May 17, 2013

zee zee--don't fall asleep just yet!

We've done it--we have reached the final letter in the alphabet.  This one was hard, but I managed to find a favorite story that fits the bill nicely. 


Oh come on.  Do you blame me for picking it?  Plus, I am rather smitten with Antonio Banderas. 

It's a rags to riches story, and a redemption story, and a justice story, and a hero story.  And did I mention Banderas?  I really enjoy a fun film (and I am really just talking about the two movies with Banderas, because the old tv show was fun but not a favorite) that engages me on so many levels.  I know, I think too much, and sometimes find lots of things in stories other people don't, and I'm sure for many, this is just a silly movie where swords are brandished with flare.  But for me, it's a rather epic story, with a little romance thrown in (I have to give kudos to Catherine Zeta-Jones, for her fiery portrayal of the love interest). Oh, and did I mention that Anthony Hopkins is in there too?  He is!

So check out The Mask of Zorro and The Legend of Zorro so you can see what I'm talking about.

And thanks for participating in this fun, 26 day journey through some of my favorite stories!  Don't be a stranger, and I'll try to update on a regular basis with my meandering and sojournings and whatnots.

May 16, 2013

yo yo yodel...

Here we are, with just two letters left!  Want to know what my favorite Y story is?  Keep reading, you are in for a treat!


She's the main character of three of my favorite books, The Study Series (Poison Study, Magic Study, and Fire Study), and she is amazing. 

We first meet Yelena as she is given the option to become the food taster for the commander of her country.  And she either accepts the job, or she dies, since she's already in prison for killing someone.  She takes the job.  And from that lovely start, we follow her through many adventures.

Through the course of three books (and some small snippets that the author, Maria V. Snyder has available online), we get to see Yelena as the fully-fleshed out character she is.  She struggles against injustice and her own feeling of disconnectedness.  We see her fall in love without even knowing it, and having to then pick between freedom and love.  Oh, and she has these powers she doesn't understand and that happen to be illegal in the area where she lives.  Nothing like putting pressure on a girl.

Snyder's writing is highly engaging.  I find it hard to put down a book by her.  So far, Yelena is my favorite, but there isn't a single Snyder book that hasn't kept me up way past my bedtime.  If you check her out, read the Study series before the Glass series, as they are connected (I read the first Glass story before the Study series, so I already knew the outcome of some events, which for me, is a bit sad.)

Come back tomorrow for our final letter!

May 15, 2013

x out of that screen...

Ick, I don't even like that title, as I cringe every time someone says "x" instead of "close."  But it's all I could think of, so it gets to stay.  Let's find out what X story (not rated, come on!) is one of my favorites!


I'm not a comic book fan.  But I am a huge fan of the X-Men stories (at least the ones they have made into films).  Maybe it's Hugh Jackman (another favorite!), but I think a lot of it has to do with the way the stories grab me.  It's the epic fight of good vs. evil but also the misfits vs. the accepted.  And when you blend the two together (with the so-called misfits being the good guys) you are going to get drama, and probably an explosion or two, if they have anything to do with it.

In addition to the basic storylines, we get characters that are interesting and many-layered.  I mean, come on, Wolverine has great history.  And so do the rest of them.  Which always makes me think about how every person is a misfit in some way, and yet they are so insanely unique and wonderful, too. 

And a story that can help me see beyond the surface and into the heart of humanity is worthy of being one of my favorites. 

May 14, 2013

who, what, when, where...and why...

Wow, this has been a fun journey for me--I hope you are enjoying it as we surge towards the final selections. I have to say, this one was a toss up, because there is a Captain out there that I adore, but since he is part of one of my P selections, we'll go with the other choice for this letter. Time for the W--and let me tell you who, what, when and where...the why is up to you to find.

A Wrinkle in Time

I first encountered L'Engle's masterpiece in the fourth grade--and it was the first of the fantasy stories that I'm in love with (preceding both Narnia and Middle Earth).

The story captures me on many levels--I love Meg, I love the traveling around the universe, and how can you not love Mrs. Witch, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Whatsit?  The story inspired me, letting me know that kids can change the world, too.  It also introduced me to L'Engle, and for that, I am eternally happy.  Her other works are very enjoyable, and her non-fiction Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art has been a life changer for me.

While I love the follow-up books as well, this one has a special place in my heart as the first. 

May 13, 2013

venturing towards the end...

Wow, we are in the final five!  V is another hard one for me, but it just so happens that there is a lovely favorite that begins with V...

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

My nickname isn't NarniaPrincess for no reason!  I'm a fan of Narnia, since the first time I heard the story (it was read to us by a teacher) back in the fifth grade.

This is the third in the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis (if you go by publication order, which I do, as that's the correct way :P ).  And it's my favorite largely because of Eustace.  I mean, come on, he's a very awesome character.  His arc is beautiful, even if he starts out overly annoying and YOU want to shove him off the starboard side of the ship, too.

I think what attracts me to this one over the other six is that it's more a quest for honor than a "save Narnia" tale.  War stories tend to bore me after a while, but this is more adventure and restoration.  Plus we meet some fantastic characters along the way.

Come back tomorrow to find out which story makes the cut for W!

May 12, 2013


Wow, we are getting close to the end of the alphabet!  Keep reading to find out what story the our final vowel gets to represent today!


Hello, it's Jet Li!  Also known as Danny the Dog, this movie is one of my favorite with Li.  The story is of a man who was taken as a child, raised to be a guard dog (he sleeps in a cage, and he is lethal in martial arts) for a mobster.  But then, his keeper dies (or so it appears), and Danny is free.  Only he has no idea how to really care for himself, he doesn't communicate much, and now he's on his own.  Talk about the ultimate vulnerable guy!  (Don't forget, he's also lethal, which is such a fascinating combination.)  Enter an old man (played by Morgan Freeman) and his daughter, who take Danny in. 

But, of course, the mobster isn't dead, and he wants his pet back. 

This one has lots of action, but also a lot of heart.  And Jet Li is amazing as the fragile yet deadly Danny. 

Come back tomorrow to find out what story captures V!

May 11, 2013

to the theater...

Welcome back!  Today we get the letter T.  Such a fun letter.  So which story do I love that starts with T?

Twelfth Night

This Shakespearean classic is one that I have studied much, and in doing so, I have fallen in love with it.  I remember the first time I read it, back in high school, and having long class discussions about the title (which stems from the holiday the play was supposedly commissioned for, but the subtitle is "What You Will", and the word "will" is a loaded one, for sure!).  And I loved Viola, and how she was trying to protect herself, and in doing so, causes all manner of trouble. 

And because women weren't allowed on stage, we get lots of delicious cross-dressing and people pretending to be other people.  And yellow stockings. 

I really like how the Bard took the traditional love triangle and makes it more overlapping circles.  We have Viola in love with the Duke who is in love with Olivia who is in love with Cesario (who is Viola in disguise).  Throw in a twin brother (Sebastian), an ill-fit suitor, a drunk uncle, a scheming fool, and you are sure to have a great time. 

The play is wonderful, but since plays are written to be watched, I highly recommend the 1996 version with Helena Bonham Carter as Olivia.

May 10, 2013

so so simple...

We've made it to S!  As a Sara, this letter has always been a favorite.  So it should be no surprize that I had a very hard time picking just one story for this letter.  I mean, just off the top of my head I can think of at least five (The Saint, Serenity, Stranger than Fiction, The Solitaire Mystery, and The Secrets of Jin-shei).  So which story makes the cut for being my favorite story that starts with S...

 The Sparrow

Those who know me well aren't shocked or surprized or even stumped at this choice.  It's one of my top five novels ever. 

Written by Mary Doria Russell (who is a very kind woman who answered my emails with speed and grace and smiles), this story is about Jesuits traveling to another planet, to make the first intergalactic contact with another species.  I know, sounds awesome, right?  Of course it does, because it is!

Our main character is Emilio Sandoz, a priest who loves God in theory (head-love) but hasn't ever really fallen into heart-love with Him.  Emilio is perhaps my favorite character ever--he is smart, witty, feisty, fragile, and oh-so-human.  And in this story, as he and his companions (who are just as fantastically written) travel to Rakhat, a planet from which a radio signal of music has been received. 

We follow Sandoz (another S!), along with Anne and George Edwards, Jimmy Quinn, Sophia Mendez, and a handful of other priests, as they make the discovery, put forth the crazy idea of traveling across space to visit the planet, their trip, and finally, their arrival on the planet.  And what happens on planet, and mostly what happens to Emilio after he has returned to Earth, alone.

Sounds like a nice sci-fi, right?  It is. But it is so much more.  It's about the human condition and the heart of who we are.  It's about how we mean no harm and yet can cause the destruction of an entire world in the name of friendship.  It's about how loving God isn't roses and clouds and angels playing harps--but it's about grit and brokenness and understanding that a life given over to God is His and His alone to use as he see fit. 

I do highly recommend getting both this one and the sequel (which is vital to read if you want the complete picture).  The writing is beautiful (I both praise and curse Russell in the same breath, because she can make me care so much and yet make me realize I have so far to go as a writer), and the story is epic and personal at the same time. 

Please note, for my younger friends, this book has very frank conversations about adult themes, and for my sensitive readers, it deals with some rather horrific topics.  If you are wondering if you can stomach it, just send me a message and I can help you decide.  

For CPers interested--check with me or Twinkie first.  This is the sort of story that can do more damage than good if you aren't ready for it, and since it is SO beautiful, I don't want it to hurt a single one of you!

May 9, 2013

ruby red...

Welcome to the Letter R.  I had only one choice for this letter.  Keep reading to see what it is!

Raven Stole the Moon

I have to thank my friend David for introducing me to Garth Stein, but I have myself to thank for picking up this gem by him.  I enjoyed Stein's writing in The Art of Racing in the Rain (even if I wasn't thrilled at the narrator being a dog) enough to pick this one up at a used bookstore, and I was not disappointed.

This story weaves Inuit myth with the heartbreak of a mother whose child has died.  It takes us on a journey through loss and coping and needing answers, through Alaska and into the heart of the raven myths.  Stein really weaves the elements together well in this one, and he always kept me guessing as to what would happen next.  And as a writer, I am always impressed when an author can do that (since I often figure it out way ahead of time).

Do yourself a favor and check out Stein and this amazing story.

May 8, 2013


We have come to that letter that everyone dreads in Scrabble--the one that's hard to use.  But let's quest and see if we can't find some way out of this quandry...

Questions About Angels

What, a poem can be a story.  And in this lovely poem by Billy Collins we get a very sweet story.  I'm just going to post it here so you can see how lovely it is.  I think it needs no other explanation.

Questions About Angels

Of all the questions you might want to ask
about angels, the only one you ever hear
is how many can dance on the head of a pin.

No curiosity about how they pass the eternal time
besides circling the Throne chanting in Latin
or delivering a crust of bread to a hermit on earth
or guiding a boy and girl across a rickety wooden bridge.

Do they fly through God's body and come out singing?
Do they swing like children from the hinges
of the spirit world saying their names backwards and forwards?
Do they sit alone in little gardens changing colors?

What about their sleeping habits, the fabric of their robes,
their diet of unfiltered divine light?
What goes on inside their luminous heads? Is there a wall
these tall presences can look over and see hell?

If an angel fell off a cloud, would he leave a hole
in a river and would the hole float along endlessly
filled with the silent letters of every angelic word?

If an angel delivered the mail, would he arrive
in a blinding rush of wings or would he just assume
the appearance of the regular mailman and
whistle up the driveway reading the postcards?

No, the medieval theologians control the court.
The only question you ever hear is about
the little dance floor on the head of a pin
where halos are meant to converge and drift invisibly.

It is designed to make us think in millions,
billions, to make us run out of numbers and collapse
into infinity, but perhaps the answer is simply one:
one female angel dancing alone in her stocking feet,
a small jazz combo working in the background.

She sways like a branch in the wind, her beautiful
eyes closed, and the tall thin bassist leans over
to glance at his watch because she has been dancing
forever, and now it is very late, even for musicians.

May 7, 2013

please pass the peace...

You would think P would be a difficult letter.  It's not highly popular in Wheel of Fortune, but I found I had a lot of choices with this letter.  In fact, I couldn't pick just one, so today, you get three favorite stories.

The Painted Veil

This is one of my all-time favorite movies, and some days, it is my very top pick.  Naomi Watts and Edward Norton star in the adaptation of Summerset's novel (skip the novel, watch the movie, you will thank me), and it's so wonderful.

The story is about a married couple in the 1920's.  She commits adultery, and he decides to punish her in the only way he can, by dragging her to a remote location in China where is he is going to work.

I know, doesn't sound very promising, does it?  But believe me, it's one of the most moving stories of love you will EVER see.  It's a story about deciding to love, about realizing you are unlovable, and about restoring (and in some cases, creating for the first time) love after betrayal.

And the cinematography is stunning, as if you needed another reason to watch it.


You all know I adore Jane Austen, and this is my favorite Austen tale.  I know, you thought I'd go with Pride & Prejudice (which I do love), but there is something about Anne Elliot that I adore.  So even though I am most like Elizabeth as far as personality, I feel like Anne's story is the one that gives me the most hope.  I love the book, and the movie version with Amanda Root is pretty fantastic.

This story is a second-chance love story. Anne was convinced by her family and friends to give up her engagement to Wentworth eight years prior.  And now he's a Captain, and made his way in the world, and he's back.  But does he still care for Anne?  Read it and find out!


The second book in C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy, this one is my favorite (usually) of the three.  What I love about it is that we see a new world, a new race of beings, and they are being tempted just like Adam and Eve.  Only this time, God has sent a helper, someone to argue FOR not sinning.  And that helper is Ransom.

I adore Ransom in all the books, but in this one I feel like we really get to know him best.  We see him at his weakest points, and we see his humanity.  This book also has my favorite passage ever, and we also get a very adorable Lewis (the character and narrator) that I just have to adore.

There you have it--my three P's!

May 6, 2013

otherwise known as...

Let's continue on, safely past the middle.  We are over halfway through, and I'm glad you are still with me!  Today, we have O, and it was another easy choice for me.

On Fortune's Wings

Who doesn't love a tale of the Kingdom?  If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you should check out Cynthia Voigt's Kingdom series: Jackaroo, On Fortune's Wings, The Wings of a Falcon, and Elske. My favorite in the series is the second one, On Fortune's Wings.

This story is about a young woman who is engaged to be wed at the spring fair.  But she isn't sure she wants to wed, and when she spies someone stealing her father's row boat after dark one night, she decides to pursue (even though she is a girl and shouldn't be out in the woods at night).  When she overtakes the thief, a young man who isn't ready to claim his own future, they set out on an adventure together, not both as willing as the other, but since they happen to be both running away, it works to go together for the time.

Their story takes us down the river, into dark lands, into slavery and apprenticeship, through alchemy and restoration.  It finally takes us home, and then away again.

What I love about this story is that it's about a meeting in the middle.  The thief is high class, our young lady is an inn keeper's daughter.  But it's more than just compromise, it's about learning how to be yourself, and learning how to treat others as humans, not as titles or ideas.

I have read this book at least ten times since I discovered it in junior high.  I hope to read it at least ten more times in my life.  In fact, I might have to go pick it up right now.

May 5, 2013

notes and notions...

The other middle letter of the alphabet, N, was an easy choice for me.  Want to know what it is?  Read on, dear friend, read on!

North & South

You are thinking this is some Civil War story, and I hate to break it to you, but you are wrong.

This is a fantastic tale by Elizabeth Gaskell (who also wrote Wives & Daughters), set in the industrial period, in England.  We have a young woman who moves North with her family because her father has fallen on hard times (because he stuck to his principles), and they find there a vastly different world from the gentle South.

We also have a Jane-Austen-worthy romance between this young woman and a factory owner.  In fact, there are ways that I like this story more than P&P.  I'm sure Gaskell borrowed the plot line (all good authors do) and she made it her own.

While this is a book, I've only seen the screen version (with Richard Armitage, be still my heart!).  I have the book on my Kindle but haven't gotten to it.  I've read Gaskell before, and I like her work, so I'm sure the book will be just as wonderful as the mini-series, if not better.

May 4, 2013

marching on...

We've arrived at the middle of the alphabet.  Which is kinda ironic, given my story for the day...

The Monster at the End of this Book

Tell me you aren't smiling right now.  Go on.  Admit it.  You have fond memories of this book, too.

If you haven't read it, hurry to the library.  It's a Sesame Street book featuring Grover. 

Basically, Grover has heard a rumor that there is a monster at the end of the book he is in, and he very much doesn't want to meet the monster.  So he spends every page trying to convince the reader NOT to turn the page.  And oh, the heartache you cause him when you do. 

I won't give away the ending (just in case you haven't gotten to the library yet. Get. Go!) but I will say that this was one of the first books that really made me feel like reading was interactive, not passive.  And that's pretty fantastic. 

Tune in tomorrow for an epic tale that starts with N...

May 3, 2013

lovely, lonely...

Welcome to L.  This was one of the hardest ones to pick a favorite for--apparently I am lacking in L titles.  Want to know the one that finally won out?  Here you go..


I'm a sucker for horse stories.  I'm also a sucker for fragile heroes who don't know they are heroes.  And Dick Francis, that former jockey for the Queen (yes, of England!), combines both elements into all his books.  While Longshot isn't my most favorite Francis novel, it is one that didn't have to vie with ten other choices, so it gets to represent all of the Francis books I've enjoyed.

In this charming tale, we have a travel/survival writer who wants to be a novelist, and he's a bit down on his luck, so he takes a job to write a biography for a famous racehorse trainer.  But this trainer has something to hide, and our lovable writer gets thrown into danger and intrigue.  Being a survival writer means he knows, technically, how to survive, but he's never really had to apply the skills, until now.

All of Francis' books are mysteries, and his main characters are all very much alike, but what I love is that they are endearing.  And they each have a trade (often one that has nothing to do with horses, like wain merchant, gemologist, movie direction, etc) and they are well-researched.  Thus, every time I read a new Francis book, I feel like I'm learning a new trade.  And for this reader, that's like a cherry on top.

If you haven't read Dick Francis, pick up Longshot.  My very favorite so far is Proof, and To The Hilt is a close second.  Any book by him will do, but those three are fantastic gems. 

May 2, 2013

know thyself...

We've made it to the letter K.  Random fact about this letter--when I was in the fifth grade, my teacher decided she didn't like how I made my "k"s, so she failed me on an entire spelling test because every work included the letter.  I'm deeply scarred by that, as you can tell. Keep reading to see which story helps redeem this letter for me...


A Knight's Tale

This one had me at Heath Ledger, but then, unlike many such fluffy movies, it kept working the hook in deeper and deeper.  This movie isn't just some silly spoof of the medieval romance, no, it's a charming tale in its own right.  We have the boy who isn't a knight, but wants to be one, the lady who wishes to be seen as more than a prize, and a beloved writer who is shown to be human.  Not to mention the female blacksmith and the fake knight's squire, or sorts.  This ensemble reminds us that dreams can come true, and that nobility, honor, and chivalry are more than just words, they are actions.  My favorite part is when the Black Prince (who himself struggles with his identity) comes to release William.

With fantastic performances by Ledger, Paul Bettany, Mark Addy, Alan Tudyk Rufus Sewell, and James Purfoy, this movie is one that I can watch over and over without it getting old.  A wonderful blend of humor, truth, and romance.  And Chaucer wandering around in his birthday suit...

May 1, 2013

and just then...

Today we have the lovely letter J.  And there is only one real choice here for me.  What to know what it is?  Keep reading!

Jane Eyre

As far as classics go, I read this one early, and it captured me.  My aunt gave me both Jane Eyre and Vanity Fair one year for Christmas, and I must have been about 13.  I devoured Bronte's novel, but never could get a handle on Thackery (I've tried many a time to read it, but I only get about three chapters in before I abandon it--I watched the movie and felt like abandoning it, too, so I've given up on it for good now!).

But Jane, that austere, withdrawn-yet-deeply-feeling girl, she and I connected.  I have a feeling that many of my ideas of deep, romantic love, stem out of this story more than any other (even my much more beloved Jane Austen!).

I've only read the book two or maybe three times, but in the last ten years I've become rather obsessed with watching movie versions.  To date, I've seen at least four, if not five or six, of the versions.  And there are many more to track down and view!

Somehow, this young, mistreated governess speaks to me.  She tells me about strength, about doing the right thing, about love that is worth walking away from to make it even more pure.  That's a lot for such a young girl to teach.  But she does it well.

So far, I've enjoyed all the movie versions, but one (I can't remember which off the top of my head) left out the ripping of the wedding veil, which is one of the BEST scenes, and I just couldn't understand why you would leave out such a well-known and haunting scene, but one director did.

And my obsession with Jane led me to also venture into the world of Thursday Next (another literary character) who first appears in the book The Eyre Affair...yes, they are connected, in a most delightful way!

Note: Jane Eyre is the only Bronte story I have ever read.  I hated Wuthering Heights and never finished it, and I've never picked up anything by Anne...