Two Monarchies Sequence by W.R. Gingell

You may have noticed that I love fairy tales and fairy tale retellings.  So how about a whole series of them?!  W.R. Gingell delivers with the Two Monarchies Sequence, a lovely fantasy series with many fairy tale inspirations.  For the most part, these are not straight retellings, but rather stories that take a recognizable fairy tale concept and twist it all around.   The result is a series that feels comfortably familiar yet at the same time keeps you on your toes.

Also, if you judge books by their covers, these ones are gorgeous.

The series is set in the titular two monarchies, Civet and Glause, two countries whose history is…complicated to say the least.  There is also some time travel involved in several spots, which does not help clear things up! The series begins with Spindle, obviously inspired by Sleeping Beauty, in which Polyhymnia is awakened not by a prince, but by an absentminded-genius enchanter named Luck…and that’s just the beginning of her troubles.  Next follow Blackfoot (with some hints of Puss in Boots) and Staff and Crown, which follow unlikely hero Annabel’s path to the throne of New Civet.  

The last book, Clockwork Magician, will be released this week; it features Annabel’s friend and budding magician Peter, who is in truth a fairly annoying person, yet the author somehow manages to make him lovable.  That’s a kind of magic all on its own!

Also in the sequence is Masque, a murder mystery inspired by Beauty and the Beast; though this one is chronologically last, I actually read it first!  It’s one of my favorite BatB stories of all time. There is also a Little Red Riding Hood story, Wolfskin, in the same setting, though it does not cross over with any of the other stories.

What do all these great stories have in common?  Excellent quirky characters that will come to feel like friends, an intriguing system of magic, some mystery and thrills, and some lovely romance.  Occasionally it feels like the story or characters are moving a bit too fast to catch, but a touch of confusion is part of the charm of these books.

This series was my first introduction to Gingell’s writing, and it quickly made me a fan.  I’m sure it will do the same for my fellow fairy tale-lovers!

Fan Art Friday: Celestial Balance

Elf

Here is a fun little elf sketch from my high school sketchbook!  I drew this in conjunction with a short story I wrote around the same time, “Celestial Balance.”  The elf in the story has curly hair, but there was no way I was going to be able to draw that!

Keep reading for the story!

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Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #84: Narrow

Ahh the narrow streets of Europe.  Many were definitely not built for cars, or for tourists for that matter.  But they have so much character!

Isn’t it amazing to find a surprise, like the cathedral of Barcelona above, waiting for you at the end of one of these old streets?

Once, in Toledo, Spain, my friends and I didn’t even bother picking up a map just so we could wander around all the twisted little old streets.  (Don’t worry, we didn’t get lost; Toledo is not a very big city.)

You never know what you will find down one of these tiny alleys between buildings, like this one in Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Even Venice, a city without many streets, has narrow, convoluted pathways–they are just canals instead!

You can find more narrow things at the original Lens-Artist challenge.

 

Review: Valentine’s Day at Glosser’s

If you are looking for a cute, warm, fluffy read this Valentine’s Day, check out Valentine’s Day at Glosser’s by Robert Jeschonek.  It’s like a Hallmark Channel movie in book form (and believe me, I’ve seen almost every Hallmark Channel movie).

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The story is part of a series that revolves around the Glosser Brothers department store chain from western Pennsylvania.  In this installment, the store is holding a Valentine’s poetry contest, which brings together the two store “mascots,” nicknamed Miss Gee Bee and Glossy, to act as judges.  Their journey together to find the best writer takes them through several ice cream sundaes, a lot of bad poetry, and one important secret.

I actually listened to the audiobook version of this because the narrator is a relative of mine.  I thought she did a great job, especially with the distinct voices of several minor characters.  It was a great way to pass my commute, starting off my day with a smile.  It’s a quick little story, so you could also read it in a evening curled up on the couch with some chocolate.

What are you guys reading for Valentine’s Day?

 

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #83 – Future

It’s a small detail in this photo, but you can see the Pride flags waving proudly above the Liffey in Dublin, Ireland.  It was the weekend of the Pride festival when we visited, and the country had recently approved gay marriage via referendum.  In addition, while we were there we heard the news that the U.S. Supreme Court had also guaranteed the right of same-sex couples to marry with their landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.  It felt like a significant moment, like a look into a brighter future.

A visit to the Sagrada Família in Barcelona also requires a look into the future.  The masterwork of architect Antoni Gaudí, the church was begun in 1882 and is scheduled to be finished in 2026.  It was amazing even under construction, so I look forward to returning to see the completed building in the future.

You can find more from the future at the original Lens-Artist challenge.