Wednesday, December 31, 2008

book comments 11 (including "twilight"! and my book-count for 2008)

"The Hobbit" by J.R.R. Tolkien
--nth re-read
--more enjoyable every time, like visiting old friends
--Whoever does the movie(s) had better not mess up. ;o)
--highly recommend, of course--it's Tolkien! ;o)

"The Children of Húrin" by J.R.R. Tolkien (published posthumously)
--a story from Tolkien's Middle-Earth, taking place more than 6000 years before the events in "The Hobbit" and LOTR
--heart-breaking tale of one man's life and the end results of pride
--strong, vivid characters; excellent world-building
--fascinating thread in the tapestry of Tolkien's mythology
--recommend, especially to Toklien/Middle-Earth fans

"Twilight" by Stephenie Meyer

consisting of:
"New Moon"
"Breaking Dawn"

--compelling story of "star-crossed lovers" ("lovers" in the emotional sense, not the physical): human Bella and vampire Edward
--excellent character development of main and side characters
--main character's "voice" is strong, interesting, easily distinguishable
--Meyer has a great grasp on how to create the kind of conflict and tension that keeps a reader turning pages....frantically, intently turning pages. ;o)
--great world-building
--contrary to probable expectations, I am actually going to give a little criticism here ;o)
--Bella's low self-esteem is off-putting. I've read the series twice now, and her low self-confidence bothered me even more the second time. HOWEVER, that is Bella's tragic flaw (aside from loving a vampire, of course ;o) and Meyer resolves it in grand, page-turning fashion over the course of the series and especially in the fourth book.
--Also, Meyer's overuse of adverbs and extravagant dialogue-descriptors ("whispered," "sneered," "hissed," "moaned," "snarled" -- instead of a simple "said") really bothered me as a writer. And as a reader. However, this also improved through the course of the series--as though Meyer grew as a writer while Bella grew as a character. Which is just as it should be. ;o)
--forget the Harry Potter comparisons here--apples and kiwis--the two series aren't anything alike--only their readers are
--for "vampire" lit, this is refreshingly lacking in extraneous sex, even though the sexual tension between the two MCs is tangible
--also refreshingly lacking in extra-marital sex and vulgar language
--recommend to anyone who enjoys fantasy, young adult literature, "vampire" lit, chick lit, "coming-of-age" lit, etc.

"The Host" by Stephenie Meyer
--billed as "sci-fi for people who don't like sci-fi," and I agree with that assessment even though I love sci-fi
--written for an adult audience, but also a great read for young adults
--I'll admit, it took me a good 20 or 30 pages really to get into the story, but the conflict between the MC and the "Seeker" really hooked going back after that. ;o)
--easily one of the most enjoyable sci-fi novels I've ever read
--fresh, original treatment of "cliché body-snatching"
--great writing
--I'll be reading this one again and again.
--highly recommend

Courtney's Total Count of Read Books for 2008: 51.5 (That .5 is because I never did finish Wolfe's "Man in Full," and I ain't gonna.) ;o)

[Addendum: I realized today that the actual count is 56.5, because I forgot that I re-read the first five books of Stephen King's "Dark Tower" series. But I'll wait to comment on that humdinger when I've acquired and re-read the final two books of the series.

(*snort* I said "humdinger.")]

HAPPY NEW YEAR'S EVE, EVERYONE! I wish you all the best for 2009, and may many wonderful books find their way into your hands! *smile*

book comments 10 (three high recommendations)

Not-so-recent and recent fiction:

"The Dark Is Rising Sequence" by Susan Cooper
consisting of:

"Over Sea, Under Stone"
"The Dark is Rising"
"The Grey King"
"Silver on the Tree"

--I don't know how many times I've read this series since I was a young teen.
--this was my first re-read as an adult
--initial reaction: These books have been around since the 1960s....and they are better than Harry Potter. Gasp and egad. ;o)
--seriously, the characters, setting, "magic," and universe of Dark is Rising simply have more substance than Potter
--story of Good's triumph over Evil because the main characters overcome their own failings, resist temptation, and place their trust in wisdom
--adult Potter fans will enjoy these books if they also enjoy mythology and/or Arthurian legend
--highly recommend

"The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins
--one of the best post-apocalyptic young adult novels I've ever read
--thoroughly compelling main character --> I laughed, mourned, agonized, wept, and triumphed with her.
--excellent world-building
--very well-developed supporting characters
--got to the end, read "end of book one" after the final paragraph, and literally said out loud, "OH YEAH."
--highly recommend

"Mark of the Lion I: A Voice in the Wind" by Francine Rivers
--thoroughly fascinating story of a Christian Jew, slave to Romans in the first century, after the fall of Jerusalem
--heart-breaking, heart-convicting main character --> I have never before found myself comparing my faith and my walk with God to that of a fictional character....and learning from her example.
--It took me about 50 pages really to get into the story, but once I was in, I was IN.
--excellent use of tension and conflict throughout
--got to the end and cried over it, then jubled when I realized that this one, too, has a sequel!!!
--HIGHLY recommend

book comments 9

Recent and not-so-recent fiction:

"Oryx and Crake" by Margaret Atwood
--fascinating post-apolcalyptic story
--typical Atwood: lots of hinting at things to come, building suspense until you can hardly stand it --> page-turner!
--clever, subtle comment about the likely future of today's genetic science
--watch out for vulgar language and adult themes (i.e. slave prostitution, child pornography)
--recommend, but not for the faint of heart (or stomach)

"The War of the Flowers" by Tad Williams
--Mr. Williams really swings my verge. ;o)
--fresh, original treatment of the fantasy genre, including fantasy creatures that might be considered "cliché"
--a main character you can fall in love with because of his development throughout
--plot twists like you can't believe
--highly recommend

"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" by Roald Dahl
--fun, warm, charming, witty, and sometimes morbid ;o)
--first-time read for me, and I now see that Johnny Depp's "Chocolate Factory" is much closer to Dahl's novel than Gene Wilder's "Willy Wonka"
--highly recommend for kids and adults

"Boy" by Roald Dahl
--and this one pretty much explains the oddness of "Charlie & Ch. Factory" ;o) (which is why I'm including it here, with the fiction, instead of with the non-fiction below)
--a collection of what Dahl remembers from his childhood
--fascinating look into what shaped him to become a writer
--fun, warm, charming, witty, and sometimes morbid ;o)

"MYST: The Book of Atrus" by Rand and Robyn Miller
"MYST: The Book of Ti'Ana" by Rand Miller
both with David Wingrove

--my second time to read these; the first was 10 or 12 years ago
--interesting plots, well-written characters, excellent world-building
--problems: As a writer, I often had trouble chewing my way through what I perceived as poor writing (grammar and spelling errors, shifting point-of-view in mid-paragraph...). My fingers often itched for a red pen.
--I sometimes got confused with what was going on, because I just couldn't picture in my head what the authors were describing.
--still, enjoyable storylines and characters --> great protagonist-antagonist relationships
--recommend to die-hard fantasy fans, but with reservations

"Winter of Fire" by Sherryl Jordan
--read this several times as a teenager; this was my first re-read as an adult
--enjoyed it even more this time than as a teen
--GREAT young adult fantasy novel
--compelling main character --> with excellent character development throughout
--exemplary world-building

book comments 8

Recent and not-so-recent non-fiction:

"Walking Through the Wardrobe: A devotional quest into The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" by Sarah Arthur
--a thought-provoking read
--practical, daily life applications
--challenges the thinking
--challenges readers to share their faith in a kind-hearted way
--highly recommend for (a) teens, (b) parents of teens, (c) anyone interested in the connections between Christianity and the fantasy genre

"High-Tech Worship? Using Presentational Technologies Wisely" by Quentin J. Schultze
--refreshingly candid look at how modern technology influences corporate worship and vice versa
--for the most part scripture-based, as far as I remember
--recommend for anyone involved in determining the course of worship services
--caveat: Readers will need to weed out some denomination-specific terminology.

"The Practice of the Presence of God" by Brother Lawrence
--I can't say enough good things about this book.
--in my mind, this ranks on the level of C.S. Lewis's "Mere Christianity"
--Brother Lawrence describes a covenant relationship with God boiled down to its fundamentals
--in modern parlance, this is a "how-to" book for how to love God--or maybe "How to Love God, For Dummies" ;o)
--highly recommend

"The Art of Coming Home" by Craig Storti
--excellent must-read for anyone transitioning "home" from another culture
--realistic, no-holds-barred, ACCURATE assessment of culture shock, re-entry shock, adjustment
--good warnings included (especially for those who think adjusting won't be a problem)
--highly recommend for those anticipating or experiencing a cultural transition
--especially recommend for the families and friends of culture-crossers

Homeward Bound: A Spouse's Guide to Repatriation" by Robin Pascoe
--another great must-read on what it's like to experience cultural re-integration
--perspective of a spouse not returning to a "normal" career path
--funny, gives an oft-needed, lighter perspective on transitional difficulties
--highly recommend

Sunday, December 28, 2008

oooh, a p.s. before bedtime

This year's Christmas presents, just for fun:

* "The Children of Hurin" by J.R.R. Tolkien (posthumously published)
* Mama's gray sweater, which is over 40 years old and which I've wanted since I was a kid
* earrings
* knit cap
* calendar of Chemnitzer pics
* comforter set, new pillows, sheets--our bed looks so pretty now!
* jar of Grandma's hot pepper jelly
* gift card to Kohl's
* yearly Christmas tree ornament (my parents have given me one every year of my life)

* and a well-needed reminder that most of the world didn't get any Christmas presents.

I am thankful for God's blessings.

Anybody like to share presents or thankfulnesses?

my to-do list


Let's have a moment of ponderous silence during which to ponder my ponderous accomplishment.






There, now, don't we all feel better? I thought so. ;o)

YAY AND HUZZAH, I FINISHED THE SECOND DRAFT OF MY NOVEL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Pop the corks and furl the bumbershoots! Switch your flip! Bring out your dead!


In case you can't tell, I'm rather excited.

Now that the 2nd draft is done, there comes a time of rest from noveling. I need to take a few steps back from the story before I start working on the 3rd draft in a month or so. Until then, I have a few projects in mind, many of which I have been putting off for just such a break-from-noveling occasion. They are as follows, and in random order:

* re-organize my closet and give away excess clothing, of which there exists too much
* organize all digital pictures from the last 15 months. uffda.
* and post a kabloollion pictures to Facebook
* finish the first draft of my 2008 NaNoWriMo novel (I did my requisite 50k, but the story itself is incomplete [and yes, I do realize that this would defeat the purpose of taking a break from noveling--but it *is* a different story, after all!].).
* get my book comment blogging up-to-date (I've got at least 10 books to do, probably more)
* buy some canvas and do some painting (which I haven't since August)
* find out how to go about volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House
* clean and re-organize my desk so that it actually fosters creativity instead of quashing it. uffda.
* spend my gift card
* write some people (and I mean the real kind, not fictional)
* update my journal
* answer blog comments
* blog about the writing life
* blog about "resonance"
* fix the problems with my Facebook Notes
* clean out my car (and give Jennifer her stuff)
* re-organize some of the kitchen cabinets and get rid of never-used implements
* get back into regular exercise

*** spend regular time with God--because I have been putting him off. I admit it.

I'll strikethrough each project as I finish it--except for the last two, because they need to be ongoing. :o) I'm sure there are other things I need to get done, or would like to (for instance, investigate the nature of the clattering-about my neighbor does in his kitchen at 11 o'clock every night), but these are the only ones I could think of right now. So, here's my list, and I'll be checking it way more than twice, and there you have it, and now I'm going to bed!

celebrating my 500th blopgost

Title is self-explanatory. ;o)

To celebrate said self-explanatoriness, as well as to celebrate my return to blogging after a long (for me) hiatus, I give you the following--and, I think, rather appropriate--quote:

"Younger people, one could point out, are the only ones for whom it seems to have sunk in that the idea of a truly private life is already an illusion. Every street in New York has a surveillance camera. Each time you swipe your debit card at Duane Reade or use your MetroCard, that transaction is tracked. Your employer owns your e-mails. The NSA owns your phone calls. Your life is being lived in public whether you choose to acknowledge it or not.

"So it may be time to consider the possibility that young people who behave as if privacy doesn’t exist are actually the sane people, not the insane ones. For someone like me, who grew up sealing my diary with a literal lock, this may be tough to accept. But under current circumstances, a defiant belief in holding things close to your chest might not be high-minded. It might be an artifact—quaint and naïve, like a determined faith that virginity keeps ladies pure. Or at least that might be true for someone who has grown up 'putting themselves out there' and found that the benefits of being transparent make the risks worth it.

"Shirky describes this generational shift in terms of pidgin versus Creole. 'Do you know that distinction? Pidgin is what gets spoken when people patch things together from different languages, so it serves well enough to communicate. But Creole is what the children speak, the children of pidgin speakers. They impose rules and structure, which makes the Creole language completely coherent and expressive, on par with any language. What we are witnessing is the Creolization of media.'

"That’s a cool metaphor, I respond. 'I actually don’t think it’s a metaphor,' he says. 'I think there may actually be real neurological changes involved'..."

--from "Say Everything" by Emily Nussbaum"
(long article, but very worth the read, if you'll give it about 15 minutes)

Things that make ya go "hmmmmm...." That, or oo-ee-oo-ah-ah.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

ich denk an euch

Hallo ihr Lieben!

Ich hatte dies eigentlich gestern Abend geschrieben, aber Gesichtsbuch hat's irgendwie von alleine gelöscht. Naja, mal sehen ob' diesmal klappt....und ausserdem trifft's heute genauso zu wie gestern! ;o)

Ich sitze hier und geniesse den schönen Anblick unserer Weihnachtsdeko. Ed und ich haben gestern schon gescmückt, aber soeben hat er den letzten Schwibbogen aufgestellt. "We have hübsche Lichter!" sagte ich. ;o) In einem gestrigen "status update" hab ich erzählt, dass wir unsere Weihnachtsdeko das letzte Mal vor zwei Jahren sehen durften--denn letztes Jahr blieb alles eingepackt vom Umzug. Ich denke daran, dass wir diese schönen Sachen--und das meiste stammt aus'm Erzgebirge!--das letzte Mal zusammen mit euch geniessen durften.

Ich wollte euch also nur mitteilen, dass ich an euch denke. Ich weiss, ich hab im letzten Jahr schrecklich wenig von mir hören lassen. Aber trotzdem denke ich täglich an euch, vermisse euch, und habe euch alle sehr, sehr lieb!

Eure Courtney :o)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

courtney needs...

I Googled "Courtney needs," left out the lists other Courtneys throughout the world have posted on their blogs, and came up with:

1. Courtney needs a little help.
2. Courtney needs to lay off the plastic.
3. Courtney needs a new camera.
4. Courtney needs some love. (Awwwww....)
5. Courtney needs a parent. (No surprise there... ;o)
6. Courtney needs to be cleaned up.
7. Courtney needs something more.
8. Courtney needs to gain a perspective. (Which one?)
9. Courtney needs to get treatment. (Oooh, news flash!)
10. Courtney needs a bit more help. (Ha! Bookends!)

And, since I know Ed won't do this, and I find it amusing, here's his list (with his permission!):

1. Ed needs a Hummer. (That's a matter of opinion!)
2. Ed needs a miracle.
3. Ed needs to know about it.
4. Ed needs an IT Policy Task Force. (Don't we all?!)
5. Ed needs attention. (Oooooh, pick me, pick me! ;o)
6. Ed needs a break. (I second the motion.)
7. Ed needs support.
8. Ed needs disclosure. (Eh?)
9. Ed needs more good years.
10. Ed needs your help.

Apparently, Ed and I are in need of assistance. Any volunteers? ;oD