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

Personality:
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.

Occupation:
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.

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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!

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A Word, Guv'na?


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

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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.

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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.

Halvar
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."








Verena
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.

Jörgen
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."








Kaja
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.

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Book Review [Heartless]

Heartless
Tales of Goldstone Wood (#1)
Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Publisher: Bethany House
Genre:  YA
Christian Allegory

[Goodreads]
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.

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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.

[Violence]
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.)

[Other]
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.

[Conclusion]
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.

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Recommended ages:  13+


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Book Review [Aquifer]

Aquifer
Truth Lies Just Below the Surface. . .
Jonathan Friesen

Publisher:  Blink
Genre:  YA (young adult)
Christian

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.

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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.

[Other]
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.

[Conclusion]
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.

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Thanks for reading!

Recommended ages:  14-16+

My rating:

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What's in a Name?

Per request, here is a set of Scottish names!

Neil
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.


Fiona
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.

Logan
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.


Isla
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.

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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.

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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:


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Upcoming Reviews!

UPDATE -- New book added below!

I am so behind in my list of books to review!  ARGH! 

*le sigh*  So, I have decided to post a list of reviews for you, dear readers, to look forward to.  Hopefully, this will serve two purposes:  To check these off my list; and to motivate me to actually make the effort to post them!  I am such a terrible procrastinator!  

By the way, can you believe we are nearly in the days of mid-November??  This year has flown by so fast!  

Anyway, here is a list of books (in no particular order) I plan to review starting now through December.  Don't forget to come back and visit if interested!

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 Rings and bring to light what the Bible has to say.  A must-have for longtime and new series fans.




Heartless
Tales of Goldstone Wood #1
Anne Elisabeth Stengl

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.

A Tale of Goldstone Wood (the first book)
Timeless Fantasy That Will Keep You Spellbound.

Veiled Rose
Tales of Goldstone Wood #2
Anne Elisabeth Stengl

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?

Moonblood
Tales of Goldstone Wood #3
Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Desperate to regain the trust of his kingdom, Prince Lionheart reluctantly banishes his faithful servant and only friend, Rose Red. Now she is lost in the hidden realm of Arpiar, held captive by her evil goblin father, King Vahe. Vowing to redeem himself, Lionheart plunges into the mysterious Goldstone Wood, seeking Rose Red. In strange other worlds, Lionheart must face a lyrical yet lethal tiger, a fallen unicorn, and a goblin horde on his quest to rescue the girl he betrayed. With the Night of Moonblood fast approaching, when King Vahe seeks to wake the Dragon's sleeping children, Lionheart must discover whether or not his heart contains courage before it's too late for Rose Red...and all those he loves.


The Real Lincoln
A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War.
Thomas J. DiLorenzo

Most Americans consider Abraham Lincoln to be the greatest president in history. His legend as the Great Emancipator has grown to mythic proportions as hundreds of books, a national holiday, and a monument in Washington, D.C., extol his heroism and martyrdom. But what if most everything you knew about Lincoln were false? What if, instead of an American hero who sought to free the slaves, Lincoln were in fact a calculating politician who waged the bloodiest war in american history in order to build an empire that rivaled Great Britain's? In The Real Lincoln, author Thomas J. DiLorenzo uncovers a side of Lincoln not told in many history books and overshadowed by the immense Lincoln legend. 
Through extensive research and meticulous documentation, DiLorenzo portrays the sixteenth president as a man who devoted his political career to revolutionizing the American form of government from one that was very limited in scope and highly decentralized—as the Founding Fathers intended—to a highly centralized, activist state. Standing in his way, however, was the South, with its independent states, its resistance to the national government, and its reliance on unfettered free trade. To accomplish his goals, Lincoln subverted the Constitution, trampled states' rights, and launched a devastating Civil War, whose wounds haunt us still. According to this provacative book, 600,000 American soldiers did not die for the honorable cause of ending slavery but for the dubious agenda of sacrificing the independence of the states to the supremacy of the federal government, which has been tightening its vise grip on our republic to this very day.
You will discover a side of Lincoln that you were probably never taught in school—a side that calls into question the very myths that surround him and helps explain the true origins of a bloody, and perhaps, unnecessary war. 

not a fan.
Becoming a completely committed follower of Jesus.
Kyle Idleman

Are you a follower of Jesus?  Don't answer too quickly.  In fact, you may want to read this book before you answer at all.  Consider it a 'Define the Relationship' conversation to determine exactly where you stand.  You may indeed be a passionate, fully devoted follower of Jesus.  Or, you may be just a fan who admires Jesus but isn't ready to let him cramp your style.  Then again, maybe you're not into Jesus, period.  In any case, don't take the question---Are you a follower of Jesus?---lightly.  Some people don't know what they've said yes to and other people don't realize what they've said no to, says Pastor Kyle Idleman.  But Jesus is ready to clearly define the relationship he wants with his followers.  Not a Fan calls you to consider the demands and rewards of being a true disciple.  With frankness sprinkled with humor, Idleman invites you to live the way Jesus lived, love the way he loved, pray the way he prayed, and never give up living for the One who gave his all for you.

Aquifer
Jonathan Friesen

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.

UPDATE -- New book added! (to original post)
The Shadow Things 
Jennifer Freitag

[Goodreads]
The Legions have left the province of Britain and the Western Roman Empire has dissolved into chaos. With the world plunged into darkness, paganism and superstition are as rampant as ever. In the Down country of southern Britain, young Indi has grown up knowing nothing more than his gods of horses and thunder; so when a man from across the sea comes preaching a single God slain on a cross, Indi must choose between his gods or the one Godand face the consequences of his decision.








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Come back soon!

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Book Review [Last Light]

LAST LIGHT
Terri Blackstock

[description from Goodreads]
In the face of a crisis that sweeps an entire high-tech planet back to the age before electricity, Deni Branning's career ambitions have vanished. She's not about to let her dream of marriage go as well.

But keeping it alive will require extraordinary measures. Yesterday's world is gone. All Deni and her family have left is each other and their neighbors. Their little community will either stand or fall together. But they're only beginning to realize it - and trust doesn't come easily.

Particularly when one of them is a killer.

Best-selling suspense author Terri Blackstock weaves a masterful what-if novel in which global catastrophe reveals the darkness in human hearts - and lights the way to restoration for a self-centered world.

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When I first read the description of this book, my mind immediately thought of the new TV show called Revolution.  You may have heard of it, or watched it even.  In my opinion, it's not worth it.  I will explain in a moment.  [By the way, this isn't a review for the show.  I am merely using it as a comparison.]

We live in a world of technology.  Smartphones, computers, tablets, electric cars, vehicles that park themselves--you name it.  And there is a never-ending race to keep "inventing" newer, better stuff; and if you don't own it, you are considered poor.  

Well, imagine if, without cause, ALL of our tech--cell phones, cars, electricity, planes--ceased to work.  

Scary thought, right?  

In a nutshell, that is what happens in both the show Revolution and Terri Blackstock's "Last Light."  A massive, worldwide outage.  You get the picture, yes?

Except there is a huge difference between the two stories.  In Revolution, it is a dog-eat-dog world.  They've been without power for sixteen years.  Mini wars rage cross country and citizens are controlled by a corrupt militia.  Murders occur everywhere you look.  Robberies.  Theft.  

They have no hope.  

Similar to the television show, the characters of Blackstock's "Last Light" experience the same event (though in no way are they connected authors/story-wise.)  Revolution features intense episodes filled with a high body count and absolutely no hope for relief.  While "Last Light" suffers the results of a worldwide catastrophe in which they lose power to everything, yes, they still have a hope and trust in the Master of Creation.  A huge difference in the two stories. Here is a great summary of the two:

  Revolution:  
It's Hopeless.  

"Last Light": 
God is in Control.  

Make sense?

This novel centers on a family of six, the Brannings, and their struggle to survive in a world turned upside down.  When the outage first occurs, cars stall in the middle of highways, planes fall from the sky, and the electricity, as well as any and all technical devices power down, leaving the people of Alabama (at least as far as they know, it's just them) in an eerie silence.  Even the water system is not functional, for only a trickle seeps from the faucets.  Banks are in shutdown mode, leaving most with no money whatsoever.

As the description above insinuates, this crisis brings out the worst in people.  Theft breaks out like an epidemic and murder results from petty greed.  The family, including everyone in their neighborhood, is forced to ration food, rely on bicycles for transportation, learn traits that would be considered primitive--such as, hand-washing their own clothes, and beginning a compost pile in their backyard--and conserve water and any other items that might be of use.

Deni Branning, a central character, is a 22-year-old independent, stuck-up, vain, selfish, cocky, "the-world-revolves-around-me", spoiled brat.

Can you tell she wasn't my favorite?  =]  At least not at first.  She learns her lesson, the hard way. 

Her father, Doug, another main character, though imperfect like everyone else, tries his utmost best to provide for his family and see the good in every situation.  He is the first to consider the outage as a wake-up call from God.  It could have been so much worse.  They still have their family, a roof over their heads, comfortable beds, and food.  He and his eldest son, Jeff, take up the responsibility of protecting the family when news of murders echo throughout the neighborhood, adequately displaying the man's role as a protector and guardian.  Doug Branning is a great example of a godly father with a clear purpose: to protect and serve his family and those around him.  His wife, Kay, tries to be strong for him and the children, and, no matter how difficult, always manages to put others first.

In conclusion, this novel was a eye-opener.  One of those slap-in-the-face, WAKE UP kind of eye-openers.  We take so much for granted in this world we live in, that we lose sight of being grateful for the little things: having hot water for a shower, flushing toilets, a freezer full of frozen meats and veggies, a pantry full of food, a washing machine, working vehicles--I could go on and on.  The Branning family comes to realize how much we rely on those things that, if something like an outage actually happened, would be completely useless, obsolete.  They learn to trust wholly on God, even when it feels hopeless.  And in Deni's case, when she had strayed so far from His path, she learned that God will never give up on us.  Though we do not deserve it, He loves us and will never leave us.

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

Recommended ages:  18+ 
(due to graphic content)

My rating:

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