Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Isn't there anyone who can tell me...

Christmas is such a special time of year, where we celebrate Jesus' birth. It's so much more than His being born, though. Picking songs for worship in church, I've realized that there are a lot of Christmas songs that tell the whole story.

"Nails, spear shall pierce Him through/The cross be born for me, for you." —"What Child Is This"

"Fragile finger sent to heal us/Tender brow prepared for thorn/Tiny heart whose blood will save us/Unto us is born/So wrap our injured flesh around You/Breathe our air and walk our sod/Rob our sins and make us holy/Perfect Son of God."—"Welcome To Our World"

"Born that man no more may die:/Born to raise the son of earth,/Born to give them second birth."—"Hark! The Herald Angels Sing"

"O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free/Thine own from Satan's tyranny/From depths of hell Thy people save/And give them vict’ry o'er the grave."—"O Come, O Come Emmanuel"

And there are more. It's just really cool to me that there are a lot of Christmas songs that don't just stop with the birth, with the picture of a babe in a manger, but they tell why He came. That He came to die for our sins. That He rose again to give us that second birth, that we may live together with Him in Heaven forever.

My favorite Christmas special is Charlie Brown and my favorite Peanuts character is Linus. Because he tells the real story. What Christmas is all about.

And now, introducing Linus.


So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye until January! Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2018

Bitter Winter, Lacy, and Decree Reviews


It's finally time for new Ilyon and Acktar books! These books are so fabulous and I got to read all three of them. :) And now it's time for them to enter the world! (Well, Decree doesn't technically come out until tomorrow, but close enough.)

There's a lot of amazing stuff happening on the blog tour...interviews, reviews, character chats, giveaways...you won't want to miss it! You can find a really awesome giveaway and the links to the other posts at the bottom of my post. But first, I'm going to tell you about how much I loved each one of these brand new books.

Bitter Winter

Already struggling with a harsh winter and the threat of food shortage, a catastrophic event leaves those in the Landale camps reeling. Just when things couldn’t get much worse, camp members fall ill with the same devastating sickness that’s sweeping across the country.

Determined to gain the cure, Jace sets off to Valcré. However, there are only two sources—the queen, or a powerful gang of smugglers who have made the dangerous city their home. When Jace gains audience with the gang leader, he finds the price of the cure is steeper than any of them imagined, forcing him to make an impossible choice—betray his conscience or let those he loves die.

Available now on Amazon!


You already know I love Jaye's books. This is no exception. Ilyon just keeps getting better and better. They're struggling with a harsh winter, food rationing, and more, but Jace is happy in spite of it because things are going well between him and Kyrin and he's almost ready to propose. But we all know that when things are looking great at the beginning of a book, something really terrible is about to happen. Catastrophe strikes, somebody dies, and people start getting seriously ill. So of course the happiness is gone. You knew it would be. Things get so desperate. I don't want to give spoilers on what Jace almost does, but goodness. It was such a terrible choice he had to make. And he almost didn't make the right one. But either way, there could be terrible consequences.

He gets to see Timothy and Aaron again, and meet the girl Aaron likes. I have to say, amid all the awful stuff happening, that bit was awesome. Where they all see Lacy and Jace and Holden are like "You like her." That escalated quickly. But that's another story.

Jace has a lot of hard lessons to learn in this book. It's heart-wrenching. It's powerful. And it leads to my favorite chapter to date in all the Ilyon books. It's what we've all been waiting for. I can't give this book enough love. It's just. so. good. Read it now. Unless you haven't read previous books, because they do need to be read in order. But read Ilyon. You won't regret it.

Lacy

The last thing Aaron ever envisioned was falling for a prostitute. Everything about it spells trouble. However, he can’t help noticing the way her smile lights up when she sees him and how much brokenness she hides behind it. Neither can he ignore how desperately she needs rescue and protection.

When Lacy shares a life or death secret with him, Aaron is willing to risk everything to help her and to show her Elôm’s love. Yet, such a choice could destroy his reputation and maybe even cost him his freedom.

An Ilyon Chronicles Novella

Available now on Amazon!


This. Book. Well, I wouldn't exactly recommend it for children or young teens due to thematic material, but I would recommend it for about 15/16 and up. It's so. good. Different from the other Ilyon books due to the lack of Jace and Kyrin, but definitely worth the read. It doesn't delve as deeply into Lacy's issues and psychological damage as Redeeming Love (which I just read) does, but it's still really good and powerful. And that fact lets me be comfortable with recommending it for younger readers than I would Redeeming Love. Lacy is so hurt and broken. So desperate. So in need of Elôm's love. She's in a situation she can't get out of, but doesn't feel she can trust anyone. And Aaron is desperate to help her, no matter what others think. He's willing to do whatever he has to to rescue her and her family. It's such a wonderful, powerful ending. And as a side note, it's so hard to write spoiler-free reviews. :P

Haven’t discovered the world of Ilyon yet? Find out more at the official Ilyon Chronicles website!

Decree
The Adventure Continues.

Discover more of The Blades of Acktar in this collection of novellas and short stories. 

The Blades as They Should’ve Been 
A test and the Gathering of Nobles will decide Leith and Martyn’s futures. Can they fight to become more than the Blades they were? Will Keevan accept the man who attempted to kill him as family? 

The First Mission 
When Martyn visits Surgis, his past seems determined to haunt him. Can he figure out how to forgive, especially when confronted with an enemy in need of his help? 

To the Far Great Mountains 
A death sends Leith and Martyn far beyond the borders of Acktar. Will they be able to arrest their quarry before they are caught themselves?

From the story of how Leith and Martyn met to Ranson’s search for a life outside of the Blades, these stories will answer plaguing questions and expand the world of Acktar. 

Available now on Amazon! 


When I found out there would be more Acktar books, I was sooooo excited. I'd missed Leith and Renna, and finding out I'd have more of them was like an early Christmas present. Now, not all the stories are about them. There are some about Martyn, some of which involve Owen and Kayleigh. There is one about Ranson, which does have Leith and Renna in it, but is primarily about Ranson. But of course, my favorites were the ones about Leith and Renna.

This is the Lost Stories of Acktar and I love it. It bridges the gap between the early part of the series and what the rest of the series will be. It has stories about establishing the Blades as they should have been, and Keevan and Leith's confrontation and reconciliation. Because it is difficult when your cousin marries your would-be-murderer, but while I totally understand where Keevan's coming from, I'm still with Leith, not Keevan. The relationship between the two families is interesting for sure. And so is the political climate of Acktar.

I love seeing Leith and Renna with their kids. It's sweet and beautiful. But things aren't exactly peaceful in Acktar, so Leith has to be both father and Blade Marshall. And Renna has to be Lady Grayce/Torren as well as mother. And try to pay as little in taxes as possible. XD But I probably shouldn't say any more. Read it for yourself. Because Acktar is pretty awesome and if you love Ilyon, you'll love it too.

Haven’t discovered the The Blades of Acktar yet? Find out more at on the official Blades of Acktar page.

Meet the Authors

Jaye L. Knight is an award-winning author, homeschool graduate, and shameless tea addict with a passion for Christian fantasy. Armed with an active imagination and love for adventure, Jaye weaves stories of truth, faith, and courage with the message that even in the deepest darkness, God’s love shines as a light to offer hope. She has been penning stories since the age of eight and resides in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

You can connect with Jaye on her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Etsy.

Tricia Mingerink is a twenty-something, book-loving, horse-riding country girl. She lives in Michigan with her family and their pack of pets. When she isn't writing, she can be found pursuing backwoods adventures across the country.

You can connect with Tricia on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

*  *  *

Giveaway


Share in the excitement of the release and enter to win a full signed set of the Ilyon Chronicles and The Blades of Acktar!  (Giveaway is open to US residents only. Cannot be shipped internationally.)

Be sure to stop by each of the character chats (links in the blog tour schedule) for additional giveaways throughout the tour!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Top Ten Books of 2018

It's that time of year again! The time when I make the brutally hard decision of how to rank all the books I've read this year. (And I feel sorry for the books that get read in the second half of December because they don't have a chance. So sorry, Redeeming Love and Children of Jubilee.) I've managed to rank them decently...and I'm just so glad I've set the precedent to count a series as one listing. Looking at you, Ranger's Apprentice. Also, I've excluded rereads, since I figured it wasn't fair to the new books that I love The Hunger Games trilogy and some of the Time Quintet books enough to read/listen to them again. It was a hard ranking, as I've read so many good books this year, but here goes.

10. Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

I discovered this book when a patron called the library asking to put it on hold. I’m a Narnia nut (just ask my family and friends), so I got on the list after her. I actually just recently read it (in just a couple days) and really enjoyed it. I didn't know a ton about Joy beyond the basic facts, so I loved seeing who she was as a person. Now, this is a novel, not a biography, so it's Patti Callahan's interpretation of Joy. The author's note indicates it is well researched, though one of the "C.S. Lewis" quotes can only be found in the movie of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, so take it how you will. The biographical facts lined up with what I'd read previously. This is an adult book, and I wouldn't recommend it to younger readers due to the discussion of Bill Gresham's adultery and Joy's own failings in the area of purity, but I thought it was handled fairly well. And I'm a huge fan of C.S. Lewis, so if a book gives me more of him and doesn't slander his character—which it doesn't—I'm all in. (No, he was not a good person before his conversion, and that is referenced. But I've read Surprised By Joy, and I know lost people act like lost people. Obviously.)

9. Love Defined by Bethany Baird (Beal) and Kristen Clark

As a side note, Bethany was still Bethany Baird when the book came out, but she's since gotten married.

I've been following the Girl Defined blog for a few years now, and learned a lot from Kristen and Bethany. This book was a great big-sister-to-little-sister discussion on the "fairy tale facade," crushes, true love, biblical marriage, being "just friends" with guys, being unequally yoked, qualities to look for in a husband—meaning biblical principles and mutual life callings—red flags, advice from married women, and more. It's a great and informative read for women of all ages. And I love their approach. It's not rules-based. It's more of a "these were our failings and here's what God taught us through His word and wise people in our lives, and we want to share it with you so you can avoid some of our mistakes." I always enjoy Kristen and Bethany's stuff.

8. Palace of Mirrors by Margaret Peterson Haddix 

It took me awhile to actually read this one because I wasn't a big fan of Just Ella, but once I picked it up, I wondered why I'd waited so long. I went on a Haddix kick earlier this year while sick with a bad cold, and this was one I owned that I hadn't read. It's soooooo much better than Just Ella. Cecilia has always been told that she is the true princess and Desmia who sits on the throne is the decoy to keep her safe. So when things go awry at home, Cecilia and her best friend/sort-of-boyfriend Harper set out for the castle to take her place. But things don't exactly go the way she thinks they will. Lots of palace intrigue and danger, and an ending I didn't exactly expect, and I loved it. Margaret Peterson Haddix is a pretty awesome author and I always (with only Just Ella as the exception) absolutely love her books. But I have to say, it really messed me up to read about a boy named Harper as that's the little girl who lives next door.

7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This was a family read-aloud and we all really enjoyed it. Everyone acts like the book is all about the trial, but that's really a small portion of the book. I blame the movie, since they deal with the trial through the whole thing, rearranging all the events. It's really more about growing up. The trial is important, yes, as it's a part of the climax and it's the reason Boo Radley has to save them, but it's more about Scout growing up. It's a classic story, and I loved it. So good. I've got to say, though, when Dill was like "Scout, we should get ourselves a baby" I was just like, "uh...where is this going?" Kids are crazy. XD

6. Wonder by R.J. Palacio

I'm ashamed that I didn't read this until the movie came out. But in my defense, I wanted to read it long before that, and I just didn't want to read the tattered, stained, old copy the library had. I waited for the crisp, clean, new, movie cover copy. But enough about that. This is the story of Auggie Pullman, a 5th grader with a severe facial deformity, and all the lives he touches. He faces bullying, he faces the involuntary horror of practically everyone who sees him, he faces betrayal, he faces the ordinary hardships that come when your beloved dog gets old and sick, he faces the normal difficulties of middle school, complicated by his face. It's just such a good story. At the point when I read it (before I discovered Ranger's Apprentice), it was my favorite book of the year. It's so sweet, so meaningful, and one of those stories that will always stay with you. And the movie was pretty good too.

5. When God Writes Your Love Story by Eric and Leslie Ludy

This is another one of those books I'd wanted to read for a long time, but only got to it this year. I hadn't had access to it, but Christmas money! It's probably the best purity/relationships book I've read. Honestly, though, I get the impression that these things are the things the others are trying to say, the Ludys just say it better. Just like in When God Writes Your Life Story, their whole thing is to let God direct your life. They cover the same kinds of topics like waiting on God for the right one instead of dating all the people, purity being greater than just the technical externals, and more. And they do it in such a having-a-heart-for-God focused way, which I think a lot of others don't do as well at explaining, thus causing all the "purity movement" revolts these days. The Ludys' focus is clear. Letting God direct your life. Surrendering to Him, even if it means being single for now or forever. No formulas, just following God as He leads. And I love how it's written by a married couple. It's fantastic.

4. No Chance Meeting by Jaye Elliot (Jaye L. Knight)

She hasn't released the cover yet, so sowwy. She's hoping for a release next year, and I got to beta it! This is Jaye L. Knight's contemporary romance which she's publishing under the name Jaye Elliot. I'm just going to have to tell you about what's in the official description because I'm not sure how much she wants out there yet, but it's about an artist named Alex Jennings who has struggled with her faith ever since her brother was killed in Iraq and just wants the pain to end. There's also Riley Conrad, who is home from the military, scraping up a living from his bartending job when he really want to open a coffee shop. And the story is about what happens when they meet. This isn't your fluffy, Hallmark Channel romance. This is a deep, real, raw story about hurting people finding their way back to God. Not a big surprise if you've read Ilyon Chronicles. No Chance Meeting is a great book, and I can't wait for it to be shared with the world.

3. Decree by Tricia Mingerink

It's coming next week, people! I love ARCs. I'll have a more detailed review next week, but for now, this is basically The Lost Stories of Acktar. It's a collection of short stories and novellas relating to The Blades of Acktar. Some tell backstory, like about little Leith and how Leith and Martyn met. Most of the rest are about what happens after Deliver. And it's setting up for more Acktar books! Seeing Leith with his kids is just about the best. I probably shouldn't say too much more so I don't spoil next week's review, but it was good. It was very, very good.

2. Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan

I know you knew this one was coming. Ranger's Apprentice is one of the best things I've read all year and I can't rave about it enough! Especially considering I wrote a four-part review of the series... But seriously, Will and Halt and Horace and all the rest are so awesome, and I don't care if John Flanagan's worldbuilding is kinda lazy because his characters are beyond amazing. I probably shouldn't rehash my long review too much, but I want to be a Ranger, Will is the best, I hate it when John Flanagan kills characters I like, Halt's backstory is just wow, and I can't believe I have to wait until May 28 for Duel at Araluen! You can read my reviews here, here, here, and here.

1. Bitter Winter and Lacy by Jaye L. Knight

Yes, I'm doing these together. And also they'll get more detailed reviews in my blog tour post next week. Bitter Winter is the next installment in the ever amazing Ilyon Chronicles. The winter is extreme. They're running out of food. We know it's only a matter of time until camp gets found. And then people get deathly sick. And the only people with the cure are the queen and a smuggler. Jace is desperate. Soooooo desperate. So desperate he's in danger of doing something he'll regret the rest of his life. It's such a good book. And then there's Lacy, because Aaron met a girl. :) That one I only recommend for older readers, but it's SO. GOOD. Such a great message. But again, more on that next week for the blog tour.

So many good books this year! You can see my full reading list for the year on Goodreads. What are your favorite books that you've read this year?

Monday, December 3, 2018

Ranger's Apprentice Series Review Part 4

 
Now that Carrie Mouse is out, I'm going to finish up my Ranger's Apprentice series review. And now that Duel at Araluen fiiiiiiiiiiinally has a US release date that isn't until the end of May even though it just came out in Australia. I can't wait for the next book. Like, there was such a cliffhanger at the end of Red Fox Clan and I need the next book!

The books I'm reviewing today are basically the spinoff series. (Brotherband is more of a companion series with crossovers with Ranger's Apprentice.) There's The Early Years about when Halt and Crowley kick Morgarath out of Araluen, and Royal Ranger which is about the next generation. If you haven't read the series up to book 11 and don't want to know who Will and Horace marry, don't read any further, because the premise of Royal Ranger depends largely on the heritage of the new next generation character...and unfortunately on what happens to a certain main character's wife. It's pretty important to the plot. But first, The Early Years.


This story picks up right after The Hibernian—the story from The Lost Stories where Halt and Crowley met. The king is at Gorlan under Morgarath's "protection" which we all know means he's a prisoner, Prince Duncan is supposedly raiding Araluen villages, and the Ranger Corp is scattered, the real Rangers replaced with severely incompetent untrained followers of Morgarath.

Halt and Crowley have to round up all the good Rangers, find out what's really going on with Duncan and save Araluen. And be hilarious while they're at it. Seriously, Crowley's first decision as Ranger Commandant is absolutely the best. Because Halt hates music and doesn't understand poetic license, so Crowley has to make an executive decision on song lyrics. I was laughing so hard.

It's one of those books that you're like, "This is all backstory, I know what's going to happen," but you get to the end and you really enjoyed it anyway. Because the characters are awesome and you want to know how they take care of Morgarath and how Duncan becomes king and everything. And seeing Halt meet Pauline. It's so awesome. And yet it takes him 20 years to propose! *shrugs* It's because he's afraid of her. I loved this book.


They may have gotten Morgarath to retreat out of Araluen and the Ranger Corp may be reestablished, albeit small, but the battle that took the life of Will's father hasn't taken place yet, so there's more.

Morgarath is learning to control the Wargals, and he's planning to attack Araluen. Duncan's wife is pregnant with Cassandra and we know since Cassandra's mother isn't in the picture for the main series, chances are she'll die. And you know that this is the time when Halt meets Will's parents and sees them both die, so he has to take baby Will to Redmont. It doesn't rehash that battle since Halt already told all about it in The Lost Stories, so I guess that's good. But we do get to see Halt asking Pauline what to do with Will, his tiny pie thief son. ;) We also get to see twelve-year-old Gilan in this book. :) I love baby Gilan. And there was Crowley's total ignorance about infants. It was a good book. I want more early years, but from what I can tell, there probably won't be.


Originally it was just The Royal Ranger, but then John Flanagan decided he had more stories to tell about Maddie.

It's been about fifteen years since the last story in The Lost Stories. Will's all depressed and in serious danger of getting himself kicked out of the Ranger Corp because of Alyss's death. He's ignoring his commandant and bent on revenge. And also not cleaning his cabin or making his bed. All through the book, he reminded me of Last Jedi Luke. Only unlike Luke, we get old Will back at the end of the book and it's okay again, whereas Luke died. I'm still not over that.

Then there's Maddie, Horace and Cassandra's teenage daughter who sneaks out of the castle at night to go hunting. She's spoiled and not a very obedient girl. And Cassandra's at the end of her rope with Maddie. Horace, well, Maddie has him wrapped around her little finger. Halt and Gilan are at the end of their rope with Will. So they have an intervention. They need Will to train Maddie as a Ranger to get her under control.

In a way, it's similar to The Ruins of Gorlan in that it goes back to the roots of Ranger training, but yet it's very different. A lot of people hate it because of Alyss, but I really liked it. I like Maddie, and I like, well, how Will is at the end. And I like the promise of more Ranger's Apprentice. One thing I really like about Maddie is how much of both her parents you can see in her while she's still her own person. I consider it good writing.
 
And by the way, Will Treaty, you can't get onto Henry Wheeler for the bad fake name of Henry Carrier and then go change your name to William Accord. XD Gotta love Will.


And here we come to the most recent (in the US) release that leaves you on a cliffhanger. I wouldn't say it's the best book in the series, and there's not a whole lot of Will and Halt, but I did enjoy it. Maddie's assessment at the beginning was good, and I love Gilan and Will needling Halt about his haircut.

Maddie has to go home to visit her parents for a month—because everyone's scared of Cassandra, so no matter what, Maddie is visiting her mother. Halt and Will are going to check out something with the Red Fox Clan, and Horace and Gilan are going off somewhere else to deal with other Red Fox Clan rumors. And Maddie has to stay home with her mother as everyone else is dealing with this group who thinks Araluen shouldn't have female heirs and wants to usurp the throne.

Most of the book isn't especially exciting, but it's very important setup. And, well, Maddie is bored with palace life, so she's exploring. Trying to  find something interesting to do. And she does. She really does. Horace and Gilan have a storyline in this book. I enjoyed their storyline, but I didn't feel like it got as deep into it as it could have. I do have high hopes for Duel at Araluen though. Can't wait. It'll be especially interesting as it will feature the Heron brotherband. They showed up briefly in Red Fox Clan, but they'll be a bigger factor in the next book. 

And then hopefully even more Royal Ranger books!

I just wish I didn't have to wait until the end of May!

Monday, November 26, 2018

Christmastime is Here!



It's Christmastime! Yes, this post is late...with Thanksgiving and all, I forgot to write up a post. Oops. 

I really love this song, and Charlie Brown, and I'm enjoying teaching this song to one of my piano students, and I'm really excited about the Charlie Brown float we're putting together for the library's participation in our local Christmas parade this Friday. It's going to be awesome. I'll have to post some pictures when it's done.

Speaking of the library...

http://www.sequoyahregionallibrary.org/event/childrens-author-storytime-workshop/2018-12-01/

Rebekah and I are doing a program this Saturday at the Ball Ground Library. We're really excited about it. We'll be reading the book and learning to sculpt Carrie, so it's going to be great. If you're in the area, you're more than welcome to come. Registration is recommended, but not required, so if you want to register, just call 770-735-2025.

Looking forward in December, there's a blog tour coming up! In just a few weeks, I'll be posting my reviews for Bitter Winter and Lacy by Jaye L. Knight and Decree by Tricia Mingerink. They're all absolutely fabulous books, and you're going to have to read them when they come out...assuming you've read previous books in the two series. These aren't books to start on. But both series are fabulous, so read them. And because it's getting to the end of the year, my top ten books of the year post will be coming. That's going to be hard to narrow down. I've read a lot of great books this year. Good thing I've set a precedent of counting all the books in a series as one. Because you'd better believe Ranger's Apprentice is going to be on the list.

And finally, because it's after Thanksgiving now, even though I didn't participate in Black Friday sales this year, all my ebooks are $0.99 for Christmas! So hop over to Amazon and check it out! And don't forget, Creighton Hill is available as an eaudiobook for just $13 on Amazon. eAudiobooks are awesome, just sayin'. I've mostly done them through Overdrive/Libby, but I absolutely love being able to download an audiobook to my phone and carry it around with me. And you can do that for Creighton Hill now.

So Merry Christmas! I need to go plan music and work at the library and practice my Christmas songs for the performance at the mall Sunday afternoon and hopefully work on Acktorek because I'm coming to the climax and my family won't let me chicken out from the hard ending I planned, so that'll be fun. See you later!

Monday, November 19, 2018

Christopher Robin Review

Our church "camp-out" was the weekend before last. I say "camp-out" because it was cold. Like, literally freezing most of the time—it was 20 degrees below the average for the time of year, and warm before and after that particular weekend, so go figure. We managed to get in a hike, but then spent most of the rest of the time hanging out in the cabin playing games, reading books, singing songs, (having an impromptu ballet lesson), and after dinner and s'mores we had hot chocolate and watched Christopher Robin.

Let me first say that I absolutely loved it!

It's a similar concept to Hook: a popular children's character leaves his childhood play, grows up, gets married, has a family, becomes a workaholic, needs his childhood fantasies to become more of a family man. But that's really where the similarities stop. Because Hook was a fun, funny movie ("Mommy could do it!") and Christopher Robin is just so sweet and nostalgic. Robin Williams was a funny guy, which was perfect for Peter Pan. But Ewan McGregor is...I don't know how to describe it exactly, but I thought he made a perfect Christopher Robin. Of course, I could be biased because he plays my favorite Star Wars character, young Obi-Wan, but anyway.

On a side note, this is the story of how Obi-Wan Kenobi married Peggy Carter and the "expotition" that ensued.

The beginning made me weepy, as Christopher Robin has to leave the Hundred Acre Wood to go to boarding school. It shows you his life as he grows up, meets his wife Evelyn, goes away to war while Evelyn is pregnant with their daughter Madeline, and then the war ends and he comes home.

After WWII, Christopher Robin works at a luggage company, but the problem is, they need to make significant cuts to their budget or they'll be laying off lots of employees. Christopher Robin can't let that happen, so he's constantly sacrificing family time for work. To the extent of never really spending time with Evelyn or Madeline, to the extent of Madeline herself working constantly and never playing because that's what she thinks will please her father, to the extent of Evelyn telling Christopher that she hasn't seen him smile in years. And that's why Christopher Robin needs Winnie the Pooh.

Honestly, I loved how easy it was for Christopher Robin to believe it really was Pooh. It wasn't really "Pooh isn't real." It was more "Pooh, what are you doing here?" He had to get Pooh back to the Hundred Acre Wood on a weekend where things were coming to a head and he had to get in a budget-cutting proposal or a bunch of people would lose their jobs. But it turned out that a visit to the Hundred Acre Wood, a reunion with all his old friends, a fight with a Heffalump, and actually putting his family first was exactly what he needed to defeat the Woozle that was going to eat him for breakfast if he didn't have his very important papers. ;) And he had to slow down and realize that "Nothing comes from nothing" isn't really true. "Sometimes nothing leads to the very best of somethings."

The movie is funny, but in a sweet, nostalgic sort of way. Like when Eeyore tells Christopher Robin, who he thinks is a Heffalump, "Thanks for kidnapping me." And when the others all go "Not the song!" when Tigger is about to tell Madeline what a Tigger is. And Evelyn's reaction when Christopher Robin is explaining to her who all the animals are. And it's just so sweet and wonderful seeing all the old characters, so much themselves, so perfect. I love Pooh and Piglet and Tigger and Eeyore and Rabbit and Owl and Kanga and Roo. It's so good to see them again.

I don't want to say too much more for the sake of spoilers, but just know that it was a wonderful movie. If you ever loved Winnie the Pooh, watch Christopher Robin.

P.S. So much of the beginning was taken directly from the end of The House at Pooh Corner. It's so sweet and sad.

Monday, November 12, 2018

A Time Captives Wedding

A conversation with my sisters the other day reminded me of a Jilliel (Jill/Adriel) short story I wrote nearly three years ago (is it crazy that Jan. 2016 is nearly three years ago or what?) that gives them something of a happy ending. I hadn't thought about this short story in quite awhile, but I quite enjoyed it when I dug it back up and read it to my sisters. It's not 100% canon because I don't really want Jill to never see her family again and I haven't figured out how that all works, but it's pretty canon. A canon ship anyway. ;) Enjoy!

Mild spoilers for The Crossways and Crannig Castle

     Adriel straightened up from hoeing the garden. He had to admit a sense of pride in this little plot of land that was his own. He felt a joy at seeing the little sprouts of green poking up through the mounds of dirt. In all his years of growing up, he never would have dreamed that he would one day enjoy the work that was the rue of his years. What a change ten years of freedom had wrought in him.
     “Adriel, would you like some water?” Rae came across the grassy field between the cottage and the house, an earthen pitcher in her hands. She barely contained the usual spring in her step in an effort to deliver the pitcher unspilt. “It’s fresh from the well.”
     “Certainly. Thank you, Rae.” He took the filled dipper she held out to him and drank deeply. He cast a glance back at his youngest sister. She rocked back and forth excitedly on her feet. “What is it?”
     She shrugged, though her eyes sparkled. “Ariella and Connor are coming to dinner, and so are Jaysen and Julee.”
     He cocked an eyebrow at her. “What about Jacob?”
     A blush suffused her cheeks. “He is.”
     Jacob was an apprentice glassmaker who had come to Crannig Castle for his apprenticeship nearly a year ago. He and Rae had taken to each other quite soon after their meeting. It was strange to think of his baby sister being at an age where she was eligible for suitors, but after all, she was sixteen.
     Adriel wiped the last drops of water from his face and handed the dipper back to Rae. “You know I approve.”
     She smiled shyly. “I know. But I’m still young yet. You’re practically an old bachelor. When are you going to be married? I need some more nieces and nephews.”
     He looked away into the distance, studying the rolling hills as he decided how to answer. “One of these days. It has to be the exact right girl. I don’t think I’ve seen her around here yet.” He turned back to his sister, who now wore a pensive expression.
     “I suppose you’re right. Don’t take too much more time out here. Mom will want you cleaned up before the others arrive.”
     Adriel smiled as he watched Rae return to the house. Those long months of separation when he could do nothing to protect her still haunted him, as did the circumstances surrounding her rescue, but she seemed no worse for it. She was still the sweet, innocent spirit she had been in those days, now matured into a young woman. He was not sure how much he could say for himself on that score. He had matured much since the days of the Time Captives, put much guilt behind him, but he never seemed to be able to move past all that had happened. The events of those days still clung to him as if they were yesterday, more so as time went on rather than less.
     He mopped his sweaty brow and returned to hoeing the weeds.
    
~
    
     “Cake!” Jaysen’s eldest, a lad of six, clapped gleefully as Adriel’s mother produced a large chocolate cake from the cupboard.
     “Only a small piece, William,” Jaysen warned.
     “But we’re at Grandma’s house.” The little boy turned puppy dog eyes to his grandmother.
     “No, William,” Alaina, Ariella’s seven year old eldest reproved her young cousin. “Your daddy said a small one.”
     Adriel smiled at the children’s exchange, but his gaze wandered out the window of the snug little cottage. The sun was just beginning to sink behind the trees, sending streaks of orange and pink across the sky. Rae had taught him to see the beauty in Creation, his faith had allowed him to embrace and enjoy it. Yet something always seemed missing, as if someone ought to be there to enjoy it with him, someone who could not be there.
     He hardly noticed when Nola set a slice of cake down in front of him. A figure had appeared just on this side of the trees, and he felt strangely drawn to it. “Excuse me.” He pushed back his chair and exited the cottage, nearly entirely oblivious to the astonished glances his family sent his way.
     The figure was a slender, girlish figure, traversing the distance between her and the cottage. Adriel hastened towards her. Strange though it was, he had never dreamed of ever being so anxious to meet an unidentified young woman, he could not prevent himself from closing the distance between them as quickly as he could.
     When her features became clear, his heart leaped in his chest. She was older, but still unmistakable. “Jill!”
     “Adriel? They said your cottage was north of the castle…” But she got no further for they had at last closed the gap between them and he had enveloped her in his arms.
     This was what had always been missing. This was why he could so rarely get the Time Captives out of his mind. This was why no other girl had ever caught his fancy. This girl in his arms, this was right. This was how it was supposed to be. This was where she belonged.
     He looked down into the smiling, upturned face that had imprinted itself so irrevocably on his memory so many years ago. “However are you here? You really are here, aren’t you?”
     “I am. It was the strangest thing. I was bringing a box of Joey’s old things up to the attic, he still won’t keep his things tidy, and some writing appeared in the old place on the wall where it had ten years ago. It said:
    
     “‘You left your heart in Calhortz and now you must return,
     If you forever stay here, you will forever yearn.
     The chance you have been given, to make your dreams come true,
     Now return to Calhortz, to the one who waits for you.’
    
     “I wrote a note to my family telling them what had happened and where I had gone. I don’t know if I’ll ever see them again, but I knew I had to go through the portal when it opened. What it said was true: I did leave my heart here…and I left it with you.”
     Tears glistened in Jill’s eyes. Adriel couldn’t tell if they were happy or sad, he suspected a bit of both.
     He cleared his throat, but his voice still came out husky when he spoke. “I couldn’t say it when I was fourteen, but I have to say it now. I love you, Jill. I think I’ve loved you ever since that first trip on the Andaron. And I’ve missed you so much these last ten years. I hate that you left your family behind, but I’m more than grateful that God provided a way for you to return. You’re my first friend, and still my best friend. And…it may be too soon to ask it, but…Jill, will you marry me?”
     Her smile grew even bigger at his words. “Yes, Adriel. Of course I will.”
    
~
    
     His mother had insisted they wait a few months, get reacquainted with one another, give Adriel time to establish his own farm, but finally the day was here. The day upon which they would become man and wife.
     In the absence of any members of Jill’s family, King Joseph himself had agreed to do the honors of giving her away. It was not every common farmer who had the royal family at his small outdoor country wedding, but it did not seem a bit unusual to Adriel, nor did it matter to him. The only thing on his mind today was Jill.
     He scarcely breathed as she came to meet him on Joseph’s arm. She was just so beautiful. She was, to him, perfection. This first friend of his, the one who as a young girl had led him to Christ, the one who had been so kind to him at his worst…in moments, she would be his wife.
     They spoke their wedding vows deep from the heart. Always would he protect and cherish her. He had more of a duty to her than he ever had towards Rae, and he would never fail as long as there was life left in his body.
     Finally, the minister spoke the words he had been longing to hear since Jill’s return: “You may now kiss the bride.”
     Adriel gathered his new wife into his arms and kissed her. When he pulled away, he could see that she was smiling.
    
~
    
     They danced together under the cloudless blue sky, creating new memories that outshone the wonderful dances at the Christmas victory celebration at the close of the war, though cherished the memory of those dances had been. Those had been tainted with the foreboding of departure, these were anointed with the knowledge that never again would they have to be apart.
     Finally, the reception drew to a close. Adriel took her hand and led her around his mother’s cottage.
     “I have a surprise for you.”
     “What sort of surprise?”
     “You’ll see in a minute.” He took great delight in echoing the words she had used in preparing him to reunite with his family.
     But now they were in sight of Twyla, the dragon that had saved his skin so many times, the faithful dragon that would now bear them away to their own home. “I haven’t taken you up yet,” Adriel said. “I wanted this to be your first time.”
     “Thank you, Adriel. I can’t wait.”
     He lifted her up onto Twyla’s back, then climbed up behind her. He kissed her again before directing Twyla to begin her flight.
     They rose up above the cottage, into the sight of their friends and family. Loud cheers hailed them. Jill and Adriel waved to their guests, just before Twyla swooped away to carry them to their new home.

Monday, November 5, 2018

King Arthur--BBC's Merlin

I'm doing a favorite character post today. I'm tired out from book release stuff, work, teaching, headaches, and not having much writing time even though I really want to write my books, so I'm not thinking of a whole lot of post topics. Plus Merlin makes me happy, though we're coming down to the end and I hate the end.



My favorite character in Merlin is Prince/King Arthur. I love saying that as I show someone the first episode. Arthur starts out as such an arrogant brat. He's so inconsiderate, he only thinks of himself, he's rude, he's domineering...but underneath, he has a good heart. It's in the first season actually that he first defies his father and risks his life to save Merlin, even though Uther insists that Arthur's life is worth more than that of a servant. Arthur is very insistent throughout the show that he is not of more value than his people.

Arthur grows up so much throughout the show. It's such a gradual change that you almost don't notice until you're at the end and start looking back. He goes through so much.

He fights with his father when his father is trying to get him to do something wrong. This happens increasingly as Arthur matures and becomes more sensitive to his people...and starts spending more time around Gwen and Merlin. Yet he still respects his father. He still loves him. He still wants to make him proud. And I love how Arthur can stay strong for the truth while still trying to be a dutiful son. It's a hard balance, but he does his best.

Arthur goes through heartbreak when he loses his father. (We were all so ready for Uther to die, but it's still sad for Arthur's sake—and it isn't a spoiler because it's King Arthur legends, not King Uther legends, so obviously his father has to die.) He goes through betrayal when he realizes his uncle Agravaine has been working against him and trying to destroy his kingdom (also not a spoiler because you see in his first episode that he's working with the main villain). You see Arthur go through betrayal again when Guinevere/Lancelot happens (again not a spoiler because if you know anything about Arthurian legend, then duh...what's a spoiler is how they handle it in the show). And it matures him. It helps him become the king he's meant to be. It makes him more loyal and dedicated to his people. It refines his discernment of right and wrong and strengthens his resolve to always do what's right. It displays his enormous capacity for forgiveness and forgetting others' wrongs. It turns him into a true leader.

I love how by seasons 4 and 5, Arthur regularly owns up to his mistakes and is willing to take the consequences. If he did something wrong—either recently or in the past—he owns up to it and insists on making it right himself. I love how much more sensitive he is to Merlin. Sure, he still picks on him from time to time, like any good brother, but he notices when something's bothering Merlin and asks him about it. When he's having trouble making a decision, he asks for Merlin's advice. Yes, the king's manservant, trusted advisor, and best friend are all the same person. I love how devoted he is to Gwen, despite all that happened between them. How he trusts her judgment without even questioning it.

I love watching the character arc. It's very well done, and as a writer I appreciate it. But what I love most is the king Arthur becomes. A king who is a true leader. A king who always tries to do what's right, even if it means admitting he made a mistake. A king who is honest and loyal, even though he's been betrayed many times over. A king who is willing to lay down his life for his people. And a king who's also quite hilarious at times.

Arthur Pendragon.