Best of 2019: Moments

Outside of photography and the books I read this last year, I thought I’d note a few of the bigger moments and highlights of my year, things that I did or experienced that I was really proud of or stuck with me as important moments.

There will always be tons of those when it comes to my kids. Yes, I’m hugely biased and think I have the best kids ever, even when they are being little shits. There are a couple that really stick out, though.

BG stepping WAY out of her mostly introverted comfort zone to be a dance assistant. Just the few months that she has been doing this, she has really gained a lot of self-confidence that I haven’t seen in her before. It has been amazing to watch. I’ve also seen her really grow and mature this last year with how she has handled friendships and dating and high school.

This has been MC’s year to really drop the proud mama moments on me. I’m over the moon proud of his accomplishments and getting not only accepted into his school of choice, but winning a top scholarship because of all the hard work he put into is school work. The biggest mush moment from him though is one I never posted about. I never could quite find the words to describe how he made me feel, but… for a project in one of his classes, he had to name the smartest and the wisest people he knew (separate people). His obvious choice, to me anyway, would be my Hubby because he looks up to him so much. He did name his dad as being the smartest, but he said that I was the wisest. When all the other students were naming famous people and other people of note, he picked me. When he told me all the reasons (which I have now forgotten because I’m still blown away by the fact he even considered me) I just almost bawled. I am not, and never have been, the person he really looks up to. I’m just mom. The fact that he feels that way about me, enough to include it in a school project and then tell me about it… talk about feeling like you’ve done something right as a parent! My 17 year old son thinks I’m wise. Just… wow.

There were a few creative projects that I’m still really proud of. While it wasn’t my best cake, by far, but BG’s birthday cake this year was still insanely challenging and turned out pretty well.

Pointe Costume Cake Side By Side
Pointe Costume Cake Side By Side

That costume really hit me in the creative nerve because just doing it in cake wasn’t enough, apparently. I had to paint it as well. Again, far from being perfect, it was something new for me and I’m thrilled with how it turned out.

2019 Pointe Costume In Acrylic
2019 Pointe Costume In Acrylic

I was also really pleased with the first piece of jewelry I’ve attempted in a few years. It reminded me how much I love working with stones and silver.

Of course I think one of my proudest creative endeavors this year was publishing my book, An Unexpected Turn. Considering I never planned, expected or even dreamed of writing a book, I’m still a little astonished that I actually did it. It has been this insanely difficult, emotional roller coaster of an experience. I’m even more proud of the fact that it really seems to be received well by most readers. It is selling and getting mostly positive reviews. I still sometimes struggle to believe it has all actually happened.

An Unexpected Turn - Christmas Ad Image
An Unexpected Turn – Christmas Ad Image

Even though I definitely had some rather low moments throughout the year, 2019 was a pretty good year, especially on the creative and mom front. With MC graduating in the spring, BG starting to drive, and my creative muse chafing to get my hands busy, I know 2020 will probably bring a lot of the same.

Best of 2019: Books

I don’t tend to set reading goals as I already probably spend too much time with my nose buried in a book. Maybe. It’s debatable. I have no desire to ever again hit or even get close to my highest book count in a year, because that 508 was nuts. I can say that based on the numbers below, I can probably still hang onto my my “picky, moody reader” label.

Books read in 2019

258 New to me; 28 Rereads; 14 DNF
5 Stars: 12
4.5 Stars: 7
4 Stars: 91
3.5 Stars: 34
3 Stars: 80
2.5 Stars: 13
2 Stars: 21
Below 2 Stars: 0

*I didn’t start recording half stars until I changed my rating system in May. I also fully plan on adding at least one or two more books to this before we reach “one” on the countdown clock.

Of those twelve 5 stars I handed out, it isn’t a bit of a surprise that most of them came from authors at the top of my favorites list. Faith Hunter, Anne Bishop and Michelle Sagara (West).

Firstborn
War
War
Circle of the Moon
Circle of the Moon
Wild Country
Wild Country

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A couple of others were standouts even among those few that managed 5 stars and are worth mentioning again.

 

Kimberly Belle’s Dear WifeDear Wife

 

And G.A. Aiken’s The Blacksmith QueenThe Blacksmith Queen

 

One of the other things that I wanted to do as a final wrap up to my 2019 reading is to mention my top Indie Author reads for the year. Keep in mind that these are books that I KNOW are indie books. There are probably dozens of indies on my read list for the year, but not all authors are upfront and it isn’t always easy to tell. If I wasn’t 100% certain, I didn’t notate that a book was an indie.

These are the best indie reads for me this year.

 

Stephen Paronlini’s Beautiful Sky Beautiful Sky (4 Stars)Beautiful Sky Beautiful Sky

 

Kameo Monson’s I Not David (4.5 Stars)I NOT David

 

I highly recommend any of the books I’ve listed here. If you haven’t read one of them yet, you really should add it to your 2020 TBR.

*click on any thumbnail to go to the review for that book*

Book Review: I Not David, Finding Me – Book #1

Author: Kameo Monson
Book Name: I Not David
Release Date: November 20, 2019
Series: Finding Me
Order: #1
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Family Life
Overall SPA: 4.5 Stars
4.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: When three-year-old Joey is diagnosed with autism, Kat’s heart sinks. With a single phone number and a few suggested therapies, she and her husband Derek are left to wade through the unknown abyss of ASD. Derek assures Kat their son will grow out of it, but she has done enough research. That never happens. Still, Joey can improve, and Kat vows to make his life better any way she can.

Jumping feet first into the depths of therapies and developmental preschool, Kat gives it her all. Everything should get easier. But Derek still can’t handle Joey’s meltdowns, and now he only wants to spend time with her. What happens if his attitude doesn’t change?

As Kat’s world continues to crumble around her, she finds something in herself that she didn’t know was missing.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4.5/5 Stars
Believability: 4.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

This book ticked most of my boxes for what makes a really good, emotional book. It is a small snapshot of life as a mother learns to parent her autistic child and all the struggles that entails, including the strain it can put on a marriage.

The first couple of chapters felt a little choppy with a lot of events happening quickly and jumping to the next, but it smoothed out after a few chapters and I was able to sink into Kat’s story. As a mother that only ever barely brushed up against a tiny fragment of the issues presented in this book, it was easy for me to relate to and sympathize with her struggles from that mother’s perspective and to understand her willingness to do anything and everything to give her child every opportunity for a good life. The story touches on a lot of typical parental fears for their children and magnifies them through the lens of autism.

Having no background knowledge of autism, I wasn’t sure how accurate the experiences and scenarios regarding diagnosis and treatment were throughout the book, but they felt authentic. Something that stood out for me and had me questioning the reality a bit was the lack of support or suggestion of counseling for the parents or available resources to support them and help them learn to raise an autistic child. There is plenty addressed with regards to support and treatments for Joey, but there wasn’t any mention of any resources to help the parents with such a drastic change in the way they would need to parent him and how those changes could impact them as a family. There aren’t even mentions of support groups. After finishing the book and reading the author’s comments about the background of the story and her personal history, I’m a little floored that this is apparently reality, or was at the time of her experiences (at least not as something that is ever mentioned in the book).

This book only covers a small span of time and leaves several threads open at the end (most likely because this will be part of a series). There aren’t any cliffhangers, but there are some larger pieces that do not get resolved by the end.

Overall, I really enjoyed this story and the very real glimpse it gives you into life with a young, autistic child.

*I received a copy of this book from the author. Opinions stated are honest and my own.

Peyton Hammond’s Review For An Unexpected Turn

Peyton is one of the book bloggers I approached to review An Unexpected Turn and she most graciously agreed. She tends to read a wide variety of books and does so all while going to school, so I’m impressed with all she accomplishes. I cannot thank her enough for taking time out of her busy schedule to read for me. I’m even more excited by the fact that she enjoyed it. This is just a glimpse of her 4 star thoughts:

The writing was fantastic and the storytelling was very smooth. I enjoyed it immensely. I love when writing keeps you in love with a story.

You can find the full review here. Be sure to check out all the rest of the books and reviews she’s posted. There is so much to choose from!

On My TBR – December 2019 Edition

Looking at last month’s TBR, I realize that I didn’t end up reading half of my list. One ended up as a DNF, but the others… I just really wasn’t in the mood for them. I still read a ton of books, but none that were on my TBR and very few of those did I put in the effort to write a review for. I have desperately needed the lighter, more fun, and heart warming reads lately without the pressure to evaluate them for a review. For that reason, I’m not really putting together a TBR this month.

I do have one indie book I’ve committed to on my list:

I NOT David
I NOT David

I NOT David
Genre: Family Life

 

 

 

Other than that one book, I’m not committing to any specific reads this month. In part because of moods and in part because this is going to be an insane month for me. With all the dance Christmas programs for BG, MC doing his scholarship stuff, and other holiday events, I need to keep this month low key on other fronts. I’ll still be reading and, when I feel inspired, posting reviews. But I’m just going to do my best to sit back and try and find some joy this month.

Some Stats and What Next?

With my recent Amazon ad seeming to be a complete and utter bust, not to mention a huge waste of precious advertising dollars, I sort of feel like I’ve hit this insurmountable wall and I honestly don’t know what to do from here which is insanely frustrating and discouraging. There are all kinds of parts and pieces to my current mood and frustration with regards to the whole self publishing thing.

One of those issues is the need to get reviews (and a range of star ratings) to even get people willing to pick up your book. I’ve really debated for a while posting about this topic because it feels like I’m calling out book bloggers and reviewers and I really don’t want to do that. I’ve gotten some great response and support from some, but others… well, take a peak at my stats (yes, I’m certain the overall numbers here are way lower than what some people see, but I’ve attempted to really target bloggers that have read books that would potentially be in range with mine). I will not be naming anyone, just giving general stats.

Reviewer Stats

Requests sent to bloggers: 24
No response at all: 18
Response, but reject: 0
Agree to review: 6
Reviews written from above: 1
Of those that agreed to review, 1 is still in their projected time frame and 1 has taken the time to post on their blog notifying everyone that they are having issues (which is so massively appreciated). I’ve gotten zero communication from the other few that agreed to review, some of which are from as far back as May on their projected time frame.

Reviewer requested/provided copies (from general call for anyone wanting a copy): 2
Reviews written from above: 1

Book tours approached: 2
Tours responded/accepted: 1 (decided they may not cover my target audience after talking to them, so passed, but left open for future option)
Tours with no response: 1

Other approached review sources: 2
Envie (Previously – Writing Community Newsletter) – 1 review
BookSirens: 2 reviews (requested 10, still running, but no new readers)

Overall, I’ve approached, or been approached by, 30 different sources for reviews and I’ve gotten a total of 5 reviews (and not all have been posted to the bigger sites like Amazon or Goodreads). Is this a reasonable ratio? I have no clue. This is just my experience and numbers.

Another huge part of this is the whole networking thing. I’ve mentioned before how excruciating this is for someone as introverted as I am, but I really made the effort no matter how uncomfortable and stressful this was. I’ve even attempted to be helpful in sharing my experiences along the way. Effort or no, it doesn’t seem to do much more than make me uncomfortable and stressed.

In my last post about my ad, I mentioned the concept of books having a saturation point in the market. That you will eventually reach that point where you’ve been exposed to most of your potential readers and buyers. I’m wondering if I’ve reached that point.

I think some of my frustration also comes from having this really amazing run with my last ad and then suddenly dropping off into nothing. The surge changed some of my perspectives and expectations from where I initially started, but now I’m forced to adjust my views and goals with this and what I consider “doing well” for having self-published my one and only book.

I’m approaching the point where I’m feeling burned out with the work to reward ratio lately. With the frustrations, the poor ad performance, the struggle to get reviews and that big saturation point question, I’m wondering where I go from here. How do you recover the lost momentum? Is it even possible?

 

Book Review: Another Dead Intern – Joel Spriggs

Author: Joel Spriggs
Book Name: Another Dead Intern
Release Date: October 15, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Fantasy/Urban/Suspense
Overall SPA: 3 Stars
3 Stars

 

 

Blurb: When Morgan Burns applied for an internship with Hemlock Connal P.I, he thought he’d signed up for coffee runs and printing jobs, not preternatural investigation.

As he starts his new job, Morgan learns about the unseen and blended landscape of magic. Soon he finds himself meeting grungy pixies, mixing with fairy royals, and the annoyingly bad musical talents of a half demon. Morgan has to also face the fact that Hemlock’s last three interns met painful ends.

Morgan must quickly adapt to his broadening world to keep the two things he needs most: a paycheck and his life. Hemlock has to keep her wits about her and watch that she doesn’t end up with yet another dead intern.

When a friend comes to her about random Bostonians start losing their memories, Hemlock tries to find a paying customer. The only one willing to entertain her unnatural explanations is the head of the Irish mob, Bobbi Cotter. Cotter wants to find out why one of her top hitmen has lost his memory, and why one of his planned executions was just carried out by a fifteen year old cheerleader.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3/5 Stars
Peeve Factor: 2.5/5 Stars
World Building: 3/5 Stars

Personal Opinion: 3/5 Stars

The foundation and plot of this story are both really good. I would have given this a higher rating, but it is a little rough around the edges and I kept running into issues that pulled me out of the story.

One of the bigger ones I was never able to quite pinpoint and say “this is an editing issue” or “this is a stylistic thing” because I just could not tell for sure. There are a lot of places where the phrasing of a sentence felt off. Either a word was missing, an additional word that didn’t feel like it belonged was included, or the word choice was off a bit (I saw all three at different points, multiple times throughout the book). Whether this is a stylistic thing or just something that got overlooked during editing, it kept forcing me to stop and reread sections which broke up the flow of the story.

I’ve never been a huge fan of character perspectives that flip at random without distinct cues letting the reader know there is a change. This is very much a personal preference, but it added to the difficulty I had staying in the flow of the story. The characters all felt as though they had similar personalities and voices with very little to distinguish one from another. When you have that perspective swap mixed in, even more effort needs to be made to stay immersed in the story.

Another issue that isn’t a huge deal to the overall story, but is a huge peeve of mine was the swapping of character names. I only noticed this in one small section, but I again was forced to stop and reread, even go back and refresh my memory on the stated names to make sure I wasn’t confused.

The world, while interesting at first glance, lacked a certain distinction. I was never certain how the world worked exactly, especially with regards to how common the knowledge and acceptance of magic and magical beings were to the non-magical sections of society. There were some conflicting scenes on this, so I was never sure if everyone knew or if the magical side was supposed to be hidden. The presentation of the fae breaks from most traditional presentations I’ve seen, though still a little on the vague side in detail. This could be a very good thing or not depending on the type of reader.

The ending was a little abrupt and it felt like some of the side/supporting pieces to the story didn’t get completely fleshed out or resolved. I prefer to have more of those types of things cleanly tied up.

Overall, this fell onto the okay side of good for me.

*I received a copy of this book from the author. Opinions stated are honest and my own.

 

 

On My TBR – November 2019 Edition

I didn’t get to all my books on my list last month. I made the mistake of loading up too much on the really heavy reads and needed more of a break in between. I read more than what was on the list, though I didn’t review them all. That was part of the break I needed. I’m trying to leave a bit more padding for that this month.


NetGalley ARCs:
The Other Daughter
The Other Daughter

The Other Daughter
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Release Date: November 5
(Currently Reading)

 

 


Library:
Lost You
Lost You

Lost You
Genre: Mystery/Psychological Thriller

 

 

 

The Shape of Night
The Shape of Night

The Shape of Night
Genre: Mystery/Suspense

 

 

 

Don't You Forget About Me
Don’t You Forget About Me

Don’t You Forget About Me
Genre: Contemporary/Romance

 

 

 

 


Indie Book Reviews:
Another Dead Intern
Another Dead Intern

Another Dead Intern
Genre: Paranormal/Fantasy

 

 

 

Crossing the Line
Crossing the Line

Crossing the Line
Genre: Romance
Release Date: November 4th

 

 

 

 


KU/Open Reads (No Due Date)
Blood Echo
Blood Echo

Blood Echo (Burning Girl Book #2)
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/SciFi

 

 

Amazon Ad: Round 2

My last Amazon ad ran for about a month. It was supposed to be more of a test and to learn about the process, but it seemed to be relatively successful, though so much of it wasn’t a direct 1 to 1 kind of a result. I’ve decided to take what I learned from that experience and try again.

One of the things that I noticed after the last ad finished was a drastic tapering off of sales and KU reads. Even though the sales I saw weren’t tied specifically to the ad, they were still because of the ad in a roundabout way. The improved rankings allowed me to get placements in the “also viewed/bought” sections of Amazon which got me a few reads and sales outside of the ad. Once my rankings started to sink, so did those placements, sales and reads. It was interesting to see that correlation.

The last ad run showed me which genre I needed to target. It also showed me what bid price I needed to hit to make the ad profitable. This time around, I’m going to see what kind of traction I can get if I maintain that bid price point. My goal for this round is to see if I can keep my book at a relevant rank level without veering sharply into the red on cost.

At this point, the last ad round doesn’t appear to have generated any reviews, but just because the book sold, doesn’t mean it’s been read, though. The KU reads I’ve gotten haven’t translated to any reviews yet, so I’m still hoping on that end of things.

I’m also hoping the addition of the couple of 4 star reviews I’ve gotten lately (thanks to BookSirens) will make a bit of a difference to readers willing to take a chance.

Book Sirens Listing Update

Just wanted to post a quick progress update on my listing with BookSirens. My book has been live with them for about 10 days now. I have gotten 2 readers download the book and both of them have posted reviews on both Goodreads and Amazon. For as small a range as my genre seems to have, this is a really impressive return so far. Even if I don’t get another reviewer, I’d have to say that this has been a worthwhile resource for such a small cost. Definitely something worth looking into if you are an indie author or even through a publisher and are looking to get additional reviews of your book.

For more information on how BookSirens works, check out my previous post here.

An Unexpected Turn On BookSirens

An Unexpected Turn is now available for free to reviewers on BookSirens.

If you aren’t aware of BookSirens, it is a site similar to NetGalley, but not nearly as large. It also focuses on both the reviewers and the books. From what I’ve been able to see so far (and I’m REALLY new at it), most of the books offered are indie or small press.

For book bloggers/reviewers, once you establish an account, you can get review copies to read for free. It also allows you to see a stats breakdown for what you’ve read and where you fall in your reading habits if you tie into your Goodreads account. These stats and the info you put into your profile also helps authors/publishers find you to invite you to read books you might like. You can see mine here for an example.

For authors or publishers, you can list your book for a small fee and it becomes available to potential reviewers to download. This is a paid service in that you pay that initial listing fee and then another small fee per download, but the reviewers themselves are not paid. You also have complete control over the total amount of downloads when you set your book up (and can change once it is there) allowing you to control the total amount you are willing to spend. Your book is then available for a 3 month period (at least at the time of this posting) for those potential reviewers. Oh, BTW… you don’t pay for the downloads per reader when you have a reader you’ve invited to review your book download it through the link BookSirens provides the author.

Since my book has JUST gone live, I don’t have any feedback either way on how successful this is as a promotional investment, but I will be writing a follow up when this is all said and done. In comparison to other options I’ve looked at, this seems to be very reasonably priced for this type of service, so I’m hopeful.

 

Another Nudge: An Unexpected Turn On Kindle Unlimited

Just posting a little reminder, or an “In Case You Didn’t Know”… my book, An Unexpected turn, is available for free to Kindle Unlimited users. A paperback version is also available for those that need a physical book in their hands.

I’m also going to offer up the ebook version to any book bloggers that might be interested in a review copy. Just send me a message and I’ll get it to you.

For those of you that have already taken the time to read this and rate or review it, THANK YOU! It warms this neurotic little introvert’s heart that you took the time to share your thoughts. Every single star and word makes a difference to a book’s success. This is exponentially more important for indie authors.

If you haven’t seen it, the blurb is below.


Blurb:

“When I take a good look at my reflection, I’m surprised that the face looking back at me in the mirror doesn’t look different than the one I’ve seen staring back at me for the last 27 years. I see the same brown hair and brown eyes, the same heart-shaped face, the same upturned nose. I feel like I should look different. That my face should show the upheaval and the weight of the last day, that it should somehow show how much has happened, how the course of my life has changed, but everything is still the same.”

Life is rarely ever predictable. It is rarely even kind. But… sometimes… just sometimes, those unexpected turns that throw you into the chaos and upheaval of loss lead you to the exact place you need to be.

This is a story about love, but it isn’t a romance. It is about holding on when it would be easier to let go, about fighting for those that can’t fight for themselves. It is about finding and creating family through the unpredictable, beautiful mess that is life.

Book Review: The End of Echoes, Dawn Hosmer

Author: Dawn Hosmer
Book Name: The End of Echoes
Release Date: August 16, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Suspense/Family Drama
Overall SPA: 3.5
3.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Two families, forever linked by tragedy.

Ruby Dunkin is in an abusive marriage. Her best efforts aren’t enough to shield her two children from an abusive father whose cruelty knows no bounds. Their volatile situation ends in tragedy when Ruby’s eldest son, Billy is torn away from everything he loves. Consumed by hatred and self-loathing Billy becomes the thing he hates the most—his father.

Chelsea Wyatt, a senior in high school, goes missing after work one night, never to return. Her parents are devastated, only knowing this kind of tragedy from the news. Crimes like this are unheard of in their quiet, midwestern town. Consumed by the tragic fate of their friend, family member and neighbor, their lives and futures are forever altered.

For over eighteen years, no one knows the connection between Ruby Dunkin and Chelsea Wyatt. A journey through time reveals the common thread stitching their heartbreak together. Yesterday echoes throughout each character’s life as they decide how, and if, they will break the chains of the past.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Believability: 3.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 3.5/5 Stars

I am so torn on rating this one! It was really well written and it is absolutely going to grab your emotions and drag them along for the ride. While this packs an emotional wallop, it does so heavily and not always in a way I enjoyed.

This is the kind of story that gives you a glimpse into this small, ugly slice of life in the form of a massively traumatic event and how that kind of trauma can spider out, changing all the people it touches. Everyone deals with and reacts to traumatic events in different ways, but it felt like all of the characters in the book reacted in some of the most negative ways possible. I struggled with the fact that not a single character was presented as dealing with this trauma in more positive and healthy ways. It is an unrealistic expectation to believe they all would have handled it well, but it is also unrealistic to believe they all went in the extreme other direction but that is how they felt to me.

That lack makes this an unrelentingly heavy read. There really isn’t much of anything with any kind of uplifting feel to it. Yes, it brought me to tears a time or two, but it did so because of how tragic the whole thing is. I struggled with character connections because of it. The one character I expected to have the utmost sympathy for, the mother, I had the absolute least. It bothered me how much I disliked her. I honestly almost felt more towards the bad guy and I really didn’t like that either.

I wasn’t a fan of how dark and heavy this was, because I really prefer to have a brighter edge to what I read, something that doesn’t make me feel like there isn’t much hope for any kind of good in humanity. If you don’t have that kind of a preference and just want an intense read, then I would absolutely recommend picking this up as it is a really engaging story.

 

Sharing Debbie’s Review: An Unexpected Turn — Just Busy Reading

An Unexpected Turn by T. J. Fox Published by TJ Fox on March 26, 2019 Genres: Contemporary, General Fiction, Women’s Fiction Pages: 194 Format: eBook Source: Kindle Unlimited “When I take a good look at my reflection, I’m surprised that the face looking back at me in the mirror doesn’t look different than the one…

via Review: An Unexpected Turn — Just Busy Reading

Had A Moment

Hubby and I were talking about the current sales numbers and results of my Amazon ad. I’m being all excited about those number and how it was impacting my rankings and all of those things. He says something, and I can’t honestly remember what exactly. Something about how he hopes that might translate into reviews I think. Anyway, that was the moment the numbers fell away and I realized those numbers also meant people READING my book. Like actual eyes on the words I wrote. And that they paid money to read those words.

It was kind of like walking into a swarm of bees. I felt like my heart stuttered for a moment and I couldn’t decide if I I was going to laugh or cry or vomit.

It’s really weird. I know, logically, that people that purchase my book are reading it. I’ve had some of you guys not only read it but tell me you did and what you thought, but… I kind of know you so I guess it was different? Maybe? Same thing with people that have or are reading it for review somehow seem to fall into a very different group because I’ve said “Hey, would you mind doing this? Oh, and here’s a copy! THANKS!”

The whole realization just hit me funny and I have spent the last couple of hours with my head a bit of a mess. I’m excited and freaked out and slightly panicky all at the same time.

So, I’m having a bit of a moment and working towards breathing. I’m mostly past it, but every once in a while when I really stop and think about it, my stomach flips over again and my heart feels like it is going to fall out of my chest. I’ll do my best to keep the gore off the screen.

 

Book Review: Beautiful Sky Beautiful Sky – Stephen Parolini

Author: Stephen Parolini
Book Name: Beautiful Sky Beautiful Sky
Release Date: September 3, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Family Life/Coming of Age/Historical
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: High school senior David Tinker is a failed former second-string linebacker, a wannabe rock star, a pothead, a writer, and a bit of a jerk. It’s his final semester at North High and he’s beyond ready to be done with school. Wendy, his once-compliant girlfriend, expects too much of him. His ever-shrinking circle of friends is testing his patience. And his insult-slinging father is increasingly impossible to endure. And then there’s the choir director, Mr. Halston, who wields the power of graduation and isn’t above a little blackmail. When David’s world suddenly spins out of control, he finds himself searching for the one thing he didn’t know he was missing: hope.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 3.5/5 Stars
Believability: 4.5/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

This is the kind of story that is heavily layered, the kind that takes a little time for those layers to start building and before they become visible.

There were pieces here and there early on that I found running along some really offensive lines, but I had to stop and take in the fact that this is very much an honestly representative piece for the time it was set in. As someone that grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, sometimes it isn’t pleasant to confront the ideas and attitudes and prejudices of that time and how easily they slipped off the tongue or into the mind back then. There are many times where you come face to face with those less than stellar aspects of that era in this book. It is an incredible look from that aspect of things to see how far we have come as a society and how far we have yet to go. As a child of that time, it makes me look at myself and how I’ve managed to grow since then.

Because this is set in 1980, you also get this amazing flood of music and cultural references to balance out some of the ugly. It is kind of this trip down memory lane for the senses of your mind in that respect. I’m not often tempted to listen to music while reading, but I almost wish this had a playlist at the beginning just so I could do that along the way. All of the songs referenced do this amazing job of setting the tone for many different scenes in the book and plays a huge part to the overall story. Because music tends to be so tied into emotions, it was a bit of a minefield for me, but I loved it.

One scene in particular sort of reached inside and ripped me apart because it could have been written based on my own personal history. Having already been primed with the setting and all the musical and cultural references, it was like hearing the words for myself all over again. This was an incredibly hard bit to read, but it was so much a product of this time period and attitudes, especially towards girls and women. So, yes, I absolutely connected with a certain character in particular.

If I had to pick an overall tone for this story, I’d say it is very heavy. The overall subject matter throughout is on the harsh, ugly side of things, but it has that tiny thread running through it to give it a little light. It is layered and complex. I can easily see this being the kind of book that people spend lots of time talking about and picking apart to analyze on a deeper level. I don’t often enjoy books like that, but this one is definitely going to be one that sticks with me for a long while.

I will note that there are some potentially sensitive subjects dealt with and discussed in this book, many only a mention, but they are still there. Things like racial stereotypes, homophobia, depression, suicide, drug use and sexual assault.

 

 

Amazing Review of An Unexpected Turn: Writing Community Newsletter

I wanted to take a moment to do a little squeal and brag, because this came in my email today. The Writing Community Newsletter is a group committed to helping the writing community and indie authors. Both through providing wonderful articles as well as resources, author interviews, promotion and book reviews. They do this through Twitter posts and through their monthly newsletter. This month, my book, An Unexpected Turn, got reviewed and mentioned in the newsletter. And it got a full 5 stars from them. I am so thrilled and excited and all squishy over what they had to say.

A casual date with Teri’s new beau takes the most unfathomable, UNEXPECTED TURN, when events beyond Teri’s wildest imagination catch her off guard.

TJ Fox packs an emotional tsunami within the pages of this novel. The power of friendship, trust, and healing is tested by every single character when asked to take on the unimaginable.

Life hands us gifts, some come ‘wrapped in grief and pain, in tears and thorns, but it’s a gift that can’t be refused’. When it seems like all choices have been taken away, there is still the option to accept the hidden gifts. The ones meant to be cherished from the beginning.

Sometimes those friendships turn into, “Our rock, our safe spot in the storm, our home. You never let go.”

An Unexpected Turn is a novel of unquestionable depth and layers that will leave you with ‘absolute sunshine’. The kind that follows the darkest of times.

If you are an indie author, you really need to follow this group on Twitter and subscribe to their newsletter. I’d even say that any readers that are looking for new reads and authors, this is a great place to look because they not only post reviews of books every month, but they have a list of books that are new releases within the indie community.

Book Review: Jenny of Lebanon – Gabrielle Olexa

Author: Gabrielle Olexa
Book Name: Jenny of Lebanon
Release Date: July 4, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Literary Fiction/Short Story/IndieAuthor
Overall SPA: 2.5 Stars
2.5 Stars

 

 

Blurb: All’s quiet at 318 White Ash Lane—which is good. Billy could use some quiet. He’s got enough trouble paying off his bills, keeping his cat fed and healing the ribs he bruised in a wreck with a Honda.

But maybe this is just a bump in the road. Maybe all he needs is a few weeks to heal up before he gets his life back on track. Fate, though, has another plan for Billy. That plan’s name is Jenny, and she hits a lot harder than a Honda.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 2.5/5 Stars
Believability: 3/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 2.5/5 Stars

I normally don’t read short stories because I always feel like there is just not enough page space to get a really good feel for characters and what is going on enough for me to enjoy them. This one wasn’t an exception. It is essentially a story that gives the reader a very brief glimpse, not much more than a long moment, into a rather tragically dysfunctional and toxic relationship. Because this is a short story and you do only get that glimpse, you don’t get any sense of anything outside of that and the hints of the history behind it. There is no real substance or satisfying ending.

I honestly didn’t know what to think when reviewing the blurb for this and didn’t know what to expect, in part because it seems to fall between genres. Though it really wasn’t to my tastes and felt more depressing than I want to read, it is well written, if a little flowery at times, and heavy on setting details.

*I received a copy of this book from the author. Opinions stated are honest and my own.

 

Yes! Finally!

It is official! My book, An Unexpected Turn, is now available through Kindle Unlimited! It took a few too many days to get to the point where I could list it, but I got there. Apparently listing is pretty much instant once you click enroll, so it is already out there and available for anyone that has been waiting!

Making Changes

I am in the process of delisting my book from all ebook platforms with the exception of Kindle so that I can move over to KDP select and be on Kindle Unlimited. I absolutely hated to do this because it takes away my ability to be in libraries, but I wasn’t getting even that, so I’m going to have to go where I might get more traction.

I’ve never really wanted this project to be about sales, but sales have to play a part to some extent. I’ve always been more concerned about getting it read, getting it in front of the kinds of people that would get something out of it and trying to find a comfortable balance between those things. I honestly thought that being available on more platforms would be the better option for me, but it doesn’t seem to be, so I’m making changes.

There is no guarantee that those changes will make a bit of difference, especially since Amazon has now dropped me out of even showing up in results if you search for just my title (at least for a couple of pages anyway), which absolutely blows my mind. There are some seriously random and totally unrelated things that show up above me in the results and only because they have “unexpected” buried somewhere in connection to that item. Yay for algorithms telling us what we should be looking at instead of what we are actually looking for.

I am not giving up. I am trying to not be disheartened by this whole process. I just commented on a previous post and it applies to how I feel about it all at the moment.

“As a massive introvert, this is like facing a mountain with a roll of dental floss and a toothpick to help me climb and I’m standing at the bottom wearing a dress and heals.”

I’m just going to keep sending out my requests and copies of my book and hope that people follow through (thank you to the moon and back to those that have). I’m going to make whatever changes I think need to be changed when the way I’m doing things is no longer working. I am not giving up, just changing course a little bit, even if I feel like throwing in the towel.

Book Review: Loving Henry, Kate Lawson

Author: Kate Lawson
Book Name: Loving Henry
Release Date: June 24, 2019
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Women’s Fiction/Family Life/LGBTQIA
Overall SPA: 4 Stars
4 Stars

 

 

Blurb: Henry’s mother gave him up for adoption and although he’s been the most loved boy in the world, he always wondered why his birth mother gave him away.

Elizabeth wanted a son, a little man to dote upon, but she always worried he would leave her one day, like the man she had intended to be his father.

Rachel had to give her son up for adoption, just like her mother gave her up when she was born, but she always wondered, what if…?

A chance encounter changes their lives forever and brings to light emotions all three have been trying to suppress. Can they all move on now their lives are entangled, especially when they’re all holding on to the secrets in their past?

Loving Henry is a novel about the search for identity and purpose, and an examination of the true meaning of family.

Main SPA Evaluation Areas:

Characters: 4/5 Stars
Believability: 4/5 Stars
Personal Opinion: 4/5 Stars

I always have a soft, squishy spot for stories about family, especially ones where the families are built on more than just blood and genetics, so this was a really good fit for me. The characters came across as fallible and human, without dipping into stereotypes, making them relatable. This gives a good look into some of the issues that can come up with both adults and kids that have been adopted as well as seeing it from the perspective of those adopting and those letting go. It was nice to see all those different perspectives. I wasn’t pulled in quite as hard emotionally as I would have expected given the subject matter as this didn’t take me to extremes and is probably my one ding to the overall rating for me. Otherwise, this was a really good story.

Other areas of note (not included in the SPA rating):

Cover: 4/5 Stars: I had to note that I really liked this cover and the simplicity of it. It just feels really calming and soothing.