Thursday, March 19, 2015


[Today’s Book Review is a little different, and very retro. Please bear with me. It’s worth it!]

We all have our comfort foods. We pull them out when the going gets tough. Maybe it’s mac and cheese. Or a chocolate chip cookie. Or maybe a half a dozen chocolate cookies. Whatever it takes to get through it all. You probably also have comfort books—those books that feel like they fit like a well-worn pair of shoes, that take you far away from whatever is plaguing you. Usually these ‘comfort books’ are old favorites. But sometimes, as I recently discovered, they can be a new experience that is just absolutely what you need to get through that tough moment in time.

Yeah, you guessed it—things have been less than pleasant at my house. Home Ownership Nightmare of Never Ending Doom combined with a minor surgery and health scare sent me scurrying to find a Just Right Book that would take me away from it all.

And I found it!! No, I found two its. Two wonderful books that were just what the doctor ordered! God bless the hilarious Maureen Johnson. I cannot believe I’m going to admit here that I had never read any of her books despite being in love with her and her sense of humor for almost two years now. I saw her in 2013 at LeakyCon here in Portland and thought she was one of the funniest people I’d ever seen. Then I started following her on Twitter, and that just solidified my opinion of her amazing humor. So I finally turned to her for some comfort reading.

13 Little Blue Envelopes and its sequel The Last Little Blue Envelope are my kind of books. Adventure: check. European travel: check. Touch of Romance: check. Learning Great Life Lessons: check. Humor: check, check. When 17-year-old Ginny’s late aunt, who was a wonderfully eccentric artist, leaves her thirteen letters with instructions to travel to various European locations she’s on her way to a life changing, life affirming adventure. Aunt Peg’s wish was for her to meet some of the people who had been important to her, and to see and experience some of the places that had influenced her life and art. Which sounds so, uh, pedantic. BUT IT ISN’T, because of course all of this happens with Maureen Johnson’s flair for humor and occasionally the absurd.

But wait! The first book, 13 Little Blue Envelopes, ends before Ginny gets to read the thirteenth letter! I can’t spoil it and tell you why, but I will tell you that it makes you rush out to get The Last Little Blue Envelope. And I liked the second book even better than the first! I LOVE this book!

Yes, these books were published years ago. Thirteen…came out in 2005, and Last…in 2011. Fans had begged for a sequel. She delivered. But if you haven’t read any Maureen Johnson, these are a fun place to start. Of course now I will be reading her latest series, the most recent of which was just released.

Comfort reading. I highly recommend it when life throws icky stuff your way. I also recommend that you read it with a chocolate chip cookie.

Thank you, Maureen Johnson!!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Motivation Lost…

OK I have a confession to make.

It’s no secret that Sarah and I are writing partners and are currently working on a new project. It’s an exciting new adventure and I’ve loved it every step of the way. (This is not the confession). 

The Confession: In the past three weeks I have written exactly ZERO words. (I guess after this blog post it will be somewhere between 200 and 500 words). 

It’s not because I don’t love the story we’re working on. I do. It’s funny, sweet, smart and has some AMAZING potential! 

It’s not because I’m having a hard time getting in touch with the characters. Nope! LOVE THEM!! All of them. I feel like I know them in and out. Even the minor ones. There are days when I have entire conversations with one of them in my head. 

Plot problems? Heck no! We have this puppy mapped out and pretty much can see all the way to the end. And beyond! We have not only outlined this book, but two companion novels as well!! So, no I’m not not writing because of any complicated twisty plot lines. 

I’m just not. It’s that simple. 

Am I being lazy? Yes.

Why? I have absolutely no idea. 

Am I busy? Yup. I have two kids, work full-time night shift, have school obligations, a husband (and lord knows he needs attention), a house (that just got a major face-lift in the front) and I have probably read at LEAST five books in the three weeks I haven’t written a word. 

Is that an excuse? Well….It shouldn’t be.

But! I’m letting it! I’m letting all the “other stuff” be my excuse to get in the way of my dream! 

Why? I have absolutely no clue in my life why I have just brushed this dream aside. I love writing! I love how I feel when I truly get in touch with my characters and get to be present while their life is happening. 

I’m not bored with the story. I just lost it. My motivation is nowhere to be found. And trust me I've looked. Everywhere. Under the rugs, inside the dishwasher, behind the dust-jackets of TONS of books, in the shower, at restaurants, in episodes of The 100 and even in the hot tub at the gym! “Hello, motivation? Where are you?”

But I guess that’s it. My motivation isn’t lost. I put it away to do other stuff. Stuff I like to do and stuff I have to do. But somewhere along the way I forgot that WRITING is important to me. I forgot that it’s OK to put my dream close to the top of the To-Do list. 

This blog-post is my spring-board today. I’m diving back into the choppy, shark infested waters that is my writing.

I will hold my nose and jump!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Book Review: THE WINNER'S CURSE by Marie Rutkoski

Description from Goodreads:

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. 

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. 

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. 

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

The Winner’s Curse had me from the very first page, maybe even from the cover – which is completely gorgeous. I was immediately drawn to Kestrel and her confident, outward defiance of social boundaries. This is not some dainty, naïve girl who is thrown into the deep end of a conflict just to be saved by some gorgeous hero. Not. Even. A little bit. Kestrel won't back down from a fight – especially one she most likely started – and being the General’s daughter, she can hold her own when it comes to complex strategic planning. Basically, she’s brilliant and completely awesome.

The world in which we meet Kestrel is divided in two… The conquered and the conquerors. Rutkoski’s storytelling is so beautiful here that I neither wanted nor needed a major backstory-info dump. I was more than happy to jump right into this world and get swept up in the old world dances and duels, intrigue and romance.

Kestrel, whose father led the invasion, is at the top of the wealthy Valorian elite, while Arin, the slave Kestrel buys at auction, is one of the defeated Herran. For reasons unknown to either of them, Kestrel trusts Arin and finds in him a confidant and friend, though he always seems to keep her at arm’s length. Their relationship, like the story itself is not rushed. Although there is SO much happening, it moves at a perfect pace that keeps the pages turning quickly.

If you are a Fantasy reader and have not picked up The Winner’s Curse, I highly, highly recommend that you do! And lucky for you, the next book (The Winner’s Crime) is already out so you don’t have to wait a year like the rest of us!