Category Archives: Review
Soon after moving out to the Arizona desert from California’s Central Coast, I received this book through Booksneeze.com to review. I thought I was being clever in getting a free book, but I had no idea how powerful this book would be. “The Sacred Journey” is about the lost art of pilgrimage, a sacred journey to a place of spiritual importance. Just as Christians are pilgrims here on earth, the pilgrimage reminds us that we can’t be wrapped up in the trappings of permanence. This world is not our home, we’re just passin’ through. Charles Foster uses his own globe-trotting adventures as a backdrop to the lessons learned while out on pilgrimage; the importance of loving fellow travelers and helping them, of silence and meditation, and above all, being aware of what God is trying to teach you while you journey through life.
“The Sacred Journey” fascinated me. We had just left our deep roots near the ocean and moved out to the desert. What was worse, we were living in subsidized housing, which is government-code for roach-infested. Reading “The Sacred Journey” while living under these conditions was eye-opening, to say the least. Foster’s writing encouraged me to see our living situation through heavenly-eyes: only temporary housing until God moved us on. It challenged me every time I opened the pages to not complain about what was right in front of me, but look for what the lesson was supposed to be. Although I still complained (loudly and often), I can look back and see the places where the Lord had me grow, stretch, and learn, and many times it was because of something thought-provoking from “The Sacred Journey.”
Foster’s high, literary writing style was a huge appeal to me. His elegant, graceful use of language really touched me. However, many times when I would read quotes aloud to my husband, he would get confused, so perhaps Foster’s style isn’t for everyone. For me, however, this book is certainly one I recommend to fellow travelers on their journeys.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Wow. After reading this review…
I can’t WAIT to get my hands on this book!
***This is an ADULT novel! It has a. whole. lot. of. sex. The majority of it is “married” sex, but there are also scenes of sexual assaults, which could be incredibly disturbing to an unsuspecting reader. So this is most certainly an adult novel, and I figured I’d give you fair warning.***
Music to read to:
World War II is over, and combat nurse Claire Randall and her veteran husband, Frank, journey to Inverness, Scotland for a second honeymoon. The War interrupted their budding marriage and altered both of them as war does, but they are trying to reconnect with one another. While Claire searches for herbs and local remedies to help cure her possible infertility, Frank studies his family history with a vicar, researching interesting facts about his infamous ancestor, Black Jack Randall.
Out for a walk by herself one afternoon, Claire visits a hill of standing stones where she and Frank once watched a neopagan sunrise ritual. But when she touches one of the stones, she suddenly finds herself falling down the hill in the dark of night and the world has changed completely. When she stops at the bottom of the hill, she runs into Frank… or so she thinks. Kilted men on horseback rescue her from attempted rape by the familiar-looking man, who is actually Black Jack Randall. Before long, Claire realizes that she has somehow fallen back in time to 1743, and she is immediately taken far up to the highlands with the Scottish cattle rustlers before she can return to the standing stones and her way back to her own time.
Throughout the story, Claire tries to keep her secret while both looking for a way to get back to her own time, and slowly falling in love with the highlanders who take her in. She’s given an occupation as a healer, and uses her modern knowledge to help the people around her, all the while trying to conceal her true identity and protect the people she has become a part of from historical events that she knows are on the horizon. When she is compelled to marry the handsome Jamie Frasier or be turned over to the authorities (and the evil Jack Randall), Claire finds herself entangled in a complicated web of love, adventure, and terrifying knowledge of the future.
What I loved about this book:
- This book has amazing sensory depth and tons of detail, making you feel as if you are living the story along with Claire.
- I loved the historical accuracy of the novel, and how the time period comes alive with tangible characters.
- I really liked that this was a long, meaty book. Maybe because I often indulge in shorter YA books, I liked that this was a story that took me several weeks to read.
- This book literally has EVERYTHING… in fact, the author, Diana Gabaldon wrote on her website: I’ve never been able to describe this book in twenty-five words or less, and neither has anyone else in the twenty years since it was first published. I’ve seen it (and the rest of the series) sold–with evident success–as Literature, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Historical NON-fiction (really. Well, they are very accurate), Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, Romance, Military History (no, honest), Gay and Lesbian Fiction, and…Horror. I would even add to her list Woman’s Literature (fertility, birth), Herbology, History of Medicine, and Catholicism.
I’ve read Twilight, some of the Sookie Stackhouse novels, and a few other vampire novels, but the student in me wanted to know where this all came from. In school, my emphasis was on mediaeval source texts and how stories changed over the years. So, naturally, I had to read the original vampire novel: Dracula. Today, in honor of the release of the DVD version of Eclipse (Team Switzerland!), I offer you my vampire review.
And wow, if you haven’t read Dracula, you are depriving yourself of some crazy creative and creepy writing. The format of the novel is a little tough to figure out at first, but once you get into the story, it is difficult to put it down, even with the slower pacing (which is very common for novels in the late 1800’s). Bram Stoker knew how to make and maintain suspense, and his vampire is terrifying!
The format is an epistolary novel, meaning that each chapter is composed of journal entries, letters, telegrams, and newspaper clippings. However, the dialogue is masterfully maintained throughout, because the characters are (conveniently) able to recall in amazing detail all the conversations they have in a day (which, if they could, and they were writing by hand, they must have written for HOURS every night!).
Jonathan Harker is a junior laywer, engaged to be married to Mina, who has been a companion for the lovely young Lucy. Harker is sent to Transylvania to meet with Count Dracula and to teach him about English culture and life, as the Count plans on moving to London. While there, however, Harker realizes that Dracula is a fiend of the worst kind, and Harker escapes the castle and makes his way back to England alone.
Dracula continues with his plans to move to London, and organizes his own passage on a ship, which, according to the captain’s log, sails through a terrifying journey where, at the last, all the crew are dead. The ship runs aground in a fierce storm on the shores of Whitby, where, as chance may have it, Mina and Lucy are staying. Lucy is proposed to by three men, Dr. Seward, Morris, and Holmwood, and she accepts Holmwood (who later in the novel inherits the title Lord Godalming). Oddly (but helpful in this novel), all three of Lucy’s suitors remain good friends.
In the days following the shipwreck, Lucy begins sleepwalking outside and becomes strangely ill. Mina fears to tell Lucy’s mother, who is in poor health, but she wonders about the puncture wounds on Lucy’s throat, so she calls on Dr. Seward. Seward is at a loss, and sends for his professor, Dr. Van Helsing. Despite the best efforts of Mina, Van Helsing and all three of her suitors, Lucy “dies”, but soon begins preying on small children as a beautiful vampire herself. Van Helsing tells the men that they must stake her and cut off her head. If you feel like delving into a really bizarre world, do some research on Lucy the Vampire’s death scene — it’s chilling what some literary scholars have come up with!
Meanwhile, Harker returns to England and marries Mina and they join with the others in hunting down Dracula in the streets of London. When Dracula realizes that he is found out, he begins feinting about their defenses and eventually gets to Mina in a super-creepy way: crawling through her window, taking her out of her bed and biting her. From then on, Mina is under his spell, and feels pulled to join him as his bride. This guy is no Edward Cullen. He’s every girl’s worst nightmare. Eventually, the brave men are triumphant and Mina is set free from Dracula’s enchantment, but not after several chapters of suspense and excitement.
I was really impressed by the scope and entertainment this novel has to offer, but especially how this vampire was SO different from the modern vampire stories I’ve enjoyed. There wasn’t a single time in Dracula where I felt bad for the Count or had any sympathy or compassion for him. He is evil, through and through. The good guys were very very good, and the bad guy was very very bad, and the entertainment value of this novel was very very awesome.
Now it’s your turn: what was the last vampire novel/movie you watched and what did you think?
Evanescence – Bring Me To Life
As newlyweds, Anthony and I honeymooned at the historic Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, an opulent mecca for the stars and fat cats of the 1920’s, and the setting for the classic film “Some Like it Hot”, starring Marilyn Monroe. We returned home to Paso Robles where we had our own taste of Hollywood history: our apartment was formerly the hotel room where Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio spent their own honeymoon. Keeping with the theme, we have always tried to stay in vintage hotels whenever we travel (which is hardly ever). This year, for our seventh anniversary, we were excited to stay at the Hotel San Carlos in downtown Phoenix, where, you guessed it! Marilyn Monroe was once a guest.
There are certain things that you must understand about visiting a vintage hotel. It’s not for everyone. Usually, vintage hotels smell a little old, because they are old! The San Carlos was built in 1927 and the building has many of the original fixtures today. The elevators were updated in the 1970’s but you can still see the hand operated controls in the car alongside the modern buttons. Most of the furnishings and light fixtures are glamorously ornate, but we certainly appreciated the soft modern bed (with ample fluffy pillows) and the plumbing!
Hotel San Carlos is home to a small restaurant and a swinging bar where people seemed to be having lots of fun late into the night. We had dinner right next door at the fantastically charming Séamus McCaffrey’s Irish Pub and could have walked right across the street to have our shoes fixed by a cobbler (!) or a shave and haircut at the traditional barber shop.
After dinner (Shepherd’s Pie, Fish and Chips and a few pints of Guinness), we hired a talkative pedicab driver to take us to the local movie theater (we’re cheap and couldn’t afford the “real” Orpheum theater that was two blocks away). Riding through downtown we were really surprised at how quiet and empty it was for a Friday night. Our driver informed us that Phoenicians (yes, isn’t that a cool term for people from Phoenix?) usually go to Tempe for the nightlife. At least we didn’t have to fight anyone for seats! Properly laden with coke, popcorn and Whoppers, we watched “Eclipse” (yes, at last, we have kids and never see things opening night anymore). After the movie, we were able to call our same pedicab guy to pick us (and sleeping baby Josh) up and take us back to the San Carlos.
We returned to our room and settled in for the night. Our little room had a walk-in closet opposite a small bathroom. The bathroom had most fixtures updated, but the pedestal sink didn’t have a place to set anything, so we had to make do with a little ledge under the mirror to balance our toothbrushes. There was a desk with a chair, an armoire for the TV, two chairs and a round table by the window, and a bedside table. I had reserved an “outside” room with a view to the street online, but when we checked in, they said they had the air conditioning go out on the floor we had reserved, so we were given an “inside” room with a view to the 3rd floor roof-top pool (and $$ off our total). The view was not very exciting, since we could also see the back entry to the downstairs bar, complete with trash cans and stained concrete. Anthony was happy that the TV had ESPN, and he was able to check his teams before we turned off the light.
Here is where the vintage aspect of hotels just sucks. For whatever reason, the Hotel San Carlos was built with vents both in and above the door leading out into the hallway, so we had yellow stripes of light shining onto the bed. We were able to fall asleep fine, but around midnight, people near us (we never quite figured out if they were above, below, beside or across from us) got into a screaming argument that woke us up and went on for 20 minutes. Just as we were about to call the front desk, they stopped and we drifted back into a restless sleep.
I would like to say that we were woken by ghosts or something else romantically terrifying (the San Carlos is a “proven” haunted hotel), but nothing so paranormally awesome ever happens to us (I strongly suspect it’s because we have some mighty angels guarding our every move–not that I’m complaining). No, we get stupid humans. At 3 in the morning, the bar must have closed because we were suddenly surrounded by laughing, talking, arguing, drunk humans. Because of the vents in the door and the uninsulated air ducts, it sounded like they were all in the room with us. We called down to complain about the noise from (what we thought was) our neighbors, but because of the ease of sound traveling, it took security almost an hour to discover that the culprits occupied the room BELOW ours and we were hearing them through the air duct. Amazingly, Joshua woke up for his usual 1am feeding and went right back to sleep and hardly even twitched through all the noise!
By the time we checked out in the morning, we were exhausted from the interrupted night’s sleep. I’d like to think that, without the noise issues, it would have been a wonderful stay, but the only way to find out would be to go again, and we’re out of special occasions until next August.