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Chasing Paris by Jen Carter - Book Review

Chasing Paris by Jen Carter is one of those books that I will be highly recommending this year. It's about a girl. Her biological grandmother dies, but all of her life she knew another woman as her grandmother. More and more secrets come out as she searches for the truth.

Chasing Paris by Jen Carter book cover

It's about sisters. It's about love. It's about finding identity. It's about understanding. This book is about so many things. And right from the beginning the reader is thrown into the story. The pace was simply perfect. And the multiple plots fit like puzzle pieces, but they weren't so parallel that they were identical. The author gave away so many big secrets at the beginning of the story that I was worried the ending wouldn't be a big revelation, that it would be played up too much for the hype it deserved. It deserved the hype. The ending wasn't mind-blowing, but it wasn't disappointing. It rang true and natural.

The characters really intrigued me. One reminded me of Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream (Kim, if you are wondering who I mean) and the others I simply couldn't get enough of. I had a little trouble with the college boys, they weren't quite 'boy' enough. They said things that were simply too sensitive for a college boy to say. I loved them nonetheless. One other pet peeve of mine, there were a lot of typos - missing words - and it threw me off, but not enough to dislike the story.

Honestly, you must read this book. It was a great escape for such a normal, everyday adventure.

I received this book from the author for review.


My Editing Process

I'm sure the idea of working with an editor on your baby is a bit daunting. You don't want to hand your precious art to someone and let them rip it apart with their jagged teeth. But don't worry, it's not that bad. I promise.

I'll give you a little insight into how I work, maybe that will put you at ease.

The First Read Through

Editing Amie McCrackenOnce your manuscript has passed through acquisitions and is finally assigned to me, I'll take it on my e-reader and do a complete read through for the overall concept, getting a taste. I'll write notes as I go and then pass on a letter to you. During this read, I'm contemplating character arc, timeline and pacing, and the big picture. I like to gnaw on the thing as a whole before I start to digest. We'll delve into the little stuff later.

The Second Edit

This time around, after I've received your updates from the first read through, I'll go through with a fine tooth comb and rip to shreds…sorry, I mean carefully fine tune your work. This means I look at the arc in each scene as well as spelling and grammar mistakes as I go. This is when it gets bloody. We might need to cut a character or change who they are. I particularly enjoy when I get to delete line after line after…I'm sorry, where was I?

The Final Read

This third time, after we have carefully polished your manuscript, I'm pretty much just checking the changes you made after the second edit. Then I'll send it off to copy editing, who will proofread it. See? Not that bad after all. *licks blood from her fingers*

This blog post was originally posted on my publisher's blog, WiDo Publishing. Go check out the other stuff we are posting there!


Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft by Jody Gehrman - Book Review

Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft by Jody Gehrman is the story of a new witch, Audrey. Her mother disappears, a mysterious cousin shows up to babysit, and she has foreboding feelings about it all.

Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft by Jody Gehrman book cover

The voice in this book was flashy and fun. There was just enough high school mixed with new-witch-hiding-her-identity. I was completely in love with the 'cousin,' Sadie. She's eccentric and cool all at the same time. And the book is all around fun without being vapid and girly. The love story felt natural, with their awkwardness being very endearing. It wasn't love at first sight but there was definitely a lot of attraction.

By the end of the book though, Audrey's motivations were weak. She went somewhere she didn't absolutely feel compelled to go and that frustrated me. The book was an easy read, but I'm frustrated it wasn't finished. You all know how I loathe open endings. This one wasn't quite open, but I don't think it required a sequel either.

If you like a fun read involving witches and sort-of zombies, with well rounded characters and a horrific highschool enemy, then pick this one up for sure.

I received this book from the author for review.


Guest Post from The Emotion Thesaurus Co-Author Becca Puglisi - Favorite Settings

Favorite Settings: A Book-Lover’s Bucket List

Today I have Becca Puglisi, co-author of The Emotion Thesaurus, telling us her favorite book settings. For me, settings can be as much a character as the people (or animals if you prefer) just like Miss Havisham's house in Great Expectations. Apparently it's the same for Becca!

The Emotion Thesaurus book

When Amie asked me to share my favorite literary settings, I was super excited. I’m a sucker for a good setting. My favorites are the ones that feel like characters themselves,  places that elicit a strong feeling in the characters and in me. I wasn’t sure exactly how my list of top settings would play out, but it’s not surprising that they come from four of my favorite books.

1.  Hobbiton. My first magical landscape--even if the magic is only the ordinary everyday sort which helps the residents disappear quietly and quickly when large stupid folk like you and me come blundering along, making a noise like elephants which they can hear a mile off. Hobbiton is an excellent example of a setting as characterization. The layout of a hobbit’s hole reveals a lot about the resident. The proliferation of pubs is telling. Even the names of the neighboring boroughs (Bywater, Buckland, Woody End) give you an idea of the kind of people and place you’re dealing with. The lesson I take away from Tolkien and his settings is to choose meaningfully. Weave the story into and through the setting instead of just dropping the character into it.

2.  Prince Edward Island. The first time I read Anne of Green Gables, I fell in love with the sheer beauty of PEI. Every lane and field is described so clearly. By today’s standards, the descriptions run a little long, but through them, we see beyond a doubt L.M. Montgomery’s love for her childhood home. I’ve always been a sucker for a place with a view, and because of this book, Prince Edward Island is on my bucket list of places to visit.

3.  Hogwarts. Come on, who doesn’t want to go to Hogwarts? It’s got a Forbidden Forest, a sadistic poltergeist, a lake with mermaids and a giant squid, the Shrieking Shack, and a Great Hall that decorates itself and feeds its tenants a never ending supply and endless variety of food. We love it because literally anything could happen there. Naturally, not every story could withstand a Hogwarts. But every story does need that element of surprise and uncertainty, and the setting is a great vehicle through which we can keep the reader guessing.

4.  Maycomb. This one surprised me. The setting of To Kill a Mockingbird? Really? But I love it for its GENIUS. The fictional town of Maycomb is symbolic of what’s happening in the story. The heat and need for relief is tangible and quickly becomes unbearable, much like the growing tension in the town and its desperate need for change. Small-town summer is the perfect symbol for innocence; by the end of the story, both the summer and the innocence are gone. It’s just such an incredible example of thoughtful and deliberate use of a setting. Lee inspires me to think more deeply about my settings and make them do double-duty in the story.

It was hard to whittle my list down to the top four, but these are mine. What about you? What are your favorite settings?

Becca Puglisi author of Emotion ThesaurusBecca Puglisi is one half of The Bookshelf Muse blogging duo, and co-author of The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression. Listing the body language, visceral reactions and thoughts associated with 75 different emotions, this brainstorming guide is a valuable tool for showing, not telling, emotion. The Emotion Thesaurus is available for purchase through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Smashwords, and the PDF can be purchased directly from her blog.


Nick Brandt Photography

I can't get over the breath-taking images by Nick Brandt. I love, love, love elephants. And wow do I want, want,want Nick Brandt's collection books. When I went to Africa for safari with my family, I couldn't get enough elephant photos. Nick Brandt's photography reminds me of all those moments. The stunning quality just has my jaw on the ground. Go check him out, you will probably recognize his photos, and here's one of my attempts with my film (gasp!) Canon eight years ago.

Elephant photo Tanzania Africa Amie McCracken


Diaries of a Teenage Bride by Jillian Amodio - Book Review

Diaries of a Teenage Bride by Jillian Amodio is exactly what it sounds like, in a very wholesome and honest manner. Jillian was married at the age of eighteen, for love. And this book gives her personal account of marrying that young, the ups and downs of marriage, and the continuing adventure of married life.

Diaries of a Teenage Bride by Jillian Amodio book coverI feel that just from reading this book I am now friends with Jillian. Her writing style is simple and honest without making the reader feel like they are hearing a sermon. It's just Jillian's story with a few good advice tidbits thrown in. She has opened her heart and laid it before the reader so they can witness her experiences and glean what they can.

I read her book in just a few days because I couldn't put it down.

A few of my favorite lines:

"Marriage is life, but marriage is life that you get to experience with someone who loves you." page 88

"...I know that marriage is what you make it." page 90

I received this book from the author for review.


Broken City by D.D. Chant - Book Review

Broken City by D.D. Chant is a post-apocalyptic novel. Financial ruin forces the world into tribes fighting amongst themselves for survival. Deeta, the main character, has quite the adventure that opens her eyes not only to the world she has been kept hidden from, but also to love.

Broken City by D.D. Chant book cover

This was one of those wild rides where I felt like I needed to close my eyes and simply hang on for the pleasure of it. The story didn't really get going until almost halfway through, but at that point I didn't want to stop. The characters were very engaging (I absolutely love Deeta's sister Jan, she is a hoot!), the world was intriguing with its history and murder plots and all-out war, and the love story was so natural I couldn't help but smile when they finally, finally kissed.

But (and this might be a big but) my editor's eyes could not get past a lot of things. There were typos, forgivable, but then there were run-on sentences. I think I actually found an instance of too much showing. I was drowning for such a long time in the non-information that I almost gave up.

I am so glad I didn't, because once I turned off my brain and just enjoyed the ride I really liked it.

I received this book from the author for review.


We're Moving to Belgium!

If you haven't heard already, we are moving to Belgium. My friends here in Stuttgart are begging me not to go (I feel so loved) but we will probably move back here in about six months or so. It's a quick there and back again. (Random side note: hate that The Hobbit will be three movies. Hate. Hate. Hate.)

Here are some photos of our new house. We got the keys yesterday and I'm dying to decorate. We don't move until next week though. Need to pack a few things and tear down the house this weekend and then watch the movers put it all away on Monday.

My new office. 

The living room/dining room/kitchen 

A real fireplace! 

Oh man I can't wait to enjoy the sunshine (what little there is) out here. 

Upstairs guest bedroom. 

Upstairs main bedroom. (There's another room between these two that we'll kind of use as a catchall I guess.) We have closets!