Review, Author Interview, & GIVEAWAY: The Whys Have It by Amy Matayo

Today is a happy day because I get to share my thoughts on author Amy Matayo’s new indie release, The Whys Have It, along with a fabulous interview she took the time to do, AND a GIVEAWAY of a signed copy of this book (US only).

What makes this even more fun, for me, is knowing Amy Matayo is a local author, of sorts. I didn’t know this for a while, but thanks to social media (high-five!), I discovered Amy lives in a city not too far from me in the northwest corner of Arkansas. (Someday I plan to stalk her and meet her in person). Anyway, the setting of this book is also a city I go to at least a few times a year: Springfield, Missouri. I can attest that the feel of the setting Amy portrays is accurate…. from the June heat to the crazy storms, I loved the familiar feel of it.

Now, on to more about The Whys Have It…..

About the Book

“His music holds the heart of America…but his soul holds a terrible secret.” 

The Whys Have ItChart topping pop musician Cory Minor has it all—fame, money, more women at his disposal than time to spend on them. He’s living the life most American men only dream of. Until an ordinary concert in Springfield threatens to destroy everything he’s worked for. 

As he and his band leave the arena for his next show, Cory’s tour bus crashes into two teenage girls, killing one girl instantly and leaving the other barely clinging to life. Lawsuits are threatened, tabloids are talking, and Cory’s idyllic world falls apart. But what no one knows is that this scene is all too familiar. Because this isn’t the first accident Cory has caused. This isn’t the first time he’s destroyed someone else’s life to save his own. 

It’s just the first time he’s had to face it head on. 

Small town girl Samantha Dalton has no one—no mother, no father, and now no sister. She’s lost everything in a world that celebrates excess. So when Cory Minor shows up at her doorstep offering money and apologies, she turns him away too. You can’t lose what you don’t have, and she can’t take another letdown, especially not from someone who has managed to rip away all she had left. Samantha has been fine on her own for years, she’ll be fine now too. 

At least that’s what she tells herself. 

But Cory won’t leave. He’s persistent in the worst possible way. 

Will Cory’s determination to make things right pay off in the end, or will Sam keep pushing him away until there’s nothing left to fight for? How can two people learn to rely on each other when life keeps hurting them both? 

Review

AM - TWHI (8)Life is full of challenges. For Cory and Sam in The Whys Have It, life dealt them unfortunate tragedies and pain. Ironically, each of them chose to react in opposite ways: Sam, to forge ahead, sometimes in bitterness, even at the cost of her own happiness. Cory, to run away, try to dull the pain with vices, and give in to self-loathing. The contrast between these responses is brought to life in the dynamic of their unlikely friendship. They gradually learn from each other, realizing hope is really worth the risk and second chances are possible through forgiveness.

Amy Matayo’s style is brilliantly complex. She portrays the emotional turmoil of grief, the lingering shadows of regret, and the ache of loss in the most relatable of ways. A light of joy shines through it all for Cory and Sam, though, sometimes in a small moment of camaraderie or friendship, eventually growing into a romance. I liked how their relationship showed what it means to accept another person for who they are, disregarding expectations or what they might deserve because of mistakes.

AM - TWHI (5)I’m beginning to recognize Amy’s signature snarky sense of humor she pours into her novels. At times it’s laugh-out-loud sarcastic, at others it had Sam (and maybe me) blushing from the double entendré of Cory’s unfiltered flirting. 🙂

The Whys Have It cleverly sits on a blurred line between secular and Christian fiction. Just enough portrayal of faith and a belief in a higher purpose combined with just enough grittiness and candor to push me out of my reading “comfort zone”, so to speak. I believe this novel will have a broader appeal because of its relatable style and the way it handles subjects like grief, forgiveness and even romance with a raw honesty. If you’re a fan of contemporary drama/romance, indie Christian ficiton, or even new adult romance, this is one story not to be missed!

Thank you to Relz Author Support Services and the author for a complimentary review copy of this novel. This is my honest review.

Interview with the Author

What inspired you to write The Whys Have It?

Seven years ago something happened in my hometown. A local high school girl went to a concert and was killed in a car accident on the way home. The accident didn’t involve the musician, but he did make a statement the next day. His statement stuck with me; the sadness in his tone, the underlying sense of guilt in his words. He wasn’t at fault, but I began to wonder what might have happened if he had been more involved. It’s the way my brain works. I read something–even something small–and my mind begins to spin. Originally I planned to make it more like the actual events. Later I decided to separate the two out of respect. Hopefully I have done that.

What message or theme do you want to communicate to readers with this story?

That forgiving yourself is as important as forgiving others. That you can’t outrun your past, but you can stand in place and face your future. That mistakes don’t have to define you; it is possible to start over and make a new ending. And that you are worthy of love, always.

What was most challenging about writing this story?

That I don’t plot. It’s always my biggest obstacle, because almost everything is off the cuff. I wish I were more organized, but I’ve come to terms with it.

Which character was your favorite to write?

Cory, because he’s the guy. The men are always my favorite, because I relate to them the most and they are sooooo much easier.

Just for fun:

Do you have any hobbies?

Well, writing and reading are my number one and two. After that–and to relieve stress–I paint (walls and furniture because I have no artistic talent), and I have a zigsaw for woodworking. And I walk all over my neighborhood every night, which is totally not a hobby but it’s somehow one of mine.

If you could live in any other time period in history, which would it be and why?

I would live next door to Anne of Green Gables and we would be bosom friends. I’m going to Prince Edward Island with my daughter in a couple weeks for this reason. Maybe if I wish hard enough?

What are you currently reading?

FanGirl by Rainbow Rowell

About the Author

AmyMatayoAmy Matayo is an award winning author of The Wedding Game, Love Gone Wild, Sway, In Tune with Love, A Painted Summer, The End of the World, and The Thirteenth Chance. She graduated with barely passing grades from John Brown University with a degree in Journalism. But don’t feel sorry for her – she’s super proud of that degree and all the ways she hasn’t put it to good use.

She laughs often, cries easily, feels deeply, and loves hard. She lives in Arkansas with her husband and four kids and is working on her next novel.

Connect with Amy

Website | Twitter | Facebook

Giveaway

Now, on to the giveaway fine print! Giveaway is for one (1) signed paperback, U.S addresses only, please. Giveaway is open 1 week until 7/13/17, 11:59 pm. CT.

To enter, comment with a valid email address and answer this question: What is one of your favorite songs?

Review: “Unblemished” by Sara Ella

I would consider myself an occasional YA (or young adult) reader, enjoying the lighter side this genre can present or a rare “popular” series (in the dystopian sub-genre). I’m also a fan of fairytale-esque stories, whether they be retellings or stories with underlying themes similar to happily-ever-after adventures. When I read raving reviews for Booktuber and author Sara Ella’s debut, Unblemished, and heard it was a combination of a fantasy-fairytale adventure with a modern twist, I was eager to experience this story world for myself. Especially when a review opportunity presented itself. What I discovered surpassed my expectations, sweeping me away in Eliyana’s journey of discovery and her newfound world of mystery.

About the Book

Eliyana has always recoiled from her own reflection in the mirror. But what if that were only one Reflection—one world? What if another world existed where her blemish could become her strength?

Unblemished.jpgEliyana is used to the shadows. With a hideous birthmark covering half her face, she just hopes to graduate high school unscathed. That is, until Joshua hops a fence and changes her perspective. No one, aside from her mother, has ever treated her as normal. Maybe even beautiful. Because of Joshua, Eliyana finally begins to believe she could be loved.

But one night her mother doesn’t come home, and that’s when everything gets weird.

Now Joshua is her new, and rather reluctant, legal Guardian. Add a hooded stalker and a Central Park battle to the mix and you’ve gone from weird to otherworldly.

Eliyana soon finds herself in a world much larger and more complicated than she’s ever known. A world enslaved by a powerful and vile man. And Eliyana holds the answer to defeating him. How can an ordinary girl, a blemished girl, become a savior when she can’t even save herself?

Review

My first thought when I finished this book was WOW. I’m still stunned by the genius of this story and all its complexity. One of the many things that stood out to me was the way the setting was established throughout. At first, it is an authentic and real feeling New York City. As the story picks up pace, the “reflection world” is a place of clever design, utilizing urban elements of NYC and an enchanted-forest-world, if you will, to create a vast backdrop for all the scenes.

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I wish you all could see the hard copy of this book! It has a beautiful, pearl-like paper finish that just makes the purple “pop”.

Another thing I really loved was the symbolism of sacrifice and a good vs evil, dark vs light element. As the secrets of the power figures in the reflection world are revealed –and then, PLOT TWIST! — revealed a little more, a battle for every heart’s allegiance is clearly at the center. Though completely a fantasy story, it mirrors a spiritual battle and a grand design that allows for free will and the sacrifice of a savior figure. I noticed and appreciated subtle threads of Biblical truths (though not expressly said) which would make this story a great conversation starter and topic of God’s divine plan of redemption.

This story employs a bit of a love triangle, not usually my favorite device. BUT, it works very well because it builds more complexity into the story. Forces outside of El and the two leading love interest figures influence and manipulate the situation, too. The story wouldn’t be as cleverly complicated without the triangle because it raises deep questions of purpose and destiny. And, it left me with plenty of lingering questions and theories concerning the next book in the series! (If you’ve read the book, I’m #TeamKy. Let me know your choice in the comments!)

Unblemished is a story of beauty and brave actions, emphasizing that life is not about the surface, but the heart. Add to this message a plethora of pop culture and music references, a bit of sarcasm on Eliyana’s part, two opposite and fascinating possible love interests, controlling figures and mystery surrounding this new world, plus a few surprises and major plot twists, and you have a great start to promising series.

Thank you to Thomas Nelson Fiction Guild for the complimentary review copy. This review is my honest opinion.

To learn more about author Sara Ella, visit her WEBSITE.

What is your favorite YA novel? Or favorite fantasy? I’d love to hear your thoughts and recommendations! (And, if you’ve read this book, I’m ready to discuss!)

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Songs I’m Listening to Right Now (Audio Freebie)

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

This week’s topic is all about audio, or an audio freebie (music, audiobook, etc.). I’m choosing to veer from my random book musings a little to share some songs I’ve been listening to (some on repeat) recently. Without further ado, here are

10 songs I’m listening to right now

(ok, not right now, but lately)

1 & 2

from Of Dirt and Grace by Hillsong United

Say The Word and Here Now (Madness)

3

Live It Well by Switchfoot

4

Prince of Peace by Hillsong United

5

Ordinary Love by Ben Rector

6 & 7

from Hard Love by Needtobreathe

Testify and Clear

8

Come Alive (Dry Bones) by Lauren Daigle

9 & 10

Dawn and Within These Skies by Icelanders (actually instrumental/ambient music by Hillsong band member Dylan Thomas). You can only listen to them on musicbed.com (for free!).

Your turn!!!! What are YOU listening to on repeat? What’s on your current playlist? Do you like any of these songs/artists I’ve mentioned? I welcome your thoughts and comments!

Top Ten Tuesday: Music & Books (or, my favorite music from book to screen adaptations)

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

This week’s theme is books we’d give theme songs to or songs we wish were books. Well, I’m stretching it a bit and going with my favorite instrumental music from book adaptations. If music with no words is not usually your thing, I get it. I really do. But, trust me here, you might just be captivated by the emotion and beauty in some of these themes.

 

Top Instrumental Music from Book Adaptations

1. Poldark by Winston Graham – “Theme from Poldark” composed by Anne Dudley (BBC series)

2. Emma by Jane Austen – “Knightley’s Walk” composed by Samuel Sim (2009 BBC series)

3. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell – “Northbound Train” composed by Martin Phipps (2004 BBC series)

4. & 5. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen – “Mrs. Darcy” and “Leaving Netherfield” composed by Dario Marianelli (2005 Focus Features film)


6. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – “Orchard House” composed by Thomas Newman (1994 Columbia film)

7. The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper – “Main Title” composed by Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman (1992 Fox film)

8. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – “Tara’s Theme” composed by Max Steiner (1939 MGM film)

9. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen – “My Father’s Favorite” composed by Patrick Doyle (1995 Sony Film)

10. The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans – “The Rhythm of the Horse” composed by Thomas Newman (1998 Buena Vista film)

What are some of your favorite series/film themes or scores? Have you seen any of these? What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Wednesday Wonderings, [Christmas] edition 6

It’s another “Wednesday Wonderings” question! Wednesday Wonderings

‘Tis the season to be jolly…because this is the season we celebrate Christ’s birth. One of my favorite things about this season is Christmas music!!! It creates a background for memories each year, a reminder of what the season is really about. Whether it’s a song delighting in the joy of the season, the beauty of winter, the gift of Christ’s birth, or family coming home, it just makes me happy!

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[Something else that makes me happy…playing Christmas music]

Which brings me to my question….

What is your favorite Christmas song?

Here are just a few of my current favorites. (click title to listen on YouTube)

O Come, O Come & God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by MercyMe

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas by Kelly Clarkson

Winter Wind by The Piano Guys (It’s amazing the feelings these guys can convey without a single word)

Very Merry Christmas by Dave Barnes

The Wexford Carol by Trace Adkins

Christmastime Is Here by Matt Brouwer (I really like the piano intro on this one)

White Christmas by Michael Buble with Shania Twain (This one is just plain fun!)

Do you have an absolute favorite Christmas song? Please share in the comments! Maybe we can discover some new favorites.

Review: The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron

The debut novel The Butterfly and the Violin (“Hidden Masterpiece” series #1) by Kristy Cambron uncovers the story behind a painting of a young German girl during the Holocaust. It does this both through the eyes of Adele, the girl in Auschwitz, and through the story of a contemporary art gallery owner, Sera, searching for the painting.

In the world of reading, it’s common to come across stories told through multiple points of view, usually the viewpoints of 2-3 main characters. Sometimes a secondary character gets some story time, too. Rarely do you come across a story with more than one main character who lives in a different era. I can only think of one other book I’ve read (Karen Kingsbury’s Even Now) that features characters in different eras – – even that one could be considered “contemporary only”. This one by Kristy, though, is skillfully set in two eras — two genres, even — both contemporary and historical.The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron

Plot Summary

“Today.” Sera James spends most of her time arranging auctions for the art world’s elite clientele. When her search to uncover an original portrait of an unknown Holocaust victim leads her to William Hanover III, they learn that this painting is much more than it seems.

“Vienna, 1942.” Adele Von Bron has always known what was expected of her. As a prodigy of Vienna’s vast musical heritage, this concert violinist intends to carry on her family’s tradition and play with the Vienna Philharmonic. But when the Nazis learn that she helped smuggle Jews out of the city, Adele is taken from her promising future and thrust into the horrifying world of Auschwitz.

The veil of innocence is lifted to expose a shuddering presence of evil, and Adele realizes that her God-given gift is her only advantage; she must play. Becoming a member of the Women’s Orchestra of Auschwitz, she fights for survival. Adele’s barbed-wire walls begin to kill her hope as the months drag into nearly two years in the camp. With surprising courage against the backdrop of murder and despair, Adele finally confronts a question that has been tugging at her heart: Even in the midst of evil, can she find hope in worshipping God with her gift?

As Sera and William learn more about the subject of the mysterious portrait–Adele–they are reminded that whatever horrors one might face, God’s faithfulness never falters.

This is a moving, beautiful, and at times, gripping story. The perfectly balanced historical and contemporary settings serve to weave together the story of Adele with Sera and William’s, both building to the conclusion of Adele’s story piece by piece. Sera and William’s professional — and potentially romantic– relationship has its twists and turns as each of their characters learn important lessons about trust, responsibility, and God’s call. Against those very relevant struggles, the horrors of the holocaust period still serve as a contrast at times, exploring the strength that only God can provide. With some “flashback” moments for Adele, the reader learns of her friendship and love story with orchestra member Vladimir. The reader eagerly anticipates both the fate of Adele and what has become of Vladimir during her time there.

The beauty of the art world and classical music is an uncommon treat in a novel. Kristy uses it to add interest and a poetic element as well as being a symbol of worship amidst chaos. The art is also used to tie the present with the past, in a mystery unknown to Sera and William for much of the story.

Overall, I really enjoyed this debut from Kristy. I look forward to her next release in the “Hidden Masterpiece” series, A Sparrow in Terezin, releasing in April 2015. Reading this story was a very unique experience (after all, I love a good historical or contemporary – this was the best of both!). With a great plot full of accurate historical details, it left me considering the goodness and provision of God, even through circumstances we may not understand.

Note: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Thank you to BookLook and the publisher, Thomas Nelson, for providing a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

Have you read any books with characters set jn different eras? What was it?

December Photo-a-Day Challenge 15.

December Photo Challenge, day 15. One of my favorite Chritmas songs is “The Little Drummer Boy”. I love the picture it paints of how all this little boy had to offer was his talent of playing the drum, but that was enough.  He played his best for Christ, and little baby Jesus smiled at him.

My favorite version of this song is by MercyMe. You can listen to it on YouTube here.

I would love to hear about your favorite Christmas songs! Do you have a favorite?