A Book Review: “Masters And Beginners”

I’ve followed Daley Downing’s blog “The Invisible Moth” for a long time. So I anticipated the release of her new book, “Masters And Beginners”. I was thrilled when she asked me to be an early reader.

You may recall my post from last week, where I explained that I was having a rough day and was delightfully surprised to receive a (bookish) package. Inside Daley thoughtfully sent some treasures and the most precious of them all: her new novel.

Here is the synopsis of Daley’s first book “Masters And Beginners” in her series “The Order Of The Twelve Tribes”:

“When Sophie Driscoll’s grandmother dies, her parents take over running the Annex, a warehouse facility that stores magical artifacts and documents proving, and protecting, the existence of faeries. Sophie and her brothers, Flynn and Cal, happily adjust to a new house, new friends, and a new way of living, joining the ranks of generations who have kept the fey and mortal realms separate for centuries. Before the first month of their new life is over, they’ll encounter romance, elves, talking cats, ancient secrets, and potentially lethal danger. What could possibly go wrong…

You had me at magical artifacts, faeries, and talking cats.

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But, what I really admire about “Masters And Beginners” is the world that Daley has created. She makes you believe that your neighbor’s barn/shed/garage could house magical cats and fairy documentation. I love when stories combine our world with a magical twist.

I enjoyed reading a YA story where the protagonists came from a solid, loving family and get this, both parents were alive!

(What…the parents are still alive AND wonderful people?)

I know, it was shocking and thoroughly refreshing. As an adult and a mother, I felt a special pull towards the Driscoll parents. I’m glad Daley included them as much as she did in the series. Often in YA writing we never meet the parents or we are repulsed by their behavior.

The main protagonist (Sophie Driscoll) is an admirable, likeable  teen. I adore the close relationship she has with her two brothers, especially her older brother Flynn. There is a story-line of romance between a few of the teens in “The Order” (humans (mostly) who protect the fay’s existence and magical artifacts), but romance doesn’t run the story. Mostly these kids are smart, adjusting “Order” kids, who are trying to do their best.

The excitement and mystery moves quickly. Daley has really mastered the art of pacing her story. (I read the book in less than a week. I was hooked.)

I can’t wait to read the next book in the series. I want to learn more about the many intriguing side characters like: Sophie’s love interest, her mysterious neighbor, Alex. Her cousin Madison. Flynn’s love-interest Emma. Really I just want MORE. (I’m a greedy book dragon.)

I’m honestly just so impressed with the quality of this one-woman writing/editing/marketing team. I know Daley has worked incredibly hard to release her novel and I can’t tell you how inspired I am after reading “Masters And Beginners”.

If you would like to experience the magic yourself, you may purchase a copy of “Masters And Beginners” here.

Happy Reading,

Rachel

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A Delightful (Bookish) Surprise: “Masters And Beginners” Has Arrived

I was having an off morning. My almost two-year-old woke up very early. That led to a series of meltdowns. My patience was running on “E”. I was feeling the guilt-soaked isolation that only a stay-at-home parent can feel.

Then I got a knock on my door and I heard the plunk of a package being set down.

I saw that it was from New York and I was thoroughly stumped.

I opened up the package and discovered two adorable baby blankets, two beautiful wooden boxes filled with treasures, and….

Daley Downing’s new book, Volume One: “Masters And Beginners” from her series,  “The Order Of The Twelve Tribes”.

Daley has a fantastic blog called The Invisible Moth. (I highly recommend you check it out, like right meow. Lots of cute cat pictures and details of Daley’s life as an author.)

My eyes filled with tears for the personal and thoughtful gifts that she sent and my book-dragon heart raced with excitement to read Daley’s book that I have been anticipating for months.

“Masters And Beginners” Summary: When Sophie Driscoll’s grandmother dies, her parents take over running the Annex, a warehouse facility that stores magical artifacts and documents proving, and protecting, the existence of faeries. Sophie and her brothers, Flynn and Cal, happily adjust to a new house, new friends, and a new way of living, joining the ranks of generations who have kept the fey and mortal realms separate for centuries. Before the first month of their new life is over, they’ll encounter romance, elves, talking cats, ancient secrets, and potentially lethal danger. What could possibly go wrong…

Please stay-tuned for a book review for “Masters And Beginners”. If you would like to participate in the discussion and support an incredibly talented indie author you can snag a copy of “Masters And Beginners” here.

Thank you Daley and all of the other wonderful bloggers who make this community the special place that it is. You save this mama’s sanity over and over again.

-Rachel

Where Whispers Willow: A Book Review

I met Justin Blaney the author of  Where Whispers Willow, and he was kind enough to give me an early copy of his book when the title was still The Whispers Willow.

I admitted to him early on that I tend to shy away from poetry books. I prefer novels where the story feels epic and character development is crucial. I hadn’t given poetry a try in a long time, but I was excited to read Where Whisper Willows. Especially because I was experimenting with poetry myself.

Blaney was quick to explain from the beginning that he didn’t feel his writing was poetry, essay, or philosophical. He described his book as such:

“Verse, Prose, composition, expose ~ nothing quite fit. Until I stumbled on the word reverie. Reverie is a day dream. A musing. A single thought. This described, better than any other word, the scribbles I’d been jotting down.”

Where Whispers Willow was unlike any of the poetry books I remembered from school. It had character development, and a deep, thoughtful story. Each reverie was a single moment, but bound together, revealed the life of Blaney. So many emotions were portrayed in his writing. His eloquent musings were incredibly honest and true. Blaney’s knack for expressing universal thoughts through his own contemplation makes his writing relevant to everyone. His ability to reveal our own musings on life, death, love, and God makes Where Whispers Willow an emotional and deeply satisfying read.

I would like to leave you with one of my favorite reveries.

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what do souls look like?

how easy is it to tell the difference between the soul of a homeless man smelling of urine and shit, yelling at passers by

from the souls of those who pretend he doesn’t exist

what makes a soul’s stench?

what makes it beautiful?

are all souls born the same in their beauty or are some created with defect?

or do defects add something unique and precious?

can we artificially make our souls more beautiful with tattoos or plastic surgery?

are we all soft somewhere deep inside or can we make ourselves permanently and unchangeable hard?

what do souls sound like?

do they bounce about and twirl when happy?

do they puddle when sad?

are some more talented, gifted, luckier, richer, born with better genes?

or is it in our souls that we are truly equal?

You can download a free version of Where Whispers Willow here. Or if you prefer a paperback version, you can purchase one here.

Don’t Trash That Novel

If you are struggling with your manuscript and you need someone to ask you questions that challenge and stretch your novel to the max, then you should read “The Breakout Novelist: How To Craft Novels That Stand Out And Sell” by Donald Maass.

Here is my experience:

A lot was missing in my novel when I wrote the first draft. I expected the first, second, and third drafts to be rough, but I was getting frustrated because I didn’t know how to shape my story. I needed help, but I didn’t want to hand off a first draft for review. I felt like a protective mama bear guarding her little newborn cub.

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I also felt helpless and that I failed as a writer. I was ready to trash my novel.

Another writer suggested that I read “The Breakout Novelist” (TBN). He said, “Maass’ book is THE writing book to read if you are writing a novel.”

I took his advice and read TBN. It really is the best tool I have used to develop my story.

The Breakout Novelist

The problem with my first draft was that it was shallow. TBN asked probing questions about premise, stakes, characters, plot, theme, and so much more. I’ve been able to add depth to every aspect of my novel. My second draft has substance and a clear understanding as to what my novel is about. Every character has substance and aren’t just “filler” characters.

TBN has taken me a very long time to read, but purely by choice. I applied every point Maass made to my story. I didn’t ignore a single suggestion because I could clearly see how each one stretched and shaped my novel into something better. Maass also provided exercises to help the writer apply these concepts to their manuscript.

I’m glad I wrote the first draft blindly. There was something very holistic in writing from my heart with no other voice chiming in, but then I was stuck. My mental wall was growing taller every day and I’m so grateful that I found TBN when I did. It truly saved my sanity and my novel. I had to share this helpful tool in case someone else needed guidance.

Happy writing,

Rachel McKee

 

Saturday Vibes

Today my husband gave me the precious gift of writing time. I can hear my boys playing outside and having a blast. I’m glad they are having fun, and I’m also ecstatic to get uninterrupted time with the computer.

I’m sipping on a tea called “Breakfast in Paris”. (A city I have never seen but long to visit.) Apparently “la Ville Lumière” tastes like Earl Grey and lavender. It’s quite pleasant. I’m stuffing my face nibbling lemon cream-filled cookies and editing my first draft.

I’ve been hovering around 35k thousand words on my YA manuscript. I’ve deleted thousands of words,  but I’ve also added quite a bit of dialogue. I love re-writing. I see things more clearly the second go around.

I’m excited to say that I finally have a working title for my manuscript. Up to this point, I’ve lovingly calling my second child “A Book Has No Name” or “The Book Who Shall Not Be Named”. I’ll share the title and why I chose it on Monday.

As I mentioned in a post earlier this week, I started a #bookstagram account on Instagram. The username is Illuminated_Literation. I took a few picture for that this morning. I haven’t posted them to the #bookstagram account yet. Here is a sneak peak. Contain yourself.

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Keke says, “Hi Illuminated Literation friends.”

Do you remember my review for the YA novel Black Ice by Becca Fitspatrick? If not, you can find it here. Seriously, it was such a page-turner.

Back to novel writing.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Cheers,

Rachel McKee

 

Top 10 Titles for Toddlers (Chosen By My Toddler)

Have you ever been shopping for a baby shower or a first birthday and thought to yourself, I want to buy the little one a book, but which one? Fortunately there are thousands of baby books out there, but my son will tell you, not all children’s books are created equal. Children are fickle, but no with their literature. My son is loyal to his favorite titles. He carries them around with him, and flips through their pages repetitiously. He implores me to read these books over and over again.

A toddler will also let you know quickly if the book is not his cup of milk. Mine will turn on his diapered bum and ignore me if I read him a story that is not from his “favorite” list.

Here are ten children’s books that have been proven tried and true by my toddler.

  1. “A Baby Is Born” by Melanie Zanoza bartelme (Author), Steve Whitlow (Illustrator)
  2. “Little Owl’s 1 2 3” by Divya Srinivasan (Author, Illustrator)
  3. “Red Truck” by Kersten Hamilton (Author) Valeria Petrone (Illustrator)
  4. Moby Dick: A BabyLit® Ocean Primer (BabyLit Books) by Jennifer Adams (Author) Alison Oliver (Illustrator)
  5. “On The Night You Were Born” by Nancy Tillman (Author, Illustrator)
  6. “Barnyard Dance” by Sandra Boynton (Author, Illustrator)
  7. “How Do I Love You?” by  P. K. Hallinan (Author, Illustrator)
  8. “Little Blue Truck” Alice Schertle (Author) Jill McElmurry (Illustrator)
  9. “In My Jungle” Sara Gillingham (Author) Lorena Siminovich (Illustrator)
  10.  “I Love You Through and Through” by Bernadette Rossetti Shustak (Author) and Caroline Jayne Church (Illustrator)

The best part about this list, is that you can find all of these books on Amazon. I hope this makes baby shopping a little easier for you.

Love & Cheers,

Rachel McKee

 

Book Review: Haven River

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“Sixteen-year-old Luke Conway is in his last year of high school in the harbour side town of Haven River.

Writing is Luke’s life. All he wants to do is be a journalist and write stories about storm chasers.

But Ryan, Luke’s protective older brother and guardian, has other ideas.

When Luke meets newcomer to town, the mischievous Jamie Pascoe, his world is turned upside down.

Tragedy strikes and Luke is catapulted down a path of self-destruction.

Can Luke overcome the odds pitted against him? To make Jamie proud of him. To hold on tight to his family. To follow his dream on his own terms.”

 Haven River is a sweet, touching, tender story of a young boy named Luke and his four brothers all trying to live and cope with the loss of their parents. The five boys all have their own way of coping and their own unique passions.

Luke is a relatable sixteen-year-old boy. He is lovable, and sweet, and you will root for him throughout the entire story. Haven River is a quick read, but the young love, family bond, and tragic loss will touch your heart.

Remember the post, In Support Of Indie Authors, where I talk about reading more self-published books? Haven River by Casey Fae Hewsen is the first self-published novel that I have read. I am happy to announce that it crushed the doubt I had about quality and self-publishing. Hewsen produced literary merit, and proved that authors don’t always need a big publishing house.

You can learn more about Casey Fae Hewseon on her author website.

Happy Reading.

Rachel McKee

Three Reasons To Read Invincible Louisa

 

Invincible Louisa

 

Biography tracing the fascinating life of Louisa May Alcott from her happy childhood in Pennsylvania and Boston to her success as a writer of such classics as Little women.

Inspiration

I just finished reading Invincible Louisa by Cornelia Meigs. It was waiting patiently on my bookshelf for over a decade. Do you ever feel like certain books fall into your hands when you need them most?  I have been struggling with writing my own YA novel, fighting through some serious writer’s block, and questioning my writing endeavor. Then one day, after the library was closed, I pulled Invincible Louisa off of the shelf and started to read. Louisa May Alcott was an incredible young woman who was bursting with life, love, courage, and imagination. Her story was a whisper of understanding that I didn’t realize I needed to hear. Her life was full of ups and downs. Small tastes of success and a vast amount of disappointment, but through it all she maintained her enthusiasm for art and life. I needed a reminder that every writer has their own struggle with the craft, I would never compare my amateur writing to Alcott’s, but we all have to start somewhere, and sometimes it’s nice to hear that even literary masters had to shape, mold, and master their work over time. Meigs wrote, “Long after, she [Louisa] once said of herself that disappointment must be good for her, she got much of it. She learned to meet it bravely, although often she felt at first a hot wave of revolt.” Many writers struggle to persevere after the rejection letters pour in, but I think Alcott’s story proves that you must write for yourself first, and publishers second. Write because you can’t control your fingers as thoughts overflow your mind, and you feel you might burst if you can’t document your ideas.

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History

Anyone who is a literary enthusiast would find the history of Alcott’s life incredibly fascinating. Bronson Alcott, Louisa’s father, was a figurehead of transcendentalism and public education. Meigs wrote of Bronson that, “Bronson had theories so far advanced of his time that even in our day we have not caught up with all of them [written in 1933, 70 years later].” His colleagues and friends were some of the greatest American writers of all time. Louisa’s small feet walked the halls of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s house and later he became a mentor to her. Through her father, Louisa met William Lloyd Garrison, Henry David Thoreau, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. There are yet more distinguished people of American history within Alcott’s life, but I will let you discover those hidden gems.

Eloquence

Meigs’ novel, Invincible Louisa, is as memorable as Little Women. Written in 1933, it has that yummy, rich, impeccable use of the English language that makes me swoon. For example, Meigs describes Alcott’s success as such, “Fame during a lifetime is something to win; but fame and affection which are to last a hundred years are seldom earned.” Isn’t that a lovely way of saying, she was famous and loved and will be for generations to come?

I think the task of writing about one of America’s most beloved female authors must have been extremely daunting, but Meigs wrote Invicible Louisa as if she were a member of the Alcott-May family and expereinced their joy and tragedy alongside them. Through Meigs research and attention to detail, we gain a glimpse into the life of one of the most influential writers for young adults that has ever lived. The history within Invincible Louisa is textbook-worthy, but written with the style and warmth of a favorite novel.

I highly reccomend Invincible Louisa, especially if you are a writer yourself, are interested in the evolution of American writing, or both.

Happy Reading.

Rachel McKee

 

 

In Support of Indie Authors

Raise your hand if you have never read a self-published book. Yep, my hand is in the air.

When adding to my reading repertoire I typically go for whatever is free convenient. (My library card has a lot of miles on it.). But now that I am writing my own YA novel, I begin to understand how difficult it is to be noticed by a literary agent, let alone a publishing house. There is a very real chance that I will end up self-publishing and honestly, that situation seems pretty bleak. Self-publishing feels like sending my novel to the grave and the publishing fees I accumulate will be money spent at its wake. My goal is to shed some light or “illuminate” a few self-published books that may not be getting the attention they deserve.

I’ve always been a huge fan of supporting small businesses, and writing a book is an entrepreneurship. If I am buying my duds from a boutique second-hand shop down the street, I can probably spend a little money on Amazon to buy a self-published book. Sometimes indie authors will GIVE YOU their book just to gain some exposure.

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I am going to add a few indie authors to my book review rotation on Illuminated Literation. In the cruel, cold, world of publishing, authors need help. They pour blood, sweat, and beer into their manuscripts and damn it, their words deserve to be read. Also, I hope karma does me a good turn and people will read my book one day.

Okay, I sheathed my crusade sword.

Do you have a book that you self-published? Have you read a self-published book that you recommend? Please comment below and let me know the title, author, and where it’s available.

Fiercely yours,

Rachel McKee

Cover Image Found at Support Indie Authors Blog Spot.

A Book Review: Midwinterblood

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Seven stories of passion and love separated by centuries but mysteriously intertwined—this is a tale of horror and beauty, tenderness and sacrifice.
An archaeologist who unearths a mysterious artifact, an airman who finds himself far from home, a painter, a ghost, a vampire, and a Viking: the seven stories in this compelling novel all take place on the remote Scandinavian island of Blessed where a curiously powerful plant that resembles a dragon grows. What binds these stories together? What secrets lurk beneath the surface of this idyllic countryside? And what might be powerful enough to break the cycle of midwinterblood? From award-winning author Marcus Sedgwick comes a book about passion and preservation and ultimately an exploration of the bounds of love.

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick is a novel that will haunt your thoughts long after you finish it. I keep thinking of all of the different connections within the seven stories. Sedgwick did a superb job combining love, horror, mystery, and suspense.

Midwinterblood is reminiscent of The Giver in the sense that Sedgwick gives you these wonderful little clues to follow and feeds you information until you start to see the entire picture. I enjoy each separate story on it’s own (One still gives me the shivers when I think about it.) but as a whole this novel weaves an incredible pattern that you are anxious to understand.

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK. (All caps so you know I’m serious.)

Again, how cool is it when authors respond to their fans?

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On a personal note, I’m completely in love with this passage (my son’s name is Leif). I think I may have to  frame it for his bedroom wall.

There was Leif, walking into the center of the longhouse, to stand by the firelight, to give us his words.

He was a beautiful man, tall and thin, not one for fighting though he fought with the others when in was needed so. But his tools were words; those mysterious gifts from the gods, and while most men merely learned how to use them, Leif was one of the wizards who had learned the secret of how to make magic with them.

Have you read Midwinterblood yet? If so, please respond in the comments, I would love to have a discussion about this novel.

Happy Reading.

♥R♥