Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Three Cities Trilogy: Lourdes, Complete by Emile Zola

Emile Zola wrote Lourdes as the first book of The Three Cities Trilogy in 1894.  The French flock to Lourdes in this story because of their faith in God.  Some travel there as pilgrims to strengthen their faith through the journey and by helping  the sick.  Many more have serious illnesses and go to Lourdes to be miraculously healed by divine intervention. 

Zola is known for his incredibly detailed descriptions and he does not disappoint in Lourdes.  On the white train, the one with the most afflicted of sufferers, Zola writes about the passengers in a few nearby cabins.  He describes the illnesses with exhaustive, uncomfortable scrutiny slowly one by one.  We meet the main patient, Marie, on the first page and begin to understand the unimaginable suffering that existed before modern medicine.  "Then her father helped her lie down again in the narrow box, a kind of wooden gutter, in which she had been living for seven years past."  Another "wretch," M. de Guersaint, describes his ailments, 'I was seized with sharp lightning-like pains, red-hot sword the muscles.'  La Grivotte tells of her pinings endlessly.

The doctors say I have one lung done for, and that the other one is scarcely any better.  There are great big holes you know.  At first I only felt bad between the shoulders and spat up some froth.  And then I got thin, and became a dreadful sight.  And now I am always in a sweat, and cough till I think I'm going to bring my heart up.  And I can no longer spit.  And I haven't the strength to stand, you see.  I can't eat.

The entire story takes place over five days, two on the train and three in Lourdes.  Zola divides the book into five sections, one for each day. Once in Lourdes, patients go from the hospitals to the Grotto, the holy place of healing, at certain times each day to pray and bathe in the healing stream waters.  A miracle is the only hope for many had no other option left but to face imminent death.  Many are healed throughout the weekend.  Others have been there for years in a row and yet, again, receive no cure.  Some die.

The most interesting aspect of this entire story is that it is based on truth.  People still flock to Lourdes for divine healing today.    Scholars see Zola's works including Lourdes as examples of French naturalism and socio-historical documents.  66 healing miracles have apparently been documented in Lourdes since the pilgrimages began in 1858..  Even Pope Benedict XVI traveled to Lourdes as a "messenger" of peace in 2008.  There must be something going on here.  Read the book and find out.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

George the Chinchilla found in daughter's 5th grade science classroom.

I Am The Messenger

Ed is the main character in the young adult novel, I Am The Messenger, by Markus Zusak.  Ed is basically a guy who isn't going anywhere. He drives a cab and has three friends, but they are not that close or perhaps they are.  They just don't talk about anything too deeply or do they?  He is secretly in love with one of them; however, she, Audrey, stops herself from loving anyone because of an abusive childhood.

Ed finds himself face down and then running when he stops a bank from being robbed by shooting the bank robber.  The local paper shows his picture prominently and declares Ed as the one who saved the day.

Shortly after, Ed starts receiving Aces one by one from a deck of cards over several months.  He receives an Ace for each suit with three addresses or hints scrawled on each card about people he must help.  Ed must (and I mean must) decipher each situation in order to figure out who he needs to help and how to help each one.  Then, he must follow through and actually help, or in terms of the title, bring a message to that person.  Some assignments are easy and heart-rendering; others are dangerous and violent.

Ed thinks he's finished after completing the 12 orders.  Then, he recieves one more card and finds out that he may not be a messenger at all.

I Am The Messenger is another best-selling, award-winning book by Markus Zusak, also the author of The Book Thief.  I recommend it for teens and older as a book about finding out who you are and what you really can do in life.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Essentials for Life: Your Back to Basics Guide to What Matters Most

At first glance, Essentials for Life by Marcia Ford is what I would call a daily devotional book with 50 devotions.  But after a closer look, it is a book for thinking through life's most important questions.  Yes there are 50 topics, yet each question could take several days or longer of reading, rereading, thinking, rethinking, praying, and praying again in order to fully determine your true, heartfelt beliefs.

Essentials for Life, published by Thomas Nelson earlier this year, is not just a book to read: it is a book to ponder.  It is a book that leads you to other sources such as the Bible, other books, your heart, and of course, God.  For some readers, grappling with each question will lead to new answers and for others, to the reaffirmation of beliefs.

The book itself feels nice in your hands.  The cover isn't just like a normal paperback's; there is a softness and a sheen to it more like a treasured journal.  The pages inside also feel good on your fingers.  Essentials for Life comes in a handy size that is not too big or thick and would fit easily into a briefcase or purse.

The author uses a specific structure for each subject.  The first and third pages have a Bible verse and a quote or a short paragraph called, "Interesting to Note" in the right or left hand margins.  After the title on the first page, a brief statement of the question or issue appears.  On the second page, the writer includes a quote by an influential Christian, some of whom I have heard and some not.  The third page often has bullet points and the fourth has a box of  "do's" and "don'ts" called, "What's Essential."

Essentials for Life is a well-written, thoughtful, and sincere Christian resource.  I'm not certain I can keep track of 50 essentials.  Most books or articles that use numbers use the number 7 or 10.  Scientists have proved that our mind can contain these numbers of things for a longer period of time such as a phone number with or without the area code.  It's difficult to remember 50 questions let alone the answers.  Perhaps, the author could have boiled down these essentials to a number a human could get their arms around and remember.  It would be critical to go through this book and write all your thoughts and prayers in a journal, so that a reader could go back to what is was they decided, experienced, and believe about each question.

I would recommend this book for someone who has the patience to delve deeply about important issues in our lives and someone who would document his or her journey through the questions in Essentials for Life carefully.  The resulting journal would be valuable for the rest of the reader's life for personal reflection and for teaching any special wisdom found to others.

I received this book from the publishers through booksneeze.  All opinions are my own.
Teaser Tuesdays is a bookish meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.  Anyone can play along!  Just do the following.

  • Grab your current read
  • Turn to a random page
  • Share two "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page
  • Be careful not to include spoilers that give away something that would ruin the book for others
  • Share the page, title, and author so that other TT participants can put the book on their TBR list if they like your "teasers"
Please leave a COMMENT here and leave a link to your own Teaser Tuesdays post, or share your 2 "teasers" in a comment here if you don't have a blog. Thanks!

My Teasers:

Of course, I don't 'want' to go inside, but what other
choice do I have?  If someone's in there, there's
nothing I can do about it.

p. 341, I Am The Messenger , by Markus Zusak

Just A Personal Note and Wordless Wednesday (with words a day early)

I haven't ever put a personal note on my blog before, but I wanted to say to anyone who visits my blog in the next few days that this blog is mainly about book reviews and, soon to come, writing experiences.  However, if you look at the last few blogs I've posted, they are all memes.  I do memes for fun and to keep up the conversations with others, you know "network," or I really think of it as making and keeping book loving friends.  I also write memes when I don't have time to do any reviews.  In the past few weeks, I have been a reading fiend.  So come back to this blog in a few days, and you will see hopefully some diverse, interesting reviews.  Also, if you have the time, and want to see book reviews I've done, check out my older posts.  They are not that old since I started blogging in January 2010.  Thanks to anyone in advance who reads my blog. 

Here's a fun picture of Yen, the turtle, who lives in my daughter's 5th grade science class.  I guess it's a day early but a good photo for Wordless Wednesday.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Today's Musing Monday's is a continuation of last week's.  Bloggers made a list of the five best books and then Rebecca at Just One More Page made a list for all of us to see this week.

I was surprised at how many books only received one vote.  I think it's good to know that we have very diverse opinions in the book blogging world about what makes a "best" book.

Please go to Just One More Page to see the list and pop back here to leave a comment if you wish.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Musing Mondays

Musing Mondays is hosted by Rebecca at Just One More Page.  Today's Musing Mondays is about the "best" book.  How do you define a "best" book? Name your top 5 "best" books and tune in to Just One More Page next week to see the collated list.

PLEAST LEAVE A COMMENT with either the link to your own Musing Mondays post, or share your opinion in a comment here if you don't have a blog.  Thanks.

A book review of A Tree Grows In Brooklyn that I wrote on this blog on Wednesday, March 17, 2010  (see below on this blog in March.)  doesn't answer what a "best" book is exactly, but it's related.  My review is about what makes a book a classic.  I would venture that many of our "best" books are classics.  However, I know not all of them are especially if a classic must stand the test of time.  Many of our favorite books are on the best seller list right now.  Perhaps, a "best" book is often a classic book or going to be a classic book someday.  I think that's what a "best" book is to me.  Really though, the "best" book definition is probably different for each and every person.

My top 5 (not always in the same order)

  1. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  2. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
  3. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  4. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
  5. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck