Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Benefits of Reading

Why is reading good for you?

Over the past few days, listening to my niece beg me to read her story after story, I've been pondering the positive effects of reading extensively from a young age, and now I'm here to share my thoughts with the world. :)

One obvious reason reading is good for you is that it improves your vocabulary. The more you read, the more words you know. And if you are taking the time to look up any words that you don't understand, that helps too. This is true for any age. At a young age, like my niece's, stretching her vocabulary is good for her brain development.

Reading can also improve your writings skills. This isn't exactly relevant for my niece yet, seeing as she isn't even 2, but in my own life I have definitely seen the proof of this fact.

Reading can improve your imagination. As a person who uses their imagination daily, I personally think this is vitally important. :)

Reading can introduce you to cultures outside of your own, providing an education that will hopefully serve to make you a more open, loving individual. One that enjoys the various things that set people apart rather than viewing them as bad.

Books also serve to teach many life lessons, often in very subtle ways that aren't preachy in a way that would turn off a reader. This leads to readers being healthy, contributing members of society. (if they take those life lessons to heart, that is)

Scientifically speaking, studies do show that reading can slow the progress of dementia and Alzheimer's through keeping your brain active. Basically, if you exercise your brain, it works much better than if you don't. Reading can also improve your attention span, reduce stress, enhance brain function, etc. I don't have the knowledge myself to go into detail about all that, but I'll give you a link to an article about it that I found fascinating and helpful.  6 Scientific Reasons Reading is Amazing for Your Health

I for one, if you haven't already picked up on this, am a huge reader. I don't choose to read because of all the reasons listed above, I simply love reading....almost as much as I love writing. There have been times, however, that I have read with the purpose of perfecting my craft (writing). 

What about you? Do you love to read? Do you know of other benefits to reading that I haven't mentioned here?

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Book Review: Jennifer

Once again, I am reviewing a book by Dee Henderson. If you haven't already picked up on this, I am currently trying to work my way through all of her books. I don't have reviews of every one that I have read because I started reading her books long before I started doing reviews. Someday I might go back and review those other books, but for now I'm busy enough writing reviews as it is.

Jennifer--An O'Malley Love Story is a short, background story for one of the characters in Dee Henderson's O'Malley series. And yes, I have read the entire O'Malley series. They were the first Dee Henderson books I read, and to date are still my favorites.

So what is Jennifer all about?

It's a summer of change for Jennifer O'Malley. the busy physician has a pediatrics practice in Dallas, Texas, and meeting and falling in love with surgeon Tom Peterson is adding a rich layer to her life. She's sorting out how to introduce Tom to her family--she's the youngest of seven--and thinking about marriage. She's falling in love with Jesus too, and knows God is good. But that faith is about to be tested, and in a way she didn't expect. The results will soon transform her entire family.

Look, you get a picture this time! :D

First impressions? I loved it! It was a very sweet story.

I knew the outcome of this story because it is a tiny little prequel book to the O'Malley series, all of which I have previously read. I know the rest of Jennifer's story. It was still delightful to read this part of her life though.

Because it is a novella and not a full length novel, Dee Henderson doesn't go into a lot of depth throughout the story. We don't get to know a whole cast of characters. We have Jennifer and Tom and a handful of other names who pop in and out a few times when necessary to plot. Even so, Dee Henderson still manages to do what I have come to know her for: write vibrant, memorable characters that you won't soon forget. Even if they only have one scene.

The romance between Jennifer and Tom is sweet, perhaps even more so because I knew the later part of their story from the O'Malley series but did not know how their relationship came to be. It was delightful to watch their friendship blossom and turn to love.

This story is unlike the rest of the O'Malley series in that it doesn't involve crime and murder and suspenseful plot. The heart of this story is a gentle romance, and the main challenge is Jennifer's decision what to believe about God. She is not a Christian when the book begins, like every other O'Malley in their respective books, and the unique journey she goes on to find the truth is profound and yet simple. Dee Henderson weaves these two elements, the sweet love story and the simple faith in Jesus, throughout the novella in a rather winsome and delightful way.

Would I read this book again? Undoubtedly.

Would I recommend this book to others? Yes. Along with the rest of the O'Malley books.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Book Review: True Valor

I have another book review for you, and this time it is True Valor by Dee Henderson. This is the second novel in her Uncommon Heroes series.

So what is this book about?

Lieutenant Grace "Gracie" Yates spent her deployment catapulting off the deck of the USS George Washington in an F/A-18 Hornet. A self-assured naval aviator, she was flying to keep the peace while being ready for war.
Major Bruce "Striker" Stanton, Air Force Pararescue Jumper, had been pulling pilots and Special Forces soldiers from behind enemy lines for twelve years. Bruce knew Grace was too good a pilot not to draw the tough assignments. She was on the front lines. If she got in trouble, his unit would get the call.
With demanding jobs, deployed to different locations, they kept their relationship alive by writing love letters. In the face of danger, they both leaned on the truth that God is sufficient no matter what the circumstances.

First impressions? I loved it!

With the risk of getting redundant in my reviews, let me just say Dee Henderson's characters are as fascinating and vibrant as they come. She's exceptionally talented in bringing people to life on the page.

I loved the pacing of this book. It is a military romance novel with plenty of war-time shenanigans to keep you worried for your favorite characters, but what I especially loved was the letters that Gracie and Bruce wrote to one another. They are interspersed all throughout the book and, in my opinion, well placed. You can't go too far without reading one of the letters, but they never feel intrusive to the rest of the story or out of place. I loved them. As for the war-time shenanigans, that was well-paced as well. I was more prepared this time around to read a military romance and so I thoroughly enjoyed it. I think I came into book 1 with the expectation that it would be like Dee Henderson's other books, but it's not. These military novels are different, but just as good.

There is a lot of military jargon in this book, as well as in book 1, and I can't say I understood it all. However, Dee Henderson does a good job of explaining things to the reader in a subtle way (i.e. through dialogue and exposition) so that through context you have a pretty good idea of what is going on even if all the fancy words are unfamiliar. She also includes a glossary at the front of the book to explain all that confusing military jargon, too, which is very helpful.

As with most Dee Henderson novels, I loved the spiritual side of things as well. Dee Henderson is remarkable at weaving her character's deep love for God into their whole lives. It's rather inspiring--both the talented writing and the deep love for God.

Would I read it again? 100% yes.

Would I recommend this book to others? Absolutely. It's Dee Henderson;  you can't go wrong with that. :)

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Book Launch (Queen of Caradale)

Today I'm going to talk about book launches. Not because I am an expert on the subject but because I am doing one right now (which you can find here: Queen of Caradale Book Launch )

Despite the fact that I am about to publish my seventh novel, I have never done an official book launch for any of my books. I'm about to change that.

I've decided to do a "real" book launch--as in, gathering people to tell them about the book and get them excited. I've launched my books in the sense that I publish them...therefore, by default, I've had a book "launch". This time, however, I'm doing something more official. Queen of Caradale is going to be published in March and so I have decided to try something new, come out of my comfort zone a little, and do a book launch.

There are multiple ways to do a book launch, so let's look at those for a moment.

First of all, you can have an in-person book launch where you invite a bunch of people over (to your house, to a chosen venue, etc.). People gather, maybe you eat some snacks, you talk about your book, hopefully sell a few copies...maybe sign them if that's what people want. Because this type of book launch involves interaction with people, this is not what I chose to do. I know it's rather silly of me, but human interaction is something I find uncomfortable. So instead, I chose to do the second type of book launch: virtual.

I am doing my book launch on Facebook. I have invited lots of people to this event, I'm posting games and fun things for them to do to participate and get excited about the book. And then, on the official publication date, I'll let everyone know Queen of Caradale is available and hopefully some of them will choose to buy it.

As I said previously, doing a book launch is a new experience for me. I'm learning a lot, mostly from trial and error as I make mistake after mistake. There's been a lot of laughter involved as I have pulled various family members into the creative process and we make this thing happen. I am enjoying learning how to do book launches, and I'm also enjoying the fun and laughter of doing this with my family.

I've been publishing my books for a number of years, but I am still learning new things about the industry and new ways to market my books, and I am loving it. :) Even though it's a bit uncomfortable to do new things and step outside of my usual routine, I'm glad that I am. This experience, doing the book launch, has certainly been different--but I'm loving it. And now I'll be more confident when my next book is published. :)

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Book Review: True Devotion

Today's book review is of a book by Dee Henderson called True Devotion. This is the first book in a series called Uncommon Heroes which follows the stories of various military men and women.

So what is this particular military novel about?

Kelly Jacobs has already paid the ultimate price of loving a warrior; she has the folded flag and grateful thanks of a nation to prove it. Navy SEAL Joe "Bear" Baker can't ask her to accept that risk again--even though he loves her. But the man responsible for her husband's death is back; closer than either of them realize. Kelly is in danger, and Joe may not get there in time.

First impressions? I liked it.

As with every Dee Henderson novel I have read, the characters leap off of the page in a vibrant way that I've rarely seen before. They are all very real, relatable, likable people.

Another of Dee Henderson's strengths is how she effortlessly and tactfully weaves the characters' faith throughout the story. Every one of her novels has demonstrated this, and True Devotion was no different. Each of her characters goes through their own journey, fighting questions about resurrection, trust, mercy, and various other inquiries about God that have them struggling. Each character goes through their own spiritual transformation throughout their respective books, and it's quite fascinating to read. It also makes her readers ask questions in their own lives and develop a deeper understanding of Jesus.

Dee Henderson's ability to tug the reader along on a suspenseful journey trying to uncover the truth before time runs out didn't falter on this novel. She is incredibly talented in that regard. I will say this though; this first of her military novels was not nearly as suspenseful or page-turning as all the crime novels of hers that I have read. Had I read this one first, I might have enjoyed it more, but because I'd read the "I can't put this down" crime novels first, I was a little disappointed by this one. Not enough that I didn't enjoy it immensely, but enough that I could definitely tell which novels I enjoyed more. This story focused more on the love-story than the previous books of hers that I have read, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. However, I don't read Dee Henderson for a purely Romance novel, I read them because they're Romantic Suspense, and her mysteries are killer. That probably also added to my slight disappointment in this book as a whole. It was more Romance than Suspense. But again, that's a purely personal preference.

Would I read this book again? Absolutely. I really did enjoy it quite a lot.

Would I recommend this book to others? 100% YES. It's Dee Henderson. You can't go wrong with a Dee Henderson novel (even if it isn't my favorite).

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Book Review: Inheritance

My book review today is of the novel Inheritance, the fourth and final book in Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle.

So what is this book about?

Not so very long ago, Eragon--Shadeslayer, Dragon Rider--was nothing more than a poor farm boy, and his dragon, Saphira, only a blue stone in the forest. Now the fate of an entire civilization rests on their shoulders.

Long months of training and battle have brought victories and hope, but they have also brought heartbreaking loss. And still, the real battle lies ahead: they must confront Galbatorix. When they do, they will have to be strong enough to defeat him. And if they cannot, no one can. There will be no second chance.

The Rider and his dragon have come further than anyone dared hope. But can they topple the evil king and restore justice to Alagaesia? And if so, at what cost?

My first impressions? It was an enjoyable read. I had fun, and towards the end I reached a point where I couldn't put the book down. So yes, an enjoyable read.

It wasn't the bore that Eragon was, which is a relief. I didn't expect it to be, because Brisingr was one that I actually enjoyed very much so I expected to like Inheritance as well. It was still nice not to be proven wrong.

The characters are all interesting, and I actually cared what happened to them this time around. Paolini even managed to bring me to tears at one point, which pleasantly surprised me. I don't necessarily like crying, but the fact that I cared enough about these characters to cry during an emotional scene was a refreshing change to the way I've been viewing this series previously.

I loved this book, I won't lie. The story was interesting and and kept me turning pages, the characters were vibrant, the book as a whole was well paced. I was never bored, that's for sure. Paolini also managed to surprise me in a specific plot twist (which I won't go into detail about because of spoilery reasons...). The previous three books have felt rather predictable, and though most of this book was as well, there was a major point that took me by surprise and I appreciated that. The story has come a long way from Eragon, and being surprised by a plot twist was just one more example of that.

I will say that Paolini's descriptions and convoluted prose still isn't my thing. The writing certainly isn't as stiff as Eragon was, but I'm not a huge fan of his prose. Also, his choice of words when describing things often takes me out of story for a moment while I do a double-take, so that can be distracting and put a damper on the experience as a whole. One such instance was during a one-on-one fight scene where he described the two men wrestling each other, trying to kill one another, in this way: "their embrace as intimate as any lovers" um....do lovers usually try to kill each other? I wouldn't personally know, but I imagine not. Or maybe fighting is more romantic than I assumed? I don't believe the answer to either of those questions is yes, so why he described that fight in such a manner, I don't know.

One other complaint I have is a simple one of continuity. Fair warning, I'm about to rant. Now, for any avid readers of the Inheritance Cycle, please correct me if I am wrong. I want to be corrected. I want there to be an explanation to this, because right now it just drives me crazy. I hate things that don't make sense.

Here's what I'm talking about, in a nutshell: (I suppose I should put a SPOILERS warning here...skip this paragraph if you're concerned about me spoiling things for you...)

Roran goes to the city Aroughs in Chapter 12. He arrives in Chapter 16. At the very end of Chapter 17 we learn that Murtagh and Thorn are at Dras-Leona with the Varden. We spend Chapters 18-22 with Roran and his company sacking Aroughs...and then in Chapter 22 when Roran gives his report to Nasuada--all of which we see--he says "I'm not about to stay here, injuries or no injuries, while my wife and unborn child sit camped less than a mile away from Murtagh and his dragon!" How in the name of anything did Roran know about Murtagh and Thorn? He wasn't with the Varden when they discovered that bit of information. It is possible Nasuada mentioned them, except that there is no part of the conversation between Roran and Nasuada that we don't see. The only part that isn't written out word for word is when Roran faints, but he couldn't have learned of Murtagh and Thorn then because he was unconscious...so when on earth did he learn about them? How does he know they are there? He has had no communication with Nasuada or Eragon since he set out for Aroughs and they didn't run into Murtagh and Thorn until after his departure...ugh. I hate inconsistencies. Can you tell?

Aside from that one apparent error that drove me crazy early on in the book, and my dislike of Paolini's descriptions and prose, I don't have a lot of complaints about this book. And for the latter complaint, it really wasn't as much of a bother with this book as previous ones. So all in all--aside from my rant--I have little negativity to offer. I loved this book.

I loved the story, I loved the characters. It was good book.

Would I read this book again? Undoubtedly.

Would I recommend this book to others? Definitely.

I've come to a point where I've decided recommending Eragon and Eldest to people is a necessity that cannot be avoided, because I whole-heartedly want people to enjoy Brisingr and especially Inheritance. You can't do that unless you know the full story...so now I'm changing my tune a bit and saying, yes, I might very well recommend Eragon and Eldest. But only as a whole series. On their own, I still say no, not worth the read.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Book Review: Father Brown

Today I am reviewing short stories by G.K. Chesterton, specifically a collection of works called Favorite Father Brown Stories.

So what is this story/these stories all about?

Father Brown is a Roman Catholic Priest and amateur detective who solves mysteries and crimes using his intuition and keen understanding of human nature.

First impressions? I love these stories.

The writing is what I would describe as delightfully quaint. It puts me in mind of simple English countrysides with gentle rolling hills dotted with sheep or something along those lines. That is literally the image that the style of writing puts in my head.

These are mysteries, requiring Father Brown, the police, and the reader to catch a criminal or unravel the secrets of unexplainable events before the end. The stories are sweetly simplistic and yet still manage to be enthralling at the same time. It isn't the same sort of page-turning suspense as a Dee Henderson crime novel, but it is uniquely fascinating.

The characters are all rather simplistic in that there isn't a lot of backstory or character development, but this rather adds to the delightfulness of the story rather than hindering it. They are well-rounded enough for a short story, and if there was more backstory or character development it would rather clutter up the story than add substance.

The writing style is, as I've said, delightful in it's simplicity. This perhaps sticks out to me because I am currently reading Paolini's Inheritance Cycle where nothing is allowed to be stated plainly so the uncluttered, straightforward prose of G.K. Chesterton was a refreshing change. Another thing I enjoyed immensely was the very British-ly dry humor. I love a good dry wit, and I find it most readily among the English. It made me quite happy to read it, but I suppose that's merely a personal preference.

I also love the way that Chesterton describes things. It's never the obvious description and it often makes me chuckle. He really is quite the delightful writer.

Father Brown is a bit like Sherlock Holmes and Father Gilbert all rolled into one, both of whom I love so of course I couldn't help but love him too.

If I have any complaints about these stories it is simply this: There aren't enough of them. I definitely wanted to keep reading when I came to the end of the book.

Would I read this book again? Absolutely.

Would I recommend this book to others? Definitely.