Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Book Review: A Tale of Two Cities

I've always heard of A Tale of Two Cities, and many know the famous line, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...". So I finally decided to read it, and was very gratified to learn that I liked it. For someone who, on first reading, did not enjoy Oliver Twist (though I do now), it was a nice surprise to like it at first sight. Here is my review.

Dr. Manette, a doctor who has been a prisoner in the Bastille for eighteen years, is finally released. Broken and fragile from his long captivity, he is taken in by a wine shop keeper, Jacques Defarge, and his wife, who live in France. His banker from England, Jarvis Lorry, comes to meet Dr. Manette, telling him his daughter Lucie is still living. They are reunited and begin a new life together in England.
Charles Darnay, a self-exiled French aristocrat, is on trial for being a spy against England. He is acquitted with the help of a barrister, Sydney Carton, a man who resembles him very closely. Dr. Manette and Lucie are present at the trial, and they make the acquaintance of Mr. Darnay and Mr. Carton, who are both attracted to Lucie’s beauty and sweetness.
While this is going on, the French people, sick of oppression, prepare for revolution, led by the Defarges. As the years pass and the time for revolution is nigh, the Manettes and their friends are swept up into the cruelty and the bloodshed of the French Revolution.  

Dickens is absolutely an amazing writer. I’ve read and enjoyed a few of his books and I love how he connects all the characters so expertly, not to mention his brilliant descriptions and little ironic comments.
The characterization in this book is lovely. You feel that you can get to know the characters personally. Dr. Manette’s dependence upon Lucie, Mr. Lorry’s helpfulness, the shiftless yet tortured Sydney Carton, the cold vengefulness of Mrs. Defarge—all are so real and motivated. E.M. Forster, a British novelist and essayist, says this about his characters:
“Part of the genius of Dickens is that he does use types and caricatures, people whom we recognize the instant they re-enter, and yet achieves effects that are not mechanical and a vision of humanity that is not shallow.” (Aspects of the Novel)
Yes, while Lucie may be always good and sweet, and Sydney always afflicted, and Charles Darnay always noble, they are not, to my mind anyway, boring. And there are some surprising aspects of characters as well, such as Jerry Cruncher, a porter for the bank, who is a grave robber by night.
Also, the twists of the story are very intriguing, like who Madame Defarge turns out to be, an explanation for her hatred of aristocrats. Or what happens to Sydney at the end (I won’t spoil it, but I saw it coming and I loved it and hated it at the same time!). It is such a long, long book, but I felt that every page was interesting. Since I have never studied the French Revolution, I don’t know how accurate the history is, but I did feel it gave me a picture of the futility and the instability of the times. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I don’t recall any language in it, but I’m sure that there is a little swearing, as there sometimes is in Dickens. Obviously there is bloodshed in it as well. 
If you like Dickens, old and long novels, the French Revolution, or books in general, you’ll like this book!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Book Review: The Brothers Karamasov

I've always liked reading classics. There is something nice about reading something that so many people have related to. I remember reading Crime and Punishment when I was in high school and enjoying it. I had heard that The Brothers Karamazov was even better. So when I started Tim Challies' 2017 reading challenge, I decided to pick this book as one of them. My review is below.

Our story is set in Russia, and the spotlight falls upon a man name Fyodor Karamazov. A promiscuous, greedy, and self-indulgent man, he is married twice, one son resulting from his first marriage and two from the second. He ignores his sons, who are brought up by his servant and various relatives. His eldest son Dmitri is just as depraved as his father, spending his money lavishly in trivial pursuits. He borrows money from his father, much of which was Dmitri’s mother’s money and his inheritance. His second son Ivan is educated and works hard, becoming a clever writer and an atheist, while his youngest son Alyosha is a novice at a local monastery. There is an argument between Dmitri and his father about Dmitri’s inheritance, the son holding out that there is still money in his father’s possession that rightfully belongs to him. At the same time, both of them are in love with the same woman, a local woman who has a dubious reputation. Dmitri publicly declares that he is going to kill his father. When Fyodor is found dead and Dmitri was seen running from the crime scene, everyone assumes that Dmitri has killed him. But what really happened?

In some ways, I agree with the claim that this is one of the world’s best novels. It was a very emotional book. The characters were very life-like. None of them were without flaws, and it was easy to relate with them. Dmitri, though his words were penitent, refused to truly repent of his lifestyle. The influence of the father upon the sons, the pride and grudge-holding, madness and greed and lust, all were shown by the characters in this book, and I think everyone could see something of themselves in it. There were also good qualities in some of the characters. The elder Father Zosima was a good influence upon the community and upon Alyosha. He emphasized the importance of loving your neighbor. Also a sweet theme in the book was the loyalty of a son who lived in the village to his father, especially contrasted with the other father-son relationships in this book.

 As I read this book, I found myself wishing that humans had never fallen from a sinless state. I related with the struggles of Dmitri trying to wrench himself from the sinful path. Did he realize that salvation does not come from man? In some ways I could see that his brother Alyosha was resting peacefully in the salvation of God: doing good in the village with the love of Christ. He took to heart the words of his mentor to love his neighbor. It was easy to slip into a pessimistic outlook while reading this book, because of the evil shown in it. But we must remember that though mankind did fall into sin, as all the people in this book can attest, there is a promise of grace from God that is our strength in keeping upon the right path.

While I'm sure I didn't get the full meaning and purpose of the book in this one reading, I did enjoy reading this. There are adult themes, so I don't recommend this for someone younger than maybe fifteen (though I don't think I'd be interested in it if I was younger than fifteen). Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

Friday, January 8, 2016

My Etsy Shop!

I started an Etsy shop back in June, and I thought I would share it on here, just in case anyone still looks at my blog or stumbles across it and is interested. It's called Bead and Butter (that's bead, not bread), and I make jewelry. Here is the link:

My shop!

Here are some orange earrings that are in my shop.

I hope you'll check it out, and enjoy!

Grace be with you,

Abby ♥

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Growing Up

File:Car crash 2.jpg
Thankfully, my car didn't look like this when I got home. :) (from wikipedia)

I drove home from Dollar Tree today.
It was the first time I've been on the road, ever-- aside from jaunts about the neighborhood
It was just me and my mom, checking to see if they had balloons for my grandma's party on Saturday. "Why don't you drive home?" My mom said to me. "I don't know about that. I might get arrested or something," I said apprehensively. "No!" my mother said with a chuckle,"The worst you could get is a ticket." So I drove home. At about 40 miles an hour. And it wasn't scary, actually, I enjoyed it. I only got honked at once. :)

This beginning of this year, I turned eighteen and graduated from high school.

A few weeks ago, I registered to vote.

My sisters and I took a road trip to Bob Jone University for a competition-- first time out of state without our parents.

I got a debit card with actual money on it.

My sister and I are looking into starting a business-- not sure yet what it will be.

Said sister drives my other sister and me into town for my other sister's art class every week, and said sister and I go grocery shopping, all by ourselves (goodness, that was confusing!) and we drive every week to a choir we joined this year.

Not too long ago, I bought a new Bible online, all by myself. Oh, and did I mention I'm learning Hebrew all by myself, just because I want to?

These are growing-up milestones for me. I look back at all the things I thought only grownups did, and now I'm doing them myself! Including, actually, going to babysit at someone's house and unlocking their door by myself with a key they gave me. That seemed super grown up to me when I was young.
Though I am beginning to grow up, and doing grown up things, I still feel childish at times, and in no way what I felt like I would feel in my imagination. I imagined myself prettier, more confident and poised, being able to have a conversation without feeling awkward. But this is the way God is sanctifying me, and I trust His judgement. I remember a quote in Anne of the Island about by the time you were twenty your character was formed... I only have 2 more years, in that case, and much more work to do. But I'm doing my best to be diligent to be found by God without spot or blemish (2 Peter 3:14) and to work out my salvation with fear and trembling (with God's help of course). He has been so good to me so far! And I want to trust Him with the rest of my grown up life. I think it's a resolution that will last far beyond the New Year.

I will sing to the Lord,
    because he has dealt bountifully with me.

               Psalm 13:6


Wednesday, June 4, 2014


something that one is expected or required to do by moral or legal obligation.

I finished scrubbing the pot and lifted it out of the water to rinse it. I looked around. Nobody else was there. I sighed and rolled my eyes. "I'm the only one doing the dishes... again. Where is everyone? Now I'm going to have to wash the dishes and dry them." I picked up the towel with a snap and started drying the pot. "And of course no one will even thank me for it," I continued to myself, as I placed the pot impatiently in its place. Suddenly a thought came to me. Ahem... Abby? Isn't washing dishes what you are supposed to do? Your duty?

Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, "Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’
Luke 17:7-10

What are your duties? They may be washing dishes, or feeding the dog, or doing school, or babysitting. It's interesting how Jesus reminds us that a master doesn't thank a servant. After all, that's what the servant is there for, right? So we should be with our duties. Since it is what we are supposed to be doing, why do we expect praise and thanks when we do some simple thing? I must constantly remind myself of this when I am doing my duties. God gives us duties for good reasons... to sanctify us, to get things done that must be done, etc. We all have things that must be done. Jesus tells us that we should do our duties not expecting thanks or praise or rewards. 

Grace be with you,

Abby :D

ps. this is a post I wrote back in 2013. it was languishing in the draft folder and I thought, hey, why let it languish any longer? I might (maybe maybe) post some more soon, but I've been pretty busy (including getting my wisdom teeth out), so maybe not. how have you been lately? have any summer plans?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Studying {Nehemiah 7-13}

Nehemiah 7-13

All the exiles from Judah are named. Ezra reads the law to the people. They weep, because they realize their sins. Nehemiah tells them to be happy and to feast, because it's a sacred day. The people tell God of their sin and repent of. The people sign an agreement to obey God's law. They cast lots to decide who will live in Jerusalem. It lists the names of everyone chosen. The wall is dedicated. All the people of foreign descendants are excluded from God's assembly. Tobiah's son-in-law, a priest, gives Tobiah a storeroom. Nehemiah, who has gone back to serve the king, returns and takes all Tobiah's possessions. Then he purifies the room and puts back what belong in it. He also rebukes the priests and Levites for neglecting the house of God, rebukes the people for selling and buying on the Sabbath, and rebukes some of the men for taking foreign wives. He also throws out Sanballat's son-in-law. He asks God to remember his deeds.

What I learned:
-God cares about each and every one of his people, as shown by the list of captives freed. The list also shows God's mercy in setting sinners free.
- The Israelites wept, grieved, and were repentant when told of their sins. This is the attitude we should have when faced with our sins.
-Nehemiah was an extremely faithful servant of God. We need to do our duties the way Nehemiah did his: faithfully and diligently.
-When Nehemiah was serving the king again, the people began to disobey and do wicked deeds. Without a leader, they went astray. The same with us. When we do not follow our Leader, Jesus Christ, we constantly steer crookedly and step off the path, but only when we keep our eyes on Jesus do we stay on the straight and narrow path.

Grace be with you,

Abby :D

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Studying {Nehemiah 4-6}

Here is another installment of... the book of Nehemiah. Here is the link to this passage: Nehemiah 4-6.

The Jews' enemies insult them. Nehemiah asks that God remember their insults. They continue rebuilding. News of their enemies plotting an attack reaches the Jews. This is discouraging, as well, as their fellow Jews telling them to stop building. They begin to carry weapons with them as they build. Nehemiah encourages them. The poor people begin to complain about their taxes and interest . Nehemiah rebukes the richer people for taking interest from and selling the poor as slaves. They listen and do what he tells them. Nehemiah explains that he became governor, and that the former leaders took advantage of the people. He does not. There are letters from their enemies distracting from the wall building. A man tries to get Nehemiah to hide from the enemies and ruin his reputation. The wall is completed, and there are people in Judah telling Nehemiah of Tobiah's (the enemy) good deeds and reporting back to Tobiah what his replies were.

What I learned:
-When the enemies were plotting against the Jews, and the other Jews were discouraging them, it reminded me of a situation where perhaps God calls you to do something that sounds crazy, and your family and friends start to discourage you. If this happened, you would need to keep working diligently. This happened in Bruce Olson's life (Bruchko).

-The situation of the poor sounds like our own economic situation in the US. The only way to get out of it is to follow God's way.

-When Nehemiah refused to hide, he proved that he trusted God in even dangerous situations. May God grant us this sort of trust!

Grace be with you,

Abby :D