Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine: A Review

For ATY’s 2019 Reading Challenge, prompt #34, a book with a person’s name in the title, I chose to read Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine. When I chose this book, I thought it was an easy choice, but in looking back at my TBR, there are a number of books that would fit this category. But this one is also on the Newbery Honors list, so that made the decision easier.

In this story, Ella is given a gift at birth by a fairy – the gift of obedience. Anything she’s ordered to do, she is compelled to do. For her own protection against those who would take advantage of this “gift,” Ella’s mother orders her to keep it a secret. Nevertheless, as she grows up, some people discover Ella’s compulsion to obey, and do indeed take gross advantage.

There is a nasty step-sister, an encounter with ogres, a hunt for a fairy and a giant’s wedding. All this, Ella endures, seeking out the fairy who gifted her in the first place, hoping to convince her to remove it.

This is a fun read, full of adventure, falling in love and a strong heroine who learns to trust in herself in order to overcome obstacles. It does tend to sort of wander a bit more than I would have liked, but overall, I enjoyed this book.

Unlock the Muse – May 28, 2019

Research is an ongoing part of the writing process. Though, in order to make the most of what is learned, it must be accessible. As we finish the month of May and look forward to June, let’s take the next step and begin organizing the bits of knowledge we accumulate daily. Let’s look at some ways to make the most of our research and put it to use in our stories.

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Write about the revision process. Is there a metaphor that describes this process in relation to you?

For some writers, the revision process is tough and maybe even a little scary. For others, it’s the most fun part, maybe coming more naturally to them than drafting does. Wherever you’re at in regards to revision, write about it. Draft a poem, a silly song, or a short horror story. Just don’t forget to revise it.

It’s the final week of May. As such, it’s time to play! A roll of the Rory’s Story Cubes, Action set to help motivate more words…


Stuck? Choose one of the pictures and do a little research about it!

Happy writing!

The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill: A Review

For the Around the Year in 52 books 2019 Challenge, a book with one of the 5 W’s in the title, I chose to read The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill. This book was already on my list as it’s on the Newbery Honors list as the winner from 2017.

This is the story of Luna, a girl taken from her mother as a baby to be sacrificed to the swamp witch. The village Luna is taken from is under a dark curse of some sort, and every year the youngest child in the village is sacrificed to placate the witch. The witch, however, is not what the villagers suppose. She in fact, rescues the child every year and can’t fathom why the villagers do this horrible thing.

Luna is simply the latest in this line of children abandoned in the forest. The witch doesn’t take Luna directly to the place where she’s left all the other children. In fact, she inadvertently enmagicks the child, and ends up keeping her to raise as her own child. Luna is taken back to the witch’s home in the swamp where she grows up with the witch, a swamp monster, and a “perfectly tiny” dragon.

This is a simply delightful book. I loved it very much! Especially Fryrian, the “perfectly tiny,” pocket-sized dragon.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry! by Mildred D. Taylor: A Review

I decided to read Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry! by Mildred D. Taylor for the 2019 ATY Reading Challenge, prompt #31, a children’s classic I’ve never read. This book was already on my to read list, as I have a personal challenge to read through all the Newbery Honor books. I didn’t realize it was part four of a series, and not the first book. I don’t usually like to read a book in the middle of a series, but I decided to go for it anyway in this case.

This is the story of Cassie Logan. Set in Mississippi during the Depression, Cassie and her family struggle to maintain their integrity, pride and independence in the face of racism and social injustice. 9-year old Cassie is confronted with the ugly realities of racism – from being humiliated by a rude white family to witnessing the violence of the “night men”.

This book is well written. Cassie is a girl with a lot of heart and a lot of courage. I’m glad I read it, and would definitely recommend it to others.

Unlock the Muse – May 21, 2019

It’s Tuesday again. Time for a little inspiration and some renewed energy for writing. The trees are thick with leaves. Spring showers are inspiring lawns and soccer fields to grow thick. The cottonwoods are shedding, sending their fluffy little hopefuls out into the wilds of the city. Hopefully, the deep winter of research is likewise about to result in spring-like productivity on our current projects, whatever they may be.

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Look for an interesting or unusual story in this week’s Sunday paper. Write a fiction piece using this as inspiration.

Inspiration is all around us, just waiting to be noticed. Don’t usually get the Sunday paper? Borrow one from a neighbor (but be sure to return it!). Or find a nearby newsstand and buy a copy. Browse the headlines, read the obituaries, check out the sports page, and don’t forget the horoscopes. Find something that grabs your attention. Now write about it.

As a bonus, maybe you’ll find a great coupon for a favorite local eating establishment. After you write your piece, go and treat yourself!


The systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions.

The word research dates back to the 1570s, from the Middle French recerche, “act of searching closely.” It comes from the intensive prefix re- + cercher “to seek for,” related to the Latin circare, meaning to “go about, wander, traverse.”

Happy wandering!

The God of Small Things, by Arundati Roy: A Review

Prompt #13 on the 2019 ATY Reading Challenge is a book from a New York Public Library’s staff picks list. I chose to read The God of Small Things, by Arundati Roy as it was already on my TBR. I chose the audio version of the book narrated by Sneha Mathan.

This story is primarily a retrospective look at the life of Rahel and her twin brother, Estha. Early on in the story it’s revealed that something bad happened in the early lives of Rahel and Estha. But time is slippery, and the story circles around this event, moving back and forth in time.

There is a musical quality to this book that is beautiful. Several words and phrases are repeated throughout, and many passages are chanted recitations of poems and songs. I listened to this on audio, so this aspect of the book really stood out in a good way.

Overall, I enjoyed this book very much. The slipperiness of the time stream made it sometimes difficult for me to follow what was going on. I didn’t always feel grounded in the story. But the action always circled back to that single, formative event giving a sort of inevitability to the story.

Unlock the Muse – May 14, 2019

Welcome to week two of May 2019. I’m in the heart of soccer season with my boys. Life is extraordinarily busy, but that isn’t going to change any time soon. The school year will be ending soon, and I am not ready for that. I am researching swim programs, summer reading programs and the like. And hopefully, I’m also accomplishing some novel research.

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Begin a reading journal. Note the last five books you’ve read and what you liked or disliked about them.

The things that work or don’t work for you in a book that you read are most likely the same things you should put into or leave out of your own writing. Use this journal to recognize the patterns. Is it the beautifully descriptive writing? Intriguing characters? Action packed plots? Can’t stand the love triangle trope? Does the “chosen one” theme put you to sleep?

Incorporate the things you enjoy most about other books into your own writing, and carefully avoid the things you don’t.

I’ll leave you this week with this thought:

Research Quote 3

Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – May 7, 2019

It’s the first Tuesday of May, and I can’t help but wonder: How is it May already? Last month was Camp NaNoWriMo, and I used it to dig into my science fiction novel series. My goal is to produce a detailed outline for the series. While I do this, I am also working on researching the details I need to make this story even better.

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Prepare a list of magazines you’d like to query by the month’s end. Start brainstorming and make a list of possible article ideas.

Here’s another chance to practice your research skills. Maybe you pull out the latest version of a Writer’s Market. Or go shopping, buy a copy of a few of your favorites and check the mastheads. What do you like to write about? What is your area of expertise? Find a market for what you write.

Research is an inevitable part of a writer’s life. Whether you’re looking for period details for a historical romance, the exact amount of thrust required to escape Earth’s atmosphere or you’re making it all up for an epic fantasy, research is necessary to make it all believable. This month I will be taking a closer look at this essential part of writing.

I’ve written before about how I like to start my research on a project in the children’s section of my local library. While my children are growing, now reading on their own and not as interesting in reading with me, I still start here. It’s more accessible in many ways than the adult library, and I can get through a wide variety of material more quickly. It works well for a broad base of knowledge.

What are your best research tips?

Happy writing!

Mystery of Ghost Island, by Paul Moxham: A Review

I’m always looking for fun middle grade books, and I found Mystery of Ghost Island, by Paul Moxham on an ebook deal and decided to check it out. It sat in my ever growing e-library for some time before I found a place for it on the 2019 Popsugar Reading Challenge for prompt #30, a book featuring an amateur detective.

This is the eighth book in The Mystery Series, by Paul Moxham, featuring four children – Joe, Amy, Sarah and Will. The books are set in 1950s Great Britain. Though in this story, the children visit the coast of France. Here they encounter a rumor of a sea monster plaguing a nearby cove. Thus begins a series of wild adventures – or misadventures – taking the children to a desolate island. They get trapped in a flooded room, escape in a canoe, survive an earthquake, and a lot more.

I didn’t enjoy this book that much. The action seemed too improbable, especially for children the age which these characters are supposed to be. Early readers just venturing into chapter books might find this book fun. But it didn’t hold my interest at all as an adult.