Tuesday, January 15, 2019

A Hymn and a Sixth

I've been having somewhat of a hymn-writing dry spell lately. Last night, prompted by an opportunity to compose and arrange an original hymn tune for another Lutheran poet, I opened the work-in-progress EDIFYING HYMNS for, I believe, the first time since early August. Meantime, I had scribbled down the beginnings of two original hymns. So, I completed one of them and whipped up original tunes for both. First, the one I finished; then, the one I still have some work to do on. I reckon I have five-sixths of Hymn 263 to write yet. It's kind of a run at a similar type of poem to Psalm 119. (I'll have to add the tunes in a later edit; I thought I had saved them to the flash drive I brought to work today, but I can't find them now.)

262. Hymn on the Efficacy of God's Word
Tune: EFFICACY, written last night by Yours Truly.

God is not dead, nor does He sleep,
Nor from His purpose turns aside,
Nor lies, nor jests, nor idly speaks;
What He affirms is not denied.
What He commands, straightway is done,
Pledged on His dear, eternal Son.

God’s word is strong, active, alive,
Speaking the darkness into light;
It both can heal and can divide,
Kindling faith and shaming sight.
Let reason sneer, law’s bailiff brood;
God’s foolishness is true and good.

God opens hearts, calling to faith;
God speaks through men and calls to men,
Bringing to life relics of death,
Making the broken whole again.
What He calls clean is clean indeed;
Likewise forgiven, favored, freed.

God’s word can do; it will suffice:
Trust it to do the Spirit’s will.
Use but the means that God supplies;
All that He vows, He will fulfill.
All that He has, already Yours,
Thereby into Your hands He pours.

263. Acrostic Hymn
Tune: ABECEDARIAN, also written last night by Moi.

Almighty God in heaven above,
Answer our cry with faithful love.
Account our cause before Your throne
According to Your holy Son.
As He descended to our state,
Anointed with the sinner’s fate,
All who by faith are grafted in
Are thereby reckoned free of sin.

Bend down with mercy in this hour
Before we perish by the pow’r
Beëlzebul, with thousand pranks,
Brings forth against Your City’s ranks.
Build up Her walls with words of strength;
Breathe peace throughout their height and length;
Bless them who, girded for the fray,
Bear arms in spirit night and day.

Cause angels from the realm of light,
Chaste warriors, to aid our fight.
Commit, as well, through storm and calm,
Clay vessels, charged with healing balm;
Call servants, feeble though they be,
Christ’s little lambs to oversee,
Correcting those who go astray,
Cleansed, fed and guided on Your way.

Delude the enemies who would
Destroy our peace, pollute our good;
Derange the counsels that devise
Deception in the gospel’s guise.
Defend the faithful, who defy
Denial of Your name most high;
Deliver us from all distress,
Decked daily in Your righteousness.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Robbie Awards 3

Technically, these are the Third Annual Robbie Awards for books I have read and reviewed since this time last year. Thanks to last year's seven-year retrospective ("Retro Robbie Awards"), this is unofficially the 10th year for which these awards have been presented. It's funny how fast this kind of anniversary sneaks up. Another challenge this year is the fact that, due to really limited online time, I'm way behind on writing my reviews; so, I'm going to have to wing it a bit.

So, to start, here are the books that (according to my records) I have read since the start of 2018:
  1. Long Live the Queen by Kate Locke
  2. Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling
  3. The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol
  4. Invasion by Luke Rhinehart
  5. The Darkest Road by Guy Gavriel Kay
  6. Canoes in Winter: Beneath the Surface by Bob Guelker
  7. The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson
  8. Symphony for the City of the Dead by M.T. Anderson
  9. The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson
  10. Goodbye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton
  11. Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson
  12. The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck
  13. Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray
  14. Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth by Frank Cottrell Boyce
  15. Bad Unicorn by Platte F. Clark
  16. Fluff Dragon by Platte F. Clark
  17. Good Ogre by Platte F. Clark
  18. The Countdown Conspiracy by Katie Slivensky
  19. Tumble and Blue by Cassie Beasley
  20. The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine
  21. Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson
  22. The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud
  23. The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson
  24. Changing Planes by Ursula K. Le Guin
  25. Smoke by Dan Vyleta
  26. The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle
  27. The Gravedigger's Cottage by Chris Lynch
  28. Stronger by Jeff Bauman with Bret Witter
  29. Unsub by Meg Gardiner
  30. The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud
  31. The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
  32. The Hollow Boy by Jonathan Stroud
  33. Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin
  34. The Creeping Shadow by Jonathan Stroud
  35. Trollhunters by Guillermo del Toro & Daniel Kraus
  36. Time to Laugh: Funny Tales from Here and There ed. by Phyllis Fenner
  37. Scowler by Daniel Kraus
  38. The Empty Grave by Jonathan Stroud
  39. Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones by Brandon Sanderson
  40. Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay
  41. Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia by Brandon Sanderson
  42. Do the Movies Have a Future? by David Denby
  43. Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens by Brandon Sanderson
  44. Westmark by Lloyd Alexander
  45. The Kestrel by Lloyd Alexander
  46. Aliens in Disguise by Clete Barrett Smith
  47. All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot
  48. Magic Delivery by Clete Barrett Smith
  49. Cold Blooded by Lisa Jackson
  50. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann
  51. Crime Scene by Jonathan Kellerman and Jesse Kellerman
  52. Temptation Bangs Forever: The Worst Church Signs You've Ever Seen by Robert Kroese and Joel Bezaire
  53. The Spaceship Next Door by Gene Doucette
  54. Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore
  55. Deep Freeze by John Sandford
  56. Legion by Brandon Sanderson
  57. The Dragon's Path by Daniel Abraham
  58. The King's Blood by Daniel Abraham
  59. The Power of Un by Nancy Etchemendy
  60. The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag
  61. It Takes One by Kate Kessler
  62. Two Can Play by Kate Kessler
  63. Practical Demonkeeping by Christopher Moore
  64. Smek for President! by Adam Rex
  65. The Cabinet of Earths by Anne Nesbet
Well, I didn't make my Goodreads goal of 100 books this year. Apparently, suddenly having a lot of TV-on-DVD to binge on has been detrimental to my literary life. (It has also contributed to the curtailment of my creative writing.) Anyway, here are either the third or the tenth annual Robbie Awards!

Critics' Choice
I'm a critic, kind of. In my critical opinion, the best book on the above list, in terms of overall literary merit, is The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck.

People's Choice
I'm a person, too. My favorite book on the above list, for pure fun and popular appeal, is Changing Planes by Ursula K. Le Guin.

Kids' Choice
I'm a child inside. Of the books above aimed at younger readers, my favorite is Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling. Honorable mentions: Bad Unicorn, The Power of Un, Rain Reign and Magic Delivery.

Best Comeback
Of the golden oldies I discovered this year, I consider the goldenest (apart from The Moon Is Down) to be Westmark by Lloyd Alexander.

Best Newcomer
I didn't do any pre-publication reviews this year, but of the relatively recent publications I read this year, my favorite is The Spaceship Next Door by Gene Doucette.

Best Documentary
I think the best nonfiction book I read this year is Symphony for the City of the Dead by M.T. Anderson. Honorable mention: Killers of the Flower Moon.

Best Audiobook
Of the books I read with my ears this year, my favorite is Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay, read by Kate Reading. Honorable mention: The Dragon's Path by Daniel Abraham, read by Pete Bradbury.

Best Foreign Adaptation
Strictly speaking, I didn't read anything translated from a foreign language. However, at least one book that I read seems to be a repackaging, probably with revisions to make it more digestible to an American audience, of multiple shorter books originally published in the U.K. So, I'll give this award to All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot.

Best Short Subject
I could give this, by default, to Temptation Bangs Forever, though I'm almost ashamed even to include it on this list. I could also give it to a book made up of short stories, but it doesn't quite feel right to slice it that way. So, alas, no award.

Best Art
In a new category recognizing illustration, graphic novel art and beautiful book covers, I'd like to recognize Smek for President! by Adam Rex for its intermittent but entertaining use of comic book-style panels within a novel that otherwise leaves the imagery up to the reader.

Best Adapted Material
Here's another new category, though I'm going to start by stretching the point a bit and award it to a book that was adapted into another medium rather than the other way around. The winner: Trollhunters by Guillermo del Toro & Daniel Kraus. I especially like the fact that although the original book and the subsequent TV series are so very different, neither suffers in the comparison; they are both, in my opinion, winners.

The Cabinet of Earths

The Cabinet of Earths
by Anne Nesbet
Recommended Ages: 12+

I didn't realize, when I read it, that A Box of Gargoyles was the sequel to this book. So, I read them out of order, but I don't think it really mattered. In this book, an American girl named Maya moves to Paris for a year with her parents and her adorable little brother James, meets her best friend (a Bulgarian boy named Valko), and finds herself in the middle of a magical plot that has involved several generations of her family. Among the relatives she is surprised to meet in Paris are a distant cousin who is partly invisible and once survived having a church fall on her, a beautiful uncle-cousin named Henri who has violet eyes and peddles a mysterious, addictive substance called anbar, and an eccentric, elderly uncle-cousin named Henri-Pierre who has a cabinet full of bottled earths that calls out to Maya (the cabinet I mean), urging her to become its next keeper.

Something sinister is afoot in Maya's Paris. It has something to do with a group of beautiful kids at her school, led by the Dauphin (or, as Maya calls him, the Dolphin), whose parents look way younger than they are. It has something to do with a witch who, during World War II, gave up on life after one of her sons betrayed the other to the Nazis. It has something to do with a fountain commemorating a series of vanished children who, it turns out, didn't really vanish - not entirely, anyhow. Someone is sucking the charm and liveliness out of Paris' children, and someone is creating a race of immortals, and meantime, Maya is worried that her mother's cancer may have come back. It's a lot for a teenage girl to handle, but when pushed in just the right way, Maya exhibits a steely strength that surprises her as much as the reader.

There is a lot to love about this book. Maya, her parents, James, Valko, and other characters are crisply drawn and subtly developed. Maya's spirit goes right to your heart. The atmosphere teems with magic, mystery, a sense of danger, and a presentiment of horror that mesh well with the scenery of Paris. Pieces of art and architecture play a role in creating a fascinating scenic world. And almost invisibly, like Cousin Louise, author Nesbet establishes a compelling and original style that conveys striking impressions and complex emotions in a truly original, yet seemingly effortless way.

Also by this California-based author and educator are the novels The Wrinkled Crown, Cloud and Wallfish, and The Orphan Band of Springdale, all of which look interesting to me. This was her first novel.