REVIEW: THESE NAMELESS THINGS by Shawn Smucker

Monday, June 29, 2020

Hey everyone!  Today I have a review for the freshly-released novel These Nameless Things by Shawn Smucker -- in fact, it just came out today!  But before I get into my review, check out some info on the novel as well as Smucker.



BLURB

Before Dan opened his door to find a wounded woman who had escaped from the tormentors in the mountain, his life had become rather quiet.  He and the eight other people in the mostly abandoned town had become friends.  They spent peaceful evenings around the campfire and even made vague plans to journey east one day and leave the ominous mountain behind.  

But the woman's arrival changes everything.  Who is she?  How does she know so much about Dan's brother, who is still held captive in the mountain?  Why are long-forgotten memories rising to the surface?  And why does Dan feel so compelled to keep her presence in his house a secret?

Visionary writer Shawn Smucker is back with an unsettling story that invites us to consider two challenging questions: to what lengths will we go to assuage our own guilt?  Is there a limit to the things we will do for the people we love?  

Order from AMAZON.
(Also, look at that cover!  It's gorgeous.)  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shawn Smucker  is the award-winning author of Light from Distant Stars, the young adult novels The Day the Angels Fell and The Edge of Over There, and the memoir Once We Were Strangers.  He lives with his wife and six children in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  You can find him online at www.shawnsmucker.com.  



MY REVIEW

I can't really think of much to say that won't spoil this novel!  My goodness.  But I can say that it's an awesome blend of Dante's Inferno and Cormac McCarthy's The Road, with a very original twist.  While I had my suspicions about these characters and their condition from the start, I never cemented any particular idea in my mind until the  reality of the situation was revealed toward the end of the novel.  The book itself is very ethereal; otherworldly.  You can never quite get a grasp on whether the setting is real or not, and it's exactly supposed to be that way.  It's a book that you have to get comfortable with not knowing, with being uncomfortable, because it's supposed to be that way.  That took a bit of getting used to for me, especially as the book progressed past the first several chapters, but it's a stroke of genius.  It's also a book that requires a re-read after you've finished it the first time; you'll probably pick up on a lot of things after you get the full picture.  And while it ends on a bit of a cliffhanger (as far as I know, it's a standalone), it's very fitting.  These Nameless Things follows the main character, Dan, in first-person POV, meaning that we learn about this setting - where east is an inevitable unknown and the mountains hold untold horrors that no one can quite remember - through his eyes, as he recalls certain bits of information and learns more himself.  I have to say that while this one took a bit of getting used to, I ended up loving the twist toward the end and everything started to fall into place at that point.  You'll also want to stick around for the author's note at the end.  When all is said and done, this novel is thought-provoking, nicely written with stark descriptions and a genius plot, and a sense of mystery that will keep your attention from the start.

Announcing my Official July Projects + new obsessions

Friday, June 26, 2020

Today,  I thought I'd share about my current writing projects and announce a couple of new book idea that I revamped...oh, maybe a week or so ago that I'm knee-deep in already.  It's been that kind of a month.  


While I won't be participating in Camp NaNo July on the website this year, I will be writing a lot.  (At least, that's the plan - but you all probably know how plans are.)  I will, however, be involved in a couple of different writing groups geared toward accountability.  My main goals for July are....

1) To finish the third draft of Keeping Cassie, which will send me into the first big round of edits.  I'm aiming toward an end-of-August release date, tentatively, for that one.  I woke up this morning and decided that that's probably an insane goal (to publish by the end of August), but I'm sticking with it.  I know I've hardly shared anything about it, but that's just because it's part of my less-popular series (even though I love my character-babies...).  But be on the lookout for a cover reveal, which should be happening pretty soon!  

2) To finish the second draft of The Lady of Lanaria, which needs quite a bit of rewriting.  I'm super excited about the changes I'm making, though, and I know it'll be better for it.  I'm hoping for a November release, but, again, we'll see how it goes.  I've also been working on cover ideas for this one, and will be sharing sometime after the Keeping Cassie cover reveal!  

Now, those manuscripts probably have a total count of about 118,000 words combined.  Are my goals lofty?  Probably.  It's nice outside, which means I want to be outside, it's storm season, which means lots of migraines for me, and my internet connection likes to play tricks, so we'll see.  

But that logic doesn't usually stop the little part of my brain that piles on more writing ideas.  

Did I add more goals on top of those already-lofty goals?  Absolutely.  

Am I super pumped about another book idea?  
Oh Yeah Rocket GIFs | Tenor
(GIF: Rocket Raccoon, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1, 2014.  Tenor.)


What is my book idea, you ask?  Well, I actually have two.  I don't have a title for the first one, and I barely have a coherent blurb at this point, but it involves a Wyoming ranch, barrel racing, and romance, steeped in themes of healing, forgiveness, and moving forward from trauma.  Ah, yes.  Most of my favorite things rolled into one lovely, messy idea.  I'll be sharing aesthetic collages and my inspiration for the book pretty soon, but I can give you the first names of our main characters: Emerson and Rhett.  I'm also looking into the guidelines to submit it to Love Inspired Romance for publication, but who knows - regardless, it's seeing the light of day and I'm pumped!  I've been mulling over this idea for several months, changing plot ideas here and there, trading out different features, but it always felt off.  Cue the 12:32-A.M. partly incoherent brain that whispers, "you've gotta change it all."  So that's what I'm doing!  

Oh, and I'm revamping another idea that's more of a mystery/crime drama type, which I've had simmering in the back of my mind for a couple years.  For the past week or so, every time I try to focus on prepping my main goals, that bugger jumps up and tries to distract me, so I suppose I should give it some attention.  I just haven't decided on the amount of pain and suffering the characters should endure.  We'll see...
And the title shall be Project Remember Me. 
Evil Grin GIF | Gfycat
(GIF: Loki, Avengers, 2012.  Gyfcat.) 


Someone  please stop me.  



What are your writing plans for the summer?  (Or reading, or just...general plans!)  


REVIEW: WATERMAN'S FIRE by Angela Nowak!

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Hey everyone!  I recently had the privilege of reading and reviewing Angela Nowak's novel, Waterman's Fire, a Christian YA novel that's full of suspense and faith.  Before I get into my review, here's some info about Nowak as well as her novel!  




BLURB

THE WAR ON DRUGS IS REAL.  WHO WILL BE THE WINNER?

Sixteen year old James groans a half-expectant prayer.  To his surprise, the answer is more than what he bargained for - James is recruited to act as a decoy to bring down Mexico's ruthless drug barons.  As his faith in God grows, James is determined to do something even more challenging than helping to catch criminals.  He is about to face his estranged father whom he must forgive.  Is God still going to help him?  Will his friends see the reality of God's power in his life?  Can he win over Ruby's heart once he is back from Mexico?

Available for Kindle and paperback from AMAZON 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Angela Nowak is a YA and historical fiction yet-to-be author.  From her native Black Sea coast via Moscow, all the way to sunny California and now to rainy, rural Suffolk, in England, with five kids besides, she enjoys her adventures in life.  Little did she imagine what the future holds when her mother used to say: "Someone has to write this story down!"  Found by God, she mines her inspiration from the Bible.  A good sense of humor and some dark chocolate is a must in life.  So far, she penned down, with her younger ones in mind, Big and Brave and with her older ones, Waterman's Fire.  Stay tuned.  

Follow her on INSTAGRAM



MY REVIEW

This book is a unique novel for the YA genre, and covers several difficult topics that young adults face in today's society.   For me, the first chapter took a bit to get through, but the plot picked right up after that, and did so especially in the second half of the novel (it's divided into two sections).  The novel follows James on what begins as his summer vacation, but quickly turns into something much bigger when he finds something important on the beach.  In the second half of the book, the reader's attention is divided between Ruby (a local girl who catches James' eye) as well as James as they find themselves in different parts of the world for the time being.  It's a novel with a bit of globe-trotting, a good bit of suspense, and a healthy dose of faith, with great themes of forgiveness and maturing as a young adult.  Nowak's descriptions of the different landscapes the characters see were especially enjoyable as well; very nicely done.  I've never been outside of the United States, but felt like I could almost be on the beach or in Mexico along with the characters!  It was a fairly quick read as well, especially once you get drawn into the story and invested in the characters.  While some parts of the story did feel a little "bumpy" - in that they seemed a bit rambling or didn't flow with the rest of the book - it was still enjoyable to read and, as I mentioned, easy to become attached to the characters.  




Do you plan on picking up a copy of Waterman's Fire?  What are some of your favorite globe-trotting novels?  

BLOG TOUR: Review of FADE TO WHITE by Tara K. Ross!

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Hey everyone! Today I have an exciting post -- a review of the newly-released YA novel Fade to White by Tara K. Ross.  This book is a fantastic novel and has such important themes.  Read on for some info about Ross as well as Fade to White!  


Fade to White Cover.jpg
BLURB

Thea Fenton’s life looks picture-perfect, but inside, she is falling apart. Wracked by anxiety no one seems to understand or care about, she resorts to self-harm to deflect the pain inside.

When a local teen commits suicide, Thea’s anxiety skyrockets. Unexplainable things happen, leaving her feeling trapped within her own chaotic mind. The lines between reality and another world start to blur, and her previously mundane issues seem more daunting and insurmountable than ever.

Then she meets Khi, a mysterious new boy from the coffee shop who seems to know her better than she knows herself—and doesn’t think she’s crazy. His quiet confidence and unfounded familiarity draw her into an unconventional friendship. 

Khi journeys with her through grief, fear, and confusion to arrive at compassion for the one person Thea never thought she could love. 

A deeply transformational novel from an authentic new voice in Christian young adult fiction.




ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tara Ross_headshot_white on light.jpg

As a teen, Tara K. Ross discovered how well-written prose can change the trajectory of a person's life. Case in point: her life. She now passes along this wisdom through her work as a school speech-language pathologist and mentor with local youth programs. She is also blessed with a ridiculously supportive family that grants her time to create stories that tackle the interplay of faith and mental health. FADE TO WHITE is her debut novel (IlluminateYA, May 2020).

When Tara is not writing or reading all things YA, you can find her rock climbing the Ontario escarpment, planning her family's next jungle trek or blogging at www.hopeprose.com.


INSTAGRAM | TWITTER | GOODREADS | FACEBOOK




MY REVIEW


This book was quite the wild ride!  While it wasn't exactly what I was expecting after reading the synopsis, it was attention-grabbing from the start and it's easy to sympathize with the characters, especially Thea.  Written in the first-person POV, it almost feels like you're stepping into Thea's shoes, especially with some of the problems she experiences through the story.  It was a quick read for me - I read a bit more than the second half of it in one day.  Thea deals with a lot of problems that are becoming more and more prevalent in today's society, especially among youth: mental health problems, stress, broken families, and just trying to find your place in the world.  She struggles with anxiety while her family falls apart, and all of that stress is compounded by the shocking death of one of her classmates -- and she still refuses help, refuses to accept that she needs it.  While we didn't see as much of the mysterious Khi as I would've liked, especially considering his role in the story, it was still very interesting to see how all of the pieces of the story wove together: Khi's convenient presence when Thea needed him most; her "fair-haired-child" brother's arrival back in town, the girl's suicide, and how it all ties the story up.  It's almost like a contemporary YA meets just a taste of mystery and a good balance of faith (not overbearing, but a definite portion of the story), so it was a great read with excellent themes on growing past old grudges, overcoming peer pressure, healing, and accepting help when it's needed.  Fade to White deals with all of these topics - and the ones I mentioned earlier - with grace and balances the bad side with the good rather well.  It's difficult to find books that strike that balance among the scores of books that either romanticize suicide and anxiety and the ones that pretend neither exist in the world -- but this book is one of the good ones, and I'm glad it's out there for YA readers. 



Pick up your copy HERE.


Do you plan on reading Fade to White?  




COVER REVEAL: THE GRIM ALLIANCE by Angela R. Watts!

Friday, June 19, 2020


Hey everyone!  Today I have the privilege of sharing the cover for Angela R. Watts' upcoming release, The Infidel Books #2, The Grim Alliance, arriving next month!  And boy, is it awesome.  I can't wait to see the first two books side by side.  Make sure to follow Angela R. Watts' blog HERE for more updates on the upcoming release and for updates on her other books as well!    

But without further ado, here's the blurb -- and then we'll get to the cover.  


BLURB

WHEN THE NATION RIOTS, THE INFIDELS MUST BLEED.

The Second Civil War storms through the crippled US and winter brings nothing but disaster. West Johnston has earned his mafia father’s trust while searching for hidden answers: why are the UN leaders being assassinated, and why can’t the killers be found? If West can’t stop the Union from attacking D.C. in their last attempt to win the war, how can he stop his father?

Springtown remains one of the few townships left standing amid the tyrannical rule. Another group of gangsters prepare the town for winter. Rene’ Fisher is torn between fearing for her boyfriend Simon’s life and the upheaval taking place in Springtown. Can her father keep the town at peace? Will God have mercy on the allegiance the town must form with an unlikely candidate in order to survive, or will Rene’s home burn like the rest of the world?

Told in multiple bold, abrasive narratives, The Grim Alliance steps into a war-ridden nation where bleeding for what you believe is the only option for those determined to win. But with faith, can even the bloodiest hands be made clean?

Releasing July 2020

Also, if you haven't already read the first book in the series, The Divided Nation, it's on sale for 0.99 cents on Kindle!  The prequel short stories Lockdown and Emmanuel are also on Amazon.  And don't forget to leave reviews!  They're 100% the bread and butter for authors.  



And now for the cover reveal....

coming july 2020.png

Wow. Isn't that awesome?!  I just keep going back and staring at it.  What are your thoughts - and are you excited for the release of The Grim Alliance?  

REVELL REVIEW: STORIES THAT BIND US by Susie Finkbeiner

Thursday, June 11, 2020


Hey everyone!  I have another review for you, this time for Stories that Bind Us by Susie Finkbeiner!  It was a truly enjoyable read, and I was grateful for the opportunity to read it.  Here's some more info on the book itself before I get into the specifics.  


BLURB
Rediscover the power of story to open the doors of our hearts

Betty Sweet never expected to be a widow at forty.  With so much life still in front of her, she tries to figure out what's next, never imagining what God had in mind. 

When her estranged sister returns to town, Betty finds herself taking on the care of a five-year-old nephew she never knew she had.  In 1960s small-town Michigan, they make an odd pair.  Betty with her pink button nose and bouffant hair.  Hugo with his light brown skin and large brown eyes.  But more powerful than what makes them different is what they share: the heartache of an empty space in their lives.  Slowly, they will learn to trust one another as they discover common ground and healing through the magic of storytelling.  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Susie Finkbeiner is the CBA bestselling author of All Manner of Things, as well as A Cup of Dust, A Trail of Crumbs, and A Song of Home.  She serves on the Fiction Readers Summit planning committee, volunteers her time at Ada Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and speaks at retreats and women's events across the country.  Susie and her husband have three children and live in West Michigan.  

This book was just released earlier this month.  Make sure to grab a copy HERE!  



MY REVIEW

This one earned 5 stars from me.  While the first couple of chapters were a bit on the slower side and the narrative took a bit to get used to, the story was easy to slip into and enjoy.  Finkbeiner uses a rather interesting storytelling device of mirroring modern day with the past, and of using fictional stories (told to Hugo by Betty) to mirror the lessons that both Betty and Hugo are learning at the time.  It's a storytelling choice that I've often wondered about -- how well it would work and if it could be pulled off at all -- and I'm glad to say that this book really pulled it off.  It's definitely reminiscent of This Is Us in its storytelling, its ability to grab difficult themes and work with them, and to draw the reader in.  It's easy to read a hundred pages of this in the blink of an eye -- I did just that when I was finishing the novel.  You'll find yourself rooting for the characters and mulling over the difficult topics presented; some of the snubs and nasty comments that she and Hugo face considering the time era, mourning losses, even mental health -- which was dealt with horrifically in the 60s.  It handles each topic with grace and enough blatancy to make known the atrocities and the good that can come out of each thing.  

The themes of family, struggle, growth, healing, and forgiveness are big in this book, and it's easy to get sucked into the storyline and even easier to really 'feel for' the characters.  While the ending seemed a little bit rushed (maybe I just wanted to keep reading, though) it was an enjoyable read and a very poetic and satisfying ending.  It has just a touch of humor, a lot of heart, and a whole bunch of important topics to unpack.  


Do you plan on picking up a copy of Stories that Bind Us by Susie Finkbeiner?    

SPOTLIGHT & REVIEW: JAYNE'S ENDEAVOUR by Lauren Compton!

Monday, June 8, 2020



Today I have a book spotlight and review for Lauren Compton's fantastic historical novel, Jayne's Endeavour.  This book was an absolute joy to read, and I can't tell you how relieved I was when I saw that there would be more books in the series.  It's just that good!  I read it in a few hours and couldn't put it down.  Before I get into the review, here's some info on Jayne's Endeavour and Lauren Compton!  

BLURB


Mysterious strangers, a Scripture verse, and a threat.
“Reids never give up.” The words once held so much truth. But at eighteen, Jayne Reid is beginning
to wonder if she can live up to that standard.
When puzzling strangers appear and odd things start to happen, Jayne and her two younger sisters
must find a solution—or lose everything.
What mystery lurks in the shadows of the Australian bush? Who is the man in town who thinks he
can buy and bully anyone he wishes? And is it all somehow connected to their new farmhand?
Journey with Jayne as she struggles to change fear into boldness and boldness into a trusting
relationship with her Heavenly Father. What adventure lies ahead?

PURCHASE from Lauren | AMAZON | THE BOOK DEPOSITORY | GOODREADS




ABOUT THE SERIES

The JOY Series follows three sisters on a quest to keep their parents’ legacy and dreams alive.
Loaded with 19th century Australian adventure, it’s a series full of intrigue, adventure, and faith for
ages 12 and up!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 



Lauren Compton lives in Australia on a sheep farm—surrounded by mountains and plenty of Aussie
wildlife! From a young age she has loved books and writing-related things (yep, that includes
spending ages in the writing supplies department!). Now she has embarked on a mission to write
books that both entertain AND encourage. Her desire is to weave stories that point readers to her
Heavenly Father while at the same time being a whole lot of fun!




MY REVIEW

Jayne's Endeavour, like I mentioned, was a quick read for me.  While the first couple of chapters were a bit slower in pace, the plot picked up nicely and presented several realistic challenges that Jayne and her sisters, Olivia and Yvonne, had to face on the Australian ranch land that their parents left them.  One character in particular left me guessing up to the last second when his true identity was revealed, and suffice it to say, my guesses were wrong and I was very pleasantly surprised!  Compton does an excellent job of weaving inconspicuous hints into the story that you easily recall only after the truth has been pointed out -- a writing device that I'm a big fan of!  

The characters show a lot of growth through the story, and were realistically written. Additionally, the struggles that they face form and mature them, and they're important lessons for readers as well!  Great themes of turning from fear and growing close to God are embodied in this novel.  It's a nice, clean read for readers who enjoy historical fiction, a bit of mystery, and a clever ending that has somewhat of a cliffhanger.  



As an aside, I also found it absolutely fascinating to read a book set in Australia.  I don't read books set in Australia very often (although I've noticed a growing number of them on the market and a few are definitely on my TBR), and it was just so interesting to read about the different wildlife and trees - it's something that definitely kept my attention throughout the story, and Compton's descriptions are pretty clear as well.  I mean, Jayne mentions kangaroos as natural wildlife!  (Okay, so as a little kid, I was completely and perhaps unhealthily obsessed with kangaroos, so maybe I just got excited because of a little leftover zeal...)  At any rate, I had an absolute blast reading this book and I can't wait to read the second book in the series!    




GIVEAWAY



Of course, what would a blog tour be without a giveaway?  Click HERE to enter the awesome giveaway for Jayne's Endeavour  -- two prizes to boot!