Monday, December 10, 2018

Book Review: Falling Snow by Skye Hoffert

When I found out that long-time friend and writing pal Skye Hoffert had won a spot in Rooglewood Press's Five Poisoned Apples, I was ecstatic! We've been beta readers for each others' stories a couple times before, and what always struck me about her writing were the characters. Stark. Gritty. Brimming with dangerous life. So to hear that the world would finally get a chance to meet some of them made me squeal with joy!


I was kindly provided an e-book copy of Five Poisoned Apples in exchange for a review of Skye's winning story, Falling Snow.* (Of course, I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own.)


*And once I get my hands on a print copy, stay tuned for a review of the full anthology!


Falling Snow



Snow White at the circus--that was the first thing to grab my attention. And that grungy setting kept me entranced right to the final page. Skye succeeds in painting the two faces of the circus with vibrant brushstrokes, both the glamorous veneer and the dank shadows beneath.


The next thing to hook me in was, of course . . .


The Characters (most of whom are fae!)



Snow: She's not the timid, cutesy thing of the Disney film. This Snow is guarded, capable, and wounded. If you've read the story, you know how much her emotions pop in the wire-walking scene!


Chayse: Easily my favorite character! Fiery abilities, a tortured relationship with his mother, and a tattered/hobo-like appearance make him a unique and lovable romantic interest.


Cynfael: He's everything you expect a fae prince to be, with a healthy helping of snark added to his cunning personality. He and Chayse sort of share the roles of prince and huntsman . . . but I shan't say more. Spoilers, sweetie.


The dwarves: They're a ragtag group of clowns who, in their own gruff way, look after Snow. Goodness knows she needs it.


The queen: She's the sort of villainess I love to hate, and she personifies the circus itself with her glittering mask hiding a heart of rot.


Alilion: He doesn't show up much, but he seems to play a minor role as the mirror. Also detestable, as one might expect.


So what about the plot?



Trust me, if you think you know the tired old "Mirror, mirror, on the wall," set up, you'll get a pleasant surprise here. The classic pieces have been rearranged on the chessboard, with some very clever twists to keep you on your toes.


Plot is my biggest struggle in novellas because it's hard to contain within such a small word limit. But Skye ratchets up the suspense and advances the game so deftly, I nearly forgot I wasn't reading a full novel. Even though I'd read an early draft, my heart was pounding at all the right moments! And there's just enough time before reaching The End to breathe a sigh of relief.


A dark blend of Once Upon a Time and The Greatest Showman, Falling Snow is a riveting start to the Five Poisoned Apples collection! I can't wait to see what Skye writes next.

P.S. In the meantime, go pay Skye a visit at her blog, Ink Castles! She's an artist as well as a writer, so poke around to find her paintings.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Subplots & Storylines - October and November 2018





Questers, it has been A Very Long While since we caught up! How was the tail end of your autumn? Did you stuff yourself with Thanksgiving turkey? Tackle NaNoWriMo? Do you have snow yet??? I do!

My October and November was a long stream of homework interrupted by a few fun things, so I'll spare you the monotonous details and stick to the good stuff.

Life Subplots


Thanksgiving! It was good and full of food. And it was in October, where Thanksgiving is supposed to be. *winks at all my American pals*

Tons of homework--oh wait, I said I would skip that part. Except I will say that my heaviest course involved talking to a dozen strangers over the phone, running around scheduling interviews, conducting marketing research surveys, and writing some major papers. Heh.


I went to an escape room. It was a bank heist theme and yes, I did escape. Funny thing is I managed to pass this off as research for school. (Long story.)

I turned twenty-three!

Started Christmas shopping and had some soul chats with friends and listened to a lot of music. New favorites include Imagine Dragons' Origins album and a bunch of stuff by Mat Kearney.


Screen Storylines



OCTOBER FILMS


Once Upon a Time, Season 6 - just one episode
Nothing new to report here, really. I've been moving so slowly through the season that it's hard to update the S&S posts with anything meaningful.


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Tomorrowland (rewatch)
During a tough stint of school deadlines when I was too exhausted to read, I took to watching 20-30 minutes of this before bed. I accidentally forgot to finish it, though . . . Whoops. Fun movie, though!
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Fantasia 2000
A change from my usual fare. This one was at times funny, other times poignant, and generally beautiful in a turn-of-the-century-animation way. My favorite piece was The Firebird.

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Inception (rewatch)
I've told people for years that this is one of my top favorite films even though I'd seen it only once. In October I watched it for the second time and remembered why I love it! Intense and paradoxical, the plot keeps you on your toes and the characters are fantastically well-defined.


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Ant-Man and the Wasp
Scott Lang makes me laugh and this sequel was a nice breather after the intensity of Avengers: Infinity War. But that post-credit scene . . . !

NOVEMBER FILMS

Once Upon a Time, Season 6 - again, just one episode
See above.

And it looks like that's all I watched in November! Wow. I guess I really was busy.

Page Subplots


OCTOBER READS


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Crazy Love // Francis Chan
A nonfiction audiobook? When does Tracey ever listen to one of those? When she spends two hours on the road every day, that's when.

This wasn't quite as good as I was hoping. It did have some great portions. I especially liked the beginning that reminded me of the bigness of God. There were more good reminders scattered throughout, but overall, some chunks seemed to be written to make me feel guilty rather than to inspire true change. Yet that wasn't the purpose of the book as the author described it. So . . . 3.5 stars, I think.

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From the Mouth of Elijah // Bryan Davis (reread)
From the fiery devastation of an erupting volcano to bullet-riddled battlefields to madcap dashes through one portal after another--sacrificial love once more leads the way. Lauren’s journey is particularly poignant in this book, but the entire cast of heroes demonstrate incredible faith too.

And it was fun to see Matt and Lauren become more accustomed to their heritage, preparing them for the crazy adventures of the next two books. 5 stars!

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If We Survive // Andrew Klavan (reread)
This was a reread and another audiobook, which was excellent. I already loved the book, but it was so fun to listen to it five years later. One of my favorite Klavan books!

High points include dear Will (who just wants to do the right thing, gosh darn it), Palmer Dunn (ex-Marine pilot full of snark and major skills), Meredith (the calm, stately friend who mothers everyone), the South American jungle setting, and the theme of "pointing your soul to God" in moments of great danger and worry. 5 stars!

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Fawkes // Nadine Brandes
I HAVE BEEN LONGING TO READ THIS FOR MONTHS. AHHH. I held off buying it until Realm Makers in July and then . . . let it sit on my shelf for three months, obviously. But it was so worth the wait and the hype!


First of all, historical fantasy. I need more. Seeing the streets of 17th century London running with color magic was SO PANCAKE-FLIPPING COOL. Thomas was a fantastic protagonist and Emma pulled off "kick-butt heroine" without being annoying. (She was actually fabulous.)

The plot was twisty, the full cast of characters sparkled with life, the magic system was fun, and the White Light took me by surprise in a good way. 5 stars!

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Haven // Mary Lindsey
I am definitely not the target audience for this book. Steamy paranormal romance is not. my. thing. But I got this in a PageHabit box (I was subscribed for two months last year) and it had author annotations and I felt obligated to try it. So I did.


You can check out my full review on Goodreads, but basically this was a Twilight-reversal with a troubled teen moving to a small, creepy town (of course) and "falling in love" with a female werewolf (who was aggressive and unlikeable and walked around naked after shifting back to human form, #thanksbutnothanks).


I say "falling in love" with quotation marks because neither party had much personality going for them, but neither one cared much because hey, all it takes to build a relationship is making out, right? Gag me now.

The first 50% of the book was packed with clich├ęs. The midpoint involved Rain, the protagonist, being disgustingly pushy with Freddie, the werewolf. And the rest was exceedingly bloody. 1 star.

NOVEMBER READS

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The Seventh Door // Bryan Davis (reread)
Since I've been rereading all twelve books in these interconnected series this year, the parallels between The Seventh Door and Circles of Seven were even more apparent this time around--which was really cool!


There are some deeply sad scenes (the abortion clinic, for those who've read it) and some thought-provoking ones (the missile) that I enjoyed. Lauren plays a crucial role here, and the book ends on a tense note. 5 stars.


Written Storylines



In October, I dug up an old flash fiction piece and rewrote it. It's called Dead Magic, and working on it was a breath of fresh air! I submitted it to Havok Publishing so we'll see if anything comes of that in the near future.


For a teaser, here's the first line:


The door of Sebastian's Magickry opened with the tinkle of a bell precisely fifteen minutes after closing time.

Hello, December


It's been a good but very full two months, and I'm so ready for Christmas break! How about you, questers? What have I missed in your corner of the world?

Monday, November 12, 2018

Dust & Clay

Photo by Paul Robert on Unsplash // Graphics mine


On the days you feel lifeless
Hopeless
Breathless


You are more.


When all you hold is dust
Sand
Ash


There is more.


When your mind whispers lies
And the mirror tells you lies
And the world screams lies


Look for more.


Still, Eternal One, You are our Father.

We are just clay, and You are the potter.

We are the product of Your creative action, shaped and formed into something of worth.

Isaiah 64:8 (The Voice)



Clay is common. It's dirt. It's walked on, buried, and disregarded. It's worthless.


But the moment an artist scoops clay onto the potter's wheel and shapes it into something, that clay is imbued with value. Someone with expertise and creative vision has turned it into a work of art, and the artist's fingerprints are all over it. It has become a beautiful expression of the creator's heart.


It matters.


One day the Eternal God scooped dirt out of the ground,

sculpted it into the shape we call human,

breathed the breath that gives life into the nostrils of the human,

and the human became a living soul."

Genesis 2:7 (The Voice)


Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

You are not worth anything based on what you are made of. You are worth something based on who made you. The Artist's signature on your soul is living proof. The breath in your lungs--which isn't yours--is proof.


I am dust

You are God

I am breathless

Till You fill my lungs

-Dust, Steffany Gretzinger





I feel dusty sometimes. No matter how hard I try, my earthiness persists. I would rather be a vessel of polished marble or wondrous crystal, but instead I am a jar of clay. Yet I am worth more than a marble vase created by an amateur sculptor, because I was crafted by an expert artisan, and somehow He saw fit to place the treasure of His life within me.


But this beautiful treasure is contained in us--cracked pots made of earth and clay--so that the transcendent character of this power will be clearly seen as coming from God and not from us.

...So we have no reason to despair. Despite the fact that our outer humanity is falling apart and decaying, our inner humanity is breathing in new life every day.

2 Corinthians 4:7 & 16 (The Voice)


Breathe life today, friend. Walk through the dust and keep your chin up, because you are made worthy. You are an exclusive art exhibit on display in this world, authenticated by the Artist's unmistakeable touch.