Category: Reading


The Princess and the Pea

You know those things that make you question your sanity or wonder if you’ve somehow stepped into an alternate reality? The story of “The Princess and the Pea” is that for me.  Everyone knows the basics of the story: A princess is so sensitive she can feel a pea under her mattress, even if you put it under a stack of many mattresses. In the story, a prince is looking for a bride. The prospective brides are tested in this manner to see if they are princesses.  And here is where the story gets interesting. Everyone I’ve asked in the past twenty years has told me that the princess wakes up complaining about how she couldn’t sleep, and everyone knows she is a princess, since she could feel the pea. But that isn’t the story I heard as a child. In the version I heard, the princess doesn’t want to be a rude guest and tries to hide the fact that she couldn’t sleep. She is so tired, she ends up falling asleep at breakfast. The queen is livid. How dare a guest fall asleep at the table? The prince interrupts her rant and says that the princess showed true sensitivity. Not only did she feel the pea, but she showed sensitivity of heart by not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings or be rude.

I can not find this version of the story anywhere. It is like it never existed. No one I know has ever heard it. It leaves me to wonder where I heard it, did I imagine it, or what? If anyone out there has heard this version of the story, I welcome your comments. If not, I also welcome a discussion on the merits of each of these stories. I am partial to the story I know. It teaches a lesson and shows that it is good to be polite and care about the feelings of others. I would love to find it in print somewhere, if only to know I’m not crazy. Until then, I will be content to share it with my children.

-A.D. McLain

www.wotpast.com

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Lisa Olsen does it again! “Mercy for the Wicked” is a continuation of the story in “Angel of Mercy,” where Merceline was accidentally gifted with Grace from a fallen angel who was only trying to save her life. She is left “something new,” not quite human but not an angel either. Caught between two worlds, Mercy struggles with her forbidden attraction for bad boy fallen angel, Adam, and a safe, normal relationship with her human cop boyfriend, Ben. With angels and demons after her at every turn, both relationships seemed destined for failure.

 

Olsen has a way of creating lively, fully developed, realistic characters who draw the reader in, make you laugh, and make you care what happens to them. Their motivations and decisions are easy to follow. Their dialogue and quirky personalities are fun to read. I will excitedly await the next installment in “The Fallen” series to see how things are resolved.

Lisa Olsen Website

-A.D. McLain

www.wotpast.com

When  I read a book, I usually have one of three reactions. I may hate it and can’t even finish reading it. I may like it but find myself distracted easily and thinking of how I would write the story differently. (Those books are part of the reason I became a writer). And the third reaction: I may love it and find myself unable to put it down. For those books, I find myself thinking of the story long after I’ve finished reading the book. Every page is a joy and I can’t wait to read more. That category is usually reserved for a few of my favorite authors, such as Sherrilyn Kenyon, Maggie Shayne and Jayne Castle. I now have a new author to add to that list. Her name is Lisa Olsen and the book is “Angel of Mercy.”

“Angel of Mercy”  is the story of Merceline, a woman who unexpectedly finds herself thrust in the world of angels and demons after a near death experience leaves her healed by a fallen angel and imbued with some of his powers.

Mercy is a strong, funny and very likeable main character. Her interactions with her friends and family are believable and entertaining. When she complains of her family drama, I feel I am listening to an old friend. All of Olsen’s characters have depth and personality. In otherwords, they feel like real people.  The action of the story flowed well.  From page one, there was never a moment when I got bored and wanted to put the book down. But even so, each chapter wrapped up well enough that I could stop when I needed to go back to work or care for my children. It struck a nice balance that made it a very enjoyable read. I will gladly purchase this author’s other books and cannot wait to read the continuation of this story in “Mercy for the Wicked “

Lisa Olsen Website

-A.D. McLain

www.wotpast.com

*Warning, may contain spoilers*

I recently finished reading “Allies.” It is a Star Wars book in the “Fate of the Jedi” story arch. I’ve been reading Star Wars books since I was in high school, and this one did not disappoint. When all was said and done, it left me wanting to read the next book in the series. One thing that has always drawn me to this series is the ongoing story and struggles of the characters. My favorite part of the Star Wars universe is that the story keeps going. Even when the book is done, or the story arch is finished, there is always more to tell. You rarely get to go so in-depth with characters from a book. But with the Star Wars books, you get to follow the characters from birth through death, seeing all the obstacles they must face. You can really become emotionally invested in what will happen to them.

In “Allies,” the relationship between Jaina and Jag is tested once again. You see the depth of their love for each other and feel sorrow at the obstacles that seem to always come between them.  Jaina has become a strong and tragic character throughout the Star Wars books. Faced with the loss of both her brothers, and her responsibilities as “Sword of the Jedi,” it seems as though she is not destined to be happy. You find yourself hoping she can get a break and find some kind of happiness in her life.

Chief of State Daala begins to slip into the insanity of obsession. Convinced that she must maintain order and snuff out all chaos in the galaxy for the good of the Galactic Alliance she begins to make choices that are obviously bad ones. Her closest advisors try to dissuade her from her single-minded persecution of the jedi and dictator like behavior, but she will not listen. Like Jacen falling to the dark side for all the right reasons, Daala is becoming what she hates. She condemns the jedi as no better than sith, claims they think they are above the law, and proceeds to employ the Mandelorians to do whatever is neccessary to achieve her goals. She justifies the murder of an innocent, unarmed girl, and feels no responsibility for it.

Vestara Khai, sith apprentice and captive of Luke and Ben Skywalker, shows a lot of promise and indications that she may be swayed away from the dark side. At the same time, on the other side of the galaxy, Tahiri faces her dark past and tries to break away from the person she became at the tuteladge of Darth Caedus/Jacen. We are forced to face the issue of redemption and whether or not a person can come back from doing horrible things.  

Finally, the thing that sticks out the most, for me, in reading “Allies” is the return of Callista. I always felt that particular story line needed resolution. After her romance with Luke, she disappeared into the Star Wars universe. He went on, married Mara, had a son and lost his wife, but there was never a mention of his earlier love. I was excited to read about what happened to Callista, even if it was a sad fate.

 There are many other things I could say or talk about, but those are the main things that I got from reading “Allies.” It was a good book, worthy of the series, easy to read, and managed to resolve many issues while still leaving you wanting for more. I look forward to reading the next book soon.

-A.D. McLain

www.wotpast.com

Stories Matter

I’m often teased for the way I analyze the movies I watch or the books I read. “It’s just a movie,” I’m told. I should lighten up, not take things so seriously. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer, or maybe I can blame my years as an English major in college, but I expect more from my entertainment. To be completely honest, I always have. I would read a book and think, “I can do better.” That is part of the reason I began writing my own stories. As a writer I expect more from other writers. When I see obvious continuity errors or plot choices that make no sense, I feel that writer is being lazy. I expect at least as much from other writers as I expect from myself.

As a writer, I know all the elements that go into a story. A writer must balance theme, character development, action and symbolism, all while keeping the reader or viewer engaged and entertained. To fail at any part of this is to fail as a writer and a storyteller. If the reader isn’t entertained they won’t continue reading, so it doesn’t matter what your message is.

To some, all this is meaningless. It’s just a story. It isn’t real. It doesn’t matter. But stories can be far more important than people give them credit for. Stories allow us to explore issues we all face in daily life. They make us think, feel, examine our beliefs and consider impossible decisions and issues of right vs wrong. They bind us as a culture, displaying elements of our society, our practices, what is important to us, our ideals. They teach us accepted behaviors and what to consider taboo. A good story touches us on a deep level, leaving us inspired, full of hope or full of fear. The best stories affect us without our being aware of it. Therein also lies their danger. Writers have a door into our minds. They can leave impressions and ideas that weren’t there before. They can shape opinions and the direction of a society.

In the end, yes it may just be a movie, or it may just be a book, but that is irrelevant to its ultimate importance. The media chosen is a vessel that conveys the larger message. How that message is received is what really matters.

Between taking care of a three year old, working full-time, writing my own books, and getting ready for a new baby, it can be difficult to find the time to just sit down and read a good book. When I was younger, I would spend days doing almost nothing but reading. I was addicted to reading. It is still my favorite pastime, by far. I love reading a well written book, especially one that is part of a series. I got many of my ideas for my own writing after reading a book that really engaged me. I got even more after reading a book I was unhappy with. I would think of all the things I could have done better. 🙂

In high school, I would read every paranormal book I could get my hands on. I loved Maggie Shayne, Jayne Castle and Kay Hooper, among others. They all kept me coming back for more. I also got very caught up in reading Star Wars books. I loved how with the Star Wars books, the story just kept going on. I never had to say good-bye to my favorite characters. I could always come back and find out what happened next. That is what really endeared me to the Sherrilyn Kenyon Dark-Hunter series. I love that the characters from the early books are still an important part in the later stories. They are all stand alone books, but they each are part of a greater whole. That writing style inspires my own writing and makes me want to create a world like that, where all the stories are interwoven and important to each other.

That said, I have had a devil of a time keeping up with all my favorite authors as of late. Whenever I go to look for new books, I always find I am two or three books behind. Of course, it’s great when I do get all the books I’m missing and get to have a mini reading marathon. This is especially true with the Dark-Hunter books. My mom got me into the series (Thanks, Mom!) so she has some of the books, I have some of the books, and when I do get behind, I always have to check with her to see which ones she has that I haven’t read. I can sometimes forget where I’m at, since I don’t have all the books on my shelf to refer back to. And, sometimes I even read a book or two out of order without realizing it. Just did that a few months ago. Despite all that, I absolutely love reading this series and can’t wait to get the next book when I can. I was able to catch up on some of the series back around the first of this year, and it has me very excited to get the new one about  Nick. The book on Acheron was the best. It was dark, complex, really drew you in. Ash is just one of the best characters I’ve ever read. He is the kind of character you’d want to be friends with in real life. I love the dialog Kenyon writes for Ash. He is definitely one of a kind.

Reading Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter series makes me excited to read and excited to be a writer. If she can write something so amazing, it gives me hope that I too can create something that people will enjoy with such enthusiasm. It gives me courage not to shy away from difficult topics or dark story lines, even in the midst of a romance. Besides, reading her books is a lot of fun. 🙂 I can’t wait til my next Dark-Hunter reading marathon.

-A.D. McLain

www.wotpast.com