Dawning of a New Year

2014 is knocking at our doors. 
Can you believe this is the last day of December and the last of 2013?  It seems this year has flown by.  I still remember the first of Summer, wishing for the days to last.

Life is fleeting.  We must learn to take nothing for granted.  Do you remember the quote I used in a previous post? 

"What if, when we wake up in the morning, all we have is what we thanked God for today?"

 This applies to our everyday lives, of course.  Not just during Thanksgiving, or Christmas.  We should wake up every morning and fall to our knees before the Holy King.  Is He the first thing that comes to your mind?  Ashamed, my answer is often no.

Strive this new year to put God before you in all things.  I can guarantee if you do so, this year will be one to remember.

Happy New Year!

 photo sarahsignature_zps5172c7cd.png

December Snippets!

'Bout time I joined the blogging world, again, eh?

Here's a few Snippets for you.  Enjoy!


      A little while later, after showing nearly the whole ship to the thorough Aktaran, they passed the king's quarters.  The Ishadi captain stopped and inquired about this door.  Rydan was mad with impatience, though he managed to keep his calm.  They had lost two valuable hours of sailing time--two precious hours which could have brought them all the more closer to Gondoa by now.
      "Oh, that?" Marcus sighed, rubbing a hand across his face. "I hate t' tell ye this, m' friend, but that be a door."
[SAFIA; aboard the Gondian ship, Victory's Crown]

      "Are you saying your sisters are spoiled?" Jok whistled and laughed again.  "Wait until they hear what their puffed-up brother thinks of them!"
      "Come on, Jok.  I didn't say that!  Safia's different somehow.  I--" Rydan stopped himself and began pointing a finger at the older man.  "No.  No, sir.  I see what you are doing.  You're trying to get me riled up in order to confess my feelings, if any.  Ha!  I saw through your devious plan, you like these debates!"  Rydan cupped his hands behind his head and leaned back in his chair, placing his boots atop the table.  "Well, sir, it won't work.  Not this time."
      Again, Jok chuckled and picked up a book he had set aside.
      "And I'm not puffed-up."
      They were silent.  If possible, you could have heard Jok's smile.
[SAFIA; aboard the Crown]

      "What she saw?"  The woman's face contorted into anger. "What was to see?  Nothing!  He was a brute, a monster.  Headstrong, stubborn, violent--unfit for my daughter!"
      "He had changed!" Safia's voice rose a notch in volume.  "He discovered a future, a new life.  Because of your daughter!  He forsook his past and pursued a life of honesty.  We--"
      "Honesty!" Meline scoffed.
      "Mother," Gabriella began, distressed, wary about the direction in which this conversation was headed.
      "Silence, daughter!" The mistress snapped and turned back to her granddaughter. "He was a pirate, they do not know the meaning of such a word.  A pirate will speak boldly before you of honesty while lying in their teeth!  They always know the right thing to say, the best way to make the most profit--all without a single care for the others to whom their deeds may harm.  Blackhearted fools, that's what they are.  He--your father--was just like them!  He had no heart!"
      At the outburst, the older woman sat abruptly in her chair, wide-eyed, as if pushed by the strength of the girl's voice.  The small parlor was quiet as the last echo of Safia's words died away.  The girl, herself, stood rigid, feet apart and hands clenched.  Her face was down-turned and her hair fell as a shield before her eyes.
      It was deathly silent.  The air thick with tension.
      Then a soft voice broke the dark quiet.
      "You did not take the time to know him. . . You were not the one to be swallowed up in his arms as a little girl and feel that nothing in the world could harm you.  You never heard his laughter, rich and full, and join in even though you did not know the reason.  You didn't watch him sweep her off her feet to dance on the white sands in the moonlight or hear the deep, baritone of his voice as he sang you to sleep. . .
      "You did not hear the screams that night.  You were not present to watch as he bore the limp body of his wife to shore.  Nor were you there to hear as he cried to Eliadan for mercy, to take his life instead of hers. . .  You didn't watch helplessly from a distance as he cradled her in his arms or witness as he laid her beneath those beautiful white sands."  Safia paused, aware of the tears running down her face, yet unashamed.
      "You call him a pirate, well, at one time that was true.  But no longer.  He died a cherished father, a brave captain, a worthy friend, a hero.  You think of me as his daughter, but forget that I am also the daughter of your own precious girl.  A pirate?  Maybe.  But as for her, my mother, Faina Belle Rouseau Leifson, she was his greatest treasure."
[SAFIA; before the Mistress Rouseau, her grandmother]

"Prayers can win wars, love, but they are only as strong as your belief."
[Faina Leifson, SAFIA]

      She wanted to pray.  But she did not feel like talking to Eliadan.  She would never admit it aloud, but it felt like He had abandoned her.
      Tears fell.

      "Eliadan?"  Safia could feel the panic rising.  The scene around her was fading, yet she could still feel His embrace.  His rich voice spoke in her ear and reverberated in the corners of her mind, instantly soothing her tired heart."
      Hold fast, dear one.  I will never let you go.
[SAFIA, unknown chapter]


 photo sarahsignature_zps5172c7cd.png

When Came the Light of the World. . .

Merry Christmas!

Enjoy this season of Giving.  Cherish the love of family and fellowship!  But don't ever forget the Truth of this holiday when came the Light of the World.

 photo sarahsignature_zps5172c7cd.png

What's in a Name?

Old English names!

A little history: 
Old English, also called Anglo-Saxon, was a Germanic language spoken in England from about the 7th century to the 12th century.

After the Norman conquest in 1066, the Anglo-Norman language (a dialect of Old French) displaced Old English as the tongue of the nobility.  Naturally, many Old English given names were replaced by Norman-French ones.  Names like Leofwine, Sigeberht, and Æðelflæd fell out of use.

Gender:  Masculine
Usage:  Old English
Pronunciation:  ED-wǝrd (English), ED-varht (Polish)

Meaning & History
Means "rich guard," derived from the Old English elements ead "rich, blessed" and weard "guard."  A known bearer of this name was Saint Edward the Confessor, a king of England shortly before the Norman conquest.  He is remembered as a just ruler, and because of his popularity this name remained in use after the conquest when most other Old English names were replaced with Norman ones.  The 13th-century king Henry III named his son and successor after the saint, and seven other kings of England also bore the name.  This is one of the few Old English names to be used throughout Europe, in various spellings. 

Gender:  Feminine
Usage:  English, Swedish, Finnish, Slovak
Pronunciation:  me-TIL- (English)

Meaning & History
From the Germanic Mahthildis, meaning "strength in battle."  Saint Matilda was the wife of 10th-century German king Henry I the Fowler.  The name was introduced to England by the Normans, borne by the wife of William the Conqueror.  Popular until the 15th century in England, it later took its vernacular form of Maud.  Both forms were revived in the 19th century.  This name appears in the Australian folk song, "Waltzing Matilda" (1895).  

Gender:  Masculine
Usage:  [Old] English, French, German, Czech, Dutch, Ancient Germanic
Pronunciation:  RICH-ǝrd (English), ree-SHAHR (French), RIKH-ahrt (German)

Meaning & History
Means "brave power."  It is derived from the Germanic elements ric "power, rule" and hard "brave, hardy."  Introduced to Britain by the Normans, it has retained its popularity since.  It was borne by three kings of England, among them Richard I the Lionheart, leader of the Third Crusade in the 12th century.  Other famous bearers include two German opera composers, the British explorer Sir Richard Burton (1821-1890), and American musician Little Richard (1920-). 

Gender:  Feminine
Usage:  [Old] English
Pronunciation:  KEN-drǝ

Meaning & History
Feminine form of Ken, which is ultimately derived from a Scottish given name meaning "handsome" or an Irish name meaning "born of fire."  Could also be taken from Kendrick, an English surname of various origins--possibly meaning "royal/bold power," or from a Welsh name meaning "chief hero."

Names & Old English history from behindthename.com.
Photos via Pinterest.

 photo sarahsignature_zps5172c7cd.png

Book Review [Veiled Rose]

Veiled Rose
Tales of Goldstone Wood #2
Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Publisher:  Bethany House
Genre:  YA
Released:  2011

A Monster Prowls the Mountains of Southlands

      Rose Red trusts no one with her secret. She hides in the forest, her face veiled in rags, shunning the company of all save her old father and her nanny goat. Her life is bleak and lonely. 
      Until she meets a privileged young man sent to spend his summer in the mountains. Leo, a lonely lad, befriends Rose Red, and together they begin hunting for the Mountain Monster which, rumor says, stalks these lands. 
      But the hunt which began as a game holds greater risk than Leo supposes. Rose Red can scarcely guess at the consequences should he insist on continuing his search. Dare she trust him with her secret? Or tell him what dwells at the top of the mountain in the cave only she can find? 
      Above all, when Leo asks Rose Red to leave the mountain and follow him to the low country, dare she agree and risk the wrath of a Monster that is all too real?

Warning:  Possible Spoilers

Oh dear.  I am so behind in these reviews!  My list to do seems to get longer and longer. . . I just received my copy of Captives by Jill Williamson yesterday!  I've been dying to read this one!  And Moonblood is also waiting patiently for me to pick it up. . . Then I have a manuscript of Lauriloth's that's been "picking up dust" in my computer files--don't get me wrong, I love what I've read of her book so far! But splitting my computer time in half to read it along with my others. . . I just kinda feel overwhelmed at the moment.  (So sorry, Lauri!  Believe me, I will get it done!!  I LOVE what I've read so far! =] )

On to the review.  Similar to the first of the series, I loved the second addition to the Tales of Goldstone Wood.  Anne Stengl's writing style is brilliantly fresh and descriptive, her characters relate-able, and the story intriguing.

[The Basics]
Veiled Rose centers on a young prince, whom we caught a small glimpse of in Heartless.  In the first book, Leo, as he was called, was exiled from his home kingdom at the arrival of a Dragon.  In shame and disgrace, he journeyed in the guise of a court jester--something he has always wished to be--in hopes of finding some way to free his kingdom of the Dragon's smoky chains.

In this book, we delve deeper into his childhood, learn more of his personality and character, and come to understand why he does what he does.  His summers are spent away from home, this time at the ample mansion of his pompous aunt and prickly, book-nerd cousin, Foxbrush.  Hill House.  Located in the Mountains, said to be haunted by a Monster.  Well, what is a little boy to do when there is talk of a monster in the woods by the house?  He finds it his duty to hunt and kill it, right?  And that is just what he sets out to do.  With the advice of an old gardener, Leo sets off into the unknown, a trusty beanpole in hand and naught but his courage.

But it isn't a monster he finds.  He meets a girl.  And her goat.  Albeit a strange and mysterious girl, who wears veils that cover her entire body, not even her face is visible.  Rose Red is her name, and the two become unlikely friends.  She hides a terrible secret.

[Spiritual Content]
As mentioned in the previous book, the Dragon represents all evil.  It is his duty to make chosen characters his children.  One part I found quite bizarre and confusing is with the Dragon and the Lady.  Brother and sister, they play a game for the "souls" of the characters.  In this case, where the Dragon won with Una, he lost with Leo (or Lionheart, as is his true name) to his sister, the Lady.  She, in the victory, plagues Leo's dreams throughout the whole of the book, promising that whatever he wishes she will provide.  Which might be true, it is purely up to Leo to decide what exactly it is he desires--whether he will succeed his father as king, a heavy burden, or do what he truly enjoys, travel as a jester, make others laugh.

Rose Red, however, struggles with the Dragon in her own dreams, for it was he who won her in the game between himself and his sister.  Through it all, she has an Imaginary Friend, that in my thinking, acts like the voice of God to her.  He loves her and will continue to even though "she breaks [his] heart."  Sound familiar?  God loves us anyway.  Even when we choose not to listen to Him.

It is mentioned some people worship the Lady and her Dark Brother.

Spirits are bound in chains, and freed.  Rose Red travels a path that seems like an underworld of darkness, where she encounters creatures of the past, bound for eternity.  A legendary lantern lights her way, providing hope.  One character tells her, "You walk freely into Death's arms.  Why?"  She makes no answer knowing this is the path she must take in order to save a person that she doesn't particularly like.  She does it anyway.  But she is not alone.  A guardian rushes to her aid in the nick of time.  Her Imaginary Friend (mentioned above), you will know him as Someone Else in Heartless, remains by her side, speaking words of comfort and courage.

This is a medieval/fantasy story.  And what good is a medieval/fantasy tale if it doesn't have swords, monsters, and dragons?  As in Heartless, the Dragon leaves destruction wherever he roams.  A kingdom is leveled, people suffer the effects of dragon-smoke, leaving them wandering and empty.  A man is beaten with iron rods as punishment, fights erupt in a rich man's house, Leo is roughly tossed from an Emperor's presence.  Rose Red follows a path to "Death's world," where death reigns, blood stains the ground, a monster roams aimlessly horribly wounded, and yet still "alive."  Rose attempts in vain to help this creature with his injuries, but is unsuccessful and is forced to leave him to his eternal pain.

[Love-y Content]
Prince Lionheart, or Leo, comes to care deeply for Rose Red, though he knows nothing more could ever come of it.  Later, we return to Oriana Palace where he meets Princess Una.  We see a review of this story from his point of view this time and he seems to genuinely fall in love with Una, she in turn gives him her heart.  But he has come for a purpose, no matter how much he cares for Una, his kingdom comes first and he leaves her behind without explanation.  Eventually, he finds himself betrothed to the beautiful Daylily.

Overall, I loved this story! which continues in the third addition, Moonblood.  It teaches us that appearances are not what makes one beautiful, but what is evident in the heart.   It is easy to get confused towards the beginning and middle, but don't worry too much, it all pans out rather nicely, I believe.  Also, in the midst of all the seriousness, there is a good spattering of humor.  And in my opinion, that has a lot to do with the quality of a book.  One part in particular I literally laughed out loud.  And I don't usually do that.  :D

(i.e.) "Why are the trees pink and dripping frogs?"  

If you laughed, bless your heart.  =]


Recommended ages:  13+

 photo sarahsignature_zps5172c7cd.png

Character Spotlight [Gunnar]

Hope everyone had a blessed Thanksgiving with family and friends!  Cherish this time!

My grandmother loves quotes just as much as I do and she always has this one to say around this time:  "What if, when we wake up in the morning, all we have was what we thanked God for today." (unknown)
Wow.  That's something to think about.

Anyway, back to blogging. . . =]
I apologize, dear readers.  My posts of late have been rather scattered and out-of-order. . .  But for today, I have another Spotlight for you, featuring the father of my MC (main character) in Safia.

Gunnar Leifson
age:  52
height:  6'10"
weight:  242 lbs
eye color:  blue
hair color:  sunny blond
home country:  Norska

Gruff.  A bit rough around the edges.  He hails from the harsh Northern country of Norska, home of the Skahmen (my version of the Vikings)--raiders and pirates of the cold Northern Seas.

Reformed merchant captain aboard the Lady of Leif.
Before, a feared pirate.

Worst Fear:
Losing his wife.  Failing his daughter.

Personal Quote:
"Unhand my daughter, scum o' the Down!"

Role in Safia:
Sadly, Gunnar's role is short-lived.  Literally.  His death marks the beginning of his daughter's adventure.  Though we may learn more of him along the way. . .  =]  Still, he dies a hero, saving his daughter and securing her future.


The sketch is courtesy of Julia, again.  =]  This has to be one of my absolute favorites!  I think she captured the exact image floating through my mind.  To give you an idea of the scene, I'll post an excerpt from this story in the next couple days.  Look forward to it!

 photo sarahsignature_zps5172c7cd.png

A Word, Guv'na?

[pro.  NOO-ahns]
noun  1. a subtle difference or distinction in expressionmeaning, response, etc. 
2. a very slight difference or variation in color or tone.


Disney's Tangled taught me this word.  =]

'Tis truth!  I had no need of it till then.  This just proves that Disney films are educational.
Your argument is invalid.

 photo sarahsignature_zps5172c7cd.png

What's in a Name?

Anna requested a set of Swiss names!  Thank you, Anna!

I actually had to research a couple different websites in order to find these.  I am quite happy with my finds. =]  Most of these names are similarly connected to other countries' names like Sweden, Germany, Norway, etc.  Just as people migrated through neighboring countries, names also traveled.  Thus, we have a myriad of different spellings with virtually the same meanings and so on.

Gender:  Masculine
Usage:  Swiss, Swedish
Pronunciation:  HAL-vahr

Meaning & History
Swedish form of Halvard, which is derived from the Old Norse name Hallvarõr, meaning "rock guardian" or "rock defender."

Gender:  Feminine
Usage:  Swiss, German, Late Roman
Pronunciation:  ve-RE-nah (German)

Meaning & History
Possibly means "defender."  May also be related to the Latin word verus meaning "true."  Saint Verena was a 3rd-century Egyptian nurse who accompanied the Theban Legion to Switzerland.  After the legion was massacred, she settled near Zurich.

Gender:  Masculine
Usage:  Swiss, Swedish
Pronunciation:  YORE-gan

Meaning & History
Swedish form of Jürgen, which is a low German form of George, ultimately meaning "earth-worker, farmer."

Gender:  Feminine
Usage:  Swiss, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Estonian
Pronunciation:  KIE-ah

Meaning & History
Possibly means "pure."  The Estonian translation means "echo."  Also a Scandinavian diminutive of Katarina, a cognate (relative) of Katherine; and might also be derived from the Old Norse kaõa meaning "hen."

Photos via Pinterest.

 photo sarahsignature_zps5172c7cd.png

Book Review [Heartless]

Tales of Goldstone Wood (#1)
Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Publisher: Bethany House
Genre:  YA
Christian Allegory

The Dragon King Seeks His Princess—
Who Dares to Stop Him?

Princess Una of Parumvir has come of age and will soon marry. She dreams of a charming prince, but when her first suitor arrives, he's not what she'd hoped. Prince Aethelbald of mysterious Farthestshore has travelled a great distance to prove his love--and also to bring hushed warnings of danger. A dragon is rumored to be on the hunt and blazing a path of terror. 

Una, smitten instead with a more dashing prince, refuses Aethelbald's offer--and ignores his cautions with dire consequences. Soon the Dragon King himself is in Parumvir and Una, in giving her heart away unwisely, finds herself in his sights. Only those courageous enough to risk everything have a hope of fighting off this advancing evil.

Warning:  Possible spoilers!

I read this back in September. . . 'Bout time I reviewed it, eh? =]

[The Basics]
Una, Princess of Parumvir, has just come of age, and dreams of the time when her Prince Charming shall arrive.  He does, but is not quite the kind of prince she was expecting.  Aethelbald is his name, and he hails from the land of Farthestshore, a realm of mystery and magic.  Rather plain and average in looks, Aethelbald does his best to prove his love to the obstinate and spoiled princess, but she has already unwisely given her heart to another, even after his earnest warnings.

I found myself wishing desperately to slap some sense into this girl.  Aethelbald goes above and beyond to show her his love and faithfulness, and what does she do? publicly refuses him, insults him more than once, and makes it clear he is not her choice.  Still, Aethelbald pursues her.  Through him, we see the love of Christ for His Church.  

Sadly, I saw myself in Una.  I know what I want, and all to often, I do whatever is in my power to get it.  I have my life planned out perfectly and I don't want some plain wanna-be prince stealing my dreams.  

The princess is a beautifully flawed character who learns the hard way what happens when one surrenders all to sin.  In short, it unleashes the dragon inside.  The one we keep hidden.  Sooner or later, it will show itself, whether you wish it to or not.  That's where our Prince comes in to save the day.

[Spiritual Content]
This novel is a fantastic allegory (symbolic story) of Christ's love and forgiveness, what lengths He goes through to prove that love, the consequences of unfaithfulness, and the true form of our sin.  As mentioned above, Prince Aethelbald of Farthestshore represents Jesus Christ and his all-out pursuit of His bride, in this case, Una.  Una represents the Church.  Through her we see how far we have fallen and how loyal we are to our own plans for our lives.  But He loves us anyway and goes to great lengths to prove it to us.  

The Dragon King, you may have guessed, is symbolic of our Enemy, Satan.  His children, "converted" dragons act as his demons, wreaking havoc and chaos in the world.

Among the many suitors of the princess is the Dragon King himself, though he wants more than just her hand and will also go to great lengths to secure her as his own.  His wish is to make her a daughter, just as many others have become his children.  But it is her choice alone.  In seeking her, the Dragon destroys everything in his path.  Rumors abound, and are true (spoiler!), that he has overtaken a whole kingdom.  People are killed, homes burn to the ground, and toxic smoke pollutes the air, eventually poisoning those who breathe it.  To make matters worse, he brings the destruction to her doorstep.  The king, Una's father, is poisoned by fumes and doubted to survive.  Her younger brother, Felix, suffers as well and is thought dead.  The royal family is betrayed by trusted knights.  

One thing I didn't like:  ALL dragons are evil.  Not one good among them.  But it fits in this story.  And Satan is often called the Great Dragon.  

[Love-y Content]
As previously mentioned, Aethelbald does all that he can to prove his faithfulness to Una.  Clearly, his love is displayed in his polite words, calm personality, and genuine concern for her well-being.  I only recall one kiss. . . I think. 

One pompous suitor only desires Una's hand for the apparent wealth of her kingdom, as does another, unexpected, wealthy man.  

Another young man, whom we discover more of in the following books, expresses his love to her, though he believes it quite hopeless.  (I won't say more, you'll just have to read it to find out.)

Goldstone Wood is regarded as dangerous.  None are allowed to enter, as a caution, for through the Wood live the people of Faerie (among other creatures like goblins, giants, and dwarves).  They are referred to as folk of the Far World.  Magic is quite familiar among them.  Faerie items are sold in a Twelve-Year Market that arrives in Una's world (the Near World) every 200 years.

All in all, I loved this book!  Anne's writing style is wonderful and uniquely descriptive.  I didn't want to put the book down.  And this is just the first of the series!  The story is a refreshing view that shines a new light on our temperament as Christians--how we are to stand strong in the midst of the dragon-smoke and not conform to the hardened scales of the monster inside.


Recommended ages:  13+

 photo sarahsignature_zps5172c7cd.png

Book Review [Aquifer]

Truth Lies Just Below the Surface. . .
Jonathan Friesen

Publisher:  Blink
Genre:  YA (young adult)

Only he can bring what they need to survive...

In 2250, water is scarce, and those who control it control everything. And they’ll do anything to maintain their power – deceiving, dividing families, banning love... even killing those who oppose them.

But above all, they seek to control knowledge and communication – ensuring the truth that will bring their downfall will never be known. But one person verges on discovering it all.

Sixteen-year-old Luca becomes the Deliverer, the only one allowed to contact the people called ‘Water Rats,’ who mine the essential water deep underground and bring it to the ‘Toppers’ who desperately need it above. 

But when he meets a Water Rat who captures his heart and leads him to secrets – secrets about a vast conspiracy, and about himself – the net around him tightens. Luca and those around him must uncover and share the truth needed to overthrow tyranny – even as they fight for their lives.

Warning:  Possible Spoilers.

When I first read the description for this novel, I was strongly reminded of the movie (haven't read the book) City of Ember, a favorite of mine, which really doesn't mean much, because I have SO many favorites. . . ;D Though between the two, there are some major differences.  In City of Ember, Earth's population is below in an underground refuge called Ember.  Jonathan Friesen's Aquifer has people above and below--different cultures, and yet somehow similar.

I found this story absolutely intriguing; one-of-a-kind.  In short, I loved it!  Though I was often confused by the dialogue and felt, at times, it was lacking in important facts about the story.  However, it was well worth it in the end.  Mr. Friesen's writing style is fantastic, in my opinion.  There were many words and phrases new to me that I loved.

[The Basics]
In Aquifer, the world as we know it now, is drastically different than in the "time" of Luca, set, as you saw above in the year 2250.  Books have been banned as evil.  (NOOOO!!!)  As well as cell phones and any related devices.  Vehicles are functional, however, and motor boats are used for transportation and execution (More on that in the Violence section.).  Due to the lack of rain, and possibly atmospheric pollution (though nothing of the sort is mentioned in the book), water is precious and in small supply.  

At least that is what the Toppers, the people who live on the parched surface, have believed for centuries.

The story is set in New Pert, a mainland city located on the landmass of Australya--the only known location where a coveted aquifer (a geological formation containing or conducting ground water) lies beneath.  Other countries mentioned, such as Sowt Amerika and Afrika, are presumed forsaken and New Pert is described as the "home [of] the only Toppers that remain."

Written in first person (not my most desirable style yet effective for this story), we step into the life of Luca, a young man of sixteen, the last in the line of the Deliverers, which we come to discover is a generation of men, chosen centuries before to maintain a treaty with the people below, known as Water Rats, and to obtain the year's supply of water by descending below using a route known only to them.

[RANDOM note about the people of New Pert:  Dreadlocks.  Yep.  Everyone has dreadlocks. (Long dreadlocks.  Luca is described as having long blond hair, falling down his back.)  At first this blew me away, because I cannot honestly imagine everyone in dreadlocks.  But then, it began to make sense.  I mean, how often would you have to wash your hair, right?  Especially if water is coveted and lacking quantity?  I dunno, just a thought. . .]

*ahem* Where was I?  Oh yes.

Awesome plot, confusing in places, but I believe it comes together well.  Huge plot twist near the end, that I wasn't really expecting.  Unpredictable, at least to me.  =]

[Spiritual Content]
Yes, this is a Christian novel, though I had a hard time figuring it out at first.  But that's just me.  "Almighty God" is mentioned a couple of times.  Prayer as well.  Throughout the plot, Luca is led by a Voice, who speaks to him in his mind.  The book is a little vague on Who exactly it is supposed to be.  You just assume.  Others listen to Him as well and are referred to as Wishers.

[Violent Content]
The Toppers are controlled by a Council, who in turn controls a group of men known as the Watchers, or the Amongus--the people's pet name for the hated men--that acts as a type of police force or militia on behalf of the Council.  These men possess dials that detect "wrinkles," which is any form of illegal emotion (love, laughter, fear, anger, etc.), and delivers the punishment accordingly.  The consequences of these "crimes" warrant either a debriefing, which is, frankly put, a brainwashing, the result of which makes one a numb, walking slave; or the March of the Undone, where the targeted person/persons are marched to the docks, board a boat, row to a certain point of the ocean, clap weighted shackles to their wrists and ankles, and jump overboard.  Horrific, I know.  Any reference to a dead person, or to death at all, is referred to as undone.  One character has the grisly job of retrieving the undone, but I won't go into that.

Lies are multiplied and abound.  Fear brings chaos and people are beaten and bruised, starved, stabbed, and/or scarred (mentally and physically).  Explosions tear through walls, rocks and arrows fly, hitting targets with fatal results.

[Love-y Content]
Luca eventually meets someone.  A girl, and she sends him head-over-heels.  Literally.  =]  In a good way, I guess.  They hold hands, hug, and kiss (two times, I think).  Nothing more.  I promise, it's safe.

In time, Luca descends, testing his memory on the path he has learned since a wee child.  A race of humans that he was taught were ugly and deformed--devolved even, turn out to be quite the opposite.  He finds friendship in unlikely people, and enemies in others.  A prophecy is spoken of, but never explained.  Instead it is pieced together throughout and it isn't until the end that you really discover what it all means.

Again, I found this book truly intriguing.  To me, it was a fresh adventure filled with daring, emotion, and a great perspective of how lies, when told over and over, eventually become truths to a hopeless people.  One of the quotes that really stood out to me was this:

"We're told Wishers are evil, but they gave their lives for me.  We're told our leader will care for us, but we end up undone.  We're lied to all our lives.  We teach lies to the children, and they pass them on to theirs, and after years of the drumbeat, lies sound like the truth.  That's when the flip happens, and what's real and good sounds like insanity.  
We've traded the truth for a lie."
--Luca, pgs. 239

Lies are powerful.  But truth is greater still.

I was provided a copy of this book, thanks to BookSneeze.com.


Thanks for reading!

Recommended ages:  14-16+

My rating:

 photo sarahsignature_zps5172c7cd.png

What's in a Name?

Per request, here is a set of Scottish names!

Gender:  Masculine
Usage:  Scottish, Irish, English
Pronunciation:  NEEL (English)

Meaning & History
From the Gaelic (GOLL-ic) name Niall, possibly meaning "champion" or "cloud."  This was the given name of a semi-legendary 4th-century Irish king, Niall of the Nine Hostages.

In the early Middle Ages, this name was adopted by Vikings in Ireland in the form of Njal (the "j" would have been pronounced as a "y").  The Viking raiders brought it to England, Scotland, and Scandinavia.  The Normans, of Scandinavian origin, made use of it as well.  A famous bearer of this name was Neil Armstrong (1930-2012), an American astronaut and the first man to walk on the moon.

Gender:  Feminine
Usage:  Scottish, English
Pronunciation:  fee-OH-nǝ

Meaning & History
Feminine form of Fionn, an Irish given name meaning "fair" or "white."  The first possible use of Fiona was by Scottish poet James Macpherson in his poem "Fingal" (1762).

[Side Note] When I hear this name, I always think of Dreamworks' Shrek.  =]
Photo via Google.

Gender:  Masculine
Usage:  Scottish, English
Pronunciation:  LO-gǝn 

Meaning & History
From a surname, originally derived of a Scottish place name meaning "little hollow" in Scottish Gaelic.

[Side Note]  This is the name of a minor character in my WIP, Safia.  Logan Rouseau, first cousin of Safia Leifson, second son of her mother's eldest brother, Lord Damien.  He, among the others of the Rouseau family, are native of Charan (sha-RAHN), a country based closely on France.

Gender:  Feminine
Usage:  Scottish
Pronunciation:  IE-lǝ

Meaning & History
Meaning unknown.  Variant of Islay, from the name of the island of Islay, which lies off the west coast of Scotland.

Any requests? =]

Names via behindthename.com.
Photos via Pinterest.

 photo sarahsignature_zps5172c7cd.png

Book Review [Walking With Frodo]

Walking With Frodo
A devotional journey through the Lord of the Rings.
Sarah Arthur

[description from Goodreads]
Tolkien's Lord of the Rings epic tale has long captivated readers with its parallels to biblical truth.  And now, "Walking with Frodo" looks at the biblical themes found in the classic Lord of the Rings trilogy.  The 18 devotions pair vices and virtues (deception vs. honesty, light vs. darkness, good vs. evil) displayed by characters in The Lord of the Ringsand bring to light what the Bible has to say.  A must-have for longtime and new series fans.


Okay.  If you do not know already, I am a HUGE movie freak.  (Probably more than I should be. . . heheh)  I am always up-to-date on the newest upcoming films, usually know the names of the actors, can tell you where they were born and how old they are, and am fluent in movie quotes.  

So, when I saw this book on the bargain shelf at Lifeway, I had to get it!

And I loved it!

From start to finish, you travel a journey that focuses on vices and virtues--betrayal vs. loyalty, bondage vs. freedom--coupled with examples from the books and movies of The Lord of the Rings.  Mrs. Arthur brings to light how the characters of J.R.R.Tolkien seem to represent beings in our world.  For instance, the Balrog, Master of Fire and Shadows, represents our great Enemy, Satan. 

"Whatever the murky history of his past, Satan is real.  He specializes in absorbing light, in casting shadows, and in generating great vacuums of fear and spiritual blindness. . ." (pgs. 8, Part 1)

In each part, a lesson is learned.

"This is the lesson of the Balrog from deep within the heart of Moria:"

You are small.
Your foe is big.

Each lesson is supported by Scripture.  For the one above, it was Ephesians 6:12, which was also the theme verse for my church's drama, Lucifer's Lies:  "For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens."

Opposite of the Balrog stands our fierce and mighty hero, Gandalf the Grey, who in this instance personifies Jesus Himself, as the Warrior of Light.  The lesson to be learned through courage of Gandalf is this:

You are small.
Your foe is big.
But your God is bigger still.

I believe I say this every time I review a good book: that I could go on and on sharing with you how good it was!  However, for your sake, I shall attempt to bring this to a conclusion.  Just to give you a clue as to which character stands for what, because I would surely wish to know if I were you, here is a quick list of familiar characters and what they stand for:

Week 1: Choosing Darkness or Light
Darkness  =  the Balrog
Light  =  Gandalf the Grey

Week 2:  Choosing Pride or Humility
Pride  =  Sauron
Humility  =  Frodo Baggins

Week 3:  Choosing Corruption or Integrity
Corruption  =  Boromir and Denethor, Stewards of Gondor
Integrity  =  Faramir, brother of Boromir

Week 4:  Choosing Betrayal or Loyalty
Betrayal  =  Gollum
Loyalty  =  Samwise Gamgee

Week 5:  Choosing Disunity or Forgiveness
Disunity  =  the Orcs, slaves of Sauron
Forgiveness  =  Legolas and Gimli, sworn to eternal friendship

Week 6:  Choosing Deceit or Honesty
Deceit  =  Wormtongue
Honesty  =  Éomer, nephew of King Théoden

Week 7:  Choosing Bondage or Freedom
Bondage  =  Théoden, King of Rohan
Freedom  =  Éowyn, Lady of Rohan, niece of Théoden

Week 8:  Choosing Control or Servanthood
Control  =  Saruman
Servanthood  =  Aragorn, true King of Gondor

Week 9:  Choosing Despair or Hope
Despair  =  the Nine Kings, the Ringwraiths
Hope  =  the Eagles

You must know it is incredibly difficult for me to keep these reviews brief.  My fingers seem to be twitching with the urge to just rewrite the whole book in my words. . . Not gonna happen, but still. . .  ;D

All in all, in my opinion, this devotional is a great read.  I would definitely recommend to anyone who thinks of themselves as part of the LotR fandom.  Wonderful book for family devotions and/or young readers who have just discovered Tolkien's works.

Sarah Arthur has other books using films and novels as a focus point, including Walking With Bilbo: A devotional journey through Tolkien's The Hobbit; Dating Mr. Darcy: the Smart Girl's Guide to Sensible Romance; and Walking Through the Wardrobe: A Devotional Quest into the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe--all of which I would like to read sometime.  =]  We'll see.

In the meantime, I would recommend this for ages:  8+ 
(Personally, I don't believe it needs an age group.  This would be perfectly fine to use as a family devotional, with kids of all ages, depending on the length of their attention span, and whether or not the parents have actually allowed them to watch the films. . .  Each chapter is brief, with 6-7 pages at the most, and discussion questions at the end.)

My rating:

 photo sarahsignature_zps5172c7cd.png