My Goodreads Quotes

Allison’s quotes


"Don't you think it's rather nice to think that we're in a book that God's writing? If I were writing a book, I might make mistakes. But God knows how to make the story end just right--in the way that's best for us."
Do you really believe that, Mother?" Peter asked quietly.
Yes," she said, "I do believe it--almost always--except when I'm so sad that I can't believe anything. But even when I don't believe it, I know it's true--and I try to believe it."— E. Nesbit

Friday, January 30, 2015

Cover Reveal: Out of Darkness Rising, by Gillian Bronte Adams

It's the novella we've all been waiting for!  Since its initial announcement, Gillian has published her debut novel, but we're still waiting eagerly for her novella-- and here it is!

Pretty...

Darkness reigns unchallenged.

For the villagers on the accursed Island, life has only one meaning - death.  Bound to the Island by the curse, the villagers suffer beneath the iron claw of the serpent, daily breathing the poison of his breath and dying to appease his insatiable appetite. 

When Marya’s parents are slain by the serpent for their belief in a legendary king, she becomes an Outcast.  Struggling to survive and avoid the vengeance of the Tribunal, Marya is torn between legend and the harsh reality of the Island.  Yet when a forgotten promise springs to life, she cannot help wondering if the old stories might in fact be true.  And if they are, will the promise prove stronger than the curse?

Coming March 15, 2015


And now for the lady herself!


Gillian Bronte Adams is a sword-wielding, horse-riding, coffee-loving speculative fiction author from the great state of Texas and the dreamer behind the Songkeeper Chronicles. During the day, she manages the equestrian program at a youth camp. But at night, she kicks off her boots and spurs, pulls out her trusty laptop, and transforms into a novelist.
 
 
 
 
For those of you dying to get your hands on this novella, you can check out Gillian's fun giveaway and watch the awesome book trailer!


 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Book Review: Anon, Sir, Anon, by Rachel Heffington

Like most reviewers, I was charmed by the warmth and humor of Heffington's novella, The Windy Side of Care.  I was therefore delighted to discover her latest novel, a Shakespearian mystery.


When Vivi set out to nurse her ill uncle, she had no intention of being involved with murder.  But when her train brings the death of a young, notorious woman, only Vivi can identify her-- and only Vivi, with the help of her Shakespearian uncle, can see through the pastoral countryside fa├žade to the dark secrets that lurk beneath.


When I read Anon, Sir, Anon, I was hardly the cultured mystery-fan you now see before you.  (Well... read before you.)  I had read just enough to believe I didn't like it.  Although the rapid unveiling at the end enthralled me, I had to endure a few hundred pages of dry, mostly irrelevant details to reach it.  Mystery novels also gave me the unsettling sense that I was unbearably dull when I inevitably failed to guess who'd done it.


I couldn't reconcile these two images: Heffington's lively voice and my own gloomy experiences with mystery.  So I had to read Anon, Sir, Anon.


The loveliness of it blew me away.  Shakespeare, murder, mystery-- but beneath it all, this sense of solid, homey Englishness that tied all the threads together into something delightfully warm, like a sweater.  Or a tea cozy.


The characters in particular make Anon, Sir, Anon so wonderful.  An eccentric, Shakespearian actor of an uncle; a self-proclaimed jilted lover-- the list goes on.  Of all the characters, only one fell flat for me, and she had the great misfortune to be Vivi.


I found her a faint shadow of what I, a modern American, really wanted to read about: a high-spirited, strong-willed English girl.  I feel like Heffington tried hard to avoid this archetype in the interest of originality, but it is an archetype that works and is beloved, and the story needed it.  Vivi was strong-willed and sensible, but she lacked the feistiness and fun that would've brought this story to five stars.


Anon, Sir, Anon was lovely.  It was highly enjoyable.  And... it wasn't really a mystery.  Sure, there was a body and a missing murderer, but searching for clues led to entertaining character interaction and not much else.  The mystery spun itself out into clarity, and Vivi and Farnham didn't have much to do with it.


Just as this was Vivi's first mystery, it was also Ms. Heffington's first mystery novel.  And all in all, Anon, Sir, Anon was charming, witty, and delightful.  I give it a solid four stars and highly recommend it.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Join Me in a Moment of Anxiety (Subtitled: Five Enchanted Roses)

Rooglewood Press is announcing the winners of their Five Enchanted Roses writing contest.  In one week.  Next week.  February 1.

I entered two novellas for the contest this year, both of which will have their own blog posts in February.  Did anyone else enter?

And to tie you over until the results, join me back here tomorrow for a review of Rachel Heffington's Anon Sir Anon.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Book Review: Plenilune, by Jennifer Freitag

When it was released last year, this book flew around our blogging community.  Impressed by the number of positive reviews, I planned on reading it sooner rather than later, and the 2014 Blogger Awards gave me a chance to turn that into a reality.

Plenilune has an official excerpt, but I don't feel it captures the heart of the book.  It's such a dense, vast story that it's difficult to capture in one sentence, but I'll try.

Plenilune is about a Victorian lady named Margaret who, through a chance meeting and a twist of fate, becomes the coveted object of the two powerful rulers of a different world.

In many ways, Plenilune is gorgeous.  It has a vast scope-- the story encompasses countries, a dynasty, and a civil war, but that alone doesn't make Plenilune brilliant.  In the long and short of it, Plenilune is a story of power and those that wield it told from the perspective of one small, angry girl cast into the center of it.  I still stand by our decision to elect Margaret the best heroine of 2014.  Raised in the confines of Victorian-London society, retold through gorgeous chess imagery, her struggle with her own powerlessness and her gradual realization of her value make this novel.

Freitag's use of language rivals the skillfulness of her characters.  She has a sophisticated grasp of imagery uncommon in young adult literature and displays a cunning use of repeating motifs.  (Indeed, sometimes she overdoes it.  But I digress.)  She also has a delightful way of handling shocking revelations: namely, she refuses to over-explain them.  Freitag does not talk down to her readers.  She expects them to have the patience required to dig back through the novel, searching for half-referenced conversations and factoids.  Her discipline is a delightful surprise in a debut novelist.

But--

You knew this was coming.

-- but the restraint she shows in referencing her own work does not apply to all of her dialogue and descriptions.  Is it gorgeous?  Absolutely.  Did I go insane with my highlighter, picking out particularly beautiful phrases-- that is, the whole book?  You bet.

Did it go too far?

I'm afraid so.

I would like to see Plenilune after it had passed through the hands of a particularly ruthless editor.  Scenes wandered on and on through charming, unnecessary subplots (ahem, Woodbird), eating up a decent chunk of word count that could have been used to address another issue: the political civil war.

The world of Plenilune is a vast place-- so vast, indeed, that I only grasped about a quarter of its politics.  It was easy enough to remember who disliked whom (Freitag helpfully gave the antagonists sinister names, like Bloodburn and-- well-- Rupert; never mind), but the chain of battles in the war proved more confusing.  At every step the forces of good defeated the forces of evil, yet by the end of the novel they were somehow still losing.  Perhaps evil greatly outnumbered the good guys; but then, why would so many people choose to follow a frankly detestable character who quite openly attempted to murder his brother?

And then there was Dammerung.

Don't even get me started on Dammerung.

Dammerung might have to be a separate post.

Suffice it to say that he is utterly amazing, and that is not necessarily a good thing.

But I digress again.

In short: Plenilune is fabulously gorgeous.  I spent half of it in utter confusion (which will hopefully dissipate after future rereads), but I still fell completely in love with it.  Check out Jennifer Freitag's blog and read her awesome books!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Draven's Light Cover Reveal!

What prompts imps to incredible levels of fangirling, reduces the fingernails of book reviewers to  nervous slivers, and sends me searching for a third phrase to complete this literary triad?

That's right.  Anne Elisabeth Stengl is writing another book.

And its cover is beautiful.


I love the cool color-scheme; it contrasts beautifully with the other covers in the series.  (And it matches my blog rather nicely, if I do say so myself.)

In the Darkness of the Pit

The Light Shines Brightest

Drums summon the chieftain’s powerful son to slay a man in cold blood and thereby earn his place among the warriors. But instead of glory, he earns the name Draven, “Coward.” When the men of his tribe march off to war, Draven remains behind with the women and his shame. Only fearless but crippled Ita values her brother’s honor.

The warriors return from battle victorious yet trailing a curse in their wake. One by one the strong and the weak of the tribe fall prey to an illness of supernatural power. The secret source of this evil can be found and destroyed by only the bravest heart.

 But when the curse attacks the one Draven loves most, can this coward find the courage he needs to face the darkness?

 Coming May 25, 2015
 
 
ANNE ELISABETH STENGL makes her home in North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a kindle of kitties, and one long-suffering dog. When she’s not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and practices piano, painting, and pastry baking. She is the author of the critically-acclaimed Tales of Goldstone Wood. Her novel Starflower was awarded the 2013 Clive Staples Award, and her novels Heartless, Veiled Rose, and Dragonwitch have each been honored with a Christy Award.
 
To learn more about Anne Elisabeth Stengl and her books visit: www.AnneElisabethStengl.blogspot.com
 
 
I've said it before, but if you haven't read Anne Elisabeth's books yet, I recommend them highly.  They are emotional, thought-provoking, and absolutely gorgeous.  (Her eighth novel,  Poison Crown, comes out this year!)  Until then, though, you can enjoy her writing on her blog, and you can enter to win an ARC of the novella: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/MGNkNTI0NzYyMGZiNjAwZjNmMTRhNTUxOTQ2MTQyOjQy/?


And we have an excerpt!


Excerpt from

DRAVEN’S LIGHT

By Anne Elisabeth Stengl

(coming May 25, 2015)

 He heard the drums in his dreams, distant but drawing ever nearer. He had heard them before and wondered if the time of his manhood had come. But with the approach of dawn, the drums always faded away and he woke to the world still a child. Still a boy.

But this night, the distant drums were louder, stronger. Somehow he knew they were not concocted of his sleeping fancy. No, even as he slept he knew these were real drums, and he recognized the beat: The beat of death. The beat of blood.

The beat of a man’s heart.

He woke with a start, his leg throbbing where it had just been kicked. It was not the sort of awakening he had longed for these last two years and more. He glared from his bed up into the face of his sister, who stood above him, balancing her weight on a stout forked branch tucked under her left shoulder.

“Ita,” the boy growled, “what are you doing here? Go back to the women’s hut!”

His sister made a face at him, but he saw, even by the moonlight streaming through cracks in the thatch above, that her eyes were very round and solemn. Only then did he notice that the drumbeats of his dream were indeed still booming deep in the woods beyond the village fires. He sat up then, his heart thudding its own thunderous pace.

“A prisoner,” Ita said, shifting her branch so that she might turn toward the door. “The drums speak of a prisoner. They’re bringing him even now.” She flashed a smile down at him, though it was so tense with anxiety it could hardly be counted a smile at all. “Gaho, your name!”

The boy was up and out of his bed in a moment, reaching for a tunic and belt. His sister hobbled back along the wall but did not leave, though he wished she would. He wished she would allow him these few moments before the drums arrived in the village. The drums that beat of one man’s death . . . and one man’s birth.

His name was Gaho. But by the coming of dawn, if the drums’ promise was true, he would be born again in blood and bear a new name.

Hands shaking with what he desperately hoped wasn’t fear, he tightened his belt and searched the room for his sickle blade. He saw the bone handle, white in the moonlight, protruding from beneath his bed pile, and swiftly took it up. The bronze gleamed dully, like the carnivorous tooth of an ancient beast.

A shudder ran through his sister’s body. Gaho, sensing her distress, turned to her. She grasped her supporting branch hard, and the smile was gone from her face. “Gaho,” she said, “will you do it?”

“I will,” said Gaho, his voice strong with mounting excitement.

But Ita reached out to him suddenly, catching his weapon hand just above the wrist. “I will lose you,” she said. “My brother . . . I will lose you!”

“You will not. You will lose only Gaho,” said the boy, shaking her off, gently, for she was not strong. Without another word, he ducked through the door of his small hut—one he had built for himself but a year before in anticipation of his coming manhood—and stood in the darkness of Rannul Village, eyes instinctively turning to the few campfires burning. The drums were very near now, and he could see the shadows of waking villagers moving about the fires, building up the flames in preparation for what must surely follow. He felt eyes he could not see turning to his hut, turning to him. He felt the question each pair of eyes asked in silent curiosity: Will it be tonight?

Tonight or no night.

Grasping the hilt of his weapon with both hands, Gaho strode to the dusty village center, which was beaten down into hard, packed earth from years of meetings and matches of strength held in this same spot. Tall pillars of aged wood ringed this circle, and women hastened to these, bearing torches which they fit into hollowed-out slots in each pillar. Soon the village center was bright as noonday, but with harsh red light appropriate for coming events.

Gaho stood in the center of that light, his heart ramming in his throat though his face was a stoic mask. All the waking village was gathered now, men, women, and children, standing just beyond the circle, watching him.

The drums came up from the river, pounding in time to the tramp of warriors’ feet. Then the warriors themselves were illuminated by the ringing torches, their faces anointed in blood, their heads helmed with bone and bronze, their shoulders covered in hides of bear, wolf, and boar. Ten men carried tight skin drums, beating them with their fists. They entered the center first, standing each beneath one of the ringing pillars. Other warriors followed them, filling in the gaps between.

Then the chieftain, mighty Gaher, appeared. He carried his heavy crescent ax in one hand, and Gaho saw that blood stained its edge—indeed, blood spattered the blade from tip to hilt and covered the whole of the chieftain’s fist. Gaher strode into the circle, and the boy saw more blood in his beard. But he also saw the bright, wolfish smile and knew for certain that his sister had been correct. The night of naming had come.

“My son,” said the chief, saluting Gaho with upraised weapon.

“My father,” said Gaho, raising his sickle blade in return.

 “Are you ready this night to die and live again?” asked the chief. His voice carried through the shadows, and every one of the tribe heard it, and any and all listening beasts of forests and fields surrounding. “Are you ready this night for the spilling of blood that must flow before life may begin?”

Gaho drew a deep breath, putting all the strength of his spirit into his answer. “I am ready, Father.”

Gaher’s smile grew, the torchlight flashing red upon his sharpened canines. He turned then and motioned to the darkness beyond the torchlight.

The sacrifice was brought forward.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

On the Topic of Heroes

Thanks to Hannah's illuminating discussion of heroes, I've been thinking about them quite a bit lately.  What makes a hero?  It is a vast question; many answers and examples spring to mind.  Ideally, a hero displays selflessness, humility, and spirit-- but are these absolutely necessary?  Think of Hercules.  Classic literature offers him as an example of heroism, but he had a string of extramarital lovers that Disney chose to gloss over.

The possibility of becoming a dramatic classic hero-- noble, mighty, not completely choosy in whom you slay-- has waned since the age of fable, possibly due to lack of opportunity.  In America, at least, there are few damsels to save, few enemies with whom to personally engage in conflict.  Are there still heroes?  Of course there are.  But they are of a new, different, subtler variety.  They are harder to see if you don't know where you're looking.

Wikipedia offers a definition:

"A hero or heroine refers to characters who, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, display courage and/or the will for self-sacrifice-- that is, heroism-- for some greater good of all humanity."

In short, although heroes come in many different forms, they all share one trait: courage.  With that in mind, I perused literature and picked my favorite ten heroes, presented in order of publication.

The first hero is Janner Igiby from Andrew Peterson's "The Warden and the Wolf King" (2014).  The crux of Janner's heroism comes from his unique occupation, which I won't tell for fear of spoilers.  This occupation, the humility it imposes, and how it affects Janner's relationships with his siblings provides much of the tension in this series.  I have never before seen in literature what Peterson does to this poor character, and only rarely have I encountered the grace and wisdom with which Janner reacts.

The second hero is Dame Imraldera from Anne Elisabeth Stengl's "Starflower" (2012).  Starflower suffers from a singular handicap in a strange new world: she has no voice, both metaphorically and literally.  Because of this, her loving nature shines through her powerful actions.  When faced with impossibilities, she shows the strength and faith necessary to continue her life, even if it means letting go of everything she knew before.  She embodies the ability to love those you should hate.

The third hero is St. Thomas More from Robert Bolt's "A Man for All Seasons" (1960).  Admittedly, St. Thomas More isn't a fictional character; he actually was Lord Chancellor to King Henry VIII of Great Britain in the 1500s.  When Henry VIII failed to gain the Pope's approval for his divorce and subsequent remarriage, he demanded his Lord Chancellor's blessing.  And, despite his status, despite his friendship with the king, St. Thomas More remained silent-- and was martyred for his refusal to condone what he believed to be morally wrong.

The fourth hero is Bilbo Baggins from J. R. R. Tokien's "The Hobbit" (1937).  Bilbo is not generally considered a hero.  At first he appears to be a comic figure, dragged from his comfortable hobbit hole into the deadly throes of an adventure, lamenting the utter lack of pocket handkerchiefs.  But as his journey continues, his love of adventure and the unknown grows.  He possesses a sense of wonder so often lacking in heroes.

The fifth hero is Eponine Thenardier from Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables" (1862)-- NOT the musical.  I had a difficult time selecting only one hero from a book crowded with so many-- Jean Valjean, the Bishop, and Fantine, to name a few-- but Eponine stands out the most strongly to me.  Fallen from her comfortable lifestyle, prematurely aged by circumstance, and deeply in love, Eponine should be bitter and vengeful when darling Cosette sweeps in to gain her beloved's affection.  But she is not.  Rather, her love is so pure that she refuses to leave her beloved when revolution grips the streets of Paris, even though she understands he cannot give her more than a friend's love.  Her selflessness and bravery elevate her to my single favorite heroine in fiction.

The sixth hero is Sydney Carton from Charles Dickens's "A Tale of Two Cities" (1859).  At first glance, Sydney Carton appears to be an utter scoundrel: cynical, alcoholic, sloppy.  His brilliant gift for law allows him to save Charles Darnay, a gentleman with whom he bears a striking resemblance, whose fate will be linked with Sydney's through the bloody days of the French Revolution.  His final lines in the novel are among my favorite in literature:

"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."

The seventh hero is the First Servant from William Shakespeare's "King Lear" (1605).  This is not a very well known role.  It is, in fact, only an excuse to have someone carry a bench onstage, but evidently Shakespeare loathed this trope as much as I do.  The First Servant is present, in fact, for only one scene and speaks a bare eleven lines before his denouement.  When the wretched Regan threatens harm to his master, Gloucester, he cries out,

Nay, then, come on, and take the chance of anger! (King Lear, 3.7.79-80)

Then he, the nameless servant, duels his master to the death.  But as for whose death... well, you'll have to read or see "King Lear" to find out.

The eighth hero is Sir Gawain from the anonymous poem, "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" (1390).  He is King Arthur's nephew and a prominent knight of his court.  When a sinister stranger threatens the king with decapitation, Sir Gawain agrees to take the blow in place of his king.  Through his chivalry and chastity as well as his flaws, he establishes himself as a central figure of the Round Table.

The ninth hero is Janet, sometimes called Margaret, from the anonymous folktale, "The Ballad of Tam Lin" (date unknown).  Janet only narrowly made it onto this list when I wished to expand the number of heroines.  She is a woman of... questionable morality.  In the ballad, she finds herself pregnant and unmarried, although it is unclear if this is from poor decisions or unfortunate circumstance.  I believe Janet is qualified as a heroine because of the time in which this ballad was composed and told.  Women were considered the weaker sex, and it was truly rare to see a determined, strong-willed woman control her own fate in classical literature.

The final hero is Hector from Homer's "The Illiad" (approximately 800 BC).  Although on the losing side of the Trojan War, Hector epitomizes everything a classical hero should be: he is the crown prince of Troy and a mighty warrior (he slayed 31,00 Greeks in battle!), but he possesses a humility and perspective rare in heroes.

"Jove," he cried, "grant that this my child may be even as myself, chief among the Trojans; let him be not less excellent in strength, and let him rule Ilius with his might. Then may one say of him as he comes from battle, 'The son is far better than the father.' May he bring back the blood-stained spoils of him whom he has laid low, and let his mother's heart be glad."  ("The Illiad," Book VI)

This may seem a somewhat gruesome blessing, but I assure you it was quite emotional in context.

These ten form the pantheon of heroes for me: two princes, two noblemen and women, two knights, one homebody, one urchin, one lawyer, and one servant.  They may come from different backgrounds, means, and purposes, but they all mean the same thing to me: selfless, sacrificial courage.

I tag Hannah from the Writer's Window, Ghosty from Anything, Everything, Sarah from Dreams and Dragons, Grace at Fictionally, Emma at Peppermint and Prose, Gillian at Of Battles, Dragons, and Swords of Adamant, and Candice at O Ye Scribes to name their favorite ten heroes!  And as for you, dear readers... who do you consider a hero?
 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Back to Work...

Subtitled: A Requiem for Winter Break

To any person involved in education, winter break stands out as a shining beacon of freedom and laziness.  It summons up images of reading by the fire, blinking eyelashes dusted with snowflakes, smiling down on glossy packages arranged under an evergreen tree.

It is very hard to admit that it is over.  And it is harder still to admit that, at times, it feels like it never happened at all.

I had an untraditional Christmas this year.  Typically, we celebrate in the usual fashion, then drive down to spend New Year's with my lovely aunt and uncle in Alabama.  This year, though, my gorgeous sister had a photo-shoot in late December, which soundly interrupted our plans.  The dates were juggled around, and finally we settled on a somewhat unconventional traveling date: December 25.

So we wrapped up Christmas a day early.  We began and ended on Christmas Eve and spent the day itself desperately searching for open restaurants.

I don't mean to sound self-pitying, and I don't mean to make out my parents as heartless Grinches who ruined Christmas.  That is far from the truth.  I had a lovely holiday season, and I feel so blessed to be able to spend so much time with my family.

We now stand on the business-side of the semester.  A solid four months of work bar us from fleeting, tantalizing glimpses of summer.  And I intend to get an awful lot done between now and then.

Remember how I needed help finding a title for a short story?  Thanks to your cunning suggestions, dear readers, the short story turned out rather better than planned.  So much better, in fact, that certain exciting events have come into motion that will likely merit another post in the near future.  But I shan't say more on that until it comes!

Another desperately important event looms in February.  No, it's not Valentine's Day, nor Presidents' Day.  It is my birthday.  And to properly celebrate, we'll be diving into something near and dear to my heart: classic books!  We'll take a tour through my top ten favorite classics (like we did last year for books in general), and the ten-day festivities will conclude with a giveaway of a book of your choice from the list!

And because it's only January 5, I'll conclude with a few New Year's Resolutions:

1. Run every day

(As of January 4, I have succeeded!)

2. Finish to-read pile

(My to-read pile is a crate in my bedroom filled with a hundred-odd books that I own but haven't read yet.)

3. Do not buy any more books!

(As of January 2, I have failed.)

How about you, readers?  Any New Year's Resolutions?