Monday, August 19, 2019

It's Storytime!

Books, books, books! I'm a reader and a writer and I love books of many kinds. So I thought I'd tell you about some of the books I've been reading lately, and what I'm planning to read.

Recently Finished

By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson

It's not exactly recent anymore, but I'm highlighting it because we're still reading the series. Such a good story. I wasn't sure where it was going for awhile, but then the ending blew my mind. And I'm totally hooked on Blood of Kings now. Achan is a stray, who gets trained as a squire by Sir Gavin, though strays are despised in Er'Rets. When he has to squire for Prince Gidon, things start going crazy. And then there's Vrell Sparrow, in hiding as a stray boy to avoid marriage to Gidon. Whose bloodvoicing abilities (basically telepathy that only those with royal blood can do) are being used by some of the bad guys. It's been a great family read aloud, and I love Vrell and Achan so much, even though sometimes I want to smack them and tell them to stop being idiots. XD

Dagger's Sleep by Tricia Mingerink

Oh, how I regret banning myself from buying more books until I have Christmas money. I want Midnight's Curse so bad now. I just finished Dagger's Sleep last week, and it was so good! Such a journey. It's a gender swapped Sleeping Beauty set in a world that's basically Native Americans with castles. It's pretty cool worldbuilding. The story flashes back and forth between Alex, the prince, and Rosanna, the cursebreaker. Alex is determined to avoid his curse, but his arrogant attitude isn't really doing him any favors. And Rosanna is on a journey to wake him up after one hundred years, but there's just something about her guide Daemyn that is, how shall we say, odd and mysterious. I actually ended up really liking Daemyn, poor guy. He's been through a lot. Such a good book.

To Darkness Fled by Jill Williamson

We've gotten through this one much faster than the previous book (partially because we caught up on The Flash), and we just finished it last night. Achan and Vrell have been through a lot in this book, and Achan realizes just how little he knows about being the crown prince and future leader of Er'Rets. And then there's the ongoing discussion of who Achan should marry, because he must marry for political reasons, but things just aren't going smoothly in that department. No thanks to Vrell. Achan and Vrell still have a lot of growing up to do. And I can't recommend this series enough.

Currently Reading

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

It's a reread, and it is going kinda slow because shiny new books and mostly #adulting, but I'm halfway through Fellowship right now. There's so much of the beginning that was left out of the movie. And I love this story so much. I like Frodo pretty well, but Sam will always be my favorite. He's the best. I like how in the book, Merry and Pippin actually knew exactly what they were getting into by going with Frodo, and actually they and Fatty Bolger, with Sam's help, figured out what Frodo was doing on their own and determined to do whatever they could to help. Pippin's still a "fool of a Took," yes, but they're not as bumbling as they sometimes seem in the movies.

Sex, Purity, and the Longings of a Girl's Heart by Kristen Clark and Bethany Beal

I got this with birthday money, read a good portion of it, and then got busy prepping for Realm Makers and forgot I hadn't finished it. But I'm getting back into it now. It's not for the kids, obviously, but it's a very good discussion of God's design for sexuality, how it's a wonderful thing when we follow His plan, but destructive when we don't. It's a lot of the same kinds of things my pastor preached on last year in his series on marriage, but geared towards girls. And I love how Kristen and Bethany are passionate about living a Christ-focused, pure life without being legalistic about it. Like all their books, blogs, videos, etc., it's like big sisters giving little sisters advice on how to avoid their mistakes and live for Christ.

Child Sense by Priscilla J. Dunstan

This was a random came-through-the-circ-desk-at-the-library find. It's all about dominant sense modes (i.e. visual, auditory, tactile, and taste/smell). At first, I was like, "I don't have an excuse to read it because it's geared towards parents of young children and I'm not one," but then I decided that since I'm a teacher, a writer, and I'm just generally interested in psychology/learning styles/how people's brains work and process information, I don't need an excuse. I mean, that's really what this book is all about. How people take in the world around them and process it. It's fascinating stuff.

https://www.lindsayafranklin.com/books/the-story-peddler/
The Story Peddler by Lindsay A. Franklin

When it won three different awards at Realm Makers and I found out it was about someone who weaves stories into sculptures, I had to have it. I've only just started, so I'm not far enough along to know what I think of it, but the concept is fascinating, I can already tell she did well in her worldbuilding, and the cover is just GORGEOUS. I love it so much and I can't stop looking at it. I'm super excited about it, and I'll probably regret not buying book 2.

Reading Soon

From Darkness Won by Jill Williamson

It's the last book of the series! Once we finish, there will be no more Achan and Vrell. :( So I both want to read it as fast as possible, and savor it slowly. Things are going to be complicated between Achan and Vrell because Vrell needs the Genie from Aladdin to yell in her face, Esek needs to go DOWN, and I just love these books so much. I really want signed copies of the rest of the trilogy too. And basically of every book Jill's ever written. So many books!

The Sword in the Stars by Wayne Thomas Batson

This one I bought at Realm Makers, wanting to own more Wayne Thomas Batson books and wanting another one to get signed. I just realized I don't know much about this series except that it's fantasy and several people I know, including my sister, like it. Though my sister's only read the previous version. Regardless, I'm super excited to read it, and I know I'm probably going to be mad I only have the first book and not the rest of the series. Christmas can't get here fast enough! I don't know if I have the self control to keep up this book buying ban.


This is the one Bryan Davis gave me, and so it's special, and I'm super excited to read it. I don't know much about the plot except that it has to do with death and someone on FB who saw it in my book stack said something about a try-not-to-cry challenge. So it's probably going to be super sad. But hopefully a sweet kind of sad. And I don't have enough reading time to get to it quickly, but I hope it won't take too long. Because I really want to read it.


So that's what's going on in my reading life right now. What have you been reading?

Monday, August 12, 2019

Ranking Disney Princesses

I had the idea the other day at the library to rank the Disney Princesses. And looking up the list of official princesses, I discovered Anna's not considered part of the official lineup. Apparently because Frozen was so popular, Anna and Elsa are considered their own franchise affiliated with the Disney Princesses, but not part of the official lineup so they don't overshadow the others. Weird. But she's Anna, so I'm including her anyway.

So here's my ranking of the official Disney Princesses from princess.disney.com + Anna.

13. Ariel

So, no, I'm not a big fan of Ariel. She's a spoiled brat. She basically sold her soul to the devil (Ursula, the sea witch) for a chance to be with a guy she just met. What even? I actually liked the Twisted Tales version better than the actual movie because Ariel was forced to grow up. But I do love the songs in The Little Mermaid. And I love Eric. He's pretty awesome. (And deserved better than Ariel.)

12. Aurora

Honestly, she just doesn't have much personality and doesn't do much in her story. She's okay, I guess, but I'm not a huge fan of Sleeping Beauty in general. Something about the story structure feels off and in the original fairy tale, she slept for one hundred years. Though certain versions of the story are very not child appropriate, so there's that.

11. Moana

I'll stick Moana here because while I think her movie is annoying and the songs never leave your head, I guess she's okay as a character. She's determined, wants to save her people, and won't let anyone stop her. But "You're Welcome" is super duper annoying. 

10. Pocahontas

So I love the songs in Pocahontas. But that movie is so unbelievably historically and even geographically inaccurate. I've been to Jamestown. It doesn't look like that. But the Disney Pocahontas is cool. And mostly I just really like "Colors of the Wind" and "Just Around the Riverbend."

9. Snow White

If I'm perfectly honest, Snow White is kind of a cardboard character. She's sweet and naive and talks to animals, and that's about all there is to her. But I grew up on the movie, and while I enjoy making fun of certain aspects of it (she runs away screaming from the stalker that climbed over her wall, and then later in the movie, she's singing about how romantic he is), it's still a special movie to me. Plus, it's a piece of history. The first full length animated feature ever. So I do like Snow White. 

8. Merida

She didn't mean to turn her mother into a bear! Poor Merida, I wouldn't want to marry any of those guys either. They're just weird. Merida's pretty cool...she's good at archery, she's got more on her mind than boys (actually, if she had her way, boys would be the last thing on her mind—girls being boy crazy annoys me), and, well, she did accidentally turn her mother into a bear, but then she spends the movie trying to fix it. And I love how to fix it all, she and her mother both have to change their attitudes and learn to understand one another, truly mending their relationship.

7. Tiana

Tiana deserved so much better than what she got. I really love her as a character, but her movie got so many things wrong. She's a girl who knows what she wants, and she'll work hard to get it. Unfortunately, the movie tells her that she'll never achieve her dream until she marries a rich guy who can pay for it, and it doesn't matter if he's a jerk. No, I don't like Naveen. But Tiana is pretty awesome. And I bet the food in her restaurant is great. I want to write a fanfic where Tiana and Eric get together instead of who they actually end up with in their movies. They both deserve better. 

6. Jasmine

I know there are people both praising and slamming live action Jasmine for being feminist, but does it really make you a feminist to not want to be a doormat and to not want to hand over your people to a foreigner—or worse—Jafar? She's a strong character who wants to be able to decide how she lives her life, not have big life decisions made for her. Including who she marries (which is the extent of it in the cartoon) and who rules her people (in the live action). She's got spunk and she's not afraid to use it.

5. Cinderella

Yeah, I know there's not much more to her personality than sweet and kind either, but I love Cinderella. Especially the live action version. She's horribly mistreated, but she's still kind to her stepmother and stepsisters. Kind and forgiving. Have courage and be kind. And I love the way her relationship with the prince plays out in the live action. That movie is perfection.

4. Mulan

I'll never understand why Mulan is an official Disney Princess. She's not royalty, and neither is Shang. But anyway, I really love Mulan. I love the songs, I love the story, I even love Mushu. See, Mulan isn't going out there to prove that a girl can do whatever a guy can. She's going to war out of a selfless love for her father. Yes, there is some of that feeling trapped in her life in a culture that tells her all she's good for is marrying a guy the matchmaker chooses for her, but her motivation is to save her father. And she's smart. She uses her brains to solve problems, and even when she's in total disgrace, she puts everything aside and does what she has to in order to save China. "You don't meet a girl like that every dynasty."

3. Belle

I love Belle...animated Belle. She's both sweet and spunky, she doesn't put up with stuff yet she's willing to look past appearances into the heart, she's loyal, and she loves books. What's not to love? She's all about character over appearance, and she's willing to fight for what's right. And did I mention she loves books? How can you get any better than the Beast's library?

2. Rapunzel

I love Rapunzel. She's a dreamer, she's an artist, she can sew, bake, do pottery, she tries to do ballet but gets tangled in her hair, and reads. What else are you going to do locked up in a tower for 18 years? She's torn with guilt over leaving the tower and fully intends to go back to her "mother" and live like they always did...that is, until she discovers that she's the lost princess. She's awesome, and doesn't even really start falling for Flynn until his heart starts changing about his thieving ways. Plus the movie is funny and the songs are awesome.

1. Anna

Anna, who isn't a part of the official lineup. :P I did kind of debate on the order of these last three, but I decided to go with my official order of favorite Disney Princess movies. Anna's fun and quirky and loves her sister so much. And when Elsa freezes their entire kingdom, Anna just says "She's a stinker." Yes, she does get engaged to a man she just met that day, but she realizes the mistake, and ends up with Kristoff, taking their time to actually get to know each other. And she performs an act of true love in saving her sister, and that's what melts her frozen heart. I love how much of Frozen  is about true love, true self-sacrificial love. Now excuse me while I go sing Frozen at the top of my lungs.


So there you have it, my ranking of the Disney Princesses. Who's your favorite princess?

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Midnight's Curse Blog Tour


Tricia Mingerink's newest book, Midnight's Curse is here! It's a Cinderella retelling, which is super awesome because Cinderella is super awesome and she even watched the best version (Disney's 2015 live action) while writing it. :) I haven't read Midnight's Curse yet, since I haven't gotten very far in Dagger's Sleep yet (#adulting), but I'm really looking forward to reading it. I mean, Tricia wrote it. It has to be good.

I interviewed Tricia, but first, here's a little bit about the book. And don't forget to enter the giveaway and join the Facebook party!

The glass slippers might be her dreams come true...or her worst nightmare.

High King Alexander rules the Seven Kingdoms of Tallahatchia—a divided nation on the brink of yet another war. When an invitation arrives from the king of Pohatomie, Alex knows it must be a trap, but could it also be his opportunity to unite the kingdoms?

Daemyn Rand has lived a hundred years, served an arrogant prince, fallen in love with a princess, and lost himself somewhere along the way. He has already died for his loyalty. Will standing at the high king’s side cost him his last chance to truly live?

Elara Ashen is a lowly, miserable servant. All she wants is to spend even one night in a fancy dress dancing with the high king. When she is offered a pair of glass slippers, it seems that all her dreams have come true.

But dreams have a price, and gifts can be curses in disguise. What will it cost to stop this curse from tearing Tallahatchia apart yet again?

Fairy tales meet the Appalachian Mountains in this adventurous fantasy retelling of the classic Cinderella story.


The first book in the series Dagger's Sleep, a Sleeping Beauty retelling where the prince is cursed to sleep and the princess must wake him, is on sale for $.99 on Kindle! Follow this link to snag this deal while it lasts!

Interview

Hi, Tricia, welcome to my blog! Beyond the Tales is a different sort of fantasy from Blades of Acktar. What inspired you to start writing fairy tale retellings?

I always get a chuckle out of this question. Because, honestly, The Blades of Acktar is the aberration from what I grew up writing. Many of the first books I wrote (which will never see the light of day) were fairy tale retellings. Dagger’s Sleep is even based on a horrible draft of a book I wrote when I was in 5th or 6th grade, though it is hardly recognizable as the same book.

I grew up on Ella Enchanted and Gail Carson Levine’s other fairy tale retellings. From there I read Robin McKinley, E.D. Baker, and pretty much any middle grade to lower YA fairy tale author I could find. I was bound to have my own ideas for fairy tale retellings eventually, lol.

Besides, fairy tales have such enduring themes. It is one reason they have lasted so long and are so integral to our culture. We use stories like fairy tales to examine life, even if we don’t realize that’s what we’re doing. Fairy tales tend to be so symbolic that merging a few allegorical elements into the story wasn’t a stretch.

What made you choose Cinderella for your second retelling, Midnight’s Curse?

It was a bit of a process. After Dagger’s Sleep, I thought I was going to write Mirabella’s story Beauty’s Beast, which is eventually going to be a Beauty and the Beast retelling. But, after Dagger’s Sleep released, I figured out, based on the feedback I was getting, that this series would be better off if I stuck with the established main characters through their character arcs before I branched into side characters.

So Beauty’s Beast was set aside, and I did some brainstorming with the other vague ideas I had for books in the series and settled on the Cinderella retelling. It ended up fitting what I needed this book to do character-wise very well.

What’s your favorite aspect of the traditional Cinderella story?

I love the transformation scene from torn gown to beautiful dress. I’m very much a tomboy, but even I love the feel of dressing in a beautiful gown just for a night. And most movie versions of Cinderella make the most magical moments out of it.

Funny thing is that I ended up including a much darker version of that transformation in my Cinderella retelling, lol.

How is Midnight’s Curse different from other Cinderella retellings?

My tagline for this book is: The glass slippers might be her dreams come true…or her worst nightmare. And I think that pretty much sums up the biggest differences in this version. The glass slippers aren’t exactly the innocent, beautiful things they appear to be on the outside. There are curses and traps and discontent lurking in the depths of human hearts that make this a rather unique version of Cinderella.

If you could just tell readers one thing about Beyond the Tales, what would it be?

That they deliver the same mix of rousing action and deep faith themes found in my Blades of Acktar series, just packaged a bit differently. If you like fairy tales, you’ll definitely enjoy them. But if fairy tales aren’t your thing, don’t be scared away. They are a mix of fairy tale and the Louis L’amour Sackett series I grew up loving as a kid, especially the book Ride the River.

About the Author

Tricia Mingerink is a twenty-something, book-loving, horse-riding country girl. She lives in Michigan with her family and their pack of pets. When she isn't writing, she can be found pursuing backwoods adventures across the country.

You can connect with Tricia on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Facebook Party! 
The Facebook party should be a blast with giveaways of Midnight's Curse, Dagger's Sleep, and over ten other Cinderella retellings by indie authors! Follow this link to join the Facebook party.

Giveaway!
Enter to win signed copies of Dagger's Sleep and Midnight's Curse (it will be the actual copy, not a proof copy as shown) as well as a Currently Reading 4oz candle from Novelly Yours Candles.

Due to shipping, the giveaway is open to the US only. Void where prohibited. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 
Blog Tour Schedule

Monday – August 5
Tuesday – August 6 – Release Day!
Wednesday – August 7
Thursday – August 8
Friday – August 9
Saturday – August 10

Monday, August 5, 2019

What Do Unicorns Taste Like?

Recently, I saw a video of a friend's five-year-old daughter talking about wanting to eat her unicorn for Thanksgiving. When my friend asked her what unicorns taste like, the five-year-old responded, "Birthday cake."

And it started me thinking about childhood imagination. Childhood without constant screens.

My sisters and I did have screen time as kids. We played Reader Rabbit games and Oregon Trail. We watched Clifford the Big Red Dog and Arthur while our mom made dinner. We watched Shirley Temple movies and Veggie Tales and the handful of Disney movies we'd managed to own. But screen time was such a small part of our childhood. There's so much more to do.

I spent so much time growing up playing outside. Ruining my clothes in Georgia red clay. Building an imaginary playhouse by mounding dirt where the walls should be. This was called "the Cottage" and it's the center of so many fond memories.

We lived in the Cottage as pioneers hundreds of times, just like Little House. Living in the middle of nowhere. Redbird, the Indian "ruining" the Cottage garden to his real life brother's chagrin. My middle sister and her friend who lived next door running off to "the Greasy, Greasy Forest" because it annoyed big sister me. I would make the older boy from two doors down pick up sticks around the Cottage so that we could build "fires" in our fireplaces. (Also, because I wanted the Cottage to be cleaned up, and I didn't want to do it.) I'd sweep the floor in the Cottage...yes, I was sweeping dirt, sweeping the loose dirt into the walls to make them higher and the Cottage tidier. Bicycles were our horses, Big Wheels our cattle. We had couches made of logs, a counter made of dirt, plates made of Frisbees.

We gardened...sometimes by transplanting wild onions, sometimes by planting real flowers from the hardware store in the Cottage garden. Mine died. Bekah's lived. Typical. I planted wild onions along the front walk to the Cottage because Mandy in Julie Andrews Edwards's Mandy planted things at her cottage.

We dug a cellar. Yes, we dug a big hole in our backyard. We didn't ask first, but we didn't get in trouble, and actually didn't fill it in until years after we'd grown out of playing in the Cottage. We'd pretend there was a storm and we had to take shelter in the cellar...until I got sick of the boy from two doors down doing nothing but pretending there were storms and started ignoring most of them. We dug steps up the hill to the Cottage, again, without asking first, and our dad finished them off with landscape timbers. It's funny to me, we always asked before playing a computer game or watching TV because too much screen time is bad for you and so it was limited (even as a kid, I would get a headache after watching a movie sometimes), but we dug up the backyard on a regular basis, and it was no big deal.

We'd often play my favorite game: Run Away From the Orphanage. You're in a terrible orphanage with a cruel matron, and then you sneak out at night and set up housekeeping in the middle of nowhere. Which I realize now is sort of a blend of Annie, Samantha, and The Boxcar Children. We played that at so many park days with our homeschool group, and in the Cottage sometimes too.

We hit tennis balls against the side of the house (it was brick), pretending we were a part of a big sports program we invented called Seven Sports. We got pretty good at returning balls too, though I'm sure our form is horrendous. And we got four tennis balls stuck in the gutter at the top of a two story house. We've got talent.

We built homes and acted out stories with our plastic horses in the sand box. Made traffic jams with the matchbox cars. Set up Little People towns.

We never had actual Barbie houses, as much as I wanted one...so we made our own out of cardboard and construction paper and glue and tape. We built stairs, furniture, kitchen cabinets, knitted bedding, created miniature books and toys out of paper and Sculpey. Just like a real house, we were always making improvements to our Barbie houses. I also made Bekah a Barbie RV out of a cardboard box for her birthday. In some ways, making the houses was more fun than playing Barbies.

Not that we didn't play Barbies. Our Barbie dads ran for office, they all traveled the Oregon Trail, they starred in movies that we pretended to film... And then there was Galaxy's Got Talent—the Star Wars version of America's Got Talent. Yoda, Princess Leia, and Darth Vader judged, and Death Star Droid was the host. We had "Hip Hop Luke" and "Pointe Anakin" and "Storm Trooper Band" and R2 demonstrated his talent of staying with the ship. "Storm Trooper Band" won.

During campaign meetings in 2004, we always built a castle downstairs at our house and played in it. I was always a servant with my friend (except for the time she abandoned me to play the princess). We were Hattie and Jane Campbell. During a moms' Bible study at our house, we would build a town. I was the librarian.

We built things out of chairs and blankets. One time, I remember it was a car. One time it was a library. I used a couch as a bookshelf and read Because of Winn-Dixie to my sisters inside. We read all the time. To ourselves, to each other, our parents to us at bedtime, our mom to us for hours over lunch. Books fueled our imaginations. Addy and I acted out lots of things from books. We did several scenes from Narnia, one day, we acted out the entire book of From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. We also went through a phase where the three of us acted out the Lucy meets Mr. Tumnus scene from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) about every day with our stools stacked up in the living room and a lantern on top for the lamppost. A lot of what we did came from books. Some of what we did, I don't know why we did it. (Like Jacob's Leg. Addy's Barbie dad fell apart and...she kept his leg. Jacob's Leg directed movies. It's weird, but it's a thing at our house. "Jacob got his leg amputated. Ew, ew, ew, ew ew...")

Imagination is so much more awesome than playing phone/tablet games all the time. And if I ever have kids some day, I definitely want them to spend lots of time using their imaginations...even if it means eating unicorns for Thanksgiving.