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?

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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!

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?

Inklings, Movie Musings

It’s Been Long Enough: My Thoughts on The Hobbit Movies

(If you’re new, welcome to Inklings Week 2016! Don’t miss any of the posts this week, you can find them here!)

I realize I never really shared my thoughts on The Hobbit trilogy movies. I admit, I had plans to and I never got around to it…I’m sure my feelings will help explain why.

Before I dive into my nerdy post of angst, I will say I love the music from all three. When you have Thorin, Pippin and Ed Sheeran singing, bound for musical brilliance (the LOTR soundtrack is my background jam right now)

I also need to add I don’t think PJ (Peter Jackson) is a terrible director or producer. He’s insanely talented. I remember picking up the first LOTR movie on sale at Target (I had seen the cartoons long before that and remembered pieces of it) and after watching it, I vividly remember thinking “WHY HAS NO ONE TOLD ME ABOUT THIS BEFORE?!” It was love at first sight. I read the books immediately and was first in line for the two other movies (I took off work on release day).

BUT. Even he admitted he was making it up with The Hobbit as he went. So it’s not just me.

Alright, now let’s get honest and real…..

Movie One

“YAYYYYYYY!!! We’re back in Middle earth!!”

https://giphy.com/embed/knFyKpWwkFfMI

I was so ready!
https://giphy.com/embed/HVr4gFHYIqeti

After the movie, I thought “You know, PJ added some things and mixed them up, but that’s okay…he changed a few things in LOTR too…I think these will still be so great!” I have to say though, the Gollum/Bilbo scene was spot on and I really enjoyed the riddles scene.

I mean, y’all, who didn’t get chills when Thorin began singing “Misty Mountains?” Chills!

If only the awesomeness lasted…

Movie Two

“Well at least the dragon was really cool. I’m trying to just enjoy Middle Earth and not focus on what is happening to one of my beloved books. I’ll just pretend the love triangle isn’t actually happening. Instead, we’re just going to pretend it’s like LOTR all over again.”

https://giphy.com/embed/kl3F9X1zETOW4

Movie Three

“These movies are dead to me.”

Let’s go ahead with some bullet points:

  • THAT’S NOT HOW KILI AND FILI DIED. THIS IS LAME. I HATE THIS MOVIE.
  • Why hate on the eagles? They deserved better.
  • Ignoring Beorn are you PJ? Why? He’s awesome (he took out the Goblin leader in the Battle) and why did he get 17 seconds towards the end of the battle which consisted of jumping off an eagle while transforming?
  • The love story…just no.
  • Have I mentioned Kili and Fili deserved better? They died protecting their King, they weren’t killed by the pale jerk of an Orc (WHO WASN’T IN THE BOOK) (And before you get angry, yes I know Azog is in Middle Earth history, but he was not in The Hobbit and did not need such a role. The enemies they had were just fine). Also, neither died protecting a non existent elf either.
  • Did PJ watch Tremors while writing this?
  • I don’t understand the obsession with the creepy unibrow fellow (he doesn’t deserve a Google search to remember his name). Why was he in the movies again? Besides to haunt your dreams?

Suffice to say my Hobbit heart was broken in two when all was said and done. I couldn’t even bring myself to buy it on DVD…that means something Internet…

Alright, did y’all like the movies? I promise not to hold judgement if you do! 😉

Inklings

A Guest Post From Wesley – All Things Tolkien and Lewis!

(If you’re new, welcome to Inklings Week 2016! Today is another fabulous guest post from my friend Wesley! Don’t miss any of the posts this week, you can find them here.) 

Hi everyone! I’m Wesley and I blog over at Library Educated. When Jamie asked me if I wanted in on Inklings Week I could not say yes fast enough! I’ve been a C.S. Lewis fan for a long time but have come to appreciate J.R.R.’s thorough world building and vast landscapes!

I think that it is fair to say that the people who love the books of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien are a fairly rabid bunch (maybe not like, One Direction fan base type of rabid, but I think that that’s okay). People have expressed their love of these books in all types of ways: tattoos, art, reimagined book covers, things that I MUST HAVE on Etsy, and of course – memes.

It’s hard not to be inspired by the books even before you open the books up and dive into their stories, look at some of these covers!

And my personal favorite of the Tolkien group:

Did you know there was a Queen who illustrated Lord of the Rings? Yeah! Check it out!

And onto some of my favorite CS Lewis covers (many from the same editions):

#saddragonissadbecausehisnameisEustaceandhealmostdeservedit
(Long hashtag is long)

Tattoos

(You guys, this whole post could be made up of “Not all who wander are lost” tattoos for the Tolkien end of things. We will keep it to one.)

Any my favorite, random funny things on the internet (everyone’s favorite really, right?)

Ring ding ding ding ding ding ding!

And a Narnia – X-Men crossover? Yes please!
Awwww!
When you wish upon a scary floating eye…..

So basically my Inklings Week post was me messing around on the internet for hours and I couldn’t be more grateful to Jamie for the opportunity!

Yay!! Thanks so much for joining in Wesley – this was so much fun to read (lots of laughs too!). So y’all have a favorite from Wesley’s post?

Inklings

The Friendship of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis (Plus It’s International Inklings Day!!)

(If you’re new, welcome to Inklings Week 2016! I don’t want you to miss any of the posts this week, so be sure to check them out here!) 

I miss you Oxford!

“Friendship makes prosperity more shining and lessens adversity by dividing and sharing it.” Cicero

Today is officially International Inklings Day!!!! On this day 90 years ago, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were gathered for English tea with Oxford English faculty at Merton College and met for the first time. This would begin a 40 year friendship and this friendship would inspire generations to come and also help to produce some of literature’s greatest masterpieces.

Yet, truth be told, it wasn’t friendship at first sight. After that first meeting, Lewis commented (I believe jokingly!) about Tolkien: “No harm in him: only needs a smack or so.” He thought him rather opinionated, but this was more due to the fact that at the time Lewis was an atheist and Tolkien was a strong Roman Catholic. As Diana Pavlac Glyer explained in Bandersnatch (which really is an excellent book and you should all read it!)

“It got worse. As Lewis and Tolkien got to know each other, it became clear that they had a number of serious disagreements. They had different interests and personalities. They came from different religious traditions. And they had different academic specialties. Lewis was an expert in literature and philosophy; Tolkien was a philologist, an expert in languages. He loved Old Norse and Anglo-Saxon. Lewis said that meeting Tolkien triggered two of his childhood prejudices. He explains, “At my first coming into the world I had been (implicitly) warned never to trust a [Catholic], and at my first coming into the English Faculty (explicitly) never to trust a philologist. Tolkien was both.

Soon after the faculty disagreed on required courses for English students and Lewis and Tolkien found themselves on opposite sides of the debate. So Tolkien decided that in order to win people over to his curriculum, he would gather the faculty together to bring about love for mythology and ancient languages. This turned out to be a genius move. Once again, I’ll quote Bandersnatch:

Lewis and Tolkien discovered they had significant common ground. They gravitated towards each other because they shared an interest in what they called “northernness,” the vast skies, icy landscapes, and heroic tempers of the ancient Vikings. As they talked together, Lewis was slowly won over to Tolkien’s view of the English curriculum. And as they worked side by side, they forged a solid friendship. E. L. Edmonds, a student at Oxford, remembers, “It was very obvious that [Lewis and Tolkien] were great friends—indeed, they were like two young bear cubs sometimes, just happily quipping with one another.”

Tolkien would go on to play a significant role in Lewis’ conversion to Christianity (especially on the night of September 19, 1931, where, along with Hugo Dyson, the three men spent hours discussing life and faith and Lewis later said this was his final push for Christianity) and Lewis would be Tolkien’s biggest supporter and encourager in finishing Lord of the Rings and other works. Their friendship was a staple in each other’s lives and, while, in later years the friendship did change, it never lost it’s meaning.

In Tolkien and C. S. Lewis: The Gift of a Friendship by Colin Duriez, we see that “with C.S. Lewis’ death, it was a “wound [Tolkien] knew he would not lose, as one loses a falling lead.” Even years after Lewis’ death Tolkien wrote about Lewis: “The unpayable debt that I owe to him was not ‘influence’ as it is ordinarily understood, but sheer encouragement. He was for long my only audience. Only from him [did I] ever get the idea that my ‘stuff’ could be more than a private hobby.”

I’ll leave with a few fun facts because I’m all about fun facts.

  • Lewis’ character, Elwin Random, in Out of the Silent Planet, resembles Tolkien quite a bit. Elwin means “elf-friend” and the character is a Cambridge philologist who has a love for languages.
  • The Professor in Narnia was also inspired by Tolkien.
  • Treebeard was inspired by C.S. Lewis.
  • They each have rad names: John Ronald Reuel Tolkien and Clive Staples Lewis
  • They both lost their moms at a young age
  • Tolkien’s dad died when he was a toddler and Lewis’ Dad withdrew and sent Lewis to a boarding school after his mother’s death.
  • They both fought in WWI.
  • In 1961, Lewis nominated Tolkien for the Nobel Peace Prize in literature (which he totally should have won)
  • Both Humphrey Carpenter (Tolkien’s official biographer) and Edith Tolkien (when she told scholar Clyde S. Kilby) stated that C.S. Lewis actually wrote Tolkien’s obituary, which was published the day after his death (9/2/73) in The Times.

“My happiest hours are spent with three or four old friends and old clothes tramping together and putting up in small pubs – or else sitting up till the small hours in someone’s college rooms talking nonsense, poetry, theology, metaphysics over beer tea and pipes.”

I hope y’all enjoyed this brief look at Tolkien and Lewis’ friendship! Who has greatly encouraged and inspired you in your life?

Inklings

The Reason I love C.S. Lewis | Guest Post by Katherine Reay

(If you’re new, welcome to Inklings Week 2016! I’m excited to have the lovely Katherine Reay on the blog today chatting about C.S. Lewis! Don’t miss any of the posts this week, you can find them here!)

Welcome Katherine!

If you’ve read any of my books, you know I love books. The stories I write are saturated with the stories of others because I believe books form a common language. The Classics are not “classic” merely because they are old. They endure because they are timeless and true. We return to them again and again because they speak with relevance to our experiences, our thoughts and our lives.

If you’ve read any of my books, you also know I love C.S. Lewis. He isn’t mentioned or quoted or cited as often as Austen, Bronte or Dickens – and there’s a reason for that. He is my little secret and the foundation, if not the propulsion, for everything I write.

Here’s a peek behind the curtain…

The idea for Dear Mr. Knightley came from a few sources. One can readily recognize Daddy Long Legs (Jean Webster) behind its structure. But rather than an homage to that story, Dear Mr. Knightley only “hides” within its framework much as its heroine Sam Moore hides behind literary characters. Rather Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters helped me form the basis of Sam’s journey.

The Screwtape Letters is a “diabolical parody” written in a series of letters from a top devil, Screwtape (an Under Secretary and “affectionate uncle”), to a beginning devil, Wormwood. The subject? Advice on how to secure a “patient” – a human soul – for their father in hell. The story is packed with humor and incredibly accurate insights into the human psyche as the patient is bombarded again and again by obstacles, temptations and pressures – anything and everything to keep his eyes off eternity. Reading this, I wondered how might a woman react today to getting hit again and again. Could she recognize the eternal or even begin to ask and answer those deeper longings for love, trust, safety in the midst of such trials?

It may not have been a nice way to treat Sam, but I did enjoy her tenacity in seeking wholeness. She – and we – keep asking those deep heartfelt questions and seek answers no matter our sufferings. We may even ask more loudly and fight harder for truth in the midst of them.

Lizzy and Jane, my second novel, came to me as I read another Lewis favorite: The Four Loves. In this non-fiction work, Lewis outlines and examines the four loves in our lives and the order in which we could/should regard them. Affection. Sibling love. Romantic love. God love. This examination prompted me to ask what could or would happen to a woman if I took all four loves away. What would force her to recognize their loss and seek them again? Although I consider Lizzy & Jane my “sister story,” Lizzy’s journey is one answer to this question.

As an aside, if you get a chance to listen to The Four Loves’ audio recording, please do. It is one of the only remaining recordings of C.S. Lewis reading his own work, and his voice, intonation and occasional jokes will make you smile.

The Bronte Plot is my most obvious homage to Lewis. His The Great Divorce is a wonderful dream and a fascinating journey. While asleep, Lewis travels to heaven where he witnesses souls journeying “upward and onward.” Decisions must be made and burdens relinquished. Wrapped within fantasy, he introduces us to the idea of free will, choice and consequence – strings pulling at our hearts and the nature of surrender. This was a touch point for me when I wrestled with Lucy and Helen’s choices in The Bronte Plot and planned their journey both internally and throughout England.

My next book, A Portrait of Emily Price, will release in November and it too began with Lewis. I had a bit more fun in this story as I examined Lewis’s Surprised by Joy and Till We Have Faces. Emily Price is a look at one young woman’s search for surrender and joy amidst some beautiful Italian scenery, delicious food, great art and a very handsome husband.

I could go on and on… There’s so much Lewis to explore. There’s Narnia (Lewis liked Reepicheep and Puddleglum best. I favor Edmund and Eustace.), there’s his science fiction (Out of the Silent Planet etc.), there are essays, there are letters… And there are countless biographies and collections that bring Lewis’s humanity and brilliance to us. Currently, I’m thoroughly enjoying C.S. Lewis: Man of Letters by Thomas Howard. Howard is addressing each of Lewis’s fictional works and his analysis overflows with the joy he finds within Lewis.

And there is the crux of it… The reason I love Lewis. Joy! He sought joy, expressed joy, and he reveled in joy. Absolutely everything Lewis wrote points to it. I read Lewis because he not only provides a wonderful story, but because I agree with his motivations to write and enjoy such stories. He would assert that Joy exists, “story” always comes first and a “deeper magic,” a deeper story, propels the best fiction.

Thank you so much for inviting me here and letting me indulge in one of my favorite subjects. If anyone wants to comment, I’m sure Jamie would love to chat and, if she doesn’t mind, I’ll chime in as well.

Have a joyful and joy-filled day!

KBR

Inklings

Why Tolkien and Jack Matter (And We’re Kicking Off Inklings Week!)

IT’S FINALLY HERE!!! Inklings Week 2016! This is the second annual event and I’m so glad you’re joining in! I have lots of giveaways planned (some at the end of this post) and guest posts and all around Inklings awesomeness. So join the fun friends! (Also if you’re interested in last year’s posts, you can find them here)

I can say without a doubt, that the fictional works of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien have shaped my faith (and life) in more ways than any other pieces of literature. Some might say I’m a “fan” or maybe a bit “obsessed.” To which I say yep! That is 110% true. I can (and do) talk about them all the time. I can’t help it. Very few fictional works have spoken so deeply to my heart as those of Tolkien and Lewis.

There’s a scene in C.S. Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader where, after all their adventures on the ship, Lucy and Edmund encounter Aslan for the first “real” time in the book. It is here they find out they will not be returning to Narnia. 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.”

Dead y’all. Dead. Outside of, you know, the Bible, Aslan has taught me more about God’s character and Jesus than any other fictional character.

And that’s what Tolkien and Lewis have done for me. They understood the power of story and were able to make themes of hope, redemption, love, sacrifice, friendship and adventure come alive.

What is it about their fantasy works that stir the heart the way they do? Well, let’s ask them shall we?

In Diana Pavlac Glyer’s Bandersnatch, Lewis offers the answer to those who condemn a book because it is fantasy.

“‘But why’, (some ask), ‘why, if you have a serious comment to make on the real life of men, must you do it by talking about a phantasmagoric never-never land of your own?’ Because, I take it, one of the main things the author wants to say is that the real life of men is of that mythical and heroic quality.” He continues, “The value of the myth is that it takes all the things we know and restores to them the rich significance which has been hidden by ‘the veil of familiarity.’ The child enjoys his cold meat (otherwise dull to him) by pretending it is buffalo, just killed with his own bow and arrow. And the child is wise. The real meat comes back to him more savoury for having been dipped in a story.”

Joseph Loconte also explains it rather well in his book, A Hobbit, A Wardrobe and War:

Mythmaking, what Tolkien calls “mythopoeia,” is a way of fulfilling God’s purposes as the Creator. By inventing a myth—by populating a world with elves and orcs, dragons and witches, gods and goddesses—the storyteller tries to retrieve the world he knew before man’s fall from grace. “There was an Eden on this very unhappy earth,” Tolkien explained many years later. “We all long for it, and we are constantly glimpsing it: our whole nature at its best and least corrupted, its gentlest and most humane, is still soaked with the sense of ‘exile.’ ” The mythmaker, fired by the sense of exile and the desire to return to his authentic home, reflects “a splintered fragment of the true light.”

That’s just the surface of it, yet packs a punch in explaining why their works matter so much. Plus, the stories are awesome!

Why do you love Tolkien or Lewis (or both!)? What are some of your favorite reads from them?

Inklings

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis | Inklings Series Discussion

“He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.”

How and where do I start with this brilliant piece of work? Whether Lewis had me laughing or yearning for things beyond this world, I love this book and I just need to let the world wide web know that the world of Narnia is pure genius.

I laughed a bunch in this book. Lucy and Mr. Tumnus’ early interaction was a favorite. His take on where she came from? Genius.

“Daughter of Eve from the far land of Spare Oom where eternal summer reigns around the bright city of War Drobe, how would it be if you came and had tea with me?”

I want to have tea with you Mr. Tumnus!!

Reading The Chronicles of Narnia is numinous. That might be a strange way to describe it, but I see God’s story in every page and some of the ways Lewis discussed and described Aslan gave me the chills (in a good way!). Throughout the pages, we see humanity gone wrong, yet humanity restored. I saw bravery and love in the most beautiful sense.

Like the way we learn about Aslan’s character through people’s reactions. Check this passage:

“They say Aslan is on the move – perhaps has already landed.

And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different.”

It’s that joy (even if you don’t see it at first) of knowing you will be restored & redeemed.

Now how do I not just unleash of all things Aslan right now?

First there’s this song:
“Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.”

Then there’s 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.”

Aslan is simply awesome. I know, a terribly inadequate description, but he is!

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

Alright – discussion time! Here’s some questions for discussion. As always, please feel free to answer any or all and include any additional thoughts!

1. Which of the siblings (or parts of their personality) do you connect with?
Before I answer, I want to add how I thought Lewis’ description of how each sibling felt when they first heard the name of Aslan very telling (and how that carries over into real life reactions)
Edmund: “A sensation of mysterious horror.”
Peter: “Brave and adventurous.”
Susan: “As if some delicious smell of some delightful strain of music had just floated by her.”
Lucy: “The feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.”

I think I would have Lucy’s reaction to Narnia, pretty much running around saying “this is the greatest thing ever!!” And maybe a touch of Peter.

2. Do you have a favorite character?
Aslan! Since he’s probably a favorite for many readers, I’ll also add Mr. and Mrs. Beaver. I love that they didn’t doubt when they knew (without seeing) and felt that Aslan was on the move. Then they were all in, not matter the dangers that surely awaited them. I really like Edmund’s change too.

3. What were some of your favorite lines or quotes?
When the girls were watching Aslan as he sacrificed himself, well the whole scene was beautiful, but especially this line during his moment of “weakness”, when the White Witch thought she had won and disgraced Aslan by shaving him: “…for now that the first shock was over the shorn face of Aslan looked to her braver, and more beautiful, and more patient than ever.” Sigh. Have I mentioned I love C.S. Lewis?

4. What’s one part of the story you connected with?
Another theme I really loved seeing played out was the one of bravery. For example, when Maugrim (captain of the Witch’s guard) is trying to get Susan and Peter is her only hope: “Peter did not feel very brave; indeed, he felt he was going to be sick. But that made no difference to what he had to do.” That seems to be a recent theme in my life. Sometimes you don’t feel all that brave until a situation that requires bravery, is thrust upon you.

“…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.”

Excited to discuss with y’all!!

Inklings

The Children of Húrin by J.R.R. Tolkien | The Inklings Series

I’m so excited for another Inklings post! Today we’re diving into one of Tolkien’s sagas of Middle Earth, but before we do, since this is a lesser read work, I want to officially warn you that there shall be many o’ spoilers ahead, so please no hollerin at me if you feel jipped! And I will say it’s very much worth reading!

First things first. The story was not at all, I mean, AT ALL what I expected. Being used to epic heroes and characters you love, it was an interesting twist to read a tale of woe and tragedy. My blogging friend Wesley may have said it best: it was like an episode of Game of Thrones. I don’t watch the show, but I knew exactly what she meant. People dying, curses thrown down and oh yeah, PEOPLE DYING. While it was very different, I still kinda liked it. It definitely evoked emotion and it expanded the Middle Earth universe in a different kind of way. Tolkien knows how to write a story that draws you in and this one most definitely did (you know, after the first few chapters of getting into the details and Middle Earth vibe), even if it ended rather tragic.

Random sidenote: If you read the intro, you may have seen this, but I loved how Tolkien himself described The Silmarillion (since it’s one of my favorites): Tolkien said of the tale of Beren and Luthien: “the chief of the stories of The Silmarillion” and “the story is (I think a beautiful and powerful) heroic-fairy-romance…” This makes me want to read it all over again!

Random Fun Facts and Thoughts

  • Middle earth was once called the Great Lands and rests between the seas of the east and west.
  • Lembas bread! Túrin the first man to eat it. Nom! Nom! I feel geekyishly cool knowing that fact.
  • The whole time I kept thinking donde esta Hùrin? Oh wait…he was released to find his family destroyed and his wife die in his arms.
  • One of Tùrin’s names, Turambar (Master of Doom) was such a fitting name.

Favorite Quote: “I do but follow my trade, which is Orc-slaying.  I have no idea why, but it made me smile. I’m adding it to my resume.

Thoughts of Characters

Morgoth: Why hello satan! He plays dirty. Tolkien has such a way of epitomizing such things in characters. In Morgoth’s case? Pure Evil. This was a great quote about him as well: “Neither are you the most mighty; for you have spent your strength upon yourself and wasted it in your own emptiness.”

Andróg and his band of outlaws: I had flashbacks to last season on The Walking Dead and the loonies that Rick/Daryl/Michonne and Carl took care of. But they definitely redeemed themselves. Like Andróg? Times 50!

Túrin: I gotta admit, overall I wasn’t a huge fan of him. It doesn’t help that I had Aragorn on my mind. Early on, he was described as this: “…he learned to speak early and was slow to forget injustice or mockery; but the fire of his father was also in him, and he could be sudden and fierce. Yet he was quick to pity, and the hurts or sadness of living things might move him to tears…” His arrogance seemed to blind him (like from the true evil of Morgoth’s curse), but his tale is a most interesting one.

Beleg: He was such a true true friend! Like Samwise. He was probably my favorite of the book. I love the ideas and ways Tolkien displays friendship. Such strong and amazing themes. But what happens to him? HE DIES.

“Thus ended Beleg’s Strongbow, truest of friends, greatest in skill of all that harboured in the woods of Beleriand in the Elder Days, at the hands of him whom he most loved; and the grief was graven on the face of Túrin and never faded.”

Another great friend? Brandir. Too bad our buddy Túrin accidentally kills him as well. Cool.

Mîm: Shady McShady.

Niënor: I felt bad for her. I’ve decided those are my final feelings. When she finally entered the scene grown up, I thought her fate would liken to Éowyn or Arwen, but no. She did not. She died. By jumping off a cliff into raging rapids.

“Mourning you named me, but I will not mourn alone, for father, brother, and mother. But of these you only have I known, and above all do I love. And nothing that you fear nor do I.” At first I was excited to finally see more of her, but after everything that happened, homegirl, you should have stayed.

Glaurung the Dragon: He is evil. This quote is one of many examples. “The neighing of the horses and the cries of the riders came to the ears of Glaurung; and he was well pleased.” His love of destroying humanity was just creepy.

THINGS I NEED TO TALK ABOUT!

  • Remember that one time Túrin and Niënor, GOT BLOODIED MARRIED?? I mean WHA?? I thought I read it wrong or had their names mixed up. Nope. That sealed the deal that this story was 100% a tale of a cursed family. Tolkien wasn’t lying about Morgoth. Then when she finds out the truth, she jumps off a cliff and he kills himself with his sword. Twisted Morgoth. Twisted.
  • Oh and she was pregnant.

“To Brethil they brought their dark doom’s shadow. Here their doom has fallen, and of grief this land shall never again be free.”

Alright let’s discuss!

  1. How would you rank Túrin against the other men heroes of Middle Earth history?
  2. Did this book meet your expectations?
  3. I need to brush up on my Middle Earth history, but when does Morgoth get the boot?
  4. Since friendship plays such a major role, what’s one of your favorites in Tolkien lore?

The more I read of Tolkien and his tales of battles with men, the more I see how his WWI experience influenced his writings. I cannot fathom the horrors of surviving battle, but Tolkien’s tales pay homage to the brotherhood bonded in battle.

In case you missed the last announcement, we’ll be reading Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis next. The discussion is set for July 16, 2014. Hope to have you join us!