Book Review: Rise of the Phoenix by Jamie McLachlan

Rise of the Phoenix (The Memory Collector Series, #3)Rise of the Phoenix by Jamie McLachlan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rise of the Phoenix is the third and final book in the Memory Collector Series. It follows where we left off with Moira, the empath, and Keenan, the detective, trying to solve the twisted games of the serial killer The Phoenix before another person is killed—or forced to commit suicide. Right away we are thrown into this fantastical world where people can alter emotions, read minds, and even “play” in the landscape of the minds of others (seriously, how cool is this? What would YOUR mind look like inside?).

There’s plenty of sexual heat, suspense, and so many twists I did NOT see coming. I was so connected to the characters by this point I was devastated when certain things happened to certain people. No spoilers but I kept thinking I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING??! It was a roller-coaster of emotions for me, which is the mark of a great suspenseful read, I think. I messaged the author (my pal Jamie) to ask how she could do this to me? lol. My nerves were shot at a few spots.

This is a spectacular series, and a great ending to a story that I thoroughly enjoyed. 4 solid stars. Fans of dark fantasy, sexy romance, independent bad ass heroines, and more will love this. I received an advance copy of ROTP in exchange for an honest review. I very much enjoyed this book, and the way it concludes the trilogy.

Pre-order your copy now, and if you haven’t already please check out #1 & #2 in the series. You can also purchase the 3 e-book set for $11!

Visit Jamie’s website for a free excerpt of the story, and to keep informed of all her upcoming projects! Trust me, you don’t want to miss what she’s cooking up next.

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Book Review: The Princess Saves Herself In This One by Amanda Lovelace

The Princess Saves Herself in this OneThe Princess Saves Herself in this One by amanda lovelace

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve had this book for months now, and it’s been staring at me from my TBR pile (stack?) for awhile. It took me some time to clear my mind of the buzz & reviews around such a popular book and pick it up. What can I say? I’m a rebel, and sometimes I am wary of bestsellers 😉

In any case, I follow Amanda Lovelace on Instagram and I like the snippets she posts from her book, so I finally dove in. I’m glad I did. The Princess Saves Herself In This One is a story, one I read as a poetic memoir, about someone who struggles and eventually comes out the other side stronger. I enjoyed the narrative, and I always lose myself more in poetry books with a storyline, rather than just poems with no connection. At times, it was so deeply personal that the rawness struck me. Some of the poems were stronger than others, and I’m still not a fan of poetry without titles, or with the titles on the end (personal preference). Also, I wish there’d been some more fantasy-ish ones, but I’d give it 4 stars for an overall powerful collection, with empowerment woven throughout. Plenty of people will relate to so many of these poems (and I know readers are really responding), myself included. I especially enjoyed at least a dozen, which I marked. Two of my favorites:

i was the one
who found your body
(you were nowhere
to be found)
mouth opened
wide enough
to suck all the oxygen
from the room,
wide enough
to plant lilies in,
wide enough to have
been calling my name—
that is, if only you
remembered it.

-i want to forget, forget, forget

and-
he
opened me up
like a book
& poured the
poetry back into
me.

-my personal pen & paper

It was a sensitive, and at times gut-punching book, and I look forward to more from the author! I’ll definitely be checking out her next book.

View all my reviews

Bookloot Unboxing August 

Yay! I received my second subscription box from BookLoot the other day. 

Without further ado…

In the box was:

-Lord of the Rings inspired bookmarks 

-Aslan-inspired soap. Kid used this, and liked it. 

-Loose leaf tea. I’m not a tea-drinker, but I will pass it to a family member 

-Seeds to plant my own tree- love this! 

-A short story, Protecting Neverland, by C.A. Perkins. Sounds interesting.

-insert card

-and the book of the month, The Wood, by Chelsea Bobulski, including a letter from the author, which was neat 🙂 I haven’t heard of the book, but I am excited to read! Sounds very cool. 

There was also some gummy bears, which again, my rugrats ate. It was a fun box, and I plan to order again!

Thanks for checking out my post! I’ll be back with another unboxing in October, and the theme is Horror Remixed..oooooo.. 

Book Review: The Curated Closet

Well hello, all! Let’s kick off the first book review of 2017 with a book I loved (and actually read in 2016, but oh well): The Curated Closet.

I’m a sucker for fashion. I don’t follow any fashion blogs (I’m asking myself why?) but I am addicted to Pinterest and my personal account (and my author account, to some extent) is loaded with beautiful fashion & beauty images. Shopping addict? Um, yeah, a bit. I’ve always liked clothes, jewelry, and accessories. Yet despite all this I’ve struggled for a LONG time with never feeling like I had anything to wear. I would pull things out of my closet to try on, only to get frustrated because I hated them on me, they didn’t fit great, or they just didn’t feel like me. For many items, I felt like I was playing dress-up in someone else’s clothes…and not in a good way. For others, I simply felt unhappy with my body or size.

When What Not to Wear was on, I binged-watched it for years. I learned about what looked good on my body type, about what to avoid. I’ve learned in years since that I’m a “Deep Winter” and I’m most flattered by icy blue, deep red, black, white, and others. Camel brown is not my friend. Beige makes me look sickly. Yellow? Hell no.

So, if I knew what looked good on me, and what didn’t, what was the problem exactly? You know how you take fashion quizzes and they tell you your “style”? Well, I could never quite pin down what mine was. When I saw The Curated Closet at work, I snagged it immediately, and devoured it in a weekend. I loved it so much I then purchased my own copy! I learned that fashion quizzes are rather pointless, because no person is only one style, and even in a set of guidelines per style you may HATE things in it—for example, you may learn your style is “Classic” but yet whenever you put on a neutral trench coat you feel uncomfortable. Ring bells?

Anuschka Rees, the author of the book, lays it out in easy to follow sections (some more complex than others, though) and is big on making lists (YES!). I shut off my inner critic, or the second-guessing part of myself, and I listed what I LOVE about fashion and style: Black, gray, blush pink, lace (in small doses only), architectural detail, comfort, black pants and ripped skinny jeans (sorry dresses and skirts), tees, sneakers, simplicity, and ease. I looked at images I’d pinned over the years and realized that only a minute percentage of that was things I’d ACTUALLY wear. There’s a difference, you see, between admiring a style, and being realistic about whether or not it is for you. Don’t mistake liking something and liking it on you. And I don’t mean that it has to always flatter you, either. Rees talks about this—that if something looks spectacular on you, it doesn’t mean you have to wear it. Conversely, even if something may not be the most flattering item you could wear, if you love it, then wear it.

I also learned about things I didn’t like for myself personally: Red, as in bright red/true red/ketchup red. Even though it’s “my color” I never feel comfortable in it. It’s too…bold. I have switched to a few burgundy pieces, which I think suit me better personality-wise. I don’t wear much navy anymore. Why? It’s just not black. In fact, most of my closet is entirely neutral shades of black and gray and white. Because I have colorful accents in my home, and love colorful books, flowers, and art, I somehow thought I liked to dress in big patterns, bold colors, and all that jazz. Turns out, nope. I’m much more comfortable in neutral colors, and sophisticated, yet casual styles.

(My closet, which also just got totally reorganized) Since reading this book, which comes complete with sample color palettes (and yes, I made my own), I did a complete closet overhaul, and got rid of 75% of my clothing, slowly rebuilding my wardrobe the last three months, including buying a gorgeous pair of Doc Marten Flora boots. I still have some “wish list” items, of course, but it’s getting there. And more importantly, it’s me. I no longer reach for something only to put it back in, with a dejected sigh. I have kept what I loved, and tried to replicate the things I love in other pieces, so that I always have something I look forward to wearing.

Buy quality, and buy deliberately, the book says, and it’s advice I agree with whole-heartedly.

My favorite part of the book was the making lists part, where you have to list your favorite textures, colors, fabrics, styles, cuts, and more. Without questioning your instincts, it’s a freeing process to go through. And you just may surprise yourself.

I would rate this 5 stars, even though there were some more weighty sections which I didn’t get fully into. It gave me a whole new sense of style, and I felt like I got to know myself for the first time.

Cover Love #2 December 2016 

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At work today my boss asked me to relabel some books. I worked on four and a half carts in my three hours this morning and as I worked, I set aside six that caught my eye. I loved the whimsical, slightly romantic selection of these. I haven’t read any yet, but after admiring the cover art only to open the books and read the jacket blurbs, there are a few I’m adding to my TBR list!

Clockwise from top left:

1. Jacob’s Folly by Rebecca Miller: That swoopy text! The colors! The Renaissance  (?) lookin’ lady! Pretty.

2. The Stargazer’s Sister by Carrie Brown: Half a mysterious face, and oh, those gold stars, which you probably can’t see from this shot. Very nice.

3. The Red Hat Club by Haywood Smith: So, I’ve *heard* of these red hat gals, but haven’t ever seen the book. It’s just darn fun with a dash of sass

4. The Twelfth Enchantment by David Liss: I love that this looks like a Jane Austen heroine mixed with some magic. Enchantment has to be one of my favorite words.

5. Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto: This cover seems bittersweet with that old book, the locket and flowers. I wonder what’s inside…

6. How to be Both by Ali Smith: If you look closely you’ll see those aren’t petals on a normal flower. They’re eyes. Intrigued, party of one!

Thanks for checking out Cover Love #2!

Library Love

 

I feel like library users fall into three main categories. There is the first group of people who just don’t go to the library. Ever. For whatever reason, they just don’t make it there.

Then there’s the group that uses the library on occasion. They may forget about the library until they really need it, say, for a research project for school. They might like the library quite a lot, but it’s not high up in their list of places to go, and so it simply drops down into one of those “someday I’ll go” or “I haven’t been there for a long while” places.

And there is the third group, which I fall into. These are the people that love the library. That knows it’s not just a destination to rent books, but SO. MUCH. MORE. I’m lucky to work at a fantastic library. I get to be there and get PAID for it.

This post isn’t meant to convert group 1 or 2 into group 3. It’s simply meant to share why I, a library-lover, feel the way I do. If you already know these things, you’ll find yourself nodding along as you read. If you didn’t realize some of the things I’ll share, then great! Perhaps you’ll find yourself going more frequently to your own library.

So this is why, I love my library. (Note- check with your own for specifics. Some of these services and perks may or may not be available at every library, but there may be different or even better things!)

  1. Books. Yes, books must top this list. Books are the raison d’être of libraries. Pick a genre, any genre. YA? Youth? Non-Fiction? Romance? Suspense? Check, check, check, and on and on. You want books about dealing with a family member’s addiction? Books about how to bake a cake? Books about how to build a bird house? Books about how to fix your car? Books about World War 2? Books about Marilyn Monroe? Books about dogs? You want to read Harry Potter? Poetry? Westerns? Erotica? Thrillers? There is something for everyone.
  2. AV materials. Not only are there books, but there are DVDs, CDs, Audiobooks. There’s children’s CDs, soundtracks, musicals. There’s rap, folk, blues. There’s Non-Fiction DVDS, documentaries, the latest comedies and blockbuster hits or busts. You can find audiobooks galore, from the best memoirs (sometimes, often, read by the authors themselves), to genre fiction. Again, something for everyone.
  3. Magazines & Newspapers: We house ours in the same room at my library. There’s magazines from A to Z. Antiques to Zoos. I love magazines (InStyle and The Writer are my favorites) but I don’t get subscriptions for myself. I just check a few out from the library when the mood strikes. We get at least fifty magazines, as well as plenty of newspapers. And when they go into storage they are copied for the next point-
  4. Microfilm. I’ve never actually used this. But you see it in movies all the time, when someone wants to research something. Not sure how to get started? All you need to do is ask a friendly librarian. Which then brings me to point 5.
  5. Research: You can actually book a librarian at my library. FOR FREE. If you need help with a project, that’s why they are there. You can also call your library with questions. Need an address? Can’t find a title of something? Give them a call. We actually have people call all the time with random, interesting questions. What city in the US gets the most rain? (I don’t know, but someone called about that recently).
  6. Community Events: Not only are there regular events that are held weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, such as our regular knitting class, writers group, or when service dogs are brought in to play with the kids (dogs, people, cute dogs!), but there’s special events like author workshops, visits. Amy Reichert, author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake and Elizabeth Berg (read my post about that here), for example. My library has a calendar of events on their website, and posted throughout the building. I bet yours does, too!
  7. Youth Department: I mentioned a few things the youth department offers already, but let me add some of the best things besides books, AV materials, and magazines: there is a whole area with TOYS. Besides toys your kids can play with at the library, there’s a legit toy closet with toys you can check out! They are fun, educational toys like puzzles, wooden blocks, and magnifying glasses with real bugs. There’s also a Wii, games, computers, flannel stories, and oversized books. Plus, a cozy reading nook, dress-up clothes, and more.
  8. Computer use: A lot of people don’t have the luxury of a home computer. Some of the people that come in every day to use our computers are looking for jobs. Some of them check email or Facebook. Some of them play games. The reason for use doesn’t really matter, what matters is these people are getting access to computers for free where otherwise they couldn’t. They can also print for a small fee. The first few pages are free, and then its a just cents per page.
  9. New Section: As much as I love browsing the tried and true (fiction) section (mostly), I also love to check out the front/side section where we have all the new releases, broken into sections. There’s brand, spanking new suspense, thriller, science fiction, romance, fiction, audiobooks, and non-fiction. That means you have a good chance of finding brand new, as well as nearly new. Think all the popular books you hear about in magazines, and book clubs, and book lists. And if you can’t find the book or whatever, you’re looking for, simply put it on hold and as soon as it’s in, you can come pick it up!
  10. Holds: I mentioned holds just now, and I want to bring it up again. If you’re a busy person, or just generally short on time, or carting a load of children with you, you might just find it easier to have your items ready for you when you get there. So, instead of browsing, perhaps you’ll find the convenience of holds pick-up more suited to your needs. It’s easy to get on the library website and find the items you need in the catalog. Then you just enter your library card number and password, and with a click of “place hold” the item is on its way to being yours. As soon as there’s a fun new movie release coming, or a book I’ve been hearing about for weeks, I get my hold in, so that I can be one of the first to get it. Try it, or ask for help from someone at your service desk.
  11. Miscellaneous: There’s a few things I want to squeeze in this point. Did you know, if you have a book club you may be able to ask for book club kits? That means you don’t have to buy books every month (or whenever you meet) but instead have a bunch placed on hold for your entire group? We also have meeting spaces and board rooms so if you have a group, for a small fee or sometimes free, you can use library space to hold your clubs, meetings, and get togethers.
  12. Book Sale: A couple of times a year there’s a big book sale. The library decides which books and materials should be withdrawn, and then discounts them greatly. You can pick up amazing titles for as little as .25! Bonus: As an employee I often get first dibs at withdrawn material. I have become the happy owner of several gently worn books, and movies since beginning my employment there, for a very reasonable price!

The truth is, despite working at a library for over two years now, I am sure I still missed a bunch of things. In fact, if any of my co-workers are reading this, they’re probably like DUH, AMANDA, WHAT ABOUT ____? However, that just shows you how very many things there are to love about the library. So many that I probably forgot some.

What do I do there? Among other things, I get to process all the shiny new books and material that comes in. I’m one of the first people to even touch them. I’m the one that puts on stickers, spine tape, and date stamps. I get to fix the broken stuff, so I’m technically a book doctor (how cool is that?). I’m also part of a library design committee, as we’re in the early stages of a first floor redesign. 

In addition, I’m lucky to be a published author whose books are IN the library. I talked a little about that proces here. If you are an author and can get your book into your local library, it will help you gain readers. The last time I asked a couple weeks ago, my first book had circulated 77 times in my library in about a year. That’s great! That means I had 77 readers (assuming all of them read it), and who knows how many of them told their friends or family about my book, may follow me on social media now, and may potentially purchase more of my books in future.

Public libraries are a goldmine of knowledge. They can also be wonderful places to relax. Curl up with a good book. Read. If you’re ever unsure of how to find something, just ask! Sometimes the non-fiction section can be intimidating for those unfamiliar with call numbers. Take your time, and you’ll figure it out. My favorite section ever? 398.2, or the fairytales (see this post for more on that) Second favorite besides Fiction? Definitely movies. I bet there’s something for everyone to love at your library. You just need to go to find out.

Thanks, libraries, and librarians, for all that you do. My bookshelf would be emptier, my TBR list shorter, and my life definitely less sweet without you.

 

Love,

Amanda

 

 

 

Cover Love#1 November 2016

From now on, every month I’ll be doing a quick post on my favorite new/old covers. These may or may not be books I’ve read, or reviewed. They may not even be books I’m planning to read. The only criteria is that I simply love the cover art, that I think it’s cool, striking, interesting, or whatever. They may be my own books, or books I grabbed off the shelves at the library as I passed. Possibly, I’ll even feature books I don’t physically have in my possession. There are so many stunning book covers that I couldn’t possibly own, read, or even touch them all!

This month, five out of the six are my own books. Check them out below!

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The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (TBR): This one is very simple, but I like the embossed (?) font, and that fabulous hue of green against the plain white. Plus, vines!

Spooky Little Girl by Laurie Notaro (read, enjoyed): How can you not love chartreuse?! Combined with a dress and heels and shadowy smoke billowing from it, this is just cool.

Women with Big Eyes by Ángeles Mastretta (read, reviewed, loved): The gold detailing on the border, the colors, the intensity of that one, single eye.

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo (TBR): I love the dreamy quality of the front, the muted colors, the little stars.

Sonata Mulattica by Rita Dove (read, enjoyed): The silhouette, the curving baroque aqua blue against the cream. Gorgeous.

The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin (library book, TBR): I was processing this and stopped immediately to admire the cover. The old glass jars, the peacock blue color, the feathers, the shell, the dandelion puff—all create a magical, yet somehow serious effect.

Like this post? Be sure to come back next month for Cover Love #2!

On Books and Reading

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If I were to tell you I love to read, it probably wouldn’t come as much of a shock. After all, I’d wager many (most?) writers are also readers. I’d guess a lot of us were inspired to write because we’ve felt a deep love for books, because we felt what they were keenly, because we wanted to try to do the same for a reader enjoying our own work. That is at least true for me, anyway.

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t reading, and loving it. I certainly recall a fondness books before I had any interest in writing them. As a girl, I enjoyed inventing stories about people, but I didn’t realize I wanted to be a writer, really, that I was a writer, until I was 23. I knew I was a reader, and an eager one at that, many, many years prior. In elementary school I remember walking through the hallway of school with my nose in a book, because I just had to finish that chapter, my trusted friend steering me through the passing students by the elbow (Thanks, Nicole!). In high school, instead of studying or sleeping, I would stay up until 1 or 2 in the morning reading a whole book a night. Books were a release for me, and an escape, the same, and yet different, than writing.

You will never hear me claim to be a great reader. I am a little embarrassed to admit I don’t read widely. I’ve only read a handful of the classics, and hardly any of the really popular books on bestseller lists. This isn’t because I’m snobby about my reading, simply that I would rather re-read a favorite any day. I suppose I’m the opposite of adventurous when it comes to reading. I do read new books, but it’s the old favorites that hold a special place in my heart. I don’t care how nerdy that makes me sound! If I love a book, as in deep-down in my bones, love it so much I would get a tattoo in its honor (been there, done that, true story) I will read it five, ten, twenty, fifty, even a hundred times. Yes, I think I’ve actually read some of them that often. Some people find that boring. My husband teases me. “How can you read the same book again? Don’t you know what happens?!” And to him I answer, with loving snark, “I see you’re enjoying cheesecake again. I thought you already had that once? Don’t you know how it tastes?”

Re-reading a favorite book is like visiting with an old friend. It’s cool if that’s not how you see it, but I find it comforting. No matter how many times I’ve read my favorites, something still surprises me each time. Reading my favorite books from years ago now, through the eyes of a writer on top of being a reader, well, that’s even more special. I love falling back in love with the books I so admired as a child.

As a writer, I find myself envious of the talent these authors have, of the emotions they can invoke in me after I’ve read their words so many times I have whole passages memorized. I find myself trying harder to be just a fraction as good as they are. To someday hope someone will feel that way about what I write. And I appreciate my books more than ever now, because these days I just can’t devote the time to reading that I used to. I don’t know any mother of three who would willingly stay awake until 2am when she didn’t have to! Alas, my darling books get dropped lower on the list these days. I can’t read a whole book a night anymore. So no, I don’t read widely, or greatly, or quickly these days. But, I read passionately. I would not be me without the words that have shaped me, from my father’s poetry, to Harry Potter, to Pride & Prejudice, to historical romances, to fairytales, to the Little House books, to my favorite novel ever, Beauty by Robin McKinley. All of these, my old pals, inspired me then, inspire me now. And that’s only naming a few. I have many, many more book friends. (You can find out more in my ever-expanding Library page in the menu.)

Now, I’ve got a stack of books on my nightstand. Fourteen of them, plus a Kindle, to be exact. And that’s just on the top shelf. And yes, I counted. Depending on my mood any one of these might make it into my hands tonight, and be the last thing on my mind before I fall asleep. It’s exciting, I think, not knowing which one I’ll choose yet. And I can’t help but think how very fortunate I am that there are just so many there, right at my fingertips. If I were to walk out to my living room, there’d be a whole bookcase full. And if I waited till I got to work- at a public library- well, it’s practically a whole universe of possibility.

We are so very lucky, us readers, to love books like we do.

Tell me, are you a book re-reader, or no? If yes, which are your tried and true favorites?

 

 

Book Review: A Thing of Beauty by Bianca M. Schwarz

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I’ve been lucky to be able to connect with fellow authors from Penner through the magic of social media, and one of my newfound friends is the talented writer Bianca M. Schwarz. I had her novel on my “to read” list ever since I saw the cover, and I read it with interest. I finished reading yesterday, and below is the synopsis and my honest review:

To the ordinary observer, the wealthy Sir Henry March, cousin of a duke, seems a typical London gentleman. But to the Crown, Henry is a powerful asset, secret defender of the country. When he sees an injured girl stumbling down the side of the road, he must stop.

The stepdaughter of an abusive innkeeper, Eliza Broad is from another class entirely. But the moment Henry lays eyes on the spirited and beautiful girl, he feels a connection. To protect her, he takes her in to his home.

In Henry, Eliza finds a rescuer, handsome and kind beyond her wildest dreams. But danger is at their heels. On Eliza’s trail is one of London’s vilest and most notorious pimps, a man whose connections tie him to a dark world of sadism and treachery.

Can Eliza and Henry fight to protect England, their hearts, and their lives?

My review: I REALLY enjoyed A Thing of Beauty. Because I know the author I went in with high expectations, and it did not disappoint. The story is about Eliza, a young woman from an inn, who is rescued after an awful beating from her step-father, by the wonderful Sir Henry. Henry is a near-perfect hero- kind, generous, handsome, funny, and charming. What I think I enjoyed most is the two characters bonded as friends first, and especially, that they bonded over a love of books and reading. Eliza was naïve in many ways, and Henry could have been way out of her league given his wealth, education, and position, but I never felt those differences would keep the two apart. The sex scenes make this a spicy read, and the suspense in the mystery kept me flipping pages even late in the night. I couldn’t wait to see if they would solve the mystery and catch the bad guy. And my, Ms. Schwarz, thank you for writing such great period description. I absolutely loved the fashion descriptions and the way the settings are described. If I have one critique it’s that I wanted some kind of a conflict between the two main characters to keep me guessing if they’d end up together. But that certainly didn’t distract from a great read. I can’t wait to see what else happens, particularly with this horrid secret society we learn about in ATOB. I would definitely recommend this title to those who enjoy romance, intrigue, and history.