Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. - II Timothy 2:15

 photo about_zps0e27a4da.jpg
 photo bookshelf_zpse9642860.jpg photo scribbles_zps2889a376.jpg

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

When you wish you could bang your head on a keyboard...

For me, there is nothing more frustrating and depressing and annoying (except perhaps for getting three cinnamon Jelly Bellies in a row) as sitting in front of a half-written document, knowing where your characters are supposed to go, but being absolutely unable to get them there.

It seems to me that I've been working on one scene for the past week. Erasing it, rereading it, hating it, loving it, tweaking it, rewriting it... All to no avail, however, for that obstinate scene refuses to go anywhere!

My recent response to such a stick-in-the-mud is just to erase the entire thing and start over, but...I like it and I can't just toss it to the fishes. All the poor thing needs is a stupid segue.

And this blog post is heading in the same direction. Somewhere between going nowhere and becoming a rant. I need to meld with my music and think through my plot.

Tata till writer's block is over!

'Till next time,

Monday, January 30, 2012

Book Review: The Senator's Other Daughter

Did you ever have one of those books that sits on your to-read shelf forever until you're finally so sick of wondering what it's about that you break down and get it from the library?

The Senator's Other Daughter by Stephen Bly was one of those books. 

Within the locket hanging near her heart is the secret that's broken it.
A life of peace and seclusion as the unknown Miss Denison. It's what Grace longed for even before her father banished her from Washington, D.C.
She just may have found it in Lordsburg, New Mexico--the small railroad town where people hide until the world stops looking. A place to send black sheep, skeletons in the closet, rebellious sons ... and wayward daughters whose secrets could ruin a father's precious political career.
Yet Grace's cherished anonymity is soon lost when she gets caught in the middle of a huge ruckus. And her life is anything but peaceful thanks to an ornery pet at her boarding house, a precocious young Mexican boy, and a cowboy who makes her want to run to him and from him at the same time.
When he learns the secret within her locket, will he break her heart too? (Back cover summary from Amazon)

Plot: There were two things I noticed about this book:
1. It's written by a man
2. It's part of a series called "The Belles of Lordsburg"
(and [this isn't really legitimately something I noticed right off but] 3. the last half of the back cover synopsis is really corny)

For me, two conclusions can be drawn from these rather obvious facts:
1. Male authors tend to create heroines who act a little more sensibly when the hero is involved 
2. The word 'Belles' usually makes me drop a book like a red-hot coal, since we all know that belles can always use a little help in the get-a-backbone-for-pete's-sake area.

These two observations canceled each other out, so I got the book and started reading. 
At first, it wasn't bad. Aside from a few moments where Mr. Bly must have panicked and thought "This'll never sell to a female audience; I'd better put in a few stray details about the hero that'll keep their hearts racing!" Unfortunately, it didn't work. But then, I'm picky about my heroes.

Really, though, after a snappy beginning, the book soon degenerated into one of those uncomplicated hate/irritation/confusion/stiffness and jealousy/enormous emotional meltdown/longing/more confusion (which comes off as incredibly insincere by this time)/heroine helps hero/divulging of life stories/heroine decides that yes, she is helplessly in love with this gallant man/awkward time of Great-Jehoshaphat-ought-we-risk-getting-hurt-by-telling-each-other-that-we're-both-madly-in-love-with-each-other-and-one-of-us-turns-out-not-to-be?/and then trotting on down to the inconceivably perfect, eye-roll inducing ending, stories.

Unfortunately, the only thing on the back cover that made me want to read this book (and no, it was not the whole thing about the cowboy *gag*), the whole mystery-hoopla about a locket and a broken heart, was buried rather insignificantly in these romantically adventurous pages. 

I would argue that Grace's heart seemed quite whole except when a certain someone was unexpectedly brought up almost halfway through the book. Then suddenly she was wailing and moaning and there was an enormous mess in which the reader remained quite untouched because they really had no idea who this heartbreak producing personage was.

Besides that, the secret wasn't even really hers. And if it ruined her father's political career, it was not because of anything she had done. So that part of the back cover fizzled out too. And Grace's "cherished anonymity" is lost practically the moment she steps off the train on the first page, so I guess that's really nothing to worry about. 

And I have no idea, really, why the pet is described as ornery or why it plays much of a part on the back cover. It seemed to me that it just hung around for the most part and got in people's ways.

And the cowboy... But we'll get to him a little later. 

All in all, the beginning was climatic, the middle was anticlimactic and the ending was extremely anticlimactic. 

There was, however, one saving grace (no pun intended) in this book, which we shall get to in a moment.

Characters: Grace Burnette Denison - Role: broken-hearted heroine and main character of the story.
So, I rather liked Grace from time to time. She was sensible sometimes, had a nice temper, and could keep up a clever repartee. 
And, since this wasn't written by a female author, we didn't get much description on how drop-dead gorgeous she was. Mr. Bly did, however, get in a few cents worth on several details that we needed to be constantly reminded of. *coughlongtwanyhaircough*
Grace did indulge in some rather insincere emotion and had a horrid habit of kissing men to get them to do what she wanted. Also, her conversations with herself (conveniently laid out on almost every other page with sweeping italic script) got rather long and repetitive and (not to mention it or anything) contradictory. (Though I suppose we all contradict our decisions constantly as well...)

Colton Anthony Parnell - Role: Blond hero who is greatly admired for being a...hero. 
Eesh yikes, where to I start? I did not like this man. Apart from being ambiguous, with an annoying habit of dropping the 'g's' in almost every 'ing'-ending word, he was also pushy, overly-heroic, and just plain annoying. I also wouldn't call him much of a cowboy, since he spends most of his life running from CS cowboys, wandering around town and bothering Grace.

Paco - Role: the "precocious young Mexican boy". 
Not too bad, really, but endowed with an ill-fated tendency to be "too cute". 

And then the other characters. There was a multitude of them so large that, in scenes where they were all together, you basically lost track of who was who and just pushed on through the scene with the hope that there wouldn't be a pop quiz at the end. 

Likes: THE DIALOGUE! Oh my word, you don't often run across dialogue like this in books like this. There were, of course, cliche pitfalls, but for the most part, the dialogue was excellent - clever and enjoyable - and the characters were able to pull it off. And Grace herself had quite a collection of amusing mental observations as well.

The lack of over-dramatic, stomach-turning description of every physical feature of the hero and heroine. Aside from an occasional mentioning of a certain aspect of the other's features, we were treated to blissful ignorance on the particulars of our character's charms.

There was a nice little plot twist (I suppose you could probably figure it out if you watched for it and put everything together instead of just waltzing through the book) that created a moment of drama. But it was a brief moment - before you realized that the fact had been staring you in the face for quite a while.

The lack of true emotion. If you just tell me someone's heart is broken, I won't much care. Show me that their heart is broken, and then we might have something going.

The fact that the whole book was so anticlimactic. I like drama (well-played drama, that is), but it just kept getting weaker and weaker.

The modern slips. Ok, so we all know that we don't talk the same as they did in the old days anymore. But that does not give an author free rein to use words that were coined years after the book. Some of it is fine because if we wrote everything like they did, it would sound like Shakespeare. But please, if your book is set in the era of telegraphs (1884 to be exact), please do not use the word "jerk" in reference to a disreputable young man! That word meant nothing but a good, hard tug at the time, and I'm sure that was not at all what was being implied. Also, don't use "totally" in the sense of "I totally didn't expect him to like me!". It sounds like you don't know what you're talking about. 

The fact that Grace usually wore her hair loose and down her back. This may be incredibly nit-picky, but anyone who knows anything about the old days knows that a young woman of twenty-nine would never, EVER even consider walking out of her house (or boarding house room, in this case) with her hair down. Especially in a rough town of most nothing but men. She would have religiously worn it up since her sixteenth or eighteenth birthday. Such mistakes do not lend a well-researched air to a book. 

Some of the Christian message was well presented and sound, but some of it stuck out like a sore thumb. You can't just bring Jesus in out of nowhere (admit it: people don't) and when you do that in a book, it just sounds laughably out-of-place. 

Colton Parnell. Enough said.

Conclusion: If I could just have the dialogue from this book, I would have few complaints. But, since a book must have a plot and characters, well, thus march in the criticisms. Such is life, I suppose. 
In strict conclusion, though, I didn't get much out of this book except a rather firm resolve that I never need to pick up another book by Stephen Bly again.

'Till next time!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

'Heart' Release!

Just received the glad tidings today! :)
Audrey Assad's new album Heart is going to be released on February 14th!

I fell in love with her debut album The House You're Building and have waited eagerly to see if her next release would be as good. You can listen to the audio samples here and it sounds like she's done pretty well for herself (except for the title, which is, in my opinion, rather uninspired compared to her debut. Oh well, you can't have everything). Anyway, I can't wait to buy the cd! :D

'Till next time!

P.S. Don't forget to check Scribbles for new updates of Jamie's short story: The Redemption Ring!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Story I Live

The Story I Live
If you give a girl a pen, there are five things she can do:
She can take it in her hand and get a vise-like hold,
and write her story just the way she wants it to be told

She can set it to the paper and with strokes that are dark and bold, 
she can draw her story out the way she wants it to be told

She can take the pen and write the notes that swirl inside her head; 
turning air into a song that tells her story loud and strong

Or four, which is the saddest of these, she takes the pen and lets it lie,
leaving her life without ambition and wasting the years she has been given

But five gives an image that is sweetest of all - a picture of trust and love -
when she takes the pen and opens her hand and says to her Father in Heaven:
"This life isn't mine, I've been bought with a price, so take this pen in Your hand,
and write out the story You want me to live and help me to follow your plan."

'Till next time!

© Jamie Channing 2012 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Book Review: God Knows My Size

I finished this book in practically one sitting; not so much because it was an edge-of-your-seat story, but rather because it was a book club selection that's been sitting on my shelf for three months and has to be passed on to three other members. 
The reason it sat for that long is because I haven't really haven't been making much time for reading lately and also because I had some sort of deluded mindset that it was going to be incredibly dull. 

I can't conduct this review in the way I decided I usually would because it's a biography and you can't get into character-development when it's real people you're talking about. Or the plot either, come to think of it...

So, we shall proceed in a calm, orderly manner to see what can be made of this.

First of all, two things hit me as I proceeded through the first few chapters. 

One: it was well-written

Two: it was very convicting

The basic premise of the book is trusting God for everything. It's a message I often forget because I'm very spoiled. Everything I need, I have, and practically everything I want I usually end up getting one way or another. The kind of trust that Silvia Tarniceriu (if I ever need to use her name again, I'm just going to say Silvia T. or Ms. T...) had is something I can almost not even relate to. I've never had to ask God for shoes or clothes or food or the basic necessities of life. 
That's why it was so convicting. 
When I realize how blessed I am by my Heavenly Father and how often I forget to thank Him I feel incredibly ungrateful and humbled.
Silvia's faith challenged me to rely more on my Savior and to pour out my thankfulness for ALL the blessings He has LAVISHLY poured out on me. 

I was also challenged by her prayers. In the book she says she "kept her nightly 'talks' with God on an informal level".
I think, too often, we put God in a box and forget that He wants us to pray to Him like we would talk to our own earthly fathers. Like we talk to other people. He doesn't want to be put in that box of flowery phrases and formal words. He wants communion with us, in a setting that makes it comfortable for us to pour out our hearts to Him as we would to a friend. He wants our friendship, our confidences, our informal conversations.

And lastly, I was depressed and saddened by her description of the persecution she underwent for the sake of Christ. For me, persecution has always been a terrifying topic. As a child, I would cover my ears when the 'Voice of the Martyrs' ads would come on the radio, and I would block conversations about it from my mind and refuse to engage in them. To this day, I still run from the thought of it.
But Silvia T. underwent it all - survived it all - through God's grace. And that's what I seem to forget - or don't understand. That God is always with you and He knows exactly what is happening.
One other thing that she wrote especially hit me. When her friend asked her for help in distributing illegal Bibles to churches and people, Silvia T. hesitated and wondered if she should endanger her life by doing such a thing. And then she wrote "My life? What is my life? Do I have a right to call a life that was bought with the precious blood of Jesus my own life?"
It really hit me then. The thought that my life - which I selfishly do what I like with - is not my own. I was bought with a price. And I should use that life to serve the one who bought it.

'Till next time!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Obligatory Announcement for Jamie

Hear ye! Hear ye!
A new short story has flown from Jamie's illustrious (or shall we just say Papermate...) pen and will soon be up on Scribbles!
Due to the number of complaints she received from those who read Holly & Ivy that the storyline was too morbid, Jamie has promised that her new story The Redemption Ring will have a happy ending.
I was skeptical myself at first, because for Jamie a happy ending usually means that she didn't kill off all the characters as she normally does and/or was originally planning too.
This time, though, I have read her new story in its entirety before posting and it's my opinion that she did a pretty good job of keeping her word.

It'll be posted in segments as usual, so if you want more you'll have to go to Scribbles to find it.


Oh, and here's the first paragraph to dip your toes in:

The Redemption Ring
A short story by Jamie Channing
The ring I hold is an ugly one. The gold is scarred from many owners; there are black cavities where the diamonds and rubies have been dislodged over the span of passing years; and it’s twisted and bent and no longer a circle to slide around a human finger.
It’s ugly and dulled and, for the purpose of any but one, useless.
We call it the aruna-mani – the redemption ring – because it has the power to save a guilty man’s life.

'Till next time!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Called By God

Here's something interesting that I read this morning in Martin Luther's book By Faith Alone. Thought I'd share it with you guys... :D

Called By God
From Paul - an apostle chosen not by any group or individual but by Jesus Christ and God the Father who brought him back to life - and all the believers who are with me.
- Galatians 1:1-2 -

Religious leaders face a very foolish yet strong temptation. Some claim they must teach because they have the talent from the Lord and feel compelled to teach because of the command of the gospel. Confused by foolish conscience, they think that if they don't teach they're burying the gold of their Lord and will be condemned for it. The devil does this to make them neglect the responsibilities to which they are called
My dear friend, with one word Christ frees you from this notion. Look at the parable in Matthew, "He called his servants and entrusted some money to them" (Matthew 25:14). It says, "He called them." But who has called you? Wait for God to call you. In the meantime, don't be concerned about it. Even if you were wiser than Solomon and Daniel, unless you are called to spread the Word, avoid that calling even more than hell. If God needs you, he will call you. If he doesn't call you, you won't burst from the wisdom inside of you. In fact, it isn't even true wisdom. It only appears that way to you. And it's very foolish for you to imagine that you could produce fruit. The only one who produces fruit by the Word is one who is called to teach without wishing for it. For Jesus Christ is our leader (Matthew 23:10). He alone teaches and produces fruit through his servants, whom he calls. But whoever teaches without being called endangers both himself and his hearers, for Christ is not with him. 

I suppose this can be taken in many ways. It struck me this morning, though, because I've been struggling with what I want to do with my future. My dad has offered me a part-time job as his secretary (which is something I've always wanted to do), but I also have my CNA license, which means that I could get a very good job in the medical field. I've been struggling because my spiritual gift is organization (according to Bill Gothard's Advanced Seminar...) and I keep thinking that it's a waste if I don't use it. But so far, I'm not sure if I've been called by God to use it. I feel sort of stuck in the middle of two decisions...

And, when I read this, it also brings up the question of marriage. I think most females feel as if they have been called by God to marry someday. And, as everyone tells me, if you have the desire to get married, you probably will get married. It's a comforting thought, but it's also hard sometimes to wait when you just want to get on with your life, meet the man of your dreams and have a family.
What I'm reminded of here is that I have to be so careful to wait for God's calling on the matter of marriage, because waiting for the right man to come along is so very important. Since I'm trusting in God to bring him along at the right time, I have to curb the mindset of going out and finding a husband and the temptation to attract young men. God has already chosen one for me, so going out and looking is only a dangerous pursuit. Until I am called by God to marry, I should devote my single years to him and, as Martin Luther said, not allow the devil to tempt me into neglecting my responsibilities to God because I'm caught up in the idea of marriage and everything that goes with it.

'Till next time!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Prayer Princess

Lately I've been struggling a lot with the topic of prayer. Partly because I'm memorizing Matthew 6 and partly because it's never really been something I understood.

You see, I'm a horrid prayer warrior.


If my friends want me to come to their defense with saber drawn (despite that fact that I don't have a saber nor any idea how to use one) I would enthusiastically chop away at the enemy.

If they wanted to spill their problems into my discreet and sympathetic (though my sympathy usually depends on the sincerity of the person) ear, I would be ready with advice, Scripture and comforting words.

Or even if they wanted me to come over and help them clean their furnace, I would seriously consider going over.

But when they simply ask for prayer, it comes like heavy weight.

When I say I'll pray for them, it actually means that I will. But I don't go at it with any sort of spiritual enthusiasm. (Sorry if I'm shocking you dear ladies who have asked me for prayer in the past; I really did pray for you!) I mutter quick requests whenever the matter pops to mind and then promptly forget to pray, really pray, for them.

I try to mean my prayers. I try to make them sound good. And sincere. And holy. But inside, I know it's all just a show. I'm just racing through them and giving more thought to the words that are coming out of my mouth than the actual person (or people, as the case may be) behind them.

It's a miserable fault. Especially since prayer is our closest connection to God and the answer to most of our problems. Jesus died for the joy of communion with us, yet I grudge the minutes that I must spend with Him every day, praying for people who are sick, or unsaved, or just in need of help and wisdom.

I'm always watching the clock and rushing and thinking of the things I need to do when I'm finished that I fail to realize that what I'm doing at that very moment is the most important thing in the world.

The prayer of a righteous man, as James put it, is powerful and effective. (James 5:16b) And since we are made righteous through salvation, our prayers are powerful and effective.

So why do I always feel as if prayer is the last resort? The weapon that can be used when everything else has failed? My attitude about prayer is like a soldier who has lost every weapon but his tiny dagger and, without any other hope, starts cutting away at the enemy with the weakest of his weapons.

I guess I forget that there are many ways to use a dagger and that often they're hidden from view and lethal when pulled out.

God promises that my prayers have effect, but still I chafe at the chore of going through my list and praying for the same people and the same problems every day. I figure that God knows these things and is as apathetic about them as I am.

But here are some things I've learned about prayer:
- It's powerful and effective (James 5:16b)
- They must be offered in faith (James 5:15)
- They are to be done in secret (Matthew 6:6)
- They are to be simple (don't babble like pagans :D) - (Matthew 6:7)
- God knows what you need before you ask Him, but that does not mean that you don't need to ask! - (Matthew 6:8)
- The Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we don't know what to pray for (Romans 8:26)
- We are to pray continually - (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
- We are to pray about everything - (Philippians 4:6)

It's a daunting list and it looks pretty powerful and it's what God's been challenging me to change in my life, lately.

But I hear so many conflicting issues, and there are so many people that need prayer and I get so frustrated because it seems as if I could pray all day and still not cover everything.

If God can find pleasure in listening to me pray - and in sitting with me while I pray - then why do I find only frustration in what I think of as a task?

I don't actually have an answer to my question (other than pat ones that would end this post on a cliche note), but here are a few things I've learned that I need to utilize when I pray.

1. Praise: Giving thanks to God for the gifts He's given, the prayers He's answered, the blessings He showers me with every day...
2. Confession: In the midst of prayer I constantly forget to confess my sins and ask for forgiveness. I usually figure that I'm already forgiven, so praying for others is more important. But God wants to hear humble, heartfelt confessions.
3. Keeping things simple: Don't go on and on about a single request. A short, simple, and most importantly heartfelt request is as powerful as a long eulogy.
4. Trust: Believe, really believe, that God wants to hear you and pray to Him keeping that in mind. If you get in the rut of thinking that God is disinterested, then you will soon become disinterested too.
5. Focus: the quiet thing is really important. If you can't keep your mind on your prayer because of distractions, it's not going to be much of a prayer. Find a quiet place and if your mind wanders (like mine always does) catch yourself, regain your focus and go on. Do not use the distractions as an excuse to give up and say "it's just not working today!". Remember that Satan sends distractions because he doesn't want you to pray. He knows, at least, how powerful it is.
6. Keep a list: write down who and what you want to pray for and specifics if you want to remember them, but don't allow yourself to drone away on the list without utilizing your mind. Lists can be dangerous that way.
7. Commit: your prayer time to God and ask Him to help keep you focused and to really think and care about who you're praying for. He's willing to help if you ask and really mean it.

It's difficult, I know (believe me, I know) to fit prayer time into busy schedules, but remember that it's also communion with God and though it seems like a drag at times, your prayers are always powerful and effective.
Prayer is the key to a strong relationship with your Prince, and that relationship is the most important thing in the world. More important than any of the other things you rush through your prayer to get to. Take the time to slow down and rest in your Heavenly Father's arms.

Just talk to Him, because it's the key to everything good.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up - Galatians 6:9

'Till next time!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Book Review: The Hunger Games

Let me first of all establish that I never expected to read this book. Ever. I don't like books about the future and I figured this was some kind of dirty YA book. But I was tired of the book I was reading and I wanted something exciting and nitty-gritty and two of my friends had highly recommended it so The Hunger Games seemed to fit my momentary kinks and off to the library I went.
And, since reading it was a surprise, the fact that I'm actually writing a review about it is even more astonishing, especially since I stink at writing them. Practice makes perfect, so I guess I'll be trying to do more of them in the future. It's sort of a New Year's resolution - though I don't make those either.

Anyway, with the fact that I never expected to read it established, we can now move on.

The book is - literally - about killing people. Nice cheery thought, eh? That's what I thought.  For a basic summary:
The Capitol of the country of Panem (which used to be the U.S.) keeps its twelve outlying districts in line (after a rebellion) by holding an annual event called a Hunger Game. Basically, every district is subject every year to a "reaping" where two children - between the ages of 12 and 18 - are randomly chosen to be "tributes" and sent to a specially prepared arena to fight the other 23 until there is only one left. And this is nationally televised and properly hyped. Gruesome, I know.
District 12 (one of the poorest of the twelve) is where Katniss Everdeen lives. She's a hunter and struggles to keep her mother and younger sister alive by the game she shoots with her bow and arrow in the forbidden forests near their home.
At this reaping, Katniss's twelve-year-old sister is chosen to be a tribute. Immediately, Katniss volunteers to go in her place. And opposite her, a young man named Peeta Mellark is chosen.
They travel to the Capitol, train, interview and try to gain sponsers (who will send them gifts while they struggle to win in the arena) and then they're tossed, weaponless, into the arena to fight it out.

Plot: This book is quite fast-paced and, due to its subject matter, very suspenseful and exciting. The beginning, though, is rather slow and choppy. I found myself raising my eyebrows at the dialogue and wondering when the story would start to pick up. It has a feel to it that the author sat down, wrote it out, and then published it.
But when the plot picked up, it really picked up. I never could quite settle in and say, "all right, now I know how this is going to end" because every time I said that, the plot would twist a little (or a lot) and the story would pick up and race ahead. Even the ending gives you no mercy.
I guess that's what I liked the most about the book. It was stymieingly clever. Katniss is a very incredible, resourceful girl and the way she handles problems and the way Ms. Collins weaves the rules of the Games and the different aspects of survival are not cliche.
Although it was interesting, The Hunger Games is also rather gory and intense. I mean, its like the Olympics except that everyone but the gold medalist dies. It has an extra edge of intensity because of that aspect. You root, obviously, for Katniss, but it's morbid to think of what the consequences of rooting for her are. Twenty-three young human beings have to die for her to win - including the young man that came with her and the younger tributes who were chosen. They're not real, I know, but in the book's dimensions they are and it's sobering to realize what is at stake.  

Characters: For the most part, I tried, really tried, not to like any of the characters because I knew from reading the back of the book that 90% of them wouldn't make it to the last page.
I couldn't help liking Katniss and I figured it wouldn't hurt because since there are two more books in the series, her chances of survival were pretty good. And even though she's a survivor and quite clever and talented, she's also human enough that you don't hold her abilities against her. I admired her guts and her will to survive.
Peeta Mellark, the other tribute from District 12 is a nice guy. You can't help liking him (despite a few unfortunate instances where Ms. Collin's editor could have been a little more alert) and hoping that somehow, someway - especially as his friendship with Katniss grows - there will be some lenience so that Katniss doesn't have to kill him to win the Games - or that he doesn't have to kill Katniss to win them either.
And then there's Rue. You like her as soon as she's introduced, but I steeled myself because I didn't want to lose her. But I finally gave in and it was all right.
And then there's Haymitch. I liked him - and was justified in my decision.
And then there was the supporting cast - which I won't go into - but it was hard to let yourself like them too, because there was always the fact that they would probably be dead in the next chapter.
All in all, the characters were interesting and not cardboard cut-outs. It just really stunk that I couldn't like them like I usually would.
That's the price you pay, I guess, for reading the book.

Likes: I already shared my biggest like: the cleverness of the plot, but there are more.
- I liked the fact that although Katniss and Peeta were tossed into a dog-eat-dog form of survival, they still struggled to keep their humanity. In the sort of story where you expect the characters to check their morals outside the door, they don't. This book, which very much surprised me, is clean. Even though Katniss and Peeta are forced to play a star-crossed romance to get sponsorship, they don't cross any strict moral lines. The most they share is a romantic kiss. And there are no swear words either. For YA, it's pretty good (if you can get past the fact that the whole book is based on killing people).
- The dialogue (which is tremendously important to me) was - for the most part - good. It didn't drag, it wasn't tacky, it didn't get overlong, and Katniss was sarcastic - which is always a big plus. Sarcasm is the best way to have good dialogue.
- The suspense. It's hard to get bored with a book when you know that at any moment someone could jump out in front of your heroine and engage in her in some sort of battle. And the fact that there can only be one person remaining to end the Games made it doubly suspenseful. Besides that, there were enough twists in the plot to make you doubt any of your comforting, preconceived ideas about how the storyline would go. Alliances crumble as time goes on, enemies turn into friends (which is the worst possible thing that can happen, because you know that eventually one of them is going to have to kill the other), and situations shift from safe to deadly in the matter of a few seconds.
If you want excitement - you've come to the right place.  

Dislikes: There were, as always in any book, several flaws. Most obvious in this book is the beginning. It's clunky and doesn't really catch your interest and there are several lamentable bits of dialogue and description that made me seriously consider disliking it. Persevere, though. It gets better.
And the whole fact that the plot revolves around killing people can turn some readers off. As for me, I love books where people die, so I didn't mind, but I know some a lot of people who would.
I wasn't too keen on some aspects of The Capitol either. People with strangely colored skin don't get much ovation from me.

Conclusion: To finish off, I really enjoyed The Hunger Games but it's not a book I would recommend to anyone verbally. I've tried to be as clear about my feelings in this review as I could, but, as I said before, I'm not good at writing these and I've probably left you all somewhere in the middle in a muddle. My advice would be not to read it if you don't like death and the idea of reading it makes you uncomfortable. But for those of you who are interested in morbid things (like I am... :D) then you really should give it a try. The only offensive thing about it is the plot and if you can handle that, then it's clean and you won't have to skip over an icky romance scene that you didn't know was there and didn't want to read.

Till next time!

Christmas Gifts!

I suppose now that the last remnant of Christmas days are officially over, my lazy Christmas blogging habits must be officially over as well.

Sooo, since everything I should be blogging about is piled up like rainbow-hued clutter in the back of my brain and since I have a odd mania for knowing what other people get for Christmas, I'll share what I received from my very generous family (I apologize if you don't share my mania):

On Christmas Eve, I got these gifts from my younger brother, who picked my name in our family gift exchange:

This music is so fun and wildly Northern...

Yeah, I guess I'm a junkie. I adore this movie! 

And then on Christmas Day, I got a red Converse blouse from my grandparents (I love Converse blouses!) and money, which I used to buy this:

These are the best things on earth for coloring (aside from Sharpies, of course) :D

And on the day before New Year's Eve, we celebrated Christmas at my Dad's mom's house. My Grandma gave me a box full of my Grandpa's old Peanuts comic books and these two outfits from American Girl:

 I don't have Julie, but I'm a sucker for white ruffly dresses and American Girl's big hats...

I actually do have this doll, and the dress is so adorable!

Then, from my aunt:

It's a double-sided heart with Swarovski crystals

This gorgeous little Bible (NIV, of course)

These sweet little desk notes (she understands well my weakness for paper)

And a wristlet from Vera Bradley to add to my collection

I was part of the adult gift exchange this year and my aunt picked my name. She chose most of the books :) :

One of my absolute favorite books. Elizabeth George Speare is one of my writing heroes.

You've heard me rave enough about this one to know what it is... :D

Francine Rivers is also one of my writing heroes. Her books are SO good!

Meredith Andrews - yes!

And this gorgeous Willow Tree figurine. I fell in love with it a year ago... :D

'Till next time (and Happy New Year!),