The Books of Summer

With the return of The Game of Thrones to HBO, people are into the groove of summer viewing. I’d rather be reading, and I know plenty of people who would rather READ George R. R. Martin’s next installment for this series.


Still, the anticipation of the show reminded me that summer’s long days encourage reluctant readers to pick up a book and head to the porch (or patio or deck)

What I’m Reading

I’m always reading something. This year, I’ve challenged myself to read 150 books. At the time I wrote this, I had read 102 (actually more since a couple were collections but Goodreads only counts them as one).
Recently, my reading choices have expanded to include more women’s fiction and Christian romance. These are genres I’m trying to break into with my writing, and the best way to understand what works is to read the genre.
As part of the First Street Church Kindle World, I’ve been reading the original series and some of the spin-offs.


I’ve been beta reading for some of my author friends. In this case, one of the books was a new take on vampire origins. (I’m NOT a fan of vampires.) I was intrigued by the twist on this, but still wasn’t convinced that I would invest myself in an entire series about them.
For my online book club, I read The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster for July. It sounded intriguing, but I had a hard time engaging with it.
On audiobook, I listened to a YA fantasy series from Tamora Pierce while cleaning, crocheting and coloring. (I love being able to multi-task.)
The second book in the Spellsmith & Carver series releases on July 31 (TODAY), and I’m excited to read it. I read Coiled by this author (H.L. Burke) earlier in the summer and couldn’t put it down. If you’re looking for a fairy tale retelling…pick this up.

What I’m Writing

I’ve written the final installment for my Virtual Match romance series.
The first draft of my debut into both Christian romance and Kindle Worlds has been wrapped. I’ll be rewriting it and getting it out to beta readers. I have until September 7 to get a copy to my editor.
My next writing project will probably be a short story I’m submitting for an anthology my publisher is putting out in 2018.
After that, things are up in the air. Once I know how my manuscripts are received at the Oregon Christian Writers Conference, I’ll know if I’m going to work on another women’s fiction story.
I will finish writing Through the Valley of Shadows, the grief memoir that’s been in and out of my queue for several years. I’ve decided to pursue indie publishing for it if I can’t get an agent to contract it.
Some books fill a hole in the market, and that’s how I see this book. Everyone will grieve (at multiple times in life) and the idea of mourning in a healthy way for as long as it takes isn’t highly promoted in Western society.

What I’m Wishing For

I’m not much for paranormal romances…most of the time. Maybe it’s because I forced myself to read the Twilight series so I could discuss it with my students. So if there are vampires and werewolves? I’ll pass.
So color me shocked when I downloaded the first book in Melissa Haag’s Judgement of the Six young adult paranormal romance series a couple years ago.
To date, Hope(less) the first book, is still my favorite and Clay and Gabby are my favorite couple.
I love the integration of a society existing in our own world. It’s well-crafted and believable. For some time, I wondered if bulky blond men on motorcycles were actually werewolves.
Just as Stephanie Meyer created her own vampire history, Haag has given the wolves an interesting backstory. By starting with a skeptical character in the first book, she had a chance to show us the two sides of werewolves. Later we saw the “dark side” generally meant they were a different species.

What?

And each human girl that is the central character in the book has a special gift. Because truly she is something called a Judgement. Six women are born in a 100-year cycle and if all of them unite, they get to make a judgment.
Haag has kept us in the dark about all this entails. But there is one group of wolves trying to round up the girls and mate them with their kind so they can control the judgment.
The final book, Sur(real), doesn’t release until November, but I’m ready for it now. This year I intend on re-reading the entire series in the weeks leading up to the release.
If you haven’t read this series, check out the first book for free. I promise you’ll get hooked.
What books are you reading, writing or wishing for this summer?

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Clay’s Hope a Companion to Hope(less) by Melissa Haag

I’ve read the entire Judgment of Six series (four books) without coming up for air. Well, except when I had to wait for a new book to be released.

I’m still waiting for Isabelle’s story – and to find out how the six special human girls are going to stop the bad guys. I’m sure their werewolf boyfriends will be involved somehow.

Clay’s Hope tells the same story as Hope(less). I wasn’t sure how I would feel about revisiting the first installment of the Six series – even though it has been my favorite one of the books.

And most of that has to do with Clay – his persistence to win Gabby at any cost. And then to protect her even before she admits she’s falling in love with him.

What I enjoyed

Romance packs a punch when both parties involved offer their perspective. One thing I feel is lacking in the Judgment of Six series is the man’s point of view. Getting inside the guy’s head adds tension and ups the intensity of the passion.

In fact, I liked imagining Gabby’s responses as I read Clay’s story. It was easier for me to do this than it had been to guess at Clay’s feelings while reading Gabby’s story.

Most of what Gabby assumed Clay was thinking and feeling was totally off base. That made me smile more times than I can count.

Clay wears his wolf skin for much of the book. It was interesting to get inside that head. After all, he wasn’t a pet, but Rachel treated him like one. And he didn’t care for that. I wouldn’t either.

I didn’t feel as much sexual tension in this book, which is good since it is marketed as a Young Adult Urban Fantasy. Gabby and Clay have the chastest relationship in this series, so I would recommend it to younger readers.

I’ve had a crush on Clay since reading the first book. He is the epitome of the strong, silent type of man, and it was interesting to really get to know him.

By the way, he isn’t as easy going as you might have first suspected.

It was good to see how he pursued Gabby in those hours when he wore his human skin and worked at the auto shop, went shopping, fixed things and cooked for her. He wanted to be the man she needed – and that’s very romantic.

What I wasn’t so keen about

I know Ms. Haag wants to tell all the boys’ stories using these companion books. I think they are slated to be novellas. I wasn’t all that thrilled to revisit the same story – even though it was from a different perspective.

Romances are best when we see both sides. For that reason, I think she should have sprinkled alternating chapters from the man’s perspective in the Judgment books. When she repeats the story line, I feel like I’m paying for the same story twice (of course, when the companion only costs 99 cents, that’s not a huge burden).

I laughed out loud and devoured this book in mere hours. I truly enjoyed it. It would have been even better if I could have read it alongside Gabby’s story.

My recommendation

If you have read Hope(less), don’t reread it before picking up Clay’s story. I almost did this, and after reading Clay’s Hope in a single day, I’m glad I viewed it through fresh eyes.

I know this sounds like I’m contradicting what I said earlier. The original story would have been more intense if both viewpoints were included. To understand what’s happening in the overall story, you only need to read either Clay’s Hope or Hope(less).

If you are crushing on Clay (like me), you should definitely read this story. It will give you a clearer picture of who he was. However, if you like the mystery man you got to know in Hope(less), he will be replaced by the real Clay after you read this story.

Consider yourself warned.

Judgment of the Six: (Un)Bidden

unbidden_ebookI discovered two series earlier this year that had several books in them. I devoured both of them and was eagerly awaiting the next book in both. Melissa Haag released her fourth book just to quench my thirst.

Or maybe it isn’t just about me. Either way, I happily pre-ordered the book, anxious to see what happens next in the series.

The Blurb

“I left home because I didn’t want to end up in a cage like a lab rat. Hitching rides, begging for cash, and sleeping on the ground got old fast. That was the only reason I braved an overgrown path to a group of buildings. I’d hoped to find a bed and a decent night’s sleep. However, what I found was a place overrun by werewolves.

While on the run, Charlene finds herself surrounded by werewolves, creatures she can’t control with her mind like she can humans. Their existence has her believing she’s found a safe place to stay, a place where secrets are okay. However, she soon discovers she’s anything but safe. Charlene must learn how to use her abilities to influence the strange new species because if she can’t, the next bite she suffers might just kill her.”

The Good News

If you haven’t started reading this series, I suggest starting with book four (Un)Bidden. Aside from the first and last scenes, the book happens prior to the rest of the series.

In this book, we finally learn what Charlene’s special gift is and how she might fit into the bigger picture. Most importantly to me, we discover more about the origin of Thomas’ pack and the compound which is central in all of the books.

As with the other books, this story hits the ground running. Charlene is another teenager with inexplicable powers. Her reason for running, however, it different from that of most of the other girls.

All of that comes to light in this book. We learn how the Urbat discovered the new cycle was underway.

The Bad News

If you have been biting your nails to learn how they find Peace and unite against the Urbat, you won’t learn that in this book. I admit, I was disappointed that the story didn’t move forward in time from where we left it at the end of book three.

For about three chapters. After that, I was totally immersed in Charlene’s story and wondered how things would ever work out.

The bad news is we have to wait until early in 2015 to find out about Peace and how the story moves forward.

My Recommendation

If you haven’t read this series, start with book four. Ignore the first and last scenes until after you read the other books because you won’t know any of the people mentioned.

Enjoy starting at the beginning, with Charlene. I think you will appreciate the other books much more in this order.

My favorite book in the series is still Book One Hope(less). I have enjoyed all of them, though, but the way the romance developed in the first book is my favorite. After that, this fourth book ranks second.

In the other two books, the women are under so much duress because they’re fleeing the Urbat. It makes the romantic element take on a fervor that doesn’t ring as true with me. Exciting, yes. Realistic, maybe not. A lasting love, I doubt it.

Melissa Haag tells exceptional stories. If you like paranormal romance, you will want to read this. If you are a member of “Team Jacob,” you will find these wolves even more appealing.

Buy this book. Read it. Then go back and read the rest of the Judgement of Six series: Hope(less), (Mis)fortune and (Un)wise.

(Un) Bidden by Melissa Haag

I am not a huge fan of vampire or werewolf stories. I loved the first book in this series and decided to invest in the whole thing. I will post my own complete review on this blog next week.  My Amazon and Goodreads reviews are already live.

Without further ado, I give you Book 4 in the Judgments of the Six series!

 

I left home because I didn’t want to end up in a cage like a lab rat. Hitching rides, begging for cash, and sleeping on the ground got old fast. That was the only reason I braved an overgrown path to a group of buildings. I’d hoped to find a bed and a decent night’s sleep. However, what I found was a place overrun by werewolves.

While on the run, Charlene finds herself surrounded by werewolves, creatures she can’t control with her mind like she can humans. Their existence has her believing she’s found a safe place to stay, a place where secrets are okay. However, she soon discovers she’s anything but safe. Charlene must learn how to use her abilities to influence the strange new species because if she can’t, the next bite she suffers might just kill her.

Read how the cycle begins, and have no doubt. Charlene’s past will shape the future of the Judgements.

BUY IT ON AMAZON: http://bit.ly/UnBiddenAM

Have you read the first book, Hope(less), in the series? It’s currently FREE!

Gabby’s brain is like a human fish finder. It comes in handy when she wants to avoid people. Mostly men. They seem to like her a bit too much. It’s lonely being different, but she’s adapted to it. Really. She just wishes she knew why she is different, though.

In her search for answers, she discovers a hidden community of werewolves. She immerses herself in their culture, learning about their world until she meets Clay. He’s unkempt, prone to mood swings, intense without saying a word, and he thinks Gabby is his.

It’s going to take every trick she knows to convince Clay to go away, and every bit of willpower not to fall for him when she discovers the man beneath the rough exterior.

Delve into a riveting world of werewolves and young women with unexplained abilities, in Hope(less).

BUY IT AT:

Amazon: http://bit.ly/HopelessAm

B&N: http://bit.ly/HopelessBN

Kobo: http://bit.ly/HopelessKobo

Smashwords: http://bit.ly/HopelessSW

iTunes: http://bit.ly/HopelessiT

~*~ABOUT THE AUTHOR~*~

Melissa Haag currently resides in Wisconsin with her husband and three children. Touch is her first published novel. She is currently working on book five of a separate six book series. To learn more about her upcoming projects, visit her at: http://melissahaag.com , and you can connect with her on: https://twitter.com/imagine2live & https://www.facebook.com/author.MelissaHaag