Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Hand Lettering Review

Title:  Hand Lettering
Authors:  Gabri Joy Kirkendall & Jacklyn Escalera
Publisher:  Thunder Bay Press
Release Date:  February 6, 2018

My Rating:  3.5 Artistic Hearts

*Many thanks to Thunder Bay Press & Netgally for a copy of this arc.


Add your own creative flourishes to any handwritten note, sign, or piece of art by using the techniques in Hand Lettering. This kit includes a 64-page project book with suggestions and examples of how you can put a little flair into any written word. How-to sections provide useful information on font selection, must-have supplies, and practice techniques. Get your creative gears spinning, and you’ll soon master your own unique style of lettering!

I've always been fascinated by creative, embellished hand lettering, and will admit to being just a bit envious of those who do it well.  I certainly don't as my handwriting more closely resembles chicken scratch (no insult intended to the hens who do it much better than I).  When I saw Hand Lettering on Netgally, it was an easy decision to request it.  

Hand Lettering introduces ten different techniques for lettering embellishment and includes a brief history of each style.  I found the history interesting and was a little surprised how many different styles date back to medieval times.  The styles include but are not limited to art deco, cubism, southwestern, and coastal.  Each style includes illustrations  and a breakdown with "How-To" tutorials which I enjoyed.  This book includes information on needed supplies and font selection and concludes with information on other special techniques such as illumination, and floral, animal, and object embellishments.  Instructions are clear and concise and come with lots of encouragement to practice, practice, practice.  When Hand Lettering is released, it will include an art kit which will be nice, I think.  All in all, it's a good how-to for anyone wishing to add a little extra flair to their hand-written notes and letters.  

My Rating:  3.5 Artistic Hearts . . . And that's the truth!

Cross My Heart . . . xxx

Sunday, January 14, 2018

How to Walk Away Review

Title:  How to Walk Away
Author:  Katherine Center
Publisher:  St. Martin's Press
Release Date:  May 15, 2018
Preorder Link:  Amazon

My Rating:  5 Unforgettable, Courageous Hearts

*Many thanks to St. Martin's Press & Netgally for a copy of this book.

From the author of Happiness for Beginners comes an unforgettable love story about finding joy even in the darkest of circumstances.
Margaret Jacobsen has a bright future ahead of her: a fiancé she adores, her dream job, and the promise of a picture-perfect life just around the corner. Then, suddenly, on what should have been one of the happiest days of her life, everything she worked for is taken away in one tumultuous moment .

In the hospital and forced to face the possibility that nothing will ever be the same again, Margaret must figure out how to move forward on her own terms while facing long-held family secrets, devastating heartbreak, and the idea that love might find her in the last place she would ever expect.

How to Walk Away is Katherine Center at her very best: an utterly charming, hopeful, and romantic novel that will capture reader’s hearts with every page.

How to Walk Away is a powerful, poignant, heartfelt story of one woman's tumultuous journey from being on the cusp of a perfect life to losing it all in a heartbeat to clawing and scratching her way out of the depths of despair while desperately searching for the courage, determination, and motivation to live again - whatever that might mean for her.  I started this book late one afternoon and finished it before midnight in one sitting.  From cover to cover, I remained ensnared in the web of a story I simply couldn't stop reading.  Katherine Center's brilliantly written book engages a range of human emotions - the giddy highs of hope, anticipation, and happiness to the dark lows of despair, utter hopelessness, and uncontrollable grief and loss.  From tears and an aching heart to smiles and a ray of hope, this book moved me.  I can never ask for more than that from a book or author.

I'm not discussing details of this story as there's no way to do that without completely spoiling it for future readers.  Instead, I'll share the beautiful job Center does in delivering characters that are realistically depicted given the devastating situation they find themselves facing.  Love them or hate them, every character's role is portrayed flawlessly - in color - vivid and rich with emotional turmoil - either degrading and condescending or supportive and loving.  I found myself wanting to hug some and strangle others, but either way they felt real.  The genuine, thought-provoking plot line that was so obviously researched in minute detail is conveyed through a writing style that flows and ebbs like an ocean wave at all the right times, portraying the highs and lows of this story with an emotional punch to the heart and a serious reality check to the brain.  As the story unfolds, several beautiful, life messages emerge from Center's gripping telling of Maggie's agonizing journey, but none ring truer than the importance of summoning the will to try again - to reach for your new happy ever after.  We must recognize, embrace, and accept that there are many different kinds of happy ever after.  You may not get the one you once dreamed of, but you can achieve another that is just as beautiful if you dare own it.  Katherine Center's How to Walk Away is a captivating, breathtaking story of hope, courage, perseverance, and the never-ending power of true love.  A Page-Burning, Must Read!

My Rating:  5 Unforgettable, Courageous Hearts . . . And that's the truth!
Cross My Heart . . . xxx

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Staircase Review

Title:  The Staircase
Author:  Deryn Lake
Genre:  Historical Romance (PNR)
Publisher:  Endeavour Press
Release Date:  Nov. 2, 2017
Buy Link:  Amazon

My Rating:  4 Magical Hearts

*Many thanks to Endeavour Press for a copy of this book via Netgally.

Helena had always been haunted by the dream of the staircase.

It prevents her from forming any real relationship with a man, because who could live up to the haunting, handsome figure that awaits her at the top of the staircase?

When her on-off boyfriend and childhood sweetheart Hal takes Helena on a romantic trip to Paris, he offers her a final ultimatum, and she is suddenly forced to decide between dreams and reality.

But, as her two worlds begin to collide, Helena begins to realise that everything is not as it seems – and that some dreams are nightmares…

The Staircase is a haunting, mystical, historical romance novella that spans centuries.  The dream-like atmosphere sets a chilling, surreal tone throughout the story.  Helena's sleep is disturbed repeatedly by her eerie dream of a dark, handsome man in eras-past clothing standing at the top of a staircase in what appears to be an ancient castle.  His dark, compelling eyes beckon her to come to him, and her body wholeheartedly responds.  At the same time, she is issued an ultimatum by her "boyfriend" Hal to commit to marriage or let him go.  They agree to take a week-long romantic trip to France to explore historical sites and their relationship, and after that, Helena will have one week to give him her answer.  Little does she know that magical forces beyond her control are at work, and what she discovers in France will change her life forever.  Is it her dream come true?  Or her worse nightmare?

A spooky, eerie tone settles over this story early-on and continues through the ending.  I found the writing and story to be compelling and, much like Helena, I found myself hypnotized and drawn in by the mysterious stranger on the stairway.  The story that unfolds is a vivid historical journey through time, spanning five centuries as it introduces several famous historical figures.  But are they real or a dream?  The author does a beautiful job with descriptive passages throughout and easily transports readers inside the mysterious Chambord Castle in France alongside of Helena.  I wish the author had chosen to write a longer story, giving readers a more in-depth introduction and understanding of the main characters, but I think Lake does a nice job given the book is only 80 pages long.  I did note a few errors in the book which is always disappointing, but even so, they didn't distract from my reading pleasure.  All in all, I found The Staircase to be a good, haunting novella with beautiful descriptive passages, compelling characters, and an unique, intriguing plot line.  A Must Read!

My Rating:  4 Magical Hearts . . . And that's the truth!

Cross My Heart . . . xxx

Friday, January 12, 2018

Framed (Black Swan Investigations #1) Review

Title:  Framed
Series: Black Swan Investigations #1
Author:  Wayne A. D. Kerr
Genre:  Mystery/Thriller
Publisher:  Imajin Books
Release Date:  Nov. 15, 2017

My Rating:  3.5 Intense Hearts

*Many thanks to & Netgally for a copy of this book.


Toronto’s newest homicide detective, Reggie Swann, seemed to have it all: great career, handsome husband and plans to start a family, until she was framed for murder…

A cop has very few friends in prison. After surviving ten brutal years behind bars, Reggie’s conviction is finally overturned thanks to her tenacious mother, a new forensic test and a very clever lawyer. She quickly discovers that getting her old life back won’t be as easy as she hoped. To many, she was still as the media had dubbed her: ‘Black Swann – murderer and cop-gone-bad’. The Toronto Police Department still considers her to be a suspect, Reggie’s husband has remarried and the real killer is still on the loose.

Before Reggie can return to Toronto and solve the crime that ruined her life, she reluctantly agrees to investigate a murder in her home town of Penticton, only to discover the two cases which are separated by ten years and five provinces might somehow be connected. Will anyone believe the wild theories of the disgraced detective?

The real murderer does!

He framed her once, this time Reggie Swann must die!

Former Toronto Homicide Detective Reggie Swann once had it all - a promising career, a loving husband, a bright future.  In spite of her proclaimed innocence, her murder conviction quickly changed all that as she now resides in prison, fighting to survive in the special hell reserved for incarcerated former cops who are hated by inmates and guards alike.  Over eight long years later, Reggie (aka The Black Swann) is released on a "technicality" and soon discovers you can never really go home again.  Especially when most people still consider you to be the murderess Black Swann.  When a local woman goes missing, leaving behind evidence that indicates her husband killed her, Reggie is brought into the case as an investigator by Erika, a lawyer hoping to prove the husband was framed.  The two women are joined by Hannah, a cop trying to find her place in a world ruled by men.  Through the investigation of these three women, pieces of a darker, more sinister story unravels and threads linking the missing woman to several past cases reveals a possible tie to what happened to Reggie.  Will these women discover the serial killer's identity before he takes someone else?

Framed is an intense, riveting mystery/thriller.  From page one, I found myself intrigued by Reggie's story, quickly flipping pages to find out where her journey would end.  The plot maneuvers through a few twists and although I found some of them predictable, the intense pace, though sporadic at times, kept me reading.  The author does a nice job introducing characters and building connections and relationships.  Readers will find themselves pulling for them to succeed.  While it wasn't hard to figure out the villain's identity by about the halfway point, the story held my attention right up until the big climax.  At this point, it all derails somewhat for me as the story suddenly seems to become a sprint for the end with scenes that seem too rushed, over-the-top, and unbelievable, giving an otherwise great story a rather implausible ending in my opinion.  I would have liked for the author to take more time letting this part of the story play out in a more realistic, detailed manner.  Having said that, Framed is a solid mystery/thriller that readers will enjoy with the potential for following books to be great!  A Must Read!

My Rating:  3.5 Intense Hearts . . . And that's the truth!

Cross My Heart . . . xxx


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

IWSG: What's The Plan?

Happy New Year Everyone!  January 3, 2018!  Can you believe it?  The new year always feels like a time for new beginnings and second chances.  A time when everything's fresh, and anything is possible!  It's a time for making resolutions and promises and vowing to stick with a plan or schedule.

Writing tops my 2018 Must-Do List.  How I plan to schedule that leads to this month's IWSG question:  What steps have you taken to put a schedule in place for your writing and publishing?  

First off, no resolutions for me this year.  I'm not setting myself up for disappointment in a couple of weeks or months when I've fallen off the bandwagon once again.  Yeah, a quick reality check reminds me I'm probably not going to stick to a strict diet or exercise plan, but I'm taking steps that I hope lead to a healthier lifestyle. 

I am committing to a more diligent writing schedule by blocking off time on my calendar on a consistent basis (with just a little wiggle room).  It means reiterating to family members that I'm not available during those blocks of time for anything less than a catastrophe involving fire, blood, or zombies ( and no, "I'm starving" doesn't constitute a catastrophe).  It means slaying the giant time-eater called "social media" to save myself from being sucked down that bottomless rabbit hole yet again only to wake up hours later wondering where the time went!  It means making writing a real priority and treating it like a job.  Not the dirty four-letter-word kind of job many grudgingly head to each morning, but rather the dream job that will move me forward on my journey to publication.  It means admitting that it's all up to one person - ME!

So, I know it's time to put up or shut up!  No more procrastination.  No more excuses.  No more wasting precious time.  It's now or never for me.  Like most everyone, my schedule is full, but if I trim the "fat", I'll find plenty of opportunities to write.  Let the fun and scheduling begin!

How about you?  What steps have you taken to put a schedule in place for your writing and publishing? 

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is a community of writers who share ideas and encourage other writers. It's a great place to express doubts and concerns as well as offer and receive tribulations and guidance from other writers. IWSG posts the first Wednesday of every month. I think you'll find it to be a great writer's resource that's well worth your time. Be sure to stop by and visit with some of the other IWSG writers/bloggers at IWSG Members.

Join me in thanking this month's awesome co-hosts:  Tyrean Martinson, The Cynical Sailor, Megan Morgan, Rachna Chhabria, and Jennifer Lane.