Friday, January 11, 2019

Book Review: THE FORBIDDEN DOOR by Dean Koontz

As a huge Dean Koontz fan, I was thrilled when given the opportunity to review his latest book in the Jane Hawk series. Scroll down for my complete review.


THE FORBIDDEN DOOR by Dean Koontz
October 9, 2018 - Bantam Books
ISBN: 9780525483700

Description from the Publisher:
When this relentless rogue FBI agent comes knocking, her adversaries will have to answer—with their lives—in the latest thrilling Jane Hawk novel by the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Silent Corner.

“We’re rewriting the play, and the play is this country, the world, the future. We break Jane’s heart, we’ll also break her will.”

She was one of the FBI’s top agents until she became the nation’s most-wanted fugitive. Now Jane Hawk may be all that stands between a free nation and its enslavement by a powerful secret society’s terrifying mind-control technology. She couldn’t save her husband, or the others whose lives have been destroyed, but equipped with superior tactical and survival skills—and the fury born of a broken heart and a hunger for justice—Jane has struck major blows against the insidious cabal.

But Jane’s enemies are about to hit back hard. If their best operatives can’t outrun her, they mean to bring her running to them, using her five-year-old son as bait. Jane knows there’s no underestimating their capabilities, but she must battle her way back across the country to the remote shelter where her boy is safely hidden . . . for now.

As she moves resolutely forward, new threats begin to emerge: a growing number of brain-altered victims driven hopelessly, violently insane. With the madness spreading like a virus, the war between Jane and her enemies will become a fight for all their lives—against the lethal terror unleashed from behind the forbidden door.

About the Author:
Acknowledged as "America's most popular suspense novelist" (Rolling Stone) and as one of today's most celebrated and successful writers, Dean Ray Koontz has earned the devotion of millions of readers around the world and the praise of critics everywhere for tales of character, mystery, and adventure that strike to the core of what it means to be human.

Dean R. Koontz has also published under the names Leigh Nichols, Brian Coffey, David Axton, Owen West, Deanna Dwyer and Aaron Wolfe.

Dean, the author of many #1 New York Times bestsellers, lives in Southern California with his wife, Gerda, their golden retriever, Elsa, and the enduring spirit of their goldens, Trixie and Anna.



My Review:

A strong female character + Dean Koontz's writing = Jane Hawk.

With a plot that continually forces the reader to turn the next page and characters that make the reader consider each written word to truly savor the nuances, THE FORBIDDEN DOOR by Dean Koontz is a terrifying and captivating book.

But be warned, this book is not for the weary-hearted reader. As a huge Koontz fan, I know he always has good win out over evil in the end, but the path getting there is blocked by plenty of bristles and brutality. 

The "Arcadians" are taking over Jane's fictional world, and it seems as though they're taking over the series' narrative as well. I loved reading from Jane's viewpoint. I disliked reading the chapters from the brutal Aracadian loyalists' viewpoints, because that was when the story became a challenge to read with all the foul language and extreme violence (physical, sexual, and mental). As I read those pages (because I didn't want to miss any plot points), I kept begging Koontz to please give me back Jane's perspective. LOVE HER. Hate the bad guys. But I suppose that's the point, eh?

The plot in THE FORBIDDEN DOOR kept me guessing and engaged. However, I kept wishing the next chapter would focus on Jane's direct plot line and less on the numerous villains. 

When it came to characters, I was thrilled to see some of my favorites working together to rescue young Travis. Beyond that, the story certainly featured some unusual characters, which were a bit extreme and hard to believe. I'd have to say my least favorite was Egon Gottfrey, who believed nothing in the world actually existed. It was all "established by the Unknown Playwright" but then, as if a subliminal message, Koontz wrote, "There's no point hating the Unknown Playwright." Ha. Additionally, there were so many characters introduced, I struggled to know which ones were relevant to the long term story line and which ones were merely expendable. Many could have been cut without affecting the story's outcome. My favorite character (not counting Jane) would have to be Bernie Riggowitz. LOVE him. Everyone needs a Grandpa Bernie in their lives.

This is the fourth book in this series, and boy, there were plenty of unexpected events happening. While some passages seemed repetitive (like the continual explanation that a "LockAid lock-release gun will automatically pick any deadbolt"), there were new elements that happened in the "revolution" that really mucked things up - both for the Arcadians and for Jane. The Jane Hawk series of books definitely needs to be read in the proper order, from start to finish.

Dean Koontz has certainly mastered the art of writing a suspense novel. Some of my favorite lines from THE FORBIDDEN DOOR included:


"A thread of blood sews its way from the right corner of her mouth, down her chin, along her slender throat."

"With the sneeze quelled, she began to move again, only to press her face through the silken strands of a spiderweb that masked her from brow to chin. Startled, she paused to wipe off those sticky threads, wondering if the eight-legged architect might even now be crawling through her hair."

"...a pain in her chest, as if some demonic angler had cast a line and snared her heart with one of those fishing lures that had multiple wicked hooks."

Regarding the evil Arcadians, trying to take over the world: "They had more passion than those who resisted them. ... A passion to silence all dissent and to make a world in which they wouldn't have to hear an opinion at variance with their own."

"Death plays games with the living, just to impress upon them that no one is immune from the touch of his fleshless fingers, not even freckled little girls."

"Driving cool wheels when you go off a cliff won't buy you a soft landing."

And my ultimate favorite:

"Though evil could win in the short term, it could be defeated in time."

If you're a Dean Koontz fan, I recommend the Jane Hawk series. If you're already reading the series, keep reading, because Koontz offers terrific twists and turns.



[I received an e-copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influenced my opinion.]

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

IWSG: Writers' Resolutions

This time of year many people, writers included, are making resolutions. (Are you?) Twitter has been full of threads and Facebook has been full of memes, and while many of them have been funny or thought-provoking, I've chosen one of the most helpful to share with you below (scroll on down). 

Sometimes as writers we feel isolated and alone in our endeavors, but in actuality, we are in the same boat, striving toward the similar goals. If we stick together, the journey will be easier and happier. That's why I'm a member of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. It is such a great community of writers helping writers. If you're not already a member, click here and join our ranks and benefit from the group's resources.











Wednesday, December 5, 2018

IWSG: A Writer's Desktop

Each month, I look forward to the first Wednesday, because that means it's time for the Insecure Writers' Support Group posts.

http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com


It's great fun to pop around to other writers' sites and read their posts for the month. You can hop around, too! Check out the full list of participants by clicking here.



This month's question: What are five objects we'd find in your writing space?

My answer: Glancing around at my space, here are the first five things you'd notice:

1. Two monitors - this helps me SO MUCH with the writing process. When researching, I can have data up on one monitor while I'm writing on the other. When revising, I can have notes from a critique partner up on one monitor while I'm making changes to my manuscript on the other.

2. Notepads - I love notepads, and I utilize lists, but I tend to make lists by subject. As a result, I have multiple notepads surrounding me with writing lists, housekeeping lists, shopping lists, etc.

3. Eye glasses - rather than getting one pair of prescription eye glasses, I have tons of "readers." They're less expensive and more fun, but I have three pairs within reach right now. I think they're mating and reproducing somehow.

4. Post-it notes - I use these to make more lists and leave myself reminders about everything.

5. Story binder - my three ring binder contains pages and pages of notes regarding my current project, with sections on character details, plot details, and research notes.


How about you? What are five objects we'd find in your writing space?

Friday, November 16, 2018

REVIEW: Pub Site

When offered the chance to explore, experiment with, and review Pub Site, I jumped at the opportunity. In the past, for my own author needs, I've simply used Blogger, but there are more advanced and targeted tools out there for authors. Pub Site is one of those tools, and I was curious to learn more.





..........

"Up and running within an hour." - - - Okay. I'd take that challenge. I set a timer for 60 minutes and started from scratch, knowing nothing about the site. 


Here are the important items I learned in 60 minutes:

1. The tools on Pub Site made the process quick and easy for me to get started.

2. I followed their step-by-step process.

3. Pub Site offered ten templates to choose from and color variants within each.

4. Once I chose my template, a box popped up offering a tutorial video to help me customize my template. Because I wanted to see how long it would take me on my own, I waited to watch the video later.

5. The "Add Titles" option was confusing to me at first, because I thought it meant add headers or banners to the various pages of the website, but it actually meant add titles of books or other products I wanted to sell on the site. And upon closer examination, I realized when you hover your mouse over the icon, the site pops up an explanation that clicking here will allow you to add products to your site. Admittedly, I was rushing, trying to beat that 60 minute timer to build my site. My advice: take your time and read the little pop ups that are offering assistance.

6. I didn't understand the field "order by" . . . Most fields I was able to figure out, but this one left me baffled.

7. Pub Site offers tons of fields to add purchase links, which look very professional in the final web page.

8. For traditionally published authors, I'm not certain how necessary the "e-commerce" pages are, but I can see that these would be especially beneficial for self-published authors, publishing companies, and collaborative ventures.

9. Since the site gives you the option to add multiple authors, I see the potential for group marketing that could benefit all involved. Small publishers may find this web service especially helpful in designing a professional site.

10. After 50 minutes of adding content for myself as the author and for one of my books, I clicked on "view site." WOW. I had high expectations, and yet, I was still pleasantly surprised at how professional the site looked after only a short amount of time invested by me.

11. I was also pleased to see in the "view site" option, there were many easy-to-click edit buttons to add taglines and additional content.

12. I was confused on how to add a blog page - but keep in mind, I did not watch the tutorial before experimenting to see what I could accomplish in the first 60 minutes.

So, there you have it. Those twelve items listed are the major things I accomplished and learned in the first 60 minutes. No. My site was not finished. But I was thrilled with how it looked after just one hour invested. I'd predict, it would probably take at least another hour to get it closer to being finished. If you have more than five books to enter data for, it would take even longer. Probably plan data entry time of about 5-10 minutes per book, depending upon whether or not you already have the content created. For me, it was simple to copy and paste the data into the new website.





But that's not all. 

After signing up for my free 14-day trial, I received an email from the company welcoming me and offering to personally answer any questions I had. I replied and asked about setting up the blog page (see #12 above). I received an immediate response with helpful tips.

Terms of Use
While I am not a lawyer and cannot offer legal advice, the terms of use appeared pretty standard. Nothing popped out at me as alarming or unusual. The terms are long and thorough, but I encourage you to take the necessary time to read before agreeing to them.

14-day Free Trial
I highly encourage you to take advantage of the free trial to experiment with the site and see if it works for you.

So, how much does it cost?
According to the site: "Streamlined and affordable pricing - Our all-in-one package is just $19.99 a month and includes all of our current and future releases and features, including a complete ecommerce solution, and book-specific features. It also includes industry leading website hosting."



Final opinion from me:

I had high expectations of Pub Site and was still pleasantly surprised at how professional my author website looked after only fifty minutes entering content into Pub Site's easy-to-use template.




Wednesday, November 7, 2018

IWSG: Seeing Creativity in Life

First Wednesday of the month = Insecure Writer's Support Group. If you've not heard of it before, check out the complete details by clicking here.

The purpose of the group is "to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!"


http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/


This month's question: How has your creativity in life evolved since you began writing?

My answer: I see world building elements, richer character development, and plot twists in most everything I study now. For example, even when I'm quilting, I see ways to make the whole quilt more dynamic based on the "world" of the quilt, the fabrics chosen for their "character" and the unusual surprises I can include.


How about you? How has your creativity in life evolved since you began writing?


Monday, October 15, 2018

Book Review: HOW TO FRACTURE A FAIRY TALE by Jane Yolen

When offered the chance to read an early copy of Jane Yolen's collection of fractured fairy tales, I jumped at the opportunity! Scroll down to read my full review.


HOW TO FRACTURE A FAIRY TALE by Jane Yolen
November 5, 2018
Tachyon Publications
ISBN: 9781616963064


Description from Publisher

Fantasy legend Jane Yolen presents a wide-ranging offering of fractured fairy tales. Yolen fractures the classics to reveal their crystalline secrets, holding them to the light and presenting them entirely transformed; where a spinner of straw into gold becomes a money-changer and the big bad wolf retires to a nursing home. Rediscover the tales you once knew, rewritten and refined for the world we now live in―or a much better version of it.

About the Author

Jane Yolen is a novelist, poet, fantasist, journalist, songwriter, storyteller, folklorist, and children’s book author who has written more than three hundred books. Her accolades include the Caldecott Medal, two Nebula Awards, the World Fantasy Award, three Mythopoeic Awards, the Kerlan Award, two Christopher Awards, and six honorary doctorate degrees from colleges and universities in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Born and raised in New York City, the mother of three and the grandmother of six, Yolen lives in Massachusetts and St. Andrews, Scotland.


My Review

The title alone caught my attention, and then when I saw that this book was written by Jane Yolen, I knew I had to read it!

In an introduction by Marissa Meyer, she writes, "There is a history of tales told and retold that spans centuries--even millennia--and reaches to all corners of the globe."

How to Fracture a Fairy Tale, by Jane Yolen, is a collection of short stories and poems based on familiar fairy tales--but altered in fun, creepy, and imaginative ways. Yolen explains, "A fracture is a break . . . [it] can hurt like a sprain or reveal like a geode being split apart to show the jewels within."

Yolen takes well-known fairy tales and splits them apart, sometimes leaving them still quite familiar and other times shining a light from an unfamiliar angle to reveal new truths and possibilities.

This collection is a perfect choice to read when you have only a few minutes at a time to devote to the book. Read it while you're waiting at the doctor's office, or waiting in line to pick up your kids, or waiting anywhere!


Some of my favorite lines from the book:

"I felled her with a single blow of the fry pan." 

"Of course he had the big bran-muffin eyes and the sled-jump nose and the gingko-leaf ears that identify a troll immediately."

"Instead she floated like a swan and the river bore her on."




[I received an early copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influenced my opinion.]

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Fall 2018 - Young Adult Scavenger Hunt - #YASH






Welcome to YA Scavenger Hunt! 



I'm Margo Kelly, and I'll be your hostess for this leg of the hunt. I write thrillers, and I'm excited to share my novel, UNLOCKED, with you during this event! Somewhere along this scavenger hunt, I've shared exclusive content related to UNLOCKED, and clear down at the bottom of this post, I'm giving away a signed hardback copy of it (exclusive to readers of this post)! Yup. That's right. 





(So be sure to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway at the bottom of this post before you hop off to the next site in the scavenger hunt!)



By the way, you are currently hunting on TEAM GOLD.







This bi-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors ... and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt.

Add up the clues, and you can enter for the prize -- one lucky winner will receive:
one book from each author on the GOLD team! 

But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online until noon on Sunday, October 7, 2018!


Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are multiple contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the GOLD TEAM -- but there are other teams, each with a different set of books!

If you'd like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.


SCAVENGER HUNT PUZZLE RULES

Directions: Below, you'll notice that I've listed my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the gold team, and then add them up (don't worry, you can use a calculator). 

Entry Form: Once you've added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian's permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by October 7, 2018, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.


SCAVENGER HUNT POST

I am happy to introduce you to the author I'm hosting for the hunt:
K.M. ROBINSON



"K.M. Robinson is a best selling young adult author of retellings, dystopians, fantasy, and mermaid books. She also teaches social media strategy to authors and photographers and has been interviewed by Facebook for her innovative work in the field, as well as recently represented the USA in a major World Social Media Day broadcast. She’s very active on her social platforms and loves talking to fans. Get free books at excerpts on her website, social media accounts, and newsletter."



"Goldilocks was never naive. She was sent on a mission and Dov Baer is her new target in this best selling epic fairytale retelling other best selling authors are calling a 'can't miss!'"



Find out more information by checking out K.M. Robinson's website or find more about her book here!




EXCLUSIVE CONTENT
 from K.M. Robinson


K.M. Robinson is offering TWO bonuses for the scavenger hunt! Right now, you can get two bonus scenes from her Goldilocks retelling AND play a special interactive, choose-your-own-adventure game and see how your choices affect that characters in Golden when you read the first book for free right now.


Click HERE to grab the bonus scenes.


Click HERE to grab the first book for free.


Click HERE to play the Golden mission and help Goldilocks locate the Baers…before she destroys them.


* * * * *


Now don't forget to enter the YASH contest for a chance to win a ton of books by me and 19 other authors on TEAM GOLD. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on team gold, and you'll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!



But before you go, you'll need to know that my favorite number is 11, and here is an exclusive Rafflecopter giveaway for you to win a signed hardback copy of UNLOCKED. (This contest is separate from the YASH contest. Only visitors here are eligible.)



CONTINUE THE HUNT

To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author: L.H. Nicole



#IWSG: Do Major Life Events Affect Your Writing?

Time for our monthly post in The Insecure Writer's Support Group. If you've not heard of it before, check out the complete details by clicking here.

The purpose of the group is "to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!"



This Month's Question: How do major life events affect your writing? 

My Answer: Ugh. 

Seriously. The current national events have made me not only lose writing time, but I've also lost sleep and peace of mind. People have become so mean lately. People I've known and respected for years are suddenly sharing opinions that have left me dumbfounded. I've had trouble verbalizing how I truly feel about it all. When I've tried to write about it, I've been at a loss. Then, another video aired. This time: mockery of a sexual assault victim.

Maybe, one day, I'll be better able to articulate how I feel about the current events happening in our nation. Right now, this is all I have to say:

RAINN (the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization) has tips regarding how to speak to and treat sexual assault victims. Mockery is NOT acceptable. Be sensitive and speak with kindness. You don't know what others have experienced in their lives. For more information, visit the RAINN website: https://www.rainn.org/

Maybe next week more writing will be accomplished. Maybe next week people will be nicer to each other. Maybe we can each strive to be the reason someone else smiles, today. Don't wait for next week. 



Monday, October 1, 2018

Book Review: STAR-CROSSED by Pintip Dunn

STAR-CROSSED by Pintip Dunn
October 2, 2018
Publisher: Entangled Teen
ISBN: 978-1633752412

Publisher's Description:
Princess Vela's people are starving. Stranded on a planet that lacks food, Vela makes the ultimate sacrifice and becomes an Aegis for her people. Accepting a genetic modification that takes sixty years off her life, she can feed her colony via nutrition pills. But her best friend is still getting worse. And she's not the only one.

Now the king is dying, too.

When the boy she's had a crush on since childhood volunteers to give his life for her father's, Vela realizes her people need more than pills to survive. As tensions rise between Aegis and colonists, secrets and sabotage begin to threaten the future of the colony itself.
Unless Vela is brave enough to save them all… 


About the Author:
Pintip Dunn is a New York Times bestselling author of young adult fiction. She graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B., and received her J.D. at Yale Law School. 

Her novel FORGET TOMORROW won the 2016 RWA RITA® for Best First Book, and SEIZE TODAY won the 2018 RITA for Best Young Adult Romance. Her books have been translated into four languages, and they have been nominated for the following awards: the Grand Prix del'Imaginaire; the Japanese Sakura Medal; the MASL Truman Award; the TomeSociety It list; and the Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award. 

Her other titles include REMEMBER YESTERDAY, THE DARKEST LIE, GIRL ON THE VERGE, STAR-CROSSED, and MALICE.

She lives with her husband and children in Maryland. 


My Review:

Star-Crossed by Pintip Dunn made me want to read more quickly to find out what was going to happen next, but it also made me want to read more slowly to make the story last longer.

I've heard so many great things about Pintip Dunn's writing -- I was excited to finally jump in and read a book of hers. Star-Crossed exceeded my expectations! Set on a futuristic planet with problems and conspiracies and new-found love, Star-Crossed has elements that will appeal to most fan bases. But if you enjoy sci-fi and/or romance and/or mysteries - pick up this book for sure!

With captivating characters, a finely-layered plot, and a sci-fi setting, Pintip Dunn's Star-Crossed captured my interest on the first page and held tight through the final page. 

Some of my favorite lines from the story:

"This doesn't sound like my best friend. Gravity has never pulled so strongly on her words."

"He could give me the smallest look, or place the tiniest emphasis on a single word, and my nerves dart around like they're the flame to his flint."

"The tears poured out of me the way lava rushes from a volcano--fierce and unstoppable."

"The laughter bubbles inside me like carbonated soda, as if it was always there, waiting for the tab to be pulled."

"The next few hours pass like a swarm of bees--chaotic and fast, with one minute blending into the next. But once in a while, a moment lifts out of the fray and descends like an individual sting."

"Astana can't scream so we're doing it for her."

I highly recommend Star-Crossed by Pintip Dunn to all readers of all ages.




[I received an early copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influenced my opinion.]

Friday, September 14, 2018

Where I Want to Be Right Now

My spirit craves the mountains, the rivers, and the trees. Writing in the outdoors with the breeze and the birds is invigorating, and I miss it! My husband and I are eager to go again before the snow falls, but there is so much smoke in the mountains from all the fires, I'm not sure we'll go. Until we can, I'll lift my spirits with pictures! :) 





Wednesday, September 5, 2018

#IWSG: 2018 Annual Anthology Contest



Word count: 3500-6000

Genre: Young Adult Romance

Theme: Masquerade
A Masquerade can be a false show or pretense, someone pretending to be someone they aren't. It can be a ball, a fancy dress party, it can be a mask. Open to interpretation.

Submissions accepted: September 5 - November 4, 2018

How to enter: Send your polished, formatted (Double spaced, no page numbers), previously unpublished story to admin @ insecurewriterssupportgroup . com (without spaces) before the deadline passes. Please include your contact details, your social links, and if you are part of the Blogging, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter IWSG group.

Judging: The IWSG admins will create a shortlist of the best stories. The shortlist will then be sent to our official judges who will be announced September 5.

Prizes: The winning stories will be edited and published by Freedom Fox Press next year in the IWSG anthology. Authors will receive royalties on books sold, both print and eBook. The top story will have the honor of giving the anthology its title.

For more information visit: http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com