"Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all."-Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Silver Linings By Kaylee Baldwin

Grade: A
Rating: 5 Stars
Recommendation: Read this series

Here's me doing a happy dance for being the first one to receive a signed copy!  Yayee!

Kaylee Baldwin is a fantastic writer!  I enjoy all of her stories and will pretty much buy anything she's ever written.  What's neat about this book is that it is part of a series.  So if you like this book, and I think you will, there are five other books you can enjoy!  Kaylee did a great job of creating a great story and setting up the next story in The Ripple Effect Romance Novella Series (I can only imagine how difficult it would be to do that!).

Silver Linings is about Drew Westfall and Eden Torresi.  Drew Westfall stumbles into Silver Linings one night after a series of unfortunate events.  Eden discovers him and the romance takes off from there... except, well... there are a few complications!

What I liked:

SO much!  I love how Kaylee is able to create such a visual with her words.  I was able to picture the snow and the old house.  I could see Silver Linings and the people who lived there, and it was all so beautiful.  This story was a sweet romance.  Totally clean and cute and fun, but so completely romantic at the same time! I loved Drew.  He started off a little gruff but as soon as he got all cleaned up, I saw the cute, wonderful amazing Drew.  I loved that he really cared about Eden.  He didn't just say that he loved her (like so many romance books seem to do) but he really showed her!

And I loved Eden.  She was so giving and caring and put other first.  She was a likable MC and I really rooted for her to get her HEA.

What I didn't like:
Um... It ended? ( Luckily, I get to read Jace's story next!)

Such a great story, I can't wait to read Jace's story next!

The Skeleton in My Closet Wears a Wedding Dress by Sally Johnson

Grade: B
Rating: PG

SUCH A CUTE COVER! Right?! So, I really love contemporary LDS fiction books that discuss difficult subjects. I love that author's and publisher's (of LDS fiction) are publishing books that talk about real-world situations!

What I liked:
I loved the concept of this book.  A girl trying to overcome her past so she can have a future. And I think that the author did a good job of writing about depression.  In some ways, the tone of this book reminded me of Mile 21 by Sarah Dunster. 

The MC, Sophia 19, is just returning to BYU after a messy divorce. I think, the author did a great job conveying the MC's depression after returning to school...From the ward activities, to her roommates, to dealing with her own feelings in therapy, the author created a realistic picture of what life would be like for a 19 year-old divorcee.  Because Sophia is going through such a hard time, it would be easy to get bogged down in the sadness of her situation (because it is sad) but, the the MC's voice was sarcastic and funny and made the story feel light. There were few parts of this book that took my by surprise too! 

What I didn't like:
There were parts of this story that were frustrating. Sometimes the MC made decisions that I just wanted to shake her for. But realistically, were probably very accurate, so it's hard to nit-pick over this.  Her roommates, oh my... I'll leave it at that. And Travis... Oh Travis!  As much as his decisions were so incredibly infuriating, I found myself wanting him to spit out his side of the story!  I wanted answers to questions like:  What was up with the mom?  Why was he always running away?  Did he change at all?  Why did he want out of his marriage to Sophia so badly? Was HE depressed?  What did Sophia not know/understand about their marriage/past? But this wasn't Travis' story, so those questions weren't so important either I suppose.  

This was a good book that I would recommend it.  Not as light hearted as some LDS fiction books, but has some good meat and morals. 

If you liked this book also try: Mile 21 by Sarah Dunster

Friday, May 16, 2014

Writing The End and Beginning Editing

Today, I wrote the last scene of my first novel.  There is still a lot of work to be done but, technically it's complete.  As in there's a beginning, a middle and an end.  And wow does it feel good. AMAZING!  I really did it...  I wrote a book! And I think it doesn't suck! HA!

I know all this really means is that it's the beginning of editing and rewriting.  But for now.  I'm going to say it again: I wrote a book!! Squee!  

About a month ago, I really thought I was about done with writing.  I had worked my tail off... I ignored my house, my kids, my husband and yeah, it wasn't pretty.  I'm not going to write my next book the way I've written my first one.  For my next novel, I'm actually going to write and do the laundry.  I think, I hope... my husband prays.  

But I digress, about a month ago... I thought everything for my novel was on paper, or screen I guess... And then I realized that the ending, well, it kinda sucked.  I mean, the idea was good, but the execution?  BORING!   The pacing was off, the characters were tortured etc. I sent it to my cousin and also to the most amazing beta reader ever (who will remain nameless to protect her identity just in case she doesn't want her name mentioned here). Anyways, my cousin said it felt contrived, my beta reader liked parts of it, but not all of it. 

Agh, let's just say that it had issues.  And okay, I know it still does.  It's a long way from perfect, but it's close.  Or at least closer to my vision.

Last month, I had the opportunity to attend The LDStorymakers Conference in Layton, Ut.  And I had the opportunity to pitch my book to a publisher.  I wasn't sure that they would request it, in fact, i was pretty anxious about pitching the book to anyone at all.  Like ever.  But I figured I had flown all that way, I had paid to attend the conference and heck, why WOULDN'T I pitch it?  So I did!  And guess what... Before I was even finished giving my whole pitch she said she wanted to see it!  I get butterflies just thinking about it.  

I know this doesn't actually mean anything.  I KNOW that.  It's kind of like someone telling me my baby is cute.  I know it doesn't mean anything... but at the same time, it feels SO good.  

When she requested my full manuscript, it gave me motivation to keep writing and rewriting and editing and growing.  The boost it gave my writing made the nerves I had in the pitch session completely worth it.  Even if this book baby of mine never sees the light of publishing, the creative process of writing this book is maybe one of the best things I have ever experienced in my life.  I feel so blessed to have been given words to tell the story in my mind.  

I'm grateful to have a supportive family and friends who helped to make my dreams possible. I am thankful to the Jennifer Griffiths for telling me my story has merit and is publishable... She gave me my first big confidence boost and for that I am forever grateful. To Kaylee Baldwin, for reading my beginning and telling me it didn't suck, for giving me advice along the way and inspiring me to make changes she probably doesn't even realize.  And most of all... Melanie Jacobson.  Your books inspired me to begin writing in the first place, your advice gave me hope that I could actually do it, your invitation to attend conferences gave me the tools I needed to make it a reality and your friendship gives me motivation to keep on writing everyday. 

Sigh... Now begins the long road of editing. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Selection Trilogy

Grade: A-/4.75 Stars
Rating: PG (books 1 and 2 PG/ book 3 is PG-13)
Cautions:  Mostly clean. A few instances of violence... And one scene they get close to the line in book three.

This book is a cross between Hunger Games and the Bachelor.  I know, it sounds impossible, right?  Just think of this book as the dystopian version of the Bacherlor TV series.  Oh and add in Prince Charming and maybe Lancelot.  I think that will pretty much cover it.  I absolutely am a fan of this series.  I adore it and highly recommend it. 

So in Book One, we are introduced to America Singer.  She is in a very low social caste and lives in a place that is heavily regulated.  She has no intention of joining The Selection (a dating "contest" to win the hand of the Prince Maxon), but her boyfriend Aspen Leger insists that she do it. Of course they get into a big fight, she is chosen and leaves broken hearted.  I was super sad at first, but then I met the prince and forgot all about Aspen.

Book Two, We learn more about the characters the story advances and America starts to make a decision, to question that decision and finally come to terms. We learn more about the countries roots and founders and more about both of the love interests.  This book served mostly as a bridge between books one and two.  It was good, but it also frusterated me a few times... Okay several times.  Mostly because I hate cliffhangers.

Book Three, Has solidified this series' spot on my "favorites shelf." Now this does not mean that this book is without flaws, because they are there, but, I still really enjoyed it. 

America does have a tendency to do things that make me uncomfortable (ie. not telling Maxon sooner about Aspen) But Maxon pretty much makes up for that. Cause he's awesome. Don't get me wrong he has flaws, but they maybe that's why I like him. He feels so real. The end was wrapped up a little too quickly. There are a few things that I don't feel were thoroughly explained or brought to light. But, I guess that book was mostly about the love story, not the rest of the world as it was in the first two books, so really no surprise there. So... It's forgivable. 
There were a few things that I didn't love which is why I couldn't give these books a solid 5 stars.

1. The scene where the almost get too physical (not necessary and kinda took away from the innocent love thing they had gong on... Thank you Maxon for putting on the brakes).2. A lot of violence at the end. (more than past 2 books)3. A little too convenient ending. (seemed a bit contrived and rushed, like maybe she was right up against a word count cut off)4. There were a few things that looked like "potential conflicts" (fight with Kota, Kriss's necklace) but nothing really comes of it so those things served no purpose and felt a little added-in.

All this being said, I adore the selection world. I love Maxon the most, America was interesting although some of her choices really drove me nuts, but I liked her enough to care, and Aspen grew on me a little more in this book too. Overall, I would recommend this series, I really enjoyed it. 

Free Book Today: Come to Me, by Shannon Guymon

This one has been on my To Read shelf for a while now! Get your free copy here so you can read it with me!

Monday, April 14, 2014

What's Your Point of View?

What is point of view? The simplified definition of point of view is: the position of the narrator in relation to the story.  Essentially it's how and who is telling the story.  There are three points of view:  First (I, me, we), Second (you, your) and Third (he, she, they). But wait, it gets more complicated than that: Tense.  Past (I went, we walked) and Present (I go, I walk).  And in third person you have close third person and distant third person... Ah okay... I'm sure there's much more to it than just those things, but alas my mind is already on overload!

When I first started writing my novel, I began by creating a skeleton outline. I  mapped out scenes I knew would take place, starting with the beginning all the way to the end.  I went back and filled in tidbits of dialogue floating around in my head for the middle too.  My outline and scene sketches were I initially wrote in third person to give myself an idea of what would happen to the characters.  But as I started writing the meat of the story, after I really got to know the characters, it was pretty instinctual for me to switch over and write in first person past tense (he went, she sat, they walked). But I figured out relatively quickly into the writing process that this story demanded to be told in first person present tense.  

Now if you remember, when I first started writing my novel, I didn't have very much information on how to actually write it, I just started writing it. Needless to say, I didn't understand some of the major pitfalls of writing in first person present tense, such as it can slow the story down, you only get one POV, it can feel static instead of active etc.   I just knew that's what this story required.  So I went along my merry way, plotting and writing and creating Ali and Jacen's story in first person present tense.  And then I went to the ANWA conference and  quickly became aware of the fact that people have some pretty serious opinions on POV, especially when it comes to the first person present tense POV.  I mean, I know what I like to read but why it had never occurred to me that others have opinions that don't necessarily match mine never really dawned on me. I know what you're thinking... Duh, right? Leave it to me to pick the most "controversial" POV. I do tend to pick the road less travelled so at least I'm consistent.

Hmm...Now what?  Okay, it wasn't that I was discouraged about my writing, because if anything I was more motivated to write after attending the conference than anything, but I did begin to question whether  I was telling the story in the best possible way and if there was even an audience for my novel.  (In truth, I didn't start this with publishing in mind so it wasn't that I was heartbroken over it the fact that it might not ever be formally published, but I did want to create the best story that I could.)  So I decided to try a little writing experiment to see how the book would feel it I wrote it in a different POV.

My experiment was to rewrite the first five pages in first person past tense.  And Ugh.  I hated it.  Here's the funny thing: I enjoy reading books in first person past tense, I like present tense better, but reading past tense is fine. But writing in past tense?  Nope.  It just wasn't happening.  Maybe it's because I'm new to this art, or maybe it's just that I'm used to reading and writing this story from a certain perspective.  But, whatever it is, it just felt wrong.  

One of the big knocks on first person present tense is that it feels "affected" like it's a device used to sound more "literary." Another criticism is that this perspective gets in the way of letting the  reader "experience" the book for his or herself.  Welp, I certainly wasn't going for literary with this novel (I mean its an LDS Romance Novel for goodness sakes) and I certainly wasn't trying to "affect" people ( I mean I guess in a way I am, but not like that), but I knew that if I was going to write in first person present tense I had better have a good reason for doing so.  But did I?  

So I mulled it over, and over and over; Pondering Ali and Jacen's story and why this story needed to be told through their lens' as if it was happening to them right this moment.  And I realized, that in order to tell this story I had to be able to have the characters grow from their pasts.  Their pasts, like all humans, are one of the major things that define who they are.  My main character's are trying so desperately to avoid mistakes made in their pasts.  They are trying to get over it without having to get through it.  And it's not until later that the MC's figure out how to actually move on and I needed to be able to "flashback" to do this right. I know, the dreaded flashback... yet another pitfall.  But, it was necessary.  

This is about the time that most published author's are rolling their eyes.  And it's quite possible that they are 100% justified in doing so, because I'm not published and they are and I'm sure they know so much more about this craft than I do at this point. I have nothing but the utmost respect for anyone in the 1% who has EVER finished a novel (which is why I seriously paused to consider writing in a different POV) but in the end, I hope that my decision to use first person present tense does this story the justice it deserves.  Maybe, by the time I've completed my fifth novel I will have to write a revision to this post about my opinions on first person present tense, but currently I am confident in my choice to write this book in first person present tense.  

While many people may knock this choice in perspective one only needs to look to the New York Times' Best seller list to see that readers are flocking to this perspective in unprecedented numbers.  Here are a few examples of books you probably know that are written in first person present tense:

Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Pivot Point Series by Kasie West
Pushing the Limit Series by Katie McGarry
Shatter Me Trilogy by Tahereh Mafi
Matched Series by Ally Condie
Mile 21 by Sarah Dunster
Perfect Chemistry Series by Simone Eckeles 
Everything ever written by Jolene B. Perry

First person present tense is currently a hot trend among YA books as well as New Adult books (and these are the readers who my book is aimed at) as you can see!

Anyways, I could go on and on about POV, but my point is... Maybe first person present tense deserves another look. Especially, since it's resonating so much with readers.  What do you think? What perspective do you prefer to read? 

*To learn more about POV: Read Character's and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card and take a look at the PEG website. Both resources were exceptional in helping me understand the benefits and pitfalls of each of the different POV's.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The List by Melanie Jacobson

Grade: A/5 stars
Rating: PG

Recommendation: Must read! This and it's companion novel Second Chances are both Whitney Award finalists!

This month it's my turn to host my local book club! And you guessed it, I picked my favorite book, The List by Melanie Jacobson.

If you've been following this blog at all, you know that my love of clean reading, and of LDS fiction in general, began with this book.  (If not, you can read my journey here) so I figured it was about time that I wrote a review on it.

Do the names Jack Weyland Richard Paul Evans sound familiar?  Well, they should. These are some of the authors I grew up reading and if you were an LDS teen growing up in the 19 ::cough cough:: then you probably grew up reading them too.

Let's talk LDS fiction for a minute.  LDS readers seem to have an opinion one way or another about LDS fiction. Many readers like it, but there are also a great many readers who when they hear the term "LDS fiction" put two hands over their ears and run in the opposite direction.  About a year ago, if you had asked me what I thought about it I would probably have told you... "Well, Um... it's cute and fluffy?"... You see, I was a member of the latter group (how shameful- I know).  But now I'm singing a different song and it all started with this book.

What it's about (borrowed from Goodreads):

Ashley Barrett doesn't want to get married. At least, not anytime soon. She doesn't care how many of her friends and family members and fellow churchgoers had weddings before they finished college -- the last thing she needs in her fun-loving twenties is the dead-weight of some guy. And that's why she created The List. By the time she completes all twenty-five goals -- from learning a language to skydiving to perfecting the art of making sushi -- she'll be more ready to settle down. Maybe.

This summer in California is a prime time for Ashley to cross two items off the list: learn to surf (#13) and have a summer romance (#17). And Matt Gibson, the best surf instructor in Huntington Beach and the most wanted guy in the singles ward, is the perfect man for the job. Ashley hatches a plan to love him and leave him before heading off to grad school in the fall (#4, get a master's degree). But when Matt decides he doesn't like the "leaving" part, Ashley's carefully laid plans are turned sideways. Now Ashley faces an unexpected dilemma: should she stick to the safety of The List, or risk everything for a love that may tie her down —- or might set her free?

What I liked:

From the very first sentence I was hooked and I stayed hooked until I finished the book. In full disclosure, I read it about three more times after that and then I bought a hard copy so I could loan it to others. From Ashley's snarky voice, to the twists and turns throughout the book... It was pure serendipity.   There are so many things about this book that I like.  Let's start with the main premise.  If you spent anytime in young women's then you at some point have  probably made a list... But most likely it was a list about what the qualities you want in a mate, what you want to be doing in 1 year/5years/10years or some other marriage related topic.  What I love about the premise is that it turns the list idea on its head and gives Ashley a list of things she wants to do before she will even consider the m-word. So clever!

Now the characters.  Ashley is everything an LDS Young Single adult cliche is not.  Really!  A mormon girl who doesn't want to marry?  That's like a walking contradiction isn't it?  Okay, to be fair, she does want to marry, just not until she completes the list. What a breath of fresh air.   And then there's Matt Gibson.  Just love him!  Matt's character is written so differently than most book boyfriends.  He's cool and suave and gosh.. He was just great.  Perfect.

And this book is funny.  The banter is quick, the comedy witty and the twists and turns? Well,  enough said.

What I didn't like:

Well, if there were things that I didn't like, then I probably couldn't give this the title of my "favorite book" now could I?

So were LDS books of the past predictable? Definitely.  A bit cheesy? Yep (not to say that I didn't love them).  But, thanks to authors like Melanie Jacobson those are things of the past.  I urge you to try this book out if it's been a while since you've read an LDS fiction book. Write on Ms. Jacobson, write on.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Free Books Today!

Click HERE to download Daughter of Joy by Kathleen Morgan.

Click HERE to download Paradise Valley by Dale Cramer.

Click HERE to download Hawthorne by Sarah Balance

* I have not read either of these books, but it is my understanding that both are clean reads. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

What Makes a Book "Clean"?

Over the past few months, I've been on a "clean reading" journey and I've been asking myself over and over, What makes a book clean?  What makes it unclean?  Is there room in a "clean book"  for "taboo" topics or "darker issues" (For example:  Death and dying, alcoholism/drug recovery, divorce, death, disease, forbidden romance, crime, addictions, rape, infidelity, eating disorders, identity crises, crises of faith, you get the picture)?  And what about character traits?  Use of language, tattoos, killing in military or another uniform, piercings? Well, I'm still not sure on the answer, maybe each book is a case by case basis or maybe there's a hard and fast line, or maybe the definition of clean varies from person to person. What do you think?

A few months ago when I started adjusting my personal definition of clean reading, I looked to Deseret Book to help me out.  I knew if a book was listed on Deseret Book website, then it would steer pretty far to the clean side of the street instead of taking a nose dive into the gutter. That's where I found Edenbrooke, Second Chances, and other great books.  Unfortunately, I exhausted the website of new reading material fairly quickly. So I found new ways to find clean reads: adjusting the books I listed as "to-read" on my goodreads account and finding more friends with similar desires to read clean books on that site as well.  This is when I discovered we all have a differing idea of what makes a book clean or not.  

Let's Discuss the "Big Three": 


This is an interesting one.  It seems like you either really care about it or really don't.  There are probably a few readers in between these two extremes who are okay with a few "minor" instances of swearing in a book, but for the most part, it seems like readers are either in one camp or the other.  For me

I've noticed that there are a few LDS authors out there (some of whom I really like) who tend to write their non-LDS works under a different pen.  One author in particular (who shall remain nameless, because I like her and would never ever slam an author on this site ever) tends to have A LOT of swearing (both major and minor) throughout the entire book in both her new adult and young adult non-LDS works.  I'm not sure what I think about this. So this brings up another interesting question, Do you hold LDS authors to a different standard in terms of using language in their writing? I do.  For a few reasons.  First, I believe that it's possible to write an amazing book without ever having to use a a swear word. And second, if you're LDS I kind of count on you to write something that I can feel okay reading. There is a whole lotta smut out there that I already have to choose from without a fellow sister adding to it. Yikes, that sounds harsh doesn't it?  

Well let me step off my pedestal and say that I'm actually a pretty lenient reader in terms of language.  Minor language doesn't bother me as much as it does some, even widespread.  I am pretty forgiving.  I can even forgive the occasional "major" swear word.  That being said, widespread swearing of either minor or major words tends to get in the way of my reading experience.  In other words, when there are so many instances of profanity in a book I am so distracted by it that it detracts from the story.

Sexual Content

I haven't been shy about saying I love the New Adult genre.  But my oh my is it difficult to find a good clean book in this genre, especially in terms of sexual content.  This genre unfortunately, has become synonymous with the aforementioned "smut". Which, sucks. Really, it sucks, because  I love me a good college romance.  I'm pretty sure this love-affair with the NA genre, started way back when I was in junior high and started reading the Sweet Valley University series. Okay, I really don't remember what they were about, but I remember loving them  (that probably ages me doesn't it?).  So back to sexual content...  This is a pretty controversial one, isn't it?  For example, is it clean if it's a "closed-door" bedroom scene? Most would probably say sure, ya, I think that's fine.  Okay well, let's back up for a second, What if the couple isn't married?  Or what if the couple is made up of two minors?  Or maybe it's depends more on how it's portrayed? Now here's a more personal question... Why are you reading it?  Are you reading it because your addicted to the way it makes you feel? Can you enjoy a book if it doesn't have "that" scene? 

Here's what I think... I try to stick to the MPAA movie rating guidelines of a PG-13 level book.  Every once and a while a book will surprise me with a scene (usually at about 80% through the book) and I'll just skip over the pages with that content.  Since Fifty Shades came out a few years ago the industry seems to be flooded with books that I would consider pornographic or erotica.  I've even seen some of these themes and scenes showing up in YA fiction. Honestly, I've scene them on the shelves of my neighborhood library. That I am not okay with.  I'm not saying I think we should censure books, I'm just saying we should be able to have some rating system so we know what to expect in a book.  

Taboo Topics

This is what I have been mulling over for the better part of three months.  In LDS fiction, especially romance,  I've come to expect a "sweet read".  A book that doesn't deal with heavy topics, use language, or have sexual content (well maybe a chaste kiss).  But here's what I'm wondering about today: Can an LDS fiction (a book with LDS characters and/or intended for an LDS audience) book address topics of a less-traditional more taboo topics?  In earlier posts I've reviewed a few books that deal with more difficult subject matter: Becoming Bayley (bullying/alopecia), Mile 21 (death of a spouse/crises of faith), Taken by Storm (dating outside faith, the lines of sexual promiscuity), The Weight of Love (Forbidden Romance with a missionary/death of a spouse).  I've also read a few others: My Not So Fairy Tale Life (Unplanned pregnancy), Hidden in the Heart (Rape- done cleanly without sexual content) etc... All of these books I consider clean.  They were written without swear words, crossing the sexual line and most importantly these books didn't preach bad choices having good-consequences.  And I think maybe that's the key.  

I'll explain what I mean with a story... My husband is a theater actor/singer.  On the stage he has given many opportunities to play many different parts. We use a quote from Brigham Young to measure the roles he considers against:

'Upon the stage of a theater can be represented in character, evil and its consequences, good and its happy results and rewards; the weakness and the follies of man, the magnamity of virtue and the greatness of truth. The stage can be made to aid the pulpit in impressing upon the minds of a community an enlightened sense of a virtuous life, also a proper horror of the enormity of sin and a just dread of its consequences. The path of sin with its thorns and pitfalls, its gins and snares can be revealed, and how to sun it." (Discourses of Brigham Young, p.243; Bookcraft, 1998)

What this quote essentially means is this: Portray good choices as having good consequences and bad choices as having bad consequences.  With each role he plays carefully analyze the role and see if it's something that meets this standard.  Now back to books, far too often I see the reverse of this quote happening.  Bad choices having good consequences... Drinking leads to meeting a cute boy and happily ever after- Not loss of the spirit and most likely making further bad decisions: promiscuity, getting behind the wheel leading to a car accident etc.  That's not good.  Of course there are many many other examples of what I mean by this quote, but I think you get the idea.  

For me, I enjoy reading LDS fiction that deals with these sorts of topics.  I want to see how LDS characters deal with mental illness, divorce, disease, unplanned pregnancy, addiction etc.  Of course it has to stay within the boundaries I mentioned above, but I think LDS readers are looking to read about issues with more weight.  What do you think? I'd love to hear! Do you have any suggested books?

Free Books Today!

A Little bit Cupid by Jennifer Shirk Click here to download.

Fall For You by Cecilia Gray Click here to Download.

Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Writing the First Draft

At the end of this month I am scheduled to attend the Storymakers Conference in Salt Lake City.   In preparation for this conference I've been working like a mad woman to finish the first draft of my first book!  Squeee!  I'm so close it's painful! Seriously, I just want to write ALL the time.  Over the past year, my book has grown from an abstract dream of wanting to one day maybe, possibly write a book,  to a burning desire that my brain won't shut up about it until I had it down on paper. Well, I think I drove everyone around me a bit crazy, especially my husband and children (sometimes even myself), but it's been so satisfying to create it.  Around thirty pages into my writing journey it was pretty clear that I needed more knowledge to write this book, so I started writing authors I liked, looing up blogs, attending conferences etc. Now six months later, my writing is still in it's infancy, but I thought I  would share a few resources that have helped me to write the my first draft of my novel  (and a few things that I wish I had had before I started writing my novel).

First things first, if you are serious about writing, then attend a conference.  ANWA was a great conference and I highly recommend it.  Storymakers is another conference that I understand is amazing! And its coming up at the end of this month!   This is by far the best place to gain a vast amount of knowledge in a short amount of time, network with other authors, and develop your talent for writing.  So invest in it.

If you can't attend, there are other terrific resources that you can take advantage of too.

1. Dan Wells speaks here on Plot.
2. Writing on the Wall by PEG (a blog about all things writing)

A Few Books:

1. Story by Robert McKee
2. Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell
3. Eats Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss
4. The Elements of Style by Strunk and White
5. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King
6. Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card
7. The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell


1. Scrivener (software)
2. Alpha Smart Neo (keyboard with small screen for when you want to write on the go)

My first words of advice:  Write.  A lot. And then write some more.  For me, I didn't do any research on how or what to write.  I just started writing.  In some ways this served me well (I got to be creative without worrying about pleasing others or feeling like I was doing it "wrong") and in others it was such a disservice (wasted time, writing in circles, etc.).  All through school I loved my English and Writing courses (no, I'm not an English major, which is pretty clear because I'm sure my grammar and punctuation is atrocious... I'm truly sorry, I promise to hire a really good editor before I publish my first draft) and I also loved reading, but I never had a creative writing class, though I wish I had.  I just dove right in.  Starting with a skeleton outline (my story has remained a few of those elements, but it's grown and evolved so much since then) and then moving on to  a very brief character sketch and finally I began filling in the outline with scenes I knew I wanted in my book.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Cinderella Screwed Me Over by Cindi Madsen

Grade: B/3.75 stars
Rating: PG-13
Cautions:  several instances of minor language throughout, Premarital sex between consenting adults off screen, and talk of being drunk.

Recommendation:  Great idea, good execution.  A little long.

Once upon a time, I was a little girl.  And like most little girls growing up in the 1980's I was nourished on a healthy diet of Disney Princesse movies:  Ariel, Aurora, Cinderella and Belle... you name it I watched it.  Fast forward a few years to my teenage and young adult years and you will see that I was experiencing what can only be described as the "Disney Princess Syndrome"... Yes, I expected to be treated like a princess and get my very own "Happily Ever After".   Now as an adult, I have two little girls of my own (and a little boy, but this is about the Disney PRINCESS syndrome not prince syndrome, so... we'll talk about him in another post). And for better or worse, my little girls are being brought up in a Disney world.  In fact, just this morning we were watching Disney Junior and yesterday we played Disney online, and next week we might even re-purchase Annual Disney passes.  Ah! Walt Disney, you are a mad genius.

Clever Cindi Madsen took this whole idea of Disney Princess Syndrome and based a book on it. This book is about a girl named Darby, who was suffered from the Disney Princess syndrome, but had grown up and discovered that it wasn't true.  Instead she learns that there are no perfect men or perfect marriages. Poor Darby goes through a series of relationships that in some way or another let her down.  A few good relationships are sprinkled in, but each one seems to end and leave her in worse condition than she was before.  And then she meets Jake... and he challenges all the rules she's set for herself.

What I liked:

Darby created a "case-file" of her failed relationships... Each equated to a different Disney princess.  They were each so cute, so funny and I just loved each one!  It was also funny to see how some of thees-boyfirend stories overlapped and how each played out.  Sometimes "flashback" scenes can detract and distract from the main story, but not in this book. Each "case-file" built the story and explained why Darby was the way she was.  I loved the "cute-sweet" (the cute/funny/awkward scene where the main characters meet) scene where Darby and Jake meet.  So darling and funny! I liked Jake, he was patient and kind and just... great!  Loved the scenes with him in it.

And of course, I loved the premise of this book! I wish I had thought of it first!

What I didn't like:

Darby was a little too jaded for my taste (in terms of relationships), to the point that it was a bit unbelievable. She also said a few things that put me off and made it difficult for me to relate to her.  For example, in her conversations with Kyle she bashes communication in marriage.  Later in the book she gets upset with her boyfriend for not talking to her sooner about certain situations (even though she made it pretty much impossible, but that's beside the point). So I was left thinking, okay Darby, which is it?  Communicate or not?  Mostly, I think Darby just likes to be contrary when it comes to the male sex.  And then there's her viewpoint of her brother Devon's marriage to Anna... which was just so sad. Her view of marriage and relationships in general is sad throughout most of the book. Maybe it's because my degree is in Marriage, Family and Human Development, but it was really difficult for me to be on Darby's side through alot of the book.  I kept thinking, "Jake... you are a catch! RUN!"   But the biggest of all my problems with Darby was her dislike of children in general.  Several times in the book she mentions how much she dislikes children, babies, crying, and her lack of maternal instinct.

For the most part, the ending was fine. It didn't make my toes curl or anything, but I am glad that most of the loose ends were tied up, that Darby was able to work through some of her issues, and that her viewpoints were at least heading in a better direction.


I enjoyed this book.  The premise was original, the characters were interesting and the ending was satisfying. This book felt a little too drawn out for me, but that might be because I just finished a few short story books recently, so maybe it's just long in comparison?  I could've done without the minor swear words thrown throughout the book- I really didn't think they were necessary.  And one last thing: even though I know that adults in the non-mormon world have pre-marital sex, this was another thing I didn't feel was necessary; Them getting together and "living happily ever after" would have been enough- I didn't need to know that they did it. (Even though is was done behind closed doors so technically clean).

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Taken by Storm (Trilogy) by Angela Morrison

Grade: A-
Rating: PG-13

Recommendation:  This is a good trilogy told in a unique way, but only for the well-informed reader who enjoys LDS fiction that deals with taboo topics

Caution: High heat level,  (talk of crisis of faith and you get into a teenage boys brain... which is hmm a true teenage boys brain, so this book may not be for everyone, but overall it is clean, but may push the limits for some)

Taken by Storm had the potential to be quite a controversial trilogy. This book approached the subject of inter-faith dating and the "gray" lines that sometimes arise from dating a person not of your faith. This book is written in a very unique way, alternating chapters between Leesie's poem book and Michael's Dive log. It took me a few chapters to get used to it, but it didn't take away from the story line at all.

Leesie is a young Mormon teenager.  She is the only member of the church in her small High School.  Her family has very strict dating rules (like most LDS families): No necking, No petting, Not tongue, No fornification, No sex before marriage etc. and she is quite content and happy with this arrangement because she believes her faith and wants to live it.  However, because of her rules, she is known as the "Ice Queen" at school and is bullied:  name calling, butt pinching etc.  Leesie's side of the story is told in her Poem book, in verse.  I wasn't sure if I would like verse, and admittedly, I had a harder time connecting to Leesie's chapters then Michael's, but it was enjoyable overall.

And then there's Michael.  I really liked Michael and I really hated Michael.  He is there for Leesie and is a good guy, but he is a very typical non-mormon teenage boy.  Let's just say he has hormones. Well, to be fair, so does Leesie, but because he has different standards than her in regards to intimacy than well, it's easier to dislike him especially in this first book.  Michael has come to live with his Gram after his parents are killed during a dive trip.  He is grieving, and alone and suffering.

So this book is about what happens as these two teens begin to form a bond.  This was a difficult book for me to read, because I lived Leesie's life.  In high school and some of college, I dated a non-member.  We had many many many conversations about religion and my "limits".  He was a good guy, a really good guy actually.  Smart, kind, family-oriented, charitable... but we had very different standards.  And because we had different standards, we encountered many differences of opinion.  So as Leesie and Michael are trying to navigate their relationship through three books: Breaking up, getting back together, getting close to the line and backing away, missionary discussions, crisis of faith... It just felt like I was reliving my adolescent years again.  For better of for worse. In the first book they have one conversation about "churchy" stuff and he calls her Brainwashed.  That one really hurt.  This section is from his POV and it is really easy to see why he thinks that, of course being a mormon and sharing Leesie's beliefs, it just brought back a few too many sad memories.

What I liked:

Morrison approached this subject in a fresh new way. She was brave and committed to telling a story of a couple trying to figure out who they are, what they believe and how or if they can/should/want to fit together.  In fact, it was so honest, I know a few readers will be turned off by the subject matter (it isn't graphic and THE line is never crossed, but it is steamy).  But I commend her for taking on a subject that many/most LDS authors might be too uncomfortable taking on.  Actually, I better check my facts, I'm not totally sure she is LDS. Hmm.

The characters were spot on, the challenges they struggled with were so real it hurt and the characters were relatable and "hateable". Michael, was 100% perfectly written.  He was a teenage boy and unrepentant for it.  He challenged Leesie in some many ways: her faith, her boundaries, her thoughts, her future.  At times, I wanted to scream at Leesie just to walk away.  There's too much heartache waiting in a relationship like that, for both parties... and it's just not fair to either of you to continue on.  But at the same time, I understood the feeling of loving someone so much that the thought of walking away without doing everything you can do to teach that person the gospel is just as heartbreaking.

What I didn't like:  (*some spoilers below so read with caution)

This book has the potential of saying: "It's okay to date non-members if there are no members around" and the idea of "flirt to convert", which is such a dangerous and slippery slope, especially if this book has a HEA see my post here to read more about this. That being said, Morrison did a good job of conveying the real feelings the characters had for each other and the real difficulty in having a relationship with someone not of your faith, especially the physical side of it.  This is a difficult subject to write and I think she was really brave to take it on.  99% of interfaith relationships, especially between teenagers are going to end. If you are the 1% then I am happy for you, but it's still difficult to write without saying you condone it.  I guess what I mean is, if you commit to writing this type of story like Morrison did, there is going to be a lot of gray area that is very difficult to write both accurately and morally.  I believe that somehow Morrison has managed to do it.


This was a well written trilogy.  It took a few turns that I didn't see coming, which kept me on my toes.    It was so real and so honest that I think it is a series worth reading, especially if you have a teenage daughter (or son) dating someone of another faith, because it can give an honest glimpse into the teenage mind. Another reason I would recommend this book is because it is LDS fiction that approaches subject matter that is taboo, without about being profane. In other words, it isn't a nice little  all tied together with a pretty pink bow... Nope,  It is real and gritty and because of that it can sometimes be painful and uncomfortable to read. But it will certainly make you feel something.  For that reason alone, I think this book deserves to be read. (You really will have to read all three to get a HEA though, so be forewarned).

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Becoming Bayley by Susan Auten

Grade: A+
Rating: PG+
Recommendation: Read it.  NOW.

I have probably read this book about five times now. Really, I'm not kidding.  When I want to read something good, I grab this book and flip open to just about anywhere and let myself get sucked into its pages.

This is one of those books that I wish more people knew about, because it is just so good!  At this time I believe it is only available via e-book and it makes me so sad/mad because it is honestly one of my top five favorite books I've read to date and I'd really like it sitting on my bookshelf (my real one, not my virtual one).

When I first read the set-up and say the cover, I really thought it was a YA book, marketed to LDS youth between the ages of 12-19. And it is, but THIS BOOK IS SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT. 

What I liked:


The way Auten writes is like vanilla ice cream smothered in hot-fudge with a red cherry on top... Divine.  She has this way of creating characters that aren't perfect, who are struggling, but are just so real and likable and just perfect. I fell in love with the whole cast. Well, everyone except for Matt's mom.  I loved Bayley.  She felt like a real person to me.  I could picture her going away to soccer camp and getting all dolled up for the dance, I could see her strained relationship with her sister.  I could FEEL her pain each step of the way.  And I fell in love as she fell in love.

And Matt.  Ahh Matt.  More than most book boyfriends, he felt like a real guy to me.  He was so cute, especially with Bayley.  And even better, he surprised me a few times.  I liked all the sides of him I got to see:  Pre-mission, soccer player, son, brother, post-mission... Loved that. He did a few things I wanted to shake him for, but that just made him seem that much more real.  I loved him.

Really, I loved all the characters, but what made this story really special was the storyline and the challenges they encountered along the way.

What I didn't like:

I have nothing to say at all about the story. Loved the beginning, middle and end.

But...Here's the thing.  The cover is beautiful and yes, the book is about soccer, but it's also not, I mean it is, but it's just so much more than just soccer.  It's about Bayley, and her struggles and her quest to find herself, her worth and of course her love story. While the cover is absolutely beautiful, I don't think it does enough justice to the story and unfortunately might  dissuade some readers from buying the book. Ah, I hate saying that because it really is pretty, it just made me think more YA, less LDS romance/BYU.  So when you look at the cover, I want you to picture the back of a gorgeous brunette girls head looking in the mirror, but what she sees is a red-headed girl losing all her hair.  Now on her wall is a poster of all the cute BYU men's soccer team, front and center is her love interest and on her desk is a stack of mail missionary mail and on the floor is a well loved soccer ball.  Okay, that pretty much sums the story up for me... Kinda, sorta?  Okay, I suck at cover art.  But what I'm trying to say is that this story has so much too it than just a soccer ball.

So buy the book and thank me later.   I promise, if you love LDS Romance, you will love this book, there's just no way you won't love it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Outer Edge of Heaven by Jaclyn M. Hawkes FREE TODAY

Happy Hump Day! Enjoy this book for free by clicking HERE

I've read a few of the Rockland Ranch series by this author and enjoyed them.  They are a good, clean way to spend a day.  Hope you enjoy!

The Fortune Cafe: A Tangerine Street Romance

Grade: A
Rating: PG-13 (one minor swear words)
Content: Clean

What happens when you put an awesome premise together with three amazing authors?  You get an incredible little book named the The Fortune Cafe: A Tangerine Street Romance!  It's no secret that I love Melanie Jacobsen... Pretty much anything that has this ladies name on it is gold to me.  And Julie Wright? She's another one of my favorites, but combine those two with Heather B. Moore and you have one serious writing powerhouse.

Here's what you need to know:  This book is divided into three stories.  Part one is Misfortune by Julie Wright, next comes, Love, Not Luck by Melanie Jacobsen, and last is Takeout by Heather B. Moore.  The premise that ties these stories together (as explained at the beginning of the book) is that A Chinese Restaurant on Tangerine street has Fortune Cookies where the fortunes come true (at least the first one does). Super cute right?!

Now here's my confession... Are you ready?  I've never read a short story (anthology) book before...ever. It's not that I had anything against them, I didnt', it's just that I didn't necessarily see enough appeal to actually pick one up (I know tragic, right?).  I mean how was an author ever going to get all the information from one story jammed a book 1/3 the size and make me fall in love with characters?  I just didn't think it could be done. Well... That was yesterday, before I read The Fortune Cafe. Today, I understand why "short story" format is so appealing...and just as satisfying.

What I liked about the book as a whole:  When I find a book that I like, I'm always sad to see it end.  I just want a little bit more...The same story, but different ya know?  What I really want is to replicate how the story made me feel. What's cool about this book is that it does exactly that.  You get to fall in love with the Tangerine Street World and then you get to revisit that same world, but from a different person in the next story. I love that.  (I'm kind of a sucker for alternative points of view.) And don't even get me started on the the premise, just so dang cute.  I'm also impressed with the subtle overlap of the books, just enough to make you go "Ah! Look at what they did there." It's clever, without going so far as to be gimmicky and cheesy.

Part One: Mis-fortune by Julie Wright.

I've read a few books by Wright and I've always enjoyed her writing style.  And this is no exception. Wright does a fantastic job of introducing us to Tangerine street. Part One introduces us to the cafe, it's owner Cai (who is expertly personified) and most importantly to Emma.  Emma is a waitress at the Cafe by day and writer/caretaker for her mother by night.  She is opposed to opening a fortune cookie if for no other reason than she just hasn't.  Well, that and she doesn't believe in the fortune cookie "voodoo".  Well, fate or luck smiles on her and she ends up opening one on the same day her high school crush sits in her cafe.

Wright does a great job at creating a well-rounded character and world very quickly.  Really she is very talented.  In a 1/3 of the overall book, I not only was introduced to her world, her hopes, dreams, fears and love interest, but wayyy more important I actually cared.  I won't give away much more than that though... You'll have to read it.

Part Two: Love, Not Luck by Melanie Jacobsen

It's no secret that Melanie's name on the book is the whole reason I picked this little diamond in the first place.  And she didn't disappoint. This part of the book is Lucy's story. She is visiting the cafe with her parents and her fiancé parents to finalize wedding plans. When she breaks her lucky Jade necklace, Lucky Lucy isn't so lucky anymore, in fact she's quite the opposite.  I love the banter between the characters. Really, Jacobsen is a master at writing Dialogue;  Snarky, flirty and fast-paced=awesome sauce. The love interest (name withheld to prevent spoilers) was my favorite of the three love interests.  Witty without being annoying,  Cute without being "too cute" and just the right amount of Mmm-mmm.  I also loved Lucy's relationship with her mother, it felt real and added something special to the book.  Especially after reading Emma's story in part one, I think this helped to round out the overall balance of the book as a whole.  Loved this section!

Part Three: Takeout by Heather B. Moore

Okay I'm embarrassed to admit this. But this is my first time reading anything by Heather... Please lower your weapons, I see now what a huge oversight that was and I will now be reading everything Ms. Moore writes.  Right from the first sentence, Stella Novak's and Evan Rockham's story draws you in. It's kinda of like a can of Pringles in that way, once you've had one sentence you just want to gobble the whole thing up.  Stella works at Spyglass Jewelry a few doors down from Tangerine Cafe and Evan is a chef/culinary teacher at the new Mariposa Hotel. I wasn't sure who the last story in this book would be about and I'm glad it was about Stella and her cute little jewelry store on Tangerine Street.  Can I just say I loved the run in right at the beginning with the two men... Fantastic story. Can't wait to read more by this author.

Have I got your interest piqued now right?  Great! Job done... Now go read the book.  You'll be happy you did. You can buy it HERE.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

American Night Writer's Conference (ANWA)

In my last post about why and how I started writing my own book, I mentioned that I attended the American Night Writer's Conference held in Mesa, Arizona.  What an incredible experience!  It was so great in fact, that I am planning on attending the LDS Storymakers conference in Layton UT.  at the end of April.

I was a little nervous about attending a conference because I really didn't know what to expect or if I would fit in.  What I discovered was that writers of all backgrounds, experience levels and genres attend so there is pretty much a place for everyone-including me.

We arrived the very first night of the conference and jumped right in!  The first night, I participated in a critique group. Myself and five other ladies (who also write romance) each took a turn reading part of our story and then we went around the circle and told what we liked and what we thought could be done to make it better.  OH MY!  I was super nervous.  I had pretty much kept my book under lock and key until two nights previous when I reluctantly asked my husband to read it over with me.  Yes, that's right, up until two nights before the conference my husband hadn't even read it. That's how unsure about my writing I was!  I knew I loved it, I knew I thought it was romantic and funny and great, but the rest of the world outside of my own head?  I didn't know if it was actually all of those things (I still don't).  Anyways, I had an incredible experience sharing my story with those wonderful women.  They laughed in all the right places and gave me great insight that I wouldn't have seen on my own.  That made me believe in critique groups... I am hoping to find one ASAP now that I'm home.

We then had a great agent/editor speak on query letters.  I am getting closer to that point, but I'm not quite there, so my info. on that will be posted at a later date.

Some of my favorite speakers from the conference were: Sarah M. Eden who spoke on "3 Essential Elements of Romance" and  Jenni James who spoke on "Writing Secrets".  Victoria Curran who gave us her experiences as an editor of Harlequin Heartwarming and there were so so many other great speakers such as Dr. Blasingame, Annette Lyon, Adam Sidwell and Jon S. Lewis.  Really, everyone was fantastic that it's hard to spotlight everyone! So here are my favorite things I took home:

Sarah M. Eden (sarahmeden.com) was the keynote speaker at the conference.  She is the author of so many amazing regency romances and I was so excited to hear ANYTHING that came out of her mouth about writing romantically.  Here are her main points:  In the romance genre the books question will always be, "will the couple end up together?"  and in a romance book the answer will always 100% of the time be, "Yes!"  This can be difficult to write creatively because it will always be the same.  In this genre the love story is what drives the plot, or in other words, Romance is the point.  I love that don't you?  Some of my favorite tid-bits of information are: "totally hot is not an emotion"  (oh that's just so true! and ohh it had me laughing because we've all read books like that haven't we?!). "Emotional connections take time and interaction."  The whole love at first sight thing is great, but to build a realistic story with feeling it takes time.  "Each character needs strengths and weaknesses. No one can relate to a perfect person."  (As writer's we sometimes have trouble putting out characters through things, but that is exactly what creates a great book).  "Don't write annoying characters." (Amen to that!) and last, "We need a reason to cheer for the couple... They need to be something to each other that no one else can be, and it must go beyond the physical, love at first sight, infatuation phase."

Isn't Sarah amazing? The answer to that will always be yes.

Jenni James (http://authorjennijames.com) spoke at the conference on her writing secrets.  I loved this class because it was SO incredibly helpful to a newbie like me. Some of her secrets:  Put your work up on Wattpad.com to gain followers. To up the number of words you are writing each day, work with a partner and give yourself word challenges and then read each others work.  Did you know that only 1% of authors actually finish their books? I didn't either... So If I do nothing more than just finish the book then I'm ahead of the game! She also spoke on what to do when you are having writers block..."If you get stuck, then something is missing.  A kiss, a death, something!"  Go back and fix it and then your story will keep moving on.  She also mentioned to not be afraid of putting your character through things. Give your characters flaws, not bad, but maybe a little bad! The characters need to grow in the story.  She reminded us that every scene must move us forward, there must be a reason for the scene to exist.  When editing watch for double words, send your work to beta readers, give your self word challenges, keep dialogue snappy, fast, witty. There are two types of humor:  Mean humor and the element of surprise.  One of the best points she made was on pacing.  There are certain things we don't need a play by play of ex.  Cutting vegetables.  There are other times when we need to experience EVERYTHING like when the characters finally kiss, draw that out second by second.  Show through your actions what the character is feeling don't say "she felt sad".  Use action tags instead of "said".

Okayyyy there is SO much more I want to type about the conference, but I'm pretty sure that I've already overwhelmed you by this information in this post!  Can't wait to tell you how Storymakers goes!

P.S. If you're an avid reader and you want to be a beta reader for my book, I'd love it! Just email me so I can send you a few chapters!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Weight of Love by Jolene B. Perry

Grade: A
Rating: PG +
Content: Clean

Best Quote: Oh I wish I could give you this one, but its too spoilery.  Darn.  Ask me and I'll tell you!

Every so often a book comes along that I kinda fangirl all over. THIS IS ONE OF THEM. I will be honest, I wasn't sure about picking it up. I worried about the subject matter: Mormon missionary falls in love with a single mom? I'll admit, I had my doubts that it could be done without crossing lines, but I gave it a chance. I downloaded the sample and five minutes later I bought the book and a few hours after that I finished it and then one minute after that, I started it all over again. Really and truly I did. Wow...This book! I'm kinda in love with it. The romance, the REAL romance, just hit the spot. The characters were real, they had emotion, they struggled. Oh my. I kinda wish I could get amnesia and read it for the first time all over again. 

Have you heard of Jolene B. Perry? No?  Neither had I, which is absolutely crazy because she has so many books out!  This is me doing a happy dance... And then this amazing gem of a book magically appeared on my recommended list. I'm so glad it did. In fact, I have to go now and buy everything else this lady has ever written. What's unique about her writing is that she writes in first person present tense.  Many/most authors I've read who write this genre of book write it in first person PAST tense.  -ed instead of -es?  Ya with me?  Anyways, the book I am currently writing, no TRYING to write began as third person, which I soon discovered I HATED to write, it then became first person past tense and then I realized that the story was best told in first person PRESENT tense.  Okay, I know that's super rambl-y.  What I mean to say is that this book really attracted me not only for the story (which I loved), but also for the way that this story was written.  I felt like I was experiencing what the MC's were experiencing as they experienced it.  And I love that kind of escape! Way to go Ms. Jolene Betty Perry, you have a fan in me. 

What I liked:  As I hope you've discovered by now I do my absolute best not to spoil any books, ESPECIALLY if it is a book that I really really like and think you should read, So forgive me if this is not as specific as some of my other reviews have been.  Okay... I liked how this book started before it started.  The reader is introduced to Mitchell before he goes on his mission and Jaycee when she recieves life changing news.  I LOVED this aspect of the story.  It added so much depth to the story.  

I also loved the alternating points of view.  The book I'm writing also alternates view points and I have found that I love what it adds to a story.  If you haven't read a book that alternates view points, it can take a little getting used to.  But, I promise that if you give it a chance you will 95% of the time love it.  It's like you get all sides of the story and not just one person's take on it.  So, writing a male's perspective as a female doesn't always work, but Perry seriously nailed it.  I have a tendency to look at missionaries as just that missionaries.  The white shirt and tie wearing elder with a name tag.  I loved that this book brought to life the man behind the badge.  And who wouldn't love Mitchell?  I dare you to try. 

Then there's Jaycee.  Jaycee is a widow and a single mom to a son with special needs.  She is struggling emotionally and financially.  The woman just needed a hug the whole book! And its amazing the angst the author was able to create because Mitchell was unable to fulfill that need.  Jaycee reminded me of so many strong and valiant women I know.  She struggled, but she never lost hold on her testimony.  I was so proud of her and enjoyed watching her learn and grow and watch her put faith in the answers to prayers that she received   Touching. 

I was so nervous that this book would cross the line and in a few parts I read with one eye open only because I so wanted Mitchell to do the right thing and at the same time I just wanted him to SAY something.  Ah... Perry wrote this so perfectly. 

What I didn't like:  Hmm... Um.  I wish the female was brunette not blond? Ya, I've got nothing.  Oh that's not true.  I wish that Perry would write more LDS fiction :)

If you like this book try these:

Monday, March 3, 2014

Free Book Today!

This book is free today!  I've read a few books by this author before, but I haven't read this book!  This author writes terrific clean romance stories, so I am excited to read this one.  If you would like to download it for free click here.  Happy reading!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Let's start at the very beginning...My Adventures in Writing (Part One)

About three years ago I lived in a three-bedroom apartment with HORRIBLE laundry facilities. After several ruined shirts and countless "less then clean" loads, I made the decision to only use said laundry facilities if it was an absolute emergency. Every week for 4 years, I would load up my laundry, my three babies (aged three and under), into my little red lancer and make the 30-minute drive down to my grandma's house to do wash.

Now at the time if you had asked me how I felt about the arrangement I might have said, "Oh, you know it's a hassle, I wish that I didn't have to load it up every week, but I enjoy the time with GG (Great Grandma)." But now, I can tell you that it was nothing short of The Lord's hand in my life working miracles and guiding me along... For many many reasons.  One of those reasons is the quiet time it gave me to start dreaming up stories.

It's pretty clear from this blog, that I love to read.  I love being whisked away into the written world.  Whether its back to the singles ward, a dystopian society or even into Medieval times, I just love the reading experience.  What I didn't realize, at least consciously, was that it's more than just a love of reading, but a deeper love of story-telling that has my heart.

As a young child I would often ask GG to tell me a story from her mouth, meaning tell me a story in your own words, not one from a book.  On one family vacation my cousin and I began a co-authored novel about medieval times-- even at age 10, my book was a romance that contained a love triangle- It's a sickness, I know.  So what I failed to realize until about two and half years ago was that I really wanted to write my own novel. And lucky me, the hour plus drive to and from GG's gave me the perfect opportunity to dream the novel up.

The first book that started to take root was/is a dystopian trilogy and while I will one day write it (I have notebooks of notes and 40+ pages complete with outline) I just can't seem to get the words our right.  Don't worry, I wasn't discouraged, in fact if anything it is what started the fire of writing in me.

In 2012, I found the New Adult genre, if you want to know more about it click here to learn more about the genre in general or here to read what USAtoday says about the New Adult Genre. Essentially, the New Adult genre is the time between YA fiction (think high school/teen years) and Adult fiction (grown up problems, think married with career).  New adult fiction is the bridge.  These books are about college, identity crises, leaving home for the first time, not the first romance, but maybe the lasting romance.

Unfortunately, as I got more into reading this genre, I realized that there were not so many books out there that were what I would consider appropriate to read.  (This is me making a super sad face.)  Honestly, this genre has become synonymous with what can only politely be described as soft sex or in other words Fifty-Shades of Grey's little sister. Now here is where I make a confession that I got sucked in.  At first, I would skip the pages with the scene and then I decided it really wasn't a big deal and there ya go, that flaxen cord had become a nylon rope.

After some discussions with my husband, and if I'm totally honest one discussion with a kind-hearted bishop, I made it my mission to find the best books that I could to read.  That meant no more sex scenes, everything needed to take place behind closed doors and books needed to be at a "PG-13" rating.   I figured that if the prophets counsel not to watch R-Rated programs, that would probably go for books too right?

Let me tell you what. There are so many great books out there!  There are authors who are writing books that are worth something, that entertain me and make me laugh and cry and swoon and guess what I don't have to feel guilty for reading any of it.  And more importantly, I have never felt the Lord's hand, the Lord's blessing so fully in my life.

In the book of Ether 12:27 in the Book of Mormon it says:

27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness.  I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

Okay, this is not me saying that I am a "strong" writer or that I have books that will ever see the light of publishing, but what I have been given is strength and courage to write. I have a passion to write.  I have a desire to write.

While on my quest to find "the best books"  I decided to check out what was going on in the LDS world.  Guess what?  There are so many talented LDS authors out there and LDS Fiction has really changed over the last few years.  Women (and men too) are writing stories that are so great (in pretty much every genre you could ever be interested in).

One such author is Melanie Jacobsen.  Melanie writes New Adult LDS romantic comedies, if you want to put it in a box, although I think she will break into the national market by this time next year if not sooner.  This is where I tell you to read anything this woman has ever written, I love her novels.  I first came across her book, The List, while looking for New Adult fiction that I could be sure was clean.  After that book I read every that had her name on it.  I then discovered authors's like Julie Wright, Susan Auten, Janette Rallison, and Kaylee Baldwin, among so so so many other talented LDS Authors.

One night after I had put the children to bed, I was working on my first novel (the dystopian one) and I realized that that wasn't the story I wanted to be writing. I was writing it, but it just felt kind of dead. Like a body without a spirit or something.  Well, I had been listening to a song earlier that day at the gym (Beneath Your Beautiful) and a story for a book just started to pour into my head.  At that moment I opened up a new document and wrote the first ten pages of a book that I am now nearly 95,000 words into (or 250 pages).  I told you, it just started to flow.

I started slowly, chugging away a little each day, not really knowing what I was doing and about 50% of the way through I decided I needed a little advice.  I wrote Melanie and asked for any tips she might be willing to give in writing LDS Romance, but not really expecting a reply.  A day or so later, I received a reply... guess what?  She lives about 10 minutes away from me.  I told you the Lord had His hands all over this.

She suggested we meet up and talk instead of switching emails back and forth.  About  a week later we did just that.  I took at least a full-page of notes from that one sit-down.  I came home and wrote another 10,000 words over the next 24-hours.  Her biggest encouragement was for me to attend an LDS Writer's Conference with her.  Which, let me tell you was absolutely incredible. That will be a second post because I just have too much to say about ANWA and how it has shaped my writing experience.

I am now about 4 scenes away from completing a very very rough first draft of my first novel.  I wish I had a title to give you, but like naming my first child, it probably won't happen until after it's born.  Sorry to disappoint. I hope you enjoy this post and I hope you will follow this series on my writing adventure.  My next installment will be about all the many wonderful things I learned at ANWA- If you are attempting to write too, you won't want to miss it!