Friday, August 31, 2018

Literary Book Gifts {gift options +coupon!}

It's never too early to be thinking about Christmas. And on your list of options this year, I can 100% guarantee you have a book lover.

If you're looking for gifts for your bibliophilic best friend, your library-haunting teacher, or your classics-loving relative, today's website will make their eyes light up.

Melissa, over at Literary Book Gifts, asked me if I'd take a peek at her website and share it with my blog readers. I had never heard of Literary Book Gifts before, but when I clicked on the link, I loved the options. What I'm sharing here is honest enjoyment and recommendation (no affiliate links) but be sure to stay tuned for a coupon offer for Lady Bibliophile readers below!

*all images used by permission from

Literary Book Gifts specializes in t-shirts ($28) and tote bags (pricing varies by size). Every shirt has a title on it and a graphic that goes along with the book. These titles have tons of options for classics lovers, everything from Jane Eyre and Little Women:

To The Jungle Book and Wind in the Willows:

Not sure which title to choose? You can even get a typewriter shirt for your favorite writer friend!

But my favorite shirt of all, and probably the first one to catch my eye is the Sherlock Holmes shirt:
The best thing about these shirts: They're available in both men's and women's cuts (I've pictured women's cuts here) and there are a great range of color options for each shirt that you get to choose from. (For instance, I think the Sherlock Holmes shirt has to be black.)

Now for the tote bags. I love tote bags. They come in handy when I need to carry extra clothes for work, tuck books in for tutoring, or take a trip to the library and pick up more than I came for. My top favorites here were these three (but there are tons more to choose from!)

Aren't the shades of blue on the Emily Dickenson bag positively elegant? The totes come in small, medium, and large for all your book carrying needs!

If you see something that catches your eye, head over to Literary Book Gifts to check out some early Christmas shopping!

I loved looking at these book-themed products. Thank you so much for getting in touch with me, Melissa!

AND Melissa offered the coupon LADYBIBLIOPHILE20 for 20% at Literary Book Gifts. This coupon doesn't expire, and you can use it any time! It gets you around $5 off a t-shirt, which is a great discount! :)

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Crossing the Summer Line

via Pixabay
This vacation marked a turning point. A line between one season and the next--between a free summer and the structured adrenaline of the school year.

I'm listening to "Soldier" by Fleurie right now. It tastes of anticipation in the grit of the rhythm. Of more students to tutor and more classes to teach. After I finish writing this, I'll pull out a Star Wars notebook I got from Walmart and jot down more class topics for the creative fiction class. Today I looked up book recommendations for students I tutor. Tonight after dinner I'm diving back into the world of Jaeryn Graham, hoping to finish act one of Folkestone Files #2 by the time the school year starts.

The pace will step up. In a couple of weeks, I'll switch over to the fall reading list. Bible Study Fellowship will start again, and I'll hear from my small group leader to find out which group I'll be part of this year. I'll start another Bible reading plan reading through the whole Bible again--this time looking for Jesus all the way through.

But it's good to remember.

We're sitting by the fire. Everyone sings "Wonderful, Merciful Savior" as a flurry of sparks shoots up through the night air. A mom in a crocheted afghan sings across the circle, and kids play games in the tent beyond. Two nights later, the moon is full. A man points out Mars, and a few inches across the dark expanse, another man finds Jupiter. Flames glow white hot in the fire pit. A blonde young woman holds a little girl as flame light draws a veil over their contemplative faces. Marshmallows droop soft on the tips of metal roasting forks. A Superman children's lawnchair sits across the circle, deserted. And a girl rubs the belly fur of a friendly caramel dog named Digby. 

This summer I laid Hamlet on the grass, squished in the middle of a crowd of people. Waited for Zach Williams to appear in a stadium on the shore of Lake Michigan. (Didn't actually read any Hamlet. But I'm glad the li'l buddy came along.) I read Culture Care before bed each night and slipped The Electrical Menagerie into my luggage for a trip to Canada last week.

We are home now from the land of poutine and Timbits and 'eh'.

But there are a few days left. A few minutes to read The Evaporation of Sofi Snow under bedroom twinkle lights. To catch the last of a free Netflix trial and more Call the Midwife. To explore Alice in Wonderland and dream of what is to come.

What are you tasting the anticipation of? A book? A class? A job? I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Frost on the Moon {august memories}

via Pixabay
A golden-brown face. A slow, fuzzy, confused voice. A boy who forgot the Hundred Acre Wood.

Sis and I snatched a morning the week before vacation to see Christopher Robin. She had just finished the last local segment of her annual Bible Bee competition. Dressed in what we have affectionatly dubbed Pooh and Piglet outfits, (hers is red and golden brown, mine two shades of pink) we trotted off, hoping for enchantment.

Christopher Robin is not a sequel to Goodbye, Christopher Robin, containing hints of CR's dissilusionment with his father's stories. It's a Disney movie, beautiful in its own fictional right. In Christopher Robin, the Hundred Acre Wood is entirely real. And CR's dissilusionment is not with his father, but with his past.

He has grown up and the reality of working overtime, stress, and pressure. He has forgotten Pooh.

Then Pooh turns up. And Pooh, in his delightfully slow, innocent way, knows nothing of stress or overtime. Pooh is still enchanted by doing Nothing; by red balloons; by his animal friends--and by Christopher Robin.

Bless that bear.

We emerged two hours later into the sun, with McDonald's gift cards. Sis got an accidental gold mine of extra chicken nuggets. And then we went home.

I'm afraid I turned back into grown-up Cristopher Robin. The rest of that week was a blur of lesson planning, events, packing, and feeling tired. And being a bit grumpy, admittedly.

schuyler, you angel girl. you never. 

The world is so much better with Pooh eyes. In Pooh's world, you can sit on a blanket by a fire, resting from an afternoon of swimming. People chat around you--conversations about picking green peppers, discussing kefir milk, and teasing parents about giving sugar to their kids.

In this world, a bag of chips goes round the circle from hand to hand. People grab a few; pass them on; hand them round the circle again. Andrew Peterson's "King of Love" runs around your heart like a refrain.

Embers pop out in angry spits, winking with fiery orange fury along blades of grass. More people come to the fire and folks push out the ring of chairs to make room. Clouds forecasting coming rain cover the moon with a delicate white frost.

In Pooh's world, there is room for holding peaches that burst open to juice when you bite them. For eating fries and gravy and cheese curds with your fingers and not caring about the mess. Pooh friends have a moment to hold a toad with eyes shining like copper seed beads. To let a friend fall asleep on your shoulder and grab ridged sour cream and onion chips at ten in the evening.

also timbits, schuyler. don't forget the timbits. 

And at the end of the day, to savor the moment when you create a nest on the couch and prop your eyes open at midnight. Because it's just too good to miss, diving into a book about an electrical menagerie and two terrifically fun show guys.

The summer's almost over. It's easy to jump into the stress and logistics of what's to come. But for the sake of a golden-furred bear who knows how to savor Nothing....take some time to savor it with him.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Using a Gay Character for a Good Conversation

via Pixabay
Sydney Stark is the warmest, friendliest publisher comrade in The Guernsey and Literary Potato Peel Pie Society. He's always there with an easy joke, a polished congratulations, a comforting word.

Sydney is also gay. In spite of that, I still appreciate his character.

Rewind a century to 19th century London. In season 2 of Victoria, her court member Alfred Paget carries on a romantic relationship with Edward Drummond. One kiss and a tragic ending later, Albert turns to an heiress to find a marriage partner.

For a while, Alfred is gay. I have a problem with that.

So what gives, Schuyler? What makes the difference?

There are some camps, of which I probably would have used to be one, that would say the portrayal of both men was something that Christians shouldn't participate in reading about. Boycott, protest, and warn people away. But I think it's a little more nuanced than that. It all comes down to why you're watching it and how you engage with the art.

I haven't seen season 2 of Victoria yet. I probably will, but I just haven't gotten around to it. But as a Christian, I disagree with Alfred Paget's character portrayal because he exists to celebrate an unbiblical lifestyle. He is not there to create truthful or beautiful art. He's given a hot-button issue (which isn't historically accurate) to connect with a modern audience.

However, I don't have the same problem with Sydney Stark's character.

read on, lizzy 

No kind of gay relationship is portrayed on screen. In fact, you'd almost not even know he's gay except for one comment. Juliet confides to a friend that Sydney would probably have a better chance of loving her if she were named George or Tom. After a moment of confusion, her friend's face clears and she nods in realization.

Sydney maintains good art to a certain extent because he portrays a fully-dimensional person instead of a gay agenda. Alfred violates good art because his character exists to prove that sin is acceptable. The Bible contains fully dimensional sinners and is not threatened by them. But God never deceives his followers into thinking that sin is desirable.

Guernsey doesn't go further than making Syndey three-dimensional. But when I engage that piece of art with biblical truth, I can take that story to a further conclusion that leads to a fuller picture of Truth.

I'm speaking to my fellow conservatives here when I say that Sydney's characterization can open up a fruitful conversation to remind us that gay-identifying people are more than gay. Sydney reminds us that people who are gay are also...people. Warm, friendly, fully dimensional people. They have lives and professions, they can be wonderful friends and make good contributions to the world. Even unsaved, they are still Imago Dei.

This is how people like Sydney can help those of us who disagree with a gay lifestyle. You see, as conservatives, when we pigeon-hole someone according to an issue or a category, then we can easily dismiss them as an enemy. We lump them all into together and shut them out. They do not touch our hearts. But when we remember that the Sydney Starks of the world are real individuals with sins and struggles and a soul just like us, then we are much more likely to face the question: how are we going to respond?

It's much harder to dismiss a person than to dismiss a category. When you finally see someone as a person, then you are more likely to feel grief for their sin and love for their soul. When we feel grief and love for them, we are much more likely to engage them with the good news of the Gospel.

Good art can open our eyes to that.

Just to be clear, I don't believe that gay relationships are biblical. Nor do I believe that a portrayal of sin in stories is a neutral thing. I don't believe that Christians enjoying entertainment should take the casual inclusion of gay characters or relationships lightly. We need to think about these things. Mindless consumption of entertainment is not a good thing.

But I do believe that Sydney's story can open up doors to discuss these concepts. I think his character would be especially fruitful to discuss with a period drama loving teen or twenty-something--either one who struggles with Christians condemning the gay lifestyle, or one who cannot understand the power and compassion of Christ to forgive certain sins. Just as Paul engaged the people of Athens with their idols and their poets, and then presented truth, we can also do that with stories.

In a good conversation, Syndey's character can illustrate that even when a sinner is still loveable, he is still a sinner. Sydney can illustrate that even when he is still a sinner, he is not beyond the reach and transformation of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). And Syndey can illustrate that even believers who struggle with sexual temptation in this area are not the sum of their sexual sin, but they are the sum of their status as an image-bearer (Lies Women Believe, pg. 143-146.)

By itself, Guernsey will teach you none of these things. It's just a fun period drama with a quick, almost-miss gay comment. But art, and especially story, and especially Guernsey, can be a non-threatening, non-explicit vehicle for engaging the issue. It's not an end place. But with the right person, and the right conversation, it can be a springboard to further diving into Scripture.

Because I do not personally have opportunities to interact with people who identify as gay (though I would love to someday) Sydney's fictional personality helped me engage with that truth in a Gospel light. And I am grateful for it. The best kind of art is a springboard that, when wrestled and engaged with, and conversed about, leads you back to Scripture and Truth--which is Jesus.

I more than welcome comments or texts that will sharpen my perspective on this issue!

Friday, August 10, 2018

Fawkes {a review}

via Pixabay
Last Friday I couldn't sleep. So I curled up on the couch for an hour with Minky blanket and a book--and the next morning, after some sleep, I curled up and binge-read the rest of it.

The book? Fawkes, by Nadine Brandes. It's a story of Thomas Fawkes, son of Guy Fawkes, the man who tried to blow up Parliament. But it also has a fantasy twist. Thomas Fawkes lives in a world where everybody has a mask, and each person's mask gives them the ability to bond with a certain special color power. The problem? Igniters believe you can bond with multiple color powers, and they're killing the more conservative Keepers, who only bond with one. Guy Fawkes is determined to blow up the Igniter Parliament to protect the Keepers in the land. And Thomas? Well, he just wants to get his mask before he dies of the Stone Plague.

There's always a little nervous feeling when you get a new book from an author you like. Will you love it as much as the others? The Out of Time series was such a loveable series with vivid characters, so I really wanted to know how Fawkes would feel. It had a delicious cover: check. But what about the story inside?

At first, I struggled to connect with Thomas, Guy Fawkes, and the plot to blow up Parliament. Because the story spans two years, I think the beginning struggles tension-wise because time has to pass before you can really set the time bomb ticking. But the plot starts to pick up in places in the Black section, and really picks up by the masquerade ball. Thomas and Emma in that scene are the cutest. ever. I ship them. :)

 As I kept reading, the theme knocked my socks off. The wisdom and maturity of truth in this book is such a beautiful contribution to bookshelves everywhere. I loved its implications for this generation. It's a historical book that manages to answer important questions and issues of today's millennial generation. We're living in an age where everyone has a label, similar to the color systems. We're also living in an age where hatred for the opposing side is just as rampant as the Keeper/Igniter war. But as Thomas finds himself further and further entangled in a war that will lead to the death of innocents, the book's conclusion offers a wonderful truth that I won't spoil, just because it's even more fun to discover it for yourself. I was surprised by how deeply the theme tied into the hearts of the people who would be reading it, and delighted by how powerful it was.

Fawkes, unlike the Out of Time series, is written for the general market, which means it's not explicitly Christian. But it's implicitly Christian in a powerful way that slices through the grey areas of our modern line of thought, which tries to validate experience over unchanging truth you can hold on to. Fawkes faces off between truth and personal belief in an engaging way that reaches the hearts of its intended audience. It's perfect for the YA age group. It dramatizes personal responsibility and relationship with God that can't rely on parents or even on yourself. And it encourages you to evaluate and re-think your own perspective. I appreciated it because even though I am a Christian, I'm still affected by the current cultural air. This book reminded me that ultimately how I feel or how someone I love feels really needs to take a back seat in my heart to what God feels about something.

Four weeks ago, I met Nadine Brandes in person at the Realm Maker's conference. She very kindly signed my entire Out of Time series, along with her newest book, Fawkes. It's a joy to be one of her Ninja team!

Nadine also has her newest book available for pre-order, which I'm super excited about: Romanov, a story of Anastasia, the last daughter of the last Russian tzar. You can even pre-order it on Amazon and add it to your shelves on Goodreads!

Nadine also has the funnest newsletter, full of writing news, book she's reading, and a fun "chat" feel that comes once a month to your newsletter inbox. I love them. Also, if you like Instagram, she has a really fun bookstagram there.

Have you read Fawkes yet? What is your favorite color power? 

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Boundaries for Your Soul {on emotions, and how not to deal with them}

via Pixabay
Emotions are intangible chains.

They slip through your fingers; they refuse to be pinpointed. And yet they trouble your soul. How does one wrestle something that cannot be locked up or fought down?

If I were to pinpoint one of my largest battles, it would be in the area of emotions. The war often takes place inside where no one can see it. Many times I'm a fairly even-keeled person. But underneath are struggles with anger, irritation, obsession, and guilt. And lurking underneath lives the voice,  Hey, you're finite. They're bigger than you. They're stronger. 

(Just for the record, I have lots of happy moments too.)

My main impulse is to stuff negative emotions. But I know that's not really an answer. So when I saw an advertisement for the book Boundaries for Your Soul, I jumped on my review program immediately. And sure enough, there it was. I got it. At first, I was excited, but as I read, the overall steps for taking a You-Turn from your emotions didn't sit right.

Thinking through books is a process. Because I have to review a book within 30 days, I'm putting my initial thoughts here. But time has a way of giving greater understanding, so I'm writing with the caveat that maturity and thought may nuance my perspective. I'd welcome your comments below!

In a nutshell, authors Cook and Miller divide the soul into four parts: firefighters, managers, exiles, and the center core: Your Spirit-led self. Managers tend to be the harsh parts of your souls: the critical inner voice, the emotion that pushes you to excel and do better. They keep you from making mistakes. Firefighters kick in after you've made mistakes. They reach for pain-killers: drugs, binging, or behaviors that dull pain. Exiles are the softer emotions that tend to be shut out and not processed: pain, guilt, and fear. These emotions work together to keep you safe: sometimes in sinful ways, but sometimes in good ones. As you lead these areas from your Spirit-led self, you can take the negative over-reactions or stuffing and provide a place of compassion and empathetic listening so you can teach your emotions to process life in healthy ways.

God is a God of emotions, and he created us with emotions. To take an unhealthy emotional behavior and turn it into a healthy one, Cook and Miller advise four steps: Focus on your emotion. Befriend it with a gentle exploration of why it's doing what it's doing. Invite Jesus to draw near to it. Unburden the heavy weight of it to him. And Integrate the emotions of your soul into healthy behaviors. Through this method and with a trusted counselor, they advocate that you can learn to handle them correctly. This method is taken from the Internal Family Systems of counseling.

In the beginning of the book, Cook and Miller address the concern that by dealing with your emotions in this way, you're excusing sin. "You might be concerned that we're suggesting you befriend your sin, but that is not so. Instead, we encourage you to embrace the part of you that's sinning and that needs help changing, much as you would help a young child learn right from wrong." (Boundaries For Your Soul, pg. 28.) This is a helpful point, and perhaps I should have come back and read that section more than once as I read the book.

From the pages that followed, I read their method of compassionate conversation with emotions, finding healthy ways to put them to work and inviting Jesus to draw near to them. But I'm concerned that this system of counseling, even though it tries to have a Christian perspective, ends up teaching that the heart is inherently good. That emotions inherently have good intentions. That may not be what they're trying to teach, but that's what I took from it. The heart is inherently sinful, and there wasn't mention of battling sin. I think it would have helped not just to have a theological mention of sin at the beginning of the book, but to have that woven throughout the book. The words were intended to be reassuring. But they didn't strike deep to reassure me on a heart level. I would have loved to see more Scripture verses about emotions as sinful reactions. The compassion they advocated is so important, but I don't think it was enough. To have compassion grounded in Scripture and truth is ultimately a more substantive and lasting compassion. It can still be tender. But it has to include sin, or it is incomplete.

Again, I'd like to caveat that this book might require a second read-through or a conversation with a wise Christian. Maybe I took it from the wrong angle. Maybe I missed something the first time through (I can easily do that.) But this method of processing emotions didn't sit right; my spirit was troubled by it, and I couldn't take it in.

That being said; I did find it helpful in the latter chapters of the book to read the sections about the benefits, needs, and dangers of emotions like anger, envy, anxiety, etc. Because I tend to stuff emotions rather than understanding them, it is helpful to read the positive benefits that big emotions can serve.

Have you read any helpful books about handling emotions? I'd love to get your recommendations!

I received this book from the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own. A positive review was not required.

Friday, August 3, 2018

The Great Sky of Future {glimpses of the folkestone files}

via pixabay

I just binge-read the climax of Nadine Brandes' Fawkes. There'll be a full post coming (probably next Friday) but suffice it to say, it was worth the binge read.

But for now, CampNaNo snippets.

I only got half my goal in. But I had a breakthrough day at a coffee shop, and I'm going back to my favorite haunt tonight for a cup of tea and a tryst with the old words, which I am very much looking forward. After a rather sleepless night, I hope I'm in fine enough form for it.

We shall see.

(small errors, or even large, might remain. plz excuse them. they shall all be polished in good time.) 

(small spoilers for the sequel of War of Loyalties contained herein. Proceed at your own risk.) 

Erin reached them and knelt on the grass in front of her son. Brogan stared down at the grass, but she lifted his chin until he looked at her. “Your daddy was a bad man,” she breathed, fierce, her hair whipping behind her in the wind. “And I never want you to see him. Otherwise, you’ll be bad too.”
“Doctor, England has a line of men holding steady. We’re not in the state for an offensive, and if Germany manages to make peace with Russia, they will come in hordes here. We’ve tried to ask America for help. We may as well try to ask Heaven.” Evesham rubbed a hand across his forehead. “Perhaps we’ll get an answer this time."
He returned the picture to its place and opened the closet full of black and gray, pants and jackets, with two gray knitted sweaters hanging at the end. On a whim, Ben reached out and took a closer look at them—one was worn, with loops of yarn fraying out from use. The other was soft and new, with a tag of brown paper pinned to the sleeve. I thought you’d want another one for the winter. We’re looking forward to seeing you again. 
It was a woman’s hand, and the paper looked as if it had been cut off a parcel from the store.
For one moment he could not find anything to say and did not feel, somehow, that he needed to say anything. He drew her to him, very gently, the promise of life to come pressed between them, warm and real and staggering to think about. His hand shook against her flaxen hair. One breath, cold wind with the salt of England on his lips. Another breath, another wind, winding its way through the strands of beach grass bowed down under the great sky of future.

“If I can keep it private I won’t get in trouble with anyone” He paused before pushing off on the pedal. “But don’t tell Charlotte either.”
“Now I’m working with two people who have lost their mind."
Her hand clutched wrinkles into her skirt. “I won’t do it again! It was a moment.” 
“Perhaps I would believe you—if you ever showed you cared once for something that mattered to anyone else.” His hands clenched tight behind the white squares of fabric. “I’ve never seen it.”
She lifted shaking hands to her face. “I can’t get out.” She panted. “I can’t—get—out.”
“The Russians are gone. The Americans are home.” Evesham glanced sideways at Ben.
Ben traced an edge of the desk where the polish had faded and blackened with the wear. “Just because I’m an American doesn’t mean I can summon the entire American army.”
“I don’t expect you to. But for the love of all Great Britain, be a good deposit.”
Bloody face, bloody shot, the revolver recoiling in his hands. Only this time the gray hair didn’t frame the face of a stranger, but the face of Matthew Dorroll—and this time he wasn’t firing in self-defence—but deep down, where the anger lurked hot as fire coals, he wanted to do it. Until he woke to memory and shame. 
Terry’s shoulders fell as he took it. “I was hoping you’d forget about that.”
“I don’t—”
“I know, doc. You promised. Quit promising things.”
He pressed himself against the door, one hand half raised in expectancy. 
Slim, black fingers reached in and touched the window latch.
He snatched those fingers, crushed them in a death grip as the arm tautened in surprise and recoiled against him. Using his whole shoulder, he smashed the sliver of bare wrist across a jagged edge of the window glass.

oh my goodness, all the angst. here, have a puppy quote. 

Tiny, wet fingers slipped into his and the dark-haired little boy tugged him outside. They went together to the corner of the cottage, where a pudgy, golden-furred dog with a stub tail was tugging at the leash. Ben reached down and felt the soft ears as the puppy’s eager tongue wrapped around his fingers.

Do you have a favorite quote from Camp NaNo? Share it with us in the comments! 
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