Thursday, June 28, 2007

Of Making Many Books There Is No End. . .

The Lexington Herald-Leader recently had an article about favorite books. A handful of people were surveyed for their list of favorite books and readers were asked to send in their own lists.

One entry caused me to say aloud, “Oh! Me too!” when I saw the title of one of my favorite books as a kid: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg.

Another frequent entry made me cringe - The DaVinci Code. Are you kidding me? A few fell into the “I’ve-been-meaning-to-read” category such as Rocket Boys by Homer Hickman (I loved its movie, October Sky). And, of course, Tolkien. I know any well read person has read Tolkien, but I frankly find his books tedious. [Let the stoning begin…]

Some books on the lists were expected and, in some cases, applauded – Gone with the Wind, Huckleberry Finn, Jane Austen’s books, and, of course, To Kill A Mockingbird.

I sat down to write my list of favorite books and found the task harder than it first appeared. I decided to stick to fiction only…but how do you define “favorite”?

The ones that had an impact on your life, helped to define who you are? [For example, The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier – the main character Jerry has a poster which reads, “Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?” Very influential when I read it as a middle schooler in galvanizing me to stand my ground on my beliefs.]

Is it the book/s that helped you fall in love with reading – The Bobbsey Twins, The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series. I remember reading Katie For President and telling Mom I couldn’t go to bed yet because if I put the book down I would miss something!

Or is it the books you can read over and over again? Here, in no particular order, are some of my favorite reads:

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – Classic love story. Time capsule. Historical Fiction. Two of the most captivating characters in literature – Rhett and Scarlett.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court – This usually isn’t the first book to come to mind when the name Mark Twain is mentioned. A departure for Twain, who slightly turns his attention from the social realm to the political.

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy. The British Zorro who uses his wits as well as his sword. I can’t sum it up better than an reviewer: "The Scarlet Pimpernel" shows the virtues of monarchy, the vices of democracy, the nobility of taking personal risk to life and limb for strangers, the villainy of the will of the masses, the weakness of grim single-minded determination, and above all, the strength of laughter and a light heart.”

Desiree by Annemarie Selinko. Young love and political realities come to play in this historical romance novel. I read it originally as a teenager and still love it. I’ve given it to many teenage girls to introduce them to the spunky spurned fiancée of Napoleon, Desiree Clary. Desiree didn’t become Empress with Napoleon, but she did become Queen of Sweden! This fictionalized account of her actual life is a wonderful read.

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. Classic love story with a wonderfully strong female lead.

Debt of Honor by Tom Clancy. The first of Clancy’s books I read. Famous for his research, when Clancy wrote of an F16 pilot’s flight, I felt I was sitting in the cockpit with him. I love how he throws out seemingly random subplots and then weaves them all together into a core plot.

Emily Loring romance novels. Ms. Loring’s books were originally published in the 1930s and the morality of that age shines through. The climactic romantic encounter may be a brief peck on the cheek! Her heroes were men of honor, dignity and valor. Her heroines were courageous, graceful and kind. I always told Mom I wanted to marry a “Loring man”. (And I did, by the way.)

My favorite – To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. It’s about injustice and racism, but it’s also about a little girl opening her eyes to the world. I had such a soft spot for Boo Radley [There was an interesting sidebar article to the main article on books I mentioned earlier. It asked, “Are you Atticus or Scout?" I’m Scout. ]

Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of the Anne of Green Gables series, wrote of why we love books:

Here with hosts of friends I revel

who can never change or chill;

Though the fleeting years and seasons

they are fair and faithful still!

Kings and courtiers, knights and jesters,

belles and beaux of far away,

Meet and mingle with the beauties

and the heroes of to-day.

All the lore of ancient sages,

all the light of souls divine,

All the music, wit and wisdom

of the gray old world is mine,

Garnered here where fall the shadows

of the mystic pineland's gloom!

And I sway an airy kingdom

from my little book-lined room.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

At The Movies: Deja Vu

Any movie whose script can cause two well-known Christian actors to sign on will get my attention! Such was the case with DÉJÀ VU, a 2006 sci-fi thriller starring Denzel Washington and Jim Caviezel.

This New Orleans-based thriller begins with the explosion of a ferry resulting in over 500 casualties, including families and sailors. AFT agent Doug Carlin (Washington) is assigned to investigate what is deemed a terrorist attack. Agent Carlin is without leads until he is informed about a corpse of a woman that was found one hour before the explosion, but burnt with the same explosive.

Agent Carlin’s quick mind and local knowledge has drawn the attention of a special FBI surveillance team. Agent Prywarra (Val Kilmer) invites Carlin to join it. Pryzwarra's team of physicists has chanced upon a wormhole into the past, and is cautiously test-driving equipment that enables them to monitor from any angle events of four and a half days ago as they unfold in real time on a high-tech screen.

While looking for a starting point to review the past, Agent Carlin discloses the identity of the mysterious dead woman, Claire, and decides to follow her last moments trying to find the criminal. While watching the surveillance, we see Doug falling in love with Claire and becoming determined to change destiny, saving her life.

There’s a definite messianic element to Doug Carlin. He falls in love with Claire knowing she’s dead. He desires to give her renewed life. He is willing to sacrifice his life to accomplish that goal. There’s more, but that would spoil the film.

There are Christian references throughout the film. We see a flyer for a Baptist revival on Claire’s bulletin board. We watch through the time window as Claire says grace over her meal thanking God for the food and her life. We see Doug Carlin apparently bowing his head with Claire as she prays. And there’s the cryptic message on Claire’s refrigerator, “You can save her”.

The scientific versus the spiritual is openly discussed. In fact, at a crucial point in the film, one of the uber-scientists says, “I believe in God, but don’t tell anyone.”

In a neat casting twist, Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, plays the villain in the film. In an interview, when asked what caused him to be interested in the film, Caviezel replied, “I look for redeemable material. You know, and even though I`m playing the bad guy in DÉJÀ VU, the story itself is so powerful, the element of good versus evil, and good winning out...” [Interestingly, this is Jim Caviezel’s second time-warp film, the first being Frequency.]

The script demands a thinking audience. The movie doesn’t assume we are all dolts who have to have every nuance of the story painted in broad strokes. Actor Jim Caviezel said, “I love that DÉJÀ VU is a film that tackles both the seen and unseen.” For that and many more reasons, I loved DÉJÀ VU.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Great Tetons and Jenny Lake

Over 15 years ago, my sister vacationed out West with her then boyfriend (now hubby) and his family. She returned with photographs of a place I thought was incredibly beautiful - Jenny Lake and the Great Tetons. For all these years I have dreamed of going there. Earlier this month, the dream was realized.
We arrived in Jackson Hole on June 2nd and had planned to visit Jenny Lake the next day, but I was anxious and so my hubby graciously drove even more that day and we visited Jenny as the sun was setting.

Twilight is my favorite time of day and the setting sun behind clouds cast an almost blue hue over the incredibly tranquil and beautiful scene that evening:

Friday, June 15, 2007

West Trip, Part 2: From Laramie to Jackson Hole

Colorado is beautiful, but Wyoming has stolen my heart. There's a wildness to its beauty. Montana isn't the only "big sky country"! As we drove across Dick Cheney's home state, we were treated to snowcapped mountains in the background with expansive plains and a sky that went on forever!

"Wyoming Wind" is a potent thing. There are crossbars periodically on the roads for when highways have to be shutdown. Warning signs are everywhere. Of course, it makes a good environment for a windmill farm. We saw ridge after ridge covered in white windmills:

At Rock Springs, Wyoming we turned onto 191 North. From here to Jackson, specifically from Pineville to Jackson, was one of the most beautiful areas I think I have ever seen. The Hoback River winding from side to side across the road, rolling fields and hills of tall pines:

As we stood taking pictures of the Hoback River, I realized one of my life goals. We caught sight of a very large bird flying down the river. . . it was a bald eagle!! I had wanted to see one in the wild all my life! It was a brief glimpse - but I was thrilled!

No matter how many times I had sung "Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam, and the deer and the antelope play," I was still surprised to look out and see bunches of antelope (called pronghorns by the natives) playing in the fields.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Westward, Again

My Mom, my hubby and I once again this year took off on a Western vacation. We flew into Denver and spent the first day at Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. Colorado was still as beautiful as I remembered. We spent some time walking around and enjoying Sprague Lake:

There wasn't much talking among the three of us as we just tried to soak in the beauty before us.

We next went back to Bear Lake and enjoyed another leisurely walk around its borders. We were surprised at the amount of snow still there in June...little did we know that was a glimpse into our future!

There are signs everywhere not to feed the wildlife - for their protection, as well as your own. However, this little golden mantle squirrel (looks a lot like our chipmunks) apparently didn't get the message:
Wildlife played a big part in what made this trip so wonderful for me! More to come. . .