Book-y Things

Book Review: Five Enchanted Roses

Oh hello. Betcha forgot I even existed, didn’t you?

You heartless beast.

Since I last wrote . . . I successfully completed another semester of college; toured with my college’s chorale and handbell teams for three weeks altogether; swam in the Atlantic ocean for the first time; re-started my job at Dairy Queen for the summer; had my first gig as a wedding musician for a dear friend; took and passed the CLEP Biology exam; . . . oh, and got engaged. It’s been a very good few months.

But all those things aren’t the reason I’m writing. (Though I bet you’re dying to hear allllllllll about the joys of the biology exam, aren’t you?). I had another of those “Yay-I-want-to-read-this-book-so-I’ll-volunteer-to-be-a-reviewer!”-and-the-review-deadline snuck-up-on-me moments. Actually, the deadline isn’t even for a week or so, but I’ll be busy pretending I’m homeless in the north woods with my family, so all this interwebbing needs to be done tonight. Wait. Camping! That’s what it’s called.

So. On to the review!!!

As you may remember, I had the privilege of being published in the Five Glass Slippers collection last summer, the first in a series of similar fairytale retellings. This year was Five Enchanted Roses--a compilation of “Beauty and the Beast” stories. Ms. Stengl opens the book with a quote from G. K. Chesterton which sums up well the entire anthology (can I use that term in this context?):

“There is the great lesson of ‘Beauty and the Beast’;
that a thing must be loved before it is loveable.”

The authors (Kaycee Browning, Savannah Jezowski, Jenelle Schmidt, Dorian Tsukioka, and Hayden Wand) included truly did a wonderful job exploring and re-imagining that theme, and I thoroughly enjoyed each story. Five Enchanted Roses took me from a pirate ship, to a semi-haunted castle, to a traditional fairytale country, to a mysterious jungle, and finally . . . to Scotland. A note on each story, and then my thoughts on the book as a whole.

Espirit de la Rose by Kaycee Browning

“Spirited” is a good word for this story and its heroine. Cecilia is just your average privateer’s daughter until she finds herself stuck on a ship full of waterlogged sailors doomed to eternal punishment unless they can find redemption. . . you know, just the usual. Oh, and the captain is dashing. And offers to help her escape. If the Fee will let her . . .

I’m giving this story the “Least Furry Beast” prize, because he wasn’t the typical wolf-like prince. The redemption theme was clear, and the ending–while not quite what I expected or wanted, really–made me eager to hear about Cecilia’s next adventure.

Wither by Savannah Jezowski

I think this was my favorite story in the book–which was surprising, as it included zombies, ghouls, and the like. . . which are normally not my preferred style. However, something about this dark and intriguing fairytale land drew me in. Lilybet (whose name I love, for starters) braves the spooky, deadly Neverway to find the castle of a mysterious beast who has demanded the life of her little sister, and discovers that her ideas of the world weren’t quite accurate. Both the beauty and the beast were endearing, interesting characters, and I look forward to hearing more about them–Mrs. Jezowski promised a sequel in her ending, and After, Book 1 of the Neverway Chronicles, will be released in December.

Also, her dream cast includes Samantha Barks, so props for that.

I’m awarding this story the “My Personal Favorite” award. Good and evil were thoroughly explored, the love story was sweet, and the world of the Neverway was simultaneously unreal and believable.

Stone Curse by Jenelle Schmidt

Firstly, Mrs. Schmidt looks like my friend Rebekah (one of my favorite people on the planet), so obvious bonus points there. Secondly, this was a wonderful story. Of all the novellas in this collection, Stone Curse was set in the most traditional fairytale realm, but the tale itself was far from traditional! It begins at the cursed castle itself: mostly deserted, with only the beast, a few devoted servants, a host of frozen nobles, and the occasional brave (or financially aspirational) lady who visits in an attempt to fall in the love with the princely beast and break the curse, all of whom are unsuccessful, and becoming fewer and fewer as time passes. (Sorry ’bout that run-on sentence.) But. . . why is the Beast even cursed, and where has the Beauty been kidnapped to, and how can everything be righted again? That is the question Karyna sets off to answer, but the answer she finds is quite the opposite of what she had expected.

This tale gets the “My Favorite Love Story” prize. Read it and you’ll see why. (Especially if you’re familiar with my own love story.) (That could be referring to either my imaginary one, What Eyes Can See, or my real-life one. They have some similarities.)

Rosara and the Jungle King by Dorian Tsukioka

Of all the tales in the collection, this story is least like the “Beauty and the Beast” I’ve always known. However, it’s still the same tale at its heart. Rosara is the daughter of a jungle chieftain whose principle goal at the beginning of the story is simply to aviod becoming the town’s drunk’s third wife. (I don’t think he was particularly drunk, actually, but I can’t think of the word I want.) Things change rather drastically when a talking jaguar suddenly befriends her.

This novella wins the “Most Unique Setting” award. (Yes, even unique-er than the pirate ship. And that’s saying something.) Also, Mrs. Tsukioka is from Missouri, so yay for that.

The Wulver’s Rose by Hayden Wand

I loved this tale so much. Set in ancient Scotland, this story has an evil witch and an enchanted castle, but it also has some good old Scottish Protestantism, wild moors, bankrupt barons, and self-sacrificing maidens. (Ok, so the last two really should be singular. I just wanted the list to be matchy. Sorry.) It wasn’t spooky; it wasn’t mysterious; it wasn’t particularly surprising, even, but it came together as a sweet, simple tale of love and faith.

This story will get the “Most Endearing Beauty” prize. I liked all the beauty characters. . . but Bonnie’s sweetness was, well, the sweetest.

In Summary

Now that this has officially taken an hour longer than allotted–I have a camping trip tomorrow to pack for, after all!–I’m going to be rather quick about the summary. I’ll give this collection 4/5 stars: its a unique, wholesome, imaginative, fun little book which I would pick up again for a light afternoon read. I’m holding back the 5th star because I like reserving that for those really special books–the ones that entertain, teach, and become friends.

So. Go. Pick up one for yourself and debate my opinions. And then go write your own fairytale and be part of next summer’s Five Magic Spindles. I’ve got a pretty good idea for that, myself-but it’s a mystery story and I don’t know if I’m quite skilled enough to write that. Also, I have a bachelor’s degree to finish and a wedding to plan and that sort of takes precedence right now. Someday I’ll do some more writing. Maybe someday I’ll write down my real-life love story in all its sappy glory. But not now.

Now I’m going to go pack for a wild camping trip.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book-y Things

Anon, Sir, Anon Cover Reveal!

Dearest friends of the blogosphere;

The loveliest of mornings to you! Actually, it’s nighttime when I’m writing this, because I’m actually being organized for once and scheduling this post, because mornings are difficult and I streamline them as much as possible. So I hope it’s a lovely morning, at least. I’ll probably end up drinking tea or something like that, unless I accidentally set my alarm for PM again… not my best morning. Hopefully this one is better.


I’m fairly thrilled today, because today is the cover reveal for the lovely Rachel Heffington’s newest book, Anon, Sir, Anon! I was first privileged to “meet” Miss Heffington as one of my fellow Five Glass Slipper Sisters. I absolutely loved her writing style in The Windy Side of Care, so I feel pretty confident that Anon, Sir, Anon will be quite fabulous. Plus, the word “anon” is in the title TWO TIMES and that’s a pretty cool word. But you don’t even know what it’s about yet. So here ya go.

Continue reading “Anon, Sir, Anon Cover Reveal!”

Celebrations, Home

Loose Ends

Soon–so very, very soon–I’ll be back in the midst of the Appalachian mountains. Also in the midst of homework.

However, I am in neither of those positions quite yet. Instead, I’m mainly packing and/or procrastinating on packing.

Guys. Packing. Not as bad as cave crickets, but on a scale of brownies to cave crickets, “packing” is definitely toward the cave cricket end. I feel like I’m doing pretty well consolidating, and then I see how full the van is already getting. And then I remember the 1001 “little things” that I just need to “shove in somewhere quick before we go” and then I feel sad about my life. And then I argue with myself about if I really need all this with me or if I can get by until November just fine. And then I remember that I’m going to be an RA so I really need to do a bunch of Pinterest crafts quick so my room is super cute so all my girls love me. And then Mom reminds me that I don’t have time to do that, so my room will look something less than super cute, which is just fine because I don’t have room for all that stuff anyhow. And then I remember that I’m still procrastinating on the whole packing deal and I should probably get to it.

But instead I read “just one chapter” of North and South, which I picked up at the Half-Price Books trip Ben and I took the other week. It was great fun just hanging out together and reading Lost States in the middle of the aisle because we were too cheap to actually buy it and take it home, even though it looked amazing. However, I just read the Amazon reviews and it actually looks like it wasn’t worth our money after all, so we made a good choice. North and South, however, was definitely worth the $2.99. And the brother-sister time was priceless.

Speaking of quality time, Ruth and I also got to visit our very own beloved Kathleen this week! I’m pretty sure she’s responsible for almost everything I know about library work, and no matter how much I love my job, employer, and coworkers at ABC…Kathleen and the BBI library cataloging project will probably always be my favorite library experience. If you’re reading this, thanks again. 🙂

Other loose ends wrapped up this week…

  • DQ! My manager told me I can still work over breaks, so I may be back…we’ll see. it was a great experience, even though I didn’t always lovelovelove it. Daddy-o took us out for celebratory Blizzards the other night (yay employee discounts!), and I designed my own: Cappuccino Double Fudge Cookie Dough. It was quite as fantastic as it sounds.
  • Mending. I had a box of things I’ve needed to mend for quite a while and I finally did…it’s like getting a resurrected wardrobe! And sewing is fun. I miss it during the school year.
  • Shopping… Thrift stores are my biggest weakness. On the bright side, I feel fabulous. And I have a super fluffy pillow that’s sort of ugly because I never got around to pinteresting it into an owl or anything, but it’s so fluffy I don’t really care. If I ever feel like crying it will hold all my tears.
  • Church partying. The couple in our church who usually throws the Valentine’s party had a 6 lb. 8. oz., 21″ long reason that they couldn’t do so in February…but now that those 6 lbs. are grown somewhat (it’s a baby, guys, in case I’m being too obscure here. And I have no idea how much it weighed. That just sounded like good dimensions for describing a newborn), it’s the perfect time for a party, complete with top-your-own spaghetti and charades. Our very own Levi welded himself an imitation fencing sword last night in order for his Dread Pirate Roberts costume to look authentic. That’s dedication, folks. I simply safety-pinned a piece of notebook paper to my back. In all fairness, I was in the middle of packing up almost every item I own and creating elaborate costumes was a little low on my priority list. However, no one was put out by my lack of effort, and a fabulous time was had by all. I’m going to miss my EBC family very, very much!
  • Family time-ing. All nine of us got to do special music in church together last Sunday and visit the shut-ins, and all nine of us got to eat our traditional Saturday morning waffles today. It’s been quite a while since we could get everyone together, and it will probably be a while before it happens again, so it was pretty fantastic. Also Lilly and Ruth and I had a tea party which was actually a chocolate milk party. And we played some final rounds of telephone pictionary in which the phrase “my hair goes up” turned into Ruthie dancing with a variety of breads. My family is pretty much my favorite thing ever, and as excited as I am to get back to school…I’ll probably cry just a little when we’re separated again.

In other news, my mumsie and popsicles celebrate their 28th wedding anniversary today! Mom and Dad, wishing you happy anniversary was actually most of the reason I started this post. It took me a while to get to that point, but I made it eventually. Your wonderful example of godly love and faithfulness has set the standard pretty stinkin’ high! Thanks for providing such a reliable home for us all these years; if there’s one thing I’ve always been sure of (besides, you know, God Himself), it’s been your love for and commitment to both each other and our family. If I ever have a relationship with anyone besides a cat, I fervently pray that it will be as solid and successful as yours. (If I ever have a cat, I won’t look to you for advice probably, because Mom will want me to send it to a barn.)

Anyhow, all that to say, happy anniversary Dad and Mom! May you have many more years together.

Also, I realize it’s pretty late so you won’t even see this until the day after your technical anniversary, but adjust for leap years and time zones and stuff and it will probably be like spot on.

Book-y Things, Home

In Lieu of Chocolate

How do you even spell “lieu”? Is that right? Spellcheck, help me out. Ok, spellcheck isn’t underlining “lieu” but it is underlining “spellcheck” three times, as well as “ok,” as well as the misspelled “underlinding” that I just corrected. Therefore I’m assuming “lieu” is indeed correct, and I am proceeding from the title on to the actual post.

Just kidding. I’m not assuming anything. Hold for a moment while I go double-check that word.

Yeah, it’s right. Now we can proceed.

Actually, I don’t really have a lot to proceed with. I’m in mourning right now. I want chocolate to sooth my grief. However, as it isn’t readily available, and as it isn’t exactly healthy to drown one’s sorrow with food, I’m blogging instead.

“Awwwww, Betsy!” I hear you solicit with deep concern. “Why so down? Is your cucumber crop poor this year? Did you break your wrist, setting you months behind in your journey toward your senior recital? Did your sewing machine give up the ghost?”

Firstly, I thank you deeply for your angst on my behalf. Rest assured that the cucumber crop was remarkably fruitful this year (my diligent mother has a kitchen full of freshly processed pickles of the bread-and-butter variety as we speak–err, type?); both of my wrists are in fine form, enabling me to plod on toward the not-so-far-off senior recital; and my sewing machine, last I checked, still purrs quite merrily.

No, no. My sorrows spring from quite another source. Continue reading “In Lieu of Chocolate”

Book-y Things

Book Review: “The Word Changers” by Ashlee Willis

So awhile ago (embarrassingly long ago, to be exactly exact), I volunteered to read and review Ashlee Willis‘ newest book, The Word Changers. I actually read it very quickly…but when I volunteered, I conveniently forgot how hard it is for me to review things, and thus I have been slowly trying to figure out what to say about it since. Emphasis on the “slowly.” (Sorry, Ashlee.)

Reviewing…stink it, it’s hard. It reminds me of my freshman year of college when I wrote a paper on the interpretations of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. I found at least five interpretations, and by the time I had researched all of them I was so confused that I just wrote a paper summarizing them all. My Mom proofread it and commented, “Well, it’s fine grammatically…but there’s no conclusion.” Also the paper I did on the identity of Melchizedek: no conclusion, just a summary of all the theories. (Yes, I go to Bible school. How’d you guess?)

Now, you’re probably thinking, “Betsy. You are not currently writing a review of The Word Changers. You are telling us boring stories about papers you wrote. The papers were also possibly boring. Please stahp.” My dear readers, be not so quick to judge. I’m merely using an illustrative anecdote to explain my hesitancy to review this book. I love learning about different interpretations of Scripture. I don’t always love taking a side on which one is right. I love to read. Offering my own analysis of what I’ve read? Not so much. I mean, what if I’m–heaven forbid–wrong?!

I know, I know. This is just a review. There is no right or wrong. Still. I struggle with a tendency to shy away from anything that remotely resembles failure. What if I say something and then change my mind later? What if other people don’t agree with my opinions? Isn’t that basically failing?

Maybe I should see someone for this whole fear-of-failure thing. My Dad’s a counselor, so it should be pretty easy to book an appointment.

But I digress. On to the review.

word changersThe Amazon description:

Escaping from the turmoil of a broken family, fifteen-year-old Posy finds herself at her usual haunt … the library. This time, though, when she chooses an unfamiliar book from the shelf, she does not devour its words and pages as she usually does.
Its words devour her.
Posy is pulled into the pages of a fairy tale, even mistaken for one of its characters. But all is far from perfect in this story’s Kingdom. Characters are whispering of rebellion against both their Plot and the cruel king who has seized control of it. And Posy must find a lost princess whose role in the story is crucial, before her own story comes to a horrible end …
With the proud and haughty Prince Kyran as a reluctant companion, Posy ventures past the Borders of the Plot, into the depths of the gloomy and treacherous Wild Land forest that lies beyond. Secrets are buried there. Dark mysteries and shadowy creatures, dangerous and deadly.
Yet the deadliest danger of all is the one that Posy carries within herself.
Soon it is clear that finding the lost princess is the least of Posy’s concerns. The Author of the book must be found. His Plot must be put to rights again, his characters reminded of who they were first written to be. Only then will the True Story be written, both for Posy, and for the tale she has now become a part of.
Courage and forgiveness are needed for Posy to find her way home again. But bitterness and shadows haunt her every step of the way…

My review:

I’m going to rate The Word Changers 4 out of 5 stars. It was an enjoyable, fun story, with a good allegory. The premise was lovely: getting stuck inside a book! What bookworm hasn’t dreamt of that before? The characters had real flaws, and evidenced real growth. Good and evil were clearly delineated. The allegory was obvious enough to be understandable, yet deep enough to be thought-provoking. Overall, I  enjoyed the read.

I’m not giving it a full 5 stars, however, because of the romance. It was fine in that it was clean, but it was so…fast. Plus, Posy’s pretty young. And as an ever-oldening single gal, sometimes it’s just difficult to believe in love stories that happen that fast, that young. Call me bitter. It just felt a tiny bit unrealistic. And its resolution…well, I’m still not completely sure if I liked it or not. I think it was good. I’m not going to give any spoilers, so you’ll have to go read it to figure out what I’m talking about. Another minor critique I had is that it was slightly difficult discerning what Posy’s real life was like, since nearly the entire book was set in her non-real, within-a-book life.

While it didn’t quite make it to my tippy-top favorites list, The Word Changers was a good read, and I’ll be on the lookout for more from Ashlee. If you’re wanting a thoughtful and fun Christian fantasy for your summer bookshelf, The Word Changers is probably right for you! But don’t take my word for it…go grab one on Amazon and tell me what you think!

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in return for my honest review.

Phew. [wipes brow] That’s just so difficult.

“Betsy,” I hear you saying. “That wasn’t that hard. Wimp.” Hey, this blog is a strict no-name-calling zone. Except on the designated days. Next Tuesday is one. Call me anything you like then.

Shoot, it’s late. I’m going to bed.


I think this makes me a real blogger.

In order to become a real blogger, one must have a blog. Second, one must write things on that blog. Third, people must read those things. Fourth, other bloggers must nominate one for blog awards. At least, I’m pretty sure that’s how it goes.

I have a blog. (This is it.) I write things on it. (This is one.) Some people read these things. (You are one, and my mother is also one. So that makes two at least.) And, last, the lovely Emma just passed on a “Sunflower Award” to me. I took a logic course in highschool, so I’m pretty sure that it’s logical to state that I am now a real blogger.


From what I can tell, this “Sunflower Award” entails giving y’all 11 facts about myself, answering 11 questions from Emma, and then passing it on to as many other bloggers as I choose. Let us commence. Continue reading “I think this makes me a real blogger.”

Five Glass Slippers, Home

Cinderella? Me?

For the day, at least!

Amber Stokes (aka the Fairy Godmother) over at Seasons of Humility is hosting a week-long blog tour of Five Glass Slippers! (If you’re getting tired of me talking about this book so much…my boundless enthusiasm should calm itself a little bit eventually, and then I can get back to the weird holidays and sparkly cat stories you’re really here for).

Anyhow. Where was I? Oh yes! The blog tour! This is my first time taking part in something like this, so I’m pretty excited about it! We’ve got ballgowns, Cinderella anecdotes (I just love that word), interview questions, a sweet giveaway… My mother can tell you that I put a lot of thought and effort into answering some of the questions these delightful bloggers had, my Pinterest followers can tell you that I put a lot of thought and effort into picking the exact perfect ballgown, and I myself can tell you that I had a great idea of something I could contribute to the giveaway that I never made because working at Dairy Queen watching John Wayne doing important stuff making strawberry rhubarb jam okay, okay, just plain procrastination. Don’t be like me. It’s a fantastic prize though, so I wasn’t needed after all. (Also, Pinterest followers, sorry for flooding you with floofy dress pictures. Deadlines and stuff.) But you can go see all that for yourselves, if you’re interested. Don’t forget to follow along the rest of the week as Emma Clifton, Rachel Heffington, Stephanie Ricker, and Clara Diane Thompson all get their turn to be Cinderella for the day! And don’t forget that the Five Glass Slippers Kindle edition is just $0.99 this week. So that’s exciting if you’re into reading electronically. Continue reading “Cinderella? Me?”


There’s Change Comin’…

(again, song source = bonus points…which I should probably update, hmm?)

So many things are going on at the House of Brown. (You know, when we moved, I really wanted to name our home. Elizabeth Bennet lived at Longbourne…Mr. Rochester lived at Thornfield…Mr. Darcy lived at Pemberly…why do we just live at “our house”? Anyhow, my suggestion was “Browncastle,” but that never caught on, so it’s still merely “the House of Brown.”) Anyhow. I’m talking about radical stuff, here.

Firstly. Sleeping habits. Back in the day when I was a youngster, I was most definitely a night person. Last summer, before I went to China, I would regularly stay up past midnight. After I came home from school this spring, I couldn’t force my eyelids open past like 10:00. And then I woke up early…well, relatively early, for me at least. I’m not numbering numbers because I’ve always felt touchy about that subject. Right now, it’s 9:30…and I’m seriously planning on going to bed when I’m done with this post. What happened to me? Am I getting old? Continue reading “There’s Change Comin’…”

Five Glass Slippers

A Subject Conspicuously Absent

So I realized that on this blog I have never even mentioned something in my life that is super incredibly and overwhelmingly exciting to me.

ImageFive Glass Slippers. A book. That I’m part of.

I heard about this creative writing contest last summer, hosted by Anne Elisabeth Stengl (if you haven’t read the “Tales of Goldstone Wood” series, do. Re-reading ALL of them is very high on my list of things to do this summer). She’s one of my favorite authors, and by “favorite” I mean I picked up Heartless one evening during finals and loved it so much that I read the entire thing in like 2.5 hours. Even though I was supposed to be working on finals. And then I re-read it that same week.

Okay, okay. You can judge me if you want. Honestly, reading the entire book twice in one week instead of working on final projects and stuff was probably not my wisest choice ever. The book was just that good, though.

Anyhow, so I fell in love with her books and even paid real money to buy some. Then I heard about this Five Glass Slippers contest.
“Well, that would be cool,” I thought. “Maybe I should try…” I’ve always enjoyed writing, after all; why not? I washed dishes until inspiration hit, then set to work last June. I pulled many late nights/early mornings writing away, justifying it by saying I was “getting used to China time.” I had my story mostly finished by the time I left for China, then put the final touches on it in August before leaving for ABC. Now I just had to submit it.

It was difficult submitting it. I’m not a fan of critique. What if I would fail? I put it off as long as possible. The deadline was December 31st; even though I had it completed in August, I didn’t send it in until the very last day I could. And even then, I almost didn’t. It took much encouragement and convincing from Mother, Mother, Best AND Dearest OF Mothers, Ruth, and Berea. They brainstormed with me until a name was chosen: “What Eyes Can See.” (You don’t want to hear any of my other ideas. They were pretty cliche and completely boring. Next time you see Ruth, thank her for sparing you from those.) I signed my name, made my final revisions getting the word count down (working until the very very last minute possible, of course) … and off it went.

March 1st was the date Ms. Stengl had chosen to announce the winners, so until then it was just waiting and homework. Much to our delight, the date was bumped up to February 1st. I fell asleep that Friday night dreaming about Five Glass Slippers, and woke up thinking about it. “She hasn’t announced it yet this morning,” I thought to myself. “You may as well go back to sleep. Plus, you’re not even on the winners list.” I rolled back over. “But…you never know…I mean, it can’t hurt to check really quickly…”

Quietly, so as not to disturb my roommate, I got out my laptop and waited anxiously for the wifi to connect. (Thankfully, not a lot of students are doing stuff Saturday mornings, so it didn’t take too long.) I made my way directly to Ms. Stengl’s blog. My stomach was more fluttery than it had ever been in my entire life.

“What happens when Cinderella is so painfully shy that she cannot bear the idea of attending the royal ball?” I read. My eyes grew three sizes bigger. That was my story. First on the list. (Sometimes alphabetical order really works in my favor.)

I freaked out so. stinkin. much. But quietly. Jenna was still sleeping. February 1, 2014, was one of the most exciting days of my life.

Until June 14, that is. Because on June 14, my story will be released in a book. In fact, you can go pre-order it on Amazon now!

Honestly, I am not sure why I haven’t blogged about this before. Probably because I’ve been squealing all over facebook for the past months, and all y’all except the few silent stalkers I’ve accumulated (hi out there! Don’t be so shy!) are my friends on facebook, so I didn’t think you needed to hear more squealing. But today I’m squealing here.

alkja o;fiaje klaenf oaijg aerlfkj!!!!!!!!!

(That was my squeal.)

Isn’t it gorgeous?!