Author Event – The Book Garden for Small Business Saturday!

This upcoming weekend, on November 25, 2017, I’ve got my very first author event!

The oh so adorable The Book Garden in Frenchtown, NJ will be hosting a special event for Small Business Saturday, featuring local authors!
How perfect that my little fairy tale adventure gets it’s very first bookstore event in a charming Victorian-esque Mom and Pop bookshop.  I couldn’t have written a more appropriate setting.

I’ll be there from 11:30 AM to 3 PM, to chat and sign copies of “The Ice Maiden’s Tale”.  If you’re in the area, please come by!
There will be both children and adult authors to meet with, plus lots of amazing books and super cute gifts. You can start your Christmas shopping and support local authors and small businesses.

The Book GardenDate: Saturday, November 25, 2017
Time: 11:30 AM – 3:00 PM
Location: 28 Bridge Street, Frenchtown, NJ 08825

Stephen King said, “Books are a uniquely portable magic”, so what more magical a place than an indie bookstore?
What better Christmas gift than giving someone a gateway into new worlds and new friends and new adventures?

If you’re in the Frenchtown neighborhood, I’d love to meet and chat with you.  If you’re elsewhere, you can grab a copy of “The Ice Maiden’s Tale” on Amazon in print, ebook and on Kindle Unlimited. If you are so awesome as to buy a copy from any source and leave an Amazon review, this author would be so eternally grateful.

In the meantime, have an awesome Thanksgiving and I promise I’ll be updating soon with lots more fun posts.

WRITER’S SHELF: The Popsugar Reading Challenge 2017 – Books 6 – 10

It has been an exhausting year, but no worries, I’ve been keeping up with my reading for my 2017 Popsugar Reading Challenge.  If you want to follow along, there’s even a handy dandy downloadable list for the book categories.  Head over here to check out my first five book reviews.

If you have some great book suggestions or want to see what’s coming up, head over to my Goodreads page and my 2017 List.

And if you’re working through the challenge and want to fill categories like a “A book that is a story within a story” or “A book that’s published in 2017”, consider picking up my book, “The Ice Maiden’s Tale”.
It’s available on Kindle Unlimited and digital copies are also on sale on right now for $3.03. (Not sure why, but hey palindromes are cool, right?).
Print copies are also available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Book #6
Popsugar Slot: “A book recommended by a Librarian”
The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror
by Joyce Carol Oates
When I went into the library, I noticed a display with suggestions from the Librarians.  Included with the books was “The Doll-Mater and Other Tales of Terror” by Joyce Carol Oates.  As is often the case with short stories, I found the different stories to be uneven.  The Doll-Master was by far the best story in the book and was particularly compelling.  The narrator draws you in and makes you empathize with him, then slowly unravels.  The progression leaves you unsettled and the story stays with you long after you’ve finished it.  I only wish all the other “tales of terror” were at the same level. The Gun Accident felt particularly uninspired. Overall, Oates is a skillful writer and this collection is definitely worth a read, even if not every story is up to par.
“All your life, you yearn to return to what has been.  You yearn to return to those you have lost.  You will do terrible things to return, which no one else can understand.”
A very simple story can be given so much depth by giving the narrator a unique perspective.
You’ll have to ask a Librarian!

Book #7
Popsugar Slot: “A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you”
The Steep and Thorny Way
by Cat Winters
I was so intrigued by this book that was a retelling of Hamlet, but set in 1920s Oregon.  Our protagonist, Hanalee Denney is the daughter of a white woman and an African-American man.  You follow her story as she deals with the KKK, the mysterious death of her father, and her friendship with the boy convicted of killing her father.  I found “The Steep and Thorny Way” to be well-written and particularly relevant as the US currently deals with the rise of the white supremacist movement.  Hanalee’s struggles were touching and the setting was rich and mysterious.  The novel did a beautiful job of addressing the difficulties in being a homosexual during that time period.  Definitely give this book a chance.
“I believe that ‘love’ and ‘wrong’ are two deeply unrelated words that should never be thrown into the same sentence together. Like ‘dessert’ and ‘broccoli.’”
A character’s ethnicity is always part of the story – in one way or another.
For a good book, by a character that is not my ethnicity, try Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros.

Book #8
Popsugar Slot: “A book that’s been on your TBR list for way too long”
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
by Betty Smith
This is one of those books I know I should have read a long time ago and never got around to.  It took me a while to get through, but it’s another one that seems a perfect fit for our current climate in the US.  This story takes us to the turn of the century, where we follow Francie as she grows up with her poor family in Brooklyn.  It was amazing to me that a whole century later, so many working people are still struggling just as much as the characters in this book. With all of our money and technological advancement, there are still people working multiple jobs and struggling to put food on the table.  This book should be required reading for all of our government representatives.
“A lie was something you told because you were mean or a coward.  A story was something you made up out of something that might have happened. Only you didn’t tell it like it was, you told it like you thought it should have been.”
Some stories are less about what happens and more about taking us to a different time and place and learning what it means to live there.
You’ll have to figure this one out for yourself.

Book #9
Popsugar Slot: “A book by an author from a country you’ve never visited”
This Is Where It Ends
by Marieke Nijkamp
The author of “This is Where it Ends” is from The Netherlands, where I have sadly never visited.  This story takes us straight into YA territory, where we experience a school shooting along with teenagers at Opportunity High School in Alabama.  Moving from to student to student, the book gives life to different voices as the events unfold. Not only is there the anxiousness of what will happen to these teens, but the underlying mystery of why this shooter is driven to murder.  The topic of a school shooting could have easily become cliché and maudlin, but it’s handled deftly and with respect.  This was a page turner, and a must read if you enjoy the YA genre.
“Dad always told me there are more stories in the universe than stars in the sky. And in every story, there’s the light of hope.”
When you are utilizing multiple perspectives of the same events, you really need each voice to be unique and each one to give a different insight into what’s happening.
I’ve also never been to the UK, so I’ll recommend “Neverwhere” by Neil Gaiman.

Book #10
Popsugar Slot: “A book that’s becoming a movie in 2017”
Before I Fall
by Lauren Oliver
Okay so “Before I Fall” is like Groundhog’s Day, but without humor, fun and cleverness.  The main character, Samantha, is supposed to start off unlikable and then grow and change from her mean girl persona, as she learns a lesson by living the worst day of her life over and over again. Unfortunately, she never becomes a character I really like, identify with or even care all that much what happens to. There are some lovely sections of prose, but they often feel overdramatic. It all culminated in an ending that to me, didn’t quite fit the story.  It felt like the author wanted to go for something unexpected and forced a conclusion that wasn’t earned.   For me, it just didn’t work.  This story was a good concept that was poorly executed.
“That’s when I realized that certain moments go on forever. Even after they’re over they still go on, even after you’re dead and buried, those moments are lasting still, backward and forward, on into infinity. They are everything and everywhere all at once.”
You can’t force an ending just because you want to be clever or edgy.  It has to fit the story.
It looks like an amazing movie and the source material is wonderful, so go with the classic “Murder on the Orient Express” by Agatha Christie.

Thanks to the library and my long commute, I’m making excellent progress on my list and I’m determined to hit every category this year—including the “Advanced” ones.

What’s currently on your bookshelf?

WRITER’S SHELF: The Popsugar Reading Challenge 2017 – Books 1 – 5

Even though I haven’t had much time to post about it, I’ve been steadily working through my 2017 Popsugar Reading challenge.
If you don’t know, Popsugar has an annual reading challenge that works like a scavenger hunt.  There’s even a handy dandy downloadable list for the book categories.

You can learn so much about writing from reading other people’s work.  It doesn’t matter the genre, or even the quality of writing.  Every book can teach you how to be a better writer – even if it’s just what not to do.
That’s the perspective I take with me into all of my reviews.

If you want to follow me along in real time, or suggest some books for the challenge, head over to my Goodreads page and my 2017 List.

I figured I’d post my reviews in small batches, so here’s the first five.

Book #1
Popsugar Slot: “The first book in a series you haven’t read before”

Anyone but Ivy Pocket
by Caleb Krisp
I’d never heard of this series before I came across  it while browsing through the New York Public Library app.  This book takes whimsy to the next level.  (It’s like if Pinterest and tiny Hamster birthday parties had a baby.)  The narrator, Ivy Pocket, a 12 year old orphan, speaks like an adult yet is so painfully dim.  Her lack of perception stretches credibility and it frequently pulls you from the story as you wonder how anyone could possibly be that unaware.  It’s a shame since Ivy’s mis-adventures are quite entertaining, and the overall story is compelling.  It’s very similar to “A Series of Unfortunate Events” by Lemony Snicket, but far more heavy handed. It could have been a wonderful book if only Ivy would get out of her own way.
“While people loved me as a general rule, I haven’t much experience of them worrying about me. That’s the sort of thing a parent might do. Or so I am told.”
It’s great to have a unique first person voice, but it can’t be bigger than the story you are trying to tell.
For a series you might not know, try Elemental Mysteries  by Elizabeth Hunter.  It’s a grown-up, well-written, and unique take on vampires.

Book #2
Popsugar Slot: “A book by a person of color”

Yellow Brick War
by Danielle Paige
This is book three in the “Dorothy Must Die” series.  I love the series and the voice Danielle gives our teen protagonist, Amy.  This is a different spin on the Oz canon that’s full of adventure and a touch of dark humor.  Unfortunately for me, this book was not up to the standards of the two previous two.  The bulk of story took place in Kansas, which already makes it less fun, but the narrative doesn’t seem to progress our overall story arc much.  This felt like it should have been a chunk of the third and final book rather than a stand-alone novel.   My take is that the publisher wanted to capitalize on the success of the series and stretch it out for another book and rushed this one out.  It doesn’t work and detracts from what was a really amazing YA series.  I’m hoping the next book in the series wins me over again.
“And remember as in all of us, it is only your capacity for wickedness that makes selflessness possible.”
When you write a series, don’t try to change up your game plan in the middle.  Some stories are meant to be trilogies and some are meant to be a longer series.
For an amazing book by a person of color check out “Tyrell” by Coe Booth.

Book #3
Popsugar Slot: “A book with an unreliable narrator”

We Were Liars
by E. Lockhart
This is the type of book where going in, you know there’s a twist.  The author does a good job of keeping you guessing, although I had pieced much of it together before the big reveal.  The book’s lovely prose follows teen Cadence Sinclair, as she stays at her family’s home on a private island in Cape Cod.  The story unravels the mystery of her missing memories and debilitating headaches.  Despite my burnout for “sad rich kid” YA books, I still enjoyed the skill and dexterity of the writing.
“If you want to live where people are not afraid of mice, you must give up living in palaces.”
Big twists need careful execution.   You need to plant just enough clues that the reader could have seen it coming, but not so many that they actually figure it out ahead of time.
For another book featuring an unreliable narrator, check out The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (The Mara Dyer Trilogy) by Michelle Hodkin.

Book #4

Popsugar Slot: “A book with a title that’s a character’s name”

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper
by Phaedra Patrick
I read the description on this novel and was drawn in.  A widower, Arthur Pepper, finds a whimsical charm bracelet that belonged to his practical wife.  In all their years of marriage, he’d never seen her wear it and didn’t know its origin.  He decided to trace each charm and in doing so had some wonderful adventures, learning more about his wife and himself in the process.  This book was sweet without being cloying and I enjoyed it thoroughly.
“But there are always some people that you keep in your heart, yes? That you never forget.”
It’s okay to indulge a bit in a sweet story with a satisfying ending.  Just don’t go overboard.
“Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White is a perfect book.

Book #5
Popsugar Slot: “A steampunk novel”

Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate)
by Gail Carriger
This book suffered a bit from the same syndrome as Ivy Pocket, where the narration gets in the way of the story.  The book presents us with the intriguing premise that Alexia Tarabotti has no soul.  Because of this she has special abilities in relation to the vampires and werewolves that inhabit London. The narrator can get a bit irksome with her constantly reminding us how different she is than everyone else – she’s Italian! Has a darker complexion! Likes to read! Is interested in Science! We got it the first dozen times.  On the positive side, I found the overall premise compelling and the book was easy to read.  Unfortunately, the villain was too predictable and the romance could have used a bit more spice.
“My father,” she admitted, “was of Italian extraction. Unfortunately, not an affliction that can be cured.” She paused. “Though he did die.”
Having a storyline with a focus on romance doesn’t mean you can ignore the other plot points.
I haven’t read many steampunk books, but I really enjoyed “Gears of Wonderland” by Jason G Anderson.

Thanks to the library and my long commute, I’m making excellent progress on my list and I’m determined to hit every category this year.

How are you doing with your reading goals?

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