February 20, 2015

When a Book Lover meets a Book Lover

Posted in Books, Humor, Just Life, Singleness tagged , , , at 4:08 pm by catsinboxes

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I stepped into a bookstore today.  Being a book lover and also a C. S. Lewis lover, I noticed a C. S. Lewis book in the recent releases and was headed toward it, when an employee distracted me,

“How are you doing?”

“I’m doing well. . . . How are you?”  Polite platitudes.

Then, the unexpected.  “Doing well, doing well . . . living the dream.”

Distracted, I really looked at him: young with a beard that Spurgeon wouldn’t be ashamed of . . . . He was putting some finishing touches on a display area.  (40% off commentaries, or some such theological deal!)

“What?  Working in a bookstore?”

“Yes, I love books!”

“Oh, I love books too, but I’ve never worked in a bookstore.”

He proceeded to say, with enthusiasm, that it was really interesting.  I may, or might not, upon leaving a few moments later have glanced to see if he was wearing a ring.  And on that note, if you’re a book-loving girl, you should definitely see this Instagram page!

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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!

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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May 16, 2013

C.S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien on Hobbits, Wizards, and Invisible Cats

Posted in Blogging, Cats, Faith, Favorite Quotes, Humor tagged , , , at 8:08 pm by catsinboxes

As an admitted C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien buff, this post is definitely an indulgence.  Still, I know there’s a lot of us out there, so I hope some of you fellow Lewis and Tolkien lovers enjoy it, too!

Light and trees

If you take nature as a teacher she will teach you exactly the lessons you had already decided to learn; this is only another way of saying that nature does not teach. . . . Nature never taught me that there exists a God of glory and of infinite majesty.  I had to learn that in other ways.  But nature gave the word glory a meaning for me.

In any mind which has a pennyworth of imagination it produces a good attitude towards foreigners.  How can I love my home without coming to realise that other men, no less rightly, love theirs?

Image of a stack of books

The truly wide taste in reading is that which enables a man to find something for his needs on the sixpenny tray outside any secondhand bookshop.  The truly wide taste in humanity will similarly find something to appreciate in the cross-section of humanity whom one has to meet every day.

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A belief in invisible cats cannot perhaps be logically disproved, but it tells us a good deal about those who hold it.  Those who cannot conceive Friendship as a substantive love but only as a disguise or elaboration of Eros betray the fact that they have never had a Friend.

 

 

 

Wizards after all are wizards.

 

 

 

And what would you do, if an uninvited dwarf came and hung his things up in your hall without a word of explanation?

John Howe, Bagend

He had a horrible thought that the cakes might run short, and then he –as host he knew his duty and stuck to it however painful– he might have to go without.

Goodbye then, and really good-bye!” said Gandalf, and he turned his horse and rode down into the West.  But he could not resist the temptation to have the last word.  Before he had passed quite out of hearing he turned and put his hands to his mouth and called to them.  They heard his voice come faintly:  “Good-bye!  Be good, take care of yourselves –and DON’T LEAVE THE PATH!”

May 13, 2013

Monday . . .. mmmmmm?

Posted in Blogging, Books, Fantasy, Just Life, Poetry tagged at 10:16 am by catsinboxes

Brainstorming for blog posts is not recommended,

while lying in bed –sleep apprehended.

Tomorrow is Monday, Monday what?

I need an m-word that just hits the spot!

Mundane . . . morning . . . mayhem . . .

none good though some are true.

Alliteration’s clever but can be hard to do!

I went to sleep without a satisfactory answer, but it came to me this morning after my coffee.  (Of course, much better timing!) It was perfect! I will reveal it in a moment, but first a quick note.  While I have been away from blogging, I certainly haven’t been away from writing. I think I’ve written and brainstormed more recently than I have in a long time. I’ve written letters, emails, newsletters for Redeemed Reader, a book review, journal entries, story ideas, story snippets,
and –truthfully– quite a lot of blog ideas. And now, my friends, you will receive the fruit of my labors on the first . . .

Mention it Monday!

What to mention? Books, of course! I read a couple recently that I have wanted to highlight and, incidentally, the first both begins with an ‘M’ and was written by an author whose last name is also ‘M.’ (I am sorry, I’m just seeing ‘m’s all over the place this morning!) True to this blog post, the following are not reviews but mere mentions. (Hah, hah! Another allusion, oh I’m bad this morning!)

The Moorchildby Eloise Jarvis McGraw 

After reviewing Mara, Daughter of the Nile for Redeemed Reader, I decided to read another of McGraw’s books that I had often seen but never read. The Moorchild, written in 1996, won a Newbery Honor, so it is not lacking in appreciation from the children’s literature community.  I enjoyed it –I love bringing children’s books with me when I travel; they are perfect airplane reading material! The story was enjoyable. It’s fantasy, and I am used to historical fiction from McGraw, so this was a bit different. It is very well-written, but after reading the gushing commendations on the back cover, I wonder how much of an agenda was behind it.  Saaski is caught between two worlds: the world of the moor and the fairyfolk, and the world of the superstitious villagers.  I feel like there is symbolism going on, and I’d like to dig deeper at some point, figuring out what McGraw believed and how it influenced The Moorchild.

The Emerald Atlas —by John Stephens

I first read about this at Redeemed Reader. A look at Amazon’s sample left me intrigued; I
tracked it down at Barnes and Noble and spent about 5 minutes with my nose between the pages, but I just was too cheap to buy it! Retrospectively, I am glad I didn’t. My chance to read The Emerald Atlas came after it appeared at our library, and I remembered to look for it. I brought it on the same trip as The Moorchild, and as airport reading material, it served me very well. It is a thick book, think Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart trilogy, so it did keep me occupied! (Especially thanks to airport delays; imagine getting up at 4 something in the morning, only to get to the airport, find delays, and spend several hours on the tarmac waiting for weather to clear in Chicago.  . . .  Oh the joys of travel!) While definitely entertaining, I would say that The Emerald Atlas is a bit dark for younger readers.  Personally, I really didn’t like the way time traveling worked out; it wasn’t logical in my opinion. The characters are interesting and likeable but sometimes their decisions are implausible and their thinking difficult to understand. There’s a sequel (I believe it will be a trilogy), but I am not itching to read it. Still, I might given the chance and another airplane flight.

And that, my dear readers, is the first of –hopefully– many more Mention it Mondays!

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 31, 2013

Is This Fun or What?

Posted in Books, Favorite Quotes tagged , , , at 7:24 pm by catsinboxes

 

Thanks to a Facebook friend, today I was made aware of a bookshelf I would like.  In addition to one that has an attached stepladder.  . . .  I’ve wanted one of those ever since I first saw one on *cough* Beauty and the Beast.

I love this shelf because it’s a reminder to READ your books.  Don’t just let them sit on the shelf!  Knowledge cannot be acquired by osmosis; books must be picked up, read, and read again.

C.S. Lewis said it, and I whole-heartedly agree:

“I can’t imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once.”

August 31, 2012

Finished!

Posted in Books, Faith, Just Life tagged , , at 7:56 pm by catsinboxes

Camp didn’t allow much time for summer reading, but I worked my way through this book over the summer and finally, last night, I  finished it.  It was an excellent read.  Moore to come shortly, in the form of a review.  (Please tell me you caught the pun!)

March 18, 2012

Thoughts on The Hunger Games

Posted in Book Reviews, Books, Faith, Fiction tagged , , at 7:09 pm by catsinboxes

I must admit that I have a hard time liking Katniss Everdeen.  That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy reading the Hunger Games trilogy.  Suzanne Collins has created a series that is hard to put down.  But she has also created a series, a setting, and a cast of characters that presents many questions: questions that Katniss Everdeen never seems to answer.

When I read the series, I was struck by the feeling that is created.  Imagine a future America that is divided into 13 districts.  Imagine a future where young people, 2 tributes from each district, are sent to participate in the Hunger Games, a televised slaughter in an artificially created “arena” that will leave only one victor.  That is the world that Katniss Everdeen introduces readers to in the opening pages of the Hunger Games.

Katniss’ world feels dark, old, depressing, and by contrast the Capitol is gaudy to the extreme.  It is such a different world that it is almost surprising to find references to things we know, like the fact that Katniss’ family has a television.  And when in the midst of the second book we find out that District 13 specialized in “nuclear development” it seems just plain out of place!  Does this world feel real?  Not to me, at least, but it is a story.

I do have a couple bones to pick when it comes to the genre.  I cannot believe it possible that a world sometime in the future would have no recollection of God.  There is no religion in the Hunger Games, no mention of any greater being or any remnant of religion preserved from the past.  Realizing this, it is not surprising that there is no common sense of morality in the series.  In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis points to the fact that we all have an inward moral law: a moral law that will point us toward the right thing to do, a moral law that will sometimes cause us to do the right thing even when it’s the last thing we actually want to do.  In the Hunger Games, Katniss often battles with herself, wondering why she does things, but she never seems to conclude that it is simply because it is the right thing to do at that time and place.  In the Hunger Games each character is operating for a different reason and there is not a unifying theme.  Instead of black and white, there are many shades of gray.  Indicative of this is the fact that the rebels, instead of being the good guys, are a weird kind of totalitarian force who wear gray uniforms.

In the Hunger Games there is not a sense of true beauty or joy, instead there is only darkness and confusion.  I believe it is good to read the Hunger Games to get a sense of our times.  I find it intriguing that this has become such a best seller.  Honestly though, I don’t believe that this will become a lasting classic.

I know that a lot of Christian parents are wondering if their children should read the Hunger Games.  I think that is a personal decision to make, but I will tell you two things I observed which I personally found disturbing.  These reasons are why I would be hesitant to recommend the Hunger Games trilogy to anyone younger than a mature and analytically inclined high schooler.

Reason 1.  Throughout the trilogy there is intense violence almost to the point of desensitization.  Granted, given the premise, of course this is going to happen, but it almost seems to be gratuitous at times.  One example of this that stuck out to me came from Katniss’ description of one of the tributes in Catching Fire:  “Enobaria looks to be about thirty and all I can remember about her is that, in hand-to-hand combat, she killed one tribute by ripping open his throat with her teeth.”  It’s one thing to read about violence, about the Holocaust or about genocide or a battlefield, when it really happened.  It is quite another thing to invent such violence, and it doesn’t seem right to me, not in this much detail.  By the end of the Hunger Games trilogy, I found myself desensitized to all of the death.  Character after character had been killed off, often in gruesome detail.  It’s not like in Harry Potter when death takes you by surprise . . . when you have time to miss a character . . . no, this was just a LOT of dying and a whole lot of violence.

Reason 2.  While there is no sex in the Hunger Games, I would argue that there is a lot of sensuality.  Some of it comes from statements . . . like the fact that Katniss stands unclothed while her male stylist Cinna is studying her.  Call me a prude, but that made me squirm.  There is a good bit of kissing and little details thrown in that stick with you: Gale smells like oranges the first time he kisses Katniss.  Peeta and Katniss sleep together in the same place during the Hunger Games and then later on multiple occasions.  Nothing goes on, but Katniss emphasizes how nice and secure it is to have Peeta there.  Lastly, I just kept picking up on little details about Katniss: she wishes she were alone so she could strip off her clothes and dive naked into a lake . . . 11 times during the series Katniss refers to her naked body.  Several of these times happen at night when she strips off her clothes and sleeps _____ you can fill in the word!  I really don’t feel like this is appropriate, especially not for any juvenile male readers.  There is so much sexuality in our culture, you might say this isn’t that bad.  But it’s there . . . and I’d rather know about it in advance if I’m trying to determine the appropriateness of any book.

For me, the most telling part in the entire series was the conversation Katniss overhears between Peeta and Gale.  They wonder who will wind up with Katniss if they all come out alive and Gale says: “Katniss will pick whoever she thinks she can’t survive without.”  As the reader, I was inclined to agree.  Over the past two books, Katniss had shown herself as intensely selfish in how she relates to others.  But as the reader, you also want Katniss to prove that she’s not that bad, that she does care for others, that she doesn’t operate solely on that plane.  But it never happens.  Do you understand why I have such a hard time liking Katniss Everdeen?

Obviously this is my opinion of the Hunger Games trilogy.  Do you agree?  Do you disagree?  What were things you noticed or things that bothered you?  I know there’s a lot more that could be discussed, and I would love to hear your opinion!  


January 18, 2012

If only . . .

Posted in Bargains, Books, England, Favorite Quotes, Poetry tagged , , , at 10:53 am by catsinboxes

I’m in the midst of reading Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber.  I bought it for a bargain as a Kindle ebook.  (Right now it’s only $3.44!)  I don’t how long it will stay that price, but I thought I would mention it.  As an Anglophile, I love the picture of life at Oxford that Carolyn gives.  As a literary buff, I love the many quotes and literary allusions that she weaves into her memoir.

This isn’t going to be a book review (though one will surely come!), but I want to share one poem that I particularly enjoyed.

“If only the good were clever,

If only the clever were good,

The world would be better than ever

We thought that it possibly could.

But, alas, it is seldom or never

That either behave as they should:

For the good are so harsh to the clever,

The clever so rude to the good.”

~Elizabeth Wordsworth