Two More Summer Reads: Blogger book reviews

I usually read in bed at night and pass out after one or two chapters. One book can easily take a whole month to read. Not so while on vacation. Here are two more reviews of blogger books that I read during my trip to Colorado. Enjoy.

Eclipse Lake

by Mae Clair

A blend of mystery and romance with strong characters.

Eclipse Lake is one part cozy mystery and one part romance. The story focuses on Dane Carlisle, a teenage lost-cause who grew up and turned his life around to become a multi-millionaire. He returns to his hometown with his adopted son, hoping to make amends with his older brother. But memories of the teenage Dane persist, and the discovery of an old skull raises more suspicions about his past. Set against Dane’s dark history and the current turmoil is his fairytale romance with a spunky photo-journalist who’s in town shooting pictures of the scenic lake.

The conflict between the three male characters – Dane, his teenage son, and his older brother – was what hooked me on the book. All well-rounded characters, they were emotionally genuine and likable, but also flawed. The relationships were convincingly volatile, and the emotional arcs felt authentic. Clair did a nice job with the cast of secondary characters and the quaint setting – a small mountain town where everyone knows everyone’s business. The story moves speedily along during the action and conflict scenes, and slows to a leisurely pace during romantic interludes.

Eclipse Lake is a well-constructed story with clean writing and some unexpected twists. Readers who enjoy mysteries, family secrets, and a strong romantic thread will love this book.

What’s in a Name

My Sally G. Cronin

Twenty stories by a master storyteller

What’s in a Name is a delightful collection of 20 short stories organized alphabetically by the names of the main characters. A few stories are dark, some are magical or humorous, and many close with a sense of poignancy.

Cronin is a marvelous storyteller, and for a reader, spending an afternoon immersed in the lives of the people behind the names is time well-spent. For me, the last story in the collection “Jack” was the icing on the cake, but all the stories are unique and well worth the read. Highly recommended for any reader who enjoys short stories about the human journey.

Happy Reading!

Tunnel #Writephoto

Azalus teetered on the bluff’s edge, warded sword wheeling for balance against the brilliant sky. The mountain beneath his feet offered no reprieve, a sheet of obsidian sleek as spilled oil.

Below him, the massive dragon shot up along the mirrored wall, its neck and talons extended. Slit reptilian eyes reflected the inferno erupting from its throat. The beast blasted through its own blaze, and its maw gaped, scorched shards of the last armsman wedged between rows of serrated teeth. In a heartbeat, chances of escape had dropped from doubtful to dismal.

Gaylen’s whip coiled around the vambrace shielding Azalus’s forearm, and he clasped it as his feet slipped into the heated air. His body slammed against the rock wall, and the dragon altered its flight to pick off the newly dangling prey.

“Dragon,” Azalus shouted to his fellow fugitive and pointed the tip of his sword at the ascending beast. Jade scales glimmered like sunlight on still water, and webbed wings beat with the snap of wind-caught sails. Beautiful and deadly.

Above him Gaylen hauled. “Reavers are closing.”

Suspended on the whip, Azalus kicked against the cliff’s sheer face. Gaylen heaved, and when Azalus reached the lip, he thrust his sword arm across the rock, fighting for leverage. Movement at the forest’s rim caught his eye. “Reavers. Behind you!”

Gaylen staggered. His face morphed into a fusion of disbelief and despair as his flesh yielded to their enemy’s iron bolts. The whip’s stock eased from his hand. Azalus slipped into the air.

The monstrous dragon’s throat yawned, jaw bones split, and fangs hyperextended. Azalus straightened, arms overhead, sword in a two-handed grip. The beast’s gullet stretched open, air drawn in for another explosion of fire. He speared between the teeth, slid over the forked tongue, and descended into darkness. The welling heat and sulfurous reek burned his lungs as he glided down the blackened throat. With a vengeful howl, he thrust the blade forward and carved as he fell. Steel sliced through flesh, thudded against bone, and blood gushed, dousing the rising flame.

Azalus’s careening descent ceased, or the dragon plummeted with him. He braced himself against the blood-slick wall, sword jammed deep between the vertebrae. The creature writhed and spasmed, and Azalus swallowed his gorge as they plunged toward the vale.

He woke with a gasp, disoriented, heart pounding. His body felt trampled, but nothing of his pain foreboded death. He gulped a breath and listened, willed his nerves to stillness. The dragon lay motionless, he lodged in its throat in a pool of congealed blood. Rising to a crouch, he yanked his sword free of the flesh, and with fingers tracing the throat’s charred wall, he staggered down the tunnel toward the light.

**

Thanks to Sue Vincent of The Daily Echo for another fun #writephoto prompt. Check out her site and join in the weekly fun.

Sunday Blog Share: How to explode with ideas for your sequel

 This is the best article I’ve read on how to come up with ideas for a sequel or series. I highly recommend it for any authors toying with the idea!

 

How to explode with ideas for your sequel

by Alecia Akkalon

 

I decided to write a sequel for my WIP, and in days I went from having no idea what it might be about to having dozens of ideas. Here’s how.

I try to avoid writing “how to” posts because I’m generally of the opinion that I know nothing about anything. This post is more “how I got lots of ideas for a sequel”.

(Sorry I deceived you with the title. I feel awful about it.)

I’ve always considered my work in progress to be a “stand-alone with series potential”. That is, the main story question is answered by the end of the book, and at least one of the main characters survives the climax to potentially appear in a subsequent book.

Rats, now I’ve let a spoiler slip. Well, what did you expect from me? I like happy endings and for people to get what they deserve.

The problem was that until recently I had no idea what might happen in a sequel. I thought maybe I’d used up the possibilities of this world and set of characters.

But I also had no concrete plans for a new world (except that there will be unicorns).

Then I looked up and realised I was within a month (okay, maybe two months) of sending my draft to beta readers. And when I do that I want to start writing my next book.

Now, I spent six months planning this book before I started writing, and I don’t think I could have rushed the process.

So cue panic…

(Continue Reading: How to explode with ideas for your sequel)

Summer Reading – 2 Reviews

Nap or read?

It was the main decision I had to make while visiting my parents in Colorado. Poor me, right? Well, reading won out!

Fortunately, my ipad was (is) crammed with books, and I had a pile to choose from. I’m happy to kick off a couple of reviews of fellow bloggers’ books.

A Thousand Rooms

by Helen Jones

My review:

Keep a box of tissues at your elbow for this one! A Thousand Rooms had me red-eyed and snuffling. This is a character-driven book with a simple plot: Katie, newly dead and unfortunately overlooked in her transition from life, goes on a quest to find “her heaven” and travels through a series of manifestations (rooms) before she finds her own.

Jones draws on a variety of mystical traditions and beliefs to design the experience of being dead and the concepts of heaven, soul mates, and reincarnation. These were interesting, but what I loved, loved, loved about his book was the incredibly touching and heartfelt expressions of human emotions, particularly grief and sorrow and, ultimately, of pure love.

Jones writes beautifully. Descriptions are rich, and the characters, even those on the periphery, are wonderfully developed. As the main character, Katie is thoroughly relatable with a wide range of emotions including some delightful sarcasm. I found her personal evolution compelling as her earthly concerns slip away and she discovers the essence of who she is and the point of her journey. Katie’s realization of what it means to live a blessed life is uplifting and full of hope. Highly recommended for readers who love character-driven books and want to feel inspired.

Death by Pumpkin

by Noelle Granger

My review:

Death by Pumpkin was my second read in Granger’s Rhe Brewster series and a pure joy ride. Rhe is a single mom, ER nurse, and police department consultant in the small Maine town of Pequod. She, once again, takes an active role in a police department investigation when the pumpkin-drop at a local festival reveals a murder. She rapidly goes from investigator to target as an old nemesis is determined to make her and those she cares for suffer.

The book is fast-paced and well-researched. The scene in the small plane was particularly riveting and highlighted Granger’s attention to detail. Other than the villain, the characters are all beautifully three-dimensional and full of quirky personality. I thoroughly enjoyed the interplay in the authentic relationships. In addition to the murder investigation, romantic and political subplots add interest and tension. A perfect read for anyone who enjoys cozy mysteries with plenty of thrills.

More to come!

 

 

 

The Benefits of a Blogging Break

Arches National Park, Utah – near my parents’ home.

I’m back from Colorado! Two weeks felt like a month, and though it was wonderful to be off-line, it feels good to be back.

 

Blogging Breaks seem to work miracles for me in avoiding burnout and reinvigorating my enthusiasm for this time-consuming endeavor. Seeking balance has been an ongoing challenge as my blog grows and worldwide friendships form with people I care about. It doesn’t help that there’s wonderful content all over blogland, too. It’s hard to look away.

 

A couple years ago, I tried taking weekends off from the blog, and it didn’t work. Notifications amassed, and I spent my Mondays staring at the laptop until my eyeballs shriveled. Days off due to other commitments had similar results – a constant stream of busy-ness of one type or another and days of playing catch-up. My writing time suffered, and my husband started looking like an abandoned puppy.

 

The question that frequently rambled through my head was, “How does anyone keep this up and not burn out?”

 

The answer to blog management, for me anyway, seems to be in taking longer breaks than one or two days. Dollie Freeman wrote a short article on the benefits of blogging breaks that rang true: “Avoid Blogger Burnout With Blogging Breaks.” I encourage you to read the full article, but here’s the gist of her advice:

 

  • Don’t work for your blog – let your blog work for you.
  • Don’t sacrifice your home life, health, and relationships for the next post, the next series, the next promotion, the next…
  • Schedule one week per quarter where you will NOT post anything on your blog. Write ahead and schedule if you’re inspired.
  • In addition to one week per quarter, Freeman gives herself 4 additional weeks of unplanned ‘floating’ time to catch up, get ahead, work on a new product or just soak in the things that make her life meaningful.
  • Stay grounded and humble. Although your readers are interested in your blog, they aren’t hanging on to your every word. They’ll survive without you.
  • Life is too short to live it in front of a screen.

Back to my break!

No major adventures to report. It was too hot to go outside except for some early morning weeding in the garden. I read some great books in lieu of naps and will post reviews over the next few weeks.

 

Due to the lack of excitement, these photos are all from my last trip when I visited my brother down the road in Utah.

 

I’m looking forward to visiting everyone. It’s going to take a few days to make the rounds, but I’ll be by.

 

Happy Solstice!

Taking a break from taking a break

This is my destination (close enough). Image from Pixabay.

On Sunday, I’m off to visit the old folks (older than me anyway) in the Colorado high desert.

My parents haven’t acquired any of those new-fangled gadgets like wireless “internets” and email is still on par with magic. Their town is devoid of coffee shops because those places attract liberal, tree-hugging, Bernie supporters (like me). Needless to say, I will be offline for a couple weeks.

I’ll probably be engaged in manual labor, which is my father’s idea of family fun. Last summer he had my brother and me trekking into the hills and hauling rocks for his stone wall. I think we made 30 trips with the old Subaru and transported 200 rocks before dad attempted to jump a gulch and ripped off the back end of the car.

My brother won’t be making this trip as the volcano in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands has him grounded. So, I’m on my own. Think of me while I’m dragging dead branches out of federally-owned land, piling them on top of the same Subaru, hauling them home, and cutting them up for firewood. (The trees are that little fringe of dark stuff on the top of the mountain in the photo).

My mom is legally blind, so the rest of the time will be spent talking about their eventual move to Oregon over my dad’s dead body, and I’ll be cleaning the house. She does an amazing job considering, but she needs help, and these stubborn proud people refuse to allow help in the house. Actually, they do hire help, and then my mom says she can do a better job herself and chases them out asks them to leave.

My dad is hard at hearing, and since only old people wear hearing aids, he clearly doesn’t need them (he’s 87). The television volume is set on nuclear, and he’ll be ranting about Trump, while my mother and I shout at each other over the noise. We’ll be sharing the sofa with nine cats. It will be so relaxing.

I will be completely absent from blogland and anything resembling a normal life for the duration of the visit. Wish me luck. I’ll be back in two weeks.

P.S. For the sake of family peace, it is my daughterly duty to advise you that this post is the pure unadulterated truth grossly exaggerated. 🙂