BOOK REVIEW: Every Bright and Broken Thing by Brian McBride

Every Bright and Broken Thing by Brian McBride is a book that you won’t soon forget.

Full of beautiful prose, this book is sure to break your heart. The story will haunt you and leave you aching. Read on for more of my thoughts on Every Bright and Broken Thing.

My Rating: Three and a Half out of Five Astronaut Murals

About the Book…

Haunted by the last question their mother ever asked them, the Greyson brothers struggle to cope with their grief and adjust to life after tragedy.

Semi-popular sixteen-year-old Liam spends his nights performing as the lead singer of his high school indie pop/rock band, Liam and the Landmarks. But something happened to Liam four years ago at his friend’s house – a secret Liam will take to his grave. But in small towns like Summit, Colorado, secrets always seem to find their way out. 

Twenty-four-year-old Ezra thought that he could cure his grief when he left Summit behind for a prestigious art school in Chicago, but things only got worse. Now a college dropout working at a gas station mini mart, he turns to alcohol, prescription painkillers, and meaningless one-night stands. But Ezra can’t run forever – life always catches up with you. 

With abrasively honest dual-perspective narratives, Every Bright and Broken Thing illustrates the unbreakable bond between brothers and the power in coming home.

Click Here to View Every Bright and Broken Thing on Goodreads ~ Click Here to Buy Every Bright and Broken Thing on Amazon

What I Loved…

The friendships in this book are so good. All too often, friendships get snubbed in YA fiction and romance is put on center stage, but that’s not so here! Yes, there is romance. But I feel like the friendships are just as, if not even more, important.

The author has a beautiful writing style; it’s full of prose and almost sounds like poetry. Here’s a quote from Every Bright and Broken Thing just to prove it: “I try to see my life in color, but the colors fall flat. Dull. Muted. Completely and irrevocably unspectacular.”

I loved the author’s descriptions. From settings to characters to thoughts to actions, everything that the author wove together read like art.

Just seeing Christian fiction makes me happy okay? I love love love Christian fiction and it’s really important and exciting to see another YA Christian fiction writer share a story, which is one reason I was so excited to see this book!

THAT COVER. It looks so good and am I being shallow mentioning how much I love it here? I hope not because WOW that is a great cover. And speaking of the cover…

Everything about this book is really professional, which you don’t often see in indie books. I was very impressed with this. If you had just handed me a page and asked me if the book was indie or traditionally published, I would’ve said traditional (not because indie is bad but because indie books don’t exactly have a reputation for looking professional).

The Sanctuary was so good to see in fiction. I wish that I could go there and volunteer and that a place like that was real for all of the homeless people of Chicago.

The supporting cast of characters (including Mama Gracie!) MADE this book. The author poured so much personality into the supporting characters, and it showed! I loved this so much because too often side characters get pushed to, well, the side. Here the author did them justice.

I love seeing guy main characters in a Christian fiction book. In my opinion, there aren’t enough guys, or really enough diversity, in Christian fiction. I loved seeing it here.

What I Didn’t Love…

It seemed overly poetic and prose-y sometimes. While I LOVED the writing style, sometimes I felt like it was… Too much. At some points it felt like the author was leaning too heavily on prose to tell the story. I loved the prose, but felt that there was just a bit much of it.

I felt like Every Bright and Broken Thing didn’t focus as much on the question that the boys’ mom asked them as I thought it would. Again, not necessarily a bad thing, but I kinda wished I saw a bit more of it.

The ending felt super abrupt. Everything sort of just happened and then the book was over. Although it was a good ending that had me wanting to know more about where Liam and Ezra would end up, I wished that there was a little more to it.

I felt like the characters’ arcs barely changed during the book and then all of the sudden drastically changed. One moment they are lost and completely broken, and then the next they realize what they need to do. I could be the only one, but I felt that this happened too suddenly.

There were vague mentions of the church hurting the family, but we didn’t get a good picture of how or why. I thought that this should have been expanded upon a bit since it was such a big part as to why Ezra and Liam left God and the church behind.

It felt like the tone almost never changed. Everything felt dramatic, dark, and gloomy. I wish that the tone had some more changes instead of just staying at one level.

A Note on the Content…

This book is probably one of the few Christian fiction books I’ve read that isn’t afraid to get into the dark, gritty parts of our world. These subjects are not handled comfortably, and, frankly, they shouldn’t be handled in a way that makes us feel comfortable because we should not feel comfortable with these subjects. However, these subjects do need to be handled with care. I feel that the author did an okay job of not getting into too much detail while still conveying reality. Some of the subjects dealt with include: Alcohol, drugs, sex, rape, and thoughts of suicide and self-harm, amongst some other things.

With that said, I understand that not everyone is okay with reading books that have such heavy themes and topics. Because of the heavy themes and topics that Every Bright and Broken Thing deals with, I would not recommend it to younger teens. I’d say that a good age range for this novel would be at least 16+.

I will be doing a blog post series on hard topics in Christian fiction soon, so stay tuned for that!

Conclusion…

This was a very hard book to read because of the characters’ hurt and pain and because of the heavy topics it deals with. And that is not a bad thing. We need books that are hard to read, that illustrate the reality of our world and offer us hope and healing as this book does. Some other elements (not the “hard to read” aspect) kept me from falling as in love with this book as I wish I could have. However, it is a good book, and I’m sure that many others will enjoy this story and find hope within its pages.

About the Author…

A winner of the 2016 Wattys Award, Brian McBride published the award-winning Young Adult Contemporary debut, Love and the Sea and Everything in Between, in 2018.

Born and raised in Oregon, Brian moved to California at sixteen, where he has lived ever since. He’s been writing since he was thirteen-years-old and has been reading for longer. Brian is pursuing a degree in Social Work, which he hopes to use to aid children and families. A fourth generation pastor and founder of the Pioneer Movement, he is passionate about his faith and longs to see Christians become all that they are called to be. Among other things, he is also passionate about iced tea, animals, adoption, and the arts.

Find Brian McBride on Instagram @brianmcbrideauthor and click here to visit his website.

Note: I received a free ARC of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Have you read Every Bright and Broken Thing? What are some indie books that you enjoy?

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ACFW Genesis Contest Update + Exciting Reveal!

I am both proud and honored to say that I am one of three finalists in the 2019 ACFW Genesis Contest in the novella category.

I did not win the contest, but I am nonetheless thrilled and so, so blessed to be a finalist. I would like to give a big thank you to everyone who made the Genesis contest possible, from the judges to the organizers. I am a better writer because of this contest. I would also like to congratulate all of the ACFW Genesis and Carol Award winners!

And now, I’m really excited to share about my novella with you all!

I’ve had to keep it a secret for a LONG time for the contest, but now that it has ended, I can share about it!

Always ~ A Novella

A contemporary retelling of A Christmas Carol and It’s A Wonderful Life.

Sky Bleu is tired. Tired of the pain. Tired of the memories that haunt her every step. Tired of the shards of her heart and her life that she cannot put back together.

As she sits on the edge of a bridge contemplating ending it all, a mysterious boy in a leather jacket comes and whisks her away on a journey through time. Gabe is his name, and he won’t let her die without putting up a fight, begging her to choose life. As Sky and Gabe travel through the past and present, through memories and moments, Sky begins to wonder…. 

Is there truly hope and healing for a broken girl like her? And has the God she used to love really been with her always?

A Snippet….

The moon and stars had tucked themselves behind the clouds again. The boy sighed, set his guitar down, and blew into his chapped and calloused hands. He rubbed some life back into them, stood, and gathered up his things. 

That’s when he found it. A rather un-ordinary piece of paper, with words scribbled on it in pencil that had smudged a little bit. But not enough that he couldn’t read the words.

Help me, I’m drowning,

Hear me, I’m screaming,

 I wish that I could wake up,

And realize that, all along, I was only

Dreaming.

What’s Next For Always?

Now that the contest is over and I have a second draft of Always, I’m going to start working on it again! I am probably going to be making the story longer, as well as tweaking bits here and there. Lots of editing, revisions, and much-needed chai lattes are on the horizon for me as I start to work on Always again.

I also hope to seek publication for Always one day! It could be self-publication, or maybe even traditional publication. I’m trying to keep my options open, as I prayerfully think and plan ahead to this step. But right now, my main focus is on the story and making sure that it is the best it can be.

I’ve got another thank you to say here, and it’s to you!

Before I end this post, I just want to say THANK YOU to all of the people, including YOU, my blog readers, who have stuck by me and supported me on my writing journey. You all mean so much to me, and every bit of encouragement and help has been so good and uplifting. I thank God that I have such supportive and amazing people to help me along my writing journey! I am so blessed.

Until next time… Stay stellar. ❤

10 Quotes That Will Inspire You to Write

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: Writing is hard.

Sometimes, we need a little bit of inspiration and encouragement to keep on going. That’s why I’ve compiled 10 quotes that will inspire you to write. May these words of wisdom inspire and encourage you to write you heart out. ❤

You fail only if you stop writing. -Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451

You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page. -Jodi Piccoult

There are no writing police. This is your story, no one else’s. Tell it like you want to. -Rachel Aaron

Best advice on writing I’ve ever received: Finish. -Peter Mayle

Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. -Anne Lamott

If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it. -Toni Morrison

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. -William Wordsworth, English romantic poet

I don’t really write with an audience in mind. I write for myself and hope someone else likes to read it. -Jillian Medoff

My six words of advice to writers are: “Read, read, read, write, write, write.” -Ernest J. Gaines

I write because I cannot not write. -Charlotte Brontë, author of Jane Eyre

Bonus Quote: The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar, familiar things new. -William Makepeace Thackeray, author of Vanity Fair

All quotes taken from The Truth About Writing.

What is a quote that inspires you to write?

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Interview with Author Ashlee Cowles

I’m so excited to be sharing an interview with author Ashlee Cowles with you all today!

Ashlee Cowles is the author of Beneath Wandering Stars and Below Northern Lights. Y’all have hear me rave about Beneath Wandering Stars before in my post “7 Books About Military Kids.” Guys, if you haven’t already, READ THIS BOOK. It is honestly one of my favorite books, and I was so excited when Ashlee Cowles agreed to do an interview. She is not only a great writer, but also so kind, inspiring, and all-around amazing. Keep on reading for my interview with Ashlee!

Tell me three random facts about yourself! 

  1. I once swam a few feet away from a shark…only I didn’t know it until I got out of the water and saw the fin! (Maybe this is why I now prefer swimming in the Great Lakes to the ocean!).
  2. My high school prom was held in a German castle.
  3. I’m pretty sure I could live off of olives, cheese, and fresh baguettes.

How did growing up as a military kid influence you and your stories? 

So far all of my stories are rooted in locations I’ve either lived in or traveled to, in large part because of my mobile military upbringing. I love stories with a strong atmosphere and sense of place. I think living in different regions and among a variety of different cultures has given me an ability to recognize the little details that make all of those places “home” in some way (because most military kids don’t just have one home — they have certain memories that feel like home). For example, I can still remember the sound of cicadas from spending my early childhood years in Alabama and Texas, I know what it feels like to not see the sun for weeks during a Pacific Northwest winter, and one of my favorite scents is the smell of cinnamon almonds roasting at a German Christmas market. Those are the kinds of special details I try to incorporate into my stories to make them feel real, but mostly, I just love writing about people from vastly different backgrounds who are trying to work together and figure out how to make their way in this complicated world. Growing up in the military community gave me a lot to think about in that regard.

Where did you get the inspiration for you novel, Beneath Wandering Stars?

My own upbringing as a military kid was definitely a major source of inspiration. There is a huge population of teens who know what it’s like to change schools multiple times because your family has to move every few years, and who know what it’s like to have a parent or loved one deployed to a war zone for months at a time. Yet I hadn’t read any Young Adult novels that focused on this unique upbringing, so I decided to follow Toni Morrison’s advice — “If there’s a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

Your story is set during a pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. Why did you choose that as the setting for Beneath Wandering Stars?

I knew I wanted to set my military kid story overseas on a U.S. military base in Europe (since that’s a unique experience many military kids have at some point), but I also wanted my protagonist (in this case, Gabi) to go on some kind of adventure that would cause her to grapple with the challenges that are part of transitioning from childhood to adulthood. After I walked the Camino de Santiago myself in 2011, I finally knew what my “adventure” would be and the rest of the story kind of fell into place! The Camino is a real-life “Hero’s Journey” and a fantastic setting for fiction — you meet so many interesting people who are walking the route for all kinds of reasons. I knew it would be the perfect setting for Gabi to encounter other characters who would stretch her and help her grow.

What message do you hope readers take away from Beneath Wandering Stars?

Whether or not you grew up in a military family like Gabi, I think a lot of us feel are longing for more connection and feel a little “homeless” right now, like there isn’t one physical location where we feel like we belong. The last line of the book will probably always be my favorite — “People are the only home the Army issues.” Because that’s what “home” ultimately means to me — it isn’t just a place, it’s the relationships and memories we carry with us no matter where we go.

If you had the chance to go on a trip with one of the characters from Beneath Wandering Stars, who would it be and why? Where would you go?  

What a fun question! I would probably want to go on another walking pilgrimage, and I would love to take along Homer, the German Shepherd, who makes an appearance at the end of the book. He’s such a loyal companion and he would make me feel safe if I wasn’t traveling with other people (Homer also plays a major role in the sequel to Beneath Wandering Stars, Below Northern Lights). I’ve had serious wanderlust for Italy (and gelato) lately, so I would probably want to hike the Way of St. Francis — a pilgrimage route from La Verna that passes through Assisi and ends in Rome.

What are three of your favorite books? 

Three recent favorites are A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly, Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset, and Pilgrim’s Inn by Elizabeth Goudge.

What is your favorite quote? 

I love this quote so much that it’s actually on the homepage of my website: “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” ~T.S. Eliot 

Lastly, what is your number one piece of advice for writers everywhere?

To write well, I think you first have to see well. By that I mean you have to notice details and pay attention to what moves you and what moves other people. That’s why I’ve kept a notebook of quotes and poems and little snippets of writing that I love — it helps me to pay closer attention to what kind of words ring true and why they make me feel something long after I’ve finished reading them.

Thank you so much, Ashlee! I’ve loved having you on my blog and reading your fantastic answers.

About Ashlee Cowles

Ashlee Cowles is the award-winning author of BENEATH WANDERING STARS (Simon Pulse), BELOW NORTHERN LIGHTS, and WISDOM FOR THE WAY. Raised in a military family without roots, Ashlee enjoys traveling the world almost as much as she loves telling stories. Learn more at ashleecowles.com.

Click here to buy Beneath Wandering Stars ~ Click here to buy Below Northern Lights

In what ways does you life influence your stories? If you could go on a trip with a book character (yours or someone else’s), where would you go and who would you take?

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Free Printable Submission Tracker

Hey, friends!

Long time, no free printable, am I right? Well, here I am with a new super fun printable that all of my writerly readers will LOVE! It’s a printable submission tracker!

With this submission tracker, you can keep track of what you’ve submitted, where you submitted to, and when you submitted.

It is super easy to use and will help you stay very organized! I love using my own submission tracker and it has helped me A LOT.

To get your free printable submission tracker, just click on the image or link below. Then, print it, and start filling it in with all of you submissions!

I hope that this tracker helps you as much as it has helped me. Happy writing, and happy submitting!

Where have you recently submitted a story?

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Book Review: Sand Castle Dreams by Taylor Bennet

Usually, when it comes time for a sequel, I prepare myself to be disappointed. I find that sequels can never quite live up to their predecessors. But in Sand Castle Dreams, I happily found a sequel that is just as good as its predecessor. Keep on reading to learn more! =)

My Rating: Four and a Half Slices of Key Lime Pie out of Five

About the Book…

Sometimes we have to face our greatest fears in order to become whole again.

Returning to Maui after one of the most challenging summers of her life, sixteen-year-old Olive Galloway is ready for things to return to normal—or, at least, a new normal. But even though she and her sister are back on the island they love, nothing is the same since they left for Boston a few months ago. Olive’s friend Jazz is hiding a secret—possibly something even worse than the cancer diagnosis she received earlier in the year. Can Olive ever stop running from memories of all they’ve lost?

When their friend Brander suggests Jazz attends the church’s teen support group, Olive thinks it’s a great idea—until Jazz insists that Olive join her. While the group is the perfect place for Olive to share her struggles, she wants nothing to do with it. Instead, grief threatens to roll over her like the ocean waves, and tiny fibs turn into looming secrets. When a scruffy puppy and one viral video send another storm rolling into Olive’s life, she ends up face-to-face with her biggest fear. And the only way to make it out of the tempest is to go straight through.

Buy Sand Castle Dreams on Amazon ~ View Sand Castle Dreams on Goodreads

What I Loved….

I loved the way that friendships were portrayed. Brander, Jazz, and Olive are such a great friend group! I wish that YA fiction had more friend groups like them. Too often YA books focus on romance. Which brings me to my next point…

The “romance” going on didn’t take over the story. The focus of the story wasn’t on the romance, and the subtle romance didn’t take over the story as it does in so many books. I loved this because being teenager is about so much more than dating and breakups.

The character arcs were phenomenal. It was exciting to be able to see how Olive and the other characters grew and progressed from Porch Swing Girl.

All of the desserts that Olive’s grandmother made!!! Um, yes, this is a total highlight. Can Olive’s grandmother just cook for me? Yes? Perfect! And you can actually have some of her cooking by making the recipe in the back of the book! Don’t you love it when there are recipes in the back of books?

The themes and messages packed into this book were a big highlight for me. From dealing with grief to authenticity to saying goodbye to helping friends, the themes, examples, and messages in Sand Castle Dreams are sure to uplift, encourage, and inspire readers, as well as bring them closer to God.

The setting of Lahaina, Hawaii, was so well written. I felt like I was in Hawaii eating shave ice and walking along the ocean with Olive and company. I really, really want to go to Hawaii now…

“It’s okay to cry, sweetie. It only means you have a heart so full it doesn’t have room for tears.”

-Sand Castle Dreams by Taylor Bennet

What I Didn’t Love…

Olive slightly annoyed me sometimes. She seemed a bit whiny at times, in my opinion. A bit whiny and moody, but she made up for it in the end. =) 

It felt a bit preachy at times. Olive’s friends and grandmother seemed to “preach” a bit to Olive. I feel like themes and messages could have been delivered better in different ways and been just as, if not even more, effective.

Conclusion…

Sand Castle Dreams is the epitome of a good summer read. It’s got a summery setting. It has a great group of friends. And, most importantly, there’s a lot of dessert. 😉 I’d highly recommend this to anyone who loves YA Christian fiction or a good contemporary story.

About the Author…

Taylor Bennett is the seventeen-year-old author of contemporary YA fiction. Homeschooled since kindergarten, she is a proud homebody who suffers from the rare–yet always severe–case of wanderlust. 

Although she dreams of traveling to many different places, her favorite destination thus far (aside from her charming hometown in Oregon) is Lahaina, Hawaii. Taylor was so enamored with this tropical town that she became determined to write about it, hence her debut novel, Porch Swing Girl, the first in a series of books set in Hawaii.

A lover of literature since birth, Taylor found her love of writing fueled under the instruction of Andrew Pudewa and the other teachers at the Institute for Excellence in Writing, where she now works as an editor for their magazine.

When she isn’t writing, Taylor enjoys cooking, drawing, and taking long walks in the beauty of the Pacific Northwest

Visit Taylor’s Website ~ Find Taylor on Instagram

Note: I received a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Have you read Sand Castle Dreams? What would you do on a trip to Hawaii?

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A Small Hiatus

The title of this post pretty much says it all.

I’m going on a short hiatus. I don’t know when it will end, but I do know that I will be back and blogging sooner rather than later. 🙂 For now, I need to take some time to rest, think, and pray about my next steps in writing and blogging, as well as adjust to the new changes in my life (more on that later!).

Until then, stay stellar, my lovely readers!