Friday, March 30, 2012

The Circus Arrives Without Warning

I've always used books to escape. There's nothing more I love than diving headfirst into a good book, immersing myself in the story, the characters. The best books I've read take me to places I've never been, books which create a world all their own and which always leave me wanting more.

It's an understatement to say that The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern did all these things and more.

I know, I know! A positive book review for Leah's Literary Adventures. But this book was so good, I just had to tell you about it.

"The circus arrives without warning. 

No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

The towering tents are striped in white and black, no golds and crimsons to be seen. No color at all, save for the neighboring trees and the grass of the surrounding fields. Black-and-white stripes on grey sky; countless tents of varying shapes and sizes, with an elaborate wrought-iron fence encasing them in a colorless world. Even what little ground is visible from outside is black or white, painted or powdered, or treated with some other circus trick. 

But it is not open for business. Not just yet."

This excerpt, taken from the prologue to the novel lures you into a mysterious world which exists within and alongside our own. A circus open only from dusk until dawn, one which appears suddenly and without warning and disappears just as suddenly. The opening descriptions of the circus make you want to dive headlong into this strange and mysterious world Morgenstern is luring you into.

The book is about the circus, yes. But more specifically it is about Celia and Marco, two people which have been caught up in a mysterious competition between their respective teachers, a game in which they are merely pawns.

I don't want to say too much about this book. If I do, it'll ruin it.

But be warned, if you open this book, be prepared to not be able to put it down. I read it in a span of only about 24 hours, and am seriously considering reading it again. Be prepared to sacrifice sleep in favor of this book.

And at the end, be prepared to find yourself still wanting to know more about these brilliant characters and the world they live in.

If you only read one book this year, let it be The Night Circus.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


"When you are arguing against Him 
you are arguing against the very power that makes you able to argue at all:
it is like cutting off the branch you are sitting on."
-C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

I am sitting on that tree branch, not even knowing that I'm sawing right through it, about to fall. I don't realize it until I start to fall, until He catches me with another branch. I thank Him and desperately cling to the branch in gratitude. That is, until I begin to saw through it again.

My redeemed and ransomed soul wants nothing more than to follow Him, to live a life of obedience to my Maker and His will for me. 

But my sinful flesh desires a life apart, a life of independence. My sinful flesh is a three year old child screaming "I want to do it myself!" But like the three year old child, I can't do it myself.

My soul and my flesh are at war within me, constantly arguing with each other and at the God who always catches me when I cut off the branch I am sitting on.

But praise be to God, who removes our sins from us as far as east is from west, who will not give us up, who loves relentlessly, unconditionally, no matter how much we argue.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I Just Don't Care

Well, I had intended that this be the second installment of Leah's Literary Adventures. And I suppose it still is. But friends, I failed.

I failed to finish a book.

At the suggestion of my friend Alice I began reading The Unvanquished by William Faulkner several weeks ago, because of how awful she thought it was.

Boy, was she right.

But it wasn't awful in the way that Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms was. That one repeatedly made me frustrated. At least I had some sort of emotional reaction to it.

The only reaction I had to The Unvanquished was... "What?"

It takes place in. . . the south somewhere (I couldn't quite figure out where) during the Civil War. It's narrated by a pre-teen boy, the son of a high-ranking officer in the Confederate Army. I caught that much.

I also caught that at some point while his father is away, the boy, his grandmother, and their slaves (among whom is the boy's best friend, a slave he grew up with named Ringo) have to run away from their home to escape. . . the. . . Yankees? Is that right?

I don't even know. I mean, I only got halfway through before I quit.

The thing that tripped me up the most is the colloquial language. Faulkner spells out the accents spoken by the characters, and most often I had to expend more brain cells than I really wanted to in order to even kind of understand what they were saying.

I mean, I understand Faulkner wanted to convey the type of culture and where they were from, etc. But when the reader can't understand the words, it kind of works against the author.

So why did I stop reading? Why did I give up?

I really do hate giving up on a book, and it's rare that I won't finish one that I start.

But all the books that I've given up on have had one thing in common.

I've had zero emotional connection to the characters and the story.

The author has failed to make me understand why I should keep reading, why I care what happens to these people.

This is the key, I think, to writing a story that people will read. Make me care about the story from the very beginning. Make the characters relatable; connect them to me in some way.

Then I'll at least finish your book, even if it's bad.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Bad Friend

I'm a bad friend.

ell, I suppose that's not exactly true. I'm a bad long distance friend.

get caught up in my life away from my best friend. In my job, paying bills, the book I'm currently reading, my blog, the pint of ice cream currently keeping me company, etc. You get the idea. I get distracted easily.

onestly, I'm surprised Emily still wants to be friends with me. I've known her since my sophomore year of college. I'm not going to think about how long ago that was. I'll only depress me.

ut she's my favorite kind of friend.

Want to read the rest? I'm guest blogging over at Love Woke Me Up This Morning today, for Emily's theme for March, "Beautiful Friends." You can find the rest of my post by clicking the link above, and while you're at it, you should check out some of Emily's other posts! She's a way better blogger than me!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Things They Don't Teach You

I never realized just how sheltered I am until a few days ago.

I was raised Christian, went to Christian school my entire life, right up through college.

For the most part it was a wonderful experience, particularly college, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

But there are some things they don't teach you. Sometimes you don't learn how to swim until someone pushes you in the pool.

I had no idea how sheltered I was.

The other day, I encountered a nice young man with strong beliefs. Beliefs which did not match my own.

This man was a non-Christian, and a self-proclaimed Darwinist, who believed that belief in God, in religion was emotional and irrational and not intellectual.

He claimed he wasn't trying to get me to think like him, even when attempted to get me to read a book he had with him called The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.

But it felt different. I felt like I was being told my beliefs weren't good enough, so I should believe something else that was.

That I was irrational. Emotional, not intellectual.

I am 25 years old. I've moved to a city where I didn't know anyone. I live by myself, I pay my own bills.

But until a few days ago, I had never had my faith challenged like that.

Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not trying to say my beliefs are better than his, or that he's not entitled to his own set of beliefs and opinions. He certainly is.

I'm also not saying that it wouldn't have been okay for me to read something that tells me my religion is wrong. I'm sure that strong Christians everywhere routinely read things like that.

What I am saying is that I was unprepared. I had no litany of defenses to give him, nothing that might get him to see the reasons why I believe.

No one sits you down in Christian grade school and tells you that someday, when you get out into the "real world," someone will tell you you're wrong and God doesn't exist, that someday someone will make you feel rotten for being a Christian, will make you feel small and irrational.

I never took a class that taught me how to defend my heart against attacks on its belief, on its need to cling The One Who Made Me.

I had no response for him, and I was drowning in my inexperience.

Yes. I took it personally.

I didn't want to listen to him talk anymore. I wanted to close my ears and my heart to his words, I wanted to go back to the bubble I had been living in for 25 years. I was afraid that if I listened for too long, that I would start to believe it.

Because the truth is, I already experience enough doubt as it is. I am already fighting back The Evil One's attempts to poison me, to make me doubt my Savior and his love.

Even a few days later, I am left speechless. I have no tools, no words to defend my God. But I'm also left wondering if He really needs me to.

Nothing I could have said would have changed this young man's mind. It just would have sparked an argument between us. A useless, pointless argument that, in the end, no one would benefit from.

And now, one entire blog post later, I'm still left feeling unprepared.

But maybe that's how life is, how getting older is. I'm starting to realize that there will always be something that I don't  know. There will always be something that takes me by surprise. There will always be something that grabs hold of my heart and make me feel like it's trying to squeeze the life out of me. There will always be things you wish they had taught you in school.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Beer + Ice Cream = blog post. Sort of.

So, it's Sunday night and I find myself lacking two essential items:

Beer. And ice cream.

Go ahead and laugh. I'll be here when you're done.

Had a nice chuckle? Ready? Good.

As I was saying, essentials. Beer and ice cream. These are two things which are most important for a productive (and enjoyable) day off. After all, they did provide me with a post for you lovely folks.

Back to business. I decided to venture to Walmart to purchase said items. I pulled my car into the parking lot, but regretfully couldn't make it to a parking space very efficiently.

Do you know why?

There was a cute little family-- mom, dad, and baby walking down the middle of the parking lot aisle.

Now, on my long list of pet peeves, this is pretty high up. Of course, I say that about all the rest, too. 

After parking I saw this kind of parking lot travesty twice more.

Am I the only one who sees the problem with this?

Sure, pedestrians have the right of way. But I also have the right to say all manner of horrible things about and to another person. (That constitutionally protected right of free speech and all.) But that hardly means I'm going to take advantage of that right.

It's the same with parking lots. You have the right of way if you want to walk in the middle of the parking lot. Unfortunately, I'm not allowed to run you over.

But please don't. I don't want to spend any longer than I have to looking for a parking spot. I hate looking for parking places almost as much as I hate Walmart.

There's plenty of room for you to walk on the side and for me to pass you. We can share.

You know what sharing is, right? It's that thing that you're supposed to learn in kindergarten while you're in that "ME ME ME" phase?

But that's okay. It's possible you never grew out of that phase. I've been seeing that a lot lately.

The moral of the story is, kids:

If you're walking in a parking lot, you'll make the drivers a little bit happier if you don't walk in the middle. Please, step aside. You'll still get to where you're going, and since I won't have to wait for you, there's less of a chance of me getting road rage.