Review: Haunted Hearts

Kimberlydean_Haunted_Hearts_300x480I originally requested this book from Netgalley purely because the subject seemed interesting and I usually like most things with a paranormal spin. I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did, but it was a very fun and enjoyable read. This story follows Callie who has recently inherited a house and decided a change of scene is just what she needs.  Turns out, that house comes with a history that’s known to everyone but her.  Watching her discover the secrets of the house and her ancestors was wonderful, though part of me wished for more.

The chemistry between Callie and Carter was great and it was always fun to watch them spar. There were certainly parts of the book that were predictable, and once I got to 80% I had figured out what the climax/twist was going to be, but I was pleasantly surprised it took that long for me to see all the clues fall into place. I felt that supporting characters were well defined enough to be individuals, though I would have loved to have more details about the town and locations.  Though this appears to be set up as a stand alone, I would definitely enjoy getting more books set in the town and reappearances by many of the side characters.

The scenes where we see the point of view of Callie’s ancestor were well written and there was no mistaking the personality and individuality of this person.  In fact, the different personalities of all of the characters were some of my favorite parts of the book, I found myself falling in love with some of the characters and secretly wanting more.

The writing and pacing seemed to fluctuate a little, but not to the point that it was off putting and the read itself was well paced on average. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this book and think it would be great for anyone who enjoys paranormal romance.  If you want to pick up your own copy of Haunted Hearts, it is out now and clicking on the cover image will take you to the Amazon page for it.  Check it out if you like ghost stories, romance or just a fun and dynamic story.  If you want to find out more about Kimberly Dean, check out her website at https://kimberlydean.com/ – I know I will definitely be checking out more of her books.

Happy Reading!

Review: Scream and Scream Again

Being an 80s/90s kid, I was ecstatic when I heard that a new anthology was being released by none other than R.L. Stine, full of scary stories.  I was determined to pick it up and make it one of my reads during October.  Scream and Scream Again is an anthology of 20 spooky stories that either begin or end with a scream – or both.

scream and scream againI was a little disappointed that none of the stories were truly scary, but I was entertained none the less.  Every story had a unique concept and setting.  These stories are definitely middle grade and are perfect to feed your Goosebumps or Are You Afraid of the Dark? cravings. While it wasn’t exactly what I expected, it was still enjoyable and a fun time.

Some of my favorite stories in the collection were Kamikaze Iguanas by Alison McMahan, Area Code 666 by Carter Wilson and The Unknown Patriot by Chris Grabenstein.

I hope this is just one in a long line of new stories and books from R.L. Stine.  For me this book was more nostalgic than anything else.  It took me back to the times when I read Fear Street and similar books as a teen.  Be sure to check it out if slightly spooky and funny stories are what you are looking for!

Happy reading!

NaNoWriMo Prep 2018

Last year was the first year I participated in NaNoWriMo after many years of wanting to but being too scared to.  I learned a lot of things during the process and managed to succeed in hitting my word goal.  I realized pretty early on that I was going to have some bad days where I didn’t get close to my daily goal (though I often tried to push myself to reach it) but I would also have days where the words would flow without issue and I would have a surplus.  Working a full time day job did impact my writing since there were some nights I had to force myself to even attempt to write and I know that this year will be no different.

I went back and forth many times in the last couple weeks wondering if I wanted to start a brand new story like I did last year or if I want to take one of my already started ideas (barely started) and expand on that. This was more of a struggle than I anticipated, but I eventually decided to work on an already started idea (though I will be completely reworking it because I don’t LOVE what I already wrote).

Thankfully those close to me understand that this will make me go virtually radio silent, but I’ve only done this once before and I know that I could have an entirely different experience than I had last year.  Still I feel I learned a few things during last November, such as the following.

  • I’m going to require caffeine, lots and lots of caffeine.
  • I really should not look at the daily graph, even if I’m doing well.
  • I cannot sacrifice sleep for this, I still have to go to my day job.
  • This is for fun, but remember that even fun can be stressful and cause anxiety.
  • Self care. Self care. Self care. (I cannot stress this enough).

So what exactly am I doing to prep? The biggest hurdle of prep for me so far was deciding just what I was going to do, but there are a few things I’m anticipating doing in the next couple weeks.

  • Outlining. I don’t love outlining, but it’s something that is incredibly helpful in this process.
  • Making sure that there is a food plan in place. No, I’m not kidding. Stress eating is a thing, wanting something quick so you can get to work is a thing. Last year there were nights I was so stressed out with the “I just worked 8 hours, I HAVE to catch up!” that I fell into the pit of quick food. I have to be careful with my diet anyways, so this was very unhealthy in many ways.
  • Remember that self care I mentioned? Have a plan in place for it.

My experience is likely not like everyone else’s, but I recognize that I easily get stressed and anxious. Last year I met my goal and I had a blast doing it, but by the end of the month I was exhausted and literally didn’t write anything for the rest of the year.  The end of November was both triumphant and a relief. Above all this year I need to remember that this is something fun, it’s completely fine if I don’t meet my goal every single day.  Don’t get me wrong, I still plan on getting that winner certificate, but I recognize that I can’t make myself sick while doing it.

Who else is getting ready for NaNoWriMo? What are you doing to prep?

Good luck!

Author Spotlight: Ellie Alexander

Earlier this year while browsing Booktube I was introduced to the Bakeshop Mystery series by Ellie Alexander.  I was instantly intrigued as this series was set in Ashland, Oregon, which is a place near and dear to my heart.  I have many fond memories of Ashland and the Oregon Shakespeare festival throughout my life, going to the Shakespeare Festival was a tradition for my dad and I. Needless to say, I was both excited and cautious when I picked up the first book in the series, Meet Your Baker.

meet your baker

This series centers around Juliet, who has recently returned home to Ashland, Oregon to help her mother at their bake shop, Torte.  Obviously murder and mayhem ensues and soon Jules is knee deep in the mystery.

I was pleasantly surprised by how vividly Ellie Alexander painted Ashland and how accurate the descriptions of this section of the city were.  After reading this first book I was completely hooked.  Her writing is descriptive and rich, with humor and playfulness woven in. While reading this book I was completely immersed, not just because of the story but because of how perfectly she painted the atmosphere of Ashland itself. It’s one of my favorite places so I readily admit I’m biased, but that may have also made me a harsher critic if it wasn’t as perfect as it is.

I immediately started collecting the next couple books in the series but as of yet hadn’t had a chance to continue (the TBR struggle is real). I added not only the books from the Bakeshop series to my wish list, but also her other series both under Ellie Alexander, but her other name Kate Dyer-Seeley.

This past week I got an email from my favorite local bookstore, Oregon Books, notifying me of an author event they were having. Imagine my surprise (and delight) when it was Ellie Alexander.  My internal fangirl did a little dance and I immediately put it on my calendar. I didn’t know what to expect, but was just excited that I would get to meet a local author whose work I truly enjoy.  The event was amazing, the intimate setting allowed us to have a great discussion about her different series, how they came to be, her writing process and more. If I didn’t already want to read everything she had written, this would have definitely made me want to. It was obvious that she puts some of herself into each story she writes and that serves to make her work more inviting and full of depth.  Listening to her talk about the places she writes about (all of which she has visited) made me want to visit them all, even those I’ve been to many times throughout my life. I was able to get books from a couple of her other series which I can’t wait to pick up.

I would have recommended her books before meeting her, but after meeting her and getting to spend time with her I want to recommend her even more.  If you are looking for a new cozy mystery, definitely check her out.  If a bakeshop/food centered mystery isn’t your thing, she has three other series available that focus on other themes.  There’s the Pacific Northwest Mysteries (her first series) which center around Meg, who wants to be a serious investigative reporter but ends up working for an outdoor magazine – even though she doesn’t know much about outdoor activities. Her Rose City mystery series centers around a floral shop in Portland, Oregon where our main character Britta works with her aunt Elin.  Last (but definitely not least) is the Sloan Krause Mystery series, set in Leavenworth, Washington with a theme of brewing craft beers.
scene of the climbnatural thorn killerdeath on tap

(All cover images link to the Amazon pages for the books)

Be sure to also check out Ellie on her website and her new youtube channel.

Happy Reading!

Anthology Appreciation

Not everyone enjoys anthologies, but they are some of my favorites.  I’ve always been a lover of the short story and that love was fostered by some teachers who also thought they were a great medium.  In some ways they can be more difficult to write as they must be much more concise and concentrated than a full length novel.  In this post I’m going to talk about a few I’ve recently read as well as some of my favorites.  All pictures of the covers will be linked to the book’s Amazon page so that you can pick them up if you want to.

Recently I was given the opportunity through NetGalley to read two anthologies which recently came out.  They were very different genres and subjects, but I thoroughly enjoyed both of them.

Toil and Trouble CoverToil and Trouble: 15 Tales of Women and Witchcraft, which was edited by Tess Sharpe and Jessica Spotswood, included stories that represented a number of cultures, mythologies and genres.  My detailed review of each story is on my Goodreads so I won’t rehash that here, but I can say that while there were some stories I didn’t enjoy as much as others it was an enjoyable read.  It would be perfect for reading not only around Halloween, but anytime during the year.

The other anthology I received on NetGalley was Fresh Ink, which was done in Fresh Ink Coverpartnership with We Need Diverse Books.  Having already read Flying Lessons, I was super excited to be able to read this one ahead of time.  I wish there were more anthologies like these two as they explore topics and situations that often need to be explored and discussed by wider audiences.  Again, I didn’t love every story in this anthology, but it exposed me to a number of authors I had not previously read. That’s another great thing about anthologies, you get to read stories from so many authors who you often may not have read from before.

My True Love Gave To Me CoverI have a number of anthologies on my bookshelves, so picking out Summer Days and Summer Nights Coverfavorites is not always an easy task.  I have anthologies in different genres and with different subject matter, but I’ve chosen a few that I really loved when I read them.  My True Love Gave to Me and Summer Days & Summer Nights are collections which were edited by Stephanie Perkins. One has love stories based in the winter while the other is set during the summer (bonus, the story in Summer Days & Summer Nights by Perkins is a continuation of the story she wrote for My True Love Gave to Me and I LOVED them both).

Slasher Girls and Monster BoysSlasher Girls and Monster Boys and Unnatural Creatures both tackle Unnatural Creaturesdarker subjects and were both amazing. They are perfect to read closer to Halloween and each have a spooky vibe that I enjoyed immensely.  There are some stories in them which are definitely not for the faint of heart.  I especially loved that Unnatural Creatures was edited by Neil Gaiman.  A lot of the stories in these two anthologies had great twists and were very addictive.

Meet CuteMeet Cute is an anthology purely about the initial interactions between characters that lead to a romance, or the “Meet Cute.” There are some stories in this one that are absolutely amazing and each one leaves you wanting more, but in a good way.

 

Do you enjoy anthologies and short stories in general? Feel free to comment and let me know!  Happy reading!

Starting the journey…

For as long as I’ve been able to, I’ve devoured books. Every story is a journey, an adventure.  Some are amazing and can make you forget the toils of everyday life. Books are an escape.  The art of writing and the pleasure of reading are some of the things that have kept me going in dark or difficult times, and much of my free time is consumed by those two things (and my cat).

I’m a self confessed bibliophile, enjoying most genres – but some of my favorites are young adult, romance, fantasy, mystery and multiple sub-genres therein. I will usually try any genre if it intrigues me enough.  I’m a firm believer in the fact that there is no such thing as too many books, only too few shelves to hold them (my significant other I’m sure would disagree, but I get away with it because he has a fondness for me 😛 ).

Here’s to starting a new way of documenting and consuming books, because really, if I could read books for a living I would.  Sharing my experiences with books and giving opinions/commentary on them is a natural progression. Plus, my life has always found its way back to the written word, so this seems fitting.

What to expect? Reviews, talks about my favorites, exploring new genres and authors. That’s just a little, we’ll see where this whole thing goes.

Happy reading!