Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar {audiobook}

Title: Pearl in the Sand
Author: Tessa Afshar
Narrator: Laural Merlington
Length: 11 hours
Published in: 2010
Genre: inspiration
ISBN: 9781598598766
Source: 
borrowed from a library
Reason for Reading: 
Inspiration Resolution 2012
Rating: 3/5 for both

Summary (from book):

Striking beauty… comes at a price. Rahab paid it when at the age of fifteen she was sold into prostitution by the one man she loved and trusted—her father. With her keen mind and careful planning she turned heartache into success, achieving independence while still young. And she vowed never again to trust a man. Any man. God had other plans. Into the emotional turmoil of her world walked Salmone, a prominent leader of Judah, held in high esteem by all Israel. A man of faith, honor, and pride. An enemy. What is a woman with a wrecked past to do when she wants to be loved, yet no longer believes it possible? The walls of Jericho are only the beginning. The real battle for Rahab will be one of the heart.

 My Thoughts: I thought this book was okay. There wasn’t much special about it and it wasn’t bad either. It reminded me a lot of Mary, Called Magdalene and In the Shadow of the Ark. Those weren’t inspirational books, but more like historical fiction with religion that plays a part. So I really want to know how some books are classified as one genre, but not the other.
Anyways, this book is the last book for my Inspiration Challenge. That’s my first resolution done of 2012 🙂
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Readers Imbibing in Peril VII

It’s that time of year. Fall is around the corner and the season is just right for those spooky stories and movies. For the past couple years, I have participated in Readers Imbibing in Peril, which is a collective of readers reading creepy books and watching spooky movies from September 1st – October 31st, hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings (here is a link to the sign-up).

According to Carl V (Stainless Steel Droppings), this isn’t a challenge–it is to have fun reading and sharing that fun with others who enjoy similar books. Those types of books include, but aren’t limited to:

Mystery. Suspense. Thriller. Dark Fantasy. Gothic. Horror. Supernatural. Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above.

And there are various levels of participation. I’ve decided to jump-start my reading lull by going with Peril the First, in which I try to read four books over the next two months.

I even have a few books in mind that I’d like to read:

  • House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne (I own this)
  • Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman (I own this)
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  • The Island of Doctor Moreau by HG Wells

There are other “perils” to: read two books, one book, short stories, or watch films. There will also be two group reads which you can do as a “peril”: The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (September) and The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (October).

Here are my suggestions from past reading for books that are good for this reading event:

  • Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (this is longer than most of the Sherlock Holmes stories)
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker (obviously)
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (again, obviously)
  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (Austen refers often to The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe in this novel and includes many gothic elements in her own style)
  • the Parasol Protectorate quintet by Gail Carriger–there are only three so far (Soulless, Changeless, Blameless), but they’re not necessarily gothic, just vampire-y/werewolf-y (not like the Twilight books)
  • We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  • The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
  • Phantom of the Opera or The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux
  • The Graveyard Book or Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (even Coraline and Stardust are a little creepy)
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Perfume by Patrick Suskind (maybe?)
  • The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
  • anything by Edgar Allen Poe
  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
  • Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  • The Victorian Chaise Longue by Marghanita Laski

Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins {audiobook}

Title: Left Behind
Authors: Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins
Narrator: Frank Muller
Length: 3 hours
Published in: 1995
Genre: inspiration
ISBN: 978084243237
Source: 
borrowed from my public library
Reason for Reading:
Inspirational Resolution 2012
Rating: 5/5

Summary (from Goodreads):

In one cataclysmic moment, millions around the globe disappear.

Vehicles, suddenly unmanned, careen out of control. People are terror stricken as loved ones vanish before their eyes.

In the middle of global chaos, airline captain Rayford Steele must search for his family, for answers, for truth. As devastating as the disappearances have been, the darkest days may lie ahead.

My Thoughts: Going into this book, I thought there would be a lot of Bible beating and preaching. What I found was nothing more than any other book I’ve read set in a post-apocalyptic world. Yes, many characters realized that the disappearance of millions around the world was God collecting his believers and the book of Revelations beginning in real life. But, with the small exception of a videotape left by a pastor to be viewed in these events, I didn’t find anything offensive or “preachy”.

I love dystopic and post-apocalyptic books. I view them as two different types of stories–but usually dystopic results from a post-apocalyptic society. (Maybe I’ll write up a post about these two types of stories so I don’t rant about it here.) The way the people just disappeared was a great idea. I’ve never read Revelations, so I don’t know if there’s anything it says about it, but I always pictured Jesus coming back to physically collect the people. Not that I really believe anything like that will happen, but that’s how I pictured it in a fictional sense. Anyways, a mass disappearance is an awesome way to create chaos in the world.

I am slightly interested in keeping on with the series because I know it will eventually reach the dystopic state. But I’m a little hesitant because I’m thinking that the further I go, the more preaching the books will become. I’m torn…

Inspirational Resolution 2012

The Storekeeper’s Daughter by Wanda Brunstetter {audiobook}

Title: The Storekeeper’s Daughter
Author: Wanda E Brunstetter
Narrator: Christina Moore
Length: 9 hours
Published in: 2005
Genre: inspiration
ISBN: 9781428171091
Source: 
borrowed from my public library
Reason for Reading:
Inspirational Resolution 2012
Rating: 4/5

Summary (from case):

Her mother’s untimely death makes life almost unbearable for 20-year-old Naomi. While working long hours at the family’s general store, she must also cook, clean, and care for her seven younger siblings–including her newborn brother, Zach. Since her dad refuses to remarry or hire help, Naomi’s future looms like a dark cloud. Given neither time nor permission to court, she has little hope for marriage. But when the unthinkable happens to baby Zach, Naomi is devastated and wonders how God can possibly create anything good out of such sorrow and loss.

My Thoughts: This was actually really good. Strangely enough, it had a few similarities to The Shunning, which I also read for my Inspirational Resolution. They are both set in the Amish world, and they both have to do with secret adoptions–although in this book, it’s not as big a part. Religion payed a small secondary role in the story–which I liked. I wouldn’t really like a book that preached at me. I’m beginning to get interested in the Amish stories. Assuming the authors actually know what they write about to be somewhat true, I’m surprised to find that, for instance, Amish children/youth can rebel against their parents’ rules just like in the “English” world–though it’s not exactly to the same extent.

Although this inspirational resolution is confusing me a little. So far, nothing I’ve read has has a big religious aspect. I don’t know how to describe what makes a book inspirational without including something about it having something to do with religion. The books aren’t different from general fiction, really.

The Garden Intrigue by Lauren Willig

Title: The Garden Intrigue
Author: Lauren Willig
Length: 388 pages
Published in: 2012
Genre: historical fiction/romance
ISBN: 9780525952541
Source: 
personal collection
Reason for Reading: 
Copyright 2012 Resolution
Rating: 3/5

Summary (from book jacket):

Secret agent Augustus Whittlesby has spent a decade undercover in France, posing as an insufferably bad poet. The French surveillance officers can’t bear to read his work closely enough to recognize the information drowned in a sea of verbiage.

New York-born Emma Morris Delagardie is a thorn in Augustus’s side. An old school friend of Napoleon’s stepdaughter, she came to France with her uncle, the American envoy; eloped with a Frenchman; and has been rattling around the salons of Paris ever since. Widowed for four years, she entertains herself by drinking too much champagne, holding a weekly salon, and loudly critiquing Augustus’s poetry.

As Napoleon pursues his plans for the invasion of England, Whittlesby hears of a top-secret device to be demonstrated at a house party at Malmaison. The catch? The only way in is with Emma, who has been asked to write a masque for the weekend’s entertainment.

Emma is at a crossroads: Should she return to the States or remain in France? She’ll do anything to postpone the decision-even if it means teaming up with that silly poet Whittlesby to write a masque for Bonaparte’s house party. But each soon learns that surface appearances are misleading. In this complicated masque within a masque, nothing goes quite as scripted- especially Augustus’s feelings for Emma.

My Thoughts: Seeing as neither Emma or Augustus really feature–or are even mentioned–in the previous books, I was mostly uninterested. In the first book there were Amy and Richard. Then next came Henrietta, Richard’s sister, and Miles, Richard’s best friend. Then came Letty and Geoffrey, who works with Richard. But the further along the series goes, the less association there is between characters. Now there is hardly a series, but rather a collection of standalone novels that always have the same plot. That plot being fairy simple–girl and guy who have no interest in each other in the beginning of the story are, by the end, madly in love. I’m all for happy endings, but I feel like after the 9th book in a series, you can’t just change names, dates, and places and have a very interesting story.

But recently Willig has published a book that has nothing to do with the Pink series, Two L, and is currently writing another, The Ashford Affair. So I think I may have to branch out from the Pink books so I don’t begin to dislike the author because of the repetitive plot.

Copyright 2012 Resolution

Around the Work in 12 Books {#7 Iran}

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Title: Savushun
Author: Simin Daneshvar
Translator: M.R. Ghanoonparvar
Length: 286 pages
Published in: 1969
Genre: world fiction
ISBN: 978093421131
Source:
borrowed from library
Reason for Reading:
Around the World in 12 Books Challenge
Rating: 3/5

Set in Allied-occupied Iran during WWII, this story focuses on Zari, a woman in her mid-20s, as she lives out her everyday life as a mother and wife.

Specifically, the story takes place in Shiraz, in what sounds like a typical middle-class family, leaning towards the upper/middle-class status. While the summary of the book says it takes place during WWII, there is very little that proves that is true. One mention of Hitler and another discussion about “comrades” are the only allusions to the timing of the story. I know a lot about WWII, but I admit that is from an almost exclusive American/European perspective. I didn’t learn anything about Iran during WWII either, as the book didn’t really focus on a bigger picture– just what Zari was feeling and experiencing.

But the story was not based so much on plot, either. I felt like there was a lot of description, if not just between the lines. But, while there were just hints here and there of what the landscape was like, for example, I felt like it was really easy to picture where I was. I imagine life before WASP involvement in the Middle East was very different from life as it is today, riddled by war and foreign military involvement. And my imagination of the book setting could be completely wrong, but it was beautiful to me.

I think there might have been some things lost in translation for this book. The book didn’t read all that beautiful and poetical, but I felt that it would’ve sounded really lovely in its original language.

As for visiting Iran in reality, I think I’d have to pass. Unless there is a time machine that could take me back to before the mid-20th century Islamic revolution. I don’t have any problem with the religion, but that doesn’t mean it would be safer for me as a young American female to travel there especially alone. Besides, I think the country would have been more beautiful before lots of military involvement.

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March by Geraldine Brooks

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Title: March
Author: Geraldine Brooks
Length: 273 pages
Published in: 2005
Genre: fiction; spoof, though more spin-off
ISBN: 9780670033359
Source: personal collection
Reason(s) for Reading: 1) I have loved all of Geraldine Brooks’ other books; 2) Personal Collection Resolution 2012

Summary (from Goodreads):

As the North reels under a series of unexpected defeats during the dark first year of the war, one man leaves behind his family to aid the Union cause. His experiences will utterly change his marriage and challenge his most ardently held beliefs. Riveting and elegant as it is meticulously researched, March is an extraordinary novel woven out of the lore of American history.

From Louisa May Alcott’s beloved classic Little Women, Geraldine Brooks has taken the character of the absent father, March, who has gone off to war, leaving his wife and daughters to make do in mean times. To evoke him, Brooks turned to the journals and letters of Bronson Alcott, Louisa May’s father,a friend and confidant of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. In her telling, March emerges as an idealistic chaplain in the little known backwaters of a war that will test his faith in himself and in the Union cause as he learns that his side, too, is capable of acts of barbarism and racism. As he recovers from a near mortal illness, he must reassemble his shattered mind and body and find a way to reconnect with a wife and daughters who have no idea of the ordeals he has been through.

Spanning the vibrant intellectual world of Concord and the sensuous antebellum South, March adds adult resonance to Alcott’s optimistic children’s tale to portray the moral complexity of war, and a marriage tested by the demands of extreme idealism, and by a dangerous and illicit attraction

My Thoughts: I was pleasantly surprised with this story. At the beginning, I wasn’t sure if I’d like a book that was so much more geared towards adults than children. But, as was probably the true case for many a family, the men at war had a much harsher story to tell than what they might want their wives and children to know.

As the summary said, this story looks at Mr. March’s life during his time in the army, while his daughters lives out Little Women at home. In that sense, this is a spin-off, not really a spoof, of that American classic. With some flashbacks, we read of March before he met Marmee and their early life together. I was a little surprised by some of the choices Brooks made for the characters–for instance, how the Marches were once quite wealthy, or the entire family being vegan. Later in the book, Marmee OS the narrator, when she goes to D.C. to tend to March in the hospital. I was more interested in the portion from March’s perspective, because it was more telling of parts of the US during the Civil War. All in all, I think Brooks did a great job telling the story of a very minor character in a beloved American novel.

“If a man is to lose his fortune, it is a good thing if he were poor before he acquired it, for poverty requires aptitude.” (p113)

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“‘We do not have ideas. The idea has us…and drives us into the arena to fight for it like gladiators, who combat whether they will or no.'” (p124)