mini book review: i’d rather be reading

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I’ve always thought of myself as a voracious reader but after reading Anne Bogel’s essays on her love of reading, I confess to feeling a little inadequate.  Her passion for books is palpable on every page.  Some of the essays were a tad boring, maybe because I don’t know Bogal personally, but overall I’d Rather Be Reading was a delightful book that paid homage to the beauty of the written word.  Highly recommended to story lovers everywhere!

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Eva

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book review: everything she didn’t say

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Everything She Didn’t Say details the travels and thoughts of Carrie Adell Strahorn, a real historical figure who is perhaps best known for her memoir 15,000 Miles by Stage.  Her memoir – and this novel – details how she and her husband, Robert, traveled the West while working for the railroad.  I really enjoyed the ‘real life’ feel of Everything She Didn’t Say, especially the excerpts from Dell’s memoir that were interspersed with fictional conversations and characterizations.  It’s definitely an intriguing concept that was done right.

The characters were a good blend of likable and realistic (read: ‘annoying’).  I liked seeing how Dell and Robert worked through the rough patches in their marriage.  Too often couples in Christian novels blow up over the smallest thing but the Strahorns were more realistic.  Of course, it helps that they were a real, historical couple who never got a divorce.

Everything She Didn’t Say was an excellent, well-written inspirational read but it did bore me at times.  But overall, this book is a great read for people who enjoy memoirs and well-written historical fiction.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Eva

‘a royal masquerade’ blog tour: interview with author Allison Tebo!

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I had the privilege of reading Allison Tebo’s charming novella The Reluctant Godfather earlier this year (check out my Goodreads review here) and now with the release of the newest book in her Tales of Ambia series – A Royal Masquerade – I was fortunate enough to interview her! The blog tour is still going, by the way. Check out the previous tour post at I’m Charles Baker Harris (And I Can Read) and be sure to keep an eye out for the next post over at The Road of a Writer.

So, before we hop into the interview, let me share a little more about Allison Tebo, her new book, the blog tour…and a cool giveaway! 🙂

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Allison Tebo is a Christian author in her mid-twenties. A sales associate for a major transportation company, she writes books in her spare time. A graduate of London Art College, Allison also pursues children’s illustration and cartooning. When she is not creating art with words or paint, she enjoys narration, singing, quilting, and, naturally, baking. Allison blogs at www.allisonswell.com about the love of Christ, the joys of living, occasionally, all about the wonder of gifs.

You can find her online in a bunch of places!

Website: http://allisonteboauthor.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/allisonteboauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AllisonTebo

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16192992.Allison_Tebo

And now for the book, A Royal Masquerade

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Burndee can barely tolerate the mischievous Prince Colin, but the two of them are invariably thrown together in a way that keeps them at one another’s throats.

While attending a noblewoman’s wedding, Burndee and Colin’s private feud comes to a climax when Burndee loses his temper and does the unthinkable. With Prince Colin unable to attend to his royal duties and Burndee bound by an inconvenient spell, can the two of them work together long enough to unsnarl the mysterious goings-on around them?

A madcap and magical retelling of The Goose Girl from a unique perspective.

It sounds sooooo good. I haven’t read A Royal Masquerade yet, but I’m sure I’ll adore it. You can find the book on Goodreads and Amazon – make sure you pick up a copy ASAP to add even more fun to your holidays.

I also mentioned something about a giveaway, didn’t I? Well, it’s an awesome one!

Don’t the prizes look amazing? You can enter the giveaway here. Due to the price of shipping, Allison regrets that the first prize is not open internationally. However, the second prize is and if someone living internationally draws the first prize, they will automatically win the 2nd prize!

And nowwwwww, ladies and gentlemen…it is time for my interview with the one and only Allison Tebo!

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Welcome to the blog, Allison! To start things off, I’d love to talk about your writing routines (it is NaNoWriMo after all). What does a typical writing day look like for you? (One in which there are no interruptions or other unexpected happenstances.)

Pretty simple, actually. I try to write at least two hours a day at a specific time. From 2:30 to 5:00, my brain has been programmed to write. Cultivating this habit is really helpful in developing dedication and keeps you from being held captive to the fickleness of inspiration.

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Aside from that specific block of time—that’s about it. I try to just draft in the afternoons. I’m working on developing the habit of occasionally outlining or brainstorming in the evenings. But even when I’m not working, my stories walk around with me wherever I go, whispering new ideas to me at the most inconvenient times!

I know all about those whispers of new ideas. 🙂 We writers are never bored. So what’s your favorite part of writing the Tales of Ambia series?

I have three favorite things!

First of all, the more of a box I’m put in, the more creative I become. Ever since I was little I adored turning fairy tales on their head. It’s endlessly fascinating to see the infinite variety that can be produced out of the same story parameters. The tale of Cinderella has been retold for hundreds of years, and yet it’s always fun and always new!

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Secondly, tales are essentially allegories for rich spiritual truths and I love relating these themes. But at the same time, there is a lighthearted, magical feeling. Wisdom / whimsical is basically my writing style—and that’s what fairy tales are all about! Fairy tales were always my first love, and it feels like home to be coming back to them after so long.

Lastly, I love writing something simple that refreshes, delights, or entertains. There is no lack of gritty or heavy fiction out there, but there is a dearth of lighthearted books that make people laugh. I laughed writing Ambia and I have been overjoyed to learn that people laugh when they read them. If I can make someone laugh, then my writing days have not been wasted!

The Reluctant Godfather definitely made me laugh! Burndee is so funny and totally my favorite character – who’s your favorite character in the series so far?

I love all of my characters but if I had to choose, it would have to be Burndee. His character develops so much throughout the series. He has learned heartbreaking lessons and experienced incredible joys and I’ve walked him through every one of them. He’s such a flawed character and a relatable person to just about anyone. It’s also very therapeutic to write such a sarcastic and biting character! Get it all out on paper, as they say! *innocent smile*

Well, I can’t wait to see how Burndee grows throughout the series. Did you have to do any ‘real world’ research for A Royal Masquerade?

Not especially. I . . . *smothers smiles* . . . had to look up pictures of a certain animal to double-check the coloration of its fur. I can’t say what kind of animal! I also had to ask a beta-reader some questions about the typical procedures of wedding rehearsals. That’s about it, though. One of the other lovely things about Ambia is that, so far, I haven’t had to do a lot of research!

That’s great! Research can be time-consuming. What’s your favorite thing to eat or drink while you write?

I love to drink La Croix sparkling water or a cup of tea! Once in a while, I might have a tiny bowl of ice cream or popcorn while I write, but typically, I set a piece of my favorite kind of chocolate beside my laptop where I can look at it. I get to eat it once I hit my daily minimum and looking at it urges me to write faster! But sometimes I eat it before I start writing—for fuel. Ahem. 🙂

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I’m currently using Starbursts to bribe myself as I write. But chocolate works just as well! If you could recommend just one book on the craft of writing, what would it be and why?

In all honesty, I haven’t read a great deal of books on the craft of writing. I learned a lot through “fieldwork” as opposed to the “classroom.”

As I skim through writing books, I realize that I know a great deal of the basics they teach due to over sixteen years of writing and intensive story studying. Not to mention all of the constructive learning I have gained from my writing group—which just celebrated its 13th year anniversary! There are some outlining books on my horizon that look really good, though.

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So, long answer, I think one of the books that I would recommend is Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly by Gail Carson Levine, simply because it encourages budding authors to have a little fun. A lot of writing books can be excessively stuffy or stifling as it drills rules into you, whereas Ms. Levine’s approach is not only instructive, but reminds you that you should enjoy the process of writing.

Thank you so much for interviewing me, Eva! These questions were so much fun!

Thank you, Allison!

Have you read A Royal Masquerade? What do you eat while you’re writing? Let me know and say ‘hello’ to Allison in the comments!

Eva

prince john in ‘the adventures of robin hood’ (1938)

This post is a late entry to The Claude Rains Blogathon.

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The most vivid cinematic image from my childhood is found in ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’ (1938).  It comes from a scene near the beginning of the movie when Prince John (Claude Rains) and Sir Guy of Gisborne (Basil Rathbone) toast their bright future as masters of England and Prince John accidentally spills some wine.  It drips to the floor, looking very much like blood and Prince John turns to Gisborne with a crafty look of glee on his face.

I believe two things made this scene stick out in my mind: the blood-like wine (in all that glorious Technicolor) and Claude Rains’ complete embodiment of the dastardly Prince John.  Because he is dastardly.

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I’ve seen Claude Rains in several films over the years, but his role as Prince John in ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’ is far and away my favorite role of his.  He’s so slick, conniving, and utterly fun to watch as the biggest baddie on the screen (not even Basil Rathbone can steal the show here – a rare feat).  ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’ was a huge part of my childhood and, to me, Claude Rains simply is Prince John.  His ability to turn from charming to chilling is just…wow.  Love it.  Good villains are the best.

Take, for instance, another scene near the beginning of the film where Prince John is enjoying a dinner party at Gisborne’s hall.  He’s his usual princely, courteous self.  Bits of humor and wit spark off of him.  But once he announces that he’s kicked out the rightful regent of England and intends to rule in Richard’s place, the mood turns dark and Claude Rains goes from suave to defensive in a moment.  It’s great acting.  I really dig it.

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Or consider how stone cold (yet affable) he is when sentencing Maid Marian to death?

Of course, Prince John gets his comeuppance at the end and Robin Hood triumphs, but Claude Rains put in an excellent performance while the fun lasted.  He did a brilliant job of portraying Prince John – one that I hope to enjoy for years to come.

Have you ever seen ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’ (1938)?  What’s your favorite Claude Rains’ role?

Eva

how I won NaNoWriMo in eight days (and hit 67K words in twelve)

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A few hours before NaNoWriMo began, I messaged one of my best friends because I was genuinely freaking out about writing my novel, The Darkness is Past.  I’d thought about it for so long that I was worried that I’d mess it up.  She responded with a reminder of one of my favorite writing quotes.

“I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” -Shannon Hale

And it must have helped because I wrote like mad and won NaNoWriMo on day eight.  And I finished my novel of 67,009 words on day twelve.  I’d love to tell you that there’s a magic formula that you can follow exactly and you will definitely do as well (or better) than I. (And I know of at least two people who won in the first two days, so yeah.)  But all I can give you is some tips, what worked for me, etc.  Maybe it’ll help you – I don’t know.  Just do what works for you, honestly.

// PRAYER //

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I know prayer isn’t everyone’s thing, but it honestly helped me so much.  I prayed before I started writing The Darkness is Past and I prayed off and on throughout the writing process.  I want to use all my writing – but especially this story – to bring glory to God and to point people to Christ.  So it’s only natural that prayer is a part of my process.

// VIRTUAL WRITE-INS //

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I can’t say enough good about NaNoWriMo’s virtual write-ins.  I even hosted one myself!  I’ve participated in only two so far, but they are incredible when it comes to getting the words out.  I especially love the prompts (I’ve used every one I’ve been given) because they force me to think outside the box and lead to more interesting, inventive writing.  I would also recommend this list of great writing prompts and highly recommend that you include a cameo of the great Stan Lee in your NaNo novel this year because he passed away today and it’s a rather epic idea (IMO). (I put in three cameos so that, hopefully, one should survive the editing process.)

// STORY LOVE //

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I love my story.  It’s a dystopian retelling of the life of the Apostle Paul and I LOVE it.  At the risk of sounding prideful, I love the twist I’ve given such an inspiring, iconic story.  And I love my characters even if they’re only in rough form right now and I don’t understand them as well as I’d like to.  And because I love my story/characters, I loved writing The Darkness is Past.

// SPEEDY WRITING //

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I hope I’m not being arrogant or anything when I say I’m a fast writer – it’s just true.  I once wrote 5K words in eighty minutes (two Psych episodes) and it was glorious.  So squeezing 67K words into twelve days – while slightly crazy – wasn’t all that hard for me, believe it or not.  It was actually fun.

// FREE TIME //

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I help homeschool my little brothers, I have a freelance writing job, and also household chores but I also have gobs and gobs of free time.  Which obviously helps a huge amount.  But on one of my wordiest days – 10K – I wrote off and on in little bits and participated in church ministry and I still got the words in because I literally couldn’t stop writing.  The words tumbled out of me so quickly.

// INSPIRATION //

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I watched the new Pureflix movie ‘Paul: Apostle of Christ’ while I was in the middle of my novel and I think it gave me an extra boost of inspiration.  It wasn’t a perfect film (didn’t love it like I love ‘Risen’) but I did really, really like it.  The ending made me cry.  A lot.  Paul has become really special to me through this process and I just…it’s emotional.  And I also had my Spotify playlist which kept me going and going and going.

// PLANNING //

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I had my plot planned out (and it changed very little) which meant that I almost never had to wonder what I was going to write next.  That was very freeing, especially because I’ve never outlined so much and NaNoWriMo has always been a bit of a struggle for me, knowing how to keep writing plot stuff.  But even with the planning, there were moments of spontaneity.  One character took on a much larger role, there was an unexpected partnership, other characters cropped up before I meant them to, and so on.  And when my story started getting boring, I participated in a virtual write-in and found one of the prompts super helpful.  I’ll just say that, um, fire tends to make things wayyyy more interesting.

Sooooo…how’s your NaNoWriMo going?  Did you find any of these tips helpful?  Let me know in the comments!

Eva

five reasons why Esca, son of Cunoval is simply the best

‘The Eagle’ is a new favorite movie of mine.  Based on Rosemary Sutcliff’s most famous book, The Eagle of the Ninth, it takes some new directions with the source material but I still love the movie.  I couldn’t say if I like it better than the book, as I haven’t read the book for a while.  But I can easily say that Esca is my favorite character (Marcus is awesome though) and here are five reasons why. (I had to severely limit myself.) (Jk.) (But also legit.)

// Hello – it’s Jamie Bell //

Jamie Bell and Channing Tatum in The Eagle (2011)

Just thought I’d get this out of the way first because this movie kind of fueled my (*cough* huge *cough*) crush on Jamie Bell. (Or at least I thought it did until I found out he was in ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ which I watched ages ago and thought that the guy who played Smike deserved my attention.)  In all seriousness, he does a fantastic job of portraying Esca (just not…book Esca? *cringes away from die-hard Sutcliff fans*).  He has such a lovely accent and it’s a bit rougher than what you’d expect in a regular British accent, which is perfect because Britain was different back in the time of ‘The Eagle’.

// He has so much loyalty/patriotism //

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This entire movie makes me feel very, very cold.

I know it’s a huge thing in the books, how Esca is all “I’m my master’s dog to lie at my master’s feet” but he’s much more ferociously anti-Roman, pro-Britain in the movie.  Esca’s patriotism is at the core of everything he does, even when it comes to serving Marcus, a Roman.  Because Esca’s reasoning for staying under Marcus’ authority is that, since Marcus saved his life, Esca owes him one and he won’t break that loyalty because he’s a Brigantes/his father’s son.  And this level of honor and loyalty being displayed by a guy whose entire family was just killed by the Romans (well, his mom was killed by his dad, but it was still because of the Romans)!  That’s some serious strength of character.

// He’s pro //

One of my favorite scenes in ‘The Eagle’ is when Marcus and Esca are sitting by a river, eating their lunch, when Esca looks up and tells Marcus that there’s three rogue British warriors in the woods behind him (Marcus).  Marcus can’t pick them out, but yeah…Esca’s a pro.  If you need bloody entrails dug out of the wild boar you just killed, Esca’s a pro.  If you’re a little kid, terrified about what your dad will do when he finds out that the guy who’s been super nice to you is leaving the village without a word…Esca’s a pro at giving you the (professionally carved) wooden fish he made.  And if you’re that same little kid, suddenly murdered by your dad, be sure that Esca will revenge you in the pro-est, awesome-est way possible.

// He won’t be a piece in their Games //

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(Oh, Peeta, how I love you…)

Our introduction to Esca is in a crudely built, mini-Coliseum. (Think ‘Gladiator’ before they all packed up and went off to Rome.)  He’s pitted against this guy who’s got to be a crowd-pleaser because he has all this flashy equipment and headgear and it’s ridiculous.  But instead of trying to defend himself (and he has to be furious at the Romans, the gladiator, and the whole mess of a situation), Esca throws down his sword and shield.  Refuses to die on Roman terms.  It’s kind of more than a little awesome.

// THE SMIRK //

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The clip isn’t on Youtube, I can’t find a GIF anywhere, and my laptop won’t play DVDs so I can’t take a screenshot.  BUT.  In the final scene, when Marcus returns the eagle in all its glory to a bunch of Roman officials, Esca gives the greatest little smirk after Placidus (a snotty Roman legionnaire) gets a put-down from Marcus (because Placidus insulted Esca).  IT’S SO GREAT.  I LOVE IT.  You must see it.

Have you ever watched ‘The Eagle’?  Who’s your favorite character?

Eva

P.S. I forgot to mention Esca’s whole “He’s my slave” bit.  That was gold.  Just sayin’.

this & that

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A quick review of It’s Okay Not To Be Okay: This book is beautifully written and brought me to tears more than once. I didn’t find much to be of practical help to me, but I think other people might. The author took stories from the Bible and wove them into the points she made, which was really interesting. (I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review and you can purchase it on Amazon here.)

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The Reams of Rereads challenge is over and I didn’t even notice for so long. 😦  NaNoWriMo is keeping me crazy busy and Mom was away when the challenge was ending, so yeah.  I didn’t hit everything on my list, but I did manage to read Mockingjay, Eve’s Daughters, and half of Ender’s Game along with the other books I’d already mentioned rereading.  Thanks so much to everyone that participated!

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Speaking of NaNoWriMo, I wrote 25,000 words in the first four days.  Wut.  It was crazy and my right hand started aching (it’s okay now).  I’m not entirely happy with how my writing project is going, but it’s still good.  And then I got sick today, which meant I ‘only’ wrote 1,200 words.  I’m just glad I got a huge chunk in before sickness struck.  I’m planning to get up early for the virtual write-in tomorrow and I’m also probably going to attend a late night write-in on the 11th (Edmontonwrimos are great).  This is the first time I’ve ever been super active in the NaNoWriMo community and trying to participate in ALL THE THINGS.  It’s been loads of fun.

My seven-year-old brother, Ethan, is aiming for 3,000 words this month and he’s done AMAZING so far.  And I’m not just saying that.

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So many blog events coming up!  Blog tour for Allison Tebo’s A Royal Masquerade, a Claude Rains blogathon, and a Robots in Film blogathon.  I’m going to be sooooo busy. (Well, Robots in Film isn’t until January.  So that’s something of a relief.)

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All you lovely people who commented on my ranking of the Pevensies…I WILL get back to you as soon as I have the time.  I’ve just been very, very busy and Uninspired To Answer Comments. 😛

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Movies I’ve watched recently:

-‘The Eagle’ (crush on Jamie Bell is real; seemed like they were trying to copy the fabulousness of ‘Gladiator’ and even though they didn’t, it was still an excellent film)

-‘Defiance’ (ditto about Jamie Bell and also I loooooved Daniel Craig in this one)

-‘Nicholas Nickleby’ (sensing a theme here? the naked baby at the beginning was Shocking, btw)

-‘Breathe’ (I kinda sorta watched this and was Unimpressed by the ending)

-‘Star Trek’ (2009 version and it was great; totally cried when Leonard Nimoy did the whole “Space…the final frontier…” at the end)

-‘Adventures of Robin Hood (this was for the Claude Rains blogathon and I have a lot to say

-modern ‘3:10 to Yuma’ (meh)

There’ve been some more, but those were most of the highlights.

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What’ve you all been up to?  TELL ME EVERYTHING.

Eva