Readers' Favorite

May 15, 2015

Susan Paulson Clark: Five Awesome Books on the Craft of Writing

The Romance Shoppe
Over the years, I repeatedly turn to my favorite writing books for inspiration and instruction. I’d like to recommend these five and highlight some quotes to give you a flavor of how they’re written. Read these … only if you want to improve your own writing.


This title written by a literary agent and author touches on mechanics issues and doles out practical advice. His examples are specific. When addressing the ever-problematic show-not-tell problem, he gives a concrete example:

“Instead of saying ‘It was very dark outside,’ the writer could say ‘The guards needed flashlights to patrol the corridors.’”


This excellent reference, written from a book editor’s point of view, sheds light on the psyche of a writer and includes her own experience.

“As far as I can tell, people write for exactly two reasons”: (1) They are compelled to, and (2) they want to be loved.”

BIRD BY BIRD, by Anne Lamott

This famous writer and writing teacher recants her journey and provides sage advice.

“So much of writing is about sitting down and doing it every day, and so much of it is about getting into the custom of taking in everything that comes along, seeing it all as grist for the mill.”


Written in 1983, this book is still relevant. He addresses topics such what makes a good writing workshop and includes his experiences as a novelist and professor. Here he discusses his creative process:

“All I myself know for sure, when I come out of one of those trance moments, is that I seem to have been taken over by some muse.”

STORY, by Robert McKee

Although this is primarily a book about screenwriting, the fundamentals apply to the book author. McKee elaborates on structure such as the “inciting incident,” and in the following quote about shaping your protagonist:

“(The protagonist) must make a decision to take one action or another in a last effort to achieve his Object of Desire.”

Writers, if you want to improve by leaps and bounds, check out these five books!

Buy The Relationship Shoppe at Amazon

About the Author:
Susan Paulson Clark
Susan Paulson Clark has been writing for fifteen years. She's an avid reader of women's fiction, mysteries, and non-fiction titles. Susan enjoys painting (acrylic and oil) and spending time with her husband. She graduated from UC Santa Barbara with degrees in English and Education -- and she's an avid believer in writers' critique groups!

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May 14, 2015

Earn Review Rewards with Reading Alley

by Donna Huber

I received an email this weekend about a interesting new program called the Reading Alley. It is from the people who run The Romance Reviews. I've never done much with The Romance Reviews outside of some client work, mostly because I'm not much of a romance reader. With that being said, I did check out the Reading Alley.

Reading Alley proposes to be a review repository site for all genres of fiction and non-fiction. It appears that they will be similar to Netgalley, but presumably offering lower cost options to authors and publishers. (The introductory offer is $25). That's great for indie authors and publishers who found Netgalley to be cost prohibitive.

But I wanted to focus on the benefits to readers. I know a lot of readers are hesitant to purchase indie books, particularly the ones in the $2.99 to $4.99 (or higher). Looking at the available titles right now many are indie published books. So one benefit of being a member of the Reading Alley is getting to read for free some of the indie books that you are interested in trying.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Who can join the Reading Alley? Any reader! That's right, you don't have to have your own blog or write for a publication, You can be a regular reader. The only catch is that you have to write a review of any books you get through the program. The review will be posted at Reading Alley and if you want you can post it on Amazon or Goodreads as well. And if you do run a blog you can post it there.

Another benefit of the program is the rewards. For each review you write, you earn reward points, which can be redeemed for prizes. As of right now there is no information on how many points will need to be earned in order to redeem a prize. Also there's not a lot of information on what the prizes will be, though it does look like Amazon gift cards will be at least one of the prizes. If you sign up right now during the soft launch period you can earn 20 reward points.

Reviewing takes work and it is nice to be able to earn a bit of a reward. That is definitely in the plus column for the program.

It is the early days of the program and it looks like most of the initial books available for review come Romance Reviews site. There's only 4 books in the young adult category. And the covers I saw in the mystery and thriller category had me double checking to make sure that I clicked on the right link because I thought was in the erotica category. So that's a drawback. at least for now. Hopefully they will be able to quickly remedy this problem.

I have signed up for an account (why not get the 20 bonus reward points) and will see how things develop. Not that I need more books to read, but being able to earn some rewards is too tempting. If you are a casual reader that wouldn't mind writing a review in exchange for free ebooks, then I definitely think it would be a good thing. For book bloggers who are having trouble getting books for review this is probably a nice way to get your foot in the door. For experienced reviewers, it's your call. Right now, I don't see anything negative about it. For galleys I get from Netgalley, I post reviews on their site so I don't see how this would be any different.

Here's the link again for you to sign up: The Reading Alley (and no I don't get any extra reward points for recommending the program).

Happy Reading!

May 13, 2015

Happily Ever After (@AlisonDeluca)

Snow white 1937 trailer screenshot
Snow White 1937 trailer screenshot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Alison DeLuca

Fairytales are addictive. Who can get enough of Cinderella, magic wands, poisoned apples, and Prince Charming? If you look at Snow White, Rapunzel, or The Little Mermaid, the actual stories are actually simple. But the idea of a girl giving up everything she knows (include her own fishy tail) to chase love touches some part of us so deeply we tell those stories over and over again, in many different ways.

I’m a sucker for new versions of old stories ever since I got hooked on Eleanor Farjeon’s The Silver Curlew (and if you’ve never read the book, go and chase it down. It’s a funny, exciting YA version of Rumplestiltskin complete with imps and romance.)

Disney’s Snow White, with its amazing art and incredible animation, grabbed me from the start. Same with Cinderella, 60’s hairdo and all.

But what really makes a rework of a fairy tale sparkle is a new slant on an old tale. Look at how Wicked and Into the Woods took off – and yes, I’m counting Oz as a fairy tale. I realize Into the Woods is a return to the blood of the Brothers Grimm, but the grit of real life gives the musical a different perception, especially of happy ever after.

Disney continues to release their versions, including series like Once Upon a Time. Every so often a new twist on Snow White is released. And as for us readers, there’s a slew of glass slippers and evil stepmothers.

  1. Cinder by Marissa Meyer is one of my favorites. I love this steam / cyberpunk take on Cinderella, complete with exotic setting, gorgeous prince, a Martian princess, and an android looking for a new leg. Forget that wimpy shoe business – this heroine needs an entire limb.
  2. Briar Rose by Jane Yolen uses elements of Grimm in a literary exploration of extermination camps and Nazism.
  3. The Once and Future King by TH White is an amazing version of King Arthur’s legend. White makes Arthur, Merlin, Guinevere, and Lancelot come to life in vivid color, with lots of the animals he loved so much including an owl named Archimedes.
  4. Naturally tales like Snow White are the best known, but really curious readers might seek out versions of Russian or Japanese tales like The Girl with a Bowl on Her Head (Read online: ) Yukimi Ogawa wrote In Her Head, In Her Eyes, an interesting version of the story where it turns out a pot on one’s head really does have a purpose, after all.
  5. I love when several stories meet in one book. Sarah Pinborough does a great job bringing Sleeping Beauty, Rumpelstiltskin, and Red Riding Hood together. Plus it’s part of a series, so there’s more to love if you enjoy it.

Hunted Heart
And I always try to bring in an Indie book to round out the column. Humbly I offer my own version of Snow White – Hunted Heart. (All royalties go to , so there’s that.) In my novel the prince is the one who needs rescuing, and the hunter is actually a woman. My goal was to introduce a strong heroine who lives by her own sword and certainly doesn’t need anyone to fight her battles.

I don’t think we’re going to ever run out of modernized fairytales, and I’d love to know which books I missed on this list. Which are your favorite Happily Ever Afters?

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May 12, 2015

Review: Phoenix Rising by Elise Faber

by Claire Rees

Phoenix Rising
"Sorry, Lady!" The apology accompanied the collision, but the force of the impact wasn't what threatened to take Daughtry to her knees.
She would have cursed had she been able, because she'd broken her first rule of survival: always look down.
The little girl and her mother walked on, the brief moment of contact meaning nothing to them and everything to her.
Purple sparks that only she could see burst from her palms, clouding her vision. Nausea burned the back of her throat, and her legs went rubbery.

The Review

Daughtry's life falls apart two days before her wedding day when her fiancĂ© leaves her. At this point she also gains the ability to see a person's death the moment she touches them. It makes it impossible to have any personal relationships and she ends up depressed and turning to alcohol to ease her pain and worries. She feels her life is over. However, when she has hit rock bottom she bumps into  John, an old friend from her life before. He comes back into her life and just at the right time. That night she is attacked by a group called the 'Dalshie' the bad guys and complete opposites of John and his people the 'LexTals'. They take Daughtry into their society and try to protect her and teach her how to control her powers. Whilst there she meets and falls in love with the gorgeous and sexy Cody. Their magic bonds and becomes stronger than ever until Daughtry is kidnapped by the 'Delshie'. Cody and his fellow LexTals rush to save her in time as their connection is weakening. But finds that he has been betrayed by somebody that should be caring for him instead of hurting him.

Phoenix Rising by Elise Faber is fast paced with lots of action. The magic powers of the characters in the book were interesting and I liked that each person had different skills of magic.

The love story between Daughtry and Cody is a complicated but wonderful one and as a reader I got swept up in their story. I would recommend Phoenix Rising to anyone who likes romance mixed with magic and a dash of action.

Buy Phoenix Rising at Amazon

Book info:
available formats: ebook and print (344 pages)
published: October 2014 by Blue Tulip Publishing
ISBN13: 9781502701251
genres: fantasy, romance
read: April 2015

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the above link. Thank you for supporting this blog.

May 11, 2015

Andrea Lochen: Ten Most Memorable Moms in New Fiction

What better time of year than Mother’s Day to showcase some of the most memorable fictional mothers in some of the best new novels?  From loving, supportive mothers to complex, trailblazing mothers to selfish, vindictive mothers, this list has it all!  

1) The Perfect Son by Barbara Claypole White (Lake Union, July 2015)

The Perfect Son

Ella Fitzwilliam, the mom in THE PERFECT SON, quit a successful career in jewelry design to be full-time parent, mental health coach, and advocate for her son, Harry, who has a soup of issues that include Tourette syndrome. She has devoted 17 years of her life to his therapy, to educating teachers, to being Harry’s emotional rock and giving him the confidence he needs to be Harry. Thanks to her, Harry is comfortable in his own skin, even when people stare. After Ella has a major heart attack in the opening chapter, her love for Harry tethers her to life. But as she recovers, she discovers the hardest parenting lesson of all: to let go.

Buy The Perfect Son at Amazon

2) Rodin’s Lover by Heather Webb

Rodin's Lover

In RODIN’S LOVER, Camille’s mother, Louise Claudel, is spiteful, jealous, and disapproving of Camille’s pursuit to become a female sculptor in the 1880s. She also shows signs of mental illness. Because of this relationship, Camille struggles with all of her female relationships the rest of her life, and ultimately, to prove to her mother that she’s truly talented.

Buy Rodin's Lover at Amazon

3) Imaginary Things by Andrea Lochen (Astor + Blue Editions, April 2015)

Imaginary Things

In IMAGINARY THINGS, young single mother Anna Jennings has a unique power that most parents only dream of—the ability to see her four-year-old son’s imagination come to life.  But when David’s imaginary friends turn dark and threatening, Anna must learn the rules of this bizarre phenomenon, what his friends truly represent, and how best to protect him.

Buy Imaginary Things at Amazon

4) The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister (Sourcebooks, January 2015)

The Magician's Lie

In THE MAGICIAN'S LIE, Arden's mother is remarkable both for what she does and what she doesn't do. As a young woman, she bears a child out of wedlock and runs away with her music teacher, never fearing the consequences. But later in life, her nerve fails her—just when her daughter needs her most.

Buy The Magician's Lie at Amazon

5) Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer (Putnam, 2014)

Five Days Left

In FIVE DAYS LEFT, Mara Nichols is, in some ways, a typical mother: she loves her daughter fiercely, thinks about her constantly and goes to great lengths to balance her high-stress legal career with her daughter’s needs. But there are two ways in which Mara isn't typical at all. First, she adopted her daughter from India, making good on a lifelong promise to rescue a baby from the same orphanage where Mara herself lived decades ago. And second, when Mara is diagnosed with a fatal, incurable illness that will render her unable to walk, talk or even feed herself, she has to make the kind of parenting choice none of us wants to consider—would my child be better off if I were no longer alive?

Buy Five Days Left at Amazon

6) House Broken by Sonja Yoerg (Penguin/NAL, January 2015)

House Broken

In HOUSE BROKEN, Helen Riley has a habit of leaving her grown children to cope with her vodka-fueled disasters. She has her reasons, but they’re buried deep, and stem from secrets too painful to remember and, perhaps, too terrible to forgive.

Buy House Broken at Amazon

7) You Were Meant for Me by Yona Zeldis McDonough (Penguin/NAL, 2014)

You Were Meant for Me

In YOU WERE MEANT FOR ME, having a baby is the furthest thing from Miranda Berenzweig’s mind.  She’s newly single after a bad break up, and focused on her promotion at work, her friends and getting her life back on track.  Then one frigid March night she finds a newborn infant in a NYC subway and even after taking the baby to the police, can’t get the baby out of her mind.  At the suggestion of the family court judge assigned to the case, Miranda begins adoption proceedings.  But her plans—as well as her hopes and dreams—are derailed when the baby’s biological father surfaces, wanting to claim his child.  The way she handles this unforeseen turn of events is what makes Miranda a truly memorable mother.

Buy You Were Meant for Me at Amazon

8) The Far End of Happy by Kathryn Craft (Sourcebooks Landmark, May 2015)

The Far End of Happy

In THE FAR END OF HAPPY, Ronnie has hung in there as long as she can during her husband's decline into depression, spending issues, and alcoholism and he will not accept her attempts to get him professional help. She is not a leaver, but can't bear for her sons to witness the further deterioration of the marriage. She determines to divorce—and on the day he has promised to move out, he instead arms himself, holes up inside a building on the property, and stands off against police. When late in the day the police ask Ronnie if she’ll appeal to him one last time over the bullhorn, she must decide: with the stakes so high, will she try one last time to save her husband’s life? Or will her need to protect her sons and her own growing sense of self win out?

Buy The Far End of Happy at Amazon

9) Your Perfect Life by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke (Washington Square Press, 2014)

Your Perfect Life

In YOUR PERFECT LIFE, long-time friends, Rachel and Casey wake up the morning after their twenty year high school reunion to discover they’ve switched bodies. Casey is single with no children before becoming an instant mom to Rachel’s two teenagers and baby. Despite her lack of experience as a parent, and her often comedic missteps with the baby in particular (think: diaper blow outs and sudden sleep deprivation) Casey’s fresh perspective on her new role helps her connect with each of the children in a very different way than Rachel. And when the oldest, Audrey, is almost date raped at her prom, it is Casey’s strength that she draws from an experience in her own past that ultimately pulls Audrey through. Although it is hard for Rachel to watch her best friend take care of Audrey when she so desperately wants to, she realizes that Casey can help her daughter in a way she can’t. And Casey discovers she might have what it takes to be a mom to her own children someday.

Buy Your Perfect Life at Amazon

10) The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman (Bantam, 2013)

The Life List

Elizabeth Bohlinger, the mother in THE LIFE LIST, is actually deceased. But she still has a big presence in her daughter's life—some may say too big! With heartfelt letters, Elizabeth guides her daughter, Brett, on a journey to complete the life list of wishes Brett made when she was just a teen. Like many mothers, Elizabeth has an uncanny ability to see into her daughter's heart, exposing buried desires Brett has long forgotten.

Buy The Life List at Amazon

About the Author
Andrea Lochen is a University of Michigan MFA graduate. Her first novel, The Repeat Year (Berkley, 2013), won a Hopwood Award for the Novel prior to its publication. She has served as fiction editor of The Madison Review and taught writing at the University of Michigan. She currently teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha, where she was recently awarded UW Colleges Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Her second novel, Imaginary Things (Astor + Blue Editions, 2015) is recently released and has garnered wonderful praise. With features on Barnes &, Huffington Post, and Brit + Co., her work is being introduced to thousands of new readers.  Andrea currently lives in Madison with her husband and daughter and is at work on her third novel. For more information visit

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