Posted in blogging

My Top 5 Blogging and Reading Goals for 2020

Not gonna lie, I’m a little afraid to write this post. Last year was the first time I’ve ever put a clear list of goals “on paper” and I achieved exactly… ZERO!!

In my defense, last year was a year of the unexpected. How’s that joke go…? If you wanna make God laugh, tell Him your plans? Well, God was doing some serious belly laughing at me in 2019!

When 2019 started, we were something similar to empty-nesters. My oldest daughter was away at college, my youngest was living with her father in another county, and it was just my husband and me in an eerily silent home, figuring out life without any kids begging for our attention 20+ hours of the day.

By the end of 2019 we had six kids – Four of which were under four years of age and I honestly can’t remember the last time it was quiet here for more than 5 minutes except for nap and bedtime!!

In the “calm” before our home became something resembling a 24-hour daycare, I set up my recording studio in a closet under our stairs and began earnestly working on my audiobook career. After the youngest four of our tribe moved in, I found myself with more work than I could handle and keeping up with my blog was impossible! Plus, I just didn’t feel like it.

Even thinking about writing a blog post began causing anxiety attacks. So, for the sake of my mental health and the general well-being of everyone around me, my online life became close to non-existent while we were all adjusting to a new “normal.”

It took quite some time, but I’ve figured out how to continue narrating and producing audiobooks amidst the chaos. Every day brings at least three unexpected twists, but I don’t think I’ve ever been happier…which, now that I’m thinking about it, is pretty freaking odd. I mean, I’m probably more stressed/worried on a regular basis, but in some ways I’m more calm and laidback and…well… Happy.

And that happiness has finally extended to a desire for my website as well. I’m feeling excited about connecting with other book lovers and sharing my life and thoughts with my online peeps again. Which is something I haven’t felt since I first started blogging a couple years ago.

But that’s not really the point of this post. The whole topic is supposed to be what I want to accomplish on my blog and combing through the pages of my TBR in 2020. Instead, I once again managed to create a whole other post within a post.

Moving on…

Here are my goals for 2020:

1. Read and review at least 52 books! I wasn’t able to get much reading accomplished last year. Even when I did, I didn’t have it in me to jump online and review them. But I pretty much transformed into a reading and knitting machine in the last month or so and I’m looking forward to continuing that throughout the year!

2. Post at least 5 times a week. I’ve managed to put together a blogging planner for January that includes a post every day except Sundays! Not sure if I’ll be able to keep up that level of planning and writing the entire year, but I feel like I’m off to a great start.

3. Reestablish links with other book bloggers. One of the best parts of talking about books online is that there are so many incredibly supportive people in the community. I’ve really missed that as my “real” life took me farther and farther away from my life online. I’m looking forward to connecting with everyone again!

4. Promote my audiobooks. So I’m pretty much the worst when it comes to self-promo and marketing. I don’t know if it’s because I hate talking about myself or that I worry too much about coming across as pushy or what, but everytime I think about mentioning I’ve narrated a new book, I literally get itchy! Like right now…my left arm feels like I’ve managed to get chicken pocks! Ugh.

Anyway, I plan on dedicating one post a week to talking about what I’m working on in my studio, what’s already out, and what I’m planning on doing next.

5. Giveaways!!! I only got to do one giveaway last year. It was so exciting and much more fun than I’d expected. I really want to do at least three in 2020, and more if possible!

So there you have it. My top 5 blogging/reading goals for the year 2020. What are your goals? If you’ve posted a 2020 goals post, leave me a link below so I can check them out!

Thanks for visiting and Happy New Year!

Posted in book reviews

The Devil’s Apprentice by Kenneth B. Andersen – Ultimate Blog Tour Review

The Devil’s Apprentice by Kenneth B. Andersen – Ultimate Blog Tour ReviewThe Devil's Apprentice (The Great Devil War, #1) by Kenneth B. Andersen, Kenneth Bøgh Andersen
on October 8, 2018
Pages: 311
Source: The Write Reads
Goodreads
five-stars
Synopsis

Philip is a good boy, a really good boy, who accidentally gets sent to Hell to become the Devil’s heir. The Devil, Lucifer, is dying and desperately in need of a successor, but there’s been a mistake and Philip is the wrong boy. Philip is terrible at being bad, but Lucifer has no other choice than to begin the difficult task of training him in the ways of evil. Philip gets both friends and enemies in this odd, gloomy underworld—but who can he trust, when he discovers an evil-minded plot against the dark throne?
The Devil's Apprentice is volume 1 in The Great Devil War-series.


I received this book for free from The Write Reads. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

It’s my day on the Ultimate Blog Tour hosted by The Write Reads and I’m so excited to finally be able to scream at the top of my lungs (or tip of my fingers, really) about how much I loved The Devil’s Apprentice by Kenneth B. Andersen! After reading the description, I was intrigued. It sounded like something I’d enjoy, but to be honest, I expected to be disappointed. I haven’t had much luck lately in the sci-fi/fantasy genre (I’ve DNF’d the last 3 – and I HATE DNFing a book) and worried this would be the latest let down. I couldn’t have been more wrong!

I LOVED LOVED LOVED LOVED LOVED this book! I’m gifting it to at least three people for Christmas!

Now, where do I even begin…?

The Story

In the beginning, we’re introduced to goody-two-shoes Philip being bullied by another child whose nickname is “Devil Sam.” If one of these kids was destined to end up running hell after the devil kicks the bucket, Philip is definitely NOT who you’d choose! But through a crazy turn off events in which Devil Sam’s bullying somehow saves himself and confuses Death, Philip winds up in hell, studying as the devil’s apprentice.

When Philip was alive and walking the earth, he was about as close to being an angel as a human can be. He didn’t even lie when his best (and only) friend needed him to – and he lost his only friend as a result. Because for Philip, being honest and good was more important. Yet, before this honest boy even makes his way fully into hell, he begins to give in to sin and lies to spare the feelings of a demon.

Emotions run high throughout the entire book, but overall it’s a very humorous tale. Even in moments where my heart was pumping hard with fear, I found myself laughing out loud and getting funny stares from those around me.

The Characters

The Characters in The Devil’s Apprentice are incredibly well developed and real. I found myself cheering for demons and even the Devil himself at different points in the story and felt as if I knew every single one of them. These aren’t cookie-cutter characters! Each one has their own unique personality. Some are funny, some are serious, but all are now in my heart.

Philip himself goes through huge changes as his journey unfolds. The longer he’s in hell, the more sins he falls prey to. Soon, he realizes (after it’s pointed out to him) he’s committed all but one of the deadly sins. This would have devastated the old Philip, but by that time he no longer seems to care much. He’s changed forever.

I think it’s a great parallel to real-life – simply allowing ourselves to constantly be exposed to what we know is wrong, we will eventually be de-sensitized and fall prey to it ourselves.

Conclusion

This will be on my best books read in 2019 list and I definitely recommend picking up The Devil’s Apprentice and reading it ASAP! I can’t wait to start on the next book in the series!

Have you read The Devil’s Apprentice? What did you think? Leave me a comment below!

About The Author

Kenneth B. Andersen is Danish author who has written over thirty-five since their debut novel in 2000, ranging across multiple genres. His books have been translated into more than 15 languages, and his film on Netflix based on his book “Antboy”, with an animated TV series currently in development.

He currently lives in Copenhagen with his wife, two boys, a dog named Milo and spiders in the basement.

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five-stars
Posted in Weekly Update

Studio Under the Stairs – Update #2

Well, my plan to write a weekly audiobook update already failed. I totally forgot to post one last week! So I guess this will be just like everything else on this site – I’ll post seemingly random, yet with some sort of vague sense of an organizational schedule…

Currently Recording:

I finished recording What Kind of People Ought We to Be: Preparation for the day of the Lord by Patsy Scott last week. This week, I’ll be finishing up The Rose Diary by Curtis Maynard.

I’m really loving this story and I’m really hoping everyone enjoys the final product as much as I’m enjoying recording it!! Here’s the deets from Goodreads:

Studio Under the Stairs – Update #2The Rose Diary by Curtis Maynard
on March 26, 2019
Pages: 201
Goodreads
Synopsis

A young girl dies mysteriously from what can only be explained as a rare illness. Her younger sister finds a diary in her room that has never been written in. Day by day the book reveals a new writing that urges the young girl to investigate the death. From encounters to the writings, there is a story to be heard, a mystery to be solved.


I’ll have some Audible-US and Audible-UK promo copies available once The Rose Diary goes on sale, so if you’re a book blogger interested in a review copy, let me know! (Please specify whether you’ll be needing a US or UK code in your message.)

Currently Available:

The following titles are currently available on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes:

Blood and Deceit by Laura Greenwood (I still have some promo codes available for this title. Contact Me if interested in obtaining a review copy.)

Bible Made Easy by Sarah O. Annie

Ghost Stalker by Isabella Bailey

Pearl Port Singer by Natashiah Jansen

Posted in Can't Wait Wednesday

Can’t Wait Wednesday: Internment by Samira Ahmed

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Tessa at Wishful Endings, to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally, they’re books that have yet to be released. It’s based on Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by the Jill at Breaking the Spine

I read Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed last year and really enjoyed it. (You can read my review here.) So my Can’t Wait Wednesday is Internment, which is supposed to come out next week!!!!

Can’t Wait Wednesday: Internment by Samira AhmedInternment by Samira Ahmed
on March 19, 2019
ISBN: 0316522694
Pages: 400
Goodreads

This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.

Synopsis


Rebellions are built on hope.



Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens.With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp's Director and his guards.Heart-racing and emotional, Internment challenges readers to fight complicit silence that exists in our society today.


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What’s your Can’t Wait Wednesday? Do you plan on reading (or have you already read) Internment? Leave me a comment below!

Posted in book reviews

The Balance of Heaven and Earth by Laurence Westwood

The Balance of Heaven and Earth by Laurence WestwoodThe Balance of Heaven and Earth by Laurence Westwood
Published by Shikra Press Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 277
Source: the author
Goodreads
four-half-stars

This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.

Synopsis

I have been unable to write a judgement that does not seem to offend my conscience, or indeed Heaven, in some manner. Because I do not wish to influence your thinking unduly, I have destroyed all my personal papers and notes in regard to this dispute, preferring you to start afresh. Forgive me for this. All I ask is that you consider and examine Jade Moon most carefully before coming to a decision. I find her fascinating and unsettling in equal measure, and fear the consequences of a wrongful judgement. I will say no more.

My sincerest best wishes to you and your family,

Magistrate Qian
Fifth District, Chengdu Prefecture
1st day of the 2nd Moon, 1085

So ends the letter of welcome (and of warning) to Magistrate Zhu, newly arrived in the remote border town of Tranquil Mountain. He has travelled far from his extensive family estates on the outskirts of Kaifeng – the glorious Song Dynasty capital – hoping to find atonement for past mistakes.

Yet he quickly discovers that Tranquil Mountain is anything but tranquil. The town is beset with simmering tensions since the death of his predecessor. Before Magistrate Zhu even has time to accustom himself to his inexperienced and wayward constabulary and the lowliness of his new surroundings, there is a mysterious murder, rumours of ghosts and blood-thirsty bandits out on the streets, and a disturbing kidnapping to solve – as well as the tragic and tangled legal circumstances of the local heroine Jade Moon to unravel.

For the balance of Heaven and Earth to be maintained, and to prevent catastrophe coming to Tranquil Mountain, Magistrate Zhu is well aware that not a single injustice can be allowed to stand. As he struggles to reach the correct judgements, he realises he has no choice but to offer up his career and perhaps even his own life for the greater good. And, in so doing, he discovers that as Jade Moon’s fate rests in his hands, so his fate ultimately rests in hers.


I received this book for free from the author. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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My Thoughts on The Balance of Heaven and Earth:

Where do I begin???

I had no idea what to expect when I began reading this book. I know little about the time period in China during which The Balance of Heaven and Earth takes place, but part of what I LOVE about historical fiction is getting to learn about different places and times through fictionalized accounts of the past.

There was so much that I loved about this book, but the characters are what really pulled me in and had me both laughing and crying! Even the names of people and places made me happy – Jade Moon, Horse, Always Smiling Orphanage – I just loved them!!

The story begins with Jade Moon saving a merchant during an attack by bandits in the marketplace. Jade Moon, normally quiet and mild-mannered, was transformed that day.

But while she may have saved a life, her own life and future is at risk thanks to a deal made by her mother before the time of the marketplace incident. Now, the new magistrate, Magistrate Zhu, must decide the fate of Jade Moon…

Magistrate Zhu was born into wealth and power, when you first meet him it seems as if he doesn’t want to do actual work and is unhappy with his new position as magistrate of Tranquil Mountain. But as his story is revealed and he interacts with all the inhabitants of the town, the Magistrate’s attitudes and actions begin to make sense and he really grows on the people in the town (and the reader of the story, as well)!

And poor Magistrate Zhu! He arrives in what he believes will be a boring town where he’ll be required to do very little. But upon arriving, he finds many demands put upon him other than maintaining the tea trade — there’s been a murder AND the matter of what to do about Jade Moon must be decided!

The Patriarchs, who used to run Tranquil Mountain and provide for the economic stability of the town, fear Magistrate Zhu has come to steal their land and the little authority they have left.

Jade Moon’s situation is made more complicated (at least in the magistrate’s eyes) by the fact that she’s not fully Chinese. Her father was a barbarian, whom she loved fiercely even though her mother despised him. There are those who believe her to be supernatural – a reincarnation of a warrior from long ago!

No one in Tranquil Mountain knows what to think of Magistrate Zhu. They find him odd, though smart, but uncaring about them. Tea is the most important thing to the citizens of the town, but Zhu seems only to care about catching a murderer!

As the story unfolds, Jade Moon’s story is tied up in the Magistrate’s, though it’s not quite clear how, and they don’t even see it themselves. Then there’s a moment near the end of the book where it all comes together and I cried it was so perfect!

I love the theme throughout the book of balance. No one is perfect. All make mistakes, but they don’t have to ruin everything… Still, all decisions have lasting consequences, and every character in The Balance of Heaven and Earth has to deal with their own.

You should know that I have come to believe that injustice is the primary cause of any imbalance between Heaven and Earth. It takes just one innocent man to be punished for a crime he did not commit, or for one guilty man to go undiscovered and to walk abroad in this land unpunished, for suffering to be brought down upon all of us. This is the moral responsibility that has been laid upon our heads, we who have chosen to enforce the law.

Magistrate Zhu, The Balance of Heaven and Earth

You would think that this would be a story with a more serious tone, considering it’s a mystery dealing with a murder and a legal mess left behind by the former magistrate. But The Balance of Heaven and Earth is much more on the humorous side than the serious!

The ending was nothing like what I expected! Normally, when I’m caught off guard by an ending I hate it, but I was pleasantly surprised this time. It was SO much better than I had anticipated it being!

Actually, the ending wasn’t the only thing that surprised me about this book… I’m always a little wary of any story that has so many characters it includes a helpful guide at the beginning. I find that even with the guide, I tend to get confused. (I think Dark Queen Rising was the last story to do that to me.) But I actually never had that problem in The Balance of Heaven and Earth. The characters all have unique personalities and there was never so many characters in one scene together that I couldn’t keep up with who was who, and who was saying what. (I probably wouldn’t even have noticed there were so many characters in the book if the list wasn’t there.)

This is one of those books that isn’t going to be everyone’s favorite cup of tea, but it’s worth reading even if you don’t absolutely love it like I did!!! I definitely recommend this book for anyone that enjoys historical fiction and historical mysteries (especially those set during the time of the Song Dynasty).

What do you think of The Balance of Heaven and Earth? Do you know of similar story I might enjoy? Let me know in the comments below! Thanks and happy reading!!

four-half-stars