May 28, 2008

Lineage of Grace Series: A Triumph

I just finished the the last two books in the Lineage of Grace five-novella series, by Francine Rivers (they are short - readable in a day each if you have some free time like a plane flight! Now you can buy them all in one tome, see above link). Emily also read them all and liked them. The boys may try them, but since the stories all have a woman as the central character, they may be less applicable to them. I think they may still find them interesting. But if you wouldn't want your kids reading these ladies' very difficult and sometimes scandalous stories in the Bible, you wouldn't want them to read these books (i.e. they deal with such traumatic real-life subjects as prostitution, adultery, death, wife abuse, widowhood, poverty, and injustice - it's all in the Bible...). The great part is seeing the faith of these women, and especially God's incomprehensible grace and mercy extended to them, which He also longs to extend to the rest of us as we turn our faces to Him. The personalities, thoughts and emotions of these five women who are mentioned by name in the lineage of Jesus come to life in these pages.

I read them in this order (only Ruth/Bathsheba were out of place, should have been swapped), and loved them all. You can see my brief silly comments to myself after reading each:

Unveiled: Tamar "Good – adult story, but touching, interesting" (130pp)

Unashamed: Rahab "Excellent" (129pp)

Unspoken: Bathsheba "Excellent, so interesting. Such grace, God!" (175pp)

Unshaken: Ruth "Excellent! Wonderful! Wow!"(145pp)

Unafraid: Mary "Even wower! ;-) Made me cry hard. So fascinating." (173pp)

May 28, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 22, 2008

The Firebird Trilogy - Excellent

This afternoon, on the incessant urging of my son, I finished reading the 795-page Firebird Trilogy, by Kathy Tyers. I loved it. It's great Science Fiction with spiritual themes. It was originally three separate books (Firebird, Fusion Fire and Crown of Fire), but we bought it in one huge volume. If I were to do it over again, I'd buy the three separate volumes simultaneously, because our family of four likes to share books, and that way I wouldn't have had to wait until my husband finished all three books to start the first, and likewise for our son, who's been waiting and waiting for me to finish up all three so he can start (I am the slowest reader in the family for some reason! At least I still type faster than the kids). Now Emily will have to wait 795 pages for Jason to finish. David good-naturedly forbade the tearing apart of the book into three ripped volumes...though I was tempted!

I was interested to see that the final author's note was written on Good Friday in the year 2000 - my timing finishing the book was very close (that was eight years ago yesterday).

The Firebird books are very well-written, with fascinating premises, great action, deep characters, interesting relationships, and faith, family and virtues upheld, all in a sci-fi context. Kathy Tyers is currently getting a master's degree in Canada, and writing another book - I hope it's a 4th book for this series! I'll have to be patient and find out later.

March 22, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 22, 2008

Arena, by Karen Hancock

My new favorite author, Karen Hancock, could use some prayer support. Here is Karen Hancock's blog, where she says profound things about life and writing.

In the past year she broke her ankle and then a month later her wrist and arm (really badly), and then she got carpal tunnel syndrome and then tendonitis in her hands, and a sore shoulder. These are not good things for being able to write.

Please pray she heals up quickly from everything and can be restored to full writing capacity. She's in the middle of writing a new novel (science fiction I think; at the moment it's called Black Box, but won't be out until 2009, so who knows what it'll be called by then).

Our whole family really loved her 4-book series, The Legends of the Guardian-King (or at least my husband and I did, and the kids didn't stop reading until they finished all four, so they must have appreciated something about them, even if a lot of it went over their heads) -- and then yesterday I finished reading her first novel, Arena. Since it was her first published work, it was less polished than the series that followed, but after some suspension of disbelief at the beginning, I definitely got hooked and sucked into the story, and had to read to the last page to see how it all turned out. Brilliant analogies, excellent reminders of things we really need to keep in mind as we trek through this life, lots of action, quite a bit of romance, sobering thoughts, good role models who aren't perfect but try hard and are interesting...quite a lot of mature themes, not for young kids, requires parental reading first to determine appropriate age/maturity-level to give this to. Again, I think the Guardian-King series was better written (not surprising as the author progressed in her craft), and I wasn't sure about the premise of Arena at the beginning, but I ended up really liking it. I really liked the characters. David can testify that I was exhausted and spent by the end of the book - it was a real saga, a long and arduous journey, but one which I didn't want to stop, and which encouraged me to trust God.

* * *

I also recently really enjoyed Unveiled by Francine Rivers (my first dabble into her books, thanks to the recommendation of my friend Mary Jones). Jason gave it to me for Christmas. Emily read that one after I did, and then went ahead of me to zip through two more in this "Lineage of Grace" series, which were given me by my brother Paul & his wife, Unashamed (about Rahab) and Unspoken (about Bathsheba) - they are short novellas. Now she's hoping she gets the remaining two in the series for her birthday in a couple of months (Unafraid, and Unshaken, about Mary and Ruth). These are the five women specifically mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus. That makes them pretty special, amongst the sea of men listed. And indeed they did have pretty remarkable and tough lives, for various reasons!

After I catch up with Emily in this series, I have my sights on trying a Kathy Tyers sci fi novel: the Firebird Trilogy. Any of you read it already?

January 22, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 08, 2006

Juvenile Fiction: Dragons & Princesses

For people looking for new fodder for their book-devouring progeny (or themselves).

Dragon Fantasy Books recently test-driven (and approved!) by my children, a 12-year-old boy and an 8-year-old girl:

Eragon, by Christopher Paolini. Jason (almost 12) plowed through it and is now on the new sequel, Eldest. He has a Book Challenge going for his language arts class at school, which required him to set a reading goal each month and say whether he met it or not. Each book has such a differing number of pages, though. Eldest, for example, has 668 pages, whereas the Redwall books have about 375. He's also been reading several of those and liking them.

Dragon Rider, by Cornelia Funke. Emily zipped through it twice in rapid succession. I just ordered this author's other books, Inkheart and Inkspell.

Last year's two major Dragon series for our family, which both kids loved, and we (the parents) found had great messages as well:

The four-book Raising Dragons series, by Bryan Davis.

The Dragonspell trilogy, by Donita K. Paul.

In non-dragon book news, Emily has also recently loved four books by Shannon Hale:
Princess Academy (thanks to the review by Semicolon Sherry!), and then the trilogy:
The Goose Girl (also reviewed by Sherry, though I hadn't seen that until now),
Enna Burning, and
River Secrets.

I can't exactly review any of these books myself, since I haven't read a single one. Well, I did read one of the Redwall series (which doesn't fit in the dragon/princess theme), but I found it quite slow and tame. David, however read the whole Dragonspell series mentioned above and liked it. After Jason read them, and Emily read all three books four times in a row, it seemed like a good way for him to commune with the kids!

October 8, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

March 23, 2006

First Five Movie Quotes

Sherry, a blogging homeschool mom of eight, listed the first five movie quotes that come to mind, and I thought that was a fun meme. Here are mine. Can you identify the movies from which they come?

1. - No more rhyming, now, I mean it!
- Anybody wanna peanut?

2. At least once more, Miss Swann, as always.

3. (stunned silence between two people as mini pulls rapidly into underground garage and abruptly stops)

4. He was very vigorous, Father.

5. Mom's and Dad's lives could be in danger -- or, even worse, their marriage!

* * *

Sherry also listed 105 Good Movies, a fabulous list of 100 Things To Do If You're Bored, 10 Great First Lines of Books, a bazillion Books She Wants to Read This Year (a commenter noted the interesting fact that Ender's Game is "on the required reading list for Marine Officers" - I loved that book, along with Ender's Shadow). Sherry's blog is high on actually valuable and useful content!

March 23, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 16, 2006

Comical Lasagne

Yesterday afternoon I made lasagne for the first time since moving to France. I had a few challenges. Mainly because I use an American lasagne recipe, which involves cups and ounces and pounds. Not to mention Fahrenheit, but that's easily resolved with the little chart of common oven temperatures and their conversions that I have posted on our fridge. Like 350 F = about 180 C.

So before shopping, I used Google's cool conversion feature to figure out what I needed to buy in European units. That would have been more helpful if it weren't for the fact that I needed
- 283g (10oz) of frozen chopped spinach, but the smallest bag they sell here is 1000g (1Kg). Fortunately, they are kind enough to freeze it in little chips of about 5g each, so my daughter and I counted by fives up to 285 to sort that out. I guess I'll use the rest for something else, even though my son was totally grossed out by the little green frozen pellets.
- 2 cups of shredded mozzarella: how does one convert that? It's a volume, not a weight, and they don't sell mozzarella shredded here, only in blocks of 400g (and I don't have a food processor at the moment). So I eyeballed that one, and chopped it into pieces and used my cup measures at home. I didn't need the second block.
- 453g of ricotta (1lb) and it comes in containers of 250g. So I used two containers, and it ended up being too much and nearly overflowing the baking dish. Yes, I should have left some out. About 47g, whaddaya think?
- 1 egg: well, that wasn't too hard; they use the same units here for those.

I also threw in ground beef, oregano, mushrooms, carrots and of course tomato sauce and the noodles, and by this time the 9x13" pan was so full, there was scarcely room for the secret ingredient of this no-precooking-the-noodles lasagne: 1 cup of boiling water, poured around the edges. It JUST fit. I had the pan on a big cookie sheet with borders, in case of boiling over, which sometimes happens. I opened the mouth of the oven and started sliding the heavy load in when I remembered with frustration that this oven is too small to fit my veteran cookie sheets that I've been using without a hitch for thirteen years (a wedding present). The sheet tipped to the left and the liquid starting pouring out of the dish onto the sheet. Yikes! Back onto the stovetop with it, and I moved the rack out of the way, and slid the sheet right onto the bottom of the oven (where it just fits, with no rack). Did I clean off the spilled liquid? No, for some reason I didn't think of that. I will remember that all day today as I scour and scrub at the poor, blackened cookie sheet that's been soaking all night. Yet, the lasagne was very tasty in the end.

I also baked a pumpkin pie for my first European time yesterday (just before the lasagne). Given that they don't sell canned pumpkin or American-style brown sugar here, this is a real precious commodity. We had brought some of both back with us on our last trip, so I was set in that domain. I used a prepared refrigerated pie-crust from the store here. They turn out to be bigger than the ones in the U.S., and they also come with parchment paper that goes right in the oven with the pie, making extraction of the pie from the dish much easier. Kind of cool. But I didn't cut off the extra crust around the edges of the pie plate, so they totally burned (until I removed them mid-baking). But the filling of the pie came out very well.

All my culinary accommodation struggles reminded me of Mary DeMuth's funny post on getting used to French laundry procedures. And while cleaning up the dinner dishes, inspired by Amanda's children, David read to me from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, since it was, after all, the Ides of March. I should have "been ware" (beworn? bewared? been beware? been aware? been wary?) in my cooking.

Then Amanda mentioned a book (Byzantium) that happens to have been waiting on my bedside, so I picked it up and read 18 pages before dropping off to sleep, well-fed and feeling accomplished despite the minor mishaps.

March 16, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 03, 2006

Tag from Lucy's Island: Fours

I only just discovered that Lucy of Lucy's Island tagged me. I haven't been tagged for anything for a long, long time. So here we go. Thanks, Lucy. You make me smile.

Four Jobs I’ve Had (okay, five)
1. CASHIER at the Co-op grocery store in Geneva, Switzerland. On the Route de Florissant, and also down by the lake, and also in Vandoeuvres. For eight weeks the summer I was 16. Because the rule was that in our household once you turn 16, you get a summer job every summer. At least I think that was how it went. In any case, it was neat to earn some real money all my own, and to be able to tithe from it. And I liked trying to make customers smile, just by smiling at them and being as pleasant as possible. Some pretty sour-looking people came through my checkstand, and often left looking a little more upbeat, which was great to see.
2. SECRETARY-TYPE for Executive Business Services (again in Geneva), a little secretarial company that also did travel arrangements. It was my next summer job, when I was 17. Part of it involved walking upstairs to bring faxes and other paperwork to an elderly gentleman in a richly furnished office, and then listening to him talk for quite a while about his planned travels to Billings, Montana for whatever reason. My bosses told me just to go ahead and listen for as long as he wanted to talk, to keep him a happy customer. It was a strange arrangement.
3. SECRETARY for Digital Equipment Corporation in Massachusetts. Replacing someone during maternity leave, I think. Answered phone for boss, did filing, typing, reworking file system, etc, in Corporate Travel and Relocation Departments. This was the summer I was 18.
4. ADMINSTRATIVE GOPHER PERSON (notice pattern) for World Economic Forum in Geneva again (stayed with my brother and sister-in-law, since my parents had moved back to Massachusetts the year before). Did a lot of typing. Got really fast at typing the word "international." Quit a couple weeks early since I couldn't stand being across the ocean from my future husband for as long as I had previously thought I could.
5. WIFE, MOTHER, HOMEMAKER. It goes without saying that this is the most challenging and diverse job. But not without its administrative parts and the need to make people smile.

Four Movies I Watch Over and Over Again (okay, over five)
1. The Princess Bride (our whole family loves it; so funny and romantic)
2. Pirates of the Caribbean (I just love it; again, funny, romantic, such a sense of honor)
3. The Lord of the Rings trilogy (seen it 4 times so far; incredible for me, given the length; I've written posts on this before)
4. Singing in the Rain (love the singing and dancing and romance and humor)
5. I also really like the Bourne Identity and its sequel (totally different from the book, which I read afterwards and consequently didn't like as much as the movie), The Incredibles, The Rookie, and True Lies, the old Sabrina and the first Zorro. Generally, I like movies that honor marriage, families, parenting, integrity, and faithfulness, and that have romance, honor, and humor. But I also like action movies. Mostly I like watching movies with my husband. Except he likes some movies I don't care for due to their brand of interesting humor. But I won't mention those here, because they don't belong in this category.

Four Places I’ve Lived (okay, seven)
1. Framingham, Massachusetts (birth to age 2)
2. Geneva, Switzerland (2-17; I am in love with the memories of my happy childhood there)
3. Northampton, western Massachusetts (college) and Harvard, eastern Massachusetts (not the university, the little town where my parents moved after my freshman year of college)
4. Nashua, New Hampshire (newlyweds; no flowers six months of the year)
5. Highland Park, Illinois (flat, long winter)
6. Silicon Valley, California (Cupertino and Sunnyvale; great climate, surrounded by hills and near the Pacific Ocean, fresh fruit and flowers all year, never any snow, literally no rain from April through October, every cultural experience you could wish for, great concerts, great restaurants, well connected airports, and unbeatable homeschool support and activities. But smog, noise, congested roads, crowded, cramped, light pollution, and possibility of earthquakes; ten years there was perfect)
7. Montpellier, southern France (current location - great language, food, history, Mediterranean Sea nearby, short hop to lots of countries; kids learning French in local schools)

Four TV Shows I Watch (okay, zero)
1. I
2. Don't
3. Watch
4. TV (even if I wanted to, we don't have any reception and we don't want to subsidize TV by paying for cable, and I already don't have enough time to blog and read the books I'd like to read)

Four Books (okay, 12)
1. The Bible (I try to read it through once a year or so, weekly sharing favorite verses with friends)
2-4. Nursing your Baby and Toilet Training in Less Than a Day and Dare to Discipline (these really helped me in the baby and toddler days)
5-12. Ender's Game and Ender's Shadow (Orson Scott Card; fascinating), Blink (Ted Dekker, NOT the guy with the big hair), The Light of Eidon (Karen Hancock), Safely Home (Randy Alcorn), Oxygen (John B. Olson and Randall Ingermanson), Code to Zero (Ken Follett), Timeline (Michael Crichton)

Four Places I’ve Been On Vacation (Or at least four groups of places. What a life I've had so far)
1. Europe (Italy, France, Spain, England, Ireland, Scotland, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Greece - the blessing of growing up in Europe)
2. Kenya (when I was 12 and 14, on safari with family and friends)
3. All over the continental U.S. (Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Illinois, Wisconsin, Colorado, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, California, Tennessee, Virginia, New Jersey - the blessing of having lived all across the country and having family and friends all over), plus Canada (just a couple of days for a film festival with my mom and toddler son - we were moral support for a Christian filmmaker) and Kauai (first trip away alone after we became parents) and Maui (10th anniversary)
4. The Caribbean: British Virgin Islands (honeymoon in 1993, and also my brother's wedding in 2000) and Jamaica, Grand Cayman Island, Mexico, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, Bahamas (blessing of two staggering business trip cruises that the family got to go on), and also Bermuda (blessing of parents sending us away for an anniversary)
I've never been to Australia or Asia (but my husband has been to both on business trips), nor South America. But still, I would say I am nothing if not well-travelled, for my thirty-three years.

Four Vehicles I've Owned (wow, this actually IS exactly four! For once!)
1. Beautiful Blue Toyota Tercel (in Massachusetts; stick-shift, no A/C, no power windows or anything else, 2-door)
2. "Dark Emerald Pearl" (Blackish Green) Toyota Camry '92 (in New Hampshire and Illinois and California for 10 years; automatic)
3. "Salsa Red" Toyota Camry '02 (in California, then sold the beloved thing to my uncle in Massachusetts before moving overseas; automatic)
4. Green VW Passat (in France; back to stick-shift! I can't decide which kind of transmission I like better. They both have advantages; I think it's good to be experienced with both)

Four Websites I Visit Daily (on average)
1. Google
2. Typepad
3. English-French dictionary
4. I don't read blogs by going to their websites. I read them in my aggregator by RSS feed. But my aggregator visits lots of places (about 53) daily. Every 30 minutes, in fact. If only I could catch up with it. 88 unread at the moment. I hope I finish this post some day so I can get back to reading. Been working on it on and off for days, since I what I am REALLY doing this week is scrapbooking urgently so I can give my family back the use of the dining room table by Friday night when Jason returns from his ski trip and we are four diners again.

Four Favorite Foods
1. Chocolate
2. Chocolate (and nuts)
3. Chocolate (and cheese, but not together)
4. Chocolate (and whole wheat things, whether together or not)
4.5 Lots of vegetables, yogurt, fruit juice, pasta, rice, and salad

Four Places I’d Like To Be Right Now
1. Here, right where I am, 'cause that's where I'm supposed to be
2. With my husband anywhere
3. With my mom
4. With God in heaven - very much looking forward to that ('cause He said He's taken care of the travel arrangements and the passport control situation)

Four Bloggers I’m Tagging
I think everyone's already done it and I'm the very last one. And phew, I made it before the world ended.

February 3, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 05, 2006

Books in Line

Piled by my bedside awaiting readership:

- Many Waters, by Madeleine L'Engle. David just read it, and we are thinking maybe Jason is ready to try A Wrinkle in Time again - I guess we gave it to him too early before. Many Waters is a "companion" to a Wrinkle in Time, whatever that means. I had never heard of it until David showed it to me, although I have read the first three books in the series, long long ago.

- Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God, by Mary E. DeMuth, fellow blogger AND fellow-resident of Southern France. Having read about it on her blog, I put it on my amazon.com wishlist, and my mom got it for me for Christmas - thanks, Mom!

- The Piano Shop on the Left Bank, by Thad Carhart. Recommended to me by our piano tuner in California, who always used to play some Schumann for me at the end of the tuning session. Delightful. Apparently this story is situated in Paris, don't know much about it. Only I bet my husband would love this sort of book. We'll see if he gets to it before I do. He reads faster.

- The Iron Lance and Byzantium, both by Stephen Lawhead. Never read any of his books, but they sound in line with others I have enjoyed. Will have to find out. Thanks, Alethia and Paul! (amazon wish list and loving family members strike together again)

- The Pickwick Papers, by Charles Dickens. Hmmm, the American Women's Group here is doing a book club meeting on this book tomorrow, which is why I ordered this book back in December. But since it consists of 777 pages plus appendices expanding the tome to 844 pages, and I haven't started it yet, I don't think I'll be going. I'd still like to read the book sometime, though. Just not by tomorrow at 2pm.

Just finished The Bourne Identity, by Robert Ludlum. My sister-in-law says the book was way better than the movie, which is what I always say when I read the book first. In this case, I saw the movie first, and liked it better (or at least, the movie and the book have very little in common, in my opinion). Extremely complex plot in the book, of course. A ton of characters. I have the next three books in the series under my bedside table also, but will wait a while before getting back to those, I think.

January 5, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 14, 2005

Improving!

I am way better! Two days of antibiotics to go, and I am hardly coughing at all any more. I am very excited, after 16 days of this. Now I just have to watch out that I don't overdo and get a relapse. That would not be a good plan.

It's been rainy, thundery and lightningy, and the drops are dripping on the surface of the pool again as I type, but it's also been a wonderfully restful three-day weekend. I read an entire novel in 24 hours, as I purposefully stayed in bed. Thunder of Heaven by Ted Dekker. Interesting, weird, about CIA operatives and the rainforest jungle of Venezuela, terrorists, and love conquering hate. It is my fourth Ted Dekker book, and my favorite is still my first, Blink, although Blessed Child was very good, too.

November 14, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 01, 2005

Catching the Hobbit

The other evening I had the pleasure of being read to while doing dishes and folding laundry. David read the first chapter of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit aloud to the whole family in the kitchen and then up the stairs into the bedroom. Tolkien writes winningly and David reads exquisitely (have I mentioned that I love him?), so it was 15 minutes of delighted laughs and nods. Then it was time for the younger ones to head to bed.

Now, several days later, Emily has continued on her own some 200 pages or so into the novel and is loving it. Jason has already read all the books in the series at least once, as was the requirement before seeing the movies. Now Emily is asking to see the movies, due to enjoying the special features DVDs from Netflix we have let her watch with us. These bonus reels are considerably less potentially scary than the real movies, since we see the actors normally clothed and with regular hairdos (well, if you can count Orlando Bloom's mohawk), talking about "real" life on the set. Well, Emily will certainly have the same reading requirements as Jason, plus perhaps an age requirement, since she's starting out earlier...but maybe she won't get through all the tomes until she's older. We'll see if her interest stays strong.

March 1, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack