Saturday, July 28, 2012

Page 56 (Facebook status game, circa 2008)

Here’s a game that’s been around Facebook since at least 2008:

Grab the closest book to you, go to page 56 and copy the 5th sentence as your status.

I thought I’d try it with the in-progress sequel to The Healer and the Pirate (tentative title: The Healer and the Bandits). I was a bit worried it would contain spoilers or something.

She just whinnied.

OK, I guess that fear was a bit unfounded.

Anyone want to play? You can use your work in progress or just the nearest book you have on hand.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Healer and the Irate #removeoneletterfilms

Maggie here. I’m not much of a Twitter user but once in awhile I will take a look at the trending topics list. Sometimes, there’s a good game going. Those can be fun to get lost in.

Like this weekend, people were taking films and removing one letter from the title. It’s quite interesting to see how much the meaning can be changed by removing or adding just a simple little letter.

Let’s take The Lord of the Rings for example. It can become The Lord of the Rigs and before you know it no more rings are involved but there’s some big guy in a truck named Frodo leading on a 9-truck expedition.

Julie: How you share is that someone uses a “hashtag” like
#removeoneletterfilms to mark their post as belonging to the “conversation.” Then you can look up that tag here and see what everyone else is saying! Parental guidance suggested but most the ones I saw were OK and even funny.

OK, yes, it’s silly, but sometimes it’s fun to be a little silly!

Maggie: Here are the ones Julie posted:

Julie Bihn ‏@juliebihn
The Princess and the Fog #removeoneletterfilms
Julie Bihn ‏@juliebihn
The Ion, the Witch and the Wardrobe #removeoneletterfilms
Julie Bihn ‏@juliebihn
Price Caspian #removeoneletterfilms
Julie Bihn ‏@juliebihn
The Voyage of the Dawn Trader #removeoneletterfilms

Then she got into Lord of the Rings mode:

Julie Bihn ‏@juliebihn
 Exciting story of sailors making friends. Fellowship of the Rig #removeoneletterfilms @MaggiePhillippi

Julie Bihn ‏@juliebihn
Group seeks a grammatically-confusing landmark. The Two Tower #removeoneletterfilms @MaggiePhillippi#removeoneletterfilms
Julie Bihn ‏@juliebihn
Thanksgiving day across the US. Return of the Kin #removeoneletterfilms @MaggiePhillippi

And this one made me smile:
Julie Bihn ‏@juliebihn
Now 15% more piratey! Pirates o' the Caribbean #removeoneletterfilms

Tag-team! Julie again! I stole half of mine from Maggie because she said she wouldn’t do them. Lord of the Rings? All the ideas were hers; I just added some words. (Collaboration!)
I loved hers, though. Anyone who’s read the book or seen the movie knows why this is funny:
Ann of Green Gables #removeoneletterfilms

And who can forget this touching Disney film?
The story of a dog looking for his lost sandwich. Blt #removeoneletterfilms @juliebihn

Maggie: I wanted to start a trending topic about removing one letter from TV shows. Because how funny would it be to have a show about FIENDS? Or anyone remember Scarecrow and Mrs. King? Turn it into Scarecrow and Ms. King and you cut that cast in half. Who knows? Maybe that’s what everyone will be doing next weekend.

Or maybe book titles. The Healer and the Irate. A story of a girl who heals anger.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Healer and the Pirate in Michigan

Julie here. So my mom and I recently visited the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, which were both wonderful! We stayed at the Best Western Greenfield Inn, a Victorian-styled hotel right off the freeway and just a few miles away from the local attractions.

Some have called it a Barbie Castle. Fair enough.

It was a pleasant enough place, and providentially, we were placed near the front desk and also, their "lending library."

What is that book I see? Could it be?

That was nearly a month ago, so I'm not so sure that someone hasn't absconded with the author-autographed copy, but maybe it's still there!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Short-Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer

Hi! Maggie here. I am using this review system to base my rating on. I'm a fan of Karen Witemeyer so I thought I would share my thoughts on her recent release.

Synopsis from Amazon: No one steps on Archer land. Not if they value their life. But when Meredith Hayes overhears a lethal plot to burn the Archer brothers off their ranch, a twelve-year-old debt compels her to take the risk.

Fourteen years of constant vigilance hardens a man. Yet when Travis Archer confronts a female trespasser with the same vivid blue eyes as the courageous young girl he once aided, he can't bring himself to send her away. And when an act of sacrifice leaves her injured and her reputation in shreds, gratitude and guilt send him riding to her rescue once again.

Compelling: 10 out 10. I finished this book in one sitting. There wasn’t a dull moment. I enjoyed every minute spent learning about the Archer brothers and seeing the love between Travis and Meredith progress. There wasn’t a scene that dragged or a moment that didn’t fit.

Characters: 9 out 10. I adored all the Archers and Meredith too. Juggling five characters in a room at once is hard work but I applaud Karen Witemeyer. Each brother had a distinctive personality and I loved how they all interacted. I only knock it down to 9 because I could have done without Cassie. She was your typical beautiful girl whose smile charmed the socks off of anyone (even though I did appreciate her relationship with Meredith). If these characters make an appearance in the next book Witemeyer writes, I really hope it isn’t Cassie but Crockett Archer. Next to Travis, he was my favorite. I really want a story on him.

Writing/Editing: 9 out of 10. MINI SPOILER ALERT.  I’m not even sure if this is worth knocking a point off but at the very end of the book... Travis has been hurt but either his excitement over the marriage bed overpowers any pain or the wound was forgotten about. I kept waiting for Meredith to tend to his wound but she never did. Despite that, I enjoy Witemeyer’s ability to weave a story. She definitely entertained me.

Plausibility/Believability: 3 out of 5. SPOILER ALERT. I only knock a few points down because I would think Meredith’s uncle would have pushed the issue of her marrying this evil crook for his money over forcing his beloved daughter on the evil crook. The uncle supposedly doesn’t believe all that is said about the evil man at first but I didn’t completely buy that as a valid excuse. However, I enjoyed the other aspects of the story so much I didn’t really care. And really, it probably wouldn’t distract anyone else.

Positive: 5 out of 5. Good conquers evil in the end and true love wins. I’d say it was pretty positive.

Gut reaction: 5 out of 5. This was definitely my kind of book. Full of wonderful dialog and just enough internal thoughts, I couldn’t put the book down.

Recommended for: Anyone who loves historical romance. Probably not for those who dislike the historical romance genre. If you’ve read and loved Witemeyer’s other books, you’ll more than likely love this one too.

My rating: * * * * *

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Festival of Life

The ordinary people of Kinyn do not have calendars. They track the years by seasons and natural phenomena, like the Lights. So most people don’t remember the day someone was born, or the day someone died. Instead, each town and village chooses a mid-summer day for the Festival of Life. No work is done that day except what is necessary, like milking the cows. Food is simple, mostly freshly-harvested fruits and vegetables, uncooked. Some towns offer their firstfruits to the gods they think protect the town. In the morning, people rejoice and sing to the gods, honoring another year of living. When night falls, lanterns are lit in remembrance of those who have passed on.

Those who follow the Savior observe the festival in their own way. In the morning, they sing songs of praise to the Savior who gave them life. At night, they still remember those who have passed on. Though some people struggle to push back the pain of loss, they pray their thanks to the Savior for promising a second life to those who love Him. Followers of the Savior give offerings of firstfruits, but instead of leaving them for their God, they give them to those who are in need.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Book Review - Auralia's Colors by Jeffrey Overstreet

Book: Auralia's Colors by Jeffrey Overstreet

This is Julie!  I have a review system you may (or may not) want to look at to see HOW I come up with my ratings and what I rate on.

Ridiculously simplified summary: A selfish king takes all the colorful items in his realm, forbidding the people from having colors. Meanwhile, a strange girl comes to the Gatherers, the people outside the city walls, and brings colors to them...

Content: See my review of Beckon. I like happy endings, or at least not miserable ones. I thought this book would end pleasantly enough but around 2/3 or even 3/4 through, things start going very, very, very wrong.  Bodies literally pile up. And unlike in Beckon, I have no idea why any of it happens.

As for Christian content, presumably the Keeper is the God or Christ figure, but it's some sort of conglomeration of animals (for some reason I imagine it looking like one of the Legendary Beasts in Pokémon). It's referred to as an "it" and if I recall correctly, it doesn't speak. Unlike Aslan (who has at least a Biblical link in the whole "Lion of Judah" thing), this weird figure did not appeal to me at all.


Compelling: 4 out of 10. What one person finds fascinating, another will find dull, but I like character-driven plots more than omniscient, flowery language. I found the basic idea of a king stealing the land's colors interesting but wasn't driven along to read, so it took me a long time to finish. The end is where Overstreet pulls out the stops and accelerates the action.

Characters: 3 out of 10. You ever see Dharma and Greg, where a straitlaced guy marries a free-spirited woman? Or maybe more accurately, the parodies? (Dharma stands on the table. Greg: "You come down from there." Dharma: "No, you come up here!" Greg stands on the table and the audience laughs.)

I felt like the title character Auralia was like Dharma in that she was a bizarre character who didn't fit in. (Yet everyone--everyone, even the man they said was beyond redemption--adored her and/or thought she was amazing.) I'd actually consider her a Mary Sue character. We eventually see that yes, she was meant to be amazing and otherworldly and such. I just don't like characters who we are told are amazing and great, when I never feel like they are. I just didn't "get" why she was so great. Other readers might.

I found most of the other characters flat or annoying. A month later, I still recall the driving motivation for at least three point-of-view characters is "something bad happened and they went crazy."

This book reminded me how exciting it is to read characters who want something, with strong motivations.  The only two characters I liked (comparatively minor ones) were the young woman scheming to become queen and the thief. They were the only ones who seemed to want concrete things. They were the only ones I felt were real, with goals and hopes of their own. I felt like the rest of the characters really existed to serve the story, doing whatever it required.

Writing/editing: 7 out of 10. Very difficult for me to rate this. There are some beautiful descriptions and a few interesting turns of phrases. However, I really just want a fun and compelling read. Much of this read to me as though Overstreet were trying to write a literary novel. As I read I couldn't help thinking of James Joyce, Raymond Carver's "Cathedral," and all those other authors Creative Writing and English teachers revere. Me, I want to read an entertaining story, not a story where the words are viewed as more important than the characters.

Plausibility/believability: 1 out of 5. Again, there are some good physical details. At first I was caught up in the concepts but by the end I really didn't understand why anything happened the way it happened.

Positive: 1 out of 5. See the body count referenced above. It had some of the most gruesome images I've read, like a man lovingly holding a hand with no body attached. Any Christian references are so subtle I didn't get them. Apparently there are supposed to be 3 more books, so it all may pull together as the series progresses. But I couldn't glean any meaning from the tragedies in this one.

Gut reaction: 1 out of 5. This is not a book for me. I probably should have known better, given the reviews I saw went on and on about how poetic and flowery the language was. But I was hoping looking at this book would strengthen how I write my descriptions. Since I'm not going to write from an omniscient point-of-view and don't really want to write "fancy," I don't think it helped me.

Bonus points: 5 out of 5.

Recommended for: Fans of epic fantasy with omniscient point-of-view and a literary/flowery style, who aren't adverse to a high body count.

Probably not good for: People who like happy endings; people who hate Mary Sue characters; people who need concrete motivations for characters; people expecting an explicitly Christian book.

Total Rating: 2.2 out of 5 stars