Sunday, July 24, 2016 | By: Taffy

Pioneer Christmas by Taffy Lovell

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 Pioneer Christmas

Ma, where will we be for Christmas this year?
In the Salt Lake Valley.
Will we get there before Christmas?
I hope so, little one.
But isn’t it Christmas right now?
No, dear, not yet.
But there is so much snow.
I know. Come along.
But my feet hurt.
Let me see them. I have a little material. Let me wrap them up.
Will we get Christmas dinner when we get to the Valley?
Grandma will have dinner ready for us.
 I’m hungry now.
We all are. I have a little shoe leather left. Chew it as we walk.
Ma, will Pa be home for Christmas?
No, love, he can’t be with us anymore.
Where is he?
We buried him in Martin’s Cove.
Will we see him again, Ma?
Yes.
Will he be sad to miss Christmas?
I think he will be sad to not be with us. Do you know who was born on Christmas?
Jesus?
Yes.  And His Mother and Father loved him very much.
Did He grow big like me?
Yes He did. And one day Jesus had to leave His family even when He didn’t want to leave.
Just like Pa.
And just like Jesus, Pa is in Heaven.
Pa gets to spend Christmas with Jesus?
Yes he does.
Then Pa gets to have the best Christmas.
I think you’re right.
I still wish Pa was with us, pulling me in the handcart.
Do you want to get in the handcart now?
May I? The rocks are hurting my feet now.
Let me put you in with sister.
Sister is so cold, Ma.
Wrap your arms around her and hold her close.
Will she spend Christmas with Pa?
I would miss her terribly if she did, dear.
Ma? Can you hear the singing?
It must be the other Saints singing.
I can’t see no other handcarts. Didn’t angels sing when Jesus was born?
Yes.
Ma, I think the angels are singing for us tonight so we are not alone.
I believe you are right, little one.


This is an original poem I wrote after we went on a pioneer trek through Martin's Cover, over Rocky Ridge and stopped in Rock Creek, where fifteen pioneers--men, women and children--were ubried in a mass grave.


Monday, July 18, 2016 | By: Taffy

Trying to increase my daily word count and not hate my summertime writing

I'm struggling with my writing right now and I'm going to blame it on the summer. I love having my kids home! I love our backyard sleepovers and movie marathons and barbecues. It's just hard to find motivation when other things are going on. or MAYBE I hate the ending of the book and need to rewrite it but I'm not sure how so that probably means I need to go back and see where the story took a wrong turn and then I need to revise it or take out the offending chapters. pantpantpant. UGH.


I just read a book about increasing word count that I really enjoyed. I mostly read the first part and skimmed the second (it dealt with plotting a novel but I'm not ready to write a new story yet).

2K to 10K: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love by Rachel Aaron

These are the three ideas I took away from the book:

1. Everyday before you open the word doc of your story, take 5 minutes to write out what you're going to write for the day.

*This is actually what I decided to start doing before I read this book.

2. After writing your 5 minutes, see how you feel. If you're excited about the scene, write it! If you're not, rework it until you are excited. No more boring scenes in your story.

*I can get behind this idea, obviously! Here's to trying something new.

3. Everyday keep a record of your writing. Make a note of the time you start, time you stop, how many words and where you wrote. The author keeps these stats in excel and tracks when her most productive times and places for word count is.

*I love this idea. I also found an app that helps a little bit with that too. It's called writeometer.

I'm hoping these ideas help me get some words written this summer. I get hangry (what would a cross between not writing and frustrated be??) when I haven't written for a few days. I need to write something everyday, even a blog post helps.


What do you do to get excited about writing? Or finding the time? Is your writing schedule different in the summer vs. during school?






Friday, July 1, 2016 | By: Taffy

7 Summer Reads To Get You Through July

 It's officially July and it's hot, hot, hot outside (and I might have to live at the pool) and time for another roundup of summer reading. Take a look at the list and tell me in the comments your favorite summer read!



BEAUTY and the CLOCKWORK BEAST
 by Nancy Campbell Allen

Jane Eyre meets Beauty and the Beast.

When Lucy Pickett arrives at Blackwell Manor to tend to her ailing cousin, Kate, she finds more than she bargained for. A restless ghost roams the hallways, werewolves have been reported in the area, and vampires lurk across the Scottish border. Lord Miles himself is clearly hiding a secret.


Opening line:
 "It had never been proven that Lord Blackwell had killed his wife, but then the man in question hadn't actually denied it, either."

Oh my. I loved this book more than I thought I would! Because a twist on Beauty and the Beast with a twist of steampunk? I wasn't sure. But yes. I loved it.






UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN
by Rene Collins

Cassandra craves drama and adventure, so the last thing she wants is to spend her summer marooned with her mother and stepfather in a snooty Massachusetts shore town. But when a dreamy stranger shows up on their private beach claiming it's his own—and that the year is 1925—she is swept into a mystery a hundred years in the making.


Opening line:
"The beach is empty."

Beach, time traveling, and romance. What more is there?








THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN ME IS YOU
by Lily Anderson


Trixie Watson has two very important goals for senior year: to finally save enough to buy the set of Doctor Who figurines at the local comic books store, and to place third in her class and knock Ben West--and his horrendous new mustache that he spent all summer growing--down to number four.

Opening line:
"Ben West spent summer vacation growing a handlebar mustache."



Any book that gets me to sit still and reading-not skim-is worth a shout out.

The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You is funny, nerdy, witty, cute, smart, geeky, well-paced...ETC.







LADY HELEN FINDS HER SONG
 by Jennifer Moore


 Spring 1813The exotic splendors of India are legendary, and the colorful sights of her new home in Calcutta immediately captivate eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Poulter. It is in this vibrant, bustling city that she finds a kindred soul in Captain Michael Rhodes, an Englishman whose lifelong love of India runs deep. Their friendship quickly grows, yet despite their undeniable connection, she could never think of Captain Rhodes as more than a dear friend.

Opening line:
"Lady Helen Poulter stood on the deck of the ship,  her gloved fingers tapping on the rail, playing invisible keys in a melody that only she could hear."

 So now I want to go to India and eat exotic food and have a pet monkey. Thanks a lot Ms. Moore! 



The Wrath & Dawn
by Renee Ahdieh 


 One Life to One Dawn.

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning.
Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she'd imagined him to be.


Opening line:
"It would not be a welcome dawn."

 This book is a twist on A Thousand and One Nights that I couldn't put down!





WILLOWKEEP 
by Julie Daines


Charlotte Darby’s ship is sinking. Penniless and alone, she is struggling to care for herself and her young sister in the harsh seaport town of Kingston upon Hull. When a solicitor from London brings news that she is the heir to a vast estate in Kent, it seems her days of rough seas are over. Willowkeep is prosperous and grand, far too much for a shipping merchant’s daughter to manage, and she quickly comes to rely on the help of Henry Morland, the estate’s kind and handsome steward.

Opening line:
""Twelve thousand a year?" Charlotte stared at the letter in her hand."

 Henry and Charlotte. What better named pair? I loved reading their story!




THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE
by Heidi Heilig


Nix has spent her entire life aboard her father’s ship, sailing across the centuries, across the world, across myth and imagination.

As long as her father has a map for it, he can sail to any time, any place, real or imagined: nineteenth-century China, the land from One Thousand and One Nights, a mythic version of Africa. Along the way they have found crewmates and friends, and even a disarming thief who could come to mean much more to Nix.

But the end to it all looms closer every day.


Opening line:
"It was the kind of August day that hinted at monsoons, and the year was 1774, though not for very much longer."

 
A time-traveling pirate ship.
A crazy, smart main character named Nix.
An Aladdin-type love interest.
Maps to the future, past and make believe.
Hawaii.

What could be better than a story with ALL of the above elements?? This girl can write!


Thursday, June 30, 2016 | By: Taffy

2016 Summer Book Trek



Every July, the fabulous Karlene from LDS Fiction hosts a fun summer reading challenge called Summer Book Trek. The basic goal is to read books and get reviews out there in the world. There are book prizes (of course!) too. Anyone can play/read/win! So come on! Pick the books you want to read in July and start reading.

Here is the link to the page to read the rules etc.

And here is the list of books I hope to read (will I have time to read ALL of them??):

READ








READ  


READ



READ





READ






READ


READ




READ





Sunday, June 26, 2016 | By: Taffy

3 Anthologies to Read This Summer

In honor of school being out, sun shining, I-need-a-great-book-to-read-by-the-pool, I've rounded up some of my favorite summer reads.

Take a look through the list (in no particular order) and share your favorite summer reading in the comments!



I honestly can't pick a favorite story from this one.

An Engagement of Convenience by Regina Scott
I loved the relationship between Kitty and Quentin. That's all I have to say about that.

A Perfect Match by Donna Hatch
Ah! True love at first sight. But will it work out?

The Pauper's House Party by Sarah Eden
But who's really the pauper?










Open for Love by Elana Johnson
Sabrina Arnold loves running her family's Bed & Breakfast in sunny New Orleans. What she doesn't love is the new establishment going up right next door. 

Secrets in the Sand by Cindy M. Hogan
Sometimes staying hidden, even for a spy, is nearly impossible.


Life’s a Beach by Jo Noelle
Jenna Brennan doesn’t believe in love. She doesn’t believe in marriage, and she’s learned to only count on herself.

The Upgrade by Candice Toone
Moving on after college can be tough. Especially when former sorority president and dance team captain, Amanda Ford, takes a job at her alma mater.


Surfboards and Star Trek by Donea Lee Weaver
When Anna meets much-younger-looking Derek while on vacation at the beach-it’s not exactly love at first sight. How could a handsome surfer be interested in a divorcee like her?






At first I wondered what six stories about romance on a road trip. Would they all be about a couple stuck together in a car trying not to be awkward and like each other at the same time?? I'm happy to say I was pleasantly surprised about each story. They were all great stories!

What Falling Feels Like by Jolene Perry
I loved that Kendall or Ken is a girl and she buys, refurbishes and sells campers. The relationship was just the right kind of tension, too.

Antiques Road Trip by Sarah Eden
What a fun, clever story about a reality show (I strongly dislike reality shows) set on a 19th century film set. Do you know how many women would give up their 20th century luxuries to be in a show like that?

 

Wouldn't It Be Nice by Renee Clark
Who will Jacq pick? The old boyfriend or the best friend's brother? You'll have to read the anthology to find out!

Head Over Heels by Annette Lyon
From Comic Con to Vegas, all in the presence of a handsome stranger who likes to dress in cosplay, Tristan has no chance. When the two decide to pull a prank on Tristan's friend and pretend they are engaged (they're in Vegas after all) things get a little dicey between prank and real life.

Two Dozen Roses by Heather Moore
I liked this story about a mother and her daughter taking a road trip together along the coast. Of course, they meet a couple of handsome strangers.

Try, Try Again by Aubrey Mace
I have to say, I loved the pregnant friend in this story. And it really was a good story. What twitter-patted female drags her pregnant friend to a funeral to see the lost love of her life? 




Wednesday, June 22, 2016 | By: Taffy

WILLOWKEEP by Julie Daines ~ Book review


Charlotte Darby’s ship is sinking. Penniless and alone, she is struggling to care for herself and her young sister in the harsh seaport town of Kingston upon Hull. When a solicitor from London brings news that she is the heir to a vast estate in Kent, it seems her days of rough seas are over. Willowkeep is prosperous and grand, far too much for a shipping merchant’s daughter to manage, and she quickly comes to rely on the help of Henry Morland, the estate’s kind and handsome steward.

Henry has worked hard his entire life, but all the money he’s saved won’t be enough to get his father out of debtor’s prison. Henry’s fondness for Charlotte and her sister is only another reminder of his low status and lack of money. Though he is willing to do whatever it takes to keep Charlotte happy and looked after, as the county’s wealthiest lady, she can never be his.

Courted by a charming man of the ton, threatened by those desperate to get their hands on her money, and determined to keep her sister safe from the same fate that cost her the rest of her family, Charlotte turns to the ghost of the beheaded queen, Anne Boleyn, for help. But no matter the size of the fortune, life—and love—are never smooth sailing.


I LOVE THE COVER!

Opening line:
“Twelve thousand a year?”

Henry and Charlotte. What better named pair? I loved reading their story!

Charlotte Darby is destitute and caring for her handicapped sister when she becomes the heiress to Willowkeep. She’s a kind, strong, funny lady with a fierce sense of protection and loyalty to those she loves, especially her sister who is frightened of almost everyone. I immediately started rooting for her. She’s also lucky to have a wonderful steward who feels compelled to take of her and her sister.

Henry Morland is taken in by Charlotte’s honesty and lack of airs. And somehow, Susan, the little sister, is comfortable and comforted with him. Henry is THE sweetest person with his own flaws that make him lovable. But he can never be with Charlotte because he is beneath her socially. And Charlotte has vowed never to marry.

An added bonus to the story is the letters Charlotte writes to Anne Bolen. Loved it and the cover that goes along with this part of the story. Keep reading past the last chapter for more love and affection.
The characters are well-written, the story flows and the pace is consistent. I couldn’t put the book down. If you want a good regency romance with wit, bravery, love of family, and a possible ghost, this book is for you! It’s worth your time!



L: No
S: No
V: some tense moments

Thanks to netgalley for the advance read in exchange for my honest review!

5 STARS!
Friday, June 17, 2016 | By: Taffy

The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You by Lily Anderson INTERVIEW! With 2016 debute author





Welcome to Lily Anderson! She's a 2016 debute author and I'm excited to have her here. I've read her book and loved it.



How long did you work on The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You?
I started THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN ME IS YOU in late 2012. I wrote the first forty pages in a sprint and then set the book aside while I worked on other projects and moved and found a new job. When I picked the story back up again, it took about three months to finish. Then, after finding my literary agent, I did a small rewrite and a much larger overhauling when I started working with my editor at St. Martin’s Press. Turning in my copyedits in November of last year was the last time I could tweak the novel. So, all told, it was about three years of writing.

What was your inspiration for writing this book?
I was tired of whining about not being able to find a Much Ado About Nothing retelling! It’s my all-time favorite play and I wanted to see it modernized. (This was before Joss Whedon’s movie version came out.) I was 23 and working in a huge elementary school with 900 students between the ages of 5 and 14 and they all loved talking about Star Wars and Harry Potter and Marvel movies and Lord of the Rings and Doctor Who. And I started thinking about how different it must be to grow up in their generation--in a world full of technology with no wait between Potter books and all the Star Wars movies and cartoons they could ever want. I wanted to showcase some of that inherent geekery. Thus, THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN ME IS YOU began.

Do you have a favorite Shakespeare play?
Much Ado About Nothing! Which is probably a cheat to say since I did write a retelling of it. Otherwise, I love A Midsummer Night’s Dream (such a huge cast! So many intermingling plots!) and Julius Caesar (which I directed in 2011 with one of my best friends at UC Davis and of which I have so many fond memories).

Have you written other books before this one?
I started writing pretty young. I wrote poetry exclusively until sixth grade and then I started writing plays (to be put up by my elementary school, much to the chagrin of, I think, literally everyone) and fan fiction. My last year of high school, I started writing a novel about life in a youth theater as my senior project. I spent the next two years working on that particular book, writing it from scratch at least three times before eventually giving up on it because a) it was eleventy billion words long and b) I no longer feel the need to examine my time as a theater kid that closely. Through my early twenties, I wrote a couple of New Adult novels, mostly to entertain myself and my friends. THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN ME IS YOU was written to keep my spirits up while I tried (and failed) to get an agent for my first NA book.

Do you have a certain actor or actress for your main characters?
I see Trixie as a Jennifer Lawrence-type and Ben is constantly striving for a David Tennant-y swagger. And I always pictured Meg as Amy Okuda from The Guild.

What is your very favorite part of your book?
I think the friendships are my favorite part of the book. Having had two best friends myself for many, many years (the book is dedicated to them), I always wanted to write about a friendship trio. Trixie, Meg, and Harper aren’t me and my friends (no, really, they aren’t!), but I’m so happy that I got to showcase how awesome it is to have two people in your corner.

What was the best writing advice you’ve received?
Finish! It’s can be really easy to start a book and to plot out where it’s heading, but unless you finish it, it’s never going to be more than half a hobby. When I was a teenager, I had a friend who finished her first book by the time she was sixteen. She proved to me that it could be done and inspired me to get to the end.

What’s your writing ritual like? Do you like to listen to music? Work at home or library or someplace else?
When I start really working on a novel, I make an absurdly long Spotify playlist of songs that capture the tone or setting of the book. I’ll listen to it when I write or in my car when I’m running errands and trying to unravel a plot point. I typically work at home. I have a beautiful home office and yet usually end up with my laptop on the couch. On weekends, I’ll spice things up and grab a table at Starbucks or the public library. (Although, working at the library is hard because I love having something to sip when I’m working--even if it’s just water!)

How long have you been writing?
I won my first writing contest when I was six, so I’d say that I’ve been writing pretty consistently since I learned how to put together a sentence!

What advice would you pass on to aspiring writers?
Make sure that you’re always presenting your best work. Understand that your best work will be made better by sharing it with other people and seeing it through their eyes.

What are you working on now?
Right now, I’m writing another book YA about [a different set of] geniuses and a small town mystery series. 













 And here is Lily's awesome and fun book:






Trixie Watson has two very important goals for senior year: to finally save enough to buy the set of Doctor Who figurines at the local comic books store, and to place third in her class and knock Ben West--and his horrendous new mustache that he spent all summer growing--down to number four.

Trixie will do anything to get her name ranked over Ben's, including give up sleep and comic books--well, maybe not comic books--but definitely sleep. After all, the war of Watson v. West is as vicious as the Doctor v. Daleks and Browncoats v. Alliance combined, and it goes all the way back to the infamous monkey bars incident in the first grade. Over a decade later, it's time to declare a champion once and for all.

The war is Trixie's for the winning, until her best friend starts dating Ben's best friend and the two are unceremoniously dumped together and told to play nice. Finding common ground is odious and tooth-pullingly-painful, but Trixie and Ben's cautious truce slowly transforms into a fandom-based tentative friendship. When Trixie's best friend gets expelled for cheating and Trixie cries foul play, however, they have to choose who to believe and which side they're on--and they might not pick the same side.




 Any book that gets me to sit still and reading-not skim-is worth a shout out.

The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You is funny, nerdy, witty, cute, smart, geeky, well-paced...ETC.

Beatrice, or Trixie, is a senior at a prestigious school for gifted students. She loves Dr. Who and comic books. Benedick, or Ben, grew a mustache over the summer which is fair game to Trixie and the sparring begins, and not in a positive way either. They banter throughout the whole book and its pretty funny and painful and sometimes mean.

But when Trixie's best friend starts dating Ben's best friend, the whole situation goes to a different level when the two are thrown together more often then either of them want to be. But what if one of them really doesn't hate the other? What if a chance conversation changes everything? Or a creepy clown? (haha!)

Does this story sound vaguely familiar? This story was a very clever retelling of Much Ado About Nothing and worth reading.


V: No
L: No
S: No



Thanks to netgalley for the advanced read!


5 STARS



Lily Anderson is a school librarian and Melvil Dewey fangirl with an ever-growing collection of musical theater tattoos and Harry Potter ephemera. She lives in Northern California, far from her mortal enemy: the snow.