Next on the To-Read List!

I have maaaaaany books on my “to-read” list. My Goodreads to-read shelf (152 books) reflects some of this, but that’s not even the half of it. So I’m always a little at a loss when deciding what to read next, particularly when I can’t totally decide what book mood I’m in. That said, I made a list of the next 5 books I’m going to read…and I’m going to try and stick to it. I need to simplify my life haha. So here they are, in no particular order except for the first one.

  1. The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. Hello, I’m reading The Name of the Wind right now and I’m freaking out with how much I love this book! I have to read the second one next, and then wait in agony for the third one to be released along with everyone else.
  2. Wool (Silo) by Hugh Howey (indie author alert!). Post-apocalypse, human survival, dystopia, what’s not to love? Plus I have the cool animated e-book version, so I’m pretty excited about getting into it.
  3. City of Skies by Farah Cook (indie author alert!). Norse mythology is soooo untouched in fantasy at the moment, and I’m excited to see what Cook will do with this, especially since I’m descended from Vikings myself.
  4. City of Vikings by Farah Cook (indie author alert!). Hopefully the sequel will be out by the time I’m done with the first 3 books on my list and I’ll be able to read it!
  5. The African Queen by C.S. Forester. I absolutely adore the movie and I’ve never actually read the book, but I found a copy in one of the many used bookstores in our area. This one is definitely one of the next books I want to read!

 

I am quite behind on my reading challenge for the year, but I can still catch up! The year is young.

A Game of Books

I’ve kind of been focusing on my writing for my last few months of blogs, so it’s time for a twist! Yesterday, Conner and I did one of my absolute favorite things everrrrrrr: we went to the botanical gardens after church and just lay out on Maasai blankets on the grass, reading. Many pictures were taken because it was such a beautiful day and many words were read. All in all, it was a serious win. I forget sometimes that I’m a sunflower child and I need to be outside with a book more often 🙂

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I’m now nearly halfway through Dances with Dragons: Part One and I have to say, I think it’s my second favorite book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series so far (the series that the TV show Game of Thrones is based on, for those who don’t know). I only have one book left (Part Two of Dances with Dragons) before I have to join the giant crowd of groupies clamoring for George R.R. Martin to finish and publish the next book in the series. Sigh.

Buuuut anyway. We also had some visitors while we were chilling!

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So, yes. Basically the best day I’ve had in a long time. My best friend / love + outside + nature + trees +sunshine +books +birds = best thing ever.

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Refugees

An excerpt from Pirates, available on Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Kindle! Thank you all for your support, you have been absolutely incredible.
xxx
-Veronique

At the very top of the tallest guard tower in the Crystal City, surveying the vast lands that lay about the protected realm, stood a woman with raven black hair and skin as smooth and white as ivory. Small black jewels tipped two little fangs that reached slightly over her bottom lip, and a smooth black staff crowned with a mist-enveloped copper orb was in her right hand. Her dark robes, deep turquoise and amber, were in sharp contrast to the brightness of the city and its people.

In ages past, fear had surrounded her and her people, the Darkdwellers—or, as they had once been known, the Dragons, now ill and forced to dwell in human form. Since recent events, however, everyone knew Chiasa for who she really was: the immortal Dragon Queen, the leader of the purest race ever to have lived in Kirael.

And not only that, but she had proved over and over again her strength in battle, her bravery, and above all, her loyalty. The people of the Crystal City and of all the free kingdoms loved their own kings, but they loved and trusted her, too.

Now she stood and watched the main gate far down below, open wide and letting in a nearly constant trickle of all manner of people. Refugees. Most had come from far and wide, and some—more disturbingly—had come from not so very far at all.

Her eyes, deep aqua with flecks of gold and emerald, the only part of her once fair appearance that still remained, looked on with foreboding and sadness as more and more people entered the city. They carried small bundles, hurriedly packed, telling of what sort of attack had driven them from their homes.

Then a fragile, delicate looking figure sitting tall and straight on a great black steed caught her eye, riding at the head of some two hundred people, all on horseback, and a great many unsaddled horses who followed without leads or bridles.

At the sight of Adyah and her people, a stab of pain went through Chiasa’s heart. She had felt the battle in her spirit and had known that many of them had died, but to see them riding to the Crystal City under such a clear banner of defeat, when they had for thousands of years been nearly impossible to reach in their home in the mountains, brought it home to her that the evil they all faced was far greater than anything they had faced before.

“My lady,” said the Tower Captain behind her.

She turned to face him. “What is it?”

“Where will we tell the people to go? So many have come over the last few days that we have little room left to spare. Captain Eldaroth has not returned yet and we are not sure what to do.”

She looked back down at the river of refugees. “Have whoever is able take them into their homes. And open the palace to them as well—the King would gladly have done so, were he at home, and there are hundreds of empty chambers.”

“And what of the horses?”

Despite the gravity of the situation, Chiasa smiled a little. “Leave the horses and their people to Lady Adyah. They will not abide staying within the city walls, I am sure. They are far too wild for that.”

“Yes, my lady,” he said, bowing.

Not long after, Chiasa walked into the great throne room in the palace. It had been missing its King for a long time now, but the great crystal throne had not been empty. She, Adyah, and Adyah’s sister, Cahmeelle, had been taking turns ruling in his stead while he was off on his important mission. It was a bright room at the top of the shining spire that was the palace.

The walls were great glass windows, clear but strong as steel, reinforced with ancient spells, and from here Chiasa could see the whole city and the Barrier Plains all around it.
She found Adyah sitting on the edge of the long glass table which was used for councils and diplomatic meetings. There was a heavy air about her and she stared out at nothing in particular, watching the clouds go by, her face set in a hard, anguished expression.

Chiasa said nothing but simply went to sit beside her, waiting.

“It’s all gone,” Adyah said finally, in a broken voice which Chiasa had never heard from her before. “Everything is gone. My mountains—“ she broke off and swallowed her tears.
There was nothing else to say, or else too much, and so they sat in silence staring at the blue sky outside, as yet untouched by the shadow that threatened everything they held dear.

The Fellowship of the Ring: Chapter 2

The shadow of the past: Ok, so last time we left off with Gandalf leaving Frodo behind after a warning to keep the ring hidden. Now we fast forward a little bit. In the movies, it seems like Frodo leaves not more than a few weeks after Bilbo left, but in the book it is clear that it’s more like twelve or so years. Every year, Frodo still throws a birthday party for his uncle because he knows he’s still alive. The other hobbits begin to think that he’s just as crazy as his uncle – nice, and rich, but crazy. Frodo takes to walking alone at night and it is suspected that he goes to visit the Elves nearby, but it’s possible that he just likes walking alone. Introverts don’t do well in the Shire, I guess.

Sam, Merry, Frodo, and Pippin: from wwwf.imperial.ac.uk
Sam, Merry, Frodo, and Pippin: from wwwf.imperial.ac.uk

He has three close friends – Meriadoc Brandybuck (Merry), who we have met already, Peregrine Took (Pippin), and Samwise Gamgee, who is also his gardener. Other than that he seems to find the company of the older Hobbits boring, and likes hanging out with the younger crowd, probably because they still have imaginations  and a sense of adventure. We also see that Frodo is somewhat restless, always looking at maps, always dreaming of having his own adventure.

And then, about twelve years after the night Bilbo went on his merry way, Gandalf returns. He is older and looks like he has a lot on his mind, and he doesn’t waste a lot of time before telling Frodo his concerns. It all comes out in the open now: his suspicion about the ring, how he thinks Gollum got a hold of it, and why he’s concerned. He explains to Frodo that the nine men who received rings of power have become shadows of men and their sole purpose is to hunt down the One Ring. Some of the Dwarves who got rings have been killed, while others are still alive, but in danger. He also says that while the three Elven rings are safe for now, if the one who made all the rings gets the One Ring back, he can control all the others.

Sauron: from lotr.wikia.com
Sauron: from lotr.wikia.com

Now we learn about Sauron, who is the Lord of the Rings. I decided to include a bit of a backstory here, so if you don’t care and just want to hear about The Lord of the Rings, skip this paragraph. Basically, when Arda (the world of Tolkien, in which Middle-earth is one of the continents) was created by the “head” god, Eru, there were several demi gods (Ainur) who helped. One of these was named Melkor, and he started doing his own thing and thinking that he was better than Eru. He became prideful and evil, and eventually he left ‘heaven’ to establish his own kingdom on Arda. I won’t cover this because that’s why Tolkien wrote The Silmarillion, but essentially Sauron was his successor. He’s caused trouble before, and in the previous age he was defeated, but now his power is returning because he can’t be killed while the One Ring still exists. When he made it, he tied his soul and his power to it, so that’s why he’s still alive. Okay. Lore lesson over 🙂 But I would strongly recommend reading The Silmarillion where all this is covered, or at least reading a synopsis!

Frodo, of course, is terrified. But at the same time it is clear that the ring is beginning to have a hold on him, too: he is fifty now but doesn’t look a day over 33, and he doesn’t want to think of the ring being destroyed, even while he’s asking Gandalf why it hasn’t been destroyed. And now on to Gollum. Gollum has apparently been looking for Bilbo for a while, and had even become the new terror of Mirkwood for a while (if you’ve read The Hobbit this should give you some insight into how terrifying Gollum can be, because Mirkwood is not unicorn land). Gandalf and another person we’ll meet soon, Aragorn, tracked him down eventually and discovered, to their horror, that the Enemy (Sauron) had captured him and found out where the Ring was.

Lesson number 1 in adventuring: never tell anyone your real name or where you’re really from, especially when stealing their magic rings.

Clearly the Ring has to be destroyed. Frodo tries – he thinks he can destroy it in his own fire – but he can’t. Already the Ring has a hold on him, too.

“You see? Already you too, Frodo, cannot easily let it go, nor will to damage it…But as for breaking the Ring, force is useless. Even if you took it and struck it with a heavy sledge-hammer, it would make no dint in it. It cannot be unmade by your hands, or by mine…There is only one way: to find the Cracks of Doom in the depths of Orodruin, the Fire-mountain, and cast the Ring in there, if you really wish to destroy it, to put it beyond the grasp of the Enemy forever.” (Gandalf, 59-60)

Just like Bilbo, Frodo tries to give the ring to Gandalf. But Gandalf refuses. “Do not tempt me!” he says. “For I do not wish to become like the Dark Lord himself.”

Frodo knows he must leave. At this point, he isn’t thinking of destroying the Ring; he only knows that Sauron will find him if he stays in the Shire. And so we end Chapter II with the exciting but sad prospect of Frodo and Sam leaving the Shire and taking the Ring into hiding.

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The One Ring: from lotr.wikia.com
The One Ring: from lotr.wikia.com

The Fellowship of the Ring: Prologue and Chapter 1

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

– JRR Tolkien –

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Opening The Fellowship of the Ring is like seeing an old friend again after years and years. I know that’s cliche, but it’s true. And I’m not gonna lie (because, you know, attempting authenticity), I’m partly blogging through this epicness because I’m an adult and I feel guilty when I read for fun now…but this is for a blog, which as we all know is of the utmost importance, so that makes it okay! Okay.

Prologue: First of all, I’m normally a bad person and skip the Prologue in books, but in this case it’s definitely a good idea to read the Prologue. You’ll get such important information as “Concerning Hobbits” and “Concerning Pipeweed.” However, if you’re in a hurry to get to the story, at least read the fourth entry, “Of the Finding of the Ring.” It will give you context for the books you’re about to read, whether or not you’ve read The Hobbit (which is the sort of prequel to The Lord of the Rings).

Chapter 1: A Long Expected Party. Enter Bilbo Baggins for his 111th birthday! It’s now 60 years after his journey with the Dwarves. He’s kind of like that jolly old uncle who you know is rich but you’re not sure just how rich he is, and he’s super eccentric, and a lot of people pretend to like him because they want his money, but actually they just think he’s weird, and you really like him because he understands you and your sense of adventure.

And enter Gandalf! The Hobbits only know him as the old guy who has awesome fireworks, which suits him well, since he’s actually one of 5 powerful wizards who help watch over Middle-earth and guard against evil. And of course we have Frodo, who is Bilbo’s nephew and who lives with his uncle since his parents died when he was young.

At Bilbo’s birthday party, there is a huge amount of food, drink, and dancing (in proper Hobbit style) and also Gandalf’s incredible fireworks. Tolkien wrote a whole breathtaking paragraph about the fireworks. Read about the fireworks. Everything is lighthearted. Everything is fun. Bilbo gets up to give a speech and everyone is in a good mood and thinks he’s hilarious. But then the speech takes an odd turn – and suddenly he disappears. Only he and Gandalf know that he used his ring.

This is where Gandalf starts to get suspicious. He knows Bilbo has a magic ring, and he knows that magic rings aren’t common. He knows the little poem I included at the beginning of the post, and he also knows that the One Ring has been missing for over 2,000 years. Of course he can’t confirm anything, but he’s definitely not at ease about how obsessed with the ring Bilbo seems to be. And there is the matter of Bilbo not seeming to age much, which is another red flag (its previous known bearer, Gollum, from whom he got the ring, is over 500 years old).

We learn now that Bilbo wants to have one last grand adventure, and to finish the book he is writing about his adventurous life. He’s packing and nearly on his way out the door when Gandalf stops him and reminds him that he promised to leave the magic ring to Frodo. The conflict that occurs between them is so telling – the ring becomes its own character with its own dark presence. You get the sense that there is something very wrong here; why does Bilbo, a good-natured, easy going Hobbit, feel so strongly about a little gold ring that he even accuses his old friend of wanting to steal it? He also refers to the ring as his “precious”, which Gollum often called it, as well as other figures in history who definitely had the One Ring in their possession.

I personally felt relieved when Bilbo left it behind. Yeah, yeah, I know the story, but man! You feel how free and light he becomes once he gets rid of it. Interestingly, Gandalf refuses to even touch the ring, as if he doesn’t want to have even the possibility of being affected by it.

Poor Frodo finds his uncle gone, and has to deal with all the greedy relatives stealing silver spoons and what not. And enter Meriadock Brandybuck, also known as Merry, who is a clever but happy go lucky young Hobbit and one of Frodo’s close friends. He helps Frodo to ward off the crazies and get his house under control. In the midst of the humorous description of Frodo’s nasty relatives, the ring sits quietly in an envelope, and you kind of forget about it until Gandalf comes to visit after the chaos has settled.

“I have merely begun to wonder about the ring, especially since last night,” Gandalf tells Frodo. “No need to worry. But if you take my advice you will use it very seldom, or not at all. At least I beg you not to use it in any way that will cause talk or rouse suspicion. I say again: keep it safe, and keep it secret!” He then says that he is leaving and that he hopes to know more when he returns, but that he will be gone for a long time. As he leaves, Frodo notes that he looks bent over, as if carrying a great weight.

And that brings us to the end of Chapter 1. According to the poll in my last post, most of you are at least familiar with the movies, so I hope you’re enjoying this! One of you shattered my heart with your indifference, but you know, I probably don’t like your favorite book either, so there :D. If you’re reading along, I plan to only cover Chapter 2: The Shadow of the Past next week, because there is quite a lot of explanation of things that are crucial to understanding the story. That sentence made no sense, but I haven’t had coffee yet. Actually I have, but oh well. Come back next Monday for more LotR!

Click here to view all the posts in this series.

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