Spotlight Tour: The Great Disneyland Scavenger Hunt

July 19, 2016 Book Talk 0

My first time to the enchanted land of Disney was with my parents and baby brother. I was probably 5 years old and mesmerized by the magical wonder. To see the castle, ride Pirates of the Caribbean and It’s a Small World {I still know all the lyrics!}. Over 40 years later the memories of my visits to Disney still fill me with nostalgic pleasure.

Which is why I’m so happy to have Catherine Olen, author of The Great Disneyland Scavenger Hunt, guest post here at  The Novel Life! Please join me in welcoming Catherine as she shares her motivations and desire for this book!

the great disneyland scavenger huntSee Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure through new eyes when you discover fantasy, thrills, and dreams around every turn. Whether you’re perusing the shops, waiting in line, or riding attractions, there’s plenty to uncover for even the most knowledgeable Disney fan.

If this is your first visit or your five hundredth, you will discover something new with “The Great Disneyland Scavenger Hunt.”

The history of Disneyland has been well documented over the years in literally thousands of books. Disney is a topic that fascinates people all over the world, but did you know Disneyland itself was created by history? My goal for writing The Great Disneyland Scavenger Hunt is to show those who love Disney some of the amazing details included by founder Walt Disney.

As someone who has been fascinated by history, I have wondered at the details included to honor the founders of the United States and the history surrounding the creation of our amazing country. Factual and fictional history combine to honor those who have come before us.

  • Enter the hall of the Main Street Opera house and listen to Abraham Lincoln as he gives the Gettysburg Address once more.
  • Ride on the Mark Twain Riverboat on the Rivers of America and hear your narrator talk about the history of the great rivers.
  • Enter New Orleans Square and find yourself face to face with bands of marauding pirates as they recreate the days when plundering was the rage.

Not just factual history, but fictional history shaped the Disneyland we know today. Check out the chapter on Fantasyland to see:

  • Walk through the gates of Sleeping Beauty Castle, designed after famed Neuschwanstein castle in Germany.
  • Ride with Peter Pan over the rooftops of London on your way to Neverland as you become center stage in one of Walt Disney’s films.
  • Ride on King Arthur’s Carousel and be transported back to the age of kings and queens.

The Great Disneyland Scavenger Hunt takes you on a tour of Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom in a whole new way when you take time to see the wonders of Snow White Grotto, The Hollywood Tower of Terror and Soarin’ over the World.

From first time visitors to families with small children to the most seasoned annual pass holder, there is something new to discover within the pages of The Great Disneyland Scavenger Hunt.

Buy the Book: Amazon ~ Books-a-Million ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Powell’s Books ~

Catherine F. OlenAbout the Author

Catherine Olen has enjoyed a love affair with the magic of the Disney theme parks for as long as she can remember, counting herself among Disneyland passholders for the last twenty-five years. Previously, Olen owned and operated Hollywood Grave Hunter and is the proud author of The Final Curtain: Celebrity Deaths and The Upside of Undertaking, chronicling her previous career experiences. She has been a correspondent to Entertainment Tonight (US and France), The Biography Channel, Reelz Network, and the Mark & Brian radio show.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Instagram

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To follow along the book tour please visit iRead Tours here


How to DIY MFA

July 12, 2016 Book Review, reviews 1

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

How to DIY MFADIY MFA: Write with Focus, Read with Purpose, Build Your Community by Gabriela Pereira
Published by Writer's Digest Books on July 8th 2016
Genres: Non-Fiction
Pages: 294
Source: complimentary review copy, purchased


In 7th grade Mrs. McNeary introduced me to Madeleine L’Engle. Although we were surly middle schoolers, Mrs. McNeary read A Wrinkle in Time to us every afternoon. By the time the third day rolled around I had already been to the school library to check out A Wrinkle in Time. By the fourth day, I had the book finished and had checked out A Wind in the Door, Book 2 in the Time Quintet Series. I remember thinking that if I could write like anyone, I wanted to tell stories just like Ms. L’Engle. I also wanted to be a pilot, Navy Seal, and marine biologist, but writer was always at the top of my list.

Fast forward to adulthood where I never quite made it to pilot school, the Navy didn’t want me, and marine biology was only a passing interest because of A Ring of Endless Light. . .my absolute favorite L’Engle novel. Somehow I fell into the non-profit world, children’s advocacy, and writing grant proposals. I didn’t consider myself a writer though. Most grant proposals are dry and technical – where’s the imagination in that?

While trying to find other readers to talk with about books I fell into book blogging. I thought that writing reviews and sharing my world was not real writing. Where’s the imagination in talking books? In order to be a real writer I would have to get my MFA. or so I thought.

Then I came across Gabriela Pereira’s site

All of the sudden I realized, wait, I am a writer. I may not be Pulitzer-Prize-worthy, but I’ve been a writer for years! Can you imagine the elation and relief I felt?

So when I read that the entire DIY MFA method was being published in a book I knew I had to get it. As much of a resource as the site has been, the book, I knew, would be chock-full of wisdom. I pre-ordered the book even though I had access to the advanced reader’s copy. After reading the first few chapters I quickly figured out that this book was going to be a much-used and much-loved writing resource, along with my copy of On Writing, Bird by Bird, and Writing Down the Bones.

[Tweet “From writer’s voice to writing workshops the book @DIYMFA is sure to be a favorite resource.”]

Gabriela lays out the foundation of writing in a methodical and easily-understood manner. The book is sectioned into the 3-part mission of DIY MFA: “write with focus, read with purpose, build your community.” From there the book is pared down into bite-sized chapters with clear actionable steps/homework. For example, in the Read with Purpose portion we learn to “Read Like a Writer,” and the four types of books a writer should utilize {also known as “the four C’s”}: “competitive titles, contextual books, contemporary books, and classics.”

Gabriela is a big fan of acronyms and tips which further helps to cement the tools learned. For example, the term ‘habits’ becomes:

H = Honor Your Reality

A = Add Constraints

B = Block Time and Batch Tasks

I = Iterate

T = Ten Percent Rule

S = Set the Mood

Gabriela is candid and practical throughout the book. There is no shortcut to becoming a good writer. Practicing is repeated over and over, or actually, what I came to term as Gabriela’s favorite word ~ “iterate, iterate, iterate.” That was my only issue with the book – why say iterate when practice works just as well?

If you have any desire to improve your writing, whether as a blogger or a long-time writer, pick up this book. It is sure to become your favorite writing resource – I know it is now mine!

Side Note: There’s countless worksheets and cheat sheets and even a private online resource for those who purchase the book. And while I would highly recommend purchasing the book, there are still plenty of free resources at

Gabriela also hosts a podcast with fantastic guests and resources! Learn more here.

Connect with Gabriela Website | Twitter | Facebook

What writing books/memoirs/resources have you read and/or use?



On Women’s Rights with Author Juliette Fay

July 5, 2016 Author Interview, Spotlight Author 2

Y’all don’t think me too crazy for geeking out over a conversation with Juliette Fay, author of The Tumbling Turner Sisters. Not only has she written 4 award-winning books, she is also quite the impressive person herself!  Her early days were spent as a Jesuit volunteer working with the homeless. She then went on to graduate from Harvard with a master’s degree in public policy. Ms. Fay has seemingly spent a lifetime caring for others while bringing attention to social issues.

In The Tumbling Turner Sisters, {my review here}, the focus is on early 20th century social issues like racism, women’s equality and anti-Semitism. Reading this book made me glad to be living in this time period yet also fascinated by how far we’ve come as a society in a hundred years. And unfortunately, how much further we need to go.

Please join me in welcoming Ms. Juliette Fay!

Juliette Fay

Photo Credit: Kristen Dacey

You write about such controversial issues that were prevalent in 1919, like racial inequality and women’s rights. How did you find a way to approach them with respect and grace?

The sexism and racism of the time was so ubiquitous, such a part of the fabric of everyday life, that most people didn’t see it. It was just the way things were. As with so many forms of prejudice and inequality, it was only when it affected someone you actually you knew that you might say to yourself, “Gee, that’s not fair.”

The two narrators of The Tumbling Turner Sisters are working class teenage white girls from a relatively small town. I had to approach it through their eyes, feel it through their skin. They don’t even know any African-Americans until they meet Tippety Tap Jones.

But they do get to know him, and find him to be helpful, hardworking and tremendously talented. When his race is used against him in such a blatant way, right before their eyes, they are treated to a shocking dose of what he goes through on a regular basis. This changes them, makes them question the social norms they take for granted—and not just about race. About everything. It leads them to look more closely at the inequalities they face as women, and to be ready to stand up and challenge them. To live, as they say, “larger lives.”

[Tweet “Inequality, racism & anti-Semitism tackled in #thetumblingturnersisters”]

the tumbling turner sistersYou highlight the struggles that women had to endure in the 1900’s. Why did you feel it was an important issue to share with women today?

I chose the year 1919 for the novel precisely because it was a time of great social change, especially for women. The question of whether they were competent to vote had raged for 70 years, and was just about to be settled! A big part of that debate was how women’s suffrage would affect society at large—there was genuine fear that if women could vote, they would suddenly become “political,” throw off their apron strings and stop feeding their children. The American family would disintegrate. It was a lot like the argument for slavery: we need someone to do this work, so let’s make it virtually impossible for them to do anything else.

Women and people of color have it vastly better than their forbearers, but society is still rife with racism (though it tends to be more covert) and women still only earn about seventy percent of what men make for the same work. I hope readers will feel both grateful for how much headway we’ve made, and at the same time more aware of the fact that we still have a ways to go. I hope they’ll think about it, talk about it, and maybe even be inspired to take action that keeps us moving in the right direction.

Juliette Fay is the award-winning author of four novels: The Tumbling Turner Sisters, The Shortest Way Home, Deep Down True, and Shelter Me. She received a bachelor’s degree from Boston College and a master’s degree from Harvard University. Juliette lives in Massachusetts with her husband and four children. Her website is


June in Review

July 4, 2016 Book Talk 7


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Looking back on May and June I realized I have not read a single book I said I was looking forward to! The best laid plans and such, right?

What I DID Read

I only got three books read, although granted, The Crow Girl was originally published as three separate novels, meaning I really read 6 books, yes?!? The Tumbling Turner Sisters was delightful, engaging and spot-on accurate while State of Wonder had me wondering why I’ve never read Ann Patchett before! I’m still formulating my thoughts on The Crow Girl. It was disturbing to say the least. Before the Fall was an experience. I still have nightmares, not about the ocean, but of Bill Cunningham! Anyone else have that experience as well?


On the Blog

In Real Life

June was another difficult month. My faithful companion and want-to-be therapy dog passed away. We had just celebrated Obie’s 10th birthday {in human years} and then discovered a grapefruit-sized malignant tumor on his spleen. If you are a pet lover then you know how difficult it is to say goodbye to your best friend. Though we got Obie when my kids were ages 10 – 14, Obie and I bonded immediately and completely. He loved the kids, but Obie was always my dog. My protector, confidante, blanket on cold nights, best friend and irreplaceable heart.

The one blessing I come away with is knowing all the people Obie’s gentle, loving spirit touched.

Obie ~ May, 2006 - June, 2016

Obie ~ May, 2006 – June, 2016


Here’s to looking forward to a peaceful July filled with love, family and lots of smiles.




Learning to Survive and Thrive with The Tumbling Turner Sisters

June 28, 2016 Book Review, Giveaway, reviews 6

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Learning to Survive and Thrive with The Tumbling Turner SistersThe Tumbling Turner Sisters by Juliette Fay
Published by Gallery Books on June 14th 2016
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Pages: 352
Source: complimentary review copy


What an incredibly researched historical novel! I felt completely immersed in the time period {1920s}! Vaudeville was at its height {kind of a prequel to tv show ‘America’s Got Talent’}.   When the novel opens we meet the Turners and learn how they’re  barely getting by. Dependent on Mr. Turner’s income, losing the source from a stupid mistake makes figuring out how to survive critical.

So what does the mom to four beautiful daughters do? She comes up with the idea to put her daughters on the stage as a vaudeville act in order to make enough money for the family to eat and pay rent. When the girls’ act becomes a hit their lives are forever changed.

What I loved

→The history and detail. Learning what vaudeville was {comedy, gymnastics, music, dancing} and wasn’t {burlesque} fascinated me and had me looking up old videos and photographs. There are even a few of the theaters that hosted vaudeville still open and operating today!

→The quotes at the beginning of each chapter from famous vaudeville players. “There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.” ~Will Rogers, actor, singer, comedian, and social commentator

→How the characters and theaters came to life through the descriptive passages “Even from inside the suitcase, I sensed the audience’s anticipation. They cheered for Nell’s cartwheels, but the volume rose when Gert entered with her handsprings. By the time I rolled out onto the proscenium, the audience was like a pack of hungry dogs, ready to devour any scraps of entertainment we threw them. Gert’s arm jiggles sent them into paroxysms, and the human rolling ball, with skirts flapping up as they spun, caused a wild round of boot stomping.”

→The humor! The dialogue between the four sisters was seamless and filled with funny moments!

→The breadth of topics approached from poverty and mental illness to racism and women’s rights, The Tumbling Turner Sisters touches on it all with skill and grace.

[Tweet “Learning how to survive and thrive in The Tumbling Turner Sisters”]

and the Not So Much

I would be remiss if I neglected to share a couple of things that frustrated me in reading this novel. For example ~

The mother. Granted her character was supposed to be a strong Italian woman, but she was a bit over the top for me. At times I wondered why she even had children. Her actions were so non-mothering! AND she took henpecking her husband to an entirely new level. Did women really act that way?

While not that big of a deal, I did have to flip back to the beginning of the chapters several times to see who was narrating. While normally I love multiple points of view in books, in The Tumbling Turner Sisters it was somewhat difficult to tell the sisters apart. Narrated from Winnie and Gert’s pov, the sisters’ characters were too similar to distinguish at times.

Caution. Some aspects were difficult to read though true to the time period. There is one passage in particular that uses cringe-worthy terminology. I appreciate that the author approached sensitive subjects head on but do want to warn you sections may make you uncomfortable.

Recommended for

Readers who loved Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. Goodreads also recommends Christina Baker Kline, author of Orphan Train, but I think Juliette Fay’s novel is closer to a Karen White novel such as On Folly Beach. The laugh-out-loud humor and fleshed out characters are comparable.

Juliette Fay: Website :: Facebook :: Twitter

With many thanks to Wunderkind PR and Gallery Books, I’ve got a copy of The Tumbling Turner Sisters to give away! Ends Monday, July 4th at 11:59 pm. U.S. entries only please.

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