31 January 2011

Book Review: The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

I am a reader. I love many types of books, and I can often find something to interest me in even the dullest of books. It is rare that I have to read something I strongly dislike. Many of the books I read fall into the "This is a great book! I highly recommend it!" category. Very rarely will I get a book that I love to the moon and back. But when I do get a book like that, and (heaven forbid!) read it... beware. I am afraid I bore my siblings and mom to death by constantly saying how much I ADORE this new book. :)

The Scarlet Pimpernel is one of those books. I almost love it more than (gasp!) Pride and Prejudice. *gulp* So, proceed with caution, or thus risk inflicting this terrible disease upon yourself...

The Scarlet Pimpernel
By Baroness Orczy

It was the worst of times. The French, inspired by the Americans' recent win in the Revolution, have now contrived to begin their own revolt, known as the French Revolution. The French seek to destroy all that was of the past... including the wealthy aristocrats. Daily, these "aristos" are beheaded on the guillotine. It was the Reign of Terror. Only one hope lies in the hearts of those who are to be executed: that they will somehow be rescued in time by the daring Scarlet Pimpernel, a mysterious Englishman who, with his League of the Scarlet Pimpernel, sneaks many French aristos into England and saves them from Madame la Guillotine. No one knows this secretive stranger's true identity. He is simply known as "The Scarlet Pimpernel", named such after the small wayside flower, known as the pimpernel, that he employs as a calling card. 

Marguerite Blakeney is one of the many women who is enraptured by the Pimpernel's heroism. An actress in Paris for many years and known as "the cleverest woman in Europe", Marguerite is now the wife of Sir Percy Blakeney, one of the wealthiest, best-dressed, and silliest men in all of England. No one knows the reason why they married, for they are very different in personality. The rumor is that Marguerite, despite the fact that she tosses her head at money and social standing, really married Sir Percy for his money. Sir Percy has grown more distant as of late, and Marguerite has given up hope that her husband really loves her. 

For all that she despises her foppish husband, Marguerite loves her brother, Armand, all the more. She waves goodbye to him as he sails off in Sir Percy's yacht, the Day Dream, thinking that he is going to fight on the side of the revolutionaries. Despite the fact that she and her brother do not agree with all of the French tactics, they are French, and so they are on the side of the French. It is not until later that she is confronted at the opera by Chauvelin, a French spy and former admirer of hers, who tells her the truth: Armand is really working in the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel. Now, in order to save her brother, who is all the family she has in the world, she must help Chauvelin discover the identity of The Scarlet Pimpernel, and thus be a weapon used to kill him. Her only hope is that the daring hero will find some way to escape from Chauvelin's clutches...

Goodness, this is an exciting read. It's the type of book that, when you read it, you almost can't sit still. The tension is so high for most of the story that it makes you anxious along with the characters. It is the dictionary definition of a page-turner--that's a fact. But isn't that a good thing?

As I said before, I almost like this book better than Pride and Prejudice. I know, that's something so out of character for me to say. I can literally hear your jaws hitting the floor. I'll explain quickly before I'm faced with a huge medical bill for all of your jaw replacements. 

I've read Pride and Prejudice many a time, and watched the BBC movie even more. I love the story so much--and I always will--but for now, I needed something new. I believe passionately that the more times you re-read a book, the more you'll like it, but sometimes it's nice to read something different. I've read the Anne books, Pride and PrejudiceSense and Sensibility, and Little Women so much that it felt good to read a book in which I actually didn't know how it ended.

If I were asked to describe The Scarlet Pimpernel in one word, I would label it as intense. That is it exactly. The story is very exciting, and it moves very quickly--you almost feel winded when you're done reading it.

The characters are marvelous! I love their personalities, especially Marguerite's. From the surface, she seems like the typical wealthy lady who constantly sticks her nose in the air and looks down on other people. But throughout the story, Marguerite loses more and more of that haughty nature and the "little girl" in her comes out more and more. Just like Elizabeth Bennet, Marguerite is very witty and very quick--that's what I love about her. She's now one of my favorite heroines.

I feel as if I should be telling you more about the plot, what happens, what my favorite parts were, etc., etc., etc., but if I told you all of that... well, you'd know the end. And I can't reveal the end--that would be the most heinous of crimes I could commit as a book-reviewer. I pretty much told you the first half of the book in the summary, leading us up to the climactic "Either--Or?" So, all I can say is PLEASE READ THIS BOOK. If you don't get anything else out of this review other than that, I will be content. And if you do read it, please leave a comment and let me know what you think! I'd love to know. :) 

Warning: there are times in this book in which characters swear, a few of which are the equivalent today of taking the LORD's name in vain. Read with caution. 

I give it 5 out of 5 stars. 

A BIT O' READING FOR THE DAY


"All these conflicting thoughts raged through Marguerite's brain, while, with a smile upon her lips, she glided through the graceful mazes of the minuet. She noted--with that acute sense of hers--that she had succeeded in completely allaying Sir Andrew's fears. Her self-control had been absolutely perfect--she was a finer actress at this moment, and throughout the whole of this minuet, than she had ever been upon the boards of the Comedie Francaise; but then, a beloved brother's life had not depended upon her histrionic powers." ~The Scarlet Pimpernel, chapter 13

P.S. I'm linking this post to Hannah's Book Love link up.

29 January 2011

Book Review: White Fang by Jack London

At the tutorial I attend, I take a literature/compostition class. In this course, we cover a large volume of classic books in a short period of time. Some of the books are good, some are not-so-good, and some just don't interest me (I am a very independent reader, and I enjoy choosing the books I read, so when it comes to required reading... well, let's just say that just because I love books and reading doesn't necessarily mean I am going to give every book I read for school a 10+). 

This book that I am going to review right now is one of the best books I have ever read, which is strange, because, from the surface, White Fang doesn't seem like the type of book I would enjoy. And I wasn't the only one. My entire class absolutely LOVED this book. I should really learn to stop judging books by their covers... 

So, without furthur ado, let us get on with this book review...

White Fang
By Jack London

The frozen northern Yukon Territory is a wild and cold place. The wind is savage, the climate fierce, and the animals fight to survive. Predator and prey are constantly battling. The weak are soon killed off, for this is a land that holds no compassion. Deep in the woods of the brutal North, a litter of pups are born to a mother who is half dog and a father who is all wolf.  Then famine strikes. Only one of the cubs survives, and the father dies in a battle with a lynx. This is the lone cub's first experience with the Wild, and it will not be his last. 

The cub grows older, and as he grows, he learns much, uncluding the rule of the Wild: eat or be eaten. He and his mother are found by Indians in the woods, who take them back the the Indian camp. There, White Fang, as he was now called by the Indians, is terrorized by a puppy pack. He learns to steal food, for that is the only way he can survive. White Fang grows more and more terrible, and soon is able to stand up to the puppy pack. He is the fiercest pup in the Indian camp, and, unfortunately, is doomed to be subjected to situations that will make him even fiercer. Is there room in his cold and fierce heart for love?

I think one of the reasons I love this book is because it is so real. Not once in the book does White Fang actually speak, nor does he think, like a human would. There are so many animal books out there in which the main character thinks and acts like a human being, which can be cute... but it's not very realistic. Reading this book is like being in a real wild animal's brain--not an animal that has been "humanified." 

I should warn you, though--this is a very savage book. After reading White Fang, your whole perspective on animal books will change. There is nothing cute or adorable about this story: it is wild, harsh, and cold.

Why, then, do I like it?

Good question. The real reason I love this book is because it's such an amazing example of salvation. 

**WARNING! SPOILER ALERT!** 

White Fang, as I've said before, is wild and savage, and he has not a speck of love in his heart. He has never been shown love in his life, and thus, he has never shown love to any animal or human being. His cold soul seems beyond repair... until he meets Weedon Scott. Weedon is a wealthy goldminer, and he buys White Fang from his current owner. Through a series of small acts of kindness, and MUCH patience, Weedon breaks through White Fang's icy heart and shows him love. Because of Weedon, White Fang is changed from living his whole life an enemy to every living being. And that is the sweetest part in the whole book. 

We are like White Fang. We are all sinful because of the Fall. In our sinful natures, we often seem beyond repair. But Jesus reached out His hand to us, took us, and washed us clean. He showed us LOVE, the greatest love there ever was. He died for us, sacrificing His perfect self for our sinful souls. Because of Him, we, like White Fang, will never be the same. We are born again.

To tell you the truth, the end of this book made me cry. Now you know why.

A BIT O' READING FOR THE DAY

"He became quicker of movement than the other dogs, swifter of foot, craftier, deadlier, more lithe, more lean with ironlike muscle and sinew, more enduring, more cruel more ferocious, and more intelligent. He had to become all these things, else he would not have held his own nor survived the hostile environment in which he found himself." ~White Fang, part 3, chapter 3

28 January 2011

It's Your Last Chance!

Gwenea's giveaway ends tomorrow!! 

If this doesn't seem very important to you, take this into account: My Designer Girl is closing on February 8th (click here to read why), and Ara is accepting no new orders. The winners of Gwenea's giveaway will be the only people to get a makeover from Ara before she closes up shop.

Go and enter before it's too late!

27 January 2011

365 Days Ago Today

A year ago today I started my blog, Lizzy's Library. There are a few of you who have been with me the whole way through, and you probably remember what my blog used to look like, back in the "early days." I had a lot to learn! 

I started this blog with the immense hopes and dreams that every blogger has upon beginning a new adventure in life. My future was shiny and new, and full of hopes. I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and what I wanted my blog to be about. 

Well, I've changed.

Blogging has gone from a delight to an obsession to almost a chore. The precious gift of being able to post about your thoughts and hopefully influence the lives of others was opened far too soon. The money was spent too quickly, you could say. I went from blogging a few days a week to blogging almost twice a day. I took the gift and filled myself with it; I ate the cake barely before it cooled. And now the cake is gone. 

As soon as the cake had been devoured, as soon as my blogging rush was over, I felt... empty. Unmotiovated. I didn't really care to blog much more, and my poor little nook in the blogging world was abandoned for a while. 

I'm going to change that. 

I no longer want to be posting almost twice a day, and then barely posting once a week, and then posting twice a day again. I don't want to be undependable. I want to be a constant, dependable blogger--but not an irrational one.

Here's my plan for this blog in the next year:

Book reviews, book reviews, and even more book reviews! I need to get this blog back to it's literary foundation--after all, for what other reasons did I begin Living on Literary Lane?

Scripture. My faith is strong in Christ Jesus, my Lord and Savior. I need to shout it to the heavens! I don't want to be afraid to share my faith.

Photography. There is beauty in all of the Lord's creation, if we just take the time to look for it. I want to share that beauty and perhaps improve my photography skills as well.

In-depth posts that make you THINK. This topic probably already speaks for itself. But I'll still explain it. Every day, the Lord calls certain things to my brain, things worth pondering. My mission this year is to share these things with you through my blog, and hopefully encourage you to rethink and ponder certain things you always took for granted.

This is my mission for my blog this year; these are the changes that, by the grace of God, will be brought about in the little blog o' mine. It will be enjoyable at some times, and hard at others. But through it all, I want to grow closer to my Savior.

In celebration of the one year anniversary of Living on Literary Lane and the beginning of a new journey for this blog, I have a very special treat!

One of you can get the chance to be interviewed on my blog! How exciting is that? And all you have to do to enter is tell me what you like/dislike about my blog, what you would like to see on LOLL in the future, etc. I want you to be completely honest here--please don't try to "butter me up" with compliments so that you'll win. I will be using Random Number Generator to pick the winner.

Here are a few questions I'd like you to answer in your comment (you can expand upon this, if you wish). I don't want you to feel like this is simply a list of questions to answer, though--I want you to treat this as just honestly telling me how you feel. And please, don't worry about hurting my feelings. Be as honest as possible. 

What are your top 3 favorite posts of mine? Your top 3 least favorite?
What type of post makes you shut down my blog and not read further?
How can I improve this blog?
What would you like to see more of on Living on Literary Lane in the next year?
Do you read my book reviews? Do you like how I write them, or do you want me to write them in more of a "1 to 5 stars" style, as opposed to my current "informal and personal" style?

Please open up your hearts and tell me how you really feel. I want to know what you like, what you dislike, and what encourages YOU. 

19 January 2011

Introducing...

The Light Through the Window (formerly titled Southern Belle Photography), my brand-new photography blog! You can now view many of the photos I capture in one place. 



A while back I won my little sister Bree's giveaway for a makeover by Ara. Well, the design is now complete, and you can now view the blog! Click here to go to it. And while you're at it, following wouldn't be a bad idea either... :)

All credit for the design goes to sweet Ara--her work is extraordinary! Click here to visit her design blog.

Wondering why I changed the name from Southern Belle Photography to The Light Through the Window? Click here.

11 January 2011

Book Review: Rilla of Ingleside

I am not going to waste any time; let us get right to the purpose of this post. :)

Rilla of Ingleside
By L.M. Montgomery

Anne's children are all grown, except for her youngest, Rilla. At fifteen--nearly sixteen--years of age, Rilla wants nothing more than to go to balls and parties, wearing her prettiest dresses, and to be noticed by handsome Kenneth Ford. As quite the prettiest girl in the family, she already is aware of her beauty and often uses it to her advantage. This flighty and shallow nature worries her mother, Anne, for she wants her children to have more aspirations and ambitions in life than Rilla seems to desire. 

But shadows are on the horizion--shadows that will change Rilla's life forever. With the war going on, one by one her brothers and chums leave to fight the brave battle on foreign shores. Rilla does her part as well, organizing a Red Cross group for younger girls, and mothering a little orpan she finds in a soup tureen. News of the war is carried almost daily to the ears of the mothers, sisters, and wives in Glen St. Mary. Will they ever see their beloved husbands and sons again?

This last Anne book, althought very sad at times, is one of my favorites. I absolutely love Rilla's personality. However, I think that, if I knew her in person, I would not like her quite so much. (And I never will understand her aversion to babies.) But Rilla is a very interesting character. I love how we get to see her grow up throughout the story, and watch how she learns that life is not all about moonlight dances, party dresses, and having a good time. Her character blossoms beautifully as she matures.

In the beginning of the story, Rilla is quite content, or so she says, to be the "dunce" in the family. Here is what she says in Chapter II, titled "Dew of Morning":

"I never cared for all those ologies and isms Nan and Di are so crazy about. There's five of us going to college already. Surely that's enough. There's bound to be one dunce in every family. I'm quite willing to be a dunce if I can be a pretty, popular, delightful one. I have no talent at all, and you can't imagine how comfortable it is. Nobody expects me to do anything. And I can't be a housewifely, cookly creature, either. I hate sewing and dusting, and when Susan couldn't teach me to make biscuits nobody could. Father says I toil not neither do I spin. Therefore, I must be a lily of the field."

From that quote we can see a very clear view of her heart, of her wants in life, of what she thinks will bring her true happiness. I'm glad to say that she has a change of heart by the end of the book.

I found this book to be far more serious than the previous books. It has a solemn tone to it, a tone that is unknown to every other book in this series. All of Anne's trials and tribulations seem minute in comparison to the immense sadness of book #8. It is quite the tear-jerker. There were moments, when I was reading it, when I would have to put the book down and go outside for a walk, or talk to my sisters--just so I could clear my head from all the sadness.

But enough about the sad elements of Rilla of Ingleside. There are still many parts that make me smile and warm my heart, such as the scenes between Rilla and Kenneth Ford (who is, by the way, the son of Leslie Ford of Anne's House of Dreams). He is ever a gentleman, with a merry way of speaking; she a pretty young girl with all the usual emotions experienced by any young lady when a gentleman shows her particular attention. It would seem almost too perfect if it weren't for Rilla's habit of lisping at the most untimely of moments. This makes the story delightfully natural and human, as opposed to stiff and too-perfect-to-be-true.


Another sweet element in this story: faithful Dog Monday. I will say no more than that, so as not to spoil it for those who have not read Rilla, but for those who have... you know what I mean. :)

The one theme in this book that is slightly unsettling is the faith put in the haunting dreams of a certain Miss Oliver. Gertrude Oliver is the schoolteacher who is living with the Blythes, and she often has very vivid, haunting dreams about the outcome of the war. I don't think L.M. Montogomery meant to say that we should always try to seek out meanings from our dreams, but Miss Oliver in Rilla of Ingleside certainly does so. Anne, of course, does not agree with such superstitions, but the "spooky" element is still there, and something for which you should look out.

This book is a great coming-of-age story, and one that, despite the sadness, is beautful none the less.

A BIT O' READING FOR THE DAY

"Before this war is over," [Walter] said - or something said through his lips - "every man and woman and child in Canada will feel it - you, Mary, will feel it - feel it to your heart's core. You will weep tears of blood over it. The Piper has come - and he will pipe until every corner of the world has heard his awful and irresistible music. It will be years before the dance of death is over - years, Mary. And in those years millions of hearts will break."  ~Rilla of Ingleside, chapter 4


P.S. I'm linking this post to Hannah's Book Love link-up.


08 January 2011

Life Is Sugar-Sweet With A Cherry On Top!


To clear my brain before sitting down and completing some Spanish homework this afternoon, I have decided to link-up with Ara's event, Life Is Sweet, challenging us to think of 10 things that make life "as sweet as winter peppermints, as deliriously happy as impossibly dreamt, as bouncy as a bungie jump on repeat, and as dreamy as blue moonlight." Here we go!
10 THINGS THAT MAKE LIFE OH-SO-SWEET:

Life Is Sweet


I. Talking in a British accent, just for the fun of it.
II. Sticky kisses from my 3 year old sister.
III. Waking up early and spending the time reading my Bible, praying, and sitting by the window watching the sunrise.
IV. Wearing a long, swirly skirt and spinning until I'm dizzy, watching the skirt fan out around me.
V. Chatting with my mom and my sister about everything under the sun.
VI. Standing outside in the rain and feeling it drench me thoroughly. 
VII. Reading a good book and getting lost in the story.
VIII. Receiving long letters from dear friends.
IX. Sitting at my laptop with a cup of hot tea, typing away on my book.
X. Knowing that no matter where I go or what I do, God is always with me.

Now I'm off to do that aforementioned Spanish homework... :) Hasta luego, amigas! 


07 January 2011

Book Review: Rainbow Valley

I have not reviewed many books as of late on this blog. :( I am going to change that in this new year, though. I have been reading MANY book over the holiday season, and I plan on getting around to reviewing them. Here is just a teaser of the books I plan on reviewing in the next few weeks:

Rainbow Valley by L.M. Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables book #7)
Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables book #8)
I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris
White Fang by Jack London

Let us begin with the first on the list: Rainbow Valley.

Rainbow Valley
By L.M. Montgomery

After a summer storm, a rainbow was spotted by the Blythe children in the small valley behind the maple grove. This hollow is promptly named Rainbow Valley, and soon becomes their special place, where they talk, read, dream... and where they meet the Merediths.

Mr. Meredith is the new minister in Glen St. Mary--a minister who often seems to forget that he has four michievious children. Jerry, Faith, Una, and Carl Meredith are allowed almost free-reign by their absent-minded father, and soon become best friends with the Blythe children. But the freedom the children experience does not make up for their lack of parental guidance, and they long for their father's attention and love. Faith especially longs for a mother, for she can remember vividly her mother, who died years ago. It is not long, however, before Rainbow Valley is occupied by adults as well as children...

I will admit that this Anne book was not one of my favorites, because it focuses on the Merediths more than the Blythes. But it still is an extremely interesting read! The tales of the childrens' adventures are, of course, VERY entertaining. :)

In Rainbow Valley, we meet many new and... interesting characters. Besides the Meredith children, the reader is also introduced to Norman Douglas, a large man with a temper to match his size, and Mary Vance, the sharp-tongued runaway oprhan whom the Meredith's discover in the old barn. These characters all add a certain spice to the story, and gurantee that the book will never be dull. :)

The Merediths, as previously stated, have a very absent-minded father who doesn't seem to pay any attention to their doings. Because of this, they often get into scrapes, of which the town delights in gossping. The blame is always laid on Mr. Meredith, and the Merediths don't like this, for they love their father dearly. Desiring to be known as michievous and ill-mannered children no more, they decide to form their own "Good Conduct Club," in which they constantly keep tabs on each other, in an attempt to remain well-behaved and give no reason for the ladies of the town to gossip about their father's parenting skills. The results of this club are most humorous, especially when one of them does something wrong and has to be "punished" by the rest of the children. 

There is just an inkling of romance in this book, and that, I think, is the sweetest part of all. Rosemary West, an old maid who still possesses pretty features, lives with her sister Ellen, also an old maid, in a comfortable home. It is not until she stumbles upon "the recluse of the Glen St. Mary manse" in Rainbow Valley that she even considers doing anything different in life than growing old with her sister. And that change of heart would change her life...

So, sit down with a cup of hot tea and a sugar cookie, and enjoy this hilariously funny book that follows the adventures of the Blythes and their new friends, the Merediths, who can't understand why going without stockings in church is thought "scandalous" by the ladies of the town.

A BIT O' READING FOR THE DAY

In daytime the Blythe children liked very well to play in the rich, soft greens and glooms of the big maple grove between Ingleside and the Glen St. Mary pond; but for evening revels there was no place like the little valley behind the maple grove. It was a fairy realm of romance to them. Once, looking from the attic windows of Ingleside, through the mist and aftermath of a summer thunderstorm, they had seen the beloved spot arched by a glorious rainbow, one end of which seemed to dip straight down to where a corner of the pond ran up into the lower end of the valley. 

"Let us call it Rainbow Valley," said Walter delightedly, and Rainbow Valley thenceforth it was.  

~Rainbow Valley, chapter 3

01 January 2011

A Herald for 2011

Happy 2011, ladies! Oh, I can't believe 2010 is over already! The years go by so fast.

Here are a few of my aspirations for 2011:

I want to read my Bible more often, and spend time pondering what I have read and even committing it to memory

I want to take more pictures, and grow in my photography

I want to, by the grace of God, be a better daughter, sister, and friend

I want see my book, Violets Are Blue, in print

In everything I do, I want to give glory to God

Thank you, Lord, for giving us a new year--a chance to change, and a chance to grow closer to You. 

1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
 
2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
   come before him with joyful songs. 
3 Know that the LORD is God.
   It is he who made us, and we are his
;
   we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
   and his courts with praise;
   give thanks to him and praise his name. 
5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
   his faithfulness continues through all generations.
          —Psalm 100
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