Favorite Quotes from The Curate of Glaston by George MacDonald

I finally finished reading The Curate of Glaston by George MacDonald last night. I’ve been plugging away at it since the beginning of January – and while it is in a similar vein to MacDonald’s There and Back, I found it considerably weightier, and am still mulling over it. As usual, I love how MacDonald handles skepticism (the story follows a young curate who doesn’t believe what he’s been preaching), but there’s something he drives at in this book that I’m not entirely comfortable with. I’m trying to understand why it makes me uncomfortable, and at some point in the future, I expect to provide an analysis of exactly what is troubling me. Until then, I thought I’d share some of my favorite quotes from the book.

She had just finished the novel of the day, and was suffering a mild reaction – the milder, perhaps, that she was not altogether satisfied with the consummation. For the heroine had, after much sorrow and patient endurance, at length married a man whom she could not help knowing to be not worth having.

“Helen Lingard was not a girl of the sort to fall readily in love.”

I wonder how many speak with the voices that really belong to them.

“Ought not men be good to one another because they are made up of ones and others? Do you or I need threats and promises to make us kind? … You must consider that you are but a part of the whole, and that whatever you do to hurt the whole, or injure any of its parts, will return upon you who form one of those parts.”

Even the sunshine, the gladdest thing in creation, is sad sometimes.

“But how can a man go through anything till his hour be come?”

‘Then do you intend that a man should make up his sermons from the books he reads?’

‘Yes, if he cannot do better. But then I would have him read – not with his sermon in his eye, but with his people in his heart.’

“What is Christianity, then?”

“God in Christ, and Christ in man.”

‘How am I to know that there is a God?’

‘It were a more pertinent question, sir,” returned Polwarth, -‘If there be a God, how am I to find him?’

“My longing was mainly for refuge, for some corner into which I might creep, where I should be concealed and so at rest.”

‘I repeat,” said Polwarth, ‘that the community whose servant you are was not founded to promulgate or defend the doctrine of the existence of a Deity, but to perpetuate the assertion of a man that he was the son and only revealer of the Father of men, a fact, if it be a fact, which precludes the question of the existence of a God, because it includes the answer to it. Your business, therefore, even as one who finds himself  in your unfortunate position as clergyman, is to make yourself acquainted with that man: he will be to you nobody save in revealing, through knowledge of his inmost heart, the Father to you.’

“If a man will use figures [illustrations], he should be careful to give them legs.”

Sometimes a thunderbolt, as men call it, will shoot from a clear sky; and sometimes into the midst of a peaceful family, or a yet quieter individuality, without warning of gathered storm above, or lightest tremble of earthquake beneath, will fall a terrible fact, and from the moment everything is changed. That family or that life is no more what it was – probably never more can be what it was. Better it ought to be, worse it may be – which, depends upon itself. But its spiritual weather is altered. The air is thick with cloud, and cannot weep itself clear. There may come a gorgeous sunset though.

“The Power of Life is not content that they who live in and by him should live poorly and contemptibly. If the presence of low thoughts which he repudiates, yet makes a man miserable, how must it be with him if they who live and move and have their being in him are mean and repulsive, or alienated through self-sufficiency and slowness of heart?”

But when a woman, in her own nature cold, takes delight in rousing passion, she will, selfishly confident in her own safety, go to strange lengths in kindling and fanning the flame which is the death of the other.

“To be content is not to be satisfied. No one ought to be satisfied with the imperfect.”

Thou only thinkest – I am thought.

“It is the man Christ Jesus we have to know, and the Bible we have to use to that end – not for theory or dogma.”

If a dream reveal a principle, that principle is a revelation, and the dream is neither more nor less valuable than a waking thought that does the same.

“For Christianity does not mean what you think or what I think concerning Christ, but what is of Christ. My Christianity, if I ever come to have any, will be what Christ is in me; your Christianity now is what of Christ is in you.”

What man was more dangerous than he who went too far?”

“The only thing I can say is: if you have been in the way of doing anything you are no longer satisfied with, don’t do it anymore.”

How would Jesus Christ have done if he had been a draper instead of a carpenter?

“The curate’s search, it will be remarked, had already widened greatly the sphere of his doubts.”

With him they sought and found shelter. He was their saviour from the storm of human judgment and the biting frost of public opinion, even when that opinion and that judgment were re-echoed by the justice of their own hearts. He received them, and the life within them rose up, and the light shone – the conscious light of light, despite even of shame and self-reproach.

“And do not our souls themselves fall out with their surroundings, and cry for a nobler, better, more beautiful life?”

Yet it is strange to see how even noble women, with the divine gift of imagination, may be argued into unbelief in their best instincts by some small man, as common-place as clever, who beside them is as limestone to marble.

“No crime can be committed against a creature without being committed also against the creator of that creature.”

But the first part of friendship sometimes is to confess poverty.

“Your calling is to do the best for your neighbor that you reasonably can.”

What sort of watchmaker were he who could not set right the watches and clocks himself made?”

“The only way to save your brother is to strengthen him to do his duty, whatever that may be.”

It is true that the best help a woman can get is from a right man – equally true with its converse; but let the man who ventures take heed. Unless he is able to counsel a woman to the hardest thing that bears the name of duty, let him not dare give advice even to her asking.

“He loved her with the passion of a man mingled with the compassion of a prophet.”

I only venture to suggest that, though the labourer is worthy of his hire, not every man is worthy of the labour.

“The waves of infidelity are coming in with a strong wind and a flowing tide. Who is to blame? God it cannot be, and for unbelievers, they are as they were. It is the Christians who are to blame. I do not mean those who are called Christians, but those who call and count themselves Christians. I tell you, and I speak to each one of whom it is true, that you hold and present such a withered, starved, miserable, death’s-hand of Christianity; that you are yourselves such poverty-stricken believers, if believers you are at all; that the notion you present to the world as your ideal, is so commonplace, so false to the grand, gracious, mighty-hearted Jesus – that you are the cause why the truth hangs its head in patience, and rides not forth on the white horse, conquering and to conquer. You dull its lustre in the eyes of men; you deform its fair proportions;  you represent not that which it is, but that which it is not, yet call yourselves by its name; you are not the salt of the earth, but a salt that has lost its savour, for ye seek all things else first, and to that seeking the kingdom of God and his righteousness shall never be added. Until you repent and believe afresh, believe in a nobler Christ, namely the Christ revealed by himself, and not the muffled form of something vaguely human and certainly all divine, which the false interpretations of men have been substituted for him, you will be, as, I repeat, you are, the main reason why faith is so scanty in the earth, and the enemy comes in like a flood.”

‘I need a God; and if there be none how did I come to need one? Yes, I know you think you can explain it all, but the way you account for it is just as miserable as what you would put in its place. I am not complete in myself like you. I am not able to live without a God. I will seek him until I find him, or drop into the abyss where all question and answer ceases.’

 

 

 

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The Box by Debbie Sheffield-Barnett

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About The Box by Debbie Sheffield-Barnett:

A little girl who is sad from the death of her mother and longs for love and affection receives a special box and becomes curious who sent it and what could possibly be inside.

A miracle takes place and restores the love in the little girl’s heart that she thought was gone forever.

About Debbie Sheffield-Barnett:

Debbie Sheffield-Barnett is a 30 year veteran teacher (retired) of the Oklahoma City Public School. She holds a BS degree in Elementary Education and minor in music (piano) and has currently returned to the classroom.

She is an accomplished singer, pianist and organist. She serves and dedicates her talents to the work of the church ministry. Debbie lives in Oklahoma City and is married to her husband Charles.  She has 5 children and 10 grandchildren.

You can connect with her on her website and Facebook.

My Review:

I give The Box by Debbie Sheffield-Barnett 5 out of 5 stars.

This review is long overdue, and it was actually supposed to be a video review, but my camcorder is acting glitchy, so I’m going the old-fashioned route: a written review.

I don’t often have the opportunity to review children’s books, but since I work with kids a lot, I’m always looking out for good books that will interest and entertain them. The Box by Debbie Sheffield-Barnett is such a book.

The book is actually based on Sheffield-Barnett’s own experiences following her mother’s passing when she was a little girl, and I think that’s important on a few levels.

First of all, it’s a way of passing a story from one generation to another. Of course, we’ve all sat and listened to our parents’ and grandparents’ stories (or, at least, I hope we have), but it’s important to have those stories preserved, and writing them down is one of the best ways to do that.

Secondly, a children’s book is an excellent way to engage the younger generation, especially because of the illustrations. Being a visual person, a story is likely to stick with me longer and be more meaningful when it’s accompanied by an illustration of some sort.

Finally, sharing from her own experiences, made Sheffield-Barnett’s The Box relatable. I understood the little girl whose world changed when her mother passed away – how she battled pity from others and how she didn’t have anyone to really talk to. I loved the suspense as the little girl tried to imagine what was in the box – I would have been doing the same thing!

I highly recommend this book for 4-6 year olds. They might not be able to read it themselves, but it’s a good one for dads and moms (or grandpas and grandmas) to read to them.

Go get your copy!

The Tethered World, A Review

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About The Tethered World (from Amazon):

“Normal” means different things to different people. For sixteen-year-old Sadie Larcen, family dynamics look a little different than most. Parents with oddball occupations? Normal. Five homeschooled siblings—one with autism? Normal.

Police knocking on the door and parents gone missing? Definitely not normal!

When Sadie uncovers the reasons behind her parents’ disappearance and the truth about her heritage, she despairs of ever feeling normal again. Especially when she learns that her mother’s interest in Bigfoot, Dwarves, and other lore extends beyond her popular blog. Sadie’s family has been entrusted with keeping the secrets of the Tethered World—home to creatures that once roamed the Garden of Eden.

Sadie and her siblings must venture into this land to rescue their parents. Stepping out of reality and into a world she never knew existed is a journey Sadie fears and resents. But she chooses to risk all to save her family.

She’s just not sure she will survive in the process.

About Heather L. L. Fitzgerald:

Heather Fitzgerald grew up in Orchards, Washington (considered part of Vancouver). She loved creative writing and loathed math. In third grade she began her first book, Rubber Bands and Mashed Bananas, pounding it out on an old-fashioned typewriter. With no typing skills or knowledge of white-out, Heather eventually gave up.

Though she married and settled down in Texas, “write a book” remained on her bucket list. Family life included homeschooling four children, one with autism. A favorite pastime was reading adventures with the kids. After they read through The Chronicles of Narnia, Heather’s desire to write became too powerful to ignore.

She began to blog and work on story ideas. When author Susan K. Marlow read Heather’s review of her book, Trouble with Treasure, she contacted Heather and asked, “Are you a writer?” By God’s grace, Susan saw something in Heather’s writing and began to mentor her.

Heather joined North Texas Christian Writers and attended writing workshops. A prompt from Susan sparked Heather’s original ideas for The Tethered World. This book is the result of six years of writing and a gazillion edits (with equal parts coffee). Though the novel is YA Fantasy, Heather prefers to call it Family Fantasy. She hopes families will read it aloud and enjoy the adventure together.

You can connect with Heather on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

My Review:

I give The Tethered World by Heather L. L. Fitzgerald 4 out of 5 stars.

In her debut novel, Fitzgerald has created a vivid world, diverse cast of characters, and an adventure on par with The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, and Redwall.

What you see on the cover is just a small glimpse of the world Fitzgerald has brought to life in The Tethered World: giant mushrooms, dark tunnels, snake branches, and many, many others occupy the pages of the story. What intrigued me most, though, was the concept: a world within our own, linked to our own since the Fall. Because of its connection, the Tethered World groans along with ours without needing to resort to allegory. Whether intended on the author’s part or not, I was reminded that human sin created total bondage for all creation, that sin does not occur in a vacuum.

When I say the characters are diverse, I don’t just mean that there is a variety of creatures in The Tethered World, though that’s certainly true. There are leprechauns, gnomes, dwarves, Nephilim, yetis, ogres, and fairies, but beyond that, the human characters were unique. Being a former homeschooler, I loved that Sadie and her siblings were homeschooled and had that special brand of homeschool humor (there was a joke about chain male that had me laughing longer than was probably reasonable). One of Sadie’s brothers has autism, and her great-aunt is afflicted with dementia, and those with loved ones in either condition will find the characters beautifully and relatably written. I would love to see more diversity like this in speculative fiction.

Sadie is not your typical brave heroine, and spends most of the adventure wishing she was back home. I didn’t particularly identify with her, but I liked this aspect about her – it made her authentic and gave opportunity for character growth.

Sophie, though – Sophie is my soul sister. There was a moment when a character quipped, “Hay is for houses,” I thought, I think the saying is ‘Hay is for horses.’ Maybe it’s a typo? Sophie echoed my sentiments just moments later, minus the part about the typo. I am known as the know-it-all in my family, too. I’ve gotten so much better over the years, but I mean, sometimes a girl just can’t help it, so I adored Sophie.

The story is packed with action throughout, and it makes for an exciting read. There were many moments when I caught myself holding my breath, wondering how the Larcens were going to make it out of this scrape or that. It’s not all serious, though: there is plenty of comic relief to offset the tense moments.

That being said, this is a bit of a journey story, and action girl that I am, I had a bit of trouble with the traveling portions. I know they’re necessary – unless you’re J. K. Rowling and then, disapparation – but even in my favorite stories – The Lord of the Rings, for example – I have a hard time with them.

I also want to thank Fitzgerald for not ending on a cliffhanger – that is my pet peeve in serial fiction, and I loved that it was resolved, and yet, you know there’s going to be more.

I highly recommend The Tethered World for fans of Tolkien, Lewis, and Jacques. It’s a fun, clean adventure that will appeal to families everywhere.

#FlashFiction: The Rumor Mill

The Rumor Mill

Copyright Lydia Thomas 2016

 

“Why do you want to work at The Rumor Mill?”

The gentleman before me is probably in his fifties. I squint. Early sixties at the latest. I called him in for the interview because of his impressive resume: he’d downed numerous institutions in his day, to say nothing of ruined individual reputations.

“Well, as I’m sure you noticed from my resume, I’ve always had a sort of fascination with this line of work.” He leans forward. “Now, I’m ready to get serious about it.”

I glance back down at his resume, and wonder how much more serious he could possibly get. “What prompted this…desire?”

“Someone’s writing a book about me.”

“A biography?”

He waves his hand. “Fiction.”

I frown. “How do you know it’s about you?”

“I’ve heard snippets here and there about the subject matter, not to mention there’s a character who’s just like me.”

“Ah. Is what’s being written about you true?”

“Would I be here if it wasn’t?”

“So, it’s personal?”

“Isn’t it always?”

I shrug. “I suppose.”

“It can’t get out.”

“How are you going to stop it?” I ask.

“She’s always had an overactive imagination. I’m not calling her a pathological liar, but”- He shrugs with a sheepish grimace.

“Well, maybe you should,” I say. “Capitalize on the overactive imagination.”

He grins. “I made that up.”

He is good.

“And you ate that up!” He crows, pointing at me.

“Let’s move on to a scenario we encounter every day here at The Rumor Mill,” I say, ignoring that last bit. “Let’s say a young adult woman moves out of her parents’ home. It’s an everyday occurrence, but how do we make it ugly?”

He leans back in his chair, and touches the tips of his fingers together. “Easy. She was pregnant and her parents kicked her out, for the puritanical crowd. She did it for a man, for the liberal crowd.”

“You like to cover your bases, I see.”

“I do. Give me another.”

“Single adult male. Mid-thirties.”

“Gay. Or one of those alpha-male-red-pill types. Seriously, you don’t have anything more challenging than that?”

“It’s often the ones who seem easiest to destroy who are the hardest to get to,” I reply. “People divide more easily over big names and brands.”

“Divide?”

“Of course,” I say. “We don’t need everyone to believe us, only enough people to generate doubt for all of the rest. Besides, half the fun of The Rumor Mill is the drama it creates.”

He dips his head in acquiescence.

“So, tell me,” I say. “Why should I hire you?”

“Because I’ll tell people The Rumor Mill is broken if you don’t.”

 

Goodbye, 2015

As I sit at the end of another year (my 27th year end – yikes!), I’m not only evaluating myself on how I met the resolutions and goals I made at the beginning of this year, but reflecting on all of the things that have changed over the days, weeks, and months of 2015. Let me tell you, it’s been full and nonstop and intense, and a lot of that hasn’t been covered on the blog or social media at all.

At the beginning of this year, I had a picture in my mind of how it was going to go. I always have a picture of how things are going to go – it’s part of the whole writerly imagination thing – but somehow it doesn’t ever turn out that way, which is totally fine.

As most of you remember, and as I was reminded by someone who found my blog by searching “Lydia Thomas Seattle” this week, I was going to move to Seattle this year.

At the end of January, somebody found me at my place of employment. I didn’t know this person, but this person knew who I was, and proceeded to tell me about a situation that, as far as I was concerned, had nothing to do with me. I had limited knowledge of the situation already, through a series of dreams I’d had, but this person filled in the blanks. It was a sucky situation, and it continued for many months with this person finding me many more times to discuss things, but God was trying to get my attention.

Instead of talking about what was really going on, though, I told you about Bethel (an important theme this year, for sure) and my Christian Friend(s) in the Closet, and fed you Confessions, Baptist Snippets, and Favorite Writing Quotes.

For the first time in February, I ended up owing taxes. I usually donate my refund, and some people have come to expect that support. It wasn’t there this year. It sucked having to explain to people that I just didn’t have it to give, and it seemed like even more people than usual were asking, especially given my new position as a marketing manager at Booktrope Publishing. People who couldn’t have told me what was going on in my life were asking for my money. I’ve never felt less loved in my entire life.

But I kept those less than pleasant thoughts under wraps, and focused on funny, positive anecdotes and analogies.

In March, I went to the doctor for the first time in six years. My parents actually forced me to go because one evening my mom noticed excessive hair loss (actually, her exact words were, “Lydia, are you going bald?!” which, you know, was pleasant). My dad showed up the next day with an insurance card and the phone number of his doctor, telling me to get my thyroid checked before I got booted from his insurance. (I was about to be 26). Anyway, I went to the doctor to have blood drawn and we made an appointment to discuss the results, and was told they wouldn’t contact me before that unless there was something that concerned them. Well, they contacted me. When I went back to my doctor in March, she said, “Lydia, are you diabetic?” To which I responded, “You tell me.”

But, I really didn’t want to talk about all of that. Not about how long I’d been feeling bad and had complained about feeling bad before I just shut up and lived with it, or about how my doctor told me I couldn’t have anything that enjoyed (forget dessert, we’re talking bread…and cheese), or about how my parents got on me for going to the doctor wrong. (Apparently, if I had gone in for a well check up, the insurance wouldn’t have charged me for something I couldn’t afford, which I might have known if I’d been to the doctor more than once in my adult life. In my own defense, my dad told me to tell them I wanted my thyroid checked.) No, during March, I mostly talked about books and reading.

April was lonely. It was lonely because I wanted to talk about it – all of it – but I didn’t want to talk about it online, and by and large, that’s how my community has been done the past few years … online. I was hearing so much from my parents about how preventable the whole situation (health and insurance) was, I really didn’t need to hear any more well-meaning tips and lectures. I needed a hug and someone to listen to my side of things over a cup of (black, haha) coffee.

So in April, I was pretty quiet. I did end up tackling loneliness, at least a little:

On the other hand, I hold back.  With a few notable exceptions, this is how I have lived my life.  After all, if I have to make transitions, why not make them as easy on myself as possible?  Except living life this way doesn’t actually make things easier at all.  It’s made it much, much harder, and I’m realizing it much, much too late.

In May, I started making some changes, starting with church. Don’t get me wrong, I had been attending a great church throughout 2014 and into 2015, but that’s all I was really doing. I hadn’t really connected with anyone and so much of that had to do with a beyond hectic and unpredictable work schedule, and the rest of it had to do with the aforementioned why bother relationship ethic I’d developed. It wasn’t me at all, but at that point, I kind of figured most people there had given up on me, so I started over at another church, which was neither my best nor my worst idea.

I didn’t talk about this either, at least, not literally, because the Lord knows I am a recovering church hopper, and if there’s something the Church doesn’t like, it’s a hopper. I started writing posts with more substance, though, and got back to anecdotes. I also wrote my most popular post this year – about the Duggar’s – in May. (Well, I say it was about the Duggar’s. Really, it was about justice.)

At the end of June, there was an intervention staged in my honor by my Dad concerning me not taking very good care of myself. This has been the nature of every lecture and intervention that I can remember. And it’s hard to explain the why to my dad, because the fact that I sometimes get depressed and have more difficulty functioning is not something that has ever registered with him, since I gather depression is not supposed to be a Christian reality. His thought was that I was doing too much between three jobs, and that I had very little to show for the work I was putting in, especially in the newest one I’d acquired. (It was royalties-based). Add to that, I couldn’t afford to really take care of myself and the health issues that had cropped up for me. (Seriously, is the Affordable Care Act affordable for anybody?) So, even though I loved my authors and their books, I decided to step down in most of my marketing projects to do things like eat and sleep. (I stepped down from the rest of my projects soon after).

I really didn’t want to talk about that, so I spent most of the month talking about reading and writing.

A big shift happened for me in July.  I decided, not for the first time this year, that I was going to live my life, after a sermon on money (of all things) at church. Money is always my biggest reason to not do anything, and I made up my mind it wasn’t going to be that way anymore. There were things I wanted to do and see, and I was going to do and see them. I started with an impromptu road trip that same day, and two weeks later I headed to Oklahoma City on a trip that literally changed my life’s direction, when I realized God was saying, “Yeah, it’s not time” about Seattle, yet again. For whatever reason, I was more open to hearing it at that point.

God opened the doors for a relocation to Oklahoma City in August, and I did a lot of reading and launch prep for the republication of The Field for Vox Dei. And in September, I moved.

Since moving, I’ve been readjusting to a more traditional church atmosphere, which given my background, really shouldn’t be difficult, but it’s not without it’s challenges. I’m also trying to connect better with people, not just at church, but at work as well, and looking for new social opportunities with people my age. I’ve been trying to feel out my community, especially my apartment complex, for ministry opportunities. I’m learning about sensitivity and identity. I’m learning that I don’t have to be just one thing, but I don’t have to be all the things, either. I’m learning about patience.  And moderation. And compassion for local and global issues. And empowerment.

Most of all, between reading this blog and my journals over the past year, and noting the discrepancies between the two, I’m learning I don’t want to be a brand either. I don’t want to just pick certain parts of myself to share (like, “Reading, Writing, and Matters of Faith”), and completely leave out others (like science and history and my completely dorky side or anything else I might develop an interest in). I want to be able to talk about the stuff that’s impacting me. Instead, the first thing I’m asking before posting is, “Does it fit my brand?” And now all it feels like I am online is a brand.

Naturally, I have plans to change that, because this isn’t working for me – this writing a post at the end of the year to let you know what actually happened in my year. This blog should be actual, not blow by blow by any means, but realistic about what I’m going through.

And that’s going to be my starting point for 2016…

 

 

 

 

 

The 2015 Thomas Review Book Awards

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Goodreads tells me that I’ve read 41 books this year. My goal was 52, so I didn’t make that, and for ethical reasons, I couldn’t review all of them. I did want to take a post to recognize some of the truly exceptional stories I’ve read and characters I’ve met throughout the year. Without further ado…

Best Male Character. Without a doubt, this goes to Will of Ashley Townsend’s Shadows Trilogy.

I get Will, and I am so thankful for the grace and empathy Ashlee displayed writing his character.  Most Christian writers don’t have the ability to write a character like him without getting preachy, but she did an excellent job.  There was actually a point where Will was discussing some of his issues, and I actually cried.

Because besides relating to him, he’s actually this really knowledgeable and skilled character, with an incredible sense of purpose.

“To stop yourself from feeling is like ceasing to live; life no longer holds meaning.  Hurt, anger, pain, desire, compassion, love – they’re what make us human.  They’re what living is all about. Being able to feel is something we shouldn’t take for granted or push away when offered.”

I truly can’t commend Ashley enough for Will’s character.  While very much a hero, Will realizes both his own brokenness and the broken situations around him.  He struggles to fight through those situations, and even learns a little bit how to let someone else fight for him.

“I have always wondered,” he began slowly, drawing the words out, “if my failure was because I lacked conviction to follow through, or perhaps I was afraid of death and wasn’t aware of it.”

Best Female Character. The best female character I read this year was Sparrow from Hilarey Johnson’s Sovereign Ground.

I completely identify with Sparrow’s desire to be free (and also, her love of grape pop), so while I have never had to face the choices she faces, I understand why she makes them. Sparrow is direct, smart (an avid reader), and strong, and so not only is Sovereign Ground a great story, Sparrow is a great protagonist.

Runners up in this category include Ruby from Jenna Zark’s The Beat on Ruby’s Street and Isa Maxwell from Ana Spoke’s Shizzle, Inc.

Best Supporting Character. The Best Supporting Character goes to Addy from Penelope A. Brown’s The Gatekeeper’s Forbidden Secret.

Addy was my favorite character, reminding me of my younger self with her wild imagination and dolls and stories. When I was little I had a fake phone on which I talked to all of my imaginary friends. Anyway, as I got older my grandma told me that the way I talked she would have sworn someone was on the other end. Maybe there was, Grandma. Maybe there was.

Best Couple. Best couple goes to Chase and Mads from Emerald Barnes’ Entertaining Angels and Before We Say I Do. They’re just super adorable. ‘Nuff said.

The runners up in this category are Macy and Dillon from RJ Conte’s The 12th Girl in Heaven.

Fiction That Needs to Hit the Big Screen. Tabitha Caplinger’s Chronicle of the Three: Bloodline.

It’s a great alternative to much of what exists in the YA market. This is both praise for Caplinger and Vox Dei Publishing (full disclosure: my publisher) because they have managed to bring a story that contains the classic elements of YA fiction (difficulties navigating high school relationships, a romantic element, and intrigue, to name a few), yet manages to empower teens at the same time. The teens in this story are kind and brave and relatable (i.e. not perfect), and they also have mentors who care for them and speak into their lives, something that is all-too-often missing in YA fiction, and perhaps in real life. (Let’s bring that back, shall we?)

Runner up in this category is Heather Huffman’s Ties that Bind.

Best in Fantasy. Best in Fantasy goes to Elise Stephens’ Guardian of the Gold Breathers.

When his mother remarries a disgraced scientist, their new family moves to a country estate where Liam discovers a world beyond his own.This book has the feel of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield and George MacDonald’s At The Back of the North Wind, so I’m not surprised how much I enjoyed it. It’s the perfect blend of reality and fantasy, bittersweet in its execution.

Best in Literary Fiction. Best in Literary Fiction goes to Run, River Currents by Ginger Marcinkowski.

This story is harrowing, absolutely harrowing. I cried as it ended, because it was so familiar. I am so, so grateful for its brutal honesty, and yet, it ended in a tone of hope. It gave me courage, and it gave me hope.

Runner up in this category is A Decent Woman by Eleanor Parker Sapia.

Best Family Saga. Best in Family Saga goes to Last Child by Terry Tyler.

Hannah was my favorite character from Kings and Queens, so I was overjoyed to see her in the role of narrator for this book. I thought Raine, Isabella, and Amy were fantastic characters, but I adored Erin – a woman after my own heart right there, not to mention she was a refreshing change from the “woman scorned” characters that preceded her.

Best Memoir. Best in Memoir goes to The House on Sunset by Lindsey Fischer.

You may wonder why I – a single, independent twenty-something woman – picked up a memoir on domestic violence. It’s simple, really: before Lindsay met Mike, she was a single, independent twenty-something woman, too. I hope this doesn’t sound too terrible, but since I personally dread getting into a physically and emotionally abusive relationship, I was hoping to glean some advice as to how to avoid one.

What I found was a woman looking for love and acceptance, like any of us might be at any given time. What I found was a woman who learned rejection from a mother who learned it from her mother. (Something I deeply relate to).  I found was a woman who internalized so much pain for so long she began taking it out on herself. What I found was an optimist, a healer, a lover. What I found was impossibly complex.

Runner up in this category goes to Confessions of a Prodigal Daughter by Sarahbeth Caplin.

Best Non-Fiction. Best in Non-Fiction goes to Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster.

I was surprised to find it was very much in line with my theology, which has drastically changed in the past year or so. Shocked, actually. I didn’t expect to be pumping my fist in the air, saying, “Yes! Somebody gets it!” but that’s what ended up happening. And because Foster includes many thoughts from theologians from history, it was comforting to realize that the things I have come to believe about God are not new and untested; in fact, they are ancient and respected. Foster introduced me to concepts I’d never heard of, but that made perfect sense.

Runner up in this category is Pulpits and Pink Lipstick by Tabitha Caplinger.

Best Fiction. Best in Fiction goes to There and Back by George MacDonald.

In There and Back, George MacDonald did for me what Dickens never could: he went to that deepest level and he lived there with the story and characters. The story takes place in nineteenth-century England, and follows the aristocratic Lestrange family and those who cross their paths, from other aristocrats to tradesmen to clergy. MacDonald explores the social, emotional, and spiritual standing and evolution of every character he introduces. It’s a complex look at how people’s philosophies shape how they relate to God and one another. No less important is the gritty look at why a good God allows bad things to happen – an age old question, I think.

I’m actually feeling a little burnt out on reading and reviewing, so I think I’m going to try a different approach – in 2016. I’ll probably still do little reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, but reserve blog space for more analytical and critical reviews – maybe once a month or something. I don’t know. I just know I’m not going to attempt 52 books in one year ever again, haha. (Probably).

 

 

 

10 Things Abraham Lincoln Never Said

I mean, probably not, anyway.

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It’s widely believed that this is from William Makepeace Thackeray to one Laurence Hutton, and that the actual quote is, “Whatever you are, try to be a good one.”

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It’s sage advice, but it’s also been attributed to Mark Twain, Solomon, and someone named Maurice Switzer, who I’d never heard of before today.

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Actually, he said, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

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Most likely an English adaptation of a French poem by Alphonse Karr.

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The earliest versions of this quote are actually from scientists, which, you know, actually makes sense.

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I wonder just how long it would have taken Mr. Lincoln to locate a tree in Illinois.

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Pretty sure Joel Osteen said this.

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What he actually said was a lot more powerful: “If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time or die by suicide.”

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See also, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away.”

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Just how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

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And that really sums it up.

It’s a meme world, and we’re all just living in it, but I think all of us need to do a better job verifying that what we’re sharing is accurate. Accurately-quoted and accurately-attributed. There is so much bad information out there it’s ridiculous, but we (yes, I’m guilty too) share it because it justifies our point of view or inspires us or maybe some combination of both. On top of that, we’re losing the richness of original quotes in trying to make them more gimmicky and fit for the internet.

Come on, now. We’re better than this. Let’s be fact-checkers. Let’s say more of what we think and less of what other people think, and when we must rely on the words of others, let’s use their actual words. Let’s have intelligent conversations with each other, and use memes for fun. (And if you’re not sure how to do that, I can direct you to some awesome people who can show you how to meme).