Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Not surprisingly, I loved the book more than the movie. Coraline is a wonderfully brave girl who goes forward when she’s scared and not just her parents but three other captured children. The creepy fantasy is just the right amount of magic, lurking childhood fears, and courage. Other than the creepy subject matter, which is no worse than anything you’d read in the original Brothers Grimm fairy tales, there’s nothing objectionable in this book. I think the thing I love most is how Gaiman captures childhood. Coraline faces what scares her by reminding herself she’s an explorer. I often did similar things as a kid.

Quote of the Weekend

My Boy Jack

1914-18

“Have you news of my boy Jack?”

Not this tide.

“When d’you think that he’ll come back?”

Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

 

“Has any else had word of him?”

Not this tied.

For what is sunk will hardly swim,

Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.

 

“Oh, dear, what comfort can I find?”

None this tide,

Nor any tide,

Except he did not shame his kind—

Not even with that wind blowing, and that tide.

 

Then hold your head up all the more,

This tide,

And every tide;

Because he was the son you bore,

And gave to that wind blowing and that tide!

– My Boy Jack by Rudyard Kipling who lost his son in WW1

(I stumbled across this hauntingly beautiful poem while doing a little research on Kipling after reading the Jungle Book which was part of the inspiration behind Neil Garman’s the Graveyard Book.)

Quote of the Weekend

I read a collection of Neil Gaiman short stories and these are three of my favorite quotes:

“Lay off her,” said May. Her dark hair was cropped short against her skull, and she wore sensible boots. She smoked a small brown cigarillo that smelled heavily of cloves. “She’s sensitive.” – October in the Chair

(This made me smile because I was born in May, have short dark hair, sensible boots and sometimes smoke cloves cigarettes.)

“He nodded, as if he had not understood her. Then he said, “There are some as are what they are. And there are some as aren’t what they seem to be. And there are some as only seem to be what they seem to be. Mark my words, and mark them well, Hubert Earnshawe’s daughter. Do you understand me?” – Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire

(I like this one because it is deliciously confusing.)

 “You’re a fantasy writer,” she said. “You make up stuff like this for a living. No one’s going to believe you.” – The Facts in the Case

(This just made me laugh.)

 

November Book and Movie Thoughts

 

I’m going to share a few thoughts on the books and movies I’ve enjoyed this last month. Due to some down time in my husband’s teaching schedule, he had some time to play video games, which means I had time to read.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0756403871/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0756403871&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=Z5CTFDNJD6OM4LZH

Blood Price and Blood Trail by Tanya Huff: I did not enjoy these two books as much as The Silvered, which was excellent. Huff is fun to read and I stay engaged in her books, but I get tired of the belief that sleeping around doesn’t affect your soul, and it had a now standard vampire-love-triangle. The two clever points that gave me a fit of giggles was the vampire who writes romance novels and is good at it, and the werewolf colony mistaken for a nudist family. Very funny. These are what I would consider a weekend read: they didn’t really grow me or feed my soul, but they were entertaining. One point, as a writer, drove me up the wall. She could not stay in her character’s Point of View and constantly switched in mid-paragraph leaving me scrambling to figure out who was thinking about whom.

Rated: R

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1495266699/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1495266699&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=QQVJDMJNC7KL5ILT

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie: I have loved Peter Pan from afar for most of my life. I loved the Disney cartoon, the short-lived TV cartoon, and Hook. I always felt like my own childhood slipped too quickly through my fingers giving me a strong emotional connection with always being a child and never growing up. The book was beautiful, sweet, tragic, scary, and melancholy. It truly captured the magic of being a child and the edge of selfishness children have. Barrie never painted Peter Pan as safe, for he is much too self-focused to be safe. This is a book I plan on enjoying again!

Rated: G (Just don’t read about Barrie’s life in general. You have been warned.)

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0374530637/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0374530637&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=UHJ5VK7NVZBXMUXG

Wise Blood by Flannery O’Conner: I’m going to admit that this is the type of book that’s lost on me—too intellectual. It’s supposed to be a spiritual comic, but I never laughed once and found it disturbing. My Dad asked me if I thought it more King or Koontz, and by far King. Koontz always has a happy ending. Because of the cleverness of O’Conner, I had to go read some articles about the point of the story which did help. I recommend reading them before you read the book. You do need to know she is a Roman Catholic and she considers the ending redemptive, which creeps me out even more. It was a good read, just not enjoyable.

Rated: R

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0875525210/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0875525210&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=VUK2TF4D7P2SZ7WK

The Shorter Catechism for Study Classes, Vol. 1 by G.I. Williamson: A very easy to read, straight-forward explanation of the questions and answers in the Catechism. It is Presbyterian, so Baptist will need to do a little bit of filtering. The short article presentation is useful for personal or family study.

Rated: G

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0060515236/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0060515236&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=T35PIUDMKL3HGWRQ

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman: This is a collection of short stories from the mind of Neil Gaiman. All of them are clever and interesting, though I did find that he tended to be less ‘clean’ in his short stories than he is in his full-length novel. He had one very disturbing story dealing with the problem of Susan not returning to Narnia. It was so awful. I almost wished I hadn’t read it, but after giving it some thought, I realized that Susan doesn’t ring true to many people. For me, it’s that once a king or queen in Narnia, always a king or queen in Narnia. For Gaiman, as a non-Christian, it’s Aslan and the White Witch trapping the children so they could eat them. It’s always interesting to get a peek at what an unbeliever thinks about something Christian. I just wish it’d been a cleaner peek.

Rated: R

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0802406203/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0802406203&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=LKOEGZTPR33YJIGJ

Fierce Women by Kimberly Wagner: One of the best books I’ve read for women, Fierce Women is about a woman who destroyed her marriage. The Lord broke her down and showed her she was unsubmissive and fierce in a bad way. This is a must read for any woman on how to be a soft warrior. It is very pointed. Wagner doesn’t pull any punches. A strong woman can tear their husband down, or use their strength to build him up. This is an honest, real, and helpful book. Wagner doesn’t only give a list of things strong women do that are wrong, she shows how we can exchange those traits with the fruit of the Spirit.

Rated: PG-13

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0882643495/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0882643495&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=PW72MJULY7K7PKKC

The Pastor’s Wife by Sabina Wurmbrand: What a book! While I don’t agree doctrinally with everything in this book, it was still an amazing story about Christ preserving and using his people in the worst of circumstances. This would be a great book to read in high school while studying the rise of communism. She is honest about how full of lies that form of government becomes when it gains a foothold. Through all their trials in Romania, they kept waiting for America to come rescue them, while most Americans didn’t know anything about what was going on. It made me wish we had gone and rescued them, but then I remember that it is about how Christ is moving, not the might of this nation.

Rated: PG-13

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005LAIHY0/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B005LAIHY0&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=CJ4TCHSUD3DC6T6I

Prometheus: We finally got around to watching this movie. It was good, but not great. They had never obviously watched an Alien movie because they kept doing stupid things. It made me want to watch Aliens again, which I did. The God element—searching for their creature without losing faith in God—makes for interesting dinner conversation.

Rated: R

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000JNN0SM/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B000JNN0SM&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=2FBAFQAVA6Z6G45D

Terminator 1 & 2: I had an exhausted day and needed a break, so I plugged in these two old favorites and wasn’t disappointed. Other than a few cheesy 80’s elements, these are still great movies. The story is clever and unique, the characters are great—yes, I love Sarah Conner. When I watch them, I see the effect they’ve had on my storytelling over the years. I think this might be where I got my love of generational stories.

Rated: R

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004RE29PO/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B004RE29PO&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=SAN3JL53F7UYAKSF

Aliens: This is one of my top favorite cheesy action flicks. I have happy and silly family memories wrapped around it and have seen it more times than I can count. What struck me this watching was how great Ripley and Hicks are. Ripley is a strong women but not unfeminine. Her strength isn’t forced by surrounding her with weak and stupid men. They didn’t have to down play the men in the movie to make Ripley seem stronger. I love that. I love that Ripley and Hicks can stand shoulder to shoulder. I love that it is her maternal instinct that gives her the power she needs to take out the aliens. Great flick.

Rated: R

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CFA222M/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00CFA222M&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=2N4XT7DWKVXXNARN

Jack the Giant Slayer: This movie was surprisingly cute, fun, and enjoyable. It’s along the same lines as many fantasy movies which graced the silver screen in the 80’s and 90’s like The Neverending Story and Krul. We both enjoyed it very much. A great kid’s movie and family movie. I did love the part when the Princess says being a princess is such a useless thing, and Jack reminds her that she has the chance and power to change the world. This is perfect for helping your daughters see that being a woman isn’t a useless thing: the hand that rocks the cradles rules the world.

Rated: PG-13 (I think this rating is for some epic deaths by giants and squashings.)

 

Lots of good books and movies here with a few duds thrown in on the side. I hope it’s been helpful. Feel free to ask any questions about the ratings. Have you read, watched, or played any of these? What did you think?

Reading, Watching, Opinions

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00I6JODGO/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00I6JODGO&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=3OJZSWEMSP7UNLK3

Winter’s Tale

This movie. This movie was achingly beautiful, perfect, subtly fantastical, wonderful, well done, and in the end infuriating.

It tells of a world where demons and angels battle over the souls of man, and where everyone has one miracle they can use with only one other person. When we die, our souls are given wings, if we were good, and we fly up to the heavens to become stars and live out eternity with those we love best.

It tells of a man headed down the wrong path until he met a girl. This very special girl is about to die but isn’t bitter. Demons gather around him thinking his miracle must be to save the girl’s life, and tip the balance in favor of the angels. The demons are wrong. In a heart-breaking scene, the girl dies. The man who loved her didn’t. 100 years later, he is still walking around NY City but with no memory of who he is or who he loved. The only thing he knows is he must save a red-haired woman.

When everything is said and done, they were drawn together because it was her miracle to save him even as she died, and that miracle gave him long life so he, in turn, could save a little girl from dying of cancer. The demons are destroyed with the help of a beautiful white horse who then transports the man to his place in the stars with the woman he loved.

It was a really beautiful movie. Until the end. At the end, the voiceover narration, which started the story, explains how maybe the universe is on our side and is willing to move heaven and earth to save one life. At first, I thought this idea worked for the movie, but in a world where we abort so many of our children it falls flat. There was a deeper issue with this movie, too. This movie had demons, angels, and even Lucifer, but no Christ. God is mentioned in passing but only by the demon and only as an observation that he must be as blood-thirsty as the rest of us.

What I came away with is something I think you see a lot of in our world. We will gladly have angels and demons. We will gladly have faith, hope, and love. We will even accept Lucifer. But, we will never never never accept God and Christ. We will believe in a Universe that is like God, but not God himself.

It sickened me.

How rebellious are we as a people? Anthropomorphically, how frustrating must it be for creation to have the creatures given dominion over it, given an image of God in their being, turn around and declare that the universe, just another part of creation, must be our god?

Not only do we throw that in God’s face, but we also cast out his Son. We take the Son—who God loves, who came to earth a willing sacrifice—and we spit on the idea of salvation. We don’t want it to be about God. We want it to be about us. We want to save ourselves by our own light, our own hope, our love, and our goodness. We think we can overcome demons on our own. We think that if we just hope in hope, love love, and have faith in faith, we can save this world.

That is a lie and Lucifer is still chuckling.

We can’t have truth without God and his Word. We can’t have real Hope, Faith, and Love without knowing what we hope in, where our faith is anchored and who loves us with a worth-dying-for love.

So, while part of me really wanted to love this movie, the other part of me thought it was so humanistic as to turn my stomach. I’d rather go watch something like Stardust which doesn’t try to get so theological, because at least I don’t spend all day arguing with a movie.

Have you seen this? I think it’s worth at least one viewing. It is a very pretty movie with a moving story and it can spark interesting conversation afterwards. Let me know what you thought! I do plan on reading the book and seeing if it is any better.

Rated PG-13

Other Recently Watched Movies and Read Books:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00HLTD49C/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00HLTD49C&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=DQXXGHJNQKQBLFVN

Non-Stop: This thriller takes place on a plane and stars Liam Neeson as a burned out US Marshall. Someone threatens the lives on the plane. When Neeson starts to investigate, he is framed for the crime. I went into it thinking it would be more of an action flick, but it’s definitely a thriller. Lots of fun and well done, it won’t win any Oscars but is a good weekend watch.

Rated: PG-13

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00M263SFE/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00M263SFE&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=M3QSQJQMGK7R5EWV

Hercules: Normally, I’m a pretty solid Rock fan. (ha!) I like most movies Dwayne Johnson makes. This one isn’t going to be high on the list. It was fun, but not anything great. The best way I can sum it up is this: If I was eight and my parents had taped it off TV (thus, eliminating the one or two bad words and inappropriate and totally pointless scenes), I would have loved it. I would have watched it over and over. As an adult, it seemed to lack a little . . .something. I did not like the overall message of the movie: you’re a hero if you think you are. Really? You can think you’re a hero all day long, but until you act like one, sorry, you’re not.

Rated: PG-13

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00MB6IYHW/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00MB6IYHW&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=JDBIXM66I7OK2I3Q

Guardians of the Galaxy: From what I’ve heard, this summer movie season isn’t going very well, except for this movie. Guardians is a lot of fun, cute, touching, silly, and quote-able. It is the story of five misfits coming together over a shared enemy and the need for the Galaxy to be saved. Out of all the comic book movies, excluding the Avengers, it feels the least comic-book-y. This is one I might even add to my movie collection, and I can’t wait to see it again.

Rated: PG-13

teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles-movie-poster

TMNT: Not much to say here: The Turtles were really well done. I loved them. Megan Fox didn’t drive me up the wall and had an awesome yellow jacket, as well she should. The plot was full of very big holes. Ultimately, it was fun, but forgettable. Again, the Turtles themselves rocked.

Rated: PG-13

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00MRAJHCI/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00MRAJHCI&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=THX7QH6ZQLBQHI4X

Expendables 3: This was my most anticipated movie of the summer. I know, I’m really strange when it comes to movies. The plot was great. It was all about how old guys are afraid they don’t have anything to bring to the table anymore. I loved the idea. The problem was in the execution. The middle dragged because we all knew where it was going and we were just waiting for it to get there. I also thought the end rescue seemed a little too predictable and tactically didn’t make sense. Why would they approach the city walking right down the middle in a canyon of fallen buildings? Does this scream “Trap!” to anyone else? Mel Gibson was great. I wish Antonio Banderas had been smooth and cool, instead of silly, but he still did a great job. The moment the team reunites is epically perfect. I’ll probably buy it just so my collection is complete, but Expendables 1 is still my favorite. They tried to be less catch phrase and more serious, which I like, but the editing just seemed off. I will say this, Stallone and Stathem are really good together. I wish they’d make an off-shoot of them in an action flick.

Rated: PG-13

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00GQQ75QO/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00GQQ75QO&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=BFPPNAJPORW4KVV7

Divergent: Boring. That is all I have to say. I spent most of this movie bored and I don’t get bored easily in movies. If they had made the overarching political plot more obvious so that there was something going on that you cared about, and if they shortened her training down to a montage. It would be like watching Harry Potter going to school without knowing anything about Voldemort until the end and with no trips to the Forest or any other crazy things like Trolls going on. In other words: boring.

Rated: PG-13

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0899571700/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0899571700&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=KQBSLF65UIJG4DUK

Raising Dragons by Bryan Davis: I had a hard time with this book and I also liked it. I can see why young people from 12-16 would like it. I would have loved it at that age too. Raising Dragons strikes me as the kind of young adult fiction that is young adult not so much because it centers around children, but because the characters aren’t deep enough to ring true with adults. The Christianity in the book doesn’t add depth but an odd sense of doctrinal untruth. Ultimately, it was a fun book, but due to the lack of real suffering, I didn’t find myself deeply hooked.

Rated: PG

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0060515198/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0060515198&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=CGGZ2PO7WTS2WZI2

Anansi Boys: Neil Gaiman has a fascination with gods. He’s not focused so much on the true Christian God, but all the other man-made, little ones. This story is about a very normal man who has very un-normal things happen to him when his father dies. This leads him to discover he is the son of a god and he has a brother. Anansi Boys is very well written, beautiful, and funny. The relationship between the two brothers is the heart of the story along with a determined but confused cop, a ghost, a psychopath, and a group of old ladies who are really witches. I would highly recommend this book.

Rated: PG-13

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0060853980/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0060853980&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=BIEPH43X25CRM7IE

Good Omens: One of Neil Gaiman’s most popular books and written with Terry Pratchett, this story covers the last few years and days of the Apocalypse as an angel and demon who are having too much fun here on earth fight to stop it from happening. Again, you can’t get better writing. The use of language alone keeps you glued to every page. Doctrinally, it’s a mess. I think that might be its draw. People suppress the truth and they enjoy seeing it made fun of. It was a little hard not to argue with the book at some points, but most of the time it was so off point that it didn’t bother me one bit. It was clever and funny. The ending wasn’t as tidy as I wanted. There were vague references to British things that made it a bit confusing. Other than that, a great read, but I don’t think I’m going to re-read it thousands of times like some of its other fans.

Rated: PG-13

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0140294295/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0140294295&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=UI4FV3MLVTLCYT5L

Sharpe’s Rifles by Bernard Cornwell: I can’t stress enough how much I love Bernard Cornwell’s writing. His stories capture you from the beginning and hold you until the very end. His characters are memorable, and his historical settings are rich and well-developed. I’ve read only one other of the Sharpe’s novels and this one, neither disappointed. I can’t wait to get the rest of them.

Rated: PG -13

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0553588958/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0553588958&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=ELDVAQNAKZQXK54Z

Red Seas Under Red Skies (Gentleman Bastard, #2) by Scott Lynch: Reading this book in 30 minute intervals while I worked out didn’t really do it justice. Trying not to cry while you work out is also not the best of ideas. All the Gentleman Bastard books have been amazing. The plot keeps you going. The twists and turns keep you on the edge of your bicycle seat, and the loyalty between the two main characters keeps you cheering them on. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series. The world building is excellent and even my brother would have approved of the high-seas shenanigans. This book series is rich and well-developed.

Rated: R

Well, that’s what I’ve been reading and watching. I hope you enjoy!

Quote of the Weekend

“Each person who ever was or is or will be has a song. It isn’t a song that anybody else wrote. It has its own melody, it has its own words. Very few people get to sing their own song. Most of us fear that we cannot do it justice with our voices, or that our words are too foolish or too honest, or too odd. So people live their songs instead.”

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

(I love the way Gaiman writes. He takes the mundane and makes it magical.)

Oh the books!

It seems like I’ve had a plethora of good books come my way recently. Here are some short thoughts on all of them.

 

 

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0062314319/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0062314319&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=FRLHURSMCR2J2GPO

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (Audio Book)

This is one of those books that might actually be better as an audio book. Why? Because Neil Gaiman reads it himself. He does all the voices. He reads it as he meant it to be read. It’s amazing, funny, touching, sad, and crazy. The story is about a very normal guy, Richard, who gets sucked into London Below. There he meets strange people, goes on an adventure, and would be perfectly played by Martin Freeman. 🙂 I can’t say enough about how well written this story is. Reading/Listening to it was pure delight. The character growth was well done and the characters themselves are both brutal, unique, sweet, scary, and captivating. It is just the right amount of normal life mixed with just the right amount of fantasy. I listened to this story while I cleaned the house, which often caused me to stand in the middle of the living room wondering what else I could clean so I didn’t have to stop listening to the story. There were also two parts, which I don’t want to spoil, where I literally yelled at Richard. All good signs of a well-done tale. This is one of those books which is so well done, it’s hard to put into words.

Rated: PG-13

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0312280815/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0312280815&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=PEWHHDVHEGH2DB53

The Marines of Autumn by James Brady

This is a historical fiction account of the Chosin Reservoir campaign and retreat. James Brady fought in the Korean War. He brought his personal experiences into the pages of this novel giving it more of a sense of reality than fiction. I was delighted to find a book about the Korean War just because there are not that many out there. We tend to go from WWII straight into Vietnam and skip the Korean War all together. My great-uncle fought in the Korean War, so I have personal reasons for wanting to learn more about it. I gleaned two things from this novel. One, my fairy tale takes place during a harsh winter. With the help of this novel, I hope to make the weather and the reactions to it more realistic. Two, I was introduced to Chesty Puller. I plan to do more reading about him. He was quiet amazing. This would be a great book for high school students to read when they study the Korean War.

Rated: PG-13

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0143034901/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0143034901&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=X7NJCOCA6QWDCAVI

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I’ve been meaning to read one of Zafon’s novels for some time now. I’ve read several positive reviews about his books over the last year or so. The story is about a young man who falls in love with a book only to find out someone is attempting to destroy every book the author wrote. He is led on a merry chase as he tries to track down the author and keep his last copy of the book safe. Soon his own life begins to mirror the life of the author leading him face to face with the author’s arch nemeses. The wordsmithing is excellent. The setting is picturesque. The characters are well done. I did find myself just slightly disappointed towards the end of the book when I started figuring out what was going on because the mirroring effect made the story a little too predictable. But, I’m glad I read it. It was beautifully written.

Rated: R

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0307341577/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0307341577&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=AMZQ2UDXGZYPTEAO

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

So, my sister is probably still laughing at me because I meant to get Gone Girl and accidentally picked up Dark Places and didn’t realize it until about half way through the book. Don’t ask.  Dark Places is about a girl whose entire family was murdered when she was seven, supposedly by her brother. Now in her mid-twenties, she is out of money, out of charity, and unable to hide from her past. With the help of a club who thinks her brother is innocent, she begins to uncover the horrible events of the night her family was murdered. This book kept me glued from beginning to end. It was very rough, violent, and showed the sinfulness of man. It didn’t just show man’s violent sinfulness, but how sin reverberates through generations of people including the victims it leaves behind. I was a little disappointed by the actually murderer, but not horribly disappointed. The growth of the main character was well done. She moved from completely selfish, to almost self-less by the end of the story. I enjoyed the unique writing style. The chapters in the protagonist point of view were written in first person, and the flash backs were written in third person, giving the reader insight into the thoughts of several different characters. A very creepy, but enjoyable read. Now, I need to go find Gone Girl.

Rated: R

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0425213757/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0425213757&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=SZEQGJBZGVFDBUHS

Beyond Band of Brothers by Major Dick Winters

I can’t seem to get enough of Band of Brothers. I’ve watched the show about three times now, read the book, and am now searching Half-Price bookstore for other books about Easy Company. This quick and easy to read book is the memoirs of Easy Company’s commander, Dick Winters. He takes you from the point where he joined the army to Easy Company reunions. It’s fascinating to read about how and why he did what he did. He is a very humble man trying to explain his own greatness. It struck me how much attention Winters gave to the fact that he was the man he was because of his mother. Ladies! If you need to be encouraged that the “hand which rocks the cradle rules the world”, look at men like Major Winters. He talks about his sense of discipline, self-control, leadership, and his love for his men. This would be a great book for any history buff, but also for young men to read. Winters would be a great role model for boys along the lines of Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee.

Rated: PG

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CJ19DDS/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00CJ19DDS&linkCode=as2&tag=genandquispi-20&linkId=4FSWCLKOMSGSDWE5

The Secret in Defiance by Bousum and Bennington

This is one of those indie books which is actually really great. It is set in the 1950’s and told mostly from the point of view of a 13-year-old boy who is shouldering the responsibilities of his family after his dad leaves home. It is a bit fantastical with a haunted house, a possessed tree, and an old witch, but it is more about this boy becoming a man and doing what needs to be done. It’s a book about courage and friendship. I really enjoyed the story, and couldn’t stop reading as everything came to a head at the end of the book. It was paced very well. Despite the main characters being mostly children, it’s not a children’s book. The issues Bousum and Bennington deal with are very adult issues. It is not a long read, but it has some memorable characters, an exciting and chilling plot, and will leave you cheering for the hero to the end!

Rated: R

So, as you can tell, I’ve been very busy with books lately! It’s always nice when you get a rash of good ones. Keep Reading!

Sunday Thoughts: The Seven Deadly Sins

Any chance I have to be a complete geek I'm going to take. Full Metal Alchemists is one of my favorite animes of all time!

Any chance I have to be a complete geek I’m going to take. Full Metal Alchemists is one of my favorite animes of all time!

Our modern culture seems to have forgotten that Lust is one of the seven deadly sins. We’re all still pretty agreed on Greed, Wrath, and Gluttony. Sloth, Pride, and Envy seem tolerated as long as they don’t get out of hand. But Lust is fully accepted. It’s gone from deadly to everyone does it so it must just be a natural working of our chemical make-up, right?

“If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?” (Awww, the oft missed wisdom of parents.)

I noticed this the other day while I was listening to Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. Gaiman gave a broad description of the city of London going on about its everyday life. He threw lust in there alongside paying the bills and grocery shopping. He set it on the same level as those mundane, every day activities.

If anyone could make me set my pen down and stop writing, it would be Neil Gaiman. His books are so beautiful it hurts. The descriptions are vivid and unique. The characters are both down to earth and fantastical. His stories are full of whispered hints of past fairy tales, past stories, shared culture. They are rich, engaging, and masterfully detailed. And yet. Yet, I’m constantly frustrated by my inability to share them without caveats. He always has something inappropriate or sinful in them.

It’s not that a book is only good if it doesn’t have sin. Quite the opposite. We need sin in our stories or we have no salvation. We need death or we have no resurrection. But so many stories, Gaiman included, don’t show the consequences of sin. They might show the consequences of some sin in the anti-hero, or the villain, or as conflict, but it’s never treated as sin. Rarely, and growing more rare, do the characters see their sin, their need for salvation and repentance. Half, or more, of the 10 commandments are treated as guidelines and suggestions, if not just completely ignored.

You can listen to the BBC production, or Gaiman reading it himself. I suggest both!

You can listen to the BBC production, or Gaiman reading it himself. I suggest both!

Characters face the consequences of bad decisions but rarely for their lust. It’s just treated like, “well, everyone does it, what are you gonna do.” Shrug shoulders. I have a thought! We could fight it. We could show the fact that lust leads to death just as surely as gluttony does. We could stop pretending teen pregnancy, rampant abortion, lack of marriage vow holding, and a whole slew of other problems don’t exist as a consequence of lust. We could open our eyes and see the price of sin is death.

But, that is a supernatural work. It requires the work of the Holy Spirit. Dead men can’t smell their own stink.

Thus, I will hold my pen and not throw it down in awe of the gift God gave another man. I will keep writing so that not all the stories treat lust like it’s the equivalent of a stomach rumble. And I will keep copying—in the simple way a child draws stick figures as he watches his father paint—my heavenly Father by saving sinners from their sin. This is what I will aim to write. And I will do it as beautifully as I can using the gift given to me.

I will also keep reading Neil Gaiman because he sparks meditation on the grace of God by showing me how lost I am without that blessed blood shed for me.

Books, Books, and more Books

I seem to have reached a rare and magical land where I finish books faster than I can write about them.  A winter cold did help me get some of the reading done, and a promise to myself to read a little more – so far, so good…minus the cold.  Because I have read several good books since my last book post, I’m going to give you some quick, short thoughts on them instead of a whole blog post for each individual book.  Here goes:

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Brave Men, Gentle Heroes: American Fathers and Sons in World War 2 and Vietnam by Michael Takiff

This wonderful book cataloged fathers who served in WW2 and their sons who served in Vietnam.  There are heroic stories, cowardly ones, good stories, and bad ones.  I came away with a sense of how our soldiers in WW2 drew strength from the belief that what they did was right and the nation was behind them.  While the lack of moral conviction – most of them had no idea if the war was right or not – and support from the nation pulled down our Vietnam soldiers.  I disagreed politically and morally with many of the men who fought in Vietnam, while others amazed me with their courage.  This book gives you insight into the everyday soldier’s reaction to sweeping historical events, the pain of sending your son off to war when you know exactly how hellish it is, and different paths of healing.

Rating: PG-13

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American Gods by Neil Gaiman

This was my first Neil Gaiman book.  He’s not highly recommended for nothing.  What an amazing writer.  What a way with words, and what a haunting writing voice.  Gaiman weaves his great sense of myth and fairy tale, almost subconsciously, through his story.  American Gods is about an ex-con, Shadow, who encounters gods brought by immigrants to America.  The gods are going to war against the newer gods of technology.  Caught up in the skirmishes of the war, Shadow finds out he’s more deeply tied to the gods than he ever thought.  A healthy grasp of mythology – Greek, Norse, Egyptian, and more – makes the story even richer. In fact, it’s almost required.

Rating: R

Fevre_dream

Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin

When a writer like Martin tackles vampires, you sit up and pay attention.  This book avoids the normal vampire romances.  Instead, it focuses on a steamboat captain – Abner Marsh – who meets a vampire – Joshua York.  They develop a unique and amazing friendship that spans Marsh’s whole life.  Together they build the most beautiful steamboat on the Mississippi, take on a vile band of vampires, and try to save Joshua’s kind from the thirst.

Martin’s story has few female characters, which is refreshing in the world of vampires.  His hero, Marsh, is an ugly man, but you admire him so much you forget he isn’t an epic Hollywood beauty.  It helps that Martin constantly reminds you Marsh is a fat man covered in warts – an ugly, rough, loyal, and good man.

For any of you who wish vampires where less romantic, and more evil, this book is for you.  Also, you will learn more about steamboats and sailing the Mississippi than you ever thought could be interesting.  Trust me.  It’s amazing.

Rating: R

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Little Bee by Chris Cleave

Someone far more eloquent than I reviewed this book, read her thoughts here.  Little Bee is a word book.  It’s an image book.  It pulls you into a strange, sad, and sickening world with the beauty of words strung together.  What happened on a beach in Africa brings two women together and changes their lives forever.  It is the clash of first and third world countries, with both women trying to find their way.  Reading it was a sheer joy.  It was also sad, painful, and the ending leaves you a little unsatisfied.  You will also never look at Batman the same again.

Rating: R

Well, those are just a few short thoughts on the books I’ve most recently read.  I’m firmly in the camp that if you wish to write well, you must read often.  I keep my brain fed with stories from many sources: movies, books, friends, video games, and even music.  I keep my brain fed with writing styles, word use, voice use, and rule keeping and breaking by reading.  I’ve always been a reader and will always be a reader.

(I will be uploading these short reviews to my GoodReads page as well, if you would like to follow me there.  If you look to your right, there is my Goodreads feed on the sidebar.)