Monthly Archives: June 2017

The Fifth Doll–Book Review!

Happy Friday, everyone! Since I almost always have a book I’m reading (whether or not I actually register it as “currently reading” in my goodreads account), I thought I’d start sharing personal book reviews now and again.

And what better way to start than with this gorgeous book (both inside and out) of Charlie N. Holmburg’s, The Fifth Doll.

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Seriously, how gorgeous is this cover?!

It’s clear from the get-go that something is not quite right in Matrona’s village, though she herself isn’t aware until a fateful action sets her on the path to unraveling the mystery. Charlie N. Holmberg’s latest book, The Fifth Doll, fluctuates between the romance of an old Russian village, the beguiling spell of a fantasy tale, and the compelling lives of the characters brought to life throughout its pages.

The main character, Matrona, is a dreamer who longs for love, but with realist parents and an impending arranged marriage, it seems she’s destined for a life devoid of it. When she happens upon the collection of painted nesting dolls in the mysterious Slava’s house, she can’t resist the urge to touch one–one with a remarkable likeness of her father painted on it! But when her father starts acting strangely, she realizes there must be more going on in tradesman Slava’s house.

But when Matrona goes to confront Slava, he turns the tables on her and decides Matrona is going to be the next keeper of his secrets–whether she wants to or not! Matrona must follow Slava’s demands…or else. Between his dictates and her parents’ and betrothed’s expectations, Matrona soon finds herself in a whirlwind of conflicting emotions. But with each action she takes, and resulting consequence she endures, Matrona grows in strength and resolve: she will learn the mystery of the dolls. And perhaps she might find the love she longs for after all…

Reading this book was itself very like opening a set of Russian matryoshka dolls. Each layer of the story had a new problem, a new hope, a new secret to learn, and every time I thought I knew where things were headed, another layer broke open and took the plot in a new direction. The Fifth Doll is incredibly unique, quite refreshing to read, and genuinely hard to put down! It only took two days to fly through it, and I could have easily read it all in one sitting if I hadn’t had the mundane distractions of everyday life plaguing me.

What made this story go above the average tale for me were the vivid characters and the beautiful language employed skillfully by Charlie N. Holmberg. Matrona is a very believable and likeable character–super important in a main character. I was able to easily sympathize with her without feeling like the author was manipulating me to do so. She does have real faults but they are understandable and true to her character. Slava walks the appropriate tightrope for his good-guy-or-bad-guy-? persona; menacing but weary, demanding but regretful. And the character of Matrona’s mother also stood out to me as a very realistic portrayal. Her harsh demeanor and sharp words were very believable traits, due to her situation in life and its toll on her.

As for the language, here are a few lines that I absolutely loved!

“It sent moth wings up her arms and over her shoulders.”

“By the time she reached the church, her lungs blazed like two oil lamps.”

“Serpents coiled around her chest, thinning her air.”

“Her entire body became a heartbeat.”

“A good sign, yet Matrona’s nerves stung her limbs like hornets.”

“Matrona’s skin burned like he was the sun.”

All in all, this is a gem of a book, with enough mystery, magic, romance, historical notes and action to please readers from virtually any genre. This is probably the best book I’ve read so far this year—I don’t give out five-star reviews easily!

I was given an advanced reading copy of this book, but my opinion is 100% my own and I’m already planning to purchase and give physical copies for myself and friends of mine after the July 25th release of this book. It’s that good. 😉

Check it out here for yourself!

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Touching Base & A Sneak Peek!

It’s late.

I have a glass of strawberry moscato at my elbow, my cat at my feet, and a limp bun sagging at the back of my head.

This is when I do most of my writing, it seems. Late at night or early in the morning, when the house is quiet enough for me to breathe. A hot cup of coffee or cool glass of wine at my side, urging me on.

So, without further ado:

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Progress Report:

I’m approximately a third(ish) of the way through on my manuscript, which is both exciting and disheartening. Every writer works at different speeds, I know. I simply function within a tortoise-like slow and steady pace. And that’s okay, but I’d like to work faster. Perhaps if I get myself in gear and follow R. Q. Woodward’s excellent advice, I can amp up my speeds a little.

Since the story takes place in a futuristic earth (over a thousand years into the future), that naturally requires imagining what has changed in a thousand years, what has remained constant, and what has fallen into disrepair. Which probably should be more exciting than terrifying, but coming from a historical standpoint, it’s still uncomfortable for me.

The latest I’ve dreamed up is some kind of fairly easily diagnosed disease and the medication used to treat it. The research for that (to make it at least a believable disease and medication) is both equally repulsive and mad-scientist-y too. I think. I’ve never been strong in the sciences, so I’m not sure exactly how that might feel. But I imagine it’s something like this fascinating feeling of loose control over something far beyond your own power.

I feel sorry for the poor characters already.

Well, enough about the process, I promised a sneak peak and here it is! A tiny snippet of what I’ve recently written:

I go to tuck my lip into my mouth, but it’s held taught in a chapped shell. “Look, if you want me gone, just give me an I.D. and point me in the direction of the nearest city.”

A laugh bursts from behind the man’s thick beard. “We don’t just give out I.D.s, girl. And even if we-” He stops, head turned to the side.

It takes me a moment, but I hear it too—a distant cry, piercing through the air with a haunting resonance.

Then a second voice, much closer. “Harlan!”

The man turns to the door behind him just before it bursts open. “Harlan!” The woman who flies through reaches for him. “It’s Delci—she’s worse, much worse.”

His hard face finally shows a crack in its composure. “How much?”

“I don’t know what else to do.“ She wrings her pasty-white hands like it’ll render some answer to the problem. “We need to send for someone, Harlan. We have no choice—Kennard won’t be back until Spring.”

Pressing a hand to his heavy brow, he considers a moment. “No, it’s too dangerous.”

“She’ll die!”

“Take me to her.” He follows the woman out the door, fixing me with a hard look before the slab of wood shuts between us and I hear the scraping of a lock falling into place.

More cries fluctuate from somewhere outside the door.

What kind of place is this?

I don’t want to stick around to find out.

Dun dun duuuuuun. Yep, **spoiler** someone has fallen victim to my horrible made-up disease. I’m sorry, but it was a necessary evil to move the story along.

In Other News:

I recently took an online course in Romantic and Sexual Tension that R.Q.Woodward suggested to me, and that was an interesting challenge. I’ll admit that I didn’t realize how many layers go into creating an engrossing Romantic story (whether by itself or within another genre like historical or sci-fi). I got a lot of fantastic pointers for not only romantic development, but character growth as well.

Last Notes:

I’m SUPER excited about July’s Camp NaNoWriMo coming up! (Look out for #SpottedSasquatch) I’m still working out what exactly my goal will be. 50k words is the standard, of course, but something as simple as an hour or two of uninterrupted writing every day would be a great habit to enforce during the month. As per R.Q.’s previously mentioned advice, I agree that setting aside designated time for the task is vitally important. Especially when you’re the stay-at-home parent and workdays are ambiguous and never-ending.

I’ll be chiming in soon with a fun book review, but in the meantime, let me know if you’re NaNoWriMo-ing in July or what other summer plans you have!

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