Friday, February 28, 2014

REVIEW: To Boldly Go

To Boldly Go
By: Anesa Miller

Genre: Essays, Sociology, Marriage & Family
Publication date: 11.21.2013
Pages: 106
Amazon link: To Boldly Go 

Date read: 2.27.2013
Recommended by: Read 2 Review

Summary: A summer of lush flowers and perfect weather. Girls dancing on a moonlit field. A cold house overgrown with abandoned gardens. These images come together in Anesa Miller’s To Boldly Go, which explores the “turning years” of our new century from both a personal and a universal perspective. The author reveals the intimate pains of anger and loss at the death of her estranged father, but looks beyond emotional damages toward the wider horizon of environmental issues, runaway technology, and the implications of 9/11. This journey toward healing and hope traverses the landscape of memory with an eye for a better future. 

My thoughts

This book is a book of essays and I truly loved each and every one of them - from the words that she uses, to the things that she writes about, to the pictures that her words created in my head.  I don't think I've liked a set of short stories (that wasn't horror) as much as I liked these.  Truly amazing and inspiring.

I want to point out also that the forward, done by her partner, is very well done, very eloquent.  And I love the poem that she wrote which he shares in that forward called Why the boys Must Take Ritalin.

REVIEW: The Art of Storytelling

The Art of Storytelling
By: John Walsh

Genre: How-to, Writing, Storytelling, Christianity
Publication date: 12.18.2013
Pages: 160
Amazon link: The Art of Storytelling 

Date read: 2.27.2014
Recommended by: Read 2 Review

Summary:Many of us would love to hold the attention of a crowd, a classroom, or just a group of our friends by telling them a great story. We have felt the pressure of a public presentation or the disappointment of a story that is ignored and we are ready for more.In The Art of Storytelling, John Walsh talks through the steps to presenting a compelling story, outlining the strategies that helped him move from stutterer to storyteller as he fulfilled his calling of becoming a preacher. This book will help any person with a story to share, as it talks through all aspects of presentation, from what to do with your hands as you speak, to crafting a killer ending. It is especially relevant those who teach through the stories of the Bible or who would like to do so.

My thoughts

I picked up this book because I am a storyteller and wanted to learn how to be a better one.  The full title of the book is The Art of Storytelling: Easy Steps to Presenting an Unforgettable Story.  Had I just gone off of the cover alone, I would have been highly disappointed in this book (note: that is how I choose some of my books).  The description does not mention all of the talk of religion that happens throughout this book (there's my warning: this book is religion based and the author talks about scriptures and ministry throughout).  It does speak about him fulfilling his calling to be a preacher and that it is "especially relevant to those who teach through the stories of the Bible or who would like to do so."  This statement is not until the end of the description, though.  I assumed that this would be used as an example because the Bible is told through a lot of storytelling, that is how Jesus spread his word.  It is not until you check the genre at the bottom of the Amazon page (which, in this case, I forgot to do, that you see "ministry," "Christianity," "clergy," etc.

I'm sure you're wondering, if I took issue with this, why I have given it a 4 star rating instead of something lower.  My "warning" is followed by a "BUT": he makes very good points for public speaking and communication in general and a lot of these points could be very helpful for authors.  He also includes exercises to help make you a better storyteller, a better presenter.  I am a religious person so him speaking of religion is not what bothered me - it's the fact that there are some people who are not religious that will be offended and miss the good things that he had to say because of it.

REVIEW: Synthetic Illusions

Jane Colt 2:
Synthetic Illusions
By: Mary Fan

Genre: Science Fiction, Space Opera, Adventure
Publication date: 12.31.2013
Pages: 331
Amazon link: Synthetic Illusions 

Date read: 2.27.2014
Recommended by: Read 2 Review

Summary: Illusion is the only reality.

Jane’s new career as a composer is a dream come true, but her blossoming relationship with Adam is marred by his terrifying nightmares. When Jane receives a warning that a shadowy agency is targeting Adam’s seminary school, she rescues him in the nick of time, but the only way she can protect him from such a powerful enemy is to run.

In a shocking betrayal, her brother wasn’t the one who warned her about the attack on Adam. Instead, Devin was leading it. As Jane struggles to keep one step ahead of Devin, Adam’s exhaustion gives way to horror: His nightmares have begun to touch the real world.

Jane can’t abandon Adam to a fate worse than death, and far more than Adam’s life hangs in the balance. As Jane pushes further into the dark unknown, she must challenge everything she once believed in, and she faces the most wrenching decision of her life: choosing between the two people she loves most.

My thoughts

Mary Fan has been an author on my radar since early 2013 when she released the first book in this series.  When the opportunity came up to be one of the spots on her blog tour for the second book, I just had to have her on.  So, stop yesterday for interview, stop today for review.  I am so glad I did.  Not only is she a really nice lady, but her book was EVERYTHING I expected it to be AND MORE.  I immediately got pulled into the adventure and, even though there's mention of what happened before (I admit that I have not read #1), I am not confused in any way - she "explains" enough that you have an idea of what happened, but feel the want to go back and know the full story (this could be a stand-alone because it's not necessary for this particular story to know ALL of the details of the past story).  The adventure is exciting, the characters are likeable (in fact, you feel a sort of empathy for each one, a shock at the things that come), there are plenty of moments that had me on the edge of my seat (which is, as far as I'm concerned, the only way a true adventure science-fiction should be) and a lot of fun to read.  I enjoyed the worlds that she created as well and, even though there are slow moments (someone told me once that every science fiction adventure needs those slow moments so that the fast moments really catch your breath), this book was amazing and a series that I will definitely read more of. 

My favorite character: Riley.  He is a hacker ... and awesome.  Though, throughout this whole story, I really have no idea what he looks like and I kept, for some reason, picturing him as this gamer guy that is on the internet (who reminds me of Eric Cartman).  It's weird how your brain automatically slips in its idea of what character's should look like.

My favorite line: "Twenty-nine was far too young to have given up on life.  Devin had let Sarah become his world, and losing her had left him blind to hope."

Thursday, February 27, 2014

RIP to an amazing guy

I have been keeping my mouth shut
about this
since I found out it happened.
Because, well, because it just makes me really sad.
This...this is like when Mr Rogers died.
It's awful.

And this picture, of all I've seen, is just perfect.

Watching one of my favorite movies
will just not be the same now that he's gone.


REVIEW: Risking It All for Her Boss

Heroes for Hire
Risking It All for Her Boss
By: Sharon McClellan

Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Mystery, Romance
Publication date: 2.24.2014
Pages: 204
Amazon link: Risking It All for Her Boss 

Date read: 2.26.2014
Recommended by: Read 2 Review

Summary:When High Risk Securities (HRS) agent, Eva Torres, botches an undercover job by failing to rescue both of the kidnap victims she was sent to retrieve, Quinn Blackwood—her former lover and the man who broke her heart—pulls her and one of the victims out of harm’s way.
As a penalty for her sins, she’s offered the dull job of escorting a former bio-chemical warfare scientist to Washington D.C. to reunite with his daughter. Much to her displeasure, the job of monitoring her assignment is given to Quinn.
Quinn isn’t thrilled with the situation either. He taught Eva everything he knew about secrets,
sex, and lies—but the biggest lie of all was the one he’d told himself: that his missions for
HRS were more important than anything, including his relationship with Eva. Because now
that they’re working together again, the urge to put his hands on her, to feel her beneath him, is killing him.
Things only get worse when their current operation goes wrong, and the scientist they’re
guarding is kidnapped mid-air. Now, Eva and Quinn have to work together to find him before he is forced to create a monstrous weapon that could destroy entire cities. A hard task made more difficult when they find themselves fighting both the enemy and their building desire for each other. Can they work together for the sake of the mission without reigniting the passion between them—or will passion be the salvation of them all?
My thoughts
For anyone who has been following my reviews, you know that I have been taking myself out of my "I hate romance" comfort zone this month.  This is another one on my list. 

And, again, for anyone who has been following my reviews, no I did not choose this one for it's cover haha.  When it comes to anything romance-based, I have to read the full book description (while, at other times, I either skim it or ignore it all together) because I need to know if it is actually something I will enjoy.

This one, being under the genre of suspense, thriller and mystery, was right up my alley.  I really liked the story when it came to the mission that they were on and the twist at the end - completely not what I expected.  Once the cop shows up ... I sat there with my mouth wide open reading as fast as I could, completely shocked by the events that were happening on the page.

My issues with the book didn't take away from my enjoyment of the suspense, but at the same time annoyed me to no end.  First of all, Eva - oh my God!! Eva - she is probably one of the most annoying women I have ever read about in a book.  Now, you may love her, and I won't blame you if you do, but to me, she was just too much.  I get that she loved this guy and he hurt her and now they had to work together, but sheesh (You still worked together and he was one of your bosses, Eva, so you had to know that the possibility was there.  And if he hurt you so bad, why do you keep throwing yourself at him, only to feel guilty afterwards?).  I know I know, you're saying "Meghan, that's the romance part" and I get that, but it just didn't seem logical to me (but then maybe romance isn't supposed to be logical).  Secondly, there are some editing issues, which didn't effect my rating, but this is the third book I've read from this publishing company and all three (different authors) had editing issues.  Third, there was action throughout the whole thing, but it doesn't get really good until about the last maybe 75% and, as I've noticed with other books that are romance-based, everything is wrapped up into a pretty little box at the end (the happy ending/happily ever after thing) which is great and all, but it just seems a little TOO easy.  Fourth, I think that the author spent too much time dealing with the romance part and not enough time with the rest.  I think, if she had backed away a bit from all the longing for each other nonsense, making the romance more of a side note, that this would have been an even better book (but that is just my opinion.)

Would I read another from this series?  Yes.  Would I suggest it to someone else?  Yes.  

Favorite characters:  By far, Quinn and Temperance.  At first I wasn't sure about either, but as the book went on, I really liked Quinn's attitude and Temperance, once she let down her pissed off attitude at Eva for "messing up," really became a great character (in fact, I would have liked to learn more about her, but maybe that comes in another of the series).

REVIEW: Around a Different Corner

Around a Different Corner
By: Jay Nabonne

Genre: Short Stories, Science Fiction, Fantasy
Publication date: 1.22.2014
Pages: 87
Amazon link: Around a Different Corner 

Date read: 1.26.2014
Recommended by: Read 2 Review

Summary: Enter a world beyond the everyday, beyond the commonplace, beyond the expected. Within these pages, you'll find eleven stories where destiny reigns, where ghosts are real, and where the connection between lovers can never be broken – even when they have not yet met. See life through the eyes of those who, either deliberately or by accident, turned left when they should have turned right or perhaps simply stepped off the path to explore the mysteries and wonders to be found somewhere new. Discover what happens to those who find themselves around a different corner.

My thoughts

Under my new book selection guidelines (based on cover and genre, instead of reading a book description that gives away too much information or doesn't do it justice, leaving me open to the wonderful surprises that a book holds), I would have never chosen this book.  Why?  Because the book cover is just not appealing - and people DO judge books based on their cover.  But I did choose it, mainly because it was a selection of short stories and, even though I have been left burned by short stories on several occasions, I am still curious enough to keep reading them.

Despite the cover, I am very glad I picked this one up.  There are some really good stories in here and none of them what I expected at all.  They make you think and isn't that one of the good things about stories?  The first two are, by far, my favorites.  

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Blog Tour - SYNTHETIC ILLUSIONS + Giveaway

Hello, everyone!!  I hope you are having a wonderful Thursday :)  Today I am honored to have author Mary Fan here on my blog.  She's making her rounds for her Synthetic Illusions Blog Tour and I am one of her first stops.  A really nice lady and someone great with words, I was psyched when I found out I would have a chance to have her on.

Haven't heard of Synthetic Illusions?  Well here's a little bit about it (and make sure you check back in tomorrow for my review):

Title: Synthetic Illusions
Series: Jane Colt
Author: Mary Fan
Release date: 12.31.2013
Pages: 331
Goodreads  Amazon  Barnes & Noble 

Summary:  Illusion is the only reality.

Jane’s new career as a composer is a dream come true, but her blossoming relationship with Adam is marred by his terrifying nightmares. When Jane receives a warning that a shadowy agency is targeting Adam’s seminary school, she rescues him in the nick of time, but the only way she can protect him from such a powerful enemy is to run.

In a shocking betrayal, her brother wasn’t the one who warned her about the attack on Adam. Instead, Devin was leading it. As Jane struggles to keep one step ahead of Devin, Adam’s exhaustion gives way to horror: His nightmares have begun to touch the real world.

Jane can’t abandon Adam to a fate worse than death, and far more than Adam’s life hangs in the balance. As Jane pushes further into the dark unknown, she must challenge everything she once believed in, and she faces the most wrenching decision of her life: choosing between the two people she loves most.

Hi, Mary.  Welcome to The Gal in the Blue Mask.  Let's start off with you telling us a little bit about yourself.

I live in New Jersey with a crazy kitten who likes pouncing on my keyboard and spend more time than I should drinking in stories.  Mostly sci-fi and fantasy - I have a hard time reading anything too realistic!  And I usually have three books on the go at once - an e-book, a paperback, and an audiobook, which I listen to when stuck in North Jersey traffic.

These days, I write books, but I used to write music.  I was a composer in college, and I still scribble songs from time to time, although between the day job and the writing, there just aren't enough hours in the day!

 What is the first book you remember reading?

Oh goodness, I don't know!  The Secret Garden, maybe?  I have a memory like Swiss cheese and can barely remember what I did last weekend.  I know I read a lot of kid books ... I owned pretty much every Boxcar Children book that existed back in the early nineties.  And abridged versions of the classics.

 What made you decide to begin writing in the first place?

I used to write a lot in middle school and high school.  I don't remember exactly why I started, but I think it had something to do with boredom.  The first time I remember sitting down to write  a book, I was about 12 and spending a year abroad in Hong Kong, where I didn't really know anyone.  I'd always been a big reader, and I'd always make up stories in my head to entertain myself, so one day, I decided to try writing them down.  Once I started, I had to keep going.

But then I stopped.  Not long before I went off to college, my brain decided it wanted to focus on music instead of words - hence the composing.

Then, about two or three years ago, a friend of mine who's a writer wanted to exchange writing.  I was once again trapped in China (Beijing this time) and bored, so I said, "Sure, I'll play."  So I dusted off the old storytelling skills... 

Do you  have a special place you like to write?

Someplace cozy - usually my couch, with my cat curled up on the armrest.  I've never been the coffee shop type, though I do love coffee.  I find the noise too distracting, and I like to be in my own element.  And alone, since I often find myself yelling at my computer or pantomiming actions.  

Which of your characters do you think is the most like you?

They've all got a little of me in them (except religious nice-boy Adam, who remains a challenge to write even though I've spent two books with him!).  The most obvious character is Jane, since she's a young woman and a composer.  I'm not nearly as nuts as she is, though.  Steer a starship into another starship?  No thanks!  I'm also a bit like the  hacker Riley, being a dork who never leaves my computer.  I only wish I had his computer skills!

What books have most influenced you?

It's hard to say, since I don't really look for tips or anything when I read, and the books I read are quite varied.  Mostly, I absorb things, and they all kind of mishmash together in my head.  I did borrow a few traits from Scarlet O'Hara for the character of Jane Colt, so I guess you could say Gone with the Wind influenced me a bit.  Also The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for mystery elements and twists.  And a bit of Asmiov, Philip K Dick, and Gibson for the cyberpunk elements.

See what I mean?  A mishmash.

What inspires you the most?

Usually, an idea or concept will grab me, and the more I think about it, the more the idea snowballs into something bigger.  For the Jane Colt series, I was fascinated by the idea of artificial intelligence, which then got me thinking about other issues, such as questions of humanity, consciousness, and control.

I also get a lot of inspiration from the setting of my story.  I always choose a setting first, before the plot even begins to form, and that will affect how the story turns out.  For instance, with the Jane Colt series, I knew I wanted to set it in space, and that affected how the adventure unfolded.

Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

The most challenging part of writing is keeping track of all those little bits.  I have a ton of support documents around the Jane Colt series - locations, character bios, etc - to help me keep things straight.  Often, when I'm writing, I just want to focus on the main plotline, but the fact is, there's always going to be a million things going on around the central story.  And these little things often end up affecting how the story goes.

What do you think makes a good story?

In my opinion, for the story to be good, one has to have characters a reader can care about.  It's  hard to care about what's going to happen to someone unless you actually have some kind of emotional stake in that person.  I also personally prefer stories that have a clear plot, but still take time to smell the roses.  And happy endings are very important to me.  I know there's a lot to be said about the beauty of tragedy and the realism of ambiguity and whatnot, but I, as a reader, go into a story looking to see how a character I care about is going to get what they want. And if they fail, well, then I just feel cheated. 

What book(s) are you dying to read when you have the time?

If  you'd asked this a week ago, I would have said the Earthsea series, but I cracked the spine on the first paperback this past weekend.  I also want to go back and reread some sci-fi classics that have all but drained from my sieve of a memory.  And I've got a bunch of books by fellow Red Adept authors that have been sitting neglected on my Kindle for ages!

What kind of things do you do when you're not writing?

I still compose from time to time, and while I'm not much of a performer, I do practice my instruments (violin and classical voice) just for fun.  I also kickbox when I have the chance.  And I like going to the opera.  A bit too much.  

What can we expect from you in the future?

A lot of things!  I've got four different projects in the works at the moment.  There are two more books planned for the Jane Colt sci-fi series, and I'm planning a potential biopunk spinoff that takes place in the same universe.  I also have a YA fantasy/dystopia series called "Flynn Nightsider."  The prequel novella will be coming out in April, and Book 1 (Flynn Nightsider and the Edge of Evil) is scheduled to be released in Spring 2015 by Glass House Press.  I'm also working on something else for Glass House, but it hasn't been officially announced yet...

Wow!!  Sounds like you have a lot on your plate at the moment.  Thank you for stopping by and please, feel free to come back again.  :)

About Mary:
Mary Fan lives in New Jersey, where she is currently working in financial marketing.  She  has also resided in North Carolina, Hong Kong and Beijing, China.  She has been an avid reader for as long as she can remember and especially enjoys the infinite possibilities and out-of-this-world experiences of science fiction and fantasy.

Mary has a B.A. in Music, specializing in composition, from Princeton University and enjoys writing songs as much as writing stories.  She also enjoys kickboxing, opera singing, and exploring new things - she'll try almost anything once.

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

REVIEW: Death Defying

Blood Hunter 3:
Death Defying
By Nina Croft

Genre: Science Fiction, Space Opera, Romance
Publication date: 2.24.2014
Pages: 286
Amazon link: Death Defying 

Date read: 2.23.2014
Recommended by: Read 2 Review

Summary: Captain Tannis of the starship El Cazador is part snake, part human, and—according to some—all bitch. She is one job away from her lifelong goal—to achieve the immortality she craves. The assignment: protecting the most powerful man in the Universe.

After five hundred years, Callum Meridian, founding member of the Collective, is bored out of his mind. Until he realizes he’s physically changing—into what, he isn’t sure. Callum is determined to discover the truth, but his own people will stop at nothing to prevent it from coming out. 

With a coup brewing and the crew of El Cazador close to tossing him off the ship, Callum turns to Tannis. Sparks fly as they work together to make it out alive. But can Callum really trust the one woman hell bent on using him? Defying death has never been more dangerous, more sexy, or more fun.

My thoughts

During this month, I have been reading a few books that are part of my goal to take myself out of my "I hate romance" shell and give a few things a try.  Seeing that this was based mostly on Science Fiction and Space - in the future, vampires, werewolves and other such creatures - I decided it couldn't be that bad (haha).  I must say, the romance part of it wasn't actually as gross as I thought it would be :)

This is the third in the series and, in all honesty, the only one I've read.  The author did a decent job at making this story stand alone (which I think is something that other authors fail out) - there were no places I was confused, but plenty of places that made me want to go back and read the first two.

There were some issues, but on the whole I found it to be enjoyable.  I grew attached to the members of El Cazador's crew and even Callum as well.  (The change that came over him during his time on the ship was really well done.)  They were all completely different, yet so much like a family and the emotions they felt when one was hurting was really well written.  I like the ending, but at the same time it felt like it all ended just a little too easily.  I sure hope the series continues because there is much more that I want to know.

REVIEW: Compromising Willa

The Accidental Peers #3:
Compromising Willa
By: Diana Quincy

Genre: Historical Romance, Regency
Release date: 12.9.2013
Pages: 267
ISBN: 978-1622664146
Links: Goodreads  Amazon  Barnes & Noble 

Date read: 2.24.2014
Recommended by: Read 2 Review for Compromising Willa Blog Tour

Summary:  England, 1805

Lady Wilhelmina Stanhope is ruined and everyone knows it.  Back in Town for the first season since her downfall, Willa plans to remain firmly on the shelf, assuming only fortune hunters will want her now.  Instead she focuses on her unique tea blends, secretly supporting a coffee house which employs poor women and children.  If her clandestine involvement in trade is discovered, she'll be ruined.  Again.

No one is more shocked by Willa's lack of quality suitors than the newly minted Duke of Hartwell.  Having just returned from India, the dark duke is instantly attracted to the mysterious wallflower.  His pursuit is hampered by the ruthless Earl of Bellingham, who once jilted Willa and is now determined to reclaim her.

Caught between the clash of two powerful men, a furious Willa refuses to concede her independence to save her reputation.  But will she compromise her heart?

My thoughts

I chose to read this book because it's set in England back in 1805 and, during my experiment with romance novels, I've found that sci-fi stories and historical fiction stories that include a romance are much more enjoyable to me than just a plain old romance.

I actually really liked this book, a lot more than I  had originally expected to like it.  I liked that Grey Preston (Duke of Hartwell) really wanted to be marry Lady Wilhelmina Stanhope despite her past with Augustus Manning (Earl of Bellingham), that he stood up for her and defended her, even though he sometimes allowed his jealousy to get the better of him.  Sometimes Hart's attitude made me want to punch him in the face and sometimes Willa was just TOO head-strong, but that is sometimes how people are in life.  I did like how it ended, though at one point I couldn't imagine it ending the way that it did.

Favorite character: I really liked Hart.  He was different and I liked how he treated her, how he cared for her despite what others had said.  I also liked Willa's sister.

Favorite line: "I find myself growing quite attached to the idea of having you at my side in my dotage."   

REVIEW: Seeing by Moonlight

Seeing by Moonlight
By: MF Thomas & Nicholas Thurkettle

Genre: Action & Adventure, War & Military
Publication date: 10.16.2013
Pages: 319
Amazon link: Seeing by Moonlight 

Date read: 2.26.2014 (finished at like 2am cause I couldn't put it down)
Recommended by: Read 2 Review

Summary: 1941 - On the eve of America’s entry into World War II, Nazi Germany is developing a new weapon of unprecedented power, one that will give them ultimate victory over all the nations of the world. But the war turns against them before it is completed, and a conspiracy forms to preserve the weapon and carry on the research.

1999 - At the dawn of a new century, Alex Pyke, a self-styled bachelor entrepreneur, wants only the American Dream of a bigger house and a fatter bank account. But a business opportunity lures him back to Germany, the country he left as an orphan of five during the height of the Cold War. Upon his arrival, he is swept up in a deadly adventure involving an aging industrialist and his brilliant, beautiful niece. Even as Alex unravels the mysteries of his own family’s history, he makes a discovery that will change the direction of his life, and maybe the whole world beyond.

Seeing by Moonlight is a thriller that combines uncovered history of the German rocketry program with a science fiction twist to create a sweeping tale of secrets and love that spans generations past, present, and future.

My thoughts

Once I saw the cover to this book and saw that it has German history and World War II mixed in, I knew I had to read this book.  Ever since I was little, I have had an interest in the wars that have occurred throughout the history of humankind (maybe it was because this was my dad's thing, maybe just because I find the things that have happened both sad and interesting, wanting to know why people would do the evil that they had done) - especially this war.

The adventure in this book, the things that this man (Alex) has learned about Germany and his family, the people that he meets along the way, the things that he doesn't know but we see happening, all lead to a very interesting and well-written story.  I enjoyed this book immensely, though, at the beginning, before I was sure of everyone's names, the switching around was a little confusing and I had to go back and re-read some things in order to be sure that we were talking about who I thought we were talking about.  That aside, this is a really great book and, from around 40% on, there are just a lot of wow moments, as he gets closer and closer to "the truth."  I would highly recommend this book to people who are interested in the war and those things that conspiracy theorists insist are true.

Favorite character: I really liked Alex, though at first I was sure I would hate him.  Watching the change that came over him, from the beginning of the book til the end, was really quite interesting.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Blog Tour - COMPROMISING WILLA + interview + giveaway

I am very excited to have Diana Quincy here for an interview today.  She's doing the rounds for her Compromising Willa Blog Tour.  I have to say, I really enjoyed this book (check out my review here).  Make sure you enter the giveaway below to try and win a free copy!! :)

Haven't heard of Compromising Willa yet?  Well, here's a little about it:

Title: Compromising Willa
Series: The Accidental Peers
Author: Diana Quincy
E-book: 267 pages
Release date: 9 December 2013
ISBN: 978-1622664146
Goodreads  Amazon  Barnes & Noble   

Hi, Diana.  Welcome to The Gal in the Blue Mask.  Let's start off with you telling us a little bit about yourself.

Thanks for having me!  Let's see ... I'm a former television reporter who decided to start writing romance novels after falling in love with he genre when I discovered it about six years ago.  I live on the East Coast and am married with two sons.  I also still work in journalism, as a Web Editor for an international news organization.

What is the first book you remember reading?

I'm pretty sure it involved Dick, Jane, Sally and their dog, Spot.  Those early readers are the first books I can remember.  When my children started reading, I was a little disappointed that Spot and the gang were no longer used in schools.  Still, for nostalgia's sake, I did manage to find a volume of Dick and Jane stories to share with my two boys.  The kids were pretty indifferent to the books, but I had a lot of fun revisiting the characters as an adult! 

What books have influenced you?

Probably the first romance I ever read as an adult influenced my writing career the most.  I picked it up by chance while waiting in line to check out books for my kids at the library.  I don't remember the name but it was written by Shirlee Busbee.  I still love her books! 

What made you decide to begin writing in the first place?

I've loved to write for as long as I can remember and, as a journalist, that's been something I've done in my career.  I've always thought how great it would be to become a writer but I never had any idea of what type of book I could write.  However, once I discovered historical romance novels, something clicked in me and I thought, "I want to write this." 

Do you have a special place you like to write?

I write at the dining room table which is a sunny, open space, but I've recently started thinking about redoing our study into an office just for me.  I'm feeling the need to have a permanent space where I can keep my research books and other writing-related materials that don't have to be cleaned up every time we have people over for dinner. 

What inspires you the most?

Reading books by talented authors always inspires me.  I also find inspiration for my writing in history.  The Accidental Peers series often borrows from real-life events.  Tempting Bella, the second book in the series, was inspired by the true story of the heir to a dukedom who marries a thirteen-year-old girl to settle a gaming debt between their fathers.

Which of your characters do you think is the most like you?  

My friend reads everything I write and says I am most like Willa in Compromising Willa.  Of course, Willa is 1,000 times more fabulous than I ever could hope to be, but there is a reserve with strangers and an openness with friends and family that I think I do share with her. 

Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Finding time to write while working full time and raising a family is one of my biggest challenges.  Sometimes the plot itself is a struggle but I force myself to get that first draft down.  That way, at least I'll have something to work with. 

What do you think makes a good story?

Memorable characters the readers can become invested in.  Toss in good writing, some honest emotions, an unexpected development or two, and a satisfying ending.  Of course, the very best books are the ones that stay with you long after you've finished reading them.

About Diana:
Diana Quincy is an award-winning former television journalist who decided she'd rather make up stories where a happy ending is always guaranteed.

Fans of Madeline Hunter, Lisa Kleypas and Sabrina Jeffries will love her Regency world of dashing dukes, irresistible rogues and the headstrong, determined women who capture their hearts.  New York Times bestselling author Grace Burrowes says SEDUCING CHARLOTTE is "Sweet, steamy, and thoroughly enjoyable ... Equal parts action, passion and fun."

Growing up as a foreign service brat, Diana lived in many countries and is now settled in Virginia with  her husband and two sons.  When not bent over her laptop or trying to keep up with laundry, she enjoys reading, spending time with her family and dreams of traveling much more than her current schedule (and budget) allows.  Diana loves to hear from readers.  You can follow her on Twitter at @Diana_Quincy or visit her website at

To learn more about Diana's upcoming books and for sneak previews and other special exclusive giveaways, please consider signing up for her quarterly newsletters at  Diana understands your information is private and promises NEVER to share it with anyone.


Giveaway details:
1 Paperback of Tempting Bella, 1 tin of Compromising Willa Custom Tea and a $10 Starbucks Gift Card (US only)
3 e-books of Compromising Willa (International)

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule

Week One:

2/17/2014-Michelle Chew Writes- Review

2/17/2014- Simply Ali- Scavenger Hunt

2/18/2014- Bookworm Blurbs- Review

2/18/2014- herding cats & burning soup - Interview

2/19/2014- Margay Leah Justice - Review

2/19/2014- Curling Up With A Good Book- Scavenger Hunt

2/20/2014- Ramblings From This Chick- Review

2/20/2014- Sapphyria's Book Reviews- Guest Post (Top 10's)

2/21/2014- BookGroupies- Review

2/21/2014- Romantic Reads and Such- Scavenger Hunt

Week Two:

2/24/2014- Always Reiding- Review

2/24/2014- Fade Into Fantasy- Scavenger Hunt

2/25/2014- The Gal in the Blue Mask- Review/Interview

2/25/2014- Fab Fantasy Fiction- Interview

2/26/2014- What I'm Reading- Review

2/26/2014- Ex Libris- Scavenger Hunt

2/27/2014- Becky on Books- Review

2/27/2014- Reviews by Crystal- Guest Post (Top 10's)

2/28/2014- The La La Land of Books- Review

2/28/2014- Talking Books Blog- Scavenger Hunt

Monday, February 24, 2014

REVIEW: Bryan Cohen's Writing Prompt Box Set

1,000 Creative Writing Prompts Box Set
By: Bryan Cohen

Genre: Writing, How-To
Publication date: 12.28.2013
Pages: 829
Amazon link: Box Set

Summary: Keep Writer's Block away for good.  This set includes: 1) 1,000 Creative Writing Prompts 2) 1,000 Character Writing Prompts 3) Four Seasons of Creative Writing 4) 1,000 Creative Writing Prompts for Holidays 5) 1,000 Creative Writing Prompts Volume 2

My thoughts

A few years ago, when I began working with schoolage children, I decided it would be fun to work with them on their writing and encourage them to keep a journal, two things that I enjoyed quite a lot when I was young (and still do to this day).  Now, anyone who works with children knows that telling them to pick something to write about themselves is just not going to happen, so I spent quite a bit of time over the first few weeks looking up writing prompts online and making up some of my own.  Ever since then, I've always been very curious when I see someone has put together a group of these (whether it be on a website or in a book).

The first book of Bryan's that I read just amazed me.  His prompts were much better than anything I had found online those many years ago.  They were really good and I will fully admit that, while reading it, I would go off into thought on some of the thoughts that really stuck out to me.  I enjoyed them and have used a lot of them with the schoolage children I work with, as well as used them myself.  They really do help when you're not sure what to write, when you have a block that is stopping you or when you want to use freewriting to open your mind to possibilities.

Since that first book, I have read every other book he has offered on this subject and, finding out that he had put them all in the same collection, I had to come back and write a review to let people know that these are more than worth the price he's asking. 

These writing prompts have worked for me with children in middle school (of course, some of them you have to adapt to make them work for a younger child) all the way up to adults.  I have actually handed my Kindle to a child and said "Here, you pick what you want to write about" and watched them write down several ideas and then head off to work on them.  I have had children (and adults that I have told about these) say to me that Bryan really makes you think and makes writing fun. 

Do I recommend these books??  Definitely. :)  And I hope they are as helpful to you as they have been to me and my students.