Wednesday, June 29, 2022

First Chapter Review: The Foundation of Plot by Elena Hartwell


I received a paperback copy of this book from the author in anticipation of her August virtual book tour.  

Structure underlies every story, but without a strong foundation, even well-written sentences can fail to result in a marketable manuscript. The Foundation of Plot defines the components of a story arc, details the differences between plot and story, and covers common errors writers make. It also includes exercises which apply concepts to works in progress or new projects.

Drawing on the author’s decades of storytelling and teaching experience, this short guide provides the framework for fiction, narrative nonfiction, and memoir, walking writers through a first draft, the repair of a failed manuscript, or any draft in between. For experienced authors and first-time writers alike, applying the concepts outlined in this manual can help launch a submission from the slush pile to the bookstore shelf.

COVER: This is the first in a planned series, so I would guess this type of cover will be used on other books in the series for branding purposes. If you look at it lying down on a flat surface, the design looks differently than seeing it straight up on the computer screen. The word "foundation" makes me think of dirt (I am a real estate professional, after all) so the color works for me. I think a dark blue and a light blue combination for future books would also look nice.

FIRST CHAPTER: The first chapter begins with some basics: the difference between story and plot, the impact of multiple points of view, and the three parts of a plot. It ends with a helpful writing exercise.

KEEP READING: Sure will! Hartwell provides a fascinating introduction to the reader prior to the first chapter. In that introduction, she talks about the creative child of a writer versus the critical eye of a writer and how they complement each other. The introduction concludes with a five-minute exercise that gets you thinking about your current work in progress. Then she moves the reader into the first chapter of basics you need to know about plot, followed by another exercise. 

I like the format of how this book is set up. In addition, since it is concisely written, I know I have a chance to finish the book and its exercises, so that I can put it to use right away. 

Look for my full review on August 25!

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0B2TY6JY2
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Elena Hartwell (June 6, 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 93 pages
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 979-8986020600
The paperback version of this book is available here.

You can pre-order the Kindle version here.

I received a paperback copy of this book from the author. This First Chapter Review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books on My Summer 2022 To-Read List

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.  

So, I have a dilemma. Should I talk about books I plan to read because I have to stay on top of reviews or because I know they are coming on vacation with me, or should I talk about books that I would love to read this summer? I think I will go for the latter, so now you can see my...

Top Ten Books That Should Be on My Summer 2022 To-Read List

What do you think of my list? Do we share any of the same books? What books are you looking forward to reading this summer?

Monday, June 27, 2022

Book Review: Reversal of Fortune by F. M. Meredith

 The Rocky Bluff P.D. is back investigating its latest murders in Reversal of Fortune by F. M. Meredith.

Beth Milligan and Kayla Duval stumble upon the body of the  town's fortune teller. Detective Doug Milligan and his partner, Detective Felix Zachary, arrive to investigate. Reviewing the woman's long list of clients, it soon becomes apparent more than one person could have a reason for wanting Bernadette Wolfort dead. 

When the body of one of their prime suspects is discovered on the fortune teller's property, Doug and Felix know the two murders are related. But who wanted both of them dead? And why? 

It is so wonderful to be back in the small beach town of Rocky Bluff, where the understaffed and overworked members of the Rocky Bluff P.D. live. Having followed this community for years, it is always good to catch up with what is going on in my favorite characters' lives. 

As Doug and Felix investigate these murders, the personal lives of the Rocky Bluff P.D. unfold in the background. Meredith does a fabulous job of sprinkling in a bit of backstory and bringing readers up to date with our favorite Rocky Bluff P.D. members, with one or two of those personal stories unfolding as subplots during the investigation. In Reversal of Fortune, Kayla Duval, the mayor's daughter and Beth's best friend, is dealing with a pushy aunt who has got it in her mind that the girl's deceased mother would prefer Kayla live with her in Los Angeles instead of staying with the father she didn't even know until her mother was diagnosed with cancer. The other subplot is that trouble could be brewing for Gordon Butler and his wife Lizette. 

Reversal of Fortune, like other books in the series, stands alone as an engaging and easy read. You can sit down and read a book in one or two sittings and feel totally satisfied with the outcome when done. I am not sure what is up next for the Rocky Bluff P.D., but I know I will keep reading as long as Meredith keeps writing.

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09XLQCNZB
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Independently published (April 9, 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 212 pages
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 979-8449705860

I received a paperback copy of this book from the author. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

F. M. Meredith, also known as Marilyn Meredith, has had 48 books published as well as two short stories, most are mysteries, but also a few Christian horror, a roman with supernatural elements, and a cookbook. She’s taught writing in many venues including for Writers Digest and many conferences. She lives in the foothills of the Sierra with her husband. 

You can visit her website at or her blog at Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? and Mailbox Monday - June 27

 Welcome to It's Monday! What Are You Reading? and Mailbox Monday. 


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. It's a great post to organize yourself. It's an opportunity to visit and comment, and er... add to that ever growing TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme started with J Kaye's Blog and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date.   

Welcome back to Monday. The end of June is here and summer is officially in fully swing. I spent Sunday in the garden getting rid of the weeds in the hope my plants will thrive while we are away. 

This past weekend, our daughters' dance studio held its annual recital. This is the Lil' Diva and Lil' Princess' last performance together since our youngest won't be here in the fall when dance resumes. I am incredibly proud of them, and I sure will miss these performances. The Lil' Diva works at the dance studio, so I might at least catch some of her dances in the future. 

In my reading world, I've posted a few First Chapter Reviews to highlight some of the books that are in my pile.

The Children's Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin - click here
Stolen by Vivian Gilbert Zabel - click here
Love Blooms in Morning Star by Charlotte Hubbard - click here
The Backyard Secrets of Danny Wexler by Karen Pokras - click here

My review of this one appeared at my children's book blog.

I also finished this one. You can read my review here.

My review of this book will appear at this blog today.

I hope to read more of this book before we leave, but my schedule might prevent it.

These books are for virtual book tours in August and September.

These books are going in my book bag or are on my device for vacation:

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

I received a book last week that I was thrilled to see in my mailbox. You can pre-order this book here.

The crisp fragrance of pine trees and the warm spice of fresh cookies aren’t the only blessings that Christmas brings, and no one knows more about happy homecomings than three couples who are celebrating the greatest gift of all . . . 

Called home by family, John Miller and Ellie Coblentz are each looking for a way north from Pinecroft, Florida. With few options, they decide sharing the burden of travel must be the Lord’s plan for them. But can this bumpy, bad-weather journey home help them find their way into each other’s hearts, too? 

STAR OF WONDER by Charlotte Hubbard
When Raymond Overholt comes to Promise Lodge, hoping to sell the barnboard signs he’s painted with stars and Christmas messages, spirited young Mennonite Lizzie Zehr is intrigued. But any courtship between them will face fierce opposition from the bishop of Raymond’s Old Order community—unless someone can convince him that at the heart of faith lies love . . . 

Newlyweds Rachel and Luke Coblentz can’t wait to celebrate their first Christmas together after years of courtship. But when Luke’s factory job threatens to keep them apart—from each other and their dream of a family—it will take faith to believe in the gift of a truly joyful ending . . .

That's it from our neck of the woods. Hope you are reading some fabulous books. I look forward to checking out your blogs today.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

First Chapter Review: The Children's Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin


I purchased a copy of the historical novel, The Children's Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin, when it first came out. I've been aching to read it, but have focused mostly on books I need to review the last few years.

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator’s Wife comes a story of courage on the prairie, inspired by the devastating storm that struck the Great Plains in 1888, threatening the lives of hundreds of immigrant homesteaders, especially schoolchildren.

“A nail-biter . . . poignant, powerful, perfect.” —Kate Quinn, author of The Alice Network

The morning of January 12, 1888, was unusually mild, following a punishing cold spell. It was warm enough for the homesteaders of the Dakota Territory to venture out again, and for their children to return to school without their heavy coats—leaving them unprepared when disaster struck. At the hour when most prairie schools were letting out for the day, a terrifying, fast-moving blizzard blew in without warning. Schoolteachers as young as sixteen were suddenly faced with life and death decisions: Keep the children inside, to risk freezing to death when fuel ran out, or send them home, praying they wouldn’t get lost in the storm?

Based on actual oral histories of survivors, this gripping novel follows the stories of Raina and Gerda Olsen, two sisters, both schoolteachers—one becomes a hero of the storm and the other finds herself ostracized in the aftermath. It’s also the story of Anette Pedersen, a servant girl whose miraculous survival serves as a turning point in her life and touches the heart of Gavin Woodson, a newspaperman seeking redemption. It was Woodson and others like him who wrote the embellished news stories that lured northern European immigrants across the sea to settle a pitiless land. Boosters needed them to settle territories into states, and they didn’t care what lies they told these families to get them there—or whose land it originally was.

At its heart, this is a story of courage, of children forced to grow up too soon, tied to the land because of their parents’ choices. It is a story of love taking root in the hard prairie ground, and of families being torn asunder by a ferocious storm that is little remembered today—because so many of its victims were immigrants to this country.

COVER: This cover is beautiful and haunting. The accumulating snow, the children looking through the window, the snowflakes coming down sideways to reflect the high winds that happened that January day in 1888 when so many children perished on the unforgiving prairie. The back of this cover appears snowy. I like the italics for the title's first word. 

FIRST CHAPTER: Raina is recalling a memory of her family. It seems like she is right there with her father and sister, Gerda. But she isn't. Barely out of school herself, Raina is a schoolteacher boarding with the Pedersen family. Gerda is teaching at another school far away from home. 

When Anette Pedersen drops her reader, Raina is drawn back to the present. A January day that brought with it warm temperatures that allowed for the children to attend school for the first time in days. People who had been trapped inside their homes because of the cold, ventured out. Raina sends the schoolchildren out for recess, but soon the sky changed and one of them runs back inside to get the teacher. 

KEEP READING: I am familiar with this part of American history. I also own the non-fiction book by David Laskin of the same title that Benjamin used as source material for her novel. I've read books by Benjamin in the past, so that was another reason to purchase The Children's Blizzard

When I approached this novel, I read the author's note first, then I read what might have been an introduction or prologue; it wasn't titled, so the reader can decide how what they want to consider it. I found reading the author's note helpful, because it taught me how Benjamin approached her story. 

In The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb: A Novel, and her other historical novels, she centered the story around historical characters. With The Children's Blizzard, she centered the story around fictional characters, even though they may be based on real people. I like that she stretched her wings in a different way. The storytelling remains strong and engaging. I expect a fabulous story from beginning to end. I am thinking it will take me a while to get through this novel, simply because I know the history and it will be heart wrenching to read what happens to these characters. Despite that, I am eager to continue.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Delacorte Press (January 12, 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 368 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0399182284
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0399182280

I purchased a copy of this book from Amazon. This First Chapter Review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

First Chapter Review: Stolen by Vivian Gilbert Zabel

The author of Stolen sent me an ARC of this book a long time ago. I am doing my best to catch up on books that have been in my pile for a while.

When the joy is ruthlessly ripped from Torri's life, she has two choices: dwell in torment and regret, or pick up the pieces and live. A nightmare invades her world, leaving her battered and torn: Her children are stolen.

COVER: Superb! I know the cover artist and admire her work. The shattered marriage photo to symbolize the shattered vows and the picture of the two kids that are stolen set upon a tapestry that could symbolize the tapestry of life. I love the colors. I love the font choice. 

FIRST CHAPTER: After a long, stressful day, Torri Adamson learns her philandering husband has married another woman. This time he has gone too far, and she isn't about to put up with his cheating ways any longer.

KEEP READING: A strong yes. Zabel drops the reader right into the action, just as I would expect. Torri's life is tossed upside down and she is forced to make a decision that sets up the plot for the rest of the story. From the very start, you know this will be a heart-wrenching novel.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ 4RV Publishing LLC (November 1, 2010)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 200 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 098258864X
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0982588642

I received an ARC from the author. This First Chapter Review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

First Chapter Review: Love Blooms in Morning Star by Charlotte Hubbard


Charlotte Hubbard's upcoming Morning Star novel is in my TBR Pile. Love Blooms in Morning Star can be pre-ordered here

As Jo Fussner keeps the Marketplace humming, her heart dances with a joyous secret. Jo and Michael Wengerd, a shy nursery owner from a nearby town, have fallen hopelessly in love. When Michael buys a courting buggy, Jo is sure a proposal will follow. But she’ll have to work hard to gain her mother’s approval—because the widowed Drusilla Fussner is convinced that marriage will bring her daughter nothing but heartache.

To win Jo’s hand, Michael enlists his father’s help in convincing Drusilla to give the marriage her blessing—and perhaps even open her heart to new happiness of her own. . . . But just as Jo and Michael’s hope for their future grows, an even bigger obstacle looms. The Amish elders vote to forbid any maidel from working once she marries. Now Jo must choose between the beloved store she’s put her heart into, and the man she can’t live without. Conflicted, Jo will have to trust that anything is possible when true faith guides the way . . .

COVER: All the books in this series have beautiful covers. Three of the four feature the female lead with flowers. The covers often reflect the seasons in which the stories are set. 

FIRST CHAPTER: Sitting to watch her friends, twins Molly and Marietta Helfing, get married, Jo Fussner has her own future on her mind. It certainly doesn't help that Michael Wengerd has told her about a surprise he intends to share once the ceremony is over.

KEEP READING: Anyone who follows this blog knows the answer is a resounding yes. I have loved the Morning Star series since the beginning and don't miss a book. I appreciate how Hubbard creates a community of friends for her readers while providing a fresh storyline with each new installment. Though every book stands alone, I find great value in following this community from the start. I look forward to seeing how Jo and Michael handle the obstacles that come there way in Love Blooms in Morning Star.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Zebra (July 26, 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Mass Market Paperback ‏ : ‎ 352 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1420151843
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1420151848

I received a NetGalley ARC from the author. This First Chapter Review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Monday, June 20, 2022

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? and Mailbox Monday - June 20

 Welcome to It's Monday! What Are You Reading? and Mailbox Monday. 


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. It's a great post to organize yourself. It's an opportunity to visit and comment, and er... add to that ever growing TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme started with J Kaye's Blog and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date.   

My, my, my...we are back to Monday. Hope all you dads out there had a pleasant Father's Day. We headed to Boston for a Red Sox game. 

I had to skip last week's post because the work schedule overwhelmed me. I swear that real estate is either feast or famine. But, I love it. Thankful I am done with my 90 hours of post-licensing education for North Carolina. I passed all three tests and completed my required eight hours of continuing education for this year. I had one closing this past week here in Massachusetts and should have three more before the end of the month. Once we return from North Carolina, I should have multiple listings hitting the market. 

The Lil' Princess and her father drove down to UNC Wilmington in the early part of the week for orientation. All her classes are set and the process of getting ready for fall has begun in earnest. I actually had the house to myself (except for furry beasts) for two days. That was weird, but nice. I snuck in a tiny bit of reading. 

My review of this book appears today at The Children's and Teens' Book Connection.

My review of this one will be coming Tuesday at my children's book blog.

My review of this book will appear at this blog on June 27.

I also signed up for book tours for the following two books. Look for reviews in August and September respectively. 

I am reading these books now, but may have to break off to accommodate review books. 

Maybe by the time vacation rolls around I will be able to tackle some of these:

Other books from my TBR pile I would love to read are:

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

My physical mailbox remained empty this week, which is good considering my available reading time. I couldn't resist, however, picking up this first book in the Bloombay Shores series for free on my Kindle. I really am a sucker for pretty waterfront covers.

Welcome to Bloombay, a small island off Seattle’s coast with stunning ocean views, picturesque vineyards, and a tight-knit community.

Sisters Emily, Donna, and Olivia Abernathy miss each other dearly. Residing in different cities, they only see each other a few times a year. But when Emily, the eldest sister, is forced to move to Bloombay, Donna and Olivia immediately visit her to make sure she’s okay. They find themselves at crossroads in their own lives too, and the island charms them in unexpected ways.

Emily Abernathy has dedicated the past twenty years to raising her children. When her husband leaves her for a younger woman, she’s forced to move out of their house. Living in LA is expensive, and at forty-five, she knows she’ll have a tough time on the job market, but she’s lucky to find a job at a small hotel on a small island she’d never heard of before: Bloombay. Once Emily moves to the island she finds out her new job isn’t as secure as she thought.

Olivia Abernathy’s friends all think her boyfriend, Noah, is definitely going to propose, but she isn’t so sure. As a surgeon in Seattle, he works longer hours than she does as a graphic designer, but Olivia wonders if there’s more to his recent late nights out and sudden cool behavior. When she confronts him with her worries, she gets an unexpected response that makes her want to rethink everything in her life. Spending time with her sisters is just what she needs. And the handsome architect who insists on joining her on her morning runs seems to have more than friendship on his mind.

Donna Abernathy is a successful doctor in San Francisco. She works tirelessly and takes great pride in what she does. Her laid-back relationship with a lawyer who thrives on a busy schedule is just what she needs. Except Donna has always wanted to be a mother, and as time passes, that wish only grows. But when things don’t work out as expected, she desperately wants a change of scenery and pays a visit to her eldest sister, Emily, in Bloombay.

What's on your reading list for the week?