Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Austen in August -- Guest Post and Giveaway!!!

Oh my goodness, I don't know how posting about this has slipped through my fingers so often.  I'm guest posting this month at Roof Beam Reader in celebration of Austen in August!  My first post is up right here; it's a collection of my favorite Austen(ish) Books.  

(All pictures are mine from my Instagram account.)

And, as part of the fun, I'm hosting a giveaway over there.  What am I giving away?  A $20 gift card to Northanger Soapworks!  Yes.  It's true.  AND the giveaway ends at midnight Pacific Time TOMORROW, Wednesday, August 17.  So you NEED to get over there and enter!  Because, I don't know if you know this, but I am obsessed with Northanger Soapworks and her amazing candles and soaps.  I even repped for her several times on Instagram over the past couple of years.  

I've got one more guest post lined up for this event, but I won't tell you what it is yet.  I can only say that the party host said no one had ever contributed a post like it in the ten years the event has been going on... 

Monday, August 15, 2022

Cover Reveal for "A Flash of Magic" by Allison Tebo

Good morning, friends!  It's my pleasure to share the cover of Allison Tebo's latest with you this morning.

You may know Tebo as the author of The Goblin and the Dancer, which is her most publication.  But A Flash of Magic is actually part of her Tales of Ambia series, which started with The Reluctant Godfather a few years ago.  The Tales of Ambia are quirky fairy tale retellings with lots of loveable, somewhat oddball characters.  Whereas the first three books in the series were novellas, A Flash of Magic is a collection of eight short stories.  Here's the official blurb:

Ambia’s most reluctant godfather is back. A Flash Of Magic is a magical and rambunctious compilation featuring eight stories with eight irresistible characters navigating their way through the oddities and the wonders of fairy tales. 

The Tales of Ambia series continues with this charming collection of short stories and novelettes offering a deeper look into a magical land like no other. 

Whether it’s an intimate look at Ella’s wedding day, a hilarious glimpse of Burndee’s holiday baking, or an explosive first meeting between a prince and his fairy, there is adventure for everyone in A Flash Of Magic.

Sounds enchanting, doesn't it?

And now... here's the cover!

Isn't it elegant?  I love how cheerful and sweet it looks -- just like Allison's rom-com-esque writing :-)

You can preorder A Flash of Magic here on Amazon!  It'll be released September 16.

If you want to know more about Allison Tebo and her books, visit her website!  Or you can follow her on Instagram @AllisonTeboAuthor.

Finally, if you're on Goodreads, here's the book page there, where you can mark it as "want to read."

Sunday, August 14, 2022

"What Katy Did Next" by Susan Coolidge

The third Katy book just might be my favorite.  Seeing Katy being as kind and intelligent and capable as ever, but now more mature and less prone to get into scrapes -- that was absolutely a delight.

Now about twenty, Katy Carr helps out a family friend by taking care if her daughter for several weeks.  The daughter becomes very fond of Katy, so when the mother decides to go to Europe for a year, she asks Katy to come along.  Not as a nanny for the daughter, but only as a friend.

Katy has a series of small adventures in London, Paris, Rome, and Venice.  She meets up with her vain and haughty cousin a few too many times, falls in love without realizing it, and helps comfort and nurse her friend's daughter through a long illness.  It's a charming and gentle journey for readers, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  If you're looking for a vicarious vacation in Europe, this one has my vote!

Particularly Good Bits:

...each day as it dawns upon us is like an unread story, full of possible interest and adventure, to be made ours as soon as we have cut the pages and begun to read (p. 13).

It was quite unlike a Christmas Eve at home, but altogether delightful; and as Katy sat next morning on the sand, after the service in the English church, to finish her home letter, and felt the sun warm on her cheek, and the perfumed air blow past as softly as in June, she had to remind herself that Christmas is not necessarily synonymous with snow and winter, but means the great central heat and warmth, the advent of Him who came to lighten the whole earth (p. 116).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: G.  Sweet and wholesome and good!

This has been my 48th book read for my third Classics Club list and my 39th from my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfClub2022.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Announcing the TENTH Annual Tolkien Blog Party

Ten years.  Don't they go by in a blink.

TEN YEARS!  I can't believe I've been hosting this blog party for that long.  Wow.  A whole decade!  That sounds so exciting, doesn't it?

You are hereby invited to attend the tenth annual Tolkien Blog Party right here at The Edge of the Precipice.  From September 18 to 24, we will be feasting and playing and singing and dancing... or, at least, celebrating however it strikes our fancy.

I'll provide a tag to fill out, a couple of games, and the ever-popular giveaway.  You'll provide... whatever you want to!  Top ten lists?  Book or movie reviews?  Your own fan art?  Games?  Musings on a favorite character?  Anything Tolkien-related you can think of and want to share!

If you'd be so kind, please share one or more of these buttons on your own blog, wherever you put such things.  Invite your friends!  Let's make this year's party the best one yet!

There's no official sign-up roster, but if you want to comment on this post to express your excitement, or to bounce around ideas for something to share that you want some feedback on, go right ahead!

Any questions?  Ask those in the comments too!

Sunday, August 7, 2022

"Laertes" by Carly Stevens

This book.  Oh, this book!  Where do I even start?

Laertes retells Hamlet from the point of view of an often-overlooked character from the play, Ophelia's brother and Polonius's son, Laertes.  He's only onstage for the beginning and the end of the play, and many people kind of forget about him, except as that guy who has the sword fight with Hamlet at the end.  But I have long felt that Laertes is a key character in the play, especially the way he serves as a foil for Hamlet.  He and Hamlet both lose their fathers to murder, but while Hamlet shies away from revenge and its implications for as long as he can, Laertes embraces it pretty much instantly.  They're like a photo and its negative, one cerebral and fond of reasoning and thinking, and the other a hot-blooded man of action.

And yet, most productions of Hamlet that I've seen have treated Laertes as almost an afterthought, seeming to handing the role to some random dude who looks okay with a sword and can remember his lines.  Only twice have I seen Laertes played to my satisfaction, once by Liev Schreiber in the 2000 film and once by Benjamin Reed onstage in 2018.  And I have seen twenty different productions of the play, which makes that a pretty poor record for presenting this pivotal character in a way that really makes full use of his potential.

All of which means that I got really, really excited when I learned that someone was writing a Hamlet retelling that focused on Laertes.  In fact, I signed up to be a beta reader for this book earlier this year because I wanted to help and encourage Carly Stevens bring it to life in any way I could.  And, I admit, I wanted to beta-read it to see if it was going to live up to my expectations.

It did.

And the finished book is even better.

I was super excited when my copy arrived on release day, since pre-ordered books have a habit of not showing up at my house as soon as I would like them to.  But this one did!  And I immediately began reading it... but slowly.  I savored this book like a square of fine dark chocolate or a really excellent coffee -- enjoying it a nibble or a sip at a time, with plenty of opportunity to enjoy the rich flavor and nuances.

Laertes is set in the 1920s, with a "Dark Academia" aesthetic.  Laertes Belleforest is a Danish expat student in Paris, rooming with two friends in a little apartment above an apothecary shop and enjoying the intellectual and artistic stimulation of the City of Lights.  But when King Hamlet dies suddenly back home in Denmark, Laertes must return home in the middle of the semester to attend the funeral because he and his family are members of the Danish court.  By the time he gets there, the king's brother Claudius has married the widowed Queen Gertrude and gotten himself chosen king, rather than Prince Hamlet. 

Laertes and his sister Ophelia grew up with Hamlet.  While Laertes and Hamlet are more frenemies than friends, they still have the kind of instinctive fondness for each other that people have for someone they've known all their lives.  It's a fondness based on familiarity rather than actual friendship, but that's enough to get Laertes concerned about Hamlet when the young prince starts behaving as if he's mad.  Especially since said prince has been courting Laertes's sister Ophelia for a while now.

If you know Hamlet, you know how this will go.  Madness and murder entangle everyone before the story ends, and almost none of the principal characters survive to the end.  One of the things I liked best about this retelling is that it gave Laertes friends.  He's very alone in Hamlet, and while Hamlet gets to die in the arms of his friend Horatio at the end of the play, Laertes dies alone and friendless.  But in this retelling, Laertes has two dear friends, Henri and Julien, to support and comfort him, and one of them is even there to hold him in his final moments, letting Laertes mirror Hamlet more exactly in death here than he does in the play.

As always, it's the characters that make me love a story, and Laertes himself is such a real-feeling bundle of contradictions, worries, fears, and desires that I can't help wanting to hug him and make everything okay.  And Hamlet here is a complicated, aloof, needy, bold, self-assured, uncertain chap, not quite as likable as I would have written him, but certainly a valid representation of Shakespeare's character.  Ophelia is a wonderful mix of intelligence, fragility, and hope, and I might have loved her more here than I generally do in the play, to be honest.  The original characters of Henri, Julien, and Josephine were all nicely fleshed out, though Josephine less so than the boys.  I might feel that way because I don't like Josephine very well, though, mostly because she makes some very destructive decisions.

Particularly Good Bits:

It was a greeting card type of care--warm from afar, sending me best wishes (p. 11).

She reminded me of Hamlet then, a mind so active that boredom settled like a butterfly any time there was little stimulation (p. 64). 

Her sugared words caught me, but only because I was ready to be caught (p. 120).

The poison of deep grief is as potent as anything bottled (p. 176).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-16 for intermittent dropping of F bombs just for shock effect by one character, and for an on-page love scene that isn't super detailed, but still gave me the urge to skim ahead until it was over.  It's pretty easy to see coming and just skip on through.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday: Go West, Young(ish) Woman! Go West!

This week's Top Ten Tuesday prompt from That Artsy Reader Girl is "Books Set In a Place I’d Love to Visit," and can be about real or fictional places.  I'm choosing to focus on all books set in the Old West because I would LOVE to take a time-travel trip back to the Old West and experience it for myself, at least for a little while.  I'd probably want to return to a world of antibiotics and clean drinking water after a while, rather than live there forever, but a visit to any of these books?  Yes, please!

So, here are my ten favorite novels set in the Old West.  All titles are linked to my reviews, unless I haven't reviewed that book yet.  Yes, one selection is a trilogy, but it didn't seem fair to have only one of the books here, or have the books take up three slots, so I put them all together.

1. Shane by Jack Schaefer -- A lone gunman befriends a struggling family and saves a town, but at great cost.

2. Borden Chantry by Louis L'Amour -- An amateur lawman solves a series of killings to protect his town.

3. The Knights of Tin and Lead trilogy by Emily Hayse (These War-Torn Hands, The Beautiful Ones, In the Glorious Fields) -- The King Arthur legend retold as gently magical westerns.

4. The Light of Western Stars by Zane Grey -- A woman goes west and figures out who she really is inside while experiencing a series of adventures and meeting a variety of interesting characters.

5. True Grit by Charles Portis -- A teenage girl insists on accompanying a U. S. Marshal on the quest to bring her father's murderer to justice.

6. The Mark of Zorro by Johnston McCulley -- A dashing aristocrat fights injustice and tyranny from behind two different disguises.

7. Sixteen Brides by Stephanie Grace Whitson -- Sixteen women go west to claim their own homesteads, start businesses, and/or get married.

8. Hondo by Louis L'Amour -- A Cavalry scout physically saves a family on a remote homestead, and they save him emotionally.

9. The Virginian by Owen Wister -- A frontier school teacher tries really hard not to fall in love with a nameless hero who saves her from a series of mishaps and disasters and calamities.

10. A Sidekick's Tale by Elisabeth Grace Foley -- A young woman tries to save her family's ranch by entering into a marriage of convenience, but comic mishaps keep derailing her plans.

Sunday, July 31, 2022

"The Light of Western Stars" by Zane Grey (again)

Yup, this is now officially a favorite western novel for me.

Now, the funny thing is, the first time I read this book, I got really mad at the ending because I seem to have missed one very key sentence toward the end.  (SPOILERS in the rest of this paragraph only.)  And I still think that a showdown between Gene Stewart and Don Carlos is called for, and I'm mad that we didn't get one.  BUT.  Grey does tell us that Don Carlos got captured and thrown in jail.  He's not left on the loose, waiting to ambush Stewart and Madeline on their way home.  (End of SPOILERS.)

I learned recently that Grey wrote a sequel to this, called Majesty's Rancho.  When I was at the Zane Grey Museum in Zanesville, Ohio, last week, I picked up gorgeous vintage 1940s editions of both books, and promptly started rereading this.  I've watched the 1940 movie version several times since the first time I read the book, so I wanted to get the book back in my head before reading the sequel.  Which I hope/plan to read this summer still, after I finish up a few other things I am currently reading.  I'm really excited to see where Stewart and Madeline's lives take them!  Fingers crossed that it's a happy book and not full of them getting angry at each other over misunderstandings all the time, or something lame like that.

In this book, Madeline "Majesty" Hammond comes west to visit her brother and runs afoul of drunken cowboy Gene Stewart before she's even left the train station.  What ensues?  Only a secret and unconsummated marriage, a lot of dramatic scenery, really crazy car driving, a Mexican revolution, and a rugged camping trip just to add some spice.

Parts of this book kind of demand the readers leave modern sensibilities behind, but that's not something I personally have difficulty doing because I read a LOT of old books, and I know enough about history to understand when things are a product of the era they were written in, and when they're something I'm just not going to be okay with no matter what.  If you can't do that without it ruining your enjoyment of this book, you probably aren't going to like it.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for western violence and a little bad language here and there.