Monthly Archives: June 2015

Daniel and the Sun Sword

I had the privilege of reading and reviewing this great book before its official release. You’ll find my review below, but first I’d like to show you some other fun stuff . . . such as the awesome cover art and the spectacular book trailer!

Note: Barnes and Noble and Amazon both say that the official release date for Daniel and the Sun Sword is November 3. But don’t let that fool you. The book will be available as of July, and if you pre-order the paperback now you’ll get your copy by the end of July or early August.

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daniel and the sun sword

Thirteen-year-old Daniel is about to be adopted. But when he learns his new family wants him as a slave, he runs away with the help of his new neighbors, the naïve and cowardly Ben, and Raylin, a mysterious girl with a shady past.

He begins to second-guess his decision when the cave they hide in transports them to the ruins of Machu Picchu, where they find themselves embroiled in a battle between ancient gods of Life and Death. To top things off, the God of Life draws Daniel into the fray by adopting him as his son and setting him on a quest to complete a broken, mystical sword, a task that will pit him against the god of the underworld.

Now, Daniel and his friends have just one weekend to find the shards before a hoard of supernatural enemies catch up. But that’s not all they face. A trap has been set that even Daniel wouldn’t expect, and he just took the bait.

Will the power of his Heavenly Father be enough to save them?

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MY REVIEW

Looking for a brave, spunky hero and a refreshing, meaningful adventure? Look no further. Formidable enemies, engaging characters, and a heartfelt and powerful message. Daniel and the Sun Sword has it all.

At first glance this story put me in mind of the Percy Jackson series (which, by the way, is a very good thing!). It has a rapid pace, loads of action and adventure, and a young male protagonist who has to take on a world of dangerous and deadly gods and demons. But this book does something Percy Jackson never did. It goes deeper. It has lasting meaning. It gives hope. And that makes all the difference.

Daniel is a relatable and realistic protagonist. I felt connected to him from the start. He is an orphan who feels that he controls nothing in his own life. He has no sense of his own importance or purpose. But when danger literally comes creeping to his doorstep, he has to start making decisions fast. He has to choose between remaining the same and growing, between cowardice and bravery. Daniel begins a journey that forces him to not only be brave in body, but courageous of heart.

The secondary characters were all extremely fun to read, too, with personalities that set each of them apart. From quirky Ben, to doubtful Raylin, to the disgusting Gurges, to quietly strong Gabriela – I enjoyed watching them all play their parts in the greater scheme of the story, and I hope to see more of them in future books (well, perhaps not the Gurges…*shudder*). The gods, monsters and other creatures were written with descriptions that truly brought them to life. Even when reading about the most evil of creatures, I had to smile in admiration at lines like this one: “The voice was deep and horrible, like the very foundations of the earth were grinding together to make speech.” The author has a great way with imagery and metaphors.

In short, this book is full of all the things tween boys love: action, adventure, danger, and monsters. Yet at its core, this story is an allegory. Its meaning is deep and true. We are all born orphans, just like Daniel, but we have the awesome choice to become a part of the greatest family that ever was, with the greatest Father who ever lived. I was blown away by the smooth combination of both the physical and spiritual elements woven together in this story.

Daniel and the Sun Sword is the type of book I’ve hoped to see for a long time, for all the boys out there like my own son who long to read about adventures and heroes, but need to understand that their hope does not come from themselves, but from Someone higher. This book is a powerful testimony to that truth. I recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone between the ages of 10 and 110! I loved it from start to finish.

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Books from the Emerald Isle

Two weeks ago, my mother and sister visited Ireland. Before they left, they asked what type of souvenirs I’d like them to bring back for me. I didn’t have to think about it long before I decided exactly what I wanted. I’m sure you may even be able to guess . . .

I asked for them to bring me books. Used books from a little Irish book store tucked away somewhere. On further thought I asked my mom to stop alongside a beautiful country road in Ireland and pick wild flowers, and to press them into the pages of the book she got for me. Not an expensive gift. Not a difficult gift to get. But I was ecstatic at the mere thought of it.

I’m sure most of you read the rambling and rather passionate thoughts in my last blog post about why I love paperbacks (and hardbacks, of course!) so very much. As my mom and sister handed me my gifts, it hit me once again just why I love physical books as I do.

From a library sale in Carlow, Ireland, to secondhand bookstores in Newry, Cahir and Dublin, my dear little Irish books are full of worn pages, penciled-in notes, unglued binding, age spots, wildflowers, a yellowed bus pass that someone must once have used for a bookmark, and, in short, more history and food for imagination than you could get into an infinite number of eBooks.

Are you ready for some serious book-love pictures?! Meet my new-old books:

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I wonder who W.H. Fowler was? Did he enjoy reading this book? How long did it sit on his shelf?

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Irish wildflowers picked from an obliging field.

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Where did this bus ticket take the person who bought it? Who was he going to see? Perhaps he (or she, of course!) was reading this book as he rode the bus…

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Whose fingers blackened the edges of these pages with their thumbing? This book must have been well-loved, to have such worn edges.

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All my books have history. Some of that history I’ll never know about – I can only imagine where the many books I own have been, what shelf they have rested on, whose eyes have smiled or cried or even drowsed while reading them.

These books from Ireland are no different, really. They sat on a shelf somewhere, or maybe amid a stack of other books, perhaps in a household, perhaps in a bookstore or library. They passed from hand to hand, home to home, heart to heart, just as many books do.

It’s a connection between myself and someone far away. It’s a cord woven between me and a stranger whom I’ll never meet. What a mysterious, lovely thing. My fingers touch where their fingers have touched. I’ll read the very words that someone far away once read. Perhaps I’ll even be touched by those words in the same manner as the one who read them before me.

What history, real or imagined, do your own hand-me-down books have?

Paper and Ink: 3 Reasons I’m Not an eBook Girl

A few weeks ago I was in line at Nebraska Furniture Mart, preparing to purchase a book.

The man behind me in line laughed and said, “You don’t see people doing that much anymore.”

I said, “What? You mean buying a book at a furniture store? I know –  kinda strange, huh?”

“No,” he said. “I mean buying a book . . . at all. People just don’t do it.”

I just smiled. “Well, I certainly do.”

“So you don’t read eBooks?”

“Not much. I’m rather stubbornly rebelling against the eBook world. I’ll always stick to my paperbacks first and foremost.”

The man just grinned at me and shook his head . . . then kept smiling and shaking his head until I had checked out and walked away. That’s what he did. I’m not exaggerating.

Now, maybe people who live in Nebraska just don’t read as much as people from my State of Missouri, but I doubt it. It could be that this man just has a skewed idea of the bookish world and readers in general . . . I sure hope so!

Whatever the case, it made me ask myself – why do I cling so desperately to my paper-and-ink books? After all, it’s not nearly as convenient to tote around books like Middlemarch or Mansfield Park than it is to simply click it on my tablet and start reading. And let’s not even talk about the difference between having 3,000 books uploaded to your e-reader . . . versus owning 3,000 paper and hardback books that are slowly pushing you out of your own home . . . ahem, not that I have that problem.

Why do I put up with it? What is the superhuman pull of paper and ink and, let’s face it, possibly even spine glue and dust jackets? Because really for me, it is a superhuman pull.

MEMORIES . . .

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Nothing has such an insistent tug as childhood memories. At least, not for me. The stories I experienced, the places I journeyed to through them, the places I sat while reading them, the walks home from the library with arms-to-chin piles of books, the feel of my childish hands on a book’s hard spine . . . those memories will be with me for most of my life, I imagine. And they’re incredibly strong, deeply happy memories. Maybe the coming generation will have those memories with their Kindles, too . . . but somehow I just can’t imagine the dearness of those memories ever being quite the same.

SENSES . . .

Ok, this is a big one for me.

A few days ago I finished a chapter of the book I’m currently reading and my husband looked at me and said, “Why do you look at your book like that every time you stop reading?”

“Umm . . . what do you mean? All I did was shut it and put it down.”

“Nope. Every time you get done reading you close your book and give it a strange look. Every single time. It’s kinda weird.”

“I do?” And then I believe I blushed. This is a man I’ve been married to for 12 years. I can’t remember ever blushing in front of him for, well, anything. But this felt . . . strangely personal. Because the moment he pointed it out, I realized it was true, although I’d never given it a moment’s thought before then.

Apparently I get a little doe-eyed with my books. So what? I bet lots of people do. Right . . .?

That beautiful sound paper makes when I flip pages all at once, or the sound when I let a single page slide through my fingers. The fresh scent of new paper, the sharp smell of ink, even the nose-tickling mustiness of an old, dusty book from my Grandma’s shelf. The very sight of a book or, better yet, a whole shelf of books, their motley, mismatched spines like a beacon to something deep within me. The feel of a book’s squared edges against my palm, its heaviness in my hands as I take it from a shelf.

You know, when I first read The Chronicles of Narnia, the whole box set of them that I owned had a distinct scent to the pages. Who knows what caused it – I imagine something as simple as the combination of ink and paper the publisher used. But whatever it was – to this day when I smell the pages of another book with that same scent, I am instantly transported straight back to my childhood bedroom, with Narnia swirling all around me. I even sometimes feel the ghostly twinge of the crick I got in my neck from burying myself in those books for such long periods of time.

“O, there is lovely to feel a book, a good book, firm in the hand, for its fatness holds rich promise, and you are hot inside to think of good hours to come.” – Richard Llewellyn

SLOWING DOWN . . .

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Those first two reasons are good enough, for me, that a third one wouldn’t even be necessary. But I’ve noticed that, as I get older, I’ve dug my heels in and become quite old-fashionedly stubborn about my books. After some thought, I believe it has to do with my need for control in a world that moves too quickly and demands too much.

A book in my hand represents a slowing down of life, a focusing of my attention to what is in front of me. By picking up a book I feel as if I’m pulling myself out of the tumult of the e-world (or even, sometimes, the world in general) and giving it an emphatic “no.”

STORIES ARE STORIES

Yet in the end, a book’s truest pleasure comes from the words that are written – not the object from which you read them. Stories – good stories – will always be important in their own right, whether told by mouth, written on papyrus, scrawled with crayons on construction paper (those are the ones my son writes for me!), printed with ink on paper, or published on an electronic device.

There is no right or wrong here. Stories are stories and I will always, always love a well-told one.

It’s just that I’ll enjoy it much more if it’s on paper 🙂

 

Tell me, do you have strong feelings about the particular form a book takes?

 

Fairy Tale Novella Contest and Cover Reveal

Rooglewood Press is delighted to introduce their third fairy tale novella contest—

Five Magic Spindles

a collection of “Sleeping Beauty” stories

Five Magic Spindles

The challenge is to write a retelling of the beloved fairy tale in any genre or setting you like. Make certain your story is recognizably “Sleeping Beauty,” but have fun with it as well. Make it yours!

Rooglewood Press will be selecting five winners to be published in the Five Magic Spindles collection, which will be packaged up with the phenomenal cover you see here. Maybe your name will be one of the five listed?

All the contest rules and information (how to enter, story details, deadline etc.) may be found on the Rooglewood Press website. Just click HERE and you will go right to the page.

Rooglewood Press’s first collection, Five Glass Slippers is available for purchase, and our second collection, Five Enchanted Roses is scheduled to launch on July 27, and is currently available for pre-order. Be certain to get a copy of each and see what previous winners did with their wonderful retellings.

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*This cover illustration was rendered by Julia Popova, “ForestGirl.” You can find out more about this gifted artist on her website: www.forestgirl.ru