Monday, May 25, 2020

Perspective: A Guest Post

My mom has been doing a lot of genealogical research lately, and one ancestor in particular, Nancy Regina Davis Pool, has really stood out to us. She had a tragic life, but she handled it with grace (and I very much want to write a novel about her someday). My mom's been talking about how learning about Regina's life (that branch of the family all went by their middle names) really gives a new perspective on these times we're living in. So I told her she could write a guest post for my blog. Here it is!

by Melissa Huneke

During this crazy and unsettling time dealing with the coronavirus and all of its associated fear, I have spent a lot of time looking into family history. It all started before the lockdowns, because I wanted to gather whatever information I needed to join the Daughters of the American Revolution, but because it is fascinating to find out where you came from, it became a much needed diversion from the news of the day. 

I know you shouldn’t choose favorites among your relatives, but the more I dug into my family, especially the connections leading to the DAR, the more I have been drawn to the story of my third great grandma, Nancy Regina Davis Pool. I’ve known about Nancy Regina (known as Regina) most of my life, because the family Bible from her life with her first husband, George Washington Pool, passed down through the eldest or only sons and has been at my grandparents’ house my whole life. It was pulled out every so often and we were shown various clippings, letters and documents that Nancy Regina saved. 

I had lost my copies of scans of the Bible documents due to a hard drive failure over 15 years ago, but during this time of family research, my uncle sent me the documents again. The more I read of what Regina saved, the more I like her, and the more my perspective on our current circumstances changes. 

Nancy Regina was born in 1854, the eldest child of John W. Davis and Mary E. (Baughn) Davis. Her grandparents (James and Mary Ann Davis) were founding members of the Brush Creek Baptist Church in Jennings County, Indiana, and donated the land where the church was built. Her father was apparently the last deacon of the church (according to a newspaper clipping.) 

Regina married George Washington Pool in 1873. Her first child, William Henry, was born in 1874. Her second son, John Harvey (my 2nd great grandpa) was born in 1876, followed by her only daughter, Elizabeth Pearl, in 1878. In November of 1879, George W. died of “fever malarias.” She was pregnant with her fourth child, George Everett, born in February of 1880. 

Widowed at 25, with four children, in 1880, could not have been an easy life. She didn’t remarry until 1901, at age 47, so she raised her kids alone, presumably with the help of her parents and her church. As if being a widow with four children wasn’t enough to bear, more sorrow and tragedy came into her life. In 1888, little 9 year old Pearl Pool caught fire when home alone from an accident while building a fire in the stove. She lived about a week after the accident. Then her oldest son died in 1893, at age 18, of unknown causes, after being unconscious one morning for several hours. 

Newspaper clippings and letters Regina saved tell us a lot about how she approached her sad and tragic life. A sympathy letter she saved after the death of her daughter urges her not to blame herself for the tragedy, and states this: “You may wonder why this great grief should come upon you when your(?) going on quietly, doing the best you could for yourself and your children, as harming no one. Remember, my dear friend, God’s ways are so far above our ways, and his thoughts above our thoughts, that we can not understand much of what he permits, to come upon us, as also the many things he designs for us…your little Pearl is safe come what may. Satan hath no power to reach her where she is, or in any way mar her happiness. I dare say you would not now, if you could bring her back from her world of joy, even though you know she would make just the kind of a woman you would wish. You would not want her to taste as many of life’s trials as have touched your own lips(or life)….I know your own Christian experience is such that you are willing to accept God’s dealings even if you cannot understand them…” 

Articles saved from after the death of her oldest son show that she raised her kids in a Christian home. This is an excerpt from Willie’s obituary: “Wm. H. Pool, of Butlerville, Ind., a young man of promise and an earnest follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, passed suddenly from his labors here to his reward on high May 25, 1893, in the nineteenth year of his age. When but a boy, Willie was bereft of his father, but being the oldest of the family, he applied his youthful mind with almost the energy and skill of riper years, to make home and his widowed mother and his little brothers just as pleasant and as comfortable as possible. He was the staff to the household and more, he was a devoted Christian, having given his heart to Jesus at the early age of 13 and since honored his profession by his godly walk in the world. His people are grieved sorely as well as his many friends, over whom he exerted so noble an influence, but they sorrow not as they have no hope, for in that sweet by-and-by we expect to meet him again.” Another news article reporting his death states this: “His death occurred just at eight o’clock last Friday morning after an illness of but three hours, during which time he was never conscious. Willie was a model young man but 18 years of age and a prominent and consistent member of the Baptist church here and as we believe died triumphant.” 

By this time, only two sons survived, John Harvey and George Everett. Newspaper clippings Regina saved indicate that George Everett moved to Illinois and was involved in evangelism as part of the Volunteers of America, which was similar to the Salvation Army. When Everett came home to visit, the newspaper reported this: “They held a nice service on our streets Sunday evening, there being no services at the local churches. The use of the church building was offered them, but they preferred the outdoor auditorium and had a good hearing.” The newspaper also reported on another gathering when Everett was in town: “Everett Pool and wife and Harvey Pool and wife, assisted by local talent, held a gospel street meeting at the Brogan-Perkins corner Saturday evening.” (Note—notice nearly everyone in this family goes by their middle names. My grandpa and great grandpa also went by their middle names. I guess it’s a thing in our family.) 

Nancy Regina passed away in 1927. Her son, John Harvey (my great great grandpa), passed away in 1936. His obituary states the following: “He was one of the faithful workers in the Rodney church and all its activities, having been a teacher for several years. The weather was never too bad or the nights too dark for him to go with his family to his church services. He was a kind and helpful neighbor, a devoted father to his children and a true and faithful companion.” 

What, you may ask, does this have to do with our present circumstances? Not a lot, really, until you look at the bigger picture and compare Nancy Regina’s life and circumstances to how we live today. She lost her husband, daughter, and son, all in unpredictable ways. She could have retreated into bitterness and fear, but by all evidence we have before us, she lived every day of her life in the knowledge that God is the one who gives us as many days as He has ordained, and it isn’t something she needed to fret about. All she could do is live a faithful life and pass along her faith to her children. It is obvious she did so, from what evidence she left in what she chose to save in the family Bible. 

I look at her very tragic life and the way she kept going and I wonder why I should be afraid of this virus or any other illness. We have more advanced medical treatments at our disposal, but still, even with all that, God has ordained my days, and I have to make the most of the days he has given me. I have a much easier life today than Nancy Regina did, and have not experienced anywhere near the traumas and trials she experienced. I truly believe when Regina died, God said, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And so, she has become one of my favorite ancestors (although my dear grandma will always be at the top of the list...I look up to them both for similar reasons.) May we all look to examples like Nancy Regina and put our lives into an eternal perspective.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

I Wrote a Fanfic!

Just popping in for a moment to share that I posted a fanfic for the first time over the weekend! It's not the Star Wars sequel trilogy fix-it I mentioned before—that one's still slowly getting planned between working on Acktorek, Carrie Mouse, etc.—but it's still Star Wars, inspired by Secrets of the Jedi by Jude Watson, which has been my favorite Star Wars book since I was about fourteen.

It's about Obi-Wan Kenobi's relationship (or rather, non-relationship) with fellow Jedi Siri Tachi, but from Siri's perspective as she reflects on it through the years. It's heartbreaking, but that's their story. Jedi love is always doomed, I guess. Anyway, I enjoyed writing it, so I hope you'll enjoy reading it!

Monday, May 18, 2020

Misfortune Review

Kendra E. Ardnek has a new story out and it's a Rapunzel retelling!

Tagline: Is the safety of a country worth the sacrifice of one girl - even if she is the daughter of blood and misfortune?

Book Description: 
A Twist of Adventure #4 

The day she was born, her kingdom fell, and so she was branded the daughter of blood and misfortune and locked away. Now a dragon plagues the land and her curse may be the only thing that stops it. 

But is she really cursed? 

Explore the rest of the series! Amazon || Goodreads


This was a very interesting take on Rapunzel. It's set sort of during the book of Daniel, there's a definite reference to Babel, and there's not really a whole lot in the way of magic. So it wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but that's not a bad thing.

The way it's written, it really feels like a proper fairy tale. A baby girl was born the day the kingdom was attacked and her father and brothers killed. Her mother called her "the daughter of blood and misfortune" and didn't even give her a real name. Later, Prince Delshad is given a terrible task to execute, and he's not sure he can do it. And he's pretty sure it's not the right thing to do.

This story is pretty short, but it doesn't really feel like anything's missing, and I did feel like I got to know the characters as much as the length allows. Delshad is a good guy and I really feel for the girl. Poor thing. And the way the Rapunzel elements are woven in felt neat and unique to me. All in all, an enjoyable read.

About the Author:
Kendra E. Ardnek is the self-proclaimed Arista of Fairy Tales. She lives in the Piney Woods of East Texas with her dragon babies and massive herd of mini-giraffes, and she is still waiting for one of her fifty nutcrackers to come to life and marry her. When not writing, you can usually find her sitting in a random box, and she’s frequently known to act before she thinks. 
Find her online at:  Website || Blog || Goodreads || Facebook || Twitter || YouTube || Newsletter || Instagram || Amazon

Check out the rest of today's blog tour stops!

May 18
Kirsten Fichter – Seth Stendahl and his Alchemy 
Reality Reflected – Delshad 
Fairy Dust on My Pen – Diamond 
C.O. Bonham – Diamond 

Monday, May 11, 2020

The Underland Chronicles Review

Y'all probably already know that The Hunger Games is one of my favorite series. (The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes comes out next week—NEXT WEEK!!!—and I'm so excited.) So for awhile, my sister had been onto me to read Suzanne Collins's other series, The Underland Chronicles. Finally, after I finished Darth Plagueis, I decided to make that my next audiobook. And then I only got one disc into book 2 before I stopped having places to drive. Luckily, one of my library apps had eaudio, and I had sewing to do. So once I started working on sewing (and Carrie Mouse photoshopping) I pretty much listened to the rest of the series as fast as I could. And now it's over and I'm so sad there's no more.

In case you're unfamiliar with the premise, basically it's this: 11-year-old Gregor and his 2-year-old sister Boots fall down a shaft in the laundry room of their New York City apartment building and end up in the Underland, where Gregor is declared the Warrior of Bartholemew of Sandwich's prophecies and he is sent on a dangerous quest that may lead to finding his father who disappeared shortly before Boots was born. And then there's more prophecies, and more dangerous quests, and war, and lots of gory deaths, but hey, this is Suzanne Collins, so you have to expect a high body count.

To be honest, I wasn't sure about the worldbuilding at first. (Neither was Gregor, if you think about it.) I mean, the first creatures you meet in the Underland are giant talking cockroaches, and then you find out that there are giant bats, rats, mice, spiders, lizards, fireflies, moles, and I feel like I'm forgetting some, but anyway. And even beyond that there are lots of things that could kill you. The people even look strange—after all, they've been living underground for hundreds of years, so their skin is so pale and translucent you can see their veins, their hair is extremely light, and they usually have violet eyes. Gregor's not really comfortable with it all, in the beginning. But by the end, I loved the Underland just as much as Gregor did, and it's a place that feels like home.

Suzanne Collins really did a good job with the worldbuilding. The cultures are very well developed, very distinct from the Overland. The different species of Underlanders have distinct patterns of speech, and it all just feels very real. You might not think giant talking creatures living underneath NYC, humans and bats that swear lifelong bonds to each other (basically best friends who will defend each other to the death, and the humans ride the bats), and all of everything would feel real, but it just works

Regalia is pretty cool. It's a city that's a huge stone fortress with a palace and...okay, not all the history behind it is great, but the particulars are spoilers. They have a museum of things that fell from the Overland, and, well, Regalia is where Luxa and Vikus live.

There's also a super dangerous jungle, and the waterway (with an island full of death mites *shudders*), a volcano, a labyrinth...honestly, most places in the Underland have dangers of some kind, and there are lots of hostile rats. Except Ripred. Well, that's debatable.

I love these characters so much. Gregor is a good kid. He's had a hard time since his dad disappeared, but he's very responsible for his age, he's very devoted to his family, and he wants to do what's right. But he's still a kid and he's still human, so sometimes he does still make stupid mistakes and selfish decisions. Yet his heart is in the right place, and he comes to love the Underlanders—especially Luxa. He always tries to apologize when he's in the wrong, and I love that about him.

Boots is a fun kid. She's not afraid of anything. She makes friends with the cockroaches, or crawlers, right away. She love riding bats. She loves singing songs, and teaching songs to Temp, her crawler friend. But she's also a realistically written toddler. And I love that. It seems rare that authors get little kids right. Either they're written to be way more mature than they should be, or way more babyish. Boots hit it just right, and you can see her grow up throughout the series. (Well, sort of grow up, since she's only three at the end, but she's talking better and she's potty trained by the end, so she does go through some developmental milestones.)

I'll mention Lizzie, Gregor's middle sister, even though she isn't much of a factor until the last book. She's nervous and has panic attacks, but she's brilliant, and Gregor is both incredibly proud of her and very protective of her. And she has a very important role to play. Besides being the one person Ripred actually is affectionate towards.

Luxa. She's an interesting character for sure. She's roughly Gregor's age, but since her parents are dead, she's the queen of Regalia (though she won't technically be crowned until she's 16). She has non-royal grandparents looking after her...Vikus and Solovet. Though I'm not sure Solovet (grandmother) does much to look after her. Vikus is awesome. I don't like Solovet. She's in charge of the soldiers, and reminds me a lot of President Coin. Anyway. Luxa's very stubborn and determined, a good fighter, a survivor,'s hard for me to sum her up. But I really like her.

Ripred is the sober rat version of Haymitch. 😆 Kinda crusty and cynical, a fighter (a rager, actually), an interesting type of mentor character, doesn't show a soft side if he can help it, but he has a good heart. Basically Haymitch, but he's a rat and he doesn't drink. He's good for Gregor. He pushes him to be a better warrior, and a better person, teaches him echolocation and how to handle being a rager (I'm...not quite sure how to explain ragers, but they're fighters who...fight good and if they don't know how to control it they...kill without realizing it?), and...he can manipulate to get things to go the way he wants, but he's a good soul when it really comes down to it. And I think I agree with him about the prophecies, but he doesn't tell Gregor about that until close to the end of the last book, so I won't tell you the particulars.

I want to talk about Ares, the bat, but I feel like it'll be spoilery in multiple ways, so I'll just say that I love Ares. Despite some rocky moments in his friendship with Gregor.

I don't know how much I should say about the plots. Because spoilers. But I like them. Obviously. In one, Gregor has to kill a giant white rat called the Bane who supposedly will destroy the humans. In another, Gregor's searching for a cure to a plague that's threatening the lives of those he cares about. In another, they're in all out war against the rats. And I probably shouldn't say more or I'll give spoilers.

One thing I really love about the series is that Gregor's whole family ends up knowing about the Underland and, while his mom isn't really all that thrilled about the whole thing, his dad truly understands why it's important to Gregor to help his friends in Regalia. 

My only real problem with the series is that the ending kind of...well, it doesn't have an epilogue and I wish it did. I mean, we got an epilogue in Mockingjay. Why couldn't we get an epilogue in Gregor that at least tells us if he ever saw Luxa again? But I have headcanons, and there's fanfiction, so at least I have that.

In short, if you're not afraid of gore and high body counts, read The Underland Chronicles now. They're deep stories, which I love, the characters are great, and while none of it hurts quite as much as Finnick, it's still a really moving series with lots of action, lots of things that make you think, and lots of heart. Suzanne Collins is a good writer. Oh, and the audiobook narrator was good too.

"Fly you high, Gregor the Overlander!"
"Run like the river, Ripred!"

Monday, May 4, 2020

The Book Was Better

First off, MAY THE FOURTH BE WITH YOU!!!!! And make sure you watch something Star Wars today to celebrate. 😉 Now, on to my actual post.

Anyone who knows me knows I constantly (annoyingly, I know) say "the book was better." Talking about 101 Dalmatians? The book was better. Oh, you liked the old Johnny Tremain movie? I was unbelievably disappointed with that one. The book was SOOOO much better. Even with adaptations I really like, The Hunger Games, for instance, I'm always going, "well, in the book they (insert whatever was different)." So I'm going to give you my top three reasons why (generally speaking) the book was better, and three ways to get an adaptation right.

First, why the book is better.

1. It's the original format

Unless it's a novelization, but that's a different story. And don't get me started on novelizations of movies based on books. *glares at novelization of The Tale of Despereaux*

Basically, the book is how it existed first. That's the ultimate authority on how the story goes, what the characters look like, what their personalities are, what the worldbuilding or historical setting is like...I could go on and on. The original format is the ultimate authority on the story. So don't make Annabeth Chase a brunette and what's even up with Gentle Ben (2002)?

2. Books can be longer

I'm not talking overly bloated with unnecessary fluff. I'm talking about how movies are limited in their screentime because most directors aren't Peter Jackson, and so sometimes there just isn't enough time to tell the whole story in a movie. And so sometimes (often) they cut entire storylines out of the film adaptation. *glares at Johnny Tremain* There's also less time for character development, which leads into my next point:

3. Books allow you to get a look inside the characters' heads

You just really can't do that in a visual medium like you can in a book. Sometimes there's voiceover from the MC narrating their thoughts, but it's not done that often, and honestly, I feel like it's really hard to do without being cheesy. It just doesn't work for most stories. Now in a book, you can really be in the character's head. Like in The Hunger Games trilogy. We really see Katniss's internal turmoil, understand what she's going through, know what she's thinking about the books. In the movies, you just sort of get snapshots. Not saying I wish they'd done V.O., or that I don't like the movies—actually, I love them *goes to cry over Finnick*—but you're really missing something if you haven't read the books.

What can you do to get an adaptation right? There are things. Some of my favorite movies are based on books, after all.

1. Respect/understand the source material

LOTR was made by book fans, for book fans. And it's enduring because of that. (Peter Jackson went overboard when he made The Hobbit, but let's not talk about that.) He truly loves the material, and he gets what it's about. Yes, he changed some things and infamously left out Tom Bombadil, but even so, LOTR is filmmaking at it's best. Similarly, while The Giver made some significant changes to the source material, it's abundantly clear the filmmakers understood what the book is about at its core. 

Contrast that with A Wrinkle in Time (2018). Not only did they cast a girl who was too sweet to make Meg's attitude believable, they clearly had no understanding of the book. I mean, how do you go from Meg saving her brother by loving him to Meg saving her brother by demanding "I deserve to be loved"? And the clear "like and equal are not the same thing," anti-communism, it's good to be different message translated to something that boils down to...we all look different, but on the inside we're all just middle class people with first world problems? And don't get me started on how they treated the storyline itself.

2. Involve the author, when possible

Yes, I realize some authors are a disaster to work with on an adaptation (like P.L. Travers). But there's a reason Old Yeller and The Hunger Games trilogy have good adaptations. The authors helped write the screenplays. So glad Francine Rivers adapted the screenplay for Redeeming Love, which is coming next year.

3. If you have to change everything to adapt it to the screen, just don't

Seriously. If a book as it is is "unfilmable," why are you even trying? Some books just don't translate well to the screen and that's okay. Come up with an original idea. I'd far rather go see a completely original movie than endure my favorite book's utter ruin. There's nothing like being excited for an adaptation and leaving the theater or turning off the TV disappointed. Don't do that to me. (Reasons why I've only seen maybe five minutes of Percy Jackson.) So if a book was popular, but unfilmable, just let it be a popular book.

When I was a kid, I wanted to start a movie company that made movies that were actually like the book. That childhood dream will probably never be realized, but it's still fun to think about.

What's your top "the book was better" moment?