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March Book Reviews

Yall. I set a goal of only 30 books this year because I wanted to really focus on my writing. I’m already up to 20 and it’s only April!! Anyways, on to what I read in March!

Ten Steps to Hero: How to Craft a Kickass Protagonist by Sacha Black

Are you fed up of one-dimensional heroes? Frustrated with creating clones? Does your protagonist fail to capture your reader’s heart?
In 10 Steps To Hero, you’ll discover:
How to develop a killer character arc
A step-by-step guide to creating your hero from initial concept to final page
Why the web of story connectivity is essential to crafting a hero that will hook readers
The four major pitfalls to avoid as well as the tropes your story needs
Finally, there is a comprehensive writing guide to help you create your perfect protagonist. Whether you’re writing your first story or you’re a professional writer, this book will help supercharge your hero and give them that extra edge.
These lessons will help you master your charming knights, navigate your way to the perfect balance of flaws and traits, as well as strengthen your hero to give your story the conflict and punch it needs.
First, there were villains, now there are heroes. If you like dark humor, learning through examples,and want to create the best hero you can, then you’ll love Sacha Black’s guide to crafting heroes.

Seriously, y’all, I cannot get enough of Sacha Black’s craft books.

First, I read the Anatomy of Prose, which I loved. Then, I read her Villians book which helped me figure out my villian issues. And now I’ve read her Heroes book.

Overall, it was a great book with a lot of really good insight and tips for how to craft a well rounded hero. While I didn’t read this because I needed the help, I fully intend on reading every one of her craft books time and time again.

I honestly don’t have much more to say that I haven’t already in my reviews of her other two. If you’re looking for kickass craft books, please check out Sacha Black.

She. is. awesome.

I’ve also just recently started listening to her Rebel Author podcast, and I am learning lots of little tips and tricks.

Enjoy!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Kian’s Focus by Misty Walker

I lost my boyfriend on the night I had planned to propose.
It was a horrific accident that was all my fault.
I gave up and resigned myself into a life of obscurity.
Until I got a call that my sister, Sara, needed me.
It gave me purpose and I ran to her rescue.
Because that’s what I’ve done our whole lives.
That’s how I ended up in Brigs Ferry Bay.
But when I showed up, things were so much worse than I thought.
She was sullen, fragile, and sinking into a depression I didn’t know how I’d get her out of.
Together, we were drowning.
Until I met Kian.
He’s everything I’m not.
Bouncy, bubbly, full of life, and an innate ability to make everything better.
He makes me believe I can be happy again.
Now the unthinkable has happened and Sara is on the verge of losing her life.
Once again, it’s all my fault.
Kian had clouded my vision with promises of hope and forever.
I was so stupid to believe I could be happy again.
I try push him away.
To shove him out of the darkness that follows me.
I don’t want him to suffer the future fate had secured me to.
But Kian’s focus is on me
And he’s used to getting what he wants.

I won an ARC (Advanced Reader’s Copy) of Kian’s Focus from Misty on TikTok!

First off, let me just say, she is super sweet and super insightful about indie publishing, especially when it comes to publishing romances.

On to the review! The only other M/M romance I have read is Red, White & Royal Blue, so I was really excited to dive into the world Misty created. From the get-go, the story was engaging and the characters were interesting.

Archer is a little down on his luck. Who wouldn’t be after the person they planned to spend the rest of their life with died in a tragic accident? The story starts about a year later, when he’s moved to live with his sister and help her out with her children. That always endears me to character. I love slightly clueless men who have hearts of gold.

Kian is confident, kind, and has his own issues, but he genuinely cares about every single soul that enters his life–or his bar/club.

When the two of them meet, there’s an instant spark and an undeniable chemistry. Even though Archer doesn’t think he deserves to get out there again, he takes a chance, and that’s one thing that I always love in a story.

I love how Misty captured that small town feel. I grew up in a small town in southern Louisiana, where everybody knows everybody’s business. It was fun to relive that in a different setting, and to watch love blossom between the two main characters. It was a genuine, heartfelt story of two men who each have their own shit, but somehow defy the odds and make it work.

I think the thing that I loved the most is how realistic it was. This story didn’t involve tons of over the top drama, but what it did was incredibly realistic.

Archer’s sister Sara is struggling with some major issues with her mental health, and I really appreciated that Misty didn’t shy away from that. When people get uncomfortable, sometimes they walk around real issues, but she did not. All in all, I really enjoyed this story. If you’re looking for a M/M romance, definitely check Misty out!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Lore by Alexandra Bracken

Every seven years, the Agon begins. As punishment for a past rebellion, nine Greek gods are forced to walk the earth as mortals, hunted by the descendants of ancient bloodlines, all eager to kill a god and seize their divine power and immortality.
Long ago, Lore Perseous fled that brutal world in the wake of her family’s sadistic murder by a rival line, turning her back on the hunt’s promises of eternal glory. For years she’s pushed away any thought of revenge against the man–now a god–responsible for their deaths.
Yet as the next hunt dawns over New York City, two participants seek out her help: Castor, a childhood friend of Lore believed long dead, and a gravely wounded Athena, among the last of the original gods.

The goddess offers an alliance against their mutual enemy and, at last, a way for Lore to leave the Agon behind forever. But Lore’s decision to bind her fate to Athena’s and rejoin the hunt will come at a deadly cost–and still may not be enough to stop the rise of a new god with the power to bring humanity to its knees..

If you know me at all, you know I am a total fangirl for Alexandra Bracken. I own a copy of literally every book she’s ever published. I’m even lucky enough to have signed and personalized books by her.

I. Am. A. Fan.

So, it’s been a while since she’s released anything new. I’ve been following her on social media, and when she started talking about Lore a couple of years ago, I was really excited. Greek Gods. Urban fantasy. That is totally my jam.

The book released in January and I had every intention of reading it when it first came out. But, life.

As a side note, I like to read hard copies of books in conjunction with the ebook. If the ebook takes a while to come available, I’ll delay reading it. That was part of why it took me so long.

So. Yet again. Alex Bracken. I adore her.

While I’ve been trying to venture out of the YA genre a little bit more because my own books have more adult themes, I will always come back for one of her books. Alex has this way of making characters intriguing, but not giving anything away until it’s absolutely necessary, so it keeps you hooked.

I also loved that as time has gone on, Alex has grown as a writer and includes more obvious diverse representation. She is an amazing person, and I genuinely would love to be her best friend.

BUT since that won’t happen. If you like Greek Gods, magic, mysteries, and smoking hot god-like mystery boys, please check this out. You will NOT be disappointed. While I wasn’t hooked in the first chapter, the second one definitely sucked me in and I finished the book within a few days. I would love to see if Alex returns to this world, but based on the way the story ended, I don’t think she will. Either way, I’ll always be waiting for her next project. 🙂

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages–not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.
When one of the strangers–beautiful, haunted Akiva–fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

A while back, I asked some of my author friends for suggestions of Fantasy Romance stories like From Blood and Ash and A Court of Mists and Fury. While the person who suggested this one admitted to not having read those two, they suggested this book.

When I researched it, I realized it didn’t quite fit the genre that I was looking for, but I was running a little low on other things so I decided to check it out from the library.

I was so pleasantly surprised. Not only is the writing amazing (and makes me want to go to Prague ASAP), but the story is intriguing. I’d heard that stories about angels were definitely not selling in the traditional market, so I was completely into it when I found a traditionally published story that was.

Overall, I enjoyed the first half more than the second half. The second half was a collection of memories, and while they were good, I don’t really like a giant info dump like that.

To put my thoughts simply: this is the first book in what is obviously a series, but it didn’t quite have the arc of a story that’s the first in a series. I almost felt like this should have been a prequel.

Parts of it were a little predictable, and the insta-love wasn’t my favorite (though it was explained and I was less salty about it after that).

Now, obviously, the ending left me a little dissatisfied, so I’m going to continue the series, but I’ll probably wait a while before I picked up the second one. This didn’t quite fit the recommendation I asked for, but I was very pleasantly surprised. I would have liked to see this in the Adult genre rather than the YA genre. I have a feeling Laini Taylor may take it there. If you’re looking for a good YA fantasy, definitely check it out!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

It’s Been a Pleasure, Noni Blake by Claire Christian

A sparkling, feel-good tale about starting over, for anyone who’s spent too much of their own life making other people happy.

What if you made yourself your number one priority?


Of all the women and men Noni Blake has pleased in her life, there’s one she’s often overlooked—herself. After the end of a decade-long relationship, Noni decides it’s time for that to change. She’s finally going to prioritize her wants and desires and only do things (and people) that feel good in the moment.

As she embarks on a pleasure-seeking quest that takes her halfway around the world, she discovers that maybe she can have everything, and everyone, she’s ever wanted.

Effortlessly hilarious and relatable, Claire Christian spins a fresh, uplifting story about starting over as a thirtysomething woman who’s been living life for everyone else. A story of self-discovery for the ages, Noni’s journey serves as a reminder that life is what we make of it—so why not enjoy it?

A friend of mine on social media posting a rave review of this book, and I knew I had to read it. It had all of the things I wanted:

Plus size Protagonist? Check!

Bisexual Representation? Check!

Early-Mid-Life Crisis? Check!

I wasn’t sure of the exact genre, but I quickly discovered that this was a women’s fiction novel.

One thing that I absolutely loved is that it starts showing the main character waking up after a night of drunken sex with someone she doesn’t know, and it’s a female firefighter.

Not long after, something sparks a fire in Noni and she decides to go to Europe. She wants to check off as many names on the “Should Have Banged” list, and she gets started on it before she ever leaves Australia.

What followed was a whimsical, silly, and sometimes just plain ridiculous (in a funny way) story of a woman in her mid-thirties trying to figure out exactly what she wants out of life. I really enjoyed it. It was hilarious and relatable (who hasn’t woken up one day and looked at themselves and said…wtf am I doing?)

I related to Noni on such a deep level. I think as women we often fall prey to living for others instead of living for ourselves. I know I did, until I went to therapy.

Overall, I really enjoyed the story. I almost wish it would have been a romance because y’all. There is a Viking in this story. He is big, beautiful, and a tattoo artist, and I wanted to see some heat between them. It wasn’t completely lacking, but it definitely wasn’t on par with some of the other stories I’ve been reading lately.

If you’re looking for a story that’s light, uplifting, will make you laugh and also dream of running off to Europe to find yourself, definitely check this one out.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Den of Vipers by K.A. Knight

Ryder, Garrett, Kenzo, and Diesel—The Vipers.
They run this town and everyone in it. Their deals are as sordid as their business, and their reputation is enough to bring a grown man to his knees, forcing him to beg for mercy. They are not people you mess with, yet my dad did. The old man ran up a debt with them and then sold me to cover his losses.
Yes, sold me.
They own me now.
I’m theirs in every sense of the word. But I’ve never been meek and compliant. These men, they look at me with longing. Their scarred, blood-stained hands holding me tight. They want everything I am, everything I have to give, and won’t stop until they get just that. They can own my body, but they will never have my heart.
The Vipers? I’m going to make them regret the day they took me.
This girl? She bites too.

I’m not giving this book another second of my time, so here’s the review I posted on Goodreads and Amazon: I wanted to like this book. I’ve heard rave reviews all over the place. The first two hundred or so pages were full of consent issues, but I was willing to suspend my belief a little extra as this is an indie author. But then Diesel stuck something that doesnt go in a body in an exit and I was immediately cold.

The problem in reverse harems is that there can’t quite be chemistry with all of them. Three of the relationships felt forced AF. Carve out Garrett’s story from the rest and I would have liked this. As it is, there is NO talk about consent. I’m not here to kink shame, so please don’t mistake my feelings for this. My understanding in the kink community is that consent and comfort is a HUGE thing. Safe words, conversations about limits, how to do things SANITARILY… all big things. This book was one big, fucked up orgy.

The content itself is a nightmare, but that’s not all.

I found so many little errors in formatting, grammar, and spelling. The first page of each chapter was hard to read and the author left randomly hanging sentences all over the place. There were even sections where a few words were repeated. I wonder if they even had someone proofread the work before publication. With such a strong, beautiful cover, I thought for sure the author would have invested in the content the same way. In the later chapters, instead of each chapter equaling one character, the author starts head hopping without any rhyme or reason. If the specific scenes were actually connected, sure, but they weren’t.

I skimmed the last 30 pages because I was done. This book is trash, the writing is trash, and I just don’t get the hype. (0/5 Stars)

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning

MacKayla Lane’s life is good. She has great friends, a decent job, and a car that breaks down only every other week or so. In other words, she’s your perfectly ordinary twenty-first-century woman. Or so she thinks . . . until something extraordinary happens.
When her sister is murdered, leaving a single clue to her death–a cryptic message on Mac’s cell phone—Mac journeys to Ireland in search of answers. The quest to find her sister’s killer draws her into a shadowy realm where nothing is as it seems, where good and evil wear the same treacherously seductive mask. She is soon faced with an even greater challenge: staying alive long enough to learn how to handle a power she had no idea she possessed—a gift that allows her to see beyond the world of man, into the dangerous realm of the Fae. . . .
As Mac delves deeper into the mystery of her sister’s death, her every move is shadowed by the dark, mysterious Jericho, a man with no past and only mockery for a future. As she begins to close in on the truth, the ruthless Vlane—an alpha Fae who makes sex an addiction for human women–closes in on her. And as the boundary between worlds begins to crumble, Mac’s true mission becomes clear: find the elusive Sinsar Dubh before someone else claims the all-powerful Dark Book—because whoever gets to it first holds nothing less than complete control of the very fabric of both worlds in their hands. . . .

This is another novel someone suggested in response to my call for Adult Fantasy books. Again, not quite what I was asking for, but…it’s fine.

This is apparently a very popular series. I’d never heard of it before, so I wasn’t sure what I was getting into.

Clearly, it’s not a high fantasy story. Instead, it’s a paranormal romance novel.

It’s soooo slow to start. The story takes forever to build up even though the hook is interesting–the main character’s sister is in Ireland and she’s dead! But once the MC gets to Ireland, there’s all of this secrecy and creepy shit. And a weird 30 something bookseller who acts like he’s about 54, yet he’s oddly sexy and rich as hell.

I’m a little salty about this book because I don’t appreciate it when an author insults my entire generation based on a stereotype. Especially whenever the audience you’re writing for IS that generation. I even looked up to see and, YEP, she’s a Boomer, but whatever. Go ahead and talk about how self involved we are and how the MC is just not because she doesn’t get wrapped up in her cell phone and the like. Please. Based on this alone, I wouldn’t read another of her books.

That said. The story itself is boring. The author spends so much time telling us about conversations that happen in between the scenes she actually shows us. And they’re important damn scenes too.

There really wasn’t an ending to the story. It really felt like everything was happening to the main character instead of her actively making decisions to engage in the world around her.

It was better than Den of Vipers, at least there wasn’t anything going where it shouldn’t. But…no. I just didn’t like it. I won’t read another one because by the time I reached halfway, I was just over it and reading it to finish since someone did suggest this to me.

If any of you have read this series, please let me know if you disagree with me. I just was not engaged in this story at all.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Guns & Smoke, Mental Health, Writing

Why You Gotta Be So Rude?

As spring comes upon us, that time has returned: what’s been up?

First and foremost, in February, Lauren and I revealed the cover for our upcoming novel, Guns & Smoke!

It was SUCH a joy to see everyone’s excitement for the cover reveal! We officially started our pre-order promotions. If you’re interested in finding out more, head over to my Guns & Smoke page for more information! We hope to have the paperback available for preorder soon. 🙂

Guns & Smoke was out for copyedits during the month of February. Being as this is my first time working with an editor, I was slightly nervous. I didn’t know what to expect. Guns & Smoke has seen many iterations and been edited and drafted what feels like a hundred times by this point. When the edits arrived, I was almost afraid to look. But, then… it was mostly clean up! The majority of our editor’s notes were punctuation (which I’ve learned I’m terrible at), word repetitions, and suggestions on how to make sentences more succinct.

At the same time, our novel was out to beta readers. This was the first time we’d put the project in front of readers since changing the genre from YA to Adult, and straight dystopian, to dystopian-western-romance. I usually don’t get nervous when it comes to a small group of people reading my books. I didn’t really this time. It’s only as we get further into the process that my fears and imposter syndrome start creeping up on me. Anyway, the point to this is to talk about our wonderful beta readers and the feedback that they gave to us. While it wasn’t all good, I really felt like the suggestions that we were given made a lot of sense.

We had a marathon work day recently where we finished up copyedits and did rewrites. As always, those days are physically and mentally exhausting, but they are also a ton of fun. The only problem is sometimes we get off task. What do you expect though? We have fun together!

Now, let’s take a list at my to do list from last month, and I’ll let you know how I did.

  1. Finish A Shield of Stars Rewrites
  2. Read The Anatomy of Prose: 12 Steps to Sensational Sentences (DONE) and 13 Steps to Evil: How to Craft Superbad Villians by Sacha Black
  3. Film videos for Lauren’s Authortube Channel
  4. Get marketing emails for indie bookstores sent
  5. Clean up edit of A Shield of Stars
  6. Film TikTok content
  7. Read A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J Maas
  8. Read A Vow So Bold & Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer
  9. Read Lore by Alexandra Bracken
  10. Social Media/Blog Prep for Guns & Smoke marketing

While I didn’t finish everything on my list, I did accomplish a lot. A Shield of Stars has been a bit of a thorn in my side because it seems once I find my stride, I hit another roadblock. A lot of it has been because I’m really struggling with my health and mental health lately. That’s part of why I titled this post “Why You Gotta Be So Rude?” Because my brain tries to trick me, and it’s really, really rude.

The biggest thing I’m trying to do right now is remind myself that I’m not some super human that can do everything, and to give myself a little grace. I’m also trying to sort out therapy right now, because my therapist had to take a professional break. I need to get myself back into it so I can be sure I’m taking care of me come time for the launch of Guns & Smoke!

I’ve taken on the task of proofreading Guns & Smoke. I just finished my first pass via a printed copy, and now I have to upload everything into the final draft so we can make those changes. She’s thicc yall.

So what does the next month hold?

I’m so glad you asked! (Just…go with it, eh? :))

  1. Create a realistic timeline for A Shield of Stars to have queries ready to go by the end of the year.
  2. Start my rewrites/developmental edits for A Shield of Stars
  3. Genre research reading (I have several books in the docket, so I won’t list them)
  4. Film a bunch of promo videos and create a coherent schedule of promo graphics
  5. Finish proofreading Guns & Smoke
  6. Create a coherent plan for partnership w/indie bookstore
  7. Schedule book tour(s) for G&S launch
  8. Build ARC team for G&S
  9. More marketing work for G&S
  10. Get back in the gym!
  11. Remember to take a breath!
  12. Writer’s Retreat Weekend!

I am especially excited for the last item on that list! Guns & Smoke is only the first book in a series (and sequel series, prequels, various novellas, it goes on and on and on), and we already have a base outline for the sequel novel! While we aren’t sure exactly when we plan to publish it, I’m hopeful it’ll be sometime next year.

That being said, Lauren and I booked an AirBnB in the middle of nowhere about an hour or so away from home where we can lock ourselves up for three and a half days and try to pump out as much of a draft as we can. It’s going to be a lot of fun!

Thanks for coming along on this crazy ride, my friends. It’s a pleasure.

Always,
Abbie

Writing

Sounds of Guns & Smoke

One thing that absolutely helps me get into the right writing mode is music. There are very few things in the world that can help inspire or set the mood better than music. That being said, I wanted to share my Spotify playlist with you all. This playlist includes a variety of music, from Taylor Swift to The Civil Wars to Billie Eilish to Hozier!

Sometimes, I get stuck on a single song and listen to it over and over and over again while I’m writing a specific scene. Once Guns & Smoke is published, I may come back and update this post with the songs and what scenes they go with.

My favorite one on the entire list is probably I Know Places by Taylor Swift. The vibe of that entire song really highlights one of my favorite scenes of Guns & Smoke and I’m dying to share that with everyone!

Are there any songs on this playlist that you haven’t heard before? Overall, there is a clear country theme, because the setting is very similar to the Old West! Let me know your favorite song on the list and I just might give you a teaser of the scene it inspired!

Thanks,
Abbie

Book Review

February Book Reviews

Information in a Nutshell: Business Tips and Taxes for Writers by Carol Topp

New for 2018, covers the new tax laws and a new section for bloggers. Are you a writer serious about making money and keeping it? Business Tips and Taxes for Writers takes the mystery out of the tax code and allows you to understand the business of being an author. You will learn:>The best business structure for writers>Special tax breaks for writers>Legitimate tax deductions>Writing as a ministry>Bloggers and record keeping musts>Simple and easy record keeping>Dealing with inventory and sales tax, and so much more! This informative book will help you keep your hard earned money and have the peace of mind associated with doing it correctly! 

As I am going to be self publishing a book this year, I wanted to try and get ahead so that next year, I don’t have any issues when it comes to the dreaded tax word. While I don’t usually read a lot of non-fiction, as a business owner in a sense, it’s important to be prepared for important things like taxes.

I ended up skipping chunks of the book that didn’t really apply to my situation. It gave me a little more information than what I knew before, which is a great thing, as far as what forms to file and the types of things that can be considered tax deductions.

For the size of the book, I found it to be slightly overpriced, but I understand that it takes money to make books. This one will be going on my resource shelf. Before I read this, I already started compiling receipts and other important things so that I could file properly next year.

Obviously, the best place to go with tax questions and concerns is a CPA, and I fully intend on doing that next year. I can do my taxes for my day job, but this is something that I’m definitely not versed enough to do. Soooooo when Guns & Smoke comes out later this year, could you all buy a dozen copies so that I actually have income to report for 2021? 😀

Taxes are such a confusing thing, mainly because I feel like we should have had an “Adult Life Skills” class in high school. You know, taxes, basic information about loans (student loans are predatory AF), how to make a budget, how to save. These are all skills that I’ve had to pick up over the years. Instead of focusing on the Pythagorean theorem, maybe spend a little extra time teaching our students things they’ll actually need? Okay, rant over. Thanks for coming to my TED talk.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Rebel Rose by Emma Theriault

Happily ever after is only the beginning as Belle takes on the responsibility of becoming queen and learns to balance duty, love, and sacrifice, all while navigating dark political intrigue—and a touch of magic.

It’s 1789 and France is on the brink of revolution. Belle has finally broken the Enchantress’s curse, restoring the Beast to his human form and bringing life back to their castle in the province of Aveyon. But in Paris, the fires of change are burning, and it’s only a matter of time before the rebellion arrives on their doorstep.

Not so very long ago, Belle dreamed of leaving her provincial home for a life of adventure. But now she finds herself living in a palace, torn between her past as a commoner, and her future as royalty. While Belle grapples with her newfound position, there are those who would do anything to keep her from power.

When she stumbles across a magic mirror that holds a dire warning, Belle wants nothing more than to ignore the mysterious voice calling her to accept a crown she never desired. But violent factions of the revolution may already be lurking within her own castle, and doing nothing would endanger everything she holds dear. With the fate of her country, her love, and her life at stake, Belle must decide if she is ready to embrace her own strength–and the magic that ties her to so many female rulers before her–to become the queen she is meant to be.

Rebel Rose is the first in the Queen’s Council series, an empowering fairy tale reimagining of the Disney Princesses-and the real history behind their stories-like you’ve never seen before. 

I’ve seen this book all over my social media pages lately, so I’ve wanted to read it, but it wasn’t totally a priority for me. I tend to read books in tandem with their e-books because it can be difficult to carry the hard copy around with me to work, the doctor’s etc.

Anyways. I won a copy of this book off of twitter, and once the ebook came available through the library, I ran for it!

First off, I would like to say that Beauty and the Beast is my second favorite Disney fairytale. I’ve always loved Belle. Her reprise is the single best song in any Disney movie.

I want adventure in the great, wide somewhere… I want it more than I can tell!

Like come on, how could any bookish person not want that?!

Anyways. I had no idea what the book was about before I started reading it. I’ll admit, I thought it was a retelling or a reimagining similar to A Curse So Dark and Lonely. Howeverrrrr… it was not. It was a direct continuation of Beauty and the Beast from the original Disney story, with bits that I feel were put in as a result of the Disney live action version (Gaston and returning from the war!). I really wanted to like it.

What we find is that the end of Beauty and the Beast is not all happily ever after.

Bella and Lio (the Beast. I thought he was Adam, but…?) are going to Paris to visit a cousin and indoctrinate themselves in with the French court. But the story starts around the time that King Louis and Marie Antionette are facing severe backlash from the commoners (which eventually leads to a lot of French royals losing their heads…hey revolution!).

I wanted to like this. I wanted to like it a lot. It is definitely a cute story about Belle and the Beast and what happens later. It’s very realistic because as French nobles, they would be faced with a lot of the historical issues facing France at the time.

For my tastes, to put it simply, there was too much of French politics and not enough romance! I need a book that has a good romantic storyline, one that makes me want to keep reading all of the way through and…this…just…wasn’t? It’s not a bad story. I think it has potential to be a very good series, but since the main character and her prince are already hooked up, where’s the romance? That’s just my opinion, honestly. If you don’t like romance and want to see what happened after the Happily Ever After, this just might be the story for you. For me, it wasn’t. I rated it three stars because I felt as though the story was really well written. I found myself getting caught up in the prose in ways I usually don’t in books. The author did a really wonderful job of writing the story. Three stars for me, but it might be something you like!

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Anatomy of Prose by Sacha Black

Do your sentences fail to sound the way you want? Are they lackluster, with flat characters and settings? Is your prose full of bad habits and crutches?

In The Anatomy of Prose, you’ll discover: 

A step-by-step guide to creating descriptions that sing, The key to crafting character emotions that will hook a reader, How to harness all five senses to make your stories come alive, deepening your reader’s experience Tips and tricks for balancing details at the sentence level, Methods for strengthening each sentence through strategic word choice, rhythm and flow
Dozens of literary devices, and how to utilize them to give your prose power
Tactics for differentiating characters in dialogue as well as making it punchy and unforgettable, A comprehensive prose-specific self-editing check list, How to embody your character’s personality at the sentence level, The most common pitfalls and mistakes to avoid 

The Anatomy of Prose is a comprehensive writing guide that will help you create sensational sentences. Whether you’re just starting out or are a seasoned writer, this book will power up your prose, eliminate line-level distractions and help you find the perfect balance of show and tell. By the end of this book, you’ll know how to strengthen your sentences to give your story, prose and characters the extra sparkle they need to capture a reader’s heart.

If you like dark humor, learning through examples and want to create perfect prose, then you’ll love Sacha Black’s guide to crafting sensational sentences. Read The Anatomy of Prose today and start creating kick-ass stories.

Yay! Another craft book! I joined the Rebel Authors group on Facebook a while back. Sacha Black is one of the main admins, and a close friend recommended reading a couple of her craft books. So, here we are!

One thing I have struggled with is finding the right craft books. I’ve read some that I’ve hated (Anatomy of Story UGH), I really enjoy the ones that feel like the author is speaking right down into my soul. From the onset of the book, I appreciated that Black doesn’t shy away from swear words, and she is able to put her tips and advice in a coherent form that doesn’t feel stunted or like she’s talking down to you. From the first chapter, I knew that I would like this book.

While I won’t go into all of the details, because there is so much that she talks about, one of the early points she made is to become a better writer, you have to read. Not just read, but read with purpose. I’ve never thought about that before. She suggested that if you find something you really like in another story, mark it, save it, and analyze it later so you can decided why you like it, and how you can use that in your own writing. I read a lot. Most of the time, I just read for enjoyment, but after reading The Anatomy of Prose, I fully intend on reading with purpose.

Sacha has a line of craft books targeted at authors. I also purchased a copy of her villians book, and I can’t wait to get started on that one.

One thing I regret is that I didn’t plan properly when I started reading this so I could annotate and mark the book up when I found something that I liked. Not that I’m complaining, I will definitely be reading this again soon so that I can mark up the parts that really spoke to me. I hate actually writing in books, but I feel like this is one case where I can make an exception.

I’ve also been a member of Sacha’s Rebel Authors Facebook group. She does so much for the writing community, including a podcast. I can’t wait to start it! I have to finish catching up on five years of My Favorite Murder before I can take on another podcast, but I really cannot wait to get into the Rebel Authors podcast.

One thing you have to do is a writer is keep learning, keep pushing, keep writing. I love when I find a good craft book that doesn’t feel stuffy or that you’re being talked down to. I also love people that have a potty mouth like me, so I feel like Sacha and I would be great friends if given the chance. If you’re looking for a good book that gives you tips and tricks on how to be a better writer at the sentence level, definitely check this out! Don’t let the size of the book intimidate you. It is a very fast read (I read it basically over the course of a weekend), and Sacha has so many good things that every writer could learn from this book!

Rating: 5 out of 5.
This poetry collection captures the essence of early adulthood–the romantic and sexual relationships, the hopefulness, the despair, and the eventual self-acceptance. The tone shifts back and forth between romantic, angry, nostalgic, inspirational, and even humorous. With these poems, the author depicts all her failed attempts at love (with many boys, and one very special girl), while always trying to remain confident in the belief that who she is is, in fact, enough. These poems are for anyone who’s had their heart broken and managed to love again. And for anyone who’s just doing their best to navigate their way through this messy world.

I’ve been friends with Tammy for several years. When I saw that she was publishing a book of poetry, I knew I would have to buy it. I don’t usually read poetry, but I love supporting my friends. I purchased my copy last year right before the world went to hell. It sat on my dresser for months. I just couldn’t bring myself to pick it up.

Finally, when I was looking for something that didn’t require tons of hours of reading, I decided to read it, and I am really glad that I did.

Tammy and I are roughly the same age. I found a lot of her poems managed to capture the experience of a mid-2000s millennial like myself. She wrote about love and coffee and loneliness. There were so many poems throughout that I related to. It was almost like I could have written those words. What I love most is that she didn’t shy away from the hard stuff. The regret when you reach your thirties and you still aren’t married with children–even if it’s not something you’re sure you want, society still puts that pressure on you. I finished reading this in two sittings, and let me tell you, I walked away from it feeling a little less alone. It’s easy to sometimes get inside of your own head, especially when you think about all of the things you’re not or don’t have. I feel like I got to know my friend a little better. Poetry is a very different medium to novel writing. Of course it doesn’t take as much to devour the words, but I really felt like her poems struck me. I found myself nodding along with them, agreeing with them. I really love that she didn’t shy away from the hard stuff. If you’re looking for something that’s a lighter read, but also has plenty of mid-2000s references, talks about love and loss, sprinkled with some feministic thoughts, please pick up a copy!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Whatever, Jerk by Nikki Paris

Dani
Danica Lynn Jepson is a failure. That’s right, I said it. I had my shot at life, and I failed. My fame is gone, my money is gone, and the stutter that I spent years in speech therapy trying to control is rearing its ugly head. I think my parents still like me, maybe my best friend, and sometimes my dog, but that’s it. One thing’s for sure; my sexy new neighbor can’t stand me. It’s fine, though, because he’s a jerk and the feeling is mutual.
Connor
Princess Dani is a brat. She and her pretty blonde hair and mind-numbing ass can just go back to wherever they came from. I don’t need her all up in my space, making me think about things I shouldn’t be thinking about. It’s my fault that I lost the love of my life two years ago, and I plan on living in my self-assigned purgatory for the next forever. And just so we’re clear, if I ever did decide to move on, it wouldn’t be with Dani.

I recently started using my TikTok account as an author platform. What’s really cool is all of the authors I’ve been able to connect with. I won a copy of this book from Nikki by interacting with her account.

While I would like to start with a disclaimer, I also want to be sure that I’m being honest. Disclaimer: contemporary romance isn’t my favorite genre. I enjoy romance of just about any kind, but I am especially looking for diverse romances in the contemporary sphere (interracial, LGBTQ+, etc.). That being said, Whatever, Jerk was a cute, quirky standard contemporary romance. The main characters, Dani and Connor, both annoyed the hell out of me in the beginning. That happens when characters are stubborn and in denial about attraction.

It took me a little bit to get into the story because I didn’t really like the main characters. Once Connor’s nephew, Marshall, was introduced, however, the story picked up. Maybe it’s because I have nephews and so a little piece of me melted when I saw how Connor behaved with his nephew as opposed to nearly everyone else in his life.

As a writer myself, it’s really easy to be critical of another’s writing. I found the story lacked when it came to showing and not telling. Most of the time, I felt like I was in a black box and I didn’t know anything about the scene around the characters. While I love what the author has done to create a brand for herself, I also would like to see more descriptions and more showing in her other stuff. That being said, props for indie publishing! Writing is hard, publishing is hard, and to have the confidence to do it takes a LOT. Mad respect for anyone who is an indie published author. While diverse stories were one thing I wanted to add to my reading list this year, I also wanted to add more indies! If you’re looking for a casual easy contemporary romance, be sure to check this out! I believe it’s on Kindle Unlimited, too!

Rating: 3 out of 5.

13 Steps to Evil: How to Craft Superbad Villains by Sacha Black

Your hero is not the most important character in your book. Your villain is.
 
Are you fed up of drowning in two-dimensional villains? Frustrated with creating clichés? And failing to get your reader to root for your villain?
  
In 13 Steps to Evil, you’ll discover: 
How to develop a villain’s mindset
A step-by-step guide to creating your villain from the ground up
Why getting to the core of a villain’s personality is essential to make them credible 
What pitfalls and clichés to avoid as well as the tropes your story needs
Finally, there is a comprehensive writing guide to help you create superbad villains. Whether you’re just starting out or are a seasoned writer, this book will help power up your bad guy and give them that extra edge.

These lessons will help you master and control your villainous minions, navigate and gain the perfect balance of good and evil, as well as strengthening your villain to give your story the tension and punch it needs.
 
If you like dark humour, learning through examples and want to create the best villains you can, then you’ll love Sacha Black’s guide to crafting superbad villains. Read 13 Steps to Evil today and start creating kick-ass villains.

I completed a project back in November for National Novel Writing Month.

From the time I finished, I knew that the villian in the story was weak. When I purchased Sacha Black’s Anatomy of a Story, I also purchased a copy of this book. I needed to figure out my villian’s purpose so I could then finish actually writing the story.

Once again, I love Sacha’s fresh voice and that she doesn’t shy away from slang and swear words. Her examples of villians in popular culture made it simpler for me to understand villian arcs. She also has a great section on anti-heroes.

Through reading Sacha’s craft books, I feel like I have a better understanding of creating characters and creating prose that is not only entertaining to read, but reads really well. I’ve also finally gotten started on the Rebel Authors podcast. While I’m only a few episodes in, I can already tell that it’s going to provide a lot of great resources for authors. You should definitely check it out.

While reading this book, I was able to give my villian their own arc and motivation. Their motivations were shakey at best in the original manuscript, but now they have a backstory and the right motivation. In taking the time to craft my villian, I’ve been able to add an extra layer to the story to make it believable and interesting to readers.

One thing I’ve always struggled with it finding craft books that read well and make sense. A lot of the popular craft books out there make me feel like I’m being talked down to. Sacha’s books are the complete opposite.

I feel as though I should do a post specifically on craft books for writers. I’ve been able to learn so much over the last six months or so about writing craft, story structure, and character building. I may do something like this in the future if anyone is interested.

All in all, if you’re looking for a craft book to help you with villians, anti-heroes, and antagonists, definitely check out Sacha’s Better Writers series.

Also, if you have suggestions on craft books you love, please drop them in the comments! I am absolutely looking for any and every resource that could help me be a better writer!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Wicked King by Holly Black

You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.

The first lesson is to make yourself strong.

After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.

When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.

So I liked the Cruel Prince, I didn’t quite love it. I’ve heard so much about the slow enemies to lovers romance, so I decided to stick it out and keep reading.

From the get go of this book, Jude is intense. Like, I really didn’t enjoy a lot of the stuff that she had to do from a political fae standpoint. I liked the push and pull between she and Cardan. I definitely enjoyed the heat between them (however few scenes of it there were). I didn’t really like the whole kidnapping plot. It felt a little unrealistic for me. I didn’t get why the water queen (whatever her name was lol) would immediately go for kidnapping Jude. I guess it’s because the one who betrayed her told them. BUT. They could have also told them about Jude’s control over Cardan. Maybe I missed it and that was something she didn’t share with her spies. I dunno.

Her sisters really annoy me. Vivi, I can somewhat understand her actions, but Taryn is annoying as all get out. I don’t understand her motivations. I don’t understand how you can literally share a womb with someone, grow up as their best friend and main confidante in a world where you’re not wanted, and betray them like Taryn betrayed Jude. Maybe it’s something that will be explored more in the third book, but it felt really unnatural for me.

Now. The Ending. I won’t post details here, but basically it was a twist boom bang like the first book in the series. It wasn’t necessarily bad. But it wasn’t necessarily good either. I have a tendency for softness when it comes to the ‘bad’ characters, so I’d like to believe that this character’s motivations are one thing, but then again, he’s a faerie and I just don’t know.

I’ll be reading the third one, simply to see how it all ends, but I’m not too sure about reading much else by this author. I wish this story lived up to the hype a little more. Maybe it’s because it’s YA, but the hype seems a little overdone based on what I’ve read so far. Maybe the last book will change my opinion.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J Maas

Nesta Archeron has always been prickly-proud, swift to anger, and slow to forgive. And ever since being forced into the Cauldron and becoming High Fae against her will, she’s struggled to find a place for herself within the strange, deadly world she inhabits. Worse, she can’t seem to move past the horrors of the war with Hybern and all she lost in it.

The one person who ignites her temper more than any other is Cassian, the battle-scarred warrior whose position in Rhysand and Feyre’s Night Court keeps him constantly in Nesta’s orbit. But her temper isn’t the only thing Cassian ignites. The fire between them is undeniable, and only burns hotter as they are forced into close quarters with each other.

Meanwhile, the treacherous human queens who returned to the Continent during the last war have forged a dangerous new alliance, threatening the fragile peace that has settled over the realms. And the key to halting them might very well rely on Cassian and Nesta facing their haunting pasts.

Against the sweeping backdrop of a world seared by war and plagued with uncertainty, Nesta and Cassian battle monsters from within and without as they search for acceptance-and healing-in each other’s arms.

This was my most anticipated read of 2021.

Warning: there are spoilers, so please do not read further if you haven’t finished ACOSF.

It’s been about two years since the novella, A Court of Frost and Starlight dropped, and it literally was just a tease into the next book.

Enter. Nessian.

The first time I read the ACOTAR series, I read it for Feyre and Rhysand. Their love story was incredible. I fell in love with it just like most of the rest of the world. The second time, I fell in love with Cassian. Cassian…and how he was with Nesta. I know a lot of folks out there hate Nesta. They didn’t see why she should get her own book. That’s the thing about well written characters: they have shades of gray, layers, and things hidden beneath the hard exterior that deserve to be delved into.

I am so glad that Sarah wrote this novel.

First off, she thicc. This book is 750 pages. And a lot of it is SMUT. And. I. Am. Here. For. It. I knew that Nesta and Cassian would be dirty. That did not disappoint. This book was everything that I wanted when it came to exploring Nesta: her trauma, her journey, her redemption. I adore her. I adored reading her perspective and seeing how she sees Cassian. I loved seeing the way she affected Cassian with simply a look. The two of them being locked together in the House of Wind was super fun.

That being said, there are a few things I had problems with.

First off, didn’t we cancel Tamlin for keeping Feyre essentially locked up and locked out? Isn’t that the same thing Rhysand did in this book? Come on, you can say all you want he was “trying to protect” her but if it was Tamlin doing this shit, everyone would be cancelling him all over again. I did not like this plot point. I didn’t like the *SPOILER* pregnancy plot point, but we knew it was coming based off of TOG and ACOFAS, plus Sarah was pregnant around the time she wrote this.

Secondly. Where was Mor? There’s been a lot of dialogue around Maas’s lack of diversity. She doesn’t have many POC characters (and even then, they’re side characters) and she has literally one main LGBTQ+ character. In ACOWAR, she revealed that Mor prefers females, which is why she never pursued Azriel. In ACOWAR, she told us through dialogue with Mor and Feyre that Mor preferred females. She didn’t show us. You can tell me all you want, I won’t believe it until I see it. (She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named saying Dumbledore is gay instead of showing it in the text is the same damn thing) That being said, Mor is barely in ACOSF. She’s absent so much that it feels like Sarah didn’t want to write her into this one. As if she were avoiding writing Mor. I was incredibly disappointed. Mor couldn’t have been doing that much in another territory to have such a small role in this book. And even when she was in the chapters, she wasn’t the Mor we already know. I have a feeling the next book will be Azriel. And if there isn’t more Mor, I dunno how I’m going to feel about it.

There were two bonus chapters in a couple of the editions of the books. If you haven’t read them, you may want to find them and read them if you don’t want spoilers.

The Feysand one was typical Feysand, I don’t have any comments or complaints. The Azriel one, however… I have some thoughts. Firstly, if Elain is interested in Az, great, let me see it, and then let’s go. But I feel like this is the only time there’s even been a glimpse of something between them other than him being protective of her. That being said, the argument between Rhysand and Az sort of pissed me off. Az’s comment about there being three of the Archeron sisters and three of Illyrians really made me bristle. He is not owed anything, and that’s how it felt to me. I’ve always liked Az. I almost wish I hadn’t read this bonus chapter because it gave me a bitter taste in my mouth about him. That being said, I really hope he and Gwyn have a romance. I’d love to see her be able to work through her trauma and for Az to have a happy ending. His shadow didn’t retreat from her. That has to mean something.

Alright. I thoroughly enjoyed ACOSF. I loved everything about it. I wish the mate moment had been bigger, but let’s be real, we all knew they were mates since before Nesta was even fae.

I can’t wait to see what Maas does next. Let’s hope she fixes some of her problematic stuff, because I hate seeing people fight about it.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A Vow So Bold and Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer

Face your fears, fight the battle.
Emberfall is crumbling fast, torn between those who believe Rhen is the rightful prince and those who are eager to begin a new era under Grey, the true heir. Grey has agreed to wait two months before attacking Emberfall, and in that time, Rhen has turned away from everyone–even Harper, as she desperately tries to help him find a path to peace.

Fight the battle, save the kingdom.
Meanwhile, Lia Mara struggles to rule Syhl Shallow with a gentler hand than her mother. But after enjoying decades of peace once magic was driven out of their lands, some of her subjects are angry Lia Mara has an enchanted prince and a magical scraver by her side. As Grey’s deadline draws nearer, Lia Mara questions if she can be the queen her country needs.

As the two kingdoms come closer to conflict, loyalties are tested, love is threatened, and an old enemy resurfaces who could destroy them all, in this stunning conclusion to bestselling author Brigid Kemmerer’s Cursebreaker series.

Alright. So if you read my January reviews, you know I have thoughts about this series. That didn’t stop with the second book.

I wanted to like this. I was hoping after the disappointments I felt in the second book, that this one would turn things around.

Oh boy, was I wrong.

What did I like? Grey. Grey is the best character in this entire world. He is honorable and kind, but fierce and loyal when he has to be. I’ve loved Grey since the very first book. I always shipped he and Harper. When Harper remained behind and Grey left Emberfall, I was really upset. The two of them had this chemistry, but yet…she and Rhen? I’ve never bought the romance between Rhen and Harper. It didn’t feel natural to me in the first book. It didn’t feel natural to me all through the series.

I can’t stand Lia Mara. She is the most annoying character in the entire series, and I find it hard to believe that people would follow her. She and Grey’s romance is absolutely not believable. Again, I wish the author would have made her an ace character, so that Grey could still get a romance with Harper and an alliance with Syhl Shallow.

The best part about the ending was Rhen and Grey reconciling and showing their brotherly love for one another. But the rest of it left me feeling unsettled, like the story isn’t really over yet. I didn’t like where it ended. I wanted to feel for Rhen. I wanted to root for him by the end, but it almost feels like I got cheated.

All in all, this was a pretty depressing finale to this trilogy. It had good parts–don’t mistake me. If you’re looking for a story that’s well written in a fantasy world, please read it. I just have a bad taste in my mouth because it wasn’t a satisfactory ending to the series for me. I tend to be a little more critical of stories than most. A lot of people love the series. More power to them. The only way I’ll pick up something else from this author is if it has Grey in it. He’s perfect. But the rest of the characters are…not.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

As always, thanks for reading,
Abbie

Writing

Guns & Smoke: COVER REVEAL + PRE-ORDER!

I’ve been writing for nearly as long as I can remember. While the goal has always been to be a published author, what’s more important to me is writing worthwhile stories.

That being said, having your name on a book is FREAKING COOL. Without further ado, I present, the cover for my upcoming co-authored novel: Guns & Smoke!

ISN’T IT GORGEOUS?! One of the cool things about self publishing is that you get more say over your book cover than you would as a traditionally published author. In traditional publishing, your publisher owns the book and has final say. When Lauren and I first drafted this story (back when it was called A Fool’s Adventure), we imagined having a cover with one of the characters on the front, and while it would have been really cool, I have to say that I ADORE this cover! Our cover artist, the lovely Stefanie Saw of SeventhStar art, took our concept ideas and made it into something we are so proud of!

One of the things that I really love is that we can carry this theme forward into the rest of the books in the series! Guns & Smoke is a labor of love that has been many years in the making for Lauren and I, and we are so excited to be able to share this with you all!

Guns & Smoke releases platform wide on July 10, 2021! You can pre-order the e-book NOW by following the links below!

Thanks for reading,
Abbie

Writing

Rewrites and Edits and Books, Oh My!

It’s that time again: another writing update!

Last month, I wrote all about the current status of my projects, that I had lots of stuff in the works. So what’s been up?

Well, in January, the biggest item on my to-do list was to complete developmental edits for Guns & Smoke. Because we are publishing this summer, we are on a strict schedule. We acquired our copyedit/line editor in mid-January, which gave us a hard deadline of completing the developmental edits of January 31st. We had to send the draft to our editor and beta readers on February 1st. I finished the majority of my edits by the last week of January. While Lauren was completing her edits, I had do a read through and look at ways we could cut the word count down. When I finally got to this stage, I realized that it was going to take a lot more time than I initially anticipated.

So, on a Friday night, once Lauren put her little one to bed, we brewed a pot of coffee and got to work. I marathon-edited until about 3 AM the next morning. Slept a couple of hours, and then got back to it. We worked almost all the way through until 1 AM on Sunday with only like a two hour break for a shower (because…we did not smell the best lol). While it was time consuming and stressful, it was also some of the most fun I’ve ever had when it comes to writing/working on my craft. The exhaustion the next day was totally worth it. And while the version that went to betas and the editor wasn’t a finished work, I had such a great time getting through it!

For February, we are working mostly on marketing and pre-work for the sequel book. We are also revealing the cover for Guns & Smoke soon, so be on the lookout for that on February 20th!

Originally, I planned on trying to have my developmental/rewrites done on A Shield of Stars by February, but it didn’t work out that way. I did a chapter by chapter outline for all of the rewrites in early January. My overall plan is to have the manuscript ready to send to agents by August at the latest. I did acquire an editor to help me with my Query Development package and the first twenty pages of my manuscript in late June. So I have until then to get the project query ready. I am really excited, but also slightly intimidated. I’ve also begun researching agents and compiling a spreadsheet of those I think will make a good fit for the work.

All of that being said, here are my goals for the rest of February:

  1. Finish A Shield of Stars Rewrites
  2. Read The Anatomy of Prose: 12 Steps to Sensational Sentences (DONE) and 13 Steps to Evil: How to Craft Superbad Villians by Sacha Black
  3. Film videos for Lauren’s Authortube Channel
  4. Get marketing emails for indie bookstores sent
  5. Clean up edit of A Shield of Stars
  6. Film TikTok content
  7. Read A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J Maas
  8. Read A Vow So Bold & Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer
  9. Read Lore by Alexandra Bracken
  10. Social Media/Blog Prep for Guns & Smoke marketing

So, as you can see, a busy rest of the month! Next month, we’ll be working through copy/line edits of Guns & Smoke at the same time that we review feedback from the beta readers. I really can’t wait until you all get to read this book. It’s slightly more mature than I thought I’d be writing, but…whatever. I enjoy romance, and I think the world and story surrounding that romance is so rich and perfect and amazing.

Thanks,
Abbie

Book Review

January Book Reviews

Since I read so much, it’s nearly impossible to write individual blogs on every single book. So beginning in 2021, I decided to compile a single blog post and include everything that I finished reading in the month. Here is what I read in January!

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.

France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever―and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.

I don’t read contemporary or literary fiction that often. I tend to stick to the Fantasy genre mostly. However, this book kept popping up on all of my social media feeds. I saw reviews where readers said the story absolutely destroyed them. Every now and then, I want something that’s going to make me feel emotional and, dare I say it, make me cry. I wanted to cry for this, but it didn’t happen.

The structure of the story itself is a little jarring at first. The reader follows Addie LaRue in two separate timelines — starting in 1714 and 2014. The base premise of the story is that she makes a deal to get out of having to marry, but, as all sane people know, any sort of magic comes with a price. In exchange for getting her out of the deal, Luc’s magic causes everyone who has ever met and will ever meet to forget Addie. She is, quite literally, invisible. Until… she meets Henry. Their love story is actually incredibly sweet. I wish they’d spent more time in the details of the present day storyline instead of so much revisiting the past. Maybe I would have felt more emotional in the end. Would I recommend it? Sure, if you like an interesting contemporary story with some interesting twists.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles

In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Where Dreams Descend is the startling and romantic first book in Janella Angeles’ debut Kingdom of Cards fantasy duology where magic is both celebrated and feared, and no heart is left unscathed.

Over the last few years, I have lived for YA Fantasy. From THE RED QUEEN to ACOTAR, to THESE REBEL WAVES, YA Fantasy has been my jam. However, 2020 was a bit of a down year for me in reading. The majority of my normal authors didn’t have new releases. I ended up venturing away from the genre. WHERE DREAMS DESCEND was another book that kept popping up on my socials as a suggested read. To be honest, while the story was interesting and endearing, it felt almost as though the plotline wasn’t completely flushed out. And it left on a huge cliffhanger with literally no answers. A story at least needs to have some sort of resolution or wrap up. I believe the sequel novel to this one has already come out, but I was left with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. I do like the circus theme, but I found the main characters to fall a little flat. I would have much preferred to follow the members of the Conquering Circus. If you like circus and magic themed stories, this might be one to consider. While it was lackluster compared to other YA Fantasy novels I read last year, I wouldn’t turn anyone away that wanted to read it.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Written in the Stars by Alexandra Bellefleur

After a disastrous blind date, Darcy Lowell is desperate to stop her well-meaning brother from playing matchmaker ever again. Love—and the inevitable heartbreak—is the last thing she wants. So she fibs and says her latest set up was a success. Darcy doesn’t expect her lie to bite her in the ass.

Elle Jones, one of the astrologers behind the popular Twitter account Oh My Stars, dreams of finding her soul mate. But she knows it is most assuredly not Darcy… a no-nonsense stick-in-the-mud, who is way too analytical, punctual, and skeptical for someone as free-spirited as Elle. When Darcy’s brother—and Elle’s new business partner—expresses how happy he is that they hit it off, Elle is baffled. Was Darcy on the same date? Because… awkward.

Darcy begs Elle to play along and she agrees to pretend they’re dating. But with a few conditions: Darcy must help Elle navigate her own overbearing family during the holidays and their arrangement expires on New Year’s Eve. The last thing they expect is to develop real feelings during a faux relationship. But maybe opposites can attract when true love is written in the stars?

I write in the Adult Fantasy genre, mostly Romance, so I have invested a lot of time and energy into researching books in the genre. The biggest problem that I have is the lack of LGBTQ+ representation in the genre. This has led me to read more contemporary books (RED, WHITE, & ROYAL BLUE was an amazing M/M romance!!). I had no idea what WRITTEN IN THE STARS was about, but some of the reviews that I saw really spoke to my little pansexual heart. We need more stories about LGBTQ+ people where coming out isn’t the obstacle they have to overcome. This one was exactly that! A modern day spin on Pride & Prejudice, Bellefleur’s enemies-to-lovers F/F romance was a joy and a delight to read. She managed to hit way too close to home on some of my personal trauma issues, but that’s the point to literature! You want to make people feel something when they read, and I had alllll the feels when reading this! Darcy and Elle are the perfect example of opposites attract. This book made my little pansexual heart flutter!! I enjoyed this read immensely and look forward to anything further that Bellefleur writes!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

Fall in love, break the curse.

It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

A friend recommended this book to me. I’ve seen it before, but never really looked into it. I added it to my Goodreads and Amazon book wish list. Surprise! I won a gift from an AuthorToker who would gift me something from my wish list. This was the book she chose!

Imagine my surprise when I started reading this book and found that the premise hooked me pretty quickly. I knew that this was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I didn’t expect it to be such a fresh, new perspective on the BATB storyline. You’ve got Harper, a badass female protagonist who gets sucked into an entirely different world against her will. Only to be faced with the fact that she is there to break a curse. She’s obsinate and stubborn, but so incredibly kind. We follow her journey in Emberfall, watch as she and the Prince learn how to work together to save his kingdom, and even entertain that there could be a love triangle between Harper, Prince Rhen and the Captain of the Guard Grey (Hellooooo Grey. I’ve had a thing for Captains of the Guard since THRONE OF GLASS heheh). I love that it followed the same basic premise as BATB, but it continued to add little elements and things that I absolutely adore. One of my favorite things about this one was that the MC had a disability-cerebral palsy. But it wasn’t something that held her back from being a badass! I definitely recommend this one if you’re looking for a fresh take on an old favorite, or if you’re just looking for a new YA Fantasy series to get into. I can’t wait to read the sequel!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.

Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee, and finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her step sisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all–and in the process, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew . . .

This fresh take on a classic story will make readers question the tales they’ve been told, and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them.

This year, I promised myself that I would read more diverse books. I fell into the whirlpool that is the straight, CIS, white world of Fantasy stories. While I was researching LGBTQ+ stories, I came across this title. I saw many rave reviews, so I decided to add it. This story is a fresh take on Cinderella. It is full of brown queer girls set out to take down a terrible patriarchal society. I loved the fresh spin on the Cinderella fairy tale! Cinderella has always been my favorite fairy tale. In Lille, the story of Cinderella is the same as the one you and I know. Only, it’s a lie. The author explores what life would be like for women in Cinderella’s world 200 years after she died, and shows that happily ever after isn’t always what happens. I love fairytales. I took a foundations of children’s literature class in college as an elective, because I love it so much. Fairytales were created as cautionary tales for children, so I loved how this author took that same principle and applied it to this story. While personally, I wanted a little bit more action when it came to the climax, I still feel like it was a very well written story with badass, diverse women. If you’re looking for a good LGBTQ+ YA Fantasy story, this one is for you!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer

Find the heir, win the crown.
The curse is finally broken, but Prince Rhen of Emberfall faces darker troubles still. Rumors circulate that he is not the true heir and that forbidden magic has been unleashed in Emberfall. Although Rhen has Harper by his side, his guardsman Grey is missing, leaving more questions than answers.

Win the crown, save the kingdom.
Grey may be the heir, but he doesn’t want anyone to know his secret. On the run since he destroyed Lilith, he has no desire to challenge Rhen–until Karis Luran once again threatens to take Emberfall by force. Her own daughter Lia Mara sees the flaws in her mother’s violent plan, but can she convince Grey to stand against Rhen, even for the good of Emberfall?

The heart-pounding, compulsively readable saga continues as loyalties are tested and new love blooms in a kingdom on the brink of war.

I managed to get the sequel to A Curse So Dark and Lonely on Amazon for like $9! I love when I can get a good price for a book I was already going to buy. The last chapter of the original work left on a slight cliffhanger. Even I, queen of predicting plot twists, did not see this one coming. For those who want to read the first book, I won’t spoil it. However, this book follows Prince Rhen’s captain in the guard, who learned a very dangerous secret at the end of the first book. The sequel follows his journey to accept who he is and gives him a chance at love. When I read the first book, I totally shipped Grey and Harper. They had a little spark–one that I felt Rhen and Harper were missing. I truly wanted Harper and Grey to get together, and for Rhen and the magesmith who cursed him to become hardcore enemies to lovers. Sadly, that did not come to pass. Instead, we are introduced to a new character–the daughter of a neighboring queen, who stupidly gets herself captured and then escapes and then she and Grey become friends and eventually–dun dun dun–love interests. If Lia Mara had been a more interesting character, I wouldn’t have been so disappointed in this book. I ADORE Grey. He is such an incredible character. There were moments when reading that I had to pause because he’s such a great person, and he shows that characters have shades of gray (see what I did there, huh? :)). The story had a slightly predictable ending, and the final chapter did the same as the first: introduced a massive swinging plot twist! The third book in the series, A Vow So Bold and Deadly just came out, so once it’s available through the library, I will be reading it. Maybe Harper and Grey will end up together. One can only hope!

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I feel like I didn’t read as much in January as I normally do. I fill my mornings with reading before work while I drink my coffee, and I usually read when I’m doing cardio at the gym. January was incredibly busy because I got back developmental edits on Guns & Smoke and we spent the month working through them. We hired a copy/line editor, and had to get the manuscript cleaned up for today, February 1st!

All in all, it was a good reading month. I’m looking forward to the rest of my TBR list!

Thanks,
Abbie

Book Review

Book Review: From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout

As I begin my journey to writing more in the Romance and Fantasy genres, I decided to do some research on what was currently selling. FROM BLOOD AND ASH by Jennifer Armentrout kept popping up in my suggestions and on my TikTok feed. Everyone rated it HOT on the heat scale, so I was really excited to dive into it.

Let me preface this by saying I have not read a lot of romance. Most of the stories I read have romantic elements, but my knowledge of the romance genre in general is very limited. Because my NaNoWriMo project this year was an Adult Fantasy Romance, I did some digging to find books that were similar (medieval setting, magic, etc.) and landed on this one. There were a couple of others that I’ll review later as well. I have not read any contemporary romance, but I have written a Dystopian/Post Apocalyptic romance novel with a friend (and had a BLAST writing it).

Let’s begin, shall we?

Summary:

Captivating and action-packed, from Blood and Ash is a sexy, addictive, and unexpected fantasy perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Laura Thalassa.

A MAIDEN…

Chosen from birth to usher in a new era, Poppy’s life has never been her own. The life of the Maiden is solitary. Never to be touched. Never to be looked upon. Never to be spoken to. Never to experience pleasure. Waiting for the day of her Ascension, she would rather be with the guards, fighting back the evil that took her family, than preparing to be found worthy by the gods. But the choice has never been hers.

A DUTY…

The entire kingdom’s future rests on Poppy’s shoulders, something she’s not even quite sure she wants for herself. Because a Maiden has a heart. And a soul. And longing. And when Hawke, a golden-eyed guard honor bound to ensure her Ascension, enters her life, destiny and duty become tangled with desire and need. He incites her anger, makes her question everything she believes in, and temps her with the forbidden.

A KINGDOM

Forsaken by the gods and feared by mortals, a fallen kingdom is rising once more, determined to take back what they believe is theirs through violence and vengeance. And as the shadow of those cursed draws closer, the line between what is forbidden and what is right becomes blurred. Poppy is not only on the verge of losing her heart and being found unworthy by the gods, but also her life when every blood-soaked thread that holds her world together begins to unravel. “

I was really excited to start this book. After the glowing reviews I read about it and all of the hype, I was expecting this book to blow my socks off. I was, sadly, disappointed. Not because I didn’t like the story, but because this was promoted as Fantasy Romance, when really it’s a Fantasy with romantic elements. There’s a scene early on where the heat is ON, but then it’s another four hundred pages before it comes again. In my opinion, a romance needs to keep that burn going low and steady, ramping up the heating from time to time, not leaving things to chance.

Quite literally, two-thirds of the book is world building and setting it up for a crazy third act, where pretty much everything happens at once. While I am not an expert on romance, there are many things I would have chosen to do differently if given this storyline to work with.

Given that Armentrout is a largely successful writer in the romance sphere, I’m not surprised that this was marketed as a romance.

The love interest, Hawke–bad boy with a wicked grin and mysterious past–is the reason I ended up reading the second book in the series, A KINGDOM OF FLESH AND FIRE. Hawke shows up early on in FROM BLOOD AND ASH and he is everything we love in a bad boy. Tall, handsome, badass with a sword, and fiercely protective of the main character with *issues*. (Reminded me of Rhysand from ACOTAR, but not nearly as good :))

The main character is a strong young woman–we love a badass female protagonist–who has been sheltered but begins to grow and learn and find out who she truly is, only to have the world turned upside down. There is a big twist toward the end, followed by some hate-sex (which, in my opinion, was pretty toxic, but readers seemed to love it though I didn’t).

One thing I didn’t like was the lack of diversity. There was no LGBT representation and very little POC representation. It’s 2021 folks! We. Need. Representation!! It’s so important for readers to be able to see themselves in stories, and not just as a side character or a token character that fits into all of the discriminatory tropes.

I borrowed the second book from the library, and I plan on reading the final one when it comes out this spring: A CROWN OF GILDED BONES, because the second book in the series left off on a bit of a cliff hanger. I want to see where Armentrout takes the story given the ending of book two.

While this wasn’t my favorite read of 2020, it was still a pretty good story and helped me to understand a little of what the fantasy romance genre looks like currently.

Overall, I’d rate this one as 3.5 stars out of 5. If you’re looking for an escape story with drama, fantastical elements, and some decent heat, check it out!

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Thanks for reading,

Abbie

Writing

Author Updates!

Hey everyone! I’ve got a lot of fun stuff to pass along, so bear with me!

I recently did a complete redesign of my website, to include my own domain name: abbielynnsmith.com! It’s still the same site, but now it is more streamlined and has a clear design! You can also click on the “Newsletter” link to stay up to date with the latest news and events! Be sure to check your spam if you do not receive a welcome email right away. I will only send those out with news and events, so please know I have no intention of spamming you!

I have AUTHOR PAGES! As a long time writer only dreaming of publication, I always wondered what it would be like to officially have pages on Amazon and Goodreads, and let me tell you, it’s so COOL. You can follow me on either platform by clicking the above links.

Of note, I am publishing currently under my pen name: A. Smith. This is because Guns & Smoke is going to be self-published, and I wanted to differentiate my self-published works from anything I may traditionally publish in the future. If the traditional route doesn’t go as planned, then I will revisit this. Until then, feel free to follow me on both platforms!

Guns & Smoke, my co-authored project with Lauren Sevier, is available to add on Goodreads! We are currently deep in the developmental edit stage. Next month, we plan to hold a cover reveal! The book is publishing in July, so be on the lookout for preorder and other fun stuff along the way!

Some other fun Guns & Smoke related stuff:

  1. We are looking for beta readers! If you’re interested, please go to the following link to sign up! Sign ups will close around January 13th: Beta Reader Sign Up
  2. If you have a bookish blog or social media account and you want to take part in our book cover reveal tour, please go here to sign up.

I’ve joined TikTok! Well, I’ve had the account for forever, but I just recently started posting author content there. As with all of my social media accounts, my TikTok handle is @abbiewritesx! Please follow me on that platform as well!

I’m really excited for this year!! Already, 2021 has been much better than 2020. Look for more content here and by signing up for my newsletter! I will continue to post book reviews and other fun writerly content.

To end, what’s a blog post without pictures of my fur babies?

Thanks for reading,
Abbie

Writing

NaNoWrimo 2020: Wrap Up

For the five years that 2020 has lasted, I find it hard to believe that the year is almost over! It feels like just yesterday, it was Halloween. Now we’ve moved right into Christmas season, and I have to admit, the last thing I want to do is decorate. It’s been a tough year. I’m really glad that it’s almost over.

In my last blog update, I outlined that I wanted to write an adult fantasy novel. The normal goal for NaNo is 50,000, but I set my goal slightly higher than that at 75,000. Another personal goal was that I wanted to see if I could write a project that was entirely one perspective. Too often, I’ve leaned on having multiple perspectives to get my word counts up. I challenged myself to do 75,000 of just one character.

If I’m being honest, that was a very scary to me.

What if I couldn’t do it? What if my main character wasn’t well rounded enough or interesting enough to write that many words? What if, like last year, I started hot and immediately flopped within a couple of days?

Imposter syndrome, am I right?

So? Did I do it?

I started NaNo a few days early. I was scheduled to have a small surgical procedure done within the first week of November, and given that this was my first ever surgery, I didn’t know how I would do. I gave myself a little breathing room so that in case things went south, I’d be able to get back into the swing of things. So before November 1, I wrote 12,000 words.

I kept up with the daily minimum until my surgery. And even for a couple of days after, I wrote a word or two, just to be able to log in and get that coveted badge of updating my word count every day. Yeah, that didn’t happen.

Though it was a small procedure, surgery knocked me on my butt for a week. By the end of that week, I still wasn’t 100% myself, but I knew if I didn’t jump back into the manuscript, I was going to lose. I didn’t want to lose. I struggled at first, but I managed to get caught up to my minimum counts (2,500 each day). I’ve always struggled with the second act of a story leading up to the midpoint. That was the same here. It felt like the story was barely moving along.

Then I hit the midpoint.

And I wrote 15,000 words in a single weekend.

While it was completely exhausting, it was also absolutely exhilarating to just be able to sit and write and not worry about anything else. With COVID all around us, I’ve opted to staying at home even more than usual (which is a lot, considering that I am a homebody), and it made it easier for me to get my words done.

I also found that it was easier to bang out my words right after I got home from work, instead of waiting until later in the evening.

And now, for the finale: I finished NaNo on Thanksgiving (another almost 10,000 word day!), and came in right at 75,000 words.

Honestly, first drafts are always crap. It’s in the revisions that you find the story and refine the characters, but I have to say, I am really happy with most of it.

I haven’t written an entirely new project in nearly five years. I’d forgotten what it was like for a story to take over and the characters to do things on their own. If this gets picked up, I have a main character for the second book that showed up in book one when I never even planned for it. I had a big character reveal planned for the ending, but guess what? It happened at the midpoint, because it felt natural for the characters to do those things when they did. I love drafting solely because it’s fun to watch characters jump off of the page.

However, drafting is hard if you haven’t prepped, and let me tell you, I prepped. I wouldn’t have made it through 50K, much less 75K if it weren’t for all of the prep work I did in October and November. I built the world, I read Save the Cat!, I explored the lore and religion behind the main character. I read comparative titles (From Blood & Ash being one of them). If I hadn’t done all of that, there is no way I would have finished.

One key takeaway for me: taking a couple of mental health days is OKAY! I used to beat myself up each day that I didn’t feel like writing, but even during NaNo, there were a couple of times that I needed a break from writing, from life, from everything. I still managed to get my words. I can only push so hard for so long, and I am so glad that I took that time, because I feel like the work wouldn’t have been as good if I hadn’t. I’m not the type to write just to write. I want to write with purpose, and if I wasn’t feeling a scene or a story, I didn’t write. I wasn’t going to force it.

All of that said: what’s next?

That’s a great question! I’m so glad you asked.

I have two other projects: Halflife and Guns & Smoke.

Halflife has been the bane of my existence for so long. It’s a great project and has a lot of potential, but I feel like I truly need to step away from it. Honestly, I feel like the project would work better as a TV show, mainly because of its ensemble cast and the visual elements that are hard to write into novels. There’s also SO much to cover. I think I may try to write a pilot script just to see if I can do it at some point, but this is not a high priority.

Now…Guns & Smoke has deadlines. Currently, my co-author is completing her developmental edits on the draft. Once those are done, I am hunkering down to go through them. It’s going to be very busy for me once she’s done, but I am so looking forward to getting out of 2020!

And now, time for the reveal of my 2020 Christmas Card! I couldn’t get all of my fur babies to cooperate in a single photo, so I went with these adorable shots! Thanks for following along! Here’s to 2021!

Abbie