29 June 2012

Poem of the Week: A Little Kingdom I Possess by Louisa May Alcott

Golden sunshiny day....
{via pinterest}

A Little Kingdom I Possess
By Louisa May Alcott

A little kingdom I possess,
Where thoughts and feelings dwell,
And very hard I find the task
Of governing it well;
For passion tempts and troubles me,
A wayward will misleads,
And selfishness its shadow casts,
On all my will and deeds.

How can I learn to rule myself,
To be the child I should,
Honest and brave, nor ever tire
Of trying to be good?
How can I keep a sunny soul
To shine along life’s way?
How can I tune my little heart,
To sweetly sing all day?

Dear Father, help me with the love
That castest out my fear!
Teach me to lean on Thee and feel
That thou art very near.
That no temptation is unseen,
No childish grief too small,
Since Thou, with patience infinite,
Dost soothe and comfort all.

I do not ask for any crown
But that which all may win;
Nor try to conquer any world
Except the one within.
Be Thou my Guide until I find,
Led by a tender hand,
Thy happy kingdom in myself
And dare to take command.

I hope you ladies are having a lovely day!

26 June 2012

Book Review: The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis {rewrite}

The end of the world is a dark subject to contemplate. It's one on which I don't like to dwell when the hour grows late and the sun is blotted out. But we cannot ignore reality by shutting our eyes, plugging our ears, and humming loudly. The Last Battle is written very brilliantly, fulfilling many different prophesies mentioned in the Book of Revelations. It was a sad book to read, and a heartbreaking one, too, but it was the appropriate ending to this fantastic series.

The Last Battle
By C.S. Lewis
*Summary from Goodreads.com

NARNIA . . . where you must say good-bye . . . and where the adventure begins again.

The Unicorn says that humans are brought to Narnia when Narnia is stirred and upset. And Narnia is in trouble now: A false Aslan roams the land. Narnia's only hope is that Eustace and Jill, old friends to Narnia, will be able to find the true Aslan and restore peace to the land. Their task is a difficult one because, as the Centaur says, "The stars never lie, but Men and Beasts do." Who is the real Aslan and who is the imposter?

My Thoughts: In my opinion, LB is the darkest of the all the books in The Chronicles of Narnia, and that is because it introduces the concept of an Antichrist. In past stories, there has always been evil that needed to be defeated, but those on the side of the Narnians recognized the evil for what it was. Never before has a creature claimed to be Aslan himself . . . and succeeded so effectively.

All the creatures know that this new Aslan is different than the one who used to roam Narnia, but that does not shake their certainty that he is still the true Lion. Even when Shift, the clever and menacing ape who invented this scheme to gain power for himself, says that Aslan is not going to be kind and loving because the Narnians do not deserve it, they accept his words without question. No matter what Eustace, Jill, and Tirian do, their efforts to convince the Narnian creatures that Puzzle is only a silly donkey masquerading as Aslan are consistently in vain. They are helpless on their own. Only the real Aslan appearing and declaring his legitimacy would set everything to rights. But the question remains: will he?

Pros: Reaches out, grabs your attention immediately, and keeps it for the rest of the book. Perhaps one of the best warnings in the book is when the dwarves convince themselves that they cannot see the beauty around them because of their bitter atheism. In Lewis' words, “[The dwarves] have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out.” The Last Battle is not your typical end to a fantasy series; that's what makes it so memorable. It's an incredible story, and one that should be read with great frequency.

Cons: Some scenes could be frightening or disturbing for young children.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
I recommend this book for ages 11+

A Bit O' Reading For the Day:
“Do you think I care if Aslan doomes me to death?” said the King. “That would be nothing, nothing at all. Would it not be better to be dead than to have this horrible fear that Aslan has come and is not like the Aslan we have believed in and longed for? It is as if the sun rose one day and were a black sun.” — The Last Battle

25 June 2012

An Authoress Among Us: Miss Abigail J. Hartman



Though you may not believe it by her skills as a writer, this month's featured authoress is around my age. She has published her first book, a historical fiction novel called The Soldier's Cross, with Ambassador-Emerald Intl., and has designs on publishing other books of hers when the time approaches. In her free time, she blogs at Scribbles and Ink Stains. Ladies and gentleman, please welcome Miss Abigail J. Hartman!

Be sure to read all the way to the bottom for a delightful surprise! :)


1. Welcome, dear friend and fellow authoress! Please be so kind as to share a little about yourself:

Thank you for inviting me!  Well, let’s see, what to say?  I am, of course, a writer, alternately scribbling historical fiction and fantasy.  I am also a reader and have a particular love for the classics.  (I once took a reader quiz and was told I’m a book snob, which, after the initial irritation had worn off, I had to agree with.)  

In other news…  I am the youngest of three, have a completely awesome family (no bias!), love cats and Jane Austen and letters in the mailbox, and consider Twinings the only real black tea in existence.  Over everything else, I’m a Christian and hope most of all that this quote from Henry Scougal’s The Life of God in the Soul of Man might characterize my life: 

"They know by experience that true religion is a union of the soul with God, a real participation of the Divine nature, the very image of God drawn upon the soul, or, in the apostle's phrase, 'it is Christ formed within us.'"
2. At what age did you discover your love for writing?

I began writing when I was about ten, but I don’t think that was when I first started to love writing.  That came later.  At first I simply wrote because I thought the idea was enchanting; my sister (Jennifer Freitag of The Penslayer) was always writing, and so it seemed like a good idea.  I would say that it was only when I was eleven or twelve that I really fell in love with the art in its own right.

3. What is your favorite writing medium (journaling, novel-writing, short story, poetry, etc.)?

Novels, hands down.  I have written short stories for contests, but I’ve never loved them or been satisfied with them the way I love and am satisfied by my novels.  As for poetry, I fail abysmally.  We will not even speak of that.

4. Good books can be so inspiring when it comes to learning how to best write certain scenes. Is there any particular writer whom you most admire? What works of his/hers do you like the best?

I love so many books; perhaps that’s why I have never found it easy to choose favorites.  The writer who most inspires me and whom I most admire would still be my sister.  I’ve mentioned that before and people have said, “Oh, how sweet!” but I don’t say it out of sentiment; I say it because I might never have begun writing if it had not been for her, and because I am always impressed and inspired by the stories she creates.  Each one is better than the previous, which makes it very hard to say which is best!

There are many other authors for whose books I feel particular affection.  To be very typical, Jane Austen is perhaps at the tip-top of the list; I love her works Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park, but consider Emma the best in terms of craft.  C.S. Lewis, especially his Space Trilogy; Dickens, when I’m in the mood for something with a great dose of gloom; James Fenimore Cooper, who wrenched my heart out with The Last of the Mohicans; and, a recent development, R. L. Stevenson, especially Kidnapped.  Hurrah for books, says I!

5. What do you do when that fearsome epidemic masquerading as writer's block threatens to call on you? 

I would like to point out, right here and right now and with an eye to my work-in-progress, that it is completely unfair for writer’s block to come when one is two chapters from the end of a novel.  As for how I deal with it, I generally begin my moping; progress to trying to combat it; and, if it still will not relent, give up and go do something else entirely.  Sometimes all that is needed is space and time to rest.  Agonizing over the difficulties only makes the block heavier.

6. What do you consider the best time of day for writing? Please explain your answer.

Mornings.  When I wake up, get ready for the day, and then immediately sit down to write, I feel most productive and inspired to forge ahead.  

7. Do you outline your books or do you prefer to begin writing and let the plot sort itself out?

I like things planned and neatly arranged, so I tend to outline.  My outlines, however, take different forms depending on the book; sometimes it’s only chapter titles to give me a general idea of what comes next.  I tried an extensive and detailed outline for my first novel, but scrapped it before I had written through the first page.  

8. Of all the characters you've invented, who is your favorite and why?

This is a hard question; I always think that my current cast will be my favorite forever and ever, but then I finish and begin a new story, and I fall in love with them.  I am very fond of Ethan Hound from my fantasy novel Wordcrafter; he is a very dynamic character and I was rarely at a loss to know what he would say or do in a situation.  However, right now I am torn between two characters of my work-in-progress, The White Sail’s Shaking: Tip Brighton and Charlie Bent.  Someone remarked that they are two sides of a bad penny, and that characterization fits them well.

9. What are your opinions on romance in books? Do you see these standards acted out in the literature sold today?

I’ve actually done several blog posts on literary romance.  To sum them up, I am very fond of romance in any story so long as it is organic and, of course, clean.  I’m not one for the modern romance novel, even “Christian” ones, as they seem to me often rather low on plot and high on sugariness; on the other hand, I’ve never seen a reason why Christians shouldn’t incorporate romance.  I believe that love is a powerful force, and if it is treated as such, then I say bravo to that author.

10. What are some of the writing projects on which you are currently working?

I tend not to multitask on major projects, so I am (most boringly) at work on only one novel: The White Sail’s Shaking.  It is soon to be my third completed novel and my second historical fiction, my previous one having been fantasy.  The time period is the first years of the 19th Century, during the United States’ first war with Tripoli, and it focuses on a midshipman who started out seeking glory and ended up entangled in a murder instead.  Bringing the killer to justice—or justice to the killer—will cost him everything he set out to gain, and he is forced to decide which is more important to him: glory or honor.

11. As a Christian, is your faith a central theme in all of your books? Why or why not?

I’ll answer this question a little differently than the way it is posed, but hopefully according to your intent.  The Gospel as it is commonly defined—that is, the preaching of man’s depravity and the need for trust in Christ’s sufficiency—is not always a central theme in my novels, though it is the driving force of my published novel The Soldier’s Cross.  It is my desire that my stories would go farther and deeper than that, taking up the theme of how we ought to live as new beings in Christ.  In that light, yes, my faith is a central theme in all my books.

12. Could you be persuaded to share an excerpt (or three) from some of your works?

Of course!  I will try to keep them short, though. 

T H E  S O L D I E R ' S  C R O S S :
“God has arranged strange ways for some of us to find him.”

W O R D C R A F T E R :
The sky was cloudless and two large moons were already high in it, so that the garden was turned a faded grey and speckled by darker hollows.  It was quiet except for the hum of the breeze running through the slats in the fence, and Justin sighed in relief as the door creaked shut at his back and he was separated from the warmth and turmoil within.  But as he skirted the overgrown vines and bushes and drooping, frosty flowers to the rough hewn bench, his eye was caught by a motion on his right and he stiffened.

“Hallo,” said a female voice.  She sat on the white fence post with her hands clasped between her knees, balancing precariously as she kicked her heels against the wood.  She had no head-covering, so her hair, amber in the moonlight, was tousled and chaotic—part of her charm, Justin thought wryly.  He moved nearer and she regarded him serenely.

“You’re getting bolder,” he remarked.

T H E  W H I T E  S A I L ' S  S H A K I N G :
“But the sea is a lover, isn’t it?” she added, turning toward Charlie again; the maternal expression had ebbed, Tip found.  “A seaman loves nothing so much as it.”
Tip did not know what Charlie was thinking behind the coldly white mask he wore, but his own mind went instinctively to Darkwood, Darkwood on the September morning before they boarded the Argus, Darkwood looking like a starving poet in the firelight.  “A good man can love in many different areas,” he said sharply, “and love well.”  

13. Have you published any of your writing before? If not, do you plan on doing so in the future?

My debut novel, The Soldier’s Cross, was published by Ambassador-Emerald Intl. in 2010 and is available in Barnes & Noble, on Amazon, through Christian bookstores, and all those book-selling places.  (Also as an e-book; the Kindle edition is on sale for $0.99 throughout June.)  It was also translated into Dutch and released under the title Kruis van Vrede.  At least I suppose it was; I can’t read it myself, but I presume it’s my book.  And I am actively seeking to have my other novels published as well.

14. And finally, do you have any wisdom for young authors that you would care to share?

In her interview here on Living on Literary Lane, Jenny summed up most of my feelings on this score, particularly the need for all authors to read.  One simply cannot grow unless one is willing to imbibe the Greats of literature and learn from them.  It is simply arrogance to think we can tread the writer’s path alone!

My other, two-fold piece of advice for writers would be this: never aim for low goals or settle for low expectations, but remember also to seek and apply wisdom as you work toward that objective.  Ambition is not an evil quality; it is what drives men and women to excel.  At the same time, rashness ought not be confused with that ambition.  So, to the best of our ability, we must aim high—and be reasonable in the process.

Thank you again for hosting me, Elizabeth Rose!  This stop at your corner of the blogosphere was most enjoyable.

Thank you, Abigail, for taking a moment to answer the questions for me. It has been a pleasure having you over for tea and scones at Literary Lane.

Published: The Soldier's CrossAbigail has kindly agreed to a giveaway for a copy of her book, The Soldier's Cross. Care to win this excellent piece of historical fiction? Leave your email address in a comment below. The giveaway closes on July 1st at 11:59 P.M.

24 June 2012

Sunday Blessings

sooooo beautiful. i love this so much.

In a culture entirely concerned with physical relationships, it can be hard to wait patiently for the time when your Prince Charming will enter your life. Arguably the most dominant desire in a young woman's heart, whether she be 15 or 50, is to be loved, desired, and cherished. Nothing thrills our hearts more than romantic love stories or sweet songs, because they seem to temporarily satisfy that God-given desire. We sigh over the ending scene of North & South, stare dreamily at multiple wedding photos on Pinterest, and wonder if that special day will ever come, wonder if our prince will ever arrive and carry us off into the sunset.
"I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the does of the field, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases." — Song of Songs 3:5 (ESV)
Some of us — including myself — are too young to think seriously of marriage yet, but that does not stop our romantic daydreams. And yet, through all our pining and wasting away, we are forgetting the One who loves us more than any other human being will: our Savior and King, Jesus Christ. After all, the earthly union between man and wife is only a small glimpse of the heavenly union between Christ and His Church. The difference is the former is visible at the moment, while the latter is not. So we generally prefer the one we can sense.


But if you think about it, He is everything for which we have ever longed in a husband . . .

I dream of a gentleman who is willing to make sacrifices. Jesus gave His life to save me from sin and death, so that I might live with Him forever in Paradise.
I dream of a gentleman who will write me sweet love letters. Jesus wrote a whole Book.
I dream of a gentleman who will boldly pursue me. Jesus does this every day of my life.
I dream of a gentleman who will bring me bouquets of flowers. Jesus causes flowers to burst into bloom in my garden every day.
I dream of a gentleman who will love me despite my past mistakes. Jesus not only forgives me, but cleanses me of my sins, throwing them as far as the east is from the west.
I dream of a gentleman who will be my protector. Jesus battles the demons, addictions, and sins that threaten me.
I dream of a gentleman who will save me when I am in peril. Jesus breaks the chains of sin when the bind me.
"You're my beloved, you're my bride / To sing over you is my delight / Come away with me my love . . ." — My Beloved by Kari Jobe
I can't tell you how many times I have been told that Jesus loves me. But it really never hit home until I read this creative essay. I'm choosing to share a portion of it today, because it so brilliantly displays the wonderful nature of His love and affection for us. The love of Christ for His Bride is even more beautiful than a perfectly-scripted Hollywood film . . . and it is open to all who desire it.

So happy :)

"He loves you so much He wants to give you the whole world and He does. He gives you the moon, and the stars, and lies in the grass with you, pointing out every little point of light, His heart soaring because you like it. He took so long to paint the sky so it would be beautiful for you, hoping, knowing, that it would touch your heart.

"Flowers? He loves you so much He brings you flowers, millions of flowers, and shows you his sense of humor by bringing them even in the form of dandelions or ragweed. He beautifully packages His flowers in colors of green and yellow and red and purple, orange, pink, blue, white… all the colors of the rainbow. He knows you love them, and they are labeled “From your Secret Admirer. You’ve always longed for a Secret Admirer, someone who pursued you because you were beautiful, alluring, lovely… well, you do.


drift

"He is so much in love with you that he doesn’t care about your past. He gets down on His knees and begs you: “I love you, I have loved you for as long as I remember. Please tell me that you love me,” He pleads.

"He is valiant. He fights the demons that hold you, the addictions, the obsessions, the sin that has you in chains, a phantom of fear cast around your heart. He hears your screams to be rescued, loves you so much to throw Himself at the dragon and fight for you. He could have left you to die, there are other girls who are easier to come by, who would love it if He even gave them a glance. But no… He gave them up for you. He loves you, and will go to all lengths, all risks, to get you, to prove to you His love . . ."

". . . He loves you so much that He waits, even though you left Him. When you realize that the Enemy’s tune-less murmur in your ear is taking you away from He who cherishes you, you will cry out to Him. He will valiantly rescue you again. He loves you so much He will throw thousands of angels up against the Enemy, only to get you back. And he loves you so much, he will rescue you again, and again, and again, and again. Nothing you can do will make Him get angry with you enough to leave you. And He will never let the Enemy harm you. He will not leave you, He will not desert you. Although you might reject Him, He will wait patiently, pursuing your heart until you return to his arms, safe once more."

— Excerpt from "The Window of Your Heart" by Violet McDevitt

Open your heart to your Beloved. He is waiting for you.
"You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you." — Song of Songs 4:7 (ESV)

22 June 2012

Poem of the Week: Ode by Arthur O' Shaughnessy

Poetry can be translated to mean many different things; that is it's most endearing quality. A poem written by an author dead for two hundred years can reach out and strike a chord in your heart even you didn't know existed. When I post the weekly poem on Literary Lane, I often describe how it makes me feel. However, this Friday I'm going to take a different path. I want you to soak up this poem, without your opinion marred by any statement of mine. And then, if you feel so inclined, leave a comment with your thoughts. Poetry is meant to be an experience, and if I achieve but one thing by posting a poem each week, I hope it is inspiring a love for balladry in your soul.

{photo via pinterest}

Ode
By Arthur O'Shaughnessy

We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;—
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.


Have a beautiful day. :)

20 June 2012

Book Review: The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis {rewrite}

Although I originally intended to have this review published several months ago, it is quite Providential that I am only now getting around to it. As it happens, my sisters — Emilia (11) and Lydia (9) — are currently reading this book for school. It has been some time since I've read SC for myself, and their vivid descriptions have refreshed my memory wonderfully. "There is a time for everything", as it says in Ecclesiastes . . . even those book reviews that a certain neglectful young lady always pushes off. 

The Silver Chair
By C.S. Lewis
*Summary from Goodreads.com

NARNIA . . . where owls are wise, where some of the giants like to snack on humans, where a prince is put under an evil spell . . . and where the adventure begins.

Eustace and Jill escape from the bullies at school through a strange door in the wall, which, for once, is unlocked. It leads to the open moor . . . or does it? Once again Aslan has a task for the children, and Narnia needs them. Through dangers untold and caverns deep and dark, they pursue the quest that brings them face and face with the evil Witch. She must be defeated if Prince Rillian is to be saved.

My Thoughts: I'm going to be perfectly honest her: this is probably my least favorite book in the series. For one, Eustace and Jill are not nearly as endearing to me as the Pevensies or Digory and Polly. Jill especially can be a bit of a complainer, and although not quite as horrid as Eustace was in Dawn Treader, she still bears the badge of children schooled at the miserable Experiment House. Second, the large space of time spent in Underland made me feel claustrophobic after a while (a family tendency, and not an opinion shared by all readers of this book, I assure you). 

However, what I realize is that the two "issues" I have with this book are entirely opinionated and cannot really be considered cons (which is why they are placed under "My Thoughts") . . . and for that reason, I hope you don't use them as a cause not to read SC. It is definitely a book worth reading, and displays quite subtly Lewis' gift as a writer. The fact that this book takes a wholly different path than the ones that came before it — and yet still retains that classically Narnian feel — says a lot about its author. The creatures of Underland encompass everything that is eerie and hopeless; the Lady of the Green Kirtle attains levels of iniquity that even cold-hearted Jadis could not reach. But when times grow dire, Aslan remains . . . and that is what makes me love this book, despite my original misgivings.

Pros: Though younger children may not catch on to this theme, The Silver Chair deals greatly with trusting that God knows what He's doing when He sends you on a mission. By believing that Aslan did not know what perils the journey would offer, the children take matters into their own hands and forget the Lion's instructions to them. This risks their very lives and puts them in a lot of unnecessary trouble that they could have easily avoided. Puddleglum, the faithful (though dour) Marshwiggle, is a constant friend and makes a great sacrifice for Eustace and Jill's sake. His bravery is rewarded later on, and the children realize they should not have judged him so quickly. The manner in which the Lady of the Green Kirtle sings (sweetly, but full of lies) puts on display how Satan's greatest weapon is often sugar-coated words and seemingly gentle tones, with which he deceives us into believing his suggestions are not really so bad.

Cons: Some scenes may be frightening for very young children, especially those that take place in Underland.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
I recommend this book for ages 9+

A Bit O' Reading For the Day:
“Aslan's instructions always work; there are no exceptions.” — The Silver Chair
Have a good evening, sweet friends! 

15 June 2012

Poem of the Week: The Road Goes Ever On by J.R.R. Tolkien

"When I left Queen's my future seemed to stretch out before me like a straight road. I thought I could see along it for many a milestone. Now there is a bend in it. I don't know what lies around the bend, but I'm going to believe that the best does. It has a fascination of its own, that bend, Marilla." — Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables
Life is a journey down the path our Heavenly Father has chosen for us. There will be bends in the road that we have no way of seeing until we are practically upon them. There will also be times "where many paths and errands meet," and we will be forced to make a decision and live with whatever it entails. This is a frightening concept for me to grasp; I am very hobbit-like in my love of home and hearth, and much prefer the adventure that a book brings to real-life adventure. I hold with C.S. Lewis, who said in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, "Adventures are never fun while you're having them." But adventure is out there, and we will never find it if we stay wrapped up in our own affairs all our lives. I need to learn to lean on the Lord and trust that He will carry me through whatever trials I face in this life, even when I don't have any idea where to go.

The Road Goes Ever On
By J.R.R. Tolkien

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

I hope you are enjoying a beautiful summer day!

14 June 2012

She Is Too Fond of Books . . .

". . . and it has turned her brain." 
Louisa May Alcott

In my mind, summer is spelled B-O-O-K-S. During the long, cold (I partly kid — we Southerners can hardly complain of arctic winter months) seasons that make up the school year, I long for the golden sun and those plentiful hours for reading that June, July, and August bring. In January and February especially, I have often been known to raise my weary head from the bottomless depths of my Apologia textbook and stare longingly out the window, as if hoping to catch a glimpse of the coming summer on the horizon. It may seem that I long for no schoolwork, time at the pool, or daily glasses of the heavenly nectars — cherry limeade, sweet tea, and lemonade — that can only be properly served when it is hot outside and the grass requires a daily soaking in order to maintain its former virescent shade . . . but that is not entirely honest. What I really crave are the thick books that I grudgingly have to set aside the rest of the year.

I was in the mood for a light post today. My heart and head are in that faerie-like place only summer is capable of bringing, and I can hardly pull them both down to reasonable placidity. Therefore, I have deemed today a good time to write a post on a subject as warm and dear to my heart as a cup of hot tea: a list of the books I hope to complete this summer. 

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

This is a big one (in more than one sense of the word). I know practically the whole story of Les Mis, and have heard — and fallen in love with — a good portion of the musical. But now it's time for me to take the plunge and read the full-fledged edition, 1200 pages and all. This should be quite the adventure, and I'm getting excited just thinking about it. 

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Again, one with which I am familiar, since Daddy read the Great Illustrated Classics version to us when we were very young. The story is so well-crafted, and after hearing my dear friend Näna rave about it, I have determined to experience the tale for myself in its original form.

Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

This one looks like a pamphlet in comparison to the two tomes above. ;) Almost everyone in my family has read JT, and were excessively disappointed when I failed to read it in the more socially-accepted manner last summer. Apparently the practice of opening a book and beginning it at the point to which it opened, regardless of whether you've read the beginning, is frowned upon in our house. :P I will admit this habit of mine has its flaws, as I am still a bit weak on some aspects of the story. Thus, I am scheduling a full re-reading of this book over the summer, to be conducted in the traditional fashion: start to finish.

The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien

Ever since I read The Hobbit for school, I have longed to read Tolkien's full series. I don't know if that is a possible feat before the summer's end, but I will endeavor to make every effort toward the cause.

North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell

I adore the movie. Even more than Pride and Prejudice. Therefore, I simply must read the book. Because books are always better than their film adaptions. It's a fact.

. . .

I'm sure it's obvious that the task of finishing all these books before mid-August is practically impossible. But as I mentioned before, I build on my to-read list over the course of the entire year. Each book displays a part of who I was at the time I scribbled it into the next blank margin. And that's why my to-read list is exceedingly lengthy . . . and will *gasp* continue to grow. My love of books knows few boundaries, but there are simply too many titles to effectively devour — it can be a bit overwhelming. 

And that's why I take it one page at a time, enjoying and savoring the story for all it's worth, without worrying about all the other books I "have" to finish before a certain time. Deadlines have a sour way of spoiling a good story and turning a proficient reader into someone who rarely picks up a book unless forced. In the end, I have to turn to the words of Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, who said, "There is not time to read all books. In the greatest of books there are lessons for a lifetime, and those lessons are not in any sense narrow or parochial. On the contrary, they are specifically global and universal. It would be better to read a few books carefully (wherever they may have been written), than to read many books lightly."

And if all else fails, we musn't forget about the dependable and much-loved practice of reading not one, but several books at a time. ;)

12 June 2012

Book Review: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis {rewrite}

Sometimes you are forced to continue pushing a post off, simply because every time you sit down to type, the words come out all crumpled and queer and not at all the way you want. This review is infamous in my mind for that very reason. I can never get the words to sound right, so I put it on pause and turn my attention to something else. 'Twas not until last night that it came to me that I have been delaying my VDT review for a month at the least. So I determined to review it immediately, whether I "felt like it" or not. And I'm so glad I didn't wait any longer, because reviewing VDT today has reminded me how very much I love this dear tale. I hope this post will make you love it, too.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
By C.S. Lewis
*Summary from Goodreads.com

NARNIA . . . the world of wicked dragons and magic spells, where the very best is brought out of even the worst people, where anything can happen (and most often does) . . . and where the adventure begins. 

The Dawn Treader is the first ship Narnia has seen in centuries. King Caspian has built it for his voyage to find the seven lords, good men whom his evil uncle Miraz banished when he usurped the throne. The journey takes Edmund, Lucy, and their cousin Eustace to the Eastern Islands, beyond the Silver Sea, toward Aslan's country at the End of the World.

My Thoughts: I consider this book to be one of the most exciting in the Chronicles of Narnia series. Nearly every island the Pevensies, Caspian, Eustace, and the rest of the Dawn Treader crew visit warrants a grand adventure. Whether they are discovering a pool that turns things to gold, an island where your worst nightmares become reality, or a retired star who grows younger each day, not one chapter of this book is dull. Some might consider it to be a rambling sort of read with little in the way of a plot, but the theme of Caspian trying to find the seven lords, as well as Reepicheep's ambition to find Aslan's Country, strings all the little gems of adventure together into a beautiful necklace of a plot. I couldn't put it down the first time I read it, and still will pick it up and read it from time to time.

Pros: Like I mentioned before, the plot is engaging and exciting. My brother, Ethan, loved this book for that very reason. Standards of morality are strong, as is the case with the entire seven-book series, and it's not hard to find parallels between the plot in this book and Scripture accounts (i.e. Aslan turning into a lamb and offering them fish for breakfast). I especially like the quote near the end when, after Edmund asks if Aslan is in England too, Aslan answers, "I am . . . But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there."

Cons: Some violence, such as when the characters battle a sea serpent, but nothing is too bloody or detailed as to make it inappropriate for young readers.

Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
I recommend this book for ages 8+

A Bit O' Reading for the Day:
“Most of us know what we should expect to find in a dragon's lair, but, as I said before, Eustace had read only the wrong books. They had a lot to say about exports and imports and governments and drains, but they were weak on dragons.” — The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
What are some of your favorite childhood books?

10 June 2012

Sunday Blessings

blue waves
{via pinterest}

Today is my fifteenth birthday (or what I fondly like to refer to as my quinceañera, being the Spanish-obsessed girl that I am). I don't generally like to discuss private matters on this wee blog o' mine — for one, it is far simpler for me to stick to reviewing books, since that keeps me from rambling quite so much as I would should I choose to give myself free reign — but Hannah's incredible sweet sixteen post inspired me to use this date as a way to take the focus off of myself and give it to the One that deserves it most. And after all, isn't that the true meaning of living the Christian life anyway?

The mindset of most young people in this day and age seems to be filled with such ideals as "live for the moment" and "whatever makes you happy". And though this may seem like a taboo statement, it is just as easy for  Christians to fall into that rut of idealized "freedom". As inconceivable as it might sound, becoming a Christian and accepting the Lord does not grant you a complimentary bubble in which you can live your perfect-down-to-the-white-picket-fence-and-tire-swing life, free from sin and sorrow. It is just as easy for us to forget that our focus is meant to be on Jesus Christ and fall into a habit of living purely for our own enjoyment.

If anything, birthdays encourage this sort of behavior further. The natural longing inside all of us to love and be loved craves the one day of year when the attention is focused on us. And what's worse, as Hannah pointed out, we begin to think we deserve it. Whether "it" constitutes expensive gifts, huge parties, lots of attention, or all three, we want It and act as if our lives will end if we don't get It. And no, once more this does not just go out to those who aren't Believers, because we too can begin thinking of all the "good" things we've done and how we deserve a reward.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus says, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." 

What was that first credential? We must what? Deny ourselves?! What sort of rule is this? How on earth am I supposed to do that?

At the core, living the Christian life is all about sacrifice: giving up yourself for the sake of others, in the same manner that Jesus gave up His life for the sake of His Bride. We are by no means deserving of this amazing grace lavished upon us, but He gives it to His children freely. That is the greatest example of true love the world will ever know, and you can't find it in a Hollywood romantic comedy or Hallmark card.
"Greater love has no one than this, that He lay down his life for His friends." — John 15:13
This isn't the recipe for the world's idea of a perfect life. In fact, most teenagers would scoff at the notion of giving yourself up for the benefit of those around you. It's a counter-culture mindset, and one that does not endear itself to others easily. But if we who claim to be God's children cannot live our lives in the same way that He did during His time on earth, how can we hope to bring others to Christ? How can we ask that those around us live in a manner we ourselves do not follow?

Sometimes people are too afraid or too skeptical to pick up a Bible and oftentimes we are the only example of Jesus that they will ever see. How can we live as Christians if we simply blend in and act identical to the rest of the world? They should know we are Christians by our love. And if they can't tell that there is something different about us, we clearly don't understand the whole concept of this Christian walk.

Today I could choose to reflect on myself. But instead, I want Jesus' love to reflect out of me. Because that's all that truly matters.

08 June 2012

Poem of the Week: Music by Walter de la Mare

I'm afraid I've been unofficially MIA this week. Momma was determined to get the whole house cleaned from top to bottom now that dance and tutorial are ended, and so we've been having a rather busy week of it. (My hands smelled of bleach all day yesterday from cleaning out the shower, if that is proof enough for you :P). I've also been trying to get a good bit of geometry done each morning, as well as some reading, both school-related and otherwise. And all that equals few new posts here on Literary Lane. 

But never fear! I hope to get back into posting at least every other day in the coming week, as well as joining in Snippets of Story and maybe Beautiful People sometime this month. For now, please enjoy this week's snippet of poetry. :)

piano.
{via pinterest}

Music
By Walter de la Mare



When music sounds, gone is the earth I know, 
And all her lovely things even lovelier grow; 
Her flowers in vision flame, her forest trees 
Lift burdened branches, stilled with ecstasies. 

When music sounds, out of the water rise 
Naiads whose beauty dims my waking eyes, 
Rapt in strange dreams burns each enchanted face, 
With solemn echoing stirs their dwelling-place. 

When music sounds, all that I was I am 
Ere to this haunt of brooding dust I came; 
And from Time's woods break into distant song 
The swift-winged hours, as I hasten along. 

Have a good evening!

02 June 2012

Standing at the Brink

"The beginning is the most important part of the work."
Plato

Beginnings are hard places, and the emotions they carry with them are hard to capture on a piece of paper. I always imagine a new beginning like a large, brightly-wrapped package with mysterious contents. You feel sure that this gift will contain wondrous opportunities and experiences that one thousand words could not describe . . . but you refuse to open it. Like Pandora's box, it could just as easily bring disease instead of health, heartache instead of happiness, and tears instead of smiles. There is no way to know, and we are forced to either live our lives never knowing what could have happened or take the plunge and find out.

Writing is an experience that can be related to life in so many ways. Right at this moment, Bree and I are plotting a new story idea. Nothing like a new book has the power to put me in this hurricane of emotions, especially when I have no idea whether it will be destined to remain a distant memory on my Mac or turn into a worldwide best-seller. It is like walking on sacred ground — Azin is the sort of girl who trembles at a rustle in the leaves, and one must learn about her in a slow, roundabout manner, rather than asking questions directly. Her heart is so torn up from the experiences of her childhood that she cannot speak about them for long bouts of time, and must be tempted with multiple cups of tea before she begins speaking at all. It can be a trying process.

Nearly every day this week I have sat down with Cosette (my Mac ;)), intent on typing up that intimidating Chapter One that decides straight away the destiny of your story . . . only to be forced to close down Microsoft Office Word and turn away with a reluctant and discouraged sigh. Azin's head is not open often — although she is growing less timid by the day — and you have to catch her at just the right moment. In my case, the elusive present that could bring either joy or pain is not just mysterious: it's missing. I know it is somewhere — I can sense that something wonderful is just at my fingertips — but no matter how hard I look, I cannot find it. And here I stand, caught between the desire to write, the knowledge that a new idea is just blooming, and the despair that I will never be able to begin.

The proverbial brink is a frightening and lonesome place at which to be. No one stands behind me, tensing their muscles to push me over; I am alone, with only the wind above me and waves below me for company. My choice must be entirely my own, and the results, whether good or bad, will be on my shoulders alone. Of course, I can always back swiftly away, turning homeward to the small cottage of Familiarity. But even those well-worn walls and floors cannot contain me or my imagination forever. The things that once seemed so lovely and comforting now look dull and pale. I am forced back to the edge of the cliff out of sheer need, my heart longing for a change. And once more, I am faced with the choice: do I dare to jump into the waves of the unknown?

There's only one way to find out.

"My name is Azin." The girl said no more, and even those four words were spoken with some measure of hesitation, as if she questioned their validity.

01 June 2012

Poem of the Week: For the Sake of Somebody by Robert Burns

A melancholy piece o' poetry by the great Scottish poet Robert Burns. The lyrics give my heart a queer ache, as if longing for something I've never seen. Perhaps the best thing about this particular selection is the manner in which Burns draws in your soul with his words. The story he tells feels like one you've known for years, and he paints the plight of his hero in a manner so heartfelt that you can't help but feel overwhelmed with sympathy — and all for someone you've never met.

<3

For the Sake of Somebody
By Robert Burns

My heart is sair, I dare na tell,
My heart is sair for Somebody;
I could wake a winter night
For the sake o' Somebody.
Oh-hon! for Somebody!
Oh-hey! for Somebody!
I could range the world around,
For the sake o' Somebody!

Ye Powers that smile on virtuous love,
O, sweetly smile on Somebody!
Frae ilka danger keep him free,
And send me safe my Somebody.
Oh-hon! for Somebody!
Oh-hey! for Somebody!
I wad do - what wad I not?
For the sake o' Somebody!

Have a good night. :)
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