Prism Tours: The Bridal Bouquet

Misc. | Posted by Shannon
Jun 20 2016

On Tour with Prism Book Tours.

Book Tour Grand Finale for
The Bridal Bouquet
By Tara Randel

We hope you enjoyed getting to know more about flower shop owner Kady and undercover DEA agent Dylan as they face someone who threatens Kady’s life and the possibility of finding love. If you missed any of the stops, go back and check them out now…

Launch – Author Interview

What do you hope readers take with them after they’ve read it?

I love to read and any book that makes me sigh at the end is a keeper. As an author, I want to sweep readers away to a world they can lost in. With The Bridal Bouquet, I wanted to write a story that makes readers laugh, sigh and worry about the welfare of my characters. This book delivers all.

Rockin’ Book Reviews – Author Interview & Review

4. You are the author of ten novels, correct? Which novel did you find the most enjoyable to write? In what ways?

 

Twelve, actually. It sounds so weird to say that. I’ve enjoyed writing the Heartwarming books, mostly because I love romance and weddings, so it’s a good mix. Honestly, The Bridal Bouquet was probably my favorite. I loved the premise from the beginning, which gave me lots of ways to go in the story. I also loved the suspense element. This added layer gave me areas to explore that I had so much fun with. I also write mysteries, so the more I work on these types of books, the more fun I have.

 

Also, I had a blast creating the hero’s brothers. The family dynamics took off out of the blue and I gladly went for the ride. I never expected the boys to take over. Maybe they’ll have their own stories in the future…

 

“This was a delightfully, refreshingly, “clean” story about a woman obsessed about winning a floral convention entry. It wasn’t just vanity, she had a lot depending on it. It would affect the rest of her life! . . . I totally loved it!”

underneath the covers – The Language of Flowers

Because of her love for flowers, Kady is convinced that discovering the personalities of her bride and groom is the important first step. Some brides know right away what their floral theme will be, but for others, Kady quizzes the couple to help with the final decision. What is their outlook on love, romance and marriage? Do certain colors have an emotional response for the couple? Upon gathering all the information, Kady then picks the perfect flowers to personalize the special day.

Mel’s Shelves – Creating the Perfect Wedding…from the Florists Point of View

In The Bridal Bouquet, Kady’s dream is to take the family floral shop into the world of weddings. Love and romance may not be on the table for Kady at the beginning of the story, but her love for flowers remains steady throughout, a plus when coming up with fresh ideas for her clients.

Becky on Books – Author Interview & Review

Where did the inspiration for this book come from?

 

This is the fourth book in The Business of Weddings series. My editor and I discussed coming up with three wedding professionals for this book contract and the first one was a florist. I knew I wanted to have suspense elements in this story, so I plotted with this in mind. I love hunky, Alpha males and the DEA hero in this book fits the bill! Also, researching flowers was lovely. The history behind bouquets is quite interesting.

 

“A sweet romance with a touch of romantic suspense–a fun read!”

JoJo’s Corner – Review

“I absolutely LOVE wedding stories and Tara Randel’s The Business of Weddings series is one of my favorites! . . . This novel is full of humor, memorable characters and romance combined with elements of suspense. I give The Bridal Bouquet 5 long stemmed roses out of 5!”

Bookworm Lisa – Review

“As a reader, you know most of the things going on behind the scenes, just waiting for the characters to discover them. For me, it helped to cheer them on and hope that everyone is happy when it all comes out in the open. I really can’t say a lot more, because I like this book and am giving it a high recommendation.”

EskieMama Reads – The History of Flowers and Weddings

Today, weddings are as different and special as a bride’s vision. There are so many reasons a bride picks certain flowers; personal taste, sentiment, elegance, romance, to name a few. From full-blown, colorful bouquets to brides carrying a single stemmed rose to make a statement, the choice of flower for all wedding related events are vast. But where did the tradition of wedding flowers originate?

deal sharing aunt – Excerpt

Blowing out a relieved breath, she looked over her shoulder, glimpsing the most unusual pair of blue eyes she’d ever seen. Actually, blue wasn’t entirely correct. A hint of silver turned them an unusual shade of metallic gray. The man’s somber expression matched the concern she read there and his very handsome face garnered all her attention.

“Steady there.” His husky voice spoke close to her ear, sending a waterfall of shivers over her skin.

“I loved The Bridal Bouquet! Kady and Dylan are so much fun. I love the banter between them. There is also another romance that develops in the book, but I won’t spoil it for you. The plot is both romantic and suspenseful. If you are a fan of clean romance novels, you will surely love The Bridal Bouquet.”

Harlie’s Books – Review

“Oh my, a sweet contemporary that I read twice. Yes, twice. I loved, just loved this book. I’m a sucker for flowers so this book was right up my alley. . . . In the end, I loved the sweet romance of Kady and Dylan. It wasn’t rushed and had a few twists in it that I LOVED. Plus, the suspense element is on point for these characters.”

Hardcover Feedback – Review

“I loved reading The Bridal Bouquet! The characters were well written and I liked almost all of them, with the exception of the ones you aren’t supposed to like. . . . The romance between Kady and Dylan was so sweet! I loved watching them getting to know each other and see their feelings for each other grow.”

23 Review Street – Review

“The Bridal Bouquet is a sweet, romantic story that has handsome DEA agents, amazingly strong women and an wonderfully written story that will make you wish it wouldn’t end. I would recommend anyone who loves a unique love story and of course a wedding!”

“I loved Kady. There was something so human about her and her need to find acceptance and support from the people she loves. . . . This book was a clean romance with a touch of suspense and danger. It kept me interested from beginning to end.”

With Love for Books – Tips for Choosing a Florist for Your Wedding & Review

In The Bridal Bouquet, Kady Lawrence, co-owner of the Lavish Lily, works with brides to make the dreams of their big day come true. As any wedding professional, she advises her clients to research, then choose a florist who will carry out the vision. Flowers are an important statement at a wedding, and the bride and groom need to communicate their wishes in order for a florist to carry out the theme.

“The Bridal Bouquet is a quick and easy read and it’s very enjoyable. I think it’s an amazing read with a heartwarming theme.”

“I love a good romance, but when there are other elements involved, it really draws me in. With a mystery and some suspense involved, this story really turns into more than the light, fluffy read, like I was expecting–there’s more meat to the book. . . . This is a great read for those who enjoy a clean, contemporary romance with some suspenseful threads woven in.”

“The book is a clean romance novel and can be read as a stand-alone book as well. The book depicts the usual boy meets a girl and falls in love, the story though is a simple read for anyone who loves romance novels.”

Colorimetry – Top Wedding Flowers

Many types of flowers are popular for weddings. Some brides know the exact flowers they want for their special day, others need a little help deciding. A professional florist, like Kady Lawrence from The Bridal Bouquet, work with brides to make their dreams come true.

“There’s romance, there’s deceit, there’s family drama, there’s criminal activity … what more could we want?”

The Bridal BouquetThe Bridal Bouquet
(The Business of Weddings #3)
Tara Randel
Adult Contemporary Romance
Paperback & ebook, 384 pages
June 1st 2016 by Harlequin Heartwarming

Who will catch a lifetime of love?

Winning the annual wedding bouquet design competition may be the closest Kady Lawrence gets to the altar. She has to come in first or risk losing the shop that’s been in her family for generations. Her main competition is Jasmine Matthews. But it’s Jasmine’s son who’s caught Kady’s attention.

 

Kady has no inkling Dylan’s a DEA agent on a case in Cypress Pointe, and Dylan wants to keep it that way…until Kady’s targeted. Determined to keep her safe, Dylan risks a lot more than blowing his cover…he risks losing Kady forever.

GoodreadsAmazonBarnes & NobleHarlequin

Other Books in the Series

Magnolia BrideMagnolia Bride
(The Business of Weddings #1)
Tara Randel
Adult Contemporary Romance
Paperback & ebook, 209 pages
July 1st 2014 by Harlequin Heartwarming

 

Married for a day, in love for life

 

Nealy Grainger knew that returning to Cypress Pointe meant an inevitable encounter with her teenage crush, and momentary husband, Dane Peterson. She could handle it. She wasn’t the wounded girl who’d left Cypress Pointe years ago, heartbroken and furious when Dane had annulled their marriage the day after they’d eloped.

 

Now one of L.A.’s most in-demand celebrity event planners, Nealy’s only come back for a vacation and to help with her sister’s wedding—not for a reunion with her long-lost love. But the more their paths cross, the more the sparks fly! Maybe their connection isn’t over just yet….,

GoodreadsAmazonBarnes & NobleHarlequin

Honeysuckle Bride

Honeysuckle Bride
(The Business of Weddings #2)
Tara Randel
Adult Contemporary Romance
Paperback & ebook, 201 pages
December 1st 2014 by Harlequin Heartwarming

One part happiness. Two parts love.

Relocating to the coast of Florida after becoming guardian of her best friend’s twin daughters could be the best move LA celebrity chef Jenna Monroe ever made. This is her chance to create a stable, loving home—something she never had. But can she be the mother the girls need?

Wyatt Hamilton thinks she can. The rugged charter boat captain, who came home to Cypress Pointe still grieving the death of his son, has faith in her. But the feelings he awakens in Jenna both exhilarate and frighten her. Because Wyatt no longer believes in forever… Unless she can convince him otherwise.

Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA TODAY bestselling author of eleven novels. She is currently working on new stories for Harlequin Heartwarming, as well as books in a new series, Amish Inn Mysteries. Her next Heartwarming, part of The Business of Weddings series, will be released in June 2016. Visit Tara at www.tararandel.com. Like her on Facebook at Tara Randel Books.

Tour Giveaway

ONE WINNER will receive a tote bag including the first three books in The Business of Weddings series (US only)

ONE WINNER will recieve a $25 Amazon eGift card (open internationally)

Ends June 24th

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Movie Review: The Jungle Book (2016)

Culture | Posted by Shannon
Jun 13 2016

Somewhere, at some point, someone at Disney said, “Do you know what we should do, instead of making endless sequels to classic Disney films, as if no one in the company has had an original thoughts since 1997? Remakes. Remakes of classic Disney films. In live-action.”

This was a bad idea. It should not have worked. But it has twice – first with Cinderella, released last year, and now with The Jungle Book, in theaters now. A famous story holds that Walt Disney, when rallying his jungle bookteam to make the animated version, held up a copy of The Jungle Book and said, “The first thing I want you to do is not read it.”

The makers of the live-action version have read the book, and more of Kipling besides. They include Kipling’s jungle creation-myth and even quote his poetry: “This is the Law of the Jungle, as old and as true as the sky …” 

This is, in fact, the great advantage to remaking movies like Cinderella and The Jungle Book, as opposed to remaking (for example) Star Trek. If you want to remake Star Trek, your raw material is limited to, well, Star Trek. But if you want to remake Disney’s Cinderella, your raw material reaches back to Perrault’s Cinderella, and the Grimm Brothers’ Cinderella, and the whole web of Cinderella-like stories that vein the world’s folklore. In the same way, if you want to remake Disney’s Jungle Book, you can look for material also in Kipling’s Jungle Book, and in all of Kipling’s jungle myths and poetry.

Many different silver-screen interpretations of The Jungle Book were always possible. Disney has now created two of them. The live-action Jungle Book follows the general plot of its predecessor – which, considering how little plot that had, is not very constrictive. It even includes, in desultory fashion, inferior renditions of “Bare Necessities” and “I Wanna Be Like You”, as if Disney just felt obligated.

But in tone and in spirit, the new Jungle Book is a revolution. It gives up the fun that ruled the animated version for danger, beauty, and – most surprisingly – grandeur. Much of the grandeur, like much of the beauty, comes simply from the jungle setting, gorgeously realized in a way that the original film could not have even aspired to. There is grandeur, too, in the elephants and the reverence paid to them by all other animals.

One of the greatest accomplishments of this film is the sense it creates of the jungle as an ancient and ordered society, with its own laws, traditions, and even prejudices. There is, in the animals, a confidence in who they are, who others are, and what everyone’s place is. Shere Kahn is so fearsome because of his lawlessness, because he can’t be counted on to stay in his preordained place.

Most unexpectedly, The Jungle Book makes a major theme of how different Mowgli is from the animals that surround him. His human inventiveness, and inventions, befuddle and anger the animals by turn. Bagheera, solemnly commanding Mowgli to bow to elephants passing by them, tells him, “The elephants created this jungle. They made all that belongs: the mountains, the trees, the birds in the trees. But they did not make you.” In the climax, of course, Mowgli defeats the tiger with “Man’s Red Flower”, which the animals cannot control and deeply fear.

The film never suggests the Bible’s vision of Man as the image of God, created preeminent over all the beasts. It does, however, get so far as G. K. Chesterton’s dictum: “Man is an exception, whatever else he is.” In our society, where people are outraged when a gorilla is killed to protect a child, even that is a refreshing breath of sanity.

Disney’s live-action The Jungle Book digs deeper than its animated predecessor both into Rudyard Kipling’s works and into the grand possibilities of film. The result is a rousing, beautiful film with a surprising measure of grandeur and of meaning.

Review: Imbeciles

Book Reviews, History | Posted by Shannon
Jun 06 2016

See if you can follow this chain of logic. Human defects – mental, physical, and moral – are carried through heredity. In order to eliminate these defects from the human race, the genes that cause them must be eliminated from the gene pool. In order to eliminate such bad genes, the carriers of those genes – that is, people – must be eliminated from the gene pool. To put it simply, the defective must not reproduce.

There are three ways to ensure that the defective do not pass on their genes and so continue to drag down humanity with the unfit. The first is to segregate them in institutions where they will not have the opportunity to reproduce. The second is to sterilize them. The third is wholesale slaughter. Which door do you choose to enter a brave, new world?

Eugenicists chose door number two, mass, forced sterilization of people deemed unfit by the powers that be.

All this sounds like science fiction, but in sad truth, it’s history – American history. In Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck, Adam Cohen tells the nearly-forgotten story of eugenics in America. He focuses his account on the Supreme Court case Buck v. Bell, which challenged Virginia’s eugenic sterilization law. 

Cohen tells the story of eugenics through Buck v. Bell, and he tells the story of Buck v. Bell through its major figures. Each chapter of the book is named after one of them: Carrie Buck, the victim; Dr. Albert Priddy, superintendent of Virginia’s Colony for Epileptics and Feeble-Minded; Harry Laughlin, head of the Eugenics Record Office and leading advocate of eugenic sterilization; Aubrey Strode, the lawyer who wrote Virginia’s eugenic sterilization law and defended it up to the Supreme Court; and Oliver Wendell Holmes, the famed Supreme Court justice who coined the epigram from which the book’s title is taken: “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”

This book is structured almost like a series of biographical essays, as the author reaches back into the life-stories of the players in Buck v. Bell and tries to define their motivations. The great strength of this structure is that it makes the book accessible, easy to read, and focused on the individual, human side of the drama. As a way of relating the history of American eugenics, it works surprisingly well, at least in the earlier chapters. The careers of prominent eugenicists like Albert Priddy and Harry Laughlin dovetail nicely with the story of eugenics in America.

The chapter devoted to the lawyer Aubrey Strode is, in this respect, more uneven. Much of it is relevant to the book’s topic, but the author wanders on side trails that are not. It is even worse with Oliver Wendell Holmes. The author is clearly fascinated with Holmes’ background as a Boston Brahmin and whether or not he can be rightly regarded as a liberal judge. No doubt some readers will be as well. But these things, which take up page after page of Imbeciles, have nothing to do with eugenics.

Indeed, it is difficult to justify Holmes’ inclusion in the book purely on the book’s proclaimed subjects. Holmes’ life crossed the eugenics movement in no significant way until Buck v. Bell, and even in Buck v. Bell, his importance is minimal. True, he wrote the majority opinion and made it clever, sharply expressed, and cruel. But although he expressed the Court’s decision, there is no reason to believe he had any special role in making it. The author speculates on how he may have influenced his fellow judges, but there is no evidence that he actually did. The Supreme Court decision in Buck v. Bell was 8-1. Oliver Wendell Holmes was just another vote in an overwhelming majority.

Although Imbeciles lost focus in evaluating the life and career of Oliver Wendell Holmes, it remains a highly informative book on a fascinating, neglected piece of American history. It is also skillfully written, being lucid and articulate without being showy. The information is, moreover, well-chosen and well-presented, and the sources are varied and reliable. I highly recommend Imbeciles to all lovers of history.

We Are (Not) the Hollow Men

Culture, History | Posted by Shannon
May 30 2016

In the last year of the Civil War, Confederate leaders in Charleston, South Carolina turned the city’s horse-racing track (the Race Course, they called it) into a prisoner-of-war camp. They herded Union soldiers into the track’s interior, forcing them to live there without any shelter. In these miserable conditions, 257 Union soldiers died. The Confederates buried them in unmarked graves at the Race Course.

On February 18, 1865, the mayor of Charleston surrendered to Union forces. A mass exodus of white citizens surrounded the fall of Charleston, but thousands of blacks remained in the city, most of them newly freed slaves. And they remembered the suffering of the soldiers at the Race Course.

In April of 1865, twenty-eight black men from one of Charleston’s churches re-buried the dead, turning the hasty graves into neat rows. They erected a fence around the gravesite, ten feet high, and whitewashed it; over the gate they built an arch and inscribed on it: “Martyrs of the Race Course”.

On May 1, a procession of 10,000 people marched to the graveyard and dedicated it with prayers, Bible readings, and songs. They laid spring blossoms on the graves until “the holy mounds – the tops, the sides, and the spaces between them – were one mass of flowers, not a speck of earth could be seen; and as the breeze wafted the sweet perfumes from them, outside and beyond … there were few eyes among those who knew the meaning of the ceremony that were not dim with tears of joy.” (a newspaperman who witnessed the event, quoted by David W. Blight)

There were other ceremonies, other commemorations of the Civil War dead, and in 1868 Major General John Logan established Decoration Day. In his order to his posts to decorate the graves of the fallen, he wrote, “Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

Like the freed slaves of Charleston, he not only gave recognition to the soldiers’ suffering; he gave it meaning.

An effective, if grim, teacher of how vitally that matters is the special bitterness of those wars regarded as pointless – the Vietnam War, for example, or the First World War. Rightly or wrongly, but undeniably painfully, the dead in such wars are felt to be not only lost but “wasted” (as one Vietnam veteran put it).

Paul Johnson captured the bitterness of apparently meaningless suffering in his essay on T.S. Eliot:

It [WWI] was a war without hope or heroic adventure – just a dull misery of loss and pain – which induced in the participants, serving in the trenches or suffering vicariously at home, an overwhelming sense of heartache. The times seemed to have no redeeming feature; mankind appeared to be undergoing the agony of the war with no compensating gain in virtue but merely the additional degradation that the infliction of death and cruelty brings. It was unmitigated waste. So, equally, was Eliot’s marriage, both parties to it enduring suffering without a mitigating sense of redemption, just two wasted lives joined in sorrow. [Paul Johnson, Creators]

Which I bring up not to make a historical statement on the meaning or consequences of any war, let alone to make valuations of suffering; I only want to show how the human heart recoils from suffering without meaning.

Conflict is vital to stories. So, in a way, is suffering, however slight it may sometimes be. The very nature of the story pulls to give it meaning – by giving the root and final end of the suffering, by weaving it into a much greater whole.

This is one of the great satisfactions of fiction. All too often, in the real world, suffering has no point anyone can see and struggles are barren, yielding no fruit. But we hope – sometimes we can even believe – that if the whole story of the universe were told, if the tapestry of the million threads could be unrolled, then maybe we could find some redemption for the things that have none.

Decoration DayOf course, that story isn’t told; it isn’t even over yet. But in the finished stories of fiction, we see the ultimate ends and, with them, the ultimate meaning.

Not, of course, that all stories do end with redemption of suffering, or hope; some storytellers prefer the poetry of World War I, the mood caught by T.S. Eliot. (“We are the hollow men …”) But the greatest beauty is found in, well, the freed slaves’ memorial to the Union soldiers – where suffering has meaning and tears are iridescent.

Excerpt: The Gladiator and the Guard

Literature | Posted by Shannon
May 23 2016
An Excerpt From

 

The Gladiator and the Guard

 

written by Annie Douglass Lima

 

cover art by Jack Lin

 

Bensin had been nervous all day. Not just because he was scheduled to fight the Yellows that afternoon. Not just because Ninety-Nine was scheduled to fight too, possibly at the same time. Not just because Gile had decided to do something different this weekend and give the audience a little extra excitement.

The “something different” was definitely worth being nervous about, though. Six separate martial arts were being featured today. A total of twenty-four glads from the two arenas would be fighting, each using his personal favorite weapon or style of unarmed combat. Members of the audience would be chosen to draw numbers, which would determine the order in which each glad would join the melee. Every five minutes, a new glad would be picked from each side, and they would fight as long as they could. When one was disarmed or too badly wounded to continue, he would retreat, but the victor would stay and keep fighting whatever other opponents were still out there. Depending on who was picked when, and how the battle was going when they were brought in, it was a good guess that things would be pretty uneven for a lot of people a lot of the time.

All of that made Bensin anxious, but he had another worry as well. This would be his first battle out on the sand since his new resolution. He still hadn’t figured out if or how he could possibly be the kind of person he had chosen to be when he was fighting. Would he be able to disarm an opponent, or possibly multiple opponents, without injuring them? Would it mean he had to let someone else beat him? Might it mean that he would end up injured, himself — or perhaps even killed?

That’s going to happen eventually, he reminded himself as he jogged on the treadmill. Won’t it be best to die in a way that involves standing up for who I am and what I believe is right, and not letting the arena force me into violence?

But Bensin still wasn’t quite sure about that. I can just wait and see how it goes. I don’t have to make the decision now.

But he knew that wouldn’t work. There wouldn’t be time to stop and think about it in the middle of a battle. He had to make up his mind beforehand and then stick to it. What’s the point in deciding I’m going to be a certain way if I don’t keep it up when things get hard? But how exactly could a person not be violent when he was fighting for his life?

 

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is just one victory away from freedom. But after he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he is condemned to the violent life and early death of a gladiator. While his loved ones seek desperately for a way to rescue him, Bensin struggles to stay alive and forge an identity in an environment designed to strip it from him. When he infuriates the authorities with his choices, he knows he is running out of time. Can he stand against the cruelty of the arena system and seize his freedom before that system crushes him?

Click here to order The Gladiator and the Guard in Kindle format from Amazon
for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through May 30th!

 

Click here to order The Gladiator and the Guard from Smashwords (for Nook or in other digital formats) 
for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through May 30th!

 

Annie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published twelve books (two YA action and adventure novels, four fantasies, a puppet script, and five anthologies of her students’ poetry). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrapbooking, and international travel.

 

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Summer, Intellectuals, Imbeciles

History, Misc., Personal | Posted by Shannon
May 16 2016

Summer is here early, and I don’t say that because of the weather, which is, at this particular place and time, overcast, rainy, and certainly no warmer than 60. I say it because the school year is over and done, and I’m settling into summer routines. My job takes less time than the classes, with attendant tests and papers, I’ve been occupying myself with since January, so now I’m turning to other things. Writing queries, a short story or two, an epic hermit crab essay. This blog.

I also have a summer reading list, which consists solely of books that possess these two qualities: (1) I choose them; (2) I don’t have to write papers about them. The first of these books is Imbeciles, which is not what it sounds like.

The book title is taken from a declaration made by Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes regarding the case Buck v. Bell: “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” With the ruling of Buck v. Bell, the Supreme Court upheld the forced sterilization of the socially unfit – those deemed criminal, insane, or “feeble-minded”. This is eugenic sterilization, the elimination of undesirable genes through sterilizing undesirable people, and it is now largely forgotten. A hundred years ago, however, it was being mandated in American law.

I am about one third of the way through Imbeciles. I’ve just finished reading about an expert witness called in to support the forced sterilization of Carrie Buck, the young woman at the center of Buck v. Bell. This expert never met, let alone examined, Carrie, or her mother and daughter – the first and third of the supposed three generations of imbeciles. He did, however, request comprehensive data regarding her genealogy, blood relatives, and their literacy, social status, mental test records, and physical and mental development.

What strikes me is that, before testifying that a young woman should be sterilized by the government, he wanted to see her family records, but he never wanted to see her. He was interested only in data, facts and figures about people without faces. It occurs to me that it is through this divorce between data and people that intellectuals get themselves into trouble.

And their victims.

Movie Review: Peanuts

Culture | Posted by Shannon
May 09 2016

I am back! Where have I been? Well, that’s a long story. I will only say, for now, that with finals week behind me, I hope to be posting more often. And I will begin with this review of a movie I now regret not catching in theater.

 

Who hasn’t seen it – Snoopy balancing a typewriter on his doghouse, Linus with his blanket, Charlie Brown decked by a fast ball on his own pitcher’s mound? These are all unforgettable images, imprinted on our culture’s memory.

But who has seen all these things in 3-D computer animation? Because, thanks to The Peanuts Movie, now we all can.

The Peanuts Movie, released last year, takes up this challenge: How do animators change Schulz’s comic into a computer-animated movie, while retaining its style and its appeal? This challenge is paralleled by the greater one faced by the writers – how to remain faithful to the old, great comic without simply repeating it. The specials were short, and this full-length movie requires a greater adaption than they did, a greater bending to the requirements and limitations of a different art form.

The makers of Peanuts meet both challenges with considerable skill. The film translates the style of the comic into 3-D; the characters look like themselves, and their world looks like the one Schulz created for them. Beyond its visual style, the film draws so much inspiration from the comic that every moment is suffused with it. Watching the movie, you can feel the comic.

And yet just enough is new. Movies, unlike comics, demand to be unified into one story, and the filmmakers provided this unification through the little red-haired girl. The story, although episodic in structure, is held together by the thread of Charlie Brown’s single purpose to impress her. The episodes, although never directly copied from the comics, all have their antecedents in the book reports, school adventures, and sports that Charles Schulz used so richly.

Some characters, most notably Charlie Brown and Snoopy, have been subtly changed. Charlie Brown spends most of the film as star-crossed as ever, always trying to be the hero and somehow always ending up the goat. Yet his failures are more dignified here than in the comic; it is hard to imagine Schulz giving Charlie Brown as much ability as this movie does, or as much meaning in his losses. Charlie Brown, in the film, loses a school competition because of an act of kindness; in the comic, it would have been because of something less meaningful, more random, more darkly comical.

Here, as in the comic strips, Snoopy is distinguished chiefly by the fantasies that so far outstrip his actual position in the world, and by his own unawareness of that fact. He is, however, far kinder to Charlie Brown, helping him and rooting for him throughout the film. Snoopy’s obliviousness to Charlie Brown, whom he thinks of as “the round-headed kid”, is removed from the movie. He yields the dance floor to Charlie Brown where Schulz, funnier and harsher, would have had him beat his owner to win the dance with the little red-haired girl.

This general softening goes beyond the characters to the story itself. The ending held a victory Charlie Brown never, in fifty years, achieved in the comics. This is partially, no doubt, because comic strips go on and movies end, and the unified story must have an ending to match. But it is also, no doubt, part of a judgment that the comic was a little too sad, Charlie Brown a little too inadequate, his world a little too cruel.

Schulz’s Peanuts was never truly jaded, never reached the bitterness or cynicism of some modern comics. Yet it is, in certain moments, more achingly sad than any of them, and running jokes like Charlie Brown’s always-bad baseball team seem to reflect this same blue measure of the world. The movie’s alleviation of this sadness is its one true departure from the comic. Other alterations, such as putting Peppermint Patty in the same school as Charlie Brown, are mere compression for the sake of time.

The Peanuts Movie is an accomplished retelling of Schulz’s great comic strip, successfully exchanging the art form of a comic for the art form of a movie. It is both funny and touching, and if less profound than the comic, it still provides that moment of satisfaction that the comic never did.

That moment where Charlie Brown finally wins.

Good Friday

Literature, Religion | Posted by Shannon
Mar 25 2016

A Good Friday Excerpt of
Orthodoxy
by G. K. Chesterton

The grinding power of the plain words of the Gospel story is like the power of mill-stones; and those who can read them simply enough will feel as if rocks had been rolled upon them. Criticism is only words about words; and of what use are words about such words as these? What is the use of word-painting about the dark garden filled suddenly with torchlight and furious faces? ‘Are you come out with swords and staves as against a robber? All day I sat in your temple teaching, and you took me not.’ Can anything be added to the massive and gathered restraint of that irony; like a great wave lifted to the sky and refusing to fall? ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me but weep for yourselves and for your children.’ As the High Priest asked what further need he had of witnesses, we might well ask what further need we have of words. Peter in a panic repudiated him: ‘and immediately the cock crew; and Jesus looked upon Peter, and Peter went out and wept bitterly.’ Has anyone any further remarks to offer. Just before the murder he prayed for all the murderous race of men, saying, ‘They know not what they do’; is there anything to say to that, except that we know as little what we say? Is there any need to repeat and spin out the story of how the tragedy trailed up the Via Dolorosa and how they threw him in haphazard with two thieves in one of the ordinary batches of execution; and how in all that horror and howling wilderness of desertion one voice spoke in homage, a startling voice from the very last place where it was looked for, the gibbet of the criminal; and he said to that nameless ruffian, ‘This night shalt thou be with me in Paradise’? Is there anything to put after that but a full stop? Or is anyone prepared to answer adequately that farewell gesture to all flesh which created for his Mother a new Son? …

The mob went along with the Sadducees and the Pharisees, the philosophers and the moralists. It went along with the imperial magistrates and the sacred priests, the scribes and the soldiers, that the one universal human spirit might suffer a universal condemnation; that there might be one deep, unanimous chorus of approval and harmony when Man was rejected of men.

There were solitudes beyond where none shall follow. There were secrets in the inmost and invisible part of that drama that have no symbol in speech; or in any severance of a man from men. Nor is it easy for any words less stark and single-minded than those of the naked narrative even to hint at the horror of exaltation that lifted itself above the hill. Endless expositions have not come to the end of it, or even to the beginning. And if there be any sound that can produce a silence, we may surely be silent about the end and the extremity; when a cry was driven out of that darkness in words dreadfully distinct and dreadfully unintelligible, which man shall never understand in all the eternity they have purchased for him; and for one annihilating instant an abyss that is not for our thoughts had opened even in the unity of the absolute; and God had been forsaken of God.


Review: Dragon’s Rook

Book Reviews | Posted by Shannon
Mar 13 2016

A border war is, or should be, a simple thing. Two kingdoms want land, to the point of battles and blood; they fight it out, until one gets the land and the other finally goes home. Tragic, as we all know, but straightforward.

But in the war Dissonay and Skarda wage over the unclaimed Territories, nothing is straightforward. Beyond the dispute over the land is a riven family, rumors of an unfaithful queen and brothers-in-law turned against each other and cousins crossing swords to the death. Further yet, a more distant kinship is the heart of a more ancient feud, where lost heirs and lost swords are menaces to the Mad King. And at the furthest edges, old, inhuman powers reach hands into human battles.

In Dragon’s Rook, Keanan Brand spins a complex and epic tale. The novel is high fantasy, of an old-fashioned flavor. There are bits of an invented language, and the story is more multi-threaded than I see in most contemporary fantasy (excepting works by Stephen Lawhead, an old-fashioned author in his own right).

The book itself is long for a modern novel – just breaking 500 pages. A second book will finish the story. It might have been possible to shorten Dragon’s Rook and create a duology, and I salute the author for not doing so. Dragon’s Rook ends in a good place as it is, with its climaxes and converging story lines. Additionally – I will confess it – I have seen so many trilogies, a duology spices things up a bit.

Dragon’s Rook features a large cast of characters, all realistically drawn and many vivid as well. Relatively few got under my skin, but they did exist: Maggie, Yanamari, Mad Morfran and, to a lesser extent, Kieran and Rhon. I felt a couple more would have, had they been given the stage for it. The plot moves through many dangers, and the author lets this take its toll on the characters. A number die, and not only throwaway characters. I am inclined to think too many died. But the author’s willingness to discard characters has its upside, most notably in paving the way for a brilliant new villain.

This novel possesses a strong religious element. Characters struggle with questions of suffering, God’s will, and their own free will. Unlike much Christian fantasy, the outward forms of religion are built into this world: churches (called kirks), priests, religious signs, funeral rituals. Superstitions and a dark, sorcerous order are also part of the religious landscape. In this, as in other ways, the world-building is realistic and thorough.

Although the book is not generally graphic, there are grisly moments. I found one scene hard to bear. The large cast, though mostly a strength, had a negative side in that the characters were sometimes hard to keep track of. It wasn’t always easy, for example, to distinguish one secondary member of the Fourth Lachmil from another.

Dragon’s Rook is strongly written, with beautiful phrases and evocative descriptions. It is a complex epic, drawing its characters from many different corners to face the revival of old hostilities, old legends, and old hopes. Recommended to all lovers of high fantasy.

Story Excerpt: Adela’s Curse

Culture, Literature | Posted by Shannon
Mar 07 2016

Adelas Curse cover

 

“Adela, would you like to dance?” Rafael asked.

“Oh, I don’t…” Adela stammered.

“Of course you do,” Lidia said. “Please help me escape him.”

Rafael rolled his eyes comically at her and took Adela’s hand, leading her out onto the dance floor.

“Did Lidia make your necklace?” he asked. “She’s quite talented,” he continued after receiving Adela’s nod.

“I’ve seen the carvings you make,” Adela said. “Lidia might even have one.”

“Really?” Rafael said with interest.

“But I could be wrong.”

Rafael laughed. “You tease me! And what else can you do?”

“I have the amazing talent of being able to wiggle my ears,” Adela said seriously, and Rafael laughed again, spinning her as the dance ended.

“Lidia says that your singing puts the birds to shame,” he said.

“If she means that I can twitter quite excellently, then yes.”

Rafael’s laughter seemed ever present. “You continue to amaze me. Would you consider singing tonight? I would love to hear you.”

“I see you and Lidia have been scheming,” Adela said. She loved singing but not in front of a crowd like this!

“Alas, I cannot deny that,” Rafael sighed heavily. He escorted her through the dancers and back to Lidia.

“Your friend is quite charming; a welcome relief from your constant nagging,” Rafael told Lidia.

“What? You cannot stomach hearing your own voice repeated back to you?” Lidia asked.

“I was not aware that my voice sounded like nails on rock.”

“That’s because no one has had the heart to tell you. No doubt they are too busy swooning and stroking your ego.”

“I have an ego?”

“With a hat like that, who wouldn’t?”

 

 

Adela’s Curse

A curse. A murderous scheme. A choice.

A witch and her master capture a young faery and command her to kill their enemy. Adela has no choice but to obey. If she does not, they will force the location of her people’s mountain home from her and kill her. To make matters even worse, the person she is to kill is only a man struggling to save his dying land and mend a broken heart.

Count Stefan is a man simply trying to forget the woman he loves and save a land crippled by drought. When a mysterious woman arrives at his castle claiming to be a seamstress, he knows she is more than she seems.

Adela enlists the help of Damian, another faery, to try and delay the inevitable. He insists she has a choice. But with the witch controlling her every move, does she?

 

Find Adela’s Curse on Goodreads

 

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Claire Banschbach was born and raised in Midland, TX, the fourth of eight children. She was homeschooled through high school and is now a proud member of the Texas A&M University class of 2014. She is currently working on her Doctorate of Physical Therapy at Texas Tech University Health Science Center. She continues to write in her spare time (and often when she doesn’t have spare time). She hopes her strong foundation in God will help to guide her writing.
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