wall. The sheer volume of different types of editors and pricing and the lists of different steps you need to take with each different one and just… everything. It sent me into kind of a tailspin. It was so overwhelming I just had to step away.

Continue reading “Overwhelmed”

Next Step – Research

I have finally finished the last of the suggested edits I have for my book. Those are edits I’ve gotten from my two beta readers. I also managed to get a last complete read through completed once those were done to make sure the changes I made didn’t mess anything up in the process.

All that means is that I’m now at the point where I need to hire an editor and a cover designer. I don’t have either one picked out yet, so that means it is time to do some heavy duty research. I know what I’ll be working on next week!

TJ Klune: Author/Series Review; Bear, Otter, and the Kid

I am kind of kicking my own butt over how long it took me to actually pick this series up and read it. I’ll say straight up that my reasons for not doing so look pretty stupid at this point, but they seemed valid at the time.

Continue reading “TJ Klune: Author/Series Review; Bear, Otter, and the Kid”

The Story Behind The Story

When I said that this whole book writing thing had been a wild and crazy experience, I wasn’t joking. People say all the time, “Hey, I had this crazy dream!” Well, that is exactly how this whole thing started. With a dream.

Continue reading “The Story Behind The Story”

The Universe Made A Liar Out Of Me

The Universe, Luck, Coincidence, Random Moments of Inspiration… whatever you want to call it, it looks like I’m going to have to rewrite at least a small section of my about page. Continue reading “The Universe Made A Liar Out Of Me”

When I’m Gone: Emily Bleeker

When I'm Gone
When I’m Gone

Author: Emily Bleeker
Book Name: When I’m Gone
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Literature/Family Drama
Rating:  Okay

3+stars

 

 

 

Blurb:

Dear Luke,
First let me say—I love you…I didn’t want to leave you…

Luke Richardson has returned home after burying Natalie, his beloved wife of sixteen years, ready to face the hard job of raising their three children alone. But there’s something he’s not prepared for—a blue envelope with his name scrawled across the front in Natalie’s handwriting, waiting for him on the floor of their suburban Michigan home.

The letter inside, written on the first day of Natalie’s cancer treatment a year ago, turns out to be the first of many. Luke is convinced they’re genuine, but who is delivering them? As his obsession with the letters grows, Luke uncovers long-buried secrets that make him question everything he knew about his wife and their family. But the revelations also point the way toward a future where love goes on—in written words, in memories, and in the promises it’s never too late to keep.

Once again, I’m struggling to write a review because a book has left me torn between good writing and a story I just wasn’t fond of.

I expected more of this story to focus on how Luke deals with his loss, raising his kids alone and moving on. Instead you get what starts as a kind of endearing story that moves as expected and slowly turns into this weird, crazy blend of going too far with too many unbelievable twists and kind of ridiculous secrets. Top that off with what amounts to really a non-ending and you kind of have a mess.

This wasn’t horrible, but it was only okay because it just became too much and didn’t offer anything to balance that out in the end. I find that sad because I really thought I was going to like this one.

Ashes of Life: Erica Lucke Dean

Ashes of Life
Ashes of Life

Author: Erica Lucke Dean
Book Name: Ashes of Life
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Literature/Family Drama/Romance
Rating:  Didn’t Like

2+stars

 

 

 

Blurb: Married for just three months, Alex Barrett is stunned when her husband, David, dies in a tragic accident. And the absolute last thing the pregnant young widow wants is to take on responsibility for his teenage daughter, Maddie. Reeling from loss, Alex struggles to deal with her grief and her troubled stepdaughter, but one question haunts her: why was David with his ex-wife when he died?

All Maddie Barrett wanted was for her parents to get back together, but an icy road took that dream away. Afterward, Maddie is riddled with guilt that she can’t share with anyone. Feeling angry and alone, she lays all the blame on Alex.

Alex and Maddie must find a way to move past their pain—shared, yet separate. Thrown together in an untenable arrangement, they fight through a frozen landscape of sorrow and redemption while redefining love, forgiveness, and family.

I just was not a fan of this. Neither of the two main characters were likable. No matter their situation, they were both pretty self absorbed, bratty and unwilling to look outside of their own bubble of existence. I really wasn’t a fan of the romantic relationships on either of their parts either. Way too much yo-yo action going on. To the point that if these characters existed in real life, they should probably be seeking help for mental disorders.

The writing itself wasn’t bad, but I won’t enjoy a book if I don’t like the characters or the believably of their situations. This just didn’t do anything other than irritate me.

The Ghostwriter: Alessandra Torre

The GhostwriterAuthor: Alessandra Torre
Book Name: The Ghostwriter
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Literature, Suspense, Family
Rating:  Excellent

5+stars

 

 

 

 Blurb: Four years ago, I lied. I stood in front of the police, my friends, and family, and made up a story, my best one yet. And all of them believed me.

I wasn’t surprised. Telling stories is what made me famous. Fifteen bestsellers. Millions of fans. Fame and fortune.
Now, I have one last story to write. It’ll be my best one yet, with a jaw-dropping twist that will leave them stunned and gasping for breath.

They say that sticks and stones will break your bones, but this story? It will be the one that kills me.

Damn! Just… Damn! This was really frickin’ amazing. Probably one of the best books I’ve read this year. It is bursting at the seams with emotion. It is beautiful and messed up and sad and gut wrenching. If a book can drag tears out of you, then the author has done something really right. Let me tell you, there were lots with this one and that is never fun when you are already congested with a cold.

Books like this are hard to read because of the emotional gut punch, but that is kind of one of the things that I like. This is incredibly intense and beautifully written. I had a kind of love hate relationship with the main character all the way through. It is also the kind of book that is best read with as little information about it beforehand as possible.

The Kinfolk: Eliza Maxwell

The KinfolkAuthor: Eliza Maxwell
Book Name: The Kinfolk
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Literature, Suspense, Family
Rating:  Really Good

4+stars

 

 

 

Blurb: Along the banks of the Neches river, surrounded by the dense piney woods of east Texas, where the humidity makes even the mosquitos go a little soft in the head, there’s a pack of liars, thieves, and fools that Mimosa Mabry reluctantly calls family. After a lifetime spent trying to put the place behind her, the kinfolk have come calling, and they want her home.

Against her better judgement, Mo returns, but finds the answer she’s searching for—the truth about a child named Lucy—slipping further from her grasp than ever. Because in deep east Texas, at the mercy of your kin, truth is relative. As enigmatic as a carnival shell game. And the game is rigged.

Having read The Grave Tender, I had extremely high expectations for this book, which doesn’t usually bode well. While I think this was still extremely well written, it didn’t have that extra layer of “wow” or that sense of being extremely disturbed and enjoying it at the same time that I got from The Grave Tender. Because of that and being unable to not compare the two even though they aren’t related in any way other than being written by the same author, I just didn’t find that I liked this as well as I would have if I’d read this first. That said, this was still a really good book.

The Memory of Butterflies: Grace Greene

The Memory of ButterfliesAuthor: Grace Greene
Book Name: The Memory of Butterflies
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Literature, Family
Rating:  Okay

3+stars

 

 

 

Blurb: Hannah Cooper’s daughter is leaving for college soon. The change is bittersweet. A single mother since the age of eighteen, Hannah isn’t eager to confront the pain of being alone, but she’s determined not to let her own hang-ups keep Ellen from the future she deserves. As Ellen’s high school graduation approaches, Hannah decides it’s time to return to her roots in Cooper’s Hollow along Virginia’s beautiful and rustic Cub Creek.

With the help of longtime friend Roger Westray, Hannah devotes her energies to building a new house on the site of the old family home, destroyed in a fire more than a decade ago. But Hannah’s entire adult life has revolved around one very big secret. And her new beginning comes with unanticipated risks that will cost her far more than she could have imagined—perhaps more than she can survive.

When a confrontation forces Hannah to expose her secret, the truth may destroy her beloved daughter. Hannah is prepared to sacrifice everything to protect her family, but can their lives and their bond withstand the seismic shift that’s coming?

There are two specific things that kept me from liking this book more. First, this just dragged in the beginning. It took forever to get to a point where I could feel like there was going to be anything of interest going on. I came very close to giving up before I got to the 1/3 mark. It did nothing to grab me and drag me into the story.

The second is partly just me, but I’m sick of seeing stupid lies that could very easily be found out being used as the main premise behind a story. Lies have their place in stories and can do a whole lot of things to move a story and give it a depth you wouldn’t have otherwise. But when the lie is created with zero base in reality, it falls apart with very little effort when someone pokes at it. You do that with your main character, then all of the work you’ve done to create this emotional, deep, layered personality crumbles and all that is left is, “Damn! How stupid can you be?”

That is where I ended up by the time I finished this. I did not like the main character because she came across as just being brainless by the end. I didn’t hate this because I do think the author wrote it well, but I didn’t like the backbone of the story.