Book Club Picks: A Voice in the Wind

So with everything that happened in July and with GISHWHES, I realized I totally forgot to post the last book we read for Book Club.

Just in case for anyone new, I started a book club with three other people. There is no theme or restrictions, just every month a different person has a turn to pick a book, we read it for the month, and afterwards meet to talk about it. Fun for everyone.

Last month’s pick was:

A Voice in the Wind (Mark of the Lion #1) by Francine Rivers

I first started reading Francine Rivers’ novels when a friend recommended Redeeming Love (a fantastic book that I strongly recommend). Afterwards, I started reading as many of her books as I could get a copy of. This one I put on my to-read list like five years ago and forgot all about it. I mean you know about to-read lists.

So when my friend brought it out as a suggestion, I was all for it.

That’s what I want

The story actually follows four main characters and how their lives intersect with each other, the decisions they make, and how they grow or regress as characters.

Character One: Hadassah

Hadassah is living in a time where Rome is in complete control and being Jewish or Christian can mean death. Unfortunately for Hadassah, she is both.

Yes, her parents were both Jewish but her father converted to Christianity when Jesus raised him from the dead (Luke 7:11-17). Her married Hadassah’s mother (who also converted to Christianity) and the two raised their three children as Christians.

Their lives have gone incredibly downhill as Rome marches on Jerusalem destroying it, with all of Hadassah’s family being murdered.  Hadassah finds herself unsure how she will continue on with her weak faith and uncertain future. Will she be able to trust God through it all?

Hadassah is saved from being killed; manages to survive the march to Rome, gets through a lice-filled boat, barely is maneuvered from becoming a temple prostitute, and is bought by a Jewish slave for his master, going into the powerful Valerian family. There she is given to serve the selfish, young, and beautiful Julia Valerian. Hadassah faces many ups and downs trying to live her Christian faith, set an example to others; while trying to walk the thin line that separates her from being thrown to the lions as a pre-show for the gladiatorial games.

She finds herself becoming friends with Julia’s older brother Marcus, praying hard for him and his family. But as her connection to Marcus grows stronger:

She finds herself unsure what path to take. Will Hadassah be able to serve God and receive a happy ending? Or will she cross that line and enter temptation? Or worse, death?

Character Two: Atretes

Atretes is a prince from Germany known for his wildness, strength, courage, and ability. After the death of his father he finds himself being handed the kingship and given a prophecy: a dark haired woman as his lover, being known throughout Rome, he will triumph over his foes, and being able to free his people from slavery.

That’s the kind of prophecy I’m talking about.

However, in the next battle skirmish, Atretes is captured by Roman soldiers. He tried hard to be killed in battle, but they decide to keep him and train him to become a gladiator.

At first he refuses to play along, but eventually becomes the star fighter as he discovers the only way to win his freedom is to follow along.

He achieves, money, fame, etc.; but still remains a slave and not given real freedom. His life changes when he meets Julia Valerian. She comes to him willingly, paying heavily to be with him. She appears to be everything foreseen by his mother and he begins to fall for her, and changes his perspective of “the game” as he fights for money, freedom, and the ability to marry the person he loves.

But will Atretes fullfill his prophecies of the woman he loves, overpower Rome, and free his people? Or will he discover that Rome doesn’t fight fair and that he will never truly be free from its grasp?

Hmm…

Character Three: Marcus Valerian

Meh.

Marcus Valerian grew up in a time of strife that has settles into prosperity and peace. His only hobbies in life are pursuing whatever pleases him: mostly making money and winning women. However, Marcus quickly becomes bored with this lifestyle and is always pursuing making more money and a harder challenge.

He is constantly going to the gladiator games, but becomes bored with those as well in life.

His father tries to instill a moral code in him, but Marcus refuses to listen to anything his father says as he feels that his father is “too old” and “behind the times”. He thinks his way is the best and his lifestyle-something he ends up instilling in his younger, naive, and impressionable sister.

Seriously, parents.

But when Hadassah enters the house she starts a ripple effect of a change of atmosphere. Everything about her and her beliefs challenges his lifestyle and the choices he is making in life.

Will Marcus find something real to fill his life? Will he ever be happy? Or will the choices he has made come back to bite him?

Hmm…

Character Four: Julia Valerian

Julia is the Marcus’ younger sister and has been sheltered her whole life and given every whim. In an effort to reshape her character and give her more morals, her parents give her Hadassah to be her servant; hoping that Hadassah’s kind and gentle spirit will rub off on Julia.

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But all Julia cares about is being beautiful, idolizing her brother Marcus and his values, and seeks to become the most sough after gal in Rome. She ends up trusting women who are bad influences that like to manipulate her, not listening to any of the advice her parents try to give her.

She is married off to a kind man, but is too selfish and self-centered to appreciate him. Instead she sets her eyes on a handsome gladiator she sees training, Atretes. Later her foolish and heedless behavior causes the death of her husband, and she and Hadassah are sent back to her parent’s house.

Through it all Hadassah loves and cares for Julia as a sister, even when Julia is rude, crude, overbearing, etc.

Once again Julia chooses friends who don’t have her best interest at heart and are using her. She also marries a handsome, but abusive man. After she grows tired of being treated so cruelly she makes a decision that leads her down a dark path. As Julia continues to make bad decisions and hurt those around her, will Hadassah continue to care and help her? Will Julia turn from her dark choices? Will she have a happy ending? Or will she continue on her trail of destruction?

Hmm…

So what did I think of it?

I thought it was amazing! I started reading and I couldn’t stop:

And if that wasn’t enough, when I read the ending I was in SHOCK!!!

I quickly ran to get the sequel (literally ran)

The book was phenomenal. From Hadassah’s character:

To Marcus’ growth of character:

And all the twists and turns the novel took. You never knew what was going to happen next.

Wow

I definitely recommend it.

For more book club picks, go to Book Club Picks: The Darcy Monologues

For more Christian fiction, go to The Austen Series: Reason and Romance

For more bible verses, go to Should We Pity Miss Bates or Strive to Be Her?

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A Little Monkey Business: Chinese New Year

So the New Year started on February 8th, but I was in the middle of Romance is in the Air: Part IV, my countdown to Valentine’s Day so I had to postpone it until today, the last day of the New Year celebration. This year is a special year because it is my zodiac animal, the year of the Monkey.

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Monkeys are intelligent, wise, clever, inquisitive, flexible, quick-witted, innovative, and honest. They are also known to have a temper; along with being cunning, mischievous, and suspicious.

Monkeys can do well in any job they try due to all their positive traits. They work best with Oxen, Rabbits, and Dragons. Their enemies are Tigers or Pigs.

Some famous people born in the year of the monkey are: Leonardo da Vinci, Charles Dickens, Tom Hanks, Michael Douglas, Bette Davis, Annie Oakley, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Betsy Ross.

So to celebrate the year of the Monkey I am going to do my nine favorite monkey moments from film and TV. And I decided to do only Monkeys; no gorillas, orangoutangs, chimpanzees, or baboons. This year is all about the Monkey.

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9) The Jungle Book (1994)

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The Jungle Book is pretty much what Disney used as their basis for the Tarzan film (both being Disney films). The Jungle Book 1994 version is not the cartoon version, this one is a live action film and the animals don’t talk (hopefully they keep that the same in the new version coming out this year). The film starts out with Mowgli’s father being a guide for some Englishmen who are patrolling India. One night Shere Khan attacks the camp as someone has broken the jungle rules, that is killed for sport instead of food. Mowgli is lost in the confusion and thought to be dead, later raised by animals. He is eventually found by his old compatriots, who attempt to be bring him back into society. He still has feelings for Kitty, a girl he played with as a child, but she is engaged to the hunter/poacher William Boone who wants to use Mowgli as a guide to Monkey City and the rumored King Louie treasure. Adventure ensues

Best Monkey Scene:Monkey Spectators

Instead of lions or dueling ex-soldiers or slaves; this gladiator match pitches treasure hunters searching for the lost Monkey City and the billions of gold, against Kaa the python. For who’s pleasure? None other than King Louie, the Orangoutang, and his subjects ,the Monkeys.

For more on The Jungle Book (1994), go to Redone Done Right

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8) Toy Story 3

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In Toy Story 3 many years have passed since Toy Story 2. Andy is 18 and heading off to college and doesn’t need his old toys anymore. Destined to reside in the attic until Andy has his own kids or decides to get rid of them; the toys take matters into their own hands. They escape in a donation box for a Children’s Daycare, hoping this would bring fun times and games. Woody however, is not ready to give up on Andy and gets lost trying to find his way home. Back at the daycare center, the toys discover that a stuffed bear is the “Don” of the center and relegates them to being played with toddlers instead of the older kids who care for the toys. When they try to escape, they are punished. Will the toys esacape? Will they be able to get back to Andy?

Best Monkey Scene:Death by Monkeys

This scene is in the opening dream/flashback sequence. The toys are playing a massive game of cowboys and robbers. Woody, Buzz, and Jessie have just defeated the potato pair; when Ham, as evil Dr. Porkchop, comes in: releasing a bomb of a barrel of monkeys. It’s funny, cute, and brings back a whole lot of nostalgia.

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7) Dragon Ball

This is actually a anime series based on the classic novel Journey to the West,  also known as Monkey, written in the 16th century by Wu Cheng’en.

Goku is a little monkey boy, (as in he only has a monkey tail). He befiends a teenage woman, Bulma, and the two set off to find the seven wishing dragon balls. He becomes a student of the turtle hermit, Kame-Sennin, later entering a huge tournament with some of the most powerful fighters in the world.

He also destroys the Red Ribbon Army single-handedly. When Goku’s best friend, Kuririn, is murdered by Piccolo, then Goku sets out to destroy him as revenge.

Best Monkey Scene: Great Ape Transformation

So as Goku is a monkey boy, when the full moon is out instead of turning into a werewolf, he becomes a giant monkey. A monkey on par with Mighty Joe Young or King Kong. He may be scary and frightening, but also pretty awesome in his menacing nature.

For more on Dragon Ball, go to Fun & Full of FANcy

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6) Aladdin

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Aladdin is a retelling of a chinese tale in Arabian Nights or A Thousand and One Nights, tales that Scheherazade told her husband to keep herself alive each night, (for more on that go here). Disney disneyfied it into being much happier and brighter, like they do with everything.

In the Disney story, Aladdin is an orphaned boy living with his monkey friend, Abu. The two are street rats, scrounging about for food and hiding from the castle guards. Every night Aladdin goes home and dreams of being rich and living in the palace, never worrying about anything. Meanwhile, Princess Jasmine is in the palace and has to marry by her sixteenth birthday. She hates every prince that has called on her and she feels they all are after her fortune. Also in the palace lurks Jafar, the evil vizier, who wants to take the throne for himself. He also is trying to get inside the fabled Cave of Wonders to get a lamp, but only a pure-hearted, diamond in the rough can enter. These three stories intersect when Jasmine sneaks out of the palace, only to be helped by Aladdin when she gets into trouble. The two run from guards and are caught, Jasmine revealing herself and going home, while Aladdin is sent to the dungeon. Jafar disguises himself and frees Aladdin convinced he is the perfect person to enter the cave. Aladdin is and does, but Abu brings the whiole place toppling down when he tries to take something he is not supposed to touch. Aladdin gets stuck inside the Cave, but there he finds the genie of the lamp and the adventure to capture the heart of the princess is on.

Best Monkey Scene: Anything Abu

Abu is the cutest little monkey. He does have some issues as he doesn’t like to share, is greedy that he almost kills him and Aladdin, and gets jealous easily. But besides that he is kind, loyal, and all around a great little buddy to Aladdin.

For more on Aladdin, go to Waiter, There’s Some Disney in My Jane Austen

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5) George of the Jungle

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This was one of my favorite movies as a kid, and the film that created my crush and longtime love of Brendan Fraser. He is super hunky in this film.

Ursula Stanhope from San Francisco, CA is traveling throughout Africa. Her fiancé, Lyle Van De Groot (Thomas Haden Church) is a total pompous jerk and has gone looking for her to drag her back to be immediately married, guided by two poachers. The next day when Ursula and Lyle are out, they run into a lion. Lyle takes off; tripping, falling, and knocking himself out. But Ursula doesn’t need to worry, George; a man who was lost in Africa and raised by an ape named Ape, saves her. He cares for her until they are come upon by her fiancé. When he and the poachers attack trying to “save” Ursula and capture the famed “White Ape”; George gets injured and finds himself traveling to San Francisco with Ursula. Is San Fran ready for this Ape-Man? Will his home be okay without the King of the Jungle?

Best Monkey Scene: Monkey Vs. Lion

So George is King of the Jungle, and one of his duties as King is to help his subjects in trouble. One of the baby monkeys, the runt of the litter, keeps getting picked on by all the other monkeys. He goes to George for help, and the two come up with a plan. When a lion comes to “fight” and the monkey pretends to be George”scaring” the lion away.

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4) Jumanji (1995)

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In 1969, Alan Parish is constantly getting picked on. One day he hears drums and discovers an old game buried in a new construction site. He takes it home and after he gets in a fight with his dad and a surprise visit from a friend, the two accidentally play the game. One of the roles causes Alan to be sucked into the game while bats come streaming out.

26 years later, the Parish house has been bought by a women who has recently become guardian of her niece and nephew: Judy and Peter. The two kids discover the old game and play. What they thought would be a fun game turns out to be a death defying adventure as monkeys, mosquitoes, a lion, crocodiles, and Alan all come out of the game. They have to finish the game, survive whatever comes out, in order to fix everything and send all these creatures and storms back.

Best Monkey Scene: Monkeys Slow the Expedition

The second thing to come out of the game board are a group of monkeys. Not only do they terrorize the the two kids, but they end up running amuck throughout town. Stealing cop cars, ransacking stores, and taking off and causing havoc.

For more on Jumanji, go to Every Month at the Quarter Moon There’ll Be a Monsoon

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3) Jumanji (1995)

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So the summary is the same as before. You might be wondering why I’m doing this film twice, but there was another monkey scene I just love.

Best Monkey Scene: Peter the Monkey Boy

So Alan, Peter, Judy, and Alan’s old friend Susan; have been through the thick of game having faced down monkeys, a lion, giant mosquitoes, human eating pods, poisonous violets, a big game hunter named Van Pelt, and a stampede.

Peter is only a few spaces away and decides to drop the dice, hoping to reach the end of the game and save everyone. Unfortunately, the game does not like cheaters and Peter is turned into a monkey. Sorry Goku, Peter is the cutest Monkey Boy. He’s just TOOOOO adorable.

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2) The Wizard of Oz

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Dorothy Gale is a young girl in grey Kansas. She lives with her aunt and uncle on their farm, along with the farmhands. When their mean neighbor takes Dorothy’s dog away for snapping at her; Dorothy decides to grab her dog and run away. She gets caught up in a twister and ends up in the land of Oz. She ends up on a journey to find the Wizard to get home; pairing up with a Scarecrow, a Tin Man, a Cowardly Lion; and chased by the Wicked Witch of the West.

Best Monkey Scene: Fly My Pretties, Fly

So the Wicked Witch’s evil minions are the winged monkeys. She sends them out to find Dorothy and destroy her companions in one of the best, and scariest scenes, of the film.

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1) The Jungle Book (1967)

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This is the original Disney version and based on the novel by Rudyard Kipling. In the story Mowgli is a man cub raised by wolves. Ten years pass by and when news of Shere Khan, the great tiger, has returned to the jungle they decide to send Mowgli back to the Man village. Bagheera, the panther, tries to take him back but they get interuppted by Kaa, the snake who tries to eat him, and Baloo a slothy bear who discourages Mowgli from returning to the world of men. Mowgli meets other crazy charcters such as King Louie the Orangutan, Colonel Hathi the Elephant, and a group of Vultures who act like The Beatles.

Best Monkey Scene: I Wanna Be Like You

So I know you might be questioning why I choose this moment as my number one. Well when I think of Monkeys this is the first thing that always pop in my head. It is one of the best songs in the film, and a whole lot of fun.

So the scene, for those who don’t know, comes in the middle of the film. Mowgli has been captured by King Louie the Orangutan who wants Mowgli to teach him to be like humans, how to create fire. Baloo comes in and sings along to the bopping song, saving Mowgli as well.

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So that ends this year’s countdown. I hope you all have a great 2016.

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For the 2013 list, go to Snakes on a Post

For the 2014 post, go to A Horse’s Tale

For the 2015 post, go to Well I Feel Sheepish

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For more holiday posts, go to To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before

For more Disney posts, go to I’d Lay Down My Life for You: Pocahontas (1995)