Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Morning in the Life

With all my bookish posts lately, I feel the need to write something more personal and everyday.  I enjoy getting glimpses of people's habits and schedules, so howsabout a "what does your morning look like"  post? Mine's often a little like this:


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

Review of Sir Dalton and the Shadow Heart

I was given the opportunity to do another review for a free copy of a book, this time for the Sir Dalton and the Shadow Heart blog tour.   This is too much fun!  I feel like a real writer, doing all these reviews. ;-)

Four or five years ago, I borrowed and read the first three books of Chuck Black’s Kingdom series.  While the writing was not great, the storytelling swept me away, and the pictures of Biblical truths had me eagerly rereading Scripture to savor the source of the echoes.  Each book ended with the piano music to a haunting (but not too difficult) song, which I simply loved.   

Chuck Black has been off my radar for a few years, but recently I discovered he’s still writing books set in the world of Arrethtrae, and I suddenly found the third of his second series in my hands.  I usually refuse to start in the middle of a series, but I couldn’t find copies of the first two in time and had to just jump in.  And in The Knights of Arrethtrae series, each book focuses on different characters, making them more episodic than epic.  There’s an epic level, of course, but it’s explained in the first few pages.

Sir Dalton’s story was a decent kids' adventure, an allegory full of medieval motifs like swords and knights and battle.  The main character learned some important things about being a Knight of the King, and there were some great pictures of spiritual principles about doubt, faith, friendship, and freedom.  

Most of the time I felt it was a bit too heavy-handed on the allegory to get let readers fully immerse themselves in the story, but when I did get lost in it, it was wonderful.  While allegory is not my favorite form of story, I don’t think it's evil.  Sometimes formulas and direct correlations are helpful, sometimes they are just dry and distracting.  

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

Beware Talking Coffee Containers

I'm already enjoying my new shiny NaNoWriMo travel mug. It's a lovely satiny brown, with a cheery blue NaNoWriMo logo on the side and the word "AUTHOR" beneath proudly proclaiming my fondness and ability of madly writing a novel in a month.

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;
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 ~

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.

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

Yet another book review! I know, I need to stop reading and do more writing of my own books. ;-)

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

Happy Birthday to two famous heroes!

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

Writing, Reading, and the North Wind

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

Because I love quotes...

These are only a few of many that struck me from the first few chapters. Enjoy!

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."

~ Bahbert Ollister Pembrick

Hahaha! Yikes! What? Awwww...

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.

Did I miss something?

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! ;-)

Monday, September 14, 2009

North! Or Be Eaten - Book Two of the Wingfeather Saga

I am thrilled to be able to participate in the official blog tour for North! Or Be Eaten. Here is my review. Read, or be eat-... um, missing out!

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 eager
ly 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

Wet Weather, Humbled Hermit

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

Book Thoughts - On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

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."

Andrew Peterson
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

Hullo from a Hobbit

Hush! The Black Riders might have followed me here, and could be outside!

Whew! They're gone now. Who am I? I come in peace, friend. Do I smell coffee in this fine dwelling?

The ceiling might not be rounded, but you can't fool me. It's a hobbit hole in disguise. And I do smell coffee!

What's this about writing? Coffee is only for writers, is it? Well, I suppose I can help you. Uncle Bilbo taught me my letters. Would you like that in Elvish or Common Tongue?

Aha! Thank you for the delicious home brew! And it comes in pints!! I think I'll live here, if you don't mind. I'll call it Whit's End, after the young Whit fellow who dwells here. Like Bag End, named after the Bagginses. I don't know what Adventures in Odyssey is, either, so stop giving me silly looks. Whit's End is a perfectly fine name for your - our - house.

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

Book Thoughts - Little Dorrit

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.

Little Dorrit

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.

Main Characters

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... ;-)

I continue to be blown away and enraptured by this writer. Dickens has such a way of building compelling and exciting plots, while also interweaving themes and lessons that penetrate all his cast of characters and situations. In Little Dorrit, these are the two that stuck out to me the most:

- 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