Top Ten Tuesday: Sidekick Characters

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday


July 9: Character Freebie (any topic you want that deals with book characters!)


41xt3sg-yl-_ac_us218_1. John Watson from Sherlock Homes by Arthur Conan Doyle- He narrates Homes’ adventures and sort of helps him function. Because while Sherlock Homes is pretty intelligent he doesn’t really thrive in all situations. Watson smooths the way for him at times.

51z5jz2frjl-_ac_us218_2. Tinkerbell from Peter Pan by JM Barrie – Because every permanently immature boy hero needs a slightly homicidal pixie to hang out with.

51tt9v9vjl-_ac_us218_3. Nelly Dean in Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte -Sidekick and confident for several characters and she narrates the whole book. She’s a frequently overlooked character but an important one.

51dxbewzuil-_ac_us218_4. Diana Barry in the Anne books by LM Montgomery- No she’s not as fun or adventurous as Anne, but few people are! She’s a great foil though, and their friendship gives Anne some of her best moments.

61wsaoqmjel._ac_ul436_5. George and Bess in the Nancy Drew books by Carolyn Keene – One’s a tomboy, the other is very feminine, but both are willing to question suspects, follow clues and chase villains, simply because that’s what Nancy does.

51iosghk0l-_ac_us218_6. Ron and Hermione in the Harry Potter books by JK Rowling – Arguably these two are more active than Harry.  They’re certainly along for the ride no matter what. They’re true friends and they often call Harry out when he’s wrong. That’s an important service!

51vxh2jgv8l-_ac_us218_7. Melanie Wilkes in Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell- Most readers were left wondering what would become of Scarlett without Rhett at the end. I was just as interested in what she’d do without Melanie. Throughout the entire novel Scarlett had seen Melanie as a rival, but Melanie had behaved as a best friend and Scarlett relied on her far more than she realized.

51rqr9-0jel-_ac_us218_8. Bob from The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher- Because every professional wizard needs a snarky skull sidekick.


9. Barbara Havers in the Inspector Lynley novels by Elizabeth George- I’m less enthralled with these after the last couple of books have been disappointments but Barbara makes a lovably fashion challenged cop sidekick. She’s definitely a favorite character who is too often sideline in favor of other, less interesting, characters (IMO).

51uehkb-x4l-_ac_us218_10. Samwise Gamgee from Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien- I’m actually not the world’s biggest Tolkien fan (I know, kind of sacrilegious for a fantasy writer to admit!) but come on, this kind of goes without saying…





Happy 1st Book Birthday to Beautiful!

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A year ago today I published my first novel, Beautiful: A Tale of Beauties and Beasts.  It’s been a good year as far as writing goes. I learned a lot about publishing and I think that I’ve gained some confidence as I work on my second novel.  Here are some posts that I’ve written over the year about my journey with this book.

Why Authors Love (and Hate) Reviews

Why You Should Read My Book

Research When You’re Writing Fantasy

What I’d Tell Myself About Writing A Book…

Why I Write What I Write

Publication Day!

Pre-Publication Jitters

Hopefully by this time next year Beautiful will have a book sibling!

Top Ten Tuesday: Childhood Favorites

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

July 2: Childhood Favorites

Since I’ve written a lot about my favorite novels as a kid (The Secret Garden, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, Matilda, Island of the Blue Dolphins etc) I thought I’d talk a bit about some of my favorite picture books that I loved in my early childhood.

51mv1xuuql-_ac_us218_1. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown– My memories of this one aren’t vivid because I was so young, but I remember my parents reading it to me at bedtime and then saying “goodnight” to the things in my bedroom. There’s something very comforting about taking a few minutes to acknowledge things that are familiar like that. 



61wpg9cp-4l-_ac_us218_2. Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parrish– I loved Amelia Bedelia as a kid. I would crack up at her getting confused by words and phrases with more than one meaning. A few years ago I read it with my students and was surprised at how well a lot of the humor held up.



3. 912022d0sql._ac_ul436_ Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale by John Steptoe– This African story is very similar to Cinderella. I think that reading this was one of the first times that I realized that fairy tales crossed cultures and that variants of the same themes showed up around the world. Interestingly, I tried to find out more about the “African Tale” and couldn’t find out what country in Africa it came from. It’s dedicated to the children of South Africa but the illustrations are inspired by the ruins of an ancient city found near Zimbabwe.

b1pncojkds._ac_ul436_4. Town Mouse and Country Mouse by Jan Brett- I think that this was the first time that I realized that different people (or mice, in this case) have different tastes and what one person love, another might dislike.  Neither one is right or wrong. It came as an epiphany to a little kid.

81o43lr3gql._ac_ul436_5. Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola– This story always made me laugh. I loved watching Big Anthony have to eat all the spaghetti, but I was always a bit concerned for his health at the end.



61ygpmell4l-_ac_us218_6. Eloise by Kay Thompson-When I was about six I couldn’t imagine anyone having a better life than Eloise. She lived in the Plaza and did whatever she wanted. Actually, that still sounds pretty good!



5157xlbzfil-_ac_us160_7. Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney– I think a lot of the reason that I loved this book was because it wasn’t at all stressful. I often became very invested in the fate of fictional characters, which could cause stress. But in this case, the relaxing illustrations and the gentle story allowed for a sense of calm.


51habt16eql._sx260_8. Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McClosky- Whenever I see a bunch of ducklings walking in a row, I still think of this story. I empathized with the ducks’ plight: crossing the street always made me nervous, and I always felt a bit relieved when the police stopped traffic to let the pass safely.


51nvefbi7wl9. Curious George by HA Rey- I related to Curious George. Much like him, I was curious about the world around me. But unlike him, I usually thought about the consequences before I did things, which kept me from getting into trouble all the time like he did. But I did enjoy reading about his crazy adventures.


51oose0avsl._ac_ul436_10. Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel– I think that Frog and Toad thought me a lot about friendship. There was always a level of give and take. Frog and Toad were very different people (well, anthropomorphized amphibians) but they met in the middle and maintained a solid friendship in spite of those differences.



Book Thoughts: Hazards of Time Travel by Joyce Carol Oates

41gsbp8s2vl._ac_ul436_I’m hesitant to call this a “review” because I don’t usually post reviews on my blog. But I recently read this book and found it fairly interesting. When I looked on goodreads and amazon I saw that it had earned a lot of negative reviews. So I suppose that what I’m doing is laying out the reasons that I disagreed with those reviewers and found this book to be worth reading.

For the first third of the book I felt like I was reading a YA dystopia in the vein of Divergent,  Delirium, Matched, etc. The heroine, Adriane, is graduating from high school sometime in the 2040s (or thereabouts). The United States is now the North American States and is controlled by one political party. While lip service is paid to democracy it’s an autocratic state that’s downright Big Brother-ish. Adriane is her high school’s valedictorian and her speech asks questions of the audience that the state claims are subversive and treasonous. Adriane is sentenced to Exile. For four years she will be sent to Zone 9, otherwise known as Wainscotta Falls, Wisconsin circa 1959. She will live on a state university campus as student Mary Ellen Enright. She’s not allowed to tell anyone her real identity, she’s not allowed to leave a 10 mile radius from campus.

But once the plot is set up Oates diverges from the YA formula significantly. Because this isn’t really a YA book and I think that’s where a lot of other readers run into problems. I think the reader of Hazards of Time Travel is not expected to read it from a teenage point of view. We’re supposed to recognize that Adriane/Mary Ellen is naive and immature. When she falls in pure insta-love with Dr. Ira Wolfman, a young Assistant Professor and fellow Exile, we’re supposed to roll our eyes and cringe a bit. In fact I think the reason that it mimics the YA genre so closely at times is that we’re supposed to question our desire to classify and categorize.

The future, in this book, is chilling and based on total lockstep social control. The past of the 1950’s is also repressive in its sexism, racism, and Cold War paranoia. Oates draws parallels between the Cold War era and post 9/11 paranoia. She also looks at the rise of fascism, and the role of the self, and nature vs. nurture. It actually becomes rather heavy in the middle as an isolated Adriane/Mary Ellen explores these issues in her psychology class, and uses her knowledge of the future to complicate the questions.

The book ends somewhere ambiguous. We’re never told if the time travel really took place, or if it was all a dream, or if Adriane/Mary Ellen will stay where she is or return to the future. It’s unsettling. We’re left wondering if it’s a happy ending or a chilling one.

I wouldn’t recommend this book to everyone. I would actually suggest that the reader is at least somewhat familiar with one or two of Oates previous works before reading this one. I think an understanding of how she sometimes plays with genre is helpful in understanding what she was doing with this book. But also, I would hesitate to recommend it to people who like to know exactly what’s happening all the time. I think that expecting and appreciating ambiguity is important here.

A Call To Action

Since the 2016 election I’ve been reflecting a lot. I’ve always had strong political beliefs, I’ve always voted, but I’ve never been comfortable being openly “political”. However since Donald Trump was elected I’ve been participating more in political discourse. I’ve called representatives, I’ve blogged about issues that concern me, and I’ve protested. But lately, I’ve been asking myself if I’m doing enough. Am I simply being a “good German” while things that I know are wrong go on? Is calling my representatives enough when they are allowing these things to happen? I’ve been watching in horror this week as leaders argue the semantics of what constitutes a “concentration camp.” I think that if that’s even an argument that people are making, we’re clearly in the wrong.

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Photo by Pixabay on

I know that we all have different resources. If you are financially able to make donations, I urge you to check out some of the links below. However, I know that everyone isn’t able to donate. So I wanted to share some information about other things that you can do to help. I am going to try to do some of these things I urge others to do the same.  One way that I feel like I can help is to spread the word to others about ways that they can help. I feel like we have an advantage now in that it’s so easy to share information widely. It’s harder to do things in secret. It’s my hope that everyone does what he/she can do and that adds up to a big difference.

  • Get involved with your local chapter of Sanctuary Not Deportation, which allows faith groups to offer sanctuary to immigrants fleeing ICE.
  • If there is a detention center near you, there are many rallies directly outside them that you can attend. It’s important that people keep physically going to these places.
  • Host a refugee if you have room. The Room for Refugees project is still trying to build a network in the US.
  • Learn the rights of immigrants. Keep this toolkit on your phone for easy access and share this information.
  • Municipal policy can make an immediate impact, so push your local politicians to support or build sanctuary city initiatives.
  • Help legal organizations near you that help immigrants.
    • If you’re close to NYC the New Sanctuary Coalition needs volunteers and donations. One of the most important thing that the NSC does it to organize rapid response to ICE raids. There are many rapid response networks already in place, but if your city doesn’t have one, here is information about how to organize one.
    • If you live near our southern border get involved with the Texas Civil Rights Project.
    • If you’re near Grand Rapids, MI, the Grand Rapids Rapid Response to ICE provides aid to families affected by ICE violence.
  • Plan. If you’re a mechanic will you to service buses transporting migrant children? If you’re in construction will you refuse to build tent cities? If you own a restaurant will you turn away politicians that support these policies? You may be asked to go along with injustice in some way.  You may not have time to think in the moment. Take some time now to think about where you will draw the line and how. Sometimes just clogging the works can help. I know this sounds a little silly, but remember at the end of The Sound of Music when the nuns messed up the Nazi’s car at the convent? That gave the Von Trapps a chance to escape. Losing paperwork can help. Calling journalists and delaying things until they get to you can help. Don’t get caught up in perpetuating something that’s wrong simply because you don’t know what else to do.
  • Share this information. Share this post. I think that a lot of people out there are frightened but want to help, but don’t know how.



Please tell me what you’re doing to help and what other ideas you have for helping. If you have other resources that might be helpful, then share those.

This quote has sort of been my mantra during this period. It reminds me why it’s so important to have these discussion, even when we don’t want to:

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”

Top Ten Tuesday: Upcoming Releases for the 2nd Half of 2019

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:


June 18: Most Anticipated Releases of the Second Half of 2019

91jsy6np7vl._ac_ul436_1. The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis– I’ve enjoyed Fiona Davis’ previous novels The Address and The Dollhouse. Like those, this is set in historical NYC, which is one of my favorite literary settings.

  • Publication Date: July 30, 2019

81aluwjrekl._ac_ul436_2. The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware–  I liked several of Ruth Ware’s previous thrillers (In A Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10) and I really enjoyed her most recent The Death of Mrs. Westaway, so hopefully this one continues that trend.

  • Publication Date: August 6, 2019

71x4baxyxvl._ac_ul436_3. The Testaments (The Handmaid’s Tale #2) by Margaret Atwood- I have mixed feelings about this sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. While it was a very influential book in my life, I do wish a sequel didn’t feel as timely or relevant as it does. But I’m definitely curious about Atwood’s response to some of what has happened since the publication of The Handmaid’s Tale.

  • Publication Date: September 10, 2019

81r6y57acfl._ac_ul436_4. Akin by Emma Donoghue – Emma Donoghue is another favorite author of mine. I loved The Wonder, Room, and Slammerkin. The setting of this one (Post WWII France) intrigues me too.

  • Publication Date: September 10, 2019


5. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern– I really enjoyed Morgernstern’s debut The Night Circus and I’ve been eagerly awaiting her follow up.

  • Publication Date: November 5, 2019

81ypuey8lbl._ac_ul320_6. I Like To Watch by Emily Nussbaum– I think that Emily Nussbaum’s essays arguing for new ways of criticizing TV have the potential to be both entertaining and insightful.

  • Publication Date: June 25, 2019


7. The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West– I think that this look at the sociopolitical moment that we’re in has the potential to be incisive and funny.  In this book, West looks at films, TV shows, internet phenomena and lifestyle guru’s who have created our culture.

  • Publication Date: November 5, 2019


8. The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James–  (is this cheating since technically it’s released in early 2020?) I discovered Simone St. James last year and I really like her gothic romantic suspense. She seems to be moving into more contemporary stuff with her last few books but as of now, I’m still along for the ride.

  • Publication Date: February 18, 2020

9124eym6u8l._ac_ul436_9. Where The Light Enters by Sara Donati– I’ve been looking to Sara Donati’s follow up to The Gilded Hour for a while. I really enjoyed the first book in her new series and I’m eager to see how she develops the plot and the characters.

  • Publication Date: September 10, 2019


10. The End of Forever Saga by Paullina Simons– I’ve had really varied reactions to Paullina Simons as a writer. But this trilogy, that incorporates romance and time travel sounds like it might be up my alley. The first book has already been released and reactions seem pretty polarizing. Some loved it some didn’t. Then other two books are being released over the next couple of months so I’m sure I’ll get around to them at some point soon.


I’ve Been…

  • Going through a career change. Teaching was so draining that I felt like I didn’t have the energy for anything else: writing, a social life, etc. I’m doing content writing and curriculum development now. It’s been an adjustment. It still is, but I’m starting to feel a bit more confident. I’m nervous even writing that because I don’t want to jinx myself!
  • Slowly working my way through beta feedback on Frozen Heart. It’s always difficult opening yourself up to criticism, and in a way, beta feedback and editing is like going to someone and saying “please rip this apart” and then cringing while they do. The most painful feedback often ends up being the most helpful though. One beta reader was very critical of this draft of Frozen Heart but I think she also pointed out some issues that I’m glad that someone noticed before I published it. But it’s hard get yourself in the right headspace to tackle those criticisms.

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Here's a bit of a #tbt to Beautiful in it's editing days. Seeing the draft covered in red was really overwhelming at one point! . . . Now I'm at a similar point with my second novel. I have to open an email attachment that will inevitably be full of red. I'm still waiting to feel 'ready' to tackle it. But at least this time I know that I made it through the process once and I can do it again! . . . #books #Beautifulbook #fairytaleretellings #beautyandthebeast #indiepub #indieauthors #indiebooks #indiesareworthit #indiebooksbeseen #authorsofig #authorsofinstagram #writersofig #writersofinstagram #authorcommunity #writerscommunity #writerslife #authorslife #amwriting #amwritingfantasy #amediting #igwriters #igauthors #writingtime #indieauthorcentral #indieauthorsunite #fantasywipmay #weloveindiebooks #epicreads #yafantasyauthor

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  • Writing some short stories. I haven’t really decided what to do with them yet, but for some reason I had several ideas that lent themselves to short fiction (not my usual medium)
  • Discovering the joy of “have done” lists. I’ve never liked keeping “to do” lists. It feels daunting to see everything you  haven’t done yet listed in front of you. I feel like I’ll never get it done. But when I keep a list of things I have done I feel accomplished at the end of the day.  Even if the things I put on aren’t major things, seeing them written down gives me a sense of satisfaction. I’ve even started doing things that I’ve been putting off because it means I’ll get to write it down on my list!

    Reading good books. In addition to my Persephone Readathon reads (Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski and Flush by Virginia Woolf, both of which I recommend highly) I’ve recently enjoyed:

  • Binge watching
    • Schitt’s Creek– How have I not seen this show before now? It’s silly but it’s great for turning off your brain and having a laugh.
    • The OA – Weird. Very weird.
    • A Discovery of Witches– I definitely liked it better than the book (which had too much filler) but it’s still not my cup of tea.
    • Bodyguard– I’d had this as a “to watch” for a while but I hadn’t gotten around to it. Glad I finally did.

Persephone Readathon #3 Challenges


Since I finished my reads for this Persephone Readathon a bit early, I thought that I’d take on some of the challenges.


As I mentioned in my previous post I read Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski (loved it!) this time around.

The book follows Hilary Wainright, a British intellectual who married Lisa, a French girl, just prior to WWII. They were separated just before the German occupation, with Lisa stuck in Paris with their newborn son, and Hilary in England. Lisa was a resistance worker and was killed during the war. The baby disappeared. After the war, Hilary returns to France to try to find his son. He has a friend who is devoted to helping him, but he’s not sure how he’ll know if the child (who he only saw as a newborn) is his. Furthermore, after his wife’s death, Hilary successfully turned off his emotions. He is reluctant to make himself emotionally vulnerable again.

Beautiful Endpapers: Show us a photo of your current book’s endpapers/your favorite Persephone endpapers/or design your own endpapers.

This is the endpaper used in Little Boy Lost:


The endpaper is a fabric designed in 1946 by the Hélène Gallèt studio in Paris – the green is reminiscent of bourgeois France, and the pattern has both fleur-de-lis and childlike, primitive stars.

In Six Words: Describe your current Persephone read in 6 words.







Quote This: Share a quote from your current read.

I think this quote sums up the main character’s dilemma through out the book.

“You see, Pleaded Hilary, I am incapable of giving. I dare not give and so I’m running away. I’ve finished with ordeals. I am fleeing to the anesthesia of immediate comfort and absolute non-obligation.”

The book ends with a beautiful passage that I won’t quote here because of spoilers.

Read This: Give a book recommendation/readalike based on a Persephone title.

My recommendation in this case would be another Persephone book: Saplings by Noel Streatfeild. Like Little Boy Lost, Saplings looks at what happens to children during wartime, and like Little Boy Lost, it’s not pretty. But the children in both these books are in some sense lucky. They’re not exposed to direct violence and they’re not left without adult care. To some extent, their physical needs for food and shelter are met. Yet they all suffer terrible loss and lack the consistency and affection that children need.

Page to Screen: Share the Persephone title you would most like to see adapted for the screen. Include your dream cast if you’d like.

mv5bntlknwexyzyty2riyi00zmrkltgznzgtyze5odaxmgrjmwq3xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyndqzmdg4nzk40._v1_Well Little Boy Lost was made into a film in 1953. It was a musical starring Bing Crosby which seems like a very odd choice given the source material. I haven’t seen it but I’d kind of like to out of morbid curiosity. Crosby seems totally miscast as the Hilary I imagine. In terms of contemporary actors I think that Matthew Goode or Harry Lloyd might work.




Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Genre Lists

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:


June 4: Books From My Favorite Genre (You pick the genre, and give us your ten faves.)

Since I’ve done more than one “Favorite books in x genre” list, I decided to do a top ten list of past genre lists:

  1. Top Ten Tuesday: Gothic Romance 
  2. Top Ten Tuesday: Time Travel
  3. Top Ten Tuesday: “Girl”-ish Suspense Novels
  4. Top Ten Tuesday: Best Dual Timeline Novels
  5. Top Ten Tuesday: Best Lesser Known Romances
  6. Top Ten Tuesday: Hidden Gems of Magical Realism
  7. Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books About Books
  8. Top Ten Tuesday: Nonfiction That Taught Me Something New
  9. Top Ten Tuesday: Best Novellas and Short Stories
  10. Fairy Tale Retellings

Persephone Readathon #3


51bl0b8nefl._sx352_bo1204203200_Jessie @ dwellinpossibility is hosting the third annual Persephone readathon this week. I’m excited to dive back into some Persephone titles. This week I’ll be reading Little Boy Lost by Marghanita Laski. It’s been on my TBR for a while, and I’ve heard great things about it. Set in the days following WWII it’s about a father looking for his son.

For the last readathon, I read Saplings by Noel Streatfield which is another story of parents and children amidst the backdrop of WWII. I found it heartbreaking and haunting, and I hope that this lives up to that standard.

71pwec3g0ol._ac_ul436_Additionally I’ll be participating in the Persephone Readalong. We’ll be reading Virginia Woolf’s Flush, which is a “biography” of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s spaniel. I love the idea of a biography of a famous person’s dog, but the book isn’t just about that. ‘Although ostensibly about the taming of a pedigree dog, Flush addresses the way society tames and classifies women,’ writes Sally Beauman.

I’m looking forward to a great week of reading and challenges! Is anyone else participating in this year’s Persephone readathon?