Dragon Heart {book review}

by Cecelia Holland

Where the Cape of the Winds juts into the endless sea, there is Castle Ocean, and therein dwells the royal family that has ruled it from time immemorial. But there is an Empire growing in the east, and its forces have reached the castle. King Reymarro is dead in battle, and by the new treaty, Queen Marioza must marry one of the Emperor’s brothers. She loathes the idea, and has already killed the first brother, but a second arrives, escorted by more soldiers. While Marioza delays, her youngest son, Jeon, goes on a journey in search of his mute twin, Tirza, who needs to be present for the wedding.

As Jeon and Tirza return by sea, their ship is attacked by a shocking and powerful dragon, red as blood and big as the ship. Thrown into the water, Tirza clings to the dragon, and after an underwater journey, finds herself alone with the creature in an inland sea pool. Surprisingly, she is able to talk to the beast, and understand it.

(from Goodreads)

Overall, I found this book incredibly disappointing. I wanted to like it, and even though I decided early on that it wasn't any good, there were aspects of it that kept me reading in hopes that it might improve. It did not. Rather, it continued on in this mediocre state, woven entirely of the very very good and the very very bad.

the good

1. There is a dragon.

2. The protagonist is a mute princess, who the dragon holds captive/befriends (it's complicated).

3. Good family relationships -- mostly between siblings, but the mother is also present and loved, and they reminisce some about their father.

4. The author is not afraid to kill off key characters.

5. The premise? Brilliant. The execution...

the bad

1. The dragon appears in the very beginning of the book, then is hardly mentioned at all throughout most of the rest of the book while the focus switches to the princes and their convoluted battle with the emperor's sons for the crown.

2. Why hasn't the mute princess learned to write, or to communicate through gestures or drawing? Why isn't this addressed?

3. The death scenes are described matter-of-factly, and tend to be rather gruesome.

4. There are two or three very sensual scenes that were all entirely unnecessary -- not only did the author give too much detail, but in each case the whole paragraph or even entire scene could have been left out. They were not at all necessary to the plot or character development.

5. My biggest issue with this book is that it should have been 100-200 pages longer. It was far too choppy.

2/5 leaves


library sale! {book haul}

I had been looking forward to my local library's massive book sale for weeks (as some of you are very well aware), and I finally came home with this lovely stack of eight paperbacks last week.

Black Beauty
by Anna Sewell

As you can see in the photo above, this isn't the edition I bought. Mine is actually a plain boring red on front, but the spine is beautiful! And yes, I have read this book before. And seen the movie (countless times). That little red paperback captured my attention, though, and I thought maybe it's time to re-read this wonderful classic!

Only the River Runs Free
by Bodie and Brock Thoene

I love Bodie and Brock Thoene's biblical fiction (what I've read, anyway), and I've been meaning to read this Irish series forever. Because Ireland. Honestly, I'm not even 100% sure what the plot line is...

Holding Up the Earth
by Dianne E. Gray

This one was a new discovery -- it's about a girl in foster care who falls in love with a farm. The cover is beautiful, the title is beautiful, and it involves a farm. I thought I'd give it a shot.

Riding Lessons
by Sara Gruen

I've seen this one on Goodreads and have been waffling on whether or not to read it. But it's a horse book, so of course I finally caved. Hopefully it's a good one -- adult horse books are few and far between.

Flying Changes
by Sara Gruen

I doubly hope Riding Lessons is good, because I bought the sequel, too...

West Wind
by Mary Oliver

It's about time I picked up a book of poetry by Mary Oliver. I have read few of her poems, but enjoyed them all. I look forward to reading more of her work in this little book!

The Two Towers
by J.R.R. Tolkien

Before you ask: yes, I have read this before. LotR is one of my favorite series -- both book and movie -- ever. I already had all three books in one volume, which makes it unpleasantly heavy to hold while reading, and my dad recently gave me a copy of The Fellowship of the Ring. And do you see that cover? It's beautiful. Plus...

The Return of the King
by J.R.R. Tolkien

...they also had book three, which is possibly even more beautiful. And both books are in pristine condition.

Have you bought/borrowed any new books lately? I've heard that some libraries don't have sales (gasp!) -- does yours? Also, I'm curious: do you consider Black Beauty a children's book?


perhaps, I have gone insane

My husband may try to convince you that this happened long ago. But humor me a moment and assume that, until very recently, I was still perfectly (ok, mostly) sane. And if you happen to find my mind, please notify me immediately and kindly point it back this way. I'm rather attached to it. But why have I gone insane? Surely you want reasons. Well, there are two...

1. Tomorrow, I will participate in Dewey's 24-hour Readathon. (If you'd like to find me and/or follow along with my progress, I'll be posting to Twitter.) I realized yesterday that it was happening, and though I'd decided this spring (it's a biannual event) that I had no desire to ever participate in such a thing, I signed up. Mostly because I am currently reading five different books. Yes, five. And one of them I'm reading as research for a book I hope to start writing next month, which leads me to...

2. I signed up for NaNoWriMo*. If the previous point didn't convince you, this should confirm that I am, in fact, whether or not I was before, insane. Why? Because I don't write fiction. I write blog posts, and poems, and I have been known to write articles (most of which have been published), and I hope to write more articles. But a novel? Mmmm, nope. I studied journalism because my writing tends to be... concise. Overly so. It's hard enough to write two pages with existing information -- pulling 50,000 words out of thin air (my mind has fled, remember?) sounds nearly impossible. Ah, see? Nearly. Perhaps, after all, I can do this. Maybe I don't need my mind.

*For those of you lucky souls who have never come across this acronym, it stands for National Novel Writing Month, which is November, when anyone crazy enough to do so pledges to write 50,000 words -- an entire novel -- in one month.

What do you think? Have I indeed lost my mind? Would you care to join me? (Or perhaps you already have!)


autumn reads {a list}

I have to be in the right mood for a book, and I have to read the right book to fit my mood.

For example, as summer began rushing towards its sudden glorious ending that is fall, I realized that I had not yet read The Help, and that I might not feel like reading a novel set in the deep south once Cold settled in. And so I savored the last days of my favorite season while reading The Help (I was right. It's a great book for summer).

But now it is fall! Cold is making itself at home as the leaves begin to change, and I'd rather curl under a fuzzy blanket with thick socks, sweaters, tea (or hot cocoa), and books and watch the brilliance through my living room window. (I still like the occasional long walk, but that's besides the point.) Although I am not like most people in many ways, I have a hunch that many fellow bookworms also read based on their mood. And so I present to you a list of what I deem to be "autumn reads."

Titles are linked to my reviews or, in a few cases, to Goodreads.

The Scorpio Races
by Maggie Stiefvater

This incredible novel is set in October and November, making it a perfect autumn read!

The Name of the Wind
by Patrick Rothfuss

At over 700 pages long, The Name of the Wind is great for snuggling and reading for long hours. And it just doesn't feel like a summer novel.

The Cloister Walk
by Kathleen Norris

I first read this book in spring, but I think it would fit well with fall, also. Slow down. Savor. The Cloister Walk is a journey, not a race.

Far from the Madding Crowd
by Thomas Hardy

Fall seems like a good time to pull out a good classic, and this is definitely a good classic.

One-Woman Farm
by Jenna Woginrich

This short, eclectic, journal-like memoir begins and ends with October.

The Hobbit
by J.R.R. Tolkien

For those of us who feel wanderlust more strongly in the thin seasons (spring and fall). This also sets you up beautifully for reading The Lord of the Rings during your winter hibernation.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
by J.K. Rowling

Back to school, anyone? And, again, this sets you up for a nice long seven-book series to keep you occupied while hibernating this winter.

So am I right? Are there other mood readers out there? (Have you pulled out that fuzzy blanket yet?) What books should I add to my autumn reading list?


holy time {a poem}

I wrote this during my blogging hiatus, so if it sounds more like August than October, that's because it should.

I pass an old woman
joyfully carrying two paper bags
after an early-morning
walk to the grocery store

and a child carefully climbs
the porch steps
into her mother's long
as they wait
for the bus to take
her to kindergarden
or perhaps
they're just sitting
she looks too young

and the heavy dew
streaking dormant cars
reminds me that fall
is not too far,
bringing an unexpected
lightness to my feet --
I've always claimed
as my favorite
yet as I am drawn
to thin places
so am I drawn to
the thin times
of spring and fall
holy time
full of everything
and nothing
and God


The Scorpio Races {book review}

by Maggie Stiefvater

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.
 (from the back cover)

What an incredible, horrifying, beautiful, swallow-you-whole book. It's a story about an island, and people, and horses, and an Irish/Scottish/Manx myth, and I love it. Maggie Stiefvater painted such a clear portrait of Thisby that I almost feel as if I could visit the island this fall, taste the sticky-sweetness of November cakes, and meet the people and horses who live there.

Yes, the characters all have such depth and complexity to them as to seem unbelievably real, but it was the horses that blew me away. Stiefvater knows horses, and that is such a rare thing to find among authors that I could have liked this book on the merit of the horses alone. She knows what it is to ride on the wings of four thundering hooves -- I could tell because I've felt it, too.

And because I had entwined myself so hopelessly into this fantastical world, two unforgettable scenes managed to pierce my heart so deeply as to draw out a flood very real, very wet tears. I do not cry in books or movies -- a tear or two, perhaps, or a catch of breath, but this was real.

5/5 leaves!