Friday, December 28, 2012

The Bibliophile Awards

Photo Credit


This is the last post of 2012 on My Lady Bibliophile. My sadness for the end of one lovely year is mixed with excitement about looking forward to another. With a graduation, finishing a huge writing project, getting my driver's license, and starting this blog, I think 2012 will always stand out as an epoch in my life.

Today, I thought it would be fun to look back and remember. And then to look forward and dream a little. :) You see, a lot has happened since I took up the mantle of Lady Bibliophile, both in my own life and in the literary world. Before I pushed that alluring "Publish" button almost one year ago, I didn't do much online. Writing emails and designing birthday cards was about as involved as I got. Not because I was a bookworm who preferred the Dark Ages: I simply didn't care as much about the Internet.

And then I pushed that "Publish" button.

More of that nostalgia on Tuesday. Today I want to showcase my favorite posts from the year in several different categories. And then we'll look forward to 2013. It's been a lovely year for bibliophiles, folks. Amidst all our chocolate-covered-anything-edibles,  let's take a short time to share what's happened in our reading lives.

First of all, I met Tolkien. What an inexpressible joy to team up with Frodo and Sam and Aragorn and Legolas to try and destroy the Ring. But that's not all. I also got to review a book that went on to become a New York Times bestseller, celebrate Dickens' bicentennial, and formulate articles on romance, magic, and language.
The year was not without it's dark spots. I had to lay down two books that I really wanted to finish. One I was 900 pages into, which is a lot of investment, and couldn't justify any more. The other was the first in a series, and I shall never know the end. Some articles I formulated when I was still reeling from shocks I had received. Writing can be a kind of therapy, I suppose, though I was more trying to capture a passion on paper that had so affected me.

But the glories far surpassed the struggles.

So here you have a little taste of the year at My Lady Bibliophile, and my number one picks from 106 posts about all things literary.

Top Five Favorite Articles:

1. Tall Tales: Is Love a Fancy or a Feeling (Part One, Part Two, Part Three)
2. Why We Love Stories
3. The Battle Won
4. Magic, Fantasy and Allegory (Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five)
5. How To Deal With Dirty Words (Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four)

Article of Merit: Beau Ideal

Top Ten Favorite Book Reviews:
1. The Way We Live Now, by Anthony Trollope
2. Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens
3. Quiet, by Susan Cain
4. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
5. The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
6. The Chosen, by Chaim Potok
7. Kidnapped, by Robert Louis Stevenson
8. The Betrayal, by Douglas Bond
9. Amazing Grace, by Eric Metaxas
10. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien (Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four)

Nonfiction of the Year:

The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Gripping theology that affected my graduation speech, my understand of God's grace, and pretty much my entire view of Christianity ever since I read it.

Fiction of the Year:

Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens

Number One Book of the Year
 
The Return of the King, by J.R.R. Tolkien

Because it's not every author who can keep me on the edge of my seat for two books in a row, leave me an emotional wreck from the height of his conclusion, and bring me back to his story multiple times. Also, Tolkien wins hands-down for the most I've ever paid for a set of books. And he has to be pretty good to do that. More about this in a week or two.



Number One Author of the Year:


I know it was my first year meeting Tolkien. And he's really amazing. But I'm still going to give it to Charles Dickens. It's only once in a lifetime that I'll be able to celebrate his bicentennial, and he has the best characterization I've ever met. Check out my reviews of Little Dorrit, Bleak House, Great Expectations, and Martin Chuzzlewit.




Looking Forward to 2013
I'm already planning out my book list for the coming year, with titles such as The Silmarillion, Ben-Hur, and Middlemarch making an appearance on it. 2013 is the bicentennial of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, so we'll be taking a look at her works and world. I have Our Mutual Friend on my list as well, and Sherlock Holmes, which I haven't read since I was 14. Way too long. And I might just get around to Pilgrim's Progress.

Thanks to you all, my friends, I added 20 books and authors to my huge list. That's right. 20. My thanks is ecstatic, if a bit breathless, because my other off-line and off-blog acquaintances added 22 more. That's a grand total of 42 new books and authors to explore. And, alas, I can only read so many at a time.

My Lady Bibliophile will be seeing a re-design and expansion in the coming weeks: after all, a new year deserves a new look. But since I'm still formulating the elements, I cannot say for sure when that will happen. Rest assured, title and web address will still remain the same.

Reviews galore. Articles aplenty. There are a lot of issues still to discuss, including Roman Catholicism in books, a series on Situational Ethics, and a few Tall Tales along the way. I'd also like (though when this shall be, I do not know) to do a series on authors' worldviews.

Lord willing, there will be many more posts to come.

And be sure to come back on Tuesday, when I release my 2012 reading list and My Lady Bibliophile celebrates its first birthday.

I would love to hear from you--what were your favorite articles and book reviews? What points taught you the most, or did you have the most fun with? Were there any books you had never heard of, and looked up because of seeing them here? Such feedback not only encourages me, but helps me to keep the good things coming. :)

Blessings,
Lady Bibliophile

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

I Wish You a Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, friends and fellow bibliophiles! It is my delight today to present to you a collection of my favorite Christmas dramas, short stories, and movies. Some bittersweet, some celebrating the joy of the season, some commemorating the birth of our dear Lord Jesus.

And I'm going to start with the account of Jesus' birth from Luke. Because that, after all, is the reason for Christmas. And it can never be read  too many times.

Luke 2

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.


Christmas Short Stories

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
Imagine the worst kids in town--who lie, and steal, and hit little kids, and cuss their teachers, and smoke cigars, and take the Name of the Lord in vain--trying to understand all the high-class Church language surrounding Christmas. Jesus came not to bring the righteous, but sinners to repentance, and the Herdmans are a funny yet convicting reminder of that fact.





Charles Dickens

While Dickens is best known for A Christmas Carol, my personal favorites are two of his lesser-known works:

The Cricket On the Hearth

 
The kettle began it!   Don’t tell me what Mrs. Peerybingle said.   I know better.   Mrs. Peerybingle may leave it on record to the end of time that she couldn’t say which of them began it; but, I say the kettle did.   I ought to know, I hope!   The kettle began it, full five minutes by the little waxy-faced Dutch clock in the corner, before the Cricket uttered a chirp.
 

The Seven Poor Travellers
Strictly speaking, there were only six Poor Travellers; but, being a Traveller myself, though an idle one, and being withal as poor as I hope to be, I brought the number up to seven.   This word of what says the inscription over the quaint old door?

RICHARD WATTS, Esq. by his Will, dated 22 Aug. 1579,
founded this Charity for Six poor Travellers,
who not being ROGUES, or PROCTORS,
May receive gratis for one Night,
Lodging, Entertainment, and Fourpence each.
 

L.M. Montgomery

The Brother Who Failed

"Yes, I can assure you, Miss Bell, that I'm real proud of my nephews and nieces. They're a smart family. They've almost all done well, and they hadn't any of them much to begin with. Ralph had absolutely nothing and to-day he is a millionaire. Their father met with so many losses, what with his ill-health and the bank failing, that he couldn't help them any. But they've all succeeded, except poor Robert--and I must admit that he's a total failure."

"Oh, no, no," said the little teacher deprecatingly.

"A total failure!" Aunt Isabel repeated her words emphatically. She was not going to be contradicted by anybody, least of all a Bell from Avonlea. "He has been a failure since the time he was born. He is the first Monroe to disgrace the old stock that way. I'm sure his brothers and sisters must be dreadfully ashamed of him. He has lived sixty years and he hasn't done a thing worth while. He can't even make his farm pay. If he's kept out of debt it's as much as he's ever managed to do."

"Some men can't even do that," murmured the little school teacher. She was really so much in awe of this imperious, clever old Aunt Isabel that it was positive heroism on her part to venture even this faint protest.

"More is expected of a Monroe," said Aunt Isabel majestically. "Robert Monroe is a failure, and that is the only name for him." --The Brother Who Failed, Further Chronicles of Avonlea

Arthur Conan Doyle


The Case of the Blue Carbuncle-- The only story in which Sherlock Holmes and Christmas are combined, The Case of the Blue Carbuncle concerns the stealing of a Christmas goose, with a blue carbuncle in it's crop.

When the commissionaire had gone, Holmes took up the stone and held it against the light. “It’s a bonny thing,” said he. “Just see how it glints and sparkles. Of course it is a nucleus and focus of crime. Every good stone is. They are the devil’s pet baits. In the larger and older jewels every facet may stand for a bloody deed. This stone is not yet twenty years old. It was found in the banks of the Amoy River in southern China and is remarkable in having every characteristic of the carbuncle, save that it is blue in shade instead of ruby red. In spite of its youth, it has already a sinister history. There have been two murders, a vitriol-throwing, a suicide, and several robberies brought about for the sake of this forty-grain weight of crystallized charcoal. Who would think that so pretty a toy would be a purveyor to the gallows and the prison? --The Case of the Blue Carbuncle


Christmas Music and Dramas

Heavenly Christmas by Jackie Evancho
Some of the songs on this are pop culture, but Jackie's beautiful voice captures "Ding Dong Merrily on High" "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas"  "We're Walking in the Air" and many more classics in a way that you won't want to miss.

King of Glory, by SMS Men's Chorus



Christmas with the Von Trapp Children,
by the Von Trapp Children

We had the pleasure of meeting the Von Trapp siblings and having them autograph this CD. It's a holiday favorite.


Ben Hur

While Ben-Hur doesn't often come to mind during the Christmas season, this Focus on the Family radio drama brilliantly captures the story of a man born at the same time as our Savior--and betrayed in much the same way. It's a fitting reminder this time of year, as it starts with the birth of Christ and carries on up to the Crucifixion. A powerful tale of redemption and forgiveness.


Charles Dickens' Christmas Dramas
Colonial Radio Theatre did a stellar job capturing the best of Charles Dickens in their Charles Dickens' Christmas Set. "The Chimes", "The Cricket on the Hearth", "The Seven Poor Travellers", and "The Christmas Carol" are all included in this set. Mild language.

Christmas Movies

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
If you want a hilarious movie adaptation of Barbara Robinson's well-loved classic, this 1983 version starring Loretta Swit includes all the funniest lines and facial expressions. We watch it every year, and it never grows old.







It Happened on 5th Avenue
A funny 1947 holiday comedy that you will enjoy just as much as White Christmas and Holiday Inn. When a hobo takes over a millionaire's summer home for the Christmas holidays, an unexpected visit from the owner's daughter brings holiday cheer and lots of laughs for all. You can rent it for $3.99 on Amazon to enjoy this holiday season!




Christmas Town at the Creation Museum
If you weren't able to get to the Creation Museum this year for their fabulous and far from typical Christmas drama, then check it out on DVD through their bookstore. Containing taped presentations of the manger scene, the magi, Anna at the temple, Elizabeth the mother of John, and a temple guard who lived during Jesus' day, this presentation will both inform and inspire you to break the myths surrounding Jesus' birth.

These are our favorites, and I hope you enjoy exploring them as much as we have. What are some of yours?

May the peace of Christ and the message of His birth fill your day.

Blessings,
Lady Bibliophile

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Conviction to Lead


Al Mohler, president of Southern Theological seminary, just released a cutting-edge book on leadership, that, coupled with Susan Cain's Quiet, makes a great Christian addition to the subjects set forth in that New York Times bestseller. Introverts and leadership, you ask? Well, yes, they are two different subjects. But Cain's solid premise coupled with Mohler's biblical perspective help to fill each other's gaps. Read them both and you'll find that in spite of their different subject they complement each other well. But Mohler's book The Conviction to Lead can also stand on its own.

The fact is, everyone (man, woman, adult and child) is at one point called to lead. This isn't authoritarianism, or egalitarianism. It's simply the fact that all of us choose whether we will be leaders or followers, in our different circles. With the girls at church, with the men in the workforce, with the conversation at family gatherings.

Being a leader does not necessarily require a position of authority. In fact, many CEOs and presidents are far from being leaders. Leadership, according to Mohler, requires 25 essential qualities, that if you're not ready to develop, then you'd better bow out in the leadership race.

I've picked my five favorite to highlight here:

Leaders Understand Worldviews
Mohler knows what he's talking about. Your business morals, your vision for the field you're leading in, what you consider right and wrong, why you do what you do, and the legacy you leave are all affected by your worldview: the "glasses" with which you view life. If life is a meaningless chaos where truth is relative, and eternity is a blank, then there's no way you're going to lead in a strong, decisive manner that will leave multigenerational impact. But if you understand that the supreme God of the Bible placed you on this earth for a specific purpose, and that you will be called to account for how you led, and your eternal reward will be affected by it, then you're going to put in every ounce of passion and energy you have. And you're going to make sure that your work matters. Really matters. Leaders understand the fundamental questions such as "What is the purpose of life?" and they make sure their followers understand it too.

Leaders are Communicators
If anything, one of the benefits we learned through homeschooling was communication. We had to. For one thing, we weren't around a lot of our peers for much of our elementary years, and let's face it: if your main social contacts are adults, you learn how to talk with them. My brother and I also loved to write. Essays were the greatest school assignment we could ever have. Perhaps it was because we had a passion about what we wrote. I've studied out a wide range of subjects from the mental effects of language to a biblical case for earrings. (When you start thinking, no subject is off limits.) But leaders are going to be called upon continually to cast the vision, and explain the vision, and defend the vision. To do that, they need to be comfortable with both the written and the spoken word. You don't have to be outgoing, but you do have to be engaging.

Leaders are Readers
Out of twenty-five principles that Mohler sets forth, I think it will hardly surprise anyone that I picked this one. What might surprise people is I didn't put it first on the list, knowing my passion for all things literary. Well, this list is meant to go in order, and as Mohler didn't place it first, I can't either. Leaders must be readers. There is no other alternative. To be a leader you're going to be making multiple decisions with multiple options and factors involved in each one. You're going to be working with different personalities, different needs, and different cultures. You're going to need to have a lot of information tucked away, both historical, scientific, theological, and of course, biblical. No human mind has all of these facts at their fingertips, and it requires extensive reading to keep you sharp and up to date. And yes, fiction counts too. :)

The Leader as Decision Maker
One of the biggest faults with Christian leaders I've observed is their propensity to second guess themselves. Somehow we've missed the connection that humility doesn't mean lack of confidence, and leaning on the Lord's understanding doesn't mean we refuse to use the reasoning capacities he has blessed us with. Evaluate, pause for quick review, and then make it and claim it as your own. Stamp your initials all over it, and don't second guess yourself. Take time afterwards to review the pros and cons of its consequences; and come to grips with the fact that sometimes you're going to make the wrong one. God places you in a position of leadership, not a position of deity. You're not supposed to be infallible.

The Leader as Writer
I could not neglect to pay a short tribute to Mohler's section on writing, as it is a subject quite dear to my own heart. Leaders must be writers: letters, articles, books, columns, memos: every leader will face some or all of these whether you're in leadership in the church, the corporate world, or the home. Writing both deepens and widens the impact of your sphere of leadership.

Mohler covers a lot more: leaders and time, leaders and passion, leaders and death. I could go through all 25 of them, but Mohler expresses them so concisely in his own words, that I would not rob you of the enjoyment of them.

Our parents taught us that wherever we went, we needed to lead. Granted, there are certain issues of propriety: for example, I don't lead the conversation when men are present, or older women. But with my peers and with those younger than me, I have the choice to be a leader or a follower. Passion isn't leadership, and conviction isn't necessarily leadership either. But when you have the conviction to lead, and the conviction to invest in your followers, then you will go far.

Be it a Bible study, a blog, or a simple conversation, opportunities abound. Read Al Mohler's book for 25 principles in leadership that matters.

This book was provided at no cost by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Blessings,
Lady Bibliophile

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

I'm going to do two Christmas posts this year. And as we have some exciting year-end topics coming up later this month, one Christmas post will be a little early.

Davis Bunn has his weak points. Impostor, however engaging its premise, is full of incomplete sentences and murky solutions to the plot. I thought we were finally out of those days after reading Lion of Babylon's brilliant modern action. Here, I thought, Bunn has finally grown into his style. Rare Earth took a bit of a dip down again. Not as low as, say, Berlin Encounter, one of his earlier novels, but it didn't hold up to what I was expecting.

Why keep reading, you say?

All because of one book. His Christmas book. Tidings of Comfort and Joy.

Inklings here and there show me what he can really do, if only he wouldn't write for the publisher and the deadline. Stories must be grown, not churned out. Now don't get me wrong: I believe he has passion, dedication, and a true love for his craft; you can tell pretty quickly. But there's a missing link, and I haven't found it yet.

Anyway, enough mental ruminating. Here at least is one of his books that I recommend as a Christmas love story with an interesting twist.

The Story

Tidings of Comfort and Joy contains two parallel tales that take place decades apart. It starts with Marissa, a girl who's troubled with, an ailment that causes her to sleep for hours on end. She's staying with her grandmother for the Christmas holidays, and her family is taking a trip to Hawaii. Odd combination of events, but lest I take away the incentive to read the book, I will leave it shrouded in mystery for now. Needless to say, Marissa is bitter and angry, when she's even awake to think about anything.

Her grandmother tells her that if she'll grow up, then she can hear a Christmas tale that has everything to do with why she is sick. Marissa agrees, and Emily takes out a photograph of a handsome young airforce pilot, arm in arm with an adoring young girl.

The story starts out as a cliche. But as it continues, it's anything but.

The era is post-WWII, not long after the Armistice. Young Emily runs away from home to follow her young pilot to England. She tells all her coworkers that she's getting married, even though Grant never gave her that promise. When she arrives, she's sick with pneumonia, and she finds that Grant left with the news of her coming. Stranded and penniless, and having missed the first Christmas of her life, she decides to live in the apartment he left for her until she can find a way to get back home. Her landlady, old Rachel, tells her that she needs to keep herself busy to come to grips with her grief, and she agrees to help in an orphanage full of WWII refugee children. 300 orphans who don't know English, a lot of government tape, and very little food supplies. Along with Rachel and Colin, the vicar, Emily spreads tender hope and teaches the children that Christmas is not merely a date on the calendar, but a season of the heart.

It's impossible to describe this story without it's sounding a sappy shelf-filler. But it isn't. It's full of grace, and truth, and restoration. And the moral stretches far beyond the finding of a spouse to the healing of broken relationships in any form.

Tidings of Comfort and Joy...if you have a quiet Christmas to look forward to, then find this book and curl up with it. It's like a fleece blanket for the soul.




My Thoughts
This short novella encompasses many enjoyable elements: historical setting, a grandmother connecting with a granddaughter, and a love story that's not stickily sweet or plain unrealistic. Remember our series earlier this year on "Is Love a Fancy or a Feeling?" (Part One, Part Two, Part Three) Well, Tidings of Comfort And Joy illustrates the fact that there can be stories dedicated to a couple falling in love, that are still good and worthwhile to read. After all, it's not the falling in love that's wrong--it's how they do it. Between Grant and--well, let's admit it--Colin, we see the textbook example of the two concepts I tried to illustrate in my original articles. In fact, they illustrate it so well, that you would almost think it was fiction.

Ahem.

As far as Emily and Marrissa's relationship goes, most granddaughters would love to have the kind of bond that causes their grandmother to tell them stories of her past. The beautiful thing about Emily and Marissa is that Emily isn't telling a bedtime story to a little girl. She's calling out Marissa's womanhood, not with threats or cajoling, but with trust. Most teens will respond in kind if they are given a trust to keep. All in all, the only thing I didn't like in this book came when Emily offered to tell Marissa her story. She made her promise not to tell anyone. Emily said that she thought even Marissa's mother didn't know the whole story. But, while I'm not excusing this thread, it's a small element that, when carefully rejected as the wrong behavior, doesn't have a lot of bearing on the rest of the tale.

By far, what most drew me to this book was the quiet moments. The moments when Emily is feeling her pain, and someone stops to put an arm around her. I have lost the quotes I wrote down, but when I get the book again I shall find them and copy them. They are wise words about how to heal when you've been hurt by someone you love.

The best thing about this book: even though it had a predictable ending, the ending came in an quietly unpredictable way. That first moonlight kiss that you expect in such stories--never came. Marissa didn't receive a Christmas miracle of feeling "all better" by the time the story ended. She's still sick, and she's going to be for a long time. Even the bits that are cliche remind us that in spite of our skepticism, God still does work miracles, and some plots do turn out happily-ever-after in reality.

A modern Christmas novella that deserves your attention. I think you'll enjoy as much as I did.

Blessings,
Lady Bibliophile


 
"Let me start by telling you the reason I have decided to share the secret with you. It is because I, too, have lost a Christmas. My story really begins four days before the Christmas that never was."
 ~ Tidings of Comfort and Joy

Friday, December 14, 2012

Buried Alive



It was about 10 p.m. on August 18, a warm, dark Saturday night in 1979. We slammed the van doors behind us, running full speed to the entrance of the basement hallway in an apartment complex  in Les Ulis, outside of Paris. This 30 to 40-foot hallway had energy-saver switches on one end and a tiny elevator at the far end. We flew down the hallway like hunted foxes and squeezed into the tiny elevator meant only to carry a few people....Never did it occur to us while we were making plans for this trip over the past six months that anything like this might happen. Who would have guessed that my research would produce such a violent reaction. We had been followed by at least one, and sometimes two, small sports cars. At first the pursuit was slow and secretive but as events escalated during the last five or six hours, they became more visible and threatening.
-Buried Alive, Chapter One

The 1980s saw a rise in creationist exploration that rivalled The 39 Steps for adventure. One of these tales is encompassed in Buried Alive, by Dr. Jack Cuozzo. But he's not your normal doctor. He's a dentist. And what he discovered about Neanderthal skulls set the French secret police in uproar, and caused the cruel death of one of his colleagues---all in the name of evolution.

The idea of "cave men" sometimes classified as "Neanderthals" are supposed to be missing links in the ape-to-man chain of life. All of the research thus far has been proven to be a fraud, an ape, or a man, but never anything in between. Still, the average public is taught that cave men existed, and for the most part the average public believes in what they've been taught. Thing is, cave men did exist, but not in the way the textbooks teach. Curious? More on that later.

In 1976 Cuozzo began to question the evolutionary fossil record. He might never have taken it as far as he did, had it not been at the encouragement of one Wilton M. Krogman, his anthropology professor, and the man who identified the remains of Adolf Hitler. Teeth are pretty important for identification purposes; in the case of Hitler all that was left by the time his remains were excavated was bones and teeth. Therefore, in the case of Neanderthals, it would make sense that their teeth would go a long way to identifying who they actually were. Krogman talked with Cuozzo about his doubts in  May of 1979, and encouraged him to take x-ray equipment to France to find out what was really going on. Cuozzo agreed, and with Krogman's letter of introduction and a machine from a fellow dentist Dr. Brown (who's name Cuozzo disguised) he set out with his wife and five children to live in a borrowed apartment and study the famous skulls at the Musee de l'Homme.

What he found there shocked him beyond description.

All the years and years of data, carefully photographed and described in school textbooks around the globe, was a lie. Skulls had been assembled incorrectly, plastic had been added to change their shapes, sometimes there were only a couple of unidentifiable bits of bone, and the whole skull was an artist's interpretation. Surely scientists would not allow such blatant lies to be taught to schoolchildren and presented at conferences? But yes, they would, and when the French police discovered his research, they were determined not to let him leave the country alive.

One man died horribly, and if you're disturbed by that kind of thing, then skip the section headed "Dr. Brown found Dead". But the book is worth it--oh, yes, it is worth it--to discover firstly to what level scientists will stoop to try to disprove God, and secondly, to give us all an amazing proof for the biblical account of mankind's development.

My Thoughts
Buried Alive is divided into three sections: the first is Cuozzo's heart stopping adventure in France, which takes not quite one-third of the book. In part two he delves into his findings, such as evidence of dentistry work on Neanderthal teeth and brain surgery for bullet wounds; simply an impossibility if they were the primitive people evolutionists consider them. Part three discusses the modern implications of what he found, and goes into intricate descriptions of calculating age by jaw measurements. Also, Cuozzo includes detailed footnotes depending on how deep you want to delve.
The first part is non-stop excitement. But that's where his story ends, I'm afraid. The rest of it is a scientific treatise, and the suspense goes down considerably. I think that most people interested in creation science will find it engaging, however. The third section will require a long pull, a strong pull, and a pull altogether for the section on jaw angles.
Actually, I haven't read all the footnotes. I would have liked to, but I was getting lost in their length, so I recommend that you actually read the book without them the first time through, and then catch the footnotes the second time around.
Cuozzo includes thoughts on female adolescence, particularly chapters 29 and 33. While he includes nothing inappropriate for, say, teenage girls on up, male readers may wish to be careful. Also, most readers  will probably wish to skip the quote on page 195 by Hildegard of Bingen, which finishes out the section on the page, and is mature in nature.
In one fascinating section Cuozzo talks about Job's sores on his skin. Apparently he really was saved "by the skin of his teeth" (Job 19:20). When God gave Satan permission to test Job, he told him that he could not touch Job's life. Satan struck Job with sores all over his skin: but in obedience to God's stipulation, he could not have struck the skin on Job's teeth. The skin over the teeth depends on the salivary glands to stay intact. Job was probably spitting on his wounds to try to counter infection, and since he could still produce saliva (Job 7:19) he knew that he still had the skin of his teeth. Without that saliva, he probably couldn't have lived.

Fascinating. And there's much more to be found in Buried Alive.



Are There Really Cave Men?
Yes. But cave men were simply people who lived in caves. To quote Answers in Genesis: "They're no different then high-rise men or condo men, or apartment men."

We do have biblical evidence that people lived in caves:

They were driven forth from among men, (they cried after them as after a thief;)
To dwell in the cliffs of the valleys, in caves of the earth, and in the rocks.
-Job 30:5-6

But cavemen were far from primitive. For example, evolutionists didn't think that cavemen had evolved the use of their thumbs, but such pictures as this one give serious cause to doubt that statement. Also, primitive people could not have had the intelligence to produce such an intricate instrument as a flute. But this picture shows that they had the intelligence necessary to create an instrument with amazing musical capacity, which would make sense according to Genesis 4:21. Cuozzo also found evidence of dental fillings in some of the skulls he examined. When the evidence is not tampered with, we find abundant proof for intelligent early man.

But what about the different skull shapes? And how does Cuozzo address the theory that Neanderthal coexisted with intelligent humans, but they were a different species? 

That's all waiting for you in Buried Alive.

I chose to review this book today because I'm travelling to spend the weekend at the Creation Museum, and Buried Alive was the book I bought three years ago on my first visit there. A state-of-the-art walk-through the Bible, I stand behind the Creation Museum's highest rating. It truly deserves every accolade it receives, and you should go too. The bookstore alone is worth the trip :)

Got a question about creation? Drop me an email, or go to www.answersingenesis.com. Our faith has a foundation, and we can stand on it.

Blessings,
Lady Bibliophile

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Little Dorrit

Welcome, friends and fellow bibliophiles, to another post on My Lady Bibliophile. I will admit, for the first time, that I really didn't know what day it was until Junior B. asked me if I had my post up. Due to her, we have an unbroken record thus far. :)

Before we begin, I am pleased to announce that the Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Special Extended Edition is available for review by email. Reviews include casting, accuracy, and violence, as well as an overarching rating of the entire series, and you can receive one simply by sending in a request to the link on the sidebar.



And now, on to our book review. Today I have decided to do one last novel by Dickens, in celebration of his bicentennial. (Never fear, Dickens' fans, for we shall be seeing more of him in the course of the month.)

So I present to you Charles Dickens' Little Dorrit.

If Little Dorrit were not so long, this actually might be the book I recommend first to new readers of his. It's just as good as Great Expectations, and the two are equal in my mind, though Great Expectations has the teensiest edge on Little Dorrit. Being the first one I ever read, it's only right that it should be so. I read Little Dorrit for the first time in 2011, and hoped to revisit it in December of this year. Alas, that will not be the case, as I have five and a half books in the queue that take priority. But thankfully I can relive the dream in memory, and there's always the hope of next year.

I remember buying it from Barnes and Nobles, and carefully tucking it alongside The Count of Monte Cristo for a weekend trip. (That's the kind of idealist I am.) Of course I started with Little Dorrit first, and though the first few pages were interminably dull, I knew that I would soon be swept up in the excitment.

I was.

Page after page, for the entire weekend, I ate up the story of a loving woman and a lonely father. The Count of Monte Cristo got left behind in the dust, amidst the drama of devious Blandois and the bitterness of old Mrs. Clennam.

This is a book that does a bibliophile proud. I promise you all the heartbreak and happiness, suspense and characterization that your book-loving heart can hold.

The Story
Arthur Clennam is returning home after 20 years abroad with his father. They've managed the China branch of the family's silk export business, while Mrs. Clennam and her servant Flintwich kept up the English branch at home. He's 40 years old, and it's time to do something really worthwhile with his life. He tells his mother that his father is dead, and gives her an old watch, in which is a piece of silk, stitched with the letters "Do Not Forget". His mother wants nothing more to do with him when he leaves the family business, but he dearly wants to know what it was that his father charged him to put right. Haunted with the suspicion that the House of Clennam has wronged someone, he begs his mother to tell him, but she refuses. Then, in the corner, he sees a tiny little woman sitting at her sewing. Her name is Amy Dorrit.
Through the little twists and turns of an investigation, he learns that Amy was born in the Marshalsea debtors prison, where she has lived some twenty odd years of her existence, due to her father's debts. She works out to provide for her father, her sister Fanny, and her indolent brother Tip, but it would distress Mr. Dorrit to know, so she conceals the fact from the man known as the "Father of the Marshalsea". Arthur Clennam wonders if it is her that his family business has wronged, and he turns some thought to it amidst the happiness of falling in love with Pet Meagles.

But never in his wildest dreams would he have dreamt what his meddling would unleash about Little Dorrit, the House of Clennam, or himself.

My Thoughts:
Arthur Clennam is my favorite character, with Little Dorrit and Pancks making a close second; the Chiverys and Plornishes tied for third place. And if one is allowed to like a villain, as doing his job very well, then I liked Blandois immensely.
Little Dorrit contains language, common to most Dickens' novels.
It's about 900 pages, so it's a commitment, but I think you'll find it an easy one to follow through on.
Little Dorrit is Dicken's keen satire on government, and contains such myriads of government employees as Tite Barnacle, Tite Barnicle Jr. and Barnacles ad infinitum.
To give you a sample of their prowess, I quote as follows:

Arthur Clennam is asking a Barnacle how he can find out information concerning William Dorrit's debts.

'Why, you'll—you'll ask till they tell you. Then you'll memorialise that Department (according to regular forms which you'll find out) for leave to memorialise this Department. If you get it (which you may after a time), that memorial must be entered in that Department, sent to be registered in this Department, sent back to be signed by that Department, sent back to be countersigned by this Department, and then it will begin to be regularly before that Department. You'll find out when the business passes through each of these stages by asking at both Departments till they tell you...
When the business is regularly before that Department, whatever it is,' pursued this bright young Barnacle, 'then you can watch it from time to time through that Department. When it comes regularly before this Department, then you must watch it from time to time through this Department. We shall have to refer it right and left; and when we refer it anywhere, then you'll have to look it up. When it comes back to us at any time, then you had better look US up. When it sticks anywhere, you'll have to try to give it a jog. When you write to another Department about it, and then to this Department about it, and don't hear anything satisfactory about it, why then you had better—keep on writing.'

Dickens satire is a bit too true for comfort on occasion. Never fear: Arthur's former sweetheart Flora offers a diversion in the form of long conversations in incomplete sentences, without punctuation. You may have to read it once or twice, but I assure you that you shall find infinite cause for amusement.

A brilliant story, told in a brilliant manner. A score once again for my favorite author.

Movie Review:
I have seen Little Dorrit twice now, and am the happy owner of this 4 DVD set, due to a nice little Black Friday deal in 2011. 14 episodes, two of which are an hour each, this movie adaptation truly captures the spirit of Dickens' masterpiece, not to mention giving Matthew Macfadyen a role that does him justice. I met Andy Serkis as Blandois before I ever heard of Gollum or Screwtape, and I think I'll always picture him as a sneering villain singing his eerie little French tune. If you would like a comprehensive review, which due to the nature of the movie I recommend, then I would be happy to provide one by email: casting, accuracy, language, and violence. I can give an unconditional recommendation to both trailers, however, which I have included below for your viewing pleasure. The first one is a bit grainy, but it provides a better view of the story itself.



 
 
There's still time to celebrate Dickens' bicentennial. It's an epoch that none of us will ever see again. If you haven't already, I recommend taking the Christmas holidays to acquaint yourself with a tale of filial love that spans a myriad of adventures.

Blessings,
Lady Bibliophile

Friday, December 7, 2012

Robbing From the Rich to Give to the Poor


 

The classic English legend of Robin Hood certainly offers sufficient fodder for a spirited debate. From the 14th century onwards, scraps of legend and poetry gave rise to one of England's best loved stories: that of a handsome young archer robbing the rich to feed the poor. From the earliest surviving Robin Hood and the Monk, to Howard Pyle's classic children's adaptation, tales of the forest of Sherwood are rife among classic offerings. Not only that, but the film industry embraces him as their own, with over 63 adaptations featuring him, and 32 more in which he makes an honorary appearance. One of these, by the by, is Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, in which I was much pleased to find him.

My own introduction to Robin Hood has been very limited, compared to the vast offerings available. The Disney animation, a brief foray into an audiobook of Pyle's version, which was promptly cut short when I found it had an elderly female narrator (she just didn't fit the overall tone of the story), and the book which we're going to be discussing today: Robin Hood, by Paul Creswick. This edition, published in 1917 sported the glorious N.C. Wyeth illustrations and a whole new look into Robin's childhood. I don't recall how many years ago it was when I first read it, but  I do recall falling in love with it on first read. Back then, I didn't think much about the moral implications of the character's actions, but just a few weeks ago I revisited this book, and I thought it would be most interesting to explore it further.

Because, as hard as it is to say, if he's robbing the rich to feed the poor, then we're excusing sin in the name of adventure.

The Story
Everyone knows Robin Hood, but there are differing accounts of how he came to the Greenwood. In Paul Creswick's Robin Hood he leaves for the greenwood at around age 18, and the story spans into his twenties, I would think. But it begins when he's sixteen years old, young Robin Fitzooth, living with his parents in the forest of Locksley. King Richard is abroad fighting in the crusade, and Robin's life bids fair to be a happy one--at least, as happy as a life in medieval England can be. His father was cheated out of his rightful lands, so he has to content himself with being the Ranger of Locksley and caring for the king's dear. When an invitation comes from Robin's uncle, Geoffrey of Montfitchet, to see the fair, and a further opportunity for Robin to become the Montfitchet heir, Hugh allows his son to go. On his way Robin receives his first hint of the greenwood, when Will O' the Green demands money for his safe passage to town. Robin, bold of heart and brave of tongue offers the best of three shots for the freedom of the forest, and Will accepts the wager, but a group of sheriff's men riding by cuts their competition short. Once at Geoffrey of Montfitchet's, Robin meets his cousin Will Scarlet, who has been disinherited as Geoffrey's son for his allegiance to Prince John. After these hints of the future Robin's world changes when he slights the Sheriff of Nottingham's daughter in favor of Maid Marion on the bestowal of a prize at archery, invoking the enmity of the Sheriff's household. Then Robin's father dies, killed by a wild stag, and Robin determines to become Ranger of Locksley in his stead. He sends his request to the sheriff, but the sheriff is determined to slight him, and twists an unfortunate incident with Will O' the Green's men to make Robin look like an outlaw. After a mean trick to make Robin shoot one of the king's deer, and a failed hanging, Robin takes refuge with Will O' the Green's men.

And thus, Robin Locksley dies, and Robin Hood takes his place.

My Thoughts:

I'll get to the issue of thievery in a moment, but before I do, I'll give my customary general thoughts regarding the book. It is worth it to have the edition for the illustrations, but coupled with the classic retelling that Creswick gives, this Robin Hood sets the standard high. Each edition has its merits; I finally caved in and looked up the Howard Pyle edition on the internet this morning. Within minutes I was roaring with laughter (albeit inwardly) and I shall add him to my list, for though I think Creswick will be my favorite of all time, I never mind another view of a good hero, especially a humorous one.
The Paul Creswick edition contains a very few mild instances of language, but is for the most part a clean tale. Little gore indeed, though a lot of archery and arrows. Also, Robin Hood is far from the invincible fellow he likes to think he is, and there are plenty of bloody noses and cracked crowns for all concerned, including him.
Paul Creswick's edition is not nearly as laugh-inducing as Pyle's, though he has his moments, especially in Robin's meeting with Little John. But all in all, his story is one of true love, both the love of a man for a maid, and the love of a man for a fellow man. All are willing to risk their necks in rescuing their comrades, and they care for one another in a truly endearing manner. Oh, yes, they all have their spats. But only enough to add a spice of variety, and keep the reader from viewing them as an angelic band.
The only scene I skipped altogether was the scene in which young Robin gets his fortune told at the fair. Fortune telling is one plot that I disapprove of entirely, and though I won't dump the whole book if it contains it, and even in some instances I will read a scene containing a fortune-teller (for instance, The Triumph of the Scarlet Pimpernel) or someone making a jest of fortune-telling (such as Pancks in Little Dorrit) when it's the real crystal ball stuff I flip a few pages.
My applause to Creswick for refraining from turning Marian into a feminist wood-dweller. Though she joins Robin, and in several instances takes on the dress of a page, she keeps her feminine dignity and poise, whether she's her own sweet self or going under the guise of--well, I won't say. Their love story is a true and clean and honest one, a fitting illustration of how a woman complements a man no matter what his work.

Situational Ethics or Biblical Interposition?
And now we come to Robin's merry escapades in the greenwood. In Howard Pyle's edition Robin is outlawed for killing a man and a deer, but in Creswick's Robin Hood he has to flee because of the Sheriff of Nottingham's false claims. With Prince John on the throne there is very little justice in the land, and he finds more in the greenwood than in the court. Oh, yes, he has his unfortunate escapades--Little John stealing the sheriff's plate is the only blatant theft, which unfortunately Robin sanctions. But in the rest of the instances, Robin merely brings a man in to share a dinner with the band, and charges him according to his wealth. Thus, you'll find several instances of situational ethics, that of doing wrong that good might result.
The idea of biblical interposition is an interesting one. I went to a weekend conference on this topic, at which Paul Jehle is the speaker, and it was quite enlightening. I highly encourage you to purchase the recordings here. It is not necessarily wrong to disobey the authorities who violating their God-given responsibility to dispense justice. In biblical interposition, first you appeal to the authorities. If that fails, you flee. And if that fails, then you fight. For instance, take the Scottish covenanters who emigrated to America. The Covenanters did just that; first they appealed to the king; when that failed, they fled to mountain strongholds and hidden valleys, and when the king's dragoons followed them, they turned to and fought with a vengeance. The question regarding Robin Hood remains, was his band an excuse for blatant sin and outlawry, or was it a just biblical interposition against unjust tyrants. Perhaps the words of King Richard answer it best: "I love the man who is brave and who dealeth fairly as he may with his fellow men. You have kept the spirit of liberty alive in this my land, and I hold no anger against you because you have been impatient under wrong." The ultimate mark of biblical interposition, is that once a wrong government is abolished, the people set up a new government in its place, not relying any longer than necessary on the ruling of the common will. And this, in Creswick's edition, Robin does. His king is King Richard, and he swears fealty to him.  Robin Hood has his occasional faults, but altogether "Robbing the Rich to Feed the Poor" has become much more of a Hollywood hype than the original tales contained. And though his outlaw band may not be perfect, in Creswick's edition they are fighting for truth and justice, and the good law of the land of England. I know not how other editions portray him, but in my favorite edition, though not without its flaws, I find no need to excuse my enjoyment of the bulk of his adventures, for the bulk of them are honest ones. In fact, if you like Stevenson's The Black Arrow, then I think you'll like Creswick's Robin Hood very much indeed.

Such a pity that it had to end as it did. But the legend lives on, and I think it bids fair to last for centuries to come.

Blessings,
Lady Bibliophile.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Lysbeth


H. Rider Haggard's tales are on the rise again amongst fans of classic literature. While some of them are morally nebulous (She comes to mind) our family treasures both The Brethren and Pearl Maiden in our Haggard collection. Someday I'm going to get around to Allan Quartermain and Queen Sheba's Ring, as I'm curious to sample his take on the African adventure novel.

Haggard's trademark style centers in four areas: England, which is hardly surprising; the Fertile Crescent, Africa, and the Netherlands. A curious conglomeration, but to each his own. Today, we're going to be looking at a story from the last of the four areas: Lysbeth, a tale of the Protestant Reformation during the time of William of Orange. Note that so far I've only read the Christian Liberty Press editions of Haggard, which slightly update the language and edit for a greater Christian message.

The Story:

"Juan de Montalvo...your wickedness has won and for Dirk's sake my person and my goods must pay its price. So be it since so it must be, but listen, I make no prophecies about you. I do not say that this or that shall happen to you, but I call down upon you the curse of God...
 
"God, Whom it has pleased that I should be given to a fate far worse than death; O God, blast the mind and the soul of this monster. Let him henceforth never know a peaceful hour; let misfortune come upon him through me and mine; let fears haunt his sleep. Let him live in heavy labor and die in blood and misery; and if I bear children to him, let the evil be upon them also."

Lysbeth's tone starts off with Haggard's classic cup of suffering. The year is 1544, the emperor is Charles V, and the city is Leyden. Lysbeth Van Hout meets her cousin Dirk van Goorl for a day of skating and sleigh races, and all goes well until a conversation with a mad old heretic woman, Martha the Mare, adds a drop of foreboding to her pleasure. When the strange Spaniard Count Don Juan de Montalvo asks her to be his passenger in the sleigh races, Dirk lets her go, and she will never be the same. Through a series of unfortunate events, Montalvo gains a hold over her, invites himself into her circle, and claims her hand in marriage. To save innocent people, she can do nothing to prevent him. He leads her a life of misery, forcing her to pay his debts with all of her money, and in time she conceives a child. Then her world falls to pieces when Montalvo's sins catch up with him. He is married to another woman, and her marriage to him is a mere farce.

She delivers a son. She names him Adrian. And then she marries again.

Book One is called "The Sowing", Book Two "The Ripening", Book Three "The Harvesting" We pick up again some twenty years later, when Lysbeth's second son, Foy, is a grown man. General Alvarez de Toledeo has marched his army across France to Brussells; all the inhabitants of the Netherlands are condemned to death for their Protestant faith, and citizens are forced to watch torturing, burnings, and hangings almost every day. Foy's a good sort of lad, fond of mischief, but a sound and committed Protestant. 24-year-old Adrian isn't committed to anything except his comfort and his poetry.
When Adrian rescues a young woman from a bunch of ruffians, and finds that she is travelling to meet his family, he brings her home, and Dirk finds that she is his niece, carrying an important message in her saddle bow. Her father is rich, and a certain one-eyed Spaniard, Ramiro, pursues his wealth. But though he knows that he will soon be put upon the rack, he sends his only child, and desires that Dirk will rescue his wealth from the hands of the Spanish Inquisition. This last request sets in motion a terrible train of revenge, betrayal, and the fulfillment of the curse that Lysbeth called down so many years before.

My Thoughts
Lysbeth contains a lot of non-stop drama: rising floods, forced marriages, the turn of the rack, and flaming buildings, along with the quieter drama of whispered conversations and unwilling alliances, tied altogether by false identities. If you're looking for adventure, this is the book for you. I was surprised that Christian Liberty Press chose to keep several instances of language, including misuse of the Lord's Name, so that's something to be aware of.
But if you're looking for a bit of light reading, then don't pick up Lysbeth. Forebodings come true, curses are fulfilled, and overall this books is more of a doleful experience then a rollicking drama party. Foy and the family servant Red Martin provide a bit of comic relief, but it's not enough to overcome the darkness of the times. The worst thing about it is, Lysbeth makes decisions that leave you with despair that wouldn't have come had she held on for 48 hours more.
"A tale of faith, love, and hardship" the back of the books says. Hardship aplenty, love indeed, but faith? It isn't the faith of the main characters as a whole. Lysbeth doesn't have much even in the best of times, or if she does, it's more faith without hope. Indeed, the faith is more in the Netherlands as a  people than any of the individual characters. Not that I'm saying the characters don't have any, but most of them leave me with a question mark.
However, Haggard's tribute to William of Orange is truly brilliant. While Lysbeth's family is the main story, threading throughout it is the greater backdrop of the people of Leyden. Their resentments, their fears, their intrepid perseverance, their deaths. While Lysbeth's story is not a happy one, the people of Leyden end on a brighter note of religious freedom for the future.
If one wishes to find implications  deeper than the obvious, then there is a greater lesson in Lysbeth than perseverance under trial. And that is on the matter of curses. Lysbeth was not a Christian when she uttered her curse on Don Juan de Montalvo, but many Christians have uttered curses on their enemies--take for instance, the psalms of David, many of which are bloodthirsty petitions for God to break the teeth of his enemies.

But never, never curse the next generation.

The sins of the father affect the children for generations. It's a reality that God sets forth in Scripture, and one that we see. But that doesn't mean that the child has to sin, even though they may be dealing with the effects of past wrongdoing.
 
The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them. --Ezekiel 18:20

Cursing the future leads to great heartache and despair.

The story of religious freedom in the Netherlands is an interesting one, not merely for what happened to them, but how it affected others. As Haggard says in his author's commentary, "The Mayflower Pilgrims, who resided in Holland for over ten years, would never have been able to utilize this land as their temporary haven had not Almighty God, in His sovereign mercy and perfect timing, freed the Netherlands from Roman Catholic domination in the late 1500s. It is probably not too much to state, that if the Lord did not grant freedom to the Dutch when he did, then the whole scope of early American history would have been dramatically altered. Indeed, it is probable that North America would never have become a stronghold of Protestant Christianity and a beacon for virtuous liberty."

I recommend that everyone read Lysbeth, though it is probably more of a young adult/adult book than a family read. It is one that provokes thought, and deals with a time and place in history that we often overlook. I myself have a Dutch heritage, and I am glad to know more of it through this story. It may not be on my top ten list, but it is a book of worthy history, and a sober illustration of the importance of parental legacy.

There is no freedom without sacrifice, and no triumph without loss.
-H. Rider Haggard


Blessings,
Lady Bibliophile
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