Thursday, June 30, 2011

Faith Deployed...Again: Hope and Comfort for Military Wives and Moms

"Hope and encouragement - I can think of no greater gift to give the military home front. Faith Deployed...Again is Christian military wives and mothers...cheering, encouraging, challenging, guiding, mentoring us in our journey to know the Author of Hope, Jesus Christ, while we combat the challenges of the military lifestyle."--Benita Koeman, Operation We Are Here

When my friend and former neighbor Kathy Guzzo told me she had contributed to a devotional for military wives and moms, I thought that was awesome!

I've kept in touch with Kathy through the years, and knew that her son Brian had been a Marine in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that she is active in supporting the troops and military families at home.

Faith Deployed...Again, by Jocelyn Green, includes 25 contributing authors from every branch of the U.S. military. Each brief but meaningful and practical devotion includes a question to ask yourself and a prayer.

Listen to this 2-minute clip from an interview with contributing author Kathy Guzzo.

Kathy conducts a ministry for military familes called "Hope at Home." To receive her newsletter, e-mail Kathy Guzzo at

From Faith

Kathy Guzzo is the mother of four adult children and the author of several articles for military families, including the brochure, “Deployment: What’s A Family To Do?” Her son served in the USMC from 2004-2008, which included deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan. She is the coordinator for Hope at Home Ministry in Rockford, Illinois, serving women with loved ones in the military. She also writes a bi-weekly newsletter sharing encouragement and resources with women across the country. Kathy and her husband of thirty-two years, Mickey, live in Rockford, Illinois.

Booking through Thursday: How Big is Your Library?

I'm participating today in Booking Through Thursday, where the question is:

What’s the largest your personal library has ever been? What’s the greatest number of books you’ve ever owned at one time? (Estimates are fine.)
Is your collection NOW the biggest it’s ever been? Or have you down-sized?
What’s the fewest number of books you’ve ever owned (not counting your pre-reading years)?
Wow, this is a tough question...I'm terrible at estimating!
I have six bookcases in my home full of books, most of them mine. I do think this is the largest amount of books I've ever had, and if we ever move, it's going to be quite a chore to load them all up.
The fewest amount of books were probably during my childhood, although even then I had a decent amount.
Like most bibliophiles, I fantasize about having a home library--one room lined with bookcases and set aside simply for the purpose of reading.
But owning a vast amount of books is never what it's been about for me. I DO want my own copies of all my favorite books. But for me it's mainly about the pleasure and enjoyment of the reading experience, not necessarily how large a library I can accrue.
Go here if you'd like to participate in Booking Through Thursday!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Too Rich for a Bride

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

I'm currently reading Too Rich for a Bride, by Mona Hodgson. After reading several fairly intense books in a row, it's nice to be enjoying a lighter romance set in the Old West!

Here's my teaser:

She was disappointed Tucker hadn't come, and there was no point in denying it. Especially since she seemed to be the only one avoiding the obvious--he had become much more than a mere curiosity to her.

Go to Should Be Reading to participate in Teaser Tuesday!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Saturday Review of Books: P.D. James' The Private Patient

I love the fictional character of Adam Dalgliesh. As I mentioned earlier, I totally picture the actor Clive Owen when I read a Dalgleish mystery. (Ironically--and I didn't put this together till just recently--Owen starred in the movie adaptation of James' book, The Children of Men.)

That being said, although I enjoyed The Private Patient and it kept me turning the pages, I'm a bit ambivalent about it.

First let me set the stage for you--this synopsis from

In James's stellar 14th Adam Dalgliesh mystery (after 2006's The Lighthouse), the charismatic police commander knows the case of Rhoda Gradwyn, a 47-year-old journalist murdered soon after undergoing the removal of an old disfiguring scar at a private plastic surgery clinic in Dorset, may be his last; James's readers will fervently hope it isn't. Dalgliesh probes the convoluted tangle of motives and hidden desires that swirl around the clinic, Cheverell Manor, and its grimly fascinating suspects in the death of Gradwyn, herself a stalker of minds driven by her lifelong passion for rooting out the truth people would prefer left unknown and then selling it for money.
My thoughts:

First of all, it's a bit disconcerting that Dalgleish doesn't show up until we're well into the book. This has been true of the two or three other Dalgleish mysteries I've read as well. Since he's my favorite character, I'd like for him to be involved earlier on. Maybe that's just me?

Also, I can't claim to be a conoisseur of mysteries, despite the fact that a few years ago I went on an avid Agatha Christie spree. But I personally enjoy a mystery where I'm really shocked and surprised by who the murderer is, when finally revealed.

That doesn't happen in this book--at least not for me.

Another thing. I had a hard time caring about any of the characters besides Dalgleish and his assistants, Kate and Benton. Most of the characters lacked anything that would draw me to them or make me care about them, including the murder victims.

So why did I keep reading, and actually find the book enjoyable?

Well, I like James' writing style. I DID want to find out who the murderer was. And yes, I really like Adam Dalgleish. He is a character who is three-dimensional...a poet, a detective, a handsome man, an enigma. Dalgleish is just very appealing.

"My" Adam Dalgleish--actor Clive Owen

I would recommend this book to mystery lovers. You may thoroughly enjoy it, and not be bothered by the few things that somewhat bothered me.

That's all despite the fact that when I reached the end of the book, it was oddly anti-climactic. Not a "Wow, that was a great book!" More like an, "Oh...OK."

I'm participating today in Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books. Click on the icon for more info!


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Booking through Thursday: Music to read by?

Participating today in Booking Through Thursday...and the question of the day is:

What, if any, kind of music do you listen to when you’re reading? (Given a choice, of course!)

My answer:

Unless I'm reading in a place where there's music already playing (a car while traveling, a waiting room, etc)--I don't listen to ANY music at all.

Here's the thing. I absolutely love reading and I absolutely love music. But they are each things that I like to immerse myself in completely. Given the choice, I want silence while I'm reading.

That's not to say I'm completely unable to focus if there's music playing. I definitely can and will. But as I said, given the choice, I don't want music or preferably any other noise while would just be a distraction.

Go here to participate in Booking Through Thursday!

*photo credit

Monday, June 20, 2011

Musing Mondays: Movies from Books?

UK poster for 2011 Jane Eyre movie

I'm participating today in Musing Mondays, hosted by Should Be Reading!

The question:

Do you like movies made from books? Which ones do you think have been done well — kept mostly to the plot of the book, etc?

Well, I never like the movie as much as I did the book. As you know if you love to read, you have a mental image in your mind of what's going on in the book--what a certain character looks like, etc. My vision of what the book "looks like" rarely matches the movie.

Also, having to squeeze a story into two hours of film time means much of the book gets omitted. Which is why I often enjoy the BBC mini-series of books more than movies made from them.

What really bothers me is if the movie takes major liberties with the plot, or even changes the author's philosophy or views. For example, although I enjoy seeing the Narnia books brought to life, C.S. Lewis's Christian worldview seems diluted or put on the back burner to me.

I thought the recent Jane Eyre movie did a very good job of condensing the book into a film while still being as true to the book as possible. Mia Wasikowska is my favorite movie Jane yet. As I've said before, she managed to be plain while still radiating a certain beauty.

Gone With the Wind was probably one of the best movies made from a book. It did an amazing job of capturing the book on film...and I did read the book before seeing the movie.

Below are some pictures from movies made from books. And if you're interested, you can go here for a list of the Top 100 Movies Based from Books.

I'm not a Harry Potter of Twilight fan, but it seems to me most fans are happy with the way the books translated to film.

How about you? Do you have a favorite movie made from a book?

Go here to participate in Musing Mondays!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Son of Hamas, by Mosab Hassan Yousef with Ron Brackin

It's rare that I step away from my beloved fiction to read a nonfiction book. Most often it's a biography.

Indeed, Son of Hamas: A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices is autobiographical, but it's a radical reading departure for me.

The Middle East and me

My life has been somewhat connected with the Middle East since I was a child and my parents were missionaries to Beirut, Lebanon.

My brother was born just a couple of weeks after my family was evacuated from Lebanon during the Six Day War in June of 1967.

(Ironically, my brother grew up to serve as a US Marine during the Gulf War, then as a contractor helping train Iraqi police and working alongside the military in Afghanistan.)

Just as I will never forget the beauty of the short time I spent in Lebanon, my heart is saddened at the ongoing violence and bloodshed in the region.

I guess those are the reasons I picked up Son of Hamas. I was intrigued by this story of the son of a founder and leader of West Bank terrorist organization Hamas.

Mosab Hassan Yousef

This from the book's website:

Since he was a small boy, Mosab Hassan Yousef has had an inside view of the deadly terrorist group Hamas. The oldest son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a founding member of Hamas and its most popular leader, young Mosab assisted his father for years in his political activities while being groomed to assume his legacy, politics, status . . . and power. But everything changed when Mosab turned away from terror and violence, and embraced instead the teachings of another famous Middle East leader.

Son of Hamas was not an easy read for me. I sometimes felt as if I were reading a history book and that I needed to focus to keep track of the various terrorist organizations and events, which sometimes seemed to run together.

But I wanted to read this book. My brother once shamed me because I couldn't name all the major terrorist organizations off the top of my head, despite the fact that I've worked in radio news for years.

I wanted to educate myself and delve into the inner workings of terrorism and counter-terrorism. Since Mosab ended up collaborating with Israeli intelligence agency Shin Bet for several years, I was definitely able to do that.

Mosab characterizes his father as a kind, humble, devout man who mostly cared about the welfare of his people. However, it became increasingly hard for Mosab to reconcile his father's gentleness--the man literally was unable to kill a bug!--with a person who would encourage and countenance the killing of thousands of innocent people in the name of Allah.

The remarkable power of God's Word

The ultimate reward for sticking with this gripping and violent book was a revelation. I've always known this, but it's still amazing to see it illustrated so vividly: God's Word has the power to dramatically change lives and situations.

At one point, Mosab is invited to a Bible study by a British missionary. As he's always been open to learning about other religions, he decides to go, sort of on a lark.

To his surprise, he really enjoys it. He's given a New Testament, and since gifts are precious in the Arab culture, he reads it.

Writes Mosab:

"I began at the beginning, and when I got to the Sermon on the Mount, I thought, Wow, this guy Jesus is really impressive! Everything he says is beautiful. I couldn't put the book down. Every verse seemed to touch a deep wound in my life. It was a very simple message, but somehow it had the power to heal my soul and give me hope.
Then I read this: 'You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbour and hate your enemy,' but I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven"(Matthew 5:43-45).

That was it! I was thunderstruck by these words. Never before I heard anything like this, but I knew this was the message I had been searching for all my life......."

There was no Damascus Road experience, but Mosab is ever more drawn to the God of the Bible and the teachings of Jesus, and eventually converts to Christianity.

I won't tell you anything else about the book, in case you decide to read it for yourself. If, like me, you're used to the entertainment of fiction, it may at times be a difficult read. But it's a remarkable one that will stay with you long after you close the book.

I'm participating in Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books--click on the icon for more info!


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Booking Through Thursday: High-Tech Reading?

I'm participating in Booking Through Thursday today, and the question is an excellent one:

With the advent (and growing popularity) of eBooks, I’m seeing more and more articles about how much “better” they can be, because they have the option to be interactive … videos, music, glossaries … all sorts of little extra goodies to help “enhance” your reading experience, rather like listening to the Director’s commentary on a DVD of your favorite movie.
How do you feel about that possibility? Does it excite you in a cutting-edge kind of way? Or does it chill you to the bone because that’s not what reading is ABOUT?

By eBooks, I'm assuming you're referring to books on Kindle, etc, as well as books available online?

Anyway...I've really given this some thought. My grown kids love to read, and both my sons have gone happily and enthusiastically into the Kindle age.

Around Christmas time, one of my sons asked me if I'd like a Kindle for Christmas, and I said no.

My main reason is that I don't just love reading. I love BOOKS. I love the feel of them, the smell of them, the look of them. I love holding one in my hand and turning the pages. I love the bookcases that decorate my home, chockful of, well, BOOKS!

"Mom, you'd end up loving it if you had one," my son assured me.

And he may be right. I can see an advantage or two of having a Kindle--the sheer amount of books it can hold, for one thing. While traveling, I wouldn't have to worry about the extra weight of books in my luggage.

And the interactivity of it appeals to me.

But I just can't see myself ever abandoning real books for a high-tech reading experience. If you look in the sidebar of this blog, you'll find a button that says, "I pledge to read the printed word."

I want to preserve the actual book, the actual printed page, before it becomes...a page in history.

Go here to participate in Booking Through Thursday!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Son of Hamas

Current read: Son of Hamas: A Gripping Account of Terror, Betrayal, Political Intrigue, and Unthinkable Choices, by Mossab Hassan Yousef with Ron Brackin

OK, so I almost feel a bit deceptive describing Son of Hamas as "the book I'm currently reading," because I've taken detours to read two or three other books at the same time! But hey, that's the way I roll.

And now I really am back to reading "Son of Hamas." So far, I've just read the chapters that are kind of a prelude to the real action of the story (this is one of my rare non-fiction forays). I have a feeling the action is fixin' to heat up.

Anyway, I'm participating in Teaser Tuesday, hosted by Should Be Reading, and here's how it works:

1. Grab your current read.
2. Open to a random page.
3. Share two “teaser” sentences, from somewhere on that page.
4. Be careful not to share “spoiler” sentences, that give away too much about the book.
5. Remember to share the title and author too.
6. Head on over to ‘should be reading’ and leave a link to your post, so that others can share it.

Here we go:

The next day, Ramallah was ablaze. People were running through the streets, shooting everything in sight.

You can participate too! Head over to Should Be Reading and leave your link.

My Review of Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro

I picked up Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go at the library; it had been on my to-read list for several weeks,and I finally found a copy, albeit large-print.

The book had gone on my to-read list solely on the strength of a blogger's review I read--I think it was part of Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books.

To that blogger, and I'm not sure who it was, THANK YOU for not spoiling it, because that would be so easy to do with this book. I'm going to try to review this book without revealing too much as well.

Thanks to the non-spoiled review, I went into the book completely ignorant of what it was really about, and I was able to let the story unfold for myself. I also did not know that a movie had been made of it. DON'T Google the movie if you plan on reading the book; it will probably give too much away.

I'll tell you, as the reviewer told me and other readers, that the book is about Kathy, a 31-year-old "carer" (as the British call caregivers)for patients she calls "donors."

Kathy was raised at an apparently exclusive school called Hailsham, where the students are instilled with the knowledge that they are somehow very special and unique.

Having recently re-connected with two of her best friends from Hailsham, Ruth and Tommy, Kathy spends much of the book reminiscing about her time at the school and afterwards, when some of the students are transferred to a place called the Cottages.

One reviewer called Never Let Me Go "a haunting story of friendship and love"...but it's much more than that. It doesn't take us long to begin to realize that there's something very strange about Hailsham.

The truth, when revealed, is shocking indeed. But although this is science fiction, you can see how something like this could be very plausible and even probable in our world's not-too-distant future.

Kathy narrates the story with gentle and un-dramatic prose, but as a reader, I was completely captured.

And even though (minor spoiler here) the indeed could not be a happy one, I was glad I read it. It was ultimately a very moving, fascinating and thought-provoking book.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Saturday Review of Books: Rosslyn Elliott's Fairer than Morning

Expecting a fairly fluffy historical romance, I was pleasantly surprised by a gripping story that wouldn’t let me stop turning pages

Isn't it great when a book totally exceeds your expectations?

When I picked up Rosslyn Elliott's Fairer than Morning, I was expecting a light, enjoyable romance. Having just read a fairly intense Dean Koontz book (What the Night Knows), I needed a change.

What I didn't expect was a solid, engrossing, compelling tale that would scarcely let me put it down (I started it yesterday and finished it tonight!)

Far from a fluffy romance, this novel has a gravitas that caught me pleasantly by surprise. Actually, the "romance" part isn't the main theme.

Instead, we step back in time to 1820's Pittsburgh, when quiet Christians courageously help slaves escape to freedom...when young apprentices could experience real cruelty at the hands of their masters...when the poverty-stricken and downtrodden are forced to live in poor-houses.

The story centers around Ann Miller, the daughter of a man who is a farmer, saddlemaker, and circuit-riding preacher; and Will Hanby, an orphan who eagerly accepts apprenticeship, only to find brutality.

Ann is a likable heroine, accepting her role as substitute mother to two little sisters with maturity and grace, while longing for love and marriage.

But I have to admit I looked forward to Will's scenes. When I read a story in which someone is treated with outrageous cruelty, I'm immediately caught up. Will grabbed my heart. I had to keep turning the pages in the hopes that he would find justice.

I also really liked Ann's father. I loved the way his humble, unassuming life illuminated Christ, with a quiet dignity and sacrificial kindness.

I also liked Rosslyn Elliott's writing style, which seemed perfectly in tune with the era about which she was writing--never a jarring anachronism or out-of-place phrase. Too, she lets her story unfold without any forced drama.

This is, frankly, one of the best books I've read in a while, of any genre. I'm glad it's just the first in a trilogy called "The Saddlemaker's Legacy," because I definitely want to read them all.

An interesting note: The story is based on true events in the lives of the real Will Hanby and Ann Miller--several of the things depicted in the book really happened. The few things that could seem even remotely far-fetched are some of the very things that actually took place.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Wynn-Wynn Media. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Would you do me a favor and "like" my Facebook page (in the right margin)? I would greatly appreciate it! Thanks!

I'm participating today in Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books. Click on the icon to find out more!


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Booking Through Thursday: Own or Borrow?

Participating in Booking through Thursday today:

All things being equal (money, space, etc), would you rather own copies of the books you read? Or borrow them?

This is one question that's impossible for me to answer just one way--even with "all things being equal."

There are some books I just have to own. Pride and Prejudice. Great Expectations. Jane Eyre. Little Women. The Chronicles of Narnia.

And, of course, many lesser known books that I simply love and want to read again and again.

Some of them I only have in paperback form now, and am slowly obtaining hardcover versions.
Other books I see no need to own. Reading them once is an enjoyable experience, but one I'm not likely to ever need to repeat. Those can stay in their library home, and I'm fine with that.

Yet other books will be given or loaned to my mother, who is an avid reader--ones that I think she'll particularly enjoy.

So, to own or to borrow? It just depends on the book. (By the way, I don't worry too much about space. I will FIND a place to put books.)

Go here to participate in Booking Through Thursday!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

My review of PARIS, paris: Journey into the City of Light

“David Downie’s prose illuminates Paris with an unequaled poignancy and passion. He understands and evokes the soul and the substance of the city with a critic’s intelligence and a lover’s heart. He makes me want to live in Paris again.”—Don George, Contributing Editor, National Geographic Traveler

It's funny, I've been fascinated with Paris all my life, although I've never been there, and although my impressions of it are limited to a myriad of photographs and images from movies and books.

It's as if Paris was a celebrity that I've admired from afar and always wanted to meet. Well, through this book--PARIS, paris: Journey into the City of Light, by David Downie, I feel I've done just that.

A long time resident of the city, Downie truly takes us on a journey--introducing us to fascinating neighborhoods, plazas, cathedrals, museums, even cemeteries--as well as the gritty underbelly that is the underground catacombs.

An avid walker, Downie has physically sauntered down every Paris street or tree-filled plaza of which he writes, and it shows. I had to remark to myself that although I've lived in my city for 32 years, I would never be able to write about it with the first-hand knowledge and intimacy with which Downie writes about Paris.

With the loving but realistic perspective of a Parisien, Downie shows us the city, warts and all. And not just the city, but some of the more famous and/or fascinating people of the city--like Coco Chanel, Modigliani, Beaumarchais, Paris artisans,even the subculture of boat people who ply the waters of the Seine in small boats.

Downie's wealth of knowledge about his subject, both historical and trivial, enhances every page of this little book. With his lovely, evocative prose, it reads more like literature than a travel book. The reader has to pay close attention to catch every fascinating nugget of information, and it's well worth it.

Anyone who is a lover of history or who has ever dreamed of visiting Paris must read this book. You will come away, as I did, having a much richer acquaintance with the City of Light than ever before...and an even greater desire to go there.

I won this book through a blog give-away from the lovely Camille of The Wildfleur (formerly Paris in Pink). Merci beaucoup, Camille--it's a treasure!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Are you a true bibliophile?

I consider myself a bibliophile--a lover of books. Actually, an avid, passionate lover of books.

So when I ran across this list of 75 Signs You're a True Bibliophile, I had to check it out.

Frankly, I don't have all the signs, according to this list--which seems like it was created for college students who pride themselves on being intellectual. And although I've read widely, I didn't "get" a lot of the references and literary allusions. I guess I'm just not edjamacated enough. :)

However, many of the signs DID strike a very real chord with me. Here are some of the ones that did:

14. You’d read in the car if you could.
Some of the more daring bibliophiles amongst us are probably guilty of sneaking in a page or 2 at red lights…

26. You actually know the difference between you’re/your, they’re/their/there and it’s/its.
And you deserve a pat on the back for it! Just don’t get cocky and start correcting everyone else in a condescending tone, OK?

30. You think Kindles, Nooks, iPads and other electronic books take a little something away from the reading experience.
Just kidding! That actually makes you a Luddite.

40. You actually read the included supplementary material.
To you, the forwards, afterwards and essays included in a volume deserve careful perusal just as much as the actual novels themselves.

42. You love incorporating books into your home d├ęcor.
Some of the more intense cases among you may pick out tomes you love with covers that convey the specific aesthetic you desire. The bibliophiliac community is split over interior designers who construct furniture and other decorative items out of old books.

45. Broken spines seem almost like injuries.
More serious bibliophiles tend to anthropomorphize their collections on occasion, and breaking the spines of books almost makes them weep in empathy for its pain.

47. You hate moving.
Not because you’re antisocial or agoraphobic, but because packing and unpacking hundreds – if not thousands – of books is a real pain in the patootie.

49. You consider dog-earing a sacrilege.
Though a venial sin compared to the mortal offense of breaking a book’s spine, dogearing still compromises its delicate structure.

50. You never walk out of a bookstore empty-handed.
Even if you walk into a bookstore with no particular purchase in mind, you always seem to throw down the debit card for something that popped out. Always. Invariably.

57. You can tell the difference between British and American English
It’s a lot more than just “colour” vs. “color,” and you know it! Bonus points for any readers able to pick out Canadian English without any external hints.

60. You didn’t join a book club…you started one.
And you actually set up said book club so participants actually read rather than guzzle down wine, gossip about how Betty’s wife left her for a nubile young flight attendant and discuss why Mr. Darcy is OMG HOT and why every man ever should just drop everything and be him. [Note from Cindy: My actual book club isn't in existence anymore, but it was sure fun while it lasted!]

65. Someone always gives you a fancy bookmark as a gift every year…
Bibliophiles are actually quite easy to shop for, provided you don’t actually buy them books (they’re particular, you know). Just buy them a lovely, fancy bookmark for their birthdays and watch the gratitude unfold.

66. …and you usually use 2-4 at a time.
Many bibliophiles suffer from a particular form of ADD unique to their kind. Rather than reading 1 book at a time, they often have a multitude of different books going simultaneously. Usually this has to do with a read corresponding to a particular mood, though not infrequently do literature junkies simply grow too excited to wait.

75. You really, really, really, really, really, really, really like books.
At the end of the day, isn’t that more or less the literal definition of “bibliophile” when translated from the original Greek?

Photo credits:
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Friday, June 3, 2011

Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis

As I've mentioned earlier, I'm on a bit of a Connie Willis binge. It all started with To Say Nothing of the Dog, and before you know it, I was hooked on Willis' time-traveling Oxford historians.

I read Blackout, All Clear (read my reviews of those books here), and even a couple of Willis' non-time-travel sci-fi tales--Passage and Lincoln's Dreams.

But I finally found Doomsday Book at my local library, and plunged into one of the most compelling books I've ever read.

Kivrin is a young history student in 2048 Oxford who is determined to go back in time to visit 14th century England. That's despite the misgivings of her mentor and instructor, Mr. Dunworthy, who obviously feels a fatherly affection and concern for the young woman.

The Middle Ages were an extremely dangerous time. So many things could go wrong, from fatal disease to raping and marauding highwaymen. Not to mention messed-up time travel.

The best-laid plans...

But the Oxford time travelers are nothing if not prepared for just about any contingency. Kivrin has been vaccinated against everything, including Bubonic Plague, which isn't even supposed to happen until quite a few years after her visit.

She's also been schooled in every detail of how a young woman was supposed to act and look in 1320, including lessons in horseback riding, spinning wool, and embroidery--and she's even had a chip implanted that will interpret what passed as the English language in those days.

But if everything went smoothly, there would be no story. And believe me, everything does NOT go smoothly.

Problems in the future...

While Kivrin is trying to survive in the Middle Ages, there's a terrible problem in 2048 Oxford--a fast-moving epidemic of a deadly and baffling disease. It ends up striking many of the people that are concerned with getting Kivrin back to the future, including Mr. Dunworthy.

The juxtaposition of the desperate crises in two separate realities makes for some extraordinarily intense and compelling reading.

At the same time, I like Willis' ability to provide lighter moments to offset the drama. She's able to narrate even such a heavy tale in a calm and even matter-of-fact way.

An admirable heroine

I really liked Kivrin. Her courage, compassion and endurance blossoms under the most dreadful circumstances.

Mr. Dunworthy has become a favorite of mine as well, thanks to his very real concern for his historians.

And you've got to love 12-year-old Colin Templer, who provides some of the lighter moments in the book...and who also figures prominently in All Clear.

Religious questions

As a Christian, I had a bit of a problem with Mr. Dunworthy's identifying with God the Father's concern for the mistreatment of his Son. While reading scripture at a church service, he relates his desire to rescue Kivrin from the Middle Ages to God wanting to rescue Jesus from the cruelty he suffered on the cross.

This theme runs through Dunworthy's compulsion to find any way possible to get Kivrin out of her predicament. It's faulty, though--because Christians know that Jesus' death was the heart of the divine plan of redemption. God wouldn't have wanted to rescue him, because his death was the means of the world's salvation.

It's a minor quibble as far as the story goes, though.

And one of the real heroes of the story is the priest in the village where Kivrin ends up. Though poor, illiterate, and unable to preach flowery and eloquent sermons, his tireless compassion and love for his flock mark him as a genuine man of God. Father Roche will touch your heart.

Doomsday Book was ultimately uplifting and hopeful. I have to agree with this assessment from the review:

The book, which won Hugo and Nebula Awards, draws upon Willis' understanding of the universalities of human nature to explore the ageless issues of evil, suffering and the indomitable will of the human spirit.
I wholeheartedly recommend this book to those of you who are fascinated with history and time travel, and who don't mind staying up late to read a story that won't let you go.

I'm participating today in Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books! Click on the icon to participate.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Booking through Thursday: Do You Read Reviews?

I'm participating again today in Booking Through Thursday, where the questions are:

Do you read book reviews? Whose do you trust? Do they affect your reading habits? Your buying habits?

The answer? You bet I do!

I have always paid attention to book reviews, even way before I had a blog. I would read the reviews in USA Today (I really liked Deirdre Donahue's reviews), women's magazines and the like.

Since starting blogging, and especially since starting this book blog, book reviews have definitely influenced my reading and buying habits.

A recent case in point: I read (actually bought it, at Borders!) Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog because of a review I read that was part of Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books, and it kicked off a spree of reading Connie Willis books. (I'm still looking for a couple of them.)

I also got into P.D. James' Adam Dalgleish mysteries thanks to a Saturday Review of Books review.

Those are just a couple of recent examples. I'm sure there are more, and at least 5 books on my Goodreads "to-read" list are there because I read bloggers' favorable reviews.

Now, I wouldn't necessarily avoid a book if a reviewer didn't like it, but it would weigh in my decision...and if a reviewer genuinely raves about the book, I'll definitely be influenced to read it.

How about you?

If you're visiting from Booking Through Thursday, please, please, please leave a comment, even if it's a very short one! I'd love to know you stopped by.

You can participate in Booking Through Thursday here!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

WWW Wednesdays: What's in your book stack?

I'm participating today in WWW Wednesdays, hosted by Should Be Reading. It's simple:

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…
• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading: Murder on the Cliffs, by Joanna Challis

Just Read: The Irish Princess, by Karen Harper

Here's what I wrote about The Irish Princess on

This book no doubt deserves more stars than I gave it. It's really a well-written book. It's just that I was distracted during the reading of it, and I never felt like I gave it my full attention. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, especially Tudor history, and the main character is very appealing.

After reading some books that simply would not let me go, this book was one that was comparatively easy for me to neglect. But that doesn't mean it wouldn't be extremely enjoyable for someone else.

What I'll Read Next:

Something off my to-read list, depending on library availability!

I'm hoping to read either Julie Klassen's The Girl in the Gatehouse, Flora Thompson's
Lark Rise to Candleford, Mine is the Night by Liz Curtis Higgs, and/or Bellwether, by Connie Willis.

Click on the icon to participate in WWW Wednesdays:


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