Friday, February 28, 2014

What Makes a Good Hero

Photo Credit

All bibliophiles have different tastes when it comes to heroes and how they prefer them to act. What makes them great, and what makes them our favorite, are often highly individual.

The following list of ten characteristics is my opinion on which elements make the best hero. I haven't caught all of them, certainly, and not every hero will have all of these characteristics. But each character will catch at least one or two of them, and they're a broad sample of what I've found in my readings that makes a favorite.

1. Heroes give up something so that other people can stay the same.
This is often what you'll find in the most epic of adventure stories--the ones that leave you needing recovery time afterwards. In those stories, the stakes of evil and good are so high that only sacrifice can open a fitting door to a new, whole world. Whether that's Frodo (Lord of the Rings), or Chris Redston (K.M. Weiland's Dreamlander), or Sidney Carton (A Tale of Two Cities), all these heroes chose that they would give up comfort  and give up their chance of leading a normal life so that someone else would not have to suffer. They suffered instead. And in many instances, heroes who do this are mirrors of Jesus' ultimate death and sacrifice for us.

These heroes not only give up their comfort throughout the story. But they give up something that draws the most tears from us--they give up their happily-ever-after. Oh yes, every author worth their salt will bring contentment through the sacrifice. But heroes who give up happy normalcy so that others can have instead it will always bear scars.

And we see the scars as trophies, honoring them as great.

2. Heroes overcome their own weaknesses.
From Errol Stone's forays into the ale barrel to Axel Lidenbrock's (Journey to the Center of the Earth) comfortable bookish laziness, every hero has some character fault, whether serious or loveable, to overcome in order to conquer the problem they're up against. Even with heroes that don't have serious character deficiencies, every hero has weaknesses to overcome. Pip (Great Expectations) cared more for being a rich gentleman than for loving the home folks. Martin Chuzzlewit (Martin Chuzzlewit) wanted to control his grandson's life and keep him on a tether. Character flaws always make the adventure more challenging, and sometimes hurt other characters in the process, but the heroes must overcome. Perhaps the best example of this is the knight Redcrosse in Edmund Spenser's Book 1 of the Faerie Queene.

The key with weaknesses is that they are relateable and not repulsive. They can be serious ones and even quite sinful and still be relatable. But they need to have hope of resolution, and the character should do some serious work throughout the story towards remedying them, which requires hard work and self-denial.

But good heroes don't have to be perfect; they can have weaknesses to contend with, and we often love them for their faults as well as their virtues. Just as long as their faults don't encourage us to become complacent in ours.

3. Heroes rely on good sidekicks to help them out.
What makes a good sidekick will be next week on Tuesday. I've been collecting my favorite sidekicks this week, and that should be a fun article. But a hero realizes that he cannot do everything himself; that he is fallible, that he isn't a god-figure, and therefore, needs a backup to keep him accountable and catch his mistakes. Heroes will seek out people around them to help them. William Wilberforce had his Clapham Circle, and even Sherlock Holmes asked Watson to pull him up now and then when he needed it.

4. The very best heroes rely on, or come to rely on, Jesus Christ
Davis Bunn writes pop fiction and I find him my guilty pleasure; but I have to give him credit for writing a good Christian protagonist. It was quietly and carefully written--but not weak. Marc Royce (Strait of Hormuz) prayed in the midst of his adventures and it was perfectly natural. He asked other characters to pray with him, and it wasn't awkward. He's a hero whose faith is modest, but clear-cut and unapologetic. An even better example from the classics is Malcolm MacPhail (The Fisherman's Lady). He loves God and speaks and thinks of him everywhere. He isn't afraid to speak to countesses of what the Bible really says, and yet he values the opinions of humble fisher-folk just as much as the aristocracy. He lives and breathes his relationship with God, and that's what makes him a hero.

Every ultimate hero relies on Christ, or becomes an even better hero as they learn to rely on Him throughout the story.

5. Heroes are as faithful in real life as they are in adventures.
Some characters are heroes because they are faithful in everyday work. Laddie works out his heroism plowing fields in front of the Princess. Daniel Howitt keeps sheep and teaches Sammy "how to be a lady". Jamie MacFarlane gives his name to a disgraced young woman because he thinks he won't be alive much longer, and she might as well have it. Only one of these men saw the battlefield--but all of them found their fulfillment in taking dominion of family and home, making their bread and butter, and teaching others basic life skills.

Real heroes are just as faithful in the things that never get awarded the Victoria Cross--the gentle touch, the playing with a child, the going to work and bringing home the paycheck so that their families can be fed. And though we rarely think to mention them, they are well worth noting.

6. Heroes value women and children
I think I've always loved G.A. Henty primarily for the way his heroes interact with women. In the midst of all the fighting, the heads rolling at the guillotine, and the Scottish highlanders rallying around their leader, there's always room for a weaker vessel--a stout-hearted but soft-spoken woman. And Henty's heroes treat them with all gallantry and respect.

A main character cannot be a hero if he constantly belittles and despises the very people he is protecting. I love a hero who speaks kindly of the other sex, considers them important to befriend, and worthy of his time and attention, and who will do anything to see that he puts women and children first.

7. Heroes have strong patriotism
Richard Hannay (The 39 Steps) is my favorite example of this. He's an Englishman bored to tears and wants to do something adventurous. When that adventurous thing happens to be helping out his country, he throws himself into it heart and soul throughout the entire series. Unhesitating, and quick thinker, and a tenacious fighter, Britian is first and foremost, and Hannay knows that losing isn't an option when he needs to save his mother country. Even more recently, I met Aiken from The Shield Ring as he leads his little band to defend their secret stronghold.  He's another one who loves his country above all else, and will do what it takes to see her defended.

Good books have heroes who will instantly sacrifice for their mother country. Men who battle year after year after year and never give up. Men who give themselves only one choice: we win, for right must hold strong. Men like that gave us America. And men like that are well-worth lauding as heroes.

8. Heroes do whatever it takes
Heroes keep on through tragedy, personal inconvenience, and threat to their lives. One of our favorite heroes, the Scarlet Pimpernel, is a perennial favorite because he takes on a challenge no matter the odds. Even if it requires his own imprisonment, even on occasion his own humiliation, he'll never turn down an opportunity to snatch women and children from the guillotine.

Every hero worth their salt doesn't turn back when their own life is at stake. Whether it's Myles Falworth (Men of Iron) fighting for his father's honor or Aragorn attacking the Black Gates for Frodo's sake, heroes value other's lives above all else, but they count their own life and future cheaply for the sake of good.

And though we wonder how they ever had the strength and self-denial, we cheer them on and read of their deeds again and again.

9. Heroes struggle just like the rest of us.
While this ties in somewhat with character flaws, it's worthy of its own point. Many good heroes are strong, and even perfect on occasion--but most of them aren't. And that doesn't mean they have to be sinful in their imperfections. It simply means that to be a good character they must be real. They must struggle between their desire to follow their wants and to follow their calling like the rest of us do. They must face evil, disappointments, difficulties, and set-backs.

There are struggles character flaws and then there are other weaknesses. Some characters have backstory that gives them difficulties. Hans Brinker (The Silver Skates) had a father unable to provide for the family due to illness. Some heroes struggle due to others people's weaknesses. Bonhoeffer struggled with a compromising church. (Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy) Nat Bowditch struggled because his family was poor and he was indentured out. (Carry On, Mr. Bowditch) Bob Cornuke struggled against pre-conceived notions about the Bible when he was looking for real biblical artifacts.(Relic Quest) Countless men who worked reform in science and astronomy and medicine struggled against the accepted knowledge of experts who refused to listen to them. (Exploring Planet Earth: History of Medicine).

Heroes fight through obstacles, prejudices, and lack of resources, just like we do.

10. Heroes choose what's right over what's convenient.
Whether it's Charles Darnay (A Tale of Two Cities) choosing to go back to France to see that his servants are taken care of, to Ralph Percy choosing to remain faithful to his wife in spite of royal interests in her, heroes always stick to what they know to be right over what might give them comfort. No situational ethics (unless that's part of the weakness they must overcome) but a simple and steady adherence to good. Wulf and Godwin (The Brethren) remain faithful in their relationship with each other, even though they both want Rosamund. Laddie (Laddie: A True Blue Story)chooses to stick to his life calling even when it might mean losing the Princess.

Heroes realize that sometimes choosing right means giving up their right to earthly honor or happiness or freedom. But they do it without a second thought, because that's what makes a hero great.

So these are my qualifications for what makes a good hero. But I would love to hear your input as well. :) Who are your favorite heroes, and what makes them great to you?

Lady Bibliophile

P.S. I've reviewed many of the book titles in parentheses. There are too many to link to them all, but you can find them indexed by author under the Book Reviews tab!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Pearl Maiden

Some books are so awesome that you go around making up what they would look like as a movie. Junior B and I have done that with the beautiful tale Pearl Maiden, discussing trailers, music, camera angles, and all the delightful things that we think would do this book justice on the silver screen.

All we need is a producer, actors, and a screenwriter.

But for lack of that we've been reading the book again. Today's review, Pearl Maiden, is one of our favorite H. Rider Haggard novels. A tale of love, suspense, august Caesars and wicked Jews, this book follows the life of one beautiful maiden during the time of the fall of Jerusalem.

The Book
Miriam, brought up by a group of celibate Essenes and her nurse-maid Nehushta, is content to live by the shores of the Jordan as a simple peasant girl until her 18th birthday. Her parents are dead, her father killed in a gladiator fight and her mother an escaped Christian prisoner who died giving birth to her. But for all that, Miriam has a happy existence with her 'uncles' and her talent for sculpting until a series of events changes the course of her life forever.

One of the young men in the village commits murder, and swears to Miriam that he loves her, and will kill any man whom she gives her heart to. Promptly afterwards, Miriam meets Marcus Carius, a young Roman officer investigating the murder, and falls in love with him. Because of her plea, Marcus grants her Caleb's forfeit life. But he and Caleb are sworn enemies, and Miriam is divided from both of them by her Christian faith and her mother's dying behest not to marry someone of a different faith.

Her real uncle, the man who betrayed both her parents to their death, comes to take her away from the Essenes on the condition that he never forces her to marry against her will, and never interferes with her faith. Benoni is heavily involved in a Jewish plot for independence, and as the Roman forces enter the region, he and Miriam are forced to leave his home in Tyre and flee to Jerusalem where they are held with the rest of the Jews under siege by the Romans.

Roman and Jews face off, and Caleb and Marcus meet in battle, Marcus falling at Caleb's hands. Miriam forfeits her life to get Marcus to safety, and the Jews chain her to the gate Nicanor to starve to death while the city burns around her. But Miriam is not destined to die by starvation; and when she reaches the intrigue of Roman courts, she will find the ultimate test of her love and her faith as she stands in the Roman slave ring.

My Thoughts
Today's review is strictly of the Christian Liberty Press edition. CLP took Pearl Maiden and shifted the religious viewpoint of the book slightly to make it more acceptable to Christian readers. While the plot itself is unaltered, they edited portions of coversations in which Miriam wouldn't marry Marcus more because of her dead mother's command than because they would be unequally yoked (2 Corinthians 6:14). CLP took the plot and made Miriam honor her parents' wishes while incorporating the fact that it would also be wrong biblically as well. A couple of scenes are written to clarify this point, but they do nothing to damage the tale, and I even find it more enjoyable that way.

If you've never read H. Rider Haggard before, Pearl Maiden would be an excellent choice to get acquainted with his style and introduce yourself to his novels. It's written in classic Haggard style with love triangles, plenty of action, captures, suspense, and lots of travelling. But it doesn't take you for such a wild emotional ride as some of his other novels, so it's a little easier to enjoy.

Carrie-Grace and I love Nehushta and Marcus Carius Fortunatus the most. Nehusta's witty words, startlingly quick work with daggers, and sarcastic, straightforward put-downs give a touch of humor to scenes that would otherwise border on overly emotional. She balances the other characters out nicely, and keeps Miriam accountable in her love for Marcus, as well as keeping everybody's heads on their shoulders and working properly. We love her, and she's a good sidekick. As for Marcus, he's handsome, gentlemanly, rich and  a talented soldier. What more could you have? But beyond that, we both agreed that we liked his chivalry to Miriam, and his sacrificial love for her.

Though Pearl Maiden is probably one of Haggard's lighter books, and the heroine doesn't have a great deal to learn, I noticed through a second read that it still has its dark spots. The fall of Jerusalem, particularly in the chapter "The Death Struggle of Israel" is very bleak, and suicides both in Jerusalem and Rome are a prevalent theme. People starve, the cruelty of a town under siege is clearly painted, and some sections are emotionally challenging to get through. For about a week we were working through the Fall of Jerusalem, and much as I love Pearl Maiden, it wasn't a joy-ride. However, I think Pearl Maiden can easily be enjoyed by ages 12-13 and up depending on the individual reader's capabilities. And the first time through the book you're so caught up in the adventure that some of the more depressing details slip through the cracks.

It's interesting to compare and contrast Caleb and Marcus, Miriam's suitors. Both of them had a rather selfish love for Miriam in the beginning. One was born in unfortunate circumstances and fought his way to glory through the Jewish ranks. The other, also poor, had fortune and a Roman emperor smile on him. Both were unsaved; but one had all the polish of a 'good' man and the other had all the ruthlessness of a bad one. I wouldn't be surprised if many people loved Caleb simply for his interesting and even occasion relateable struggles.

But the difference between the two was their love for Miriam. Caleb had a selfish love; loved her so much that he threatened to kill all other men who loved her because he would not let them have her. And in the end, loved her as an object. Marcus loved her enough to respect her religious differences and wait until she said yes. But that's not where it ends. As it turns out, both men's love fails her at certain points in the story, while other times, both men give sacrificially and without thought of return to the woman they want so much. But one man found God and the other didn't, and in the end one man's love triumphed because he found a Greater Love to base it in, and the other was left with only a flickering flame of withered hopes.

We quote Pearl Maiden quite often around here. While some of the quotes are much better understood in context, one of our favorites is "Are you then a prophet?" spoken in sarcasm when one of the characters is dismally predicting future events.

And a last note: as with all historical fiction authors, Haggard takes some liberties with historical and biblical knowledge. His death of Herod Agrippa is a little amusing to those who have read the Bible, and I have no doubt that he treated some of the historical details with liberal strokes as well. But that's why it's called fiction, and it makes the tale nonetheless enjoyable.

Epic adventure, awesome hero, pure heroine, dastardly villains--all painted on a backdrop of Jewish failures and Roman politics. A Christ-honoring story that will offer you several hours of absorbing entertainment as you follow Miriam's struggles to bridge the gap between her faith and her future.

Lady Bibliophile

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Hero's Lot (Staff and Sword #2)

Not too long ago, I reviewed A Cast of Stones, book 1 in Patrick Carr's Christian fantasy Staff and the Sword series. After a nail-biting interval in which I worked the library system to get a copy of book 2, The Hero's Lot arrived, and just this week I finished the second installment in Errol Stone's adventures. This young man is a hero like no other; he's awesome, and lovably fallible, and breathtakingly sacrificial. Patrick Carr has a gem here, and I was quite impressed.

So a brief recap for those of you who haven't read my review of book 1, and then we'll on to business!

If anyone had reason to accuse the church of unfair dealings, it would be Errol. First they force him to come to Erinon because of his hidden talent as an omne--being able to read any lot the church casts. After very nearly losing his life while discovering a church official gone to the dark side, Errol is given a position in the nobility.

But the corrupt church official, Saron Valon, escapes far south and hides in the dangerous land of Merakh, using his talents for casting lots to betray their moves to the dark side. Luis, Martin, and Errol are left wondering what comes next. The childless king of Erinon is slowly dying, and only an heir with the same bloodline can keep the evil forces of demons and foreign invaders at bay.

The Book
The church's leader, Archbenefice Canon, orders Luis and Martin to cast illegal lots in secret to find out who is going to be the next king. After corrupt church officials discover them in the act, they unjustly accuse Errol along his two friends of treason. Archbenefice Canon is unwilling to be incriminated in the scandal, and unwilling also to leave Errol to his execution. But instead of defending him, the Archbenefice invents a lesser charge, that of consorting with evil spirits, and sends Errol on a long journey as a penance to help him escape.

The only problem is, the Archbenefice can't control the officials' decision to send him as penance to the land of the Merakh to kill Saron Valon. And he can't prevent them, either, from putting a compulsion on Errol: that he must keep going, and if he stops, he will die.

Errol, resigned to what he cannot control, sets off to his end. The only people who can help him are Rale, a man out of the grace of the church; Naaman Ru and his daughter Rokha, who are also placed under compulsion; and Merodach, the man who tried to kill him on his first errand in book 1. Things get worse, for once he's too far to turn back, his lady-love Princess Adora follows him, to take refuge from a forced marriage to a wicked nobleman.

Martin and Luis don't wait around for Errol's sentence; they have problems of their own, and set back to Callowford with Cruk to find out why their cast for king went wrong, and what they can learn about Errol and Liam that might help them. Once there, Martin finds out that he is called by Deas [God] to expose major heresies in the church; heresies they have held to for centuries. The lots the church has used, it turns out, are not the way Deas intended them to know his will all along. Deas is personally knowable. And that in itself will rock the foundations of the entire assembly.

But that isn't all. When Martin hears of the church's dirty dealing with Errol, his soul is outraged at their heartless betrayal, and he vows to tell Errol everything they've been keeping secret from him once they meet again. Martin vows to meet up with Errol's company and help him in his quest to kill Saron Valon.

But Martin regrets his vows when he finds out that either Errol or Liam will have to die in sacrifice for Erinon's future safety. He has no doubt in his mind that Errol will be the one who has to die. And then he finds out who Errol really is, and he is aghast at what he will have to reveal

He cannot break his vow to rejoin Errol. And he cannot break his vow to tell him the truth about who he is and what he is called to do.

My Thoughts
   A worthy and well-written second installment. The action is still just as tight and focused as book 1, and the characters are staying true to form. Second books in trilogies generally fall into the pit of undoing everything the character learned in book 1. But in this trilogy, Errol builds on what he's learned already, instead of having to learn it all over again. I liked that; he still has faults to overcome, but it's not the same lesson over and over again. He's climbing up to new heights of character and manhood.
   The romance, though still there and going strong, is much more appropriate and less like flirting; there are a few kisses, and a few romantic feelings, but no suggestive scenes like in the last book. I was glad to see that, and hope it continues to stay that way. It's not perfect, but it's an improvement.
   I still don't appreciate the way Carr makes use of Deas's name, especially on the last page. If it's the name of the highest Deity in a fantasy story, then the story characters should treat it with the same respect as if it were God's name in our real world. Profanity is profanity, and fantasy situations don't nullify the principles we find in Scripture.
   I couldn't believe my eyes when Adora showed up on Errol's dangerous quest. It almost made me laugh. Immediately I thought of all the movies gone wrong, spoiled by adding in a female character when none was supposed to be there: Journey to the Center of the Earth, The 39 Steps, etc; and I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to put up with a Hollywood addition to an otherwise great story. Then, as it continued, I had to bow and concede that my fears were exaggerated. For putting in a cliche plot, Carr handled it well. Adora receives just as good a character development as Errol does. And though I thought it was going to be cliche, Carr uses this plot to show Adora learning how to be a true woman instead of a princess. Not a feminist, but a helpmeet. His women don't become "one of the guys". They maintain their position as women, and I was pretty pleased.
   After this book I loved Rokha more than I ever thought I would. In book 1 she was just a really good sword-fighter who kissed Errol too much. In this book, once she quit doing that, she actually turned out to be a unique and intriguing character. She's a woman who can swing a sword and crack crowns and still be a woman, and she's an excellent heroine. A Masouda-type woman, similar (though in her own unique way) to H. Rider Haggard's character in The Brethren. Again, I'm still withholding complete judgement until I see what Carr does with her in book 3. The plot will either stay strong to the end, or go in the wrong direction. But I really hope she turns out well.
 I loved most of the action except the gladiator fights. I don't know why, but I always find those boring. Once you've read one, you've read them all forever after. But there was enough interest in other things to keep it moving. The violence was disturbing on several occasions. Carr has a penchant for killing his characters in the throat, and he's not afraid of torture. Also, there was one point at the end where the confrontation with good and evil was so intense--not gross, but intense--that I wasn't sure if I could make it through the entire scene. I did. But Carr really takes you for a ride, and when good and bad face off, the stakes are gut-clenching, and as emotionally high for the readers as they are for the characters. That makes for a good story.

   Sometimes, though, a writer can be a little too good in striking the emotion they're after.

   But that wasn't always a bad thing. Other times when Carr struck an emotion, it served to wrap the reader up in the character's perspective. My sympathy and connection to the characters was never broken. Even in Martin's scenes. You don't expect to find as much interest in an old priest, but he's a Cadfael-like fellow, so I connected with him.
   And when Errol suffered, especially after finding out the circumstances of his birth, I suffered too. Whenever he made mistakes, I clutched my hair and screamed "Noo!" (Figuratively. No one saw me doing it.) But I never stopped liking him while he made them. One time he made a mistake so big that I despaired completely and hoped that somehow he would be able to pick up the pieces afterward. But Carr had a bigger picture of Deas's grace and second chances than I did, and he gave Errol another chance that had a rare redemption to it.

   Because God gives second chances, even when we make mistakes.

   Though Carr has some romantic elements I don't like, he has good ones as well. The blood rose dance, a betrothal savage in its beauty and breathtaking in its creativity was wonderful to read about. A wonderful act of two people vowing love and service to one another, only to each other, in spite of future dangers. It was an impetuous action, but a lovable one, and Errol and Adora love with clear eyes for each other's faults, but with fast adoration and sacrificial service as they seek to overcome them. They're one of the couples that's worthy of a Favorite Couple list in future.

   Due to violence and romantic elements, I recommend this series for ages 16 and up; but just because it's better for older readers doesn't mean it's bad. I'm so pleased with this series, to find laudable heroes and heroines, characters that are flawed, yet beautiful (except Liam, poor lad, but he can't help his perfection, I suppose.) and themes of sacrifice, redemption, and love, that Carr weaves together excellently. This is Christian fiction as it should be, and though it has a few imperfections as all human authors will, it is a true jewel, and a pleasure to experience.

   Book 3 in the series just released. I have my copy to review from Bethany House, and I'm racing through as fast as time permits. I have never been so tempted to peek ahead at the end. But this is one of those stories that's way too good to spoil.

   Stay tuned in the next couple of weeks for the final installment of the Staff and the Sword series by Patrick Carr!

Lady Bibliophile

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Worst Literary Proposals

The idea of two people having compatible romantic affections is always pleasant. However, not every proposal can be accepted. There are some occasions when a moment that is supposed to be romantic is...


So, for all of you who are in painful deliberations on how to give a proposal, or whether or not to accept it, take the tips from these following literary gentlemen on several pitfalls to avoid when expressing the violence of your affection.

Mr. Guppy--Giving a Proposal Like a Law Contract
Drinking off four glasses of wine in front of your intended fiancee  before you propose is undoubtedly an error in delicacy. Offering her one is another grave error, hardly likely to be recovered from. But such unromantic things as discussing absolute secrecy and expected salary before you even get around to 'adoration' are the clinching factors that will deny you all prospect of future happiness. 

"My present salary, Miss Summerson, at Kenge and Carboy's, is two pound a week. When I first had the happiness of looking upon you, it was one fifteen, and had stood at that figure for a lengthened period. A rise of five has since taken place, and a further rise of five is guaranteed at the expiration of a term not exceeding twelve months from the present date. My mother has a little property, which takes the form of a small life annuity, upon which she lives in an independent though unassuming manner in the Old Street Road. She is eminently calculated for a mother-in-law. She never interferes, is all for peace, and her disposition easy. She has her failings--as who has not?--but I never knew her do it when company was present, at which time you may freely trust her with wines, spirits, or malt liquors. My own abode is lodgings at Penton Place, Pentonville. It is lowly, but airy, open at the back, and considered one of the 'ealthiest outlets. Miss Summerson! In the mildest language, I adore you. Would you be so kind as to allow me (as I may say) to file a declaration--to make an offer!"
Mr. Guppy went down on his knees. I was well behind my table and not much frightened. I said, "Get up from that ridiculous position immediately, sir, or you will oblige me to break my implied promise and ring the bell!"
....He looked piteously, but slowly rose and did so.
"Yet what a mockery it is, miss," he said with his hand upon his heart and shaking his head at me in a melancholy manner over the tray, "to be stationed behind food at such a moment. The soul recoils from food at such a moment, miss."~Bleak House

Mr. Collins--Using Powerpoint Format
While having points is excellent in a workshop or talk, it cramps the spontaneous style of a proposal. Coupled with a powerpoint that has 'Sponsored by Lady Catherine' pasted all over it, and you're not likely for success. Leave the points at home and just assure her in the most animated language of the violence of your affection. 

``My reasons for marrying are, first, that I think it a right thing for every clergyman in easy circumstances (like myself) to set the example of matrimony in his parish. Secondly, that I am convinced it will add very greatly to my happiness; and thirdly -- which perhaps I ought to have mentioned earlier, that it is the particular advice and recommendation of the very noble lady whom I have the honour of calling patroness. Twice has she condescended to give me her opinion (unasked too!) on this subject; and it was but the very Saturday night before I left Hunsford -- between our pools at quadrille, while Mrs. Jenkinson was arranging Miss de Bourgh's foot-stool, that she said, "Mr. Collins, you must marry."

"And now nothing remains for me but to assure you in the most animated language of the violence of my affection." ~Pride and Prejudice

Billy--Sending Your Sister to Do It For You
Billy Andrews was always a good-meaning, if slow-thinking lad in the Anne of Green Gables series. But when it came to winning the coveted Anne, he didn't muster up quite enough good-meaning to make a go of it. Proposals may in some cases be acceptable by letter; but they are never, ever acceptable by way of a sister. That always secures an immediate and unalterable refusal. 

"Anne," said Jane, still more solemnly, "what do you think of my brother Billy?"
Anne gasped over this unexpected question, and floundered helplessly in her thoughts. Goodness, what did she think of Billy Andrews? She had never thought anything about him--round-faced, stupid, perpetually smiling, good-natured Billy Andrews. Did anybody ever thinking about Billy Andrews?...
"Would you like him for a husband?" asked Jane calmly....."Billy wants to marry you. He's always been crazy about you--and now father has given him the upper farm in his own name and there's nothing to prevent him from getting married. But he's so shy he couldn't ask you himself if you'd have him, so he got me to do it. I'd rather not have, but he gave me no peace till I said I would, if I got a good chance. What do you think about it, Anne?"
[...] "I--I couldn't marry Billy, you know, Jane," she managed to gasp. "Why, such an idea never occurred to me--never!"
"I don't suppose it did," agreed Jane. "Billy has always been far too shy to think of courting. But you might think it over, Anne. Billy is a good fellow. I must say that, if he is my brother. He has no bad habits and he's a great worker, and you can depend on him. 'A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.' He told me to tell you he'd be quite willing to wait till you got through college, if you insisted, though he'd rather get married this spring before the planting begins." ~Anne of the Island

Sam--Practical Proposals to Pretty Strangers 
Anne was subject to the most unromantic proposals of any hapless heroine. But Sam's probably takes the cake for there being no vestige of romantic affection in it. A straight-speaker, and an honest fellow, he chafed at the bit a little too soon. While in some instances premature proposals may be acceptable, they are only so if given with extra adoration and love. 

Unfortunately, Sam is a practical fellow. 

There was another long silence. Finally Sam removed his straw again and said,
"Will yeh hev me?"
"Wh--a--t!" gasped Anne.
"Will yeh hev me?"
"Do you mean--marry you?" queried poor Anne feebly.
"Why, I'm hardly acquainted with you," cried Anne indignantly.
"But yeh'd git acquainted with me after we was married," said Sam.
Anne gathered up her poor dignity.
"Certainly I won't marry you," she said haughtily.
 "Wall, yeh might do worse," expostulated Sam. "I'm a good worker and I've got some money in the bank."
"Whatever put such an idea into your head?" said Anne, her sense of humor getting the better of her wrath.
"Yeh're a likely-looking girl and hev a right-smart way o' stepping," said Sam. I don't want no lazy woman. Think it over. I won't change my mind yit awhile. Wall, I must be gitting. Gotter milk the cows." ~Anne of the Island

These are several of the amusing ones that come to mind at the moment. There are plenty of tips to take from wicked proposals as well--Black Donald falling to his imminent death when his proposals proves unacceptable to his lady-love. (Don't Stand on Trapdoors For Fear of an Angry Refusal) De Montalvo's dastardly bargain with Lysbeth that cursed him and his children to his dying day. (Don't Threaten a Rival; It Never Goes Well) Reginald Front de Bouf and Maurice de Bracy's unsuccessful threats in Ivanhoe; (Don't Carry off Fair Ladies When Robin Hood is in the Neighborhood) and Adison Cheetham's blackmail to secure himself his chosen bride. (Better Make Sure You Have a Last Name They Would Want to be Called By) But all these, though they contain applicable and entertaining lessons, do not have funny proposals in and of themselves. They are simply dramatic.

On a serious note, the worse literary proposal I ever read was so exhausting that I shudder whenever I recall the book. When Dean Priest wanted to marry Emily in Montgomery's Emily Climbs, he was so jealous of her writing that, when she brought him her treasured manuscript, he told her it was terrible so she would give up her writing. She promptly burned the manuscript, and was so heart-broken that she accepted his proposal of marriage. When their relationship started to flounder, he told her that he had lied; her book was genius, and he said it was bad simply because he wanted her to give up her writing for him. But it was too late; and she couldn't get a word of it back again.

He's too small to hate. He's simply contemptible.

Go read it, and you'll see what I mean.

And if you want more funny proposals, L.M. Montgomery, fascinatingly enough, has an abundance of them. I turned down several in my attempts to pursue variety. But read Anne, or A Tangled Web, or a variety of her short stories, and you'll find a lot of laugh-out-loud moments.

Do you have any Worst Proposals to add to this list? I'd love to see them!

Lady Bibliophile

Friday, February 14, 2014

My Favorite Literary Proposals

Photo Credit

While I don't often think about literary romance and whatnot, today being Valentine's Day seems fitting. After all, it's quite human and natural to be thinking about love and marriage today, and I think it's fun sometimes to think about favorite literary couples--and the moment that started their Happily Ever After. Last year we talked about favorite heroes, heroines, and married couples. The year before we talked about biblical foundations for romance novels in the series "Is Love a Fancy or a Feeling?" and today, I thought it would be fun to dig out my favorite literary proposals, and why I like them.

Should we even be thinking about literary proposals? Sure! For one thing, proposals give you a pretty good indication of the couple's future chance of happiness--whether they're two selfish beings who are in for a lot of heartbreak, or a weak man looking to a beautiful woman to fulfill his lusts, or two Christians whom God has joined together to advance the Dominion Mandate. Proposals are the door that unlock the rest of the couple's future, and there are a lot of practical lessons we can learn on realistic and unrealistic proposals simply from reading books.

Besides, I will be the last person in the world to deny that proposals are heaps of fun.

Beware of spoilers. If you've never read the novel and don't want to know what happens, then don't peek. :)

Favorite Literary Proposals

Knightley and Emma
Knightley is one of literature's best heroes, hands-down. He's practical, he speaks the truth kindly, he's loving without being sappy, and his sarcastic wit is a joy to behold. He's neither a tormented soul like Mr. Rochester nor the puppy-lover like Laurie. Just a respectable, imperfect man who loves a woman with a mix of faults and virtues. And it is their normality which makes them perfect for one another. 

   "I cannot make speeches, Emma:" he soon resumed; and in a tone of such sincere, decided, intelligible tenderness as was tolerably convincing.—"If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am.—You hear nothing but truth from me.—I have blamed you, and lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England would have borne it.—Bear with the truths I would tell you now, dearest Emma, as well as you have borne with them. The manner, perhaps, may have as little to recommend them. God knows, I have been a very indifferent lover.—But you understand me.—Yes, you see, you understand my feelings—and will return them if you can.
    What did she say?—Just what she ought, of course. A lady always does.—She said enough to shew there need not be despair—and to invite him to say more himself.

But the gem of the whole piece is entirely the last sentence of the chapter. After all that romance, there is a thought spared not for his lady-love, but for his rival. For Mr. Knightley, after all, is only human, and subject to the jealousies and inconsistencies of the rest of us. 

  He had found her agitated and low.—Frank Churchill was a villain.— He heard her declare that she had never loved him. Frank Churchill's character was not desperate.—She was his own Emma, by hand and word, when they returned into the house; and if he could have thought of Frank Churchill then, he might have deemed him a very good sort of fellow.

Beren and Luthien
One of Tolkien's greatest legends in The Silmarillion, the tale of Beren and Luthien is a most epic bride-price and courtship story for the ages. 

Then the spell of silence fell from Beren, and he called to her, crying Tinuviel; and the woods echoed the name. Then she halted in wonder, and fled no more, and Beren came to her. But as she looked on him, doom fell upon her, and she loved him; yet she slipped from his arms and vanished from his sight even as the day was breaking....Beyond his hope she returned to him where he sat in darkness, and long ago in the Hidden Kingdom she laid her hand in his. Thereafter often she came to him, and they went in secret through the woods together from spring to summer; and no others of the Children of Iluvatar have had joy so great, though the time was brief.

Gilbert and Anne
While Gilbert is a dashing Prince Charming in the movie version of the Anne story, the movie misses an important part of the romance that you can only get by tracing Anne's character development in the books. She's an independent woman, bound for a college education and her manly ideal. So independent and romantic that she's blind to a good man who will give her a good home and a purposeful, happy life. In the books, Montgomery traces Anne's realization that her dreams are airy nothings, and the substantial, if less gilded, realities are what will give her lasting happiness. 

Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one's life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it crept to one's side like an old friend through quiet ways; perhaps it revealed itself in seeming prose, until some sudden shaft of illumination flung athwart its pages betrayed the rhythm and the music, unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath.

Gilbert was not thus to be sidetracked. "I have a dream," he said slowly. "I persist in dreaming it, although it has often seemed to me that it could never come true. I dream of a home with a hearth-fire in it, a cat and dog, the footsteps of friends--and you!"

This proposal is my favorite simply because it's a family venture. The whole family helped Laddie get to know the Princess, and the whole family helped him off to propose to her, and shared in his joy when he returned. 

"Laddie, are you sure enough to go?" I heard Mother ask him whisper-like.
"Sure as death!" Laddie answered.
Mother looked, and she had to see how it was with him; no doubt she saw more than I did from having been through it herself, so she smiled kind of a half-sad, half-glad smile. Then she turned to her damask rose bush...that none of us dared touch...and carefully selected the most perfect rose....She held it toward him, smiling bravely and beautifully, but the tears were running straight down her cheeks.
"Take it to her," she said. "I think, my son, it is very like."
I can't tell you about Laddie when he came back from Pryors'. He tore down the house, then tore it up, and then threw around the pieces, and none of us cared....Pryors had been lovely to him. When mother asked him how he made it, he answered: "I rode over, picked up the Princess and helped myself. After I finished, I remember the little unnecessary formality of asking her to marry me; and she said right out loud that she would."

Angel and Freckles
Very few times do women propose to men in literature. But it happens on occasion, and the Angel's proposal to Freckles, however unsuccessful, is one of the sweetest. 

"I want you to be my real knight, Freckles, and come to me and tell me that you--like me--a little. I have been counting on you for my sweetheart from the very first, Freckles. I can't give you up, unless you don't like me. But you do like me--just a little--don't you, Freckles?...I must have you, and now I guess--I guess maybe I'd better kiss you next."
She lifted her shamed face and bravely laid her feverish, quivering lips on his. Her breath, like clover-bloom, was in his nostrils, and her hair touched his face. Then she looked into his eyes with reproach.
"Freckles," she panted, "Freckles! I didn't think it was in you to be mean!"
"Mean, Angel! Mean to you?" gasped Freckles.
"Yest, said the Angel. "Downright mean. When I kiss you, if you had any mercy at all you'd kiss back, just a little bit."

Professer Bhaer and Jo
There is great debate in literary circles on whether Jo should have married the Professor or Laurie. But to be honest, I never thought Jo and Laurie were suited to one another, and the Professor is one of the sweetest and wisest men that her wild spirit needed to balance it out. He was perfect for her, and his proposal is charming. 

Jo, I haf nothing but much love to gif you. I came to see if you could care for it, and I waited to be sure that I was something more than a friend. Am I? Can you make a little place in your heart for old Fritz?" he added, all in one breath.
"Oh, yes!" said Jo.
It was certainly proposing under difficulties, for even if he had desired to do so, Mr. Bhaer could not go down upon his knees, on account of the mud. Neither could he offer Jo his hand, except figuratively, for both were full. Much less could he indulge in tender remonstrations in the open street, though he was near it. So the only way in which he could express his rapture was to look at her, with an expression which glorified his face to such a degree that there actually seemed to be little rainbows in the drops that sparkled on his beard.
"Ah! Thou gifest me such hope and courage, and I haf nothing to gif back but a full heart and these empty hands," cried the Professor, quite overcome.
Jo never, never would learn to be proper, for when he said that as they stood upon the steps, she just put both hands into his, whispering tenderly, "Not empty now," and stooping down, kissed her Friedrich under the umbrella....Though it came in such a very simple guise, that was the crowning moment of both their lives, when, turning from the night and storm and loneliness to the household light and warmth and peace waiting to receive them, with a glad "Welcome home!" Jo led her lover in, and shut the door.

Photo Credit
There are so many more. Captain Wentworth's letter, Albert and Victoria (though that's a movie, not a book.) Dalton and Carliss, the couple from Rachel Coker's Chasing Jupiter--I loved Frank's proposal there.

But alas, there are only so many good memories you can cram into one blog post.

Oddly enough, some of my favorite couples never had proposals. Edmund Bertram and Fanny Price were left to the reader's imagination. Colin and Emily from Tidings of Comfort and Joy never had a proposal either. Neither did Matthew and Mellangell, or Herbert and Capitola. But after some thought and looking over my little collection, today's selections are my most favorite classics.

The best author for proposals, in my opinion, is Gene Stratton-Porter. They have all the love you generally want to be present in a proposal, but they contain more than just 'you are the center of my universe'. The couple generally meets by having a common purpose for bettering the world in some way, and they fall in love by working for that purpose together.

Altogether, my favorite proposals have common concepts: dominion and vision. Couples that have different strengths and weaknesses, and so make a complete whole. Couples who are committed to sacrifice for each other at any cost. And, of course, sometimes I like a couple simply because they're so sweet that they defy description. :)

This post was so fun that I think I'm going to do Literature's Worst Proposals on Tuesday. :) I couldn't fit them both into one, and though it's an extension of the Valentine's Day theme, it will be most amusing to look up. :) So stay tuned until then for more period drama fun!

What are your favorite literary proposals?

Lady Bibliophile

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Guest Post at Facing the Waves

Some nights, we wonder if God's grace is quite enough. When we're laying awake, hurting, thinking over present pains and coming struggles, we wonder where the God is that said "my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness".

If you'd like to keep reading, you can find the rest of my guest post When Grace Wears Thin, over at my friend Kaleigh's blog, Facing the Waves.

Lady Bibliophile

King Arthur

For years, I have had only the faintest knowledge of King Arthur and the legends surrounding him. Faint concepts of the Round Table, a bunch of knights, Guinevere, Lancelot, and Gawain and the Green Knight (which I checked out a few years ago and never read) swirled around in my mind, and I was content to leave it at that.

I can't say I didn't have good reason. Along with King Arthur are several fantasy elements, and almost all the adventures are strange to say the least, and contain some form of magic or plain bizarre in them. So I'm glad, in a way, that I didn't get to know it sooner. I did pick up Thomas Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur when I was 15 or 16 and promptly set him down again after a few chapters, and that wasn't such a bad move either. I think I was a little too young then, and even now I'm still properly leery of it.

However, thanks to the encouragement of Suzannah and her sweet gift of a copy of Roger Lancelyn Green's King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, I have gradually expanded my knowledge of Arthurian legend, and though it is still sketchy at best, his book was the perfect place to start--a charming, biblically based, and gently written tale of Arthur and his realm of Logres.

For those of you who like Tolkien, Roger Lancelyn Green was part of the Inklings group with Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and a lot of other distinguished fantasy authors. That further served to increase my excitement, because what better group of beta readers could he have had? And even though all of them had widely differing shades of theology, he was with several men who believed in the truths of Scripture (however varied those beliefs) and were passionate about incorporating those beliefs into their fiction.

A promising foundation.

Three days after I received it, I finished Green's book and was quite pleased with it. And it is my pleasure to introduce King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table on the blog today.

The Book 
When Arthur pulls the sword out of the stone, he issues in a Golden Age of goodness in Britain. Arthur is high king of Logres, the bringer of good, assisted by his knights of the Round Table to champion every cause of justice and punish every wrongdoing.  This book explores the rise of Arthur's various knights as they conquer pride in themselves, learn humility and the true cause of chivalry, and commit themselves to advancing God's Kingdom upon earth. All cast in rollicking episodes of  jousts with knights, damsels in distress, fiery dragons and impregnable strongholds of evil.

But in spite of their conquering evil, Merlin warns Arthur that his holy kingdom will not last forever. The golden age of Britain will pass, however long and happy in the meantime. And it is not from the threat of Saxon invasion that they finally crumble, but a slow and tragic compromise within the Round Table itself.

My Thoughts
Roger Lancelyn Green's book is perhaps the perfect look at Logres simply because it's written for children. In that I don't mean it's childish; oh no, any adult would be edified by reading it. But it's simply and beautifully painted, and it had just about as much of Merlin and Morgan as I could handle without getting uncomfortable--which means not very much at all. :) It may not fully explain all of the plot elements that Arthur's legends have, but I had the advantage of Suzannah as my trusty guide through all of it, so I had not only the legends themselves but also a lengthy and informative conversation on the meanings, the themes, and where it all fits into Scripture. Our rousing debates readied me to think through this book when it came my way, and you can check out Suzannah's review of King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table here.

There were so many good legends; the chivalry to ladies was a joy to read about, and though the ladies themselves were not always as courteous as they should have been to their knights, the self-sacrifice that often turned into love on the part of the men was a beautiful picture of the relationship between men and woman. My favorite knight of all is Sir Perceval, a young knight out of Wales who had a prominent part in the Grail Quest, the son of Sir Gawain and Lady Ragnell. The legend of Gawain and Ragnell was also a pleasure, as well as Sir Gareth the Kitchen Knight, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and the legend of Geraint and Enid.

Two legends stick out in my mind as the best, however. One for its adventure, and one for its absolutely fantastic moral themes.

Balyn and Balan is certainly a tragic tale; but it stands out in my mind. Not only is their legend the source of Tolkien's dwarf, Balin, in The Hobbit, but their tale is one of the greatest heart-wrenchers in the entire book. It made me think of The Silmarillion through the entire thing--a man who, through his own rashness, killed innocents and wounded kings, struck the Dolorous Stroke that turned the Holy Grail into a shadowy thing of legend, and finally committed the hapless deed of dueling his own brother to the death without knowing who he was. Go read it for yourself; and tell me if it doesn't go the deepest and strike the hardest and stay the longest of all the legends in the book. There are many other happy and successful missions, but they all read like fairy tales, and this one read like real history.

My other favorite legend--which I enjoyed so much that I put 'LOVED' in the notes I took as I read it--was "The Adventures of Sir Bors de Gannis" in the section on the Holy Grail. It's the best illustration of what can happen when a character refuses to give way to situational ethics.When they choose not to compromise, but instead do the right thing, no matter how it hurts, the Lord can deliver them when they do so. This is a truth that many people don't believe today. Often when confronted with two seemingly conflicting problems, we think we have to choose the urgent cause--but Bors de Gannis chose the right cause, and realized an intrinsic truth--that neither cause was really in his hands, and the Lord could make them both come out as He saw fit even if Bors could not work deliverance in both of them. Go read the legend; it's the last word on the subject, and I was almost dancing with happiness while I read it.

But there is one thing that this book is worth reading for, even if you're not into Arthur. This book is a beautiful illustration of the Church on earth. The knights all have strengths and weakness, just like every Christian, and their strengths and weaknesses have consequences that shape their lives and influence the work they are able to do to advance the holiness of Logres--just like our sins and triumphs affect the work we do for Christ. And in the end, it's a crack in the foundation that brings Logres toppling down, just like it's compromise in the church and not standing on the Word of God that brings down our effectiveness in the world today.

A great many parallels to our journey on earth; and though I'm not completely sold out on Arthurian legend yet, I have found a couple of good sources that I enjoy, Green's book definitely being one of them. This book is a biblically sound look at sin and its consequences, virtue and its reward, the cleansing and reformation of the Church of Jesus Christ.

I highly recommend King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, by Roger Lancelyn Green, as a worthy introduction to Arthurian legend.

Lady Bibliophile

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Birth Order Book

Thank-you all for your lovely comments under my vlog earlier this week. It was great fun to do, and we're glad you all had fun watching it. Definitely something to be continued in future!

Today we're back to the book reviews. :)

Labeling personalities has been the favorite procrastination pastime of countless people. You can find a letter combination for almost every behavioral pattern under the sun. From the basic introvert-extrovert discussion, to the Myers-Briggs test, which gives you all the trait combinations you could possibly need, scientists and psychologists have actually done a pretty decent job narrowing down the human characteristics into a few types. I, for instance, am a pretty happily introverted INFJ.

Our whole family has had great fun taking these tests (with surprisingly accurate results.) And so earlier this year I continued personality research by adding in a third factor--birth order.

I wrote down Kevin Leman's Birth Order Book a long time ago, and last summer I flipped through it in the bookstore in a free moment, and was even more intrigued by it. So earlier this year, continuing the theme of choosing books I really wanted to, I put it on hold and read it as part of our library's adult winter reading program.

It's a fascinating book. Entertaining, informative, and fairly accurate. I didn't agree with all of it, but most of it was pretty spot-on, and if you liked the Myers-Briggs test and other labels for your personality, then you'll definitely want to add this book to your to-read list.

The Book
What if your behavior, career choices, academic achievements, and marriage problems are influenced in large part by your birth order? Kevin Leman claims they are. An internationally known psychologist, his popular Birth Order Book has shaped a lot of company policies and helped a lot of struggling families.

In the book, he goes through four birth order categories: firstborn, only child, middle child, and lastborn. You can have five firstborns in a family. You can have an only child with 3 siblings. You can have several middle children, or several last borns. It all depends on gender, family atmosphere, and spacing between children, as well as the birth order of the parents themselves.

Leman defines what makes a person fit into a particular birth order, the inherent strengths and weaknesses each birth order has, and how people with different characteristics will relate in the workplace and with their families. Mixed with a heavy dose of humor and a lot of practical examples from his years of counseling, this is an informative and entertaining look at yet another key factor that shapes our personalities.

My Thoughts
I couldn't have had a more perfect family pattern to compare Leman's theories to. A first-born older brother, a third-born younger sister, and I'm a classic middle-born. But Junior B and I have exceptions Leman addresses. For one thing, I'm middle-born child but first-born girl, so I actually have a mix of traits between the two patterns. There's a few years' age gap between myself and Junior B, which, according to Leman, starts the birth order cycle all over again. She's third-born to a great extent, but she also has some first-born characteristics due to the five and a half year difference between us.

Fascinating stuff.

I took a lot of people I knew and fit them into the different birth order patterns, and even started taking fictional characters just for the fun of it and figuring who they were and which exceptions applied to them. While I couldn't make Leman's categorizations fit in every case, by far the majority of people I know followed his labels to perfection.

Leman is a Christian, but he doesn't use his beliefs to draw a lot of Christian conclusions in this book. Once in a while he'll make reference to the Bible, but I have a feeling he's trying to write a cross-over book--one that will appeal to both the Christian and secular markets. Which is fine, secular people enjoy that sort of thing too--but you won't find the spiritual implications of certain birth order traits, and you won't see a lot of mention of God choosing birth order for specific reasons, or how strengths and weaknesses in different birth orders could impact the Kingdom of God. I would have liked to see that; I think it would have brought his researches to a whole new level. But this book was designed to reach to a wide spectrum, so he chose not to include that side. That being said, though there's not a heavy dose of spirituality, Leman's book does avoid evolution and the idea of excusing problems because "I'm just being me", pitfalls a secular author would fall into.

I enjoyed the whole book, actually, until the last few chapters, particularly the ones about marriage with different birth orders and parenting different birth orders. Then something happened, and I didn't really enjoy the rest of it. For one thing, Leman wrote as if certain birth order positions were more likely to make a successful marriage than others, which begs the question, if you're not in the sweet spot, what should you do? Younger birth orders are apparently the go-to partners, but the rest of the birth orders have personality traits which can make marriage challenging. Now, I know Leman didn't mean that if you're not a lastborn you shouldn't get married; he's written a whole book on the subject of birth order and marriages which probably goes into it all with much more detail and clarifies some of the points he makes. But I found the chapter more concerning that encouraging, nonetheless.

By far, I was quite interested in seeing what Leman would say about middle borns. After all, that's what I can speak to from experience, and I looked forward to testing his accuracy. It was only marginally satisfactory. He split the short sections on middle borns into two types, which further decreased the effectiveness. One type of middle born was the peacemaker/counselor, quiet, keeping to themselves, and enjoying a circle of close friends. The other was one who liked to push the limits, run with the in-crowd, and generally do things that I haven't seen to be true in my experience of middle borns.

The majority of the book is spent on firstborn birth order, the second largest section is given to last born birth order (fairly so, as Leman is himself the baby of the family) and two chapters are devoted to middle borns. They make short appearances in other chapters, and are mentioned now and again, but it's a slightly uneven exchange. Leman makes the joke "You're often overlooked! Get used to it." And fairly enough to him, it's not all his fault. To quote the book itself, "I suppose the middle child does get fewer pages in this book than the other birth orders. One reason for this little oversight is that we psychologists don't know that much about middle children."

Somehow, after the book was over, I felt this diabolical gratification in the fact that we were too hard to read.

In the end, The Birth Order Book is probably going to be more helpful for first and last borns. But even then, most of it is a treat; it was only the marriage and parenting chapters that I found less than helpful. The two chapters Leman devoted to first born perfectionism were spot-on and absolutely excellent. Being a first born girl, I had some of the perfectionistic traits that plague firstborns, and Leman gave good, solid advice on distinguishing between the trap of perfectionism and the pursuit of excellence, points which I have been seeking to apply ever since I read the book. For those chapters alone I'm glad I took the time to read it.

That being said, I don't think I have a strong inclination to read it again. It was an interesting one-time read, but I'll probably remember everything I need to know from it. Who knows, though; sometimes I get odd cravings to get a book out again. And it was well worth that one-time read.

So I'm curious--have you seen birth order traits play out in your own families? And have you ever taken the Myers-Briggs personality test?

Lady Bibliophile

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

In Which We Do a Vlog

Hello friends and fellow bibliophiles! Today we're going to break the trend and have a different kind of post. Junior B is back with another vlog interview! We filmed this yesterday morning in my bedroom where many of the blog posts are written. :)

We hope you enjoy this little hiatus from articles and book reviews!

P.S. I referenced a quote in the interview, that, by popular request, I will post here. :)

There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross.
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer
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