☕ Book Break ☕ |~A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy~

 ~A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy~

“She was still vaguely hopeful that there was love out there somewhere—just a little less sure that she might actually find it.”

“Her life was like her house—a colorful fantasy where anything was possible if you wanted it badly enough.”

Chicky Starr revamps an old mansion, turning it into a holiday resort for those wanting to spend time in an out-of-the-way place. Stone House is in a remote area on the cliffs of Ireland, part of a small village. The novel follows a varied cast of characters. A warm read. Humorous. Relatable.

Maeve Binchy was one of a kind. I’m not sure how she did it. The stories she wrote are rich with characters in situations that we often find ourselves. I find myself becoming attached to her characters, and remembering them long after the last page has been read. This was her last novel.

While this is not my favorite novel of hers, it was a joy to revisit for this fan.

This one may be a bit slow in parts, and does seem to meander a bit, but I think it’s well worth the time. It leaves me with a warm, cozy feeling.

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☕ Book Break ☕ |~An American Marriage by Tayari Jones~

~An American Marriage by Tayari Jones~

“A marriage is more than your heart, it’s your life. And we are not sharing ours.” 

“Home isn’t where you land; home is where you launch. You can’t pick your home any more than you can choose your family. In poker, you get five cards. Three of them you can swap out, but two are yours to keep: family and native land.” 

Celestial and Roy have only been married a year when Roy is falsely accused of a crime and sentenced to prison. Roy is incarcerated unjustly, and the focus of the novel is how the marriage unravels in the face of what has happened to them. Each chapter is told in alternating points of view. The story is complex and the writing amazing. I can see why this novel is so popular.

The novel is effective, causing one to think about the consequences of racial injustice and the far reaching impact it can have on lives. It’s also an examination of marriage, love, and commitment. It can be hard to read at times due to the subject matter.

This novel is an Oprah Book Club Selection and a 2018 National Book Award Nomination for Fiction.

A must read.

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☕ Book Break ☕ |~Across The Universe by Beth Revis~

~Across The Universe by Beth Revis~

Seventeen year old Amy, along with her parents, is cryogenically frozen in order to make a 300 year trip to a new earth. Someone starts the thawing process early, and Amy wakes. We don’t find out who until the end of the novel.

Amy doesn’t fit in with the other people. The small society of ship dwellers have become genetically similar over the generations spent on board, and Amy sticks out with her red hair and white skin. The ship dwellers’ behavior is odd and troubling. Elder, in training to become the leader of the ship, The Godspeed, is the only person Amy’s age on board. He finds Amy irresistibly attractive. Elder searches for the person who is tampering with the cryogenically frozen passengers and discovers much more.

My eldest picked this book for me at the library. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this novel. Before I made it to the last chapter, I felt the need to reserve the next book in the series. Many of the sci-fi novels my boys pick are too heavy on the technical side for me, but this one was perfect.

If you are a fan of sci-fi stories or shows, you might like this series. Great read. Highly entertaining. Satisfying ending to the book with enough left over to make me want to get the next book. Engaging. Satisfying story.

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☕ Book Break ☕ |~So B. It by Sarah Weeks~

~So B. It by Sarah Weeks~

“Not knowing something doesn’t mean you’re stupid. All it means is that there’s still room left to wonder.”

Twelve-year-old Heidi doesn’t know her extended family. She doesn’t even know her mother’s name or anything about her background. Her mentally disabled mother depends on a neighbor, and it has been this way since Heidi was an infant. The neighbor, Bernadette, is agoraphobic. When Heidi discovers some undeveloped film, she follows the clues left in the photos. She is determined to travel across the country to find out where she came from and the identity of her mother, who calls herself So B. It.

This is a beautiful story. I’m not really sure how I missed this one. This book is suitable for ages ten and up, but I found it to be very enjoyable.

Heart tugging. Fantastic characters. The mystery of how Heidi and her mother came to be in this apartment alone kept me turning pages. Such a brave little girl. I was rooting for her all the way.

This book is been made into a movie and now I want to check it out.

If you haven’t read this one, you should put it on your list. Another great read.

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How to Win a Novel Writing Contest

How to Win a Novel Writing Contest

I’ve got contests on the brain. There’s no point in entering unless you are in it to win it . . . except when you enter for feedback like I did. I wanted some uncensored examination of my work before I submit this book to agents.

Prepare

I’ve always wondered what the judges were looking for in novel writing contests and I had the opportunity recently to volunteer as a judge. The coordinator provided a score sheet and directions. I had not done a great deal of research into writing contests, but I have discovered many of the contests have their score sheets published.

It’s a good idea to look at the score sheets before you enter to see if your novel is a good fit and fulfills the requirements to score high. Score sheets are also useful for doing a self check of your manuscript before you submit it anywhere.

Pick the Best Contest to Enter

Aside from choosing a contest that fits your novel, here are a few other things I’ve learned along the way.

If there is a fee, make sure the contest are entering has a good track record. Even then, you may not get the feedback you desire. I was discouraged by the first writing contest I entered because the judges did not provide a great deal of feedback, and the comments I did get directly contradicted each other on two of the three evaluations! The third person gave minimal feedback.

The second contest I entered was not well known, but the entry fee was either nonexistent or negligible. I received valuable feedback from three different judges. Many contests keep the judges anonymous, but this one did not. in that contest I tied for third place. It was shocked to find myself in good company among the winners.

The contest should have multiple judges. Both of the contests I entered had three judges look over every manuscript. I prefer a contest that allows the participant to have information about the judges’ qualifications. This might help an inexperienced writer to know how much weight to give an opinion that feels off.

Best advice for choosing a contest to enter? Ask around.

Follow the rules

Whatever contest you choose to enter make sure you meticulously pay attention to the rules. If you choose to enter a contest without checking out all the boxes, you probably won’t place well.

Edit your work

Even if you’re entering a contest for feedback only, edit your work. Make sure you’re presenting the best manuscript you can. Use a spellchecker and a grammar checker.

Buddy Up

Have a critique partner look over your work. If you’re going to shell out your hard earned money for a chance at the golden ring, it makes sense to enter the best version of your work you can. Critique partners can help you polish that manuscript.

Learn From Feedback

Keep in mind that all the judges have their own particular areas of expertise and opinions. Even if you get contradicting advice as I did, chalk it up as a learning experience. Try to find the commonalities and take the information you can use to apply to your work. The judges spent time and effort trying to help the participants improve their writing. In every contest I entered, the judges have been volunteers. I appreciate the time and energy they give to the writing community.

Contests are about more than the big prize. Uncensored feedback is good. Perhaps painful, but good.

Don’t Take a Loss to Heart

Contests are funny things. There are a plethora of variables. Who you get as a judge is the luck of the draw. The score sheets may be slanted towards a criteria your novel does not fit into. An individual judge may determine that your novel does not fit into a specific standard while another judge may find it perfectly acceptable.

You can’t take negative feedback to personally. For both of the contests I entered I submitted  the identical manuscript but received vastly different evaluations. Which brings me to my last point.

It’s All a Matter of Opinion

There are certain parameters and requirements if you want to have your novel traditionally published, but in the end, follow your heart. If you have a story to tell, tell it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You only fail if you stop trying.

Keep writing.

Do you have any advice about entering a writing contests?

 

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☕ Book Break ☕ |~Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli~

~Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli~

⭐️
I adored this book.

⭐️
A new girl shows up at school. She different. For one thing, she dresses funny, and has a penchant for approaching her schoolmates in the lunchroom to sing to them on their birthday.. To add to the strangeness she does this while playing the ukulele she carries on her back. She’s starting 11th grade, but this is her first school. She was homeschooled.
⭐️
Leo is drawn to her, and an innocent romance develops between the two.
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Our heroine goes by a name she choose for herself, Stargirl. At first her classmates shun her, but then come to accept her when she becomes a cheerleader. Then the tide turns. Now they despise her.
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Leo asks her to change, so she does, attempting to fit in. It doesn’t work.
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This short book is chock full of loveliness and lessons. It unfolds beautifully, examining human nature. It’s a story that might cause a bit of reflection.
⭐️
This is one to put on your must read list. Marked as MG or YA, I think adults would enjoy it as well. If you liked Wonder, you might like this novel.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Characters
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Story Line
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Emotion Tugging
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
General All Around Good Read

I will reread this one.

“She was elusive. She was today. She was tomorrow. She was the faintest scent of a cactus flower, the flitting shadow of an elf owl. We did not know what to make of her. In our minds we tried to pin her to a cork board like a butterfly, but the pin merely went through and away she flew.” 

“She was bendable light: she shone around every corner of my day.” 

“The trouble with miracles is, they don’t last long.”

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☕ Book Break ☕ |~Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D.Vance~

~Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D.Vance~

I finally got around to reading Hillbilly Elegy. This is an interesting and eye-opening memoir. I’ve heard people compare Hillbilly Elegy by J.D.Vance and White Trash: The 400 Year Untold History by Nancy Isenberg, liking one over the other, but I found each one of these books unique in its own right. Studying our culture has always been a special fascination to me, so these types of books are right up my alley.

Hillbilly Elegy is a memoir about an a Kentucky boy with few advantages who grew up and made it good. He managed to go to an elite college, graduate, and become financially successful. This book is an exposition of his roots and a narrative of his journey. It’s also an examination of what has happened to the American dream and why so many have failed to achieve it from the perspective of an insider. It’s very thought-provoking.

I found myself growing attached to the characters in this story. Moving, at times humorous, colorful, interesting.

I think it is a much-needed read for anyone who wants to understand class in America. I would pair this with the other book, White Trash. If you’re not a voracious reader like I am, I think either one is excellent. If you prefer memoir then Hillbilly Elegy may suit your taste, if you lean more towards a broader examination of the class structure and love history, you may prefer White Trash. In all honesty, I feel they both deserve a place on your shelf.

Get both if you can.

What’s the last memoir you read?

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☕ Book Break ☕ |~The Ocean at The End of The Lane by Neil Gaiman~

~The Ocean at The End of The Lane by Neil Gaiman~

I had no idea what this book was about or even what type of book it was when I picked it up. I thought it was suspense maybe. Instead, I was treated to fantasy.

I listened to the audiobook read by Neil Gaiman. I’m always curious to hear them read their own work, how they meant for the story to sound when they wrote it. I have to say Neil Gaiman is the best author narrator I have heard. Some authors probably should not read their own work, but I think Neil Gaiman could make a grocery list sound enthralling.
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A coming of age story at the crossroads of mystery and wonder, the book has tragedies and magic mixed together. Every once in a while, I like a story that has a little bit of magic and supernatural elements stitched through. .

The story has so many truths woven through it. The characters are fantastic. I adored this book.

“I lived in books more than I lived anywhere else.”

“Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. Truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.” .
“I do not miss childhood, but I miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled. I could not control the world I was in, could not walk away from things or people or moments that hurt, but I took joy in the things that made me happy.”

“Books were safer than other people anyway.”

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☕ Book Break ☕ |~My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows~

~My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows~
❤️
This book had me snorting into my teacup. It’s a retelling of Jane Eyre, with the authors taking flexible liberties. It’s kind of a cross between the classic tale and Ghostbusters with a little extra thrown in for good measure.
❤️
For purists who like their classics, the irreverence may be a bit much. I found it hilarious. The cultural references to LOTR and the Princess Bride had me laughing out loud. I’ve always had a soft spot for literature that breaks the story by speaking directly to the reader. There’s something special about seeing “Dear Reader”. ❤️
I adore this book. I did not read the first one, but it certainly on my list now.
❤️
If you’re looking for a lighthearted read I love Jane Eyre adaptations you should check this one out.
❤️
There is mild language in one section of the book when are heroines are in dire straits and frustrated beyond their limits. Other than that, there should be nothing in here to shock the sensibilities. Unless ghosts disturb you. These ghosts are funny, for the most part.
❤️
Loved it.

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☕ Book Break ☕ |~Entwined by Heather Dixon~

~Entwined by Heather Dixon~
❤️
She wanted to give him toast. The sort that had melted butter and a bit of honey spread on top. It was a stupid thought, but there was something comforting about toast.
❤️
I can be agreeable,” said Fairweller. “If the other party is.”
“Oh, well,” said Bramble. “There goes that, then.”
❤️
If you want to break all the windows in the house and drown yourself in a bucket but don’t actually do it, well, that’s love.
❤️
I am rediscovering my love of fairytales. This was a delightful read. I love the way the author took an old favorite fairytale of the twelve dancing princesses and wobe a completely new story but retained echoes of the old classic.
❤️
The castle has a bit of magic around the edges, left over from the time when the evil king ruled. Azalea and her sisters are forced to give up everything for a year of morning when her mother dies. The hardest thing to give up is dance. Azalea discovers a secret passage way that leads to a magical place where she is free to dance, she returns again and again. She finds it she cannot give it up, even when the Keeper, Who rules this en chanted room begins to make her uncomfortable.
❤️
I was thoroughly entertained and enchanted by this novel. I love Azalea. It seems like she got the short end of the stick. Her mother dies and her dad, the king, checks out. The girls must all wear black. Azalea is of the age that she should be attending parties and balls, interacting with prospective suitors.
❤️
Father daughter relationships. Evil villains. Characters with strong personalities. Romances. Hardship. Enchantment. I love the sisters. I could clearly picture each one of the characters.
❤️
This was a long book that didn’t feel long. There were parts that were creepy, parts that were lovely, and lessons to be drawn. Well done.
❤️
The villain is quite dark compared to some fairy-tale versions, depending on what you’re used to. Those with younger readers may want to be aware. This fairy-tale is suitable for older teens. It really does depend on your experience and expectation. I usually find the fairy-tale retellings to be tamer than the original fairy tales I read when I was a child. Most of those did not end well.
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