Scars of War by Hazel B. West: Blog Tour, Review, & Giveaway!

It’s here! Today kicks off the blog tour for Scars of War, Hazel B. West’s latest Modern Tales of Na Fianna novel! 🙂 There’s all sorts of fun going on, as well as a giveaway, so be sure to visit the Tour Home post on Hazel’s website, where you can see the schedule, giveaway, and other links!

I’m sharing a review for this awesome book — and there’s giveaway information at the end so don’t miss out. 😀

First Two Books: Free and Discount

You can get Blood Ties (book one) for FREE, for the duration of the tour, on Smashword! Simply go to the book’s page on Smashwords HERE and at checkout enter the following code to download it for free in your preferred format. 🙂 Code: EJ57R

And book two, An Earthly King, will be marked down to 99 cents on Amazon Kindle during the tour as well. 🙂

bloodtiescoverfront copy earthlykingcoverpic2-copy

(Click the covers for my reviews)

Ask Eamon and Killian

Also! There’s a fun thing the author is running on her blog: there’s going to be an Askbox live during the whole tour where you can ask Eamon (High King in the book) and Killian (his Captain of the Guard) questions, so check it out! 😀 (They’re such fun characters. XD)

Book Info And Review

About Scars of War

After the events on Samhain Eve things have calmed down for High King Eamon and his Fianna. The Unseelie Court is under new rule, and Eamon is happily married—and with an heir on the way! But just when it seems like things couldn’t be better, reports of changelings keep coming into BPAFF (Bureau of Protection Against Fair Folk). With the risk of children being changed out in their cribs, especially when a royal heir is weeks from being born, Eamon enlists the help of Aeden Mac Cool, Commander of Na Fianna, and Cassandra Whalen, Director of BPAFF, to deal with the threat before it escalates. Riots, Faerie rebels, and road trips with the King of the Unseelie—it’s just a typical day, right?

Purchase Links

Smashwords • Amazon KindlePaperback

About the Author

Hazel West lives in Purgatory, er, Florida, with her books and her hedgehog Horatio. When she’s not writing, she’s reading other people’s books, studying folklore, or binge-watching something on Netflix—drinking coffee is also a given.

Find the Author Online

Blog • Twitter: @artfulscribblerPinterest • Goodreads

Other Links

Add Scars of War on Goodreads • Blood Ties Book Trailer • Book 1: Blood Ties on AmazonBook 2: An Earthly King on Amazon


Title: Scars of War (Modern Tales of Na Fianna, Book Three)

Author: Hazel B. West

  • Date read: September 7, 2017
  • Rating: 5 stars
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy / Mythology/Folklore
  • Age: YA
  • Year pub: 2017
  • Pages: 350 (ebook)
  • Series: Modern Tales of Na Fianna, #3
  • Fave character: Aeden and Oberon
  • Source: The author
  • Notes: I received a free e-copy of this book from the author (thank you!). These opinions are entirely my own.

What a rollick of a book! We’ve got a nefarious changeling plot, cute Faerie children, awesome warriors, snark and humor, and of course an epic and amusing road trip. 😀 MY FAVORITE. I had a splendid amount of fun reading this book. 😀 As with any third-book-in-a-series, some things are hard to discuss without spoilers, but I shall do my best to be careful…

I love how each of these books has been so different so far. I mean, they’re all in the same world and have similar stuff going on in a way, with the snarky characters and the fun and the danger and all, but they’re all unique and surprise me! Blood Ties features lots of questing in the Fae Lands, while An Earthly King is primarily centered around Tara Hall. In Scars of War, we get to explore the southern parts of Ireland, which was neat, mixing the modern and old feels and Faeries into the mix. I love it!

There are two main parts to the story: stuff going on at Tara Hall with High King Eamon, and Ciran and his company—not as much with them; I might have liked more, but I suppose this is Cass’s story—and various troubles there on top of getting ready for Eamon’s heir to be born. Which factors into the changeling plot… leading to the second, and main, part of the story: Cass, Director of BPAFF (Bureau of Protection Against Fair Folk) is setting out to stop the outbreak of changeling incidents in order to keep the future heir safe. Joining her is Aeden, Commander of the Na Fianna (yay!) and, inviting himself along, Oberon, King of the Unseelie—and these three head out on a road trip of all road trips. Let the fun ensue!

I was so excited when I found out this would be about Cass and Aeden! The first book is all in Ciran’s POV, while the second is a delightful mix of several POVs, so for some reason I guess I wasn’t expecting nearly the whole book to be in Cass’s head? I wasn’t as much of a fan of that since I didn’t need to spend an ENTIRE book with her and might have wanted more Aeden; BUT I do like Cass and once I got used to it, it was fine. What we did get of Aeden was fantastic, even if that didn’t get going as soon as I might have liked. XD He’s awesome and precious. ❤ Both he and Cass are great, and I loved getting more of them and their stories. ^_^ (We got some of Eamon’s POV to see what was going on over there as well.)

AND THEN THERE’S OBERON. I may like Aeden more, but Oberon is absolutely hilarious and one of my favorites. He’s the fabulous King of the Unseelie and he makes sure you know it, and is vain and purposefully rather petty at times, and loves to annoy them and gripe about things, but he has many unexpected hidden talents too, and a heart of gold underneath, even if he doesn’t let on. His dialog is my favorite. XD He’s the annoying third-wheel and it’s glorious. 😀

The changeling plot was fascinating. There’s also mystery-type elements, and danger and peril, and it’s very exciting. The character arcs as they deal with various things were well done too. I guess I’m trying to say that while the fun elements are what stand out to me when I review, there’s plenty of epicness, action, and depth to go with that. 🙂

The roadtrip was one of my favorite things! I mean, you have the no-nonsense Director of BPAFF (essentially like a cool FBI for dealing with magical-creatures or Faerie problems), the Commander of the elite super warriors Na Fianna, and the King of the Unseelie Fae, who is… erm… high-maintenance and snarky. Put them together in a Land Rover and have them driving around Ireland chasing a mystery, running into Faeries, having fights or car chases or peril, bantering, stopping for coffee at gas stations, and all the while Oberon is snarking away, complaining about being hungry, or that his suit is getting ruined, or they have the wrong music on, or not wanting to eat the Meat Stix (a running joke which was awesome), annoying Cass and Aeden so much… XD I JUST LOVE IT. Those three + roadtrip = best. ever. ❤

There also mayyy or may not be a bit of a romance on the side WHICH I ABSOLUTELY LOVED AND THE CUTENESS KNOWS NO BOUNDS. Ahem. I love it and approve and ship them very much. 😀 Most of the other characters are kind of shipping them too, which makes more hilarity. XD *zips lips* I WILL SAY NO MORE.

There may have been a couple things I wasn’t sure if I liked, and I did see through what the bad characters were planning near the end and thought that the heroes should have SEEN THROUGH IT ALL TOO, buuut then I suppose there might not be a story… *cough* So other than a few minor issues like that and some typos/errors, I overall enjoyed it a ton! 😀

The characters, humorous snarky dialog, and details, totally made this book. The little details though! I LOVED the presence of a Claddagh ring! ❤ The food references were hilarious. XD (I now want to eat Meat Stix and find some Elf Eaties—whatever they are—and go eat a sundae at Dippity Aye. XD The Dippity Aye subplot was HILARIOUS and I will not spoil it. Just read the book. Also, I now want there to be Oberon’s King of the Unseelie Foodie Blog, please. XD) And I just love this WORLD, with all the mix of old/new/Ireland/folklore/Fae things/modern technology. It makes me happy and I want to live there. ❤

Also, please note that the image of Cass, Aedan, and a Faerie king all sitting on the floor in a circle with little Faerie kids IS ADORABLE.

Point of interest: there’s an awesome mini-short-story included at the end which tells the saga of what a few of the characters were doing at one point off screen that I’d wondered at, and it’s fabulous. XD

Overall, it was a fun and exciting adventure, and my only question is WHEN IS THE NEXT BOOK? Because I could read these things forever! ^_^ If you haven’t, I highly suggest checking out Blood Ties (and then An Earthly King… and then Scars of War…) because you need these modern Irish warrior books in your life. ❤

Some Favorite Quotes

(I say some; all of them and we’d be here all day. I know most of these are Oberon—sorry, he’s just hilarious, is all. XD)

***

“You have got to be joking,” Oberon complained. “Meat Stix—with an X? How do I know this is even real meat? Never trust products where they purposefully misspell a word.”

***

“Hope you don’t mind more pub grub, your majesty.”

Oberon sighed like a martyr. “At least I will be able to rate and review every pub and inn in the south of Ireland by the time we’re done with this little road trip. I should start my own foodie blog.”

***

“Just do what you Fianna do best,” I added unbuckling as I turned around in the seat to face Oberon and grab my crossbow. “Drive fast.”

“Yes, Director,” Aeden said with a grin.

***

“Oberon, your things are in the barn.”

He looked at me indignantly. “I do have to question the benefits of a peace treaty with your people if all you do is shove me in the back of your car and then house me with the cows.”

***

Imagine the surprise when we came in and I saw Oberon in the kitchen, standing at the stove and making sausage and eggs and pancakes, flipping them happily and whistling to himself as he wore a “Kiss Me I’m Fae” apron that might have been glamoured, or might just be something he carried in his copious bags. It was hard to tell.

***

“Fae magic does cell service no favors.”

Giveaway

Don’t forget that there’s a giveaway! Hazel is giving away a paperback of Scars of War and a BPAFF shamrock necklace! 😀 Rafflecopter hates WordPress, so I shall direct you to Hazel’s post where you can enter! ^_^

What do you think, my Roadlings? Have you read any of these? Does the series intrigue you? Thanks so much for reading! 🙂

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Blogoversary (4 Years!) + Giveaway!

Happy blogoversary to meeee!

That’s right, The Road of a Writer is turning 4 YEARS OLD!

*confetti*

*fireworks*

So I’m celebrating by reminiscing, sharing some numbers and links, and giving away some fantasy novels!

It’s crazy to think it’s been so long since I started this li’l ol’ online way-post on the writing road… It’s been quite a journey, I’ve learned so much along the way, and I’ve definitely been enjoying it. It’s grown so much that I had to start a spinoff blog just for my reviewing and bookish posts! I love blogging. ^_^

Thanks so much to all of you for reading The Road of a Writer, commenting, encouraging, and generally putting up with my shenanigans — it means a lot! I’m supposed to be a writer, but in this case I don’t think there are words to say how I feel about you all… So. JUST — THANK YOU. ❤ *virtual hugs and cupcakes all around*

The Stats

(Look who wished me a happy blogoversary. XD)

  • 4 years
  • 250 posts (yes, last week‘s was my 250th!)
  • 470 followers (plus linked Twitter followers, hence the 789 number on the side; full disclosure. XD)
  • 5,562 comments
  • 10,328 visitors
  • 33,910 views
  • 9,043,930,894,038,098 hours spent trying to find the right gifs (okay, I exaggerate slightly… *cough*)

Top commenters of late (I think based on the last 1000 comments?):

Most popular posts I’ve posted:

Most-viewed posts from this year (after the ones above):

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Here are some of my favorite posts from the past four years…

CHARACTER INTERVIEWS, ETC.

ABOUT MY SERIES (because I’m nostalgic. XD)

ABOUT MY FAVORITE BOOKS

ABOUT WRITING

ABOUT NANOWRIMO ADVENTURES

SOME FAVORITE WRITINGS OF MINE

The Giveaway

In the tradition of Hobbit birthdays, wherein Hobbits on their birthday give away presents to other people, I’m giving away four books to my lovely followers to say THANK YOU for being amazing and putting up with my shenanigans. 🙂 I’d like to share the love on some of my favorite fantasy novels, which is why I’ve chosen these to give away.

What I am giving away:

  • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (paperback; US)
  • The Bone House by Stephen R. Lawhead (paperback; US)
  • The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander (paperback; US)
  • Mossflower by Brian Jacques (paperback; US)

And alternate giveaway to enter internationally:

  • The Beast of Talesend by Kyle Robert Shultz (ebook; International)

Notes on each of these:

  • I do not entirely approve of the Hobbit movies, but I love this cover of The Hobbit all the same. XD If you’re not fortunate enough to have read this book yet, or don’t own a copy of your own, do enter this one! Or, ya know, if you already have a copy and want to give one as a gift to a friend/niece/nephew/neighbor/anybody — still enter! 😉
  • The Bone House is book 2 in the Bright Empires series, and I DO NOT recommend reading it unless you have read book 1, The Skin Map; but feel free to enter this one if you’ve read the first book and haven’t gotten around to the second yet (or, ya know, promise to get the first one and read it first. XD) — it’s one of my favorites! ^_^
  • The Book of Three is book 1 in the Prydain Chronicles; HIGHLY recommend; this is an ex-library book donated to Salvation Army, so it’s a readable copy and in good shape but with stickers/markings/etc.
  • Mossflower is a “prequel” to Redwall, but can stand alone, and it’s my favorite of the Redwall books. ❤
  • The paperback giveaway is for US residents only — sorry international peeps! I love you all the same! And to prove it, I also am giving away an ebook copy of The Beast of Talesend by Kyle Robert Shultz, so this one is open internationally!

You can enter via the form below — and you can pick which of the giveaways you would like to enter, so if you already have one or more of these, or for some reason do not wish to enter some of them, you can easily pick which one(s) you’d like to enter.

Details: Five winners — one for each book. Paperback giveaway open to US addresses only. Ebook giveaway open Internationally. (I’ve never tried giving away an ebook internationally so HOPEFULLY it will work…) Giveaways are open Monday, September 11 – Sunday, September 17, 2017. Winners will be listed here as an “EDIT” and also contacted by email, on Monday, September 18. So check back on this post on that day to see the winners!

EDIT: The winners have been chosen and contacted! Thanks so much to everyone who entered. 🙂

  • Winner of The Hobbit: Maddy
  • Winner of The Bone House: Savannah Grace
  • Winner of The Book of Three: Florid Sword
  • Winner of Mossflower: Emily Drown
  • Winner of The Beast of Talesend ebook: Skye

Thanks so much for coming with me all this way, my dearest Roadlings! ❤ You’re legit the best! ^_^ *group hug*

Modern Tales of Na Fianna: Book 3 Cover Reveal!

Hey everyone! (*Surreptitiously slides briefly out of hiatus to bring you a cover reveal.*)

I’m super excited, because the third book in the series by my author friend Hazel B. West, that began with Blood Ties and An Earthly King (both of which I LOVED), is coming out in just a couple of weeks, and today I get to share the title/cover reveal with you!

I also have a snazzy snippet to share, an epic summary, and a giveaway, so stick around a minute!

And now, I give you . . .

*drumroll*

The covah!

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[EEP, isn’t it cool? 😀 I thiiiink that’s Aedan and Cass and I’M RIDICULOUSLY EXCITED. Also, I want a crossbow now…]

Book Info

Title: Scars of War (Modern Tales of Na Fianna Book Three)

Genre: YA, Urban Fantasy, mythology/folklore

Release Date: August 31, 2017 (so soon!)

Synopsis

After the events on Samhain Eve things have calmed down for High King Eamon and his Fianna. The Unseelie Court is under new rule, and Eamon is happily married—and with an heir on the way! But just when it seems like things couldn’t be better, reports of changelings keep coming into BPAFF (Bureau of Protection Against Fair Folk). With the risk of children being changed out in their cribs, especially when a royal heir is weeks from being born, Eamon enlists the help of Aeden Mac Cool, Commander of Na Fianna, and Cassandra Whalen, Director of BPAFF, to deal with the threat before it escalates. Riots, Faerie rebels, and road trips with the King of the Unseelie—it’s just a typical day, right?

Add it on Goodreads

[*flailing so hard* I need this book so badly! :O]

Other Links

Author’s BlogAuthor’s Twitter • Goodreads • Blood Ties (Book One) • An Earthly King (Book Two)Blood Ties Book Trailer

Giveaway and Excerpt Info

So! Here’s the deal.

Below, I have an excerpt of the book, but each of the other people who are posting the cover reveal today have a different excerpt, so you can get a whole chapter that way if you read them in order! How cool is that? Think of it as a mini scavenger hunt. XD

If you head on over to Hazel’s blog, she has a list of the participating blogs in the right order, so head on over there! 🙂

As for the giveaway, anyone who comments on any of the blog tour posts will be entered for a giveaway to win ebook copies of Blood Ties and An Earthly King (the first two books).

You can either leave your email address or Twitter handle in your comment, or if you’d rather not, you can go back to Hazel’s blog on the 23rd to see the announcement of the winner!

Also, if you leave comments on multiple blog posts in the tour, each comment is an extra entry.

Good luck!

Excerpt

After dropping off the Fae child with the motherly Mrs. O’Toole, Rory and I made our way back to the Dempseys’ farm.

“This might be more of a case than we thought,” I told him.

“Why do you say that? It seemed to be pretty open and shut to me.”

I shook my head. “I’m almost positive that was a high Sidhe child, Rory. Normal changeling cases involve sickly Fae children or even a stock or fetch—just a glamoured piece of wood or a doll. Rarely do they exchange perfectly healthy children; not without some reason behind it.”

“And what would that reason be?”

“That’s what we need to find out,” I told him obviously. “Do you remember the details of the previous changeling case?”

Rory hummed as he thought to himself. “Um, it wasn’t too far from here, actually, now that I think about it, in Kilkenny, I think. And I don’t think they ever recovered the girl, at least not that I know of. It was still in the pending cases when I filed it.”

“And the others?”

Rory shook his head. “I’ll have to pull them up when we get back to Dublin. Why, do you think they’re all connected?”

“I don’t know, but if they are, we need to find out as quickly as possible in order to get to the bottom of this. It might be a serial kidnapping.”

We got back to the Dempseys’ by late afternoon and I decided we should make a quick exploration of the woods and surrounding area while we still had daylight. Rory and I set off through the shaded trees and looked for any sign we could see of Fae activity.

“I can’t imagine them being too far away,” Rory commented as he batted some low-hanging branches away from his face. “I mean, it’s not like we’re up in the Borderlands where they could escape into the Faelands without a by your leave. This kind of thing doesn’t usually happen down here.”

I shrugged, crouching to inspect something on the ground that turned out to be a root. “With all the political changes in the Faelands, it would only make sense that some of the Fae have decided to make their own way. The Courts have no rule over their people down here so it provides an easy escape for those who don’t want to be tied with the regime changes.”

“I guess,” Rory said. “Still, that doesn’t really explain why they would want to change out so many babies all of a sudden.”

“No, it doesn’t,” I agreed, my brain already working on the problem.

We searched until the sun got too low to see well, and I didn’t think it was a good idea to stay out in the woods with just the two of us without prior knowledge of the area. We trudged back to the house.

“So, what are we going to do? Go back to Dublin?” Rory asked.

“Not yet,” I told him. “It’s been a week since Tomas was taken. I’m worried they might come back for Donnie now.”

“Are you sure?” Rory asked. “Wouldn’t they think it would be too risky?”

“Actually, on the contrary. I think they would be counting on their changeling taking up all the family’s time and leaving the perfect opportunity for mistakes. You saw the house, it was a mess; any warding could easily be lost or misplaced by the changeling himself.”

“So what are we going to do about it?”

“We’re going to stay the night and see if we can catch the Faerie in the act.”

Rory sighed. “I was afraid you were going to say that.”

The Dempseys didn’t seem too convinced my idea was going to work, but they let Rory and I proceed and after they got ready for bed, they took Donnie per my request, to their room, and Rory and I entered the one belonging to the boys. We made sure there was no warding anywhere, but left the place a mess so the Faerie wouldn’t get suspicious.

***

Wrapup

And there you have it! I dunno, guys — Faerie changeling plots, some of my favorite characters, and an epic roadtrip with a Faerie King? CAN YOU SPELL AWESOME? o.o This book sounds like it might become a new favorite of mine! I CAN’T WAIT! 😀

So how about you? Have you read Blood Ties? Do these modern Irish fantasy tales intrigue you? Because they’re REALLY GOOD! 😀 And don’t forget to visit the other posts! 🙂

If you haven’t, and are curious, you can read my reviews for the first two books here:

bloodtiescoverfront copy earthlykingcoverpic2-copy

Thanks for reading! ^_^

Junely Ishness + Snippets + Hiatus

Hello, my Roadling friends! *tackle hug for everyone and also cookies*

It seems to be August.

*cue explosion of the world at this shattering news because it really should still be March*

*tries to recover from the tricks Time has been playing on us this year*

Ahem. Anyways. August.

Aaand that means it’s time for another Ishness since it’s been a couple months since I did one. Or rather, it’s been the-long-month-that-starts-with-Ju, namely June/July which for our purposes I’m calling Junely.

Three things for this post:

  • Junely Ishnesses (because you love me and hearing about my oh-so-interesting life)
  • Snippets! (From my impromptu Camp NaNo. Because I love you and am nice like that.)
  • Also, I’m hiatusing. Kinda.

Hiatus

(pinterest)

In brief, July was very busy. I spontaneously did Camp NaNo in July, which I did NOT have time for; plus life was crazy; I’m behind on things like reading and reviewing; the Silmarillion Awards were very busy and bloggy; not to mention I’m recovering from a weeklong sunburn; and I’m just BEHIND and very, very tired.

So! I kind of need a vacation, and the only one I’m going to get is from my self-imposed deadlines etc. like blogging and writing. I’m therefore proposing doing less internet, probably taking a break from blogging here (though I might post reviews on my other blog because I have some of those to catch up on), and taking a writing break.

Essentially, I’m giving myself permission to be online less and hoping to stress myself out less too. So if you see less of me, that will be why.

I’m trying to catch up on a few internet things in the next few days and otherwise cutting back. But I hope to return with some fun blogging topics in September. 🙂 (If not sooner, if I get inspired…) And remember that I’ll probably be reviewing books on the side. Probably.

Onward to the Ishness!

Writing

Not a lot of writerliness happened in June… I wrote about a thousand words (including Other Half of Everything fun!) and kinda-sorta decided on what I might write for NaNo this November… maybe. But otherwise, my writerly life was stalling and it was kind of frustrating. Until just before July hit…

Then I spontaneously signed up for Camp NaNo in July (largely due to Sarah; thank you! XD). THIS WAS NOT PART OF MY PLAN. But I’m glad I did. I decided to try an HOURS goal, which I’d never done and is a new feature. I was going to try 15 hours… buuut apparently they only let you put in a number as low as 30 (probably to figure out their graph algorithms or something), so I had to do that.

I made it, but it was hard. It did allow me to make progress on things besides first-draft words, though. I’M A HUGE ADVOCATE OF HOURLY GOALS NOW.

Here’s what I accomplished for Camp:

The Numbers:

30 hours total

14,468 new words total

  • 7K on 3 short stories
  • 5.5K on KW stuff
  • 300 words OHE
  • 1.5K SilmAwards presentation
  • Edited about 45K worth of words

The Accomplishments:

  • Finished a short story: Invisible Beauty
  • Started The Treasure of A Distant Storm
  • Started The Tangled Thicket of Perilous Perrifeld
  • Wrote SilmAwards Heroine presentation (counting this; essentially fanfiction. XD)
  • Some minor Other Half of Everything snippets
  • Major progress on KW2 for the first time in a long time — finished a chapter that had been giving me major trouble, and started another. SO EXCITED.
  • Snippet of KW3
  • Edited Invisible Beauty
  • Edited above other stuff as I wrote it
  • Went through all my short stories — including IB — and edited them again (eight stories; nearly 35K total). I’d been meaning to do this for awhile.
  • Majorly restructured/re-titled my Starrellian epic fantasy series books — VERY excited!!!!
  • Solved some structural problems for a KW novella — yay!
  • Various plotting on a few other story ideas
  • Indexing some references/notes for KW books and OHE in my writing journals — which I’d been meaning to do for AGES; call it research, since I have oodles of notes spread across several notebooks and needed to find those notes in order to write those stories…

WHEW. I was especially pleased that I could count all those as “official” parts of my writing hours, because many of them are things that were rather time consuming, but I’d been wanting to do, and are equally helpful to my writing as first-draft words are (like major plotting, editing, finding notes). Too often, I only consider ACTUAL words “progress” and sometimes the quality suffers for that. XD The variety also kept it interesting and less overwhelming. I FEEL VERY ACCOMPLISHED AND I’M VERY HAPPY. ^_^ Also exhausted, hence the hiatus, but still happy. 😀

Will share snippets at the end of the post…

Reading

In June, I did ALL THE READING and actually finished my Goodreads goal of reading 50 books this year.

In July, I did much less reading because I was doing ALL THE WRITING.

That said, I read these beauties… (Listed in reverse order)

I love how, on the bottom row, it looks like The Archer is shooting an arrow across a planet — whizz! — and shooting a star out of the sky as a dog (a.k.a. Sirius), and probably landing in that forest where Martin and Elodie are looking for him or something. XD

I so enjoyed nearly all of these! My top faves, however, were Where the Woods Grow Wild, Spellsmith and Carver: Magicians’ Rivalry, and Halayda and The Tomb of the Sea Witch (both of which I intend to review soon). So, so good, all four! ❤

Watching

  • Doctor Strange [2016] — Yes, I finally saw this for the first time! It was… interesting. I loathe hospital scenes on-screen, sooo I wasn’t a fan of a lot of it. *cough* But otherwise, it was quite fun! 🙂 And I loooved the timey things, and the credits-scene with Thor. XD (Also, Holmes from Sherlock and Irene Adler from the Downey Jr. movies. MADE MY DAY.) (Also, also: what’s with Benedict’s non-British accent, though?? THAT’S, LIKE, A CRIME.) (Also, also, also: I want the Cloak of Levitation, please.)
  • Superman Returns [2006] — Very… weird, but kind of enjoyable, I guess? Some classic Superman stuff to educate me about Superman. XD *shrug*
  • Despicable Me [2010] — Very strange, sometimes annoying, sometimes funny and cute. XD
  • Studio C — As per usual. 😛 Matt’s characters are my favorite; he’s hilarious. XD

Blogging Highlights

The biggest thing, of course, for me lately, has been the Silmarillion Awards! Which I had a blast with! 🙂

In the last two months, I also…

And I reviewed these books (click the covers to read the reviews):

             

Life-ing

I finished my first Bullet Journal, or bjournal as I abbreviate it (since it sounds more Nordic and awesome than BuJo; because banjos and I don’t get on) and started a new one.

This one has a cat on the front, captioned (on the back) “Max, Out on a Limb”. The picture is a fairly accurate depiction of how I feel most of the time. XD

This is “Max, Out in a Hurricane”… XD

I went kayaking and had a blast save for said dreadful week-long sunburn, so that was fun. 😛 Going to a lake did provide excellent photoshoot opportunities for The Tomb of the Sea Witch which I was reading that weekend though. 😀

I also did something I hadn’t done in a long time: I drew art! Specifically, fan-art for the Ilyon Chronicles contest. I actually had a lot of fun; I should draw more often.

Jace and his wolf Tyra

(Disclaimer: before anyone bombards me with “YOU’RE READING THE ILYON CHRONICLES? WHADDAYA THINK???”… I read Half-Blood and started Resistance awhile back and haven’t finished it due to life. I HAVE therefore met Jace and Tyra, however I haven’t read an entire one of the “big” books in the series. So don’t ambush me, please. XD)

And now what you’ve been waiting for (maybe)…

SNIPPETS

These are an assortment of snippets from various novels and short stories I was working on during Camp. Enjoy!

The Treasure of A Distant Storm (TOADS for short. XD)

“Hallo, Henley,” he said, almost cautiously. “Didn’t expect to see you here.”

Henley found herself sighing. “Neither did I.”

His suppressed excitement burst forth like a hurricane from a mailbox. “You’ve come back to say you’re sorry!” he exclaimed, in raptures.

Henley rewarded him with a glaring frown. “I. Have. Not. Done anything of the sort,” she said icily.

“Oh.” His face fell, then briefly perked hopefully up again. “You’ve come back to have me say I’m sorry?” he suggested uncertainly.

***

“When I heard you talking it sounded like an argument. Actually like a lovers’ quarrel or . . . ah . . . a . . . er . . . a something . . .” He trailed off as his face turned very white under the glacial stare both other occupants of the room were directing at him. “I’ll just . . . Yeah, I’ll just go.” He vanished and hastily closed the door.

A long Arctic silence built itself like an iceberg between the two occupants of the room.

The Tangled Thicket of Perilous Perrifeld (TTPP for short)

Jenson Hillsong didn’t mind oddness, eccentricity, or tendencies to terrify—much—which was why he had gone to work for Lord Perrifeld as his apprentice.

Lord Perrifeld was not only a prestigious person, he was also an enchanter, and enchanters need apprentices the way large, gnarled, frightening trees need quiet dark shadows.

Jenson rather resembled a quiet dark shadow in his manners and dress, and Perrifeld Manor was up the lane among a great many of such similar large, gnarled, frightening trees, twisting this way and that through the winding fog that drifted through the shadows.

It was just past autumn, and just before winter set on, in the between-time when trees have forgotten their leaves, clouds have not yet remembered the snow, and the air is vaguely considering sending people scurrying for thicker coats soon—but not yet, not yet.

KW2 (“The Secret of Kedran’s Wood”, for the uninitiated)

Up and down some zig-zagging alleys Tare ran, across frozen asphalt with the sound of doomed-to-fall-behind pursuit behind him. Tare knew these streets like the back of his hand; better, since he’d spent more time wandering them than he had staring at his hand (he’d always thought that saying was idiotic; Baz probably loved it).

***

“What happened?”
“Tare happened,” Adrian said curtly.

***

When school got out on Wednesday, marking the official beginning of the official winter holidays, the Chess Club members had to decide what to do with their new-found freedom. At least, the ones who were still in school did, that is—leaving out Adrian, Mr. Larch, and of course Small Occasion; those three were busy with their jobs, namely: working at the mechanic shop, working at the cafe, and being adorably cute at Mr. Larch’s house while pining for Chess Club members to arrive to play with, respectively.

KW3 (I know, I haven’t even finished book 2… *cough*)

“I swear, if I find out there is even one more secret about you—” Baz warned.

Tare looked at the ceiling. “They’re not secrets. They’re just things I haven’t told you about.”

***

Tare grinned wryly. “Be my guest.”

“We are. We are,” Baz replied, glancing around at Tare’s home.

“You walked right into that one,” Ivy said, patting Tare’s shoulder as she walked past.

Tare almost imperceptibly tensed briefly, but remained leaning casually against the wall. “Maybe I meant to.”

“But—that would mean—” Ivy began, then broke off and shook her head, dismissing her thought before she finished.

It was too ridiculous to suppose that Tare would ever purposefully create a pun possibility for Baz.

Wasn’t it?


And there you are. How’s your summer going? Thanks for reading, and I will see you again in September — or sooner! 🙂

My Life’s Tower of Fantasy

Here at the end of all things, Samwise Gamgee the end of the second Silmarillion Awards, wherein we celebrate all things fantasy, Tolkien, and favorite characters, I have a bit to say about these things and their importance to me in my life so far.

So today, the 63rd birthday of The Fellowship of the Ring’s publication, seemed a good time to do so.

*distant cries of “Happy birthday!” and Bilbo saying (un?)complimentary things concerning knowing people half as well as he should like etc.*

*also birthday cake for one and all*

*and 63 still-burning candles to feed to your dragon*

(You’re welcome. I hope he likes wax.)

Warning:

The following is a somewhat lengthy post that is more of an essay than many posts I’ve written (don’t worry, it’s broken into segments with handy headers, so you might survive), and contains such things as Middle-earth, Diana Wynne Jones, Prydain, Stephen Lawhead, epic heroines, tower metaphors, nostalgia of some books/series that have shaped me, and how wonderful and life-changing Fantasy can be.

If this does not sound like your cup of tea, turn around and flee — for here in the realm of Faerie and Fantasy, truths are hidden behind every tree, characters are noble as can be, fancy runs free, and here . . . there be dragons.

On The Silmarillion

This month, using the Silmarillion Awards as a much-needed excuse, as I was re-reading The Silmarillion for the first time in many years, it startled me how much it felt like coming home. I used to read that book (as well as The Lord of the Rings, etc.) a lot when I was younger and just discovering the amazing worlds of Middle-earth. I lived in Middle-earth and The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, but I lived in Beleriand in The Silmarillion too, and in a sense that was more “mine” since fewer people were into it than LOTR. The Silmarillion and surrounding mythology was like my special world that I went to live in, learning to write the Tengwar Elvish alphabet in calligraphy, studying maps, creating family trees of all the characters I knew by name…

It’s been a lovely journey, returning there and meeting these long-lost friends in this place I’ve been absent from far too long. I’m also bringing more to it now at a slightly older age, which has been fascinating. I’m aware The Silmarillion might not be for everyone, but it’s extremely special to me. I met it at a younger age and was so immersed in it that I knew all the names so well that returning was like going home and meeting old friends.

On The Tower of Fantasy

I’ve been thinking about the impact Tolkien’s works and other beloved works of fantasy have had on my life. Looking back, I can trace a few books and series that stand out as those important, life-changing, core-of-your-being books that I believe everyone (or all bookworms, at least) have. Those ones that are so much a part of you that, consciously or unconsciously, you are changed by them and they inform much of who you are and what your life is, your tastes in fiction (and in writing, if you’re a writer like me), and form a core part of your heart. They are different through the years, and that’s how I measure parts of my life (about three or four of them so far, I think) — by what was the most ME books I was reading or loving or living at the time.

Imagine your life is a tower that you are slowly building as the years go on. I see those books as the building blocks of the tower of my own life, the stones of my foundations (or at least, for the purposes of this post, the foundation for my love of fantasy in both reading and writing, which is what I’m here to talk about) that come and go in a way as I gain new interests, so that sometimes it feels like betrayal . . . How could you move on? But I can always go back down the winding stairs of the tower and visit them again, and they’ll always be a part of me. They all inform who I am, and what my reading taste is, and how I think, and what I want to be and do, and most especially (for this writer) what I write as well.

I can see blocks of time in this Fantasy Tower of my life.

Level One: Prydain and MacDonald

It started with George MacDonald’s The Princess and the Goblin, and Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles. I don’t know which were first, I only know, looking back, that they were very early and, I believe, introduced me to Fantasy. Those are at the base of the tower; they were the first, and I read them and was enchanted. I LIVED in those worlds, and I loved those stories and characters so much. I still do, as with all of these. I’m afraid some of my earliest writings bore an uncanny resemblance to both those works, but we all start somewhere, yes? 😉

So, first was my beginning years of loving fantasy, with MacDonald and Prydain. (I believe Narnia came in somewhere around there a little after, and other works of Fantasy, though I don’t know how extreme their influence was.) That’s the first layer of stones at the base of the tower of Fantasy. They’re awhile ago from when I was younger and wasn’t aware of my tower, so it’s a little jumbled and vague, hidden in mists near the ground, and more instinctive than my deeper understanding of the later portions as I grew older, as I look back and remember better.

(Do you know why it’s called “in the mists of time”? Because YOU CAN’T SEE VERY WELL INTO IT. Ahem. Foggy memories… *shakes head*)

Level Two: Tolkien

The next really big thing, which is the largest on the fantasy tower so far, was Tolkien.

I read The Hobbit at one point, and then I later read The Lord of the Rings for the first time when I was ten or so, I believe. Some writers (and readers) come to Tolkien first, as their big fantasy introduction, but for me I already had the groundwork of fantasy laid; Tolkien served to strengthen it and built the next part of the tower, and was a focus of mine for many years, my absolute favorite. As I mentioned, I was enchanted and fell in love with these books, and went on to read The Silmarillion (several times), as well as reading any other works, finished or unfinished, by Tolkien that I could get my hands on. But not only were these stories, this world, these characters and languages, epic and beautiful and beloved and some of my favorites of all time, but the author himself simply seemed . . . right.

Tolkien was a kindred soul, and I know that sounds pompous to say, but when I read his letters and thoughts, I find myself agreeing with him and thinking “Oh! Yes! I’m just like that!” on so many levels. He and I just agree so well and have such similar temperaments. I’m not saying I’m anywhere near his level of talent or genius etc., I’m merely saying that he and I click, in a way that no other author that I can currently think of who I’ve run across does.

Tolkien’s works remain the next solid layer of my Fantasy tower, a very large portion of it, and still inform so much of my life and core personality and interests today.

Level Three: Diana Wynne Jones

(also concerning strawberry icecream)

Then, in 2012, I read Howl’s Moving Castle on a highly-trusted recommendation, and discovered Diana Wynne Jones. This is the third layer of my Fantasy tower. As some who read my blogs might have noticed, I’ve been very big on DWJ for awhile now. XD I’m captivated by and addicted to her books, particularly certain ones which have just stuck with me really well. I love her writing style and the humor she always had in her books, and her quirky but charming and lovable characters, and the absolute originality of her fantasy, mashed together with other genres to make her books unpigeonholeable (not a word, but should be), as well as how I always learn things about life and the world and people when I read her works. I’ve seen a bit of an influence on my writing as well, wanting to write more whimsical and amusing things.

It’s funny: when I decided Howl’s Moving Castle shared my top-favorite spot with The Lord of the Rings, and have been very DWJ focused, I didn’t realize (until recently) this thing about the Tower of Fantasy, how I can have different stages and favorites; and because I had just come from the Tolkien stage, I felt disloyal to Middle-earth, as if loving something else as well meant that I was betraying it by not loving ONLY it.

But I’ve realized that we have different stages in our lives, and that’s okay — it doesn’t make the previous stages any LESS important or less a part of you, you’re just on a different part of your journey so different things are more important right now. It’s not a betrayal. It’s growth and continuing and layers over the core.

I’ve always thought of myself as the girl who loves Middle-earth and the color green and Celtic music and chocolate and writes medieval fantasy. That’s still at my core and I will always be that person. But lately, if I’ve been a DWJ person who loves the color blue and dabbles in Christian rock or pop and loves strawberry ice cream and writes contemporary fantasy . . . that doesn’t mean I’m not STILL that same person as before too.

Because I can love both, I can have different layers of favorites, different layers of interests, and it doesn’t mean that blue or green or chocolate or strawberry are better than each other, or that in trying other kinds of books, music, and genres, that I’m abandoning the ones I used to have. I can do all of it, and it can all be me.

This is a slight tangent, but I feel like I need to address it while on the subject of moving through different books that are your favorites at the time. It’s okay to have different favorites at different times in your life, and it’s not being disloyal. I’m saying this partly to remind myself (especially when I feel bad about not having re-read some of these favorites in several years; I still plan to sometime), and partly in case anyone is having problems with it like I have. XD

I still interchange LOTR and Howl’s Moving Castle as my “favorite” books (and let’s be honest, sometimes I put Paper Crowns by Mirriam Neal up there because I love it and it’s amazing) but hey, I can have more than one top-favorite, right? 😉

Level Four? (Bright Empires)

It’s always hard to know, while you’re currently on a part of the tower, if something you’re reading is going to be the next part or if it’s just another great fantasy work but not quite a core one. But I think and suspect that, perhaps (time will tell), my latest addition to the Fantasy Tower of my life are Stephen R. Lawhead’s works. I just read his Bright Empires series, and while (like I said) I can’t be sure whether or not they’re the next ring of building blocks for my tower, at the very least, it’s the best series I’ve read in a long time.

Definitely favorites, the Bright Empires books have expanded my mind so much, broadened my horizons, were thoroughly epic, mind-boggling, and fun, with beloved characters, and introduced me to the first heroine in a very long time who I want so hard to be, namely Mina. She inspires me so much. Plus, the books are simply masterpieces. I think very differently after reading these books, I clicked so well with them, and they were absolutely amazing.

Speaking of Mina, let’s talk about heroines for a minute, since the award I hosted was Most Epic Heroine.

Of Heroines

Heroines are hard to write, my friends. One strange thing about my personality is that I rarely come across a favorite female character. I think it’s because I’m a girl and I find that it’s harder for an author to write a girl character that I actually like, because I am one and we’re complicated, and the fictional girls often end up either too tough or too wimpy, neither of which I like. I more often am interested in the male characters, who are generally cooler and doing more interesting things. I do run up against female characters that I like sometimes, and that’s often a sign that the author is a good one.

But there have only been a handful that have stood out as my favorites, the ones who at some level I feel like are ME, and at another level I feel like are what I want to be, what I want to become, what I want to take and emulate because they are noble and good and show some part of humanity that I want to BE. They make me want to be a better person, while I also feel like I am them.

And those are basically:

  • Princess Irene from The Princess and the Goblin
  • Princess Eilonwy from the Chronicles of Prydain
  • Eowyn from The Lord of the Rings
  • Luthien Tinuviel from The Silmarillion
  • Wilhelmina “Mina” Klug from the Bright Empires series.

(I think on some level, I was Lucy from Narnia when I was younger, and many of Diana Wynne Jones’ characters have been instant connections for me, like Sophie and others, as well, though I haven’t thought as much about those for this post; likely because they’re more recent for me but not as mind-blowing as Mina was — who was the character that got me started thinking about all of this — so I haven’t thought them out as much.)

(Also, I find this a good time to mention the dedication in The High King by Lloyd Alexander, which I never understood until now: “For the boys who might have been Taran and the girls who will always be Eilonwy.“)

Of Heroism/Nobility versus Mediocrity/”Realism”

And I think it’s important to have favorite characters one can look up to, have as role models, but still feel you are like them. There’s a sort of connection there that is marvelous. Heroes tend to be more favorites of mine than heroines, and I can learn things from them as well, of course, and they’re simply awesome sometimes, so there’s that; but I can’t exactly BE them, quite the way I can be a heroine like Eilonwy or Mina.

I think these heroines stand out to me partly because it is so rare for me to find a timeless one like that. There are many other noble and wonderful heroines I’ve liked over time, don’t get me wrong! Some even other favorites. But these are my FAVORITE favorites, the ones I want to be like. 🙂

And that’s part of why I’m tired of this “make them relatable and ‘realistic’ by giving them flaws and making them fallen and ordinary” trend in modern writing.

No.

I don’t want mediocre Main Characters. I want Epic Heroines.

If your favorite characters are mediocre, you’ll only want to be mediocre, you’ll only believe that’s how far you can go.

If, on the other hand, your favorite characters are noble and epic and extraordinary, then you’ll want to rise above your ordinary and mediocre, fallen and flawed life, and try to emulate them, to BE them; and these fictional characters who aren’t “real” can change your life and make you a better person. All by being fantastic characters. What’s not to love?

Things These Core Books Have In Common

What do all these books and series have in common? They are Fantasy, yes. But they each hold things that truly resonated with me — not just one thing but all the elements and the whole.

I love the stories. I love the worlds. I love the characters — not only the heroes, not only the heroines, but both, as well as the entire cast of characters, really. They have favorite heroes. I want to be the heroines. I want to live in the books.

“The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one.'”

(from The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis)

I also “click” with the authors — when I read things that these authors like Alexander, Tolkien, Jones, and Lawhead say (in fiction and nonfiction) I’ve had these wonderful “me too!” moments, those times when, like in the C.S. Lewis quote above, you form a friendship from a shared thought or feeling. We share the same truth. I feel like they’re kindred souls, and suspect that’s one of the reasons I love their fiction so much. (It’s interesting: when I love an author’s fiction work enough to try out their nonfiction, that’s when I discover my favorite works of nonfiction, essays, etc. It’s happened so many times with these and a couple other authors.)

And I learned things from these favorite, core books. Yes, shocking as it may sound to some, these fiction books, these works of *gasp* fantasy, have taught me so many things that, as I think about it, my mind boggles and I can’t even begin to explain all the things I’ve learned from these wonderful works of literature and art. (I did do a post about a few of those things, awhile back, but that was only scratching the surface.)

Because fantasy is true. These things may not have happened in our world, but they have Truth, and I learn things far better when they’re woven into a tale (a parable, perhaps?) than I can reading some boring textbook. I can see the things unfolding and understand things about the characters and wonder about things and want to learn about them. Fantasy may not always teach “facts” like how big the sun is or how many threes make a dozen (though they might teach that too), but they teach me real things about life and about love and about how people work and how to surmount obstacles and to try to be a better person like my heroes (and heroines).

I don’t know if these fantasy authors try to put these things in their works (I know I certainly don’t, but sometimes things creep in somehow), or if they simply are trying to tell a good story and their worldviews are shining through the particular leaf of the Tree of Tales that they are telling and coming out as good wholesome lessons from the Writer of all Lives, but regardless, I’ve found so much Truth in these and other works of fantasy.

And all of that as a bonus to reading simply amazing fantastical stories about fabulous characters in imaginative worlds. What is not to love? Who would have thought it, but Fantasy is fantastic in all meanings of that word, and that is why I love it as I do.

Plus, I mean, Fantasy has dragons. And there’s the icing on the cake.

*passes around the last of the LOTR birthday celebration cake and breaks out Gandalf’s fireworks to celebrate Middle-earth and Fantasy with a literal bang*

(P.S.: If you have a Fantasy/LOTR themed post this week, feel free to share the link in the linky over on Jenelle’s post!)