Monday, December 20, 2010

Review: Oh, Say Can You See? by L.C. Lewis

I was recently given the opportunity to review Oh, Say Can You See? by L.C. Lewis. This is the fourth book in her Free Men and Dreamers series. I have not read the preceding books . . . yet, but after this one I really want to go back and read those first three! There were a couple of spots where I wanted to know more of the history of some of the richly drawn characters, but the story was well crafted to stand on its own.

Here's a teaser:
Though the capital smolders, the battered Constitution and the presidency have survived. But the British left the struggling government no home. Gone are the symbols of America--the Capitol Building and the President's House, and nearly every relic of the infant nation. Britain's next target is the port city of Baltimore, but has the raid on Washington stiffened the Americans' backs? As the Willows women mourn their absent men - gone to war, or wounded, or captured - they await the birth of a blessed child. Miles away, attorney Francis Scott Key embarks on a diplomatic mission that will leave an everlasting mark on America. Proving that the pen can indeed by more powerful than the sword, Key records the fears and hopes of his embattled people. His epic poem soon set to music and titled "The Star-Spangled Banner," rallies a shattered nation to rise from its knees to claim the dream of "one nation under God" during the closing hours of the War of 1812.

L.C. Lewis has the remarkable gift of being able to create three-dimensional characters who step into incredibly detailed and accurate historical accounts of real-life events. I can’t say it enough, the detail was excellent. I read on a blog interview, here, that she was motivated to write about these events as historical fiction because, there are people “who learn history best when it is personalized and wrapped around a compelling storyline.” Okay, true confessions—that would be me. I know, I know, I should read biographies and non-fiction and good for me stuff, but the books I can’t put down are all fiction. What can I say, I have no will power when it comes to books, and I’m always drawn to a good romance.

Sooo, for those of you worried about the factual stuff—don’t. There’s plenty of romance and storyline for those of us who need relationship development to pull us along. And for those, like my husband, who love the story of the war and real-life events, there’s plenty of that as well. L.C. Lewis has developed a character driven, historically accurate story that pulls the reader into early America and the War of 1812, highlighting Francis Scott Key’s experiences that compelled him to write the poem Defense of Fort McHenry, which later was put to music and became The Star-Spangled Banner. Oh,Say Can You See? is a beautifully written tale of the heroic defense of a brand new nation and the struggle to survive as free men.

This was the first book I’ve read by L.C. Lewis—but it won’t be the last. She’s a talented writer and masterful storyteller, and I can’t wait until the fifth book comes out in March. She also writes under the name Laurie C. Lewis and has two books out under that name, Awakening Avery and Unspoken.

It's blog tour time for

Set against the War of 1812 and the penning of "The Star Spangled Banner," Oh, Say Can You See?, the latest novel in the FREE MEN AND DREAMERS series by L.C. Lewis, brings this often overlooked period to life.

THREE people will win a copy of Oh, Say Can You See? One GRAND PRIZE WINNER will win this beautiful patriotic necklace!

Blog tour runs from December 13th--December 22nd.
It's easy to enter.

1. Visit the fabulous reviews and leave a comment letting us know why "The Star Spangled Banner" means so much to you. Remember to include your email address.

2. If you tweet about the blog tour, or post about it on your blog or facebook, leave the link in the comments section and you'll receive an additional entry.

Good Luck! Entries close at midnight (MST) on December 31.

December 13
Braden Bell

December 14
Marsha Ward

December 15
Rachelle Christensen

December 16
Anna Del C. Dye

December 17
Stephanie Abney

December 18
Lynn Parsons

December 20
Susan Dayley
Marilyn Bunderson

December 21
Liz Adair
Valerie Ipson

December 22
Kathi Oram Peterson

Friday, December 3, 2010

Review: Taken by Storm and Unbroken Connection by Angela Morrison

Taken by Storm by Angela Morrison

From the back of the book:

Leesie Hunt’s Unbreakable Rules:

No Kissing (at least not of the French variety) . . . No Sec (hah! Not even close to happening anyway) . . . No Dating Outside the Mormon Faith (what would be the point?) . . . ABSOLUTELY No Falling in Love with the Wrong Boy (would ruin everything)

Leesie thinks she has her whole life planned out: get into the school of her dreams, write her poems, meet the perfect guy, and settle down. Then she meets Michael—a boy whose parents were killed in a diving accident during a terrible storm.

Michael is drowning in tragedy. And all Leesie wants is to save him. With each day, her heart hurts more. Could it be perfect Leesie is falling from grace? Or is she just falling in love?

But if Leesie gives in to temptation, who is going to save her?

My Review:

I have never read a book like this. Leesie and Michael take turns telling their story through Michael’s dive logs and Leesie’s poems and chatspot conversations. The dual perspective propels the story forward while allowing the reader to understand both sides of the relationship. Michael is struggling to come to terms with the storm and the loss of his parents. Leesie’s trying hard to reconcile her beliefs and upbringing with the passionate feelings she has for Michael. His emotions are raw and poignant. When she reaches out to him she becomes the air for his drowning soul.

On top of their personal struggles, they constantly disagree on how their relationship should play out. Leesie believes that love means more than the physical part and has made a commitment to save herself for marriage. Michael doesn’t understand her need to wait and thinks that her rules will kill the growing love between them—that the only way to truly love is to share everything with each other. Sprinkled throughout the book are Leesie affirmations of her strong religious beliefs as she reinforces her will and occasionally preaches to Michael in an honest attempt to help him heal.

At this point I have to say that the content is definitely PG-13. It’s listed as a book for age 12 and up but I think it depends on the 12 year old. For someone confronted with similar issues at school and in their own personal relationships, this is a great book on finding your limits and exploring the pros and cons of premarital sex. For other teens who are perhaps more sheltered, this book delves pretty far into passions with frank sexual talk and discussions. On a personal level, since my three teenage daughters are more on the sheltered side, I will not be recommending this book for them to read. However, if I felt one of them were dancing a little close to the lines, I might pull it out and have them read it.

The writing is perfection; the story is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. Angela does a masterful job of developing her characters. I enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it for the right audience.

Check out Angela’s website: You can read the first chapter and see a trailer for this book. You’ll also hear the beautiful song she wrote for her book SING ME TO SLEEP.

Unbroken Connection by Angela Morrison

From the back of the book:

Against all odds, the couple that swept you away in TAKEN BY STORM is back. Michael is in Thailand diving his dream. Leesie is at BYU living hers.

And they just can’t leave each other alone.

Their romance rekindles, deeper than before. They grow desperate to see one another again. To hold one another again. Michael decides there is only one directin their relationship can go and asks Leesie the ultimate question. Her answer challenges everything Michakel is and wants to be.

Can she change for him?

Can he change for her?


My Review:

Written in the same format as TAKEN BY STORM, UNBROKEN CONNECTION picks up the story of Michael and Leesie’s romance. Even though they are on opposite sides of the world (symbolic of how incongruent their beliefs and behaviors are) they can’t suppress the passion that pulls them together. The questions that keep coming up challenge their relationship. Can they find a way to make it work or will they have to give up too much or who they are? How important are core beliefs in the face of all consuming love?

Once again, I enjoyed the book and the growing relationship between Leesie and Michael. I can’t wait until I can read the third book, CAYMAN SUMMER. If anything, this book was more passionate than the first so I must add the same strong cautions. This is a great book for the right audience.

Check out Angela’s website: You can read the first chapter and see a trailer for this book. You’ll also hear the beautiful song she wrote for her book SING ME TO SLEEP.

Author Interview with Angela Morrison

I recently had the opportunity to do reviews on two of Angela Morrison's amazing books, TAKEN BY STORM, and UNBROKEN CONNECTION. She was also nice enough to let me interview her. If you want to learn more about her after reading her interview, visit her website:

1. Your characters are very well developed and a joy to discover. How do you create such strong characters? Are they based on people you know?

Revision, revision, revision. It took me so long to finally sell TAKEN BY STORM, so I had YEARS of listening to Michael and Leesie talk in my head. I got to know them better with each rejection and consequent revision. I think that's the key to creating strong characters--listening to them. Are they based on people I know? I have to laugh when people ask me that. I put Leesie in my high school and she lives in the farm house where I lived from junior high through high school. I even made her the only Mormon girl in the school. Then I started giving her all of my worst high school experiences. It was great catharsis, but lousy fiction. I had to cut a lot of the me, so she could be Leesie. I gave her my sister's long, beautiful hair, another sister's mad driving skills, and a retro suede leather jacket one of my son's friends wore. I still had difficulty conveying her motivation until my daughter gave me a recording of Kelly Clarkson's, "Beautiful Disaster!" That song is exactly Leesie. I'd listen to it whenever I drove kids to school and then be in the perfect mood to come home and revise some more. Leesie truly came into her own when I let her speak through poetry.

2. What led you to make the decision to use dive logs, chat records and poetry to tell the story?

Desperation. An editor at Candlewick said she'd look at my manuscript a second time if I revised it all from Michael's point of view. I'd do anything for Candlewick, so I tried it. She missed the suspense created from Leesie discovering Michael's situation. She asked me to revise again, bringing back the dive logs that I used to tell Michael's part of the story, and replacing Leesie's first person narration with third person. I tried it. Bleck. She said it was stiff. Yup. At that point, I looked at my manuscript, and it was broken. I asked myself, "How do I want to tell this story?" I'd just returned from a workshop with Markus Zusak and read THE BOOK THEIF. He is so inventive with all the pieces he brings together to narrate the story. I'd also recently read Tobin (M.T.) Anderson's OCTAVIAN NOTHING: TRAITOR TO A NATION, Kelly Bringham's SHARK GIRL, and Ellen Yoeman's RUBBER HOUSES. Tobin's book uses Octavian's journal entries interspersed with letters and other items from other narrators. He lists himself as the compiler. Kelly and Ellen's books are both exquisitely crafted poetry novels. Kelly introduces letters to round out the narrative.

I studied my past three or four revisions with Markus Zusak's advice to "keep the gems," ringing in my ears. Michael's dive logs were the best thing I had. I could use those to tell Michael's side of the story. I'd already incorporated chats into the novel, but I used them like dialogue. I decided to take them out and insert them as transcripts, but what about Leesie? She'd been a poet from the start. Her poem about her grandmother was one of the first things I wrote. And her and Kim's relationship was all about writing poetry. I tried a few of Leesie's scenes as free verse poems and was excited about the result. Poetry is my dessert, so I was excited about getting to write lots of poetry. This form is called a collage novel. I love it, but it's challenging. It fits Michael and Leesie. I'm not sure if I'll use it again.

3. Do you use an outline when you write and if so, how detailed is it?

Outlines make me grimace, shudder, run away crying. I do use a calendar (you can see it on my blog) to keep track of what's going on. When ideas for the story come thick and fast, I scribble them down into a rough plot summary. I wrote SING ME TO SLEEP under contract, and I had to come up with a fairly detailed story "pitch." I'm getting better at that, but it's a learned skill. Plans always get changed when characters get involved. I'm a hero's journey writer and highly recommend Voegel's, THE WRITER'S JOURNEY.

4. What character do you connect with the most?

Probably Leesie. I divested her of a lot of me, but there's still some in there haunting the poor girl.

5. How long did it take you to write your first novel? Has the time frame changed any now that you are an experienced writer?

I wrote the first draft of TAKEN BY STORM over the course of my first two semesters studying for my MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts. (Incredible program, writers check it out!) I remember how amazed I felt when I wrote the last scene and knew I'd actually written a novel. I revised it off and on for two more semesters, but also started writing MY ONLY LOVE, an historical novel that required zillions of hours of research. After I graduated, I marketed STORM for three and a half years before I sold it. And then we did major revisions to get it in shape for Razorbill's audience. That's almost six years of effort, rejection, faith in this story, and never giving up. I didn't work on it full-time, but consistently through those years. I wrote SING ME TO SLEEP in three months--and only had a few weeks for my editors changes. Good thing she didn't ask for a lot. I was in a panic to meet my deadline and wrote so much I hurt my hands! Now, I average about six months for a novel--but I know I can do it in less if I have to.

6. Is there any message you have for your fans?

I'd like to invite you all to read TAKEN BY STORM and UNBROKEN CONNECTION and then join us over at where I'm blogging Michael and Leesie's last book as I write it. I love getting readers input along the way and there's a big contest running, too. I hope to see you there.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Ski Utah!

I took my four youngest skiing/snowboarding on Saturday. I figured if we live in Utah, they had better learn to ski. I signed them up for lessons at Park City and the older three were excited to go. The two who took snowboarding lessons had been skiing before and loved it and were excited to try something new. Park City has this deal for locals who are first time skiers, very inexpensive.

My youngest was not excited--to put it mildly. He spent his first 8 years in Taiwan, and though he loves snow he gets cold very quickly. I told him he had to try it one time, so I layered him up with snow pants, a warm coat, gloves, hat, and hand warmers. I think he ended up putting the handwarmers in his pockets because he didn't need them. I even bought him goggles to keep the wind from his eyes. He looked a little nervous when I dropped him off but he was a good sport.

The three girls were a bit more enthusiastic.

When I picked him up three hours later he was all smiles. He loved it and couldn't wait to go again. So glad. Can't wait to go again--maybe I'll take some snowboarding lessons myself.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Amazing Giveaways!

Tristi Pinkston is hosting an absolutely huge contest over on her blog to celebrate the release of her new book, "Dearly Departed."  A new prize will be offered every twenty-four hours, and with multiple chances to win, you can't go wrong!  Prizes include books, jewelry, perfume, movies - and the grand prize is a free night's stay at the Lion Gate Manor in Lava Hot Springs.  Visit Tristi's blog for rules and more details.