Category Archives: readers

What 10 Books Mean to Me in 10 Words or Less

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, How Green Was My Valley

This week I thought I would simply share with you 10 books (ok, or series…!) from the long list of books that have meant the most to me throughout the past 20+ years of my life. I set myself the challenge of stating how each book affected me in 10 words or less – no simple task!

My words may be a description of the book, or simply the way in which the book changed me – sometimes both.

10. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingwayold man and the sea

An old man’s stubborn heart touched my young one.

 

9. Queenmaker by India Edghill

An age-old tale from an intimate perspective.

 

8. The Bible

God’s heart – the light to my path.jane eyre

 

7. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

A passionate, restless, plain girl, much like myself.

 

6. Treasure at the Heart of the Tanglewood by Meredith Ann Pierce

A spell of words woven into a deep-earth, epic journey.

wildwood dancing

 

5. Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

My childish dreams merged strangely and naturally here.

 

4. The Wolves Chronicles by Joan Aiken

Quirky, edgy. Wild imagination that opened new worlds.

 

3. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

My heart’s fairytale with a true secret at center.

 

2. How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn

Proof that the beauty of words could break a heart.

 

1. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

A lesson that “Nothing is yet in its true form.”

 

Ten words … that’s hard!  It leaves much to say on the thoughts and emotions I felt for each of these books. What about you? Which are the books that have made the most impact on you – heart, mind, and soul – through the years? Can you describe one or two of them in 10 words or less? Comment below. I’d love to hear about them!

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8 Reasons Why Readers and Writers Should Be On Pinterest, and 4 Lists of Awesome Boards to Follow

dragon computerWhen I first discovered Pinterest, I will admit – I was addicted for about two months straight. My husband didn’t know what had happened to me – I rarely came up for air. So many pictures! So many ideas! So many sites, and thoughts, and inspiration! All in one place, too. And I’m an organizer … ooh, I loved organizing my pins into boards, and my boards into groups… Everything was in its place. Just how I like it.

I soon noticed, though, that things in the real world were most definitely NOT in place. The laundry, for instance. And the dishes. I mean, who has TIME for those things, when you are so busy pinning brilliant ideas about them?? I certainly did not.

After I mellowed out a bit, and stopped getting depressed because I didn’t have “the house of my dreams,” and hadn’t followed the “10 steps to a perfectly organized life,” I found another, more inspiring, reason for Pinterest …

It can be a great tool for writing, and an excellent resource for reading.

I began a Pinterest account specifically dedicated to book lovers, readers, and aspiring writers, and the rest is history! I soon discovered there are thousands of others who are just as obsessed with books as I am. (If you want to visit my Pinterest page and see/follow my boards, click here!).

So, how does Pinterest help the reader and/or writer, you ask? Well, here are some of the ways I have found it useful:

1.  Inspiration. I like to surf pins, especially of fantasy and fairytale imagery, to get inspiration for stories I want to write, or to better visualize the one I am currently writing.underwater castle
2.  Quotes. Yeah, they’re all over Pinterest, but if you get choosy about who you follow, you can filter out the corny, melodramatic, and pointless ones! I especially like to follow boards with quotes from my favorite authors or books, and I love quotes about reading and writing as well. Try following a board of quotes that is honed in to something specific you like (i.e. fantasy, humor, dogs, forgiveness – you name it!).
3.  Recommendations and reviews. There are boards dedicated entirely to book recommendations and book reviews, and many of these boards are split into genre (Romance, Historical, Biography, etc.) or age-group (middle grade, young adult, etc.), which makes it even easier to navigate to the specific ones you would like to follow.
4.  Writing prompts. Ideas to file away for future use.
5.  Literary media. Follow your favorite authors’ or publishers’ boards (or someone else’s boards about those authors!) to get updates on interviews, blog posts, giveaways, upcoming book releases, and contests.
6.  Eye candy. Yep, you heard me. Some people call it “book porn,” although that’s a bit much for me. It comes to the same thing, though … people who simply love pictures of books, libraries, cozy reading nooks, and everything else bookish. Sometimes, when I’m not drooling, I actually get some great ideas from these pictures when it comes to organization and/or display (and believe me, with upwards of 3,000 books in my house, I need those tips!).
7.  Geekery. Find nifty accessories, clothing, gadgets, and other paraphanalia made specifically with book lovers in mind. This one is just plain fun. Quotation cufflinks, anyone?  literary cufflinks
8.  Articles and posts. This one sounds kind of boring, I realize, but if you are a writer and, like me, don’t have time every day to read posts from the 30+ writing blogs you follow … what could be easier than just pinning them to a board to save for a lazy Sunday afternoon?

So, with these excellent reasons in mind, I set myself a fun assignment and researched some of my personal favorite boards so I could list them for you to check out. If you are a reader, a writer, a book reviewer, a lover of fantasy and fairytale imagery, or all of these things – you won’t want to miss these! Just be sure you don’t drown in all the bookish goodness!

Boards for Readers
Read Aloud Book Recommendations for Children
Teen Book Recommendations
Our Book Reviews
Night Owl Reviews
Fantasy Book Reviews
Author Interviews
Book Trailers

Boards for Writers
Sharing Writing Tips
Writing Prompts
Your Writer Platform
Getting Help With Your Writing
Business of Writing: Publishing and More
Quotes: Writing

Boards for Fairytale & Fantasy Lovers
Once Upon A Time …
Tales
The Wee People
Fairy Dust
Mystery and Mischief
Other World
Mystical
Makin’ Magic

Boards for Bibliophiles
The Library
Book Art and Display
Book Gear
Literary Humor
Beyond Books~Shops and Stores
Reading Nooks

If you are on Pinterest already, in a reading or writing capacity, what are some of the ways in which you have found it useful? I’d love to hear. It may just inspire me to add one, or two … or maybe ten more boards to my own profile!

4 Characteristics of an Epic Book

booksHave you ever read a book, and for some indescribable reason you simply could not feel a connection with it?  Perhaps you’re a person who can put a book like that right back on the shelf without a problem, or drop it in the library’s return slot and never think about it again, if you begin reading it and realize it’s not for you.  But not me.

In the past, when I came upon a book like this – one I could not get into at all – I put myself through torture, made myself finish the book even if it bored me to tears.  Now that I have finished my third decade of life, I realize I simply don’t have the time to do that, and I finally admitted to myself that I just don’t like it, either.  Who says I have to finish every book I start?  What a freeing feeling!  Why did I ever think differently?

The problem is I am always left with a sense of …. well, something being wrong.  Maybe it’s a need for closure.  Not in the sense of needing to know how the story ends, necessarily, but rather in needing to understand why I couldn’t connect with it to begin with.  I have been writing stories since I could hold a pencil, and this has created a keener sense of a story’s mechanics, an author’s style, than I might have ever been aware of otherwise.

Lately this happened to me.  And instead of just dealing with the uncomfortable feeling the book gave me, despite the fact that I actually quite enjoyed parts of it, I decided to sit myself down and figure out exactly what I felt was missing.  I soon realized if you want to know what’s missing from a recipe, you have to know the recipe to begin with.  So, I decided to write down my “requirements” for a great book.

Don’t get me wrong.  If a book doesn’t have one or two of these characteristics it doesn’t mean I won’t read it.  Because books don’t follow rules.  Sometimes there is a mysterious x-factor that keeps me turning pages, surprising even myself.  So – the list is not a strict one; but it did, in the end, help me realize what was “missing” from the book I had been reading [sigh of relief!].

My list is not genre or age-specific, since these characteristics span all types of fiction books.  Here goes:

  1. A compelling plot.  No matter how great your prose is, or how handy you are with turning a unique phrase, your book simply won’t stand without an intriguing storyline that keeps the reader wanting more.  This is not an argument for fast-paced, action-packed scenes – not a bit.  It just means that the plot simply needs to be interesting.  It needs to take me somewhere unexpected and exciting.
  2. A protagonist who is human.  But you like heroes who happen to be dragons, you say?  Okay.  I still say your dragon needs to be human.  The protagonist needs to have relatable struggles, whether internal or external, that draw me in and form an emotional connection.  Because, let’s be honest, if I can’t relate to the hero, I’m not gonna care what happens to him, even if the author kills him off.  If I have the capability of shrugging my shoulders and saying “Eh,” when something horrible happens to the hero … the author is doing something wrong (and yes, I have done this before).quill.and.ink
  3. A journey.  Whether the characters stay in one place, or even in one room, for the entirety of the book, a journey needs to take place.  A journey of understanding, of love, of coming to terms with self or others, of forgiveness, of strength or acceptance … the list could go on and on; take your pick.  And if the journey happens to be an actual physical journey – well, that’s fine, too.  But my favorite books, I’ve noticed, usually incorporate the physical and emotional journeys together, intertwining them in such delicious ways that you can barely discern the difference between them (The Lord of the Rings, anyone??).
  4. Good writing.  I’m not talking about good grammar here, and I’m not even talking about writing that “flows.”  I mean writing that is unique to the author.  Writing that shows me this author has a voice and knows how to use it.  This is a hard one to describe, really, because it’s more of a feeling than anything specific you can pin down when reading a book.  But if you are a reader, you know what I mean.  And this one is also very open to preference.  Believe me, some authors have a definitive voice … and I just don’t happen to like their voice.  But it doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate it.  And when I come across a book with the three former characteristics, and find that the author is just one darn good storyteller on top of everything … well, those are the books that find homes on the shelves in my house.

But that’s just me.  I’m curious to know … what makes (or doesn’t make, for that matter) a great book for YOU?

The Cat in Fantasy Lit

crookshanks

When you begin to think about it, cats have played some crucial roles in literature, specifically sci-fi and fantasy.  What is it that’s so alluring about a magical cat?  A talking cat?  Or even a goddess cat?

From ancient Egyptian times, when the Goddess Bastet (in the form of a cat) was worshipped, and even before, cats have always held a certain mystery and fascination for us humans.  In medieval times, cats in general, and black cats specifically, were thought to be evil.  Women who took them in to care for the poor mistreated or neglected animals were in turn labeled witches.

I myself love cats … I’ve owned probably over a hundred of them over the course of my life.  And while my husband might argue with you as to whether I’m a witch or not … depending on the day … like any cat lover, I can tell you they are anything but evil.  Spooky sometimes, yes.  Spastic and quirky … yeah.  Moody and uppity and picky – uh-huh.  The one thing I know from my years of cat experiences is that, without a doubt, cats definitely have personality.  And I suppose that’s why they so naturally fit into literature, whether as characters themselves, or as interesting sidekicks.

Here’s a list of fantasy and sci-fi cats you should definitely check out.  Who is your favorite feline in fantasy?aslan

  1. The Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  2. Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
  3. Crookshanks in the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
  4. Fritti Tailchaser in Tailchaser’s Song by Tad Williams
  5. Magicats! books (collection of cat stories) edited by Jack Dann
  6. The ThunderClan cats in the Warriors series by Erin Hunter
  7. Rhiow and the team of cat-wizards in the Young Wizards series by Diane Duane
  8. Gareth in Time Cat by Lloyd Alexander
  9. The cat with no name in Coraline by Neil Gaiman
  10. “The Cat” in The Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce
  11. Thelma, Roger, James and Harriet in Catwings by Ursula Le Guin
  12. Goldeneyes in the Catmage Chronicles by Meryl Yourish

Teen Book Review Sites

books3So you’re a young adult, or you’re an … older than young … adult like myself who happens to love YA fiction.  You’d like to know what’s out there without going to too much trouble, and you want to know up front if it’s going to be worth the read before you even begin.  Well, who doesn’t?  Well, I’ve compiled a list of great sites to visit with some of the latest in YA fiction.  One or two of the sites cater particularly to fantasy, I’ll warn you, but if you’re like me and you prefer fantasy anyway, that’s for the best.  Do yourself a favor and check some of these sites out!

Fantasy Book Reviews

This one is one of my favorites.  Just two chicks doing fantasy and sci-fi YA reviews.  The best part for me is that they give each book a ranking, or grade, like in school.  A through F (even pluses and minuses!).  They rank the book for additional things as well:  sexual content, language, violence, drug or alcohol use, etc.  Lastly, they give their personal recommendation for the age the book is appropriate for.  Neat, thorough, and trustworthy, especially if you are a parent who likes to screen what your teen is reading without having to sit and read every single book yourself!

Young Adult Books Central

Lots of different search options, including “top reader rated,” “most reviewed ya books” and “hottest books,” among many others.  You’ll get access to a short description of the book you’re looking at, plus get to read all the reviews others have left for it.  You can even sign up for an account and write your own reviews.

Young Adult Book Reviews

This blog, as the author states herself, is not strictly tied to the YA genre.  She reviews all types of books.  She’s witty and clever.  Worth following.

The Literate Mother

Conservative, reliable content ratings for language, violence, sexual content and adult themes.  Reviews are done by eight different mothers of multiples.  Another great one for monitoring your teen’s reading.

Flamingnet Teen

Join their mailing list to get book reviews, or check out their site for thousands of reviewed books for teens.  Become a student reviewer yourself through Flamingnet, or even start your own book club through their site.  I also liked the link, under “resources” for author interviews.

An Enchanted Forest in a World Far Away

cropped-forest11.jpgYou are standing in a semi-lit wood.  Ancient, twisted trees tower above you on all sides, their knots and hollows casting strange shadows at your feet.  A cold, curling mist winds its way around your ankles, sending chills up your spine.  Perhaps you see a swift movement from the corner of your eye – a flash of wide eyes and a tiny green cap flowing behind as a small fey creature whisks by you – but when you turn to look at it, you see only a small brown tree stump with a crowning flow of bright emerald leaves.  A branch snaps like a whip and you turn quickly to see the flick of a white equestrian tail through the trees … you’re almost certain you can see a shining golden horn coming from its noble forehead.

You are in an enchanted forest.  A place that can be as terrifying as it is awe-inspiring.  And that chill that went up your spine just a few moments ago?  It was one-part fear, but two-parts pleasure.  Wasn’t it?

I’m not sure about you, but if I could choose a place in all the faerie tale worlds to visit, an enchanted forest would be my first choice.  The worlds of fantasies that live in my imagination, planted there by the countless stories of such places I have been reading my entire life, can come alive when I envision such a place.  Sorcerers, fairies, centaurs and unicorns, magical pools, fairy rings, mysterious caves and hidden portals – who would even try to resist?

There are endless novels and short stories that revolve around enchanted – or at the very least, mysterious – forests.  And honestly, where would fairy tales and fantasy stories be without them?  I have compiled a short list of a few that I highly recommend you check out.

But I want to hear from you, too … what are your favorite stories that involve (or take place in) mystical forests?  I’d love to hear your recommendations!

  1. The Forestwife by Theresa Tomlinson (Mary is an orphan who flees into the forest seeking freedom from the nobility of Medieval England.)
  2. Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier (Jena’s home has a magic portal that leads beyond the mysterious wood and into the Other Kingdom, a world she visits every Full Moon with her sisters and her constant companion and friend, a frog.  With a sister falling in love with a dangerous creature, a father who is deathly ill, and a frog who may just be more than meets the eye … things seem to be leading toward heartbreak.)
  3. Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt (Young Keturah follows a hart deep into the wood beyond her home and becomes hopelessly lost, only to be found by Lord Death, who wishes to make a bargain with her she’s not certain she is capable of making.)
  4. Messenger by Lois Lowry (Matty serves as a messenger, communicating with villages on either side of a treacherous wood.  But his village decides to close its gates and Matty must fight his way through the forest, which seems to have a mind of its own, before he is shut out forever.)
  5. The Magician’s Nephew by C. S. Lewis (Digory and Polly use a magical ring and find themselves in the Wood Between the Worlds, an place full of enchanted pools that each lead to a different and exciting world. #6 in the Chronicles of Narnia)
  6. Beauty Robin McKinley (The classic tale of Beauty and the Beast retold.)
  7. Phantastes by George MacDonald (A young man journeys through a world of fantasy on a quest for joy and surrender.)
  8. A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare (Two pairs of star-crossed couples get lost in a magical wood only to have the fairy king Oberon tamper with their lives and loves, making everything a glorious mess.)
  9. Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock (The “Wood” is larger on the inside than on the outside.  It contains a labyrinth of love and beauty … that just might drive you mad.**This is an adult booki, not YA)
  10. The Fairest Beauty by Melanie Dickerson (Sophie and Gabe flee from their parents together to the forest and the Cottage of Seven.  Both are promised to others – but find their feelings for each other becoming dangerously warm.)
  11. On Fortune’s Wheel by Cynthia Voigt (Birle goes on an unexpected journey through forests and faraway kingdoms, running away from the man she was promised to wed, accompanied by a man who is not all he seems.)
  12. A White so Red by K. D. Jones (A retelling of the story of Snow White)
  13. Beyond the Deepwoods by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell (He lives in Deepwoods among wood trolls, but Twig decides to begin a quest to find where he truly belongs.)
  14. Scarlet by A. C. Gaughen (Scarlet poses as a boy and becomes one of Robin Hood’s thieves.)
  15. The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley (Classic retelling of Robin Hood by a master storyteller)
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