A Poison Dark and Drowning by Jessica Cluess


Cluess-PoisonDarkDrowning

Henrietta Howel was brought to London as the first female sorcerer in centuries. She was the chosen one who would help defeat the Ancients terrorizing England, but she’s not the chosen one.

Still, she must carry on for the public as though she is the one who will save them. It means that she and Rook will have a chance to be safe, though his dark powers are growing as he learns to control them, changing him into something she doesn’t recognize.

With permission from the head of the Order, Howel and Blackwood go in search of weapons that may help them in their war against the Ancients. Magnus, still trying to get back into Howel’s good graces, is assigned to assist.

Along the way they discover strange places, danger, and truth that has devastating consequences.

This second book in Cluess’s Kingdom on Fire series is perfectly on par with the first. The story moves on without any lag. The characters are so well-written that they jump off the page. There’s a little more drama as potential romances grow, but it’s so woven into the plot that it all feels natural, and leaves you a little unsure of who to root for.

I have to point out Cluess’s ability to lay groundwork with hints and clues as the story unfolds. A lot of things come to light in this novel, and I was able to predict a few of them by the clues left here and there, and still be satisfied in the reveal. There are still unanswered questions, and I still have some theories that haven’t played out yet. I will definitely be reading the next book.

A few content warnings: The use of magic is heavier than the first book as magicians take on a greater role. There is mild language. The first novel hinted at a gay relationship and it is confirmed in this novel. The characters are minor, and the scene is short, but I expect it may be brought up again in the next book.

1) Overall Plot =4.5
2) Characters = 5
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 5
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 4.5

Average of score 4.8 out of 5

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

One Word 365 (2018)


OneWord2018

Let love be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. 10 Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lack diligence in zeal; be fervent in the Spirit; serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. 13 Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. 18 If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  (Romans 12:9-18 CSB)

My One Word for 2018 is persistence.

I always look for scripture when thinking about my word for the year, but this one I could only find once. It’s placement, however, is a section of scripture that I was immediately drawn to. God has been working in me to make me more like Jesus. I feel it more and more as my heart changes. I’ve been drawn to studies lately that deal with what our external behaviors should look like when our hearts are focused on Christ, and this scripture is an amazing summary. We can’t do these things in our own power. It takes the strength and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

With God’s help I want to be persistent in all these things. I want to be persistent in my pursuit of Him.

I also, with God’s help, want to be persistent in my writing; both in practice and in study.

I want 2018 to be a year of never giving up, even when everything is telling me I should.

Do you have a One Word? Tell me what it is in the comments. If you have a One Word post on your blog, feel free to drop a link there.

 

Photo by Ruben Mishchuk on Unsplash

What Jesus Demands from the World by John Piper


Piper-WhatJesusDemands

When we think of Jesus, we tend to think of the mild teacher, or the suffering servant who died on a cross for our salvation. We don’t usually think of him as demanding things from us. That was under the law, and Jesus frees us from the law, right? Not really. Not in that way.

In this book John Piper lays out several commands (or demands) of Jesus and explains what they mean and how we should obey, using scripture as his basis.

Piper explains his process in this short video:

Over the last couple of years, John Piper has been a great source of learning and spiritual growth for me. This book is no different. I took a pencil to this book, something I almost never do, because it called out to me to do it. I underlined, and asterisked, and noted… and at least one chapter in this book moved me to the point of tears.

Each chapter covers one command (or one aspect of a command) and is only about 4-6 pages long, so this could easily read devotional-style.

This book will challenge you and push you to become a true follower of Jesus by obeying his commands. It is definitely one to read again.

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

As with all of Piper’s books, you can download a free PDF of this book at Desiring God.

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

Another Year Gone. A New Year Ahead.


2017 wasn’t all I wanted it to be, but it had its moments. I read some great books, learned a lot about writing, took a big step on my writing journey, and drew closer to God. Now we’re all reflecting on the time that has passed, and looking to the time ahead to make changes and grow.

Great Books from 2017

I didn’t meet my reading goal this year, but I still read a good bit. These are the books I loved.

Fiction (Christian):
Luther and Katharina by Jody Hedlund
A Lady in Disguise by Sandra Byrd
The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron

Fiction (Secular):
A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess
A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir
The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence by Alyssa Palombo
11/22/63 by Stephen King

Non-Fiction (Christian):
The Legacy of Luther by R.C. Sproul and Stephen J. Nichols
A Time for Confidence by Stephen J. Nichols
The Truth of the Cross by R. C. Sproul
The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn

What Jesus Demands of the World by John Piper (review coming soon)

Non-Fiction (Secular):
The Inkblots by Damion Searls

On Writing:
The Dance of Character and Plot by DiAnn Mills

Moving Forward in 2018

In the new year, I will focus on two things:

  1. God
  2. Writing

My focus on God will require the time and dedication of personal Bible reading and Bible study, theological study, prayer, and other spiritual disciplines.

My focus on writing (which includes both my novel and this blog) will require the time and dedication of writing (getting myself in a chair and making it happen, though I am outlining first), planning, research, studying the craft, and reading.

I’ve laid out my long-term and some short-term goals to start me on the right path. I know some things will change as I find the routine that works for me, but the important thing is that I have taken the first steps.

I hope you’ll join me on my journey in 2018!

What are your goals and hopes for the new year? Let me know in the comments.

 

Header photo byMorgan Sessions

A Chance at Publication


I just took a big step on my writing journey! I submitted an essay to The Writer magazine for a contest. Part of the prize will be publication in their magazine!

Unfortunately, it may be a couple of months before the winner is announced, so I’ll have this on my mind until then. But I’ve been looking at what I need to do (other than actually write my novel) to truly turn this into a career. At the very least, a part-time career. Let’s face it, not all authors can have writing as their sole income.

With that in mind, I’m going to ask a favor. This contest, as do most other writing contests, comes with an entry fee. I’ve already put out a decent amount of money on my writing journey, and if I plan to pursue this more seriously (and I do) then it will require more.

I started a Ko-fi account:

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Ko-fi lets you buy me cups of coffee. These cups of coffee are completely symbolic, mind you. It’s actually a way to give small (or large, if you so choose) donations to your favorite content creators.

Part of my journey to get more serious about my writing career includes this blog. I want to provide more content here. In addition to my book reviews, I want to post more on writing and the world of publication. With a full-time job, which sometimes extends into overtime, most of my spare time would consist of writing (both for my novel and this blog) and reading for reviews. Honestly, I’ll do this without the donations, because it’s what I want to do, but I could use the motivation, and it would be nice to know that people are truly interested in the content I provide. It would be awesome to know that I have your support!

I’m also considering starting a Patreon to offer some exclusive benefits to regular supporters, but I’m not there yet. I want to be sure that I can provide good, consistent content before I ask anyone to become a consistent supporter.

With the Ko-fi donations (as well as the Patreon if I ever set one up) the money would go toward my writing career. Writing resources, memberships, conferences (possibly in the future), blog costs, entry/submission fees, etc, would be covered with your support.

So, please consider this. And let me know if you would be interested in becoming a patron through Patreon.

God bless!

The Dance of Character and Plot by DiAnn Mills


Mills-DancePlotCharacter

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


Flagg-AllGirlFillingStation

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


Zevin-StoriedLifeFikry
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.

image

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:

image

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!