The October Book Review

I’m often asked what kinds of books I like. So here’s my two-minute book review.

Regarding genres, I’m not bound to one type. I actually have favorite books in pretty much every fiction and non-fiction category. The thing that draws me in the most is good writing and emotional connections. I love character-driven stories. I’m also a sucker for non-fiction with prose that flows.

Some recent books I’ve enjoyed are (and I’m not getting paid to list these):

MG Fantasy:

Fires of Invention by J. Scott Savage.

Our family recently listened to the audiobook performed by Kirby Heybourn and all six of us from age five to forty-something were entertained. We can’t wait to listen to the next book. And p.s. I took a class from the author earlier this year and he’s such an inspiration for other writers. I want to read his new Alice in Wonderland series.

YA Fantasy Romance

Cinder by Marissa Meyers.

Okay, so I haven’t finished it yet because my oldest kept eyeing me while I read, and I finally gave in and handed it to her. She devoured it, then the next kid did, and then they read it several more times. It is now in my possession again so hopefully, I’ll get a chance this week to finish it off. I love the vocabulary she used. That might sound weird, but I loved Meyers’s word choices.


Mindfulness by Mark Williams and Danny Penman.

This non-fiction book has some amazing principles, and one of the first meditations it encourages you to do is called The Chocolate Meditation. Yeah, I can get behind that. My brother recommended this book to me and I have to admit, it’s been fairly life-changing. I’ve done meditations before but always felt like I was doing them wrong. Now I know better. Meditating isn’t about clearing your head. It’s about being present in each moment and seeing thoughts as they truly are, passing comments. I can disregard them if I want.


Wishtree by Katherine Applegate.

Move over To Kill a Mockingbird (my previous favorite). Katherine Applegate did something to me with Wishtree. It’s been so long since a book moved me and touched my heart like this one. My ten-year-old immediately ordered a copy for my birthday because she knew I needed a physical copy to keep forever. I’m a minimalist so that says something.

I made the mistake of reading Wishtree out loud to my kids. I bawled through parts and kept stopping to re-read poignant phrases. This book reminds me of why I write. Words have power. They can do so much good.

I love it when people tell me months down the road that they are still thinking about my stories that they’ve beta read. One story I titled Broken Maybe (it’s taking a little nap on the shelf before I revive it) helped a friend through a similar medical experience as one of the characters in my book. It’s crazy what words can do, even when they’re based on fiction. Especially when they’re based on fiction.

So there’s my October Book Review. What books have you liked lately?

And have you checked out the different ways to follow me?

What I’ve Learned

The last two months have been a whirlwind of learning. Not only did I have major surgery (and today I’m prepping for another diagnostic procedure) and sent my kids off to online school in their bedrooms, but my friend and I have built a new writing empire.

Okay, maybe empire is an exaggeration. Let’s go with kingdom.

Welcome to the kingdom of Vanilla Grass. (Next month, we’ll shoot for empire.)

Experts define the smell of old books as a combination of Vanilla and Grass so naturally, with my super picky nose and Carolyn’s love of plants, we combined them into a One-Stop Writer’s Resource webpage.

But two months ago, I didn’t know:

How to build a website.

Or how to write SEO efficient blogposts (I’m taking a break from that here).

How to run a giveaway via King Sumo.

Or how to use Davinci Resolve and create YouTube videos.

Vanilla Grass writers motivation
I took this picture in my pajamas one morning when the light was right.

In two months Carolyn and I have created color schemes, logos, pictures, blog posts, edited other writers’ first pages, installed apps, deleted horrible apps, launched advertising campaigns, AND lured other writers into following us. Not bad for 2020. Oh, and we’re also working on our own writing projects.


Writing during COVID with all of my kids at home has been an adventure and at times, I thought I’d never get anything done. But my WIP is complete and ready to query. I wrote a little about the method I used with alpha readers in a post on Vanilla Grass.

A round of hard-core edits for flow, emotions, and descriptions.

This was one of the most helpful reviews:

You are a really, really good author. You made me feel the emotions. I cried a lot at the beginning and the end. You had really strong characters and growth. The tension and drama were felt. I would read it again and again. Even knowing the big reveal.

-Anonymous Reader

I love that review. I love my book. And oddly, I love running a website. And I’m excited and ready for the adventures that lie ahead. I’m so grateful for all that I’ve learned.

The End

Sometimes the best beginnings come at the heels of closings. Recently, I wrote “The End,” finishing off my latest YA romance novel. I’ve written those two infamous words many times, but this moment is different.

Before, I had this silly notion that if I worked harder, if I just pushed past my limits, I would get the agent and the publishing contract. But there’s something to be said for working smarter.

With this novel, I didn’t write until I understood the pain that would afflict my characters the most. And I didn’t dare torture them until I was willing to be vulnerable and take all the heartaches I’ve felt and smear my pages with them.

With my current novel, I started writing when I could connect every single dot. Every detail has a purpose. Every description has double meanings. Every action is formulated to help the character achieve what they want, but first, they each have to fail.

Like my characters, I have struggled. Again and again, I’ve poured heart and energy into my books without the results I wanted. But now is the end of an era of failings. I’m ready to succeed. I’m ready to begin something new.