Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Reading: October Baby by Eric Wilson

Okay.  To start off this review I must state, as I usually do it seems, why I picked up this book.  I heard of October Baby from a friend on Tumblr.  I was scrolling through her page and saw this movie poster and I watched the trailer and literally started crying.  I began watching lots of behind the scenes stuff for the film and even downloaded the soundtrack but had no means to see the film at the time so I basically had to sit and wait desperately for the film to come out on DVD.  To my satisfaction, I saw there was a novel version so I decided to buy it.  October Baby is essentially about a girl named Hannah who discovers that she is the result of a failed abortion attempt.  Being someone who is pro-life, this message is something that I hold close to my heart and I knew I had to divulge into the story sooner or later!
Immediately after I finished the book, I had the luxury of watching the film on Netflix!  If you have Netflix, I would recommend you watch this film!  It is truly special.  The film isn't anywhere near the status of the Dark Knight but it is a typical drama movie with a lot of heart! Would I recommend you read the book?  Not so much.  In fact, avoid it at all costs.
It isn't a usual occurrence to see me state that I liked the movie better than the book.  The only film off hand that I can think of that I liked better than the book would be the Wizard of Oz and Phantom of the Opera.  Anyway, the book is an exact adaption of the film with a few minor scenes added that seem to be there to serve the purpose of adding depth but actually make this book worse (just a note, this book was written after the film so it is adapted from the film).  So what made the film way better than the book if it was exactly the same?  Well there were a lot of things.  I've never read Eric Wilson before so I was going into this read with fresh eyes.  I've heard of most of his novels though.  The book started off on a nice pace, but as it continued it became loaded with childish descriptions and awkward character interaction.  The dialogue and scenes was word for word with the film despite some additions but the way Wilson wrote the book was just a turn off.  Character interaction was forced and vague yet in the film it was much more believable when the actors spoke (though I can't say the dialogue was good in general).  The characters had virtually no depth to them.  Scenes that I didn't find compelling in the novel were ones I liked in the film.  I almost wish that I had watched the film first to be honest because the novel became so frustrating to read that I contemplated just not finishing the book when I was halfway through.  The book did get me to cry at one point though so I will give Wilson a little credit there but more credit seems to go to the screenwriters who originally wrote the script for October Baby the film which Wilson adapted word for word (did I mention this novel is adapted word for word from the film?).
I think that was another issue with this book...that it was adapted WORD FOR FREAKING WORD!  Films and novels are very different arts.  That is why it is so hard for filmmakers to stay close to a book's plot because some things that can be done in writing can't be done in film, and vice versa.  I have watched many great films that aren't adapted from books and have even tried to write Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl out as a novel.  I wrote it for fun of course but as I made it past the first scene and into the second scene, I realized my approach was completely inadequate.  All I was doing was taking each scene and trying to write it out but I was very aware of the fact that my writing was sloppy and frustrating.  It would take more than simply rewriting scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean to make it into a good and readable novel.  I would have to change certain things for character point of view, I would have to switch scenes around since the film is constantly switching back and forth between perspectives in a way the novel just can't compete with, and I would have to really figure out the characters in a deeper sense because novels have the ability to take us into a character's mind the way most films can't.  And full disclosure, I am not working on this writing project anymore.  It was fun to think about but a lot more stressful to go about.
The story of October Baby is incredible though.  Again, credit must go to the screenwriters and not Wilson.  (I'm not trying to be a Wilson hater here though it seems I am coming off as one.  I've heard good things about his other novels so maybe one day I will give them a chance.  I think this one ultimately failed because of the way Wilson went about adapting it.  It isn't necessarily a bad read but if you want a book that is written in a literary fashion without the Christian sugar coating that has become all too familiar in spiritual fiction, this book will not satisfy you).  I really felt I could relate to Hannah.  Actually, I felt like I related to Hannah a lot. Our situations are obviously very different but the way she felt about acting was the way I feel about writing and she definitely feels left out because she'd rather not get involved in things that most kids our age get involved in.  I also felt like her character specifically was full of complications and anger that really draws the audience to sympathize with her.  I can't even imagine the weight of not only being adopted but knowing I wasn't supposed to exist.  It is a hard pill to swallow.  Another thing I love about the story is that while it is surrounded by Christian routes, it doesn't shove them down your throat.  It maintains the theme that every life is beautiful but never actually states this in the film but allows you as the audience/reader to come to the conclusion yourself.  I found that very powerful.  That being said, while the story was incredible, that doesn't override the fact that the writing was awful and the approach to the story wasn't much better.  Reading this book is the equivalent to watching a Lifetime movie.  In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if you see the film on that network shortly. 
Ultimately, October Baby is an amazing story and a semi-good film with a great message about forgiveness and the unborn.  However, the book is full of petty descriptions, poor scene structure, and the typical watering down of literary merits to contain sugar coatings that many Christian novels today seem to contain.  I will give it 2 out of 5 stars because even though I thought the book was poorly written, the story is one I would encourage everyone to experience.  The best way to experience it, in my opinion, is to just visit YouTube.com and look up behind the scenes videos.  The movie making process and interviews and even the trailer hit home more than the film/book could ever accomplish.  Also watch the music video titled "Life is Beautiful by the Afters" and that will get you crying.  It is just a shame because I had such high hopes for this reading/film experience and I am overall disappointed.  I wish beyond wish that Christian artists could create a story that wasn't life a Lifetime movie.  It seems like the October Baby crew should start taking advice from Steve Turner's Imagine.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Reading: Looking For Alaska by John Green

This book is one I have been almost programmed to want to read since I first saw the famous sentence from the book about rain and drizzle.  If you've seen the quote or read this book then you know what I mean.  The quote is indeed very charming and poetic.  I can see why people like it so much.  “If people were rain, I was drizzle, and she was a hurricane.” See, I told ya it was great!  Another reason why I was looking forward to reading this book was because I didn't want to not like John Green as an author.  If you've been with me since day one, you will remember that I did not like Green's latest book titled The Fault in our Stars.  I still can't comprehend why people and critics like it so much.  And people love John Green!  He has a freaking cult of fans behind him and I guess for good reason.  I mean, he does seem to be a pretty awesome guy in terms of creativity and proving you never have to truly grow up.  For example, I love Green's Crash Course show on YouTube that he hosts with his brother Hank.  But after reading The Fault in our Stars, I thought he was way overrated.  I can conclude after reading Looking for Alaska that it is true.  John Green may be awesome but he is in fact extremely overrated.  That being said, I can't deny that I genuinely liked this book.  Truly.  It was 1000% times better than The Fault in our Stars.
Right away I must state, I have a sort of love for boarding school stories.  I can't really explain why.  Maybe it is because I always dreamed of going to one myself or that the most fun I had as a teenager was going away to camp for a week which is sort of like boarding school since you are away from home and with your friends.  I also find that boarding schools offer a side of learning that isn't the same as public school.  It is more exciting and fun.  The main character of this book, Miles a.k.a Pudge, seems to understand this mentality.  He decides to go to the boarding school his father went to as a teenager because he is seeking out the "Great Perhaps".  Pudge is obsessed with famous last words...or just last words in general.  You name a dead president and Pudge will know his last words.  I think Pudge is one reason that this book is great.  His character is seeking out an adventure and you too feel as if you want an adventure with him.  You want to go along and seek out the "Great Perhaps" not only in this book but in your own life as well.  Pudge goes off to boarding school and meets his new roommate who they call "the Colonel" and his friend Alaska, a girl of drama and mystery that Pudge is automatically drawn to. 
As I read this book, I couldn't help but hope that when it gets adapted (because it surely will), I hope it gets adapted as a mini-series on HBO or Showtime because it reminded me so much of one of my favorite shows called Shameless.  The book carries a very raw feel to it and that would adapt very well to one of the premium channels.  Fingers crossed!
The book itself was very engaging.  I read the last 3/4 of it in one night.   Pudge's experiences were very realistic and interesting.  Each character was going through their own battles.  This is a pretty obvious thing to say but John Green has a tight hold on what it is like to be a teenager.  From their language to the things they want and desire, Green has written everything spot on.  He enters Pudge's world and shows the fears and misunderstandings all teens seem to have and this shines through each one of his characters.  I think that is why Green has a cult following.  Green's writing is also very nice in this book.  The plot was well done.  Nothing seemed forced.  The book pretty much soared over The Fault in our Stars in my opinion. 
I can't call this book a favorite because while I thought it was good, Green still used plenty of cheese coating in the novel.  But I generally liked the plot, the characters, and the ending.  I will give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Reading: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

It was a strange feeling to be reading a book by J.K. Rowling that wasn't Harry Potter.  My expectations weren't high but they weren't low either.  I think it is safe to say I view J.K. Rowling as on of my favorite authors.  Her Harry Potter books have really struck a chord with me and I know they will remain with me until the day I die.  That being said, I was eager to read her new book and see what other stories she had to tell but I also wasn't dying to read her new book.  In conclusion, The Casual Vacancy was just another book on my bookshelf.  Sure when I picked it up I was well aware that I was now about to read a book by the renowned author J.K. Rowling but once I began reading, all of that didn't matter that much and didn't change the way I read the book.  While I very much compared the book to Harry Potter, as you will read in this review, Harry Potter did not change my reading of this book in any way.
For starters, I was actually irked by this book before I even saw the front cover.  It wasn't so much that I was bothered that J.K. Rowling wasn't writing another Harry Potter book because I don't care what she does either way.  What bothered me was the publicity that surrounded the book.  It was advertised as "J.K. Rowling's new book for adults!"  This phrase annoys me to the core.  First off, it is clear that many "sophisticated" readers will take this as "finally, a book I can actually take seriously by J.K. Rowling" in which is absolute nonsense.  Another bit of nonsense is that it seems to disregard Harry Potter entirely.  Harry Potter is just as good for adults as it is for children.  If anything, the book should have been advertised as containing explicit content instead of subliminally insulting J.K. Rowling's other works.  My fear was that J.K. Rowling would overdo the "adult" content and have so much of it that the book would come off forced and annoying.  Fortunately, that did not occur.  The explicit stuff came off as natural and didn't really bother me one way or another.
The Casual Vacancy revolves around a small town where a beloved citizen named Barry Fairbrother dies, leaving a seat open on the town council.  Immediately the race is on to see who can get enough votes to take his seat.  The book revolves around the candidates and their families and citizens of the town.
I first want to comment on J.K. Rowling's writing style.  Forgetting the story for a moment, I can safely say that as I read this book I felt as if I were still reading Harry Potter.  I wasn't even thinking about it and then suddenly I saw familiar patterns of writing.  Rowling's writing has not changed a bit from book to book.  I want to say I am extremely impressed but also very pleased because this shows that it wasn't her writing that gave this book the "adult" sticker but rather the content did that.  This shows readers the levels in which Rowling can reach her audience, whether it be classified as an "adult" novel or as a young adult novel.
Secondly, while Rowling proves that her understanding of the human psych is grade A, her characters in this novel are just plain awful.  I don't mean to say that she did a poor job.  What I mean to say is that every character is a jerk and the only decent one is Barry who died in the beginning!  The characters were all freakishly selfish.  That is the only way I can describe them.   As I read the book, I wondered if any of the characters would ever change and the truth is, they didn't.  Sure there was a bit of minor change toward the end but overall, none of the characters truly developed which was a big disappointment.
As a Christian reader, I was hesitant to bring up my faith in this review since religion is hardly mentioned in this novel at all.  Of course, in Harry Potter we find that religion is never mentioned either yet the stories are reeking with spiritual metaphors and represent Harry as a Christ figure.  It was clear to me as I read this book that none of these characters were putting their faith in God but only putting faith in themselves and their desires.  They didn't think, only acted upon what they wanted.  I have found a few reviews of this book online and have saved them but was particular about not reading them before I wrote this review so that I could give my own opinion and not fabricate one by accident.  However, I briefly glanced over one and saw something that very much supported my thoughts about religion in this novel.  B. Waisanen states, "Rowling is determined to place the central Christian message in her books. And yet in this one, the message is so….vacant. I believe Rowling is, in her under-the-watchful-eyes-of-dragons way, showing us what happens when Christ is absent. In the Potter books, we have a Christ figure in Harry. He lives, and therefore the world is saved. In The Casual Vacancy, Christ is absent; Barry Fairbrother, the book’s Christ figure, is dead. He has been removed from influence on society, and the vices, so abundant within the world, wreak havoc."  In the end, there was nothing to be learned from these characters besides to do the exact opposite of what they did.  I wouldn't recommend naming any of the characters as your fictional role model.  However, if Rowling's intention was the same as what Waisanen stated, that makes me a bit happier about the book itself.
Finally, let me quickly talk about the book's ending.  Overall, I liked it.  It was tragic but also satisfying.  The book came in full circle in a sense.  The ending also seemed to wake up the characters a bit.  The book seemed to imply that once the reader finished, things were going to get better in the small little town.  Or at least, that is my hope.
The Casual Vacancy was just another read for me.  It didn't stand out nor was it a total let down of a story.  It was just an average read and that is why I am giving it 3 out of 5 stars.  I liked it.  I liked Rowling's writing and the story kept me interested but the characters were just terrible people and by the end of the book I just didn't care about them and wanted to never read about them again.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Reading: Sprawl by Danielle Dutton

Sprawl.  This review is going to be a challenge - I will state that outright.  Sprawl is unlike any book I have ever read or come across.  It is a book of fragmented moments in the life of a suburban housewife who seems stuck in her life and has no idea how to escape it.
It is hard to explain the plot of this book because there isn't much of a plot at all.  
There is a quote in the beginning of the book from Henry David Thoreau and it says, "At a certain season of our life we are accustomed to consider every spot as the possible site of a house."  This quote is very important to the book's structure and purpose.  I had to read this book for a class and what our class was unsure of at first was if this book was about a woman searching for meaning in life.  It seemed like she was but the book never provided a solution as to where she would find meaning and how she would find it.  Why write a book that challenges the suburban lifestyle and not offer a solution?  Then someone in the class stated that he didn't think this woman was searching for meaning.  He thought that this woman believed she had found meaning and that was why she was stuck in her predicament.  This theory makes perfect sense to me and is something I very much want to talk about in this review.
To emphasize the theory I just presented, let me give an example from my own life.  Growing up itself is like being stuck because we are taught that school is where we learn and therefore we believe that if we are searching for an education, we will find it in school.  For me, I always found that I was eager to learn and missed school when I was away from it.  Yet every time I returned to the classroom, I became uncomfortable and awkward and found that school wasn't really helping me learn as much as it was helping me become more of an introvert which society frowns upon to begin with.  It wasn't until college that I realized how much I learned outside of the classroom and how much my previous education hadn't taught me.  I had always believed that education was what the world told me it was.
The same thing goes for the character in Sprawl.  She has been taught to believe that life is complete when you get married and move to the suburbs and now she believes her life has meaning and that is the problem, because it clearly really doesn't.  It is easy for the reader to believe she is searching for meaning.
The book is most definitely one where the author wants to make the reader think.  I didn't care for the structure one bit but at the same time I now understand why it may have been done.  As I said before, the book didn't have much of a plot and it just wasn't anything that moved me a bit.  It was different though.  I wouldn't recommend reading it unless you are up for the challenge.  I will rate this book 2 out of 5 stars.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Reading: The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

The Wizard of Oz is a film I grew up with and one of my favorites as a child and today.  Every time I went to my grandparents house in the Poconos I would always rent this film from the library and there are even home videos of me singing the songs.  I finally read the book in 4th grade and I remember reading it in my downstairs laying on the floor with my feet propped up on a chair.  Unfortunately, I didn't really retain much of the book after I read it and as the years passed, I made it a point to reread the book one day.  Well, this 50 book challenge gave me that opportunity.
I don't think it is necessary for me to explain the plot since mostly everyone has seen the movie.  Though I have to start off by saying I will always love the movie better than the book.  It is just one of those special moments when a movie is better than the book in my opinion.  My copy of the book, Aladdin publishers (I believe?), has some information in the back of the book about the history of the book.  The Wizard of Oz is known as the first real American Fairytale.  While Fairytales are most often seen as morality tales, L. Frank Baum believed that these types of stories only scar children into good behavior which can sometimes be true.  Baum decided to present his book through the eyes of a child instead of an adult and goes to prove that children can solve their own problems.  The story, however, does have a morality tale to it despite what Baum wants to believe.  It emphasizes the idea that there is no place like home, something that kids have to constantly to be reminded of.  One of my favorite lines from the film is, “If I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with.”
I must say, this book definitely kept me interested.  I started and finished it while I was on a cruise with my family.  It was a bittersweet read.  It's lighthearted-ness combined with my high expectations from my love for the film balanced each other out.  Overall, it was a nice tale about a girl trying to get home.  The book had humor and great characters and lots of neat adventures that weren't included on the big screen.  It's definitely a winner for kids everywhere!  I am going to give the book 3 out of 5 stars.  Yes I enjoyed it but my love for the film kept me from enjoying it more.  That is not the author's problem though but a reader problem on my part.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wasted Wednesday: Getting Personal About Lent

This week's Wasted Wednesday is most definitely a personal blog post.  I try to avoid personal blog posts about my life and stuff because I have had previous blogs where all I did was talk about my personal life and they left me feeling empty and annoyed with myself.  Plus, putting myself out there as I did was a bit strange for me.  I like to think of this blog as a personal one as a whole.  Yes my blog is about reading and my point of view as a reader but with this point of view comes my views as a reader on writing, faith, and many other things.  So after you read a lot of my blog posts, you may know who I am a bit more and it won't be because I am ranting about my day. 
But this blog won't be a rant.  It is actually about Lent.  If you have been following my blog from the beginning, you may remember that I actually gave up Tumblr for Lent last year!  And I also gave up Facebook games.  Lent is 40 days and 40 nights in which Catholics (and other denominations I'm sure) give up something they hold dear to them to understand the sacrifice Jesus made for us and our sins.  The purpose of this time is to essentially help us realize that the things we hold on to tightly are things we can live without if we give ourselves the chance.  Sometimes when we let go of the things we hold on to the tightest, it paves our way to see God more clearly. 
But 40 days and 40 nights is a relatively short amount of time.  It may go by slowly but once it is over, people slowly sink back into their old habits.  Last year when I gave up Tumblr, it almost felt as if a weight was lifted off of my shoulders.  I was happier and content on blogging from my other blog location on blogspot.  But Lent ended and...well, it is obvious I went back into my old habits.  Tumblr, like many other internet hubs, can have effects equivalent to those of drugs.  When you first use it, you think it is just okay and nothing special.  Then you use it more and more and become engrossed in it until you are on it all the time and it is not only bad for your mental health (seriously, do we need to see all these Sherlock and Draco/Harry posts?...if you use Tumblr, you will understand) but it is also bad for your physical health (sitting all day at the computer) and spiritual health. 
So this year, I knew I was most likely going to give up Tumblr but deep down I also knew that just giving Tumblr up wasn't good enough.  What is the point of giving it up for 40 days and 40 nights only to return to it for the rest of the 325 days?!  I don't want to continue this habit of acting better because i gave something up only to return to it.  Yes, Lent has taught me a lot these past years.  Lent has helped me gain understanding of Jesus' sacrifice for my sins.  Lent has taught me that I can live without a lot of things (I also gave up soda one year and YouTube another).  But Lent has also taught me that I will always get these things back.  So am I participating in Lent for me or for God?  I think it has been for me.  But this year, I want to change that.  I want to make Lent about God.
This year I will be giving up Tumblr in a sense.  I am not allowed to be scrolling on Tumblr or posting on Tumblr.  The only day I will be on is Sunday (the day of rest) and that will be to queue some book reviews and maybe post a few of my likes.  I am doing this because in reality, I won't be giving up Tumblr completely.  I want Lent to create in me some lasting habits and not revert me back to my old ones.  So in replacement of Tumblr time, I will take that time and use it for other things. These things are --> read my bible more, read more, exercise, write more, listen more, and change more. 
Over winter break I began reading the bible.  In truth, I have never ever read the bible on my own which is pretty sad.  I was immersed in my faith and watching all kinds of people use their creativity to glorify God and that is what I wanted to do yet how could I do that if I had no knowledge of His word?  I've read Harry Potter five times and while it has taught me a lot and I don't regret it a bit, it also tells me that I need to start putting that same devotion into God because God isn't about following rules and setting aside 15 minutes to be with Him a day.  God is about having a relationship through Jesus and having a spiritual life 24 hours a day.  It is about stepping out of my comfort zone and doing things that will help me live out my purpose. 
So my plan is this...to start everyday with God.  That means I will read my bible and pray and devote my day to God.  While Tumblr is a huge thing I am giving up, I also plan to give up the computer screen more.  While I will have to spend time on the computer for school and communication, I want to spend less time scrolling down Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube...though YouTube is actually very inspiring and I will continue to watch it through the Wii at times.  I will read books more because books often reveal truth about the world and help me understand.  I will also write more so that I can use my creative juices and push myself.  I also will exercise because most of my day is spent sitting and needs to be spent moving.  And finally, I will try my best to step out of my comfort zone more and listen more.  This means I will shut my mouth when I want to argue and I will try to expose myself to all kinds of experiences. 
I don't plan to do this alone though!  Lent is all about learning the sacrifice Jesus made for our sins and I know God will be with me as I try to change my bad habits and learn some good new ones.  Let me know if you are participating in Lent as well!  While Lent is a Catholic tradition (and I said this before, last year), that doesn't mean you can't participate.  I encourage anyone who hasn't ever participated to participate this year because it is good to learn from other branches of belief.  I reviewed a book earlier this year called The Wind Is My Mother and it is all about Native American traditions.  The book taught me a lot about God and about faith and even though I do not identify myself as a Native American, I still can learn from their teachings.
So this my goodbye post to Tumblr.  As I said, Sundays I will update my queue so you may see a book review soon or some reblogs from time to time.  As usual, all my blogs will be posted at my blogspot address which you can find on my Tumblr page.  I plan to take a picture everyday during Lent (maybe more than one sometimes!) so I can show you my journey!  It should be fun!  Talk to you all soon!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Reading: The Lost Art of Reading by David L. Ulin

The Lost Art of Reading was a book I really looked forward to reading.  Not only was the subject matter something I was very much interested in but the cover art was beautiful!  I bought the book on amazon and when it came in the mail, I was surprised to see it was this tiny book with a smooth hard cover.  I wanted to hold the book all of the time because of how pretty it was.  However, when I sat down to read this book it was far from pretty and interesting like the cover.

This is another book I marked as one of my least favorite reads of 2012.  I think this is because of my high expectations but there were also a lot of other things that went into the mix.  The book revolves around Ulin and his son and The Great Gatsby. Ulin goes into the reasons why reading is such a popular pleasure.  He states, "This was what reading had to offer, that balance of first and second sight, of knowing and unknowing, of finding yourself in someone else," and, "Most of us carry handheld devices more powerful than the most versatile computers of a decade ago, yet rather than liberating us, they shave seconds off our downtime, as if it were something to be maximized.  We check e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, work and leisure websites as a matter of reflex: in restaurants, with our families, in the car".  These two sentences, and many others, were extremely appealing to me.  But that is the book's downfall.  It has too many brilliant sentences but not a brilliant execution. 

I found the book extremely boring for the most part.  While it appealed to my sense of getting reading back the way it used to be, it didn't capture me enough for me to appreciate the book.  It was a short book (a little over 100 pages I'd say) and it took me over a month to read it!  I had to force myself to read it so I could just finish it and let it be over with!  The book also felt like a slight re-read since I just finished The Shallows and this book borrowed heavily from it.  Not that borrowing from other books is wrong.  But Ulin didn't seem to be making one solid point like The Shallows does.  Ulin had many points that were scattered all over the place.  And one last thing, the book was too political for me.  It was a major turnoff.

It can't be a surprise that this book just did not do it for me.  It had potential but then didn't follow through.  I will give it 2 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Reading: Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Inside Out & Back Again is a story I was assigned to read about a girl named Ha who is forced to flee Saigon with her family when the Vietnam war hits close to home and has live in America with a host family from Alabama.  Ha has a hard time adjusting to her new home in America.  At school, Ha struggles with learning English and is victimized by her fellow peers as uneducated because of her language struggles.  During lunch, Ha observes the strangeness of American food - more specifically the ketchup and mustard on her plate.  Ha's family is taken to church and baptized, their heads splashed with cold water but never are their new beliefs explained to them and leave Ha feeling confused. 

The book is written in the style of poetry verse, making it a very quick and easy read (although, this depends on how you read the book - I read it just as if I was reading a novel while some read the book as a poem and this therefore would make the reading much longer). 

This book was on my list as one of the worst I read in 2012.  While I generally thought the book was an enjoyable read, it was forgettable.  This could be because I read it so quickly or it could be another factor I am not thinking of.  Thank heavens for the notes I took, otherwise I would completely be stuck with this review.  Moving away from that though, the book really appealed to me because it did a very good job at portraying the immigrant experience.  It also emphasizes that your learning experiences aren't always in a school.  I did not like, however, the main character Ha very much at times.  She complained A LOT, almost to the point where I wondered how readers would sympathize if this was an American child complaining.  Truthfully, I don't think readers (at least on an academic level) would sympathize with an American child complaining about the things Ha was complaining about.  Of course the book isn't about that; it is about sympathizing with Ha's experience as a young immigrant but that doesn't excuse her from being a brat.  I will give this book 3 out of 5 stars.  It was good but forgettable.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Wasted Wednesday: Aslan & the White Witch

I'm am currently taking a seminar in which we discuss Christian themes in literature since 1980.  While we aren't reading any of C.S. Lewis's work, we have discussed it already in class.  Discussing his Chronicles of Narnia series for a short while inspired me to write this blog.  The Narnia series has been with me ever since elementary school when the second book in the series (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) was read to us from a fairytale picture book.  I never quite read the stories at a young age but heard a great deal about them.  I was not aware of the Christian allegory either until my friend invited me to come with her to see the movie in theaters with her youth group. I ended up buying the whole series at a store called 5 and below and read the first book (The Magician's Nephew) in my sophomore year of high school.  For those of you who have stuck with my blog from the beginning, you will know that I just finished the series in 2012.  Needless to say, I didn't read the books all at once but over a great stretch of time.  Anyway, the more I used social media and networking, the more I saw quotes from C.S. Lewis about his Christian faith.  I follow a Narnia fan-base in which fans post personal confessions about the series and many talk about Lewis's Christian background.  I have since bought his book Mere Christianity and plan to read it soon.  But it was during my seminar that I began to really think about why C.S. Lewis chose a lion to be the symbol of God and the White Witch to be the symbol of the devil.  My thoughts took me to exciting and places and I made sure to write everything down for this Wasted Wednesday blog.

I want to start out with the White Witch and how she compares to the devil.  For starters, C.S. Lewis seems to be a writer ahead of his time because not only did he choose a woman to take on the devil role, he also chose her specific characteristic as being white.  The first book published in the Narnia series was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in 1950 which is a little over 30 years since women gained the right to vote and it is a few years before the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King Jr.  Typically society views the devil and hell as a realm of heat and fire and an evil man dressed in red with a pitchfork and horns.  But Lewis characterizes this woman as the "White" Witch and makes her cold and living in the realm of winter.  This, in my opinion, really emphasizes on the point that evil is not just a man dressed in red with horns and a pitchfork.  Evil can come in any form.  Patrick Levis says in a speech he made at a graduation ceremony, "Now when we think about evil, often times we think demons and murder and bad stuff.  And of course those things of course are evil.  But more often than not evil comes in disguises, doesn't it?  It's under the wraps.  And in our culture today, evil tends to be dressed in cool clothing, a really easy going personality...evil's kind of a cool person to hang out with..."  Remember in the beginning when the White Witch gave Edmund hot chocolate and turkish delight?

Which leads me to Aslan the lion who also proves that God can come in any form.  For starter's, Aslan is a lion...and that's it.  He is a lion!  C.S. Lewis chose a lion to take the role of God.  C.S. Lewis chose the King of the African safari to play God.  Not only does this show that God is a King and the most powerful and feared being ever, but it also shows that like the devil, God can come in many forms as well.  Notice how Lewis did not choose a human to play God but an animal.  He didn't give the role of God to a person of any race or gender or age.  Aslan/God is just a lion.  God can be whatever we want Him to be in a sense.  We view Him in many different ways.  Jeff Bethke says in an interview about reading the scriptures in full for the first time, "I would just say that the Jesus in the scriptures, cause I read it in more of a wholesome way rather than just one verse, was so not able to be put in a box...He would say things that were compassionate, so loving, so crossing gender lines, social economic lines, racial lines, that people got upset at him for that, but then you see flip-side like a couple pages later, He's in the temple with a whip and is just whipping people out of the temple.  And so it's like, is He really soft and loving fairy guy or is He this UFC beast that everyone's scared of but no one stands up to?  Right when I read it I immediately thought of Narnia...and it's that line where they say 'Is Aslan safe?' and then Mr. and Mrs. Beaver say, 'Of course He's not safe but He's good.'  He's not safe, but there's something about that dangerous grace that Jesus preached that was actually what I was attracted to [about the scriptures]."

That is what I love about the Narnia series.  Lewis metaphorically shows that God and evil are never what they seem.  Neither one can be put into a box like so many believe and that is what shows that C.S. Lewis is a fantastic writer!  He takes God/good and evil and humanizes them in a sense and I think that shows a lot for his talent and for the metaphors his books contain.