Sonderling Sunday – Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge – Desolation Day is here!

May 21st, 2017

It’s time for Sonderling Sunday! That time of the week when I play with language by looking at the German translation of children’s books.

Tonight I’m going back to the book that started this feature, Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge, which is the translation of The Order of Odd-fish, by James Kennedy.

Last time (far too long ago), I covered Jo’s dinner with Fiona, and ended on page 304 in the original English edition, Seite 387 in the German edition.

The first sentence of the next section is so practical, I’ll start with that:

“Jo couldn’t sleep.” = Jo konnte nicht einschlafen.

“bubbling and boiling” = überschlugen
(Google Translate says “raced.” The context is this is what Fiona’s thoughts are doing. The original English seems a bit more vivid.)

“dream-wracked” = von Träumen gepeinigt (“by dreams tormented”)

I hope you won’t need to say this!
“Everyone up. It’s Desolation Day.”
= Aufstehen. Es ist der Tag der Verwüstung.

“underground courtyard” = unterirdischen Hof

“exhausted and disoriented” = erschöpft und orientierungslos

I think this sentence has come up before, but I like it.
“Jo was astonished.” = Jo war verblüfft

“disobeyed” = missachtet

“veil” = Schleier

Just fun to say:
“who was who” = wer wer war

“a familiar face” = ein vertrautes Gesicht

“shuffling echo of footsteps” = Schlurfen von Schritten

“rustle of skirts” = Rascheln von Kleidern

“turn back” = umgekehrt

“queasily and unsteadily” = Unbehagen und schwankend

“confusion and horror and guilt” = Verwirrung, Entsetzen, Schuldgefühlen

“found out” = enttarnen

“not a human sobbing” = kein menschliches Schluchzen

“long, twisty pipes” = langen, krummen Flöten

“windy sky” = sturmgepeitschten Himmel (“storm-whipped sky”)

“rising and falling” = hoben und senkten

“bright” = grell

“frenzy” = Raserei

“tipping” = torkelte

“climbed up” = hinaufkletterten

“milky liquid” = milchigen Flüssigkeit

“gurgling” = blubbernd

“puddles” = Pfützen

“sidewalk” = Bürgersteig

And the last sentence of Chapter 22:
“She had never felt more alone.”
= Noch nie hatte sie sich einsamer gefühlt.

That’s all for tonight! May you never have to describe kein menschliches Schluchzen.

Bis bald!

Review of Real Friends, by Shannon Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

May 6th, 2017

Real Friends

A True Story About Cool Kids and Crybabies

by Shannon Hale
illustrated by LeUyen Pham

First Second (Roaring Brook Press), May 2017. 218 pages.
Starred Review

Shannon Hale, one of my favorite authors, has written a graphic novel memoir! And the illustrator is LeUyen Pham, who illustrates The Princess in Black books! I’m afraid there’s no way I wouldn’t like this book.

As if that weren’t enough, I heard LeUyen Pham speak about the book at ALA Midwinter Meeting — and when she signed my Advance Reader Copy, she sketched a cartoon of me!

But even if all those things weren’t true, this book is brilliant, and I feel sure it will be popular. It’s a true story of navigating friendships, being part of “The Group,” being bullied by an older sibling and others, and just wanting to have friends who actually like you.

Shannon grew up in a Mormon family; I grew up in an evangelical family. I’m afraid the panel I liked the most is from Shannon’s imagination, with her sitting, sad and alone, in the foreground, with “The Group” rejoicing in the background that she’s gone. Sitting next to Shannon is Jesus, and he says, “Well, I like you.” “Thanks, Jesus,” says Shannon. A kid tries to take comfort in the love of Jesus. But friends are important.

Shannon was already destined to be a writer, as evidenced by all the scenes where she’s imagining. She’d write stories with her friends — but really it was Shannon doing the writing.

The way things resolve is done well. In 5th grade, Shannon’s in a mixed 5th and 6th grade class, which doesn’t include most of “The Group” she’s been with for years. She makes some new friends who appreciate her for who she is — and it gives her a good perspective for dealing with The Group.

I don’t think I need to say any more. A graphic memoir about friendship and sisters. This will be every bit as popular as Raina Telgemeier’s Smile and Sisters. And it’s marvelously done! Anyone who’s ever had friends — or ever felt left out — will relate.

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Source: This review is based on an advance reader copy I got at ALA Midwinter Meeting – and had signed by the illustrator with a caricature of me.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of My Italian Bulldozer, by Alexander McCall Smith

May 5th, 2017

My Italian Bulldozer

by Alexander McCall Smith

Pantheon Books, 2017. Originally published in Great Britain in 2016. 232 pages.
Starred Review

I love Alexander McCall Smith’s books! This one has that same gentle philosophy, but I appreciated that, most of the time, the characters did not sound like Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi talking with each other. They were their own distinct people. Though this new main character also takes life as it happens.

Paul Stuart is a successful food writer. This is how we meet him at the beginning of the book:

It was the first time Paul had made duck à l’orange for friends since Becky left him for her personal trainer. Her departure — after four years of living together — had been a surprise, but not as great a shock as the discovery of her new lover’s identity. Looking back on it, Paul realized that all the signs had been there, and might so easily have been spotted. He felt a lingering, slightly reproachful regret: had he been less absorbed by his work, he might have noticed her indifference; had he given her more time, he might have been forewarned by her restlessness, by the occasional guilty, almost furtive look; but even had he picked this up, nothing could have prepared him for her choice of Tommy, the tattooed mesomorph with whom she suddenly went off to live.

“I didn’t want this,” he said to Gloria, his editor, trying as hard as he could to be stoical. “But it’s happened. That’s all there is to it, I suppose. People split up.”

His editor, Gloria, helps Paul make a plan to write his next book about the food of Tuscany – so of course he needs to make a trip there.

But when Paul arrives in Tuscany, there’s a problem with his rental car – a problem that puts him in jail temporarily. If he hadn’t met a helpful Italian on the airplane, things might have gone very badly. But then that new Italian friend puts him in touch with a friend who rents out construction equipment – and Paul ends up renting a bulldozer to drive from Pisa to the hill town of Montalcino.

I love the description as he begins driving the bulldozer.

Now, sitting in the cab of the bulldozer as it trundled along a quiet side road, Paul could enjoy the view that his elevated position afforded him. It had been a surprise to him to discover just how commanding that view was: as cars passed him, he saw only their tops; as he approached a corner, he was able to see around and beyond it; as he drove past walls, he saw into the farmyards or gardens beyond. A couple lying on a lawn in intimate embrace looked up to see Paul waving to them as he went past; a man pruning an apple tree near the roadside, high on his ladder, finding himself eye to eye with Paul as the bulldozer growled by, was able only to open his mouth in surprise. And beyond such unexpected human encounters, there stretched the Tuscan countryside, now plains sloping down to the coast, now rolling hills blue in the distance under the first shimmering of heat haze.

The bulldozer’s slow pace meant that a line of cars would build up behind it, but Paul, being able to see very clearly what was coming, could wave people past when it was safe for them to overtake. They signaled their appreciation by sounding their horns, pleased at the courtesy of this construction worker, bound, they assumed, for some pressing local task of earthmoving but still considerate of those with longer distances to cover. A police car went past, slowed down momentarily, but then sped off again. Nobody imagined that the bulldozer was on such a lengthy and inappropriate journey.

One thing quickly became clear to Paul. As a regular visitor to Italy he had experience of Italian driving. The Italians are not noted for their patience on the road and will make their displeasure known to any driver who holds them up by sticking to the speed limit. For the visitor, this can be alarming, as small and underpowered cars sweep past them at dangerous corners or on blind rises. But Paul noticed none of this now, and realized that the attitude of other drivers to a bulldozer was one of cautious respect. There was no point in driving too close to its rear in an attempt to get it to speed up; not only would the driver of the bulldozer not see you, but should he brake suddenly, he might not even notice the crumpling of metal as your car collided with the hardened steel outer provinces of his vehicle. In the pecking order of the Italian road, then, a bulldozer’s position was evidently not to be questioned.

Now, that’s not all there is to Paul’s adventures. While out driving with the bulldozer, he meets an attractive American woman whose car has gone off the road, and he is able to help. But then Becky wants to talk to him, and comes to Montalcino to do it. And Gloria comes to help him straighten that out. And meanwhile a few uses pop up for the bulldozer that he hadn’t anticipated.

As with Alexander McCall Smith’s other books, this one left me with a smile on my face. Delightful reading.

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of We Forgot Brock, by Carter Goodrich

May 5th, 2017

We Forgot Brock!

by Carter Goodrich

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, New York, 2015. 44 pages.
Starred Review

Okay, I’ll say it. I’m a little tired of the recent spate of books about imaginary friends. Usually, they simply don’t win me over. There’s pretty much always a logical inconsistency somewhere in the idea of the reality of these imaginary friends. Something that wouldn’t quite work if carried to its logical conclusion.

Maybe this one caught me on a good day, but I was charmed by We Forgot Brock!.

This is Phillip and Brock. They’re best friends. They spend all their time goofing around together.

The weird thing is, nobody else can see Brock. Everyone calls him “Phillip’s Imaginary Friend.” Whatever that means.

Carter Goodrich uses the same technique used in Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes. Most pictures show the world from the kid’s perspective, but sometimes we see what the adults see – no Brock.

Then the whole family goes to the Big Fair. They have a great time. Phillip falls asleep, but Brock wants to ride the Brain Shaker.

When Phillip wakes up in the car, to his dismay, his parents have left Brock behind!

Meanwhile, at the Big Fair, someone sees that Brock is upset. It’s a little girl named Anne with her friend, Princess Sparkle Dust. They take Brock home with them, and fortunately, it’s in the same neighborhood where Phillip lives.

Brock has a great time with Anne and Princess Sparkle Dust. But when he sees the Lost poster Phillip put up for him, he remembers how much he misses Phillip. Fortunately, they find each other.

Somehow, the adults are happier when Phillip and Brock play with Anne and Princess Sparkle Dust than they were when Phillip and Brock just played together. Fortunately, Phillip and Brock are happier, too.

There are lots of lovely touches in the illustrations of this story. Brock and Princess Sparkle Dust both appear to be drawn by one crayon. Both children are clearly imaginative. Phillip always wears a cape and Anne wears wings.

Maybe I was won over this time because the author didn’t try to explain where imaginary friends come from (That’s usually where the world-building breaks down for me). Maybe I was prepped for this book by loving Calvin and Hobbes. But whatever the reason, We Forgot Brock! stands out for me in the Imaginary Friends Genre. It takes imagination seriously and takes friendship seriously.

Don’t forget to read this book!

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Thick as Thieves, by Megan Whalen Turner

May 1st, 2017

Thick as Thieves

by Megan Whalen Turner

Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins), May 16, 2017. 339 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s how eagerly I’ve been looking forward to this book: First I reread three books in the Queen’s Thief series in the week before ALA Midwinter Meeting in January. (I couldn’t find my copy of the first book, The Thief. I am going to order myself a new copy.) I looked up the number of the HarperCollins booth at ALA, and on opening night of the exhibits, I went straight there, without passing Go. I asked for and received an advance reader copy of Thick as Thieves. I had my reading material for the rest of the conference!

There’s a note at the front of the advance reader copy from the author. She says, “If you’ve read any of the other Queen’s Thief books, there are characters here you might recognize and be happy to spend time with again. If you haven’t read any of my other books, you can start with this one if you like. Every book spoils some other book, just a little, so there are advantages and disadvantages no matter where you begin.”

On the back of the book, it says that Megan Whalen Turner is the “bestselling and award-winning author of four other stand-alone novels set in the world of the Queen’s Thief.” The “stand-alone” part is arguable. I think you’ll enjoy them more if you read at least the first three books in order.

However, they have a case about this book being stand-alone. I think I might have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t been so impatient for Eugenides (the Queen’s Thief) to show up and for me to find out what he was up to. (I knew he was up to more than met the eye.)

Anyway, this book is set in the Mede empire, focusing on Kamet, the slave of the Mede ambassador to Attolia, who was a part of the second book, The Queen of Attolia. Now they are back home, and Kamet is again close to great power. His master, whose affairs he manages, is the nephew of the Mede emperor, and brother of the emperor’s chosen heir.

As the book begins, Kamet is accosted in an alleyway by an Attolian, who tells Kamet to meet him at the docks after dark. The Attolian will escort Kamet to freedom.

Kamet pretends to go along with it, but he’s laughing inside. Here are some of the reasons why he is happy in his place:

As a slave in the emperor’s palace I had authority over all of my master’s other slaves and most of his free men. I had my own money in my master’s cashbox. I had a library of my own, a collection of texts in my alcove that I carefully packed into their own case whenever my master moved households. I not only could read and write, I could read and write in most of the significant languages of the empire. My master had paid good money for it to be so. Someday he meant to make a gift of me to his brother, and then, as the next emperor’s personal slave, I would be one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in all the empire. I wouldn’t have taken the Attolians’ offer even if I’d believed it was sincere – and I didn’t. They meant to slice my throat and toss me in a sewer, I was sure.

But that same day, something happens to change Kamet’s mind. A friend in the household informs him that their master has been poisoned in his room.

When a man is murdered, his slaves are tortured. If any confess, then all are executed whether they share in the guilt or not. No one will buy them and they can hardly be freed – what a temptation that would put before the enslaved population. In the case of a poisoning, where the administration of the poison is unclear, the slaves are put to death on principle. The Medes fear little in quite the way they fear their own slaves.

So Kamet lets the Attolian help him escape. Most of the book deals with their adventures trying to escape the Mede empire and get to Attolia. All the while, Kamet has not told the Attolian that his master is dead and he’s a wanted man. The Attolian thinks that the emperor’s elite guard are after them because an important slave has escaped. They must deal with pursuit, slavers, hunger, illness, and many other pitfalls along the way.

As with the other books in the series, Megan Whalen Turner has her characters telling each other myths about the gods. I enjoyed that this time, as tales from the Mede empire, they are in a completely different style from the tales told in the earlier books. Those resembled Greek myths, and these resemble Assyrian tales. As before, the tales told mirror situations the travelers face.

Now, I wanted the journey to finish a lot sooner than it did. I suspect that might not be as much of a problem for folks who aren’t already familiar with the series. Also, the Advance Reader Copy has blank pages that it says will be filled with maps. I think maps would really help me enjoy the story of the journey more, so I could see that the two are making progress. As it is, without a map it feels like the journey is going on and on, facing obstacle after obstacle. This is enough motivation for me to preorder the finished book, despite having this advance copy. (And advance copy isn’t enough for one of my very favorite series!)

In the big picture of the series, we know that the Mede empire is eventually going to attempt to annex the three kingdoms of the peninsula. In the previous books, the big picture story focused on getting those three kingdoms to stop fighting one another so they could deal with the Mede threat. In this book, we saw one small step in holding off that threat a bit longer.

The author says at the front that she’s not done with the world of the Queen’s Thief, and she’s definitely not done with the Queen’s Thief. I’m so glad! Of course, she spends so much time crafting her tales, it’s time to settle in for another long wait. Good thing the wait is always worth it!

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Sonderling Sunday – Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge – Dinner with Fiona

April 30th, 2017

It’s time for Sonderling Sunday! That time of the week when I play with language by looking at the German translation of children’s books.

Tonight we’re back to the most Sonder book of them all, Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge, which is the translation of The Order of Odd-fish, by James Kennedy.

Last time, I did a short post, beginning Chapter 22 with Jo getting ready for Desolation Day. I do my best not to post any spoilers, but I do hope readers of my blog will be intrigued to ask What sort of book would use these fascinating phrases? Pick up a copy!

But in the meantime, let’s take a look at the first sentence of the next section, to set the stage:

“The night before Desolation Day, Jo, Ian, and Nora huddled from the rain under an awning in East Squeamings, waiting to be picked up by the Wormbeards.
= Am Vorabend des Tages der Verwüstung drängten sich Jo, Ian und Nora unter eine Markise in Ost-Heikel, wo sie darauf warteten, von den Wurmbärten abgeholt zu werden.

“sodden” = überschwemmtes

“put away” = beiseitegeschafft (“aside-made”)

I dare you to find a reason to say this:
“torn apart by lizard-dogs”
= von diesen Echsenhunden zerfetzt zu werden

“a quiet satisfaction” = eine stille Befriedigung

“a calculated insult” = eine wohlüberlegte Beleidigung (“a well-considered insult”)

“glowing fungi” = schimmernden Pilze

“stale, spicy air” = abgestandene, würzige Luft

“covered with minutely detailed carvings”
= mit peinlichst genau gearbeiteten Steinmetzarbeiten verziert

“the tree’s bark” = die Rinde des Baumes

This is fun to say:
“between the branches” = zwischen den Zweigen

“simmering in this cauldron of dishonor”
= siedend in diesem Kessel der Ehrlosigkeit

“trickery” = Hinterlist

“trickled” = tröpfelten

“chunky boulders” = klobigen Felsbrocken

“well-tended little groves” = gut gepflegten kleinen Hainen

“spacious” = geräumig

“slum” = Baracke

“sculptor” = Bildhauerin

“Fiona’s studio was a large concrete bunker smelling of plaster and clay and paint.”
= Fionas Atelier war ein großer Betonbunker, in dem es nach Gips, Lehm und Farbe roch.

“throwing wheels” = Wurfscheiben

“found objects” = offenbar zusammengesammelten Objekten

“furnace” = Hochofen

“goo” = klebriges Zeug

“bubbled” = blubberte

“idol” = Götzenbild

“a lumpy, bulging grotesque tower” = ein plumper, praller, grotesker Turm

“fins and scales” = Flossen und Schuppen

“viciously clashing colors” = beißenden Farben
(“biting colors”)

“shrunken” = geschrumpft

Try to say this!
“grafted on” = aufgepfropft

“tangled hair” = verfilztes Haar

“a shambling, snarling, unclean beast”
= eine watschelnde, zähnefletschende, unreine Bestie

“sketches” = Skizzen

“tempting” = verlockend

“addition” = Ergänzung

Just what you wanted to know how to say in German:
“earlobe” = Ohrläppchen

“scrambling” = taumelte

“stumbling down the hallway” = schwankte durch den Flur

“moan” = Fauchen

That’s all for tonight! I got eine stille Befriedigung from doing Sonderling Sunday again!

Bis Bald!

Review of March, Book Two, by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin

April 29th, 2017

March, Book Two

written by John Lewis & Andrew Aydin
art by Nate Powell

Top Shelf Productions, 2015. 187 pages.
Starred Review

I’m embarrassed I hadn’t read this book yet. I meant to, but graphic novel isn’t my preferred format, so I didn’t get around to it. But I loved March, Book One. So when March, Book Three, swept the 2017 Youth Media Awards with four wins, and I got a copy signed by John Lewis, I knew I needed to catch up.

This volume continues John Lewis’s story, still framing it against the background of Barack Obama’s inauguration.

In this book, John Lewis joins the Freedom Riders. They face tremendous violence and are arrested many times. Throughout, he remains committed to nonviolence – even in the face of violence. They wouldn’t post bail and give money to a segregationist state, but took the consequences of their actions.

I misspoke in my review of the first book. The “March” of the title is not the March on Washington, but an intended march from Selma to Montgomery to protest for voting rights. They were met at the Edmund Pettus Bridge by Alabama state troopers in a bloody confrontation.

In this second volume, they did cover the March on Washington, where John Lewis was one of the keynote speakers – and the only keynote speaker of that march who is still alive.

The book ends with the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The violence was escalating.

I like the way Barack Obama’s speech is quoted before the bombing is shown. “Mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors.” Some of the sacrifices weren’t so long ago.

This isn’t ancient history, but so far, these events happened before my birth. I appreciate having the story laid out for me. It’s moving to see what peaceful, nonviolent protest can accomplish.

A timely message.

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Sonderling Sunday – Philosophy from Heidi

April 16th, 2017

It’s time for Sonderling Sunday! That time of the week when I play with language by looking at German translations of children’s books.

Heidi

Today, in honor of Easter Sunday, I’m going to choose Chapter 14 of Heidi, by Johanna Spyri, where Heidi’s grandfather goes back to church.

The chapter is called Am Sonntag, wenn’s läutet, which is translated, “On Sunday When the Church Bells Ring.”

I’m going to skip the first bit. Heidi has come back from Frankfurt and is visiting Peter’s grandmother. Oh look! Already I’ve found a big difference. The English translation I found online says, “Turning the pages, Heidi found a song about the sun and decided to read that aloud.” The original German version writes out ten stanzas of this song about the sun! (Hmmm. Maybe I found an abridged version.)

Heidi makes a plan to buy fresh, soft rolls for the grandmother every day.

O juhe! Nun muss die Grossmutter gar nie mehr hartes, schwarzes Brot essen, und, o Grossvater, nun ist doch alles so schön, wie noch gar nie, seit wir leben!
= “O grandfather, now grandmother won’t ever have to eat hard, black bread any more. O everything is so wonderful now!”

und Heidi hüpfte hoch auf an der Hand des Grossvaters und jauchzte in die Luft hinauf wie die fröhlichen Vogel des Himmels.

Okay, this translation only says, “The child gave a bound, shouting:”
Google translate says: “And Heidi hopped up at the hand of the grandfather, and shouted into the air like the cheerful bird of heaven.”

Okay, forgive me but I love this next paragraph. Here it is translated into English.

“If God Our Father had done immediately what I prayed for, I should have come home at once and could not have brought half as many rolls to grandmother. I should not have been able to read either. Grandmama told me that God would make everything much better than I could ever dream. I shall always pray from now on, the way grandmama taught me. When God does not give me something I pray for, I shall always remember how everything has worked out for the best this time.”

Here is the original German:
O wenn nur der liebe Gott gleich auf der Stelle getan hätte, was ich so stark erbetete, dann wäre doch alles nicht so geworden, ich wäre nur gleich wiederheimgekommen und hätte der Grossmutter nur wenige Brötchen gebracht und hätte ihr nicht vorlesen können, was ihr wohl macht; aber der liebe Gott hatte schon alles ausgedacht, so viel schöner, schöner, als ich es wusste; die Grossmama hat es mir gesagt, und nun ist alles so gekommen.

This is going on in much more detail. (Yes, the English is abridged!) Heidi is going on about how hard she prayed. My rough translation of the last bit:
“But the dear God had already thought of it all so much, much more beautiful than I knew. Grandmama had told me, and now it has happened.”

It continues:
O wie bin ich froh, dass der liebe Gott nicht nachgab, als ich bat und jammerte!
= “O how glad I am, that the dear God did not give me what I begged and cried for!”

Aber jetzt will ich immer so beten, wie die Grossmama sagte, und dem lieben Gott immer danken, und wenn er etwas nicht tut, das ich erbete, dann will ich gleich denken: es geht gewiss wieder wie in Frankfurt, der liebe Gott denkt etwas viel Besseres aus.
= “But now I will always pray so, like Grandmama said, and always thank God, and when he doesn’t do something that I’ve asked for, then I will think: It is certainly like in Frankfurt, that God is thinking of something much better.”

You know what? I like that so much, and it so beautifully sums up what I’ve been thinking about my own life as I write Project 52 – I’m just going to stop there.

Review of The Queen of Blood, by Sarah Beth Durst

April 15th, 2017

The Queen of Blood

Book One of The Queens of Renthia

by Sarah Beth Durst

Harper Voyager, 2016. 353 pages.
Starred Review
2017 Alex Award Winner

Daleina is ten years old when her entire village is destroyed by the spirits – all except her family, who Daleina manages to save. She suddenly discovers in the terror of the destruction that she has an affinity to command the spirits. But she wasn’t strong enough to save the village.

But why didn’t the queen save their village? The queen is supposed to control the spirits and command them all to do no harm.

Ven, a champion who got to the village too late, doesn’t get a satisfactory answer either. In fact, he gets disgraced in return for questioning the queen.

Years pass. Daleina goes to the Academy to be trained to command the spirits. She wants to be chosen to be trained by a champion and then to be one of the heirs. The heirs must be ready in case of the queen’s death. Because then the spirits must be stopped from their instinct to destroy and made to choose a new queen, a new queen who will then harness their energy afresh and keep the people safe.

The people of Aratay lives in the trees. Wood spirits have been compelled to grow homes and bridges in the trees. Fire spirits provide light. Air spirits, ice spirits, water spirits, and earth spirits all work to make life continue in Aratay – even though those spirits would like to feed on human flesh.

This book has some elements of a wizard-in-training novel, and of a young leader learning what qualities are important in a ruler. But there are also elements of corruption in power. There is mystery as to what is going on and how it can be stopped. And, in keeping with the title, there’s a whole lot of death and blood.

The story is compelling. You can’t help but love Daleina. She’s not as skilled as her classmates. Her power is less direct. But she’s loyal and good at bringing teams together. Why does the disgraced champion choose her?

I spent a happy afternoon reading this novel. The world it presents is inventive, and the characters are people you want to spend time with. (I only wished fewer had died.) I’m looking forward to the next installment from the creative mind of Sarah Beth Durst.

Here’s the scene at the start when Daleina meets the champion, after her village has been destroyed, with only her family left:

For a brief instant, she imagined him sweeping her away, taking her to the capital, and proclaiming her his chosen candidate. It happened that way in the tales: a champion would appear in a tiny village, test the children, and pluck one to be trained to become an heir, and the heirs became legends themselves, creating villages, securing the borders, and keeping the spirits in check, in conjunction with the queen. She imagined herself in the palace, a circle of golden leaves on her head, with her family beside her, safe because of her power. Never again huddling afraid in a hut in a tree.

Her story should have begun right then, in that moment. Fate had declared that her power would emerge in her village’s tragedy, and chance had put the champion in the nearby trees at the moment the spirits attacked, too late to save the village but in time to meet Daleina. It should have been the beginning of a legend, the moment he recognized her potential and she embraced her future with both arms.

But it wasn’t.

The champion looked away, across the ruined village and the broken bodies. “Only the best can become queen. And she is not the best.” Daleina felt his words hit like slaps, and then he added the worst blow of all: “If she were, these people would still be alive.”

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Review of Imagine Heaven, by John Burke

April 14th, 2017

Imagine Heaven

Near-Death Experiences, God’s Promises, and the Exhilarating Future That Awaits You

by John Burke

Baker Books, 2015. 348 pages.
Starred Review

Imagine Heaven looks at accounts of near-death experiences (NDEs) from all over the world, from various cultures, religions, and backgrounds — and shows how the accounts match what the Bible says about heaven.

I’ve been interested in near-death experiences for awhile. Most of the books I’ve reviewed on the topic were quoted in this book: Proof of Heaven, Heaven Is For Real, To Heaven and Back, and even the book where the author went to hell first, My Descent Into Death. (Reading my review of My Descent Into Death, it was apparently the book that got me started reading other such books.)

Author John Burke does stick with a strictly evangelical perspective in his interpretation of the experiences. I tend to think they give support to Universalism. But one thing that is striking, which I hadn’t noticed before, is how those who have experienced NDEs describe heaven using very similar terms with the descriptions in Revelation.

When I was in the middle of reading this book, my sister had a dream about our mother, who is in late-stage Alzheimer’s. She dreamed that they were climbing stairs together. My Mom was much better, happy and eager, and climbing the stairs. At the top, there was a door, and Jesus was at the door. Becky left Mom with Jesus, and Mom was so happy to be there. Reading this book, and a dream like that, reminds me that Yes, heaven is a wonderful place. Yes, what’s important is Love.

The highlight of many NDEs, for all who claim to have come near, is this mystical Being of Light who fills them with a love beyond imagination.

A common experience across cultures is that this Being of Light gives them a Life Review.

One of the greatest indications that the God NDErs describe is the God of the Jewish/Christian Scriptures is how they depict their life review in his presence. Despite vividly seeing all their deeds, good and evil, and all the relational ripple effects of both, they do not experience a Being who desires to condemn. They experience a compassion coming from this Being of Light.

The author looks at the work of other researchers:

Dr. Long talks about how the unified theme of thousands of NDEs is the importance of love first. Muhammad in Egypt said after his NDE, “I felt that love is the one thing that all humans must feel towards each other.

The book does go on about details — the “sea of glass, clear as crystal,” the “rainbow that shone like an emerald,” the streets of pure gold, like glass. The author throws in lots of interpretation — but with many valid conclusions.

For me, the book encouraged and uplifted me, reminding me that God is Love, that heaven is not something to fear, and that what’s important, in this life and the next, is Love.

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?