The Birds’ Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin

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Title: The Birds’ Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin

Premise:

Carol Bird is born on Christmas Day, a wonderful gift to the rest of her family.  Her health is rather poor and never improves throughout her childhood.  This Christmas, Carol makes it her mission to bring joy to someone else and chooses the Ruggles children who live in poverty in a small house behind her family’s mansion.  Carol and her family make grand preparations so that the Ruggles children can have a magical Christmas experience.

My thoughts:

I read this book some years ago and it’s one of my favorite Christmas stories.  I’ll warn you, it does end sadly.  The story is so sweet and old-fashioned, with charming drawings scattered throughout the book.  Carol uses her last Christmas to bring joy to other children, and I believe that’s a thought worth sharing during the Christmas season.

Really, you have to take the story at face value or you could get caught up in a discussion about why the Bird family doesn’t provide aid to the Ruggles family the rest of the year.  That’s a perfectly valid criticism of the story, but the story wasn’t really written as a manual on civic responsibility.  It’s just a feel-good Christmas story which keeps everything surface level.  The one redeeming point is Uncle Jack’s proclamation that should something happen to Carol, he vows to take the Ruggles family under his wing.  Thank heavens for Uncle Jack!

I recommend The Birds’ Christmas Carol as a touching story that’s perfect for the Christmas season.

Possible Objections:

  • In one scene the Ruggles children play “Deaf and Dumb Asylum”

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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The Fault in Our Stars – Movie 2014

Fault Stars - Movie

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I feel like I’ve just had my butt kicked emotionally by this movie.  The Fault in Our Stars is the movie adaptation of the book by the same name.  I loved the book and I’m glad to say that I loved the movie, as well.

First, the main characters (Hazel and Gus) were cast and acted extremely well.  I was fully convinced that they were the real characters and that their story was true.  There was such a wonderful spark and connection between them which really came through in the movie.  It doesn’t take much to imagine that they really are in love.

I don’t want to completely ruin the story for somebody who hasn’t read/seen it before.  In a nutshell, the story is about two teens who have cancer.  They fall in love and learn how to deal with their circumstances.  Their family and friends also learn how to deal with it all.  That is the very vague explanation.  I have left a lot of good bits out of my explanation–bits that you should find out about by reading the book or seeing the movie (or both).

This story explores the complexities of life, death, what makes a life worth living, friendship, love.  It hits deep on several topics and imparts new insights and feelings in the viewer.  This is one of those rare stories that helps you focus again on the important things in life.

A couple of my favorite parts of the movie are when Hazel and Gus are talking while Isaac is freaking out on Gus’ trophies in the background (hilarious!), and Gus’ letter to Hazel at the end.  That letter was amazing and it perfectly wrapped up the story.

I would highly recommend this movie to both teens and adults alike.  It is an amazing story about life, death and love, that will break your heart–in a good way.

Possible Objections:

  • A mild sexual scene
  • A bit of strong language

Rated: PG-13

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Heaven is for Real – Movie 2014

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I watched Heaven Is for Real, the movie adaptation of the book by the same name.  It’s the story of Colton Burpo’s visit to heaven while he was on the operating table for a ruptured appendix.  This young boy was not expected to survive because toxins had been pumping into his body for five days, but he miraculously pulled through.

The movie adaptation diverged from the book in a few places.  The beginning symptoms of Colton’s illness and subsequent doctor visit are simplified so that you don’t get the same sense of seriousness that you do in the book.  I thought that part should have been truer to the book.

Also, the way that Todd’s church and the community were unsupportive was fabricated for the movie.  There were also a couple of antagonists thrown in–Nancy and the psychologist.  I suppose these elements were added so that there would be some additional obstacles and challenges to overcome.  They did add some drama to the story which wasn’t present in the original.

I also have a nitpick about how Todd’s wife dressed.  I’ve known several pastor’s wives, and her clothing was entirely too revealing to fit her character.  I guarantee you that pastor’s wives in the Midwest do not dress like that.

Overall, I thought the movie was okay, but it’s not one that I’ll ever need to watch again.  It seems like it was constructed in such a way as to take the viewer on an emotional roller coaster, and that’s exactly what it did for me.

Rated: PG

Rating: 3 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Fault in our Stars - WM

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Huzzah–The Fault in Our Stars is the last book from my Friends & Family Top Picks Reading Challenge!  I’m glad to have finished the challenge (enjoyed it thoroughly) and am looking forward to working on the next one.  On to the book…

 Can I start off by saying that this is an amazing book?  Oh, I can?  Well then…whatever.  No need to repeat myself.  It’s hard to put into words what makes this book so awesome.  The characters are completely lovable, despite seeing their flaws, insecurities and brokenness.  Their difficult circumstances make me want to root for them 100%.  And it just seems like an epic story.  One of those stories that melts your heart and shapes it into something a little bit different from how it started.

I really don’t want to ruin this story for you, so I’ll stick to generalities in my analysis.  The story revolves around two main characters, Hazel and Augustus.  Each of them has/is still having a brush with cancer and they meet at a support group.  They grow close to one another and in the midst of this closeness, they truly transform one another’s lives.  Plot-wise, there isn’t a ton of major action in this book.  There are hospital stays and a little bit of travel, but most of the story stays close to home.  It’s set among a limited cast of characters.  I think that this closeness in telling the story allows the reader to become more attached to the story.  It starts to feel like you are one of the bystanders experiencing the situation from the periphery.

The ending will have to remain a secret in this post.  I can’t rob somebody of the satisfaction of reading it for themselves.  I will say that it was satisfying, for me personally.  The Fault in Our Stars helped me empathize more with those who have been touched by cancer.  In other ways I feel like it has made me a better person.  It speaks to the significance of human life, examining what makes a life lived worthwhile.  Read the book to find out the conclusion that the book arrives at on that particular subject.

I would recommend the book for teens and up.  If you’ve already read it, please let me know what you thought!

Possible Objections:

  • A little bit of bad language
  • A mild sexual scene

Rating: 5 Stars

 

Until next time…

Lori

 

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Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent

Heaven for Real

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This is the first Friends & Family Top Picks – Reading Challenge book that I read.  (See my previous post to figure out what the heck I’m talking about.)  I remembered reading Heaven is for Real in the past, but I didn’t recall details well enough to do a thorough review.  I’m glad that I got the chance to read it again because it’s such an amazing story.  (If you don’t want the story spoiled, stop reading now.)

In a nutshell, this story is about a young boy who has memories of going to heaven and returning in a near death experience.  At the time, Colton was not quite four years old, and had started complaining about stomach pain.  His parents thought it was the stomach flu and because of a doctor’s faulty diagnosis, failed to get their son the medical treatment that he needed for a ruptured appendix.  This poor little guy ended up having poison pumping into his body for five days before being treated, at which point the doctors had no hope for a recovery.  Miraculously, Colton did survive!

Over an extended time period, Colton shared memories and information with his family which were quite startling.  He described Jesus, heaven, the Holy Spirit, told about meeting deceased family members, and was adamant about sharing God’s love with people.  Over time the many pieces of the puzzle came together for Colton’s parents and they realized that he was describing some type of out of body, heavenly experience.  They finally came to accept that what their son was describing had actually happened–he had actually gone to heaven.  This book is their attempt at sharing that testimony with others.

Personally, I was edified by the story.  I really like hearing about how others are trying to follow God’s path and the lessons they have learned along the way.  I also appreciate a good book that explores the themes of death and loss.  My sister died fourteen years ago and I still find healing by learning about how other people have dealt with loss.

Anyhow, Colton’s claims and descriptions don’t set off any alarm bells in my head, as far as squaring up with Scripture.  I’m not arguing that I absolutely believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that this really happened to him, but I’m open to entertaining the idea.  I don’t ask you to believe it, only to consider the idea and judge for yourself.

If you’re a Christian, you will probably enjoy this book and appreciate its sentiments.  If you’re open-minded, you will likely enjoy reading about this family’s story.  If anything Christian makes you a bit sick to your stomach, this is probably not the book for you.

Rating: 3 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Prodigal Son by Danielle Steel

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I just got done reading another book that came off of the next-to-the-crossword-puzzle list, Prodigal Son.  I’ve never read any Danielle Steel books before, though I remember my grandma had a couple of her books lying around the house.  For some reason I thought she wrote romance novels.  Maybe she does, but this book is not one of them.

Firstly, the story is about a couple of twin brothers, Michael and Peter, and the enmity between them.  Peter, the “black sheep” decides to leave home and make a life for himself away from the slander of his brother and the disappointment of his parents.  Fast forward over a decade and the two brothers have found their niches–Michael has taken over his father’s small town medical practice, and Peter is a hot-shot on Wall Street.

With the Wall Street bust, Peter finds that he has lost everything.  To add insult to injury, his shallow wife decides to file for divorce.  At the end of his resources, Peter returns to his hometown to live in the outdated lake house that his parents left him when they died.

This is where the story starts to pick up, as Michael and Peter are thrown into the same social circles again.  At this point I could tell you how the story goes, but then I’d wreck it for you.  I won’t do that, and you’re welcome.  I’ll just say that the illness of Michael’s wife really brings the brothers’ issues to a head.  Their differences and family problems are finally resolved.  It’s not a feel-good book, even though my explanation kind of makes it sound that way.

The story plot was pretty good, but the execution was subpar.  I feel strange saying that about a book by such a popular author.  As I was reading it, it seemed like something was a little off.  As I got further into the book, I finally realized what it was.  The writing itself seemed like it wasn’t done by a professional.  If you read it, you’ll see what I’m talking about.  This is just an example of some of the awkwardness that is present throughout the book:

“And the next day Peter and the boys left for Spain.  They went to Madrid and Seville and Toledo, and then lay on a beach on the Costa Brava, and they spent the last few days in Mallorca, and they all loved it.” (p. 263)

I’m not sure if the book wasn’t proofread well, or what.  Who knows.  Anyhow, I wouldn’t recommend the book.  It was painful trying to make it all the way through.  Maybe some of her older books are better.  I’ll have to check one of them out and see.

Possible Objections:

  • Some bad language.
  • Some violence.

 Rating: 2 Stars

 

Until next time…

Lori

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