Saturday, November 10, 2012

Library Loot - 2nd Week of November

The top two books in my New Loot list are for school, otherwise I doubt I'd be reading them when I could be reading Jane Austen. *le sigh* The two Old Loot ones are realistic teen fiction that I'm reading for a teen reading list at work. Plus, I love S. E. Hinton!

New Loot:
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • Intimations of Chritianity among the Ancient Greeks by Simone Weil
  • Dawn of the Arcana manga - Volumes 4,5,6
  • The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle (with a foreward by Martin Freeman!!)
Old Loot:
  • Black and White by Paul Volponi
  • Taming the Star Runner by S. E. Hinton

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Message in a Bottle by Nicholas Sparks

Don't ask me why I wanted to read Nicholas Sparks because there is no answer, but I just finished Message in a Bottle. I would never say that he isn't a good writer, because he is. His style is very engaging and I don't want to put down his books because his writing is so entertaining and heartfelt. He puts a lot of passion into his books and you can really sense that passion. I just wish he'd find a new premise, something he's never done before. Even if it meant having someone else help him develop the story. Anything to give him something new and original.

The premise of Message in a Bottle is this. Theresa vacations by the sea and finds a bottle with a love letter in it. Nothing unusual in that, I guess, except that it seems the woman being written to has died and the letter itself is so poignant it brings her to tears. Through a mishmash of circumstances Theresa tracks down 2 more letters written by the same author and each letter gives a little more information on where the writer might live. Sure enough, Garrett's letters are absolutely correct about his location: living in Wilmington, NC and owning a diving shop as well as a refurbished sailboat from the 1920s named Happenstance. She heads on down there to meet Garrett, probably with the intention of only meeting him and then leaving. One thing leads to another, they both like each other immensely, and by the end of her stay they are embroiled in an intimate relationship.

Of course, the relationship can't stay this way. Theresa is a columnist for a Boston magazine and she published Garrett's first letter in her column before she ever went down to meet him. Garrett naturally discovers this on a trip to visit her and all hell breaks loose. She's upset with him for not understanding and he's upset with her because she dared publish something as intimate as the letters he wrote to his deceased wife, Catherine. Let's just say that if you're expecting a happy ending, this is like every other Sparks' book I've read. In other words, there is no happy ending.

What I truly wish is that his books weren't so darn predictable! I correctly guessed which character would die and how it would happen and I wasn't even 50 pages into the book. I correctly guessed there would be turmoil when Garrett discovered that Theresa had his letters and I guessed that incident would play a part in the ultimate tragedy. I already knew the end so I just read the journey that would take me to the end. And that's really not very fun.

As to Garrett's character, I could almost have fallen in love with him myself. There's something disturbingly attractive about a man who has experienced tragedy and emerges as something of a grieving hero. Garrett is a wonderful man and watching him heal from his wife's death because of Theresa (probably the best thing she did for him) is special. But there would have been a much stronger impact had Nicholas Sparks not followed his normal routine of death.

Now I'll need to bring myself to watch the movie and see if they're at all comparable. Looking at the list of character names for the movie I can already tell they've changed a lot and I'm not a huge fan of Kevin Costner at the best of times. Again I ask myself, why am I doing this?! Because he's Nicholas Sparks and a part of me really wants to understand the draw.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Book Review - Hearts that Survive by Yvonne Lehman

Charity is solely responsible for my new-found interest in the Titanic. Along that same vein, also thanks to her, is my desire to see the story told as accurately as possible. A little romance is fine, awesome even, but only in so long as its in keeping with the actual facts of history. Now, on to my thoughts for Yvonne Lehman's Hearts that Survive.

The Plot

When wealthy heiress Lydia Beaumont boarded the Titanic the last thing she expected was a proposal from the man she loved. Not only did it come at a startling moment but also a necessary one due to her being in a family way. Instead of reacting fearfully John  realizes that not only is he willing to take responsibility for one night of mistaken passion but that he loves Lydia deeply enough to marry her. What better setting than the Titanic for a romantic wedding

Of course, we know what happens. History doesn't change and many a wife and mother lost her husband that dreadful night. Lydia and her friend Caroline are not, themselves, immune to the tragedy and both find they must pick up the shattered pieces of their souls. Lydia is again bombarded with a wedding proposal from the vice-president of her father's company, Craven Dowd, and now she must make a decision. Remain unwed (for despite the wedding, legal papers were not to have been signed until April 15th) and pregnant or marry Craven and pray that he doesn't notice the month's discrepancy between conception and birth.

This is a story of rebuilding one's life after a tragedy of immeasurable size has shattered it.

My Thoughts

I was deeply enthused about this book for the first 150 pages or so. The writing style interested me and I adored Lydia's beau, John. He was a poet and a toy train maker so how could I not love him? Unfortunately my greatest fear came to pass and Lydia is not nearly so likeable without John at her side. She is petty, emotional, and well, childish, rather like the much-adored Rose from James Cameron's film. The only difference is that Lydia has some faith in God, although not as much faith as John had. Okay, so the heroine's not all she's cracked up to be. I can live with that. But there's more.

How do you write a novel about the Titanic and give only one mention to Thomas Andrews? And I'm not even certain if she did mention Charles Lightoller! Lightoller was 2nd mate on board the Titanic and played a very notable role during the sinking and Thomas Andrews was the ship's designer. He certainly deserved more than one mention. Plus, and I hate to say it, but Margaret Brown became "Molly" once again. I live in Colorado so this has become a pet peeve of mine. During her lifetime she was in no way, shape, or form referred to as Molly. Her friends called her Maggie so that was actually a severe annoyance to me, having to read Molly when I knew her nickname was Maggie.

The Bottom Line

So, what began interesting quickly delved into boring. When I read a book I prefer reading actual conversations instead of descriptions of those conversations. I prefer active verbs instead of passive. The book was boring! I kept reading up until the bitter end but Hearts that Survive didn't live up to my sizable expectations. Yvonne Lehman is a respected authoress and I've enjoyed many of her novels. I'm not sure where she went wrong with the characters and style for this book. I'd have to give it, if I were doing that type of rating system, 3 out of 5 stars. I don't regret reading it but I would never read it again and recommending it, especially to Titanic enthusiasts, would be impossible.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Reading "Twilight" (Part 2)

So, nearly a month later I make the time to finish reading Twilight. As I expected it took me less than two days to complete the 300 pages I had left. Stephanie is nothing if not an easy read. Now comes the moment of truth. What do I think of Twilight? My ultimate conclusion is that women who are sadly unhappy with their lives will be drawn to Twilight the most. There's something lacking from their existence that Edward fills. Respect, admiration, and yes, love flowing from a "beautiful" man to a painfully ordinary girl would tempt almost any woman in unhappy circumstances to wish for their own Edward. And so the Twihards are born.

Was anyone else frustrated by the constantly changing moods of the main characters? Here's where Stephanie's writing comes into play. I cannot imagine bouncing from emotion to emotion the way Edward and Bella do on a daily basis. Bella's happy, she's sad, she's angry, she's pouting, etc. Edward's angry, he's defensive, he's amused, he's charitable, he's possessive, he's jealous, etc. Every chapter pretty much runs the gamut of all these emotions and I don't know about you but that alone would drive me nuts!

Still, I get it. I really do. If I were any less happy with my life (and I'm pretty darn happy) then I could understand the allure of Edward. What woman doesn't want to be protected and cherished even though she's just . . . ordinary? What woman wouldn't want Prince Charming charging to the rescue even though she's sure she doesn't deserve him? I cannot really fault Edward. He was first attracted by her scent that drove him crazy but then he started liking Bella as a person. He got to know her and he liked what he saw. I'm afraid I don't see what Edward saw in her. I don't get his attraction other than her scent. And therein lies the fact that this series was written by a woman who wanted to create the perfect man for an otherwise ordinary, boring, and rather selfish heroine. Bella is plain, simple, and emotionally stupid. She's immature because she's just a teenager and she annoys me now and always will. So I don't view Bella through Edward's rose-colored glasses.

Now comes the moment of truth. I don't need Edward because those same traits that Bella admires, at least the best ones, are the ones held by my heavenly Father. Bella created a god out of her boyfriend. I already have a savior and so what would I ever do with an Edward? Don't get me wrong. I want a husband and a family someday but not under the pretext that he is something perfect and brilliant and entirely too good for me because I'm dirt under his feet. No thanks. The One I worship is my God, Jesus Christ, and so I'm definitely not splitting my worship between Him and a boyfriend.

In conclusion, here are my final thoughts. The author's repetitive use of Edward's godlike appearance and rock hard skin got old fast as did Bella either blushing or getting short of breath. I'm romantic, but not that romantic. So, I saw the flaws in the characters, Bella especially, and in the story but I still felt compelled to continue reading. Bella remains as selfish as ever, from start to finish of the book. Whatever is easiest for her is the route she takes, even if it means not trusting her new vampire family enough to tell them about the risk to her mother's life. Bella is selfish and arrogant and even though she doesn't always want to need saving she always will because she's constantly putting herself in unnecessary danger. No romantic love is worth that type of self-danger but I know she'll never realize this so at least I'm prepared for the rest of the novels.vAnd yes, I am going to continue with the series. If I made it through Twilight and still enjoyed it despite everything I just said then I can make my way through the rest. My greatest sorrow is that now women have an unrealistic view of any romantic relationship they might form because they want Edward. Let's just say that you should never make your boyfriend into your God.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Anne Frank - A Coming of Age Story

Being homeschooled you sometimes miss a few things that would have been required. Like Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl from her 25 months of confinement in Holland while hiding from the Gestapo. This was required reading in middle school it seems, but my mom had me read The Hiding Place instead, which was traumatic enough. I also read all of David Wilkerson's books (author of Cross and the Switchblade) which deal with drug addiction and lost souls on the street. So, I was by no means lacking in a formal literary education. Yet I still raised a couple of eyebrows at work when a few coworkers heard that I hadn't read Anne Frank's diary. Since I wouldn't lose anything by reading it I decided to give it a go. Biographies aren't usually my thing but you can work your way through almost anything if you persevere, which is what I did.

Anne Frank starts her journal on her 13th birthday, a gift from her parents a month before they went into hiding. What you have for the first third of her diary is a young girl struggling with her circumstances and her anger at the world. That anger manifests itself toward her family and their roommates, the Van Daans. Anne seems like a petty, selfish and highly ungrateful girl who thinks she knows everything. In other words, she's a thirteen-year-old. Now, don't get mad at me for saying that Anne was selfish. If she had stayed in that mentality then I would have probably stopped reading the book, but she didn't. And because Anne Frank grew up and started seeing herself and her family differently, started behaving differently, I began feeling as though I knew her. She looks back at her earlier entries and grieves at the cruelty and hatred with which she addressed her mother. She wonders how that could possibly have been her writing those unforgivable words. In her January 2nd, 1944 entry, Anne says, "this diary is of great value to me, because it has become a book of memoirs in many places, but on a good many pages I could certainly put 'past and done with.'" Anne had moved on from that rage.

Somewhere near the last quarter of the book I realized something. This girl, this young and tender girl who was just about to turn 15 was going to die. Her dreams of being a writer, of finding a husband, of traveling the world, of being in love were never going to be realized. Anne died in March of 1945, only two months before the war was won and prisoners set free. Out of the 8 people she lived with in the "Secret Annexe" only her father Otto survived. You read Anne's words of these people, both kind and critical, with a different eye when you realize that they're all murdered. Had she known the future, Anne would certainly have altered her perception. She had wanted to be a better mother than her own had been to her. She wanted a Mumsie instead of a Mummy and that was what she was determined to be to her children. Except she had no children.

I read the blip at the end of the book that covered the end of Anne's life. And it's hard. Because those events weren't in Anne's words. They were from observations of other people who had known her in Auschwitz or Belsen and somehow managed to survive. All you know is that the brave, angry, and loving girl whose journal you just read wasted away to nothing and died of illness in a concentration camp. How do you reconcile that glorious young life with death? I'm a writer, but I don't write like Anne Frank. Some of her entries are very childlike but others are profound in ways I can't begin to describe. Anne Frank, had she lived, would have gone on to be a magnificent author that would have blown this world apart with her cleverness and wit. As it is she is remembered through this journal. You don't always like Anne but you do grow to love her. I see why the book is required reading among young people and I'm proud, now, to say that I have finally read The Diary of a Young Girl.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Hunger Games

This isn't something I've ever really covered in any previous blog post so I might as well cover it now. I've heard many arguments for and against the series of books and now the new film. I won't rehash them now because there would be no point. I only know what I personally like and what I do like is The Hunger Games. I saw the movie yesterday with an entire group of teenagers from the library where I work and I went again today with my sister and our closest friend. All three of us are in agreement. The film puts many franchises to shame, Twilight included. Most of the time books are so much better than their movie counterparts but in regards The Hunger Games the two are nearly equal.

Like I said, I won't rehash any arguments. All I know is that I view Katniss as a kindred spirit. I'm not a warrior and I'm not a hunter. What I am is an older sister. I would do anything, literally anything, to keep my sister out of harm's way and if it meant volunteering to be slaughtered in a horrific arena than that's what I would do. I obviously make a connection to Katniss that many other people don't. I read these books and I watched this film from the viewpoint of an older sister who understands Katniss' perspective.

I think it's a shame that many Christians try to over-analyze the premise of The Hunger Games. Is it because there is no religion at the end of all things? This is just a story after all. Religion doesn't have to be in every story ever penned. Is it the idea that humanity could fall so far as to have an arena where 23 out of 24 teenagers are executed every year, accepted by society? Hey, we've been there before. Anyone remember Rome? Humans are sinners, always have been and always will be. The only difference between a Christian and your average sinner is that Christian are covered in the blood of Jesus and saved by grace.

I can see humanity reaching the point of depravity where it would be entertaining to watch teenagers fight to the death in an arena. And that, I think, is why Suzanne Collins wrote these books that are so unlike any others that have ever been published. She's using her talent, i.e. writing, as a warning. She's calling for compassion to those who would be considered weak. She's defying the very concept of survival of the fittest. Was Peeta fittest? No, he certainly wasn't, but he was compassionate. How about Katniss? She certainly wasn't the strongest or the cleverest but she did her best to protect others. The only time Katniss took a life was either in an act of protection or as an act of mercy.

Preaching isn't really my thing so I'll stop here. Except to say that I LOVE The Hunger Games. Books, film, author, actors, directors, screenwriters, everything. The film was the best adaptation from a book I have ever seen, including The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. The books are some of the most exciting I have ever read except perhaps the Inkheart trilogy by Cornelia Funke. Such a shame the movie was so horrible! But The Hunger Games movie is worth it! What it's saying about humanity is true because we are sinful and the more aware we are of our sin natures the less likely it is that such an event as The Hunger Games could ever take place. Now, if this isn't your thing, your genre, than that's one thing. Nothing could ever compel me to like horror, so I get it if you don't like The Hunger Games because it's just not your thing. No hard feelings. :)

For those planning to see it, though, please, please, please leave the kids at home! Everyone remember The Dark Knight with that lovely pencil trick by the Joker that you don't really see but your brain thinks you did? Well, let me just say that The Hunger Games is more violent than Batman ever could be and so it is not for kids. PG13 is there for a reason!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Reading "Twilight" (Part 1)

I don't know what possessed me to try, but I'm determined to read Stephanie Meyer's series in its entirety. Twilight was on my reading list about 4 years ago and I did read it and enjoy it, but then I tried again a year later with the intention of reading all the books but quickly gave up. It just didn't interest me like it had the first time. Of course, that was also the time when all of the Twihards were coming out of the woodwork and terrifying me with their obsession. We won't mention that I'm just as obsessed about certain things myself. *cough, Sherlock, cough*

But I realized I needed to give the series another chance. I'm hoping to, I don't know, understand the appeal. I'm halfway through chapter 10 and here's what I've realized so far:

  • Writing Style
    • The book isn't as dreadful as I remembered which only strengthens my idea that I hated it before because it was such a huge success and the Twihards gave me the willies.
    • In fact, Twilight is very entertaining and an easy read which I've proven in that I only started it yesterday and I'm already over 200 pages in.
    •  Entertaining yes, but her grammar is still rudimentary at best.
    • If she had just toned down the "godlike" imagery of Edward a little bit it would have done wonders for the overall quality of the novel.
    • She uses far too many adjectives like "blackly" or "angrily" to describe Edward's reactions.
      • "His brow creased angrily for a moment, then smoothed  . . ." and "he chuckled blackly."
        • Take those adjectives away and the sentence is tighter and lets the reader decide on their own what Edward is feeling. Few readers like to have emotion dictated to them.
        • Oh well, her writing isn't perfect. Big surprise, but it's still a fun read.
  • Edward
    • The films have never and will never do him justice. I'd forgotten just how attractive book Edward is to the female psyche.
    • He thinks of Bella's safety before his own in a way we rarely see today.
    • He's courteous and gentle, funny and romantic.
    • In a word, there is NO WAY that I can connect book!Edward with film!Edward. It's like film!Edward is a mere shadow of the Edward Stephanie Meyer created.
  •  Bella
    • Where do I start?
    • I find it very hard to like Bella, for three reasons.
      • 1: She lies to her father about going to Seattle alone when she'll actually be spending the day with Edward. Edward thinks she should tell Charlie, Bella refuses. Not good since parents are put in our lives as a guiding light for a reason.
      • 2: Bella thinks, and I quote, "If I had to, I suppose I could purposefully put myself in danger to keep him close." Say what?!
      •  She's not good enough for Edward. Bella approaches the relationship from a selfish perspective while Edward, throughout their relationship, only tries to think of what's best for her. Hence the "she's not good enough for him" statement.
    • Sorry, I know some of this probably sacrilege, but I can't help it. Bella's entire behavior is one of neediness. I can forgive some of this because she's only 17, but then so is Edward so why is he more mature? After all, living for 100 years at the age of 17 doesn't mean any hormonal issues just float away.
    • So, Bella is highly imperfect and drives me crazy. Sometimes I sympathize with her and other days, like with that quote about putting herself in danger, I can see how she became so miserable in New Moon that she risked her life in order to see visions of Edward.
  • Conclusion up to Chapter 10 of Twilight
    • The film version of Twilight is dreadful.
    • Romance is at the heart of this novel. A desire to find true love, to be cherished by a man and pursued by him with honorable intentions. It's a beautiful dream and as a woman who sometimes feels like she's permanently single, I get the appeal of Edward. Note: married women who worship Edward creep me out so much I can't even describe the revulsion.
    • Let's just say that Edward's side of the romance is from an adult perspective and Bella's side is from the teenage angst perspective. Meyer's somehow managed to combine the two, which is why I respect Edward's love and have very little sympathy with Bella's.
    • Oh, and I am really liking Twilight, just in case you couldn't tell by my little critique. We'll see what happens throughout the rest of the book.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Christian Vampire Fiction?

How is it possible for me to go merrily along in life one moment and be broiling towards a fellow Christian the next? Who is this unfortunate soul, you ask? No one I know personally, lucky for him and me. He's a narrow-minded individual even though he's saved by the same blood that covers me and all his fellow believers. Most of the time I love being a Christian, following Christ, learning His commandments and realizing how much He loves me. Then, sometimes, I meet a few of His other children that frustrate me no end.

There's a marvelous movement in the Christian publishing world right now, that of the vampire Christian fiction. Tracey Bateman has written a few books about vampires and there's another author Charity's reading at the moment that is also written from a religious viewpoint. I couldn't be happier! Why, you ask? Because what are the kids reading right now? Think about it. They're reading VAMPIRE books! The secular, sexy, unhealthy kind that gives them all kinds of bad, bad, very bad mental images.

Soooo, what is the teen market demanding? Vampire fiction. What should the Christian publishing world be giving them? Vampire fiction. It's a no-brainer to me. Imagine what good Christian writers can do with creatures who are potentially soulless and in need of redemption! Can there be redemption? Is it possible? Do they still have souls? There are all sorts of possibilities that can be examined if vampire fiction makes it into the Christian publishing market.

Which leads me back to my original paragraph that ranted without much detail. In my hunt online I ran across a brother in Christ, seemingly sane, who compares vampire Christian fiction with Christian porn. As in a, "If we allow this into the Christian world then this will follow." Say what? He belittled any Christians who read or watch anything to do with vampires. Now, I'm not saying this man has to read vampire Christian fiction. I don't read Amish fiction and have no opinion on it one way or the other. He can do the same. What troubles me the most, though, is how he is tearing something down that is just starting to make an impact. Authors are tentatively feeling the waters on this taboo subject matter. Loud and belligerent voices like his are only going to send them fleeing back to the types of books that every Christian author writes.

Whether he likes it or not there is a group of avid Christian readers who aren't being fed. Their literary interests are being ignored and they are those of us interested in fantasy, science fiction, and the supernatural realm. I LOVE these types of books but they are non-existent in the Christian publishing market right now. They're thought to be dangerous, evil, precipitating an unhealthy interest in magic and the supernatural. Hello? If Christians write these types of books, don't you think there will be some smidgeon of God's truth hidden in there somewhere? What about C.S. Lewis? Or J.R.R. Tolkien? The latter who, by the way, this blogger insulted, upsetting me even more.

What I'm really saying is that Christian readers who are avid lovers of these genres need to make their voices heard. We have to speak up or there will never be a genre added to Christian fiction for us. I, for one, don't want to see that happening. Fortunately I found a publisher whose original purpose, the reason for its existence, was to publish Speculative Christian Fiction as they have termed it. It's Marcher Lord Press and I encourage you to give their books a glance and see if your libraries carry any of them. If they don't, consider putting in a request. I know that's what I'm going to do!

Book Review: Miss Kopp's Midnight Confessions by Amy Stewart (Kopp Sisters #3, 2017)

Original Summary Deputy sheriff Constance Kopp is outraged to see young women brought into the Hackensack jail over dubious charges ...