The Girl’s Guide to Rocking

When I was twelve years old, my grandfather sat down on the couch next to me and looked at me. “What instrument do you want to play, mija?” Violin was my immediate answer. I’d always wanted to play like Darby O’Gill or Lindsey Stirling.

He shook his head.

“Pick something else!” Alarmed, my twelve year old self lurched on to the next instrument that came to my mind: guitar, like my dad. Of course, I had no aspirations to play Van Halen, ACDC, or Chuck Berry, but it seemed that now I was stuck because my grandfather left and returned twenty minutes later with a guitar and book. “Here. Learn.”

All this to say that it’s been a long journey to becoming as good a player as I am today. Now, I’m not saying I’m excellent – far from it – but I consider myself more experienced now than when I began the journey into the music world five years ago. Getting calloused fingers and struggling to play rhythm was hard at times and my newest read would have definitely been an asset to the girl taking her first tentative steps on that path.

For any girl who’s dreamed of being up on a big stage or forming her own girl band, Jessica Hopper’s written a great how-to book: The Girl’s Guide to Rocking. Filled with all sorts of professional tips from a woman’s who’s been in the field, this read has tips on how to buy and maintain the basic instruments that one starts off with. It details how to start a band, how to survive as a lone star, and how to record a great demo. The Girl’s Guide to Rocking also features a timeline of women in the music field and talks about how women in the field have impacted music, how they have risen and fallen, played, and ultimately faded away. For those who are just starting out or even a seasoned professional, this book will definitely be a fun read.

After having discovered this read at the Skirball museum during their run of the Simon and Garfunkel exhibit, I ordered it at a local libary and waited. And waited. And waited. Well, it finally got here and I’m super glad it did. The Girl’s Guide to Rocking is worth a read and is a great way to remind me of all the fun and excitement of being a musician. It reminded me of what made me fall in love with the craft, from writing my own songs to playing music with friends and family.

Chime Time: Do you play an instrument and if so have you ever played in a band?

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The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: 2 Fuzzy, 2 Furious

What with the Avengers film debuting this weekend, I thought I might take a little time to flip through a book targeted at drawing younger audiences into the Marvel universe. The read? The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: 2 Fuzzy, 2 Furious, a follow up to the original book which is available at Disney Books.

Doreen Gray is pretty sure that being Squirrel Girl is the most awesome. Epic. Wonderful. Fantabulous thing ever! She loves every opportunity she gets to don the “suit” (okay, okay it’s just a hoodie with bear ears, but still). Being the resident superhero of Shady Oaks isn’t dangerous most of the time and when the really bad baddies come around Squirrel Girl’s got her BSFF (Best Squirrel Friend Forever) Tippy-Toe and BHFF (Best Human Friend) Ana Sofia to help her. Sometimes it’s so much fun being Squirrel Girl, that Doreen finds it hard to be Doreen Green. It’s especially hard when she has a mean teacher who doesn’t like her, a bunch of groupies/friends that only really like Squirrel Girl, and an inexperienced time with having a BHFF. When a mall begins to open between the two towns of Listless Pines and Shady Oaks, Doreen’s relieved to have some time to just kick back and enjoy quality time with her friends. But as a poll to decide the town’s mascot causes animosity to spread throughout her community, it may be time to take a closer look at those who run the mall…and whether they really have to do with Hydra or not!

For younger audiences who have yet to become acquainted with Marvel entertainment or for those who are a little too young to peruse some of the more adult content, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is a great read. I would warn that there is some “mild” language, mostly the use of the word “crap”, and some slightly crude material as it is aimed at younger readers. Otherwise this is a clean read and an enjoyable one! I advise picking up the first book though.

Chime Time! Who’s your favorite lesser-known Marvel character?

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Question of the Week

For this week’s question, the answer is a bit complicated. I’m breaking it up into three different parts of the one answer.

Q: How do I create a good leading hero?

A: There are three general steps to creating any good hero, no matter their gender.

1. Don’t fall into stereotypes. That doesn’t mean your character won’t have similar qualities that can fall under a certain stereotype, but don’t do your readers the disfavor of creating a character who is bland and lacks all complexity because they simply fall under a general description. You know, the “chosen one,” the “moody one”. That’s not to say Harry Potter and every other chosen one isn’t loved, but they can all sort of blur together if something about them isn’t made more distinct than just being “the chosen one”.

2. Give characters something more complex details that are memorable. This can be the fact that the character LOVES carrying around a bag of cheerios to bribe their BFF’s evil dog. That’s an interesting dynamic for the character and also an interesting look into the character’s personality. They’re friends with someone who owns a scary dog and is not afraid to bribe that dog to get to the quality buddy time they want.

3. Give characters room to grow. The example I gave was Captain America and Iron Man [MCU versions, for you comic junkies], both great examples of growth. Iron Man is an example of a character whose values change. He changes from a self-centered playboy to an easily guilt-inflicted, responsibility-oriented adult who still has control issues. So at the heart of it, some of what makes him still remains. Captain America is the complete opposite. His values never change, but his reaction to the world around him changes. He believes in the same ideals of justice, honor, and duty, but his reaction to that (following orders without question, always following the letter of the law) change. Both characters also grow in response to each other.

So yeah, these are the three parts to one answer. 1. Make your character a bit more than a stereotype 2. Give them some interesting details that are memorable. 3. Give them room to grow.

Did this help? Do you have any tips to create a great hero?

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Disney Parks Presents the Haunted Mansion

This post is a sequel to my previous Disney Parks Presents post, this time featuring the Haunted Mansion book.

When crypt doors creak and tombstones quake, spooks come out for a swinging wake! In this fun book, Disney’s classic attraction is celebrated with colorful illustrations and the bold lyrics of the well-known “Grim Grinning Ghosts” covering the pages. If you’re a fan of the attraction, which originally opened on August 12, 1969, this book will definitely be an enjoyable read. The art does not necessarily play into the lyrics themselves and instead loosely follows the path that the renowned Omnimovers take through the attraction. The artwork is creepy and graphic and manages to capture the perfect balance of these dual elements that Imagineers Xavier Atencio and Claude Coats tried to capture.

If you’re a fan of classic attractions, especially those in the New Orleans Square area, then you should definitely pick up this fun read. Disney Parks Presents the Haunted Mansion is a marvelous ode to a ride that has become as essential to the parks as the other attractions featured in the previous two books, Pirates of the Caribbean and It’s a Small World. Pick up all of these great children’s books to have a fun trip through the rides you know and love that remain so iconic to the Disney experience.

Chime time! What is your favorite classic Disney attraction?

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Question of the Week

This week’s question is pretty basic advice for writers who find their books being rather…skeletal:

Q: I feel like I am bunching everything together in my book and it is moving along too quickly. What should I do?

A: [This is another friend’s question from my Write a Book in 30 Days project] Excellent question! If you’re struggling with everything being lumped together and therefore having no suspense and body to your story, I would suggest adding some fluff and character development. Character development can happen through the actions of the story, but it can also happen through the slow, sentimental moments that give us a glimpse of a reader’s character when not thrust into the middle of a terrific adventure. These character development points will also help when trying to space out your novel as each scene of development should help further your character’s story along, even before the rest of the action plays out.

That’s all for this week! Be sure to leave a question in the comments if you have any and I will see you all next week for a haunting read.

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Lost in a Book

This week’s review is on a Beauty and the Beast stand-alone novel that takes place within the timeline of Disney’s live-action film. 

Clever Belle. Beautiful Belle. Funny Belle, trapped in a palace with a monster. After saving her father from imprisonment with a horrible creature, Belle is unsure what she’s going to do. Trapped as she is and with no means of escape, it seems all she can do is spend her days cleaning the castle and daydreaming about returning to her father. Beast’s secretive nature intrigues her and the pain she sees in him and the castle staff make her more determined than ever to discover what secrets they hold. Though she finds kindred spirits in all of the hard workers, Belle is rebuffed time and time again by the Beast. One night when she escapes to her new library, she discovers Nevermore, an enchanted volume that is more portal than book. Stepping into its pages leads to a magical realm that brings back everything she lost at the hands of the Beast. Here, Parisian luxury and charming friends are only a carriage ride away. But everything is not as it seems. Unbeknownst to Belle, she is the victim of a vicious game played between the two most powerful beings in the universe and Nevermore is just a device in that game. Can Belle untangle the mystery of Nevermore before it’s too late? Or will she be forever lost in the book?

Funny, thrilling, and entertaining, Lost in a Book is a superb example of what an author can do with a pre-existing world and cast of characters. Jennifer Donnelly, the author of several award-winning YA novels including the Waterfire Saga, breathes new life into the well-known tale of Belle and her Beast with this read. Whether or not you enjoyed the movie, this is an excellent read. If it makes you feel better, just picture the original cast of characters in this one, as there are no obvious references that differentiate between the two films.

However you choose to read it, Lost in a Book is a book that is definitely worth giving a try and I highly recommend you pick it up at least once.

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Question of the Week

Hello, schminions!

This week we are doing something a little new. I’ve been asked lots of questions about writing and there are even more questions that no one has asked, but definitely deserve an answer. I wanted to help any budding writers who might have these questions but can’t find an answer.

Keep in mind, these are just my personal opinions. I hope they help you.

Q: Help, my character’s adrift in the ocean! – or – What do I do when my character’s stuck in the middle of the story?

This one is an actual question posed to me by a friend on the Scratch website, on my writing post How to Write a Book in 30 Days.

A: First, what is the purpose of your character being adrift? Whether it be in a boat or climbing over the mountains to reach Mount Doom, make sure every action a character takes forwards their ultimate goal and the plot of the story. If the main body of the story is the character being stuck, break the monotony up with some flashbacks or some exciting events that give more information. Ultimately, every action, even fluff, should further your plot. Fluff can give information on relationships that are important and relevant.

So if your character is stuck in a boat remember a couple of questions you need to answer. 1. Why is she in the boat? 2. How can I reveal the answer to question 1 in an interesting way? The best stories rely on giving the readers an interesting climax. Even if they were expecting something similar, give them the answer in a way that makes them go, “Woah! I wasn’t expecting it like that!”

If this helped you, give me a shout in the comments! If you have some more questions that you would like answered, please ask. I would love to feature your question one week.

Until next time, writers, write on.


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Easter Reads

With Easter this weekend, I thought I might review a couple of my reads for the week. One is more Biblical while the other two are just Easter-time stories. Regardless of whether these books celebrate the true importance of Easter, they are all worth a read.

The first book on the list is Here Comes the Easter Cat by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Claudia Rueda. This silly read is sure to inspire a load of laughs, especially if read with children. From the impertinent “Easter” cat, who just wants to be as important as his fluffy-tailed nemesis, to the sweet wrap-up at the end of the book, Here Comes the Easter Cat is a read that will be enjoyed by all.

Tasha Tudor’s A Tale for Easter is rather simple as well. This book follows the narrative of the author, who assures the reader that there might well be some very special surprises waiting for them on Easter day. It is a lovely read, filled with illustrations that harken back to the golden era of childhood during the 19th century. The author has done a fantastic job of creating a simple read that should endure for all the right reasons.

The last read is a retelling of the Easter story, adapted from the New Testament by Elizabeth Winthrop and illustrated by Charles Mikolaycak. This is a good one to read through with children on Good Friday or any time during the Easter week. I would definitely recommend taking some time to not only read this book but also to read the original Easter story in the Gospels, encouraging a more in-depth discussion with younger listeners.

These three picture books capture some of the joy and fun that Easter brings, but also reminds us of what Easter is about. Easter is about kindness and love – the greatest of these being Jesus’ death and resurrection so that we may spend the rest of eternity with Him.

Before y’all head off to any Easter celebrations for the week, will you pray with me?

Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for the gift of Your Son, who gave us the best gift any of us could ever receive. It is truly a blessing to live every day to the fullest so that we may glorify You. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to spend eternity with You.


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Black Panther: The Young Prince

Before he became the Black Panther, before he was King of Wakanda, before he fought the Avengers, he was just T’Challa, prince of Wakanda. 

In this prequel story detailing one of T’Challa’s first adventures, author Ronald L. Smith takes us back to the jungle, before bringing us to Chicago, America for an exciting new tale of the young prince’s journey to taking his father’s place.

War is brewing in Wakanda. A group of invaders, led by a rogue scientist by the name of Ulysses Klaw, has begun their attack on the country. With such danger a present threat everyday, T’Chaka, King of Wakanda, decides to send his son and his son’s best friend, M’Baku, away to America. In Chicago, everything is different. T’Challa is no longer a prince and he cannot reveal anything about where he is really from. As they pose as students from Kenya, South Side Middle School is visited by some very unpleasant omens. School bully Gemini Jones may seem like only a kid, but T’Challa knows that he is involved, especially when M’Baku is drawn to mysterious meetings. With the help of his new friends Zeke and Sheila, T’Challa is forced to break his father’s rules, reveal his secrets, and don the mask of the Black Panther – or else Chicago is doomed.

Having not seen the movie yet, I was not sure what sort of characters I was going to meet. However, I was very pleased by those whom I read about in this book. It was an entertaining read and Ronald L. Smith did an excellent job of making sure the book did not fall into the category of mediocre movie-based books. I highly recommend you pick it up, especially if you’ve already watched the film. You will enjoy reading about the younger T’Challa and his path to becoming the king.

Also, go check out my interactive book review on the Scratch website HERE.

Chime Time: T’Challa and his friends speak Wakandan, a made up African language. In real life, we have languages such as Swahili and Arabic. What foreign languages do you know, if any?

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Library Books About Libraries?!

After going to my local library for the last twelve years of my life, you’d think I’d checked out everything there was to be had. But it seems I’m still discovering something new every single day. Today, I wanted to review two very special books which are about the library itself, expressed in the form of children’s picture books! For those of you who have been reading for a while, you will know this is not my first read in which the story takes place in a library or centers on the library, but these are just some of my more recent reads that I thought I’d like to share.

The first is a new take on a classic tale. The Library Gingerbread Man follows the adventures of said gingerbread man as he attempts to escape the library from his section in 398.2, all while being pursued by the librarian and a host of other characters who emerge from their sections along the way. Whether it’s the giraffe from the 500s or Harriet  Tubman from 921, no matter who jumps out to catch him, none are fast enough – not even Jim Thorpe from 921! When the gingerbread man get himself stuck up on a shelf and is offered the help of a shady fox, will he accept? Or will his fate be different this time? And what will happen to his book?

Written by Dotti Enderle and illustrated by Colleen M. Madden, this version of the gingerbread man is sure to become a personal favorite, if only because as a library page, I get all the library references.

The Boy Who Was Raised by Librarians follows the story of Melvin, who spends most of his time at the Livingston Public Library. For him, there’s a world of knowledge waiting to explore and the library is the best place to help him find out exactly what lays out there in the great wide world. But what Melvin likes most about his library is the people behind the counter. Marge, Betty, and Leeola are the best librarians anyone could ever ask for – at least, he thinks so. When he wants information on snakes, they find him books from five different sections and websites. When Melvin brought eighty-seven specimens of bugs, they categorized all of them. When Melvin started a baseball card collection, the librarians helped find him a price guide and information on baseball. They couldn’t help it. That’s just how librarians are. And when Melvin grew up, he had to agree. He couldn’t help it. That’s just how he was too.

This one I absolutely adored. Carla Morris and Brad Sneed did an great job with their quirky characters and sweet story. As someone who’s grown up with a library five minutes down the road, I can honestly say I relate to Melvin’s experience. One can only hope I’ll end up like him…though you’ll have to read the book to find out what that is.

Chime Time: That’s all I have for you today, shminions, but tell me what part about your local libraries you love the most!

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