Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Blog Tour: Mini-Review/Excerpt: Chandrea by Marlene Wynn

Welcome to this stop on the 
Chandrea Blog Tour,
sponsored by

The Return of the Avatar Queen
(Averill Series, #1)
Marlene Wynn
Trade Paperback, 468 pages
CreateSpace Independent Publishing 
September 22, 2014

Chandrea Averill thinks she’s just like any other normal young woman. But, on the day of her 23rd birthday, her life changes forever.

Surrounded by magical creatures, dangerous sorcery, and insidious political intrigue, Chandrea desperately wants to return to Earth and the only life she’s ever known. But, the longer she stays, the more she realizes that she may be the only one with the power – both magical and political – to save the people of Lyrunia. Will she find the courage to remain and fight for her home world?


Looking anxiously to her right, she saw that, despite her brief run, the clouds had come much closer, and that the clashing lightning and thunder were almost on top of her. Flutters of fear crawled down her spine and made a home in her belly. This was not good. Chandrea looked around for some place to find protection. Though the grasses seemed to be thinning out and she was seeing small scrubby bushes here and there, there still weren’t any signs of civilization, so she continued to walk tiredly east.

The brisk wind turned into powerful gusts, and she had to lean to avoid being thrown off her feet. Dust and debris were torn from the ground and swirled all around her, and she was forced to raise her hands to shield her eyes. Lightning struck nearby, followed by a powerful blast of thunder that shook the ground. Chandrea cringed and screamed in raw fear.

She felt the first few warm splashes of water on her skin, and looking up, saw that the bulk of the sky had turned a deep heavy looking grey. She began to run again, the flight instinct now in full control of her.

The heavens opened up and rain came sheeting down. The drops were huge at first, but quickly became small and piercing as they pelted her skin. Her clothing soon became saturated, weighing her down.

Lightning flashed all around her, dazzling bursts of light followed closely by violent claps of thunder. The strikes blew chunks of dirt and debris into the wind. The world was shaken by the repeated crack of thunder and her eardrums throbbed in painful harmony from the overwhelming sounds.

Animal instinct took over. Throwing herself to her knees, she clawed at the dirt. Her breath came in terrified, ragged gasps, but she was all but oblivious to it as she dug and tore at the stubborn soil. Every time lightning struck near her, she screamed and ducked, covering her head with her arms in an unconscious effort to protect herself, and then continued digging.

She tore at the web of roots, desperate to dig a hole she could take shelter in, but to no avail. The old grasses had been in the dry plains for a long time, and had grown their roots long and wide to find any available ground water. Without a shovel or a pick, she could make no headway, and only managed to tear her hands to the point of bleeding in the effort.

Gasping, she stopped and looked around with wild, frightened eyes. The world around her had gone mad. Lightning struck rapidly now, all around her, for miles in all directions, and the sharp booming thunder was close on its heels.

A small, sane portion of her mind recognized that she should hunker down and try to make the smallest target of herself possible, but that was akin to taking your eyes off the hungry lion crouched nearby and hoping it wouldn’t notice you. Instead, she knelt and watched with horrified fascination as the prairie took a beating from mother nature. Her entire body shook from the fear that washed through her, and she knew that at any moment lightning would strike and kill her.

Without conscious thought or effort, her magic bloomed to life. She gasped at the suddenness of it, yet welcomed it with a desperate hope. She felt it growing and expanding inside her, filling her completely with an eerie, tingling sensation. What was happening? What would her magic do this time?

Her skin began to glow a soft ethereal white. She held her hands out in front of her, and, despite the dangers surrounding her, wonder filled her at the sight. She’d seen her skin glow before, but never so clearly. The glow rapidly enveloped her until she was encased by a soft white ball of energy that extended a few feet out from her on all sides. The wind and rain no longer affected her, apparently unable to penetrate her protective sphere.

Curious, she poked a finger at the ball. It rippled like water when she touched it. She became bolder and stuck her whole arm out. Once again, the wind, rain, and nearby grass stalks pelted her tender skin. She pulled her arm and hand back inside and the sensations ceased.

She looked around with a newfound sense of security. The storm raged on around her, but in her sheltering bubble, it seemed that none of the elements could touch her. She gasped as a bolt of lightning struck nearby. She could only hope that the bubble would protect her against the lightning strikes as well.

With a frightening intensity, suddenly a new roaring sound filled her senses, causing her to gasp and duck involuntarily. It was followed immediately by anther, and another, each successfully competing in volume and depth with the crashing thunder. But, these new sounds weren’t caused by mother nature.

It was almost as if a whole pride of hungry lions were surrounding her, and roaring in excitement of the hunt and the kill to come.

But, it couldn’t be lions, for, like the thunder, these sounds came from the sky itself.

Some had a deep, throbbing quality to them. Others were shrill and almost metallic. All of them were terrifying.

Chandrea tried to determine what was up there in the deep dark grey of the clouds. It was difficult to see through the soft glow of her bubble. When several lightning bolts struck, causing a strobe effect, she sucked in her breath in disbelieving terror at what she saw.

Silhouetted in brief, white-clad glory, were dozens upon dozens of dragons of various shapes and sizes. Each time the lightning flashed, it would cause a still-life effect of the great beasts circling in the sky with an almost playful air about them. With huge, earth- shaking roars, some shot massive flames from their mouths, causing the heavens and the ground far below to be lit by the intense yellow-red flare. 

In this short excerpt, I have already become totally immersed in the story! The vivid word descriptions, the intensity of the scenario, everything combines to make me want to read more of this novel.  Chandrea is a very appealing character, too. She feels fear, but, in spite of it, is determined to continue on whatever journey she has apparently embarked upon. Perhaps because of her courage in the face of such adversity, her magic suddenly blooms around her, coming from within. It's frequently the case that, when you think all is lost, a way through turmoil and obstacles emerges, and this is what the author is conveying here, through very skillful, evocative writing.

There's a fascinating combination of elements here, which is another reason I have enjoyed reading this excerpt. The four traditional elements of magic are present here: water, in the form of the rain, earth, which is right beneath Chandrea's feet, air, in the presence of the wind all around her, and fire, which the dragons start shooting forth from their mouths. 

I also like that Chandrea's magic encases her in  a glowing, white bubble of protection. I have heard of spheres of white light being visualized, in cases where mental protection is needed.  How very interesting that the author has incorporated that here!

Just from reading this excerpt, I highly recommend this novel, and I will be sure to buy and read it myself, just as soon as I possibly can!

Purchase Links

Paperback Edition

Ebook Edition

Marlene Wynn is a Utah native - fondly referred to as "Utonian" by a friend.  She transplanted herself in 1992 from the majestic Rocky Mountains to the beachy shores of sunny Virginia Beach, Virginia and has been there ever since.  Though she has worked in the benefits field for several years, she finally worked up the courage to chase her dream as an author.


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Monday, September 29, 2014

The 2014 Jane Eyre Read-Along, Week 2: Chapters 1 - 5

Welcome to the second week of 
the 2014 Jane Eyre Read-Along,
brought to you by
A Night's Dream of Books

Jane Eyre
Trade Paperback, 688 pages
Harper Teen
February 1, 2011
Classics, Gothic Fiction, Historical Fiction,
Literary Fiction, Mystery, Romance


Week 2  Discussion Questions:
Chapters 1 - 5
(Questions provided by
A Night's Dream of Books)

Participants need not answer
all six questions, but are free to
select three of them.


1.) The novel opens on a very dreary, rainy November afternoon. How do you think this contributes to the general mood of the first chapter?

The rainy weather  means that Jane will have to stay indoors, which serves to heighten the feeling of entrapment. She has no way of escaping the cruelty of her aunt, Mrs. Reed, or her cousin, John Reed. On the other hand, she's glad she doesn't have to be outside, as it's very cold. It's like she's between a rock and a hard place.

2.) What literary function do curtains and draperies have in the opening chapters?

They are metaphors for several things. When Jane sits in the window-seat, reading a book about birds (birds, incidentally, being a symbol of freedom, the fact that Jane is reading this book is also a metaphor) the draperies conceal her from view, and thus, offer a safe sanctuary to which she can escape -- until found by John Reed. In this instance, the draperies offer a sort of protection. There's also the symbolism of the womb, which ensconces and protects the growing child.

In contrast, the curtains and draperies of the Red Room, in which Jane is cruelly locked by Mrs. Reed's orders, have a far more sinister metaphoric meaning. Here, they convey a feeling of oppression, and even allude to grave clothes. This reinforces the feeling of entrapment in the first chapter, but here it goes beyond entrapment, I think. Jane has been symbolically entombed. The fact that she has been shut away into the room that Mr. Reed died in  points to the idea that, subconsciously, Mrs. Reed  actually wants Jane to die.  

3.) Mrs. Reed's cruelty would have been noticed and reported, had it taken place in our contemporary society. What factors do you think might have contributed to its tacit acceptance at the time?

Although there were some reforms in regards to children in the UK  during the 19th century, these were not related to domestic life, but dealt with workhouses and reform schools. The Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act was passed in 1889, long after the publication of Jane Eyre. This piece of legislation "...enabled the state to intervene, for the first time, in relations between parents and  children. Police could arrest anyone found ill-treating a child, and enter a home if a child was thought to be in danger." (from the Wikipedia article) Had this novel been published after 1889, Mrs. Reed might very well have been arrested. At the time the novel was written, however, there was little to no interest or concern regarding the rights of children.

Another factor making it possible for Mrs. Reed's cruelty to continue unrestrained was the class system of the time. In fact, class conflict is one of the themes of this novel. Bessie, being a servant, would certainly have lost her position had she done anything to help protect Jane from abuse. The members of the upper classes were basically able to behave in cruel and immoral ways with total impunity. 

4.) Bessie's attitude toward Jane is inconsistent; at times, she's kind toward the child, while at others, she scolds her unfairly. Why do you think she acts this way?

Part of the answer is to be found in the answer to the previous question. I believe that Bessie was actually afraid of being more protective of Jane, but it's very obvious that she was aware that Jane was being mistreated. Also, there was the other servant, Miss Abbott, who was also cruel to Jane. Bessie was probably afraid that Abbott would let Mrs. Reed know that she (Bessie) was being kind to Jane.  It's very significant that she was only kind to Jane when Abbott wasn't around. 

5.) Jane speaks more like an adult than a child, especially in the scene with Mrs. Reed, after Brocklehurst leaves. Do you think this is because she's a very intelligent, precocious child, or is this simply an unrealistic part of the novel?

I'm not quite sure what to think here. I know I've read somewhere that, in previous centuries, and I think the 19th was one of them, children were considered "little adults". So this might be perfectly realistic for the time period in this novel. On the other hand, Jane was ten years old at the time of this incident. Her vocabulary, as well as the maturity with which she speaks, are those of a much older person. It could be that Jane herself, narrating this event as an adult, put adult words in a child's mouth. It could be that this was really a wish-fulfillment fantasy on her part, although she narrates this incident as a real event.

There's yet another possibility -- that the author, in advocating passionately for children's rights. decided to let her main character, while still a child, give free rein to her feelings of outrage and pain at being as cruelly treated as she was, in language that an adult would have used.

6.) How did Bronte show hypocritical vs. true Christian behaviors in the characters of Mr. Brocklehurst and Miss Temple?

Brocklehurst is a pompous, overbearing, self-righteous jerk. I totally despise the man!! It's very obvious that he likes to curry favor with the rich, since the members of his own family, in  contrast to the orphans at Lowood, have the best and costliest clothes. How could a mere clergyman afford such luxuries? By doing whatever it took to get the rich to give money generously to his church. 

The way he spoke to Jane, in Mrs. Reed's presence, was utterly disgusting. He has no compassion, and worse, no  idea how to treat children. Also, he loves to quote Scripture completely out of context. There are some verses from the Bible that he has very conveniently forgotten, such as Matthew 19:14, which states, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the  kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

Miss Temple, in contrast, is a true Christian lady. When, one morning, the breakfast porridge was burned, so that it was totally inedible, she ordered the cook to prepare a mid-day lunch for the children, and said that she would accept the responsibility for the order, knowing that Brocklehurst would object. She is also very compassionate to Jane and her friend, Helen Burns, who is very sick. 

Of all the minor characters in this novel, Miss Temple is my favorite.  

Discussion Questions for 
Next Week: Chapters 6 - 10
(Questions Provided by
Babbling Books)

1.) What are your impressions of the way Helen Burns endures punishment and abuse?

2.) What are your impressions of the way that Jane sees punishment and abuse in comparison to Helen?

3.) Would Mr. Brocklehurts have been a more realistic and interesting character had he been less overtly fanatical, cruel and hypocritical, and just deeply flawed, instead?

4.) Helen Burns exudes confidence and is sure of her personal beliefs. Do you find it realistic that a young person exhibits such traits?

5.) Miss Temple seems to influence Jane's personality and outlook on life during her stay at Lowood. Would Jane have developed differently without her influence?

6.) Jane's time at Lowood is marked in the narrative by the seasons and the description of weather. Does this have any significance?     

Post & Reading Schedule

Announcement/Signup Post
Sept. 9th
A Night's Dream of Books
Babbling Books

Week 1: Sept. 22nd

Reading: Chapters 1 - 5
Thoughts on Reading Jane Eyre 
Discussion Questions for Next Week:
A Night's Dream of Books

Week 2: Sept. 29th

Reading: Chapters 6 -10
Discussion Questions: Chapters 1 - 5
Discussion Questions for Next Week:
Babbling Books

Week 3: Oct. 6th

Reading: Chapters 11 - 14
Discussion Questions: Chapters 6 - 10
Discussion Questions for Next Week:
A Night's Dream of Books

Week 4: Oct. 13th

Reading: Chapters 15 - 19
Discussion Questions: Chapters 11 - 14
Discussion Questions for Next Week:
Babbling Books

Week 5: Oct. 20th

Reading: Chapters 20 - 23
Discussion Questions: Chapters 15 - 19
Discussion Questions for Next Week:
A Night's Dream of Books

Week 6: Oct. 27th

Reading: Chapters 24 - 28
Discussion Questions: Chapters 20 - 23
Discussion Questions for Next Week:
Babbling Books

Week 7: Nov. 3rd

Reading: Chapters 29 - 33
Discussion Questions: Chapters 24 - 28
Discussion Question for Next Week:
A Night's Dream of Books

Week 8: Nov. 10th

Reading: Chapters 34 - 38
Discussion Questions: Chapters 29 - 33
Discussion Questions for Next Week:
Babbling Books

Week 9: Nov. 17th

Discussion Questions, Chapters 34 - 38

Week 9: Nov. 21st

Book Reviews Posted

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