Monday, October 30, 2017

Cover Reveal for "A Sidekick's Tale" by Elisabeth Grace Foley

I've been enjoying Elisabeth Grace Foley's books for years now.  I've read so many of her books: The Ranch Next Door and Other Stories, Left-Hand Kelly, Wanderlust Creek and Other Stories, Lost Lake House, Mountain of the Wolf, and my personal favorite so far, Corral Nocturne.  She inspired me to pursue writing westerns myself, and she's helped me with all sorts of self-publishing questions.  

Well, today I have the privilege to participate in the cover reveal for her latest book, A Sidekick's Tale.  Isn't it just, well, fun?

She's got some advance reviews up on Goodreads already, and it sounds like this story is going to be just as fun and quirky as the cover.  Here's the official synopsis:

Meredith Fayett needed to marry someone before the week was out or she would lose her ranch. It sounded simple, so ranch hand Chance Stevens agreed to take on the job, in spite of his friend Marty’s warnings that it could only lead to trouble. But even Marty, a loyal though opinionated sidekick, couldn’t have predicted the mayhem that ensues when his own eccentric relatives appear on the scene, dragging Chance, Marty, and Meredith into the latest skirmish in a long-running family feud. What follows is a hilarious tangle involving an emerald ring, a fearsome aunt, a scheming suitor, and a team of runaway mules—by the end of which Chance finds that even a marriage just on paper has its complications, and that it never hurts to have a good sidekick.

I can't wait to read it when it releases in November!

You can connect with Foley on her website, her Facebook author page, and on Goodreads and Twitter.  And if you haven't read any of her books yet, but you like clean stories with historical (often western) settings, what are you waiting for?

Saturday, October 21, 2017

"The Illuminated Catechism" Coloring Book by Tony Cook and Susan Spellman

It is HIGH time I reviewed another coloring book, don't you think?  Today I shall highlight The Illuminated Catechism, which pairs words from Martin Luther's Small Catechism with Bible verses and additional explanations by Tony Cook, devotional writing prompts, and gorgeous illustrations by Susan Spellman.  Of course, this is part of my on-going series on both my blogs about things related to the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation beginning.

You know what an "illumination" is, right?  A very intricate, detailed drawing used to illustrate the Bible or other book, generally done back in the Middle Ages, but there are much older examples too.  If you want to learn more, this Wikipedia article might be helpful.  

So anyway, this coloring book takes that idea and kind of does a modern version.  The book is split into sections like the Small Catechism.  It begins with the Ten Commandments.

Each two-page spread pairs text and pictures -- the one above is for the third commandment, and in the picture above, you can see that it has the commandment, then Luther's explanation, then some more pondering, then a Bible verse.  Cut off in that picture is an area on the far left for you to write some of your own thoughts, kind of a mediational journal:

There's a huge variety of pictures, and not all of them are "church-related" at first glance.  But they all make sense with what the opposite page is talking about once you read through it.

After the Ten Commandments, we have the Apostle's Creed and an explanation thereof.

Then comes the Lord's Prayer.

I can't wait to color this illustration for the fourth petition, "Give us this day our daily bread."  Aren't those sheep cute?

This is the first picture I colored in this book.  I used colored pencils for this one, though the other pages I've colored are done with some new gel pens I got for my kids.  

After the Lord's Prayer comes a section on the Sacraments, and then this cool part on all sorts of different prayers.  They have Martin Luther's morning and evening prayers, but then space to write down some things of your own. 

There's also a page about vocation that talks about our duties as children of God.  I really want to color this illustration soon too.

And at the end, there's a section about the three main "solas" of the Reformation:  Sola Gratia (by grace alone), Sola Fide (by faith alone), Sola Scriptura (by scripture alone).  I'm hoping to post more about these another day, probably on my Soliloquy blog instead.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Announcing Another "Lord of the Rings" Read-Along

Okay, I'm going to do this!  I'm going to host a second read-along of The Lord of the Rings.  You are hereby invited to join me! Whether you've read LOTR many times, or never read it. Whether you read it and liked it, or read it and hated it. I welcome all comers who want to read and discuss and learn!

There is no "sign up" process for this, but if you want to share a button on your own blog, or leave me a comment saying you plan to participate, go right ahead!

If you've never participated in one of my read-alongs and are curious about how they work, basically I will write a post for each individual chapter. Each post will contain my own thoughts on the chapter, some favorite lines, and a discussion question or two that I think people might want to ponder. All participants are then invited to discuss the chapter in the comments, both with me and with each other. You don't have to stick to the questions I ask!

I realize that NaNoWriMo begins that same day.  I myself am planning to Nano in a small way, with the aim of knocking out the first draft of my next fairy-tale-reimagined-as-a-western.  I intend to post three chapters a week, so it won't be a huge chunk of reading/discussing each week.  But if you feel like Nano and a read-along would be too much, I'm okay with you catching up with us after you're done.  

Also, I know there are quite a few holidays coming up in the next few months.  While I will try to post 3 chapters a week, obviously there will be weeks where that's not feasible for me or for you.  That's more like a guideline, actually, not a hard-and-fast schedule.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

"Luther: Biography of a Reformer" by Frederick Nohl

I'm pretty sure I've read this before, back in middle school or high school.  But I enjoyed re-reading it nonetheless, and I'm thinking I'll have my son read it as part of his homeschool curriculum this fall.  It's definitely easy enough that someone with a middle-school-level reading ability should be able to understand and enjoy it.

This book isn't even 200 pages long, so it's not a very in-depth look at Luther and his theology.  Rather, it's a good overview of his life, with lots of information about the political and social aspects of the world he lived in.  Anyone who is interested in understanding how and why Luther tried to reform the Roman Catholic Church, the impact his actions had on the world as a whole, and why we're still talking about him 500 years later would probably get a lot from this book.

I was not 100% crazy about the writing style, to be honest.  The author wrote most of it as a straight history, which is what I wanted.  But once in a while, he would write out a scene as if it were fiction, putting dialog in people's mouths and so on.  And I guess I'd rather have one or the other -- either straight history or biographical fiction, not a mix of the two. That is a personal glitch, though, and not one that would cause me to tell people not to read this!

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG.  It's very clean, but there are some stressful parts where Luther's life is in danger and so on.  

Obviously, this is another post in my series about the 500th anniversary of Luther nailing his 95 these to the Wittenburg church's door.  I've started posting more about this on my other blog too, if you're interested.

This is my tenth book read and reviewed for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2017.  Getting close to my goal of twelve!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Would You be Interested in Another LOTR Read-along?

At the end of the Tolkien blog party, I asked a couple people if they would be interested in me hosting another read-along of LOTR.  

Ordinarily, I wouldn't consider hosting a second read-along of a book I've already covered, but it so happens I'm using LOTR in the high school lit course I'm teaching my niece this fall.  The whole reason I've had to quit doing read-alongs except in the summer is because I don't have time to teach her AND lead read-alongs.   Except, if I lead another LOTR read-along, I could just adapt my posts for her and use them for the general read-along.  I think I could handle that.

If enough people are interested, I will do this!  I would probably start it at the beginning of November, just to give people a chance to find out about it, decide to join, and get a copy of the book.

So... if you're interested, say so in the comments here, and let me know if a November start date would work for you!  We would do about 3 chapters a week, so this would take about 21 weeks, or from November 1 to probably the end of March.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Finally Fall Book Tag

I'm borrowing this from Joseph over at The Once Lost Wanderer.  We had about a week of what I consider to be fall weather in early October, but it's been hot and muggy again lately.  Still, the evenings are cool, trees are beginning to change color, and I've got that energized-and-creative vibe going on that I get in fall and spring, so yay!

For some reason, I keep hearing the voices of random cast members on Whose Line is it Anyway? reading these questions in the ridiculously perky voices they use whenever they're the "contestant" on the "dating show" game they do.  Which is cracking me up.

(Photo by me)

1. In fall, the air is crisp and clear: name a book with a vivid setting!

I'm going to go with The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, because Middle-earth is so vivid, I want to live there.  And not just because of the movies, but because of the way he describes all the places.  Every time I re-read it, I am in awe of his world-building.

2. Nature is beautiful… but also dying: name a book that is beautifully written, but also deals with a heavy topic like loss or grief.

I think Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen is an amazing look at how the death of one person can so drastically affect others.  Mr. Dashwood dies at the beginning, and his wife and daughters have their whole world upended.

3. Fall is back to school season: share a non-fiction book that taught you something new.  

The first one that comes to mind is Sixguns and Society: A Structural Study of the Western by Will Wright.  I learned so much about story structure from it, not only for westerns but just for all kinds of stories.  And I discovered a lot about what kinds of story elements really draw them, which I hope has helped me use them more effectively in my own writing.

4. In order to keep warm, it’s good to spend some time with the people we love: name a fictional family/household/friend-group that you’d like to be a part of.

Today I pick the Curtis family and their gang in The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton.  I'd love to marry Darry and help take care of Soda and Ponyboy, or move in next door to them and become their friend, or whatever -- I've actually imagined being part of their lives on and off since I first read the book.

5. The colorful leaves are piling up on the ground: show us a pile of fall-colored spines!

6. Fall is the perfect time for some storytelling by the fireside: share a book wherein somebody is telling a story.

All of the Nero Wolfe books are narrated by Archie Goodwin as if he were telling you a story, and I love them dearly!  My favorite is A Family Affair, but I don't recommend that you start reading the series with it, as it won't work as well if you aren't already familiar with the characters.

7. The nights are getting darker: share a dark, creepy read.

I don't read a lot of creepy books.  Can't deal with them, just like I can't deal with scary movies.  But I do like a dark story now and then.  My beloved Hamlet is quite dark, and creepy in spots too, I suppose.

8. The days are getting colder: name a short, heartwarming read that could warm up somebody’s cold and rainy day.

I think it would be hard not to be warmed and cheered by A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd.  It's so sweet and quirky and cheerful.

9. Fall returns every year: name an old favorite that you’d like to return to soon.

I get very much in the mood for The Hound of the Baskervilles by A. Conan Doyle in October, and this year is no exception.  Not sure if I'll squeeze in a re-read, but if not this year, then next year!

10. Fall is the perfect time for cozy reading nights: share your favorite cozy reading “accessories”!

Well, I kind of just read anywhere, anytime?  I read when I'm brushing my teeth.  I read when I'm waiting for water to boil while making lunch.  I read in the car (when I'm a passenger, don't worry).  So really, my favorite cozy reading accessories are a book and a bookmark. 

I mean, it's fun to sit by my fireplace on a chilly evening and read.  Or to sit on the swing in the backyard in the summer and read.  But really, I just want a book and a bookmark.

I'm not going to tag anyone with this, but if you love books and autumn and tags, feel free to fill this out!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Winners of the "Cloaked" bookmark giveaway!

Congratulations to Niki T, Lydia B, Olivia F, Faith T, and Jessica G!  You won the giveaway of five bookmarks (handmade by me) that reflect some elements of Little Red Riding Hood that I used in Cloaked.  

Winners, I will be contacting you later today via the email address you supplied to the Rafflecopter widget.  I'll need your mailing address so I can send you your bookmark, so please keep an eye out for that email!

And everyone, thank you again for supporting me as I wrote, revised, and prepped Cloaked for publication.  In case you hadn't heard, I'm already working on the next story for my Once Upon a Western collection -- a retelling of "Twelve Dancing Princesses" set in the Old West!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

"Frames" by Loren D. Estleman

I was reading merrily along in chapter 18 when all of a sudden, I stopped breathing.  Not because I was choking, or because the book was suddenly terrifying.  But because, at the bottom of page 176, a character said, "I haven't seen so many cops in one place since they arrested John Landis."

And I stopped breathing and my heart started to pound because I know why John Landis got arrested, and the reason he did makes me EXTREMELY ANGRY AND SAD.  And the book as a whole has nothing to do with Landis, though it's all about Hollywood and movie-making and old movies and things like that, so it's not like this reference was out of place.  It was in perfect place.  I just wasn't expecting it.  

I stopped reading right there too, and told myself to breathe, and gathered my courage, and then made my eyes travel to the top of the next page where, sure enough, the next sentence was: "That would be for the accident that killed Vic Morrow and two child extras on the set of Twilight Zone--The Movie."  And I was very happy that Estleman included that, but I couldn't read any farther for like twenty minutes because I had to sit and think about Vic Morrow and be sad all over again for him.

You see, Vic Morrow is one of my favorite actors.  He starred as my favorite fictional character (Sgt. Saunders) in my favorite TV show, Combat! (1962-67).  And he and two children died, tragically and violently, on the set of Twilight Zone--The Movie when Landis broke all kinds of safety regulations and child labor laws.  And Landis was acquitted, in what I believe to be a terrible miscarriage of justice.  So, yeah, I got a little emotional over having that whole subject come up suddenly in the middle of what is otherwise a charming and playful mystery book.

As for Frames, it's a delightful book.  A film historian and preservationist named Valentino buys a crumbling old theater, finds a long-lost silent film inside, and then finds a dead body.  I liked the major players, the minor characters were memorable, and the mystery was engaging.  I will read more of this series.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  a soft PG-13 for some mild kissing and innuendo, the discovery of a skeleton, and possibly a little mild bad language, though I can't right now remember any words used in particular.  It could almost swing a PG rating.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

"A Mighty Fortress is Our God" by Martin Luther and Jason Jaspersen

I had grand plans to do posts all year long to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenburg church on October 31, 1517.  So far I've managed to do one over on my other blog.

Well, it's October.  And if I get myself in gear, I can STILL do a pretty cool series of posts about this. I've got quite a few books about the Reformation and Martin Luther I can review, plus some other thoughts to share, so I'll be doing that throughout October both here and on Hamlette's Soliloquy, Lord willing and my life doesn't get even busier.  And I'll begin with this review of a brand-new picture book!

This book is seriously cool.  The text is all four verses of Martin Luther's great and glorious hymn "A Mighty Fortress is Our God," and it's illustrated by Jason Jaspersen, a guy who attended the same college I did.  If you want to see what it looks like inside, the publisher's Facebook page has a video showing the interior pages.  The book also includes the tune at the back in case you don't know it or want to play the melody, and it includes the first verse of "God's Word is Our Great Heritage" at the back too, which can be sung to the same tune.

Jaspersen's illustrations are really striking and unique.  You know how in the Lord of the Rings movies, whenever Bilbo or Frodo put on the ring, they enter this sort of shadow world with unseen foes?  This feels a lot like that -- shadowy forms of angels, demons, and people all blurring together into one realm.  The "old evil foe" and his minions are depicted as a vast army in pointy armor trying to overtake the church and believers, and Satan is in one place depicted as a dragon-like creature being slain by Jesus as a knight in armor.  In fact, some of the pictures might be a little scary for very little kids -- my five-year-old (who just renamed herself Mad Dog yesterday) was fine with them, but I could see my three-year-old nephew finding them a little too freaky.  Just so you know.

In case you didn't know from my "Who Am I?" page or guess it from the fact that I want to highlight stuff about the Protestant Reformation and Martin Luther, I am a Lutheran.  I'm working on a post about what that means to me for my other blog, and hope to have it up before the week is out.  I'm putting that "500" icon with the Luther's Seal in it on the sidebars of both my blogs, and if you click on that, you'll go to all the posts in this series for that blog.