Author Archives: Katy

The Booksellers: A Review

The Booksellers directed by DW Young
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

This was an absolutely lovely documentary about the book world, specifically the rare book dealer world. It focused less on the stories within books and more on the stories of the books themselves. The only negative was that the film was too short, needing a more in-depth look into the collections of these booksellers.

The film focused on specific booksellers in New York City, but also about the history of book collecting and book binding. Did you know that there are books bound in human skin? Most of these books have made it into museums and libraries, but there are still a few collectors still in the game.

There has been a decline in collecting, though. Part of it is limited supply, and part of it is limited demand. Booksellers are having to pivot to keep up with the changes brought on by the internet and technology as a whole. Older booksellers would say the whole industry is dying, but there a still young people with a lot of ideas to keep it alive.

Book collecting is different than just buying a lot of books to add to a growing TBR. The libraries are curated to a specific theme. One collection may have just women writers, while another follows the history of hip-hop. And it is usually more than just the books, but other items that support the history they are collecting.

So book collectors are essentially historians with a love of their items. First editions aren’t always the best, sometimes it’s annotated copies or signed copies (especially signed to specific people). There was this infectious love of the search. The search that has been dampened by the internet, but it still out there.

It might have taken 20 years to find a particular book at one point, and now it may only take minutes on eBay or a bookseller site. But the love of books, the growing collections of books, is still a loved past time. It has definitely changed the way I will look at my own bookshelves and how I want those shelves to reflect me the next time I am ready to cull back or add to my own library.

There is no significant profanity in the film. Maybe some brief nude images on the cover of books for some of the stranger book collections. No violent content, either, though there is a section discussing how they wish their collections will be handled when they die.

Grief through the eyes of Rachel

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. So in honor of that, I want to highlight some of the women in the Bible who experienced grief and loss, particularly surrounding children or family.

Last week, I talked about Leah, so I thought it was only fair to talk about Rachel’s grief this week. I don’t know what kind of relationship the two sisters had before being married to Jacob, but it turns into a bit of a train wreck afterwards.

Rachel’s relationship with Jacob started in a much more romantic, much less problematic way. She meets Jacob at a well, he cries and kisses her when meets her. After a month, he bargains for her in exchange for seven years of labor for her father. And then things take a solid turn for the worse.

We all know where Leah was that first night of the wedding party, but I wonder where Rachel was. For seven years, Jacob was wooing her and then Leah takes her place when the wedding day finally comes. As with Leah, I think Rachel was grieving the seemingly lost chance at love. That is, until Jacob signs up for another seven years of labor to ensure that she is his.

But still, even though marrying more than one wife was pretty common at the time, I doubt Rachel had in mind to share her husband with her older sister. Then, when Leah starts having children, she doesn’t. And her grief is recorded. Even though she is loved more, she blames Jacob for her infertility.

When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!”

Genesis 30:1

She becomes obsessed with finding her place in this family. She uses her maidservant to produce two sons, both of which are named to reflect the competition she feels with her sister. Then, when she hears that Leah’s oldest son has found a mandrake root (which was supposed to help with conception), she bargains with the one card she has, Jacob. Eventually, she gives birth to Joseph and immediately asks for another son.

But there is more to the story of Rachel than just her ability to have sons. After she gives birth to Joseph, Jacob packs up her family and leaves after an altercation with Laban. Both Leah and Rachel agree that it is time to go, but it still must have been hard to leave. In fact, Rachel takes her father’s household idols (which was more than just a religious artifact in that culture, whoever had the idols would inherit the family’s fortune). She is crafty and quick on her feet when Laban pursues them and investigates. She hides the idols underneath her seat and claims she cannot get up because she is on her period. He never finds them.

They leave on good terms with her father, and when Jacob reaches his brother, they reconcile as well. Jacob continues on to settle in a place called Ephrath (which is called Bethlehem), but on the way Rachel dies giving birth to Benjamin. She doesn’t get to see her sons grow up. She is buried on the way to Bethlehem, not with Jacob in the family tomb, but her tomb is honored as a place in 1 Samuel 10.

Rachel was an incredibile woman, beautiful and smart and honored by her husband. She competed with her sister, left her homeland, and died giving life to a son that would represent a tribe that includes people like King Saul and the Apostle Paul. She was loved by God. And she is a great reminder that while our life might not look the way we think it should, God is working in the details to bring about his great legacy.

Faces in the Crowd: A Review

Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli
My rating: 2.5 of 5 star

I read this book as part of the Life’s Library book club which is probably the one way I really broaden my reading life. I don’t think there has been a book in this subscription club that I would have known about or picked up. And I have liked some of the books that they shared. But this was not one of them.

According to the back of the book, there were supposed to be three different narrators. But I could only see two. And the book isn’t divided in chapters, but instead just little snippets of storyline all mixed up. Plus, I believe this has been translated from Spanish, and I think some of it got lost in translation. There were a lot of times in the book that I had no idea what was going on, and I think the narrators were unreliable as well. The husband of the main protagonist kept dying or leaving the family but then, not really.

There was this one fascinating thread throughout the book about future ghosts. The poet translator kept thinking that she was seeing Gilbert Owen on the subway. And in a storyline narrated by Owen, he thinks he sees a woman fitting the description of the translator in a passing subway. This idea that all of the stories kind of fold on to one another was really cool.

I’ve heard that the audiobook is better as it clearly differentiates between the different narrators. So, that might have also added to the confusion. Overall, I didn’t feel anything for the characters because I couldn’t really tell what was happening. I know that there were a lot of literary allusions to things I love, Emily Dickenson and William Carlos Williams. But I could clearly see the allusions without understanding how they worked in the story which just made it feel strange.

This book wasn’t for me. But perhaps I will at some point try the audiobook version and see if that makes a difference. But for now, just not my kind of book.

There is profanity in the book. There are a lot of masturbation scenes and a few nondetailed sex scenes. There is talk of death throughout the book, this idea of dying at various points of your life but also dying in general. There is also an earthquake that happens and death is discussed then, too.

Knock Down The House: A Review

Knock Down The House directed by Rachel Lears
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I decided to watch this documentary because I thought it would be interesting to see the process of a campaign during an election year. The film follows four women from various parts of the country who are trying to win in their primaries during the 2018 election. This is during the primaries, so at this point, they aren’t running against another party, but an established incumbent within their own party.

Did you know that there are organizations whose main purpose is to find new people to run against already established candidates? Two that were mentioned were the Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats. They basically seek out working class people to enter into grass roots campaigns to replace well established incumbents.

Each of the candidates had separate motivations for why they wanted to run and different obstacles to overcome. Sometimes it was personal, sometimes it was to make a difference in their neighborhoods on specific issues. Immediately, I recognized Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as one of the candidates the film followed. I also had heard of Cori Bush as well. But I knew very little about the other women.

It was really heartbreaking for those that lost (but I looked them up and one of them has won their primary this year). I really got invested in their stories.. The strategy and stress that go behind each of the campaign is incredible. Seeing AOC gather her community and acknowledge them every stop of the way, I can see why she won.

I think this is a great film to learn about the process, the work, and gain respect for those who campaign for public offices. They and their team put their hearts and souls into it. It didn’t make me want to throw my hat into the ring, but I gained a new respect for these women and all of the smaller names on the ballots. Even if I don’t agree with them on every issue, it takes a lot of guts and sweat and tears to get out there.

There is no profanity in this film, maybe a “hell” here or there. No sexual content or violent content. One of the candidates does talk about how her daughter died which was the catalyst for her to get involved in politics and advocacy.

Grief through the eyes of Leah

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. So in honor of that, I want to highlight some of the women in the Bible who experienced grief and loss, particularly surrounding children or family.

When I think about the women of infertility, I am drawn to Leah and her sister Rachel (don’t worry, Rachel will be later this month). Growing up, I thought Rachel got the short end of the stick. Now as an adult who has experienced my own griefs and now sees the world is a little more complicated, I see how much Leah was hurting.

When Jacob shows up in Paddan Aram, he is running from his brother who wants to kill him, but also so that he will find a wife. He meets Rachel first at the well and it is love at first sight. After a month of highly probable googly eyes, he makes the proposition to Laban that he will work for seven years in return for Rachel.

And here is where Leah enters the story. She isn’t just the older sister who probably had to endure the puppy love Jacob had for Rachel, but she is mentioned to have weak eyes, or delicate eyes. Maybe she was nearsighted, maybe she had a lazy eye, not really sure, but the main fact remains that Rachel was more beautiful.

Seven years pass and Laban throws Jacob a party to honor the union of Jacob and his daughter. But not the daughter Jacob had in mind.

But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and Jacob made love to her.

Genesis 29:23

I thought it was Leah that had the weak eyes. After seven years, Jacob couldn’t tell the difference between the two sisters? How dark was it, and how drunk was he? Also, you have to admit, it kind of feels like he had it coming considering this is a very familiar to the trick Jacob played on his father.

When Jacob wakes up in the morning, and sees Leah there and not Rachel, he confronts Laban. Laban explains a loophole that the older daughter has to be married first. But if Jacob agrees to another seven years, then after this bridal week for Leah, Jacob can have Rachel as well.

This brings up three things. First, Leah has been on the sidelines with no prospects for seven years. Second, Jacob finished the bridal week, which means he continued to consummate this loveless marriage with Leah for a full week. And third, Leah was only married to Jacob for one week before Rachel entered the picture. I don’t know if Leah had a say in this trick, but I do know that she was unwanted and unloved, a pawn used and thrown away by her own father.

But now she was married, and God seeing that unloved status, decides to give her honor among her society. While Rachel wasn’t able to conceive, Leah has four sons. And as she names those sons, she reveals her internal struggle. With Reuben, “The Lord has seen my misery.  Surely my husband will love me now.”  With Simeon, “Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.”  With Levi, “Now, at last, my husband will become attached to me because I have borne him three sons.  And with Judah, she stops hoping and says, “This time I will praise the Lord.”

And right there, right when her focus returns to the Lord, she enters a time of infertility. There is a false belief that if we just do everything the Lord asks of us, turn our face to him, that we will get everything we desire. For Leah, that is not the case. But that doesn’t meant that God wasn’t working in her life, walking with her in this new grief of infertility on top of the grief of be unwanted and unloved.

Rachel and Leah then use maidservants (much like Sarah did, but this time it doesn’t seem as controversial to God’s plan since these sons are also added to the tribes of Israel). But then there is this whole conversation about a mandrake root. Reuben finds it and gives it to his mother which brings me to another thought. Everyone knows. The only reason Reuben would have sought out and gotten this particular plant for his mother seems to be for the aphrodisiac qualities and conception qualities. Even her own son knew her infertility troubles, possibly even the love troubles.

But Rachel gets the root and Leah gets pregnant with two more sons and a daughter. The final two sons reflect an acknowledgement of God’s glory. Leah doesn’t stray in her walk with God, even through being unloved, infertile, and watched by those in her community. Her life never quite reached the level of her own expectation, but her legacy would go on to King David and Jesus Christ.

Maybe you grieve the life you thought you would have some day, but didn’t turn out how you thought it would. Maybe you feel like your grief is in a fishbowl, being watched by your community (maybe with a little added unsolicited advice or judgement). But like Leah, God sees you. He sees what you are going through. He sees all of the injustice and is willing to redeem you. But in all the distractions, all the missteps, all the changes to your path, the truth remains and can never be taken away. You are wanted. You are loved. You are worthy.

THe House on the Cerulean Sea: A Review

The House on the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I first heard about this book, it was presented to me like a book recommendation for those that like Harry Potter. This is not. I don’t even think they are in the same genre. But this book is good on its own merits. To be fair, I don’t think I would have actually picked up the book if not for this faulty recommendation and its gorgeous cover.

But on to the story.

The story is about a social worker who is part of the Department of Magical Youth. In this world, all sorts of magical creatures really exist, and in a recent past, new laws have begun an attempt to assimilate magical creatures into the society of humans. When a magical creature is a child, and has no family, they are sent to orphanages. It is the social worker’s job to determine if these orphanages are doing their job. If they aren’t, the orphanage is closed and the children are moved elsewhere.

Linus Baker is a 40 year old man who has been working as a social worker all of his adult life. He doesn’t make waves, does the best he can at his job, and is very much alone and lonely. His only companion is a cat who isn’t particularly friendly. His only fun is listening to old records at night.

The Extremely Upper Management decides one day to send Linus to a classified orphanage with the most problematic children. He is to live there a month, and at the end of that month, he is to make his assessment of whether it should stay open. He has, up to this point, managed to stay detached when making his observations, but this time is going to be different. This time, he will find love. He will understand acceptance. He will transform.

This book is beautiful. It’s all about acceptance, of yourself and others. It’s about using the privileges we are given in life to help those who are not privileged. It’s about the innocence of youth and seeing past the outer shell into the heart of a person.

My favorite relationships are that of Linus and each of the children. He reads their files at the beginning of his observations, seeing them as potentially quite dangerous to himself and others, but you see throughout the book that they are labeled concretely when there should be more nuance. The conversations between the Linus and the children are absolutely precious, showing both their problems and their innocence at the same time.

I didn’t know at the time that I received the book that the main character was queer and that there was a queer relationship in the book. I don’t know if I would have honestly picked up the book had I known. But most of what I had known about queer relationships before this book was quite different. The romance in this book is a slow burn, meaning that the romantic aspects of the relationship grow slowly and are not revealed until the end. You see glimpses of attraction, but they are more subtle.

Plus, it just further supported the character transformation that Linus goes through. He doesn’t come out of the other side as a socially acceptable version of himself. Instead, he learns how to accept himself despite what society says. Something the characters around him have had to learn to do.

In the end, I cried. The sweet relationships that develop and how much character growth Linus goes through in this story were just so emotionally overwhelming for me. In this climate, a sweet book like this is very needed. I understand if it may not be a book you would normally pick up, but if you give it a chance, the magic is well worth it. Even if it is nothing like Harry Potter.

There are a few words of profanity in the book. The children call him on it once which is exactly what children do. There are a couple of kisses mentioned, innuendo to more, but absolutely nothing graphic. For violent content, there is a mention of one child enduring physical abuse prior to his stay on the island, most of the children had endured some type of abuse, but nothing detailed. Also, Lucy (the child anti-Christ) says some pretty violent threats, but it is quickly understood that he uses them as a defense mechanism.

Enola Holmes: A Review

Enola Holmes directed by Harry Bradbeer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So, to be perfectly fair, I watched this movie assuming it was an adult movie which I think colored my opinion of it. This is not an adult movie. If it was meant for adults, it would definitely be a 3 star film, but I’m going to review it as a young teen film.

The cast is fantastic, as it would be. Enola Holmes is played by Millie Bobby Brown who is also known as Eleven from the Stranger Things series. In this film, she is quirky and fun and encompasses both the cleverness and naivete of the character. Henry Cavill plays her brother, the famous Sherlock Holmes. He seems almost type casted in roles as an emotionally stunted superhero/savant who ends up learning to love in the end (Witcher, Superman, and now this). He didn’t exhibit the exaggerated arrogance that usually is connected to Sherlock Holmes, but he fit this storyline well. (Benedict will always be the one and only Sherlock). Helen Bonham Carter, Sam Claflin, Susan Wokoma, and Louis Partridge (as well as basically the rest of the cast) did excellent jobs as well in both explaining and supporting the main character’s antics.

There is a romance, but it is really young and awkward. Most of the film is spent running and investigating, very little canoodling, even in scenes with just those two characters. The romance reflects well Enola’s naïve nature. There is more of a focus on the clues to follow much like a Sherlock Holmes novel.

It has a strong feminist message, but more in the sense that people can be more that what they are labeled. This message is first exhibited by Enola, as a girl who can do incredible things but not the socially acceptable things. But then Enola, herself learns not to judge a book by its cover through her relationship with Tewkesbury who she thinks is unable to take care of himself. He, of course, will prove her wrong.

It is set in the 19th century during the suffrage movement in London, England. The costuming is beautiful. The sets are lovely and enforce the tone of the movie, exhibiting Enola’s chaotic upbringing in the countryside to the order of the finishing school back to more chaos in the streets of London.

The ending fell a little flat for me, a little too neat and naïve, but the movie is fun. The characters are loveable. And it is fast-paced and funny. Definitely recommend to a younger audience or a family film night.

There is no profanity in this film. No sexual content, other than longing glances and a kiss on the hand. Violent content includes hand to hand combat, one scene with characters shooting a gun at other characters with intent to kill, and one death scene which felt a little brutal for this movie. If that one scene (which is towards the end) was out of the movie, I would recommend the movie to even younger audiences. Parental discretion is a must.

How To Be An Antiracist: A Review

How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is filled with so much good information. Though heavy at times, I really learned a lot about how racism pervades everything. This isn’t a book about how White people have done this or that, but it’s about how policies that have been put in place for years, decades even, have been racist, and how we need to focus on making those policies more equal for all people.

Each chapter looks at racism from a different angle – culturally, biologically, both in gender and sexuality. It was uncomfortable at times, really challenged my own thoughts and beliefs, but I felt like he always came back to what was important, not that we try to change the thoughts of a racist, except by changing policies first.

Also in each chapter marks his own journey to becoming more antiracist, all the wrongs turns he made, and the people who he looked up to and righted him back on the path of antiracism. It was fascinating the watch his own growth, actually giving me hope in how I can grow as well. He embraced the times he was wrong because he learned the value of doing right was greater than being right.

This book was transformative and engaging. It repeats over and over from each angle how focusing on policies will be more productive in the long run than focusing on people and their individual actions. Highly recommend, though I do warn you, this isn’t an easy, light read. It will require some reflection and thought after each chapter

There is profanity in the book. Since it talks about the past, there is mention of rap and name calling of certain groups of women that would count as sexual content, but nothing explicit. Also, there are mentions of lynchings and murders of Black bodies but, again nothing quite graphic.

The Social Dilemma: A Review

The Social Dilemma directed by Jeff Orlowski
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The documentary portion of this film was excellent. It opens on a series of interviews with former and current engineers, designers, presidents, and ethical decision-makers of some of the social platforms we all use – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. The main premise is how these platforms began with pretty pure motives. They were created to be content-sharing, thought-sharing communities, but eventually, the financial aspects and opportunities turned these platforms into places that can effectively build and destroy those same communities. Even whole countries can rise and fall to the power of manipulation these platforms hold.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. I think this documentary is meant to give awareness to the potential of harm that has already happened in our country. And I had noticed already a lot of what they talked about in this film.

Take Facebook, for example. When I got an account with Facebook, it was a little more focused on college campuses. My university had to sign up for Facebook, and then the only way I could get an account is through my university email address. Of course, a year later, it would be open to the public. Then, I remember that the newsfeed was chronological in the beginning. So many of my friends were upset when it changed to only show the friends we seemed to be more engaged with. Out of 500 friends, you might only see 25 of those friends’ updates on your feed. You would have to go to each of the other 475 profiles to see any of the other updates.

Then, as Facebook became a publicly traded company, they had to really show that they could make money. They created a way for advertisers to only show ads to those people who fit their demographic, and that algorithm got smarter and smarter. Soon, there was this bubble around each person, pushing the agendas and ads that would drive this person further and further to the fringes.

One of the interesting things was how different a search on climate change would be depending on where you live in the country. The top autocompleted searches would change if you lived in Texas versus California. Everything is built so that you will stay on the platform, because the longer you stay, the more ads you see, the more likely you are to buy.

I have my own thoughts about all of these platforms. I haven’t been a fan of Facebook for a while, so I might have a little confirmation bias. But it is good to approach these platforms with sober intentionality, a time limit, and an awareness of where these algorithms try to pull you.

The only thing I didn’t like was the fictional family that they follow throughout the show. The parents seem helpless. The oldest child seems aware of what is going on and prefers books to screens, but acts with more authority than the parents because she seems to know better. The two younger children are swept up in the rabbit holes and “likes” obsessions. And the ending is a little dire. I kept thinking, we have more tools as parents than what is presented. There are ways to keep up with what your kids are seeing online. When the girl smashes the compartment, the next scene shows her still having a phone. I mean, what the heck?

Still, this documentary is a good one to watch, even if it just lends a little more self-awareness to what you are doing online. There are a lot of things available now to track your intake and what exactly you are taking in. So I definitely recommend this one.

There is profanity in this film. No sexual content. One of the fictional children struggles with her looks. All the violent content are videos of riots and fighting, as well as a riotous protest in the fictional family story.

Beloved

This year has been heavy. But even before the isolation and uncertainty that this era of the pandemic was brought into our lives, life wasn’t perfect. Throughout my life, I chased after things I thought would bring me comfort or significance or worth. Having a busy lifestyle, or connections in person or online, or accomplishing goals. I was in constant pursuit.

This year has forced me to slow down, like many other people, and reflect and reevaluate what is really important. To level risks and priorities against both mental and physical health. It has me craving the Word, the reminders of who God is, and what my relationship to him is, and I came across this beautiful blessing given to the tribe of Benjamin in Deuteronomy.

“Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders.”

Deuteronomy 33:12

Beloved. One who is much loved. A beloved person is one who is being actively pursued. Which means that God is actively pursuing us.

Even when we are chasing other things to fill the void like what is described in Nehemiah.

They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them

Nehemiah 9:17

He never deserted us. Even when I feel isolated and overwhelmed, God is still standing beside me, longing for me to be still enough to hear his whispers of comfort.

And why does he love us? More than the fact that we are each created in his image to rule together in his Kingdom. It is the simple fact that God is love.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

1 John 4:16

So remember, you aren’t just loved, you are beloved. God is pursuing your heart and longs to be with you, to face the giants together and overcome the world. It is an intimacy I can rely on when feeling lost and facing the unknown. In that truth, I can find rest and peace no matter what tomorrow brings.

I hope you enjoyed this reminder that we are the beloved of God. If you know someone who needs this encouragement, please share this post with them today.