Many thanks to Carrie Kurtz of Carrie K’s Book Reviews for her wonderful review! So glad she loved it.
Book Reviews: REVIEW EXCERPT:
“There were honestly so many interesting things in this book! It kept me wanting to read and I found myself trying to sneak in extra times to read a chapter or two. As a matter of fact, I “went to bed” early so that I could finish it last night!
I will certainly be recommending this book! Not just to children or middle graders, but to anyone who enjoys reading science fiction, fantasy, action, magical type genres.”
“Hey all! Recently I’ve had the good fortune of being given an awesome MG time travel adventure to read (check out my review of The Ravenstone here) and now the talented authors Mark & Diane are doing an interview for me. (Seriously guys, y’all should become book reviewers. The perks are so cool.) In any case, less rambling from me and more from the lovely authors themselves!”
What were you like as a kid?
MARK: When I was in elementary school I was practically invisible. Average height, average weight, average looking and quiet as a mouse… when I was at school, at least. In Junior High I grew so fast people didn’t recognize me in the fall after summer vacation. My newfound size brought with it confidence. By the ninth grade my English teacher told me I had found the power of words but not the wisdom to wield them. Fortunately, she liked me in spite of myself and did her best to give my verbal skills direction. I hope I have lived up to her expectations. Thank you Mrs. Campbell, wherever you are.
“I love reading about the 13-year-old twins Nadia and Aidan who live in Cold Spring, New York. They stumble upon a mysterious dark stone, hidden underneath a mirror in the attic. There is something magical about the mirror that only the twins can see. There is an old wizard in the mirror who beckons them. With him is a black raven. When the wizard disappears a single black feather is lying on the floor. How is that possible? Follow me and find out!”
“Diane Solomon and Mark Carey have made a formidable team creating a very original story line that links together very well. The use of a mirror and twins is very clever but also do check out the twins names and see if you can find anything unusual about them. It is this attention, the going that extra mile, that makes this book very special. The detail of what life would be like in the past is super, with writing that is very appropriate for middle grade readers. There are times in the book that will give an adrenaline rush but won’t leave the young readers frightened. This book really gave me goose bumps which I have got again just writing about it. An awesome read!”
“This novel kind of reminds me of those Magic Tree House books I used to love (anyone remember those? Or am I too old?). Except, with more sophisticated plotting and writing.
“There was a lot of suspense and mystery. The bad guys were terrifyingly bad and the good guys were cute and smart and good. Older readers may find that a bit too simple, but for the middle-grade category, this novel is up there with the greats.
“Conclusion: If you’ve ever wanted to go on a magical time travelling adventure with a pair of smart, inquisitive twins (or are doing some Christmas shopping for young, avid readers) be sure to check The Ravenstone out!”
Can you share your writing process with us, in a nutshell?
Diane & Mark: For the pure logistics, we are outliners. We use a large board, into which we stick pushpins to hold up postcard-sized cards with scenes, sections, or individual pieces of the story (or sections if non-fiction). Then we can physically see the jigsaw puzzle and move things around until they feel right.
Character is vital: We spend a long time on character development, and each day before either of us writes, at least at the beginning, we tend to read through all the notes and reacquaint ourselves with the character.
Diane: Yes, if I am beginning to live and breathe the character – if I am in the protagonist’s head, and she is in mine – she will write her own actions and words.
But, I want to bring up something else, something required for the writing process for me. It’s hard to define, but essential. My writing seems to stem from what my husband calls my “extreme heart.” My writing process only works well if heart is involved….
Many of the books, written for kids, feature main characters whose behavior is… well, appalling. Diane and I set out to create characters with heart and honor. We put the twins, Nadia and Aidan, in situations where they have to decide for themselves to do the right thing. They take risks for their family and they succeed in spite of their fears and flaws. Our kids don’t have to be snarky to be cool. As your kids read they accompany Aidan and Nadia on their adventure and are intrigued by the mystery they try to unravel. Plus, they learn, along with the twins, about; history, Native Americans, Celts, folk-lore, extinct plants and other environmental science, and more than just a little about morality.
The action is fast-paced. Our younger beta readers couldn’t put the book down. One Skyped us from Oregon to tell us how much he loved it. He even honored us with the comment, “This book is better than Harry Potter!”
We understand why you, as a parent, choose to teach your children at home. You may feel a level of concern about the academic quality of local public schools, quite justifiably! And you may feel that teaching them at home provide a higher level of moral instruction. Teaching them academic facts alone does not make them good people and we all want our kids to grow into people we can be proud of. Those kinds of lessons are difficult to get across to kids without seeming preachy. Here is where a book like The Ravenstone can entertain and teach at the same time.
A fun, suspenseful, entertaining book helps to teach those lessons! And a classic quality book becomes part of your child’s heart and mind, something she will remember her entire life.
EXCERPT: “It’s a magical, hopeful story full of loyalty, courage and heart.” “I appreciate this honor, this depth of character, in an age where so much of our media, books, TV, and movies are full of violence, darkness and a kind of “attitude” or “snarkiness.” I am tired of that! This is a family-oriented book, wholesome even, and very heartwarming.”
What a fun, suspenseful adventure! I got it for my niece, but read it myself first. I got hooked in and couldn’t put it down… It’s a magical, hopeful story full of loyalty, courage and heart.
The characters are well-drawn; the protagonists, Aidan and Nadia, are 13-year-old twins who are sent on a mission to help save their dad’s life work. But, they are also driven by the desire to achieve something great for mankind. They must take great risk, overcome fear, and survive great danger from a magic stronger than theirs.
I appreciate this honor, this depth of character, in an age where so much of our media, books, TV, and movies are full of violence, darkness and a kind of “attitude” or “snarkiness.” I am tired of that! This is a family-oriented book, wholesome even, and very heartwarming.
What inspires you to write?
The joy of creativity, of being creative, drives me. It always has! As a singer/songwriter, I learned to trust the creative process and dive deeply into it. You have to dare to be criticized, dare to be silly, to be crazy, to be wild. There are moments during writing where you forget yourself entirely. You lose track of time. The writing seems to have taken over. Sometimes you look down and are surprised by what you read, as if you didn’t, in fact, write it! I can only describe this experience as somehow verging on transcendent, in that it feels beyond the limits of experience, or independent of this world. It is exciting, inspiring, and rewarding.
As for ideas for books, they stem from my life (and I have had a very strange but interesting life), and from my imagination. And from the “What if?” game!
Having read quite a few of Kristin Hannah’s books, I looked forward to “The Nightingale.” Although it held my attention, throughout the book I could not quite put my finger on why I wasn’t moved by the distressful events of this World War Two story.
Two sisters struggle to survive in Nazi-occupied France; one maintains her home and resists any idea of resistance. The other sister, impulsive and passionate, launches herself into the resistance movement, and becomes The Nightingale, leading British and American pilots through the mountains to Spain, to return them to their countries to fight another day.
The book delivers a potentially powerful story of suspense, courage, honor, love, and loyalty. My reservations are with regard to the level of exaggeration I felt was in play. And the tendency to cliche. Granted, these devastating events occurred, I just don’t believe they all happened to so few people. It is as if all the horror stories of the war were funneled into this one book, and it seemed a wee bit unrealistic and unbelievable to me.
As bizarre as this sounds, I became somewhat desensitized to the travesties. I am a sentimental, soft soul, and fully expected to be brought to tears by this tale. Especially having loved other books of Kristin Hannah’s. But I have come to the conclusion that this book, in its leaning toward melodrama, turned me off at some level, and I was left with a feeling of disappointment that truly surprised me.
So 3 stars for “The Nightingale,” which I hate to say is not one of Hannah’s best. I feel almost guilty saying this as I love so much of Hannah’s work.