Tuesday, September 25, 2018

LOTR Name Scramble

Here's the second party game for the 2018 Tolkien Blog Party!  I've scrambled up the names of twenty characters from The Lord of the Rings.  These are all characters who are in the book AND the movies --  I didn't get all tricky and throw in obscure people like Ghan-Buri-Ghan or anything.

It's your job to unscramble them and post your answers in the comments.  I'll reveal the answers and everyone's scores on Saturday!

1. Airfarm
2. Algierlad
3. Andflag
4. Angaror
5. Blobi
6. Bolenerc
7. Comradie
8. Dolern
9. Doorf
10. Glumlo
11. Gripneer
12. Leoslag
13. Maurans
14. Milgi
15. Nothdeer
16. Othneed
17. Ribroom
18. Swimsea
19. Wrean
20. Wyneo

Monday, September 24, 2018

Middle-earth Weaponry Quiz

Ahhh, those nice, shiny daggers.  Who among us doesn't want one?  Maybe you even own a replica?  I don't actually have any replica weaponry from Middle-earth, but wow, I would love to.

(Note: not all weapons shown are on this list.)

Your challenge is to match up the names of the famous weapons (first list) with the name of the person who wielded them (second list).  Some of these are easy.  Some are very hard.  I admit that I looked a bunch up on the Lotr Wiki because I did not know them.  So don't feel bad if you don't either.  They're all from The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and The Silmarillion.  Just so you know.

I'm putting comments on "moderate" now so your answers in the comments will be kept secret and safe until after I post the answers and everyone's scores on Saturday.


1. Aeglos
2. Anduril
3. Aranruth
4. Dramborleg
5. Glamdring
6. Guthwine
7. Herugrim
8. Orcrist
9. Ringil
10. Sting


a. Aragorn
b. Bilbo Baggins
c. Eomer
d. Fingolfin
e. Gandalf
f. Gil-galad
g. Theoden
h. Thingol
i. Thorin Oakenshield
j. Tuor

Saturday, September 22, 2018

A Tolkien Blog Party -- 2018

Greetings, my very dear Bagginses and Boffins, Bracegirdles and Tooks, Hornblowers and Brandybucks, Cottons and Proudfoots.  


Today is Bilbo and Frodo's birthday!!!  And that means my sixth annual Tolkien Blog Party shall now commence.

If you are indeed here on party business, then pour yourself a cup of Old Winyards, Entdraught, or even beer from the Green Dragon if you so desire, and get busy filling out the latest blog tag.  Copy these questions to your own blog, answer them there, and then come back here with a link to your post.  Put that link in the widget below so we can all enjoy getting to know you and your opinions on these very important matters!  Feel free to use any of the buttons I shared on this page to dress up your post.

Tolkien Tag 2018

1.  What's your favorite Middle-earth story/book?

2.  Do you have a favorite subplot?

3.  What's your favorite theme in Tolkien's books?  (Can be in one specific story, or overall.)

4.  Do you have a favorite weapon from Middle-earth?

5.  Would you like to be a hobbit?

6.  Do you have a favorite romance/couple?

7.  What's your favorite Middle-earth creature?  (Can be "real" or "imaginary.")

8.  What character do you look the most like?

9.  Are there any books about Middle-earth or Professor Tolkien (but not written by him) you recommend?

10.  List up to ten of your favorite lines/quotations from the Middle-earth books and/or movies.

Here's the widget for you to add your link to.  And don't forget to comment on this post so people know there's a new set of answers to read!  The best part of this party is meeting new Tolkien fans.

Now that you've filled out the tag and left your link here, maybe even found a new friend or two by reading their posts... go enter the giveaway!  And check back all week to participate in the games and read other Tolkien-related blog posts.

Giveaway for the 2018 Tolkien Blog Party

YES!  Time to unveil this year's giveaway prizes! 

This year, I will give away NINE prizes.  Why nine?  Nine companions in the Fellowship of the Ring... nine Nazgul... 9x9=81, and it's the 81st anniversary of The Hobbit being released... why not nine prizes?

TWO winners will EACH receive a set of 6 Tolkien-themed bookmarks, as pictured above.

TWO winners will EACH receive a set of 4 Tolkien-themed stickers, as pictured above.

ONE winner will receive a bookmark that says "Not all those who wander are lost."

ONE winner will receive a tiny Hobbit-like door, perfect for a miniature garden or terrarium.

ONE winner will receive a NEW copy of The Children of Hurin by J. R. R. Tolkien.

ONE winner will receive a Hobbit Hole spiral-bound notebook/journal.

ONE winner will receive a USED copy of Middle-Earth Puzzles by Tim Dedopulos.

This giveaway is open WORLDWIDE. I'm mailing these all myself, and most of them are small, so no matter where you live in this wide world, you are welcome to enter.

The main way to gain entries is to participate in the party, in other words, to copy the questions I posted here and answer them on your own blog, then add your post's link to the Mister Linky widget at the bottom of that official party kick-off post. But that isn't required! You can also earn entries by telling me your prize choices and by commenting elsewhere on my blog. I do my best to match winners with their choice of prizes, but that doesn't always work out -- that's why I ask for your top three choices.

This giveaway runs through the end of Friday, September 28. I will draw the winners on Saturday, September 29 and post the names of the winners that day, as well a notify them by email.

PLEASE make sure your information for the giveaway widget includes your current email address so that if you win a prize, you'll get the email informing you that you won! If you don't reply to my email by Saturday, October 6, I will choose another winner and award your prize to them instead.

Here's the widget:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don't forget to check back throughout the week to participate in the games and make new friends!

Friday, September 21, 2018

"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" by Roald Dahl

I hadn't read this book in more than twenty years.  Man, is it ever still really funny.

I'm teaching literature for our local homeschool group this year.  Three different age groups: preschool through first grade, third through sixth grade, and high school.  It's been GREAT so far!  I teach twice a month, and we have been having a blast.  Yesterday, the third-through-sixth-graders discussed this book, and their enthusiasm was awesome!  And I'm not just saying that because two of the kids are mine :-)  They loved talking about the candy, of course, but I was impressed by how well they understood the characters.  We talked about motivations, whether anybody in the book was always bad or always good, and how Charlie changes by the end of the story.  Good stuff.

I actually read this book out loud to my kids over the past couple of weeks because I knew my first-grader would enjoy it too.  I did this crazy, high, squeaky voice for Willy Wonka that I regretted after like one chapter with him because it killed my vocal chords... but they got such a kick out of it, I kept doing it for the rest of the book.  My third-grader later told me her favorite thing about the book was Willy Wonka's funny voice, hee.

I think my favorite part of this book is just how very, very poor Charlie Bucket gets rewarded for being a sensible, kind, obedient boy in a super-fantastic way.  I remember as a kid making up all these stories about poor orphans getting adopted by rich people, or rich people going around buying up hotels and then letting homeless people live in them, and I know this book played into those stories in a big way.

Would anybody be interested in me doing a post about how I teach lit to our homeschool group, what books we're reading this semester, and so on?

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G.  Good, clean, silly fun.

This is my 21st book read and reviewed for the Classics Club and my 6th for the Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

"A Song Unheard" by Roseanna M. White

Well, I didn't like this as well as A Name Unknown, and that is entirely because of the characters.  Specifically, because of Lukas De Wilde.  I eventually ended up liking him okay, but wow, the dude did not understand the meaning of the word 'no,' did he?

Time and again, Willa Forsythe told him she was not romantically interested in him, and time and again he ignored that and insisted on wooing her anyway.  If a notorious playboy singlemindedly pursued a girl today, we'd call him a stalker or a creeper, but because this is historical fiction, it's supposed to be okay?

Nope, rubbed me wrong.

Willa herself didn't really win me over either.  I like con artists, but I don't like liars, and she did too much lying and too little conning for me to really warm to her.

Now, once she told Lukas the truth?  I settled right in and liked this book from then on.  It helped that Barclay was on the scene then too, and he elevated the story from oh-can't-they-just-either-get-together-or-give-this-up tiresomeness to something I dug.  I really am looking forward to reading An Hour Unspent, which I hear focuses on Barclay instead of one of his sisters.

I also very much liked Lukas' little sister Margot -- her habit of praying by using numbers really intrigued me.  God understands every language and created mathematics, so of course you could pray with numbers if that makes sense to you.  I'd just never thought of it!  So I liked that.

The basic plot of this is that thief Willa Forsythe is charged by the mysterious V to find and steal a secret code from famous Belgian violinist Lukas de Wilde, who has escaped the German occupation of Belgium and is raising money in Wales to help other Belgians.  Lukas' mom and sister are still in Belgium, he knows not where.  Willa is a violin prodigy herself, and I did enjoy lots of the musical content of this book.

(From my Instagram account.)

Particularly Good Bits:

She felt, as she listened to the ninety musicians following the motions of the maestro into a frenzy of musical bliss, as though she were seeing true beauty for the first time.  She felt bigger and smaller all at once.  More alive.  Closer to death.  Fear and peace, love and sorrow.  She felt like she never had before.  And it left her with energy coursing through her veins, stinging her fingertips (p. 115).

"My mother always says that the one you're meant to marry is simply the one you do marry -- it's not a matter of romance, it's a matter of deciding to love and make it work" (p. 122).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for veiled references to Lukas's playboy past, spending nights with random women, as well as for violence and suspense.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

"Gone-Away Lake" by Elizabeth Enright

I love this book.  I loved it as a kid, and I love it now.

I read Gone-Away Lake over and over as a pre-teen, and I vaguely could remember now what it was about -- some kids who find an abandoned village -- but I really didn't recall the particulars.  My son found this on my shelves a couple of years ago and fell in love with it too, and he's nearly destroyed my copy with his love.  But neither of my daughters wanted to read it on their own.

When we got home from vacation, I decided this would be the next book I'd read out loud to my kids because it's such a good summer story.  July and August were frenetic and hectic, so it took me two whole months to read it aloud to them.  But we finished it just at the beginning of September, which was perfect timing because the last couple chapters take place at the beginning of September too.  And we all loved it so much, I'm going to read the sequel to them next week.

Yes, there's a sequel!!!  I was entirely unaware of that fact until a year or so ago when we spotted it at the used bookstore.  I haven't read it yet, but I'm excited.

I really didn't remember a ton of this book while I read it, which surprised me.  Usually books that I read multiple times as a kid still feel very familiar.  And certain scenes did come back to me as I read, but not the book as a whole.  However, I realized while reading it that this book is a HUGE part of why I am somewhat obsessed with abandoned places.  And why I generally find abandoned buildings beautiful and inspiring, not creepy.  I do vividly recall wishing that there was an abandoned house somewhere near where I lived that was sound enough still for me to clean up and take over as my own clubhouse like Portia and Julian get to do in this book.  I still wish that.  I love old, neglected houses in a "let me rescue it and give it love" sort of way, and I see now that this book certainly fed into that, though I can't tell if it caused that interest.

Anyway, this book is about two cousins, Portia and Julian, who go tramping around in the woods and stumble on an abandoned cluster of summer homes.  But they're not entirely abandoned -- two delightful elderly people, brother and sister, still live there.  Julian and Portia befriend them, and they have a jolly summer together.  I love it.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G.  It's clean and wholesome.  There's a tense chapter where someone gets stuck in quicksand that might be hard on kids under 6.

This is my 5th book read and reviewed for the Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge and my 20th for my second go-round with the Classics Club.  (Do I count this book as a classic?  Yes, I do!  It was written in 1957 and should be read by every child.  It's a classic.  So there.)

Sunday, September 9, 2018

The "Dancing and Doughnuts" Giveaway Winners!

My book tour officially ended yesterday, and so did the giveaways associated with it.  This afternoon, the Rafflecopter widgets have spoken, so I can announce the winners!!! 

The winner of the blog tour prize pack, shown above, is...

Betsy Waggoner

Congratulations, Betsy!  

I also held a giveaway open only to those who hosted blog tour stops, and the winner for that is...

Annie from The Western Desk

Annie will get to choose either autographed copies of both Cloaked and Dancing and Doughnuts OR a $15 Amazon gift certificate.  Congratulations to you too, Annie!

Everyone else, I'm sorry you didn't win :-(  I guess you'll just have to buy your own copy, or convince your library to get it, or put it on your Christmas list.  Right?  Right!

Friday, September 7, 2018

The Silmarillion Awards

Do you love fantasy fiction?  Are you finding it hard to fill your days while you wait for the Tolkien Blog Party to begin?  Check out the Silmarillion Awards, which are open for nominations through the end of today.  They're for characters in fantasy books, and I don't think it matters if it's a new book or a classic -- as long as it's fantasy, it's good to go.  

Ten different blogs are involved in this, each blog responsible for one Silmaril award.  Follow these links to get in on the nominations and watch for the voting to begin next week!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

"The Welsh Gambit" by Charity Bishop

Book one in the Tudor Throne series, The Usurper's Throne, was one of my ten favorite reads of 2017.  Book two, The Welsh Gambit, is very likely going to be one of my top ten new reads of 2018.  It's every bit as breathless and engrossing as the first book, and I read the last quarter of the book in one sitting because I just had to know what happened next!

The action in this book centers around a castle in Wales where Edward Stafford, the Duke of Buckingham, is preparing to host a tournament in honor of the memory of the prince who died at the end of The Usurper's Throne, but in the interest of not spoiling things, I won't say the prince's name.  Anyway, the tournament means that lots of people get thrown together as they gather to watch or participate in the festivities.  Friends and enemies alike mix in the crowds.  

Of particular interest to me was the Lady Anwen, who spent months as a tormented captive of Lord Meuric and his brutish protege Beynon.  Though they never actually assaulted her virtue, they threatened to do so repeatedly.  Anwen is now free, but traumatized.  She breaks off her engagement to a wonderful young man named James because she cannot bear to be touched by anyone.  Gradually, she finds healing for body, soul, and mind by learning new things and eventually confronting her tormentors.  

But my favorite character was once again Sir Thomas Lovell, the sly, devious, but often honorable Enforcer.  He spies and connives and bullies, and sometimes I want to slap him.  But just when I think I'm done with him, he does something absolutely wonderful and then I'm a fan again.

There's lots of mystery and intrigue in this book.  A dead woman is said to haunt the castle, and several characters make it their mission to find her remains.  Treason and envy and desire lie at the root of several other mysteries entwined throughout the story, keeping me on the edge of my seat through the last nine chapters.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-13 for a little bad language, discussions of attempted rape, violence, bloodshed, and some intimate scenes between married people that do not progress beyond passionate kisses.

Full disclosure:  I received an ARC copy in exchange for my honest opinion, which I have given here.

You can pre-order the Kindle version here, and there will be a paperback edition available soon as well.  The Goodreads page for this book is here.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Announcing the Sixth Annual Tolkien Blog Party

Sorry this announcement is a bit late.  But yes!  I will be hosting my annual Tolkien Blog Party for the sixth year.  I assure you I am greatly looking forward to it.  I hope you are too!

As usual, I'll have a questionnaire tag for you to fill out, some games, a book review or two, and a giveaway.  This year, it will run from Saturday, Sept. 22 (Bilbo and Frodo's birthday, and always observed as Hobbit Day) to Saturday, Sept. 29.

Here are a few blog buttons I've worked up for the occasion -- share them on your own blogs or other social media accounts to spread the word!  We always have such a merry time during this blog party, and I look forward to it all year.

See you there!

Saturday, September 1, 2018

In Which I Join the Reams of Rereads Event

My friend Eva is hosting a blog event during the month of October called Reams of Rereads.  The idea behind it is that we often get so focused on our TBR mountains we don't make time to reread books we already love.  Well, I LOVE rereading books, as you may have noticed if you've been hanging out with me for more than a day or two.  So I'm 100% on board with this idea.

In October, I intend to re-read at least four of these books:

  • The Hound of the Baskervilles by A. Conan Doyle (this is the best book to read in October)
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Wild Horse Mesa by Zane Grey
  • The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler
  • Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
  • The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg

If you want to join this event too, visit this post on Eva's blog, Coffee, Classics, and Craziness!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

"Famous Gunfighters of the Western Frontier" by W. B. "Bat" Masterson

Yes, you read that correctly.  This book was written by none other than famous western lawman Bat Masterson himself!  Actually, it's a series of magazine articles he wrote after he'd retired from peacemaking.  He became a newspaperman, you see, and in 1907 (the year John Wayne was born, just FYI), he wrote these little biographies of fellow famous gunmen.  

By far the most interesting to me were his articles on Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp.  You see, Earp was a dear friend of Masterson's, but Masterson couldn't stand Holliday.  You definitely get the sense that he tolerated Holliday only for Earp's sake.  The nicest thing Masterson calls Holliday is "a most picturesque character" (p. 35).  Mostly he writes things like this: "Holliday had a mean disposition and an ungovernable temper, and under the influence of liquor was a most dangerous man" (p. 35).  Yes, totally not a fan.  An you can see why -- the Holliday that Bat Masterson describes is mean, vicious, vindictive, and fond of killing with little provocation.

But Wyatt Earp?  Masterson has only good, laudable things to say about Earp.  He begins by stating, "Wyatt Earp is one of the few men I personally knew in the West in the early days, whom I regarded as absolutely destitute of physical fear" (p. 54).  Masterson describes the now-famous Tombstone gunfight at the O.K. Corral in glowing terms, even giving Doc Holliday his due when it comes to standing up against the Clantons and McLowrys.  He says, "The fight was hardly started before it was over, and the result showed that nearly every shot fired by the Earp party went straight home to the mark" (p. 61).  Now, Masterson wasn't present in Tombstone at that time, so we can only assume he's mostly basing this account off what his friend Earp told him, but he does seem to try to present a fair view of the issue between the Earps and their enemies.  The whole description of that affair alone is worth getting a copy of this book to read.

Masterson's writing only fills up 65 pages of this slim volume, and the rest of the space contains photographs of people and places he talks about.  These aren't interspersed among the articles, as you might expect, but just clumped together at the end.

I greatly enjoyed Masterson's writing style -- he's dramatic, but not florid, and me made me chuckle more than once.  He has a dry wit that uses understatement to great advantage, which is a style of humor I enjoy.  He's a shrewd student of human nature, too, and I found some of his passages about the nature of courage and other deep matters to be revelatory.  I've included a couple of them below.

(From my Instagram)

Particularly Good Bits:

"Mr. Mayor, and the gentlemen of the meetings," said Wyatt; "I guess the report is true.  I came here some days ago," said he, "and, thinking that perhaps something might happen where I would need assistance, brought along some other gentlemen who signified a willingness to join in whatever festivities might arise.

"Moreover," continued Wyatt, "Luke and Bat will arrive at noon tomorrow, and on their arrival we expect to open up hostilities" (p. 18)  (From a story about Wyatt Earp helping his friend Luke Short out of a difficulty in Dodge City.)

Courage to step out and fight to the death with a pistol is but one of three qualities a man must possess in order to last very long in this hazardous business.  A man may possess the greatest amount of courage possible and still be a pathetic failure as a "gun fighter," as men are often called in the West who have gained rputations as "man-killers."  Courage is of little use to a man who essays to arbitrate a difference with a pistol if he is inexperienced in the use of the weapon he is going to use.  Then again he may possess both courage and experience and still fail if he lacks deliberation (p. 25).

I have often remarked, and I am not alone in my conclusion, that what goes for courage in a man is generally the fear of what others will think of him -- in other words, personal bravery is largely made up of self-respect, egotism, and an apprehension of the opinion of others (p. 54).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG, as there's a lot about violence here, but nothing graphic.  HOWEVER some of the pictures at the back of the book could be disturbing to some people, as several of them are pictures of dead bodies.

This is my 19th book read and reviewed for my second go-round with the Classics Club.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

The "Dancing and Doughnuts" Book Tour + Giveaway


In fact, the Facebook party I'm participating in tonight kicks off in less than two hours!  Will I see you there?  I hope so!  The party starts at 8pm EST, and I'll get the virtual microphone around 9:45pm to chat with all attendees.  The other authors and I will be hosting some giveaways, so you definitely don't want to miss that.

And here is the official schedule for my book tour.  I am overwhelmed by everyone's response to this.  Y'all, I thought maybe five people would sign up.  This blog tour is poised to surpass my wildest hopes.  THANK YOU!  This is going to be so fun :-D

Blog names are linked to each blog for right now, and as each post goes live, I'll change that to a link to the actual post.  I'm assuming this post here is going to get pushed down my blog as I post other things in coming days, though, so I've also got this schedule right here on this handy-dandy page.  I'll be updating that too as the various reviews and interviews get posted.

Saturday, Aug. 25 -- Summer Book Release Party on Facebook

Sunday, Aug. 26 -- review at Ink Castles

Monday, Aug. 27 -- interview at The Western Desk

Tuesday, Aug. 28 -- interview at Stretching the Metaphorical Cello and interview at Bookish Orchestrations

Wednesday, Aug. 29 -- interview at I'm Charles Baker Harris (And I Can Read)

Thursday, Aug. 30 -- interview at Unicorn Quester

Friday, Aug. 31 -- RELEASE DAY!  review at Meanwhile, in Rivendell...

Saturday, Sept. 1 -- review at The Flowering Vales

Sunday, Sept. 2 -- interview at Meanwhile, in Rivendell...

Monday, Sept. 3 -- review and interview at Any Merry Little Thought

Tuesday, Sept. 4 -- review at Coffee, Classics, and Craziness

Wednesday, Sept. 5 -- interview at The Flowering Vales, review at What a Novel Idea, and review at I'm Charles Baker Harris (And I Can Read)

Thursday, Sept. 6 -- review at Seasons of Humility

Friday, Sept. 7 -- interview at Coffee, Classics, and Craziness

Saturday, Sept. 8 -- review at The Book Sprite, review at Flowers of Quiet Happiness

When you stop by a tour post, you'll have the opportunity to enter a giveaway I'm hosting.  And yes, you can enter it more than once!  The more posts you visit, the more entries you'll get.

What am I giving away?  This prize pack!

That's one 15"x18" tote bag, one autographed copy of Dancing and Doughnuts, and one copy of a nifty little cookbook called Log Cabin Cooking by Barbara Swell that is chock full of recipes and old cooking tips and random facts about food in the 1800s.

You can go ahead and start entering this giveaway right away, and then when you visit various interviews and reviews over the next two weeks, you'll get to enter it again and again! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I will choose ONE WINNER on Sunday, September 9, and notify them via the email address they provided to the giveaway widget.  That winner will have one week to respond.  If they have not responded to my email by Sunday, September 16, I will disqualify them and choose a new winner.

This giveaway is open WORLDWIDE.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Book Release Party on Facebook TOMORROW

Argh, how do I keep forgetting to post about this on my blogs?  It's been that kind of month, is all I can say.  Anyway... tomorrow, as in Saturday, August 25, seven other indie authors and I are banding together to throw a party on Facebook.

If you're on Facebook and want to join us, click here or on the image above.  The fun begins at 8pm EST, and my own particular time slot is at 9:45pm.  I'll be talking about Dancing and Doughnuts, obviously, answering people's questions and so on.  Oh, and giving away autographed copies of my books!

You can hang out for the whole party, or just pop by for a few minutes -- whatever works for you!  So sorry about the late notice :-(  I've talked about this on my FB author page a couple times, but didn't think to write about it here too.  

That party will be the kick-off for my Dancing and Doughnuts world tour!  I've set up a page listing the different stops so you can follow with ease!  There'll be a giveaway involved with that too... more on that SOON.

Hope to see you on FB tomorrow night!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

"A Name Unknown" by Roseanna M. White


I'd read a LOT of glowing reviews of this book, but weirdly enough, I wasn't actually sure what it was about.  Something involving traitors?  I don't like traitors.  I didn't want to read it.

Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut Eva Schon gave me a copy for my birthday, swearing up and down that I would love it.  And I trust her taste pretty well, so I let the book sit on my shelf for about four months, then finally tried it because I always feel guilty when it takes me a long time to get around to reading a book someone gave me.

Um, yeah.  I loved it.


It's not about traitors, it's about a professional thief (yum) putting her con artist skills (swoon) to work finding out IF a certain British gentleman with a German family is a traitor.  It hooked me early and hard, and I gobbled this book up.

Especially once I met Peter, the gent in question.  Peter stutters.  I have this very strong protective instinct for people with speech impediments.  I don't even know why, because I've never stuttered, and I didn't grow up around anyone with a speech impediment, but boy howdy, you give me a person who has one and I will champion them across the universe.

And when that person (real or fictional) is also a writer and a dyed-in-the-wool sweetheart?  I'm a gone goose.  Especially when they're a sincere Christian who relies on God to understand them when other people don't.

But the presence of a con artist and a stuttering writer are not all I loved about this book.  I loved the writing, the way the author didn't mess around with non-essential scenes.  In fact, the pacing reminded me a lot of Jane Austen -- events that aren't material to the plot get summed up rather than laid out, while conversations that advance character development get set forth in detail.  People like to tout the "rule" of writing that says you should "show, not tell," but the truth is, you CANNOT show everything.  Well, I mean you can, but not if you want people to actually read and enjoy your stories.  You have to know when to slow down and when to speed up, and White totally gets that.

And then there's the love story.  It's so... real.  So slow and hesitant and delectable.

You'd better believe I'm eagerly waiting for the next book, A Song Unheard, to come in at the library for me.

(Mine from Instagram)

Particularly Good Bits:

Nothing like nature's savagery to soothe the beast within (p. 23).

She pasted on a smile so sweet it made his teeth hurt.  And so false he had to wonder if she had a trunk of them in her mind's closet, just ready to be pulled out and put on like a costume (p. 79).

He had never doubted God heard him.  The rest of the world -- they were the ones who couldn't make out his intent through his stammering tongue.  But what must it feel like to doubt that basic truth?  That God heard.  Got answered.  God could be trusted (p. 155).

Silence was a lot like a sibling, she'd decided -- sometimes you didn't want it hanging about, getting in the way.  and other times it was the best companion imaginable (p. 336).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for a bit of violence and danger, as well as some people making vieled remarks implying that people have behaved improperly.  No bad language, no adult content, no gore.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Announcing the "Dancing and Doughnuts" (Virtual) World Tour

I've never gone on a blog tour.  Or a book tour.  But there's a first time for everything!

I'm setting up a tour for my upcoming release, Dancing and Doughnuts, and this post right here is me calling for people to sign up to help host it!  Which does NOT mean saying you'll let me sleep on a couch in your basement between book signings.  

Actually, since I've never hosted a blog tour, maybe it does involve that?  I'm not sure?

No, seriously, what it really means is you'll post a review of my book or an interview with me on your blog.  Or your YouTube channel.  Or your IGTV channel.  Or whatever way you want to participate.  I'm really open to all ideas because... I've never done this before.

(Did I mention I'm new at this?)

ALL hosts of "stops" on this book tour will be eligible to enter a giveaway!  The prize?  Either autographed copies of both Cloaked and Dancing and Doughnuts OR a $15 Amazon gift card, winner's choice.

EDIT:  That giveaway will be open world-wide.  If you don't live in the US and you win and choose the Amazon gift card, we can figure out together how for me to get you a card that will work in your country. 

Don't think of it as me bribing you, just think of it as me showing my appreciation ;-)

I do already have a couple gigs lined up -- one Facebook launch party for my book and a bunch of other indie books at the end of the month, for instance.  That promises to be nifty.  

Anyway!  The dates I'm looking at would be August 26 through September 8.  If you've got an open slot in your blogging or Instagramming or YouTubing or Whatevering schedule and would like to be part of this tour, let me know by emailing me at rachelkovaciny a gmail dot com.  Put something like "Blog Tour" in the subject line, not "My Basement Has No Couch, So It's The Cold, Hard Concrete for You, Pal."  Just cuz I'm getting old and my knees and hips and shoulders and neck and back can't really deal with sleeping on concrete anymore.

And yes, if you're one of my ARC readers, your review of my book on your blog would TOTALLY be eligible for this.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

"Tears of the Sea" by Savannah Jezowski + giveaway links

Rescue a princess, meet a mermaid, win your reward.

The authors of the Fellowship of Fantasy tackle fairy tales from once upon a time to happily ever after. Explore twists on old tales and brand new magical stories. Meet feisty mermaids, friendly lampposts, and heroes who just might be monsters themselves.

This fourth anthology from the Fellowship of Fantasy will lead you on a quest for entertainment and storm the castle of your imagination. So make a wish and enter the deep dark woods to find stories that will make you laugh, shiver, and maybe even fall in love.

I'm so excited to be part of the blog tour for this spiffy collection of fairy tale retellings!  In this post, I'm specifically reviewing the story "Tears of the Sea" by Savannah Jezowski, but I intend to read the rest of the collection and review it as a whole eventually, so watch for that in a few weeks.

The official synopsis of "Tears of the Sea" is:  When Le Rae indulges her fascination with the forbidden sand walkers, she discovers more than danger in the shallow waters.  So right away, you know this is a Little Mermaid story, right?  

Truth be told, I don't much care for the Disney movie, and the original story by Hans Christian Anderson is a little too fatalistic for my taste too.  But I reeeeeeeally liked "Tears of the Sea" because of the ways Jezowski changed the story!  The mermaid girl is still obsessed with humans, but not in a romantic way.  And Jezowski added this merman character, Selken, who was pretty darn fabulous.  All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this story and am excited to read the rest of the stories here.

If you want to get to know Savannah Jezowski, click here to visit her blog.

As I mentioned, this review is part of the official Tales of Ever After blog tour.  For the full schedule and links to all the other tour posts, please check out Kendra H. Ardnek's blog.

The blog tour involves two giveaways with multiple prizes!  Click here for the US-only giveaway, and click here for the international giveaway.  The US-only giveaway is for paperback copies of various books, and the international giveaway is for ebooks.

You can buy Tales of Ever After here on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.  Visit the Goodreads page to read what other people are saying about it too.

If This Story was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for some danger and violence.  No bad language or inappropriate content.

Monday, August 6, 2018

"Blind Beauty and Other Tales of Redemption" by Meredith Leigh Burton

The three stories in this collection retell fairy tales, some familiar and some not.  Each story features a heroine who faces a seemingly insurmountable obstacle.  And each heroine, instead of wallowing in self-pity or giving up in despair, fights and struggles even when things seem hopeless.

"Blind Beauty" retells Beauty and the Beast, but the beautiful girl in it is blind.  She can't see what the beast looks like, she only knows his words and actions and how those affect her and her family.  As a result, she sees the beast more clearly than anyone else.

I'm not familiar with the story "Crossing to Afendia" retells, but I found it fascinating nonetheless.   A high-caste family adopts a low-caste girl of a different race, fulfilling a prophesy that might free both their races from bondage if they have the courage to stick together.

"Hart Spring" is a Snow White retelling set in a fantasy version of the pre-Civil War south.  A rich girl gets affection and acceptance only from her family's slaves.  She possesses a magical ability that others try to exploit for their own gain, and eventually she flees, hoping to find peace and safety in a land where all people can be free.

I very much enjoyed these three stories, especially "Hart Spring."  If you're looking for sweet, uplifting fairy tale retellings, you'll likely enjoy them too.  They're told simply and sweetly, and would be perfectly fine for tweens -- I plan to let my 10-year-old read this if he wants, as he loves fairy tale retellings.

Particularly Good Bits:

"The fragrance of spring is the fragrance of love." ("Blind Beauty")

"Fairy tales.  I know I'm too old for them, but I like stories where evil is vanquished.  Birabel's always reminding me that life isn't a fairy tale.  I know that, of course, but it's so nice to dream.  Those stories give me hope."  ("Blind Beauty")

"I feel like a piece of yarn that might break, like I'm being pulled in two directions."  ("Hart Spring")

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for some mild violence and frightening imagery.  Clean and lovely, with no bad language or questionable scenes.

I received a copy of this book from the author.  In no way did I promise to give it a favorable review in exchange.  These are my honest opinions.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

"The Harvest Raise" by Katie Schuermann

I've liked this trilogy more and more with each book!  All the characters I got to know during the first book, I love by now.  Be they irascible, sweet, scatter-brained, quirky, solemn, or conflicted, they're my fictional friends now.  I love the resolution so many characters get in this book, Arlene Scheinberg in particular.  I actually disliked her back in House of Living Stones, became grudgingly fond of her in The Choir Immortal, and now admire and cherish her.  That's a good character arc, folks.

This book takes place several years after the previous two.  Pastor and Emily Duke have children now, and Emily is learning that being a pastor's wife is not easy.  My own dad just retired from the ministry this summer, and a lot of the things Emily Duke encounters during this story reminded me of my mom's life.  Many members of the congregation love and support her, but there are some who think they're entitled to know everything about the pastor's private life, to tell them how many kids they should have, and to try to tell them how to manage their household.  Some mean well, some don't, and... that's exactly what a pastor's family deals with.  All the time.

From the first book, I've loved Blaine, the punk-looking pianist and college student who struggled with anger and self-worth because his dad divorced his mom and entered a homosexual relationship.  I love the direction Blaine's life is taking by this book, though I won't spoil what that is, just in case someone here hasn't read this series yet, or at least this book.  But I do want to talk about how interesting I found it that he's asexual.  Although asexual characters have been cropping up in fiction lately, I've never encountered one in Christian fiction before.  I really liked how Schuermann tied Blaine's non-interest in romantic or sexual relationships to the Biblical teachings that encourage and applaud celibate lifestyles for those who are not inclined to marry.  Schuermann handled it beautifully, showing it to be a blessing just as valid and God-pleasing as marriage.  In our sex-obsessed society, we need more books with characters who reflect the men and women throughout history who have not felt led to marry because they do not burn with physical passion.

Overall, I'm sad that this series has ended because I would like more adventures with the people of Bradbury, but I also love the way that it ended, so I'm content.  After all, I can reread these three books whenever I want to hang out with all of my fictional friends there again :-)

(From my Instagram account.)

Particularly Good Bits:

It was the very essence of Church Stress, this constant bearing of people's scorn.  The world mocked and spit upon Christ Himself.  It most certainly would do the same to His servants (p. 155).

He had remembered.  She closed her eyes and sat, comforted, in the warm embrace of Blaine's knowing.  It got lonely in her memories sometimes.  She reached out a grieving hand to him, and he met it with his own (p. 334).

She hadn't realized Lutherans could be so chatty.  Their Sunday morning stoicism was feigned, apparently, for the moment they picked up a phone, they confabulataed like spirited Pentecostals (p. 373).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for subject matter like abortion, drug use, physical abuse, and some scary tornado-related scenes.

This is my 12th book read and reviewed for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2018!  That means I've reached my original goal!  I'll have to see about setting my sights on a higher goal, since it's only August.