Book Review: Not Without My Daughter

Non-fiction isn’t usually my cup of tea. While it may be informative, I sometimes find it is so clean cut and factual that the genre seems almost callous.  However when history and biographies are novelized they take on an entirely different tone.

My latest novelized non-fiction read is…

Not Without My Daughter by Betty Mahmoody 

My mother and I like to binge watch trailers whenever we are just chilling. One of the trailers we came across was the movie adaptation of Not Without My Daughter. After watching the trailer, I really wanted to see the movie but when I saw the “Based off the novel by Betty Mahmoody” credit, I knew I had to read the book first.

It was a funny coincidence that the next day I found a good copy of Not Without My Daughter at the antique shop I work at. I bought it and immediately started to read. 

(Um, don’t tell my boss I read on the job…it was a slow day anyway!)

The Story

Not Without My Daughter tells the true story of Betty Mahmoody and her daughter Mahtob. 

Betty met and married her husband, Dr. Sayyed Bozorg Mahmoody (Moody for short), in the United States of America in 1976. He had come to America to study medicine and become an established doctor in the USA. 

When Moody takes Betty and Mahtob to an Iran at war with Iraq for a vacation, problems start appearing almost immediately. After meeting with Moody’s family she finds herself either completely ignored or rigorously attacked. Why? Because she is American.

Moody makes the radical decision to keep Betty and Mahmoody in Iran. Once a woman marries an Iranian man, she immediately becomes an Iranian citizen as well as the “property” of that man. Any children they have are the man’s “property” as well. Moody was “Americanized” in the US but seems to have reverted back to his culture’s expectations of what a man is and how he treats his “inferiors.” We might never know for sure if Moody had been under this influence before taking Betty and Mahtob into Iran or if this change happened while staying with his family on “vacation.” The former seems more likely.

Stuck in Iran, Betty’s soul purpose in life becomes clear to her; she needs to protect her daughter and escape. As time continues, however, this objective becomes more strenuous. Moody forces Mahtob to attend school in Iran and Betty finds herself surrounded by people who spy on her every move and will tell her husband of any missteps.

My Thoughts

This book touches so many important social issues on human rights. But what I think Betty Mahmoody most wanted to make clear to the reader was the devotion that bonds a mother and her children. And when that child is in danger, nothing else matters. To Betty, nothing matters more than Mahtob’s safety.

We’ve all heard the stories of the disregard for basic human rights, especially when it comes to women and children. There are hundreds of women and children in captive situations, just like Betty’s. Betty tells her story, not just for herself but for the hundreds, if not thousands, of voiceless victims who have had the most basic of freedoms stolen from them.

Reading this book might not change your perspective if you are already an advocate for women, children, and freedom, but it will give you more of the facts. This is what it’s really like. This is what we should be fighting against, spreading awareness for. This book should reinforce and fortify what you should already know to be true: that people are people and they have the God given right to life and freedom. 

Something I don’t usually gush about is cover design…but I’m going to! This cover I got…guys, this cover! The front cover is obviously an illustration of a woman (Betty) in a chador but if you look closer, you can see the thin golden stars hidden on the cover. I loved the symbolism so much, I just had to *Star Spangled Banner plays.*

The Long and Short of It

This book was potent and left a lasting impression on me. I did watch the movie after completing the book and, though I love Sally Fields, it wasn’t the same. If you’ve watched the movie you should read the book NOW. If you have never heard of Not Without My Daughter before, I encourage you to pick up a copy. 

A big hug to those of you who were motivated to read Not Without My Daughter because of my posts on Instagram about it! I loved talking with you and I can’t wait to hear what you think about the book!

5 Uncommon Books Harry Potter Fans Will Love

Once you’ve finished the Harry Potter series, you feel the desperate need to read it again. And again. And again. And then you read The Cursed Child. And then the Hogwarts Library. And then the Fantastic Beasts screenplays. Eventually you will run out of good Harry Potter related reading material.


But that does not mean you have to stop there. I know the desperate need to find a new world to join and love just as much as the Wizarding World.


Of course, you can read Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia just like everyone else. But there are some lesser known books that anyone who enjoys Harry Potter will find solace in just as much.

Nevermoor

Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend is easily my third favorite book of all time. Just like the separation of the Wizard and Muggle worlds, the world of Nevermoor is split.

Morrigan Crow, like Harry Potter, is an normal child save for one thing. She is doomed to die on her eleventh birthday. And, like Harry, a mysterious stranger comes to her aid, Jupiter North. Jupiter takes Morrigan away from the dull and corrupt Wintersea Rublic to the wonderfully crazy Free State city of Nevermoor.

However, she has her own Voldemort pursuing her, the Wundersmith. Nevermoor has two books that succeed it and Townsend is still working on the series, so there is lots to look forward to.

The Night Circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is more of a mature read than Harry Potter but I still believe Wizarding World lovers will enjoy it.

Just like Rowling’s unique take on magic, Morgenstern has taken it to the next level. Magic exists, yes, but magicians hide amongst ordinary people. The magicians parade their gifts as mere conjuring tricks but do not need smoke and mirrors to create illusion. Two young people, Celia and Marco, youths with the gift of sorcery, have been bound together from a young age by their guardians. This bond has them playing their lives like a chess match, seeing who can outshine the other in a contest of magical prowess.

The Night Circus is the board and they are the players…or are they the pawns?

The Grishaverse

Just as Rowling crafted her own world, large as life, Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse is as real as Hogwarts.

Magic and normalcy are collided in the same steampunk/fantasy land. Grisha are men and women who can harness the power of elements. While they live amongst normal people they are often either praised or punished for their magic. Many Grisha hide their abilities and some do not even know the power is theirs. Three series and have been written in the Grishaverse so far, Shadow and BoneSix of Crows, and King of Scars.

I read Six of Crows before Shadow and Bone by accident, but I would advise reading the series in order, even if the former is so much better.

The Inquisitior’s Tale

The Inquisitor’s Tale or Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz is by far the most hilarious book on this list.

Set in the Middle Ages, Jeanne, Jacob, and William are the Medieval equivalent of the Golden Trio…plus a dog. Tales and folklore of magic are told and celebrated but when these three children are revealed to have miraculous abilities they are persecuted and rejected. Even threatened with burning at the stake! The story is told by a group of travelers at an inn; a Brewster, a nun, a librarian, the innkeeper, a jongleur, a chronicler, a king’s companion, a troubadour, and, of course, the Inquisitor.

The tale is original and the format unique, Potterheads of any age will love it.

The Night Gardener

Magic is not always good, as Voldemort and his Death Eaters have demonstrated. This rings true in Jonathan Axiur’s The Night Gardener.

Molly and her lame brother, Kip, are orphans and have gone to work for the Windsor’s. The Windsor’s live in a crumbling and bleak mansion in an island of woods and the family all have the same gaunt pale skin and dead black hair and eyes. But the most peculiar and ominous omen is the twisting tree that is apart of the house. Molly and Kip soon begin hearing noises in the night…loud footfalls and rustling leaves. What will the children do when the dark magic begins to overtake them as their hair and eyes darken, just like the grim Windsor’s?

What secrets are hidden in the mansion and, more importantly, the great tree that grows darker every day?


Reading these books will put you in the same magical trance that Harry Potter did, and most likely still does. Yes, they don’t have Harry, Ron, and Hermione in them but this is the opportunity to fall for new characters. I promise these books will not disappoint if you give them a chance!

Unlocking Sherlock

I used to attend a homeschool co-op. My teacher gave us these little surveys to fill out on each subject. I was going through my old school papers and found this;

If you can’t read my tenth grade handwriting it says;

The most important event in all of world history is when to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle sat all alone in his small optometry office and first thought of Sherlock Holmes (or, at the time, Sherrinford Holmes.)

To which my teacher replied;

You might be a little obsessed 🙂

The same teacher gave me a very fancy copy of the Complete Sherlock Holmes as a graduation present.

It is safe to assume from what you have read, that I am completely in love with Sherlock Holmes.

However, the problem with loving classic literature means that it is probable that your favorite author has long been retired. Meaning that the 56 short stories and the four novels that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote about Sherlock are all I am ever going to get from him. 

And that is why I picked up Lock and Key by Ridley Pearson. 

The book had been sitting on the living room bookshelf for about two years…my mistake. I finally picked it up. To be perfectly honest, the back cover synopsis of the book did not truly reflect what the book actually was.

My first impression of its description led me to believe it was set in Victorian London, told from the perspective of Moriarty’s brother. If you have read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Final Problem, you would know that Dr. John Watson tells us a little about Moriarty’s brother. 

But this is not the case. From reading Lock and Key, I deduce that Ridley Pearson is not a true Sherlockian. I can tell he has not studied the as books intimately as I have nor has an all consuming love for all things Doyle as I do.

However, that does not mean the book itself is bad.

The Lock and Key series is based on the modernization of Sherlock Holmes in his youth. The main idea Pearson has however is not about Sherlock. It is based on Sherlock’s arch enemy, James Moriarty and told from the perspective of his sister.

Before I get too far into the characters or plot, I first want to address the use of “modernization.” 

I know most classic lit lovers shy away from the word as if it were a rattlesnake. And I totally understand that. It is a risky move to take. Personally though, I usually enjoy modernization tropes. BBC Sherlock is my favorite TV show and it literally seems to pluck Sherlock & Co. from the Victorian era into modern day society. 

While Ridley Pearson does not execute this idea as well as BBC Sherlock does, I am of the opinion that he does it well enough.

The main characters are of course Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty, and they are accompanied by James’s little sister, Moria. 

Original characters (OCs) can be another risk to put in a retelling. I often times enjoy OCs but I am also their harshest critic. Moria Moriarty is…an okay OC. But I feel that the story Ridley Pearson created could have been told without her. 

And there is the issue of her name…Moria. 

Parents don’t just go from naming their first kid James and then their second Moria. James is a common name and Moria obviously is not. In BBC Sherlock there is an OC named Eros who is Sherlock’s sister. But her name is perfectly fine. We got Mycroft and Sherlock, some weirdo names, and Eros fits in perfectly. Moria, however, sticks out from James like a sore thumb.

However I do commend Pearson for making Moria a good narrator but also a distinct side character. She isn’t as logical as Sherlock nor as intelligent as James. But she does own her own skill sets, such as her curiosity.

When I first read Pearson’s description of Sherlock, I laughed out loud because he totally watches the BBC show…I mean, shocking blue eyes, high cheek bones, pale skin…? Sorry, that isn’t Sherlock, that is Benedict Cumberbatch.

I enjoy Pearson’s young Sherlock over the young Sherlock in the movie Young Sherlock Holmes. One fact that many people don’t know is that Sherlock isn’t Spock. He’s not a Vulcan nor a computer. While Sherlock may call love “human error” or show contempt at sentiment, he does not remain immune to human feeling. Pearson recognizes this and allows Sherlock the freedom to laugh, joke, and tease as he pleases. Except when he gets “in the zone.” When Sherlock is in the heat of deduction, solving a problem, or thinking around a situation, he does not revert to his human whims. 

I understand that it is hard to nail James Moriarty’s character on the head. We get little dialogue from him in The Final Problem and soon after, bye, bye, Jimmie. There are many different takes on Moriarty, and Pearson’s own works.

It isn’t spectacular, but it works. 

James is changeable. He has a moral compass and he knows what is right but he puts more stock into power and what he wants. Throughout the series he switches between being on the enemy’s side and being on Sherlock’s side. 

From the very beginning, he does not want to be Sherlock’s friend. They are roommates together at Baskerville Academy and while Sherlock attempts a companionship with James, the latter blatantly refuses the offer. Later, James does admit that he and Sherlock are friends. And still later, they become sworn enemies.

I wasn’t especially into the plot…secret societies have never really been my thing. And I don’t think it went entirely well with Sherlock and James as a whole. However, the scenes and situations in themselves where perfect. Pearson only needed a different overall concept. 

What kept me reading was the one liners, the quips that Sherlock made passive aggressively to tell James how stupid he was. Or James calling Sherlock “Sherlost.” And all the banter…priceless.

My biggest disappointment was the exclusion of any other canon characters. The only attachment to Doyle’s original books where Sherlock and James. No John Watson, no Irene Adler, no Henry Knight, no Dr. Mortimer, no Sebastian Moran…none of them were included! 

I kept turning pages hoping John would come in as a new exchange student in Baskerville Academy, or something…but no!

Mycroft was mentioned ONCE. Sherlock names him as his older brother who has been his legal guardian since their parents died.

I did hope that Mycroft might come in when Sherlock got expelled from Baskerville. I mean, Mycroft would be MAD. He’d be furious with his little brother for getting kicked out of an expensive prep school. But he doesn’t even cameo.

And when Sherlock is supposed to be in London but actually stays in Boston? Sherlock never says how he did that. Because if I know Mycroft Holmes, he would be after his brother like the Hound of the Baskervilles. I mean, that is Mycroft, an overly protective, condescending big brother. But no, Sherlock doesn’t even say he tricked Mycroft into letting him stay in Boston.

All in all, the series is worth a read if you just need more Sherlock. I certainly did. And if you aren’t a huge Sherlockian, you might enjoy the series. But it could have been better if Pearson had done a bit more research or loved the original stories a bit more. 

Being YOU In 2021

It’s the new year and time to put down some goals. Work out more, loose weight, sharpen brain, blah, blah, blah. Why are all these “New Years Resolutions” all so stereotypical? Because our so-called “culture” has told us that every year we need to strive to be better than who we are and become what society wants us to be.

When in fact, starting a new year should be about WHO WE ARE and WHO WE ARE BECOMING. Society says I should be a skinny waisted feminist with 5,000 Instagram followers who conforms to the “new normal.” And a lot of girls out there’s New Year Resolutions will be based on becoming that. But that has nothing to do with who I am now.

Right now, I am a amateur writer, a growing artist, a new blogger, a dedicated Christian, and a girl with a new interest in politics. Society says I should change everything about who I am to become what they want me to be. When in reality I should take who I am and become even more ME.

Get ready, 2021, you’re getting more ME.

I’m going to share my New Year’s goals and how you can make your own based on who you are NOW and how you want to become even more YOU.

MY 2021 GOALS ~

     PERSONAL GOALS

  • Keep desk and room organized
  • Get driver’s license 
  • Save more
  • Support more local businesses 
  • Go to bed on time

     WRITING GOALS

  • Write a short story (new, Woodland Whisperer, fanfic) every week
  • Develop book idea (😉)
  • Start writing book when Camp NaNoWriMo starts
  • Study more classic literature 
  • Memorize more poetry 

     ART GOALS

  • Work on landscape and scene art
  • Create planner sticker sets
  • Create new bookmarks as often as possible
  • Take more art classes on Skillshare

    BLOG GOALS

  • Stick to blog schedule (Post every Monday and every other Thursday)
  • Make website more user friendly
  • Make Instagram more consist
  • Share more poetry 
  • Add Woodland Whisperer page

     SPIRITUAL GOALS

  • Start a prayer journal
  • Take more notes during sermons
  • Daily devotion, prayer, quiet time and poetry
  • Start doing more evening studies

     POLITICAL GOALS

  • Start a website (separate from business…no politics in business!) for political purposes
  • Listen to more podcasts from Prager U, Will Witt, etc.
  • Study the Constitution in depth

Your goals will obviously be different from mine. Why? Because you are a different person! You are totally unique! You may be in a different stage of life than I am, you have different experiences than I do, and you are so perfectly YOU. 

Here is how to do more you, boo.

  1. Know Who You Are

Before you can know who you are becoming, you must first be sure of who you are. Take some time to meditate on this, search scripture, take some reflection time. Who are you? What do you love to do? 

This not only makes a great start for New Years goals but is also great for mental and spiritual health. When you define who you are, remind yourself everyday. Put it on a post it note and stick it in your mirror. Let it be the first thing you tell yourself. 

Every morning, I wake up and tell myself; I am a talented and creative Christian girl who loves her family and friends. I am blessed of God, I am called to bless others, I am who God says I am and I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. And then I make my morning cuppa and do my devotion and poetry reading. 

Doing something like this every morning will honestly give you a great start. I promise.

2. Think of 2022 You

Or 2023 or 2024…I don’t know how far you are planning ahead. Where do you want to be? Not WHO you want to be, because you should never be anything but yourself, but WHERE you want to be.

Write out your perfect day. What does it look like? Chances are, your perfect day isn’t getting 100 likes in your post or having the paparazzi follow you. It will probably end up much more simple than that. That’s good, much more healthy.

My perfect day is that I wake up in the morning with my clothes already set out, no clutter on my floor or desk, and slip into my cozy house slippers. Boom, I already have goals. Set out clothes before bedtime, keep room and desk organized, and buy a good pair of house slippers. 

Easy.

In my “perfect day” afternoons, I would like to drive myself to the park or to Tree of Life (shout out to Tree of Life (@treeoflife), my favorite coffee shop) and work on my latest book. Now we have more goals. Get driver’s license, save up for a Chromebook, and support more local businesses. And of course, keep writing.

So envision your personal perfect day. Don’t think of what others want you to do but what you think your healthy, relaxing day looks like.

Write out the goals that will help you to make that day possible.

3. Think Of What You Aren’t Doing

What could you be working on? What things in your busy life are you forgetting? I find that for me, that thing is usually setting aside time to relax and study the Word or read poetry. To relax without agenda but with purpose. 

What are you missing that you could work on. Sometimes this can be hard to pinpoint because it takes a little bit if self realization. If you don’t know what you are missing, keep an eye out. If you just go throughout your day just paying attention to what you AREN’T doing, you are sure to find it.

However, while doing this, it is important to stay positive. Don’t beat yourself up just because you aren’t doing something. Stay positive. You are going to work on it, you will improve it, and it will be fine! After all, that’s why you are discovering that missing piece in the first place.

4. Be Consistent

Everyone who makes New Years Resolutions forgets them eventually. We are human. We fall short of our own expectations all the time. The thing is that if you forget your goals, don’t throw the list in the bin. 

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

Keep on going, no matter the failing. That’s what life is all about.

Writing Advice From An Awkward Adolescent

I do believe writing is one of the truest art forms still around. There is something special and even sacred about words forming in one’s head and traveling to one’s pen and paper. When my oral words fail me, the written ones, whether my own or someone else’s, rarely do.

I cannot give you any huge secret to writing. If you are like me, writing is beautiful yet frustrating at the same time. Writing can make you feel as high and as bright as the sun or like a dumb mole alone in the dark with nothing but a lot of worthless dirt. 

There is no secret to writing. There is no one way to do it. There is no potion that will wake you up in the morning like a Disney princess, that will enable you to sit in front of your typewriter or computer and churn out the perfect story effortlessly. I can assure you writing is NEVER like that. 

If anyone tells you writing is easy, they are treacherous liars who don’t deserve the life of a struggling writer (you know, the glamorous ordering the wrong type of printer ink online and waiting in the too-long line at a trashy Chinese restaurant.)

I cannot give you writing hacks, brilliant prompts, or one-size-fits all advice. The only thing I can give you is what I have learned.

The only advice writers should share is that which they have discovered themselves. When one writes as a hobby, as a career, or as a blogger hoping that someone somewhere is reading their probably bad work, they make for themselves a new journey of literary experience that has never been ventured before! 

From this journey, a writer gets exclusive writing content generated from their unique experiences. Discovering and sharing this content is a choice they have to make on their own.

Moving past this explanation, I would like to share my own “content.” These few tips are what I have learned in my few years as a writer. I know there are many more years of discovery out there in my future writing journey, but this is what I have now so…enjoy?

Be a Savage

If you write mostly fictitious works as I do, never be a nice person. On the page that is. When writing your characters, spare them no mercy. It may brake your heart to see what your little “mind babies” have to go through but do it anyways.

When good things happen, the reader gives an itty bitty hooray and then moves on. However, if you act as devil’s advocate for your characters, it leaves a big impression on your reader.

Here is my philosophy; if you make a reader cry or depress them…good job. You are a good writer.

Here is a writing exercise: Think about your plot. Now make it WORSE. Make a list of all the wicked, evil, twisted, and monstrous deeds you can do to your characters and then multiply it by eleven billion. If you have an idea that is merciless yet realistic in the story’s setting, do it. 

Had Had

I am not just a writer. I am also a reader. Most writers are and if they aren’t then they’re fakes. As a reader, I have a pet peeve.

Never EVER write “had had” in a sentence. Do it and I’m sorry, but I will have to deal you with you later.

I almost found myself writing “Despite the little sleep Sybil had had that night….”  in “Ravenclaws and Their Bad Omens” but stopped myself. Instead I wrote “Despite the little sleep Sybil had that night…” 

It makes just as much sense, if not more, to use just one “had.” Reading “had had” always trips me up and I’m sure others feel the same way. 

Years of writing, and that is the most valuable advice I can give you. Use ONE had, never TWO.

Don’t Have A Plan

I have a close friend who is a writer. She is a younger writer and has not yet perfected her style. That’s okay, neither have I. But she, no matter how many times it messes her up, makes a huge critical mistake when starting a new story.

She plans it out.

You know those little diagrams that demonstrate rising action, climax, falling action and resolution? The ones your English teacher used to give you to map out a story? They look like a melting caution cone…maybe that last one is just me. Those diagrams lie. They will never make a good story.

Why?

If you plan out your story, you have set in your mind the exact events that will happen. You leave no room for surprise. 

When I begin writing a new story, I keep my general theme in mind but I keep just that. General. Don’t put to much stock into the order of events in your story. Keep your theme in mind, but just write. 

Let the plot lead you. Don’t lead the plot.

Some writers claim to have a fully formed plot before they start writing, complete with climax and resolution. In the movie Knives Out it is said that the mystery author in the film had his plots come into his mind, fully formed. 

How dull.

When I write I know only the characters. Or I think I know the characters. If reading is an adventure than writing is a journey. I write knowing little about what I am about to encounter. Is my main character really the main character? Or will another take their place? What changes about the scene that leads to a captivating story? 

I started writing this post when I wrote my “Ravenclaws and Their Bad Omens” story. I had no idea what Sybil and Pandora where going to get into. I had only a vague idea on how they would talk and act. Would Pandora believe Sybil’s predictions or would she laugh at her friend’s silliness? Do the Marauders enter the story? I hoped they did, because I love them, but I had not one clue. 

At this point of the post, I do not know where I will end up. What will my resolution be? I still don’t know.

But I do know that I want you to know that when you are writing, you don’t need to know everything. There is only one person who knows everything and I can safely say that is not you. But, hey, that’s okay.

Have a Goal

What’s the point of writing if you don’t know what you’re writing for?

Sure, you might have a brilliant story or a flawless plot, but where does your motivation come from? 

Motivation isn’t “I want to write for a career” or “I don’t want to die alone and unread.” That has to do with you not your writing. Writing shouldn’t be about you.

Motivation is what you believe in, what keeps you ticking. What do you put your faith in? How does it inspire you? This motivation doesn’t focus on you, or at least it shouldn’t. If you are truly motivated, you should want to share this belief with other. You can do this with a theme.

Theme is paramount to a story. If your new rider or just aren’t fluent in writing lingo, a theme is the basic idea of your story. Maybe you want to convey that fate is inescapable or that love conquers all. 

Because I am a young Christian who puts her faith in God, that becomes my motivation. When I have a story, my themes come straight from scripture. These scriptures stay in my mind when I am writing. Whenever a character speaks or whenever a new scene begins I ask myself “Does this line up with my chosen scripture?” If it does not, I need to scratch it and try again.

Maybe you don’t feel led to use scripture as your themes. That’s your own choice. As long as your motivation is pure, true, and praiseworthy, the writing will speak for itself.

Find Your Own “Content”

Keep learning, keep discovering. Whether you’ve just written the first paragraph in your first story or if you have been writing for seventy years, don’t suppose you have learned everything. I promise you haven’t.

I may have these few tips for you now, but seeing as I intend to never stop walking in my personal writing journey, I know I will find many more. And I will share them, as it should be.

Share what you learn with others whenever you can. Who’s knows? Maybe one day your writing will make its way into some else’s heart and impact their life.

What could be a greater honor?

A Brief History of The Murder Mystery

Murder is the epitome of crime. Crime scenes are bloody, gruesome, and not a place most would willingly step into. Real life killings appall any decent person.

So why are we so obsessed with murder mysteries? What makes murder in literature more attractive than in real life? What captures the mind when reading crime as opposed to seeing it?

I used to think it was the fiction that made a murder mystery appealing. The crime was made up and therefore acceptable. I loved trying to race Sherlock, Nancy, and Hercule to the conclusion and I thought that is why so many love the dark genre.

It wasn’t until I watched the Lucy Worsley documentary A Very British Murder that I really understood where the murder mystery begun and how it morphed it’s way into the bestselling lists.

The-New-Taste-for-Blood owned by Amazon

Back in the late Regency/early Georgian era, murder was rare. Most criminals were petty thieves. Breaking and entering, pick pocketing, and fraud were everyday occurrences. One couldn’t go a month without being on some end of one of these crimes. Back then, these matters were less than entertaining. Why would you read about a pickpocket after you had just been robbed?

Murder was not a primary concern. Most civilians did not dwell on the idea. Not because it was disturbing but because murder had not been publicized to them.

Just like today, media had a great influence on the commonwealth’s minds. Newspapers, magazines, and pamphlets were the main forms of entertainment. You could read about the latest gossip, last week’s hanging, and the out of country fashions. These were the topics on people’s minds. That is what they talked about with their friends.

The press didn’t find need to report murder thus the commonwealth’s minds didn’t occupy it.

This precept changed radically with the killing of a family. The Marrs were a respectable family, all found dead in their home by their maid, Margaret. The young couple, their baby son, and the apprentice who lived with them, were brutally killed, mercilessly and without motive.

This story was unlike anything the public had ever seen. It had mystery, treachery, gruesomeness, and the most important of all…entertainment. 

The murder house was opened to the public. All stations of people were admitted and could even see the bodies laid out. 

Today, this is unimaginable. Strangers cannot traipse through crime scenes. And why would any one want to see dead bodies, heads bashed in, throats cut? People actually paid to visit the crime scene. Why? Out of fear, curiosity, and a want to assist in looking for clues.

Are these not the same reasons we open a mystery book? To experience shivers, to answer questions, and most importantly, to become detectives. The public response to the Marr’s murders was less of fascination with the murder than with that of the story.

The press soon discovered that this murder mystery made their newspapers sell like hot cakes. The blurred lines of fiction and fact reported in articles were full of drama, enigma, and murder.

Many historians believe this to have been a result of mob mentality. Everyone else was rushing to the crime scene, why not do it too? I do not think this as so. If this first fascination with murder mystery had been a mere fad it would not have survived the test of time. But it has. In fact, it has thrived!

You and I know the invigorating feeling a good murder can induce. Fictionalized or not, a story captivates. Add in a genre that you have never read before, and a wretched one at that…it’s a recipe for success.

The Ratcliff Murders were the first seedlings of what was to grow into a murder phenomenon. Detectives, who had never been seen before, were officially sent out to investigate crime. Homicide was now a legitimate fear, as well as a legitimate form of entertainment. Victims and their murderers would become characters in their own stories. Penny Dreadfuls would begin to appear. These short stories were printed in newspapers and magazines, written specially for these new murder lovers.

Nowadays we would cringe at these stories. They are called penny dreadfuls for a reason. Buy a horrific mystery for cheap! For the lower class in the nineteenth century, whom reading was becoming more and more common, these penny dreadfuls were delightful. The genres we call horror, thriller, and mystery were all smashed into a few short pages. Every single paragraph was vivid and over dramatic.

Everyone loved it.

Being apart of a real life crime, cruel and inhumane, must be an exciting experience…unless your the body of course. But not everyone is called (or has the stomach) to be a detective. Yet one ,ay still experience the “detective fever,” as Wilkie Collins puts it in The Moonstone, …in the pages of a book.

A reader can feel the chills of fear, satisfy their appetite for adventure, and solve a murder or two all from their own bed.

What more could a person want?


I am dead excited for Murder Mystery month! Not literally dead…it was just an expression. Monday, October 5, 2020, my blog series “Murder, Mystery, and Meaning” will be posted! The thought that murder mysteries, one of the best genres, can contain value and even positivity makes me giddy with joy! I’m dying to share the series with you! Again, I’m not actually dying…

What is your favorite murder mystery? Whether you prefer a series or a certain detective, you have to have a favorite. My favorite is Sherlock Holmes…no wait Flavia de Luce! No, Lord Peter Whimsey. Wait! Father Brown! I suppose you can have multiple favorites?

The Surprising Truth About Harry Potter Part Three

Every true Wizarding World fan knows that when J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter she was writing about love. Dumbledore is always talking about love this and love that. Harry gets to the point of being annoyed by it just as much as Voldemort scorns the concept.


Before reading what I have to say about this, might I suggest reading the first two posts in “The Surprising Truth About Harry Potter” series if you have not already done so.


Readers get bored with the whole love thing as well. I know that when I read the books, I was slightly disconcerted by the shallowness that I thought lingered behind the repetition.


It took me years to realize that when Rowling wrote the word “love” she meant so much more.


I just now turned to a random page in my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I ended up on page 244, where Dean Thomas, Griphook, Gornuk, and Ted Tonks are hiding out in the same woods as Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Goblins and wizards working together?


I did this again and landed on when the Golden Trio went to Xenophilius Lovegood’s home to ask about the Deathly Hallows. A man doing anything to save his daughter?


What do these two events have in common? What does almost every single scene in each Harry Potter book have in common?


Love.


Open up to a random page of the Harry Potter book nearest to you (The Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts don’t count!) and I bet my Marauders Map the root of that scene is love.


Now that you have found a random Harry Potter passage, open up Google News, turn on your TV, or glance at the newspaper’s front page. How much love did you find there?


The readers that read Harry Potter, me included, have grown up in a generation of hate, turmoil, and human immortality. Love is a concept many people do not completely understand.


J.K. never defines the magic of love. She operates on the first rule every writer knows off the top of their heads. Show, don’t tell.


The first time love is noticeably brought up as a concept of importance is in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

“Your mother died to save you. If there’s one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. He didn’t realize that love as powerful as your mothers for you leaves it’s own mark. Not a scar, no visible sign… to have been loved so deeply, even though the person who left us is gone, will give us some protection forever. It is in your very skin. Quirrel, full of hatred, greed and ambition, sharing his soul with Voldemort, could not touch you for this reason. It was agony to touch a person marked by something so good.”

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone


It hurts how prevalent Dumbledore’s words are in the modern age. Good people are attacked on a daily basis and lost and confused people get stung because of it. So they try again and again to prove their own rightness and fail just as much.


To worldly eyes it may appear that love can be overcome by lesser things. But in the end, once the story has taken its course and arrived at the end, what prevails? Harry or Voldemort?


Quirrel tries to take the Stone and kill Harry, but Lily Potter’s love stops him. Tom Riddle attempts to regain strength and kill Ginny Weasley, but Harry’s friendship and Dumbledore’s protection stops him. Sirius and Remus almost kill Peter Pettigrew and Sirius’ soul is almost taken, but Harry’s sense of justice and protection stops these. Again and again, love overcomes without the characters even realizing it.


Even Harry, who has saved and been saved by multiple forms of love doesn’t understand the importance of it until the very end. I know I have referenced the Battle of Hogwarts multiple times in this blog series but as a dedicated Potterhead, I cannot emphasize the importance of this scene enough.

“I know things you don’t, Tom Riddle. I know lots of important things you don’t. Want to hear some before you make another big mistake?”

Voldemort did not speak but prowled in a circle and Harry knew that he kept him temporarily mesmerized and at bay, held back by the faintest possibility that Harry might indeed know a final secret…“

Is it’s love again?” said Voldemort , his snake face jeering, “Dumbledore‘s favorite solution, love, which he claimed conquered death, though love did not stop him falling from the Tower and breaking like an old wax work? Love, which did not prevent me stamping out your Mudblood mother like a cockroach, Potter- and nobody seems to love you enough to run forward this time, and take my curse. So what will stop you dying now when I strike?”

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows


But it was love that saved Harry. His own love. The love he had learned that triumphed over everything. Community, friendship, mercy, and redemption.


As I have said, Harry simply using the Disarming charm was a deep act of love. That act saved him and killed Voldemort.


This is easy to miss nowadays. Readers are constantly attacked in every day life and they believe less and less in the power of goodness. These readers completely loose sight of how love saved Harry and his friends again and again. All they read is an epic tale.


But for those who see past this, for those who learn from the seven books, who read what J.K. Rowling meant them to read…they take much more with them when they close the book.
I geek out as much as the next fan and I enjoy it too. But what is that compared to the knowledge that some do not see what I see when they read Harry Potter?


Love. Just hearing that word makes me want to do better, to reach out to the list, to defend my beliefs, to cry at how much love I have been given, how much mercy has been bestowed upon me.


Is that how Harry feels? Knowing that his parents died to save him and that he would die (and did die) to save the ones he loved. How sad is it that Voldemort had so many opportunities to discover this deep and simple truth yet never had the strength to take it inside his heart (even if it was two sizes too small.)
It is love that gives us the confidence of a brighter day, even when we cannot see it. It is always there. A good ending, a better ending than we could ever hope for.


Harry, Ron, Hermione and every other great character’s ambitions were nothing compared for what was in store for them.


The last trace of steam evaporated in the autumn air. The train rounded a corner. Harry’s hand was still raised in farewell.

“He’ll be all right,” murmured Ginny.

As Harry looked at her, he lowered his hand absent-mindedly and touched the lightning scar on his forehead.

“I know he will.“

The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well.

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Photo by Gabriela Palai on Pexels.com

Writing vs. Storytelling

My tenth grade English teacher used to praise my work. “Great writing!” She would write in green ink at the top of my latest short story. This would make me glow with pride as I took the paper home to show my parents. 

It wasn’t until much later when I realized “great writing” wasn’t all my mind had made it up to be.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

I am a good writer. At least, I hope I am. But if I ever have any hopes of hitting it big as a novelist and blogger, I can’t be a good writer. Readers don’t fall in love with good writing. 

So what do readers love? Simple.

Readers love good storytelling.

To anyone other than the avid reader and writer, the difference between writing and storytelling is hard to discern. Allow me to clarify this. 

*gets on metaphorical soapbox*

Once upon a time, there were two friends. One of them was a great writer and the other was a great storyteller. Both wrote a book. 

The great writer’s publisher hardly edited a thing in the book and was able to release the book immediately. The book made a fair profit. 

The great storyteller’s publisher had to edit it heavily and took awhile to fix all the grammar and continuity mistakes. However, once the book was finally released it made the bestseller list. 

The end.

Writing consists of words strung together, phrases, sentences, etc. Don’t get me wrong, reading the perfect paragraph will send me to the moon. I love it when authors know how to write properly. 

This, however, is null if the writer is not also a storyteller. 

Storytellers do not trade in words. Their craft is the imagination. A good storyteller can convey feeling through their art. They can make their reader/listener/viewer feel how they want them to feel, to see what they want them to see, and spark their imagination. 

Writing can become too rule driven. Too fit in the box, do it this way or else. Meanwhile, the whole point of storytelling is running as fast as you can away from the box. 

J.K. Rowling, for instance, is a great storyteller…but she can’t write worth a lick. During the first four Harry Potter books, she uses too many simple adverbs and adjectives. She overuses the word “very” which ticks me off. Which I am willing to forgive because I love her anyway.

However this is negated by the fact that she knows how to weave a tale. She can bring the Golden Trio to life. 

On the other hand, Erin Morgenstern had a good idea when she wrote The Night Circus. And she wrote exceptionally well. But she couldn’t take her idea and make it a story. The book became dry despite the magic it contained, all because Erin couldn’t tell her story. 

Many blogs contain too much writing. Too many bland facts. And, hey, if that works for some, it works for some. But notice how I started this post. I told a story about tenth grade me and my English teacher. Now here you are, still reading. 

I, myself, am on a writing journey, having just started my blog. I have opened up to sharing my work with others, family, friends, and complete strangers. That’s hard for me. Any writer knows that sharing your writing is like opening up your soul and letting someone else look inside. But it is necessary.

My advice to writers is this. Stop learning how to write and start learning how to tell your story.


What advice would you give to writers? Whether or not you are a reader or writer, what would you have to say to upcoming and already famous writers? Feel free to rant 😉