Monthly Archives: June 2015

One Year Blog Anniversary!

wordpressExactly one year ago, I posted my first blog post entitled Starting is the Hardest Part. I had struggled for a few years to get into the habit of blogging and had hoped that I would be able to begin blogging more regularly with this blog.

One year later and I’m very happy with where I am with my blog. I produce a new post every Thursday, with the exception of a couple of missed days, and I write a new book review bi-weekly. If you would have asked me if I would be doing this one year ago, I never would have thought that I could keep my posts so consistent.

Looking into the future of my second year of blogging, I have some goals to make my blog even better. I hope that these new additions to my blog will improve my current reader experience and enable my audience to grow.

A New Layout
Within the next couple of months, I will be rolling out a new website layout. The new layout will offer a reader friendly experience that provides an easy way to access all content. I will also be adding new features, content, images, and links that will improve my blog’s appearance.

A New Segment
In the fall, I will be debuting a new segment to my blog. Although I can’t give away any details, I am very excited to share it with you all. It will be a bi-weekly segment, much like my book reviews, and I think it will appeal to both book lovers and non-book lovers.

Continuous Content
I will continue to write weekly blog posts and bi-weekly book reviews. With the addition of my new segment this fall, I hope that I can continue to produce quality blog posts. I have really enjoyed this year of blogging and I am excited to continue in the future.

I want to thank everyone who has read, subscribed, and followed my blog over the past year. I appreciate the support more than I can put into words. Thank you very much and I look forward to writing many more posts!

Until next week,

Debbie

Book Review: Every Last Word

everylastwordTitle: Every Last Word
Author: Tamara Ireland Stone
Release Date: June 16, 2015
Rating: 5/5

Every Last Word is a young adult novel that focuses on Samantha McAllister, a seemingly popular girl that is attempting to hide her crippling Purely-Obsessive OCD. Sam is tormented by the constant demands of her group of friends, the Crazy Eights, and is always obsessing about her every action around them. Her thoughts can turn into dark spirals, causing her anxiety to spike. After a negative encounter with her friends, she meets Caroline, a laid back girl who struggles with depression. Caroline introduces Sam to the Poet’s Corner, a small room under the stage where the Poets gather every Monday and Thursday to share their poetry. As Sam grows closer to Caroline, she gets more involved in the Poet’s Corner, writes more poetry, and meets a guy that she can’t stop thinking about. For the first time in her life, Sam begins to feel normal. However, one crushing piece of reality will make Sam question her sanity and fear the opinions of those around her.

The novel is told from Sam’s perspective and I thought that her point of view was written beautifully. The anxiety and nervous thoughts are consistent throughout the novel and I thought that Ireland Stone did an amazing job creating such an authentic character. I really liked Sam and thought that she was incredibly easy to relate to. I found myself rooting for her throughout the entire book.

The supporting characters in this novel were just as authentic and real. I loved Sam’s relationships with Sue, her psychiatrist, and with her mother. Regardless of how alone she felt at school or with the Crazy Eights, she always had those two supporting her. I thought that the Crazy Eights were the typical “popular group” but they all seemed to have different personalities, which made them slightly more dynamic. The Poets were all wonderfully depicted and I especially liked Sydney and Emily. Sam’s interactions with AJ were incredibly sweet and I really loved watching their relationship develop, even after Sam’s shocking realization. Most importantly, I thought that Sam’s relationship with Caroline was written with great care and Caroline obviously helped Sam grow stronger and more sure of herself. Caroline was a vital piece of the story and I am glad she was written the way she was.

Sam’s realization that makes her question her sanity is a twist that I had not seen coming. Although I didn’t expect it, the twist made complete sense. I thought that the history behind it was well written and I really enjoyed Sam’s conversations with Sue about it. I think that it added another layer to the story and although it really tested Sam, I think it made her a stronger character by the end of the novel.

I thought that the ending was perfect. It was so satisfying to watch Sam transform throughout the book as she copes with her mental illness. I think that this novel will definitely help reduce the stigma of mental illness and normalize it. It was obvious that a lot of research was done into Purely Obsessive OCD and I think it’ll help others understand it more.The novel also explores some other mature subjects, such as depression, and I think reading about these topics through a teenager’s point of view was very interesting.

I absolutely loved Every Last Word. It is a very easy and enjoyable read that is filled with likeable and believable characters. The story is unique, wonderfully written, and I would highly recommend it.

If you have read Every Last Word, please share your thoughts in the comments. To view Every Last Word on Amazon, click here.

I received a copy of Every Last Word from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Making Time to Read

MTTRThere are countless studies that discuss the numerous benefits that reading has on a person. Whether you’re looking to improve your intelligence or for a pure form of entertainment, reading a book will positively affect the brain. When writing, your creativity and brainpower are invaluable resources that can be increased when you read. Last week, I discussed the importance of reading. Today, I’m going to talk about how you can make time to read.

Schedule In Time to Read
If you haven’t read a book in a while, it might be hard to get back into the habit of reading on a daily basis. It’s easy to forget something that you aren’t used to doing, so make sure to schedule reading into your day. Whether you mark it on your calendar, make a note of it in your phone, or pencil it into your planner, make sure that you schedule a time to read. If you schedule your reading in advanced, there’s no way that you can “forget” to read. If you are really out of the habit, start by scheduling twenty minutes to read and then gradually build your reading time as you get more comfortable with your new routine.

Replace an Episode With a Book
Many people find television one of the easiest ways to relax. If you’re bored, stressed, or have some downtime, it’s easy to flip on the television and watch episodes of your favorite show for hours on end. If you were to take even thirty of the minutes used to watch television and applied it to a book, you could get some good reading in. Instead of watching the next episode of the show, turn off your television and pick up a book. Reading is just as entertaining, if not more so, than watching hours of television. Reading stimulates your mind and really gets you thinking. It would also do your eyes some good to give them a rest from hours of screen time.

Put a Book on Your Nightstand
A habit that is very easy to fall into is checking your cell phone before bed. Sending texts, checking social media, and watching videos before you go to bed is something many people do, but it’s not necessarily a good habit to have. Studies show that reading on a screen before you go to bed can be detrimental to your sleep, eventually causing health problems. Reading a printed book is the perfect way to unwind before bed, without the negative side effects of the screen.

Start a Book Club
You could join a book club that already exists, or you can create one with a few of your close friends. By being a part of a book club, you are turning the normally solitary act of reading into a social one. You will also feel more accountable to read your book so you can be a part of the lively discussion with your group. Discussing books with your friends is also a great way to learn more  about each other. Most book clubs allow the reader to have an entire month to finish a book, so this is a great option for someone just getting back into the reading habit.

There are countless ways to add reading into your day, you just need to make the conscious decision to do so. Start small and slowly build your habit. You’ll soon become a more well-read person and it’ll be easy for you to find time in your day to read.

If you have any thoughts on how to make time for reading, please leave your thoughts in the comments.

Until next week,

Debbie

Why You Should Be Reading More

readmoreThere are countless studies that discuss the numerous benefits that reading has on a person. Whether you’re looking to improve your intelligence or for a pure form of entertainment, reading a book will positively affect the brain. When writing, your creativity and brainpower are invaluable resources that can be increased when you read. There are several benefits of reading that pertain specifically to writers and if you are able to regularly dedicate your time, you will be able to reap the rewards of reading.

Expand Your Vocabulary
Reading books regularly is an incredible way to expand your vocabulary. Books of all genres can expose you to words that you may not hear in everyday conversation. When you are introduced to new words, you may find yourself incorporating them into your vocabulary, whether it’s when you speak or when you write. By adding to your personal vocabulary, you become a more articulate person and a much better writer.

Expand Your Imagination
Whether you’re interested in reading a historical fiction piece about the French Revolution or a contemporary novel about teenage love, reading a book will expand your imagination. When you let yourself get lost in a story, your mind wanders to places that it might not normally. You may begin to play the “what if” game and the book you’re reading may inspire you to learn more about the subject matter. If you are a writer, this is an incredible benefit because when you expand your imagination, you become more open to inspiration.

Improve Your Writing
By reading well written works of literature, you may see improvements in your own writing. It takes time and effort to master certain writing techniques, such as writing engaging dialogue or setting a scene. When you read, you are consistently introduced to great examples of these techniques, making it easier for you to adopt them in your own writing. If you enjoy a certain genre of writing, you should read books from that genre. Different genres have different genre expectations and when you make yourself familiar with these expectations, you will be able to write for that genre more effectively. Reading also exposes you to different types of plots and this exposure can help you learn what works and what doesn’t work in writing.

Reduce Your Stress and Relax
In today’s society, the constant stresses of the day make it difficult for a person to completely relax. If you attempt to relax by watching some television, it’s easy to glance at your phone and flip through emails during a commercial break. If you’re giving yourself some relaxing time on the computer, there’s a chance that you won’t be totally unplugged from the stresses of work. Modern entertainment doesn’t really allow you to totally unwind like reading a book does. By picking up a book, you are completely losing yourself to the world within the pages. When you lose yourself in the story, you are allowing yourself to relax and this reduces your stress levels. In fact, a 2009 study by the University of Sussex found that reading for just six minutes can reduce stress levels by up to 68%. When you reduce your stress levels, your brain benefits immensely. You will find that you feel refreshed, more focused, and happier. You may also notice that your creativity soars and it becomes easier to write when you are relaxed.

There are some great books that are slated to come out this summer, so it’s a great time to pick up a book and start reading. Reading will help you become a more educated and interesting writer and it will help you reduce stress and relax.

If you have any thoughts on the benefits of reading, please share them in the comments.

Until next week,

Debbie

Book Review: Church of Marvels

church of marvelsTitle: Church of Marvels
Author: Leslie Parry
Release Date: May 5, 2015
Rating: 3.5/5

Church of Marvels is a turn-of-the-century novel that unites four unlikely characters after a shocking discovery. Sylvan Threadgill is a night soiler in Manhattan who finds an abandoned infant in the privies in the middle of the night. Despite what others tell him, he rescues the child and brings her to a safe place, determined to find out who abandoned her. Odile Church was a part of an act with her sister, Isabelle, at the Church of Marvels, the Coney Island sideshow that their mother built. A tragic fire destroys the Church of Marvels and kills Odile’s mother and a few other members of the show. Isabelle disappears shortly after the fire and Odile fears something might have happened to her in the gritty city of Manhattan. Alphie worked on the docks before she fell in love with Anthony, the local undertaker. Despite the disapproval of Anthony’s mother, the two married and Alphie has been desperate to impress her. After a violent evening that is all but a blur, Alphie ends up in the lunatic asylum, where she meets an unusual girl without a tongue. The paths of these characters soon collide as they all attempt to solve the mysteries that have been presented to them.

This novel is told from the points of view of Sylvan, Odile, and Alphie. Each of the characters had a very intriguing story and I enjoyed learning about them. I thought that the stereotypes that Sylvan faced were authentic to the era and I found myself hoping that he could find acceptance. Odile is desperate to find her sister and although she always felt inferior to her, I loved her dedication to Isabelle. Alphie lives in a world that doesn’t quite understand her and she spends the novel attempting figure out how she ended up in the lunatic asylum and how she can escape. Alphie’s character is nice and genuine but as she discovers how she ended up in the asylum, I couldn’t help but sympathize with her.

Although I did enjoy learning the different stories of these characters, I thought that there was almost too much background information in the first half of the novel. Since we must learn the stories of these three characters, the book seems to drag out and it doesn’t really pick up speed until the last half of the book. It was obvious that Parry spent a lot of time developing these characters, but there were almost too many details that slowed down the action.

I think my favorite thing about this novel was the incredibly rich and detailed setting. Parry does an excellent job of building an authentic 1895 Manhattan and I could easily picture everything throughout the story. Parry adds small details throughout the novel that add to the authenticity of the era and I really appreciated it. The amount of research that was done for the setting is apparent and the world was incredibly vivid.

I thought that the ending of the novel was well written. I really liked Alphie’s ending and she seemed to finally be at peace by the end of the novel. I felt like Sylvan found the acceptance that he needed. I think that Odile’s ending was a little disappointing after all that she went through, but it did make sense. The epilogue was a little long, but I enjoyed reading from a perspective that Parry did not explore during the novel.

I would have enjoyed this novel more if it hadn’t been so slow in the beginning. The characters were all interesting and the setting was fantastic, but I just felt like the story didn’t pick up until the ending. I will caution any potential readers and say that Church of Marvels is a dark novel and deals with many mature themes, such as illicit drug use and gender identity. I would recommend this novel to a more adult audience who can properly appreciate these topics.

If you have read Church of Marvels, I would love to hear your thoughts as well. To view Church of Marvels on Amazon, please click here.

I received a free copy of Church of Marvels courtesy of NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.