The Annual Review: Looking Back on 2014 and Ahead to 2015

Happy New Year from Zelda Pug!

Looking Back

2014 was a big year. My husband and I moved to Cincinnati. We both started new jobs and adjusted to a new life and a fresh start. I dedicated more time and effort to writing fiction and good things started happening for my writing career. Here's a few highlights:

1. The Photograph

In June, I released my first full-length young adult novel. This first novel took several years to write, edit, and publish, but I'm proud of the result.

2. Zelda Book Sales

I released the second and third Zelda books in 2014. With the release of the third book, the series began to gain some momentum. In November, I set the first Zelda book to free in ebook format. Since then, I've seen increased ebook sales of the second and third books in. Also, paperback sales skyrocketed over the holidays for all the Zelda books. Before you know it, Zelda pug will take over the children's book market! :)

3. Author Days & Events

In 2014, I visited three elementary schools for Author Day events. During these events, I spoke with students about writing, publishing, pugs, and sold lots of Zelda books. I loved Author Visits and have more planned for 2015. I also set up a table to sell books at many community events and enjoyed those outings as well.

Looking Ahead

Overall, I'm very pleased with my writing output and sales in 2014. 2014 was the first full year of writing seriously, and I'm happy with the results. With the successes of 2014 in mind, I've started planning for 2015. I have a few goals in mind, and I'm working out the others. Here's a few I can share.

1. Publish my second novel:

I'm currently working through edits on The Evolution of Lillie Gable, my second contemporary young adult novel. I'm happy with the story, but I have a few details to work out. Either way, the book should come out this spring!

2. Publish the fourth Zelda book:

The fourth schedule is next on the project list. I expect an early summer 2015 release. It should be another fun book!

3. More Batpeach

I wrote the first story of a new spinoff series from the Zelda books for my newsletter subscribers and Wattpad fans. Batpeach will return in 2015 with more fun crimefighting stories!

4. More Fiction on the Blog

With my increased writing output and stories available, I will be posting more sneak peek snippets of my novels and stories. I also am stopping my monthly book reviews posts. I'm not reading as much at the moment, so it seems silly to have a monthly post with one or two books. Instead, I will post a review or highlight a book I loved.

That's a portion of the plan for 2015. I'm excited for this year and my writing career!

What were your successes in 2014? How can you build on those for 2015?

August 2014 Book Reviews

Before the pugs take over the blog for the rest of the week, here are my August book reviews. I have so much more to say about Words of Radiance, so expect a blog post about that book very soon. Until then, happy reading! Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson - The only disappointing part about Words of Radiance was knowing the next book in the series won't be out until Fall of 2015. Words of Radiance is the 2nd in the ten book epic fantasy series titled the Stormlight Archive. Words of Radiance is perhaps the best book I will read this year, and better than its predecessor. Whereas The Way of Kings focused almost entirely on world building and character development, the second book dives into story and action. The world building continues in breathtaking fashion, meanwhile more depth and layers are added to the main characters. Since I knew what I was getting myself into, I didn't mind the length at all, and the pacing of the story was great. I often had to force myself to shut off the kindle every night to get sleep. 7 out of 7 stars!

Frost by Kate Avery Ellison - Frost is the first in a YA fantasy/dystopian series. I picked the book up through a special promotion, so I didn't know much about the series or author beforehand. I enjoyed the book. The descriptions were great to put you into the setting, and the characters were likeable and relatable. I think the potential for the series is great with the setup created in this book, but this book was a little too simple and predictable for me. It is a YA title, but it reads more like a middle grade novel to me. The book was enjoyable; I just expected a little more which might come in book two. 4 out of 7 stars

The Necromancer's Betrayal by Becca Andre - The Necromancer's Betrayal is a novella set in between the second and third book in the series. We are introduced to a new character, Elysia, while learning more about James. Just like the novels, the story is fast-paced and fun. Normally, I'm not a huge novella fan, but I love how these novellas in the Final Formula series get us into the heads of other characters. I really enjoyed this book and look forward to book 3! 5 out of 7 stars

Paper Towns by John Green - I'm having a hard time nailing down how I feel about this book. I'll start with the positives. I love the voice of the book. Green has a knack for putting his readers inside the head of teenagers. The pacing is great–I wanted to keep reading and reading to find out what happened to Margo. I give credit to Green for not settling for stereotypical happy ending. Yet, I felt like I wasn't fulfilled by the ending, and I didn't like the character of Margo. The book did make me think about the lives we lead and our "paper towns." With all that in mind, I'm giving it 5 out of 7 stars.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell - I'm sorry it took so long for me to read this book. It's been on my to-read list for awhile, and I finally got an audio book copy through overdrive. I don't do audiobooks often–I simply enjoy reading more than listening, but Eleanor & Park was a great audiobook. The narrators were fantastic. I loved the dueling point of views. It really added depth to this book. Eleanor and Park are adorable and their love story is much different than many of the YA books I've read. I don't want to give too much away, so just read the book. 6 out of 7 stars

Rating System Guide

7 stars = Phenomenal book – one of the  best books I’ve read

6 stars = Great book – worth your time to read

5 stars = Solid book, if you like the genre pick it up

4 stars = Okay book, maybe lacking something in the way of language, character development, story

3 stars = I probably should have stopped reading this book.

1 or 2 stars = Serious issues with plot, structure, language, or not a book for me.

Author Spotlight with Kate Sparkes

Today I am excited to feature author Kate Sparkes. Her debut novel, Boundreleased on June 23, 2014 and has been on the top of the young adult fantasy charts since it released. I read and reviewed Bound last month. It was a joy to read, and I am excited about her success.

Tell us a little about yourself and your novel Bound.

I’m a writer and a mom, wife to a Mountie, comfortable seating for three cats and regular walker for a Boxer named Jack. And actually… all of that pretty much sums up my daily life. I was born in Ontario, but I now live in Newfoundland, which I think is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I’ve been writing stories since I was in Kindergarten, but only started working toward it as a career in 2010. That’s when I started writing Bound.

Bound is the first book in a YA Fantasy trilogy. It’s the story of two characters: Rowan, a young woman who comes from a country where magic is considered a sin (but who has always been fascinated with the fairy tales she’s not supposed to be reading), and Aren, an enemy Sorcerer whose life she accidentally saves. Secrets are revealed, loyalties tested, adventures had… it’s good fun.

What are your favorite and most challenging parts of writing a novel?

My favourite part is when things click into place, when a plot problem or character motivation issue that I’ve been struggling with finally yields, and everything seems like it was just meant to be. My least favourite part would be the struggles leading up to that. Also, trying to write sales/cover copy. I didn’t think I was going to survive that with my sanity intact.

I love reading fantasy because of the creative, immersive worlds of the genre, but as a writer, I am intimidated by that world building aspect. What was your process to create the fantasy world of Bound?

The world had been gradually forming in my mind for years before I came up with the story and characters that fit into it. I’ve always loved fairy tales and myths, so it seemed natural that mythical creatures from our world would find their way in there, but I try to put my own spin on them. The land itself is frequently based on Newfoundland. Its rugged beauty, worn-down mountains, and glacier-carved landscapes seem like they’re already full of magic, especially on foggy days. The hardest part of the world for me was creating the magic system, finding a balance between possibilities and limitations, setting the rules, and making sure it didn’t make things too easy for my characters. I was tweaking that right up to the last minute, and I’m glad my editor regularly works in Fantasy and was willing to give my hands a slap when I messed up.

The challenge now is pushing the boundaries that I’ve set, and also exploring other aspects of magic that were mentioned in Bound but that we haven’t really explored.

Bound is a bestseller on Amazon in the YA Fantasy Sword & Sorcery and Coming of Age categories with almost 50 reviews posted on Amazon since its June 23rd launch. Can you share your launch and release strategy?

I wish there was some huge secret I could share, but I think I’m as surprised as anyone. Pleasantly surprised, of course, and incredibly grateful to the readers who have made it happen. My launch strategy for publication involved releasing on multiple platforms so that my Nook and Kobo loving friends could get the book. Sales have been far better on Amazon than anywhere else, but I’m still glad it’s available to everyone. On Amazon, I got the book into as many appropriate sub-categories as I could, which meant it showed up in Best Seller lists and Hot New Release lists sooner than it would have in larger categories. I launched the book at an introductory sale price of $2.99 as a “thank you” to everyone who was already supporting me, and I hoped it would make it easier for people to decide to try the book.

In terms of publicity, there’s my blog, where I had been posting weekly teaser snippets as part of WIPpet Wednesday. I have a nice little community of writers I follow on Wordpress, and many of them helped spread the word on cover reveal and release day, and a few hosted interviews. I had a launch party on Facebook. That was really just for fun, but it did get people I already knew talking about the book. Some of them read it and loved it, and recommended it to their friends.

Most of the book’s success has been thanks to word of mouth promotion. People who read advance copies loved the story, and when they learned how important their enthusiasm was to the book’s success, they were more than happy to tell their friends. I put a few sentences in my note to readers about how they can help spread the word about books they love, and that encouraged people to leave reviews. Eventually the book started showing up on sub-category Best Seller lists, and Amazon’s recommendations took over.

I learned later that I had accidentally followed most of the advice in David Gaughran’s book “Let’s Get Visible,” which I have now read and recommend to everyone who asks. Fantastic advice on getting the word out on Amazon.

Finally, what is on the horizon for your fans? What books are next to be released?

The next book that I’ll be releasing is Torn, which is book two of the Bound trilogy. I think some people would be rather upset if I released anything unrelated before I did that! I have a short story in the works that’s a prequel to Bound, but it still needs editing and a cover, so that has to wait. After that we’ll see book three of the trilogy… and I do have a fun urban fantasy novella in the works that’s gotten excellent reviews from beta readers, but again, that has to wait for its turn.

And then, who knows? There are a ton of characters in the Bound trilogy who are begging to have their stories told. If readers want them, we might see a few spin-off stories, or even full-length novels.

Thanks for having me!

Thanks again to Kate for her thoughtful responses. You can purchase Kate's novel Bound using the links below. Also, I encourage you to follow her on social media. She's funny. :)



Barnes & Noble (Nook)




Disregard the Prologue (blog)

Sparrowcat Press

Author newsletter (releases, giveaways, news, and other fun stuff)

Author Spotlight with Laurel Garver


Today I'm excited to host an interview with author Laurel Garver. I read Garver's young adult novel, Never Gone last month. I really enjoyed the book, (read my review here) so I asked Laurel if she would answer a few questions. The interview is below, and her responses are definitely worth reading. I really enjoyed her comments about writing for young adults and writing from a Christian perspective.

Tell us a little about yourself and your writing. 

I grew up in north central Pennsylvania not far from The Office territory. To fend off crushing boredom, I joined every arty thing: band, choir, art club, school newspaper, and speech and drama. I often scribbled stories during class when my teachers thought I was taking copious notes. (As the youngest of five children, I have a bit of a mischievous streak.)

As an undergrad, I majored in English with a communications minor (lots of theatre classes) and studied abroad in the UK.  I went on to earn a master’s in journalism while working full time as an editor in Philadelphia. I have 20+ years experience in trade, association, and academic publishing.

During my post-college years, I gravitated toward poetry and put much of my creative energy there. (My poetry collection, Muddy-fingered Midnights, includes some early work as well as many new pieces).From 1995-2000, I was editor and publisher of a Christian literary magazine, About Such Things. Through it, I got to know the philosophy PhD student who became my husband. Our daughter was born in 2002.

I grew restless as a stay-at-home mom, and a friend urged me to pick up writing again. Something inside me lit up when I unearthed character sketches for Danielle Deane, a grieving teen I’d first imagined while on a walk in 1992. I’d heard her voice tell me about her difficult relationship with her mother since her dad had died, and her struggles to hang onto her faith when her church-going parent had been snatched away and she was stuck with the atheist. I’d lost my own father to renal failure a few years before this, and it felt like the time had arrived to work through that loss. There was enough difference between Dani’s circumstances and mine to help me have creative distance, yet emotional truth.

It took six years of writing and revision, research trips to NYC and England, and critiques from three writing groups to get Never Gone into its final form.

What does a typical work day look like for you? How much time do you spend writing fiction compared to marketing, blogging, working another job, etc? 

I work 5-6 hours each weekday as managing editor of a scholarly journal. My work load can fluctuate quite a bit seasonally, so I’m able to squeeze in research or social networking during quiet periods. For the most part, writing happens during my lunch hour, on the train, the late afternoon after work, or while my daughter is at her Irish dance or guitar lessons.

My evenings are typically filled with household chores (not cooking, thankfully--my hubby is our family chef), overseeing homework, going to the gym, critiquing for my CPs, and attending church activities.  Once my daughter is in bed, I most often creatively recharge by reading. If I’m feeling energetic, I usually try to make connections online, research marketing opportunities, write blog posts, and schedule tweets.

What draws you to write young adult fiction?

What turned me on to reading, and continues to captivate me, are stories that explore the places where heart and soul are tested and growing up truly begins.  Volunteering with my church youth ministry opened my eyes to how teens today struggle to be real in a culture that glorifies superficiality. When beauty, strength, and charisma are idolized, all the ways we are broken never see the light, never have a chance to heal. Instead, they fester under the surface, filling our lives with poison. So I write about kids in crisis who learn to let go of their pretensions and falseness and allow God to remake them as people who humbly hope, believe, and love.

As a Christian and a writer, I am intrigued by the intersection of faith with writing, especially fiction. Tell us about the decision to make Dani a Christian character. Did (or do) you feel any pushback from the Christian themes in your novel? 

I knew from the get-go that faith would be at the core of Never Gone. When a person is grieving, spiritual questions about the nature of life and of a higher power naturally come up. My approach was simply to write through the eyes of a character for whom faith is a natural part of life. It’s Dani’s framework for understanding the world, just like her artistic ability is. The imagery and stories of her faith weave through her thought world as much as the language of painting and drawing. Readers walk with Dani through sadness, longing, first love, turmoil, broken relationships, confusion and doubt. She has to come to grips with what is really real, who God is, and how she must grow and change in order to become her best self.

I’ve tried to walk the fine line of emphasizing the universality of grief while making sure readers are aware there is Christian content, so no one is blindsided by it. The response to my themes and approach has been overwhelmingly positive. Readers have appreciated my willingness to explore the dark emotions of loss while affirming that we can talk (and holler and cry) to our Creator honestly about our pain, which at root is an expression of faith that He hears, cares, comforts and makes things new.

What is on the horizon for you? What books are next to be released?

I’m wrapping up the final chapters of a sequel to Never Gone that takes place the summer after Dani’s junior year. I also have two nonfiction books in the works, one of which I hope to release later this year, Writing When You Can’t Write. It will be full of tips and exercises to keep your writing projects on track, even when you can’t be at the keyboard.

Finally, I'm always looking for recommendations for young adult fiction. What are a few of your favorite young adult books or series?

There are so many! The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, Where She Went by Gayle Forman, The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen, Summer to Die by Lois Lowry and pretty much everything by Sara Zarr and Deb Caletti. In terms of series, I adore J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, as well as Susan Howatch’s adult fiction Starbridge series and St. Benet’s series.

Thanks again to Laurel for her thoughtful responses!

Connect with Laurel:







Buy Laurel's Books:


Barnes & Noble


Margin and Balance with the Author Life

[youtube] It's been awhile since the last video post. In this short chat, I discuss balance and margin for writers, especially those working other jobs in addition to writing. I also give a writing update on the next projects for me. For the Zelda fans, she makes an appearance along with Peach. In fact, they spend a good portion of the video being goofballs behind me.

Do you have margin in your life?

Launch Day for The Photograph!



Release day is here! The Photograph is now available on all major ebook platforms and in paperback!

Until June 21, The Photograph is only $2.99 in ebook form and under $10 for a paperback on the Amazon store, so pick it up now to save a couple bucks.  If you are ready to buy, scroll on down and click on the links for your platform of choice.

If you are new to the blog or a visitor, read an excerpt from the first chapter or scroll down to read the book blurb.

The Photograph was a three year-long project, so I can't believe it is finally ready to be in the hands of readers!  Enjoy the book and leave a review after you finish reading. Thanks for all your support.


AmazoniBooks, Nook, Kobo or Smashwords.


On a quest for truth, one girl will find more than she bargained for.

Sixteen-year-old Rachel Brandt is excited about her six-month anniversary with her boyfriend, Brent, getting her driver’s license, and competing for a district championship in her first season on the varsity basketball team.

But when Rachel stumbles across a photograph of her parents, she can’t shake the feeling that she is meant to find her mother, whose identity is a secret her grandparents have closely guarded. All Rachel knows is that her mother disappeared around the time her father was killed in action in the Gulf War a few months after she was born.

Her discovery of the photograph sends Rachel on a search for her mother against her grandparents’ wishes and propels her life into a tailspin. She never imagines her search will reveal a series of lies that jeopardizes every important relationship in her life and ultimately lead Rachel to question her identity.

The Photograph is a contemporary young adult novel for ages 12-16 that follows Rachel’s search for her mother through the backdrop of her basketball team’s quest for its first district championship in twelve years.

Marketing on No Budget Part 2 - Author Days

A few months ago, I wrote a post called Marketing on No Budget. I was looking for cheap ways to promote my books. I came up with a few ideas, most of which were local events or options. By far, the most successful marketing idea was the Author Day. The author day is not a new idea, but a relatively new idea for me. Since I write children's and YA, author days are a natural fit. I contacted a few local elementary schools and asked if they were interested in hosting me for the day to talk to the students about being an author. I booked two schools for author days in May.

For one school, I spent the day with second graders. I met with six classes for 45 minutes each. I read from The Adventures of Zelda: A Pug Tale, led a discussion about reading and pugs, and talked about the "author life." I had a blast.

For the other school, I spent the day with fifth graders. I met with five classes for 45 minutes each. I read from the Zelda book and also led a discussion about the origin of my stories and the writing process. Since the students were older, I left more time for Q&A. I was asked great questions. My favorite was "what is your world view as an author?"

Here are my takeaways from the experience.

1. Author days are fun.

I had a blast at the author days. I loved sharing my experience with the students and teaching them about writing. I'd do it again in a heartbeat. I do realize some authors may not enjoy public speaking or teaching kids, but  I have a background in education and working with kids and teenagers, so it fits me well.

2. Author days are exhausting. 

I came home both days wiped. Although I enjoyed the days, all the time up front is exhausting for me. The preparation for the days wasn't bad, but it wouldn't be great to schedule days back to back.

3. Author days sell books. 

For both schools, students in the classes associated with the visit took home fliers about my books to pre-order signed copies. For one school, they simply brought in the order slip with the cash or check. The other school didn't do any cash transactions at school (interesting), so I set up an online ordering and payment option. I set a preorder deadline for a week before the scheduled author date, so I had time to get the books signed. The second grade classes sold more books, but it's hard to say whether it was the grade level, school, or teacher promotion. But the fifth grade still sold enough books to make the visit worthwhile. Both were successful mechanisms to sell books.

4. Author days are a great way to build your platform.

I sent all the students home with a Zelda bookmark with my website information. In addition, my name is more familiar with the teachers. I'm sure some students will read Zelda and enjoy the books. They may even tell their friends, and more kids and adults will know of a little pug named Zelda.

With school out for the summer, author days are on the back burner. I look forward to scheduling one to two author days a month next school year. If you are connected to a school in the greater Cincinnati or Cleveland area, I'd love to come visit!

I'm always looking for more marketing ideas, especially lower cost options.

Have you had any success marketing with no budget?

The Photograph Teaser

Release day is almost here! To help you get excited about The Photograph, here is an excerpt from the first chapter.

Rachel walked through the front door into the living room. A huge banner that read Congratulations hung there with balloons attached on both sides. She walked toward the kitchen and spotted Papa and Nana reading at the table. Rachel opened her mouth and was about to speak when she noticed the bright blue Happy Birthday banner hanging across the kitchen cabinets. Taped to the banner was her school photo from a few years ago, with the caption, Aren’t you glad these days are over? Happy Birthday! It was the worst picture of her in existence. She had a bowl haircut and was wearing big blue glasses.

“Did you have to bring that photo out again?”

“Yes, you know I love that photo,” Nana said.

“Oh dear. I like the banners, though. Couldn’t decide what to celebrate?”

“No. I wanted to celebrate both and ran out of space in the living room,” Papa said.

“I love it. We should leave it up until Christmas.” Rachel knew that would never happen. Nana liked to keep her house tidy.

“Let’s compromise on Halloween,” Nana said. “Actually, Rachel, while I’m thinking of it, could you bring the Halloween costumes and decorations downstairs from the attic?”

“Sure, but first let me tell you what Brent got me for my birthday.”

“Oh, that’s why you are grinning from ear to ear. Let me guess.”

“You won’t guess,” Rachel said. “He got us tickets to the Harlem Globetrotters!” She ran over to the table and handed her grandparents the tickets. Rachel opened the door to the pantry and shoved a couple Oreos into her mouth.

“Wow, I think that Brent guy has you figured out. Don’t eat too many cookies, you will spoil your dinner,” Nana said, her blue eyes twinkling.

“No, I won’t. Cookies never fill me up. What’s the plan for dinner?” Rachel asked.

“Bad Apple Grill,” Nana said.

“Ooooh, Bad Apple. My favorite! When are we leaving?”

“Whenever you want,” Nana said.

“Okay, let me grab the Halloween boxes, then we can go.”

“Sounds good, I will get Papa moving,” Nana said.

The attic door was in the hallway on the second floor. Rachel pulled the rope; the ladder didn’t budge. She pulled harder a second time, and the ladder swung to the ground.

Rachel climbed the ladder and hoisted herself into the attic. She scanned the room but didn’t see any traces of ghosts or zombies; she was surrounded by dust, cobwebs, and her archenemy—spiders. She needed to get out of there quick, but the boxes were stacked three high and covered the attic. She noticed some were labeled—Christmas, decorations, Robbie. Without a box marked Halloween in sight, she started with the unlabeled boxes.

The first box was filled with clothes—probably her father’s clothes. She sighed. Sixteen years and her grandparents were still hanging on to her father’s belongings. When would they move on?

Rachel saw another unlabeled box taped shut. The box was too small to hold costumes or decorations, but her curiosity got the best of her. She ripped the tape off the box. Inside the box were hundreds of loose photographs.

Nana and Papa were photography buffs, and even with the advent of digital photography, they still preferred using film. They brought their camera everywhere and took turns shooting photographs on trips and events. When they returned home, Nana developed all the photographs. On cold winter nights, the Brandts sorted through the boxes of photographs and retold the stories captured in the pictures. But a few years had passed since the last time Nana and Papa had rolled out the boxes and albums of photographs.

Rachel rifled through the box for a few minutes. Pictures of Rachel at all stages of life dominated the contents. She saw herself covered with icing and cake on her second birthday. In another photo, Nana, Papa, and a seven- or eight-year-old Rachel held up a giant walleye on the boat. She dug around a little bit more and saw a picture of her father that caught her eye. He was wearing his Marine Corps dress-blue uniform, a grin on his face and his arm wrapped around a beautiful woman. Rachel didn’t recognize the woman, but her face had a familiar look. The woman was stunning; her light brown hair was pulled back, highlighting her bright, brown eyes. She wore a long black dress that accentuated her tall, thin figure. Rachel couldn’t remember ever seeing this photo before tonight; she took the photo, shoved it into her sweatshirt pocket, and shut the box.

The Photograph releases June 17. Learn more about the book here.

March 2014 Book Reviews

March was a fun month for reading. I had much more time than the past few months to spend with my kindle. I read a few nonfiction books this month, albeit both are writing related books. The reviews are below. Keep in mind my book reviews are my opinions based on my reading preferences, and I post them to help you find a new book to read. Enjoy and Happy Reading! Torrent by Lindsay Buroker - Torrent, an urban fantasy, is a big departure from the Emperor's Edge series. Delia, an archaelogist and her buddy Simon, stumble upon a monster who is ripping people's heads off in Arizona. They team up with Delia's old friend Temi and look for clues about the monster. The story quickly turns to fantasy as learn about the monster and two other mysterious people who are trying to kill it. The story is fast paced and I read through it quickly. I thought the character development could be better (especially compared to the EE series). In many ways, this novel is a fun, easy read for entertainment. I think the series could be good if she decides to pursue it. 4 stars

Wonderbook by Jeff VanderMeer - The Wonderbook is a great guide to help creative writers (especially those in the fantasy or sci-fi realms). The book is very dense–I will need to read through sections a few more times. It's worth buying a copy and keeping around the house if you are a writer. I especially loved all the illustrations and visuals throughout the book. 6 stars

In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner - In the Shadow of a the Banyan is a fictional story based on the author's real life experience of living through the Khmer Rouge takeover as a child. The story is told through the point of view of a young child. The point of view was a big stumbling block for me. I felt the lyrical prose of the book didn't match the child narrator. Although the prose was beautiful, I couldn't get past the POV. I also think the storyline could have been deeper with an adult point of view. However, I am glad I read the book to get this sobering account of the Khmer Rouge. It was tough to read at parts, but worth it anyways. 4 stars

Phantom by Jo Nesbo - It's been a year since I read any Harry Hole books by Jo Nesbo. The Phantom continues the story of Harry Hole, a former Oslo police detective. In this book, his son is accused of a drug related murder and he needs to figure who is behind it to free his son. The clues lead to a drug called Violin and a drug lord called Dubai. As with the previous Hole books, the story is dark, violent, and filled with unexpected twists. The ending left me stunned and intrigued to pick up the tenth book in the series. If you like crime thrillers, as always, try the Harry Hole series. 5 stars

How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn - Joanna Penn is a well known Author-Entrepreneur. Her website and podcast is one of the best for advice and information on self-publishing and the industry. This book is essentially a concise summary of the information she has learned over the years. I think it's a great reference book for indie authors. From my own research over the past few years, I didn't learn anything new, but it is a book I will keep around for the next few years to remind me of best practices. 5 stars


Rating System Guide

7 stars = Phenomenal book – one of the  best book’s I’ve read

6 stars = Great book – worth your time to read

5 stars = Solid book, if you like the genre pick it up

4 stars = Okay book, maybe lacking something in the way of language, character development, story

3 stars = I probably should have stopped reading this book.

1 or 2 stars = Serious issues with plot, structure, language, or not a book for me.