Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Golden Braid: A Book Review

Today I am reviewing The Golden Braid by Melanie Dickerson.

About: The one who needs rescuing isn’t always the one in the tower.
Rapunzel can throw a knife better than any man. She paints beautiful flowering vines on the walls of her plaster houses. She sings so sweetly she can coax even a beast to sleep. But there are two things she is afraid her mother might never allow her to do: learn to read and marry.
Fiercely devoted to Rapunzel, her mother is suspicious of every man who so much as looks at her daughter and warns her that no man can be trusted. After a young village farmer asks for Rapunzel’s hand in marriage, Mother decides to move them once again—this time, to the large city of Hagenheim.
The journey proves treacherous, and after being rescued by a knight—Sir Gerek—Rapunzel in turn rescues him farther down the road. As a result, Sir Gerek agrees to repay his debt to Rapunzel by teaching her to read. Could there be more to this knight than his arrogance and desire to marry for riches and position?
As Rapunzel acclimates to life in a new city, she uncovers a mystery that will forever change her life. In this Rapunzel story unlike any other, a world of secrets and treachery is about to be revealed after seventeen years of lies. How will Rapunzel finally take control of her own destiny? And who will prove faithful to a lowly peasant girl with no one to turn to?

*****
 I'm a big fan of retellings. I've even written some myself. I'm also a huge fan of medieval settings, don't ask me why. Many of my story ideas live in medieval fantasy world. I read my first Melanie Dickerson book back around 2012 when I used money I won in a writing contest to buy some books I'd grown interested in. Since then I have had the pleasure of reading several of her written works, each seeming better than the one before (though I will always have a special place in my heart for The Captive Maiden.) As one of her releases this past year, The Golden Braid does not disappoint. 

 Rapunzel isn't the most common story you see retold. In fact, I never saw another version of it until the Disney film came out. After that, I did find one story based off of it. Dickerson does something unique with her retellings by placing them in historical medieval settings, making you wonder if they actually could have happened. This makes for a very interesting Rapunzel retelling as Rapunzel is not a story you would think of happening in real life. Dickerson writes it easily, seamlessly connecting it to other stories in her writing collection in a way that will make you want to read the predecessors if you haven't yet. 

 As far as characters go, I found them interesting and I admire the character development. Many of Dickerson's male leads have had a certain gruffness about them and I found Gerek to somewhat fit this category, but he was also a developed character struggling with some mighty heavy things. Rapunzel is a sweet and kind maiden, but she also faces her own problems including fear of men. As I mentioned in the first sentence, I really enjoyed the way Dickerson developed these characters from their initial traits of fear or even selfishness into something new and beautiful. 

 The plot was exciting and made me wonder just what might come next. I guessed a few things about it, partially due to another reader's excitement, but it did not ruin the story for me or the way my eyes teared up in a tender moment. Just when you think the characters are going to relax and take a break, a chapter or two goes by and something else exciting happens. I believe this story coincides with The Princess Spy, a story I haven't read yet, (sadly--its on my reading list!) so I would recommend reading that book first as there are some plot  points in The Golden Braid that might spoil it for you. 

 Overall, I enjoyed this story and am happy to add it to my Melanie Dickerson and fairytale retelling collection. 

Have you read anything by Melanie Dickerson?

~ a rambling author

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Paper Crowns: Book Spotlight

 My friend Mirriam Neal has a new book out, Paper Crowns. Here is some more information on this fascinating sounding story.

Synopsis:

 Ginger has lived in seclusion, with only her aunt Malgarel and her blue cat, Halcyon, to keep her company. Her sheltered, idyllic life is turned upside-down when her home is attacked by messengers from the world of fae. Accompanied by Halcyon (who may or may not be more than just a cat), an irascible wysling named Azrael, and a loyal fire elemental named Salazar, Ginger ventures into the world of fae to bring a ruthless Queen to justice.

Sounds compelling, right? If you'd like to check it further, take a look at some of these links. Maybe you'll find your new favorite author.






And to finish off, here is a bit about the amazing Mirriam herself. 
                                                                             
  Mirriam Neal is a twenty-two-year-old Northwestern hipster living in Atlanta. She writes hard-to-describe books in hard-to-describe genres, and illustrates things whenever she finds the time.  She aspires to live as faithfully and creatively as she can and she hopes you do, too.

Blog: https://mirriamneal.com/

Email: the-shieldmaiden@hotmail.com

I hope you enjoyed this book spotlight and will take a look into the further career of this talented author. 


Friday, May 13, 2016

The Heir War: Book Review

  Hey, everyone! Thanks to an atrocious school semester I've been M.I.A for a bit. Now I've returned so expect to see many posts and reviews this summer! We're going to start with the second part of King's Folly...The Heir War. This is written by the talented Jill Williamson and I was able to read the story in exchange for my review. 

 Now, The Heir War is being released exclusively as an ebook to be followed by The End of All Things, however, King's Folly contains all three parts into one print tome which I will be reviewing later.              

Synopsis: With Prince Wilek still searching Armania for a murderer, his brother Prince Trevn finds himself pulled deeper into the dangerous politics of who will be Heir. Trevn, though, is far more interested in his studies with a local priest and the attentions of a young honor maiden.

The book that he has been copying during his lessons is not the book that teaches of the god of the soil. Instead, it teaches of a one true God. If accurate, then it means there is no soil god to satiate. There is nothing they can do to save their world, and all of King Echad's sacrifices have been futile.                               

I love the detail Williamson puts into her world.  The Five Realms of this story are so unique and interesting. At one point, a prophecy is used by several different groups all relating to the same thing. That is only one example. The Heir War takes us even further into the realms and into new places. We are introduced more to Inolah and the kingdom of Rurikar where she is the misused queen.  We also meet Qoatch, a eunuch, and several other important players.

 Many plot points are opened and expounded upon in this second part. To me, the second part is often my favorite and I find that to be somewhat true in this case as well. The story continues to grow and the characters learn and change. Trevn is still one of my favorites and his character change has started more noticeably. I still love several of the characters.

 Overall, this second installment is pretty wonderful and you should check it out! I will be reviewing the third installment and the entire book very soon.

A rambling author

                                                                 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Darkness Reigns Release and Review!

  Hello, everyone. Today is the release day of Darkness Reigns by Jill Williamson. I've had the great pleasure of being part of the launch team of this endeavor and I'm so excited to share more about this new series with you. The best part? Right now you can get the Darkness Reigns ebook free!


 I would like to share my review with you, but first... here is the cover and description.





The god of the soil is furious. Volcanic eruptions, sinkholes, earthquakes--everything points to his unhappiness. At least this is what the people of Armania in the Five Realms believe. Amidst the unsettling state of the world around them, the princes of Armania live their lives focused more on who will claim the throne after their sickly father, King Echad, dies. That is until Prince Wilek's concubine turns up dead--beside her, a bloodied message that seems to have come from the mother realms. 








 This book is actually the first part of the book King's Folly that will be released in 2016. Darkness Reigns can only be found in ebook format and King's Folly will only be sold as a physical copy. No matter what way the story is sold, it is party of a larger series called The Kinsman Chronicles, which is a sort of prequel to Jill's fantastic Blood of Kings series. 

  I wasn't sure about my feelings after I finished this first installment. The writing was gripping, pulling me into the characters lives after I got over the initial confusion of who was who with the large cast. No, it wasn't the writing I had a problem with. Something else nagged at me even as I devoured every word. 

 It was the darkness. Maybe what they call "thematic elements" on movie warnings. And yeah, this story gets pretty dark. The death, human sacrifice, destructions, and concubines are dark enough, but the really weird thing that bothered me? Some of the characters basically communicate with demons. 

  This bothered me. It was never explicitly said that they were what we think of as demons, but the fact that it wasn't presented as so bothered me a litte.

But here's the thing. This story may be dark, but it is real. It was partly inspired by the kings of the Old Testament. People used to commit human sacrifice, have multiple wives and concubines, and yes... communicate with spirits. These things aren't being presented as right in this story, but they are presented as a darkness. This darkness is so strong that it affects all of the characters. 

 Why is the darkness necessary? Because soon a great light will appear and I'm sure evil will be vanquished. This series actually has so much symbolism to it and is a fantastic read. 

 I really liked the characters, some more than others, but all of them I enjoyed reading about. 


Once again Jill Williamson has riveted me with the first installment in her first adult fantasy series.  

I hope you will take this incredible opportunity to get the book free on kindle or itunes. Here is the link to the kindle version. 

 Tonight at 6 PM Pacific Time there is going to be a facebook party here. You're going to love it and there will be giveaways, so come learn more about it!


About the author: Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms and the award-winning author of several speculative fiction novels including By Darkness Hid, Replication, The New Recruit, and Captives. She got into writing one day when someone was complaining about teen books and she thought, “I could do that! How hard could it be?” Very, she soon learned. But she worked hard, and four years later, her first book, By Darkness Hid, was published and won several awards. Jill is a Whovian, a Photoshop addict, and a recovering fashion design assistant, who was raised in Alaska. She loves teaching about writing, which she does weekly at www.GoTeenWriters.com. She lives in Oregon with her husband, two children, and a whole lot of deer.

~ a rambling author

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The New Colored Pencil: A Book Review

 Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I have so many things to be thankful for. I'm thankful to have my family that I love so much, my friends, and my writing and theater. God has blessed me innumerably. This Thanksgiving is a bit stranger because my beautiful Mammaw just passed away, but we are also thankful that she is in Heaven rejoicing with the Savior that she loved so much. 

 I have so many books to review, so I hope you guys are interested in learning about some neat books. Today's book is The New Colored Pencil by Kristy Ann Kutch. I received this book in exchange for my honest review. This book is a bit different than the ones I have reviewed so far, a fact that will soon be apparent. 

Description: 
Start coloring, relieve stress, and learn to create radiant, original works of art using colored pencils, wax pastels, and watercolor pencils.

Add vibrancy to your coloring creations with instruction from best-selling author and teacher Kristy Kutch as she guides you through recommendations for the newest colored pencil brands, best drawing surfaces, and groundbreaking techniques.

Including easy step-by-step demonstrations and inspiring art from today’s best colored pencil artists,The New Colored Pencil shows you how to use color theory to your advantage, combine color media, create and enhance textures, and experiment with surfaces to create phenomenal effects. Whether you use traditional wax-based, or watercolor colored pencils, The New Colored Pencil will take your creative art pieces to a whole new level.

 First off, let me note that this book is beautiful. As you can see from the cover, it makes for a perfect review to post on Thanksgiving. Inside the book are lots and lots of gorgeous illustrations, most of them created by talented author, Kristy Ann Kutch. You could just have the book to look at the many lovely pictures inside.

 This book is very detailed. The author lists many different sources for artistic materials, their quality, and about how expensive they usually are. In some cases too much detail can be an annoyance, but for a book like this, I think it fits very well. While the description lead me to think it was a tutorial book, I found it more to be a guide and advice book. There aren't a lot of step-to-step instructions throughout (I didn't quite finish the book before this review, but I have read and looked enough for this review), but there are some that seem like step-to-step and you could follow along with. I think this is more of a detailed resource that you can use for advice about supplies, technique, and many other aspects of colored pencil drawing. 

I'm really happy to have this book as part of my growing creative books collection. Learning more about the art of coloring with pencils is something I am sure I will be able to put to good use. If you're an art enthusiast and want to learn more about colored pencils, whether you are experienced or a newbie, I'm sure you can use this book. I certainly have enjoyed having it. 

~ a rambling author

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Submarines, Secrets and a Daring Rescue: a Book Review

So NaNo was a bit of a bust. I had good reasons for it, though, and I got some stuff written anyway. Instead of telling you why I decided to abandon NaNo for this year, I want to present you with a review! Submarines, Secrets and a Daring Rescue by Robert J. Skead with Robert A. Skead. I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review. 


Synopsis:  

In this second book in the American Revolutionary War Adventure series, Submarines, Secrets, and a Daring Rescue, twins Ambrose and John Clark find themselves volunteering for another mission to help the newly forming United States. Inspired by their success in delivering a secret message to General George Washington himself, the boys step up to help transport much-needed gunpowder to the patriots and end up in an even more dangerous situation, trying to man one of the first submarines and then, later, attempting a prison break to rescue one of their older brothers.

Follow these brave young patriots as they follow in their father’s footsteps and rely on each other, their considerable courage, and God’s providence for guidance and strength.
~

 You may remember me reviewing the first book in this series back in April. I was curious to see what might happen to the Clark twins after their initial espionage filled adventure, so I quickly volunteered to read this second installment. I did not read it as quickly as the first, but that was due to college and whatnot, not the book's content.

 The characters in the story were much the same as the first. I did enjoy how the point of view of the story shifted to be from Ambrose instead of John, like the first book. Seeing through Ambrose's eyes was quite a bit different and at times I missed the level headed John, but for the most part I enjoyed the usual mischievous twin learning to be a man. I enjoyed the inclusion of their older brother, Berty, and several historical characters.

 I liked the story line well enough, but probably not quite as much as the first book. Still, it was interesting and kept a pretty good pace. I always enjoy reading fictionalized retellings of historical events. According to some information in the back, some of the events in the story were a bit inflated and didn't really happen, but were based on historical events. I was a bit disappointed to know that the submarine pictured on the cover was never actually used in a successful mission. Anyway, the plot was good for the grade level and kept me engaged.

 Overall, a good work of fiction, especially if you're a young person. This book is middle grade, but can be enjoyed by anyone if you want a light, quick read. I enjoyed it and am looking forward to future books in the series. Buy it here.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

NaNo and Sea Monsters

 It's been forever.

 Why? Because I'm wallowing in the uncertain depths of great struggle and have been trying to keep my head above the waves-- also known as college.

 Because I'm insane, however, I've decided to try to take part in NaNo this year. The last time I partook in the actual NaNoWriMo was 2013. That was before the college monster sucked me into its dark and perilous depths.

Source
 Okay. College isn't really a sea monster, but it tends to get close sometimes. With all the homework, time spent in class, and sleeping (at home) sometimes I just feel like relaxing after class (or sleeping) which means not a lot of writing happens. Shame on me. To remedy this abhorrent practice of not writing enough, I'm going to participate in NaNo.

Also, I'm going to try something new. I've added a notebook to my collection of text books and school supplies in my backpack. When I'm at school and have a chance, I'm going to try to break out that notebook for just a bit and jot down whatever I want to that is writing related. If I need to write a blog post, I'll jot one down. If I need to write pieces of a novel? You got it. We'll see how this strategy works in the upcoming insanity.

 As for NaNo...

Source

...to defeat NaNo!!!! Or to try, at least. I've decided to revisit my old friend, Up the Scarlet Staircase, for this one. If you've somehow been following me this long than you might remember it from back in 2013. If not, here is an old post about that story. Of course things will change now, most likely. But change is good.

 So there you have it! I'll update you on the craziness soon. What about you? What are you planning to do, if anything, for the great NaNoWriMo?


~ a rambling author