How precious are Your thoughts to me, O LORD ... how vast is the sum of them!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Year in Books

Last year, I did an “awards ceremony” for the fifteen books that impacted me most in the year … they didn’t win awards per se, but they did win recognition and commendation. Like last year, this year’s list represents many genresand also, because it’s limited to fifteen, is unable to include all the books that impacted me. I read 51, which beats last year’s score by quite a bit, but that also makes the decisions harder! These are more or less in order, but a bunch of them ranked very close together, so don’t pay too much attention to the numbers. (If I were to do this list again without referring to the order here, I would probably discover that I had rearranged them.)

Without further ado …
# 15
The Perilous Gard
Elizabeth Marie Pope
This YA novel brought me back to the type of books I enjoyed most when I was younger: historical fiction with a dash of fantasy and wonder. About Tudor England, mysterious cults, and the beautiful landscape, it’s no wonder this was captivating enough for me to exclaim, “I’d love to write a book like this someday!”

The Kings and Queens of England
Jane Murray
This fun history book untangled the English monarchs enough for me to have them memorized at one point. It’s proved helpful several times just in the few months since I’ve read it!

DahveedYahweh’s Chosen
Terri Fivash
This was an adventurous, hard-hitting novel about David as a boy and young man, the first of seven in a series. Fivash has an excellent understanding of ancient Hebrew history. Since I’ve been studying David this whole year, I know how fantastic his story is … so I look forward to the rest of the series!

Friendship and Folly
Meredith Allady
Although I’m not finished yet, I plan to be before the New Year, and I already know this book belongs here. I’ve been wanting to read a modern author that hearkens back to Jane Austen, and while there are some differences (which are delightful), I think I’ve found her!

Rose in Bloom
Louisa May Alcott
I love Louisa May Alcott, and I was very glad to revisit her story of the Eight Cousins. This book was filled with what I love best about her writinggentle moralizing, character-driven plots, family relationships, and comforting evocation of 19th-century America.

Emily Climbs and Emily’s Quest
L. M. Montgomery
Montgomery is a very satisfying writer, and I loved being able to finish the Emily stories that I started two years ago. Emily is a writer with a whole lot of depth, and these books were beautiful.

The Pickwick Papers
Charles Dickens
Sarah Scheele
These two have to be linked together, because after I read Dickens’s funny serial novel, I was privileged to edit Scheele’s funny retelling and laugh at all the inside jokes. Pickwick will always be special to me as the book I brought with me to England (and did not have much time to read).

Thaw: Winter’s Child, Winter Queen, and Prince of Demargen
E. Kaiser Writes
This hasn’t been released yet, but it’s another book I had the privilege of editing, and I enjoyed every part of it. It’s a retelling of Frozen and The Snow Queen, so it has light fantasy but a historical feel. The characters are richly endearing and constantly tugged at my heartstrings.

Mansfield Park
Jane Austen
I seldom reread a book, but Jane Austen has been the consistent exception. This classic’s 200th anniversary was in May, and I had a lovely time studying it and savoring Austen’s words again. The story with all its moral richness sank into me even more upon a second reading.

Mary Barton
Elizabeth Gaskell
I read this Victorian novel in anticipation of visiting Manchester myself during my tour to England. Like all Gaskell’s works, the characters were extremely well drawn, every social issue was fairly dealt with, and Christianity was shown to be the light that it is.

Remembering the Alamo
Alicia A. Willis
As a Texan, the story of the Alamo grips me. This was a very good telling of that story from a different perspective than I’ve heard before, and my emotions at reading it are still fresh in my mind … that’s how I know it belonged here, near the top of the list.

Kisses from Katie
Katie Davis, with Beth Clark
This memoir of a contemporary young woman who began a ministry in Uganda taking care of orphan girls was a very thought-provoking, inspiring read. I appreciated the look at modern Africa, and was encouraged to do what God has called us all to do: live with more love (among other things)!

The War of the Worlds
H. G. Wells
I myself am very, very (need I put another very?) surprised to see this so high on the list. But perhaps because it was such a different book is why it stuck with me and made me realize it had to be here. It was mildly disturbing, but fascinating, and made me think of the Apocalypse. I didn’t see the resolution coming, which doubled its impact.

Twenty Years at Hull-House
Jane Addams
This memoir about the humanitarian Jane Addams and her laudable projects was powerful for its history, smooth prose, and thought-provocation. Although it’s 100 years old, it made me want to do something and be in some ways more like Jane Addams.

Majestic Is Your Name
Theresa of Avila; edited by David Hazard
This devotional really got to the heart of spirituality, and it was something I really needed after feeling dry earlier this year. I see now that it was the first step in drawing close to God again after feeling disconnected.

As far as years go, 2014 was an excellent one. The high point was England and all the time I got to spend with my very dear, but distant, friend Laura. There were several disappointments, but none that I can’t see the reason for … instead, they opened up other things! I thank God for this year!

What was your favorite book(s) of 2014? Your favorite part of the year?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Beaded Post

Today, as I am still editing England Adventure (I am taking a long time, I know, but it’s got a lot of words and I’m evaluating every one of them—or at least it feels like it), this post is going to be like a bracelet made up of little beads of information ….

England Adventure should be ready to publish in January. I don’t have my cover yet, but once it’s here, there shouldn’t be anything holding me back! I would appreciate prayers, if you think of it, for this whole process. Thank you! I’m really excited to introduce my new characters to you, and hopefully take you to England with me ….

On Word Painters, I published an article on formatting a book … you can tell what I was working on the week that I wrote it! :)

Next Tuesday, I plan to post my top-15 list of books that impacted me most this year. It’s fun but kind of hard to narrow down to 15 … stay tuned for that, and do be thinking of your favorite books from what you read this year, because I’d like to see their intriguing titles in the comments next week.

Hanukkah’s last night is tonight! I’ve had a blessed time reflecting on our Savior and how we can let our lights shine like He did.

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Friendship and Folly, which is the novel I’m reading right now, is proving to be a delight. It’s a Jane Austen-type book about two young ladies set in 1805 England. Cleverness and authenticity drip from the pen of the author, Meredith Allady; she comes the closest to the spirit of Jane Austen of anyone I’ve read so far, yet her style is distinct and all her own. (If possible, she’s even wittier than the one who started it all, I think, which is rare to find in a Regency novel.) I look forward to reviewing it on my blog when I’m done.

On a humorous note, I leave you with this picture of these gingerbread ninjas that I got from my martial arts instructor … I almost had a hard time eating them. :) I wish my flying side kicks looked that good!

Have a wonderful week!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

It Should Be a Holiday

Even though today is a very busy and ordinary day and I can’t do much to celebrate, I feel festive. Why? Because today is the birthday of my favorite author, Jane Austen. She was born in 1775, so that would make this her 239th birthday. She only lived to see her forty-first, but her legacy has mushroomed more than she could ever have imagined in her wildest dreams. People don’t always interpret her correctly, but many love her. Our literary lives would be missing so much if she had not written her books; I feel that she is one of the people that God has used to bless the world, if only to inspire us with moral characters, help us become wiser in our choices, and entertain us with much-needed laughter and skillful writing.

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This year, I can picture her quietly observing her birthday at home in early 1800s Chawton because, in September, I was privileged to see where she lived for the last eight years of her life. (See this post for more.)

I wish I had time to make this a more full-bodied article, but perhaps you’d like to read my previous Jane Austen-birthday posts here and here.

Until next week!

P.S. You also might be interested to know that tonight is the first night of Hanukkah on the Jewish calendar. To those of you who celebrate it, Happy Hanukkah! If you would like to read more about it, go to this post, when, last year, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah coincided. 

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Project 10:8

Just a quick post today because I am trying to be a good author/mother and focus on my upcoming novel England Adventure

If you have a story, short or long, or a poem, or graphic art that you would like to donate to a good cause, you might like to check this out from Rivershore Books:

Project 10:8 is an effort to raise money for Justice Society, an organization that fights slavery and human trafficking across the world. Rivershore Books is looking for quality writing and graphic art to sell on their website to support this cause. Short stories and poems will be bound in collections, longer stories will be sold separately, and graphic art will be sold on their Etsy store. To learn more, click here!


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Enchanted Island

Two days ago, the word artist Lucy Maud Montgomery turned 140 years old. This lady is one of my top five favorite authors; I love her poetical descriptions and her well-drawn characters. She knew how to observe and translate those observations into writing that fills readers’ senses with images and insights … she heightens our appreciation for natural beauty and human personalities. There is deep emotion running beneath her descriptions, which makes their impact greater. The land, the water, the trees, the gardens, the houses, all are characters in themselves. She almost always wrote stories with Prince Edward Island, Canada, as backdrop. When you have read much of Montgomery’s work, the island becomes as much a storied land as England, or, in our individual experiences, our own homes. L. M. Montgomery’s work is probably what first revealed to me how much I value setting in a story.

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What fueled her development as a writer? How did she become so good at what she did? She wrote all the timedaily diary entries, letters, hundreds of short stories and 22 novels. She readSir Walter Scott, Charles Dickens, the Bronte sisters, Anthony Trollope, William Thackeray; poetry, prose, history, psychology, contemporary best-sellers. She loved her home, Prince Edward Island. Her vivid imagination gave her no rest. I read an instructive biography a couple of years ago called Magic Island; you can read my review of it here and see what I learned about her life and writing. That’s where I found this endearing quote from her diary: “How I love my work. I seem to grow more and more wrapped up in it as the days pass and other hopes and interests fail me. Nearly everything I think or do or say is subordinated to a desire to improve in my work. I study people and events for that, I think and speculate and read for that” (December 31, 1898). If you’re a writer, doesn’t that sound familiar to your experience?

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Her family and friends called her Maud. Her mother died before she was two, and at age seven she was sent by her father to live with her maternal grandparents. She was brought up strictly, and had little contact with children her age … she made up imaginary friends and worlds instead. She attributed her keen creativity to that necessity. She was good in school and achieved her teacher’s certificate in one year (as opposed to two!) at college before studying literature at a university. That certificate was usefulshe became a teacher for some yearsbut she vastly preferred her writing … beginning in 1897, her short stories were regularly published. Her first novel, the phenomenal Anne of Green Gables, burst into readers’ hearts in 1908. In 1911 she married Ewan MacDonald, a Presbyterian minister, and had three sons, two of whom lived to adulthood: Chester and Stuart. Sadly, she suffered from depression, and her husband was mentally ill in later life. She wrote until her death in 1942, but the last novel she saw through publication was Anne of Ingleside, in 1939. The Anne-related short stories in The Road to Yesterday were published posthumously. Funny, and fitting, how she bookended her novelistic career with much-loved Anne ....

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I’ve read the eight Anne books, the three Emily books, The Blue Castle, Chronicles of Avonlea, and Further Chronicles of Avonleabut I’ve by no means exhausted Montgomery’s supply of fiction! We readers have many opportunities to dip into the beautiful, occasionally disturbing and thought-provoking world that she sculpted out of the shores, meadows, woods, and people of Prince Edward Island. Have you read any of her books? Which ones?