The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

I just finished this exquisite book last week, and I cannot recommend it enough! Beautiful language and storytelling, compelling characters—it’s just absolutely gorgeous. And because I’m too lazy to do a proper review, here are a few of the many (MANY!) quotable lines from Fairyland:

“She sounds like someone who spends a lot of time in libraries, which are the best sorts of people.”

“Stories have a way of changing faces. They are unruly things, undisciplined, given to delinquency and the throwing of erasers. This is why we must close them up into thick, solid books, so they cannot get out and cause trouble.”

“When you are born,” the golem said softly, “your courage is new and clean. You are brave enough for anything: crawling off of staircases, saying your first words without fearing that someone will think you are foolish, putting strange things in your mouth. But as you get older, your courage attracts gunk, and crusty things, and dirt, and fear, and knowing how bad things can get and what pain feels like. By the time you’re half-grown, your courage barely moves at all, it’s so grunged up with living. So every once in awhile, you have to scrub it up and get the works going, or else you’ll never be brave again.” 

Book Review: Entwined, by Heather Dixon

Entwined is a retelling of the fairy tale “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” and I absolutely ADORED it. Seriously, this might have to go right up on the shelf with Ella Enchanted, Beauty, and East as one of my favoritest fairy tale retellings ever. I kind of want to read it all over again right now.

I don’t know how Ms. Dixon helps the reader keep track of TWELVE princesses throughout the course of the novel, but she does a marvelous job. Obviously we know the most about Azalea, the eldest and main character, but we get to know the rest pretty well too, from spunky and prickly Bramble, to shy beauty Clover and on down to little baby Lily. I LOVE the relationships between the sisters. They’re a close-knit group of largely mischievous girls who adore each other to no end.

The novel is set in a fantastical country existing in a time period very similar to Victorian England. There’s newspapers and guns and talk of railways, characters in Parliament and horses named Dickens and Thackarey. The royal family is actually rather poor, and the King is always up to his neck in Royal Business (or R.B., as it’s abbreviated).

The story opens with a Christmas Ball and the death of the girls’ mother. 😦 The whole house is thrown into Mourning, which means no visitors, no going outdoors, not wearing any color besides black, and absolutely no dancing for a whole year. The girls LOVE dancing, something they learned from their mother, and Azalea especially is quite accomplished. Dancing cheers them up and makes them think of their mother, but it’s forbidden. The girls discover a magic passageway in their bedroom that leads through a silver forest to a magic pavilion on a lake guarded by a man dressed all in black named Keeper. He invites them to come and dance there, and so they do, every night, and every night they wear out their dancing slippers (as the fairy tale goes).

I love the details in this novel. From the old magic tea set that pours tea of its own accord with its accompanying vicious sugar teeth, to the description of the girls’ mother smelling like baby ointment and white cake. The writing is beautiful and vivid.

And oh man, it gets CREEPY in the middle!! Yikes. For serious. Cree-ee-eeepy! But it in a good way. And there’s adorable romances, and Mr. Bradford (we never learn his first name!!) rocks, and Azalea is awesome—you really see her grow over the course of the novel.

But my absolute favorite part about the story is the characterization of the King and his relationship with his daughters. It is THE BEST.

And the ending was perfect.

As I said, I LOVE this book.

Where there’s life, there’s hope… Maybe?

The short story lives! Between yesterday and today I wrote over 3K on a massive wave of inspiration. I wrote the ending, and the very beginning, and I think it’s pretty awesome. But I still have no middle. And it’s super disjointed. And it currently sits at 12,651 words, which would be manageable to cut down to 10K—you know, if I had a middle already. :-/ I really don’t know what to do next. This is probably why I usually outline. And write linearly. All that jazz. At least it’s looking like a possibility that I’ll have a fully formed story by the end of the month. Ish. My goal is to have the whole first draft done by next week, so I’ll have time to put it aside for a few days before I dive into editing it and making it all shiny for submission on June 30th. I don’t know, we’ll see!!

Finished The Runaway King. Liked it all right, but it wasn’t my favorite. It just felt kind of forced or something and I didn’t really connect with the characters. 😦

I also read Nancy Werlin’s Extraordinary over the weekend (it went so quick it didn’t ever make it to my “Currently Reading” tab) and I LOVED IT SO MUCH. I could NOT put it down. The language and characters drew me in from the beginning and it was just a fabulous read. It’s basically about evil faeries manipulating the MC Phoebe’s life to try and get her to pay up on a promise made by her many-greats grandfather. It reminded me of Fire and Hemlock, which is always a good thing. Lovely, lovely book. In fact I’m pretty sure it’s what spurred me on to do so much writing this week!

Friday, Friday, Bloggin’ on a Friday

Okay, it’s update time!

I’m 7,264 words into my new story so far……… Most definitely going to surpass 10K at this point, but I think I’ll be able to edit it back down again. I really didn’t feel like doing any outlining or backstory brainstorming so I’m kinda figuring all that out as I go along, which leads to more verbiage than is strictly necessary (I think, haha). I go back and forth on whether I like this thing so far, but currently I do, and at any rate I think I can make something cool out of it. Today all that’s happened is my MC has been following a wolf into his house and observing all the architecture. She finally made it to her room, though, so hopefully the story can progress now. 🙂

In other news, I finished A Girl of Fire and Thorns yesterday and I really liked the ending. I always appreciate when an author is able to simultaneously bring proper resolution to the story AND whet my appetite for the sequel. Too many books end too soon and too abruptly for me, but this one hit the perfect balance. Fire and Thorns had a lot of twists and turns and ended up being a different sort of book than I thought it would be at the beginning—one particular twist completely SHOCKED me, but it was definitely a super brave thing to do, writing-wise. Definitely need the sequel now…

Also, the Once Upon a Time finale left me desperate for Season Three, and the spin off Once Upon a Time in Wonderland looks really, really cool. Also, also, I need to catch up on Doctor Who. I’m four episodes behind, I think.

Okay, that’s about it.



So obviously I chose reading over starting any projects yesterday. 🙂

I finished Rachel Harman’s Seraphina this morning, and I absolutely LOVED it!! It’s about music and dragons and secrets and it was just lovely and amazing. The prose was beautiful, her world interesting and unique, and the characters rocked. I want more!! I first spotted it at the bookstore because it had almost the same title as a not-all-that-short-story I wrote a while ago (Seraphine—the name means like fiery creature or something like that), and the first few paragraphs—the first sentence, really—had me completely hooked. Finally snagged it at the library, and once I started I couldn’t put it down. Amazing book.

Five stars and two thumbs up!!

Book Reviews: Starcrossed and Plain Kate

Reading a really, really, really good book is pretty much my favorite thing in the whole world—it’s right up there with rainstorms and purring cats and Chopin Ballades. The only thing better is reading TWO really, really really good books right in a row.

Enter Starcrossed, by Elizabeth C. Bunce, and Plain Kate, by Erin Bow, both of which I had the pleasure of nabbing at the library a week and a half ago. Seriously, WOW.

Starcrossed follows the story of Digger, a thief-turned-lady’s-maid who’s being blackmailed to spy on a bunch of nobles in a snowbound castle. Set in a Renaissance-inspired fantasy world awash with religious persecution, magic and secrets abound…

I adored this book. It’s like the Attolia series and Crown Duel meets BBC’s Merlin, which is all kinds of amazing. Fabulous character development, fantastic writing, lots of interesting-and-unexpected-plot-developments, and an all around beautiful and compelling story. I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel, Liar’s Moon, due out next fall (I think?).

Plain Kate is an exquisite gem of a novel that captured my heart and then proceeded to wrench it thoroughly. It’s the story of Kate, a skilled wood carver accused of witchcraft, who trades her shadow for the means to escape her town. It’s Russian in flavor, and filled with color and heart; the prose is deceptively simple and as gorgeous as it is unusual. The story itself just about made me break down sobbing in several places; it has real resonance and depth. I finished it last Thursday and still can’t quite stop thinking about it. Also, there is an amazing and adorable TALKING CAT, for whom I fell completely head over heels. (Heart you, Taggle!!) A really, really wonderful book.

Both are HIGHLY recommended, and are for sure going on my “Best Reads of 2010” list.

Better late than never

So this post is shamefully overdue. Sadly this is not because of werewolf attacks or dimension-transporting tornadoes or anything remotely interesting. I’ve mostly just been feeling lazy and didn’t have anything to blog about. True facts. But in any case, it’s time for some UPDATES!

I’m still working on revisions for Seer, and at this rate will probably be working on them until the end of time. I’m in chapter five. Of twenty-nine. Needless to say it’s going SLOWLY, and I will in no way be finished by the end of June. On the plus side, though, I’m happy with the changes so far. I’m focusing mainly on fixing my structure/pacing, and it seems to be working. Hopefully it’ll start going faster sometime soon.

I also keep poking at On Journeys Bound, the novel that refuses to leave me alone; I’ve written at least a couple thousand new words on this thing but am still floundering in the depths of the Dreaded Middle. I really need to finish. I’ve been working on this draft for a grand total of four years—not steadily, of course, but still.

I just read through the 41k of my failed Nano novel from last November, and you know what? It wasn’t that bad. Bits of it were actually pretty interesting. I get why I abandoned it and it does need some restructuring, but I think there’s definitely hope. Not that I know when I’ll ever have time to get back to it, but you’ll have that.

I’m way too lazy to properly review the fabulous books I’ve read lately, so you just get a couple of sentences each:

When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead—this year’s Newberry Award winner is set in the late seventies and follows the adventures of a twelve-year-old girl who starts receiving mysterious notes from the future. It’s kinda like Fire and Hemlock meets Doctor Who. Really lovely writing.

The Curse of Chalion, by Lois McMaster Bujold—an adult fantasy filled with well-drawn characters, fascinating settings, and intriguing philosophical ponderings. It’s hard to explain. But quite good.

The Eagle of the Ninth, by Rosemary Sutcliff—I read this back in high school and though I remembered liking it didn’t actually remember that much about it, so I re-read it. LOVELY book. Its style is a little old-fashioned (it was written in the fifties), but I really liked that about it—makes a nice change from more modern in-your-face-nonstop-explosions types of books (not that those don’t have their place, too :-)). The story takes place in Roman-occupied Britain and is about young Centurion Marcus traveling to Scotland to reclaim the eagle of his father’s lost legion. They’re making it into a movie starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell, due out in February—hopefully they do it justice!!

The Sunbird and The Lion Hunter, by Elizabeth E. Wein—these books are the next installments of Wein’s Arthurian/Aksum sequence, continuing on from The Winter Prince and A Coalition of Lions. Really, really lovely books, in an intriguing setting—ancient Ethiopia. These two books (and the last in the sequence, The Empty Kingdom, which I have on hold for myself at the library and I very much hope is waiting for me today!), are more connected than the first two, and follow Telemakos, the son of Medraut (who, at least in The Sunbird, is still working through everything that happened in Winter Prince). Gorgeous writing and wonderful characters, these books are small but incredibly moving.

And that’s all for now, folks. Enjoy the rest of your week! Go read some books!!

The Attolia Series, by Megan Whalen Turner

I’ve now read A Conspiracy of Kings (twice!), and felt compelled by its awesomeness to write a review, which is impossible without at least mentioning the previous three books in the series.

So I’m going to attempt reviewing the entire series.

With as few spoilers as possible.

Which will be a trick. 🙂

Here goes.

Book #1: The Thief

After bragging that he can steal anything—and flaunting the pilfered king’s seal in a tavern to prove it—Gen winds up in prison. Fortunately, the king’s adviser, the magus, needs him, and Gen finds himself bundled along on a cross-country trek in pursuit of the mythical Hamiathes’ Gift, an object which can only be retrieved by a thief.

But this isn’t just a straightforward adventure story. Set in the three countries of Sounis, Eddis, and Attolia, MWT gives us a wonderfully-drawn world inspired by the landscape and culture of ancient Greece, complete with her own pantheon of gods. She’s so exact in her story-telling, so deft with her characterization and so careful with every single word, that you don’t notice the subtleties of her impossibly tight plot until it whacks you up top the head at the end and you find your jaw sitting involuntarily on the floor.

This would be why The Thief garnered a Newberry Honor.

Book #2: The Queen of Attolia

In many respects, The Queen of Attolia feels completely different from The Thief. It reads more like a YA novel, and is told in third person instead of first. Gen—or Eugenides as he’s referred to in this book—is still the main character, but the third person POV changes things a bit.

In Queen, Eugenides is forced to deal with a terrible loss, and the third person POV gives a certain amount of needed distance from this loss. We learn as much or more about Eugenides’s character than we did in The Thief, but the focus is slightly different. He’s vulnerable in a way he wasn’t in the first book, and as we mourn for him we wonder if he can go back to the way he was, we wonder if that’s even possible.

And while we’re worrying about Eugenides, MWT is busy with her careful descriptions and meticulous character studies and oh-so-subtle-and-understated plot threads. There’s war, political machinations, a new threat to our trio of countries in the form of Nahusersh, the oily ambassador from the Mede empire, and last—but certainly not least—one of the most intriguing romances ever to grace the boundaries of fiction. We’re talking rivaling Eowyn/Faramir and Doctor/Rose, here, so you know I mean it.

Oh, and I started reading this series because of Queen’s cover. Intriguing, no?

Book #3: The King of Attolia

This is the book I can say the least about without completely giving everything away. It’s narrated in third person by a young soldier named Costis, but is still very much about Eugenides—we get an even further wide-angled view of him than we did in Queen. It’s a great, great book, filled with all the MWT surprises and subtleties and complexities and heart we’ve come to expect.

And that’s really all I can say. 🙂

Book #4: A Conspiracy of Kings

Narrated largely in first person by Sophos, a character from The Thief, this, again, is a different book entirely from the other three in the series. Eugenides is important but even more distant than before, and for once this isn’t his story—it’s Sophos’s. We find out what he’s been up to since the first book, and follow his journey from timid, insecure boy, to mature, hardened-yet-vulnerable king.

Sophos is a great character, albeit very different from Eugenides (whom he sort of hero-worships, which is adorable), and I really enjoyed getting to know him. I read Conpsiracy last Wednesday and again over the weekend because I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

You really almost have to read these books multiple times to understand/appreciate all the subtleties and motivations; MWT is a careful, meticulous writer, which is why rereading her books is so rewarding—you inevitably find things you missed the first (or second, or third) time around.
There’s a definite sense in Conspiracy of things-being-set-in-motion-for-epic-ness-to-come (there’s two more books planned in the series), which left me feeling a ttiiiiiiny bit unsatisfied, because I know there’s going to be a long wait to find out what happens next.

But only a tiny bit. 🙂


That was hard. I started this post on Tuesday.

Book Review: Incarceron

Incarceron, by Catherine Fisher, is about a prison—vast, sentient, and possibly malicious—and two people desperate to unlock its mysteries: Finn, a prisoner who believes he came from Outside and longs to Escape; and Claudia, the Warden’s daughter, who’s doomed to an arranged marriage and life in the stifling falseness of the Queen’s court. Connected by identical copies of a mysterious crystal Key, both Claudia and Finn begin to dream that Escape is actually possible…

There were a number of things that impressed me about this book. One was Ms. Fisher’s deft handling of POV changes and snappy scene divisions; the two main voices are Claudia’s and Finn’s, but occasional viewpoints of other key characters are woven in seamlessly. Her pacing is extremely impressive, as are her settings: the dark menacing weirdness of the prison and the glittering facade of the Outside world. Though the first part of the book didn’t suck me in quite as quickly as I’d anticipated, I was pleasantly surprised by the plot twists and unexpected revelations in the last hundred pages or so and accidentally stayed up until 1:30AM the other night finishing it. I’m not at all sure I can wait until December for the American version of the sequel, Sapphique, to be released, so might have to dig up a British copy online. We’ll see. 🙂

One other thing: I’m curious as to how people are labeling this, genre-wise. To me it comes off firmly in my pet genre, science-fantasy; I really don’t feel like it’s one or the other. What do you think?

So this is the New Year…

Hey everybody, just a quick post to let you all know that I haven’t fallen off the face of the planet.

Four things:

  1. I have writer’s block/no motivation with current projects/frustration with current projects/despairing of ever writing anything good again. It’s a vicious cycle.
  2. I read Tanith Lee’s The Claidi Journals over the Christmas holidays, and loved them immensely. Gorgeous prose, unusual and striking world-building, unique and stirring characters… everything you could ask for in a YA fantasy. The fourth book was a little bit of a let-down from the others, but still worth reading to soak in the strange beauties of Tanith Lee’s world, and find out how all the various storylines are finally resolved. The books are: Wolf Star, Wolf Tower, Wolf Queen, and Wolf Wing, respectively. Go hit up your local library or bookstore! That’s an order!
  3. The Doctor Who finale was breathtakingly awesome and heartbreakingly brilliant. David Tennant, John Simm, and Benard Cribbins all acted their proverbial socks off. A fantastic ending to a fantastic era of Who. The mighty D.T. will be thoroughly missed. 😦
  4. I’d like an agent for my birthday, please.