Quarantine TBR

Hello, hello! Welcome to May. How is everyone doing? They’re currently trying to reopen Texas in phases even though we’re beating records for most new cases of Covid-19 just about every day. Because that seems like the smart thing to do? I guess? Whatever. Everyone else can do what they want. I’ll be keeping myself at home until things actually settle down and/or there’s a vaccine or treatment protocols that work. So, that means I need to find ways to entertain myself for a while longer. That means books. Lots of books. And since I have nothing else to ramble about today, I thought I would share my to-be-read list thus far (I add books every day).

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It’s not wrong.

Instead of just listing some books, it’ll be easier if I group them together by genre or whether I’ve already read them. So, here are some of the books on my TBR list.

1. Books I’ve read, but want to read again. This year, I’ve been making my way through the Chronicles of Narnia. I have three left (The Horse and His Boy, The Magician’s Nephew, and The Last Battle). I also plan on rereading The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King, Ransom by Lois Duncan, and Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman at some point before the end of the year. Depending on how my other reads go, I might also try to start Harry Potter again, but I might save that for next year’s reading list.

2. Mysteries (cozies or otherwise). I don’t know how this list ended up being so long, but it is and it’s still growing. I want to read The Missing Ones by Edwin Hill, Bound for Murder by Victoria Gilbert, A Crafter Hooks a Killer by Holly Quinn, and Death in a Budapest Butterfly by Julia Buckley. Also, Killer Kung Pao by Vivien Chien is due out in August, which I’m looking forward to. And if you look at my GoodReads page, you’ll see a bunch more like these that I probably won’t get to this year.

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3. Fantasy. I’m currently reading Dragon Brothers by L.B. Lillibridge for this month’s book review. I was originally going to read The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna, but its publication date got pushed back until February, so while I’m still going to read it this month, the review will wait until closer to February. I also have Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi, The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones, and Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw on my list for this year. The next two books in Danielle Rose’s Darkhaven saga are also due out before the end of the year, so those go on the list too.

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I doubt I’ll be able to make it through all of these books by the end of the year, but since there probably won’t be much progress with Covid-19 in the foreseeable future, maybe I’ll be able to finish them and more before I stop hermitting. Quarantining. I meant quarantining. What are some of the books on your TBR list? As always, feel free to share your thoughts or lists or suggestions or whatever here or on my social media pages!

Thoughts On DARK SECRET

Hello, hello! I know it’s not the last Wednesday of February yet, but I got two ARCs from NetGalley this month, so here’s an extra review. This week, I’m looking at Dark Secret by Danielle Rose. It’s the first book in her Darkhaven Saga. Waterhouse Press released the book on the 18th. If you’re familiar with Danielle’s Blood Books trilogy, the characters might seem familiar, but the story is completely new. First and foremost, I must thank NetGalley and Waterhouse Press for giving me access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. So, let’s get to it! Also, fair warning: there are spoiler adjacent tidbits from here on out. If you’re familiar with the genre, you can guess at what some newbies might consider spoilers.

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Love the cover and I hear the paperback is even prettier.

Dark Secret follows Ava Lopez as she navigates being a witch and a hunter and harnessing her own powers. Despite being told not to go on her usual rounds, searching the small town she lives in for vampires to destroy, she does it anyway. Typical teenager behavior, right? And of course things go wrong, then they snowball from there. At one point, Ava has to make a choice between death and something that will get her kicked out of her coven and thrown in with the things she despises most. How will she cope? What will she learn? Will she be able to hold on to who she is? These are just some of the questions this book starts to tackle.

Sounds fun, right? It is. The plot isn’t exactly new, but it doesn’t feel overdone. Witches versus vampires, then a witch becomes a vampire and learns that there’s a difference between a real vampire and the rogues she was taught to hate. That’s cool. But I really liked hearing about the different covens more than the vampire thing. Her best friend’s coven is all about peace and coexisting with vampires. I hope to learn more about them and to see if they really feel that way or if it’s all talk. I’m also interested to see if Ava’s coven can accept her in her new form. Unfortunately, I have to wait for future books to see if my questions get answers.

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Or read another book.

The characters here are all pretty likeable. Yes, Ava is at that age where she knows she’s right until something proves her wrong. Sometimes, you just want to smack some sense into her. But she slowly learns and is evolving. It’s a short book, so she can only change so much, but she’s heading in the right direction. Jasik and the other vampires are interesting. They’re a little stereotypical at the moment, but some seeds have been planted for them to grow into their own in future books.

Speaking of future books, I wondered why this book was so short. Apparently, the first few books in this series are going to be released pretty close together, so they’re on the shorter end of the novel spectrum. Instead of having to wait a year or more for book two, we only have to wait about a month. And book three is due out about a month after that. It’s an interesting release schedule and I’m looking forward to seeing how it works out.

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Yes, it is.

As far as the writing goes, it’s a fast-paced and fun read. Yes, there’s some repetition that gets a little distracting. We’re told multiple times that Ava is a spirit witch and what that means. But I figured out just to skim those paragraphs and move on pretty quickly.

Full disclosure: If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know Danielle and I actually got our MFAs together. I’ve watched her writing grow and tighten and improve over the last five years. I’m really proud of her and what she’s accomplished.

Ultimately, I had fun with Dark Secret. I’m looking forward to the next few books in the series. Luckily, I don’t have long to wait!

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Overall, I gave the book four out of five stars. I definitely recommend it to anyone who is into YA fantasy and supernatural stuff. If you’re familiar with Danielle’s work, this is not a steamy romance, so don’t be disappointed if that’s what you were hoping for.

Thoughts on the PIECES OF ME Duet

Howdy, howdy!  It’s the last Wednesday of April!  Can you believe it?  Time sure flies, I guess.  Anyway, it’s time for another book review!  Actually, this month is a little different because I’m reviewing two books at once.  My friend, Danielle Rose, has a duet coming out on May 14th, so I decided to see if I could get some Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) of the books.  Thanks to NetGalley and Waterhouse Press, I did just that.  The duet is called Pieces of Me and it’s comprised of Lies We Keep and Truth We Bear.  They are contemporary romances, so they’re not my usual reads, but I knew that going in.  I thought you should know as well.  Anyway, as usual, I have to thank NetGalley and Waterhouse for allowing me access to the ARCs in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  Let’s get on with it!

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The covers are pretty!

The Pieces of Me duet is centered around famous author, Jezebel Tate, and her bodyguard, James Blakely, as their relationship blooms from “just sex” into full blown love.  Lies We Keep is told from Jezebel’s perspective and follows her as she hires Blakely to protect her from her stalker.  Along the way, she has to confront her past and accept that she isn’t to blame for her parents’ deaths.  Truth We Bear is told in Blakely’s perspective and follows him as he and his past chase each other into a head-on collision.  He has to learn the same lesson as Jezebel, but under completely different circumstances.

Let’s talk plots.  The whole of the stories are vastly different, but both books are pretty similar if you boil them down to their bones.  Both Jezebel and Blakely have to deal with stalkers while they sort out issues revolving around the deaths of their folks.  Plus, they have to find time to cram in lots of steamy sex (a requirement of the romance genre, so don’t pretend you didn’t know it was coming).  Granted, Jezebel’s journey to resolving her issues is more internal and psychological while Blakely actually gets to confront people from his past, but still similar.  I enjoyed the parallels.

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The characters were interesting and mostly fleshed out.  Jezebel vacillates between a strong woman who knows what she wants and takes it and an insecure woman who feels that only a big strong man can save her.  It’s annoying at times, but not out of the realm of believability.  Blakely is basically your average stoic dom on the outside with a bunch of weird insecurities inside (I say weird because I didn’t understand why he was worried about her leaving him over what happened when he was a kid).  Tara, the literary agent, was a neat character that I felt could have been used more.  As far as the bad people go, I felt like Jezebel’s stalker could have shown up earlier and played a bigger part.  He seemed a little like an afterthought.  I really liked Blakely’s stalker, though.  Her development was quick, but nicely done.  And lastly, the pastor (Blakely’s actual bad guy) was a bit flat.

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I laughed every time a lip was bit.

The writing is crisp and flows well.  It makes for a quick read.  There are some gestures that became repetitive.  Distractingly so.  Lots of bit lips and bobbing Adam’s apples and clenched jaws, especially in the first book.  But to be fair, this happens in every romance I read, so I guess it’s a genre thing.  But what I really liked was that they’re written to work as both a duet and standalone novels, so even if you only read one, you get the pleasure of a satisfying ending.

Ultimately, both books in the Pieces of Me duet were fun and I’m glad I read them.  It’s good to get outside of my comfort zone once in a while.

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Overall, I gave both books 4 out of 5 stars.   The issues I had with them are minor and seem fairly common in the genre.  If you like romance and lots of random sex, these are definitely worth a look.

Author Spotlight: Danielle Rose

Howdy, howdy!  My friend, fellow Stonecoaster, and partner in writerly mischief, Danielle Rose, recently released the first of her Blood Books trilogy, Blood Rose, through Oftomes PublishingBlood Magic (book two) drops on August 1st as well.  So, I thought I would take a chance to do a little interview with Danielle.

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The cover of book one!

Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself for those who don’t know you?

A: I’m Danielle Rose, author of the Blood Books trilogy, which is being released back to back by OfTomes Publishing in 2017.  I’m also the owner of Narrative Ink Editing LLC, an independent editing company that assists in the preparation of independent authors’ manuscripts.  Sometimes, I teach composition at the university level.

Q: You seem to do so much: you own an editing business, you market your new releases, you’re writing a new book… how do you do it all?  Can you offer any tips and tricks?

A: It’s hard work, but I have a support team, including a personal assistant and PR goddess, as well as a writing group.  It’s important that I have someone there to hold me accountable.  Goal setting is a major aspect of my writing group, and that really helps me (and my horrible memory!) check-off things on my to-do list.

Q: What is your all-time favorite thing to write about?

A: The human condition.  It’s truly fascinates me.  In all of my books, I explore what it means to be human and the choices we make because we’re human.  I like to put my characters in some pretty tight situations and see what they would (realistically) do to get through these tough times.  I think my fascination stems from the digital era we live in.  With the click of a button, we have access to witness awful things, and we are quick to judge.  Sometimes, I wonder what we would truly do had we been in these positions.  I explore these themes in my writing.

Q: What’s the one genre you are dying to write?

A: Psychological thrillers.  I would love to write those!

Q: What is it like to begin your career as an indie author and then become traditionally published?

A: It’s been an interesting journey.  I’ve had to learn to sit back and let someone else take control, which is difficult for me to do.  I’m used to controlling every aspect of my career, from release date to cover design.  Thankfully, my publisher truly cares about my opinions, and he asks for my input on just about everything he does.

Q: Do you prefer self-publishing or traditional publishing?  Why?

A: Comparing self-publishing to traditional publishing is like comparing cats to dogs: there are similarities there, but in truth, they’re two different species.  In self-publishing, the writer experiences the entire weight of the publishing process.  A traditionally published writer has a support team.  Because I have the get-it-done mentality, it’s natural for me to take control, especially if it’s regarding my career.  Because of this, self-publishing works better for me.  However, I absolutely adore my publisher, and I can’t imagine releasing my Blood Books trilogy without them.  With that being said, I can’t say that I like one better than the other.  They’re two completely different experiences, and I wouldn’t be the writer I am today if I hadn’t gone through both methods.

Q: What is the single greatest piece of marketing advice you can offer emerging writers?

A: Offer advance reader copies (ARCs) of your books and require readers to post a review on release day.  This is such an important step to the launch of a book release, because it knocks out many birds with one stone:

1. Readers often flood social media with pictures and posts of their advance copy. (Everyone loves a bragger when it comes to the pre-release of a book!)

2. Readers post a review to platforms, which help to establish your book with new readers in an oversaturated market.

3. Many platforms, like Amazon, will help promote your book for free once you reach a certain number of reviews.

Q: Which writers do you fangirl over?

A: SO many!  I met Meredith Wild (Hacker) recently, and I could barely speak.  (Ha!)  I also love Richelle Mead (Vampire Academy), Chloe Neill (Chicagoland Vampires), and Lauren Blakely (anything, really).  Honestly, I’d fangirl over anyone who wrote a great romance novel.

Q: Join the debate: should emerging writers get a degree in writing before embarking on this journey?

A: Yes.  Because the market is so oversaturated now, I think it’s important to learn how to write before diving in.  You only have one chance to make a first impression.

Q:  And last, but not least, if you could temporarily change into any creature (real, mythical, alive, extinct, etc.), what would you choose and why?

A: First choice: vampire (the immortal kind)!  Second choice: a witch with powers.  I’ve always been attracted to vampires.  They’re immortal, powerful, sometimes magical, and emotional.  I also love witches, but they’re not immortal.  That’s the only reason they’re in second place.

Thank you so much for your time, Danielle!  I know great things await you.

If you haven’t already checked out Danielle’s work, I suggest you do so right now.  Her website is linked above (click on the blue font), along with the publisher’s website.