Thursday, June 25, 2020

Book Review: Set the Stars Alight by Amanda Dykes

Lucy Clairmont's family treasured the magic of the past, and her childhood fascination with stories of the high seas led her to become a marine archaeologist. But when tragedy strikes, it's Dashel, an American forensic astronomer, and his knowledge of the stars that may help her unearth the truth behind the puzzle she's discovered in her family home.

Two hundred years earlier, the seeds of love are sown between a boy and a girl who spend their days playing in a secret sea cave, while the privileged young son of the estate looks on, wishing to join. As the children grow and war leads to unthinkable heartbreak, a story of love, betrayal, sacrifice, and redemption unfolds, held secret by the passage of time.

As Lucy and Dash journey to a mysterious old estate on the East Sussex coast, their search leads them to a community of souls and a long-hidden tale that may hold the answers—and the healing—they so desperately seek.

My rating:


After reading Bespoke for Christmas last year (you can find my review HERE) I was so excited to read another Amanda Dykes novel! Even in that lil' novella, I knew her stories had the potential to draw me in and never let go.

And I was right.

*happy sigh* The prose was . . . phenomenal. Seriously. Even during characters' banter and dialogue, the writing was flawless and beautiful. And that, of course, is a cinch to keep me reading. *grins*

Aaaaand then we've got the CHARACTERS. *clasps hands and nearly hyperventilates* Y'ALL THE CHARACTERS. I'm so, so, so in love with the characters. Lucy was actually a female protagonist that I loved. I couldn't relate to her circumstances, but I definitely could relate to her personality and insecurities. And DASHEL, MY GOOD MAN! #everyoneneedsadash

And there's Frederick . . . at first I wasn't thrilled with the way the book switched back and forth between the present and the past, but then I fell in love with Frederick's story. The traitor. Oh. my goodness. gracious. If anyone should be inspired by anyone's story, it should be Frederick's.

(really, the only complaint I have about this book is that the book is so whimsical, I kept forgetting that Lucy & Dash are in the present . . . I kept getting caught off-guard when they're checking their smartphones, haha!)

I loved reading about the historical mystery in the book—reading about Frederick and Juliette and Elias, and then about Lucy and Dash and Stone's Throw Farm, reading both the unfolding of the mystery and the individual lives of each. I looooved how every aspect of the book, whether it be about the mystery or simply something resolved in the characters' lives, unfolded and peeled back, each layer revealing something more heart-achingly beautiful than the one before it.

Was there romance in this book? Yes. Yes, there was. But I was so for it. For once, it made me grin so hard when I saw the couple(s) come together after all they'd been through. There were a couple of kisses, but they were barely described and ended quickly.

The world needs more stories about this—wholesome friendships, romances built on friendships rather than whirlwind attractions, characters that worked through their heartbreaks.

I. loved. this. book.

That is all.

(And I can't wait to read more by this author)

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley for promotional purposes. I was not required to write a positive review. These are my honest thoughts and opinions.

Any fellow Dykes fans out there??

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Book Review: Dead Silence by Robin Caroll

Political games can be deadly…
Elise Carmichael is a court sign language interpreter who reads lips all the time. As a widow with a young son who is deaf, lip reading is simply second nature, until the day she reads the lips of someone on the phone discussing an attempt to be made on a senator’s life—a senator who just happens to be her mother-in-law. Before she can decide what she needs to do, she receives the information that her son is rushed to the ER and she must leave. Then she later sees the news report that her mother-in-law has been shot and killed. But when she comes forward, her life, as well as her son’s life, may now be in the crosshairs of the assassin.

My rating:

This book was a super unique and cool twist on suspense—I mean, Elise has a deaf son, and is a lip reader and sign language-er (what's even the right term here? Maybe interpreter?) at the courthouse. Obviously, she sees something she wasn't supposed to, and now someone wants her silenced.

It was a good, suspenseful book, but...(there's always that one little word, isn't there?) I don't know. The writing seemed almost...amateurish?

Don't get me wrong, it was not at all like a middle-schooler had written it (nothing against middle schoolers, y'all, but your writing is supposed to mature with you). Usually the story hooked me. But then sometimes there were just those little words or phrases that completely took me out of the story.

The plot was engaging, and when I expected a romance to bloom, it didn't (the main reason for that being that one of the parties involved was married, though that fact wasn't brought out until over halfway through the book), so that was actually a pleasant surprise. The rookie agent, though? I felt like her character was...overplayed? I mean, her arrogance and condescending attitude made her character more real and diverse, I suppose, but I think it may have been a little bit over-the-top.

I appreciated Elise's gradual wading back into her faith and prayer life (and if that was a spoiler, please forgive me), but somehow it seemed...detached from the mystery. Which doesn't make a whole lot of sense, seeing as how it was prayer that got her through it all, but...I don't know. I wasn't a huge fan of that.

Sawyer was super cute, though, and while he wasn't perfect, he wasn't a spoiled brat either, so that was utterly fabulous.

(And detective Rodriguez? Give the man a high five, for both his patience and his work!)

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion. A positive review was not required. All thoughts are my own.

Don't you agree that we need more books with ASL interpreters?

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The Mystery Blogger Award

I was nominated for the Mystery Blogger Award! (Super cool, am I right??) As with all tags, let's get to the rules first, and then the fun part. *rubs hands*

-Put the award logo/image on your blog(^^)
-Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog. (Thank you, Libby May!)
-Mention the creator of the award and provide a link. (Okoto Enigmas)
-Answer the 5 questions you were asked. 
-Tell your readers three things about yourself.
-Nominate 10-20 people.
-Notify your nominees by commenting on their blogs.
-Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice, with one weird or funny question.
-Share a link to your best post.

Okay, so now for the questions Libby gave me!

1. If a friend asked you for a verse of encouragement, which is the first one that comes to mind?
Psalm 46:10 - "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted in the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" This verse has been my motto for quite some time now. When I start to doubt, when I start to wonder if God's really doing what's best, He whispers this verse to my heart. It's as if he's saying, don't freak out—I've got this.

2. How do you keep your spirit up on a day to day basis?
Music! Music, music, music. I've got several playlists that I listen to depending on what mood I'm in, but especially my 'perspective' playlist—when I need shift my focus from me and what's around me back to the bigger picture, I'll listen to this.

3. Have you ever worked in retail? What was your worst part?
Heh, um, nope. Easy answer.

4. What is your favorite flower?
*grins* sunflowerrrrrrrs. But I also loooooove irises and hollyhocks and Shasta daisies and lilacs and wildflowers and....yeah. Pretty much all of 'em. Because I loooooove flowers. *beams*

5. Would you eat peanut butter off a spoon?
Um...yes? I mean, I'm not a huge fan of peanut butter, but I'm not totally opposed to it. Besides, I used to eat it off a spoon all the time when I was little, so it's not like it's anything new to me. *shrugs*

Okay, now for the three things about myself:
-I count everything. The silverware that I put away from the dishwasher, the amount of steps I take from one end of the house to another...our basement stairs (I still count them e v e r y time, even though I already know there's 13)...
-I greatly dislike wearing shoes & socks, especially in the spring/summer
-I can't wear my hair in a ponytail (unless it's super low) bc it's too long & thick & heavy and makes my scalp hurt

And now, my best post. I'll just go with what I personally believe was my best post...

I nominate:
Brooklyne @ Showers of Blessings
Ellen @ Ellen's Musings
Faith @ Stories by Firefly
Katja @ Little Blossoms for Jesus, but I'm drawing a blank here...

Your questions:

1. What songs have you been listening to on repeat lately?
2. What's a Bible verse you always turn to for encouragement?
3. If someone were to ask you for FIVE book recommendations ONLY, what would you tell them?
4. If you could pick any sport to be super good at, what would you pick?
5. How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

This new Blogger is screwing with me...

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Author Interview: Angela R. Watts

I have a special treat today: Angela Watts and I are interviewing each other on our blogs! I loooove Angela's books, and if you enjoy intense, God-glorifying books, you will, too.

So, on to the interview!

1. Welcome to the blog, Angela! Would you mind telling us a few things about yourself?

Hi, Kaitlyn! I'm Angela, a homeschool graduate who lives on a farm in good ol' Tennessee. I've been writing since I was super tiny and haven't looked back since. I adore animals (hence, farm life), art, and gardening. If I'm not doing one of those things, I'm probably tucked away in my room watching Vines.

2. What would you say is a recurring theme in all of your works?

Redemption. Every person is a liar. The Bible says so. Live a little and you'll see how bad people truly can be. With God, however, every one of us can be saved. We can choose repentance and live a life that honors God--even if it might not be what most Christians consider "Christ-honoring". 

3. Which of your books was the hardest to write? Why?

Seek was very difficult to write for me because of how therapeutic it was. My sole intents while writing that thriller were "God, help me heal" and "Use this novel to help others"... And He said yes to both of those prayers. Seek was hard because I was facing many demons and seeking God's Light no matter what got in my way. It paid off, of course. I've spoken with many readers who say Seek inspired them or helped them realize that they are not crazy when dealing with narcissistic people.

4. To which of your characters are you able to relate the most?

Gideon Hochberg. I can't really explain it besides I'm a very black and white person and he lives the life I sometimes wish I could live. On the flip side, I'm a lot like Rene' Fisher, as well, but that's probably a no brainer for you guys. Fiction needs more gals who aren't afraid to love a lot and cry, right?

5. What is your favorite part of the publishing process?

I adore the writing part. As far as the publishing part... I love sending my book to my formatter. I love seeing the cover grow in the hands of my cover designer. Those final big, fast steps that make me go "WOW, this is happening and I can breathe for .2 seconds before I start launch prep!"... If you get my drift, haha.

6. Any wise words of advice for aspiring authors?

Write and don't pay much heed to the voices, the mentors, the articles... Help is great. Learning about the craft is great. But God gave you a story. A voice. Don't let the rules or the other people drain you out. Write, first and foremost. The growing will come. You grow and become better as you write. You can't grow if you worry too much about opinions and rules.

7. And, last but definitely not least, what lessons do you want your readers to take with them after reading your books?

Hope. Each book has a different message I pray reaches people but in the end... I want to spread hope. Hope that the fight is worth it. Hope that God knows what He's doing. Hope that no one is too lost to be saved. This world is vast and dark... But there is hope in Jesus, always. 

Thank you so much for joining me, Angela! (And y'all, don't forget to visit Angela's Blog for her interview of me!)

Before you go, though—it's promo time! Not only is Ang the author of incredible books like Seek, The Divided Nation, and others, she's also an editor! Go check her out, y'all!

Angela is a fabulous human with a heart for God and others—so go follow her blog and read her books!

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Book Review: The Torch Keepers by Hosanna Emily

The King's blue flame quivers as a new fire arises, and Kadira must hold fast to his torch. It's destiny; she's a torch keeper.

A fiery revolution sweeps across the kingdom of Erkeos, and each person must choose a side. Kadira, a girl set apart to serve the King, finds her city engulfed in the Liberation's emerald flames. Her blue eyes mark her as the enemy, and she flees from death. It stalks her anyway. When she meets Rekem, the Liberation warrior sent to kill her, she rebels against the King's ways. Two armies collide; indecision isn't an option. As hearts and lives hang in the balance, Kadira and Rekem could bring destruction or liberation to the entire kingdom.

My rating:

Wow. To say that this was unexpected would be an understatement.

So, the writing style was very good, though at times it kinda tried to pull me away from the story. Rekem seemed to have almost no personality. I was thoroughly confused through the first several chapters. (The whole concept of torch keepers and first names and such evaded me, so idk, maybe I'm just not super perceptive, haha!)

But while I went into the book expecting a normal fantasy . . . it wasn't. It was so much better.

This book is a completely clean (I'd recommend it for most any age!) allegory. And once I figured that out, I pretty much knew what would happen. The plot twists didn't surprise me. And that was okay in this instance. But y'all . . . oh my goodness. The allegorical elements just . . . they gripped me. They wouldn't let go.

And it made my heart ache in the best way possible.

God is going to use this book.

Maybe it's not quite as refined as others, but it's obvious that the author poured her heart and soul into the novel—and she wanted God's name to be glorified. I can't wait to see what comes next from this author.

Go read this book! It's a wonderful reminder for everyone.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Throwback Tuesday #1: Tucker's Revenge, Part 1

Hey howdy hey, folks! Today I'll be starting a new series that I'll plan to share on every fourth Tuesday of the month.

I call it Throwback Tuesday. I know, I know, not nearly as cool as Throwback Thursday, but hey, Thursdays are reserved for book reviews, so I had to settle for this. ;)

So, what is Throwback Tuesday? Well, I thought it would be fun to share some of my old writing here. When I first got the idea for this series, I thought, "hey, everyone could just see me cringe over my old writing!" But nah, I think there's something to be learned here.

Old writing is hard to read, but it also shows how far we've come. We can choose to be embarrassed by how we used to be, or we can choose to be grateful to God for how far we've come.

So, today, I'll be sharing part one from my very first original work, Tucker's revenge—a novelette—and go through it, paragraph by paragraph, to share how I would rewrite it now. Why not make this educational? Virtual field trip! ;) The story will be in this font, and my rewrites will be in this normal font. I'm definitely not a writing expert, and you might write it differently. That's okay, we all have different writing styles. This is just a fun exercise to show how far I've come with my writing skills, and to show you a bit better how you can rewrite something average and make it look so much better. :)

(not to mention, give me some extra practice!)

(plus I haven't read my old writing in a g e s)

(but I also don't mean to imply that everyone's writing is average, pls don't think that)

“Catch me if you can!”  Jamie Abbott’s hazel eyes sparkled with laughter as she turned her head to look tauntingly at her brother. 

Rewrite: The wind whipped Jamie Abbott's hair into her face as she turned to send her brother a taunting glance. "Catch me if you can!"

Levi, the third brother of Jamie, frustration showing on his face as he tried unsuccessfully to catch his younger sister.
“You haven’t got me beat yet, Jamie!” Levi shouted.  He slapped the reins against his bay horse, Buck, trying to get the horse to run faster.  Jamie just laughed in reply and turned her face forward, enjoying the wind in her face.

Rewrite: Jamie's third brother, Levi, pinched his lips together in frustration as he tried in vain to catch his younger sister. "You haven't got me beat yet, Jamie!" he shouted. He slapped the reins against his horse's neck in an attempt to urge the bay to run faster.
Jamie just laughed in reply and faced forward again, grinning as a surge of adrenaline rushed through her.

Thunder galloped down the nearly-invisible path that wound through the north pasture.  Rounding the last bend, the ranch buildings came into view and slowly became larger.  As they rushed down the homestretch Jamie risked one last glance behind her, and to her dismay, Levi was slowly gaining ground.

Rewrite: Thunder's hooves lived up to his name as they pounded down the nearly-invisible path that wound through the north pasture. As they rounded the last bend, the ranch buildings came into view and grew larger as they approached. On the last stretch, Jamie risked a glance behind her, and her heart sank to see her brother slowly gaining ground.

We’ve got to beat Levi!  She thought desperately.  If we lose now... she shook her head.  She didn’t want to think of all the teasing she’d get from her third brother if he beat her at this race.    
“Come on, Thunder!”  Jamie cried.  “We’ve got to win; otherwise Levi will never let me forget this.  I’ve done too much bragging on you to lose to Levi, of all people!”

Rewrite: Losing to Levi wasn't an option. "C'mon, Thunder," she murmured. "I haven't done all that bragging on you to lose to Levi, of all people." She swallowed hard to think of all the ribbing she'd have to endure—from both her brothers and the ranch hands—if she lost now.

The two pairs of riders and horses galloped closer and closer to the ranch outskirts.  Jamie could now see her family, along with most of the ranch hands, standing at the finish line.  She looked back again and squeezed her knees harder into Thunder’s sides, trying to urge him on as Levi and Buck galloped closer and closer.  The two horses’ hoofbeats pounded in her ears, along with the loud cheering from the crowd at the gate.  Jamie saw a movement to her left out of the corner of her eye, and, turning her head, saw Buck’s nose was even with Thunder’s flank.

Rewrite: The horse-and-rider pairs approached the ranch's outskirts at breakneck speed. Jamie spotted her family, along with more than half of the hired hands, waiting at the finish line. She checked over her shoulder again and squeezed her knees into Thunder's sides, willing him forward even as Levi and Buck inched closer. She could barely hear the cheering coming from the gate over the hoofbeats that pounded in her ears.
A flash of color in the corner of her eye caused Jamie to turn and spot Levi's horse, nose even with Thunder's flank.

“Run, Thunder, Run!” Jamie shouted.  But Thunder was tiring quickly.  Buck’s head slowly appeared, then his neck, his withers, and finally a grinning Levi.  At that second they sprinted across the finish line, past all the whooping ranch hands.  

Rewrite: "Run, Thunder! Run!" Jamie's voice rose to a shout, but Thunder's sides heaved, and she could practically feel his exhaustion. Buck's full body gradually appeared at her side, and she tried to avoid Levi's grinning stare as they sprinted across the finish line.

Jamie rode Thunder slowly around the yard for a few minutes to cool him down and noticed that Levi was doing the same with Buck.  Finally they dismounted and led their horses toward the group of milling people.

Rewrite: The riders walked their horses around for a few minutes to cool down their bodies, white with sweat, then dismounted and approached the group of people milling around the north gate.

“Jamie won!”  Jamie’s oldest brother Reuben exclaimed.
“No, I think it was Levi.”  This came from her second brother Simeon, who was staring at Reuben, as if daring his older brother to go against him.
Reuben raised an eyebrow.  “Simeon, you know it was Jamie.”
Simeon snorted.  “Reuben, you know as well as I do that it was Levi.”  He turned toward the two youngest Abbotts.  “You two were the racers; who do you think won?”

Rewrite: "Jamie won." Reuben grinned and ruffled Jamie's already unkempt hair. "Good job, sis."
  "No, I think it was Levi." Simeon stared at his older brother, as if daring him to argue.
  Reuben raised na eyebrow. "You know it was Jamie."
A snort accompanied the reply. "You know as well as I do that it was Levi; you're just playing favorites." he turned toward the two youngest Abbott siblings. "You two were the racers. Who do you think won?"

Levi smirked.  “I did, of course.”
Jamie rolled her eyes and punched her brother in the arm.  “Levi.  I was ahead of you for the whole race, and you were just beginning to catch up to me at the end.  Why not just admit the truth: I won.”   
Reuben shook his head with a smirk.  “I suppose we could take a vote with the hands...”

Rewrite: Levi smirked. "Me, of course."
Jamie rolled her eyes and punched him lightly on the arm. "I was ahead of you for practically the whole race, and you were barely starting to catch up to me at the end. Why don't you just admit the truth: I won."
"I suppose we could take a vote with the hands."

Levi shook his head violently.  It was a known fact that Jamie was a favorite with all the men.
Simeon shrugged and turned on his heel.  “Well, we’ll let you two fight it out.  Reuben and I, however, have better things to do,” he said over his shoulder.

Rewrite: Levi shook his head quickly, eyes wide. It was no secret that Jamie was everyone's favorite.
Simeon shrugged with a slight smile and turned on his heel. "We'll let you two hash it out. 'Ben and I have better things to do." He tossed back his last words over his shoulder.

Jamie turned to face Levi, her hazel eyes staring unblinkingly into his blue ones.
Levi dropped his gaze and sighed.  “We’re never going to agree on this, are we?”
Jamie shrugged.  “Let’s have a rematch, say, tomorrow afternoon?”
Levi nodded and tipped his hat to his sister.  “Until tomorrow, then.”

Rewrite: Jamie turned to face Levi, feet planted, arms crossed. Her hazel eyes stared unblinking into his blue ones until he finally dropped his gaze and sighed.
"We're never going to agree on this, are we?"
"Nope." After a moment's thought, she added, "What about a rematch? Tomorrow after noon?"
Levi squinted at her, then nodded and tipped his hat. "Until tomorrow, then."

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Why You Should Hire a Cover Designer Instead of Doing It Yourself

I have no idea how many of y'all know this, but I am a freelance book cover designer! I found this hobby by accident, when I decided to add a symbol to a friend's mock cover. (yes, I realize now that it was kiiiinda rude of me, but hey, after I did that, she asked me to design the entire cover, hehe)

So, anyway, yeah . . . after that, I experimented with other things—book covers, graphics, photo editing . . . and then I actually started creating covers for legit published books! (*cue applause*) Am I advertising my services?

Yes, yes, I am. *grins* I'm super tired rn as I write this, so that might have something to do with it. *cough* sorry 'bout that.

Anyway. If you're interested, you can find my services (and portfolio) here!

So, on to the actual purpose of this post. (what, you thought I was here to toot my own horn?? Shame on you!)

Why you should hire a cover designer instead of doing a DIY

So, if you've had experience with design, and have actually done this before, that's one thing. The only reason I'm confident in designing my own book covers is that I've gotten feedback and I've seriously critiqued my work before declaring it fit for use. ;)

Free tip: get feedback on the covers you design.

However, if you're just wanting to cut a few corners price-wise when you publish your book, throwing a cover together and saying "yeah, that looks good" is one of the worst things you can do.

(NOTE: I am not pointing fingers at anyone! I'm simply explaining my personal thoughts as clearly and concisely as I can.)

Here's why: a cover sells a book. You don't walk through a bookstore, see a slapped-together and obviously homemade cover, and go "wow, this looks amazing! What's it about?" *shakes head* I'm sorry, guys, but I just . . . don't do that. If you do, that's wonderful. Every book needs some love. But unfortunately, almost everyone judges a book by its cover.

If I see a cover that someone obviously decided to make themselves as a budget cut, I will tend to avoid it just because it gives the impression that the book's content is going to be as slapstick as the cover.

I won't share specific covers, because I don't want to single anyone out. But let me give you a few methods that I would not recommend:

-A sketched cover. If you're a talented artist and know how to make this look legit, by all means, go for it! But the majority of the sketched covers that I've seen looked like they were drawn by me. And that's . . . not a good thing. xD

-A picture with simple fonts. Granted, there is a time and place for this, but when you just take a random picture and put some words on it, to me, this screams "HOMEMADE - DO NOT TOUCH." Especially if the text is on a textured background with no translucent box behind the words.

-A solid color. Your cover needs something more than just bright pink or orange or whatever-is-your-favorite-color. To me, this says "boooorrriiiiing" and I probably won't read it.

So. All this to say . . . if you're wanting to cut costs, don't do so with your cover. Your cover sells your book. I'm not saying this so you'll hire me, haha! I genuinely want your book to have the proper representation!

If you'd like some cover designer recommendations, here's a few whose work I always enjoy seeing:

Sarah Grace @ Estetico Designs

Brooklyne @ Brooklyne Elysse Designs

Bethany @ Coverbook Designs (Bethany sells only Kindle covers, if that's what you're looking for!)

Brian McBride

Savannah @ Dragonpen Designs

Jessica @ Greyson Graphics

And there ya go! Why hiring a cover designer is best for your book!

Have I convinced you that hiring a designer is in your best interests?? ;)