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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...

December 17, 2016

Three Great Books to Read During Christmas Vacation

by Susan Roberts

This is a busy time of the year and we are all so busy that it's hard to find time to read.  Here are three books that will keep your interest and leave you feeling happy after a long day of Christmas shopping - or any time of the year.

cover Miss Christmas
Miss Christmas by Gigi Garrett

Miss Christmas is a ‘must read’ Christmas novella. Not only does it put you in the Christmas mood but it also expresses the true meaning of the holiday: that by giving, you receive so much in return.  I found myself thinking about this book when I watched the lighting of the tree at Rockefeller Center in NYC and wondered what they had to go through to find the tree that they used this year.

Holly is in charge of finding the perfect tree for the Rockefeller center in NYC. She’s obsessed with her job which has kept her from keeping a boyfriend. When she receives a letter from an 8-year-old boy that his farm has the perfect tree, she is intrigued enough to investigate. When she sees it, she knows that it is THE TREE but Sam, who owns the farm the, doesn't want to chop it down to send to NYC. As she tries to convince him that it's the perfect tree, she realizes that Sam might just be the perfect man for her.

This is a light fun Christmas read - just what you need during this hectic Christmas season.

Buy Miss Christmas at Amazon

cover Wallflower Blooming
Wallflower Blooming by Amy Rivers

Wildflower Blooming is a romance - but it is much more than just a run of the mill romance novel. It's about a man and a women learning to enjoy life, about friendship between two women and a story about small town politics. It's a light fun book to read with some great characters. Wildflower Blooming is a debut novel for Amy Rivers and based on my enjoyment of this book, I am looking forward to her future books.

Val is the orderly and organized owner of a PR firm that she has worked very hard to make successful. She leads a quiet life and because she is a workaholic, she doesn't have any time for romance. Her cousin, and best friend Gwen, is just the opposite. Gwen lives her life in a whirlwind and when she decides to run for mayor of their small town and asks Val to do the PR for her campaign, Val isn't sure what to do. Even though Val knows that if she agrees, it will totally disrupt her quiet orderly life, she agrees because of their friendship. The campaign takes up more of her time and energy than she expected but at a campaign fundraiser she meets a local businessman, who is a bit of a recluse, and the sparks fly between them. Can she risk her PR firm to help Gwen win the election and more importantly can she give up her workaholic life to find love?

This is a fun book to read and I enjoyed seeing Val's growth throughout the book. I look forward to future books from this author.

Buy Wallflower Blooming at Amazon

cover All the Breaking Waves
All the Breaking Waves by Kerry Lonsdale

Molly has a psychic gift that she has suppressed for years because her father taught her that it was bad. Now her young daughter Cassie is showing signs of having the same gift and Molly's life is plagued with how to get her daughter to change before she becomes at outcast to her friends. They leave home and return to her grandmother's house that she had fled from many years before. While there trying to find a way to help her daughter, Molly tries to learn more about herself and her mother and grandmother.

This novel is a wonderful story of family love and involves a grandmother, mother, daughter and her daughter. They all have secrets that they are hiding from each other and it's only through unlocking those secrets can Cassie learn to cope with her life and Molly can learn to love life again.

I loved this book and all of the characters - especially Molly. Even though she was flawed from events in her past, she loved her daughter and only wanted the best for her. She had to learn from the past in order to help herself and her daughter despite the difficulty in doing it. There are also strong feeling for Noah, the boy that she left behind many years before. Will Molly be able to accept her past to provide a better future for her and her daughter???

Buy All the Breaking Waves at Amazon

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling.  She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their grandson.  Susan reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on Facebook.

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December 16, 2016

The Importance of Being Edited

by Byddi Lee

So you’ve had a great idea for a book. You’ve spent hours, days, months, years, maybe even decades, crafting the plot, massaging paragraphs, tweaking sentences and word-smithing. You’ve plastered that smile on your face as you bore the critiques of your writing group. You rewrote again, and again, and again. You think your manuscript is as good as it is ever going to be. But you are not done yet. Now you need an editor.

Whether you intend to do the rounds of submitting to agents in the hopes that you can traditionally publish, or if you have decided to self-publish, it’s time to lay out some hard cash. This may even be the very first expenditure you’ve invested in your writing, classes and workshops aside. Shop around for an editor and compare prices. For editing my 100,000-word book, I’ve received quotes from $500 to $10,000. Yes, you saw that right, ten, zero, zero, zero. That quote was from an editor of an extremely well-known author and has amazing connections. I was surprised that he even agreed to look at my manuscript, more surprised that he “read” it in one afternoon and even more shocked at the fee he wanted. It was out of my budget by powers of ten, but I still wonder, “what if?”

However, don’t go with the cheapest quote either. Not unless you’ve heard amazing things about the editor. Make sure the low cost is as good a deal as it seems. Writer’s Digest’s Writer’s Market 2016 has a handy chart that advises what one can expect to earn for a whole host of writing related services. For us, that translates into what a writer can expect to pay. Often the price is quoted in an amount per hour. If so, get a complete quote based on your entire project. My first book was quoted on a per page basis. Since I knew how many pages I had, I was able to hire the editor knowing what my total outlay was going to be.

Decide on your budget. A good editor will probably not cost less than $1000 for a full 100,000-word manuscript. It may sound like a huge outlay but it is money well spent, and in my opinion, a necessary expenditure. If you are going to spend any money on your writing, hire an editor. Even if writing is “only” your hobby, but you still want to publish, consider how much you’d pay for a ski trip or several rounds of golf. If you are seriously contemplating self-publishing, remember that you need a high-quality product. That requires investment. An editor is a must-have component of the publication process.

Begin looking for an editor by asking around in your writing circles. Other writers will be happy to recommend a good editor. When researching an editor have a look at their resume, have they been in the writing business a long time. Have they taught creative writing? Can they provide a list of authors they have worked with? Have they been published themselves? If so read their writing. You will want to develop a close working relationship with this person. Choose wisely.

My current editor, Kate Evans taught creative writing at San Jose State University, has written several books, including an amazing memoir, Call It Wonder, which was awarded the BWA Memoir of the Year 2015. I met her at a writer’s conference in San Jose, California and we hit it off straight away.

Some writers/editor might argue that you need two different types of editors; one for structure and development, and another for copyediting and “polish.” I like my editor to do both, and I’m confident that Kate Evans can. I believe that is a case-by-case decision, both on your part and the editor’s.

An editor should ask to read a sample of your manuscript, for example, the first chapter of your book. Pay attention to how long it takes them to read and return the edited copy: Too slow and you’ll be frustrated. Too fast and you’ll wonder if they really had an in-depth look at your writing. On your first read through of the returned sample, decide if you like how they edit? Do you get a sense that they understand the project, your goals? Examine how their comments make you feel: Excited, motivated, inspired? Or overwhelmed, frustrated, defeated? If it’s the latter set of emotions, don’t give up writing, search for a different editor. Try to find one from whom you can learn. I love having Kate Evans as my editor. She not only whips my work into shape, she teaches me how to be a better writer. I see my writing improving as I internalize and implement every editorial comment. Who knows? By the time we’re done with my trilogy, I may actually be the writer I want to be!

I prefer to have my editor go through the manuscript once looking at the bigger story: flow, character development, does the climax work, did I begin/end in the correct place. For book one of my trilogy, I’ve had to rewrite a whole new beginning and add an extra chapter on to the end. That’s fine. I received good advice and I decided to follow it.

When a freshly edited manuscript lands in my inbox, I feel like it’s hot and that by just reading it I will be scorched. So I try to detach myself and read with an objective eye without committing to making decisions.  After a cooling off period, I look at it again. The initial read has given my brain time to process the comments on its own terms without the ego taking part. More often than not, I agree with about 90% of what Kate Evans says.

When I send the rewritten manuscript back, the editor does another run through making more edits, and suggestions. I’ll then take that, rewrite and submit it for the final polish.

Other editors have different systems, but this is one that works really well for me. Labor intensive, yes, but the finished product is so much better for it. Editing lends a sense of being “finished” to a book, though as Oscar Wilde said, “Books are never finished, they are merely abandoned.”

Byddi Lee grew up in Armagh, Ireland, and moved to Belfast to study Biology at Queen’s University when she was 18. She made Belfast her home for twenty-one years, teaching science and writing for pleasure. In 2002 she took a sabbatical from teaching and traveled around the world for two years, writing blogs about her adventures as she went. She returned to Ireland in 2004 and resumed teaching. In 2008 she and her husband moved to San Jose, California where she made writing a full-time career. After the publication of her short story, Death of a Seannachai, she decided it was time to write, March to November, which was published in 2014 and received international acclaim. In 2016 she moved with her husband to Paris, France and is currently writing her second novel, a science fiction story set in a future where the earth’s icecaps have melted and Armagh is the capital of Ireland. Byddi also writes an entertaining blog called, “We didn’t come here for the grass.” Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

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December 15, 2016

Review: Kookabuk Shares His Shovel by Kevin and Jesse Howard

by MK French

August 2016; Strassfree Publications; 978-0692773598;
ebook & print (44 pages); children
a free book was provided for this review

Kookabuk has a prized green shovel, and he can't stand sharing it. When Emily wants to borrow it, he has a meltdown. In this social story, Kookabuk learns to share his shovel with Emily and enjoy playing with her.

The art is wonderful to look at, and the modeling done by Kookabuk's mother (as well as the explanations in the book itself) will make this a very useful book. It teaches young children how to take turns and share, without necessarily naming it as a dysfunction for autistic children. At the same time, the authors' knowledge of autism spectrum disorders shines here and helps to make this a very approachable means to interact with neuro-atypical children of any kind.

All children would find this a great book on sharing, and my children thought it was fun and begged me to read it repeatedly. The means of explaining things is also very useful to use in general, another benefit to having this book in your library.

Buy Kookabuk Shares His Shovel at Amazon

MK French, reviewer. Born and raised in New York City, M.K. started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

December 14, 2016

Beyond Santa: Dealing with Disbelief and #ChristmasTruth

By Alison DeLuca

My twelve-year-old recently announced she knew the truth about Christmas and Santa. We didn’t have to ‘play the game’ anymore.

image courtesy of wikipedia commons

This was fine, all part of life. Then she broke my heart by adding, “But now it doesn’t feel like Christmas. How do I make it feel like Christmas again?”

Okay, she’s my only child. I just have one shot at this. For years it’s been easy: hiding gifts in the attic, moving that damn elf each night, filling stockings at 2 in the morning when I knew she would wake me a few hours later.

I'm a mom. It's my job to create magic each year, you see.

If I were a creative person, I’d have a whole slate of ideas to make the season feel like Christmas again. But I’m not when it comes to parenting, and so off to Pinterest I went. It was important to me that my kid continued to have a great December in the Post-Santa era.

Here are some concepts I got from Pinterest:

1. Festive breakfasts 

Oh, these festive breakfasts are fun. Websites like Blessed Beyond have really simple meals you can make with just a few additions to your pantry. I never thought a few donuts dressed up to look like snowmen could make my kid's face light up, and yet, here we are. 

Want to see what I made? Sure you do!

My first attempt. Pretty rough, but the kid scarfed them down.

Getting better. 

2. Music

Christmas music was actually easy. I popped on some Christmas tunes each morning and in the car, and the tween seems happy. We're getting a LITTLE tired of the Chipmunks, though.

3. Crafts

To quote the crafts meme, "Why buy a 7$ item when you can make it yourself with 92$ worth of craft supplies?" 

I'm secretly planning to make a candy bar bouquet for my kid with skewers, an old vase, rocks, and a buttload of candy bars. Hot-glue-gun those sugar bombs onto the skewers, stick 'em in the rocks, and tie a wire bow around the vase.

Okay, this one is in the planning stages.

4. Party Time

After a few sparkly breakfasts, the kid kicked in with the idea of a holiday party. She invited all the girls in her grade to come over, decorate gingerbread, and do whatever it is tween girls do.
image courtesy of wikipedia commons

They'll be in the basement, so I won't know. Except for when I come down the stairs with snacks, AKA Spy On Them.

And each girl will get one of these babies, which you can make from this recipe:

image courtesy of 

5. The reason for the season

You'd think I would have thought of the reason for the season first. After all, December 25th goes way beyond a beautiful tree and amazing gifts. 

While those things have their place (especially in a kids' world) there are so many layers to Christmas. 

I have so many hopes for her:

That she remembers her family and how lucky we are to have these people in our lives.

That she thinks about faith. It's important to her father and me, and I'd love it if she continues to draw support from that source.
image courtesy of wikipedia commons

That she's happy for those friends of hers, the ones coming to her party and the other ones we don't see as often.

That one day she rereads all those books we shared: The Night Before Christmas, The Christmas Carol.

And, most of all, that she experiences belief once more. I was sad when she announced the truth, but I forgot something very, very important -

One day, she might get to relive the magic of Christmas the way I did: 

through the eyes of a child. 

Alison DeLuca is the author of several steampunk and urban fantasy books.  She was born in Arizona and has also lived in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mexico, Ireland, and Spain. Currently she wrestles words and laundry in New Jersey.

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December 13, 2016

Review: This is Sarah by Ally Malinenko

by Donna Huber

cover This is Sarah
July 2014; BookFish Books; 9780991477869;
ebook & print (169 pages);  young adult
a free ebook was provided for this review
"Hi, this is Sarah. You know what to do!"
I hang up my phone and try to focus on the cold grass beneath my body. The stars flirt, winking on and off across a polished metal sky. Blood thrums through the millions of veins below my skin. Anything. Think of anything but Sarah's voice. Except I can't.

This is Sarah by Ally Malinenko is not your typical missing persons story. Instead of focusing on the hows and whys and what fors surrounding Sarah's disappearance, Malinenko focuses on the grief process of the two people who may have been closest to Sarah - her boyfriend and her sister.

Told in alternating chapters from the perspective of Claire (her sister) and Colin (her boyfriend), the reader gets an intimate look into what, or better who, is left behind. There is limited dialogue; instead, it is more of a monolog of internal thoughts.

 I felt that Claire's chapter gave the reader information about who Sarah was and her place in their world. Whereas, Colin's chapters are more focused on his grief and how he is coping with the sudden disappearance of his girlfriend - a disappearance that he was questioned in.

This is Sarah is an interesting story, though I did not feel very engaged in it. I think I only kept reading to see if there would be answers to Sarah's disappearance in the end. I realized that was what was keeping me reading when I read Colin's thought.
Or maybe, to be really honest, I wanted to skip ahead all of this, to the end of this story when I know the truth, so I could finally start to heal. 
I never really felt an emotional connection to the characters, which seems odd given the story is focused on emotions.

I felt like the reader was left hanging at the end as to how things went for Claire. At first , I was confused as to why there was so much about Claire in the book if there wasn't going to be some conclusion, but then I thought her role was to give us insight into Sarah since Colin was so wrapped up in his anger and grief that Sarah was "perfect". But as the story is a reflection on grief and not everyone is going to be healed from something like a sister going missing, maybe it is more realistic to leave Claire's ending less tidy.

This lack of wrapping up Claire's story gave the ending a bit of a rushed feeling, though Colin's epiphany felt plausible and natural.

Like I said, it was an interesting look into the grief process. I applaud Malinenko for going against convention of a missing persons story and focusing only on those left behind.

Buy This is Sarah at Amazon

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

December 12, 2016

Review: I'll Take You There by Wally Lamb #MondayBlogs

by Susan Roberts

November 2016; HarperCollins; 9780062656292;
ebook & print (272 pages); women's fiction
a free book was provided for this review
In this radiant homage to the resiliency, strength, and power of women, Wally Lamb—author of numerous New York Times bestselling novels including She’s Come Undone, I Know This Much is True, and We Are Water—weaves an evocative, deeply affecting tapestry of one Baby Boomer's life and the trio of unforgettable women who have changed it.

I’ll Take You There centers on Felix, a film scholar who runs a Monday night movie club in what was once a vaudeville theater. One evening, while setting up a film in the projectionist booth, he’s confronted by the ghost of Lois Weber, a trailblazing motion picture director from Hollywood’s silent film era. Lois invites Felix to revisit—and in some cases relive—scenes from his past as they are projected onto the cinema’s big screen.

In these magical movies, the medium of film becomes the lens for Felix to reflect on the women who profoundly impacted his life. There’s his daughter Aliza, a Gen Y writer for New York Magazine who is trying to align her post-modern feminist beliefs with her lofty career ambitions; his sister, Frances, with whom he once shared a complicated bond of kindness and cruelty; and Verna, a fiery would-be contender for the 1951 Miss Rheingold competition, a beauty contest sponsored by a Brooklyn-based beer manufacturer that became a marketing phenomenon for two decades. At first unnerved by these ethereal apparitions, Felix comes to look forward to his encounters with Lois, who is later joined by the spirits of other celluloid muses.

Against the backdrop of a kaleidoscopic convergence of politics and pop culture, family secrets, and Hollywood iconography, Felix gains an enlightened understanding of the pressures and trials of the women closest to him, and of the feminine ideals and feminist realities that all women, of every era, must face.

Before I give you my opinion of Wally Lamb's newest book, I have to admit that I have read and loved everything he has written and he is one of my favorite authors.  This wasn't my favorite book by him but it's still a fantastic book.  The character of Felix Funicello (who we knew as a child in Wishin' and Hopin') is now 60 years old and this book is a reflection on his life helped along by a few ghosts who provide him with movies of critical points in his childhood.  He could not only view the films but he could also become part of it with the feelings that he had at the age he was viewing.  Just as important as his reviewing his life is his look at feminism in the past compared to feminism today.

I loved seeing how Felix's character evolved from his earlier book and seeing how the events in our past are what makes us the adult we are today.  To sum it up, this is a book about aging, family and feminism told in a way that only Wally Lamb could tell it.

Buy I'll Take You There at Amazon

About Wally Lamb
Wally Lamb is the author of four previous novels, including the New York Times and national bestseller The Hour I First Believed and Wishin' and Hopin', a bestselling novella. His first two works of fiction, She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True, were both number-one New York Times bestsellers and Oprah's Book Club selections. He lives in Connecticut with his wife, Christine. The Lambs are the parents of three sons. Find out more about Wally at his website, and connect with him on Facebook.

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling.  She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their grandson.  Susan reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on Facebook.

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December 11, 2016

1 Week Left to Give the Gift of Reading

I can remember going to the bookstore or library as a child and picking out a new book. It was a favorite activity, one I always looked for to you. Books have always been a big part of my life. Even when my family didn't have a lot of many, I remember getting Sesame Street books in the mail - that mail day was an exciting day. I have shared my love of reading with my niece and nephew - there are books under the tree this year as usual.

Now imagine not being able to buy books or even get to the local library to borrow books. In many low-income areas, access to books is limited. Families are struggling to put food on the table and a roof over their head. There may be a library nearby, but the crime level in the area is too great to risk elementary age children walking there by themselves.

For thousands of students, they don't have to imagine it. It is their reality. I live in a community where more than 90% of elementary age children (ages 5 to 11), eat free or reduced lunches.

Children who don't read over the summer break have been found to fall below grade level by the start of the new school. The phenomenon is known as summer slide. A local literacy group wants to help end summer slide and to do that they provide 12 books to every child in the Athens-Clarke County School District. They have also expanded to provide books to children in a rural community and in Atlanta. One school has 100% of its students receiving free or reduced lunches.

Girl Who Reads is partnering with Books for Keeps to help provide books for these children. They still need sponsors for about 1,000 students. It takes $30 to provide 1 student with 12 books that they get to pick out to take home and keep forever.

How many students can the readers of Girl Who Reads sponsor? There are approximately 300 people subscribed to our RSS feed alone. If each one gave $10 that would be $3,000 or 100 students sponsored.

Can you give $10?

Donate via the Books for Keeps website, and make sure to select "Girl Who Reads campaign" under the donation designation field (found below the Payment Information section).

If you have gently used books you would like to donate, you can send them to me by December 19 as I plan to take collected books to their warehouse the week before Christmas. Email me at donna (at) for my address.

Read more about Books for Keeps, including a letter from the executive director.

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.