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Non-Fiction I’m Liking (Summer 2017)

If you’re still looking forward to taking your summer vacation and searching for inspiration in a non-fiction read, consider one of these as your beach companion!:

“At Home with Madame Chic: Becoming a Connoisseur of Daily Life,” by Jennifer L. Scott~ Wanting a little more French elegance in your everyday life? The second of Jennifer L. Scott’s non-fiction trilogy (so far) was a memorable read for me a couple of years ago.  Of course I wanted to read this after having read her first book, Lessons from Madame Chic.  I so enjoyed reading about creative ways to establish a lively routine at home.  Conversational in style, Jennifer feels like a trusted friend and I also am a devoted follower of her blog and youtube videos.  I really can’t think of anything to nitpick about it and I’m hankering after Book #3 (Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic)!  This book is perfect for stay-at-home mamas, but not relegated only to that stereotype.  All of us can benefit from living more consciously and happily when we’re at home.

“The Creative Habit”: Learn It and Use it For Life,” by Twyla Tharp~ Speaking of creativity, anyone who claims or aspires to be any type of artist will heartily enjoy this book, written by a NYC dance choreographer. At first I was going to pass on by this, but after taking a closer look I realized it had contained within it lots of encouragement for achieving my dreams of becoming a VO artist.  I’m only on Chapter 5 and I’ve already taken pages of notes and there are even interesting exercises for discovering how you are hardwired creatively.  I was afraid that perhaps the content would be too over my head, but I found it to be easy reading and am having a hard time putting it down.  Having a block and don’t know how or if you should continue forward?  I think you will find the author quite reassuring with a lot of good advice.  This book is a must-read for you!

 
 

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Audiobook Review: “A Curious Mind,” by Brian Grazer (Read by Norbert Leo Butz)

22669010Genre: non-fiction; self-help; motivational

Story Review: I picked this audiobook up on a whim while on a trip to my local library.  The very first thing that attracted me to it was the title: A Curious Mind.  I think the word curiosity describes me.  Even when I’m disgusted or repulsed by something, curiosity drives me in further to explore.  I love to learn!  I love anything interesting.

I tend to gravitate toward non fiction when it comes to audiobooks. I don’t have as much time to listen to fiction on audio, I get bored when I do, and I envy the reader because I want to vocally create the story myself.  Non fiction is different.  If it’s interesting it has my attention from the beginning, and I’m an avid note-taker.

I had never heard of the name Brian Grazer (Hollywood film producer and self-called ‘storyteller’) before, but I was surprised that I was familiar with some of his films. Some of them include A Beautiful Mind, 24, and In the Heart of the Sea. I wasn’t really sure what his book would be about, but it turned out to detail Grazer’s technique on how he approaches life.  In a word, with curiosity.  It wouldn’t hurt any of us to take a few tips on staying open to learn new things, taking opportunities as we come across them, and being humble and grateful in this world.  There are so many interesting things to learn and people to meet!  I liked Grazer’s reasoning that curiosity leads to success, and his list of benefits stemming from curiosity.

I probably would have appreciated a little more practical advice on how to apply curiosity to one’s everyday life. Not all of us have the leverage or opportunities to meet the kinds of people Grazer has (which have included Princess Diana, Isaac Asimov, and Fidel Castro).  But I took six pages of notes, so I think I enjoyed the book!

Thoughts on the Narrator: The preface is read by Brian Grazer himself, but the rest of the book is narrated by Norbert Leo Butz.  I’d never heard of him, either, but his reading never lost me or bored me.  His voice was clear-cut and stage-practiced.  Since this was non-fiction, I have no idea how he would do performing fiction with voices and dramatic emotions.  I am very picky when it comes to narrators (another reason why I listen to so few), but his was a presentation I could well tolerate.

I think it would be hard to listen to this without at least a pen and notebook. This is for anyone who desires to achieve goals in life!

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2017 in Book Reviews

 

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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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Non-Fiction Books I’m Liking (Spring 2017)

Passed and Present, by Allison Gilbert~ Do you have a growing collection of objects that hold fond memories? Maybe they are things that remind you of your childhood, or memorabilia from a deceased loved one.  Over time, these items—as beloved as they are—begin to take up a lot of space.  It can be difficult to part with them and can feel like a loss all over again.  Because I am very sentimental, I am beginning to feel stressed by the amount of material things I am fond of.  That’s why this book caught my eye as I was passing the new release shelf at my local library.  It’s chock-full of creative ideas one use to put their heirlooms and other memorabilia to good use.  Some of it involves art projects, or different display techniques, while other ideas invite the participation of others (friends, family, even strangers).  What’s nice is that this book isn’t just about the practical use of cold objects, but that the point is aimed at keeping the memory of one’s parent/grandparent/friend, etc. alive.  I was able to get a couple of good ideas I would like to implement someday.  It’s worth checking out!

The Gentle Art of Domesticity, by Jane Brocket~ This was a book I picked up at a book sale and didn’t realize how interesting it was until I got it home and got to looking at the pictures. Just the title alone has won me over, but each chapter after another holds it’s own interest as well.  If you have an interest in noticing art in the everyday small moments, this book is for you.  I don’t pretend to be a June Cleaver, I don’t like crochet or sewing or making every blessed thing from scratch.  But I love the idea of glorying in texture and patterns, identifying one’s style and expressing that in everything.  The author’s own style isn’t particularly my own but I was inspired to create different pinterest boards for myself based on what I like.  Jane Brocket’s conversational rambling of thoughts also make for interesting reading.  And I’m sure the bright colors in the photographs will be enough to brighten anyone’s day!

 
 

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Richard Adams’ Passing

12148Not long ago I discovered that Richard Adams, the author of “Watership Down”, passed away this last Christmas.  I was surprised, probably because I had assumed he’d died years ago.  His book is such a classic and dearly loved by many.  I remember staying up late at night while on vacation in Florida when I was fifteen, trying to convince myself to go to bed but too much on the edge of my seat to let go of reading about the adventures of rabbits.  I remember being a little bit afraid (and maybe this is why I was intrigued by it) that it was partly evil because of the worship of the sun-god El-Ahrairah and Fiver’s prophetic visions.  But I pressed on anyway because I couldn’t stop.  This is debatable, but I personally never liked the animated version.  It just didn’t look and feel like it did in my head.

I tried recommending the book to my sister years later, but she disdainfully said she didn’t want to read about “bunnies.”  Oh, how erroneous an assumption!  Only readers (and they must be lovers) of the story know that it is much more than about little fluffy animals.  As author Jeffrey Overstreet says about the novel, there is nothing ‘cute’ about it.  I am posting a link to a lecture piece Overstreet wrote and read at the 2016 Hutchmoot, which I thought was excellent.

I don’t think I grasped at fifteen how much of a spiritual story “Watership Down” is.  Probably one of those that is best not to be consciously appreciated in that sense, but is soaked in through the subtle influence of good storytelling.

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Quote for Nov. 13, 2016

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Posted by on November 13, 2016 in Quotes

 

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Non-Fiction Books I’m Liking (Fall 2016)

Let’s get down to the heart of the matter with these two educational non-fiction reads this fall!:

16278109Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice, by Christine Valters Paintner~ Years ago I loved taking photographs of both nature and family events. I lost interest somewhere along the line, but I this past year I have picked the hobby back up again.  I started off the year by reading this interesting book that uses the art of photography as a tool in the spiritual life.  I’ve enjoyed taking walks in tune with the Holy Spirit and with my camera in hand to ‘receive’ images God was showing me.  I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I took lots of notes and am slowly taking each chapter at a time.  The book doesn’t cover a lot of ground as far as the technical aspect of picture-taking is concerned, but it is surprisingly deep spiritually and intellectually.  To be honest, sometimes it was a struggle to try to understand what the author was saying, but that just caused me to reread until I ‘got’ it.  It’s made me look a little differently at life, and for that I highly recommend it.

23398059Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes, by Nancy Pearcey~ Everyone has a philosophy- the way in which they see the world. The question is, what is yours?  Can you put your finger on it or explain it?  I first heard of Nancy Pearcey, a professor of worldview studies, on the radio where I heard her interviewed for her book, “Saving Leonardo.” I have yet to read it; I also found “Total Truth” at a thrift store for a dollar and plan on reading that.  But for some reason I decided to start with this book by Pearcey.  This was also a stretch for my brain, but good exercise and I learned so much from it!  Immediately after finishing it, I was better able to understand an intellectual sermon I was listening to, as well as identify different worldviews behind some of my favorite tv shows and movies.  This is a must-read for any serious Christian, or for anyone who is curious how Christians see the world compared to other philosophies.  However, I would recommend that one start with her foundational book, “Total Truth” as it states the basis of what she teaches and it is referred to several times in “FT.”

 

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