cover reveal: ROMANOV by Nadine Brandes

THE COVER IS HERE.  SQUEEEEE.

Nadine is one of my favorite authors and I was thrilled to participate in the cover reveal for her upcoming YA historical fantasy stand-alone, Romanov, which releases on May 7th, 2019.  It’s a retelling of the story of Anastasia, which I think is insanely cool.  Take a look at the story blurb and be blown away…

The history books say I died.

They don’t know the half of it.

Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov was given a single mission: to smuggle an ancient spell into her suitcase on her way to exile in Siberia. It might be her family’s only salvation. But the leader of the Bolshevik army is after them . . . and he’s hunted Romanov before.

Nastya’s only chances of survival are to either release the spell, and deal with the consequences, or enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn’t act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya’s never dabbled in magic before, but it doesn’t frighten her as much as her growing attraction for Zash. She likes him. She thinks he might even like her…

That is, until she’s on one side of a firing squad . . . and he’s on the other.

That last sentence? *chills*  Now, to be honest, it does sound a bit more ‘magic-y’ than I tend to be comfortable reading but I’m going to wait and see how big a part the magic plays (it looks like it’ll be pretty big, but you never know).  Anyway, Romanov sounds fantastic and I’m so excited for Nadine.  And it’s already available for pre-order here!  You can also check out Romanov on Book Depository, Barnes & Noble, and add it to your to-read shelf on Goodreads.

And now for what we’ve all been waiting for: the actual cover reveal!

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ISN’T IT GORGEOUS???  I love it so, so much. ❤

I’ll get out of here so y’all can bask in The Epicness uninterrupted.

(Just don’t forget about pre-ordering Romanov!)

Eva

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the outsiders read-along: chapter 10

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This is a short, sad chapter.  I don’t have any favorite quotes or discussion questions or quirky observations to make this week.  I’ll just say a few things…

Earlier, Ponyboy said that he lies to himself all the time but he never believes those lies.  Well, this time he does.  He keeps telling himself that Johnny isn’t really dead – and he believes that lie.  He’s hurting so much that he convinces himself that his pain isn’t real, that the reason for it isn’t true.  It’s heartbreaking.

Johnny was the heart of the gang.  Dally was the protector of the gang.  Even though they all protect each other, I think Dally had a protective streak that came out especially when Johnny was in danger.  But it extended to the rest of the gang as well.  Keeping his mouth shut so Two-Bit wouldn’t be arrested.  Helping Johnny and Ponyboy skip town.  Saving Ponyboy from being badly burned.  Joining the rumble even with some cracked ribs (though I’ll admit that a lot of that was probably Dally’s eagerness to fight).  Even what he says to Ponyboy about getting tough and then nobody can hurt you.

So now Johnny and Dally are both gone and the gang is reeling, especially Ponyboy.  At least the chapter ends with Ponyboy well and safe at home.  But, like I said, this chapter is short and sad and I’m going to leave it at that.

Eva

five reasons why ‘Gladiator’ is an astounding epic

Warning: I wouldn’t recommend this film to anyone without several caveats, especially because of the violence and the villain’s incestuous tendencies.  Definitely not a movie for immature viewers.

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#5 – ‘Gladiator’ respects the precedent set by ‘Ben-Hur’

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‘Gladiator’, like ‘Ben-Hur’, is an epic tale of revenge, love, and redemption that hinges on incredible characters that interact with each other in believable ways.  Yes, there’s violence.  Yes, there’s spectacle and intense action sequences and military triumphs.  But Maximus, Lucilla, Juba, Proxima, and even Commodus are at the centre of the film and that is a large part of what makes ‘Gladiator’ so well-loved.  In the end, it’s not about the gore or the glory.  It’s about the characters.

#4 – ‘Gladiator’ is a revenge story

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Arguably, the best stories are revenge stories.  The Count of Monte Cristo, True Grit, Hamlet…all great classics that have vengeance as one of their main themes.  Though I doubt a Roman emperor would lower himself to the level of a slave and fight in the arena, is makes for sweet revenge.

#3 – The emotions are real

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So real.  An aching lump in your throat that refuses to go away during the final minutes of the movie. (And at various other scenes as well.)  “I will see you again, but not yet…not yet.”  “There was once a dream that was Rome.”  I’m honestly choking up just typing all that because IT’S SO BITTERSWEET.

#2 – Hans Zimmer outdid himself

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My next ‘favorite composer’ post will be about Zimmer and I’ll talk a little more about his soundtrack for ‘Gladiator’ then, but I’ll say that the score for this film is incredible.  Evocative, moving, thrilling – there’s every emotion you can think of.  ‘Now We Are Free’ is unbelievable. (Lisa Gerrard also had a hand in composing it.)

#1 – Maximus Decimus Meridius

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Commander of the armies of the North.  Father to a murdered son.  Husband to a murdered wife.  And he will have his vengeance.  Russell Crowe, the screenwriters, and Ridley Scott created one of the 21st century’s greatest film heroes in the character of Maximus.  His grief, his courage, his struggles all command your respect.  He’s one of my favorite fictional characters.

(My uncle, whose favorite movie is ‘Gladiator’, said he wanted to name his son Maximus Decimus Meridius – I’m still not sure if he was serious or not.)

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Have you seen ‘Gladiator’?  Do you love it like I do?

Eva

the outsiders read-along: chapter 9

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There is triumph and tragedy in this chapter.  No spoilers for those who are reading The Outsiders for the first time, but the ending of this chapter is an emotional kick in the stomach.  It was almost inevitable, but heart-wrenching nonetheless.

When Ponyboy and the others are preparing for the rumble with the Socs and Ponyboy keeps asking himself (and the others) why they’re fighting in the first place, I realized something.  I don’t think that, before Bob’s death, Ponyboy would have asked that (or at least been able to articulate his doubts so well).  But with Bob’s death he now knows that greaser versus Soc and the greaser lifestyle can get a person into serious trouble.  And he doesn’t want that so he’s questioning the logic of things that he’s always gone along with. (It’s also a sign of growing maturity.)

Though, if you’ll notice, he flip-flops between not wanting himself or any of the gang to participate in the rumble and “Oh no, I thought in mortal fear, I’ve got to be in it.  Right then the most important thing in my life was helping us whip the Socs.” (p. 134).  There’s some confusion there and that’s realistic as well.

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On the lighter side, the interactions between Ponyboy, Soda, and Darry are hilarious and legitimately how brothers behave.  And Two-Bit always makes me laugh with how he imitates The Typical Soc.

A few other things of note: it makes me happy how Ponyboy determines to go farther than most other guys in his neighbourhood and make something of himself. (According to S.E. Hinton, he went on to become an author.  But she also said that Soda died in Vietnam and Darry died of cancer so I’m not sure how accurate she is.)  It’s so cool how Dally shows up to the rumble and he and Ponyboy work together in the fight.  And the doctor in the hospital is awesome.  Just sayin’.

Quotes I like:

What kind of world is it where all I have to be proud of is a reputation for being a hood, and greasy hair?  I don’t want to be a hood, but even if I don’t steal things and mug people and get boozed up, I’m marked lousy.  Why should I be proud of it?  Why should I even pretend to be proud of it? (p. 132)

If everybody jumped in the Arkansas River, ol’ Two-Bit would be right on their heels. (p. 137)

If you want to see something funny, it’s a tough hood sticking out his tongue at his big brother. (p. 137)

I mean, you take a guy that calls a rumble “bop-action,” and you can tell he isn’t real educated. (p. 140) [The irony…]

“Stay gold, Ponyboy.  Stay gold . . .” (p. 148)

Discussion Questions!

-Ponyboy asks Darry, Soda, and Two-Bit why they like fighting (Steve volunteers his reason, unasked).  What answer do you think Dally would give?  Johnny?

-On page 141, Ponyboy says “…people don’t ever think to blame the Socs and are always read to jump on us.  We look hoody and they look decent.  It could be just the other way around – half the hoods I know are pretty decent guys underneath all that grease…but people usually go by looks.”  Have you ever judged someone by their appearance and then had to drastically revise that judgement later?

Eva

christian authors that are actually awesome

I don’t know about you, but I end up DNFing most of the Christian novels I try to read, simply because they’re boring.  Like, ‘sleep for a century, melt into a puddle of boredom on the floor’ boring.  I’m not going to name names but most Christian historical romantic inspirational fiction is mind-numbing.  However, there are a few authors who have risen above the rest to become some of my favorites and I thought I’d share the list with you.

(I’m not including Great Christian Authors like Spurgeon, Tozer, Lewis, etc. because I’m focusing on more modern works.  But all of those authors are great!)

-Jack Cavanaugh.  One of my absolute favorite authors.  His historical novels have such a broad scope and depth of detail that always blows me away.  His (few) contemporary stories have a distinct Frank Peretti vibe – but better. Best book: His Watchful Eye (but you’ll have to read the other two books in the Songs in the Night series as well).

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This one’s good, too.

-Lynn Austin.  Loooove this author.  She might just be my favorite Christian author.  Austin writes books that focus on family, relationships, and the connections between generations.  She has a real knack for capturing different characters’ voices in both dialogue and deep POV.  Best book: Eve’s Daughters.

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-Nadine Brandes. I’ve read a few Christian dystopian novels, but Brandes’ Out of Time series is the only one that has resonated with me, the only one that really made sense.  She weaves spiritual themes into her work in such a believable, intricate way.  I’m in awe. Best book: They are all utterly amazing and I can’t pick a favorite.  However, if you don’t have time for a full series right now, I’d recommend Fawkes.  It’s a stand-alone.

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-Angela Hunt. While I don’t usually connect with Hunt’s characters the way I’d like to, her writing is ferociously good.  You honestly can’t stop reading once you start.  (Though I will warn that her books push the boundaries of acceptable adult content in Christian fiction.) Best book: I really enjoyed her retelling of Esther.

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-Roseanna M. White. Sometimes it takes me a little while to get ‘into’ White’s books, but once I do I love them.  Her novels are a little more traditional, in that they have that Downton Abbey vibe that Christian publishers seem to adore.  But she’s not afraid to take her characters out of the drawing room and into real danger (like war-time missions).  It makes for higher stakes, which is great. Best book: A Song Unheard.  Touched my heart in so many ways.

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-Frank Peretti. The master himself.  I don’t like Peretti’s adult fiction too much (except for The Visitation) but I grew up reading his Cooper Kids adventure stories (think “Christian Indiana Jones”).  They’re still hugely nostalgic for me.  Best book: The Deadly Curse of Toco-Rey.

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-Beverly Lewis. Lately, Lewis has fallen into the ‘mediocre writing, predictable plot’ rut that so many other Christian authors have so her books aren’t interesting anymore.  But The Shunning was the first ‘adult’ novel I read (and reread, endlessly) and I do enjoy many of her earlier stories. Best book: Either The Shunning (and its sequels) or The Redemption of Sarah Cain.

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Who are some of your favorite Christian authors?

Eva

mini movie reviews {#9}

Mudbound (2017) – Spectacularly depressing.  Gave me a headache.  But Garrett Hedlund was amazing so I don’t really regret watching it.

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Jurassic Park (1993) – YESSS.  So good.  Loved it and watched it twice and still loved it, so yeah.  The music was my favorite part, I think.  That or Jeff Goldblum.

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Wonder (2017) – Not quite as good as the book, but still thoroughly heartwarming.

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Goodbye Christoper Robin (2017) – Really heavy and a little boring.  I think I’ll enjoy ‘Christopher Robin’ much more.

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Unconditional (2012) – Actually one of the better Christian movies I’ve seen.  Great characters, good acting, and some pretty emotional scenes.

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Tarzan (1999) – One of my new favorite Disney movies!  Jane is awesome.

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A Monster Calls (2016) – Made me ugly sob.  A beautiful movie, though, and the Monster warmed my heart.

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Room (2015) – It’s rare that a film actually makes me bite my nails, but I’m pretty sure that ‘Room’ did.  My heart was pounding so hard.  The second half was a little boring, but overall a great film.

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Earth to Echo (2014) – This movie is a tribute to films like ‘Stand By Me’ and ‘E.T.’ and I really dug it.  All the characters were so sweet and small and perfect.

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Napoleon Dynamite (2004) – Some friends of mine HIGHLY recommended this movie to me so I watched it and, yeah, now I love it.  Which is weird because none of the characters are super likable, there’s no plot, and the humour isn’t even my kind of humour.  But there’s just something about it that keeps me coming back for more. (Also, it’s one of the most quotable films everrrr.)

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Annie (2014) – Loooove.  Makes me so happy.

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Anna Karenina (2012) – I cannot get over the dresses and coats and hats in this film.  Incredibly, unbelievably gorgeous.  But that was pretty much the only thing I enjoyed in ‘Anna Karenina’.  (It was filmed a little oddly as well.)

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The Breakfast Club (1985) – Two words: JOHN. BENDER. *heart-eyes emoji*

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So what movies have you watched recently?  Have you seen any of the ones I reviewed above?

Eva

P.S. My bi-weekly excuse for no read-along post – my weekend was crazy busy with the birthday party sleepover I hosted.

‘dancing & doughnuts’ virtual world tour: interview with Rachel Kovaciny!

40200640Today on the blog I’m honoured to interview Rachel Kovaciny.  She’s the author of the newly released novella, Dancing & Doughnuts, which is a Western retelling of the classic (but little known) fairy-tale ‘Twelve Dancing Princesses’.  Rachel is a talented writer – read this interview to learn some cool things about her and her stories and then visit her website for more!

Hey, Rachel!  Welcome to the blog and thanks for agreeing to answer a few of my questions. 🙂  To start…is there one character in Dancing & Doughnuts that you like a teeny bit more than all the others?

I’ve actually got four favorites in this book, which is unusual for me. I generally have two favorites, but not this time! However, Jedediah Jones is the dearest to me. He’s my protagonist and the narrator, and he has been a delight to write.

And a delight to read!  I love getting things from Jedediah’s unique viewpoint, especially all those descriptions of doughnuts – they sound soooo good.  What’s your favorite kind of doughnut?

I love sour cream doughnuts! And these Dutch doughnuts called Crullers that are buttery and flaky.

I love both those kinds as well. (No wonder we’re friends. *grins*)  So, were there any stories (besides ‘Twelve Dancing Princesses’, obviously) that helped inspire Dancing & Doughnuts?

I’ve definitely had Homer Price by Robert McCloskey on my mind for some of these scenes. That book has a wonderful sequence where they have to make hundreds of doughnuts, and I kept thinking about it while my own characters produced veritable mountains of doughnuts.

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Oh my word, that Homer Price story is one of my favorites.  So much nostalgia for me.  And speaking of the past…did you have to do a lot of research for Dancing & Doughnuts?

I did, actually. I spent a lot of time researching the history of doughnuts to be sure I knew what forms they took in the 1860s. It turns out they were a really popular treat for Civil War soldiers! I also did a lot of research into how long carbonated beverages have been around — people first started adding fruit juice to carbonated water in the 1600s! So fascinating. I also researched dances that were popular in that era, and what dancing shoes looked like. I also looked into when different Christian denominations started congregations in Kansas. And I think my favorite thing that I researched turned out to be the duties of sergeant majors in the Union Army — my protagonist rose to that rank during the war, and is justifiably proud of doing so.

That’s a lot of research! (But all completely necessary.)  To talk about the actual writing process, though, what time of day are you the most productive, writing-wise?

Mornings have long been my very best writing time because my brain is fresh. My mind isn’t cluttered up yet with all the things I need to get done, and I can concentrate better. But these days, I do most of my writing at night after my kids are in bed. Not my favorite time but I make it work.

I’ve been getting up earlier and writing and it’s pretty fun.  But I also enjoy writing in the evenings, afternoons – pretty much any time is good for me!  If you could put your writing aside for one day and spend it with one of the characters from Dancing & Doughnuts, who would it be and why?

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I’d love to spend a day listening to Jedediah Jones tell me all about his amazing experiences growing up on the frontier and then being in the Union Cavalry during the war. He’s been talking to me for a year now, as he narrates this story, and I can’t get enough of him!

However, if I had to pick one character to spend the rest of my life with, it would be this rather marvelous rancher named John Kittredge. I think we could get along quite comfortably for decades.

Jedediah and John are both excellent choices.  I’d probably choose the same (though I believe Clara would be fun, too).  Unfortunately, I can’t keep asking you questions for forever, so I’ll close out the interview with just one more: can you tell me and my blog followers what fairy-tale your next ‘Once Upon a Western’ novella will be based on?

I’m really hoping to do Snow White next — set in a wagon train filled with former slaves on their way to new lives out west! But I have a lot of research to do for that one, so I may end up putting it off and doing a different one next. That’s the one I’m hoping to tackle next, anyway!

Thanks so much for this fun interview, Eva!

Thank you, Rachel!  I had a lot of fun with this.

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Don’t forget to add Dancing & Doughnuts to your Goodreads shelf and buy the Kindle or paperback edition on Amazon!  You can check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour here.  Rachel is also hosting a super awesome giveaway for the book tour that you can enter here!

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Eva