Review: Rainbow Valley


My journey through Annetober this year showed me many fictional places that I wished I could visit. From Avonlea to the House of Dreams, L.M. Montgomery knew how to create a place that could heal any soul, a place to which readers would become attached. Though I wish that I could visit these places, they are alive in my heart.

One of these places is a field after which the seventh book is named. Rainbow Valley stands out from the other books because it follows the perspectives of Anne Blythe’s children rather than her own. The brood from Anne of Ingleside have grown old enough to understand things–old enough to recognize a soul in trouble and want to help.

Not only is Rainbow Valley different in this sense. It takes us to a different house where we meet a new family. The Meredith children live in an old manse next to a graveyard. I thought this an excellent way to contrast their life with that of the Blythes. While the Blythes play in the fields of Rainbow Valley, the Manse children have games on headstones. They wander the graveyard, singing and chasing insects. Their paradise is a place of death.

The Meredith children stumble upon Rainbow Valley one day when the Blythes are playing there. From that day on, the children become friends; the Merediths are welcome to visit Rainbow Valley whenever they want. This only provides temporary relief, however. They still have no mother, and practically have no father. Mr. Meredith is an absentminded minister who has not thought about their comfort in years.

As the Meredith children remain motherless, they get into unbelievable scrapes. They are not aware, most of the time, that what they’re doing is not acceptable to society. To them, playing and singing on headstones is normal. It isn’t until Faith Meredith goes to church without socks one day that their situation becomes a public scandal.

People begin to talk about how the Presbyterian minister does not know how to care for his children. Whispers circulate that the man should remarry for their sake. It’s out of the question for him. He has not yet recovered from the death of his wife, Cecilia. He’s convinced that he never will.

The Manse in which he lives with his children is a reflection of his own soul: it needs tending, it is lonely, and there are shadows everywhere.

In my review for Anne of Green Gables, I suggested that book one was the story of Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert. Anne might have come into their lives, but the Cuthberts made the frightening decision to adopt the orphan girl. I have the same opinion about Rainbow Valley: it is the story of Mr. Meredith facing an important decision. Will he choose a life of endless mourning, or will he seek a wife to be a good mother to his children–especially after he becomes aware that they are in constant trouble?

Mr. Meredith’s heart is eager to move on. Soon he will meet a woman who’ll enchant him in a different, quiet way–a woman who is difficult to get, because of a promise she made–and perhaps that will make him more determined to fight for her love. If the wellbeing of his children was not enough to bring on a life change, a personal challenge might.

The Meredith children affect us in a different way than the Blythes; they represent loneliness while the Blythes live in a state of joy. They frolic in a graveyard while the Blythes have a field to themselves. They have no mother, while everyone who meets Anne knows she is a great parent.

If you have a ‘Meredith child’ in your life, a person who is alone and could use some company, would you invite them over to play?

Rainbow Valley challenges us to reach out to people in the graveyards of life. Not only that, it warns us that grief can take one over. If we allow grief to consume us, those we love will be affected–and it will be almost as if they were dead, as well.

Life alone is not the answer to any problem, and if you have children or others who depend on you, then you will have to make the frightening choice to stop grieving and open the window. If you live in your own Rainbow Valley and know somebody stuck in a graveyard, share your adventures with them.

This book offers a new perspective on Montgomery’s world that I truly appreciate. It was a welcome break from the colorful nature of Anne’s other books; it acknowledged that not everyone in the world knows true love. Will the Meredith children have a new mother at the end? Read this delightful novel to find out.

At last, we are nearing the end of the beloved series by L.M. Montgomery. Next week I will share my thoughts on my favorite book of them all, Rilla of Ingleside. Until then, I hope you are having a great holiday season, despite the challenges of this year!

Review: Anne of Green Gables


The title Anne of Green Gables is so often spoken of that I was under the impression that I had read it before. In reality, I’d never picked up the book, but it is so beloved that I’m sure I’m not the only person who considers it an old friend–even if they have only heard the title.

It’s fair to say that everyone–or at least most people–are familiar with Anne, the orphan girl adopted by the Cuthbert siblings. It’s known that they were hoping for a boy to help with the farm work, so she was almost sent back. This book is more than a simple girls can do what boys do; it has layers. You can dig, and oh! how delightful it is to dig.

Some of Anne’s most humorous mistakes have been giggled over, such as accidentally dyeing her hair green or breaking her tablet on Gilbert Blythe’s head. This is the surface. If you do not read the book as it is meant to be, you will miss out on the deeper things, the meat of it: You will perhaps not notice what I believe to be the most important points in this story.

I think it’s fair to begin with Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert. In a way, this is their story: They sent for an orphan boy to help them in their advanced years, and with the appearance of Anne, faced a bewildering decision indeed. I was so proud of Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert when they made what was probably the most frightening decision of their lives, the choice to change their mundane lifestyle and raise a little girl together.

Consider how frightening it must have been for Matthew and Marilla to come up with the resolve to make this choice. Especially when Anne went into her hysterical rants, the sudden disturbance of the silence they’d grown accustomed to must have been terrifying. Because of this, when Marilla acted harshly towards Anne’s (many) silly accidents, I perceived it as the product of a deep-set fear. She must have worried that perhaps she was too old to raise a girl correctly.

Few people speak of Matthew and Marilla’s courageous choice to accept the dare.

Anne’s growth from wily daydreamer to studious young woman is my second point. She had relied on her daydreams as an orphan in order to keep sane, but as she settles in with the Cuthberts and at her new school, we can see her learning to contain her nerves and focus. This is also an incredible feat! In fact, when Anne has grown older and almost finished her studies, Marilla notes that she has become quieter. She no longer falls into paragraph-long anxious rants.

Her rivalry with Gilbert Blythe might have been the motivator for this admirable change, but it creates a new Anne who is no longer simply the former orphan girl, the one no one wanted. She is ready to change the world, becoming a scholar and hoping to be a teacher.

Apart from these points, I must note that the prose sparkles. Nearly every sentence is quotable and will help the reader in some way. Anne’s quotes are poetic and work like balm to the weary heart; in this way, I believe she healed Matthew and Marilla without their noticing. Ultimately, they needed her more than she needed them. She came to sprinkle life into their graying years, after they had followed the same monotonous routines for most of their lives.

Anne Shirley gave Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert reasons to accept change. She was a reason for them to improve themselves; she gave them something young to nurture in their elder years, and these were, as a result, their best years.

Perhaps this book feels familiar to most of us because of its theme of growth. We all have blind spots and weaknesses. All of us have a character arc that could lead us to becoming different people entirely. When faced with these arcs, we feel fear; will we proceed with the life-changing decisions like Matthew and Marilla did? Will we face our weaknesses head-on and work to change, like Anne?

Contemplate your life; you will identify these character arcs if you are brave enough.

Books like Anne of Green Gables encourage us to face these changes and to grow. They also provide escapism with their soothing words, taking us away from this often painful world for a little while.

When you pick up a timeless book like this, you are holding more than pages bound by glue. You’re holding comfort, timelessness, a loyal friend with words to heal any wound…and to encourage you to be brave. 

Review—Mozart’s Starling


Picture this: beloved composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at his piano, writing his next masterpiece.

He has a great amount of fans eager for something new, so he cannot disappoint. Soon, he will have his piano hauled onto a theater stage (he prefers to use his own at all times); he will perform, bow to great applause, and return home (once again hauling his piano.)

Now picture on his shoulder a little feathered helper.

His pet starling, Star, offers brand-new melodies, or perhaps she trills what he’s already composed, making it sound better. It’s not known the degree to which this lucky bird helped Mozart compose, as she is scarcely mentioned in his letters or journals; what we can know without a doubt is that, like any good pet owner, he loved her.

I am always looking for quirky elements in history. I am a gardener and nature lover; I want to know as much about the past as I possibly can. When I read the description of Mozart’s Starling, I couldn’t resist–this is exactly the kind of the story I’m looking for, a legend of classical music sharing time with a common bird!

Mozart’s Starling struck me because it mixed the genius (the composer and his natural talent) with something so normal that we can relate to him: adopting a pet to inspire us.

In short, Mozart bought a pet starling from a pet shop. He was not planning to bring home a pet that day; the strange thing about Star which no one can work out to this day is that she had been in the shop singing a bit from his latest work in progress—a piece that no human had heard yet, so imagine his shock when he heard this starling!

He had met a kindred spirit in a bird. He grew to love her so much that, when her short life ended, he arranged an impressive funeral, complete with original music, to see her off—but he did not go to his father’s funeral. You choose your family, I suppose!

The author of this book, Lyanda Haupt, told as much of the story as she knew. I wish there had been more about Mozart and the bird herself, but if few records exist, the only thing to be done would be making things up. I would rather have a bite of delicious truth than pages of lies.

The truth is, not much is known about Mozart’s starling except that he had one.

I enjoyed learning Lyanda’s story, as well; in order to write this book, she adopted a homeless starling and allowed her to live practically cage-free in her home. Her starling is called Carmen, and Haupt’s tales of how Carmen learned to talk and imitate the sounds of the coffee maker or the vacuum made me smile. What precious memories to make, and I am grateful that she shared them.

Side view of a Common Starling, Sturnus vulgaris, isolated on white

I learned that starlings are generally a hated species of bird, called invasive, and some people come up with cruel ways to rid the world of them. I’m not a birdwatcher, so I don’t know how much damage that entails; all I know is that Mozart had a starling, and all of a sudden his story is more interesting to me than it was.

If you know other tales like this, of historical figures being human and relatable, please share the titles; I can’t get enough of these stories. What a joy we have in history!

Catholicism in the Storm


It has been a rough year for everyone. With loss and anxiety spreading across the globe, it can be difficult to remain optimistic. I’ll be the first to admit I spend more time struggling with emotions than seeing the silver lining.

The year has also offered many opportunities for growth. I’m finally getting around to read books that had been stacked in my room for years. I have discovered new authors and made progress on my trilogy.

We are all enduring abnormal amounts of anxiety as we hope for the way to clear. We have either lost loved ones, or experienced the sense of losing ourselves.

Whenever I find myself choking in negativity, I go outside and see a flower. There is still beauty in this world. 

As I contemplated the flowers in my garden today, I realized that I can find peace in my own garden to begin with, even if I can’t go much farther; every bloom is a reminder that God is still here and that He loves us.

For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.

Romans 8:19, NIV

It is easy to lose our grip on faith with all of these challenges set before us; we don’t understand why it’s happening. I have come to see that, in times like these, we need to hold onto our Catholic faith more. 

We need to cling to the truth, the thing that never changes, the comfort of Christ’s promise.

I started a new prayer journal. It’s a place where I am raw with my emotions; some days I am more hopeful than others. He understands. In my prayer journal, I’m taking my questions and placing them at His feet. 

We are tempted to lose hope with the world as it is now; walking away from God is a sure way to feel weaker, more helpless. 

I will choose the little way like St. Therese of Lisieux, finding God in my garden and content to be a little flower, if that is His will. After all, I believe each flower in my garden is beautiful, regardless of size or color.

St. Therese, the Little Flower

For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.

― St. Therese of Lisieux

Seek the truth in prayer, in the Bible, in your garden, in the silence when you can only hear your breathing. Turn to the saints who felt despair and plead their intercession. Seize this opportunity to learn context, history, and find ground that does not wobble beneath you.

I used to be passionate about apologetics, until they bored me. Now, their complexity is a comfort, not a burden. Our faith is woven with fact and history, martyrs, great thinkers, and ordinary people. They also went through trying times; they will guide you through this.

Remember to stay safe and healthy. This can’t last forever, and we will all emerge stronger, knowing what really matters. When it’s harder to walk, take another step. When it’s harder to believe, dig deeper.

My next read is Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI. I am going to try and read at least one spiritual book every two weeks, aside from the Bible, which is daily bread. What are you reading?

The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf


For a month I have been devouring The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf. It tells the story of scientist Alexander von Humboldt’s love for science and nature, describing in exciting detail all the countries that he visited and all of his achievements.

I carried it down to South America intending to read it on the plane, but sleep prevented that. Then I brought it back home to the US, where it sat on the bedside table of my aunt’s house in Virginia for three weeks while I hung out with my cousins.

So many distractions emerged that I was not able to get to it until June, and it gripped me at once. Including compelling sketches and visuals of his journeys, it made me somewhat nostalgic for a time when there was more to discover.

Von Humboldt was in love with science, and had a level of concentration for his projects that I envy. After a tour of South America, he spent every free moment writing an account of his journey and discoveries that spanned several books, which I intend to read at some point.

Science has never been one of my fortes, but as I read The Invention of Nature I wondered whether that may have been different if I’d learned hands-on like he did. I found myself itching to dig in the ground with him for an interesting beetle, or to scale mountains that strike awe in me today.

His love for nature might be strong as my love for literature. What I feel is a physical need to always have a book with me; what he felt was a physical need to discover the truth of the world. They’re different subjects, but the passion is similar, and isn’t truth still truth, whether it is in the pages of a book?

Some of the things von Humboldt did make me smile, like when he promised the Empress Alexandra that he would find her diamonds in the Russian mines, and showed up with dozens of them.

He rightly believed slavery to be immoral, and spent his entire life as an abolitionist. While he got along well with American presidents, he constantly lamented that, at the time, it did not seem that slavery would be abolished.

There are three stages of scientific discovery: first people deny it is true; then they deny it is important; finally they credit the wrong person.

Alexander von Humboldt

Von Humboldt wrote tirelessly on the broad subjects of nature and science, until he became too old to travel anymore. At this point, heartbreakingly, he began to forget what he himself had said.

Nonetheless, he became a hero, and the world mourned when he died. He had become the trusted voice on science; he inspired who we consider to be the greats of nature writing, like Darwin and John Muir.

I love books about historical figures, and I am grateful that this one exists. More people should know about Alexander von Humboldt and all the things he did to contribute to our knowledge today.

Until recently, I didn’t have a “favorite” genre when it came to books; this past year, I’ve discovered that, aside from the classics, I most enjoy history and historical fiction. I want to read about figures that changed the world, even finding obscure heroes that should be known. Perhaps it stems from an innate desire to someday, somehow, change the world myself.

My focus has therefore shifted to history as well as fantasy, and I’m eager to explore these two genres. Fantasy makes me dream; history makes me grateful– or, in certain situations, humbles me.

I recommend The Invention of Nature because I think more people should love their work in the way hat von Humboldt did. He was the very first person to see many remarkable things that we take for granted today.

Though it might seem as if everything in the world has been discovered, there is always some marvelous thing that needs to be seen for the first time, if not by the world, than by the person looking.

Do you have a historical hero that you think should come to light? Give me history book recommendations; I beg you, I can’t get enough of it!

To Whom It May Concern


Let it be said of me
That my words waded
Where the waves
Devour,

Intent on saving you
For a new Day,
For it was not
Your Hour.

I don’t believe
I will meet you;
I shall not Know
Who you are,

Yet my words,
Relentless, found you,
Be it near or far.

For those who found my work long aft I’ve faded like a flower,

I hope you found a verse or two, to last another hour.

xx

Prologue


Let it be said of me,
“She was open, like a book.”
& like a book,
Some people can’t get much
Further than page 1.
I am a poem-volume
Amidst documents of war;
The thrill explorers felt as
Their schooners left the shore.

One day I’ll be a Favorite Book
Read ‘neath the setting sun.
For now, I’ll stay true to myself
And whisper my page 1.

Shared with dVerse Open Link Night. Check them out for great poetry!

A PROVISION FOR LOVE by Heather Chapman


It has been a long while since I read a book that warmed my heart as much as this one did. A Provision for Love by Heather Chapman was too short, in my opinion. This might be a good thing; in many cases, the short books are more potent, finding their places in your heart more easily.

Ivy’s grandmother has written for her a list of qualities to seek in a potential husband; this list includes traits that mean a man isn’t worth Ivy’s time. The list is written in a poetic form, and in some places borders on absurdity, but it was fun watching as Ivy sized up her possible suitors according to the advice that her grandmother had given—and watching Grandmother have fun as she watched the process unfold.

I was satisfied with the ending; I don’t think Ivy’s choice could have been more perfect. The list worked; it led her to a worthy gentleman—or rather, opened her eyes to the gentleman who had been standing in front of her the entire time. I know I will be reading this delightful little book again.

Creativity in Quarantine


I would love to say that I am #StayingAtHome, but I found this situation more complicated—and emotionally loaded.

When we first arrived in Peru, we were staying in a hotel. This was where we were when, halfway into our trip, a quarantine and curfew were set; all of the stores closed. Any place that we might have gone to have fun has been shut down for weeks.

After that, we left the hotel to spend the remainder of our trip at our grandmother’s house; there is still nowhere to go except for the grocery store.

Boredom can be painful.

I expected that quarantine of such a nature would give me inspiration to finish a book. Instead, I’m writing a few chapters, but they are good ones.

It’s hard to focus on creative writing when the media makes you so hyper aware of the bad things happening in the world. We are all feel a little out of place. We are all celebrating small victories, like finishing a chapter or reading a long book.

As we wait out the last three days, hoping the U.S. Government will get us home, I’m allowing myself to feel the negative feelings. They can lead to clarity. They can serve as inspiration. Ultimately, they can guide us.

I hope you’ve found something to keep you sane during this time. We are all seeing the world in a different way; how have these events changed your viewpoint?

New Book – The Mermaid of Rose Hill – Out Soon!


Here is a photo of me with a case of lazy bed head, holding a proof copy of my new novel, which I plan to release this month.

The Mermaid has been my project for the last two years or more. It began as an urban fantasy, but I decided to challenge myself and write it as a historical fiction. It was a much more complicated but rewarding experience; it will be the first book of what I foresee as a long series with lots of novella spin-offs.

I’ve been sharing teasers on Instagram and Twitter. I am very eager to be an active indie author again.

If you want to know what it’s about, here’s a blurb I wrote a while back; it isn’t perfect, but close enough!

While I haven’t decided on a release date yet, it’ll be before the 20.

Here are a couple of the teasers. I do hope you enjoy this book; it’s my baby!

I might be sending out some ebook copies for review; if you’re interested, let me know!

-Mariella x

Art is Magic


Art is something that comes alive and seeks to change us forever.

Wonder at how, so many years later, the Mona Lisa still has lines after lines of people impatient to see her smile. Think of how certain quotes from certain novels echo down through generations, while most of our own whispers vanish into oblivion.

Renoir, Young Girls at the Piano, close-up

Art is the only true form of magic and only art is immortal. It can thaw the frozen heart when nothing else could. It brings us centuries-old pain, and also relief from that pain.

Don’t cast a spell; a poem will do.

I’ve always held this view. I used to think my preference for classic works was a result of my personal desire to be the next Dickens—but art does not work that way. We all hold it differently.

There is no way I can be the next Jane Austen.

Now I think my fascination is a result of nostalgia, one we all feel for times past. We all have heroes long-gone that we would love one hour with. There always comes a moment when the present, fast-paced world is not enough.

So we take up art, this shapeless and fiery thing, to recreate what no longer is but still is close to our hearts. We write back into history. We conjure our heroes, create unicorns, slay dragons.

Art is magic, and art is alive.

Now I look at myself. My heart is in a place long-gone when grand balls were popular, women wore dresses of flowing silk, and carriages rattled. This is what I will recreate with the magic handed to me; it is a lifelong goal.

It requires much, though. To uncover gems of story, I have to do research. To make my characters feel real, I need to know where they would go, what they would eat, how they would dance. As I grow older researching, my heart will be more caught in that time than this one.

Come to my blog and learn with me. Our Elizabeth Bennetts might seem far away, but using the magic of art, we come closer with every step forward that we take.

Castles Brick by Brick


I am excited to be near the final edits for a project close to my heart.

The Mermaid of Rose Hill has been through several amazing beta readers; from each of these people I’ve received fantastic bits of advice, enough to polish it off. Enough, perhaps, to release it soon.

As you might expect, it hasn’t been easy. Even though I’ve always been an author of fantasy, I don’t think I’ve ventured this deeply into the genre. All of a sudden, I had to come up with folklore; it was terrifying.

Though Mermaid was meant to be a low-key historical fiction with fantasy elements that happened to be in it, the text lacked backstory.

I knew there were gaps that should be filled, and doing so would be fun, but fiction is scarier than reality. It needs to make sense. It might seem simple, from a distance, to add the “finishing touches” to a fantasy world; for some reason, though, when I thought of doing it, I froze up.

I think that the heavy book called Grimm’s Fairy Tales caused me to hesitate. I know that comparing myself to the Brothers Grimm is foolish, but I did not believe I could make up my own folklore. I looked at Tolkien’s imaginary world, as well, and knew I could never write something elaborate as that.

Still, something had to be done. I sat and started writing backstory in snatches and sentences. I quoted excerpts from news articles I might never finish about sightings that could be terrifying.

You build a castle brick by brick; I am building my mythology scrap by scrap.

This month, I am beginning what I hope is the final edit for The Mermaid of Rose Hill (though, if it needs more time, I won’t rush it). I think I have enough material to move on to book two.

I should have done this a long time ago, but I was afraid. Authors, when you’re intimidated, remember: castles are built brick by brick.