Mr. Dickens and His Carol

“On that unseasonably warm November day at One Devonshire Terrace, Christmas was not in his head at all.” first line from Mr. Dickens and His Carol.

This is an entertaining take on how Charles Dickens may have come up with writing his famous Christmas story. The author, Samantha Silva, included some facts along with her fiction. I watched an interview with the author on a YouTube channel recently and it took her 15 years to write this novel. It started out as a screenplay that she sold four times but it failed to be produced so she re-wrote as a novel. The author is a writer and screenwriter based in Idaho and this is her debut novel.

The story opens with Charles Dickens who was a rock star for his time. He lived in a spectacular family home with his five children and a wife in labor with their sixth child. He has been riding a high with his success and being a generous man he has been helping both family, friends, and charities financially and happy to do so. Until he is told by his publisher that his most recent work – Chuzzlewit is not selling.

The publisher blackmails Dickens into writing another book before Christmas or they will deduct a portion of his sales to cover their losses. Which might not have been so bad but Christmas was only a few weeks away. At first Dickens refuses to be told what to do by his publisher. That works until he realizes how much his debt currently is and that if he did allow them to cut his sales that it could ruin him financially.

Dickens receives a letter from the woman who left him for another man when he was younger. She broke his heart but her letter tells him she must see him and foolishly he agrees. He soon regrets it but before he knows it the woman has stopped by his own home and speaks with his wife, asking her to have him autograph the letter she’d sent. Mrs. Dickens did not take that very well.

In the middle of planning their Christmas celebration with painters re-painting the front door and entry way, food being delivered for their annual party, and a tree delivered to actually be put inside their home, which was something new to the Victorians; he starts realizing that he may not have a choice about writing the book. His wife takes the children to Scotland with her family, telling him he is no longer the man she married and leaves him home alone.

Dickens has always had a habit of walking many miles at night to work through his troubles and finds himself at the very Inn where he’d written his first story. It reminds him of his earlier relationship that had gone wrong. Though his former lady friend hadn’t been a muse in the usual sense, he had succeeded just to prove her wrong. Now he feels as if he has no muse.

During his nightly walks he meets a younger actress he’d met briefly while he was a young actor on a small town square in London. He soon starts to think she may be the muse he is seeking. They are attracted to each other but both agree that nothing can come of it but they do become friends. During the telling of this story, we are introduced to the major characters from A Christmas Carol.

This was a delightful holiday story. After watching the interview, much of what was written was pulled from his biography. Chuzzlewit did fail and his publisher did request a book because of a clause in his contract. He had an old girlfriend who he felt had been his muse, who had left him for a man she felt could provide better for her and forced Dickens to prove her wrong. This story has an interesting twist at the end that was fitting for a holiday tale about a ghost story.

I loved the way the author weaved characters into this novel who became important characters in A Christmas Carol, like Tiny Tim, Cratchit, Marley, and of course Scrooge. This will be a keeper on my shelf. I may not read it every year but possibly every other. I do think I will add A Christmas Carol to my December list for 2021. Though I have seen several movie versions, I haven’t actually ever read the novel. Now I will have a quest to find a nice collectible edition.

I have been enjoying the days leading up to Christmas. Even though we will not be spending the day with our children, I have attempted to shop, decorate, and cook a few things for me and the hubby. It has cut into my reading time so probably will not meet my monthly goal of four books read this month. I hope you are finding some joy in this most difficult time. I wish you and yours a most glorious Christmas or whatever holiday you may be celebrating. I hope you find peace in your hearts and maybe a tiny bit of time to read a good book.

Until next time,


Sarah’s Key – a Book Review

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay

I discovered this book when someone recommended the movie. Can’t remember who it was but they said it was a very good movie. I have yet to watch it but I did read the book. Figured if the movie was good the book would be good also.

This is a fictional story written around an actual event. It bounces back and forth from present day Paris to Paris, July 1942. The present story is told by Julie, an American woman who has lived most of her life in France and is married to a Frenchman. They have a young daughter. Her husband’s grandmother has moved from an apartment to assisted living and Bertrand, the husband is remodeling the apartment for him, Julie, and their daughter Zoe.  Julie introduces the reader to all of her friends, including a gay couple she shared an apartment with before she was married. All of the characters are well developed and interesting. It becomes clear, early on, that she feels that she has never been accepted by her husband’s family.  No matter what she does, she is just an American.

Every other chapter moves back to the past and starts with that infamous day in July in 1942. That night, the French Police gathered all of the Jews and took them to several different camps to be processed before going on to Auschwitz. It is the story of Sarah, a young Jewish girl and her family. The night of the raid that dragged them from their home, Sarah committed an innocent act that would haunt her for the rest of her life.

The present day Julie is a journalist who is assigned to write an article about Vel’ d’Hiv, the night the Jews were gathered. She discovers clues about this piece of French history that most people would rather ignore and forget. The mystery unfolds as she discovers connections between the past and a family secret. Her husband discourages her but she finds an ally in her father-in-law who supports her efforts and eventually acknowledges his appreciation for answers to questions that relieved a burden of guilt his family had locked away.

The author weaves the two stories together in a way that makes it difficult to put down, until the very end. I felt that the story ended a few chapters before the author actually stopped writing. I couldn’t wait to find out the secret but once that was revealed, the author continued to tell me more than I needed to know about Julie. I did need to know the very ending but some of the stuff between felt tacked on and not so well thought out as the rest of the book. Even with the less than perfect ending, I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the holocaust and man’s ability to survive after unthinkable horror.  I will look for more from this author.

I am currently reading ‘The House of Many Shadows’ by Barbara Michaels. I recently recommended this author to a friend and decided to pick up a few more that I had missed reading. Love the gothic mystery feel and her use of paranormal.

As far as non-fiction, I have been reading several books on outlining and will share some information from them in future posts.

Hope your writing week is productive and enjoy a good book.


Witches on the Road Tonight

Just finished ‘Witches on the Road Tonight’ by Sheri Holman. It was interesting. Not exactly what I thought it would be. The story jumps from the past to the present and sometimes in between. It is the tale of a dying weather man, Eddie,   who also hosts a weekly horror movie night on a local television station. He grew up in the Appalachians in a place called Panther Gap. It’s the 40’s and his mother is a reputed witch.  He is ostracized by the local kids and while running away from a beating runs into a car driven by a man and a woman who have been hired by the Federal government to map the state and write stories with photos of different locations. They stop to help Eddie who refuses to go to the hospital, so they take him home. They should have dropped him off and ran as far and as fast as they could. But of course they don’t.

It is a tangled story about those people and Eddie and his own family in the future. I finished it because curiosity about what was really happening kept me going. I can’t say I really liked the characters. None of them were really likable. All of them seemed to have a death wish.  I was hoping it would have more mountain lore and less fantasy. I never really understood what the witch was doing, or why. I guess I never really understood that character’s motivation, other than she wanted to fly. Endings don’t always have to be satisfactory but when everything was tied up at the end, it left me wanting further explanation. I was left too unsure about some of the story lines so felt unsatisfied. I do think this author is a good writer. She is able to tell a story and weave the story lines. This one just felt like it ended with too many knots going no where.

I would give it a 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it to those who like a little fantasy with their mystery.


Book Review – A Year on Ladybug Farm

Title: A Year on Ladybug Farm

Author: Donna Ball

Publisher: Berkley

Publication Date: March 2009

1st Edition

Pages: 374

Price: $14.00

ISBN: 978-0-425-22587-5

A Year on Ladybug Farm is the story of three women in their fifties who strike out on an adventure together. When Bridget’s husband dies, the women who have lived most of their adult lives on the same street and have travelled the world together decide it might be time to purchase a home together.  They find a run down mansion in the Shenandoah Valley that they each fall in love with.  Cici wants to make use of her skills with tools, while Lindsey pictures the dairy barn becoming her art studio and Bridget is in love with the kitchen.  If nothing else, Cici runs the numbers and decides that with the needed improvements, it could be a great investment. The house gets its name from the multitude of ladybugs found in the vacant house.  They feel the ladybug is a good omen and decide to give it a year to see whether they feel the same way at years end.

 The main characters are Cecille Burke, a divorced, REALTOR with a daughter in college and an ex-husband who is wealthy and hob knobs with Hollywood celebrities.  Lindsey Wright is a single, teacher and an artist who seemed to have postponed her own attempts as an artist, while Bridget Tyndale is a recent widow with two grown children whose cooking skills make her the one the other two turn to for catering the grand parties, the three women have a reputation for putting together.

 The characters feel whole; in fact, I would love to find friends like them.  I was not ready to let the characters go by story’s end.  Luckily, I discovered a sequel coming out in October. 

 The author wove a ghost, other quirky characters, and subplots to make a most enjoyable read.  Her description of setting was realistic and pulled me deeper into the story.

 I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys heart-warming stories about women who have lived long enough to experience life’s ups-and-downs and still have the courage to find new adventures.

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