REVELL REVIEW: THE EDGE OF BELONGING by Amanda Cox

Friday, September 18, 2020

 Hey everyone!  Today I have a review for Amanda Cox's The Edge of Belonging.  This is a debut novel that fans of contemporary Christian fiction will not want to miss.  It rapidly took a spot in my "top favorites for 2020" list, and I absolutely love it. 



 

BLURB

When Ivy Rose returns to her hometown to oversee an estate sale, she soon discovers that her grandmother left behind more than trinkets and photo frames--she provided a path to the truth behind Ivy's adoption. Shocked, Ivy seeks clues to her past, but a key piece to the mystery is missing.

Twenty-four years earlier, Harvey James finds an abandoned newborn who gives him a sense of human connection for the first time in his life. His desire to care for the baby runs up against the stark fact that he is homeless. When he becomes entwined with two people seeking to help him find his way, Harvey knows he must keep the baby a secret or risk losing the only person he's ever loved.

In this dual-time story from debut novelist Amanda Cox, the truth--both the search for it and the desire to keep it from others--takes center stage as Ivy and Harvey grapple with love, loss, and letting go.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Before becoming a stay-at-home parent, she spent her time counseling children, families, and individuals through life's challenging moments. Now she uses those same skills to develop layered characters and stories, bringing them on a journey of hope and healing. A journey she hopes her readers experience in their own lives as they read.

A few of her favorite things are the sanctuary of the great outdoors, the feeling of pen on paper, the sound of her children's laughter, and exploring new places with her husband of 15 years. (Oh, let's not forget good fiction and good coffee. She's addicted to both.) You can stay connected with her latest writing updates at www.amandacoxwrites.com


MY REVIEW

I just want to say that, right from the start, I just wanted to hug these characters and wish them the best in their fictional lives.  When I wasn't reading this book, I was thinking about this book.  And when I wasn't thinking about this book, I was dreaming about this book.  (No, seriously.  Harvey and the crew crashed my dreams the other night.)  The characters are just so easy to love, and it's a fascinating story of belonging and finding one's place in the world.  While at times I was a bit frustrated by some of Harvey's choices, they were still within the realm of logicality, all things considered.  You get to know each character from dual perspectives - who they were in the mid-1990s, and who they had become present-day.  They're so easy to identify with, and Cox's prose is absolutely wonderful.  Very enjoyable to read.  This is one of the easiest 5-star ratings I've given out in awhile, and after the first chapter, I'd already decided on the rating, which absolutely never happens for me.  While some plot points were a little obvious to me, I still wanted to keep reading because I genuinely became attached to every single one of the characters  - Ivy Rose, Pearl, Harvey, Reese (oh goodness, he's adorable), pretty much the whole cast of characters (except that jerk Seth).  So for a debut novelist, I'd say this book is absolutely extraordinary.  I'm definitely adding her to my list of "insta-buy" authors.  

If you're looking for a good contemporary novel with solid themes surrounding what truly constitutes as a family, this one's for you.  

THE LADY OF LANARIA: Forming the Characters

Thursday, September 17, 2020




Coming up with the characters for The Lady of Lanaria was both one of the hardest and most interesting parts of writing the retelling -- especially for the male lead.  Once you've seen Eugene Fitzherbert in Tangled, there's no going back.

It was also an interesting endeavor because there are a lot of factors to consider: on one hand, you have a female lead, Evangeline (our Rapunzel / Lady of Shalott), who has never set foot outside and yearns for it...but as much as she'd love to go outside, she's been manipulated to be very wary of people.  On the other, you have a male lead, Gabriel (our prince/Eugene), who has grown up in a world full of despair and uncertainty.  He's not used to people who are as pure and innocent as Evangeline is, and likewise, Evangeline isn't used to someone who isn't manipulative and cruel.  You have two people who have suffered thanks to the world, but they've had totally different experiences.  Gabriel's tragic backstory includes becoming an orphan and a deep level of bitterness affiliated with the death of his family; Evangeline's tragic backstory is still unfolding.  She doesn't know who she is, except for a plain, unwanted, simpleton of a girl -- a burden, as her mother puts it.  And there's where the character arc lies: Gabriel must move forward from his past, and Evangeline must realize who she is in God's eyes, not in her mother's.  

Gabriel's this guy that tries to act all tough, but he's...not, really.  In his youth, he read fairytales to his sisters at night and he helped his childhood friend, Horace (who is an absolute joy, I love him so much), and he's never been much of one for following the rules.  As a guardsman, he is frustrated by the perpetual inability to find the witch who cursed the kingdom of Lanaria, and as such, he sometimes rails on about whether the kingdom is really cursed at all -- since the witch is so elusive, it's only a natural question to have, of course.  If you're going by the 'precious cinnamon roll' scale, he looks like he could kill you, but is actually a cinnamon roll.  Deep down inside. 
Just don't let him know I said that. 

Meanwhile, Evangeline is the type of girl who longs to explore, but allows her anxieties and the threats made by her mother hold her back.  She never questions her place in life until Gabriel enters onto the scene, and even then, she's heavily influenced by the negative thoughts her mother has instilled upon her from an early age.  She's torn between remaining loyal to her mother and fleeing for a better life.  She talks to animals (who don't talk back to her - I'm not that Disney), tends to her plants, and plays violin.  The violin is a callback to "The Lady of Shalott," in which villagers hear the Lady's singing and wonder if she's a ghost.  The violin becomes not only a hobby, but something that Evangeline tries to use to leave the tower behind at one point. 

Even throughout the characters and their journeys, I tried to instill the theme of "light versus dark" -- Evangeline has to continually choose which she will defend, which side she will pick in the end; and her knowledge is fueled by Gabriel, who has to prove that the "world" (er...tower) she was raised in is permeated by darkness.  And proving that to Evangeline is ultimately what shows him a few things about his own attitudes in life, a different "light vs. dark" struggle.  


There are other characters throughout the novel, of course; secondary characters that maybe even deserve their own retelling (I'm still looking at you, Horace), but that's all I have to reveal about Gabriel and Evangeline for now.  And as for the villain...well, I'll see you next week.  

REVELL Review: NINE by Rachelle Dekker!

 Hey everyone!  Today I have a review for Rachelle Dekker's new release, Nine.  This book is a Christian mystery/suspense novel that just released at the beginning of the month.  Thought-provoking is definitely one word I could use to describe it, but I'll let you get to the blurb and author information before giving my full review.  Read on!






BLURB

Zoe Johnson spent most of her life living in the shadows, never drawing attention to herself, never investing in people or places. But when a wide-eyed, bedraggled teenager with no memory walks into the diner where Zoe works, everything changes. Now, against her better judgment, Zoe, who has been trying to outrun her own painful memories of the past, finds herself attempting to help a girl who doesn't seem to have any past at all. The girl knows only one thing: she must reach a woman in Corpus Christi, Texas, hundreds of miles away, before the government agents who are searching for her catch up to them.

Award-winning author Rachelle Dekker throws you into the middle of the action and keeps the pressure on in this page-turning story that, asks Are we who the world says we are--or can we change our story and be something more?

Purchase on AMAZON.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

The oldest daughter of New York Times bestselling author Ted Dekker, Rachelle Dekker was inspired early on to discover truth through the avenue of storytelling. She writes full time from her home in Nashville, where she lives with her husband, Daniel, and their diva cat Blair.

Connect with Rachelle online at her website (www.rachelledekker.com) or on any of these social media platforms:

FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM |TWITTER


MY REVIEW


By reading the blurb, I was expecting something completely different from the story that was delivered in Dekker's Nine.  Told in multiple narratives (third person and first person alternating, which is one of the first books I've ever read like that), it alternates between the perspective of Zoe, a waitress just trying to live a normal life, and Lucy, the person who throws a wrench in Zoe's plans.  The storyline is fresh and unique, and the themes of growing despite your past, and despite what other people had planned for you, were great and well-rounded.  While readers are scrambling to learn about the mystery girl that shows up at Zoe's diner one night, they're also busy trying to decode Zoe's past too, which is slowly revealed throughout the story.  Zoe and Lucy share many, many similarities given their past and involvement in scientific trials, but at the same time, they're radically different -- and that's what makes this story so compelling.  I must admit that the main male character in this novel was not my most favorite character in the universe, but he made some pretty interesting decisions by the end of the novel as well.  McCoy, on the other hand, deserved so much more and I still want to cry about him...if you read Nine, you'll see why.  Overall, while this book had its flaws, I still enjoyed it.  It's the kind of book that you have to sit and think about for awhile after the fact, and I'm starting to like it more the longer I think about it.  So if you're in the mood for a heavy fall read, this is it.

I must admit that I struggled back and forth between what star rating I wanted to give this one -- from an action-scene standpoint, I'd give it maybe 3 stars, but the story itself was so gripping that I thought about 5 stars...so we'll average it out as a 4.  

THE LADY OF LANARIA: Apothecaries and Healers and Ancient Medicine

Thursday, September 10, 2020



(Credit: Canva)

I will cry if I have to read one more incorrect blog post about medieval medical intervention.  I mean, their ideas about the human body were so off-the-wall to begin with, it's easy to be distracted by articles that appear completely logical, but end up being inaccurate to the time period.  
I've seen things, folks.  
(Well, I've read them, anyway.) 

For The Lady of Lanaria, I needed a time period in which Evangeline could thrive as a herbalist.  Rather than giving her supernatural capabilities -- i.e. magical healing power in her hair a la Tangled or magical teardrops a la Brothers Grimm -- I decided to let her power lie in her knowledge, which stems from the various books she consumes daily.  It was a talent much-needed at one point in time.  Way back when, nature was the only thing that could be used to heal the human body, but there was a very peculiar little speck in time between when this was actually realized, when it was used, and when modern medicine began to take the platform.  It was quite the bugger to pinpoint, too.

I was originally going to set The Lady of Lanaria in the early 1600s, but it seemed like a lot of the medical intervention in that period involved bloodletting, cold water, or more bloodletting.  I hopped forward to the 1800s, but their methods were too advanced for my idea.  Even the 1700s were a bit iffy, so I decided that if I had a fictitious low-fantasy land, I could have a fictitious time era, a blend of the 1600s and 1700s, where some healers are aware of the natural healing properties of plants and some don't...which is where Evangeline comes in.  

She has a lot of time on her hands, and spends it reading.  But she has also filled her entire tower with little pots of herbs and other healing plants like plantain, ginger, mint, and so on.  She's a bit of a green thumb, and uses her talent to help Amaranth, her mother, with a merchant's booth that Amaranth co-owns with another woman in the town square of Lanaria.  

Lanaria, by default, is a very small kingdom.  It's actually an island with an even smaller small offshoot called "Old Lanaria," and the two are connected by a natural bridge, a strip of land that disappears at night when the tide comes in.  It's a combination of the very real Mont St. Michel and the kingdom of Corona (the happy kind of Corona...*squints eyes at 2020*) from the movie Tangled, but with its own original setup -- the bridge that connects the two. 

It was honestly a blast working on worldbuilding for The Lady of Lanaria, outside of the medicinal research (and I have to give a huge thanks to a couple of my betas, who knew a thing or two about...spoilery medieval medicine stuff).  I have pages upon pages of written research of various herbs and plants native to France; even some from Norway, and one or two things borrowed from Germany, since Lanaria isn't real.  I have sheets dedicated to the five senses, even various wildlife, and so on, including what kind of materials were used for home-building, roofing, and even household items like plates and forks and cups and buckets.  It's just interesting, I don't know.  It's a lot of fun, and I hope you find The Lady of Lanaria to be an immersive experience, not only pertaining to the plot but the details as well. Someone please hold me back from pulling a Tolkien and writing entire pages about their surroundings.

Next week, I hope you'll join me for a discussion on the main characters and their motivations!  Then we'll be moving on to the main villain...I'll see you there. 

Have you been enjoying these posts about The Lady of Lanaria?  Anyone else enjoy worldbuilding?  What are some tips you'd recommend to other writers -- or what are some details you enjoy as a reader?

ARC READERS WANTED!




Have you been following along to stay updated with my progress on The Lady of Lanaria?  Are you looking for a clean fall read full of mysterious woods, daring plots, and just enough romance?  And do you love the idea of a "Rapunzel" x "The Lady of Shallot" mashup?

If you do, and if you have a few minutes to post a spoiler-free review on or around November 6th, here's your chance!  I'm opening up applications for ARC readers for The Lady of Lanaria!  Signups close October 1st so everyone has plenty of time to read before the release, so make sure to get your application in!  Please click HERE to sign up!  I will be sending out a batch of copies this weekend, God willing, so make sure to sign up soon.  
   

THE LADY OF LANARIA: Light Meets the Dark

Friday, September 4, 2020



The Lady of Lanaria, hands-down, has got to be the strangest novel I've worked on.  I don't mean that it's weird, but...the way it came together definitely was. 

I got the idea for a Rapunzel/"The Lady of Shallot" mashup back in the first semester of senior year of college (okay, so it wasn't that long ago) and even mentioned in a discussion board that "The Lady of Shallot" would be fun to mix with elements from the Grimm fairytale "Rapunzel" -- and...crickets.  Nobody really got it.  Months later, as I mentioned back  when I announced this project back in April (or May?), I was sparked to action by a friend who didn't know I was dealing with a major bout of "no inspiration."  Or writer's block; whatever you want to call it.  I loved this idea, but I didn't want to work on a Rapunzel retelling because I love the story of Rapunzel so much, I was afraid I would completely screw it up.  But I figured that if I was still thinking about this story, it deserved to see the light of day regardless.  At least to get it out of the way. 


But whenever I started working on the idea, I had no clue what kind of themes I wanted to incorporate.  I didn't just want to write a fun little story, I wanted to write something that was impactful; something meaningful.  It got tossed on the backburner again while I worked on the final books in the Mount Sterling and Faith, Hope, and Love books. 
Then, earlier this year, I woke up bolt upright in bed at ~1 A.M. with Tenth Avenue North's "Healing Begins" song, or namely, a couple of lines from it, running through my head. 

When you come to where you're broken within
the light meets the dark 
the light meets the dark

It wouldn't go away.  And then this quote was glommed into my head, which I mistook for a Bible verse: 
"Darkness rises, and light to meet it." (Snoke, Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi, 2017).  
Oops.  So, Star Wars is decidedly not the Bible, but it led me to dig until I found the verse that it reminded me of.  

"Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness; He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous." (Psalm 112:4, NKJV).  
And then as I was reading my Bible that morning, I stumbled across John 1:5, "And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it." 

Boom.  There was the theme; the thing I needed to write about. 

(Apparently, God can use pop culture to grab your attention.)  

After that, it was easy to let everything fall into place.  Well, as easy as book-writing typically is.  An evil villain; a protagonist that overcomes evil with good.  And let me tell you -- when I say things fell into place, they did so eerily and I will not take credit for any of it.  

I wrote the whole first draft during Camp NaNo in April (which was a feat in and of itself for various reasons), but I didn't like the introduction.  When I was very close to scrapping the whole idea, I came across a friend of mine who was advertising developmental critiques for the first thirty pages of any manuscript. 
The first thirty pages were the ones giving me trouble. 

She gave me such great ideas that I got to work on it immediately.  I reworked the storyline and dropped it until July, when I essentially just revised and edited and then revised again.  And people enjoyed the icky second draft.  And every time I privately thought about putting it aside or scrapping it over whatever menial detail I'm obsessing over, someone would inexplicably message me out of the blue or ask for an update or mention how excited they were about the story.  My mother read the second-draft proof copy I got and said she enjoyed it...Second drafts are gross, guys.  Inevitably. 
So when I say that I got encouragement before I even mentioned needing it, I did.  

Even recently (this week), as I run into formatting issues and font woes, the solutions are just...right there, if I just take the time to look for them instead of going into 'panic, woe-is-me' mode.  I know this book and the messages within are meant for someone.  Needed by someone, even.  And I don't know how God's planning to use this book, and I know it might sound weird to say that He's going to, but I just...know it, and it's my testimony that I won't hide.  I know not everyone will like this book -- lots of Christians don't like light fantasy, and lots of secular fans won't like the Christian elements -- but The Lady of Lanaria has its own place in the world.  It hasn't been a ride in the park, but compared to the releases I've had before, I can see God's hand involved every step of the way, and I'm gonna keep it that way.  It's only fitting that the themes for this book revolve around light conquering darkness.    

CELEBRATE! Release day for THE CROWNLESS KING by Kara Linaburg!

Tuesday, September 1, 2020




Hey everyone!  Today's release day for Kara Linaburg's new novel, The Crownless King!  I had the privilege of editing this book with Ms. Linaburg, way back in the spring, and I still think about it.  It's a novel that I immediately put on my "want to read" list, and I can't wait to read the final product - this time as a fan!  It's such a gripping novel, full of honest truth and thought-provoking moments, and any reader of fantasy is liable to enjoy this book.  I can remember getting chills reading a few scenes as I edited, because they were just so well-written.  The prose is fantastic, the details are crisp, and again, it's just a great novel.  It talks about worth and having hope and all the stuff that we need to remember in our own world right now.  Talk about a timely release. Anyway, keep reading for info and purchase links! 



The Crownless King by [Kara Linaburg]

SYNOPSIS

She won't meet her worst enemy on the battlefield...

War is brewing and the kingdom of Sindaleer is torn as the Knights of Norcir draw the folk to their side. When Sabriel, a specially Gifted, pledges her blood to their cause, she is ready to give all to bring the peace her leader promises. She understands Tirich's deep hatred toward the king, and has prepared for this moment all her life.But when her identity as a knight is discovered by the childhood friend who betrayed her years ago, Sabriel's plans for justice come toppling down. Now distracted by what once was, Sabriel fights to hold onto what she's believed to be true for so long.
Nick never forgot the red-headed lass of years past, but she's not the friend he remembers. As enemies connected by their past take opposing sides on their country's freedom, Nick refuses to believe what she's become.
Voices warning Sabriel she'll never succeed, and loyalties torn, she begins to realize that all is not as it seems. Tirich's power is growing stronger, and she fears she was wrong about the good she once saw in him.

The concluding book following The Broken Prince, reminds us of the inner war we all face, and what it means to rise from the ashes when all hope feels lost.

"Kara is passionate, honest, and vulnerable, which in my opinion always makes a book worth reading. Her heart for broken people is evident, birthed from a heart that has felt pain itself." - Amanda Brown, editor of Oh Beloved One Magazine on Kara's writing.

AMAZON | GOODREADS 
If you order your copy during release week, you can get preorder goodies HERE!

Find The Broken Prince on AMAZON.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

If you combined Lucy Ricardo, Jo March, and Tonks...you would have Kara. Queen of awkward, writer before she could properly spell, and maker of imaginary humans, she is passionate about creating characters that display beauty in brokenness.


Kara took to blogging as a teenager, words soon becoming one of her greatest passions. When she's not being a mad scientist in the kitchen or daydreaming about her next adventure, she loves to connect with readers. She lives in West Virginia where country roads always take her home.
You can feel free to stalk her blog www.thebeautifullybrokenblog.com where she rambles weekly.

INSTAGRAM GOODREADS | BLOG


Do you plan on picking up a copy of The Crownless King?  Have you read The Broken Prince yet?