Thursday, March 31, 2011

Book Review #41 The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle

The Hollow Kingdom
by Clare B. Dunkle

Genre: YA Fantasy
Ages: 12 and up

Strange things happen at Hallow Hill. There is a local legend that once every generation, a young woman of marriageable age is stolen away and taken under the hill to be a goblin bride. Kate and her sister Emily know nothing of the stories when they arrive, but it is not long before they learn. They become lost in the woods one evening and a gypsy volunteers to escort them home. Kate knows immediately that something is wrong about him, and her suspicions are proved when she first sees his face. He is the monstrous goblin King, and he has chosen her as his new bride. Kate is determined to keep her freedom, but how can she when no one but Emily believes her story?

I loved this book. When I borrowed it, I did not expect it to catch my imagination so. There were several parts that were creepy enough to send shivers down my spine, others that were sad, and a few that were very sweet. I loved proper, English Kate and vivacious, imaginative Emily. The goblin King, Marak, is a fascinating villain/love interest. My very favorite character, though, was one you did not meet until late in the novel. Charm is an absolutely wonderful conversationalist. His histories of all of the various King's Wives had me laughing more than once. This is the first book in a trilogy, and I have the next two waiting in my room, so I had better finish up here so that I can go read them!

There is no language in this novel.

There is no sexuality in this novel.

I give this a 6.10 for violence because of multiple disturbing murders.

                                             Lieder Madchen

Word of the Week (4)

Word of the Week


Definition: To fire into the air rather than at your opponent during a duel.
Origins: French "to throw away"
Sample Sentence: Charles had meant to delope, but his aim was so bad that he hit the count anyway.
There is no German equivalent.

I am a geek. This word can only be found on Wikipedia and a dictionary for obscure words, and I am the only person in my family who knows what it means. I learned this when I was discussing duels with my younger brother and I challenged him with the word. He didn't know it, so I called out to my older brother and told him the explain the definition, sure that he would know it. He didn't. Later, I asked my mom if she knew the word, hoping that I was not as much of a geek as it seemed I was. She guessed that it was the opposite of elope. My dad, with no knowledge of her answer, guessed the same thing. (Great minds think alike.) So, I decided to post this marvelous word that can be found in all kinds of swashbuckling novels where the heroes decide to show mercy to their enemies on the internet in the hope that someone else knows it. (Other than the authors who write the aforementioned swashbuckling novels.)
Please tell me that I am not the only word-loving, duel-reading geek in the world!

P.S. Delope shows up on spell-check as being incorrect. (smack myself on the forehead.)

                                     Lieder Madchen

Monday, March 28, 2011

Book Review #40 By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson

By Darkness Hid
by Jill Williamson

Genre: YA Christian Fantasy
Ages: 12 and up

Life as a stray is miserable. You are treated like a slave and despised by all. Achan Cham  has spent his whole life being beaten and ordered about, until the day Sir Gavin arrives. Sir Gavin seems to see something in Achan that even Achan is not aware of, and begins to train him as a squire. Then Achan starts hearing voices in his head, and he learns that he has the magical ability to bloodvoice, to speak to and see people with his mind.
Vrell Sparrow has a secret. Disguised as a boy and a stray, she is desperate to hide her true identity lest she be sent to marry a man she loathes. When she is taken by men who think she is simply a boy who has the talent of bloodvoicing, she puts her faith in Arman to protect her.
I am always on the lookout for new Christian fantasy novels, but I am often disappointed by their stiffness. There was no such disappointment in By Darkness Hid. Their was faith without preachiness and Achan and Vrell had human flaws that make you empathize with them more than any exaggerated purity ever could. By Darkness Hid is a promising beginning to Jill Williamson's fantasy trilogy.
I gave this book to my little sister (now thirteen) and she read it very quickly, coming to me immediately for Book Two, To Darkness Fled (which I haven't even finished reading yet). So now I have to wait for her before I can read it...

I give this a 1.10 in profanity for the use of a completely inoffensive made-up oath that is used a few times throughout the novel.

There are some brief, mild innuendos and references for which I give this book a 1.10 in sexuality.

There are several scenes of violence in this novel, including bullying, fighting and multiple beatings, so I give it a 5.10. 

                                     Lieder Madchen

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Book Review # 39 Aurelia by Anne Osterlund

by Anne Osterlund

Genre: YA Fantasy / Romance
Ages: 12 and up

Robert Vantauge cannot imagine why anyone would try to kill Princess Aurelia. It has been years since he saw her last, but he still remembers her bright wit and sharp intelligence. When he hears that she is in danger, he goes to the palace immediately. There he finds her amid suitors and schemers, with no idea whatsoever that her life is being threatened. As he struggles to find the assassin, he also struggles with his rapidly growing feelings for his former classmate.
This book has an interesting mixture of genres and styles. It is fantasy, but there is no magic. It is set in a court, but there is more than a hint of the Wild West about it. The characters, major and minor, are well written and believable. I love Aurelia's sarcasm and Robert's ability to stand up to her, the two of them together are fun to read about. This book ends with great promise for a sequel, and that sequel, Exile, is coming out in just a couple of weeks. I can hardly wait to read it!

There is no language in this novel.

I give this a 1.10 in sexuality for mild innuendo and references.

There are several scenes of violence including multiple deaths and attempted murders, so I rate it a 5.10.

                                Lieder Madchen

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Book Review #38 Mr. Darcy's Obsession by Abigail Reynolds

Mr. Darcy's Obsession
by Abigail Reynolds

Genre: Romance
Ages: 15 and up

What if Elizabeth Bennet was called away from Rosings before Mr. Darcy could propose? What if the reason she was called away was that her father was deathly ill? What if her path and Darcy's didn't cross again for two years?
Mr. Darcy is surprised when, two years after Elizabeth's visit to Rosings, his good friend Charles Bingley mentions having seen her. He learns that Mr. Bennet is dead, Jane is married to a much older shopkeeper, and Elizabeth is living with her aunt and uncle and is taking care of their children. One time, Darcy tells himself, he would go to see Elizabeth one time, just to reassure himself of her well-being and happiness. But once he does, he finds himself unable to stay away.
This book is all about Mr. Darcy. If you were not in love with him before reading this book, you will be long before you finish it. He has some absolutely wonderful romantic speeches. The romance in this book is beautiful. They have some dreadful misunderstandings, but it is so sweet when they make up. Jane and Bingley's relationship has even more obstacles, to the point where you begin to wonder if they will ever end up together. In addition to the traditional personages, there are some wonderful new characters. I especially enjoyed meeting Darcy's urchin spy and the highly eccentric Aunt Augusta. I also liked the way Darcy came to realize that his family was just as objectionable as Elizabeth's, albeit in different ways.
It took me one sitting of approximately three hours (very early in the morning) to read this novel after my copy arrived from Amazon. When I started it, I meant to only read a couple of chapters before turning the lights out, but then I could not help but read it all the way through.

I rate this a 2.10 in profanity for a few mild swearwords.

I give this a 3.10 in sexuality for multiple references, innuendos, and illegitimate pregnancies.

An attempted rape and an unpleasant medical scene rate this book a 4.10.

                               Lieder Madchen

Book Review #37 Northanger Abbey and Angels and Dragons by Jane Austen and Vera Nazarian

Northanger Abbey and Angels and Dragons
by Jane Austen and Vera Nazarian

Genre: Parody / Satire / Comedy / Romance
Ages: 13 and up

Jane Austen purists beware! That great lady's masterworks have been snatched by that shameless harridan Vera Nazarian and dropped into absurd and wholly improper situations. The unfortunate heroine of Northanger Abbey has been placed in a strange world of angels, demons and one monstrous duck! Will Catherine Morland be able to resist the demonic wiles of the Thorpes with only the help of her angelic friends? Is the dragon that has been seen in the skies above Bath seeking a buried treasure? Are there codes hidden in horrid novels?
This novel is absolutely hilarious. The illustrations, footnotes and appendices (not to mention the story itself) will keep you chortling in helpless disbelief from start to finish. Catherine Morland's legendary fevered imagination has even more food for its fantasies, leading to the wildest of accusations being thrown about. The almost handsome Henry Tilney is an admirably sensible anchor in this otherwise ridiculous story, and their romance is quite lovely.
I was fortunate enough to win a copy of this novel that was not only signed, but doodled as well! The next novel in this series, Pride and Platypus, is coming soon and I can hardly wait to read it. :)

This book just barely rates a 4.10 for language. There is an impolite term for a certain type of female used multiple times, but not in an offensive manner.

I rate this book a 2.0 for some very mild references and innuendos.

There is a brief scene of mild violence in this book, so I give it a 1.10.

                                              Lieder Madchen

Friday, March 25, 2011

Book Review #36 Cloaked by Alex Flinn

by Alex Flinn

Genre: YA Fantasy / Fairy-Tale Re-Telling
Ages: 12 and up

Johnny Marco is a good boy, since his dad left he has worked hard as a shoe-repairman and has done his best to take care of his mother. However, like all seventeen-year-old boys, he dreams of something more. When a beautiful princess comes to him for aid, he jumps at the chance. She offers him her hand in marriage if he will rescue her brother, who has been turned into a frog by an evil witch. Johnny finds himself drawn into a strange world of magic and danger. He encounters talking animals, giants, scorpions, and all manner of Floridians. When it comes down to romance, though, is it really the princess he wants? Or is it his oldest friend Meg who works at the coffee counter?
Alex Flinn takes a very creative stance to several fairy-tales, a stance that is immensely entertaining. I loved the wide variety of different stories and characters, Princess Victoriana and her amphibian brother are delightfully shallow but with good hearts. Johnny and Meg are such nice, almost normal teenagers that I can easily imagine meeting them in the street. Cloaked has a brilliant cast of very human characters (even the ones that are temporarily animals). I also loved all of the fun shoe quotes, I had never realized that there were so many quotes involving footwear!

There is no language in this book.

I rate this novel a 1.10 for sexuality because of some mild innuendo.

There are several scenes of violence, but none that are too nasty, so I give it a 3.10.

                             Lieder Madchen

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Word of the Week (3)

Word of the Week


Definition: To form lumps or masses. 2. To form fluffy masses.
Origins:  Latin, flocculus (a tuft of wool) -ate (suffix)
Sample Sentence: The light, wispy clouds flocculated into a thick white blanket.
German equivalent: ausflocken

I found this word in a novel, The Reluctant Heiress by Eva Ibbotson (review coming soon). It was used to describe a home-made yogurt that was "gently flocculating." I had no idea what this word meant (and neither did my older brother, who knows a lot) so we had to look it up and then share it with you!

                                    Lieder Madchen

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Book Review #35 The Seven Towers by Patricia C. Wrede

The Seven Towers
by Patricia C. Wrede

Genre: YA Fantasy
Ages: 10 and up

There is something dreadfully wrong in the kingdom of Sevairn. The king has exiled his head advisor for supposed treason, has arranged a sudden marriage for his son with a princess he has never met, and is completely ignoring the looming danger of an impending invasion. Prince Eltiron, with the help of his aunt Vendaris, a mercenary, does not believe that the Jermain, the exiled advisor, is guilty, but there is little that they can do. Jermain, who has been forced to flee for his life, is rescued by the mysterious sorceress Amberglas, who is soon to accompany the lovely Princess Crystalorn to Sevairn to meet her intended husband. He believes that his friend Prince Eltiron has betrayed him, so he turns his back on his old life. However, it is not long before he finds himself tangled in politics once more when he joins Carachel, the Wizard-King. Magic, mystery and trouble abound as the invasion draws closer, but is their enemy truly who they think it is?
This book has everything a good fantasy novel needs. An aging king, a prince with confidence issues, a villainous advisor, a beautiful princess, wizardry, evil, romance, humor, nonsensical character names, etc., etc., etc. I have always loved the works of Patricia C. Wrede, but I couldn't find this one anywhere until recently and I am really glad I did! I loved the characters, especially the vague and confusing sorceress Amberglas. Her dialogue was so much fun because you have to puzzle through it before you can completely understand what she means. Prince Eltiron is also a great character, I can feel a lot of sympathy for his nervousness. The romance could have been developed a little more, but it was still fun.

I give this a 1.10 for language because there is a completely inoffensive made-up term used a few times.

There are some brief, mild innuendos and references in this novel, so I rate it a 2.10 for sexuality.

There are several scenes of violence including fights, murder and attempted murder. I rate it a 5.10.

                                        Lieder Madchen

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mailbox Monday (3)

I had the most awesome book order arrive a couple of days ago! I won a $25 dollar Amazon gift card on the Best Reviews Monthly giveaway and I used it to buy four books: Mr. Darcy's Obsession by Abigail Reynolds, Beneath a Silent Moon by Tracy Grant, The Seven Towers by Patricia C. Wrede, and The Reluctant Heiress by Eva Ibbotson. There will be reviews coming soon!

A fun YA fantasy novel with a prince, a princess, wizards, towers and, of course, a good deal of villainous activities. (All that good stuff.)

I love the Pemberley Variations, and my library unfortunately only owns a couple of the older ones, so I am really excited about getting to read this one. (It took me about three hours in one sitting to go through it, it was so much fun!)

This is a prequel to Daughter of the Game, and it looks like it will be just as good. :)

This is one of my favorite romances ever, so it is great to have my own copy.

See you next week! I have a copy of Northanger Abbey and Angels and Dragons by Vera Nazarian on the way!
I'm Booking It blog is hosting Mailbox Monday for the month of March. Happy Reading!

                                           Lieder Madchen

Once Upon a Time Challenge

I found this challenge on the Tell Me a Story blog, and it looks like so much fun! I am going for Quest the Second, to read one book each in the categories of fantasy, folklore, fairy-tale and mythology. The challenge runs from March 21 through June 20. I love fantasy, fairy-tale, and mythology, but I haven't read a whole lot by way of folklore, so I think that that will be he hardest part of this challenge for me.

10. City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare




                                             Lieder Madchen

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Book Review #34 Daughter of the Game by Tracy Grant

Daughter of the Game, aka Secrets of a Lady
by Tracy Grant

Genre: Historical Fiction / Mystery / Espionage
Ages: 16 and up

Mr. Fraser is one of those unfashionable men who loves his wife, and his wife loves him back. They married seven years ago during the Napoleonic Wars. Charles worked for British intelligence and Melanie was a half-Spanish, half-French war refugee when they first met, and now Charles is a politician and Melanie is his supportive wife. Their life is turned upside-down when there six-year-old son is snatched from his bedroom. The man who took him believes that they have an artifact that belongs to him, one that Charles was sent to find in Spain seven years ago. Both Charles and Melanie have dark secrets in their pasts, secrets that they had hoped to forget but must now face if they are to save their son's life. But when one can hardly trust the other and even their closest friends may betray them, how can they have any hope of success?
This novel is rather dark and absolutely fascinating. Charles and Melanie are two of the most interesting characters I have ever read about. They are both strong, intelligent, determined people who have suffered true horrors in their lives. The interaction between them is probably the most important part of the story. They trust each other's abilities completely, as well as their mutual devotion to their son, Colin, but when Melanie reveals that nearly everything Charles knew about her was a lie nothing between them will ever be the same.

This gets a 4.10 for language, as there are multiple uses of the impolite word for illegitimate and other insulting terms for females. Most of these terms are not actually used as insults but rather as statements of fact.

There are multiple murders, attempted murders, a past suicide and references to past rape so I rate it a 6.10 for violence.

I give this a 5.10 for sexuality because of references, innuendos, some vaguely described memories of a wedding night and an interrupted scene between a married couple. The characters also visit a house of ill-repute in the course of their investigations.

                                          Lieder Madchen

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Word of the Week (2)

Word of the Week


Definition: Opposition to the withdrawal of state support or recognition from an established church, especially the Anglican Church in 19th-century England.
Origins:  Latin ante- (against)  dis- (apart, negative) stare (stand)  -ment (suffix forming a noun) -arian (a suffix that forms a noun denoting a member of a group)  Greek -ism (suffix forming an action noun). I know that this origin is not particularly good, but I dissected the word and did my best. (It took quite a bit of googling.)
Sample Sentence: Antidisestablishmentarianism is the longest English word I know, and I am not even going to try to use it in a sentence that takes the meaning of the word into account.
There is no German equivalent of this word.
Antidisestablishmentarianism was often used as a dare when I and my younger siblings were shorter and more susceptible to that sort of thing. We would dare each other to spell it and then be quite proud of ourselves when we succeeded. (We conveniently didn't notice that it is spelled exactly the same way it is pronounced.)
I have never actually used this word for its true meaning and it is the closest I could come up with when trying to think of a nearly-useless word that everyone knows. (I don't believe in useless words, but this one comes close.)
What is the longest word (or the closest to being useless) that you can think of?
                                                   Lieder Madchen

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Book Review #32 Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

Sorcery and Cecelia
by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

Genre: YA Fantasy
Ages: 10 and up, though it makes for an excellent read-aloud that is guaranteed to send listeners into gales of laughter, especially when read with a faux British accent.

Kate and Cecy are cousins in a post-Napoleonic Wars England with magic. This story chronicles their correspondence while Kate is in London for her first Season and poor Cecy is left to rusticate in the country. Their adventures start when Kate is mistaken for a man and nearly poisoned with chocolate, but this is only the beginning. Soon the two of them are embroiled in matters magical and mysterious as Cecy's brother is turned into a tree and Kate finds herself in a spurious betrothal with a mysterious, odious nobleman. They might have found this disconcerting where it not for the fact that were enjoying themselves far too much to allow the terror they ought to have been feeling.
This is one of my favorite young adult novels of all time. I cannot count how many times I have read and re-read it. It is hilariously funny and never gets old. At first, before I started reading it the first time, I was not at all sure that I even wanted to try it. Normally I dislike letter stories, but I really liked the other works of Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer, so eventually I borrowed it from the library. As soon as I started, I was hooked. The wit, humor, atmosphere were fantastic. Kate and Cecy manage to get into such absurd and sometimes dangerous situations interspersed with new gowns and garden parties. It was wonderful!
Just yesterday I finished reading this book aloud to my sister (10) and brother (7). I read the whole thing with a faux British accent while attempting to attempting to get all of the emotions right as well. Afterward, I found it difficult in the extreme to go back to my normal speech patterns. I had to edit a couple of sentences aloud for my little brother's benefit, but it didn't seem to make a difference to him or my sister. (They both laughed a lot and my sister made kissy faces at several intervals when she perceived romance in the offing.)

I give it a 2.10 in language for some mild cursing.

It gets a 2.10 in sexuality for brief, mild references and innuendo.

There are several instances of peril and attempted murder as well as references to a murder that happened long ago, so I give it a 4.10.

                                                Lieder Madchen

Monday, March 14, 2011

Book Review #31 The Running Vixen by Elizabeth Chadwick

The Running Vixen
by Elizabeth Chadwick

Genre: Historical Fiction / Romance
Ages: 16 and up

There were two children who grew up together, a boy and a girl. They loved eachother as brother and sister...or at least she did. Adam came to love her differently, but Heulwen didn't see him that way and married another man at fifteen. Ten years later, her husband is dead and she is soon to be betrothed to a man she likes but does not love. It seems impossible that Adam can change her mind in time, but when he learns that her suitor has a dark secret, it seems like he might have one last chance to win her.
This is not my favorite of Elizabeth Chadwick's novels, there is too much sex and not enough history. The characters are as interesting and likeable as ever, but there story is somewhat painful to read. (Especially a certain scene when a certain fiance comes barging in to discover a certain man and woman with a certain lack of clothing, it was quite messy.) Ms. Chadwick's later novels seem to be an improvement on her earlier ones, the writing doesn't change but the stories improve.

I give it a 6.10 in profanity for two uses of the f-word and several milder swearwords and insult.

There are a couple pretty graphic scenes of sexuality and several that are more vague or fade away as well as references and innuendo, so I rate it a 8.10.

There are several scenes of pretty bloody violence as well as a vague scene of rape, so I rate it a 7.10.

                                                      Lieder Madchen

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Book Review #30 A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee

A Spy in the House
by Y.S. Lee

Genre:  YA Mystery
Ages: 13 and up

Mary Quinn should have been dead, but by a miraculous intervention she is saved from the gallows at the age of twelve and given the education of a lady, plus a little extra. Now, at seventeen, she wants to do something meaningful and fulfilling with her life, so she goes to her teachers for advice. This is when they tell her about the Agency. The Agency is a group of secret female detectives who investigate what the police cannot. Because they are female, they can go unnoticed by those who might feel threatened or suspicious at the presence of a man. Soon she is sent on her first mission, to investigate the shady business of a man named Mr. Thorold, and she soon finds that she is not the only one looking. Soon she has made an uneasy alliance with James Easton, a handsome engineer who has reasons of his own for wanting the truth.
This book is improbable and unrealistic, but highly entertaining. I loved the character interactions between Mary and her partner/rival James Easton. They are constantly bickering even as you can tell they are growing closer. The story has some fun twists and turns that end in a way that leaves you eager for more. I wouldn't say that this is exactly great literature, but it sure is a lot of fun.

There is some mild language, for which I rate this novel a 2.10.

There are a few scenes of violence, nothing too graphic, but there are two murders and one of the victims is a child so I rate it a 6.10.

There are several references to prostitution and affairs as well as one scene where the protagonist discovers pornography in her search for evidence. However, there isn't anything graphic so I rate this 3.10 for sexuality.

                                         Lieder Madchen

Book Review #29 The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry

The Amaranth Enchantment
by Julie Berry

Genre: Fantasy / Fairy-Tale Re-telling
Ages: 10 and up

Lucinda is the typical fairy-tale orphan. After the death of both of her parents and the disappearance of their entire fortune, she is sent to live with her uncle and his cruel wife, where she is treated like a servant. However, her life changes forever when there are three surprise visitors one after another, two to her uncle's jewelry shop an one straight into her bedchamber! The first is a woman with a magnificent jewel to be set who may not be who she says she is, the second is a handsome prince who wants to purchase a gift  for his betrothed, and the third is a scruffy, brazen young thief. Before she even has time to think, Lucinda is thrown out of her home and is forced into criminality in order to help her new friend and regain her inheritance.
I know that there have been many Cinderella re-tellings, and it is hard to imagine another original twist to the old story, but Julie Berry just manages it. This is not a spectacular novel, but it is short and sweet and had enough humor to keep me reading. I liked Lucinda for her strength and determination, and Peter, the thief, was a lot of fun. Gregor seemed like he would be an interesting character, but you didn't get to know him very well and the romance could have been better developed. I think that a younger person would have enjoyed this book more than I did, but I personally give it a 6.10 stars. I have given it to my little sister and I think that she will like it. :)

This book gets a 2.10 for language, there are a couple of insults thrown around.

There are a couple of brief instances of innuendo, most of which will go right over a kid's head, so I give it a 2.10.

This novel rates a 3.10  for attempted murder and multiple scenes where the main character is struck by her aunt.

                                        Lieder Madchen

Interview with Sharon Shinn!

Interview with Sharon Shinn

I am very excited to welcome Sharon Shinn to Songs and Stories. There were several questions that I had really wanted to ask her, so it was awesome when she wrote back to me agreeing to an interview. :)

Which of your fictional worlds is your favorite?

I’m not sure I have a favorite. But I’d like to live in Samaria just to hear the Gloria sometime. I think it would be amazing!

What is the hardest thing about writing a novel? Do you find that the first book in a series is the hardest? Or is a sequel more difficult?

Different things tend to be hard in each book. Sometimes it’s finding the voice. Sometimes it’s doing the world-building. Sometimes it’s making the fantastical elements actually seem plausible! But one thing that’s always hard, no matter what the book, is simply sitting down and writing it. I can always think of something else I’d rather be doing. So having the discipline to write at a steady pace for four or five or six months, until the book is finished, is my ongoing challenge.

Some parts about writing a sequel are easier. The world-building is done, and, in some cases, the characters are already established. But both of those things can be problematic, because what if the new book would be better served by a character with a different trait or a world with a different kind of magic? So it can be tricky to already be locked in to certain details.

Where do you find inspiration for your novels?

Everywhere. In a conversation with someone. In a book I’m reading. In an interview I hear on the radio. Now and then, in a dream (though those ideas usually need to be radically reshaped before they’re usable, because dreams never make much sense once you wake up). I’ll have a thought, or hear an observation, or see a picture, and think, “Huh. What’s going on here? What if THIS had happened instead?” If the idea is interesting enough, I keep thinking about it and building up a storyline around it. If it’s not…then I forget I ever had it.

Is there any particular author or written work that has inspired your writing?

Lots of them. Classic authors like Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, YA authors like Francis Hodgson Burnett and Carol Kendall, romance writers like Georgette Heyer, Western writers like Zane Grey and Ernest Haycox, and a whole bunch of fantasy novelists—Patricia McKillip, Anne McCaffrey, Peter Beagle, Robin McKinley. Everyone I read before I turned 25 has influenced me in some way.

If you could have the powers of any mystic in Gillengaria, which mystic would you choose and why?

I change my mind on this question with some frequency! But these days I’m awfully intrigued by the notion of being a shape-shifter.

Is General Winston's Daughter the first book in a new series? (I loved that one, so I am asking even though it has nothing to do with the Gillengaria books.)

(Thank you!) I have the idea for a sequel to the book, which would take place in Xan’tai, but I’m not sure I’ll ever get around to writing it. Sorry!

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m finishing up a two-book set that takes place in contemporary Missouri. Both books are about ordinary women who find their lives disrupted by shape-shifters. The books aren’t really urban fantasy—no kickass heroines—but they do have a kind of supernatural element.

Do you ever think about what happens to the characters after the story has ended? Have you ever thought about writing another novel in the series?

Yeah, I often think about my characters after the story is done. My friend Kay Kenyon says you should try to end a book so that readers believe the characters go on to live interesting lives. Especially if I’ve left someone in a somewhat unsettled situation, I usually have a pretty good idea in my own mind of what happens to that person once the book is closed.

I’m not sure I’ll write another novel about Senneth & the gang. I’ve toyed with a couple novella ideas, and I might write these someday. I’ve also toyed with writing a completely different set of books set in Tilt a few hundred years before Mystic and Rider opens. But, again, not sure I’ll ever have the time to get to those stories.

Small Spoiler Alert! You are warned if you haven't read the Twelve Houses Series!

Okay, here are the questions I have really wanted to ask ever since I first read
your Gillengaria novels. Do Senneth and Tayse ever have children? Will Ceribel ever get a story of her own? (I think that with her parents she would make a truly formidable heroine!)

I don’t actually think Senneth and Tayse have children, and I have my doubts about Kirra and Donnal, too. None of them really seem settled enough to raise kids. Cammon and Amalie definitely have kids, though—a daughter, for sure, the crown princess, and maybe a son, too—and I think Justin and Ellynor have a son in addition to Ceribel.

And I agree about Ceribel! In fact, I do have one more story idea for this world, and that would revolve around Ceribel, her brother, the princess, and a stranger who arrives in Ghosenhall and tries out to be a member of the princess’s personal guard…

There just isn’t enough time in the day to write all the stories that are in my head.

Thank you so much for agreeing to answer my questions! I have read all of your books so far and I hope to read and review many more. :)

Thanks for giving me a chance to talk about my books!

                     Sharon Shinn and Lieder Madchen

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Word of the Week

I love words. In school, vocabulary is one of my favorite subjects and I was always fairly good at spelling. Therefore, I thought it would be fun to invent Word of the Week. I don't know if someone else has something similar, but I wouldn't be surprised. I have challenged myself, and anyone else who wants to give it a try, to find a word that is not used very often in ordinary conversation. Every week, I will post such a word with its definition, origins, a sample sentence and a translation into German. I challenge anyone who chooses to join me to pick their own language of choice, be it Spanish, Sanskrit, or Swahili. :) Sometimes I will also add a little story to go with the word if it is one that is special to me.

Word of the Week #1


Forms: Insouciant, Adjective. Insouciantly, Adverb. Insouciance, Noun.
Definition: Unconcerned, nonchalant, free from cares
Origin: French from in- (not) and souciant (worrying)
German Translation: unbekümmert
Sample Sentence:
The cat is the most insouciant of all creatures, it walks through life as though it hasn't a care in the world.

Insouciant and I have a long history. It has been one of my very favorite words for years, and I have had a very hard time convincing anyone that it is useful. After many arguments with my brothers about it, I finally got my revenge. We were playing the board game Cranium, there were two teams, girls against boys and the boys were just slightly ahead and the game was almost over. When I picked up their card to read their question for them, I almost groaned. It was a Word Worm lexicon with the word "insouciant". For those of you who have never played Cranium, Word Worm is a category and lexicon is a subcategory where you have to choose the correct definition of the word from the four choices given. When I saw that the word was "insouciant", I was sure that they would remember my attempts to prove its usefulness and therefore be able to name the definition easily. I was utterly shocked by their shortness of memory as the three of them started discussing which was the most likely definition. None of them gave the definition "nonchalant" a second glance and when the timerr was nearly out they settled on a different one and got it wrong. I don't remember who won that particular game, except that it was very close, but I do remember the feeling of triumph at having proved the value of the word "insouciant" and also the feeling of annoyance and chagrin at the realization that the boys paid absolutely no attention to my rantings on vocabulary. :)

Please post the link to your own Word of the Day below, or, if you do not have a blog, feel free to leave a comment with the most fun and interesting or strange and absurd word you can think of. I hope you will join me!

                     Good Luck!
                              Lieder Madchen                                            

Book Review #28 Fortune and Fate by Sharon Shinn

Fortune and Fate
by Sharon Shinn

Genre: Fantasy
Ages: 15 and up
Sequel to Mystic and Rider, The Thirteenth House, Dark Moon Defender, and Reader and Raelynx.

Wen was once a Rider, until the day her king fell. She blames herself for not dying before him, and she now feels that she is worthless and unreliable. Leaving her old life and friends behind her, she sets out alone. Three years have passed when she saves a young girl from her abductors. She then discovers that this girl is Karryn Fortunalt, heiress to one of the Twelve Houses. Wen returns her safely to her uncle and guardian, who offers her a job getting his soldiers into shape so that Karryn will not need to be rescued again. Wen is reluctant at first, but eventually finds herself unable to refuse. Though she keeps saying she will not stay long, she keeps extending her stay again and again as she begins to make friends, and finds someone who will perhaps be more than a friend.
This book is different from the others in the series in that it is about a character who was only in the background before. Wen is an interesting person and is completely different  from all of the previous main characters in the series. She is strong and yet incredibly vulnerable, always afraid that she will fail anyone she allows herself to become close to because she failed her king. I liked Karryn, she is a naive, headstrong young girl with more to her than meets the eye. Though she loves frivolous things and flirtation, she cares about people and is stronger and wiser than is immediately obvious.
This is more of a companion book than an actual part of the series, and it is wonderful to visit this world again. Not to mention a visit from old friends from earlier in the series. :)

I give this a 3.10 for language because of a few mild swearwords and one that is a little worse.

There are several scenes of violence, including a threat of rape and several sword fights so I give it a 5.10.

I rate this a 6.10 for a vague scene, a few fade-aways, as well as some references and innuendos.

                                                          Lieder Madchen

Friday, March 4, 2011

Book Review #27 Men of Iron by Howard Pyle

Men of Iron
by Howard Pyle

Genre: Historical Fiction
This book is suitable for all ages but it is not a children's novel, and it would especially be a good read-aloud for a young boy.

Myles Falworth and his family have been exiled since he was a child, so he was raised in a small town rather than the castle of his birth. At sixteen, he is sent to the household of the Earl of Mackworth to serve as a squire. There he is taught the knightly arts and gets into more than his fair share of boyish scrapes and battles. It is only when he is grown to full manhood that he is told the truth of his father's banishment and outlawry. He learns that his family has a powerful enemy and that he is their only hope for justice.
This book was assigned reading for my medieval studies several years ago and it has been one of my favorites ever since. I love the language with all of the "wherefores" and "comeths" and such. The character of Myles is brash and bold and very human, so it is easy to sympathize with him. The romance in this novel, though it doesn't play a very large part, is very sweet. Many might find this book to be rather old-fashioned, but I like it. :) Besides, what isn't to like about a book where the villain has the fantastic name of William Bushy Brookhurst, which is guaranteed to send any kid into gales of laughter?

I give it a 1.10 for language, for some absolutely ancient and completely inoffensive cursing.

There is no sexuality in this novel.

There are several scenes of violence, involving swords, jousting, bullying and a trial by combat. I rate it a 5.10.

                                            Lieder Madchen

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Book Review #26 Reader and Raelynx by Sharon Shinn

Reader and Raelynx
by Sharon Shinn

Genre: Fantasy / Romance
Ages: 15 and up
Sequel to Mystic and Rider, The Thirteenth House, and Dark Moon Defender

Justin once said that when it came to unsuitable romance, Cammon would outdo them all. Little did he know how right he would turn out to be.
Cammon's spooky mind-reading abilities are needed at the palace. War is coming, and it has been decided that Princess Amalie needs a husband. Cammon is tasked with listening in on the princess's conversations with prospective suitors and sounding the alarm if any of them threaten Amalie. However, this throws him and the princess together for a great deal of time, and with both of them young and innocent...well, mostly innocent. Despite all of the admonitions of family and friends, they cannot help but begin to fall in love.
This book is a fantastic addition to the world of Gillengaria. It is full of romance, tragedy, and hope as well as a healthy dose of excitement and humor. I love Cammon's character. He is so completely artless and honest, which in a way makes him perfect as companion and advisor to the queen-to-be. Not everyone, however, realized this at once. He was being cornered and scolded by Senneth and Queen Valri all the time for a little while, which lead to some rather funny moments and conversations. Amalie has been protected and secluded all of her life, so people thought they would be able to "handle" her. Well, they didn't count on her stubborn streak.

There are several scenes of violence including a couple of bloody battles and a brief but ugly scene where two of the main characters discover a villain assaulting a girl, because of that I give this novel a 6.10.

The language is pretty mild, but with a couple of uses of impolite terms that were not used in an impolite context, so I give it a 3.10.

There are a few fade-aways, as well as some sexual references and innuendos. I rate it a 4.10.

                                               Lieder Madchen

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Book Review #25 The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan

The Ruins of Gorlan
by John Flanagan

Genre: Juvenile / YA Fantasy
Suitable for all ages.
Book 1 in the Ranger's Apprentice Series

Will has feared and anticipated his Choosing Day for a long time. The day when his fate will be decided. Will hopes that he will be chosen for Battleschool, but he worries that he is so small and useless that no one will want him. And it is true, he is not big or strong, rather he is small and quick and can move like a shadow. His skills are not suited for a life as a knight of the realm, but they are perfect for a life as a Ranger. The dark, cloaked Rangers have always been a source of fear and mystery to Will, but he is to inquisitive to stay nervous for long.
This book is too much fun for words. My sister picked it up as her prize for the library summer reading program last year, and when she finished it I read it, then my 27 year-old brother. As we went through the series, my other little sister joined in and there were some times when we were literally sneaking into each other's rooms to steal away the most recent one in the series. (I am very excited about the new one coming out soon.)
The world this series is set in has certain parallels to our own, countries that obviously correlate to Scandinavia, France and others. The characters, plot, and writing style are great, with light-hearted dialogue interspersed with more serious and sometimes dark events and worries. I would recommend this book and the books following it to anyone.

There is no swearing in this novel.

There is a single, brief, comic reference to a boyish prank involving a pair of rabbits in spring, so I give it a 1.10.

There are instances of bullying, hunting and a fight against an evil beastie, so I give it a 4.10 for violence.

                                                 Lieder Madchen

Book Review #24 A True Princess by Diane Zahler

A True Princess
by Diane Zahler

Genre: Juvenile Fantasy / Fairy-Tale
Suitable for all ages.

The life of an orphan girl who cannot cook porridge is not an easy one, as Lilia has reason to know. She was discovered in a wrapped in a rainbow blanket in a basket that had floated down the river from the north and nobody knew who she might be. A kind man with two children of his own took her in, but his new wife was not so kind. She treated Lilia like a servant and when it came time to have a child of her own she was determined to send Lilia to a new, more cruel, master. Lilia ran away without telling anyone, but her two friends, Kai and Karina, followed her. (They didn't like their stepmother any more than she did.) Lilia had decided to travel up north in an attempt to find her real family, and her friends were determined to accompany her. Their journey leads them into a dark forest full of magical creature, and when Kai is kidnapped by the Elf King, Lilia is the only one who can save him.                     
This is a lovely, sweet story that has elements from several fairy-tales and legends, including The Princess and the Pea, The Snow Queen, The Pied Piper of Hamlin and Norse mythology. (I love the cover, isn't it beautiful?) This is Diane Zahler's second novel and I hope she writes a third. This is another one I can give to my sisters. :)

There is no sex or violence in this novel.

There are a couple of brief scenes of violence, for which I give it a 3.10.

                                                   Lieder Madchen

Book Review #23 A Hidden Magic by Vivian Vande Velde

A Hidden Magic
by Vivian Vande Velde

Genre: YA Fantasy / Fairy-Tale
Suitable for all ages.

Jennifer is a plain but friendly princess in a rather small kingdom with a somewhat run-down castle. She is out doing laundry when she encounters a handsome (and conceited) prince who asks her for directions. Despite how good-looking he is, the prince tends to irritate people. When he bothers an evil witch's magic mirror into casting a spell on him, Jennifer feels responsible and sets out to discover a way to break the spell. With the help of a sorcerer named Norman (whose age is indeterminate as it keeps changing along with his appearance) she braves dragons, ogres, and witches in an effort to save her friend.
This is a delightfully harmless novel that is over with far too quickly. It took me about 35 minutes to read and I spent most of that time laughing at their witty adventures. Jennifer is an unconventional princess even as far as being unconventional in an unconventional way. Usually, when a princess is to be made different, she is said to not wish to be a princess, or is a tomboy, or a warrior maiden. Jennifer is simply a nice young girl. I have passed this book on to both of my younger sisters, and I hope they (and you) will enjoy it as much as I did.

There is no sex or language in this novel.

The only violence is in threats so I rate it a 1.10.

                                                      Lieder Madchen

Book Review #22 The Falcons of Montabard by Elizabeth Chadwick

The Falcons of Montabard
by Elizabeth Chadwick

Genre: Historical Fiction / Romance
Ages: 16 and up
The hero of this story is the son of Simon de Senlis of The Winter Mantle by Elizabeth Chadwick

Sabin FitzSimon is a reckless young man with a dangerous reputation with women. When his shenanigans get him beaten and the woman he was with killed, he is full of guilt. He goes to a tavern to drown his sorrows and a man ends up dead in a tavern brawl. His mother and stepfather decide that this is his last chance and they send him with Edmund Strongfist, an honorable knight, to the Holy Lands. Sabin is warned in no uncertain terms that he is to stay away from Edmund's lovely young daughter, but will he be able to avoid Edmund's dissatisfied new wife as well?
At first I was not at all sure if I liked Sabin's character at all but slowly he gained my sympathy. He slowly grew up and learned restraint and, eventually, had the chance of a true, strong love the likes of which he would never have been able to earn before. The secondary characters were also magnificent.
I loved the setting of this novel. I had never even heard of King Baldwin of Jerusalem before, let alone that he had so many adventures.

There are several uses of insulting terms in this novel, so I give it a 4.10.

There are a few scenes of pretty graphic sexuality, some vaguer scenes and fade-aways, and some rather blunt and sometimes crude references and innuendos for which I rate it a 8.10.

There are several fairly bloody battle scenes as well as a rather brutal beating, so I give it a 6.10.

                                                  Lieder Madchen

Book Review #21 Dark Moon Defender by Sharon Shinn

Dark Moon Defender
by Sharon Shinn

Genre: Fantasy / Romance
Ages: 15 and up
Sequel to Mystic and Rider and The Thirteenth House

Justin, the prickly young Rider, has been sent on a solo mission to spy on the Lumanen Convent. Lumanen Convent is ruled by Coralinda Gisseltess, suspected traitor and a confirmed persecutor of Mystics. For Justin, an orphan whose friends are closer than family, this seems like exile. Until he meets Ellynor.
Ellynor is a novice at the Convent. She accompanied her cousin Rosurie when she was sent away to keep her from an unsuitable romance. Ellynor, who had never been away from her overprotective brothers, thought it was an adventure until she became lost in town and was accosted by a drunk. She was rescued by a young man who worked in the stables and who gave his name as Justin.
And so began their secretive courtship, though he was falling in love, Justin could not jeopardize his mission and Ellynor had a secret of her own. She was from the Lirrenlands, and no Lirren woman was ever allowed to marry an outsider, her brother or father would fight any man who came courting her to the death. She dares not allow him to love her, or either he or her brother will die.
If The Thirteenth House was my least favorite in this series, Dark Moon Defender is easily its opposite. I love the sheer romance of this novel. The characters, their situations, the is perfect if you want a lovely, exciting, romantic story to curl up with.

The language is pretty mild, a couple of insulting terms are used but not as insults so I rate it a 3.10.

There are several instances of violence including fighting, references to torture, murder and an attempted rape that does not get very far at all. I give it a 6.10

There are some sexual references and innuendos as well as a few fade-away scenes which earn this novel a 5.10.

                                       Lieder Madchen