Friday, February 28, 2014

The Theme of Family

  As I have been writing these past few weeks, I began thinking about what sort of themes are in my work, and how they are represented. I compiled a list with categories and sub-categories as a skeleton for a future essay. I do this so I can delve deeper and explore the meanings and significance of these different ideas in my work, and so that I can better understand them to better express them. One thing in particular stood out to me as I worked.

  The theme of family.

  Fantasy is a genre that seems to focus heavily on friendship, bonds struck from love, from mutual understanding, from desperation and from a shared common goal. It is a strong thread woven through the heart of nearly every great epic, from The Lord of the Rings to The Chronicles of Narnia. The characters are thrown into various perilous quests and must rely on the kindness of others to help them on their journey, whether it's saving the world, or reclaiming a lost throne. Most heroes have a circle of friends to back them up.

  And of course I love that. Friendship is one of the greatest and most beautiful of bonds. A love that blossoms between two people of any background, a love that is not based on selfish motivations, but on a genuine affection for one another. The friendship of Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee is, in my opinion, the finest example of this, but there are many others. Relationships that touch our hearts and make us long for the same loyalty and strength and love in our own lives.

  But often, I feel that fantasy overlooks another important relationship, perhaps more important.


  Family bonds are some of the strongest in the world. And they are inescapable. You can pick and choose your friends, but you cannot choose your family. Your blood, your kin. There are powerful emotions and powerful circumstances that stem from that. Blood bonds can lead to beautiful teamwork or terrible enmity, deep affection or black hatred, tenderness or bitterness, sacrifice or betrayal, in a more profound way than I believe friendships can.

  Seeing this, I vowed that the bonds of family were to be a main theme of my fantasy series. I want to portray the various family groups vividly and diversely, to encompass both the bright and the dark, the beautiful and the ugly, the good and the bad of these intensely fascinating relationships.

  Family is a very important part of any society, even a fantastical one, and to see it so often overlooked in media and entertainment is disturbing. I find that too much focus is placed on friendships, in both fiction and reality, thus, I decided to write in such a way that the spotlight would be put back on the family unit. Wishing to show that, for all it's heartache and frustration, "there is light and beauty out there, that no shadow can touch."

  Hopefully, I will succeed in painting this picture for my audiences. Only time will tell. But for now, I do wish to encourage my fellow writers, whether you write in the fantasy genre or not, to take a step back and assess your novel. What kind of themes are you portraying? What messages are you sending to readers? What message do you want to send?

  For me, family is an important and worthy theme to explore and pursue, and I will continue to do so in my novel. It has been very rewarding so far, thinking about and focusing on the "blood bond" and what kinds of things it drives people to do. The human heart is both a marvelous and dark thing to exploit and it has been revealing to do so these long months of writing.

  Just another milestone in the long road of writing a series that I thought I'd share.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Catching Fire Movie Review

So this is my review for the Catching Fire film (Nov. 22nd). It can also be found here; on the Annals of Adloniant blog I guest post on occasion. Hope you enjoy it. :)

Remember who the real enemy is.”

Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark both won. Or so they thought.

They were declared victors of the previous year's Hunger Games, making history as the only two people to both walk out of the arena alive at Games end. The have become Capitol celebrities, brought honor and food to their district and families, will be supported by the Capitol with money and food and housing for the rest of their lives. They have survived.

But more than that, they have made enemies. Enemies with the powerful aristocracy that simultaneously adores and abhors them, enemies with the single most powerful man in the country to whom their very lives belong.

There is rebellion brewing in the districts and heroine Katniss is coolly informed by President Snow, leader of Panem, that it is of her doing. Her stunt in the arena with the toxic nightlock berries has painted her as a hero and a rebel to the people of Panem, someone to put their faith in, someone to inspire a revolution. Katniss is both unaware and horrified by the prospect that her attempt to save both her and Peeta from each other is viewed as an act of defiance and rebellion. This simple moment that saved her before may become her undoing, and under threat from President Snow, Katniss is willing to do anything to fix the problem before it's too late.

However, Katniss soon realizes that it was too late before it even began. And she finds herself being sacrificed in the arenas again for the greater good of Panem. Reaped for a special 75th Quarter Quell Games she is put back in the arena with Peeta and the past victors from other districts. The only difference? This time she has accepted that she will not be coming back.

Being a fan of the books, I thought this film went above and beyond the previous installment in the franchise, it was very close to the source material and very true to the tone and spirit of the original story. In general, I was quite pleased with what the cast and crew had created.

Catching Fire was my favorite book, and so far, it has been my favorite film. The acting was superb, with a particularly raw and stirring performance from Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss), beautiful costumes and sets, stunning cinematography, script, etc. There is little worth complaining about as a fan or even a critical standpoint, however, there is plenty of subject material that may make some viewers wary or uncomfortable. In all honesty, the whole storyline is a bit uncomfortable when you are first introduced to it.

There is plenty of kissing, as Katniss is at the center of a complicated love triangle involving herself, fellow victor, Peeta, and friend, Gale. Johanna, another victor, undresses in front of Katniss, Peeta, and Haymitch in an elevator (we only see her bare back). There is a multitude of violence, unsurprisingly, although this time around, many people die of the arena's “natural” elements rather than by human hands. People are burned in acid fog, stabbed, shot with arrows, nailed with axes, whipped, attacked by genetically modified monkeys, throats are slit, people drown, etc. One particularly disturbing scene happens near the beginning of the film when one old man dares to take even the smallest of stands against the power of the Capitol and is dragged onto a podium and shot in the head. We do not see it happen, but the shock, combined with the horror and tears of the other characters, is enough to frighten the viewer.

There is some profanity, mild and not so mild, and it is much more present than in the previous film. Haymitch is often drunk and there are other instances were alcohol is present.

Overall, Panem is not a pleasant place, a fact that is all too clear from the tone of both books and films. But it is a dystopian country that serves as a background for a story of heroism and sacrifice. I know many people who are turned off by The Hunger Games because of the violence and the idea of children killing children. And I understand.

But I wonder if the truly scary thing is how much of our own society we are able to see within the book's pages (or on the screen).

Suzanne Collins (author of The Hunger Games trilogy) has said in the past that her story is a critique on violence and media, showing us what could be if we continue down our current path. I think there is definitely a hard lesson to be learned in Katniss' story, and walking out of the theater, you may have some heavy thoughts wandering around your head. A story like this is sobering, it makes you think, which is one of the reasons it appeals to me.

What I fear has happened is exactly the opposite of what Suzanne Collins intended, the world-wide success of her books (and the films inspired by them) has turned her “critique” of violence into a glamorization, and her thoughtful take on a future world into a young adult trend. The irony couldn't be more complete, woven into the very fibers of the story's heart is the horror and tragedy of war and violence, and what effect it has on the world, and each individual. The Hunger Games is the story of a girl who is put on a pedestal for detestable acts and locked into a life similar to that of a caged animal. Made for a show, for a game. Glamorized for acting on her basest human instinct. Survival.

For me, the appeal of The Hunger Games trilogy is the haunting tale of a war, a raw and gritty story of relatable, realistic people doing their best to change their world for good, to do the right thing in a situation where that is nearly impossible, to give up everything in hopes of creating a better life for those after them.

At it's core, The Hunger Games is a tale of self-sacrifice and of ordinary people overcoming insurmountable odds. Beneath the violence and the darkness and the shadow of despair and doubt, there is a glimmer of strength, of faith, of hope.

Catching Fire captures this well as it's character put themselves on the line time and time again for one another, many of them making the ultimate sacrifice for the one hope they have in these troubled times.

Katniss Everdeen. The Girl on Fire. The Mockingjay. The Symbol of the Rebellion.

Since the last Games, something is different. I can see it.”
What can you see?”


Emily Recommends Books

So I went through my reading list from 2013 and picked out my favorites to share with you. All of these are quite highly recommended, some quick and easy reads, some more heady and though-provoking. Hope you'll take some of my suggestions. :)

  1. The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielson
The second book in the Ascendance Trilogy, Jennifer Nielson's sequel reads just as well without previous knowledge of its predecessor (which I have not read). Though relatively unknown and more of a juvenile fantasy, it is engaging and entertaining, with lots of laughs and some fun mystery. In it, a young king named Jaron is surrounded by war and schemes and is threatened by ruffian pirates and the neighbouring country of Avenia, he disguises himself to enter the pirate's stronghold. Jaron is an interesting main character and one that will surely make you smile with his quick wit and pessimist attitude. Moving along at a quick pace, the book begins in the middle of the action and doesn't let up much throughout the whole read. It is relatively small, about 330 pages, and I read most of it in one sitting. I recommend it for younger lovers of fantasy or those of you who are older but love a fun story anyway.
  1. The Royal Diaries: Nzingha
I have loved The Royal Diaries books since I was eight or nine years old, historical fiction has always appealed to me. The Royal Diaries are quick, simple reads that bring you right into the heart of a princess, queen or duchess of times past. I always enjoy learning about such people and Nzingha was no different. Although much too short for my taste, it is to be expected, since much of this amazing women's story is unknown or legend, she is difficult to write about. Hers was a good story, and for anyone who likes learning about people of the past, Nzingha: Warrior Queen of Matamba, would be a quick and fun choice.
  1. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
I watched the movie soon after its DVD release and loved it. The story was genuine and warm and funny but there was also something heartbreaking about it that had me in tears more than once. The book is absolutely the same. The movie is a very faithful and well done adaption but, as always, the book is better. By the final pages, I was drowning in tears. All the POV characters (Skeeter, Abileen and Minnie) are likeable and readable and the book, while thick, is simple and smooth. There were two parts that were not exactly wholesome, both taking place with Minnie and Celia Foote. There is some language and sexual content but overall, it is a hard-hitting and impulsively readable story. I recommend it for absolutely everyone, at least fourteen years old.
  1. The Mark of the Lion trilogy by Francine Rivers
I love Francine Rivers, she is amazing at capturing the historical aura of her stories and she always chooses such great settings and characters. The Mark of the Lion was no different. One of her best literary acheivements by far, it is a trilogy of epic scope, the story of a Jewish slave girl in ancient Rome who touched the lives of all around her and started chain reactions spawning generations. I could go on and on about this book, such as Marcus and Julia and their brother/sister bond, Hadassah's loyalty to her mistress, Hadassah/Marcus (I hate being the only shipper in the fandom, the fandom that, to the best of my knowledge, has only me and my mom), Atretes/Rizpah. Everything about it speaks with a raw truth and power. It has earned a high place on my shelf. Recommended for Christians, historical fiction buffs.
  1. The Book Thief
Easily one of the most life-changing books I read this year. It was truly classic even though it wasn't a very old story. It is a young adult novel, but has a mature yet child-like feel to it. It centers on the life of a girl called Liesel and is set in Nazi Germany. It is narrated through the eyes of Death, who was at his busiest during the War. The unique perspective intrigued me at first and then I started to enjoy the dry sense of humor the personified character has. There was a lot of heavy, completely un-vague foreshadowing, especially about the deaths of certain characters, but that never took away from the heaviness of the losses when the time came. I still bawled like a big baby when the book reached its final chapter. Minor complaints include the extraordinary amount of curse words that spout from the mouth of Liesel's adopted mother and both Liesel and her best friend Rudy Steiner's. A fantastic read and I recommend this book for absolutely everyone and anyone. GO READ IT NOW AND DON'T STOP TIL YOUR DONE!
  1. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King by JRR Tolkien
It's hard to be objective when discussing my favorite book of my favorite trilogy, but honestly, if you haven't read these books yet, then stop everything, get yourself a copy and DO IT! Once again, I cried at the end, and once again, my heart broke and soared and strained along with the characters. I recommend this book to any and everyone, even if fantasy isn't your thing, even if you don't like reading, even if you have a small vocabulary, this is the one book (besides the Bible) that everyone needs to read.
  1. Atonement Child by Francine River
Another great story by Francine Rivers, the struggle of a young woman, Dinah, who is becomes pregnant from rape and loses everything as she decides whether to terminate the pregnancy, or carry her child to the end. Definitely worth a read, it has a strong pro-life message and makes you think twice about abortion. No matter if you're pro-life or pro-choice, everyone should read and be challenged.
  1. Maid Marian by Elsa Watson
A nice, easy-paced book focusing on the trials of Maid Marian Fitzwater, an orphan and heiress who has her estate taken away from her and must fight to get it back with the help of everyone's favorite outlaw, Robin Hood. Other people have not liked this book, finding the long dialogue and slow-pace boring. But I found the story quite interesting, and I do loved reading historical fictions, especially that which is based on my favorite characters. The romance between Marian and Robin is sweet, yet peppered with arguments and the typical behavior of a young boy and girl trying to prove themselves to the other. I found it funny, and intriguing and a decent read. I recommend to those who are interested in Robin Hood's tales, or historical fiction in general.
  1. Allegiant by Veronica Roth
I waited quite a while for this book and found myself less than fulfilled by the end. To me, it echoed the sorrow and hopelessness of the final Hunger Games book, Mockingjay, and the dreariness of the dystopian world definitely got into me as well. However, I think it was a fitting and powerful ending to a great series and I look forward to more stories from Veronica Roth in the future. I wish I could say more, but if I talk too much, I will spoil it all for you.
  1. Fuse of Armageddon by Sigmund Brouwer
Sigmund Brouwer is one of my favorite authors and this book is just as thrilling as his others. It is, at it's core, a clash between three of the world's biggest religions (Christianity, Islam and Judaism) and how religion can so easily become something dangerous and dark, when it is not war we need, but peace and solutions. A good book that makes you think, recommended for all.
  1. Walking with Bilbo by Sarah Arthur
I love Sarah Arthur's devotionals, and Walking with Bilbo provided some powerful insight into the spiritual core of The Hobbit. Much like her other titles 'Walking with Frodo' and 'Walking through the Wardrobe', 'Walking with Bilbo' is inspiring and informative. I learned alot and I'm sure you will too. Check it out, and check out her others.
  1. The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers
This has to be one of my favorite Francine Rivers novels, I loved the historical setting and the main character, the story and plot were great. It was very thought-provoking and inspiring. Francine Rivers has once again spun a magnificent tale and it is worth a read. Good for those who like historical fiction or Christian fiction.
  1. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
Another one of Francine River's best, and one of the very, very few romance novels I've read and loved. The characters are frustratingly compelling and very strong and cleverly written. It is a parody of the book of Hosea in Scripture, where the prophet Hosea is told to marry the harlot Gomer by God, to parellel the unfaithfulness of Israel at that time. Very beautiful book, highly recommended.
  1. Blink by Ted Dekker

Ted Dekker is another great author, his novels are full of suspense and thrills, and he keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole ride. Blink was just such a book, and one of my favorites from him. Free of his often creepy and horror filled plots, it is the story of a Saudi Arabian princess escaping an arranged marriage and the young American man who helps her and is suddenly gifted with the ability to see the future as they are chased across America by the authorities, and the hunters after the princess. A good, fast-paced thriller with lots of action and lots of thought. Recommended for those who like alot of action and a quick pace.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Why Do We Love 'The Lord of the Rings'?

*I wrote this a few years back, I was maybe twelve or thirteen, and my family had been fond of asking me, in various different forms; "Why do you love Lord of the Rings so much?" In this essay, I hoped to address just exactly what it was that made LotR so appealing not only to me, but to everyone. Enjoy!

Have you ever been rambling on about Frodo and Sam's amazing friendship, or Gandalf's awesome sword-fighting moves, or Aragorn's strong need of shampoo to a non-LOTR friend or relative and suddenly been asked 'For crying out LOUD! What is so great about that story anyway???' and you stop. And think about it. And a rush of words and reasons come flooding into your head all at once and you can't make head or tail out of any, so you end up saying something dumb like, 'I dunno' when really you do know, but it's a feeling you just can't explain. Maybe even a stirring of your heart, that makes you long for the goodness and purity of Middle Earth, the honour and justice, the mercy and truth, the self-sacrifice and faith, perseverance in the midst of tragedy, and, perhaps most of all, good fighting against evil, and winning.
 As C.S.Lewis once said; ' If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.' And that may sound far-fetched and fantastical, but it isn't really, not if you look at it differently. Even while doing our chores, or surfing the net we long for something more,  something we can't quite name, just a faint hope that someday we'll wake up and be the ones saving Middle-Earth with the Fellowship, or maybe Narnia, or really anywhere. Life in this world can seem so dull and, well, pointless at times, especially when we glance up at the Frodo hanging on our wall and ask, 'Why couldn't I have been there...'
Believe it or not, but you HAVE been created for another world, a grand Kingdom that is closer than you realize, as near as a heartbeat, just around the next bend. A place with no more tears, and heartache, no more pains and suffering. A place of perfection, where you will get that glorious adventure you always dreamed of and much more.
  So where is this Kingdom? And how do I get there?
Unlike most magical lands you read or hear about, this one cannot be reached through wardrobes, or incantations, or rabbit holes. It cannot be visited and return its guests. Once your there, you can't come back, and the way there is an adventure of itself. It's not an easy road either, and it begins in this world, right here, right now. And it doesn't stop, no, this road 'goes ever on an on, down from the door where it began.'
  Frodo decided to take this road. He put his trust and Gandalf and willingly took that dangerous, difficult path with only the hope that someday, it would be over.
  Little did he know there was a much greater ending planned for him, something he wouldn't have dared to dream of for himself. The perfect ending, a happy ending. An ending that no one expected for the small hobbit of the Shire.
  Of course we all know that Frodo couldn't have accomplished this feat alone. It took the courage and sacrifice of many to finally destroy the Ring. Friendships were built, bonds were strengthened, miracles happened. All leading up to something truly wonderful, something that the imagination of Tolkien alone couldn't have done, without the divine inspiration from  the real Kingdom.
   So, why do we love The Lord of the Rings so much?
 Because we have been created for God's glorious Kingdom of Heaven, and it has been placed in us, 'a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy.' And in the Lord of the Rings we see a reflection of that desire. We see qualities that our society has long forgotten; true friendship, and loyalty, truth and justice, grace and love, perseverance and hope, true love for others. We see characters who hold those qualities and sacrifice themselves for the good of their world. And we see that happy end, where everything finally comes right.
  So now, Frodo is standing in the door. He's holding out a hand, asking you to take up the Quest. He's telling you to believe his story for yourself, he wants you to follow.
     We know his happy ending, we want it too, what is holding us back?
  The Lord of the Rings  is a story, as Sam put well “...that stayed with you, that meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why.”
    And I believe it will stay with us, it will continue to mean something, it's  the rare kind of tale that one never forgets. A story  that begs a choice, continue here, or follow Frodo on his journey, a journey that determines the fate of you, and your life in that great Kingdom.

        So, what are you going to choose?      

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


Hello all,

Since this is my first post, I thought I'd take a moment to introduce myself and the purpose of this blog.

So my name is Emily (Goldberry) and I am a writer, or at least I try to be. I love to write, but I find that I sometimes want to dabble in other things besides my fiction. Like essays and reviews. Hence, this blog.

I think I will mainly post things revolving around writing, although I may put up something different from time to time, such as a book/movie review, a rant, or anything else that may strike my fancy.

Happy Reading!