Monday, December 30, 2019

Monthly TBR Pile Update: December 2019

I'm excited to share that I've finished several books on my TBR pile this month. Below are the list of books finished and links to their reviews as well as their star rating. If you've read anything of these, let me know in the comments below what you thought of them. And if you haven't, maybe some of them will be added to your TBR Pile!

IT by Stephen King
House at the End of the Street by Lily Blake
Curiouser and Curiouser by Melanie Karsak
New Mexico Book of the Undead: Goblin & Ghoul Folklore
by Ray John de Aragón

2019 is almost over

Wow, what a year 2019 has been! It's been an odd one for me as I explored new hobbies and continued ones I'd begun a couple of years ago. The biggest thing I noticed throughout the year was that I never seemed to have enough time to do all the things I wanted to do. But then, that's pretty much every year! lol

Looking back on this year, I did manage to get one book published: Peregrinate (Annals of Ellie #3).

This book was a lot of fun to write, but also a challenge since I was writing about a part of the world I've never visited (Australia and New Zealand). But the story was about Ellie more than her surroundings, so it didn't turn out as bad as I was fearing.

Once I got that book published, I turned my focus to the next book in the Galactic Dynasty series that I'm co-authoring with my hubby and muse. We're still working on that manuscript, but I hope to have it published early in the coming year.

For the most part, though, I've been traveling and crafting this year. I'm still working on the afghan that I started a year or so ago as well as a cross-stitch that was also started more than a year ago. I'm steadily working my way through sewing classes and am now in the middle of sewing my first sundress! So excited to see how it turns out! I'll be sure to post pics on here when it's done. I've also crocheted Christmas presents (a slouchy hat and fingerless gloves) for my bestie, completed a paint-by-number for my hubby, and cross-stitched a little tree ornament stocking for my aunt and uncle.

As for traveling, I've been to San Diego and back, taking a month to travel with the hubby in our RV. That was back in January-February timeframe. I've been back and forth to Kentucky several times to visit my bestie. And I've been to Alabama and back to visit my aunt and uncle. There's also been trips to book festivals and a couple of house-hunting trips that ended up telling me that I wanted to stay right where we were instead of moving!

In all, it's been an active year. Not so much on the writing side of the house, but hopefully that will pick up again with the new year. I'm hoping to have the next Galactic Dynasty book out as well as possibly the next Annals of Ellie book out in the coming year, crossing my fingers and toes that my brain can recapture my love of writing that seems to have faded in the last year or so. I also intend to continue my book reviews of books I have on my TBR shelves. You can find a page called TBR Pile on my site which lists all of my books I've yet to read and follow the links to the ones I've already reviewed. 

As for crafting, I plan to hopefully have the afghan crocheted, the cross-stitch done, and my sewing classes completed within the next year. And who knows? There will probably be all kinds of other things I'll be experiencing and crafting and writing throughout the year.

So, no doubt 2020 will be just as busy as this year has been. But I don't think I'd want it any other way. Life is short and I believe that we should try to make the most of it while we can. And since all of these things are activities I love to do, that just makes life all the sweeter!

I hope everyone has an amazing 2020 and have a safe and fun time celebrating the passing of another year!

Friday, December 27, 2019

Review: Gardening for Beginners

*This review can also be found on my Goodreads account.
**This is not part of my TBR Pile as I got it for Christmas!

A great introduction for beginners who want to learn how to garden but don't know exactly what they want to grow. It gives overviews of what you need, how to prepare the site (whether in ground, raised beds, or containers), and provides some really good links to resources for further exploration/information gathering depending on what you want to learn more about.

There were also some sections that talked about the multiple uses of both flowers and vegetables. Everything from medicinal to color dyes and paints was covered. Again, briefly as the book's not that big. But it was enough to get the imagination stirring as to what all these plants can be used for. And there were some great links to further explore about these ideas as well.

The only negatives I have for this book, and they are minor but they prevented me from giving it 5-stars, was that all of the images in the book were black and white. And gardens of any variety are in color, so it made it hard to even distinguish what they were trying to show. The images were grainy as well as being black and white, so I feel the book would have been better off without them or using colored imagery. Also, the charts and tables used were in a grainy black and white and were reduced in size to fit the page. So, unless you have amazing eyesight or a magnifying glass, you're not going to be able to read the information in the charts.

In all, a good beginners guide and one I'll be referencing in the future depending on what I decide to grow and how I want to use it.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

TBR Pile #5: New Mexico Book of the Undead: Goblin & Ghoul Folklore

*This review can also be found on my Goodreads account.

Folklore, myths, legends... there are so many out there, some seen in multiple cultures and some unique to one particular culture. This book focuses on New Mexico and the Spaniards that settled there in the sixteenth century up until today.

Everything from La Llorona to Bloody Mary is explored in this story collection. And I liked how the author wove Spanish and English throughout, providing some verses in Spanish before giving the English translation. There is also a nice mix of New Mexico history provided to give a backdrop to the stories and superstitions.

The only negative is I would have liked a little more historical/cultural background for some of the stories in this book. He did that well with some and not with others. And the layout was a little confusing, but not enough to deter from the individual stories.

Overall, a great introduction to New Mexico and Spanish folklore. If you're looking for something more detailed, this isn't it. But this book gives enough to whet the appetite to do more research on particular stories that intrigue the reader most.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

TBR Pile #4: Curiouser and Curiouser

*This review can also be found on my Goodreads' account.

Teapots, flamingos, whimsy, and chaos... it's all in this book that is a kind of retelling of the classic Alice in Wonderland but with many differences that assist in making it it's own story. All of the beloved characters make an appearance in some form or fashion and Alice is recreated to be a strong heroine that is intelligent and resourceful, but makes mistakes.

This is a story of adventure, love lost, hope, redemption, love found, and of course, madness. And it's backdrop is that of steampunk London. I loved that the elements of steampunk were woven throughout without being the focal point. And the wonderland that was created was just as whimsical as the original telling yet given many realism's that made me feel as if I could step right into that world and feel at home.

The only reason I wasn't able to give this a full 5-star treatment was the style of writing this story was told in. It was too jarring for me and actually detracted from the flow of the narrative. This might turn some people off and others may not have a problem with it. But I believe I would have enjoyed this even more if the flow of narration had been a lot smoother.

Overall, a great book for fans of the classic as there are a lot of nods to the Lewis Carroll original (including a lot of head rolling thanks to the villainous Queen ;)). But it's also a great read for those that love a good steampunk setting and a bit of whimsy in their fantasy worlds!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Another Chapter Done!

With all the chaos that has been my life the last few months, not much has been done on the manuscript I'm currently writing.  But I am happy to say that I finally got another chapter written and am almost to the halfway mark in the story!  As with everything I write, I have no doubt that there will be rewrites and massages when I go back through later, but it's a relief and an exciting feeling to have one more chapter written.

So, as I continue to plug away at this manuscript, for anyone who hasn't read this series yet, I hope you'll take the opportunity to get caught up with the first four books.  You can find synopses, book covers, and links on the Galactic Dynasty page of this website.  And I'd love to hear from those of you who have read these books.  Let me know what you think of them in the comments section!

I hope everyone is having as stress-free a holiday season as is humanly possible.  And if you need a break from all the chaos and hustle of this time of year, be sure to check out my various novels.  You might find something new to curl up with and escape the madness for a while!

Monday, December 16, 2019

TBR Pile #3: House at the End of the Street

*This review can also be found on my Goodreads account.

I'm not even sure what to write. The plot was uninspiring, the characters underdeveloped, and the climax underwhelming. I found the main character annoying and her relationship with her mother so full of teen angst it was unrealistic. I kept reading just to see what the deal was with Ryan, but I'm more disappointed than anything. This book just didn't do it for me.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

TBR Pile #2: IT

*This review can also be found on my Goodreads account.

So, this was my first time reading this book. I've been slowly trying to work my way through Stephen King's massive array of novels and since IT was just remade and both Chapters are now out, I felt it was time to pick this book up and see how different it was from the movies.

As always, Hollywood didn't come close to capturing the entire essence of the novel, but I will admit they did a fair job of getting closer than some adaptations they've done of King's novels in the past. I fell in love with Mike Hanlon's character and actually wished I could have read more from his perspective alone. But all of the characters had their unique perspectives to lend to the story and they were all fascinating in their own respects.

One of the things I wasn't sure I'd like but actually found to be a perfect way to tell this story was the back and forth between the years 1957-58 and 1984-85. It was done in such a way that didn't give me heartburn trying to keep up and it was laid out to complement what happened in the past to what they were remembering and what was happening in the present. So if this is something that normally bothers you, give it a chance as it really does make sense the way it's told and how various events are revealed.

As always, every time I read a Stephen King novel, I'm amazed at the depth of character that he creates. He truly knows the human condition better than most authors I've read and is able to capture the innocence of youth, the pangs of adolescence, the struggles, hopes, fears, triumphs, and failures that make us human. And the amount of details woven in to create the scenes, the atmosphere, the cultures of the time periods... all of this makes for a well-developed, truly immersive experience.

As for IT... I actually wish Hollywood would have stuck with the novel so the audience could see the true terror this being could create. The various shapes it took, calling on the imaginations and fears of the children, were so varied and grotesque, it would have made for some amazing scenes within the movies. And then the hold IT had on Derry itself... how the adults responded to the spikes in violence and tragedies, was scary in and of itself. But, I guess they had to be selective and of course, make their own changes.

In all, the book was amazing, the characters so real, and the descriptions so vivid, that I felt as though I was right alongside them as they triumphed, failed, and triumphed again in their struggles not just with IT but with their every day lives. If you haven't had a chance to read this yet, I would highly recommend it!

Monday, December 2, 2019

Author Struggles

Happy December!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends.  I believe we ate way too much food, but I guess that's expected around this time of year!

Just a head's up, this is kind of a rambling post.  So, bear with me.

For the last couple of years, I've found myself struggling with my writing.  My characters seem to want to take weeks' long breaks and finding the magic that is normally there for me has been difficult, putting it mildly.  I've tried taking sabbaticals, I've tried forcing the words to come out, I've tried turning my focus to other creative outlets (sewing, crocheting, cross-stitching, paint-by-numbers), but not much has been working.  In essence, I believe all I was doing was finding new ways to distract myself from the core problem... where has my love for words gone?

In fact, for the last few months, I've been concerned that the joy and awesomeness of writing just isn't with me anymore.  I don't lay awake at night mulling over scenes in my head.  I don't seek out my computer to get my jumbled thoughts out or else I'll implode.  In a lot of ways, writing has become a chore lately and I don't like that.

I've been trying to figure out how to get myself out of whatever this funk is.  I've tried keeping a writing journal, using writing prompts, even going back to writing my thoughts on the various books I've been reading.  Not so much a full-on book reviews like I used to do on a book review blog I had, but more my thoughts on whether I liked it or not and why.

None of these things have seemed to help much, but last night I lay awake for almost three hours while my current characters (Commander Vorsky, Rosa, and Daemos in particular) decided to act out a couple of different scenes that will be coming up in the manuscript I'm writing.  I was tired and wanted to sleep, but they were determined.  And since this is the first time in about a year since this has happened, I let them have at it.  I'm glad I did, as I feel as though I might actually be seeing a light at the end of this dark chasm of struggle I've been dealing with.

Sorry for the ramblings, but I felt I needed to get this out into the electronic world.  Maybe there's someone who visits this blog and has been having the same struggles as me.  I just want to leave this post with encouraging words of don't give up hope just yet.  I've loved writing for as long as I can remember and that love doesn't go away.  It just sometimes takes a vacation, usually when you least expect it.  But it will come back and when it does, be prepared. 

I'm off now to finish up the latest chapter so I can give it to my co-author for his input and suggested changes.  And hopefully, fingers crossed, I'll have the passionate spark once more to move forward with this particular manuscript so I can see it through to the end!