The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente

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Of course not.  No one is chosen.  Not ever.  Not in the real world.  You chose to climb out of your window and ride on a Leopard.  You chose to trade your shadow for a child’s life.  You chose not to let the Marquess hurt your friends – you chose to smash her cages!  You chose to face your own death, not to balk at a great sea to cross and no ship to cross it in.  And twice now, you have chosen not to go home when you might have, if only you abandoned your friends.  You are not the chosen one, September.  Fairyland did not choose you – you chose yourself.  You could have had a lovely holiday in Fairyland and never met the Marquess, never worried yourself with local politics, had a romp with a few brownies and gone home with enough memories for a lifetime’s worth of novels.  But you didn’t.  You chose.  You chose it all.  Just like you chose your path on the beach: to lose your heart is not a path for the faint and fainting.

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

This is a story that starts in Omaha, NE.  Have you ever wanted to travel out of your window and ride upon a magical flying leopard to the gates of Fairyland? This just so happened to a little girl named September, who has read a great number of books and is a little on the heartless side. September is a brave and troublesome child with an eye to adventure who’s quite willing to hop out her window and follow the Green Wind to Fairyland, atop the Leopard of Little Breezes. There, she accepts a mission of import from some witches, befriends a Wyverary (his mother was a wyvern and his father was a library, and he sort of steals the book), develops a more complicated relationship with her shadow than is at all usual, and, well, so forth. She matches wits and swords (eh, sort of) with the wicked Marquess, who has a very fine hat and is a leading cause of harrowing quests. If that makes sense to you, you’re entirely my sort of person!

I would recommend this book if you would like a taste of adventure!  The way everything is described to minute detail, makes you feel as if you are flying on the back of a Wyverary along side September.  There is a second book that I am sure to read for September’s adventures do not end here!

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Shadow by Michael Morpurgo

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Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Fourteen year old Aman and his mother are barely surviving the violence and terror of life in Afghanistan. They make the choice to flee to England, with only a few possessions and Aman’s loyal dog, Shadow. But life in England doesn’t prove to be the freedom that they had hoped for. It’s up to Aman’s best friend Matt, and Matt’s grandfather to piece together the story of Aman, his mother and Shadow in order to save Aman and his mother from deportation.

I loved this touching story! It was gripping from the beginning. Shadow describes life in war torn Afghanistan truthfully, but with a careful awareness of young readers. Shadow is an inspiring tale of friendship, adventure, a heroic dog, and love. (You know how I love animal stories!) Shadow is another well crafted story from Morpurgo (author of War Horse) that is sure to please a variety of readers!

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Lost: A writer and her dog venture deep into the backcountry

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I found this story and thought I would share it with you all!

 

 

Alone…in the middle of the Stanislaus National Forest in California. Nothing moved around me. Other than a few birdcalls, there was silence. The sun shone down on me, each drop of sweat increasing my dehydration— I was out of water. My snowshoe trail could be seen coming down the ridge, then disappearing into patches of dirt. I paused, called out my dog’s name: Alma Rose. Silence. Silence for the last hour.

Last spring I decided to make happiness a priority in my life. Struggling with an unsatisfying job where I had no time or money to enjoy life, I decided to disappear into the woods with my dog.

Alma Rose is a sled dog from Grizzle-T, the dog sledding company I worked for in Colorado. I brought her home as a puppy and she has been my best friend ever since. She is a mutt, but predominately Husky and Greyhound, tall, lean and fast, thriving in the snow and climbing her first 14,000-foot mountain at six months old. I knew she would take well to the wild.

I had spent three seasons as a backcountry volunteer in my twenties in Yosemite National Park; the Sierras felt like home. I quit my job and headed to the forest bordering Yosemite with enough food and supplies for two months. The plan was to carry it in, cache it and resupply as needed. Complete isolation.

It was a tiring two-day drive in May to Cherry Creek, our entrance point to the wild, only to find the road still buried with snow. Although I didn’t expect so much snow, I was prepared. I put Alma’s Ruff Wear pack on her, filled with food. I strapped on my own pack to show her we were in this together. Within 50 feet, we reached our first downed log. Normally, Alma would have hopped right over it, but with her pack on, she dragged behind me until she saw a chipmunk; then she was off, running full speed. We hiked about two miles up the trail, a steep set of switchbacks putting us on top of a granite ridge, where I scouted for a place to camp.

That day we went up and down the trail four times bringing in supplies. Each time Alma became less enthusiastic until I pulled out her dog harness, strapped it to me and to the 30-gallon bear-proof bin to haul it up the trail and then I swear she laughed. I tried to tell her that this was a great adventure, but she wasn’t so sure.

The days that followed were filled with exploration, moving deeper and deeper into the backcountry. Each move took multiple trips: one to explore, find water, shade, and sun; one for the first load of food; and one for the load of supplies. Alma made one trip with her pack, and then she got to run free. Snow flurries came and went but we managed to find some open ground to camp on.

We hiked up ridges, down to lakes, feeling like we were in an undiscovered world. Two weeks in and a late season storm hit, dropping over a foot of snow the first day. I shoveled snow off the tent and Alma explored close by—she always stayed close by. The next day brought more snow and we had another tent day. Waking up on the third morning, Alma Rose was shivering on her bed. My tent was leaking and half my gear and her bed were soaked. I knew we had to hike out.

With a full pack, I struggled in the snow; Alma was happy to be moving. For twelve hours, we broke trail through three feet of fresh snow, Alma in front, up to her stomach in most places, unsure but steady. Finally I left our packs, knowing with the weight and the pace I was going we wouldn’t find our way out before dark and we could be in a bad situation. Loads lightened, we found the road, signaling another two and a half hours to the car. My steps plodded while Alma ran and chased and scented until we were safe, fourteen hours after leaving camp.

I bought a tent and a sleeping pad for Alma. We hiked back in, got our gear and disappeared. Our camp was in a bowl, on the only dry, flat rock available. We spent days walking along Cherry Creek, leaving a track of dog prints and snowshoe prints, climbing ridges and investigating lakes. About a month into our journey, my water purifier broke, so I had to boil water with my camp stove, but that wasted fuel I needed for cooking food and I knew I didn’t have much fuel left.

During a late evening walk, I felt in my heart it was time to hike out. Down low, the path was opening up and soon we’d have to share our paradise with other hikers. We said farewell to the expansive granite landscapes and the neon ribbons of water opening into lakes and rivers, and said good-bye to the snow.

On the way out, we started running into patches of dirt. Alma had learned to follow my snowshoe tracks, but here there was nothing to follow. She often darted off after this or that, and the morning had been trying with her running off for 15 minutes at a time and me backtracking to find her.

We were on a ridge when I stopped to take off my snowshoes. I looked up and she was gone. I had no idea which way. I called out to her, but nothing. I knew from past experience she wouldn’t go back but would try to find me. Shouldering my pack, I felt confident she would appear. I called out to her as I moved along the ridge, each step in the beating sun dehydrating me. Alma knew where the cache was, so I headed in that direction.

When I reached the cache, over an hour had passed. I took off my pack, emotions flooding over me: anger that she had run off, fear of her getting her pack caught on something and getting stuck, sorrow that my best friend was gone. The part of me that knew all she brought to my life, knew I had to go back to try to find her. I had been hiking for close to 10 hours with almost no water.

Across from me was an algae-filled pond. I boiled water, then waited. No Alma Rose. The silence was suffocating. She wasn’t coming.

I left my pack behind a log, chugged the water, stuffing my emergency locator beacon, my knife, and a granola bar into pockets. I had an emergency whistle and started hiking back. Two hours passed. Every 20 feet I stopped, called her name and blew the whistle. Two hours, ten minutes. Stop. Call. Blow. Two and a half hours, three hours. I was debating whether to give up and go back before dark or keep on. How far could I go? I was exhausted.

Then I heard a noise rushing through the brush, a flash of movement, a red pack and my dog. My dog! Her pack was twisted around her body, one pack pocket open and filled with water, her legs tangled through straps. I hugged her and burst into tears. She pulled away and started down the trail, with a “get this pack off me and lets get out of here” look. She sniffed my snowshoe prints, to show me she had tried to track me. We practically ran down the trail, where she got a ton of treats.

That night she ate a huge dinner, then curled up with me on the bed at my friend’s house, as she always had at home. The next day we brought down what was left of our cache. Alma ran free all day with no pack. Although she stayed close and checked in with me every few minutes, the sight of a cheeky squirrel would send her racing away once more. Despite her harrowing experience of being “lost in the wilderness,” she had learned she could find her way. She wasn’t lost any more; she had made the wilderness as much her home as I had always felt it was mine.

– Dagny McKinley

Featured Author of the Month: Mikhail Lerma, Interview

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He was born in Holdrege NE. It was there that he met his wife, Brooke. They have 3 beautiful daughters. Mikhail joined the army when he was 17, and is still currently in the guard as a Sergeant. In 2007 he was deployed to Iraq for a year. And it was there that he began writing his first story, Z Plan-Blood on the Sand. “I am a husband, a daddy, a nerd, a gamer, a soldier, and a zombie enthusiast!”

Sierra: When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?

Mikhail: In my own opinion I think I first approached writing seriously when I deployed to Iraq in 2007. In between missions and rounds of Halo 3 it took me about five months to ‘finish’ the first book.

Sierra: Tell us a little bit about your first book in the series, “Blood On The Sand”.

Mikhail: “Blood On The Sand” is a journey of a young American Soldier. Who is in a foreign country for the first time in his life. What makes it even more difficult is back home he left his wife and three month old daughter. Confusion and panic ensues on the army base as it becomes evident that it’s not just some flu epidemic sweeping the country, but much deadlier one. Or rather…an undead one.As a few fellow soldiers and he become deserters in order to survive, he begins the long and unexpected journey home. Their plan is to move west, find a boat and maybe with a bit of luck make it back to America. Cale is tested in more ways than he could ever have imagined. Bringing him to the near brink of insanity as he loses friends, and fights the undead masses not only in real life but in his waking nightmares. It seems hope is lost when he finds himself alone and adrift at sea. But you’ll have to wait until “Red Tides” comes out to see where Cale’s journey takes him.

This story was inspired by and written during my deployment to Iraq as a U.S. Army soldier in 2007. I’ve been a fan of zombies from a very young age and while on a mission this idea came to me; what if a zombie apocalypse happened right here and now? How would I get home from Iraq?

Sierra: How did you choose the genre you write in?

Mikhail: I feel like the genre chose me. Does that make sense? I’m a HUGE science fiction fan. From Star Trek to Underworld to Return of the Living Dead. I think fiction is a good way to escape. Ya know?

Sierra: What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write?

Mikhail: Can’t say there was a specific chapter. I really liked the interactions between Zach and Cale. Thinking them out and making them real. But I also really liked some of the zombie heavy chapters. It was fun coming up with ways to make Cale’s adventure more unpredictable.

Sierra: Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

Mikhail: My imagination mostly, but I used real experiences as influence.

Sierra: Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

Mikhail: Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” really intrigued me. I had read it long before it became a requirement in my senior year English class. She did a great job of keeping the reader guessing. At the time I never thought I’d ever try my hand at writing, but when I did I aimed for the same suspense her books contained.

Sierra: Do you ever experience writers block?

Mikhail: Frequently actually. My brain can come up with great twists and turns and major plot developments, but what I get snagged on is the small interactions between characters or moving characters physically through the terrain I’ve manufactured.

Sierra: Is there an author that you would really like to meet?

Mikhail: Off of the top of my head I can’t decide. Bouncing ideas off of Robert Kirkman or Max Brooks would be amazing. Or chatting with Agatha about ideas for plot twists.

Sierra: Will you have a new book coming out soon? If so, can you tell us about it?

Mikhail: I’m about one third of the way done with the next installment, Z Plan: Red Tides. All I can say is Cale’s ‘rescue’ isn’t what it seems and you’ll be surprised at what he may have to do to survive.

Sierra: If you could go back and do it all over again, is there any aspect of your first novel or getting it published that you would change?

Mikhail: I can’t think of anything I would change, it’s all worked out pretty well so far.

Sierra: Do you have any advise to give to aspiring writers?

Mikhail: Write what you know. And if your heart is in it, the story will be good.

Sierra: Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?

Mikhail: Thank you for taking a chance on an indie author. I promise there’s a lot more to come.

Thank you so much Mikhail! Be sure to check out Mikhail Lerma’s book, “Blood On The Sand” the first book in his new series, “Z Plan”!

You can also check out my review of his book here: https://simpletasteforreading.wordpress.com/2012/10/18/z-plan-blood-on-the-sand-by-mikhail-lerma/