Monday, January 28, 2013

Off the Bookshelf: THE LIGHT PRINCESS

Today's book is a classic.
I can remember reading this in picture book format in the children's section of the Berea Library, way back ... well, long enough ago I don't want to date myself!
Funny, but there's a whole lot more to this story I definitely did not remember reading in the picture book.

THE LIGHT PRINCESS is a faerie tale -- at least, on one level. It's also a tale of redemption, sacrifice, and ... learning the proper sort of gravity.

George MacDonald is perhaps better known for his novels AT THE BACK OF THE NORTH WIND and PHANTASTES, as well as being a major influence on C.S. Lewis. THE LIGHT PRINCESS is a very small book. Easily read in a few hours. But I guarantee, you're going to want to reread it several times to savor it and look back and see some of the story in a new light. I obtained this book in free e-book format through Project Google. Yeah, that means the book has been around a long while. Like I said, a classic!

What's it about? Well, it starts out like any faerie tale -- a long-awaited birth to a king and queen. A christening where the last person you want to insult isn't invited. Some magic. A curse. And of course, a handsome prince who has wandered into the country quite by accident.

Instead of being cursed to prick her finger and sleep forever, or talk gibberish, or have to marry a troll to save the kingdom or a thousand other totally bizarre curses faerie tale princesses have to endure, this one steals the princess's gravity. Meaning she rarely sets foot on the ground, but floats through life. And she doesn't take much of anything seriously. And doesn't cry. That doesn't sound so bad, does it? But consider how frustrating it is to live with someone who takes nothing seriously, and doesn't seem to care about anyone.

Well, yeah, there are a lot of people like that in today's world, but they made themselves that way. And if you think about it, such people might look and sound happy, but listen and watch them long enough, and you realize they aren't. Happy, that is. You need tears to appreciate laughter, and grief to enjoy happiness.

Read the book. You'll love it. And you'll keep it to read again.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Off the Bookshelf: BITTERSWEET

Ever have a book sitting on your shelf -- and even though it obviously doesn't have eyes, you can feel it watching you? Pleading for you to pick it up? Maybe glaring at you if you've left it sitting long enough? Maybe you can even hear a little voice, at times pleading, at times whining, "Come on! You've read other books by my writer. I promise, I'm just as good. Maybe better!"

BITTERSWEET, by Cathy Marie Hake, has been sitting in my to-be-read book rack (three shelves, plus an overflow on the floor) since our local Borders went out of business. I know I bought it at that Borders because there's a line of black marker on the bottom of the pages where the clerk drew it, to make sure I couldn't take it to another store and return it. Go figure ....

Like the other two books by Cathy that I've read (is it uncouth to be on a first-name basis with someone I've never actually met? I feel like she's a friend, after three books now...), FANCY PANTS and FOREVERMORE, BITTERSWEET is charming and heartbreaking and funny and makes you think in all the right spots.

How the heck does she do that? I'm still trying to figure that out, after all the books that I've written. Sometimes I get it right on, other times ... well, the less said, the better!

This is a love story more than a romance. Girl-next-door-finally-gets-noticed-by-the-noble-eldest-son-taking-care-of-the-family-after-his-father's-death. Laney and Galen have known each other all their lives, with his family's farm sharing a border and fence with her family's ranch. She knew long ago that Galen was the man for her, but the problem was that Galen always saw her as his best friend's pesky little sister.

This is a story in the days just before the Civil War. The rumblings from Lincoln's election are just filtering across the country to California, where the story takes place. Think of the social changes and small town atmosphere, loyalty and in-fighting and oblivious, judgmental gossips that you saw in shows like Young Riders, Dr. Quinn, Bonanza, and Little House on the Prairie, and you have a good idea of the world Laney and Galen are living in.

The day Laney has prayed for finally arrives: Galen realizes she's a woman grown. More important, he's kicking himself for not noticing sooner, and he immediately goes to her older brother to get his blessing for courting Laney. Yes, indeed, Galen is a man of honor.

And when squatters settle on Galen's property, they cause volumes of trouble, bringing dangerous elements to town, as well as damaging his honor and reputation before things are all sorted out. Laney endures heartbreak and learns the hard lesson of putting aside her dreams and trusting in God. Galen learns patience, and also learns joy in submitting to God's will, even when it means showing love to the ones who hurt him the most.

Read it, and settle in with a box of tissues and a box of chocolate. You'll need them both!

I'm still kicking myself for not reading this book sooner. Of course, if I had, I wouldn't be sharing it with you now, would I?

Hmmm, lesson to be learned ...

Monday, January 14, 2013


Last night, I stayed up until nearly midnight to finish this book. Because the other book I read this week ... well, to paraphrase a friend of mine, my reaction was "meh." Meaning I wouldn't waste my time talking about it, much less boring you with it. I mean, yeah, I like the author, but this was an early work of hers and not up to par with her recent stuff.

'Nuff said.

This week's book is a group-authored novella (80 pages), BUT WHO WOULD BE DUMB ENOUGH TO EVEN TRY IT?, offered by Marcher Lord Press. What makes it interesting is that it is a "shared universe" book. Meaning literature by committee. But don't run in fear -- that made the book interesting, not a gray, soggy cardboard landscape that so much else of "art by committee" offers.

As the intrepid publisher, Jeff Gerke, explains in the introduction, it all started with a picture. A picture he wanted to create. One of those enlightenment moments where people are puzzling over a problem and someone walking by makes a comment that turns the floodlights on, so to speak, and everyone's faces say, "Oh, yeah, of course." Well, that's my paraphrase of his explanation, anyway.

So after he created this image -- you gotta at least look for the story so you can see the picture -- he realized that it needed a story to go with it. So he turned to his stable of equally intrepid Marcher Lord Press authors. They must have had a fun old time coming up with maps and histories, magical rules, characters and backgrounds and the plot, because only when you have fun with all the prep work can a story hang together so well. And it works. Although I do have a couple questions that I'm really, really, really hoping will be answered by another story to follow up on our band of heroes. (Oh, Jeff .... hint, hint!)

The story? Your basic evil despot condemned to an eternity in a magical fortress, who is working his way around the spells and guardians and getting ready to break out of his prison. Then along comes our band of heroes -- they don't realize they're heroes yet, because all they see is the magical talisman inside the fortress that will make them incredibly rich. If they can get it out of the fortress without having their souls and bodies destroyed ala the opening-the-ark scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Because guess what? The talisman is what keeps the evil despot IN the fortress.

Like they say, the journey is everything, so I'm not going to tell you who and how. Get the story and read it. Like me, you'll have some questions, and a hankering for the next adventure.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Off the Book Shelf: THRONE OF GLASS

One of my goals for this year is to read at least ONE book every week.

So, I want you to keep me accountable. If a book report doesn't show up here every Monday, contact me and ask, okay?

I have a LOT of books I need to take off my book shelf!

Here's the first book I've read in the new year:

Sarah J. Maas

This was one of the Free Book Fridays books from Barnes & Noble. I'm glad I downloaded it!

Essentially, Celaena Sardothien, a "mere" girl of 18, is a notorious assassin. Problem: She was betrayed and captured, and has spent far too long enslaved in a death camp, the Salt Mines of Endovier. Too long, because most people are simply expected to die, either from the conditions, abuse, or trying to escape. First hint that Celaena is one tough chick, in body and mind.

Then one day, she is dragged out of the depths of the mines and comes face-to-face with Dorian, Crown Prince of Adarlan. He has a proposition: compete to become King's Champion. If she wins, she will serve 4 years, then have her freedom. If she loses, back to Endovier she goes. Problem: many courtiers are entering competitors, and they're the scum of the earth, thieves and mercenaries, assassins and brutes.

Celaena accepts his proposal -- what other choice does she have? As she regains her strength and learns to navigate on the fringes of the court, she learns that even though magic has been outlawed by the king, it's not all gone. Someone is cheating. Someone is murdering. And then there's all that disgusting court intrigue she has to deal with. Everybody is a liar. Including Celaena -- because there are things in her past, secrets she has forgotten through trauma, or chosen to forget for the sake of survival.

I certainly hope the author comes out with another book to answer some of the questions left hanging at the end of this story! There is a list of short e-reads at the back of the book, prequels to this one. I'm very tempted to download them.

When my to-be-read list is a little bit shorter..........