Monday, July 27, 2015

Five Enchanted Roses Review

Hello, everyone! Guess what? Today is the release day for one of my most-anticipated reads of this summer: Five Enchanted Roses, a collection of Beauty and the Beast retellings! Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite fairytales, so when I got the chance to read and review this collection, I was very excited. For the most part, my hopes weren't disappointed; as with Five Glass Slippers, Anne Elisabeth and the other judges chose an excellent, and unique, set of stories for this collection.

Esprit de la Rose: Pirates, mermaids, and a high-seas adventure? That’s more or less the last thing I’d expect in a Beauty and the Beast adventure . . . but it turns out to be quite the exciting tale! I enjoyed the very unique twist on the original story and the mystery of the Esprit de la Rose and her crew. Even though I know the original tale very well, I found myself eagerly wondering what would happen next. There were a few parts, particularly regarding the ending, which I felt could’ve been made clearer, but overall, I definitely enjoyed this unusual take on the classic story.

Wither: Oh, oh, oh. This story. It’s undoubtedly my favorite retelling in the collection, haunting creepy and filled with mystery, but sweet at the same time. Lilybet and Corwin are awesome. And then there’s the ending. Just, the ending. It’s like all the amazing of the rest of the story got tripled and then condensed in those last several chapters. I finished the story and then had to read the ending all over again because it’s so epic and amazing and beautiful, and then I reread it again when I edited this review. It’s wonderful. This whole story is wonderful; I can complain about nothing.

Stone Curse: I’d heard several of my friends getting excited for this story, and so expected to love it as much or more than Wither . . . but I’m afraid it fell a bit flat for me. The author’s version of the curse was interesting, but I didn’t really connect with the characters. Also, I was left with too many questions- particularly, how did the person who caused the curse get the ability to cause it in the first place?- and the ending seemed too convenient to me.

Rosara and the Jungle King: Like our first story, this is a highly unique version of the Beauty and the Beast story, this time set in a tropical jungle. From the first sentence, I was entranced by the author’s writing style and the main character’s voice. I loved Tupa as well, and his relationship with Rosara. There were one or two things I didn’t like- the ending fell a touch flat for me, and I’m not quite sure what to think of the karawara- but overall, I enjoyed this story.

The Wulver’s Rose: A delightful ending to the collection and my second favorite story from it, The Wulver’s Rose runs very closely to the original version of Beauty and the Beast, while still holding unique elements. I like just about everything about this story: the characters, the setting (Scotland, in the mid 18th century), and that the author included Beauty’s dreams, an element of the original often forgotten in retellings. The only reason this didn’t take first place, really, is that really getting into the story took me a few chapters. Otherwise, this is a lovely and sweet story.

Overall, I loved this collection of five lovely and unique Beauty and the Beast retellings. While a dark thread does run through all of them- and some more than others- that's understandable; Beauty and the Beast is a somewhat darker fairytale, and never does the darkness overwhelm the beauty of the stories. I would highly recommend this collection to teen lovers of fairy tales.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Don't Say Goodbye

Things are changing.

I don't talk about my personal life, particularly the sad bits, a whole lot on this blog. Usually that's because there's not much to say about them. But sometimes there are.

My parents told me the news four months ago: we're moving. Not just to a new house, to a new state, almost eight hours away. Since then, life has been successively growing in craziness as we try to get ready to leave. Even so, I don't think the reality of our move fully hit- until this week, when suddenly Skillet's "Say Goodbye" has become the theme song of my life.

It seems strange and
I need to figure this out.

I've lived in the same house for nearly twelve years. To some of you, those who've lived in the same house or at least the same town all your lives, that may seem unsurprising. But for my family and me, it's a not-so-small miracle; by all rights, we probably should've moved at least once already by this time. But we haven't. We've been allowed to stay.

So why do we have to leave now?

 You got your life,
I got mine,
But you're all I cared about.

 I'm an introvert. That may surprise some of you; I'm a lot more outgoing online than I am offline. Online, talking to people, even strangers, is easy. Sharing my thoughts and feelings is easy. Offline, both things are a lot harder, and I tend to spend a lot of time by myself. However, being an introvert also means that I'm very attached to the friends I do have. They mean the world to me, and I look forward to every chance I get to spend time with them.

And now I'm leaving them behind.

Yesterday we were laughing.
Today I'm left here asking,
Where has all the time gone now?
I'm left alone somehow.
Growing up and getting older;
I don't want to believe it's over. 

As I said earlier, despite the craziness of moving preparations, the reality of our upcoming departure didn't really hit me until this week, my last full week here. Next weekend I leave for Support Staff at White Sulpher Springs, and once that's done, I officially move. So, this weekend has been filled with lasts: last Bible Study on Friday, last game night on Saturday, last church service and youth group on Sunday. My community, my friends, are slipping away.

 Don't say goodbye
'Cause I don't want to hear those words tonight.
'Cause maybe it's not the end for you and I.
 I don't want to believe those friendships are over. I want to believe that this isn't goodbye; it's only "see you later." I want to believe we'll keep in touch through email and letters and text messages until I can come back home. But enough other friends have moved or otherwise dropped out of my life that I'm afraid this is the end. That these goodbyes are the end.

I don't want the end to be now.

And although we knew
This time would come for me and you
Don't say anything tonight
If you're going to say goodbye.

Today is, effectively, one of my last full days in my home. I'll be spending the next two weeks volunteering at White Sulpher Springs as part of their Support Staff (which both excites me and terrifies me at the same time), and the movers come to pack up the house shortly after I return. Because of that, I almost feel like I'm already gone- like my home has said goodbye to me already, even though I haven't really said goodbye to it.
But "Say Goodbye" isn't the only song playing in my life.

I know who goes before me.
I know who stands behind.

I don't understand why I have to move. But I know God has a reason for it, that he planned it for us. He even gave me warning of it: in February, during a youth group lesson on words of knowledge, one of my youth leaders- one of the people I'll miss the most after I move- said God had given her a vision of a tornado while she was praying over me. We both thought it was weird but didn't recognize what it meant until later, until I found out about the move and realized this is it. That a tornado is a storm that picks things up and moves them other places, just as the move would uproot my family and me and move us to a new state.

The God of angel armies
Is always by my side.

In some ways, I feel like this move is a test, as if God's saying "When your life was easy, you called me your Great Author and thanked Me for my promise that I know the plans I have for you. Now that My plans are different than Yours, will you still thank me?" And I'm doing my best to do just that- to acknowledge that, yes, He does have a plan, and even if I don't understand, His plan is better than mine- even as I ask Him, why, why, why do we have to go?

The One who reigns forever,
He is a friend of mine.

I'm trying to look on the bright side of the move. The location is far from ideal- but it's also far from the worst it can be. The area, after all, is quite pretty (when it's not raining), and I'll have plenty of places to go take pictures and a backyard big enough to shoot my bow and arrows, and maybe I'll get to meet an online friend or two. I even used to daydream about living there when I was younger, opening my own bookstore- "Ye Olde Bookshoppe", named after a bookstore in one of my then-favorite books- which makes me wonder if, in the midst of this move, God's teasing me a bit. Anyway, we're only supposed to be there a few years, and then we can move.

The God of angel armies
Is always by my side.
God is sending us on this move for a reason. I keep reminding myself of that. And I keep reminding myself, as do others, that this'll be an adventure. Occasionally, if I'm in a good mood, I'll jokingly add "All those books about people going to other worlds seem to start with the people moving somewhere new. Maybe this is your chance!" But sometimes, my reaction to the thought of an adventure is the same as Bilbo's reaction to Gandalf's invitation: "Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! I can't think what anybody sees in them!" On those days, my spirit's still singing:

Don't say anything tonight
If you're going to say goodbye.

Lyrics from: "Say Goodbye" by Skillet and "Whom Shall I Fear" by Chris Tomlin.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Gift From a Friend

So I fully intended for my next post to be either serious or a tag post . . . but I've got something I just have to share. Recently, a friend of mine, Lalaithiel, started making collages and agreed to make me two for some of my characters. She sent me the finished product a day or two ago and they're just beautiful, as you'll see in a minute.

 This first one is for Lianna, my brainkeeper/muse. (If you want to know what a brainkeeper is, the short answer is that they're kind of like the emotions in Inside Out, but for ideas and such instead of feelings, and the long answer can be found here. They're kind of an inside thing with The Potter School forums.) Anyway. I love how this collage fits Lianna, with all the books and the one picture at the top of the girl in the library (my personal image of a brainkeeper is a librarian in your mind) and the arrangement, and how it (in my opinion) captures her association with books and notebooks and also clipboards (because she's a disordered-sort-of-organized person) and her "No project's too big; let's DO THE THING!" attitude.

 This second one- my favorite of the two- is for Kaitlyn, my main character of Between Two Worlds. I love pretty much everything about this collage- the pictures and the colors and the arrangement and the quotes Lalaithiel picked (I gave her some suggested quotes, mostly from my story but also the one in the bottom left which is from Golden Daughter and has considerable significance in the story) and just everything. There's the "I am no Shadowwalker" quote on the dark forest, which is insanely appropriate for Spoilery Reasons, and the eye (which, for some reason, reminds me of Kaitlyn's longing for Aralan or at least to belong somewhere) and the one picture with the sparkly lights, and also the one at the very bottom with the holding hands because Aedon and Katelyn are pretty much my favorite couple I've ever written. I fangirl over them, no joke. And I'm also fangirling over these collages, because they're just so pretty and awesome and Lalaithiel is amazing, ok? And not just for her collages, for her poetry and writing and her personality and her friendship.
Anyway, I hope you liked seeing these. If you did, please leave some love for Lalaithiel in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
 -Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)  

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Familiar Question

Written while in line for Apollo's Chariot at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. 
The rattle-tat of track and chain
Herald the approaching train,
While screams of terror echo back
With the last car's clackety-clack.
As I step into my seat,
I swear it shakes beneath my feet.
And as it starts its creeping climb,
A familiar question comes to mind:
"After all the time I spent in line,
Why the heck am I on this ride?"