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Monday, December 18, 2017

Cassandra: A Short Story

Hello, my lovelies!

I realized I haven't shared much of my fiction writing lately so I thought today I would share with you a short story I wrote this summer.

A friend of mine was hosting a short story contest based on a number of different photo prompts. I forgot until the last minute and in a panic I looked through the prompts until I came to the one I based this story on. I didn't know what I was doing when I started writing, I just knew that was the one I wanted to write. So for the next hour I just typed and let the story roll off my fingers.

Here are the results (which I'm pretty proud of even though I didn't win):

They called her the Keeper.
            It’s a cliché name, I know. I laughed the first time I heard it, somewhere in the midst of all my travels, scoffing at the idea of one with a name so obviously pretentious.
            And yet even I, ever the skeptic, found myself in need of her wisdom.
            I didn’t want to go to her. After all, I had already made up my mind about her and the legends that were told of her abilities. They were nothing more than fanciful tales told to pass the time on those long dirigible voyages, sailing through the skies where hot tempers and boredom reigned. Fantastical tales about gorgeous blondes were a way of keeping the peace and nothing more.
            So I didn’t know why I was there, standing on the steps of her library, that evening in October. The wind blew the fallen leaves about, tossing them all around me as I drew my coat closer to keep the chill from setting in. There I stood on the steps wondering whether I ought to go in after all.
            I had exhausted all my other options up until this point and if this failed me- which it was sure to- I would have nothing left. My hesitation made little sense, given this fact, and so with a resolute breath I stepped inside the building.
            It looked much as I would have expected, but felt so much different. I know, I know, I’m not a man to talk much about feelings and atmosphere and ambiance and what have you. But I’m telling you, there was something about this place, a presence, that one could not deny when they stepped inside.
            There were floor to ceiling bookshelves crowded together, so many of them, each filled with volumes upon volumes of old books with worn and weathered spines. Each book looked well-read, as if it had been pulled from the shelf time and again for use. None of that was a surprise.
            No, I expected that. What I did not expect was to feel like each and every book was looking at me, judging me, as if my very soul had been pulled from my body and was now sitting there in plain sight for all to read.
            I could turn back now, I reminded myself. I could turn and leave this place forever and forget that I even came. I did not need to stay.
            And yet something kept me there. I found myself drawn further in, my boots giving a muffled thud with each step I took on the carpeted floors. Moving through the narrow aisles of books, I listened to their whispers as I walked past. I could not make out what they were saying, the sound so faint it was surely all in my head. Books did not talk, after all. Books did not whisper or judge. They were inanimate objects read by rational and illogical people alike. They were tools and their use was determined by the user; they had no life outside of us.
            This I told myself as I walked, weaving through the shelves, finding the place deserted. It never crossed my mind to pull books from the shelves and look for the information I sought, not on my own. I was here in search of the Keeper, and so it was she who I continued to seek.
            After wandering the library a good many minutes only to discover it just continued on and on, larger than the building outside seem to reasonably be able to contain, I finally worked up the courage to break the carnal rules of libraries. Opening my mouth, I called out, “Hello? Is there anyone here?”
            I was met with those faint whispers again along with the hollow echo of my own voice- which seemed odd, given how packed the room was. Surely my voice should not have echoed.
            “Hello?” I called again.
            Still I was met with nothing but the whispers and the echoes and the dull thud of my boots that rang out with each step.
            I ought to have turned back, ought to have left. But at this point I was unsure whether I would even be able to find my way out of here, I had taken so many twists and turns to get to the place I was now.
            Still, I considered it, thinking surely if I could navigate the skies on a stormy summer night, I could find my way out of a library. And I had just made up my mind to turn and leave when I heard it.
            The humming.
            It was not the musical humming that one makes when they do not know the words to a song or else do not wish to sing it. No, this was a humming of energy, an electrical hum of some sort. It was loud though and with each step I took toward it the sound grew louder until it was almost deafening.
            “Hello?” I called again, rounding a corner. I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw it- when I saw her.
            The Keeper.
            It was she who was the source of the energy, crouched on the ground, a large volume in her hands that hide a good deal of her. But there was a good deal left to see, all illuminated by a glow that seemed to come from her and around her all at once. Her skin was pale and translucent, much like the strings of pearls that draped cross her forehead and twisted into her platinum blonde hair, swept into an elegant updo. A little red flower was tucked into its folds.
            She wore boots that were weathered and aged, well-loved and well-worn. Her legs were covered in crocheted stockings that might have been from a yarn not of this world, the way it shimmered and glowed in the low light. Her arms were covered in fingerless gloves that went to her elbows and beyond, of a gossamer fabric, sheer and lacy. Her skirt floofed out around her legs, spilling over them with all their layers and flounces as she crouched there beside the bookshelves.
            I stood there for a little while- a minute or more, perhaps?- not daring to speak before she looked up at me, her eyes meeting mine. I believed then that the books could in fact whisper, that they could in fact judge. Just as I knew for a fact in that moment that she could see into my very soul.
            Perhaps the tales of her were true after all. And somewhere deep inside me swelled with hope, though that hope was covered by a good deal of awe that kept me frozen there in my place, unable to do anything but stare.
            She frowned at me, closing the book and setting it on her lap as her lips pursed tightly. She drummed her long, elegant fingers on the cover a moment before she said, “You’ve come for advice.”
            Her voice broke the spell, quite simply because there was nothing magical about it. It was so unassuming, so normal, that I found myself disconcerted by it. It was as if it made me disenchanted and yet all the more enchanted with her at the same time.
            “I have,” I said and her frown deepened.
            “That wasn’t a question,” she said. “I know why you’ve come.”
            She rose then, lifting the book and slipping it onto the shelf. Her skirt fell into place, the skirt and many underskirts bouncing as she moved. With the book gone I could see the rest of her outfit- a shirt with short ruffled sleeves over which she wore a vest that buckled up the front. It wasn’t a tight shirt or vest but it fit her well and I wasn’t able to quite ignore how nicely it accentuated her curves.
            “I can’t help you,” she said, turning away, as if she was going to just walk away from me then, as if the conversation were over before it had even begun.
            “You can’t walk away!” I cried out, taking a step toward her but then drawing back as the fear struck. She was glowing, after all. I am a man who takes many risks in life but touching a glowing, otherworldly human just seemed like not a wise option.
            She whirled around, a glare on her pale face. There was rage and fury in those translucent blue eyes of hers and she fairly spat as she spoke to me. “I can do whatever I please. And what I please is to no longer give advice to fools like you who seek a bandage when it is surgery that is required.”
            She spoke in riddles, in metaphors and the like. I was in excellent condition, after all, and it was not a bandage I had come here to seek.
            “I need a-”
            “I know what you need!” she interrupted, not letting me get the words out. “And I know what you think you need. But trust me, finding him won’t do any good. And no map I give you will change what has happened. I want no part of your mission of revenge. Now, if you turn around and keep going straight you will find the door. Good day.”
            She turned again, started to walk away. My mind was reeling with so many thoughts- about the revenge she spoke of, of the map I did in fact need and the person I hoped it would lead me to, of the fact that I had taken so many twists and turns that it seemed unlikely that turning around and going straight would in fact bring me to the door, that she was actually walking away and did not plan to help me.
            All this went through my mind in a matter of seconds before I came back to this world and that around me. She had already made it a good way, cruising faster than I would have thought her short legs capable.
            “Wait, please!” I called out. She did not stop. I broke into a jog, chasing after her. I reached her but she did not turn around. I did not think this time, my rationality gone in the face of the panic that was settling in. She was my last hope, my last breath of a chance in finding the man who took so much from me.
            I touched her, reached out on put my hand on her shoulder. And the moment we made contact my whole world shifted.
            My head began to spin and it was as if time stood still. The energy that surrounded her, that illuminated her and filled her, I could feel it entering me, coursing through my veins and filling me as well. I saw flashes of things, memories that were not my own, that were shady at best, more shadows than anything else. But they left me with feelings I could not deny- of loneliness and hopelessness and despair so great it filled me like none has ever filled me before.
            My life has not been an easy one. I have seen things, experienced things, been exposed to things that are not to be shared. I have never thought myself lucky with the life I have been given, have always known it to be a hard one. But never have I felt pain on this level. Never in my life have I ever thought that perhaps, just perhaps, my life is not so bad after all, not if there are emotions like this in the world.
            The connection was broken almost as soon as it was made but I could not shake the feelings that filled me a moment before.
            The Keeper had stepped back, for it was she who broke our connection. She looked as one wounded, as if in touching her I did something wrong.
            And it was then that I knew.
            I knew those feelings, those flashes of memories, those shadows, they all belonged to her. For all the wisdom and energy and light she contained, she was broken. She was alone.
            And I knew what she meant when she had snapped at me. How it must feel to spend one’s life giving advice, to be sought out for your wisdom only to be left once more, alone. How it must feel to know everything about a person just by looking into their eyes and knowing that you yourself will never truly be known.
            “Please leave,” she said, her voice shaking a bit as she spoke. She cowered just a bit, her light fading, less bright, less luminescent.
            I stood there, not moving toward her but not moving away either. She looked scared and I wondered if she was scared I would stay or scared that I would listen to her and leave.
            I couldn’t shake the feelings. I couldn’t walk away. So I looked into her eyes, deep into her eyes, though I knew she could see more about me from the looking than I could about her.
            Her defiance faltered a bit, her mask of anger and hardness slipping slightly out of place. Her voice was a whisper as she said, “What do you want from me?”
            She knew what I wanted. Or did she? In those moments what I wanted had changed. I still wanted the answers she could give me, but I had also realized I could spare her some time. After all, why should she give me what I wanted if I did not give her what she wanted in return?
            So drawing in a breath to gather my courage I ventured to ask, “What is your name? Surely the Keeper is but your title.”
            Her brow furrowed and I thought a moment that perhaps I had perceived wrongly, for my judgement in divining desires and the like was not what hers was, after all. But then she offered me the faintest hint of a smile, shy and delicate.
            “My name is Cassandra,” she said. “Do you have time for a cup of tea?”
            I had a man to find, a man most vile and evil who needed to be stopped. But this was the woman who could help me, this was the woman who could give me the answers I needed. And she was asking for but an evening of my life. That I could give her, that I could afford.
            “I do,” I told her.
            Her shyness fell away and she smiled at me then, full and bright. And as I followed the Keeper- Cassandra- to where she was surely to make that cup of tea she had promised me, I thought perhaps this evening would pass far too quickly.

~Jennifer Sauer, the Ivory Palace Princess

Friday, December 15, 2017

2017 Fairy Tale Round-Up

Hello, my lovelies!

Today I thought I would do something a little different and share with you all the picture books and graphic novels I read this year that were based on fairy tales or had a fairy tale feel to them and give you a short little bit about my thoughts on them:

Princeless Vol 3: The Pirate Princess
1 Star
I started out the year on a major graphic novel kick (as this and the next several books will prove). I picked this one up on a trip to the library along with a large stack of others not realizing this was the third volume.

Because of this, I won't fault the book for being hard to get into, because clearly I was coming into it without having read the others that came before it. But I still had some major issues with it. To put it simply the book was so set on being an empowering book for girls that they thought in order to accomplish that they needed to tear guys down. Literally every guy in this book was either clueless or a genuinely horrible person.

I'm all for being honest about the fact that there are awful guys out there but I find it hard to believe that not a single good guy exists in this world. And I hate when a story feels the need to tear down one group of people in order to build another up.

Hereville Vol 1-3
5 Stars
I don't even know how to describe this series but I'll try.

It's about an eleven-year-old orthodox Jewish girl who wants nothing more than to fight monsters. And it's GOOD. I not only learned a lot about Jewish tradition/culture but was also able to clearly see the respect and love the author has for it. And of course it was an entertaining and exciting read as well.

The series overall is lighthearted and whimsical but there are some surprisingly deep themes (such as the importance of observing Shabbat- or the Sabbath- and respecting those older and wiser than us even when we might not see them as such). I adored this series so much more than expected to and while I'll admit at first it was strange to get into it grew on me pretty fast. I can't say enough good things about it, nor can I recommend it more highly.

Monster on the Hill
5 Stars
Yet another graphic novel. And while it wasn't as deep as the last series, I really adored this book. It was quirky and funny and I really loved it.

I honestly don't remember huge chunks of it, just little scenes and such. But every time I think about it I get really happy so it must have been good.

I'll have to give it a reread next time I'm on a graphic novel kick.

Forty Fortunes: A Tale of Iran
5 Stars
This story is one I tell people all the time because I love it so incredibly much. It's not actually from the 1001 Nights, but it reminds me very much of something you'd find within it.

This is a picture book, one I read while babysitting, and I fell in love right from the beginning. The pictures are bright and colorful and fun. The story is lighthearted and silly and makes me so incredibly happy just thinking about it.

I need to add a copy of this to my collection because it's just such a good story.

The Legend of the Persian Carpet
4 Stars
So according to Goodreads, when I read this back in February my thoughts were "What can I say? It's a Persian Fairy Tale- of course I loved it <3 <3"

I have only the vaguest recollection of reading this book and by that I mean I remember babysitting and pulling the book out of the library bin. And then I sort of remember some shadowy impressions of the pictures.

But I have no idea what the story is or what exactly the Persian Carpet has to do with anything. Another book to add to my reread list!

The Princess and the Pea
5 Stars
This is another book I read while babysitting. And it's another one I loved!

It sticks pretty closely to the Princess and the Pea story most people know but the illustrations are quirky and fun and I would highly recommend it for those.

King George and the Dragon
5 Stars
Okay but this book is too cute!! This is a really fun book about imagination and every little kid needs to read it! I loved this one so much. I will definitely be adding this to my library someday and look forward to read it to my kids someday.

The Princess and the Pea
4 Stars
This is another one I have no recollection of reading but I rated it four stars on Goodreads. I didn't even bother to write a review of it though so it can't be all that spectacular.

I'm sure it was a fairly decent copy though and it's a board book which always makes me happy. I love seeing fairy tales put into board books.

Rapunzel's Revenge
4.5 Stars
I reviewed this book in depth back in September but I'll say again that I love this book. It's a graphic novel that retells Rapunzel in an Old West-esque setting.

You read that right- it's a fairy tale retelling that's also a western. No, it doesn't get any better than that. That is and forever will be as good as it gets.

Snow White and Rapunzel
5 Stars
I bought these while buying my nephew a whole lot of other books because I wanted them. I figured if my sister didn't want them for her son then I could just keep them for myself. But she's smart enough to recognize good books when they're offered to her so of course she snatched them up.

These are fairly true to the original stories though they do gloss over or omit the gruesome parts- keeping them friendly for baby- but what makes the stand apart from others is the illustrations. They. Are. Gorgeous.

Snow White is set in China and Rapunzel in Brazil so you can imagine how visually stunning those are. And the best part part is the illustrators for them are Chinese and Brazilian respectively. That's what made me the happiest about this entire series- which I haven't had the chance to read in entirety yet, unfortunately- that the art and cultures represented here are done so by people of those cultures.

And there it is, the end of my round-up!! It's been fun looking back on my year and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. And I hope you now have a list of recommendations for the little people in your life (or yourself!)

Until the next time we meet, don't forget to live happily ever after <3
~Jennifer Sauer, the Ivory Palace Princess

P.S. Let's Chat! Which of these books looks the most interesting to you? What fairy tale (or fairy tale-esque) books did you read this year? Which one was your favorite?

Monday, December 11, 2017

Why Writers Need a Break From Creativity

Hello, my lovelies!

Today it’s story time:

The Story of How I Wrote So Many Words:
Once upon a time I used to fill every waking moment with my stories. Even when I was reading other people’s I used to think about their stories in terms of my own- how did mine compare? What did they do that I liked? How could I avoid doing the things I hated? How could I imitate the things they did that worked? What did they do that I didn’t like?

A lot of people questioned this and asked me if this was healthy- did I ever take time to rest, to relax, to just be? Did everything have to be related to a story?

Of course, I ignored them. I was a professional, after all, and they simply didn’t understand my devotion to my craft. They didn’t understand that dedication and hard work are what it takes to make it in this world.

Looking back now, I wish I had listened to those people. Oh, how dearly I wished I had listened instead of thinking I knew it all.

Fast forward to last November (November 2016). I hadn’t written anything substantial in over a year and as NaNoWriMo was fast approaching I starting to consider participating. Maybe this was the creative boost I needed to get me writing again.

It turns out it was what I needed and not only did I complete my 50,000 words in November, but between November of that year and May of this I wrote close to a quarter of a million words.

Let that sink in a moment.

I was on cloud nine with joy over how much I was writing and unable to believe I was being creative again.

The Burn Out:
In the midst of all that happiness and creativity I started to see something was off- I was running the risk of falling into the pits of creative dryness again and I realized I was burning out.

In November, December, and into January I was writing 1,500 or 2,000 words every day. But by the end of January and into February it started to get harder for me to write. It was like pulling teeth forcing myself to sit down and do it and there were stretches where I didn’t write for days. Then I’d sit down to write and look at how far behind I was on my word goal and I’d cringe as I forced myself to push to catch up to that goal.

I was burning out. And I was doing it fast and hard. There was no way I was going to be able to keep up with this creative streak. I knew what was coming.

I was going back to the creative wasteland I had fought so hard to free myself from months before.

The Solution:
As I finished the project I was working on and started to move onto another, I remembered the counsel I’d been given all those years ago.

Was I a workaholic when it came to stories? Was that what was running me into the ground and forcing me into those dry periods of creative nothingness?

I started to think about it and mostly out of fear I made a decision- if I really was a workaholic, I’d set one day aside each week and refuse to let myself write those days. No writing, no outlining, no character sketches, no making story Pinterest boards or playlists, or anything else related to my writing. It would be my day of rest.

I chose Sundays because that was the best day for me. Sundays in our house are restful anyway, with time seeming slower and lazier, even when we have plans. So Sundays it was- both my spiritual Sabbath and my creative day of rest.

The Results:
It was that first Sunday that I took off when the reality set in- I am a workaholic. I’ve kept this in practice for almost nine months now but I still find it challenging to take a pause from my stories, to disconnect from fiction and just breathe.

But I’ve also been writing consistently in those seven months and feel more grounded and less on the verge of falling apart all the time. I’m not scared of burning out or drying up creatively and I feel more in touch with my stories when I come back to them fresh the next week.

So Why a Day of Rest?
God commands a day of rest each week, to focus on him and recharge from the week before. Creatively, it’s always good to take a step back and breathe for a moment, to come back to things with a fresh perspective sometime later.

And I’ve found it’s especially helpful that my creative day of rest coincides with my spiritual one. I have nothing distracting me from the Sunday sermon (my stories used to do that all the time) and those lazy Sunday afternoons now have plenty of time for contemplating God when I used to fill them with stories and characters.

Your own day doesn’t have to be Sunday but whatever day you choose you need to make sure you’re committed to it so that you truly get the chance to recharge and hit the reset button on your creativity. If you’re going to do this you need to be committed.

But How Do I Rest?
This was the hardest part for me- it wasn’t until I started doing this that I realized how much of my life revolves around stories. I actually had to ask people how on earth to do this because apparently I don’t know how to relax…

Somethings that have been suggested to me or thing I’ve found work are:
-Go for a walk
-Read a book for fun or something unusual for you
-Find a show you can get lost in (for me this is usually Food Network)
-Lay in bed and listen to an e-book
-Sit outside and breathe
-Make plans with friends that don’t include writing or talking about stories
-Find somewhere to explore
-See what other people are doing and tag along if possible (if my mom goes to the grocery store on Sundays I usually go too now)
-Take up a hobby that you find joy in
-Clean your room
-Organize something (if you’re like me and you find that energizing)
-Do something you’re always meaning to do but never seem to have the time for
-Respond to all those messages from friends that you never get to (if you’re like me and are really bad at messaging people)
-Listen to music
-Find things that bring you joy and energy and throw yourself into them

We live in a fast-paced world and it’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy. Having time set aside specifically to breathe and recenter ourselves makes it harder for us to put it off. Like everything else in this life, if it’s a priority to us we’ll make it happen no matter how crazy our lives are.

You also don’t need to get legalistic about this- I’m writing this post on a Sunday because I knew what my weekend looked like and decided to take Saturday off instead. I still keep Sundays set aside as my day off but sometimes Saturday comes and I know I need to take my break a day early. It’s all about knowing yourself and what you need.

This is about you- it’s about resting and breathing and resetting the creativity button. It’s about taking a step back so that you don’t run the risk of burning out. It’s about learning to relax in a world that’s always on the go.

I hope to see you on Friday for another review. Until the next time we meet, don’t forget to live happily ever after <3
~Jennifer Sauer, the Ivory Palace Princess

P.S. Let’s Chat! What are your favorite ways to relax? How do you keep from burning out creatively?

Friday, December 8, 2017

Cloaked in Red: A Review

Hello, my lovelies!

Between the holidays and traveling I know I’ve missed a few posts in the last few weeks but no more!

I am back to stay. I promised you last week that I would be sharing a review of this book with you and here it is:

Cloaked in Red by Vivian Vande Velde
3 Stars
So you think know the story of Little Red Riding Hood, the girl with the unfortunate name and the inability to tell the difference between her grandmother and a member of a different species? Well, then, try your hand at answering these questions:

-Which character (not including Little Red herself) is the most fashion challenged?

-Who (not including the wolf) is the scariest?

-Who (not including Granny) is the most easily scared?

-Who is the strangest? (Notice we're not "not including" anyone, because they're all a little off.)

-Who (no fair saying "the author") has stuffing for brains?

Vivian Vande Velde has taken eight new looks at one of the world's most beloved (and mixed-up) stories. You may never look at fairy tales in quite the same way again.
-From Goodreads

This book was broken up into short stories, each one a retelling of the same tale. Some of the stories I adored, other I absolutely hated. So today I thought I’d do something a little different and talk about each story individually. I’ll try to keep each one short and spoiler free.

Author’s Note:
3 Stars
This comes before the stories begin and sort of sets the tone for the rest of the book. The author is discussing the classic tale of Little Red Riding Hood and why it was she chose that story. She also raises a lot of really great questions about the time while doing so in a very hilarious way.

I didn’t know what to make of this. On the one hand it offered some great commentary into the tale and as I said it asked some valid questions about it. On the other hand it had a very judgmental air about the whole thing. It was as if the author didn’t even like the tale and that was why she was writing this book- to make a not great thing good.

I much prefer to read books written by someone who clearly loves a tale, though they can definitely see its flaws and aren’t afraid to acknowledge them. I don’t like authors who look at fairy tales and come across as snooty and better than that writer.

Also, as someone who loves fairy tales very much it makes me angry when people who don’t like them use them in ways like this. If the story is so terrible don’t write a book based on it and make money off of it. Find other things to write your book about.

The Red Cloak
2 Stars
Right out of the gate running I knew I didn’t like this story.

The main character in this tale is Red Riding Hood- a girl named Meg in this tale- who is clearly better than everyone else she meets. This story sets the precedent for several other stories- as in this one we will later see parents who are idiots and evil woodcutters. We’ll also continue to see main characters who think they are better than everyone else.

Meg makes it pretty clear that she thinks herself the mature one in her relationship with her mom, though the thing we’re told is most immature about the woman is that she met her husband and fell in love with him at first sight. There’s a pretty clear knock on fairy tale romance in the tale, but it’s weird because the dad isn’t really in it but you get the impression he’s still around. So their knock on fairy tale romance makes little sense since the couple who fell into it is still together.

The Red Riding Hood Doll
2.5 Stars
This tale was a lot more interesting than the last but still had a very judgmental air. It’s told from the perspective of the Mother, though there is an interesting added twist on the original.

This story seems to send the message that everyone secretly hates everyone else and wants to be mean to them and you know the person is a good person if they only think the rude thing and don’t actually say it. I wanted so badly to smack the main character on several occasions.

I did, on the other hand, understand where she was coming from. She’s lonely and sad and the author does a good job of bringing that across. I felt her loneliness as I read and it tugged at my heart in probably the strongest bit of emotion I felt in this whole book.

But then the author took it too far and the story got downright weird. Georgette- the main character in the story- is a seamstress and she makes Red Riding Hood out of cloth. She then proceeds to insist this doll is her daughter and we’re supposed to side with her when her mother is weirded out and refuses to accept the cloth creation as her child.

And that’s not even the weirdest bit. That comes at the end, which I won’t discuss so as to avoid spoilers. But it bugged me. A lot.

Red Riding Hood’s Family
1 Star
I this was downright weird from beginning to end. I just- I can’t even make words for how much I didn’t like it. It mostly just made no sense and I kept reading because what else was I supposed to do?

There was another knock on parents being in love, like it was some horrible, horrible thing. Which I just don’t get. Parents being in love is a good thing. It’s a healthy thing in a marriage. We really need to stop knocking it in stories.

Also Roselle- the Red Riding Hood character in the story- was so judgmental and thought herself so much better than everyone else. And it just grated on me.

And then there were others weird, random elements that there was zero precedent for and the whole just confused me.

Granny and the Wolf
4 Stars
Why is the woodcutter always underdeveloped and evil in these stories so far?

Okay, that’s out so now I can get to the good bits. I actually really loved this story. Maybe it was because the others leading up to this point were so bad? Whatever the case, I liked this one a lot.

The story is told from the perspective of the Grandmother. It’s cleverly told, keeping mostly with the original tale but adding some really fun twists and the like. Nelda- the Grandmother- is spunky but also weirdly kind for a character in this book? She has a little bit of judgmentalness but even that actually seems justified in this one?

I don’t know. I just really liked this one.

Deems the Wood Gatherer
5 Stars
This one was my favorite story. This one was clever and well told and the judgement in the tale was from a loveable old man who more shook his head at the youths today than anything else. And Deems is a cinnamon roll.

What’s really fun about this one too is that several other fairy tales make an appearance and that’s fun. The Three Little Pigs, Hansel and Gretel, and the Gingerbread Man. They all work surprisingly well for such a short story and it’s just a really great story.

I don’t know what else to day about it. I just really, really loved it.

Why Willy and His Brothers Won’t Ever Amount to Anything
4.5 Stars
This story was beyond clever. The hints of the original tale mixed with a lot of fun twists and it was just really cool.

I do love Willy a lot and it made me sad that there was some slight judgement about him. He was earnest and good and even though he was a little quick to jump to conclusions and or let his imagination run wild I didn’t see those as reasons to hate him.

But overall it was a good story. And the ending was perfect and I loved it so incredibly much.

The Little Red Headache
4 Stars
I was so happy to find three stories in a row in this book that I liked that I was almost certain it couldn’t last.

But then it did.

This story is told from the perspective of the Wolf and it’s just so fun. He’s not this evil creature that the stories make him out to be. He’s actually rather polite and civilized and the whole story is one big misunderstanding.

It’s super great.

It only gets 4 stars though because when I was writing this review I forgot about it until I reread a little snippet and then I remembered. So it gets a star knocked off for being slightly forgettable. But it’s still really good.

Little Red Riding Hood’s Little Red Riding Hood
1 Star
And of course the love couldn’t last. I hated this story.

This one is told from the perspective of the hood and that is so clever. But that was all the story had going for it.

The cloak is accidentally blessed with intelligence by a fairy and the story goes downhill from there. Apparently if you’re smart that also makes you a little snot who judges everyone else. So fun.

In fact, going back over my notes, the last thing I wrote while reading this story was “What the heck? Another dumb one…”

It was just a very judgmental story, which as sad because I got four good ones in a row so I was lulled into a false sense of security before I read this one.

All in all this book had an air of judgment about it that was too hard to shake while reading it. The idea was clever but in the end too poorly executed for me to really enjoy.

I didn’t like the messages it sent- love is something to roll your eyes at/something for stupid people; it’s okay to be judgmental to literally everyone you meet as long as you don’t actually say what you’re thinking out loud; if you’re smarter than everyone else it also means you look down on everyone else because they’re all idiots.

There were some good stories, which I would recommend reading. If you can get your hands on the book I would recommend reading those stories but skipping the rest. And I wouldn’t bother actually wasting money on it at all. I paid $4 for this between the ebook and the audio and I’m really grateful I didn’t spend any more than that.

I hope to see you on Monday! Until the next time we meet don’t forget to live happily ever after <3
~Jennifer Sauer, the Ivory Palace Princess

P.S. Let’s Chat! What is your favorite thing about Little Red Riding Hood? What is your favorite retelling of that tale?

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Bibliophile Sweater Tag

Hello, my lovelies!

I was tagged by the very sweet Abigail McKenna over at Novels, Dragons, and Wardrobe Doors for the Bibliophile Sweater Tag (created by Mary Liz over at Sunshine and Scribbles)

The way it works is fairly simple- there are eleven prompts, based off different types of sweaters and I get to pick books that fit those prompts for me. So without further ado, I shall do just that!

Fuzzy sweater (a book that is the epitome of comfort)- The Princess Companion
I first came across this book a little over a year ago. I had been sick for almost a week, I was very behind on my NaNo word count, and I just wanted something happy to read. I found this book on Amazon and figured “Why not give it a try?”

I plan to give it a full review at some point but for now suffice to say that I love this book so much. It’s exactly the sort of book I want to write- retelling, sweet romance, great characters, slightly idealistic, well-told and fun to read.

Striped sweater (book which you devoured every line of)-The Forbidden Wish
I reviewed this book a few months ago but when I saw this prompt I knew there wasn’t any other book I could choose.

This story has the most incredible prose that even if you don’t like the story- which I did- every line is a treat to read. It nails the 1001 Nights feel that delights me so. I cannot say enough good things about the prose of this book.

Ugly Christmas sweater (book with a weird cover)- The Wrath and the Dawn
When I saw this prompt my immediate thought was “MY TIME HAS COME!” I loved this book but I am more than a little bitter about the covers this book gets and will never pass up a chance to complain about it.

The story is a YA 1001 Nights retelling sent in an ancient Persia-esque world. But this cover doesn’t say “YA and Persian” to me, it says “Adult and Indian.”

Cashmere sweater (most expensive book you've bought)- Usborne Illustrated Classics Series
This one was hard for me to decide on just one book. I've purchased a lot of books in my life and I don't know for certain which one I paid the most for.

So instead I decided to feature this series. Each volume is costs more than I would usually pay for a book but they're all so spectacular and I think worth every penny in the long run. What can I say? I'm a sucker for colorfully illustrated fairy tale books.

Hoodie (favorite classic book)- 1001 Nights
There are a lot of classics that mean something special to me- Much Ado About Nothing, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Great Expectations, The Complete Brother's Grimm, or a myriad of other fairy tale collections. But to me my absolute favorite is the 1001 Nights (or Arabian Nights as it's also called).

The legend of Shahrazad will never cease to inspire, empower, and enthrall me. I cannot say enough good things about it and I hope someday I can share just what this character and her stories mean to me.

Cardigan (book that you bought on impulse)- Cloaked in Red
I get these great emails from Goodreads that keep me informed about e-book deals they think I might like. I got this book for $1.99 and was able to add the Audible book to it as well for another $1.99.

A friend had mentioned it to me a while before and so as soon as I saw it I was just like “Yup, gonna buy that!” Didn’t even think twice. (And I’m going to be reviewing it next Friday so be sure to check back for that!)

Turtleneck sweater (book from your childhood)- Princess ofthe Midnight Ball
This is another book I plan to review in depth at some point.

I will never forget the day I found this at the library. I remember thinking it looked/sounded amazing but something kept me from borrowing it. I never forgot it though and one day maybe a year later I made up my mind I was going to find it. Except I only knew it had “princess” in the title and it was a Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling. So I scoured the library shelves and looked at every book until I found it. It was well worth the search too!

Homemade knitted sweater (book that is Indie-published)- Corral Nocturne
I impulse bought several of this author’s books last weekend for Black Friday and I already started reading this one. The author lives in NY (which is cool for me, since most indie-authors seem to live in the mid-west and I’m just like “Here I am on the east coast, all by myself…”)

She also writes westerns and fairy tale retellings and she’s actually good at it so as you can imagine I think she’s kind of awesome.

V-neck sweater (book that did not meet your expectations)- The Merchant’s Daughter
I wanted to love this book with everything I had in me. And I really did try so hard. But in the end I just couldn’t. I wrote a REALLY ranty review about it on Goodreads but here suffice it to say, it didn’t live up to my expectations.

I'm getting angry now just thinking about this book. It's time to move on before I start ranting...

Argyle sweater (book with a unique format)- Bella at Midnight
This was the first book I ever read that was told in first person from multiple point of views. I know that isn’t super unique these days but this book is actually told from six or seven different points of view and it somehow works.

It’s a Cinderella retelling I stumbled across on accident when I was younger and I am so in love with this book. It’s so good!! I hope to review this book in depth someday as well.

Polka dot sweater (a book with well-rounded characters)- The Clockwork Scarab
I also reviewed this book a couple months ago.

I gushed about the characters and their relationships in great depth so I won’t do that too much here. But I do love these characters so incredibly much. Each and every one of them is great and engaging and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series!!

And then I'm supposed to tag someone else so I tag Hannah McManus and also anyone who reads this and is like "This looks cool." Because it is cool and you should do it :3 

I hope to see you on Monday! Until the next time we meet, don't forget to live happily ever after <3
~Jennifer Sauer, the Ivory Palace Princess

P.S. Let's Chat! What is your favorite kind of sweater from this list and what book fit the prompt for you?

Monday, November 27, 2017

Do Stories Matter?

Hello, my lovelies!

There are just a few days left in November and if you’re doing NaNoWriMo you’re no doubt scrambling to write that last several thousand words.

But it’s times like this when the doubt really starts to set in and you’re wondering if your story matters. What is the point of all this? Why are you still writing this?

What good are stories really? I often ask myself in my darkest moments. They’re nothing more than fiction- lies masquerading as something important and true. Why waste so much time and energy investing in something that is only make believe?

And then I remember.

Life Sucks:
Sorry for being so blunt, but you can’t deny it, can you? Life isn’t pretty. It’s one big mess after another.

I don’t need to rehash it all here but my teen years were pretty dark ones. And that’s coming from someone who would say she had a happy childhood. My parents are amazing and my home life has always been incredible. I still live at home and I have no intention of changing that any time soon.

But still, life is life, and even the happiest of us get blindsided.

I got lost. I didn’t know who I was anymore or who I was supposed to be. I stopped really living and just started surviving. Some days were better than others but all the nights were the same. After my sister went to college I was alone at night consistently for the first time in my life. And as someone who thinks way too much that was dangerous.

I threw myself into my stories and other people’s stories because that was the only thing that made sense. I finished my first book in that time- a book of light and hope and optimism, which were all things I was searching for.

We’re All Looking for Light
My relationship with God crumbled then. I fought to hold onto it but something was missing- there was a disconnect. I got saved when I was five and when people talk about returning to your first love or having childlike faith I know that they’re talking about. I remember what that was like. I remember how God transformed my family, how miraculous it was. And somewhere in those years I lost it. I wanted it back but I didn’t know how to go about doing that.

I was convinced that if I went to the right church service or prayed the right prayer it would fix everything. I was looking for a “God moment,” like in the movies, where the character prays and God fixes everything. In that instant everything changes.

I knew it could happen because I had seen it happen before. And since it wasn’t happening there must be something wrong with me. It was God’s will for me to have a relationship with him, I knew that. So if something was keeping me from that it had to be me.

I was obviously broken. And I didn’t know how to fix myself.

Story Time:
I don’t remember how old I was exactly but I was in my late teens. I bought a book at a discount story for $2.99- more than I would ever pay for a paperback I hadn’t read before (I laugh now as I write this, thinking of all the full price paperbacks I’ve bought since).

But I started reading it in the store and the main character spoke to me. She told me I wanted to read her book- I needed to. So I bought it.

I read in the car on the drive home and kept reading for the rest of the afternoon. I took breaks to spend time with my family and get stuff done but I kept going back to the book. I read most of it that day. The only reason I stopped was because it was the Saturday before Daylight Saving and we had to be up early for church the next morning.

I finished the book in church that Sunday, before the service while my Mom and Dad practiced to lead worship later that morning.

It was a YA contemporary romance. The main character falls in love with an actor who plays sparkly vampires in Twilight-esque movies. They bicker constantly but each needs the other for something else so they come to an agreement to tolerate each other. The tolerating turns to love and it’s adorable.

And in his mercy, God decided to use this book to change my life.

I’m Getting to the Point, I Promise:
See in the midst of the bickering and falling in love the main character was breaking.

She lost her brother- in a different way than I had lost mine, but I understood what she was going through. She was falling apart inside but pretending to be fine. And she was looking for God, looking to get rid of the disconnect that was between herself and him.

I saw myself in her. And as her trip to Ireland and falling in love with a sparkly vampire brought her healing, so it did me.

She finds God in the end. She finds him in such a way that she realizes he’s been there all along. She has her big “God moment” and she knows things are going to be okay.

But here’s why I needed this story- the book has an epilogue, set two years after the end of the book- after the character’s big moment. And she’s still broken. She’s healing and she’d growing closer to God but she’s not there yet.

And sitting in church that Sunday, reading the end of the book, I knew God had inspired the author to write it for me. I knew he had always been there for me, that I may be broken but there was nothing keeping me from him. And I knew that healing was going to take time. And that was okay.

We Need Stories:
I had heard everything I learned from that book before. Pastors had preached it in sermons. Wiser, older people had said it to me in an attempt to encourage me. I’d heard others talking about the principles in conversation.

But I needed a book about vampires, and crazy old ladies, and mischievous nuns to really make the message sink in. I needed a fictional character to go to Ireland to find God so that I could too.

We need stories because they speak to us in ways other things never can. They say fiction is telling truth with lies and I wholeheartedly believe that.

Stories teach us things, show us things, remind us of things. They build us up and take us places we’d never get to go otherwise.

I don’t know what my life would look like without this book. I’m sure God would have found some other way to speak to me- he’s God, after all, and I know now he never would have given up on me- but still, the process would have taken so much longer, been even more painful than it was without this book.

God uses stories. I don’t know why. I guess because he’s merciful like that- he’s willing to use the things that make us happy, that we allow ourselves to get lost in, to speak to us. He’s willing to use those things to reach us when nothing else can.

Even if you don’t think your book has a strong message, like the book I talked about does, that doesn’t matter. My best friend likes to tell me about the spiritual truths she finds in Doctor Who and Star Trek and Stargate.

You don’t have to set out to tell your readers something. Just know that if you write with the intention of telling the truth your readers will find the truth they need. If you’re writing your story, trusting that even in its messy state, God can and will use it, then that’s all that matters.

We are just days away from finishing NaNoWriMo. November is almost over and hopefully your novel is too. You’re almost there. You’ve got this.

And yes, that novel is a mess. It’s an utter nightmare right now. No one will ever make any sense of it, right?

Wrong. You will have time to edit and polish and rewrite. Right now you’re getting words on paper and that’s enough.

But be encouraged. Someday this messy, messy first draft is going to be something beautiful. It’s going to be something that changes lives. Someday a very lost teenager is going to read your book and God is going to use it to fuse back together all the broken pieces.

And until then all you have to do is keep writing. The only story that can’t change someone else’s life is the story you keep to yourself.

I hope to see you on Friday for some bookish fun. Until the next time we meet, don’t forget to live happily ever after <3
~Jennifer Sauer, the Ivory Palace Princess

P.S. Let’s Chat! What stories has God used to change your life? Which ones still continue to bring you healing?

Monday, November 20, 2017

Someday, Somewhere: A Mid-Novel Pep Talk

Hello, my lovelies!

It’s day twenty of NaNoWriMo. It’s so hard to believe that there are only eleven days left to November! It’s around this time when the doubt really starts to creep in and I need someone to remind me of the important things and keep me grounded.

So without further ado, I would like to offer you some encouragement and remind you that someday, somewhere someone is going to read your book and:

-Compare themselves to your main character

-Claim it was written for them

-Compare themselves and the love interest to their relationship

-Make the hero their role model

-Use it to get them through a rough patch

-Tell someone it is their favorite book

-Write their own book because it inspired them

-Write fanfiction about your characters

-Dress up as one of your characters for cosplay or Halloween

-Make fandom posts about it

-Give it a fandom name

-Connect with people simply because they all love it

-Make Pinterest boards and Spotify playlists and Facebook groups about it

-Draw fan art

-Talk about how they need to make a movie based on it

-Underline their favorite passages and read them over and over again

-Give copies of it to all their friends for birthdays and holidays

-Write reviews of it for their blog or vlog

Your story will impact people in ways you never imagined it would. It will become as part of someone else’s world as your favorite book has to yours. It will change lives and probably even save some. It will get people through unimaginable horrors and help them face the day or week or month or year ahead of them.

There are people out there who need this story. People who need your characters and what they go through. They need the message your book will offer them, even if you don’t even know what that message is yourself.

This story doesn’t need to be perfect. It doesn’t need to be spectacular or the next great American novel. It just needs to be. With all its heart and quirks and every last bit of you that you pour into it.

People need that. People need you and they need this story. And while this is your story and you don’t owe it to the world, you do have something to offer it. Don’t ever doubt that.

Your story will make the world a better place for people. You will bring them light and hope and joy. You will give them an anchor in the darkness. Your story has the power to change lives.

So keep writing, dear one. Through the doubt keep pressing on. You’ve got this. You will get this story written and it will be worth it.

On Monday I’ll be talking about how God used stories in my life. And of course Friday will bring another movie review. I hope to see you for those.

Until the next time we meet don’t forget to live happily ever after <3
~Jennifer Sauer, the Ivory Palace Princess

P.S. Let’s Chat! What are some ways you honor your favorite books? What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced this month?