Monday, September 26, 2016

{Book Review} Defying Shadows (Rising Shadows #3) by Ashley Townsend

One choice can define your future.

At first, Sarah’s return to twelfth century Serimone is as wonderful as she could have hoped—reconnecting with Will and celebrating the union of her two friends—but things quickly fall to pieces when she uncovers something that could unsettle the new regime. Before she can share this information, Sarah is forcibly whisked away by the one man she thought she’d never see again: Damien Lisandro, the friend who betrayed her and the traitor who was supposed to spend his life behind bars. Even more unsettling is the revelation that the mystery they had solved is far from over as a dead man comes back to life with the intent of corrupting the future.

In Will's desperate attempts to find Sarah, he uncovers the mystery that she left behind, putting into question the kingdom’s past and the motives of its current king. But the madman whose mission it is to change history will stop at nothing until he succeeds, and a team of ragtag time travelers are the only ones left who can stop him.

As this exciting chapter of her life nears its end, Sarah must finally choose between Serimone and her world—between the easy choice and the right one.

Amazon | GoodReads | Author's Blog



Can I just leave the review at that? I don’t feel like anything else needs to be said. Okay, fine.

Defying Shadows by Ashley Townsend is the 3rd and final installment of the Rising Shadows trilogy. (I also reviewed Rising Shadows, the 1st book, and Chasings Shadows, the 2nd.) And what a finale it was! Once I finished the last page, I just had to sit there for a minute so my tornado of emotions could have some quiet time and calm themselves down.

These stories are about Sarah Matthews, a 21st century gal who got swept into the 12th century by accident by some time traveling watches. In the first two books, she landed in a place called Serimone, and made quite a few friends and enemies along the way. And then of course our dear love interest, Will. In this 3rd story, she’s returned to the 12th century for a wedding, only to discover her enemies are back and the future of Serimone could be entirely destroyed.

The story starts out with a timey-wimey bang that totally had me reeling. Just give me ALL the time travel-y things, please and thank you! Unfortunately, once the exciting, wibbly-wobbly prologue is over, the rest of the beginning is sloooow. There were a lot of scenes of just dialogue and normal, every day activities like getting dressed and fixing hair and whatnot that seemed like it could have been cut or broken down into just a sentence or two instead of entire paragraphs. I had a rather hard time getting through the first few chapters. Nothing really…happened. BUT I didn’t mind much because I was so very happy to return to these characters.

All of our beloved characters are back, and it was like being reunited with dear friends. Sweet Sarah, precious Will, spunky Karen, the whole endearing Jones family, and, of course, Damien. Sweet, sweet, loveable, if not slightly deluded, Damien. . . Ahem. There’s also a little gaggle of side character, all of which made me smile. Well, you know, except the villain, to whom I wanted to punch in the face. But that’s normal…right?

What I love about the cast is how real everyone felt. They’re all people, with hopes and dreams and fears and doubts. Their emotions jump from the pages and squeeze your heart until you just want to hug everyone, and wish they were your friends in real life.

The best part about the characters was how they had grown and changed from the first book. With each book, they endure more, grow closer, become braver. The 2nd book especially had some of the best character arcs. And the effects are still there in this story. I can’t stand when a story ignores the character growth that happened in a previous story, and the characters revert back to their original selves. If there’s character growth, I want to see them changed permanently. And Defying Shadows had just that. These characters are much more mature and brave and selfless people than they were in the 1st book. The consistent character growth made me want to high-five the book and give it a gold star.

And, better yet, we get even more character arcs in this one. The characters just keep growing and growing and excuse me while I go cry and hug the book because MY PRECIOUS BABIES. This author is a master at character arcs, let me tell you!

Once we get past the slow beginning, things really start to pick up and the plot thickens. We only thought things were dire in the last book. Haha. HAHAHAHA!

The stakes have upped, and Sarah is thrust into a much deeper plot than she ever imagined. The layers of plot throughout the trilogy were phenomenal! I was blown away with how the plot was layered on thicker from the 1st book to the 2nd. And even more so with the 3rd. Now the plot comes fully revealed, and what you might think is insignificant in one book, plays majorly in this one. Some seeerious plotting  by the author must have gone on for this trilogy, because it was amazing seeing the plot grow and grow, one layer at a time, building up upon one another.

Also, the Robin Hood legend is a particular little subplot for these stories and there was one Robin Hood-y reveal in this one that made me squeal and want to jump up and down and huggle the book. But, of course, spoilers. You’ll just have to read it! *cackles* BUT ROBIN HOOD, PEOPLE.

Now, I will say, sometimes the plot got pushed to the background in favor of character relationships. But that’s okay. I may have noticed it more because I tend to read much more plot focused books vs. character centered ones. Sometimes this felt more like a romance story than an adventure, time travel tale. Which, again, isn’t a bad thing! It’s just not something I read much of. But watching Sarah and Will’s relationships develop and grow turned me into a fangirling mess, and I could happily read about these precious babies forever. I mean, a 21st century college freshman and 12th century blacksmith together. ALL THE CUTE.

But, despite the relationships taking center stage, there was still plenty of action to be had. Particularly some timey-wimey stuff I’ve been waiting for since basically BOOK ONE that finally happened and SQUEEEEALS. FUN THINGS. (But I’m trying to not talk too much about the plot so as not to spoil this book and the previous two. *zips lips*)

In addition to loveable characters and a fun plot, the writing is wonderfully done. Ashley Townsend had talent from the beginning, and her skills have only grown. The story was smooth and beautifully written. And the EMOTION. I’d say that’s Townsend’s strong suit. Tearing us readers apart with allll the feels. Only a special few books can make me feel this strongly, and the Rising Shadows trilogy are among them. This finale especially! The author has a way of describing scenes that puts you there and makes you FEEL the scene. I knew precisely what each character felt, and could see it perfectly by the brilliant descriptions of the character movements. I never once questioned what was happening or what I supposed to be seeing, because the descriptions brought it to life so perfectly, most of the time I forgot I was even reading. I felt like I was Sarah or Will or Damien or any of the other characters because the emotions were so strong. My breath quickened, my heart swelled, tears pricked my eyes. LITERALLY ALL THE FEELS. And I think you all know by now how much I loooove when books make me feel. So I was a happy (if not ridiculously emotional) little bean while reading. (No, that is not a contradiction. Fangirls LIKE when books destroy us. I DON’T KNOW WHY.)

I also really liked all the quotes at the beginning of each chapter. It’s so fun when books do that—give us a great quote that’s a little hint as to what the chapter will be about. And let me just applaud Townsend for all these quotes that so PERFECTLY went with each chapter! I can’t imagine how long it took to find each one. o.O

Content Cautions

These are YA books, but I’d say for a bit older YA. There are some heavy themes within.

There’s some mention of a woman who sells herself, though of course it was only mentioned, never ever shown or dwelled on. And told very much in a bad light. We also have a royal scandal from the past mentioned that involved intimacy out of wedlock. At one point there’s a party with some alcohol, though the main characters don’t drink any that I can remember. Someone drops a key into their cleavage. Another time a guy is shirtless and a girl stares at his form.

Since the stakes are so high, there’s definitely violence. Mostly just revealing the after effects of fights, such as bloodied bodies and such.

The big thing is there’s lots of passionate kissing and touching. Nothing beyond kissing, but it’s very…strong kissing. And much of it. So if that’s not your thing, be warned.

This is a Christian book though. So most bad behavior is pictured as just that, immoral behavior. (Except none of the characters had any problem with passionate kisses so, again, that’s up to you whether you’re okay with it or not.) There are some beautiful messages throughout about forgiveness and God’s love and giving our lives over to Him, no matter how messed up our pasts are. Each message never felt forced, but beautifully woven within the story. And yes, totally had me tearing up. *sniff, sniff*


I very highly recommend reading the first books before this one (particularly book 2), but once you do you’re going to be desperately getting your hands on this one. And, trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

This book felt real, the characters were loveable, the plot all manner of fun, and the EMOTIONS. I was honestly a sobbing mess by the end, and I usually don’t do more than shed a tear while reading, if even that. I’m having the hardest time saying goodbye to my beloved characters. But it was a beautiful conclusion to a spectacular trilogy.

Also, there was a horse named Darth Vader in the 12th century. YES. YOU NEED TO READ THE BOOK.

Have you read any of the Rising Shadows
books? Have you read THIS one??? BECAUSE
time-travel/historical fiction stories?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Interview with Tracey Dyck

Do I have a treat for you guys today!

Tracey Dyck is one of the most talented weaver of words I’ve ever met, one of the SWEETEST people in this universe, and just happens to be one of my very dearest writing friends. And because she and I live and breathe stories and words, we decided to interview each other about our writing lives. She interviewed me on her blog Saturday in which I talk about how I got my start in writing, give a peek of my writing sessions, and even admit to who my favorite character of mine is. (*gasp* So shameful to choose favorites, I know!) You can find the interview at Tracey’s blog HERE.


Before you go over there, you’re going to want to stick around to read Tracey’s answers here. She has shared some fascinating tidbits about her writing, tells us about some of her epic characters, and even shares a snippet of one of her gorgeous stories!

So, without further ado, let me introduce you to Tracey Dyck.

Tracey Dyck is a spinner of tales and a writer of worlds. She gleans character inspiration from the customers she interacts with at work, spends her time off writing stories of adventure and transformation, and still wishes her closet would lead to Narnia. Learning to let Jesus write the next chapter of her life is a constant journey, one which she is determined to throw herself into day after day. She can be found pondering this adventure—and those of fictional worlds both written and read—at her blog, Adventure Awaits.


1.) How long have you been writing? Was there a certain point in your writing life where you decided to pursue it as a career?

My earliest memories of writing are from grade one, when my class had a time set aside for it each week. My childhood was already brimming with books at that point, but it was my first grade teacher who began unlocking the actual creation of stories, showing me the basic structure of beginning, middle, and end. The tinder had already been piled, but she lit a spark.

I didn’t write very seriously, however, until I was about thirteen years old, scratching out chapter one of The Prophet’s Quest, the first book of my Journeys of the Chosen series, on sheets of loose leaf. Somewhere in the midst of drafting that first novel, I realized that I wanted to pursue writing as a career. I don’t remember what the actual thought process was, but I knew I was in love with books, and I was enthralled with the magic of stringing words together into stories of my own. Authorship has been one of my biggest dreams ever since!

2.) I know we're not supposed to have favorites, but out of all your characters, is there one (or two, or three!) you're particularly fond of? If so, tell us about them!

Oh, Christine, this is a torturous question! It really is like asking one to pick a favorite child. I’ll have to limit myself to one protagonist, one secondary character, and one villain, otherwise we’ll be here all day.

I adore Luci, also known as Princess Alucinora, my Sleeping Beauty character in The Brightest Thread. She despises her magical gifts and longs for freedom—to seize adventure beyond the castle walls, to be seen for who she is and not what she’s been given. Yet when disaster falls because of her, she refuses to hurt any more people by seeking that freedom. She’s headstrong and full of life and a little bit broken, and I love her.

One secondary character whose gruff charm has also won my heart since the day he appeared on the page is Wimwhile from The Prophet’s Key (Journeys of the Chosen book 2). As an elemental called a Shifter, he has the ability to control air/wind, so naturally he’s a rather blustery fellow. He’s older than he looks—which is quite old already—and his crotchety, oblivious manners hide a soft heart and razor sharp wit.

As for a villain, well . . . the evil mith’vel dragon from Journeys of the Chosen, Criffel, has existed in my mind for years. He might be the most evil antagonist I’ve ever written, at least on a larger scale than any of my other villains. (No pun intended.) With his massive size and black scales broken by a strip of dark blue running down his spine, he makes an imposing first impression . . . which is rapidly followed by an even more imposing second impression: likely a display of cruelty or cunning. He specializes in preying on opponents’ fears. It’s all for his one goal to—ahem, I can’t actually tell you that—spoilers, you know!

(Yikes, that question was hard.)

3.) Do you have any specific themes that tend to crop up in your novels? Anything you're particularly passionate about and like to incorporate in your stories?

Themes of courage and fear show up frequently. Truest love. Sacrifice. Grace extended toward the undeserving. I become most passionate about my novels when I infuse them with something of myself. The stories that ring truest are those which delve into my own personal struggles and ponderings, bringing them to light in a fictional setting where I can experiment with them and dramatize them.

Also dragons tend to crop up suspiciously often. Heh.

4.) Take us through your writing process, from that first spark of a story to the end. How do you go about creating a novel? Does it vary from one story to the next?

Honestly, the process feels a little different each time, so this will be a generalized description! First, something gets the wheels turning in my mind, some little germ of an idea. It needs time to percolate, so I let it simmer quietly in the background, occasionally throwing a new ingredient into the mix, until I have something I can grab with both hands. Prior to this stage, the idea feels like a bubble: slippery and fragile, easily lost. The percolation happens both mentally and in the form of notes, if I remember to jot them down properly.

Then I usually make some form of plan, be it an outline or a simple bulleted list of plot points. I function best if I have an idea of where I’m going (though someday I want to try completely pantsing a novel, just for the experience).

Next comes the actual drafting process. The length of time required to get the story down varies wildly from one project to the next—anywhere from a couple months to a few years. Sometimes I write out worldbuilding or character bio stuff as I go along. But for Journeys of the Chosen, the series evolved massively over several years, and those important building blocks were fleshed out only partway through editing.

After drafting, I let the story sit for a while. Again, the amount of time changes, but it’s important to distance myself from the story before jumping into editing.

My first step in editing is reading over the manuscript and leaving notes for myself with the comment function in Microsoft Word. They usually sound like, “Fix this glaring plot hole,” or “Smooth out this description,” or “Why are A and J leaving now, when they’re not finished training yet?” or “YEAH, GREAT IDEA, [insert character name here], JUST SPILL ALL THE SECRETS TO THE ENEMY, WHY DON’T YOU?”

Naturally, once that’s done, I begin the real edits by going through and addressing all those snarky comments, along with anything else I notice. This takes several passes, the number depending on whether I’m being organized and attacking big issues first, little things later, or just slogging through everything at once. Along the way, I copy and paste each new draft into a new document so that I have the old versions on hand in case I liked something in the original drafts better.

One of my last editing stages is to check for pet phrases, repeated words, inconsistent details, and varied sentence structure.

Sometimes I send the novel to beta readers—up to this point, it’s always been during the first draft stage. Once I worked closely with a professional editor on several editing passes through a novel. For that same novel, I also had my brother read it all out loud to me to see how the words flowed, and I ended up spotting some plot holes along the way . . . but that’s a very time-consuming process we have yet to repeat.

As you can see, there are plenty of variables that change each time! I wish I had a set process, but changing it up keeps things fun, and different books need different approaches.

5.) What is your absolute favorite part of the novel-making process? (Plotting, first drafts, researching editing, polishing, worldbuilding, character building, etc.) What about least favorite?

Oh goodness, it really depends on the story! With some, I adore the discovery and excitement of drafting, and the editing is enough to drive me to tears. Other times, the first draft is ugly and sluggish and hard, and I can’t wait to start prettying it up.

Brainstorming my way out of plot knots with friends or family is often fun. Worldbuilding is a consistent favorite—I love fleshing out the environment, history, systems of society, etc. This usually happens organically as I write, and during editing I hammer it all into a consistent shape and fill in the inevitable holes.

My least favorite aspect of writing is research. The knowledge gleaned is useful and often fascinating, but going about obtaining that knowledge is hard. Finding reputable sources, combing through Google, searching the library—I could be spending my time writing instead! I must admit that I have had some pretty cool research experiences, however, like the time I sat down with a mental health worker over coffee, and discussed schizophrenia and delusions of grandeur.

6.) Where do you get your best inspiration from? (Certain books? Movies? Activities? Anything at all!)

Honestly, anything that tells a really good story! A fresh, meaty fantasy novel . . . a movie with a great cast and strong storyline . . . a piece of stirring music . . . artwork depicting strong emotion. People-watching helps me store up little quirks and tidbits to build into future characters. Invigorating conversations on the most random of topics gets my brain churning—anything from time travel to theology to the ridiculous things I wish I could do. Bible studies delving into the cultural nuances and historical context behind certain stories have also sparked ideas. (I so want to write an allegory of Jonah, or of Joseph!) Basically anything that makes me think or feel—or better yet, both—is an inspiration!

7.) Give us a rundown on the types of stories you like to write best. What would you consider your “main” genre? Are there any other genres you see yourself writing in the future? Any you can't imagine ever writing?

Fantasy is my homeland, and the fantastical tends to creep into almost everything I write. But I can see myself experimenting with dystopian, contemporary, steampunk, and perhaps thriller or mystery (if I can manage to be clever enough) in the future!

I would find it difficult to write historical fiction because of all the research (see question 5), and the same goes for sci-fi. I’ve tried my hand at a soft sci-fi element in a Beauty and the Beast retelling, but looking back, I think that was the weakest leg of the story.

8.) If you could have a tea party with 5 authors, living or dead, who would you choose? And how would you seat everyone? (i.e. Who would you like to most sit between? Which two would be fun to put next to each other? And so on.)

Christine! I love this question, but it’s so hard! Hmm, gotta think about this one . . . Okay, here goes.

I would narrow down the invitation list to C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Anne Elisabeth Stengl, the apostle John, and Ted Dekker—seated in that order around the table. (Bryan Davis almost makes it onto the list, but I’ve met him already. Which isn’t to say I wouldn’t love to meet him again, of course!)

Dekker and John definitely need to sit together. I feel like they’d have a lot to talk about, seeing as how both of them seem to like writing about the power of love in vivid, powerful terms. I would sandwich myself between Lewis and Tolkien in order to catch every bit of the Inklings’ conversation. Stengl would have plenty to discuss sitting between Tolkien and John, methinks . . . Add the two of them together and they pretty much equal “fantasy allegory,” which is what Stengl writes.

So yes, the arrangement would be Lewis, myself, Tolkien, Stengl, John, and Dekker. THIS WOULD BE SO FUN, OH MY GOODNESS. I don’t know if I’d even be able to contribute anything to the conversation; I’d be in full-on Absorb Mode!

(By the way, I was totally imagining an Alice in Wonderland-esque tea party, Christine! It’s hard to picture some of those guests—for instance, Dekker—with dainty teacups in hand, but even so . . .)

9.) What advice would you give all your fellow writers out there?

Patience, dear ones.

Years ago, when I would hear about authors who took years and years to write their first novel or to break into the publishing world, I’d admire their dedication but think to myself, That won’t be me. I’ll be a teenaged bestseller, just you wait! But as I experienced delays and my writing road took twists and turns I never expected, I learned the hard away again and again and again: be patient. Trust God with this.

I did not get published as a teenager like I planned. But looking back, I’m incredibly glad. I wasn’t ready for it. And I know what it’s like to be on the other side of this pep talk, to shake your head and think you’re the exception. Who knows, maybe you are. We’re all on unique journeys. But I can guarantee that you and your stories are worth taking the time to become the best you can be. Whether you dream of publishing or whether you write as a hobby, you’re worth the hours of effort it takes to hone your craft, to practice your art. Take the time. Revel in the journey even if the destination burns in your heart.

I’m giving this advice to myself as much as I’m giving it to anyone else, because I’m still learning patience. I’m still learning to trust. Some days all I want is to be there already, to be living my dream of writing full time—but in reality I’m working a day job and plinking away at the keyboard in my spare hours, believing that someday things will be different. Believing that where I am now is actually a good place. A building place.

One more thing: don’t be afraid to use writing as a tool to explore your own struggles. That can be a difficult process, but it’s a rewarding one. Dare to venture into the dark corners of your heart. Wrestle with what you find there. If you write as a means of personal transformation, that story is going to connect with readers on a deep level too.

10.) Lastly, would you mind sharing with us a snippet of your writing? It can be from anything at all!

WHAT TO CHOOSE, WHAT TO CHOOSE. All right, how about a snippet from The Brightest Thread, the novel I aim to publish first. This scene takes place in the dream realm, where Luci is currently trapped along with everyone else within the castle at the time the curse fell.

I’m not blaming you, Aleida. I just—there’s so much to absorb.” Luci stood, restless energy coiling within. The flower chair withered away. The mist now seemed more impregnable than any castle walls, for it promised to bar her way for a lifetime. She whirled on Aleida. “Will I die when the century is complete? People do not live to be one hundred and sixteen, not that I’ve ever seen. Please, how do I get out?” She pulled in a ragged breath. “How do I wake up?”

Aleida stared, eyes dull with hopelessness. Then a spark flared. She squared her shoulders, and the drawbridge armrests snapped up. “There is a magic deeper than any blessing or curse.” Though quiet, her words echoed against the mist. “It lies within the very marrow of the earth’s bones. We fairies cannot touch it.”

“What is it?” Luci whispered.

“The power of truest love. Not mere affection or selfish infatuation. The kind of love that begs nothing for itself, but offers everything for another. Truest love bleeds.”

“Where can it be found?”

The spark in Aleida’s eyes dimmed like an ember exposed to a cold draft. “I haven’t seen it in my lifetime. It may not even exist.”

Luci tried to breathe. “But if I find it, somehow it will wake me?”

Aleida spread her hands helplessly. “All I know is if it exists, it comes from somewhere deep. And the deeper the magic, the more powerful it is.”

The mist swirled around Luci’s feet, slowly at first, then faster, whipping her skirt and tangling her hair. Without a word, she sprinted away. This time she did not fall into oblivion.

She ran with eyes fixed on the threads of color.

Thanks so much for having me, Christine! You’re a fabulous interviewer, and it was a pleasure being featured on Musings of an Elf.


It was my honor! I had too much fun.

And guess what, dear readers? Tracey is doing a full take over of my blog and shall be answering any comments you have for her. So if you have further questions, ask away!

Do you have any more questions or comments
for Tracey? How ‘bout that gorgeous snippet?
SO MUCH TALENT. A special thanks to Tracey
for doing this. I loved having you on my blog!!!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Beautiful People - Airen {September 2016}


Sky @ Further Up and Further In or Cait @ Paperfury to join the BP linkup!


It’s that Beautiful People time agaaain! And I’m looking forward to it because I didn’t do it last month. *gasp* *shock* *ack* I haven’t skipped a BP in like…ever. WHAT IS THIS CRIME???

Now that I’ve officially finished my first round of edits for Burning Thorns, my brain is switching over to my Colors of a Dragon Scale series since I shall be writing the 7th and final book for NaNoWriMo. (NOT THAT I’M EXCITED OR ANYTHING.) Thus I decided to focus this BP on a CoaDS character. The problem is WHICH ONE? There are so many! *collapses*

I finally settled on Airen. (Pronounced: Ay-ren. Spelling subject to change since I was an uneducated potato when I made up these names and spellings apparently.) Because it’s just a crime my silly prince hasn’t had a BP yet. (Though he was featured in the couples themed one in February.) He adamantly agrees and is now begging me with puppy dog eyes to let him answer the questions. *sigh* I guess I can’t say no to that.

Airen Savriella is the crown prince of Sivral, the kingdom all my dragon riders are from. His own cousins, Naidren and Nyria, are dragon riders themselves, actually. His younger sister, Iraila, getting kidnapped spurred on the events of the series, in which Airen plays a pretty prominent role. The Savriella family is a very…unconventional royal family. Quite a fun-loving group, and some of my favorite people to write. Because just ‘cause you’re royal doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. ;)

And now with that brief background over, I’ll tentatively hand it over to him.

"Airen!" Naidren hissed.

Airen glanced his way, giving his opponent an opening. With a swipe of Darthidge's boot, Airen went crashing to his back. Before he could rise, Darthidge's sword met his throat.

"Match," Darthidge said, smirking.

"You cheated."

"You weren't paying attention."

"Only because you bribed Naidren to distract me. I know your tricks. Only way you can beat me."

Darthidge laughed and pulled away his sword, instead offering Airen a hand. "Is that so? Then what trick did I use yesterday?”

Airen clasped his hand and rode the pull up. "You convinced me to get seconds at lunch, making me so stuffed I could hardly move."

Darthidge slapped Airen’s stomach. "Can't blame me for your bad eating habits. Or your inability to pay attention."

"I think you should clash swords with your cousin here," a small, dark haired man said, "since he did distract you after all."

Airen grinned and pointed his sword at Naidren. "What say you, Naidren? Shall we dance?"



1.) How did you come up with this character?

Come up with me? I am fearfully and wonderfully (also beautifully) made by the Creator Himself and—

Okay, okay, Airen. (Christine speaking here.) Maybe I should do this one.


*quickly intervenes* I honestly can’t answer this question for any of my characters, really. I don’t “come up” with characters. They pretty much all pop into my head and randomly appear in the story—full personality, appearance, and all. When I started the first book of the CoaDs series I was creating the royal family and Airen was just…there.

2.) Have they ever been starving? Why? And what did they eat to break the fast?

I most certainly have! Like that time I had to go to a council meeting which for some reason was scheduled at breakfast time and I had to skip breakfast. The best meal of the day! I thought I was going to die during the whole 3 hour long meeting. 3 HOURS. Thank the Creator we had a feast afterwards. I made sure to get plenty of sausages and mutton to refuel my poor, starving body.

Airen, that’s not— *sigh* You know, you could have gotten up earlier to eat breakfast before the meeting.

*gasp* How could you suggest such a thing? I needed my beauty sleep.


Juuust kidding. I’m always handsome, no matter what.


3.) Do they have a talent or skill that they’re proud of?

I just told you. Looking handsome, even when sleep deprived.


*grins* All right. Well…I’m guess I’m pretty decent at swordplay. (Despite that scandalous scene my author shared with you above.)

And you can eat 5 pastries in under 30 seconds.

How could I forget? The most important skill of all!

4.) List 3 things that would make them lose their temper.

Wellll, I’m rather easygoing. But if someone tries to harm my family or any of my loved ones in any way, I will put my sword training into practice.

I also don’t tolerate any cruel or boorish behavior from people, especially toward women and children. I can’t understand people like that.

And lastly, when someone takes my food. It’s a crime!

I think you cry when people steal your food, not lose your temper.

A true tragic love story.

5.) What is their favorite type of weather? Least favorite?

There’s nothing like a warm, sunny day. My sister, Iraila, and cousins, Naidren and Nyria, and I love to spend our free summer days out near the river when we can get away with it. And of course take Eryth and Bryth with us. While more recently we go on all four of their dragons. Unfortunately, Iraila and I don’t have dragons…

Ahem. Anyway. Least favorite would be mid-winter when it gets bitter cold. I take no pleasure in freezing to death, thank you.

6.) What is their Hogwarts house and/or MBTI personality?

Hogwarts? As in, where do we keep the pigs? We have many farmers throughout my kingdom of Sivral. But, um… *looks helplessly at author*

It’s okay, Airen, I’ll answer this one. Sadly, I don’t know the Hogwarts houses either because I’ve yet to read the Harry Potter books. (I knooow!) But for the MBTI personality type. Airen has a lot of the traits of the ESFP type, but also the ENFJ one. He’s the life of the party like an ESFP, but also very in tune to people’s emotions as with the ENFJ. (Actually, one day it shocked me to realize just how much Airen is like me, and I’m an ENFJ/ESFJ so… *shrugs*)

I’m just going to pretend I know what you’re saying.


7.) Are they more likely to worry about present problems, or freak out about the unknown future?

I suppose it depends on the problem. Such as right now, my sister has been kidnapped and our entire land of Aerigethel is breaking out into war. Now, I try to not be the worrying type but, well, there are some situations…

And the future can be quite daunting when one is expected to live up to his father and rule a kingdom. I just don’t know if I can ever be as good and wise a king as he…

But. *clears throat* That’s neither here nor there. Onward to the next question!

8.) What is their favorite thing to drink?

You absolutely cannot go wrong with a warm cup of melted chocolate! That’s one good part about the winter season.

9.) What is their favorite color? Least favorite?

Green, without a doubt. Especially in the early summer days when everything has bloomed and the hilly fields of Sivral are blanketed in rich green grass. Ah, what a view!

Hm. I can’t say there is any particular color I especially dislike. I know I for one look regal in any of them.


10.) What is a book that changed their life?

101 Ways to Cook Chocolate. Now that is a page turner! It gets me emotional every single time. I showed it to the castle cook and she said she’d make me a new dish from it every week. I nearly asked for her hand in marriage then and there.

Oh. Is that the end? What a shame! Christine, you must let me do more of these someday!

We’ll see. And stop giving me those puppy dog eyes!

I can’t help it. I just have naturally adorable eyes.


And there we have Airen. (He’s one of my top, top favorite
charries. Just don’t tell!) He’s a, um, handful. Heh. What
do you think? Do you have any silly prince characters?
AND have you joined in Beautiful People this month???

Monday, September 5, 2016

{Book Review} The Rose and the Balloon by Kirsten Fichter

In a kingdom where fauna and flora are held in higher esteem than breakfast, Dmitri is a prince who yearns for change and plans it in a single daring act that will alter his life forever. However, when his demented mother accidentally causes the destruction of a prized garden of roses, Dmitri is horrified when she proposes his hand in marriage to make up for it. Not only will a wife hamper his glorious plans, he doesn't even want one.

Janelle has spent her whole life on her father's rose farm, tending the roses and staying simple. But she really yearns for something greater than the flower beds. But now there's a wrench thrown in the works – the crazy Queen Maeva wants her to marry the prince, and all for ruining her father's beloved roses.

This is Beauty and the Beast with a twist like you've never seen it before.

Amazon | CreateSpace | GoodReads | Author's Blog




Well, this was a little bite of sweetness!

A while back Kirsten a.k.a Kiri was looking for beta-readers for her newly written Beauty and the Beast story, and I obviously couldn’t miss out on that goodness. Not only was it a Beauty and the Beast story, but it involved HOT AIR BALLOONS. You should all know I’m obsessed with hot air balloons. I don’t even know WHY. I just am. It’s on the top of my bucket list to ride one. And I look at pictures of them on Pinterest all the time for no other reason than to drool over the gorgeous, whimsical things. It’s a weird thing about me BUT I LOVE THEM. So when I realized my talented friend was not only doing a story of my favorite fairytale but with a hot air balloon. Well, I devoured it like a piranha to a cupcake.

Imagine my complete and utter ecstasy when Kiri announced she was going to publish her B&B novella.

OF COURSE I ordered the book the very day it released and swallowed it whole as soon as it came in the mail. It was my dear friend’s story IN A PHYSICAL BOOK. IN MY HANDS. Oh, happy day!

And ahhh, the story was just as delightful as I remembered.

Jenelle and Dmitri are both very headstrong people who find themselves suddenly forced into a mutually unwanted betrothal. Throw in an unstable mother, a rose-obsessed father, a pair of mischievous twins, and some hot air balloons, and insanity ensues.



Jenelle is our “Beauty”, but what I love about her is she’s not the perfect, quiet little Beauty we usually have. Jenelle is stubborn and set in her ways, and can match the “Beast” with her fiery temper. But only if she’s pushed. Naturally, she’s a clever, fun-loving girl who does her best to live a life without her mother, and with a father who forgets most everything, including his daughter, in favor of his beloved roses. Jenelle’s life hasn’t been one of ease and pleasure, and she has a quiet strength about her I admired. She’s unlike any “Beauty” I’ve ever read, and I loved that about her.

This is our “Beast” character who is disgruntled about the life he’s been thrust into. With a mother deemed crazy and no father, he’s closed himself off to the world. There’s such a layer of depth to Dmitri that we see peeled back one bit at a time as the story progresses. Sometimes I was frustrated with him, sometimes I wanted to hug him. The complexity of his character was perfection. And then you mix his stone-cold spirit with Jenelle’s fiery one and oooh, much fun!

Queen Maeva:
I ADORED “Crazy Maeva”. She was one of my favorites. I have this odd obsession with characters who aren’t all “there”. Who have special mental disabilities. Winter from The Lunar Chronicles or Lady Peg from the Valley of the Dragons trilogy would fit this description. Eccentric and childlike and just all around adorable. That was Queen Maeva.

Nicolas and Nicoline:
THE TWINS. Without a doubt, one of the BEST parts of the book. Nicolas and Nicoline are the younger siblings of Dmitri, and are in a constant contest to kill each other (read: prank the other just for fun). Their shenanigans had me rolling with laughter. And then there’s a part at the end and JUST. . . Well, you’ll just have to read it! *grins*

Lord Roux:
At first you think Jenelle’s father is a selfish man. I mean, who cares about a rose garden more than his own daughter? But Kiri has a way of endearing each and every one of her quirky characters to her readers. I actually found myself laughing during a couple of Lord Roux’s scenes. I don’t want to say much in fear of spoiling things, but let’s just say I liked his addition to the story a lot.

All together, they’re a completely fun and complex cast—all so different with their own secrets and desires. Between them all, there was some great dialogue, tension, and plot twists.

Also can we talk about those names? I loved ALL of the names in this book. Jenelle, Dmitri, Maeva, Nicolas, Nicoline—JUST GIVE ME ALL THE PRETTY NAMES.

What was really cool about this story was how clever it was. This is a Beauty and the Beast story without a lick of magic, and yet still includes a glowing rose. And, as the author says, it’s an upside down Beauty and the Beast. I love the twists and turns it took, and also the touch of steampunk thrown in.

It’s also just FUN. This is only a novella, so it’s a very quick read. I think I read it in under 2 hours. As I said at the beginning, it’s a bite of sweetness. There’s something. . .bright about the story. I don’t even know how to explain it. A beautiful castle and rose gardens and gorgeously wonderful hot air balloons and fun pranks with the young twins and a library and. . .I DON’T KNOW. It was just bright and happy and fun.

If you’re needing something light and sweet to read, I highly recommend this one.

I think my only complaint is the romance maybe happened a teeny bit fast. But, again, it’s a novella, so there was really nothing much that could have been done. Otherwise, I loved every word.

Kirsten has a beautiful way with words. What really struck me was the dialogue. Not only is it quick and witty, the characters SOUND like they’re from a fairytale-type world without it seeming too rich. I have a hard time reading old fashioned dialogue because it’s slow and thick. But Kirsten seamlessly made the dialogue easy to read and realistic but without making it too modern. I really admired that! And the entire narration reads smooth and beautifully. She has a wonderful style!


Content Cautions

Not a thing! Perfectly clean. Like I said, this is a light, fun read, that could easily be read by anyone. Even the romance isn’t laid on very thick.



The Rose and the Balloon has a delightful, complex cast, a bunch of secrets and plot twists along the way, and beautiful writing. If you want a surprisingly upside down Beauty and the Beast story, then here it is!

It’s a quick, happy story that will put a smile on your face.
Like a piece of your favorite candy.

Also, this is a Beauty and the Beast story with a HOT AIR BALLOON! Do you need any more reasons to read it???



Have you read The Rose and the Balloon? BECAUSE
YOU NEED TO. Do you like fairytale stories? And am I
the only one with a weird obsession with hot air balloons?
Has anyone ever ridden in one? I NEED TO KNOW.

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