Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Wycliffe Says Hi

As you will see, or, if you didn't notice, there is a new page up above, under the title of my blog that says 'Wycliffe'. I encourage you to click on it to find out what this awesome organization is and what it does. Since I'm sure you're dying to find out, I'll give you a clue: they translate the Bible into indigenous languages all over the world. I feel like God is calling me to go overseas with them for at least a few years to serve in this great work. So please check the page out and feel free to explore their website from the links I have posted.

I will have more information about my assignment in August, and I will also periodically post stories from other people in the field to give you a snapshot of what this ministry looks like. Don't worry, book-lovers, I will continue to post reviews on novels once I finish them. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to comment below.

About 180 million people need translation to begin in their language today. 

More than 1,800 languages still need a Bible translation to begin. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Host: Body and Soul

The Host by Stephenie Meyer
Genre: Science-Fiction

"Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. Our world has been invaded by an unseen enemy. Humans become hosts for these invaders, their minds taken over while their bodies remain intact and continue their lives apparently unchanged. Most of humanity has succumbed.

"When Melanie, one of the few remaining 'wild' humans, is captured, she is certain it is her end. Wanderer, the invading 'soul' who has been given Melanie's body, was warned about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the glut of senses, the too-vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn't expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.

"Wanderer probes Melanie's thoughts, hoping to discover the whereabouts of the remaining human resistance. Instead, Melanie fills Wanderer's mind with visions of the man Melanie loves-Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body's desires, Wanderer begins to yearn for a man she has been tasked with exposing. When outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off on a dangerous and uncertain search for the man they both love."

You can now close your mouth and re-light your brain from that mind-boggling, complex insert-summary. But doesn't it just sound so compelling? And yes, this is the same author who wrote the Twilight series, which I'm not going to get into here. This novel is completely different than those. It is a love story between a man and woman, but there is also so much more woven into it: aliens (souls), betrayal, brother and sister love, danger, and murder. I'm not a big fan of love triangles, but this novel has a love triangle involving two men, two girls, and one body. Fascinating, huh?

This novel is unlike the other few science-fiction books I've perused. The aliens inhabit human bodies here on earth, and the reader soon learns that neither the humans nor the aliens are the enemies, but they both have can be evil. I also love Meyer's creativity; she doesn't just portray the aliens as these glowing blobs, but gives them personalities, backgrounds, and gives the reader a good picture of the other worlds mentioned in the book.

But what I love most about this book is that it is mostly about what it means to be a human: embracing both the joy and pain in this life, taking nothing for granted, and learning to love sacrificially. God created humans more uniquely and beautifully than any other creatures, and this book definitely highlights that truth.

When I first read this book, I was confused at part of the ending, so you might need to go back and re-read it. But it has a lovely, hopeful ending that is worth the pain and confusion the characters (and perhaps reader) trudges through.

I give this novel a 4 out of 5 and recommend it for 15 year olds and up.

What I learned: Life is so beautiful because it is so short. The pain and sorrows of life make the joys and highs that much more precious.

Stephenie Meyer's website: http://stepheniemeyer.com/

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Nowhere in Neverwhere

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Genre: Fantasy (urban)

"Richard Mayhew is a young man with a good heart and an ordinary life, which is changed forever when he stops to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London sidewalk. His small act of kindness propels him into a world he never dreamed existed. 

"There are people who fall through the cracks, and Richard has become one of them. And he must learn to survive in this city of shadows and darkness, monsters and saints, murderers and angels, if he is ever to return to the London that he knew." 

This is the first novel by Gaiman that I have completed. I listened to part of Coraline, but my mother thought it too strange, so we turned it off. Thus, I didn't know quite what to expect when I read this book; I possessed no expectations, so I can confidently say that it didn't fail them. But, I can also say that it didn't exceed them. 

The same three words kept running through my head as I read this book: creepy, strange, and mysterious. The majority of the book takes place in the subways and tunnels beneath modern-day London. It was dark for most of the time in the story and two of the characters are masters of killing, hence creepy. There are also plenty of other creatures that are just plain strange, not to mention the world Gaiman has created. And the reader never knows what's going to happen, hence mysterious. This book was also a mystery for me because I'm not used to reading fantasy novels set in contemporary landscapes. 

Despite the dark, eerie mood of this tale, I did enjoy it. There is a huge twist that I didn't expect, and the world beneath London was as new and different to me as it was to Richard that my interest never wavered, and I, too, wanted to pester the other characters about their lives and why this place existed. 

Some of the scenes are grotesque, and I never felt close or cared much about Richard himself; Gaiman probably could have woven his character more deeply or changed it more. I probably liked him the most at the end when he made a certain decision. Many of the characters are sardonic, no doubt due to Gaiman's natural personality, and the places and characters based on the London geography was well done. 

I give this book a 3.5 and recommend it for 16 year olds and up because of a few gruesome scenes. 

If you want to read a light, happy book, don't pick this novel up. But if you crave something saturated with shadows and eeriness, where reality is not what you expect, then immerse yourself in this world. And don't fret, it does have a hopeful ending! If it hadn't, my rating would have been much lower (it's all about the endings, after all :). 

What I learned: Not to treat people strangely or like they don't exist just because they're different from me. 

Check out Neil Gaiman's website for more information about him and his other books (which are many): http://www.neilgaiman.com/

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Review: The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas 
Genre: Classic, Adventure, Historical Fiction 

"Set against the tumultuous years of the post-Napoleonic era, Dumas's grand historical romance recounts the swashbuckling adventures of Edmond Dantes, a dashing young sailor falsely accused of treason. The story of his long imprisonment, dramatic escape, and carefully wrought revenge offers up a vision of France that has become immortal.

As Robert Louis Stevenson declared, 'I do not believe there is another volume extant where you can breathe the same unmingled atmosphere of romance.'"

Whew! After a month of reading, I finally finished this novel! And what a delight it was. So much happens in this book: sword-fights, poisoning, happy and neglected romances, treason, kidnapping, that I couldn't wait to sit down and see where Dumas would take me each day.

The main character, Edmond Dantes, who later becomes the Count, is a thoroughly enjoyable character with many faces. I did get frustrated a few times because the reader grows close to the protagonist in the first half of the book, but in the later half or more, the reader spends much more time around the other characters. I would have liked to be in the Count's head more, but I am also glad I met the other characters. The revenge and suspense was that much sweeter, and the author kept me on my toes like the other poor characters.

Although this is a classic, the translation I read was fairly easy to follow. I read the unabridged version and highly suggest others to do the same because the action and ending is well worth the extra pages. There are a few stories in here that seem random and too long, but hang in there, because they are important. Besides, I found them pretty interesting, especially since one centers on a murder. There are a lot of names in here, and since they're so different than ours, it might help to make a list. Thankfully, though, the list of characters is much less that that in Charles Dicken's books.

If you've watched the movie based on this book, I highly recommend you reading the novel; there's so much more, and it's so deliciously suspenseful and action-packed! Be warned, the ending in the novel is different than that in the movie, but just as good, if not better. If you haven't seen the movie yet, then read the book first. The movie is good, but much shallower compared to the novel (of course :).

This book has moved up into my favorites list, and thus, I give it novel a 4.5 out of 5 and recommend it for 16 year olds and up because of the length.

What I learned: Revenge belongs to God alone and in the end doesn't bring satisfaction. The wealthy in France during this time traveled much and had a distinct code of behavior.

One of my favorite quotes: "Hatred is blind; rage carries you away, and he who pours out vengeance runs the risk of tasting a bitter draught."