Saturday, August 24, 2019

"The Baronet's Song" by George MacDonald,

Mute little Gibbie Galbraith leaves the city's slums when his father dies, seeking safety in the Scottish Highlands his family once inhabited.  Pure-hearted and intelligent, Gibbie finds a new family, but also makes enemies among those who think he is half-witted, insolent, or a thief.  He grows into a fine young man and eventually inherits a home of his own.

I was kind of irritated by this book when I'd first finished reading it because Gibbie doesn't really have a character arc.  He starts out pure, kind, and sweet, and he remains pure, kind, and sweet.  He's too perfect, too Christ-like to be realistic.  But then I started thinking of him as being not so much a character as a catalyst, someone who doesn't change, but causes others to change.  And that fits the story very well, I think, as it's got this otherworldly feel to it, like an idealized version of the Highlands. 

I did enjoy this story, but I didn't love it.  Much of that is because it had a heavy insistence on inner goodness and inner purity, with characters having an inborn ability to emulate God by ones own efforts, and I don't believe that's true at all.  I believe that people are born spiritually blind, dead enemies of God, and that it's God's love and grace poured into us that enables us to follow him, to try to be like him.  There seemed to be an underlying emphasis on works-righteousness here too, with a person's actions and behavior either saving or damning them, rather than their works being presented as a fruit of faith.  This is pretty common in Calvinistic Christian fiction, but that doesn't mean I don't object to it.  Certainly, a Christian wants to behave like Christ out of love for and gratitude to God -- but their works are good because God has blessed them with his love, not because of their own interior good.  And their works don't earn them heavenly rewards.

Anyway.  It was an interesting book to read and discuss at my church's book club.  Authors I very much admire, including J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, were great fans of MacDonald's books, so it was interesting to try to find ways they may have been influenced by his writing.  

Particularly Good Bits:

The only voice he could not hear was his own, and that was just the one he had neither occasion nor desire to hear (p. 154).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for physical abuse toward a child and violence.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Announcing the 7th Annual Tolkien Blog Party!

Oh, yes!   My Tolkien Blog Party is happening again!  Seven years in a row -- how fun is that?

I've made some buttons, as you can see.  Share 'em wherever you share such things so other people can find out about the party and join us!

The party will run all of Tolkien Week, Sept. 22-28.  I'll provide a tag, some party games, a book review or two, and, yes, of course, a giveaway.

What would y'all think of adding a sort of blogathon-style thing to the party this year?  As in, you can contribute whatever Tolkieny posts you come up with, not only your tag answers?  I'm thinking something totally open-ended, like we ran the Legends of Western Cinema Week event -- everyone's free to contribute whatever they want, be it a book or movie review, musings on a favorite character or theme, whatever.  Comment below with your ideas!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

It's So Classic -- Blog Tag

The It's So Classic Blog Party hosted by Rebellious Writing comes complete with a tag!  And since I'm reading War and Peace right now and am only a little over 500 pages into my 1300-page copy and don't have any book reviews to write right now as a result, a tag is exactly what I need.  Here goes!


1. Link your post to Rebellious Writing
2. Answer the questions
3. Tag at least 5 bloggers.

What is one classic that hasn’t been made into a movie yet, but really needs to?  The Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery.  I insist that Michael Fassbender play Barney Snaith, and I'd like Elizabeth Henstridge to play Valancy Stirling, please.

What draws you to classics?

The fact that they've both stood the test of time and have influenced others.  I enjoy reading classics for their meaty goodness and for what I can learn from them.

What is an underrated classic?

Most people seem to think of Northanger Abbey as somehow lesser than Jane Austen's bigger, more serious novels, but it is chock full of all the things I love about her writing: wry wit and satire that make me laugh and well-developed characters to befriend. 

What is one classic that you didn’t expect to love, but ended up loving anyway?

I thought that War and Peace was going to be really hard to follow and fairly boring.  It's neither.  I'm not sure I'd say I love it yet -- I want to get to the end and see how it all turns out before I can settle that question.  But I'm definitely enjoying it, and I didn't really expect to do that.

(From my Instagram)

What is your most favorite and least favorite classics?

Most favorite = Jane Eyre, which is also my favorite book of all time.  Least favorite = Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.  You can read my review to see why it makes me crabby.

(Also from my bookstagramming)

What is your favorite character from a classic?  Sherlock Holmes.  Mmmmm, Sherlock Holmes.

What’s a popular classic that you felt wasn’t actually that great?

I am not a fan of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.  I adore The Lord of the Rings and have read it eight times so far, but... The Hobbit irks me.  I don't like the condescending narration, a lot of it is rather silly, and it lacks focus.  I've read it three times now, and nope.  Not my thing.

Who is your favorite classic author?  It's a three-way tie between Jane Austen, A. Conan Doyle, and Lucy Maud Montgomery.

(Yup, mine from Instagram)

In your opinion, what makes a classic a classic?

On my Classics Club page, I give my personal definition of a "classic" as being a book that is more than 50 years old, well-known (or by a well-known author), and influential on society or other writers.

Relating to newer books, what attributes does a book need to have in order to be worthy of the title “classic”?

Those same things.  There are a lot of modern books that I think will be considered classics one day, but right now... they're not classics yet.

I hereby tag these five bloggers to play along if they want:

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Classic Besties

Today's Top Ten Tuesday prompt from That Artsy Reader Girl is "Book Characters I’d Love to Be Besties With."  I'm going to focus specifically on characters from classic books for my list, to correlate with the It's So Classic Blog Party.

I can't decide on an order of preference for these, so I'm listing them alphabetically.

1. Anne Elliot from Persuasion by Jane Austen.  Anne is a lot like me -- quiet, shy, helpful, stubborn, thoughtful.  I think we would get along quite well in a quiet way.

2. Anne Shirley from the Anne of Green Gables books by Lucy Maud Montgomery -- she's chatty and bookish, imaginative and cheerful, and I've wanted to be her friend since I was eight years old.

3. Bagheera from The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling -- who doesn't want to be friends with a wise, snarky black panther that talks?

4. Catherine Morland from Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen -- Catherine tries to hard to be a good friend, and I want to step into her story and show her that Eleanor Tilney is not the only person who can be a good friend back.

5. Edmund Dantes from The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas -- he just needs a friend, y'all.  Someone to help him see that vengeance is going to hurt him as much as it hurts those he's taking revenge on.

6. Jane Eyre from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte -- she's so friendless and alone for so much of the book, and I would love to hang out with her and give her someone to confide in.  

7. John Watson from the Sherlock Holmes canon by A. Conan Doyle -- Watson is one of the best friends anyone could ask for, and I want him to be mine.

8. Jo March from Little Women, Little Men, and Jo's Boys by Louisa May Alcott -- life would never be boring with Jo March for a friend!  We could encourage each other in our writing pursuits and trade momming tips.

9. Sherlock Holmes from the Sherlock Holmes canon by A. Conan Doyle -- he only has one actual friend, and as wonderful as Watson is, it might be really good for Holmes to have more than just one friend to rely on.

10. Valancy Stirling from The Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery -- she spends so much of her life being lonely, when she's such an interesting person!  I think we would have fun going to movies together and discussing books, or tramping around in the woods.

How about you?  Are any of these characters ones you'd also like to be friends with?

Monday, August 5, 2019

"The Graveyard Book" by Neil Gaiman

Oh. My.

So, I've heard some pretty glowing stuff about this book from a lot of people over the past few years.  I even checked it out of the library once, but didn't get around to reading it before it was due.  

Mostly, I wanted to read it because I love graveyards. I love to ramble around in them, reading headstones and soaking up history.  When we lived in Connecticut, there was a massive graveyard a few blocks from our house that was the only really wide-open space with grass and trees that we could find for my energy-soaked toddler to run around in.  It was a popular spot for joggers and other moms with strollers.

Anyway.  I just never quite got interested enough in this book to read it until I read somewhere recently that it's a retelling of The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling.  I adore The Jungle Book, especially Bagheera, the massive black panther guardian of little Mowgli.  So I thought I'd give this a try at last.  Especially since I enjoyed The Ocean at the End of the Lane so much.

Reader, I loved it.  LOVED IT, I SAY.  

Especially Silas, the Bagheera character who was a vampire.  Honestly, if someone had just said to me, "Bagheera is a vampire in this book!" I would have snatched it up immediately.  Because I also love vampires.  Especially really good vampire guardians who use their majestic, undying power to care for and protect someone.  (My second-favorite TV show of all time is Angel, the spin-off of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and its main character, the protective good vampire Angel, is one of my 5 favorite fictional characters of all time.  It's a thing.)  So, yeah, wow.  Silas was amazing.  Also, I love the name Silas because of Slow West (2015), and I had a merry time imagining Michael Fassbender as a vampire, and yeah.  

But the whole book was amazing.  Smart, funny, exciting, scary/creepy in the best ways, and thoroughly satisfying.

A little baby's family is killed by a relentless murderer, the man Jack, but the baby is taken in and protected by the ghosts that live in a nearby graveyard.  They name him Nobody, Bod for short, and raise him in the graveyard.  The vampire Silas reluctantly becomes his guardian, then mentor, then friend, and Bod learns all sorts of unusual skills (I wish I knew how to Fade, because that sounds so handy in so many social situations), and eventually he has to confront his family's murderer, of course.  Oh, it's delicious!  Delicious, I tell you!

This might be the best new-to-me book I've read this year.

Particularly Good Bits:

"I've absolutely no idea," said Silas, who consumed only one food, and it was not bananas (p. 27).

There were people you could hug, and then there was Silas (p. 149).

At the best of times his face was unreadable.  Now his face was a book written in a language long forgotten, in an alphabet unimagined.  Silas wrapped the shadows around him like a blanket, and stared after the way the boy had gone, and did not follow (p. 194).

"You're always you, and that don't change, and you're always changing, and there's nothing you can do about it" (p. 298).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-13 for scary scenes involving murder, ghosts, demons, etc.

Friday, August 2, 2019

"Psalms to Color and Soothe the Soul" Coloring Book by Felicity French

Today is National Coloring Book Day!

To celebrate, I'm going to share one of my favorite adult coloring books with you: Psalms to Color and Soothe the Soul with artwork by Felicity French.

I've had this book for a couple of years now, but I'd only done two pictures in it until this summer.  I go through phases where I color regularly or don't color at all, sometimes for weeks or months.  Right now, I'm in the middle of one of the color-often phases, and I've been really drawn to this book for the past few weeks.

I love how intricate these drawings are!  And yet, they're not too busy.  It takes me a couple of sessions to color one picture, which I like because it prolongs the fun.

The pages of this book take colored pencils really well, which I appreciate.

The pages are thick enough you can use gel pens too.  I tend to get impatient with gel pens when coloring large areas, so I only use them for pages like this where I'm coloring lots of tiny areas:

And the pictures are only printed on one side of each sheet, so you can remove a page and share it or frame it if you want to.  I LOVE Psalm 46:10, and I love how this picture turned out, so I'm seriously considering framing it to hang in my bedroom:

Here's the page I started working on last night:

I tend to mostly color in the evening after my kids are in bed, while I'm watching a TV show of some sort.  It's a good way to unwind after a stressful day, and I have something pretty when I'm done!  This particular book has the added benefit of letting me meditate on a particular piece of Scripture while I'm coloring, which I really like.  There are lots and lots of pages I haven't gotten to yet, so I know I'll be enjoying this particular book for a long time yet.

Are you a fan of adult coloring books too?  If so, do you have favorite coloring books?

Thursday, August 1, 2019

It's So Classic Blog Party

Hey, check it out! Rebellious Writing is hosting a blog party next month!  The It's So Classic Blog Party will be all about classic books and what they give us.  I definitely want to participate somehow -- just have to figure out what to write about!  (Shhh, probably Hamlet or something Shakespeare-related, don't tell anyone.  Nobody will expect that.  It'll be such a surprise!)  Check out their post here for all the party details ;-)