February 19, 2015

Snowbound with Station Eleven and Jane Austen

Posted in Book Reviews, Books, Dystopia, England, Favorite Quotes, Jane Austen, Movie Reviews tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 8:53 pm by catsinboxes

It snowed this week, quite impressively for Louisville, blanketing the city and wreaking havoc on roads, schools, and schedules.

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I didn’t complain when my quiet weekend was extended by one day. (Though I did frown at my nearly-empty carton of eggs.)

As the snow fell outside, I made hot tea and settled down to read Station Eleven. (While the library has over a hundred people on the waiting list for this National Book Award Finalist, I lucked out and was lent a copy by a fellow reader.) Another book-loving friend had described Station Eleven as an absorbing page-turner, and it was a fun.

Resembling Dickens in its cast of characters and twisting story lines, Station Eleven darts back and forth, weaving the tale of a group of people across a number of years who are bound together by one man. Just after the book begins a pandemic sweeps across the world. It was almost eerie, reading about civilization crumbling in Station Eleven‘s world while —outside— the city ground to a halt, immobilized by snow.

I wouldn’t recommend Station Eleven unreservedly, but it is definitely an engaging book.

Another highlight of my quiet week was watching the 1995 BBC version of Persuasion with a fellow British drama lover. I. Love. That. Story.

Persuasion falls into my top three Jane Austen novels. It was my last to discover. . . . I was an early teen at the library and, locating Jane Austen in the fiction section, realized that here was one story of hers that I had not read. That was soon remedied!

Anne Elliot, the last heroine completed by Jane Austen, has depth. (And Amanda Root does a lovely job of displaying this in the movie!)

The movie is a wonderful adaption —my favorite for Persuasion. The casting is great and though I didn’t catch it last time, Harry Potter lovers, did you realize AUNT PETUNIA is Mrs. Croft?! It’s so funny to see her as a good character for a change, and actress Fiona Shaw does a lovely job.

I love the Crofts in both the movie and the book, and I’ve never forgotten Anne’s observations regarding the Crofts as they are out driving in their carriage. Mrs. Croft exclaims:

My dear Admiral, that post! we shall certainly take that post.”

But by coolly giving the reins a better direction herself they happily passed the danger; and by once afterwards judiciously putting out her hand they neither fell into a rut, nor ran foul of a dung-cart; and Anne, with some amusement at their style of driving, which she imagined no bad representation of the general guidance of their affairs, found herself safely deposited by them at the Cottage.

So, that’s part of what I enjoyed during this snowy week. How about you? Please do leave a comment; I love people chiming in!

December 5, 2013

A Book Lover’s Christmas Gift

Posted in Book Reviews, Books, Favorite Quotes, WWII tagged , , , , , at 6:49 pm by catsinboxes

Looking for a good Christmas gift for a history, aviation, and/or WWII lover?  Look no farther, for I have a perfect suggestion!

A Higher Call: The Incredible Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World   War II, by Adam Makos with Larry Alexander, 2012, 371 pages

This has made the New York Times bestseller list for good reason.  On December 20, 1943, a  remarkable incident occurred in the skies over Oldenburg, Germany.  It was an event that would not be told to the public until decades after the war.

A Higher Call traces the lives of the two men who ultimately would encounter each other that day.  The book is highly readable and incredibly interesting.    Unlike many books, it focuses more on the German side of the war.  Through the eyes of Franz Stigler, readers will learn about Germany’s elite class of fighter pilots.  The perspective is fascinating and well-researched.  It is also a poignant reminder of a nation’s folly:

“When Franz looked at Mellman [young pilot], he knew he was looking at Germany’s great tragedy –a generation of innocents too young to have seen the rise of Hitler or The Party who now were forced to pay for their leaders’ sins.”

August 24, 2013

City of Bones

Posted in Blogging, Book Reviews, Fantasy, Movie Reviews tagged , , , at 9:21 pm by catsinboxes

I might not be blogging here, but I am doing some work over at Redeemed Reader. Here’s my latest post: a movie review of City of Bones. If you aren’t familiar with this fantasy series, I can’t say that you are missing out, but the movie was quite fun!

http://www.redeemedreader.com/2013/08/city-of-bones-movie-review/

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June 10, 2013

Mention it Monday, Mississippi Version

Posted in Book Reviews, Books, Fantasy, Favorite Quotes, Fiction, Freebies, Just Life, Theology/Christian life, Travel at 10:10 am by catsinboxes

Greetings from Mississippi!

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Though to be more accurate, it looks a bit more like this today:

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I woke up this morning to thunder rumbling and pretty soon a torrential downpour was ensuring that 1) I didn’t take the dog out for a walk and 2) Bible time on the porch was out of the question!

I must admit that I had hoped to do more blogging on this vacation, but that is not how it worked out, and that’s okay. Still, no reason I can’t do some before I head home. So, here’s another Mention-it Monday!

Red to Black -by Alex Dryen

After reading World Magazine’s review of Dryden’s latest novel, I checked out all three of his books to date and started reading the first. I’m not usually one to read thrillers; Joel Rosenburg’s Last Jihad and Last Days are the extent of my reading in this genre! Still, having just travelled to Eastern Europe, I was intrigued by the Russian side of this novel. So, I started to read. And I really enjoyed it. It’s definitely a thriller, but it’s also a fascinating look at modern Russia that is written by an author who knows his facts. The book is told in a series of flashbacks which I normally find annoying, but this time it absolutely worked! The story was engaging and kept me interested and reading. The main storyteller, Anna, –a Russian KGB agent caught up in an intricate plot involving a British spy– is interesting and well-developed. What’s more, she is likable, and you definitely find yourself pulling for her! There is occasional language, but I appreciated the fact that it was used sparingly and wasn’t gratuitous. There are also some sexual references: the KGB is happy to use Anna’s sexuality in getting what they want, but nothing was explicit. All in all, it was quite a fun book, and I look forward to reading more by Alex Dryden.

Merlin’s Blade -by Robert Treskillard

I won’t say much here because this book deserves a whole review and post in itself. In fact, I probably will be reviewing it for Redeemed Reader this summer. I started this book on the plane, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Arthurian aficionados, you should read this! Right now it’s only $2.99, Kindle version, on Amazon. What’s it about? I love how the cover puts it:

Before the Round Table . . . Before Arthur was Crowned . . . There was Merlin.

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The Explicit Gospel -by Matt Chandler with Jared Wilson

This is my theological vacation read, and so far, I haven’t made much progress though I have enjoyed everything that I’ve read.  Having heard Matt Chandler speak, I appreciate that his unique voice is very clear in this book.  Chandler is passionate about the gospel; that is very evident.  From a mere evangelistic point, I love the title of this book.  It’s eye-catching: a good book to read at the airport!  (If you’re like me, you do your best, via casual glances, to figure out what your fellow passengers are reading . . . This title is provocative enough to get more than one glance.  They’re reading the explicit what???)  As it happens, The Explicit Gospel is Christian Audio’s free audiobook of the month, so I might be finishing it via audiobook.  If you’re looking for a theological read or audiobook this summer, I’d highly recommend this.  (And you can get the audiobook for free this month, remember!)  In closing, here is a quote from The Explicit Gospel that I quite enjoyed and is very applicable to this post:

How deep is the wisdom and the knowledge of God?  God knows every word in every language in every sentence in every paragraph in every chapter of every book ever written.

May 15, 2013

Who’s Been Eating My Porridge?

Posted in Blogging, Book Reviews, Books, Picture Books tagged , , , at 6:39 am by catsinboxes

If you, like me, were raised on a diet of fairytales, then Goldilocks is one of those classics that you cut your teeth on.  As I came to this post though, I faced an interesting question.  Is there one “classic” picture book version of Goldilocks?  I really don’t think so though Goldilocks certainly does occur in many classic fairytale collections.

While I haven’t found (or remembered) a classic version, today I will highlight 3 different retellings of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  Each is in print and available on Amazon; I’ve added links for each image, so if you click on the cover, it will take you right to the book on Amazon.  One of them is wordless, hence my “Wordless Wednesday” tag –if you noticed and were wondering.  So, without further ado, may I present . . .

Goldilocks and the Three Bears, retold and illustrated by Jan Brett.  (1987)  

Jan Brett’s version is lavishly illustrated and depicts the standard tale of one naughty little’s girl intrusion into the home of the 3 bears.  While I enjoy this well-written version, I can only take Jan Brett’s art in small doses, so it is not my favorite.  If you love Jan Brett and are looking for a standard retelling, then this is the book for you.

Deep in the Forest, by Brinton Turkle.  (1976)

This book is unrivaled as my favorite, wordless version of a spin-off of Goldilocks.  Yes, there’s a small, naughty creature invading a house and eating porridge, but the tables are reversed, and the culprit is a small, brown bear.  Sneaking away from his mother and siblings, Small Bear discovers a log cabin with an open door.  The chubby, golden-locked owner of the porridge, chair, and bed is away, and so Small Bear has a heyday.  I love Brinton Turkle’s muted illustrations, and the way he casts this as a pioneer tale complete with a little house in the big woods and some very Scandinavian looking inhabitants.  Without any words, he captures the emotion of this story: the unhappy howl of “Goldilocks” on discovering her broken chair, the bafflement of her mother, and the terror of the little bear once discovered.  If you have a chance, buy this book!  It will be worth every bit you spend, and you never have to tell the same story twice since it is wordless!

The Goldilocks Variations: A Pop-up Book, by Allan & Jessica Ahlberg (2012)

The Ahlbergs are back, but this time Allan pairs up with his daughter Jessica in a whimsical, interactive, and laugh-out-loud funny book which, as the title promises, after a retelling of the standard version of Goldilocks gives multiple variations on the tale.  Complete with tabs to pull, flaps to lift, and even a miniature book within the book (for Goldilocks the Play, presented by Puss in Boots Productions), this is a child’s dream and will hold their interest to the end.  The pictures are delightful; Jessica definitely has inherited both her late mother’s talent and style.  The story is well-written, often humorous, and the vocabulary and word choices are excellent.  To give you a sampling, this is how the “classic” version begins.  “There was once a cheeky girl.  Her name, or nickname rather, on account of her corn-colored hair, was Goldilocks.”  Have I mentioned that the Ahlbergs are British?  Yet another reason to love this book!  Since this is recent, you can probably find it easily at your local library.  Check it out, read it to your children, and have fun. This is one of those books that parents and adults can enjoy, too!

Do you have a favorite version of Goldilocks that I haven’t mentioned?  Do share!  I believe James Marshal has illustrated one, but we don’t have it, and I can’t remember that much aside from the fact that Goldilocks was fat and obnoxious looking! To see my review of another fairytale retelling by Allan Ahlberg, click HERE.  

February 18, 2013

Previously

Posted in Book Reviews, Picture Books tagged , , at 9:11 pm by catsinboxes

~A post for Project Fairytale 

Back on a day when the internet was working and not being patchy and slow, I was searching our library website for different versions of Jack and the Beanstalk.  This title caught my attention since firstly, it didn’t contain some form of “Jack” in the title, and secondly, it was by Allan Ahlberg.  So, I put it on hold.

If you aren’t familiar with Allan Ahlberg, or his late wife Janet, you are missing out on a treat!  Their books are characterized by sweet stories and charming illustrations.  The best thing about Allan Ahlberg though is that he understands what a child enjoys in a story.  Previously is a perfect example of this.

The premise is intriguing, the whole books is told backward.  And it’s not all about Jack; in fact it begins with Goldilocks!  Hard to understand?  This is how the book starts:

“Goldilocks arrived home all bothered and hot.  Previously she had been running like mad in the dark woods.  Previously she had been climbing out of somebody else’s window. ”

And before that, we all know what she was doing.  But what we don’t know is that before Goldlilocks invaded the bears’ house, while she was walking through the woods, she met a much older boy who was ‘running like mad’ and that boy was . . . Jack.

And so the story continues with Jack and what he was doing previously before moving on to other well-known fairytale characters.  (In a fun twist of fairytale and nursery rhyme, it turns out that before selling the cow, Jack was up the hill with his argumentative little sister Jill!)

Previously is a whimsical picture book.  Though it’s not entirely about Jack and the Beanstalk, I thought it was worthy of review for Project Fairytale.  There is something very sweet in the story which goes from tongue-in-cheek at the beginning to almost lyrical in the last pages.  Any Anglophile will love the British-ness of some of the expressions.  (When does an American author say ‘all bothered and hot’?)  Most importantly though, Previously is a children’s book, and it will be loved by children.  The first time I read it, I was not sure how to take the idea.  Then I looked at my 5-year-old brother, who had been listening.  A grin was spreading across his face, and he chuckled.  When asked, “Do you like it?”  he heartily agreed.  And whenever we read it, he’ll smile and say, “It’s funny because it’s always, ‘previously.’”  And indeed it is!

January 30, 2013

Books, Books, and More Books -Part 1

Posted in Book Reviews, Books, England, Fiction, Jane Austen, Theology/Christian life at 8:23 pm by catsinboxes

Divided into categories, here is an overview of different books I’ve encountered lately.

Read Aloud

Bill Bergson, Master Detective by Astrid Lindgren

Two weekends ago, I was on the prowl looking for a good read aloud.  I knew what kind of story I wanted, an exciting one with adventure and cliffhangers.  And if that weren’t enough, I really wanted one that would be a new read for me, too.  It was a tall order, and I realized it.  Still, I didn’t give up and went poking hopefully through our children’s books.  After looking at a few books, a paperback caught my eye.  Bill Bergson, Master Detective.  It was a promising title, and it was written by Astrid Lindgren.  I like Astrid Lindgren, so I picked it up.  I opened to the first page.  This was the critical part.  Would it catch my listeners’ interest?  They are wonderful listeners, but they’re well read and have high expectations.  Also, would it meet my criteria?  Yes, I was being picky, but I did feel like just one sort of book.

These were the first few sentences:

Blood!  No doubt about it!  He stared at the red stain through his magnifying glass.  Then he moved his pipe to the other side of his mouth and sighed.  Of course it was blood.  What else can you expect when you cut your thumb?

This book was exactly what I was looking for, and we all enjoyed reading it.  What is the story about?  Why, Bill Bergson of course.

Bill is a keen detective, complete with magnifying glass and (empty) pipe.  His only problem is that he is 13 years old, no one will take his profession seriously, and the small town he lives in is annoyingly free of crime.  Still, Bill manages to have a lot of fun with Eva-Lotta, his next door neighbor, and Anders, his bosom friend.  It looks like their fun might be interrupted when Eva-Lotta’s Uncle Einar comes for a visit.  Uncle Einar is exasperating for one thing, but he also seems mysterious.  And that is when things start happening, and it will take all of Bill Bergson, Master Detective’s wits to get to the bottom of these suspicious events.

Read-Aloud Quality: 5 (out of 5)

Ideal Listeners’ Ages: 7-13 

Emil’s Pranks by Astrid Lindgren  

After the success of Bill Bergson, I was ready to try something else by Astrid Lindgren.  Emil is written for a younger audience and, as the name predicts, the book is devoted to a chronicling of five-year-old Emil’s pranks with every other page including a whimsical and often humorous illustration.  It’s not that Emil is naughty, though he is; it’s just that he is a bit too clever for his own good and his parents don’t know what to do with him.  (Think Calvin and Hobbes Swedish version!)

I like Emil because his naughtiness in this book, and others in the Emil series, isn’t the kind that will rub off onto his listeners.  I think few of them will ever be tempted to paint their siblings blue or hoist them up a flagpole . . . but oh is it funny to listen to Emil’s escapades!

Today, as I was reading aloud with Joshua, the word “mischief” was used.  Jonathan, age 5, looked up from a puzzle he was working on and said with a grin,

“I know what mischief means: it’s what Emil does.”  And that is true, Emil is the definition of mischief!

Read-Aloud Quality: 5 (out of 5)

Ideal Listeners’ Ages: 5 – 12

Biography

Jane Austen by Peter Leithart 

This short biography is an easy read and belongs to a biography series called Christian Encounters.   In it, Peter Leithart does a good job of tracing Jane Austen’s life, work, and faith.  He tries to find her true character between the two extremes that she has been portrayed: sarcastic, cynical feminist or pious Victorian prude.  In doing so, he creates his own picture of Jane and, to differentiate from other portrayals, dubs her “Jenny.”  He doesn’t do it consistently, and I found it slightly annoying.  To my knowledge, Jane was never called Jenny, and it was a hard pill to swallow.  It’s like dubbing Charles Dickens, “Charlie.”  It simply shouldn’t be done!  That gripe aside, Jane Austen is a truly enjoyable read.  One more note for interested readers before I move on. Don’t be like me, and read the whole book wishing you had a family tree BEFORE discovering there is an appendix in the back for the complicated list of brothers, sisters-in-law, cousins, second wives, etc!

Biography Rating 4 (out of 5)

Readability 5 (out of 5)

Fun fact of the day: do you know that Pride and Prejudice turned 200 this week?

Christian Living

Radical Together by David Platt  

After reading Radical, two years ago, I was eager to read Radical Together.  I bought it this past fall, and it has been sitting on my shelf with a list of other to-reads.  Once I started, it was a fast read, only about 130 pages.  It is an interesting follow-up to Radical and in it, David Platt tries to show what it looks like when the church as a body is “radical” together.  He gives many examples, particularly from his own life and ministry.  For some, this might seem rather self-righteous, but Platt makes it very clear that he and his ministry are far from perfect.  Anyone who  knows David Platt, who has heard him speak and read his book, will know that this is a man who has a heart for the gospel.  Reading Radical Together, it is so neat and challenging to see in practical terms what living out “radical” has meant for both individuals and churches.

In this book, Platt is quick to recognize the importance of the local church.  He also is quick to point out that the problem is not that our church programs and agendas are inherently wrong; they can be very good.  The question is, are they the best in the end for displaying God’s glory to the nations?

If you’re starting to feel a little too complacent (after all, Radical was two years ago), this book will be the perfect book to get you back on your toes.  I love the passion that David Platt shows toward reaching the unreached.  I also love the way he is so challenging, and yet so clear that God does not need our help.

“God does not involve us in his grand, global purpose because he needs us.  He involves us in his grand, global plan because he loves us.”  (Radical Together, 129.)

Christian Living Rating 5 (out of 5)

Readability 5 (out of 5)

November 2, 2012

A New Reason to Blog and a Book Review

Posted in Blogging, Book Reviews, Jane Austen, Just Life at 10:10 pm by catsinboxes

Since I began blogging, I have had many inducements to blog.  The greatest has been my love of writing, especially writing about books.  Then there’s been the guilt factor, I haven’t blogged since when???  Quickly following the guilt factor has been the continual resolution factor, I will post once a week, I will post regularly.  But, if a reader were to peruse my blog they would realize that neither the second nor tertiary factor have prevailed.  But, recently I have discovered a new inducement which might -if exercised judiciously- get me to blog faithfully.  And that inducement is the growing library fine.  With monetary loss hanging over my head, I feel the need to blog much more urgently!

And what is the book that has brought me to a state of pecuniary problems?  Before I continue, I should make something clear.  My writing (and choice of vocabulary words) is right now being subconsciously affected by Jane Austen.  It’s an affect I have noticed before, and while I don’t mind at all, I feel that it does require an explanation!

Now, back to the overdue library book which is causing this blog post.

This was a “first” for me in several respects.  It was the first book I have read about economics and the first book I have read about food.  I saw it recommended in World Magazine, and I thought it sounded intriguing.  I found it was in our library system, so I checked it out and began to read.

If you like to save money, if you like food, and if you want to understand how economics related to food works, then this is the book for you!  It was an enjoyable read and very informative.  Tyler Cowen loves food, and throughout the books he adds examples from his personal experience.  This book is full of practical information: Asian supermarkets tend to have the best -and cheapest- produce . . . good food at a good price is more likely to be found in an out-of-the-way location than in an expensive area since business will depend more on a loyal clientele drawn by good cooking . . . Pakistani restaurants tend to be more authentic than Indian restaurants because they cater toward a narrower audience which expects authentic Pakistani food.  These and many more interesting facts (did you know that some of the best French restaurants in the world -outside of France- are in Japan?) can be found within this book.  Tyler Cowen manages to cover a whole host of subjects in 11 chapters.  Eco-concious readers will appreciate his chapter on ‘Eating Your Way to a Greener Planet.’  I found it very interesting, and while I wouldn’t say I agree with all of his conclusions, I definitely see his logic!

One of the best things, for me, about reading An Economist Gets Lunch was the timing.  I read Chapter 4: The Rules for Finding a Good Place to Eat right before heading on a trip to Louisville, Kentucky.  From that point on, armed with a host of rules for finding good, inexpensive food, I was on a mission.  With the help of Tyler Cowen’s tips, and reviews from The Urban Spoon, we ate very well while we were in Louisville: Mediterranean food, burgers, and barbecue -amazing barbecue!  If I were a food blogger, I’d now produce many delicious pictures of said food.  But alas, I am not.  Maybe someday I’ll go into that, but for now you’ll have to content yourself with my assurance that the food was excellent.

So, with the Christmas season approaching, An Economist Gets Lunch is a perfect present for a book-loving friend who also loves food and has a streak of Scotch blood.

There, now my blogging conscience has been assuaged, and I will return this book to the library as quickly as possible.  And, many apologies to the person who put it on hold and is right now wondering why I won’t return it!  I wanted to return it, I really did, I just needed to blog about it first!

October 8, 2012

A New Post ~For Granddaddy

Posted in Blogging, Book Reviews, Books, Just Life, Theology/Christian life, Together for the Gospel at 10:14 pm by catsinboxes

Yes, Granddaddy, I did take your rebuke to heart.  It has been almost a month since I have posted, so now that I have done my school, the garlic knots are on their first rise, and I have a hot cup of chai tea, I shall write a post.

Since my last post praising all the poetic beauties of fall, the season has moved on.  It’s cold, gray and windy.  In the past week, I watched the colors on the hills fade from bright shades of red and yellow to a muted russet.  Now even the birch, which survived till the weekend with golden yellow, have lost their leaves.  The wind is blustery, and the sky more often gray and foreboding than blue.  And yes, there have even been snow flurries, but it won’t stay.  It’s October, but it seems much more like November.  It’s a season of waiting: waiting for the final leaves to fall, waiting for the snow to come, waiting for the temperature to drop enough that the snow will stay.  With that bleakness outside, I’m enjoying the coziness of a warm house, warm socks, hot cups of tea and coffee, and good books.

You might notice that I didn’t add blogging to the above list of enjoyments.  That still needs to be fitted into the schedule.  I have thought of it, usually just as I’m trying to go to sleep.  Then I have the most wonderful ideas for blogging, but the timing just isn’t conducive!   I did decide one thing though during a late night brainstorming session.  I decided that my next post would be a book review.  So now that I’ve talked about the weather and my blogging or lack thereof . . . Here is my promised book review of Tempted and Tried by Russell Moore.

Russell Moore has, in the past year, become one of my favorite theological authors.  After reading Adopted for Life, I knew that I would like to read another of his books.  I had heard of Tempted and Tried, and I thought it sounded good.  So, it was on my radar when I went to the Together for the Gospel conference.  My desire to buy it was cemented by a conversation we had over dinner during the conference.  The meal plan pioneered this year allowed for fellowship over meals, and on one such occasion, I noticed that our fellow attendee had been reading Tempted and Tried.  I asked if he was enjoying it, and he highly recommended it.  That decided it; I definitely wanted to buy the book.

So it was bought, and I started reading it on the drive home.  Then life imposed, followed quickly by summer at camp.  Still, I persevered.  I brought it to camp.  I read it in moments during counselor training, I read it in quarter-hour segments sitting in the ministry center, I read it at the slingshot range despite the ministrations of MANY mosquitoes, and -my personal favorite- I read it sitting on the ground, my back against a massive oak tree, keeping one eye on the vacant slip n’slide.  (The slip n’slide and slingshot, though popular with some loyal campers, often suffered periods of neglect when other things such as the waterfront, archery or air rifles beckoned.  Thus a faithful book was very appreciated!)  My book does show some signs of this summer, the edges on the cover are slightly dividing, no doubt in protest after coming in contact with mist from the slip n’slide hose.

Within its pages, another thing marks this particular book as special.  While I had annotated before, it was with this book that I discovered the joy of highlighters.  And so, flipping through the book, you will find many phrases marked with highlighting in addition to pen and pencil marks, underlines, and notes jotted in the margins.

This was a wonderful book to read and to read slowly.  It is a book that I will certainly read again.  Moore is extremely readable yet deeply theological in his examination of temptation in Christian life and how Christ encountered and triumphed over temptation in the wilderness.  He begins by defining temptation and highlighting the significance of Christ’s temptation.  Throughout the book, Moore points to how Christ was fulfilling the Old Testament and shows how the strands of Old Testament history are evident and crucially important to understanding the wilderness temptations.  Here’s a sample of what I mean:

Jesus as the new humanity went to the same testing ground as his and our ancestors. . . . As he stood where Adam stood, he reclaimed what Adam lost.  The first Adam was tested in the God-blessed garden and fell.  The second Adam was tested in the God-cursed desert, and won.  (pg. 41)

Not only is this book theological though, it is intensely practical in making Christians aware that temptation isn’t something out there, something that might come along.  Rather, as Christians:

The issue isn’t whether you’re tempted, but whether you’re aware of it and striking back. (pg. 59)

Russell Moore is very aware of the spiritual warfare that is involved in living the Christian life.  His book is a wake up call, a call to courage, a call to be ready for battle.  There is so much depth to this book.  As Moore examines each of the ways Satan tempted Christ, he goes to the root of ‘why’ each temptation mattered and what the significance was in the temptation.  Not only that, he points to the fact that such temptations are still used today against God’s people.

This was an excellent read and one that I have found myself referring back to throughout the summer and into the fall.  You may have heard someone lament their sadness once a book is finished.  I enjoy books, but I don’t often feel that sense of loss.  Yet I did upon finishing this book.  It was so good, so solid, so perceptive, and so rooted in the truth.  If you have not read Tempted and Tried, I highly recommend it.  This is one book that you will not regret reading.

Postscript:  The garlic knots which were rising are now sitting next to me, the three survivors of dinner that is, and the cup of chai tea is long gone.  I do love to write, but I write over a period of time.  I do wish I could have fit this post into the time it took some garlic knots to rise!  

May 17, 2012

Divergent: Another Look at Dystopia

Posted in Book Reviews, Dystopia tagged , , , at 9:41 am by catsinboxes

To read my review of Divergent’s sequel, Insurgent, see my guest post at Redeemed Reader.

Ironically, I bought Divergent in Chicago . . . the very city where it is supposed to take place at some point in the future.  I hadn’t intended to buy it; I was going to read a different book on my trip to Seattle.  I had it all planned out, the book checked out and picked up from the library (oh, if you must know, it was The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan).  Unfortunately I forgot the last step; take the book out of Car 1 and put in Car 2.  Halfway to the airport I remembered, but then it was too late.  Since Divergent was only $10, I could justify buying it brand new.  After reading it, I consider it $10 well spent.

I like Beatrice Prior much more than Katniss Everdeen.  I like her because, though flawed, she feels much more human to me.  I realize that Divergent  is not as well known as Hunger Games, so I’ll briefly lay out the plot.

The setting is Chicago, though it’s hardly recognizable.  Lake Michigan is a marsh, and the city has fallen into decay.  There are hints of a war sometime in the past which concluded with the Great Peace and the beginning of the faction system.  Each faction has a different value: there is Erudite (wisdom), Candor (honesty), Abnegation (selflessness), Amity (peacefulness), and Dauntless (courage).  The purpose of the factions is to insure peace and order in society.  You are born into a faction; Beatrice Prior has been raised in Abnegation.  At the age of 16, young people have the opportunity to change factions, or decide to stay in their own faction at the Choosing Ceremony.  And that is where Beatrice Prior’s problems begin.

Beatrice loves Abnegation and her family, but she feels conflicted as the Choosing Ceremony approaches.  Does she really belong in Abnegation?  She doesn’t feel selfless enough, she knows it is an act, a front . . . she does the “selfless thing” because it is the “right” thing to do, the expected thing.  Where does she belong?  That is where the aptitude test comes in.

Right before the Choosing Ceremony, all 16 year olds take an aptitude test which allows the takers to know which faction they are suited for.  There’s only one problem, Beatrice’s exams are “inconclusive” (something that hardly ever happens; she didn’t even realize it was possible!)  This means that she is “divergent,” a fact which is highly dangerous.  The story progresses from here.  Beatrice chooses to leave her faction for Dauntless.  As an initiate, she takes part in training, and as she becomes used to this new life, she realizes that not all is right with her world.  Despite the faction system, there is trouble looming on the horizon.

You have to admit, it’s an intriguing premise!  Like the Hunger Games, the story is narrated by the main character.  I really like Veronica Roth’s style; it flows and she uses repetition at times to emphasize her point.  Beatrice, or Tris, as she calls herself after choosing Dauntless, is not resigned to life the way it is.  She is constantly questioning within herself . . . questioning the faction system, questioning Abnegation, questioning Dauntless, questioning her own motives and intentions.

The world of Beatrice Prior is flawed, but it is not godless.  Some religion lingers, but much more than The Hunger Games the people in Beatrice’s world act like people, and they have a conscience.  Many of them desire to do the right thing, though like Beatrice, they often fall short.  Just like the people in our lives.

Do I recommend Divergent  for everyone?  No, I still have some reservations.  It’s not with the violence, though that is there.  While there is a little bit of profanity, I can’t remember if there is any language.  It didn’t stick out, and I didn’t feel that this was an issue, either.   In Beatrice’s training she learns how to fight, which could raise issues depending on your view of girls in combat.  My main issue was the sensuality.  While the romance in the book is handled well, it does probe deeply into Beatrice’s feelings.  I’m not against romance, but this goes pretty deep.  It descends to a very physical level, highlighting Beatrice’s feelings when she is in close proximity/touching her significant other.  (I’m trying so hard not to spoil the story, so please forgive the terminology, but I’m not going to give away a name here!)  At the same time, she fears getting too close.  I know all of these feelings are realistic, but I don’t believe they are necessary for younger readers.  (SPOILER ALERT, skip to the next paragraph unless you don’t mind learning something that happens in the story.)  There is one instance I feel parents should be aware of when considering the book’s appropriateness.  At one point in the book, a group of boys ambush Beatrice.  One of them gropes her chest, and she is taunted for her lack of anything.  The scene is brief, Beatrice is rescued by a friend, but I feel that that scene alone is something which recommends an older audience.

That said, I did really enjoy Divergent , and I look forward to reading the next book in the trilogy.  I’m not sold on the dystopian genre, but I think this particular series has a lot of potential.  And, for anyone who is in Hunger Games withdrawal, I really do think you’ll like this book!

Have you read Divergent?  What did you think of it compared to The Hunger Games?  Is there another dystopian novel that you think is better than either The Hunger Games or Divergent?  Do share!   

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