N.T. Wright brings his usual eloquence to bear on the familiar Gospel narrative, enriching our understanding with a tender intelligence, accessible acN.T. Wright brings his usual eloquence to bear on the familiar Gospel narrative, enriching our understanding with a tender intelligence, accessible across denominations and sects with his emphasis on the fundamentals of Christian thought and practice through the ages.
Developed to be read as a daily devotional from Ash Wednesday up through Holy Week, Wright's words are relevant regardless of the season. The call to set aside time for thoughtful meditation on the Gospel message - and the Passion in particular - is highlighted as the essential work of every Christian, whether you follow a calendar of holy days or not....more
Of course I utterly loved this book. It is a very gentle story, even in its dealings with harder things. It deals with character, if not human nature,Of course I utterly loved this book. It is a very gentle story, even in its dealings with harder things. It deals with character, if not human nature, and the difficulty of change. It is also about friendship - perhaps more than any other thing - and loyalty - which does not mean standing behind a friend in their fault, but standing behind a friend in their redemption. It deals with nature and relationships and journeys and staying-at-home. It's charming and serious and holy and healthy all at the same time. It's also hilarious. I laughed from beginning to end. And so will you.
Read it alongside Winnie-the-Pooh, Three Men in a Boat, and Jeeves & Wooster. ...more
The first book in any series has the advantage of novelty. By the second book, whether or not the characters can shoot darts from their ears or speakThe first book in any series has the advantage of novelty. By the second book, whether or not the characters can shoot darts from their ears or speak to the dead has become a rule of the narrative rather than the narrative itself. Something else must be made of the story if the second book is to stand in its own strength.
Hallowed, the sequel to Cynthia Hand's Unearthly - a novel about a girl who must fulfill the divine purpose given her as part angel - does just that. This is not an edge-of-your-seat book. While the first had its moments of anticipation and anxiety, Hallowed mostly stays an even course, developing the characters (which were the strongest aspect of the first book anyway) rather than the fantastic elements of angelhood, and in so doing, creating a steady, compelling coming-of-age novel that has more to do with relationships than divine purpose.
When Unearthly left off, Clara had just finished messing up her divine purpose, forgoing the dictates of her visions to follow her heart instead. Fearful of the consequences, Clara explores what it means to live according to her free will rather than her calling. In the first book, we were introduced to Christian, unbeknownst to Clara a part-angel himself - the guy she's destined not only to save but apparently to be with forever. Then Tucker shows up, all normal and wonderful and decidedly NOT angelic, and the story takes a sudden sharp turn. In Hallowed, we take another turn, back to Christian, but never fully with either, because destiny and desire are only sometimes at odds, and even then not always as clearly as one might hope.
If this all sounds a bit vague, that's because largely nothing much happens in this book. It's certainly not boring. Each chapter progresses just as it ought, each character explored just quite enough, and there are certainly revelations along the way. But the revelations are rarely surprising, not because we're smarter than the characters (though we might be), but because their power is in their content, not their sneakiness. This is very much a book about Clara growing up. The question that remains at the end of the book is less a matter of "which hot guy will she end up with" (though obviously we do wonder) and more a matter of "will she grow up as she ought?"
To quote a few shining moments:
Tucker: "This isn't going to become one of those creepy situations where you show up at all hours of the night to watch me sleep, is it?"
Clara, later, in a much more obvious reference, "I did get so wigged out that I sneaked out to his house a couple times in the middle of the night to watch over him while he slept, just in case, I don't know, his comic book collection decided to spontaneously combust. This was dumb and admittedly creepy in an Edward Cullen kind of way, but it was the only thing I could think to do."
One of my favorites: "Before I moved here, I never got the whole love-triangle thing. You know, in movies or romance novels or whatnot, where there's one chick that all the guys are drooling over, even though you can't see anything particularly special about her. But oh, no, they both must have her. And she's like, oh dear, however will I choose? William is so sensitive, he understands me, he swept me off my feet, oh misery, blubber, blubber, but how can I go on living without Rafe and his devil-may-care ways and his dark and only-a-little-abusive love?"
And in a not entirely anti-Twilight fashion, I could not help but notice and of course deeply appreciate the C.S. Lewis allusion in the description of heaven, which is almost exactly pulled from The Great Divorce: "I try to take a few steps away from him, but there's something strange about the grass under by feet. It's too hard. My feet don't sink into it or crush it down. I stumble and look back at Dad. 'What's wrong with the grass?' 'It's not the grass,' he says. 'It's you....'...more
I have been wary of the angel genre of YA fiction for a variety of reasons. For one, I find many interpretations of angels to be rather lame. Weak, prI have been wary of the angel genre of YA fiction for a variety of reasons. For one, I find many interpretations of angels to be rather lame. Weak, pretty, feathery... not much else. It's sort of noxious. UNEARTHLY was an excellent antidote to my hesitations. The first in an unfinished trilogy, it stands enough alone as a story to have you leaning in for more in book two. There are so many characters with so much potential, I feel like the series could be written by multiple points of view.
Clara tells this story, though. A quarter angel, her mother uproots her and her brother from their home in California to move to the mountains of Wyoming all because Clara's visions have indicated that that's where her purpose lies. Each angel is born into a purpose, and they must do everything in their power to complete it to the best of their abilities.
What follows is a familiar new-girl-in-a-small-high-school story with the addition of some angel wings, visions of a fast approaching if slightly vague destiny, and a perfectly perfect love triangle. Not an annoying love triangle, which is how many of them seem, but perfectly perfect. In every way. ...more
The trouble with reading this immediately after reading Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle, is that I am now confusing the two stories based on their remaThe trouble with reading this immediately after reading Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle, is that I am now confusing the two stories based on their remarkably similar premises. Eligible but unromantic bachelor goes to offer for a woman he is not in love with, finds himself rebuffed, must chase runaway(s). Even though the cases are completely different and the heroines widely dissimilar. Sprig Muslin contains Heyer's level-headed older hero, a hot-headed and melodramatic very young woman, and the level-headed and charmingly reliable older woman who is just right for him of course - not to mention persecuted by her nefarious relatives. But the best parts, as usual, are the humorous parts, from the creaky and creepy uncle who thinks Amanda is one of the muslin company (a mistress, or perhaps even less respectable), to the wonderful account of the dramatization of the death of Queen Katharine (perhaps one could use a sponge soaked in tar to depict her heart during the autopsy?). It's just delightful, of course. Every bit of it....more
There's something about mermaids and the suspension of disbelief that is harder than other paranormal literary endeavors. Despite that, mermaids are aThere's something about mermaids and the suspension of disbelief that is harder than other paranormal literary endeavors. Despite that, mermaids are absolutely in right now. They have been for a while (ever since, I believe, Stephenie Meyer announced she'd been sitting on a thousand page mermaid manuscript at home), and the YA market is thoroughly suited for it. I've been meaning to read one of these new mermaid books for a while, and I'm glad that, in the end, I chose this one in particular.
LIES BENEATH, by Anne Greenwood Brown, begins in the Caribbean. That's where Calder escapes to when the waters of Lake Superior get too cold. It's the only time he's able to leave his adopted sisters, Maris, Pavati, and Tallulah, to whom he is bound whether he likes it or not, pulled by a migratory instinct back into their waters every year as the cold gives way to summer.
He's gone about six months without killing anyone, which is some kind of record. Mermaids (and mermen, of course) are predators, after all. Not for meat, but for human emotion. They cannot find happiness on their own, so they must take it from others. But the act kills, and Calder is tired of being a killer.
When Maris calls to tell him to come back home, he would like to ignore her. But beyond the migratory pull, the unbreakable link between him and his sisters, there's only one other thing that would bring him back. They've found Hancock, the son of the man responsible for their mother's death, the man who owes them the debt of his own life, the one man Calder could kill - and will kill - with pleasure.
So begins this particular mermaid story. Returning as quickly as he can to the waters of his first transformation, Calder rejoins his sisters to plot Hancock's death. But his plans quickly unravel when he meets Hancock's daughter. Lily is nothing like anyone Calder has ever met. She's loyal and fierce and quirky and beautiful ― and she's not buying a single inch of his charm.
LIES BENEATH somehow manages to overcome the peculiar difficulty mermaid stories have of suspending disbelief. Mermaids, after all, belong to the world of fairy tales and sailor stories. They don't do well on land. But the novel overcomes this by developing two excellent characters in Lily and Calder. Tentative at first, it's worth pushing past the first introductory chapters till the narrative gets going. There are awkward moments at first: The description of Lily when we first meet her doesn't entirely mesh with her character after she warms to Calder, the moments when Calder has to dash from the car to the water sans clothing seem like they'd be trickier than they are, and anyone getting caught stealing pastries probably wouldn't get hired by the person who caught them a few days later ― even with paranormal charm. But these moments aren't much more than awkwardnesses, and they're overcome by the progression of the love story which draws beautifully on the poetic tradition of Tennyson and Yeats.
That is the strength of the book, in fact, those moments that drop into Victorian poetic allusion. And perhaps this is just because of my fondness for Tennyson, and Elaine of Astolat in particular, but the scenes that reference his "Lady of Shallott" are darling and precious. And the use of his mermaid poems are more than clever. They give the whole novel a richer heart. Here's part of one to leave you with:
Low adown, low adown, From under my starry sea-bud crown Low adown and around, And I should look like a fountain of gold Springing alone With a shrill inner sound, Over the throne In the midst of the hall; Till that great sea-snake under the sea From his coiled sleeps in the central deeps Would slowly trail himself sevenfold Round the hall where I sate, and look in at the gate With his large calm eyes for the love of me. And all the mermen under the sea Would feel their immortality Die in their hearts for the love of me. ...more