Wednesday, February 15, 2017

"I Love Austen Week" Tag

It is "I Love Austen Week" @ Hamlette's Soliloquy, and this is my first time participating.  I am an Austen newbie because I have not had enough investment in Austen novels or her life; however, I will add that Northanger Abbey is the only Austen I have yet to read, and I am thoroughly enjoying Emma right this very moment. 

So here is Hamlette's book tag for Austen Week:

1.  Which did you experience first, a Jane Austen book or a movie based on one?  
Book: Pride and Prejudice

2.  What is your favorite Austen book?  

Persuasion, with Pride and Prejudice an extremely close second.  I'm really loving Emma right now; then I would place Sense and Sensibility next, with Mansfield Park last.  I still need to read Northanger Abbey.

3.  Favorite heroine?  Why do you like her best?  
Elizabeth Bennet.  She absolutely, totally rocks.  I relate to her very much, or else I made it up in my head, and I want to be her in my next life.

4.  Favorite hero?  
Why do you like him best?  
Captain Frederick Wentworth: Jane Austen created the ideal utopian husband: hard working, self-made, determined, and kind of modern.  And did I mention, (with the help of Jane) he can write a love letter that "pierces" one's heart like Cupid's arrow?    

5.  Do you have a favorite film adaptation of Austen's work?  

"Pride and Prejudice" (2005)  I have not seen many adaptations of Austen films, so I am not a very good judge in this department.

6.  Have your Austen tastes changed over the years?  

Here's my story: I absolutely loved reading Pride and Prejudice and went into Persuasion thinking I knew what I was doing; but I hated it.  A year later, I was encouraged to reread Persuasion - which I did, with the most amazing results: I loved it more than Pride and Prejudice.  I don't know what happened, but the maturity of Persuasion really appealed to me.  After that, it was hit or miss: I admired Sense and Sensibility, but I did not care for Mansfield Park.  And now I am loving Emma.  I think I just need to read and reread Austen's books over and over again.

7.  Do you have any cool Austen-themed things?  

No (sad face).

8.  If you could ask Jane Austen one question, what would you ask her?  

Share your reading/book list. : )  (More like a command.)

9.  Imagine someone is making a new film of any Jane Austen story you choose, and you get to cast the leads.  What story do you want filmed, and who would you choose to act in it?  

Again, I'm not a movie person, and I don't even know actors or actresses well enough to place them in character.  

10.  Share up to five favorite Jane Austen quotations:

Pride and Prejudice: 

 It is very often nothing but our own vanity that deceives us.  
Women fancy admiration means more than it does. 


No, it was not regret which made Anne's heart beat in spite of herself, 
and brought the colour into her cheeks when she thought of 
Captain Wentworth unshackled and free.  
She had some feelings which she was ashamed to investigate.  
They were too much like joy, senseless joy. 

Sense and Sensibility:

If I could but know his heart, every thing would become easy. 

Mansfield Park:

Nothing ever fatigues me but doing what I do not like. 


It was foolish, it was wrong, to take so active a part in bringing any two people together. It was adventuring too far, assuming too much, making light of what ought to be serious, a trick of what ought to be simple.  She was quite concerned and ashamed, and resolved to do such things no more. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Love Stories From Books

Ten Favorite Love Stories

Not necessarily a love story between two people, 
but maybe a love story between a character and the landscape, 
the author and his country, or even a love letter.

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
Genuine Love
Bathsheba and Farmer Oak

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
Tragic Love
Yuri and Lara

These Happy Golden Years
Youthful Love
Manny and Laura

West From Home by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Mature Love
Manny and Laura

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Love for Russia and her people
Party by Repin, 1881

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Masculine Love
Rhett and Scarlet

Persuasion by Jane Austen
The ultimate Love letter

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Misunderstood Love
Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy

Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
Consuming Love
Newland and Ellen

Germinal by Émile Zola
Protective Love
Étienne and Catherine

O Pioneers by Willa Cather
Love for the land

Arthurian Romances by Chrétien de Troyes
Medieval knightly Love (makes me blush)
Lancelot and Guinevere

Happy Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Betty Smith
Published 1943

I was born in Brooklyn and thought this book would appeal to me simply because of the setting; but the protagonist, Francie, is from a different neighborhood of Brooklyn that I am not familiar, and the story takes place in the early 1900s, whereas I grew up in the 70s.  Life was very different for Francie.  

My house in Gerritsen Beach

Nonetheless, this was an excuse for me to dig up old photographs.  Brooklyn was special to me for many years after I moved away but, as I have been living in California since 1982, the emotional connection to my birthplace has faded away.   I no longer feel the nostalgia of the place I grew up.

When we did live in Gerritsen Beach, my father took my brother and me all over Brooklyn, especially to Coney Island and Prospect Park, where he grew up.  He would often take us fishing in Sheepshead Bay or to one of the largest Brooklyn Public Libraries or the Brooklyn Museum of Art.  He showed us the statues and monuments all over the borough, and told us their stories.  I learned that there is much history and culture in Brooklyn; and while reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, it transported me back seventy years before I was born, to the place I would later live, and I can imagine all the history that was there before me.

My dad in Sheepshead Bay

Since this story takes place in the early 20th century, it was the beginning of technological advancements - an exciting time for the United States; everything seemed possible.  America was in the middle of an immigration boom from Europe.  Many people settled in New York, and therefore, the reader may experience the different European heritages of Francie's neighborhood.  But there was also a time of uncertainty on the eve of World War I.
Famous landmarks at Coney Island

 A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a coming of age story that chronicled Francie's youth, from birth to sixteen.  Readers observe her disappointments, her joys, and everything in between.   She was faced with adversity, poverty, rejection, disappointment, unfairness, and inequality; there were so many things wrong with her world, but it was the reality of her world.  Nonetheless, she persevered because Francie was a tough girl.

The Wonder Wheel

What actually appealed to me was Francie's resilience and tenacity, which she inherited from her mother, her aunts, and her grandmother.  In addition to the aforementioned obstacles, some of the men in their world were not reliable.  I said some.  Hence, the women had to be resourceful in order to survive and take care of themselves and their families.

Francie learned early on that education (in part) was key to rise above hardships and obstacles.  With each generation, the women in Francie's family bettered themselves: Francie's grandmother could not read; but Francie's mother could, (though she never went to school); and Francie not only could read, but she would soon attend college.  Besides the benefits of education, Francie discovered the value of family.  When everything else seemed dire, being surrounded by family was encouraging.

My dad and me in front of the Cyclone

There was more to the story than Francie.  The author wrote about Francie's grandparents, aunts and uncles, and mother and father.  She described how Francie's parents grew up, met, and married.  I personally think Francie's mother made the error of pursuing Francie's father, chasing him away from his then-girlfriend.  But that is a discussion for another day.  None of the characters were perfect, and the author showcased the flaws in their personalities and relationships with one another.

Going over the Brooklyn Bridge, into Manhattan

Finally, I will add that there is a happy ending.  A very happy ending.  While the story ended just as life was improving for Francie and her family, the reader is assured that hard work has paid off.  So you may stop worrying about Francie.  She will take care of herself just fine.

View of the borough of Brooklyn from top of World Trade Center


You may have wondered what the tree in the title means.  There was a tree that grew in Brooklyn that was indestructible and could survive anywhere and under challenging circumstances.  Even if it was cut down or covered with cement, another sapling would find its way to sunlight.  That was Francie.  Nothing could discourage her or snuff out her dreams.  She would make it somehow.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Love Less Than Most Readers

Ten Books That Get No Love (or Less Love) From Me

Once again, I'm out of the loop.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The Complete Essays by Michel de Montaigne

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

"A Doll's House" by Henrik Ibsen

The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper

I tried, but I can't.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The Cost of Discipleship
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Published 1937

It is one thing to read a book, but another to have to write about it.  I finished The Cost of Discipleship nights ago, and it has been sitting on my bookshelf, waiting for me to say something.

This book makes me feel like a baby Christian again - like I did not know anything about my faith.

Exaggeration aside, it was not completely out of my comprehension.  It is not a long read, or too academically complicated; but it is the weightiness of the content that tripped me up. Bonhoeffer writes in such minute, almost tedious detail about biblical matters, which is what overwhelmed me at times.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German Lutheran pastor and theologian, authored countless books on biblical theology.  The Cost of Discipleship begins with a short memoir of who he was (or you can read Eric Metaxas' Bonhoeffer, an amazing, longer read); but the critical objective of The Cost of Discipleship is to demonstrate what it means to be a disciple of Christ.

Immediately, Bonhoeffer declares that cheap grace is "the deadly enemy of our Church." Cheap grace is "forgiveness without repentance," etc.; cheap grace is grace without discipleship, the cross, and Jesus Christ.  (I have witnessed cheap grace myself, but I always referred to it as "watered-down Christianity."  It is the easy way Christians tolerate Christianity without obediently following Christ. It is like saying, "I am forgiven; hence, I can continue living as I was before."  This is hypocritical.)

Cheap grace, he explains,
is not the kind of forgiveness of sin which frees us from the toils of sin.  Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves.
Bonhoeffer compares cheap grace with costly grace, which is the gospel.  Here is how he describes it:
Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.  It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.  It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies a sinner.  Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of His Son: "ye were bought at a price,": and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.  Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon His Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered Him up for us.  Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.
The result of cheapening grace provided a way for the world to become Christianized (or for Christianity to become secularized).   Bonhoeffer claims, "The word of cheap grace has been the ruin of more Christians than any commandment of works."

That was only the first chapter.  For the remainder of his book, Bonhoeffer seeks to answer the question: How can we live the Christian life in the modern world?  He says,
Happy are they who, knowing that grace , can live in the world without being of it, who, by following Jesus Christ, are so assured of their heavenly citizenship that they are truly free to live their lives in this world.  Happy are they who know that discipleship simply means the life which springs from grace, and that grace simply means discipleship.
He explains the steps to discipleship: first, one must answer the call to discipleship with immediate obedience, which leads to faith alone through Christ; next, one must deny self in order to follow Jesus; in addition, following Christ involves trusting Him, even if you know not where you are going; and finally, a disciple must become an individual, to follow alone - that is, he must "break with his past" and never turn back - as he is called separately "and must follow alone."  However, fear not, "our reward is the fellowship of the Church."

For the bulk of The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer uses the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) to make his case for discipleship and how Christians obediently follow Christ.   In short, while following Christ is liberating, it is also costly, which may include opposition or even death. Nonetheless, one must give up his life to follow Christ, and Bonhoeffer explains how to do that.

Finally, there are shorter chapters that follow, covering other topics, such as examples of disciples and the Church.

Who should read this book: Theology students, for certain, but also Christians who appreciate biblically sound resources that follow God's Word.   The Bible is always best, but biblically supportive books are always insightful, enlightening, and encouraging.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Illustrated Books

Ten Favorite Illustrated Books

All about the visuals.  
There may be better illustrated versions out there, 
but these are the ones I own.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Illustrated by P.J. Lynch

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
Illustrated by Michael Foreman

Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of the Iliad by Rosemary Sutcliff
Illustrated by Alan Lee

The Wanderings of Odysseus: The Story of the Odyssey by Rosemary Sutcliff
Illustrated by Alan Lee

In Search of a Homeland: The Story of the Aeneid by Penelope Lively
Illustrated by Ian Andrew

Gilgamesh the King, The Revenge of Ishtar, and The Last Quest of Gilgamesh
Retold and Illustrated by Ludmila Zeman

The Book of Pirates 
Written and Illustrated by Howard Pyle

Shakespeare Stories by Leon Garfield
Illustrated by Michael Foreman

The Complete Illustrated Shakespeare

The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Illustrated by Garth Williams