Book Reviews, Fiction

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes | Book Review

“But perhaps bravery meant entering into a storm you already knew would destroy you.”

Y’all know I can’t resist historical pieces – throw in some fantasy and I’m 100% in. Fawkes by Nadine Brandes was creative, engaging and kudos to trying something not often seen with historical events in novels. Geared towards the YA audience, I still enjoyed the characters, the pacing and how she would work in the fantasy elements.

It also made me want to do a deep dive research into King James and the entire Guy Fawkes history. That’s one of my favorite things about reading historically based stories – it opens up a piece of history I might not have thought about before.

“It is those who dream of the impossible who end up defying the very word.”

If you enjoy history or fantasy (or both, like me!), then be sure to check out Brandes’ latest release. Also, that cover? LOVE IT!

Is there a historical event you’d like to see retold?

(Thank you to Thomas Nelson for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.)

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

ABOUT THE BOOK: Thomas Fawkes is turning to stone, and the only cure to the Stone Plague is to join his father’s plot to assassinate the king of England.

Silent wars leave the most carnage. The wars that are never declared but are carried out in dark alleys with masks and hidden knives. Wars where color power alters the natural rhythm of 17th-century London. And when the king calls for peace, no one listens until he finally calls for death.

But what if death finds him first?

Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did it. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.

The plan: use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up the Igniter King.

The problem: Doing so will destroy the family of the girl Thomas loves. But backing out of the plot will send his father and the other plotters to the gallows. To save one, Thomas will lose the other.

No matter Thomas’s choice, one thing is clear: once the decision is made and the color masks have been put on, there’s no turning back.

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Book Reviews, Fiction

The Wounded Shadow by Patrick W. Carr | Book Spotlight

The kings and queens of the northern continent lay siege to the Darkwater Forest, desperate to contain its evil. But rumors of gold and aurium have lured deserters and the desperate into its shadow, creating a growing army held in its sway. Desperate after the death and dissolution of their greatest ally, Willet and the Vigil seek the truth of what lies at the heart of the evil they face. They delve the mind of an old enemy and find an answer far worse than they could have imagined.

Danger stalks the cities of the north, striking at the rulers of the kingdoms. As Willet and the rest of the Vigil seek to find answers, the group is scattered with an ever-growing darkness around them. Will they discover a path to keep their land safe, or will an ancient evil reclaim the world it once called its own?

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | CBD | Goodreads

Bookish Radness

10 + A Few Books For Your Summer Reading

(So I originally posted this last year, but since life is life, I haven’t had a chance to put together a new list. Instead I added a few to this one. With summer coming though, didn’t want y’all to miss out on any possible new reads!)

It’s almost Summer time!! I’m not sure how I’ll handle summer weather that isn’t the same temperature as the surface of the sun, but I think I’ll manage. I moved mid-August last year and I had to wear a light sweater at night. I still don’t compute that one, but looking forward to zero chance of snow as well (It snowed on May 18th, which is a no for me).

With summer comes lots of reading time! Whether 4th of July by the pool, summer vacations, or finding that extra time we don’t normally have – I’m all about the summer reading lists. I tend to have a pile 5 times the size I know I’ll be able to read, but no matter! I like to dream big. So I put together a list for y’all who are looking for some more books to snag. I decided to stick with books all released in the past few-ish years (Sorry Tollers and Jack, but you know how much I love you).

Maybe next year, I’ll plan ahead and have a list of all new releases, but let’s not be hasty Internet. Also, if you’re wondering why I chose 10, I have no idea. It’s the first number that popped in my head. #Professional

1. Redwall by Brian Jacques. I bought this about 4 years ago. As with many books, I was right on top of getting to it. Anyway, this is for those who have a soft spot for stories like Secret of The NIMH, An American Tail (#FievelLove) and other such animal fantastical stories. An entertaining read and if you enjoy it, there’s about 574,875,439 in the series.

2. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. I’m simply going to say it’s a page turner. Also please tell me your thoughts when you finish. That’s pretty much the only reason I’m adding this book, I need more people to discuss this with! That and it’s a great pick for fans of thrillers. (Heads up, there’s language)

3. The Shape of Mercy by Susan Meissner. If you enjoy time slip novels, definitely add this to your list. The time period she focuses on, is one that I always find fascinating. If you’ve never read a time slip, then here’s a great place to start!

4. Life After by Katie Ganshert. I promise I’m not just saying this since we published it. It’s truly a beautiful story. Truly Katie’s best.

5. The Alliance by Jolina Petersheim. A different take on dystopian that I thought worked really well. Not at all what I was expecting, but enjoyed it quite a bit. Later this week will be my review of the story’s conclusion, The Divide.

6. Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge. Inspired by one of the all time greats and plus it takes place in one of my favorite cities in the Universe, so of course I have to include it.

7. Blur by Steven James. What’s a summer read without a thriller or two? I’ll be reading the third (and final) in the series this summer as well. Don’t read it in the dark by yourself though…

8. A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander. She’s one of my go to for inspirational historical reads. I have yet to be disappointed with her stories!

9. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith. Judge away, but y’all…I loved this book. It’s by the same author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, so if you enjoyed that, this might be one for you.

10. Red Rising by Pierce Brown. It’s The Hunger Games to the third power and it takes place on Mars. It captured my attention and I hope to finish the series this summer as well.

Here’s some 2018 additions:

What are some of the books on your summer reading list?

Fiction

World-Building: The Promise of Something Greater | Guest Post by David Wiley

Today I’m welcoming my friend David Wiley on his newest release! Hope you enjoy!

When I sat down to write Monster Huntress, I didn’t know much about the world in which it was taking place. I knew the type of world I wanted, but it transformed and evolved over the course of revisions, always growing either in size or in the details. While the story of Monster Huntress visits only a small portion of the world I’ve created, there are some lessons I’ve learned from J.R.R. Tolkien that have had a ripple effect toward my approach to worldbuilding. The biggest of those lessons was to provide the promise of something greater.

What I mean by that is there is something more out there beyond what the reader is experiencing. There is a larger world, other events going on. There is a rich history, filled with named heroes and battles and events that can be referred to over the course of the book. The reader doesn’t need to know what the Wizard Wars were, for instance, but knowing that there was some massive war hundreds of years ago is important to provide the experience of an aged world. After all, we still refer back to events and wars that waged hundreds, and thousands, of years ago. The same will hold true in a fantasy book, unless it is a newly-formed world. Even new civilizations likely stemmed from somewhere with a history on that world.

Some writers might take the “cut it” approach to those things, and my own editor prodded at some of those. I took a few out but kept others, because I wanted to provide depth to the world – it has a history, after all, even if I haven’t written it yet. It opens the door for significant events to be explored later in shorter forms of fiction, or even a spin-off book that covers some of those things.

There is a scene in the book where Ava comes across a statue of four famous, yet nameless, heroes from the past. Here is the small scene:

The landmark of her journey, a tall statue made from an aquamarine granite, loomed just ahead. Its features were smooth and worn from the weather, their individual faces indistinguishable, but she could still make out the original image carved by the sculptor. It was depicting a trio of men and one woman, a party of unnamed individuals that performed heroic deeds long ago during the Wizard Wars. When Ava was close enough she could read the short inscription at the base of the statue which read: “These four warriors fought to maintain the balance in the world. They fought bravely and their sacrifice for the side of the Light will forever be remembered.” The rest of the words had been worn down to the point where they were no longer legible.

Ava sat in her saddle and contemplated the deeds of these bold warriors from the past. Had they not acted perhaps the world would be radically different than the world she was living in now. It was clear, from the inscription that remained, that these four were important in shaping history.

This scene was much longer, originally, giving some physical descriptions and some speculations on their individual roles. Yet I like the concise nature here. It gives you enough to emphasize their importance in making the world like it is, yet doesn’t steal the scene away from the main character. Look for more worldbuilding scenes like this to appear as the world I’ve built continues to grow. After all, Monster Huntress is set in a world with 13 kingdoms. By the end of book one, she’s only set foot into two of them, so the possibility for growth is quite large as she goes on more adventures in the Young Huntress Series.

Want to get started on Monster Huntress? Grab a copy today!

Want to learn more about the world I’ve built? Check out the earlier stops on the tour and meet some of the characters!

Inklings

Aslan and Why I Love This Lion | Inklings Week

(Welcome to Inklings Week 2017! You can find all the posts here. Hope you enjoy and thanks for stopping by!)

Well y’all, another year and another Inklings Week comes to a close. I’ve had so much fun and I hope y’all have enjoyed the posts, learned something new and maybe even convinced a person or two to join the Inklings Club. I thought I’d finish out this week talking about one of my favorite characters in all of literature. Outside of the Bible, this character has helped me learn more about God’s character than any other work. Through each of the Narnia stories, Lewis shows the world one of the greatest stories ever told, all through a lion.

I started this week with a love letter of sorts and it’s only right I finish with one. Here are bits I loved from each book about Aslan. My hope is that whether or not you’ve read the books, you’ll be encouraged in these and ultimately the Greater Story. Also, is it really too much to ask to have a pet baby lion? Also, I tried to make this post shorter…I tried really hard…

The Magician’s Nephew

As with every Narnia novel, every time I finish this book, I say, “This one is my favorite!” It’s so beautiful. This tells the story of Narnia’s creation. And it really is one of my favorites. The beauty of creation, the temptation of power, the lessons learned, all of it! Here’s one of my favorites from the book:

“Narnia, Narnia, Narnia, awake. Love. Think. Speak. Be walking trees. Be talking beasts. Be divine waters.”

One of the things I love of Lewis, is how he captures the feeling of being in Divine presence. While the creation of Narnia was stunning, breathtaking and beautiful, it paled in comparison to the creator. Take this scene:

“The earth was of many colors; they were fresh, hot and vivid. They made you feel excited; until you saw the Singer himself, and then you forgot everything else. It was a Lion. Huge, shaggy, and bright, it stood facing the risen sun. Its mouth was wide open in song and it was about three hundred yards away.”

Also, sidenote: Tolkien and Lewis both used music in the creation of their universes and its one of my favorite things about them both. Music is powerful and only fitting they are used.

Alright, now onto the most popular (and the first one he published and another personal favorite).

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

This story is all about Jesus. From the descriptions, to his actions in the book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe reminds me most of Jesus as our Savior.

“He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.” <<– Life Goals

Too many times we like to put God in a box (and trust me, many of times I have found myself doing the same thing). But how beautiful is it that He does the unexpected? We often want what we know, what we are comfortable with, but that often isn’t what is best for us. And it’s scary, but this wisdom from the Beaver is always a needed reminder:

“Safe? Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Also, this: “People who have not been in Narnia sometimes think that a thing cannot be good and terrible at the same time. If the children had ever thought so, they were cured of it now. For when they tried to look at Aslan’s face they just caught a glimpse of the golden mane and the great, royal, solemn, overwhelming eyes; and then they found they couldn’t look at him and went all trembly.”

Finally, this has one of the greatest presentations of the Gospel in fiction. I might even say the best. Aslan’s says this to Lucy and Susan as he explains why what the White Witch did has no power:

“…though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know…that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.”

Sigh…

The Horse and His Boy

There are many people who say this is their least favorite of Chronicles or they don’t like it at all (or both). To which I say RUDE. And also, you’re wrong. I try and keep an open mind, I do, but not when it comes to this beauty! Maybe it’s because this was the first Narnia book I read (a year after college – I was way late to the Narnia train), but it’s more. Through this story of two children and two horses, Lewis reminds us of the many ways God comforts and leads us.

Throughout the adventure Shasta is on, he encounters lions/felines in different environments. When he finally encounters THE Aslan, he learns things weren’t all they seemed.

“Don’t you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?” said Shasta.
“There was only one lion,” said the Voice.
“What on earth do you mean? I’ve just told you there were at least two the first night, and -”
“There was only one: but he was swift on foot.”
“How do you know?”
“I was the lion.” And as Shasta gaped with an open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. “I was the lion who forced you to join Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.”

“Who are you?” asked Shasta.
“Myself,” said the Voice, very deep and low so that the earth shook: and again “Myself,” loud and clear and gay: and then the third time “Myself,” whispered so softly you could hardly hear it, and yet it seemed to come from all round you as if the leaves rustled with it.

Shasta was no longer afraid that the Voice belonged to something that would eat him, nor that it was the voice of a ghost. But a new and different sort of trembling came over him. Yet he felt glad too.

Also love this:
“It was from the Lion that the light came. No one ever saw anything more terrible or beautiful.”

“But after one glance at the Lion’s face he (Shasta) slipped out of the saddle and fell at its feet. He couldn’t say anything but then he didn’t want to say anything, and he knew he needn’t say anything.”

“[Aslan] seems to be at the back of all the stories.” <<–RIGHT?!

I hope I have convinced the doubters of The Horse and His Boy’s brilliance. 🙂

Prince Caspian

This is one where Aslan is silent a majority of the book, but I would say that makes his arrival even more brilliant. I loved also, how they didn’t all see him at once. It’s a faith thing. Lucy never stopped believing in Aslan and, ““She sat up, trembling with excitement but not with fear.” The siblings (and Trumpkin) took a bit longer (and at different times), but even Aslan’s thoughts to them are telling:

After Peter apologized, Aslan calls him “My dear son.” To Edmund (who was more willing to believe Lucy this time), he says “Well done.” Then to Susan: “You have listened to your fears, child” said Aslan. “Come, let me breathe on you. Forget them. Are you brave again?”

There’s also a scene at the end that shows the freedom that comes with following Aslan (Jesus). Aslan, Lucy and Susan go through the town and bring life to people. It’s beautiful. One of my favorite parts is that Aslan calls them, like the school mistress, Dear heart.

There are times when it feels like God is silent (whether we’re talking the 400 years between the OT and NT, or our individual lives), but he never is and we can hold on to that truth.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

There are so many amazing quotes and pieces to this story. I had nearly two pages of quotes, but thought that might be considered by some “excessive.” I can’t help it though! This story is full of so much adventure, yet Aslan is still always there. When they least expect it, when their hearts are being tempted to go astray, Aslan loves them enough to remind them of who they really are. The process isn’t always easy, but it is always worth it.

Take the scene where Dragon Eustace became boy Eustace again:

“Well, anyway, I looked up and saw the very last thing I expected: a huge lion coming slowly toward me. And one queer thing was that there was no moon last night, but there was moonlight where the lion was. So it came nearer and nearer. I was terribly afraid of it. You may think that, being a dragon, I could have knocked any lion out easily enough. But it wasn’t that kind of fear. I wasn’t afraid of it eating me, I was just afraid of it—if you can understand. Well, it came close up to me and looked straight into my eyes. And I shut my eyes tight. But that wasn’t any good because it told me to follow it.”

“You mean it spoke?”

“Then the lion said—but I don’t know if it spoke—‘You will have to let me undress you.’ I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

“The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know—if you’ve ever picked the scab off a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is fun to see it coming away.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” said Edmund

(Eustace describes the process a bit more…)

“What do you think it was, then?” asked Eustace.

“I think you’ve seen Aslan,” said Edmund.

“Aslan!” said Eustace. “I’ve heard that name mentioned several times since we joined the Dawn Treader. And I felt—I don’t know what—I hated it. But I was hating everything then. And by the way, I’d like to apologize. I’m afraid I’ve been pretty beastly.”

“That’s all right,” said Edmund. “Between ourselves, you haven’t been as bad as I was on my first trip to Narnia. You were only an ass, but I was a traitor.”

I really love Edmund’s character. In all ways he isn’t afraid to mention his mistake and what he learned from it. Our stories have the chance to encourage and impact others.

I loved the same impact when Lucy encountered the beauty spell while in the Magician’s house:

“But when she looked back at the opening words of the spell, there in the middle of the writing, where she felt quite sure there had been no picture before, she found the great face of a lion, of The Lion, Aslan himself, staring into hers. It was painted such a bright gold that it seemed to be coming toward her out of the page; and indeed she never was quite sure afterward that it hadn’t really moved a little. At any rate she knew the expression on his face quite well. He was growling and you could see most of his teeth. She became horribly afraid and turned over the page at once.”

We also have the chance to see Aslan be there is the darkest of times (like the terrifying cloud near the island).

“Lucy looked along the beam and presently saw something in it. At first it looked like a cross, then it looked like an aeroplane, then it looked like a kite, and at last with a whirring of wings it was right overhead and was an albatross. It circled three times round the mast and then perched for an instant on the crest of the gilded dragon at the prow. It called out in a strong sweet voice what seemed to be words though no one understood them. After that it spread its wings, rose, and began to fly slowly ahead, bearing a little to starboard. Drinian steered after it not doubting that it offered good guidance. But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, “Courage, dear heart,” and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.”

This final quote I want to share is also one of my favorites of the series. It says so much about Aslan and who Lewis made him to be. It’s after Edmund and Lucy find out their adventures in Narnia have come to an end and Lucy cries out because she fears she will never see Aslan again. His response is as such:

“I am,” said Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”

The Silver Chair

First let us all give a moment of thanks for Lewis’ creation of Puddleglum. I love him. And if the rumors of The Silver Chair movie are true, they better not mess him up! This story has such reminders about calling, trusting in Aslan. Early on Scrubb isn’t quite sure if they arrived in Narnia by mistake, but Aslan’s response is quite simple: “You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you,” said the Lion.”

Why do I love Puddleglum? He says it like it is. This scene, everytime I read it, I am reminded that God doesn’t always give us the full picture, but take one step at a time.

“Oh, if only we knew!” said Jill.
“I think we do know,” said Puddleglum.
“Do you mean you think everything will come right if we do untie him?” said Scrubb.
“I don’t know about that,” said Puddleglum. “You see, Aslan didn’t tell Pole what would happen. He only told her what to do. That fellow will be the death of us once he’s up, I shouldn’t wonder. But that doesn’t let us off following the sign”

I’ll end one more from Puddleglum. His response to the Witch (who is trying to convince the children and Marshwiggle that there was never a sun or Narnia) says this:

“‘One word, Ma’am,’ he said… ‘One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things–trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that’s small loss if the world’s as dull a place as you say.”

I’ll take Narnia too.

The Last Battle

I LOVE THIS ONE SO MUCH. Every single thing about it. Lewis’ descriptions, the hints of what is to come…all of it is so beautiful. I’ll kick off the quotes when they go into the new Narnia:

“What was the fruit like? Unfortunately no one can describe a taste. All I can say is that, compared with those fruits, the freshest grapefruit you’ve ever eaten was dull, and the juiciest orange was dry, and the most melting pear was hard and woody, and the sweetest wild strawberry was sour. And there were no seeds or stones, and no wasps. If you had once eaten that fruit, all the nicest things in this world would taste like medicines after it. But I can’t describe it. You can’t find out what it is like unless you can get to that country and taste it for yourself.”

“…but as he spoke the earth trembled. The sweet air grew suddenly sweeter. A brightness flashed behind them. All turned. Tirian turned last because he was afraid. There stood his heart’s desire, huge and real, the golden Lion, Aslan himself, and already the others were kneeling in a circle round his forepaws and burying their hands and faces in his mane as he stooped his great head to touch them with his tongue. Then he fixed his eyes upon Tirian, and Tirian came near, trembling, and flung himself at the Lion’s feet, and the Lion kissed him and said, “Well done, last of the Kings of Narnia who stood firm at the darkest hour.”

Raise your hand if you cry when Aslan shows up?

“It was the Unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right fore-hoof on the ground and neighed, and then cried: “I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this.”

Lewis was able to so brilliantly capture a teeny bit of our heart’s reaction to Glory. Of course it is beyond our wildest dreams, but I love so so much that he was able to stir our hearts with these passages and story.

“Beloved, said the Glorious One, unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly.” #CommenceCrying

Further up and Further in!

This final scene? CRY ALL THE TEARS every single time.

There was a real railway accident,” said Aslan softly. “Your father and mother and all of you are—as you used to call it in the Shadowlands—dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.” And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

Well, I think that’s enough gushing for now :). Do you have a favorite Aslan scene?

Inklings

Fun Finds: Inklings Edition | Inklings Week

(Welcome to Inklings Week 2017! You can find all the posts here. Hope you enjoy and thanks for stopping by!)

INTERNET!! Today is INTERNATIONAL INKLINGS DAY! It’s the day J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis first met (at a faculty meeting in 1926) and because they did, it’s safe to say we have Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia. If you want to read more about their friendship, here’s a post I wrote last year.

Since I can’t be in Oxford to celebrate, how about a bunch of ideas to buy ourselves instead? Close enough right??? (Or not at all, but #MaybeNextYear). I know, most months can look like Inklings Inspired Fun Finds, but this one was 100% on purpose since it’s Inklings Week. Now people have months notice for my birthday. It’s a big one people. One that should probably be filled with all kinds of Inklings inspired gifts…I kid….I kid….

1. Juniper Books Sets – Both LOTR and Chronicles of Narnia. I call these “Oh hi, I need you right now.” THEY’RE SO PRETTY. (Also, I have so much envy looking at all the books Juniper offers. I need lots of them).

2. To Share an Adventure Sign. Aren’t we all?

3. Aslan Print. Is it possible to have too many Aslan related anything? I think the answer is obviously no.

4. Courage, Dear Heart T-Shirt. Sometimes we need to wear important reminders. Plus this t-shirt looks really comfortable. Double win.

5. Tree of Gondor decal. I just found the perfect decal for my iPad. YES.

What are some of your favorite Inklings related gifts? (Because one can never have enough options to choose from 🙂

Inklings

Inklings Starter Kit | Guest Post by Wesley Hoffman

(Welcome to Inklings Week 2017! You can find all the posts here. Hope you enjoy and thanks for stopping by!)

If you’ve been around the blog for a bit, you might already know Wesley of Library Educated! She has a great blog (and reviews some of the most unique topics, I love it!). She also does a really awesome annual “All Women’s July.” So be sure to connect. You can find here on her blog and Twitter! I look forward to when we get to hang out in person and love this fun post she did for Inklings Week!

Inklings Starter Kit

So, you want to be an Inkling. That’s a good call. You will join the ranks of men and (a few) women who have contributed mightily to the literary world. But what exactly do you need to be an Inkling? Here’s a starter kit:

A good coat

Whenever I think of the original Inklings group I always think of them wearing blazers with elbow patches, or something sensible to keep out the brisk English weather. The right coat will set the mood, and bonus, keep you warm!


Foreign and/or Old Language Dictionaries

Tolkien in particular was an Inkling with some incredible foreign language skills (taught himself Finnish!). If you are not similarly gifted, get some supplies to keep you up to date on your latin, Old English, and other rare languages.

 

Drink of Choice

As an Inkling you are going to be spending a lot of time sitting around talking about books, big life questions and who knows what else. This could be in a pub, this could be in front of a cozy fire or in some meadow on a picnic. But you need to always be ready with a beverage of choice. And even more important than what you are drinking, you have to have a great drinking vessel.

Lots of Stationery and Writing Tools

Whether you’re writing your own stuff, helping out a fellow writer, or dropping a making a list you’ve got to have the write (hahaha) tools. Whether it’s moleskine notebooks or Lisa Frank binders you’ve got to have something to contain all of your genius!

Not Necessary but Helpful

A pipe for when you want to look very studious and serious (I’d encourage the bubble type over the tobacco type. Safety first.)

A fireplace and cozy chair for maximum comfort.

However, the most important thing you need to be an Inkling is not something that you hold in your hand or have in your house. It’s something that you’ve had all along, the love of good books and good company! If you have that you have all you REALLY need to be an Inkling.

Thanks again for joining in Wesley! What would y’all add to a starter kit?

 

Inklings

Favorite Characters From Narnia | Guest Post by Katherine Reay

(Welcome to Inklings Week 2017! You can find all the posts here. Hope you enjoy and thanks for stopping by!)

If y’all haven’t met Katherine Reay yet, I have two things to say: WHY NOT? And also, please go remedy that. She’s not only a fabulous author (I love every one of her books), she’s a fabulous person. She joined in the Inklings fun last year and I’m so excited she is part of it again this year! Be sure to connect with her around the internets at her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Hope y’all enjoy this piece as much as I did (plus there’s another giveaway!)!

I’m delighted to celebrate Inklings’ Week here again. This year, rather than chat about Lewis’s influence on my own writing, I’d like to introduce you to my two favorite characters from all the Inkling members. I do love Tolkien’s Samwise Gamgee, but the winners are C. S. Lewis’s Edmund Pevensie and Eustace Scrubb from his Chronicles of Narnia.

Edmund First…

Edmund is the third of the Pevensie children – he is mean and truculent; he lies and teases. He’s generally annoying. And he’s a traitor. With so much stacked against him, one might think Edmund is beyond redemption. But, in many ways, that’s the point. Lewis gives him, I think, the greatest story and development as a character within all Narnia. Edmund starts as traitor and ends as a king – and what a king!

By the end of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Edmund the Just is loyal, logical, and courageous. He’s a serious and mature character who knows the true cost of grace and of his very life. Lewis never lets Edmund falter after this. In subsequent stories such as Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and his semi-cameo appearance in The Horse and his Boy, Edmund handles his authority with measured grace. In his final appearance in The Last Battle, we find the same stalwart friend and leader. That’s not to say Lewis made everything easy for Edmund after Aslan saved him. He didn’t. The memory of his betrayal in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe plagued Edmund in later years and in later stories. Yet in those moments, rather than giving into despair or or regret, Edmund discerns the difference between truth and feeling – and he acts on truth. Edmund reminds us all the cost of freedom, redemption and the wisdom in keeping our “eyes wide open.”

Then comes Eustace…

Eustace Clarence Scrub is Edmund’s cousin. We meet him in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and we find him possibly worse than we found Edmund…

There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.

What an opening line! Eustace didn’t almost deserve that name and introduction — He did. Eustace was a weasel-y, arrogant, and annoying boy. He was a whiner, a coward and a friend to only himself. But Lewis doesn’t leave him there either. He takes him on a remarkable journey that begins with my most beloved Narnian scene.

I used this passage in Dear Mr. Knightley and that is what I’ll quote here as it summarizes the moment. Eustace provided guidance for Dear Mr. Knightley‘s heroine, Samantha Moore, as she too was trying to figure out how to change and who to become.

December 24th

Dear Mr. Knightley,
… I feel like Oscar Wilde’s Portrait of Dorian Gray. Mr. Gray sold his soul for external beauty and only his portrait, hidden in an attic, displayed the horror and depravity of his life. His face remained young, unlined and perfect. I’m no better than he. My insides feel so horrid. But that’s not what I want or who I want to be. I want to be so much more.

Isabella Conley gave me a book a few weeks ago with the most haunting and beautiful passage I’ve ever read. I found a character within it that offered me hope, not just understanding. But I don’t know what to do with it, what it means.

In C.S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, I found the story of a boy saved internally and externally from the grim life he’d created. Eustace, a perfectly pugnacious little twerp, turns into a dragon while thinking greedy, dragonish thoughts. Can’t you just see it? Eustace’s pettiness and green color; his truculence and self-absorption; his sourness and fear? I can. And he pays a physical price for all that internal mess. But once Eustace recognizes his true state, as a real dragon, he starts to behave more kindly. He strives to change inside. But it’s too late and he’s too far gone. He can’t do it and his anguish made me cry.

Only Aslan, this amazingly huge and glorious lion, holds that power. Eustace is completely incapable and insufficient; but Aslan shows grace and turns him back into a boy. Eustace then finds his friends and describes Aslan’s powerful work: The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off.

Edmund, the traitor in The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe, understands perfectly and so do I. But I’m still under that skin. It suffocates me, chokes me and is killing me. There’s no Aslan in the real world, so there’s no hope. Mrs. Muir would say I’m wrong. She says there is hope in God and hope in Christ. They’ve invited me to dinner weekly since Thanksgiving and, during each meal, she drops hints and hope like breadcrumbs for me to follow. But I can’t see it. I just feel swallowed by darkness…

Sincerely,
Sam

After that scene in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Edmund and Eustace compare notes. I appreciate Edmund’s humor and honesty here. “You were only an ass, but I was a traitor.”

That line right there is one reason I love these characters. No self-deception about who they were or who they want to become. I also appreciate that their stories aren’t too big for me to learn from and even appropriate. Yes, they battle witches and armies, lead countries and fight evil. Yes, they sail to the ends of the world and back again. Yes, Eustace became a dragon. But their greatest battles and transformations take place inside where, I suspect, often the most dangerous battles are fought. They warred against selfishness, arrogance, pain, betrayal, insecurity and countless other vices I encounter and wage war against within my own life and often on a daily basis. Better yet, they show me victory.

Edmund and Eustace make their final appearance in Narnia in The Last Battle – as do really all Narnians and humans, except Susan. In this final story, Edmund and Eustace, along with Lucy, Peter, Jill, Professor Digory Kirke and Miss Polly, find themselves first in Narnia and then, upon its defeat, in Aslan’s country forever. And as sad as I was to see the Chronicles end, I was pleased my two favorite characters made it to Aslan’s country and we left them traveling “further up and further in” to eternal life and happiness.

Thank you for joining me here today and thank you, Jamie, for inviting me once again!

Inklings

In Which I Share My Love of the LOTR Movies | Inklings Week

(Welcome to Inklings Week 2017! You can find all the posts here. Hope you enjoy and thanks for stopping by!)

Welcome to 3rd Annual Inklings Week! It’s one of my favorite weeks of the blog year. It’s the best getting to chat all things Inklings with y’all! We have another great lineup this year and I hope you’ll stop by every day. There’s some fun giveaways, guests posts and lots of gushing about the Inklings. Plus, one step closer to making International Inklings Day a real thing right?!

Alright, let’s do this! Since I had some “feelings” last year about The Hobbit movies (I stand firmly by my claim), I thought it would be fun to go opposite this year and share some of my favorite scenes from the LOTR movie trilogy.

I want y’all to know that I was COMMITTED to this post and it was rough. I had to watch all three movies again for research, but I didn’t stop there. I wanted the full and complete experience, so I watched the extended versions. This blogging gig isn’t for the faint of heart y’all.

Or it quite possibly looked like any other Sunday afternoon in my house, in which I tell myself to watch a new movie and somehow LOTR ends up playing. #Weird

I should also mention that this is by no means an exhaustive list of favorite scenes or quotes. If I listed every thing I loved, I’d pretty much be typing out the script. Be sure to share some of your favorite scenes!!

Images © 2001 – New Line Productions, Inc.

I love Gandalf’s research style. This is 100% how I feel in a used book store (you know, hoping I’ll be one of those people who finds a rare edition with a Tolkien hand drawn map hidden in the pages)

I’ve said this plenty of times before, but Sam is one of my favorite characters. He’s so brave and I love the scene right before he crosses the line of the furthest place he’s been. He doesn’t yet know all that he’s got himself into, but he goes all in. I also love the humor throughout the movies (and books). It is often found in Pippin and I’m pretty sure his love of food makes him my spirit animal. I’m with Pippin – the world is a much better place when there’s snacks, second breakfasts and afternoon teas.

“Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement.” Gandalf

“All we have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given to us.” Gandalf

I also need to take a moment to stop and talk about Boromir. Yes, he was lead astray by the ring, but he made up for it. Even if he realized things a bit too late, that last scene with Aragorn gets me every time.

“Our people. Our people. I would have followed you. My brother. My captain. My King.” 😭😭😭😭

Then of course it ends with Sam being awesome (and you might recognize the hand scene in The Return of the King). “I made a promise Mr. Frodo. A promise. Don’t you leave him Samwise Gamgee. And I don’t mean to.” 😭😭😭

Images © 2002 – New Line Productions, Inc.

I’d like to start off with The Two Towers by saying I have always had a major crush on Éomer (the character and actor, let’s be real). I love him a lot more in the books (especially his friendship with Aragorn), but the movies weren’t too shabby either.

When it comes to Smeags (aka Gollum), he’s my favorite in this movie. Andy Serkis did such a phenomenal job with his character. From his self chat to “trust Master,” to his disgust with taters (“PO-TA-TOES”) to his dismay at when “Master tricks us” to his final plot to lead them to Shelob, I love how it was all portrayed.

I also loved Sam’s speech at the end:

“They had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t because they were holding on to something….That there’s some good in this world and it’s worth fighting for.”

Images © 2003 – New Line Productions, Inc.

What’s not to love about the conclusion? Everyone is just so brave and the bonds of friendship got me like 😭😭😭. I like that Aragorn takes on his destiny fully in this movie (hey King, heyyy!). He’s awesome in previous movies (but not as much as the books), but the way he leads in this one, he shows himself fully King. Éowyn with her “I am no man, so I can kill the Witch King of Angmar” business is one of my favorite scenes as well.

Some of my favorite parts of the whole series happen after the battle of Minas Tirith. From Aragorn commanding the troops to the Black Gates (in order to give Frodo and Sam a chance #ForFrodo), to Samwise’s final acts of bravery of saving Frodo (“I can’t carry it for you Mr. Frodo, but I can carry you!”), to Aragon’s “You bow to no one” speech to the Hobbits, I cry every single time.

“There may come a day when the strength of men fails, but it is not this day! Not this day!” Aragorn

Gimli: I never thought I’d die fighting side-by-side with an elf.
Legalos: How about side by side with a friend then?
Gimli: Aye. I can do that.

It’s safe to say, yes, I love these movies.

Alright, what are some of your favorite scenes?

Bookish Radness

14 Books I Read In 24 Hours

It’s no great revelation that I’m a fast reader, but there are some books out there that anyone can read in a 24 hour period. Why? Because certain books simply cannot be put down. So if you’re looking to add a book or two (or 14) to your list for Spring Break or a Sunday afternoon, here’s several to consider!

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

“Rebecca is a work of immense intelligence and wit, elegantly written, thematically solid, suspenseful..” –Washington Post

“Daphne du Maurier created a scale by which modern women can measure their feelings.” –Stephen King

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . .

The novel begins in Monte Carlo, where our heroine is swept off her feet by the dashing widower Maxim de Winter and his sudden proposal of marriage. Orphaned and working as a lady’s maid, she can barely believe her luck. It is only when they arrive at his massive country estate that she realizes how large a shadow his late wife will cast over their lives–presenting her with a lingering evil that threatens to destroy their marriage from beyond the grave.

First published in 1938, this classic gothic novel is such a compelling read that it won the Anthony Award for Best Novel of the Century.

Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay

Dear Mr. Knightley is a contemporary epistolary novel with a delightful dash of Jane Austen.

Samantha Moore survived years of darkness in the foster care system by hiding behind her favorite characters in literature, even adopting their very words. Her fictional friends give her an identity, albeit a borrowed one. But most importantly, they protect her from revealing her true self and encountering more pain.

After college, Samantha receives an extraordinary opportunity. The anonymous “Mr. Knightley” offers her a full scholarship to earn her graduate degree at the prestigious Medill School of Journalism. The sole condition is that Sam write to Mr. Knightley regularly to keep him apprised of her progress.

As Sam’s true identity begins to reveal itself through her letters, her heart begins to soften to those around her—a damaged teenager and fellow inhabitant of Grace House, her classmates at Medill, and, most powerfully, successful novelist Alex Powell. But just as Sam finally begins to trust, she learns that Alex has secrets of his own—secrets that, for better or for worse, make it impossible for Sam to hide behind either her characters or her letters.

The Bones Will Speak by Carrie Stuart Parks

Forensic artist Gwen Marcey has become the target of a serial killer who believes he’s been appointed God’s executioner.

In Copper Creek, Montana, Gwen Marcey is struggling to put together her life after cancer and divorce. When her dog retrieves a skull of a murder victim and leads her to the victim’s grave, Gwen uses her forensic art ability to identify a serial killer. She is horrified to discover all the victims look like her fourteen-year-old daughter.

The murderer is a “lone wolf,” a member of the terrorist group Phineas Priesthood-and he has a score to settle with Gwen. Unraveling the tangled Christian Identity movement, where race-not grace-provides salvation, Gwen is in a frantic rush against time. She must use all her skills to uncover the killer before he can carry out his threat to destroy her and everyone she loves.

Miracle in a Dry Season by Sarah Loudin Thomas

In a Drought, It’s the Darkest Cloud
That Brings Hope

It’s 1954 and Perla Long’s arrival in the sleepy town of Wise, West Virginia, was supposed to go unnoticed. She just wants a quiet, safe place for her and her daughter, Sadie, where the mistakes of her past can stay hidden. But then drought comes to Wise, and Perla is pulled into the turmoil of a town desperately in need of a miracle.

Casewell Phillips has resigned himself to life as a bachelor…until he meets Perla. She’s everything he’s sought in a woman, but he can’t get past the sense that she’s hiding something. As the drought worsens, Perla’s unique gift divides the town in two, bringing both gratitude and condemnation, and placing the pair in the middle of a storm of anger and forgiveness, fear and faith.

Mist of Midnight by Sandra Byrd

Rebecca Ravenshaw, daughter of missionaries, spent most of her life in India. Following the death of her family in the Indian Mutiny, Rebecca returns to claim her family estate in Hampshire, England. Upon her return, people are surprised to see her… and highly suspicious. Less than a year earlier, an imposter had arrived with an Indian servant and assumed not only Rebecca’s name, but her home and incomes.

That pretender died within months of her arrival; the servant fled to London as the young woman was hastily buried at midnight. The locals believe that perhaps she, Rebecca, is the real imposter. Her home and her father’s investments reverted to a distant relative, the darkly charming Captain Luke Whitfield, who quickly took over. Against her best intentions, Rebecca begins to fall in love with Luke, but she is forced to question his motives–does he love her or does he just want Headbourne House? If Luke is simply after the property, as everyone suspects, would she suffer a similar fate as the first “Rebecca”?

A captivating Gothic love story set against a backdrop of intrigue and danger, Mist of Midnight will leave you breathless.

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

On a rainy afternoon, a mother’s life is shattered as her son slips from her grip and runs into the street . . .

I Let You Go follows Jenna Gray as she moves to a ramshackle cottage on the remote Welsh coast, trying to escape the memory of the car accident that plays again and again in her mind and desperate to heal from the loss of her child and the rest of her painful past.

At the same time, the novel tracks the pair of Bristol police investigators trying to get to the bottom of this hit-and-run. As they chase down one hopeless lead after another, they find themselves as drawn to each other as they are to the frustrating, twist-filled case before them.

The Curiosity Keeper by Sarah E Ladd

“It is not just a ruby, as you say. It is large as a quail’s egg, still untouched and unpolished. And it is rumored to either bless or curse whomever possesses it.”

Camille Iverness can take care of herself. She’s done so since the day her mother abandoned the family and left Camille to run their shabby curiosity shop on Blinkett Street. But when a violent betrayal leaves her injured with no place to hide, Camille has no choice but to accept help from the mysterious stranger who came to her aid.

Jonathan Gilchrist never wanted to inherit Kettering Hall. As a second son, he was content working as a village apothecary. But when his brother’s death made him heir just as his father’s foolish decisions put the estate at risk, only the sale of a priceless possession—a ruby called the Bevoy—can save the family from ruin. But the gem has disappeared. And all trails lead to Iverness Curiosity Shop—and the beautiful shop girl who may or may not be the answer to his questions.

Curious circumstance throws them together, and an intricate dance of need and suspicion leads the couple from the seedy backwaters of London to the elite neighborhoods of the wealthy to the lush, green Surrey countryside—all in the pursuit of a blood-red gem that collectors will sacrifice anything to possess.

Caught at the intersection of blessings and curses, greed and deceit, two determined souls must unite to protect what they hold dear. But when a passion that shines far brighter than any gem is ignited, each will have to decide how much they are willing to risk for their future, love, and happiness.

Lady Maybe by Julie Klassen

One final cry…“God almighty, help us!” and suddenly her world shifted violently, until a blinding collision scattered her mind and shook her bones. Then, the pain. The freezing water. And as all sensation drifted away, a hand reached for hers, before all faded into darkness…

Now she has awakened as though from some strange, suffocating dream in a warm and welcoming room she has never seen before, and tended to by kind, unfamiliar faces. But not all has been swept away. She recalls fragments of the accident. She remembers a baby. And a ring on her finger reminds her of a lie.

But most of all, there is a secret. And in this house of strangers she can trust no one but herself to keep it.

A Broken Kind of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert

Sometimes everything you ever learned about yourself is wrong

Fashion is a fickle industry, a frightening fact for twenty-four year old model Ivy Clark. Ten years in and she’s learned a sacred truth—appearance is everything. Nobody cares about her broken past as long as she looks beautiful for the camera. This is the only life Ivy knows—so when it starts to unravel, she’ll do anything to hold on. Even if that means moving to the quaint island town of Greenbrier, South Carolina, to be the new face of her stepmother’s bridal wear line—an irony too rich for words, since Ivy is far from the pure bride in white.

If only her tenuous future didn’t rest in the hands of Davis Knight, her mysterious new photographer. Not only did he walk away from the kind of success Ivy longs for to work maintenance at a local church, he treats her differently than any man ever has. Somehow, Davis sees through the façade she works so hard to maintain. He, along with a cast of other characters, challenges everything Ivy has come to believe about beauty and worth. Is it possible that God sees her—a woman stained and broken by the world—yet wants her still?

Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

An unforgettable story of courage and romance. Will Valancy Stirling ever escape her strict family and find true love?

Valancy Stirling is 29, unmarried, and has never been in love. Living with her overbearing mother and meddlesome aunt, she finds her only consolation in the “forbidden” books of John Foster and her daydreams of the Blue Castle–a place where all her dreams come true and she can be who she truly wants to be. After getting shocking news from the doctor, she rebels against her family and discovers a surprising new world, full of love and adventures far beyond her most secret dreams.

Price of Privilege by Jessica Dotta

Having finally discovered the truth of her birthright, Julia Elliston is determined to outwit Chance Macy at his own game. Holding a secret he’d kill to keep, however, is proving more difficult than she imagined.

Just when Julia thinks she’s managed to untangle herself from Macy’s clutches, he changes tactics with a risky ploy. As the scandal of the century breaks loose, drawing rooms all over London whisper what so far newspapers have not dared to print: Macy’s lost bride is none other than Lord Pierson’s daughter–and one of the most controversial cases of marital law ever seen comes before Victorian courts.

Though Julia knows Macy’s version of events is another masterful manipulation, public opinion is swaying in his favor. Caught in a web of deceit and lies, armed only with a fledgling faith, Julia must face her fiercest trial yet.

The Shock of Night by Patrick W. Carr

When one man is brutally murdered and the priest he works for mortally wounded on the streets of Bunard, Willet Dura is called to investigate. Yet the clues to the crime lead to contradictions and questions without answers. As Willet begins to question the dying priest, the man pulls Willet close and screams in a foreign tongue. Then he dies without another word.

Willet returns to the city, no closer to answers than before, but his senses are skewed. People he touches appear to have a subtle shift, a twist seen at the edge of his vision, and it’s as though he can see their deepest thoughts. In a world divided between haves and have-nots, gifted and common, Willet soon learns he’s been passed the rarest gift of all: a gift that’s not supposed to exist.

Now Willet must pursue the murderer still on the loose in Bunard even as he’s pulled into a much more dangerous and epic conflict that threatens not only his city, but his entire world–a conflict that will force him to come to terms with his own tortured past if he wants to survive.

The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon

One summer night in 1930, Judge Joseph Crater steps into a New York City cab and is never heard from again. Behind this great man are three women, each with her own tale to tell: Stella, his fashionable wife, the picture of propriety; Maria, their steadfast maid, indebted to the judge; and Ritzi, his showgirl mistress, willing to seize any chance to break out of the chorus line.

As the twisted truth emerges, Ariel Lawhon’s wickedly entertaining debut mystery transports us into the smoky jazz clubs, the seedy backstage dressing rooms, and the shadowy streets beneath the Art Deco skyline.

Jaded by Varina Denman

Ruthie Turner resents the Christians in her small Texas town, but when she falls for the new preacher, she must release her bitterness…and learn to love. On the surface, nothing seems to change in this dull town-yet God always works beneath the surface.

What are some your favorite quick reads?