A few random things

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

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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.).

Disclaimer

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.
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