Some changes

Okay, here are a few things that will be changing at The Life and Lies.

Next year, I won't really be doing any challenges, simply because I don't really have time, and I forgot to sign up for any. I'll have to do them next year.

Also, I'll be really focusing on school, since I now have 2 majors, I'm teaching, and I'm doing an internship this summer (more on that later). Because of that, reviews will be irregular (like they are now) but don't worry, eventually I will have the time to read and write regularly.

Lastly, I'll be writing about writing a lot, since I'm really working on editing my novel, ACCIDENTAL GIRLFRIEND (title tentative). I also want to work on another book I've developed, WHISPERS. If you want to read AG, I'll send you a pdf review copy. I'm currently looking for readers to give me advice/critique on the first draft (it's very very rough!)

So there you go. I've already written my year-end post, about what I've learned this year (instead of resolutions). Also, if you want to follow my personal blog, email me and I'll send you the web address.

Things I've learned in 2011

I've learned some big things this year. I don't particularly like making resolutions because I don't keep them. Instead, I'm making a list of things I've learned. Some of them will seem random, but I'd love for you to tell me what you think in the comments :)

  1. Dare to wait. Dare to be patient. Dare to keep in mind what you want and what you're waiting for, and dare not to settle for second best. It's worth it in the end. (yes I am talking about boys here, but this lesson applies to many things in life.)
  2. Seeking knowledge is one of the best things you can do for yourself, because not only do you become wiser and more intelligent, you gain a greater appreciation for God. (Example: As a writer, I've learned so much about myself, and about God's genius and creativity because He wrote my story, and it's perfect. My stories will never reach that level of perfection. But striving for it and writing about people teaches me about how God works in my life, and how my life affects other people… etc.)
  3. God is faithful. Period.
  4. You have to start somewhere, so why not start here, and why not start now? Sometimes we're afraid to start something because we don't want to go through the hard part (you know, the part where you suck at it?) but you have to start somewhere. So just jump in and do it!
  5. Write every day. Read every day. Over the summer, I wrote a 60,000 word novel in three weeks because I went to the bookstore/coffee shop every single day (seven days a week!) and wrote several thousand words. At first it was really hard, but after a while, it got really easy. It was like as soon as I sat down in that coffee shop, my creativity turned on by itself! I pumped out those words like they were nothing. (okay there were some tough parts, but really, it works.)
  6. You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. So for goodness sake, take care of yourself. Eat right, stay healthy, exercise, read your Bible. Find an accountability partner for whatever you need accountability for.
  7. You're always either going into a trial, in the middle of a trial, or coming out of a trial. Always. So know that this too shall pass.

What have you learned this year?

Review: Shatter Me

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
Genre: YA, Paranormal, Dystopia, Romance
ISBN: 9780062085481
Published: November 15th 2011 by Harper/HarperCollins

Rating: 5

Shatter Me is one of those books that will stick with me forever. I may even re-read it just because I enjoyed it so much! I mean, I never re-read books! But I may very well re-read this one! It's one that I can pick up the next one after not having read it for a year, and I can jump right back in because I remember it all. I can't wait until the next book comes out! Oh my gosh! Why on earth did I wait so long to read it? Oh yeah. College.

The writing was magnificent (man has it been a long time since I've been able to say that). It was interesting, and different, and felt like a free flowing train of thought instead of conscious sentences or pages from a diary. It was beautiful and poetic, and full of metaphors about nature and beauty and pain that were so honest and true that I couldn't figure out why I hadn't thought them up myself first. Sometimes there would be a phrase that Juliette thought to herself that was true but she refused to admit to thinking, and it would be crossed out. (like that ^). I really liked this, because it showed what she was really thinking, but it also showed what kind of person she wanted to be.

The plot was fantastic. It never stopped moving forward. There were brief times of rest in the thriller aspect of the story, but the tension itself never went away, and there were no dead plot fillers thrown in.

I really liked Juliette. She wants to be strong, but after a long life of being emotionally abused, she's a weak broken pitiful creature who just wants to be loved and nurtured back to health. She will do anything to be on good terms with someone she loves. She's dying to be touched, but she knows she can't be because she'll kill whoever touches her. And she doesn't want to hurt anyone. She wants to help people and comfort them, but she knows she'll kill them. What a horrible place to be in!

I won't say too much about her love interest, Adam, but I will say he is so going on my list of favorite literary crushes. He is hott stuff. And because of that, I'm going to put my recommendation as ages 16+. If you can't read Hush Hush or Hourglass, I'd hold off on this one for a while…

Content/recommendation: Some hot kissing scenes, and I'm seeing a potential for more in the later books. Ages 16+

Trailer. Yeah, you know I never post trailers. This is a good trailer. Watch it.

This review is copyright Haley Mathiot and Amazon Vine.

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Genre: YA Paranormal
ISBN: 9781611132977
Published: September 27th 2011 by Hachette Audio

Rating: 5

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone was highly addicting. I really should have studied more last week but instead I listened to a riveting audio book.

I'm going to keep this short and sweet. The book pulled me into the story right away and kept me engaged the whole time. The characters were wonderful, real, imperfect, and believable. The plot never stopped and the pacing never slowed and the tension never dissolved. it got more and more interesting and complicated with every chapter, but all the ends were tied up at the end. Every detail mattered. The end was painful but perfect and I will be at the book store the day Book 2 comes out and hand over my hard earned cash to get that book in my hands because I can't wait to figure out what happens next!

This is the second book by Laini Taylor I've read (see my review for Lips Touch Three Times), and she is quickly becoming a favorite writer of mine. Her graceful lyric writing never ceases to impress me.

Audio: I listened to the audio book of DoSaB. I am very picky about audio books because I've listened to a lot of poorly recorded ones, and I've grown up having a very good reader read books out loud to me. But Khristine Hvam did an excellent job, so much so that I would seek out more books read by her. She gave distinct voices to each character, but it didn't feel corny and stupid like some readers do. She breathed and felt the characters and the dialogue, and it worked. 

Content/Recommendation: Clean! Ages 14-Adult

2 Weeks!

2 weeks of school left! One week of classes, and then finals week. I probably won't post much until school is out… but I have so many awesome exciting books to review through the month of December and early January! So keep your eyes peeled!

I'll also be hosting some giveaways and tours soon.

Meanwhile: Check out this video and leave me comments and tell me what you think.

Review: Sasha Kagan's Classic Collection

Sasha Kagan's Classic Collection 
ISBN: 9781600854118
Published: September 6th 2011 by Taunton Press, Incorporated
Rating: 3

I wasn't particularly impressed by this book, but that's because I don't knit sweaters, nor am I a fan of bland patterns. Looking through the photos, I knew I would never wear anything from this book, nor would I spend the time to make anything from it. There were a few patterns I liked, like the tunic and the dog beret, and I'll keep the book for the color charts because I adore working with colors, but it's really not for me.

If you like Sandra Kagan's patterns and you wear the style, this book is for you, because it's got some great projects in it. I however wasn't blown away by it.

Recommended: Intermediate/Advanced knitters

Knit Noro Accessories

Knit Noro Accessories: 30 colorful little knits
ISBN: 9781936096206
Published: January 3rd 2012 by Sterling

Rating: 5

I liked this book a lot more than the other Knit Noro book. As I mentioned before, these books are using Noro yarn, yarn that looks great no matter what you knit with it, so it's hard to judge whether the book is great because of the pattern, or the yarn. This one definitely did a better job with the patterns. I liked all of them, and there were some very unique things in there! I was much happier with this collection.

Again, it depends on what you knit. If you like sweaters and shirts and other such large commitments, go with Knit Noro. If you like accessories, this is the one you want.

There are 30 patterns, and a good mix of hats, scarves, handwear, and other fun little things. Some of the designs include:

  • Dog Sweater
  • Tea Cozy
  • Lacy Pillows
  • Braided Headband

Recommendation: Intermediate/Advanced knitters

Preorder today! This title is released in January 2012.

Review: Eve

Eve by Anna Carey
Genre: YA Fiction, Romance, Distopian
Published: October 4th 2011 by HarperCollins Publishers

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Summary (From Goodreads):

Where do you go when nowhere is safe?

Sixteen years after a deadly virus wiped out most of Earth’s population, the world is a perilous place. Eighteen-year-old Eve has never been beyond the heavily guarded perimeter of her school, where she and two hundred other orphaned girls have been promised a future as the teachers and artists of the New America. But the night before graduation, Eve learns the shocking truth about her school’s real purpose—and the horrifying fate that awaits her.

Fleeing the only home she’s ever known, Eve sets off on a long, treacherous journey, searching for a place she can survive. Along the way she encounters Arden, her former rival from school, and Caleb, a rough, rebellious boy living in the wild. Separated from men her whole life, Eve has been taught to fear them, but Caleb slowly wins her trust . . . and her heart. He promises to protect her, but when soldiers begin hunting them, Eve must choose between true love and her life.

In this epic new series, Anna Carey imagines a future that is both beautiful and terrifying. Readers will revel in Eve’s timeless story of forbidden love and extraordinary adventure.

When I started Eve, I tore through the first half. I stopped about halfway through because it got sappy and dramatic and frustrating, but luckily I picked it up again and found that it only lasted a few pages. Aside from that one chapter that felt twilight-esque in its drama, I couldn't put it down and I loved it.

The pacing was great. It's been a while since I've read a book that I really had trouble putting down. I felt like I could read it forever, because the action and the tension never stopped: it just kept pulling you along at a very fast rate. And boy, did Carey pack a lot of story into this concise book. And the writing was good! It wasn't fantastic or jaw-dropping, but it was easy to read and it matched the character.

I liked Eve enough, but I really like Arden, one of the supporting characters whom Eve befriends while she escapes. Arden is something special and I understood her pain right away. She's that mean tough jerk of a girl on the outside with something sweet and beautifully broken on the inside. I wanted to know more of her story, and I hope in the other books I learn more about her and watch her grow. Eve herself was a strong sweet gentile innocent girl. She was so naïve I felt sorry for her. She reminded me of a child who thinks they understand the world and is devastated when they discover they're wrong. Luckily, Eve had more strength than that, and she loved strongly, so she was able to overcome her fears and her weaknesses.  

The plot itself never stopped. There wasn't a section in the book that felt like "filler" story—like the author was trying to come up with plot to get from point A to point B. Everything was important, and everything was paced well. The word I used earlier was concise, and really that's one of the best ways to describe the plot. It was concise, but it was also elaborate and complicated and it never really stopped.

Which brings me to the end. The ending was not enough for the ending. It felt like there was something else that should have happened. I'm not going to spoil it, but I will say this: I wouldn't have had a problem with it if it had gone straight to part 2 or book 2 or something, but because the book ended where it did, I felt a little like I'd had cold water splashed on me. I would have liked either one more happy thing to happen, to close it up a little, or one more piece of the future plot to be revealed, to give me something specific to look forward to. Now it wasn't nearly as bad as Suzanne Collins's cliffhangers, or Cassandra Clare's chapter-esque endings; in fact it really wasn't bad at all. But I would have liked just one more something. Even a little more interior monologue for closure, or that wrapping-up feeling.

All in all I loved Eve,and will definitely recommend it to anyone ages 13+. There was no language, and not enough sexual content to even call it that (there was a kiss in the snow. Not bad, right?).

This review is copyright Haley Mathiot and Amazon Vine.

Tour: Highland Sanctuary

Highland Sanctuary is on tour this week! Check out the trailer below.

A Sanctuary of Secrets...
 Gavin MacKenzie, a chieftain heir who is hired to restore the ancient Castle of Braigh, discovers a hidden village of outcasts who have created their own private sanctuary from the world. Among them is Serena Boyd, a mysterious and
comely lass, who captures Gavin’s heart in spite of harboring a deadly past that could destroy her future.
The villagers happen to be keeping an intriguing secret as well. When a fierce enemy launches an attack against them, greed leads to bitter betrayal. As Gavin prepares a defense, the villagers unite in a bold act of faith, showing how God’s love is more powerful than any human force on earth.

You can learn more about the author here.

Christmas Card Exchange

Would anyone be interested in a Christmas Card exchange? Leave a comment and tell me if it sounds fun.


Call for Readers

I've got a writer-friend looking for readers to critique her novel. Here's the summary:

The book is called Remedium, and it is about a small family of doctors who are searching for a cure for a disease that has turned most of the population into inhuman-looking, animal-like creatures who they call "the sick." Abby Corner, the seventeen-year-old daughter of the family, searches for the cure in her own unique way and makes some interesting discoveries about the sick.

Meanwhile a passionate group of survivors called "the Slayers" attempt to eliminate the existence of the sick and put the dead to rest at last. Although they are convinced that they are following the right path of action, a few encounters with the young rebel, Abby Corner, encourages a slayer named Dante Scorne to think a little more about what he is doing.  He will eventually have to pick a side, and Abby's life becomes increasingly endangered as her family and her refuse to conform to the Slayers' rules.

She's willing to send an e-copy of the book to anyone who is interested. Email her here or visit her blog.

…don't tell me you've forgotten to be awesome…

Have YOU pre-ordered The Fault in Our Stars? I did. I hope all you nerdfighters out there will as well. It's only about $12 of your money, which is a little over an hour's worth of minimum-wage work.

C'mon. For a John Green book, it's worth it.

I absolutely loved the first chapter. I can't wait for more!


Review: Stitchionary volume six: Edgings

Stitchionary 6: Edgings
Vogue Knitting
ISBN: 9781936096220
Published: November 1st 2011 by Sixth&Spring Book
Rating: 4

This book is very similar to Knitting Beyond the Edge, but I don't like as many as the patterns. I like a lot of them, but I don't like as many as I did in KBtE. This might be because the patterns were presented in a relatively boring way: a photo, the pattern, and a number. There weren't any pictures of the edges being used, or examples, so maybe it was just hard to visualize using them. Again, I liked a lot of them, and they were inspiring, but not as much as I'd hoped.

It has seven sections: Ribs, Texture, Cables, Lace, Color, Unusual, and Crochet. There are some other things in the back like a glossary and abbreviations. I like the cables, lace, color, and unusual sections a lot. Of course I don't knit lace, so usability wise I would really only use three out of the seven sections.

Overall it's an extremely convenient and important tool for pattern designers and people like me who make stuff up as they go along. If this book is anything like the others, I'd love to have the rest of the Stitchionary volumes for my collection.

Recommendation: Knitters of all skill levels. There are very simple and basic patterns for ribs and seed stitches, all the way up to extremely complicated lace and Celtic knots.

Review: Knit Local

Knit Local by Tanis Gray
Genre: Knitting
ISBN: 9781936096183
Published: October 4th 2011 by Sixth&Spring Book
Rating: 4

Knit Local is a really fun book. I went nuts while I was flipping through it. There's a wide range of patterns, including sweaters and large pieces of clothing, scarfs, hats, mittens, shawls, wraps, cowls, socks, kids clothing, and even some pillows. I liked the patterns, but I'm a small projects girl, and I don't make sweaters or large items, and there were a lot of larger more complicated patterns. I would have liked more small projects – but that's just my personal preference. Because it is so broad, I think it would be hard to find a target audience that would like every single pattern. I liked most of them, but about half of them I'll never knit.

Artistically, this book is beautiful. Each new feature includes a story about the small yarn company, information about them, their location, website, and yarns, and a pattern with their yarn. The layout and structure is just as beautiful as the photographs, and makes the book really easy to read and look through.

I love local yarn companies and shops. I love supporting local businesses, mostly because I know our economy runs on them more than we think we do. I've worked at three small businesses over the past five years, and I've loved every second of it. This book not only has great patterns, but there are connections to buy local yarns.

Recommendation: Intermediate/advanced knitters. There are a few crochet patterns, but not an even distribution of knit and crochet.

Anthologies, Memoirs, and Nonfiction

Help for Writers by Roy Peter Clark
Genre: Instructional/Self Help for Writers
ISBN: 9780316126717
Published: September 21st 2011 by Little, Brown and Company
Rating: 5

This book is one of those books that I will let people borrow as long as they don't take it out of my house. It's so awesome I know it will be stolen if I loosen my grip on it. It reminds me of The Breakout Novelist, only it's not specifically aimed for novels, but more writers in general. It's about the process of writing, the preparation, the motivation, the different tricks and tips to get you going, and to get you to finish, and then how to edit etc. This is a gem of a book and should be on every writer's bookshelf.

Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories, edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant
Genre: YA Steampunk
ISBN:  9780763648435
Published: October 11th 2011 by Candlewick Press
Rating: 4

This is a really cool collection of fourteen different short stories by some of todays best known YA authors, including Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, Christopher Rowe, Holly Black, and more. They are peculiar and strange, and though I don't like all of them, I appreciate them and I like the collection as a whole. I definitely recommend this collection to anyone who likes the steampunk Genre. (This review is copyright Haley Mathiot and AmazonVine.)

Every Step You Take: A Memoir by Jock Soto
Genre: Memoir
ISBN: 9780061732386
Published: October 4th 2011 by Harper
Rating: 3, DNF

What can I say about a dancer's memoir? It's not the first I've read. In general I avoid memoirs because they tend to have a stuffy self-absorbed feel to them. There was a little of that in Every Step You Take, but it wasn't really bad at all. I didn't read the whole thing, although I probably will finish it eventually (a chapter here and a chapter there). It was interesting, and I felt pulled into Soto's story—his writing has good voice—but I didn't feel compelled to read it. I didn't love it, but I didn't dislike it. I'm still on the fence. If I ever find myself reading the rest and change my mind about it, I'll be sure to revise this review, but as it is, I'm finding my mind wandering. Time to move on. (This review is copyright Haley Mathiot and AmazonVine.)

Intended Target

Primary Victim was one of my favorite crime thrillers through my first year of blogging. Primary Victim has been re-edited and re-released under the new title Intended Target.

Intended Target e-book is available on Amazon for $0.99 for a limited time!

Michael Bloomington is a serial killer whose victims don't die. They linger in prison, struggling to understand how they came to sit in jail convicted of a murder they did not commit.

A brilliant man trained in the intricacies of the law, Michael's goal is to get caught. Only then can his defense, based upon the maxim on which our legal system rests, "better ninety-nine guilty men go free than one innocent man be hanged," be tested.

Brice McCallahan is Michael's latest victim. With his memory clouded by a night of heavy drinking and overwhelming evidence pointing to his involvement in the murder of a young woman, even Brice begins to doubt his innocence.

Ted Jamey is the one homicide detective not entirely convinced Brice is a killer. However, as Ted draws closer to the true killer, he also draws closer to unleashing the killer's grand design.

Intended Target is a novel that tests both the psychological breaking point of an individual and the strength of the legal system governing society.

Learn more about Intended Target and author Cyrus Holt here.

Review: The Christian Zombie Killers Handbook

The Christian Zombie Killers Handbook by Jeff Kinley
Genre: Christian Living
ISBN: 9781595554383
Published: October 11th 2011 by Nelson, Thomas, Inc.

Rating: DNF

I really wish I could have gotten farther in this book. It sounded like it had a lot of potential and It's extremely relevant to our culture. However, this is another example of a sad reoccurring theme: An individual who has a really good idea and a really good concept, but can't write (They Almost Always Come Home, The Bridge, and more). In these situations, I always wish the author had partnered up with someone who could make the book readable.

I didn't have a problem with the book itself, and I'll bet Kinley is a great public speaker, but he can't write a book. Although I've never heard him preach, I can tell he writes like he speaks. If he were speaking this book out loud and if I were watching it, I would probably have given it a totally different rating. But books are written using grammatical sentences, starting with a subject, including at least one verb, and connected with prepositions and direct objects etc. This book was written mostly in fragments. Call me a grammar Nazi, but I couldn't get past the second chapter because it was grating on my nerves and making me want to mark it up with a red pen.

Also, Kinley made the first chapter a fiction story, and the next chapter the actual book. He continued this pattern through the book. I thought I would like this, but I found it broke up the book and made me lose my concentration. Either write a nonfiction, or write a novel, but please don't write both at the same time.

Included in that fiction aspect, there was a lot of gore. Now I like gore: I'm a crime thriller writer. Maybe this was poor decision making on my part, but I do my Bible study over breakfast; and eating pancakes with blueberries and applesauce while reading about zombie guts being spewed all over someone's face just don't mix very well. Again, I like blood and guts, but I felt like this was a little unnecessary.

I wish I could have given this book more positive promotion, but the only thing I can say is I've promised to give my honest opinion, so here you go.

Recommendation: Ages 16+ for graphic content.

Crude Deception

Gordon Zuckerman is on tour for his new book Crude Deception, and is visiting The Life and Lies today!

About Crude Deception:

The sentinels return in an epic battle against a big oil monopoly. As America's dependence on fossil fuel takes hold in the post-World War Two climate of economic growth, seven major oil companies join forces to control the industry, amassing obscene profits, squeezing tax-payers, and manipulating supplies around the world. The Sentinels, graduates of an elite American doctoral program - who, in Zuckerman's last book, foiled a group of German industrialists' scheme to hoard illegal war profits set out to break the circle of power. They quickly discover that the oil barons' influence runs deep in the U.S. and British government and banking sectors. Undeterred, the Sentinels fan out across several continents in an intricately plotted mission to bring Big Oil to its knees.

Can those who are independent of world governments and big business step forward and make a difference? Can the powerful forces behind world domination be stopped? In the anticipated follow up to the best selling The Sentinels: Fortunes of War, author Gordon Zuckerman tackles the unbridled limits of power, greed and corruption in Crude Deception.

In the new book, the group of six financial geniuses from the first adventure are back to battle the Post WWII oil cartels that threaten global prosperity and governmental autonomy.

Drawing on the headlines of yesterday and today, this story takes us back to the early days of WWII when a runaway oil monopoly began to take shape and develop a firm grip on the world with dire consequences.


Learn more about Crude Deception here.

Guest Post: Graham Parke

Graham Parke, author of No Hope for Gomez is visiting The Life and Lies today! (check out my review of NHfG here).

Mystics predicts future accurately!

I’ve recently become a master in Goki Feng Ho, the ancient Chinese art of decoding license plates. It has, you can imagine, changed my life dramatically and for the better.

Like most practitioners, I’ve always had this suspicion that there’s more to life. That we can’t be mere random collections of molecules with no higher purpose than figuring out how not to soil ourselves while we keep our bodies running as long as possible. Such a view has always seemed too arbitrary to me. So, ever since I was a child, whenever I saw my initials – or part of my date of birth – pop up on a car license plate, I’d get that uneasy feeling. As if there was something I needed to do, or that I was supposed to realize. As if someone was sending me coded messages. Even at a very young age, I understood that something like Goki Feng Ho must exist, and that I was drawn to it like a moth to a particularly nice lady moth.

So, I was both surprised and not-really-all-that-surprised when a friend gave me this book on Goki Feng Ho. I started reading and became hooked. Even the relatively scarce historical background was interesting to me on so many levels. Although much is lost about how Goki Feng Ho first came to the west, the stories about its initial discoverer, master Hung Lee, survive, and I dare say they’d constitute fascinating reading for even the hardened skeptic.

From the early days of receiving his gift in the mail (though some claim he received it in a dream) to his struggles to find disciples to whom to pass it down, Hung Lee’s story is a heartwarming one. Obviously his life was made particularly challenging by the absence of license plates, or even cars, at the time. I have found no record of what the first Goki Feng Hoos practiced and honed their skills on, but I assume they invented plates for each other to decode, or borrowed some from the Germans.

At the time, though, Chinese mystics were known to keep their gifts a secret, passing them down only to family members. Lee broke this mold when he became the first mystic to offer up his gift to the general public. But even then, the story goes, he had trouble finding anyone who was remotely interested. There are parables of Lee raffling off free Kindles and iPods among his disciples, but, again, he was too far ahead of his time. No one understood what he was talking about. He finally found a handful of willing participants at a local mental hospital, after raffling off a small pig and some sticks. And even though lived to be a hundred and fifty, it is said he never managed to earn those back.

Graham Parke is responsible for a number of technical publications and has recently patented a self-folding map. He has been described as both a humanitarian and a pathological liar. Convincing evidence to support either allegation has yet to be produced.
The award winning No Hope for Gomez! is his fiction debut:

Boy meets girl.
Boy stalks girl.
Girl already has a stalker.
Boy becomes her stalker-stalker

Review: The Christmas Wedding

The Christmas Wedding by James Patterson and Richard DiLallo
Genre: Romance
ISBN: 9780316097390
Published: October 17th 2011 by Little, Brown & Company

Rating: 3, DNF

I hate giving a rating like this to James Patterson's novel. But I've sworn to be honest in my reviews, so here's my honest blunt non-sugar-coated opinion: It was silly.

The plot is silly and corny. Really? A middle-aged woman has three men propose within a few days, and then she schemes to get all her family to visit her by not telling them who it she's decided to marry? When would that ever actually happen? It couldn't be pulled off. And she says she loves all three of them, but if she did, why would she put them through that? Not only would it be stressful, but it would be humiliating for the men who weren't chosen. Is she really that cruel? On top of that, the tone was over-sappy, and the whole thing read like a bad soap opera.

Yet I couldn't stop reading it because I wanted to know what happens. So when I did finally give up, I skipped to the end. Wouldn't you know it, I didn't like her choice.

I do like the characters. They're all distinct and interesting, which is one of Patterson's strengths. The sub-plots were well done, but I actually found myself caring more about the sub-plots than the actual plot of the story.

James Patterson is a fantastic crime/thriller/suspense writer, and Sundays at Tiffany's was pretty great, but Romance is just not his best genre. And I love his books, so I hate writing a not-so-great review, but I find myself rolling my eyes at the characters and saying "Really? Seriously?"

Content: some language. I only read half of the book, so I don't know about sexual content.

Recommendation: This would be a nice book if you had an afternoon at the library with nothing to do but read and sip coffee. And if you didn't have anything else to read.

Review: Finishing School—A Master Class for Knitters

Finishing School: A Master Class for Knitters by Deborah Newton
Genre: Knitting technique
ISBN: 9781936096190
Published: October 4th 2011 by Sixth&Spring Books

Rating: 4.5

This book is awesome! There is so much in here for finishing every project, fixing every type of problem you could have, and techniques for making your handknits above the norm. I've learned so much just from flipping through it quickly. I refuse to part with it: It's a permanent addition to my knitting bookshelf.

Images and layout are very visually appealing, and the patterns are beautiful. There are lots of inspiring photographs and referenced projects that can be looked up. There aren't a whole lot of patterns in the book itself, because it's really all about techniques to finish your handknits.

My only complaint is very small and irrelevant to almost everyone: I'm trying to figure out why the whole book is formatted backwards, with a sans serif body text, and serif headers… maybe it's the technical writer/editor inside me, but it irritates me and it sticks out like a sore thumb.


(this is a sample from one of the pages. You can see the header is a serif, but the body text is a sans serif.)

But that's a pretty minor complaint when you think about it.

Recommended for knitters of all levels!

Review: Triangles

Triangles, by Ellen Hopkins
Genre: Adult fiction
ISBN: 9781451626339
Expected publication: October 18th 2011 by Atria


The thing about Ellen Hopkins is she writes about the stuff that everyone knows happens, but nobody is willing to admit to. She gives emotion and reason to why people make the choices we do, and what they feel like in the middle of a messy hurtful situation. She is the opposite of happyland syndrome. She tells it how it is.

I had read a little bit of Hopkins's work before: I started Crank (When I say started I mean read the first few pages) and loved it, but I was busy and never got the chance to get into it. But I got an ARC of Triangles, so I sat down and read it—and after one page I was hooked.

If you've been reading my blog at all, you know I'm not a person who likes stories about love gone wrong and marriages failing and extramarital sex etc. because I'm a Christian, and a romantic, and a softie (read 'wimp'). But I went ahead and dove into this book, because I knew Hopkins is a good writer.

It surpassed my expectations. I should have expected her to be this awesome, since obviously she's pretty famous and everyone else figured it out before I did, but I really am blown away. Not only by her blunt yet graceful storytelling, but by her nerve to tackle the stories nobody wants to tell: a dying child, a gay son, a pregnant teen, sexual disease, threesomes, a woman sleeping with her best friend's husband… it's all in here. Yet, it's not plot overkill. She made it work. Somehow.

Though, be warned. Since she does say it like it is, this book is not for the easily offended. But if you're willing to look past the content, there's a gem waiting for you about forgiveness, hope, and what love really means.

Content/recommendation: explicit sexual content, swearing. Ages 18+

Book Awards 2010-2011


I felt like such a doofus for forgetting my book awards post this year. I forgot because I had my blogoversary giveaway early.

No excuse.

Except now I'm sorting through the reviews and it's getting really confusing. So I'm going to change something…

This year's book awards will be from September 2010 through December 2011. It was going to be September 2011, but again, it's just too confusing. I'll just do it by year, rather than years I've been blogging.

So again: This year's awards will have a few extra months in them (plus that gives me extra time to make some tough choices) and every year after that, the awards will be for the calendar year.

Thanks guys!

Check out last year's post here.

Knitting Beyond the Edge

Knitting Beyond the Edge by Nicky Epstein
Genre: Knitting pattern ideas
ISBN: 9781936096039
Published: September 6th 2011 by Nicky Epstein Books

Rating: 5

This book is fantastic. It's so inspiring and interesting and exciting. It's divided into four sections: Cuffs and Collars, Necklines, Corners and Edges, and Closures. Each one has pages and pages of different interesting unique ideas.

I would call this book a designer's sourcebook. Yes the patterns can be used to change or alter an existing pattern, or dress up that plain sweater, but they can also be used in and of themselves. Collars can be used as cowls, Cuffs can be turned into wristlets, or even mittens or gloves. I see potential hats and socks in here too for people like me who like to write down the pattern as they go, or design something based off a picture they saw.

There's even a few full patterns thrown in here, all of which I love, and a few of which I'm definitely going to have to knit… especially that fair isle sweater. Goodness gracious it makes me want to jump for joy.

The patterns themselves are easy to understand and concise, and the pictures are very good and show off the project without being distracting.

Recommendation: Intermediate/Advanced. Anyone who likes to go above and beyond in their knitting, or knitters who design their own patterns

A few random things

First, reviews that are coming up soon and books I've gotten in lately:



Second, Links you should check out:


Third, Events coming up:

  • My birthday giveaway (probably some ARCs… Since most of the pictures above are ARCs… and I can't do anything with them….)
  • NaNoWriMo (my username is Haleyknitz! I'm so going to actually do it this year!!! maybe.) I'll probably try to get work done on the same NaNoWriMo book I've been working on (cough for three years cough). It's only about 20,000 words right now. If I write 50,000 on top of what I have, that'll bring it up to a full length Paranormal YA romance, which is about the word count required anyway… We'll see. There is this thing called school.
  • Publication (well, me uploading some PDF's) of some knitting patterns I'm working on.

Review: His Last Duchess

His Last Duchess by Gabrielle Kimm
Genre: Historical Fiction
ISBN: 9781402261510
Expected publication: October 1st 2011 by Sourcebooks Landmark

Rating: 4, DNF

(From Goodreads) When sixteen-year-old Lucrezia de' Medici marries the fifth Duke of Ferrara, Alfonso d'Este, she imagines life with her handsome husband will be idyllic. But little does she know that he is a very complicated man. The marriage is fraught with difficulties from the start, and, as time passes, Lucrezia becomes increasingly alienated. For Alfonso, the pressure mounts as the Vatican threatens to reclaim his title should the couple remain unable to produce an heir. Only his lover Francesca seems able to tame his increasing fury. But Alfonso's growing resentment towards his duchess soon becomes unbearable, and he begins to plot an unthinkable way to escape his problems. Originally inspired by a Robert Browning poem, His Last Duchess gorgeously brings to life the passions and people of sixteenth-century Tuscany and Ferrara. It is a story you are unlikely to forget for a long time

Here's the tricky part about His Last Duchess: It was really good, but I couldn't make myself finish it.

It was good because it was a well written character-driven novel. This means the novel progresses and is interesting not because of what happens, but because of the character's feelings and thoughts and how it happens. A good character-driven novel is hard to find these days.

It was also good because it had serious conflict that made me want to keep reading so I could see it resolved.

But this is why I couldn't finish it: It was painful to read. If you've been following my blog for any time at all you know I'm a romantic at heart. Poor Lucrezia was practically raped on her wedding night, her husband didn't respect her personality,  he didn't give her a place in the home other than the trophy on the shelf, and he didn't appreciate her. And because I know the poem, I have a general idea of how much worse it will get (I'm about 140 pages in). Now, I know and love Robert Browning's poem My Last Duchess, which is the poem the novel is based off of. We discussed it in British Literature class extensively. It's one of my favorite poems and I knew to expect this. The character is right. Kimm portrayed exactly the man Browning was writing about. This is why it's so good. But this is also why I just couldn't keep reading it. Maybe I'm too much of a softie, but I wasn't enjoying it. And I firmly believe that if you're not enjoying a book, there's no reason to keep reading it.

Again, I give it 4 stars because it's good. But it just wasn't the kind of book I can enjoy, even though I truly wish I could.

Content/Recommendation: Some sex, little language. Ages 18+

Review: The Hour of Dust and Ashes

The Hour of Dust and Ashes by Kelly Gay
Genre: Urban Fantasy
ISBN: 9781451625479
Published: August 30th 2011 by Pocket

Rating: 5

I've been anxiously awaiting the release of this book since the second one came out last August. I love this series! The tension starts at the very beginning and follows through the entire book, to the last page. I love the characters (Charlie is my hero) and I was furious about what happened at the end (in a good way. I have to read the next book now!).

I will say I wished I'd read the other two again before reading this one. I didn't forget too much, but there were a few little things were I was thinking "Okay I remember something about that, but no details." I would certainly recommend reading them closer together than one year.

If you liked the first two Charlie Madigan books, you'll love this one. Lots of loose ends were tied up, doors were opened, and secrets were revealed. I loved it!

Content/Recommendation: Some language, no sex. Ages 17+

Click here to see my reviews for Book 1 and Book 2.

Check out my interview with Kelly Gay here!

Interview: Kelly Gay

Kelly Gay, author of the Charlie Madigan series, is visiting The Life and Lies today! Welcome Kelly!

1) Why and when did you begin writing? Gay-Kelly

I began making up stories from the time I was four years old and was six when I wrote my first story down. The 'why' is harder to answer because it's really something that feels intrinsic to who I am. I write because I have to, because the ideas in my head demand to get out and become a reality on paper. I began writing with dreams of publication in my teens and later, more seriously, in my twenties. The goal has always been to create stories for a living.  

2) What inspired you to write your series?

I just had these ideas in my head about a world where the paranormal had come out of the closet, and this single mom character who was faced with sacrifice and choices. I felt compelled to explore her more, to see how a single mom, urban fantasy heroine would cope and it kind of took off from there.

3) How did you come up with the title?

My editor and I came up with it during a phone call wherein I was frustrated by the fact that none of the titles I was coming up with felt right. He started throwing out phrases and matching up words to ones I'd already been toying with and he came up with 'The Hour of' and paired it with Dust and Ashes, which I'd had paired with something else. When he said it all together, we both knew that was the one. 

4) What books or people influenced your writing? Was it positive influence, or negative?

I was influenced by Marion Zimmer Bradlely, Mary Stewart, C.S. Lewis, Anne Rice...  I read a ton of mythology growing up, which influenced me greatly as well.

5) How do you go about researching for your books?

I don't research beforehand as that can distract me from the actual writing. My research consists of things like weaponry, bodily injury, technology... I write over anything I don't know about and then go back after I'm done my draft to fill in the missing pieces and flesh things out more.

6) Did you base any of your characters on real people?

No, not really. Of course there are certain internal characteristics or traits that resemble people I know, but no one character is based on a particular person.

7) What’s the most exciting part about being a published author? What is the hardest part?

The most exciting is seeing my books on the shelf and actually being able to share the wild ideas in my head with others. The hardest part is sharing those ideas with others, LOL -- in getting what I see and feel into words that will make the reader see and feel the same thing. That can be a struggle sometimes to organize all my thoughts and words while under the pressures of deadlines, contracts, other books, family life, etc...

8) What advice can you give to young writers who want to publish their books?

Don't get caught up in finding the "right" process to write your fiction, in what size font to use, if you should outline, if you should plot as you go . . . etc.  There is no one right way to do it. Everyone's process is different. Do what feels comfortable to you. Concentrate on learning what makes a great story great by reading, reading, reading, and then studying books you really love, dissecting them, seeing how they address pacing and plot and characters... Great books are amazing tools for learning how to craft great stories yourself.

9) Will there be more of Charlie Madigan in the future?

The 4th Charlie book is scheduled for summer 2012. After that, I'm not sure. I'd definitely like to write more, though.

Just for fun:

1) What do you do when you’re not writing?

Read! Play with my kids and try to get outside as much as possible.


2) What book are you reading right now?

Graveminder by Melissa Marr.


3) Do you have any pets?

We have two cats and a Great Dane. He's massive and when I write about Brim (the hellhound) slobbering, I get my inspiration from my dog!

4) What are your favorite (and least favorite) foods?

Potatoes, bread, and cheese. Can't live without those things. And pizza. Least favorites would be sweet potatoes.

5) Is there a specific place in the house (or out of the house) that you like to write?

I write on the recliner side of my sofa with my laptop. The sofa is leather and very cushy, so I can stay there a long time, which is good and bad. (Have to remind myself to get up and walk around during long bouts of writing).

6) Do you have a specific snack that you have with you when you write?

Not usually. Food distracts me, so if I do snack, I use that time to read emails or network online. Snack of choice, though, is usually cheese popcorn. Love!

7) If you could go anywhere in the whole world, either for a vacation or to live there, where would you go?

The British Isles or somewhere in the Greek Islands.


8) What was your favorite and least favorite subject in school?

History was my favorite and math -- least fav.


Thanks Kelly! Check out Kelly's website for more about her and her books.

Review: The Little Red Book of Wisdom

The Little Red Book of Wisdom by Mark DeMoss
Genre: Christian wisdom
ISBN: 9781595553546
Published: June 14th 2011 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. (first published March 13th 2007)

Rating: 5

The number one reason I like this book is it doesn't feel like a sermon. It feels like a reference book. Many "self-help" books feel like the author is preaching or lecturing you directly. DeMoss is telling stories and providing examples to prove his point, and letting you come to the conclusion yourself and decide what to do with that information. It's much more inspiring that it is convicting.

I read selected chapters from the book. I found something in every chapter I read and every page I skimmed outside of those chapters. I fully intend on keeping this book on my shelf next to my other favorite reference books.

It is a "Christian" book, there is mention of God, there are Bible verses, but the advice and wisdom within the book and the stories and testimonies would be profitable to anyone, believer or not. Again, it doesn't feel like a sermon, and the chapters are real wisdom and common sense explained in a way that it applies to everyone, not a "make-your-life-perfect" sermon.

Recommendation: Ages 12-Adult. This book has something for everyone in nearly every situation. I think it would make a great gift High School or College students, newlyweds, individuals just getting a job, etc.

Review: I Knew You'd Be Lovely

I Knew You'd Be Lovely by Alethea Black
Genre: Short stories, adult fiction
ISBN: 9780307886033
Published: June 7, 2011 by Broadway Paperbacks

Rating: 3

Alethea Black has an interesting writing style. It's a little confusing. She writes from third person and one specific character's perspective, but then switches to another character. It's a bit disorienting and I had trouble keeping track of who was thinking or talking about who.

I read three of the stories. One of them I liked, another I was perplexed by, and the end surprised me, but I didn't particularly like it. A third I couldn't get into because it felt like empty conversation and no conflict. I've had this book to review for a while now, and it took me a good amount of time to sit down and read it.

And I don't really know why I didn't like it. Maybe the characters weren't people I could connect with. Maybe the writing was confusing. Maybe the plots themselves didn't speak to me. But I doubt I'll finish all the stories, and I probably won't keep the book.

Review and tour: Playing Hurt

Playing Hurt by Brian Goins
Genre: Christian Instructional
ISBN: 9780825426735
Published: August 1st 2011 by Kregel Publication

Rating: 4

Playing hurt is basically a marriage manual for men. But it's not a book on how to "win" the game of marriage against your wife: it's how to win with your wife. It's not how to change your wife so you can be happier: It's on how to change yourself so you can better glorify God through beautifying your wife.

I am, obviously, not a man. So you may be thinking "Haley, why are you reading a men's marriage book?"

well I've got a few answers:

1. I'm a writer, and I like reading things from a man's perspective so I can better write from their perspectives.

2. I'm hoping to get married one day, and it would be nice to understand how my husband thinks.

3. If I understand the ways women usually hurt men and understand men's weaknesses, I can avoid hurting my husband and support him in his weaknesses.

So those are the reasons I personally read this book. I found a lot of good information, and I got to see the other side of the relationship.

Recommendation: I definitely recommend Playing Hurt to men, but their wives can get something out of it as well. Sometimes as women we don't understand that we've hurt our man. But our words cut deeper than we know. It reminds me a lot of For Men Only and For Women Only (very good books by the way!).

Music Review: Young Love by Mat Kearney

Young Love by Mat Kearney

4 stars

Young Love is a catchy album. It makes you want to bop your head and sing along. I felt like I'd been pulled right into the music when Kearney started singing Hey Mama.

Out of the ten songs, eight of them sound similar. Not the same, but similar in this way: The background music seems to be the same. It's not made with instruments, but rather with equipment. It sounds like soft rock lyrics and singing mixed with rap background. It's a peculiar mix of genres, and I like it, but I feel like all the songs could be better if they all sounded different.

Hey Mama and Rochester were the exceptions. Hey Mama was lighter and relaxed and free sounding. Rochester was acoustic guitar and was a sad but sweet way to close an album.

If lyrics are important to you, you'll love this album. All the lyrics feel genuine and singable, and the story behind each one is worth listening to. I even after listening to it several times, I found myself listening to it the whole way through, and not skipping tracks. I liked all the songs.

All in all, I liked Young Love. I've listened to it a few times and I like singing along or listening in the car. I'd consider buying another one of Kearney's albums, or at least buy my favorite tracks off Amazon or I-tunes.

Young Love is available on Amazon MP3 download for $4.99 here!

*no sexual references or swearing! Recommended for ages 15+

**this review was part of the One2One network tour.

Review: Modern Calligraphy and Hand Lettering

Modern Calligraphy and Hand Lettering by Lisa Engelbrecht
Genre: Calligraphy and craft
ISBN: 9781592536443
Published: September 1st 2010 by Quarry Books
Rating: 5

This book was absolutely amazing. I have loved calligraphy since I was eleven.

This book had everything: information on supplies and tools and instructions on how to build your own tools. There are chapters on different calligraphy styles, like classic calligraphy, vintage styled alphabets, raw dry-brush techniques, funky fun letters, calligraphy on fabric, urban-styled graffiti, flourishes, gothic, and mixed media pieces. Every chapter is exciting and inspiring, and each chapter will speak to a different person and hit on their personal style. I have to say the fabric section really made me want to dance and get out my sewing machine. There were example pieces, full alphabets, photographs, stroke-by-stroke instructions on certain alphabets, and ideas beyond belief. This book is enough to keep me busy for at least the next two decades…

I recommend this book to anyone interested in calligraphy, collage, mixed media, or anyone who loves hand-writing pieces of art (Yes there are still some of us who love hand-writing letters and love poems and posters. We're awesome.).

Short Stories

I've got a few friends who rave about how awesome short stories are. My mom likes them because it's all she has time to write. But I'm the kind of person who sits down to write a paragraph and ends up with a 20 page paper, or comes up with an idea that can be summed up in one sentence (ex "guy asks out wrong girl on facebook") and it turns into an 65,000 word novel (hence Accidental Girlfriend).

But recently I've written a few short stories and they've been pretty exciting. Here's why I like them:

1. You don't have to put in all the details, because what you leave out is more important than what you put in. For example, in my latest short story, French Fries, one of the characters shoves his wallet into his back pocket. That's all that's said, but you can infer from it so much. But I don't have to write it!

2. You can say a lot in very little words. Short stories are the Haiku of fiction. Again with French Fries, it's barely over 1000 words. But I had an hour long discussion about it with one of my friends. Jesus, Babies, and Fishing was also very short, but it said a lot. So much so that a friend of mine is recommending it for a short film.

3. It means something different to every person. You don't have to make the "deep meaning" obvious. In fact, there doesn't have to be one. Jesus, Babies, and Fishing was just something I wrote from a prompt. I didn't purposefully make it beautiful or profound, but those are the responses I've gotten. Everyone finds something different within a short story. For example, Last spring I read The Price of Eggs in China, a story by Don Lee in his short story collection Yellow. During our discussion in class, it was obvious that everyone had an idea of what happened after the story ended, and everyone's idea was different. Also, the story itself was illusive about what actually happened, and everyone had different ideas of who actually did what. Because of that, rest assured that people will find what they need in the story.

I'm currently reviewing a book of short stories. I'll link this post to it and vice versa when it's up.

What's your opinion on short stories? do you like writing them or reading them, or do you prefer longer works?

The Scorpio Races

Ch-ch-check it out!

Also, Maggie is having a contest here.

Review: Don't Check Your Brains At The Door!

Don't Check Your Brains At The Door by Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler
Genre: Christian Apologetics
Published: August 2nd 2011 by Nelson, Thomas, Inc. (first published February 19th 1992)

Rating: 3

This book aims to look at common myths and lies about Christianity. Many unbelievers will use these lies or myths to try to sway young Christians from their faith. This book attempts to "bust" the myths that you may be told.

Which is great. Hypothetically.

There were some good topics and subjects in this book. A lot of things I've heard before were addressed. I had two problems with it.

1) The tone was very negative, and I felt like I or the potential unbeliever was being talked down to.

2) They started busting the myths, but didn't finish very well. I felt like I'd been told that something was a myth, but that it hadn't been proven to me.

I didn't read this book cover to cover. I'm getting ready for my second year of college and I don't have time. I did flip through and chose some random chapters to read though. I liked it, and it was a good start, but I felt like it didn't finish.

This book would be great for High School or College students in a group discussion setting. I felt it lacked a lot of content for a go-to reference book, but it would be great for a discussion guide, topics to get you started thinking and bouncing things back and forth between people.

This review was part of the tour with LitFuse. Check out the rest of the tour!

Interview: Quinn Barrett

Quinn Barrett is visiting The Life and Lies today! She recently released her novel, Invisible Snow.

Invisible Snow is a classic family drama about wealth, power, greed, and redemption. Marriage is a delicate dance of power between lovers, but Kate and Paul Delacroix are strangers caught in a disparate union somewhere between betrayal and truth. Confronting their true selves for the first time results in an epic clash of wills where only one will prevail. The legacy of the family business is at stake, but power is not always about money. Their showdown results in a shocking twist of fate—a destiny Kate never saw coming.

1) Why and when did you begin writing?

During my sophomore year in high school, I had an English teacher who helped me develop my writing skills which led me to become an English major in college. I always thought I'd write a book at some point, but career and family had a way of intervening until recently. I suppose in some weird way I was waiting on more life experiences for better material to write about.

2) What inspired you to write your book?

The idea itself has marinated over time from years of sitting in work and church meetings, women's groups, booster club and PTA meetings. I sensed an underlying hostility from many dutiful women who performed their simple assignments with masterful precision, but seemed frustratingly unfulfilled. It made me realize that most of us lose ourselves in simple tasks to avoid walking our true path, living our own dreams. Kate's journey is about coming to terms with her choices and breaking free of her self-imposed limitations.

3) How did you come up with the title?

It took a long time and several working titles before Invisible Snow came to me while exercising one day. I knew that I wanted to use the imagery of Snow in the title as it was relevant in the character name, location and as a metaphor for transformation. But It still took a while before I put the two words together.

When we first meet our protagonist, Kate is the essence of invisibility in her own life. I also see snow as having that same quality of invisibility in the sense that despite its presence and inevitability in winter, Snow is often ignored as well as being something of a cover or camouflage of sorts. I also like the imagery of a fresh blanket of morning snow as if it were a clean, blank slate waiting to be written on.

4) What books or people influenced your writing? Was it positive influence, or negative?

I had a couple of great English teachers in high school as well as in college at UCLA. In terms of famous authors . . . I'd say that Harper Lee was the first author that made me believe writers had a unique opportunity and responsibility to shape the world.

5) How do you go about researching for your books?

I try to write about what I know and take liberties with various stories and experiences for the purpose of moving the story forward to the end or moral I want to teach. For character development or geographic location unfamiliar to me, I try to find people I know that can help me flesh out the details. Book research is also a good excuse to visit locations like Park City. And finally living in the age of Google and Wikipedia is a huge advantage I'd imagine most writers utilize (present company included).

6) Did you base any of your characters on real people?

Very loosely, but characters have a way of creating themselves during the re-writes. By the time Invisible Snow was finished, I'd say that all of the characters were unique and any relationship to real people known to me was purely inspirational.

7) What’s the most exciting part about being a published author? What is the hardest part?

I feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment, but nobody can prepare you for the challenge of marketing a book. Even with help and guidance, it's hard work!

8) Do you have any other books planned in the future?

I'm working on a sequel as well as one other original book, but I have lots of ideas in notes and journals that I plan to develop and write eventually.

9) Which of your characters is your favorite? Do you dislike any of them?

Each character is a part of me, so I love them all... even the more annoying ones, but Kate has to be my favorite (once she begins her journey of self-realization) because she is the heroine of the novel. She is an extraordinary woman with resources beyond belief. She is capable of anything as long as she can stay out of her own way. And isn't that true for all of us?

A few other characters were also a lot of fun for me to write. Louise and Mary made me laugh a lot. Even I couldn't believe how ridiculous they could be as characters until I typed it. I also loved Walker and Joan's wisdom, but that's easy. Loving the darker characters is an interesting process.

10) What advice can you give to young writers who want to publish their books?

Writing is the fun part, but deciding which publishing path to take is tricky. The traditional publishing process can take a couple years or more depending on the type of book and the publishing cycle. Regardless of whether you have an agent or you decide to self-publish you're going to have to learn to create your own market/audience for your book so be aggressive in getting your name and title out in the blogosphere, local radio, newspaper, and anywhere else you can think of.

Just for fun:

1) What are your ten most favorite things?

These are in no particular order: Ralph Lauren T-Shirts, my Curious George coffee mug, my iPod, Bose ear buds, Angels baseball games, NetFlix, Panda Raspberry Natural Licorice, Chipotle salads, my novel, my family

2) What do you do when you’re not writing?

Web development and design.


3) Do you have any pets?

No . . . just a teenage son.


4) What are your favorite (and least favorite) foods?

There isn't much I don't like. I look forward to a juicy slice of Lawry's prime rib on Christmas Eve. I'm not a huge fan of onions and garlic.

5) Is there a specific place in the house (or out of the house) that you like to write?

I have a home office with lots of windows and French doors so I don't feel isolated.


6) Do you have a specific snack that you have with you when you write?

Kashi crackers and veggies.

7) If you could go anywhere in the whole world, either for a vacation or to live there, where would you go?

South Lake Tahoe in the mountains near the California, Nevada border.

[Haley: Lake Tahoe is beautiful! I used to live near there!]

8) What was your favorite and least favorite subject in school?

I loved English and creative writing. I wasn't crazy about Spanish.


9) What book are you reading right now?

I just finished The Hunger Games trilogy which was enjoyable. I've been trying to read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but I honestly don't see what the fuss is about.

10) Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.

I watch the movie Ground Hog's Day every February 2nd with my son and we recite many of the movies lines as we watch.


Thanks for stopping by Quinn! Check out the Invisible Snow website and Facebook page.

Blood & Water by Ephraim Rodriguez

Ephraim is visiting The life and lies today while promoting is novel Blood & Water.

About the book:

Blood & Water chronicles the life of an American lobster-fisherman haunted by his father’s ghost.
Henry Michael Fischer wanted nothing more than to be like his forefathers; become a lobster-fisherman, get married and have a son of his own to carry on the family tradition. But when Henry suspects he is being haunted by his father’s ghost, he must lay the past to rest, even if it means digging up his father’s grave to return what has been taken - his identity.

Ephraim Rodriguez lived in Maine when he was a boy. He's also lived in Pennsylvania, Boston, Florida, Washington D.C., Washington state, WV and California. He's married with children and hopes you enjoy Blood & Water.

Learn more here

Interview: Ty Drago

Ty Drago is the author of The Undertakers: Rise of the Corpses. He's visiting The Life and Lies today.

1) Why and when did you begin writing?

Honestly, I can’t remember when I didn’t write! I’m told I started at age four, drawing picture books of Tom and Jerry. Later on, I graduated to comics that I would share with the other kids in the neighborhood. I guess I wrote my first real short story (no pictures!) around age eight.

2) What inspired you to write your book?

Many of those comic books I drew as a kid centered around a group of pre-teen superheroes called the Kid Kadets (yeah, couldn’t spell back then). Their leaders were a brother/sister team named Tom and Sharon Jefferson. Many (many) year later, when I envisioned the idea of a child’s army battling an undead menace, I looked back on those comics and brought Tom and Sharyn (different spelling now) forward through the intervening years, to take command of the Undertakers! I guess you could say the Undertakers are the Kid Kadets all grown up. Sort of.

3) How did you come up with the title?

As a series title, “THE UNDERTAKERS” seemed like a natural. They’re battling the dead after all. As for the individual book title, “RISE OF THE CORPSES”, that’s meant to be a play on words. My son and I went around and around on both concepts before settling on what we’ve got. For this reason, among many others, the book is dedicated to him.

4) What books or people influenced your writing? Was it positive influence, or negative?

I grew up loving Stephen King and Dean R. Koontz. But lately, I’d have to say my writing is most strongly influenced – and very much in a positive way – by middle grade/young adult writers like Heather Brewer, Jackie Kessler and Jonathan Maberry. I like authors who write for children without talking down to them. Our children are literate and need to be treated as such.

5) How do you go about researching for your books?

THE UNDERTAKERS is set in Philadelphia, a city I know well. Nevertheless, I made it a point to visit every location described in the story. I’ve stood pretty much every place that Will and the other Undertakers stood. I take notes and a lot of pictures. I think it lends an air of realism. At least I hope it does.

6) Did you base any of your characters on real people?

Helene is based on my wife, Helene Boettcher Drago. She’s smart, brave and independent – the perfect heroine for an action story and a fantastic role model for girls. A few of the other Undertakers are affectionately named after friends, both from my present and my distant past. Not one of these characters actually resembles the living person in either behavior or physical appearance, of course. It’s just my way of winking at some of the good people I’ve known in my life.

7) What’s the most exciting part about being a published author? What is the hardest part?

There’s no feeling in the world like seeing our novel on a bookstore shelf. There are no words to describe it – and when a writer tells you that, you ought to believe it! But it’s scary too. You take this story that you’ve worked on, slaved over, put your heart and soul into for years, and then you put it out there for the world to judge. It can be … daunting. I think that’s the hardest part.

8) Do you have any other books planned in the future?

I would love to continue with the UNDERTAKERS series and have been busy with book two for months now. It’s tentatively called QUEEN OF THE DEAD, and introduces the Undertakers to a new and terrifying enemy.

9) Which of your characters is your favorite? Do you dislike any of them?

It’s hard to pick a favorite. They’re all pieces of me and there are things about each of them that I love: Tom’s strength and integrity; Will’s reckless courage; Helene’s grace and independence; Sharyn’s optimism and prowess; the Burgermeister’s loyalty and fearlessness.

Then, of course, there’s Kenny Booth. The head Corpse is a wonderfully nasty villain: ruthless and pitiless and deliciously evil!

10) What advice can you give to young writers who want to publish their books?

I once heard someone say to a roomful of prospective writers: “Some of you will make it. And the ones who do won’t be the most talented, but the most persistent!” Here’s my advice: Don’t ever stop writing. Don’t ever stop editing what you write. Don’t ever stop submitting what you’ve edited. Don’t ever give up!

Just for fun:

1) What do you do when you’re not writing?

I work for a living! Sigh.


2) Do you have any pets?

Two cats and a dog!


3) What book are you reading right now?

Rot & Ruin by John Maberry


Thanks for stopping by, Ty! Learn more about THE UNDERTAKERS here.

"On a sunny Wednesday morning in October, a day that would mark the end of one life and the beginning of another, I found out my next door neighbor was the walking dead."

With these words, middle school student Will Ritter introduces us to his life as a fugitive.  Ripped from his family, this son of a murdered Philadelphia police detective finds himself hunted by an invasion of the walking dead.  But these aren't the slow stupid zombies of George Romero movies.  Nor are they the fast, stupid zombies of 28 Days Later and Zombieland.

These Corpses are smart, organized and utterly ruthless.  If they find him, they'll kill him.  If he goes home, they'll kill his family.  Will's only hope is to join up with a rag tag children's army, led by the wise and charismatic Tom Jefferson:


Hidden away in their secret Philadelphia lair, the Undertakers have set themselves against an enemy that's faster, stronger and far deadlier than they are.  Worse, they're badly outnumbered ... and totally alone.

Yet they fight because, if they don't the world itself may be forfeit.


THE UNDERTAKERS: RISE OF THE CORPSES is the first book in a new middle grade adventure series, written by Ty Drago, and published by Sourcebooks under their Jabberwocky imprint.

To know more about THE UNDERTAKERS, visit

Review: My One and Only

My One and Only by Kristin Higgins
Genre: Romance
ISBN: 9780373775576
Published: March 29th 2011 by HQN Books
Rating: 1

I loved Kristin Higgins' last release, All I Ever Wanted. I loved that it was a good romance with good characters and no explicit sex scenes. I loved the dogs. I loved the quirks. I loved the family, I loved everything about it. I was psyched to get her new release.

Sadly, it was a huge disappointment.

There were a few things that stacked against her in the beginning and I figured they would be made up for later, but it didn't improve. First,  the characters.

I didn't like the character Harper. She was pessimistic, nosey, had no filter from her brain to her mouth, and her view of marriage was slightly offensive to me (only because I'm a Christian and a romantic. Don't mess with me.). I figured by halfway through the story maybe she'd see things the way they were, or that at least someone would hit her over the head and tell her to get a grip, but nobody did. I didn't like her interior monologue either. She didn't swear, but she had a few expletives that were… raunchy. I don't mind the "d" word too much. But supplementing the word "Crotch" or other phrases of similar nature just doesn't sit well with me.

And her boyfriend had the mentality of a sixth grader. Not joking. We'll leave it at that. Moving on!

Then there was her Ex. He was hot stuff, and I could see how the two of them could make it work (their personalities played off each other) but I just didn't like him. He was totally ignorant of the mistakes he'd made, at the halfway through point where we finally learn the back-story of her and him I seriously wanted to beat him over the head with a baseball bat—or a Bible—and give him a lecture about what marriage meant because the guy didn't get it. I didn't want the two to get back together, because it would be a recipe for disaster all over again. By the looks of it, neither of them had learned from their mistakes!

Second, I knew what was going to happen. She broke up with her boyfriend, she was going to fall for Nick again, and they were going to get married. Again. And because I didn't give a rat's poo about the characters, I didn't really care what happened to them.

Third, there were editorial mistakes. Now I know it's rude to point those out because when you read something dozens of times, you miss stuff like that. I understand that. I'm a writer. But I'm also a Professional Writing major and an editor, and I proofread stuff and I write promotional material and I edit things. It's what I do. It's my job. When I read a published book and I find things like "/= in the middle of the paragraph, or a grammatical error that is definitely not dialect or part of the character's personality, it makes me angry.

Fourth: I don't remember Kristin Higgins being a poor writer, but this book was poorly written and full of fragments. Sentences go like this: Subject, Verb, Direct Object. Or, Actor, Action, Description. Rearranging this causes passive voice, which is never fun to read, even though it does raise the word count. Ellipses should be used sparingly. Two or three per book: not per page or per paragraph.

And, no offense, but the dog was retarded. I know I shouldn't complain about the dog because now I'm just being whiney. But really? Maybe I'm biased about dogs, but I can't stand anything that bounces when it barks, even when it is in a book.

So those are five reasons why I stopped halfway through the book. This one is going to PBS. Don't get me wrong, I will continue to read Kristin's books. I've got a few more of hers that I hope will be as great as All I Ever Wanted, but this book was not her best work.

Recommended: Ages 18+ (Please note I don't know what sort of content was in the second half of the book.)

Some Knitting Books

Here are some knitting books to check out!

60 Quick Baby Knits 
Genre: Knitting
ISBN: 9781936096138
Published: May 3rd 2011 by Sixth&Spring Books
Rating: 4

Absolutely lovely patterns! The patterns are mostly for 6-12 months, with a few patters for up to 24 months. Some of them were very simple and some were rather complex, but they're all beautiful.



Knit Noro
ISBN: 9781936096152
Published: June 7th 2011 by Sixth&Spring Books
Rating: 3

Knit Noro was a lot of fun to flip through. The knitwear was beautiful. The thing is, what makes the book amazing isn't the patterns themselves, it's the yarn. I've never used Noro yarn (I'm a broke college student!) but I could tell you just by looking at this yarn that any pattern would look great with it. The patterns range from very simple to more advanced, but the patterns aren't anything new or fancy or exciting: It's all stuff I've seen before.

The projects are all absolutely stunning: But it's the yarn that makes them stunning, not the patterns. This doesn't mean I don't recommend the book: I love most if not all of the patterns. But the yarn is what makes it.


KnitSimple: Knitting Workshops: Clever tips and techniques to guarantee success
ISBN: 9781936096282
Published: August 2nd 2011 by Sterling Publishing
Rating: 5

This book has everything: Basic learn to knit and crochet instructions, lists of recommended tools, materials, books, and tons of basic beginner patterns that have the potential to be taken to the next level. I love it! Great for any beginner knitter.

However I have yet to find a book that has clear enough instructions to teach someone to actually knit a stitch. It's very hard to photograph a movement, and the basic knitting instructions in this book were no better than any others.

There was every sort of pattern: hats, scarves, socks, mittens, shawls, necklaces, flowers, sweaters, blankets etc. This book covered all the categories very well.


Copyright 2016 Haley Mathiot. All reviews are 100% honest and unbiased. One or more items featured in the blog post may have been free or discounted. Receiving free or discounted product does not affect review. For more please see my disclaimer page.