A Book That Is More Than It Seems: More Than This by Patrick Ness

More Than This, by Patrick Ness, is an interesting book. Indeed, by its title, you would think that there was more to the book than what it appears to be about. Or you might think that the main character would be seeking something more than the life he or she has been given. You might even think that the theme—the underlying story, if you will—is that we all need to recognize that there’s more to this life than what we think there is. If you read this book and thought any one of those things, you would be right…in a way. It’s a book that some would say is slow-moving and simplistic, the story of a teenage boy who wakes up in a place he’s not supposed to be who strives to make sense of his environment.  But you don’t have to think about it much to realize that its message is more than that, a deep message about life.

What Is More Than This About?

From Amazon:

Seth drowns, desperate and alone. But then he wakes. Naked, thirsty, starving. But alive. And where is he? The street seems familiar, but everything is abandoned, overgrown, covered in dust. He remembers dying, his skull bashed against the rocks. Has he woken up in his own personal hell? Is there more to this life, or perhaps this afterlife?

Who Would Like More Than This, And Why?

Anyone who likes good writing, the kind that sweeps you along like a gust of summer wind, the kind found in books like The Giver by Lois Lowry or If I Stay by Gayle Forman, will like More Than This.  If you’ve read The Knife of Never Letting Go, also by Patrick Ness, you’ll probably like More Than This too, although it’s a different kind of book. Know that there are sci-fi-ish elements like those in Ready Player One by Earnest Cline, and dystopian elements like in Nemesis by Brendan Reichs. I can’t tell you what they are because that would give away a good portion of the plot.

What’s The Deal?

You can get a used copy of More Than This through Thriftbooks.com for $4.89.

Nutrition Facts, Anyone?

Serving size: 480 pages (print), 5430 locations (ebook)

Swear words (d*, f*, sh*, g*d*): 70

Incidences of violence (suicide, murder, death): ~15

positive themes (familial effort & love, charity): ~7

negative themes (selfishness, criminality, meanness): 3-5 big ones

gay characters/mentions: 1 (m.c.)

other (mention of masturbation): 1



Favorite Quote


Lego Superman melting an iron chest with his laser vision, while Lego Batman and Lego Robin look on.

Lego Batman for the PS3: Game Review and Deal

I mentioned before that I’m all about the Lego video games, so today I’d like to tell you about Lego Batman for the PS3. Of all the platforms and consoles that we have (PS2, PS3, PS4, Xbox, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii, PC, Nintendo 64, Atari), I’ve enjoyed it for the sheer number of games available for it, the quality of those games, and its ease of use. I know it has its drawbacks, as any console does, but it’s worked well for me. There are 19 Lego games available for the PS3, and 3 Lego Batman games total. The first Lego Batman game came out on the PS2, and while I enjoyed it, it wasn’t as sophisticated as this version. Both Lego Batman 2 and 3 are available on the PS3 for good prices, and their gameplay is similar enough that I think my critique of 2 applies to 3 as well. They’re both super fun games that you can get for less than $15!

What Is Lego Batman 2 About?

From GameFAQS:

LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is an Action-Adventure game set within the Batman universe, and filled with LEGO versions of heroes and villains from the Batman comic series, working together/against those from the Justice League comic series.

It’s set in Gotham City and surrounding areas, and brings in not just Batman but 50 other characters from the DC universe. Some of those characters you get as you play through Story Mode, which is the first phase of game play in which you follow the story line of the game from beginning to end in 15 levels. The rest you get in Free Play Mode, the second phase in which you go through the story line again with freedom to switch between characters and explore more. Each character has different suits, abilities, and weapons, like wall-walking and freeze ray, so the more characters you acquire, the more you can do in the game.

Lego Batman and Lego Robin in the Batcave

Who Would Like Lego Batman 2, And Why?

Parent and kid duos: The game can be one- or two-player, so this would be a good game for a parent and kid to play through. The game’s rated E10+ for cartoon violence, but kids as young as 8ish will understand how to play the game. It has a split-screen that stays very close to each character, so if your kid decides to go off and explore, not caring about following the storyline or finding any collectibles, you as the parent will only have half a screen to play with, which might make you feel like you have blinders on. The split screen also slows down the frame rate some, but not enough to detract from the gameplay.

Lego Superman melting an iron chest with his laser vision, while Lego Batman and Lego Robin look on.

Fans of Batman: It’s fun to explore Gotham City as one of the Batman characters, and it’s a relatively good-sized hub from which all of the levels “branch off.”

Fans of RPGs: If you love going around completing quests and finding things, like me, you will love this game.

Fans of Lego video games in general…keeping in mind that you have to go through the entire world to find all the red bricks instead of them looking for them in the levels. This means that there aren’t as many fun puzzles and hidden rooms etc. as in other Lego games, so it’s not as “big,” but still plenty big enough to provide hours upon hours of enjoyment. It’s gameplay that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Also, the graphics weren’t as elaborate as some other Lego games, like Lego Lord of the Rings, but they were sufficient.

What’s The Deal?

You can get Lego Batman 2 for the PS3 for $14.99! New, not used! That’s such a good deal! It’s $19.99 on GameStop’s site, although you can get a pre-owned copy for $11.99.

Lego Lex Luthor trying to shoot Superman with a fancy laser gun. Wonder Woman gazing at Lex Luthor's tower, at night in front of a full moon.

The text "four ways to find more time to read" set over one picture of a bookshelf stuffed with books and two smaller pictures of people enjoying reading

Four Ways to Find More Time to Read

A while ago, I asked those of you that have a hard time finding the time, money, or wherewithal to read books why you have a hard time doing so. I genuinely want to understand why, and if I can and you want me to, help you. If I can help you find more time to read, make your book-buying money go farther, or increase your motivation to read, I feel like you’ll be able to enjoy life a little more. Let me address the time problem first, though. In my survey, the number one obstacle most respondents faced to reading was not having enough time. I often get asked how I find the time to read so many books given how busy my life is. My response is usually three-fold: I multi-task, read fast, and purposefully make time for something I enjoy. I suggest you take a similar approach, if you want to read more books (and you should, because they’re AWESOME!). Specifically:

  • Multi-task, which probably means you need to get Audible: You can read while you’re cleaning house, driving to and from work (i.e., without kids in the car), riding as a passenger to anywhere, exercising, and eating. Sometimes, when I’m cleaning house, I’ll have a printed or Kindle book in my hand. Other times, I’ll listen to audiobooks on Audible. It took me a while to warm up to the subscription audiobook service, but now that I’ve found ways to get the books I want through them, I love listening to audiobooks. It can really enhance my enjoyment of a book, especially if it’s well-narrated or particularly action-packed. If you sign up for the free trial, making sure to download the app on your phone, you get two free audiobooks of your choice and then, after 30 days, you pay $14.95 a month (I have mine set on auto-pay) for one audio book, with 30% off any additional audiobooks you wish to purchase during that month. You can cancel at any time, and if you do, you keep the audiobooks you bought. Since audiobooks can easily cost upwards of $25 each, I consider $14.95 a month a good deal. And it generally takes me about 3 – 4 weeks to listen my way through a book. If you can get audiobooks through your library’s Overdrive app, I suggest that too.
  • Read faster: Reading’s not fun if you feel like you’re plodding through a book, if you’re interrupted frequently, or if you have to keep rereading certain parts to understand them. If you increase your reading speed, you can fit more reading into what time you already do have. Try this exercise to train yourself to read better faster.
  • Purposefully make time for something you enjoy: This answer’s a bit more complicated because there’s a lot that goes into “purposefully” doing something and defining something you enjoy. Of the survey respondents who didn’t find lack of time to be their biggest obstacle to reading, many said they either thought it was “a waste of time” or seemed pointless if they could watch a movie, binge-watch Netflix, or do stuff outside. I enjoy an active lifestyle with my family, boating, dirt biking, fishing, and camping; there’s usually a long drive, though, to get to the places that we do those things, and those long, boring drives are when I read. I like some movies (obviously, because I talk about them on my blog), but I don’t watch a lot of Netflix and very little of regular TV. It’s a question of priorities. I enjoy escaping to fictional worlds and using my imagination more than I enjoy flipping channels or fighting with my husband for control of the remote.
  • Seek custom book recommendations: If you don’t think you can find books you like anywhere, trust me when I guarantee that there is a book out there for everyone. If fiction isn’t your thing, there are plenty of non-fiction how-to, memoir, or information books to choose from. If you want to understand more about human nature or historical events, there are lots of books I can recommend. This post provides several ideas for getting custom book recommendations that can be modified for any genre.


If there are any obstacles to reading that you face that I haven’t addressed here, let me know and I’ll help you! If you find the right book(s), reading can enhance your enjoyment of life in a way that no other medium can.

What are some other things that prevent you from reading?

"The One Memory of Flora Banks" in big blue letters over a cloudy gray background

The One Memory of Flora Banks: Book Review & Deal

“I kissed this man on the beach. I know I did. I know it because it is still in my head. I have to get to him. He will save me.” So says Flora Banks, the main character in The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr. That one line summarizes the entire plot. The book is a look inside the mind of a girl with anterograde amnesia, whose short-term memory was destroyed during brain surgery to remove a tumor a few years prior to the beginning of the story. Her best friend’s boyfriend kisses her at the start, and that, of all memories, is the one that sticks, and she spends the rest of the book chasing it. It makes for an interesting read.

What  IsThe One Memory of Flora Banks About?

Here’s Amazon’s summary:

Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora’s fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So, when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world—in Svalbard, Norway—Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life. But will following Drake be the key to unlocking Flora’s memory? Or will the journey reveal that nothing is quite as it seems?

What’s The Deal?

BetterWorldBooks.com has a deal going on Pathfinder for $3.68, with free shipping.

Who Would Like The One Memory, And Why?

I read it because I was looking for a title to compare my YA amnesia book to in query letters to agents. Turns out, this book and mine are not similar at all. If you happen to be writing an amnesia book too, then read this. On the other hand, if you’re not a writer, but are just looking for an interesting YA read, then read this. If I had to pick a genre for it, it’d be contemporary YA because there are no fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal, or historical elements.

Note: there are two affiliate links in this post, both to vendors of the books. This means that I get a small amount of money if you click on one of them to buy the book. This money helps me provide more book, video game, and movie reviews and deals for you guys. I only provide affiliate links to products that I’ve read/played/watched and think others will enjoy.

Ant Man character, plus six supporting characters, staring off-screen on top of a red and yellow stripe, with "Ant Man & The Wasp" across the bottom

Ant Man & The Wasp: Movie Review and Deal

Last Tuesday, me, my husband Bruce, and my two kids went to see Ant Man & The Wasp at a local independent theater called the Water Gardens. I loved both the movie and the deal we got on tickets for this first-run, awesome show! First off, though, I have to warn you of the awesomeness of the pictures of us I took at the theater:

Four people standing in front of the Water Gardens movie theater in Pleasant Grove, Utah., waiting for Ant Man & The Wasp to start.
Aren’t we so photogenic?

Three people in candid poses outside a movie theater, waiting to see Ant Man & The Wasp

What’s Ant Man & The Wasp About?

From IMDB:

As Scott Lang balances being both a Super Hero and a father, Hope van Dyne and Dr. Hank Pym present an urgent new mission that finds the Ant-Man fighting alongside The Wasp to uncover secrets from their past.

Ant Man Review

First off, none of us had seen the first Ant Man movie before seeing this one. While it would have helped us understand the motivations of the characters a little more, it didn’t hamper our enjoyment of this movie. It managed to be both a wonderful visual spectacle, a very funny (like rolling-on-the-floor funny), and action-packed flick, with a touch of emotion. Paul Rudd is the perfect guy to play Scott Lang/Ant Man and Evangeline Lily’s character played his perfect counterbalance. The supporting cast members–primarily Michael Douglas, Michael Pena, and Michelle Pfeiffer–were awesome. For Michael Pena, who I last saw as an astronaut in The Martian, this was quite a different role, but one that he seemed to fit into like a hand fits into a glove. Five stars.

Ant Man character, plus six supporting characters, staring off-screen on top of a red and yellow stripe, with "Ant Man & The Wasp" across the bottom

What’s The Deal?

If you go to the Water Gardens Theater in Pleasant Grove, Utah on a Tuesday, you can get tickets to first-run movies for $5. Five dollars, people. Included with every ticket is a free soda and small popcorn. And the snacks don’t cost more than $3. Ever. You cannot pass that up!

Nutrition Facts, Anyone?

Because it’s a new movie, a transcript is not yet available from which I can get exact counts for profanity, etc., but it is rated PG-13. In my opinion, it’s closer to PG than it is to R because there’s no nudity, some language, and a good amount of violence but no gore. There’s also a strong family message.

A young woman in a feathery, light-blue ball gown stands in front of a multi-faceted mirror behind the words "The Selection by Kiera Cass"

Book Review & Deal: The Selection, A Delightful Read

Finally I know why people rave about The Selection series by Kiera Cass! I’ve heard people talking about it for years, and finally decided to get it when I saw that the Kindle version of the first book was on sale for $2.99. I finished it in a few days, then immediately bought the second book in the series, read it in two days, bought the third, and read it in 1 1/2. Altogether, they were delightful reads, with a purely lovable main character and a compelling storyline, and while the first one’s no longer on sale on Amazon, it’s only $3.99 on BetterWorldBooks.com!

What Is The Selection About?











From Amazon:

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. [It’s] the opportunity to escape a rigid caste system, live in a palace, and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon. But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her, and competing for a crown she doesn’t want. Then America meets Prince Maxon—and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

It’s dystopian, in the same sense that Dreamstrider by Lindsay Smith and Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi are:  set in a far future where America and the other countries of the world no longer exist as we know them, but as new countries with different names, governments, and alliances. America Singer is the main character, a 17-year-old girl named after a country that no longer exists and part of a society ruled by a monarchy and bound by its caste system. She likes her humble life, but can’t pass up on the opportunity to be part of The Selection, even though she hates it, because it will mean more money for her family and a path out of poverty. The whole series follows her transition from the “life she always dreamed of” to the “future she never imagined.”

Who Will Like The Selection, And Why?

Obviously anyone who likes dystopian and the books I mentioned above will like this series. It’s also been compared to Divergent by Veronica Roth, and that comparison is apt. This book isn’t as bleak as those books or others in the genre, although there’s still violence. Because it involves a monarchy, it has more of a Dark Breaks the Dawn is like The Selection by Kiera Cass because of its dystopian setting. Dark Break The Dawn's cover is black with a swan-like white and purple crown hovering over "Dark Breaks the Dawn"speculative feel along the lines of Dark Breaks The Dawn by Sara B. Larson.

What’s the Deal?

There’s a used copy available from BetterWorldBooks.com for $3.98 with free shipping. Grab it now!

Sum Up the Book in One Visual?

This sums up America:


Nutrition Facts, Anyone?

swear words (d*, f*, sh*, g*d*, h*): 13

incidences of nudity: 0

positive themes (familial love, honesty, striving for improvement): 3

negative themes (greed, power-hunger): 2

incidences of violence: ~2


Have you read The Selection? What did you think?

Big white letters "Us Against You" against the backdrop of a small town's bluish-purple night sky

Book Review & Deal: Us Against You, A Blunt But True Classic On Sale On Audible

I find myself in the very odd position of highly recommending a book I didn’t particularly like. Fredrik Backman’s Us Against You is the sequel to a book called Beartown, and one of several that Backman has written since  his New York Times Bestseller A Man Called Ove came out. It’s about the struggle fought by the residents of Beartown to deal with the traumatic consequences of a rape committed by one of their own against one of their own, under the guise of hockey as their common language. It’s rough and blunt, full of profanity, examples of how poorly most people deal with difficult things, and about how about how we’re oftentimes worse when we get in crowds. But the truths it shares about human nature are so spot-on and evocatively written that one can’t help but say to one’s self: “Once again, Fredrik Backman has put his finger on the pulse of humanity!” So, if you don’t mind the profanity and rough dialogue like I did, you will love this book, especially at 30% off the cover price.

Big white letters "Us Against You" against the backdrop of a small town's bluish-purple night sky

What Is Us Against You About?

From Goodreads:

After everything that the citizens of Beartown have gone through, they are struck yet another blow when they hear that their beloved local hockey team will soon be disbanded. What makes it worse is the obvious satisfaction that all the former Beartown players, who now play for a rival team in Hed, take in that fact. Amidst the mounting tension between the two rivals, a surprising newcomer is handpicked to be Beartown’s new hockey coach. Soon a new team starts to take shape around Amat, the fastest player you’ll ever see; Benji, the intense lone wolf; and Vidar, a born-to-be-bad troublemaker. But bringing this team together proves to be a challenge as old bonds are broken, new ones are formed, and the enmity with Hed grows more and more acute.

As the big match approaches, the not-so-innocent pranks and incidents between the communities pile up and their mutual contempt grows deeper. By the time the last game is finally played, a resident of Beartown will be dead, and the people of both towns will be forced to wonder if, after all they’ve been through, the game they love can ever return to something simple and innocent.

a hockey player in a white and blue uniform pushes a puck across the ice, while a hockey player in a green and yellow uniform stumbles behind himIt sounds relatively benign and easy to understand, but it’s not, for a couple of reasons: 1) it’s told in a train-of-thought style, skipping around between the perspectives of several townspeople. There’s Maya, who’s recovering from an incident of rape that happened to her at the end of Beartown. There’s Peter, Maya’s dad and the coach of the hockey team, being led by a local politician with unknown motives, and then replaced by an out-of-town female coach. There’s Kira, Peter’s wife and Maya’s dad, who, like her husband, doesn’t know how to help Maya heal and is wrapped up in her own struggle of supporting her husband in his hockey identity while also trying to carve an identity of her own. There’s Benji, Ramona the Barkeeper, Ana the daughter of a drunkard and best friend of Maya, among others. 2)There is no one main character. This device, while brilliant on the one hand because it puts the truths Backman tells at center stage, makes it hard to connect with any one character, as most readers are wont to do.

But those truths! Here are a few:

“Fatima loved the people here because they didn’t try to pretend that the world was uncomplicated. Life is tough, it hurts, and people admitted that. But then they grinned and said: “What the h*? It’s supposed to be hard. Otherwise every bugger in the big cities would be able to do it!”

“Everyone wants to get paid, the only difference between us is the preferred currency.”

“What is a marriage if you take away the infatuation? A negotiation. Dear Lord, it’s hard enough for two people to agree what television programme to watch, let alone fashion an entire life together. Someone has to sacrifice something.”

“If you live with the same person for long enough, you often discover that although you may have had a hundred conflicts at the start of the relationship, in the end you only have one. You keep slipping into the same argument, albeit in different guises.”

“It’s hard to care about people. Exhausting, in fact, because empathy is a complicated thing. It requires us to accept that everyone else’s lives are also going on the whole time. We have no pause button for when everything gets too much for us to deal with, but then neither does anyone else.”

“Anyone who feels responsibility isn’t free…”

“A lack of respect is like sparks in a summer forest: if you don’t trample on them at once, the fire spreads until you find yourself surrounded.”

“Anxiety. It’s such a peculiar thing. Almost everyone knows that it feels like, yet none of us can describe it…. It’s an invisible ruler.”

Who Would Like Us Against You, And Why?

If you liked A Man Called Ove, you’ll probably like this book too, although it has a very different feel. It reminds me of many of John Steinbeck’s books, moody, stylized, and narrative heavy (little “action,” some dialogue, a lot of showing people living their lives).

What Is The Deal?

If you buy the audiobook from Audible (a service I HIGHLY recommend), you can get it for $20.95 (or 1 credit, if you’ve got the monthly subscription thing). That’s a good deal for an audio book, which often cost a minimum of $25.

Nutrition Facts, Anyone?:*

profanity (d*, f*, s*, h*, g*d*, f*g): 201

crude words (i.e., cock): 22

incidences of nudity: 1

incidences of cruelty: 2+

gay relationships: 1 (between an adult and a minor)

allusions to masturbation and petting: 2

positive relationships (formal and/or involving commitment, effort, love) or themes (hard work, love, trying to make people happy, charity): 3

negative relationships or themes: 6


Note: This post contains an affiliate link, which means I receive a small amount of money if you follow the deal link, at no extra cost to you. I only review and provide deals on books I think are worth reading.

*These numbers are not guaranteed to be accurate. In fact, please correct me if I’m wrong.

Book Review & Deal: Lost Years of Merlin, For $3.46

You know when you’re looking for a book to capture your kids’ imagination, or find one that’ll make them realize that they actually like to read? Maybe you make your kids keep their brain’s active during the summer, like me, or you have a child that’s a voracious reader and are struggling to keep up with their demand for books. Or maybe you’re an adult looking for a fanciful read yourself. For all of you, I recommend Merlin: The Lost Years, Book 1 by T.A. Barron. It’s one of those books that is just fanciful enough to enchant even the most recalcitrant reader, but plenty fanciful for those who like a good escape. I read it for the first time as an adult a few years ago, and enjoyed it alot. Merlin: The Lost Years, Book 1 is a great book for which I found a great deal.

What Is Merlin, The Lost Years About?

From Goodreads:

A raging sea tosses a boy upon the shores of ancient Wales. Left for dead, he has no memory, no name, and no home. But it is his determination to find out who he is – to learn the truth about his mysterious powers – that leads him to a strange and enchanted land. And it is there he discovers that the fate of this land and his personal quest are strangely entwined. He is destined to become the greatest wizard of all time–known to all as Merlin.

Who Would Like The Lost Years And Why?

The Lost Years reminds me slightly me Penric’s Demon by Louis McMaster Bujold, as well as The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge. They’re mysterious, rural, a little bit moody, with young protagonists. It also shares a lot of elements with The Dark Is Rising series by Susan Cooper, which I also highly recommend; it’s about kids on a quest that brings them in touch with ancient powers. If you or your kids like “quest” books (think 39 Clues), books about kids with powers, or books set in wild, old England, you’ll like this book. There are seven books in the series, mind you, so if you get started with one, you’ll probably have to read the rest.

What’s The Deal?

If you buy The Lost Years from Amazon, it’s $7.10 to $8.99, depending on whether you want a Kindle or paperback copy. BetterWorldBooks.com has a copy, however, for $3.46 with free shipping. That’s a $3.62 difference.


fists over a desk joined in solidarity critique groups

Should You Join a Critique Group? By All Means, Yes! Here’s Why…

Any book or post on the craft of writing worth its salt will tell you to find a writers group to be a part of if you want to be a serious writer. Most recommend critique groups in particular, which are small groups of writers that read each other’s works and provide feedback in regular meetings either on- or off-line. When I was a novice writer, I spurned this advice, worried that others writers would either laugh at or steal my words. I have learned over the years, though, how truly helpful a critique group can be, and highly recommend them to other writers.

Indeed, Beth Revis, author of Across the Universe and one of my favorite writers, said, in her Paper Hearts Workbook: “Writing is often lonely, but revising rarely is; critique partners…can bring your work to the next level.” One wonders how? What is it about feedback from a group of strangers that can take your writing to the next level? Let me tell you why critique groups are such a good idea:

  • They can spot glaring inconsistencies and holes. What’s better, though, is to cultivate friendships with fellow writers that you’ve met in real life at least once, and get feedback from them. What’s ideal is to form a group of several writers in the genre you write in who are all friends. One of my critique groups has followed one of my books through a couple of revisions. They’re familiar with the story and want to help it and me reach our full potentials. No matter how many times you edit and revise your own work, critique group members will have a better, more removed perspective on your book, and, if they’re good critiquers, will be able to catch the vision you have for your book and help you envision specific techniques to use and ways to get there.
  • A critique group member will read your book bit-by-bit, chapter-by-chapter perhaps, until he or she has read the whole thing. If you’re in the process of writing or revising a book, this is wonderful and much preferable to having a beta reader read your whole manuscript once it’s done because critique group members can help you hone the conflict, develop your voice, and strengthen the plot as you write, which is better than having to scrap tens of thousands of sub-optimal work once you’re finished.
  • If you’re at the point where you want to set word-count or other goals, it makes a difference if you have someone to tell whether or not you reach those goals. They are accountability partners.
  • As with almost everything else, networking improves your chances of success.

My Critique Group Experience

I didn’t start looking for a good critique group until about a year and a half ago, even though I’ve been writing full-length fiction in earnest for five years and have three finished manuscripts under my belt. I joined a writers group four or five years ago, but it was hard to find a core group of writers that came consistently to the twice-monthly critique meetings and understood the tropes of my genre. Through that writers group, though, I learned of a local writers’ conference called Storymakers. I started attending that every year and joined its Facebook group, which is where I met the wonderful women who would become the members of what I call my “Highland critique group.” They’re now helping me go through Forced with a fine tooth comb, which I’m loving. That book was the first one I ever wrote. It’s been through six drafts, and queried 51 times. I was wondering if I should give up on it, but couldn’t quite let it go. I’d read similar published books and think “my book has elements of this” or chatted with agents on Twitter whose #manuscriptwishlist matched Forced almost exactly. It’s getting so much stronger as I go through it a sixth time with that group.

My other critique group, one that meets weekly on-line, is helping me tweak Stranger In My Own Head. I met them one of the members of that group in the writers group I joined years ago, and another at a recent conference I went to for writers of science fiction and fantasy, called Futurescapes.

Where Can You Find Good Critique Groups?

Chuck Sambochino of Writers’ Digest suggests:

  • Go where other writers go. Join a professional writing organization such as SCBWI.
  • Attend retreats and conferences.
  • Browse book festivals.
  • Hang out at bookstores.


To that I would add:

  • post a notice on the bulletin board or website of your local library
  • search for critique groups by genre or location in Facebook
  • search for critique groups by genre in Reddit


If you’re part of a critique group, how did you find it? What do you think about critique groups?

Girl in blue ball gown stands over a 12-point compass embedded in a tile floor, by the words of the title: "The Conspiracy of Us" in white script

Book Review & Deal: Conspiracy of Us, A Fast-Paced Read

I walked into my local library a couple of weeks ago and saw a book on display–one of those “book of the week” displays–called Ends of the World. It had a beautiful  rich purple cover with a girl in a ball gown. I started reading the back blurb, and was instantly hooked…until I realized that it was the third in a trilogy. I was intrigued enough, though, that when I got home, I looked up the first book in the series, The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall, to see if it sounded as appealing as the third book did, and if I could find a good deal on it. Although I suppose I could’ve probably checked the library’s database to see if they had all three books, where would the fun have been in that? The Conspiracy of Us, which I found for $6.98 on Amazon, turned out to similar in a lot of ways to Truth Seer, which I just reviewed, but more edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting, and emotional. It’s a YA DaVinci Code!

What is The Conspiracy of Us About?

Girl in blue ball gown stands over a 12-point compass embedded in a tile floor, by the words of the title: "The Conspiracy of Us" in white script

From Goodreads:

Avery West’s newfound family can shut down Prada when they want to shop in peace, and can just as easily order a bombing when they want to start a war. Part of a powerful and dangerous secret society called the Circle, they believe Avery is the key to an ancient prophecy. Some want to use her as a pawn. Some want her dead.
To unravel the mystery putting her life in danger, Avery must follow a trail of clues from the monuments of Paris to the back alleys of Istanbul with two boys who work for the Circle — beautiful, volatile Stellan and mysterious, magnetic Jack. But as the clues expose a stunning conspiracy that might plunge the world into World War 3, she discovers that both boys are hiding secrets of their own. Now she will have to choose not only between freedom and family — but between the boy who might help her save the world, and the one she’s falling in love with.

Who Would Like The Conspiracy of Us, And Why?

Anyone who likes mystery such as that found in Conjured by Sarah Durst, will love this book. If you liked the love triangle in Twilight, you’ll definitely like it, because it has one of those too. If you like fast-but-well-paced books with plots that build as inexorably and swiftly as pyroplastic clouds, as opposed to plots that constantly build and then slump over and over again, you’ll like Conspiracy of Us.

What’s The Deal?

There’s a site called BetterWorldBooks.com that sells both new and used copies of books, and there’s a used copy in very good condition (which basically means it’s pretty much new), for $3.98 with free shipping.