Tag Archive | Stephen Lawhead

Stephen R. Lawhead: In the Region of the Summer Stars (Review)

I have a new favorite book and today I get to shriek about it to you guys to tide me over until I get my hands on the next book in the series! *grins*

Title: In the Region of the Summer Stars

Author: Stephen R. Lawhead

  • Series: Eirlandia, #1
  • Date read: February 29, 2020
  • Rating: 5 stars! (Summer ones. ;))
  • Genre: Celtic Fantasy
  • Age: Adult
  • Year pub: 2018
  • Pages: 333 (hardcover)
  • Fave character: Conor
  • Source: Library
  • Links: GoodreadsBarnes & NobleAmazonAuthor’s Website
  • Quotes: “I sing because I have no more tears,” the bard replied.

Another deftly woven tale by master storyteller Stephen R. Lawhead, this book is sure to enchant fans new and old alike. It certainly delighted me! It felt like coming home. A new favorite! There are usually a handful of books each year that I want to award six out of five stars, and this is one of them.

Lawhead’s Bright Empires books are some of my favorites ever, so I was extremely excited to finally dive into Eirlandia. And book one has so lived up to my hopes! I love it so much and I can’t wait to read the second one soon to prep for the final book in the trilogy, releasing this summer. (Aaahh!)

I loved disappearing between the pages in this utterly absorbing tale, full of adventure and rich detail and characters who spring to life in this green land of wonders and warriors and words. I lived and breathed it, completely captivated. I love Celtic things, and this is a splendid Celtic Fantasy. I need more books like this!

A few things I loved:

THE SETTING + FEEL

From the first page I just felt so at home reading In the Region of the Summer Stars. The feel of this book touched my Irish soul and makes me think back on memories of the tales of old Ireland that I grew up listening to and reading about. Stepping through the page into Eirlandia made me so happy to just be there.

Welcome to a skillfully woven tale of warriors and druids and faery. Travel the rolling hills and secret forests and cliffs by the sea. Join these various clans and feel the strong themes of brothers-in-arms, honor, loyalty, and fierce bravery, but with dashes of good-natured humor. I didn’t know quite what I expected, but it was everything I wanted. ^_^

The way the characters talk is also great—I love how it has an Irish lilt to it just with the way they say things. It makes me happy. (And their lighthearted Irish sense of humor which is the best.) I also loved the familiar words and names, the rich history and lore they’re drawn from, and even the sounds of them. Brehons, Tuatha de Danann, Lughnasadh, Tylwyth Teg, Tir nan Og. Oenach, Aoife, Eamon, Brigantes. Harps and pipes and bodhran drums, checked cloaks and spears and brooches and torcs. Just all of it. ^_^ The sound and feel of it makes me happy like nothing else does aside from J. R. R. Tolkien’s world of The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings. (And yes, I do have an idea of how to pronounce most of those, I promise. XD)

THE PLAYERS

Then there’s Conor. Conor mac Ardan has this marvelous way of being clever and stubborn and loyal and thick-headed and chaotically reckless all in turn. He’s my favorite! I loved following him through the book on his journey. The way he comes up with the most outlandish plans that are sheer crazy and yet somehow he charges in and pulls them off—mostly. It’s the best! And yet he’s super smart, too, sometimes, and a really skilled warrior (honestly, though. So. Epic.), and you won’t meet a more loyal or honorable friend, either. Occasionally Madoc or Donal and Fergal have to smack some sense into him, but that just makes him all the more human. 😉 Conor is the best, okay! My new favorite hero.

I love the other inhabitants of this tale as well! Conor’s brothers-in-arms Donal and Fergal are fabulous. I love their camaraderie with Conor and each other, and their loyalty and joking around! It’s like the best kind of brother/buddy tale and I love it. Madoc is a marvelous mentor-type character—I loved him and his dryness and wisdom, and how he makes Conor work at figuring things out instead of just telling him things. 😛 Rhiannon is fascinating but I won’t spoil info about her. And so many other people. They’re all so real and I just loved reading about them! Oh, and the bits between some of the chapters, from the points of view of other characters than Conor, were fabulous and enlightening. So neat.

I loved seeing some good and wise druids (yesss) and bards, and the faery were magnificent. I was quite pleased with how they were written and hope to see more of them! They felt just right. Another thing I appreciated was the horses and how central they were to the story, and how the warriors cared for them. They were like characters themselves instead of just transportation that gets forgotten about like in some fantasy books. XD The attention to details like that was delightful.

THE STORY + ENDING

While it’s not non-stop action (though there is a bunch of that!), the story definitely kept me absorbed and on the edge of my seat the entire time, full of devious plots and intrigue and mysteries, which were fascinating to follow along as Conor and company attempted to untangle the threads to see the pattern lurking behind all the guile. Threats and invaders, cunning kings and betrayal, secrets and hidden schemes . . . it was all there!

(Just a heads-up that there were one or two scenes that were a tad dark or gruesome etc., so a brief caution to younger readers or those who prefer to avoid it. Other than a couple of parts, though, I wouldn’t have minded reading it in my teen years in the not-so-distant-past.)

There were some marvelous twists at the end that had me going WHAAAAT! :O That ending, though! It was sooo good. So many things going down. O_O I stayed up late and finished around midnight and WOW. It ended on a wee bit of a cliffhanger, so it did. 😉 I need to get my hands on a copy of In the Land of the Everliving as soon as I can, or sooner!

CONCLUSION

Ancient Ireland + warrior brothers-in-arms + mystery/adventure + faery + druids + delightful characters + masterful writing = what’s not to love? IT’S JUST SO GOOD. I love it so much!

In the Region of the Summer Stars was magnificent and blew me away. I’m thrilled to have stepped into Eirlandia in this tale, and I can’t wait to go back. ❤


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Any Lawhead fans out there? Have you read this one? What do you think? Thanks for reading! 🙂

Christmas-y Books!

(The Christmas books I own in physical form — and more listed below!)

Hello, my dear Pagelings! I’ll probably take a blogging break until the New Year (2020! *gasp*).

But before I slip off to enjoy the holidays, I wanted to share a list of Christmas-ish books! Ones I’ve read, ones on my TBR, and favorites!

If you’re looking for something Christmas-y to read, maybe you’ll find ideas on this list… and maybe you’ll recognize some favorites of your own!

If you don’t have time to read all of the post, skim for the titles marked in red because those are my favorites. 😀

I link to a few of them, but if you want to read more about any of them, you can find them all on Goodreads here!


Christmas Books and Novellas

  • A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens) — I mean, obviously. XD I enjoyed the original book, though I still say The Muppet Christmas Carol is my favorite version of this story. 😉
  • The Grift of the Magi (Ally Carter) — I just read this one and it MADE MY DAY, although those who have read the three Heist Society books will enjoy it more, since it’s a novella set after them. I love it! (Hale!)
  • Nyssa Glass’s Clockwork Christmas (H. L. Burke) — D’aww! Another one I just read this month. Nyssa and Ellis being cute and misunderstanding each other and trying to make their first Christmas perfect. Lovely steampunk Christmas novella. 🙂
  • Kate’s Christmas (Sarah Holman) — This came out last month and it’s another fabulous Kate’s Case Files FBI mystery book! With dashes of Christmas. ^_^
  • Freddy Goes to the North Pole (Walter R. Brooks) — I heard this audiobook when I was younger and I just love Freddy the Pig, Jinx the cat, Eek, Quick, Eeny, and Cousin Augustus (the mice), Mrs. Wiggins the cow, and even Charles the rooster. They go to the North Pole in this one and have to save Santa’s workshop from “pirates” and it’s been years since I read it but it was really fun.
  • When Santa Fell to Earth (Cornelia Funke) — Although I’m not always the hugest fan of Santa plotlines, a friend recommended this and I absolutely adored this book! Niklas is actually a young man who is “a Santa” (he’s really cool!) and his caravan crashes in an alley near a little boy’s house because his invisible reindeer ran off. It’s so charming and I love the illustrations.

Christmas Short Stories

  • The Sixth Christmas (Mollie E. Reeder) — THIS ONE. It’s sort of between a short story and a novella and it’s slightly Christmas-Carol-ish with a smidge of time-travel and the writing is FABULOUS and I just LOVE IT SO MUCH. AAHH. If you read only one book on this list, read this one. ^_^
  • The Villain Who Saved Christmas (C. B. Cook)This. Storyyyy! It’s about superheroes and a supervillain who’s kiiind of the most important character (don’t ask but it works and it’s awesome) and it’s a Christmas short story and I LOVE IT. So many feels. (My full review.)
  • Someday at Christmas (Kyle Robert Shultz)Crossover short story featuring characters from the Beaumont & Beasley and Crockett & Crane books… It’s about young Cordelia! I just love it! *hugs story*
  • Nyssa Glass and the Caper Crisis (H. L. Burke) — A short story prequel about Nyssa Glass before her first story, with a dash of Christmas if I remember correctly.
  • For My Good (Sarah Holman) — Loved this contemporary little tale, with a dash of mystery and Christmas and cameos from some Kate’s Case Files characters!
  • Distorted Glass (Sarah Holman) — Snow-Queen-esque contemporary short story.
  • The 12 Cats of Christmas (Perry Kirkpatrick) — I just read this one and it’s a cute contemporary short.
  • The Dragon and the Santa (Emily Martha Sorensen) — This was pretty hilarious. XD And very short, so I don’t want to spoil it, but the title alone should give a hint of the fun.
  • The Least of These (Kate Willis) — Another one I just read. Quick read, much snow.
  • Red Boots (Kate Willis) — I think I read this one awhile back but I remember it being charming. 🙂

Christmas Anthologies

  • Christmas in Talesend (Kyle Robert Shultz)This one could kind of go in the short story section above, but there are four of them, so… anothologies it is. XD I love these quick Afterverse Christmas stories! Especially the last one, in which Malcolm ends up calling himself the Christmas Dragon. XD It’s delightful!
  • A Very Bookish Christmas — This is a LIMITED COLLECTION which will go away after December 31 this year, so if you’re interested, be sure to go snag a copy! It features four Christmas novellas, inspired by different classic novels! 🙂 And from four talented authors, three of whom I’m featuring other Christmas stories from in this post: Sarah Holman, Rebekah Jones, and Kate Willis. Also J. Grace Pennington! I haven’t read three of the stories in this collection, but I’m sure they’re lovely, and I adored Gingerbread Treasures by Rebekah Jones, which I copyedited and is a modern-day mystery set in a little desert town around Christmas, with great characters, fun moments, and a mystery that was unique, while also inspired by a Sherlock Holmes story!
  • A Christmas Treasury — I read this so long ago I don’t really remember it but I’m sure there were some cool stories and songs in there.

Christmas Picture Books/Etc.

  • ‘Twas an Evening in Bethlehem (Jenelle Leanne Schmidt) — This just came out and it’s lovely!! I’ve been looking forward to reading this ever since I found out one of my favorite authors was releasing a picture book, and I finally got myself a copy and I love it so much! So BEAUTIFULLLL! *hugs it*
  • Letters from Father Christmas (J. R. R. Tolkien) — The letters “from Father Christmas” that Tolkien wrote to his children every year, collected in one place, complete with illustrations he drew, and tales of shenanigans at the North Pole — including Father Christmas, Polar Bear, various elves, and problems with goblins and stuff. XD I just love it so much!
  • A Tree for Peter (Kate Seredy) — I forgot about this one until I was looking through my Goodreads list. I need to re-read it but I remember it being charming like her books always are. ^_^
  • Christmas Coloring Devotions — I got this adult coloring book for review (see mine) from Zondervan back when they still had their Booklook reviewer program. It’s pretty fun with all the Christmas-y patterns and scenes to color.

(There’s a handful of other Christmas picture books I’ve read and have on my Christmas shelf on Goodreads.)


Christmas… Ish

(Wintry Christmas-like festivals in fantasy lands)

Sometimes it’s not actually a Christmas book — since it doesn’t actually have Christmas, per se — but it feels like it!

  • Wintermoon Wish (Sharon Shinn) — This is a short story, collected in Firebirds Rising edited by Sharyn November. I don’t care for most of the stories in the anthology but Wintermoon Wish is MY FAVORITE and I always read it around this time of year. It has a fantasy holiday called Wintermoon which sort of combines Christmas/yule-logs/New Year’s/winter solstice/etc. into a neat semi-magical holiday and it’s just SUCH a cozy, delightful read, with some of my favorite characters. I LOVE IT SO MUCH. ^_^
  • Flight of the Raven (Morgan L. Busse) — There was a delightful wintry festival in this and I loved it so much! ❤ It felt Christmas-y without being quite Christmas. It just made me happy — and I loved all the candles! (My review.)
  • Hogfather (Terry Pratchett) — Um. Not quite Christmas? But very much a parody and a hilarious fantasy Christmas-ish book. Anyone who’s read this will know what I mean. XD Anyone who hasn’t… well, it might not be your cup of tea unless you are a Pratchett fan. XD Discworld’s version of Christmas! (I also saw the movie and it was weird but kind of fun. XD)
  • We Three Dragons — I read this a couple of years back and don’t remember it all that well but I know there were dragons and Christmas-y feels and three different novellas about fantasy Christmases.

Books With Christmas

(That Aren’t Christmas Books. XD)

And a few that have some of my favorite Christmas parts, but aren’t technically about Christmas. 😉

  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis) — I mean, Father Christmas and his gifts are definitely an important part of the story. 😉 Plus, so wintry! (Even if… the winter part… isn’t actually a good thing. XD)
  • The Good Master (Kate Seredy) — One of my favorite Christmas chapters is the last chapter in this book. ^_^ (Even if the rest of the book isn’t about Christmas. XD)
  • The Singing Tree (Kate Seredy) — There are some fabulous Christmas parts in this, and anyone who likes WWI-era stories will love the book in general. 🙂
  • Brown-ears (Stephen Lawhead) — Most of this isn’t a Christmas book, but the end is and it makes it so perfect! ^_^ The story of a lost toy, which reminds me of Tolkien’s Roverandom. (Yes, Stephen R. Lawhead did write children’s books. This one as well as a sequel, and three tales of the Riverbank, the first of which is The Tale of Jeremy Vole. So good!)

On my TBR

Pretty much everything in this post so far, I’ve read, but I wanted to share a few on my TBR as well!

I’ve already read a few Christmas reads this month so we’ll see if I manage to squeeze in any more, but here are the ones on my list for this year or next year. ^_^

  • The Father Christmas Confessions (Emily Ann Benedict) — I loved this author’s contribution to the Vintage Jane Austen series (she wrote Perception, a retelling of Persuasion!) and I’m excited to try more from her. 🙂
  • The Father Christmas Profession (Emily Ann Benedict) — Sequel to the above, and sounds delightful!
  • 12 Days of (Faerie) Christmas (C.J. Brightley) — I loved this author’s Lord of Dreams, and any book with “Faerie” in the title next to “Christmas” sounds like something I need. XD
  • The Lawrence Chronicles (E. Bronwyn Hinkle) — I don’t remember when I picked this up but it sounded intriguing. 🙂
  • 24 Days Before Christmas (Rebekah Jones) — Mystery set at Christmas-time? Yes please! I read Gingerbread Treasures, by this author, which is collected (for a limited time!) in A Very Bookish Christmas, as I mentioned above, and I loved the mystery and the Christmas aspect, so I’m excited to read this. 🙂
  • Christmas Carol Society (Rebekah Jones) — Another by this author, and it just sounds super fun — a Christmas Carol society with the members being assigned a “Scrooge.”
  • Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball (Donita K. Paul) — Someone mentioned this in the Realm Makers Facebook group and said they read it every year. Color me intrigued! I’m excited to read it. 🙂
  • Behold (Faith Potts) — I picked up a copy of this short story collection when it was free the other day and I’m curious to try it out. 🙂

Do you have a favorite Christmas-y/seasonal/wintry book?

(I wanted to share some favorite winter-themed books too but ran out of space. Maybe next time!)

I hope you enjoyed and maybe found a book or two you want to read, and I hope you have a fabulous holiday season! See you in the New Year! Thanks for reading! ^_^

Giveaway Winner!

Just a quick post to announce the winner of my giveaway for The Skin Map by Stephen R. Lawhead!

If you haven’t heard of this book, it’s an excellent beginning to a brilliant series that I adore! Check out my review for book 1 and the final book which I just reviewed (no spoilers, but a good overview of my thoughts for the series)!

Since I first started reading these books as a result of winning a copy of The Skin Map, I felt it was only fitting to pass on the love since I had an extra paperback!

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, the winner is . . .

*drumroll*

Grace T!

Congrats! I’ll be in touch via email shortly! 🙂

Thanks very much to those who entered, and I will have to give away more books soon. 😀

Do check out this fabulous series, Bright Empires!

Thanks for reading, my dear Pagelings!