Saturday, September 24, 2022

Weekend Reads: The Light Princess by George MacDonald (Sarah)

 


The Light Princess, a fairy tale by George MacDonald, tells the story of a princess who is cursed to have no gravity—in body, but also in soul. She cannot feel as ordinary individuals do—she possesses no sympathy or compassion, but is always both light of spirit and light of body, which presents all sort of challenges. Her parents are determined to break the curse, yet all their efforts avail nothing.

Then a fault-finding prince enters the picture…and well, you can read for yourselves! It’s a sweet, relatively short book with a strong theme of sacrificial love. I’d read it in the past myself, but I recently re-read it aloud to my daughter, and she was delighted with it. If you enjoy classic fantasy and fairy tales, it’s worth taking a look.

Since it was published in 1864, it’s in public domain, and you can read it online, but I’d recommend getting a nice illustrated edition (I have the leather-bound Rabbit Room Press version with linocut illustrations), especially if you’re going to read it to your kids.

Are you a fan of older fantasy and fairy tales?

Friday, August 26, 2022

Weekend Reads: Love and Other Great Expectations by Becky Dean

 

Source: Goodreads.com

Love & Other Great Expectations, Becky Dean's debut novel is one of my favorite books of 2022 and ranks high among all books I've read. It's so fun and engaging! I had to force myself to put the book down to eat, work, sleep, and generally adult.
It's rare that I identify with heroines and a non-bookish athlete is not one I expected to find such a connection. And yet I did. Probably because our heroine is a thinks-before-she-speaks extrovert. So many authors are introverts and consequently, so are YA heroines often spilling more about themselves with pens or keyboards except for the dystopian chosen ones. Then their few words flip Shakespeare and swords take on the might of their authors' pens. But Britt wields neither pen nor sword but a soccer ball. Or at least she used to...

Britt Hanson is neither bookish nor brawny. She's a wounded athlete with no hope of attending UCLA once her soccer scholarship is pulled after a career-ending injury. That is until her English teacher invites Britt, her former best friend, an ambitious classmate, and an annoying one on a literary scavenger hunt in England.

Equipped with only a battered gym bag with a less than sturdy construction, Britt becomes an international traveler. Albeit one with a rather embarrassing baggage claim arrival. Whisked off to a posh London townhouse, Britt with her rule-following "babysitter" she sets off on a series of literary quests.

At their first stop, an orphanage, Britt meets Luke a bookish and very cute British boy with a future as uncertain as Britt's. Through their scavenger hunt (Luke can't help - that's against the rules), the clues teach Britt about Dickens, Chaucer, Austen, and other things she didn't learn in English class. But this is a competition with one winner, and all competitors have reasons they need the prize.

While unraveling the clues they experience a sword fight, high tea, and a camping trip with a quirky family. But someone is determined to win at all costs, and Britt is put in danger. One stop forces Luke to encounter the place of his greatest pain.

All the while, Britt's key to victory, completing a journal of her adventures, eludes her and may keep her from her dreams. She's a YA heroine. She has to be born to write great things and win the day. Except Britt is "not like every girl" (er, YA heroine) in a great twist on this classic trope. Writing is not her thing. And even as a writer, I love her for it.

But lest you think Britt is nothing but a vapid chatterbox, the pool under her churning waters is deep. Britt hides a soccer-career ending medical condition, not the obvious ACL-surgery scar but one that runs literally to her marrow. It's in that depth she connects with Luke the kind boy who is good with the written word. And in her enthusiasm, she pulls Luke out of his own pain.

Labor Day is around the corner, and this is the perfect weekend read. And feel free to pass it to the teenage girls in your life. It's a clean read with PG content. There are late-night talks and a few kisses but no heat, and I don't recall any objectionable language or content.

Friday, August 12, 2022

Weekend Reads: The Demon King (Lauricia)

 Greetings, all!

I hope all is well with you and yours! As I type, I'm enjoying a much-needed rain, the third-ish in a chain that recently broke a months-long drought with consistently record highs. Most of the trees, bushes, and grasses have been dry brown for most of the summer. Now, thanks to three days of afternoon showers, they have green tops! It's kind-of bizarre. Needless to say, I have avoided the scorching dryness by staying inside my air-conditioned home and reading. My most recently discovered treasure is this weekend's recommended reading: The Demon King (Seven Realms Book One) by Cinda Williams Chima.




Within the Seven Realms, the Queendom of the Fells is divided between the wizards, the Spirit Clans, and the Fellisians. Each group has scorned and despised the others for over a century, since the Breaking. Antagonized by the economic and political strains that accompany the civil war in other realms, tempers in the Queendom flare among the groups, ratcheting tensions to the breaking point. Raisa ana'Marianna, daughter of the clans and thirty-seventh descendant of the warrior queen Hanalea, longs to unify the peoples of the Queendom, but all of her efforts are blocked by Lord Gavan Bayar, the High Wizard of the Wizard Council who seems to be scandalously more than her mother the Queen's advisor.

Han Allister is a reformed Streetlord known for his silver cuffs, wide bracelets worth a fortune if he could only remove them. In order to stay off the streets, Han spends most of his time among the Spirit Clans, hunting for game and herbs he can sell in the Fells. It's a modest living, but it works well enough until wizards come to the Clan's lands, where they are forbidden. Han's encounter with Micah Bayar, son of the most powerful wizard in the Queendom, incites a series of events that go from bad to worse and cause Han to wonder if he wouldn't have been better off on the streets.

The Demon King is the first book in a four book series that is a refreshingly different story about trust and love in the face of insurmountable odds. This series takes place in an original cultural setting that blends the usual medieval trappings with tribal elements of cultures like the Indigenous Americans. Raisa is a strong female lead who is unique in her lack of reactivity. Instead of believing what she's told and reacting to unfounded revelations, she consistently insists that accusers provide evidence for their claims and only proceeds when she knows the facts of a situation, which I found very satisfying. The story is also masterfully woven across the entire series. I normally take small breaks between the books in a series, but I devoured all four of these books back-to-back. You will, too, so make sure you have all four books before you start.


If you read any of this series, I'd love to know what you think. Leave a comment or connect with me on Facebook or Instagram.

Until next time, happy reading!

Friday, June 17, 2022

Weekend Reads: Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

 Greetings, all, and happy summer! I hope you and yours are well and enjoying some sort of much needed rest.

I apologize profusely for the tardiness of this post. If you're an avid or regular follower, you'll notice that this post wasn't released at the usual time. This is because I hyper-extended my elbow last week and have had a bit of trouble doing life, so my schedule got pushed back significantly. However, they say better late than never, so here I am at last to share my latest recommendation, which is Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson.

For those of you who don't know, Sanderson is a renown author of fantasy with quite a long list of titles. I've known of him for a while, and I listen to his writing podcast, but I hadn't read anything by him until now because, well... you know what To Be Read piles are like!




Vin is one lucky street rat, which is good because an orphan in the underground needs all the luck she can get. Her luck is so strong that it rubs off on others. As long as it holds, Vin gets to stay alive.

Kelsier is the most renown thief in Luthadel. The only survivor of the mines of Hathsin, Kelsier is about to hatch the most audacious plan ever considered in the Final Empire. He can't possibly succeed, but there's a small chance things may go his way, nonetheless. All he needs is a little bit of luck, which he sees in Vin.

As a fan of epic fantasy, I enjoyed Mistborn very much. It is a heist-style story (Think Ocean's Eleven) with a magic system that is unique and very well though out. Vin is likable and relatable, and is reluctant in a realistic way without overdoing it. She even challenges what the reader comes to accept as the norm for the world of the story, questioning the views of everyone on both sides of the main issues in a refreshing way. The romantic interest is a clueless bookworm I was totally drawn to because of the people in my life that he reminds me of, and the plot twists were unpredictable yet right. I haven't read the rest of the series yet, but I very much enjoyed this one and recommend it highly.


If you read any of these recommendations, I'd love to know what you think. Leave a comment or connect with me on Facebook or Instagram.

Until next time, happy reading!

Friday, June 3, 2022

Weekend Reads: The Lily Gate by Hanna Sandvig (Sarah Sawyer)


 

 If you ever meet a talking frog—any chatty amphibian, really—my advice would be to ignore it. That’s what I should have done, anyway.

Born part human and part fae, Tuala received a christening gift from her faerie godmother—that of true love. Her godmother foretells that a competition for her hand in marriage will reveal her destined mate, and now that she’s eighteen, it’s time for the games to begin. Her mortal father isn’t too keen on this idea, so he’s added some stipulations of his own.

What follows this introduction to Tuala and her fate is a short, sweet retelling of The Frog Prince with hints of a broader and more expansive world of inhabited by all sorts of faerie creatures. Characters that appear in Sandvig’s full-length novel retelling of Beauty and the Beast make a cameo appearance here also, but you can easily enjoy the story without having read any of the other books in the series. So if you're looking for a lighthearted tale well-suited for a quick summer read, then check out The Lily Gate

An an aside, Sandvig is also an illustrator and has lovely character art you can check on her website. Are you a fan of being able to see illustrations from the characters and worlds of the books you read? I definitely am!

Friday, April 29, 2022

Weekend Reads: The Elven Spymaster's Thief by Elisa Rae (Kimberly)

Spend your weekend with a light fantasy romance between an elven spymaster and a human thief! A brand new clean and sweet fantasy romance series takes off with The Elven Spymaster's Thief and it's the perfect relaxing and fun weekend read!

The Elven Spymaster's Thief (Elves of Eldarlan Book 1)


My Rating - 4.5 Stars


Oh I love a good fantasy romance between an elf and a human! Especially when it's opposites attract and just enough culture clash to keep things interesting. And this new series by our own Rachel Rossano hits all the right spots. While Rossano's series usually fall into the no magic kingdom fantasy category, her new pen name Elisa Rae brings all the fantasy into play in her new series. This wonderful new world has elves (both light and shadow elves), brownies, evil sorcerers, and even gargoyles. 

I adore Illeron and Avril's back and forth, which starts from their first meeting. Illeron is very much a Sherlock Holmes type of character, which is especially fitting for the elf king's spymaster. While Avril is determined to pry him from his work focused shell per their bargain. A bargain Illeron suggests primarily to make his brother stop pestering him about "being an ornery hermit." I love the overall playfulness and sparks to Illeron and Avril's relationship as well as the hints of more to come revealed by the side characters. I could go on for hours about all my favorite things with Illeron and Avril, but that would involve far too many spoilers.

As the first book in the world, The Elven Spymaster's Thief gives us an introductory glimpse into the tantalizing mix of fantasy species and humans. And I cannot wait for more! Casimir who is a shadow elf (and even more logic driven than his brother...think Spock) will be the lead in book two, The Shadow Elf's Rescuer. I've had the privilege of being an early reader for this series of novellas and y'all are going to love Casimir and Veta! Their book releases this coming Tuesday, May 3rd, so you can grab the preorder now or wait to read it via KU. Either way now is the perfect time to dive into Illeron and Avril's story!

This series of interconnected standalone novellas is such a fun edition to the world of elf/human fantasy romances. I highly recommend adding Elves of Eldaran to your reading list today!

Happy Reading!

Kimberly A. Rogers

Friday, April 22, 2022

Weekend Reads: My Top Picks for Next-to-Read (Lauricia)

Greetings, all, and happy spring. I hope you and yours are well!

I'm taking a bit of a different angle on my contribution to the blog today. As you know from my last post in February, I'm super crunched for reading time in the spring. I've also had some pretty intense health problems, but rather than back out of this month's post, I've decided to share a few books from my Want to Read pile and to tell you why. I'm familiar with these authors from Realm Makers, an international organization of Christian authors of speculative fiction, so I can promise that all of these recommendations are appropriate for audiences who read only clean fiction.



My first pick for you is Curio by Evangeline Denmark. Here's the blurb:

Grey Haward has always detested the Chemists, the magicians-come-scientists who rule her small western town. But she has always followed the rules, taking the potion the Chemists ration out that helps the town’s people survive. A potion that Grey suspects she—like her grandfather and father—may not actually need.

By working at her grandfather’s repair shop, sorting the small gears and dusting the curio cabinet inside, Grey has tried to stay unnoticed—or as unnoticed as a tall, strong girl can in a town of diminutive, underdeveloped citizens. Then her best friend, Whit, is caught by the Chemists’ enforcers after trying to protect Grey one night, and after seeing the extent of his punishment, suddenly taking risks seems the only decision she can make.

But with the risk comes the reality that the Chemists know her family’s secret, and the Chemists soon decide to use her for their own purposes. Panicked, Grey retreats to the only safe place she knows—her grandfather’s shop. There, however, a larger secret confronts her when her touch unlocks the old curio cabinet in the corner and reveals a world where porcelain and clockwork people are real. There, she could find the key that may save Whit’s life and also end the Chemists’ dark rule forever.”


I”ll be honest with you, The first thing that drew me to this book is its cover. I mean, the colors are gorgeous and the image promises steampunk fantasy – what's not to love? Also, Grey's conflict is realistic and personal while coinciding with the epic nature of saving the world, so I'm super intrigued.



My next pick is Kitsune-Tsuki by Laura VanArendonk Baugh. The blurb for this one reads:

How does one find a shapeshifter who may not even exist?

The onmyouji Tsurugu no Kiyomori, a practitioner of the mystic arts, has been engaged to protect the warlord's new bride from the fox spirit rumored to be near. Tsurugu and the shadow-warrior Shishio Hitoshi face an impossible challenge in teasing out a kitsune shapeshifter from the samurai and servants – if such a creature is even present at all.

The handsome mute twin servants belonging to Lady Kaede are certainly suspicious, but it is the beautiful and strong-willed lady herself who draws Shishio’s mistrust. Tsurugu and Shishio must move carefully, for accusing the warlord’s bride falsely would be death. But failing to identify the kitsune to the warlord is equally perilous, and there is more to discover. For an onmyouji knows secrets even the shadows do not….

Kitsune-Tsuki is a historical fiction novelette, the introduction to the series KITSUNE TALES. By reader request it includes a full glossary as well.”


I can't wait to dive into this one because I LOVE Japanese fairy tales and absolutely adore kitsune. Yes, I know they're traditionally demonic, soul-sucking man-devourers, but I'm enamored with the non-evil renditions: the woman-to-fox shape-shifting, the mystique, and the cunning beauty. Add that to the concept of this story, and I'm all in.



My third recommendation for you today is Havok Magazine. The blurb for the first edition says:

Enjoy the debut issue of Havok Magazine, your source for the highest quality speculative flash fiction. New York Times bestselling author Tosca Lee headlines this issue with the beautiful story of a young woman who faces incredible odds when a murderous horde attacks her people.

Staff member Lindsay Franklin enlightens our audiences with "Hardwired," a story of a cyborg who falls in love. Plus, read six other speculative fiction stories ranging from a steampunk Pinocchio to a woman who literally married a monster.”


Full disclosure: I'm cheating a little bit with this one. I follow Havok on their Instagram page and subscribe to the magazine already, and I very much enjoy it. I'm not including it in this list because it's in my to-be-read pile, I'm including it because it should be in yours. You can get a taste for what's inside this magazine by reading the free story of the day on their website at https://gohavok.com/.

Do it. Do it now.


If you read any of these recommendations, I'd love to know what you think. Leave a comment or connect with me on Facebook or Instagram.

Until next time, happy reading!