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Installment Nine of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

The end of Part Two: Winter approaches, dear Reader. But, perhaps, it arrives with a little bit of light.

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

This week, I have the pleasure of sharing an excerpt from the third installment of my novel, Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel, in which the search for the Wilderbeast has an unexpected ending…

Read on.

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They raced down the snow-covered steps, each eager to catch their first glimpse of the Wilderbeast.

“Where should we look first,” George asked, his face vibrant with anticipation and joy.

“Well, she came up our steps from the right, so –“

“To the park! Race you!”

Penelope laughed and ran after him, her cloak flowing behind her as she hurried to catch up.

They were nearly there when George finally slowed, his cheeks bright pink from the cold.

“Do you suppose, Penelope,” he asked in between deep breaths, “that the Wilderbeast will hurt us?”

“Never! Wilderbeasts come to the brave of heart to take them on wild adventures. They would never hurt anyone.”

With the park now in view, she smiled and cried, “Come on!”

Both Penelope and George quickly lost track of time and the Wilderbeast, but their time in the park did them immeasurable good. For a while, they could remember that, despite their concerns, there was still hope if they would only look for it.

Sometime later, as they made their way home, Penelope felt all the more determined to help her father; she could see him failing, could see all his joy and warmth fading in time with Uncle Alex. Perhaps, this Christmas would not be the same, but Penelope Grace fiercely believed that it could still be good.

Only a few streets separated them from home when George, suddenly remembering, cried in dismay, “The Wilderbeast! We never found her!”

“It will be all right, George. You never know when she might appear.”

They spent the next several minutes debating with great animation what the Wilderbeast might look like. As they turned down their street, George stopped in his tracks, delighted that they no longer had to guess.

Halfway down the street, just a few feet from their doorstep, the Wilderbeast lay settled in the snow, as if waiting for them all this time.

She looked very much like a dragon, but rather than scales, her sleek frame was covered in fur of a soft violet color, dappled in blue and green. As Penelope and George drew near, the Wilderbeast rose, extending her gossamer wings and lowering her head to look at them with her great, green eyes, the color of moss on rain-soaked bark.

They were less than a hundred yards from her when George halted, looking up at the Wilderbeast in wonder.

“She looks so kind,” he breathed.

“That’s so those who look closely enough will know they don’t have to be afraid of her.”

He was quiet for a moment more, then, “What’s her name?”

“Lunella,” Penelope replied, “for the way her wings shimmer in the moonlight.”

Just then, the Wilderbeast, seeming to decide that the two were worthy companions, lay on the ground once more and extended her leg so that Penelope and George could climb up.

“Shall we get on,” Penelope asked.

George offered her nothing more than a smile for an answer, and together, they ran to the Wilderbeast, but then –

“What on earth are you doing?”

Their father stood on the doorstep, and the Wilderbeast disappeared like a dusting of snow snatched by an icy breeze.

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What do you suppose awaits Penelope Grace and Georgie inside? To find out and join the fight for wonder for yourself, subscribe below to receive weekly installments of the story through February 2021.

Installment Three releases this Thursday, and Penelope Grace is about to discover that she is running out of time…

Until then,

Alexandria

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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

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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.

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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.”

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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

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Book Review: The Snow Dancer

What more perfect way to end this wintry week than with this beautiful winter tale about young Sofia’s perfect snow day?

The Snow Dancer is the perfect book for you and your family to read together on a snowy evening. Find my full review (and links to purchase) below!

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On a chilly winter’s morning, the world blanketed in snow, a young girl named Sofia wakes up with a longing.

When a snowy day comes along, most children dream of snowball fights and sledding with their friends, but Sofia can think of only one thing: venturing out in the quiet of morning to dance through the frozen landscape, through the stillness and softness of freshly fallen snow.

With illustrations by Merce Lopez that beautifully render Sofia’s love for winter and dance, Addie Boswell succeeds in perfectly capturing all that is best about the winter season and those glorious snow days that all children look forward to. Readers of all ages will be happily swept along with Sofia as she dances, like a snow fairy twirling through the wonder of new-fallen snow.

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 find a copy of The Snow Dancer on Bookshop, a website where you can support independent booksellers with every purchase! It is also available on Amazon.

Connect with Addie Boswell on her website. Merce Lopez can be found on Goodreads.

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That’s all for this week! Next week, the first installment of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel publishes! You can subscribe here!

Until then,

Alexandria