Scripture Sunday (50)

Scripture Sunday is a weekly quote-post to highlight Bible passages I’ve read recently that I found particularly interesting. I’m not a qualified expert in any way, so I will keep my thoughts to my highly-subjective impressions. My translation is the New International Version.

From my reading this week:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Why I chose it:

It’s extremely possible that I’ve already used this passage in a previous  post but it really is the gift that keeps on giving.

There are a bunch of things about this passage that crack me up.

  1. I’ve read this a hundred times in the course of my lifetime and somehow? I? Always? Forget? Like, if someone is a jerk to me, I almost always think, “Pcht, yeah, hate that guy, I’m gonna give him the cold shoulder forever now!” instead of thinking “That guy was a jerk, but I love him!”
  2. Jesus? Is? Such? A? Radical?????????????????? We tend to forget that, probably because it’s easier to make Jesus more like us than to remember he is throwing down some REALLY CRAZY MESSAGES like loving your enemies and doing good to those who hate you.
  3. So if your mind isn’t already reeling from this impossible task, Jesus gives you a nice little closing order: “Be perfect, therefore, just like God.” UM OK JESUS.

Fortunately, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

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It’s Music You Can To Read To

I don’t love listening to music as much as I love reading books, but fortunately, sometimes I can do both at the same time. Music with vocals is too distracting, but anything else is a great companion to a good book. Listed below are some of my favorite tried-and-true music reading buddies, with some recommendations for what to read while I’m at it. I’m not a musical expert in any way (this will be very clear after reading this post), so I chose these based on 1. my level of enjoyment while listening and 2. its ability to float in the background without demanding center stage.

Sherlock Holmes Score by Hans Zimmer

I’m a big fan of anything Hans Zimmer does, but this score is the one of his that I go back to the most. It’s dramatic, it’s playful, it’s zany. I like all of the strings, including the weird ones like the cimbalom.

Pair it with: a comedy adventure, e.g. The Last Knight by Hilari Bell

Frozen Score by Christophe Beck

Hear me out! If you’re sick of “Let It Go” or don’t care for “Love Is An Open Door”, the singalong songs only comprise the first ten tracks of the thirty-two total on this score. The instrumental tracks are really fun, soothing and adventurous by turns. There are also some nice choral bits. I like the way you feel like you’re being swept away on a fun adventure with only the occasional monster.

Pair it with: A graphic novel or three, e.g. Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson

Piano Collections: Final Fantasy X by Nobuo Uematsu

I’m not a gamer but I adore video game soundtracks, and I love piano covers of video game soundtracks even more. It has a big range of emotions but a really melancholy undertone throughout. The variety and complexity lets me listen to it over and over without getting bored.

Pair it with: a volume of poetry, e.g. The Kingdom of Ordinary Time by Marie Howe

The Crown Season 1 Score by Rupert Gregson-Williams

This is a really sad and melodramatic score to match the show. I like the swoops and dives. I like how it makes me feel feelings even without anything to associate the music with. This is especially good background music, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s more subtle, without a lot of booms and bangs.

Pair it with: a tearjerker and/or historical fiction, e.g. The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett

Black Panther Score by Ludwig Göransson

 

This is a new favorite of mine, as you might guess. I love the mix of western and eastern instruments, and the mix of older tribal music with futuristic dubstep nonsense. It has a huge range of emotions too, making me feel the sorrow and joy and foreboding and fear. Plus it’s just plain fun.

Pair it with: An epic scifi or fantasy, e.g. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Let me know about your favorite reading music in the comments!

Scripture Sunday (49)

Scripture Sunday is a weekly quote-post to highlight Bible passages I’ve read recently that I found particularly interesting. I’m not a qualified expert in any way, so I will keep my thoughts to my highly-subjective impressions. My translation is the New International Version.

From my reading this week:

 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?

 

 

“Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades?
Can you loosen Orion’s belt?
Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons
or lead out the Bear with its cubs?
Do you know the laws of the heavens?
Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?

-Job 38:4-7, 31-33

Why I chose it:

Job is a frustrating book to read, because I relate so much to some of the things that Job and his friends say, and because really bad stuff happens to Job that he didn’t “deserve.” But God’s closing monologue in 38-41 is a great illustration of how we comprehend only a tiny fraction of creation and a minuscule pinch of our place in the universe. Plus, there’s really beautiful imagery in these chapters, especially in these two small bits I picked out.

January Recap: Rereads

I didn’t read very much this month so I decided to give you mini-reviews for everything. This will be in two posts: Rereads and Goodreads. This one will cover the books I read this month that I’ve read before, so they’ll be more “what-did-I-notice-this-time?” than legit reviews.

By the way if anyone finds my blogging brain please return it. I miss it and I need it.

Cress and Winter by Marissa Meyer

I’ve been rereading The Lunar Chronicles for a few months, and it’s really rewarding. I think Cress is overall the best Lunar Chronicles book (although I enjoy Scarlet more because Scarlet and Wolf are The Best). We finally have the entire main cast on the page, and lots of little things are setting up for the conclusion in Winter. There is a lot happening and all of the main crew have their roles and strengths, but Cress and Thorne have the most growth in their arcs.

In particular, I’ve appreciated Kai more this time around. He’s in really difficult political position, and inexperienced. He knows enough to know that he can’t win every battle, and so he focuses on picking and choosing where he can do the most good in a war against a superior enemy. He’s also very self-sacrificing but not happy about it; he’s a grouchy selfless emperor playing a long game.

I’m still mad about how long Winter is. It’s twice as long as any of the other books in the series, and while there are a lot of characters to deal with and lose ends to tie up, they should have edited this thing more. If they moved some stuff around and revamped other parts, they could cut out one whole palace visit, and therefore a couple hundred pages at least.

That being said, I love this series, these characters, and how Winter deals with the Snow White fairy tale. Winter is a beloved character (both in her world and to me personally). Her sacrifice, in not using her glamour and “brainwashing” people, is one of the strongest parts of this book because it’s not an easy or simple decision to make and live with the consequences.

The Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien

This book was published posthumously and therefore I love over-analyzing the editorial choices and wondering if Tolkien would have presented it in the same way. The organization is so interesting! They put everything chronologically which is probably the best choice, but it means that some topics gets separated out and scattered throughout the book.  For example, what the “Men” are doing while the Elves are throwing themselves into shenanigans. Some sections are much stronger and better developed than others. The creation of the Trees of Valinor and the Silmarils, and the final stories of the Quenta (Beren/Luthien, Turin, Gondolin) are the best. The rest is, essentially, context. I’d love more development of Finrod, Fingon, and the trash pile sons of Feanor. But. There’s so much here as it is. The last two sections seem more like appendices to cover the years between Quenta and The Lord of the Rings than anything else.
There should be more ladies. I always find Yavanna really interesting because she’s just trying to create and accomplish, and everyone else gets in her way or ruins it all the time. Melian has A Lot To Deal With pretty much all the time. Galadriel doesn’t get much screen time but she’s great. Luthien gets the biggest role and is AMAZING but I wish we got more of girls like Haleth, Idril, Elwing, Morwen, Nienor, and Rian.

 

January Recap: Goodreads

I didn’t read very much this month so I decided to give you mini-reviews for everything. This will be in two posts: Rereads and Goodreads. This one will cover the books I read for the first time this month.

By the way if anyone finds my blogging brain please return it. I miss it and I need it.

Meet Me In St. Louis by Sarah Benson

This was a light and enjoyable read for the most part. The book is divided into the months between June 1903 and May 1904. The “chapter” months are very episodic, almost like a series of short stories, as there aren’t any strong arcs to speak of. The characters are consistent but a little shallow; Esther and Rose, especially, don’t ever move past their boy-crazed silliness; but at least they keep us entertained. Grandpa Prophater was my favorite, as he is the most “aware” of the hilarity of this family. One of the scenes I found most interesting was when Mrs. Smith said she could understand why someone would want only one child, creating an ABSOLUTE UPROAR in the house from her five kids. Mr. Smith explains she’s upset because she can’t care for all five kids the way she wishes she could, but there’s a subtext of real frustration in Mrs. Smith’s pronouncement, as well. No matter how hard she tries, life is always uncertain and keeps her anxious about taking care of everyone.

So. Light and enjoyable read, but with some darker undertones that kept it interesting.

 

Rey’s Survival Guide by Jason Fry

This Middle Grade book is a delight. It’s a fictional nonfiction book, written by Rey about the planet of Jakku and the people, places, and things you will find on it. There are lots of pictures: Rey’s drawings and schematics, manuals, documents that she has picked up in her wanderings. I have never cared about Jakku much, either as a fictional setting that I wanted to know more about, or a place I wanted more stories set on. However, author Jason Fry make Jakku really fascinating through Rey. Part of it is all the plants and animals she describes, which make Jakku feel more like a real place with an actual ecosystem. The geography was even more fascinating: some of the locations Rey draws and describes we see in The Force Awakens, but some of them we don’t, like The Sitter on his rock and Old Meru’s shack. Rey mentions lots of stories and legends floating around Jakku as well, such as a secret imperial base that someone is still guarding, buried beneath the sand.

If you’re looking for a “story,” though, you won’t find much of one here. It’s almost entirely exposition, with anecdotes from Rey’s childhood, her scavenging adventures, or about other scavengers that she knows or has known (she knows a lot of dead scavengers who weren’t careful enough to avoid sinking sand or live wires or leaking fuel lines. Yikes.). The end of the book tries to tie this book into TFA more, but it was the only part of the book I didn’t like. If she takes her “survival guide” with her off-planet it becomes more of a diary with a lot of useless tips about how to survive a place she no longer lives in. I like the idea of Rey leaving her journal behind, so someone on Jakku exploring can find it in her AT-AT house, and use the information to survive.

Beloved by Toni Morrison

What a heartbreaking book! Each of the characters from the protagonist Sethe, her boyfriend Paul D, her lost husband Halle, her MIL Baby, to her daughters Denver and Beloved have their own personal scars and brutal histories. In multiple ways this book is a horror story: the horror story of American slaves and their owners; the horror story of Sethe’s murdered daughter and the family she is haunting; the horror story of Paul D’s life history.

However, there is such a strong hope throughout the book, even in the very worst moments, that redeemed the story from a bleak resolution. Sethe begins to realize that maybe she can hope for more than just getting by, or living in the horrible choices of the past. She learns how to want things for herself, and since she’s got her freedom legally, all she needs to do is seize it psychologically. The way the different members of the family persevere and support each other, and the way their community forms around them to help at different stages, is amazing.

Even if every happy bit in this book was gone, it would still be worth reading to remind us of how horrific American slavery was and how we should never ever ever forget or gloss over it. It happened, to real people, by real people, in a country that prides itself on liberty and justice for all.  Beloved doesn’t shy away from this or completely excuses the choices that anyone makes, whether they’re slaves, ex-slaves, slaveowners or employers.

The ending of Beloved, with the emphasis on community, and the importance of asking for help, concluded the psychologically-messy story very well. I would have liked to see Paul D take some responsibility for his actions re: Beloved and being so rude to Sethe but it is implied that he’s going to make up for past behavior.