Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Bibliophile Sweater Tag

GUYS. I haven't done a tag in an eon or three, and while I'm pretty sure I've got a few stockpiled somewhere, the lovely Mary Horton @ Sunshine and Scribblings just created a tag of her own . . . and tagged me with it! It's all about books and sweaters, which are two of my favorite things. So I had to jump in on it now, while it's still sweater weather!*
*Yes, Canada is preparing for another six months of sweater weather. Don't laugh.

Rules:

  • Give the person who tagged you a never-ending supply of cookies (or just thank them - either works) [Mary, your lifetime supply of gingersnaps is in the mail!]
  • Answer all the questions and use the blog graphic for this tag somewhere in your post
  • Pass along the tag to at least five other people [Read on till the end, my curious questers.]
  • Wear a sweater (okay, this is optional...but why wouldn't you want to??) [I would love to wear a sweater, but today was unseasonably warm--it's a t-shirt for me!]
Before we get going, two teensy tiny announcements:
  1. I'm on Instagram! I'm painfully new at it, but I've been participating in #drachtober over there, which is super fun, and I'd love for you to pop by and say hello. Also my social media icons are now conveniently on the blog's sidebar for your clicking convenience.
  2. I've got an email address! Okay, yes, I've always had an email address (I don't live under that big of a rock), but now I have one I'm sharing publicly. So if you have thoughts about the existence of ladybugs or questions about how to tame the fiery rage of the nearest bookdragon, you can shoot me an email at traceydyckauthor[at]gmail.com.
All right, now let's hop right to it, shall we?

lovely graphic by the lovely Mary Horton

Fuzzy sweater (a book that is the epitome of comfort)


The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis // Yes, this counts, because my copy is the whole series in one volume! I reread it for the first time in forever about a year and a half ago, and I can't tell you how many times I've missed Narnia since then. The familiar adventures, the delightful prose, the deep-yet-simple themes, all the nostalgia . . . I seriously need more time so I can reread more often.

Striped sweater (book which you devoured every line of)


Reaper Reborn by Bryan Davis // I HAVE TO PICK JUST ONE? I feel like I'm betraying so many other riveting reads. Why do you do this to me? But okay. Fine. I'll play along and go with what I'm currently reading. It is intense. Bad stuff is happening, people, and I'm not sure how Phoenix and his mates are going to fix everything in the last 50% of the book. I am definitely devouring every line!

Ugly Christmas sweater (book with a weird cover)

The Dark City by Catherine Fisher // I had to search through my Goodreads list for a while to find this. (Apparently I read a lot of attractive books.) That face/mask thingy is just . . . creepy. And I honestly remember next to nothing about this book. Either it was rather bland, or so terrible I blocked it out of my memory.


Cashmere sweater (most expensive book you've bought)


The Royal Ranger by John Flanagan // I don't actually know which is the most expensive book I've bought. #bookdragonfail But this is one of those monstrously priced hardcovers--well, fine, it was $20. So not awful. But not cheap either. BUT PRICE ASIDE, I'm picking this one because I don't talk about the Ranger's Apprentice series enough around here, considering how much I love it! I know some people complain that this 12th book ruined the series ending, but I actually enjoyed seeing Will all grown up and training a new Ranger. Bittersweet.

Hoodie (favorite classic book)

sadly, I don't own it. but I would love
this version!

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie // Since I already picked Chronicles of Narnia for the Fuzzy Sweater, I'll pick one of the next best classics: Peter Pan. I was supremely late to that party, seeing as I read it for the first time last year. But I'm hooked! (Ha. Terrible pun intended.) It's so whimsical and arbitrary in a childlike way, and I adore it.

Cardigan (book that you bought on impulse)


Siren's Song by Mary Weber // I promise you I was shopping for someone else at the bookstore. Yet somehow I walked out with a book for myself? How did that happen? I'm not sure if this was a true impulse buy, because I've been meaning to buy it ever since finishing Storm Siren earlier this year. But obviously I bought this book so fast, I didn't realize this is BOOK 3. AND I DON'T YET OWN BOOK 2. OOPS.

Turtleneck sweater (book from your childhood)


The Black and White Rainbow by John Trent // I'm going waaaay back to my early childhood here. This was one of my absolute favorite picture books, a story about MooseBerry Mouse and his friends trying to restore color to their black and white world. (I specifically remember my parents giving Monty the Mole a funny voice when he talked with his mouth full.) And the illustrations--my word, they are gorgeous.

Homemade knitted sweater (book that is Indie-published)


Prodigy Prince by Natasha Sapienza // My reading diet is a little sparse in this category, unfortunately! But I've got one very intriguing indie book waiting for me right now. It's high fantasy and involves a banished villain, six gifted youths, and a second-in-line prince. Sounds like my cup of tea!

V-neck sweater (book that did not meet your expectations)


The Realms Thereunder by Ross Lawhead // I thought I would love this one--goodness, I wanted to love it--but unfortunately, the great cover and the fact that Ross Lawhead is Stephen R. Lawhead's son didn't translate to a five star book for me. The concept was pretty cool, though, and I will eventually read the sequel. It's just not . . . on the top of my TBR pile right now.

Argyle sweater (book with a unique format)


Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke // It contains copious footnotes. Does that count? It's also a faint-inducing one thousand pages or so--that definitely counts, right?! But despite its density, I loved it to pieces. Like I mentioned, I don't do enough rereading, but this is absolutely going to be something I return to one day. I keep eyeing it on my shelf, promising, "One day . . . one day."

Polka dot sweater (a book with well-rounded characters)


The Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater // Again, there are so many books I could highlight here! But this was one of the first to come to mind. Despite my quibbles with the Raven Cycle, the deft characterization is my favorite part. Every gesture, every description, is artfully nuanced and painfully real. I'm kind of in love with Steifvater's prose, especially as it relates to characters.

Well, that was super cozy and fun, and now I want to go read allll the things! Thanks again, Mary! You are a tag genius. And now I get to pass that genius along to five other bloggers.


(because all my siblings are bibliophiles and bloggers too!)
Emily @ Stranger Worlds (formerly known as Ink, Inc.)
+ anyone who's wearing a sweater and wants to grab this tag!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Book Review: Five Magic Spindles

Goodreads // Amazon


When Rooglewood Press published a collection of Cinderella retellings a few years ago, Five Glass Slippers, I snatched it up. To my delight, the creative spins on a tale that's been told hundreds of times blew me away.


And when the next collection of Beauty and the Beast retellings, Five Enchanted Roses, came out, I was even more delighted! It was clear that all these writers deserved to win the contests Rooglewood was hosting; these were talented, creative individuals, all with their own distinctive approach.


Well, I'm happy to report that the third collection, Five Magic Spindles, is just as wonderful as its predecessors! In fact, it might be the most unique set of retellings yet.




The Man on the Buckskin Horse // Rachel Kovaciny


When I first heard that one of the stories was a Western, I was . . . well, skeptical. I don't read Western books or watch Western movies all that often. I'm a fantasy nerd at heart!


But within the first chapter, Rachel Kovaciny had me hooked with her dry humor and the no-nonsense midwife Emma Thornberry. I didn't think it was possible to plunk Sleeping Beauty into a log cabin, toss in a farmer and a gunslinger, and come out with anything remotely like the original fairy tale. But she did it!

"The closer I get to fifty, the rarer sensible folks become."


Favorite Things:
  • Emma. She's practical and blunt and hilarious. Why don't we have more books from middle-aged perspectives?
  • Snark!
  • Palmer, the swoon-worthy gunman, has a deep backstory packed into just a few pages.
  • I felt like all the characters had a history--their own stories, their relationships with each other, everything.
  • It was such fun picking out all the Sleeping Beauty elements in this wildly different setting. I won't spoil anything for you, but it was definitely creative!
  • The heartwarming ending.


Not-so-favorite Things:
  • I must have missed a detail, because I thought Palmer was about 20 years older than he actually was, right up until the end. Oops.


I thoroughly enjoyed this one, and flew right through it. 4.5 stars!




Guardian of Our Beauty // Kathryn McConaughy



I remember when Anne Elisabeth Stengl (the lovely author who runs Rooglewood) shared a collection of first lines from a bunch of writers entering the Five Magic Spindles contests. And I still remember how Kathryn McConaughy's first line about a king drowning in daughters jumped out at me. That same amusing, old fairy tale style is all over her story!


This is possibly the most exotic tale of the collection. Despite being written in a slightly more distant manner, I was fully immersed in the Middle Eastern-inspired setting and its almost mythological flavor.


Palli did not know how she could save anyone. But if all she had to was sleep--well, she could do that! She slept every night. When her other small sisters wondered why Palli went so willingly to bed, Palli only blinked at them and said, "It is good practice."


Favorite Things:
  • Palli, the Sleeping Beauty character, was so sweet and altruistic.
  • All the cool creatures! They were what gave the story a mythical slant. At first, they seemed random, but I should've known better--they all became important later on.
  • The setting. It felt like there was a whole world to explore.
  • Political happenings that were realistic, not ideal, but still not dry at all.
  • Neriya, the prince: oh my goodness, he's a sweetheart too! So brave and endearing.
  • The God Who Answers. I shan't say more. It's best to read it for yourself.


Not-so-favorite Things:
  • At times, like when I thought the inclusion of the creatures was random, it felt like the story meandered. But in the end, it did tie together, so this isn't completely a negative!


This was another pleasant surprise! A solid 4 stars.




The Ghost of Briardale // Grace Mullins



I think I was most excited by this middle story when I first read the blurb. I mean, it takes place in an insane asylum! Forgive me, but I have an odd fascination with both crazy characters--both the creepy psychopathic kind and the lovable/gruff/off the rocker kind.


And while there wasn't a lot of those kinds of craziness going on, the delightfully convoluted plot was more than enough to keep me engaged! There's a ghost, a dwarf who can't turn invisible, a miniature prince turned human-sized, a Slavering Swamp Beast, and buckets of enchantment. There's gloomy dungeons, locked towers, and a courtyard full of statues. Doesn't that sound fun?


Never before in his life had Franz wished this much to throttle anyone, but there were important reasons why he couldn't. First, she was a girl, and he would never hit a girl even if she were as annoying as this translucent green creature.

The second reason was that he was helplessly strapped, so, even if she'd been some sort of brute, the only harmful thing he could do was glare.


Favorite Things
  • Franz. Dear, dear Franz! He's exactly the kind of unlikely hero that I love to cheer for! As a banker's clerk wrongly committed to the asylum, he tries so very hard to be the True Hero everyone is looking for. He's not strong enough to slay a dragon, he's never saved anyone, and the only thing he has going for him is a big heart.
  • While Franz was the kind of hero I love to cheer for, Mara was the kind of antagonist I love to hate.
  • Roselee, the green ghost, was adorable.
  • The fairies were trapped in the forms of a squirrel, a chicken, and a lizard. (Yep. You read that right.)
  • Lots of banter.
  • All the magic! It was so layered and complex, with each chapter revealing more and more of the enchantment. I was kept guessing the whole time.
  • A certain subplot I won't name was really sweet.
  • A satisfying ending.


Not-so-favorite Things
  • Not much to say here, except for the very minor disappointment of not including crazy people in the way I expected.


All in all, this was a complete pleasure to read. Props to Grace Mullins for her twisty plot and lovable characters! 5 stars!




Spindle Cursed // Michelle Pennington



Before I knew that all these stories were actually amazing, the presence of a good ol' high fantasy amongst the less-traditional genres was a relief. Spindle Cursed guaranteed at least one story I'd love. And, though all the other stories proved to be far better than I foresaw, I was right about this one--I did love it! It follows the original tale a bit more closely than all the others, but still stands apart in its fleshed-out storyworld and vibrant characters.


The story primarily follows Prince Edmond, a rather dashing, serious, down-to-earth character who completely stole my heart. But all the others were fantastic too! Aaaand this is the only story to include an honest-to-goodness dragon. Instant brownie points right there.


"Martin, I am a fool," Edmond called.

Reining in his horse, Martin turned his craggy face to look back in surprise. As Edmond drew even with him, Martin inquired, "Would Your Highness wish me to agree with you or disagree?"


Favorite Things:
  • DRAGON.
  • Classic fantasy settings that popped off the page rather than settle into dusty clich├ęs.
  • Lona, the fairy who looks after the sleeping princess, lives alone in the thorn-riddled castle and has gone utterly mad. It's wonderful.
  • The rapport between Edmond and Martin reminded me of Sage and Mott from The False Prince at times.
  • Lady Rhoswen is another one of those love-to-hate-them villains!
  • A neat twist on the sleeping curse.
  • Arabella was noble and good-hearted and all around a likeable princess.
  • I absolutely loved how Michelle Pennington dealt with the romance. There was still the magical kiss, but it required a genuine relationship to develop first. It was done really well!


Not-so-favorite Things:
  • At times, some of the action scenes seemed to take a step outside the character's head and became less immersive.


This was a fantastic addition to the collection! It kept a more traditional fairy tale slant, which I loved. 4.5 stars.




Out of the Tomb // Ashley Stangl



Sci-fi is something I haven't read much of either (although there's more of it in my reading diet than there is Westerns), so I wasn't completely sure what to expect. I needn't have worried, because Out of the Tomb was superb! Ashley Stangl thrust me right into a teeming new world full of flora, fauna, and gadgetry I'd never heard of, yet made me feel right at home.


But it was the raw, relatable characters that won me over completely. Tanza, though an alien girl, was a rough-around-the-edges protagonist who wormed her way right into my heart. And her tale flipped Sleeping Beauty upside down, because this time, it's a prince who gets woken!


She turned her back on the spindle and rifled through the boxes of antique medical tools, falling into a quiet rhythm as she searched for anything of value. Most people found tombs eerie, but Tanza luxuriated in the peace.

A man's voice, deep and smooth, flowed through the silence. "I beg your pardon, but are you robbing me?"


Favorite Things:
  • Tanza is bacon-flipping SMART. She robs high-tech tombs for a living and definitely knows how to look after herself.
  • Prince Auren is absolutely adorable. So confused and old-fashioned and struggling to understand the ways of a world one hundred years ahead of him.
  • The concept of virtue names was genius, and it made me love Auren and Tanza even more. I won't explain it, because that's something else you need to read for yourself!
  • Maybe it was just the genre, but somehow I got a few Lunar Chronicles vibes . . .
  • There's so much culture, history, and worldbuilding jam-packed into this novella, and all without resorting to too much telling.
  • Hovercars!
  • Plot twist!
  • The Moon-Cross Festival scene was my favorite thing ever. So precious!


Not-so-favorite Things:
  • Nothing to report here, unless you count my severe distaste for Keffer, Tanza's low-life boss.


I think, surprisingly, this might have been my favorite story in the collection! The ending nearly made me cry, which is difficult to do in less than a hundred pages. I would gladly follow these characters into more adventures. 5 stars!


Overall



A rollicking Western. A world of priests, princes, and flying cats. A castle woven in complex enchantments. A prince brave enough to face a dragon. A sci-fi adventure. Five completely different stories that somehow all paid homage to the original Sleeping Beauty we know and love.


This is a strong collection indeed! Just like the two books before it, there's bound to be something in it for everyone; yet you may be pleasantly surprised by stories you didn't even expect to like. I'm giving Five Magic Spindles a smashing FIVE STARS. This is one book I'll be eager to return to in the future!


If you've read Five Magic Spindles, which was your favorite story? If you haven't, tell me which ones looks most promising! (And then get thee to Amazon and go buy it!)

Saturday, October 7, 2017

What I'm Looking & Listening For

"Give thanks to God no matter what circumstances you find yourself in." (1 Thessalonians 5:18a)



Can I be completely honest with you? Canadian Thanksgiving is coming on Monday, and while I am relieved and grateful for a long weekend . . . today I'm not feeling it. Holidays are supposed to bring warm fuzzy feelings, but sometimes we're just too tired or frazzled or upset or sad to get in the spirit.


I'm not all of those things, although I've had a busy couple of weeks with frustratingly long hours of homework. My creative soul feels stifled. My to-do list doesn't seem to be getting any shorter.


But that's just it--thankfulness is not about feelings. In this social media age where all we see are the highlight reels of people's lives, it's easy to think everyone else is so much happier than we are. Yet neither life nor emotions are static; they're constantly changing like the seasons. And the truth is that if I can find reasons to complain, I can find at least as many reasons to rejoice.


To remind myself, here's a brief list. (Perhaps it will remind you, too, of the good things in life.)


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I have a wonderful, fun, supportive family who loves me.

I have friends checking in on me and praying for me.

I get to walk to school each day, enjoying the crisp air of autumn mornings.

I can still make money at my job despite going to school full-time.

There's a stack of good books on my desk almost two feet high, all waiting to be read.

I've been in college only six weeks, and already I understand how to make an income statement, what factors change supply and demand, how to write memos, how to calculate equivalent payments of compound interest, all kinds of things that Microsoft Word can do, and how business is all about creating value for customers.

I have an amazing church that makes every Sunday morning feel like coming home.

I'm healthy.

I have opportunities every day to laugh.

Great movies are a thing.

So is good music, such as:
Reckless Love by Cory Asbury (a long one, but so, so good)
Deeper by SVRCINA (thanks to Katie Grace for introducing me to this singer)
Clap Your Hands by Owl City (it's about golf? but it's really fun)
Something in the Water by Tim Neufeld (this cover never fails to make me happy)
I Need Thee Every Hour by Anthem Lights (their entire Hymns album is so peaceful)

I haven't run out of things to write about, and after a week of no writing, Snow White is waiting for me to pen the next part of her adventure.

I get to connect with faraway friends through the internet and snail mail.

The sun rises.

Seeing the full moon shining over the harvested fields makes me want to shut my car headlights off and stare for a while.

Watercolor pencils are magical.

So is pumpkin pie.

Dreams aren't out of reach--I'm on my way, and you know, the days of small beginnings are actually exciting when I stop and climb to a new vantage point.

It's sweater weather.

Tea. (What else needs to be said about that?)

The blue jays have returned.

Asking customers at work what their plans are for Thanksgiving transforms mediocre small talk into real conversations and real smiles.

Journaling late at night when my brain is tired and filters are down is relaxing.

God is there. Quietly faithful. The same today as He was yesterday. The same as He will be tomorrow.

***

Sometimes we need to stop, breathe, and consciously think of all the things we have to be grateful for. And to be completely honest with you again--after writing this list, I feel a lot lighter. Happy Thanksgiving!


What are you thankful for today?


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