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Author Archives: booklearner

About booklearner

booklearner is a Christian, aspiring voice over artist, and author of the blog "booklearned: Life with Books." She also volunteers as a narrator for Librivox.org under the name 'thestorygirl.'

August 2019 Word Scavenger List

Every month (and other alternative timelines), The Lost Challenges provide new scavenger lists of up to 50 words to look for while reading whatever you choose to read (for example, the current list includes the word “double”). If I come across that word while reading, I mark it down. It’s fun to see how many I can find by the end of the month. This works well if you have more than one book going at a time like me, or read very fast. I do it along with another person I know and we compare lists to see who found the most words.

I really bombed out this month!  The words were difficult to find, but here are my results:

1) Anchovies ~

2) Avocado ~

3) Bacon ~ It was not an unpleasant whistle, but rather oddly reminiscent of tender things he remembered away back somewhere; and as he fried his bacon and steamed a handful of desiccated potatoes he hummed a song, also rather pleasant to ears that were as closely attentive as Peter’s.  [The Country Beyond]

4) Barbecue (Sauce) ~

5) Beetroot ~

6) Blue cheese ~

7) Bologna ~

8) Brown (Sauce) ~ And Nada stood very close to him, so that her brown head lightly touched his shoulder and he could see the silken shimmer of loose tresses which with sweet intent she had let fall over his arm.  [TCB]

9) Bun ~

10) Cheddar ~

11) Cheese ~ Some observers cast off their shock and hurried back into their homes, quickly returning with bread, cheese, apples, and other food to distribute to the passing soldiers.  [Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker]

12) Chili ~

13) Double ~ The corporate income tax really amounts to double taxation.  [Uncle Sam’s Plantation]

14) Feta (Cheese) ~

15) French Fries ~

16) Fried Egg ~

17) Fry ~ see Bacon

18) Grill ~

19) Guacamole ~

20) Ham ~ Soon after we were at supper in the kitchen, with its low, dark, raftered ceiling from which substantial hams and flitches of bacon were hanging.  [The Story Girl]

21) Jalapenos ~

22) Ketchup ~

23) Lettuce ~

24) Mayonnaise ~

25) Mince ~

26) Mushrooms ~

27) Mustard ~

28) Onion ~ Then I DO like to go and look at the nice little rows of onions and beets.  [TSG]

29) Onion rings ~

30) Pastrami ~

31) Peppers ~

32) Pickles ~

33) Pineapple ~

34) Potato Chips ~

35) Relish ~ “She underestimated your principles and your loyalty,” said Emma, clearly relishing her triumph at discovering the scheme. [MLD]

36) Round ~ At first his back was towards us, but he turned round in time, to our side of the theatre, and looked at the boxes above us, using his glass for a few minutes– then removing it, but still continuing to look up.  [The Woman in White]

37) Salad Dressing ~

38) Salsa ~

39) Sauce ~

40) Scrambled egg ~

41) Single ~ Let’s say you’re single and know that having sex before marriage is a sin.  [Distinctly You]

42) Slider ~

43) Square ~ If I were to try to sell something that I painted, it wouldn’t get a dime because I can’t draw a square straight. [DY]

44) Steak (burger) ~

45) Swiss ~

46) Tartar sauce ~

47) Thick ~ In the thickening dusk he took Nada’s white face between his hands.  [TCB]

48) Thin ~ In the open door he stood for a moment, his thin, ferret-like face standing out against the black background of the night, and his strange eyes, apparently half closed yet bright as diamonds, sweeping the interior without effort but with the quickness of lightning.  [TCB]

49) Tomato ~

50) Triple ~

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2019 in Scavenger Word Lists

 

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Movie Review: “King Solomon’s Mines”

Based on the book by Henry Rider Haggard. 

Version: 2004 

Genre: adventure; romance

Plot Summary:  When Elizabeth Maitland’s father, a learned archaeologist, is kidnapped and held for ransom by a native African tribe, she goes in search of her father’s guide—the hunter known as Allan Quartermain.  Together they search for the ancient mines of King Solomon, and the African king Twala who seeks total power.

My Review: I am well aware that “King Solomon’s Mines” has been made into various films and tv series during the length and breadth of cinema’s history.  For good reason—the Haggard classic holds much danger, adventure, and extraordinary exploits.  It’s ripe for Hollywood’s picking!  I also am aware of the temptation said industry has of injecting a love affair in the middle of the drama where there was none in the book.  (Actually, there was but only between two minor characters.)

Richard Chamberlain as Allan Quartermain.

I much prefer when movies stick at least relatively close to the book.  That being said, I wanted to watch at least one film version.  Even though I pictured Quartermain looking more like Robert Chamberlain, I determined not to watch the 1985 one starring him and Sharon Stone.  As a comedy, the trailer of it looked more painful than Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.  I have high pain tolerance, but not that high.  I would love to see the one with Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr, but that is unavailable to me at the time being so I settled for the more recent two part series starring Patrick Swayze and Alison Doody.

I mentioned I have high pain tolerance, yes.  Or else I wouldn’t have stuck with this version to the end.  Story was completely reduced, gutted, and stuffed.  Acting was middling at best, accents fake, the landscapes dubious, the suspense killed, and the romantic chemistry: zilch.  The only thing that resembled the book were the characters’ names.  A new plot was entirely made up, containing villainous… Russians.

“What the hell are Russians doing here?!” shouts Quartermain.

I nearly laughed my head off.  Yes, really!  Even the time period was scooched from the Victorian era closer to WWI in order to create a rivalry quest between Miss Maitland, her amorous hero and the Tsar and his goons.  Sort of like, a resuscitated Raiders of the Lost Ark plotline or something.

My land.  They even have the mythical love of King Solomon for the Queen of Sheba being the cause for why he built the Temple.  As though it were some Hebrew Taj Mahal and not the dwelling place of the Most High God.

There is very little content to be afraid of as far as language, bedroom scenes or gore.  (There might have been one or two uses of ‘damn.’)  For a standalone piece of entertainment, this might pacify an evening.  But seriously folks, read the book.  It is much more exciting!  [read my book review here]

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2019 in Movie Reviews

 

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Book Review: “King Solomon’s Mines,” by H. Rider Haggard

Genre: classic; adventure

Playlist…

Plot Summary: Experienced hunter Allan Quartermain is approached by two gentlemen proposing a search party/treasure hunt into unexplored deepest Africa.  Though he is skeptical about their success, he agrees to accompany them in hopes of leaving a legacy for his son.  Setting out, the trio encounter extremely hazardous conditions in the form of natural phenomenon, climate, and native hostility.  Will they even find what is rumored to have been Solomon’s ancient diamond mines?  Or will they succumb to the dangers along the way?

My Book Review: Oh my.  This is an oldie I’ve had on my list since way back as a mid teenager.  It’s always had this appeal for me as an armchair adventurer.  Ancient treasure, connected to true-life history while at the same time mysterious and mythical, including drama in far-off lands…!  I was finally able to read it this summer and hoped that my thirst for excitement would be fulfilled.

Although the actual story is fictitious, many of the characteristics of the novel are closer to the reality of the time period of which it was written.  It was not uncommon for adventurers to explore Africa in the latter part of the 1800’s, and many ancient secrets and geological treasures were discovered.  Haggard loosely based his characters on people he had met.  I would also like to further read on the topic of Solomon’s mines in particular and have added “In Search of King Solomon’s Mines,” by Tahir Shah to my TBR.

The thing I loved most about this exciting, atmospheric novel was the poetic descriptions of the land and people.  Africa has never been my favorite place to read about, but this book awoke more interest in it for me.  So many curious observations are made by the travelers that it gives the story a feeling of authenticity.  The battle scenes were also most exciting and it was easy to picture Chris Helmsworth as Sir Henry Curtis, standing his ground in battle clothed in ancient chain mail armor and wielding a battle-axe.

I also wondered how much this book might have influenced J. R. R. Tolkien in his Lord of the Rings trilogy.  I could see many similarities between the two.  For instance, SPOILER ALERT: the story starts out with a band of men coming together to start a quest, — a fellowship, if you will.  There is no doubting the three individuals’ sincerity and their implicit trust in each other from the beginning.  The adventurers eventually encounter ‘The Silent Ones’– three gigantic statues that had been carved long ago and set before the entrance to the treasure cave.  Is anybody seeing the Argonath here?  After this, they enter the “Place of Death” (so called by the natives) where they are awed by the enormous cathedral-like caverns underneath the mountain Suliman’s Berg.  I couldn’t help but picture the mines of Moriah.  At last they meet a table surrounded by dead kings of the past.  At this moment I began to picture Dwimorberg and the Paths of the Dead.  Or, Lewis fans might think of the sleeping lords on the island of Ramandu.  Another Narnian similarity I spotted was the underground diggings (of course, common to mines) and the underground lake they fell into while escaping from the treasure cave.  They eventually came to an animal hole in the earth where they popped through.  Reminded me so much of The Silver Chair!  END OF SPOILER

Although there is some sense of ‘white superiority’ on the part of our narrator Quartermain, I was actually surprised at how progressive he was for that time period in how he and his friends came to view the local natives as dear friends, comrades in arms, brothers, and noble people.

This was a book I finished at 12:30 in the morning, so you know I was pretty happy with my reading experience.  I think I will even say it surpassed my hopes!  I can’t wait to watch some film adaptations, although I doubt they’ll be faithful.   If you like your PCness, this won’t be the book for you.  But as I’ve just learned, Haggard was highly respected by the Oxford Inklings after all and one of them (Roger Lancelyn Green) is quoted as praising him “with the highest level of skill and sheer imaginative power.”  Need I say more?  I’m delighted to know there are 14 more books in the series!  What more bizarre situations can Quartermain find himself in?

*One note of caution for parents- a pair of mountains are described by Quartermain as “Sheba’s Breasts” because of their shape.  At times, it seems to go into unnecessary description over it.

Listen to King Solomon’s Mines for free!

 

If you liked this book, I also recommend…

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2019 in Book Reviews

 

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Book Review: “Captain Blood Returns,” by Rafael Sabatini

Genre: classic; adventure; historical fiction (1600’s)

Playlist…

Plot Summary: The second in a rollicking trilogy about the adventures and exploits of one Dr. Peter Blood… turned pirate!

My Book Review: “Captain Blood” was an enjoyable read for me several years ago (you can read my review of it here).  I was happy to learn there were more books in the series, however one thing one must know going in is that the adventures in the second and third books are not in chronological order.  In other words, they are interspersed within the timeline of the first.  This also means that there is no appearance of Blood’s sweetheart, Arabella Bishop.  Boo-hoo!

 

Despite this drawback, there is plenty of romance—both in the classical sense and in the emotional lives of some of the side characters.  There are plenty of women to keep the story lively!  Another thing I appreciated was that each chapter was pretty much a completely different scene altogether.  No repeats here!  Sea battles are described in such a way as to not get too much over one’s head, and still be exciting.

Chivalry, courage, wit, and strategy… They say Ryan Gosling has it all, but I rather think it’s Peter Blood.

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2019 in Book Reviews

 

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Movie Review: “The Jungle Book”

Based on the Rudyard Kipling.

Version: 2016; starring Ben Kingsley; Bill Murray; Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Walken

Genre: adventure; children’s classic

Plot Summary: [from goodreads:] After a threat from the tiger Shere Khan forces him to flee the jungle, a man-cub named Mowgli embarks on a journey of self discovery with the help of panther, Bagheera, and free spirited bear, Baloo.”

My Review: Disclaimer*: I have not read the original book, so this review will not by comparing it to that novel.  Only as a story in and of itself, totally unrelated to the book.  

Alright, an amendment: as a teenager I did try to read the Jungle Books, but did not get very far because it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I remember watching the Disney animation a few times as a child though, and I would also recommend the Masterpiece classic “My Boy Jack” based on the true story of author Rudyard Kipling and his son during the Great War (starring Daniel Radcliffe).

Even though reading the book escaped me, I was excited to see the live action version. I think the most fun for me was listening to all the great voice actors (obviously, we see only one human throughout the whole film, except in distant portrayals of the villagers).  I did not know beforehand who was playing most of the characters, so it was fun guessing.  I absolutely loved Ben Kingsley’s noble sounding voice as Bagheera.  What a perfect match for one of my favorite actors!  Another favorite was Christopher Walken as King Louie.  Although it took me a little bit, I soon recognized his famous voice and I thought it was hysterical!

It was genius to change the voice of Kaa the Python to a woman’s. For one, it provides more female roles to the story, and also the thought of an alto voice can be very hypnotizing.  However, Scarlett Johansson just didn’t do it for me (I don’t know why this is).  It also did not seem to make sense why this villain was in the story in the first place.  It didn’t flow connectively to other parts.

Is this live action a musical? Not really, though it does include some snippets of songs from the cartoon, but this primarily weighs in favor of the drama.  The characters who do sing are not exactly noted for their musical capabilities.

The special effects were great and there was an appropriate atmosphere of fear throughout, balanced by Mowgli’s faithful and loving friends. Raksha, Mowgli’s mother-wolf, is nurturing and Baloo the bear provides cute, comic relief.  My personal favorites were the little wolf cubs.  🙂

Despite all of this, I disliked how this movie ended. In both the book and 1967 version, Mowgli the boy goes to live in a human village where he is adopted by parents.  Baloo and Bagheera sacrifice and do what is best in their friend’s interest, making for a bittersweet but satisfying ending.  In this newest adaptation, after all of the struggle for keeping Mowgli safe, the boy stays with his animal friends.  Perhaps this is a bridge to a Jungle Book II?  Who knows.  But one has to wonder what the purpose was in Mowgli living isolated from his own kind.  In the earlier version Bagheera shows wisdom (and joy) in seeing Mowgli off to a home among people who can nurture him better than the animals can.  In version 2016, nature seems elevated above the benefit of human love and relationships.  Man is evil, and Shere Khan cannot really be held responsible for his actions because man *made* him what he is.  It all boils down to your world view.

Most will probably find this movie family friendly, though it is sad to see a tiger kill a wolf (not graphically), and there are some scary parts (snakes, teeth, etc.) that may bother little children.

*Of interest, I find that another live-action version of The Jungle Book, directed by Andy Serkis is due in the near future.

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2019 in Movie Reviews

 

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Movie Review: “Papillon”

Based on the book by Henri Charriere.

Version: 1973; starring Steve McQueen; Duston Hoffman

Genre: adventure; survival; based on true story.

Plot Summary: In the 1930’s, two convicted criminals are sentenced to life imprisonment and arrive in the French penal colony of Guiana where they soon forge an enduring friendship through the many years, adventures, and tortures to follow.

My Review: Disclaimer*: I have not read the original book, so this review will not by comparing it to that novel.  Only as a story in and of itself, totally unrelated to the book.  

This was a story I did not know I needed to know about.  I had never heard of the book, or of the movie, and it was not until writing this review that I learned of a new remake starring Charlie Hunnam in McQueen’s role.  There’s always some room for tales of imprisonment and escape in my strange soul, so when I happened across this older movie it did not wait long on my watch list.

This is nearly a three hour film.  The pace is slow and mostly quiet, as to be expected when your hero spends 5+ years in solitary confinement.  Don’t worry, it’s not as painstaking to watch as it sounds!  Henri Charriere, wrongly accused (as far as we trust our main character’s POV) of murder spends all of his time from the very first minute scheming his way out of captivity.  We, the viewers, are right along with him each step of the way.  The time and detail it takes for these real life persons to plan an escape which their very life and sanity depend on is suspenseful and has us glued to the story instead of watching the clock.  Our emotions are invested into the very human characters we watch who try so hard to live.

If you’re looking for a clean flick, this isn’t going to be for you.  Death, starvation, and madness are the order of the day.  Men are killed as a matter of course, and sometimes there is quite grisly detail.  In an atmosphere such as this, it would be unrealistic for the script not to include swear words.  So of course, that factors liberally into the movie as well. One prison guard has a hankering after one of the prisoners and wants to sexually abuse him.  The prisoner appears to go along with it for a time, but only as a means of eventual escape.  It is common for the inmates to smuggle their belongings in places where the sun doesn’t shine.  If I remember correctly, there may have been a brief scene of backside (prison context) nudity.  What actually bothered me more than that was an island setting in which all the tribeswomen wore nothing at all and we see full frontal nudity.

Despite all of this, I came away doing a lot of thinking about this movie.  The thing that stood out the most to me was comparing the two main characters: Henry Charriere (or, “Papillon”) and his friend Louis Dega who was sent to Guiana for forgery.  Their friendship is begun for survival’s sake.  Papillon can easily handle himself in any situation, with quick wits to boot but not much clout among other prisoners or guards.  Dega on the other hand, is physically undersized with round glasses that couldn’t possibly get any thicker which produces a wrong-end-of-the-magnifying-glass-effect when we look at him.  However, his secret weapon is literally the stash of cash he sits on and he is able to bribe for opportunities.  In one of the most touching parts of the story, Papillon risks his life to protect Dega when he is being beaten.  This action lands him longlasting consequences.  It brings Dega to tears to think that an innocent man would be willing to put his life in jeopardy for him, who is justly convicted of his crime.  It made me think of Jesus, the innocent lamb who was slain for us, the real sinners.  It was an eloquent portrait of biblical truth.

Eventually, through many trials and hardships, the two men are brought together once again where they have to face a decision: remain in captivity, or attempt escape (quite possibly ending in death or worse, recapture).  It is rather pitiful the situation they are in, yet in some ways it could have been worse.  Will Papillon be content to live the remainder of his years on Devil’s Island where he could live in comparative peace?  Or will he convince Dega to risk the dangers of escape and perhaps be able to attain true freedom once again?

SPOILER ALERT:  Papillon never once abandons his idea of the pursuit of freedom.  I believe giving up his busy mind over this matter would have consigned him to insanity.  Dega on the other hand, was never strong of body or mind.  He found a little piece of joy right where he was and made it into his own.  He had nothing left to go back to.  Was one view right and the other wrong?  I don’t think so.  Two different temperaments, different personalities, with different limitations.   Each did what they could with what they had and what they were made for.  This, of course, is taking the question of guilt out of the equation.  END OF SPOILER.

I know this film will not be for everyone.  But I found some redeeming aspects of it that I encourage anyone so inclined to give it a try.  I am looking forward to seeing a newer version, but Steve McQueen was very good in his role, and Dustin Hoffman provided some comic relief.

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2019 in Movie Reviews

 

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Book Review: “Secrets on the Wind,” by Stephanie Grace Whitson

Genre: historical fiction; Christian Inspirational; romance

Plot Summary: When Sergeant Nathan Boone happens across the remains of an Indian attack on the Nebraskan plains, he does not know he will also discover a young woman who has survived horrible abuse.  Laina Gray is at first unable to speak but, gradually with the help of kindhearted Granny Max, begins to take a few steps forward toward a new life.  What will happen when a newcomer to Camp Robinson who has taken an alias to escape his past recognizes Laina from her days as Riverboat Annie?

My Book Review: A friend’s mom recommended the author Stephanie Grace Whitson to me many years ago.  Although I enjoy many genres, I rarely read Westerns for some reason.  But I happened across this series on goodreads and was not prepared for how much I would come to appreciate this book.

At first I thought it would be a typical Christian historical romance but I’d stick it out and finish it.  I thought maybe this one would be one of those ‘tell instead of show’ books.  But the more I read, the more interested I became and I was deeply drawn into the story and the characters.  I really wondered what would happen next.  I feared the ending would be predictable, but the next chapter brought a new twist!  Then I found myself crying.  I was surprised at the spiritual depth in it, seasoned no doubt by the author’s own experiences.  Whitson pulled off a rare feat—I began to worry about the characters and how the story would end.

People who are supersensitive to what they may call ‘preachy’ books will probably not enjoy this read.  However, I don’t consider this story to be preachy.  Characters in their situations have conversations about spiritual matters and prayer lives (just like in real life), but that doesn’t make it preachy in my opinion.  A romance (or two) occurs, but I didn’t feel the book centered on it.  Instead, it was a natural occurrence that sprang among two people after both went through a thorough season of transformation by God.  It was amazing to read about, like they were your close friends.

Is it possible for fictional characters you thought you thoroughly disliked to become your objects of compassion?  This is what I found whilst reading the first in the trilogy, Pine Ridge Portraits and am looking forward to my experience in reading the next.  Yes, keyword: this book was an experience.  Whitson has my newfound admiration.

I also recommend…

 

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2019 in Book Reviews

 

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