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Reflections on the #AtoZChallenge

by Donna Huber For the A to Z Challenge, I discussed different book genres/categories. Each day, I gave a few details about the genre/catego...

March 6, 2015

Reading with an Eleven-Year-Old (@satiswrites)

by Chris

Good morning, everyone (or evening, if you prefer)! My name is Chris, and I’m thrilled to be writing to you from the digital pages of Girl Who Reads. I’m not actually a girl a it happens, but I do sometimes read, so I suppose I half-qualify.

The Redemption of Erath
I’d like to take a moment to introduce myself to you; with luck, I’ll be appearing here regularly, so we might as well get to know each other. I live in New Jersey with my wife and eleven-year-old son, and I suppose I’d think of myself as a husband and father first and foremost—so long as the qualifiers ‘negligent’ and ‘lazy’ are added in front. I have a day job, but we won’t talk about that. By night (and day, and afternoon when I’m not napping), I’m the author of the epic fantasy series The Redemption of Erâth, about a young boy growing up in a world of Darkness and despair. Yes, Darkness is capitalized.

I’m not famous yet, which is a shame, because then you would have heard of me. My book has an Amazon Kindle ranking of about 1.4 million, which I tell myself is better than a million other books, so it can’t be that bad. I imagine that when I am famous, people will ask me questions like, “What made you want to write?”, and “What are you going to do with all that money?”. The answers will inevitably be, “My son,” and “Keep it.”

You see, while I used to be a voracious reader as a child (I had read every book in English class long before they were introduced), as an adult my pacing has somewhat slowed. There was a point in my late twenties where I doubt I read anything heavier than a music magazine. Then my son came along, and soon enough he was able to understand and appreciate good literature too.

We’ve read all sorts together, from Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter and Treasure Island. He got scared stiff the first time we read A Christmas Carol. The funny thing is that, although some of these stories I knew well from my own childhood, many I was reading with him for the first time. It’s made me appreciate that ‘children’s’ literature and ‘adult’ literature are not quite so separate as they might seem, and what might be written off as a kid’s book by one reviewer could be genuinely entertaining to another.

There are of course far too many books in the world, and no one could read them all (if only!). There are books my son has read (The Hunger Games, for example) that I may never get around to looking at. But when it comes to choosing books for myself, I tend to filter it through him, now—would an eleven-year-old enjoy this? We’re soon approaching the age at which I first read the Greatest Book Ever Written, and I can’t wait to share it with him, as my parents did with me. I wonder if its tale of growing up, domestic abuse, unrequited love and tragedy will enthrall him as much as it did me. We’ll soon find out!

What books do you remember reading to yourself/with your parents growing up? What books do you read/plan to read with your own children? Tell me your thoughts in the comments!

Oh, and the Greatest Book Ever Written? Great Expectations, of course!

About the Author:

Raised between the soaring peaks of the Swiss Alps and the dark industrialism of northern England, beauty and darkness have been twin influences on Chris' creativity since his youth. Throughout his life he has expressed this through music, art and literature, delving deep into the darkest parts of human nature, and finding the elegance therein.
These themes are central to his current literary project, The Redemption of Erâth. A dark epic fantasy, it is a tale of the bitter struggle against darkness and despair, and an acknowledgement that there are some things the mind cannot overcome.
Written from a depth of personal experience, Chris' words are touching and powerful, the hallmark of someone who has walked alone through the night, and welcomes the final darkness of the soul.
However, for now he lives in New Jersey with his wife and eleven-year-old son.
website  *  Amazon  *  Goodreads

March 5, 2015

This Sucks

by Donna Huber

I usually do most of my blogging on the weekends only having to write/format a post or two during the week. Last weekend was extremely busy. I volunteer with a children's basketball program and last weekend was the last weekend. So there was a full day of games on Saturday and then the end of season celebration on Sunday afternoon. In between the activities I had to get things ready for the week and did not have time to do more than Monday's post.

Thankfully, I had contributed posts from Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. So I only had to put together Monday's post and write today's post. However, even with just having to format Tuesday's and Wednesday's it was all the time I had Monday and Tuesday with everything else. If my everyday schedule required blogging during the week, I would find blogging beyond stressful and definitely not be posting daily. Perhaps if I didn't work a full-time, then I could blog daily.

My evenings are the time when I read or prepare questions for interviews. So this week has been awful. I haven't had time to do much else than get the next day's post ready. This also means there are typos in posts that I normally would have caught. If I hadn't already had the three contributed posts on the calendar I probably would have taken a little break and not posted every day this week.

I wonder if bloggers who find a blog too difficult to maintain or a stressful hobby are trying to blog during the week (I'm thinking of bloggers who work full-time). Blogging can be like a job. Anyone who works full-time knows how difficult it is to go to another job after a long day at the first job. Why would blogging be any different?

If you are finding blogging difficult or stressful, maybe you should take a look at your blogging schedule. Do you do most of your writing after a long day at work when really you should be relaxing? I highly recommend scheduling posts. When I only have to write one or two posts for a week, I can have all the posts set-up over the weekend. Even if I'm doing it in the evenings on Saturday and Sunday it isn't as stressful because I haven't had to work all day.

So if you say "this sucks" when you think about blogging, before giving up try to adjust your schedule.

March 4, 2015

Rubin Johnson: Fiction Writing is Not a Marathon, It's an Ironman Race

Cyberbully Blues
Writing fiction is an endurance activity. I say this as an athlete who has completed multiple marathons, a single-day two hundred mile bike ride, and four Ironman triathlons. The training involved pales in comparison to learning to write fiction. Scrap the notion that well-crafted grammatically correct language is sufficient. Drop the idea that readers want well-conceived narrative summary. It’s not enough!

Learn how to hook your readers from the start. Write to compel them to keep reading. Show them how likeable and interesting your characters are. Rope them into your story. Then drive the plot onward and upward as your characters clash and conflict. It’s not the writing; it’s the story.

So far, I’ve penned two near-future science fiction novels, Well Oiled and Cyberbully Blues, of a series I call Mayberry Multisport Adventure stories. The protagonists have been active teenagers whose involvement in athletics explains the multisport label. The adventure tag is self-evident. That leaves the question: Why Mayberry?

My stories are set in Mayberry because of my views of fiction, science fiction, and optimism. For me, there are three relevant parts to fiction: the story, the storytelling, and, finally, the writing.

The story is characters and plot – what they do as well as when, where, and why. Solid likeable complex entities, people who want something and go after what they want, characters with agency are key. In my process, it takes imagination, research, and time to craft interesting characters and a plot that works. Sketching the story takes me far longer than writing the first draft.

Storytelling is how the writer conveys the story. Selecting point of view characters, deciding what details to show – descriptions of settings and people, and the use of foreshadowing, suspense, and pacing – all these elements matter. Good storytelling can’t save a bad story, but bad storytelling can spoil a good one.

The third element is the writing. In my opinion, good writing is like a lamp shining on a page. Readers shouldn’t be pulled away by bad spelling or grammar. Instead they should read clear and concise prose that makes them feel the writer respects their time. Editing, critique groups, re-writing, beta readers, and re-writing some more can improve a piece but still, not even strong writing can save a weak story.

I agree with John Gardner’s notion that good fiction creates a continuous vivid dream. That requires the writer to use words to convey emotion and tickle the senses. Much like coders program computers, a writer programs the reader’s imagination. Good writing illuminates a good story being told well.

For me, science fiction is special. It’s what made me love books. Now that I write SF, my goal is to explore technology’s impact on society by showing how it affects people you care about, specifically, characters in my stories. I write about the future, but to quote SF author William Gibson (he coined the term cyberspace): “The future is already here; it’s just unevenly distributed.” So my futures include existing and new technology, but nothing that violates scientific principles. On the other hand, I push technology, sometimes to illogical extremes.

When technology is pushed, bad things can happen. Nuclear power inspires nuclear apocalypse. But we don’t have to imagine horrible outcomes; we can simply look around – global warming, privacy breaches, cyber-terrorism, and more. There are so many motivations for dystopian sci-fi. Alas, I grew up with space operas, an expression of space exploration’s hopefulness. So my third point: I decided to buck the dystopian trend with optimism, so I stumbled ... into Mayberry.

So for all of you — welcome to Mayberry, an idyllic southern California town of the near future that shows technology’s promise more than its pitfalls. My goal is to imagine what might go right while telling stories that expose the not-so-nice underbelly of a suburban paradise. Even without world-ending catastrophes, technology enables the best and worst of human nature. That’s what I write about.

Since I code and have done multiple Ironman races, both novels have heavy doses of computer programming and triathlon multisport references. I also touch on geocaching and bitcoins. I invent holos – combination cell phone-computers with holographic displays; homebots – household computer-telecom centers, and Stabilization of Life units – a realization of medical technology where quality of life has been sacrificed for quantity.

My first novel, Well Oiled, explores oil extraction issues based on plans to once again drill in my city, Whittier. I set the conflict in Mayberry, in the context of a story of teenaged cousins, Frank and Joey Wilson. They’re smart and athletic but have their challenges. Frank is especially troubled about his father’s mysterious death ten years ago.

My second novel, Cyberbully Blues, a prequel, ends where Well Oiled starts. It is a coming of age story of a technology-challenged teenaged girl, growing up with just her mom. Dakota has to deal with bullying, in real life, and in cyberspace. In addition, this novel offers a positive role model for girls to consider STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), especially computer science. You may have heard of an organization called, This novel shows how such a group might work.

I am currently sketching out plans for another novel to be set in Mayberry, perhaps a little further into the future – 2045. There is a good bet that a massive cyberattack will be featured.

Buy Cyberbully Blues at Amazon

About the Author:

Rubin Johnson has been focused on writing science fiction for the past several years, building on a career in engineering and software development. He earned his PhD from the University of California at Berkeley after graduating Harvard College. Following his studies, Rubin backpacked for over a year -- first across Africa, and then across Asia. He is an avid endurance athlete having completed multiple Ironman distances including IM Canada and IM Lake Tahoe. When he writes, his Chesapeake Bay retriever, Hunter, is often nearby.
website  *  blog  *  Goodreads

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the above link. The opinions, beliefs, and views expressed by guests are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of Girl Who Reads.

March 3, 2015

Review: The Legend of Stuckey's Bridge By Lori Crane

by Claire Rees

The Legend of Stuckey's Bridge
There is a bridge in Mississippi called ‘Stucke'ys Bridge’ which is rumoured to be home to several ghosts.  The Legend of Stuckey's Bridge by Lori Crane looks onto the history of the bridge and its surroundings and tells a tale of what could have happened to give this bridge such a horrid and gruesome history.

The stories main character, Thomas, starts off as a bandit with the Dalton gang. Until one day they rob the wrong bank and the other gang members get shot down.  Thomas flees town and travels around other areas, robbing families and lone travelers here and there. Then he decides he could make more money by opening an inn and robbing his guests. He opens the inn in the middle of a well traveled canal and a well traveled trail. However when people start to go missing the sheriff soon becomes suspicious of Thomas and now Thomas needs to be much more careful with what he is doing.

I enjoyed The Legend of Stuckey's Bridge and the fact that it is based on an actual place made it much more interesting for me. The ending suited the story perfectly although it was not what I had imagined happening when I was reading through it.  The descriptions of places and details have obviously been researched to make them as accurate as possible to the time the story is set in. The characters have just enough detail and back story to them to keep them alive in the mind and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting them all. 

As this is a trilogy I am really looking forward to reading book two. I recommend The Legend of Stuckey's Bridge by Lori Crane to all who love books with history, murder, mayhem and ghosts.

Buy The Legend of Stuckey's Bridge at Amazon

Book info:
Available formats: ebook and print (210 pages)
Published: June 2013 by Lori Crane Entertainment
ISBN13: 9780988354562
Genres: historical suspense
Source: Author
Read: February 2015

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the above link. A free ebook was provided for this review. 

March 2, 2015

New Releases: March 2015

Stock your shelves with these new releases

The Princess Madeline trilogy
The complete Princess Madeline series in one book.

The Escape of Princess Madeline
Madeline, princess of Soron, awakens on her sixteenth birthday to find that her father has already made preparations for her betrothal. When she disappears unexpectedly, her suitors and knight champion rush to the rescue. But all is not as it seems, and the errant princess’s flight has put the kingdom at stake…
Can Madeline find freedom or does it come with too high a price?

The Battle for Princess Madeline
Princess Madeline rejected Prince Paulsen’s advances, but he’s not about to take it lying down. In the middle of Soron’s festival preparations, when his obsession jeopardizes the kingdom, mysterious figures from the kingdom’s past arrive. Can Madeline risk accepting their help or will their information about a family secret be too much for her to handle?
Can Madeline trust anyone or will saving the kingdom come down to her own bravery?

The Dragon and Princess Madeline
Princess Madeline is ready to celebrate. With the foundation of her future in place, it seems nothing can hurt her. Then the return of a mysterious green dragon threatens her kingdom and king. Will this challenge prove to be too much for Princess Madeline and Prince Braden or will they find the answers they seek hidden in cryptic messages from the past?
Can Madeline save her kingdom from the dragon or is the real danger something else?

Available March 1
Buy The Princess Madeline Trilogy at Amazon

Regency Immortal
Adam has accidentally stumbled upon an important period in history: Vienna in 1814. Mostly, he'd just like to continue to enjoy the local pubs, but that becomes impossible when he meets Anna, an intriguing woman with an unreasonable number of secrets and sharp objects.

Anna is hunting down a man who isn't exactly a man, and if Adam doesn't help her, all of Europe will suffer. If Adam does help, the cost may be his own life. It's not a fantastic set of options. Also, he's probably fallen in love with her, which just complicates everything.

Available March 3
Buy Regency Immortal at Amazon

The Selection Stories
Two novellas set in the captivating world of Kiera Cass's #1 New York Times bestselling Selection series, now available in print for the first time! In The Queen and The Favorite, discover untold stories from the lives of two of the Selection series' most beloved characters.

Before America Singer's story began, another girl came to the palace to compete for the hand of a different prince. In The Queen, follow Prince Maxon's mother, Amberly, through the Selection that made her a beloved queen.

Marlee Tames came to the palace to win Prince Maxon's heart—but her own heart had other ideas. The Favorite goes behind the scenes of Marlee and Carter's life together, from the fateful night their secret was discovered to the events at the end of The One.

Available March 3
Buy The Selection Stories at Amazon

Let the Journey Begin
Powerful, life-changing messages for a vital time in life.

Graduation is a time of excitement and uncertainty. For graduates the question is, will they face the future with or without God? "Let the Journey Begin"repack is filled with godly wisdom, encouragement, and guidance from bestselling and trusted author Max Lucado for students about to embark on new steps in their life journey. Graduates will be reassured that they are not alone--God is with them every step of their way.

This bestselling book will include thirty-two additional pages of new content, all consisting of excerpts, quotes, and scripture as well as an updated interior design to appeal to a new generation of graduates. Included are pages for personal goals, favorite verses of scripture, and prayers.

Available March 10
Buy Let the Journey Begin at Amazon

Wicked Charms
Lizzy and Diesel return once again in an all-new adventure in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Janet Evanovich and her co-author, Phoef Sutton!

Available March 10
Buy Wicked Charms at Amazon

Beauty Shot
Decon West arrives at Columbia University to start his freshman year. But New York City is like an alien planet to him and even though he’s a fish out of water, he takes it in stride. He expected to be homesick. He expected to find the city chaotic. What he hadn’t expected was that the girls would be so aggressive, throwing themselves at him. But, there’s only one woman he’s interested in tracking down and that’s Minnie Tattersall.

Minnie dodged the bullet and resisted the temptation of eighteen-year-old Deke West when she was visiting Suttontowne. Now she’s hard at work on the upcoming collection she and Verity Outlaw will be showing at Fashion Week. She also finds it hard work to get Deke off her mind, but easy to remember that he’s much too young for her. It isn’t until he shows up at the show, and accidentally lands on the runway modeling their clothes that things begin to heat up for them. It's clear to Minnie that Deke doesn’t much care that he’s taking the New York City fashion scene by storm. He's hell-bent on breaking down her barriers and having her. How will she resist?

Available March 16
Buy Beauty Shot at Amazon

The Precious One
From the bestselling author of Belong to Me, Love Walked In, and Falling Together comes a captivating novel about friendship, family, second chances, and the redemptive power of love

In all her life, Eustacia “Taisy” Cleary has given her heart to only three men: her first love, Ben Ransom; her twin brother, Marcus; and Wilson Cleary — professor, inventor, philanderer, self-made millionaire, brilliant man, breathtaking jerk: her father.

Seventeen years ago, Wilson ditched his first family for Caroline, a beautiful young sculptor. In all that time, Taisy’s family has seen Wilson, Caroline, and their daughter Willow only once.

Why then, is Wilson calling Taisy now, inviting her for an extended visit, encouraging her to meet her pretty sister — a teenager who views her with jealousy, mistrust, and grudging admiration? Why, now, does Wilson want Taisy to help him write his memoir?

Told in alternating voices — Taisy’s strong, unsparing observations and Willow’s naive, heartbreakingly earnest yearnings — The Precious One is an unforgettable novel of family secrets, lost love, and dangerous obsession, a captivating tale with the deep characterization, piercing emotional resonance, and heartfelt insight that are the hallmarks of Marisa de los Santos’s beloved works.

Available March 24
Buy The Precious One at Amazon

At the Water's Edge
In her stunning new novel, Gruen returns to the kind of storytelling she excelled at in Water for Elephants: a historical timeframe in an unusual setting with a moving love story. Think Scottish Downton Abbey.

After embarrassing themselves at the social event of the year in high society Philadelphia on New Year’s Eve of 1942, Maddie and Ellis Hyde are cut off financially by Ellis’s father, a former army Colonel who is already embarrassed by his son’s inability to serve in WWII due to his being colorblind. To Maddie’s horror, Ellis decides that the only way to regain his father’s favor is to succeed in a venture his father attempted and very publicly failed at: he will hunt the famous Loch Ness monster and when he finds it he will restore his father’s name and return to his father’s good graces (and pocketbook). Joined by their friend Hank, a wealthy socialite, the three make their way to Scotland in the midst of war. Each day the two men go off to hunt the monster, while another monster, Hitler, is devastating Europe. And Maddie, now alone in a foreign country, must begin to figure out who she is and what she wants. The novel tells of Maddie’s social awakening: to the harsh realities of life, to the beauties of nature, to a connection with forces larger than herself, to female friendship, and finally, to love.

Available March 31
Buy At the Water's Edge at Amazon

The Patriot Threat
The 16th Amendment to the Constitution is why Americans pay income taxes. But what if there were problems associated with that amendment? Secrets that call into question decades of tax collecting? In fact, there is a surprising truth to this hidden possibility.

Cotton Malone, once a member of an elite intelligence division within the Justice Department known as the Magellan Billet, is now retired and owns an old bookshop in Denmark. But when his former-boss, Stephanie Nelle, asks him to track a rogue North Korean who may have acquired some top secret Treasury Department files—the kind that could bring the United States to its knees—Malone is vaulted into a harrowing twenty-four hour chase that begins on the canals in Venice and ends in the remote highlands of Croatia.

With appearances by Franklin Roosevelt, Andrew Mellon, a curious painting that still hangs in the National Gallery of Art, and some eye-opening revelations from the $1 bill, this riveting, non-stop adventure is trademark Steve Berry—90% historical fact, 10% exciting speculation—a provocative thriller posing a dangerous question: What if the Federal income tax is illegal?

Availble March 31
Buy The Patriot Threat at Amazon

Unlocked: A Love Story
Before You Take a Stand . . . You've Got to Take a Chance.

Holden Harris is an eighteen-year-old locked in a prison of autism. Despite his quiet ways and quirky behaviors, Holden is very happy and socially engaged--on the inside in a private world all his own. In reality he is bullied at school by kids who only see that he is very different.

Ella Reynolds is part of the "in" crowd. A cheerleader and star of the high school drama production, her life seems perfect. When she catches Holden listening to her rehearse for the school play, she is drawn to him . . . . the way he is drawn to the music. Then Ella makes a dramatic discovery--she and Holden were best friends as children. Frustrated by the way Holden is bullied and horrified at the indifference of her peers, Ella decides to take a stand against the most privileged and popular kids at school. Including her boyfriend, Jake.

Ella believes miracles can happen in the most unlikely places and that just maybe an entire community might celebrate from the sidelines. But will Holden's praying mother and Ella's efforts and a cast of theater kids be enough to unlock the prison that contains Holden? This time friendship, faith, and the power of a song must be strong enough to open the doors to the miracle Holden needs.

Available March 31
Buy Unlocked: A Love Story at Amazon

Do you or your favorite author have a book coming out this month? Add it to the comments!

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon Advertising Affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the above links.