Saturday, February 27, 2016

Fantasy Love February: Re-watching The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

For the last assignment of the Mini-Challenge One from the Fantasy Love February Reading Challenge, we're to re-watch (or re-read) one of our favorite fantasy tales! I chose The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.

So I re-watched The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe {2005} with some of my younger siblings. It was a delight! ^_^ I never tire of watching this film ... and it's especially wonderful to watch with family, where we can laugh and squeak, and cry over poignant scenes that touch our hearts.

I don't know ... it's simply such a well-done, incredible film. I LOVE the Christian allegory of sorts, and picking up on things I hadn't noticed before. I love watching Aslan, in a fantasy-sort-of-way, display God's majesty and power and love. I love the crazy, moving journey that four siblings, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie, go on.

I know fantasy and Narnia isn't for everyone, but The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe {2005} is definitely a favorite watch for me, for it both thrills me with the fantastical adventures and truly touches my soul.

Can't wait to re-watch Prince Caspian {2008} and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader {2010} in the coming days! *smiles*

Read my movie reviews of all three films by clicking on the pictures below:

Friday, February 26, 2016

Book Review: Burdney by Nicole Sager

Purchase HERE

Title: Burdney

Author: Nicole Sager

Series: A Companions of Arcrea Novel #2

Genre: Fantasy

Audience: Young Adult - Adult


When a villain's grand scheme takes flight, who will rise up to clip their wings?

Years after an act of betrayal lowers a dark cloud over Burdney, Lady Agatha seeks vengeance and respect, while her sister, Aeryn, chases after freedom and peace. When a young slave named Epic arrives at the Mizgalian castle disguised as a nobleman in need of shelter, the conflicted youth soon finds himself caught in a web of intrigue that reaches further than anyone suspects. 

In a race against time and doom, Blunt the minstrel must travel to Burdney for the vindication of a condemned friend. When his travels take an unexpected turn - and sometimes even go in circles - the Arcrean bard must learn to trust that God is always in control. 

Secrets and deception lie in wait around every corner, until a conspiracy is revealed that will wage a battle for hope and justice on the grounds of Burdney.

**4.5 stars**

Burdney by Nicole Sager is the exciting sequel of Hebbros, and takes us on quite the journey! Thrilling. Humorous. Mysterious. Darkness is slowly closing in over the pages; but hope and laughter definitely have their part. *smiles*

In this book, we peer into the lives of a pair of sisters. The eldest is the jilted, would-be-bride of Lord Bradley. Bitterness colors her every move. The younger is hurting, but still clinging to hope. Along with her faithful protector, Lathan, she tries to live her life under her sister Agatha's miserable authority.
     Meanwhile, a slave named Epic mourns his former master and struggles with the deception his new owner is forcing him into.
    Blunt the minstrel embarks on a frantic journey to save his friends.
     And Lathan searches for long-hidden answers.

Agatha, Aine, Lathan, Epic, and Blunt are all POV characters (oh, and Dainger too, who is a dragon-slayer! And his sister Miriam) ... and their lives entwine in the most intriguing and wonderful ways! Burdney was such an adventure! And a mystery of sorts, with secrets abounding. It was so fun trying to figure everything out; and amazing to see it all come together in the end! What a grand escapade! *grins* There were the dark moments too, though. The Faithful (Christians) are still not very safe speaking of their beliefs; and many a character has sneaky and treacherous plans up their sleeves. Dark happenings are going on, and fatal proclamations are made to dear characters. But as I mentioned above, there was an abundance of humor to balance the heavier themes. I found myself grinning and laughing time and again over these characters and their strange adventures. I loved Dainger and his teasing attitude, and his battles with the venomous plants-of-sorts! XD That was great. Blunt made me chuckle with his choice of clothing. And his journey with Symone and her father was quite hilarious and exasperating and endearing. I really like Epic! Would definitely like to see more of him! Lathan was very intriguing.

The message of the story, I found very poignant. Bitterness, betrayal, revenge. Hope and loss. Utter alone-ness. I love how God's hand was shown so clearly in Burdney, when everything seemed lost, you saw how perfectly He had brought everything and everyone together. In the midst of human failure, deception, and pain, God was turning things around for the good of His people. Wow. In kind of bittersweet way, there was much beauty to Agatha and Aine's story. I hope we can see more of them.

Overall, Burdney was an incredible story set in a non-magical fantasy world with complex characters and intriguing mysteries. Unfolding a thought-provoking message, this book takes us on a sensational journey full of twists and turns, surprises and fun. A page-turner. So many beautiful moments, especially in the ending.

Fans of non-magical fantasy, mysteries, and action-filled adventures should definitely give Burdney a try. And please, read the amazing first book of the series, Hebbros, as well! I can't wait to read more by Nicole Sager! ^_^

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Book Review: The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

Purchase HERE

Title: The Pilgrim's Progress: From This World to That Which is to Come

Author: John Bunyan (edited by C.J. Lovik)

Series: Standalone

Genre: Fantasy/Allegorical

Audience: Adult

**4 stars**

This great classic, The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan, was actually different than I expected. After reading the "children's version" for school when I was younger, I was picturing something decidedly more lighthearted and adventurous. But nonetheless, this was a good read!

In this book, John Bunyan describes his dream, where he sees a man named Christian living in the City of Destruction, with a great burden on his back. The poor man must figure out how to escape doom and find the way to the Celestial City. He meets various people among the way, some helping, and some hindering his progress; and encounters many a trial and tribulation.

I love the idea, this allegorical picture of the Christian's life. In The Pilgrim's Progress, we see symbolic pictures of facing temptation; being led away from the Bible's truth by worldly knowledge; falling into depression and despair; and also getting revived by godly fellowship; and being released from our burden of sin by accepting the forgiveness Jesus Christ grants. It's quite profound. I especially loved the chapter where the man Christian walks through "the valley of the shadow of death", facing all sorts of goblins and demons. It's fearful, and Christian is bombarded by all manner of darkness; but it has a certain beauty ... knowing we walk not alone in the darkness, and God will bring us through. I also loved the ending, where inside the Celestial City is glimpsed and what life will be like there spoken of briefly. How glorious! I felt it was a wonderful picture of heaven.

Things I didn't like as much. Compared the shorter versions I read before, this one was a bit too dark and even depressing at times. There wasn't any humor or lightheartedness. And sometimes it felt a bit like a "fire and brimstone" sermon; be very, very careful, lest you fall! It gave this feeling like you could loose you salvation if you make a mistake. But our actions, good or bad, don't save us. Believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, that He is the Son of God, that He died to save us from our sins, is our salvation! And I don't think that you can just slip away. You're in God's hands now. And nothing can snatch you from them. When we make mistakes or go astray, I believe God leads us back to Him. Gently. Firmly. Rebukingly even. But He doesn't forsake us. And each day, as we seek Him, we learn to love Him more, and come nearer and nearer to Him.
     Also, the feeling that life is horrid and we must be weary travelers until we die and reach heaven. To a certain extent, that is true! But life is also a gift. We can choose joy and choose to see beauty each day. There are lovely things like family, and friends, and marriage, and new life, and laughter, and doing the things we're passionate about. God put us here for a reason and gave us a gifts and people for a reason. But it is truly the suffering, and trials, and temptations, and persecution will come if we are wholeheartedly following Christ. Because the Enemy is against us.

I don't know if it was at all John Bunyan's intention for some of the story to come across that way, but it just felt like it here and there. But so you know, I do believe the theology and overall message is Biblical. It's just that certain times, things could come across a bit "doom and dismay".

In the end, The Pilgrim's Progress is a profound picture, showing the spiritual battle in a fantastical way. There were some scenarios I especially connected with, like: "Wow! What an interesting way to put that!" It almost helps you see your struggles more clearly - in a new way. A hopeful way even. To see that there is a way out. That the road can be hard, but that is to be expected, and God knows and He's there! And to realize that Satan often attacks those that are drawing nearer to God. You are not alone. You are not falling. Simply seek the face of the Lord and follow His way! ^_^

Oh, a sadness, this version of The Pilgrim's Progress didn't have Christiania's story! It ends with the character Ignorant being taken away from the gates of the Celestial City; and says nothing of Christian's wife or children. When I was younger, that was my favorite part of the story! Christian's family joining him in heaven! Is that actually part of John Bunyan's original work, or just something someone added on??

Anyway, overall, it was a thoughtful read! I enjoyed it, especially since this version had lovely illustrations! *smiles* A great book for Christians to read and discuss!

Book Review: The Prophetess: Deborah's Story by Jill Eileen Smith

Purchase HERE

Title: The Prophetess: Deborah's Story

Author: Jill Eileen Smith

Series: Daughters of the Promised Land #2

Genre: Biblical Retelling

Audience: Adult


Outspoken and fearless, Deborah has faith in God but struggles to see the potential her own life holds. As an Israelite woman, she'll marry, have a family, and seek to teach her children about Adonai - and those tasks seem to be more than enough to occupy her time. But God has another plan for her. Israel has been under the near constant terror of Canaan's armies for twenty years, and now God has called Deborah to deliver her people from this oppression. Will her family understand? Will her people even believe God's calling on her life? And can the menace of Canaan be stopped?

**3 stars**

Sometimes I wonder why I read Biblical retelling; every time, it seems all my sensors are on, looking for something to criticize. I just have an issue with authors taking so much liberties with Bible stories! The Prophetess: Deborah's Story by Jill Eileen Smith wasn't so bad, actually. I didn't like it as much as the first book in the series, but by the end, I wanted to give it a 3 star rating.

This book retells the story of Deborah, a prophetess from the Old Testament in the Bible. (You can read the real account of some of her life in Judges chapters 4 and 5.) She lives in a time when an enemy of Israel is terrorizing the land; secret idol worship lurks; and Deborah herself must lead due to her visions from the Lord.
     In a time of strife, Deborah also battles her headstrong daughter, and wishes she had something different than her relationship with her husband is right now.

So, I couldn't really get into this book at first. I didn't particularly like how the characters were acting, and was wondering where some of the themes were going to go. As I mentioned above, I was all alert for misinterpretations of the Bible! Ah. So that made a good part of The Prophetess: Deborah's Story unlikable for me. Deborah and her daughter could seem to have little respect for men. A man is filled with hatred toward his wife and hits her, because she was found to be worshiping an idol. As terrible as the act she committed was, he was trying to justify his hatred toward her as righteous almost. So yes. I was just like, Where is this all going?

However, by the end of the book, all that was well resolved, I feel. And some poignant lessons learned! Though the majority of the novel is quite loosely based on Deborah's life, I'm pretty sure the really big parts did not differ from what the Bible says happened. So it wasn't a hugely enjoyable read for me, but I did love the ending. There was so much healing, beauty, and restoration.

Overall, it's a nice Biblical retelling from Jill Eileen Smith.

I received a copy of The Prophetess from Revell Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Book Review: Pendragon's Heir by Suzannah Rowntree

Purchase HERE

Title: Pendragon's Heir

Author: Suzannah Rowntree

Series: Standalone (?)

Genre: Fantasy/Time-travel

Audience: Young Adult - Adult


Blanche Pendragon enjoys her undemanding life as the ward of an eccentric nobleman in 1900 England. It's been years since she wondered what happened to her long lost parents, but then a gift on the night of her eighteenth birthday reveals a heritage more dangerous and awe-inspiring than she ever dreamed of—or wanted. Soon Blanche is flung into a world of wayfaring immortals, daring knights, and deadly combats, with a murderous witch-queen on her trail and the future of a kingdom at stake. As the legendary King Arthur Pendragon and his warriors face enemies without and treachery within, Blanche discovers a secret that could destroy the whole realm of Logres. Even if the kingdom could be saved, is she the one to do it? Or is someone else the Pendragon's Heir?

**4.5 stars**

Well, that was fun! And strange. And lovely. *smiles* I quite enjoyed Pendragon's Heir by Suzannah Rowntree. It's time-travel, in a Narnia-ish type of way; and a retelling of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table of sorts. In short, fascinating.

Blanche Pendragon is living in 1900 England with her guardian. She enjoys spending time with friends, and is interest in a rather intriguing man named Corbin. Then something crazy happens ...
     Perceval of Wales has left his mother and is on his way to become a knight fighting for Logres. The adventures awaiting him will far exceed his expectations.
     A country is falling. A villain is plotting. A holy grail must be found. Love is discovered, but trust is broken. The fate of Logres rests on Pendragon's heir.

The backcover description of this book just sounded like something I'd like. And when I started reading, it caught me up in the story at once and I had a grand time! *grins* I noticed some similarities to THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA by C.S. Lewis here and there, which was really fun. And yes, King Arthur and his knights! Such an interesting retelling of that legend! So many twists and turns! Pendragon's Heir kept me guessing!

The writing was a little dense, which is, for me personally, a little harder to read. I would compare to some of the books I've read that were written a long time ago ... you know, like classics. I actually can really appreciate that writing style, but I just have to be in the mood. (And I can't read as fast as I usually do!)
    Too, some of Pendragon's Heir got a tad bit confusing. I'd figure things out soon enough, but at times I felt a little lost. I felt things could have been explored and delved into a little bit more. Some of the emotional journeys. Definitely the faith. I saw the Christian allegory, but it wasn't really expounded on. They were searching for the Holy Grail, but why? Do the fay have souls? The dream world, was it a vision of heaven of sorts? And Blanche, did she was a free-thinker or something (an atheist, perhaps?), but then that changed, I'm guessing; but again, I didn't feel it was really explained.
    ... So, is there a sequel? *smiles and winks*

But otherwise, just all the knights! And the quests, and legend-ness of everything! ^_^ It all felt very real and authentic in a fantasy-ish kind of way. I loved Perceval! He was like ... perfect. He made me laugh so many times. From a delightful, determined boy to a man who knows his own mind ... and is equally delightful. *grins* He just made me smile time and again. His courage. His devotion. His humor. The romance was adorable. It didn't smother the story in any way, but it was completely adorable in a swoon-y way. Haha. And very sweet. Seriously, "that one scene" had me crying and laughing and, and ... it was just beautiful! <3 So cute and meaningful and simply wonderful. And it was quite clean also. So Perceval and Blanche's relationship, I loved so much. It was one of my favorite parts of the story, of course. *wink* Oh, there's some violence/gruesomesness. Nothing too terrible, as I recall, but it's definitely there. So yes, Pendragon's Heir was just a really cool, epic story of knights, maidens, evil villains, quests, betrayal, and battles. Some giants, dragons, and other such creatures make their appearance too!

Oh, and besides being a retelling of the King Arthur legend and having Narnia-ishness, this book also made me think of The Pilgrim's Progress a few times. The way some of the "fantasy element" scenes played out in a way that had a lesson or allegory of sorts. Very interesting. I really liked it. Besides the few concerns I mentioned, Pendragon's Heir was a rich tale of legends and fantasy realms and a boy and girl's journey to saving their land. Epic.

I will most definitely read more by Suzannah Rowntree!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Book Review: Oath of the Brotherhood by C.E. Laureano

Purchase HERE

Title: Oath of the Brotherhood

Author: C.E. Laureano

Series: The Song of Seare #1

Genre: Fantasy

Audience: Young Adult


In a kingdom where the Old Ways hold fast and a man's worth lies entirely in his skill with the sword, Conor Mac Nir is a scholar, a musician, and a follower of the forbidden Balian faith: problematic for any man, but disastrous for the son of the king.When Conor is sent as a hostage to a neighboring kingdom, he never expects to fall in love with the rival king's sister, Aine. Nor does he suspect his gift with the harp (and Aine's ability to heal) touches on the realm of magic. Then his clan begins a campaign to eliminate all Balians from the isle of Seare, putting his newfound home in peril and entangling him in a plot for control of the island that has been unfolding since long before his birth.Only by committing himself to an ancient warrior brotherhood can Conor discover the part he's meant to play in Seare's future. But is he willing to sacrifice everything - even the woman he loves - to follow the path his God has laid before him?

**3 stars**

So, I don't even know. Oath of the Brotherhood by C.E. Laureano was great in some ways, but mostly I just wasn't feeling it. Like I didn't quite connect with the characters and get swept into the story fully.

First off, it's mostly from a man's POV. (Which I can get frustrated with after awhile, because I generally relate better to girl characters). Conor is a nice enough character, but ... um, I didn't really get to know him enough? He's the son of a king, but was raised by someone else, who taught him the harp, scholarly things, and about the true God. In this book, Conor finds himself falling in love with the daughter of another king (this girl is the other POV character); and then, in the midst of a war but unable to do anything. He becomes a warrior, and is determined to do everything in his power to keep the land from being ruled by an evil druid.

It was interesting fantasy. I liked Conor's love interest; she was a good character. This story was rather complex, and some of the threads that wove it together were rather intriguing. Conor's time with the Brothers was both frustrating (maybe a little boring) and interesting. I liked watching him fight his way to "freedom".
     Some of the characters I simply did not understand. Such as the older man who plays the harp. Is he good? He had some bad advice for Aine ... to let the people believe she was powerful instead of convincing them that any power she had came from God. Also, the leader of the Brothers; he was very deceptive and controlling, and that bothered me a great deal. Are these characters on the good side? Or the bad side??
     There was more magic than I preferred, perhaps. For the most part, I think I can understand how it all tied in with the Christian allegory. But some parts were a little much; like these ghastly creatures (kind of like demons in a "siren" sort of form) who lure people to their deaths. Could they really affect Christians? Some parts, darkness felt all too strong, and we couldn't see God's power.
     And, of course, the guy who tells Aine to take the praise. I didn't like that at all. Aine resisted this advice for the most part ... but I wonder where the author is going with that.
     Also, there were these power currents underground which could be turned off and on, and had lethal consequences. I wasn't quite sure what to think of that.
     Still, there was clearly a Christian allegory, and some profound scenes.

Since I enjoyed this book well enough, I was planning on finishing this series, THE SONG OF SEARE; but now I'm not so sure. I gather from other reviews that there is lots of sorrow and separation, and death ... and if you know me, you know I do NOT approve of unhappy endings! *glares* So, I don't know. Also, one reviewer said that, in the last book, the characters seem to fall away from God and start depending on their own power? If that is true, then I'm quite done with this series. I only want to read Christian fantasy that brings glory to God! Not to man.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Fantasy Love February: Tales of Old

Another mini-challenge here, my friends! In this challenge, you must read an original fairy tale and answer some questions about it.

I read a tale by the Grimm Brothers. Or, rather, listened to it. You can read it, or listen to it, HERE.

1. What fairy tale did you read? The Twelve Dancing Princesses by the Grimm Brothers

2. Did you enjoy it? Yes, for the most part. I found I could envision everything vividly, and it was all quite beautiful! *smiles* The story itself is an enchanting and intriguing tale. However, it seriously lacked emotion! And a romance. And the king and his twelve daughters were rather heartless (considering each man who failed to figure out where the princesses went was put to death). So yes.

3. If there is a movie version of it, which is better? If there's not a movie version, do you think there should be an adaption? I've watched the Barbie version of The Twelve Dancing Princesses! *grins* I remember it being quite nice, and better than the original tale when it comes to romance and kindness, at least.
I definitely think this fairy tale should get some more movie adaptions. It's a great storyline!

4. Is this the first original fairy tale you've read? No. I've read a couple of the original tales, including Rapunzel, before.

5. Do you want to read any more original tales now? Yes! They're short and quite interesting. Despite lacking emotion and all that, I still enjoy them! ^_^

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Cover Reveal: Adela's Curse by Claire M. Banschbach

Hi all! Today I'm part of a cover reveal for Claire Banschbach's latest release! An intriguing fairy-tale! ^_^

Fun fact: Claire's sister did the cover art (just like my younger sister did the cover art for my book! *grins*). Isn't it lovely?

Title: Adela's Curse

Author: Claire M. Banschbach

Series: Faeries of Myrnius #1

Genre: Fairy-Tale/Fantasy

Expected Publication: March 8th, 2016

About the Book

A witch and her master capture a young faery and command her to kill their enemy. Adela has no choice but to obey. If she does not, they will force the location of her people’s mountain home from her and kill her. To make matters even worse, the person she is to kill is only a man struggling to save his dying land and mend a broken heart.

Count Stefan is a man simply trying to forget the woman he loves and save a land crippled by drought. When a mysterious woman arrives at his castle claiming to be a seamstress, he knows she is more than she seems.

Adela enlists the help of Damian, another faery, to try and delay the inevitable. He insists she has a choice. But with the witch controlling her every move, does she?

About the Author

Claire Banschbach was born and raised in Midland, TX, the fourth of eight children. She was homeschooled through high school and is now a proud member of the Texas A&M University class of 2014. She is currently working on her Doctorate of Physical Therapy at Texas Tech University Health Science Center. She continues to write in her spare time (and often when she doesn’t have spare time). She hopes her strong foundation in God will help to guide her writing.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Fantasy Love February: Fan Art

So I'm not good at this sort of thing, by any means ... but I'm doing this for part of a challenge! In this one, you must do some kind of fan art for a fantasy book (or series) you've read.

You can read more about this particular mini-challenge created by Grace @ Fictionally for the Fantasy Love February Reading Challenge HERE.

And behold, my rather poor attempt at giving Tricia Mingerink's amazing fantasy series a photo shoot ... *wink*

This month, I got the chance to beta-read Defy, book three of this series, THE BLADES OF ACKTAR. I read it as part of the fantasy reading challenge, and absolutely loved it!! <3 I don't think there's a release date yet, but I will let you know when Tricia Mingerink gives us that information! *smiles*

If you would like to know more about this series, visit Tricia's site! Also, feel free to read my reviews of Dare and Deny, the books featured in my photo shoot! ^_^ 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Book Review: Entwined by Heather Dixon

Purchase HERE

Title: Entwined

Author: Heather Dixon

Series: Standalone

Genre: Fairy-Tale Retelling

Audience: Young Adult


Just when Azalea should feel that everything is before her—beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing—it's taken away. All of it. And Azalea is trapped. The Keeper understands. He's trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. So he extends an invitation.

Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest, but there is a cost. The Keeper likes to keep things. Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.

**5 stars**

Beware, this is a fangirly review, so there might be some slight spoilers about.

Entwined was a fairytale from beginning to end. Enchanting, humorous, charming, and sweet. Beauty swirled through every page. And though there were pockets of intense darkness, this book, overall, was a swoon-worthy tale with heartfelt lessons and giggles and loveliness. I was grinning like a fool as I read the final pages - torn between the desire to laugh or sob. This book, my friends, THIS BOOK! My second time reading it, and I simply adored it.

Azalea is the eldest princess; older sister to eleven unique and endearing sisters who a lot of the time sometimes get out of hand. Unexpectedly, they are thrust into a mourning period, and forbidden to dance. But they need to dance! -And are willing to embrace strange situations in order to do what they love.

The characters. The storyline. The relationships. The dancing. The mannerism. Everything! Entwined is brilliant, in the sweetest of ways! It's actually a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, (which happens to be one of my favorite fairytales.) And such a retelling! The best one I've ever read for this particular tale, indeed! I think it was set in a Victorian-like era, which was delightful. The men wore top hats - that's one fact that stood out to me, hehe. It was fun! And there were all these other lovely details that pointed to the Victorian era as well, I believe. Absolutely scrumptious, historically-wise (except for some modern-day phrases that popped up once or twice).

And, as it's based off The Twelve Dancing Princesses, there's lots of dancing! So many different dances touched on! I loved it! I absolutely loved it! I like dancing around, and watching all manners of dancing, from folk dance to ballet. So it was very fun to learn about different dances and watch as the sisters learned new steps and all that wondrous stuff. One of my favorite aspects of Entwined! Perfectly beautiful! ^_^

The sisters. Azalea, the oldest, is our main character. The two right under her, Bramble and Clover, had bits of their stories told as well, though the story was never told from their POV. As for the rest, some are mentioned more than others, but they're all usually there, clustered behind Azalea, eyes bright and smiles mischievous sweet. *grins* Lily, the baby, is often gnawing on someone's pant leg ... hehe. I love her. I love that there's so many sisters, and that they're all named after flowers (alphabetically), and their feminine ways and distinct womanliness, and that Azalea's kind of like their mother hen (except when they don't want to listen to her), and they tease and look out for each other in such a sisterly way, and they make up big schemes together (sometimes much to Azalea's chagrin) ...
     I'm simply delighted with the non-stereotypical characters of Entwined. Azalea is not the typical hard, tough, kick-butt heroine. She's motherly. She's sweet. She's proper and ladylike. She hurts when her father is indifferent toward the sisters. She's protective. She's emotional. She appreciates getting rescued when in need (though she's mortified at how much of a disaster she looks each time). In short, she's kind of like me, and I love her! *hugs Azalea* I understand her. I connect with her. She's feminine. She's a lady! *sigh* How refreshing to have a woman character that insists on acting like a woman!
     Mr. Bradford, the King, Lord Teddie, Minister Fairweller. I LOVED THEM. They are definitely not the strikingly strong, devastatingly handsome heroes with silver tongues that make the women swoon. In fact, they're rather the opposite. Clumsy, rumpled, and a bit awkward. Sometimes they don't know how to show a girl that they truly care about her. But they end up being completely lovable, unique, and real. Mr. Bradford is my favorite. He is so sweet. Thoughtful. Compassionate. He leads, in a quiet way. His crooked cravat and rumpled hair are even endearing. *grins* What a fine young man. He's perfect in an imperfect way, and I love that. Every time he appears, my heart is happy! ^_^ And he totally is a hero! You'll see why! *wink* Lord Teddie is hilarious. And silly. He makes me giggle. And he's wonderful! The King ... I don't even know what to say. I'll touch on him again later in this review. Minister Fairweller, I knew there was something good about him. *smiles*
     All the princesses are so funny! From fiery Bramble, to baby Lily. They dance, and curtsy, and spy, and rebel. They cry, and bicker, and plan outlandish escapades.

I was so touched by the father/daughter relationships explored in this book. It's like this journey to love. To healing. To realization. People mess up and make mistakes. Fathers do. The twelve sisters are hurt and angry. They decide to rebel against the King, strict and demanding and indifferent as he is. Because he doesn't care about them! At first, you're angry with the King too, and feeling for the girls' hurt hearts. But as the story progresses, a different side is shown. I LOVE this journey to healing between a fumbling father and his many daughters. It hurt. It was hopeful. It was tentatively humorous. It was tender. Beautiful. (view spoiler).

The romances were perfection. Clean. And adorable. Old-fashioned. And soul deep. They made me laugh. They made me sigh. They made my heart nearly burst with warm, bubbly, happy emotions. <3 <3 <3
     I loved the King being all protective and fatherly. Throwing men out on their ear. XD

Onto a vastly darker note. As sweet, and bubbly, and humorous as Entwined is, it does have those scenes were the villain reigns. And the villain in this story is very evil and yucky. Though a lot of the gross, ghastly stories told and things the girls see are lies and illusions - they still make their point, and give you a little chill. (view spoiler) There's frightening magic in this story that the villain wields. And there's this "magic" of swearing on silver or swearing on blood that binds you to your oath. (The villain is the only one who swears on blood or uses magic). (view spoiler). So though the creepiness went much too far in my opinion, I still felt like, all in all, it made sense and it ended perfectly.
     But yes, big caution to younger readers and sensitive people. I was fine, but I hesitate to recommend it to my twelve and fifteen-year-old sisters, because they're not used of reading such ghastliness, and it's just not necessary to read, in my opinion! I will probably go through Entwined and black out, with a marker, some phrases and whatnot that I feel take away from the overall innocence and beauty of this story.

I almost felt there was an allegory or lesson to the whole villain and dancing theme. He was so darkly handsome. He talked so smooth. He lured them in, despite their inner hesitation. Also, they felt abandoned by their father, and so turned somewhere else for comfort. I feel like it's a big thing when girls, especially, don't feel loved by their father. It can have some ghastly consequences, and Entwined kind of showed that. Very interesting and thought-provoking.

What else can I say? Besides the creepiness that comes time and again, Entwined by Heather Dixon is an absolute DELIGHT. It's fairytale at perfection. I LOVE IT. *huggles book* Just everything. Just ... EEP! And the ending was loveliness in itself, with a few giggles and heart hiccups added in.

I don't know, my friends. This was just my kind of book. After reading it a second time, I adore it even more. <3


Quotes from Entwined by Heather Dixon:

"Royal Business; 
Strictly For The Young Gentleman Who Meets the Criteria -

A Riddle To Solve:

Where the Twelve Princesses of Eathesbury Dance At Night

As Well As Limited Acquaintance 

With The Princess Royale
Three Days' Stay In The Royal Palace
Will Be Granted.
The Food And Board Will Be Free.

Inquiries To Be Sent To His Royal Highness
Harold Wentworth The Eleventh of Eathesbury"


" 'Down with tyranny!' Bramble cried. 'Aristocracy! Autocracy! Monocracy! Other ocracy things! You are outnumbered, sir! Surrender!' "


" 'You look pretty, as always,' he said.

Azalea grinned, deciding not to remind him that the last times he had seen her, she had been soaked, frozen, unconscious, and a torn mess of the undead."


" 'Sir,' she called out. 'Lord Bradford.'

He turned. His eyes lit up, seeing Azalea.

'Thank you,' said Azalea.

Lord Bradford bowed deeply, removing his hat, which re-rumpled his hair. When he straightened, he was smiling, as crooked as his cravat, and Azalea couldn't help but smile back."


"The girl inhaled sharply at this last bit, the word 'father'. They leaned into Azalea's nightgown as Mr. Pudding, fumbling with his great ring of keys, locked the ballroom door with a click-click. Seeing the younger girls start to tear up, he gave them his lamp and promised to send biscuits and tea to their room, nearly crying himself. But he did not unlock the ballroom."


"She hated feeling helpless. It writhed in her stomach, choking her with thoughts of dancing the rest of her life in the arms of a gentleman who pushed her about and laughed when she stumbled or, worse, didn't even look at her at all. She wondered if she would be able to give the Soul's Curtsy, with all her heart and soul, to anyone, and the thought made her ill."


" 'Honestly, we don't kick or bite or throw potatoes at all our guests.'

A crooked smile touched Lord Bradford's lips.

'Your family has spirit," he said, taking his hat from Azalea. "I enjoyed the evening.'

'Well, yes, you've just come from a war,' said Azalea."


"The King smoothed the blanket on Thackeray's back. He opened his mouth, and shut it. Then he opened it again, and after a moment, said, 'You used to call me Papa, do you remember that?'

The question took Azalea aback.

'No,' she said."


" 'It is not a Christmas tree!' said the King, so firmly that all the girls stopped jumping about. 'This is a house of mourning. It is nothing more than a tree. I thought it would look nice. Inside. That is all.' "


" 'What happened?' said Clover, wetting a cloth in the basin, and dabbing Azalea's face.

'She had a sort of fit,' said the King. 'I think her underthings may be laced too tightly.'

All the girls, including Azalea, blushed brilliantly.

'Sir,' said Eve. 'You're not suppose to know about the U word!'

'Am I not? Forgive me.' "


" 'Are you all right?' he said.Water dripped down his face and long nose.

He's talking to you! her mind yelled. He's talking to you! Say something clever! Say something clever!

Azalea said, 'Mffloscoflphus?'

'The water is rather cold,' he said. He pulled her to the bank. Azalea chattered and shivered and coughed, and he continued asking her if she was all right. She wasn't. She was morbidly embarrassed,that's what she was."


"She wanted to give him toast. The sort that had melted butter and a bit of honey spread on top. It was a stupid thought, but there was something comforting about toast."


"All the girls joined in.

'I was thirteen last April and it rained on my birthday and I didn't even get to wear anything special -'

'We turned ten - just two months ago -'

'I usually get a book for my birthday - but - this year -'

'You forgot my birthday, too.'

'And mine.'

The girls looked miserable. The King opened his mouth, then shut it.

'Sir!' whined Lord Teddie. 'You forgot my birthday, too!'

Bramble gave a surprised laugh, then slapped her hand over her mouth, as though shocked at letting it out.

The tension broke. The girls laughed sheepishly, and Lord Teddie beamed. He probably did not have many ladies think him funny."