Saturday, February 27, 2016

Weekend Read: First Light

Seventeen-year-old Adrielle doesn’t believe in magic; she merely possesses it, though no one has ever mentioned that her unusual gifts—exceptional speed, a flair for fire, and an intimate knowledge of flora—aren’t things she was born with. When Adrielle starts a fire that burns down the family home, she must deal with both her grief and her siblings’ hurtful rejection. 

While journeying to far away Tallinyne, in search of her older, estranged sister—the only relative who might take her in—Adrielle is separated from her escort when the carriage is beset by thieves. Alone, she is thrust into a dangerous and unfamiliar world where she encounters fairies and gypsies, a wild boar, a drunk cook, and an evil queen whose curse is sweeping death across the land. Adrielle also finds love, falling hard for a kind, funny, handsome—and completely unavailable prince.

From the glowing pearls tucked beneath her mattress and keeping her awake at night, to Queen Nadamaris’s curse that seems to thwart Adrielle’s every effort, Adrielle struggles to navigate a world of magic she never imagined, where people she knows and loves are not always what they appear to be. With the glowing pearls—and her fondest desire—within her grasp, she is forced to make a choice no girl should ever have to—satisfying her own heart or saving the kingdom.

Purchase Links: 

My Review:
Four out of five stars

Michele Paige Holmes presents a fun mix-and-match of fairytales in her new YA fantasy. It is a blend of adventure, mystery, and, of course, romance. With an interesting mashup of Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, and many other beloved tales, Holmes creates a fresh new story that created a world that felt both familiar and unique. Her characters and plots led to many unexpected moments. There were many times I was sure I knew what would happen, only for things to take a sudden twist that left me wondering how our heroes could possible succeed against insurmountable odds. The magic added both wonder and humor, especially the fairies, to this rich world of evil queens, hidden identities, and both gifts and curses.

Adrielle was a good main protagonist. She starts out as a Cinderella-type figure in many ways, but with a personality and life situation that made her more real. It was hard to see how she would ever get her happily-ever-after when everything got in her way. I really liked how in the end it is all over her life experiences, the good and bad that shaped her into someone capable of fulfilling her role to save the kingdom. I also enjoyed how the magic leaves scars, a good reminder that past things can’t be fully undone, but we can learn from them and become better.

There were a couple things that did bug me a little. While the main narrator, Adrielle, was written in first person, other viewpoints were written in third person. The shifts were a bit disorienting the first couple times, but once I got used to it, I found it worked alright for the story. I felt the other viewpoints weren’t always necessary, and a couple times took away from possible tension, but, at the same time, it was nice to get to know some of the other key players in the story.

A nice read for any teenager or adult looking for a good, clean magical romance.


*I received a free ebook in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Living with Mental Illness

I’ve debated whether or not to write this post for a few weeks now. It’s a hard topic to bring up since it hits home for so many of us, whether because of our own struggles or those of a loved one. Also, I am not an expert on the broad range of problems that many of you deal with on a daily basis. That said, I want to share some of the blessings that have come into my life through my own struggles with mental illness.

Yes, blessings. I know when the dark times hit, it can be almost impossible to see blessings and good things in my life, but when the dark clouds finally let in a little sunshine, I’m amazed out how much help I’ve received along the way.

Friends who called because they thought of me.

A husband and mom that show patience and love even when I’m not the nicest person.

And more tender mercies from a loving Savior than I can count.

On top of those in-the-moment blessings, there are many things I’ve learned that have provided some great insights to my life and the way I try to live.

The first thing I’ve learn is that balance is essential to my health. Whenever one aspect of my life—church responsibilities, motherhood, writing goals and work, relationships with others, etc.—gets out of balance, my whole life can get thrown into a downward spiral. Now, equal balance at all times in all areas is impossible. I’ve tried to do that enough to know! However, I’m starting to recognize when one area of my life needs more focus and when it’s taking too much from me and I need to shift to something else, or bring things into a better balance.

I’m also learning to say “no”. While I would love to be that woman who can do it all, I understand that my reservoir of energy and my overwhelmed threshold is limited. Some days I have more than others. So, I try to make time for those things that are most important to me—my family, service to the Lord, writing, and deep friendships. Other things I often have to let go, even if it is something I really wanted to do. That doesn’t mean I’ll never do it, but I realize it may have to wait until I don’t already have a full plate. Sometimes I schedule these things in at a later date, if possible, to make sure it is one of the things I make room for in my life when I’ve met my current obligations. At least that is what I strive for, but more often than not I try to pile my plate high and then drop everything because I couldn’t handle the weight.

Which brings me to my last lesson for this post, letting go of perfectionism and comparison. I still fail at this most days. Part of me can’t understand why I can’t just be better, faster, whatever. I know what I want out of life, I know what I need to do to get there, let’s just get it done! Life, unfortunately, doesn’t follow my plan. Ever! Sometimes things go better and sometimes, well, they don’t. I’m having to learn to accept my best efforts for that moment. Maybe that is better than the last effort I gave, and sometimes, well, it isn’t. But it is my best effort, not someone else’s. Instead of looking at everyone else’s awesome accomplishments and beating myself up over my lack of progress, I need to celebrate my daily victories. Sometimes my victory is writing a novel in a month, and sometimes, well, you get the picture.

So, whether you suffer from mental illness or not, let yourself be human. It’s okay. We all have bad days, weeks, yes, even sometimes months or years, but they will not last forever. Things will get better.

This week try to maintain the balance that works for you, let go of the things you don’t have room for right now, and celebrate your daily victories. You are amazing!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

In the Dying Light Cover Reveal

Today I'm excited to participate in the cover reveal for Angela Carling's new book, In The Dying Light. The cover looks amazing!

Winter Merrill knew it would be difficult when she took on an ancient curse to save her family, but couldn’t have imagined the isolated existence she would inherit.

When her long-time boyfriend’s demanding college schedule competes with her needs, Winter is left completely alone to fight the dark secrets she bares. At her breaking point a stranger enters Winter’s life, one who understands how she feels and more importantly knows how to eliminate the curse. 

Will his friendship be a new beginning for Winter or will it prove to be her demise? 

This is the second book in the series. I haven't read the first, but after the goosebumps I just got, I'm definitely going to check it out. If you want to read it before In The Dying Light's release in March, the author has provided the links. 


Angela Carling was raised in Palm Springs California, but lives Arizona with her husband, three kids and five felines.  After years of denial she finally admitted that she is a hopeless romantic which led her to write her first Young Adult book Unbreakable Love. Since then she’s published three more books, Shackled, Becoming Bryn and The Secret Keeper. Shackled won the silver IPGA award in 2012 and has been optioned as a screenplay. She always eats the frosting off her cake and leaves the rest, and can be caught singing in public bathrooms.  When she’s not writing YA novels, she’s mentoring teen writers, making pizza with her family or dreaming of taking a nap, not necessarily in that order. 

Links to connect with Angela

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Reasons I Love Fantasy

Anyone who's ever visited my blog knows I’m a big reader. I read about anything I can get my hands on, fiction and nonfiction. But fantasy has always been my go-to genre. I love to read it, and so, naturally, love to write it.

Here are just a few reason (in my humble opinion) fantasy rocks:

Limitless Possibilities

Ever genre has its strengths, and the realm of limitless possibilities is fantasy’s forte. If you can imagine it, it can happen. As a writer, I can explore things science has yet to and may never be able to explain, like what may happen after we die (spoiler for my current project). Or I can offer an alternative explanation of why things are the way they are. Myths and legends are waiting to be created every day.

Heroes and Villains

There’s a reason many of us have always been drawn to the myths and legends of godlike heroes. We want to believe that a) there is something greater in charge, and b) we have the potential to achieve greatness for ourselves. Spoiler: We absolutely can! When the hero faces impossible odds, and then finds a way to overcome them, we cheer inside and stand a little taller against our own foes. I know I do.

Just as we want to believe in our own ability to achieve greatness, we also have an innate desire to see good triumph over evil. The villains in fantasy can be scary evil, even with tragic backstories. But villains can be more than just evil incarnate, they can make us ask hard questions about ourselves. If I had the choices they have had to make, would I choose to be a hero or give into my own inner darkness? When I write villains, I love putting myself in their shoes. There is something intriguing about tapping into that part of myself, and really taking a good look at how I, or anyone, could possibly become like them. It all comes down to every choice I make. That’s such an empowering, and scary, realization.

Magical Mayhem

Okay, I’ll be honest, the magic in fantasy is so fun to read and write. The poor heroes have to deal with life’s everyday problems, and then we dump in magic to mess up their lives even more. It can create some pretty tricky, and hilarious, moments for our characters. The magic also serves as a physical manifestation of the potential to become something greater than what we are now. It can also create a realm of moral dilemmas the character may never have had to face before. If I had the power to easily fix all my problems, would I? And, let’s just face it, magic is cool!

Those represent just a fraction of what makes fantasy such a great genre, and why I love writing it. The world of possibilities that can be explored with fantasy are limitless. It makes us face our own inner darkness, while also revealing the greatness we can achieve. And it’s fun to torture the characters with magical chaos—by far the best reason.

Whether it be fantasy or any other genre, keep reading and writing!