The Dance of Character and Plot by DiAnn Mills


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There’s a long-standing argument over which type of story is better: plot-driven or character-driven. The truth is, that either without the other will leave a story flat. The best stories weave character and plot together like a dance that allows them both to shine.

In this book, DiAnn Mills explains how to do that with chapters on characterization, point of view, setting, dialogue, pacing, and more.

I read this book with my novel in mind, and I’ve taken a lot away from it. I’ve dumped things, changed point of view, considered my subplots and minor characters, and so much more. DiAnn Mills knows her craft, and she is eager to share.

While I did discover an editing issue – ironically, it was in the section on editing – it doesn’t take away from the benefits of this book. There is so much information, along with exercises, questionnaires, tips, and suggested reading. You are bound to get something out of it, no matter where you are in your writing journey.

1) Is it understandable = 5
2) Presentation of Information = 5
3) Quality of Writing = 5
4) Overall Enjoyability = 5

Average score of 5 out of 5

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N

The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg


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Sarah “Sookie” Poole is fifty-nine years old. Her last daughter has just gotten married, and she plans to spend her remaining years relaxing with her husband Earle.

When a letter arrives that reveals a buried family secret, Sookie questions her entire existence, and goes on a journey of self-discovery to find the truth.

I didn’t finish this one. It’s not that it’s bad. I liked certain things about it, here and there. Time goes back and forth from chapter to chapter, and I often enjoyed the parts in the past.

My biggest problem is that, while the characters were likeable for the most part (when they weren’t being over-dramatic), I didn’t really care what happened to them. I found myself just waiting for the story to move along, but I felt like it wasn’t happening fast enough.

Another issue I had was that the point of view would suddenly switch to a minor character for a paragraph or two so we could see what they were thinking. It managed to keep me distant from the main character.

On a positive note, the writing is descriptive without being bogged down with detail. Flagg allows you to see what’s happening vividly, without massive paragraphs of description and scene-setting, which is always wonderful.

1) Overall Plot = 3
2) Characters = 2
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 3
4) Overall Enjoyability = 2

Average score of 2.5 out of 5

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N

The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn


Alcorn-TreasurePrincipleEveryone wants money. Money is how we purchase things. It’s why we have jobs… to get money to pay the bills and one day, hopefully, we won’t have to work anymore.

What does God say about money? This is where people get defensive. If God demands we part with our money, does he want us to be poor?

When it comes to God, money is a touchy subject for a lot of people. This is probably because what the Bible says about money and giving is often misinterpreted or misunderstood. One of the most misquoted scriptures is 1 Timothy 6:10. Often quoted as “Money is the root of all evil,” what the passage actually says is, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.”

Money itself is not evil. God doesn’t want us not to have it, but he does command us to spend it in certain ways. It’s not a matter of whether or not you want money. The real question is this: Do you want money more than you want God?

In The Treasure Principle, Randy Alcorn explains what the Bible says about money and giving. He shows what joyful, Biblical giving looks like and what we get out of it by discussing six key points:

  1. God owns everything. I’m his money manager.
  2. My heart always goes where I put God’s money.
  3. Heaven and the future New Earth, not this fallen one, is my home.
  4. I should live not for the dot (this short, present life), but for the line (eternity).
  5. Giving is the only antidote to materialism.
  6. God prospers me not to raise my standard of living, but to raise my standard of giving.

The book is short, but Alcorn does a great job of presenting the material. You will come away with a new, or better, understanding of what it means to give as a Christian.

1) Is it understandable = 5
2) Presentation of Information = 5
3) Quality of Writing = 5
4) Overall Enjoyability = 5

Average score of 5 out of 5

Where to buy the book: CBD | Amazon | B&N

I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin


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A.J. Fikry lives alone in the small apartment space above his bookstore. Sales are down, and a rare copy of Poe poems that he usually keeps under lock and key has been stolen. It’s only when something gets left behind at his store that his life begins to change.

This one is ok. I wish I could say I liked it more, because it was an easy read, and there were parts that were very good, but it wasn’t great.

The biggest mark against it for me is that it is written in present tense. I rarely like books in present tense, and this was no exception. I find it distracting.

The ending also left me a bit disappointed. Not what I was expecting at all.

1) Overall Plot = 3
2) Characters = 3
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 4
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 2.5

Average score of 3.5 out of 5

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N

Read Like a Writer


I’m a reader. When I read, I read for entertainment. I love the escape.

But I’m also a writer. Writers need to study the craft. One way to do that is to read like a writer. To that end, I did some research into exactly how one reads like a writer. I discovered this handy little printout from Teaching That Makes Sense. It’s the best at-a-glance resource I found on the topic.

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That left one question: What do I read like a writer?

I find my inner writer comes out easily when I’m reading bad writing. I see the obvious mistakes or failings and laser in on them. But that’s not what I want to study. I want to study good writing. I need to study the writing I would love to emulate.

The genre of my WIP is fantasy. It didn’t take me long to decide the novel I was looking for:

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Yes, you see two copies of the book there. On the left is my hardcover. The thought of writing in it to make notes broke my heart a little. So, I purchased a paperback copy. It’s so pretty I had second thoughts about writing in that one, too… but I must.

This will be a bit of an adventure for me, and possibly a bit of a struggle. Forcing myself to pick apart the words when all I want to do is fall into them… I think I’m going to have trouble with that. I’ve read this novel twice before, and got lost both times. Maybe the third time will allow me to focus on my purpose.

I may do a follow-up post to share how it’s going.

Here’s to reading like a writer!

Update (due to lack of updates)


It’s been a couple of months since I’ve consistently posted. Part of this is due to the fact that I’ve hit a reading slump. Life got hectic, and my brain has been exhausted to the point where reading was the last thing I wanted to do. Writing was second-to-last.

I’m trying to get back in the groove, though life is still hectic. I’m beginning by starting a new book. I was a little less than halfway though my re-read of The Fellowship of the Ring when I hit the slump, and I can’t seem to get back into it. So, I’m stopping. I won’t be counting that toward my 52 books challenge, and I am 9 books behind on that.

A co-worker loaned me a couple of books, so I’m going to start one of those tonight.

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I’m hoping that the fresh start with an unread book will help, and that I can work toward catching up on my reading goal, as well as get back to my writing.

Times like this I have to remind myself that we all hit slumps, even with things we love. Especially when we’re trying to do too much.

Between the Lines by Jessica Page Morrell


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Writing is a craft. It requires the use of many tools in such a way that they almost go unnoticed by the reader. In this book, Morrell explains these tools and gives examples of how they’ve been used in other stories.

Topics such as backstory, subplots, tension, flashbacks, and more are covered in this resource.

The great thing about this book is that it makes a handy reference tool. Each topic has its own chapter, which is clearly titled as what is being discussed. You don’t have to read this book from cover to cover to benefit from it.

What I found a little distracting at times was the number of examples used. Examples are great learning tools, but I sometimes skipped over them after one or two were given.

All-in-all, this is a great resource, and I would recommend it.

1) Is it understandable = 5
2) Presentation of Information = 4
3) Quality of Writing = 5
4) Overall Enjoyability = 4

Average score of 4.5 out of 5

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco


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In 1888 London, Audrey Rose Wadsworth defies her father and society, and secretly tutors under her uncle doing autopsies. Through her studies she comes face-to-face with the victims of Jack the Ripper. She feels compelled to figure out who the Ripper is and bring him to justice, but the investigation may lead to dark secrets better kept hidden.

This debut novel by Maniscalco and the first YA novel in James Patterson’s “Jimmy” imprint, fell flat for me.

The premise caught my interest, and the first chapters were a nice set up, but the pace soon slowed. The title is a bit misleading, as most of the “stalking” is done through forensic investigation and autopsies. The middle sags, and the climax picks up with more action, though the true identity of Jack the Ripper was a bit predictable.

Because Audrey Rose wants to practice man’s work in the late 1800’s, I was expecting a bit of feminism in the book. Obviously, this character was breaking through barriers. The amount of it, though, seemed unnecessary as the character reminds us in almost every scene that she is capable though she is a woman. It also, at times, seemed that Audrey was using feminist arguments just as a means to do whatever she wanted, which was often foolish and dangerous.

There’s a romance between Audrey Rose and her classmate, Thomas, that’s more love-at-first-sight than depth of feeling.

There were a couple of times I almost stopped reading, but I kept going because of Thomas, though it wasn’t necessarily that I liked his character. The more we see of him, the more he reminded me of Sherlock Holmes; from his way of deducing to his arrogance, right down to the dog named Toby that he borrows and he declares is smarter than half of Scotland Yard (a close paraphrase from the stories by Arthur Conan Doyle). The likeness and references were so obvious to me that I thought it was have been intentional and I wanted to see where it went. It didn’t go anywhere. Even in her Author’s Notes, Maniscalco makes no mention of Doyle or Holmes, which seems odd since the character felt heavily borrowed from Holmes.

I can’t say that I enjoyed much about this novel. I was able to finish, but just barely and only out of curiosity surrounding Thomas.

1) Overall Plot = 2
2) Characters = 2.5
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 2.5
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 2.5

Average score of 2.9 out of 5

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N

Chasing Contentment by Erik Raymond


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We live in a time when people seem to be generally discontent; Impatient, moody, complaining and jealous. Though we have moments of happiness, we’ve lost what it means to be truly content. The good news is that we can learn this, as the Apostle Paul says.

Erik Raymond lays out what true contentment is and why it is found only in God. He then explains, through scripture and personal stories, how he can go about learning to be content in God.

Every self-proclaiming Christian should read this book. The Gospel message is at its core: we deserve Hell, but God sent His son Jesus to redeem us and bring us back to Him. This is where our contentment lies. Raymond lays it out in such a way that anyone with a heart willing to be changed will feel the need for it.

This isn’t the name-it-and-claim-it gospel. It’s not health and wealth. It’s loving God and being content in Him, whether you have everything or nothing at all. It’s Biblical truth, and much needed.

1) Is it understandable = 5
2) Presentation of Information = 5
3) Quality of Writing = 5
4) Overall Enjoyability = 5

Average score of 5 out of 5

Where to buy the book: CBD | Amazon | B&N

I received an electronic copy of this book from Crossway in exchange for an honest review.

Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves


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In London, in the mid-1800’s, Anna Arden lives a life of high society, marked by the ability to use magic. Only she can’t perform the simplest of spells. But she can break them, though she doesn’t know how.

There are some who believe that magic should be available to any who wish to use it. They believe the rich and powerful restrict magic from the common people in a spell called The Binding under the pretense that it is to protect the untrained from having their magic become a danger. These people want to use Anna to break The Binding. But there are others who will do whatever it takes to stop her.

This first novel in a new trilogy had potential, but it fell flat. It starts off well enough, then the tension fades and the pace slows for almost half the book.

I almost gave up after a hundred pages, but I wanted to be sure I really gave it a fair chance. After about a hundred more, I stopped. The action was finally picking up, but I had little connection or concern for any of the characters, especially the main character. Anna, who is sixteen, leaves an impression of immaturity that I couldn’t shake. The few hints of something deeper in a couple of other characters weren’t fleshed out enough to make a connection. The only exception is the Romani young man, Gabor, who feels like he doesn’t fit among his own people, and is unwelcome in Anna’s world.

The basic idea of the plot is interesting, but there was too much downtime in what should have been an intense, action packed story.

1) Overall Plot = 3
2) Characters = 2.5
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 2.5
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 2.5

Average score of 3.1 out of 5

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N

I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.