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

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Friday, April 27, 2012

Book Review: Will's War

Sooo backstory: Will's War by Janice Woods Windle was a book that I picked up years ago because the picture on the front cover caught my eye and the blurb sounded interesting. Unfortunately, since I had just transferred from the children's library to the adult library, I hadn't yet realized that I couldn't grab an enormous stack of books and read them all before they were due as I had formerly been accustomed to doing. Will's War (along with several others whose covers were just not as appealing and blurbs were just not as interesting as the others in my pile) got returned, unread, and relegated to my to-read list to moulder away until some event out of the usual sphere should bring it back to my attention. 

Luckily, it was selected as a choice for the book club I'm in and I was forced, more or less, to pluck it off the shelf again. 

Synopsis: Will Bergfeld is a brash, high-spirited young man born and raised in Seguin (pronounced Sea-geen), one of Texas's oldest German-settled towns. After moving west to Weinert, a new immigrant community, Will becomes a rural mail character. He is also a devoted advocate of workers' and farmers' rights at a time when robber barons such as Vanderbilt and Rockefeller trampled freely on the little man. As American involvement in the war in Europe became inevitable, its citizens back home began to turn a suspicious eye to anyone potentially involved in the conflict. This included anyone with a German surname or anyone supposedly involved in anti-government activities. It is no wonder, then, that the outspoken Will Bergfeld soon became a prime suspect. 
The story of Will's trial is largely told through the eyes of the women who love him: his wife Virginia, his mother-in-law Bettie King, and his sister Louise...Also in the mix are Anna Bennett, the lonely woman Will once jilted whose anger threatens to send him to his death; Bill Atwell, Will's dapper defense attorney who must match wits with a formidable foe to make sure justice is done; and Tom Grimes, the brooding Texas Ranger whose conscience may help save Will's life. 

Plot: My journal, which contains many things other than a record of my semi-normal life, contains a line about this book that I wrote when I was about halfway through it. "This book has the potential to be incredibly dull, but somehow it isn't." I know you're wondering why I write book reviews in my journal, but that's not something we really need to get into right now. Haha. Anyway, it's a book about a trial, and I'm not really into law and courts and juries and all that let's-get-together-and-talk-for-days-and-months-about-opposing-sides-of-this-issue stuff. Not every writer can take that plot - especially in dealing with real people (Will Bergfeld is Janice Woods Windle's grandfather) - and turn it into a book that's not only interesting, but has chapter endings that make you almost unable to put it down. I always make the mistake of getting into a book a few hours before I should go to bed and then fudge it later and later to read just one more chapter. Every time I would get a little bored by the legal badgering and arguments, I would glance at the clock and say "I'll just finish the chapter and then go to bed" and then the chapter would end on a suspenseful note and off I'd go to the next one.

Characters: I'm not going to dissect these people because they're real and what they did really happened.

Likes: The story was compelling - and though it dragged at times - it was engrossing. It was downright frustrating to see the lies and treachery that went on and surrounded these poor people who had done nothing worse than founded or joined a farmer's union and bore a German surname. I had never even heard of these trials or was even aware that there was so large and so violent a movement against American-Germans during the beginning of WWI. Men arrested without warrants in front of their wives and young children? Forced to stay in prison for months for crimes they didn't commit as their homes fell into ruins and their families suffered? Made to stand trial and defend themselves for only wanting to make life better for their beloved wives and children? How could this stuff have missed the history books? I couldn't believe what I was reading. 

I loved the fact that my stomach was actually knotted up with suspense at the last few pages. It's that dramatic and that good. 

The fact that in places it was almost a Christian novel. These women were staunch and God-fearing and they didn't turn against God because of the trouble- they prayed to Him. And they were willing to sacrifice so much - health, family, home, comfort - to stay with Will and help him and the others who were arrested with him. 

Will himself is a very interesting and capricious character. I like unpredictable people and enjoy reading about them. I don't like knowing what to expect or being able to predict what someone is about to do. And, I also have a character of my own named Will, and I like to compare and contrast.

The dialogue and observations of the characters. They are well-written. The whole book is well-written.

Dislikes: The flashbacks can be a bit confusing until you realize that you must look at every chapter heading to ascertain the place and date in which the said chapter is taking place and understand that pretty much every other chapter is a volley from the present to the  past. I rearranged the family who knows how many times before I grasped these two pertinent bits of information.  

There were instances when interest lapsed and the legal jabber got, well, long. I had to skim to get through some of it. But since I was expecting most of the book to be skim-worthy, I suppose I oughtn't complain about two or three spots. 

Conclusion: Will's War is sad, happy, funny, dramatic, inspiring, depressing, infuriating, frustrating, turns your faith in the goodness of man upside-down and then back up again. It's a tough read, but it's a good one. You get a history lesson and a story in a single dose. It could almost be a novel for the drama it contains. Truth is stranger than fiction. It really is. 

One thing I would caution is that it does contain some adult content, but it's handled delicately (even more so than I have often found in Christian fiction) and only used to make a point or highlight a character's actions or thoughts. I highly doubt this review will make any of you (except for those who are members of the book club) read this book, but if you ever happen to see it, keep in mind that I say it's good! 

Till next time!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Book Review: The Touch

So, since I can't seem to stop myself from chatting away before I get into a review, here is the background of how I came across it and ect. =D

I found out about The Touch when I randomly typed the Family Christian Bookstore website into Google. Just for something to do. I found a review for this book and it was highly recommended and sounded interesting. And, it was published by Tyndale, who generally have discriminating taste in books. I figured what was the harm in looking it up?

It was much smaller and shorter than I had expected (all the better! I wanted a quick read after all). And that's the backstory.

SynopsisAndrew Jones was once one of the few surgeons in the world to have that rare, God-given ability called "The Touch." But after failing to save his young fiancee, Faith, at the scene of a car accident, Jones abandons his gift and shuns the operating room. Lara Blair owns a Chicago-based biomedical engineering company developing a surgical tool that will duplicate precisely the movement of a surgeon's hands, reducing or eliminating failed surgical procedures. Lara has pursued the best surgeons in the world to test this surgical tool, and all of them have failed. As Lara pursues Jones's skill for her project, Jones's stubborn resistance cracks, and he begins to open up to her about the wounds that still haunt him. But when Jones discovers the urgency behind Lara's work, he must choose to move beyond his past. As each is forced to surrender secret fears, they are bonded together through the lives of the people Jones serves and by the healing secret that Faith left behind.

Plot: The first thing that struck me when I started reading was that this book was...corny. It had that feel to it that I can only describe as juvenile. The use of dialogue, the sentence structure, the characters, the setting, everything. It just seemed unprofessional. And from a man who wrote screenplays and is a movie director, producer, and songwriter, I guess I was just expecting more. 
The plot was a good one, with several interesting and unexpected plot-twists. And how can I not like a book where someone dies in the first chapter? But it was just, well, mostly boring. And sometimes awkward. And sometimes just like 'huh?'

Characters: This is my least favorite part of the review to do. I don't like to take characters apart. But in this book, well, I know why Mr. Wallace is a screenwriter. You can create the action and the words and then leave it to the actors and actresses to add the heart and emotion. But The Touch is a novel - and there are no actors.
Putting lines into your characters mouths and simply telling the reader that the person is smart, gifted, handsome, beautiful, ect. it doesn't do anything. Many, many times, I've had a simply brilliant line to put somewhere, but can't find a character to say it. You can't force-feed people words  - even people in books.  
The characters in this book had their moments. There were definitely bits and pieces of brilliancy, but bits and pieces don't make a two-hundred and eighty-three page book worth reading. Not even if you throw in a few plot twists.

Likes: The drama was definitely good. The plot twists, as I have mentioned, were pretty well-concealed and caught you by surprise. And there were times when I thought 'Wow. Maybe this guy does know what he's doing.'

The author interview in the back was interesting and even inspiring and it made me soften my harsher view of the book a bit.

Dislikes: Ok, I don't like and can't stand it when authors use twenty-first century vernacular in their books. It sounds immature, breaks up the flow of the dialogue, dates the book like nobody's business, and also makes me cringe. Usage of terms such as "Who da man? You da man!" and "no problemo" and the like are just what you'd expect from the writings of a little kid who doesn't know better. It's juvenile. And even though the book is set in the twenty-first century and that's how people converse every day, I still think it's unacceptable and makes the characters sound childish.

The sentence structure drove me crazy. I don't know how the grammar was supposed to be set up in this book, but paragraph-long sentences split only in the middle by a semi-colon were just hard to read. I found myself stumbling as I read, trying to maneuver my way around the wonky punctuation. The book didn't flow.

The fact that the Christian message (this was published by Tyndale too!), seemed more focused on 'good works done in secret' than any true power of God or salvation through the blood of Jesus. The message seemed to be 'do good things and you'll have peace and joy and hope.' Uhmm, I think not?!?

The unrealistic things that occurred. Ok, I'm not an expert on medical technology, procedures or anything, but some of the things that happened made me think 'I don't think so'. And the fact that Lara can fit Jones perfectly with a tux (keep in mind that he has certain shoulder and waist specifications. Perfect hero alert!) and shoes after she has only seen him once - and this includes having it altered to fit better. *ahem* Yeah...right...

A food fight between two thirty-something professionals? Come on! I rolled my eyes about that in another book I was reading - which also happened to be written by ten-year-old!

I could probably go on and on and bore you (if I haven't already lost you) with more details, but I won't. You all have more important things to do with your lives than read a mile-long rant about a book that isn't even a mile long.


Conclusion: The Touch by Randall Wallace is not a book I would recommend to a friend because it consists of non-believable characterization, grating dialogue, and it's just blah. Boring and juvenile blah. Any book that causes me to roll my eyes and raise my eyebrows as I read is hardly something I would ask anyone else to read.

'Till next time!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Jobs and Cars = Praise and Frustrations

I got the job!

Actually, she called last Friday and asked if I wanted it, but I wanted to get past today - which was sort of an orientation day - before I made the official blog post. =D

We did a few more transfers, which made me a lot more comfortable with them (though the car transfer was hard!) and her other caregiver showed me around the house and gave me the 411 on how things are done. She's really nice and we had a lot of fun.

But now, I must buy a car. Ugh. What a frustrating bother it is! I've got 11 tabs up right now with prospects, but my dad isn't very enthusiastic about going out with me. And I'm kissing my poor savings account goodbye - just when it was reaching new levels too! Life seems to be a mixture of blessings and curses right now. Cars and insurance stink, but having two jobs worth of income is nice. Once the tangles get worked out, I'll stop complaining to you all, I promise. =D

Just thought I'd bring you up to speed. I'll post with pictures of my new car when I eventually get one. (That's a big promise for me, just so you know. My camera and I aren't too close.)

Till next time!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Eesh, almost a week...

Ugh, I need to get back to a level of normal normalcy (if possible) and start posting again. Anyway, it's been a bit of a tough week for me and I'll be SO glad to wind down this weekend and get a few things straightened out.

I had a job interview this week for a caregiver type of position. The person is an alum of the school I work at, and the job was exactly what I'd been praying for (4 hours a day and only weekdays), so I spoke with her and met with her and am now not sure at all what she thinks of me. Her other caregiver was so smooth with everything and knew exactly what to do and I felt like a bumbling idiot who hadn't the slightest idea what was going on.
I'm still awaiting her call, so I don't know anything further yet. Part of me hopes really badly that she'll call and ask me to take the job and a small part of me still is a little bit afraid that she will.

It has set me to thinking, though. When I first heard of the opportunity, I built castles-in-the-air. It was the perfect position. The perfect hours. The perfect everything. And then I went to the interview and suddenly began to rethink all my former pluses. And then the worries and fears started to creep in again.

I was a failure at this CNA stuff. How could I have been at the top of the class and then mess up so badly when asked to do a simple lift? I'll never be able to find a second job. My hours here will soon become part-time and then what'll I do? A car and car insurance, health insurance and all that stuff aren't immediate concerns, but they will be soon and how will I pay for them with only a part-time job? How will I make it in the world?

Those worries threatened to overcome, but right now I have peace because I've come to terms with the fact that God completely dropped this opportunity into my lap out of the blue and when He does something like that, I can trust Him to see it through. He has promised to take care of my needs and how can I expect Him to do less?

Not my will, oh God, but YOURS be done!

Till next time!

Friday, April 6, 2012

On Good Friday...

Singing this hymn in choir weeks ago, put me in mind of the perfect Good Friday blog post. It's a sad and hopeful contemplation.

Stricken, smitten, and afflicted,
See Him dying on the tree!
’Tis the Christ by man rejected;
Yes, my soul, ’tis He, ’tis He!
’Tis the long expected prophet,
David’s Son, yet David’s Lord;
Proofs I see sufficient of it:
’Tis a true and faithful Word.

Tell me, ye who hear Him groaning,
Was there ever grief like His?
Friends through fear His cause disowning,
Foes insulting his distress:
Many hands were raised to wound Him,
None would interpose to save;
But the deepest stroke that pierced Him
Was the stroke that Justice gave.

Ye who think of sin but lightly,
Nor suppose the evil great,
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the Sacrifice appointed!
See Who bears the awful load!
’Tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed,
Son of Man, and Son of God.

Here we have a firm foundation,
Here the refuge of the lost.
Christ the Rock of our salvation,
Christ the Name of which we boast.
Lamb of God for sinners wounded!
Sacrifice to cancel guilt!
None shall ever be confounded
Who on Him their hope have built.

Written by Thomas Kelly

'Till next time,

Monday, April 2, 2012

Versatile Blogger Award

So, this is the newest thing going around in the blog circle I'm in and I've been nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award which, I must say, is probably undeserved since I'm such a scatterbrained blogger anyway. Let me see...
Versatile: embracing a variety of subjects, fields, or skills; also :turning with ease from one thing to another
All right, I can buy that. Thank you Rachel for nominating me! 

Here are the obligatory rules:
1. In a post on your blog, nominate 4 fellow bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award.
2. In the same post, add the Versatile Blogger Award.
3. In the same post, thank the person who nominated you with a link back to their blog.
4. In the same post, include 7 random pieces of information about you.
5. In the same post, include this set of rules.
6. Inform each nominated blogger with a comment on their blog

7 Random Things About Myself
1. I am 5'6" in my bare feet - which is why I like to wear heels
2. I keep a crazy journal with more stuff about what I think than what I do
3. I love word searches
4. I have an extensive Ann Rinaldi book collection
5. I adore Foxtrot comic books
6. I collect pens and have been known to buy them on the internet - frequently
7. I'm planning something for my 100th post, but there are no guarantees on who (including myself) will find it interesting

That's seven!   

I know of no one, really, to nominate, except for Leah at psalm34-1 and she'll probably hate me for doing it. Such is life, though. At any rate, it's a nifty little button to put on your sidebar. 

'Till next time!