Wondering on Wednesday…

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As a beta-reader, I get the privilege of being able to see unpublished MS, often by writers who have not yet published anything at all. I’ve been quite lucky in that most of what I’ve read so far has been good, but there are some that just stick out as FANTASTIC. So here’s the question,

What can I do to help show my support for these amazing stories?

Especially when the writer does not yet have any published works? It’s not like I can go get their other books and leave appropriate reviews or link it all over Twitter. So, other than giving my honest opinion and asking to know what happens with the story, what can I do?

Writers/authors–what would be the most meaningful and supportive thing such a person could do for you?

Other beta-readers, what do you do to show support for those who have shared their work with you

Everybody else, what do you think?

Books I Can’t Believe I’ve Never Read

This is part of the Top Ten Tuesday series started at The Broke and the Bookish.

I haven’t read enough mainstream publications recently to really make “if you like this, read this” type recommendations. Instead I’ve chosen to use a past topic.

Top Ten Books I Can’t Believe I’ve Never Read

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Link to Goodreads
  1. Books 5, 6, and 7 of Harry Potter
  2. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
  3. Pride and Prejudice
  4. The Scarlet Letter
  5. Gone with the Wind
  6. The Chronicles of Narnia
  7. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  8. The Fault in Our Stars
  9. Alice in Wonderland
  10. Moby Dick

Some of these are especially surprising, being that I got through a degree in English literature without reading them!

Review – The Chef’s Mail Order Bride by Cindy Caldwell

I have a problem. It’s called free e-books. It’s true that I’ve recently removed books that I no longer have any interest in or whose synopsis was no longer on Amazon, but I don’t seem to be able to stop myself from clicking the “Buy Now” button when the price is $0.00. I even have the Amazon Best Sellers list on my browser’s bookmarks, and I look at it (the “free” part) probably at least once every day. A lot of time it is the same old stuff in the top 100, but sometimes there’s a nice surprise there, and there are a few series I’m certain I’ll be able to completely snag for free, given enough time.

The Chef’s Mail Order Bride by Cindy Caldwell was one of those nice surprises–a sweet historical romance mixed in among the free “steamy” romances and self-help and cookbooks. I have enjoyed historical romances–especially those set in the harsh American West–since I was a teenager, a lot of them were also faith-based, along the line of Janette Oke and similar authors. I still pick these up from time to time, but it’s more for the story now than the messages about “faith” that I used to relate to so strongly.

Sometimes, a short and sweet story is the best way to spend an afternoon.

All Sadie had ever known, or ever wanted to know, was being a baker. She’d been raised to bake in her parents’ bakery, and after their deaths, she had planned to carry on the family tradition. Devastated to find out she was losing her family’s business, she needed something to do to support herself. When she received a letter from her twin sister’s husband in Arizona Territory, suggesting she come out to be the bride of his best friend who was opening a restaurant, it seemed like the perfect solution to her problems.

Tripp had gone to the best culinary school in the country, and he knew exactly how to create the perfect meal. He spent hours and hours coming up with just the right menu for his restaurant, only to be told he couldn’t get a loan for it unless he married. When his best friend came up with the solution of sending for his baker sister-in-law, it only made sense. Her ideas of the perfect menu were different than his, though. Would the two be able to stay together long enough to convince the bank he was a good risk? Would Sadie be able to convince Tripp that the two of them belonged together after all?
(Goodreads)

I give this book 3 stars (it was ok).

While I enjoyed the story, I felt like there were a lot of opportunities to be more emotionally invested in the story that were really missed. I would have liked to have seen or experienced more of Sadie’s thoughts and feelings in a way that would make me care more about whether Tripp wound up being a good guy or not, or whether their restaurant would survive. In the same vein, I would have liked some kind of conflict to arise that seemed to really stump them, or some setting that made their story memorable. If what you’re looking for is a lighthearted, quick read, this definitely fits the bill.

Positives:

  • It was a quick and happy read.
  • The romance was sweet.
  • It was fun to have the two main characters both working in the realm of food.

Negatives:

  • I wish there had been more emotional connection.
  • I wish there had been some amount of conflict, some struggle to overcome that wasn’t just uncertainty on Sadie’s part or a temporary problem with an easy solution.
  • Sometimes it seemed like the timeline was questionable. As in how much time actually passed between chapters and sometimes even section-breaks.
  • I might have liked some more character development all-around.
  • Some of the dialogue felt unnatural.
  • It would have been nice to have some more setting description and a firmer idea of what time period this book took place in.

Other:

  • I felt like some of the technologies might have been anachronistic, but I didn’t stop to research to see if that was right or not–partially because of not knowing exactly when this book was set.
  • While mostly well punctuated and edited, there were times of confusion caused by pronoun use, as well as a few misspellings of Tripp’s name.
  • I felt like the part of the title “mail order bride” was a bit misleading, because it brings to mind ads for people seeking partners, not a personal set-up through family members–who happen to have corresponded by mail.

This Week’s Five!

Hey guys, it’s time for This Week’s Five! If you haven’t noticed yet, I like lists. I like them organized and helpful. In fact, I make my grocery list in the order that I walk through the store. I make daily “to-do” lists and have filled a planner through the month of December! Whether I actually do the things on my lists, or follow the plans in my planner, may be a different story, but I LOVE being able to mark something off!

Well, here’s five things that I liked from this week:red-895328_1280

  1. The Map of Literature
  2. The First Time (album) from Kelsea Ballerini
  3. This interview with Jenna Nelson
  4. I’ve had two AMAZING MSS to read this week!
  5. Spinach and Cheese Manicotti (first time to ever make it!)

How about you? What’s something you enjoyed this week?

From the Vault – Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

It’s another From the Vault entry! A review of a previously-read book! This one I’d reviewed once already, some I have not.

I listened to an audiobook version of Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell over the summer. I fell in love immediately. An unexpected pleasure was that there were two very good narrators, a female for Eleanor’s sections and a male for Park’s. I admit that I really enjoyed this because sometimes I’m a speedy reader, especially if I’m reading solely for enjoyment, and I am no stranger to missed visual cues, so they saved me that trouble.

Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.
Eleanor… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough…Eleanor.Park… He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises…Park.Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

(Goodreads)

The story is set in 1986, and Eleanor is the new girl at school. Park lets her sit with him on the bus that first day, and over time they develop a relationship that is unlike anything either of them have ever known. It starts by them sharing the bus seat. Then Park realizes Eleanor is reading his comics. Then they start to share music, and things continue to build from there. Eleanor is scared to let Park know just how bad things are at home, but she comes to rely on him, on the memory of him, to get her through the nights filled with the cries of her mother and days filled with bullying at school.
What I loved:
  • Both Eleanor and Park had a unique voice, their own lens with which they viewed the world. This made for interesting moments when the view switched back and forth quickly, to see what they were thinking or how they were feeling, and what was different between the two. This also made it very distinct who was thinking what. I also just absolutely loved them both!
  • Their wit!
  • The story felt so genuine, I was sucked in immediately and it was hard to come back from.
  • The supporting characters felt just as real as Eleanor and Park did.
  • Eleanor’s reference to Dicey Tillerman (Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt).
  • THE FEELS! This was quite an emotional book for me to listen to.
What I didn’t like:
  • I can’t think of anything that I didn’t really like. There were elements of the story that I wish weren’t a part of this world in general, but they are, and they were presented really well.
Other:
  • While the language didn’t bother me, a family member is a middle school librarian, so I keep that in mind when reading YA. Probably not acceptable for a middle-school library, in case you were wondering.
  • I think that someone who was a teenager in this time would probably like the references to the music, but I have to admit that I’m a failure in terms of pop-culture, so I had to take them at the value presented in the book.
Should you read this? Yes, but you need a certain amount of “emotional bandwidth” (as S. would say) available.
I give this book 5 stars! Additionally, it’s a book I’d recommend reading for a study in how an author can give each character a unique voice.
 **This review originally appeared on my first blog, here.

Wondering on Wednesday

So, Julia, what about those Tuesday reviews? Haven’t seen any in a couple of weeks…

What about ’em?

No, really, here’s the deal. My anxiety has woven its tricky little tendrils into every part of my brain, and I currently have an attention span about the size typically attributed to a goldfish. I can read half of a chapter, a whole one if I’m lucky, before I have to get up, get a drink, go to the bathroom, check my e-mail, answer my son’s questions about whatever his four-year-old mind is thinking of, contemplate the meaning of life, and wonder what’s for dinner before I can begin another one–but not before considering a blog post or two.

Some of this sounds like I just don’t know how to sit still, sure. But really, I do. I have no problem reading a whole book in one day, one afternoon even. But when I start to get this feeling of needing to do “all the things” at all moments, there’s a particular energy that goes with it that I can only describe as being anxious, and it’s hell, because it keeps me from doing any of the things.

Really, in the past couple of years, I’ve come a long way in dealing with my anxiety and the effect it has on me. But sometimes, even with all my progress, it finds a way to slip in and disturb my focus in astonishing amounts, and this tweet pretty much sums it up.

But no worries! I can feel myself coming back around, moving slowly but surely through the things I need to, so I can get on to the things I want to.

Top Ten Books On My Fall TBR

As I’m becoming more interactive with the lovely book blogging community and reading these fun posts, I decided maybe I could try a few “Top Ten Tuesday” lists created by The Broke and the Bookish. I’m a bit off of the beaten path, I think, as most of mine are Indies, and hardly any are recent/new releases!

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The Top Ten Books On My Fall TBR

A Dark So Deep by J. Leigh Bralick
A Dark So Deep – Link to Goodreads
  1. A Dark So Deep by J. Leigh Bralick – Actually starting this one (the MS) today!
  2. Impervious by Heather Letto
  3. Magic-Price by C.L. Schneider
  4. The Seventh Magic by Brian Rathbone
  5. Broken Places by Rachel Thompson
  6. Oubliette by Megg Jensen
  7. The Demon’s Lexicon By Sarah Rees Brennan
  8. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
  9. The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler
  10. Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas

Edit: I must add one more, The Snow Globe by Jenna Nelson.

How about you, what books are on your Fall To-Be-Read list?

A New Feature! This Week’s Five!

I don’t want you to think I’m a lifeless reviewing and editing machine. I’m a person, too, although I have a hard time coming up with something unique or interesting to share. As I was cleaning out the inbox for this lovely business I’ve started, I realized I’ve sent myself several things I absolutely love, but when am I going to share them? The idea struck! No, it’s not that original, but it is something I can make my own. Each week, I’m going to share 5 things that I liked. I like this. I like that it isn’t 5 things I didn’t like, or 5 things I wish I could’ve done better, that I could’ve changed. It is a positive 5 things that I LIKED! So, I hope you enjoy it too! Sure, a lot of it might wind up being English/literature/writing/reading related, but some of it might not be, and sometimes I think those can be fun surprises.
Here’s this week’s 5, mostly coming from my freshly cleaned out inbox (yes, I love to email things to myself):

Flower

  1. Katie McCoach’s How To Be An Editor’s Favorite Client
  2. Electric Literature’s INFOGRAPHIC: The 69 Rules of Punctuation
  3. Dahlia’s Guide to Bookish Twitter
  4. I received the MS to a book I’ve been waiting for, should be out in October! (Hopefully!) So excited to read this one!
  5. The Snowglobe released this week! When I came across Jenna on Twitter, and checked out her page (because yes, someone–me–actually checks out bios on there), I was immediately excited for this book. Unfortunately I can’t start it right away, but I’ve already got my copy!

Resources! Nat Russo’s blog – A Writer’s Journey

A Writer’s Journey at Erindor Press, blog of Nat Russo

Many writers and authors maintain blogs that tell about their journey and things they’ve learned along the way. Nat Russo is kind enough to share what he’s learned on the craft of writing, under the apt-named tag “writing” on A Writer’s Journey. Also check out the “basics” tag, it’s got some good stuff, too. He’s the author of Necromancer Awakening, as well as the upcoming Necromancer Falling.

While these articles do not necessarily hold any information I haven’t come across before, they make for good reminders. Sometimes, seeing something mentioned in a slightly different way, or used with an example, is needed for it to “click” in the mind.

Here are some of my favorite posts:

  • The Problem with Adverbs – While I may not be the biggest fan of Nat’s longer, more showy (rather than telling) passage, I think this post has some good information. There’s also a point in the comments–sometimes adjectives have the same weakening effect that adverbs do. No, adverbs and adjectives shouldn’t be cut mercilessly from a work, but perhaps they should be eyed with suspicion.
  • Point of View – The Basics – One of the most useful parts of this post, for me, is the part that highlights what a break in third-person limited looks like. Overall, though, it’s a good overview of different points of view.
  • From “basics” tag, As You Know, Bob… – Part of what I like in this post is the humor, I happen to love the #HorribleWriteTip tweets. Really though, this is a good post on how differently info-dumping and info-sprinkling can work for the author and reader alike.

Who do you follow for writing tips?

From the Vault – Damsel Distressed by Kelsey Macke

I’m going to kick off this “From the Vault” series with a book I read back in January, just after seeing the author at YAK Fest.

Hot girls get the fairy tales. No one cares about the stepsisters’ story. Those girls don’t get a sweet little ending; they get a lifetime of longing.

Imogen Keegen has never had a happily ever after–in fact, she doesn’t think they are possible. Ever since her mother’s death seven years ago, Imogen has pulled herself in and out of therapy, struggled with an “emotionally disturbed” special ed. label, and loathed her perma-plus-sized status.

When Imogen’s new stepsister, the evil and gorgeous Ella Cinder, moves in down the hall, Imogen begins losing grip on the pieces she’s been trying to hold together. The only things that gave her solace–the theatre, cheese fries, and her best friend, Grant–aren’t enough to save her from her pain this time.

While Imogen is enjoying her moment in the spotlight after the high school musical, the journal pages containing her darkest thoughts get put on display. Now, Imogen must resign herself to be crushed under the ever-increasing weight of her pain, or finally accept the starring role in her own life story.

And maybe even find herself a happily ever after.(Goodreads)

I’ve always been a reader, and I’ve always really enjoy books in general. I know this isn’t true for some people, and for some there is a book that really started them reading. For them this book often holds a certain emotional value that I don’t really associate with any book; however, when I read Damsel Distressed, that changed. While I was already a reader, this book had an amazing impact on me, and I don’t think a day goes by when I don’t think of it in some way.

When I read Damsel Distressed, I did so from a recently-arrived-at place where I knew that I had been, and still was, battling anxiety and depression. Imogen’s story resonated so strongly with me, and Macke’s descriptions through Imogen’s voice continue to give imagery to my emotional experiences.

So here’s my rating: 5 stars! – Review originally posted here.

First of all, the cover and title page are ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!

Imogen’s voice is immediately distinct. Influenced by her love for musicals, it is silly, snarky, and at times brutally honest. While Imogen is overweight, and that does play a part in the story, it is not the main concern, as Imogen is clinically depressed and fighting to find some kind of light. Just when she thought things were getting better, Carmella, “Ella,” her step-sister, moves in.

Positive:

  • Imogen’s unique voice/view of the world. You can definitely see the influence of the theater.
  • Macke uses just enough dialect (fish-kick, for example) for the book.
  • All of the character’s were their own unique identity and had their own presence in the book.
  • Just enough comic relief.
  • Important issues treated with respect and care.
  • Super emotionally moving!
  • The perfect capturing of depression is what really turned the knob on my waterworks. For me it is Imogen’s idea of the pendulum swing that rings so true. The exhausting swinging back and forth, thinking you have come out just to plunge back in. Maybe it’s not a new idea, but it’s the first time that I have been exposed to it, and it is so perfect that it hurts to realize how accurate the swing of the pendulum of emotions is.
  • Part of my connection to Imogen is that I lost my mom at a similar age, so, bonus waterworks.
  • In my experience as an English major, one of the things I found repeated was the idea that “serious” literature was re-readable for the underlying themes, images, ideas, etc., that once the story is read there is still something to merit by reading it again. In my Young Adult Literature class, some of these things that we looked at and were often found in our texts were: non-traditional/broken homes, peer family, and identity (personal, social, cultural, etc.), among other things. Damsel Distressed addresses all of these things with such realistic voice and emotion that it grabs onto your heartstrings and doesn’t let go.
  • This book continues to come up in my daily thoughts and has become an intense favorite.

Negative:

  • I honestly have nothing negative to say about this book.

Other:

  • I want to know the story of all the other characters.
  • Not a sunshine-happy read. (It is hopeful, though.)