“One more hour until I prove to Visidia that I’m meant to be their heir… Two more hours until I’m engaged to a man I’ll never love… Three more hours until I give the command to ready a ship to set sail tomorrow, and demand to know every secret about this kingdom that’s ever been kept from me.”
In what I can only describe as a magical turn of fate, I happen to work with one of Adalyn Grace’s brothers. Upon learning of my obsession passion for books, he informed me that his sister was the author of All the Stars and Teeth. Within the past year I have been developing an appreciation for young adult/fantasy books so I decided to add it to my list.
I ended up forsaking everything else I was reading to finish this one first.
All the Stars and Teeth is a high fantasy novel that explores the very real boundaries of curiosity and corruption, and the choices we make when caught between power and the desire to do what’s right.
(What is high fantasy, you ask? Click here for Goodreads’ description.)
I was captivated by the mystical Kingdom of Visidia and at least a little jealous of the adventure that Amora, Princess of Visidia, embarks upon as she sets sail to save herself and her kingdom – and not just because she finds herself in the company of the handsome rogue Bastian! Who hasn’t daydreamed about going on a heroic and life-changing quest?
Amora’s character really resonated with me. She has so many qualities I wish I could see in myself: brave and adventurous with a self-confidence I fail to muster on a regular basis. She is unafraid to go after what she wants most.
In this interview, Grace describes Amora’s character as “morally grey”. I liked this about Amora; it made her realistic and relatable. No heroine should be pristine; I would argue that our “flaws” are often what make us the most human.
The story itself was fresh yet comforting because it reminded me of things that I already liked. While reading, I got vibes of Children of Blood and Bone, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Hunger Games. But don’t be misled – this story stands alone, too.
I’m looking forward to seeing how the characters continue to develop in the next installment, All the Tides of Fate, set to release in February of 2021.
Have you read All the Stars and Teeth? Let me know in the comments!
Winter is approaching quickly! The last part of 2020 seems to be flying by and the holiday season is almost upon us.
The Enchanted Sonata by Heather Dixon Wallwork is a perfect addition to this winter’s TBR.
It’s a music-laden and intriguing twist on the nutcracker story. I was going to wait until December to read it – but I couldn’t help myself! Once I started, I didn’t want to stop.
This magical tale follows young pianist Clara as she experiences not only the bewitchment of her first crush on another piano protégé, but also the enchantments of Prince Nikolai Volkonsky’s kingdom of Imperia.
In an article on NPR, we learn that the original author of The Nutcracker was E. T. A. Hoffman, and at the time he titled it Nutcracker and Mouse King. At one time, Hoffman also wrote that music “reveals an unknown kingdom to mankind: a world that has nothing in common with the outward, material world that surrounds it, and in which we leave behind all predetermined conceptual feelings in order to give ourselves up to the inexpressible.”
In The Enchanted Sonata, music literally reveals an unknown kingdom. Music plays a very special role in the story so I won’t give away everything. Just know you’re in for a treat. 🙂
(There are a couple grisly moments that I would be hesitant to share with very young readers but all-in-all The Enchanted Sonata is a family-friendly story.)
What are your favorite holiday and winter reads? Let me know in the comments!
Learn more about Heather Dixon Wallwork at her website and view her adorable artwork on Instagram.
Where Light Enters is a powerful and moving debut by emerging author Noel Silvia. Read on for my review and a mini Q+A with the author where he shares his inspiration for the novel and his favorite authors!
After a lifeless body is discovered by the river, readers are led back in time to meet multiple characters and the struggles they face in childhood and as adults, culminating in the final events that bring us back to the discovery of the body.
Throughout the book, we are reminded of the hope and light inside of us that keeps us alive and that we can share with others.
This book is unique for multiple reasons. Those interested in linguistics will enjoy seeing the lesser-known but widely spoken Esperanto language interspersed in the dialogue – lending to the international feel of the book. (Learn more about Esperanto here.)
The Esperanto language is accompanied by the novel’s open-to-interpretation setting. The book has no specific setting, allowing the reader to picture the story taking place where they feel fits best. Where you picture the story taking place may be entirely different from where I picture it. There not being a specific setting does not mean the story lacks one; there is plenty of detail for readers to draw their own conclusions.
Most of the characters remain unnamed and are referred to by a nickname or their distinguishing features (“The Matron” or “the man in the purple suit”). I did not think this detracted from the story. The sections of the book each center around one character while maintaining the theme of interconnection, which helps readers avoid getting the characters confused with each other.
There is also an emphasis on color and music throughout, with the idea that music is magic. Lovers of the violin, rejoice!
Caution: The text deals with some very weighty topics – war, suicide, human trafficking, drug abuse, and addiction. I would not recommend this novel to young readers.
10% of the profits from this book will go to charities that work to combat human trafficking and work to help individuals suffering from trauma, two of the big themes in the story.
Lastly, readers will notice various Christian elements but I would not classify this as a Christian novel. It is what the subtitle claims: a novel of hope. We all have a choice to follow the light and to help others in what can be a cruel, unfair world. When we cannot find the light ourselves, it can still find us.
Congratulations on completing and publishing your first novel! What inspired you to begin working on Where Light Enters? Music has always inspired me. Even an instrumental piece can tell a visual story. A good song makes me want to explore that world. I keep a log of all of my story ideas, and enough threads started emerging where I saw how I could weave them together in a cohesive narrative tapestry. The COVID lockdown was when I finally decided, “it’s now or never”, and I had to do something to feel functional. That need to be productive inspired me to write. I may not have lost weight during this time, but I gained a book that I’m proud of.
What was the most challenging part of the writing process for you? As da Vinci said, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” Knowing when to stop tinkering with the text was primarily the most challenging thing for me. I felt like a parent sending their child off on the first day of school; I had to trust that it was ready, and would be fine on its own.
Was there anything that surprised you about the writing process? I was surprised how short/long it took to write certain things. There were some chapters that I wrote the entire first draft in less than an hour, and then there were some singular sentences that I spent several hours on, trying to find the perfect words to use in the right arrangement.
Why did you decide to self-publish? For this book, I wrote to write. My goal was to write a book that I was proud of and would be something that I would want to read. I wanted to try and find my voice as an author, and I did not want to have that altered by someone trying to sell books that were more marketable. My greatest fear would be waiting a year to get signed, only to have the publisher want me to add sparkling vampires and change the setting to a dystopian future. Not that there’s anything wrong with those stories, but they’re not the kind of stories I felt comfortable telling.
What can you share about your upcoming novel Ricochet Day? I love the theme of interconnection and the ways people are brought together. It was something that I explored in Where Light Enters, but in Ricochet Day, I really want to push those ideas. It’s (hopefully) going to be a lot lighter tone, but still explore these concepts as we follow a group of seemingly non-connected characters over the course of one day. I’m having fun right now arranging the plot, as the narrative will be very “Rube Goldberg”-esque.
What’s your favorite genre to read? Do you have a favorite author? I love books that make me have an emotional reaction. Authors like Christopher Moore or Tim Dorsey have a great comedic flow that always make me laugh. Then there are authors like Amy Tan or Khaled Hosseini who always make me cry, even in the triumphant moments. There’s nothing worse than art that doesn’t move you.
Many thanks to special guest Noel Silvia!
Purchase a paperback or e-book of Where Light Enters on Amazon.
To learn more about Noel Silvia’s insights and future projects, visit his author page on Goodreads.
Happy reading, friends, and “may the light find you.”
*I received a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. I am not an affiliate marketer therefore do not receive compensation for purchases made through links on this website.
The Maiden of the Storm by Michelle Deerwester-Dalrymple is a fast read full of depth, developed characters, and researched content. Historical fiction is my favorite genre and this story really delivers with the historical details, such as clothing, vocabulary, and scenery. As someone who isn’t normally a romance reader, I can say this story has me hooked on Michelle Deerwester-Dalrymple. She has taken tremendous care to put the best in her books and her words stirred something within me. The tale of Riana, daughter of the village chieftain, and Horatio, captive Roman solder, combines passion, pleasure, and pride – and I will be reading it again!
*I received a free copy of the ARC in exchange for an honest review.*
Kya lives alone in a shack by the marsh, cared for from a distance by a handful of people, all the while earning the title of Marsh Girl – although not earning the harsh treatment that comes with it. Her path crosses with Tate, her first love, and Chase, former high school athlete. They feel drawn to her the way some people feel drawn to the marsh – one as someone who loves it and one as someone who wants to conquer it. Among the gulls and the grasses of the marsh, Kya has learned humanity through the wild things. Can it save her when it matters most?
Written by zoologist Delia Owens, Where the Crawdads Sing is bittersweet and beautiful – my favorite combination in a book.
The story of Kya, left by her mother and siblings to live alone first with her alcoholic father and then by herself, is sad and earnest.
The pace in the beginning of the book is slow, and I think some readers take issue with that. It’s not fast-action thriller but there is enough suspense to draw you in and make your heart pound.
The slow pace in the beginning set the tone for the turbulence of the second half of the book – where the timelines draw closer and closer and everything comes together
Where the Crawdads Sing is Delia Owens’ first novel and I haven’t read any of her other published works, but I feel from this story and based on her career that she is a master at setting the scene and bringing us closer to nature through patience while sharing the beauty of even the smallest creatures.
One cannot be in a rush amongst the wild things.
I also love the poetry that is shared throughout the book, such as this excerpt:
Have you read Where the Crawdads Sing? Did you love it or do you think it doesn’t live up to the hype? Let me know!
Stay tuned for my next Nature in the Novel post, featuring Where the Crawdads Sing!
“What would the world look like if she made it her own, even temporarily, for a moment, fleeting, so that she could experience again the throb, the hunger of being alive, eyes wide, teeth showing?”
The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim is a gripping tale. It’s addictive, edgy, and so full of truth.
And I really mean addictive! I could not resist picking this up while I was still in the middle of another book. But I had to finish it asap. No regrets!
The story goes back-and-forth between Margot and Mina, two women trying to make their way on the West Coast.
Margot, set in the present, discovers her mother’s body, still and unmistakably dead. Despite her initial shock, suspicion immediately sets in. As Margot goes on a quest to discover the truth about her mother’s untimely demise, she ends up discovering more about her mother – and herself – than she thought possible.
The story of Mina, Margot’s mother, is set in the beginning of her new life in the United States, years that lead up to and include Margot’s birth. She finds, with mixed feelings, camaraderie in coworkers and a few new friends. Through her new relationships and finding her way in a new place, Mina must navigate the murky waters that come with starting over while coping with the pains of the past.
As Margot traverses the mysteries surrounding her mother’s death, she must also grapple with the mysteries of her own mind. How much of her life has been shaped by who she thought her mother was? Who could Margot be if she allowed herself to just be?
This novel explores immigration, power, status, the American dream, loss, heartbreak, and what it means to belong. The characters learn lessons on owning their lives for who they are and what they have done – and it some cases, what they have not done.
This is a mystery without reading like a mystery. The characters are diverse and well-developed. I like that the storyline alternates between Margot and Mina – vastly different but similar in ways that run deeper than the surface.
Have you read The Last Story of Mina Lee? Leave me a comment and let me know what you thought or if it’s on your tbr!
What’s more important – being a bestseller or being lauded as the latest celebrity book club selection?
On the one hand, your book sales have satisfied – if not exceeded – the requirements to be added to a prestigious list.
On the other hand, your book was preciously hand-selected and separated from all the others and a real person shares with their millions of fans how it made them feel. Your name and novel are catapulted into the social media spotlight.
And sometimes, you even get both.
I started thinking about this as I browsed reviews of a #1 New York Times Bestseller that I’m currently reading and realized, a lot of people don’t agree with these popular book selections.
Have you ever picked a book with “#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER” emblazoned across the front or it had one of those tell-tale little round circle stickers that said “so-and-so’s book club” but when you read it, it left you feeling a little… lackluster?
It feels slightly deceptive. This book is someone’s first choice! This book sold thousands of copies! I trusted theses total strangers’ judgement.
Over time, I have developed certain predispositions about these categories.
“#1 Bestseller” makes me think of dark-hued paperbacks about FBI agents and special forces men returning to do one last job.
“Book club” makes me think of colorful hardbacks with strong female leads promoted by internet-famous influencers.
How these notions specifically, developed, I can only speculate.
This post will not help you write a bestseller or be one of the bestseller books of 2020. But I hope it makes you think about if and why being a bestseller matters. Or why it matters to be a book club pick.
What are your thoughts on this? I would love to hear from a writing or publishing perspective. Read on and comment below!
What makes a book a bestseller?
Greenleaf Book Group says “Books are traditionally considered bestsellers when they meet one of three unofficial requirements: 1. placement on the New York Times bestseller list; 2. placement on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list; or 3. placement on the USA Today bestseller list. And, if we’re being frank, the highest prestige comes from making the illustrious New York Times list.”
The New York Times doesn’t list specific sales requirements on their About the Best Sellers page. Apparently, they are a little more secretive about the specifics.
In this article on the Wall Street Journal, the author claims that the timing matters.
USA Today lists their top 50 books in print and the top 150 online, and aims to combine the totals of hardcover, paperback, and e-book sales. “For example, if Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice sells copies in hardcover, paperback and e-book during a particular week, sales from each format are combined to determine its rank. The description of a title and the publisher name refers to the version selling the most copies in a particular week – hardcover (H), paperback (P) and e-book (E).”
In an article by the co-founder of Scribe Media (previously Book in a Box), the author says that being on a bestseller’s list (in this case, specifically the New York Times Bestseller’s List) shouldn’t be a main goal for someone who has a pre-existing income.
While the article definitely leans one way in its opinions, it also makes this valid point: “… it does make a lot of sense for professional writers to focus on bestseller lists. It is a status marker for the writing and publishing industry, and it does help them get better deals from publishers in the future.”
This opinion piece says, “Since the publishing industry still shows great deference to these lists, finding your name on them significantly impacts the advance on your next book contract.”
In the days of newspaper-only news, being a bestseller would have been a huge deal because that’s where people would find that information.
I don’t know how many people are skimming a New York Times or Wall Street Journal or USA Today to look at their list of bestsellers. (Although I will say that after reading about them, I am now most interested in USA Today’s list.)
While doing some Google searches on this topic, there were so many book titles that were bestsellers that I had never heard of.
To me, it seems one of the cons of being a bestseller is that the title gets lost in the crowd, but I imagine it would still feel special to be known as a bestseller.
So while it feels like there is a shift in progress, getting your book on a bestseller list still has its perks.
What about book clubs?
Oprah is credited with starting the first celebrity book club in the 1990s – and she’s still going strong today.
She’s been joined by the ranks of Sarah Jessica Parker, Emma Watson, Emma Roberts, Reese Witherspoon, athlete Andrew Luck, and more.
While it certainly doesn’t hurt to be on a bestsellers list, book club selections are readily photographed and widely shared across social media platforms. They get more bang for the book with the connotation.
It’s almost impossible not to notice whether a book made it onto a celebrity list.
I couldn’t find a ton of information on how celebrities select books. I’ve read snippets about emailing the organization and making the case for why they should select your book.
So however your book ends up on their #tbr you’ll be glad it did.
Neither bestseller lists nor book clubs take into account the total sales of books in the long-term. A lot of copies being sold upfront does not necessarily indicate long-term book sales.
Greenleaf also writes: “In some ways, bestseller status is becoming less relevant in this age of ebooks, apps, and digital downloads. Can a free ebook downloaded 100,000 times in a week be considered a bestseller? Not according to the New York Times, but it certainly must have been one of the most-read books of the week. In the long run, that will matter a lot more.”
Now that newspapers and periodicals are accessible online, it is easier to look at the bestsellers lists, but are any of us doing that? Regardless, I don’t think I’ve ever been swayed to buy a book because it was a bestseller.
Bestseller lists are great for established authors and book clubs seem to be better for emerging authors or specific topics.
Many book club selections introduce you to a new author or concept while you can rely on the bestseller lists to see the latest from your favorite long-term writers.
So, book club picks aren’t quite the new #1 bestseller, but they do have the power to launch a book onto the bestseller list.
At the end of the day, it’s awesome to see so many people being encouraged to read!
Do you follow any celebrity book clubs or read from the bestseller lists? Let me know!
This post is not sponsored and I am not affiliated with any authors or companies mentioned. Opinions are my own.
Happy September, friends!
The end of 2020 may be in sight but my TBR pile keeps on growing.
This fall, in addition to some first-time selections, I want to re-read Daniel Mason’s The Piano Tuner and Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Wood. (Review of The Hazel Wood and The Night Country coming soon in prep for the January 2021 release of Tales from the Hinterland!)
The end of 2020 and beginning of 2021 are bringing more selections I’m looking forward to. Browse 7 of my upcoming picks below and check out more from these great sites:
What books are you looking forward to? Let me know in the comments!
The Writer’s Library by Nancy Pearl and Jeff Schwager – 8 September 2020 A book about writers talking about books that impacted them. What’s not to like??
Cursed Objects by J. W. Ocker – 15 September 2020 – Is there a lover of spooky stuff in your life? This book is for them!
Comfort & Joy by Kristin Hannah – 6 October 2020 – A story of Joy, recently divorced, who finds herself alone at the holidays and takes a trip to the Pacific Northwest, where what she least expects awaits: a semblance of love and family. Will she find the courage to believe in love again before it’s too late?
(My son has been asking to put up the Christmas tree, so you could say our house is getting into the Christmas spirit!)
This Just Speaks to Me by Hoda Kotb – 13 October 2020 – I’m not familiar with TV-Hoda but my son and I like her children’s book I’ve Loved You Since Forever (it’s perfect for bedtime).
Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey – 20 October 2020 – I love a good memoir. Matthew McConaughey seems like a good egg, and his memoir promises to be nothing short of honest.
Siri, Who Am I? by Sam Tschida – 12 January 2021 – A young woman wakes up in the hospital with amnesia and must use her Instagram feed to find out who she is. Will she learn more than she bargained for? Quirk Books: “But as Mia and Max work backward through her Instagram and across Los Angeles to learn more about her, they discover an ugly truth behind her perfect Instagram feed, and evidence that her head wound was no accident. Did Mia have it coming? And if so, is it too late for her to rewrite her story?”
Tales from the Hinterland by Melissa Albert – 12 January 2021 – The hauntingly captivating stories about the Hinterland will finally be available on a bookshelf near you!
Cara is a traverser – jumping between worlds by both the mercy of Goddess Nyame and the intentional hands of science. She spends every day with a woman she loves from afar while trying to reconcile the present with the past… That is, until a powerful announcement is made and Cara begins to believe that while she can’t alter destiny, she can still exercise her free will to choose between what’s right right now and what’s right for all.
When I hear “sci-fi” my brain automatically goes to things like The Twilight Zone or intergalactic travel (I grew up in a Star Trek household). The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson is sci-fi that feels…. accessible. While not caught up in the technical aspects I usually lose interest in, there’s just enough for it to set the scene without rubbing it in your face. The emotions of the characters also create the drama that keeps me (and hopefully you!) coming. back. for. more.
The Space Between Worlds is also visually enticing. The juxtaposition of the technologically-advanced Wiley City and the left-behind-in-the-dust (literally) Rurals and Ashtown are something I would love to see on the big screen.
The Wiley City skyscrapers complete with gardens and courtyards are probably not far off from what our future holds. A quick Google image search of skyscraper vertical gardening gives you an idea.
It has the futuristic, post-apocalyptic thing going on which I think will never go out of style as long as we are pre-apocalyptic. Think The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, Divergent, etc. Why are we so drawn to these books? A post-apocalyptic world seems so – forgive me – out of this world but is so full of heroes it’s hard not to be drawn to it.
Other than having a good plot and excellent character development, The Space Between Worlds is DIVERSE. The plot does not center around a cisgender, white protagonist with a few diverse characters sprinkled in to the edges for good measure. The story is about humanity, all of it, pulling back its layers and exposing its deep truths.
With appropriately-timed revelations and the continuous theme of the relationship between science and religion, there is plenty in The Space Between Worlds to spark conversation. It would be a great book club selection.
Have you read The Space Between Worlds? Would you want to world-travel? I would honestly much rather be the world-traveler than the person who is visited by a traveler because I would be INSANELY jealous!
Happy reading, friends!
Beliefs and opinions reflected in this post are mine alone and do not reflect the beliefs and opinions of the author and/or publisher.
What’s the difference between being happy and living a joyful life? How can we incorporate nature into a joyful life?
Happiness is fleeting –whether we want to admit it or not. A joyful life is overall content with the way things are while recognizing the moments that bring peace into your heart.
We all know someone like this. How are they so happy all the time? we ask ourselves.
The truth is…
They are not happy all the time!
They have learned to create a joyful life through acceptance and action.
Just like love, joy isn’t something that we go looking for and once we find it everything is hunky-dory. It takes a little practice.
How do we accept our situation as we go throughout life?
For what I hope are obvious reasons, 2020 could be called the Year of the Introvert. But even introverts need a little bit of sunlight and socialization.
While avoiding large crowds is not a big deal for me, some people thrive on the energy. If they’ve made the decision to social distance, phone calls and video chats could be their new norm, and sometimes it’s just not enough.
But what about the rest of the time? What about all the people who were already unhappy before COVID-19 hit?
Learning to appreciate the small moments goes along way toward creating an abundance of joy.
What actions can we take to be joyful?
There are lots of ways to take action to include joy in your lives: volunteer work, meditation, writing in a journal (not just buying every pretty one you see *guilty*).
A few weeks ago, my post Summer, Sunshine, and Sunflowers listed 10 ways to still have fun in the summer while social distancing. Today I am give you 10 new ways to incorporate nature in your life of joy!
Inside or outside, near or far, these activities are versatile enough to suit your lifestyle.
Hike and walk – If you have time for an outdoor hike, awesome! If not, totally reasonable and understandable. Walking can be done literally everywhere, even if you need to walk in place in your yard or your living room; a quick 10 minutes is enough to be effective.
Go on a picnic – Go to your favorite park or sit on a blanket in the yard and enjoy your favorite treats and age-appropriate beverages. Remember: leave no trace and don’t feed the wildlife.
Collect and identify leaves – This collection can be turned into a beautiful family keepsake and is a project that’s extremely kid-friendly.
Conduct a photoshoot – of plants and landscapes! Fancy phones are always coming out with updated camera technology, so it’s very easy to have good quality photos at your fingertips. I have ordered a few wall art pieces from Shutterfly to hang in my home that showcase my own photos.
Get down with the dirt – Gardening is a soothing way to focus on something and feel, dare I say it, grounded. Get a little dirt under your nails and pot some flowers or vegetables; plus, working with soil is good for you, body and soul.
Visit a botanical garden – Botanical gardens are the perfect places to see birds, bees, butterflies, and smiling faces!
Listen to a music with scenery channel on the TV – Bring nature inside by enjoying the sights and sounds of nature from your own living room; Soothing Relaxation has a lot of great videos with nature scenes, and a quick YouTube search will reveal tons more; this is a great option if you want to listen to a stream or even thunder and lightning.
Create art – While wine and paint night and at-home Bob Ross tutorials have grown in popularity, nature can be incorporated into every art medium: drawing, scrapbooking, crocheting, pottery, etc.
Do an outdoor workout – Do some lunges and squats in your driveway; boost that Vitamin D intake and wear appropriate sunscreen! When not social distancing, join an outdoor workout group or meet up with a friend.
Read nature books, poetry, and articles – Expand your knowledge by learning something new or kick back with a faithful favorite.
You’ll notice none of these ideas are particularly strenuous – that’s because I believe they shouldn’t be. Enjoying nature can be as simple or complex as you want it to be.
I love the botanical gardens but don’t always want to drive 30 minutes to end up in potential downtown traffic; sometimes watching the cardinals or the doves in my backyard is enough. I love doing a in-person 5ks and 10ks but wouldn’t necessarily want to do one every weekend (okay, maybe every other weekend!).
What do you do to include nature in your joyful life? Do you think it’s possible to have a joyful life without nature?