Friday, December 20, 2013

Best of 2013

via Pinterest
Well, it may surprise some of you that I'm doing a year-end review so early in December. But the time has come for me to take a wee break from the blogosphere, not only to read some good books so I have fresh material for reviews, but also to spend some time with family and friends.

It's been another exciting year to be a bibliophile. In the midst of one crazy travelling year, I've posted near the Smoky Mountains, on Vancouver Island, in Washington State, and in a lovely little cabin in northern Michigan. A series of miracles, to say the least. And wherever I've gone, I've taken a lot of good books with me to keep me company.

It's also been a challenging year to post. Lest you think I'm some kind of crazy person who can do a bunch of things and keep up with the reading at the same time, my book list isn't quite as long this year, and some of my reviews were well-loved favorites that I knew and trusted, even though I hadn't read them in a while. Life gets busier, and precious moments to read are fewer and farther between. So on many days it was a labor of love. But the Lord gives grace and words and strength, and I'm realizing more and more that time to read is a gift from Him, not to be taken for granted.

As I looked back on the articles and reviews from this past year, I was encouraged by what I saw. Sometimes I came across articles I didn't even know I had written, and they inspired me as I read over them again. Other times I smiled, remembering good memories on the day I posted certain articles, or the joy that it was to read books for certain reviews. And once or twice, I got absorbed in my own writing as if it were someone else's.

At the end of another year, I can truly say the Lord has been very good to me. A lot of good books, and I'm grateful for the ones I was able to read. A lot of articles, a lot of discussion. And not only that, but I got to meet some very special fellow bibliophiles this year that I never expected to. In person. International bibliophiles from Canada and Australia.

That was indeed a gift from the Lord.

So, before this holiday season begins, I'd like to pause and take some time to reflect on where the Lord has brought me thus far. To do that, I've picked seven articles and seven book reviews from the past year that were especially memorable or enjoyable to me. I would love to hear about articles or book reviews that stood out to you this year from the blog as well! :)

I hope you'll enjoy a sampling of past content from the blog.

Top 7 Articles
Are Authors a Product of Their Times?
When Bibliophiles Play (Part One, Part Two, Part Three)
The Power of the Cross (Part One, Part Two)
A Happy Birthday Blog Post
Bibliophiles and Accountability
The Sinners We Love (Introduction, Conclusion)
Let Them All Laugh 

Special Mention
Dominion-Oriented Bibliophiles--guest post for In Which I Read Vintage Novels
Feeding the Soul--Balancing Busyness and Times of Rest--guest post for Fullness of Joy

Top 7 Book Reviews
The Lady of the Lake, by Sir Walter Scott
The Hole in Our Holiness, by Kevin DeYoung
The Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey
Humble Orthodoxy, by Joshua Harris
The Silmarillion, by JRR Tolkien (Part One, Part Two)
Dreamlander, by K.M Weiland
 7 Men and the Secret of Their Greatness, by Eric Metaxas

While I'm gone, perhaps you would enjoy browsing some of these Top 7 posts. And I'll still be around for comments and emails during the holiday season.

It's always a gift to receive your comments, emails, and interactions. They make blogging very enjoyable, and I really appreciate every one of them. :) I hope that the articles and reviews this year have been thought-provoking, inspiring, and most of all, encouraging in your walk with the Lord. That would be my greatest desire with this blog, and my goal every year with the content I put out.

I'll be back January 3rd to celebrate two years of My Lady Bibliophile, when I'll post my 2012 book list, and pick a top fiction and nonfiction book of 2013, as well as my favorite author from the year. Until then, I wish you a very Merry Christmas, and a very happy New Year, from the bottom of my book-loving heart. May you find abundant time to reflect on Christ this Christmas season, and perhaps to sneak in a few pages of your favorite novel as well. ;)

Until 2014!

Lady Bibliophile

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Brothers At Arms

Ever since the John J. Horn books first released, I knew that I would have to try them out. The well-designed covers and intriguing plot premises grabbed me right away, and I'm always on the lookout for modern authors who write in a biblical and yet enjoyable manner. I think I was always inclined towards Brothers at Arms from the beginning, and after Suzannah's excellent review, I knew that I would simply have to lay my hands on a copy. Recently, due to a good sale, I took initiative and ordered one of his books. And great was my delight when I received it in the mail, in spite of its less than gentle arrival.

Lady Bibliophile should not be in sight if any of her books are thrown on the doorstep, instead of being carefully and deferentially placed there.

Since I could only order one, I chose the one I was most interested in: Brothers At Arms. Though technically it's the second in a series, it exists on its own right beside the first one, The Boy Colonel, and you'll have no trouble reading it out of sequence, as the stories don't intersect until book 3. This week, and most of Sunday afternoon, I plugged away at it. Relaxing, suspenseful, and absolutely enjoyable from beginning to end, the story never flagged, and I was quite pleased with my purchase.

So today, I present to you Brothers at Arms.

The Story
Lawrence Stoning and his brother Chester are an experiment. Growing up in a family with an absent socialite mother and a scholarly father who wants to keep track of them like specimens on a cork board, these twins couldn't be more opposite. One, Chester, was encouraged into hunting, sporting, and all things active. Lawrence took a more scholarly turn, and enjoys his books and ink and paper. Their father is keeping track of each son's education to determine which one turns out best, but other than that he's not really involved in the lives of his sons, and the brothers aren't involved with each other. They're individual entities, existing solely for their own interests. Neither of them know who is the oldest twin; their father didn't want that knowledge to damage his experiment.

I'm inclined to favor Lawrence for that status.

When Chester runs away to join the army, his father is distraught, and comes out of his lethargy enough to order Lawrence to follow after and bring him back. Lawrence tracks his brother down, determined to do his duty by him, secretly yearning for his books at home, and finds that Chester has no intention of coming back at all. So Lawrence gets him an officer's commission, attaches himself to Chester as his personal servant, and off to Spain the brothers go.

When Chester rescues a young Spanish girl from a kidnapping, and finds out from her brother-in-law that she has an angry and powerful suitor after her, he sells his officer's commission and he and Lawrence travel as bodyguards with the young woman, her sister, and her brother-in-law, to take refuge in Peru. But they soon realize that Pacarina has more than a suitor after her. She guards a powerful secret that she alone holds the knowledge of: a great Incan treasure hidden away for years past. Someone knows she holds the secret, and will do anything to wrench it from her.

They have until the shadow of the snake falls to leave Peru. But the person after Pacarina might not even give them that long before he strikes again. Lawrence only wants to make sure that he brings his brother home safely, in deference to his father's request, but his lack of survival skills and Chester's recklessness promise to make that a miracle if he ever manages it.

These two brothers find themselves at increasing odds with each other, and unless they can find a way to overcome their differences, they may bring Pacarina, as well as each other, down, simply through their own disparities.

My Thoughts
I'm always interested to see how young authors do, and though John J. Horn is a new author on the scene, and his journey is just beginning, it bids fair to be a fine one. I'm sure he'll grow and improve over time, just like every other author. I can definitely see the Henty/Ballantyne influence, and I think he's doing a great job imitating them. He did well with his second book (I can't speak to the first one, not having read it), and I enjoyed it immensely, but I enjoyed it with the knowledge that he'll get even better if he keeps up the writing.
The most important thing to be found in any book, the characterization of the main characters, is absolutely spot-on in Brothers at Arms. The twins, Chester and Lawrence, each have a separate viewpoint in the story, and it is distinct and well-drawn. Lawrence writes the story through first person perspective, and I love the stiff little scholarliness that he brings to writing a rip-roaring adventure yarn. It fits perfectly, and tells you more about him than he ever does himself. It's almost as if he's struggling to reconcile in his bookish mind that he's actually telling anyone about all these crazy happenings. So he tries to polish it up and present it with some semblance of intellectualism, and that touch was both original and charming. Chester and Lawrence are so vivid in their likes and dislikes that I really can't pick a favorite, though I know I would end up being a complete Lawrence on that adventure. There was one instance where Horn wrote from Chester's perspective, and he's completely different than Lawrence, and just as vivid. Horn knows his characters and who they are, and that shines through.
I suspected the villain just before he was revealed, but I was hoodwinked along with the rest of the characters for most of the book, so that's always pleasant, because I like surprises.
Sometimes I had a hard time remembering the time the story was set in--1830s, I believe--and I put it a little later in my mind, so I kept thinking certain plot elements were out of character until I remembered that it was 19th century. A little more clarification on that would have been helpful. Also, the book is quite adventurous, but sometimes things move a little too fast. However, overall it was an excellent story, and the author's pacing will improve in time. Two very small complaints in the end, and far from outweighing the benefits of the story.

The thing I most appreciated was that a young man saw the value of fiction, took delight in it, and wrote some of his own. That's what excites me about this book, because fiction in today's homeschool circles is taken up mostly by females, and we really do need young men to bring their perspective to the genre. This young man was not ashamed to write about themes of chivalrous manhood, attractive womanhood, and even a little romance, yet it was all done with excellence, and no unsavory things were included. I also find it refreshing that Horn created an absolutely feminine character in Pacarina who was still worth her salt. 

I only wish I could read the 3rd book in the series. But it is now out of my power to get. Unfortunately, due to Vision Forum's liquidation, this Men of Grit series is no longer available for sale. I trust that the temporary disappearance will only be for the present, and Horn can find another distributor for his books. They should come back on the market, for they will delight many bibliophiles, and they hold a breath of promise to young people rising up and taking dominion of the literary market.

Bravo to John Horn. Brothers at Arms was a pleasure from beginning to end, and if it ever comes back on the market, I highly recommend it as a pleasurable and edifying read.

Lady Bibliophile

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Hobbit (Reprise)

 In honor of the US release of the Desolation of Smaug today, I'm doing a reprise of my review of The Hobbit, (the book), from its original posting in April, 2012. I'm quite looking forward to seeing the film, and I'm sure many of you are as well! :)

These are my first impressions of The Hobbit. I've read it twice now, and learned a lot more about Tolkien's world since, but it's fun to remember what I thought of it when hobbits and dragons and Middle Earth were all new to me. I've also reviewed The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, which you can find under Tolkien in the Book Reviews tab.


The Plot 
I had the exceeding privilege of ordering an annotated edition of The Hobbit for my first exposure to Tolkien. It added much to my pleasure, because it contained many of his philological notes in the margins, as well as old book covers, illustrations he liked and hated, and notes about the creating of his world, Middle Earth. I remember the first night I looked at The Hobbit: I had just finished an Australian book, the Magic Pudding (finished it with a flashlight under the covers. I couldn't sleep.) So, still wide-awake, I pawed around my book stack. I knew what I wanted: this strange book that was supposed the be the first in the legendary Lord of the Rings series. One by one, I quietly rustled through the pages of chapter one "The Unexpected Party". I didn't really have an expectation for the story, but from what I had heard of the Lord of the Rings, but I remember expecting it to be a bit more...epic. So far, it was just about a bunch of dwarfs eating dinner with a fanciful creature called a hobbit, and planning an expedition to kill a dragon. Nice. I didn't have anything against dragons, mind you, or dwarfs for that matter, but I thought that The Hobbit seemed a bit simpler than Narnia, and I wondered what the uproar had been about. But, I determined to enjoy it, even if it was a children's book. The poetry was quite good, at least, and the British humor popped up continuously, which is a definite plus.

And then... But wait. I get ahead of myself. You really wanted to know what the plot was.

Simply put, it's about a cozy little hobbit, a creature a bit like a dwarf, with furry toes and colorful waistcoats, and a love of numerous meals all on time. The hobbit we're referring to is named Bilbo Baggins is very comfortable with the way his life is going, until one day the wizard Gandalf shows up, and his life is forever changed. The wizard Gandalf is looking for someone to go on an adventure--a burglar, in fact. And he has chosen Bilbo Baggins to fill the role. Thirteen dwarfs and a few songs later, Bilbo finds himself leaving the Shire to travel to dark and distant lands to kill a dragon and get back a huge pile of treasure that rightfully belong to the dwarfs. From giant spiders, to goblins, to fierce wolves, he has to lead the dwarfs to their ultimate destiny, and they seem to think that poor, ordinary Mr. Baggins has all the solutions to whatever problems they will face.

Now we can get to 'And then'. Innocent as this story sounds, darker strands soon begin to appear that are not usually found in children's stories. The dwarfs are greedy creatures, and the lust for gold grows stronger and stronger the closer they get to their destination. Greed is oftentimes treated as a joke in literature, but Tolkien foreshadows dark problems in the plot because of this vice. Also, among his journeys, Bilbo finds a ring. A ring that has a special power to do something (which I wont give away) and that causes him to tell a lie for the first time in his life. This small incident is what ties it into LOTR, and the whisperings of future trouble appear when Bilbo sees the strange effect it has had on its former possessors.

We'll talk about fantasy later. But for now, I would reassure you on two points in looking at reading this book: first, it's much like Narnia--not necessarily in plot, but in type of fantasy. Both Lewis and Tolkien has a Judeo-Christian background, though Tolkien was Catholic, and if you take the time to look and evaluate, you'll clearly see the biblical morality in both works.

And as for the question of Bilbo being hired for a burglar--or as Gloin the dwarf says "You can say Expert Treasure-Hunter if you prefer"--well, if he steals anything, it shall be resolved. I promise. And the dragon is the thief of the treasure. Bilbo isn't going to steal it from the dragon, but to restore to the dwarfs what is rightly theirs. No situational ethics, I promise you. :)

Score one for Tolkien. I should have trusted all those who had gone before. Though I had my doubts at first, by chapter two, I was hooked. And I've never looked back.

My Thoughts
 I have to say, I would only criticize Tolkien for giving away so much before he gets to the end. He gives
away the final battle. He gives away the fact that Bilbo makes it to the end. He gives away quite a few events by saying, "but they were wrong, as you shall see". I didn't even notice this until I read the book aloud to my family, but they kept laughing when he killed all the suspense. I was happy to find that he didn't do this in LOTR nearly as much.
The humor was so funny, and I loved Bilbo's lines. They in themselves made the book, much like A.A. Milne's humor turns Pooh Bear from a cute Disney creation to an intelligent fairy tale.
There were quite a few talking animals. I was glad LOTR didn't rely so heavily on those for the climax rescue points as The Hobbit did. Not that I mind talking animals so much, but personally, I think it's more epic when the characters have to work themselves out of the ditch. It's the point that you are taught at writer's conferences, the point that says when the character reaches the darkest moment, the helper comes not to solve the problem for them, but to point them in the right direction. At first, all the climaxes were solved for Bilbo, but later on he had to work to find solutions for them. But in saying that, I'm not criticizing the element of providence that Tolkien includes. Bilbo finding the ring in the dark is Providential. Bilbo thinking of the key to open the door in the mountain is providential. I think the providence theme shines thorough not when Bilbo is picked up out of his problems without a bit of effort on his part, but when he is given a piece of knowledge or help that he could not have gotten on his own, and helps him to make the final leap to success. It's a bit like overcoming temptation--God gives us a way of escape, but we have to choose whether we will follow it or not. We're given everything we need for life and godliness, but we still have to practice it. So my favorite parts were when Bilbo had to put forth a little effort in the critical moment--like putting the dwarfs in barrels, or the riddle competition with Gollum.
By far, my favorite theme in The Hobbit is the fact that is so clearly expressed: God uses the weak things to shame the strong. There is no allegorical representation of God in the Hobbit, though you will find it in his other works, but you still see the Christian influence shine through. When we first meet Bilbo, he doesn't think he can do it. But by the end, he's looking beyond what he thinks he can do to what needs to be done. And in the end, when he's a bit proud of his success, Gandalf reminds him fittingly that all his 'good luck' wasn't really his at all: "You don't really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!"

I am exceedingly glad to have met this little fellow. Because he's an essential prelude to the events yet to come. And without humble Bilbo Baggins, we could never have enjoyed the Lord of the Rings. :)

The Movie
The whole reason for this blog post, is of course, the release of the Desolation of Smaug today! :) I'm seeing it tomorrow, but for those of you who will see it today, I hope that you find infinite enjoyment from it. I found a very nice trailer last night that I had never seen before, so in case others haven't as well I'll link to it for your viewing pleasure. For those of you who have not seen Tolkien, please note that the movie is rated PG-13 for intense battle sequences, some of which are included in the trailer I linked to.

I've seen the first film in the Hobbit trilogy, An Unexpected Journey, twice now, and I'm greatly looking forward to finding out what's next. Martin Freeman does an incredible performance as Bilbo, and Smaug is already spectacular, just from the trailers. I have every expectation of Bilbo's time in the Lonely Mountains being fully satisfactory. There remains to be seen what Peter Jackson will do with the new plot additions--but all in all I'm anticipating it with much pleasure.

Do you plan to see the movie today? And if so, what are you most looking forward to about it? :)

Lady Bibliophile

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Emma of Aurora

A couple of people this year recommended Jane Kirkpatrick to me for her historical fiction and excellent writing. She was an author I had been eyeing for some time, for she seemed chose real historical women to write about, and though I didn't know much about her, I thought it would be good to check her out and see if she was someone I would be interesting in looking into further. When her book came up in my Waterbrook Multnomah book review selection, I thought that it would be a good time to give her a try, and I requested Emma of Aurora, the entire Change and Cherish trilogy in one volume.

A book over 1,000 pages. An author I had never read before. A month to read it in. I was a little nervous, but it was worth a try, and thanks to a generous blogging review program, which I am very thankful for, I wouldn't be losing out if I didn't like it.

It did require some dedication, though. This much-worn and huge doorstopper has travelled with me from Michigan to Tennessee, kept me company in a van with a flat tire, and been my constant companion on Sunday afternoons. But I finished it on time, and simply for the sake of reading a big book, it was worth it to prove to myself I could still do it.

So here, I present to you my first (and probably last) acquaintance with Jane Kirkpatrick, and my impressions of Emma of Aurora.

The Plot
This book combines three volumes about Emma Giesy's story, originally titled A Clearing in the Wild, A Tendering in the Storm, and A Mending at the Edge.

A true woman, who really existed, Emma Wagner is a young woman eager for marriage in her local community of Bethel, Pennsylvania. The leader of their community, Brother Keil, who serves as counselor, minister, doctor, and general decision-maker all in one, no longer encourages marriage, trying to keep young men and women single to devote their service to the colony. But Emma marries a wise and kind older man, Christian Giesy, who is a friend of her father's, and their life promises to be happy together, if Christian can ever be home for a few weeks at a time instead of constantly being out recruiting new colony members.

When the Civil War threatens to break out, and the railroad comes to town, the Bethel community determines to move out West, where land is a good price. Nine males scouts are chosen, and for some reason, Emma Wagner Giesy went with them, the only woman to accompany the expedition. They started out in 1853, and her first child was born in 1854, so she must have been a strong woman and well able to endure hardships.

A Clearing in the Wild explores young Emma's travelling along the Oregon trail with the nine scouts, establishing her family, and trying, in spite of the age gap between herself and her husband, to be a worthy helpmeet. When they choose a site for the Bethel colony to come out, they eagerly set to work, but their leader arrives and disapproves of the site, and the colony splits, with Christian and Emma choosing to stay at Willapa, and Keil's followers moving on to Oregon.

A Tendering in the Storm continues Emma's journey with the death of her husband by drowning, and her marriage to Jack Giesy, an abusive husband. Though she never liked Brother Kiel, and determined not to leave the Willapa colony that she and her husband had worked so hard for, Emma's finds that Brother Keil's Aurora colony holds her only promise of refuge for herself and her children from her second husband.

A Mending at the Edge finishes Emma's journey. She faces separation from her sons so that they can be properly brought up with male influence in their lives, due to the lack of a father figure, and Emma's struggles to develop a servant's heart for the colony, and balance individual value with submission to others.

My Thoughts
Emma, as the main character, deserves the first section of my thoughts here. She's not a main character who gives me a warm and fuzzy relatable feeling--flawed and stubborn most of the time, it's other people's love for her that I loved, not her for her own sake. Christian Geisy, her husband, was a brave and steadfast Christian man, and when he drowned, I said goodbye to my favorite character. He was what Emma needed, and when he died, she lost her compass.

Some things have been fictionalized for the purposes of the story; whether Emma was as strong-willed as she appears in the book, I'm not entirely sure, but I suspect there might have been an inkling, if not of such outright feminism, at least of a sturdy nature. For the purposes of my thoughts, however, I'll stick to how she was portrayed in the book, whether or not that was actually the case in real life. Her constant manipulation in the first book was disturbing, and I was constantly starring feministic thoughts and misjudgements on her part that could have been avoided if she had been willing to embrace a biblical role of womanhood.

Even though she was flawed, however, I chose to keep reading, because I know that a character, especially in a trilogy, is supposed to undergo a character arc of changed attitudes. Book 2 showed me that other characters recognized her flaws just as much as I did; Emma, ironically, was the only one blind to them. I thought that showed good promise for future improvement, and at the end of book two I was greatly relieved and hopeful, for it looked like she would get it. Something happened towards the middle of Book 3, however, and I'm not sure quite what it was; but Emma went back to her manipulating and feministic ways, all in the name of improvement and individuality, seeming to think she had learned her lesson. She made poor choices, and for a while the author was excellent at portraying the grief and punishment that those poor choices led to. But in Book 3, the aftermath that continued through the years seemed to be passed off in the name of 'trials' rather than a result of Emma's continuing poor attitude.

It is grievous, when a character shows genuine signs of growth, to have them change and slide all the way back to where they began, and this was a hard book to finish. I was hoping that it would be a good trilogy on the whole, though one that I could only recommend to readers willing to read all of it, to draw the proper conclusions about Emma's attitude. But now I can't even do that, for the arc doubled back on itself, and the reader is left with a character who is older, somewhat wiser, but just as blind in a few key areas that she was at the beginning.

The one good lesson that this story taught was of community, and reaching out to help one another. Emma was so afraid of being under obligations to others that she often shut out relationships, and hurt people who wanted to reach out to her. It's good to ask other people to help bear our burdens for us, and very strongly illustrated in her story is the blessing of help given and help received, not only by immediate family, though that is a key theme, but also by church and friends as well, even when it requires being personal and vulnerable.

Emma Geisy was not of the Amish or Mennonite persuasion, but she and her family did live in a central community that focused on sharing common money and resources, working for the good of each other. I never knew fully what the community believed. It seemed to be this Christian utopia society, and what it stood for is unclear, besides the focus of sharing money and work for the good of all, and following the leadership of Wilhelm Keil. Brother Kiel's views on preventing marriage, Emma's claim of her second husband abusing her, and the Willapa colony split, are all documented facts, and Jane Kirkpatrick seemed to do a good job with working with the historical records and the historical society, as well as some of Emma's descendants, to give an accurate picture of the colony.

The women's house church in book 3 could have been a beautiful picture of older women discipling younger women, but it was instead a group of women gathering together at Emma's instigation to have their own independent spiritual discussions. There's nothing wrong with women having spiritual discussions together over sewing and trading recipes; but the underlying motivation of doing so without any leaders around to guide is hardly a biblical or beneficial idea.

Scripture was seriously misapplied in multiple places in book 3. In fact, in the majority of places where it was quoted, it was taken out of context. You can't take only one verse of Scripture and base your whole theology on it, particularly when it's supporting unbiblical attitudes. A verse must be taken with it's surrounding meaning, not merely taking on an individual basis to excuse actions that would otherwise be inexcusable.

Due to plot elements of pregnancy and marriage, told from a first person woman's perspective, as well as disturbing feministic attitudes on Emma's part, this is a book for mature readers, preferably female, who are able to sift out the right from wrong. But at this point, though it was not entirely devoid of benefit, as I used the time to pinpoint her feministic attitudes, and see if any of them had crept into my own life, I wouldn't recommend it. You can find better books to spend your time on, and the history isn't so overwhelmingly incorporated that this book is worth it for the history's sake.

I respect the amount of work Jane Kirkpatrick put into crafting this story; her careful detail with food and people and colony, the life of the band and church, and the regular housekeeping events are lovingly and carefully written. Sometimes she would describe little family habits and interactions and they made me smile, because I would never think of writing such things down, but they made the people so real, and I kept thinking "that's just like someone in our family does!" I enjoyed those bits, and it inspired me to develop some more of that detail in future stories I hope to write. But Emma Wagner Giesy is not a good role model, and her story is a heavy one, certainly not for relaxation or entertainment, with a conclusion far from satisfactory.

So all in all, my first exploration into Jane Kirkpatrick will probably be my last. But it was worth a try, and I'm not out much in time for it. For more information about Jane Kirkpatrick, check out her author's website. And for more information about Emma of Aurora, including a link to the first chapter and other reviews, click here.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review. A favorable opinion was not required, and I have given my honest thoughts regarding this work.

Lady Bibliophile

Friday, December 6, 2013

Book Tag Week (Part Two)

via Pinterest
Welcome, friends and fellow bibliophiles, to Part Two of our book tag week! If you would like to read part one, you can catch up here. Questions for this tag are sourced from Cupcake Classics, which I found through a random Google Search. So let's get to it!

1. How do you find out about new books to read?
A lovely question! Somehow, a lot of friends (and family) know I like books, so I get quite a few suggestions dropped right on my doorstep. :) They're very patient folk, waiting for me to get through everything--and they also keep me busy trying to keep up! 

Right now I'm reading a book suggested by an attendee of one of my book talks. Most suggestions come through my Bible study group and other good friends. Very rarely I'll find a book on Amazon that I've never heard before, and which sounds rather good. Most often it turns out not quite as good as it looked. But sometimes it works. That's how I found out about The Way We Live Now, by Anthony Trollope, and I enjoyed that book immensely.

I have a computer document entitled "Books to Look Up", and every time someone gives me a book that intrigues me, I write it in there.

Blogging was also a huge jumpstart to my list of to-reads. I added forty titles to my list last year, and many of them were online recommendations from people I knew. One of my favorite memories was when I had an online birthday party in 2012, and each guest brought a few book title suggestions along with their messages. :) That was special.

2. How has your taste in books changed as you've gotten older?
My taste has not so much changed--though I do read more nonfiction than I used to--as much as my attitude towards reading has. It used to be that books were solely for entertainment, and I guarded that entertainment jealously. Now I think of them as a matter of dominion. I realized that a book was not merely a story, but a worldview encased in fiction or nonfiction, and therefore it was vital that I started practicing a little thinking and unpacking of the themes the author included, so that reading was a beneficial exercise. Really, the Lord opened my eyes, because it wasn't any message or person or book that gave me a thirst for thinking through what I was reading--He just planted that desire in me.

Don't worry. I still have just as much fun as I used to; discernment is far from boring, and you can still like fiction and be discerning, too. ;)

3. How often do you buy books?
Maybe two or three a month. It goes in fits and starts, but that's probably what it averages out to be. Every July I break that record and buy around 15 books at our 4th of July booksale. I also get a few books for free through blogging review programs, and other promotional deals. And sometimes when I go see speakers they hand out free books. For instance, earlier this year I helped run the book table at an Answers in Genesis conference, and got a free book as an unexpected blessing at the end. :)

Most of them are thrifted, but this month I spoiled myself and bought three brand-new books that no one else has ever read before. I know. Spoiled. Rotten. A golden occasion, and so close to the holidays, and I can't think up any excuse that will explain the indulgence. I can't wait till they get here...

Now another good question might be how many books do I persuade other people to buy? Several, I'm pleased to say. At the aforementioned AIG conference, I was so persuasive that a husband and wife both ended up buying the same three books without even realizing it.

I promise, I didn't know they were related. And they returned the extra copies.

4. How did you get into book blogging?
I graduated from highschool. :) Seriously, that is the true answer. About the time I finished graduating, I wanted to start a book blog with some of my thoughts about what I was reading. I've always had a love for writing articles, and the idea of combination book reviews and teaching articles all came together into My Lady Bibliophile. And the Lord has seen fit to bless these efforts thus far with much inspiration, for which I am very grateful.

5. How do you react when you don't like the end of a book?

I FLING it across the room. 

No, I'm rarely that violent. Firstly, I will treat my family to a detailed explanation of how awful it was at the next available meal. If it's of a tragic nature and I don't like it, then I immediately choose a better book that will relieve my feelings, and start reading it as fast as I possibly can, to wash out the bad taste. If I review the book I dislike, I try  never to write a review in the heat of the moment. If it angers or upsets me, then I cool off. Putting words on the internet is a weighty thing, and I try to have emotions well under control before I post opinions publicly.

On one occasion I was so spooked and appalled by the book I had read that I took it into my online group chat and solemnly warned everyone present not to read it.

Such is life with a bibliophile.

6. How often do you take a sneaky look at the back page to see if the book has a happy ending?

Haha, I used to be notorious for this. Every time I got a stack of books from the library, I would go through them all, pick out the chapter titles that looked most exciting and intriguing, and skim through them. That habit has faded with time, and I no longer do so quite as much as I once did. I like a good surprise now, so when I'm really good I wait for the chapters to come consecutively. On occasion, however, reading ahead saved me from a few bad books, and if I'm doubtful about the value of a book, I have no problem with looking ahead to get a general idea of the worthiness of it.

I still do have my moments of weakness, though.

There you have it, my friends! What about you? Do you like to read ahead? What do you do when you don't like the way a book ends?

Lady Bibliophile

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Book Tag Week (Part One)

Via Pinterest
I realized that I have posted a lot of deep thinking articles lately here on the blog, I thought it might be fun to take a break and do a Book Tag week, answering some fun questions about reading habits, likes and dislikes. Though I haven't been tagged personally, I did find two very nice tags through Google search. Note that I'm not familiar with the site they came from, so can't give it my personal recommendation, but these tags are excellent and I wanted to source them!  
So without further ado, let's have some fun with a Book Tag Week here on My Lady Bibliophile. :)
Q1. What one book from your collection would you keep if all the rest had to be thrown away?
This was supposed to be a fun tag. A relaxing tag. And now not only am I in torment at the thought of throwing away my book collection, but the thought of keeping only one is pure agony.
Let's see. I would not keep any book that was part of a series. Then I would always be tormented that I couldn't read the rest of it.
Oh, I give up. I think I would throw away all of them, and just be sad. Or perhaps--I know. I would keep the print-out of the book I'm writing. That's it. :)

Q2. What one book would you never go back and re-read ever again?
Quite a few, actually. I'm probably fated to read L.M. Montgomery's Emily series again before my life is over, though I really, really don't want to. It's one of those books that has a tiny tug, even though you know it will just exhaust you to read it. The Brethren, by H. Rider Haggard is held in loving memory, but I don't know if I could ever go back and re-read it. Not that I didn't like it--but once was enough.
I have no intentions to read Dorothy Sayers again, though I do understand others who appreciate her literature. It didn't do good things for me, so I had to let it go. But that's my reading journey, and certainly not everyone's. Also, I doubt I'll read Agatha Christie again. I've lived quite a happy life without her for so many years that my original hiatus will probably extend indefinitely.
But never is a long word, and the Lord has different seasons for reading. If He ever gives me a good reason to pick them up again, then I'll gladly do so. Until then, I'll leave them on the shelf.
Q3. Do you like to have something to munch or sip whilst you read?
I had a similar question on a writing tag not too long ago. Ideally I don't like anything to eat or drink while I'm reading. It's not because I have the noble commitment not to ruin any books I come in contact with. Rather, it's because I like being absorbed in the story without any distractions. However, I'm starting to shift on this point from sheer necessity, and sometimes I'll have a mug of H2O with me (though the mug, I might add, is always my Spilled Ink mug from our library's winter reading program.) Also, once in a blue moon I have a book open on the table when I'm eating breakfast alone.
The spoon and my mouth do not always make contact. But at least the story flow remains uninterrupted. ;)

Q4. When did your love of books start and what was one of the first books you ever read?
When I started to read, perhaps? That was a very long time ago, and very hazy in my memory. However, I remember getting lots of books at the library from a very young age, and Fridays are always my favorite day of the week because we walked to our local library almost every Friday for a few years. It's a strong enough memory to still make Friday my Happy Day.
My parents might have a better memory of the first book I read. I can't go back that far, I'm afraid. So I'll fast forward the question a few years. One of the series I loved most as a child was the Little House in Brookfield series, based on the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder's mother, Caroline. The way she always put butter on her pancakes and then tried to eat them before the syrup ran down the sides gave a remarkably cozy impression,.

Q5. Very romantic or full of action?
Not very romantic. I always feel rather guilty when a book is terribly romantic, and I don't approve of a lot of touchy-feely romance either (which is why I said farewell Davis Bunn's A Book of Hours, even though I loved the story premise).
Ideally I would choose a story full of action, not just there for the action's sake, but to show that regular people can overcome huge obstacles, because we have a Lord beyond our own abilities.
Ideally, I like a book that combines both action and love interest in a very purposeful way.

Q6. Cliffhanger or resolved ending?
My favorite resolutions leave the story a little open-ended--with room for imagination, and to think about what the future of the characters would be like. I enjoy books that lay out what happens to the characters, but most times I like there to be a little bit of mysterious ambiguity.
I don't mind cliffhangers if the book is very old and its sequel has been published for years. If they're modern-day books, I'm very leery of them. Douglas Bond's Guns of the Lion is the perfect example of a modern-day book with a cliffhanger ending. The book was simply splendid, and the cliffhanger perfect, but I didn't like the  offhand way he followed through on it in the sequel. So it's not the cliffhanger I have the problem with, as long as it's followed through on.
All in all, I prefer books with semi-resolved endings.

Q7. Big books or small books?
Big books, definitely. I do most certainly understand that big books can seem overwhelming, and when there isn't as much time to read, the question arises whether you want to spend all your reading time on a few big books or several small ones. But I find that big books develop the characters so beautifully, and I like the way you get to live with the characters, and they're all family by the time you're finished. Big books contain a lot of artistry, much thought about the elements included, and a wider range of characters.
Big books enrich. And I like enrichment. But let me not discount the small ones, for some of my favorites are small books, too, that contain just as much craft and artistry as my doorstoppers.

Q8. Only one genre or a mixture?
I like a select mixture. My favorite genre is probably historical fiction, otherwise known as 'classics', and that's what I read the most from. But I also enjoy a good biography, nonfiction about many different subjects, and the occasional modern-day fiction or fantasy.

Q9. Past, present or future books?
Past. British lit girl all the way. Still have yet to find a future book that I think has a biblical premise, but my mind is open.

Q10. Stand alone or series?
I love series.
Let me amend that. I love the first and third books of almost every series I read. Very rarely do I like the second book in a series. This is due to the prevailing notion on the part of authors that a second book must contain the newly married couple fighting through the entire thing, or a best friend turning evil, or somebody you've always loved dying. Second books seem doomed to angst and conflict. I have no idea why. First books are always great fun and quite adventurous, and third books are grand and noble, but sometimes second books don't carry on the theme quite as well.
The only second book I loved in a trilogy, of course, was The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien. And even then, the Ents were a bit slow at times.

Here we have Tag One for this Tag Week. You're welcome to join in on the questions in the comments, or of course, on your own blog!

Have a great week, and may it have a lot of good books in store for you. :)

Lady Bibliophile
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