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Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Redwall by Brian Jacques

Title: Redwall 

Brian Jacques (English, 1939-2011)
Originally published: 1986
Page count: 333

Dates read: 8/27/2020-9/8/2020
2020 book goal progress: 24 out of 20
Reading category: TBR Shelf

Read my other book reviews for my 2020 goal HERE.

Description on back of book:

Welcome to Mossflower Wood, where the gentle mice have gathered to celebrate a year of peace and abundance. All is well... until a sinister shadow falls across the ancient stone abbey of Redwall. It is rumored that Cluny is coming - Cluny, the terrible one-eyed rat and his savage horde - Cluny, who has vowed to conquer Redwall Abbey! The only hope for the besieged mice lies in the lost sword of the legendary Martin the Warrior. And so begins the epic quest of a bumbling young apprentice - a courageous mouse who would rise up, fight back... and become a legend himself.

First sentence(s):
"Matthias cut a comical little figure as he wobbled his way along the cloisters, with his large sandals flip-flopping and his tail peeping from beneath the baggy folds of an oversized novice's habit. He paused to gaze upwards at the cloudless sky and tripped over the enormous sandals. Hazelnuts scattered out upon the grass from the rush basket he was carrying. Unable to stop, he went tumbling cowl over tail. Bump!"

CAWPILE Rating: Overall - 6/10 - ⭐⭐⭐/5
Characters      - 8
Atmosphere   - 7
Writing Style - 7
Plot                - 5
Intrigue          - 4
Logic             - 5
Enjoyment     - 6
What is a CAWPILE Rating?

This was an OK book. It started out well and I expected it to get deep and complex. Instead, it stuck very much to a children's story. It was a simple and predictable story, and most characters were one-dimensional. I almost stopped reading it because there's a character, Cornflower the fieldmouse, which plays an extremely stereotypical women's role and the sexism bothered me. It irritated me that every time we saw her someone was commenting on her figure and beauty... and in the end, she's given away (by the Abbot/leader of Redwall, not even her father) in an arranged marriage as a prize to a warrior - though it's not stated that way and both involved approve of the marriage.

BUT I finished the book because I recognized there was a myriad of incredible female characters to go along (and lead) with the other male characters! Constance the badger is big and strong, and a great fighter. Jess the squirrel is an expert climber and strategist whose husband is very much in the background, as most wives would typically be represented. Warbeak is the Queen of the sparrows. Sela the fox is a sly, two-timing witch doctor. Guosim the shrew is the co-leader of a democratic guerrilla group of shrews - and the list could go on. Other than Cornflower (and possibly the main character, Matthias, who was a bit annoying to me), all the characters, both male and female, were really neat to me and all had individual personalities - even if most of them were pretty one dimensional.

Overall, as a children's book, it's a great story! I highly suggest you read it with your kids. If you're an adult looking for a good fantasy story, I would look elsewhere for a more fulfilling read, though.

Now I'm off to read another book... but since a review should be more about the author of the book than about the writer of the blog, I will let Brian Jacques have the last words:

"We are none of us too old to learn."

"Don't be ashamed, I know why you cry and grieve. It is because you are kind and good, not hard-hearted and pitiless. Please listen to me. Even the strongest and bravest must sometime weep. It shows they have a great heart, one that can feel compassion for others."

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Ink-Stained Amazons by Jennifer Stuller

Title: Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors: 
Superwomen in Modern Mythology

Author: Jennifer K. Stuller (American, 1975- )
Originally published: 2010
Page count: 174

Dates read: 8/15/2020-8/26/2020
2020 book goal progress: 23 out of 20
Reading category: TBR Shelf

Read my other book reviews for my 2020 goal HERE.

Description on back of book:
Women have been led to believe that superheroes and heroism are not for them and that they are little more than love interests, or sidekicks who stand by their supermen. This is a false proposition argues Jennifer K. Stuller, as she uncovers the true history of how superwomen are represented in popular culture. The book details the notable differences in how women and men are represented as heroic in modern myth. The spotlight is also turned onto men and women who have created modern myths with a strong female presence.

First sentence:
"In Sam Raimi's 2002 film, Spider-Man 2, Aunt May tells her nephew, Peter Parker, that she believes 'there's a hero in all of us.'"

Favorite quotes:
"Myths can be fantasy and they can be real, and sometimes, they are reality wrapped in a metaphor and thus used as a way of teaching values."

"Love is redemptive; it heals and inspires -  but so does the ability to forgive and be forgiven, which is made possible by compassion. Compassion is an act of selfless love often born out of empathy and an essential component of the love ethic that drives heroes to action without expectation of reward."

"Sex and gender do not and should not define us or what we do, but a combination of nature and nurture colors our lives, regardless. Who we are influences the stories we tell and the stories we want to hear."

I have mixed feelings about this book. Most of the book was great, but it got into some topics I wasn't interested in for this book and it also wasn't as expansive as I was hoping it was going to be. It is an incredible resource and I have many new movies and shows I want to watch now. I am going to start with an overview of the book, so I can list some great feminist works for you to enjoy as well. I am only going to list examples that she wrote more extensively on, though she mentioned many others in passing.

Part 1 - A history of superwomen in various media.
Chapter 1 - 40s and 50s 
-Comics - Wonder Woman

Chapter 2 - 60s and 70s
-Ms. Magazine
     -Modesty Blaise
     -The Cat/Greer Nelson (Beware the Claws of the Cat)
     -Uhura (Star Trek)
     -Dr. Cathy Gale and Emma Peel (The Avengers)
     -Wonder Woman
     -The Bionic Woman
     -Charlie's Angels
-B Movies
     -Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
     -The Doll Squad
     -Coffy (racially controversial)

Chapter 3 - 80s
     -Princess Leia (Star Wars Ep 4 and 5)
     -Valeria (Conan the Barbarian)
     -Ellen Ripley (Aliens)
     -Sarah Connor (Terminator 2)

Chapter 4 - 90s and 00s
-Sassy Magazine and Zines such as BUST
     -Aeon Flux (Liquid Television)
     -Xena, Warrior Princess
     -Buffy the Vampire Slayer
     -Max Guevara (Dark Angel)

Part 2 - Aspects of female heroes and their stories.
Chapter 5 - Compassion and Friendship
-TV - Buffy, Max (Dark Angel), and Xena

Chapter 6 - The (unreasonable) commonality of single fathers and male mentors.
-TV - Alias, Veronica Mars, and Dark Angel

Chapter 7 - Super mothers and the rarety of female mentors.
-Comics - Elektra/Wolverine: The Redeemer
-Movies - Elektra and Kill Bill Vol 1 and 2
     -The Sarah Jane Adventures
     -Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles

Part 3 - The Mythmakers - Women Making Myth
-TV - Birds of Prey and Heroes
-Margot Kidder as Lois Lane
-Gail Simon as the writer of
     -Birds of Prey and Wonder Woman comics
- Trina Robbins as the writer and Anne Timmon as the artist of 
     -GoGirl! comics and graphic novels
-Angela Robinson as writer and director of
     -D.E.B.S. movie

I know the list takes up a lot of space, but I think it's important to have something like that around! Also, it now lets me talk more about what I liked and what didn't like about the book. What I wasn't interested in was the 'aspect' part of the book - the whole second part. Don't get me wrong, that's important, but it's a deep topic that should be its own separate book - and it wasn't what I was looking for in this particular book. 

What I wanted from this book was an extensive history of fiction superwomen in all sorts of mediums AND an extensive history of women behind the curtain creating strong female characters. The last chapter was like an afterthought and a great disappointment. I understand that the media tends to be a man's world, but surely more real women could have been mentioned. I would have liked the history of the fictional characters and the real women to be written about side by side in a historically chronological fashion

In that strain, if I had my way, chapters 5-7 would be removed and replaced with chapters on (1900s and 10s), (20s and 30s), and (2010s). You know what is SORELY missing from this book? Examples of superwomen in LITERATURE, which is a bit ironic if you ask me. So the 1900s/10s chapter would be about fictional and real women involved with books since that was the 'popular medium' of the time. (Not to mention that women in America got the right to vote in 1920, so this chapter would be ripe with the suffrage movement.) I could give several examples for you, but The Herland Trilogy by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is what comes to mind. Ellador, the main female character, is from an all-female utopia very similar to, you guessed it, Wonder Woman. (I'll also throw this nugget out there: Sultana's Dream by Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain. It's a story about what it would be like if the gender roles were reversed in the practice of purdah.)

The 20s and 30s have many great literature examples too. In the 20s-50s, there could also be radio show examples. Skuller mentioned radio shows in passing, but never actually listed any specific ones. The 2010s would probably focus on the multitude of superhero movies that came out at that time. I cried at the wonderful representation of women in the last 2 Avengers movies. Cried. My husband rolled his eyes, but the representation of strong women standing up for each other and working together? Men take that for granted... but that's still a relatively new concept in regards to women in media. And that's something worth crying over.
I would have loved to get more literature examples all throughout the history of superwomen. Skuller mentions several times the significance of manga in showing that females like to read comics, but she never lists any good feminist examples, which is a disappointment. Graphic novels, for the most part, are lacking in representation too. OK, I'm going to end my rant, even though there is so much more I want to say. 

I do want to say that I loved hearing about Joss Whedon and Buffy in particular. I happen to be watching the show for the first time and I'm greatly enjoying it. You know what else I'm watching that I'm disappointed was not mentioned in the book? Avatar: The Last Airbender - how could that NOT be in this book? (14 Reasons Why "Avatar: The Last Airbender" Is Actually Super Feminist And Progressive - You're welcome.)
OK, I'm really going to wrap this up now. Overall, it is a great resource with a wonderful list of new media for me to consume - it just tried to do too much (by including the aspects in part 2) and, at the same time, wasn't expansive enough (started the history too soon, didn't include enough female artists, and didn't include enough variety of media).

Now I'm off to read another book... but since a review should be more about the author of the book than about the writer of the blog, I will let Jennifer K. Stuller have the last words:

"Xena and Gabrielle will be feminist role models for some viewers, while others will feel that their skimpy outfits force them to conform to standards of feminity. Some will champion them as lesbian icons, while others will believe that the refusal to admit outright that the two women are in a homosexual relationship is a disappointing cop-out. Regardless, they are both characters that have made an impact on personal politics and the cultural landscape by providing courage to those who saw them as role models and internalized their values. Furthermore, we as the audience don't need to take an either/or approach to superwomen. We can look critically at the social implications of the over-emphasis on sexuality as well as thrill at watching displays of confidence and power. Because an individual audience can engage with a representation as entertainment or as message, the relationship will never be static."

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Title: Treasure Island

Author: Robert Louis Stevenson (Scottish, 1850-1894)
Originally published: 1883
Page count: 194

Dates read: 8/10/2020-8/14/2020
2020 book goal progress: 22 out of 20
Month category: August - Summer (Travel / Sun) 
Back to the Classics category: Classic Adaptation

Read my other book reviews for my 2020 goal HERE.

Description on back of book:
For sheer storytelling delight and our adventure, Treasure Island has never been surpassed. From young Jim Hawking's first encounter with the sinister blind man Pew to the climactic battle with the most memorable villain in literature, Long John Silver, this novel has fired readers' imaginations for generations. A rousing tale of treachery, greed, and daring, Treasure Island continues to enthrall readers of all ages.

First sentence:
"Squire Trelawney, Dr. Livesey, and the rest of these gentlemen having asked me to write down the whole particulars about Treasure Island, from the beginning to the end, keeping nothing back but the bearings of the island, and that only because there is still treasure not yet lifted, I take up my pen in the year of grace 17-- and go back to the time when my father kept the Admiral Benbow inn and the brown old seaman with the sabre cut first took up his lodging under our roof."

CAWPILE Rating: Overall - 7.6 - ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Characters      - 8
Atmosphere   - 8
Writing Style - 7
Plot                - 7
Intrigue          - 8
Logic             - 6
Enjoyment     - 9
What is a CAWPILE Rating?

I have never read this before and I was excited to compare it to the movie adaptation Treasure Planet. I liked the intro to the book; it basically said that this story is where a lot of general pirate lore originated from - which is really neat to me! The book was a lot of fun and I enjoyed many of the characters. My favorite character in both mediums was definitely Ben Gunn/B.E.N. I also hate that I loved Long John Silver so much, even though he was even darker in the book than the movie. 

The book was by far better than the movie, which was a bit of a disappointment to me - I've always enjoyed the movie. The movie is a very quick summary of the book and you lose a lot of the details and tension from the story. There also are characters in the book completely missing in the movie (such as the squire) and several characters from the book in the movie are drastically changed from who they are in the story (such as the doctor). Even the name of the ship they go out treasure hunting in is changed from Hispaniola to RLS Legacy (as a nod to author Robert Louis Stevenson). Oh, and, other than Jim's mom (who doesn't go on the trip in either medium), there are no females in the story - and no romance.

Overall, it was a great book - especially when you remember it's a children's book. Unfortunately, a film I had greatly enjoyed as a kid has dimmed in my eyes since reading the book - oh, well. If you didn't have to read this one for school (like I didn't), I highly suggest you give this book a read,

Now I'm off to read another book... but since a review should be more about the author of the book than about the writer of the blog, I will let Robert Louis Stevenson have the last words:

     "'Is this Ben Gunn a man?'
     'I don't know, sir,' said I. 'I am not very sure whether he's sane.'
     'If there's any doubt about the matter, he is,' returned the doctor. 'A man who has been three years biting his nails on a desert island, Jim, can't expect to appear as sane as you or me. It doesn't lie in human nature. Was it cheese you said he had a fancy for?'
     'Yes, sir, cheese,' I answered.
     'Well, Jim,' says he, 'just see the good that comes of being dainty in your food. You've seen my snuff-box, haven't you? And you never saw me take snuff, the reason being that in my snuff-box I carry a piece of Parmesan cheese - a cheese made in Italy, very nutritious. Well, that's for Ben Gunn!'"

Saturday, August 8, 2020

A Singular Life by Elizabeth SP Ward

 A Singular Life

Author: Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward 
(American, 1844-1911)
Originally published: 1895
Page count: 426

Dates read: 8/1/2020-8/8/2020
2020 book goal progress: 21 out of 20
Reading category: TBR Shelf

Read my other book reviews for my 2020 goal HERE.

Description on back of book:
The book was published in a period when Americans were exploring how the teachings of Jesus Christ could be applied to daily life. Several books considering the question were published in the1890s. A Singular Life, in this vein, features a protagonist named Emanuel Bayard who pursues Jesus-inspired humanitarianism by forsaking ties to his orthodox church.

First sentence:
"There were seven of them at the table that day, and they were talking about heredity."

Favorite quotes:
"The side of the street on which a man is born may determine his character and fate beyond repeal. The observation, if true, is tenfold truer of a woman, to whom a house is a shell, a prison, or a chrysalis."

"It is manifestly unfair to judge of a place by its March as to judge a man's disposition by the hour before dinner."

"That ecclesiastical system which brought me where I am can't be helped by one man's rebellion. It's going to take a generation of us. But there is enough that I can help. It's the can-be's, not the can't-be's,  that are the business of men like me."

"It has never been tried, that I know of, but it is worth trying - most modern ideas are - if practicable."

CAWPILE Rating: Overall - 8.7 - ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Characters      - 9
Atmosphere   - 9
Writing Style - 9
Plot                - 9
Intrigue          - 8
Logic             - 7
Enjoyment     - 10
What is a CAWPILE Rating?

This was an incredible book. It was the best novel I've read in a long time. From the little I knew of the author, I expected (and hoped) it to be an early feminist novel - but I was wrong. (Nonetheless, the women, in general, stood up for themselves and made their own decisions, despite the men viewing them as soft and needing protection - but that wasn't the focus of the story.) This novel was a beautiful, modern retelling of the life of Jesus. Well... modern for when it was written 125 years ago!

The book is truly a beautiful example of Christ's love. The main character, Emanuel Bayard, is a young minister who is kicked out of the church by religious leaders because his theology, supposedly, isn't "sound."  He then sets up his own church in the worst part of the fishing town in order to help and minister to the drunkards and prostitutes there. There's even a point where there's a shipwreck, he ties himself to a rope and, literally, goes "fishing for men" lost at sea. Many people also have biblical names such as Job, Haggai, and Magdelena - even Emanuel's parents are Mary and Joseph. It really is a great and clever book.

Spoiler alert (except not really if you know anything about Easter) - he dies in the end. The story focuses on his practical humanitarian work and he never performs any miracles - not in the Biblical/Jesus sense anyway. So, I was wondering if the book would leave off at his death and not show his resurrection because something spectacular like that just wouldn't fit in with the rest of the realism of the story. She ended the book with a less than half page 'epilogue' that I took as an allusion to Luke 24:13-21, though she never identified the stranger as Emanuel Bayard.

Since the story is set in Boston and the Cape, which I've lived near my whole life, it almost gave the whole story a nostalgic feel for me. I needed to read this story; It really touched me. I highly suggest anyone giving this a read, regardless if they come from a Christian background or not.

Now I'm off to read another book... but since a review should be more about the author of the book than about the writer of the blog, I will let Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward have the last words:

[Fenton, a minister of an old, upstanding church, speaks to Bayard, a minister of a new, controversial church. Captain Hap, an old fisherman who is a convert from the new church, is with them.]

"'I hear your audience has outgrown your mission-room. That must be a great encouragement; you must consider it a divine leading,' added Fenton, with the touch of professional slang and jealousy not unnatural to men better than he. 'But you must remember that we, too, are following the Master in our way; it's a pretty old and useful way.'

Then up spoke Captain Hap, who stood at Bayard's elbow. 'It's jest about here, Mr. Fenton. You folks set out to foller Him; but our minister, he lives like Him. There's an almighty difference.'"

Thursday, July 30, 2020

The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

Title: The Catcher in the Rye

Author: J. D. Salinger (American, 1919-2010)
Originally published: 1951
Page count: 273

Dates read: 7/21/2020-7/30/2020
2020 book goal progress: 20 out of 20
Month category: July - American / Patriotic 
Back to the Classics category:
Classic with Nature in the Title

Read my other book reviews for my 2020 goal HERE.

Description on back of book:
The Catcher in the Rye is a comic and touching novel about a raw American adolescent, which has become recognized as a key book of the present decade.

First sentence:
"If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth."

Favorite quotes:
"I've left schools and places I didn't even know I was leaving them. I hate that. I don't care if it's a sad good-by or a bad good-by, but when I leave a place I like to know I'm leaving it. If you don't, you feel even worse."

"Many, many people have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You'll learn from them - if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It's a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn't education. It's history. It's poetry."

CAWPILE Rating: Overall - 1.7 - ⭐
Characters      - 1
Atmosphere   - 4
Writing Style - 4
Plot                - 1
Intrigue          - 1
Logic             - 1
Enjoyment     - 0
What is a CAWPILE Rating?

Wow. This was a horrible book. I did not find it comical or touching at all - as the description of the book says. I also have no idea how this became a "key book of the present decade." I read this in high school and didn't remember anything about it, but I had positive feelings towards it - well I definitely don't have those feelings now. It is a quick and easy read, which is the only reason I actually finished the book.

Holden Caufield is an extremely pessimistic, judgemental, lazy, unambitious jerk. He runs away from all his problems and whines about everything. He comes up with all these crazy grandiose plans and thinks he is better than everyone around him. He calls everyone phonies and continually says he's depressed. He definitely has some significant issues, but depression is not what I would diagnose him with.

There are a few things I liked in the book: his sister, his (dead) brother, the two nuns, and the teacher we meet in the end. I also like the tie in of the title of the book to a poem - even though he remembered the poem incorrectly. His solitary saving grace was how he said whenever he was messing around with a girl and she asked him to stop, he would.

Overall - the book is a total waste of time. Go read something else.

Now I'm off to read another book... but since a review should be more about the author of the book than about the writer of the blog, I will let JD Salinger have the last words:

"If you go along with academic education any considerable distance, it'll begin to give you an idea what size mind you have. What it'll fit and, maybe, what it won't. After a while, you'll have an idea what kind of thoughts your particular size mind should be wearing. For one thing, it may save you an extraordinary amount of time trying on ideas that don't suit you, aren't becoming of you. You'll begin to know your true measurements and dress your mind accordingly."

Sunday, July 19, 2020

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Title: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Author: Mark Twain
Real Name: Samuel Langhorne Clemens
Originally published: 1884
Page count: 220

Dates read: 7/11/2020-7/19/2020

Read my other book reviews for my 2020 goal HERE.

Description on back of book:
The novel is a wonderfully imaginative re-creation of boyhood adventures along the Mississippi River. It has inspired characterization, remarkable dialogue, and the development of serious underlying themes.

First sentence:
"You don't know about me, without you have read a book by the name of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," but that ain't no matter."

I was planning to read this as a classic "adaptation" for the Back to the Classics reading challenge. It also was going to be my July 2020 category for "American / Patriotic." I got about 40% through the book and realized I just was NOT enjoying it. I do not like Huck as a character... and I realized I haven't liked ANY character in the book so far. I find the "adventures" gruesome and unnecessarily violent, annoying and idiotic, and/or borderline offensive. I found myself saying, "I have to read this - it's a well known classic that a lot of people really enjoy." But I'm just not one of those people who enjoy the story. I'm reading the story just for fun, but, since it's not a "fun" read, I'm not going to finish it. Maybe one day I'll give it another try.

But... why didn't you finish the book?!

Now I'm off to read another book... but since a review should be more about the author of the book than about the writer of the blog, I will let Mark Twain have the last words (which also happen to be the last words I read from the book):

"We said there warn't no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don't. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft."

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Perfectly Yourself by Matthew Kelly

Title: Perfectly Yourself

Author: Matthew Kelly (Australian, 1973- )
Originally published: 2006
Page count: 210

Dates read: 6/22/2020-7/9/2020
2020 book goal progress: 19 out of 20
Reading category: TBR Shelf

Read my other book reviews for my 2020 goal HERE.

Description on back of book:
Do you ever get the feeling that you are not enough? Not smart enough, not loved enough, not rich enough, not good enough? We all feel this from time to time - even the rich, the famous, the beautiful, and the geniuses of this world. These feelings are usually born from comparing ourselves with others, but God doesn't compare you to anybody else. Comparisons are worthless in a world of individuals.

God simply wants to help you become the person he created you to be - perfectly yourself. You are enough. You have enough brains, talent, beauty, laughter, soul, ideas, and love to live the incredible life God created you to live. So what are you waiting for? Do something today that announces that a new phase has begun in your life. God and all the angels and saints in heaven are cheering for you.

First sentence:
"Our differences as individuals are fascinating and wonderful, and this book is about exploring and celebrating what makes us unique."

Favorite quotes:
"One of the great secrets that we often overlook is that failure is a part of all great achievement and discovery."

"Our past can give us courage for the future or instill fear of the future; the choice is ours. We choose what we focus on when we look back."

"Let us make no mistake that humankind's most noble state is freedom - not freedom from opposing political or religious thoughts and ideas but freedom to do what is good and right in the many and various situations that we face in the course of our daily life. Our hearts never stop longing for this freedom."

This was an OK book. There were some chapters that stood out and spoke to me more than others but, as a pretty introspective person, there wasn't really anything new in this book for me. Mostly it reminded me to slow down, enjoy some quiet time, and don't worry so much. I think I was just in the wrong attitude while reading the book and that's why I didn't get much out of it - oh well.

Now I'm off to read another book... but since a review should be more about the author of the book than about the writer of the blog, I will let Matthew Kelly have the last words:

"If we ever wish to have harmony in our lives, inner peace, and unity of life, we must begin the work of uniting our actions with our beliefs. In our quest for enduring happiness, it is important that we constantly remind ourselves that happiness is not achieved by the pursuit of happiness but rather is the result of right living. Right living, a life of integrity, is achieved by living through our daily actions all the good things we believe."