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Autumn/Winter Christian Fiction 2017…

I hope everyone had a fulfilling Thanksgiving!

Today I’m sharing a list of new Christian/Inspirational fiction that was released in the CBD catalog for Fall 2017.  I never really go in for the Christmas-themed books.  But I was thrilled to find a longer list of novels this time around that has me super interested to get my hands on!  Some are by my favorite authors (Lyn Austin, Jane Kirkpatrick, Tricia Goyer…), and some are writers I haven’t heard of before.  That’s exciting!.  And, I must say the book art on these are stunning!  Just look at the layers of color and drama!

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Posted by on November 25, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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The Dark Nursery Past & Present

Have you ever wondered about the origins of seemingly nonsensical nursery rhymes?

Ring around the rosie,

A pocket full of posies,

Ashes, ashes, we all fall down!

Why in the world do we teach young children these simplistic poems when we don’t even know what they are talking about?  Are they clues to some hidden meaning or are their histories long past memory?

In this shortish, informative article by Clemency Burton-Hill, I learned that many nursery rhymes were at one time veiled records of current events.  It’s fascinating, and helps to view these children’s poems in a closer light.

But why are they children’s poems?  Are they fit for children?  The Victorians certainly didn’t think so, and began the campaign to clean the rhymes up.  Okay, I’m grateful for that.  I’d much rather my young’uns babbling fun repetitive sounds than knowingly reciting tales of torture techniques geared for male genitals.  I’m convinced of the educative quality of children learning soothing sounds and rhythms.

But I got to thinking about how ‘shocked’ we are to learn of the real meanings that lie behind these mysterious sing-songs.  It was dealing with the world as they knew it at the time, only later being ‘sanitized’ for society.  We live in a much more decent world, our children are much more innocent…  Or are they?  Our world contains much violence today.  School shootings, child molestation, human trafficking.  However, what worries me more than these issues is what they learn in the home little on up from those nearest to them.  Broken homes, where mom’s had three boyfriends in the past month.  If dad’s in the picture, he’s never grown up himself and spends his waking time playing violent video games or watching adult “cartoons” that spew forth 4 letter (and 3 letter) words.  “Mother”; “It”; “hotdogs and buns”…  And we’re shocked over Rock a Bye Baby?

No, I’m not stressed over wool tax.  I’m worried about the little boy who lives down the lane, who grows up in a world where his dad was busy texting during his first steps and his mom can’t decide whether or not to give him up for adoption because she spends part of her time in jail.  He doesn’t get to be read or sung nursery rhymes.  It’s heartbreaking, and it’s not just little Danny.  His story is a common epidemic!

Yes– clean up the content for the little ones, but let’s not forget about the overall home we’re raising our kids in.  Is it mentally, spiritually, emotionally clean and healthy?  Ultimately, the only way for this to be possible is for the people in the home to be rooted in the love of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Eventually, there’s only so much we can protect our kids from.  We do not live in bubbles forever, and it’s important to remember history from those who came before.  People from long ago passed their experiences down to us in rhymes.  What will we pass down?

 

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Movie Review: The Book Thief

d326e3e8deb69479ae2a56a451ab07e8Based on the book by Markus Zusak.

Version: 2013; starring Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson

Genre: drama, WWII

Plot Summary: Liesel Meminger has been orphaned by the circumstances of WWII and adopted by a new set of parents in a different town.  She is also new at school and ashamed to admit she cannot read.  But Papa helps to educate her as he learns to improve his schooling as well.  Meanwhile, there are other things to be learned while living in Germany during the time of the Third Reich.

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 film that had my interest from the first, but I didn’t have a chance to watch it until a little while ago. The trailer looked so intriguing, and I guess I get my interest in WWII history from my mom.  Plus, it doesn’t hurt that it included the actor Geoffrey Rush in a major role.  His voice is one of my favorites (he played the voice of Nigel the Pelican on Finding Nemo).

The Book Thief was interesting in that it followed the story of a German civilian (Liesel) throughout the duration of the WWII.  Because of the perspective, it sort of reminded me of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, another film I would recommend.  Liesel is involved with the Hitler Youth and other activities just like many other young people her age.  Her adoptive parents aren’t too particularly anti-Hitler, but aren’t entirely for him, either.  However, they go with the flow as many do and keep the peace.

That is, until a young Jewish man enters their home and they are compelled to hide him in their basement. Liesel doesn’t completely understand what is going on, only that Max is her friend and she wants to protect him.

1ea864bc74e07178ed875aaca980711bI really did enjoy this movie, but I get a sense that the book was probably better. There were parts (mostly at the beginning) that I didn’t understand.  Why was Liesel’s mother taken away?  What exactly happened to her brother?  What was the burgermeister’s reasons for banning Liesel?  What’s the deal with the abstract narrator called Death?  Although the story was called “The Book Thief”, that really wasn’t so much of the plot.  It was hard to suspend disbelief when several years go by, yet Liesel and her girlhood crush Rudy don’t appear to get any older.  But I did get a kick out of the Christmas scene in the basement, where the family smuggles in snow, has a snowball fight and builds a snowman.  “This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever done!” Rosa states.  😀  I also really liked the scene where Liesel enjoys a good book at the burgermeister’s library.  The colors, mood, and design are something I would like to replicate someday for my own personal library.

Another thing I appreciated is that the end of the story takes a different twist that I did not expect, as real life sometimes does. It was sad, but not altogether so.  There is not really ‘content’ issues.  This film is based on a YA book and I was glad to see it kept age appropriate.  But there is what you would expect in a story that takes place during such a time as 1940’s Germany, and there are beatings, bombings, etc.

I would recommend this, but parents will probably want to watch it with their kids and decide what age it’s appropriate for.

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

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Christian Fiction for the Summer!

Happy Summer!!

Need a beach read?  The CBD catalog of Christian and Inspirational fiction has been out for a few months and I have a new list of books I’m looking forward to reading.  I was a little disappointed that it seemed thinner than usual (I don’t know why), but at the same time I found more titles for my list than I usually do so it evened out.  🙂  Here they are if you’re looking for some TBR inspiration…

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Posted by on June 22, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Movie Review: Les Miserables

928283ab6e774bf98c29d851f4efc1ddBased on the book by Victor Hugo.

Version: 2012; starring Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Eddie Redmayne

Genre:  drama, musical

Plot Summary: In the times between post-Revolutionary France and the Paris Rebellion of 1832, an inconsequential criminal -Prisoner 24601- is set free from penal servitude.  Can a thief receive grace and have another chance in life?  Some would think not, particularly a strict, tow-the-line, “black & white” law enforcement officer like Inspector Javert.  But others, –like the trusting little girl Cosette and the idealistic activist Marius,– choose to open their hearts to the man remade into the new Jean Valjean.

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.  

Yeah, I’m a little late to the party on this one, but a good story is a good story in a book or on film no matter when one happens to experience it. I’ve never read the book (somehow never could convince myself to begin a 2,783 page opus [see recent post]), but I have seen the earlier 1998 version with Liam Neeson as Jean Valjean.  I’m not sure I enjoyed that one.  But I’ve also listened to the Focus on the Family Radio Theatre’s excellent audio production of the story and highly recommend that.

Les Miserables is a classic tale that contains so many human elements that speak deeply to us—love, hatred, forgiveness, compassion, revenge. That’s why it’s a classic.  The drama, the pathos, emotion pull us in and won’t let us go.  I found myself being deeply engrossed in this newest film version of Victor Hugo’s epic story.  Believe it or not, I’d never seen or listened to the musical, although a few songs sounded familiar because of how they’ve infiltrated our pop culture (I Dreamed a Dream, Bring Him Home).  At first I wasn’t so sure this story could be presented seriously as a musical, but I was proved wrong in one of the earliest scenes (when Jean receives the gift of forgiveness from the priest).  And by the end of the movie, I was blubbering away into a soggy Kleenex.

I had avoided watching it when it first came out because of watching the trailer and hearing others’ reviews. I’d heard that so and so shouldn’t have been cast in this role because somebody else would have done so much better…  Another person was snubbed for not being cast…  This actress completely ‘ruined’ the movie… That person couldn’t sing… etc. etc. etc.  I’d heard the film was too ‘gritty’, too ‘gorey’, too ‘indecent’.  I watched the trailer and saw too much skin.

untitledI’m not a musical aficionado. Maybe so and so could have sang the part better.  All I know is Fantine sang as though her life was at the bottom of a sludge pit and Valjean sang through weary tears.  Cosette sang like a bird in love, and Marius like he’d found the treasure of his life.  If I could be so thoroughly convinced this story was real, I think somebody was doing their job supremely well.   Probably the only one who didn’t have me convinced of his role was Russell Crowe as Javert.  He felt uncomfortable and limited in the part.

Gritty? Yes.  Gorey?  It was a reflection of the time and era in which real people lived.  Not all of humanity has lived in pristine Downton Abbey.  Indecent?  Yes. Humanity is messed up.  But we live in a  place where true love shines like a jewel amidst the dirt and grime of a perverted world.

Yet, there are some indecencies I would prefer not to expose myself to, and there were some content issues I’d warn about. I have better things to do than count swear words and describe raunchy scenes, so you can read a more detailed review here if you are in need of one.  But I will say that there were at least two places I wanted to be careful about: 1)  Fantine gradually falls deeper and deeper into the backalley ways of the underworld, not out of any desire on her part but out of pure desperation.  As she sings her song, she is led into a dark room where one gets the idea of what will happen next without having to see it.  I didn’t watch, but continued to listen to her heart-rending song.  I wouldn’t fast forward through it if it can be helped because the music is some of the best of the musical and it’s well acted.  2)  The Thenardiers are the picture of the world taking delight in degradation.  The rowdy song that takes place in their inn, where they celebrate the pleasures of sin is one that can be skipped (IMO).  It is definitely NOT a family scene!  I got half way through and decided I was too sick to watch the rest and clicked through to the next scene.

Only one thing I wish could have been improved upon and that is I would have liked to have seen more of the beginning developing relationship between Jean Valjean and the little girl Cosette.  This is a weakness in the original story itself I think, and that is that Cosette’s character is too trusting.  This could have been strengthened in the movie, and their getting to know one another was rather missing.  It would have helped to cement my emotional attachment further.

But for all of that, I wish I had not waited so long to watch this wonderful story illustrated with so much emotion, music, color and drama. The sets and the details blew my mind.  I don’t often like to rewatch movies, but this is one I will want to have in my collection to go back to every so often.  I truly thought it was a good piece of art, though I know there are enough who debate me there.

What are your thoughts on this film version of Les Miserables?  I’d like to know what you think!

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

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Do you read long books?

Do you read long books? I confess that I tend to shy away from them.  I think it just seems like too big a commitment for me.  I prefer variety or else I get bored, and tackling a 400+ page novel leaves me exhausting just thinking about it.

It’s ironic but I think I had more patience when I was younger (teenage years). I had more time and I attempted just about any classic in the quest to say I’d read them all.  My tastes and goals have changed over the years.  But some of the longer fictional books I have accomplished in the past include “Little Women (age 12); “Ivanhoe” (which I converted into a 75 page play for my sister and myself); and more recently, “Titus Groan,” by Mervyn Peake.  There are a few others on my TBR that I don’t know when I’ll get to.  “The Maid of Sker,” by Richard D. Blackmore, “The Cloister and the Hearth,” by Charles Reade, and “Glastonbury,” by Donna Fletcher Crowe.

I think some of the reasons why I often shy away from the longer tomes these days is because I don’t feel I have the emotional or mental energy to undertake it. A couple of years ago I ordered a book on interlibrary loan, and then promptly sent it back upon seeing how thick the book and how tiny the print was.  I was going through a rough time and needed something lighter and faster paced.  Recently I also passed on an Edward Rutherfurd novel, when 15 years ago I probably would have checked it out.  Another plausible theory could be due to the fact that I have more eyestrain than I used to and it taints my desire for long, involved reads.

When searching out new additions for my TBR on goodreads, I try to thoughtfully evaluate whether I will realistically want to read a particular title or if I would just feel burdened and dread opening the cover. That sounds sort of funny now that I have that typed down.  Why would I want to read anything I’d dread?  Am I such a glutton for self-torture?  I want to read good, meaty, beneficial books.  But the word and page count of a book does not necessarily make it beneficial.  A proverb can be more wisely read than a full assortment of “Grey” romance.

Yet some of the world’s best epics have been told through long-drawn out prose. (Those French and Russian novels for instance…)  But usually their stories are too familiar told through other mediums for me to care to devote so much time to reading.  Maybe one day my interests will change again and I’ll be a reader of “Moby Dick” but I’m not so much a fan of whale blubber right now.

What does constitute me attempting a big fiction book? Just like any other book, it is usually a creative plotline and the adventure that draws me in.  If it has my attention in these areas, I can perhaps forget I’ve spent the last 3 months in this world.  It’s what kept me going through “Titus Groan”, and is what has me interested in someday trying “Shogun,” by James Clavell.

I came to ponder all of this after reading this article entitled “Never Ending Stories.”

What about you? If you’re a reader of long tales, what attracts you to them?

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2017 in Reading Habits, Uncategorized

 

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Movie Review: Arthur & George

a132774421c11e3ae8cb67a56f895dcdBased on the book by Julian Barnes.

Version: 2015; starring Martin Clunes; Hattie Morahan; Michael Gregson

Genre:  mystery; period drama; biographical

Plot Summary: George Edalji is the son of a respectable vicar from India, under suspicion of murder.  Sir Arthur is a famous mystery writer grieving the death of his wife.  The two are fatefully connected and the latter takes it upon himself to clear Edalji’s name so he and his family can live in peace.  But things are not so clear cut and simple as they seemed at the beginning.  The details of the case get weirder and weirder, and the body count rises.  Can Arthur Doyle solve the mystery in time, or is George really guilty of the crimes?

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

I’d been seeing the book at the library lately, and was itching to watch something other than Downton Abbey on PBS, so I gave this movie a shot. I’m so glad I did!

Atmosphere, suspense, historical period setting—all the ingredients for the perfect mystery are present in this Masterpiece film! Everything from creepy music, tweed suits, Clunes’ Scottish accent, the glow of candles, and the crunch of autumn leaves contributed to the mysterious atmosphere that pervaded throughout all three episodes of the story.  It kept my attention well, and although I had to rewind to catch certain details and may not have followed the plot/motives entirely, I still highly enjoyed watching it. I’m not sure how much was based on actual truth or if it was pure fiction, but I found the actors believable, and Martin Clunes especially so in the role of Dr. Doyle.

During the course of the story, we discover that Sir Arthur is filled with remorse over the fact that he had an admiration for another woman while his wife was still living. I appreciated this element.  Later, Doyle pursues a relationship with the woman he loves, and when accusations are thrown against it, he insists he had never used her as his mistress.  The rest of the film is pretty clean, except for perhaps mild swearing, some unsightly animal killings and a rather gruesome death at the end.  Probably the most unsettling is the pervading sense of unease throughout, which I found to be quite fun!

If you’re in the mood for a spooky-strange mystery, I’m sure you will enjoy this Victorian-era flick!

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

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