Tuesday, December 22, 2009
The Circle - Black, Red, and White
I love this stories. They're fast-paced and modern in style, but the sense of parallels to Biblical truths are amazing. At the heart of them, they're about the Great Romance, the love story God is writing for His people. They show our utter fallen nature, our complete repulsive and rebellious nature, and yet how God still woos and calls and comes to rescue us. They show how He wants our hearts, and how He gives us the freedom to reject Him, but how that can never stop His love.
Green (short summary)
After three books, the series basically concluded, though there were a few odd loose ends hanging. But it was satisfying. So I was surprised to see a fourth book come out now, years later. What else could Dekker do with the series?
Write a Book Zero, apparently. A beginning and ending. What a strange idea! More on that later.
Green starts up years after the end of White, in the world of forests and sand. Thomas and the Circle are losing hope. They have waited for Elyon's return for a long time, and Thomas' son, Samuel, wants to rid the world of the Horde forever with his sword. But the Circle has been told to love their enemy, and Thomas' wife still has hope for the Horde's redemption. Thomas seeks hope for the Circle, and in the process creates a doorway between the two worlds once again.
Thomas returns to our world. And unspeakable Evil enters the other world, seeking to crush the Circle's last breaths of hope.
An apocalyptic chain of events follows, and we rush along to the ending, wondering who will believe in Elyon at the end when everything seems hopeless, and who will reject Him and fall into darkness forever.
The ending is strange. In an odd way, it connects back to the beginning of the series. Hence, it is "Book Zero."
- First, as confusing as it still is, I think it was very clever to connect the beginning and ending like this. It was definitely a unique idea!
- Certain characters did get redeemed, which was marvelous.
- Loved how the theme of waiting and longing and wishing to see signs of God's presence were so similar to our time today. Come, Lord Jesus! But in the meanwhile, teach us to live by faith and trust You when all else seems hopeless.
- There were evil vampires. Yes, this actually made me happy. I could have done without some of the nastiness, but there was no question that the very idea of vampirism is completely opposite of sacrifice. One takes life, the other gives it. And I feel there were still some truths in this book regarding blood's significance (a biblical idea) which I may have missed.
- Again, wonderful contrasts between good and evil.
- I don't mind seeing some of a story from evil's perspective, but in my opinion this book went overboard. I kept feeling dirty, reading about the sensual evil and blood lust of the bad characters. The bad guys get way too much page time, as I see it. Almost felt like more than the good guys. Maybe that's why I never felt as close or invested in the protagonists of Green as in the other books. And not being so invested made me just not care as much about the whole book.
- For the above reason, I would not recommend this book to kids, whereas I might recommend the other three if I thought they were mature enough. This one was definitely darker and contained more sensual descriptions. Those spots really bothered me, and I'm 25.
- Another certain character didn't get redeemed, which was very bothersome. Necessarily heartbreaking, perhaps. But not a wonderful way to end the story.
- Theologically, I was bothered by the ending. In fact, the structure of the whole thing bothers me, though as I said it was a nifty idea. But history as circular, not linear? Maybe Dekker is playing with the idea that God is outside of time, and that therefore it's not as clear-cut and understandable as we think. But theoretically, the whole series could be seen as an eternal time loop, wherein one character is never redeemed... Ahh! The thought drives me crazy.
- Since writing the original three books of The Circle, Dekker has written The Paradise Novels and The Lost Books, all of which apparently tie in somehow to The Circle. I have not read those, so there were lots of characters and events referred to in Green which I felt I should know about but didn't. Dekker fanatics who have read those series may find the ties back to other books fabulous. But not having read them made me confused. I think there would have been a better flow between Green and the other books if Dekker had written it right after White, before he got so wrapped up in side plots and characters.
I did not think Green was nearly as good as the original three books (Black, Red, and White). It had some very good moments, and I wanted it to wrap up nicely, but it left me feeling unsatisfied. Most of the time it just didn't feel like the same series.
I've been debating about whether I would recommend this book. I 'spose if you're a Dekker fanatic, or you really want to see some loose ends tied up, go for it. Then tell me what you thought. But if you're expecting another book like the first three, I think you'll be disappointed.
Maybe there's a reason why three is such a perfect number. I rather wish Dekker had agreed.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
I don't have anything monumental to share. Plenty of little things have kept me busy...
On second thought, I suppose one of those little things is big enough to post about; I've started hanging it with our youth group at church.
Depending on my reader, the topic of youth group might be controversial. I might be making everyone shake their head in wonder at my confused and unwise little head, either regarding my past ideas or my current stance (again, depending on my reader). So if you're getting ready to throw snowballs of disagreement, please throw gently, and don't put rocks in them! ;-) This is my journey. Yours may be different. Let's love each other anyways, shall we?
Funny, I never thought I'd be helping with a youth group. Even a year ago I would have protested loudly. Anything but that! Some of this had to do with my own feelings of uncoolness (at 25 I can still feel, and unfortunately look, like an awkward 18-year-old). But that was actually insecurity and pride in disguise. Also, I thought youth groups were usually more damaging than helpful, since they have potential to splinter family time and lump a buch of immaturity together where it can be even more immature.
Some dear friends (on both sides!) may gasp in shock to hear me say all this, but I think I'm changing my mind: not all youth groups are fundamentally wrong. *gasp! shudder! stagger in shock!*
Of course I still wish all familes would do everything together. But until I have a husband to follow who decides how we will do things, and since neither of my parents object, I'm throwing my lot in with my curent church family, full of wise and godly folks. I was asked to be an adult female presence at youth events, to engage in conversation with girls, to provide that five or ten minutes of attention that let them know they're loved and cared for.
To my own surprise, I was compelled and eager to say yes. It's already exciting!
I still have my reservations. (Hope those are allowed!) I still believe youth group can be damaging if it's only a way the younger set isolates itself from the rest of the church family. And I still believe even the best youth group in the world cannot compare with parents discipling their own kids well.
But I also see a church in which those two concerns are largely answered by parents who really are discipling their kids and showing by example what godly adulthood is. I see young people who serve each other, who serve the younger kids in nursury and AWANA, who serve their families and the community. And I see little girls growing in young women, girls I know "of" but want to actually know, who I now have the opportunity to hang out with regularly in the midst of their busy schedule.
Finally, I remember my short time in a different youth group about 8 years ago, when my world was falling apart, and how a dear youth leader's wife showed me love and attention and got me started journaling my thoughts to the Lord. I've never been the same since. If I can encourage even one young lady as much as I was encouraged, I would count my time worthwhile.
That's not an arguement per se, just some of my rambling thoughts on how God is changing me, teaching me to walk with people in real life (Ephesians 4:1-3). Sometimes my paradigms shift so wildly, it's embarrassing to tell anyone about the shift - ether they can't believe what I think now, or they can't believe I ever thought what I did. But I want to record these for my own benefit, and perhaps they will encourage someone else, too.
And MBC youth, you're stuck with me and my funny hats, silly accents, and uncoolness for a while! ;-)
Now, on a very different note, here are a few thoughtful posts on Christmas I can across lately. They were so lovely, from two beauty-loving Christian ladies, that I wanted to share them:
The first is from farmer's wife, homeschooling mom, and poetess, Ann Voskamp:
4 Ways to Celebrate Christ in Christmas
And the second is from a sweet southern lady, Lanier Ivester, a homemaker, literary artist, and shepherdess:
Glad and Golden Hours
A fine weekend to you all!
Friday, December 04, 2009
Here are a few other pictures my mom took:
Thursday, December 03, 2009
I am currently drinking Earl Grey tea, reading Hope for Relationships stuff, hearing about the possible snow and ice tomorrow, and listening to the Narnia soundtrack. And thinking of Samantha, who loved to come into my room while I was staying with her family in college, leap onto the bed, and beg to hear "the Battle song."
Marvelously good times. Don't you love it how certain songs can remind you so strongly of dear places and people and special times?
Sunday, November 01, 2009
(Short post, I know. But I couldn't leave an ingredient list up on a day like this, could I?)
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Chicken - $1.50
Noodles- 50 cents
carrots and zucchini - 75 cents
Seasonings - 10 cent
Onions from our Grandparents' garden - free
Herbs from our garden - free
Meal for about eight (only four of us here now, so we had lots leftover) - not quite $3, if my estimations were right. Nice. :-)
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Today I have done the following:
-Smashed my finger in the suburban door. Ahaha, that was painful. But what could I do but laugh? I only smashed it because ... well, not quite sure how it happened. It had something to do with the umbrella...
- Made chocolate cheesecake, with raspberries and whipped cream as topping, for my brother Whit's birthday. Hurray! He's 16, and quite a fine young man. I am a blessed sister in each of my brothers. :-)
- Baked chicken from the freezer, since the oven was hot... I guess we'll have chicken again... Hey, in pita bread! Mmmm...
- Ground some wheat...
- ...And mixed up some dough for pitas, which is rising at the moment
- Washed dishes
- Listening to musicals and Frank Sinatra
- Spent too much time on Facebook...
- And now am finally sitting down to do some editing/writing. With mint tea and a sprinkle-decked donut. Aren't I so disciplined? (no answer needed, thank you)
Little Elba, how’s the rain in South America?
Does it fall upon the rooftops of the sick?
Do they thank the Lord for coming up with such a great idea
and dream about a place beyond all this?
~from Andrew Peterson's song, Land of the Free~
Friday, October 16, 2009
Now for the news. Are you ready? I would like to give more people a chance to read last year's NaNoWriMo novel, Brecken's Quest (or The Un-monstering) Unfortunately I am still slightly paranoid that some stranger might find my few brilliant paragraphs, and steal them, which would be tragic if I ever re-wrote it enough to try to publish it. But if I know you in real life, or have shown yourself to me to be a genuine person, then I will share my story with you.
So, if you want to read, or re-read, a wild adventure of a brother and sister searching for the lost King, encountering monsters of all shapes and sizes, friends winged and friends many-toothed, secret passages and magic gifts, loads of corniness and wonderful moments, and a young, rediculous, happy, encouraging bard named Melod - then please let me know! My email is rael.henson[at]gmail.com, only insert @ where it goes... there, do you think that will confuse the Dread Monsters of Spam? I'll risk it for the sake of my readers. ;-) Or if I already have your email, just comment!
Or if, perhaps, you don't care to re-read my old tale, but would like to follow my new one as I write it (beginning in 16 days!), let me know that, too! It's energizing to write for a live audience, and (if you don't want to steal my marvelous *cough* tale) I would love to have you aboard.
This year, it is going to be a wild ride. (I'm also much busier - it will be challenging to write/edit four hours for work while I have about 1600 words of a novel to pound out afterward every day! Should be interesting. Can I do it?) This tale will involve some old characters (Melod will be back, of course), outlaws, a lost and unlikely treasure, a cook whose ingredients are never right, a servant girl who sees more than people suspect, a young man who's eyes are being open but must pretend to still be blind, and an enslaved nation of people desperately in need of hope and light and truth. Surprises await reader and writer both! Would you like to join me?
Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Far Country - Listen!
I did. Oh, how I did! Those moments of listening to Peterson's stories and poetry filled me with new longing for Home. I was lifted above everyday life to get a glimpse of the bigger picture, wider and freer than even the vast plains and endless desert sky. More homelike than the welcome of candles and music and laughter at our little trip's end.
I hope you like it, too.
(By the way, if you know me apart from online, I don't have this, this, or this album yet. Oh, and my birthday's coming up... *cough, cough*)
Saturday, October 03, 2009
Alright, as you can see, my desk is so pretty and cozy that I must get back to work at it. Goodbye for now!
Thursday, October 01, 2009
Disturb us, Lord, when
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Alarm!!!!!! Promptly shut off and ignored - bad habit! Finally... ok. Get up. Up. Up.... Stumble into the kitchen and turn on the coffee pot (if I set it up the night before... otherwise there might be a pot to wash and beans to grind first) and commence to wake up. Here would be the part I get dressed for the day... if I had picked out my clothes the night before, which I usually don't. Another bad habit.
Now Coffee and Bible and sometimes Journal! :-) This makes me happy, especially when I'm up early enough to spend time pouring out thoughts and prayers onto the page. Journaling does not make one more spiritual, and the words of Scripture are far more priceless than any feeble prayer or thought I could scribble. But for me it's an amazingly rich and rewarding discipline. When I get beyond mechanically reading to actually "seeing," the real excitement and wonder begins. And the best way I've found to do that is to write to the Author, to ask Him about it and try to say it back to see if I understand, and to record my life in little marks as a way to tangibly offer myself back to Him. Sometimes the morning is rushing, and distractions fill my head, and nothing makes it onto the page. And that's alright, because there are no commands about journaling or Quiet Time At Six A.M. Or Thou Art Not A Christian. God doesn't show up in the morning between 5 and 7 and then disappear for the rest of the day.
About 6:30, time to make lunches for the Bob and the Mother! Usually sandwiches, fruit, sometimes yogurt and cookies... Pumpkin cookies today, which I actually made last night! Haven't cooked enough lately, so I was excited (as were a few other folks around here, I think!) They stay at school for a huge part of the day, so they need lots of sustanence! The Mother stays busy teaching Latin and preparing and grading, and Bob sits discussing in classes like Greek and Logic and Great Books and Algebra and Bible and History. Bob also studies up at school and later runs with the cross country team, which practice ends around 5-5:30, so he needs a LOT of food. He's a bit like a Hobbit who has drank gallons of Ent water, who also runs all the time and is decidedly not rounded. Just imagine.
Breakfast! Today it was eggs and pumpkin banana bread. Sometimes this is our quiet little family time at the kitchen table, when we eat together and talk, but today it didn't really happen. I wonder why? We all seemed a bit distracted and rushed... Oh, and uh...I was probably too distracted on my laptop at the kitchen table to invite sitting and talking. Oops.
And then they're out the door, and the house is still. Now, on to the stuff of the day! I need to write for work for about five hours, water plants and do some cleaning, maybe make some pizza dough for tonight, and do a little brainstorming and work for something that's happening tomorrow... It might not all get done. That's the potentially frustrating beauty of this job - flexibility! May I use it as a blessing today, and not a curse.
So, that's just a bit of my flawed morning, lived by a flawed girl, but blessed and led by my Father in so many good ways which I don't deserve.
I pray you have a blessed and exciting day, my readers! Remember, the Lion is not safe. But He is good.
P.S. My brother Zach, who has been gone nearly 2 months, just returned from Peru! He had the coolest beard, but is back at work today so I'm afraid it's gone now. Praise God for his safe return and all his adventures!
Monday, September 28, 2009
For a fairly short, kid-friendly book, Sir Dalton and the Shadow Heart was a thoughtful look at doubt in the life of Christians and how to combat it by knowing Christ and His Word well. For timeless, better-written (but more challenging) allegory, find Pilgrim’s Regress or The Faerie Queene.
Friday, September 25, 2009
But last night as I rubbed its smooth metallic interior, and listened to the pleasant swooshing sound made by thwopping the lid on and off, I practically heard it talk. It was sneakily suggesting it could be My Precious, and it would make me very happy, and no one else must touch my shiny new present, oh no they must not...
Rather creepy, let me tell you, to almost hear inanimate objects say things like that.
I think letting other people use it might be a good way to combat its scheme to possess me. Here's another way - I can tell on it (er, really on myself) to God:
Lord, loosen in me the hold of visible things;I have a feeling things are talking to me more often than I realize, and too often, I am obeying their commands like a witless slave.
Help me to walk by faith and not by sight;
I would, through thickest veils and coverings,
See into the chambers of the living light.
Lord, in the land of things that swell and seem,
Help me to walk by the other light supreme,
Which shows thy facts behind man's vaguely hinting dream.
~George MacDonald, Diary of an Old Soul ~
But though we can't see beyond the Veil yet, we can choose to trust God that there just may be far superior coffee containers there. And perhaps (but this is too wild!), just perhaps our attention will be so captured by such amazing and delightful Beings (One in particular), that we won't be thinking of coffee at all.
So how can I use my travel mug for God's glory? How can I be a faithful steward of this temporary thing that is either my tool... or my master? These are questions I ask myself, when at the back of my mind I know the answer:
"Stop writing this weird blog post, Rael, and get after the work set before you today, before the coffee is old and molding in that nice new mug of yours!"
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." ~Matthew 6:19-21~
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Smith of Wootton Major (which I read last night for the second time) is one of J. R. R. Tolkien's lesser-known little stories. It's about several cooks, an apprentice named Alf, a blacksmith's son (who grows up to be the Smith of the title), Faery, a silver star, and the Great Cake. But it's actually quite serious, and there is much to ponder here regarding worlds beyond our every day, and imagination and creativity and vision, and criticism, and beauty and sadness.
But, it's also just a great little fairy tale. The most important person in the town of Wooton Major is the Cook, so of course it has to be interesting. ;-) No dragons are fought, and no one dies except for natural deaths, but there is somehow more peril here than in Farmer Giles of Ham, of a different (and not necessarily bad) sort. It is a fairly slow and quiet story, fairly short, and a good one to read, ponder, savor, and then sigh fondly about after you're finished.
If you feel in need of a thoughtful little story, you might consider giving this one a try. Then let me know what you thought!
(This is not the edition I own, but I wanted to mention that the Pauline Baynes illustrations, which are in mine, are delightful. She adds such a wonderful touch to books.)
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Last night I finished reading Worlds Unseen. Amazing. I'll try to do a review soon.
Today I shall be busy writing for work, going to the eye doctor, baking potatoes, and later on going to AWANA at church. And somewhere in there I need to squeeze about four errands. Busy busy!
I am trying to blog every day. They say say writers should. But I can't think of anything else of interest to share at the moment, so farewell!
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Well, today is the birthday of two of "the most famousest of hobbits (and that's sayin' a lot)" - Bilbo and Frodo Baggins!
One of these days I want to throw an official hobbit party, complete with lots of food, maybe a reading from Fellowship of the Ring, a "no shoes allowed unless you're Gandalf, which you're not" rule, and presents for everyone who comes. But not this year.
I am planning on cooking up some mushrooms to go with supper, though. ;-) And since the weather's turned so lovely and cold, I'll probably be wearing my cloak most of the day... and going barefoot, of course. ;-)
Hobbit Day (Wikipedia)
Hobbit Day and Tolkien Week
Monday, September 21, 2009
Last night I did something very frivolous. I ordered the NaNoWriMo travel mug, all for myself. *guilty grin* I had considered it before, but it seemed wasteful. But last night, I just did it. So there. I am not under a law to never buy nice liquid-holding containers. Well, but wouldn't a NaNoWriMo T-shirt be better, I pondered? It sounded more excusable. But I decided - Nope. A mug will be far more useful to me, and more fun. This is an amazing mug. I plan to make it pay its own way over many, many years of supplying me with warm caffeinated fluids.
Today I wrote for work most of the morning and a little into the afternoon. Then I did some dishes and a tinsy bit of housework while listening to Adventures in Odyssey, and then I settled myself on the floor with pages of story spread out, reviewing story bits I barely remembered and trying to make sense of a decent plot out of it all. Not there yet! This is one reason I so regret not finishing my first NaNoWriMo story. Once you loose the flow and forget where you were going, it's immensely difficult to pick it back up and finish the thing. At least for me. Especially when I tried a while back...meaning I now have at least three different versions to sort through. It could take a while.
Then the rest of this evening, while eating some amazing vegetable soup made by my lovely Mother, I have been swept away in Worlds Unseen, a fantasy novel by a young lady named Rachel Starr Thomson. She is a bit older than I am and still lives happily at home with her family. She has become a very inspiring example to me of the both dependence on family and of the energetic productivity a young lady can thrive in, instead of just sitting around waiting for life to start at marriage or diving off on her own lonely career. I have grown to respect and admire Rachel over the years, first through her thoughtful posts on Boundless, but also on her own blog, which I link to in my sidebar.
Rachel's book, Worlds Unseen, is amazing, and the first book is free to download. Beware, though. If you like well-writen fantasy from a Biblical worldview, it will suck you in! I already know I will be buying the second book (and possibly a hard copy of the first).
The air has been still and warm most of today and this evening as we all waited for the predicted cold front. No wind, no wind... But a few minutes ago, I heard it. The trees rushed as the North Wind came sweeping through branches and fences, proclaiming in wild and familiar voice the coming of cold. It was a thrill to recognize it's coming. I forget... How I forget!
More writing tomorrow, hopefully of both work and fun, and perhaps I'll finish the marvelous story about Maggie and her assorted friends, and the strange and wonderful and frightening world she lives in.
Oh, and tomorrow...er, today (I need to go to bed!) is exciting for another reason, too. Can you guess? Find out in my next post! Here's a clue: it has to do with a two literary characters who share something.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Janner missed his home... He missed the rhythm of life at the cottage. He missed the hot meals, the slow change of the land as the seasons turned, and the family of birds that nested in the crook above the door where he, Tink, and Leeli would inspect the tiny blue eggs each morning and each night, then the chicks, and then one day they would look in sad wonder at the empty nest and ask themselves where the birds had gone. But those days had passed away as sure as the summer, and whether he liked it or not, home was no longer the cottage. It wasn’t Peet’s tree house, either. He wasn’t sure he had a home anymore.
North! Or Be Eaten, pages 2-3
Podo and Leeli shared a special bond, partly because each of them had only one working leg and partly because of the ancient affection that exists between grandfathers and granddaughters.
North! Or Be Eaten, page 6
“I’m parched, to paraphrase the wise words of Lou di Cicaccelliccelli.”
North! Or Be Eaten, page 10
Boys sometimes forget that before one leaves on an adventure, if at all possible, one must pack. There are situations in which packing is secondary – such as escaping a burning building – but if there is time to plan and arrange and discuss before leaving, then it is a fact of life that grownups will do so. When children say it’s time to leave, they mean “It’s time to leave.” When grownups say so, they really mean, “It’s time to begin thinking about leaving sometime in the near future.”
North! Or Bea Eaten, page 14
“The digtoad (bumpy) is one of the few creatures in Aerwiar that poses no threat to humans, except perhaps to those humans for whom moist stretchy, warty skin is fatal to the touch."
I am convinced that North! Or Be Eaten contains something for a wide range of readers. Thus, each of my exclamatory remarks in the title of these post represent four elements of story which Andrew Peterson does marvelously - humor, adventure, mystery, and love of family.
I am convinced that
North! Or Be Eaten
contains something for a wide range of readers.
Thus, each of my exclamatory remarks in the title of these post represent four elements of story which Andrew Peterson does marvelously - humor, adventure, mystery, and love of family.
You know it’s going to be interesting from the title. Then the blurb on the back cover has footnotes to itself at the bottom (I kid thee not). You know Peterson had fun with this book.
From the punctuation enthusiast (Fork! Factory!) to the boy who likes nasty stuff (the Fangs enjoy the most… unappetizing dishes) and everyone in-between (I especially loved the Florid Sword - marvelous character, he is!), if are in possession of a funny bone, something in this book will tickle, if not ferociously attack it.
I should note that this book did not seem to contain quite as many jokes as the first book, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness. The footnotes are fewer, simply explaining previous plot stuff more often than obscure-but-hilarious history (from what I recall), but since the action moved so fast I didn’t mind. And the whole tone is darker and more intense, so when something funny does jump out, laughter is an even more welcome relief. Like finding a jelly bean hidden under your bowl of gruel. Not that the book is like eating gruel, exactly. Perhaps very exciting, thrilling gruel. But even the most delicious gruel, heaped with sugar and butter, needs a jelly bean to cheer it up and make a complete meal…
Um, yes. Enough weird comparisons for now. Moving on!
“Run! If you’re out there, run! They’re coming!”
— Ubinious the Whooned, A Tale of Timiny, (Brookwater Press)
This book has a LOT of running in it. Someone is almost always being chased by someone…or something. There are also swordfights, perilous bridges, rooftop chases, daring escapes, vengeful monsters, angry monsters, and (surprise!) hungry monsters. And with all this happening, somehow you still have a moment to breathe now and then, when the characters find temporary reprieve. Then questions, answers, and deeper spiritual things flow in just as much wonderful abundance.
What secret is Peet still hiding? Who is the dangerous Someone nearby Janner is warned about? What happens to the children who are stolen away in the Black Carriage? Can a ridgerunner ever be trusted? Can anyone? How do you talk a man-eating Bomnubble into giving you its warm coat? Andrew Peterson handled all the mysteries quite well, I thought, giving you just enough hints to almost guess a few things without being obvious. I realized who the masked feller was almost immediately, but the fate of the children (and the Bomnubble’s fur) took me aback! And, like all good mysteries in a series, by the end we are left with more questions than we had at first.
There is another kind of mystery in this book of the unsolvable sort. The world of Aerwiar is mysterious in wonderful ways, just like ours, so don’t expect everything to be explained. Leeli’s singing, the bird whose passing overhead marks the beginning of Fall, the ways of the sea dragons, the comfort of a mother’s hug – these too are mysteries. And they make the tale glimmer and live, like rain making the whole world look deeper and more real, or like “completely superfluous” candles by the window on a dark night.
Love of Family!
Not many children’s books these days affirm and encourage closeness and dependence and responsibility to family. This book does. The grown-ups are wise and honored, the siblings generally good role models. Of course Janner, Tink, Leeli, Nia, Podo, and Peet are not perfect, but neither are any of them shallow, dumb, or only there for ridicule. They are all deep, and they all have nobleness burning inside them. But more than that, they all love each other deeper than the Dark Sea of Darkness.
Inscribed in the front, Andrew Peterson wrote to his children: For Aedan, Asher, and Skye. Remember who you are. That’s a theme of the book, resonating in the darkest moments. And it makes me think of an ancient letter, from a High King, reminding me who I am every time I will listen.
Let me know if I left out a story element which you find critical. I will consider and let you know, because this is such a wild book, it could be there! ;-)
Did I miss something?
Did I miss something?
Monday, September 14, 2009
Deep Themes and Elbow-Slapping Oddities
Monsters of various shapes and sizes, all possessing crazy names and eating habits. Vivid descriptions. The power, beauty, and magic of music. Trust, betrayal, wounds, loss, sacrifice. Joy in the morning. Transformations. Guilt and Forgiveness. Seeing a loved one’s deepest, darkest evil, and loving them anyway. Shame. Brothers. Responsibility and love. A wildly overdone, masked, flowery-speaking swashbuckler called the Florid Sword. A castle built to look like a crouching kitten.
Yes, this is a very unique book. Ridiculous, tragic, and bursting with gladness by turn. And it all balances and fits together beautifully! How in all Aerwiar did Peterson do it?
Frightening! Heartening! Stupendous!North! Or Be Eaten was my favorite book to read in a long, long time. I cried, laughed out loud, and groaned by turn at the choices characters made. I was there in the land of Scree, smelled the odious odors, saw the marvelous architecture, shivered under the dull eyes of the Maintenance Managers of the Fork! Factory!, and struggled with Janner Igiby as he faced hard decision after harder decision.
The first book was frightening enough. Now Janner struggles with even bigger problems than nasty Fangs - such as facing his own darkness, battling bitterness, and learning what it means to protect his brother with his life. And he meets characters much, much worse than quill diggles... though he has a run in with one of those, too. (See picture below, taken from Pembrick's Creaturepedia.)
I closed the book with a sign of sadness and tears of deep joy. I eagerly await the third book, but I’m not worried. Peterson is proving that each new book will be more than worth the wait.
Music I Recommend to Accompany Reading
- The Lord of the Rings soundtracks. The book could have been written to the Lord of the Rings soundtrack – it goes so well, especially at one spot early on which reminded me particularly of a scene in Fellowship of the Ring, which I can’t tell you about until you read it. ;-)
- Andrew Peterson albums. And, as my friend Catie said, if you read Andrew Peterson’s books while listening to his music, “You feel like you really know the guy!” His stories and songs explain one another’s hidden depths and layers of truth like nothing else could.
Both books are available in a bundle for $20 HERE – an amazing deal! And autographed, too! His music albums can be found on the same website. If you want to hear a sample of his songwriting and musical style, his Behold the Lamb of God should give you a marvelous, wondrous taste.
And here is the official Wingfeather Saga website. Check out the facinating Creaturepedia, as well as the insightful quotes from Oskar N. Reteep on the sidebar.
I plan to do at least one more post on more reasons I so enjoyed this book, so check back soon if you're interested in a bit more excited rambling and perhaps some delicious quotes!
Sunday, September 13, 2009
With billowing dark clouds, intermittent rain, sprinkles, and a nippy drop of temperature, Fall has been clearing its throat to announce its imminent arrival. It doesn't officially come until the 22nd (Bilbo and Frodo's birthday, a fact I did not realize until now!), but Fall has sent rain and cool, crisp air ahead, reminding me how much I love it. How I look forward to November! I long to write my next novel, snuggled beneath blanket or cloak, sipping something scrumptious, challenged by the cold, darkening days to weave a tale of adventure and sadness and jollity!
But no story-writing just yet. This last weekend has been so busy! Here's a few of the things I've been doing:
-Back to school bash at MCA: cookies, ice cream, and crowds of chattering families
- Wedding celebration/reception for the son of a family at church
-Bob's cross country meet (We won the meet, and Bob got 8th - Yay Knights!)
-Septemberfest (artist booths and music) with my mother, two of her old friends, and two sweet young ladies.
-"Reconnecting" Dinner with friends from the Next Step Discipleship training
-Assembling with the saints :-)
-visiting grandparents for Grandpa's birthday!
-Hope for Relationships small group
Whew! My inner hermit objected highly to being so busy. I have so much house work I meant to do, and it was perfect weather for staying pleasantly at home. But that's alright. God had something else in mind than pleasing my inner (rather self-centered) hermit. :-) And, surprise! I actually enjoyed my crazy busy weekend! Don't you love it when He reminds you His plans are bigger and different and more interesting than ours?
Coming tomorrow: my review of North! Or Be Eaten!
The Bomnubble (Screean) - This sketch is from Pembrick's Creaturepedia, a sampling of which can be found HERE.
Sunday, September 06, 2009
This is my third time to read this book in the space of about a year. Delightful yet again!
The Short but Hopefully Informative Summary
Janner, Tink, and Leeli Igiby never expected adventure to find them. The most exciting things they usually experienced was Janner tripping over everything, Tink's scary excursions fixing the roof and dropping hammers on people's heads, and little Leeli's dog Nugget chasing Thwaps out of the garden. Once a year, the Dragon Day Festival reminded them that the world was wider, but it looked like they would never see it.
A safe adventure would have been nice. They certainly didn't want to be carried off by the dreaded Black Carriage, or to have trouble with the evil and mean and disgusting lizard-men, the Fangs of Dang.
But one day, life turns more topsey-turvey than Peet the Sock Man walking on his sock-covered hands. More confused than a garden full of ornery, hungry, pesky Thwaps. More exciting than the longest book in Oskar Reteep's Bookstore. More frightening than the dreaded evil ruler, Gnag the Nameless.
Well, not that frightening. Yet. But there are horned hounds, toothy cows, digtoads, quilldiggles, pain, woe, and sorrow to deal with.
Whimsical and Weighty, Hilarious and Heartfelt
This is the sort of book which is fun to read aloud. It's the kind in which humor lurks, ready to pounce on you with the suddenness of a ridgerunnner. The footnotes are hysterical. Peterson read it to his own kids, and I would love to read it to mine someday (I might skip over the few slightly crude moments, though). It's a rollicking adventure, and the first time through I read it in a day, it was so enthralling. But as filled as it is with fast-paced action, the Igiby family is the bright hearth fire at the center of the tale, and the quiet moments bring a perfectly balance. Peterson knows how to paint simple, wonderful pictures of home and family that make me want to weep.
Beware, Ye who are Delicate of Stomach!
- There are a few crude parts. They're not truly disgusting in the moral sense, in my opinion, only rather nasty. I could do without these quite well, but they didn't make me want to stop reading. I did grow up in the country, after all, with five brothers. ;-)
Praisables, or "Better than Podo's famous Cheesy Chowder with Butterbread!"
These abound! Protecting and fighting for family is a huge stress of the story. The parental figures, mother Nia and the ex-pirate grandfather, Podo, are both wise and good and strong characters. Home is a beautiful thing, made not of wood or stone but of family. Bad things happen when older siblings neglect their responsibilities, but overall a good picture of brotherly and sisterly affection is painted. There are also a few lessons in contentment, as well as the counterbalancing virtue - knowing your true home is somewhere you've never been.
Only the Beginning!
(Unless you're a character in the book who meets an untimely end...)
What else do I say about this wonderful book? It ended as well as a first installment might. Not that the wait has been easy. But finally the second book is written, and I'm finally reading it! Watch for my review of North! Or Be Eaten between the 14th and 18th of this month, when I will be participating in the official blog tour for the book.
I shall leave you with one of many good passages from the book.
On the lawn in front of old Charney Baimington's cottage a small fire was burning. Several people lounged around it, listening to Armulyn the Bard sing. The orange glow of the fire lit his face and cast a large shadow on the house behind him. Armulyn was singing a song about Anniera, and his eyes seemed to glow with their own light as he looked out past the dark around him. It was as though he could see before him the fair island itself with its kingdom of sailors and poets, its high green mountains and shaded vales, the bright city where a good king once reigned and the people sang in the fields while they gathered the harvest. Somehow, Janner felt that it was more than just a song. Armulyn had put his secret dreams to music. Janner felt pulled to those mountains, and he saw it in the faces around the campfire too.'
The song ended, and for a moment before the applause, the small gathering of listeners was silent. Janner looked up to see that his mother's face was wet with tears and that she, like the bard, was staring into the distance.
"Why are you crying?" he asked, squeezing her hand.
Nia jumped a little, like he'd just woken her from a nap. She smiled down at him. "It's nothing, child. And why are you crying?"
Janner hadn't realized it, but his cheeks were wet as well. "There's just something about the way he sings. It makes me think of when it snows outside, and the fire is warm, and Podo is telling us a story while you're cooking, and there's no place I'd rather be - but for some reason I still feel... homesick."
On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, chapter 13
1. The toothy cow image is from Bahbert Ollister Pembrick's Creaturepedia. A collection of his notes and sketches can be found here.
Friday, September 04, 2009
Goodbye for now!
~Elanor Baggins ~
(note from Rael: This hobbit lass came to visit a few years ago and decided to stay. She'll go on adventures now and then, and suddenly shows up when least expected. Quite a character, and she threatens to clean out our refrigerator when she's here! Looks remarkably like me, she does, though she's much more hairy on the feet...)
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Sigh. This is definitely one of my favorite Dickens books thus far. It's also the second one I was inspired to read after watching a long miniseries, the other being Bleak House, both of which cinematic versions were done by the amazingly talented Andrew Davies. And both of which prodded me to enjoy the likewise wonderful books.
This tale, while fairly comparable to Bleak House in length, is not quite as dark. Admittedly, there are various mysteries, and secrets of the past, and a murderer, and a creepy old house, and bureaucracy. (It's still Dickens, after all!) But otherwise, it doesn't have quite the same feel of fog and death as Bleak House.
The story centers around two main characters. "Little" Dorrit, also known as Amy Dorrit, is a sweet girl who has grown up serving her father in a debtor's prison. Despite the horrible circumstances and hard life of mostly thankless service, she is ever eager and content to bring light and comfort to those she loves.
The other main character, Arthur Clennam, is one of the most honorable and thoughtful gentlemen I've encountered in literature. He is seeking to uncover a mystery in his family's past, make wrongs right, protect the helpless, and sacrifice his personal desires for those he loves.
Yes, the main characters are similar. Hmm, I wonder if that leads to anything... ;-)
- Prisons: They come in all forms, and some of us go into them willingly.
- Treasures: What will last? What should we invest our lives in?
Book or Movie?
Of course books are always wonderful because you get characters' thoughts, more great Dickens lines, and more minor characters who get cut out in the films. But - Now, close your eyes, Dickens purists! Are you gone? Well, as much as I always say books are better, I actually think the recent miniseries might have improved on the plot a little. It's tighter, for one thing, and so well done that it's impossible to not be sympathetic with some of the silliest characters. And a few little things got added in with the main characters, just little touches that didn't change anything, but made the story sweeter and more accessible. But that didn't make reading the book less enjoyable.
Who are the Barnacles?
I must mention the esteemed family in charge of the Circumlocution office. If you want information or desire to do something productive in England, they are adept at giving out a hundred different forms, and then sending those forms through dozens of committees, to discourage you from the unhealthy practice of doing. We don't have anyone like them in the United States, of course. No, never.
You might like it!
Overall, this was a delightful, heart-wrenching, painful-but-good-ending, satisfying, 800-page book. Amy Dorrit is one of my heroes now.
Which is why my desk now bears her name in honor.
First image from Victorianweb, scanned by Philip V. Allingham.
Film screencaps from Enchanted Serenity
Monday, August 31, 2009
If you don't like Charles Dickens' writing, might I ask which of his books you've read?
I have a theory that most people's encounter with Dickens consists entirely of A Tale of Two Cities and/or Great Expectations. I expect these two are read mainly because they're assigned in school, and because they're short(er). But having become a recent Dickens fan, I think it's a shame that these are read most often, especially Great Expectations.
I love happy endings, and these don't end quite as splendidly as I wish. Nor do they have entirely sympathetic main characters, in my opinion. Interesting, yes, but not heroes you root for and want to emulate. Pip is rather unlikable for quite a while, though he gets a little better. Lucy and Darnay are likeable and noble, but a bit flat, and Carton is the scoundrel turned noble, but then he's gone suddenly just when he's turning around.
Oliver Twist I haven't read yet, having gathered from the film and play that it's depressing.
But there was a whole list of novels Dickens wrote, which I had never even heard of. Alas! Glorious books, how have I missed you all my four-and-twenty years?
I hadn't even heard of Bleak House or Little Dorrit two years ago, but now they're firm favorites. I think they're much more interesting and satisfying stories than the better known tales, though they are a bit longer. Ah, but so much more room for Dickensian characters and huge plot developments! :-) Now I'm itching to find and read all the other Dickens novels I've never heard of, since I like them the best so far. I would encourage you to do so also, and then let me know what you think of my theory. :-)
I've been told that Dombey and Son is an excellent picture of how a woman can build up or tear down. And apparently Andrew Davies is planning to write that one next as a miniseries, hurrah! So I might tackle that one next, and see what I think of his version after reading the book this time.
But it might be a while. After finishing Little Dorrit, I re-read On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, by Andrew Peterson, and am about to dive into the just-out sequel, North! Or Be Eaten, from which pages not even Dickens will be able to distract me. Watch for reviews and thoughts!
Friday, August 14, 2009
I've been feeding our friend's animals (cats, dog, chickens, guinea, and lamb) and watering their plants again this week. The Attack Rooster has thus far kept his distance. Perhaps because I now enter the coop armed with a sturdy stick. Perhaps he's only waiting until the last day, when I'm least on guard. Perhaps he's sharpening the spurs on his legs so as to be quite prepared to make a deep puncture, and collecting plenty of little bacteria and evil dirty things with which to infect the said wound.
I've told him I forgive him for last time, though, and for being a roosterly rooster. We'll see if he believes me.
Other than the threat of infection, tending to "the farm" has been fairly pleasant, as always. I love how dirty I usually get, how wild my hair and how mud-streaked my feet, just from watering a few plants and feeding a few animals! It's quite humorous. But of course, where there is dirt, I must get some on myself. Not that the animals mind.
one last adventure of the summer
The very day I finish my animal-feeding job, I will be departing my fair little town in the midst of Nowhere to go to the Renewing the Family Camp! Our good friends the Grubens invited me to go with them, and I am quite honored and excited. Not only to spend time with my dear old friends, but to meet and fellowship with other God-loving families of similar convictions. And I believe two young ladies who inspire me greatly through their writing and documentary will be there...
Who else might be there? I have this nagging feeling that one or more lovely people whose blogs I read might show up, and that I will not make the connection until the camp is over. Meeting folks in real life can be so different from the online world, though... perhaps it would be better if you keep an illusion of my grace, elegance, and eloquence ...;-)
After the family camp, I'll probably stay with the Grubens for a week or so until we contrive a way to get me back home. They have just moved, so I hope I can help with organizing, cleaning, or another of the millions of tasks that go along with moves. And I'm sure we'll find time for a bit of coffee, craziness, and cloak-wearing as well.
dreaming and dilligence
In other news, I've been taking too many naps, watching too many movies with Whit and the Mother, eating too much bread (loaf, biscotti, scones, cookies), reading Little Dorrit, and writing for my job. I need to be more diligent, though, because I'm a bit behind on the last one. Ideally I would write an even two hours a day, but lately I end up doing it all near the end of the week. Starting next month I'm going up to 20 hours a week, which means I can't do that anymore. Not sure what needs to go, besides constantly checking Facebook. Getting up early consistently would help. So would not having a temporary job of watering zuchini and feeding a lamb who insists he's constantly starving.
But isn't it funny how sometimes the busier you are, the more you end up getting accomplished? I was lately encouraged by this post by the Botkin sisters. My head is often off in the blue building castles in the clouds and not getting anywhere useful, so it was challenging to hear them encourage young ladies at home to work on marketable skills. I'd like to think I could have a thriving, easy home business making bread, but really this writing job which the elders at church have given me is much more productive and useful. I pray I can go after it will all the excitement and diligence I can, so I'll have more time to give my family and friends and to do the things I really want to (like reading good books, making bread, and writing my own stories)
So much for my "quick" update post! I don't even have pictures in this one. Ah well. Back to work now. And I hear some fresh homemade fig bars came out of the oven too! So farewell!
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
I may sit in my wee old house
at the spinning wheel to toil so dreary
I may think on a day that is gone,
and sigh and sob till I grow weary
I ne'er could brook, I ne'er could brook
a foreign king to own or flatter
And I will sing a ranting song the day
our King comes o'er the water
I heard this lovely Scottish song the other day and was struck to the heart. The entire song, here, speaks of a Scottish lady's longing for the return of Stewart rule in her land. Being of Scottish ancestry myself, I felt a kinship with Lady Keith, and even now thrill thinking about "the day of pride and chieftain's glory":
I have seen the good old day,
the day of pride and chieftain's glory
When royal Stuart held the sway
and none heard tell of Whig or Tory
Though silver be my hair one day,
and age has struck me down, what matter
I'll dance and sing that happy day,
the day our King comes o'er the water
This song reminded me of Arthur Pendragon, who I have been thinking of quite a bit lately already.
Legends say that one day he will return to England in its time of greatest need. Stories continue to be written portraying this event, and I have no doubt there are many more to come. Sometimes they're lame. They're all a little disappointing. But they will keep coming. Because despite our modern, democratic, individualistic ideals, a longing lurks deep inside us all for a king who will come and make everything right again, with a sword of justice in hand, and compassion and glory shining in his eyes.
Gondor waited for their king for nearly a thousand years. Even the Hobbits had a saying "When the king comes back," though they used it "of some good that could not be achieved, or of some evil that could not be amended."
I also think of another King whose coming has been anticipated long. His arrival shall be no anticlimax. No, it will be more wonderful and terrible than I can begin to even imagine or want (at first - think of Puzzle the donkey, shrinking away in Aslan's presence!). Though I will always be His child no matter my poor choices (thanks to His unfathomable grace!), yet I do not always walked by faith as He asks. Too many of my works will likely be burned up as the worthless straw they are, because I was trying to do things my way, not God's way.
Do I grow too comfortable here, submitting to the rule of the "foreign king" and evil ruler of this world?
Oh may I live as a faithful servant for my King who I cannot yet see! May my smallest actions be based on trusting Him. And may I eagerly await with my life the day when"our King comes o'er the water"!
If I live to see the day that I
have begged and begged from heaven
I'll fling my rock and reel away,
and dance and sing from morn till evening
For there is One I will not name
who comes the beingin bike to scatter
And I'll put on my bridal gown
the day our King comes o'er the water