Monday, December 5, 2016 | By: Taffy

A few of my favorite Christmas edition.

Do you have a book you like to read every season? Do you read one aloud to your family? Do you have one you like to read at night, by yourself?

I love A Christmas Carol. Really, I love any Charles Dickens book. One of the first books I feel for was A Tale of Two Cities. Even though his writing is slow in our day, I appreciate his descriptions and characters. I may not read the book every Christmas, I do watch one or two or three different movie versions of the book (the Jim Carey on freaks me out a little bit).

Charles began to write the story in September of 1843 and finished it in SIX weeks. The book was published in December of the same year. He and his publisher disagreed on the price and the color of the book. The book was finally book was bound in red cloth with gilt-edged pages, just a two days before publication.

 Here are a few of my favorite book covers of The Christmas Carol:

I like the robust Spirit of Christmas Past.

I like the scene of the town with Scrooge in the middle with his light.

I kinda love this one. It's different and creepy.

Isn't this one kinda pretty in it's starkness? Black and grey and ivory.

Okay. I had to add this one because it looks more like a book cover for a horror novel, not a Christmas book. I guess this really is a ghost story...

Scrooge, walking the streets all alone in the cold. I think the cover very telling. 

This cover reminds me of the books I read in elementary school. I loved to read but biographies mostly caught my attention.

I like this one. Looking through the window at the family eating dinner gives this story a different viewpoint.

I love this one! An illustrated Christmas Carol!

An annotated book of a Christmas Carol? Yes, please!

How did that get there?
Thursday, December 1, 2016 | By: Taffy

Ever the Hunted (Clash of Kingdoms #1) by Erin Summerill

Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer.

However, it’s not so simple.

The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart. She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a daunting and dangerous force.

I. Cant. Even.
I love this book.

Opening line:
"To survive these woods, a man has to be as strong as the trees, Papa had said."

More review later. After my heart has settled down.

Here goes:

This was a fun-can't-put-the-book-down read. So many great characters, fantastic worlds and thoughtful prose.

Britta is the main character. She's a hunter and tracker, trained by her father along with his apprentice, Cohen and disliked by the town folk. Her father is killed. Cohen runs away (after she tells him she's in love with him). Britta is left alone and basically kicked out of her home. She's determined to find her father's murderer, who just might be Cohen, and she's not afraid to go on her own because she's tough and stubborn. And the secrets she finds out along the way! Gah!
There are so many characters that add to this story!
The world that Britta lives in is alive and bright thanks to the writing of Ms. Summerill.  The colors, the smells, the magic made me  want a forest like the one in the book in my backyard.

A great debut novel by a talented writer!

Thanks for the early read, net galley!

Erin Summerill was born in England. After spending years bouncing between Air Force bases in Hawaii, England, and California, her family settled in Utah, where Erin graduated with a B.A. in English from Brigham Young University. She had aspirations to write the next great American novel, but writing proved tougher than she first thought. So she grabbed a Nikon and became a professional photographer while crafting manuscript after manuscript. The scenic detour of shooting weddings across the United States, as well as internationally, provided world-building inspiration. It gave her the vision to draft her debut YA fantasy, EVER THE HUNTED. Now when she isn’t writing, or shooting a wedding, she’s chasing her four kids, two dogs, one cat, and five chickens. This could be why she downs massive amounts of Coke Zero and Hot tamales.

You can follower her on twitter: @erinsummerill
Friday, November 25, 2016 | By: Taffy

A Country Christmas (A Timeless Regency Collection) by Josi Kilpack, Carla Kelly, and Jennifer Moore

From the publisher of the USA TODAY bestselling & #1 Amazon bestselling Timeless Romance Anthology series in Clean Romance, comes A COUNTRY CHRISTMAS.

Three brand new Regency Romance novellas by Josi S. Kilpack, Carla Kelly, and Jennifer Moore.

Ready for Christmas stories? How about three romantic ones? Get started on your Christmas reading with these regency stories.

Saints and Sinners by Josi Kilpack
Opening line:
"Neville Franklin was inspecting the small village pub that smelled like yeast and grease— as it should— when his companion spoke from the other side of the small, rough-hewn table."

The Christmas Angle by Carla Kelly
Opening line:
"Sailing Master Able Six never minded a little walk."

The Perfect Christmas by Jennifer Moore
Opening line:
"“I propose a Christmas at Waverly House.” Archibald Montague Clawson, Lord Symons, stood on the plush rug of the drawing room, letting his gaze travel over his companions as he awaited their reactions.""
Thursday, November 3, 2016 | By: Taffy

Creating Character ARCS by K.M. Weiland

Powerful Character Arcs Create Powerful Stories

Have you written a story with an exciting concept and interesting characters—but it just isn’t grabbing the attention of readers or agents? It’s time to look deeper into the story beats that create realistic and compelling character arcs. Internationally published, award-winning novelist K.M. Weiland shares her acclaimed method for achieving memorable and moving character arcs in every book you write.

By applying the foundation of the Three-Act Story Structure and then delving even deeper into the psychology of realistic and dynamic human change, Weiland offers a beat-by-beat checklist of character arc guidelines that flexes to fit any type of story.

This comprehensive book will teach you:
How to determine which arc—positive, negative, or flat—is right for your character.
Why you should NEVER pit plot against character. Instead, learn how to blend story structure and character development.
How to recognize and avoid the worst pitfalls of writing novels without character arcs.
How to hack the secret to using overarching character arcs to create amazing trilogies and series.
And much more!
Gaining an understanding of how to write character arcs is a game-changing moment in any author’s pursuit of the craft.

Opening line: "What if there were a sure-fire secret to creating stunning character arcs?"

I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend to any writer, beginner or published.

Ms. Weiland discusses three basic arcs:
The positive Change Arc
The Flat Arc
 The Negative Change Arc

She goes into detail on each and what to write at each crucial points, like the midpoint. Each chapter was easy to read and understandable. And what I really liked was how she used examples from books and movies to explain her points. This is one I'm going to keep around and read with each new story I write.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016 | By: Taffy

You've Got This: How to Look Up When Life has You Down

Life is tough, but so are you! Learn how to work through life's trials with advice from popular youth speakers, including Hank Smith and Al Carraway, who have endured a few challenges of their own. This encouraging book will help you see trials as essential stepping-stones to becoming who you're destined to be.

I read this book in one short sitting. I'm excited to pass it along to my teenagers. There are quite of a few of their favorite speakers in this book.

This would be an excellent Christmas gift (or birthday or Easter or Daylight Savings)!

From Hank Smith's gripping retelling of Joseph (I cried) to the humor of Zandra Vranes (I snorted), there is a great collection of stories and wisdom on to look up when life has you down. The stories are short enough to read quickly but written well enough to move the reader.

I totally enjoyed every story and thoughts!

Elise Babbel Hahl is a nonfiction writer and editor. Her titles include Do Not Attempt in Heels: Mission Stories and Advice from Sisters Who've Been There and Choosing Motherhood: Stories of Successful Women Who Put Family First. Elise lives in Pittsburgh with her husband, Oliver, and their five (crazy) children.
Wednesday, October 19, 2016 | By: Taffy

Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts #1) by Vic James

Our world belongs to the Equals — aristocrats with magical gifts — and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England's grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England's most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family's secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi's brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?

Opening line:
She heard the motorbike first, then the galloping horse--two distant points of noise in the darkness, converging on her as she ran."

Oh. My. Word.
This is a debut book? How long did it take Ms. James to write it? And how did she keep everything from settings to caste systems to characters straight in her head? le sigh.

GILDED CAGE is set in an alternate, dark, dystopian England where the where the aristocracy has special magical powers called Skill and everyone else is forced to give up ten years of their lives in serving the rich. They mostly work in terrible work camps with terrible conditions. A few serve in the homes as servants.
But the world and the magic and the intrigue and the twists! I was hooked from the beginning. I had a hard time putting this story down and craved time to pick it up and read it again.
Like other reviewers said, there isn't much romance but that just builds up the possiblities for the next book, right?
When I finished I was ready to read it again. When will the next book come out??

Just to warn you this is a dark story and it's hard to read about how people treat each other, which shows the great writing skill from Ms. James, right?

L: No
S: No
L: a little

Thanks to netgalley for the early read!
Friday, September 30, 2016 | By: Taffy

Reading Banned Books 2016

Last election season in our town was ugly. Neighbors against neighbors, ugly words and voices bantered around social media, friends taking a swipe at each other turned our little town crazy and divided.
One person said, "It's only politics. When the elections are over, we will all be friends again." I was shocked at this sentiment from a certain group (I can do a whole other blog post on why it's okay for adults to be cyber bullies but we teach our children not to be). They had no idea how destructive and degrading their words and comments were. Words have a lasting effect, for good or bad.

Aren't books the same?

There are a few banned books I've read or even been assigned in school. Some I can't figure out why in the world they would be banned; some make sense. But I choose if I will read those books. I find it ironic how many of the banned books I was assigned to read in school.

I appreciate parents who are concerned with the books assigned to their children or that show up in the school libraries. To me it shows they are involved with their children. Just this week, a parent at one of my children's schools brought up a concern about MONSTER, the graphic book. Her child is black and adopted. She was concerned about what the book taught and wanted it banned from the library. A team was formed of parents, PTA, SCC and teachers to read the book and give their insight.

The only issue with these kind of teams is that we are all different people with different tastes in books and stories. Someone won't like it, someone will love it. At the same time, this is a good thing. I think the process is a good one and actually works.

 Last year during the election season a parent came in concerned about the R rated movies in the library and wanted them banned. Then she went down the slippery slope of asking for the librarians, or a group of concerned citizens, to read all the books in the library and getting rid of the "bad" ones. The director immediately said no. There wasn't enough time or people to handle such a request.

Is it censorship if we ask a library to take a certain book or movie out of the public library? Is it censorship if I ask an English teacher to assign a different book to my child because the one she's being graded on is offensive to me?

 I want my children to read. I want them to understand the world outside of our home and their skin. At the same time, I want to protect them. My non-reader devoured the entire TWILIGHT series in a week. I wasn't about to stop her.  Then she read the HUNGER GAMES series shortly after that. And guess what? We were able to talk about boyfriends, healthy relationships and violence. I'm not saying I want her to read FIFTY SHADES OF GRAY, but I'm willing to be there for her to talk to about tough subjects. My mom wasn't emotionally available to talk about the birds and the bees or really anything sensitive. I learned a lot from books. I don't want that for my children. I want to be the one they come to ask questions.

The review group hasn't got back together yet so I'm not sure what will happen. I think the book is okay to stay in the library. We will see what others say. I do understand the mom's concern though. I hope she was able to take the time to talk to her child about the book and the questions s/he had. In this world our children need us. They need an advocate. Someone in their corner, listening to them, encouraging them, cheering them on. I want my children to know they can count on me, their mom.

What do you think?

What banned books have you read?

Do you think it should be banned?

Are there any books you'd rather not have your children read?