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The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume 1: Family Letters, 1905-1931
Walter Hooper, C.S. Lewis
A Stolen Life - Jaycee Dugard

I'm finding it hard to express my opinion of this book. Jaycee's story is just so terrifying and fascinating and depressing and inspiring...

I love the authenticity of the book, but at the same time, I really wish an editor had gone through and ironed some things out. Jaycee's education only went up to fifth grade, and her story would have been less disjointed and confusing if a professional had helped out a bit. Then again, I can see how it was kind of a cathartic experience for her, as if she were going back to her 11-year-old mindset and journalling her experiences... I'm conflicted.

One specific thing that confused me is that I've read online that Jaycee made contact with a neighbor while she was in captivity, but she didn't mention that in her book. It seemed odd to me. I would think that would be something worth mentioning in her memoir.

Regardless, it's definitely a difficult, but worthwhile read.

2011 Review (four stars):
i really enjoyed reading this book. it is definitely both disturbing and fascinating. jaycee is not the best writer, but that made it feel more real. reading it felt like she sat down, mentally took herself back 18+ years, and wrote what she was experiencing/thinking/feeling at the time.

i can't imagine going through what she went through. i'm so glad she seems to be adapting to the "real world" well. i'll definitely be praying for her and her girls. and i highly recommend this book.

The Selection  - Kiera Cass

I was pleasantly surprised by this one. I had heard that America is annoying, but I didn't find her so.

I wouldn't exactly call The Selection dystopian, as it doesn't really seem any worse than reality. This story is a beautiful conglomeration of elements from The Hunger Games, Matched, Princess Academy,Cinderella, The Bachelor and the biblical story of Esther. I'm sure there are more, but these are the stories I was reminded of as I read The Selection.

The love triangle, in particular, reminded me of those in The Hunger Games and Matched. I love both Aspen and Maxon and have had a hard time deciding which one I want to be with America, just as she struggles to decide. I love the friendship between America and Maxon and at this point in the series, I want America to choose Aspen (despite his hissy fit) and remain a good friend to Maxon.

There were other things that reminded me of The Hunger Games as well, such as the lottery, the payments to the families of the Selected,The Report along with its host Gavril, etc.

The training to be a princess is what reminds me of Princess Academy and I really enjoyed that aspect of it as well.

The gathering of women, some from less fortunate backgrounds, wearing dresses and competing for one man's heart was reminiscent of Cinderella and Esther as well as The Bachelor.

It does contain the common mistake of using "Your Majesty" and "Your Highness" interchangeably, and the also common insistence that "even though EVERYONE says that I'm beautiful, I promise you, reader, I'm not even pretty." So, that was kind of annoying.

I won't pretend this book is excellent quality, but it did its job as entertainment and I really enjoyed it. On to The Elite!

The Story of Your Life: Inspiring Stories of God at Work in People Just like You - Matthew West, Angela Thomas

I didn't like this book as much as I thought I would. I love this CD and the idea behind it, and I love reading the stories in the CD booklet. I guess I just don't care so much about what Matthew West and Angela Thomas have to say about them (no offence...). The stories themselves are beautiful and I enjoyed those, as expected. The responses are sweet... just not what I'm interested in.

On a positive note, West quoted C.S. Lewis two or three times, if I recall correctly, so he gets points for that. :)

But I do want to talk about the chapter on homosexuality. My heart aches for the anonymous author of the letter who is trying so hard to honor God with his/her life despite the temptations s/he faces every day. For the most part, I thought Thomas' response was appropriate and kind-hearted, but there was one comment she made that seemed insensitive and condescending to me. She reminds this person that everyone is struggling along with him/her with their own personal temptations. A good thing to remember, of course. But in comparing them she says "Yours is homosexuality, mine might be insecurity, and the person in the pew next to me at church may struggle with temptations of pornography or drug addiction or rage."

Okay, insecurity can absolutely be a day-to-day struggle, but it is just not on the same level as homosexuality or the other examples. Anonymous has to daily ignore the overwhelming voices insisting that there's nothing wrong with homosexuality. In addition to resisting the temptation to act on his/her urges, s/he has to constantly remind him/herself that those voices are wrong, when it would be so much easier to allow him/herself to be accepted into that community (that includes Christians) and live an openly gay lifestyle. On the other hand, I don't think insecurity is even a sin. And there are so many voices speaking out about self-love these days, a person struggling with insecurity doesn't even really have to look for encouraging messages to find them.

Heck, Thomas isn't actually admitting that she struggles with insecurity. She says her temptation might be insecurity, which makes it sound like either she doesn't want to admit her actual struggle or she can't think of one. Basically, I think that Thomas should either have elaborated on that to make comparisons more apparent, or she should have left herself out of that completely. I don't mean to sound overly harsh. The rest of Thomas' response was nice. That one phrase just really stuck out to me and this is such a sensitive topic that I think that really should have been edited. Though, as much as I've just written about it, this phrase didn't affect my rating at all.

(Side note: I was also just confused when she referred to Anonymous as a man, when the letter didn't clarify. Maybe she made a guess based on handwriting?)

Stormbreaker  - Anthony Horowitz

Meh. It was alright, but I have no desire to continue the series.


It contains one of my YA pet peeves, which is when a character risks dire consequences (e.g. death or dismemberment) merely for the sake of mild curiosity or an unfounded hunch.


Maybe Alex just doesn't really care about death at all, considering he was pretty emotionless when told his uncle/father-figure had died.


I also think it was unrealistic that Alex was able to point a gun in the direction of the prime minister and not get shot by a guard. I don't believe Mrs. Jones' command would have been quick enough. That critique might be a bit nitpicky, though.

The Reckoning  - Beverly Lewis

I was so confident I had read this book years ago, but nothing from it seemed at all familiar, so, for whatever reason, I must have stopped at the second book...

I will say I was disappointed by this one. For one thing, I hated how there was so much confusion over Daniel calling Katherine "Katie". I don't know why the butler wouldn't have any concept of the possibility that someone from Katherine's old life might try to contact her. Why would he assume Daniel was referring to the impostor? It was too obviously just a way for Daniel to come frustratingly close to Katherine without a reunion actually taking place.

I also was very unsatisfied with the ending. Katherine is perfectly happy living in the mansion and using her wealth to help others until she suddenly turns around and decides she's not happy living that way, so she ditches the mansion and becomes Mennonite instead. It was so abrupt. And I felt like the book was claiming that it's wrong to be rich or to enjoy nice things. I would have bought her happy medium if she had found herself becoming obsessed with her riches, but that didn't ever seem to be a concern.

I thought there would be more of a love triangle, but it was clear that Justin was never a contender. There wasn't really much substance to their relationship at all. It makes sense to me, though. As if dating Justin was just a part of testing out this new life she has. This isn't really a complaint. I don't mind love triangles, but they are a bit over-used these days.

Combining the last two points, maybe it would have made more sense if Katherine's faith in God wavered and dating Justin was part of that, considering he was so apathetic toward religion. That would have achieved the same end, and been more believable and satisfying, I think.

Pippi in the South Seas - Astrid Lindgren

I prefer the second book to this one, but it was alright. It didn't seem at all familiar to me, so I don't think I ever got around to reading this one even though I own it. It's slightly uncomfortable at times with the way they refer to the natives of the island... And Tommy can be quite the bully to his sister sometimes! Also, there's a girl called Moana. :)

The Great Treasure Hunt - Jim Spillman

As I mentioned in my review of The Oil of Israel: Prophecy Being Fulfilled, I've had this folder of Zion Oil info for so long I don't remember where I got it. I really think they should direct people to read this book first. Reading the other info first, I was just bored and wondering why they were so convinced they will find oil in Israel. The Great Treasure Hunt really explains it well and makes me think there's something to their theory.

Pippi Goes on Board - Florence Lamborn, Nancy Seligsohn, Astrid Lindgren

I like this book more than the first. I didn't find Pippi so annoying in this one.

These books do have quite the nostalgic element to them for me. I loved each of Pippi's adventures as a child. :)

The Oil of Israel: Prophecy Being Fulfilled - John Brown

So, I've had this book in a folder of Zion Oil info gathering dust in my room for several years (so many years, I don't remember why I have it) and I decided to finally read through it. It was really boring to me and I didn't understand why they're so convinced they will find oil in Israel. Once I read the other book that came in this folder, it made much more sense to me, so maybe if I read this one again now, my opinion would be different. I would still probably be bored, though, reading about drilling for oil.

I don't think this review is very helpful. Sorry about that. Haha. All I can say is that if you happen to have this same folder of information, read The Great Treasure Hunt first!

Up the Down Staircase - Bel Kaufman

I was pleasantly surprised by this one. The last older teaching book I had read was extremely disappointing. This one, however, was great. I think any non-teachers reading Up the Down Staircase would think it greatly exaggerated, but it's really not. It's pathetic how much of the book could have been written yesterday. I mean, if not for the out-dated technology, it really could have been. But Kaufman brought humor to the story and it was truly an enjoyable read. It left me hoping I have someone like Bea to guide me when I start teaching.

Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (and Everything in Between) - Lauren Graham

Well, I'm finally getting around to reviewing this. I bought it for a friend for Christmas and decided to go ahead and read it before I gave it to her. XD

Generally, I'm not much interested in celebrities' biographies, but while I'm not looking to own a copy of Talking as Fast as I Can, I'm glad I read it. I might even read it again someday. Lauren Graham seems like a very genuine person, though I did wonder at times if she's really that much like Lorelai or if she was writing as Lorelai, in a way. Regardless, I enjoyed her little jokes and her commentary. (Side note: Do Lauren Graham and Lorelai Gilmore share initials on purpose or is that coincidence?)

It was interesting to learn more about what goes in to making a TV show in general and specifically, the behind-the-scenes info about Gilmore Girls. It helped explain a bit why the revival was so chaotic, I think. Most of the time, Graham was good about clarifying which character an actor played when she mentioned them, though there were a few times she didn't and, as I don't know the names of every single GG actor, I had to take a second to Google the name to know whom she was talking about.

I will add that I think the subtitle is misleading. It sounds like a memoir that covers from the start of Gilmore Girls through the revival, but she talks a lot about her childhood and her start in show business as well. It doesn't affect my rating, but it smells like clickbait, which is a bit frustrating.


However, all-in-all, it was a good read. :)

Hope Rising: Stories from the Ranch of Rescued Dreams - Kim Meeder

I was crying by page 5. Seriously. Almost every chapter in this book makes me cry. Sad tears, happy tears, you name it.

It's a beautiful book. Just have some tissues ready.

Princess in the Spotlight - Meg Cabot

(It's probably more like a 2.75, but I'm not going to let myself do that.)

Donald Trump is present in this book. How awkward.

Mia certainly likes to harp on about one or two things per book. Also, I noticed in this book that it doesn't cover very much time. So, again, it makes sense that she goes on-and-on about things... But it doesn't really make for the best reading material.

I do enjoy reading these books, though. They're pretty light-hearted reads.

Pippi Longstocking - Astrid Lindgren, Nancy Seligsohn, Florence Lamborn

I definitely enjoyed this one much more when I was a child. As an adult, I find Pippi annoying at times. It's still a fun book, but there are other children's books I'd much rather read over again.

Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

2014: ...What? (2 stars)

2016: I remember the first time I finished this book, in bed in my college dorm room with my mouth hanging open from the moment Tess declared "I have killed him!" A second reading really was necessary to process.

I think I care more for Tess than I usually care about characters, somehow. My heart aches for her in all the ways her life goes wrong. And I cheer for her because she really is a strong and mature character. She's very well-written.

Alec D'Urberville, on the other hand is sufficiently annoying infuriating, as is Angel Clare. Alec makes me want to scream when he just won't leave Tess alone. I want to smack him. But that didn't do Tess any good... And Angel with his hypocrisy and self-righteousness... Ugh. Poor Tess. I should want Tess to find a better man than Angel, but she loves him so much, I tend to want him to come to his senses instead.

In regards to Tess' experience with Alec, the writing of it frustrates me a bit. To me, up through that moment, it is very clear that Alec raped Tess. She never liked him, never showed him any affection. She blatantly wiped away his kiss. He made her very uncomfortable. Her behavior through that point gives me absolutely no reason to believe that Tess would willingly have sex with Alec. Afterward, however, the writing makes it seem more like they had been in a relationship and she had willingly slept with him, though she regretted it later. And those two interpretations just don't jive. After thinking about it, I've decided on my interpretation. I think it is kind of both of the above. I think Alec raped her. And then because of the society she lived in, after that happened, Tess felt like she belonged to Alec or was tied to him in a way. It's even said in the book that she's more married to Alec than she is to Angel. Of course, I don't believe that, but I think that would have been her thought process. So, I think that after Alec "claimed" her, she continued working at the D'Urberville estate, and probably allowed him to have sex with her again, though she still didn't want that kind of relationship with him. Until finally, she couldn't live with it anymore, and she left for home.

Through all that, it really is a surprisingly feminist book for one written by a man in the 1800's. I should read more of his work (any suggestions?). I also think this book could inspire a really good modern film adaptation.

I think my only complaint (aside from maybe the ambiguity of the rape/seduction) is that it can be quite slow, especially during Tess' employment at the dairy. I almost only brought my rating up one star because of that, but I love Tess so much and the story itself is so beautifully tragic that I rated it 4 stars.

I want to write a better review of this book. Maybe I'll edit this sometime.

Essays Presented to Charles Williams - C.S. Lewis

This collection of essays was boring at times and interesting at others.

I remember in Sayers' case, I was interested at first, but got bored as it went on.

I generally enjoyed C. S. Lewis and Tolkien's essays.

W. H. Lewis' essay was interesting and definitely written on an important subject, but it seemed so jarring after the others. The book definitely ended on a very sad note.