Monday, December 13, 2010

The Winner of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Is...

Throughthehaze!
Congratulations and thanks to all who entered! I would also like to thank Eric from Quirk Books again for providing the prize for this contest and for just being awesome. Thanks, Eric, the Pride and Prejudice and Zombie guy!
I've sent an email to our lucky winner and will be shipping the book as soon as she replies.









Happy Holy-days!

Friday, December 10, 2010

2 Contests for Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Who: Beth Revis, author of Across the Universe.
What: A contest with 100, yes one-hundred, winners!
Where: Click here to enter.
When: Now through December 20.

OR

Who: Scribbler to Scribe, Stephanie M. Loree
What: Frozen in Time Giveaway; one winner, one signed copy of Across the Universe, and swag. Where: Click here to enter.
When: Now through December 25.

Good Luck!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

My Take On: My Swordhand is Singing by Marcus Sedgwick


In a bitter winter, Tomas and his son, Peter, settle in a small village as woodcutters. Tomas digs a channel of fast-flowing waters around their hut so that they have their own little island kingdom. Peter doesn’t understand why his father has done this, or why his father carries a long, battered box, whose mysterious contents he is forbidden to know.
But Tomas is a man with a past—a past that is tracking him with deadly intent. As surely as the snow falls softly in the forest of a hundred thousand silver birch trees, father and son must face a soulless enemy and a terrifying destiny.
If you're tired of reading about the systematic immasculation of vampires and want to read something that'll take you back their truly horrific roots, then this gothic tale is for you!
Sedgwick makes good use of the rich history of European vampire lore in this well researched, beautiful, and creepy story of a father, a son, and a village plagued by the undead.
Peter and Tomas have been on the move for as long as Peter can recall. Something else that is as old as his memory is the wooden box that his father keeps secreted away beneath his matress. Peter has always been curious, sometimes dangerously so, and the mystery of the contents of the box has become a burden. It's also become a symbol of the chasm that has formed between him and his drunkard father. But this is pushed to the back burner when a series of events leads to his sweetheart being forced to marry a dead man and the dead man subsequently stalking her. Peter is forced to face the cause of the villagers superstition and fight for those he loves, and his very life.
The beginning of this book was a bit confusing for me. I thought it was a prologue, but what it turned out to be was the story behind a local folk song that is woven throughout the book and ultimately plays a very large role. Aside from that, however, this is one of the best vampire books I have ever read. I rank it up there with The Historian and The Den of Shadows. The vampires were much different from either of those, however; they were closer to blood-thirsty zombies than the modern image of a vampire. Sedgwick's creatures pay tribute to the true roots of the myth, not as seductive, misunderstood antiheroes, but as the embodiment of every primal fear of man; death, darkness and damnation. And the creatures, which not once in the entire narrative were called "vampires", were actually scary! They had unearthly speed and fearsome strength. They were brutal, and they truly hated the living. It was that loathing that was the most frightening. Sedgwick portrayed the undead as having a serious grudge against those among the living--you know, an example would make this easier to explain: the villagers were a very superstitious lot, and one example of this was how they treated the dead. To prevent a body from rising, or at least to slow it down, the villagers employed a variety of means, such as burying the body with a net because the undead would have to untie all the knots before they could escape their grave; or filling the coffin with charcoal because they would have to write with it until it was all gone. In one instance, Peter, one of the few literate people in the area, had the misfortune of reading what was written inside one such coffin. The messages scrawled across the coffin lid in a cramped, hurried, and cold hand were so horrific and hateful that he dared not describe it to his companion, a brazen gypsy girl. This weakness of vampires was scary, yet odd. It payed tribute to the myth of the dead rising from their graves due to unfinished business, yet it made his vampires come across as being alsmost comically OCD. But I can let that slide because it led to one creepiest scenes ever involving a vampire, a gypsy girl, a long wait for dawn, and a pocket-full of bird seed. If the unnaturally darty movements of spiders makes your skin crawl, then you'll agree with me on this one.
Anyhoo!
I give My Swordhand is Singing...
...Five Zombies!
The climax alone is worth three of the five zombies. I swear, you will not see it coming, and I'm not even going to talk about it because I'd hate to give any of it away. My Swordhand is Singing is one of the best books I've read this year and I absolutely insist that you read it.

Happy reading!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Win Pride and Prejudice and Zombies HERE!

That's right! Just in time for Christmas, Crackin' Spines & Takin' Names, in conjuction with Quirk Classics, is giving away a copy of the acclaimed novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith. This is the perfect gift for the quirky reader on your list, or even for yourself. And, naughty or nice, I thought you deserved a treat.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.
So begins Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, an expanded edition of the beloved Jane Austen novel featuring all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton — and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she’s soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers — and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield. Can Elizabeth vanquish the spawn of Satan? And overcome the social prejudices of the class-conscious landed gentry? Complete with romance, heartbreak, swordfights, cannibalism, and thousands of rotting corpses, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies transforms a masterpiece of world literature into something you’d actually want to read.
Rules:
1) Must be 13 years or older to enter.
2) Must have a US mailing address.
Contest will run from Black Friday, November 26, to the third Sunday of Advent, December 12. The prize, which is adorably bound in twine and comes with a personal note from Elizabeth Bennet, will be shipped out no later than December the 15th. The USPS website has a handy chart for Holiday Shipping Cutoff Dates which says that the 15th is the absolute latest date if you want your package to arrive by Christmas, which I do, so I will ask now that my winner please respond promptly to the email announcement.

I would like to thank Eric of Quirk Classics for making this contest possible. Eric has played the part of Christmas Elf, doing the hard work of providing the prize, and I will be playing the role of Santa, giving it away and garnering all the glory and thanks for myself! Ha-hah!
If you wish to read my review of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which I said was, "Proof that a crypt full of zombies helps the literature go down. The literature go do-own, the literature go down," click here!
              Or here.
                                                                               Or here.
                                      Or here.

Good luck and happy reading!
 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Spooky Six Flags New Orleans Tour

Here's a little something to make the hairs on your neck stand at attention.

I kept waiting for a zombie to appear, and at first I was disappointed that there weren't any, but after further thought, the utter lack of humanity was perfect. It took the video from being just spooky, to actually saying something about our fleeting presence in this world. Too existential? No such thing! I only wish that the park wasn't set for demolition. How cool would it have been to let it crumble away to nothing, to document it and see first hand what all our handy work will eventually become?

Anyhoo! My favorite part, aside from the music, was the children's play aparatus with the tattered canopy upon which someone had written "Love is Universal". There was a good deal of graffiti, as is to be expected, I guess, but that was more like a message in a bottle from someone who had lost something, maybe everything, but still retained their hope. Oops, getting a little existential again.

So what'd y'all think? A horror movie look at what will might be, or an up close and personal view of a tragedy whose scars are still fresh?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

M.A.D. Challenge #2 (Dung) Beatles Mania!

Or is it #3?... Whichever it is, it is late, and I apologize.
Anyhoo! For this M.A.D. Challenge, Mary Ann and I decided that we would each pick our own song to mangle, er, I mean rewrite, and I have chosen...


While My Guitar Gently Weeps
or as I like to call it...
While the Maggots Slowly Eat

I look at my flesh and I see that it's seathing
While the maggots slowly eat
I open my mouth and blowflies come forth swarming
Still the maggots slowly eat

I don't know why someone embalmed you
It only slows decay
I don't know how someone could mourn you
They should have burned you
Entombed beneath the world I notice that it's turning
While the maggots slowly eat
My coffin my cell my slice of hell in which I'm burning
Still the maggots slowly eat

I've got a plan and I won't be diverted
I will break out of here
I don't know how death was perverted
I am personified fear

I look at you all you are fruit ripe for reaping
While the maggots slowly eat
I look at you all
Like my maggots I will eat

There's actually a bit of a story behind this choice. I love this song, but that's not really why I chose it. I'm currently reading Dust by Joan Frances Turner, which I won during Zombie Month, and one of the characters is, shall we say, more alive than the rest. He's got a veritable ecosystem beneath his skin and there's a constant buzzing, chewing sound that comes from him. I call it his munchy noise. Well, I was listening to this song and thinking about what it would be like be eaten alive, slowly and with full awareness, and the first line popped into my head. Okay, so maybe it's not much a story, but it is an explanation of my choice and my inspiration.

Until we meat again, happy feeding!

Friday, October 29, 2010

M.A.D.'s Marvy Contest Du Jour

M.A.D. is having her first ever contest over at Mary Ann Deborde Reads (and Writes!). I'm feeling kinda bullet points-y today, so I'm gonna give y'all the low down on why you should enter this contest. Que bullet points!
  • M.A.D. happens to be a superb blogger type person with a wicked imagination and an odd streak a mile wide, so this contest does not lack in M.A.D.isms!
  • The book up for grabs is The Host by Stepahnie Meyer, and before you condemn this as yet another abomination of book-kind, let me tell ya a little secret: The Host is everything that Twilight wished it could be. It's an awesome book, trust me. It's chocked full of parasitic space-worms and super-secret survivalist colonies. What more could a girl ask for?
  • There are foil hats involved. 'Nough said.
  • Reading this book will help you survive an alien invasion. And let's face it, if the zombies don't get us, it'll be the aliens. Or maybe the zombies will come from space! In either case, this is essential reading. ;)
It's open to US only and ends November 10th at midnight, so don't dilly-dally! Oh, and in case you missed all the handy linky-loos above, here's one you can't miss... CLICK HERE TO ENTER!
Good luck!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Contest Reminders

  • Orchid and Dahlia's Duel Mega Blogoversary and Contest ends tomorrow at midnight, and I feel compelled to tell y'all that the prizepack has been sweetened by a signed copy Peeps by Scott Westerfeld! I can attest to its signosity as I was there! Scott was really nice and he gave an awesome presentation on his newest release Behemoth. But I digress. A lot.
  • Orchid's giveaway of The Half-Made World  by Felix Gilman ends Oct 31. This is an awesome sounding steampunk novel that Orchid has given her seal approval. You can eneter here, and she'll have a review of it up very soon.
  • And lastly, Sparkling Reviews' super generous Kindle giveaway will soon begin! They only need 33 more followers before they reach the 500 mark and open the contest. But until that time, sign up early and often. Yes, often! You can enter daily for this one, folks!
Good luck, ya'll!

Adventures in Catechism: The Treacherous Waters of Unexpected Questions

In this (partly fictionalized but mostly true) episode of Adventures in Catechism1 we will follow Gemma Zimmerman (aka Zombie Girrl), a first-time catechist, as she navigates The Treacherous Waters of Unexpected Questions...

It was a sunny Sunday two weeks ago, and all was right in the world, more or less. The Confirmation Class had gone fairly well. Not many people had come that week, but the discussion had been fruitful and lively. We had been discussing the kids' roles in the Church and what it means to be a member of the Body of Christ, and were just wrapping up for the end, when Cecilia2, one of the candidates (i.e. student), raised her hand and asked, "Okay, but what if you go through all this and then you decide that you're an atheist?"
I traded a quick Look with my senior co-catechist, Ana. You take this one, her Look says to me. Yipes! Seriously? God, help me!
"Well, firstly, that'd be a sin, and a big one too, because you'd be denying that God exists, which is a serious failure in love," I said, condensing everything I had read on the subject.
I was met, not with nodding and understanding as I had expected, but with a slow blink and, "Yeah, but would happen?"
Thinking that I knew what it was she was getting at, I said, "Okay, by saying that God doesn't exist and denying His love, you are telling God that you A) don't need Him, which is a lie that stems from pride, and B) that you don't want Him in your life, which is a mortal sin. If you die in this state, denying God as your Creator and only means of Salvation, you will go to hell because, as much as it pains God to see it happen, He will not force Himself on you by going against what you chose and making you spend an eternity in His glorious Presence. It's to do with free will; God gave us free will so that we could choose freely to love and serve Him. Does that help?" I added hopefully.
Cecilia furrowed her brow and asked, "But how can you go to hell? If you don't believe in hell, than hell doesn't exist. It's not real," she said in a completely logical tone.
I thought, This is way worse than I thought. She's talking about relativism! How many of them think this way? "Okay, you're saying that if a person doesn't believe something than it's not real. What if you didn't believe that the sky was blue? Does that it a different color?"
Michael, ever the gentleman, raises his hand before saying, "But it's not blue. It just looks that way because of the oceans reflection."
"But that's beside the point--" I start.
"That's not why the sky is blue!" interjects Edward, another candidate, "It's because of the angle of the--"
"Okay, guys," Ana says in her take-charge way, "the point is not 'why is the sky blue?' Let's try to focus for a few  more minutes, okay?"
Thank you, Ana!
"Okay!" I say, shaking off the sense of desperation. "Let's say there's a guy in West Virginia who has never had nor seen electricity. Someone tells him about it, but he says it's hogwash and not real. He doesn't believe in electricity; does that mean that electricity doesn't exist?"
Michael raises his hand again, "Well, it doesn't exist for him," he states baldly.
I take a deep breath and wonder if they're pushing my buttons or if they're just really bad at analogies. "Maybe," I say, "but electricity does exist, just like God exists for everyone in every time no matter if they choose to believe or not. It doesn't depend on whether you choose to believe in Him or not, He is still the Truth. Okay?"
I look around hopefully and am met with silence. Pins drop. Crickets chirp. Stomachs rumble. The whole nine yards.
Ana and I trade another Look: Class is nearly over, her Look says, maybe we should move on and call it a day-- No! I Look back at her, Just give me another minute. We need to cover this.
I grab Plan B from my bag and flip madly to the index, locating the passages I'm looking for in record time. When in doubt..."The Catechism of the Catholic Church says 'Hell's principle punishment consists of eternal separation from God... [CCC 1057],'" I state, "So by choosing not to have faith and separating yourself from God in this life, you are in effect choosing hell in the next life. It also says that, 'Atheism is often based on a false conception of human autonomy, exaggerated to the point of refusing any dependence on God [CCC 2126],' and this is what you're saying when you claim that hell only exists if you believe in it; you're saying that we are separate and independent of God and that everything depends on us and what we believe. This isn't true. We rely on God for everything, whether we acknowledge that dependence or not. Atheism is a sin against the first commandment, we covered that last week, guys. God doesn't want anyone to go to hell. He loves us all and wants to spend eternity with us; it's why He sent His only Son, Jesus, to redeem us. It's why He created you! Furthermore, He wants you to be in His Church; that's why He went to all the trouble of founding it. Does that answer your question?"
Cecilia gives a noncommital reply.
"Okay," Ana says with finality, "Let's close with prayer. In the name of the Father..."

After the closing prayer, before they've had a chance to scatter to the four winds, I raise my hand, almost involuntarily, to share a story that had just come to mind, "One final point:" I say, "Do you want to know where the true Cross is?" My question is met with a few murmurs, though they do seem interested, so I go on, "It's at the gates of hell, and Christ will do anything to keep a soul from passing through those gates." Thank you, Deacon Jim, for relating that story!
I look around at all their faces; they look thoughtful. Or maybe they're just hungry. Who knows. I can only hope that it's the former rather the latter.
As I gather my papers and whatnot, Ana says, "Nice analogy!" I smile at her complement. I can only hope that it helped.

After the kids have gone, Ana and I sit down to discuss the class.
"Where did that come from?" I ask.
"Well," she says, "it could just be curiosity, or maybe she's having doubts. At least she's asking questions."
"That's not even what I'm most concerned about."
"It's not?"
"No. Didn't you get what was implied? They were saying that religion, salvation, morality, truth, everything is relative. I just read a book that went over it3. I wish I could make them read it--"
"But they won't. They already have a ton and half of homework. We can't pile more on them. Their plates are full."
Yeah, I think, full of junk food. "Well the book said, and it was a really good point, that relativism is due in large part to our society. They've been taught that everyone is right, and that means that everyhting is relative to what a person chooses to believe. They think that Christians will go to heaven or hell because that's what they believe; and that atheists will, I don't know, just cease to exist or be reincarnated as dolphins or something because that's what they believe. Do you understand what that means? They could just decide that being Catholic is too hard, and it is hard, become atheists, and never bat an eye because they won't believe that there are consequences! We need to go into this further."
Ana is quiet for a moment, probably wondering how she ended up with such a worry-wort partner.
"We'll do a recap next week and go over the discussion we had at the end," she says. "Beyond that, the only thing I can think to do is give Cecilia Did Adam and Eve Have Bellybuttons?4. That should answer any questions she may have."


Afterword_______________________________________________
That class is over and done with, but I'm still worried about what that brief discussion implied about their basic belief system: Relativism. This is a big problem these days. Our culture teaches us that freedom means that everyone is right about everything, and that truth is relative to what you choose to believe. It teaches us that there is no such thing as absolute truth, when there is.
I'll use morality as an example, because it's the most relativised thing ever, and to be super specific so I don't end up rambling on and on, I'll use a candidates questionnaire I read the other day.
One question in particular really got me thinking about how relative morality has become in mainstream culture: "Should an unborn fetus be treated as a separate victim if it is harmed or killed due to an attack or accident inflicted on the mother?" The answers were as near to unanimous as you get; every single candidate, save one, said Yes. Yet how many of them think that an unborn child need not be treated as a human being if it is unwanted? How many of them hold that, if the child is wanted, it is to have all the dignity and protection that you and I receive, but if it is an unwanted child, it is to be treated as something disposable? How can they be so hypocritical as to justify the innately evil act of taking an innocent life when they all agreed that to kill an unborn child, even by accident, was a crime unto itself? And furthermore, how stupid do they think we are that we wouldn't notice their inconsistencies and call them out on such?
Although, how many of us have noticed and simply don't care? How many have been deluded and mislead into thinking that having a double standard for the value of life based on desire for the life at stake is a perfectly logical bases of such a cruel double standard?
Pilate asked, "What is truth?"
Christ answered, "I am the Truth."
We know the Truth, why do we continue to live in opposition to it?








Footnotes________________________________________
1 As I said once briefly, I am now a catechist at my church. I help instruct the Confirmation class every Sunday. At first I was afraid that the teens would be... well, teenagery, i.e. scary. I remember teens being very frightening people when I was one, but they're actually really good kids as far as I can tell. Pretty well behaved, though they have trouble focusing. But then, apparently so do I.

2 All names have been changed for safety's sake. That includes mine. If you actually think my innitials just happen to be GZ while my online persona just happens be ZG, you are sadly mistaken. And also a little bit oblivious. But I'll let that slide.

3 Living the Catholic Faith: Rediscovering the Basics by Chrales J. Chaput, O.F.M., Cap.

4 Did Adam and Eve... is a book of that answers 101 questions that teenagers have asked concerning faith and the Church. It's really quite helpful and also kinda funny.

5  If you've stuck with me this long and have read the entire article, I am now giving you a long-distance cyber-hug! I love writing, but I love it even more when people read what I write. Otherwise, I wouldn't post online. I'd write on napkins. Or in the sand.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Two Fairly Awesome Contests That You Might Want to Check Out...

Ochid and and Dahlia are celebarting their second blogoversaries with a duel mega contest! There's a pretty big prizepack on the line which includes several of their favorite books and an arm load of swag.
Orchid is also giving away a copy of The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman, courtesy of the Felix's PR guru.

Disclaimer: These contests are open to U.S. citizens only and are subject to awesome. Offers for Mega Blogoversary and Half-Made World end Oct 28 and Oct 31 respectively. Odds of winning are increased by entering.

ZG out.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My Take On: Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

There are six things very wrong with my life:
1. I have one of those under-the-skin spots that will never come to a head but lurk in a red way for the next two years.
2. It is on my nose
3. I have a three-year-old sister who may have peed somewhere in my room.
4. In fourteen days the summer hols will be over and then it will be back to Stalag 14 and Oberfuhrer Frau Simpson and her bunch of sadistic teachers.
5. I am very ugly and need to go into an ugly home.
6. I went to a party dressed as a stuffed olive.

In this wildly funny journal of a year in the life of Georgia Nicolson, British author Louise Rennison has perfectly captured the soaring joys and bottomless angst of being a teenager. In the spirit of Bridget Jones's Diary, this fresh, irreverent, and simply hilarious book will leave you laughing out loud. As Georgia would say, it's "Fabbity fab fab!"
This book was seriously the funniest thing I've read all year. Maybe the funniest thing this decade! And that  means it was the funniest thing this millennium, which is truly something to write home about.
Georgia Nicholson, age fourteen, is an entirely self-centered individual. So much so that she literally can't see beyond her own nose. Usually this would be a mark against a character, but the narration was so much fun to read because of it. Another thing that made this such a joy to read was the Britishisms. I didn't know that colloquial British and American differed on so many points! I mean, sure, everybody knows about the whole loo vs bathroom thing, and knickers vs underwear/panties, but seriously? Curb spelled with a K? Cat suit? Pips? Sellotape? Bangers? Say whaaaa??? Thankfully, there was an indepth glossary at the back which Georgia herself refers you to in the beginning of the book in a very funny introduction.
My fave Georgia-ism was "nuddy-pants" which she eloquently explained thusly:
"Nuddy-pants: Quite literally nude-colored pants, and you what nude-colored pants are? They are no pants. So if you are in your nuddy-pants you are in your no pants, i.e., you are naked."
My only objection to this book is the maturity with which this fourteen-year-old girl was portrayed. Georgia lived her life something like an out of control nineteen year old; attending co-ed sleepover parties, chasing after legal-aged sex gods, and generally behaving in a way that a parent should have found objectionable but for some unknown reason didn't. It may be cultural differences, I don't know, but I had to mentally age-up George just so I didn't get tummy wubbles from all her misguided shenanigans.
Aside from that, though, I absolutely loved this book! The characters were great, the format was perfect (some journal-style books have a hard time getting across the character as well as the scene, but this one had the perfect balance of both with the bonus of witty dialogue!), and the story had me laughing out loud.
I give Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging...
Five zombies!
Giving this book a five out of five was a no brainer. I read it in one day, practically one sitting, and went on to devour the second in a similar fashion. I highly recommend this book, though I not to readers of the same age as the protagonist. Young girls can learn a lot about what not to do, partcularly in the field of eyebrow maintenance, but the best part was reading between the lines and shaking your head at Georgia's hilarious misadventures. But that's just my take.


Happy reading!!!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

M.A.D. Challenge Numero Uno, Big Willie Style

With the knowledge that two rotting brains are better than one, and twice as fun, Mary Ann DeBorde and I concocted the wonderfully wicked M.A.D. Challenge! Each week, we will challenge each other to twist a classic song, theme song, or whatever into a truly frightful or simply bizarre re-creation.
You may remember my take on the Backstreet Boy's "Every Body"? Well, that was just the beginning...
So to truly kick off the festivities, I give you...
Flesh Prince of Bel-Air

Now this is the story all about how
my after-life got flipped, turned upside down
And I'd like to take a minute, just sit right there
I'll tell you how I became prince of a town called Bel-air

Iiiiinnn West Philadelphia, died and raised
In the graveyard is where I spent most of my days
Chillin' out, maxing, relaxing all cool
And all chewin' on fingers outside of the school
When a couple of guys, they were up to no good
Started shooting zombies in my neighborhood
I took one little bite and they all got scared
And said, "I'm going to my aunty's bunker in Bel-air!"

They whistled for a cab, and when it came near
The license plate said "FLESH", clumps of guts on the mirror
"If anything, I'd say he'll eat these guys rare!"
But I thought, Nah, forget it! "Yo, bones, to Bel-air!"

I pulled up to the bunker 'bout seven or eight
And I yelled to the cabby, "Yo, bones, smell you later!"
Look at my kingdom, I was finally there!
Gonna gnaw on some brains
Zombie Prince of Bel-air.


Takes you back to your youth, no? Be sure to check out the M.A.D. woman's masterful tribute to the Brady Bunch; it's truly delicious...

Happy eating, er, I mean reading!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

My Take On: The Song at the Scaffold: A Novel of Holiness and Horror in the Reign of Terror by Gertrude von Le Fort

Amid the chaos and horror of the French Revolution, Blanche de la Force, daughter of a smug unbeliever, enters a Carmelite convent. Blanche is so timorous that she seems unsuited to the rigors of religious life even at the best of times - and horribly misplaced as the Reign of Terror begins to stain France with the blood of a new generation of Christian martyrs.
Sister Marie, one of the leading nuns in the convent, receives with joy the death threats of a ham-handed revolutionary: the sisters are going to be awarded the crown of Christian martyrdom! Sister Marie prepares the other nuns for this fearsome sacrifice, all the while harboring doubts about Blanche's ability and willingness to join them in giving up their lives for Christ.
Blanche's life thereafter and the story of the nuns take more than one unexpected twist, leaving you not only with the inspiring, true example of their martyrdom, but also with a penetrating insight into the nature of holiness. The spiritual acuity and deep compassion of author Gertrud von Le Fort make The Song at the Scaffold a unique meditation - as well as a powerfully moving novel, written with unusual dramatic force. It will make your soul surge with renewed and fervent love for God!
It took me awhile to get around to reading this book. Partly because of the format, a series of letters written  by a witness to the horror, and partly because of the subject; that of martyrdom. It's a rather odd phenomenon that I wasn't sure I understood. I have a hard time understanding martyrs. I love GOD, but to die rather than denounce Him? I'm not sure I have the courage, and I didn't really want  to think about what I would choose if it came down to that; my life or the eternal love of God. To actually step back and look at yourself like that, to ask yourself how far you'd go, it's not easy and it's not comfortable. However, it's by looking inward and asking the uncomfortable questions that we grow.
But I digress.

This story is about Blanche de La Force, a ferociously fearful girl who had no trust in the world around her and, literally, saw death around every corner, yet the main part of the narrative focused on Sister Marie, the exact opposite of Blanche. She was fearless and brazen and even looked forward to the chance of becoming a martyr. Through the contrast of these two characters I learned to appreciate and better understand martyrdom. It is not, as Sister Marie saw it, something to strive for, it's a sacrifice that you choose to make, if and when the moment of hardship comes, for the love of God. A statement that embodies the life Blanche lived every day by embracing the her unfathomable fear.
As for the book itself, the format, which I had formerly been so unsure of, made it feel as though I were a part of the story, like the letters were written to me. It wasn't the best writing I've ever seen, that's for certain, but it was impactful. When a twist in the plot would arise, I would fear for the characters as if they were real, though this could be because, in some sense, they were. This novel is essentially a work of fiction, yet it tells a true story at the same time. Religious men and women were persecuted during the French Revolution. They were put to death. And by telling the story through Blanche, something more than the story was told; the people's fear and the very atmosphere of fear that permeated that era are told.

During the story, Blanche struggles with her fear; praying for courage, attempting to hide it from those around her, until, finally, she comes to embraces it wholeheartedly. Her superiors, due to her fearfulness and the political atmosphere, struggle with the decision of whether to let her stay on at the convent or send her home to where thy believe she will be safest.
During one such discussion with the Prioress of the convent, Blanche reveals her feelings concerning her fear:
"Look at me," [the Prioress] commanded. Blanche dropped her hands from her small, tortured face that held only a single expression of endless depth. The Prioress hardly recognized her. A series of quite unconnected images suddenly floated before her; little dying birds, wounded soldiers on the battlefield, criminals at the gallows. She seemed to see not Blanche's fear alone, but all the fear in the world.
"My child," she said brokenly, "You cannot possibly harbor within yourself the fear of the whole universe --" She stopped.
The was a brief silence. Then Madame Lidoine said almost shyly, "You believe then that your fear -- is religious?" Blanche sighed deeply. "O Reverend Mother," she breathed, "consider the secret of my name!"
Some of the Carmelite sisters had names that referred to the life of Jesus. Sister Marie's full name, for instance, was Sister Marie de l'Incarnation, and their names pointed toward how the Spirit would embody Itself in their lives. Blanche was named after the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. She truly believed that her fear was of Divine birth and that it was hers to bear as penance for the world1. It was interesting to think of it that way, and it added yet another layer to the story and my understanding of that period of history and of those brave women. They embrace what ever challenge may arise and offer it up at the foot of the Cross for the salvation of the world.

So, in conclusion! Not only did it take me a while to start reading this book, it also took me some time to digest it, as well. Only after having pondered over it for a good deal of time have I come to any sort of conclusion as to what I think about it and how I feel. The synopsis does say that it makes for unique meditation, so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. One thing I've been sure of from the get go, though, is that by the end of this triumphant yet heartbreaking book, I was singing right along with the sisters as they mounted the steps.
I give Song at the Scaffold...
...Three zombies.
A little book with a lot going on. I'd recommend this for anyone wishing to further their understanding of (a) the Revolution or (b) martyrdom. And if you do read it, take the time to mull it over.

Happy reading!
footnotes____________________________________________________
1 Carmelite nuns live penatential lives for the entire world as apposed to doing penance for just themselves. It's a beautiful sacrifice that these real women make, and I only wish that more people were aware of it.
NOTE: I received this book from Sophia Press Institue, free of charge, for review. The views expressed above are my own.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Biggie of a Contest

Head on over to Sparkling Reviews for a chance to win a Kindle and, get this, lots of MONEY! It's international and will end two weeks after they reach the 500 follower mark.
Usually I don't go for shameless self promotion, but A) there's a good prize with this one and B) they seem like very nice bloggers, so I highly encourage you to follow their blog and enter their contest! Although, your entries will lessen my odds, so I'm fine if you just follow and don't enter. Ha-ha. However, if you do decide to follow their lovely blog, remember to mention that I sent you, please. Thank you!

Good luck and happy, er, Tuesday!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Backstreet's Back! (Alright)

Mary Ann DeBorde has challenged me to rewrite "Backstreet's Back" by the Backstreet Boys into a zombie song. I was going to answer the challenge in a comment, but there's actually a lot of lyrics for this song, so I thought a post would be easier.
If you're wondering what sparked this rather odd request, check out Marry Ann's Zombie Month post, which is hilarious, and read the comments.
And now I give you...

"Every Body (Backstreet's Back)"

Every body, uhhn
Rotting body, uhhg
Every body, yuhhh
Rotting bodies rise
Backstreet's back, alright
Hey, uhhn
Oh my God, we're back again
Brothers, sisters, everybody raised
Gonna bring the flavor, you know how
Gotta question for you better answer now, uhhg

Am I visceral?
Yuhhh
Am I the moldy one?
Uhhhn
Am I intestinal?
Yuhhh
Am I everything you eat?
You best infect somebody now
Every body
Uhhn
Rotting body
Uhhg
Every body
Rotting bodies rise
Backstreet's back, alright
Alright
Now throw some hands up in the air
Wave them around like you just don't care
If you wanna party let me hear you yell
(Yuhhhhhhhg!)
Cuz we got it goin' on again
Uhhhhn
Am I visceral?
Yuhhh
Am I the moldy one?
Yuhhh
Am I intestinal?
Yuhhh
Am I everything you eat?
You best infect somebody now

Every body
Uhhn
Rotting body
Yuhh
Every body
Rotting bodies rise
Backstreet's back, alright
Alright
So every body, everywhere
Don't be afraid, don't have no fear
I'm gonna tell the world, make you understand
As long as there'll be brains, we'll be comin' back again

Every body, uhhh
Rotting body, uhhn
Every body
Rotting bodies rise (rotting bodies rise)
Backstreet's back
Every body (every body)
Yuhhh (rotting body)
Rotting bodies (every body)
Yuhhh (every body, rotting body)
Every body (every body, rotting body)
Rotting bodies rise (every body)
Backstreet's back, alright

Takes you back to the good ol' days, don't it?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Last Hurrah: Zombies vs...

Yard gnomes!
In this, the last day of Zombie Month, Velvet, the grand master of Zombie Month, has tasked us with finding an opponent that zombies could womp with one hand tied behind their back. Or, as is more likely, one hand severed.
So I give you...

Gnomes have their own weapons

            





VS




You might say that this is an unfair match up, but yard gnomes aren't as helpless in this epic battle as you might think.
For one, they're ever vigilant, never even blinking as they keep watch over their turf.

Well, ever vigilant might be a stretch...

Second, they're always cheerful, and we all know how important it is to keep your spirits up during a zombocalypse.
Forget zombies, thsi guy will die from laughter.
Thirdly, they all come equipped with yard tools such as shovel, hoes, and pitchforks, the perfect weapons against the undead.
And lastly, the gnomes travel in packs; when have you ever seen just one yard gnome? Having back-up is vital!

This horde is looking a bit undead themselves.
Their weaknesses, however, out weigh their strengths. Firstly, they're rather stiff. Agility is key to surviving a zombie fight. They're also rather small and can't, for this reason, run very fast. In a zombie battle, the ability to run away is second only to the ability to keep your head (literally and metaphorically). And lastly, they're just not tough enough, and without nerve, you got nothing.
The innevitable end.

Happy Zombie Month, y'all! It's been a blast.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Progress Report for Zombie Craft Fair

Here's a somewhat step-by-step progress update of my needle point zombie craft for Misty's Zombie Craft Challenge. It's not all that clear what I'm making in the first pic, but I'm pretty sure you'll figure it out by the end. Happy crafting, y'all!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Don't Forget to Remember

The best memorial for those who lost their lives nine years ago is to never forget them. Forgive, yes. But not forget.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

My take On: Feed by Mira Grant

The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beat the common cold. But in doing so we created something new, something terrible that no one could stop. The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one, unstoppable command: FEED.
NOW, twenty years after the Rising, Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives-the dark conspiracy behind the infected. The truth will out, even if it kills them.

Firstly, I'd like to send my deepest thanks to Stormi of Books, Movies, Reviews! Oh, My! because it is due to her and a great contest that she hosted that I had the pleasure of reading this book. Thank you, Stormi!
 
This really was a pleasure to read. The story was told by one Georgia Carolyn Mason, called George by her beloved brother Shaun, and she was witty and insightful and a real treat. One of my new favorite characters right off the bat!
The world, which was revealed with, seriously, perfect pacing and just the right amount of detail at just the right times, was a post-zombie apocalypse world, but it wasn't the one you're used to reading about. The zombies were caused by our own hubris, as is typical, but the world went on almost as usual (aside form the innumerable, and painful, virus scans that the government as well as private citizens rely on to keep them safely separated from the Infected and the zombie-proof security standards to which every post-Rising building, from homes to schools to hotels, was built.). There was still internet, still government, and still bloggers. In fact, blogging had taken on a big roll in the society after the Rising. In the wake of the dead coming back to devour the living, bloggers had been the only ones paranoid enough to believe that it wasn't a hoax and report the news accurately and honestly, and they helped a lot of people survive the first horrendous weeks with constant updates and tips shared from George Romero movies.
As a result, most of the media is now online, though bloggers still catch a lot of flack from the print media.
George and her intrepid brother are news bloggers and report for their site, After the End Times. Goerge is a newsie, a blogger who reports the truth as it is with no spin, and she has a passion for finding telling the truth. Shaun is what's called an Irwin and takes great joy in poking zombies with sticks (you can see why they're called Irwins now, right?) and posting his footage on the web. There's one more category of bloggers, and that's the fictionals who make up stories and write poetry to keep the house-bound populace from getting cabin fever.
I loved the the different strata of bloggers and how their field mirrored their personalities. George was a very cut and dry character, but she still had a wicked since of humor; and Shaun was... he was a wild man! He was like a chihuahua hopped on Mountain Dew, but he also had an incredible soft spot for his sister. That brings me to my favorite aspect of this book: the relationships. George and Shaun were what the average person would call "co-dependent," but the way they always had each others backs no matter what, and in the world they live in "no matter what" comes with a heavy price tag, moved them up the ranks to being two of my all-tie favorite characters.
The story takes off fairly early when the Mason's, plus their resident fictional Buffy, nail a job as the first bloggers to report on a campaign trail. They follow the campaign and. along the way, uncover a conspiracy that strikes close to home, but could also have global implications.
With a good deal of mystery, political intrigue, and enough zombies to shake a stick a stick at, I give Feed...

...Five Zombies!
For me, this book had everything! I laughed, I cried, I threw up in my mouth a little bit, I cried some more... It was the closest thing to a perfect zombie book and I truly cannot wait to read the next installment of the Newsflesh series.

Happy Zombie Month!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Zombies vs Unicorns: Choose Your Team Wisely

(Contest deets at end of post)
In this, the battle of the century, two teams have arisen (one from the grave) to compete for surpemacy and the right to say that they are the bestest.
On one side we have every little girl's dream: they're sparkly, they smell like cupcakes, and their hair rains glitter, it's Team Unicorn!
Opposing Team Unicorn is your worst nightmare: they're rotting, rank, and not afraid to play dirty, let's hear it for Team Zombie!!!

The two teams take their places at opposite ends of the field, the unicorns stamping and pawing the earth that their fearful opponents arose from; the zombies moaning and gnashing their teeth at the delicious smell of horsey fear.
The honorary official of this clash of the Titans is former Idol judge Paula. She prances out to the center of the field, sings a little song, and fires the starting gun. The unicorns flance at the sound, but soon recover their composure, and take off racing across the pitch toward their enemy, but what's this? Half of the glittering herd rears up as the wind shifts directions and blows the stench of the undead legion into their faces! They wheel around and gallop back to the starting point, narrowly missing the official, and stand together, quivering with fear, by the fence.
Team Zombie didn't get as a good a start as their opponents, and is soon over taken by the braver members of the herd, many of them falling as the mercilessly sharp hooves crush their skulls. But the zombies aren't out of it yet! As one, they lurch forward, grabbing whatever their hands meet first and tearing their bony sharp fingers into flesh. Paula, too mesmerized by the glittery ponies, is soon overwhelmed by a small contengency of zombies and is "recruited" for Team Zombie. The ranks of Team Zombie continue to swell as even more desicated corpeses clamber from the earth. Moondancer, the captain of Team Unicorn, whinnies his displeasure and claims foul play, but the official has swallowed her whistle and doesn't seem to care for his tone of voice. Zombie Paula shambles toward the head of the herd, who is still neighing his discontent, and lunges at his throat. Her fellow zombies join her and they bring down the leader of the herd.
Team Unicorn watches in horror as their brave leader is enveloped by Team Zombie. The battle seems to have frozen for an instant, and then the zombies are thrown off as Moondance rises from amid the dog pile. The unicorns cheer their valiant leader, but too soon. Moondance moves toward his co-captain Glitteringfalls with none of the grace he usually possesses, and too late to save herself, Glitteringfalls realizes that Moondance has been turned into a zombicorn!
The battle takes a drastic turn for the worse for Team Unicorn as their herd is either devoured or infected, with only the winged unicorns managing to escape, if not with their pride, then at least with their lives.

In conclusion! Team Zombie wins because they didn't play by the rules and because everyone, in the end, was on their roster.

Now for the fun part, my lovely horde! Velvet of VVB32 Reads is having a zombietastic contest in honor of Zombie Month! All you have to do is plendge your allegiance to Team Zombie or Team Unicorn (and follow a couple other steps) to be entered for the chance to win! One winner will even be chosen from the comments of this or another of her contestants blogs, so your comment on this post gives you a chance to win as well! The winners will receive their very own copy of Zombies vs. Unicorns, the much discussed anthology that has sparked this war between the pretty ponies and the undead.
Contest ends September 30 and is open internationally. Good luck!

Monday, September 6, 2010

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

No, I'm not celebrating Christmas super early--though, I suppose that is the true holder of that title being as how it's Jesus' birthday and all and we'd all be in a way worse way without Him and His love, but I digress.
It's the second most wonderful time of the year! Zombie Month! *I'll pause here to allow y'all a moment to get all happy out of your systems. Are we good? Okay.*
Yes, September is my favorite time in the blogosphere because that's the time of year when the zombies come out to play! Sadly, however, I won't be playing such a big role this year due to time constraints. T_T But I will be dazzling y'all with zombie craftiness as I post a step-by-step progress update of my latest project spawned from the gooey depths of my not unsubstantial imagination (so humble!). I'll be embroidering a zombie sampler for Book Rat's Zombie Craft Challenge! I gotta give Misty credit for coming up with this challenge; I have total challenge envy. If only I'd come up the brilliant idea of pitting zombie fans against each other in a to-the-death craft battle myself! Oh, well. I'm just glad someone had the idea! Thanks, Misty!
So anyhoo! Go forth, my lovely horde, and share your hidden talent, and love of the undead, with the world! Oh, and, you know, you could also win some awesome stuff, like the zombie or unicorn book of your choice if you enter your craft before Oct 31 and are a citizen of this planet, because this challege and contest is international.

Happy crafting!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

My Take On: True Love

"The greater the feeling of responsibility for the person the more true love there is."
It's not very "romantic" and it sure doesn't inspire one to break into song, but there you have it. I just thought after my "little rant" in my review of the Song of the Lioness series I owed y'all a bit of an explanation as to my feelings on the subject. See, my definition of love is: willing (or desiring) the good of another person. It is completely unselfish and seeks only to give another person good. Alanna's relationships were basically selfish and that really bothered me since the series is aimed towards girls who are still trying to figure out what love really is. I think that authors need to try a little harder to live up to the responsibility of forming the minds and wills of young readers.
And that's my take.


Friday, August 20, 2010

My Take On: The Song of the Lioness Series by Tamora Pierce


Becoming a legend is not easy, as young Alana of Trebond discovers when she disguises herself as a boy and begins training to be a knight. Filled with swords and sorcery, adventure and intrigue, good and evil, this audiobook is a rousing introduction to the intensely satisfying story of Alanna.


This is the first series within the saga of Tortallan legends by Pierce. I've always said that she is one of my favorite authors and that this is one of my favorite worlds, yet I'd long neglected reading her first quartet. Instead of starting at the beginning like a normal person, I started reading Pierce's fantasy with the third book of her third quartet, The Protector of the Small, and, aside from reading the first two books of that series at a later date, I never looked back. But this summer I found out that my library had the first quartet of my beloved Tortallan heroines, so I vowed to read it, and read it I did!
In this quartet, we meet Pierce's prototype shero (she + hero = shero. Similar to a heroine, but it sounds less druggy), Alanna. Alanna wants nothing more than to be a knight and go on adventures, so she and her twin brother, Thom, who wants nothing to do with swords and would rather study sorcery, switch places. Thom goes to the Methrin priests to learn magic, and Alanna goes to the royal city to study the arts of combat and chivalry.
We watch as Alanna grows into a legend of Tortall, battles great evil, and, along the way, learns to love.

Okay, enough summing up. Now what did I think of the series?
I think that Pierce's writing has come a long way since she first wrote her archetypical quartet. The series, which lays the groundwrm for all her later Totall-based series, lacked the subtlety of her later works and was weighed down by thinly disguised femenist ideals.
When I first picked up this series, I thought I'd be in for a thrill ride starring a real tough-as-nails girl who made no compremises and kicked butt along the road to success. What I got was a confused girl who didn't really know what she wanted after all. Now, this may be what some people find so attractive about this series; that Alanna, through her struggle to balance her identity as both a warrior and a woman, is made more real by her flaws and mistakes. But I would've preferred that Alanna, who Pierce is obviousy trying to set up as a roll model of an empowered female for young girls, had shown more maturity and true responsibilty in regards to sex. I mean, this girl was in and out so many beds so many times it made my head spin! It also made me look back on all of Pierce's other books that I'd read and enjoyed immensely, even as a young and impressionable tween, and notice an unnerving trend: All the girls in her stories, with a few exceptions, are away from home at a very young age, and so they innevitabley hit puberty while the story is going along, and we all know what that means, "Knock, knock! It's Mother Nature here with your special gift! Congratulations and welcome to womanhood!" Nothing at all wrong with that. In fact, i highly encourage it. What I do find disturbing is that the first thing these girls go out and do upon "becoming women" is to get an "anti-pregnancy charm" from ye olde healer. Now what kind of example is that teaching girls? That your only responsibility in making love is to keep yourself from having an unwanted baby, not that making love is at its core about having children. It's not a recreational activity but the creation of a person through love. Hence the term "making love". Without that definition, the phrase doesn't even make sense. Making love into what?
Pierce's stories all revolve around a young girl fighting for a different way of life--to be a warrior, a mage, a spy master, a Dog (beat cop/detective)--and the lesson is always the same: you can do whatever you put your mind to! A sentement that helped me when I was young and feeling awkward in my own skin. What I'd like to see from Pierce, though, is a lesson in true courage. Not facing down an enraged centuar or band or mountain raiders single handedly, but to sacrifice oneself for another or to woman up to the concequences of ones choices, not when they're "ready", but when the moment arises. It's not about being ready, it's about being responsible!
Anyway...
Now as for the actual books themselves; it felt like there just wasn't enough plot to go around. The timeline was hugely stretched, we're talking about a decade long or so, and it made the story just drag in places. All the action seemed to me to crammed into the last six chapters or so of each book with lots of diplomacy and training and traveling in the middle. To put it short, it was kinda, well, boring. The story itself was cool and had everything you'd want from a fantasy book: Hero? Check! Epic journey? Check! Conflict with villain as well as lesser evils, i.e. personal struggles etc.? Check! But there was severe lack of action for a good deal of the series that made it really hard to read.
The Song of the Lioness Series set the stage for greater things to come form Pierce's imagination, even if it fell a little short of greatness itself.
I give Alanna: The First Adventure...

In the Hand of the Goddess...

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man...

and Lioness Rampant...
As for the whole series, I give it...
I never thought I'd find a series by Tamora Pierce that I'd dislike this much, at least not one based in Tortall anyway. It just was not my cup of tea. Maybe y'all feel differently, though. Let me know what you thought of this series if you've read it!

Happy reading, y'all!

Blank Spaces Have Great Potential...