Literary Splatters...

Monday, 20 January 2014

#Literary Splatters
So I decided to reject Sherlock Holmes' advice about 'inflicting my opinions on the world'. In other words, while it isn't too out-dated, I've decided to take a dash at it and join with a trivia-post about books, stories and my worst/best reading quirks in this 55 question-and-answer Tag that has become very popular on the blogosphere of late. It has the promise of something fun.

Ready for This?

1. Favorite childhood book? I think it is safe to say it would have been, Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St. John, followed closely by Pilgrim's Progress, The Holy War and then by age twelve it was Lloyd C. Douglas' The Robe. 

2. What are you reading right now? I just finished reading Chasing Jupiter by Rachel Coker, and Moonblood by Anne Elisabeth Stengl (both were perfectly splendid reads). Right now, I am reading through a few books: Tales from the Perilous Realm by J.R.R. Tolkien, Starflower by Anne Elisabeth Stengl and The Love That Keeps Us Sane: Living the Little Way of St. Therese of Lisieux by Marc Foley. Also I just started reading Emma  this morning which is actually my first-time reading of anything by Jane Austen (I have watched the Emma 2009 BBC miniseries though). I am so glad that these days I am getting the chance to read a lot!

3. What books do you have on request at the library? Hmm, I don't think I have anything requested... which is quite unusual. 
4. Bad book habit? Ordering lots of books from the library and not having enough time to read them before having to return them by the due date. That and keeping books from the library for so long they fall under the 'LOST' status until I return them... :P Story of my life!
5. What do you currently have checked out at the library? Four books on WW2: one is about the experience of the London Blitz from the diary of a young man in the 1940s 'Boy in the Blitz by Colin Perry, the other one is titled 'Wings like Eagles: The Untold History of The Battle of Britain' by Michael Korda... one is about the Spitfires 'How The Spitfire Won The Battle of Britain' by Dilip Sarkar, and another one about Australia at war 'Australian Battalion Commanders in the Second World War' by Garth Pratten.... all of them research books, obviously, and pretty good actually. Yikes, I just remembered, they are over-due!
6. Do you have an e-reader? I have a kindle app on my iPod, but since the screen is so tiny I rarely use it. 
7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once? I generally have two or three books I am going through/reading at any one time, but usually once I've gotten into a book proper (and if it has captured my attention) I go through with it until it is done before moving onto another book; these days I am trying to maintain a diet of reading 1 non-fiction work and another novel alongside. It helps even things out, with food for the mind, heart and imagination all at once.
8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog? I am far too unorganized for any drastic changes, though I can say that blogging has helped me be more critical in analyzing my thoughts on the different books I read for when I have to recommend or review anything on my blog (something I don't do often enough); but I owe a huge debt of thanks to many of the recommendations my blogger friends have given me on their blogs over the past few years, which in a way have influenced my reading habits. Just go over and check my 'to-read' list on Goodreads :D. 
9. Least favourite book you read this year (so far)? Of 2013... hmm. Considering I read so many a.m.a.z.i.n.g. books in 2013, it is pretty hard to pry a finger on any one book that I truly disliked. Probably the book that I least liked for last year would have been Heartless by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. That's not to say I 'hated' it or anything like that. It was just that out of all the wonderful books I read (Silmarillion, etc), that one appealed the least to me after I read it. I definitely enjoyed Stengl's other novels a lot better!
10. Favorite book you’ve read this year? Humph... I think I would say The Silmarillion. It was... like totally mind-blowing and gut-wrentchingly beautiful. North and South, was pretty grand too as was The Shining Company and...  Surprised by J-- bebother that, there were just too many; I'll just shut up.
11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone? Not very often at all actually. I think the most 'out of comfort zone' sort of books I allow myself to read are science-fiction and modern teen fiction, but I am starting to acquire a few favourites among them which I am very happy about. But probably what falls as outside my comfort zone would be dystopian and time-travel fiction (never tried it actually), horror thrillers, romance fiction (with one or two exceptions).... *sigh* I can be a picky reader. However, that's usually because in such genres there is questionable material (moral elements/violence/romance/language etc...)
12. What is your reading comfort zone? Christian biographies, historical (the classic novels are always my favourite), fantasy and allegory (the classic type in style with Tolkien, Lewis, Stengl, etc...), and the classics (of different genres such as historical, fantasy, inspirational, romance, literary), and some devotional non-fiction :D.
13. Can you read in the car? I can and do. Since choir practice and church is often a whole 45 minutes drive away, I make use of that time spent at the back seat to read Tolkien, Stevenson, Murray, Stengl,  Sutcliff, Gaskall... :). At least three quarters of the books I read in 2013 were during long car drives.
14. Favorite place to read? On my bed, on my desk maybe... actually, anywhere. For some odd reason I am not very used to reading in comfortable positions. The more awkward the position and place, the more natural it seems. I am funny like that (or maybe I've spent too many moments of my life 'sneaking' time to read it has become... c'est la vie.
15. What is your policy on book lending? The unanimous consensus of most of us, bibliophiles, is that we'd all very much  rather spend money from our own pockets to buy a copy for a friend than lend our own. That is definitely my sentiments, though sometimes, with the favoured few, I will lend if I feel sure I will stay in personal (REAL LIFE) contact with them for the next few weeks/months so I can keep nagging on them 'DID YOU READ IT?' and of course, they will return it eventually out of guilt if nothing else. I can be fierce.
16. Do you ever dog-ear books? Whatt? No, never!
17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books? No. That is even more scandalous.
18. Not even with text books? I haven't had too many text books that needed that, but I dislike the general idea. When I start uni, I might change my mind...
19. What is your favourite language to read in? Alas, I can only read in English. 
20. What makes you love a book? A book that moves me, inspires me, makes me laugh and cry... good, believable plots, characters I sympathize with and love (or properly hate) and who pull me along with them into their journey of sufferings, joys, hopes, fears, etc. Good writing (dialogue/description) and pacing are important to make me love a book. Something else that I love in a good book is one that will keep me thinking afterwards and inspire me in real life to grow and understand.
21. What will inspire you to recommend a book? If it is a book I love (see question 20), I will always try to find someone to recommend it to. That's the joys of the online community. In real life, the friends who love to read are few, so simply mentioning that I love to read would be to them like me hearing that a girl loves to watch sport on TV. 'Whhatt?' If I figure someone loves reading, I will keep recommending books until I make their ears fall off :p. But usually I try to recommend the books I love by figuring out what kind of genres my friends like. If a friend isn't into fantasy, I avoid badgering them about simply how awesome The Lord of the Rings is. Not that I actually haven't tried... 
22. Favorite genre? The classics are always going to be my favourite, but the genres I most love to read (and write in) are historical, high epic fantasy and faerie-tale of the style of Tolkien, science-fiction (if it is anything like Lewis'!), allegory, detective/mystery and historical Christian biographies. Another favourite genre of mine would be literary/inspirational fiction. The Keys of the Kingdom is one good example, though it is intermixed with historical and biographical elements.
23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did)? I think... it would be theology, apologetics and philosophy. I would love to read those types of books more often. Dad has a huge library for that and constantly encourages me to read from them, so I really have no excuse. It can be a little intimidating though. But one of these days I intend to give myself the needed push. 
24. Favourite biography? Since I was a wee thing, I've devoured dozens upon dozens of Christian biographies and have had Papa read to us as a family twice the amount I myself read. But I think my favourite biography would have to be Selected To Live by Johanna Ruth Dobschiner, which is actually an autobiography of a Jewish German girl who lived in Holland with her family during the Holocaust of WW2 and her journey of finding Christ... it is a beautiful and truly amazing story! That, and Vanya: a true story by Myrna Grant on the life of a soldier in the Soviet Red Army, Ivan Moiseyev, who was ruthlessly persecuted and incarcerated and ultimately martyred for his faith in Christ. It was one of those books that really changed my life. Lady Jane Grey: 9 Day Queen of England by Faith Cook is another one of my favourites.
25. Have you ever read a self-help book? I am not so sure I understand that question.
26. Favourite cookbook? Probably the more vintage cookbooks of Woman's Weekly.
27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)? In the fiction genre, I think I would say Gaskall's North and South,... I love this story greatly and it made me do a good deal of thinking; it isn't like any other period drama books/movies and it inspired me a lot. For non-fiction it would be With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray. A classic among devotional writings on the subject of prayer, it really gave me a lot to think about... it opened my eyes to many aspects of prayer that I never realized before. 
28. Favorite reading snack? fresh fruit, dried fruit and nuts, or a healthy chocolate treat is always special but usually I lose my appetite over a good book ^_^.
29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience. I can't think of any such incident, except perhaps The Kingdom Series by Chuck Black, which I did not like all that much; I only figured out it was so well-loved by homeschooling circles after I had read it; and I had already read the Knights of Arrethtrae series by the same author which I liked. So I really could not see what the fuss was about. 
30. How often do you agree with critics about a book? I rarely read them from the first place (I do read critics of movies though and usually hate their reviews - they have to be so cynical, don't they?). Generally, my opinion is vastly different from the general public, especially about 'bestsellers' and what not. Actually, I am not very wildly read on the releases of new books in the secular sphere. Ho hum.
31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews? I'm a little awkward about it, and I dislike bashing a writer's work of love if at all possible without adding the things that I did enjoy in the book. If I have something negative to say on the moral or worldview aspect though, I don't feel shy about sharing that.
32. If you could read in a foreign language, which languages would you chose? If I could read in any other languages, they'd be in this order: Arabic, German, Latin, Hebrew, Coptic/Greek...
33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read? The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien, but it was well worth it!
34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin? Elisabeth Rose mentioned it already, but it would be Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. A whole chapter about Paris sewers is not awfully appealing... but then, the story is such a beautiful one, I think it would be sad not to try.
35. Favorite Poet? I haven't read enough poetry to say, but I love the bits I've read for G. K. Chesterton's poems. Amy Carmichael's poetry is probably my favourite, all round; and I always enjoy Tolkien's poems.
36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time? Sometimes as many as twenty books...
37. How often have you returned books to the library unread? Very often especially when I order too many :(
38. Favorite fictional character? Well, don't blame me for opening a can of worms (in no particular order): Faithful (Pilgrim's Progress), Sherlock Holmes (title character), Lamia (Nothing Else Matters), Pollyanna (title character), David Balfour and Alan Breck Stewart (Kidnapped), The Keys of the Kingdom (Father Chisholm), Sydney Carton (A Tale of Two Cities), John Thornton and Margaret Hale (North and South), Lucian (Treasures of the Snow),  Prosper (A Shining Company), Justin (The Silver Branch), Judah (Ben Hur), Demetrius (The Robe), Leah and Pierre (The Soldier's Cross), Indi (The Shadow Things), Frodo Baggins, Samwise Gamgee, Gandalf, Aragorn, Eyown (The Lord of the Rings), Beleg (The Children of Hurin), Ransom (Perelandra), Jane (That Hideous Strength), Aslan, Lucy, King Tirian, Reepercheep, Puddleglum, Eustace, Edmund (The Chronicles of Narnia), The Martyr of the Catacombs (Marcellus), Bilbo Baggins and Thorin Okanshield (The Hobbit)
39. Favourite fictional villain? Oh, it would be Gollum/Smeagol of course. Followed closely at his heels by Madam Defarge from A Tale of Two Cities. She has always been so perfectly horrid and cold in her ruthlessness. And then... maybe Flavius Apicius, but you know... he's mine still
40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation? The Lord of the Rings and any other book I am 'currently reading'. 
41. The longest I’ve gone without reading. Depending how literally I take this question, I'd say I read everyday. But I've gone on for more than a week sometimes without cracking open a book, which always puts me in an irritable mood. 
42. Name a book that you could/would not finish. I don't think there ever has been a book I started that I did not eventually finish because I could not. If I ever did, it must have been when I was younger and got too bored with one of Dad's more intellectual biographies. Ohh, now I remember. I nearly did not finish The Children of Hurin. It was soooo hard to get through reading the heart-wrenching tragedy of the tale... but you know, it was Tolkien. So I eventually went back to it and pressed on to the finish line. It has become a favourite book for me, despite its utter tragedy.
43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading? I think someone poking his nose over me while reading is quite distracting :), but also I can get distracted when there is music on that has lyrics. I can generally read out in public when people are talking. I just tell my brain to... 'SHUT THEM UP!'
44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel? You can't be so cruel!! *sob* You are? Oh, you are. Okay, settle down and I will tell you. The Lord of the Rings...(who knew, right?!), North and South BBC 2004, The Keys of the Kingdom, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian (Disney), Ben Hur, and most recently The Hobbit. And one cannot list favourite film adaptions without mentioning Jeremy Brett's 1980s portrayal of Sherlock Holmes. That TV adaption is stunning. End of conversation.
45. Most disappointing film adaptation? *racks brain* I was slightly disappointed with some of the add-ons of the adaption of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (the green mist was spooky!), but the beautiful ending made up for it so that's not the most disappointing film adaption I've ever seen. Oh yes... it was The Robe. That was one horrible, wooden adaption of the novel by Lloyd C. Douglas and I hated how they ruined Demetrius' character. The only notable performances in the movie was Diana. Sorry.
46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time? I would like to buy books nice and cheap, but that rarely happens. I buy most of my books online since Angus and Robertson love to cause me material pain and delight in teaching me patience. The most I ever spent out of my own money was probably around 30 to 60 dollars. That's happened only once or twice *ducks head*. Books are really hard to find cheap around here, (the classics particularly)... so what is one to do? 
47. How often do you skim a book before reading it? I try not to do that since it quite ruins the book for me. Sometimes, I like to have fun and read the last word or two of the book just to get a fleeting hint whether the book will end on a happy or sad note or maybe as a cliffhanger. Abigail was saying that she does skimming of books to see if there are any 'vulgar' scenes. Sure enough, that's the best way, but I rarely even crack open a book unless I am relatively sure it won't have anything so shocking. I only do that whenever I go to the library or Koorong. Koorong, Christian bookstore though it be, is not immune from inspection.
48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through? Too much vulgarity, romantic mush, and lack of morals are a sure thing for me to toss the book out the window and into the dump heap.
49. Do you like to keep your books organized? It is the one thing I know how to keep organized for any length of time, and take great pleasure in. It is one of my hobbies, the arranging of books on the shelves.
50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them? Why would anyone want to give a book away? That's crazy. I only once gave away a book to the second hand store, The Big Fisherman but that was because the novel (which was about the Apostle Peter) had far too many deviations from Scripture. 
51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding? Anything by Beverly Lewis, thankee very much.
52. Name a book that made you angry. Kingdom's Reign by Chuck Black. 
53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did? Well, I did not expect to hate it, but I think I was pleasantly shocked at how good Dragonwitch turned out to be. 
54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t? Mountains of Spices by Hannah Hurnard. I liked Hinds Feet on High Places a great deal, so I was a little disappointed with the allegory of the sequel... probably because I disagreed with some of its theology. 
55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading? Jenny hit the nail on the proverbial head.... God's Word!

The Thawing of a Frozen Heart

Friday, 17 January 2014

Holidays are a pretty great time to catch up on the good movies out and about. Actually, as far as things go, besides keeping up with youth choir, rushing happily through Christmas, coughing and spluttering amid a cold and flue in the family (Gracie, Mum and me), and hanging out with family and friends, I also have been watching movies! I will go right ahead and add that I've been laboriously attempting to write a long overdue letter or two, a blog-post or more--all the while haunted by the emails and the lovely blog-posts of my blogger friends who I need to write to. That sounds trite and boring, so anyways, we'll move on ^_^.Through January, I got to see two new movies and a new season of a TV show (you can guess which two movies and which TV show ;). So, I thought it would be a pity not review them around here by and by betwixt chattering about all the more 'writerly' things I share on this blog. What say you?

So, I will start from today, and try to move backwards ^_^. Yesterday, Sarah, Mary and I with a lovely friend of ours went to see the new Disney movie Frozen at our local cinema. It was a very enjoyable afternoon spent with her and with one of Mary's sweet friends, hanging out at Lincraft and then at the ice-cream take-away before moving on to watch the movie. So, la-da-ta, here's my review..

A while back I saw Tangled, which was pretty fun, so I was curious to see what Frozen would be like; I really enjoyed it! Generally I don't watch many animated movies (besides Toy Story and Tintan that is!), so it was a fun treat watching it, a trifle silly and fluffy though it is. Actually, I was quite astounded at the themes they worked into the story, how 'love thaws a frozen heart', that the definition of love is 'putting others before oneself' in self-sacrifice. It is quite powerful, considering Disney, I would say.

The premise of the story goes something like this:
 Anna, a fearless optimist, sets off on an epic journey - teaming up with rugged mountain man Kristoff and his loyal reindeer Sven - to find her sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter. Encountering Everest-like conditions, mystical trolls and a hilarious snowman named Olaf, Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom. From the outside Anna's sister, Elsa looks poised, regal and reserved, but in reality, she lives in fear as she wrestles with a mighty secret-she was born with the power to create ice and snow. It's a beautiful ability, but also extremely dangerous. Haunted by the moment her magic nearly killed her younger sister Anna, Elsa has isolated herself, spending every waking minute trying to suppress her growing powers. Her mounting emotions trigger the magic, accidentally setting off an eternal winter that she can't stop. She fears she's becoming a monster and that no one, not even her sister, can help her.
First of all, there are the two sisters: Elsa and Anna... I totally loved the opening scenes with the two little girls growing up and Elsa building her sister a snowman. Anna's song 'Do You Want to Build A Snowman?' is so sweet, and I was shedding a tear or two by the end of it. I truly felt sorry for Elsa as well in the unfolding events as she gets trapped by fear.

And then, they grow up and there is the coronation party - the song 'For the First Time in Forever' was funny but I think a little silly ^_^, oh well! Anna is cute. 'Love is an Open Door' was... meh. I mean, Kristoff is right; seriously, 'you get engaged to a fellow you just met?' But then, Elsa runs away and the land freezes in an eternal winter and I love what Anna does so much, her complete faith in her sister, and wanting to bring her back.

Elsa was a fascinating character. For all her coldness and aloofness, she loves her sister deeply and doesn't want to hurt her; so she lives in this fear that eventually leads to a place where she cannot keep it concealed anymore. The scene in her song 'Let it Go' showed her rebellion to all the rules and pressures of her life, which in of itself I did not like at all, but I was glad that the rest of the film helped show how in fact rebelling is not a way to run from your fears and will not only harm you but others also. In the end, when at last she realized that love is more powerful than her fear, she is free to be herself truly and show love. "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear." 1 John 4:18
And I totally loved Anna's character. She's so lively and optimistic, puts her foot in her mouth, is awkward and excitable, but she's also very loving and affectionate and hopes the best in people. She is such a darling! I can totally identify with her as a character. And her sacrifice, it was so beautiful and sad.
Then there was Kristoff, who was an ice-cutter by trade, who of course had no business once the kingdom was covered in ice! I loved his place in the story - helping Anna reach her sister. He's not your typical charming prince 'hero', but more of a true and caring friend ^_^.
The hint of Norwegian culture in the landscape/names/costumes was such a lovely addition to the film as well. The animation was magical and brilliant! And the music all round was a delight (all but for the two songs I mentioned earlier). 
But my favourite character would undoubtedly be Olaf, the snowman! He's just so much fun and kept me laughing all the way through the film. His incurable delight in the thought of summer, his totally optimistic and happy outlook on life... it is just so sweet. 'Oh, look at that. I've been impaled.' He had the best lines, and the most humour. My favourite song would have to be his ironic, Mary-Poppins style, 'In Summer'. IT IS SO CUTE!

But Olaf, for not having any skull (or BONES!), has some wise words. It was so sweet when he explains to Anna that true love is putting someone else and their needs before yourself. It’s not just an emotion, not just a feeling, but an act of self-sacrifice. And the ending, yep - it pretty much made me tear up! I think the ending has a very powerful message, and the way it turned about the definition of 'true love' to something so much more than simply romance (which did come along in the end too, just so you'd know) is something highly commendable.My two major 'cons' to the film was the end credits song being a re-praise of Elsa's song 'Let it Go' when in fact, that is not the true theme or message of the story; and also, there is a bit of the corny romantic scenes earlier in the film which were... ahem, typical of Disney. Otherwise, it was fun!