Monday, August 28, 2017

Firmament: Gestern Review

I have another totally amazing, I-love-it-so-much book to share with you today! Its the fifth book in my favorite sci-fi book series, Firmament. This series is seriously amazing. If you haven't read it, you're really missing out. I'll be reviewing the book in a minute, but first, here's a little bit about the book and it's author, J. Grace Pennington.

About the Book

You never escape your past.

Andi Lloyd is more comfortable than most with interstellar travel, but she's not prepared for the perils and peculiarities of a world she has all but forgotten—the planet Earth. As the Surveyor undergoes repairs, her brother August receives a message with news that will send both of them across the world to a place he never wanted to visit again.

Neither of them are prepared to be thrust into a world of political intrigue amid the tangled forests and crumbling ruins of Austria. They aren't prepared to encounter wild animals and endure cross-country hikes. And they definitely aren't prepared to face it all alone.

But despite the dangers they must press on into the unknown to find a way to save Andi's life, to decide the fate of Earth itself—and to rescue a lonely girl who just happens to be their little sister.

About the Author

 J. Grace Pennington has been telling stories since she could talk and writing them down since age five. Now she lives in the great state of Texas, where she writes as much as adult life permits. When she's not writing she enjoys reading good books, having adventures with her husband, and looking up at the stars.

My Review

This. Book. Where do I even start? Grace's books are always amazing. There hasn't been a single one that hasn't wowed me. My personal favorites, though, are the ones belonging to the Firmament series.

The first two Firmament books were my favorites. They are just very special to me. But Gestern. Just wow. It completely and totally pulled me out of my Blades of Acktar hangover and gave me a Firmament one. There was staying up late to read, reading during lunch, reading during my 15 minute break at work...And then it ended! Hurry up with the next one, Grace!

Gestern has a very different feel from the previous four books, primarily because it takes place almost entirely on Earth. Not only that, but it also focuses on Andi and August and their family history, something we haven't seen much of in awhile. The sci-fi aspect of this book then, is more along the lines of evil scientist experimenting on people--a concept certain of my family and friends will probably tell you I'm a little too fond of. I loved seeing the sibling relationship between Andi and August grow, and I also loved the bonding between them and their little sister Ursula (though I kinda wish she had a different name...sea witch and all that). I loved Ursula. She was so sweet and adorable, and she kept making me think of a little girl of the same age that I know.

Grace's plot twists are fabulous as always. It took me quite some time to figure out who they could trust and who was actually a bad guy. It's so twisty turny. And that cliffhanger ending! Grace can't get book six published soon enough. I'm so going to have to buy the rest of the paperbacks (kindle just isn't good enough) and give the series a reread. I love them so much.

So what are you doing still here? Go buy the Firmament series and drop everything on your schedule because you won't be able to stop reading! Grace hasn't been nicknamed the sleep stealer for nothing. ;) 


J. Grace Pennington is offering three great giveaways! One is the CD she listened to while she wrote Gestern. The other two are a signed paperback of the winner’s choice. You can enter here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule

August 25
Frances Hoelsma – Excerpt
shout outs – Book Spotlight
Laurel's Leaves – Guest Post
The Destiny of One – Review

August 26
Jaye L. Knight– Excerpt

August 27
Kelsey's Notebook – Book Spotlight
Claire Banschbach– Excerpt

August 28
Rachel Rossano's Words – Guest Post
Rebekah Lyn Books – Character Interview

August 29
Bookish Orchestrations-Giveaway Winner

Monday, August 21, 2017

Three Levels of Listening to Music

Nothing is simple with me. It seems I have to add some layer of analysis to, well, everything. Listening to music is no exception. Years ago, I realized I have three levels of listening to music. For fun, and to show you just how nerdy I am, I'm going to share them with you today.

Level 1: Background Noise

This is the simplest, most boring way that I listen to music. It's on because I don't want silence, but I'm not really paying that much attention to it. It can still get into my head enough to play back with full orchestra, though. And yes, there are songs my brain can play back to me in full orchestra.

Level 2: Analysis of the Music

This is probably the most nerdy of my levels, and comes directly from playing instruments. I like to analyze music for the different instruments, the different styles of playing, the dynamics, the different musical forms, identify key changes, figure out the time signature...all sorts of things.

The first time I really remember using this style of listening was when my sisters and I dug out my dad's old recorded-off-of-the-record cassette tape of the original Star Wars soundtrack. We'd listen to it during school and spend probably more time than we should have identifying to the best of our ability which section of the orchestra was most prominent at a given point, and what instruments we could identify. (There did happen to be a lot of UMIs, or Unidentified Musical Instruments.) I can remember sitting in the car listening to the soundtrack for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, trying to figure out a way to describe the obvious sound difference between the string section and the woodwind section. The best I could come up with was that woodwind sounds round, and strings sound flat. But not flat like the notes are flat or there's no expression. And brass just sounds brassy. And then it was interesting to note the use of electric guitar in "Muttations" on the soundtrack for The Hunger Games.

As I got further into violin, I began to be more analytical of string pieces. I understood how concertos worked, and so I would identify the different aspects of them while listening. If it was a piece I was learning, I would focus on how the performer interpreted the piece. I also began to enjoy identifying bowing techniques. I was excited to note the up-bow staccato in the song "Life and Laughter" on the Cinderella (2015) soundtrack. There are many instances in the soundtracks for BBC Merlin where the string section is playing pizzicato. This analytical listening has helped me learn pieces by ear, and also to play along with a song completely by ear (if it's not terribly fast)...a skill that has actually shown its practicality when I'm learning a new song for church.

Level 3: Story Listening

This level primarily works with film score and songs from musicals...which is generally my primary musical material. I'll be listening to a song off a soundtrack and start envisioning the scene in my head. It'll spark my imagination and I'll start to live in the world of that movie or show.

Sometimes, as in the case of "Lucy Meets Mr. Tumnus" from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I'll recite the dialogue in time with the music. My sisters and I actually went through a phase where we'd act out that section of the movie, from where Lucy enters the wardrobe to where she goes off with Mr. Tumnus, to the music a few times a day. We had to take turns being Lucy. 

This method of music listening has at times sabotaged my writing efforts, as it will get me daydreaming about the originating story in stead of my own, but once the soundtrack is familiar enough, I can get it down to Level 1 listening and focus on my book again.

There you have it: My three levels of listening to music. It's clearly difficult for me to take anything at face value, but it just makes life far more interesting.

Do you have any special way you listen to music? What's your favorite kind of music?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Exiles Review
Exiled after their defeat in Samara, the Resistance struggles to find allies in their quest to restore King Balen to his throne and put an end to the emperor’s tyranny. When the crete people refuse to lend their aid, Balen leads a group to Dorland to reason with them and win their support. However, enemies prove to be everywhere, and they find themselves in a fight to keep Dorland from becoming Daican’s latest conquest.

Back in Landale, the arrival of a new enemy forces Trask and Anne to tread more carefully than ever. Tensions are rising, and the enemy is determined to test Anne’s loyalty and root out the location of Trask and the Resistance once and for all.

Feeling trapped within the walls of Valcré, Prince Daniel must contend with an ever-eroding relationship with his father. As their clashes escalate, the situation becomes potentially life threatening when his loyalty is called into question. His sister seems bent on branding him a traitor and actively seeking to condemn him to the fate of those put to death in their father’s new arena. Daniel is certain his father would never execute his only son and heir, but with other forces at work, it might not be that simple.

One small misstep could prove fatal for all. 


Oh, my heart.

Ilyon keeps getting better and better. Which also means situations keep getting worse and worse for the poor characters. What pain. What sorrow. What joy. What love. My sister once called it the emotional equivalent of Expedition Everest at Disney World, and while I've never ridden it (I hate roller coasters, I refuse), I have to agree. This book is an emotional roller coaster. And it is so, so good.

Typically, when I read a book with multiple storylines, I primarily care about one of them. This was even true for previous Ilyon books. I couldn't wait for it to get back to Jace and Kyrin. This book was different. It follows three stories: Jace and Kyrin, Trask and Anne, and Prince Daniel. Every storyline is gripping. Every storyline left me wanting more when it switched to the next, but then the next pulled me in. 

How do I talk about it without spoilers? Oh dear. Well, there are going to be spoilers for previous books. If you haven't read up through Samara's Peril, stop reading now, and go buy the other books. Read them immediately. I'm serious.

Jace and Kyrin. Even though now they're officially courting, it doesn't mean the struggle is over. Jayrin is very much in love (I love those two 😊), but Jace still struggles with crippling fears. Can he be the husband Kyrin deserves? Can he be a father to their children someday? But they don't have time to sit around camp and work it out. Daican is threatening Dorland, and the cretes refuse to do anything about it. Balen leads a group to reason with the cretes, but this is a book, so things never go perfectly smoothly. They run into lots of danger, meet lots of new people, and experience life-changing discoveries.

Trask and Anne. I know Trask is popular, but as someone who never cared for Robin Hood stuff, he wasn't my favorite. I started loving Anne in Samara's Peril when she stood up to Rothas (go Anne!), but it took me until this book to really love Trask. And now that I do...Those two! Just because they stay in Landale doesn't mean they don't have plenty of issues to deal with, and plenty of danger to face. Oh, boy, do they! There are heart wrenching moments, moments where my heart was in my throat, and moments when I really wanted to punch Goler in the nose. Not everyone makes it out alive.

Prince Daniel. Things changed when Daican executed Elon. Prince Daniel is not the same young man he was. Davira's just as awful, Daican's just as awful, but Daniel is different, and people are starting to notice. Then when he's accused of being a traitor, things really go crazy. Daniel is such an interesting character, and his story is amazing. Oh my goodness, it's so good. 

There are so many twists and turns in Exiles. There's a somewhat high body count, which made me sad and glad by turns. Plot twists galore.

This book, people. Go read it. 

Haven’t discovered the world of Ilyon yet? Find out more at the official Ilyon Chronicles website!

About the Author
Jaye L. Knight is an award-winning author, homeschool graduate, and shameless tea addict with a passion for Christian fantasy. Armed with an active imagination and love for adventure, Jaye weaves stories of truth, faith, and courage with the message that even in the deepest darkness, God’s love shines as a light to offer hope. She has been penning stories since the age of eight and resides in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

You can connect with Jaye on her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Etsy.

Share in the excitement of the release and enter to win a themed giveaway pack! Prizes include an autographed copy of Exiles, a pewter dragon necklace by treasurecast, and a sword letter opener! (Giveaway is open to US residents only. Cannot be shipped internationally.)

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Three Sleeping Beauties Blog Tour Recap

Aaaaand that's a wrap!

Thank you so much to everyone who participated and helped spread the word about Poison Kiss, Twisted Dreams, and Rosette Thornbriar! The tour was fantastic, and I for one really enjoyed it.

Before I recap, you probably want to know the giveaway winners. The winner of the comment contest is Sarah. Congratulations, Sarah! And here are the winners of the Rafflecopter giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Twisted Dreams
"I love the beginning. It’s told from Liesel’s point of view when she’s a baby. The confusion when she falls asleep only to awaken in another world is very realistic."--Brie (Includes Author Interview)

"If anyone can turn a fairytale into a sci-fi action novel, it’s Morgan. I really like how she completely went outside of the box and defeated ALL clichés. I definitely didn’t know what was going to happen next! If you’re a lover of sci-fi fiction, I recommend that you give this fairytale retelling a read, because you might find that it’s right up your alley!"--Melani

"This was a well done re-telling.  Rather unexpected at times too.  It took a while for me to figure out what exactly was going on, but that was a good thing.  I felt that the characters and plot were well balanced and the plot was completely unique...or at least, I've never heard of another re-telling done in this manner.  My favorite character was Matthew, and I would love to see him get a fairytale re-telling of his own."--Erudessa

"I am always amazed by the variety I can find in fairy tale retellings. There are traditional medieval fantasies, historical fiction stories, sci-fi adventures, and more- and then there are some stories that bridge genres and create something truly unusual. Twisted Dreams by Morgan Huneke is one of these. When the story opens, it feels like a pretty standard medieval fantasy. But even by the end of the secret chapter, you realize that this is as much sci-fi as fantasy, which was a pleasant surprise."--Sarah

"Twisted Dreams surprised out of the blue with a fairly complex plot. It starts off your typical, everyday Sleeping Beauty but there's something that's just a about everything.  Next thing I know, everything has been flipped up on it's head. Nothing is at it seems and everything is moving quickly. The pace was fast but not rushed and while it took me a bit to figure out what was going on it was a really good story."--Sutori no Hana

Poison Kiss
"The other characters are equally well done. Auralea spends less of the book asleep than some sleeping beauties, so she has a personalty. But the one who really shines is Edmund. He’s not your typical fairytale prince, partly because he’s not a prince at all, and also because there’s time for his character to develop."--Brie (Includes Character Interview with Edmund)

"Sleeping Beauty doesn't always go the way you expect.  In this amusing retelling, the heroine is cursed to die by True Love's first kiss.  And the Hero isn't exactly your normal 'fairytale Prince' either.  Mixed in are also a few other fairytale characters you might recognize! This was, as I said, a very amusing retelling.  Kendra has a delightful talent of taking multiple fairytales and mixing them together in a very unique way."--Erudessa

"The writing is fabulous and at times hilarious, which I loved, and the dialog was splendid! My absolutely favorite stories are funny ones, and add that to a (double!) fairytale retelling and some lovable characters, and you have a recipe for a story I’ll love—as I definitely did this one! ^_^"--Deborah

Rosette Thornbriar
"I don’t tend to read children’s stories much, but I like this one. Rosette Thornbriar is not overly simple and fits very well in its setting. I have read stories in which something is skewed or just sounds plain odd in a different setting. This isn’t one of those."--Brie (Includes Author Interview)

"This was a very cute little book. It is surprisingly short, and only took me a couple minutes to read. Sleeping Beauty has never been my favorite fairy tale, but I was able to enjoy this retelling very much. There is something about this author's writing style, something I can't put my finger on, that is very charming. Whatever it was, I liked it a lot. This author shows a lot of promise."--Addyson

Author Interviews

Character Interviews

Kendra's Blog

My Blog

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Twisted Dreams: The Next Generation

Kira Kaiser
Via Pinterest
Once upon a time in a kingdom called Hanover...

A king and queen had a baby daughter. Her name was Kira. Though she was Aortan, she had the eye-seeing powers of the Cantileens. By looking into the eyes of another, she could tell what they were thinking. But because this power is not native to Aortans--she gained it only because Cantileen drugs had been used on her parents--it caused her many issues with anxiety. Eventually, Kira had one younger brother, and two younger sisters. In spite of her own personal issues, she was like a mother to them, especially when tragedy struck.

Hobart Waldemar
Via Pinterest
In another part of the kingdom, a scientist named Hobart Waldemar ran an orphanage. An outcast from his homeworld of Alderoth, he used the children as guinea pigs. His motives were pure--he wanted to cure his son of brain damage caused by birth--but his actions were not. Yet through his cunning, he kept his work a secret. He experimented in a great many things, cures for disease, bionics, time travel, mostly without success, but his failures never kept him down. Through his questionable methods, he never lacked for test subjects. Until the time came that he needed a very specific test subject. And for that, he went directly to the king.

Joel Fischer
Via Pinterest
A four-year-old boy stood on the doorsteps of an orphanage, watching his mother and younger sister walk away. His name was Joel. He was raised in constant fear in Waldemar's orphanage, frightened by the sounds of screams in the night. When in his teens, he joined Hanover's guard, gaining great training in surveillance and combat. Due to his great skill and strength of character, he was appointed Princess Kira's personal bodyguard once she "came out" into society. In spite of reservations due to his past and his station, he came to love this princess who hid her great brokenness from the world. And eventually, with the help of her uncle Matthew and the encouragement of his friend and fellow guard Bradley, he married her.

Wilhelm Kaiser
Via Pinterest
The king was broken due to a great tragedy. He shut himself away and was but a shadow of his former self. His name was Wilhelm. His family torn apart, Wilhelm was willing to do anything to right the tragedy that had devastated them all. What mattered costs? What mattered further harm to his family? If he could right the tragedy, all would be well. 

It was this state that caused him to play into Waldemar's hand. It was this state that drove his family further apart. It was this state that threatened to ruin all of Hanover. And yet there were few that would suffer as much as an innocent little baby and his loving father.

Noah Fischer
Via Pinterest

This is the story to which Twisted Dreams is prelude. This is the story of the next generation. This is a story of pain and heartbreak, but hopefully of healing. How will it end? As of this moment, even I don't know. It truly fits the definition of a work in progress, far closer to the beginning of that process than the end. Someday the world will know what became of Will, Liesel, and Matthew, what became of Will and Liesel's children, what became of their grandchild. Until then...

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Today's Blog Tour Stops
Knitted By God’s Plan - Retellings I’d Like To Write Someday
Rachel Rossano's Words - Kendra
Dreams and Dragons - Rachel
Sutori no Hana - Twisted Dreams

Enter to win a signed paperback of Twisted Dreams or eBooks of all three Sleeping Beauty retellings!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Introducing Poison Kiss!

Last but not least, I'm featuring Poison Kiss! Poison Kiss is a fun twist on Sleeping Beauty where true love's kiss is poisoned instead of the spinning wheel. But perhaps a spinning wheel shall save her? The hero in this story has one of my top favorite boys' names (Edmund), and also features a character who reminds me very much of the lovable Tyson from Percy Jackson--minus the peanut butter. Enjoy!

And don't forget to enter the giveaway for the Sleeping Beauties and comment for a chance to win an early read of Kendra's The Seven Drawers and Cindy Ellen

About the Book
Everyone knows that Sleeping Beauty's curse is triggered when she pricks her finger on a spindle and that she is awakened by true love's kiss ... but what happens when the wicked fairy decides to switch things up?

Edmund didn't mean to put Auralea to sleep, but now it's up to him and the famous Puss in Boots to figure out how, exactly, a spinning wheel is supposed to awaken her.

About the Author
Kendra E. Ardnek is a homeschool graduate who picked up a pen at an early age and never put it down. The eldest of four, she makes her home in the Piney Woods of East Texas with her parents, younger siblings, giant herd of giraffes, and honor guard of nutcrackers. 

You can connect with Kendra on her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Snippet From Poison Kiss

     “Ah, now you’ve done it, boy,” came a silky, unfamiliar voice, and the princess’s large, blue-gray cat bounded onto the arm of the couch.
     “You – did you just talk?” asked Edmund. First a sleeping princess, and now a talking cat?
     “I did,” said the cat, licking his paw. “My vow of silence is at its end.”
     “Are – are you a shapeshifter?”
     “Oh, dear me, no!” The cat started preening its whiskers. “I am the Great Puss of the Boots. Perhaps you’ve heard of me? I eat shapeshifters for breakfast.”
     “Um, yes,” said Edmund. He nodded towards the sleeping princess. “Do you have any idea…”
     “She’s cursed, that’s the long and short of it,” Puss explained. “And you, dear boy, were the implement of bringing it about. The dear girl shall sleep for a hundred years until she is awakened by a spinning wheel.”
     “A hundred years...”
     “She’s Sleeping Beauty, and such is her curse. Although, now that you mention it, Geneva didn’t actually specify the hundred years, so maybe you’re in luck. Quick now, there’s a spinning wheel in the closet for just this sort of emergency.”
     “A…” Edmund stared in confusion.
     “Quick boy! I’d do it myself, but I don’t have hands.”

Today's Blog Tour Stops 
Knitted By God’s Plan - Rosette Thornbriar Feature
Rachel Rossano's Words - Rachel
Light and Shadows - Puss in Boots (PK Character)
The Music of a Story - Will (TD Character)
The Flowering Vales - Twisted Dreams

Enter to win a signed paperback of Twisted Dreams or eBooks of all three Sleeping Beauty retellings!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Introducing Rosette Thornbriar!

The blog tour continues!

Today I'm featuring Rosette Thornbriar by Rachel Roden. It's a fun Western take on the traditional Sleeping Beauty, and an enjoyable bedtime story-type read. Check it out! And don't forget to enter the giveaway for the Sleeping Beauties and comment for a chance to win an early read of Kendra's The Seven Drawers and Cindy Ellen

About the Book
Once upon a time, way out west...
Back when they were young'uns, Fleur Guardstone proposed to Rosette Thornbriar with a cigar band ring. However, not long after, she disappeared back into the forest and hadn't been heard from since. However, when Fleur hears reports of smoke coming from that woods, he's determined to find out if it is, indeed, his dear Rosette. If he can get past all of the briars.

About the Author
Rachel Roden is a natural story teller, capable of weaving the most hilarious of fairy tales. She fell in love with the Lone Ranger in her teens, but ended up with a basketball referee instead. Together, she and the Ref homeschool their four children in the Piney Woods of East Texas, as well as any other odd kid who ends up in their house. She might also be the sole human who still uses math after college.

You can connect with Rachel on her blog, twitter, and Pinterest.

Snippet from Rosette Thornbriar

The bell over the door rang again. Young Amory Snoobly unwrapped her shawl and cape and hung them up before striding up to the counter. Her family ran the town newspaper, so Cindy was not surprised when Amory pulled paper and pencil from her apron pocket and declared, “Papa saw a strange beast outside your door, so he sent me over to see if there was any news from the world to be gleaned.” She grinned and threw her wheat colored braid back over her shoulder.
Cindy laughed. “Well, we were only just discussing the news in our own town. Do you remember the Thornbriars? They used to come into town two or three times each year, between spring and fall? They would usually stay a couple of weeks so their daughter could attend the school to see how she was doing, and take the grade tests and pick up new books. She would have been a little older than you and me.”
Amory tapped the pencil on the tip of her tiny nose. “Yes, I remember. She was so beautiful with her gold hair and really blue eyes. The girls wouldn’t talk to her because all of the boys were grinning at her, and the boys wouldn't talk to her because she was too pretty. But Fleur did. Talk to her I mean.”
Cindy nodded as they both looked at Miles.
“Well,” said Miles, scratching under his white whiskers. “I don’t know what to make of it, but as I was coming out here toward town, I looked back at the woods once. Trying to decide if I should come back when this rain passed and try again.” He rubbed his chin again, then scratched behind his ear, pondering.
“And?” encouraged Amory, her pencil scratching across the pages of her notebook.
“And that’s when I saw it.”
“Saw what?” gasped Cindy.
“Smoke,” whispered Miles. “A long, steady column of smoke stretching into the sky. Like you would see coming out of a chimney. Just a sleepy little column of smoke, barely a wisp. Then the wind blew, and it was gone.”
Amory whispered, “So we’ve got us a sleeping beauty in the woods?”

Today's Blog Tour Stops
Knitted By God’s Plan - Twisted Dreams Feature
The Destiny of One - Kendra
Reflections of the Heart - Twisted Dreams
The Flowering Vales - Poison Kiss
Reality Reflected - Rachel+Rosette Thornbriar - Interview+Review

Enter to win a signed paperback of Twisted Dreams or eBooks of all three Sleeping Beauty retellings!