Books

What Am I Reading?

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I love to review books. It makes me think about what I’m reading more deeply and forces me to understand multiple facets of the book that I might not have thought of otherwise. However, I mostly review the Christian life/theological books that I read. Not fiction. Ironic for an aspiring novelist, I know.

So today I thought I’d give you a look at my Goodreads “Currently Reading” shelf. Am I doing it to prove that I read more than just nonfiction? Or as a chance to write mini reviews about everything I’m reading? Maybe. But, either way, I wanted to share with you the books that I’m in the middle of reading. And maybe you’ll have some suggestions for where to go next…

The Sacred Search by Gary Thomas

Yes, I’m starting with a nonfiction book, even after all that about needing to review more fiction. It was at the top of the list though. The Sacred Search takes a look at why we get married and thinks about whether those are good reasons. Is being “in love” enough to sustain a marriage through the decades? And if not, what is? Now, I’m not contemplating getting married any time soon – don’t worry. But I know it never hurts to be a little more prepared when that time does come.

The Little Prince (Der Kleine Prinz) by Antonie de Saint-Exupery

Somehow, I made it through childhood without reading this book, so now I’m discovering the little boy who rules his own planet for the first time. In German. That’s right – senior year rocks when your German assignment is to read a children’s book, complete with pictures.

Dreamlander by K.M. Weiland

I have taken a break from this one to finish off a few other books that I’m almost done with. However, I love the out of the ordinary plot involving the real world and a dream world. One thing that K.M. Weiland excels at is world-building and this is no exception. It is one of those books that is fun to read, but definitely has some substance to it.

Gregor and the Marks of Secret by Suzanne Collins

This is one that I’m reading to my little brothers, albeit very slowly. The fourth book in the Gregor the Overlander series sends twelve-year-old Gregor on another adventure involving saving the city of Regalia in the aftermath of a devastating plague. This is my second time through the series and it’s still fun to read.

Just Write by James Scott Bell

I’m not sure I can honestly include this in “Currently Reading” seeing as it’s been several months since I last read some of it. But it is an interesting book on not only the craft of writing fiction, but also what a life of fiction writing looks like. James Scott Bell’s perspective as an author has been valuable through this book and I should probably start it over.

The Berlin Candy Bomber by Gail S. Halvorsen

Do you ever get to the last chapter of a book and then inexplicably not finish it? Yeah. This is the sweet and heroic story of the man who dropped candy for children during the Berlin airlift after WWII. It’s a little dense with military (and especially airforce) language, but worth the read. Now to finish off those last 30 pages…

Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung

My mom and I are reading this for a Sunday School class and it has changed the way I’m thinking about busyness and obligations, even four chapters in. DeYoung writes about the problem of busyness in America today and how we’re hurting ourselves. But he also provides key truths about us and God that should change how we see our busyness – and make us think twice before signing up to organize another event. This might come back as a full review at the end of the semester, but I recommend it already.

Notes from Underground and The Double by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I finished Notes from Underground for school and wanted to read The Double on my own. The former is a jab at what would become of society should the ideals of Romanticism be realized (if I remember correctly from class). The nameless narrator tells stories that illustrate his version of freedom: bitterness and acting against his own self interest just because he can. It was a little bit disturbing to read, but very intriguing to listen to that perspective.

When People are Big and God is Small by Edward T. Welch

I’m reading this one with a woman who is discipling me and we’ve just finished chapter two. This book is about fear of man versus fear of God. It takes a look at the root of our fear of man (because pretty much everyone fears people to some extent) and I’m hoping it will go on to explore how to more fully fear God instead.

Cress by Marissa Meyer

This book is, admittedly, not the most scholarly of what I’m reading right now. It’s serving as some light reading (listening, actually – I’ve got the audio book) in the middle of all of the heavy reading I have for other purposes. The third book in the Lunar Chronicles mixes fairy tales with dystopia to form a new kind of future. It holds my attention while driving or running and gives a nice break from the the seriousness of life. It also provides a good opportunity to look past the story into the themes and messages and examine whether those are true or not.

Beyond Good and Evil by Nietzsche

Okay, so this one’s for school and I don’t understand it at all. Based on class this week, it’s apparently about postmodernism. Nietzsche has kind of a sarcastic tone in his writing, in my opinion, and is not respectful of women at all (beware, ye feminists). I’m going to keep working on understanding his philosophy though, because I know it would be valuable to understand.

Battle Cry of Freedom by James M. McPherson.

Another book for school, but I love this one! Battle Cry of Freedom is an 800 page history of the Civil War. McPherson writes about all the contributing factors and looks at each side of the war by quoting directly from speeches, letters, books, and newspapers written at that time. Some of my classmates have called it dense and don’t seem to be enjoying it as much, but this future history major is loving every page.

A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix

This is another for-fun one that I’m reading rather slowly. It’s a dystopia set on different planets. The universe is ruled by millions of princes and this book tells the story of one of those princes coming into his title. So far, I’m enjoying it. I chose this book because I’m outlining a dystopian right now and I want to consider as many aspects of the genre as I can in the hopes of making my book unique and meaningful.

So there you have it. The exhaustive list of books I am in the middle of reading. I keep saying I need to finish a few and pare the list down so I can focus more on what I’m reading, but the number keeps staying the same. And it’s nice to have such a variety going at once.

Now I’d like to know: what are you reading? Do you have any recommendations for me? Have you read any of these books before? Comment and let me know! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Kira

Book Review: The Cure

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We can never resolve our sin by working on it.

That was the first line of many that made me literally catch my breath and stare for a few minutes as I read The Cure by John Lynch, Bruce McNicol, and Bill Thrall. A few pages into chapter one and I was already filled with a feeling that few books give me: a feeling of longing, of knowing this is truth and it is truth that I have been missing. So here I am with another book review so close after the last. Because this is a book that must be shared.

I received The Cure from my best friend for my birthday. I remember asking her about it as she read it over the summer and then promptly forgetting the title. But she didn’t forget and gave it to me a couple months ago, assuring me that it gave a clear picture of Who God is and who we are in a powerful way. Turns out, she was right.

Once I started reading, I was hooked. The thought of this book is what got me out of bed several days while I was reading. But enough about me. What was so life changing about this short little Christian life book?

An analogy of two rooms runs through each chapter – the Room of Good Intentions and the Room of Grace. To be honest, I initially thought that was a bit silly. I mean, we’re all adults here (or almost). Do we really need a cute story to go along with our theology?

Yes.

The first chapter is titled “Two Roads” and discusses the paths to and consequences of both Rooms. It ends with the unnamed man finally coming into the Room of Grace. He has been trying so hard to please God. He knows he’s not happy and that no one around him is either. But he doesn’t know what else to do. Finally, he runs away from the Room of Good Intentions and sets out on the other road, leading to the Room of Grace.

As someone who has struggled with perfectionism and trying to get everything right for a long time, this book was the first to so accurately put into words all the feelings behind that. I learned things about myself and what I believe and then I learned the truth about God and how dear I am to Him.

After arriving in the Room of Grace, the man begins to learn what it means to live out of grace, not just good intentions. What it means is freedom, joy, purpose, nearness to God, and so much more. Each chapter addresses another aspect of a life of grace and is both painful and healing to read.

My review cannot do this book justice. I’ve tried to tell a few people about it, but my words never fully explain how God has used this book in my heart. Since reading it, I haven’t stopped thinking about it and before I was finished, I was ready to read it again. The pages are already full of notes, prayers, and, in some cases, tears.

I recommend this book to you, as my friend did to me, because it is a book everyone should read. Not just the perfectionists. Not just the Christians, even. Everyone. I don’t think it will ever grow old, though I foresee my own copy becoming quite tattered through the years.

Never has a book changed me like The Cure and I pray the truths in it will keep working in my heart for many years, freeing me and filling me with the wonderful joy of being near the Father. And I pray that you will read it and that you will join me in a more full and true understanding of this life we lead as disciples of Christ. I doubt you’ll regret it.

Kira

What are you reading?

Book Review: Rediscovering Humility

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We often define sanctification as “becoming more like Christ.” A more apt definition might be “resting more in Christ’s love.” One of the major sins that many Christians try to sanctify themselves out of is the sin of pride.

I’ve just finished reading the book Rediscovering Humility by Christopher Hutchinson that addresses the attempt to eliminate pride by looking at it from the opposite side. What if we stopped trying to get rid of pride and instead started trying to live in humility?

Pastor Hutchinson begins the book with the admission that it is a work of which he is “exceptionally proud,” immediately setting the humble and slightly humorous tone for the rest of the study. He then goes on to describe why he wanted to write a book on humility – it’s not something the church talks about very much, but there is a need for such discussion.

Rediscovering Humility divides the subject of humility into three sections: Humility Found (Faith), Humility Embraced (Hope), and Humility Applied (Love). Before reading this, I didn’t realize there was so much to the pursuit of humility. The slightly thick and deep book looked a little daunting as I began. And it became more and more convicting as I read.

But I did not pour hours of reading and thought into this book just for the feeling of conviction or that of superiority upon finishing it (that would be ironic indeed). I continued reading because the underlying premise of each chapter was grace. If you’ve read this blog for long, you probably know that I am a perfectionist and hold myself to a high standard rather than resting in the love of God. Rediscovering Humility was the book on Christian humility that I needed.

On almost every page, Pastor Hutchinson writes about the source and example of our humility: Christ. He humbled Himself to the point of death (Philippians 2). He came to serve, not to be served (Matthew 20).

We are able to live in humility because our Savior first lived in humility. We live in humility by recognizing the grace and love that we have in Christ. It’s not a cruel game of trying harder and counting up failures. It’s a life of joy that comes only from resting in God’s grace. If we do that, we cannot help but be humble.

Rediscovering Humility is not an easy book to read. As I said, it is incredibly convicting. I’m still looking around and seeing all the ways that I am prideful that I never noticed before. As Pastor Hutchinson writes in the preface, “Pride is all-pervasive. It is capable of turning any old thing into a curse, especially those things that are otherwise praiseworthy. Pride so easily masquerades as godliness that even the attempt to quell pride may just as easily feed it.”

So, it is not a comfortable book to read. It will take hours, if done with a spirit of self-examination and a desire for understanding. But it is worth it. Because, at the end of the day (and book), it all comes down to grace.

Kira

What are you reading?

The Fiction: An Introduction

Hello, dear readers! (I’ve never called you that before – what do you think?)

Today, I’m going to give you the first sneak peek of my next novel. Following Orders is going to rest for a while (maybe forever) and I am turning my attention to a new work. The working title of this story is The Fiction.

I’m still working on outlining this novel, so for now, I just have the premise for you. Think of this as the first draft of the write up for the back of the book. I hope that you will come to love Kimbey as I do and will enjoy reading about different facets of her story as I write.


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The Fiction

When it is discovered that her disabled brother was not killed in a eugenic abortion years ago, Kimbey Stewart and her family must answer for it in court. The sentence for such crimes is time in the games – a series of courses designed for the entertainment of the people, especially President Desmond. When Kimbey volunteers to take her brother’s place in the games, President Desmond takes an unwanted personal interest in her.

While Kimbey tries to get home, he works to keep her there for his own entertainment and control. Kimbey’s fight to return to her home and family turns into a battle against the president himself – a more powerful opponent than she ever intended to face.

Kira

Book Review: Mary Poppins

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Some stories are heavily laced with deep meaning, themes, and protagonist goals. Others are simply stories: interesting events that are fun to read about. In my mind, Mary Poppins belongs to the latter group.

Mary Poppins is the story of a nanny and the family for whom she works. Mary Poppins, Jane, Michael, and the twins have several adventures over the course of Mary Poppins’s stay in the Banks household. Mary Poppins herself is rather prim, proper, and prideful. She isn’t necessarily a pleasant person, but the children quickly fall in love with her.

From that point on, they do many different exciting things. They manage to travel the world with a compass they find in the park, they join Mary Poppins’s uncle for tea, and they meet a woman made of candy, among other fanciful events.

While I love a book with a strong story, good theme, and well-written character arcs, sometimes nonsensical stories such as Mary Poppins are an excellent break from the seriousness of everyday life. Mary Poppins is a wonderful example of enjoying the journey instead of the destination.

And of course, who could talk about Mary Poppins herself without mentioning the original movie? Well, in brief comparison, the book and the movie are different in many respects. On the screen, Mary Poppins is more gentle and kind – and musical. If one does not expect both book and movie to portray exactly the same story, the two are very much enjoyable and worth the few hours to watch or read.

Kira

Following Orders: A Proposal

King Baldwin does not appear in Following Orders until late in the book, but his actions are crucial from the very beginning. Particularly in a proposal he writes to King Arthur of Camelot.

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“Edgar! Do write faster, please.” King Baldwin stopped his pacing to huff at the scribe. “By the time you’ve finished, the war will be over and I’ll have lost my chance at a bride.”

“I’ve just finished, sire. And did you mean to say you’ll have lost your chance at the Princess Elaine?” The short man pretended to suppress his smile.

King Baldwin scowled. “I could have you hanged for that.”

“But we both know you won’t. How would you like to continue the letter?”

“What have I just said?” The king turned to the window, stroking his chin. His ridiculously fashionable noblemen pranced through his lavish gardens, many of them with a foolish woman clinging to his arm.

Edgar cleared his throat. “I ask only the hand of your daughter, Princess Elaine, in exchange.”

“And how long is it?”

“About half a page, sire.”

“Best to conclude it, then, do you think?”

Edgar chuckled.

King Baldwin spun to face him. “And what is it about my current plight that you find so amusing, Edgar? Is it the war? Or perhaps Essetir’s need for an heir – a competent one?”

“I believe it is your anxiety over the situation which I find so humorous, sire. Never have I seen a letter proposing marriage so agonized over.”

“Likely because you are not attractive enough to women to know any.”

Edgar laughed again as the king turned back to his window.

“And how would you like to conclude this desperate proposal, sire?”

The king’s brow creased. “Does it indeed sound desperate?” He relaxed at Edgar’s smirk. “I really could have you thrown in the dungeon. Tortured, even.”

“Let us not distract ourselves from the business at hand, sire.”

King Baldwin sighed. “Conclude it thusly: I shall expect your decision within a fortnight. If I receive none – or if I receive it in the negative – I shall take what action I must. Mercia seeks an alliance with me as well. Sincerely yours, His Royal Majesty, King Baldwin Edward Godefroy of Essetir.”

The king looked to his scribe when he heard no scratching of the quill. Edgar stared back at him with a crestfallen expression.

“Don’t do this, sire,” he whispered. “Please do not.”

King Baldwin turned his back on the man. “I must. It is what is best for Essetir.”

“No. It is what will secure the princess for you. I thought we had discussed the matter.”

“It is what will produce an heir! Look at the state of the surrounding kingdoms. Deira is the next closest with a princess eligible to marry and they hold no power. A marriage with the Princess Muriel would hardly garner the respect and loyalty of the people. Not to mention our other allies and enemies. I must act before Princess Elaine is given to someone else. This is how I intend to do it.”

Edgar dropped his quill in the ink pot and stood to place a hand on the king’s shoulder. “I know that you have affections for Princess Elaine. But you can show her that. You don’t have to force her to return them. I may not know much about women, as you say, but I do know that genuineness is always appreciated over shows of authority and power.”

King Baldwin hardened his face. “It is what must be done. For an-”

“Yes, for an heir! I heard you the first time. You can always name one of your cousin’s children your heir. Or anyone else for that matter. You are the king of Essetir!”

“And what do you know of the ways of kings?” King Baldwin shouted at his scribe and pulled away. “Write the words and send it.” He returned to the window.

“Sire…”

“I am ready to place my seal when you have finished.”

Edgar hesitated. Finally, his shoulders dropped. “Yes, your majesty.”

King Baldwin clenched his fists. It must be done.

Kira

Book Review: Robinson Crusoe

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I never thought I would enjoy Robinson Crusoe.

Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe was assigned in a literature class I am taking this year as the second book of the semester. I entered into it with a slight sense of dread, trying to temper that with the hope that it wouldn’t be as bad as I thought it might. After all, how could a book with a single character for the majority of the story be interesting?

Much to my pleasure, Robinson Crusoe showed me.

Rather than purely an adventure story (though there is plenty of adventure both before and during Crusoe’s island stay), Robinson Crusoe is the exploration of a man’s heart.

At the beginning of the book, Crusoe is a headstrong young man. He would rather have his way than listen to the pleading and reasoning of his parents. So he goes to sea. After a few mishaps (and some good fortune), Crusoe is the only man to survive a storm at sea and is deposited on his island for most of the remainder of the book.

And this is the point where I believed I would lose interest and have to start forcing myself to read. But once the physical journey of Crusoe’s life slows, Defoe begins to emphasize the spiritual journey.

Being left alone on an island leads to plenty of hours for introspection. Fortunately for Crusoe, a few Bibles were preserved from the storm and he begins to read them, having never done so seriously before. From there, Crusoe surrenders his life to Christ. He is made into a new man and now sees his island as God’s providence rather than his own ill fortune.

Robinson Crusoe had its dull moments, of course. But overall, Defoe wrote a satisfying and convicting spiritual story. Often, when Crusoe recognized sin in himself, I came to see the same within my life. Unlike in many other stories however, Crusoe turned to repentance and Scripture at such turning points rather than his own intelligence or even depression.

Daniel Defoe’s classic adventure novel holds the treasure of biblical truth which the majority of books today fail to follow. Without waxing on about the depravity and darkness of most of today’s literature (if it can be so called), I will only say that the clear acknowledgement of God in Robinson Crusoe gave me great pleasure to read.

As to whether I would recommend this book, I would say yes. Read it. Push through the boring parts because there is truth and excitement just around the corner. Besides, it does us modern readers good to stretch our attention spans every once in a while. Especially for such a worthy book.

Kira

Staircase to Hell

One quick thing before today’s post:

I was published on the Rebelution this week! If you remember my post on complaining from a few weeks ago, they published it on their site under the name 5 Things I Learned on My Quest to Stop Complaining.

And now on to our regularly scheduled program. This week’s post is a short story I wrote based off of Dante’s Inferno (an epic poem about Dante’s journey through Hell on his way to Purgatory and, finally, Heaven). Please keep in mind this is all fiction and everything written here was done so on caffiene and with tongue firmly in cheek. My own mini epic is entitled…

Staircase to Hell

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Forgetting a flashlight was my first mistake. Locking myself in was my second. I hadn’t meant to forget to prop the door open, but there you have it. The cellar was pitch black and smelled of wet cats. And I was stuck in it.

I banged on the door and yelled for a few seconds, despite knowing that no one else was home. It was just me and long dead wet cats for the next couple hours. Counting my blessings that I wasn’t scared of the dark, I settled onto the top stair with my back against the door and closed my eyes. Someone would be home soon.

Minutes ticked by – or maybe hours. The darkness morphed the time. I yawned and twisted around to get comfortable, to no avail.

Something at the bottom of the staircase flickered, just for an instant. I rubbed my eyes. Ridiculous. It was too dark to see.

But no. There it was again. A short flicker, then it died out. I rose to my feet and descended, running my hand along the wall to keep my bearings. The flicker came back and stayed. Was it my imagination, or were there a lot more stairs than I remembered?

I kept walking, down and down, the fiery light welcoming me in as I stepped deeper into the ground – for underground I must be. The steps kept going.

“Hello, my dear.” I screamed at the hissing whisper in my ear. I might not be afraid of the dark, but sudden silky voices out of nowhere do have an effect on me.

The echoing voice laughed and a figure shimmered into being in front of me.

“Surprise you, did I?”

“Who are you?” I was determined not to show my fear. Why did the man’s body waver like that in the heat?

“I am the Fuhrer. Surely you have heard of me!” He straightened up and somehow managed to look down his nose at me, despite being a few steps below.

“Hitler?”

He made an irritated noise in his throat. “Fuhrer will do. I am here to guide you through the depths of Hell. Your God has determined you should see it, and I am to accompany you.”

“Through Hell?” Fear was replaced by shock. Surely I couldn’t have heard correctly.

“Yes, Fraulein. Lass uns gehen.” He reached for my hand and all went dark again.

When I could see again, we were no longer on the staircase. Flickering fluorescent lights glinted off of miles of splotchy tiled floor. Every few feet, what I assumed to be a soul covered its ears and wailed. Each was surrounded by demons. Some only two or three. Others ten or twelve. The demons crowded in close, vying for attention. Some screeched, others laughed, and more babbled incoherent words.

“What is this place?” I had to yell above the noise.

“Why don’t you ask one of the shades themselves?” the Fuhrer suggested.

I looked around and chose a soul with only four demons surrounding it. “Who are you? And why are you here?” I shouted.

The soul raised its eyes to meet mine and groaned. “I am a nobody. You would not know my name should you hear it. But I spent all my life as the cause of agony for those who work for hourly wages. I gave no one my full attention, but talked on the phone while checking out, fixed my mascara while ordering food, and made countless cashiers wait to hand me change so that I might only finish replying to a text.”

I took a step back as one of the demons screamed to my right.

“That doesn’t seem so bad,” I yelled.

“Ooohhhh! I didn’t think so either. But I didn’t value the image of the Great One within the people I ignored. I considered their needs as nothing and my own distractions as monumental when I should have placed them above myself.”

I backed away and re-joined Hitler.

“Do they suffer like this forever?”

“Yes. For all eternity they must endure the demons all crying for their attention since they were so willing to divide it on earth. Kommen Sie hier. We have more to see.” He took my hand and the blackness returned.

This time the darkness cleared to reveal that we were in a hedge maze. The bushes towered high above on either side, closing us in. An assortment of animal like sounds, including the occasional human scream, rang through the air.

“What punishment is this?” I took a few steps forward, but retreated as the bushes just ahead rustled. Footsteps pounded the earth, coming nearer.

“Why don’t you ask Mr. King?”

A soul appeared from around the corner of the maze. He stopped abruptly at the sight of us standing there. He took off his glasses and rubbed them on his shirt, looking over his shoulder with terror in his eyes.

I leaned closer to get a better look at him. “Are – are you Stephen King?”

“Yes.” He glanced around, every muscle tensed.

“What are you doing here?”

“In life, as I’m sure you know, I wrote horror. I became deliriously famous and wealthy. But that good fortune came only at the expense of my readers. I preyed off of their fears – their terror provided my daily bread.”

“And your punishment is running through a maze?”

“My eternal burden is confinement to this labyrinth with the creatures of my creation. Every book I wrote, every movie adaptation. The monsters are here. Each of us in this place is given our own such arena.”

Something screeched nearby and Mr. King jumped. “I must go!” He vanished around the corner.

“I’ve seen enough,” I said.

“Oh, Fraulein…there is so much more!” The Fuhrer spread his arms wide and laughed.

“Take me back!” The screeching was coming closer.

“If you insist.” He grabbed my hand and the darkness fell.

I had never been so relieved to find myself alone in the black cellar. I leaned back against the wall, breathing hard, thanking God that it was over and determined to never forget a flashlight again.

Kira

Following Orders: Princess Elaine Penndragon

 

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Today, I thought we’d do something a little bit different and meet one of the main characters of the novel I’m currently working on, Following Orders.

Now I’ll be interviewing Her Highness, the Princess Elaine Penndragon of Camelot about herself and some of her background. Please enjoy.

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Good day, Your Highness. Thank you so much for agreeing to meet with me.

It is my pleasure. I’ve never had the opportunity to speak with a scribe for any purpose other than a lesson on history or politics.

I’m sure those are very dull indeed. Today, I thought you might be willing to answer a few questions about yourself? For your subjects’ sake?

My subjects? I don’t know what they think so interesting about palace life, but I suppose so.

Wonderful! My first question is about all of the balls and dinners your father hosts as king. What is your part in them and do you enjoy them?

Ah, yes. All of the fancy events. You asked about my part in them? Well, as the king’s only child and heir, it is my task to learn the names and interests of every diplomat, nobleman, and ambassador in Camelot. If they are to be my court one day, I must know their strengths and weaknesses, know them as people. And, of course, know their loyalties.

Besides that, as I am of marriageable age, I must dance with every eligible bachelor in attendance. Most of them are of no interest to either me or my father, but we mustn’t offend anyone. You never know who may end up as the future king of Camelot. It is my job to be the most beautiful and charming woman there to every single guest.

As to whether I enjoy such things, I don’t mind them. They do become tiring, especially when too many are held in a row. But I suppose that’s to be expected.

You mentioned that most of the young men are of no interest to you or your father. What do the two of you look for in the next king – and your husband?

All the usual traits I suppose. He must be strong and brave and all that, but he must also have a brain in his head. My father is not going to hand over Camelot to some halfwit. He would not send me or his people to such destruction. Other than that, he must have all the general qualities that make a king beloved by his people.

And what about you? Don’t you want to marry someone who will love you?

That’s the question, isn’t it? Who I marry is not up to me, ultimately. As part of the royal family, I have a duty to Camelot before myself. I would like a kind man who loves and whom I love, but that is not nearly as important as what is best for the kingdom. Besides, I’m told that people sometimes grow to love each other. We’ll have a whole lifetime to become fond of one another, whoever this man turns out to be.

Didn’t your father and mother marry for love?

Ah, yes. The famous story of Arthur and Guenivere. Has that become popular again? Nevermind. It was a different time back then. My father was free to marry as he chose because he had Camelot so firmly secure as one of the strongest kingdoms around. And he chose my mother – a commoner – endearing himself to the people practically overnight.

You don’t seem to hold much love for you mother. Is there a story behind that?

What impudence! That is none of your concern and I do hope you don’t speak to everyone you meet in such a rude manner. As it is, I am feeling gracious today and will give you a partial answer. I know that it is no secret that there is very little love between my mother and me.

Between just the two of us, I believe she is jealous of me. I hear from some of the older women that after my birth, my father devoted far more attention to his new daughter than to his wife. She wasn’t used to the relative drought of his affection and, as his doting on me continued, her bitterness toward me grew as the years moved on. We don’t speak often.

Now, are we through? I have one of those dances you were speaking of to prepare for tonight and my hair takes a dreadfully long time to complete.

Thank you for your time, my lady. I hope you enjoy your evening!

Kira

Book Review: The Prisoner of Zenda

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And now you see why I don’t usually take my own photos 🙂

After my post of a few weeks ago bemoaning the depravity of today’s literature, let me assure that there are indeed still excellent books in the world. Books that spin a tale of adventure and keep you up far later than is right (oops). The Prisoner of Zenda is one such book.

Rudolph Rassendyll is a typical young man with too much money, not enough ambition, and a peculiar connection to the royal family of Ruritania from several generations back. He is floating through life with ease – much to the frustration of his industrious sister-in-law. She takes it upon herself to nag him into becoming an attache to Sir Jacob. Rudolph takes it upon himself to go on a different trip entirely, visiting friends and going to see the coronation of the new King of Ruritania.

Once there, he stumbles upon the new king and his two closest advisors – Colonol Sapt and Fritz von Tarlenheim. The four spend an evening of celebration together which ends with much less joy than when it started. Rudolph is thrown into a role he never imagined having and holds the fate of all Ruritania in his hands. He must struggle with the king’s brother, Black Michael, to defend the throne, while keeping up appearances with the rest of the court – especially the Princess Flavia. And through it all, he must remember who he really is, though the rest of the world thinks him someone else.

Anthony Hope’s story of Rudolph’s misadventures in Ruritania is fast paced and written with the beautiful yet easily comprehensible language that seems only to spring from the 19th century. The style of the writing led me to be wrapped up in the fictional time and place of Ruritania and I even learned a new word:

compunction: a feeling of guilt or moral scruple that prevents or follows the doing of something bad (according to Google)

I won’t bore you with a lecture on why I love Anthony Hope’s language so much, but I will say that it was refreshing to have to work a little bit to stay engaged in the book. And the excellence of the story itself provided plenty of reward for the minimal efforts it required.

The Prisoner of Zenda holds within its pages an adventure novel, a romance, and a story of personal struggles and growth, all woven perfectly together to create one unified tale of a man thrown out of his own world and into one where much more is required of him. And, (maybe this is also typical of books of this time period) it was clean. I had no fear that The Prisoner of Zenda would take a dark or disgusting turn. It was a thoroughly enjoyable story from start to finish and one that I am glad to have read.

Kira

What’s your favorite adventure story?
Have you read any older books lately?