Sunday, May 28, 2017

My Journey Begins/Farewell (For Now)

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Well my friends, the time has finally come.  Tomorrow my sister and I depart for Trails End Ranch at five-o-clock in the morning. For three months, Brethyn and I will work as counselors and as musicians for the worship team.  I am so excited for this!  I've wanted to do this for as long as I can remember, and now it's finally happening.
Every time I take a walk or a bike ride, I always find myself pausing to gaze toward the west.  I live in a valley, where the ground is so that if the shelterbelts didn't block your view, you could see for miles.  But in west you can see the hills begin to rise, and as the sun sets, that mystical sight tugs at my heart every time I see it.  I've always told myself, Someday... someday I will go there.  Tomorrow, that too will come true!  We'll head west across North Dakota and into Montana in what is approximately an eight-hour drive.  We'll stop by Medora, a western-themed town that has all kinds of cool sights to see, and finally end up in the middle of Custer National Forest at our beloved camp.


This will be the longest time I've been away from home, and it will also be the first missions trip I've ever done.  I'll admit that I've shed quite a few tears in my quiet moments at the thought of leaving my family.  They're pretty much my best friends, and even though I'm not a very social person, they are the eight special people I always love to spend time with.  But even though I'll miss them dearly, I look forward to this new adventure with hope and anticipation.  I'm leaving the Shire!  This is my adventure, and I can't wait to see where it will take me.  

Of course, this will be a very busy few months for me.  As a counselor I won't have much time for anything I usually do, like reading, writing, movie watching, etc... all those things will have to take a back seat.  As will blogging, as it so happens.  If I get a chance to blog during the summer, I certainly will- but don't be surprised if I don't post here again until August.  I'll miss all of you!  And I do hope to come on every now and then to catch up if I can.  But until then, I bid you all a very fond farewell- until we meet again!



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-Emmarayn Redding

(Image taken from the public domain.  Music copyright Patrick Doyle)

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Rayne's Comedy Hour: Episode VIII

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Greetings, my readers!  It's about time for another episode of Rayne's Comedy Hour.  :D  Sit back and enjoy today's funny memes and jokes!

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-Emmarayn Redding

Friday, May 19, 2017

Top Ten Favorite Literary Characters

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I was originally going to do a post about my top ten favorite characters in general, but I realized I have so many I can't really do that.  So I'm splitting it up between literary and film.  If I get to film and realize I can't fit them all there, I may do another highlighting my favorite television characters as well.  :)
SO!  Let's get down to it!

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#10:

Sophie Pendragon

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Starting off our list we have Sophie Pendragon, née  Hatter.  She starts off the book as a timid and resigned eldest child, convinced that she will never amount to anything.  However, when she is cursed by a jealous witch to become an old woman before her time, her inner spitfire comes out, along with her strength.  She travels to work for the notoriously 'wicked' wizard Howl, and this is where we really discover her true character.  She is feisty and at times ill-tempered, but she has a good, motherly heart and her interactions with the people she comes to love are a joy to see.  I love her sensible mind, and watching her journey of self-discovery while hampered by her wizened appearance is quite entertaining.  In the later books, once she has come into her own, Sophie is and always will be a pleasure to read about.

#9

Mortimer Folchart

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In Inkheart, we are introduced to Mortimer "Moe" Folchart, the father of our main character Meggie.  Moe is a kind and loving father, utterly devoted to his daughter and his books.  However, as the series goes on, we also see him as a grieving husband, a guilt-wracked atoner, and finally as a flawed and at-times confused Robin Hood-esque hero.  I absolutely loved his character devolopment.  The things he lost and the things he gained shaped him into the man he eventually became, and the journey is difficult but fascinating.  His complex relationship Dustfinger is probably the most interesting relationship in the entire series.

#8

Thomas Covenant

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Thomes Covenant, of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, is one of the most unlikable characters I've ever read.  Selfish, cowardly, and at times cruel, he is 'hero' only by designation, and throughout his first trilogy he fights it with every fiber of his leprosy-ridden being.  So why is he on this list?  Because I love the journey that he takes.  Covenant, it is explained, once lived a happy life as a young author, married to a beautiful wife and father to a healthy baby boy.  But when it was discovered that he had contracted leprosy, he lost everything.  His job, his respect, even his family.  This, understandably, left him bitter and disillusioned.  So when he is suddenly swept away into a fantastical world called the Land and tempted with the possibility of healing, he rejects it utterly.  Though he is prophesied to be a hero who can either save the Land or doom it, he refuses to fight against the evil of Despite.  But at the same time, he is touched against will by the loving people who defend him and help him no matter what the cost, and eventually their kindness begins to prevail upon him.
Thomas Covenant is difficult to love, and yet I do, because of the man he eventually becomes.  I don't want to give away too much of the series, because even though it's pretty dark and rather adult, it's worth the read for anyone who loves high fantasy.  Suffice to say that by the time I got to the second trilogy, I loved every minute spent with his character.

#7

Lucy Sabine

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Raised in China as the orphaned daughter of English missionaries, Lucy is a child of two worlds.  After the death of her caretaker, she is drawn into the world of the English, as well as a tangled web of intrigue and old feuds.  And as she learns to navigate the peculiar land of her own people, she also harbors the secret of the stranger she married and lost in one night, Nick Sabine.  
Moonraker's Bride is one of my favorite books of all time, and one of the things I love most about it is Lucy's steadfast, innocent personality.  She is bright, sensible, curious, and at times blundering.  I can't really even describe her very well- you'd have to read the book to know.  Here's a quote that sort of sums her up:  

"Like Cinderella's slipper, she was made of glass, or crystal, for you could see all the way through her, and you saw nothing weak and nothing bad, only courage and love and unselfishness that took your breath away."

"... I'm frightened.  You speak as if I were so special, and I''m not, I know I'm not.  I get angry and scared and unreasonable, oh and I tell lies and I've been a thief.  You don't know what my page in the Recording Angel's book is like."

#6

Peet the Sock Man

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I can't really talk much about my favorite character from the Wingfeather Saga without giving away to much about the story.  This is unfortunate because Peet is just... darling.  He is noble, intelligent, and devoted to his family, yet also ridden with crippling guilt and self-loathing. His character arch is heartbreaking and wonderful at the same time, and you should really, really read this series so I can talk freely about this already!

#5

Howl Pendragon

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A scoundrel through and through, Howl is a vain, childish, petulant procrastinator and womanizer.  But despite his cowardice and selfish behavior, he is also brave and loving.  He's the kind of guy that would steal your heart, but you would know that you could never marry him.  The three books in which he plays a part are wonderful stories in their own right, but they also serve as means to explore his character bit by bit.  Again, I can't really go into his character without giving away too much about the first book, so this little blurb here will have to do.

#4

Dustfinger

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Yet another coward on this list.  Is that a bad sign?  I don't know.  Whatever the case, it is Dustfinger's weakness that makes him interesting.  He's one of those characters you can't help but pity and wish to help, even after he's betrayed the OTHER characters you care about.  His arch, alongside Moe's, is very satisfying to watch.  And although not everything happened in his story that I wanted to happen, Dustfinger goes down as one of the most memorable characters I have ever read.

#3

Miach

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The deuteragonist in the Nine Kingdoms trilogy, Miach and Aaragorn were tied for second place, but Aragorn beat him for  it because LOTR has such a special place in my heart.  That being said, Miach is such a sweet, sweet cinnamon roll I think I may still  be a little in love with him.  Or at least I would be if he wasn't so perfect for his love interest, the swordsmaiden Morgan.  He the youngest prince of Neroche, Archmage of the land.  Though generally disliked by the court because of his reclusive behavior and frazzled appearance, Miach a kind and whimsical soul, if perhaps a little closer to insanity than he'd like to admit.  But despite a traumatizing past and an inner tendency towards darkness, Miach nobly fights back his demons and walks solidly on the path of light, maintaining the realm and defending it from the evil that once nearly destroyed him.  His devotion to his family and his true love is pure and sweet.  His relationship with Morgan is one of the most well-done fictional romances I've ever read.

#2

Aragorn

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Need I really say much about this one?  Aragorn is such a great and memorable character.  His journey from ranger to king is subtle and compelling, and his interactions with those he fights for are beyond reproach.  He is a true man of integrity, and since I've recently been re-reading the Appendices of Return of the King I've been impressed once again with how awesome he is.  ^_^

#1

Beleg Strongbow

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Again, I know.  This fellow makes it onto a lot of my lists, but what can I say?  He's my favorite character ever.  I don't even know what it is about him that touches me in such a way, except that his honesty and devotion to his friend is so admirable. The voice of reason in an otherwise twisted and emotionally-trying tragedy, Beleg shines as a paragon of a true hero.  His prowess in battle does not make him arrogant, he stays true to his convictions and does not condone the actions of his dearest friend when it would be easier to either call it right, or leave him behind.  But against all odds, Beleg stays with Turn when he is needed most, knowing that it is his duty to try to protect his young friend from the terrible fate that looms over him.
Although it's difficult to pin down exactly what it is that solidified him in his position as my favorite character, it's going to take one INCREDIBLE character to usurp him.

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I hope you enjoyed this list!  Make sure to catch my next list, in which I highlight my top ten favorite film characters.  
What are some of your favorite characters, and why?  Let me know in the comments.  Have a nice day!

-Emmarayn Redding





(DISCLAIMER: With the exception of Peet the Sockman's portrait, I own none of the artwork contained  in this post.  All credit goes to their respective copyright holders.)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Movie Review: The Phantom of the Opera (1990)

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Image result for phantom of the opera 1990Before Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote his own Phantom of the Opera, Arthur Kopit began writing a musical adaptation of Lerox's novel.  It was not produced, but after the success of the Lloyd Webber show, Kopit's musical was translated into a two-part non-musical miniseries for television.

This, I must say, is the most beautiful adaptation of Phantom that I have ever seen.  Of course the Webber musical will always have a special place in my heart, but this version has now become my favorite.  

Vastly different from the book, this story paints a much more sympathetic portrait of Erik, who we see here as a sensitive, soft spoken, intelligent- if more than a little unbalanced- individual.  
Christine, a young peasant girl, arrives at the Paris Opera House with a letter from the Comte d'Chagny, who was enchanted by her singing in a village festival and arranged for her to have singing lessons.  Unfortunately for Christine, the Comte's friend Carriere, who used to be the manager, has recently been dismissed from his position and replaced by an Italian couple.  The new managers wife, Carlotta, does not believe that Christine can sing and instead assigns her to the costuming department, leaving Christine with little hope of ever making it to the stage.  This is a double blow for her, as she finds out that the Comte, with whom she was more than a little infatuated, has a reputation for being a womanizer, and she is not the first girl he has sent to the Opera House for lessons.
Image result for phantom of the opera 1990Meawhile, Carriere goes down below the theater to inform his long time friend, the Phantom, that he will no longer be able to help him since he has been dismissed.  Incensed at the injustice done to his friend, Erik takes an immediate disliking to the new manager and Carlotta, and is faced with the problem of what he is going to do now that his only ally has been ousted.  
But when he hears Christine singing after the theater closes, he knows he has found a new purpose, and immediately offers to become her teacher on the condition that she tell no-one.  A relationship begins to blossom between them as he guides her, inspiring her with both skill and confidence so that she can someday take her rightful place on the stage.

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I think the thing I loved most about this version was the characters.   The story almost seems like a Gothic fairy tale. Christine is naive, innocent, and loving.  Though she is very feminine and not afraid of it, she is not quite a damsel in distress either.  Far less so than the Christine in the Webber version.  Phillipe (the Raol-equivalent) is interesting due to his conflicting nature.  On one hand he has his reputation as the pretty-boy womanizer, and on the other hand his love for Christine is pure and true, and he does his best to be worthy of her.  
As for Erik, I loved that in this version he seemed more human.  He was capable of carrying on a normal(ish) conversation with someone, and was not consumed with self-pity, which I found quite refreshing.  His sense of humor made me laugh several times, and his tenderness toward Christine was very touching.  And yet, for all those good qualities, you could just tell that his mind is not all there.  Something is dreadfully broken in him, and one wrong blow could unleash a terrible threat.  
His relationship with Carriere was refreshing as well.  It was nice to see that his whole life did not always revolve around Christine.  He had a friend, and a business to run as well before ever knowing she existed.

One thing I found very interesting is that you never actually see his face, which I think keeps the mystery intact.  The viewer is left to imagine what could be so horrible, and is therefore not disappointed by something less than what they imagined.  

PROS:  Everything I just mentioned above.  I can't get over how much I love this movie!  

CONS:  A few scattered swear-words, though not as much as movies nowadays.  
One flashback in which you see a man and a woman lying in the grass together, and they do not appear to be fully clothed.  Nothing shocking is seen, though the characters are unmarried.  
**SPOILER** At one point we see a woman attempt what appears to be an abortion by drinking some sort of medicine, but she is stopped and she delivers the baby safely.**END SPOILER**
**SORTA-SPOILER**  In the Phantom's lair we see a crib, in which a headless doll rests.  The head of the doll is hung in front of a portrait of someone who appears to be Christine, and it is never made clear why this is.  It seems very suggestive of magic of some sort, but it is not elaborated on and frankly I have no idea why they included it in the film, except perhaps to make it seem more 'eerie'.**END SPOILER**

Some minor violence (gunshots fired, a few people hung), but very very little blood.  

OVERALL:  If you like the Phantom of the Opera, watch this version!  I can't find the official rating, but I would rate it a very light PG-13.  In terms of quality, I give it a solid Five Stars!

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-Emmarayn Redding

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Beautiful Music: I've Seen Hell

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Welcome!  This month's beautiful music is I've Seen Hell, by Martin Phipps from the soundtrack for BBC's North and South, an adaptation of  Elizabeth Gaskell's novel of the same name.  If you like Charles Dickens or Jane Austen (or both!), I recommend this miniseries.  I'd recommend the book too, but I haven't read it yet.  The library never has it available.  But for now, enjoy this haunting track at your leisure!






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I hope you enjoyed it!  Let me know if you have any favorite songs you'd like to share in the comments.  :D  Have a great day!

-Emmarayn Redding

(DISCLAIMER:   Music copyright John Michael Talbot.  No copyright infringement intended.)

Monday, May 15, 2017

Althea's Choice

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A while ago I entered this thousand-word short story in the Faith Radio Writing Contest.  It did not get enough votes make it to the finals, unfortunately, but I thought I'd post it here just for fun.  :)  If you already read it during the contest, thank you!  If not, now is your chance.  

By the way- this is one of the few pieces where I timed it to music!  At my reading speed, this story fits perfectly to Dreamcatcher, by Alexandre Desplat.  I don't know how well it will play out at other people's reading speeds, but it gets the feel of the story across any way, so for the full experience click play on the video before reading!  :D



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A Note:  The theme of the contest this year was Micah 6:8- "For what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"

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ALTHEA'S CHOICE

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“Please don't go, Renn!” she pleaded, clutching his sleeve in her fist. Her brother only looked down his nose at her, reproach in his eyes.
“We cannot waste this chance. King Lysander is young and inexperienced, and if we let him pass by now, he may never come within our grasp again! His people have oppressed the Faithful for generations. Would you let him have free reign over our land? Do what you wish, but I would have justice done.”
Althea fell silent. There'd been a kind of madness in Renn's eyes ever since Lysander had inherited the throne, and she knew there was nothing she could say to sway him. He and his men set out to ambush the new monarch that morning, and she waited alone in her cave, wondering if she would ever see them again. God in Heaven, please protect them...

At twilight, the first sounds of battle reached her. She sat bolt upright, her heart pounding. After a few moments she leaned back against the rough stone wall and closed her eyes, but rest eluded her. Justice... she mused. Renn's reasoning sounded clear, so why this check in her spirit?

In the early hours of the dawn, she stood stiffly, worry and curiosity finally compelling her to move. She draped a cloak over her shoulders and ventured into the forest.

Snow drifted down silently, stark against the dark pine branches as she made her way to the pass where Renn and the others had laid their trap for the king. All was quiet; neither bird nor animal stirred.
Cautiously she crept onward, knowing she must be close now- she could hear the sound of the river, a dull roar muffled by the snow.
A sudden movement startled her, and Althea's hand went instinctively to the dagger at her side. As her eyes focused on the movement, she saw that it was a young man stretched limply on the riverbank, half submerged in the water. He struggled for one moment to lift himself, then collapsed, shivering in the snow.
She ran forward, hoping against hope it was not Renn. He was all she had left.
Althea stopped short as she saw his face. It was not Renn, it was Lysander!
She knew his face from the coins, but if it weren't for the royal seal on his gauntlets she wouldn't have recognized him. He was so much younger than she'd expected. Perhaps her own age.
He was hurt, she could tell. The snow was red beneath him. Swallowing, Althea calculated. Here was a man who had the power to destroy her people- whose family had persecuted them for time-out-of-mind. He was unwed and had no heir. If he died, the kingdom could be free once more!
Every nerve told her to turn around and leave him where he was, but Althea stood rooted to the spot, unable to tear her eyes away.
“Oh Lord,” she whispered, “I don't know what to do...”
Like a flash, it came to her, the memory of her father's voice. “For what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love kindness, and walk humbly with your God?”
And what does that mean? Althea thought sharply. This man has already committed countless crimes against my people. Am I to hold him guiltless?
But then, against her will, a new thought stirred in her heart. That was exactly what Jesus had done, all those hundreds of years ago when he rose from the grave. Humankind had done nothing to deserve His mercy or grace, yet because of his sacrifice, she knew He held guiltless any who submitted themselves to His Name.
Perhaps Lysander didn't deserve to be saved, but... If God Himself showed mercy to a people who had done nothing but wrong Him, who am I to deny this young man the same kindness? she realized with a start. Pride told her that she had every right to leave him to die. But she could feel her Lord moving in her heart, urging her toward him. Bowing her head, she closed her eyes, praying for strength. Thy will, not mine, be done.

Slipping her arms under Lysander's shoulders, she pulled him to his knees and settled him over her back. His eyelids fluttered and he groaned in pain. Gritting her teeth against his weight, Althea turned toward home.

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Lysander stirred, his body so weak he could barely move. His side burned with pain, and the skin pulled strangely. Stitches, he realized. Shaking his head, he tried to pull himself from the dense fog that held him down. Slowly he opened his eyes and looked around. Firelight flickered on stone walls all around him. His head was bandaged, as well as his arm and side.
Then his eyes came to rest on the young woman who knelt by the fire, tending a skillet. Even in the dim light he could tell that she was one of the Faithful, a people he'd been taught to fear all his life.
Looking up, she noticed him and came closer. His stomach flipped and he stiffened, wincing as he tried to move away.
“It's alright, Your Highness,” the woman said softly. She put out a gentle hand on his shoulder to calm him. “My name is Althea, and you're safe with me. I've bound your wounds, but you must rest until your strength returns.”
Lysander eyed her warily. “Why am I still alive?” he asked, his voice hoarse and strange in his ears. Althea smiled, sadness lurking behind her eyes.
“God has spared me despite my wrongs. How could I not do the same for you?”
Lysander blinked, confused. Althea offered no further explanation, but slid her hand under his head to help him drink. As unconsciousness threatened to swallow him again, he had time only for one last thought... If the Faithful are such a dangerous people, how could they offer such kindness?

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-Emmarayn Redding

(Neither the image nor the video used in this post are my property.  Image taken from Pintrest, unable to find name of artist.  Music copyright Alexandre Desplat.  No copyright infringement intended.)