Saturday, June 30, 2012

30 Day Book Challenge! Day 30: Recap

Day 30: What is your favorite book?

Hmph. If you ask me, this isn't that brilliant of a final question (so I guess I'm glad I had a different one to answer already tonight!). I suppose, for some people, their favorite book by their favorite author might not necessarily be their favorite book of all time - but for me, it is. Therefore, since it is not necessary for me to repeat myself, since you do not want me to repeat myself, since I do not feel like repeating myself, and since it is late and I am zonkered - I shall refer you to that post, if you happened to forget it - and say: Hooray for the 30-Day Book Challenge!!!

30 Day Book Challenge! Day 29: Tears

Day 29: What is a book that makes you cry?

Let's clear something up: I don't really...cry. I mean, I do, but not often. It's not because I don't feel things are sad, but because the tears often just don't come. There have only been three books I can think of at the moment that I've teared up in - and in most of those cases, I was rather emotionally drained, which means I was crying at EVERYTHING anyway.

However, a truly-truly sad book, that I not only teared up in, but actually sobbed through, not just once, but three separate times, was:

This story is awful in the sad sense of the word. I cry through the song, book, and movie. The first time I heard the song, we were on our way to violin lessons in early December, singing along with the Christmas Music station. A beautiful introduction began, and mama, reaching over and turning up the volume, said, "Oh, this is a terrible song," and promptly burst into tears. With such an introduction, Emily and I could not be far behind, and we walked into lessons that day with such red, blotchy faces that our teacher immediately asked in alarm, "Are you girls ok???"

A while later, I came across the book and, as I settled to read it, was taken on along on the heart-wrenchingly sad tale of a little boy - used by God to help a career-obsessive man rethink his priorities - watching his mother die of cancer. I cried. And cried. And cried.

I watched the movie and...the same thing happened. At this point, I don't cry anymore when the song comes on, when I watch the movie (unless I'm already emotionally drained), but the book...I haven't had the courage to read it again. Books, despite their lack of background-music, are usually the one form of "entertainment" that never fails to give me the same emotional response - regardless of how many times I read them. I'm just not sure I'm ready for the drama of re-reading that story...


"Maggie Andrews had cancer, and the prognosis wasn't good. No wonder Nathan often seemed distracted. He was not old enough to fully understand the situation and probably didn't know that his mother was dying. But some days Doris could see it in the boy's eyes, a terrible sadness she recognized....Sometimes being quiet is the greatest gift you can give someone, Doris thought, as she watched the boy sharpen his pencil, something terribly heartbreaking in the way he struggled to turn the handle. She whispered a silent prayer for God to draw near and wrap the little boy in His arms."


What book makes you cry?

Friday, June 29, 2012

30 Day Book Challenge! Day 28: Titles

Day 28: What is your favorite book title?

Oh dear, there is an everlasting list of well-titled books. However, I will share one title that I just laugh at every time I think of:

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - isn't that just one of the most wonderfully-hilarious titles you ever heard of? Sadly, I can give no personal insight into the book, as it is on my "to-read" list, instead of the "have-read" one, but here is Amazon's synopsis for you:


January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.


Ahhh, yes, I can't wait to read this book! Have you read it? What do you consider the best title a book's ever seen?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

30 Day Book Challenge! Day 27: Surprise!

Day 27: What is a book with the most surprising plot twist or ending?

I'm sure I wouldn't know. I'm not usually a fan of the genre of books that throws surprising, jerking plot twists in that leave you spinning. I generally read books where at least the emotion - if not the details - of the end is fairly predictable. Maybe that's boring, but it's the truth. The only book I can think of that I positively jumped up-and-down with shock at the direction of the plot was:

Black as Night is the second book in the series I spoke of here, and, of course, I can't really tell you what the plot twist is about! However, the "surprise" speaks volumes about Regina Doman's ability to follow the fairy-tale plot (here, the story of "Snow White") and still keep you guessing. The surprise shouldn't be one; it makes completely logical sense when one keeps in mind the story of Snow White. Yet, I found myself shocked when all the pieces fell together!

It's a story of pain, grudges, estrangement, reconciliation, and forgiveness. Little did Bear know that his hesitancy in reaching out to his father - reaching over innumerable lists of wrongs done and hatred given - could have such devastating implications, not just in his spirit, but in the physical world. From the hilarious seven friars (who take the place of the seven dwarves) to the chilling, inexplicable pursuit of Blanche by the head of the Mirror Corporation, this story keeps you guessing as to what the outcome may be...


I was thinking about our last conversation.
I don't know if I told you before that this summer at work I met a man who is dying, and I've been visiting him. He has no visitors except for me. Why? Because he won't forgive the people who hurt him, including his relatives and his sons. Now he's dying alone - well, practically alone. I'm the only visitor he has, and he doesn't seem to be well taken care of, so I've kept visiting him, even though it's sad to be around someone so bound by the past. It's very sad and so senseless. Even terrifying.
All I can think is that I don't want to see you become like this. I don't want to see you hardened, like this man is, by years of unforgiveness.
Not that I want to change you. But it seems that your past has a hold on you. Do you think that maybe you can't find peace and direction in your life because, on some level, you won't forgive?
I can only say this to you because you're my friend. Maybe seeing so much this summer has made me bolder. Or just more anxious that my friends and family don't end up like this man.
I'm sorry if this hurts you. But I thought you should know.
With love,

30 Day Book Challenge! Day 26: Changes

Day 26: What is a book that changed your opinion about something?

I suppose the purpose of this question was to bring out deep theological or philosophical books that changed my opinion on something monumental - but I refuse! The theological or philsophical option, that is - having a good opinion of Charles Dickens is certainly monumental, as far as literature is concerned!

As I have hinted, a book changed my opinion of Charles Dickens' stories. Previously, my only exposure to him had been Oliver, and a vague idea of the lot of A Christmas Carol - and in my mind was made up, from these, that he was rather dismal. Additionally, at the ripe old age of 8, I tried to forge my way through The Pickwick Papers, but after wading through long sentences and allusions I did not understand, I was quite discouraged and set it down. I still had Charles Dickesn, in my mind, as a classic author, and one who wrote well; I just decided that the flavor of his stories were not for me. And thus, I deprived myself of his wonderful works for the first 17 years of my life!
My Aunt and I were wandering through a very crowded Portobello Market in London, when my eye fell upon a table with beautiful, antique books proudly displayed before the seller. Perfect! I wanted to have a special souvenier of this day, and a book seemed the perfect choice! I persued the many titles and authors, before finally deciding on a little, 7 x 4 inch book, David Copperfield, printed in Oxford (where my aunt and I were next bound), and with no copyright date but a penciled inscription in a childish hand:

"from Elsie
Christmas 1919"

I resolved then and there to not only purchase the book as my market-day memnto, but to give Dickens one last, ultimate try by causing myself to read the book in its entirety.

I am so glad I did.

And thus changed my opinion of Charles Dickens - I think him (now) a fabulous author, although I have yet to attempt the reading of Oliver again. I shall not even try to give the synopsis - it is a long and amazingly diverse book of characters, plots, and settings, and it has been several years since I read it - but suffice to say, it is a book that, I think, would hook even a Little on Charles Dickens!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

30 Day Book Challenge! Day 25: Characters

Day 25: Who is a character that you can relate to the most?

This question, I do not like (to speak like Yoda - and NOOO! I am not saying I relate to him at all!!) In the first place, isn't one of the main goals of a well-written story to make you, as the reader, relate to (at least one of) the characters? If you didn't relate, why would you keep reading? Who has ever read a book where they did not sympathize, understand, or admire the character(s)? In some way - sometimes big, sometimes small - a person can relate to any character he reads about. Your personal desire for adventure, suspense, usefulness, or beauty (and the list could go on and on) will cause you to relate to characters such as Marguerite and Percy Blakeney, Watson, Polly Milton, or Walter Gregory. Thus, in all honesty, I could relate to any character I've read about - and I think, since none of the characters are me, there would be quite a few who all fall in the "most" category.

Secondly, I don't like stereotypes or labels (as mom says "I'm agin' 'em"), and it seems to me that girls (especially) like to romanticize the idea of being "like ____" from such-and-such a book. Far from saying it's bad to compare one's personality against a book characters, it just seems rather silly to me how much store someone will set by being like so-and-so (who's not even a real person!). Emily and I have laughed several times - speficially in the Shadow of the Bear trilogy - at how sister stories tend to have one sister more like her, and one more like me, but I think if we, as girls, decide we are like a certain character, it can often begin to impact how we act - and there's only one Person from one Book that I want to have that sort of sway on my life.

*draws deep breath* Unfortunately, despite my long-winded-ness on the subject, the question remains. So, I'll tweak it just a microscopic scoosh - who is a character you feel like you particularly  understand? - and proceed.

Elinor Dashwood. I am sure you who know me are thinking of the millions of ways I am not like her - and I know there are several. But here are the ways I "relate" to her:

-she tries to make decisions based on what is right and logical, not on her emotions
-few people know about or understand her deeper emotions. She just can't express them with the same amount of clarity, eloquence, or openness as Marianne, and so people think she doesn't experience the same emotions at all.
And I understand those characteristics. I do not pretend to be exactly like (how could I, when everyone can read my face like an open book?), but I understand her.

Monday, June 25, 2012

30 Day Book Challenge! Day 24: Social Renown

Day 24: What is a book you wish more people would have read?

Hmmm...I admit it, I asked my little bro for advice on this question. Basically, I think it would be incredible if more people would have read all the books I've read, but that's not specific enough. Therefore, my answer (thanks to Zachary) is:

The Princess and the Goblin is another George MacDonald I grew up on. It's the tale of Princess Irene (who is a true princess!), who is never permitted to see the evening sky because of grotesque, resentful, soft-footed-no-toes goblins who lurk about in the dark. It's the tale of Curdie, the coal-miner's son, who works deep in the home of the goblins - the dark underground coal mines - and thus discovers the secret plot of the goblins' to kill all in the castle and kidnap the princess. It's the tale of Princess Irene's mysterious and magical, but undeniably good grandmother, who is really her "more greats than you can imagine" grandmother, and who, depsite her age, has no age, and is invisible to those who don't believe. It is a lovely, fantastic, imaginative fairy tale about faith, honor, sacrifice, and love.


"That same morning, early, the princess woke in a terrible fright. There was a hideous noise in her room - of creatures snarling and hissing and racketing about as if they were fighting. The moment she came to herself, she remembered something she had never thought of again - what her grandmother told her to do when she was frightened. She immediately took of her ring and put it under her pillow. As she did so, she fancied she felt a finger and thumb take it gently from under her palm. 'It must be my grandmother!' she said to herself, and the thought gave her such ourage that she stopped to put on her dainty little slippers before running from the room."


"'I've brought Curdie, grandmother. He wouldn't believe what I told him, and so I've brought him.'
'Yes - I see him. He is a good boy, Curdie, and a brave boy. Aren't you glad you have got him out?'
'Yes, grandmother. But it wasn't very good of him not to believe me when I was telling him the truth.'
'People must believe what they can, and those who believe more must not be hard upon those who believe less. I doubt if you would have believed it all yourself if you hadn't seen some of it.'
'Ah! yes, grandmother, I daresay. I'm sure you are right. But he'll believe now.'
'I don't know that,' replied her grandmother.
'Won't you, Curdie?' said Irene, looking round at him as she asked the question.
He was standing in the middle of the floor, staring and looking strangely bewildered....
'I don't see any grandmother,' answered Curdie gruffly.


What George MacDonald's have you read?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

30 Day Book Challenge! Day 23: Reading List

Day 23: What is a book you've wanted to read for a long time, but still haven't?

There's a long list to choose from for this question. Very. Long. List. I shall choose the most scandalous and appalling book on my book list. Scandalous and appalling, that is, because I should have read it years ago, but still haven't!

Yes, I admit it, I have yet to read Pilgrim's Progress. Isn't that terrible? My only defense is as follows:

Many years ago. Many, many, many years ago. When cars were horses and phones were -- eh? No, wait. It was just the other day, I was ten years old, and we still had cars and phones and computers. Anyway, I was perusing our bookshelf and saw a book I'd never read to date: Pilgrim's Progress! I pulled it off the shelf, set meself down, and read Pilgrim's Progress. I enjoyed it, although it wasn't quite my usual style of reading (I was not yet well-versed in the allegory as a genre). I finished the book, put it on the shelf, and went about my merry way.

The end.

Except, not. Because, as I told you, I haven't read it. Because, as you will see, there is a Part Two to my tale:

Many years later. Many, many, many years later. When civilizations were built on the moon and Mars and -- eh? No, wait. It was only a few years later, or maybe even just a couple months later. Anyway, I stood in front of mother crushed and aghast and asked her to repeat what she had just told me. "All those books are abridged. They're not the real book or story, just shortened versions."

The end.

So, you see, I have read Pilgrim's Progress, but I haven't. I was cheated. Duped. Tricked. I tried to read it. I believed I had read it. And I proved that believing does not mean doing. Yes, it's on my list of books to read, but not my urgent list, seeing as I've read the abridged...

What's a book at the bottom of your reading list?

Friday, June 22, 2012

30 Day Book Challenge! Day 22: In Love

Day 22: What is the book that made you fall in love with reading?

I don't remember a time when I couldn't read (mama had me reading kiddy books by age 4), and I don't remember a time when I didn't love to read, or be read to. I assume the answer to this question should technically be some wonderful story-book like Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? from Dr. Seuss or Dance at Grandpa's from 'My First Little House Books' - of course those were favorites! Mama read Dr. Seuss with such fun and enjoyment that one couldn't help but love them, and Daddy read the Laura Ingalls short-stories so many times I'm sure he had them all memorized; he would tease us by calling Laura's bull dog "Bill" instead of "Jack" and "little sister Carrie" "little cousin Kelly". But regardless of how much I may have loved those books, they are stories that I loved to have read to me, not that I loved to read myself. Therefore, I've chosen a different book to answer with - one which held my fascination for as long as I can remember. Originally, I just loved looking through the pictures; I thought it was a "grown-up" book and too hard for me to read. Imagine my elation, then, when I realized one day that I could read and understand all the words!

The Story of Little Christmas (which, by the way, I just realized for the first time was written by George MacDonald) was (to a Little) a strange and wonderful, sad and happy story of a little crossing-sweep girl called "Christmas". Told in the first person by the boy in the picture, he tells of how he and his uncle first met Little Christmas, of his uncle's love for and adopting of the wee girl, of her consequent kidnap, of the search made for her, and of her seemingly miraculous return which pulls his uncle through a terrible sickness to which he had been about to succumb. It is the story of love, of loyalty, and, knowing the author, of much more - although I have not read it in easily 15 years. Still, it is a story I know I loved from early on - one of the many books that made me fall in love with reading!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

30 Day Book Challenge! Day 21: Never Grow Up

"No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally (and often far more) worth reading at the age of fifty - except, of course, books of information. The only imaginative works we ought to grow out of are those which it would have been better not to have read at all." - C.S. Lewis On Stories: and Other Essays on Literature

Day 21: What is your favorite book from your childhood?

Confusing!!! Aren't I still a child? All my life, whenever I referred to "when I was younger" or "when I was little" I was greeted by grown-ups' smirks and chuckles. Then, suddenly, I'm being asked by my Little Friends to tell stories about "when you were a kid" and being asked question about my childhood - exactly when did the switch occur, please?

Anyway, I completely agree with C.S. Lewis in regards to "children's" books - and I was very blessed growing up to enjoy mostly good books which I have not yet outgrown and never plan to! That said, my first few answers would have been The Chronicles of Narnia and the Elsie Dinsmore series, but I've already mentioned those, so I shall instead answer:

Derwood Inc. is hilarious story told in the first person by an oldest sister about the adventures she shares with her brother, Jack. The Derwoods are a family of 8 in which, to quote Penny, "It takes some figuring to work out just who is who." Penny and Jack are the oldest two, and barely knew their mother, who died shortly after Jack's birth. Later, their dad re-married a widow - with a daughter from her previous marriage - and then their parents had three more children together. Dubbed "Derwood Inc." by the dad, this is just a plain ol' sweet story about the lives, struggles, and love of a big Christian family. Join the side-splitting drama of hearing Jack's Fifty-Ton-Mile-Long-Giant-Killer-Octopus stories, serving unsweetened cherry pie at the Ladies' Auxiliary Luncheon, and being "caught" stealing some sweet old lady's silver! Oh yeah, and there's a big mystery as Penny - who dreams of being the next "Amy Belle" of her favorite detective series - and Jack accidentally stumble upon and break up a gang sending information to Russia...but see what I mean? Even the mystery is funny! This is just about the only book that, without fail, no matter how many times I've read it, I can't help laughing out loud when reading again. Jack is hilarious, and honestly, I think I liked it greatly because it reminded me of my relationship as the oldest sister with my bro, Ben. :)


"Jack, how did you get out of there?" I tried not to let on how scared I had been. "What took you so long?"
He looked embarrassed. "I - uh - got locked in a closet."
"They locked you in a closet?"
"N-no. I-I locked myself in there by accident." He was gathering up our shoe-shine stuff, trying to act calm.
"You've been in that store two hours. Do you mean you spent two hours in a closet?"
"Course not. I'm not that foolish. I only spent an hour and forty-five minutes in the closet. The first five minutes and the last ten minutes I was as free as a bird."


"No, Penny. They're shipping their mattresses to Alaska. Do you know what is up there?"
"Really? Russia's up in Alaska? Doesn't that mean we own it?"
"No! If I knew as little about geography as you, I shouldn't let myself be seen in public, Penny Derwood."
"You could only do that if you were invisible. And you're the one who said Russia is in Alaska, not me. What did you mean by it?


and the one I quote all the time...

"Freddy!" I screamed. I ran in and snatched him back, but it was too late.
Jack and the girls heard me scream, and they came to see what was wrong. The tall bookcase wavered from the push it received. The topmost books plopped gracefully to the floor, and then the whole thing fell forward with a crash. Right across the bed.
"Oh no," Jack groaned.
As if in agreement, the bed suddenly broke.
...From downstairs, we heard the front door open. "Kids? Anybody home?"
It never fails. Things can go well for two solid hours, and the one minute when everything falls apart is the same minute that Mom and Dad walk through the door.
..."My hands have that itchy feeling that tells me I'm going to be holding a snow shovel soon," Jack said.


I think this book deserves the #1 Book to Make You Smile and Laugh award!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

30 Day Book Challenge! Day 20: Movin' to Media (The Dark Side)

Day 20: What is a book turned into a movie and completely desecrated?

I had a mental list for this question almost immediately. As mentioned before, most movies are worse than the books. There are only a few, however, that are completely ruined. One of them is Ella Enchanted, which was my first answer, but since it's already been used here, I decided to mention an equally (but in a totally different way) appalling one:

All I can say is...ugh. gross. nasty. I received a beautiful edition of Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates from my grandparents for Christmas years ago, and read it immediately. I fell in love with the sweet, humble tale of little Hans and Gretel Brinker, the outcasts of society in Holland, growing up with a strong, hard-working mother and a father who has been insane almost as long as little Gretel can remember, after falling one stormy night whilst working on the dikes.

Written in the front: "To Sarah ~ Christmas 1999
For your 'permanent'
library...a classic
children's book...because
you enjoy reading so much.
Grandpa Jack & Grandma"

In spite of - or perhaps because of - this tragedy, the Brinkers are a tightly-knit family, and one feels inspired to better love one's own family when reading of how well the mother, brother, and sister looked out for each other. Stated boringly, Hans Brinker is the story of preparing, looking forward to, and racing for the prize of silver skates, but it's really much more than that... You learn to love Annie, Hans and Gretel's friend, and Peter, the kindly boy who gives no favors to Hans but is always on the lookout to do him a good turn, and Hilda, and others, and all the grand adventures of life that they go through together.

Gretel the Goose-Girl

Skating Expedition
But this movie completely, totally, desecrated the tale!! First off, they turned it into a musical. Now, let me not be mistaken I love musicals - My Fair Lady, Singin' in the Rain, Sound of Music, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and on and on and on - but if you've read this book, you know how totally wrong it is to turn this into the sweet, cutesy sort of tale a musical can't help but create. Secondly, all the "children" in the story are teens, Hans goes with the boys on their several-day-long skating trip (which he refuses to do in the book, since he needs to take care of his mother and sister), and the whole story is turned into a poor-boy-rich-girl love story between Hans and Annie (and Annie, while better off than the Brinkers, wasn't even rich!). Since we had read the book together as a family, Mama and Daddy got the movie for us kids the following Christmas, and even though we were all under ten, we instantly denounced it for being so "disgusting" compared to the book!

Do you have a movie you just can't stand to watch after reading the book?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

30 Day Book Challenge! Day 19: Movin' to Media

Day 19: What is your favorite book turned into a movie?

It is a well-known, universal rule that "movies are never as good as the book." However, while I can not think of a single good book that the movie has done complete justice to, there are some few (a very few) movies which actually improve upon a tale. For example:

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is a family-favorite movie in this household. From the excitement of the chase, to the humor of the captain, to the sorrow of death, to the classical music played both in the soundtrack and by the captain and doctor - we love to sit down and watch it together. However, when I found and bought one of the series in a used book shop, I was sadly disappointed. While still hilariously funny in parts, I was saddened by the complete lack of morals Jack Aubry possesses. From the time I was little, mama's number one advice with regards to my literary (or media) diet has been: make sure good is shown as good, and bad is shown as bad. You don't want to train your taste buds to savor ambiguous morality. Unfortunately, while Jack himself is a fine character (at least as far as I got) he views the immoral, sodomite, and homosexual sailors as a nuisance - because he is required to punish or discharge them - rather than a moral wrong. And the author, Patrick O'Brian, talks about it quite frequently, apparently finding it hilarious. I think this is the only book I began that I did not finish - it was in the garbage can after being only a quarter-way through (which bears testimony to how repulsive it was to me - I never throw books away, it's rather too emotional for me usually).

Despite the nasty experience, the movie remains untainted in my mind - Captain Jack Aubry seems such a different character in the movie than the book. He is strong, not in the least ridiculous, brilliant, determined, and certainly does not give the impression of one with compromised morality. Enjoy the movie, avoid the books, and be excited that, for once, there is a movie that actually improves upon the books!

What is your favorite book-turned-movie?

30 Day Book Challenge! Day 18: Disappointed

Day 18: What is a book that Disappointed you?

"Marcus Annan had killed before. He had killed so many times he could no longer remember them many times he had become inured to the ache of sorrow as he stared into the faces of the dead. Some had deserved to die; some hadn't. It mattered not. They were all dead, and he could not bring them back. Unlike himself, they would never have to wonder if the end would ever come, if life would go on and on forever, taunting in its gaiety, tormenting in its bleakness."

A while back, I read a lovely novel entitled Behold the Dawn (excerpt above). Set during the crusades, it is an exciting (and yes, dramatic) tale of a hardened tourneyer running from - tortured by - the guilt of past deeds, and the redemption he eventually finds in the forgiveness of Christ. Receiving a feeling of contented happiness at the end, I immediately investigated K. M. Weiland and was delighted to find another novel - a Western - by the same authoress!

Unfortunately, this story was not nearly as satisfying as the first. It wasn't a bad story, per se, but it simply wasn't on par with Behold the Dawn. In the first place, it was rather confusing to follow for the first half of the story (at least). Each chapter switched back and forth between two different times, and because it was only a 29-year difference, there were some characters who existed in both stories, some who only were in one or the other, and some who were in both, but one didn't realize it was the same person. Of course, the purpose of this was that everything would finally click into place in the last chapter, and it did, but it was way too confusing in the meantime. In addition, the story was not as redeeming or satisfying as I would have wished it, with the resolution being made by the main character "having" to shoot his father-figure. The man deserved to die (he had committed many murders), and would never have seen justice (he was the judge and bribed the sheriff), and would have continued to kill for what he wanted (he had no remorse for what he had done), but it gives a strange twist on the views of "right" and "wrong", leaving you in a bit of a quandary. I mean, Shane didn't go with the intention of shooting Wilcock, he went hoping the man who raised him would agree to turn himself in. It was only when Wilcock refused and threatened Shane that he pulled the trigger - but it wasn't quite in such a way that one felt it was self-defense - and no one in the story ever claimed it was. A Man Called Outlaw is a story about standing up for what is right, but Shane took way too long to do it, and then swung way too far the other way. So yes, this book was a disappointment to me.

But you really should read Behold the Dawn - it's lovely!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

30 Day Book Challenge! Day 17: And I Quote

Day 17: What is your favorite quote from your favorite book?

We've already established that my favorite book (as much as I can have a favorite book, which is rather impossible) is Surprised by Joy. The most amazing quote therein is the whole reason why I call this book "favorite":

" is that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy, which...must be sharply distinguished from Happiness and from Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic, and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again."
I love this definition of Joy - the feeling of longing for that which we can not, of ourselves, gain. When you have those moment of intensely wanting to be with Christ, to see His face, isn't that a feeling of "unsatisfied desire"? One which you wouldn't trade in a million years for an easily-satisfied desire, like chocolate or sunshine? Wouldn't you rather have that moment - or live that life - wherein all you want is Christ, rather than want a snack and get it? Yes, true Joy is keeping our eyes on Christ and desiring to be like Him and pleasing to Him - and that's a desire we can not satisfy apart from Him!

30 Day Book Challenge! Day 16: Think About It the balcony window
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Day 16: What is a book you would recommend to an ignorant/close-minded/racist person?

Wow, suddenly after all sorts of silly questions like "what is a book that you hate?" comes a very serious query. Unfortunately, I'm a bit at a loss for the answer. My first thought was Mere Christianity, and I still think that is what I would recommend but... I've never been able to finish the book, so it feels rather funny to say I would recommend it.

What's that you say? Oh! I've tried to read it several times, but, in the words of Robert Frost, "something there is that doesn't love a wall" - or, in this case, doesn't allow me the privilege of finishing another C.S. Lewis.

For example:
- I checked it out from the library, but had to return it when I was only half-way through.

- A few months later, I checked it out from the library again, and, since it had been a while, re-started the book, only to have to return it when I was about half-way through.

- A year or so later, I bought the book to eliminate any difficulties of having to return it before being done... Sitting in the Chicago airport I was about - you guessed it! - half-way through when my plane boarded and I left it lying beside my vacated seat. I hope whoever picked it up had better luck finishing it than I!

Anyway, I am not at all satisfied with this answer, but I don't know that I can do any better at this present moment. Do you have any better-thought-out suggestions?

Friday, June 15, 2012

30 Day Book Challenge! Day 15: Finally caught up!

Hip-hip hooray! I am now officially caught up on this challenge (or, at least, will be by the end of this post)! And what's more: today + this post = the half-way mark! Crazy how fast this month is going...

Day 15: What is a book you think should be on a high school or college reading list?

I'm interpreting this question to mean "What book do you think everyone ought to have read by the end of high school or college?" There is, of course, a l-o-n-g list of classics and not-classics-but-they-should-be that could be mentioned here, but having just read this book and found it quite thought-provoking, I feel inspired to answer:

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child is a "chewing book" for sure. Wittily-written as a satire, Anthony Esolen details for his readers 10 simple steps with which to destroy any child's imagination - and when he says "imagination" he means the ability to grasp or think about anything beyond one's immediate environment and experiences: things spiritual, philosophical, or - horrors of horrors - original. I really think it's a book everyone who will ever have any interaction with children in their lives (which is...everyone) should read!

Esolen's steps include:

"Keep Your Children Indoors as Much as Possible," "Replace the Fairy Tale with Political Cliches and Fads," "Cut All Heroes Down to Size," "Level Distinctions between Man and Woman," "Deny the Transcendent," and "Cast Aspersions upon the Heroic and Patriotic," which is where I get this excerpt from:

"In such texts it doesn't matter, for instance, that George Washington and John Adams and the rest of the founding father bequeathed to the world a new way of life - in Lincoln's ringing words at Gettysburg, "government of the people, by the people, and for the people." Nor that they did so in the teeth of opposition from their foreign overlords and loyalists at home. Washington's indomitable courage we overlook, but we do note that he was only a fair tactician, and that he held slaves. Meanwhile, we make much of Abigail Adams, not because she exerted any great influence upon the events of the day, but because she makes a convenient mascot for our contemporary team...."


Add it to your list! It's a worth-while book to read!

30 Day Book Challenge! Day 14: Author + Book

A right logical question to follow yesterday's, I suppose.

Day 14: What is your favorite book by your favorite author?

This is an impossible question. Logical, as I admitted, but impossible. I mean, really? An author who writes wonderfully and has the talent for spinning ideas in ways you've never heard of before can hardly have a best book. He might have a worst one - from the beginning of his writing career, or when he got a bit too carried away with themes or ideas and abandoned his outline in raptures - but I think it would be very hard to have a best. Thus, when I am asked for my favorite book by C.S. Lewis, it does not mean I value or like any of his other books less (with the exception, perhaps, of Out of the Silent Planet) but simply that this book had an idea - a definition, specifically - that was so completely refreshing, bang-on, and different-from-anything-I'd-ever-heard that it immediately became my favorite quote and, in a way, my motto. It is from the book...

Surprised by Joy is C.S. Lewis' autobiography, and aside from being enjoyable both because of his style of writing and the thought-provoking lessons he learned in life (from his earliest recollection through about the time he became a Christian) it was enlightening to see how he got to certain conclusions which one finds throughout his writings. At times I disagreed with his end philosophy, but still found it very interesting to see how he arrived at each one. For example, "Jack" believed that, as Christians learning and studying Truth, we ought to study not only the Bible, but other religions - because every lie has a small germ of truth to make it palatable - to find the truth encased at the bottom of the weed. While I do not agree with this (I am not saying that one shouldn't study other religions, or at least know the basic tenants and logical thought progressions of religions he comes in contact with, simply that I disagree that one should study them to learn truth), it was interesting to learn why he advocated this: because, in his pursuit of joy and his determination that the answer could not be God, he essentially "tried out" just about every religion presented to him before becoming a Christian. Working as He always does, supernaturally, God did reveal to him a little truth in each fake pursuit, although Lewis could not see what was truth and what was lies until he came to know the Truth.

My favorite quote from this book - the reason I call it my "favorite" - is Lewis' definition of Joy, which you will know by now if you know me much at all. If you don't know it, however, you will have to wait - that's a question coming up later! :) In the meantime, I shall leave you with another passage which is also quite profound:

"...I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? The words compelle intrare, compel them to come in, have been so abused by wicked men that we shudder at them; but, properly understood, they plumb the depth of the Divine mercy. The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation."

Thursday, June 14, 2012

30 Day Book Challenge! Day 13: Authors!

For a change of pace, we change our focus from books to the minds and characters who dreamed them up!

Day 13: Who is your favorite author?

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Hands-down, a-hundred-percent, no-doubts-about-it C.S. Lewis! I've already mentioned his writings twice in this challenge - from the Chronicles of Narnia to That Hideous Strength - and I'm anything but sure that he won't show up again! Why is he my favorite? Well, I pretty much love everything about him. His conversational style of writing, his perfectly-expressed thoughts and descriptions, his talent in leading you logically from one point to the next, his understanding and portrayal of deep emotions and feelings that go beyond words, and his general brilliance! This is not, of course, to say that I actually agree with everything he said/believed, but, put simply, I am always challenged and encouraged to view life with "eternal eyes" (that is, in the perspective of eternity) after reading his books. Plus, who couldn't love a guy with quotes like:

"You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me."

"You don't have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body."

"Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say 'infinitely' when you mean 'very'; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite."

"If I discover within myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."

See? He's wonderful. What is your favorite book you've read by him? Who is your favorite author?

30 Day Challenge! Day 12: Memory Lane

This next question takes one back to the dawn of time...

Not really, but to the dawn of memory, for sure!

Day 12: What is the first novel you remember reading?

Ahhh, I knew the answer to this question the moment I read it. It is (drum roll, please):

(Please excuse the "click to look inside" thingy...I wanted you to see the cover to the version I owned and read, as opposed to the type of covers they sell now.) Elsie's Holidays at Roselands is the 2nd in a long series (mama read the first book to me out loud) about - you guessed it - Elsie. These sweet stories were my absolute favorite growing up, and Elsie's Holiday at Roselands is certainly one of the best. In this book, she has overcome the fear of her stern, recently-returned father and is quite the happy little girl except for one thing: she desperately wishes her papa would "love Jesus more than anything." Tragedy strikes (again!) for little Elsie, though, when she refuses to break God's commands to obey her papa. Outraged that she would dare to believe she owed obedience to anyone over him, Elsie's father leaves, telling her he will not see her again until she is ready to obey. Heartbroken, little Elsie eventually worries herself sick to the point of death. Of course, God had a reason for this, and when Elsie's life is spared, her papa, Mr. Dinsmore, recognizes it as the Lord's work and dedicates his life to Him, making Elsie the happiest little girl in the world.

See? Definitely one of the best of the series.

But this main story line is not why I remember it as my first novel - oh no. Do you see the picture on the front? Elsie receives a new doll from her papa after spraining her ankle badly; I remember reading this book because I had just hurt my own ankle and was lying stretched out on the couch in our living room myself!


And that's my first novel, to the best of my recollection. What's yours?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

30 Day Book Challenge! Day 11: Despise

One of these days (maybe tomorrow...) I'll get around to posting twice so I can attempt to catch up. In the meantime, though, I'm just happy to be sitting down to do this before 11pm!

Day 11: What is a book you absolutely hated?

I had to reach way back into the dark recesses of my brain to come up with an answer for this question. "Hate" is such a strong word, I find myself having trouble applying to a book. Finally, though, I remembered a story that I felt totally gypped as a little girl when I finished reading.

Rilla of Ingleside is the final book in the "Anne of Green Gables" series, and I think I "hated" it because it was so unlike what I had expected or wanted it to be. Rilla is Anne's youngest daughter and the baby of the family. Taking place during World War II, Rilla must deal with all the fears and hopes belonging to everyone who had brothers and sweethearts fighting against the Nazis. Really, I don't suppose it's that bad of a story, but I had a hard time relating to Rilla (for example, she hates babies! When she is asked to help take care of one during the war, she does it only from a begrudging sense of duty, rather than because she wants to. She does grow out of it, though) and it was much more dramatically (and rather over-the-top) romantic than any of the other books. It seems as though L.M. Montgomery chose to sacrifice her sweetly innocent stories and characters to the soap-opera-style of emotions. Or maybe it is simply that she didn't really know how to make the switch from novels to strong historical fiction, and had to rely on emotional manipulation. Either way, although not necessarily a bad or hateful book in and of itself, it was a disappointing end to the nostalgic stories of dear Anne and Gilbert.

But the other ones are all sweet and in the proper style! Have you ever read a book you despised? Why did you finish it? :p

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

30 Day Book Challenge! Day 10: The Classics

Day 10: What is your favorite classic book?

When I think "classic" I think, without fail, "Charles Dickens." To date, I have only read two books by this fabulous author, and I love both of them. However, I do think this one is my favorite.

It could be because I've read it the most recently, or because I love the BBC miniseries, or because it is simply a wonderfully-woven, complex tale told by a master-storyteller - but Bleak House is a total and complete favorite of mine. Following several different characters and plots which intertwine and fit together like a puzzle around the tedious, slow-working case of Jarndyce and. Jarndyce, Charles Dickens brings to us a story of pride, selfishness, and willfulness contrasted with humility, sacrifice, and love. A story of characters who are either broken or made more beautiful in the face of turmoil, trials, and suffering. A story that cries out for the opening of eyes to see and the opening of the heart to love the poor among us - whether it be a starving crossing-sweeper like Jo, or a cold, unmoving, broken-hearted socialite like Lady Deadlock. Within these 800+ pages, you come to know such a large circle of friends and enemies that you truly feel as though you have stepped out of your life and into the world of Esther, Rick, Dr. Woodcourt, "Guardian" Mr. Jarndyce, Mr. Guppy, Inspector Bucket, Miss Flite, Charley, Captain George and many, many, more dear characters whom you come to intimately throughout the tale. You love them, relate to them, cheer them on, mourn when they make the wrong decision, and downright miss them when the book is over - that's the sort of book Bleak House is.


"The one great principle of the English law is, to make business for itself. There is no other principle distinctly, certainly, and consistently maintained through all its narrow turnings. Viewed by this light it becomes a coherent scheme, and not the monstrous maze the laity are apt to think it. Let them but once clearly perceive that its grand principle is to make business for itself at their expense, and surely they will cease to grumble."


Which author comes to your mind when you think of a "classic" book?

Monday, June 11, 2012

30 Day Book Challenge! Day 9: Hate/Love

"Remember that Truth depends not upon your seeing it, and believe as you saw when your sight was at its best. For then you saw that the Truth was beyond all you could see." - Annals of a Quiet Neighbourhood

Thus ends my quotations at present from George MacDonald's book. As you may suppose, I enjoyed it immensely and found in it some great food for thought - I do not think I quite see eye-to-eye with this great Scottish pastor in several areas. But we need books like that, you know? To challenge us to know and see and explain what we do believe. This is definitely a book I will pick up again a year or so from now to re-read!


Day 9: What is a book you thought you wouldn't like, but ended up loving?

I think this is a trick question - don't you? Who ever curled up on the sofa with a mug of tea and a book they didn't think they would like? (Unless it be a textbook, in which case...chances are, if you didn't think you would like it, you didn't.) I certainly never did. My answer, therefore, is to a slightly different question, following the good advice of my mother: {in regard to essay questions} "If you don't know the answer, just write everything you know about everything related to it. You may hit upon some - if not all - the main points the original question was looking for." (If anyone's wondering, it works!)

I have decided here to name a book that, although I was sure to like for the author's sake, was from a genre I was not entirely certain was my "type". It certainly isn't - but this book still became an instant favorite.

That Hideous Strength sounds  nothing like a book I would read, does it? Yet, following closely after my completing a WorldView course, it sucked me right in and held me for the whole of the ride until dropping me off at the final page with a sense of amazement at all we - for C.S. Lewis is such an author that you feel like you wander through the pages of his book with him - had accomplished; it gave me brain food for days and weeks afterward.

The third of Lewis' space trilogy (and the first I ever read), That Hideous Strength is one of those books with a plot and point so simple, you can summarize it internally in a single feeling - yet it is simultaneously so complicated, one feels quite lost when asked to verbally describe it. Perhaps someone who has read it more than once could do it better - but as of yet, I have not. It is, I suppose, a contemporary, futuristic, end-times sort of fairytale.

"The circle in the library usually consisted of Feverstone, the Fairy, Filostrato, and - more surprisingly - Straik....[The Deputy Director] had never spoken to Mark since the humiliating interview in his study, and Mark learned from the Fairy that he was still out of favor. 'The Old Man will thaw in time,' she said. 'But I told you he didn't like people to talk about leaving.'"

There. I have just tried for the past half hour to explain the story in a way I like, and I cannot. I shall simply have to leave it at this: in this end-of-the-world sort of tale, there are, as in all fairy tales, the Good Guys and the Bad Guys. The Good Guys are of one mind; they agree and work together for the upholding of truth. The Bad Guys work together toward a common outward goal, but each member of the inner circle believes that he will accomplish a different end. The scientist, who worships Science, believes the end will be the greatest scientific breakthrough ever to come to pass. The mystic believes he will at last be able to communicate with the unseen, and worship the spirits. The materialist believes that the world can and will be overtaken and ruled properly after this show of power. And the list goes on! Essentially, C.S. Lewis masterfully weaves a tale showing how all who are not for Christ are against him and will have the same end - regardless of what they believe to be the right or what they foresee as being the end. I know no other way to explain this story, but I do know I need to read it again, and highly recommend that you read it as well!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

30 Day Book Challenge! Day 8: Overrated

"I am going to tell you one of my faults, for it continues, I fear, to be one of my faults still, as it certainly was at the period of which I am now writing. I am very fond of books. Do not mistake me. I do not mean that I love reading. I hope I do. That is no fault - a virtue rather than a fault. But...I am foolishly fond of the bodies of books as distinguished from their souls, or thought-element. I do not say I love their bodies as divided from their souls; I do not say I should let a book stand upon my shelves for which I felt no respect, except indeed it happened to be useful to me in some inferior way. But I delight in seeing books about me...." - Annals of a Quiet Neighbourhood

Isn't that a smiley-sort of passage? Despite the sometimes-too-long-winded rambling style of this book, I can't help but enjoy it exceedingly. Who could, with such a kindred spirit as the main character?

Day 8: What is the most overrated book?

I could list a ton of books here...most of which I've never read. Or, at least, most of which I've never read completely. Maybe this renders me unreliable in my judgements, so I purposely abstain from listing several books or series I have never touched and never plan to touch. Instead, I submit a book of which I have read only an abridged version (scandalous, I know, but being only 11 or 12 when it happened, I didn't know it was abridged). For those of you who have read the "real thing", feel free to tell me if my impressions are unjust or incorrect!

Yes, it's true, I think Jane Eyre is overrated. Not because of the quality of literature the Bronte sisters wrote - they were certainly marvelous authoresses - not because of the dark and rather trapped feeling of the story - Charlotte certainly did a good job drawing you in and helping you empathize with the feelings of Jane, and I admire it - but because of the bare-bones morals - or, lack thereof - of the happily-ever-after ending.

The story begins with a wonderful heroine who, despite mistreatment and abuse throughout her childhood, despite all causes for anger, bitterness, and resentment she could justly foster, grows up sweet, and humble, and useful. After becoming a governess, though, she falls in love with a man who apparently holds no scruples about falling in love with, proposing to, and marrying a second wife while his first still lives. The first wife is mad, you know, so it is understandable - indeed, would be perfectly all right except for the pesky detail of the law - that he feels no attachment or sense of duty to her. You must understand that. Jane must understand that. We must all feel that it is a terrible and unfortunate occasion: this wife of his being alive. And don't bother think ill of his character because he never breathed a word about his wife to Jane, and was deceiving her by keeping her in the dark about his first wife. It would have been fine...somehow. 

Knowing and acting upon what is right, Jane immediately leaves the house for almost-the-rest-of-the-book. But not quite. In the end, spurred (and, we are made to feel, justified) by an undesirable, and indeed, becoming-improper - or at least unwise - situation in her current living accommodations (not of her making, but of another's) she again sets out to return to her beloved Mr. Rochester.

This is where I stop and ask What is she going back for? What righteous justification was there in her mind for returning to him? Maybe this is explained in the non-abridged version, but put yourself in her place and ask, Was it the right thing to do? I cannot think or see how it could be.

Of course, it all turns out all right because, unbeknownst to Jane, there has been a fire in the great house. Mr. Rochester's flippant character toward the solemnity of marriage is completely cleared by the fact that he ran up to try and save his crazy wife during the fire, and the inconvenient circumstance of her being alive - the only thing, you know, that stood between Mr. Rochester and Jane in the beginning - is happily alleviated by her jumping out of a window. We are happy she is dead and gone, happy Mr. Rochester and Jane can now be together, and "they all lived happily ever after. The End."

Maybe I slam the book harder than I mean to - I don't necessarily think it ought to be banned, or shunned, or looked down upon. It certainly is a great book for discussion. It would certainly be interesting to read as part of a study on Charlotte Bronte's beliefs, personality, and the philosophical and religious climate in which she lived, which could not but help shape her own thoughts on these subjects. It certainly is an interesting character study. Only I think it is overrated as a "good", "sweet", or "pleasant" story, and not necessarily one which ought to be praised and enthused over without careful thought.

Forgive me, my Jane Eyre-loving friends, correct me if I'm wrong, and tell me - what book do you think is overrated?