Monday, June 23, 2014

This Is Goodbye

Well, here we are.  I had every intention of coming back to blogging during my recovery.  Little did I know.  I didn't count on how exhausting healing would be.  I didn't count on the changes that would occur over that time.  I also didn't realize just how much more of me my family needed.  Spending my time recovering really opened my eyes to just how much of my time was dedicated to blogging.  I have a 5 year old who really needs her mother right now.  How can I deny her that?

As sad as I am to go, I won't deny that there's also a sense of relief.  You see, I'm guilty of putting way too much pressure on myself, no matter what I resolve to do.  For me, pressure = stress, which makes for a not-very-fun mama.  That has to stop, for my sake, for my daughter's sake, and for my husband's sake.

You will still be able to find me on Goodreads.  Any remaining review books I have will be read and reviewed, make no mistake about it.  It will just be there, instead.  Feel free to say hello over there.  I certainly won't be quitting reading any time soon, so you'll always find me there.

This blog will remain live for a few months, then it will be closed.  I'm sorry to see StNC go.  It has been mine for 4 years now, but the time has come.  You have all been the best group of readers I could ask for.  Thank you so much for sticking with me all this time.  It's been real.



Friday, June 20, 2014

Owl's Eye View with Caragh M. O'Brien

Welcome to the final installment of Owl's Eye View.  Today I am very happy to present an interview with the author of one of my favorite series, Caragh M. O'Brien.  I had the chance to talk with Caragh about The Vault of Dreamers, writing, and, of course, books.  I hope you enjoy reading this interview as much as I did giving it.


Marla: Hi, Caragh!  Welcome to Starting the Next Chapter.  Readers may know you for your Birthmarked series, but they may or may not know that you have a new book coming soon.  How would you describe The Vault of Dreamers in 140 characters or less?  
Caragh: First, Marla, let me thank you for having me by! As for The Vault of Dreamers in brief, here goes: At her new arts school, film student Rosie spends 12 hours daily on a reality show and 12 hours sleeping, until she skips her sleeping pill.   

Marla: How did the experience of writing The Vault of Dreamers differ from that of writing the Birthmarked trilogy?  
Caragh: Writing The Vault of Dreamers involved working in 1st person rather than 3rd, and because the novel has layers of what can and cannot be seen at different times, it was tricky to balance what Rosie, the main character, could discover.  It’s fair to say that writing The Vault of Dreamers was more complicated for me to write, but I hope it reads effortlessly.   

Marla: This one is for all of the writers out there.  Where is your favorite place to write and what do you like to have surrounding you?  
Caragh: I write most often on a comfy couch in my library, with my feet up on a coffee table and my laptop against my knees.   

Marla: How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Caragh: I tell stories.   

Marla: How did the idea for The Vault of Dreamers come to you?  
Caragh: It wasn’t one idea in particular or one event that sparked the novel.  Instead, I was playing with a mix of ideas about teaching, creative students, the arts, security cameras, reality TV, and dreams, and I came up with Rosie.  The story really evolved around her.   

Marla: What are you reading and how would you describe it in a sentence?  
Caragh: I’ve just finished Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, which was fascinating and thought-provoking.  It’s about how a teenage tragedy can shape a boy’s life, and how he can be wildly self-destructive and still grasp at joy.   

Marla: I'm always looking for new bookish places to visit.  What is your favorite bookish place?  
Caragh: I like the UConn Coop Bookstore in Storrs, CT and Books of Wonder in NYC, but then, who doesn’t?   

Marla: We'll soon be meeting your new main character, Rosie.  What's your favorite thing about her?  
Caragh: I like the way she sees things, real and imagined.  As a film student, she has an exquisite relationship with cameras, and it affects how she sees the world, even when she isn’t filming.   

Marla: Last question: If your life were to be televised, what show would you rather appear on?  
Caragh: One of my favorite shows is Nashville, so I’d appear on that as a back-up singer wearing really cute boots.  I love to imagine the confidence that would take, and what fun it would be to sing harmony.  Thanks again, Marla, for having me by!  All best to you and Starting the Next Chapter!

Thank you, Caragh!  To find out more about Caragh's books, just click this link: Goodreads

About the Author

Caragh M. O'Brien is the author of the BIRTHMARKED trilogy and THE VAULT OF DREAMERS, both from Macmillan/Roaring Brook Press. Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, Ms. O'Brien was educated at Williams College and earned her MA from Johns Hopkins University. She recently resigned from teaching high school English in order to write young adult novels. For more information, visit

Follow Caragh on Twitter

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Update on Life

Hello, readers.  I'm still alive, I promise.  I've been more absent than I would have liked, but I've been pretty sick.  I even had to leave the family camping trip early, so things haven't exactly been going as I would have liked.  It's kind of like my body is fighting against me, much like this:

I am having surgery tomorrow, to be followed by 6 weeks of recovery.  After the first few days, I'll probably be back in full force.  I'll need something to occupy my time while I rest, after all.  I'm still reading, but other than that I'm taking things easy for now.  I will be back before you know it.  I even have a little somethin' somethin' special for you when I return.

I hope to "see" you all again very soon.  I will be back.  You can count on it.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Owl's Eye View with Kersten Hamilton

Welcome to the return of Owl's Eye View at Starting the Next Chapter!  Today I have for you an interview with the author of one of my favorite book series, Kersten Hamilton.  Kersten is the author of The Goblin Wars, a truly magical series of books that swept me along from the first.  I hope you enjoy this interview with Kersten as much as I did.


Marla: Hi, Kersten! I'm so thrilled to have you on Starting the Next Chapter today.  The paperback edition of When the Stars Threw Down Their Spears will be out very soon. For those among my readers who haven't read your books yet, how would you describe them in 140 characters or less?

Kersten: It is good to be here, Marla! I am not good at the 140 character thing. How about this: The books are my heart, poured out on paper.  That won’t coax or inspire anyone to read the books, of course. But it does explain why they were so hard to write.

Marla: We all have our quirks and little surprises.  What would your readers be most surprised to learn about you?

Kersten: After a long day of listening to my own ‘voice’ while I write, I chillax with a good Korean drama. I don’t understand Korean (I watch with subtitles) but the language works like music on my tired brain. I really enjoy the stories as well, because I am not as familiar with the Eastern mythology. I can pretty much predict what will happen in stories from my own culture. One of my favorite characters in Arang and the Magistrate (Spoiler Alert!) was reincarnated as a beloved Heavenly goat. I did NOT see that coming!

Marla: Who or what was your biggest inspiration while writing The Goblin Wars series?

Kersten: A writer named George MacDonald, who’s books have ‘baptized the imaginations’ of much greater writers than I will ever be.

Philip Pullman deserves a mention as well. I was reading Pullman’s Dark Materials series when I realized that I disagree with his worldview so deeply and completely that I just had to write a fantasy trilogy of my own.

Marla: You have some truly amazing characters throughout your series.  What are your favorite aspects of Teagan and Finn?

Kersten: Thank you for saying so, Marla! My characters are like family to me.  One of my favorite aspects of Finn is how he embodies love. Teagan is more of a thinker; but what I love best about her is that Teagan never gives up. Ever.

Marla: What is your most recent read and how would you describe it in a sentence?

Kersten: Faith, Hope and Poetry by Malcolm Guite. I don’t need a whole sentence. A phrase will do: Literary awesomesauce!

Marla: What are your top 3 favorite books?

Kersten: Gah. How could I choose? As I type this, there are about 1,200 books on the shelves around me looking over my shoulder. Probably a third of them have been my favorite at one time or another; I have felt at least a sincere attachment to the others. A couple hundred of my favorite favorites are waiting quietly upstairs in my office.

Since I don’t want to offend my printed friends, I’ll just talk about the ones I am reading right now.

My morning book is: A Preface to Paradise Lost, by C.S. Lewis (brilliant!); my afternoon book is: Blake, by Peter Ackroyd (sobering and sad, for sure), and my bedtime book,: The Mind of the Maker by Dorothy Sayers.

These are the kinds of books I read when I need courage and inspiration.  Last night, they seems to have inspired and all–night–long dream fight with the Dynamation cyclops from the seventh voyage of Sinbad:

The cyclops did not win. I take courage from this.

Marla: Which of your characters do you most identify with?

Kersten: There are actually two characters that I identify greatly with in The Goblin Wars: Finn, and Mamieo Ida. They both have large chunks of my soul in them. I do loan little bits of soul to my good guys. I steal the souls of wicked dogcatchers to animate my bad guys, though. I’m not lending anything to a bad guy.

Marla: Any advice for aspiring authors out there?

Kersten: Read old books. I mean really old books, the more the better.  Read books from other cultures, the more the better.

Also, if you write fantasy, read some Tolkien. Specifically, read The Return of the Shadow which is about the writing of The Lord of the Rings. It shows just how difficult the making of great books is – even for a brilliant writer.

Marla: One last questions, just for fun: You suddenly look up to find yourself in Mag Mell.  Who or where would you most like to visit there, and who or what do you most want to avoid?

Kersten: I sincerely believe that we all look up at one point or another and find ourselves in Mag Mell, or something very similar to it: a world much bigger than the one we think we are living in; the real world. I like the way George MacDonald describes it in his novel Phantastes: A Faerie Romance for Men and Women, which is about a young man named Anodos who stumbles into the world I am talking about. This is from the final pages of MacDonald’s book:

“I had lain down under the shadow of a great, ancient beech-tree, that stood on the edge of the field. As I lay, with my eyes closed, I began to listen to the sound of the leaves overhead. At first, they made sweet inarticulate music alone; but, by-and-by, the sound seemed to begin to take shape, and to be gradually moulding itself into words; till, at last, I seemed able to distinguish these, half-dissolved in a little ocean of circumfluent tones: "A great good is coming—is coming—is coming to thee, Anodos;" and so over and over again. I fancied that the sound reminded me of the voice of the ancient woman, in the cottage that was four-square. I opened my eyes, and, for a moment, almost believed that I saw her face, with its many wrinkles and its young eyes, looking at me from between two hoary branches of the beech overhead. But when I looked more keenly, I saw only twigs and leaves, and the infinite sky, in tiny spots, gazing through between. Yet I know that good is coming to me—that good is always coming; though few have at all times the simplicity and the courage to believe it….”

Thank you for having me on Starting the Next Chapter today, Marla!

Thank you, Kersten!  If you are unfamiliar with these wonderful books, check out this link to see the list.

About the Author

Kersten Hamilton is the author of several picture books and many novels, including the middle grade Gadgets and Gears series and the critically acclaimed YA paranormal trilogy The Goblin Wars. When she's not writing, she hunts dinosaurs in the deserts and badlands near Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she lives. For more about Kersten, please visit

See all of Kersten's books HERE.
Follow her on TWITTER.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Sometimes Life Gets in the Way

You may have noticed an unexpected absence from me over the past week.  It was just as unexpected for me, as I had a lot of plans.  Then, life happened.  You see, I will be having surgery in just 3 weeks.  Around this time 2 years ago, I had a surgical procedure to fix a problem I was having.  Needless to say, it didn't work, so this time I will be going in for a more serious procedure.  In the interest of having some privacy, I won't say what it is, but needless to say it's major surgery and I will be in the hospital for two days.

In the meantime, my concentration is shot.  I haven't been able to read a single book since last Monday, aside from those I read to my daughter.  It's difficult to have books to review when you can't concentrate on reading them, you know?  So, in the interest of keeping myself as healthy as possible, I won't be posting as much for the next month.  I do have some interviews for you all, so those will be going up soon.  As for reviews, however, don't be surprised if it takes a while for me to post one.  I'm still here, just a bit preoccupied, and for good reason.
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