25 March 2012

Sunday Blessings



{painting by Adolphe-William Bouguereau}

Jesus! what a Friend for sinners!
Jesus! Lover of my soul;
Friends may fail me, foes assail me,
He, my Savior, makes me whole.

Hallelujah! what a Savior!
Hallelujah! what a Friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving,
He is with me to the end.

Jesus! what a Strength in weakness!
Let me hide myself in Him.
Tempted, tried, and sometimes failing,
He, my Strength, my victory wins.

Hallelujah! what a Savior!
Hallelujah! what a Friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving,
He is with me to the end.

Jesus! what a Help in sorrow!
While the billows over me roll,
Even when my heart is breaking,
He, my Comfort, helps my soul.

Hallelujah! what a Savior!
Hallelujah! what a Friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving,
He is with me to the end.

Jesus! what a Guide and Keeper!
While the tempest still is high,
Storms about me, night overtakes me,
He, my Pilot, hears my cry.

Hallelujah! what a Savior!
Hallelujah! what a Friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving,
He is with me to the end.

Jesus! I do now receive Him,
More than all in Him I find.
He hath granted me forgiveness,
I am His, and He is mine.

Hallelujah! what a Savior!
Hallelujah! what a Friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving,
He is with me to the end.

~"Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners" by J. Wilbur Chapman (words) and Rowland H. Prichard (music)~

I pray each of you has a blessed and lovely Lord's Day!
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” — Luke 7:44-47

23 March 2012

Poem of the Week: No Enemies by Charles Mackay

{painting by Sir Frank Dicksee}

Below is an interesting poem that my father brought to my attention several days ago. In it, Mr. Mackay shows how if we are to be warriors for Christ, advancing His cause and His Word, than we must accept the fact that we will have enemies. Christ himself was put down by the Pharisees, who deemed Him to be breaking God's law. And yet, that did not stop Him from fulfilling the purpose for which God put Him on this earth. A man who goes around believing he has "no enemies" can only be called a coward, and not someone true men of God should desire to emulate.

No Enemies
By Charles Mackay (1814 — 1889)

YOU have no enemies, you say?
  Alas! my friend, the boast is poor;
He who has mingled in the fray
  Of duty, that the brave endure,
Must have made foes! If you have none,
Small is the work that you have done.
You’ve hit no traitor on the hip,
You’ve dashed no cup from perjured lip,
You’ve never turned the wrong to right,
You’ve been a coward in the fight.

Some interesting food for thought, yes? Please feel free to share any thoughts you have on this matter in the comment section below; I am always eager to hear your opinions.
"Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes, with your right hand you save me." — Psalm 138:7

21 March 2012

Book Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

{For my thoughts on and experience with The Hunger Games, please click here.}

Anyone who has read The Hunger Games should know that I couldn't very well finish the first book and then go back to living life in my merry way, without finding out how this very intriguing story was going to end. So I read Catching Fire, book two in Suzanne Collins' hugely popular series, and here are my thoughts.

Catching Fire
By Suzanne Collins
*Summary from Goodreads.com





Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol - a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create. 

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she's afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she's not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol's cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can't prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying. 

My Thoughts: I didn't quite enjoy this book as much as I had the first one. I'd like to get that out in the open before I say anything else. The plot seemed a bit more scattered and less organized than the first, and it was easy to get a little lost at times. It was definitely still interesting, but it could have included a bit more planning beforehand. Also, CF fueled my slight irritation with the main character and protagonist of this story, Katniss Everdeen. Her relationships with both Peeta and Gale began to seem more selfish to me, almost as if she wanted the best of both of them combined into one person (which, as I said to a friend of mine several days ago, is unrealistic at best). 

However, something I did like better about CF in comparision to THG is the conversation. That may sound a bit confusing at first, so please allow me to explain. In the first book, there is so much action at all times that there is hardly a moment for the characters to get to know each other outside of this horrific arena. In book two, we are given more of a chance to get to know the characters as people and understand why they do what they do. That definitely helped in shaping the story.

Pros: Though the beginning is a little slow at points, once you get into the story, it keeps you hooked and is rarely boring. For the most part, good and evil are very clearly defined. Peeta continues to be a good example, despite the actions of those around him. He constantly puts his life in danger for Katniss' sake. Gale is also a good example of someone who will risk his own well-being in order to stand up for what is right.

Cons: Certain indecenies that I was willing to overlook in The Hunger Games I found myself less willing to ignore in Catching Fire. Besides several kisses (in order to keep up the impression of being in love), Katniss also repeatedly has Peeta sleep in her bed when she is troubled with nightmares from the Games. Thankfully, nothing beyond this happens, but I still found this breach in propriety inappropriate. Though I understand that Katniss longs for familiarity and comfort after her horrible experiences, I can't agree with the way in which she seeks out that comfort, and I found this to be an unnecessary addition on the author's part. There is also some violence in the second half of the book, and some mentioning of alcohol. Several characters are not the most — *cough* — modest.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
I recommend this book for ages 15+, again with parental consent.

A Bit O' Reading for the Day:
“You've got to go through it to get to the end of it.” — Catching Fire

18 March 2012

Sunday Blessings

{photo via pinterest}
"To sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure, is the most perfect refreshment." — Fanny Price, Mansfield Park
The quote above perfectly describes my emotions at this moment. It is so very lovely outside — all warm and golden and sunshiney, with the slightest breeze to keep us cool. A bird chirps cheerfully in the tree to my left, then falls silent while another bird takes up the call. Whish! — a flash of wings — the little singer has gone to find refuge somewhere else. All around me, the sounds of spring are here, and I can't help but wish I could somehow bottle it all up in a jar.

I can't recall the last Sunday I was free to be outside as I am now, free to feel the wind's kiss against my cheek as it playfully blows my long hair back from my face, free to rest and enjoy the Lord's Day. That is rather sad, I think — shouldn't His day be a day of rest and refreshment in more than name? Shouldn't we spend this most blessed of days enjoying the fullness of His beauty, the wonder of His creation, the wisdom of His Word?
"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it." — Exodus 20:8-11
Instead of being a day set apart from the rest of the week and devoted solely to our Creator, I have found that we are often too eager to spend the Sabbath as an extra day for completing our to-do lists. We spend the entirety of these brief twenty four hours scurrying around with the same spirit with which we face the other six days. And then, come Monday morning, all we can do is groan about how exhausted we are and how unprepared we feel at the prospect of the new week.

The Lord gave us the Sabbath because He knew after a long week, we need a day of rest. He Himself rested after creating the world! Can we not set aside one day devoted to slowing down and reading and reflecting on His Word, setting our hearts and minds on Jesus as we face the coming week? If we would take this day as a time for resting, as God intended, I'm sure we would be much more prepared for the week when busy Monday rolls around. 
"This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." — Psalm 118:24
How do you spend the Lord's Day?

16 March 2012

Poem of the Week: Hope by Emily Dickinson

I stumbled upon this poem rather accidentally a few days ago and fell head over heels in love with it. Short and sweet, but overflowing with beauty and truth — that's my type of poem. :)

bird
{photo via pinterest}

Hope
By Emily Dickinson

Hope is the thing with feathers 
That perches in the soul, 
And sings the tune — without the words, 
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard; 
And sore must be the storm 
That could abash the little bird 
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land, 
And on the strangest sea; 
Yet, never, in extremity, 
It asked a crumb of me.

How clever to think of hope as a little songbird, singing brightly and yet not asking a crumb of anyone. "And sweetest in the gale is heard" — even in the midst of a storm, hope grows brighter yet. We as Believers can know the joy of true hope: hope that is founded in the knowledge of Christ Jesus and faith that He will remain with us no matter what trials we face in this world.
"For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it." — Romans 8:24-25

12 March 2012

An Authoress Among Us: Miss Rachel Heffington


Something that's been rather "in the works" admist all the other nonsensical things you would find in my brain is An Authoress Among Us. Every so often I will find the blog of a delightful young lady who writes with wit and style far beyond her years, and I long to share her works with each of you, in the hopes that you will be as inspired as I am. With the help of my darling sister Bree — creator of the banner you see above — I am now ready to officially set off in this endeavor. :)

For this first interview, I am welcoming Miss Rachel Heffington, authoress and devoted scribbler at her blog, Inkpen Authoress. 


1. Welcome, dear friend and fellow authoress! Please be so kind as to share a little about yourself:


Hello everyone! I'm Rachel Heffington--a young lady just shy of twenty years old. I am a devoted scribbler, a Christian, a lover of all things old-fashioned, a dreamer, and an entirely hopeless romantic. Apart from writing I love to sing, laugh, dance, and have fun with family and friends. :) I think I view the world through a pair of Dickens-styled spectacles--at least, I'm always looking at people and seeing characters for my next stories. I am like Elizabeth Bennet in that fashion--loving to study the character of all my acquaintance. :) If you'd like to read any about me and my writing there's always a sunny corner for you over at my blog: The Inkpen Authoress.


2. At what age did you discover your love for writing?
Mine was a funny little progression--I have always loved to read--I am quite mad about it, really. I dabbled in the most horrid of horrible poetry-attempts until I was about twelve years old. I am not sure what struck me, but it must have been a galloping case of Inspiration, for I began my first novel and I finished it too, which is saying a lot for most young writers. From there my "career" just blossomed and galloped and reached and stretched until I have three finished books and several in progress under my belt. (Though I only show people the third--the other two are so very juvenile. :D)

3. What is your favorite writing medium (journaling, novel-writing, short story, poetry, etc.)?

Oh, novel-writing by all means--that is, if I had to pick just one. I find it refreshing to the mind to scribble out a pretty little ditty now and again or to write a bit of Nothingness that I call a short story. :)

4. Good books can be so inspiring when it comes to learning how to best write certain scenes. Is there any particular writer whom you most admire? What works of his/hers do you like the best?

Oh Great Scot. I knew this was coming. I knew it. This Favorite-Author question that I find more awful and impossible than cutting off any one of my twenty fingers or toes! :D  However, all jesting aside, I must categorize my answer two ways: Favorite Authors and Authors I'm Most Like.

As far as Favorites go, I'd definitely have to say C.S. Lewis and Charles Dickens. There is something about them that just gets to me. There are dozens more that I love to death, but these two shine out like burning planets amongst the myriads of stars.

The Chronicles of Narnia echo deep into my soul. They make me feel that Heaven is just a tad nearer than I took it to be.

Dickens is entirely different, and yet his stories [because my brain runs like his] fascinate me; the intricacy of the plots, the depths of the characters, the humor of the prose. It's brilliant. 

And then we come to the authors my writing most resembles. I would have to label these as Eleanor Estes, Louisa May Alcott, and Edith Nesbit. I love E. Nesbit's The Railway Children--it is a charming tale: one that I could read over and over. I love Estes' Moffat books, and L.M. Alcott's Eight Cousins.

5. What do you do when that fearsome epidemic masquerading as writer's block threatens to call on you? 

I hang up a "Private Propert: No Trespassing" sign. If the epidemic is impolite enough to trespass anyway, I ignore it and keep writing. If all else fails I take a break from writing. A defined break such as: "I will take three days off." Something that I can hold myself accountable for. Then I focus on living life to the fullest during those moments. What is it one wise man said?
"You can not sit down and write until you have stood up and lived." :)
6. What do you consider the best time of day for writing? Please explain your answer.

At present I wake up at 6:30 a.m., pull the laptop onto my covers, sit up, and type away until I've reached my daily goal of 1,000 words. That usually takes me slightly under an hour, and surprisingly, it has worked--I never thought my mind would function that quickly--perhaps my dreams flavor my writing and make it more than it ought to be. ;) The early morning works best for me because in a family of 12 people, there are few quiet moments once everyone is up. However, I find I write best at whatever time of day the mood seizes me--my brain is tops midday, though I seldom get the opportunity to write during that part of the day, even though I am graduated.

7. Do you outline your books or do you prefer to begin writing and let the plot sort itself out?

Eeesh. Um...a bit of both, I think. My first book (mercifully) had a very simple plot that lent itself to filling in with inspiring floods of writing. :) But through that I did find that it is good to plot your story--at least the bones of it. That is the approach I took with my current project: The Scarlet-Gypsy Song. I had the idea of where I wanted this story to go, and yet I left plenty of room for inspiration and spur-of-the-moment ideas. It seems to be working, for I only started this book in the last few days of November and I hope to finish it at around 70,000 words at the end of this month. :)

8. Of all the characters you've invented, who is your favorite and why?

My style resembles Dickens' in that most of my stories are character-driven. And as my books seem to be overrun with hoards of children, I find I love so many of them it is hard to choose. However, several stand out:

Dill Vervain Octavius Seasoning--the middle child of five in my children's novel: A Mother for the Seasonings. [The story is set in a British colony in East India during the Victorian-era] He's such a duck. He is droll boy who is always hungry, frank, funny, and loveable. He's also a tad naughty, and lent so much flavor to the plot. :)

Aunt Regina--the Seasoning's aunt. As one woman put it: "She's like...like Mary Poppins--only better!" I am not at liberty to say more.

Cora Lesley--the heroine of my unfinished Depression-era novel: Puddleby Lane. Cora is sweet, dreamy, impractical and yet sensible. There is a peculiar mixture of sense and sensibility in her--half girl, half woman--that endears her to me.

Adelaide Macefield--One of the six children in The Scarlet-Gypsy Song. I have split between her and Darby (her younger brother) for who holds the candle of Best Kid in this book. I love them both. Adelaide is spunky, witty, sarcastic, and yet very loyal and loving when you are in her good graces. She's one of those girls who has not yet found the balance, but is a darling all the same.

Diccon Wanderlands nee Quarry--the half-brother of Sir Randolph Fitz-Hughes in The Scarlet-Gypsy Song. He is a man without a country, without a family, without anything in the world except a high sense of honor and valor. Poor guy. He isn't sure where he belongs, and yet there is that indescribable something about him that denotes a hero. :)

9. What are your opinions on romance in books? Do you see these standards acted out in the literature sold today?

I think a bit of romance in a book can add a deal to the plot and your warm-fuzzy feeling at the last page. However I am not a fan of romance novels in general. I do, however, love Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell. I think the quality of literature a hundred years ago was far superior to most written today. Therefore, the romance in some of those classics was not the same old boy-girl-physical-attraction you'll get in most of today's romance novels. There was something deeper the hero and heroine looked for in each other: strength of character, personality, values, etc. That's the sort of romance I would deem worth writing and reading. So if you are mature enough to write a thread of romance in a realistic, pure way, do so. 

10. What are some of the writing projects on which you are currently working?

The Scarlet-Gypsy Song, as I already mentioned, is the main W.I.P. I have only about 10,000 more words to write, so I'm pretty excited--riding high on that wave of the light at the end of the tunnel. :) 
In the wings I have Fly Away Home, [a 50's era novel] The Traveler [a bit of nonsensical, Dickensian, travelogue] and Madeleine. (Which is only a name at present.) I am also doing research for a novel set in France during the Revolution.

11. As a Christian, is your faith a central theme in all of your books? Why or why not?

Yes.  I would definitely say that. If not blatantly Christian in topic (The Gypsy Song is rather a fairy-tale) I tote my world-view into everything I write and I am careful to measure it up to my standards and keep things in line. I like to keep Light and Dark very clearly defined--and I like all my writing to urge people further up and further in. :)

12. Could you be persuaded to share an excerpt (or three) from some of your works?

You must know that is my one weakness--dribbling excerpts all over creation. :P I will give you a smackeral of The Scarlet-Gypsy Song, as it rather overwhelms my head right now:
Cecily paused on the staircase. Her hands were icy-cold. She clasped them together and tried to squeeze warmth into their slender tips, but her very marrow was chilled by the realization of all that had happened. It was useless. And it was all rather awkward, this plight of having to explain to a father that his children had been meddling in something that wasn’t there’s and consequently were never to be heard from again. “Oh drat meddlesome children,” she whispered to herself, gathering skirts and her hair into her arms and trundling down the last three stairs and across the black-and-white tile floor.
 *      *      *       *
Diccon slung his pack onto the ground and lay on his back. The rain poured onto his face, but he liked it. He liked the raw feel of water against his skin. He liked to stare straight up into the heavens and watch the droplets careening down to pelt him, imagining they were a thousand arrows and he, an invincible soldier deflecting each of them. It was for such a challenge he was born. A thousand arrows he could take. But days on end of dull pillaging, eating through the borders of Scarlettania like a termite chews through a wall of a cottage? Scarlettania, whose people barely knew the meaning of war, much less the art of it?  It would drive him to madness, as it had driven Fitz-Hughes.
*     *      *       *
The general made a movement as if to spring on Diccon, and his mouth was a narrow, malignant slit in his face, but the knife-point kept him at bay. “You have no right. You are a paltry excuse for a soldier of Clan Fitz-Hughes. You are a half-breed!”
“A half-breed, my Lord, is far superior than a half-wit, or a half-truth. You, General Moorcroft, appear to be both.” Diccon coolly pushed the knife a bit harder against the man’s chest. He leaned close until he could smell the scent of stale tobacco and salt-pork in the general’s hair. “You will gather the men and announce my command over this army now. For all they—or anyone else—knows, the message was an order from Fitz-Hughes to invest me with your powers. Understood?” Diccon glared at the man, commanding his gaze.
Fitful blue stars collided with the staid grey of the general’s eyes in a storm of emotions, but Diccon saw no sign of resistance in them.
“As you say, soldier,” the general said. He held both hands out at his sides, and plastered a faint smile on his lips.
*      *        *       *        *
The fire in Bertram’s eyes mounted and he grabbed her shoulders. “Don’t you see, Adelaide? Everything here that is beautiful, everything that you are so caught up in enjoying now will be gone presently.” His voice was so grown and manly that it hardly sounded like Bertram at all.
“I still don’t see why it concerns us,” Adelaide said, not because she meant it but because she was cross at Bertram for feeling something other than she felt, and for her inability to fathom it.
        “Addie. It’s all because of us, you see. If our father hadn’t written up trouble for the King and Miss Woodruff and everyone else, and if we hadn’t got in here, none of this would be going on.”
*      *        *        *
“Rise, children of Macefield. Rise and look upon me.” The voice that spoke was golden, heavy, and regal like the mane of a lion. The children scrambled to their feet with a deal of noise on the tile floor. When Bertram looked cautiously at the king he was unnerved to see that something—a sort of curtain, you might call it—had been dropped over his eyes, and they were flames no longer but eyes only. That was the bit that made everything worse. It was like looking at a massive tiger and being told he was dead and stuffed ten years ago, when you saw its tail flick a moment before. They might want you to go up and put your arm around it to take a photo, but you know it would be certain death to do so. Bertram felt just that way about this king, and he considered bowing a third time, but thought against it.
*      *       *       *        *
“You’re a goose, Charlotte Macefield,” she said.
“Ducky-luv? Is that you?” The plump voice echoed off the walls of the passage until it seemed that dozen beaming, fat Agneses were encamped around her like the angels Bertram liked to tell her about.
“It’s me, Agnes,” Charlotte called over her shoulder. She kept her eyes on the carved wood, trying to find a meaning out of it. Bertram, Adelaide and Darby were clever; they would be able to figure something out—or make something up—but she could think of nothing but the fact that she had to know. And since—as one of the characters in Nannykin’s favorite book had said—“You can’t just come in wanting to know, you know,” wishing she could was no use at all.
13. Have you published any of your writing before? If not, do you plan on doing so in the future?

I am "published" in the newspaper my sisters and I write, as well as in a magazine for Christian girls put out by my friend. However I am not conventionally published, though I earnestly hope to be someday. :) The publishing world is big, confusing, and scary to poor little me. :D

14. And finally, do you have any wisdom for young authors that you would care to share?

Let's see:

One of the things that grew me most as a young writer was joining a small Christian critique group online where I got experience critiquing and accepting criticism. I can recall sitting in front of a critique and the tears welling in my eyes as I saw it covered in red remarks--criticisms, hints, helps, and corrections. But let me tell you, it was worth it. It grew me by leaps and bounds and it helped me keep from any vanity in my writing. :P

Also, please avoid using adjectives that end in "ly" overly much. Oops. There I go. :P Also, go easy on the exclamation marks--they are the definitive mark of a young writer.

Last but not least, read read read other writers. This, perhaps, ought to go first. It is so important to read something beyond what you write--even in a different genre entirely--one can get staled by the air in one's own brain you know. Read something you've never read before. It'll jolt you out of apathy. :D

I hope this interview was not to long for you readers--as you can see, I love writing and I find it easy to ramble. :P And thank you, Elizabeth Rose, for having me here at Living on Literary Lane. :)

Thank you, Rachel, for dropping by for tea! 'Twas a pleasure having you!

11 March 2012

Sunday Blessings


This is a beautiful psalm and a favorite of mine, overflowing with the promise of His everylasting love for us. I pray it blesses each of you this Lord's Day. 

Psalm 103

Praise the LORD, my soul; 
   all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 
Praise the LORD, my soul, 
   and forget not all his benefits— 
who forgives all your sins 
   and heals all your diseases, 
who redeems your life from the pit 
   and crowns you with love and compassion, 
who satisfies your desires with good things 
   so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

 The LORD works righteousness 
   and justice for all the oppressed.

 He made known his ways to Moses, 
   his deeds to the people of Israel: 
The LORD is compassionate and gracious, 
   slow to anger, abounding in love. 
He will not always accuse, 
   nor will he harbor his anger forever; 
he does not treat us as our sins deserve 
   or repay us according to our iniquities. 
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, 
   so great is his love for those who fear him; 
as far as the east is from the west, 
   so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

 As a father has compassion on his children, 
   so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; 
for he knows how we are formed, 
   he remembers that we are dust. 
The life of mortals is like grass, 
   they flourish like a flower of the field; 
the wind blows over it and it is gone, 
   and its place remembers it no more. 
But from everlasting to everlasting 
   the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, 
   and his righteousness with their children’s children— 
with those who keep his covenant 
   and remember to obey his precepts.
 The LORD has established his throne in heaven, 
   and his kingdom rules over all.
 Praise the LORD, you his angels, 
   you mighty ones who do his bidding, 
   who obey his word. 
Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts, 
   you his servants who do his will. 
Praise the LORD, all his works 
   everywhere in his dominion.
   Praise the LORD, my soul.

Have a lovely afternoon, ladies!

09 March 2012

Poem of the Week: A Thing Of Beauty by John Keats

//
{photo via pinterest}

A Thing of Beauty 
By John Keats

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: 
Its lovliness increases; it will never 
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep 
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep 
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing. 
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing 
A flowery band to bind us to the earth, 
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth 
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days, 
Of all the unhealthy and o'er-darkn'd ways 
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all, 
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall 
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon, 
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon 
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils 
With the green world they live in; and clear rills 
That for themselves a cooling covert make 
'Gainst the hot season; the mid-forest brake, 
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms: 
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms 
We have imagined for the mighty dead; 
An endless fountain of immortal drink, 
Pouring unto us from the heaven's brink. 

Have a wonderful evening, ladies! 
"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." — James 1:17

06 March 2012

Book Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

That was probably the most controversial title I've ever typed into this little posting box. I know many of my readers are going to turn away from this post in disgust and think I've gone down the wrong path in my Christian walk, but please bear with me and read the post before you form opinions. Thank you. :)

First, if I hadn't read this book, I would have completely agreed with you that it was dark, evil, and not something I wanted to feed my mind. Not much about it particularly appealed to me, and as a general rule, I don't read the top books for teens that everyone raves about, because nine times out of ten, they turn out to be trash.

But . . . I did read this book. And that's what I'm here to talk about today. 

The Hunger Games
By Suzanne Collins
*Summary from Goodreads.com

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. 

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister Primrose, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before — and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love

My Thoughts: As previously stated, I came to this book with some trepidation. Annual games where people fight to the death, all for the sake of entertainment? I was stuck between two conflicting opinions: a. I didn't feel quite right saying I disagreed with the books having not read them myself and b. I wasn't sure I wanted to put myself through that if they turned out to be as horrible as I thought they were.

Unless a book is a classic and held to a standard that no one can shake (think Charles Dickens or Jane Austen), I prefer hearing good things about it from people I respect before I read it myself. In this case, it was pretty incredible how many times friends of mine (including Christian adults I hold in high esteem) would confirm that this book was worth reading. At my tutorial, my friends kept saying it was amazing, and even my biology tutor said she read and enjoyed the books. I asked, Was the violence overdone? She responded that it was for a more mature audience (this isn't a book for ten-year-olds), but that she didn't find it to be too much. Then I asked, Was there any inappropriate content in it? She said she didn't find there to be anything that should cause me to worry.

Then a ladies' book club of which many women from our church are a part read THG — since their children are reading the books, they wanted to be aware of the content — and Mrs. T said that she came to it with some apprehension, but her opinion changed by the time she finished the book. Her most dominant remark was that she found the situations in the book to be eerily applicable to what our country currently faces. She also compared it to The Giver, a favorite book of mine.

All that to say . . . I decided The Hunger Games were at least worth a shot.

Pros: The story is very fast-paced and keeps you turning pages. The characters are forced to participate in the annual Hunger Games, but that does not mean they are in any way supportive of them or of the Capitol. Katniss is extremely protective of her small family, being the primary breadwinner of the family since her father's death in a coal mining accident. Self-sacrifice is another huge theme in this book. Though she knows her chances of surviving the Games are slim, Katniss still sacrifices herself for the sake of her little sister, Prim. Peeta is also constantly giving of himself for Katniss's sake — protecting her, leading the enemy away, etc., even when it means getting wounded himself. 

It should also be stated that, like The Giver, The Hunger Games contains that spirit that something is not right in the country's government and it is up to the characters to change that, rather than passively going along with whatever the Capitol says. Peeta mentions that he doesn't want to be "just a piece in the Games," and also that he still wants to be himself. He doesn't want the brutality of the Capitol to change him into someone he isn't. I think this is something a lot of our fellow American citizens should consider, since we see the federal government gaining more and more control of our country on a daily basis, while people just stand by and watch. 

Cons: Violence plays a large part in this book. I didn't find it to be too much (keep in mind this is coming from a girl who loves The Patriot), but this is definitely a book for a more mature audience, and parents may want to read it before giving it to their children. Though Peeta's love for Katniss is innocent and heartfelt, she fakes some of the romance in order to pull on the audiences' heartstrings, which I did not like. One character has a habit of drinking too much, but to the author's credit, it is shown as being wrong. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I recommend this book for ages 15+, depending on the parents' judgement.

A Bit O' Reading for the Day: 
“You don’t forget the face of the person who was your last hope.” — The Hunger Games

02 March 2012

Poem of the Week: Dancing Feet by Jessica S.

In honor of winning the writing contest I hosted last month, Jessica's poem, Dancing Feet, is being featured this week. I thought you all would enjoy reading the winning poem, so here 'tis!

{photo (c) mi hermanita Bree}

Dancing Feet
By Jessica S.

I wish I had the balance
To walk through life unscathed--
To walk high on my tippy-toes,
And never be afraid.

I wish that I were graceful
So I could dance with ease
Through trials and tribulations,
And never skin my knees.

I wish that I were elegant,
And flexible, and strong.
If I were things like that, 
Then nothing ever could go wrong.

But I'm no ballerina,
I'm just your average klutz.
I trip over flat surfaces--
My knees are scarred with cuts.

I wish that I had someone
To help me walk with grace,
Who'd never let go of my hand,
Or throw me off my pace,

To help me keep my balance,
And kiss away the pain.
We'd dance through life together,
Through the sun or through the rain.

And with a dancing partner,
I know life would be so sweet.
Oh, how I wish I had another pair
Of dancing feet.

Bellissima, Jessica! Thank you for blessing us with your writing — you did a wonderful job. 

Have a good evening, dear friends!
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