Book Review: Rook (You Need to Read This Book.)

 

Okay, so, I could not put this book down.

Look, it is not often that I am genuinely surprised by a book.

Usually I have a gut instinct of whether I am going to like something or not and I am almost always right.

When I came to reading Rook, by Sharon Cameron, my gut instinct was totally, totally wrong.

I had major second thoughts about reading Rook. I ordered it on a whim, but then considered cancelling when I looked into reviews.

‘It is long.’

‘Boring.’

‘The Characters are cliche’

There were a lot of very negative things written about this book online. It was for this reason when I finally got the novel into my hands, I fully expected to stop a quarter the way through.

Rook is a stand alone – I think, although there are a number of hints that this may not always be the case at the end – it is important to keep this in mind as a LOT has to be crammed into the pages.

The premise is this: Sophia is the daughter of a supposedly wealthy family in the ‘Commonwealth’ (UK) and to save her family from ruin – because he brother who is the heir has an injured leg and therefore deemed unacceptable to inherit – she has been engaged to marry a Parisian named Rene.

The story is set in the very distant future, where the magnetic poles of the earth have shifted. When this happened, it destroyed the world’s reliance on technology and as a result, there grew a mindset sort of like the luddites where technology was perceived as evil. The world in this book, while futuristic, is a lot like revolutionary France, and for good reason.

Meanwhile, across the ocean in the Sunken City – Paris – a wicked man named LeBlanc is having scores and scores executed on the ‘Razor ‘ – Guillotine – without reason. These prisoners are being rescued however, by a vigilante who calls themselves the Red Rook.

In pursuit of the Red Rook, LeBlanc finds himself at the engagement party of Sophia and Rene (Rene is LeBlanc’s cousin and Rene has been approached to help LeBlanc capture the Red Rook, who LeBlanc suspects is Sophia’s invalid brother, Tom).

While Rene appears foolish and naïve it quickly becomes evident that he is not what he seems.

Nor is Sophia, as it is revealed that she is the Red Rook.

LeBlanc abducts Tom, assuming that he is the Red Rook, and whips him back to the Sunken City where he plans on executing him at the Razor, obviously it is up to Sophia, her childhood friend Spear and her unwanted fiancé Rene to save Tom.

I’ll admit, at first this book was a chore.

My copy is awful, with a horrible tacky cover that has crinkled so the pages aren’t straight, and all of this added to my suspicion that I would actually hate the book. (See photos… look at that awful crinkling down the middle! And how damaged the spine got from one read through!)

The first fifty pages are also quite ‘descriptionry’ mostly because they have to set the actual scene of the story. I would suggest you take this in your stride, concentrate hard, then afterwards you’ll love it.

After those first fifty pages, you find two of the most interesting characters I have come across this year.

Sophia is rough but gentle. She is actually an excellent female lead, because the author has not tried to make her ‘strong’ by imposing a stark personality on her, that is damaged and unemotional – like Katniss from the Hunger Games, or other dystopian female leads.

Sophia is strong, and brave, and cunning, but also soft, and caring and is not afraid to be a girl, despite not exactly loving the role society has carved out for her.

Rene is a perfect match for her as the male lead. Seeming at first rather witless, and conceited, obsessed with this high society life, he is the absolute opposite and you never know what he is actually thinking.

The super obvious romance which grows between the pair – from assumed betrothal, to actual genuine love – is excellently written, not overly gushy, does not once rob from their strength as individual people. It is good. Very, very good.

The setting is brilliant. This whole advanced society which actually ends up backwards, with their social structure and luddite ways, not to mention LeBlanc’s obsession with ‘Fate’ and his odd religious devotion to it. Cameron has put a lot of thought and planning into this world and you can tell.

I also appreciated the way this story didn’t end super abruptly, we saw proper conclusions, that were each tied up in their own individual way, rather than a broad brush stoke of ‘this one thing happened so everything is good and happy now.’

Another really cool feature, which you will notice if you are lucky enough to pick up this novel, is that the way Cameron has written it, almost feels like a movie. Chopping and changing scenes, and when she does so she will repeat a similar concept from each change of scene. This is done by repeating a similar thought or sentence or question that is associated with what is going on in one part of the story.

It was fast paced, written extremely well, and I enjoyed every part of it – once I got past the HEAVY introduction.

This book was magnetic. I basically was reading it in any spare time I had, and when I wasn’t reading it, I wanted to be reading it.

I highly, highly recommend it. This is one of the best books I have read in a long while and has earned a place on my permeant bookshelf.

 

 

 

 

 

Be Involved in What Your Kids Are Reading

On Sunday – yesterday – I was at the mall with my mum.

We went into Whitcoulls for a coffee at the Robert Harris Café, and on the way up the stairs I passed a little girl, who I wouldn’t estimate to be any older than eleven.

She looked a lot like I did at that stage – all legs and elbows and very excited about getting a new book.

But it was the book in her hands that drew my attention – black cover, white word dead centre – I recognized it at once.

Light – by Michael Grant from the ‘Gone’ series.

Years ago, someone recommended the Gone series to me. Typically when someone recommends a book I google it like crazy and figure out if I want to read it… this time through I just trusted their judgement as they had said it would be a popular series to review and brought the first novel in the series.

It was as I read this book that I researched a little more into the actual plot of the series, honestly, just because I was pretty startled that a story with this kind of content could ever been deemed child appropriate – as it is often categorized for middle grade fiction.

The Gone series is a fairly main stream sequence of books which follow the events of a small town where everyone fifteen years and older vanishes without a trace leaving all the kids on their own with no way out of the town and surrounding areas.

It is basically like that TV Show the Dome.

The premise sounds interesting – not at all dissimilar to Lord of the Flies in the whole ‘how do people act when they are under pressure and forced to form their own social orders?’ line of questioning.

I got about a half way through the first book before I put it down, tapped a little more into the series on a whole, and then never picked it back up again.

I say this with as much seriousness as I possibly can: this book is not appropriate for young people.

In short, these children go feral. I am not talking ‘find a pig and stick the head on a staff and worship it kind of way’ I mean cannibalism, murder, grotesque violence kind of way. All of which is described in full detail. Not to mention some pretty inappropriate sexual content where one of the leading girls falls pregnant to some creepy nuclear baby that grows up super fast and starts tearing people apart and eating them.

I wish I was kidding, but this is seriously hidden in the pages of a novel, tucked away on the bookshelves in the Children/Young Adult Section of your local bookstore.

Michael Grant – in interviews – says he wanted to write something genuinely scary and honestly? He succeeded because these books and their content are creepy to say the least, and it is even more scary that his mind has imagined such disturbing content for young people to read over as ‘entertainment.’

The problem is that weird books and their sick content aside, what do parents do when their child is young but bright and a component reader and the Famous Five doesn’t quite cut it anymore?

I can imagine the parents of this young girl I saw clutching book 6 of the Gone series are proud that she is evidently a very good reader and well above her age. The problem for parents is what can your skilled young readers actually read that is age appropriate and more importantly, how do you know it is appropriate.

The fact of the matter is this.

In my time teaching story writing in schools I have come across a lot of different books recommended to me by a lot of different young people. Quite a bit of the time the events in these books would be well beyond what is considered a PG or even M rated movie.

The difference being that instead of playing out on a screen in front of these kids, it plays out on a screen in their minds – conjured by their own imaginations.

I would argue that often this is actually worse.

Because with every word, it is inviting the young person to construct that image – whatever it is – with their own creative power. I imagine that is harder to erase.

Books in general are not properly rated, unless they are genuinely very questionable – like that horrendous piece of New Zealand fiction Into the River, which is supposedly geared towards young adults. This makes it really difficult for parents of young gifted readers to feel confident that what their child is reading is actually appropriate for their age bracket.

The fact at the bottom of this is that while a young person can read something – that they have the skill to – they might not have the emotional maturity to deal with what they read and actually process it in a way that is helpful to them going forwards.

The stories we are witness to often govern what we perceive as appropriate and inappropriate going forwards.

Say a young person was confronted with some heavy subject such as domestic abuse, then if they are unable to talk through and process this subject is a constructive way then there is a high possibility that they may be forming some unideal perceptions about that subject.

Young people do not have the emotional maturity for everything a mature person does – that is reality. So what I suggest is two fold.

Firstly, that authors out there – possibly reading this – take ownership over your work and remember your audience. If you are writing for young people, then respect their emotional situation, their ability to process ideas and themes, and also the fact that there might be very young gifted readers reading your work (although it might be deemed for an older age group) so consider what impact you are having as you script your words.

Crude and violent doesn’t mean sophisticated. Not by any means.

Secondly, parents and teachers of young people, get involved in what your children are reading. Just as some people tuck away to a computer in the corner of their house to look at unsavory things, the same could be happening directly under your nose with you young person sitting with their nose in a book. Just as we could all rather eat Snickers Bars all the time, it doesn’t mean eating them is good for us. Don’t expect a young person to know what is good and not good for them when it comes to book content.

Take responsibility to be aware what your young person is reading, and the content of it, and whether you feel they are age appropriate to process this information without forming unhealthy mindsets in their heads and hearts.

Ask questions, ‘Oh what is that book about?’ discuss themes, characters, characters they admire, or hate. This is not only a great opportunity to bond and encourage them to engage in their reading, but also for you to discern if the book is appropriate.

I would also recommend googling reviews or plots of books if they are outside of your child’s age bracket to ensure that you are happy with content.

I don’t mean to sound super down on books, and to claim that stories have to be all about rainbows and unicorns. Conflict is a crucial part of a good story.

The problem is just as I told one of my young ten year old students the other day.

‘Can my character kill herself?’

I looked at her, a little confused, ‘Why?’

‘Because it would be a good ending.’

‘I would rather you don’t.’ I told her after a second to think.

‘Why?’ she asked, admittedly looking a little frustrated I had told her she couldn’t end her story how she wanted.

‘Because what we write our characters doing in stories can give permission for the readers to do in real life.’ I told her. Because it is true. What we read can soften our impression of it over time. ‘Why does your character want to kill herself?’

‘Because her boyfriend dies and she doesn’t want to live without him.’

‘Well say someone else read your story and they felt like life was too hard or they felt lonely, and they see your character find life overwhelming and as a result give up then they feel justified to give up too?’ I asked her. ‘We promote ideas in what we write. That’s why we have to be aware of the big stories in our narratives.’

The whole reason I started Gideon Press was because I believe that stories have a way to profoundly impact people who read them.

Understanding character and theme and conflict in stories helps us – and for me, young people, as I am super passionate about young people – to understand peers, theme and conflict in their own lives better.

The mission statement of Gideon is to ‘write good things’ because I believe that regardless of what happens in a story, we must be sure that the meta narrative – the big story – is one that is good. Conflict, challenge, and heavy subjects can be broached carefully, but we must ask ourselves at the end, what are we saying, giving permission for in our work.

At the end of the day, books and stories are very powerful, and the pen really is mightier than the sword.

Book Review: United as One

It has been a LONG time coming.

For those who have ready any of my earlier reviews or posts, you’ll know that I am a massive fan of … shall we say the concept, of I Am Number Four – by Pittacus Lore (a totally fictional author who was actually a handful of different writers)

Sure, it is Science Fiction, and yes, it is aliens, but they are used in a way that I personally have never read before. The Aliens aren’t green, or ultra, ultra futuristic, as a matter of fact they are super similar to Humans in appearance, and their technology more magic than anything else.

Four is also an excellent character, someone I’ve always had a bit of a book crush on, because he’s so level headed, loyal and quietly strong.

When I read I Am Number Four it was probably one of the best books I had come across in a long, long time. The concept was simple, nine children sent away from their dying planet to escape the destruction of the Mogadorian Race. A charm was put on them so that they could only be killed in number order, starting with one, and working the way through to nine.

The Mogadorians followed the Loric (these are the good Aliens) to Earth where numbers one, through to three are killed, and the start of the series begins with Number Four, otherwise known as John, knowing he is next.

This series went on far, far too long for me, and I genuinely can’t remember the full detail of what happened in the middle books, but I am not kidding when I say United as One was fully worth the wait.

Now before I get started with my review, a short warning: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS

When I started reading United As One, I was not really looking forward to it, mostly because Sarah Hart – Four’s love interest, who in the movie is played by that girl from Glee – was killed in the end of The Fate of Ten.

It was foolishly for this reason that I went into the book with very low expectations that I was going to enjoy it as I didn’t like the idea that Four – John – was not going to have a very positive outcome.

About fifty pages in I could not stop reading.

This book was all action, all intensity, it was the culmination of every single book in the series, finally being allowed to unfurl itself in full fruition.

All of the characters felt more liberated than they had ever done in past novels. Six, Sam, Marina, Nine, Ella, John, and even Five, felt far more fresh, far more transparent, in my opinion because they no longer had anything left to lose.

They were going to finish the fight one way or another.

Basically in the end of The Fate of Ten, Six wounds – but does not killed Setrakus Ra (known from here on as SR because that name is hard to type) and SR is taken away in one of the Mogadorian Ships to be healed.

This gives the Loric and Earth Helpers a chance to regroup and try and defeat the bulk of the Mogadorian ships which by this stage have devastated a number of earth cities.

This book focuses mostly on characters coming into their own.

Ella, the quiet and youngest of the group becomes confident in her power and connection to the Loric Spirit.

Marina and Nine abandon their own personal grievances and fall in with the others into a strong team unwilling to take anything less than all or nothing, even if it means teaming up with the totally psychotic Five.

Sam and Six both decide to fight for their own relationship, while strengthening their resolve and powers, especially since Sam now has legacies which is pretty awesome. I love that he went from total nerd to totally awesome.

while John struggles to decide what he is willing to sacrifice and more importantly, what is he willing to live for in this battle, after losing Sarah.

For the first time in the whole series, the characters were able to meet the full conflict and challenge with no hesitations, no reserves, and no turning back. It made for a pretty full on finale.

One of my favorite things about this book as well was that not everything ended perfectly.

John obviously lost the love of his life – Sarah – and even by the end of the book he hadn’t entirely worked that loss through, although I am suspecting there may be other lost legacy books to come referencing the black Mogadorian Slime and what I feel is the beginning of a love interest with Marina.

Mark (the only other Human other than Sarah and Sam with the Loric since the first book) never resolves his hate for John. They never reach a point of understanding either. Mark betrays the Loric to SR, and he pays for it awfully.

The best thing about this conclusion was that it left me wanting more.

I have walked through this series for years, preordering the books, diligently reading through, despite the laggingness of some of the middle ones, but if you’re a fan of this series, you will NOT be disappointed.

The storyline rocks, the characters are excellent, and the actual writing is perfect.

I loved it.

 

Book Review: Sing

book sing

Okay so the second of my holiday reads was called Sing, by Vivi Greene.

The cold hard truth about the matter is this: this book is absolutely based on Taylor Swift – possibly this was some of the appeal to read it?

Blonde hair – red lip stick wearing pop star who serial dates boys and writes songs about them gets dumped and as a result runs away to get ‘back to her roots’ with her two best friends who – oh yeah – she employs as her assistants so she always has people to hang out with.

While holidaying in this small fishing town our pop star, Lily Ross, falls in love with this average-joe guy called Noel who is in no way prepared for her fame. She also finds her muse and starts writing music that is ‘different’ than her usual ‘all about boys’ songs.

Then the press catch wind of her hide away and her new relationship, and it turns out that hers are not the only secrets that are hauled into the light by the press.

I wanted to love this book.

We live in a world absolutely tangled up in fame and celebrity, whether we read about them in magazines or on the internet. It could have been an interesting concept, if I felt like it was less ‘cut and paste scenarios’ and ‘add in edgy stuff to make it seem meaningful’.

This book, rather unfortunately, did not form any kind of emotional connection with me.

I felt like the secrets in Noah’s past, and the conflict/coming of age between Lily and her friends was a little generic, and I think there could have been better ways to write a more endearing read.

This book took me four or five days to get through, mostly because it was a bit hard work – there were scenes that I genuinely can’t tell you why they were written in because I do not know – not to mention the ending felt a little… bleh. Like I didn’t feel like much happened in this story.

Straight up, I probably wouldn’t recommend reading it… I mean if celebrity, generic-social-troubles are your thing then totally get yourself a copy.

Otherwise if you’re like me and you just wanted an interesting and unique read… maybe read the One Direction Biography instead?

Sorry!

Book Review: Potion Diaries

cover.jpg

The Potion Diaries by Amy Alward (known as Madly in the States) was the first of my big stack of books that I brought to read.

I started with this one because it looked awesome and I was excited to read it.

I’ll say right up front it delivered just what I was after.

An easy, relaxing, non-confrontational read, with a pretty excellent concept.

So here’s the deal.

The story follows the events of two separate girls. The majority of the book with Samantha (Sam) from a family of alchemists in a world where the natural potions she and her ancestors created are substituted out for ‘syths’ or synthetic potions.

The other half of the story follows the Princess of this realm, Evelynn who manages to ingest a love potion of her own making – destined for her friend Zain – and unfortunately fall in love with her own reflection after catching sight of herself in a mirror.

In this world (Nova) the modern (cell phones, internet, etc) is mashed up with magic (dragons, myths, potions etc… but THANKFULLY not fairies)

This combination of setting is done so in a really, really unique way and in my opinion seemed different to any other way I have seen it done in books like the Iron Fey. It felt genuine and exciting. In my head the whole world was purples and pinks and while some of you might hate that, I loved it.

So after the Princess poisons and falls in love with herself, all the alchemists are summoned together in a legendary ‘Hunt’ to create the cure. This seems like the perfect opportunity for Sam to win back the honour her family lost when the ‘synths’ came into production, and as a result make her and her family’s life way, way easier.

So begins what feels like a reality TV show, where all the various alchemist teams set off to try and figure out what is needed to cure the princess. Of course there’s a boy – Zain, and yes that’s the same one the Princess tried to poison with her love potion – who just so happens to be the son of the guy who runs the BIGGEST synth company in Nova…

You can see where this is going…

Over all, while I can imagine some people may not be into this style of book, it was absolutely everything that I wanted to read.

Fun, interesting, it didn’t try to teach me anything, it didn’t have content that made me feel awkward and sad about the world kids live in these days.

It was the perfect holiday read.

If this sounds like your cup of tea, totally get into it.

What I Am Reading Right Now: LOTS OF STUFF!

I went on a book buying frenzy.

I don’t know why?

I do know how (Mighty Ape…)

But basically I went and found a bunch of books that aren’t – as far as I am aware – in Whitcoulls or any of the conventional major bookstores in New Zealand. Then I ordered them and waited for them to come and now I am basically trawling through them.

What books did I purchase in my buying binge?

The first (and the one which I’ve started with) Is called The Potion Diaries – by Amy Alward.

I’m about fifty pages in and already I want to cuddle up in bed and read this cover to cover – but I can’t, because work, and other stuff has to happen.

I adore this book, it was seriously love at first sight. Mostly because the concept is so, so fresh.

The main character – Samantha – lives in a modern world (cell phones, social media, etc) but her world is also filled with magic. Samantha is a alchemist, and she is called upon when the Princess of her world – Nova – inadvertently poisons herself with a love potion.

It.

Is.

Cheesey.

But it is also super cute and endearing, and genuinely quite interesting. The world (so far) is pretty well thought through. Anyway, I will be reviewing soon.

cover

The second is called Sing by Vivi Greene.

Sing (which I haven’t started) is about a pop star who gets dumped by her pop star boyfriend and runs away to take time off at a small town. There, she falls in love with a normal guy, but of course this is complicated given she’s super famous.

I’ll have to read it and pretend that it isn’t totally based on Taylor Swift, but totally excited and will review that too.

The Third is called Rook by Sharon Cameron.

It has promised to be like the Scarlet Pumpernickel… all Paris, revolution, dystopian future sort of thing. I don’t know heaps about this book yet, like it may completely suck, but will review once I’m through it.

The Fourth and Final book I’ve piled up (although this one is on Preorder until next week) is United as One by Pittacus Lore.

It is no secret I’ve been following the I Am Number Four series like crazy. While I love the series and the concept of these awesome aliens, which are really nothing like the conventional idea of aliens, I also am really keen for this series to end.

I am excited to see how it is all concluded, and really hoping that John makes it out of it all alive!

 

Anyway, so that’s what I’m reading now, expect reviews!

xJessica

Gardens out of Wildernesses – My Favourite Biblical Pattern

Those who know me will know that I have a tiny – okay big – obsession with garden-related-everythings.

Flower Jewellery? Yes Please.

Is my house filled to the brim with dozens of fake flowers and fauna? Absolutely.

Is that really a mail box with winding metal flowers sitting inside my living room for no reason at all other than to look pretty? Why yes, yes it is.

It is probably for a similar reason that my favourite biblical pattern is to do with gardens.

The thing I love about biblical patterns is that they are these over arching ideas that span often from one end of the bible to another, threading through different circumstances and situations, pointing to the intrinsic character of the God that we serve.

It is the writer in me. The fact that theme plays a huge part of the bible. That there is no way that something this impossibly complicated could happen by random.

To me, biblical patterns are the best proof we have of a Grand Author above our lives.

So allow me to paint you a picture of my very favourite pattern.

In the beginning, God’s Spirit was hovering over the darkness. What lay below was formless and void and in inside of this, God says ‘let there be light’ and there is light.

What follows is a incredibly detailed design of the world we live in. Intense attention upon every part of it, God creates this Garden. Inside of this Garden he forms two creatures in his own image, and at the end of it all, he declares it all as good and then he rests.

Any reading will tell you that the Garden of Eden is meant to be a reflected image of the temple. That it was this space where man and God could dwell together, because we were in right relationship with him. We could be within God’s presence and have an incredibly personal relationship with him.

Being made in his image – his Imago Dei – we were the representation of God’s Presence on earth. At least, that was how it was meant to be. Within other Pagan temples of this time, there were other representations of their gods, carved of stone or whatever, which were seen too to represent that god’s presence in that space. God – the True God – however placed us, his image into his temple, we were his hands and feet from the very start. I think it is important that we understand that.

We were commanded to go forth and multiply, spread out. It is super important to understand that this was the first command given by God to Mankind as within this Garden and Wilderness Pattern it means a lot.

There are some people believe that the idea was that the Garden would expand and under our dominion – the dominion we were given in the first chapters of Genesis – it would cover the earth. I totally subscribe to this idea, because I believe that we were always meant to spread God’s Kingdom, his reign. Hold onto this thought.

Now we know how the story went. That close relationship with God and was fractured through disobedience and man was no longer able to dwell inside of the Garden. Instead man was cursed and sent out into a world that was the absolute opposite of Eden. Where the ground was hard and difficult to work, where man was guaranteed of hardship. Still working the land… but it was going to be super hand. Now it is important to understand two things

  1. the first commandment was still valid – to go out and multiply
  2. we were still made in the Image of God – although a fractured image, like a broken mirror.

Cast into a wilderness. Man went out and things were really awful in this new world tainted by sin.

Now while man was still bound to that first commandment to go out and fill the earth, to multiply, they decided instead to gather together again and build a big tower. Babel. Because they wanted to make a name for themselves, by reaching heaven.

God, probably rather irritated that they weren’t obeying his first command scrambled up their languages, and it was in doing this that the people weren’t able to complete the tower as they couldn’t communicate. Instead they were driven apart.

Throughout the bible from this point onwards God was working things through to redeem back mankind from the Kingdom of Darkness. His ultimate plan was in Jesus, and he points to the coming of Christ all the way through scriptures.

In fact we read in Isaiah 51 about the everlasting salvation for mankind. In chapter three, God promises that he will ‘surely comfort Zion. He will look upon her with compassion over her ruins. He will make her deserts like Eden. Her wastelands like the Garden of Eden.’

In fact when talking about the promise of salvation, God often talks about the Garden of Eden.

John the Baptist when heralding the way for Jesus speaks of himself as the ‘voice crying out in the wilderness make a way in the desert for the Lord.’

Isaiah 35 talks about the joy associated with redemption, where we find more and more Garden ideas. Loads and loads of these images where deserts become Gardens.

This really awful soil that mankind was told – upon leaving Eden – would be hard, is hard, but God is promising that there will come a time it will be made back into a Garden.

So fast forward to Jesus, who is betrayed – in a Garden – and led away. He is crucified for our sins and is raised from the dead. That was the moment of redemption, that was the moment that darkness was overcome with light. Jesus was around for a short time after his death but eventually was taken back into heaven where he promised that he would send a helper – who we know to be the Holy Spirit.

Jesus commissioned them to go out into all the world and make disciples.

Now you’re thinking, hang on… I’ve heard something similar to this before.

‘Go forth and multiply…’

‘Go forth and make disciples…’

Between Genesis and Pentecost, God only had one desire. For his Kingdom – his Eden, his Temple – to be spread on earth. For us to go out and multiply and fill the earth for his Kingdom. This image of spreading the boarders of his Garden or dominion as his Imago Dei, his image.

Not coming together, to make big towers like mankind had done at Babel, but to actually follow God’s first command.

So the disciples waited in the Upper Room for this helper, praying and praying until Pentecost where the Spirit came down upon them and amongst other things, the Spirit united their language.

He reversed Babel.

He united their language so they could go out and spread God’s Kingdom fulfilling God’s first command to mankind.

It is important to note here that Pentecost isn’t a Christian invented term to describe the day the Holy Spirit came, it was a Jewish Festival of Harvest.

Harvest, like tilling the land, like spreading out God’s Garden, in the Wilderness.

So that is where we are now. In this time where God makes Wildernesses into Gardens. Not just in the world on a whole, but in our lives as well. In our personal circumstances. That is his pattern, taking things that have decayed and making them into beautiful things again.

This desire of God’s is something that happens on both a large and a small scale.

God also has a pattern of taking things that are dead and bringing them back alive again, even in 1st Corinthians the Apostle Paul talks about how often things have to die before they can be brought alive again. Buried – like a seed is what Jesus talks about in the book of John – so they can produce fruit.

We see this pattern. Things may seem dead, but there is a harvest, and there is a restoration and what look like wildernesses will become gardens.

If we move ahead again, beyond where we are now, we find the book of Revelation, where God’s Kingdom has come, and Jesus has returned and the colossal wrong in original sin has finally been righted. It is in Revelation we find my very, very, very favourite verse in the whole bible.

Revelations 21:22

‘For there was no Temple in it, for the Lamb and the Lord God were its Temple.’

What I like about this verse is that it speaks of the final restoration. That things are as they were in the Garden, there is no need for a temple, for complicated ways of approaching God. Instead he is with us, he is dwelling with us upon Earth.

We see a fulfillment of the Wilderness becoming like a Garden again.

I love this idea. This idea that we can have brokenness in our lives but God wants to make it new again. That it doesn’t matter if something looks dead, or like a desert because God raises it to life again. It is like a seed, buried, which will produce fruit.

I take a huge amount of comfort in this fact.

Ages ago, reflecting over that scripture I mentioned from Isaiah 53, I wrote a song called ‘Wilderness in Me,’ as my own personal worship song, so I figured I’d share that here:

 

 

 

 

 

The truth though, that I want to remind you of – if you’ve made it to the end of my long, long, LONG! description of this biblical pattern of Gardens to Wildernesses, is that God is doing a work in your life.

It is a big work he is doing over all of creation, but he is working inside of you too.

To take darkness and make it light.

Dead places and make them alive again.

Things you thought were gone, back and better than before.

He is taking the Wilderness inside of you, and making it back into Eden, restoring us back to that place of Revelations 21:22

X Jessica

The Pace of Writing VS. The Pace of Reading

Sometimes I’ll be writing a specific scene, and it is like the words can’t come out fast enough.

It is this super tense, oh-my-goodness-wow!, action packed, this is super full on, moment and meanwhile I am at my keyboard going… tap.

tap.

tap. tap.

tap.

And inside I am thinking, ‘AH! This needs to be faster! More intense! I’m writing it soooooo slowly!’

This was basically me this morning. I was scripting this climax piece of a storyline and inside I was jumping up and down but I just couldn’t seem to get the words out fast enough.

And when I did, they had so much ground to cover I didn’t feel like I was able to convey the dynamics of the moment in conjunction to the intensity of the moment.

Then I had this really, really profound thought.

The pace in which I write this book will not be the pace in which it is read.

Literally, while writing takes longer and inside you’re jumping up and down with excitement, and you’re having to describe (often briefly) the goings on that are going on, when a reader gets to it they will plough through that moment like a speed demon.

Basically what I am saying is yes, you feel like it is taking ages writing it, but when someone reads the piece, it will be unlikely they feel it is dragging.

When we write, we have the ability to suspend our characters in reality, take time to describe pieces of information that add to the tension of the piece, that add to the vividness of the writing, painting a clear and wonderful drama in the minds of readers.

We are the masters of our reality, it doesn’t need to be real time, otherwise I swear books would be like…

BANG BANG! CRASH. I am running. He is running. BANG BANG! Smoke, lots of smoke, running.

Get what I’m saying?

So don’t stress if you feel you’re writing is slow or that you are taking too much time painting the scene. Finish the piece, come back, re-read.

Reading will be the true test of the pace.

 

 

Book Review: The Forbidden Wish

I have three different kinds of books.

The first kind I read, love, treasure for all eternity.

Books like this are… The Adventure Series, by Enid Blyton, or The Selection by Keira Cass or even I Am Number Four by Pitticus Lore.

The second kind I read – and possibly don’t finish reading – hate and donate to a charity store.

Books like this have been… Gone by Michael Grant (those books are weird!) ALL of Twilight (I am sorry, I tried!) and honestly? Countless others that I won’t even list here.

The third kind are an interesting type. They’re the ones I read, enjoy – albeit mildly – and then a few months later don’t remember the plot/main characters of.

The Forbidden Wish, by Jessica Khoury was one of those kinds of books.

Don’t get me wrong, the concept is excellent – a retelling of Aladdin? Yes please!

And yes, she has an excellent first name – Jessica is the supreme name after all.

But the reality is that yes, I enjoyed the Forbidden Wish, but I probably won’t be able to remember it in a few weeks time.

I’ll set the scene. Zhara, our protagonist, is a Jin, a Genie of the Lamp, bound inside and buried in a destroyed Empire only to be discovered by thief Aladdin.

Aladdin has a bit of a problem with Darius, who is the nephew of the current King, and Darius’ dad because Darius’ dad murdered Aladdin’s parents. Oh by the way, Aladdin’s dad was this rebel leader in their Empire called the Taylor.

So having stolen a special ring off of Darius, Aladdin finds himself led to this buried empire, where he finds Zhara and sets her free from her lamp, making him her master.

Let me be clear, Zhara is NOT the Genie we remember from the Disney Aladdin, she is young, pretty and very obviously going to fall in love with Aladdin, so you’re going to have to scrub those Robin William’s voiced Genie images from your mind in order to process this book.

In short, Aladdin wants to overthrow Darius and his uncle – who are basically in charge of the Empire, while the actual King is basically incapacitated. Aladdin’s methods are to pretend to be a prince and have the actual Crown Princess, Caspida want to marry him superseding Darius, who is actually meant to marry the princess.

Zhara however is promised her freedom by the Most Powerful of the Jin – and the one who bound her to the lamp – if she rescues the Jin Leader’s son which unfortunately is going to mean betraying Aladdin.

Dun

Dun

DUUUUUUUN

That in itself is the plot. Zhara falls in love with Aladdin, but she doesn’t want to because Jin and Humans can’t mix, and Aladdin is falling in love with Zhara but needs to avenge his parents etc.

There are highlights of this book:

  • Strong female lead characters. Zhara is pretty interesting as a personality, as Caspida is my absolute favourite. They manage to be strong and purposeful, without falling into traps of being overly sterile or violent – like how I find Katniss to be in the Hunger Games for example.
  • Amazing writing technique. Jessica nails the world she is writing about. The descriptive pieces where she is explaining this world her characters are found in are just amazing. You basically want to be there.
  • I like time travel plot twists, and this book has one. I won’t reveal what it is though

There are also lowlights…

  • What the heck Aladdin? You don’t actually have a personality… because he doesn’t. He’s a bit lame and I kind of wish we had more of a twist with his character
  • What the even was going on with that whole rebel, phoenix thing? You won’t understand this without reading the book, but I felt like there were some very big ideas that weren’t linked well together or in some cases, concluded
  • It was a bit wishy washy. Initially the book was hard to get into, until after chapter four or something. All the way through though I found it quite blasé.

In conclusion, I read this book, but will likely forget huge parts one day.

In saying that, I will at some stage in the next few years stop and think to myself ‘Oh yes, I want to read the Forbidden Wish’ and then I will have to go and find it or hope I didn’t donate it to a charity store.

If you’re looking for something really descriptive and entertaining, then by all means get your hands on this, I’d give it a three out of five?

Right now, though, I am pretty content with my childhood version of Aladdin thank you very much!

aladdin.jpg

 

 

 

My Picture Book Treasure Hunt

Recently, I have been a treasure hunter.

Essentially, this roughly translates to trawling through Trademe and second hand stores to find picture books that I loved when I was little.

I had pretty extensive collection as Little-Jessica, which I would read, and re-read on a regular basis.

Sometimes it was something about the story I adored, other times it was the pictures. My mum and dad would buy me loads of books, but the local library I went to in Browns Bay when I was small would often sell off some of their second hand books out the front for like 50 cents.

Thus far, I’ve scored an enormous amount of Sesame Street books, because who didn’t have those? Sure they’re tattered, and crinkled, and not exactly in their prime, but they have that loveliness that old nostalgic books do.

The soft feel of their hand cover, the matte pages within that are admittedly a little bent, but somehow sturdier than lots of the picture books today.

My favorite of the Sesame Street books – excluding Christmas ones, because obviously I love them ten million times more – is Bert and the Broken Teapot. Basically the story of Bert (from Bert and Ernie fame) when he gets a job at a local store and breaks the manager’s favourite teapot.

bert

Then there were the Mouse books.

Oh my goodness the Mouse books, that have the little pop ups and flaps to discover more adorable cuteness! I don’t own many of these books because they are a mission to find, but I have written a review previously about my favourite one, which is ‘Mouse Wedding’.

Check out the cuteness.

These are by Michelle Cartlidge by the way.

Another very special collection of books for me were the Little Critter books, my very favourite of which was ‘I Just Forgot!’ – which I don’t own, so if you want to buy it for me, you’re totally welcome!

I love ‘I Just Forgot!’ because I 100% understand the situation of the main character.

I am awful at remembering things, so the little critter constantly forgetting odds and ends was absolutely the story of my life.

I just forgot

These are by Mercer Mayer and they’re the best.

Then of course there’s Richard Scarry who we will recognize from some Golden Books, but also from various other collections of equally brilliantly illustrated stories.

I am still very much trying to get a hold of these too, so again… if you want to gift me books, this is a good starting point!

There are squillions of other books I have no doubt forgotten to mention, because seriously, my collection was pretty tremendous.

The problem was that my Mum is a primary school teacher, and she has progressively gifted all of my picture books away to her school… so this is why I am a treasure hunter now.

I’d love to hear about any books you read as a kid, and whether it was the stories or the illustrations that you loved – Oh my gosh! The Giant Jam Sandwich, that’s another one… I’ll talk about that later.

Comment below!

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