Saturday, April 30, 2016

King's Folly by Jill Williamson--Book Review

King's Folly by Jill Williamson combines the first three parts of the Kinsman Chronicles into one volume. The Five Realms are experiencing turmoil both in the physical world and among the ruling kingdoms. The king of Armania believes the gods are angry, but his son, Prince Wilek, has other ideas. Following the threads of several characters, King's Folly recounts the tangled web of the Armania bloodline as they try to appease the gods and save their land from ultimate destruction.

My first thoughts when picking up this book was: "This is a big book." Though, I suppose 550 pages isn't that big compared to several other fantasy volumes. Then, I realized it was actually three small-ish books combined into one. So I forgave the author. (The three parts were originally released as e-books. You can read the first part for free here.)

As I entered the world of the Five Realms, I was immediately swooning over the world-building. If this book has one thing, it's world-building. The world is developed thoroughly. It feels lived in. It feels as if it could be real. Each Realm has their own system of government, system of beliefs, and system of etiquette. It's amazing. I loved reading all the little details that created this fantastic picture of this world. Seriously, I'm still rolling with joy about this. (Her website has a lot of cool graphics to go along with the world building. It's definitely worth checking out!)

In addition to a lot of pages, this book has a lot of characters. Thankfully, Jill Williamson included a character guide at the beginning. Still, as the story progressed, it jumped into many different points of view--characters I didn't even think would be significant or exciting to read. But it was! While this is only book one, it was interesting to see how all the different characters came together. I hope this continues further in book two, which will be released later this year. (Or parts 4-6 as ebooks.)

The overall plot and inspiration behind the book was enthralling as well. Jill Williamson stated in her author's note that she tried to "capture the darkness and superstitions of the ancient world" of the Old Testament. While this is pure fantasy, she used research of the kings of Israel as inspiration for her world and plot. I think this was a captivating move on her part. While this book is published under a Christian market, the book never felt preachy or pushy. It was fantasy through and through with a hint of a creator God at work. (This book has also restored my trust in Christian publishers to not publish only cliche, overdone story lines.)

This book deals with a lot of darker themes including sacrifices to gods, prostitution, disease, and deception. I wouldn't say any of this takes away from the story or that there was anything too descriptive or inappropriate. Much of it is implied or used to show the darkness and superstitions of believing in something other than the truth.

Overall, King's Folly spun me through a compelling story and a richly developed world. While it was long and there were a lot of characters, I thought the story was fantastic. I look forward to book two, King's Blood, and reading more works by Jill Williamson. She's definitely captured my attention!

(The whole series.)

-Jaime

~I received this book free from Bethany House for my open and honest opinion.~

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Art Journal 2015 [Insert Creative Title Here]

Last year, I decided to document my year of 2015 through art journaling. It was a big--even risky--step for me. For a long time, I thought I wasn't an artist because I can't draw beyond stick figures or smudgy, unproportional doodles and because I don't know "how" to paint or color perfectly inside the lines. But I learned in an art class (which terrified me for a while) that I am an artist if I create. And creating isn't always about drawing perfect lines or doing it right on the first try. Art is allowed to be messy, unproportional, smudgy, and well... creative. It's allowed to spill outside of the lines and to be full of mistakes. It's about expressing myself, whether that means splashing paint on a page until it runs into a muddled mess or tracing perfect circles with a compass.


So art journaling became something important as I documented my year. I used an old Reader's Digest volume and recycled it by ripping out pages, gluing pages together, and covering them with paint or other mediums. As I went through the year, I collected pieces of memorabilia, took pictures, and wrote down my thoughts about events. Not everything in the journal maps out significant moments, but every page contributes to my story of 2015 and the journey of my creative process growing. I learned better ways to prepare my journal pages, I studied various techniques, and I copied ideas from other people. But I also paved my own way. I may have used someone else's process to create a page, but their page will always be different than my page, and vice versa. The journal truly captures my year from my perspective.

I started off working on pages with no plans, which is not something I'm used to doing with physical art. I chose colors because I liked them. I scribbled my thoughts across the page to see how it would look. The beginning pages aren't my favorite to look at any more, but they are still important to remember because as I flip through the completed journal, I see myself grow and learn in my creative expression.


I'm a writer, through and through. My writing process is different depending on what I'm writing. Sometimes--most of the time--my writing is spontaneous and unplanned. I hate outlines. I hate planning every detail of the story. I like to sit down and see where the story--and my brain--leads me. However, I had never thought of creating physical art in this manner--with spontaneity and letting myself just flow with what I was working with. I thought everything had to be planned down to perfection and ruler lines. But once I cracked open the art journal and allowed myself freedom to not care what it looked like (nobody needed to look at it anyways), I found a way to move past the perfectionist inside of me.

And I've created something worth showing other people.


I had fun with this project, and I plan to continue this creative expression during 2016 too. (Which reminds me... I should probably start documenting.) I plan to keep doing this until I run out of Reader's Digest volumes. (I have about ten on my shelf still!) I want to see what other fun, beautiful, and messy things I can learn to create. It has helped give me time by myself to de-stress and just experiment. It's my time to try new things without worrying about dire consequences. (Oh, a ruined page? Just rip it out or fix it by adding something else!)

I love this process, and I hope to do more with it in other areas of my life. Plus, I've always wanted to complete a journal all the way through. Journal writing has never been my strong suit. I always feel stupid and bored writing about myself or my life. I'd rather write about someone very similar to me dealing with dragons or spaceships or magical items. So this is a way for me have fun writing about my life but also documenting my life in a creative way.

(The last page of 2015 and the first page of 2016.)

Even today, a friend posted a photo of her watercolor art, and I was amazed at how gorgeous it was. But I found I wasn't filled with grief that I could never do something so fantastic. I didn't immediately respond with "Well, I will never be that good." Instead, I was astounded at how simple she made it look. And it made me want to learn how to do that. I wanted to learn that technique in order to grow in my artistic ability. And I think my year of art journaling helped me become this kind of creative person.

And now, I'm the person who can say with confidence that I am indeed an artist.


(If you would like to see the whole journal in completion and in real life, just ask! I'd be happy to share it with you!)

-Jaime

Friday, April 15, 2016

Time Warp

"This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down."

Time is a funny thing. It's also a finicky thing. It's something we all must deal with in life. Time changes a lot of things. Time is something we claim to never have enough of. Time can heal, time can divide, time can trickle out of lives through moments and memories.

Time can make all the difference.

If I would time-travel back five years, my past self certainly wouldn't believe anything I could say about my present life. I wouldn't have thought five years would make the difference between attending my childhood best friends wedding or not. I wouldn't have thought five years would lead to finishing college and working a full-time job at a library. I wouldn't have thought five years would bring a new sister and a baby nephew to my family. (Even after nine months of a bouncing baby boy to love, I'm still shocked my brother has a child.)

Time changes a lot of things.

The last five years have strikingly changed who I am and how I live. Ten years is even more drastic, fifteen more so, and of course twenty years is too far back for me to recall. Time is something we claim to never have enough of. I'm twenty-two now. I'm tall. I wear glasses. I keep my hair short. I like stories more than I like people. My brain is filled with "useless" things like the plot of a random episode from that TV show or quotes from books I've read years ago or the names and powers of most superheroes. I spend my free time daydreaming and conjuring worlds filled with dragons, stars, and complicated acts of heroism.

Time trickles through moments and memories.

Time has caused me to say goodbye to people I love, who have now become just another memory. Time has allowed me to say hello to new friends and a very special boy I love. Time has brought grief and joy, gladness and sorrow; there has been anger and frustration paired with laughter and tears. Time has passed, and while I don't feel all that different, I know that when I look back at my 17 year old self, my 12 year old self, and my 7 year old self that I am not the same person I once was.

Time heals, time divides.

I'm still quiet. I still prefer books over most things in life. I get lost in my own head, and I like to laugh at my own jokes. But I'm also more confident. I know what I'm good at. I know I can teach children and I can help people find what they need. I know who I am thought I'm still leaving room to continually define myself as time continues to pass. I've got dreams I wouldn't have thought of five years ago, ten years ago, fifteen years ago. I've written stories; I've read books; I've had experiences I never thought would be possible. And I know there's much more that lies ahead.

Time makes all the difference.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Remnants: Season of Glory by Lisa T. Bergren--Book Review

This review is about the third book in a trilogy. If you haven't read books 1 and 2, I suggest you read my double-review of those first. I've tried my best to be spoiler-free, but that is always a struggle when it comes to later books in a series.

Remnants: Season of Glory by Lisa T. Bergren continues the story of Andriana and the other Remnants at they reclaim their world from the powers of darkness and Sethos. People are continually being drawn to the Way, but the darkness hunts the Remnants, vowing to wipe them from existence. In this final book, everybody makes a choice of choosing a side in this final stand, in this final showdown between glory and oppression.

Glory. This book is called Season of Glory for a reason. Glory resonates throughout the book, in every chapter, in every scene. Glory raining down from the Maker as the Remnants use their powers to save lives. Glory shining out among the darkness, the hurt, the struggles of life. Glory rising up to proclaim the victory of the Remnants.

When it comes to the final book in a series, it's hard to not know what's coming. The author isn't going to lead us through this story only to have the beloved characters end in failure. I knew that the Remnants would succeed, and the world would step into this season of glory. But knowing that didn't hinder my adoration for this book. Instead, it propelled me to keep reading. Because for some books, it's not about the end scene (though, let's be honest, that was gorgeous), but it's about the journey to get to that ending. If the Remnants show one thing, it's the importance of the journey.

As I read, I was once more swept away into this world of swords and helicopters, super powers and knights, castles and angels. I wanted to the Remnants to succeed, to win against Sethos and his dark forces. But every scene, every chapter was another struggle, another stretch to get through. There were moments of pure joy that made me squeal with excitement. There were moments I was left speechless because of the glory spreading throughout this world. There were moments I wept next to these characters. Every moment kept me going. Even up to the last pages, I didn't know how the Remnants would make it out alive and whole. There was still tragedy, still tension, and still doubt throughout the book.

If you're uncertain in reading this because you might be able to "guess the ending" or that it'll be "the same" as every other fantasy-dystopian, guess again. This is one series that is different: both in the concept and in the ending. I urge you to give this book a try if only to experience the glory that springs from every page.

This book taught me something new, despite learning similar things for the past twenty years. It made me sit back and think about my own gifts and abilities. I don't have super powers like Andriana or Vidar or Tressa. I'm not a skilled warrior like Ronan or Bellona. I'm not royalty; I'm not an angel. But I still have gifts. I still have abilities. And this book showed me that whether it's a small gift--such a showing kindness toward someone--or a bigger gift--like being a writer or musician--I can make a difference like the Remnants. I can be a Remnant by doing something to give people hope and to give God glory.

If you shy away from this series because you feel it might be too "preachy" about God, it's not. I've grown up in church, and I hate how many Christian books in the world are unrealistic and cliche. But this is not unrealistic, this is not cliche, this is not a preachy book. It's life, and it's life full of joy, hope, and glory.

-Jaime

*I received this book for free through BookLook from Blink Books to give my open and honest opinion of the story, nothing more and nothing less.*