Monarch, by Michelle Davidson Argyle (plus giveaway news!)

MonarchMonarch by Michelle Davidson Argyle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“The blood pooling on the floor under the assassin’s back reminded Nick of butterfly wings.”

Man, what an awesome first line! It sets up the mood, theme, and direction of this book perfectly! After a line like that, my expectation was that this book would be a post-James Bondian mission. Like, what happens *after* a mission takes place and the hero reports Mission: Accomplished.

Well, this is definitely not a post-Mission: Accomplished spy thriller. More like, Mission: Hasn’t Ended Yet. And, oh yeah, it’s not just about the mission.

Nick, a soon-to-be-retired CIA operative and the hero of this story, makes it home from a mission in Brazil, but unfortunately, his “work” didn’t quite stay there. Needing to find safety, he thinks of the only person with whom he’s found a semblance of peace: Lillian Love, now owner of the Monarch Inn.

The Monarch Inn is nestled in West Virginia, and named for the monarch butterflies that migrate through that area on their way to Mexico. At the Monarch, Lillian Love and her son Devan run the business as best they can, quietly living their lives. When Nick stumbles back into Lillian’s world, his presence soon shakes up their seemingly-peaceful bubble. Illusions of a perfectly happy and normal life are challenged, as these characters discover strength in unlikely circumstances.

Through Lillian, and Devan, I discovered the emotional depth of what could have been a superficial action tale. They told the narrative with Nick, alternating in a three-person perspective. Each voice is unique, and paced really well throughout so that the tension remained tight.

Though I expected a plot driven, action packed story (I’m a Die Hard kind of girl, yippee-ki-yay!), it was the unexpected character driven multiple perspective storyline that won me over. (In fact, though I’m a fan of the action and story in Brazil, I actually preferred the scenes at the Inn, especially Devan’s perspective.) Getting into these characters’ heads gave such a satisfying depth to the story and steered it away from being generic.

Nerd Point: I ate up the science facts about monarch butterflies that the author gave in the beginning of the book. It threw me off at first, since notes of that nature seem to come at the back of the book, with other acknowledgements and appendices, but looking back, I liked it, because it kept me in the mindset of these butterflies, how they persevere despite all external odds against them, and how they’ve endured, despite all scientific logic. They are truly worthy of being the symbol to represent the spirits of revered ancestors.

I think it’s with that mindset that I was able to sympathize with the characters more. They have come to realize that they are stronger than they appear, and can hope for a brighter future despite all logic and odds.

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I invite you all to chat with the author, Michelle Davidson Argyle TONIGHT (9/15) at 9PM EST. The chat will be hosted by Annie Cechini on her blog, conveniently found HERE.

During the chat, you’ll be able to participate and be entered into a drawing for a free copy of Monarch.

Also, please visit DB Smyth’s blog HERE for her ridiculously-awesome-why-did-I-even-bother-to-review-this-book-when-I-can-just-link-to-her Monarch review (with more details about tonight’s giveaway.)

Hope to chat with some of you tonight!

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Speaking of giveaways, my wonderful friend, Carol Miller is hosting a giveaway of GLOW. Much anticipated by me, since I love scifi. Click on the pretty cover image to get to Carol’s giveaway!!

GoodReads Summary:

What if you were bound for a new world, about to pledge your life to someone you’d been promised to since birth, and one unexpected violent attack made survival—not love—the issue?

Out in the murky nebula lurks an unseen enemy: the New Horizon. On its way to populate a distant planet in the wake of Earth’s collapse, the ship’s crew has been unable to conceive a generation to continue its mission. They need young girls desperately, or their zealous leader’s efforts will fail. Onboard their sister ship, the Empyrean, the unsuspecting families don’t know an attack is being mounted that could claim the most important among them…

Fifteen-year-old Waverly is part of the first generation to be successfully conceived in deep space; she was born on the Empyrean, and the large farming vessel is all she knows. Her concerns are those of any teenager—until Kieran Alden proposes to her. The handsome captain-to-be has everything Waverly could ever want in a husband, and with the pressure to start having children, everyone is sure he’s the best choice. Except for Waverly, who wants more from life than marriage—and is secretly intrigued by the shy, darkly brilliant Seth.

But when the Empyrean faces sudden attack by their assumed allies, they quickly find out that the enemies aren’t all from the outside.

Also, there’s a banner on my sidebar linking to Regina Linton’s blog, who is hosting a giveaway for it, too!

Blog Titles and Other Thoughts

Dandelion clock

Random picture. We can pretend it means that time is ephemeral and fleeting, like dandelion fluff held aloft in the breeze. But really, I just thought it looked cool.

Do you ever wonder what meaning or story a blog title may have? Most titles I guess are straightforward, like “So and So Writes!” or “Books Books Books!” or “How To ___.” But, there are those other ones (you know what I mean, I’m sure) that are either titled or domain-named (can that be a verb?) kinda randomly. Or, am I the only one that wonders about these things? Like I’m reaching to find a story where none really exists.

At any rate, I started thinking about bloggery things, and inevitably, blog titles/names since I chatted with a group of lovely writer friends last night about blogs.*

Previously, my blog title was simply, “Reading Makes Me Happy.” (In fact, some wordpress correspondence still shows up that way, which kinda throws me.) Obviously, I love books, I love reading, so BAM! Easy title! (My focus quote was: “I read to find a ladder to heaven.” W. Strieber.)

Well, sometime last year I had an epiphany, and I won’t go into details about it here (feel free to click on that link, though :)), but I realized that my unacknowledged dreams of writing a book and being a published author was in fact attainable, and it was only seemingly unattainable because I made it so. I did nothing to get me toward writing a novel, so why was I surprised that “gasp! I didn’t have a written novel, and I never will, and this will never happen for me.” *wonk, wonk*

All I needed to do was break down my dream (published author) into a more manageable goal (write novels), and break down the action steps to get me to that goal (develop and hone my writing skills, find a feedback/support group, read a lot, etc). With a paythebills job (sometimes, two!), balancing my goals was sometimes tricky, but I never let the “I have no TIME!” be an excuse for me to fall back on. (I have the same 24-hours that Edison, Einstein, and all those guys had! Surely I can “find the time” to write a book!)

“Find solutions, not excuses” is a mantra I embrace, and I’m also someone who responds well to accountability exercises and goal setting. (It’s the Achiever in me.) I wanted to make the most of the time that I have been given, and not just impulsively do things in the moment. I wanted to really create value in the now that I have. Thus the title, “Redeeming the Time.” (Also, it sounds pretty.) 🙂

“Redeeming the time” reminds me to focus on the things that I do control, like working on the craft of novel writing, so that I can eventually see my dream realized. It also reminds me to simplify and let go of those things that distract me from my goals. Sometimes it’s tough, but I don’t count it as a sacrifice. At this point, I find I feel freer because I’m not owned by other time-wasters. I have more ownership and control of my time, and guard that time zealously.

With all that said, I really want to incorporate reading back into my writing schedule, and even though I’ve said that I don’t really do book reviews, I at least want to put a few in rotation. (I plan on posting a book review page soon). Now, the reviews won’t be as fancy or engaging as most out there, but like this blog, it’s mainly just to keep me accountable to reading all the beautiful stories that find themselves in my mailbox or inbox. If my love for a book inspires someone to go out and read it, well, I’ll look at it as a bonus!

Plus, it’s a shame to get ARCs or egalleys and not give at least a little pre-release blurb about the book. Heck, even sharing a “new to me” title would be delightful. Great stories are meant to be shared and loved. The writers who wrote those stories should know that their sweat, tears, and sleepless nights have created worlds for readers to live in.

For a little while, both the reader and writer share the same dreamspace, and that is an experience worth cultivating.

So Tell Me: Any story behind your blog title? Do you like or care when someone blogs (non-spoiler-y) book reviews?

*The other friends I chatted with were: