On Research (and Libraries)

I’m a week into my cleaning and research projects, and I’m excited to announce that I have an acceptable place to write while I’m at home, a weekly schedule that includes daily and weekly tasks I’ve been bad about neglecting lately, a stack of books from my library awaiting perusal, and a TBR (To Be Read) list that is growing daily.

I love books. I love real, physical books most of all but there are advantages to ebooks as well. Mostly, I’m finding, one of the advantages is availability. It feels strange to say this, with my dust-collecting Master’s degree being less than ten years old, but I come from an old-school library background. Maybe transitional is a better word. We did online classes and electronic databases but the physical collection, number of volumes as well as useful content, was still a matter of pride. Shelf space was as issue. My experience was also limited to academic libraries. So I was somewhat surprised during my trip to the local public library to discover that they have weeded out a large portion of their physical collection. There are still books available, but many of them have been dispersed among various branches. Luckily for me they have a terrific hold system which allows me to place holds on items, even from home, even for books held in my “home” branch’s collection, and pick them up in the holds area the next day. As a former library assistant in Interlibrary Loan who delighted in rejecting patron requests because they were available in our physical collection (I’m a much nicer person now), I admit I find this system perfectly suited to my needs, and I take full advantage of it. Hey if they want to let clerks comb the shelves for potentially misshelved or missing items and save me the trouble of doing that myself, I say go for it. And then of course there’s the whole world of internet and electronic resources. In this modern age, I can do all the research I need from home, or if that is too loud and crazy, my neighborhood Starbucks.

All that to say, I’m content to work with what I have. I’m the kind of person who does what it takes to get the job done, whatever that means to me, and not really the kind of person who goes far above and beyond what is necessary to ferret out every minuscule factual and anecdotal detail about a place, a time, or a group of people in order to move forward on my project. If I can get a good general picture of who people were, what they called themselves, how and where they lived, what they valued and how they spoke and what ate and wore and what kind of pets they had, I’m good with that. A benefit of fiction-oriented research is I can also use fiction to inform my world. What other authors have written about people and places is, after all, part of the body of literature on the topic. So I get to read textbooks, articles, children’s books, encyclopedias, and yes, even novels and wikipedia, in my hunt for information. And all along the way, my mind is churning as I imagine new characters and how they will fit into this world, finding flashes of inspiration for their journey through it. It’s so fun that I occasionally stop and wonder at the fact that I’m actually getting paid for this. This is literally a dream come true for me. Somebody remind me of that a few months from ago when I’m agonizing over a plot that’s not moving properly and characters that just won’t behave the way I thought they would. Deal?

On THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins

So here’s a lesson in life: Don’t swear that you’ll never do something. Because then if you do it, you’ll feel kind of stupid. I swore repeatedly that I would never read The Hunger Games or its sequels, Catching Fire and Mockingjay. I had perfectly good reasons for not wanting to read them. They’re dystopian, and I’m not a fan of the genre. I’ve only read a few dystopians and I haven’t liked any of them. They’re written in first person present tense, a writing style that I find extremely annoying. And worst of all, they break my rule: don’t mess with kids. For those reasons and probably a few others, I shrugged them off and said I wouldn’t read them. And then I read them.

Why did I read them? Well, people kept talking about them, and the movies, and they’ve pretty much become a cultural icon, and I was tired of feeling out of the loop. I’d heard enough about them that I figured I pretty much knew how they went, but I was intrigued by this tough, arrow-shooting female protagonist, Katniss Everdeen. And there’s the fact that they’ve quickly become one of those standard series that other Young Adult books are compared to and judged by, and since I write YA, I figured I ought to go ahead and see what all the fuss was about.

With such high expectations going in, I can say that although I didn’t like the trilogy, I didn’t hate it as much as I thought I would. Many people that I’ve talked to devoured all three books in a week or less. I checked them out through Amazon’s Prime Owners Lending Library, which is limited to one book a month. Even at that, it took me four or five months to get through all three of them. They are emotionally draining, and sometimes I could guess (more or less accurately) what was going to happen next, and I just didn’t want to read it. But finally, with Mockingjay Part 1 out in theaters this week, there was enough buzz going around that I picked Mockingjay back up, after setting it aside about a third of the way through, and finished it.

My issues with the book are pretty much what I expected. The setting of Panem, a dismal, post-apocalyptic nation of oppressed Districts ruled by a pleasure-loving, totally corrupt Capitol, is not a place where you expect good things to happen. And for the most part, they don’t. The writing style is compelling, but I’m not comfortable reading in first person present tense, and I don’t know that the author was completely comfortable writing in it, either. It slips into past tense frequently as Katniss revisits memories or events that happened earlier in the day. It interrupts the flow of the story and can come across as jarring, and anytime the writing does that, for any reason, I find it annoying. And of course, the premise is awful. Obviously this is a screwed up society, and the more you read the more you realize just how screwed up it really is. But basically the Hunger Games are a form of child sacrifice, where the Capitol forces each of the twelve Districts to offer up two kids between the age of 12 and 17 to kill each other off in an arena rigged with various horrors until only one survives and is declared the victor. The games are televised with great pomp and ceremony, so that every resident of Panem is basically forced to watch this horrible event take place every year.

At the beginning of the story, Katniss volunteers to take her sister’s place in the games. We then get to experience the lead-up and the games themselves, plus all the aftermath, through her perspective. I wanted to like Katniss, I really did. She does have a very naturally humble, self-sacrificing aspect to her personality combined with a certain magnetism that somehow inspires people to adore her, despite the fact that she’s also an abrasive, anti-social, lost soul. So despite really wanting to like her, I never did. She has moments of extreme selfishness. She tends to act and think like the entire world revolves around her, and she’s surprisingly clueless about things that should be fairly obvious. The fact that she’s very human and pretty flawed makes her a sympathetic character, easy to relate to, but not quite a hero. She is young, and she experiences things that would probably destroy anyone, so it’s not surprising that as the story goes along she unravels. One of my friends pointed out that she clearly suffers from extreme PTSD. She’s also hopelessly naive. She allows people to use and manipulate her for their own ends until almost the end of the story, when she finally decides she’s had enough, and takes matters into her own hands in a way that anyone could have seen coming.

Ultimately, I reconciled myself to moderately liking these books because in the end, the author states the very thing that bothers me about the whole story: A society that sacrifices its children for power or entertainment or to end a war is fundamentally flawed, and certainly not a place where any sane person would want to live. No one comes through the story whole and healthy. So many people die. Many of them are children. At times it’s deeply disturbing to read. In fact, I find it slightly horrifying that it’s written for “young adults,” or in other words, teenagers. I know there is worse, more graphic stuff out there, and that kids these days are probably used to that sort of thing, but it bothered me. It really shows a lot of what’s bad about people, the horrible things we could be capable of if we allow our own culture to continue down the path we’re on. There’s a lot of the dark depth of human nature in these stories, without very much of the light of God’s glory and grace. I know they’re not Christian books so I didn’t expect to find much of that anyway, but in my opinion, the best stories still reveal the truth of God, and the image of God in the human beings He created. I’m not sure these books ever get there.

I haven’t seen the movies. Of course, I swore I wouldn’t. Now I’m not so sure, but at any rate I can’t comment on how the movies are the same or different or whatever. I’ve heard from several people who think the movies are better, that Katniss is more heroic, that some of the other characters aren’t quite as passive as they seem to be in the books. At this point, I’m not going to recommend seeing the movies or reading the books. I read them, I didn’t hate them, but I’m glad I’m done with them and I never have to read them again. That is all.

On My Best Friend’s Book

If by some chance you’ve had your head under a rock and didn’t realize it, Inseparable by Ashley Linne released this week. Ashley has been my BFF since before that was a thing. We met in first grade and have been best friends ever since. We were even roommates for a year in college, before I ditched her to get married. Over the years we’ve had ups and downs and disagreements, like friends do, but if I’m being perfectly honest I have to admit that the vast majority of those were my fault. But the beauty of this friendship that has lasted for over twenty-five years (Crazy!) is that it is based on the fact that we both have very deep beliefs about God and His word that are very similar. And because of that, I can wholeheartedly endorse this book that she has written. In fact, as I read through it I kept thinking, wow, that’s exactly how I would have said that.

In college, Ashley and I shared a mentor who took us through a study on our identity in Christ. I know that made a profound impact on both of us. Based on concepts found in the book of Romans, Inseparable really dives into the truth of who God has declared his children to be. Walking the path of the Christian life from the moment of being made right in Christ through eternity, Ashley draws on her experience in studying theology (she has a Bachelor’s degree in Religion and has master’s level work on the subject) and her studies in human behavior (her Master’s degree is in Family Life Education), as well as her deeply personal struggles with questioning God’s love for her, to craft a book that is deeply theological, very practical, and intensely emotional. She doesn’t pull punches, and she doesn’t hide her pain. If you embark on this study with her, you will find much more than a “how to” manual on the Christian life. You will look deep into God’s truth and contemplate what it means in your own life. You might even find yourself changed by the experience.

This is an undeniably girly book. From the purple cover to the butterflies that adorn every page, the language, and the approach, it definitely fits the “by women, for women” image of the InScribed Studies. But it does contain scriptural truth that is applicable for everyone, and I’d guess that any brave guys out there who can get past the girly presentation would be encouraged by the message, as well. I like how the InScribed books are put together (I also have Dive Deeper by Jenifer Jernigan), with the end flaps that conveniently help keep your place, and the personal notes written on the front flap. Ashley is not only an author in the series, but she had a pivotal role in bringing it all together, and I couldn’t be more proud of all that she has accomplished. Definitely check out this study, for yourself or a woman in your life. You’ll be glad you did.

Keep up with Ashley by following her blog: ashleylinne.com

On GOSPEL by J.D. Greear (and why everyone should read it)

I admit, I don’t often read nonfiction, and when I do, it’s usually because Greg recommended that I read it. Sometimes after I’ve read several novels, I feel like I need to read something real and true, just to get myself grounded in reality before diving back into fiction again. As usual, I asked Greg what I should read, and as usual, he suggested a winner.

I honestly think everyone should read this book. No joke. If you only read one book this year, read the Bible. If you read two, read the Bible and Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary. (And if you read three, add my BFF’s upcoming book, Inseparable: Who I Am, Was, and Will Be In Christ.) In Gospel, J.D. Greear says a lot of things I’ve heard and read in the last few years, but I love the way he says it. He’s a smart guy, he’s got degrees and he pastors a big church, but he talks and writes like a dude that I could be friends with if I knew him.

If you’ve read this blog at all (other than my silly posts about movies and stuff) you’ll probably understand why this book spoke to my heart. It makes the claim, very simply, that everything we do as Christians is inspired by the gospel, motivated by the gospel, and empowered by the gospel. Put simply: it’s all about Jesus. Not about following a bunch of rules to check off all the boxes to make sure that we’re saved and that God loves us. Not about being a good example to the rest of the world about how we ought to live. Not about living in fear that God will strike us down if we obey. Because of Christ’s completed work on the cross, we can live in freedom to do the good things that God actually created us to do, because He loves us and we love Him, and because Christ made all of that possible. Greg just started a sermon series on Romans and one of the verses that keeps sticking in my mind is Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” The gospel is the power that saves us and makes us new. The gospel. Not our own lame efforts.

Greear’s theology is definitely what people would call “Reformed,” that is, among other things, he has a very high view of God and His sovereignty.  He believes that everything God does is for His own good, that He is in control of all circumstances, and that He has a plan and purpose in every event that unfolds. Some people have issues with the Reformed crowd, but if I’m being honest I count myself as one of them in most points. This perspective that God is big enough to handle my issues, my inconsistencies, and my circumstances, whether or not I understand what He is doing, is okay with me. I don’t expect to understand God, so it doesn’t bother me that sometimes I don’t. I like things to make sense, to have a logical order to them, to be scientific and formulaic, so I can explain them. But some things defy explanation. My faith tells me that even when things don’t make sense to me, they make sense to God. If I could see things the way He does, I would understand why they are the way they are. I can’t always see them that way, but I have faith that He does, and sometimes that just has to be enough. The gospel is God’s plan for the world, the central theme of His story, and an incredible picture of who He is and why He is so great and unfathomable that we simply must call Him God.

The book is arranged in three parts: A basic introduction into the gospel and what Greear calls “The Gospel Prayer,” a detailed look at the parts of The Gospel Prayer, and ways that the gospel answers some of the questions we often have about life and Christianity. It also addresses how we often come at the gospel from a backward perspective, focusing on actions and behavior rather than on God’s work in Christ. It suggests caution toward many of the ideas we have been taught in churches about “doing things for God,” noting that while it is good to do good things, the reason why we do them should be motivated on our love for God which flows from our belief in the work He has done, not because we want God to love us for what we do.

In the chapter on gospel-centered churches, Greear does a masterful job of breaking down many of the “types” of churches that exist today, while ignoring confusing denominational labels. With each type of church, he points out the areas those churches often focus on instead of the gospel. While most of those areas of emphasis are not bad, and Greear actually agrees with and applauds many of them, the problem happens when churches replace the gospel with their favorite sacred cow, whether it be prosperity theology, the filling of the Holy Spirit, Calvinism, or anything else. The chapter on the church is, in my opinion, one of the most important chapters in the book. But if you skip the other chapters and read it first, or alone, I think you’ll miss the point.

Now for the part where I tell you why everyone should read this book. It’s not because it’s brilliantly written. The writing is good but I’m rather particular about such things and I found several problem spots (also I read it on Kindle and the formatting isn’t spectacular). It’s not because I agree with everything Greear says, although throughout most of the book, he says what I would like to say, only he says it better. A few times I thought, “Well, I’m not quite sure about that …” but I believe he’s right on in his presentation of the gospel and its vital importance in the lives of both believers and unbelievers. This book lays out, relatively simply, what the gospel is, how it changes our hearts and lives, and what that change can look like when it’s lived out in our homes and job and communities. Whether you consider yourself a Christian or not, if you’ve ever wondered what Christians believe or why they do the things they do, read this book. I think (and I pray) that if you read it all the way through with an open mind and a humble heart, it might just change your life. It might just change mine.

What about you? Have you read this book? What did you think? Any recommendations for what I should read next?

On STARDUST by Neil Gaiman

This month for my book club, I had the dubious privilege of picking our selection. Because I like to call myself a rebel, and I wanted to read something a little different and a little quirky, I picked STARDUST. It’s not a new novel, and it has been made into a strange little movie, and I thought it would be a fun read. It was fun, and surprising at moments, and largely satisfying overall.

STARDUST is a fairy tale for adults. Because of language, thematic elements, and the general tone of the book, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone younger than 16. Of course, this is coming from the same person who doesn’t think people should read Harry Potter books if they are younger than the characters in the books. So take that as you will. Still, there is a certain dark abstract feel to the story that I don’t think younger readers would find very appealing. And if you’re one of those “save the unicorns” types, you might want to think twice about picking up this book.

The premise of the story is what happens when you get your heart’s desire – whether or not you realize at the time what that is. It starts out with a young man named Dunstan Thorne – not to be confused with the main hero of the tale, who turns out to be Dunstan’s son, Tristran. Tristran sets off on a quest to retrieve a fallen star for his true love, and learns along the way that he has greatly misjudged the nature of stars (in the land of Faerie, at least) and of true love itself. There are villains, and helpful companions, and magic, and all the things that make a delightful fairy tale, including some moderately graphic details and a bittersweet ending.

The book has some faults. I found the style to be quaint and charming, but the modern writer in my head was counting off all the rules that the author broke in the telling of it. However, I don’t mind a few broken rules on the way to a good story, so this wasn’t a problem for me. It gets a little confusing at times, there are lost of strands that seem disconnected from the main story at first, but then Gaiman ties them all together so brilliantly that I was completely satisfied by the end.

Immediately after finishing the book, I made the mistake of mentioning that I might like to watch the movie sometime, so we ended up watching it that night. Do not watch the movie before reading the book. It will ruin all those abstract connections and the feeling of satisfaction when they all come together. That said, the movie isn’t terrible, and it follows the plot of the book for the most part, with some obvious license, until the ending, which is all completely made up by the filmmakers for additional drama.

So, if you’re an adult, or you think like an adult, or maybe if you think like a child but people think you’re an adult, and you enjoy fairy tales, I think you’ll like this book. I did, and I definitely fall into one of those three categories. I’ll let you guess which one.

Have you read STARDUST? Do you have any comments you’d like to add? Or any recommendations for what I should read next?

On Hobbits

After my last post on Twitter a few days ago (which, for this blog, was incredibly popular, thanks to my three followers on Twitter who actually read it) you may be trying to imagine how my mind has moved on to Hobbits. Do yourself a favor and stop trying. I actually could explain it, but you would either be bored to tears or contact my husband to encourage him to take me somewhere for a mental evaluation. That would be a waste of time. He knows I’m crazy, but thankfully he prefers my brand of crazy to any other kind.

So, yeah. Hobbits. I’ve actually been contemplating them for a while now. I’ve been playing LEGO Lord of the Rings on the Xbox 360, and the new Hobbit movie in December prompted me to ask on Facebook: Bilbo or Frodo? The response was pretty much unanimously in favor of Bilbo, with disparaging comments about Frodo to the extent that he is a weak character who perhaps should not have been included in the book at all. I’ve seen several places online where folks argue that Frodo is not the main character of The Lord of the Rings, and even my own husband has voiced his belief that Sam Gamgee is actually the hero of those stories. All of this puzzles me, because up until a few years ago, to my knowledge, Frodo was almost universally beloved. Like all Hobbits who feature prominently in Tolkien’s stories, Frodo is an ordinary little fellow who was thrust unwillingly into an extraordinary series of events. However, Frodo actually did something that no one else did: He saved the world. I hear you critics now: “No, he didn’t! He wanted to keep the Ring at the end! It’s only by accident that … (spoiler removed)” I would just like to point out that Frodo kept faithfully to his purpose through the entire story, and it was only at the last critical moment, when faced with the unrelenting pressure of Sauron’s power expressed through the Ring, that he wavered. It is my opinion that Frodo is the only person in all of Middle-Earth who could have successfully carried the Ring to the fire of Mount Doom without giving in to the temptation to claim it for his own. Which is why the Ring came to him in the first place. Because he was the hero.

Now, on to Bilbo for a moment. Bilbo is a delightful little Hobbit. He’s crafty, creative, can talk his way out of just about any situation, but when talking fails, he’s handy in a fight. When compared to Frodo, it’s not surprising that we tend to like him better. We sympathize with Frodo, we admire Frodo, we applaud Frodo, or perhaps we criticize Frodo, but we like Bilbo. He’d be much more fun to have a conversation with, I think. There’s all this drama that surrounds poor Frodo. All Bilbo had to do was sneak into a dragon’s lair and steal something. Saving the world was not on the agenda for his adventure, so he could come home relatively unscathed. Frodo came home broken. Bilbo’s story is fun. Frodo’s is epic, with all the triumph and tragedy that tends to go along with epic heroes.

So, Bilbo or Frodo? Or for that matter, Sam, Merry or Pippin? I don’t know that I could pick one if I had to. I will just say that I love Hobbits. They are one of the most intriguing little races of people that have ever been introduced into literature, and further proof that Tolkien was an absolute genius.

Feel free to comment with all your anti-Frodo feelings here. He’s not a real person. He won’t be offended.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

So…this is my first post since the end of May. I apologize. I’ve been busy.

I read this book because a couple of people raved about it, and quite honestly, I have wasted enough brain cells on the self-published paranormal teen romances I have read recently, and I was ready to read something published by a real publisher. This post is not a rant about the generally unfortunate quality of free and/or cheap teen paranormal romances out there, but let me just say I won’t be reading anymore of them for quite awhile. And that is enough on that.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is somewhat difficult to define. I would have to classify it as part urban fantasy and part (I know!) teen paranormal romance but it is not quite either of those things. It is really so much more. Whatever it is, I thought it was brilliant. The cover flap tells very little of the real story. It is about a girl named Karou, who was raised by “monsters” and yet tries to live a moderately normal life. We meet her in Prague, where she is a student at an art academy and recent victim of a broken heart. Between her arrogant, seedy street actor ex-boyfriend, her delightfully waspish best friend, and her errands to various parts of the world, collecting teeth for her foster father, her life is anything but normal. And it quickly becomes even more remarkably strange, including a desperate fight for her life, the tantalizing hope of love, shocking revelations, and overwhelming tragedy.

This story is very dark but very beautiful. The characters are complex and fascinating, the world is remarkably well-constructed, and the story is intriguing and well-written. If you like fantasy or teen romance,   or fascinating stories that you can lose yourself in for a few days, you will probably like this one. I am now eagerly awaiting the sequel.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Some books are clever stories. Some are sad stories. Some are romantic stories. Some are strange, disturbing stories. Some are incredible flights of fancy. Some books have magic. Some have dramatic, historical settings. And some books are exquisite, remarkable works of art to be enjoyed and admired through the ages. The Night Circus is all of these.

With its shifting points of view, present-tense style, and somewhat non-linear presentation of events, The Night Circus will either pull you in or put you off from the beginning. In my opinion, the writing is brilliant. Like the circus itself, it draws you in with its unique flavors and setting. It has a rich quality to it that makes the black-and-white theme more striking than stark, the moments of color brilliant, and the characters real and alive. The descriptions of food and clothes are particularly imaginative and delightful.

The circus is a venue for a dramatic magician’s duel: two opponents pitted against each other from a very young age by their instructors. The rules of the game are left somewhat vague, as is the determination of the winner. Meanwhile, those who experience the circus are completely fascinated by it and changed by the experience…while those involved with the circus remain remarkably unchanged. The opponents display their skills and work around each other and the other members of the circus as the game becomes an intricate, complicated process that eventually spirals toward a dramatic and unexpected conclusion.

If you’re looking for a uniquely pleasing reading experience, try The Night Circus. I would recommend it particularly for book clubs because all the nuances invite discussion. I will say that I chose to read it in small doses because I found it overwhelming if I read too much at once. It’s quite a book.

Beyond Hope’s Valley by Tricia Goyer

After my last post, a few people asked what kind of books make me happy.  My answer?  Books like this one.  Let me explain why:

This book is the third of Goyer’s “Big Sky” Amish novels about Marianna Sommer and her family. I posted my comments on first one, Beside Still Waters, in October. As I pointed out in that post, I do not read Amish novels as a general rule (okay, I never read them) but I got seriously hooked on these. The writing is excellent, the characters almost seem to leap off the page, I can just picture the setting, and the story is sweet but also compelling.  I read this book in less than a day.

Marianna Sommer has returned to Indiana from West Kootenai, Montana, to help her brother and his longtime sweetheart as they start their new life and family together. Despite her best intentions, she is distracted by thoughts of her own upcoming wedding and her longing for the places and people she left behind in Montana.  She wonders if she made the right choice.  She also struggles with the harsh and unyielding way that the Amish community in Indiana reacts to her newfound beliefs about God and His love.  All Marianna wants to do is share that love with the people she has known for her entire life, but they can’t see past their traditions, disapproval, and resistance toward change.

As Marianna and those she loves sort through the tragedies and mistakes of the past in order to find God’s will for the future, He gently reminds them that He has a plan and is working all things for good.  This is a wonderful book about redemption, peace, spiritual growth . . . and romance. I enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys Amish fiction, Christian fiction, or even just good clean romance.

So why did this book make me happy?  Believe me, it was more than just the ending.  First of all, I liked it because I like the characters. After three books, I feel like I’ve gone along with Marianna for a real spiritual journey.  I love this character.  She isn’t perfect, she has struggles, she questions her motivations and her decisions and sometimes even her faith, and I like that.  I also appreciate the other characters and the way they come to life through the pages of this series.  I like the honest, “real-life” way these people deal with questions of life and faith.  I admit, I like the warm fuzzy love stuff. But my favorite moment in the book wasn’t exactly warm and fuzzy; it was when one of the characters realized that God loved her and forgave her, that something that she had carried guilt over for years wasn’t her punishment for her past, and that God had a wonderful plan for her future.  That moment almost made me cry.  And yet, moments like that are what really make me happy.  Quite simply, this book delivers.

One other thing that made me happy and has nothing to do with the plot at all: When I opened the book the first thing that I saw was my best friend’s husband’s name in the acknowledgments.  How fun is that? I love it that people I know are working toward the success of “happy” books like this one.  So way to go, Aaron Linne.  And cheers to his wife Ashley, my BFF.  You people rock.

Just make me happy!

It seems that lately, most of the books I’ve been reading (or hearing about, because believe it or not, I don’t spend all my time reading) are in some way depressing, disturbing, or dystopian. I don’t write about most of these books on my blog, because as the title suggests, this is a blog about things I like. So I don’t write about things I don’t like. And quite honestly, I don’t like books that break my heart on purpose without putting it back together again. I don’t like books that give me nightmares. I don’t like books that leave me wallowing for days in a sense of hopeless longing for another world, a perfect world, where the atrocities committed in these books don’t exist. Don’t get me wrong: I know the world is messed up. I know there are messed up people out there who do messed up things to those who don’t deserve it. I know that in the real world, not everything gets wrapped up nicely in a big sparkly bow at the end of the book, series, episode, or film. But guess what? That’s why I read fiction. To escape the real world and get lost for a few hours in a story of another place, another time, another people, where things actually work out well and the tears I shed are happy tears. It doesn’t mean everything has to go perfectly all the time. A good plot has to have conflict and heartbreak along the way. But for heaven’s sake, let it end well. Seriously. Let’s think about this for a minute:

Would we love Star Wars if ultimately, the Emperor won?

Would we love The Lord of the Rings if Frodo failed?

Would we love Pride and Prejudice if Elizabeth married Mr. Collins and Mr. Darcy married Anne de Bourgh?


Of course, I realize this is a matter of personal taste. There will always be a market for horror, for sad endings, for dystopians, because there are people out there who enjoy those things. But this is my blog, and I am not one of those people, and so I say: Just make me happy! Let the guy get the girl. Don’t kill off so many characters that your book is a graveyard littered with tombs. And for heaven’s sake, don’t mess with kids! If you must hurt your characters (and I know, sometimes you must), find some way to heal them in the end. Mend those broken hearts. Piece back together the broken lives. Destroy the broken system. Restore justice. Let love win. End with the hope that somewhere, someday, there will be a day with no more tears and no more pain. Praise God, I know that day is coming, and I long for it with all my heart and soul. But while I’m here in this broken and dying world, I like to read fiction that lifts me out of it for a little while, instead of pressing me deeper into it. So please, authors resist the urge to shock and horrify me. Just make me happy!