Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Standing Still by Kelly Simmons

I loved pretty much everything about Kelly Simmons’  novel Standing Still. It’s always a relief to read something you can be excited about after a couple of mediocre books. Standing Still is just a terrific book: part page-turner (there’s an intriguing mystery at this book’s core) and part meditation on marriage and family and the lives women leave behind in order to have those things.

Claire Cooper, mother of three young daughters, spends a lot of time alone because her husband, Sam, travels for business. One night someone breaks into her house and Claire finds him about to make off with one of her daughters. “Take me,” she tells the man. “Take me instead.”

The man does take Claire and over the week of her captivity the reader has access to   Claire’s thoughts about her children and husband, as well as to her growing relationship with her captor, a relationship that proves to be far more profound and moving than you might expect. Their relationship becomes one of intimacy and, dare I say it, friendship and I know there is probably some psychological explanation for what happens between kidnap victims and their abductors, but I don’t think that explanation would actually suffice in this case. Claire is carrying a lot of emotional baggage and for the first time in her life she is forced to confront some of it. It is her time with this unlikely ‘therapist’ that makes healing possible.

On top of all this human drama, Simmons is a beautiful writer. Claire is a fully realized character, fragile and brave. Her unnamed captor is equally interesting -  a scene towards the novel’s conclusion where Claire makes the observation that, sleeping next to him will be the last time she’ll ever feel this safe (232) is both ironic and heartbreaking.

I also really loved that Claire is a woman who is trying to reconcile motherhood and marriage with the fact that she was, once, a very successful career woman. I loved her wild past, her ability to fall in love with a man based on a single characteristic, her yearning for that simple pleasure once again.

This was a book I couldn’t wait to get to at the end of the day…and one I was sorry to finish even as I was racing to the end.

Read a Review

Another Review

Kelly’s Blog

Monday, June 29, 2009

Something Beyond Greatness by Judy Rodgers and Gayatri Naraine

Title:  Something Beyond Greatness:  Conversations With a Man of Science and a Woman of God

Authors:  Judy Rodgers and Gayatri Naraine

Paperback:  122 pages

ISBN:  9780757307812

Pull up a chair and prepare to be inspired as the Something Beyond Greatness TLC Book Tour pulls in for a stop In the Shadow of Mt. TBR

First off, I have to say that when I first read about this book, I was expecting something different.  I had understood it to be a book of tales of heroism in the face of danger, stories of people who stood up for what’s right without thought for the consequences, stories of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ghandi and everyday people.  While it did have a few stories in it, it was more a book about the recipe for such people.

[Great acts have] three elements: (1)seeing with love, (2) acting from the heart, and (3) the mystery of destiny -right place, right time. -page 20

At first, I didn’t think this book was much.  At times it was difficult for me to retain what was being said, which may have to do with the fact it’s been hot and I had walked to the library in the heat to read it there.  But the crazy thing about it is that the info pops out and says boo! now as I’m watching the news, movies, or reading.  There’s this little voice in the back of my mind that analyzes events I encounter through what I’ve read.  AND the whole time reading it, every heroic act I’ve seen or heard or done popped up for application or proof of what I was reading.

The person who will step into greatness must see the others with love, compassion, and concern.  He or she will have a sense of “mine” towards them.  Then he or she must be able to sense or see the way through to help.  Third, this person must have the will to step out and do it.  Usually, this will is recalled by the person afterwards as more of a compulsion, “I just did what anyone else would do.”

Every human being writes a small page in history; every human being -irrespective of how big or how small- writes a small page.  That is real human history. -page 19

My first impulse was to give this book three stars, but after watching it ooze and stew and bubble, I’m thinking it’s much more effective than I first thought and I’m going to give Something Beyond Greatnessby Judy Rodgers and Gayatri Naraine 4 out of 5 stars.

Additional resources for this book are:

  • TLC Book Tour page for Something Beyond Greatness -you’ll find information about the book and links to other reviews on the tour.
  • Something Beyond Greatness blog – links to reviews, video clips of the two main people the authors interviewed, Humberto Maturana and Dadi Janki, as well as RL book tour info and testimonials of the book’s influence in real-life situations.
  • Subscription page for the SBG monthly newsletter
  • Something Beyond GreatnessFacebook page


And now, because I think this book is very much a worthwhile read… and, because I somehow got a second book … We’re gonna have  a giveaway for a new copy!

This giveaway will be open until 11:59 pm, Saturday July 4th, 2009 with the winner to be announced on next week’s Sunday Salon post (July 5th).  Contest is open worldwide , as long as you’ve got an address for me to slap on the packaging, you’re welcome to enter!

  1. To enter, leave a comment here letting me know you’d like to win a copy.  This will count as your official entry.
  2. Each day this coming week I will be posting something pertaining to the book, one day will be about stories you’ve heard that inspired you, inspirational movies, acts of greatness you yourself have done or witnessed, etc.  When you comment on the daily posts, you’ll earn a bonus entry!
  3. Post this contest on your blog and leave the link here for an extra entry
  4. Tweet about it, make sure to use @koolaidmom so it’ll show up on my TweetDeck, or leave the link of your update, for an aditional bonus entry.
  5. If you do all the above, commenting everyday, blogging it and tweeting, that’ll be 8 entries and I’ll add 2 more as a bonus, giving you 10 chances to win (This post is technically a Monday post for June 29th)

Good Luck!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Memorist


I read the follow-up to M.J. Rose’s The Reincarnationist, entitled The Memorist, and I may have liked it just a bit better than the first.  It follows Meer, a young woman haunted by what her father believes are past-life memories, a view she vehemently disagrees with.  When the reincarnationist association’s leader, Malachai, gives Meer a catalogue previewing a gaming-box once in the possession of Beethoven Meer begins a journey which forces her to confront who she was in another lifetime.  An ancient song played on an ancient flute holds the key to unlocking the mysteries of past-lives, and Malachai needs it to validate his life’s work and Meer needs it to validate her present life.

Like The Reincarnationist, The Memorist is a little convoluted and complicated.  But I suppose a novel occurring in several eras in which each character is (or was) several people would become fairly complex.  I liked Meer a lot, and I feel that is what pulled me through this book faster than the first.  I also loved the portions that occurred in 18th (early 19th?) century Vienna, with the eccentric and genius Beethoven.  This novel only has one character carried over from The Reincarnationist, and while the first story is alluded to, I do believe this could be read as a stand-alone.  I still don’t believe Rose captured the suspense that she was trying for in her writing and plot, but The Memorist was still a compelling read.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School is a great new picture book by wonderful author, Laurie Halse Adnerson. Poor Zoe has wild, out-of-control hair that has a mind of it’s own. Not only does it have a mind of it’s own, but it can perform tasks  such as setting the table or cleaning. Now it wasn’t always poor zoe-her parents loved her hair. She loved her hair. Her kindergarten teacher loved her hair. But come first grade, Zoe became poor Zoe with a teacher that believes in RULES and order. The hair is attempted to be controlled, but it fights back. Hats-nope. Eventually scrunchies, barrettes, clips, headbands, rubber bands, bobby pins and duct tape-all at the same time are able to keep the hair under control.  

The story reminds me a little of Plantzilla by Jerdine Nolen and Brian Kielher and illustrated by one of favorite illustrators-David Catrow. In Plantzilla the plant, not the hair, has a life of its own and is able to perform some amazing feats. It would be fun to read the books back-to-back and look for similarities or differences.

I think kids (especially kindergartners and first graders) will find The Hair of Zoe very funny. It would be a good first week of school book when some students are apprehensive about their teacher. They, like Zoe, will find common ground with their new teacher and have a very good year.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Contest Links

With Shooting Stars Mag’s YA Book Carnival going on and everyone holding their regular contests too, there’s plenty of contests going on. Here’s the links of ones I’ve found interesting:

Shooting Stars Mag is giving away 3 copies of David Inside Out. I loved this book and read it over and over so I definitely recommend entering! She also giving away a copy of Angel’s Choice.

Stop, Drop, and Read! is also giving away 2 copies of David Inside Out.

The Frenetic Reader is giving away a copy of Lovestruck Summer.

Debbie’s World of Books is giving away a copy of Vampire Academy.

Suzanne Young is giving away an ARC of her novel The Naughty List.

The Tainted Poet is giving away a copy of Eyes Like Stars.

Jennifer Hubbard is giving away Four YA Books, including an ARC of her book, The Secret Year.

In Bed With Books is giving away a  copy of Jonas Brothers: Inside Their World.

Many sites are giving away copies of Suite Scarlett, including YA Fabulous, Tower of Books, Green Bean Teen Queen, Books Love Us, Frenetic Reader, and The Dream Reader. 

Just Your Typical Book Blog is giving away a copy of Keeping the Moon. I loved this one and you should definitely check it out!

Steph Su reads is giving away the complete Mediator series. That’s just a crazy awesome contest. Definitely check it out! 

To see a full list of the YA Book Carnival contests, go here.

Lauren’s Crammed Bookshelf is giving away a copy of Dork Diaries.

The Compulsive Reader is giving away two copies of Psych Major Syndrome.

Read This Book is giving away Secrets of Truth and Beauty.

Bookluver Carol is giving away some Dork Diaries goodies.

Sharon Loves Books and Cats is giving away a copy of Rampant.

Em’s Bookshelf is having a huge Harry Potter giveaway.

Alea is giving away a copy of TMI.

Royal Reads is having a huge summer giveaway.

I also have 3 contests: June Contest, The Railway Children, and Along for the Ride.

That’s all I have for today. Good luck!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Book Review of "Alexander Hamilton" by Ron Chernow

Ron Chernow’s eponymously titled biography of Alexander Hamilton is nothing short of epic. At a brisk 731 pages (not including extensive notes and index), Chernow’s tome is not something to lug around in airports or while lounging on the beach. Nevertheless, Alexander Hamilton is a titillating read about one of our nation’s foremost founding fathers. And unlike his compatriots Washington and Jefferson, the academic work on the first secretary of the treasury is comparatively absent, which makes Chernow’s work more illuminating.

Alexander Hamilton was born on the island of Nevis in the West Indies to an unwed couple, forever casting the future founder as an immigrant bastard. Despite his humble origins, young Hamilton was able to secure passage to North America and attend King’s College (now Columbia University) in New York City. His studious years were spent assiduously arguing the colonies’ grievances against the tyrannical King George III. As war between Great Britain and the colonies erupted, men in greater situations saw talent in Hamilton and within five years of first arriving in America he became General Washington’s aide-de-camp throughout the American Revolution.

As Washington’s right-hand-man, Hamilton corresponded with the Continental Congress, fellow generals and field commanders, and anyone else who was needed to conduct the war. Though Hamilton endlessly prodded Washington for his own field command, the commander-in-chief needed Hamilton’s oral, written, and persuasive skills to help him conduct the war. Plus, Hamilton was fluent in French, a skill that also proved valuable in communicating with the marquis de Lafayette. Eventually Washington capitulated and assigned Lt. Colonel Hamilton a command during the Battle of Yorktown, where he fought valiantly and captured two redoubts.

Hamilton again proved invaluable to Washington when he served as the nation’s first secretary of treasury. Unlike the other cabinet members, Hamilton had exclusive access to the first president and was in a position to truly shape policy. As treasury secretary, Hamilton strengthened the federal government by having it assume states’ debts, by creating its first federal bank, by establishing a Coast Guard and by emphasizing the notion that a strong central government is vital for the fledgling nation to succeed. As the years grew, the bond between mentor and mentee tightened and Washington heavily relied on Hamilton for guiding the nation. Thomas Jefferson, secretary of state, grew disillusioned over Hamilton’s influential access and the two became bitter rivals, ideologically opposed to one another. While Hamilton believed that Jefferson’s de-centralized, states-rights’ philosophy would inevitably lead to anarchy, Jefferson accused Hamilton for either attempting to re-establish American colonialism under Great Britain or conspiring to engender a homegrown American monarchy. No evidence has surfaced to support Jefferson’s claims.

Hamilton’s confidence inspired many men to invest in his talents; it has also established bitter rivals. Newspapers in the 1790s had more in common with 21st-century blogs than 20th-century periodicals; they were loose on facts and heavy on gossip. Hamilton endured character assassination after character assassination because of his heavy influence in Washington’s administration. Since Washington was too revered to be the target of smear tactics, Hamilton bore the brunt of the Republicans’ verbal assault. Like the lawyer he was, Hamilton responded to these attacks the only way he knew; he refuted them in writing and exploited weaknesses in his opponent’s political philosophies.

Pride got the better of Hamilton in one career-defining instance. Hypersensitive of being accused of being a cheat or an embezzler, Hamilton was livid over accusations that he swindled the Treasury and stored funds for himself or, that he was funding a British uprising. His opponents supposedly held some evidence—covert payments to a Mr. Reynolds. The evidence proved less nefarious, though no less scandalous. Mr. Reynolds extorted money from Hamilton so that he would keep secret the affair that occurred between Hamilton and his wife. Eventually the cat was let out of the bag and Hamilton’s political career was forever tarnished.

Chernow vividly describes the infamous duel between Alexander Hamilton and the cunning Aaron Burr. Though Burr was just one of Hamilton’s many enemies, he felt especially scorned after losing the New York gubernatorial race. Though Hamilton’s influence was probably inconsequential, Burr blamed him for his loss. Additionally, Hamilton slighted Burr’s character in the presence of a Dr. Charles Cooper and stated he possessed an even more “despicable opinion” of Aaron Burr. Burr, wanted to reestablish his political career, sought revenge and challenged Hamilton to a duel. Hamilton reluctantly accepted, though secretly declared he was not going to aim and shoot at Burr. Burr had a different set in mind and shot Hamilton in the lower right abdomen. Hamilton died 34 hours after the duel on July 12, 1804.

Cherow’s Alexander Hamilton is exhaustive in scope and definitive in its detail on the first treasury secretary’s life. Ron Chernow successfully depicts Hamiton’s self-sacrificing contributions to the fledging years of the United States.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Kaza Kingsley Releases New Book In Erec Rex Series

Kaza Kingsley and I have something in common–a love of Greek mythology. So when the opportunity to profile her and feature her awesome book trailer came up, I jumped at the chance. So you’ve been living under a rock and have no idea who Kaza Kingsley is? My dear friend, let me see if I can help.

Kaza Kingsley is author of the wildly popular, award-winning Erec Rex series about a twelve-year old boy on a quest to become king. According to Kingsley, Erec Rex is a “… drastically varied retelling of the Hercules legend.” Action-packed and filled with magic, suspense and adventure, the Erec Rex series has something for kids and adults alike.

But it might surprise many to know that prior to writing Erec Rex, Kingsley penned a YA novel. No worries YA authors–it remains tucked away in a drawer!

What Kaza is excited about however is the release of the next book in the Erec Rex series on June 30–The Search For The Truth! If you simply cannot wait until then, you can hear chapter one narrated on Kingsley’s website by clicking here then going to the ‘Books’ page. 

Learn more about Kaza and the Erec Rex series at www.erecrex.com

Pick up a copy of Erec Rex: The Search For The Truth on June 30, 2009

Check out the awesome trailer!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Raven by Allison van Diepen

Title: Raven

Author: Allison van Diepen

Genre: Paranormal

Release Year: 2009

Website: http://www.allisonvandiepen.com/

Introduction: Zin dances like no other guy she has ever met, he is the leader of the breakgroup Toprocks, speaks with a voice that wraps around her like black silk, has eyes that can reach out to your soul and Nicole is totally and madly in love with him. She know he feels the same way, because they have been best friend forever and everyone around them have seen how they look at eachother. Then why keeps Zin his distance from her? She doesn’t understand. But one night a accident happend and Zin reveales what he really is. Nicoles life is turned upside down and now she has to deal with the fact that Zin is not what she thought he was. But now that she knows, can they finally be together like they always wanted?

My Opinion: So I read this book yesterday, and I finished it yesterday. I couldn’t stop reading. I had to get used to the writing style though. It was a little different then I’m used to. But once your in the book, you can’t get out. I really felt for Raven (Nicole) because she really has to deal with a lot of pressure and also the fact that she can’t be with Zin like she wants to. It really pisses me of, lol. Because like in some T.V. shows you have the image of who belongs with who. Well I have that with Zin and Nicole. The book also takes an unexpected turn in the end of the novel, which was suprising. It’s also not a standard novel that the girl get’s kidnapped by the enemy, girl gets saved by the lover and they live happily ever after. I really appreciated that. It was something different to read again. The end, well i’m not telling you of course haha. But I have to say it got me frustrated. Even in my bed I was thinking about it. The end is so not like other endings I’ve read. And I really hope that there comes a next novel, because I’m curious as hell what will happen next. But you never know, that’s the authors decision. 

My Advice: Really read this book. It’s addictive and once your in it you can’t stop, you just finish it in one day. In my scale from 1 to 5, if give this book the number 4. Because I really enjoyed reading it, the book was just something different again and not the standard storyline and as I said I hope there will be next part.

book cover from: www.fantasticfiction.co.uk

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Book that Dripped Blood by Michael Dahl

Genre: Mystery, Fantasy

Characters: The bookstore owner, crazy guy, woman, landlord

Setting: In a bookstore, apartment

The Situation: There is a book named Claws and it eats people.

My favorite character is the crazy guy because he sells the book to the bookstore owner. I think that the guy should have just let the book eat him because then the book couldn’t eat anyone else. Then the librarian doesn’t get stronger.

I will not recommend this book because at the ending it is so weird that the book eats people. Then a librarian spills out of the book then he attacks Claws for biting other people. The librarian is fighting Claws then the Collector comes and takes Claws away.

Jeff and Dominique

Ms. George’s 6th grade class

Friday, June 19, 2009

Who Killed Change? by Ken Blanchard, John Britt, Judd Hoekstra, and Pat Zigarmi

In the latest business fable from the Ken Blanchard Companies, the authors present a whodunit murder mystery investigating who or what is responsible for the death of “change.”   Change and other characters are personified entities that are part of the leadership and management of the organization that is being investigated. The case is lead by agent McNally, who rounds up the usual suspects thought to be responsible for the death of many changes.  These include: culture, commitment, performance management, communication, accountability, budget and other potential unsavory characters.  Ultimately, the inquiry finds that each of these suspects had a hand in killing Change, chiefly by not doing what they were supposed to do.  As the pronouncement of guilt is given, the story concludes with the instruction that each of these “characters” plays an important part in the life of any change.

Business leaders would benefit from reading this book in learning to spot the usual suspects bringing any change to a slow death.  The book also provides a quick guide at the end detailing what each character should be providing to ensure that change is properly supported, alive and healthy in your organization.  Finally, there is a companion assessment that leaders can take to determine how well change is managed in your company.  Visit:  www.whokilledchange.com

The book is fun and insightful; reminding all leaders that change requires much attention and collaboration to ensure its success. The book’s authors state that 50 to 70 percent of change efforts fail.  Read this book to learn what kills change, and then read the advice in the practical guide the authors give to ensure that change lives.

Book Details:

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1 edition (May 26, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061778931
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061778933

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Shalom India Housing Society by Esther David

It is believed that when a group of Jews were fleeing Greek persecution, they were shipwrecked on the shores of India, establishing the Jewish Indian community there. A small tight-knit community, India’s Jews at times got on well with their Hindu and Muslim neighbors, and at times were persecuted.

David’s novel features a group of Jews who live together in an apartment complex they built after violence against them in the 1950s left them feeling unsafe living scattered about amongst their formerly friendly neighbors.

The novel starts off with the preparation of the Passover celebration. The Prophet Elijah, whose image is a popular part of Indian Jewish home decorating, prepares to visit the Shalom India Housing Society. He descends from the heavens in his chariot of fire, turns it into a pumpkin, and his horses into mice, and hides them in a storage room, since his chariot and horses would otherwise be stolen.

From there, Elijah checks in with each family to see how their Seder preparations are coming along, and particularly, what is put out for him in his cup.

Each chapter features a different family, and the reader comes to know the members of this close-knit community: who is in love, who mourns something, who dreams of a different life.

A delightful read.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My Life With the Eskimo

In My Life With the Eskimo, Canadian Artic explorer and ethnologist Vilhjálmur Stefánsson recounts his second expedition and time spent among the Eskimo from 1908 to 1912. At the time, his hazardous expedition was the longest and known information about the Arctic and its inhabitants was minimal, and in many cases he shares, inaccurate. Stefánsson traveled over 10,000 miles with a sled. He was one of the last dog-team explorers and of the opinion that:

“No man should engage in Arctic exploration who is unable to walk as many miles a day as his dogs are able haul his sled and camp gear” and that many of the previous explorers were “little better than baggage hauled along by the common men of their expeditions (whose very names seldom find a place in the records)” (261).

Originating from Stefánsson’s journal, the scientific adventure gets monotonous at times. Aside from the Eskimo and the journey, Stefánsson writes about ethnology, regions and topography, the game animals and their migration habits, scientific specimens, historic and current events, and even linguistics. It’s full of facts and more facts, many of which are rather interesting. There’s quite a bit I tagged to save as notes, which I’m posting as “Arctic Book Bits”.

In April of 1910, after two years of  delays in part due to others, “sickness with its consequences of delay, starvation, and the growth of discontent and worry for the future of our Eskimo” (156), the small entourage was finally able to start east. From their starting point in Alaska’s northcoast (the red circle) to Canada’s Victoria Island, there is a lot of backtracking and zig-zagging to various villages and locations. Having a map for readers unfamiliar with the region would be helpful, but their is an index for topics covered. They would often head in one direction before thawing ice or lack of game forced them to change plans. On a few occasions they survived by eating seal blubber and caribou skins, hair and all. Things rarely go according to plan and My Life With the Eskimo show that an Arctic expedition is no exception.

Stefánsson describes at great length the Eskimo races and tribes and in turn their customs and beliefs. While some tribes believed it a taboo to prepare caribou and seal in the same pot or eat them together, other tribes either did not or believed in a variation. Although the largest Copper Eskimo village seemed to have a more complex social life than the Eskimo in other districts and barely a semblance of a government, certain individuals appeared “to have a preponderating influence, based apparently on individual prowess and to some extent on their records as travelers” (286). He frequently switches between using their tribe names and their geographic location to distinguish between them, which can be confusing if one doesn’t remember who’s from where.

One of Stefánsson’s main goals was to find the “Blond Eskimo”, around whom there were many speculations. One theory is that after Eric the Red arrived in North America, another boat shipwrecked while trying to make the voyage and its passengers survived. Another is that living in close proximity to each other, the Greenlanders and the Eskimo had interracial relationships. After coming across the Victoria Islanders in May of 1910,

“who looked like Europeans in spite of their garb of furs, I knew that I had come upon either the last chapter and solution of one of the historical tragedies of the past, or else that I had added a new mystery for the future to solve: the mystery of why these men are like Europeans if they be not of European descent” (194).

Stefánsson is strong in his opinions and comes off as having a superior attitude, but at the same time, truly appreciative and respectful of the Eskimo. He recounts how Tannaumirk retraced his 10 mile trail after hunting when the camp was less than a mile away, after which he writes:

“Take the Indian or the Eskimo out of his habitual surroundings, and he is, as a general thing, far the inferior of the white man in finding his way about. He has not the general principles to guide him that are clear in the mind of the average white man” (150).

But he also says of those with whom he traveled and sought hospitality:

“They are the equals of the best of our own race in good breeding, kindness, and the substantial virtues. They were men and women of the Stone Age truly, but they differed little from you or me or from the men and women who are our friends and families. The qualities which we call “Christian virtues” (and which the Buddhists no doubt call “Buddhist virtues”) they had in all their essentials. They are not at all what a theorist might have supposed the people of the Stone Age to be, but the people of the Stone Age probably were what these their present-day representatives are: men with standards of honor, men with friends and families, men in love with their wives, gentle to their children, and considerate of the feelings and welfare of others… I have lived with these so-called primitive people until “savages” and all the kindred terms have lost the vivid meanings they had when I was younger.”

Starting from northern Alaska and slowly working its way east, the beginning of the 20th century was a period of change in the Arctic. Due to the whaling industry, missionaries, and exchanges with the Native Americans, the Eskimo were becoming westernized, and in some opinions, “civilized”. This is also the time when whaling was coming to an end, which would also effect the Eskimos’ and their trading.

“I did not desire to bring my unspoiled Coronation Gulf people into contact with civilization , with the ravages of which among the Eskimo of Alaska and the Mackenzie I am too familiar; but it seemed that the thing could not be staved off for more than a year or two, anyway, for the fact of my living with the Eskimo was already well known, and both the traders and the missionaries who operate through Fort Norman would be sure to make use of the information” (218).

In regard to his inevitable return home, Stefánsson writes:

“The time-faded ink of such diary entries as this furnished me some comfort after my return to ‘civilization,’ when European cables and American telegraphs clamored ‘fake’ so loudly that at times I almost doubted I had seen what I had seen. There were scientific weight and reverent age behind the names of many of those who argued conclusively on the basis of a judicious combination of what they knew and did not know, to the conclusion that what is could not be. They argued so deftly withal that I who came from the place they theorized about felt somewhat as I used to feel as an undergraduate in college when I listened to a philosophical demonstration of the non-existence of the matter that I had to kick to convince myself that what must be wasn’t so. Now that the din has quieted down, I am gradually coming to the conviction that I have really been telling the truth most of the time consistently, and that the facts regarding the ‘Blond Eskimo’ are about as my note-books have them and as I originally stated them to the newspaper men, who did not always, however, quote me correctly, and who at times showed marked originality in their treatment of what I said” (195).

I acquired My Life With the Eskimo almost by accident. A friend gave it to me to see if an anthropology friend of ours was interested. I read the first few pages to “check it out” and kept trekking along. Overall and despite a few lulls, My Life With the Eskimo is a good, interesting read. Should I happen to come across any of Vilhjálmur Stefánsson’s other books or articles, both of which are numerous, I’d be inclined to read them as well.

“We seldom have occasion, if we are stay-at-homes, unless we happen to live in tourist centers, to explain to any one our nationality, while the nationality of every foreigner who comes within our sphere of observation is a matter of interest and is continually on the tip of our tongue” (282).

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Troll's Eye View, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling

Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Genre: Juvenile Fantasy, Short Stories
Pages: 200
Call number: J Troll’s (currently in new books)

I have a weakness for retold fairy tales and for short stories, so this collection of fairy tales told from the villains’ point of view was a must-read for me. Also, Datlow and Windling consistently helm the best anthologies out there, for kids and adults, and I read every one I can get my hands on. This collection has 15 stories by well-known fantasy authors for children and adults, almost all of which I’ve read at least something earlier, whether it be a short story or two or a novel or two, and it makes for quite the collection. Like all anthologies, there are a few weak stories, or maybe I should say a few stories I didn’t enjoy as much as the others, and a few stories that really stood out.

For me, the stand-outs are almost always the dark stories, for I am a twisted soul, and they leave more of an impact on me. My other stand-out story type is superbly done comedies. (For example, in Deborah Noye’s collection Gothic: Ten Original Dark Tales, my two favorite stories are MT Anderson’s marvelously disturbing “Watch and Wake” and Neil Gaiman’s hilarious parody of gothic conventions, “Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Nameless House of the Night of Dread Desire”.) So, of course, my favorite stories from this collection are Holly Black’s “The Boy Who Cried Wolf’ and Kelly Link’s “The Cinderella Game”, both very dark, creepy stories with endings that play with the “happily ever after” convention. In “the Boy Who Cried Wolf”, the narrator learns about a mysterious flower that turns those who sniff its scent into wolves who then devour whoever is closest, and he has to make some tough choices when he and his family land their boat on an island that appears to be covered with the flowers. In “The Cinderella Game”, Peter babysits his new, somewhat disturbed, step-sister (he appears somewhat disturbed as well) and things get weird when he agrees to play a game of Cinderella, in which the lines between the good Cinderella and the evil step-sister are blurred.

There are a lot of other great stories, including Peter Beagle’s funny “Up the Down Beanstalk”, which retells “Jack in the Beanstalk” from the point of view of the giant’s wife (I love how matter-of-fact she is about their diet), Midori Snyder’s rather haunting retelling of “Molly Whuppie”, called “Molly”, and Delia Sherman’s “Wizard’s Apprentice”, which follows a much-abused boy on his path to becoming the apprentice to an Evil Wizard who turns out not to be so evil after all.

One of the things I love about anthologies is that everyone’s favorites are different, so if you read this review and then check out the book, be sure to tell me what your favorites are, too!

Monday, June 15, 2009

novella carpenter + farm city

novella is killing two of our rabbits at her NYC book signing for Farm City.  Stay tuned. and tune into her blog: http://ghosttownfarm.wordpress.com/. You can read the first chapter of her book, linked from this NYTimes review!

Books of The Times
Living Off the Land, Surrounded by Asphalt
Published: June 11, 2009

I had a feeling I might like this memoir when I came upon on its first sentence, a gentle twist on the opening of Isak Dinesen’s “Out of Africa.” Here is Novella Carpenter: “I have a farm on a dead-end street in the ghetto.”

But I didn’t truly fall in love with “Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer” until I hit Page 38. That’s when the bees that Ms. Carpenter has purchased from a mail order company arrive at her post office in Oakland, Calif. A panicked postal employee calls, begging her to pick them up because they’re attracting other bees and “freaking everyone out.”

So Ms. Carpenter hurries over, picks up the humming box, and casually plops it into the front basket of her bicycle. Then she has a parade. “I proceeded to ride down Telegraph Avenue, laughing out loud at the bees who tried to follow us amid the traffic,” she writes. “At stoplights I looked down at the mesh box, the bees churning around, and told them to get ready for” — and here she gives her neighborhood’s nickname — “GhostTown.” Fresh, fearless and jagged around the edges, Ms. Carpenter’s book, an account of how she raised not only fruit and vegetables but also livestock on a small, scrubby abandoned lot in Oakland, puts me in mind of Julie Powell’s “Julie & Julia” and Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love.”

Like those writers Ms. Carpenter is not a pampered girl or a trustafarian; in fact she has a beautifully cranky side and can drink and swear like a sailor. Like them too she is hyper-literate. The whole beekeeping business is preceded by a bit of Sylvia Plath’s poem “The Arrival of the Bee Box,” including these excellent lines: “I lay my ear to furious Latin./I am not Caesar./I have simply ordered a box of maniacs.”

And finally, like Ms. Powell and Ms. Gilbert, Ms. Carpenter is very, very funny. She won’t kill the slugs that have wrecked her garden, as some people propose, by drowning them in Budweiser, because “this seemed suspiciously close to buying the slugs a beer, which was more generous than I felt.” When “yoga people” suggest she stop drinking coffee, she thinks: “I want to tell them maybe they should saw off their legs.”

“Farm City” begins as Ms. Carpenter and Bill, her auto-mechanic boyfriend, move from Seattle to a small apartment in Oakland. They steer clear of San Francisco, she writes, because they are misfits and because San Francisco “is filled with successful, polished people.” Oakland, on the other hand, “is scruffy, loud, unkempt.” They fit right in. They fill their apartment, at least partly, with furniture they’ve scavenged from the street.

It is a rough neighborhood, “a postcard of urban decay.” There are gunfights and drug dealers; homeless men wander about, muttering. Oakland has the highest murder rate in the country, she notes. She and Bill take it all in and begin referring to the lost hairpieces that flutter down the street — they have fallen off the heads of hookers — as “tumbleweaves.”

The garden Ms. Carpenter begins to create, at first squatting and then getting the owner’s permission, is anything but bucolic. A loud freeway runs nearby; the place borders on a repair shop and junkyard; a billboard overlooking the lot warns against sexual predators.

Before long, however, she transforms this lot into a small slice of paradise. “There was a lime tree near the fence, sending out a perfume of citrus blossoms from its dark green leaves. Stalks of salvias and mint, artemisia and penstemon. The thistlelike leaves of artichokes glowed silver. Strawberry runners snaked underneath raspberry canes.” She begins to add animals — the bees, turkeys, ducks, a goose, rabbits and finally pigs — to the mix.

“Farm City” is filled with terrific stories. But as it strides artfully along, you begin to see that Ms. Carpenter has other things, even a larger argument, on her mind. Her own parents were back-to-the-landers whose marriage went bust when she was only 4. She blames rural solitude. And by gardening in a bustling urban space she wants to have it all: ducks and heirloom artichokes and, well, friends.

“I still regard the country as a place of isolation, full of beauty — maybe — but mostly loneliness,” she observes. “So when friends plan their escape to the country (after they save enough money to buy rural property), where they imagine they’ll split wood, milk goats and become one with nature, I shake my head. Don’t we ever learn anything from the past?”

At heart “Farm City” is more about Ms. Carpenter’s experiences with livestock than it is about growing plump tomatoes. In fact “Farm City” is a serious, if tragicomic, meditation on raising and then killing your own animals. She wants to have “a dialogue with life,” she writes, and she realizes she can do that only by also having a dialogue with death.

Animals run through this book like messy toddlers at a busy playground, and Ms. Carpenter names and adores just about all of them. The bustle is invigorating. But she is raising most of them as meat animals and sees no contradiction in loving them and, ultimately, seeing them — as painlessly and humanely as possible —to their ends. There is gallows humor here. She dispatches a duck in her bathtub and notes that it “went from being a happy camper to a being a headless camper.”

The two pigs, Red Durocs, are the biggest job. They eat so much that by the end Ms. Carpenter and Bill are forced to spend hours foraging through Dumpsters to feed them. These pigs once ate pellets. “Now they were eating Chinese,” she proudly writes, “like good urban pigs.”

On one of her Dumpster-diving missions, for which she often wears a headlamp, Ms. Carpenter meets a local chef, Chris Lee, who was for many years a farm produce buyer for Alice Waters’s restaurant, Chez Panisse. He allows her to feed her pigs from the glorious dumpster behind his own restaurant, Eccolo.

Once her pigs are killed (and badly, to her horror, by a woman she’d hired to do the job), Mr. Lee helps her carefully make prosciutto and salami and soppressata out of them. “We had used all the parts of the pig,” she writes, “the ultimate show of respect.”

“Farm City” is a consistently involving book that includes one of the purest expressions of happiness I’ve read in a while, so I’ll end with that: “I felt young and healthy,” Ms. Carpenter writes, “and nostalgic for the present.”

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Gone-Away World

Nick Harkaway

First a quick apology for the slightly sporadic posting over the past week. I’ve been a bit overwhelmed with work, and though I think I can see the light at the end of the tunnel (which excitingly means I might manage to snatch a few days to work on my novel before I go on holiday the week after next) I’m still about 5,000 words from freedom, so the patchy posting may continue for a while yet. Once I’m back online and have a bit of time to spare I’ve got some things coming I think people will like – a review of Caprica and a long piece on The Day of the Triffids (you know you want to know why), as well as some thoughts about (not) teaching the canon – but for the time being it’s all work, work, work in my world.

Anyway – having pieces spiked is an occupational hazard for reviewers. You slug your way through a book, write a review, and then for some reason – space, time, budget pressures – it doesn’t run. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does you can guarantee it’s a piece you either spent quite a lot of time on or you thought was pretty good (which may say something about my judgement, but we won’t go there).

The piece below is one of those pieces. It was written to coincide with the hardback release of Nick Harkaway’s The Gone-Away World last year, but in the end it didn’t run. At the time that seemed a pity, not least because the book is, in its own mad way, both ambitious and interesting (certainly as picaresque romps go, it beats Steve Toltz’s A Fraction of the Whole hands down for sheer energy and inventiveness). So, since the paperback has just been released, I thought it might be worth giving the piece a run here.

For anyone who’s interested, Harkaway has a pretty classy website, and runs a blog. The site also has some videos of him reading from the book. He’s also written about the complicating fact of his (extremely famous) father’s identity here.

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The Gone-Away World
Nick Harkaway

I once had a conversation with the adult son of a famous writer. He was a nice guy – bright, funny, thoughtful – but when I asked him what I wanted to do with his life he froze. ‘Write,’ he said in a small voice after a moment, ‘though it’s sort of weird when I try to’.

It was a conversation that came back to me while reading Nick Harkaway’s debut, The Gone-Away World. Because as anxiety of influence goes, Harkaway – the son of David Cornwell, or John Le Carré – must have had it in spades.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, in interviews Harkaway seems to strike a slightly uneasy balance between filial affection and a desire to distance himself from his famous forebear, no doubt seeking to have his book assessed in its own right: a famous father is, as Harkaway discovered after the novel sold for a staggering £300,000, inevitably something of a double-edged sword. Yet faced with the book itself, in all its joyous, exuberant improbability, there can be little doubt Harkaway’s success is of his own making and no-one else’s.

Something like a cross between The Road and Kung Fu Panda, The Gone Away World is a crazed, shaggy-dog post-apocalyptic picaresque, with more than enough brio and cheek to leap its improbabilities in a single bound. Insofar as it lends itself to précis, it begins in a near-future in which Cuba has entered into a political union with Great Britain, thereby creating the United Island Kingdoms of Britain, Northern Ireland and Cuba Libré, or, as the wits would have it, Cubritannia (a move which delights the Cubans for its economic and political possibilities and the British because it guarantees “an influx of well-trained, educated people of pleasing physical appearance who have rhythm”).

In this future the narrator – who for reasons which become clear later in the book remains nameless – and his best friend Gonzo Lubitsh grow up in sleepy Cricklewood Cove, a place mostly notable for being home to Assumption Soames’ Soames School for the Children of Townsfolk, and the academy of Master Wu, of the Way of the Voiceless Dragon.

When a flirtation with university politics and Zaher Bey, the leader in exile of the tiny Central Asian country of Addeh Katir leads to the narrator’s arrest by a privatised extra-legal but government-sanctioned anti-terrorist squad and leaves him virtually unemployable, the narrator finds himself working in a high-tech special forces and weapon research unit. Under the command of Professor Derek, this team has invented the Go Away Bomb, a device which strips the information out of the matter comprising its target, converting it into what they think is undifferentiated nothing, but is really – as the narrator and the rest of the world discover when the Go Away Bomb is simultaneously (and surprisingly) deployed by most countries in the world at once in a good old-fashioned bout of what used to be known as MAD, or Mutually Assured Destruction – actually converts it into Stuff, a denatured form of matter which has the unfortunate tendency to take on whatever form flits through the mind of the creatures closest to it. In the ruined and depopulated world left behind, the only rfuge from the nightmares that spring from Stuff is found along the edges of the Pipe, a conduit laid by the mysterious Jorgmund Corporation.

In the hands of a lesser – or at least a less confident – writer, such a plot might seem ridiculous, but Harkaway approaches his subject matter with such joyous abandon and good humour it’s impossible not to respond in kind. And while the novel’s influences – which run the gamut from Don Quixote to Fight Club, and The Karate Kid to William Gibson and take in almost everything in between – are clear, it never feels freighted down by them, or derivative.

None of which is to say it all works. Certainly the book’s weakest section is its final 50 pages, though that is as much a function of the picaresque form’s natural lack of interest in narrative closure as any weakness in the novel itself – but for the most part it does, bouncing with the sort of careless ease that necessarily belies the authorial control underlying it from digressions about the nature of politics to self-mocking kung fu parables, from bawdy Harry Potteresque university high-jinks to a chilling vision of a world gone mad.

Yet underpinning it – and if one was looking for an echo of Harkaway père this might be it – is an unswerving moral clarity. For all the geekish delight Harkaway takes in his inventions, The Gone-Away World’s comedy is rooted in a powerful sense of the corrupted and corrupting nature of power, and of its indifference to individual freedom, or even existence. And it is in this respect that The Gone-Away World’s picaresque pleasures most truly, and most brilliantly repays its debt to the steely satire of Fielding and Swift and even Rabelais.

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Best Bible Translation

…or so the search string goes.

Not as frequently as searches for Satan, but pretty frequently some eager searcher for the truth lands on my blog while searching for the:

  • best bible translation

I hope said eager young searchers aren’t too sad to learn that I rather like all (or many) of the English Bible translations.

So, searchers for the best Bible translation, please feel free to check out the Bibles page for info, though I, regrettably, do not have the answer to your question.

I have also written on the subject here:

  • What Makes a Bible Translation Authoritative? My Top 5
  • So Many Translations, So Little Time

Related Reviews:

  • Book Review: The King James Only Controversy
  • A Week With the NLT Study Bible

You can also shop for great Bibles and all the books reviewed here at BOB’s Bookstore.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Book Review: Crewel Yule

Author: Monica Ferris

Published: October 2004

Publisher: Berkley Hardcover

Genre: Needlepoint Mystery

ISBN-10: 0425198278

ISBN-13: 978-0425198278


Murder is in the air everywhere–even at a needlework show. Betsy Devonshire, owner of the shop Crewel World, finds herself snowed in at the convention hotel in Nashville along with her policewoman friend, Jill, and employee, Godwin. When another shop owner, Belle Hammermill, falls over the railing, plummeting down nine stories into the middle of the atrium, even the most avid sewers look up from their tatting. Everyone, of course, assumes the fall to be an accident. However, as Betsy, Jill, and Godwin start talking to the show’s attendees, they begin to learn that a selfish and devious Belle had plenty of enemies–and they are all in the hotel. Ferris’ characterizations are top-notch, and the action moves along at a crisp pace. The ending, unfortunately, is something of a letdown, with hardly a twist, much less a turn. Still, with so many crafters out there, this has a built-in audience of those who like to mix their needlepoint with question marks. Ilene Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Now for MY take on it:

This was such a lovely book! While it does center around needlepoint, I couldn’t put it down! I love Christmas so I went to pick up a few Yuletide fiction novels while my sister had a book waiting for her at the local library. I saw this book and without reading the first sentence (which will usually automatically tell me if I’ll be interested or not), I checked it out. The characters have tons of personality and while the story is somewhat short, it was wonderfully written. I don’t know needlepoint so what my Mom didn’t know after I asked her, I searched on the Internet for. Thanks to all the knowledge I learned from Mom and Google, I now want to learn needlepoint. They say you learn more from educational books rather than fiction. They obviously haven’t met avid book readers! And as an added bonus, there was a needlepoint pattern that centered around the pattern in the book- for you to try!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Book Review: Fatal Lies

Note: Book cover not available due to the fact that I am having browser problems.

Author: Frank Tallis

Published: September 2008

Publisher: Century

Genre: Mystery

ISBN-10: 1844136035

ISBN-13: 978-1844136032


A dogged police inspector and an insightful young psychiatrist match wits with depraved criminal minds in this acclaimed mystery series set in Freud’s Vienna.

In glittering turn-of-the-century Vienna, brutal instinct and refined intellect fight for supremacy. The latest, most disturbing example: the mysterious and savage death of a young cadet in the most elite of military academies, St. Florian’s. Even using his cutting-edge investigative techniques, Detective Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt cannot crack the school’s closed and sadistic world. He must again enlist the aid of his frequent ally, Dr. Max Liebermann, an expert in Freudian psychology. But how can Liebermann help when he a crisis of his own: handling his conflicted and forbidden feelings for two different women, one a former patient? As the case unfolds, powerful forces will stop at nothing to keep a dark secret.

Now for MY take on it:

I found it very difficult to put down. While some areas were boring (as most books have that lull during some parts), the rest was exciting! You start reading it and think, “How on earth are these stories related?”. Keeping reading. You will eventually realize that everyone in the story knows everyone else. Everything is intertwined and you don’t realize that everything you see will end up somewhere else with a shocking turn. I didn’t want the book to end because I wanted to see if they would find out where he was or if he would eventually tell the truth. The only problem I had with this book was the German (yes, there are German words in here) and the words that seemed like another language to me, but they were in English. I don’t have as wide as a vocabulary as some readers so I was constantly writing words down so I can look them up at a later date. Other than that, I loved it!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Noticer by Andy Andrews

Just call him Jones. It’s a name you’ll never forget. If you’ve had the chance to receive the perspective in your life that Jones dished out, then you are one lucky person. This book is full of everyday insights that you don’t realize go as deep as they do until you pick up this book.

What an amazing story! This book captured my attention on the first page. I felt as though I sat with each character, viewing life from their perspective. As they were changed, so was I. I was filled with encouragment and opportunities at the turn of each page.

My words barely begin to express the amazing story that Andy Andrews tells in this book. It will capture your heart, open your eyes, and challenge you to look at each day from a different perspective.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Marilynne Robinson

A few years ago I took a Valuing Modern Fiction course. Now while the course work and lectures were of a quality and standard that I did not appreciate, the one thing the course did provide me with was an exposure to some wonderful contemporary authors. The selection of the books reflected the various awards that had been given out that year in the industry: [ Pullitzer, Man Booker Prize for Fiction, Giller, CBC Canada Reads, Hugo Award, National Book Award, etc ]. The following books were selected:

  • A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toewes
  • Small Island by Andrea Levy
  • Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst
  • Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  • The Known World by Edward P. Jones
  • Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold

A nice selection of books, some I enjoyed more than others,  but the reason I am writing this post is that I’m now kicking myself in the ass for not having read one book in particular. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. She has made quite a name for herself, notably with her most recent publication: Home. Home is a sequel to Gilead which was just awarded the Orange Prize for fiction. It has also been featured as a book that President Obama recently read which has drawn some attention to the work as well.

Gileas is a story about a small, dusty prairie town in 1956, written in the form of a letter from a 75-year-old preacher to his six-year-old son.

I remember enjoying the writing and the premise but I did not finish the book in the time that we were given, what with other English course loads, and life distractions. The sequel Home takes place concurrently in the same locale, this time in the household of Reverend Robert Boughton, Ames’s closest friend. Apparently the books are independent and can be read as stand-alones on their own, but I hate knowing that there is another book that preceded this one as I feel I would be missing out on certain insights and conclusions drawn from the prior book by jumping into this one. Do I go back and re-read half of a book that was enjoyable so that I can read this book which is drawing so much buzz?

Lesson of the Day: Finish your assigned readings, so you don’t get annoyed the way I am with this issue.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Review Of "The End Times Controversy" (Chapter 1)

  The first chapter of “The End Times Controversy” is entitled “What Is Preterism?“  Its author is Dr. Thomas Ice, executive director of the Pre-Trib Research Center, and writer of many books and study materials written from the Dispensational perspective.  Several other articles in this book are also written by him.

   Chapter 1 serves as a basic outline of what Preterism is, and what are some of its distinctive teachings.  Ice begins by giving a broad overview of the various eschatological viewpoints, which include Preterism, Futurism, Historicism, and Idealism.  He remarks that Preterism is sometimes confused with Historicism, the two systems being similar in approach, and looking for the fulfillment of Bible prophecy in the events of history.  The two schools see many details of the Apocalyptic narrative as having been fulfilled.

    After giving an outline of the different views, and their relation to the eschatological debate, Dr. Ice shifts his focus on Preterism, breaking the movement into three groups, which he denominates as ”Mild Preterism,” “Moderate Preterism,” and “Extreme Preterism.”   The author states that he is not aware of anyone on the contemporary scene who espouses Mild Preterism — even though this is, historically speaking, the most common form of Preterist doctrine.   This means that modern-day Preterists fall into two groups: Moderate Preterism and Extreme Preterism.   

   Ice does not focus on the controversy between Moderate and Extreme Preterism, which is something that belongs mainly within the Reformed community.  He does, however, turn his attention on Preterism as it relates to Dispensational theology.  And he states at the outset that the book will be interacting primarily with the doctrines of Partial Preterism. 

   “In this book, our focus will be upon refuting partial preterism.  If partial preterism is deemed untenable, then obviously the more extreme form will not be viable as well.  What’s more, we believe that when one ventures into extreme or full preterism, then he has moved away from orthodoxy into false teaching.  Because full preterism believes that Christ’s only coming (i.e. the second coming) occurred in A.D. 70, and because the translation and resurrection of believers are clearly connected with that event in Scripture (1 Cor. 15: 1; 1 Thess. 4: 13-17), then that means full preterism is heretical.” (pg. 24).

  Ice then proceeds to demonstrate some of the major implications of Preterist theology on end-time prophecy, by citing comments mainly culled from David Chilton’s books.  Chilton is a good representative of what may be called “Modern Preterism,” his writings having had great impact on the movement. 

   The author next points out that many Preterists (such as R.C. Sproul) feel that they are “helping to save Christianity from liberal skeptics like Bertrand Russell and Albert Schweitzer, by adopting a Preterist interpretation of Bible prophecy.”  Since  a chief bone of contention with the skeptics is that Jesus did not return during the time-frame he predicted, Sproul and others have suggested Preterism as a viable solution.  They say that Christ DID return, but that His coming was fulfilled in a non-literal manner. 

   Regarding this approach, however, Dr. Ice writes:

   “…When it comes to the Bible, we cannot fight liberalism with liberalism.  Dr. Sproul believes that he is defending the integrity of Scripture by adopting the preterist viewpoint.  However, in reality, I believe he is adopting a naturalistic interpretation that too many liberals feel at home with.  While Dr. Sproul sees Matthew 24 as a prophecy that was fulfilled in the first century, liberal preterists join him in giving a naturalistic explanation, though they do so from a different framework.  Ultimately, they both deny that our Lord prophesied a supernatural, bodily, visible return of Christ in fulfillment of Matthew 24.” (pg. 27).

  By “liberal preterists,” Ice ostensibly refers to the German critical school represented by such men as Eichhorn, De Wette, and Delitzsch.  These German critics often espoused Preterism as a means to avoid the supernatural elements of predictive prophecy.  Although Sproul can hardly be classed with this group, Ice’s observation that his preterism is really another form of the same liberalism, is doubtless correct.

    Ice then moves on to cover the Preterist view regarding Christ’s Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24/Mark 13).  Selecting the significant words and phrases from that discourse, he adds running commentaries by Dr. Kenneth Gentry, which serve to give an overall view of how Preterists deal with prophetic texts.  This is the most interesting section of the chapter, as it helps to exemplify the liberal element inherent in Preterist interpretation.

   One example of Dr. Gentry’s modus operandi may be seen in Matthew 24: 29, where Christ says: “The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give its light, and the stars shall fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”

   Gentry writes:

  “How then should we understand verse 29?  Rather than interpreting it literally, we must interpret it covenantally!… By the very requirement of the context, this passage speaks of the collapse of political Israel in A.D. 70… When a national government collapses in war and upheaval, it is often portrayed as a cosmic catastrophe –  an undoing of creation… Consequently, we may see how easy it is to apply Matthew 24: 29 to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.” (pg. 32).

   I might argue that the author’s view involves a mis-application of eschatological terminology.  But Ice’s selection of Gentry’s quotations is sufficient to demonstrate how Preterists mishandle the Word of God.  The error is not confined to Gentry, but is common to any teaching which seeks to make Christ’s parousia a past event.

   Before wrapping up the article, Dr. Ice briefly discusses the Preterist views of the Book of Revelation.  He observes that Preterists base their idea of first-century fulfillment on what are called “timing texts.”  These include words and phrases such as: “The time is near;” “I am coming quickly,” and “things which must shortly take place.”

   Since I myself hold to a grammatical/historical reading of these texts, I will refrain from commenting on the received mode of interpretation, until I get to chapter 4, in which Dr. Ice deals with these Preterist time indicators.  I will say, though, that Preterists make a mistake in falsely applying an “inerrantist” principle to many passages which are conditional in nature.  

   In closing, Dr. Ice makes an observation with which I entirely agree.  He writes:

   “The timing of a passage is determined by taking into account all factors in a given passage.”  (pg. 34).

  Yes, it seems that is what Preterists have missed.  All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is to be approached according to consistent, orderly hermeneutical principles.  To take the time-texts literally, and yet to spiritualize passages which indicate how a prophecy will be fulfilled, displays a logical bias which can never lead one to the attainment of objective truth. 

   To sum it up, then, I think that Dr. Ice does an excellent job in bringing to light the main elements involved in a Preterist interpretation of Scripture.  It is my wish that readers purchase this book (if they haven’t already), in order to gain a better understanding of the issues at stake in the ongoing eschatological battle.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

MythAdventures by Robert Asprin

When I’m stressed I turn to the genre I’m most comfortable with, fantasy. The particular area of fantasy depends on so many factors I’m not going to discuss here, but this time I turned to Robert Asprin and have been re-reading the M.Y.T.H Inc stories.

It’s a fabulous series of books and this excerpt from Wikipedia explains it much better than I can. “MythAdventures is the collective name for a series of humorous fantasy novels written by Robert Lynn Asprin that are popular for their whimsical nature, myriad characters, and liberal use of puns. Each novel’s title makes a pun on the similarity between the word “myth” and either the prefix “mis-” or the word “miss”, with the exception of the first, which puns on the phrase “Another fine mess” (which was, incidentally, almost the novel’s title due to a misunderstanding with book’s publisher).”

What Wikipedia doesn’t say is how I feel about them. I just love them. They are wonderful, they have very cute characters and I just wish I had some of their gadgets. I would absolutely love to be able to rent out a bit of extra-dimensional space, it’d be fabulous to have more room for my books.

I sometimes get a bit confused with all the action, but I suspect it would be the same with any action movie. Keeping track of the characters and what magical disguise they are currently wearing is a little hard.

This series seems to have engendered a similar following to the Discworld series written by Sir Terry Pratchett. A quick google of ‘m.y.t.h. inc robert asprin’ will bring up a number of fan pages including a reference to the alt.fan.asprin newsgroup.

In my eagerness to buy all the books in the series I have managed to buy doubles of some of these books and when I’ve finished checking them all out I’ll be listing the doubles on Suz’s Space.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Praise of Folly, by Erasmus

This translation from the original Latin, Moriae Encomium, is in a 1993 Penguin paperback, along with the explanatory Letter to Maarten van Dorp. Erasmus displays his wide reading in Classical sources, giving example after example of the unacknowledged need for folly in human life. Throughout, Folly speaks as a goddess in her own voice.

The Encomium takes a sharp turn at midpoint and becomes a satire on contemporary Christian theology and piety. Folly stops showering examples of her necessity and blasts away at unnecessary foolishness. There is then a second turn as the last part of the work describes the necessary folly in Christian belief, echoing St. Paul: “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise.”

In the Letter to van Dorp, Erasmus tries to mask the obvious satire of the second part of the Encomium as harmless fun. After all, when Folly talked about sovereign pontiffs, no particular pope was named; and quotations from the Vulgate in the Church Fathers were often different from the text as it existed in his time, which showed that there had been corruptions of Jerome’s original.

Folly writes: “But, someone may say, the ears of princes are strangers to truth, and for this reason they avoid those wise men, because they fear lest someone more frank than the rest should dare to speak to them things rather true than pleasant; for so the matter is, that they don’t much care for truth. And yet this is found by experience among my fools, that not only truths but even open reproaches are heard with pleasure; so that the same thing which, if it came from a wise man’s mouth might prove a capital crime, spoken by a fool is received with delight. For truth carries with it a certain peculiar power of pleasing, if no accident fall in to give occasion of offense; which faculty the gods have given only to fools. And for the same reasons is it that women are so earnestly delighted with this kind of men, as being more propense by nature to pleasure and toys. And whatsoever they may happen to do with them, although sometimes it be of the most serious, yet they turn it to jest and laughter, as that sex was ever quick-witted, especially to color their own faults.”

Erasmus was the man in the middle, fool and wise man, Catholic and Protestant, scholar and gypsy. The Letter to van Dorp disappoints because it smudges the shiny espièglerie of the Encomium. My poor fool is dead!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Bitten by Books Review Teaser: Angel's Advocate

Angel’s Advocate by Mary Stanton

5 Tombstones

“Brianna Winston-Beaufort (better known as “Bree”) is not what anyone would call a typical attorney. Then again, it could also be because she does not take on the usual clients. Her clients, so far at least, are already dead. Yes, dead. Deceased. No longer in the land of the living. And yet, they still require Bree’s help as a lawyer while facing an entirely different and everlasting judgment…”

Read the Full Review Here: Angel’s Advocate over at Bitten by Books.


 with The Pen, Lyda

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

April short book reviews

iWoz – Steve Wozniak, Gina Smith: I really enjoyed this. I think it was mostly the voice – it was written based on taped interviews, and that shows in many little verbal tics and idiosyncracies that made the memoir endearing as well as interesting. I’d quite like to hear Steve Wozniak speak one day.

Teen Idol – Meg Cabot: I didn’t mean to sound like I was Cabot-bashing last month. I don’t mind her, and this book hit all the things that I really like about her books – the voice that was catchy without being annoying, the highschool-is-hell set-up, the nice person learning to be better (if not as “nice”), a few subverted expectations. Over-the-top and sweet and fun with one of my favourite forcible-makeover scenes (she does do these well).

Size 14 is not Fat Either – Meg Cabot: Light, fluffy, the voice got a bit irritating at times. I wanted the protagonist to take control a bit more, like in Teen Idol.

Underfoot in Show Business – Helene Hanff: So much fun – the story of how Helene Hanff didn’t become the next Noel Coward. New York and Broadway and playwriting and creative retreats and hand-to-mouth artistic existences and the beginning of television and a bad experience with Lord of the Rings.

Our Mutual Friend – Charles Dickens: The BBC miniseries of this is my favourite BBC miniseries, so I did know the outlines of the story going in (sometimes this helps). This book is now my favourite Dickens to date. So rich and complex and interwoven, so funny and sad and beautiful, it is difficult to pick a plot to call the main one. The mysterious character of the kindly but shadowy Rokesmith? The rise of the dustman and his wife, come to an unexpected fortune? The predicament of beautiful, poor, grasping Bella, willed to a man who died before she met him. The moral quandaries of the lovelorn taxidermist drawn into a web of deceit by a scheming ballad seller whose amputated leg he bought? Strong, capable Lizzie, who saves her brother and cannot save her father and must keep saving herself? The myriad of smaller backstories? Is it the loves – dangerous, sweet, murderous, unfaltering? The friendships – of the pawnbroker with the dolls-dressmaker and the factory worker, of Bella with her father, of the Boffins for all those less fortunate than them? The hatred and the paths paved by the love of money, or the paths shaped by the river? I love the book for all of these, for the mistakes and misteps and hard decisions, for the repeated references to Little Red Riding Hood, for the unexpected physicality of relationships, for the dear humanity of clerks in dingy offices, for the heroines who cannot wait by their lover’s sickbed because they have to go to work at the factory, for the descriptions of shops and of rusting chains, for the girl who rescues a victim of violence and carries him to safety, for the sharp tongue of the dressmaker and the many buttons of the false foreman, for the comeuppances and the happy endings, and the bittersweet ones.

Once on a time – A. A. Milne: A short fairy-tale novel. Oh, read this if only for that wonderful, terrible woman, the Countess Belvane. And the army of Amazon(s) marching round and round a tree. And the recommendation that poets wear green when the muse is upon them (as inspiration or warning). And the conclusion that the Gladstone bag has killed romance. But mostly for Belvane, that enchanting, scheming villainess, who keeps a diary and in it writes sadly that today, she became bad.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Hedge Fund Wives- Author Interview

After I wrote my review of Hedge Fund Wives, TJ Dietderich set up an e-mail interview with Tatiana Boncompagni for me.  Read the review here, and the interview below.

At what point in the writing process of the book did news of the current economic downturn become apparent, and how did that shape your writing?  (I know you had the idea for the book in 2007, before the mortgage crisis and credit crunch became daily news fare.)

Last summer the economic situation began looking progressively dire and it was pretty clear we were headed for a recession. I was about two thirds of the way through writing the book at the time, and decided to tweak some of the plot points to make the story line seem grounded in real events. For example, I added that Ainsley’s husband Peter had worked for Bear Stearns, and that he had run his fund’s trades through Bear. Then I explained how the fall of the bank contributed to the demise of his fund and to Peter’s own financial problems (because a lot of Bear’s former employers were still heavily invested in the bank). This gave me an opportunity to show how the world of finance is interconnected and how one event can lead to another, etc.  After September 2008, when I turned in the book, I didn’t make any changes to the plot.

You draw from the lives of hedge fund wives you know- how have they reacted to the book and its characters?  Anybody recognize themselves?

I don’t know if anyone has recognized themselves. If they have, they haven’t told me. They’ also be wrong. None of the characters are modeled after people I know with one exception: My friend Gigi asked me to name a character after her. The Gigi in the book is Southern and Sassy like my friend, but that’s where the similarities end. The rest of the characters are either composites of real people or entirely fictional creations.

What is your favorite upmarket indulgence?  I know your main character, Marcy, loves cheese.

I’d have to say shoes. They are the one thing I don’t mind buying spending a lot of money on. I have my shoes for years and years and only buy classic looks. I also think they are worth it because a great pair of heels makes me feel more confident. I think it must have something to do with the added height. I grew up as the shortest girl in my class–I was a late bloomer–and always wanted to be tall.

In the interview at the back of the book, you allude to some of the Hedge Fund Wives anecdotes that didn’t make it into the book- would you mind sharing another?

It’s hard to keep track of them. But here’s a good one. There was a woman who married a much older, not terribly attractive guy. She left her then current husband for this guy because he had a ton of money. A couple years later an old friend from high school saw her at a party. But instead of saying hello, she turned her head, lifted up her left hand, with just her ring finger extended (she has a gigantic diamond engagement ring) and walked away, not saying a word. Only in the hedge fund world, could a ring finger function as a middle finger…

What book have you read more times than any other, and what keeps you coming back to it?

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The writing is just so beautiful. It’s not as minimalistic as Hemingway, or as flowery as Henry James, another favorite writer of mine. I guess I try to model my work after Fitzgerald’s in the sense that I try for both graceful prose and economy of words. Also, The Great Gatsby is at its heart a condemnation of materialism and how the American Dream had been corrupted, and my works are inspired by the same themes.

What question do you wish interviewers would ask you?

I like talking about my process. How I come up with my stories and how I work. I usually come up with an idea or concept first and then turn it over in my mind for a while before I start working on the character sketches and outline. Then I start the actual writing process, during which I end up altering the plot line and characterizations. The hardest part for me is getting the story going. Once I get fifty pages of story that I am happy with, the rest is easy. In general, it takes me about a year to write a book. I loathe rewrites, but really that’s when all the magic happens.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Book Review - The Perfect Poison By Amanda Quick

The Perfect Poison

By Amanda Quick

Putnam, April 21, 2009

Historical Romantic Suspense

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Perfect-Poison-Arcane-Society-Book/dp/0399155805/

Scandal—the stuff Victorian society thrives on. Botanist and member of the Arcane Society, Lucinda Bromley found herself embroiled in the juiciest kind of scandal when she was suspected in her fiancé’s death by poisoning followed by her father’s suicide. Since then she has been ostracized by society. But Lucinda is no ordinary botanist. She has the paranormal ability to detect poison and volunteers her services to the police in suspected poisoning cases. When called in to inspect the body of a member of society, Lucinda is shocked to detect that the man was indeed poisoned and by a poison concocted using a very rare fern. The very fern that was stolen from her conservatory earlier. Fearing she may be arrested and convicted of the man’s murder, Lucinda only tells the police that he was poisoned, but doesn’t mention the fern. She calls on psychical investigator, Caleb Jones, to find the thief who stole her fern.

 Caleb, also a member of the Arcane Society founded by his ancestor, has the psychic ability to work percentages and solve problems by connecting seemingly unconnected facts. Believing Lucinda’s case may lead him to the man he’s been searching for, he agrees to take the case. As the two paranormal sleuths work together to solve the crime and save Lucinda from prison, passion ignites and leads to a romantic relationship. Because of his relationship to the founder who went mad, Caleb believes he too is slowly descending into madness, which prevents him from offering marriage.

I’m a huge fan of the Jayne Ann Krentz books written under her pseudonym, Amanda Quick. I fell in love with the Quick stories years ago when I picked up a copy of Ravished in a used bookstore. After that I searched for her books everywhere, now I preorder them. Although I love paranormal, I found the Arcane Society series a little lacking when compared to the author’s previous works. So, when I received her newest, The Perfect Poison, I didn’t start reading it immediately as I’d always done before. Now that I’ve had a chance to read Quick’s newest, I’m happy to see the author’s writing is returning somewhat to the older style. I found the suspense in this one a little weak, but the romance was lovely and the mystery interesting.

We met Caleb in a previous book and I was thrilled to finally get his story. I adored both Lucinda and Caleb. The way their romance develops is both delightful and refreshing. I like it when the hero and heroine know what they want and go about getting it without so much dillydallying and wishy washy excuses to keep them apart. The internal conflict was there because of Caleb’s possible decent to madness, but although this keeps him from offering marriage, it doesn’t keep him from passionately pursing an intimate and professional relationship with Lucinda. I can take or leave sex scenes in a story, but the love scene in the drying shed between Lucinda and Caleb was one of the best and most romantic I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. Ms. Quick is a master of words and a phenomenal storyteller. I especially love her unique use of verbs that bring a sentence immediately to life.

So, although I still found the book not quite up to the standards of the earlier Amanda Quick stories, it was close and I highly recommend it to any reader who loves Victorian romance with light suspense.