Changes Coming to Isle of Books

I started Isle of Books back in December of 2011. I needed a hobby after a break-up and people were always asking me for book reviews so it seemed a natural fit to start a blog of book reviews. I found myself recommending the same books over and over without being really certain if those were the best books I could be recommending or the right ones for that person. Asking someone to recommend you a book on the spot is a lot like (I imagine) asking an octagenarian to name their favorite memory. That question is too big to properly answer without ample time for reflection.

I wanted Isle of Books to be a place where people could come and look for a book to read for an upcoming vacation or during a lengthy recovery from illness or surgery. I intended just to review my absolute favorite books and series. Which worked fine during college when I had so much more time to read and write about books I’d read in the past. But after I graduated and found a big-girl job, I started reading a lot less. And my posts became less and less frequent.

In order to serve my community on Isle of Books, I started reviewing every book I read, not just my favorites. Over time, I added some additional blogs to satisfy the need I felt to create more and more content. Sections like Featured Poems, Writing Project Wednesday, Reading Spaces, conference/author talk reviews, writing advice, and other miscellaneous topics. It was a lot of work, but it worked well for me a time. I thought I was building my platform and cultivating a tribe for the far-off future when I was an author with a book to sell of my own.

Recently, I attend the Superstars Writing Conference in Colorado Springs. Author Jonathan Maberry was one of the speakers. During one of the Q&A sessions, someone asked him about having a blog of book reviews. Of course, my ears perked up. I had a book of book reviews. Wasn’t that good for promoting for my brand as an author and writer? I was engaging with people and goshdarnit I had a platform!

In short, no.

It’s not my job to review books. I don’t get paid for it. I do it as a hobby. And making a hobby of criticizing others writers isn’t nice and isn’t very tribe-like. Those of you who know me in real life know I’m a nice person (or at least I think I am!) so it hurt my heart when someone brought it to my attention that what I was doing was not nice at all.

Now, this isn’t the end of Isle of Books so please don’t hear it that way! This moment just marks a shift, a pivot to nobler pursuits. There will still be book reviews! But I’m going back to my roots and only reviewing books I absolutely love. Those books I would enthusiastically champion to those who had ears to hear. If books were free, everyone would be getting it as a Christmas present. Those types of books. And there will still be Featured Poems and Reading Spaces and Writing Project Wednesdays (when I feel like writing them) and reviews of conferences and author talks and news about my publications. I hope more of my own fiction will find its way here. I also hope to do some author/literary people interviews if I can find anyone who’s willing. And in the near future (maybe this year!) I will have logged 1,000 books read on Goodreads. I’ve already planned a celebratory post that will include my personal list of the best books I read out of that 1,000 – you know you want to stick around for that! And I hope there will be more personal posts, too. In recent years I’ve been letting more of my life and personality creep into this blog and I want to do more of that. Despite being a blogger for over six years, I never talked all that much about myself.

I don’t regret the years I spent writing book reviews. I received opportunities I never would have had without it. I connected with so many readers near and far. I became a better reader because I knew I would be writing a review later. And I hope I became a better writer, at least in the non-fiction space, from all the practice. To date, there have been 730 posts on Isle of Books!

Soon, you won’t find all 730 posts on this site anymore. I’m working on going through and unpublishing any post I feel doesn’t fit my new standards for Isle of Books. You may find references to books on my social media that now have dead links. If you’re a new reader who never saw the original post, you’re free to think what you want about why that post is no longer up. But I think we’re all allowed to grow as human beings and backtrack on our earlier decisions. And I hope you’ll understand that having to manually go through 730 posts to unpublish the ones I don’t want up anymore is enough of a time investment. If you’re an author of one of those books that no longer has a published review, you can rest easy knowing the words are now locked away in my archives and will not see the light of day again.

If you’re only here for the book reviews and want to now take your eyeballs elsewhere, I appreciate you visiting my corner of the internet and hope you enjoyed your stay. To all the readers of Isle of Books, whether you’re brand-new or have been with me since the beginning, thank you. Thank you for the time you’ve been spent reading my words and considering my ideas and laughing (hopefully) at my lame jokes. Thank you for being here and letting me pursue this hobby for the past six years.

But if you’ve actually read to the end of this post, I hope you’ll stick around with me a little bit longer. I’m excited for the future and hope you’ll be along for the ride!



9 Books on My 2017 Holiday Wishlist

For those of you who don’t know, my birthday falls less than month after Christmas, on January 17th. Every year I make a combo Christmas/Birthday list in case anyone wants to get me anything. If you actually asked me what I wanted, I would probably stare at you like a deer in the headlights. It’s the same sort of syndrome that motivated me to start this blog. People would ask me to recommend books and I could never remember what I’d read and I kept recommending the same 2-3 books, while never feeling very confident that I actually liked them.


I thought it might be fun to put up the short list of books that made it to my 2017-2018 Christmas/Birthday List. Some of these are just books I’m dying to read and some of these are either the conclusion to series I’m reading or helping me move along to the conclusion!

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin–one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow over the faerie lands is growing, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin–and his world–forever.

Maddaddam by Margaret Atwood

In this final volume of the internationally celebrated MaddAddam trilogy, the Waterless Flood pandemic has wiped out most of the population. Toby is part of a small band of survivors, along with the Children of Crake: the gentle, bioengineered quasi-human species who will inherit this new earth.

As Toby explains their origins to the curious Crakers, her tales cohere into a luminous oral history that sets down humanity’s past—and points toward its future. Blending action, humor, romance, and an imagination at once dazzlingly inventive and grounded in a recognizable world, MaddAddam is vintage Atwood—a moving and dramatic conclusion to her epic work of speculative fiction.

Under Wildwood by Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis

Under Wildwood is the second book in the New York Times bestselling adventure series the Wildwood Chronicles from Colin Meloy, lead singer of the Decemberists, and Carson Ellis, the acclaimed illustrator of The Mysterious Benedict Society.

Ever since Prue McKeel returned home from the Impassable Wilderness after rescuing her brother from the malevolent Dowager Governess, life has been pretty dull. School holds no interest for her, and her new science teacher keeps getting on her case about her dismal test scores and daydreaming in class. Her mind is constantly returning to the verdant groves and sky-tall trees of Wildwood, where her friend Curtis still remains as a bandit-in-training.

But all is not well in that world. Dark assassins with mysterious motives conspire to settle the scores of an unknown client. A titan of industry employs inmates from his orphanage to work his machine shop, all the while obsessing over the exploitation of the Impassable Wilderness. And, in what will be their greatest challenge yet, Prue and Curtis are thrown together again to save themselves and the lives of their friends, and to bring unity to a divided country. But in order to do that, they must go under Wildwood.

The White Mirror by Elsa Hart

In The White Mirror, the follow-up to Elsa Hart’s critically acclaimed debut, Jade Dragon Mountain, Li Du, an imperial librarian and former exile in 18th century China, is now an independent traveler. He is journeying with a trade caravan bound for Lhasa when a detour brings them to a valley hidden between mountain passes. On the icy planks of a wooden bridge, a monk sits in contemplation. Closer inspection reveals that the monk is dead, apparently of a self-inflicted wound. His robes are rent, revealing a strange symbol painted on his chest.

When the rain turns to snow, the caravan is forced to seek hospitality from the local lord while they wait for the storm to pass. The dead monk, Li Du soon learns, was a reclusive painter. According to the family, his bizarre suicide is not surprising, given his obsession with the demon world. But Li Du is convinced that all is not as it seems. Why did the caravan leader detour to this particular valley? Why does the lord’s heir sleep in the barn like a servant? And who is the mysterious woman traveling through the mountain wilds?

Trapped in the snow, surrounded by secrets and an unexplained grief that haunts the manor, Li Du cannot distract himself from memories he’s tried to leave behind. As he discovers irrefutable evidence of the painter’s murder and pieces together the dark circumstances of his death, Li Du must face the reason he will not go home and, ultimately, the reason why he must.

Prodigy by Marie Lu

June and Day arrive in Vegas just as the unthinkable happens: the Elector Primo dies, and his son Anden takes his place. With the Republic edging closer to chaos, the two join a group of Patriot rebels eager to help Day rescue his brother and offer passage to the Colonies. They have only one request—June and Day must assassinate the new Elector.

It’s their chance to change the nation, to give voice to a people silenced for too long.

But as June realizes this Elector is nothing like his father, she’s haunted by the choice ahead. What if Anden is a new beginning? What if revolution must be more than loss and vengeance, anger and blood—what if the Patriots are wrong?

The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson

A new threat haunts the streets of London…
Rory Deveaux has changed in ways she never could have imagined since moving to London and beginning a new life at boarding school. As if her newfound ability to see ghosts hadn’t complicated her life enough, Rory’s recent brush with the Jack the Ripper copycat has left her with an even more unusual and intense power. Now, a new string of inexplicable deaths is threatening London, and Rory has evidence that they are no coincidence. Something sinister is going on, and it is up to her to convince the city’s secret ghost-policing squad to listen before it’s too late.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

The unforgettable New York Times best seller begins with the story of two half-sisters, separated by forces beyond their control: one sold into slavery, the other married to a British slaver. Written with tremendous sweep and power, Homegoing traces the generations of family who follow, as their destinies lead them through two continents and three hundred years of history, each life indeliably drawn, as the legacy of slavery is fully revealed in light of the present day.

Effia and Esi are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Kell is one of the last Antarimagicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in ArnesRed Londonand officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.


What books are you hoping Santa leaves under the tree for you? Leave me a comment below!

Writing Review: September 2017

I think I’m going to post more check-ins of how my writing is going, maybe quarterly to start since I’m a little scared that if I commit to monthly I won’t have much to report. In between working on whatever book project I have going and writing for Isle of Books, I also usually have a couple publications a month on other sites. My freelance articles often seem like feast or famine…either I’m doing just a couple or I’m doing so many I’m genuinely concerned I won’t make my deadlines.

Personal life wise, I’ve had a really busy fall and I don’t expect it to let up until Halloween…meaning that progress on my book has been glacially slow. So slow that I’m a little embarrassed to admit how little I got done during the month of September. Things were going better earlier in the summer until my confidence got a little rattled and the recovery from that has been slow going. Not having time to write consistently isn’t helping much in that department.

On a more positive note, I did get quite a few other things published! Looking at this list makes me feel a little less terrible about how my book progress is going…

I also attended a one day writing conference in May and applied for a scholarship for another writing conference happening at the end of January/beginning of February…fingers crossed that I get it!



For Equine Journal:

How To Create The Most Innovative Equine Products: An Interview with Amy Hassinger


For 2kGrey and Intrepid International:

How to Be Mindful at the Barn

How to Be Mindful in the Saddle


For Minute Marketing:

14 Powerful Ways to Uncover Your Realtor Edge

What’s Your Story? 3 Books That Will Help You Find Your Brand’s Heartbeat

Social Media News: August 2017 Edition

Why You Should Be Future-Proofing Your Business

TRX Scores Big With Video on Facebook

Anthropologie Sells the Free-Spirited Lifestyle on Instagram

How Kayla Itsines Built Her Fitness Empire on Instagram

Adobe Hits it Out of the Park With Great Product Marketing on Facebook


For Coastal Premier Properties:

Cafe of the Moment: The King’s Craft Coffee Co

Restaurant of the Moment: Underbelly

Restaurant of the Moment: Coop’s BBQ

Restaurant of the Moment: Oink and Moo

Restaurant of the Moment: Grater Grilled Cheese


And I was quoted in this article: How to Make Money and Stay Motivated With a Side Hustle

New Article Published: How to Be Mindful at the Barn and Around Your Horse

I wanted to share that I recently had a new article published on 2kGrey‘s blog, Intrepid International. For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been riding horses for over fifteen years, I compete in local shows in San Diego, and I have two horses of my own. My journey with horses has been so wonderful. I’ve learned so much from every horse I’ve been fortunate to ride, but most importantly I think I’ve learned how to be a better human from my interactions with horses. This article talks a little bit about what I’ve learned over the years and I think you’ll find it interesting even if you’re not a horse person because I think we could all stand to be a little more mindful and present in our every day lives.

Check out my article here.

If you liked this article, I would appreciate it if you would share it with your friends and especially the horse people in your life!

Writing Project Wednesday: Trains

I think I grew up knowing more than the average person about trains. My dad used to work for the railroad and there was always a healthy appreciation for these iron horses in our house. Sadly, the age of the train has long been on the decline. It was such a treat to get to research trains during their heyday! I’m sharing a few of my favorite tidbits of research below:

-Colorado’s history and growth is intrinsically bound up with the development of rail lines through and across the state. Colorado Springs was no exception. Until 1971, Colorado Springs had a functioning passenger train service. The historic train depot is still there. Until 2011, it was home to Giuseppe’s Italian Restaurant.

-The Colorado Springs train depot is the very same one Nikola Tesla arrived at in 1899. Tesla is just one of many famous faces who passed through that depot. If you’re ever in Colorado Springs, you should pay a visit to the beautiful old building. You can see my pictures of how the building looked at the end of 2014 here. Here’s how it looked in 1871:

-At the end of the nineteenth century, steam locomotives were still used to power passenger trains. They weren’t fully replaced by electric and diesel locomotives until the first quarter of the twentieth century.

-In 1876, the Transcontinental Express train made the journey from New York to San Francisco in just 83 hours. A few days after its historic trip, passenger service began.

-In the 1890s, railroad lines covered the eastern side of the United States, but were comparatively sparse in the west:

-There are many examples of steam locomotives in museums across the country. If you visit Colorado Springs, there’s an example of one in the park across the street from the train depot. Here’s a rendering of one:

If you ever have the opportunity to take the train across Colorado or more broadly, across America, I would highly recommend it! It’s one of the most fascinating ways to experience our country as the railways take you through places you would not otherwise be able to see.

On the next Writing Project Wednesday, I’ll be talking about food!

Writing Project Wednesday: Gibson Girls

On my last Writing Project Wednesday, I said I was going to talk about one of Colorado Springs’ creepiest unsolved murders. Which I will do, but while working on my book last weekend, I found myself researching women’s hairstyles form the 1890’s and stumbled across the Gibson Girl. I’d heard the term Gibson Girl before, but I never knew what it meant or what to attach it to. It turns out that the history of the Gibson Girl is as fascinating as the hairstyle. I showed my friend what I was researching and we were in awe of how these women managed to get their hair to do that. I feel like I have enough hair that I could probably pull it off if I didn’t have layers cut into it. Maybe there will be a WPW Video Tutorial in my future…

So what is a Gibson Girl? The name refers to the pen and ink drawings done by illustrator Charles Dana Gibson in the late 19th and early 20th century century America. Gibson said that his creations were composites of the hundreds and thousands of women he saw everyday.

One of illustrator Charles Dana Gibson’s “Gibson Girls”

In a nutshell, The Gibson Girl was a willowy, regal Caucasian woman who oozed poise and grace. The signature Gibson Girl hairstyle involves piling all of the hair on top of the head in an elaborate hairstyle. Most writings call this either a bouffant, pompadour, or chignon style. But it’s really a combination of the three:

-This is First Lady Betty Ford wearing her hair in the bouffant style.

Via Glamourdaze

-This is actress Katherine Hepburn wearing her hair in the pompadour style. The rest of the hair could be worn up or down.

-This is actress and Princess of Monaco Grace Kelly wearing her hair in a version of the chignon style.

Credit: Lucy at Loepsie

-And this is an example of the Gibson Girl hairstyle, done by hairstylist Lucy from Loepsie. She has a tutorial for the Gibson Girl hairstyle up on Youtube here if you want to watch.

Some people say The Gibson Girl was the first national beauty standard for American ladies. Others say The Gibson Girl was the first pin-up. Whatever she was, The Gibson Girl was certainly an icon!

Next week on Writing Project Wednesday, I really will discuss Colorado Springs’ creepiest unsolved murders!

Writing Project Wednesday: Tesla, Edison, and The War of Currents

While the feud between Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison predates my novel-in-progress, it’s still a fascinating story that few people are familiar with in present day. If you’re a younger person, you’ve probably seen The Oatmeal’s lengthy comic which summarizes Tesla’s life and also mentions the famous feud. You can see that full comic here.

I’m going to summarize the issues and introduce you to the major players in The War of Currents. For an extended look at the issues, I recommend Tesla Vs Edison by Nigel Cawthrone, a well-researched book that really covers this issue in depth. Eventually, I’m going to do a post ranking all these different Tesla biographies since I’ve read so many of them.

Ok so first things first as we dive into The War of Currents:

-This is Nikola Tesla. Nikola Tesla was a genius inventor who was born in Serbia in 1856. He arrived in America in June of 1884. At this time, he had already been experimenting with the alternating current (AC) motor. After he failed to raise money to back his invention, he accepted an offer from Charles Batcherlor to go and work for the Edison company in New York.

-This is Thomas Edison. Thomas Edison was a genius inventor who was born in Ohio in 1847. Edison either invented or improved upon a number of things we still use today like the lightbulb. In 1884 his electric company was busy lighting up New York with direct current (DC) power.

-Nikola Tesla went to work for Thomas Edison in 1884 and stayed for nearly a year. All the while, Tesla continued to work on his AC motor.

-When Tesla left Edison’s employ, he became to file his own patents. Tesla applied for patents on his AC motors, which were ultimately granted in 1888.

-This is George Westinghouse. George Westinghouse was an inventor turned entrepreneur who was born in New York in 1846. Westinghouse invented the air-operated brake for railroad cars. In 1885, Westinghouse decided to develop an AC power system. In 1888, Westinghouse purchased Tesla’s AC motor patents. Tesla then became a consultant with the Westinghouse Electric Company.

-Meanwhile, Westinghouse and Edison were fighting The War of Currents with their rival electric companies and rival power systems.

-Edison claimed that AC power was dangerous. In February 1888, Edison published an attack on Westinghouse and AC.

-Enter a fourth player, Harold P. Brown. Brown was an electrical engineer who also published an attack on Westinghouse and AC power in June of 1888. Brown knew he needed an ally so he called on Edison, who accepted.

-Brown then began to stage demonstrations that involved shocking animals with DC and AC power. Brown electrocuted dogs, calves, and horses to prove his point that AC was dangerous.

-In 1888, New York adopted electrocution as its preferred method to administer capital punishment.

-Brown was then hired by the prison system of New York to design its electrical equipment. Naturally, he decided to use the Westinghouse AC generators.

-In May of 1889, William Kemmler was convicted of murder and was set to become the first person to be executed by electrocution. Kemmler’s lawyers protested that electrocution was an inhumane punishment and the defense team began to dig into Brown’s background which later revealed that Brown was working with Edison. Nevertheless, the sentence was upheld and Kemmler was executed in August of 1890.

-By 1890, The War of Currents largely began to wind down. The Panic of 1890 caused by the collapse of Barings Bank in London created havoc for both Edison and Westinghouse. Faced with financial trouble, Edison General Electric and Thomas-Houston merged, Edison was dropped from the name, and the new company become General Electric. At this point, Edison also stepped away from the electric lighting business to focus on other things. By the end of the century, AC would become the undisputed winner in The War of Currents. The rivalry between Tesla and Edison continued for the rest of Edison’s life, though not quite at the same magnitude.

* Some of you may have noticed I included AC/DC’s logo in my title image for this week’s Writing Project Wednesday. The story goes that Angus and George Young noticed the initials AC/DC on their sister’s sewing machine and thought that would be a cool name for a band!

Next week, I’m going to talk about one of Colorado Springs’ creepiest unsolved murders!