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An Excerpt from Installment Seven of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

Welcome to an excerpt from Installment the Seventh of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, in which a reminder is given of the meaning of wonder.

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It would take them near a week to reach Svarthol, and Penelope felt her nerves grating against each other when she thought of all that time. She wondered how many of their neighbors and friends had also fallen prey to the wasting freeze, and she burned with anger at the way Denagon had perverted the beauty of winter into something that could only be understood as unforgiving and brutal.

There is a harshness to winter, it is true, but there is also a stillness that prepares the way for new life. To acknowledge one and reject the other is to rob winter of all its fullness and remarkable grace.

Yet, hearts often grow dismayed during the long stretches of winter nights; Penelope Grace watched it happen to those she loved and had fought against the sharpness of despair herself. She felt a growing desire to defend, not only the beauty of winter itself but also the hearts of all who struggled to find joy during this time of year. She wanted to fight against Denagon’s attacks and keep him from succeeding in his destructive work.

Uncle Alex had said she was created to weave joy and delight – wonder – into people’s lives, and now, when so many lives were at risk of freezing straight through, could she do any less than what he said? No matter how impossible, she must try, and with this thought fueling her, Penelope Grace walked purposefully through Ellura, hardly seeing the beauty of the world around her through the first day of travel. 

Aira watched her closely. She feared what determination might do to the girl, for she had seen for herself the way that a desire to save could undo a human. But she held her tongue for the moment, watching still, but patiently. 

On the second day of their journey, she separated from the company, believing that a particular grove was nearby and that such a place might spark something different in Penelope’s heart. By evening the wolf returned, her supposition proven right. As the sky darkened and countless stars winked into sight, Aira and Penelope left the campsite and wound their way through the forest.

“Aira, where are we going?” Penelope asked, wanting only to rest after two days of unfamiliar exertion.

“Hush, child,” the wolf replied, her tone kind but firm. “You’ll scare them off.”

Penelope Grace tried her best to remain silent from that point on, but the snowy ground had turned to hoar frost beneath her feet, and each footfall betrayed her with a loud crunch. Despite her own difficulties, Aira somehow had no trouble walking silently through the snow, and Penelope thought to herself how grateful she was that the wolf was not her enemy. 

After some time, they came to the edge of a small grove, one that Penelope would have certainly missed for the trees were quite close together in this part of the forest. Carefully now, she tiptoed to the edge of the grove and peered beyond the branches, hurrying to stifle an awestruck gasp as she did so.

The plants, grass, and trees themselves – every inch of this wintry grove – were all covered in beautifully crisp frost. This sanctuary in the heart of the forest was cloaked in blue light, though Penelope Grace could not find its source; it seemed to emanate softly from everything and everyone present as if they were reflecting the light of a silver-blue sun.

At first, she could not discern details, but soon Penelope noticed beautiful small figures gliding through the air. 

She thought that frost fairies populated the grove, but when she leaned down to quietly ask Aira, the wolf corrected her. “Snow sprites. Similar in nature, but with a beauty quite their own. Now, look.”

Penelope edged as close as she dared to the smallest of gaps in the trees where she might see the snow sprites more closely. To her delight, several were beginning to swirl through the snow as they circled the grove, and they flew quite close.

Each snow sprite wore beautiful, deep blue gowns, etched with frost and shimmering with the clearing’s light. Their hair was silvery-white, and their skin a pale blue. There seemed to be hundreds of them, and as they all flew about the grove, they began to hum the most enchanting tune. 

You can almost hear it, can’t you? Like the melody from a favorite music box that you can’t quite remember, but nevertheless, remains with you.

Penelope listened, not daring to make a sound. 

The snow sprites slowly gathered around a frozen pool in the center of the grove. The sound of their melody stayed soft as each took their turn in gliding across the pool’s frozen surface, leaving behind a precise etching in the ice. As every snow sprite made their simple contribution, they left the grove behind them, and they continued in this way until the frost-covered sanctuary stood empty. 

Penelope looked questioningly at Aira, and the wolf gave her a slight nod, indicating it was safe now to enter the grove. She stepped carefully through the small gap and approached the pool, gasping to see the impossibly intricate snowflake traced into its icy surface.

“Their winter dance is a yearly tradition of the snow sprites. They travel from all across Ellura to make their contribution to the snowflake.”

“It’s beautiful, Aira. But why do they do it?” Penelope asked.

The wolf looked up at her intently before answering. “It is a celebration to honor the One who made them, to rejoice in the delight and wonder of being created.”

Aira fell silent, but then met Penelope’s gaze earnestly. “You see, Penelope Grace, it is not so much that you are living in wonder. It is Who you are living in wonder of.”

At this, the wolf turned, and Penelope Grace followed, feeling once again the conviction that she had just heard words that were worthy of remembering.

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What are you in living in wonder of, reader?

Join us this Friday for the next installment of Penelope’s adventures.

Wondering what you’ll receive when you subscribe? Here’s all the information you need:

  • Four weekly installments of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel
  • Illustrations to accompany the story
  • Entry to our giveaway to win an art print of your favorite illustration (details here)
  • Access to all past and future book releases from 21:25 Books, as long as you remain a subscriber

I hope you’ll join the adventure!

Until then,

Alexandria

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Installment Six: Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

We are proud to present Installment Six of a story most wondrous, where swans of blown glass guard a secret, a necklace of silver and blue holds a memory, and Apricity is discovered in a land of ice and snow.

All manner of adventure is coming, reader, and the fight for wonder promises to grow fierce.

Will you take part?

Join the Fight for Wonder

Subscribe below to receive weekly installments of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, a winter tale of wonder.

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Installment Five: Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

It’s time for the next installment of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, and it promises to be an enchanting one!

In case you missed the announcement yesterday, I will be giving away an art print of one of the illustrations that accompany this story to one subscriber!

All the details can be found here, and as a special treat, everyone can see this week’s illustration below:

The Winter Carousel

Now, let the tale of wonder continue!

Subscribe and Join the Fight for Wonder!

What do you get when you subscribe?

Four weekly installments of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, illustrations to accompany the story, and the chance to win one art print of your favorite illustration!

You’ll also have access to all past and future book releases, as long as you remain a subscriber.

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An Excerpt from Installment Five of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

This week, Penelope Grace is about to make an altogether wondrous discovery. Read the start of the adventure below, then return here this Friday for the unveiling of the winter carousel…

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With a deep breath, Penelope Grace ducked beneath the lowest-hanging branches and stepped into the forest.

It was not long before she realized that they were, indeed, still following a path. Though it was worn and covered in thick patches of ice and snow, it was there, and it offered Penelope a measure of comfort. 

The wolf followed faithfully behind, watchful for any danger. 

But they were alone in this winter forest, and Penelope and the wolf continued on quietly, both understanding that the silence of this place was sacred and worth leaving undisturbed.

They walked in this way for some time, until, all of a sudden, the wolf trotted ahead of her.

Penelope could feel the creature’s expectation fill her as well, and her heart began to beat faster as they approached a clearing in the forest. 

Without warning, the wolf ran forward, gracefully maneuvering the small gap in the trees that marked the entrance to the clearing, and Penelope followed suit.

Gently pushing aside the branches of an evergreen, Penelope Grace stepped into the clearing and found that she could not take another step. She was stunned and enchanted.

On the opposite side of the clearing stood an ice-blue carousel, covered in snow.

She could see from this distance that ice had coated the carousel’s gleaming silver poles, while patches of snow disguised the carousel’s animals. Only the moonlight illuminated it, setting countless glittering snowflakes ablaze, and Penelope Grace admired its reflected light.

The carousel looked as if it had been forgotten for a hundred endless winters until the ice and snow had come to cover it and claim the carousel for its own. Almost, it seemed wrong to do anything but leave it untouched.

The wolf thought otherwise.

It came to stand behind Penelope and nudged her forward.

*

But what happens next, you ask?

Only two more days to wait 😉

You can join the fight for wonder below!

You’ll receive four weekly installments of the story, exclusive illustrations, and have the chance to win an exciting giveaway, which will be announced tomorrow on our social media (@2125Books).

You’ll also have unlimited access to all past and future book releases, so you can read past installments at any pace you like, as long as you remain a subscriber!

Sound fun?!

In the meantime, why do you think the wolf led Penelope to the carousel? I’d love to hear your guesses!

Until Friday,

Alexandria

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Book Review: The Secret Lake

I happened upon this children’s mystery adventure by Karen Inglis several weeks ago, and I’m so glad I did! This is a charming, endearing tale, absolutely perfect for families to read and enjoy together. Read my full review below!

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Have you ever wondered what mysteries might await you in the garden?

Don’t leave it unexplored, reader.

Don’t leave a stone unturned, for a secret is waiting just beneath the bushes, and it might be you who uncovers it…

In this delightful children’s mystery adventure, Karen Inglis has created a story that is perfect for families to enjoy together. They’ll feel all of Tom and Stella’s sadness as the two children adjust to an unfamiliar new home, grumble along with Tom at caretaker Charlie Green’s antics, celebrate the arrival of an unexpected friend, and cry for joy as the mystery is, at last, uncovered and a life-long adventure revealed.

The Secret Lake is a chance to read and wonder and adventure together that no family will want to miss.

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You can join Karen Inglis’ Readers’ Club here, where you’ll receive a free poster of The Secret Lake and a crossword puzzle inspired by the story!

Head to Bookshop, Books-A-Million, or Amazon to pick up a copy of The Secret Lake!

You can also follow Karen Inglis on Facebook or Instagram to receive all the latest updates on her new releases!

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That’s all for today! What are you currently reading?

I’ve just started The Champion of Valdeor by Sandralena Hanley (review to come next week!), and I’m already knee-deep in reading challenges for 2021!

This Friday, the next installment of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, a winter tale of the fight for wonder, releases! I hope you’ll join us for the adventure. You can do that here:

In the next day or so, I’ll be announcing a fun giveaway for subscribers!

Stay tuned!

Alexandria

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Installment Four of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

Welcome to Installment Four of this most wonder-filled tale, Reader, in which Penelope Grace discovers an unexpected friend.

Join the Fight for Wonder

Read Penelope Grace’s adventures and discover the fate of wonder for yourself…

When you subscribe, you’ll receive four weekly installments each month, illustrations to accompany the adventure, and the chance to win an exciting giveaway, which will be announced next week!

You’ll also have unlimited access to all of our past and future publications, so you can read our stories at any pace you like 🙂

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Installment Two: Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

Prepare yourself, dear reader, for a curious tale of deep-sea rescue in this week’s installment of Penelope Grace’s adventures.

The fight for wonder is just beginning…

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Join the Fight for Wonder

For 3.99/month, you’ll receive four installments of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, all of the illustrations that accompany the tale, and a chance to win an exciting gift in the coming weeks! I hope you’ll join us for the adventure!

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An Excerpt from Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

Hello, everyone!

Each week, I’ll be sharing an excerpt from my story, Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel. This week is full of all sorts of mischief!

Listen below, or, if you prefer, you can read the excerpt below the video!

An Excerpt from Installment Two

Penelope Grace braced herself before entering the dining area, knowing that the moment she did, all sorts of silliness would ensue. George had told Uncle Alex and herself that they must find the most ridiculous costumes imaginable. But he gave them this warning: once they all sat down for supper, they must not, under any circumstances, laugh.

It can only seem fair that Penelope Grace set out to create a costume so absurd that George could not hope to win at his own mischievous game.

Taking a deep breath, she entered the room to find their plates already filled with piping-hot food and Uncle Alex sitting in great state at the head of the table.

A soft purple blanket was wrapped around his shoulders, secured by what Penelope suspected was one of Mama’s favorite brooches. But by far the most amusing was the Christmas wreath, full of pine cones and bright red ribbon, sitting on top of his head – a makeshift crown, she guessed.

He gestured for her to sit down. It was then that she noticed the umbrella. He planted it firmly on the carpet, as if it were some sort of grand staff, and met Penelope’s gaze, daring her not to be amused. The laughter nearly escaped her then.

Adopting a solemn expression, she adjusted her makeshift sword belt – made out of evergreen garland and very uncomfortable indeed – before striding forward with the utmost confidence. Regretfully, she only managed a few steps before she tripped over her weapon of choice: Nurse Sasha’s broom. Penelope looked up quickly, though, hoping to catch Uncle Alex in a laugh, but was chagrined to find that he was maintaining his composure.

He cleared his throat as she took a seat with as much dignity as possible. “A most unfortunate choice for a sword,” he lamented, before quickly taking a drink. But Penelope smiled, knowing he was really trying to disguise a laugh.

“Where is Georgie,” she asked. No sooner had the words left her lips then she heard her brother clearing his throat just outside the door.

“Tonight, Penelope,” he declared in a very dignified tone, “I am Sir George, a noble knight, and defender of the realm!”

He entered the room then, and Penelope knew she could not hope to find a more striking figure in all England. She first noticed one of Nurse Sasha’s freshly ironed tablecloths draped dramatically across Sir George’s shoulders and secured with a clothespin.

In his right hand, he held a whisk, a weapon sure to inspire fear in the hearts of the land’s greatest enemies. Slowly, he approached the table. Penelope and Uncle Alex could only assume this was to give them more time to admire his nobility. Once seated, Sir George observed them both carefully for any sign of merriment.

So far, they had contained it, but Penelope could not resist the urge to tease her brother. George, however, beat her to it. “How are you enjoying Sherwood Forest, Penelope?”

She hesitated, confused, before remembering that her hat for this evening was borrowed from their many games of Robin Hood.

“Oh, it’s lovely this time of year,” she replied, “though the Sheriff is giving us untold trouble, as always. I do hope you can find time in between quests to visit us.”

“I would like that very much.”

They sat in silence for a few minutes, each devising the best way to make the others laugh. Eventually, Penelope landed on just the thing. “Sir George, I hesitate to mention this, but I cannot help but notice that your helmet has several holes in it.”

He adjusted the colander indignantly. “It is the consequence of my many daring escapades.”

“Of course,” Penelope replied with a small smile. “Forgive me.”

At this point, Uncle Alex interjected. “Sir George, I wonder if you would be so kind as to share some tales of these daring escapades with us.”

“Yes, it would be my honor.”

His tone was very formal and impressive, but Penelope had to confess that the effect was somewhat spoiled when the colander slipped down over his eyes.

Her laughter nearly bubbled over, and Penelope looked down quickly, pursing her lips and fighting to mask it.

George, instantly noticing her difficulty with immense delight, asked with the sincerest of looks, “Is there something sour on your plate, my lady?”

Penelope cleared her throat before answering. “On the contrary, Sir George, the food is, as always, delicious.”

“I’m so happy to hear that,” he replied with a grin, fully intending to tease her further.

But just at that moment, Nurse Sasha came bustling in. She glanced at them briefly as she placed dessert on the table, then gave a start and looked back. They met her startled expression with perfect innocence, as if nothing at all was out of the ordinary, save George, who refused to make eye contact.

After a flabbergasted silence, Nurse Sasha seemed about to leave well enough alone until she took a good look at George’s costume. “George,” she managed to sputter, “is that my tablecloth?”

“No,” he said with admirable restraint, before quickly looking away for something more interesting to stare at.

Nurse Sasha crossed her arms and began to tap her foot, fully aware of his ploy. “George,” she said expectantly.

He turned back to face her with a startled look, as if only just realizing that she was there. “Yes?”

“My whisk, if you please.”

Slowly, and with great dignity, he passed the whisk to Nurse Sasha, who promptly snatched it from his hand and exited the room with much huffing and muttering.

Uncle Alex, Penelope, and George sat quietly for perhaps three seconds before they burst out laughing, unable to restrain their joy any longer.

“I believe this calls for chocolate cake by the fire,” Uncle Alex said. The joyous delight in his eyes would have convinced even the strictest of parents that it was an excellent idea. It was certainly enough to persuade George, who rushed to get three plates.

Penelope smiled. “I’ll be there shortly, Uncle Alex. Save me a piece?”

“Of course.”

Penelope gathered their dinner plates and carried them to the kitchen. Between their many mischievous exploits and the care of the household itself, Nurse Sasha did quite enough for them already and would, perhaps, appreciate some help. She had just finished washing the dishes when Nurse Sasha arrived, carrying what remained of her chocolate cake.

When she saw what Penelope had done, she said, “Oh, just when I was fixing to stay angry with you for that mountain of nutcracker soldiers!”

“What soldiers,” Penelope asked before dancing from the room, the faintest hint of a smile in her eyes.

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Thank you so much for reading! If you were one of the characters, what would your costume have looked like? I’d love for you to share your silliest ideas in the comments 🙂

I hope you enjoyed this excerpt and will join us for Installment Two this Friday! You can subscribe below to receive every installment of this wintry tale of wonder!

Until then,

Alexandria

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Book Review: The Librarian of Boone’s Hollow

What a pleasure it is to introduce you all to The Librarian of Boone’s Hollow by Kim Vogel Sawyer. This is a story you’re sure to find a treasured space for on your shelves. Read on for my full review!

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Addie’s world has been turned upside down, and her expectations for what the future holds have been unceremoniously shattered. After learning that she can no longer pursue her college degree because of her family’s financial ruin, Addie has a choice: give in to despair or trust God to bring hope and purpose to circumstances that feel so uncertain and frightening.

When an opportunity comes to join a team of packhorse librarians who deliver books to the people of Boone’s Hollow, Addie believes that God is doing just that.

But when she arrives, Addie finds that superstition and prejudice have taken deep root, and finding her place in Boone’s Hollow will prove more difficult than she ever expected. Still, she is not without friends in this new place. A kindly old woman, Nanny Fay, and Emmett, an acquaintance from college, stand beside Addie through it all and might, in the end, make staying in Boone’s Hollow worthwhile.

It is no easy thing to craft a fictional community of people so exquisitely that readers immediately feel as if they’ve known the characters all their lives, but Kim Vogel Sawyer has done exactly that. And for all the characters’ faults and idiosyncrasies, they also possess strength and a willingness to grow in equal measure. Between these pages live real people who must bravely confront painful obstacles and who will leave all who pick up The Librarian of Boone’s Hollow with a longing to visit and learn from them again and again.

I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book, which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.

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You can connect with Kim on her website, Goodreads, and Twitter! She has so many wonderful stories to share, and I have no doubt you’ll want to dive into each one!

The Librarian of Boone’s Hollow is available to purchase at Bookshop (a fantastic site that gives you the chance to support indie booksellers), Books-A-Million, and Barnes & Noble.

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This Friday, Installment Two of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel publishes! Subscribe here to receive this winter tale of wonder! You’ll have unlimited access to this story (and all future ones) as long as you remain a subscriber. I hope you’ll join us! 🙂

Until then,

Alexandria