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Synopsis: Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

This week, the winter magic begins. Subscriptions to Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel are officially open!

This winter tale will be delivered straight to your inbox in weekly installments, from December to February. All of the information you need to subscribe can be found below.

But first, a little treat for you! Read on for the synopsis (and if you’d like to see the illustration that accompanies it, be sure to hit the subscribe button!).

I can’t wait to share this story with you all, and I hope you enjoy this sneak peek at the adventure to come!

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In a home nestled on a quiet, cobblestone street, a young girl is holding tightly to wonder.

Penelope Grace is looking out the window, breathing in the stillness of snow falling. Christmas is coming, and as she lovingly places each candle on the windowsills, warmth and light transform her family’s home.

She settles in by the fireside with her family, welcoming you to join them, as Great Uncle Alex challenges anyone present to uncover the secret of his magic tricks.

The mystery, as always, remains, yet everyone is content. All is quiet and good, as it should be.

But as the holiday approaches, Penelope learns how easily circumstance can mock joy. A nameless shadow is haunting her family, and there seems to be no hope of defending them against his relentless attacks.

Still, Penelope Grace is not content to stand by and do nothing, and so, on a cold winter’s night, she finds herself chasing an unexpected friend through the snow.

But which will prove stronger?

Shadow or Light? Despair or wonder?

Follow her now through an ice-laden forest, down a worn, frozen path, to a winter carousel covered in snow.

Do you suppose that you will find the answers there?

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Monthly Subscription

See this week’s illustration and get access to future installments of Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel when you subscribe monthly today! This will give you access to all current and future book releases from 21:25 Books!

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Be sure to share Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel with family, friends, and anyone you know who is in need of a little wonder this year.

Until next week,

Alexandria

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Book Review: The Reindeer Girl

Today, I get to share with you all one of the most charming and meaningful children’s stories I’ve read in some time. It was an absolute delight to read, and I can’t recommend it enough! Check out my full review below.

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Lotta is on her very first visit to Norway and can’t decide if she is more excited to meet her Oldemor (great-grandmother), Erika, for the first time or to catch a glimpse of the reindeer that color her great-grandma’s stories with so much wonder and excitement.

But it just so happens that neither one disappoints, for one evening, just before Christmas, Lotta dozes off to the sound of another story and wakes to find herself in an altogether different, but just as enchanting world. Only there will she discover whether or not she truly carries the heart of a reindeer girl within her.

It is rare indeed to find a children’s story woven with such enchantment and wonder that both adults and children alike will find themselves reluctant to put it down. Filled to the brim with charming illustrations and rich information about Norwegian and Sami culture, The Reindeer Girl will not only sweep you away on a magical adventure, but will also leave you with a fresh appreciation for wildlife and the precious stories our grandparents and great-grandparents have to tell us, if only we’d curl up by the fire and listen.

I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book, which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.

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Holly Webb has penned so many fantastic stories! After you read The Reindeer Girl, here are some more enchanting tales for you to explore with your whole family:

  1. Emily Feather and the Starlit Staircase
  2. The Girl of Glass
  3. The Hounds of Penhallow Hall
  4. The Silver Pony
  5. Frost

You can explore more stories for yourself and learn more about Holly on her website, Facebook, or Instagram!

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Next week, I’ll be sharing more about our upcoming release, Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel. I can’t wait to share this wintry adventure with you all!

Until then,

Alexandria

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Interview With Niki Florica

Welcome to the final week of Author Spotlight Month!

I had the privilege of interviewing Niki Florica! She has some great insight to share about balancing a passion for writing with a day job, what inspires her to pen the stories she does, plus a special shout-out to H.A. Pruitt!

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Niki Florica is a passionate writer, blogger, and daydreamer who finds joy in Jesus, her Underwood typewriter, and in her daydreams-turned-stories. Driven to inspire her fellow young adult readers with plots that enchant, convict, and shine with Truth, Niki is dedicated to capturing that Truth in the fantastical. She plans to dive deeper into creative writing and literature in her university studies . . . unless, of course, she finds Narnia first.

There are so many genres to write in. What made you choose Christian fantasy? What do you think makes this genre unique/important?

I don’t think of myself as a writer of Christian fantasy as much as a Christian writer of fantasy . . . in other words, I dream of shining Truth to those who don’t already have it, in places they don’t expect to find it. 

I’ve had a heart for the fantastical since before I was old enough to recognize it, dreaming of Peter Pan and Narnia, getting lost in my own imagination, finding God in faraway places. I think we all want to be transported beyond the ordinary, but what’s amazing is that Truth can be brought to life in those far-off worlds in dazzling ways. God isn’t limited by physical reality—He can meet us in our imaginations just as easily. When fantasy meets Truth, it brings us closer to the wonder and creativity and greatness that is God . . . and by knowing Him there for a little, we can know Him better here . . . to paraphrase good ol’ C.S. Lewis.

Do you have any advice for writers who are trying to balance their dream of writing with a day job?

It’s so different for everyone, but I’d say: find a time that works for you, offer it to God, and don’t panic when things come up that take temporary priority. God knows our dreams, and He’ll bring them to fruition in His time if that’s part of His plan, so relax, focus on living for Him first and foremost, and find a system that allows you to enjoy writing, not to see it as an extra heap of stress. I often use writing to take “breaks” from work throughout the day, so I have a reason to make time for it—for my own sanity! Whether your sweet-time is late nights, early mornings, or lunch breaks, there’s no perfect formula. Just write when you can, and entrust it (and your dream) to God!

Supporting indie authors is so important. What are some ways that readers can do that?

Anything you can do to give an indie author extra exposure is a huge support! Bookstagram is a great way to do that—if readers are like me, they fall in love with book covers before they even meet the stories—but book reviews, social media shout-outs, and good old-fashioned word-of-mouth are all great ways to support. 

If you want to go the extra mile, I strongly believe in personal connection. Authors don’t just need support for their books, they need support as people. If you loved their book, find a way to reach out and tell them. Engage meaningfully with their social media posts if you can. Be the person who lets them know—sometimes on days that they may really, really need it—that what they’re doing is worthwhile.

Are there any indie authors whose books you would recommend readers check out?

I know she’s already been featured this month, but I am just so inspired by H.A. Pruitt and her novel, Anelthalien. Seeing the passion she pours into her story and how God is using her gifts to glorify His name is just incredible. She inspires me as a person and as an aspiring author, and a project filled with that much Godly love is bound to be truly powerful!

What are you currently reading?

I’m waiting for Brandon Sanderson’s new Stormlight Archive novel, but I may wait until the end of the semester to dive into that adventure—or risk binge-reading right through exams.

Are there any current projects that you can share with us?

Yes! Thanks to NaNoWriMo 2020, I’m currently knee-deep in a contemporary YA standalone novel—a complete departure from anything I’ve tackled so far. It was partially inspired by the newest Little Women film (I still haven’t gotten around to finishing the book—I know, I know!) and it’s inspiring me to take a break from fantastical creatures to tap into something simple and intimate. The story follows a cluster of small-town, slightly-Irish teens—a girl, her two brothers, and the almost-brother-but-maybe-something-else neighbour boy—and how their love for each other is threatened by the space creeping in between them. Each character expresses themselves differently (which is fun for me) and they all struggle with something unique that they feel the need to bury, hide, or fight on their own. I’m already so in love with this little gang and so invested in their healing. Even people who love each other deeply can exist lightyears apart, but God can make a family out of strangers and constellations out of stars, and I can’t wait to see Him breathe His healing power into this story.

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You can follow Niki on Instagram, YouTube, and her blog!

That’s all for Author Spotlight Month! A huge thank you to all the authors who were kind enough to participate: H.A. Pruitt, Richard Spillman, Lisa Howeler, and Niki Florica! Go read all their wonderful stories 🙂

Next week, we’ll be going somewhere new, to a home nestled on a quiet, cobblestone street, where a young girl is holding tightly to wonder…

I hope you’ll join me on her adventure.

Alexandria

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Book Review: The Palmer Girl

I had the opportunity to read this really wonderful novel by Dawn Klinge! You can read my full review (and find links to purchase) below!

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Elizabeth Nordeman is looking for purpose.

After the tragic loss of her brother, Elizabeth and her family have temporarily relocated to the Palmer Hotel in Chicago, where they hope to find healing and a fresh start.

For Elizabeth, this means proving to her father that she is worthy of, one day, running his company, Nordeman Insurance. Searching for a way to showcase her keen mind for business, she embarks on an endeavor of her own that provides her with independence, along with an unexpected chance to find forgiveness and an enduring love.

But regret and misgivings continue to haunt Elizabeth, and it remains to be seen whether or not she will allow her new life in Chicago to flourish and bloom.

Dawn Klinge has crafted an endearing and important tale of love, new beginnings, and grace. With a beautifully depicted historical setting and rich descriptions that leave you longing to step inside the Palmer Hotel for yourself, this story not only delights, but also provides hope and ignites a passionate determination to pursue your God-given calling. If you’re longing for a novel with an engaging plot and a female protagonist you can’t help but cheer for, The Palmer Girl is the book you should be reading right now.

I volunatarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book, which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.

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You can find The Palmer Girl on Bookshop, a fantastic site that allows you to support independent booksellers with every purchase! It’s also available on Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

Follow Dawn Klinge on her website, Goodreads, and Facebook!

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What are you reading this weekend? I’d love to hear your recommendations!

Alexandria

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Interview with Lisa R. Howeler

Welcome to the third week of Author Spotlight Month!

It was such a joy to interview Lisa! Below, she shares more about what inspired her story, A New Beginning, what resting in the Father’s love looks like for her, and what to do when you’re caught in a creative slump.

Read on!

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Lisa Robinson-Howeler is a writer and photographer from Northeastern Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband and two children. She is a former small-town newspaper reporter who decided to write her first novel in 2019. Her fiction focuses on issues of personal failings and triumphs, romance, and personal growth through faith and life lessons. Lisa has had her writing and photography featured in newspapers, magazines, and online nationally and internationally. In addition to being a new novelist, she is a blogger and a homeschooling mother.

What inspired you to write a story that deals with forgiving yourself and finding freedom from your past?

The inspiration for A Story to Tell, the first book I wrote, was my great-grandmother and great-grandfather’s story. A New Beginning is a sequel to A Story to Tell. In other words, A New Beginning was still inspired by my great- grandmother and great-grandfather’s story. 

 My great-grandmother sort of “ran off” with my great-grandfather around 1910 and got married, but I didn’t really want to write a book based in the early 1900s so I moved the story up to the 1950s and, of course, changed the story slightly. I kept the names of my great-grandparents in a way. Blanche was my great-grandmother’s name, but my great-grandfather was Howard. In the book, the characters are Blanche and Hank.

In real life, Blanche moved away from her hometown to live with Howard about an hour away. They were only married a couple of months when Blanche became pregnant. She returned to her family when my grandfather was about a year old and not long after she divorced my great-grandfather and my grandfather was given my great-grandmother’s maiden name. No one in the family was allowed to talk about my great-grandfather Howard and for much of my life that was still the way it was, even though Howard did make contact with my grandfather to try to make some sort of amends after my great-grandmother passed away.

As I got older, and after hearing this story a few times, I started to wonder what Howard had done that made Blanche leave him and eventually divorce him. I also started to wonder what it had been like for Blanche in the aftermath of it all – if she was able to forgive herself for running away with Howard, for trusting someone that family lore says wasn’t very nice or trustworthy, and then having a child with him. Or was it more of a struggle for her to forgive Howard for whatever he had done? And as she worked through those struggles, did she also wonder if she would ever find happiness, or love, again?

In my books, Howard’s character, Hank, is abusive and an adulterer. In real life, I don’t know that Howard was abusive, but family legend says he was an alcoholic and a womanizer and most likely an adulterer. So, while I pondered Blanche’s life and the role of forgiveness for her, I also began to ponder the fact that my grandfather was eventually able to forgive his father, in a way, by at least talking to him before he died. There were redemption and forgiveness all over the story of my great-grandparents, mixed in with what had to have been a lot of bitterness for betrayal, broken hearts, and rejection. 

That same redemption and forgiveness have been peppered throughout my own life as well. These are subjects that have been conquered for me in some ways and are a work in progress in others.

(An aside: While researching for the first book, I also learned that my great-grandfather ran away with his nephew’s wife shortly after divorcing my great-grandmother and that woman abandoned her husband and daughter to be with him. Even more betrayal, yes, but even more opportunity for redemption and forgiveness I hope came for them all before they passed away.)

Shame and regret are weapons that the enemy so often uses against us. What helps you rest in God’s love and forgiveness?

This is a hard one for me in some ways because I don’t always trust in God’s love and forgiveness. Isn’t that awful? I know that I have been taught he forgives us and sees us as his child, no matter what we do, but when I make a mistake, I will dwell on that over and over. There are times I struggle to forgive myself almost more than I struggle to forgive others. I am quicker to make an excuse to understand why someone else acted the way they did than I am to understand why I acted the way I did. If that makes sense. 

What helps me remember that Christ loves me as I am, though, is the very fact he died on the cross for me – for us. He died not because I was perfect, but because he is. When God looks at us he doesn’t see our mistakes – he sees Christ. God also sees his child, who he loves, and who he grieves for when he sees us make mistakes.

Many people dream of writing a book but are held back by the fear of not being good enough. What encouragement would you offer them?

First, don’t look at it as writing a book. Look at as writing a chapter. Then another. Then another. Then another until your story is done and you have a book. It’s such a daunting task when you think you are writing “a whole book.” I shared chapters for my first book on my blog and my readers wanted to know what happened next so I just kept writing the story for them. Before I knew it, I had a book completed. It wasn’t the best book ever written and I’d love to rewrite that first book someday, but it was a book and it was a story I wrote. I knew I wanted to try it again. 

 I definitely don’t feel good enough, but one thing I’ve reminded myself is that every reader has different tastes, likes, interests so what I’m writing may not be one reader’s “cup of tea” while it will be exactly what another reader enjoys. Plus, I remember the saying “practice makes perfect.” The more I do this whole “writing a book” thing, my hope is I’ll keep getting better. Will I ever be an award-winning author? I don’t know and I’m not worried about that. I’m simply having fun telling stories. The bottom line of this whole writing thing for me is to have fun. I worked for 14 years as a newspaper reporter. It’s what my degree is in. By the end, writing wasn’t fun anymore. I was also a photographer after I left newspapers and tried to make a career of it. It killed my love of photography for a few years. Once I gave up on the idea that I needed to make money from either of those things, I loved them again. 

Life is so short. You never know what will happen if you simply sit down and just start writing. My main advice is to not look at writing as a way to make money, but as a way to share what you want to share – whether a story or encouragement or advice. Whatever it is, your goal should be connecting with people more than connecting with a paycheck because it’s never guaranteed you will be paid, or at least paid well, for what you write. 

If you find yourself in a creative slump, what helps you get out of it and find inspiration?

Creative slumps happen often to me. For writing slumps, I either read a well-written book or watch a well-made movie. I need a good story to ignite ideas for my own stories. And sometimes I even watch a bad movie or read a not-so-great book to remind me what I don’t want to create. 

Sometimes during those slumps, I walk away from whatever piece I’m working on for a while to give my brain some time to detox and recover. Then there are other times I keep writing through the slump. Whatever I’m writing during that time may be awful, but I hope that I will eventually write myself out of the slump. 

Talking to people is another way I pull myself out of a slump. I’m a people watcher and there are times something I see or hear in real life will trigger an idea for a future story.

Can readers hope to see another book that focuses on Blanche’s story? Are there any projects that you’re currently working on that you’d like to share with readers?

I do have plans for another book that will be a branch off from Blanche’s story. It is going to be called Related by Blood and will focus on Blanche’s son Jackson and his relationship with his biological father Hank. 

I’ve also started a story that will either be a novella or a full-length novel about Lily, who is mentioned in A New Beginning. The book will simply be called Lily and will be a little more challenging to write and read (for some) than some of my books because it will deal with difficult subjects like child abuse, teenage pregnancy, and addiction. 

I just published a novella dealing with rekindling the passion in marriage called Rekindle and it is currently available on Amazon and Kindle, as well as through Kindle Unlimited. I hope to have it available through other sellers this winter as I figure out how to offer books places other than Amazon. The book focuses on Liam and Maddie Grant who are in the midst of a divorce when they are forced into quarantine after Liam comes in contact with someone who has a rare virus (yes, I wrote this during the onset of the COVID situation). The book also follows the story of Liam’s brother Matt, a United States Senator, who is also forced into quarantine and begins to think about how much he has neglected his marriage and family to pursue his political career. This book may be the basis for a future series, but I haven’t decided that for sure yet.  I’m also in the middle of writing The Farmer’s Daughter, the first in a series. The book should be out sometime in February 2021. It is about Molly Tanner, a 26-year old woman who is still living on her family’s farm but wonders if she should start her own life by leaving the farm and finding out what else is out there in the world for her. While the book does include a romantic element, it also follows the story of the Tanner family, who is fighting to keep their family farm and store from going under during hard economic times.

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I can’t wait to read more of Lisa’s books. She is a truly talented writer, and you won’t want to miss any of her novels!

You can grab a copy of A New Beginning and Rekindle on Amazon!

And be sure to follow Lisa’s blog, so you don’t miss any updates on current projects & future releases. You can also follow her on Instagram and Goodreads.

Next week is the final week of Author Spotlight Month (already!), and I’ll be sharing an interview with Niki Florica!

Until then,

Alexandria

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Book Review: A New Beginning

Welcome to the third week of Author Spotlight Month!

Today, I have the absolute joy of introducing you to Lisa R. Howeler and her novel, A New Beginning.

Check out my full review below!

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Blanche Robbins is lost in her past.

After fleeing an abusive marriage and returning to her hometown with her son, Jackson, it seems that the broken pieces of her life could be repaired.

But her worst memories keep taunting Blanche, reminding her of all the reasons that freedom and a fresh chance at love are out of reach for her.

Her friends and family, however – not to mention newcomer, J.T. Wainwright – are far from content to let her settle for defeat.

A fresh wind is blowing for Blanche Robbins, promising to change everything, if only she’ll let it.

Lisa R. Howeler has crafted something truly stunning: a story that boldly confronts shame and refuses to let it have the final say.

If you have ever felt shame or regret, if you have ever believed you are unworthy of a new beginning, please read this book. This is a truly important story of grief eclipsed by joy, of regret defeated by redemption.

A New Beginning is one of those books that you’ll want to read again and again, just so you can soak in the wonderful truth it holds: there is an unconquerable Love that knows every moment of your past and promises you a new beginning that you won’t want to miss one moment of.

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A New Beginning is available on Amazon and you can also add it on Goodreads!

Please consider leaving a review once you’ve finished reading. Reviews are one of the best ways you can support authors!

In a couple of days, I’ll be sharing my interview with Lisa!

Until then,

Alexandria

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Interview with Richard Spillman

I had the privilege of interviewing Richard Spillman, author of The Awakened, and I’m so excited to share the insights he offered into his inspiration for this fantastic novel.

You can read Richard’s author bio and my full interview with him below.

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Richard Spillman has a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and has taught Computer Engineering for over 30 years retiring five years ago. 


Since a university professor has summers off, he used that time for mission work. In 2004 he founded the Kingdom is Near (KIN) Ministries. Though KIN he has supported an orphanage in Uganda as well as a church/school for kids from conflict zones in the Philippines. The primary call of KIN has been to take individuals, who other ministries would not consider, on short term missions overseas that is, people who have come to Christ but have a history of drugs, prison time or homelessness. He has also taught in DTS for YWAM in Mali, South Korea, India and the Philippines.

The Awakened is such a powerful story. What real-life events and/or personal experiences inspired you to write it?

In 2014 my team was ministering in the jungles of the Philippines when ISIS discovered we were there and got hold of our cell phone numbers. For a week, they called us telling us to stop, turn over a pastor to them and leave the area or they would hunt us down. We took precautions but didn’t obey any of their commands.

It was a scary time but one in which we all felt the protection of the Lord. When I got home I was moved to write my trilogy which plays out the conflict between good and evil on a world wide scale.

Writing a book can be extremely intimidating for someone who is just starting out. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

The number one thing to do is go to book conferences. There you can take classes but even more important you can meet authors in every stage of writing. You will find that what you learn from other authors can be invaluable in helping you to recognize and get over the bumps in the road we all face.

Which authors or stories have inspired you the most over the years? Why?

As I grew up I immediately fell in love with science fiction especially the Dune and Foundation series. The way these books made alternative universes come to life, to be places I’d love to visit impressed me. Later in life I discovered my all time favorite story in The Lord of the Rings. Not only did it also bring another world to life, the people (and others) seemed so real. Finally I ran into the writings of C.S. Lewis. The way he brought God into his stories touched my heart.

When it came my turn to write a story I selected something where I didn’t have to create an entirely new world, never-the-less I wanted the way I tweaked our world to appear in every sense real. I wanted my characters to be real to deal with real struggles. Most of all I wanted God to appear as a natural part of the story in a way that could grab the heart of the reader.

What led you to write a story that specifically revolves around end times?

That wasn’t my goal but it turned out to be a natural consequence of my goal. I wanted to write something that dealt with the nature of the absolute evil I encountered in the Philippines. I wanted to explore its motives and its methods. It just turned out that the moment in history when evil of this scope will be easiest to see is the end times, hence my time period.

When can readers hope to see book three of The Lazarus Chronicles available?

That’s a good question. I wish I could say soon but every time I would make progress something freaky would happen to slow me down. I fell and broke a couple of ribs. Once they healed my wife fell and broke her arm. I’ve had issues from my childhood rise up and terrorize me. I’ve never had so much difficulty writing. It’s required a lot of prayer to get through all this. But recently there has been a turn around (I’m sure thanks to many people around the world praying for me and my family) and I seem to be on the right track to get this turned in early next year and out before December. I’m real excited about it because there are some big surprises coming.

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While you wait for the third book to release, you can grab a copy of The Awakened and book two, The Ascension, on Bookshop, which supports independent booksellers with every purchase!

They are also available on Amazon: The Awakened and The Ascension

Be sure to follow Richard Spillman on Instagram, Litsy, and Goodreads, so you don’t miss the latest news about his books!

Next week, I’ll be featuring Lisa R. Howeler and her book, A New Beginning!

Until then,

Alexandria

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Book Review: The Awakened by Richard Spillman

Cover Image Courtesy of Goodreads

This week, I have the privilege of sharing my review of The Awakened by Richard Spillman. I can’t think of enough good things to say about this novel! You can read my full review (and grab a copy for yourself!) below.

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“Perhaps faith really is trusting that something meaningful lies beneath the surface of the senseless, that purpose exists in the randomness of life, that joy is independent of your circumstances….”

Lazarus, who goes by L, has been holding onto faith for 2,000 years. As an Awakened – one whom Jesus resurrected from the dead – his purpose is to faithfully serve God as he takes part in the spiritual warfare raging around the world.

Demons, known as UDs, who have taken up residence in human bodies, are everywhere, and they want nothing more than to distort and destroy the image bearers of God, proving once and for all that humans are irredeemable.

Though L is growing weary, he refuses to give up. But the battle is growing more complicated. More often, L wonders if the end times are approaching and if he is equal to the task appointed to him.

Still, with the help of a few unexpected, but not unwelcome, friends, L finds that his faith is rekindling, and he is more certain than ever before that the Light has overcome the darkness.

But the battle isn’t over yet…

With heart-pounding action and believable characters that quickly feel like old friends, Dr. Richard Spillman has created a story that is resonant, fast-paced, and timely, not to mention impossible to put down. Reminiscent of Frank Peretti’s novels, The Awakened is full of suspense and the timeless truth that, even in the midst of so much uncertainty, there is a steadfast Hope we can rely on.

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You can purchase a copy of The Awakened at Barnes and Noble or Bookshop, a wonderful site that supports independent booksellers with every purchase! It is also available on Amazon.

Be sure to leave a review on Goodreads! Reviews are a great way to support authors.

Later this week, I’ll be sharing an interview with the author, Richard Spillman!

Until then,

Alexandria

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Interview With H.A. Pruitt

Happy Thursday, everyone! I’m so excited to introduce you all to H.A. Pruitt, the author of Anelthalien (you can read my full review here)! Check out Heather’s author bio and my full interview with her below!

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H. A. Pruitt is a pastor’s wife who teaches two Bible studies and wrote the recovery program for the church they serve. Her mission in all she does is to listen to, obey, and glorify God. She has always enjoyed art, using her imagination, and writing and is enjoying God using those abilities to shape her into an author.

Also, she really loves her guinea pigs … all 14 of them.

Anelthalien is such a beautiful story. Tell us a little more about your heart for this story and what inspired you to write it.

Anelthalien is definitely in my heart, and my heart is definitely in Anelthalien. Before it was a book or even a story, Anelthalien was my place to play, escape to, and be with God. It was a place where I was safe from reality yet also where I could gain what I needed to go back to and make sense of reality. In a way, that desire to escape to something different inspired me to write Anelthalien. I didn’t intend to write a book; God just told me to start writing, and because I wanted to go to Anelthalien with God and hear His story, I started writing.

The whole story of Anelthalien is pretty long, and so if you want to know more, please do watch the story behind the story on my YouTube channel HAPruitt Anelthalien.

Writing can feel pretty lonely sometimes. Do you have any advice for those who are looking for community with fellow writers?

I have found the most writer support on Instagram. Even if you don’t know any other writers, you can start by following hashtags like #ChristianFictionWriter or #FantasyWriter, and then you will start to find authors who use those hashtags. Also, engage. Many authors are introverts, and so starting conversations can feel uncomfortable, but if you do stay open and communicate with others, then people will open to you and communicate with and support you.

If you had to pick three writers who have inspired you the most, who would they be? What do you love about their stories?

I don’t really have authors I’ve been inspired by as much as stories or books that have impacted me.

1. The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy: I read this book in high school, and it totally changed how I see others.

2. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis: The imaginative world always vividly stuck with me and gave me a hunger to go there.

3. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding: When I read this book, I really comprehended the innately sinful nature of man, and it changed how I understand humans–myself included.

As a Christian writer, what do you most hope readers learn about God’s character from your books?

From Anelthalien I hope readers learn that God brings hope of something different, of a life that is not only better but is purposeful and significant. From the entire series, I hope readers learn that God loves them and desires for them to be with Him. 

What is your favorite thing about being a writer?

Writing. I love getting to write down this amazing story as God tells it to me.

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That’s all for the first week of Author Spotlight Month!

Remember, you can find Anelthalien at your favorite bookstore or at Bookshop, a fantastic website that allows you to support independent booksellers with every purchase!

You can follow H.A. Pruitt on Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube!

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Next week, we’ll be featuring Dr. Richard Spillman and his first novel, The Awakened!

Until then,

Alexandria

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Book Review: Anelthalien by H.A. Pruitt

Image Courtesy of Goodreads

Welcome to Author Spotlight Month!

Today, I have the privilege of sharing one of my new favorite books, Anelthalien by H.A. Pruitt. This is such a remarkable story that I’m so thankful to have read. You can read my full review below!

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“To be a hero, Tad, you must be a shield for others; you must be the very thing that stands between a people and death and stabs back that death. Sacrifice makes a hero.”

Kindle never asked to be a hero. But when an unlikely discovery sweeps her away to an unfamiliar land called Anelthalien, she finds that is exactly what is being asked of her.

She and three other young adults – Tad, Ella, and Andrew – form an unlikely group as they travel throughout the land, trying to understand why the fate of Anelthalien is resting on their shoulders.

In their travels, they are taken in by a mysterious farmer, Azildor, who remembers much that others have long forgotten. He passes on his wisdom to the four heroes-in-the-making, believing as he does that, when the time comes, they will be willing to sacrifice what they must to keep Anelthalien safe from the dark powers seeking to overthrow it.

But whether or not they will embrace their identities as heroes remains to be seen, and all the while, Anelthalien’s fate hangs in the balance…

H.A. Pruitt has succeeded in creating an altogether unique world that readers will want to return to and explore again and again. Full of rich characters, adventures galore, and stunning illustrations, this is one of those truly important books that remind you of this: no matter your past, no matter your circumstances, you have a God-given purpose.

Perhaps, you’ll uncover what it is in the pages of Anelthalien.

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I can’t recommend this book enough. You can grab a copy of Anelthalien for yourself (and a friend!) at Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, or Amazon.

And remember to leave a review on Goodreads once you’ve finished. Reviews are one of the best ways to support indie authors!

Later this week, I’ll be sharing an interview with H.A. Pruitt!

Until then,

Alexandria

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Book Review: Succession

Young Meredoch is sure that something is not right.

His father, a lord and Defender of the Realm, has been called upon to negotiate peace between two peoples, the Ords and Ecthels. But Meredoch is filled with uncertainty about his father’s journey.

When the unthinkable happens, Meredoch is thrust into an unfamiliar world of intrigue and unrest, one that he has been called to navigate as he grows. But hope is not lost, and Meredoch will find that he is not alone. With the help of the High King and the gift of a Spiritsword, Meredoch MacCowell is determined to follow his calling.

But the people have gone without a Defender of the Realm for years, and peace is equally unfamiliar to them. In the face of so many obstacles, the question remains: will Meredoch be able to achieve all that his father could not?

Brett Armstrong has deftly woven action and adventure with biblical truths that will leave readers with a fresh understanding of what it means to become who you were created to be. Despite some minor inconsistencies in characterization, this is a story that ignites faith and reminds readers that, even in the face of impossible circumstances, there is a Source of hope and courage that will never leave us stranded.

I volunatarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book, which I received from the author. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.

You can follow Brett Armstrong on Goodreads. And be sure to grab a copy of Succession on Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

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Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves: The Final Installment

Here we are, at the end of an adventure I never expected to take (those are always the best kind, aren’t they?). Chip’s story completely surprised me, but I’m so thankful I got to be the one to tell it. If you have ever felt alone, unseen, or unheard, I hope this story is a friend to you and that it will remind you that you have a Father in Heaven Who is absolutely captivated by each and every one of your prayers.

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It seemed to Chip that he had been adventuring through Almea for an age, for so much had happened on their search for Abaline. A part of him expected the journey back to feel just as long, yet, before Chip knew it, they were facing the river that the young fox, Wilfred, had helped them cross.

With Beauregard’s help, Chip crossed first this time. He waited with no small amount of sadness as Alfeus and Beauregard bickered their way across the river, for he knew that his time with these wonderful friends was coming to an end.

Chip could not fathom being apart from them, but this was their home, and, no matter how much he loved Almea, Chip’s home lay somewhere beyond the hollow of a tree inhabited by a certain persevering owl.

Alfeus and Beauregard were halfway to the shore now, and in the time remaining to Chip, his thoughts drifted to Nesbit, to stories told by candlelight and the comforting rumble of Romulus’ voice.

But, perhaps most of all, Chip thought of the warmth of his own burrow and the pleasure in sharing a meal with Mama and Papa.

This was what he missed most of all, and as his friends reached him at last, Chip found himself with more of a longing for home, though leaving Alfeus and Beauregard would still be bittersweet.

At that instant, a somewhat bedraggled chipmunk marched straight past him, clearly determined to distance himself from a certain beaver.

“Give me Wilfred any day!” Alfeus hurrumphed as he carried on, entirely unconcerned with whether his companions were following or not.

“You know, Chip,” Beauregard said as they watched their disgruntled friend, “I’d pray for him to be less cantankerous, but I do believe that, if he were, he’d be just a little less Alfeus, if you know what I mean.”

“Yes, Beauregard, I know exactly what you mean,” Chip answered as they trailed after their friend.

“He’s got spunk, our Alfeus,” Beauregard said with a fond chuckle.

“And we love him more for it,” Chip replied.

“Aye, that we do.” After a moment, the beaver continued, “He’ll miss you, you know.”

Chip looked over at Beauregard, surprised, but warmed, by his words. “Do you really think so?”

“Oh, yes. In fact, I suspect your leaving is what’s making him especially persnickety today.”

Chip had no time to answer, for, at just that moment, a joyous yip met their ears, and a flash of brilliant copper raced towards them.

“Wilfred!” Chip cried.

“Chip! Alfeus! You’re back!” the young fox breathlessly answered as he reached them.

Then, looking quizzically at the beaver, he asked, “Beauregard? How did you get mixed up in all this?”

“Examine any dangerous endeavor, Wilfred,” Alfeus cut in, “and you are certain to find Beauregard’s paw prints all over it.”

Beauregard’s chest puffed up. “I take that as the highest of compliments, Alfeus, and thank you.”

A low grumble was Alfeus’ only reply.

Turning to Chip, Wilfred asked, “Are you heading for The Entrance?”

Chip frowned. “Do you mean the tree?”

Wilfred nodded. “Come on! I’ll keep you company, at least part of the way.”

They were just beginning to carry on when, suddenly, Wilfred stopped, staring at Chip. “Chip, where’s your satchel?”

Dread swelled inside our young rabbit friend.

Leah’s satchel.

Quickly, his mind raced through all their adventures and travels, but, for all he tried, Chip could not remember the last time he’d had it. “I don’t know,” he cried, greatly distressed. “Romulus and Leah will be so angry with me for losing it!”

“Now, Chip,” Beauregard interjected, “you’ve been through harrowing adventures in your time here, and they’ll understand, Leah especially. And it’ll all come right in the end. Someone’s bound to find it.”

And, indeed, someone had.

But never mind about that for now.

For a moment, Chip desperately wanted to argue, to insist that they must go in search of the satchel so that he might return it.

But then, he thought of the gift he’d been given – one that was beginning to make a bit more sense – and of Abaline’s warning.

Be careful what you do with this gift.

He couldn’t go back.

It wasn’t the right time.

And Chip found himself content to wait until it was.

With that decided, the company continued on, talking animatedly the entire time about their adventures and what they’d discovered at the end of them. Chip was only too happy to answer Wilfred’s questions about Abaline and was truly pleased when the young fox immediately understood what made their discovery the truest kind of treasure.

Day was only just beginning to settle into dusk when they came upon a rather familiar hazelnut tree.

“Home!” Alfeus cried. “Home, and my beloved hazelnuts! Or, rather, what’s left of them,” he concluded with a pointed stare in Beauregard’s direction.

But the beaver was unruffled by his friend’s thinly-veiled accusation, and he only said, “I wouldn’t be too quick to fuss about those hazelnuts or my young rabbit friends.” He then gestured off to the left where the most enormous leaf Chip had ever seen was being dragged by four familiar bunnies.

Roger, Roderick, Eloise, and Fred stopped just in front of the flabbergasted chipmunk, who, for once, had nothing to say. Lying in front of him was a positively monstrous pile of beautiful, fresh hazelnuts, the likes of which he’d only dreamed about.

Tentatively, he reached out and took one, bringing it close and inhaling deeply, as if to assure himself they were real.

Once satisfied, he turned to face the four rabbits and finally managed to splutter, “Th-thank you. Thank you! This will see me through three winters, at least! Probably more! I can hardly believe… however did you manage it?” he asked.

But the rabbits only laughed mischievously amongst themselves. “We’ll tell you about it some time,” one of them promised, and then they were off, giggling and chasing each other through the forest.

Alfeus was still staring at the hazelnuts when Chip quietly said, “Well, I best be going, everyone.”

A bit of the joy left Alfeus, but he handled it admirably. “I shall accompany you every step of the way, my friend. Though I will have to hide my hazelnuts first.”

“Never you mind about that, Alfeus,” Beauregard said. “I will guard them until you return.”

Alfeus beamed, then looked to Wilfred, who said, a bit reluctantly, “I can’t. My dad will expect me home before it gets much darker.”

“That’s all right, Wilfred. I understand,” Chip replied, though he was disappointed that he must say goodbye to two friends already.

Wilfred came forward, nudging Chip affectionately. “You’ll come back, though, won’t you?”

Chip smiled. “I hope so.”

“Maybe I’ll join you for your next adventure,” Wilfred said with a fierce grin, and then he was gone, bounding away like a flash of fire in the starlight.

Chip wasted not a moment before hopping towards the beaver, who placed a comforting paw on Chip’s shoulder. “Oh, Chip,” Beauregard said with a sigh. “Almea is going to be a less adventurous place without you in it. Still, we never know when an opportunity to return might present itself. And you know just where to find me.”

Chip huddled close a moment more before returning to Alfeus’ side. “Thank you for everything, Beauregard. We might never have found Abaline if not for you.”

“Oh, don’t mention it, Chip. Accompanying you and Alfy was my joy.”

With goodbyes exchanged, Chip and Alfeus began the final stretch of their journey.

Chip only looked back once and Beauregard, with a final wave, called, “Safe travels, my friend!”

Starlight was the only light to speak of as they made their way to the tree where Chip’s adventures in Almea had begun.

Neither could bring themselves to speak, but Chip was content to soak in these last minutes with Alfeus in silence.

Still, the time together proved to be all too short.

They stood at the foot of the tree, both unsure what to say.

At last, Alfeus said, “Oh, come here,” and the two friends embraced, finding some measure of relief that their sadness at parting ways was shared.

After a moment, they stepped apart. “Of all the friends I made in Almea, Alfeus, I’m thankful you were the first.”

An embarrassed, “Oh,” was all Alfeus could muster, though he was clearly pleased by Chip’s thoughtful words.

But before either could say anything more, a great whoosh of air sounded above them. A moment later, Nesbit landed in the grass beside Alfeus and Chip, who was overjoyed to see his old friend.

“Well, young Chip,” Nesbit said, “have you persevered?”

Chip laughed fondly. “Yes, Nesbit, I have.”

“Very good. Time to be going then?”

Chip didn’t answer, instead looking at Alfeus.

“We’ll see each other soon, my friend. It’s time for you to go home,” the chipmunk said gently.

Chip nodded, tears filling his eyes. “Goodbye, Alfeus.”

“Goodbye for now, Chip.”

And then, quick as a blink, our young rabbit friend was swept up as Nesbit flew up amongst the branches, through the tree’s hollow, and back to Everleaf Forest.

For a moment, Chip could not believe he was home, yet all the familiar sights and sounds, not to mention the wonderful scent of clover, reassured him that he was.

With Nesbit already asleep, Chip had the clearing to himself, and he stayed there in the quiet for a while, soaking in all he’d learned.

For ages, he’d wondered if his prayers mattered and if they were heard.

In the end, he’d found even better.

His tears were the diamonds of Heaven, his prayers carefully preserved.

He was reassured now that, like perfume carefully bottled, like rose leaves lovingly pressed between the pages of a favorite book, were his prayers to the Father.

His purpose – and ours – is to go and tell those who are still longing to know.

When he had set out, he had never expected to find truth so glorious or peace so sound.

Chip looked up at the sky, smiling once and giving thanks before turning for home.

His father, Joshua Raddish, met him at the door.

“Papa, I –“ Chip began, but his father held up a paw.

“Nesbit and Romulus already fessed up.”

“I’m sorry, Papa,” Chip said.

“You could have told me.”

“You might have stopped me.”

Joshua looked at his son kindly. “I might have gone with you.”

Something, Chip supposed, to keep in mind for next time.

The End

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I hope you enjoyed the journey just as much as I did. And, remember, you can revisit past installments of Chip any time!

Next week, Author Spotlight Month begins on 21:25 Books! I’ll be featuring H.A. Pruitt’s novel, Anelthalien, along with a special author interview at the end of the week. You won’t want to miss it!

Until then,

Alexandria

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Book Review: Night Night, Norman

Today, I get to share a delightful storybook that just released today, Night Night, Norman.

This is one worth picking up and enjoying with your family. You can read my full review below.

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Open up this enchanting storybook and take a stroll to Green Apple Barn, where a curious horse named Norman is about to set off on an adventure.

Norman’s whole world revolves around a little girl, Elle, who is his family and greatest friend.

She tenderly feeds and grooms him and always makes sure to reward Norman with his favorite treat: fresh, deliciously tart green apples.

But when their time together comes to an end each day, where does Ellie go?

Norman is determined to find out, and all sorts of shenanigans are sure to ensue when he does, from tumbling over furniture to uncovering the most delicious of treats in the kitchen.

But when all is said and done, will Norman succeed in finding Elle?

You’ll have to wait until night falls at Green Apple barn and see for yourself.

Accompanied by beautiful illustrations by Romi Caron, Night Night, Norman is a tale full of whimsy and fun that is sure to delight children and adults alike as they follow this most loveable of horses on his nighttime adventure.

And, if you’d like to create your own adventures for Norman, you can learn how to draw him at the back of the book!

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You can follow Marie Dimitrova on Instagram.

And be sure to head to Marie’s website to see photos of the real-life Norman who inspired this story and learn to create even more original horse artwork!

You can also connect with the illustrator, Romi Caron, on Facebook.

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Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves: Installment Twelve

Welcome to the second to last installment of Chip’s adventures! This was one of my favorite installments to write! I hope you enjoy it.

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Abaline.

Chip gazed up at the curiously enchanting structure in the oak tree rising above them, finding himself unexpectedly reluctant to move forward now that they had finally arrived. He had been anticipating this moment for so long, and Chip wondered if what came of it would be all he had hoped for.

He longed for a purpose, but what if he didn’t have one?

He craved reassurance that his prayers were heard, but he feared discovering that just the opposite was true.

Perhaps, it was better to leave these stones unturned. After all, if he did, he never need fear disappointment.

He almost turned back.

But then, a sudden breeze blew past him, and Chip found that it was shaking loose all his fearful thoughts, casting them to the ground like so many fallen leaves.

The clearing around them was all deep green and golden splendor, but nothing compared to the oak tree itself. Light shimmered through the bark and across the sprawling branches and trees, as if gold filigree ran through root and limb.

Full of wonder, Chip ventured forward. Though he knew that he was already in a land that was utterly different from his home, this place felt like a world all its own.

Oh, let this be the place where I come closer to You.

The words came unbidden, seemingly of their own accord, yet Chip knew at once that they expressed the truest longing of his heart.

Come closer to me.

As the prayer left him, a golden light, high above in the wooden dwelling that nestled in the oak, caught Chip’s eye.

“I think we’re meant to go there,” Chip said softly.

“I do believe you’re right, Chip,” Alfeus replied.

Chip looked over at the chipmunk and was surprised to find that tears were filling his eyes. But, of course, Alfeus had always longed to see Abaline face to face and had long regretted missing the opportunity to do so with Leah. This moment meant just as much to Alfeus as it did to Chip.

All three together now, they moved forward, noticing for the first time the ladder that led up to Abaline’s home. Instantly, Chip was dismayed. He could never climb such a thing, and Abaline felt suddenly and horribly out of reach.

But then, “Over here, young Chip! Don’t despair.”

It was Beauregard, who had wandered over to the right and discovered a contraption altogether more unusual than the ladder. Alfeus looked on from his perch on the ladder, waiting with admirable patience for his friends to follow.

Chip hopped closer to the beaver, who might have looked the slightest bit pleased with himself for solving Chip’s dilemma. Nestled in the plush grass was a wooden bucket. Looped through its handle and disappearing into the tree’s branches was a thick rope, which Beauregard had already taken hold of.

“Hop in, my friend,” Beauregard said.

Chip did so, but then hurriedly called for the beaver to wait. “What about you, Beauregard?”

“Don’t trouble yourself about me, Chip.”

“But then you won’t meet Abaline!”

Beauregard leaned close. “Who’s to say I haven’t already,” he whispered, and then, with a smile and a wink, he took the rope in his mouth and hauled Chip up to the platform.

The height might have troubled Chip if he hadn’t been so captivated by the glimmering dragonflies and fireflies that swirled all about him, as if they were celebrating along with him that he had reached Abaline at last. Chip had never seen their like. They were the most radiant blues and greens he’d ever seen, and a trailing golden dust fell away beneath their twirling path.

But what waited above was more glorious still.

A sheltering canopy of leaves trailed down, filtering the light of the golden sun and leaving Chip with the sensation of having entered a hidden world.

Tangles of branches and cascading foliage left the structure Chip had seen from far below partially hidden, so that it was difficult to know where the oak ended and Abaline’s home began.

Chip hopped out of the bucket onto a sturdy wooden platform. Alfeus was standing at the open door, and Chip joined him. The chipmunk didn’t seem to register his friend’s arrival (or Beauregard’s absence), so fixed was his attention on the entrance and all that might wait within.

“I can’t believe we’re really here,” Alfeus whispered.

They looked at the entryway a moment more before Chip asked, “Shall we go in?”

The chipmunk nodded, took Chip’s paw in his own, and together, they entered.

There were many rooms within – many more than ought to have fit in a house so small – but they both instinctively knew where they were meant to go. It was a room at the heart of the house, and both Chip and Alfeus understood that inside, all the questions stirred up over the course of their journey would be answered and come to rest.

As they passed beneath the doorway, the pair were drawn in different directions. Alfeus wandered off to the left-hand side of the spacious room, while Chip’s attention was immediately arrested by the tawny owl observing him from her perch directly in front of him.

He knew her for who she was without giving it a moment’s thought.

Abaline.

But she was unlike any tawny owl Chip had ever seen.

She was unassuming in size, though she managed to be imposing nevertheless.

She gazed back at Chip with the most astonishing amber eyes he had ever seen, and he found himself dumbstruck in her presence.

“Hello, Chip.” She spoke, and her voice was smooth and kind.

Her feathers ruffled and flared as she left her perch behind, and Chip gasped as the light caught them. They were beautiful to begin with, with their amber and cream hues, but when the sunlight shimmered across them, their edges glinted brilliantly, as if someone had delicately edged them with gold.

Abaline rested before Chip, and, at last, words returned to him. “You know my name? Did you know I was coming?”

“I am forewarned of all who seek to find me, so that I might know whether to safeguard their coming or defend against it.”

Chip’s brow furrowed. “Why would you need to defend against someone finding you?”

“Many seek to destroy what I guard.”

This didn’t quite make sense to Chip, but he plowed ahead all the same and asked the questions he had stored up inside. “Please, I’ve come such a long way to find you, Abaline. Will you tell me what my purpose is? And if my prayers matter at all?”

She looked at him kindly. “Chip, the answers you’re looking for will never be found in me.”

“But that doesn’t make sense!” Chip cried, instantly distraught that his journey had been for nothing. “Everyone’s told me to come looking for you, and I have, and you just have to tell me what I’ve been wanting to know. You just have…”

But Chip trailed off and desperation brought his head low as he softly cried, “Please, help me.”

“Chip,” Alfeus shouted, fairly jumping up and down at the other end of the room. “Chip, come quickly now!”

Our young rabbit looked first to Abaline, who nodded her encouragement. “Go and see.”

And he did.

Standing before Alfeus was a low, wooden table, and on it, rested the most magnificent book Chip would ever have the pleasure of seeing.

The pages were filled with golden lettering, and the words were startlingly familiar, for they were his own. As both he and Alfeus watched, a rose petal fell – from no place, in particular – and came to rest on the open book.

Just as petal brushed paper, Chip’s plea, Please, help me, appeared in brilliant gold filigree on pages that seemed ancient and new at the same time.

And Chip knew, in the sudden way that understanding sometimes comes, that, at the same instant, a diamond had fallen in the underground, only to become the most pleasing aroma rising through the air.

Tears of joy flooded Chip’s eyes as he turned around. The room was full of Light, all rose-gold splendor and joy – and Abaline stood in the midst of its radiance, waiting.

“What is this?” Chip asked, and she knew what he meant.

Her brilliant eyes met his. “It is His book of remembrance.”

He looked back at the book one last time, closed his eyes, and whispered, “Thank You.”

A pair of rose leaves fell as the two friends turned away, for Alfeus’ prayer had echoed Chip’s own.

Abaline led them to the entry of her home, and they followed silently, still in awe of what they’d been given to see.

At the threshold, both Chip and Alfeus turned back to Abaline.

“Very few are given the chance to see this with their own eyes,” she said. “Be careful what you do with this gift.”

Both nodded, though they did not yet understand, and then Abaline was gone, returned to the inner room, where a truth worth treasuring lay.

Saying nothing, for silence seemed important just now, Alfeus returned down the ladder and Chip to the bucket. Before he knew it or could quite comprehend all he’d seen, Beauregard was lowering the bucket, and Chip was twirling down through golden light, back to Beauregard, the land of Almea, and home.

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Only one installment to go, friends! I can’t wait to share the conclusion of Chip’s adventure with you all.

Until then,

Alexandria

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Book Review: The Crownless King

I have something truly special to share with you all today. The Crownless King is such a fantastic read, and I can’t recommend it enough. Check out my full review below!

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“None of us deserve life in the end, but life flows through us just the same….”

There is a battle within us all between shame and grace.

Can you feel it?

One clamors for our attention, for ownership of our thoughts, while the other invites us into new life and peace.

In The Crownless King, the fate of a kingdom and its people hinges on the outcome of this battle.

It rages in Milosh, a ruler with a crown that seems hopelessly tarnished by his father’s legacy. No one is more uncertain of his right to rule than Milosh himself, but perhaps, grace can reach him yet.

The battle is waged just as fiercely in a young woman, Sabriel, whose thoughts have not been entirely her own for some time, yet whose heart may prove true in the end.

But all is not lost, for neither fights alone. In the faithfulness of a few steadfast friends rests the hope that shame and regret will, at last, be silenced and redemption will have the final say.

Kara Linaburg has fearlessly crafted a story that boldly confronts one of the most difficult things to face: the battle within our own minds.

If you’re longing to hear the victory cry of redemption over your life, pick up The Crownless King.

You’ll find hope on every page.

(I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

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You can purchase The Crownless King on Amazon, as well as the first book in the series, The Broken Prince.

Be sure to connect with Kara Linaburg on Instagram!

That’s all for the weekend, friends!

Until next week,

Alexandria

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Book Review: Melody Finch

A secret awaits in the wilds of Australia for those curious enough to uncover it…

Melody Klomp travels the waters of the Coorong aboard her grandmother’s boat, The Isabella. Nana Bell is devoted to sharing the wonder of wildlife with everyone she encounters, and Melody is no exception.

With every mile they travel, Melody is swept up in the Coorong’s beauty and filled with love for its creatures, but particularly the birds. But Melody’s admiration of nature will not be enough to save the Coorong from the dangers that threaten it.

In the most impossible of ways, Melody is immersed in the animals’ world, finding herself transformed into a Diamond Firetail Finch, and she quickly realizes that it is up to her and a group of unlikely friends to warn Nana Bell and save the Coorong.

Equal parts entertaining and educational, Melody Finch is an adventure that readers of all ages will be glad they went on. Ian Boyd and Gary Luck have deftly crafted a story that reminds us that nature and all its wonders are depending on our admiration to express itself through action.

No act is too small, and Melody Finch is the story to remind us of that truth.

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You can join Melody on her adventures on October 9th.

Disclaimer: This book does contain a small amount of cursing, for those concerned.

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Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves: Installment Eleven

Welcome to the eleventh installment of Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves. Chip’s journey through the land of Almea is almost at and end. I hope that, just as Chip does, you enjoy every moment you spend there.

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He heard the sound of intent muttering and the echo of clinking glass just as he entered the unusual room, but it was the smell that had captivated Chip long before he found it. Never before had he encountered such a pleasing aroma, and he followed it eagerly to its source.

Briefly, Chip wondered if the smell might be like the false scent in the first cavern, which had nearly sent him and Alfeus down an even more dangerous path.

But no. That smell, while pleasant on the surface, had warned of rot beneath. What Chip was joyfully breathing in now was so purely fragrant that he instinctively trusted it would not lead him astray.

He had never supposed, however, that it would bring him to a sight unlike any he had ever seen. If Romulus hadn’t shared so much of the human world with him, Chip would not have had the words for what he was seeing.

An enormous funnel filled the far end of the room, and Chip watched in fascination as diamonds tumbled into it. Strangely, there was no clattering sound of jewel against metal. Chip would have found that odd if he’d had the time, but before he could blink, a fragrant dust poured out from the funnel, swirling into glittering clouds even as it began to shimmer and become liquid, before falling into a large glass bottle.

Just as it reached the bottle’s brim, the smell in the room – already incredible – became something even more wonderful, all fresh-blooming flowers and the warmth of rich spice.

Chip didn’t think he would ever be able to properly describe it, yet knew, in the same instant, that he would never forget it.

It was then that he noticed the other myriad bottles, of all shapes and sizes, covering the cavern floor. Some were empty, others full to the brim, but all reflected the brilliant light of the wonderful perfume they each contained, which seemed to produce a light of its own.

Chip leaned close to the nearest bottle, the curiosity of the liquid inside impossible to ignore. As he watched, the soft swirls of diamond dust rose and fell in the bottle, catching the light and reflecting it back to Chip’s wondering eyes.

After a few moments more of looking into the bottle, Chip turned away, hoping to learn something more by exploring the rest of the room.

He made his way through the many bottles, more than he could ever hope to count. Save for the soft splash of the mysterious perfume falling from the funnel, silence reigned in the room.

It was, of course, just as Chip thought to himself that the silence shouldn’t be disturbed that he bumped into the nearest bottle, sending a mighty clamor echoing through the cavern.

He froze, so still you’d have thought him a statue, and waited for someone – or something – to respond to the ruckus he’d caused.

Nothing happened.

Not even a whisper of movement reached Chip’s ears.

Nevertheless, he stayed where he was for what felt like the longest minutes of his life.

At last, when it seemed safe to assume that no one was coming, Chip began to weave his way through the maze of bottles once more. He travelled only a short distance before he came across a feather. It lay before him, plain for him to see, yet Chip could not fathom it.

What was a feather doing underground, he wondered.

Another one lay not far off, and Chip hopped towards it with great purpose, determined to solve at least one of the mysteries facing him today.

But the trail seemed to end at the second feather, which was in front of a very large bottle. Chip looked about from where he stood, but could catch no sight of a third.

Disappointed, he sighed, turned his attention to the bottle’s contents, and was horrified to find one enormous eye staring back at him.

With a great shout, Chip scrambled back, falling into a group of empty bottles and sending them clattering all over the cavern floor.

Over the noise, he heard a flustered voice cry, “Now, do be careful! You’re bound to break something!”

But Chip was so startled, he could not listen. Before he could comprehend what was happening or how to escape this new menace, he raced away, only to collide with the owner of the great eye. He looked up dazedly as two fresh feathers fell to the ground.

A large bird – a magpie, he believed – stood before Chip. After the disturbance he’d caused, he expected to find a gruff and decidedly disgruntled figure standing before him.

Instead, Chip was surprised to find nothing but tenderness, and, perhaps, a touch of sympathy, in the bird’s black eyes. Relief swept through him, and he stood up, though still a little tentatively.

“I’m afraid I gave you quite a fright,” said the bird. “As a Guardian, I can never be too careful. We get all sorts through the underground, and not all sorts are friendly. Now, for some proper introductions,” he continued. “I am called Oleander. What is your name, young one?”

“Chip,” he answered quietly, a bit in awe of the impressive figure before him.

“Quite right,” Oleander answered with a smile, gently brushing a wing tip against Chip’s left ear.

Without another word, Oleander began to lead the way through the cavern, and Chip followed expectantly, hoping that this new friend could help him on his way, and maybe even help him find his friends.

As they walked, Chip surreptitiously observed the large bird. Now that he looked more closely, he could see that the bird’s feathers were not only black and white, but were also covered in many shimmering shades of blue, which reflected the light in the cavern beautifully.

Briefly, Chip thought with a touch of trepidation that he was in the presence of a magpie, a bird that he had always been warned might attack him. It seemed unlikely that a bird of prey could be a gentle Guardian. But Chip supposed that it also seemed unlikely that a small creature like himself could take on a journey so great.

All things considered, Chip believed that Oleander was trustworthy, and so, he continued to follow him through the cavern.

But not, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, without asking a few questions.

“What are you doing underground, Oleander?”

“Whatever do you mean?” the magpie answered, looking quite confused.

“Well,” said Chip, wondering how best to phrase this, “you’re a bird. Shouldn’t you be living up above?”

Oleander gave him an appraising look, and then, apparently deciding that Chip was worthy of his confidence, continued. “Quite right. That is the usual way of things. But I was chosen for this Guardianship, and so, I call the underground my home. I do venture out from time to time, but there are no sights above that seem so fair to my eyes as these glittering caverns. More brilliant than stars,” he murmured, half to himself.

Still, Chip was confused. “But what exactly do you guard?”

Oleander only smiled and continued on. “What brings you here, Chip?”

Momentarily distracted by the question, Chip launched into his tale. “I lost my friends, Alfeus and Beauregard. A moth was leading us through the tunnels, but Alfeus got stuck, and when Beauregard tried to help him get loose, a great hole opened up and they fell. I was going to follow them, but the hole closed before I could, and everything went dark, and… I’m lost.”

Chip paused for a moment. “Have you seen them?” he asked hopefully.

A kindly smile warmed Oleander’s black eyes. “Never you mind about that. Alfeus and Beauregard will be along soon enough.”

“Then you know where they are? Can you take me to them?”

“One thing at a time, my friend,” Oleander said, chuckling. “You still haven’t answered my question. What brings you here?”

Chip frowned. “But I’ve just told you. I’m looking for my friends.”

At this, Oleander stopped and looked closely at Chip. “You and I both know that you’re looking for a great deal more than that.”

Realization dawned. “Oh. Yes. Abaline. You see –“

“Ah, ah,” Oleander interrupted. “I understand.”

He looked as if he meant to say something more, but then thought better of it.

They were at the opposite end of the cavern now, just past the last of the sparkling bottles. Chip could still smell the wondrous perfume. He was just opening his mouth to ask about the diamonds that seemed to produce it when a familiar sound reached his ears. It drifted towards Chip and Oleander from the tunnel just in front of them.

“It is decided, Beauregard! You are the most exasperating creature I will ever have the misfortune of knowing. ‘Follow your nose,’ indeed! How is that supposed to get us any closer to Chip?”

At that moment, the disgruntled chipmunk and his cheerful companion emerged from the tunnel.

Alfeus stopped short. “Chip!” he cried in shock.

Beauregard, to the chipmunk’s immediate annoyance, did not look the least bit surprised.

“You are an unapologetic show off,” Alfeus declared. Then, after a pause, “I’m sorry I doubted you.”

There was then much embracing as the friends celebrated being reunited. After a few minutes, though, Alfeus looked across the expansive cavern in wonder. “What on earth is this place?”

They all turned to Oleander, who only gestured to a tunnel that lay to their right. “There is no time to waste, my friends. Abaline is waiting.”

Without another word, the magpie led them partway down the tunnel before stopping. “Continue to follow this tunnel, and you will shortly be aboveground. No further surprises shall trouble you.”

Chip wanted to stall and keep talking to Oleander, but Alfeus and Beauregard were already moving, all too eager to leave the underground.

Oleander, seeing Chip’s hesitation, smiled and urged him on. “Farewell, young one. Safe travels on the end of your journey.”

And with that, he was gone, back to his bottles and diamonds and all the mystery they contained. Chip stood there for a moment, wondering.

There was so much he didn’t understand about the cavern below and all he had seen there. Briefly, he felt all his usual restless curiosity stir up. But then, all of a sudden, that sweetest of perfumes wafted over him, and he felt all his wonderings, for a time, rest.

There really was so much he didn’t understand.

Perhaps, he wasn’t meant to just yet.

*

Installment Twelve will be available next week, friends!

Until then,

Alexandria

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Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves: Installment Ten

Writing this installment was one of my greatest joys. I hope you enjoy it!

*

Chip was dreaming.

He was in a dark place, deep within the earth. All the shadows in the world seemed intent on suffocating him. He looked around, anxiously trying to catch sight of Alfeus or Beauregard, but the darkness was all-encompassing.

Chip shivered from the damp and the cold, shivered from how very alone he felt.

But then, a clink sounded behind him, the twinge in his left ear faded away, and Chip turned.

Barely a foot away, a diamond was laying on the cool rock, shimmering as if in defiance of the dark.

Chip huddled close to the jewel, comforted by its cool light, but no sooner had he nestled against it than the light began to fade.

The twinge in his left ear returned in full force as his paws scrambled clumsily to keep hold of the diamond. So frantic were his movements, though, that the now dimly glowing jewel skittered across the rock floor.

Its light much too faint by now to allow the rabbit to find it once again, Chip just sat there, watching the diamond’s radiance succumb to the dark, never thinking to simply ask the light to stay.

*

He woke with a start, unsettled and discouraged by the dream. Chip saw no reason to dampen the others’ spirits, though, so he kept the dream to himself.

They had stopped to rest underground, Chip and Alfeus feeling spent after their many adventures, and Beauregard always agreeable to a nap. The moth rested nearby, but Chip could see its pale wings fluttering softly, as if it were eager for them to be on their way.

Much like the underground path they had visited not long ago, the walls of this tunnel were encrusted with jewels of various kinds, though not as many as he’d found in the fire lizards’ dwelling.

He shuddered, hoping that none of the lizards’ tunnels connected to this one. Ready for adventure as he was, Chip wasn’t sure he could bear another encounter with the fiery creatures.

Shaking loose any lingering thoughts of the lizards, the young rabbit returned to looking around the tunnel, and he wondered again at the presence of the jewels.

What were they doing here?

But a loud snort from the waking Beauregard woke Alfeus with a start, sent the moth flying, and put a stop to all Chip’s wonderings.

Distracted by the excitement of continuing on their way to Abaline, the many jewels became, for the time being, nothing more than brilliant sparks of light in the darkness.

But I believe, and I think you do, too, that they’re something a little bit more.

*

It wasn’t long before matters took an unexpected turn. The further the small group of adventurers travelled, the more they realized that this part of the underground was quite unlike any other.

Near the underground river, it had been abundantly clear that the fire lizards ruled; no other creatures dared to make their homes in those tunnels and caves.

Here, however, just the opposite was true. Small glow worms made their meandering way across the rocks in search of cool earth to sink into. Toads hopped along the slick stone paths, seemingly oblivious to Chip and his companions, before disappearing beneath lily pads that covered the small pools they called home.

Fluttering about Chip’s ears almost playfully were insects with the most intricately designed wings he had ever seen. They moved so swiftly, though, that after only the one clear sight of them, they seemed to disappear, and the only thing that betrayed their graceful flight was the pale luminescence of their wings.

Chip breathed in and out slowly, savoring the richness of the air. Moss and lichen covered the ground until only small patches of bare rock could be seen, and it gave the tunnel an earthy smell that Chip loved.

He looked all around in wonder as countless creatures hopped and flew past jewel-encrusted walls, water softly splashed, and the tunnel filled with the sounds and smells of it all. This felt like a wonderfully secret place, and our small rabbit friend felt entirely content to remain there.

They all remained quiet through this part of their journey, unwilling to interrupt the peacefulness of this place.

That is, of course, until Alfeus’ paw became hopelessly stuck in a thick patch of moss.

“Now, now, Alfy, stay still,” Beauregard said.

The chipmunk gave him a long-suffering look. “There is nothing but mud beneath my foot. If I stay still, Beauregard, I shall sink into the mire and be lost forever.”

Chip chuckled, earning himself a withering stare.

“You always did have a touch of the dramatic in you, Alfeus,” the beaver replied with a fond look that was not returned. “Now, stay still and hand me your paw.”

“Do you listen to yourself?” was the exasperated answer. “How one is supposed to stay still and move at the same time, I would very much like to know!”

All the same, Alfeus held out his paw.

It seemed to all that the amusing incident would end right there, until, when Beauregard gave Alfeus’ paw a good tug, the chipmunk did not budge.

A hint of panic crept into Alfeus’ voice. “Put a little more effort into it, Beauregard! I do not wish to become a part of the scenery.”

“I’m sure one more tug ought to do it, Alfy, never you fear.”

Alas, one more tug did not do it, and before Alfeus could protest (as he surely would have), Beauregard wrapped him in a giant bear hug. With a great heave, the beaver tried to free his friend. Just as he did, though, an ominous rumble filled the tunnel, and as all the small creatures nearby scurried away, the ground beneath them crumbled, and Beauregard and Alfeus disappeared from sight.

“Alfeus! Beauregard!” Chip cried, truly frightened now. Quick as he could, he hopped to the edge of the gaping hole his friends had fallen into.

He was just about to jump in after them, heedless of the danger, when the great rumble filled the space once more and the rock shifted back into place. In seconds, the tunnel’s floor was whole once more and the moss was creeping back over the rock, as if the giant hole had never been.

Chip stared in disbelief, unwilling to believe that his friends were gone and the most obvious path back to them was barred. But just then, a deep boom set the tunnel shaking and rocks clattering.

Chip didn’t think.

He just ran, heedless of the direction he took through the branching tunnels and the sudden darkness surrounding him.

When next he stopped, heart racing, body shaking, Chip knew he was lost. Still, he was poised to flee at the slightest sound, and when it came, he bolted.

Down the nearest tunnel he flew, never considering the dank, musty smell stealing away the good, clean air.

Looming shapes rose suddenly all around him. Chip gasped in surprise, veering away from one only to nearly collide with another.

Whichever way he turned, it made no difference. He was hemmed in on all sides, and, at long last, Chip stopped short, heart pounding more powerfully than he had thought it capable of.

Thick darkness still surrounded him. So frightened he could hardly move, Chip curled himself into a ball. He closed his eyes, his whole body aching for fear and the longing to not be alone.

A few moments passed before Chip noticed the light.

Tentatively, he opened his eyes and saw that, though still a good distance off, something was illuminating the tunnel. He rose slowly. Fear still clamored for his attention, but the rabbit felt its hold shaking loose. He could see now the strange, looming forms that had frightened him so.

Countless toadstools of all shapes, sizes, and varieties filled the tunnel. Chip stared up in awe at the tangled forest surrounding him, some of the toadstools rising close to the tunnel’s ceiling, others remaining near to the ground, but all of them impossibly vibrant.

He was as entranced by this underground wonder as he had been by the vivid wildflowers in the forest clearing. This, however, was a sight all its own. Whether it was deepest green, richest purple, or impossibly bold red, color was everywhere, and all the while, the light led him on, lending a brilliance to everything it touched.

Yet, when he reached its source, it wasn’t at all what Chip expected.

A solitary diamond lay on the rock just as it had in his dream, only this time, there was no sign of the light fading. The jewel lay at the entrance of a new tunnel, which branched to the left and down. If it led deeper underground, Chip thought, perhaps he would find Alfeus and Beauregard. He could see specks of light further down the path, and he suspected that they came from more jewels.

With no further hesitation, Chip continued on, no longer afraid, for, though he had not consciously thought it, some piece of him understood that when fear had kept him from speaking, his desperate need had been a prayer, and it had been heard.

*

Until next time,

Alexandria

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Book Review: The Crowns of Croswald

I’m really delighted to share this wonderful story with you, The Crowns of Croswald by D.E. Night.

Read my full review below!

*

Ivy Lovely is just another scaldrony maid, unknown to all except the unkind Helga and her one beloved friend, the dwarf Rimbrick.

But all her anonymity is about to be swept away.

A world of Scrivenists and Royals awaits, of magical training, and mysteries untold. But dangerous enemies are lurking, and it remains to be seen whether Ivy Lovely, with the help of a few enduring friends, is up to the task of facing them.

D.E. Night has successfully woven an enchanting tale full of magical wonders and excitement. The world-building is rich and the descriptions of Croswald and its residents so vivid that readers will feel as if they’ve been swept into a glenagerie bottle, a world of pure and vivid imagination, right along with Ivy and her friends.

The world of Croswald is unlike any other, and there is no doubt that all who pick up this book will find themselves better off for having visited it.

*

If you’d like to connect with D.E. Night, you can do so on Goodreads. The Crowns of Croswald is available at Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million.

The next installment of Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves is coming soon. We’re nearing the end of Chip’s adventures, and I’m so excited to share their conclusion over the next few weeks!

Until then,

Alexandria

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Do You Suppose She’s A Wildflower?

See that gorgeous bloom right there? It’s called a Balloon flower, and boy, am I glad that they come up every year.

A real fascination with flowers has been growing in me. This year, I wanted to watch one of these beauties bloom.

The pictures don’t do it justice. These buds are such a deep purple, and their color gets more vibrant and intense the closer they are to blooming.

Early one morning, I ventured outside and crouched down to wait.

It took some time for the petals to open.

In other circumstances, impatience would have gotten the better of me, but on that particular morning, I was captivated.

I sat there with a silly grin on my face, completely delighted to witness the slow bloom of this flower. The petals were about halfway open when His whisper came: I am captivated by watching you grow.

It changed the whole moment.

I am captivated by watching you grow.

I was so entranced by this flower blooming, but my momentary delight is nothing compared to the steadfast joy God feels as He watches every one of His children become more fully who they’re meant to be in Christ.

Let this truth soak in.

You’re a wildflower, girl.

And you have a Father in Heaven Who is delighting – spilling over with JOY – to watch you bloom.

I’m praying that you feel so held and adored today.

And would you please pray for me? I have some exciting ideas for how 21:25 Books can grow, but I want to make sure I only follow where God leads. Thank you!

Until next time,

Alexandria

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Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves: Installment Nine

It’s been a little while, friends! I’m excited to get back in the swing of things, sharing stories and bookish love with you all.

Without further ado, here is the next installment of our favorite rabbit’s adventures!

*

“I might have known!”

“Now, Alfy,” Beauregard said, sidling as close as he dared to the chipmunk, “don’t be like that. You know I never meant to lose your hazelnuts, and I certainly never meant for you to be near drowned in an underground river. Why, I didn’t even know you’d be there!”

Of course, you already know, reader, that the only word Alfeus really heard was hazelnuts.

“Of course not!” he cried. “You never mean anything, and yet it happens! Chaos ensues! Whole stores of hazelnuts lost! All because of those rascally, conniving, miscreant rabbits of yours! And you, Beauregard Beaver, do nothing but encourage them!”

“Now, Alfy,” Beauregard protested once more. “Conniving seems a bit severe. Mischievous, perhaps. And as for that particular mishap, it was awfully funny,” the beaver concluded with a barely concealed laugh.

Alfeus’ paws clenched tightly at his sides as if he were willing the steam to stay firmly between his ears.

Chip, unable to help himself, giggled and asked, “What happened, Beauregard?”

The beaver had hoped a certain inquisitive rabbit might ask, and swift as a river, he launched into the tale. “Well, you see, it was like this –“

“Not another word, Beauregard!” Alfeus declared.

Beauregard smiled, giving Chip a conspiratorial wink. “If you insist, Alfeus. But looky here! I see I’m not the only one who’s taken up with rabbits.”

Alfeus huffed. “Chip is nothing like those ruffians, thank you!”

 Chip interjected before more bickering could ensue. “I’m on a quest,” he blurted, feeling just a bit silly for how grand he made it sound.

But Beauregard didn’t blink an eye. “A quest!” he boomed. “Tell me more, Chip!”

“Well,” Chip continued, feeling suddenly shy, “I prayed for something a while ago, and now I keep wondering if the questions we ask and the prayers we say really matter to Him at all.”

Beauregard’s eyes fairly sparkled at Chip’s words. “You’re looking for Abaline, I take it?”

“Yes!” Chip cried, wondering how Beauregard had known. “Alfeus said we must go behind the waterfall and through the cavern, but when we tried, well… I mean no offense, but your friends brought a dragon –“

“The Cerulean Drake, no less!” Alfeus pointed out.

“Yes,” Chip continued, “and her fire woke the most enormous lizard I’ve ever seen, and you rescued us, and, well… we lost our way.”

As he shared this, Chip couldn’t help but feel discouraged by the unexpected, albeit adventurous, turn of events, but Beauregard only chuckled.

“I don’t know how to tell you this, my boy, but you never found your way to begin with!”

“Never found it? What do you mean?”

“Well, if you ever hope to find Abaline, you have to take the back entrance, of course.”

“The back entrance?” Alfeus sputtered in disbelief. “Do explain yourself, you exasperating creature!”

Beauregard’s eyes twinkled in such a way that made Chip quite certain that teasing Alfeus was one of the beaver’s greatest delights. Still, he did agree to explain himself. “Try as you might, careful as you are, if you go in the front entrance, you’re bound to disturb the lizards. Whereas the back entrance avoids them altogether!”

Beauregard beamed at his flabbergasted companions. “Shall I show you the way?”

Shocked and silent, both Chip and Alfeus followed the beaver as he moseyed down the riverbank, each of them trying equally hard not to think about the underwater debacle they could have avoided if only they’d known. Alfeus was, perhaps, a bit more prickly about the whole affair, seeing as he had been so utterly confident of the way to Abaline.

Beauregard’s cheerful conversation soon distracted them from all their bemoaning and befuddlement, however, and they began to really enjoy the sunshine and breeze, and yes, even the rushing of the river to their left.

“You see,” the beaver was saying, “living by the water gives me plenty of opportunity to become acquainted with all manner of adventurers and the like. More often than not, those in search of Abaline know no better than to take the waterfall path, and they soon end up in the same state as you.

“So, I’ve taken to making my way up and down the river – a bit like a proper Guardian, you might say – so I can help any unfortunates who end up on the unfriendly side of the Obsidian Lizard. When I heard what the young rabbits were up to plotting, I decided it might be the perfect time to be close by.

“Of course, I was only expecting them, but that Frederick made sure to tell me more were on the way. I shudder to think what might have happened if a certain beaver hadn’t been there to pull two forlorn, fellow creatures out of the river,” Beauregard said wistfully, casting a sidelong glance at Alfeus, who did not fail to notice.

“Yes, yes, I’m sure we’re very grateful!”

“I’m very glad to hear that, Alfy. And what with all this gratitude we’re all feeling, it only seems right that you might forgive me for all those lost hazelnuts.”

“Oh, for goodness’ sake. Yes, Beauregard, all is forgiven. Are we nearly there?”

“Not much farther now,” the beaver answered, looking decidedly chipper.

“Well, before we get there, I’d like to know more about those four rabbits and that dragon,” Chip said.

“Ah, yes, the Cerulean Drake,” Beauregard said in very sage tones. “She’s usually much friendlier, but she’s just laid her eggs, you see, and she’s fiercely protective of her babes, especially at this early stage.”

“Don’t tell me they went near the grotto!” Alfeus fairly squeaked.

Even Beauregard, supportive as he was of the rabbits’ mischief, looked a bit abashed at this. “I’m afraid so.”

Seeing Chip’s look of admiring wonderment, though, the beaver instantly brightened. “They meant the babies no harm, you understand! They only wanted a look at the eggs. Sightings of a Cerulean Drake’s eggs are precious and rare. Only the very brave and determined can find them, and if there’s anything that those four rabbits are – Roger, Roderick, Eloise, and Fred are their names – it’s brave and determined.”

“Wow,” was all Chip could manage, and though the rabbits’ adventure had certainly affected his own, he couldn’t help but be a bit in awe of them.

Alfeus caught the look and pleaded, “Now, please, Chip, don’t go getting any ideas.”

“Seeing as he’s gotten this far, Alfy, I’d guess that our friend Chip has already had plenty of ideas. And he’ll need a few more if he’s to make it to Abaline. And speaking of!”

At this, the beaver gestured forward where a dark tunnel entrance could just barely be seen beneath a mass of trailing vines and leaves, some a rich green, some deepest purple. And resting ever so gently on these leafy tangles were perhaps two dozen moths, all nectar and peach and beige in hue.

As the companions came closer, the moths all began to stir and flutter about.

In moments, one moth in particular was flying carefully before each of them.

“Now, no sudden movements, mind,” Beauregard said. “This moth will lead us on our way, but they only help the very gentle at heart. Don’t trouble yourself too much, Alfy,” the beaver continued as the moth came to rest on the chipmunk’s nose. “I’m sure they’ll make an exception just this once.”

It was all Alfeus could do to keep still while the moth judged his merit.

You’ll be proud to know that he chose to ignore that particular comment.

Apparently satisfied, the small, winged creature flew towards the tunnel entrance, slipping behind the vines. Quickly now, before they lost their guide, Chip, Alfeus, and Beauregard followed, braving the underground once more.

*

Any guesses on what waits in the underground?

And if you’d like to read past installments, just click here.

Until next time,

Alexandria

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Book Review: Esme’s Wish

Happy Thursday, book lovers!

Today, I’m so excited to share with you a new-to-me book, Esme’s Wish by Elizabeth Foster.

What a wild, adventurous ride this book turned out to be! You can read my full review below.

*

Have you ever wished for something lost to be found?

Esme is a young girl, full of unwavering hope, who has continued to wish for the same thing: that her mother, Ariane, lost at sea many years ago, is still alive and will return home. Long after everyone else has given up, Esme still believes that her mother’s return is possible.

But the search for her mother takes an unexpected turn as headaches and visions from the past begin to plague Esme, all of them leading her to a land that she thought only existed in Ariane’s stories.

Aeolia.

Could the stories be more than just that?

Soon enough, Esme discovers how very real Aeolia is when she unexpectedly discovers it as she walks along the beach. Suddenly, she is plunged into a land full of magic, sirens, and mysterious Gifts that allow Aeolia’s residents to give shape to water and sing impossible things into existence.

But all is not well. Full of wonder as this world might be, people’s Gifts are failing and the land is wracked by earthquakes that threaten to reduce Aeolia to rubble. Still, there is hope. Clues abound in Ariane’s paintings, and Esme and her friends bravely follow them, determined to uncover the mystery of her mother’s disappearance and Aeolia’s failing magic.

Elizabeth Foster has handcrafted a fantastic world that will long remain in the memories of all who are willing to explore it. Every description seems like paint swept across canvas, creating vivid images of Aeolia that leave readers wondering if it just might be real. But perhaps the most stunning thing of all is that Esme’s Wish reminds us that having hope isn’t childish at all; it is bravery at its finest and we should all take hold of it as fiercely as Esme, the young woman courageous enough to go in search of lost things.

*

You can connect with Elizabeth Foster on Facebook

Esme’s Wish is available on Books-A-Million and Barnes & Noble.

What are you currently reading? This is a space to celebrate our love for books, so be sure to share in the comments!

Until next time,

Alexandria

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Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves: Installment Eight

Here you’ll find adventures, not for the faint of heart.

*

“Perhaps it was nothing,” Alfeus suggested hopefully, but his voice was shaking.

Another bellowing roar sent countless pebbles and shards of rock skittering across the cavern floor.

“Alfeus…” Chip whispered.

Before the chipmunk could utter a word, the opposite end of the cavern exploded in flame and the rush of powerful wings. The heat was immediate and intense, but it was nothing compared to Chip’s first glimpse of the dragon clawing its way into the cavern, its blue scales alight with the fire’s reflection.

Yet, even as Chip took in the sight of the enormous, and frighteningly angry, creature, he was distracted by an altogether unexpected noise. He almost missed it, so loud was the crackling of the dragon’s flame, but there it was again – laughter, louder now as four small figures shot across the cavern towards the flabbergasted Chip and Alfeus.

They were rabbits like him, Chip realized, who were apparently rather amused by the fire-breathing behemoth pursuing them with a vengeance.

The four raced past them, making for the center tunnel where the river flowed, shouting over their shoulders as they passed by.

“I wouldn’t linger!”

“Not unless you want your whiskers singed!”

“And just ask Roderick,” said the third with an impish grin, and the last bunny – who possessed decidedly short whiskers – agreed, “It’s simply not worth it, lads!”

“Why, why you –!” Alfeus began, and then Chip had him by the paw, pushing him into the tunnel’s confines where the dragon could not reach them.

Chip was right, of course. The dragon could not.

But his flames could.

Alfeus thought of this only just in time, and he pulled his frantic friend below the river’s surface, thanking God for the water as they looked up to find the tunnel above bathed in flame.

Ever so slowly, the flames disappeared, and the gems encrusted in the wall flared brightly, almost as if they had absorbed the heat and grown all the more brilliant because of it.

As soon as the fire cleared, both Chip and Alfeus rose, breathing in great gulps of air as they broke the water’s surface. The current of the underground river was growing stronger, but there was no dry ground available to them, and the pair was forced to let the river carry them where it would.

All around them, sound bounced and echoed. First, the gathering rush of water as the river speedily carried on its way, then the delighted whoops and cries of the four young rabbits, followed by the enraged roar of a fierce dragon, who was, for once, quite aggravated by her awesome size, for it kept her from pursuing those very rabbits who had been the source of her trouble from the start.

Yet, underneath it all, Chip could hear something more, a skittering sound, unobtrusive at first, but undeniably growing.

“Alfeus,” Chip called, “do you hear that?”

The chipmunk gazed down the tunnel, listening. “Claws on stone,” he whispered, more to himself than to Chip.

“What?” the rabbit cried.

But Alfeus didn’t seem to be listening. “The dragon’s fire.” With those words, the chipmunk jerked back to attention. “Chip, the heat from the dragon’s flames, it will –“

But it was much too late for warnings.

The danger was upon them now!

Sound engulfed them, and Chip suddenly understood Alfeus’ whisper.

Claws on stone.

Untold numbers of them.

The very walls of the tunnel seemed alive as the fire lizards swarmed down the tunnel walls, covering them with the chaotic, shimmering movement of their fiery red forms. The river continued to carry Chip and Alfeus in a now frenzied rush.

There was nothing they could do but watch in fascination as the fire lizards’ rough crimson skin began to glow while they greedily absorbed the heat from the dragon’s flames.

The tunnel began to feel uncomfortably warm as steam began to rise from the water, dampening Chip’s and Alfeus’ fur.

The fire lizards were moving closer to the river, and the water was growing warmer in response, but it wasn’t until a terrifically deep boom sounded that Alfeus felt truly afraid.

He swam as best he could towards Chip, and when he spoke, his voice was low, but urgent. “Steady now, my friend.”

They watched as, one by one, the fire lizards dropped into the water, filling the tunnel – now so enormous that it was practically a cavern in its own right – with great plumes of steam.

All the while, the deep booms were growing louder, until the tunnel walls began to thrum with the force of them.

Nearly all of the fire lizards were in the water now, and Chip began to squirm at the sudden heat.

“Alfeus, what are they doing?” Chip shouted, really frantic now.

The answer was immediate. “They’re warming the water.”

And before Chip could question why, he looked up to find two immense eyes, red like coals, staring into his own with an intensity that burned.

The Obsidian Lizard, wakened by the dragon’s flames and the intrusion of so many into his underground home, crashed down into the river.

For the briefest moment, Chip caught a glimpse of the creature’s hide, smooth like black glass, except for where meandering veins of red made the lizard look like he was burning from within.

In the next instant, a wave of water and steam, triggered by the Obsidian Lizard’s bulk, covered Chip and Alfeus, leaving them with nothing by heat and the need to escape it.

The river first pushed, then pulled, sending Chip spiraling down to its depths before sending him tantalizingly close to the surface and air. He could see nothing, do nothing, could only feel as the heat bit and choked and consciousness slipped –

But then there was a brief glimmer of light and something took hold, and suddenly, Chip knew clean air and cool breeze and dry ground.

He rested and he breathed, and soon enough, let out a half-choked laugh of relief as Alfeus’ familiar, indignant tone reached his ears, grateful beyond measure that his friend was alive and well.

Gratitude, however, was quite the last thing on Alfeus’ mind. In fact, the best the bedraggled chipmunk could manage was an utterly dismayed cry of, “Oh no, not you,” as he looked into the endearingly cheerful face of their rescuer, Beauregard Beaver.

*

Until next time, reader.

And be on the lookout for some exciting news about 21:25 Books! You won’t want to miss it.

Alexandria

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Book Review: The One with the Scraggly Beard

This week, I’m thrilled to share The One with the Scraggly Beard by Elizabeth Withey with you. This illustrated children’s story is well worth the read. Though the words are few, they are rich and sure to stay with you for a long time to come.

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Sometimes, the right words for a book this wonderful come slowly. The story’s events are seen through the eyes of a young boy who is overflowing with questions about someone he calls The One with the Scraggly Beard, a homeless man who sleeps beneath a nearby bridge.

Readers might expect a little boy to be full of questions, but what sets him apart is his ability to really see someone whose life is so unlike his own, while also possessing the innocent courage it takes to understand that they aren’t so very different from one another after all.

Elizabeth Withey and illustrator, Lynn Scurfield, have bravely crafted a story that will fill readers with the longing to recapture all that’s best about a child’s heart and the willingness to ask the hard questions and truly see painful realities.

Read this one aloud with your children. Your family won’t soon forget it, for The One with the Scraggly Beard is one of those rare books that will simultaneously leave your hearts broken for the hurting and put the pieces back together with the hope that, one day, as love and empathy flourish, the pain of all those sleeping under bridges tonight will be healed.

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You can connect with Elizabeth Withey on Twitter and Lynn Scurfield on Instagram

And for more wonderful stories, connect with Orca Books on Facebook

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This weekend, the next installment of Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves will be available! If you’d like to catch up on past installments, you can do that here.

Until then,

Alexandria

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Welcome to 21:25 Books

Happy Monday! I thought it would be nice to do a quick intro post for everyone who’s new around here 😊

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I’m Alexandria, fantasy writer & owner of 21:25 Books. I’ve dreamed of starting a Christian publishing company for a couple years now, & in October 2019, I took the leap & did it! God led me to John 21:25 on a Sunday morning when I was wondering what on earth was next.

This was His answer, sweeter than I could have guessed: “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”

Welcome to 21:25 Books, friend, a home for stories & writers who are passionate about filling this world with books about Him & the good things He does. For now, it’s just me & my pen, but I’m expectant for all He’ll do in the future.

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What about you? What God-given dreams are you praying for or witnessing come alive?

Alexandria

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Book Review: Carousel Dreams

Can you hear the music, reader? The melody spins in time with the horses, inviting you to step into four carousel dreams sure to entertain and delight with their lighthearted romance and historic ties to, perhaps, the most nostalgic of all carnival rides.

Carousel Dreams is a whirlwind book, bringing together four stories that are unconnected in all respects except one: each features a historic carousel and the couples that are brought together by their connections to it. Each story celebrates love stories that, while not without their difficulties, are pure and true. While reading, I was impressed by each author’s ability to set the stage so deftly and craft meaningful story lines. That being said, the stories, with A Carousel Wedding being the exception, left me wanting deeper character development and a richer historical backdrop.

All things considered, Carousel Dreams is the perfect summertime read, lighthearted and inspiring. While the stories could have had more depth, the characters remain real: flawed, hopeful, torn, courageous, and all the more relatable because of it. In its own unique way, each story will encourage readers to take risks, remain faithful, and hold onto hope.

Can you hear the music, reader? Step aboard the carousel, quickly now, before the music fades.

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Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves: Installment Seven

This week, Chip and Alfeus brave a hidden cavern that’s beautiful, but not altogether safe…

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They rested for a time there, near the entrance to the cavern. Chip took a long drink of cool, clear water from the small spring that trickled down into the cavern’s depths. Feeling refreshed now, he balanced carefully on his hind legs as he sniffed the air.

It was pleasantly cool, just what you might expect from a mysterious, hidden place like this one.

And yet…

There was something unusual about the smell the longer Chip sniffed, but he couldn’t quite place it. Something almost smoky.

“Whatever is your nose quivering about now?” Alfeus asked, and Chip frowned, for his friend almost sounded nervous.

“What’s wrong, Alfeus?”

The chipmunk, rubbing his snout in distracted agitation, answered briskly, “I’m not altogether fond of some of the underground residents, if you must know.”

“Why? Who lives here?”

“Fire lizards,” Alfeus said. “They’re changeable creatures, by all accounts, and were no great help when the forest stood at odds.”

“So, they’re dangerous?”

“Well, I wouldn’t exactly call them enemies,” the chipmunk offered, shifting uncertainly. “I wouldn’t exactly call them friends, either.”

“And you’re certain that the cavern is the only way to reach Abaline?” Chip asked, feeling the warning twinge of danger, which made his left ear start twitching, as he spoke.

“Yes. If you try to go past the waterfall and stay aboveground, Abaline is nowhere to be found. You go through, or you go nowhere at all.”

He knew Alfeus was right. Still, Chip felt compelled to point out, “You might have mentioned the fire lizards earlier.”

“I’m hoping they keep to themselves,” the chipmunk said, choosing to ignore the pointed comment. “They only venture out at high noon to soak up what heat they can before returning to the Obsidian Lizard.”

Chip, who had just begun to hop further into the cavern, stopped short. “Obsidian Lizard?”

“Yes, yes, that’s what I said! There’s no reason to get your fur ruffled about it. He only leaves the underground during the peak of summer, and that’s a ways off yet. Until then, his fellow lizards soak up heat to warm him. Somehow, it keeps the fire within him aflame.”

At this, Chip muttered something about the chipmunk’s words being less than reassuring.

“Better informed with a little healthy fear than ignorant and foolhardy because of it. Besides, only heat draws them out, and we won’t have any flame to attract them. I’m certain we’ll make it through without incident.”

“So, you managed it safely with Leah?”

“Well, no…” Alfeus confessed, his voice trailing off. “I only went as far as the cavern’s mouth. She insisted that it was something she must do alone. But I’ve always regretted not going with her all the way to Abaline.”

Chip offered an encouraging smile, for he could sense Alfeus’ discomfort, and he was truly grateful to have a friend along on this journey. “Well then, it’s a good thing you have another chance now.”

With that, they began to make their way through the luminous underground. Both Chip and Alfeus stared above and around them at the glittering walls, mouths agape.

Thousands upon thousands of gems and crystals were encrusted in the dark gray stone, but it seemed more than happenstance to Chip, as if someone had lovingly chosen just the spot from which each gem could best send out its own radiant glow.

He could not help but continue to stare in wonder; in fact, so enraptured was he that he nearly stumbled into the widening stream.

But can you blame him, reader?

After all, of the many things that Chip might have anticipated encountering, he had never expected to come face to face with a radiance such as this beneath the earth where no familiar rays of light might reach them.

What is this place? Chip silently pondered as they continued to follow the water’s meandering path.

“Where is the light coming from, I wonder?” said Alfeus in a whisper, which seemed only right in a place like this.

Once the question was voiced aloud, Chip naturally felt that he must investigate further. He hopped over to the wall on their left, placing a paw against the stone before jerking it back just as quickly when it proved to be quite warm.

When he mentioned this to Alfeus, the chipmunk did not look terribly surprised. “That’ll be the fire lizards. There are so many of them, they’re bound to heat the very walls themselves.”

Chip heard Alfeus, but did not reply. He had caught sight of movement in a nearby gem. Oh, how he wished Romulus were there to teach him their names, for he was sure to know them all.

There it was again!

Something darted to the right past a jewel, carnation pink in color, and Chip was sure the movement came from the other side of the wall, rather than from the reflection of the gem’s smooth surface.

“Alfeus, did you see that? I think there’s a passage on the other side of this wall!”

“Well, if there is, it’s the fire lizards who use it, and I’m not inclined to wait and see,” Alfeus said before marching resolutely forward.

Reluctantly, the young rabbit followed. Much as he might long to uncover the mysteries of the fire lizards’ dwelling, he knew Abaline was more important. They followed the flowing stream to their right, Chip admiring the way the stone shimmered beneath the perfectly clear water. He had expected to feel tense and afraid after learning of the fire lizards, but there was something altogether pure and comforting about this underground haven, and the rabbit found that he felt free to explore every crevice and nook, much to Alfeus’ consternation.

At last, they reached the back of the cavern. Before them, looking as if they had been there since time began, were three gaping tunnel entrances. The stream flowed merrily down the middle path, and Chip was tempted to simply follow it, but instead looked at Alfeus expectantly. “Which one do we take to Abaline?”

The chipmunk was silent, staring fixedly from one tunnel to the next.

“Alfeus?” Chip prompted.

He jumped a bit before replying, “Well, I can’t say that I know, Chip. I imagine that’s something that each seeker of Abaline’s treasure has to uncover for themselves.”

At the end of this lofty pronouncement, Alfeus looked away rather sheepishly, for after all, he truly did want to be useful and was bothered when he felt he was not.

“That’s all right, Alfeus,” Chip said, noticing his friend’s embarrassment. “We’ll figure it out.”

He hopped forward to the tunnel on the left and sniffed, immediately scrunching up his nose in distaste. It smelled damp and unfriendly, and something in the heavy staleness of it warned Chip against taking that path.

“Alfeus, what does the tunnel on the right smell like to you?”

Hurriedly, the chipmunk scampered over, taking a good and proper whiff before sighing with delight at the scent that greeted him. “Hazelnuts, Chip,” he breathed. “Mountains and mountains of them!”

Alfeus was several feet past the entrance before Chip managed to stop him. But then, all of a sudden, the headiest sensation swept over him, enveloping him in the scent of lilac, just as if he were back in his grandmother’s burrow beneath the grandest lilac bush that Everleaf Forest had ever seen.

Alfeus continued to mutter about hazelnuts as Chip turned to stare down the tunnel, breathing in his favorite smell. He was just about to make his way closer to it when his left ear twitched violently.

For one pivotal moment, Chip’s mind cleared, and he was struck by the pungent wave of rot rising up from the tunnel’s depths. He pushed the hazelnut-crazed chipmunk out of the tunnel until they were far back enough for the smells to fade.

Though Alfeus had, at first, been overtaken by indignant hysterics, only a few minutes passed before he returned to his own, rather persnickety self. “Confound it all! What sort of depraved mind makes false promises of hazelnuts?”

“At least you didn’t get a whiff of what was really coming from that tunnel,” Chip choked out, still nearly gagging from the unrelenting stench of it. Still, he managed a smile at Alfeus’ dramatics.

The chipmunk was yet to be appeased. “I refuse to tolerate such deceitfulness! Such foul play! One nice, wholesome adventure is all a chipmunk asks for in life, and if anyone else comes to muck it up, it’s me they’ll have to answer to!”

It was then that a roar sounded, so terrible and deep that it made the very walls around them tremble.

Chip looked at Alfeus. “You were saying?”

*

Any guesses on where (or who) the roar is coming from? Share your ideas using #bookofroseleaves

Until next week,

Alexandria

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Book Review: A Mosaic of Wings

This week, I’m introducing you to one of new favorite authors, Kimberly Duffy! Check out my review of her debut release below!

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Readers are always searching for those rarest of books that not only entertain and delight you, but also work their way deep into your spirit, finding an eternal home there. A Mosaic of Wings is one of them. The story opens with Nora, a passionate student of entomology at Cornell University, who finds beauty and wonder in all of God’s creation, but particularly in the world of insects. But society insists that she cannot add anything of value to a man’s field, and Nora soon finds herself opposed on all sides, most fiercely by her step-father, who promotes a advantageous match as the only proper path for her.

Still, some friends remain true, among them a favorite professor who longs to see her flourish in the field. Before long, Nora finds herself swept off to India, a land all warmth and spice and passion, competing for a scholarship that just might give her the freedom she’s craving to boldly pursue her dreams. It will not be long, though, before this new land and its people, along with an unexpected friend from home, begin to shape Nora into a stronger and more courageous woman of God than ever before, making her one of those rare fictional characters who are most worthy of emulating.

Without doubt, Kimberly Duffy has woven an enchanting tale that will captivate anyone with the courage to pick up this book and embrace all the ways it will challenge and change you.

Connect with Kimberly Duffy on Facebook and Instagram

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Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves: Installment Six

For those with adventurous hearts, here is the next installment of Chip’s story.

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Both Chip and Alfeus froze, frantically thinking what to do.

There was no cover nearby, save for the tall grass next to them, which now housed an ominous silence.

Suddenly, a huge form exploded from the grass, all fire and speed, and Chip bolted without another thought. He traveled fast, for his powerful hind feet could carry him far, but Chip soon noticed in horror that Alfeus was not with him.

He turned sharply about and was stunned to find Alfeus boldly confronting an adolescent fox.

Chip’s thoughts were a scrambled mess. The vicious attack was coming, and how could he stop it? The fox was almost upon his friend.

And then a commanding paw rose high in the air, and Alfeus’ voice rang out. “Wilfred, stop!”

To Chip’s astonishment, the fox reared back, sliding a bit in his attempt to stop.

Alfeus wasted not a moment. “Wilfred Fox, you hasty thing! You might try making certain it’s not a friend you’re about to clamp your jaws onto!”

Wilfred hung his head, managing to look mildly sheepish. “Sorry, Alfy.”

“Hmmph! You most certainly are not. Impetuous young whippersnapper,” Alfeus muttered as he turned sharply about, his fur nearly standing on end from agitation.

“Follow me, Wilfred! You might as well be useful,” Alfeus shouted over his shoulder before stopping in front of Chip, who still hadn’t moved. “Are you going to stand there frozen in stupefaction or are you coming?”

The frazzled chipmunk did not wait for a reply, but rather marched on toward some undisclosed destination.

The fox trotted up beside Chip as they both moved to follow Alfeus. You’ll forgive our rabbit friend for casting an uncertain glance at Wilfred, noticing, in particular, as he did so the glint of his small, sharp teeth.

Wilfred caught the look. “I’m Wilfred,” he said, clearly taking great pride in the declaration.

“Chip,” the rabbit whispered.

Wilfred laughed, much to Chip’s embarrassment. “You’re in no danger now that I know you’re a friend.”

Chip wasn’t altogether sure he was comforted by that reassurance, but they continued on side-by-side all the same.

It was not long before the sound of rushing water met Chip’s ears, and he was soon confronted by a river more vast than any he’d ever before seen. Though a tremor of fear swept through him, his eyes lit up, for he guessed where the next part of their journey must take them.

“We have to cross it, don’t we?” Chip asked.

Alfeus, still smarting from Wilfred’s bit of mischief, offered Chip a less than comforting grin. “We’ll see how eager you are when you learn our mode of transportation.”

Chip frowned, looking at Wilfred, who said, “My jaws,” as nonchalantly as if he were telling Chip the time.

At first, the rabbit’s eyes widened, but Chip forced himself to remain calm. They were expecting him to be frightened, weren’t they? And, after all, he had wanted this adventure. He had best enjoy it, scares and all.

“I’ll do it,” Chip declared in the next breath. “But you could go first, Alfeus,” he added quickly. “Elders and all.”

The chipmunk’s eyes widened as Wilfred choked back a poorly disguised laugh. “Elders, is it? Hmmph! A good dunk would serve you both right,” he muttered before running a ways down the riverbank, in search of something.

A moment later, he found it. “The stepping stones are over here,” Alfeus called. “Let’s get this over with, Wilfred.”

Together, the fox and the rabbit hurried to Alfeus’ side, where Chip realized that what the chipmunk referred to as stepping stones were more like small boulders.

They seemed awfully large, and the gap between them awfully wide for a smallish fox to make it to the river’s opposite side.

Wilfred caught his doubtful expression. “Don’t worry, rabbit,” he said, “I’ve done this loads of times.”

And with that, he gingerly picked Alfeus up in his mouth, and they were off. The sight of the rushing current made Chip feel a little sick as he watched Wilfred perch precariously on each boulder before taking a flying leap to the next. It seemed impossible that he should manage it all so nimbly, but the pair made it to the far shore without incident.

Chip breathed a sigh of relief until Wilfred began making his way back, and the rabbit remembered it was his turn.

“Ready, rabbit?” Wilfred asked with a cheeky grin once he returned.

“I’m ready,” Chip replied.

The fox picked Chip up slowly and gently, but Chip still had to fight every instinct he had to struggle and flee and find a sheltered place to hide.

But he knew he must be still if he ever hoped to reach Abaline and find an answer, so he took a deep breath, making sure to keep his eyes wide open as Wilfred leapt for the first boulder.

In that first instant, Chip truly understood the risk that Wilfred was taking by carrying them across. The rocks were slick from the river water and moss.

The fox steadied himself carefully on the first rock, and finding purchase, jumped to the next. So it went for the next few boulders, and Chip felt he could breathe easier now. There were not so many rocks left now. Alfeus was getting closer all the time, and soon –

The water engulfed him, and it was like swimming through ice. He could not think or breathe, and then – smack! – Chip’s small frame collided with cold stone, and his thoughts were all a jumble like the chaotic water.

What of Mama and Papa? What about Abaline? What of all his prayers and longings now?

And then something other than the cold took hold, and he was being pulled from the water, and there was light and grass and the hot sun to warm his slick fur.

He lay on the riverbank panting, unable to speak for the moment. Wilfred was lying beside him, equally bedraggled and battered. Chip looked about for Alfeus from where he lay, but awareness was slow to come back, and it was a few more minutes until he realized that the chipmunk had been frantically hovering and muttering over them all this time.

“Of all the fool things for me to say! ‘A good dunk would serve you right!’ I never meant it! But see here, you fool chipmunk, of what comes of being hasty with your words.”

“Alfeus,” Chip said softly. “It’s all right. I’m all right.” His breath was slowly coming back to him even as the overjoyed chipmunk wrapped him in a tight hug.

Laughing softly, Chip rose gingerly to his feet, Wilfred having sprung up a moment before, the fox’s spirit not at all dampened by their unexpected dive into the frigid river.

Already, the sun was beginning to dry their fur, and Wilfred’s playfulness was fast returning. A magnificently mauve butterfly swooped past the fox’s snout, and Wilfred snapped at it before setting off in chase.

“Fierce as they come, but he gets distracted by a butterfly,” Alfeus said with a shake of his head and a kindly laugh. “You’ll never meet another like him,” the chipmunk concluded, looking at Chip.

But Chip was not paying attention. Instead, he was searching all about him in a frightful panic. “I’ve lost it!” he cried.

“Lost what?” Alfeus replied. “Whatever’s gotten into you?”

“Leah’s satchel, it’s gone! Maybe it got caught on one of the rocks. Wilfred could take me back to look. Wilfred!”

“Now, wait just a minute!” Alfeus commanded, deciding he had had quite enough of that kind of talk. “Crossing the river on his own will be easy enough for Wilfred, but carrying you twice more is far too risky. I won’t have it! If you’re meant to have the satchel, you’ll find it along the way.”

Our young rabbit friend so wanted to argue. Some of Leah’s most interesting finds had been secreted in that satchel. But as Chip looked at Wilfred pouncing about in the sun, he knew he could not risk the well-being of his unlikely friend.

Seeing that his point had been made, Alfeus clapped his paws together decisively. “Let’s carry on then.”

Hopping across the wide stretch of grass, Alfeus and Chip both caught up with Wilfred, who was still caught up in his antics. “You’d best be making your way home, Wilfred.”

“You’re not coming with us?” Chip said, his heart sinking. He’d grown very fond of the fox and all his mischief.

“I can’t. My dad will be mad as it is that I crossed the river alone. I’ve got to make it home before supper.”

“I hope it’s not chipmunk,” Alfeus muttered, crossing his furry arms.

Wilfred nudged Alfeus playfully before bounding around Chip and back towards the river bank, “It was nice meeting you, Chip!” he called over his shoulder. “I never knew rabbits could be so adventurous. See you, Alfy!”

With a swish of his bushy tail and a few leaps and bounds, Wilfred was across the river and out of sight.

I’m afraid it will be a long while until we see him again.

~

Without a further word, Alfeus began leading the way upriver.

Now that the excitement had died down, Chip’s mind was overflowing with questions. “Alfeus, where are we heading now? I’m thankful that scare in the river turned out all right. But I’ve been thinking. Those boulders are awfully big to be called stepping stones. Why are they called that? Were they always there? Who –“

Alfeus, astonished – as all who meet Chip are – by the racing current of his curiosity, managed to get a word (or several) in. “The stones were Leah’s doing, if you can believe it,” he said.

“Oh, I can,” Chip declared, thinking back on all the stories Romulus had told him about his aunt and all her many escapades.

“This forest used to be horribly divided, and it seemed nothing could bring the two sides together. But that Leah, she was an unexpected instrument of healing for this place, and with her help, there was reconciliation long after the inhabitants of Almea had lost hope for it.

“Afterwards, the great bears of the North rolled these boulders down to the river to create safe passage.” Here Alfeus paused, glancing sidelong at Chip with a grin. “Or, at least, relatively safe passage.

“All the same, the rocks are meant to honor the healing of The Great Divide, as we call it, and to help us remember that no matter the disagreements that might come, hoping for peace is never a childish thing.”

Chip was silent for a moment, warmth spreading all through him. “I like this place, Alfeus.”

Smiling, the chipmunk replied, “Almea’s got a certain something of her own, hasn’t she?”

Chip couldn’t have agreed more wholeheartedly, and I think that by the end, dear reader, you will, too.

It was not long after when they reached the base of a roaring waterfall, and Alfeus gestured grandly in its direction. “Here we are, Chip! Just beyond this waterfall lies the rest of our path.”

“Not more water,” Chip groaned.

Alfeus began tapping his foot. “It will only last a moment. Do you want to find Abaline or not?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Well, then through the waterfall and into the cavern we go,” Alfeus retorted and turned to do just that.

“A cavern?” Chip asked, his ears perking up.

“Yes, a cavern,” Alfeus answered, but he refused to explain further.

Suddenly, Chip wrinkled up his nose in consternation. “But wait. If the cavern is behind the waterfall, why did we have to cross the river in the first place? Couldn’t we have just gone in on the other side?”

Alfeus turned to face him in utter exasperation. “You are an altogether incurably curious creature, has anyone ever told you that? Don’t bother, I already know the answer!” On a roll now, the chipmunk continued. “Do you expect me to know all the inner workings of this place? All I know is that if you try to go in on the right side, there is no cavern to be seen. So yes, we most certainly did have to cross the river. Though why I had to lose every last one of my beautiful hazelnuts in the bargain, I’ll never know,” he concluded with a longing sigh.

Chip was silent then, feeling guilty, for in the aftermath of the river, he had quite forgotten that Alfeus had stored his hazelnuts in his satchel. Chip hoped that before their adventure was done, he could make it up to Alfeus.

For now, though, he had to focus on following the chipmunk, who was already through the curtain of water. Chip hurriedly followed suit, ready to apologize as soon as he rejoined the chipmunk, but the words were forgotten as soon as he shook off the water and looked around.

The whole cavern was alight with the brilliant glow from a thousand glittering gems and stones, which were encrusted in the walls. It was a place of wonders such as Chip had never seen.

After a moment of silent wonderment, Chip returned to himself. “I’m sorry about your hazelnuts, Alfeus.”

“Never you mind about that, Chip. There are more where those came from.”

He seemed about to continue forward, but then he paused and looked at the rabbit. “You told me that you asked Him something and haven’t heard back. What were you wanting to know?”

Chip seemed a little bashful, but he confided in Alfeus nevertheless. “I asked Him what my purpose is.”

The chipmunk nodded in kindly approval. “Not a bad question at all, Chip,” he said quietly. “Not a bad question at all.”

But my question for you, reader, is can you guess what it is?

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Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves: Installment Five

And I’m back with a bite-size installment of Chip’s adventures! Enjoy!

*

A thousand new smells greeted Chip, and he was overwhelmed and delighted by every one of them. He felt drawn in so many directions that he could hardly decide which to explore first. A sharp, tangy smell led him to the right, but no sooner had he discovered the deep orange and raspberry colored flower that produced it than a whiff of something delicate and soft sent him bounding in the opposite direction.

Chip went from the deepest, coolest shade of impossibly large trees only to emerge into blazing sunlight that warmed him all through.

Nothing about this place was less than glorious, and he wanted to see every inch of it.

He had just come to rest beneath a hazel tree when something small and hard landed on his head. Gingerly rubbing his paw against the spot, Chip looked up only just in time to duck out of the way.

Nearly a dozen hazelnuts came tumbling to the earth, and an outraged chattering followed them. A small, furry head popped out from behind a leafy bough, and the chipmunk’s eyes went wide with suspicion.

“Don’t you think for even a moment about commandeering my hazelnuts! I worked all day for those, and I won’t have some upstart, whiskered fiend take what’s mine! I’ll have you know –.”

The chipmunk, mercifully, stopped mid-tirade to squint down at Chip.

Before Chip could decide how to respond to being called an upstart, whiskered fiend, the chipmunk was down the tree trunk and sniffing his satchel quite carefully.

The chipmunk’s ears perked up when he saw the initials, “L.T.,” on the side, and he looked up at Chip, his eyes bright with barely contained curiosity. “This here satchel used to be mine. I gave it to a fearsome badger who rescued me when I found myself at the end of a fox’s snout. And there isn’t an unfriendlier place to be.”

The chipmunk paused, catching sight of the rabbit’s chipped ear. Without any invitation, he scampered up Chip’s back as if he were just another tree to climb. “Seems as though you’ve met with some danger yourself.”

Chip tried to disguise his aggravation with only mild success. “No, I was born with it.”

“Hmm,” was all the chipmunk offered for comment before hopping down, oblivious to the annoyance he’d caused.

“Did you know her?” he asked.

“Know who?”

“The badger!” the chipmunk said in a tone that suggested Chip really ought to have known.

“I know her nephew, Romulus Took. He gave the satchel to me.”

The chipmunk regarded Chip silently for a few moments, and then, apparently making up his mind, held out his paw. “Name’s Alfeus, and I count as friend anyone who’s on good terms with Leah’s family.”

“My name’s Chip.”

“What brings you to Almea, Chip?” Alfeus asked as he began gathering his hazelnuts once more.

Before answering, Chip opened his satchel, gesturing for Alfeus to store his hazelnuts inside. Alfeus gratefully accepted. Then, “I’m looking for Abaline,” Chip explained.

Alfeus stopped suddenly, then grinned. “Now, that’s just what Leah said. I suppose I’ll have to help you like I helped her.”

Chip smiled, grateful that his first discovery in this strange place had been a friend.

~

The pair were walking beneath some low-hanging boughs when Alfeus decided it was his prerogative as Chip’s traveling companion to know details of the rabbit’s business. “Why do you care to find Abaline, if I may ask? This treasure she guards must be a mighty thing to you if you’re willing to travel all this way.”

Chip hesitated to share at first. But if Alfeus was a willing friend, then why not? “Well, I asked God something a while ago now, and I haven’t heard anything back. So, I’m wondering if my prayers really matter to Him at all.”

Alfeus remained uncharacteristically silent.

Chip waited as long as he could (a whole minute, in fact), but then he could hold back no longer. “Have you ever wondered anything like that, Alfeus?”

“Yes, I have.”

Another unbearable pause.

“And?”

Alfeus stubbornly looked ahead, but Chip could see the beginning of a smile. “And you’ll just have to see for yourself.”

An answer and not an answer, Chip thought to himself, and he felt rather tired of those. But just as he opened his mouth to say so, Alfeus unceremoniously clapped a paw over Chip’s whiskered muzzle.

The young rabbit heard it then, too.

A rustle in the grass.

Could it be an innocent passerby? Chip wondered hopefully.

But then dead silence fell, as if something were waiting for them to believe just that, and for a moment, before chaos erupted, the little rabbit felt the greatest longing for home.

*

What do you think is lying in wait for Chip and Alfeus? We’ll find out next week 🙂

Until then,

Alexandria

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Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves: Installment Four

Here we go on the next installment! I had a blast writing it, and I hope you enjoy it, too!

*

Speaking of places untold, Chip halted just outside of Romulus’ burrow, faced with the uncomfortable realization that he hadn’t the slightest idea where to begin his search for Abaline. But that couldn’t daunt him for long, and quick as a blink, Chip was across the clearing and sneaking into his home.

Some foodstuffs were hurriedly placed in a satchel gifted to him by Romulus, and then Chip returned to the clearing, lifting his quivering nose to breathe in the crisp night air.

A sudden breeze swept softly around and behind Chip, rustling his fur as it carried on its unhurried way, seeming to beckon Chip to follow.

Naturally, he did, and all that was familiar was left behind to wait for his return.

Moonlight illuminated Chip’s way through the forest, and his heart fluttered a little less for the way it kept the darkness from making monsters appear in familiar places.

He travelled some distance before he caught a whiff of flowers and wandered a little ways from the path to satisfy his curiosity and rumbling stomach. The food in his satchel would keep long enough for him to enjoy this scrumptious treat.

Sure enough, a clump of wildflowers waited for the young rabbit just beyond a towering oak, and Chip sat in the midst of their perfume for several minutes, happily munching away.

Satisfied now, he stayed where he was, enjoying the sheltering feel of tall grass and leafy blooms. There was one gathering of wildflowers that he had refused to munch on. The delicately unfurling petals ranged from richest purple to palest butter yellow.

They seemed to glitter in the starlight, and Chip was too enchanted to spoil the sight by eating them.

It was a much-treasured moment of peace until the shadow passed over him.

His whole body went rigid, poised to bound away to safety if he needed to. The whole forest went quiet and still; even the moonlight seemed to shine a little less brilliantly in suspense.

Chip could see nothing, and the shadow seemed to have passed. He was just feeling brave enough to go in search of better shelter when an immense, winged figure landed in front of him and blocked his escape.

Fear left him frozen, but no sooner had terror gripped him than a familiar voice spoke. “Must you travel so confounded fast, young Chip? Really! And without a word of thanks for putting the notion of Abaline into your head… however incidentally,” Nesbit said with an indignant sniff.

“Oh, Nesbit,” Chip cried in relief, “I’ve never been so happy to see you!”

The owl arched his brow, trying to decide whether he should feel flattered or insulted. “Yes, well, never mind that,” he hastily replied. “I gather that Romulus Took has been spinning his usual tales. If you’d only woken me, I could have spared you all that time.”

“How?” Chip asked, almost before Nesbit was finished speaking.

But the great owl was in a generous mood and said nothing. “Romulus’ stories are all well and good, but he certainly cannot tell you the road to take, whereas I,” he said with a satisfied ruffling of his feathers, “can show you.”

Chip felt a thrill of excitement rush through him, but still, he frowned, thinking back to the story he’d been told. “Romulus said his Aunt Leah found the treasure in a forest a long ways from here. Have you been there?”

Nesbit smiled. “I think you’ll find her meaning was different from what you might expect.”

Chip opened his mouth to speak, but Nesbit, wisely anticipating a barrage of questions, held up a wing to stop the inquisitive little character. “Now, if you can quell your excitement for a time, I’ll take you back to my tree, and we’ll get you on your way.”

“Go back home? But that’s not what Leah said at all! She said –.”

“Yes, so you said. But wonder’s tucked into all sorts of corners in this world, young Chip. Now, will you believe me long enough so that I can show you?”

Uncertain though he was, Chip knew the only thing for it was to follow, so off he went, running beneath Nesbit’s shadow through the night.

It was a short time later when they arrived at the familiar clearing. Chip looked around carefully before passing the last line of trees, making sure that no one was stirring.

Only one person was watching, but Chip failed to see her.

“Come, come, Chip, we haven’t got all blasted night,” Nesbit complained.

Chip fought back a chuckle, knowing that the owl was impatient to get back to sleep.

Soon enough, they both stood at the foot of the tree that Nesbit had claimed for his own many years ago.

“Now what?” Chip asked unceremoniously.

The owl looked indignant as he tapped a claw against the grassy earth. “Now what?” Nesbit let out a long-suffering sigh before the muttering began. “Why, thank you, Nesbit. How lucky I am, Nesbit, to live in the particular clearing where only a certain owl knows the one way to the treasure I’m seeking. Now what, indeed!” he snapped, and then his eyes flashed dangerously. “This is what!”

And before Chip could even utter a cry, he’d been swept up (carefully) in the owl’s claws, and the ground was a long ways away indeed.

In a mercifully short time, Chip was placed on Nesbit’s usual perch, and the owl settled in beside him. Chip curled up as tightly as he could, certain that if he relaxed for even the slightest moment, he was sure to fall.

Nesbit let out a hearty laugh. “A little less eager now, are we?” Then, more kindly, “Nothing to fear here, Chip, despite appearances. I will not let you fall.”

Chip barely managed a nod. “What are we doing all the way up here, Nesbit?” Our young rabbit cast a sidelong glance at his friend. “And when can we go back down?”

Chuckling softly, Nesbit replied, “You’ll be off this branch soon enough, lad. But you must hop along into the hollow. There, I promise you, you’ll see a sight fit to cure the worst of fears.”

Chip took a deep breath, forcing his eyes to stay open as he crept along the branch, his little body still shaking. Though the bravery of a moment felt like a lifetime, Chip did, indeed, make it to the opening in the tree, and he hopped inside at Nesbit’s encouragement.

The inside was warm and dark, but Chip failed to notice anything spectacular. “It’s just dark, Nesbit.”

“Give the light a moment, if you please.”

Without any further explanation, Nesbit  blocked the entryway with his wings, so that not even the moonlight could illuminate this secret space.

Nothing happened at first, and Chip was just about to ask what he should be looking for, but then a slight shimmer appeared on the far wall of the hollow.

He moved forward carefully, looking back at Nesbit only once. The owl gestured for him to keep watching.

The glow grew in intensity, amber in color, almost like a reflection of Nesbit’s eyes. The closer Chip came, the more brilliant and far-reaching the light became, until Chip had no choice but to close his eyes.

When once he opened them, a sight greeted him unlike any he’d ever seen.

Another opening had appeared on the other side of the tree, and beyond it, hills rolled away like a green sea to a forested expanse, while just beneath, a river busily flowed. The whole land was golden with the rising sun.

The little rabbit was awed, but the feeling could only keep him still for a moment.

Eagerly, Chip allowed Nesbit to carry him to the ground, and after a brief farewell, Chip started on his way. He had a longing in his heart, and if there was a treasure that could satisfy it, he would find it.

~

Not long after Chip left the clearing, a bent figure left the cover of the trees and made her way to Romulus’ burrow. She was old for a badger, and her steps were slow, but still, she managed to navigate the twists and turns until she came upon Romulus seated comfortably amidst his candlelight and trinkets.

“Aunt Leah!” Romulus cried, delighted to see a long-missed member of his family. “What are you doing here?”

“Here to stay, Romulus, if you’ll have me,” Aunt Leah replied with a worn smile. “I’m afraid my days of adventuring are behind me, whether I like it or not.”

“You’re welcome here, always,” Romulus assured, holding tightly to her frail, trembling paws.

Suddenly, Leah let out a raspy laugh. “That young rabbit ruffles old Nesbit’s feathers like I’ve never seen!”

“You have no idea, Aunt Leah,” Romulus said, joining in her laughter.

She smiled, but then her look turned shrewd. “Was that my old satchel I saw round that rabbit’s neck?”

“Did he take it?” Romulus asked. “I was hoping he would. I thought it might earn him a few friends along the way.”

“And enemies,” Aunt Leah replied, and her words were a whisper.

*

Until next time,

Alexandria

P.S. The watercolor painting of the rabbit is courtesy of Dana Fox’s wonderful book, Watercolor With Me: In the Forest. If you’ve ever wanted to give watercolor painting a try, I really recommend this book. I’ve been enjoying learning to paint so much, and it’s been such a stress reliever in this hectic time.

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Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves: Installment Three

I’m sorry for the long delay in sharing the next installment of the story. I hope you and your family will continue to enjoy Chip’s adventures as much as I’ve enjoyed writing about them!

*

“Long ago,” Romulus began, “when I was but a small, wide-eyed thing, I listened in on a whispered tale not meant for my young ears.

“My mother’s sister had always been the adventurous sort, full of fire and curiosity, not like your run-of-the-mill badger at all. Still, Mother listened to her tales with admiration and a kind of longing, a longing that I secretly shared.

“On this particular night, Mother tucked me in, saying it was time for the grown-ups to chat, but I knew that meant that a story of wild adventure was bound to be told, and I was determined not to miss it.

“Quietly, I padded down the tunnel, feeling quite certain, though I couldn’t have explained why, that a very different sort of story was about to be told.

“I nestled in the shadows, just shy of the firelight’s touch, and waited.

“Aunt Leah’s voice was smooth and buttery as she told her tale, and it began like this:

‘Once upon a time, a legend was told of a treasure hidden deep in a tangled forest far from here. T’wasn’t silver or gold, but something far better, if the stories of travelers are to be believed. Many have made the attempt, but few have ever laid eyes on it, for strength of will and bravery alone can only take you so far, and not near far enough to lay eyes on what Abaline guards.’

‘Abaline?’ my mother breathed.

‘Ah, yes. Abaline,’ Aunt Leah replied, smiling mysteriously. ‘Abaline, the great owl, is tasked with protecting this most precious of things, though it isn’t her alone who guards the way. Many protectors lie waiting along the perilous path to the owl’s haven, and I encountered many of them before I saw for myself the greatest of treasures.’

‘You mean you found it, Leah? Truly?’

‘That I did, Rose, and oh, was it worth every towering tree that I passed beneath on the long, winding road.’

Silence fell then, thick with curiosity.

Before long, my mother could not stand a moment more of it. ‘Well?’ she burst out at last. ‘For Heaven’s sake, Leah, what is it?’

‘I cannot tell you that, Rose,’ Leah replied softly, and she was instantly met with indignant cries of protest from Rose and Bartholomew.

‘Whyever did you tell us the story then?’ they demanded, nearly in unison.

‘Can’t you even give us one clue?’ Bartholomew asked.

Leah’s answer was quiet when it came. ‘All I can tell you is this, Barty. It’s a treasure fit to heal all the longing stored up in every heart that ever beat. There’s nothing else like it in all this world.’

Romulus’ burrow grew very quiet as the story came to an end. It had not been the tale of adventure Chip had been expecting, but one of mystery, and he and the badger were equally lost in thought .

After a moment, Romulus rose and began searching for something among his trinkets. “As you can imagine, Chip, my parents were less than satisfied with her answer. I suspect you feel the same. But here,” he said, raising his voice above the clatter of tumbling knick-knacks, “here is something that might be of great use to you.”

He turned around, but Chip was gone. Romulus chuckled, tossing the compass back onto its pile. After all, a bright, persistent rabbit like Chip was likely to find his way just as well without it.

Quick as he could, the badger returned to the entrance of his burrow, and he was just in time to see Chip quietly exit his own home before racing for the border of the clearing.

Romulus smiled as he watched the young rabbit, knowing as he did how the right story can set your heart a-racing and your paws a-running to places untold.

*

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Book Review: Redemption At The Eleventh Hour

Synopsis (provided by author):

“Living off thievery and evading the Roman authorities, Dismas is a man who looks out only for himself. But when a sudden misfortune leaves him stranded in a small village on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, Dismas has an opportunity to leave his fugitive existence behind. As a hired hand on a fishing boat, Dismas finds pleasure in work for time, and peace out on the sea. It’s an honest life—and he may have even found a woman to share it with.


But then tragedy strikes, and Dismas sets out on the road again to seek a man he’s been told is capable of miracles. However, being touched by the divine grace of this man cannot save Dismas from the Roman authorities if they finally catch up with him for his past misdeeds. As Passover approaches, Romans and Jews alike converge on the chaotic city of Jerusalem, where Dismas navigates trials of persecution, conspiracy, and murder that ultimately lead him to be an eyewitness to the most pivotal moment in human history.


With vividly imagined depictions of events from the New Testament, Redemption at the Eleventh Hour is the exciting tale of one man’s difficult journey towards salvation.”

Review:

Redemption At The Eleventh Hour is sure to be one of the most unique books readers will encounter this year. Dismas, a seemingly irredeemable thief with no remorse for his actions, has a chance meeting with Leah, a local fisherman’s daughter, an encounter that ultimately plants the seeds of change in Dismas’ heart. But this is not your run-of-the-mill redemption story; a twist of fate alters the course of Dismas’ life, leaving a soul ravaged by past shame open to grace and healing in the most unexpected of ways.

Andrew Crown has successfully crafted a redemption story that stands out beautifully amidst the many meaningful stories in Christian fiction. His descriptions, for all their simplicity, allow readers to easily imagine themselves placed in the most significant moment in all history, and they will be eager to follow Dismas down dusty, country roads to the streets of Jerusalem as he searches for Jesus and a life full of real meaning.

The characters, even those who play a more minor role, are memorable and unique. Whether it is the cruel and vengeful Roman, Bricius, or kind-hearted Leah, readers are alternately repulsed by and drawn to Crown’s characters. These are fully-imagined human beings with faults and redeeming characteristics in equal measure, making what could have been “just another book” a truly worthwhile read that will leave readers with questions and an undeniable thirst to know Jesus better.

The only issue with the novel is the grammatical errors. While every book has them, it became obvious fairly quickly that the book could use another thorough round of editing. That being said, Redemption At The Eleventh Hour is a pleasantly surprising story that is sure to remain with readers for a long time. In a world that often focuses on the negative and the “realistic,” it is refreshing to come across a book that celebrates the reality that people can, indeed, change, thanks to the One Who paid the price for our redemption.

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Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves: Installment Two

I decided to do an illustration for each installment of my new story. I hope you enjoy them and the next part of Chip’s adventures!

A late-night snack brought Chip to the clearing the next evening, though perhaps, in his heart, he was wishing that an answer might come to him if he listened very closely as the wind went whistling though the trees.

As it happens, listening closely led to something that Chip did not expect.

He was just hopping closer to a patch of grass, softly illuminated by starlight, when a loud grunt sounded from above, nearly sending our young rabbit scampering for home.

But some mumbled words soon followed, and when Chip moved back a ways, he saw that it was only Nesbit, asleep on his nightly watch (though the owl, of course, would never admit it).

Chip shook his head with a small smile, wondering to himself how often the owl called for perseverance in his dreams.

“Hmm… Chip, my lad,” Nesbit mumbled, and the rabbit turned.

“Yes, Nesbit?” he asked, but found that the owl hadn’t actually stirred.

Still, he was speaking, and Chip hopped forward quickly, the better to hear him.

“Waiting… waiting, Chip.. must persevere…” – this punctuated by a loud snore – “… Abaline.”

Abaline! Chip was instantly intrigued. What was the owl saying? What was Abaline?

“Nesbit?” he called.

No answer, but surely, you know as well as I that a young rabbit never gives up so quickly.

He bounded to the tree and began thumping his strong hind feet against its trunk, hoping to jar the owl from sleep.

Back he ran to gaze up at Nesbit’s perch and measure his success.

Minimal.

“Nesbit,” Chip cried out more loudly, earning himself several agitated chirps from a nearby swallow’s nest. He ignored them, determined that he would have an answer. “Nesbit, what is Abaline?”

“You’ll never wake him, my lad,” came a familiar, quavering voice.

Out of a burrow, which Chip knew to be the largest in Everleaf Forest, emerged Romulus Took, the badger. He was very close to ancient, though no one knew his exact age or dared to offend the distinguished old badger by asking.

“Could you try, Mr. Took?” Chip asked hopefully.

“I can do you one better,” the badger answered, raising his bushy eyebrows. “I can tell you who Abaline is myself.”

Chip barely remembered to breathe he was so astounded by this turn of events.

Romulus let out a deep, rumbling chuckle. “Follow me, my lad. Stories like this one are best told by candlelight.” He turned and lumbered back toward his burrow entrance, Chip following eagerly behind.

It was widely accepted that Romulus Took was an odd sort of badger, though a well-loved one. He was notorious for collecting all sorts of trinkets from the human world; the badger was fascinated by them all, but it was candles that he loved best.

Chip’s father often related the day, quite some time ago, when Romulus Took had brought the first candles to Everleaf.

The skeptical and the enchanted alike had accepted Romulus’ gift with curiosity, which quickly turned to delight as, candle by candle, a small corner of Everleaf Forest was illuminated by dozens of flickering lights.

He never would say where he found the candles or the countless other oddments that filled his cozy home. No matter how many times Chip asked – and the badger had long ago lost track – all Romulus Took ever offered was a smile and wink, and perhaps, a self-satisfied, “Oh, Elsewhere.”

Chip did not know why Mr. Took was choosing to so freely share what he knew about Abaline, but he certainly wasn’t going to question the decision and risk the old badger changing his mind.

They were far into the tunnels now and Chip could see the wavering shadows of several candles’ flames dancing on the earthen walls. Soon enough, they emerged into a cozy, hollowed-out space where all of Romulus Took’s favorite trinkets were kept.

Immediately, Chip hopped onto one of the cushiest things he had ever had the pleasure of sitting on; Romulus told him they were called “chairs.” Whatever they were, Chip loved nestling in them while Mr. Took told one of his many well-known stories.

Tonight, the young rabbit was filled with more anticipation than usual, for he guessed (rightly) that tonight’s tale would be unlike any he had heard before.

What’s that?

You’re not quite sharing Chip’s anticipation? That is a problem.

Hmm?

…Well, perhaps you’re right. Until next time then.

*

Alexandria

P.S. If you’re enjoying the story, please share with family and friends! Thank you!

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Love Without Boundaries

Yesterday, I read a devotion from Loop that I can’t forget. I’ll share it at the end of this post, but for now, I want to share the lines that are staying with me, particularly now because of everything happening in our world

“My love in you is what equips you to give freely and love without boundaries. Only when you love freely, with your personality and with your gifts – can My freedom be experienced in you. And that is what people find captivating.”

Loop

We’re living in a time when people are telling us where we can go and what we can do and that, right now, it’s best and safest not to draw physically close to one another.

And this strange reality could shut us down. It could make us close ourselves off and hide away, could make us put up walls that no one could ever hope to get through.

But I think we have an unprecedented opportunity that could put all the darkness of this time to shame.

Yes, we could turn inward and forget about everyone around us.

Or we could love people with an uncommon love and give with an uncommon generosity.

I’ve seen evidence of both, but I’m choosing to believe that the uncommon act of loving without boundaries will prove the stronger.

Because while it’s painful and unknown to not be allowed to gather together, we don’t have to be physically present to love well.

“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle towards everyone.”

Titus 3:1-2 (NIV)

So, send a message to someone you haven’t spoken to in a long while. Make a meal and leave it at someone’s door. Create something that will put a smile on people’s faces. Check on your neighbors and show kindness to strangers. (It doesn’t have to be anything grand, just genuine.)

Because the boundaries that are in place really have no power to stop us from loving others at all.

How have you been showing love and generosity in all the madness? I’d love for you to share.

Alexandria

Here’s the Loop devotion if you’d like to read the whole thing:

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Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves: Installment One

A little over a week ago, God gave me a story that I wasn’t expecting to write, a story about a rabbit named Chip.

I knew nothing else about the story until a few days ago when I wrote the first installment of this whimsical little children’s story (though, the more I think about it, the more I believe adults need this story just as much, if not more, than kiddos).

So, here is my offering: a new installment of this story every week, in the hopes that it helps you ask some honest questions and gives you a glimpse into the heart of the Father during a time when I think that’s what we’re learning to treasure most.

Here we go…

Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves

Not so very long ago, on a spring day much like this one, a young rabbit named Chip was waiting for something.

I’d tell you what it was now, but I wouldn’t want to spoil things.

The forest of Everleaf was Chip’s home, and oh, was it the grandest of forests, full of old, strong oaks covered in rich green moss. Rutted paths, nearly overgrown now, carved their way through the land, though it seemed only the animals travelled them.

Everleaf was one of those forests that set the imagination ablaze; the longer you spend walking beneath its boughs, the less surprised you would be to find a fairy flying for cover behind feathery ferns or a group of elves disappearing from view just around the next bend.

And yet, surrounded as he was by the wondrous, Chip was still waiting for just one thing, and it seemed it would never come.

He waited and waited until the sun sank below the treetops and the animals returned to their burrows and nests. The great owl, Nesbit, emerged from the grandest oak in the clearing, and even still, Chip was there.

Blinking his wide, amber eyes several times, Nesbit looked down at the young rabbit. “Still waiting, are we?” he asked with a rustle of his feathers as he settled on his nighttime perch.

“Yes,” Chip replied, not a little disappointed that all his diligence had gotten him precisely nowhere.

“Hmm. Perseverance is what’s needed here, young Chip. Perseverance!” Nesbit proclaimed, startling several disgruntled birds from their dreams.

“Yes, Nesbit. Thank you,” Chip replied, trying very hard to sound grateful. He and Nesbit had the same conversation every night, and the owl’s commanding declaration of “Perseverance!” had yet to make him feel better.

Thankfully, his mother’s clear voice rang out from the entrance of their home at just that moment. After offering Nesbit a quick, “Good night,” Chip bounded away to their cozy burrow, eager for supper after yet another long day spent waiting.

He had only just entered and laid eyes on the feast Mama had prepared when a voice loudly intoned, “Perseverance, my lad! Perseverance!” and Chip nearly jumped out of his skin.

His father appeared, waving a stick in the air with great authority, almost dropping it as he shook with amusement at his own joke.

“Not you, too!” Chip reprimanded, though his laughter soon echoed his father’s.

“Another inspiring speech tonight, I take it?” Joshua teased.

“He means well,” Chip’s mother chided.

“I know, Bess,” Joshua replied with a grin, “but it was worth it for the way this one’s fur bristled in fright when he heard the dreaded cry of, “Perseverance!”

He waved the stick in the air once more, chasing a laughing Chip around the small log table, nearly crashing into it as his son dashed out of reach.

“Now, see here, Joshua Raddish!” Bess cried, though Chip knew she wasn’t really angry. “We spent all day gathering this supper, and I’ll not have you send it flying with your shenanigans!”

A practiced expression immediately transformed Joshua’s face as he and Chip obediently froze. “Of course, Bess, dear. Absolutely no shenanigans here,” he said, carefully setting the stick down on the floor, a look of mischief barely concealed by his mock seriousness.

Bess fixed him with a look that made it clear she was not at all fooled, then turned to their son. “I hope you didn’t fill up on that sweet meadow grass today. Your papa and I have a special treat for your birthday.”

She gestured to the center of the low table, and Chip’s eyes grew wide. Nestled amidst the usual grass and leafy greens was the largest clump of clover he had ever seen and several choice flowers, enough for them to each enjoy two.

“Where did you go to find these?” Chip breathed in awe.

“A fair distance,” his father replied vaguely.

They sat down, all of them eager to enjoy this special meal. Chip rubbed his paw against his left ear as he always did when he was excited or nervous.

Unusual though it may seem, it was Chip’s left ear that had given him his name. On the night he’d been born, Mama always said, he was instantly revealed to be perfect in all ways to them, and that included the chip missing from his left ear.

No one could say why he had been born with it, but it made the young rabbit uniquely Chip, and his parents had immediately known what his name ought to be.

The anticipation now too great for them to wait any longer, Joshua looked up and said a simple prayer. “Without You, we wouldn’t have such a lovely spread before us or,” he continued with a good-natured wink at Bess, “such a warm, shenanigan-free home. We offer You our thanks. Amen.”

“Amen,” Bess and Chip echoed, and they all began to eat, enjoying each delicious flower petal and savory clover leaf.

But prayer had been on the young rabbit’s mind for weeks now, and he couldn’t keep quiet about it any longer.

“Have you ever waited for an answer to a prayer?” he asked in that direct way that only children ever seem to have.

Joshua and Bess were quiet for a moment, exchanging the type of look that only parents ever seem to share.

“Many, many times,” Mama answered, and Papa agreed.

“Well, did you get an answer?” Chip pressed. “Did you get what you asked for?”

“In answer to your first question, yes, in time,” Joshua replied. “As for the second, not always, Chip. But I believe that’s because we don’t always ask for what’s best.”

Chip looked down, thinking hard about what his papa had said.

Joshua chuckled. “Not quite satisfied with that, are you?”

Chip shook his head sheepishly, though he knew Mama and Papa were never angry with him for asking questions.

Joshua ruffled the soft fur between Chip’s ears. “That’s all right, Chip,” he said, his eyes gentle and kind. “You just have yourself an honest conversation with Him before you go to sleep, and things will be getting clearer all the time.”

Chip nodded, kissed his parents good night, and scampered off to bed.

At first, he didn’t take his papa’s advice; he was, after all, an endearingly stubborn little rabbit, and what he really wanted most of all was an answer to the prayer he had whispered weeks ago.

Days and days he had waited, and he just couldn’t seem to let it go. So, Chip tossed and turned and waited and fretted, wondering if the answer he wanted would ever come.

But the longer Chip fretted and the longer he wondered, the more brightly a different question began to burn like fire in his mind, until, at last, Chip sat up and spoke aloud something I imagine we all have thought from time to time.

“I’m changing my question. I’ve waited ages for an answer, and now, all I’m wondering is this:

“Do my words – do my prayers – really matter to You at all?”

Before an answer could arrive, Chip had drifted off to sleep.

*

Chip’s adventures will continue in Installment Two next week.

Until then,

Alexandria

P.S. If you enjoyed the first installment of Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves, please consider sharing this post with friends and family! Thank you!

Featured

Hope & Laughter – Free Resources for Your Family

Life is unexpected right now, to say the least. I felt God prompting me to create a post to share some free resources to help bring some hope and laughter into a chaotic time. Personally, I plan on doing plenty of watercolor painting, coloring, and reading! Here are some other ideas for you and your family:

For the Colorists

Image Copyright Johanna Basford

Johanna Basford creates the most beautiful inky wonderlands that are just waiting for a splash of color! Grab some colored pencils or crayons and give it a go with these free coloring downloads.

She offers loads of tutorials on her website, and if you’re interested in drawing, she also offers a free Inky Art School on Facebook where she teaches you to draw for free!

For the Learners

Image Copyright Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden

Every day at 3 P.M. EDT, the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden will be hosting a Facebook Live where they feature one of their amazing animals and include an activity that your family can do from home! Today, they’re featuring the cutie above, Fiona!

Another great resource is Future Learn!

While you can choose to pay for more features, all of their online courses are free and they offer an incredible variety!

For the Opera Lovers

Image Copyright: Jack Vartoogian, Getty Images

At 7:30 P.M. every night, the Metropolitan Opera is streaming a different opera for free. Crazy for La Traviata? Searching for something to fill your Monday evening? Now’s your chance!

For Sunday Worship and All the Days In Between

On Max Lucado’s Facebook page, he is hosting a time of live prayer and worship each Sunday morning. This is a great opportunity to still participate in a worship service from home!

I also love the First5 app, available for free through Proverbs31 Ministries. Every day, there’s a new five-minute devotion that helps you dive deeper into the Word and understand what it means more clearly! They’ve done everything from Old to New Testament (and they have a plan devoted to the Psalms). You can move at your own pace and catch up any time! It’s a great way to spend the first few minutes of your day with Jesus.

Lastly, here’s a beautiful prayer from writer, Wendy Blight. Hope in the King of kings is what we need most right now, and I think this prayer is a beautiful way to allow God’s peace to replace anxiety in your heart.

If you know of any other free resources for people as we prepare to hunker down, please comment below! Now is the perfect time to be supporting and helping each other through this time however we can.

Lastly, these are the Psalms I’ve been clinging to the last few days: Psalms 23, 27, 91, 93, and 94. So full of the Truth and promises we need right now.

Praying for peace and laughter to settle on your hearts and homes,

Alexandria