Grand finale on Alethea Kontis’ Blog tour

Hero-Final-Cover-687x1024We were thrilled to have Alethea Kontis appear as our very first guest blogger, with her video rant about the inspiration for her book, Hero.  Want to check out the Grand Finale of her tour?  It’s pretty cool!  And there’s a raffle involved and you gotta love that!  I have no idea what’s in the raffle basket but having had the pleasure of meeting Alethea I suspect glitter may be involved.

The Grand Finale
(In case you missed anything!)
On Tour with Prism Book Tours


Hero

by Alethea Kontis

Rough and tumble Saturday Woodcutter thinks she’s the only one of her sisters without any magic—until the day she accidentally conjures an ocean in the backyard. With her sword in tow, Saturday sets sail on a pirate ship, only to find herself kidnapped and whisked off to the top of the world. 



Is Saturday powerful enough to kill the mountain witch who holds her captive and save the world from sure destruction? And, as she wonders grumpily, “Did romance have to be part of the adventure?” 



As in Enchanted, readers will revel in the fragments of fairy tales that embellish this action-packed story of adventure and, yes, romance.  Excerpt

   
Sail Away on the 
Fairy Tale Adventure Tour*
*Family Welcome

Sept 22 – LAUNCH

Sept 23 – The Missing Piece – Althethea Kontis 

Acknowledgements - Alethea Kontis

 I wrote them. And I cried. And I sent them in. And my editor was touched. And then somewhere between then and publication, they fell through the cracks…

 – Video Rant on Debz Bookshelf

Something about Saturday’s story just touched me… and that made my experience reading this book even more powerful. – Debz review
 
 – Celebration on Deal Sharing Aunt

 

Sept 24 – Interview with Miss Print 

The plan is for the Woodcutter Sisters Series to encompass 7 books — one about each sister. That’s always been my original plan. The publisher’s plan was for Enchanted to be a solo book…INTERVIEW

Hero is another excellent installment in the Woodcutter Sisters story and a mandatory read for anyone looking for an antidote to the typical princess story.  – REVIEW

Sept 25 – Interview with Carina Olsen  

What was the first fairy tale you remember falling in love with?  I started reading when I was three and was crazy about reading by the age of five. When I was eight, my French grandmother gave me a giant copy of unexpurgated Grimm and Andersen tales. I mark that date as The Beginning of The End…

 – The Grandfather Pirate on Living a Goddess Life




 – Meet the Inspiration Part I on The Wonderings of One Person

I was a normal kind from a REALLY NOT NORMAL family. My biggest feelings of inadequacy came from comparing myself to my parents and siblings and everyone else and just not measuring up…

Sept 26 – Review on Shannon’s Blog

Coming from a large family, I liked the way the author not only made the heroine one of many siblings, but managed to include all her brothers and sisters…  It wasn’t just an interesting biographical fact that Saturday came from a large family; it actually mattered to the story.

Sept 27 – My Amazing Sister on Leeana Me

My little sister, Soteria, always asks me who she is in the Woodcutter stories, but it’s hard to say. She and I were so close growing up–if I am every single one of my characters, then she is always my sister in every scene.

Sept 30 — USA Today Happy Ever After interview

My 8-year old daughter loves Alethea Kontis. She’s never read one of her YA books, but she knows her as “Princess Alethea” who hangs out with Mommy at book festivals. Alethea lives and breathes fantasy, fairy tales and girl power, and it always pours out of the page. The second book in her Woodcutter series, Hero, is out, and this one has all the trademark spunky heroine and swashbuckling (there are pirates!) fantasy adventure you will find in her books. I was fortunate enough to grab a few moments with Alethea to ask her a few questions…

 Hero by Alethea Kontis

– Review of Enchantment on Colorimetry

What a deliciously fairy tale filling read… with just enough light-hearted fun, deeply dark antagonists, magic straight out of real fairy-tale-dom with real fairy god mothers… and characters that carry their faults around like real people that accidentally fell into the story.

Oct 1 – RELEASE DAY! – Alethea at Waterworld Mermaids – “Last Minute Wonder”

I can’t even call it procrastination, because it was more like Self-Imposed Ninja Boot Camp…

 – “My Favorite Bit” guest essay by Alethea – Mary Robinette Kowal

…clothes may be an expression of who you are, but they are not the definition.

 – Review at Library of a Book Witch

I think that this series is really good at setting that fairy tale tone with the writing style, being a hard core lover of fairy tales, it makes the books perfect for me. I also love how she weaves in the different stories and pieces it togther like one of Fridays quilts.

Sunday

– Interview & Review at Tressa’s Wishful Endings

Alethea: I have been accused many times of “cramming all the fairy tales into one book like it was some sort of challenge”–and indeed, it sort of started out that way.I just have to ask, what is your favorite fairy tale and fairy tale princess and why?Alethea: Yay! I love answering this question… Interview

Saturday is such a great character! She is struggling with figuring out her place in the world and who exactly she is…  I loved that she isn’t dramatic, but rather sarcastic… Review

Oct 2 – Video Rant Geek Girl In Love 

Princess Alethea rants about Petronella

I found Hero to be a creative and exciting work of fantasy.  The highlight of the book was the exploration of gender roles, and the romance, which was based very much on the idea that people’s differences can complement each other.

  – “The Big Idea” John Scalzi’s blog 

Every author wonders if they’ll be able to hack it in a trial by fire. Well, this author knows she’s got what it takes. I wrote that manuscript in three months, and when they didn’t like that, I took the fourth month to rewrite the whole thing. But I did it, against all odds, and what came out was magic.
Ironically, this is exactly what Hero is all about.

  – My Bookshelf on Mel’s Shelves

I was intrigued with the summary for this book. I come from a family of 7 daughters (and 2 sons). I line up with daughter number 4, Thursday, who ran off with the Pirate King and sends trunks of gifts back home, haha!  – Review of Enchanted

The Shelf I Can’t Live Without



  – Did You See? on Cu’s eBook Giveaways


Princess Alethea has had a busy week!
 
Madeleine DeRondeOct 3 – Hightlighting The Missing Piece on I Am a Reader, Not a Writer 

Last but not least I must thank the members of my very large family… thank you for keeping my feet tied to the ground while I reach for the stars. You are my heart, and I love you all more than these humble words can say. 

 – Review at Books for Kids

I love the way she writes.  Her characters are vibrant and full of life.  Saturday is a fabulous protagonist.  I adore her strength and her stubbornness, her fire and her fight.  I love the way she solves her problems (with her brain) and the way she carries out her plans (with her strength).

Oct 4 – Podcast Anything Goes with Bennet Pomeranz

 
 

 – Review of Hero on Colorimetry

The scene with the lake is burned on my memory forever:  Surrounded by icy walls, with water so clear you can see that the lake is deep, so deep you don’t know how deep, heated from molten lava within the mountain. It’s amazing. I want to go there!!

Oct 5 – Hero LAUNCH PARTY at One More Page Books in Arlington, VA

…where you can get a personalized, signed copy from Alethea!!


 – Meet the Inspiration Part II on Bookmarks

…So you see, I didn’t just have family members growing up. I had legends. I may have been destined for greatness, but only because my family set the bar SO HIGH.



Oct 7 – Character interview with Saturday Woodcutter at I Smell Sheep

Troubadour: I’m here today with Saturday Woodcutter, sixth of the seven Woodcutter daughters, and sister to the Queen of Arilland. Princess Saturday, could you tell me–

Saturday: Call me “princess” again and I punch you in the face. 

 –  Craft “Stealing from the Best” on Romance Writers of America & Fantasy Futuristic &Paranormal Chapter

In my teen novels, I retell the classic Grimm and Andersen (and a few others’) fairy tales. I don’t regurgitate the exact same sequence of events–though as they’re public domain, I suppose I could. I prefer, instead, to fill in the blanks I feel the original authors left.

Oct 8 – Families in Fiction at A Backwards Story

In real life, we have families. Some of us have REALLY LARGE AND OBNOXIOUS families. And though we feel alone sometimes in those awkward middle school years, we’re never really alone-alone.
Even when we want to be.

 – Review at JL Mbewe

There’s that saying that“it takes a village to raise a child” well, in the publishing world, books are the author’s children. And it takes a village to raise them, too…

The first thing that jumped off the page at me was the author’s style. It’s playful, fun, and fresh filled with an out-of-this-world yet grounded fairy tale experience. I loved it… Review

AK – Beloved is a parallel novel to Hero, chronicling the adventures of Friday and the rest of the Woodcutter crew back in Arilland, in the tragic aftermath of the appearance of Saturday’s “impossible ocean.” Apprentice seamstress Friday becomes a leader of the children (because that’s Friday’s thing), and gets caught up in trying to break a curse involving seven swans, a mute girl, and the need to weave seven shirts out of stinging nettles.

I’ve always loved all the bird-tales (“The Goose Girl” is my favorite) and I have to say…I am SO IN LOVE with writing this book. Beloved is such an appropriate title.

 – Deleted Scene at Fragments of Life

It was a sad road that led Peregrine to his mother’s bedside… 

All in all, Hero was like a tapestry of fairytales interwoven together: vibrant, fun, humorous, tragic and100% magical. I strongly recommend this to readers who love fairytale retellings and fantasy. – Review

Oct 11 – 13 – CaplaveOct 11-15 – GRAND FINALE

Contact BurgandyIce(at)live(dot)come if you’re interested in sharing this Grand Finale!
Hero (Woodcutter Sisters #2)

Tour-Wide Giveaway

Sept 22 – Oct 17

Fairy Tale Gift Basket (US only): Signed copies of both Enchantment and Hero by Alethea Kontis plus swag!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Club Friday: Let’s Talk About Ligeia

SWT-Book-ClubsIt’s Edgar Allan Poe month here at our Friday Book Club column, and today’s feature could just as easily be entitled, “What the Hell is going on in ‘Ligeia’?  ‘Ligeia’ is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, first published in 1863.  Poe writes a lot of stories with unreliable narrators and cliffhanger endings, but this may be the king of them all.  If you don’t want to find out what happens in ‘Ligeia’, than stop reading here, for SPOILERS ABOUND.  If you live in the Sacramento area, come visit our in-person book club at Arden Dimick Library, at 2PM on September 22nd, and in the meantime, or if you are out of the area, you can participate by leaving a comment.

Snarky Summary of the Story:

‘Ligeia’ is narrated by a narrator who is so unreliable that he follows almost every observation by pointing out that he was, after all, really stoned at the time (he’s an opium addict).  This narrator starts off by saying that he was madly in love with this woman, Ligeia, and married to her, and she was totally perfect although she’s hard to describe, and he can’t remember when he met her, and he can’t remember anything about her family but he’s sure they’re just great, and he never did learn her last name.

Ligea was incredibly smart (“I have spoken of the learning of Ligeia – it was immense – such as I have never known in a woman”).  And Ligea was perfectly beautiful, but hard to describe.  She had a perfect nose, and perfect skin, and she was tall and thin, and had black hair.  Her most amazing feature was her eyes.  And she loves the narrator passionately:

That she loved me I should not have doubted; and I might have been easily aware that, in a bosom such as hers, love would have reigned no ordinary passion. But in death only, was I fully impressed with the strength of her affection. For long hours, detaining my hand, would she pour out before me the overflowing of a heart whose more than passionate devotion amounted to idolatry. How had I deserved to be so blessed by such confessions? –how had I deserved to be so cursed with the removal of my beloved in the hour of her making them, But upon this subject I cannot bear to dilate. Let me say only, that in Ligeia’s more than womanly abandonment to a love, alas! all unmerited, all unworthily bestowed, I at length recognized the principle of her longing with so wildly earnest a desire for the life which was now fleeing so rapidly away. It is this wild longing –it is this eager vehemence of desire for life –but for life –that I have no power to portray –no utterance capable of expressing.

Alas, Ligeia gets sick and dies.  The narrator expects her to face death with stoic courage, but Ligeia is determined to fight it off through sheer force of will.  Her last words are a quote from Joseph Glanville:  “Man doth not yield him to the angels, nor unto death utterly, save only through the weakness of his feeble will.”

In the mundane world, people deal with grief by staring at huge piles of casseroles.  But this is the gothic genre, so the narrator moves to The Rhine, buys a “castellated abbey”, decorates it in gloomy and macabre furnishings, and remarries.  He marries The Lady Rowena, who is Ligeia’s opposite – she looks opposite, she never speaks a word in the story, and seems extraordinarily passive.  Immediately after the marriage, the narrator, who by this time is an extreme opium addict, detests her.  Rowena pines away in the Abbey of Horror and dies.  Her body is wrapped in shrouds and her face is covered.

But wait!  Rowena’s body shows signs of life – and then sinks back into death.  She stirs again and dies again, and this goes on through the night, until at last she rises and walks.  When the cover that conceals her face falls, the narrator sees that it is not Rowena who has returned from the grave – “Here then, at least,” I shrieked aloud, “can I never –can I never be mistaken –these are the full, and the black, and the wild eyes –of my lost love –of the lady –of the LADY LIGEIA.”

Art by MirrorCradle

Art by MirrorCradle

Crack pot theory:

For a full analysis of this story, I recommend schmoop.com.  I found ‘Ligeia’ to be baffling – what happened?  Why?  How?  This is a new story to me and I can’t stop thinking about it.  One moment I regard it with horror, the next I think it is strangely hilarious what with the narrator constantly having to explain that he thought it was weird that various things happened but he was really, really high at the time.  Apparently some critics believe that the story is a parody.  Obviously the story is a powerful one – I can tell, because I can’t stop thinking about it.  So, what the heck happens at the end, and how, and why?

We’re really not supposed to know what happens at the end.  Maybe Ligeia has come back to life.  Maybe the narrator is hallucinating the whole thing.  The ending is not only a mystery, but a cliffhanger.  Is Ligeia happy to be back?  Is she angry?  Is she a vampire/zombie/bad thing?  We don’t know.  But I have a crackpot theory.

Many people believe that the ending is a hallucination on the part of the narrator, but I have a theory – what if there is no Ligeia?  What if her existence was dreamed up by the narrator from the start?  This would explain the gaps in her backstory, her unusual appearance, and the fact that she seems too good to be true.  She seems like the perfect woman because that’s what the narrator created her to be.

If Ligeia is the perfect woman, than why would the narrator kill her off by fantasizing her death?  Well, I think the narrator overshot a little bit and created a woman who threatened him.  He clearly has some interesting gender hang-ups (her “unwomanly” displays of affection” are Victorian code for “her interest in sex was tacky”).  My guess is that the narrator longs for a perfect woman, but one that won’t threaten him sexually – he wants the egotistical gratification of Ligeia’s passionate expressions of love, and yet he seems to regard them with some distaste, calling them “immoderate”.

Ligeia is sexual, vibrant, and dominant – she helps him with his homework, she drives the relationship, he is child-like in her presence.  So the narrator, with mixed feelings (and all unconscious ones – he believes all this is real) tries to create a new fantasy woman.  Since Ligeia was too dominant, he will create a woman in his mind who is completely subservient – over whom he can exercise complete power.  This is, of course, Rowena.  He controls her body by keeping her a prisoner in the abbey.  He controls her mind by creating an atmosphere of oppressive horror.  But guess what – passive people are boring.  The narrator wants Ligeia back – and he gets her back by willing her back into existence.  But because he thinks his creations are real, he can’t just wave them away.  Rowena wants to live, and so does Ligeia, and so through the night they battle for supremacy.

ligeia

The Mighty Power of Ligeia:

So, if the narrator wants Ligeia back, why is he horrified by Ligeia’s appearance?  I think he is ambivalent about what he wants (this helps explain why Rowena lives and dies over and over again, as he tries to make up his mind).  When faced with the reality of passive Rowena, he’s bored, but when faced with the reality of powerful Ligeia, he is terrified.  On some level, he wants to eliminate both women, in an effort to regain his sanity or in an unconcious effort to be free from entanglements.  But Ligeia, although she was created by him, has her own will, and she will not be cowed.  That’s why Ligeia doesn’t just kill Rowena – Rowena becomes Ligeia, the smart, strong-willed vision that refuses to go away.  Earlier I said that the narrator wills Ligeia back into existence, but I think to some extent she wills herself back into existence – he is too ambivalent about what he wants to truly desire her return.

The narrator makes it clear that he both admires and fears the living Ligeia.  I like to think that Ligeia represents the spirit of women who will not be silenced – not by society, not by law, not by abusive husbands or condescending expectations.  I doubt that this was what Poe intended – but he did know a lot of strong-willed women in his life, and he both desired and resented them for taking care of him (he refered to his wife as his “wife-mother”).  So maybe he did intend that message – regardless, I’m Team Ligeia.

220px-Poe_ligeia_byam_shaw

Book Review: The Real Jane Austen: A Life In Small Things

Cover of The Real Jane Austen, A Life in Small ThingsThe Real Jane Austen:  A Life In Small Things is a delightful, entertaining biography of Jane Austen that challenges the popular image of her as a provincial prude.  This is a relatively short book, packed with information, and so much fun to read due to the chatty tone and the organization of the book, which allows the author to focus on individual topics of interest rather than a strictly linear chain of events.

Here’s a few things I learned about Jane:

  • Jane travelled all throughout England, and somewhat into Wales.  She didn’t travel overseas because during most of her adult life England was at war with France and overseas travel was restricted.
  • She loved children, but seems to have been sufficiently concerned about the discomforts of pregnancy, the dangers of childbirth, and the time-consuming nature of mothering to genuinely not have wanted her own, even though she just as genuinely loved her godchildren, nieces, and nephews.
  • Jane was no country mouse.  She spent a great deal of time in London, which she enjoyed very much, and Bath, which was a large tourist center.
  • She liked the night life!  Jane attended many a ball, loved to dance, and loved the theater.  She had quite a few male followers.  She seems to have remained single out of choice rather than necessity.
  • Jane was well-known and greatly admired during her lifetime and although at first she said she wanted to be anonymous, she grew to enjoy being known.  During her life as after her death, her most popular novel was Pride and Prejudice.

This was the first biography of Jane I’ve read, and I felt it gave me good insight into her life and personality.  However, it’s not intended to take the place of a more linear biography, and there were areas in which I felt a little lost.  If you have a serious interest in the life of Jane Austen, I’d suggest you read this along with another, more conventional biography.  If you want just want some insight into Jane Austen, this book should work for you just fine on its own.  I found it to be a fast, fun, informative read.

Portrait of JAne Austen from the back

The only undisputed portrait of Jane Austen, rendered by her beloved older sister, Cassandra

 

Mini Review: Her Sky Cowboy, by Beth Ciotta

Cover of Her Sky CowboyHer Sky Cowboy is a fun steampunk romance that takes as many crazy elements as possible and throws them all together.  It’s hard to get emotionally invested in the book, because the characters, while they have many merits, are pretty much stock characters.  Still, it’s a fun ride.  If you are a steampunk fan, you’ll get a kick out of this book.  If you’re not a steampunk fan, you won’t find much in the way of depth or emotional content to hold your interest.  It’s the first in a trilogy.

Not sure if it’s for you?  Here’s a partial list of some of the elements in the book:

  • Airships
  • Time travelling hippies
  • Victorians
  • Janis Joplin singing “Piece of my Heart” on a zeppelin
  • A mechanical Pegasus
  • Pirates

A full-length review is available at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.

Mini Review: Cards and Caravans, by Cindy Spencer Pape

Cards and Caravans CoverCards and Caravans is the fifth book in the Gaslight Chronicles series by Cindy Spencer Pape.  This fun but uneven romance series combines Victorian steampunk with magic and the paranormal.  The books are published online by Carina Press.  I loved Pape’s book Kilts and Kraken, but found the follow-up, Moonlight and Mechanicals, to be disappointing.  Cards and Caravans falls somewhere in between, and the whole book feels like a placeholder in the series.  Having said that, it was a pleasant book to read, with engaging characters.  There’s a surprising lack of tension or suspense in the book so it might be just the light read you need during a stressful or fatiguing time.

I had no problem jumping into the series with Kilts and Kraken.  It was a strong stand-alone and I still recommend it.  However, I’m not sure how much you’d get out of Cards and Caravans without having read at least a couple of the other books, especially Moonlight and Mechanicals.  You can find my full-length review of Cards and Caravans at: Smart Bitches Trashy Books.  And for the book I truly enjoyed, my full-length review of Kilts and Kraken is at this link.  Enjoy!

Mini Review: Scarlet, by Marissa Meyer

Scarlet is Book Two of the Lunar Chronicles Series.  This series, while not strictly a romance series, is a high-quality romance-friendly crossover, and its inventive steampunk/science fiction twists on fairy tales make it a must-read for genre fans.  I enjoyed the world-building and the twists on fairy tales.  I do recommend that readers read the first book, Cinder, before reading Scarlet.  Cinder is the book that sets events in motion, and frankly, I think is a stronger book overall, although both books are compelling.  For a full length review of Scarlet, check me out at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.