Reading, Writing & Other Addictions

Facing Reality Through Fiction

Book Review: The Finisher, by David Baldacci

 

I know I’m coming late to the game on this one, but I just finished reading it last week, and I can’t get it out of my mind (and I’ve read two and a half books since I finished).

Last year, David Baldacci came to my Half Price Books store in Dallas, TX, and I had the privilege of working the event.  Now, for those of  you who don’t know who David Baldacci is: He is New York Times (NYT) Bestselling suspense novelist responsible for the John Puller series, the King and Maxwell series and the Camel Club series.  However, the book he was promoting at Half Price Books was a new Science Fiction Young Adult novel.  That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, The adult suspense novelist has penned a Young Adult SciFi novel, and it is amazing!  I was a little reluctant to read it at first.  I thought what does David Baldacci know about SciFi. After reading it, I can tell you, the man is not only a spectacular storyteller but also a closet geek!

The Finisher follows Vega Jane, a fourteen-year-old “female,” who is struggling  to make ends meet and take care of her little brother after her parents end up in the Care facility. Then, when she sees her friend and mentor Quentin Herms disappear into the Quag, a place no one should ever go, Vega starts to wonder if there could be a way through the Quag and a life for her outside of her village. As she begins to investigate why her friend would have disappeared in the Quag and why the Council is lying about Quentin’s disappearance,  strange, mystical, magical things start happening to Vega. As enemies and allies begin to emerge, Vega must fight for her life in both the magical world she has been thrust into and the physical world she has always known.  This book keeps you guessing until the last page, so that when you put the book down, you want to immediately pick up the next book, (which was released last fall) The Keeper.

I will admit the book threw me off a couple of times as I adjusted to the way his characters talked (e.g. sliver is a unit of time, like a minute), but the more I read the more I was sucked in, and I ended up comparing the book to Tolkien’s works and the television series Firefly in regards to its use of language.

My admiration for Mr.Baldaccci continues to grow with every one of his books I read. If you like SciFi, this is a book you need to read.  Also, if you get a chance to meet David Baldacci, you should.  He is nice to all his fans, and he tells the funniest stories.

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Honorable Mention: Retold Tales-Animated Movies

Well, I threatened and now I’ve done it. Here are three more books or fairy tales retold as animated movies that I just couldn’t leave out.

Lion King1.  The Lion King (Disney, 1994

Amazingly enough, The Lion King is Disney’s retelling of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.  I remember hearing that when The Lion King first came out in theaters and thinking, “Incest, madness and everyone dies.  This will be a delightful Disney animated movie.”

For those of you who do not know anything about the Shakespearean play, or refuse to watch anything with Mel Gibson in it (not a problem for me, btw. A cute guy is a cute guy), Hamlet is the tragic story of Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, whose father dies and almost immediately afterwards his mother marries his uncle who has become king. Visited my the ghost of his father, Hamlet is charged to bring his father’s murder to light, and becomes obsessed with doing so. The king, his uncle thinks he has gone insane and sends him away, plotting to kill him.  Hamlet gets away and kills the father of his lover. His lover goes insane because of his erratic behavior towards her and kills herself. His lover’s brother conspires with the king to get revenge and challenges Hamlet to a public duel, while poisoning his blade. The king slips poison in the drink which will be given to Hamlet during the duel should the brother fail. The bother cuts Hamlet. Hamlet runs the brother through. The queen drinks the poison, and Hamlet kills the king before dying himself from the poisoned blade.  Yes, fun for the whole family.

Fortunately, Disney did not stick to the original story, and brought in many funny characters to lessen the blow caused by the death of Simba’s (Hamlet’s) father. One of the best changes is that Simba’s love interest does not kill herself, and as her father is never introduced, he also doesn’t die, which allows a happy ending to be produced, after the hero defeats his uncle of course.  And then there is my favorite scene from the movie, where Timon and Pumba dress in drag and do the hula.

Aladdin2. Aladdin (Disney, 1992)–Now, the original tale of Aladdin is a Middle Eastern tale that was incorporated into Antoone Gallard’s translation of  One Thousand and One Nights, but the story is set in China (unlike the Disney’s version of the tale which is set in Aqraba wich is in Palestine). However, most of the people in the story are Muslim, not Chinese, leading some to believe that the story might be set in Turkestan with encompasses Central Asia and the Chinese province of Xinjiang).  Of course, the setting is not quite as important as the story.  You see, though Aladdin does indeed get recruited by a sorcerer to extract the magic lamp from the magic cave of wonder in which Aladdin gets trapped, in the original story, Aladdin has been given a magic ring from which a jinni (genie) appears to help him escape the cave and it is not until his mother tries to polish the oil lamp that they discover the more powerful genie of the lamp.  Aladdin does have the genie make him rich and powerful, and he marries the emperor’s daughter, in the story, the princess is betrothed to the vizier’s son, not an object of lust and power for the vizier himself. Also the vizier is not the sorcerer.  The sorcerer makes another appearance after hearing about Aladdin’s good fortune, and poses as a merchant trading old lamps for new, which Aladdin’s wife hears about and trade’s in the magic lamp not knowing of its importance. Then their is a battle or magic and wits that Aladdin wins with help from the ring genie.  And of course, the sorcerer had a brother who tries to kill Aladdin later, but Aladdin is warned by the lamp genie and kills him first. Finally, Aladdin becomes emperor after his father-in-law dies.

Now, the movie version is a lot funnier.  Of course, it would be with Robin Williams voicing the genie of the lamp.  And the songs in the animated film are some of my favorite Disney songs.  They made the story simpler by getting rid of some of the characters and adding the animal friends that Disney is known for.  I think each story stands on its own and both have the power to keep Scheherazade alive for a few days longer.

The Secret of NIMH3. The Secret of NIHM (Don Bluth, 1982)–If you have not seen this wonderful Don Bluth film, drop what you’re doing right now and go find it on Netflix. You will laugh listening to Dom DeLuise voice Jeremy, especially when he finally meets Miss Right.

Of course, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH was one of my favorite books as a child.  In fact, I still have my tattered copy on the bookcase in my bedroom.   From what I remember about the original story (it’s been a while since I read it), the story does not vary too much from the animated film.  Though I’m not sure that the move of the Frisby house was as dramatic as the move of the “Brisby” house (as the main character’s name was changed for the film).  The storyline is as follows: Mrs. Frisby’s son Timothy is ill and would not survive a trip in the cold to their summer home, safely away from Farmer Fitzgibbon’s plow.  So, Mrs. Frisby must find a way to move her home.  She saves the life of a crow who was about to be killed by Dragon, the farmer’s cat, and he suggests that she visit the Great Owl, which she does.  The owl upon learning her name, suggests she go to the rats who live in the rosebush near her home.  The rats, unbeknownst to her, had been friends with her late husband, who also had escaped from NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) where they had been experimented on and gained humanlike intelligence and longevity. She seeks help from the rats and her house gets moved.  In the film, an evil rat named Jenner tries to kill the leader of the rats, in order to stop the Plan, which calls for the rats to live independently of humanity and stop stealing their resources (as it seems the rats also gained morals with their intelligence, though not all of them it seems). In the book, Jenner is presumed dead, because he left the rosebush, where the NIMH rats live because he disagreed with the plan.  Definitely, not as dramatic, but still a good read.

Anyway, those are my honorable mentions.  Let me know if I left anything good out.

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Julie’s Top Ten Animated Movies–Retold Tales

Though I’m a book fiend, I’m always excited when they make a movie from a book or story.  Most of the time the book is much better than the movie.  Sometimes the movie and the book can both stand side by side as wonderful compliments to each other. And on rare occasions, the movie is better than the book. I am especially fond of animated movies and have been impressed with how they have retold some of the world’s best stories (old and new).  Here is my list of Top Ten Animated Movies—Retold Tales.

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  1. How to Train Your Dragon—(Dreamworks, 2010) This delightful movie is loosely based on the middle-grade book (and series) of the same name by Cressida Cowell. What I love about this movie is that it completely changed the book’s original story, while keeping a lot of the humor of the book.  In this way, we can enjoy both the book and the movie equally, without constantly saying, “That’s not what happened.”  In the book, all the Vikings in Hiccup’s village have dragons and they are required to train them by “yelling very loud.” Unfortunately, Hiccup’s dragon does not respond to that kind of training. So he must find another way to “train” his dragon.  In the movie, they reversed the premise so that Hiccup is the one introducing his village to keeping dragons, which they have been treating as enemies.  I applaud both the author and the screenwriter for giving us two stories that are fraught with humor and able to capture the imagination of so many.

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2.

  • Beauty & the Beast—(Disney 1991) Along with Cinderella, Beauty & the Beast is one of the most retold tales, resulting in several books, movies and even a television series.  However, no one can deny that the Disney animated version not only tells a beautiful story, but the extraordinary animation made this movie an instant classic.  Of course, in the original story, told in Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Belle has two sisters, who are also part of the story, and before going to the sea to check on one of his ships that had returned to port their father asks if they would like him to bring them back something from his journey.  Belle’s sisters ask for jewels and fine dresses thinking their destitute father had regained his riches with this ship, but Belle only asks for a rose as none grew in their part of the country. Of course, he has not regained his riches and returning home empty-handed, he becomes lost in the forest.  Stumbling on a palace, he sees a rose garden and thinks he could at least bring Belle her gift. But with the taking of the rose, his real trouble begins, as the beast who owns the castle demands payment for the rose in the form of the merchant’s daughter.  Now, the Disney version paints the beast in a harsher, more selfish light than the original story, but none can deny the growth of the selfish beast into a handsome prince, even before the transformation, is as good of a story as the original, which deals more with learning to see past what someone looks like in order to discover true love.

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3. Tangled—(Disney, 2010) After Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Beauty and the Beast, I kept waiting for Disney to tell the story of Rapunzel.  Surely the Disney animators were not going to just leave one Princess hanging.  So, I was excited when I first saw the trailer for Tangled, and the movie did not disappoint.  However, in the original story, Rapunzel becomes a princess after being rescued, instead of being born one as in the movie.  While pregnant, Rapunzel’s mother craves a certain edible plant (rampion or rapunzel plant) and begs her husband to bring her some.  He steals the plant from the garden of an enchantress who catches him and makes him promise to surrender his child to her when it is born.  When the child turns twelve, she locks the child up in a tower, where they use her hair as a ladder for the enchantress to reach her.  The prince finds her. They fall in love. They plan an escape. Rapunzel unwittingly gives them away (by saying her dress is getting too tight. Can we say pregnant, boys and girls?).  The enchantress cuts Rapunzel’s hair and casts her out. She draws up the prince using Rapunzel’s cut hair. He jumps out of the tower to get away from her, and is blinded by the thorns below. The blind prince then wonders through the country and finally comes to the place where Rapunzel (and his twins) live, and her tears restore his sight.  While the enchantress accidentally gets herself trapped in the tower by dropping Rapunzel’s braid.  I have to say I think the Disney version is a bit more action-packed and the plot line more understandable. (I never understood why all the bad guys in fairy tales wanted to steal children, and I know parents who would have given them their kids for free.)  Plus, the heroine is stronger and bolder, and the storyline less prone to the necessity of having a “birds and bees” conversation with your 5-year-old.

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4.

  • Chicken Little—(Disney, 2005) I have to admit, when I heard that Disney’s next animated movie was going to be “Chicken Little,” I was not overly impressed.  Remember, there was still a princess out there they hadn’t animated. After all, Chicken Little (or in other parts of the world Chicken Licken or Henny Penny) is a folk tale about a chicken that believes the sky is falling after an acorn hits him on the head, and then he proceeds to cause hysteria before being eaten by a fox.  Moral of the story: Don’t believe everything you are told.  Of course, in the tradition of folk tales, sometimes the story ends with Chicken Little getting away from the fox.  The moral of that story is: Don’t be a chicken.  While the original is a fun story, the Disney version of this tale is ultimately more entertaining with its aliens, its touching father/son relationship, and Chicken Little’s ultimate redemption for the panic he had caused. Pair that with the voice talents of  Zach Braff, Gary Marshall and Don Knotts and some kicking songs, and it’s no wonder this is my number 4 pick.

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5.

  • Sleeping Beauty—(Disney, 1959) I love the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty for several reasons. One of which is that the animators didn’t use the typical Disney style of animation and instead tried to match medieval art.  Disney wanted Sleeping Beauty to look like a walking illustration, and I believe he succeeded.  Also, the illustrators put more detail in the animals and the background than they had previously, giving the animation richness and depth.  One other point that I would like to make (which is the reason my brother also loves this movie) is that Sleeping Beauty is the first animated Disney fairy tale where the prince has a name, Phillip.  As for the original story, the “wicked fairy” was wicked because she hadn’t been around the kingdom for a while and people thought she was dead so they forgot to invite her to the shindig when the princess was born.  She showed up anyway, but they didn’t have enough parting gifts so when it was her turn to “bless” the child, she cursed her instead. A final fairy does keep the little princess from death by saying that she will “fall into a deep sleep for 100 years and be awoken by a king’s son.”  Also, instead of going away as she does with the movie, the princess stays with her parents, but spinning on spinning-wheels is forbidden because of the curse.  Of course, the princess finds an old woman who doesn’t know about the king’s decree against spinning wheels and low and behold the princess pricks her finger and falls to sleep. And the good fairy that saved her from death puts everyone in the castle tosleep and causes a ring of brambles and thorns to spring up around the castle to protect the princess and the others sleeping inside.  After 100 years pass, a passing prince braves the brambles and finds the princess.  The princess awakens, sans kissing and then there is something about his step-mother trying to eat her, but then getting eaten herself.  Yeah.  Needless to say, the movie is a bit more appetizing than original tale. Plus, there’s kissing.  Kissing is always good.  And I love the dueling fairies. Pink. Blue. Pink. Blue.  Unfortunately, Sleeping Beauty was a box office flop, and the Disney studio didn’t return to fairy tales until 1989 with the release of The Little Mermaid.

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6.

  • The Little Mermaid—(Disney, 1989) Well that was fortuitous. You probably won’t believe me when I say that wasn’t planned, but c’est la vie.  Now, I love Hans Christian Anderson fairy tales.  I don’t know why. They aren’t very happy, but I had already read The Little Mermaid before I saw the animated version.  I was in Junior High, but I remember thinking, “How are they going to spin this one?”  You see, in the original story, she doesn’t marry the prince.   That’s right! She saves the prince from drowning and falls in love with him, but she never marries him.  Why? Because he thinks this other girl (the one who finds him on the beach) was the one who saved him. (Happy Thought #1). The little mermaid visits the Sea Witch and exchanges her tongue for two legs, though walking will always be like being stabbed by swords (Happy Thought #2) However, she will only obtain a soul if she finds true love’s first kiss. Otherwise, she will die brokenhearted and disintegrate into sea foam at dawn on the day after the prince marries another woman. So, she meets the prince, and though the prince loves her, he does not fall in love with her. He has fallen in love with the girl who saved him (remember the other girl) though he doesn’t know who she is.  Wouldn’t you know, this girl turns out to be the same princess that his father wants him to marry? (Happy Thought #3)  So, guess what, he marries her.  In the meantime, the little mermaid’s sisters have made a deal with the Sea Witch.  All the little mermaid must do to come home is to slay the prince and let his blood drip on her feet.  (Happy Thought #4) But she can’t do it and chooses to throw herself into the sea as the dawn breaks.  She dissolves into sea foam, and turns into a spirit.  The prince and his wife try to find her, but they never do. Needless to say, the Disney version is much happier.

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7. Shrek—(Dreamworks, 2001) This movie is loosely based on the picture book of the same name by William Steig about a young ogre who dreams of leaving home and seeing the world.  Like How to Train Your Dragon, the book and the film should be treated as two separate entities.  For though the picture book is cute and a must have for any little boy, it has nothing to do with the storyline of the movie. In fact, the only character they have in common is the character Shrek. (That’s right. No matter how many times you read it, Donkey never appears) Still the movie’s clever fairy tale-esk storyline, and hilarious bro-mance has launched 3 successful sequels (though I wasn’t too fond of Shrek 3 myself).  And with its humorous banter, this fairy tale that is not quite right, and yet oddly perfect resonates with people of all ages, as an misunderstood, antisocial, bully of an ogre shows that he has a heart of gold.

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8.

  •  Anastasia—(20th Century Fox, 1997) This is the only movie in my list that is a retelling based on a real person.  The Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia was the daughter of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, the last sovereign of Imperial Russia.  She and her family were killed by the Bolshevik secret police on July 17, 1918.  She was 17-years-old.  Rumors of her possible escape have been circulating since her death, especially since her body was not discovered in the mass grave that held her mother, her father and three of her sisters.  Several women claimed to have been Anastasia, but they have all been disproved and in 2008 Russian forensic scientists found and confirmed the remains of Anastasia and her younger brother Alexei.  Still, the 90-year mystery makes a wonderful story, and the Fox Animation Studios did an excellent job turning it into an animated film, with the voice talents of Meg Ryan, John Cusak, Christopher Lloyd and Kelsey Grammer, among others. Of course, my favorite character is Bartok the Bat, played by Hank Azaria.  He may be a bad guy, but he’s got some great lines.  In the film, Grigori Rasputin is an evil man who sold his soul to the devil in order to bring down the Romanov family (Anastasia’s family) because they had thrown him out and disgraced him, but in reality the Romanovs always thought of him as a holy man, though others did not.  In fact, when the rumors against Rasputin got scandalous and the Tsar was forced to launch an investigation, it ended with the minister of the interior being removed from his position, not Rasputin. Still, it is believed the scandal and rumors that surrounded Rasputin led to the distrust of the Romanovs and eventually led to their downfall.  So, though the movie is based on real people, it is not based on truth.  Just remember that when the talking bat readjusts the talking corpse’s lips.  That’s not really what happened.

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9.

  • Mulan—(Disney, 1998) This Disney film is a retelling of the Chinese folktale, the poem really, of Hua Mulan, who fought for 12 years in the army and gained high honors, without anyone ever realizing she was a girl, until she leaves the army, goes home and dons her old clothes.  This folktale has been around since the 6th Century and is one of the first poems in Chinese history to promote gender equality. The story was expanded to a novel during the Ming Dynasty and is one of the most popular folktales among the Chinese. When I saw the movie, I had never heard of the poem of Hua Mulan, but I did go to see the movie in the theater twice, which tells you something when you consider I was a poor college student working two jobs at the time.  Like Sleeping Beauty, the animators tried to reflect the time and culture of the story in the animation, but unlike Sleeping Beauty, Mulan did very well in the box office and even spawned a sequel, proving that people can connect with a brave, misfit girl who loves father and desperately longs to bring honor to her family.

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10.

  • The Emperor’s New Groove—(Disney, 2000) Here I have to bow down in homage to David Reynolds, the screenwriter for this movie.  What an awesome idea to retell the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale about a selfish, arrogant, fashion forward emperor in an Aztec setting, and make the emperor’s “groove” or his selfish, instant-gratification be the thing that tricks him up.  In the original story, the emperor is conned by two conmen who promise to make him some clothes out of a material that is invisible to anyone who is unfit or unintelligent. So, in order to prove that he is not unfit or unintelligent, the emperor pretends he can see the clothes, and so do all the adults around him.  When the “clothes” are finished, the emperor “puts them on” and parades down the street in his birthday suit, until a child asks why the emperor is naked.  Well, of course, the Disney animators couldn’t really build a show around a naked man (prompting more birds-and bees discussions with precocious 5-year-olds), so they build it around a naked llama.  Ah-ha! Brillant!  Throw in a evil witch, a secret lab, a lovable dummy, and a feisty squirrel and you have Disney magic.

Now there are many more wonderful animated retold tales out there, and to tell you the truth I had trouble picking ten.  I may have to follow up with an Honorable Mention list, but I still believe these 10 movies reflect the best animated retold tales.  Don’t be shy in letting me know what you think.

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Fahrenheit 451

ImageThis year marks the 60th Anniversary of Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451.  So, to celebrate Half Price Books is reading and discussing the book this month.

I had never read Fahrenheit 451, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The story is set in the future, where people turn their walls into interactive television screens, overdose on sleeping pills and get their blood “cleaned” so that they wake up with no knowledge of trying to kill themselves.  And the job of a fireman has switched from putting out fires to starting them.  How did this switch happen?  People stopped reading, and so the need for books was eliminated.  In this world (the world of Fahrenheit 451) a person can be jailed or even killed for owning a book (which I believe is bit overkill, but then power is corrupting and knowledge can be a dangerous thing).

The main character, Montag is a fireman.  He is paid to set fire to books found in people’s homes.  However, his curiosity gets the better of him and he starts taking books home, little by little. His newfound curiosity and his resulting discontent with his life forces him to seek out others who question things and cling to the knowledge found in books.

Fahrenheit 451 is a warning to not become complacent in your life, to keep on questioning things, to keep on searching for knowledge and understanding, to take time to listen and wonder, to create and imagine…to read.

Join the conversation this month by liking the Half Price Books page on Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/halfpricebooks/app_541077369245456

Happy reading!

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NaNoWriMo: Struck

The most exciting thing that ever happened in Euldey, Texas, with the exception of Spencer Dick being struck with lightning three times in the same night, was the disappearance of Tolby Walker.

This year I have decided to participate in NaNoWriMo (NaNo) for the first time.  I have decided to write Struck, which is a story I have thought about for years, and even started once.  Though I like the first line, I had to scrap the rest of it. I didn’t like the POV, so I’m going to write it in the POV of the town, Euldey, Texas.  Euldey is a made up town, in west Texas around Amarillo.  When I was around 3-years-old, we lived in Vega, Texas, and I’m kind of basing the town on some of my parents memories of Vega, combined with memories of my mother’s family and creations out of my own imagination.

Struck is about  a 15-year-old girl, Joanie searching to know her mother who died when she was born.  Her father never mentions her mother.  It seems to hurt him to think about her.  While searching in her father’s desk for thumb tacks, she discovers a stack of letters addressed to her father from a man she has never met.  In each one, this man makes a reference to her and to her mother and each letter is postmarked from Euldey, Texas.  Joanie decides to go to Euldey and search for this man who knew her mother.  However, finding this man proves to be more difficult than she thought, and what she learns about her mother leads her down a path strewn with family secrets that were buried the night she was born…along with other things.

We’ll see if I can get this story written (and written well) during the month of November.  However, I may have to give up sleep in order to get it done.  Wish me luck.

Find out more information at http://www.nanowrimo.org/

Oh, and the title comes from the first line (the one I liked):

“The most exciting thing that ever happened in Euldey, Texas, with the exception of Spencer Dick being struck by lightning three times in the same night, was the disappearance of Tolby Walker.”

Yeah, I liked it too.

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A Legacy is Bourne?

ImageThis Friday, August 10 the action-packed movie The Bourne Legacy hits theaters, and before it came out I wanted to read the book, which by the way is not written by Robert Ludlum, the author of The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, but written by Eric Van Lustbader with the Estate of Robert Ludlum holding the copyright.  Now, I have read, The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum so I was under no illusion that the book and the movie would be similar at all, which can be very liberating because then you are free to like the books and the movies for their own merits.

Now, I haven’t seen the movie yet, but the book is based on Jason Bourne (not Aaron Cross. As far as the book is concerned Aaron Cross does not exist).  Jason has been framed for the murder of two of his closest friends, and now he is on the run from the CIA, the Virginia State Police, the Quai d’Orsay and several other law enforcement agencies, not to mention an international assassin who has a personal vendetta against him, and the power-crazed head of a humanitarian organization who is secretly planning on destroying all the delegates at the terrorism summit in Reykjavik with a newly developed chemical pathogen. (How’d you like that sentence?)

At work, several people in my department write blog entries for the company blog, some with a sales intent but most just for entertainment’s sake.  In doing this we often research (by use of a Chase’s Calendar of Events) what is going on during any given month.  August happens to be “What Will Be Your Legacy” Month.  (Do you think that’s why the movie is being released this month?)  Now, a legacy is anything handed down from the past.  The legacy you leave behind can do with property, skills or even a set of values or ideals to which you adhere.  In the movie (from what I gather) Jason’s “legacy” was more about the secret program he first volunteered for.  In the book, Jason’s legacy has more to do with the impact his actions have had on others, including his children (that’s right Jason Bourne’s got kids), and how your past–your legacy–can come back to haunt you.

The question asked in “What Will Be Your Legacy” Month is more like what is written in the book.  How do your actions affect those around you?  I don’t know if I can answer this question for myself.  I don’t know if anyone can.  Do I say the right things to my nieces and nephews? (Sometimes.)  Do I maintain my integrity when under pressure? (Not really.)  What kind of example am I setting?  And that’s when I have to remember grace.  And I’m so glad that the only legacy that I have to leave is one of loving the Lord, knowing I’m forgiven and extending that forgiveness to others.  I still have a lot of work to do on my legacy, and it’s not as exciting as Bourne’s.  But on the bright side, I get my nose broken a lot less often than he does.

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The Anniversary of the End: A Tribute to Anne Frank

“Little bundle of contradictions…” That is how Anne Frank’s last entry into her diary, dated Tuesday, 1 August, 1944, begins.  She goes on to describe the struggle between our true self and the self we allow others to see.  Rarely do you see such truth and insight from a girl just 15-years-old, but her life was not exactly typical.

Although born in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1933, when Anne was only four, her father, Otto Frank moved to Holland.  Otto could see how the majority of German sympathies were leaning toward the Nazi-party, who had before that year been thought of as troublemakers, if they had been thought of at all.  Holland had always been a place of refuge for the persecuted, but all that changed when the Germans invaded Holland in 1940.  Ever perceptive, when the Nazis began rounding up Jews in 1941 to deport them back to Germany, Otto Frank began to make preparations to hide his family.  On July 5, 1942, Anne’s 16-year-old sister, Margot was summoned to report for deportation.  The next day the family went into hiding. The Franks lived with another family, the Van Daan’s and another man, Mr. Dussel in some small cramped upstairs quarters, which they called the “secret annexe,” for two years.

In June, 1944, the Allies invaded France.  The group up in the “secret annexe” looked forward to the day that the Germans would be driven from Holland and they could come out of hiding, taste the air, feel the sun, stroll down the street.  But on August 4 1944, the Gestapo found the Franks’ hiding place.  The eight Jews, along with two of their friends who were hiding them, were taken to Gestapo headquarters in Amsterdam. The Franks, the Van Daans and Mr. Dussel were sent to Westerbork transit camp and then on to Auschwitz.  The Franks were among the last shipment of a thousand Jews to leave Holland on September 3, the day the Allies captured Brussels.

In October, Anne, Margot and Mrs. Van Daan were among a group of the youngest and strongest women selected to be moved to Belsen Concentration Camp in Germany.  Mrs. Frank died in Auschwitz, alone.  Mr. Van Daan had met his end in the gas chamber, and Mr. Dussel was send to Germany and died in the Neuengamme camp.  In February, 1945, the SS abandoned Auschwitz, and they took Peter Van Daan with them.  He was never heard from again.  Mr. Frank survived to be liberated by the Russians.  Mrs. Van Daan, Margot and Anne died at Belsen.  Anne was not yet 16-years-old.  Two months later, the war ended.

Through the publication of her diary, many people have been inspired, by this strong, courageous girl, who was wise beyond her years, to “keep on trying to find a way of becoming what I would so like to be, and what I could be, if…there weren’t any other people living in the world.”

Thank you for your words, Anne.

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before i fall, by Lauren Oliver

You know, it’s amazing how a good book can change your perspective on your day, your week and sometimes even your life.  I am currently reading before i fall, by Lauren Oliver, an author who with her first novel (the one I’m reading) has been nominated by teens and the ALA for one of the “YALSA Top Ten Teen books for 2011 And I must say that I am thoroughly enjoying this book. So much that last night I stayed up until almost one o’clock reading it and then woke up an hour early, on my own, with a smile on my face, to continue reading it. I drove to work barely getting upset, although three people cut me off and I thought one was going to hit me.  I smiled all the way into work, and didn’t lose my smile until my boss came in and totally confused me about something by talking in half sentences and never completing a thought, like I’m supposed to read her mind, but since I’m haven’t been that involved in the project and she’s obviously had conversations about it to others that I know nothing about, my brow started to furrow and she asked me why I was looking at her like she was crazy.  But I digress.

before i fall is about a popular senior girl at Thomas Jefferson High School, who gets in a car accident coming home from a party and dies…or does she?  For instead of a white light and angels, she wakes up in her own bedroom and has to live through the day of her death again.  Now, she is stuck in a loop and every time she goes to sleep, she wakes up the morning of her accident, and every day she discovers something new about that day.  It’s almost Groundhog’s Day goes to high school.  The main character Samantha discovers things about herself, how her actions and the actions of her friends affect people.

I have a little over 100 pages to go and I can’t wait until lunch so I can pick it up again.

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