Ponderings

New Things and Old Things

Isn’t it funny how you start off the year with new goals and new ideas and then halfway through, you’re in a totally different spot. There’s many reasons for this, one being outside life circumstances, but sometimes the Lord is simply calling to you and stirring your hearts in new ways.

That’s where I’ve been (as I’m sure you noticed with the lack of posting on both blogs). Part of it has been life (the summer was really busy – I bought myself a house for my 35th birthday. Yay for mortgages!! :)), but also the Lord whispering to my heart. A change of direction.

I promise the next line isn’t “I’m moving to Europe!” (Although, um…so game!), but a shift in my online writing. I’ve had two blogs for a while, but the past several months I haven’t been sure where I was going with each one. It didn’t seem like I should have two, but I still really enjoyed writing for each one. Did I just stop altogether? I admit, that’s where I was for several weeks, but I didn’t feel peace about that either.

I know it probably seems a bit dramatic to talk about blogs this way, but I truly wanted to be faithful to whatever the Lord was asking of me. So what’s the final verdict? One blog, but a combination of the two. Will I be blogging every day? Not quite. My goal is at least once a week and will be a variety of life posts and bookish posts. I’m figuring out other details (like my Inklings), but I’m ready for a change. I’m also slowly moving over popular posts from each blog to have in the archives, so you can still find them. Plus it’s always nice to have the reminders of early blogging days – sometimes it’s cringe worthy, but worth remembering. (Although true confession, sad to lose all the comments – there were some fun discussions!)

When I first started blogging back in 2012, my time and desire fit my blogging schedule. But, as life happens with new chapters, I don’t have the time (and no longer want to) spend several hours a week on blogging (how different my weekends are with a house. Grass Internet. Grass. It likes to grow). I loved the years when I did that – it was exciting starting and pursuing something I loved. I still love it and am forever thankful it opened up doors to the career I’m in now, but I’m no longer in a place to spend my nights and most weekends working on the blog. And that’s okay. I’m excited to still be in the blogging and bookish world, but at a pace that is healthy for where I’m at now.

I’ll still have my newsletter and of course I won’t stop reading and sharing about my favorite reads on other social channels in addition to blog posts, but I’m excited about this new direction.

I’d love to stay in touch! Here’s how to find me:

Sign up for the newsletter here
Website | Instagram | Facebook | Blog Facebook Page | Twitter | Goodreads  (just note any review prior to 2014-ish may have been during my “everyone gets 5 stars!!” stage 😉
Email: jamie @ musingsofjamie.com

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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’s 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?

Book Reviews

How to Write a Book Review | Blogging Resources

There are approximately 9,000 different ways to write a book review. I know y’all know that and writing a post titled “How to Write a Book Review” seems so snobbish and that most definitely is not my intent. I love the variety of blogs out there, so this is just my two cents 🙂

I’ve written about how I blog a bit before, but I thought it might be helpful to chat a bit more details and things I always like to include and why. Of course this is my style and you have to find what works for you, but hey if it helps one person, then awesome!

– Make it personal. One of my favorite things in reading blogs, is hearing how a book impacted a person’s life or how it connected with them, so I usually try to incorporate that; like why I reviewed a golf book, a book on marriage (oops) or why I was crying my eyes out. As you would all agree, books are more than paper, so hearing their impact is lovely.

– Always include an image. Whether from the web or a creative picture you take, pictures make life better (can you tell I’m a little biased and a photographer? 🙂 It also breaks up the post and is more attractive to a reader.

– Include links of where to buy the book. Not only is this helpful if you are part of an affiliate program, but it makes it easy to buy the book, thus helping out the author.

– Make it easy to share. Whether it’s a helpful plugin (like Click-to-Tweet or any of the Share plugins. WordPress also has other ones built in too), this makes it easy for people to tweet out, share on Facebook, Pin, etc. Looking over stats, I’ve seen an increase in my traffic since I’ve incorporated them. Also, from personal experience, there’s been times I’ve wanted to share posts from blogs, but couldn’t find an easy way to share them, so I didn’t. Just think, if someone is reading this from their iPhone, will it be easy to share? If your goal includes growth in your blog, I can’t recommend this enough.

– If you didn’t like the book, share why. I don’t think anyone really likes writing these reviews, it’s never easy to type up something you know isn’t positive. Yet, once you start blogging enough, you realize it becomes part of the job. My biggest piece of advice? Share why. For example: “I didn’t like the book” vs. “I wasn’t a huge fan because the plot moved slow after we met the main characters and I found myself losing interest” or “There was language I wasn’t prepared for and it took away from the story.” Publishers, authors and fellow readers all appreciate it. I remember reading a review of one of my favorite books and another blogger (who didn’t like it) shared why and while I didn’t agree with their thoughts (different ideas of what’s considered language or not), it was helpful to see why they rated it low.

– If you loved it, don’t be afraid to go all out. Sometimes a girl’s gotta go ALL CAPS right? These are the most fun to write. I’m pretty sure readers know when I absolutely love a book and that’s definitely on purpose. If a book impacted me, then I for sure want to pass that along!

– End with a question or something to engage the readers. When I’m reading blogs, this makes it a bit more fun and I’m more willing to engage, especially if it’s a new blog to me. Plus I love engaging with my readers, so I always try to include a fun question.

– Tag away! If you’re on Twitter or Facebook, be sure to tag the author (and the publisher). Whether good or bad, I know it’s helpful for them.

One of the goals of my blog is to support authors. What they do is truly a gift and I want to be able to use this platform to chat, discuss and support. I’ve found these tips help me accomplish that goal!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a couple other blogs to check out with different reviewing styles. Of course I want to list like 50, but that might get overwhelming :), so here’s a couple!

Hope this was a bit helpful for y’all! What are some tricks you love to include?

Author Interviews

4 Questions with New York Time Bestseller Marcus Brotherton | Author Interview

(This interview is part of my 4 Questions Project, where I get the chance to chat with authors and tell stories of people, life, and adventure. Be sure to check out previous interviews here!)

I have another great author for y’all to meet today! I gushed about his fiction debut last month (check it out here) and I’m super excited to have him here on Books and Beverages! Besides 4 Questions, I asked a few about the book, so enjoy!

Marcus Brotherton is a journalist and professional writer known internationally for his books and literary collaborations with high-profile public figures, humanitarians, inspirational leaders, and military personnel. He has authored or coauthored more than 25 books.

Notable works include We Who Are Alive and Remain, a New York Times bestseller, A Company of Heroes, which ranked No. 1 in the country among World War II/ Western Front books, and the widely-acclaimed Shifty’s War. Marcus’ debut historical novel, Feast For Thieves, released on September 1, 2014.

Born in Canada in 1968, Marcus earned a bachelor’s degree in biblical education and journalism from Multnomah University in Portland, Oregon, and a master’s degree in practical theology and writing from Talbot Seminary at Biola University in Los Angeles, where he graduated with high honors. Marcus lives with his wife and children in Washington State.

1. You’ve written several non-fiction books set during WWII, what brought about the idea of not only fiction, but post-WWII as well?
I have a strong respect for nonfiction, and it continues to be my bread and butter today. But I think every writer dreams of writing the Great American Novel.

With FEAST FOR THIEVES, I had this idea for a book brewing inside my gut for about two years.

The main character was based off of a real life person named Skinny Sisk, an incorrigible paratrooper from WWII who later became a preacher.

I was fascinated with this idea: here’s a man used to solving his problems with his rifle or his fists—what kind of wild-hearted minister would this man make?

2. How different was writing Feast for Thieves than your other works?
With nonfiction, I’m always tied to a story as it happened—and that can be good if the story is strong to begin with.

With fiction, an author needs to create everything. The plot, the pacing, the dialogue, the action.

Fiction was this big blank canvas that let me be as absolutely free as I could be.

3. So what’s next? Please tell me there is more Rowdy!!! Please!! 🙂
I hope so too.

FEAST FOR THIEVES works as a standalone book—it’s satisfying as is. Yet there are also big opportunities to continue these characters and show how they progress through the next stage of life.

As is common with a debut novel, the publisher is waiting to see how sales do before giving the go-ahead with a sequel. So, we can all keep our fingers crossed.

4. What is something about your life right now that you would have never imagined 5 years ago?
The amazing range of people I get to work with in my work as a journalist and collaborative writer.

I’ve worked with everybody from university chancellors and well-known pastors to professional athletes, military heroes, and fashion bloggers. Just a few weeks back, as part of a book project, I attended a closed, private practice for the Seattle Seahawks, last year’s Super Bowl champions.

That type of diversity builds a real richness into my life, I’d say. I’m very grateful for it.

5. What is one thing that you would go back and do differently if you could?
When I first started writing professionally, I was working for a newspaper, and I was a pretty decent writer who wanted to write a great novel back then, just like everybody else.

I figured that if I just sat down at the computer and started typing, then the next great novel would flow out of me.

I was quite wrong about that, and ended up scribbling down and then throwing away 3 and a half “learning” novels first over the next 14 years.

So, I wish I would have read all the “how to” books sooner, which I eventually did.

The “how to” books are incredibly helpful at teaching a good writer the specifics of the craft—how to start with a bang, how to create power and poignancy in all the write places, how to create a story over a three-act structure.

6. What is one of the happiest moments of your life?
My wife and I were driving back from dinner with friends recently, and our kids were in the minivan with us.

It was just sort of a basic moment in life, not thunderstruck at all, yet something pressed me about how perfect the moment was.

I thought, “Here I am in a city I enjoy, working at a job I feel purpose in, surrounded by my wife and children, the people I love the most. Life is good.”

7. What is one thing you want the next generation to know?
How our personal stories intersect a larger story. The larger story starts with a babe in a straw ox manager and reaches its pinnacle with three men crucified on jagged wooden crosses.

The man on the cross in the middle is innocent, and as he’s dying he offers a feast to the two thieves on either side of him, a feast of extravagant grace and blessing.

That same offering is spread out today like a banquet on a table. We’re invited to come and dine, the feast is all ours.

Thank you so much Marcus for taking the time to share! This is truly one of my favorite series to have here on the blog.

Where to connect: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Google +

 

Author Interviews, Bookish Radness

An Interview with Jack Neary & Litographs

When I love a book, I LOVE a book. Shocking right? 🙂 I’m sure y’all know what I’m talking about. When there’s a way to share my love of said favorites, I tend to jump at the chance. Mainly because the world needs to know of the awesomeness found on those lovely pages.

Enter in Litographs, another fabulous bookish company that provides just the opportunity!

Art From Books

Every Litograph design emerges from the text of a book. Just as the words on the pages of your favorite novel come alive in your imagination, our products are designed to illustrate the memorable characters and scenes rooted in text and imitated on stage.

We work closely with professional artists to create a new visual experience for classic and contemporary works alike. From a distance, the artwork illustrates a theme, character, or setting from each book’s descriptive pages. Move closer and the text becomes fully legible.

Lucky for me, Jack from Litographs took some time to share more about the company, so enjoy!

1. How did Litographs get started? Where did the idea come from?
Litographs has always been a means for celebrating the relationship between a reader, authors and the books that brought them together. We felt like there was no better way to do so than by using the actual text of these books and we want each design to act as a conversation starter around that book and literacy more broadly.

2. Now there’s voting for new shirts that come out – has that always been the case or did the first shirts come from favorites?
We started with classics and now that we’re incorporating more contemporary works, the voting platform is helpful for letting us know what books are favorites within our community of readers as well as demonstrating to authors how popular their books would be as Litographs.

3. Speaking of favorites, do you have a favorite classic?
On any given day, one of us will be wearing The Great Gatsby or Darwin’s On The Origin of Species in the office. My personal favorite is Walden.

4. Tell me a bit more about the artists you work with.
We’ve been privileged to work with many talented artists in the past, artists who care just as much as we do about the books they’re illustrating. Even more exciting is the recent addition of Benjy Brooke as our Creative Director. He’s responsible for creating our original six designs and you’ll see many more designs from him soon.

5. I’d love to hear more about the connection with the International Book Bank. How did that partnership start and how does Litographs support them?
Our founder, Danny, has been on the IBB’s Board of Directors almost as long as he’s been making art from books. What drew us to the organization is their modus operandi of not just sending books en masse, but fulfilling a demonstrated need. For example, they might send a set of textbooks so that everyone in a class can follow a lesson together. For every Litographs product purchased, we help send one of those books to a community in need.

6. What are you reading right now?
I just wrapped up a long summer of Infinite Jest and am looking forward to starting The Art of Fielding next.

7. Please tell me Lord of the Rings is the next release :).
We’d love to add LOTR to our collection! Licensing contemporary favorites is something we’re actively pursuing and Mr. Tolkien’s works are a high priority. The next release we’re excited about is The Time Traveler’s Wife and we hope to squeeze in a few other favorites before the end of the year.

4 Questions

1. What is something about your life right now that you would have never imagined 5 years ago?
That going to work would mean spending days solving problems and creating really cool art from books with three of my best friends.

2. What is one thing that you would go back and do differently if you could?
If changing anything in my past would spit out a present day that was any different than this one, I wouldn’t do it.

3. What is one of the happiest moments of your life?
Trading in business casual for shorts and a Litographs t-shirt.

4. What is one thing you want the next generation to know?
The joy of thumbing through dog-eared pages in a book you’ve read a hundred times.

Thank you so much Jack! I appreciate you taking the time to stop by :). So are you convinced yet to buy all the shirts, totes and prints? You’re welcome! Or maybe I should say sorry instead 🙂

Where to find Litographs on the web
Twitter | Facebook | Website

Author Interviews

4 Questions with Bestselling Author Steven James

(This interview is part of my 4 Questions Project, where I get the chance to chat with authors and tell stories of people, life, and adventure. Be sure to check out previous interviews here!)

Today I get to introduce y’all to the excellent and fabulous writer, Steven James! Not only do his books win awards, he’s a bestselling author. He writes books that hook you and have you reading as fast as you possibly can, because YOU HAVE TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS. It’s not just me either! The King was the 2014 INSPY winner for Mystery/Thriller (be sure to check out the giveaway at the end). Anyway, I’m super excited he’s on the site and enjoy!

Steven James is the author of more than thirty books, including the critically acclaimed Bowers Files, an eight-book series of psychological thrillers which currently includes The Pawn, The Rook, The Knight, The Bishop,The Queen, and a prequel Opening Moves. The series has received three Christy Awards and numerous other honors.

4 Questions

1. What is something about your life right now that you would never imagined 5 years ago?
You’d think I would have anticipated the day when I had two girls in college, but thinking ahead has never been my strong suit. Career-wise, I never would’ve thought I’d have branched out into writing two other series besides my Patrick Bowers novels. It’s an amazing life, this writing gig, but my brain sometimes needs a vacation.

2. What is one thing that you would go back and do differently if you could?
Hmm . . . That’s an interesting question. I don’t like to look over my shoulder and get mired in regrets—since there’s often not a whole lot we can really do about them. However, I’d say that when I was high school I had an interest in creative writing but never had a teacher who encouraged me to pursue it—perhaps the opposite. I never felt free to really express myself. Not to blame them—it was my own insecurities that bogged me down, but I’d say I would go back and write, regardless of what other people thought about that, and give my imagination the free rein it wanted so badly.

3. What is one of the happiest moments of your life?
Honestly, the time I felt the most joy was the day I became a Christian back when I was in college. There have been lots of other amazing moments—stargazing while backpacking in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, seeing the look in my wife’s eyes when I proposed to her, being present when my daughters were born, and, yes, receiving the first printed copy of my first novel in the mail—but I believe people are spiritual beings and the day I realized that God had truly saved me from my own boneheaded choices and selfish motives was the best day of my life.

4. What is one thing you want the next generation to know?
Live with both eyes open. Don’t ignore the suffering on our planet and close yourself off from the joy. It sounds a little self-evident to say it, but time is life and life is time. What you spend one on, you end up spending the other on. If you waste one, you’re wasting the other. So embrace the moments you have. Relish them. Life is fleeting. Hope is a gift and eternity is only a heartbeat away.

Be sure to connect with Steven James around the web!
Website | Facebook | Twitter

Thank you again so much Steven! I hope you guys enjoyed this as much as I did :).

Bookish Radness, Inklings

You don’t like Lord of the Rings? This Post is For You.

I like to think I have an open mind. I can debate with others who share completely different opinions from my own without getting fiery or feisty. Healthy debate is a good thing. Why? It helps you really understand why you value and believe what you do and you can learn a thing or two from other people.

Unless we’re discussing one thing. Then I have no choice but to inwardly (and quite possibly outwardly) judge you. What topic would cause such a dramatic reaction you ask? Must be one of the hot topics right? Religion or politics si? Nope, this goes much deeper readers.

Much much deeper.

We’re talking about Lord of the Rings* internet. Lord.of.the.Rings.

When someone tells me they don’t like Lord of the Rings, I’m a bit taken aback at first.

Say wha????

So I am here to make my confessions. I can’t help but possibly think some (or all) of these things when I encounter one of those lonely souls who doesn’t seem to enjoy my beloved Middle Earth.**

1. I don’t trust you.
Or anything you might say.

2. If we’re related, I question our blood connection.
Neither my parents or brother enjoy this type of genre, thus they aren’t fans of this EPIC, AWESOME AND LIFE-CHANGING story. As I’ve mentioned before, this has led me to believe I’m actually adopted from Middle Earth and they are hiding this from me. The only other explanation is they simply don’t like them and I’m not sure I can emotionally handle that yet. Now I know how Smeags felt.

3. I’m going to assume you hate friendship and love.
Because that’s what Middle Earth adventures are made of. If you want to be a murderer of love and happiness, well, to each his own. But I also have to ask, do you also hate puppies? Sunsets? Chocolate??? Because that’s what it feels like. Forget stabbing me in the back, just go right to the front. Why you’re at it, punch me in the face too.

4. I’m also going to assume you have plans to take over the world since you, as mentioned above, obviously hate friendship and love.
I should just start calling you Sauron now. But it’s cool, I’ve got arrow wielding friends.

5. I unfortunately can’t invite you to all of the things that happen in the cool kids’ circle.
I may or may not have thrown extremely awesome Middle Earth type get togethers in the past. Show up at my door with Frodo haterade?! Well then…

6. I might not show it, but you’re crushing my heart.
I can only handle so much of the world speaking crimes against Tolkien. But it’s cool, crying is healthy.

7. I’m going to need you to please provide legitimate reasons for not liking my Middle Earth.
If you don’t like Lord of the Rings because you were once attacked by a Hobbit, I can give you that. But if say you adore certain reality television or reading 50 Shades of Grey instead, well….I can only weep for you and all of humanity.

But if none of these apply to you and you’re Team Middle Earth, then if we’re ever in the same town, let’s pull a Merry and Pippin kay?!

*This also applies to all things The Hobbit and Narnia.
**This is all in jest of course! But only kinda. J.K….j…..k…..

What have I missed fellow fans? Also, if you aren’t a fan – what is it about the series you don’t like? I promise I’m genuinely curious as I know not everyone is a fantasy fan :). Also, if you want to join in the monthly Inklings series, I’d love to have you join! You can find all the details here!

Inklings

Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis | Inklings Series Discussion

(The Inklings Series is a monthly series featuring the works of my two favorites, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, or books about them. But I don’t want it to be just me chatting about these books, so that’s where y’all come in! I’ll announce the book at least four weeks in advance of when the discussion post will go live, so you have plenty of time to get the book and read it. Then, the following month, I’ll post a discussion post and let the fun begin!!)

Today is discussion day! Woot! We’re discussing C.S. Lewis’ last work, Till We Have Faces. He considered this his most mature work (a.k.a. favorite) and it was also written with his wife, Joy. Plus, I have always enjoyed Greek history (and the mythology that comes with it), so I have definitely been looking forward to Lewis’ retelling of Cupid and Psyche’s story.

Haunted by the myth of Cupid and Psyche throughout his life, C.S. Lewis wrote this, his last, extraordinary novel, to retell their story through the gaze of Psyche’s sister, Orual. Disfigured and embittered, Orual loves her younger sister to a fault and suffers deeply when she is sent away to Cupid, the God of the Mountain. Psyche is forbidden to look upon the god’s face, but is persuaded by her sister to do so; she is banished for her betrayal. Orual is left alone to grow in power but never in love, to wonder at the silence of the gods. Only at the end of her life, in visions of her lost beloved sister, will she hear an answer.

One of my first thoughts after finishing this book was how true it is that all of us long to love and be loved in return (and not just in the romantic Moulin Rouge sense). Both Orual and Psyche love fiercely and this tale is one of self-discovery and that love. The way Lewis chose to revise the story reminded me of Disney’s Cinderella vs. the movie Ever After. Did anyone else think that? Where in the original, both step sisters are terrible, but in a retold version one sister is good. Random, I know, but I may have just watched Ever After.

I thought the story worked incredibly well from Orual’s point of view.

“You, who read my book, judge.”

One thing she didn’t lack was honesty. She was always true to what she thought, did and why. In the second half, she is willing to admit her earlier faults and be the better person for it.

“Today I shall meet cruel men, cowards and liars, the envious and the drunken. They will be like that because they do not know what is good from what is bad.”

Plus, as always, I love the characters Lewis creates.
The King: Simply put: was a jerk. Why you ask? Well, he said this to his daughter: “And you goblin daughter…if you with that face can’t frighten the men away, it’s a wonder.” Then, when he heard about the sacrifice due, after finding out it wouldn’t be required of him, had this happen:

“What?” said the King. (And this is the greatest shame I have to tell of in my whole life) his face cleared. He was only a hair’s breadth from smiling. I had thought that he had seen the arrow pointed at Psyche all along, had been afraid for her, fighting for her. He had not thought of her at all, nor any of us.” Pg 55

So yeah, he was a fan of himself.

I loved Fox.

“I’d lose not only my throne but my life to save the Princess, of I were a King and a father.”

Such a feisty old man, yet fiercely loyal to those he loved. I think he’s character represents a lot of people in the world. Refusing to believe while alive, only to discover things that were true when you are dead (in this case the gods). It reminded me of the story in Luke 16, of the the Rich Man and Lazarus, where the Rich Man only discovered the truth after he died.

I was a big fan of Bardia too. He was the friend Orual needed, although it makes me sad that she loved him and for several reasons, that love couldn’t be returned the way she longed for. But it was the love of a true friend and he was faithful to the end (although according to his wife, maybe too faithful).

This leads me to Orual: don’t mess!
Here’s how Bardia described her: “Why, yes, it’s a pity about her face. But she’s a brave girl and honest. If a man was blind and she weren’t the King’s daughter she make him a good wife.”

While she didn’t follow through with this, this quote was drop this mic style to her selfish sister: “I put my face close up to hers and said very low but distinctly, “Redival, if there is one single hour when I am queen of Glome, or even mistress of this house, I’ll hang you by the thumbs at a slow fire till you die.”

While some of her actions may come into question (think almost killing herself to make a point to Psyche), it was always based in love. Much different from the jealous character of the original tale. It’s interesting to see her character in the second half, from finding part of Ungit in herself, to the discovery and trial of all things with Psyche (and even becoming her). With each new “task” you see her develop more and more, taking on the role of a good Queen who earned respect from her subjects and surrounding kingdom. I enjoyed Lewis’ use of the veil as well. It gave her strength she didn’t have before.

Alright, here’s some more questions I’d love to have your thoughts on!

  • Which part did you prefer? The second half was a bit harder to read. While I enjoyed it, it wasn’t as clear as to what was happening, mainly when it came to Psyche (I had to make sure I understood all that happened, since I didn’t expect that). But I enjoyed her accusation against the gods – in that she realizes her true reason for being angry and why she is finally able to come before them (“They cannot meet us face to face, until we have faces”).
  • While this is a myth, did you see any themes in Christianity? (Lewis started this when he was an atheist, but finished after his conversion).
  • Who was your favorite character?

I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes:

“Not that kind of longing. It was when I was happiest that I longed most. It was on happy days when we were up there on the hills, the three of us, with the wind and the sunshine… Where you couldn’t see Glome or the palace. Do you remember? The color and the smell, and looking across at the Grey mountain in the distance? And because it was so beautiful, it set me longing, always longing. Somewhere else there must be more of it… I felt like a bird in a cage when the other birds of its kind were flying home.”

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and thanks for joining in!

Where to buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Christian Books

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!

Bookish Radness

My Top 8 All-Time Favorite Fiction Reads

Do I dare even tackle such a list? Now before you think there’s really only eight favorites on my list, I just have to say this is me we’re chatting about! But here’s a start of some novels that have held a place in my heart for at least 10 years. You know it’s solid if it’s remained on the list for at least a decade.

Mark of the Lion Series | Francine Rivers: If you ask me for a book recommendation, this will always be the first series I recommend. Looking for a biography of the 13th President? Read Mark of the Lion. Oh, you want a story about London society after 1912? I think the story of Marcus and Hadassah is just what you need. Just kidding, I’d give you a legit recommendation, but I don’t think I can put into words how amazing this series is. If I ever meet Francine Rivers, I’m just going to hug and thank her for this book. I’ve probably read it 10 times and I only see that number increasing through the years.

Just know it’s a three book series. I did not know this and when the first book ended, I texted my friend who recommended it asking why she would think to suggest a book that just RIPPED OUT MY SOUL. Yep, my reaction was equivalent to all caps plus a bag of chips and toss in some fireworks.

I own a hard copy and the kindle version so I can read it at anytime. I also read it two weeks after I read it for the first time because it’s just that amazing. If I could only have one series the rest of my life, this would be it. (I need to confess, I only read this about 5 years ago, but I’ve read it 10+ times, so I still added it to the list.)

Dracula | Bram Stoker: Vampires? Wha? Let’s just clear things up by saying it is nothing like modern day vampire shenanigans. No, this is a classic that so fantastically demonstrates battling such evil. I’m reminded that in the fight against evil, you will battle dark forces, you will lose people, you will want to quit, but you won’t. The world will be a better place because you didn’t. I haven’t read this one in a few years, but man, what a book! My e-reader friends, it’s free, so no excuses!

Redeeming Love | Francine Rivers: That sneaky, sneaky Rivers lady. Without knowing how it happens, after reading her stories, you’re forever connected to the characters she creates and wish you could meet these people in real life. Redeeming Love was also the first Christian Fiction book I read back when I was in college. I remember my friend Lindsay, from one of my Comm classes during my freshman year (folks, I never remember details, so the fact that I remember the class, the friend and the year should tell you something ;), gave me her copy to borrow and I had the chance to read it over Thanksgiving and I devoured that sucker in about two minutes flat.

Please, read this book if you haven’t yet (which I need to point out that every monthly top seller list Lifeway releases, Redeeming Love is on it. I jest not. And it’s nearly 25 years old. In May, Francine Rivers not only had her latest (which was fantastic, see my review here), but Redeeming Love as well. P.S. IT HAS IT’S OWN WIKIPEDIA PAGE. Need I say more?

The Land I Lost: Adventures of a Boy in Vietnam | Huynh Quang Nhuong: This is one of the first books I vividly remember reading. I read through it so many times, I’ve lost count. Since growing up in Vietnam was so vastly different from growing up in my parent’s house in Orange County, California, I was so fascinated by this man’s life. Every time I read this book I wanted to do one thing: Go on an epic adventure. If my mom ever asks why I’m always fixin to do something crazy, it’s because I grew up on stories like these. It was also my Mama who gave it to me 🙂

Fire By Night | Lynn Austin: Sigh….just thinking about this book makes me want to re-read it. I think I might too. It’s been a while since I’ve encountered Dr. McGrath and Julia, so I think this summer I might change that. Not only do I love Julia’s character (and connect with her), I adore Dr. McGrath. The whole series is enjoyable, but this one shines far greater than the other two. Plus it’s Civil War (and still my favorite Civil War fiction novel), so win with that.

The Giver | Lois Lowry: I’ve talked about this one the blog enough, so I’ll keep it short. Without pain, one would never know the true depth of happiness, beauty and love. Lowry so beautifully captures this. Plus it’s coming out in the movies soon!!

The Harry Potter Series | J.K. Rowling: Duh.

To Kill a Mockingbird | Harper Lee: This was one of those books I actually liked in high school and understood at the age of 16 why it was such an important piece of literature. It’s beautifully written, it’s an amazing story and Atticus Finch is one of the all-time greatest heroes in literature.

You might be wondering about the books I talk about every 27 seconds and why they aren’t on this list. Well, I figured it was a given that anything Narnia/Lewis or Middle Earth/Tolkien related are in their own category of greatest all-time anything. I mean, I have a monthly series about them internet, so of course they are my favorite of favorites. (If you want to join in The Inklings series, check it out here)

Alright, there’s the fiction list! I feel I can breathe a little easier now ;). What do you think? What are some of your favorites to add?