Monthly Archives: December 2013

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Captain Phillips (viewed in theaters 20 October 2013)
Grandma’s choice for family night. I was seasick almost the entire time and for the rest of the night. Turned out that nearly all of us were seasick, and my grandmother blamed it on the theater even though (1) none of us had ever had that trouble at that theater before, and (2) she was the one who picked the movie. Basically, I came away from the film sick to my stomach and completely unimpressed with my grandmother’s lack of ability to take any responsibility for herself and her own actions. =_=

Pacific Rim (viewed in theaters 22 September 2013)
Took my sister and father to see this film in the cheap theater at the insistence of the tumblr community haha. (I’m not actually kidding.) It was basically a standard science fiction large monsters movie with two primary exceptions. First, there were characters of color in prominent position in the cast and plot. Second, the film had a really good lead woman… a lead woman whom the lead man respected from the very beginning. It didn’t pass the Bechdel Test, but it inspired an entirely new kind of “does your film have ‘strong women’ in it?” test: the Mako Mori Test.

The Three Lives of Thomasina (watched at home 11 August 2013)
Grandma’s choice for family night. It used two separate orange cats for Thomasina, and honestly? Eh. I wouldn’t have picked it. The plot was lacking, the best character was the cat’s owner’s father, and he wasn’t in the film nearly enough for my tastes. Eh, it was okay. It wasn’t terrible. It wasn’t that good. It was just… eh.

Much Ado About Nothing (watched in theaters 21 June 2013)
Viewed in theaters with family; my choice family night. Honestly, I chose the film because, really, who doesn’t like Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof? It’s Shakespeare, so my grandmother couldn’t really complain. I think the director, Joss Whedon, did what he could to mitigate the original play’s inherent sexism, but one can only do so much without actually changing that many of the lines, etc. It was good, and I’d watch it again, but I probably wouldn’t buy it for my personal collection. (That being said, I probably wouldn’t by any films of Shakespearean plays for myself, except possibly The Merchant of Venice.) Not sure my grandma really understood any of it, though, even though it was acceptable because it was Shakespeare and anything by Shakespeare is acceptable by default.

Supernatural, season 8 (watched at home June 2013)
Okay, so I’ve seen all of Supernatural that there is to see up to this point (mid-June 2013). I fell in love with the brothers’ relationship at the very beginning, and I haven’t been disappointed even once through all 172 episodes (eight seasons) that have been broadcast. I want a bond so close and so deep that I would do anything for the other person, and that person would do anything for me. There were in season 8, of course, a couple dud episodes, but that’s to be expected with a series that’s gone on as long as this series has. The screen writing is terrific; the actors are phenomenal. I am most definitely adding the box sets to my collection when I get the chance. As predicted, Supernatural is absolutely in my top five favorite American TV shows of all time.

Creating a Hostile Environment for the Flesh

Creating a Hostile Environment for the Flesh coverCreating a Hostile Environment for the Flesh:
Reclaiming and Maintaining Personal Victory

By Bernard King
WestBow Press
05 September 2013

Creating a Hostile Environment for the Flesh by Bernard King reads like several preacher’s sermons strung together, which I suppose makes sense because King is the senior pastor at Cornerstone Bible Fellowship in Delray Beach, Florida. There’s potential in such content if it’s well-written, but Creating a Hostile Environment isn’t. For one thing, the author doesn’t seem to realize that he’s preaching to the choir; anyone else picking up this book would put it down again before the first chapter ended. Despite the entire first chapter being completely about giving one’s life to Jesus through prayer, I don’t know how any non-Christian could read this book and actually find any benefit in it. The disparity between what I perceive to be King’s intended audience (…I can’t actually tell who the intended audience is, so…) and his actual audience (“the choir”, so to speak) is too great.

King does write with assurance, I’ll give him that, and the chapters read as though he’s an authority in God and Jesus studies, but the content just doesn’t add up. I don’t know; maybe he is such an authority, but the writing and content are unconvincing. The overuse of alliteration and assonance doesn’t do the book any favors either.

As a side note, the book’s description (below) explains exactly nothing about what’s between the covers.

God, by his amazing grace, will cause you to internalize and apply the material in this book, in order that you will abandon the depths of defeat and ascend the stairs of victory. So, Lord willing, let’s proceed and procure the following steps that would forward your success in creating a hostile environment for the flesh, maintaining and reclaiming personal victory.

Creating a Hostile Environment for the Flesh is too poorly written to be of much spiritual help, especially because it’s difficult to get past the writing to the content, much of which in itself is confusing, not fleshed out, or otherwise arbitrarily muddled.

DISCLAIMER: I received Creating a Hostile Environment for the Flesh free from WestBow Press for this review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

City on Fire

City on Fire coverCity on Fire: A Novel of Pompeii
By Tracy L. Higley
Thomas Nelson Publishers
17 September 2013

City on Fire: A Novel of Pompeii by Tracy L. Higley follows a young Jewish woman, Ariella, who escapes Roman slavery during Bacchanalia and disguises herself as a man to become a gladiator; and Cato, a politician fed up with the corruption in Rome who’s moved to Pompeii to start over, only to discover that his new city is just as corrupt. Before the story even begins, readers are presented with a map of the relevant area (basically, a map of Roman Italy) and a glossary of Latin terms used throughout the novel. (I’ll get to the Latin in a minute.) The novel is set briefly in Jerusalem in 70 CE and mostly in Pompeii in 79 CE, the year that Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried the entire city alive. Ariella and Cato find an unlikely set of allies in the growing Christian movement (because their aims are pure, I assume, despite neither being a professed Christian), though Christians at that time were being jailed and executed.

Here’s the thing about City on Fire. I love historical fiction, and it’s clear that this book was well-researched. The history is its strongest selling point, in my opinion. However, I really hate it when I see so many unknown terms are used that the book requires a glossary… which this one does. It’s one thing if it’s a textbook or I’m learning a new language and I want to learn new words. I realize that Higley is trying to bring readers into Ariella and Cato’s respective worlds by using authentic Latin, and one or two defined words thrown in for flavor could be really neat. Unfortunately, every time I have to say to myself, “Now, what does that word mean again?” and flip to the front to check the glossary, I’m pulled out of the story, which is exactly the opposite of what the author certainly wants. I speak only for myself in this respect, but if you’re a reader who also becomes frustrated by “flavor words” the way I do, you might want to skip City on Fire.

The story—the pair of intertwined stories, as it were—is a good one. The writing is readable. Despite Ariella’s obvious gender nonconformity in her chosen profession—though I’m not sure “chosen profession” is really accurate because she’s an escaped slave under the threat of death should she be discovered—I didn’t like the gender essentialism woven through basically every page and that Higley seems to employ without any thought. (And, no, “history was like that; I’m just being historically accurate” is not an acceptable excuse for sexism, however subtle it may be.) That being said, I had no problem with Ariella choosing for her life to disguise herself as a (male) gladiator. Suspending my disbelief is easy when it comes to women “doing men’s work” because I know that women are human (gasp!) and there’s really no such thing as “men’s work”… Honestly, what year is this? 1850? Yes, I realize the novel’s setting is (way) before feminism was even a blip on anybody’s radar, but in the real world, it’s (almost) 2014.

I liked the descriptions of the pagan elements much more than any of the Christian ones, but I’m not sure how honest those descriptions were compared to their Christian counterparts. Most of the pagan descriptors were negative (ie: “Let the debauchery begin” and “lewd songs an costumes an affront to decency” and “The insanity built to a crescendo” and so on), while the Christian ones were presented much more positively (ie: “abundant life” and “holy hands” and “merciful God” and “loyal” etc). I suppose that’s to be expected, since the story was written by a Christian author and published by Thomas Nelson, one of the preeminent Christian publishers in the United States. I am always hoping to find a “Christian novel” that’s more for those who are searching (as opposed to those who’ve already found what they’re looking for), but unfortunately, this novel had a very promising beginning that just seemed to fall into the same old Christians-are-good-everyone-else-is-bad dynamics. In the end, not appealing and way over the top.

The back cover is misleading, I think: “As Vesuvius churns, a slave girl-turned-gladiator joins forces with an unlikely source to seek justice. In the coastal town of Pompeii, a new gladiator prepares to fight. But this gladiator hides a deadly secret: she’s a runaway Jewish slave girl named Ariella, disguised as a young boy.” What age do you think Ariella is? Have a number in your head? Now, for the lion’s share of the novel, she’s actually twenty-five. To me, that’s not a “girl-turned-gladitor” hiding as “a young boy”…

All semantics aside—I’m still looking for the perfect novel, and this isn’t it—my primary interest was in finding out if Ariella, Cato, and their families manage to get out of Pompeii alive before the volcano on the horizon explodes and overtakes them all. Do they? You might be surprised by the answer. I’ll let you read City on Fire to find out for yourself.

DISCLAIMER: I received City on Fire free from Thomas Nelson Publishers for this review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

It’s Winterthing again!

It's Winterthing again!

The gift-giving season is upon us, and here’s a little list from me to help you this year. ^_^ Please, let me know things you’d like, too, in the comments or by email.

I would like
—unused stamps (USPS), any denomination
—movie money (that is, certificates redeemable at “a movie theater near you”)
—a binder/folder/holder in which to store business cards
Supernatural, Season 1
Sherlock (BBC), Season 2
Merlin (BBC), Season 3
—funky socks (I wear size 10 Women’s shoes)
—nice-smelling bar soaps
—your favorite book of all time (and a letter telling me why you love it!)
—money $$$

and my longshot wish is
—a better paying job that I would actually enjoy doing


I can see snowflakes
on your eyelashes
when you walk in the door.
They melt quickly,
but the crisp pine smell
you bring with you lingers.
Sweep me up into your embrace
without bothering with your
jacket or gloves and tell me just
how much you adore me just in case
I’ve forgotten since the last time
you arrived home. Kiss me
and let the melted snow in your hair
drip onto my cheeks like tears.
Love me cold and hard,
day and night.

by V.E. Duncan