Friday, March 28, 2014

Book Review for Wildwood Creek by Lisa Wingate

When I saw the front cover of Lisa Wingate's newest book I knew I wanted to read it.

I'd always wanted to try out one of Lisa Wingate's books so this looked like the perfect opportunity. However, it turned out nothing like I had expected. This is a hard review for me to write. I never wanted to be the one poor review amidst a slew of positives ... yet here we go.

I did not enjoy this story like I had hoped I would have. The premise attracted me at first.

Cover Art
With love and loss tangled together, how was she to know where her life would lead?
Allie Kirkland has always heard the call of her father's unfinished destiny. When she's offered a production assistant's job on a docudrama filming in the hills near Moses Lake, Texas, the dream of following in her director-father's footsteps suddenly seems within reach. The reenactment of the legendary frontier settlement of Wildwood is a first step into the film industry. A summer on set in the wilderness is a small price to pay for a dream.
But in 1861, the real Wildwood held dangerous realities. Town founder Harland Delavan held helpless residents, including young Irish schoolteacher Bonnie Rose, in an iron grip. Mysterious disappearances led to myths and legends still retold in the region's folk songs. Eventually, the entire site was found abandoned.
When filming begins, strange connections surface between Allie and the teacher who disappeared over a century ago, and everyone in Wildwood--including Blake Fulton, Allie's handsome neighbor on the film set--seems to be hiding secrets. Allie doesn't know whom she can trust. If she can't find the answers in time, history may repeat itself...with the most unthinkable results.

What's not to like about that you ask? I love suspense, romance, western flair and the whole filming plot thread drew me in. However, probably the biggest problem for me was the constant flip between present and past. The main story is about Allie Kirkland but is countered almost equally with a story about Bonnie Rose a young woman from 1861.

Both stories are written well and I loved the first person point of view. However every time the switch was made it jolted me from the story and I felt the overwhelming urge to close the book. It was like dragging myself from page to page. I kept it up, hoping I would settle into the flow. Unfortunately, I didn't.

On the bright side, I enjoyed the characters in the story and there was enough surge to keep me wondering what was next. I truly believe if the chapter changes hadn't been such a jolt, I would have enjoyed either story line immensely.

Unfortunately I did not finish the book, so I can't speak to the ending (and for that I am sorry) but I made it half way. The last straw for me was being almost 200 pages into the story and finding what should have been the first line of the story. The moment that the reader goes, "oh, this might get interesting".  That was where I quit. It was like starting over again and the haul had been too sluggish to re-commit.

It is important to note that the basics of story-telling were there and done well. So for many readers who can enjoy the inter-mixed story lines, the writing is superb.

The plot was interesting; the film industry, the colourful secondary characters, the mysterious cowboy. It was all well done. The historic story of Bonnie Rose was moving and had me cheering for the strong, determined young woman on every page.

The setting was intriguing. I especially loved the basement of the old theater. I felt cold and cramped every time I read those parts. It was amazingly written.

To recap, I didn't enjoy the structure of the teeter-totter stories. It made it difficult to stay invested. Without that aspect I think the story was strong and well written. I urge you to look around and check other reviews of this book, as I have and there are so many lovers out there. Here is one particular review to read from someone who thoroughly enjoyed the book - and finished it!

And despite my disappointment with Wildwood Creek, I will definitely consider reading another book from Lisa Wingate.

Thanks to Bethany House for the free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Book Review for Fighter by Manafest

"The greatest battles of life are fought out daily in the silent chambers of the soul." David McKay

Christopher Greenwood, aka Manafest, is a Christian rap/rock artist originally from Canada. His loud voice of inspiration is for anyone who has a dream.

Chris' story tells of the pain of his childhood from his father's suicide, the frustrations of his growing up years from not fitting in and into his young adult years of how an injury tossed all his hopes and dreams away. Chris is a fighter and he managed to take the steps necessary to truly make lemonade out of his lemons.

If you have a dream, either one you have never pursued or one that is tainted by failure you should read this inspirational story. Fighter lays out five concrete steps for moving towards your goals and overcoming the emotional tidal waves that often come our way. Chris uses his life story as examples as well as famous quotes, inspiration from the Bible, and the lives of others who inspired him. Each of the chapters defining the five steps also concludes with a journal page for the reader to put down their thoughts. This translates each particular step into action.

I've seen Manafest perform live and gotten a glimpse into Chris' heart for encouragement. He is a very hands-on artist, trying to interact with the teens that file in and out of his concerts. I believe God is using the stage he's placed Chris on to change and mold many lives. His book will be no different. And as of yesterday Chris has entered the world of fatherhood - I am certain more gems are on the way soon. (Congrats Chris and Melanie!)

The book is a very easy read. The language is very simple; I passed the book onto to my kids.

Check it out! Fighter is a powerful reminder that giving up on our dreams isn't an option.

"I don't know about you, but I love books," said Christopher Greenwood aka Manafest in a press release. "I could point to different books in my library and tell you how they've changed my life. With music I only have a few minutes in a song to share my heart and sometimes even less after a show interacting with fans. So with the book 'Fighter,' I thought I could really give my fans more of me - to hear where I've come from, and how I've become a fighter." Taken from an article at Christian Post

Also check out this video of Chris Greenwood talking about his new book.

"Book has been provided courtesy of Chris Greenwood, Manafest Productions Inc. and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.  Available at your favourite bookseller. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

I moved a wall!

What kind of walls have you encountered in your life?

Walls come in all shapes and sizes, really. Some are so big we can't see over top of them. Others allow us a peek at where we could be if the wall wasn't in our way. Either way ... walls are frustrating.

I'd reached a wall in writing my latest story. Now, that was nothing new. In fact, it was becoming the norm. Somewhere around 2/3 of the novel I'd hit a wall and - until this time - I'd give up. (Sound familiar? Check out this blog post from Write to Done.)

I remember my first wall. I had written five complete stories. Not that it had been easy but it had definitely been a consistent flow for those early novels. I'd get the story idea. I'd write for two months. Then I was done. 

Then my sixth story was a little different for me. It had come from an idea I'd had in a dream. (Which meant it was a little hazy at times.) I started out good. I wrote steady for a long time until I came to a wall.

An invisible wall.

Do you know what kind of wall that is? 

This picture is of two of my kids when we visited California many years ago. As you can tell from the hats we were at Disneyland. (Actually, if my memory is right, this photo is from California Adventures.)

You can't tell from the photo exactly but my kids are standing flush against a painted wall.

An invisible wall.

A wall where you think you know where you are going but for some (concrete) reason you can't get there. An optical illusion.

Many times my stories have become optical illusions. I know where they are going but I can't seem to get there. I have written more than eleven stories now, but several sit incomplete at that same marker of 2/3 finished. It seems like I hit an invisible wall, change directions and then get way off track.

I need to learn how to move a wall - to push past that place and get back to the good ol' days of finished manuscripts.

I think I may have done it. (I really hope I don't jinx it by celebrating too soon.) For the last two weeks I have been stuck at the place at the wall. I had written up to a point but then felt a hard surface behind the next words. Instead of tossing the story aside and working on another one I decided to sit at the wall for a while. I pushed.  But to no avail. It was immovable.

I prayed.

And then I pushed some more.  This went on for quite awhile, but this time I was determined not to change course. I know writing is hard. I know in my heart those early manuscripts aren't realistic and practical of the the life of a writer. So if I'm serious about this I needed to learn how to move walls.

So I pushed some more.

Last night, when I desperately needed to be sleeping because of my early morning today, I found myself shifting cement.

Just a little.  But I promise you it moved.

I still have a long way to go to get this story finished all the way to THE END. Yet, I can't help celebrate a little today.

Have you ever moved a wall? Tell me about it and be my inspiration.