Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Silent Songbird: A Book Review

 Hello all. I apologize for my distinct lack of posts. It's a common excuse but a lot has happened in my life including moving into my college residence and starting a new school. There are some changes coming to the blog and with those changes I wish to resume a more regular schedule. But for now, I present to you a review of The Silent Songbird by Melanie Dickerson!

Evangeline longs to be free, to live in the world outside the castle walls. But freedom comes at a cost.

Evangeline is the ward and cousin of King Richard II, and yet she dreams of a life outside of Berkhamsted Castle, where she might be free to marry for love and not politics. But the young king betroths her to his closest advisor, Lord Shiveley, a man twice as old as Evangeline. Desperate to escape a life married to a man she finds revolting, Evangeline runs away from the king and joins a small band of servants on their way back to their home village.

To keep her identity a secret, Evangeline pretends to be mute. Evangeline soon regrets the charade as she gets to know Wesley, the handsome young leader of the servants, whom she later discovers is the son of a wealthy lord. But she cannot reveal her true identity for fear she will be forced to return to King Richard and her arranged marriage.

Wesley le Wyse is intrigued by the beautiful new servant girl. When he learns that she lost her voice from a beating by a cruel former master, he is outraged. But his anger is soon redirected when he learns she has been lying to him. Not only is she not mute, but she isn't even a servant.

Weighed down by remorse for deceiving Wesley, Evangeline fears no one will ever love her. But her future is not the only thing at stake, as she finds herself embroiled in a tangled web that threatens England's monarchy. Should she give herself up to save the only person who cares about her? If she does, who will save the king from a plot to steal his throne?

I have to admit. This isn't my favorite Melanie Dickerson book. It's good, though, and a worthy addition to her collection of fairytale retellings. If you couldn't tell by the title and description, this is a retelling of Little Mermaid. There are no mermaids involved, however, since like her other novels, this is also a historical. 

So let's talk plot. Like in The Little Mermaid, our heroine, Eva, gives up her speech. Her reasoning is far different from Ariel's, however, and she only pretends muteness. Her plan isn't totally thought out, however, because she finds herself missing her ability to speak very quickly when she falls for the handsome and kind Wesley Le Wyse. *Bats eyes*. The plot was decent and for the most part Eva's choices made sense. Who would want to marry a horrible man way older than them? There were parts of the plot I wished were expanded, but to discuss them would provide too many spoilers. Let's just say that like in the original Little Mermaid, Eva has to save Wesley at one point and I wish that Eva would have had more interaction with some of the people involved in that. Otherwise, the plot was well-rounded and I enjoyed some of the historical details Dickerson included, like scratching pray requests on the chapel walls. 

The characters were fine, though I notice that sometimes Dickerson's characters in different novels are somewhat similar. Perhaps it is just the way I read them. I like the fact that Eva feels guilty over her lies and doesn't just let it go as a character would in many novels. Since this is a Christian novel, I'm happy to see Christian morals upheld and guilt to be applied to the act of lying. I liked Wesley, of course. Dickerson always writes swoonworthy male leads and Wesley is no different. He's kind, adorably sweet, and likes Eva even when he thinks she's a poor mute. Gotta love it when I wealthier guy isn't snooty. After the amount of 'bad boys' in recent fiction, it's so nice to see some kind-hearted ones as well. 

The rest of the cast fulfilled their roles as well. The villain was perfectly villainous and nasty and the king was completely out of it for most of the novel. I had to do some research and the young king from this story had a sad end in real life, dying several years after this story after his kingdom is taken over. I love that Dickerson included a historical character as a large part of her novel and overall I enjoyed this story! You can find a copy at Amazon or wherever it is sold.

~ a rambling author

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Lost Girl of Astor Street Clue Hunt: Clue #19

Hello, lovely friends and welcome to the Lost Girl of Astor Street Clue Hunt! The fabulous Stephanie Morrill's latest book has just released and here is a bit more about it:

Lost Girl of Astor Street_cover (2)Lydia has vanished.

Lydia, who’s never broken any rules, except falling in love with the wrong boy. Lydia, who’s been Piper’s best friend since they were children. Lydia, who never even said good-bye.

Convinced the police are looking in all the wrong places, eighteen-year-old Piper Sail begins her own investigation in an attempt to solve the mystery of Lydia’s disappearance. With the reluctant help of a handsome young detective, Piper goes searching for answers in the dark underbelly of 1924 Chicago, determined to find Lydia at any cost.

When Piper discovers those answers might stem from the corruption strangling the city—and quite possibly lead back to the doors of her affluent neighborhood—she must decide how deep she’s willing to dig, how much she should reveal, and if she’s willing to risk her life of privilege for the sake of the truth.

From the glitzy homes of the elite to the mob-run streets of 1920s Chicago, Stephanie Morrill’s jazz-age mystery shows just how far a girl will go to save her friend.

Now, I know you're really here for the clue, but first, Stephanie has some awesome content to share with you, including this snazzy list,

                                                                  10 Things to Love About the 1920s.

10. Men wearing fedoras and other kinds of hats. A pretty dapper time in men's fashion.

9. The general glitz of fashionable evening wear. Beaded dresses and sparkly diadems and fringe hems.

8. The cheesy slang. The bee's knees, the cat's pajamas, the elephant's instep. It's hard to pick

7. Handkerchiefs: I was so excited to finally write a book where a guy could offer a girl his handkerchief when she was feeling distressed.

6. The Fitzgeralds. The way that F. Scott and Zelda came to embody the 1920s just fascinates me.

5. The Charleston: I'm not a dancer, but that song lifts my spirits. I would have enjoyed learning that.

4. The simplicity of women's dresses. No corsets, no complicated buttons up the back of a dress. Lots of simple lines and comfort.

3. Bobbed hair. I currently choose to wear my hair long, but I love that this decade made it acceptable for women to wear their hair short if they wanted.

2. Improved health care for women. Now that women could vote, politicians started caring a lot more about things that women cared about. Birthing centers at hospitals improved greatly during this decade.

1. Cloche hats, those bell shaped hats you see flappers wearing. I seriously adjusted the year my story was set in when I discovered cloche hats were not popular until 1924.

Stephanie Morrill Low Res

Stephanie Morrill is the creator of and the author of several young adult novels, including the historical mystery, The Lost Girl of Astor Street. Despite loving cloche hats and drop-waist dresses, Stephanie would have been a terrible flapper because she can’t do the Charleston and looks awful with bobbed hair. She and her near-constant ponytail live in Kansas City with her husband and three kids.

Being a part of this hunt has been great fun. Write down the hint and head to the next stop. (Pst... if you can't find it, here's a hint--the text is a different color.) Onward and good luck!

Clue 1: Stephanie Morrill
Clue 2: Some Books Are
Clue 3: Gabriella Slade
Clue 4: Page by Page, Book by Book
Clue 5: Pens and Scrolls
Clue 6: Singing Librarian Books
Clue 7: Heather Manning
Clue 8: Annie Louise Twitchell
Clue 9: Noveling Novelties
Clue 10: Kaitee Hart
Clue 11: Classics and Craziness
Clue 12: Zerina Blossom
Clue 13: Rebecca Morgan
Clue 14: Keturah's Korner
Clue 15: That Book Gal
Clue 16: Anna Schaeffer
Clue 17: Hadley Grace
Clue 18: Lydia Howe
Clue 19: Ramblings by Bethany
Clue 20: Matilda Sjöholm
Clue 21: Lydia Carns
Clue 22: Broken Birdsong
Clue 23 & Clue 24: The Ink Loft
Clue 25: Roseanna M. White

Friday, October 28, 2016

Write What You Know

NaNo is coming.

People say write what you know. I say write what you want.

 Does this mean every story that breaks out of the confines of your mind will become an acclaimed and published piece of fiction? Of course not.

 Writing is not science. One recipe might not spell success. What is right for one person may not work for another. On the other hand, there are some helpful guidelines or suggestions that can help a writer grow in tremendous ways.

 Write what you know, or don't. If we only wrote what we know there would be no soaring fantasies or speculative historical digging out the details of people from the past. Every story would be a modern tale with limited paths. Writing what you know can be awesome. I want to write stories in the theatrical landscape because I am an actress as well as a writer.

 Write what you know. If something happens that inspires you, use it. Of one small moment gives you the idea for the most insignificant detail of your story, use it.

You are a writer. You get to choose if your story will be filled with minivans or  brave knights. You are a world creator, whether that world is a mirror of your own or a deeply detailed kingdom.

 You've got this. Use what you know to your advantage and if you don't know something research it until you do. How do you write what you know? By writing. Write and you will learn. Write all the stories spilling out of you and love them.

 Write them all, whether you know them or not. Step up, introduce yourself. You've got this.

 ~ a rambling author

PS When I use the words write what you know, I am using them in the context of today's world. While you may have plenty of knowledge about a subject, you wouldn't be able to do some of the things you write, if that makes sense.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Wednesdays of Writing are Back...

...I hope! I've been thinking. My life is still crazy, but it has calmed down a bit, and I think I need to blog more. I'm going to try my best to blog every Wednesday and keep you guys informed on my writing pursuits. Tomorrow, I hope to have a book review up because I would love to bring Bookish Thursdays back as well (and then maybe Theatre Tuesdays). But baby steps. Baby steps!

 Next month is National Novel Writing Month. While last year's novel didn't get finished, I hope to have a bit more time for writing pursuits this year. To combat writer's block, I've decided to plot my new story this entire month! I've started already, but there is still a lot to be done and I hope I am ready by November 1.

 My story is entitled 0. That's it. It's a working title. I don't know if it will be the final product or not, but I didn't want to stick to my original working title, The Z Papers. I don't have an official synopsis yet, but 0 is the story of a college drop-out and conspiracy theorist named Elizabeth who finds out that the thesis she bombed during her failed master's degree could be more true than she thought. When she's offered an incredible internship with a large health organization in exchange for her research, she learns more about the increasingly violent outbreak that turns humans into monsters. During her internship, she meets Patient 0, the first victim of the disease who shifts between a mysterious young man and a vicious monster. As things grow more complicated, Elizabeth must make a choice between one man and the world.

 That's a terrible description. If I can I will keep you informed of the storyline and characters as I add them. Right now my main characters are Elizabeth, a Korean-American girl and 0, a man who won't say his name and is infected, though his human side comes out between violent outbursts.

 I'm excited about this story because I enjoy twisting things from the usual. I never thought I'd write anything zombie-related, but I'm attempting to make a virus similar to a zombie-virus appear to be a realistic possibility. Instead of the dead rising, this zombie virus only infects the brain of humans, deteriorating it in a way that makes them fall to basic instincts. (I promise this isn't a typical gory zombie story!) There are some scary diseases out there now that are developing and that was one of the things that inspired this story. The story also deals with the importance of life, terrorism, and finding purpose in life.

 I'm excited! Now to get to plotting... If you want to see some of the images I've found to go along with my story, check out my Pinterest board.

What do you think?

~ a rambling author

Friday, September 16, 2016

Precious Moments 5-Minute Bedtime Treasury: A Review

 Today I'm reviewing a children's storybook. True, that's a bit abnormal, but if you have children or nieces and nephews you may understand as I picked to review this because I am a proud aunt and I thought my niece and nephew would enjoy it. The book is Precious Moments 5-Minute Bedtime Treasury. I received this book free from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.


Create a Bedtime Tradition in Just 5 Minutes

Delight your little ones with these sweet Precious Moments® characters as you share beloved Bible stories and comforting bedtime scriptures with them.

The five-minute format helps parents create a meaningful bedtime. With paraphrased stories from the International Children’s Bible®, you’ll nurture a love for God’s Word.

Take five minutes before bed to create a special connection with your precious child.

 I love Precious Moments designs. I always have. I guess it goes back to my Grandma first loving them and passing that down. The little characters look so sweet and innocent, how can you not think it's cute? And that makes it perfect for kids. 

 My sis agreed to do a miniature photoshoot with my adorable niece. I believe the nephew was taking a nap, so he missed out this time, but there will be more reviews in the future, I'm sure. This is Rachel. She's four. She loves girly things and playing and I think she's already gaining a love of books (I hope!). 

 This book is a great addition to the bedtime story collection. As a Christian parent, I know my sis wants to incorporate the Bible into the lives of her children, even when they're little.  This book allows that seamlessly with large, bright illustrations and simplified stories that still hold to the Biblical original. 

The book is a hardback cover with a soft cushion around it so it isn't easy to tear apart, very helpful when it comes to children.                                   
 Rachel hasn't quite learned to read yet, but from the concentration in the image to right, I think she's trying to pick out some letters. 

The kids really like this book. My sis describes it as "well-loved" and that makes me happy since as soon as I saw it I liked it. 

Charity (my sis), also says that the kids love the illustrations, so I guess they will be carrying on the tradition of being Precious Moments fans. 

 Overall, this book is well-made with large,gorgeous illustrations to captivate young readers (and listeners) to hear some important Bible stories and lessons. I'm glad to have had the chance to review it. To end, here are some more photos of those pictures. If you are interested in purchasing, it is available online, for one!

To fill out church records!

Family tree page.
As you can see, this book has many hidden treasures including a page for a family tree and church events. This book could be a well-loved memory for your grown child one day. 

 Thanks for reading!

~ a rambling author

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Golden Braid: A Book Review

Today I am reviewing The Golden Braid by Melanie Dickerson.

About: The one who needs rescuing isn’t always the one in the tower.
Rapunzel can throw a knife better than any man. She paints beautiful flowering vines on the walls of her plaster houses. She sings so sweetly she can coax even a beast to sleep. But there are two things she is afraid her mother might never allow her to do: learn to read and marry.
Fiercely devoted to Rapunzel, her mother is suspicious of every man who so much as looks at her daughter and warns her that no man can be trusted. After a young village farmer asks for Rapunzel’s hand in marriage, Mother decides to move them once again—this time, to the large city of Hagenheim.
The journey proves treacherous, and after being rescued by a knight—Sir Gerek—Rapunzel in turn rescues him farther down the road. As a result, Sir Gerek agrees to repay his debt to Rapunzel by teaching her to read. Could there be more to this knight than his arrogance and desire to marry for riches and position?
As Rapunzel acclimates to life in a new city, she uncovers a mystery that will forever change her life. In this Rapunzel story unlike any other, a world of secrets and treachery is about to be revealed after seventeen years of lies. How will Rapunzel finally take control of her own destiny? And who will prove faithful to a lowly peasant girl with no one to turn to?

 I'm a big fan of retellings. I've even written some myself. I'm also a huge fan of medieval settings, don't ask me why. Many of my story ideas live in medieval fantasy world. I read my first Melanie Dickerson book back around 2012 when I used money I won in a writing contest to buy some books I'd grown interested in. Since then I have had the pleasure of reading several of her written works, each seeming better than the one before (though I will always have a special place in my heart for The Captive Maiden.) As one of her releases this past year, The Golden Braid does not disappoint. 

 Rapunzel isn't the most common story you see retold. In fact, I never saw another version of it until the Disney film came out. After that, I did find one story based off of it. Dickerson does something unique with her retellings by placing them in historical medieval settings, making you wonder if they actually could have happened. This makes for a very interesting Rapunzel retelling as Rapunzel is not a story you would think of happening in real life. Dickerson writes it easily, seamlessly connecting it to other stories in her writing collection in a way that will make you want to read the predecessors if you haven't yet. 

 As far as characters go, I found them interesting and I admire the character development. Many of Dickerson's male leads have had a certain gruffness about them and I found Gerek to somewhat fit this category, but he was also a developed character struggling with some mighty heavy things. Rapunzel is a sweet and kind maiden, but she also faces her own problems including fear of men. As I mentioned in the first sentence, I really enjoyed the way Dickerson developed these characters from their initial traits of fear or even selfishness into something new and beautiful. 

 The plot was exciting and made me wonder just what might come next. I guessed a few things about it, partially due to another reader's excitement, but it did not ruin the story for me or the way my eyes teared up in a tender moment. Just when you think the characters are going to relax and take a break, a chapter or two goes by and something else exciting happens. I believe this story coincides with The Princess Spy, a story I haven't read yet, (sadly--its on my reading list!) so I would recommend reading that book first as there are some plot  points in The Golden Braid that might spoil it for you. 

 Overall, I enjoyed this story and am happy to add it to my Melanie Dickerson and fairytale retelling collection. 

Have you read anything by Melanie Dickerson?

~ a rambling author

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Paper Crowns: Book Spotlight

 My friend Mirriam Neal has a new book out, Paper Crowns. Here is some more information on this fascinating sounding story.


 Ginger has lived in seclusion, with only her aunt Malgarel and her blue cat, Halcyon, to keep her company. Her sheltered, idyllic life is turned upside-down when her home is attacked by messengers from the world of fae. Accompanied by Halcyon (who may or may not be more than just a cat), an irascible wysling named Azrael, and a loyal fire elemental named Salazar, Ginger ventures into the world of fae to bring a ruthless Queen to justice.

Sounds compelling, right? If you'd like to check it further, take a look at some of these links. Maybe you'll find your new favorite author.

And to finish off, here is a bit about the amazing Mirriam herself. 
  Mirriam Neal is a twenty-two-year-old Northwestern hipster living in Atlanta. She writes hard-to-describe books in hard-to-describe genres, and illustrates things whenever she finds the time.  She aspires to live as faithfully and creatively as she can and she hopes you do, too.



I hope you enjoyed this book spotlight and will take a look into the further career of this talented author.