Archive for July, 2012


Stardust

Stardust

One of my uncles is a great connoisseur of movies. Because of this, I have been exposed to many titles that I would never have even heard of otherwise. His choices are never dependently good or bad; there are plenty of both to go around.
A few nights before we returned home from our vacation in Mexico, he suggested that we (meaning himself, my brothers, and I) watch Stardust. I’d heard him talk about Stardust many times, and I very cheerfully agreed that his idea was a good one. The movie was inserted into the computer, and someone hit play. A few hours later, the movie ended and I decided that this time he had chosen a movie in the “good” category. Stardust is absolutely brilliant! According to Wikipedia’s description, it’s a “British romantic comedy fantasy film”. May I just say, those Brits sure know how to make quality shows!
The basic plot of Stardust is something like this: a young man named Dunstan Thorn goes through a magical barrier (which happens to just be a wall) and finds himself in the town of Stormhold. An enslaved princess offers him a charmed flower in exchange for a kiss. He stays with her for the rest of the day, and returns to his home in the village of Wall (which is a super cool name). Nine months later, a baby named Tristan is delivered to him, and he is left on his own to raise him.
The story picks up eighteen years later, and Tristan’s got problems of his own. He is infatuated by a wealthy, beautiful girl named Victoria Forester, but he doesn’t really stand a chance of getting her to love him because she’s more interested in a wealthy man named Humphrey than she is in him. However, a week before her birthday (the day she knew Humphrey was going to propose to her), Victoria agrees to go on an outing with Tristan. While there, he tries to convince her of his love, but she doesn’t change her opinion. As he speaks with her, a star falls out of the sky, and he promises to retrieve it and bring it to her as a birthday present.
Turns out, the star that fell is a woman named Yvaine who is being hunted by multiple people for a variety of reasons. However, Tristan is able to find her first, which sets them both up for an unexpected adventure.
I won’t say any more about the plot for fear of spoiling something, but I will say again that it is a fantastic movie! The characters are all interesting, convincing, and hilarious. To make things even better, the main antagonist of the story, a witch-queen named Lamia, is not only entertaining but makes a phenomenal villain. I’d definitely have to say that my movie recommendation for the day is without a doubt Stardust.
End of book quote: “Three words whispered menacingly in his ear: “Good-bye, Mr. Hunter.” —Black by Ted Dekker

Walking And Reading

Walking And Reading

I’ve never understood how people can walk and read at the same time. It seems to be a far-fetched dream of book lovers that anyone would be able to multitask so efficiently. Unfortunately, while I like the idea, I just don’t see how it is possible.
There just aren’t many examples that I can look to for evidence. Sure, there are scenes in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and Pride & Prejudice of the heroines successfully walking and reading at the same time, but those aren’t real occasions. Belle can’t prove if anything is possible because she’s an animated character, and the creators of the movie easily made it so that she could attempt such a strenuous task without running into anyone. I’m afraid Elizabeth Bennet doesn’t prove much either. She had the benefit of being an actress; therefore I can conclude that she probably was not truly reading the book she is shown to be scrutinizing in the opening scenes of the Keira Knightley version of the movie.
However, I can now say that I have seen a person read and walk in real life. My cross-country team meets for practice early every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning at a park about fifteen minutes away from my house. On occasion, we end up exiting the park by the back way as part of our various runs. The back entrance leads out onto a pretty calm street about a quarter of a mile long. That same street is where I first saw a lady walking and reading at the same time. My friend and I have noticed her two or three times now: she is always going towards the park on the side of the road with a book in hand, and so far, she seems to have gotten by pretty well. How she’s managed that, I have absolutely no idea. Personally, I would be worried that a passing car would run over me or a snake that went unnoticed would bite me or some other tragic event would occur; but as far as I know, the superhuman lady has gone unharmed.
The only way I can find out for sure if walking and reading at the same time is possible is to try doing it myself; but as I mentioned before, I am afraid of being ran over or eaten. Maybe the answer to my question is like the one in the Tootsie Pop commercial (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jhjb4P_jnKk&feature=related): “the world may never know”.
Before I post this, I want to give a shout out to Letizia and her blog “readinginterrupted” for inspiring me to blog about this in the first place. http://readinginterrupted.com/2012/07/19/library-to-go/
Also, a special happy birthday to my mom!
End of book quote: “But she smiled to herself.” —The Doll People by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin

One Day Book Challenge

There I was last night, sitting on my bed and browsing through some interesting blogs, and I happened to stumble across a blog called “b00kends” (http://b00kends.wordpress.com/). The author of b00kends was in the middle of a Thirty Day Book Challenge, and I was inspired! The thing is, I don’t really want to take thirty days to have continuous short posts about a whole lot of books, so I’ve decided to make the Thirty Day Book Challenge a One Day Book Challenge. Woo! So, without further ado, here I go*:
Day 1: Favorite book: The King of Attolia (and the other three books in the series) by Megan Whalen Turner
Day 2: Least favorite book: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (I’ve never understood why it’s a classic.)
Day 3: Book that makes you laugh out loud: All My Friends Are Dead by Avery Monsen and Jory John
Day 4: Book that makes you cry: The Chosen by Chaim Potok
Day 5: Book you wish you could live in: Hm, that’s a hard one. I’m going to have to go with The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley
Day 6: Favorite young adult book: Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith
Day 7: Book that you can quote/recite: The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
Day 8: Book that scares you: Adam by Ted Dekker
Day 9: Book that makes you sick: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Day 10: Book that changed your life: Is it cheating to say The Bible?
Day 11: Book from your favorite author: The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (can you tell that I love her?)
Day 12: Favorite male character: Eugenides from The Queen’s Thief series by (you guessed it!) Megan Whalen Turner
Day 13: Favorite female character: This is a hard one, but I think I’m going to go with Macey McHenry from the Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter simply to give that series a mention on this list
Day 14: A book you used to love, but don’t anymore: the Maximum Ride series by James Patterson
Day 15: First “chapter book” you can remember reading as a child: anything from The Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne
Day 16: Longest book you’ve read: The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon
Day 17: Shortest book you’ve read: But Not The Hippopotamus by Sandra Boynton
Day 18: Favorite classic book: The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy
Day 19: A book you thought you wouldn’t like, but ended up loving: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (the first half killed me, but the second half was really good)
Day 20: Book you’ve read the most number of times: The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
Day 21: Favorite picture book from childhood: Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola
Day 22: Book you plan to read next: The Ordinary Princess by M. M. Kaye
Day 23: Book you never finished: The (Unabridged) Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
Day 24: Book that contains your favorite scene: The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
Day 25: Favorite book you read in school: Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
Day 26: Favorite nonfiction book: Stalin: A Biography by Robert Service
Day 27: Favorite fiction book: see day 1, but to mix things up a little bit, I’ll add The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Day 28: Last book you read: So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish by Douglas Adams
Day 29: Book you’re currently reading: Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams
Day 30: Book you’re excited to read in the near future: A Barrel of Laughs, A Vale of Tears by Jules Feiffer

*I took the liberty of changing “days” 12-14, 18-19, 23, and 30 because I didn’t have answers to the original questions.

That was much harder to do than I expected it to be. Well, there you have it! My list of many things book related. Take that, One Day Book Challenge, you have been conquered!
End of book quote: “But not the armadillo.” —But Not The Hippopotamus by Sandra Boynton

The Amazing Spider-Man

Last week, I grabbed ten dollars and a knapsack, and headed out the door with most of my family to drive to the theater. After a quick stop to pick up one of my younger brother’s friends, we arrived at the mall. My brother, his friend, and I exited the car and headed inside where a group of my friends were waiting to meet up with me. In only a few short minutes, we went inside and took our seats (they were pretty good ones, right in the center). The previews were showing, so we sat patiently until the lights dimmed and The Amazing Spider-Man began.
May I just say that the title describes the movie quite well. I loved it! I’ve never really liked the original Spider-Man because of numerous plot holes and unbelievable characters, but The Amazing Spider-Man did an incredible job of fixing those problems.
For starters, the acting was much better in the remake. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone were the perfect people to cast for the roles of Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. They pull of the awkward high school romance beautifully. The older Spider-Man never made any of the younger characters seem like actual high schoolers. Sure, Peter Parker was nerdy and MJ was popular and out-of-reach, but they never came across as believable, angst-filled teenagers.
This brings me to another perk. I never liked MJ as a character. Not only was she a bit of a pansy, but it never made sense that she would end up liking Parker. She was popular and she had a lot of boys to choose from, but she went for the dork. However, Gwen Stacy came across much better. She was Peter’s intellectual equal, and she proved herself to be independent and able to take care of herself. Not only that, but she was also not way out of his reach. She spent time with one of the popular kids, but she tutored him, she was not dating him. So, their relationship made a whole lot more sense.
Peter Parker himself was a much more interesting character than he was in the first edition. He was incredibly intelligent and obviously loved photography, but he had more depth than that. Marc Webb, the director, did a brilliant job of making Parker’s back story more than him losing his parents at a young age. Instead, there were hints that there was something far more sinister at play in their deaths. Webb also did a wonderful job of keeping Peter’s emotions real throughout the movie. Peter doesn’t fit in perfectly with his aunt and uncle; he had many moments where he disappointed them and couldn’t accept their authority because they weren’t his actual parents.
After his uncle died, he didn’t decide to become a hero because his uncle said something that inspired him. He started hunting down thugs because he wanted revenge. There was no fake sense of nobility, there was only hatred for the man who murdered his uncle. His nobility was sparked after he saved a young boy from falling to his death after the Lizard attacked for the first time, which seems more understandable than the first movie’s motivation.
This brings me to another important aspect of any movie: the villain. A lot of people have claimed that the Lizard is a weak villain, but I think that works in a beginning Spider-Man movie. Spider-Man logically can’t be a professional hero in his first movie; he had no idea what he was doing, so if the Lizard had been, say, the Green Goblin, Peter probably would have died.
I’ve also heard some complaints that the new movie spent too much time developing a story that had already been told, but I think it was necessary. The remake was to give a new perspective on an old story, but that doesn’t change the fact that the plot line is still inherently the same. People seem to forget that The Amazing Spider-Man is a remake of the original movie, meaning it starts at the beginning. With that in mind, I think Webb was smart not to give Parker’s back story ten minutes and then move on to the action. Instead, he drew out the back story, and made it flow a lot better than the original did.
So, in my opinion, if anyone wants to go see a good movie, I would recommend The Amazing Spider-Man.
“Then shouldering their burdens, they set off, seeking a path that would bring them over the grey hills of Emyn Muil, and down into the Land of Shadow.” —The Fellowship Of The Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

Pride & Prejudice

Pride And Prejudice

Like many women out there, one of my favorite chick-flicks of all times is easily Pride & Prejudice. Now, I know that most guys out there are probably groaning right now, and thinking, “Really? Again? Why can’t you watch something good for once?”, but I’m a female. I like watching other people go through emotional/romantic angst. It’s entertaining.
There is, however, more to the movie (and by extension, the book) than people first expect to see. The first few times I ever watched Pride & Prejudice, I remember hating it. Granted, a few years ago, I was always one of the most stubborn tomboys among my peers; and when I first watched the movie, I was in full tomboy mode. I still thought what most boys assume about chick flicks. In other words, I assumed that it was all horrible, gooey romance that was good for absolutely nothing.
Unfortunately for all the males reading this, I’ve changed a lot since then, and have become infinitely more feminine in my tastes. Now when I watch P&P (as I have decided to abbreviate Pride & Prejudice), I find myself chuckling at the comedy in different people’s relationships, and relating to more of the characters. It really is a quality film. The plot line is good, the drama is entertaining and more or less realistic, the awkwardness is comically overbearing, and the characters are fascinating. Those are standards I like to see in any movie whether action film or romantic comedy.
But for me, what really makes P&P so excellent, is its main character: Elizabeth Bennet. If she was real, I would be her friend. Not only is she intelligent, dedicated, and responsible, but she is also funny, clever, and incredibly headstrong. She knows what she wants, and no one can change her mind except for her. The harsh exchanges she has over and over again with Mr. Darcy are absolutely brilliant! At many different points throughout the movie, she can be found insulting Darcy slyly enough to make her words are all the more cutting. She is truly an ingenious character!
Of course, she ends up realizing that Darcy isn’t what he seems, and they have their happy, stereotypical chick-flick ending, but I still don’t mind watching P&P time and time again just to watch Elizabeth ingeniously interacting with the people in her daily life.

“She began to untie it.” —The City Of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

Faith Without Works

“This faith is not like a deed to a house in which one may live with full rights of possession. It is more like a kit of tools with which a man may build a house. The tools will be worth just what he does with them. When he lays them down, they will have no value until he takes them up again.” –The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas

Faith in God is not the easy way to get to Heaven. It never has been, and it never will be. In fact, we are promised that we will suffer just as Christ himself did, but it is all worth it. Philippians 3:8 says, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”

That verse is beautiful to me because there is an all-powerful God who loves us enough to give his own son up to die for us. Nothing can ever separate us from that love if we should choose to accept it; not sin, not pain, not hardship, not our faults, or even all the mistakes we have ever made. It’s crazy to think anyone could love so selflessly, yet God proves us wrong time and time again.

There are so many pictures of his endless love painted in the Bible. The entire book of Hosea is a representation of God’s love for us. For any who does not know the story, God commanded Hosea to marry a prostitute named Gomer, and stay faithful to her even when she did not stay faithful to him. Symbolically, the relationship between Gomer and Hosea represents the relationship between God and his people; with the Lord constantly bringing his children home after they continuously stray back to their sin. The book of Hosea still applies to us today. We will never be perfect, but Christ pursues us anyway.

When we discover our love for God, it is easy to understand why James 2:14-17 is so true. [“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”] Faith prompts us to act in ways we never would otherwise. When a person dedicates their life to Christ, it is no small commitment because following God is not a simple task.

God does not hesitate to call us out of our comfort zones, but it is up to us to decide whether to obey or not. Lloyd C. Douglas put this idea into words excellently in the quote I used above. If we choose not to act upon our belief in God, then how can we claim to be wholly devoted to him? That being said, we will fail to act through faith over and over and over again, but God does not abandon us even though we can never measure up.

I am dwelling on these things tonight because of my baptism yesterday. It was an incredible time for me. My family and a few friends were able to attend, and their attendance meant the world to me. But more importantly, God proved to me once again that he is working in my life.

A few days ago, I blogged about my concerns for my upcoming baptism. I was stressed about not fully understanding what baptism meant, and went through an anxious period over the last week, but God did not leave me in that state of mind. He answered my prayers two days ago with only a short time left to spare before I was actually baptized.

I spoke with one of my good friends while we were on a run, and realized that God did not require me to fully understand what baptism meant. Instead, I firmly believe that he desired me to act on faith, and obey him no matter what my comfort level was. After I got home from Cross Country practice that morning, I felt at peace with my decision to go through with getting baptized. As I explained to my mom, I don’t think Abraham quite understood what he was doing when God commanded him to be circumcised [Genesis 17], and he didn’t need to. God worked through him even though his comprehension was limited, and I figured that God could easily do the same with me.

While I am still unclear about baptism in its entirety, I am overjoyed that I was baptized last night. It was the absolute perfect time, and God knew that and prepared me for it. I am immensely grateful to God for blessing me with such an incredible night with him and my friends and family, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

End of book quote: “And when the colt, nothing but a bundle of legs and wet fur as black as Enna’s hair, fell into her arms, Ani might hear a name.” —The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

Of Monsters And Men

Of Monsters And Men

If I could pick any band in the world to write like, it would be Of Monsters And Men. The band is made up of six people, and everyone in it is from Iceland. That alone would be enough to interest me, but there’s much more to the band than where they are from.
So far, they have released one album called My Head Is An Animal. In my personal opinion, the album is fantastic! I love the majority of the songs, and there are no tracks that I just don’t like. Every single one is well-written and well-performed.
I commented that if I could choose to write like any band, I would write like this one. Their songs are incredibly original in every aspect. I’ve never heard anyone with a voice as distinctive as those of the two main singers: Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Ragnar “Raggi” Þórhallsson (see, I told you they were from Iceland). The ideas they sing about are as fresh and fascinating as their voices and musical style. Somehow, they manage to write dark lyrics while making their songs sound upbeat and enjoyable. For example, in one of my favorite songs on the album, “Little Talks”, the lyrics paint a story of a couple who end up distanced because the woman goes insane. The brilliance in the song, however, is found in the indirect way that her insanity is revealed. You are never told straight-out that she loses her mind, but it is constantly implied.
The thing is, everything I say about their music is what I dream of people saying about my writing. I want my voice to be distinctive and fresh; my words to be striking and powerful, but in a way that prods readers to have to think. So, there you have it. Of Monsters And Men is a wonderful band, and I want to write like they make music.
End of book quote: “But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.” —The House At Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne

The Blogging Community

The Blogging Community

When I first started blogging about two years ago, I never thought I would end up in a community full of like-minded people. Naively, I was convinced that I would jot down my thoughts, then a few of my friends or family members would read it, and that would be the end of it. But I was so incredibly wrong.
As it turns out, blogging is one hundred times more enjoyable when you share experiences with people all around the world that you don’t know. I follow three blogs: Outside Air by the wonderful Kari Andrews, The Bookshelf of Emily J. written by the witty Emily January (whose name I love), and Blissfully Bowers penned by my cousin, Nicole Bowers. I absolutely love what all of them write, and I have been inspired to think about things I never would have without first reading their thoughts.
For example, I never would have come up with the idea to start posting pictures in all of my posts unless I had started reading blogs like those by the three fantastic ladies I listed above. Fortunately, I didn’t stop there. A few random bloggers I didn’t know found my blog through WordPress and liked some of my posts. In return, I went and looked at their blogs, and loved a lot of the stuff I found.
Now I take the time to search out new blogs that discuss topics I’m interested in, and it’s a beautiful way to interact with people I’ve never met before and will probably never meet.
So if you have a blog, and you’ve never tried interacting with the blogging community, I would highly recommend that you check it out!
End of book quote, “It is also a fact that M. Chauvelin, the accredited agent of the French Republican Government, was not present at that or any other social function in London, after that memorable evening at Lord Grenville’s ball.” —The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

Baptism

One of the hardest things for me to do in life is to trust God completely. There’s always a part of me that wants to hold back; that isn’t sure trusting God is the best option available even though I’ve been told a countless number of times that God will never let me down. I believe that is true, but there are so many times when I forget about it.
Right now I am experiencing one of those times of forgetfulness. I am getting baptized in a few days, but I’m not at all excited about it. In my mind, baptism has never stood out as something incredibly important for me to do. I’ve grown up in a Christian home with a Christian family at a Christian school, so making a public declaration of faith never seemed like a practical use of time. The only reason I am getting baptized at all is because I feel that, as a believer, I am supposed to as baptism is something God wants us to do. After all, even Jesus himself was baptized.
When I spoke with my mom about my concerns, she told me that she thought my concerns showed I was living out my faith. As Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” I’m not sure if she’s correct or not, but I do know one thing for sure: my hope is in God, and I want to have confidence in him and what he tells me to do. However, even with all this in mind, I can’t bring myself to relax.
Colossians 2:11-13 makes it clear that baptism is a symbol of us dying with Christ and being resurrected with him [“In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses”]. That passage shows how important baptism is in general, but I can’t wrap my mind around what that means specifically for me. I really want my baptism to mean more than just proclaiming my faith to my Christian associates. It seems like baptism is supposed to be an important step in maturing in faith, but I can’t convince myself that it makes any difference at all.
I am trying to trust that God will give me wisdom to understand the importance of baptism if that’s what I need, but I can’t help worrying about what I don’t comprehend while I wait for understanding. For all I know, I’ll never be taught why baptism is so important to Christianity, but I hope to figure it out someday soon (preferably before I actually get baptized).
End of book quote: “There was a point to this story, but it has temporarily escaped the chronicler’s mind.” —So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish by Douglas Adams

Mountains

Mountains

A lot of people out there love the ocean. They love to go to any place that has a beach, nice waves, and plenty of sunshine. After all, what isn’t there to like? God created some gorgeous places.

However, I happen to not fall into that category. For me, the ocean has always been a place that I’m not terribly excited to go to. It doesn’t really make sense. I can swim perfectly well so I don’t bother to fear drowning. As I already mentioned, oceans are breathtaking and I love to look at them, but I don’t enjoy being in them (though I endure it when I’m kite boarding). You see, I’m not a huge fan of swimming or wearing bathing suits for long periods of time or getting salt water in my mouth and eyes.

So there you have it, I don’t really like going to the beach.

What I do love is ocean’s opposite: mountains. Every moment of my childhood that I can remember was surrounded by mountains. Mountains, like oceans, are enormous, breathtaking, and incredibly scenic. But in my eyes, mountains are far superior. I’d take a hike over sitting around on a beach any day. My love for the mountains goes so deep that I’ve never been a huge fan of areas where mountains are practically nonexistent. When I can’t see peaks in the distance, there’s a part of me that feels exposed. So when I go to places like South Dakota and North Carolina, I always feel homesick for my Arizona mountains. What can I say? I’m a mountain girl and always will be!

Last line book quote: “Some day it may seem worth while to take up the story of the younger ones again and see what sort of men and women they turned out to be; therefore it will be wisest not to reveal any of that part of their lives at the present.” —Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain