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

The maze seeks to claim her.

Will Penelope Grace ever find her way out?

A new excerpt awaits you, reader.

Will you brave the bracken and thorns for yourself?

*

She had only decided on two more paths when another rustle sounded behind her. Penelope stopped short, but would not look back, would not let her fear get the best of her.

One deep breath and she moved forward again, fighting to remain sure of herself.

This time something moved just to her right, not touching her, though she could feel the breath of it passing by. 

Another rush of movement to her left. Penelope jumped back as she glanced frantically around for its source. Her cloak ripped as it caught on a thorn. Quickly now, Penelope Grace bent to untangle it from the bracken, her fingers clumsy. 

The rustling sound grew louder, and as her cloak only grew more entangled, Penelope let out a cry of frustration and panic. 

Looking around for any kind of help, though she didn’t know what she expected to find, Penelope froze. 

A mass of thorns and brittle vines were unassumingly gathering in front of her, barring her way forward while she remained none the wiser. 

Frightened and enraged, she ran forward, at last succeeding in wrenching her cloak free. But the way was shut before Penelope could reach it, and she stopped just short of beating against the solid wall of bracken, knowing that would only leave her hands a bloody, aching mess. 

Penelope’s mind raced, but there were countless paths through this maze. Surely, she could retrace her steps and find another.

Racing down the path, Penelope nearly stumbled over the enormous husk of a root that she knew had not been there before. Undeterred, she ran on. Though the mist was growing thicker, she could see the light from the lantern that had illuminated the crossroads and knew she was close. 

She was almost on top of the barred path before she realized her mistake. 

She could not go back.

Neither could she go forward.

How many more paths would the bracken prevent her from reaching? How long before every way was shut?

There was no way out.

*

This Friday, Part Two: Winter comes to a close, but Penelope Grace’s adventures are far from over.

To receive weekly digital installments, click below to join the fight for wonder. Or, if you would like to receive a unique, manuscript edition of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, contact us at 2125bks@gmail.com

Until this Friday,

Alexandria

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.

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…

*

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

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 🙂

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

Welcome to Part Two: Winter, being the second part of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel.

Please enjoy this excerpt from the story.

*

She kept hoping her mother would turn around or that Georgie would return to the family room, ready to plead with their father once more with his usual mischievous grin.

No one appeared.

Penelope Grace, now alone with her father, summoned up her remaining courage and went to him. His back faced the rest of the room, and she nearly lost her nerve but made herself speak in the end.

“Papa, would you sit with me awhile?”

He did not stir.

“Papa?”

She waited a few moments for his response, though it hurt her to know how oblivious he was to her. 

When it was long past obvious that she would get no answer from her father tonight, Penelope, at last, followed in Georgie’s and her mother’s footsteps.

She stopped at the foot of the staircase when a faint touch of frigid air swept past her. The cold never troubled Penelope Grace, but it was unnatural to feel its touch indoors.

Wondering at the cause of it, Penelope searched the lower half of the house for an improperly latched window but found no such thing.

Frowning at the unwelcome mystery, she returned to the stairs, troubled, but at a loss for any sort of explanation. 

For every step Penelope Grace took, the air grew colder. Halfway up, she snatched her hand back from the banister with a sharp intake of breath. The light was dim, but she could still make out a small patch of ice, which was slowly expanding to cover the length of the polished wood.

Penelope stepped back, frightened and confused by what was happening. Her breath came in visible, panicked gasps as she rushed up the last of the stairs, the only way she could think of to escape the cold and ice.

Escape is rarely so simple.

A fresh gust of wind struck Penelope just as she reached the landing. Her eyes widening in horror, she barely succeeded in stifling a cry as she watched frost begin to curl its way around the pattern on the wallpaper.

It was the first time that Penelope remembered thinking of ice as something cruel.

*

Installment Four publishes this Friday, Jan. 1st, and the fight for wonder is growing more dangerous than ever. Who knows what might happen next?

Once you’ve subscribed, you’ll receive four installments each month, illustrations that accompany the story, and the chance to win an exciting giveaway (announcement coming soon)! You’ll also have access to all past and future installments of our stories, so you can read them at any pace you like 🙂

Happy reading!

Alexandria

A Sneak Peek at Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel!

This is the week! The first installment of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel publishes this Friday, December 11th! Here’s a sneak peek to tide you over until then.

*

Penelope Grace was a remarkable girl.

Of course, that word – remarkable – can mean many different things, depending on whom you ask.

Upon entering the Saris household, you would first be taken to the kitchen for a warm cup of tea to fight off the early winter’s chill. There, Nurse Sasha – who oversaw everything – would happily offer you her opinion. She could hardly find it less than remarkable that a girl of sixteen could behave so like her nine-year-old brother as to be nearly indistinguishable.

Once welcomed and enlightened, you might continue to the living room and find a comfortable chair near Penelope’s mother, Mary, who is patiently mending the latest torn and dirt-stained dress. She would share with you how her daughter is remarkably and admirably unconcerned with what others think of her.

Over the years, her friends marveled to find that Penelope was just as likely to pick up an imaginary sword as an intricate piece of embroidery. Growing serious now, Mary would tell you of the many encouragements she has received to rein her daughter in.

But it is too rare a gift to see a child’s spirit endure into adulthood. As Penelope’s mother, she would ask, how could she do less than safeguard it?

But just then, young George would come bursting in, his great-uncle Alex not far behind, and insist on knowing what your conversation was about.

“Well, George,” Mary would ask with the warmest of smiles, “what do you think makes your sister remarkable?”

He would think hard about it for a minute or two but, his nose crinkling up as he grinned, would soon reply with a firm, “Two things.”

And then, leaning forward as if to share with you a very great secret, George would tell you a story. Just last week, Penelope had, remarkably, succeeded both in assembling an entire regiment of nutcracker soldiers in the foyer and in vanishing from sight before Nurse Sasha could certainly accuse her of having done it.

“And the second,” you would ask, sincerely eager to know.

“She is the only grown-up who isn’t only teasing me when she says she still believes in Father Christmas.”

Equally impressed by both these reasons, you might then turn to great-uncle Alex, whom you would find no less willing to join in the conversation.

He would have to say that Penelope was remarkable for her persistent delight in all things simple, yet extraordinary. Even now she remains as enchanted with his magic tricks as she was on the day he first arrived from Greece to share them with her.

But of all her family, acquaintances and friends, only her father, John – who has been listening by the crackling fire all the while – could tell you with absolute certainty what it was that made Penelope Grace genuinely remarkable:

“Wonder.”

*

To read more, subscribe below! For $3.99/month, you’ll receive a new installment each week, along with a special illustration to accompany the story and the chance to win an exciting gift in the coming weeks! See you Friday 🙂

Until then,

Alexandria

Synopsis: Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

This week, the winter magic begins. Subscriptions to Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel are officially open!

This winter tale will be delivered straight to your inbox in weekly installments, from December to February. All of the information you need to subscribe can be found below.

But first, a little treat for you! Read on for the synopsis (and if you’d like to see the illustration that accompanies it, be sure to hit the subscribe button!).

I can’t wait to share this story with you all, and I hope you enjoy this sneak peek at the adventure to come!

*       

In a home nestled on a quiet, cobblestone street, a young girl is holding tightly to wonder.

Penelope Grace is looking out the window, breathing in the stillness of snow falling. Christmas is coming, and as she lovingly places each candle on the windowsills, warmth and light transform her family’s home.

She settles in by the fireside with her family, welcoming you to join them, as Great Uncle Alex challenges anyone present to uncover the secret of his magic tricks.

The mystery, as always, remains, yet everyone is content. All is quiet and good, as it should be.

But as the holiday approaches, Penelope learns how easily circumstance can mock joy. A nameless shadow is haunting her family, and there seems to be no hope of defending them against his relentless attacks.

Still, Penelope Grace is not content to stand by and do nothing, and so, on a cold winter’s night, she finds herself chasing an unexpected friend through the snow.

But which will prove stronger?

Shadow or Light? Despair or wonder?

Follow her now through an ice-laden forest, down a worn, frozen path, to a winter carousel covered in snow.

Do you suppose that you will find the answers there?

*

Monthly Subscription

See this week’s illustration and get access to future installments of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel when you subscribe monthly today! This will give you access to all current and future book releases from 21:25 Books!

*

Be sure to share Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel with family, friends, and anyone you know who is in need of a little wonder this year.

Until next week,

Alexandria

Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves: The Final Installment

Here we are, at the end of an adventure I never expected to take (those are always the best kind, aren’t they?). Chip’s story completely surprised me, but I’m so thankful I got to be the one to tell it. If you have ever felt alone, unseen, or unheard, I hope this story is a friend to you and that it will remind you that you have a Father in Heaven Who is absolutely captivated by each and every one of your prayers.

*

It seemed to Chip that he had been adventuring through Almea for an age, for so much had happened on their search for Abaline. A part of him expected the journey back to feel just as long, yet, before Chip knew it, they were facing the river that the young fox, Wilfred, had helped them cross.

With Beauregard’s help, Chip crossed first this time. He waited with no small amount of sadness as Alfeus and Beauregard bickered their way across the river, for he knew that his time with these wonderful friends was coming to an end.

Chip could not fathom being apart from them, but this was their home, and, no matter how much he loved Almea, Chip’s home lay somewhere beyond the hollow of a tree inhabited by a certain persevering owl.

Alfeus and Beauregard were halfway to the shore now, and in the time remaining to Chip, his thoughts drifted to Nesbit, to stories told by candlelight and the comforting rumble of Romulus’ voice.

But, perhaps most of all, Chip thought of the warmth of his own burrow and the pleasure in sharing a meal with Mama and Papa.

This was what he missed most of all, and as his friends reached him at last, Chip found himself with more of a longing for home, though leaving Alfeus and Beauregard would still be bittersweet.

At that instant, a somewhat bedraggled chipmunk marched straight past him, clearly determined to distance himself from a certain beaver.

“Give me Wilfred any day!” Alfeus hurrumphed as he carried on, entirely unconcerned with whether his companions were following or not.

“You know, Chip,” Beauregard said as they watched their disgruntled friend, “I’d pray for him to be less cantankerous, but I do believe that, if he were, he’d be just a little less Alfeus, if you know what I mean.”

“Yes, Beauregard, I know exactly what you mean,” Chip answered as they trailed after their friend.

“He’s got spunk, our Alfeus,” Beauregard said with a fond chuckle.

“And we love him more for it,” Chip replied.

“Aye, that we do.” After a moment, the beaver continued, “He’ll miss you, you know.”

Chip looked over at Beauregard, surprised, but warmed, by his words. “Do you really think so?”

“Oh, yes. In fact, I suspect your leaving is what’s making him especially persnickety today.”

Chip had no time to answer, for, at just that moment, a joyous yip met their ears, and a flash of brilliant copper raced towards them.

“Wilfred!” Chip cried.

“Chip! Alfeus! You’re back!” the young fox breathlessly answered as he reached them.

Then, looking quizzically at the beaver, he asked, “Beauregard? How did you get mixed up in all this?”

“Examine any dangerous endeavor, Wilfred,” Alfeus cut in, “and you are certain to find Beauregard’s paw prints all over it.”

Beauregard’s chest puffed up. “I take that as the highest of compliments, Alfeus, and thank you.”

A low grumble was Alfeus’ only reply.

Turning to Chip, Wilfred asked, “Are you heading for The Entrance?”

Chip frowned. “Do you mean the tree?”

Wilfred nodded. “Come on! I’ll keep you company, at least part of the way.”

They were just beginning to carry on when, suddenly, Wilfred stopped, staring at Chip. “Chip, where’s your satchel?”

Dread swelled inside our young rabbit friend.

Leah’s satchel.

Quickly, his mind raced through all their adventures and travels, but, for all he tried, Chip could not remember the last time he’d had it. “I don’t know,” he cried, greatly distressed. “Romulus and Leah will be so angry with me for losing it!”

“Now, Chip,” Beauregard interjected, “you’ve been through harrowing adventures in your time here, and they’ll understand, Leah especially. And it’ll all come right in the end. Someone’s bound to find it.”

And, indeed, someone had.

But never mind about that for now.

For a moment, Chip desperately wanted to argue, to insist that they must go in search of the satchel so that he might return it.

But then, he thought of the gift he’d been given – one that was beginning to make a bit more sense – and of Abaline’s warning.

Be careful what you do with this gift.

He couldn’t go back.

It wasn’t the right time.

And Chip found himself content to wait until it was.

With that decided, the company continued on, talking animatedly the entire time about their adventures and what they’d discovered at the end of them. Chip was only too happy to answer Wilfred’s questions about Abaline and was truly pleased when the young fox immediately understood what made their discovery the truest kind of treasure.

Day was only just beginning to settle into dusk when they came upon a rather familiar hazelnut tree.

“Home!” Alfeus cried. “Home, and my beloved hazelnuts! Or, rather, what’s left of them,” he concluded with a pointed stare in Beauregard’s direction.

But the beaver was unruffled by his friend’s thinly-veiled accusation, and he only said, “I wouldn’t be too quick to fuss about those hazelnuts or my young rabbit friends.” He then gestured off to the left where the most enormous leaf Chip had ever seen was being dragged by four familiar bunnies.

Roger, Roderick, Eloise, and Fred stopped just in front of the flabbergasted chipmunk, who, for once, had nothing to say. Lying in front of him was a positively monstrous pile of beautiful, fresh hazelnuts, the likes of which he’d only dreamed about.

Tentatively, he reached out and took one, bringing it close and inhaling deeply, as if to assure himself they were real.

Once satisfied, he turned to face the four rabbits and finally managed to splutter, “Th-thank you. Thank you! This will see me through three winters, at least! Probably more! I can hardly believe… however did you manage it?” he asked.

But the rabbits only laughed mischievously amongst themselves. “We’ll tell you about it some time,” one of them promised, and then they were off, giggling and chasing each other through the forest.

Alfeus was still staring at the hazelnuts when Chip quietly said, “Well, I best be going, everyone.”

A bit of the joy left Alfeus, but he handled it admirably. “I shall accompany you every step of the way, my friend. Though I will have to hide my hazelnuts first.”

“Never you mind about that, Alfeus,” Beauregard said. “I will guard them until you return.”

Alfeus beamed, then looked to Wilfred, who said, a bit reluctantly, “I can’t. My dad will expect me home before it gets much darker.”

“That’s all right, Wilfred. I understand,” Chip replied, though he was disappointed that he must say goodbye to two friends already.

Wilfred came forward, nudging Chip affectionately. “You’ll come back, though, won’t you?”

Chip smiled. “I hope so.”

“Maybe I’ll join you for your next adventure,” Wilfred said with a fierce grin, and then he was gone, bounding away like a flash of fire in the starlight.

Chip wasted not a moment before hopping towards the beaver, who placed a comforting paw on Chip’s shoulder. “Oh, Chip,” Beauregard said with a sigh. “Almea is going to be a less adventurous place without you in it. Still, we never know when an opportunity to return might present itself. And you know just where to find me.”

Chip huddled close a moment more before returning to Alfeus’ side. “Thank you for everything, Beauregard. We might never have found Abaline if not for you.”

“Oh, don’t mention it, Chip. Accompanying you and Alfy was my joy.”

With goodbyes exchanged, Chip and Alfeus began the final stretch of their journey.

Chip only looked back once and Beauregard, with a final wave, called, “Safe travels, my friend!”

Starlight was the only light to speak of as they made their way to the tree where Chip’s adventures in Almea had begun.

Neither could bring themselves to speak, but Chip was content to soak in these last minutes with Alfeus in silence.

Still, the time together proved to be all too short.

They stood at the foot of the tree, both unsure what to say.

At last, Alfeus said, “Oh, come here,” and the two friends embraced, finding some measure of relief that their sadness at parting ways was shared.

After a moment, they stepped apart. “Of all the friends I made in Almea, Alfeus, I’m thankful you were the first.”

An embarrassed, “Oh,” was all Alfeus could muster, though he was clearly pleased by Chip’s thoughtful words.

But before either could say anything more, a great whoosh of air sounded above them. A moment later, Nesbit landed in the grass beside Alfeus and Chip, who was overjoyed to see his old friend.

“Well, young Chip,” Nesbit said, “have you persevered?”

Chip laughed fondly. “Yes, Nesbit, I have.”

“Very good. Time to be going then?”

Chip didn’t answer, instead looking at Alfeus.

“We’ll see each other soon, my friend. It’s time for you to go home,” the chipmunk said gently.

Chip nodded, tears filling his eyes. “Goodbye, Alfeus.”

“Goodbye for now, Chip.”

And then, quick as a blink, our young rabbit friend was swept up as Nesbit flew up amongst the branches, through the tree’s hollow, and back to Everleaf Forest.

For a moment, Chip could not believe he was home, yet all the familiar sights and sounds, not to mention the wonderful scent of clover, reassured him that he was.

With Nesbit already asleep, Chip had the clearing to himself, and he stayed there in the quiet for a while, soaking in all he’d learned.

For ages, he’d wondered if his prayers mattered and if they were heard.

In the end, he’d found even better.

His tears were the diamonds of Heaven, his prayers carefully preserved.

He was reassured now that, like perfume carefully bottled, like rose leaves lovingly pressed between the pages of a favorite book, were his prayers to the Father.

His purpose – and ours – is to go and tell those who are still longing to know.

When he had set out, he had never expected to find truth so glorious or peace so sound.

Chip looked up at the sky, smiling once and giving thanks before turning for home.

His father, Joshua Raddish, met him at the door.

“Papa, I –“ Chip began, but his father held up a paw.

“Nesbit and Romulus already fessed up.”

“I’m sorry, Papa,” Chip said.

“You could have told me.”

“You might have stopped me.”

Joshua looked at his son kindly. “I might have gone with you.”

Something, Chip supposed, to keep in mind for next time.

The End

*

I hope you enjoyed the journey just as much as I did. And, remember, you can revisit past installments of Chip any time!

Next week, Author Spotlight Month begins on 21:25 Books! I’ll be featuring H.A. Pruitt’s novel, Anelthalien, along with a special author interview at the end of the week. You won’t want to miss it!

Until then,

Alexandria

Book Review: Night Night, Norman

Today, I get to share a delightful storybook that just released today, Night Night, Norman.

This is one worth picking up and enjoying with your family. You can read my full review below.

*

Open up this enchanting storybook and take a stroll to Green Apple Barn, where a curious horse named Norman is about to set off on an adventure.

Norman’s whole world revolves around a little girl, Elle, who is his family and greatest friend.

She tenderly feeds and grooms him and always makes sure to reward Norman with his favorite treat: fresh, deliciously tart green apples.

But when their time together comes to an end each day, where does Ellie go?

Norman is determined to find out, and all sorts of shenanigans are sure to ensue when he does, from tumbling over furniture to uncovering the most delicious of treats in the kitchen.

But when all is said and done, will Norman succeed in finding Elle?

You’ll have to wait until night falls at Green Apple barn and see for yourself.

Accompanied by beautiful illustrations by Romi Caron, Night Night, Norman is a tale full of whimsy and fun that is sure to delight children and adults alike as they follow this most loveable of horses on his nighttime adventure.

And, if you’d like to create your own adventures for Norman, you can learn how to draw him at the back of the book!

*

You can follow Marie Dimitrova on Instagram.

And be sure to head to Marie’s website to see photos of the real-life Norman who inspired this story and learn to create even more original horse artwork!

You can also connect with the illustrator, Romi Caron, on Facebook.

Book Review: The Crownless King

I have something truly special to share with you all today. The Crownless King is such a fantastic read, and I can’t recommend it enough. Check out my full review below!

*

“None of us deserve life in the end, but life flows through us just the same….”

There is a battle within us all between shame and grace.

Can you feel it?

One clamors for our attention, for ownership of our thoughts, while the other invites us into new life and peace.

In The Crownless King, the fate of a kingdom and its people hinges on the outcome of this battle.

It rages in Milosh, a ruler with a crown that seems hopelessly tarnished by his father’s legacy. No one is more uncertain of his right to rule than Milosh himself, but perhaps, grace can reach him yet.

The battle is waged just as fiercely in a young woman, Sabriel, whose thoughts have not been entirely her own for some time, yet whose heart may prove true in the end.

But all is not lost, for neither fights alone. In the faithfulness of a few steadfast friends rests the hope that shame and regret will, at last, be silenced and redemption will have the final say.

Kara Linaburg has fearlessly crafted a story that boldly confronts one of the most difficult things to face: the battle within our own minds.

If you’re longing to hear the victory cry of redemption over your life, pick up The Crownless King.

You’ll find hope on every page.

(I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

*

You can purchase The Crownless King on Amazon, as well as the first book in the series, The Broken Prince.

Be sure to connect with Kara Linaburg on Instagram!

That’s all for the weekend, friends!

Until next week,

Alexandria