These Is My Words – Nancy E. Turner

It only took 11 years, but I finally got around to reading the novel Melissa McCurdy guest reviewed in glowing fashion for us back in 2009 — These is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine 1881-1901 Arizona Territories.  really wish I hadn’t waited so long.

Summary:  Inspired by the author’s original family memoirs, this absorbing story introduces us to the questing, indomitable Sarah Prine, one of the most memorable women ever to survive and prevail in the Arizona Territory of the late 1800s.  As a child, a fiery young woman, and finally a caring mother, Sarah forges a life as full and fascinating as our deepest needs, our most secret hopes, and our grandest dreams.

Rich in authentic details of daily life and etched with striking character portraits of very different pioneer families, this action packed novel is also the story of a powerful enduring love between Sarah and the dashing cavalry officer Captain Jack Elliot. While their love grows, the heartbreak and wonder of the frontier experience unfold in scene after scene.

Sarah’s incredible story leads us into a vanished world that comes vividly to life again, while her struggles with work and home, love and responsibility resonate with those every woman faces today.  These is My Words is a passionate celebration of a remarkable life, exhilarating and gripping from first page to last.  (Summary from inside cover – Image from

My Review:  When I was young, my mother read the entire Little House series to my sister and I. You may have heard of them. As a result, I became enamored with the whole idea of ‘old-fashioned’ living; how this young family could pack up all their belongings in a wagon and move from place to place, build a new home each time they did, eke out a living from the land and their own labors, and endure all manner of hardships in the process, was nearly unfathomable to my young mind.  I was hooked and read the same series to my children at the first opportunity.  If you felt the same way about the Little House series as a child, I have no doubt you will fall head over heels for These is My Words as an adult.  It is a richly descriptive and thoroughly riveting story with a grown-up Little House feel.

Although These is My Words is actually a novel, it reads like the real-life diary of seventeen-year-old Sarah Prine as her family travels via wagon on an often-perilous trail as they attempt to settle and make a life for themselves in the Arizona territories.  At first, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to handle the character’s somewhat uneducated way of writing, but it helped authenticate the story and in a matter of few pages I no longer noticed it.   Like most diaries, the entries offer brief glimpses into Sarah’s life on the trail, finding love, building a home, raising a family, and overcoming trials along the way. You’d think that a diary about someone’s day-to-day existence might be boring, but it really wasn’t.  Not even a little bit.  Her life was hard, but it was also suspenseful, romantic, harrowing, hilarious, and heart-wrenching.

Sarah is an incredibly fun character — spirited, stubborn, besotted with books, and a crack shot with a pistol. In short, she was everything I would hope to be were I a woman born in the late 1800s. I loved her quick temper, her seemingly rapid mood swings, her growth throughout the book, and the sweet romance that developed between her and another character after a number of frustrating hurdles.  Overall, These is My Words was such an engrossing read.  I felt like a silent spectator sent back in time to observe this one woman and enjoyed every minute of it.  As we head into summer, I recommend this novel to anyone looking for a good book to read.  If they happen to love history, LHOTP, and spunky heroines, so much the better!

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

For the Sensitive Reader:  There are number of of deaths caused by hardship and assorted weaponry, some native american vs. settler violence, minimal swearing in a terminal situation, a rape, attempted rape, and some so-mild-as-to-almost-be-nonexistent sexual situations.  The author is very good at keeping things nondescript.  For example, sex is often referred to as simply “loving” with no additional details. Blink and you miss it. 

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

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