Installment Three: Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

Merry Christmas and welcome to the third installment of Penelope Grace’s adventures, dear reader, in which Penelope learns she is running out of time…

Join the Fight for Wonder

Things are growing perilous for Penelope Grace and her family. Discover what sort of danger threatens for yourself…

Book Review: The Edge of Everywhen

What a delight sharing this story is going to be with you! Read my full review of The Edge of Everywhen by A.S. Mackey below!

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“Be astonished! Be astounded! For a work is being done in your days that you would not believe if you were told.” Habakkuk 1:5, NRSV

Something astonishing, indeed, awaits you, dear Reader.

On the pages of The Edge of Everywhen, you’ll find a young girl, Piper, frightened and desperate for what has been lost to be returned…

Her brother, Phoenix, an altogether rare young man, longing to be seen and understood…

A father, fighting to be reunited with his family…

And Aunt Beryl, with a cold, reserved heart, longing to be warmed.

Do you hear the echoes of your own story in any of theirs? Then, read on.

But be warned!

Something astonishing, indeed, awaits you, dear Reader, for between the covers of The Edge of Everywhen, you’ll encounter a story that will bring you closer to God and closer to the person you were handcrafted to be.

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There truly are not sufficient words to express how wonderful this story is, so I’ll leave you with a simple plea: please read The Edge of Everywhen. You won’t regret a minute of this adventure and will, I believe, walk away from it forever changed.

My heartfelt gratitude to A.S. Mackey for having the courage to write this story.

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 grab a copy of The Edge of Everywhen from Bookshop (a fantastic site that allows you to support indie booksellers!), Lifeway, or Books-A-Million.

Be sure to connect with A.S. Mackey on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads!

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This Thursday, Installment Three of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel publishes!

You can read an excerpt here and subscribe below 🙂 It’s been my great joy to share this winter tale of wonder with you, and I can’t wait for the story to continue!

Until then,

Alexandria

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

The Inspiration Behind Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

Good morning, everyone!

Today, I want to share a quick post about what inspired me to write Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel.

Listen below!

The Inspiration Behind
Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

I hope you enjoyed learning more about what inspired me to write this story and that you’ll enjoy all the installments to come!

To read a special sneak peek of the story and subscribe to receive future installments, click here!

The second installment publishes this Friday! And remember, once you subscribe, you have unlimited access to all past and future installments, so you can read the story at whatever pace you like 🙂

Until then,

Alexandria

Book Review: The Awakened by Richard Spillman

Cover Image Courtesy of Goodreads

This week, I have the privilege of sharing my review of The Awakened by Richard Spillman. I can’t think of enough good things to say about this novel! You can read my full review (and grab a copy for yourself!) below.

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“Perhaps faith really is trusting that something meaningful lies beneath the surface of the senseless, that purpose exists in the randomness of life, that joy is independent of your circumstances….”

Lazarus, who goes by L, has been holding onto faith for 2,000 years. As an Awakened – one whom Jesus resurrected from the dead – his purpose is to faithfully serve God as he takes part in the spiritual warfare raging around the world.

Demons, known as UDs, who have taken up residence in human bodies, are everywhere, and they want nothing more than to distort and destroy the image bearers of God, proving once and for all that humans are irredeemable.

Though L is growing weary, he refuses to give up. But the battle is growing more complicated. More often, L wonders if the end times are approaching and if he is equal to the task appointed to him.

Still, with the help of a few unexpected, but not unwelcome, friends, L finds that his faith is rekindling, and he is more certain than ever before that the Light has overcome the darkness.

But the battle isn’t over yet…

With heart-pounding action and believable characters that quickly feel like old friends, Dr. Richard Spillman has created a story that is resonant, fast-paced, and timely, not to mention impossible to put down. Reminiscent of Frank Peretti’s novels, The Awakened is full of suspense and the timeless truth that, even in the midst of so much uncertainty, there is a steadfast Hope we can rely on.

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You can purchase a copy of The Awakened at Barnes and Noble or Bookshop, a wonderful site that supports independent booksellers with every purchase! It is also available on Amazon.

Be sure to leave a review on Goodreads! Reviews are a great way to support authors.

Later this week, I’ll be sharing an interview with the author, Richard Spillman!

Until then,

Alexandria

Interview With H.A. Pruitt

Happy Thursday, everyone! I’m so excited to introduce you all to H.A. Pruitt, the author of Anelthalien (you can read my full review here)! Check out Heather’s author bio and my full interview with her below!

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H. A. Pruitt is a pastor’s wife who teaches two Bible studies and wrote the recovery program for the church they serve. Her mission in all she does is to listen to, obey, and glorify God. She has always enjoyed art, using her imagination, and writing and is enjoying God using those abilities to shape her into an author.

Also, she really loves her guinea pigs … all 14 of them.

Anelthalien is such a beautiful story. Tell us a little more about your heart for this story and what inspired you to write it.

Anelthalien is definitely in my heart, and my heart is definitely in Anelthalien. Before it was a book or even a story, Anelthalien was my place to play, escape to, and be with God. It was a place where I was safe from reality yet also where I could gain what I needed to go back to and make sense of reality. In a way, that desire to escape to something different inspired me to write Anelthalien. I didn’t intend to write a book; God just told me to start writing, and because I wanted to go to Anelthalien with God and hear His story, I started writing.

The whole story of Anelthalien is pretty long, and so if you want to know more, please do watch the story behind the story on my YouTube channel HAPruitt Anelthalien.

Writing can feel pretty lonely sometimes. Do you have any advice for those who are looking for community with fellow writers?

I have found the most writer support on Instagram. Even if you don’t know any other writers, you can start by following hashtags like #ChristianFictionWriter or #FantasyWriter, and then you will start to find authors who use those hashtags. Also, engage. Many authors are introverts, and so starting conversations can feel uncomfortable, but if you do stay open and communicate with others, then people will open to you and communicate with and support you.

If you had to pick three writers who have inspired you the most, who would they be? What do you love about their stories?

I don’t really have authors I’ve been inspired by as much as stories or books that have impacted me.

1. The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy: I read this book in high school, and it totally changed how I see others.

2. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis: The imaginative world always vividly stuck with me and gave me a hunger to go there.

3. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding: When I read this book, I really comprehended the innately sinful nature of man, and it changed how I understand humans–myself included.

As a Christian writer, what do you most hope readers learn about God’s character from your books?

From Anelthalien I hope readers learn that God brings hope of something different, of a life that is not only better but is purposeful and significant. From the entire series, I hope readers learn that God loves them and desires for them to be with Him. 

What is your favorite thing about being a writer?

Writing. I love getting to write down this amazing story as God tells it to me.

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That’s all for the first week of Author Spotlight Month!

Remember, you can find Anelthalien at your favorite bookstore or at Bookshop, a fantastic website that allows you to support independent booksellers with every purchase!

You can follow H.A. Pruitt on Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube!

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Next week, we’ll be featuring Dr. Richard Spillman and his first novel, The Awakened!

Until then,

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.

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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

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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.

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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!

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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.

Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves: Installment Ten

Writing this installment was one of my greatest joys. I hope you enjoy it!

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Chip was dreaming.

He was in a dark place, deep within the earth. All the shadows in the world seemed intent on suffocating him. He looked around, anxiously trying to catch sight of Alfeus or Beauregard, but the darkness was all-encompassing.

Chip shivered from the damp and the cold, shivered from how very alone he felt.

But then, a clink sounded behind him, the twinge in his left ear faded away, and Chip turned.

Barely a foot away, a diamond was laying on the cool rock, shimmering as if in defiance of the dark.

Chip huddled close to the jewel, comforted by its cool light, but no sooner had he nestled against it than the light began to fade.

The twinge in his left ear returned in full force as his paws scrambled clumsily to keep hold of the diamond. So frantic were his movements, though, that the now dimly glowing jewel skittered across the rock floor.

Its light much too faint by now to allow the rabbit to find it once again, Chip just sat there, watching the diamond’s radiance succumb to the dark, never thinking to simply ask the light to stay.

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He woke with a start, unsettled and discouraged by the dream. Chip saw no reason to dampen the others’ spirits, though, so he kept the dream to himself.

They had stopped to rest underground, Chip and Alfeus feeling spent after their many adventures, and Beauregard always agreeable to a nap. The moth rested nearby, but Chip could see its pale wings fluttering softly, as if it were eager for them to be on their way.

Much like the underground path they had visited not long ago, the walls of this tunnel were encrusted with jewels of various kinds, though not as many as he’d found in the fire lizards’ dwelling.

He shuddered, hoping that none of the lizards’ tunnels connected to this one. Ready for adventure as he was, Chip wasn’t sure he could bear another encounter with the fiery creatures.

Shaking loose any lingering thoughts of the lizards, the young rabbit returned to looking around the tunnel, and he wondered again at the presence of the jewels.

What were they doing here?

But a loud snort from the waking Beauregard woke Alfeus with a start, sent the moth flying, and put a stop to all Chip’s wonderings.

Distracted by the excitement of continuing on their way to Abaline, the many jewels became, for the time being, nothing more than brilliant sparks of light in the darkness.

But I believe, and I think you do, too, that they’re something a little bit more.

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It wasn’t long before matters took an unexpected turn. The further the small group of adventurers travelled, the more they realized that this part of the underground was quite unlike any other.

Near the underground river, it had been abundantly clear that the fire lizards ruled; no other creatures dared to make their homes in those tunnels and caves.

Here, however, just the opposite was true. Small glow worms made their meandering way across the rocks in search of cool earth to sink into. Toads hopped along the slick stone paths, seemingly oblivious to Chip and his companions, before disappearing beneath lily pads that covered the small pools they called home.

Fluttering about Chip’s ears almost playfully were insects with the most intricately designed wings he had ever seen. They moved so swiftly, though, that after only the one clear sight of them, they seemed to disappear, and the only thing that betrayed their graceful flight was the pale luminescence of their wings.

Chip breathed in and out slowly, savoring the richness of the air. Moss and lichen covered the ground until only small patches of bare rock could be seen, and it gave the tunnel an earthy smell that Chip loved.

He looked all around in wonder as countless creatures hopped and flew past jewel-encrusted walls, water softly splashed, and the tunnel filled with the sounds and smells of it all. This felt like a wonderfully secret place, and our small rabbit friend felt entirely content to remain there.

They all remained quiet through this part of their journey, unwilling to interrupt the peacefulness of this place.

That is, of course, until Alfeus’ paw became hopelessly stuck in a thick patch of moss.

“Now, now, Alfy, stay still,” Beauregard said.

The chipmunk gave him a long-suffering look. “There is nothing but mud beneath my foot. If I stay still, Beauregard, I shall sink into the mire and be lost forever.”

Chip chuckled, earning himself a withering stare.

“You always did have a touch of the dramatic in you, Alfeus,” the beaver replied with a fond look that was not returned. “Now, stay still and hand me your paw.”

“Do you listen to yourself?” was the exasperated answer. “How one is supposed to stay still and move at the same time, I would very much like to know!”

All the same, Alfeus held out his paw.

It seemed to all that the amusing incident would end right there, until, when Beauregard gave Alfeus’ paw a good tug, the chipmunk did not budge.

A hint of panic crept into Alfeus’ voice. “Put a little more effort into it, Beauregard! I do not wish to become a part of the scenery.”

“I’m sure one more tug ought to do it, Alfy, never you fear.”

Alas, one more tug did not do it, and before Alfeus could protest (as he surely would have), Beauregard wrapped him in a giant bear hug. With a great heave, the beaver tried to free his friend. Just as he did, though, an ominous rumble filled the tunnel, and as all the small creatures nearby scurried away, the ground beneath them crumbled, and Beauregard and Alfeus disappeared from sight.

“Alfeus! Beauregard!” Chip cried, truly frightened now. Quick as he could, he hopped to the edge of the gaping hole his friends had fallen into.

He was just about to jump in after them, heedless of the danger, when the great rumble filled the space once more and the rock shifted back into place. In seconds, the tunnel’s floor was whole once more and the moss was creeping back over the rock, as if the giant hole had never been.

Chip stared in disbelief, unwilling to believe that his friends were gone and the most obvious path back to them was barred. But just then, a deep boom set the tunnel shaking and rocks clattering.

Chip didn’t think.

He just ran, heedless of the direction he took through the branching tunnels and the sudden darkness surrounding him.

When next he stopped, heart racing, body shaking, Chip knew he was lost. Still, he was poised to flee at the slightest sound, and when it came, he bolted.

Down the nearest tunnel he flew, never considering the dank, musty smell stealing away the good, clean air.

Looming shapes rose suddenly all around him. Chip gasped in surprise, veering away from one only to nearly collide with another.

Whichever way he turned, it made no difference. He was hemmed in on all sides, and, at long last, Chip stopped short, heart pounding more powerfully than he had thought it capable of.

Thick darkness still surrounded him. So frightened he could hardly move, Chip curled himself into a ball. He closed his eyes, his whole body aching for fear and the longing to not be alone.

A few moments passed before Chip noticed the light.

Tentatively, he opened his eyes and saw that, though still a good distance off, something was illuminating the tunnel. He rose slowly. Fear still clamored for his attention, but the rabbit felt its hold shaking loose. He could see now the strange, looming forms that had frightened him so.

Countless toadstools of all shapes, sizes, and varieties filled the tunnel. Chip stared up in awe at the tangled forest surrounding him, some of the toadstools rising close to the tunnel’s ceiling, others remaining near to the ground, but all of them impossibly vibrant.

He was as entranced by this underground wonder as he had been by the vivid wildflowers in the forest clearing. This, however, was a sight all its own. Whether it was deepest green, richest purple, or impossibly bold red, color was everywhere, and all the while, the light led him on, lending a brilliance to everything it touched.

Yet, when he reached its source, it wasn’t at all what Chip expected.

A solitary diamond lay on the rock just as it had in his dream, only this time, there was no sign of the light fading. The jewel lay at the entrance of a new tunnel, which branched to the left and down. If it led deeper underground, Chip thought, perhaps he would find Alfeus and Beauregard. He could see specks of light further down the path, and he suspected that they came from more jewels.

With no further hesitation, Chip continued on, no longer afraid, for, though he had not consciously thought it, some piece of him understood that when fear had kept him from speaking, his desperate need had been a prayer, and it had been heard.

*

Until next time,

Alexandria

Book Review: The Crowns of Croswald

I’m really delighted to share this wonderful story with you, The Crowns of Croswald by D.E. Night.

Read my full review below!

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Ivy Lovely is just another scaldrony maid, unknown to all except the unkind Helga and her one beloved friend, the dwarf Rimbrick.

But all her anonymity is about to be swept away.

A world of Scrivenists and Royals awaits, of magical training, and mysteries untold. But dangerous enemies are lurking, and it remains to be seen whether Ivy Lovely, with the help of a few enduring friends, is up to the task of facing them.

D.E. Night has successfully woven an enchanting tale full of magical wonders and excitement. The world-building is rich and the descriptions of Croswald and its residents so vivid that readers will feel as if they’ve been swept into a glenagerie bottle, a world of pure and vivid imagination, right along with Ivy and her friends.

The world of Croswald is unlike any other, and there is no doubt that all who pick up this book will find themselves better off for having visited it.

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If you’d like to connect with D.E. Night, you can do so on Goodreads. The Crowns of Croswald is available at Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million.

The next installment of Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves is coming soon. We’re nearing the end of Chip’s adventures, and I’m so excited to share their conclusion over the next few weeks!

Until then,

Alexandria