The Lunar Chronicles, by Marissa Meyer: A Review

I read Cinder, book one of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series, last year as part of my “Year of the Woman” reading challenge. This year, I knew I wanted to finish some of the many series I’ve started in the last couple of years, and The Lunar Chronicles was one I managed to find places for on my 2019 Reading Challenges. Scarlet and Cress (books two and three) fit Popsugar’s prompts #11, a book with an item of clothing or accessory on the cover, and #35, a book by an author whose first and last name start with the same letter. I found a place for book four, Winter, on ATY’s list with prompt #28, a book related to something cold.

These books contain brilliant retellings of popular fairy tale stories. Meyer has seamlessly put Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Snow White into a futuristic society with cyborgs, androids, lunar colonies and bio-engineered human/wolf hybrids.

The four books contain a single story arc centered around ambitious Queen Levana of Luna who has designs on controlling both her own people as well as those of Earth. Central to her ambition is Kaito, the newly crowned Emperor of the Commonwealth on Earth.

Each of the four books adds a new element to the overall story, a new character. Each character adds their own piece to the story, without which, they could not succeed.

Meyer’s style is fun and entertaining. She combines just the right amount of intrigue and adventure with just the right amount of romance and despair. Furthermore, I took much delight in finding the tiny details she took from the original fairy tales, changing them just enough so that they fit perfectly into her own version of the stories.

I thoroughly enjoyed these books. The fairy tale aspect was a lot of fun, but even if you’re not into that, if you like young adult dystopian style fiction, I’d recommend giving this series a try.

War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy: A Review

For ATY’s 2019 Reading Challenge prompt #27 – a book from the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list – I chose to read War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy. War and Peace is one of those great Russian classics that you either feel that you must add to your “someday” read list, or avoid like the plague. Just the idea of it is daunting.

I opted for the audio version of this book, thinking that listening to a huge classic might be easier than reading it for myself. I’m not convinced that is true.

War and Peace follows the story of several Russian families over the back drop of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. Tolstoy alternates sections of historical review of the wars and the narrative of the characters’ lives.

The level of detail in this book is exceptional. Tolstoy clearly researched his topic thoroughly. There were moments I could have believed he was relating a personal experience as I listened to the battle scenes. To be honest, I had a hard time staying focused through a lot of the historical review parts, though this could be because I chose to listen instead of read the book for myself.

I found myself more engaged in the story during the narrative sections. I became quite invested in the lives in the characters and was at times moved to tears over their plights. They endure great hardships and celebrate great joys. Tolstoy writes about people from all walks of life, from the Tsar Alexander and the nobility who surrounded him down to the peasants at the lowest level of Russian society.

War and Peace has such a daunting reputation, I honestly wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it before hand. I’ll admit, I was intimidated by it. But I still wanted to experience some Russian literature for myself. A couple of years ago, I chose to read Anna Karenina, also by Leo Tolstoy, thinking that it might be less difficult. Now that I’ve experienced both books, I realize I was wrong in my thinking. Despite its size, War and Peace was much more accessible to me than Anna Karenina was.

I would definitely consider reading this book again some day as I find time. I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would. If you haven’t read it, maybe it’s time to add it to your list. It might not be an easy book to read, but it is a worthwhile book.

Unlock the Muse – June 25, 2019

Here it is, the last week of June already. Summer is flying by. Before we know it, it will be time to start making back-to-school plans. But let’s not rush into things too fast.

Have you made any headway on organizing your writing life this month? So far we’ve tackled the writing space, a summer calendar and a character Rolodex. Now it’s time for what could be the biggest organizational challenge of the month.

There is often nothing at all organized about creativity. It can be flighty and chaotic. And, if you’re anything like me, this chaos manifests in scribbled notes, random research and bits of ideas scattered across various documents and forms. For example, I keep a notebook handy at all times to capture that random thought whenever or wherever it might strike. This results in a mess of handwritten notes that aren’t even in any sort of order.

Your challenge this week, therefore, is to work on bringing those various notes and ideas into a single place. Create a notes document for each project and enter your handwritten notes. Create a spreadsheet if that helps you track what you’re working on. This is a big project, and could take a bit of time. It’s worth it, though, if it allows you quicker access to the work you’ve already done.

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Start a novel today. Write page one of the novel you have always wanted to write.

There’s nothing for it, but to start writing. Whether you’ve been waiting to be ready, to finish your research, or for your desk space to be clear, wait no longer. Just. Start. Writing.

Since we can’t be all work and no play, here’s a roll of the Rory’s Story Cubes to help inspire more creativity…


Happy writing!

Unlock the Muse – June 18, 2019

June is already half over. Summer solstice is days away, ushering in the official start to the season. Already we’ve experienced record breaking temperatures where I live, though thankfully, they have come back down to a more reasonable level.

This month, I’ve been focusing on organization. Have you tackled any of the challenges? Personally, I’m still working on clearing my writing space. Yeah, it was that bad. My summer calendar also, is a work in progress. Still, I have a new challenge for you this week.

This week, build a Rolodex-style system for your characters. Whether you use an actual Rolodex, a series of index cards, or 3-ring binders with full page dossiers for each character, create a profile for each character in your work in progress. Include more detail with your main characters, but be sure to write up something for even the most minor of minor characters. Little is more frustrating than creating a small time character, giving her a name, then being unable to recall that name when she shows up again several chapters later. Give her a profile, even if it contains nothing more than her name and role.

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Follow the scent. Of all the senses ignored by writers, the sense of smell has to be the most over-looked. Those two little holes in the front of our face tell us a lot about the world, so don’t let your characters miss out on the olfactory experience. Re-enter a story you wrote, and add smells.

I’m among the guilty in neglecting the sense of smell in my writing. Scent can trigger strong memories and emotions. It can be quite powerful if used well in your fiction.


1. Arrange into a structured whole; order.
2. Make arrangements or preparations for (an event or activity); coordinate.

The word organize comes from the early 15c, from the Middle French organiser and directly from Medieval Latin, organizare which comes from the Latin word organum, meaning “instrument or organ.”

Happy writing!

Bloodwitch, by Susan Dennard: A Review

Bloodwitch, by Susan Dennard, is my pick for Popsugar’s 2019 Reading Challenge prompt #26. a book published in 2019. I discovered this series with my first reading challenge in 2016, and I’ve read one each year as they’ve been released.

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this series, and I anticipated this book in particular for quite awhile. The third installment of the Witchlands series, Bloodwitch focuses on the character Aeduan. We first met Aeduan in book one, where to all appearances, he was the enemy. As the action develops, however, we learn there is a lot more to Aeduan.

The Witchlands series opened at a breathtaking pace, and Dennard does not let up. Bloodwitch continues where Windwitch left off. In this book, Aeduan is forced to confront many truths about himself and is faced with a decision with potentially far-reaching consequences.

I’m still loving this series. I’m not sure what’s coming next, but I will await it with eager anticipation. If you enjoy epic fantasy, magic, tons of adventure and just the right amount of romance, I would encourage you to give this series a try.

Unlock the Muse – June 11, 2019

As summer vacation officially begins across the northern hemisphere, the writing continues, regular schedule or not. Whether your life changes dramatically when then kiddos (or you?) get out of school, or you’re still stuck at the day job, planning ahead will make the writing that much easier.

With that in mind, this week’s organizational challenge is to create a calendar for the next three months. Buy one, print one, draw your own – format is up to you. Write in all the events that can’t be changed, or at least not easily – things like doctor and dentist appointments, jury duty or family vacations for which you’ve paid a non-refundable deposit. Now, pencil in for yourself some planned writing times. Use your preexisting schedule if you have one.

Make your plan as detailed as you need, but don’t spend too much time on it. Plan activities for your family, arrange events for your children where you don’t necessarily need to attend as well. Prepare a meal plan if that helps you.

Life is never as simple as an organized calendar of events. Don’t let unplanned events derail you completely. If the schedule blows up for a day, a week or even an entire month, let it go and get back on track as soon as you can. Don’t give up on your goal!

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Go to your local post office, and ask about the differences between mailing a package first class vs. priority. Write an article about what you learn.

Remember writing those informational articles back in school? Here’s a chance to practice your skills in more formal writing, research and editing. While you’re there at the post office, ask about the cost of shipping a manuscript, or books. The information could be useful one day. Don’t forget to pick up some fun postage stamps while you’re there as well. Letter writing is a dying art.

I’ll leave you this week with a thought from Albert Einstein:

Organization Quote 1

Happy writing!

Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: A Review

My pick for Popsugar’s 2019 Reading Challenge prompt #32, a book written by an author from Asia, Africa or South America, was Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I had heard many good things about this book and added it to my TBR list. I chose the audio edition, narrated by Adjoa Andoh.

On the surface, this is a love story between Ifemelu and Obinze. But it is also the story of immigration in a post-9/11 world. Both Ifemelu and Obinze attempt to leave Nigeria, seeking better lives elsewhere. Ifemelu ends up in America, but Obinze is unable to follow her.

Following an incident shortly after her arrival in the US, Ifemelu breaks off contact with Obinze. The story then follows her experiences in America, both good and bad. Eventually, the book takes us back to Obinze and we learn that he, unable to find a way directly to America, makes his way to England instead.

Ifemelu and Obinze both experience the hardships of immigration. Neither have official papers, and go through all dangerous situations as a result. Ultimately, both end up going back to Nigeria, voluntarily or otherwise.

The story wanders back and forth a little bit, first moving time in a normal pattern, then jumping ahead to Ifemelu preparing to return home. These bits are written in a reminiscing style, with Ifemelu recalling the different steps that brought her to this decision to return to Nigeria.

Ultimately, this is a fascinating look at the world through the cultural dichotomy of First World and Third World interactions. It examines race in America from the perspective of an African immigrant. It takes the reader into the dark world of illegal immigration and what people are willing to do in order to improve their situation.

I found the time jumping a little bit hard to follow, maybe because I chose the audio version. But this book is well written and contains some truly beautiful ideas.

The Liveship Traders Trilogy, by Robin Hobb: A Review

I read The Liveship Traders trilogy by Robin Hobb which filled three prompts for the 2019 Popsugar Reading Challenge. I started reading Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings series last year along with a group I’m part of on Goodreads. I finished the first series relatively on track, but fell hopelessly behind with this second series. Thus, they all fit prompt #9, a book I meant to read in 2018. I put book two, Mad Ship into that category and fit the other two into prompt #40, a favorite prompt from a past Popsugar Reading Challenge. Book one, Ship of Magic, is a prompt from 2017, a book with a red spine. And book three, Ship of Destiny is a prompt from 2018, a book set at sea.

Before I had even finished the first book of Hobb’s first series, she found a place on my favorite authors list. She writes the kind of book I love to read – intricate plots, interesting characters and absolutely amazing world-building.

I’ll be honest, after reading The Farseer trilogy, I had some difficulties transitioning to The Liveship Traders trilogy. The first series is written from the first person perspective of one character, so it is intimate and immediate. Liveship, however, backs away from this, and uses multiple third-person perspectives. While this allows for a much broader view of the world she’s created, it is far less personal.

Also, in the first book, Ship of Magic, I had a really didn’t like any of the characters. Every one of them seem cruel, greedy and self-serving in one way or another. Still, Hobb is a master at what she does. She managed to pull me into her world and made me care about what was happening even if I didn’t particularly care for who it was happening to.

In book two, Mad Ship, Hobb builds on what she started in the first one. More details of this mysterious world are revealed. The plot expands and twists in a lot of directions. And I finally came to care a lot more about the characters involved in this story.

Book three, Ship of Destiny, brings this incredibly intricate story to a beautiful conclusion. There is so much going on in this series, but Hobb manages to weave them all together into a complete picture.

I can’t recommend Hobb’s books enough. Her world-building is fantastic. Her characters are genuine – flawed individuals who make mistakes and then learn to live with the consequences. I really liked The Farseer trilogy, but I think I loved The Liveship Traders even more. I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of her books!

Unlock the Muse – June 4, 2019

Welcome to June! Soccer season is just about over. School gets out in a matter of days. Schedules will be changing for a lot of people. If you are one of those who gets summer off, what do you plan to use the time for?

While my schedule doesn’t change appreciably, my children will be out of school, and so I will need to be a little more creative in providing options to keep them busy during the day. One key to making summer work out best for everyone is to be as organized as possible. Organization is also important to making the most of my writing opportunities.

In light of that, I propose a series of challenges for the month of June. Your first challenge is to organize your writing space. Whether you write in a full office or you’ve carved out a corner of a closet, clear it out and organize it to make it as effective and inviting a place as possible. To be fair, this is a challenge I particularly need to do myself. If you’re brave enough, post before and after photos in the comments!

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

What do you love most about your life? Remembering the things you enjoy will help guide you when your life seems to be sailing off course.

Lists are good organizational tools as well. So go for it. Make a list of all those good things, take stock of your life. Are you where you want to be? If so, fantastic! If not, take a look at your list. What is one action – however small – you can take right now that will move you closer to your goal?

If you haven’t guessed yet, the theme for June is Organization. I’ll pose a new challenge each week like the one above. To be honest, this theme is more for myself as I could definitely do with some improvement in this area. I’m far from an expert in organizing anything. Maybe you’re like me and could use a little challenge to pull things together. Or perhaps organization is a breeze for you. In that case, I’d welcome any tips you might care to share!

Happy writing!