The Chosen // Review

THIS BOOK

I’m not entirely sure how to talk about this book. It’s almost a book you shouldn’t talk about. Or maybe it’s been too close to me finishing it and and I’m still in the “I have no words” stage. I’m still going to try. Maybe I’ll make sense of my own thoughts.

So what is this book I’m raving about? The Chosen, by Chaim Potok .

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Cover from Goodreads

Synopsis from Goodreads:

It is the now-classic story of two fathers and two sons and the pressures on all of them to pursue the religion they share in the way that is best suited to each. And as the boys grow into young men, they discover in the other a lost spiritual brother, and a link to an unexplored world that neither had ever considered before. In effect, they exchange places, and find the peace that neither will ever retreat from again….

 

Not the greatest synopsis, so I’ll do my best to explain in my own words.

The Chosen is a story about a Jewish boy, Reuven Malter, and his friend, Danny Saunders. It takes place during and after WWII in the Jewish community of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York City. Both boys come from very different backgrounds – Reuven is a modern Orthodox Jew, meaning that he can be involved in the secular world while sill remaining Jewish; and Danny is a Hasidic Jew, meaning that he supposed to be separate from the secular world and have nothing whatsoever to do with it. The two meet by accident at a baseball game gone wrong and at first become rivals, but then form a strong friendship. The story’s told from Rueven’s point of view, but more often than not it seems to be really Danny’s story.

I’ve already said it, but this book is amazing. It’s very subtly done, absolutely nothing knocks you over the head (except the baseball). It actually took me a chapter or so to get into it. I was mainly reading it because two people I respect very much said it was a masterpiece. But then, once I was past those initial chapters, I couldn’t stop. I’m not sure what it was. I mean, the prose was beautiful, but plot was totally different from most of what I read (it was more character driven, I’m a plot driven person). But the characters leapt off the page, but not in the vibrant way you’d expect. It was like they were breathing, gently, smoothly pulsing on the page. You wanted desperately what they wanted, even when they weren’t sure what they wanted. I actually found myself yelling (silently, there were other people in the room) at Danny at one point.

The themes were breathtaking. I don’t know exactly what they were – I’m very, very dense when it comes to that sort of thing, you really need to hit me over the head with it – but they were there, even if I can’t put an exact name to them. The questions and struggles that the characters asked and faced and answered were as real and breathing as the characters themselves.

For the last few pages of the book, which I shall not spoil, my eyes were wet. I didn’t even realize until about halfway through that I was crying. I still don’t know why I was crying. It’s not the things I normally cry about in books. Except that it was, in a way, now that I think about it. But that still doesn’t explain why I was crying.

When I had finished it, I wanted to be silent, to sit still and be quiet. Maybe to think, or maybe not. For the rest of the night after it, I really didn’t say much, which is very unusual for me. I didn’t feel the need to say anything.

The whole book was beautiful. If you ever get the chance, please read it. Your library probably has it, and if it doesn’t you can probably get it through inter-library loan. I think it was fairly popular a few years back. This is one I will definitely be buying my own copy as soon as I have the money.


In a separate note, before I go, there is an author I follow who’s trying to get people to sign up for his readers group. His blog is really good and really enjoyable to read (there’s so many really cool historical facts and posts) and he’s working on self-publishing his first novel, the Lamentation of Siren. I’m really looking forward to it. Anyway, he’s opened up a contest for people referring their friends to his reader’s group. I can tell you reliably that there is zero spam and no annoying emails. If you do sign up, email him and say I referred you? I get free stuff if a lot of you do. *grins* Thanks!
Here’s the link. You’re supposed to use the sign-up form in the actual post, not the one at the very bottom of the page: Nicholas Kotar Blog


Have you read the Chosen? Do you think you will read it? If you have read it, what did you think?

 

 

Story Update // Character Profiles

Hello everyone! I just realized that I haven’t talked about my book in forever, and there’s been a ton of progress. Characters have been added and taken away, the plot’s undergone at least two major changes. (Credit to the amazing Savannah for brainstorming help) Most notably, there’s another main character! So here you go, the character profiles of the two MCs and the villain!

Character Profiles

Here’s a quick story refresher.

Nina’s world is turned upside down when her father is killed in a hit-and-run, but things only get worse when she is kidnapped by her father’s estranged brother Matt. 
Once Christopher learns that his little godsister is being held for ransom, he takes off after her – with her mother in the backseat. 
Can Nina escape, and can Christopher and her mother find her before it’s too late?

That’s a little out of date, but it’ll do for now.

It’s a road trip type contemporary adventure, originally meant as a light, fun story, but turning darker as I try and plot it.

Pinterest board: “Smoothie Story” (Warning: all my Pinterest story boards are about to undergo a complete re haul, so it’s going to be a bit of a construction site for a little bit)

Nina

Nina Thompson
Name: Nina Thompson
Age: 16
Personality type: ISTJ

Nina lives with her parents (until the events of the story kick off, that is). She dreams of being a lawyer, like her father. She tends to be a very practical, get the job done sort person, preferring to not beat around the bush. She’s very good at not procrastinating (I envy her). Her heart bleeds when she sees the suffering and injustice her – that’s one of her reasons for becoming a lawyer. She wants to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. Ironically, she’s not so good at that when it comes to herself. She often caves to peer pressure when with people who pretend to be her friends, then beats herself up over it afterwards, beyond the point of what could be considered reasonable. She’s a perfectionist, wants everything to be just so and in order, and she takes failure very hard. She listens to music all the time, and even more when she wants to get away.

Pinterest board: Character – Nina

Christopher 1
He needs to be a bit older, but this is the closest photo I’ve found.

Christopher
Name: Christopher (I’m afraid a last name is still rather lacking)
Age: 19
Personality type: ENFP

Christopher’s very laid back and just an overall happy person. He plays the guitar, and it’s his dream to one day make a living as a musician. Before the story starts, he’s gearing up to go to college on a major scholarship. He’s very close with his godsister, Nina, and is one of the few people who can draw her out of her “I’m serious and going to get on to business and we don’t need to laugh” shell. He has a very optimistic look on life, but is absolutely terrifying when pushed too far. He feels horribly guilty if someone gets hurt through his actions or inaction, and will do almost anything to prevent that from happening.

Pinterest board: Character – Christopher

MattMatthew Thompson
Name: Matthew “Matt” Thompson
Age: he’s an adult? I never picked one.
Personality type: still figuring that one out.

Matt Thompson is the villain of the story. He’s also the one I currently have the most backstory on. He’s the younger brother, his older brother Jonathan being Nina’s father. There was some severe favoritism when he was a child, his brother getting all the attention and him just pushed to the back. When he went off to college, he quickly tried to differentiate between himself and his brother (who was getting very good grades and well on the track to becoming a lawyer), getting involved in the party scene and gambling away any money he had. His parents cut all ties from him and died shortly thereafter. He dropped out of college, but continued on in the same vein, gambling, drinking, and getting together a sophisticated ‘gang’ of sorts. Soon he got so far in debt that he went to his older, much more successful and recently married brother and asked him for money. Jonathan gave it to him, on the one one condition that he stay far away from his wife and newborn daughter. This continued on for many years before Jonathan finally said enough is enough. Matt arranged a car accident, and the rest is spoilers.

Pinterest board: Character – Matt

And there you have it. My three main players in the “smoothie story” as it currently stands.

What did you think? Do the characters seem realistic to you? (If they don’t, could you tell me what doesn’t?) Also, if you have the personality type of one of my characters, please come tell me random things about your type!!

 

Forgiveness Vespers // 2015

A little bit of context: Forgiveness Vespers is the first service of Lent in the Orthodox Church, where we ask forgiveness of everyone in the parish. It’s an absolutely beautiful service, and we actually sing the Pascha (Easter) hymns during it, which was a wonder surprise for me my second Forgiveness Vespers, when I could actually recognize them. 

When my family began the journey to the Orthodox Church, I began to journal it, writing up in detail each new service we attend. It’s my hope to someday publish this, as when I went looking I couldn’t find a single book for Protestant teens coming to the Church. The project’s taken a somewhat back-burner spot at the moment (and I have no idea how I’m going to re-capture my 14 year old voice, it’s a lot more mature now). But one of the services I managed to write up was Forgiveness Vespers. Here it is, mainly preserved as my 14 year old self wrote it:

Forgiveness vespers was, I think, when I first started accept Orthodoxy as being true. Until that point I had just been following along. Yeah, I believed (and still do) everything Dad tells me, and I had been learning quite a lot about the faith, but I never, I think, realized it in my heart. Indeed, when we first started going to Holy Trinity, I wasn’t even a Christian! I didn’t really believe in God at the time. But anyway, by the time Lent rolled around, I was becoming comfortable in an Orthodox church. I sorta-kinda-maybe understood the doctrine, and I could go through most of the motions. There were quite a few things, though, that I wasn’t comfortable with. For example, confession. (And the first, second, and third findings of the head of the John the Baptist. Seriously, how many time can you lose a head? But that’s beside the point…)

Anyway, during the day, around lunch time, Dad called us and told us that we would be going to the service that night, and that, while he would like us all to participate, we didn’t have to. Now, before this, I had begun to read ‘Facing East’, Fredricka Mathews-Greene’s book, which happened to include an account of Forgiveness Vespers at her parish.

I most emphatically did not want to participate in that. Not that I was against the idea, it was just the awkwardness factor. I didn’t know how to make a prostration (certainly knew by the end of Lent!), I didn’t know practically anybody in the parish, despite going there for half a year, and, just, I wasn’t comfortable. I actually almost had a break down because it seemed like at first that Mom and Dad were trying to pressure me and Ian into doing it. (Ian with the broken foot at the time) Another reason – from Mrs. Mathews-Greene’s account, this was something that was very private and moving, and as I knew practically no one there, and hadn’t really offended anyone, I didn’t see the point.

We ended up going, obviously. It was my first service with prostrations. I take that back, my first service with prostrations was the Feast of the Elevation of the Cross, or something like that. I really don’t count it, as I had no idea what was going one. We had arrived late, and found the entirety of those in the nave waving their bottoms in the air. (Can you tell I was new to Orthodoxy at that time?) Anyway.

It was also my first Vespers service. I honestly don’t remember that much of it. I’m assuming that it had most of the normal parts of a Vespers service, but I’ll have to wait until next year to be sure. It was towards the end, though, when the Lenten prayer of St. Ephraim was said. I’m pretty sure that at that time I had no idea what was being said, not really. It was late, I was confused, I was nervous about the ‘Forgiveness’ part of Forgiveness Vespers, and honestly was paying more attention to learning how to prostrate than learning the words to a prayer. I now know it, it comes from saying it every day during Lent:

“O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk.

But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.

Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages. Amen.”

Honestly, I think this may be one of my favorite prayers.

Bye the time that everyone was praying this, Mom and Dad had had to leave the nave. We had brought the twins, and they were really starting to act up. So it was just me, Ian and Nathaniel sitting in our seats. Nate was playing with something from the diaper bag, like most children in the service, and Ian was sitting down looking mildly interested, but, knowing Ian, probably board.

I was mainly standing there awkwardly as everyone around me went to their knees. As I glanced back to the door to see if Mom and Dad were any closer to coming back in, I noticed Father Chris standing against the wall and beckoning to me. After checking to make sure Nate was occupied, and letting Ian know where I was going, I went back to him. As we stood next to each other, he started whispering to me, explaining the prayer, what it meant, and what a prostration was, as well as demonstrating for me.

When the prayer was done, Father Tim pronounced the dismissal, and then we all sat down again. He began to explain what Forgiveness Vespers was, for those who might be visiting and didn’t know, and how it worked. After that he encouraged everyone to participate, even if they didn’t know anybody. He mentioned one lady who was there, who her first night at Holy Trinity had been this Vespers. I really can’t imagine how awkward that must have been. For me, at least, I knew by site everyone there.

After all the talking was finished, Father Tim went up to the front, and both he and Father Chris made a prostration to each other, hugged, kissed (on the cheek), and then Father Chris came and stood next to Father Tim. Father Mike was next, and he did it was Father Tim, then Father Chris, and the stood next to Father Chris. It would keep going like this, with the line ending up wound around and around the church building. I still don’t know how they managed to fit everyone inside like that.

For some odd reason, I began to have this ‘apprehensive but looking forward’ feeling building up inside me as I watched. I don’t entirely know why, but as more and more people went down the line, I started tearing up.  It was weird, but they weren’t sad tears. They weren’t exactly happy either. I honestly don’t really get it.

Mom and Dad had come in by now, and they were standing in the back. That didn’t help matters much for me. It was one thing to cry, it was another entirely for my family to see me doing it.

I think what made me get up out of my chair and get in line was the fact that it didn’t seem awkward. Well, it did, but it didn’t. I’m not making much sense, am I? Anyway, I got in line, and right behind me were the Lockridges. Mr. Lockridge started talking to me about the Odyssey, and I almost forgot to go forward when it was my turn. At first it was embarrassing. I was probably the only one who thought so, of course, but all the same, my face was very hot, and I’m sure it was red. I wasn’t exactly about to pull out a mirror, obviously.

It was a bit odd, at first. I don’t know why exactly, but it was. First was Fr. Tim, then Fr. Chris, both of whom I knew pretty well, well, well enough, and then it was the day’s altar boys, mostly from my Church School class. Mainly people I was at least acquainted with. That was awkward, especially since they were mostly preteen or early teenaged boys. Those were particularly distant hugs.

But as I went down the line, it got to be much more comfortable, even fun, almost. Then, of course, there were the complete strangers, mainly old men and women, who would give me a giant hug and three kisses on the cheek. I was sort of used to this from older ladies, but from a completely strange man that I’d never seen before…

Anyway, I was about half way around the church when I noticed that some (or all) were rather sweaty. It didn’t really bother me, and I completely forgot about it. I ended up have mini-conversations with people, and after asking forgiveness, they would ask how long we had been there, or what my name was, or if I was the girl with the twin brothers. (Why is everything about Robert and David?).

At last, after going about once and half around the nave (still not sure how they worked that) I had reached the end of the standing-in-one-place line and was now sanding myself, as the still moving line went on, and started to stand still as well, next to be and on again. It was around this time that I noticed my back was starting to hurt a little bit.

This didn’t bother me that much, not really, and I continued on, occasionally chatting with Rebecka, who was standing next to me with her mother.

I was a little surprised when I found myself prostrating in front of Dad. I hadn’t realized that they had gone through. He was holding one of the twins, I think Robert, as he went. Next was Mom and David, and then Nathaniel, who informed me that he wasn’t really doing anything, he was just following Mom and Dad. Before she went on, Mom handed David off to me, letting out a sigh of relief as she did so. I think she was exhausted.

Now that I had the heavy toddler, I stopped making prostrations, and just did bows, or however pronounce them. Where you cross yourself and reach to the ground. Anyway, it wasn’t long before it was over, after that. Matushka Jennifer was the last to pass me, and as she did so she told me I could go sing with the other kids. I didn’t. I’m really bad at singing liturgical music, not to mention that the ‘choir’ was dispersing.

After that I don’t remember much at all. I’m assuming that we all went home instead of staying for a small coffee hour or something, as we had the twins and Nate with us, and that would have been after their bedtime.

I don’t think I could pinpoint an exact time that evening that I realized “Hey, this is right,” but at the end there was a quiet acceptance. This is right. This is the way things are supposed to be.

 

A Question of Honor // Review + Interview

IT’S HERE IT’S HERE IT’S FINALLY HERE!!

a-question-of-honor-blog-tour

Welcome, one and all, to my small part in the Question of Honor blog tour! You might remember from the cover reveal post, the book releases today! By the time this post is published I’ll probably have already bought a copy. Links’ll be down below somewhere so you can go get a copy, too.

And here’s the cover again, along with the synopsis. Look at the beauty!

a-question-of-honor-final-front-cover-3

A man. A child. A war. 
When German soldiers invade France during World War II, young Joyanna’s perfect world is shattered. In the hands of those who hate her, she battles to comprehend why people can be so ruthless and cold toward those whom they have never met. 
David Sullivan, pilot in the Royal Air Force, was certain he would never hate, but a painful loss forces him to either reconsider or do the inconceivable—forgive. He is suddenly challenged by the realization that doing God’s will is not easy, but most important. With the lives of freedom-fighters relying on him, he must learn the difficult lesson that he is not in control, but merely one who must surrender his heart of obedience to One greater.
A sudden turn of events lands Joyanna and David in the same country—but for far different reasons. When their paths cross, David finds he must make a decision that will affect them both for the rest of their lives. 
Will he choose vengeance, or will he let his life be ruled by a higher standard? A standard of Honor.

Find on Amazon and Goodreads

And about the author, Jesseca Wheaton:

author-image
Jesseca is an 18-year old daughter, sister, and a child of God. Her days are spent reading, cooking, spending time with siblings, or playing piano.  And writing, of course! At an early age words fascinated her, and her love for the printed page has only grown. She lives with her parents and seven siblings in the sunny state of Kansas, and she’s convinced there’s no place like home.

Website~Blog~Amazon~Goodreads~GooglePlus~Pinterest~Instagram

And now, as my blog post title says, I’ve got both a review of the book and an author interview. Here they are!

The Review

This was one of those books, for me, where after I finished it I sat back and said “wow”. This almost never happens to me, at least in my recent memory. As my temporary review on goodreads said:

Image result for i laughed i cried it moved me bob gif

And it really did make me do all those things. I just… I really loved this book.

What I liked:

  • The characters. They lived and breathed and jumped off the page. They’re relationships were so much fun to read, especially Gil and David’s relationships with each other and their wives, and Joyanna’s relationship with the world and everyone in it. *grins*
  • Gil. Gil is hands down my favorite character.
  • David’s character arch, which I won’t go into too much detail on because spoilers, but it was really well done, in my opinion.
  • The themes and questions this posed and answered. Is it alright, is it necessary for Christians to fight? This is something I’ve been doing a ton of thinking about lately, and this book honestly helped me answer some of my questions, or at least made things clearer. And the theme of forgiveness, too,  was powerfully woven in.
  • The time period. I’m not generally a huge fan of the WWII era (mainly because of all the truly horrific things that happened then), so I haven’t read a ton of historical novels set in that period. I absolutely loved the way the time came alive in the way the characters spoke and acted. It reminded me of the time when I constantly read and watched the American Girl Molly books and movies.

What I disliked:

  • I didn’t know quite how old Joyanna was until pretty much the last chapter, so I went through the book with the impression that she was supposed to be 5. This kind of ruined my enjoyment of some of the scenes, since the little voice in my brain kept going “that is not how five-year-olds talk she sounds much older than five.” That was more a just-me thing, though, and pretty much my own fault.
  • There are a few times where the characters basically speak in Scripture quotations. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, of course, it just came across as stilted in written dialogue and pulled me out of the story for a bit. I’d have more of a problem with it if it wasn’t for the fact that I actually know someone in real life who does so, so it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility.

At the end of the day, I highly recommend this book and would give it 4.5 stars.

Author Interview

Before I start – the last question is entirely spoiler, completely and totally. I’ve put in white ink. To read it, highlight the blank space at the end of the list and it should show up. DO NOT READ IT UNTIL YOU’VE READ THE BOOK

1.) What draws you to write about WWII?
Well, my great-grandfather served in WWII. That got me interested in the time period, and once I started researching and looking into it, I couldn’t stop. There are so many different, diverse areas of WWII. So many mysteries that still surround it, and so many brave men and women who lived during that time in history. And it really didn’t happen all that long ago.
I think another thing that really got my attention was the fact that there are still people alive who remember the second world war. For them it wasn’t something they learned in history class. This was their life. They remember seeing Hitler rise to power. They felt the icy breath of war envelop the country when Pearl Harbor was bombed. Their accounts of it are chilling. To think that this man I talked to fought in the battle of Iwo Jima. This man was there. It just opened my eyes, and I wanted to be able to tell their stories before they were gone. These men and women truly served for a greater purpose than themselves, and they deserve to be remembered.
2.) What sparked this story in particular?
That seems like it was so long ago. The story idea actually came from some pictures on Pinterest, if I remember correctly. One picture was of a couple bidding each other farewell at at train station. The other was of a little French girl on the lap of an American soldier. The story has changed a TON since then, and it’s completely different than what I started out with, in more ways than one. But yes, pictures from pinterest, and an interest in WWII is what sparked the story idea.
3.) What is your favorite thing about this book?
Ahhh, you’re asking me to pick something?! Okay, honestly, it was Erich’s story. He’s just such a conflicted person, and he was one of the hardest to write. Character wise, he took me in a direction I had never gone before.
The other favorite thing . . . the trick airplane scenes between David and Gil in the 2nd chapter. I just adore that part so much! ^_^
4.) And lastly, WHY ON EARTH DID YOU DO THAT TO GIL?!?!
Gil’s story was one of my favorites to write. And also on of the hardest.  But you know when you feel like the story has to take a certain turn, even if you don’t like it? Yeah, that’s what happened with Gil. It was probably the hardest writing decision I’ve ever made. Gil was my favorite character next to David. But I think that it was needed to show the harsh reality of the war. Also, I it played a huge role in David’s character development throughout the book.
So why did I do it? My favorite answer to this is . . . His time on earth was up. I was his time to go home.
Thank you, Jesseca!
Before you go, head over to Jesseca’s blog right here. She’s been posting various cool facts about A Question of Honor, so you should check it out. And you should head over to Amazon and pick up a copy ’cause it’s available now. *bounces*
If you want to, you can check out all the other stops on the tour. Most of them are already posted, but there’s a quite a few left for tomorrow.

Wednesday: March 1st
Angela Watt — Review/Author Interview @ The Peculiar Messenger
Faith Potts — Author Interview @ Stories by Firefly

Thursday: March 2nd
Kellyn Roth — Review @ Reveries Reviews
Faith Potts — Review @ Stories by Firefly
Kaitlyn K.– Book spotlight/Author interview @ Twin Thoughts

Friday: March 3rd
Deborah C.– Book Spotlight @ Reading in June
Soleil B.– Book Spotlight @ Reviews by Soleil
Victoria Lynn — Book Spotlight/Review @ Ruffles and Grace
Brianna Henderson — Review/Author Interview @ Ramblings of a Pilgrim on the Way
Anika — Review/Author Interview/Book Spotlight @ Anika’s Avenue
Rebekah Ashleigh — Review @ Rebekah Ashleigh

Saturday: March 4th
Livi Jane — Review @ Living for the Other Side
Victoria Lynn — Author Interview @ Ruffles and Grace
Emily Putzke — Author Interview @ Taking Dictation
Julia Ryan — Review @ The Barefoot Gal
Rebekah Eddy — Book Spotlight/Author interview @ Rebekah’s Remarks

And finally, it appears that there’s a give away. *bounces* You can win a physical copy if you live in the US, and an ebook if you live somewhere else. Go ahead, enter… *pushes you toward the give away*



GIVEAWAY RIGHT HERE


And there you have it. I hope you enjoyed the interview as much as I did! Thank you again, Jesseca, for doing it! See you all Monday. *waves*

Lent Has Begun

As of Sunday evening, Lent has begun for a great part of the world. I’m an Orthodox Christian, and for 40 days leading up to Holy Week (the week before Easter), we fast, preparing for Easter.

I’m going to start this off with a full disclaimer: I’m decidedly, in no way whatsoever, an expert on the topic of Lent. What I know is what I’ve experienced, and I’ve only lived through two Lents, and only one of them as an Orthodox Christian (I was Chrismated – received into the Church – a little over a year ago). And, to be fair, my dad’s books sitting next to me and the articles I’ve googled have also contributed to this post.

Lent is, as I understand it, a period of preparation. We fast, we pray, we give alms, we confess. It’s a journey of repentance, a journey with our Savior.  Most people tend to think of Lent as a time for punishing yourself, maybe, making yourself suffer with Christ. It’s seen as gloomy, sad. But this is not the case! We’re called to rejoice. It is the season for correction, purification, and enlightenment through the fulfillment of the commandments of Christ. As a hymn that is sung at Forgiveness Vespers says:

Let us enter the Fast with joy, O faithful.
Let us not be sad.
Let us cleanse our faces with the waters of dispassion,
blessing and exalting Christ forever.

Let us begin the Fast with joy.
Let us give ourselves to spiritual efforts.
Let us cleanse our souls.
Let us cleanse our flesh.
Let us fast from passions as we fast from foods,
taking pleasure in the good works of the Spirit
and accomplishing them in love
that we all may be made worthy to see the passion of Christ our God
and His Holy Pascha,
rejoicing with spiritual joy.

But what exactly is fasting? I keep using the word; I should probably define it. Fasting is, at the most basic level, abstaining from all or certain foods. For us, that means meat, dairy (including eggs), olive oil, fish-with-a-backbone, and alcohol. But fasting isn’t just what we’re not eating, it’s also keeping our bodies and our thoughts from evil things. Of course, this is something we should be doing all the time, obviously, but Lent adds an extra reminder.

While fasting, we’re encouraged to read from the Psalms and to pray the prayer of St. Ephriam. When we pray this prayer we prostrate after each stanza. Last year I did a bit of a photo edit for it. It is a truly beautiful prayer. But for that matter, all Orthodox prayers are. prayer-of-st-ephrem

Besides decreased food and increased prayer, there are also many new services during Lent. It begins with the service of Forgiveness Vespers, this past Sunday night, where we ask for the forgiveness of everyone in the church and they ask ours. Then there’s the Canon of St. Andrew, the first Monday and Tuesday (I can’t say much about this, as we’ve yet to make it). There’s an akathist (prayer service) every Friday, at least at my church. In my area (I have no idea if this holds true for everywhere else) we have Pan-Orthodox Vespers every Sunday evening, rotating which church it is held at. Then there’s a Presanctified Liturgy every Wednesday. I’ve cried at every signal one I’ve gone to. Not from sadness, though.

And that’s Lent. Probably (definitely) not the most comprehensive explanation; I barely scratched the surface. There’s so much depth and meaning and beauty and joyfulness and blessedness in Lent, and I have a feeling that ten years, twenty years, to the end of my life I’ll still be learning.

When my family and I first started the journey to Orthodoxy, I began journaling all the services we attended. I fell off after a bit, but I did write up our first Forgiveness Vespers. I’ll probably edited it heavily and post it next week, if anyone’s interested in seeing it.

But before that happens, this Friday is the book release of A Question of Honor!! I’m part of the blog tour, and I’ll have both a book review and author interview! *dances* I’m so excited about this!

Articles I used as sources, if you want to look at them.
Antiochian Archdiocese: Fasting and Great Lent
OCA: Great Lent
OCA: Lenten Services

And the books, although these will probably be just a tad harder to get your hands on than internet articles. Unless your dad collects them, which I guess is entirely possible. Mine does.
The Lenten Spring – Fr. Tom Hopko
The Lenten Triodion – (translated) Mother Mary and Met. Kallistos Ware

 

When Your Friend Publishes a Book

If you’re at all in the same corner of the blogosphear that I’m in, you’ve probably seen several book releases and cover reveals in the last month or so. And if you’re anything like me, you really want to support your friends (and read their books because they look fantastic), but you have no money with which to embark on this noble endeavor. I feel you. Anyway, since I’m in the same boat, I thought I’d compile a list of stuff I do when this happens. (Do note: you can do this even if you can afford their books)

  • You can request it at your library! This might not hold true for every library, but mine at least has a way you can request specific books and they’ve always gotten them, no matter how obscure. This way, you cause someone to buy the book, you get a chance to read it, and you stick it on that library shelf for others to maybe pick up at some point.
  • You can add it on Goodreads. This only works if you have a Goodreads, obviously, but if you add it to your ‘to-read’ pile, then all your friends will see it too. I know I’ve found countless books by my friends reading or wanting to read them.
  • You can tell everybody you know about it. This is pretty self-explanatory. Word of mouth advertising is fantastic, and if you already have a reputation as a book worm with good taste, people will listen to you.
  • Related to that, you can ask for it for your birthday/Christmas/Easter/Valentines/etc. Pretty much any excuse to get presents, you can put it on your wishlist. Or you could convince a parent to get it for a sibling for their birthday, and then you can steal it when they’re done with it.
  • If you’ve read another book of theirs, review it. Goodreads, your blog (if you have one)… basically, if they’ve published other books and you’ve read them you can review it somewhere, both getting them more publicity and giving them a review (which is always welcome).
  • Participate in the blog tour. Of course, this only works if you a) have a blog and b) they’re doing a blog tour, but if you do and they are and you catch it early enough, sometimes you can sign up for doing a review and you’ll get an ARC (advance readers copy).
  • Even if they don’t do a blog tour, you can spotlight the book. You can post the cover, the blurb, and the about the author that’s probably floating around somewhere. Basically fangirl, and people will listen.
  • Share the book. Almost everyone has some sort of social media now, even if it’s just Google+. You can share the Goodreads page, the Amazon page, a blogpost about it, if anyone’s done that. Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram(?), everywhere you can.

And there you have it. I haven’t actually done all this yet (shame on me, I know), but I do the library ever single time, and I’m working on the blogging stuff. So go forth! Support your friends! And buy the book, if you can. Buying the book is always a good thing. *grins*

Anymore tips to add to these? Which is your favorite?

Project Canvas

Picture
Not my graphic – belongs to the Project Canvas people

Blogs are great and all, but wouldn’t it be cool if all your favorite, most helpful blog posts, with all their unique perspectives and voices and tips were gathered together and published in one book? I would buy it. Would you? Would you want to contribute to it, if you could? You can. I am. It’s called Project Canvas.

What is it?
Project Canvas is a book, a book that’s made up of many articles from teen (or beyond, there’s no age limit) writers for teen writers. It’s like guest posting, only it’s all bound into one book. Publication’s slated for January 2018, according to their site.

Why is it?
Now that’s the really cool thing about it. Their idea behind it is this. Everybody’s different. Nobody looks at things in exactly the same way, every perspective is unique. Sure, there’s quite a bit of things that are common across all areas, but no two people do things the same way. I know I’m bits and pieces of all the people I admire, especially when it comes to writing. Project Canvas is about bringing all these perspectives together, like a published creative forum.

Why I’m doing it.
I guess a lot of the things I get into by way of blogging I can blame on Jonny. This is no exception. I first saw a post about it on Ink Blots and Coffee Stains and thought it looked cool, but there’d be no way I’d participate. What could I even say? Then Jonny mentioned it to me, trying to convince me to do it. I threw a whole slew of excuses at him. I honestly know nothing about writing. I’m still learning everything. I don’t think I could say anything of value about writing at this stage in my life.  But he convinced to at least take a look at the list of topics. I did, and before I knew it I was scrambling to write down ideas. They came so quickly. I do know some stuff. I couldn’t write a thing about plot structure, but I do know fantastic naming resources and tips. I’m intimately familiar with historical research and how to do it right. This was honestly a huge self-confidence booster for me (and a lovely source for blog inspiration when I have blogger’s block). Currently my only problem is I can’t post my article on my blog, and these are some of the best ideas I’ve had yet.

You can do it, too.
This is open to everyone. You can do it, too. They have a huge list of topics up on their site – literally everything under the sun, and you can write about anything you want, so long as it pertains to writing. There a submission form for reserving topics and everything. So shoo, go. I assure you, you will find something to write about in that list.

Here is the link to the site. I encourage you to go check it out! #projectcanvas 

Have you heard of Project Canvas before? Do you plan on doing it?