August 9, 2015

Book Review: Through Waters Deep

Hey there!  I'm thrilled to participate for the first time in a Revell blog tour!  Here is a review of Sarah Sundin's most recent novel, Through Waters Deep.

First of all, here's the front cover.


My first impression of the cover was that it was a little overly drama-romance-ish.  Also that I really liked the girl's hair. 

Aaand because I'm bad at synopses, here is what the back cover says... 

"It is 1941 and America teeters on the brink of war.  Handsome and outgoing naval officer Ensign Jim Avery escorts British convoys across the North Atlantic in a brand-new destroyer, the USS Atwood.  On shore, Jim encounters Mary Stirling, a childhood friend who is now an astute and beautiful Boston Navy Yard secretary.

When evidence of sabotage on the Atwood is discovered, Jim and Mary must work together to uncover the culprit.  A bewildering maze of suspects emerges, and Mary is dismayed to find that even someone close to her is under suspicion.  With the increasing pressure, Jim and Mary find that many new challenges--and dangers--await them." 

Like many back-cover synopses, I have a few disagreements with that one and how it does or does not represent the book.  But I won't bother critiquing it... I'll just move on. 

So, this is the... fifth book by Sarah Sundin that I've read. So, I kind of read all her books the same way. I get annoyed by a number of things in it but the things I liked outweighs what I didn't, and after a while I find myself wanting to read the next one, which I proceed to do and then go through the exact same things all over again. 

Also, a lot of them follow a Very Similar Pattern.  The ones I've read, anyway.  

1. Girl meets guy.  There is some obstacle keeping them them from becoming An Item, but they find themselves attracted to each other anyways.  To personality, but also to looks.  The two are probably equally mentioned, but the latter gets a bit too detailed for my taste, particularly on the guy's side.  (The guy is going to think about the girl's figure.  A lot.  And her legs will be mentioned multiple times. You might also get a description of the guy's hairy chest. ...ew?)
2. They become really good friends and fall in love.
3. This step sometimes being skipped: whatever barrier was in the way goes down at least temporarily.
4. They both are almost convinced that the other person IS interested in them, and things are on their way to going splendidly.
5. A Big Huge Misunderstanding occurs, in which one or both of the parties make Assumptions, there is a Severe Lack of Communication, and the book is practically asking to be thrown across the room.
6. The two main characters basically don't talk to each other (or if they do, there is a big Reserve there) for a certain period of time.
7. Very close to the end, confessions are made, they finally understand each other, all is happy, and there's a lot of smooching. 
Bonus: Whatever is the guy's part in WWII, you will get a lot of technical details about what he does.  Personally, these do not interest me.  I'm only going to know vaguely what's going on anyways, so reading the details just goes over my head and bores me.  While I do like picking up interesting historical facts from fiction, I don't really care about the facts, as long as they're not being misrepresented.  
But let's talk about this book in particular. 

The first thing that sounded interesting to me is that the girl is a secretary.  (If SS writes about a teacher next, I will be thrilled.)  The Wings of the Nightingale series was about flight nurses, and while that was interesting, it wasn't exactly my thing.  I prefer the home front.  A Distant Melody was about a girl who didn't really have a job, and I liked that pretty well too, but as far as occupation/position in life, Mary Stirling is the one I feel I have the most in common with.  I want to be a secretary as it is... but if I could jump back in time 50-100 years, well, it would be even better.  The typewriters! The phones! And learning shorthand would be way cool!

Anyways.  The thing that I found the most fascinating about this book, though, was the whole setting of it.  It's about this time period I never thought about-- when America was basically in WWII but not 'officially', and there were all these people trying to convince everyone that we shouldn't go into the war.  Since it's all history and, you know, it happened... I just don't tend to think about the fact that there was opposition.  (And I've never been a war nerd.)  

The interesting premise was enhanced by a thread of mystery.  This pleased me exceedingly.  I loved that the heroine of the novel sort of became a down-to-earth amateur detective.  When I say down-to-earth, I mean that it wasn't at all cheesy.  While she enjoyed Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie, her part of the story remained more realistic.  

Brief detour to talk about Jim.  Okay, so he was far from perfect.  But I didn't expect him to be perfect, and I found he actually annoyed me a lot less than most of Sarah Sundin's male main characters.  (Cough... I am supposed to be honest here.)  He seemed to have a lot more sense.  The others tend to make infuriating mistakes.  He definitely was not without the thoughts mentioned in #1 above.  In fact, this time through I kept track of what I call the "Typical Dumb Guy" content.  A tally mark for each time I was eww'ed by something-- and, in one case, it went so far that it deserved two.  Anyway, it added up to 13.  (A lot of them were very focused in certain points of the story, haha, rather than sprinkled throughout... so at least I didn't have to read them in every chapter.) 

(To be fair, I also kept a Dumb-Girl-Thoughts count, too-- generally related either to detailed physical attraction or the desire for having a guy 'notice' you-- and that added up to 8.  I think it might actually have been a little more than the heroines normally have.) 

Anyway.  As I was saying, Jim didn't make an infuriating mistake like I was expecting-- actually Mary was the one I was most annoyed with during point #5.

For the record, though, I still liked her.  In fact she might be my favorite so far.  She was definitely an introverted character, although not reserved like Mellie Blake in With Every Letter. She was more open and friendly, but she has a fear of Attention.  

And Jim was definitely my favorite of the heroes... seemed the most level-headed but still interesting.  And didn't think that things that weren't Decidedly Masculine were, like, beneath him.

I also really liked that the basis of their relationship was friendship for a long time. Because I think that's how the best relationships start.  If you can't be really good friends with the person... well, you're going to miss out on a lot.  I like it when people click, and enjoy each other's company.  It just makes me happy.

I would definitely rate this as the most exciting of Sarah Sundin's novels.  It's also the one I would be most likely to recommend.  

Another thing I like about her books is their readability.  I can just carry it around places and read it while I'm waiting for things, which I have to admit is a bit difficult to do with classics sometimes.  So I got it done much more quickly.

Now, this time I kept tabs on the book as I was reading it... so if you're interested in seeing those, you can go to my Goodreads, here

Okay, ratings... I'm going to give it 4.5 out of 5.  This may surprise you after all I've said negatively about it, but all in all I really DID enjoy it a lot, and out of all her books it's the one I'm most likely to want to read again.  (Which is quite convenient, since now I own it.  Thanks, Revell!)  

Aaaand since this review was kind of bluntly honest, I doubt I need to put any disclaimer stating that it is.  Because I think you can tell.  Heh, heh.

July 9, 2015

"At present, I ask only to hear, once to hear your voice."

(Yes, I just irreverently quoted Mr. Knightley... don't kill me please.)

I know, Amy and I were rather terribly silent whilst she was at my house.  We did not give you any amusing tales of weird guys in malls and so forth.  To try and compensate, here is our podcast.  And you shall hear my voice for the first time ever. ;)
Muwahahaha.



***UPDATE***
We watched Les Mis again after this podcast was recorded, and I decided that I would actually pick Courfeyrac.  Because his emo-ness pleased me.  And he's nice.  And he doesn't seem as much of a dweeb as some of the others. :P  (Even if Amy did just call him a total goof.  He's not a TOTAL goof.  Mind, I don't know much about him since I haven't read the book.  But in the movie he was the one I felt I'd get along the best with.)

Also, as promised, Favorite Dress Pictures...

 
My favorite dress of mine (Probably a tie with the one Amy chose actually) 

My favorite dress of Amy's.  Oddly enough ,the same one she chose... hmm. ;)

June 27, 2015

The Stereotype Busters: Jane Austen (Part I)


So most of you probably guessed what I was going to talk about first.  ;)  I thought I was going to do one post, and then realized that there are many different paths I can take with this one, because Jane Austen has SO many stereotypes.  And then I was like, hey, why do one post when I can stretch it out and make more posts for my blog? (Well... it's only the truth. :P)

So let's start with two of the most common misconceptions about Jane Austen.

STEREOTYPE #1: JANE AUSTEN WROTE ROMANCE NOVELS.


I have to say, covers like that are very deceptive.  I almost feel sorry for the person who was attracted to the book because of that cover... what a shock they'd be in for!  I bet they wouldn't make it past the first two pages.  "A couple old married people talking... ?! Who cares??"

And then of course, things like P&P05 can be deceptive, too.  Very.  


(Gross.)

Well, Janeites, when people say this to you, just take a deep breath.  Give them the benefit of the doubt.  It might not be their fault they think that Jane Austen's books are romance novels.  They could have heard it from someone.  And you get the delightful task of straightening them out!

I usually start out with the words of the lady herself.

"I could no more write a romance than an epic poem. I could not sit seriously down to write a serious romance under any other motive than to save my life; and if it were indispensable for me to keep it up and never relax into laughing at myself or at other people, I am sure I should be hung before I had finished the first chapter. No, I must keep to my own style and go on in my own way; and though I may never succeed again in that, I am convinced that I should totally fail in any other."
I would love to memorize that entire quote so I can reel it off to anybody and everybody.  It's just... so Jane, haha.  A person whose relaxation is found in laughing at herself and other people, is not going to write a real "romance" unless it was a parody.

The delicious thing about Jane Austen's novels is that her characters are so real.  You read her books, and you just know... Jane Austen knew about people.  She never traveled the world, never met a bunch of important people, was never in a realm of high society... but she didn't need any of that to observe.  I feel like this is the trademark of every really good author-- when you read their books and think "I know someone just like this," and you can laugh about it.

In the same way that Jane Austen writes about real people, she writes about real romances.  They're not all fake and glittery and mushy or disgusting.  They're about two people who were meant to be together, and how they found it out.  Mr. Darcy didn't fall in love with Elizabeth because she was pretty.  He noticed her personality.  Mr. Knightley loved Emma for years before he even realized it, and for much of the book he's a family friend she's known all her life.

Look, all you people who think that Jane Austen writes romance stories... I have heard countless girls complain that her books aren't romantic enough.  "They hardly even ever have the PROPOSAL scene!"

Let's take an in-depth look at some of Jane Austen's most romantic moments.  Starting with the most famous, Pride & Prejudice.

So, take a look at Mr. Darcy's first proposal.
"In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.'' 
Elizabeth's astonishment was beyond expression. She stared, coloured, doubted, and was silent. This he considered sufficient encouragement, and the avowal of all that he felt and had long felt for her immediately followed. He spoke well, but there were feelings besides those of the heart to be detailed, and he was not more eloquent on the subject of tenderness than of pride. His sense of her inferiority -- of its being a degradation -- of the family obstacles which judgment had always opposed to inclination, were dwelt on with a warmth which seemed due to the consequence he was wounding, but was very unlikely to recommend his suit.
Well, it starts out pretty good, but... wow, dude.  Way to express tender emotion there.  How could any girl refuse something so romantic?

Let's see if the second proposal is any better.
"If you will thank me," he replied, "let it be for yourself alone. That the wish of giving happiness to you might add force to the other inducements which led me on, I shall not attempt to deny. But your family owe me nothing. Much as I respect them, I believe I thought only of you." 
Elizabeth was too much embarrassed to say a word. After a short pause, her companion added, "You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on this subject for ever."
Elizabeth, feeling all the more than common awkwardness and anxiety of his situation, now forced herself to speak; and immediately, though not very fluently, gave him to understand that her sentiments had undergone so material a change, since the period to which he alluded, as to make her receive with gratitude and pleasure his present assurances. The happiness which this reply produced, was such as he had probably never felt before; and he expressed himself on the occasion as sensibly and as warmly as a man violently in love can be supposed to do. Had Elizabeth been able to encounter his eye, she might have seen how well the expression of heartfelt delight, diffused over his face, became him; but, though she could not look, she could listen, and he told her of feelings, which, in proving of what importance she was to him, made his affection every moment more valuable.
 
Much to some people's chagrin, she totally avoided writing what Elizabeth said in reply.  And the narrative, although expressive, can hardly be called cringe-worthy.

Let's look at the last of romantic quotes from that scene...
Such I was, from eight to eight and twenty; and such I might still have been but for you, dearest, loveliest Elizabeth! What do I not owe you! You taught me a lesson, hard indeed at first, but most advantageous. By you, I was properly humbled. I came to you without a doubt of my reception. You shewed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased."
No kissing was mentioned, by the way.  No physical contact was mentioned in the least.  Readers can really imagine whatever they choose-- and, believe me, most of them stick a kiss in there somewhere.  I prefer it to be after the wedding like in the 1995 miniseries.

Now, onto Emma.  I absolutely adore the proposal in Emma, so this will be a joy. 
"As a friend!"—repeated Mr. Knightley.—"Emma, that I fear is a word—No, I have no wish—Stay, yes, why should I hesitate?—I have gone too far already for concealment.—Emma, I accept your offer—Extraordinary as it may seem, I accept it, and refer myself to you as a friend.—Tell me, then, have I no chance of ever succeeding?" 
He stopped in his earnestness to look the question, and the expression of his eyes overpowered her.
"My dearest Emma," said he, "for dearest you will always be, whatever the event of this hour's conversation, my dearest, most beloved Emma—tell me at once. Say 'No,' if it is to be said."—She could really say nothing.—"You are silent," he cried, with great animation; "absolutely silent! at present I ask no more."
 
Emma was almost ready to sink under the agitation of this moment. The dread of being awakened from the happiest dream, was perhaps the most prominent feeling. 
"I cannot make speeches, Emma:"—he soon resumed; and in a tone of such sincere, decided, intelligible tenderness as was tolerably convincing.—"If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am.—You hear nothing but truth from me.—I have blamed you, and lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman in England would have borne it.—Bear with the truths I would tell you now, dearest Emma, as well as you have borne with them. The manner, perhaps, may have as little to recommend them. God knows, I have been a very indifferent lover.—But you understand me.—Yes, you see, you understand my feelings—and will return them if you can. At present, I ask only to hear, once to hear your voice."
And now for Emma's response...
What did she say?—Just what she ought, of course. A lady always does.
And now, for the culmination of Jane Austen's most romantic speeches-- read Captain Wentworth's letter.  This is the bit where all the hopeless romantics sigh with pleasure, and those who prefer the mushy kept to a minimum might roll their eyes a bit.  

But that right there is the most in all six of Jane Austen's novels that is anywhere even near a romance. 

And in the other three, the proposal scene is brushed over, with Mansfield Park being a prime example of what the hopeless romantics DON'T like about Jane Austen. 
Scarcely had he done regretting Mary Crawford, and observing to Fanny how impossible it was that he should ever meet with such another woman, before it began to strike him whether a very different kind of woman might not do just as well, or a great deal better: whether Fanny herself were not growing as dear, as important to him in all her smiles and all her ways, as Mary Crawford had ever been; and whether it might not be a possible, an hopeful undertaking to persuade her that her warm and sisterly regard for him would be foundation enough for wedded love. 
I purposely abstain from dates on this occasion, that every one may be at liberty to fix their own, aware that the cure of unconquerable passions, and the transfer of unchanging attachments, must vary much as to time in different people. I only entreat everybody to believe that exactly at the time when it was quite natural that it should be so, and not a week earlier, Edmund did cease to care about Miss Crawford, and became as anxious to marry Fanny as Fanny herself could desire.
So if you're looking for a romantic, mushy, light read, Jane Austen is not where you want to go.  However, if you're looking for unique wit, keen observation of the way People Are, snark that hides if you're not paying attention but jumps out at you if you are, memorable characters, and actually have a brain that can focus long enough to read things more complicated than Dick and Jane...

...okay I'm stopping now. :P 

Anyways, Jane Austen's books are what I would call "romantic comedies," and not in the silly-chick-flick way.  Just that, yes, they center around a woman who ends up getting married at the end.  But a lot of other stuff happens too, and so much of it is FUNNY.  

And yes, some of Jane Austen's heroes do have a bunch of female admirers.  That's because they're actually good guys, gentlemen, and if they're rich and handsome on top of that, well, that's just an added bonus.  They're all so different, though.  A girl whose favorite is Mr. Darcy will give you completely different reasons than a girl whose favorite is Henry Tilney. 

They are timeless romantic stories, but she managed to create this mastery-of-love without an ounce of silliness.  That's because she wrote about the real stuff. 

Incidentally, Jane Austen was never married.  Some cynical people might therefore say that she didn't know enough about love to write about it.  On the contrary, I think she knew more.  And that's why she never married.  Why would she settle for a less perfect-for-her match than her heroines did?  They weren't going to marry for convenience, and she had to set them the correct example.




STEREOTYPE #2: JANE AUSTEN'S STORIES ARE ONLY FOR GIRLS.

Okay, let's start out with a quote from what of JA's guys.
"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." ~Henry Tilney, Northanger Abbey.

As far as I'm concerned, Jane Austen's books are the very definition of "a good novel," and anybody who thinks they won't like them is biased, be it man or woman.  They've heard the stereotypes.  Or they just assume.

As explained in #1, her stories have so much in them.  They aren't adventure books where people go gallivanting around the world, so if that's what you're looking for, then yeah, don't bother.  But if you actually have a mind that appreciates true humor, rather than the newest Coors Light commercial, or the joke your football buddy told, or the time you shot a deer, there's actually a chance you might like it.



I myself have watched Jane Austen movies with three different fellows, and they all enjoyed them.  (Yep, they were all related to me.)  So far I haven't personally been acquainted with any who will actually read the entirety of a book, but I do know OF those people, and to me, if they do, it is a definite mark of a superior male mind.

The fact is, sometimes Jane Austen is just too much awesomeness for guys to be able to handle.  Cowards. :P

Well, as Jane Austen quoted... ""I do not write for such dull Elves as have not a great deal of Ingenuity themselves."

And if you think sitting down to a Jane Austen movie is like watching a chick flick... well, then, Finding Nemo is an action-packed adventure movie. :P  (With the exceptions of two or three not-so-good versions, coughcoughP&P05cough, GwynethPaltrowEmmacough.)

That's all I have for now. Stay tuned for more!


June 24, 2015

Introducing: The Stereotype Busters

Okay, folks, I had an idea.  It's going to be a bit unusual for this blog, but hey, it's my blog and I can say whatever I want.  So I'm gonna.

Now you have all been in this situation.  Somebody makes a reference.  Or starts talking about something as if you didn't know about it.  Or snarkily asks you a question because they know you DO know about it.

Stereotypes.  They're all over the place.  The ones I'm most acquainted with have conservative circle connections.  "Oh, you're homeschooled!  Do you have any friends?"  "You still live at home and don't have a REAL JOB? Are you just waiting around to get MARRIED?"  "You always wear skirts!  Are you Amish?"  And, if you have at least three siblings and are similar ages, "Your family's so big, you're just like the Duggars!"

Getting annoyed yet? :P

Let's see here... ooh, religious stereotypes!  Yeahhhhh.  Okay, c'mon, we all do the denomination-stereotype thing.  We even do it about ourselves.  But somehow, to hear other people doing it about us, especially when they're wrong, it's just... annoying.

Man-woman stereotypes.  My favorite. :P (That was a joke.)

(And of course, comedians thrive on these things, and it CAN be funny, but there comes a Point...)

Introverts and extroverts!  Both groups can really be very stereotyped.

Or there could be some topic you know a lot about, and somebody who assumes they know about it talks about it and you're just like "you have no idea who you're talking to."  Or they say something that just makes you go ARGHHHH.  "Jane Austen?!  Ew.  I'd read Nicholas Sparks first.  At least those are shorter."  (...yes, I've gotten that before.  From a guy, go figure. :P)

Often, our reaction is either to resolve never to speak to the person again, or gleefully rub our hands together with an OKAY BUDDY YOU ASKED FOR IT and then they'll hear more about the topic than they ever wanted to know.

And there are times where someone unintentionally says something a little offensive.  Some difficult thing you've gone through in life, and somebody either makes a joke or they talk about it really lightly, or they're just COMPLETELY WRONG and don't know what they're talking about.

With those things, you can fall into the trap way too easily yourself.  Because we get 'sold' stereotypes all the time, and if we aren't the people who are being stereotyped, well... we don't notice.  That thing might even have some negative significance to you or a loved one later, and then you'll be like "I can't BELIEVE I went along with everybody and thought that way about it."

So, I'm suggesting a blog series. It will be both humorous and educational.  We all have our areas of Expertise, don't we?  Well, this is your chance to jump in and defend it.  Straighten everybody out.

I'll start with a post on my own blog... so watch for that soon.  But I encourage you all to do the same.  You could even do more than one if you want!  Just please put "The Stereotype Busters: ______(subject)______" as your post title, and link back to this page where I will collect the links that are submitted to me and you can find them all in this one handy place. :)  (As long as your post is no more than PG rated. By today's standards. G-rated by yesterdecade's standards, haha.)

You can write these posts however long you like, but I'm going to stop adding the links after three months.  So, I'll accept them through the end of September, 2015.

Update: And now you can enjoy some!

"Jane Austen (Part I)" - Regency Delight ~Jane Austen, etc.~
"Older Sisters" - Wonderland Creek
"Biblical Creationists" - A Portrait of Grace



Note: If you would like to write a stereotype-busting blog post but don't have a blog of your own, you can talk to me about doing a guest post. :)

April 19, 2015

In which I waltz in here just to make an exciting announcement...

Hiiiiiiiii.

It seems the only time I get on my blog these days are when I have an exciting announcement to make, and I do apologize that.  But do you want to hear my exciting announcement?  Of course you do.

AMY'S COMING AMY'S COMING AMY'S COMINGGGGGG.

(Just had to get that out of my system.)

Yes, after almost two years (and two more visits, but they were at HER house), Amy is coming here to visit me again and I am just a little bit excited.  One month from today, folks.  And staying for SEVENTEEN DAYS.



Also, within that time, we are going to be spending five days on a marvelous, dream-come-true vacation with my family to somewhere on the Pacific coast.  Why dream-come-true?  Because every time I go on vacation, I dream of having Amy with us, and now it's ACTUALLY GOING TO HAPPEN.  Also, the coastal vacation is my favorite one to take.  There are places along the coast that are very cool, people.  They're like a mixture between woodsy camping and, of course, the beach.  So yeah.  And of course, Amy's never had the pleasure of seeing the sun set over the ocean, and now I get to show her that. :D

Anyway, in case you want to know the particular dates of the visit and don't want to figure it out from the information I've already provided (:P) it's May 19th through June 5th. Heehee.

Random picture of us.
As always, we have plenty of other splendid plans besides for vacation.  We have a bucketful of movies to try to get through--we'll see how that goes.  Some things at least one of us has never seen before, and others that we've both seen and love and want to watch together. :D  We may even try staying up all night and having a marathon.  (We did this one other time.  And slept in the morning.)

Since we do have a life aside from watching TV (no, really!), some of our other plans include-- well, going places.  Lots of places.  Tea shops, strolling about in historic downtown areas, libraries (I work at one, so she'll just come along with me :)), have our teenager-ish tradition of going to the mall and goofing off.  We're going to join forces and have a grand yard sale in my front yard, too.  (Mom said we could do it if we did everything ourselves.)


Of course, those are only some of the plans.  I can't tell you everything, after all.  But our schedule is definitely jam-packed.

I've been looking forward to this for such a very long time, and to think that it's happening in a month is kind of amazing.  (It also feels like it SHOULD be that way because I've been waiting for foreverrrrr did I mention that yet.)  I am so looking forward to spending real-life time with my Tween once again, because there's nothing else in this world like it.  It's the best thing. :D

This time I may be looking forward to seeing her even more, or at least for an additional reason... I've been going through some hard times lately and I can't begin to express how much of a help, comfort, and support my Amy has been.  She's basically the best friend everybody wishes they had, folks (only better).  I can't wait to share all those hugs that have been stored up during this time.



Now, moving on from the slog, we have come up with a plan to Spice Things Up a bit.  While we're not really comfortable filming a vlog for everyone to see, we wouldn't mind recording an audio vlog (a-log?), a podcast of sorts, but we need Things to Talk About.  So if you all would like, you can think up questions for us to answer, like in all the Q&A posts.  Please leave a separate comment below with your questions for Amy, and with your questions for me, go to Amy's blog and leave them in her announcement post.  That way we can spring them on each other during the podcast.

Just to clarify, we make no promises about this actually happening because, as mentioned above, we do have loads to do during the visit and are rather afraid we might run out of time.  However, if we can't answer them then, we can always do them in blog posts later so your questions won't go to waste. :)

Have fun!
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