Friday, January 31, 2014

Grandma Mary

There were so many other things I could have set out to write today, or particularly this evening. But for some reason the only inspiration I have is to write about my grandmother, Mary. Yesterday around 4 o'clock she came home after having knee surgery on her right leg, and since my mom hasn't been feeling well, I have been staying with my Grandma Mary to help her out while she's recovering.

I don't mind. It's nice to help out too. Except something touched me today.

After being in a sort daze lately, with feelings that I can't quite put my finger on... something melted me inside. When I made my Grandma Mary her coffee this morning, I asked her which mug she wanted me to use for her coffee. She was making sure once again if I was going to have some, then thinking, "Oh wait, you don't like coffee, do you?" I reminded her that I did, but I was fine and wasn't going to have any. I asked her which of two mugs I had in my hand that she preferred. She finally told me which one, and added, "Yeah, that one's my favorite."

Her voice is kind of loud, it didn't have any memorial sigh behind it... She does not talk in the quiet sing-songy voice. Nothing as romantic as you may be picturing. If you know her, you could hear her voice saying that. It's not like in the movies, it's just a moment crammed into a day as if it were a regular, unimportant memory.

There was no special story behind why the mug is her favorite as far as I know, just a simple preference for one mug over the other. Maybe because it's slightly bigger. Maybe because she's had it longer. But as I walked back into the kitchen and looked down at that mug, something inside me thawed for a moment. I didn't feel so distant, instead the words "that one's my favorite," echoed in my mind again.

Strangely, it almost made me want to cry. To know that one simple thing about my grandmother touched me. Why of all moments would that little scenario strike me? I have no idea. The odd mood returned after a while, revisiting me throughout the day. But I'm okay. I just couldn't not write about this. Grandma Mary's favorite mug.

I think it answered that silent question inside of me, that has been taking root in the back of my mind for a little while. Who is my Grandmother? There are so many things I know about her. So many questions I could ask, and I'm sure she would answer. But today she just answered one question...

"Which mug do you prefer?"

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Book Review: The Captive Maiden

Publisher: Zondervan
Genre: Fiction; Historical Romance; Medieval/Renaissance Fiction 
Number of Pages: 284

     Gisela's childhood was filled with laughter and visits from nobles such as the duke and his young son. But since her father's death, each day has been filled with nothing but servitude to her stepmother. So when Gisela meets the duke's son, Valten--the boy she has daydreamed about for years--and learns he is throwing a ball, she vows to attend, even if it's only for a taste of a life she'll never have. To her surprise, she catches Valten's eye. Though he is rough around the edges, Gisela finds Valten has completely captured her heart. But other forces are bent on keeping the two from falling further in love, putting Gisela in more danger than she ever imagined.
(This was taken from Goodreads and it is what's on the back of the book.)

Star Rating:
      3.5 stars (I liked it.)

Content Rating:
     PG (recommend to 14&up)

My Opinions:
     What I liked/loved - I can't complain. This book was free, it sounded good, and I had been wanting to check out Melanie Dickerson since her name had been popping into field of view lately. It seemed her popularity is rising, so why wouldn't I give her novel a try?

     The book was satisfactory. There was a good bit of action and suspense, wondering what was going to happen next... Though this story only encompassing a pretty short period of time, Dickerson wrote the relationship between Gisela and Valten well so it was not too rushed or completely unrealistic.

     I liked this book, and already recommended it to my younger sister who will be fourteen in a few months. The main thing for me is I liked it-- I don't regret reading it-- it's just I didn't love it. I was not stunned by beautiful writing or sentences that seemed to flow across the page... It was just decent writing. Fairly good writing. I was still enjoyable and beautiful at times, but as a whole this book may have been to young for me.

      I will note that I appreciate her pretty authentic characters. Even the bad guy who seemed rotten was not inhumanly rotten. Valten was admirable, strong, and heroic. Gisela was sweet, tough in her own way, but still in need of love. I am pleased with the amount of growth that happens for these two characters throughout the book. Not just their relationship with each other, no, I mean personal growth! They are not the same two characters at the end of this novel. They are of course themselves, but they have grown, learned, and matured. I do admire Dickerson for writing that into her novel.

     And you can't go wrong with mentioning along with the action, there is a sweet romance going on. There is a bit of tension between our two main characters as they wonder about each other, and we see how they both approach and view one another. Besides, you know we all hope they kiss. Once you have a good foundation between two main characters, isn't a kiss to seal it all like the best part? Yes, this book was quite cute and satisfying in those regards.

The Quality:
     There isn't necessarily anything wrong with this book. I received an Advanced Reading Copy, which was the Uncorrected Proof, so of course I caught a few minor grammatical or punctuation errors. There are apparently 20 more pages in the final copy of the book that was published, but I do not know whether or not she added to the story.

     I really don't know what to say because I hate to be negative about such a clean, sweet book, but there were few times that her writing really wowed me. The problem may be that I have been exposed to different forms of literature, have had a taste of wonderful writing, and it's just that Melanie Dickerson's style still has room for improvement.

     Her book was very easy to read, but the plot was predictable at times which is hard to avoid when retelling a story like Cinderella, though she did do a good job really added to and enhancing this retelling so it was not as cliche as it could have been.

     The main thing that got me was the reading level of this book seemed fairly young... I hate to say that, but the quality of writing is something I would expect to find in between that of a tween and teen novel--not an outright teen novel. The plot development was well placed and her pacing suited her story line perfectly, but I guess there was a bit too much explaining of things. It is one thing to describe a situation, Dickerson did have some good descriptions, but then to explain why something might be that way, that is what makes the writing feel younger.
(Example: She described one of the character's hair looking darker in shade, which must be because it was wet, because the blonde hair was brown. No, she did not word it exactly like this, but this does dumb down the reading. She could have easily commented instead on his damp hair and how it was darker; making it more of a statement than an explanation.) 

     So what do I do at this point? I would recommend this book, because even though the writing style is very easy to read and young feeling: the plot, action, faith, and romance are what make this a good, Christian teen novel. It is easy to recommend to any teen without worry of inappropriate content. There is still enough angst, bad guys, faith, and romance to make it entertaining and also a little thought-provoking.

     My final note is more of extreme personal opinion, and since I have not read any of Dickerson's other books I can only comment on this one, but I feel she could have incorporated faith into her book more smoothly. There are some elements she did well, those that were more realistic and carried a good message with them. However, when Christianity first came into the book, that is when it seemed to stick out like a sore thumb. Do not get me wrong, I love the Lord and believe strongly in making His recognition the striving point of our books, but I have read better.

     What mainly stuck out once I had gotten use to the "Christian" aspects of this book, is when Scripture was mentioned. It was inconsistent with the times, though I know that the way she incorporated the Good News will better serve readers of today, I feel it could have been adjusted a little, along with their speech, to reflect the time period in which the book was set. This is just my personal opinion, and I would not discourage anyone from reading the book because of this.

Content (For Those Who Wonder):
     Language - None that I know of.

     Sensuality - Some. There is some kissing, though nothing passionate or very descriptive. The characters do think to themselves about wanting to kiss. The word "molested" is mentioned once in the book, but there is no scene or anything to worry about, just a character's fear of what might happen. There is an embrace here or there, and characters wrapping their arms around each other-- some pleasurable, some not so much. This novel is very clean, making it appropriate for most ages.

     Violence - There is a jousting tournament, fights, wounds, etc. Nothing is too graphic or gruesome; though blood, cuts, and bruising are mentioned.

     Other - This is a Christian, historical romance and faith is incorporated into this book. I did not find anything offensive though I am a Christian myself, but it is made obvious at times that this is a Christian book as the characters question and think about God, faith, and His involvement in their lives.

Check out this book on:  Amazon or Barnes&Noble!!

Have you read this books? Any related books? What were you thoughts?
I'd like to know!