Monday, June 23, 2014

An End and a Beginning

Something tragic has happened, and yes, perhaps that sounds too dramatic for what I'm about to tell you, but to me, it is a tragedy. My friend, Mallory Rock, has ended the Featured Book of the Week program. Well, more accurately, she has put it on hiatus. Not because she doesn't believe in the program and not because the authors complained--they didn't (as far as I know). No, Mallory was forced to put this wonderful program on hiatus because bloggers--10 to begin with--kept backing out and not posting. How could she explain to authors why only 5 or 6 out of 10 blogs were actually putting up the information and staying involved in the project? This forced her into an awkward situation, and while I'm saddened by her choice, I understand and respect it.

To be honest, I thought about withdrawing near the beginning of the program, because I was overwhelmed with work, family matters--ahem, drama--and some personal things, as well as fighting a rather frightening bout of depression, but when she replied to my question about leaving, she sounded worried and upset. I honestly think I was not the first to come to her about it. So, I thought it over and decided to stick with my commitment. I'm not proud of the fact that I almost backed out, but I am glad I stayed with it, because I like to think I helped a few authors out, and I know they helped me. I found some great books through being involved in Mallory's program, and miss blogging about them.

No, my blog doesn't get a huge amount of traffic, but I do enjoy hearing people's thoughts on what I write about. During the run of the Featured Book of the Week program, I saw an increase in blog traffic, and I was excited. People were interested in hearing about these books! Which is why it saddens me to see it shut down. Personally, I hope that other bloggers will step forward and fill the vacancies, and that the program will return.

To substitute the Featured Book of the Week--at least, until it comes back (yes, I am keeping my hopes up and fingers crossed!)--I will continue my Harper Voyager duty and review the books I read for them. I'll do my very best to update every Thursday--the same day as my updates for the Featured Book of the Week--but I've slowed down a lot in reading, so it may take two or three blog posts before I complete a book. I'll still type up my thoughts as I go, and I might even include an author spotlight. I'll see how much free time I have to do something like that.

I'd like to close by asking a favor. If any of my readers know of a blog/blogger who would like to get involved in the Featured Book of the Week program--and who will stay consistent in their posts--please let me know! Mallory said she'd love to bring the program back, but due to the amount of work she has, she doesn't have time to smooth out all of the kinks (i.e., finding bloggers who will post regularly) as well as actively search for blogs to participate.

Thanks so much, and look for my first post on The Taken by Vicki Pattersson this Thursday!

Monday, June 16, 2014

How to Train Your Dragon 2: My Thoughts

***First off, this blog contains spoilers, so if you haven't seen the movie, I highly suggest viewing it first.***

Let me begin when the first movie came out in 2010. My life was great; I had just graduated from college and felt oh-so-proud of myself to finally hold a BA in English Literature (little did I know how that would affect my life...). I had also just begun my second internship in publishing, and figured I was headed somewhere amazing as an editor. Maybe Harper Collins, maybe not, but oh yes, I would get there!

Fast-forward to when the first trailers for How to Train Your Dragon began to play on television (I still lived at home, so television was something I still had). "Dragons?" I murmured, excited but uncertain. It was like I turned into a squirrel, and the word dragon made me go all bushy-tailed and bright-eyed. At the same token, I was cautious. I'd seen the few good dragon-themed movies, and even the bad ones (Dragon World or Dungeons and Dragons, anyone?), and none of them could remotely compare to my all-time favorite, The Flight of Dragons. I'd grown up with Gorbash and the others, and I idolized them as a child, so of course, I was mildly apprehensive. Part of me worried it would be a lot like the children's book where a kid finds a dragon and tries to raise it in his house...but worse.

Of course the next logical step was to find out as much as possible about the movie as I could. A half hour or so of research led me to the title the movie was to be based off of, a book by Cressida Cowell. I jumped into my Ford Focus and zipped over to the nearest book store, where I promptly scurried to the back and began sifting through her books.

My heart broke.

At this time, the book How to Train Your Dragon was more akin to a leaflet, a single small tome in a collection of many other delightful early reader chapter books by Cowell. The books themselves were great, but they didn't go into much detail about the world, the struggle the characters faced or the dragons themselves (keep in mind, I was hoping for at least a YA manuscript from the descriptions online). My nervousness crept ever higher.

The only reason, in my mind, why there haven't been many good dragon movies is because dragons are often given the roles of one-dimensional monsters; their personalities are rarely explored in cinema, which is why The Flight of Dragons was such an amazing film. Even Dragon World had its moments...but no matter how charming and cute the book was, I couldn't see it becoming a deep, believable film, and I worried the cinema adaptation would end with dragons once again being dismissed as creatures not worth exploring.

I waited for the film to be out a few weeks before I decided to go watch it, and that was only with the prodding of friends who had already seen it. They had enjoyed it so much that I finally gave in and bought a ticket. I settled in, worried I'd hate it, even as the camera swooped in on Berk. And as the film went on...I loved it. I identified immediately with Hiccup, recognized bits of my cat in Toothless, and found the world of Berk to be exciting and fluid; the characters were real (though I wished more time had been spent on Ruffnut and Tuffnut), their problems were believable, and the growth between Toothless and Hiccup was amazing.

I found a few problems with the film later on (after watching it 3 times in theaters, twice in 3D), such as how the dragons they used for training suddenly were willing to trust the viking children...but I figured that a) the dragons had been removed from their nest; b) they had spent time with these children and may have seen the "fights" as games of some sort, in some way, meaning they unintentionally bonded with the cast; and, c) Hiccup was there to help them along. The other children didn't have to learn all of this on their own, and they had a great mentor. All-in-all, an amazing film, and one I bought the instant it was released (only later to give it to a boyfriend who soon after became my ex...oh well). Happy day! Finally, a dragon movie that could hold a candle to The Flight of Dragons!

That was where things fell apart. A very close family member of mine was diagnosed with cancer in early 2012. It rocked me, and it abruptly changed my version of reality. Anyone could be sick, at any time, with anything...and they might not recover. Ever.

Then, in mid-2013, my mother was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer, a very aggressive strain, and she was on chemo for months. I'm still recovering from the emotional impact that had on me, and she was finally declared cancer free recently. MRI scans keep us up-to-date, but with two important people in my life having had cancer, it...well, it almost destroyed me. The years following the first How to Train Your Dragon film were emotionally impossible.

Many people passed away during that time; grandparents, friends, aunts, cat... A lot of loss, and a lot of difficulty came. So to me, How to Train Your Dragon represented a time in my life when I was happy. Not to say I'm not happy now; I'm just...tired. The first movie came out before my world collapsed into chaos. And now, the second one is released just as I emerge from that chaos. I'm not stronger, but I have a better sense of who I am and what matters most in my life.

When they announced the sequel back in 2011-12, I was nervous, scared, and distracted. I was excited, too, don't get me wrong, but mostly I was absorbed by the other things going on in my life. When the trailers started being released a few months ago, I watched them in hopes that the sequel would be just as amazing as the first. I mean, who can't love a film that gives risky actions consequences? Hiccup losing his leg...brilliant writing. Brilliant. It took the animated film to a whole new level of potential; it allowed a chilling moment of reality to invade an otherwise fairy-tale-esque cartoon. It brought with it a sense of gravity, one which I had yet to see in any other animated film.

Until, that was, the sequel. I kept asking myself, "Why are they showing us that Hiccup's mom is alive? Why are they ruining the surprise?" Well...because another surprise was in store. One which rocked my understanding of the cartoon genre and brought me to tears for the second time in the same movie. I cried when Stoick approached Valka and told her she was as beautiful as the day he lost her. I cheered when they danced (silently, of course, and YES, that song will be at my wedding). I identified with their relationship, because I've felt that loss, that pain, that uncertainty. I almost lost my mother and....well, I almost lost another very important person in my life (by their request, I am keeping their identity secret, but it's hard to talk about it--especially when I need to, but I have a lot of respect for them and their wishes). The reunion of Stoick and Valka was was like seeing happiness again for the first time in years. Like pushing my head out from under dirt and mud and grime and blood and pain, and seeing a blue, tranquil sky, and the sun beating down upon a field of grass and flowers.

That was why I cried. And because...Stoick is, in many ways, like my father. Valka...well, c'mon, she's so my mom. Anyone who's met my mother would likely agree. So their reunion was at once beautiful and heart-wrenching. I saw in them everything I see in my parents: Respect. Compassion. Fear of the unknown and the power to overcome it...and love.

That was why it killed me when Stoick died.

Not just because Toothless did it. Not just because Hiccup couldn't stop it. Not just because he and Valka had finally found one another again...but because it was like losing my own father. Micahl--my boyfriend--and I were stunned to silence, and I wept. A lot. I've rarely cried during any movies, let alone twice. But...damn.

That hung over us for the following few days, which was why it took me so long to write this blog. Stoick...was probably my favorite character from the first movie, because he was the one to undergo the most dynamic change. The hero of a story is supposed to change, and yes, Hiccup kind of changed, but he more came to understand who he was and that he shouldn't change. Stoick...he was the real hero of the first film, and I mean that in the most literary sense, as in a hero of a great novel. He shifted so much and in such a believable fashion that I identified with him immediately in the second film.

The series should continue to surprise and continue to stress the boundaries of children's movies. My generation lost Littlefoot's mother, and there hasn't been a dinosaur movie to come close to that level of emotional attachment to a character in years. In this case, the How to Train Your Dragon franchise is making enormous leaps in the world of film-as-literature. Once again, we have a very real, very painful consequence to the actions of the characters. If only Hiccup had run. If only he had hidden. If only...

But he didn't, and there were consequences. And despite the melancholy I still feel over Stoick's death, I have to applaud the film's writers and artists, for they have set a new limit to what animated film can be. And that, to be honest, is a limit they will likely break in their next installment.

I just hope Hiccup keeps aging. They've done an admirable job of following the life and coming-of-age story of this character. When I was a child, I kept wishing they would make a series of Land Before Time films, but more than that, I wished they would have Littlefoot age with me. Imagine how disappointed I was when he stayed a child. There can be dozens of coming-of-age tales in a person's life, and if DreamWorks proves they can keep the writing solid and the characters believable, they might just be able to prove it with the How to Train Your Dragon series.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Dreams are made of this...

As some of you might recall, I had to put my cat to sleep on the first of February this year, and I've been slowly recovering. I finally got to the point where I wasn't in tears every day and I wasn't seeing ghost kitties. Of course, I still think about her a lot and I miss her so much that it hurts whenever someone starts talking about her. It's hard to hear that my mom doesn't miss her, but of course, I wasn't at home for the last few months of her life. I didn't see how bad things really got... But it doesn't make it easy to have someone dismiss your beloved animal so quickly. I know my mom truly does miss her, but she doesn't miss the pain and the medications my cat went through near the end. She doesn't miss giving Nanashi drips of saline water every other night just so she could live, and she doesn't miss injecting platelets into a dying animal to give me more time. I understand that. I wouldn't miss that, either.

Last night, I had a dream where the world was ending. I was with my mom, dad, sister, cousins, aunts, and uncles from my mother's side, and we were trying to do something. Wrap presents for a surprise party for my cousins, I think. Anyway, for some reason, we were in this enormous house set on a hill, near a family who owned a herd of Indricotherium. They were the last ones alive or something...I don't know. Anyway, my cat was there, and she was...well, every ounce herself. Loving, didn't mind being hugged, cuddled, what have you, but she also would just up and walk away if she had too much. She might have scratched me. I don't recall.

The hard thing about waking up after a dream like that isn't having watched people fall into massive holes in the roads, or watching people die, or even watching Indricotherium being struck by meteors. It was knowing my cat wasn't around anymore. That the animal I loved and cherished, the creature who was my best friend for the majority of my life was still gone. The only place she lives on is in my head, and it hurts. It feels like rocks are being shoved into my heart and lungs, while someone keeps saying, "It'll be all right. Just breathe through it, and you'll be fine."

The thing is, I'm not sure I will. It's been almost half a year. I'm trying to play it cool, because to be honest, last year was hell on Earth for me. I've been through a lot; I almost lost my parents, I lost two jobs, lost four family members and one friend, and I've been fighting to keep myself together. I reflect upon last year a lot, especially while I write. The loss of two grandmothers, a great uncle and his wife, and a childhood friend, all in the span of nine months...well, that makes it hard to want to become close to anyone else, especially those in my family. It's terrifying. I guess all of the death just recently "hit my sister" and she's been coping with it however she can. The thing hit me a long time ago. And it keeps coming back with the same force. Those people in my life are gone, no matter what I thought of them, no matter how much or little I talked to them, they're just...gone. And that's tough to accept.

I realize I can't do anything about it. I know I have to move on and I have to get things done...because otherwise, I'll fall into that pit of my dream, and my world really will end. Not in a literal sense, I suppose, but I'll cease being productive. My life will grind to a halt, and I'll never be able to pick up again. Part of me hopes that time will truly heal the wounds from last year, and that I will be able to stop waking up and feeling the crushing weight of so much death and pain, so much loss, and so much exhaustion from it all. Part of me knows that it will never go away. That I'll be ninety, half-mad from Alzheimer's, and I'll be holding conversations with my dead cat.

I guess I can only do one thing, and that's take life one day at a time.

Baby steps, because dreams are made of moving forward.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Featured Book of the Week: Chain of Title by Robyn Roze

Each week authors can submit one book for a chance to be the featured book of the week, and each week one book/author will be selected at random. The winning book each week will be featured on, multiple book blogs, and social media platforms from various sources.

Are you an author? Would you like your book to be the next Featured Book of the Week? Check out all the details and entry form here:


Robyn Roze

Author of the Romantic Suspense/Thriller, Chain of Title

Book synopsis/description:

~ Heroic deeds. Monstrous acts. Events that will leave one woman’s world spinning out of control. ~

Shayna Chastain’s marriage crashed and burned. She walked away, bruised, but not broken, without so much as a glance over her shoulder at her philandering husband. Oh, his betrayal stung, but Shayna has experienced loss before. She knows it comes for you when you least expect it.

Now feeling a bit past her prime and wanting a new direction in life, Shayna reawakens the woman she remembers being before marrying Frank Chastain. She wants a different life from the one she’s been living. However, she doesn’t have much support from her family and friends who think she’s made a regrettable decision.

Frank Chastain, Mt. Pleasant’s steely real estate mogul, begrudgingly signed the dissolution papers Shayna forced on him. He never wanted to divorce the love of his life. Always believed they could work it out.

She’ll be back.

He’s sure of it. Now more than ever, he needs that to be true. Events have conspired in his life that could blow open the secret he’s been hiding. He needs Shayna to help him seal it shut, but it may already be too late.

Sean Parker owns an Italian restaurant that has become Shayna’s oasis, giving her respite from the swirling storm around her. Their attraction is instant, but the fallout will last a lifetime. Sean’s smooth, handsome exterior hides an unsavory past that he walked away from years ago and has no intention of revisiting, or discussing.

If it’s really in the past, is it even anyone’s business? Sean sees no point in being an open book. What matters is right now. And right now, there’s no way in hell he’s going to lose the only woman he’s ever loved. The only woman he can’t live without.

But life doesn’t always let us keep our secrets. And these secrets are about to explode to the surface with far-reaching, deadly consequences.

How well do you know the people you love?

Even the one's you've known most of your life...

**Mature themes and sexual content for 18+**

To purchase Chain of Title, please visit

Short author bio:

I am a wife and mom who masquerades as an accountant by day. By night, or whenever I can fit it in, I live my childhood dream and write romantic suspense tweaked with some thrills. The heroines I create vary in age, life experiences and skills, but all are independent and on journeys of self-discovery, which lends itself to a women’s fiction voice, as well. Now you know: I am an unrepentant genre jumper. I may even decide to blend, or jump into, other genres along my writing path. Only time will tell, and that’s the really fun part: seeing, and reading, what happens next.

I hope you will consider joining me. And if you have the time, please visit any of the other web platforms I frequent. I love hearing from readers!

Excerpt from Chain of Title

“Just tell me which side you work for,” Shayna asked without judgment. A stunned expression colored Sean’s face and then he laughed, shaking his head in apparent disbelief. She knew he was laughing at her naïveté.

His hands reached for her face, thumbs caressing her high cheekbones, his expression now stony serious. “Good or bad? Right or wrong? That’s what you’re asking me?” They were the first words he had spoken, and the deep rumble of his voice expertly plucked the strings wound tight in her body since this nightmare had begun. “You’d be surprised how often you can’t tell the difference. How often they want the same thing,” he said quietly in the dark, pushing her further away.

Shayna felt the cold armor reassembling around him. “I was done with all of this a few years ago. I’d paid my dues and left it all behind, with my ledger in the black. People owed me and I never intended on cashing in. Yes, I have skills that many people—good and bad—want to use, and I know others like me. We’re scattered around and come together when the situation requires it or when it suits us.” He waited, assessing her thoughtfully. “I have contacts higher up than you can imagine and lower than I would ever want you to know about.”

She processed his words as the pieces of the puzzle began to snap into place, and then she suddenly felt awash with guilt.

“I messed everything up for you, didn’t I? If it wasn’t for me, you’d still be in the black right now, but you’re not, are you? You owe someone now, or some people, don’t you?”

Sean huffed indignantly. “First of all, none of this was your fault. Second, if it wasn’t for our paths crossing, I can promise you, you never would’ve seen Danielle again.” Shayna gasped at the harshness of his words and the haunting memory of that same visceral nightmare she experienced nightly. “I need to leave, Shayna. This was a bad idea. I knew I should’ve left, not come here first. I just wanted to see you for myself again…one last time...”


Each week authors can submit one book for a chance to be the featured book of the week, and each week one book/author will be selected at random. The winning book each week will be featured on, multiple book blogs, and social media platforms from various sources.

Are you an author? Would you like your book to be the next Featured Book of the Week? Check out all the details and entry form here: