Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Book Review: The Peasant Queen by Cheri Chesley

Author: Cheri Chesley
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Cedar Fort
Date Published: December 8th, 
Page Count: 256

About the Author

Cheri Chesley grew up in Phoenix, Arizona with her mother and four older brothers. She discovered her love of writing at a young age, but didn't consider it as a career choice until high school. Writing a novel in a year and ten months can do that to a person.

After marrying Bryan, her sweetheart, and becoming a stepmom to his then four-year-old daughter, Bryana, they moved to Oklahoma where they tried the quiet life and had three sons in four years. She didn't do a lot of writing during this time, but the urge never left her completely. In 2000, the family moved to Utah, where they currently reside. They had two daughters--one in 2001 and one in 2004.

In 2006, Cheri rediscovered her passion for writing and decided to start taking herself and her constantly speaking characters seriously. She enjoys the continued support of her husband and family, including extended family, across the nation. And she could never have gotten this far without a little help from her friends, too.

   Back Cover

After running away from home, Krystal is transported to a faraway kingdom where an evil tyrant is bent on taking the crown - and Krystal's hand in marriage. But when she falls in love with the rightful heir to the throne, she must make an impossible choice: sacrifice her one chance at happiness or face the destruction of an entire kingdom.

My Review

First of all, kudos to Cedar Fort on the cover. This is one of the most beautiful covers I've ever seen, and the picture doesn't do it justice!

I didn't realize this book was a fantasy when I started reading, which made me really happy when magical things began happening! Krystal, the main character, is betrothed to a dull guy she really doesn't want to marry. She leaves home, is kidnapped, and carried away to a beautiful kingdom (complete with a huge castle and a handsome, single about-to-be-crowned king) where she won't have to worry about marrying the dimwitted lout ever again. Sounds like a dream come true, right?


Krystal has, forgive the cliche, leapt through no fault of her own from the frying pan into the fire. Gregory is a deliciously disturbed, twisted man who wants Krystal for himself--and will stop at nothing to have her.

I enjoyed the political back story, which is something I don't usually care for, but it works here very well. As I read, my distaste for Gregory grew and grew, while my admiration of Krystal's courage intensified. One thing I was particularly fond of was when Krystal initiates a rescue--it's pulled off in a way that's not typical, and I found the scene very well done. I also thought the characters were pretty well defined. The contrast between their personalities was great. Gregory has more than a few screws loose and is devious enough to be extremely dangerous; I was happy on more than one occasion that I never had to see him in real life.

I was left with some questions, namely how it was that the man who was truly in love with Krystal acquired the means to discover and fall in love with her, how did those means come about, and why the way it happened didn't seem to bother her. If it had been me, I would have been a bit creeped out, but to be fair, I'm not the most beautiful peasant in the land who is used to being admired from afar. I also, being a lover of fantasy stories, wanted to know more about the magic in the land and the magical objects. Perhaps Ms. Chesley is saving that information for her sequel, which I'm looking forward to reading.

The Peasant Queen is a light, fun, uncomplicated read that made several hours fly by in an enjoyable fashion.

Comment on this post for a chance to win not only a weekly prize drawing; you'll also be entered to win a grand prize from the blog tour!

Visit Cheri's website here: http://www.cherichesley.com/

*Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book for the purpose of review and was not compensated in any way for my opinions. They are my own.

Friday, February 18, 2011

My First Blog Interview--by Author Sarah Miller Eden!

I have the honor of being today's guest on Sarah Miller Eden's I Need Friends Friday blog series. Find out which is my favorite continent and if I win her pistachio quiz game! Sarah was so much fun to chat with, and a way cool--I mean, totally awesome--author.

Thank you, Sarah!

Check it out here: INFF: Rebecca Blevins

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day Blogfest: Sharing a Scene From my Work-in-Progress!

I wasn't going to do this, but heck, why not? 
My Authors Incognito friends are participating in a blogfest today, hosted by Jordan McCollum. The writers involved share a scene from a work-in-progress or another scene they have where two characters meet who will end up falling in love. Mine is from my waiting-to-be-edited book Dream Date. I'm not completely done editing this portion yet (or any of it, for that matter), but Valentine's Day is for throwing caution to the breeze, right?
This scene takes place right after Natalie turns off the light and tries to go to sleep. A face flashes before her, of a guy she's never met--and the whole thing scared and startled her. She finally falls asleep, and this follows.
Dream Date
by Rebecca Blevins

As I opened my eyes I blinked repeatedly, surprised at how vivid everything was.  I stood, back to the wall, in a giant, domed room. Rainbow colors shone everywhere, so bright they hurt my eyes.  Everything looked intense, felt intense, as if every aspect of the room blazed with purpose.  I felt I had been living in a giant haze all my life, and suddenly the mist had been burned away.  The sun hung from the center of the room, turning like a fiery disco ball. Maybe that was why.
The sun was far smaller than I thought it should be, pulsating rays giving off a scorching heat. I was amazed that the clouds could survive the temperature, but there they were, hanging all wispy and motionless. I blew at one and it lazily swirled about, not dissipating. Growing braver, I stuck my arm into the middle of the cloud and waved my hand around, spreading it into new designs.  The chilly mist was shockingly cool and felt fantastic in contrast to the warmth of the room.  As soon as I stopped stirring the cloud and removed my arm, it slowly pulled together and reformed, almost as if it were alive.  I was both intrigued and a little sickened. If it was alive...well...I had just had my arm all in its insides—and they were now drying on me.
Shuddering, I turned my attention to the rest of the room.  The heat was definitely increasing.  I had to find the way out.
I looked down and discovered I was standing on a rectangular block of cement floor. Yellow, to be exact.  You could set a full-size bed on it without any room left over.  There was about eight feet of straight-down emptiness on each side of the block, ending in more concrete at the bottom.  Around the room there were identically sized, different colored rectangles in front of what appeared to be Van Gogh paintings. There appeared to be no doors.
How fitting that the paintings are Van Gogh's, because this place is insane.
The only way to view the other paintings at close range was to step on a circular, moving sidewalk made of large, brightly colored bricks. The sidewalk reminded me of smooth, giant Legos—or Candyland game squares, shaped like rectangles. To look at the other paintings you had to step onto the sidewalk, then get off at the brightly colored block in front of the painting you wanted to view.
A man in a charcoal grey suit stood across the room, so still that I hadn't noticed him at first. He seemed to be studying what appeared to be “Starry Night”, hands clasped behind his back, oblivious to my being there. Even at this distance, I could tell he was tall. His self-assured air caused me to pause for a moment before disturbing him—he was obviously absorbed in the painting—but I didn't know how to get out of the room, and I knew I'd go crazy in the pulsing sunlight before long.
I stepped onto an orange block of the moving sidewalk and nearly fell, crying out as I caught myself. Not only was it a lot faster than it looked, but I was wearing ridiculously high purple heels! As I steadied myself, I noticed I was wearing a beautiful, pearly-colored, shimmering cocktail dress. The gown was not quite knee-length, and while perfect for an event at a museum, not quite the thing for hopping onto moving sidewalks. Not falling down became an even higher priority; flashing my underwear while twisting an ankle was not an attractive option with the well-dressed man in full view.
I balanced precariously on the orange block as the paintings came past faster, and I neared the man, who was watching me approach. He must have heard me yell. So much for not looking stupid. If I fall...well...I hope I'm at least wearing underwear.
“Step on the blue brick and it'll stop!” he called, obviously anxious. The tension in his voice did nothing for my frame of mind—I was already freaking out a little as I was trying to balance. Glancing up, I realized I had already sailed past him.
“Ok!” I yelled back. I didn't think about whether I should trust him or not. After all, did I really have a choice? The sidewalk was moving faster by the second, and I didn't want to stop to take off my ridiculous shoes in case the next go-round hurled me against the walls—or more likely, into the holes in the floor. Not the most comfortable way to die. The blue brick was two bricks away. I carefully made my way across the orange block I was on, but as I stepped onto the red—my purple heel caught.
Great. I'm gonna die after all.
I dropped down, unbuckled my idiot shoe, and began to crawl toward the blue block on hands and knees, no longer caring about the spectacle I was making of myself.
I heard a yell. Looking up as the crazy sidewalk gave a lurch, I saw the guy standing just ahead, in a wide football player's stance, arms reaching toward me. Struck by the desire to get off the galloping deathtrap as soon as possible I forgot about decorum, my short dress, and the fact that I was wearing one high-heeled shoe. I stood up, balancing like I was a drunk surfer on a tipping surfboard, knees shaking and hands trembling. Just before I reached him, he yelled “NOW!”
I jumped.
We collided, and the force made him stagger backwards into the painting. We fell hard. My knee hurt where it hit the floor, but I was more worried about my rescuer.
I scrambled off of his firm, strong body (I would have to have been dead not to notice—ok, I would have noticed even if I were dead) and prayed he was alive. He looked up at me, sandy brown hair all messed up, gray-blue eyes worried. “Are you ok?” he asked.
“Yes, thanks to you.” I sighed with relief—and then it hit me. He's the guy I saw when I was falling asleep! Wait—I'm dreaming. How can I know that? I know I'm dreaming in a dream? That's never happened before! Cool! I wonder if I can fly.
I jumped up in the air (which wasn't easy, considering I was still wearing one shoe) and flapped my arms a little. Nothing happened. I didn't want to fling myself completely parallel to the ground to see if that would work. The twinging of my knee discouraged reckless experimentation.
Even dreaming, I was a wuss.
I sat back down and unbuckled the useless shoe from my foot, then chucked it over the edge of the block we were sitting on.
“That shoe looked great on you, but I don't blame you for sending it to shoe hell.” He smiled at me.
I melted.
He gingerly rolled over onto his side. “By the way, flying doesn't work. I tried it before you got here.” Groaning a little, he put his right hand to the back of his head. When he took it away, a smear of blood shone wetly. He must have whacked himself pretty hard on the picture frame.
I moved over slightly and knelt next to him. “I'm ok, but you certainly aren't.” I wracked my brain, trying to think of what to do. Even though this was a dream, I didn't want him to die or anything. I couldn't take his coat off—that was the only thing protecting him from the cold floor.
He pulled himself up to a sitting position against the wall. “I'm glad you aren't hurt. I'm Adam.” He extended his bloody hand toward me, catching me off guard. I stared at the red smears, not sure what to say.
“Whoops, sorry about that.” He extended his left hand, wincing slightly.

 I put my left hand in his but didn't shake it. I figured I'd hurt him enough already. “I'm Natalie”.
He didn't let go; his mind appeared to be somewhere else entirely. I didn't mind. “How did you know what to do?” I asked.
“What?  To rescue you?  Ran into the same problem myself and figured it out before I became wall putty.”  Adam went back to whatever he was thinking about.  He had fine, strong, long fingers, a doctor's hand. No—a musician's.
I was thoroughly enjoying how my hand felt in his, delicate and protected, though his grasp became a little clammy. Adam was one of the most gorgeous guys I had ever seen. Not perfect—his nose was slightly crooked, forehead a little high, but they added character. I studied the painting, trying not to stare at him. “Do you play the piano?” I asked absentmindedly.
“On occasion.” His voice was strained.
That doesn't sound good.  I looked at him immediately.
Adam began looking a little faint. Perspiration beaded on his forehead, and he turned pale, a human ivory candle.
A small knot of worry grew in my stomach with each passing second.
I did the only thing I could think of: I loosened his tie, and began undoing the first few buttons of his white shirt. “I think maybe you should lie back down—”
“Natalie, do you like birds?” A silly grin decorated his handsome face. I had a sinking feeling that the blow to his head had done more than make him bleed.
He grabbed my arm and I stopped unbuttoning, which was a good thing because I had forgotten I was doing it. That would have gotten embarrassing fast. He stared at the ceiling. “Is that a dove?” I looked up. No bird in sight. Watching his face for signs of trauma, I admitted to being mesmerized by his amazing eyes, the squareness of his chin, the slight shadowing of his clean-shaven jaw.
He waved his unoccupied arm nonsensically at the air above me. “Get away! No! I said NO!”  Then to me: “He's going to sit on your beautiful dress and ruin it!” Adam brushed at my shoulder as if shooing away a pigeon while mumbling something about doves and their bathroom habits.
“What bird?” I asked, hoping he was suffering from a mild concussion; otherwise I was stuck here with a lunatic.
“That one!” He pointed to the air, grinning crazily—then passed out.

It's Valens-Tine Day!

For those of you who look at Valentine's Day as nothing but an excuse to party, I have the whole evening planned out! I'm going to share my list for this exciting, unforgettable experience for the low price of. . .free! That's right folks, FREE!

First up: come on, let's get our groove on with Valens. . .

Then when we're about to collapse from spinning around the living room a la whirligig, it's time for the 'tine' part:

which we can use for this. . .

this. . .

or this. . .so versatile!

Or if you're my brother-in-law, this:

Repeat sequence as many times as you like, until you fall on this:

Whoops! Go wash your eyes and come right back.

I meant this:

Or if you're single and feelin' it, this:

A couple of warnings. Don't spin around too fast or you'll end up like this:

Or hugging this:

The wonderful thing about this plan is that it's one size fits all! Now get to it and PAR-TAY!

(I'm not usually one for cat pictures, but this one was too cute to pass up.)

Happy Valens-tine Day!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Book Review: Bumpy Landings by Donald J. Carey

Title: Bumpy Landings
Author: Donald J. Carey
Genre: LDS Romance
Release Date: January 2011
Pages: 251

From the Back Cover

Across the field, a couple of small planes cast long shadows as the sun inched its way toward the western horizon.
Then Jordan heard the sound he was hoping for. He looked out into the sky above the ocean where a small white plane with a red tail buzzed over the waves, flying parallel to the runway. As the plane flew past, Jordan imagined he was the one at the controls, with one eye on the airport and the other on the altimeter, waiting for just the right moment to turn into the base leg of the landing pattern.
All his life, Jordan MacDonald has dreamed of taking flight and soaring above the majestic mountains of his native Hawaii, but he doesn’t dare disobey his mother, who has absolutely forbidden him from flying. Suddenly everything changes when, spurred by the pain of a failed relationship, Jordan begins working toward the coveted pilot’s license. Just as he finds love again, Jordan’s lies start to close in around him, and he soon learns that a life full of dishonesty attracts more turbulence than he’s ever faced in the air.
My Review
I opened the pages not knowing what to expect. I soon found myself immersed in Hawaiian scenery, and felt as if I were there, driving on roads with the tropical breezes bringing all kinds of warm scents to my nose. I could almost see the sun sparkling off the ocean. 
Jordan MacDonald was a bit of a non-risk taker at first. His dating prowess needed major work. Being a woman, there were times I wanted to yell at him to slow down while dating a girl! I wanted to spare him the embarrassment that comes from pursuing a lady a little bit too quickly. Reading his trials brought back memories of my dating days, specifically ones that I'm thankful are over. I wanted to pull Jordan aside and give him some sisterly advice! 
It was great seeing how Jordan grew throughout the story. I rooted for him to stand up for what he wanted for himself, both with his mother and in his love life. I found myself really caring about what happened to him, and his mother was someone I wanted to kick in the teeth! I stayed up way too late at night (actually, in the morning) to find out what would happen. I knew what I hoped would happen, but Carey was really good at making me wonder if things would go as I wished! There were some twists and surprises as well. It was so fun reading a romantic story written from a man's point of view.
I enjoyed the book so much that I would have liked to know some of the characters a little bit more. For example, I would have liked to know more about Jordan, the kinds of movies, food (besides a couple of delicious-sounding recipes I'm thrilled are on the author's website!), music, and other types of things he enjoyed. I would have also liked to see Jordan and the women he dates finding out those things about each other; it would have added a bit more solidification to their relationships for me--though there was enough that I was heavily invested in the story. 
There was also a subplot that, after finishing the book, made me wonder why the characters would have kept reminders of each other in a prominent place, but that was only a minor thing.
The flying parts were wonderful, and I loved the attention to detail. I could picture all the characters really well. Carey did a wonderful job defining each person. This is a book with a lot of heart.
So, if you want to know how guys think while they're dating, get whisked away to a fabulous, warm, tropical beach in the Hawaiian Islands and laugh and cry (darn you Don, you did make me teary-eyed!), pour a glass of pineapple juice and curl up with the great read that is Bumpy Landings. I highly recommend it.
Comment on this post for a chance to win a prize on this blog tour! 
Buy your own copy of Bumpy Landings at Amazon in paper or Kindle editions.
You can visit Don Carey at his website, www.donaldjcarey.com. (While you're there, look for the recipes from the book! I can't wait to try both of them!)

*Disclaimer: I was given a copy of the book for the purpose of review, and this does not influence my opinions. I have received no other compensation for this review.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sit. Yes, Sit.

My baby Bean is now eighteen months. He says a lot of words, albeit imperfectly. Except "no". He says that one very well. I haven't counted, but I think his current vocabulary contains around thirty words.

Just this past week he learned "baby", "sit" (from Mommy instructing him to sit the bathtub), and on the way to church we discovered he knew the words "a game" (not surprising since his brothers are often requesting to play a video game) and "all done" (this after he was served the Sacrament in church). He asks for "more" all the time, not only when he wants more of something, but if he just wants it. He stretches his little hand out and yells "MEEEEEEM!" It gets a bit repetitive after a while.

He's adorable, saying all his words in that cute little voice. The only problem is when he pronounces the word "sit", he--um--says the letter 's' as if it were 'sh'.

I don't think I need to explain further.

So, when he's saying "sit, sit, sit" his siblings are rolling on the floor, laughing as if it's the funniest thing ever. Which of course, makes Bean say it more.

I tell them to ignore him, because it's normal for babies to accidentally say naughty words. Professor's eyes bugged out when I told him of a particularly bad word he came out with as a baby. So now they try to hold in their laughter when their baby brother imitates a sailor, and they look like tomatoes about to explode in a pressure cooker.

So, I'll hope for the best, that Bean's swearing will be limited to ignorance. At least it's not like his spicy brother Lion--

But that's a tale best saved for another day.

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Symphony of Words

My fingers are poised on the keys, remembering again for the first time how thrilling the act of pressing, forming letters, words, are.

Fear enters, stemming the tide, flow. No matter how much I resist, my heart bruises easily. Me, a novice, trying to pen (an outdated, but loved term) my thoughts for the world? Yet not the entire world, perhaps a few.

I devour ink-scented pages and yearn, fear to be in their masters' place.

Why do I torment myself? Why? It would be so much easier to ignore the clarion call, to pretend that I'm pretending-- the desire is just that, and unimportant when compared to Real Life--

The answer comes when I read the endings of a hundred books*, eyes caressing the page, thrilling over and over, savoring.

Ah, so subjective.

Phrases, arranged in art form, touch and twist and stroke hidden fibers as Beethoven does, sparking a remembering of an almost-something which I can't put my finger on--

Right and good. Resonating.

So, I sit on my bed, fingers itching to fly, to discover, between endless meaningless words, phrases that catch and vibrate through me as the sounds of a rich cello, warm and deep.

I must create a symphony of words.

*http://americanbookreview.org/PDF/100_Best_Last_Lines_from_Novels.pdf       (Warning: a couple of 'naughty' words)