Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Chapter 1 | Maya's Unconventional, Not-So-Fictional Romance {A Just-for-Fun YA Story}

Happy Valentine's Day! 💗 Today I'm sharing the first chapter of a young-adult story, with the rest to be told in weekly installments. This is a just-for-fun sort of project. :) I enjoyed putting together a cover for the story (with thanks to India Tupy via Unsplash for the lovely background image and PicMonkey for the tools!). I'm hoping this will motivate me to write more and keep a project flowing!

In case you're wondering, I haven't written the other chapters yet. So we'll see how Maya's story shapes up as I forge ahead by the seat of my pants! ;)

With all the winter snow here in Montana, it's nice to think about summer on the coast. But more than that, I'm hoping Maya's adventures might encourage me—and anyone who reads them—to embrace the place where God has us for this season and be open to the possibilities in the unfamiliar and the humdrum.

Thank you for tuning in!

Maya's Unconventional, Not-So-Fictional Romance
By Amber Holcomb

Chapter 1

Maya strolled down the sidewalk that morning, acquainting herself with her new hometown that was so different from other places she had lived. The Northern California coast was a mystery to her, and the tiny town of Trinidad even more so. Everything felt so mild and tame. A thin layer of fog shrouded the morning sky, the sun a faded peach ball apathetically attempting to shine through.

The temperature hovered uncertainly between sweater weather and a-long-sleeved-shirt-is-fine warmth. Since she was out walking, she had figured a long-sleeved shirt would work...but the brisk ocean air had her crossing her arms over her chest to ward off the chill.

Her parents had moved her to various places across the Midwest and East Coast, and she had grown up accustomed to surviving the extremes. But for the past few years, she had known the redwood coast was the goal.

Apparently her parents had traveled around California on their three-week-long honeymoon, experiencing the state's vastly different national parks. But it was the redwoods that had enchanted their hearts, and teaching positions at Humboldt State University were just the ticket to bring the two professors back to stay.

Maya was happy for them, even if the job offers had come the summer before her senior year of high school. So here she was, familiarizing herself with yet another area in the few months before school started.

As she walked past the Eatery, the ocean came into view before her. She glanced right and left, then jogged across the street to stand on the bluff overlooking the coastline. The white specks of fishing boats on the gray-hued water painted a quaint picture, that peachy sheen of the sun gently gilding the scene from its place slightly behind her.

She sighed and stuck her hands in her pants pockets. A child screeched playfully from somewhere down on the beach below, and a lady nodded at her as she ran gracefully past in a workout shirt and shorts, likely on a familiar Saturday morning route.

Maya's thoughts turned to her summer reading goal. She had to get through a couple classics for her English class's summer homework, and there were some other classics she'd been meaning to read for a while now. These next few months she planned to make good progress. Books were a comforting constant in her life—a life that changed a bit too often for her liking.

She followed the road that led downhill, hopefully aiming toward the beach. Something had been nagging at her, a desire to do something different, to do anything to embrace this new start. What if...what if she could put her reading to work, letting those precious books inspire her into action?

She smiled at the thought. She knew by her mom's concerned glances and her parents' hushed conversations that they were worried about her. This morning walk was one way she could prove to them she'd thrive here, that she wouldn't spend the whole summer hidden in her room or stuck on the couch.

But one little walk should only be the beginning.

As she rounded the curve and glimpsed a sandy parking lot ahead, she pondered her current read. Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster, a book her cousin Grace had eagerly recommended to her, was an adorable little novel told through letters. Maya hadn't read many books like that before, and she was surprised to find how much she anticipated the contents of each letter the young college student, Jerusha (AKA Judy) wrote to her anonymous benefactor. It made Maya a little more excited for the start of her own classes and school-year activities.

So, what could this story—which she'd likely finish this weekend—inspire her to do?

The most obvious answer in her mind was to write her own letter. She could dig out her stationery from one of the boxes in the garage and write a note. But to whom?

Her mind began to sort through the names of friends she'd made in the various placed she'd lived. Before long, she arrived at the parking lot. Should she go right, left, or straight ahead to what appeared to be an uphill trail?

Right. She scurried awkwardly down an incline, her shoes sinking into dry sand with each step. Then she found herself standing on a little beach that stretched and curved onward to her right, with a rocky bluff towering to her left, and the tide beckoning gently in front of her.

The only other person on the beach was a boy about her age. He threw a stick for an energetic golden Lab that happily bounded into the waves to retrieve it.

Maya watched them for a few moments, arms crossed over her chest, not really realizing how rude she might appear until the guy gave her a sidelong glance. Oops.

She grinned in what she hoped was an apologetic way and gave the guy and his dog some space. Names. She was supposed to be thinking of someone she could write to this weekend.

She pulled off her tennis shoes and plopped down onto the cold sand. Her toes dug through the dry crystals as she pondered Daddy-Long-Legs. Judy wrote to her benefactor; maybe Maya should write to one of her past teachers or her grandma in Boston who always sent generous Christmas gifts. But what exactly would she say? Was a random thank-you note nice...or just strange?

She scooped a handful of sand and watched it trickle back down to the ground through the spaces between her fingers. This reading-challenge plan felt just as difficult to grasp or define. Maybe she should stick to completing her reading and forget about coming up with action points inspired by each book.

Water spattered her shirt and pants, and she smelled the wet dog before she even noticed how close he was.

"Ugh!" She attempted to scramble to her feet but couldn't get her legs under her before the golden Lab practically tackled her and started licking her face like they were long-time pals. "Nice doggy," she grunted, pushing at the large creature unsuccessfully.

A giggle bubbled past her lips. She'd never had a dog—or any pet besides some fish—to claim her like this.

"Ace!" the boy called. "Leave the girl alone, won't you?"

But Maya had given in to the inevitable and placed her arms around the wriggling dog's neck, laughing like she hadn't since her last girls' hang-out weekend back in Texas, when she and her friends had had the silliest conversations about which fictional guys they each should date.

The boy was right beside her now; she glimpsed the frayed hems of his jeans, which seemed a little too short for his tall frame. "I'm so sorry about this." He reached for the dog's collar, but Ace continued to strain toward Maya with his big front paws, even as the boy pulled him off her.

Now that Maya could see better and breathe again, she glanced up at the guy, noting his tousled dark-brown hair. Her hand went to her own hair, imagining the messy brown curls, as well as the slobber and sand likely streaked across her face. She thought she saw the boy's lips twitch, but the motion stopped before she could be sure. He held out a hand to her, the other hand keeping a firm grip on the dog's collar.

Maya grabbed the offered hand, expecting a handshake. But the boy pulled her to her feet instead, so effectively that she barely had to put any effort into standing.

Her gaze fell to the dog, who seemed to be dancing with restrained eagerness as he pawed at the sand. "So his name is Ace?" she asked.


Maya nodded, grinning at the happy-go-lucky creature that had chosen to make friends with her. "He's cute. Kind of crazy, but cute."

The boy studied her for a moment—she could feel the gravity of his thoughtful gaze—before holding out his hand again for a proper handshake. She took it and glanced at his guarded but kind expression. "I'm Conner," he said.

"I'm Maya." She offered him a tentative smile, shuffling her bare feet through the chilly sand.

She was about to ask him something else, anything to keep this unexpected but hopeful conversation going, but he said, "Sorry again about Ace. I better get him back home now."

He didn't explain his need to rush off, and she didn't have the boldness to ask. So she simply replied, "Okay. No problem," and watched as the rather adorable pair headed back to the parking lot.

* * *

Later that day, Maya sat on her bed, pondering Daddy-Long-Legs and the part where Judy had expressed her desire to embrace life as it happened. She once again considered her plan to write a letter, now that she'd finished the super sweet story...and then her thoughts wandered back to her walk that morning and the moment she'd met Conner and Ace.

She absently clutched a handful of the comforter splashed with bright yellow and orange patterns, then released it, then squeezed the colorful fabric like a stress ball. How could she embrace this new home, her new reality? How could she live with eagerness for this very moment in time?

Honestly, she was lonely. She missed her extended family out east and her friends scattered across the states. She wanted a new friend here. Someone to help her live with joy and discover the blessings of Northern California. Someone who could be her starting place to building a whole circle of friends.

Thoughts of Conner and his lively dog came to mind again, rushing in like the ocean's tide.

Sliding off her bed, she walked to her desk and sat on the hard wooden chair. After pulling out a blank piece of paper and her favorite blue gel pen, she began to write.

Dear Conner,
I just moved to Trinidad. Maybe you already figured that out, not having seen me before or anything. Anyway, you and Ace seem really nice and very comfortable with life here on the coast. And I was wondering if maybe we could skip the awkward "strangers" phase and become friends?
I'll be starting my senior year this fall. I spend a lot of time reading, but I also like cooking, traveling, playing card games, chasing sunshine, doodling, and watching food shows.
Ace seems like a great dog. If you ever need an extra hand to throw a Frisbee or stick for him, just let me know!

She read over what she'd written, her face burning a bit at how middle-school she sounded. But she couldn't really think of another way to write a letter to Conner without sounding just as awkward.

Now, she just needed to run into him again.

Sometimes a girl had to take desperate measures to embrace life. Of course, she supposed she could always say these things straight to Conner's face and avoid handing him a letter, but, well, she wasn't that desperate.


Copyright © 2019 Amber Christine Holcomb

Monday, February 11, 2019

The Drama Begins in 1930s Hollywood | Review of Stars Over Sunset Boulevard

About the Book (from Penguin Random House)

In this novel from the acclaimed author of A Bridge Across the Ocean and The Last Year of the War, two women working in Hollywood during its Golden Age discover the joy and heartbreak of true friendship.

Los Angeles, Present Day. When an iconic hat worn by Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind ends up in Christine McAllister’s vintage clothing boutique by mistake, her efforts to return it to its owner take her on a journey more enchanting than any classic movie…

Los Angeles, 1938. Violet Mayfield sets out to reinvent herself in Hollywood after her dream of becoming a wife and mother falls apart, and lands a job on the film-set of Gone with the Wind. There, she meets enigmatic Audrey Duvall, a once-rising film star who is now a fellow secretary. Audrey’s zest for life and their adventures together among Hollywood’s glitterati enthrall Violet…until each woman’s deepest desires collide. What Audrey and Violet are willing to risk, for themselves and for each other, to ensure their own happy endings will shape their friendship, and their lives, far into the future.

Available Now

My Rating


My Review

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard is poignantly penned, a tale of two roommates and friends who carry past pain into their present choices. It's one of those stories where you can sympathize with both main characters and yet feel disillusioned with them at the same time. You don't have to look too deep to see your own weaknesses and fears reflected in their behavior.

This is first and foremost historical fiction, as the contemporary snippets are few and far between. But it's nice in that way to be able to stay firmly rooted in the lives of Violet and Audrey without much interruption. And the historical backdrop is quite fascinating! While modern Hollywood has little appeal for me, the Hollywood of the late 1930s depicted in the first half of this book definitely has charm (although I still don't think I'd have wanted to get too drawn in to that world, between the pressure, temptations, and crazy work schedule!). The studio, Audrey's bungalow, nighttime walks along the boulevard...all endearing in their own way.

As for Violet and Audrey themselves, what drama begins when these two meet! I enjoyed reading about their growing friendship, even as I grew dismayed at the signs that everything might be falling apart. There is some romance in this novel, although it doesn't quite take center stage. Instead, the main focus is on these two women, the span of their friendship, and the hurts and hopes marking their journeys.

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard isn't a rom-com with lots of feel-good moments and a typical happily ever after. Despite its many incidents of heartbreak, though, it's a star-studded story—featuring bits of distant light in the midst of dark times and emotions. It's a heartfelt, thought-provoking read that points to the importance of truth, freedom of choice, compassion, and grace.

*With thanks to the author for providing me with a complimentary ARC of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are my own.*

This is the alternate Kindle cover of the book. 
Which version do you prefer? 

Have you read any books by Susan Meissner?

Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Silver Chair Read-Along | Discussion 3

Welcome to the third and final discussion of The Silver Chair read-along! (Be sure to check out our first and second discussions too!) If this is the first you've heard of the read-along, you can learn more about the schedule in this invitation post.

Today we're going to discuss chapters 12-16. If you've read them, go ahead and share your thoughts in the comments section or in your own post! (Feel free to use the image above, linking back to The Silver Chair read-along tag.) If you still have to catch up, you're welcome to check in whenever you're ready. :)

~ ~ ~

The Silver Chair: Chapters 12-16

Discussion Format: your favorite quotes, general impressions, and four questions to answer for each week's reading

Favorite Quotes*
  • "There is nothing like a good shock of pain for dissolving certain kinds of magic."
  • "This signifies that Aslan will be our good lord, whether he means us to live or die. And all's one, for that. Now, by my counsel, we shall all kneel and kiss his likeness, and then all shake hands one with another, as true friends that may shortly be parted. And then, let us descend into the city and take the adventure that is sent us."
  • "I have heard of those little scratches in the crust that you Topdwellers call mines. But that's where you get dead gold, dead silver, dead gems. Down in Bism we have them alive and growing. There I'll pick you bunches of rubies that you can eat and squeeze you a cupful of diamond juice. You won't care much about fingering the cold, dead treasures of your shallow mines after you have tasted the live ones in Bism." 
  • "On fine nights when the cold and the drum-taps, and the hooting of the owls, and the moonlight have got into their wild, woodland blood and made it even wilder, they will dance till daybreak. I wish you could see it for yourselves."
  • "You think I'm a ghost, or some nonsense. But don't you see? I would be that if I appeared in Narnia now: because I don't belong there any more. But one can't be a ghost in one's own country."
General Impressions

I'm quite satisfied with the ending of The Silver Chair! Once again, Puddleglum shines with stalwart faith as he bravely stomps out the fire that was messing with the heroes' minds while conversing with the Witch. It seems to me like some of C.S. Lewis's theology finds its way into Puddleglum's words... Overall, I do love his character, and the children's parting with him is quite adorable. But let me backtrack to discuss other things. ;)

The time between the Witch's defeat (huzzah!) and the heroes' arrival in Narnia is interesting. I'm intrigued by the land of Bism, and while it's not necessarily a place I'd want to visit, I do love Lewis's creativity in presenting the nature of gems! (See my third quote above.) How cool would it be if there were live gems? What would they taste like? How would they shine? So neat to imagine!

I also love the scene when Jill realizes they've reached Narnia and sees the Great Snow Dance! I love the way it's all described, and how it takes a while for disoriented Jill to notice the glow is actually from the moon and they're free. Such relief! And when Jill and Eustace are given hot drinks to enjoy, I then had to prepare myself a cup of hot cider to savor too. :)

As for the very end of the story, I'm a bit torn but mostly happy. The scenes with Caspian's death and then the meeting with Aslan are poignant. Ultimately so hopeful! But it feels like things are fixed so simply for Eustace and Jill upon their return to their world—almost too easy and perfect? I guess that's not a bad thing, though, when it reminds us that our circumstances matter to the God who sees and knows them, and He is more than able to work miracles in our lives for His glory and in accordance with His will. How the character of Aslan addresses the issue of a terrible school and bullies in Eustace and Jill's life is...interesting. That line about the Head of the school ending up in Parliament is pretty funny (and snarky)!

I should add that I love the last lines of the book and how they invite the reader to come visit Narnia and see the evidence of our heroes' journey. Makes it feel all the more tangible and epic!

Discussion Questions

Answer one, two, three, or all four of these questions in the comments section or in your own blog post!

1. Which part of the chapter featuring the Witch ("The Queen of Underland") impacted you the most?

2. Would you have been tempted to visit Bism if offered the opportunity? Why or why not?

3. How did you feel about the ending of the story—for Narnia, for Caspian, for Eustace and Jill?

4. What was your favorite line or scene in the whole book? If you've read the other books in the Chronicles of Narnia series, how does this one rank in your opinion?

To Conclude

Thank you so much for joining The Silver Chair read-along! I always love sharing and comparing thoughts with you all on some classics, and it's been fun to try something different (although I did so love our Jane Austen read-alongs too!). I hope you enjoyed reading this book, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on the other titles in this series. (For me, I think The Voyage of the Dawn Treader might still be my favorite, but The Silver Chair could be a close second! I did enjoy it quite a bit. Granted, it's been a while since I read the other books...)

Next up, I'm planning to host a read-along for Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery in March. Stay tuned for more details!

*C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair (New York: HarperCollins, 2002), 190, 200-201, 218, 232, 253-254.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

An Insightful Study on the Vital Truths of Colossians | Review of He Is Enough

About the Book
(from Moody Publishers)

Discover the Secret to a Full Life

We live in a world of scarcity. We say, “I don't have enough time… maybe when we have more money… if only I had a little more help…” But Scripture says if we have Jesus, we have enough.

In this 6-week study of Colossians, Asheritah Ciuciu leads readers to discover the life-altering importance of Jesus' sufficiency and sovereignty. And you don't need hours a day to enjoy this Bible Study. Each day's study contains two paths:
  • Snack on the Go: a bite-size morsel of truth to chew on throughout your busy day 
  • FEAST: a dig-deep guide to maximizing the “meat” you're getting out of your Bible study 
  • PLUS! a supplemental "Serving and Leading" section that includes service challenges for making theory a reality 
You can enjoy this study in whatever way works best for you. Discover the joy and freedom that abounds when we know deep in our hearts that Jesus truly is enough.

Available Now!

My Review

He Is Enough provides an insightful and encouraging study on the book of Colossians. The format offers two options for each day: a quick and simple route, and a more in-depth study. There is a lot to love about this book, and I hope that fact will shine through by the end of my review!

I'll admit, I struggled. As in, I received the Bible study in June 2018, did some of it that summer, and then didn't finish until the first month of 2019. I think there might be a few reasons for that, one being that, as a reviewer, it feels like there might be a bit more pressure in approaching the study and being thorough about it.

The truth is, I wasn't as thorough as I probably should have been. I started out trying to answer most of the questions, but I quickly (sadly) ditched that route. I figured if I wanted to actually make it through the Bible study in order to review it, I "needed" to be willing to skip questions (read them, but not answer them all).

Honestly, the book provides that sort of grace already in its format, by giving you a choice each day on how in-depth you'll go. I just chose a different route, of sorts, by reading through the longer sections and choosing which questions to answer. It's not that I recommend this path; I just want to be up-front in my review. If I had put more time into answering questions than the weekly coloring, that might have been an even better choice. (Although I did appreciate the lovely coloring pages!)

All that to say, if you go the long ("FEAST") route each day and answer every question (or even go through the leaders' guide in the back along with the study), it's going to take time and energy. It's going to take a big commitment. But in the end, you're likely to get a lot more out of the experience and have an even richer understanding of Colossians.

Now, did I still find it worthwhile to go through even some of the study? Absolutely!

I'm truly grateful for God's gracious timing, because there was a day in Week 3 of the study (which I didn't get to until this month) that touched me deeply. I ended up journaling about it and was so blessed by the way God's Word lovingly spoke to my struggles and wrong attitudes. And I'm grateful this Bible study pointed me to those verses and helped me in pondering them afresh.

And it's not just that day's lesson that was meaningful to me. There's plenty more to gain in studying Colossians and having a better understanding of particular passages and the main message. This study is great about helping you really observe the biblical text, and it also gives an awesome and useful tip for memorizing verses, so we can better hide God's Word in our hearts (see Psalm 119:11).

Whether this study takes you six weeks or six months, and even if you find yourself "snacking" more often than "FEAST-ing," there's a lot to learn from it. Colossians is most definitely worth diving into, and the truth of Jesus's sufficiency is vital to dwell on and remember. In He Is Enough, you'll find lots of great info, food for thought, important questions to address, and various extras to help you get into God's Word.

*With thanks to Moody Publishers for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are my own.*

Reviews of Other Asheritah Cicuciu Books

Monday, January 28, 2019

January 2019 Reads + a Few Reviews

We are now just a few days away from February! I'm excited for the month of Valentine's Day...and to be even a bit closer to spring and the end of winter. :) But first, I thought I'd share about my reads from this month!

You can see in the snipped image above (or at this link) what I finished in January. (I believe I started both Price of Privilege and For What It's Worth before January, so that helped! Not to mention Blizzard at Three Bears Lake and Maggie's Song are both very short reads.)

I rated all except a couple of the book 4 stars. I gave P.S. I Like You and Maggie's Song 5 stars. So, they're all great stories! The nice thing is that I'm mostly at a point where I'm reading what I want to read. I still have some books I was given with the hope or expectation that I would review them, but not so many as I used to have. And I've been going through my shelves, picking out titles I don't really think I'd like or want to try. If I start a book I'm not obligated to read and don't want to finish it, then I typically remove it from my shelf (as well as on Goodreads).

Anyway, of these nine books, four were paperbacks from my shelf, three were ebooks on my Kindle, and two were library finds. I'll share a few quick reviews below! (If you'd like more of my thoughts on The Silver Chair—and you don't mind spoilers—be sure to check out The Silver Chair read-along posts.)

For What It's Worth by Karey White

My Rating

My Review

Karey White's stories are so readable, filled with must-see locations and sweet adventures! It was a lot of fun to immerse myself in the world of a wedding cake business, from its beginning to its booming success. The recipes in these chapters (not just pertaining to cakes!) are enticing, and some definitely seem worth trying. I loved the mention of Victoria, British Columbia, as well; my family and I have made a lot of delightful vacation memories there.

For What It's Worth has a clever premise and great descriptions of the bakery and various aspects of starting and running such a neat business. One thing I didn't care for as much was the direction of the theme... There are some interesting thoughts regarding "worth," but I didn't like the emphasis at one point on becoming "worthy" of love and blessings (in a sense, earning them), instead of growing and loving from the foundation of God's grace. (But I did appreciate the encouragement to show what's worth the most to you by your priorities.) 

All in all, a sweet, gently romantic reading experience.

P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

My Review

This is the second Kasie West book I've read, and it's definitely my favorite of the two! (The other being The Fill-In Boyfriend, which was still good!) This one has an engaging high-school plot that keeps each chapter interesting, great characters (including a fun family and a more-than-meets-the-eye hero), and a lot of sweetness. I loved the letters between the hero and heroine, of course, but I also loved the heroine's interactions with her little brothers and the way this story promotes forgiveness, character growth, and supportive love.

Maggie's Song by Karey White

My Review

This is one of those short-but-sweet ebook novellas! I enjoyed that the story covers a guided outdoor trip in Arizona—showcasing Karey White's great descriptions. (I love the locations and activities she chooses to feature in the stories I've read by her.) Maggie's Song doesn't include any super exciting plot points, but the characters are endearing and the backdrop inviting. There's a scene toward the end that's very clever and cute. :) I don't want to ruin the surprise meaning behind the title, but I will say that I absolutely loved and appreciated the reference. Just a little, adorable story about being brave when it comes to romance!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Silver Chair Read-Along | Discussion 2

Welcome to the second discussion of The Silver Chair read-along! (You can check out our first discussion HERE.) If this is the first you've heard of the read-along, you can learn more about the schedule in this invitation post.

Today we're going to discuss chapters 7-11. If you've read them, go ahead and share your thoughts in the comments section or in your own post! (Feel free to use the image above, linking back to The Silver Chair read-along tag.) If you still have to catch up, you're welcome to check in whenever you're ready. :)

And we're off!

~ ~ ~

The Silver Chair: Chapters 7-11

Discussion Format: your favorite quotes, general impressions, and four questions to answer for each week's reading

Favorite Quotes*
  • "Puddleglum's question annoyed her because, deep down inside her, she was already annoyed with herself for not knowing the Lion's lesson quite so well as she felt she ought to have known it."
  • "It's no good, Pole. I know what you were thinking because I was thinking the same. You were thinking how nice it would have been if Aslan hadn't put the instructions on the stones of the ruined city till after we'd passed it. And then it would have been his fault, not ours. So likely, isn't it? No. We must just own up."
  • "The children huddled close together on each side of Puddleglum. They had thought him a wet blanket while they were still above ground, but down here he seemed the only comforting thing they had."
  • "There are no accidents. Our guide is Aslan; and he was there when the giant King caused the letters to be cut, and he knew already all things that would come of them; including this."
  • "Oh, if only we knew!" said Jill. "I think we do know," said Puddleglum. "Do you mean you think everything will come right if we do untie him?" said Scrubb. "I don't know about that," said Puddleglum. "You see, Aslan didn't tell Pole what would happen. He only told her what to do. That fellow will be the death of us once he's up, I shouldn't wonder. But that doesn't let us off following the sign." 

General Impressions

Well, quite a lot happens to our three adventurers in these chapters! It definitely seemed obvious that all the talk of a giants' feast would include the three smaller creatures on the menu...but as they admit to themselves later on, their arrival at Harfang is filled with the children's hopes and expectations, not wisdom and caution and a focus on their mission.

I like the turn the story takes when Eustace and Jill finally wake up from their self-absorption (I can sadly relate to how it easy to get caught up in a quest for comfort!). It's great to see them work together, along with Puddleglum, in order to escape the giants' castle.

And um...the Deep Realm they unwittingly discover is creepy! (It also has me wishing I could remember more details from The Last Battle; surely some of the things we learn in this story about the sleeping creatures and Father Time come up again in the last book...?)

Then there's the Black Knight and our introduction to the silver chair and its significance. I'm so proud of Jill, Eustace, and Puddleglum for choosing to stick to Aslan's sign rather than heed their own limited (and sometimes false) knowledge, uncertainties, and fears! And I love how Puddleglum is proving to be a great role model for the other two through his unwavering faith in who Aslan is, and through his unwillingness to be taken in by appearances or creature comforts.

It's a relief to have Prince Rilian set free from enchantments...but what a cliffhanger! I'm eager to see how the group escapes the Deep Realm.

Discussion Questions

Answer one, two, three, or all four of these questions in the comments section or in your own blog post!

1. Which character's journey/growth resonates with you the most so far? Do you relate more to Eustace, Jill, or Puddleglum—or perhaps Prince Rilian?

2. Did you find yourself liking the giants at any point in these chapters, or did they seem like villains to you from the beginning?

3. Which moment in these chapters made you feel the most emotion, be it frustration, relief, aversion, eagerness, or happiness?

4. What are your first impressions after meeting Prince Rilian and seeing the role of the silver chair in the story? If you've read the book before, do you remember what you felt when you read chapter 11 and discovered the truth about the Black Knight?

Join us next Thursday for our third and final discussion! 
(Chapters 12-16)

*C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair (New York: HarperCollins, 2002), 103, 123, 153, 160, 175.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Silver Chair Read-Along | Discussion 1

Welcome to the first discussion of The Silver Chair read-along! We already have so much to discuss from the first part of the book; an adventure is underway! Before we get started, though, if this is the first you've heard of the read-along, you can learn more about the schedule in this invitation post.

Today we're going to discuss chapters 1-6. If you've read them, go ahead and share your thoughts in the comments section or in your own post! (Feel free to use the image above, linking back to The Silver Chair read-along tag.) If you still have to catch up, you're welcome to check in whenever you're ready. :)

Off we go...

~ ~ ~

The Silver Chair: Chapters 1-6

Discussion Format: your favorite quotes, general impressions, and four questions to answer for each week's reading

Favorite Quotes*
  • "Scrubb saw that she wasn't quite herself yet and very sensibly offered her a peppermint."
  • "I've an idea that all those circles and things are rather rot. I don't think he'd like them. It would look as if we thought we could make him do things. But really, we can only ask him."
  • "You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you." 
  • "Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances." 
  • "The window looked west into the strange land of Narnia, and Jill saw the red remains of the sunset still glowing behind distant mountains. It made her long for more adventures and feel sure that this was only the beginning." 
  • "Puddleglum's my name. But it doesn't matter if you forget it. I can always tell you again." 
General Impressions

Such an interesting start to Eustace and Jill's journey!

The more that's shared about the school they're attending, the more I dislike it. And yet, I love that Eustace has obviously grown and changed since his first time in Narnia in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and it's even noticeable to the bullies at his school. I also appreciate the depiction of Eustace, showing that while he's different, he's still imperfect and has his struggles. He's been changed, but so far he still displays some temper and doesn't perfectly keep his focus on Aslan's mission. He's still growing.

I'm curious to see how Jill and Eustace end up getting along as the story progresses. I like how Eustace reaches out to her at the beginning (imperfect but sweet as his gestures may be), and I like that Jill is open to believing his accounts of Narnia. She's easily distracted, but definitely up for an adventure. :)

Jill's first interaction with Aslan has a lot of food for thought. I love some of the lines (see my favorites above) and how they serve as such great spiritual reminders of God's sovereignty and our "mountaintop versus valley" experiences—and how we should cling to the truths in God's Word when we find ourselves in both life's day-to-day and incredibly difficult valleys.

Before meeting his character in The Silver Chair, I think I imagined Puddleglum being like Gloppy from the Candy Land board game... With his description as a Marsh-wiggle in the "Cast of Characters" section (which is included in other books in the series, from what I recall), as well as the nature of his name and where he lives, it just seemed like he must be some sort of swamp monster or something, LOL. I'm pleasantly surprised by how adorably frog-like he is! His attitude and words can be a bit much, but he seems to be a wise and generous creature. I'm looking forward to seeing how his role plays out in the mission/story.

Also, loved the reference to a group of owls being called a "parliament" and how that was demonstrated! Too fun.

Discussion Questions

Answer one, two, three, or all four of these questions in the comments section or in your own blog post!

1. What do you think of Jill's first impressions of Aslan and Narnia? If you were in her shoes, how might you react to the Lion and the new world in which you arrived?

2. Which scene or character has made you laugh (or smile) the most so far? What makes it (or him/her) so amusing?

3. How did the recounting of Prince Rilian's disappearance make you feel? If this is your first time reading the book, do you have any theories about what happened to him and why? If you've read the book before, did you notice anything new or more impactful when rereading this scene?

4. What do you think has been Jill and Eustace's greatest challenge so far on their journey? What do you think they might struggle with in the future based on how they've already acted?

Join us next Thursday for our second discussion! 
(Chapters 7-11)

*C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair (New York: HarperCollins, 2002), 3, 7, 23, 25-26, 42, 69.