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One of my favorite places to be is in a book! I read a wide variety. Books are food for the mind and soul, and I cannot seem to restrict myself to one genre.

My novel writing, on the other hand, is focused on young adult contemporary and women’s contemporary. I like to share stories that leave the reader with a sense of hope.

Every week I blog about books I’m reading. I usually post on the first Monday of the month with an author interview, news from my bookish friends, or writing related updates.

About My Novel Writing

I tend to write about people who are facing tough times. I’ve written about grief, eating disorders, abandonment, and other difficult issues. There isn’t always a romantic element, but when there is the romances are sweet. Endings aren’t sugar coated, but I always strive to leave my readers with a sense of hope. No graphic language, sex, or violence, just plenty of heart tugging and laughing. This is general fiction with a slight to rich southern flavor, depending on the book. I have two books with a character on the autism spectrum. I am currently seeking representation while I continue to work on my craft.

I spend most of my writing time working on my novels, but I blog here and on my homeschool blog, Undaunted Homeschool.

You can find me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

 

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☕ Book Break ☕ | The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

I finally read this little book, and I’m glad I did!

It has all the hallmarks of the familiar cozy mysteries, but a unique voice. Precious Ramotswe is the owner of the only private detective agency in Botswana. 

What follows is a variety of cases, some easier to solve than others. I liked the narrative. I felt it had an easy-going style. Besides the various cases she takes on, we learn bits about Mma Ramotswe’s history throughout the story. I found it to be a quick read.

I thoroughly enjoyed this charming mystery. More, please.

 

Cute.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Easy to read.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Charming characters.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Entertaining.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

☕ Book Break ☕ | The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld is a psychological thriller/mystery that deals with child abduction and abuse.

Naomi has a gift for finding lost children.

Three years have passed since a little girl disappeared and her desperate parents hire Naomi to find their child. The story is told from alternating points of view, Naomi as she investigates the disappearance, and the little girl, Madison.

This book was recommended to me as a novel that was deeply affecting. It is that. It’s dark and gripping without going into details. We know that horrible things are happening, but the descriptions were not over the top in my opinion. It was hard to read at times due to the subject matter. 

The story examines the cycle of abuse, and that was my least favorite part of the book, although the exploration of the physiological aspects of how Madison survived had me quite enthralled. Very evocative and emotional. All the ends of Madison’s, story/mystery tied up, but we are left with our main character’s issues, including the thing that drives her to investigate missing children. It’s labeled as a book one, so I assume a series is in the works. Beautiful, seamless writing and a haunting story.

Thanks to Sharon Peterson for recommending this book.

What Book Do You Wish You Had Written?

What book do you wish you had written?

I was tagged to answer this recently on Instagram by author @melaniejwalker  as part of the #authorschallenge2019 hosted by @debratorreswrites .

I would love to write a book that had and has the impact of Flowers for Algernon.

Being a precocious reader with older siblings, I read this book when I was very young, sneaking it from my sister’s bookshelf. The story resonated with me and influenced my thinking. It’s one of the books I recommend for all highschoolers to read.

If you haven’t read Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, go get a copy! It’s not a long book. I would consider it easy to read, even though all of the topics explored may not always be easy to think about. It’s about a mentally disabled young man who agrees to engage in an experiment to increase his intelligence. His story is told through a series of diary entries.

In my experience, even kids who aren’t into reading all that much seem to connect with this book. The story brings up loads of discussion worthy topics.

Flowers for Algernon always makes me think about the memoir, Switched On, by John Elder Robison, the true story of a person on the autism spectrum who participated in experiments meant to increase emotional intelligence. Switched On tells about his experiences during the procedure and the aftermath. 

I recommend both of these books.

The IG prompt made me consider my own work. I am often intentional about why I write the novels I do and who, in both a general and specific sense, I hope to communicate with.

I guess I could say I have written exactly the book I wished to.

One of my novels is about a family dealing with grief. I wrote it because there was a need. I could not find a novel addressing the issue of impending loss and grief against the backdrop of a family also dealing with autism.

As I spend time in the querying trenches, the ability to see how a particular manuscript fulfilled its intended purpose, at least in part, is a great encouragement to me.

I hope to see all my novels reach the readers who need to hear the stories. I hope to someday soon know hearts are being touched.  

#amquerying

 

 

May Book Roundup

Book Round Up!

 

I decided to make one single post about my favorite reads of the month, rather than separate ones, since I read a series and, to be honest, I ran out of time!

I may read a few more this month, but I wanted to post about May’s kindle first reads selection in case anyone hasn’t picked theirs up yet. Am I the only one who lets the month slip by?

I began reading Cynthia Voight’s series of books labeled the Tillerman cycle. No less than three of my beta readers compared my writing to these books, so I thought I should check them out. The funny thing was, my readers weren’t all looking at the same manuscript.

⭐️

Homecoming

This is the first in the series. Four children are left to wait for their mother in the parking lot of a mall. When she doesn’t return, they decide to go in search of relatives. They walk across the country. I actually started this one at the end of last month, but put it here because it is part of the Tillerman series.

⭐️

Dicey’s Song

Newbery Winner. This book picks up where the first one left off. I would recommend this to any young readers, especially girls. I wish I’d known about this series when my daughter was younger. I recommend for all readers, especially girls in the age bracket of upper MG to YA.

⭐️

A Solitary Blue

Lovely book. Feels a little different than the first two. This is the story of Dicey’s love interest and his childhood.

⭐️

The Runner

Goes back in time to the children’s uncle and his high school days right before he goes to Viet Nam.

⭐️

Come A Stranger

Tells the story of Dicey’s friend, Mina and the prejudice she faces.

⭐️

I love the way the series show how lives are intertwined and connected. Each book is important and stands alone. Her writing style seems natural and unaffected, but powerful She doesn’t shy away from tough topics. The characters feel real.

⭐️

Sons from Afar

Dicey has two brothers and one sister. At the beginning of this book the children are a bit older and this one focuses on the two boys. The younger boy has never met his father. The book explores the differences between the two boys and the way they come to terms with the struggles of growing up without a father.

⭐️

Kindle First Reads

Valencia and Valentine

By Suzy Krause

I picked this one for my kindle first reads selection for May. This is an interesting book that has a character with some mental health issues. It is entertaining, funny, and poignant. I read it from cover to cover, if you can do such a thing with a Kindle book. It reminded me of Eleanor Oliphant, would you still at the top of my favorites list. There’s a bit of a mystery involved. The two stories meld together in the end. It’s a little sad and a little sweet. It’s a book that made me think, but mostly it made me feel.

⭐️

Tiger Eyes

By Judy Blume

Another one of my beta readers said that my story and style reminded her of this book. If only! Davey (a teen girl) is faced with a terrible tragedy and loss of her father when he is murdered while in his store. Davey, her mom, and Davey’s little brother travel across the country, ostensibly on a visit, but it turns into an extended stay.

This one had me crying. Beautifully done and heart rending. There were a few chuckles as well. I love this book. If you like emotional, touching, coming-of-age, I think you’ll like this book. This was made into a movie, but I haven’t seen it. Have you?

⭐️

Saint Anything

By Sarah Dessen

Sydney is one of the quiet girls. She doesn’t cause any trouble. That rule is filled by her charming brother, Peyton. When he gets behind the wheel under the influence, he runs over a boy on a bicycle, forever changing everyone’s lives. The boy ends up in a wheelchair and Peyton ends up in prison. Sydney decides to change high schools and meets a new set of friends. This is a novel of self-discovery and family relationships.

⭐️

The Nightingale

By Kristin Hannah

This was a re-read. If you haven’t read this book yet go get it!

⭐️

Little Women

I’m still rereading this one. You can never go wrong with Little Women.

⭐️

Did you see any favorites in this list?

What have you been reading lately?

 

Sometimes You Need a Story

 

My life is divided into before and after. I’m in the after now.

Eight years ago, this coming April, my world turned upside down. Eight years ago, this coming April, I began the slow journey back. I hadn’t written a book then. Since that time, I have finished penning three.

When I got sick, my daughter became frightened. Who wouldn’t be? It was the summer before her freshman year of high school, and she spent her vacation taking care of her mother who needed assistance walking and bathing. It didn’t matter what I told her, or how many reassurances were held out, she was terrified. All the soft gentle words and reassurances never made it past her fear wrapped worry.

Sometimes you need a story.

I wrote her a book about a girl who was afraid her mother would die and leave her alone. In the book, the mother does die. The girl is not left alone, however. She has family and unlikely heroes to depend on. I wrote my daughter a book to make her laugh and cry, but most of all to help her see she was not alone and it wasn’t up to her to save the world. I think maybe it was both comforting and uncomfortable for her to discover how much I understood her.

She’s not a character in a book, and she is not this character. But young girls everywhere get angry with their mothers, at times think they’ve been abandoned, and generally feel treated unfairly by life. They’re often surprised when they discover their mothers were once girls and understand all of these deeply held, secret feelings.

Among the pages of this made up place filled with pretend people my daughter finally understood what I was trying to tell her. She wasn’t alone.

Sometimes you need a story.

A funny thing happened. Out of the story, two more grew. Each of these novels stand alone, and while they don’t lean on each other, they do rub shoulders, exploring the lives of the various characters in the same fictional small Texas town.

It’s quite a surprise to find at the end of these eight years I have three complete novels. I’d freelanced in my former writing life, and even written a novella, which resides in the dark recesses of my computer files, but I’d never attempted a novel length work.

As my health improved and my responsibilities shifted, I had more time to write books. With each novel, I learned better and went back, refining and polishing. I hunted down critique partners and entered contests. I was quite pleased with the feedback I got. Now I’m ready to start querying agents.

I’m telling you this tale because, as with all of my stories, I want to encourage and bring hope to the reader. Because sometimes you need a story.

Donna Jo Stone writes YA contemporary novels about tough issues but always ends the stories with a note of hope. She blogs at donnajostone.com.

☕ Book Break ☕ | ~Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler~

~Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler~

‘Beware against the sweet person, for sugar has no nutrition.’

Kate Battista  still lives at home, and runs her father’s house even though she is an adult. Besides dealing with her eccentric father, a scientist who spends his days in his  lab, she contends with her younger sister, Bunny. Despite her abrasive personality, her young charges at the daycare she works at love her. The parents and staff do not.

Dr. Battista cooks up a plan to wed Kate to his lab assistant, Pyotr. Pyotr must get married to stay in the country, and both men are agreeable to the plot. They neglect to consult Kate on the matter.

I love Shakespeare and Shakespeare adaptations. Anne Tyler has written a witty and well done retelling. Kate was multilayered and I felt myself liking her more and more as the story went on. Anne Tyler is a wonderfully skilled writer.

Having this familiar story reimagined in a modern day setting made me think about the attitudes towards women during the time of Shakespeare and today. The treatment of Kate in parts of the story sparked a lot of discussion around our house.

I’ve been involved in productions of The Taming of The Shrew and watched television adaptations, but, oddly, this is the first time I read a novel based on the story as far as I can remember. I plan to read more of these retellings in the Hogarth Shakespeare series.

There is some language in this book, and having it right at the start felt jarring to me. I kept reading because I read Anne Tyler before and liked her other work and because I like Shakespeare.

Humor

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Characters

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Storytelling

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Book Review| A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

 

I didn’t expect to be captured by this story, but I was. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman and translated by Henning Koch opens with Ove in a computer store, trying unsuccessfully to communicate with one of the employees. Having often been stymied by things tech, I could so relate to the quandary Ove had in the store.

A recent retiree,  Ove is the typical outspoken, inflexible grump, but we suspect from the get go he just might have reason to be. His life is severely structured by routine and he lives his days out following his own strict ideas of what is right. Patrolling the neighborhood, he keeps watch, always ready to enforce The Rules. A young family moves in next door and immediately upset Ove by running into his mailbox.

This character driven tale spins out beautifully, feeding us bits that make up Ove’s story as we need them. It is a poignant story about the human condition, of learning to love and be loved, of looking past the oft not-so-lovely exterior and seeing a fellow human. I was moved. Ove isn’t a man you would care to deal with, but we can’t help but love him, warts and all.

The novel jumps around in time, but is easy to follow. The story is sweet, funny, and sad all at the same time. I think this one may end up on my favorites list. It’s not often a book can make me laugh, cry, and think.

I listened to the audio book narrated by George Newbern and was well done. On a side note, a good narrator can ruin an otherwise good book, but this is a good narrator. The audiobooks I select books are greatly influenced by who is reading, and whether or not past books by an author were narrated well.

I will be checking out other books by Fredrik Backman.

I did not realize this novel had been made into a movie, and I plan to watch it sometime. I am big on reading the book first, and this is a good one. I can’t imagine a movie being as good as the novel. If you watched the movie or read the book, let me know what you thought.

Recommended. Some language and the content is serious at times.

Click here for a reading guide from Simon and Schuster for A Man Called Ove.

Here’s another reading guide from LitLovers.

I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below. This book is full of wonderful quotes. Here’s a few.

 

 

“And time is a curious thing. Most of us only live for the time that lies right ahead of us. A few days, weeks, years. One of the most painful moments in a person’s life probably comes with the insight that an age has been reached when there is more to look back on than ahead. And when time no longer lies ahead of one, other things have to be lived for. memories, perhaps.”