Book Review: The Unicorn Hunter by Rachel Kirkaldie

Today I review the fantasy novel The Unicorn Hunter which was written by Rachel Kirkaldie and published by Cedar Fort Publishing. A spoiled princess, the fortune hunter who kidnaps her, and the unicorns that keep balance in the world are fated to collide in this story.

Unicorn-Hunter-Tour-Banner via Cedar Fort
Image via Cedar Fort Publishing.

“It is said in the most ancient of stories that a unicorn visits the mother of a child who will live to accomplish great things. So it seems, Jessa darling, that you are such a child.”

Summary

The vain, selfish Princess Jessalyn cannot wait to marry Prince Kale and get out of her backwater kingdom. Never mind the story of how a unicorn bowed to her mother when she was pregnant with Jessalyn. Some say that this means Jessalyn is meant for great things, but all she cares about is her beauty, jewels, and dresses. But everything changes when she is kidnapped by a fortune hunter named Erik. Through the adventure that follows, Jessalyn learns that someone has been killing the unicorns that keep the balance in the kingdom, and Jessalyn may have a role in saving them.

“But there’s more to you, more than fancy ball gowns and a lovely face. I’ve known it since before you were born.”

Review—3.5 Stars

I received a copy of The Unicorn Hunter from Cedar Fort Publishing in exchange for my honest review.

In a nutshell, I’d say that this book has a great story that needs more development. I really liked the first third of the book, I disliked the second third, and I wanted more development and different plot structuring for the entire story during the last third of it. However, the plot is intriguing and it drew me in. It made me ask lots of questions about this world and the plots of the villains.

“For eons the unicorns have been the protectors of good. They have kept our power at bay. Now they are dying. We will rise.”

I think the second third of the story is its biggest downfall because it felt like the author had abandoned the main character (Jessalyn) in favor of Erik, despite the fact that Jessalyn was kidnapped at the time and I really wanted to hear what was happening with her. In relation to this, I expected Jessalyn’s self-centered personality to change to something better throughout her adventure. Unfortunately, that didn’t really happen until the very end of the book. She really started to get on my nerves in such a way that made me wish Erik had been the main character all along.

I really liked the story because it was intriguing and exciting, but it needed more complexity and development overall. There were several details left out of the story that made some things very confusing, and there were other parts that felt jerky and too unexpected. The author could have added several plot points that not only would have improved the story, but would have also given Jessalyn the opportunity to realistically change her personality. It really is a great story with so much potential, but it just needed more development.

To see more reviews of The Unicorn Hunter, check it out of Goodreads, Amazon, or its Cedar Fort blog tour page.

Writing Prompts: The Beach Edition

If you’re lucky enough to live by the sea, then you get to enjoy many visits to the beach. If you’re lucky enough to have money, then you know summertime is the perfect time to travel to the ocean. If you’re me, well, then you can only imagine spending lots of time catching waves or dozing on the sunny sand. But whether you are a regular beach bum or you simply wish you could visit the coast, take some time to get your creative juices flowing with these beach writing prompts.

beach writing prompts

  1. Diane and her friends are enjoying some sailing when a squid straight out of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attacks her boyfriend’s boat and pulls it out to sea. How does she save him?
  2. Eric is a fisherman who accidentally catches a mermaid! After he frees her from his net, she offers him three wishes as a thank you. What does he wish for?
  3. Three kids find a bottle on the beach which holds a treasure map! Unfortunately, all of the clues are all written in Greek. How do they read the map?
  4. In order to connect with her teenage daughter, Elly spontaneously signs them up for a team sandcastle building contest. What happens during the competition?
  5. When Zoe is dragged away by a riptide, she discovers that she can breathe underwater! Tell her story.
  6. Cameron wakes up from a nap on the beach only to find that night has fallen, everyone has left, and someone buried his body in the sand. Deeply. Yeah, he can’t get out. What happens next?

Do you know any other great ocean and beach writing prompts? If so, then share them in the comments below, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

Book Recommendation: Hook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz

I love retellings of classic stories and fairy tales because they can take so many interesting directions. One such example is this delightful middle-grade retelling of Peter Pan. Hook’s Revenge was written by Heidi Schulz and published by Disney-Hyperion in 2014. We meet Captain Hook’s daughter, Jocelyn Hook, on an adventurous romp through Neverland as she seeks to destroy the ticking crocodile.

Hook's Revenge quote-There have always been pirates

Summary

Jocelyn Hook, the daughter of the infamous pirate captain James Hook, would rather have an adventure sailing the high seas with her father than learn manners at finishing school. However, she manages to survive dance lessons and proper etiquette by planning her future voyages with her best friend, Roger. But everything changes when Jocelyn learns that Captain Hook has been killed by the ticking crocodile. Her father’s last wish is that Jocelyn take revenge on the crocodile.

“It had stolen her father from her. It had made her look foolish in front of her men. It was a monster, a danger to anyone it came in contact with. The girl gathered her resolve. One failure may have rattled her, but she would not surrender.

“Time was running out for the crocodile.”

Jocelyn travels to Neverland and, with the help of Mr. Smee, puts together a motley pirate crew. But defeating the dreaded crocodile is not as easy as Jocelyn would hope, and soon she is traveling all over Neverland, running into cannibals, fairies, and a particularly annoying flying boy. Jocelyn learns that adventure isn’t all she wanted it to be, and she begins to wonder if she can ever destroy the ticking crocodile.

“It would be lovely to forget all the failures and disappointments she had encountered over the past few days, but where would that get her? She’d be stuck in one place, forever. Jocelyn did not want to always remain the same. Where was the adventure in that?”

If you love Hook’s Revenge, then check out the sequel, The Pirate Code.

The Bookish Places on My Bucket List

I’m sorry to say that the farthest I’ve traveled away from my home in Utah is Disneyland and Yellowstone, which is why my bucket list includes plans to travel to places all over the world. And as a bookworm and writer, many of the sites I want to see are related to reading, writing, and some of my favorite books. So today I present a bucket list of places bookworms and writers would love to travel to.

Bookish Travels Bucket List

Hay-on-Wye, Wales

How would you like to visit a town where nearly every store is a bookstore? No, I’m not talking about heaven; I’m talking about a little town in Wales called Hay-on-Wye. This place is basically a mall made of bookstores, but with more charm. Some of the stores are even dedicated to a specific genre, like mysteries. And if all of this hasn’t convinced you to visit (though I find that unlikely), Hay-on-Wye also has a castle you can tour.

New York City, United States of America

Some people visit New York City to see the Statue of Liberty, watch a show on Broadway, or stroll through Central Park, but I would visit it to see the publishing houses. Several big name publishers make their home in the Big Apple, including Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, and Penguin Random House. If you need another bookish reason to visit New York City, then check out the 18 miles of books at the famous Strand Book Store.

Globe Theatre & Stratford-upon-Avon, England

What better way to celebrate reading and writing through travel than to visit sites honoring the greatest writer of all time: William Shakespeare. If you find yourself seeking entertainment in London, then check out one of the Bard’s plays at the Globe Theatre. And if you are traveling in the West Midlands, then don’t forget to visit Shakespeare’s birthplace (and deathplace) in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Matamata (a.k.a. The Shire), New Zealand (a.k.a. Middle Earth)

J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth can come to life if you happen to be passing New Zealand in your travels. The Hobbiton movie set seen in The Lord of the Rings movies is still there, from the Green Dragon Inn to a passel of adorable little hobbit homes.

Do you know other great places for writers and bookworms to visit? If so, then tell me about them in the comments below, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

Book Review: Beyond by Catina Haverlock and Angela Larkin

If you like ghosts and love stories, then take a look at Beyond which is written by Catina Haverlock and Angela Larkin and is published by Cedar Fort Publishing. In this story, a dead boy and a living girl fall in love despite all odds, but there are other forces at play which may cause the couple’s destruction.

COVER Beyond image via Cedar Fort
Image via Cedar Fort Publishing

“One girl, one heart— two guys. And who would believe that one of those guys was a ghost?”

Summary

Landon has been dead for several months. He finally decides to take his guide’s advice and move on to the afterlife when Presley, the new girl at school, sees him when no other living person has. Presley doesn’t know who the cute guy is or why he won’t take her phone number, but her attraction to him is sure. So begins a story of love between the living and the dead. Landon and Presley would do anything for each other, but they soon learn that the watching dead is keeping an eye on them, and the couple’s decision to stay together may not be worth the cost.

“And though James said the dead don’t get a second chance, I had to take issue with that because I had Presley. If she wasn’t a second chance, what was?”

Review—3.5 Stars

I received a digital copy of Beyond from Cedar Fort Publishing in exchange for my honest review.

I’m really conflicted about my review of this book because there were several sections that were incredible and there were many other parts that really weren’t. I disliked the first half of the book, but the second half of the book improved significantly and showed some really gems.

I’ll start by tackling the first half of the book. I felt that if Presley and Landon had started interacting sooner, it would have improved the story overall. Up until then, you had very little tension and conflict. All you really had was Presley’s lousy life. Another problem I had with this book was that the characters often acted and spoke in a way that made absolutely no sense to their personality or situation. I felt they were doing things because the plot asked them to, not because it was something they would actually do. The flow of the text was good, but the story of the book felt purposeless and didn’t make sense for a large part of it.

“Love means doing what’s best for the one you love, even if it’s not what’s best for you.”

That being said, the last half of the book was excellent. Though I still felt frustrated because many characters weren’t likeable and did things that made little sense, there was some real conflict that caught my interest. The authors also kept building up the story with unexpected reveals. I finally started to feel an honest connection between Landon and Presley, and his reasons for staying began to make more sense. I also really liked the path of Landon’s development, of how his infatuation became love when he realized the sacrifice he needed to make. As for the ending, it was unexpected, but I’m not really sure it was the best one since it broke several established rules for the world. Overall, I’m still conflicted about my review. The good parts of the story really drew me in, but I’m not sure they outweighed the many less-than-stellar moments.

To see more reviews of Beyond, check it out on Goodreads or Amazon.

Writing Prompts: The Vacation Edition

With summer comes sunshine, no school, and the need to get away from it all with a fun vacation. Some of you may go camping in the great outdoors, others may travel across the country on an epic road trip, and others will have an adventure backpacking across Europe. But if you find some spare time between exploring new sites and trying new foods, then exercise your writing muscles with these vacation writing prompts.

Vacation travel writing prompts

  1. Trisha’s dreams of visiting Paris are coming true, and she is more than ready to see the Eiffel tower, try escargot, and check out the latest fashion trends. But her dream vacation goes awry when she accidently boards a plan heading for the Congo instead. What happens next?
  2. Zoe grew up having weekly fishing and camping trips. In contrast, her new boyfriend, Dennis, is a city slicker who doesn’t know the first thing about starting a fire (let alone making s’mores). However, he wants to impress Zoe and take her camping. How does he attempt to do this without letting on that he doesn’t even know how to set up a tent?
  3. Marissa, a small town girl who struggles with agoraphobia, is the sole inheritor of her great aunt’s massive fortune. However, in order to receive the desperately-needed money, Marissa must complete ten tasks all over New York City. How does she manage to overcome her fears and complete the tasks?
  4. With both divorce from his wife and estrangement from his adult children looming on the horizon, Walter proposes a road trip across America as a means of bringing the family back together. What happens?
  5. High school student Jeanne didn’t want to do a study abroad in South America for the summer, but her parents would do anything to put distance between Jeanne and her boyfriend. However, Jeanne plans to sneak back home. What happens next?
  6. Joe’s relaxing Hawaiian vacation turns stressful when he is accidently mistaken for a member of the mafia. What happens next?

Do you know any more great vacation writing prompts? If so, then share them in the comments below, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

Book Recommendation: Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters

Archaeology, mystery, and an ancient Egyptian mummy come together in this Victorian-era novel. Meet the indomitable Amelia Peabody in Crocodile on the Sandbank which was written by Elizabeth Peters and published by Grand Central Publishing in 1975. Mystery fans will enjoy the headstrong characters and the exploration of ancient Egyptian artifacts in this story.

Crocodile on the sandbank quote-God help the poor mummy who encounters you, Peabody

Summary

After receiving an inheritance upon her father’s passing, proud, blunt spinster Amelia Peabody decides to explore her passion for ancient language and history by visiting Egypt. Along the way, she takes on a companion in Evelyn, an English gentlewoman with a tarnished past. They fall into the lot of two archaeologist brothers, the stubborn, bullhead Emerson and his mild-mannered brother, Walter.

“The truth is, I wanted him to be a villain—a veritable crocodile, like the one in the ancient poem, that lay in wait for the lover seeking to win his sweetheart. A woman’s instinct, I always feel, supercedes logic.”

Amelia’s Egyptian adventure soon takes a spooky twist when a mummy goes missing and is seen walking about at night. The group suspects it is one of the villagers trying to scare them away in order to pilfer artifacts from the tomb, but they soon realize their Egyptian ghost has taken a strong interest in Evelyn. Will they catch the culprit, or is the mummy really a curse from a disturbed king’s grave?

“Really, the mummy was becoming ridiculous! Its repertoire was so limited; why didn’t it do something different, instead of creeping around waving its arms?”

If you loved this book, then check out the rest of the Amelia Peabody mysteries.

Red Herrings and the Surprising yet Inevitable Plot Twist

There is nothing more satisfying than a shocking but brilliant plot twist that you simply cannot get over, even years after reading it. However, if you are a writer, you know that plot twists are not as easy to create as we would like. If you want to craft an incredible plot twist that will make your readers’ jaws drop, then check out the tips below.

Red Herrings and the Surprising yet Inevitable Plot Twist

What is a plot twist?

In a nutshell, a plot twist (and sometimes the climax and resolution) is something that turns the story upside down. However, when you look at the anatomy of the plot twist, you will see exactly how complex it is because it requires two essential elements to be a good plot twist: it must be surprising, yet inevitable.

Why should a plot twist be surprising yet inevitable?

This seems like a contradiction because how can something be a surprise if it is inevitable. But if you remove either of the elements, the answer is clear why both are necessary for plot twists. If the plot twist is inevitable (without being surprising), you will have known it was going to happen for most of the book, and you will want to smack the characters for their stupidity at not seeing the obvious twist coming. If the plot twist is surprising (without being inevitable), then it is too surprising. It feels like it has come out of nowhere like a deus ex machina.

How to make a plot twist surprising yet inevitable?

Now that we have covered why a plot twist must be two contradicting elements, we need to explore how to create such a difficult thing. One effective technique I have noticed repeatedly is the red herring, which is, in short, misdirection. The clues you leave that make the plot twist inevitable must have some other purpose in the story in order to misdirect the reader’s attention so the plot twist will be surprising. The clues could develop character, belong to another story line, be a joke, etc. In short, the clues that are really an indication of a plot twist must be disguised with some other purpose in the story. After a plot twist occurs, the reader should be able to think back on the story and recognize how all of these clues really came into play.

Example of a Plot Twist

A good example of a plot twist comes from Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 3 Episode 18: “Earshot.” To make a long story short, Buffy gets a demon infection that allows her to read minds. She hears someone think of how they will kill everyone at school the next day, but she doesn’t know who thinks it. Xander the goofball makes a dumb joke about how the lunch lady has had it in for them all for years, but all joking asides, Buffy’s friends need to find the potential killer before it is too late.

They interview several people who seem like the type who would kill, but a kid who works on the school newspaper keeps avoiding them. He must be the killer. But when they confront him, it turns out that he was avoiding them because he gave Oz’s band a bad review in the paper. We then see Jonathon, a reoccurring character who has been the butt of everyone’s jokes for the entire show. He is putting together a gun. Buffy finds Jonathon and manages to talk him out of killing everyone. To her surprise, Jonathon says that he had not been planning on killing everyone, but had been planning on committing suicide. We then go to the school cafeteria where Xander is trying to find some jello when he sees the lunch lady pouring a whole box of rat poison in a pot of soup.

This is a great example because it has several plot twists. We assumed the newspaper kid would be the killer because he was avoiding Buffy’s friends, but he was doing so because of the review of Oz’s band, making him a red herring. Jonathon as the killer was surprising because we had assumed it was the newspaper kid initially, yet inevitable because we knew he was a harassed loser so it made sense why he would crack and take his anger out on his fellow schoolmates. However, he too ended up being a red herring. In the end, Xander’s joke about the lunch lady (which we had all chalked up to Xander being Xander) ended up being the truth, making the plot twist surprising yet hilarious (and inevitable).

Book Review: Shatter by Nikki Trionfo

If you want to read a mystery where you don’t know which characters you can trust, and all of your suspicions change throughout the unending line of shocking reveals, then have I got a book for you. Shatter is written by Nikki Trionfo and published by Cedar Fort Publishing. In the midst of her sister’s death and the growing tension of the peach strike, Salem asks herself one question: was her sister’s death really an accident?

shatterblogtourbanner image via Cedar Fort
Image via Cedar Fort Publishing.

“Maybe Carrie was murdered. Maybe she wasn’t. Maybe I’ll never know. How can I live like that? My thought pattern loops tighter and tighter. I can’t live like that. She was my sister. I can’t wait forever, hoping the police or Dad will do something.

“I have to investigate.

“I have to find out for myself if Carrie’s death was more than just an accident.”

Summary

Salem’s sister, Carrie, died in a gas explosion. A few days later, the body of a union leader is found in their father’s orchard. From this moment on, Salem starts to question the possibilities of Carrie’s death. Was it really an accident, or was it dealt by the gang who tagged Carrie’s car before she died? Or did it have anything to do with the peach strike and the rising conflict between the peach growers and the union Carrie avidly supported. As Salem digs deeper and deeper into the mystery, she uncovers secrets that were meant to be kept and knowledge that will change her perspective on all the people she knows, including Carrie.

“Nothing is more impossible to accept than a random event with large consequences.”

Review—5 Stars

I received a digital copy of Shatter from Cedar Fort Publishing in exchange for my honest review.

In short, this book was phenomenal. This intense, thrilling mystery kept me gasping “What?!” throughout its entirety. It had numerous layers, and unveiling each one revealed a fantastic shock every time. I loved its complexity and the many secrets all of the intricate characters kept. Every aspect of this book is extremely enjoyable, and I couldn’t put it down as I tried to discover who killed Carrie.

“ ‘Violence is for the unimaginative,’ I translate.

“That’s exactly the kind of thing Carrie would say. She paid attention to things like that because she was imaginative. She had dreams. Dreams she can’t pursue anymore because one of the unimaginative, violent people she worked so hard to outsmart killed her.”

This brilliant book made you suspect every character and it escalated the conflict in unimaginable ways. I was fascinated by the tangle of conspiracies and plot twists it offered every step of the way. It keeps you guessing and guessing at who the killer is, but you won’t find out until the very end. Amazing book!

To see more reviews of Shatter, check it out on Goodreads, Amazon, or its Cedar Fort blog tour page.

Insomnia, Chocolate, and Other Fun Facts About Authors and Their Books

Behind every great story is another great story. However, these stories about the authors, how their books were initially received, and other interesting literary tidbits are not often known, so today I am going to share some of these fun facts about well-known authors and their books.

Insomnia, Chocolate, and Other Fun Facts About Authors and Their Books

  • Robert Louis Stevenson’s wife burned his first draft of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde because she didn’t like it, calling the story “nonsense.” Robert Louis Stevenson had to rewrite it.
  • It is believed that Shakespeare added over 1,700 words to the English language.
  • Washington Irving, author of Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, was an insomniac. How’s that for irony?
  • Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when poet Lord Byron proposed a ghost story contest among a group of friends.
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote his first Sherlock Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet, in only three weeks. He also ran a medical surgery during this time.
  • Authors Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe were neighbors when they lived in Hartford, Connecticut.
  • Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” was published in 1841 and is commonly recognized as the first modern detective story.
  • Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham was banned from China for portraying “early Marxism.”
  • Roald Dahl, author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, used to work for Cadbury after school taste testing their chocolates.

Do you know any more fun or interesting facts about authors and the books they wrote? If so, then share them in the comments below, on Facebook, or on Twitter.