Friday, May 27, 2016


Her voice could unleash a war.

Twenty-three-year-old Echo del Toro doesn't know about the bride-choosing festivities the tyrannical Prince of Nyth has planned--until she's taken from her home by five armed soldiers. She's led under the cover of a magically produced storm to an opulent compound to join hundreds of girls, each vying to be chosen as the next Queen of Nyth.

As she plays the charade of falling in love with the Prince, Echo realizes three terrifying truths: He is hungry for her song-magic, he has a secret plot to dethrone his father, and he is not wholly unlikeable.

Faced with the strongest dark magician in centuries, Echo must know when to let her voice fly and when to hold her tongue, or she'll find herself caught in the lasting notes of a song that can't be unsung.

Purchase at:  Amazon US

My Review:
I was given a copy of this book for review. I was glad for the reading though, as I've wanted to read an Elana Johnson novel for a while, but she mostly writes YA and I'm not into that.

This novel is more New Adult; the characters are older but still growing into their maturity. Echo (at least it wasn't Zoe) appears to be a humble peasant with powerful magic she cannot control. The story starts off with a lot of flashback as character building for Echo, and instantly creates a sense of vulnerability for the character through the use of debilitating magical impulse and the recent loss of her childhood home Bond partner. Echo has been told she has very powerful magic, unmatched in the known world of Nyth and its outlying villages, and is the product of a prophecy; but the use of this magic causes he great physical pain and emotional suffering. Any time magic is used around her she feels the uncontrollable desire to expend her magic, but to do so will expose her to the evil magicians of the city she has chosen to hide out in.

There was a lot of story plot to attract me: the world building is alt-historical, the plot of overthrowing a tyranical monarchy is intriguing, and even I can appreciate a love triangle. Ms Johnson writes with lyrical cadence, kissable romance, and a progressive action sequence with many twists. If I was a die hard romance reader who loved a magical setting, I would have given this a full five star review.

The writing is well done, but typical to its genre: romantic fantasy. The focus is on the ROMANCE. The setting could be any contemporary world (morning coffee and muffins, modern swim suits, The Bachelor reality TV), but is set in an alternate universe where magic is common, if unacceptable. Much of the action plot surrounds lies, secrets, betrayals, and royal intrigues; the bachelor prince is seeking a bride from the commoners, and over 60 percent of the book involves the jealousies of the candidates; though Echo herself never participates in the "choosing" events due to disinterest in being chosen the next Queen of the realm, or because she is too weak after expending her good magic to attend the few invites that actually reach her. Her acceptance as the next queen is known by all except Echo before the story even begins, however, so her absence is hardly noted by the other candidates.

I give this story a 4 star rating because it has a generally acceptable theme: the romance overwhelms the intrigue of a despot king being overthrown by his well meaning but weak children, an untrained heroine that saves all through determination and love, and eventually gravitates towards the expected happily ever after and summation of all the secrets plots, with enough loose ends to warrant a sequel or three.

The writing was good for its genre; I just wasn't wow'd by the story line or characters.

I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy romance in an alternate setting, and appreciate characters that are both vulnerable and powerful and use their powers for good at great cost to themselves.

A speculative fiction author under the name Elana Johnson and an inspirational adult romance author under the pen name of Liz Isaacson, her work includes the young adult dystopian romance series Possession, published by Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster), Elevated, the Elemental series, the Songs of Life fantasy series, the Redwood Bay romance series, and the Three Rivers Ranch Romance series.

School teacher by day, Query Ninja by night, you can find her online at her personal blog ( or Twitter (@ElanaJ). She co-founded the Query Tracker blog and WriteOnCon, and contributes to the League of Extraordinary Writers, a blog written by young adult science fiction and fantasy authors.

Visit Elana's Amazon Author page or her personal blog for a complete list of all her publications.

Monday, May 23, 2016


I'm bouncing around a lot today, doing many many things at once. I'm getting ready for my Route for the next couple weeks, packing and organizing and trying to figure out how to get my suitcase in the car with all the work stuff. And not forgetting anything: once I forgot a coat and it was snowing where I was going, 75 and sunny where I live. Always something . . . .

But I also wanted to visit around, the blog roll seems to have been abandoned over the last few months, and I did not get to as many folks as I had planned for IWSG or BotB. Yep, I'm a slacker, not ashamed at all.

Speaking of Battle of the Bands; although I have not done an actual count looks like Tim McGraw took it by a landslide. He was my favorite too (of course). Sorry I did not get to all the participants this round; hopefully I'll make up for it by visiting your regular posts sometime this week.

So much to do . . . . See ya'll later.

Sunday, May 15, 2016


In my current merchandising job it is sometimes ~difficult~ to be "humble and kind." I meet all sorts of people: kind, rude, arrogant, helpful, bullies, helpless, eccentric, loving, impatient, considerate; but mostly, indifferent. I never know who I'll meet at the Love's stores, the hotels I stay, the restaurants I eat at, general stores I shop.

And you know, I'm not always at my best/most friendly either. I've had days I've been bullied, over-worked and impatient, late, or just plain feeling sore and out of sorts. Its amazing how quickly those social worker/people friendly skills can desert me in this hectic, business oriented environment.

I am still listening to people's complaints with the expectation that I can "fix" whatever the "crisis" is: why did you order . . when do I get the newest . . I don't have enough . . I have too much . . I need  . . I want . . DON'T!

My employers have rules and policies; my customer have needs and desires. Where oh where is that happy medium?

Although my profession - and thus my "clients" - has drastically changed, I find my morals, values, world view, has not. This glass-half-empty girl still believes that people are mostly good, and given the right circumstances will show their best side. I've had store customers be more considerate and helpful than employees (though most customers will say "excuse me" and expect a name-tagged employee to move out of their path regardless of how full their arms are of product and how many different directions they could take around the stocking clerk), managers more willing to assist than the lowest paid clerk (mostly, vendors don't exist to management unless there is a problem), truckers that exhibit patience in long lines (even when on the interstate they hog the left lane by passing another truck doing 49 on a hill and they are cruising at 50).

One of the first lessons I learned as a social worker was the art of compromise in conflict. Someone has to set their needs aside, be flexible, and I'm pretty good at letting "you" go first, get your word vomit/emotional outburst expressed. Another lesson was to not be offended by rudeness; you never know what kind of day that angry/rude person was having before you showed up to take it out on. They may be having a worse day than you, and a kind word of understanding could make all the difference to them. Listen, acknowledge, accept. Resolution - not always happy, but at least satisfactory for all persons.

When I first heard the song HUMBLE AND KIND by Tim McGraw, I was in one of those funky moods where I wasn't sure I wanted to be in my job any more, despite the awesome pay. Traffic sucked, all the managers had complaints, the hotels were lacking certain comforts, my supervisor was doing the texting equivalent of rolling her eyes and gritting her teeth at my complaints. This is America damn it, speak English!  I was in my car, listening to the radio (finally found a country station) and this song made me cry. It was a reminder of all my temporarily abandoned values.

Phrases like: Let yourself feel the pride; don't expect a free ride, don't hold a grudge, hold the door, say please, say thank you, help the next one in line; all resonated with me. I had forgotten to STAY HUMBLE AND KIND that day (week). It reminded me there is a bigger world out there than myself. Sometimes the Universe has a weird way of getting my attention.

In an interview with Gayle Thompson (the Boot, Feb 20, 2016), McGraw says he "thought it was a song that needed to be heard" and “[McKenna] sent me that song. I guess I had it for a year and a half or so,” McGraw recalls, “and it was just her and an acoustic guitar playing it. The night that she wrote it, she sent it to me, and I listened to it over and over, and I just fell in love with the song and her version of it...I couldn’t get past her demo of her singing it. It was just so beautiful and so touching. If anybody’s ever heard Lori just sit and sing with a guitar, she could sing anything to you and sell it to you. It’s so beautiful what she does.”

Now, with an accolade like that - after hearing Tim McGraw's emotive rendition - naturally I had to find a publication of Lori McKenna singing her heartfelt song.

Try not to judge McGraw's official version by the video. A lot of work went into making this a personal/political statement, a statement about thoughtfulness and diversity. People matter. He says, "I was on the treadmill one morning, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with this video, and Oprah [Winfrey]’s Belief series, the trailer for the series, came on. And I knew that’s exactly what I wanted my video to be.”

How about it BoTBers? Are you more compelled to stay "Humble and Kind" by Lori's simple guitar version?

Feel free to tell me how your week is going/gone in the comments, as well as your votes - if you are so inclined.

I'm an infrequent participant of Battle of the Bands, hosted twice a month by Far Away Eyes and Stephen T McCarthy; so don't look for my link on Saint Mac's site.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016


Popping in after a long break. I saw this inspirational quote from country music artist Tim McGraw and felt it could also speak to the heart of any creative person.

“Most of the time, at the end of the day, you go in and make a record that pleases you. You can’t think about, what does radio want to hear? You can’t think about what your fans want to hear. You just can’t. I think [if] you go in and start doing that, it might work for a little while, but eventually, that strategy isn’t going to work,” he says. “If you don’t go in and try to please yourself as an artist and try to create something that you feel like you’re beating yourself the last time you were in — if you don’t go in with that sort of attitude, I think, sooner or later, your strategy is flawed.” (source)
It felt right to post it for this month's INSECURE WRITERS SUPPORT GROUP, hosted by Ninja Captain Alex J Cavanaugh, and this month's helpers